"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Rebuilding Year

I'd planned to do the indoor track season this winter - it starts Saturday - but I can't whip myself into shape in 6 weeks like I used to. So now I'm looking at getting in shape before I attempt anything big.

Current training

[easy pace is 9 min./mile]
Monday AM 4 miles, with 4x50m hill sprints
               PM 3 miles
Tuesday 6 miles with 3x1200m in 5 (5K pace) - 400m in 2.5
Wednesday AM 4 miles with 6x100m strides
                    PM 3 miles
Thursday 7 miles, with last 4.5 at 1/2 marathon pace (7:45/mile)
Friday [off]
Saturday 6 miles with 6x400m hill (100 ft. climb) in 2:00
Sunday 11 miles

Every third week, I cut everything by a third.

When I stop improving, I'll focus more.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Same Mistakes, but Faster

Just a short note so this blog looks active.

When I took up ultrarunning, it was a mental exercise, as all my rules for training broke down and there wasn't much written about how to train for long races (boy, has that changed). Recently, I looked at 800m training, because going the opposite direction in race length, my rules also break down. More than any other distance, 800m runners are divided between those moving up in race distance and those moving down and it's frequently suggested that there are completely different ways of training, depending on the group to which you belong. I wondered why there wasn't a specific plan and came up with one that looked perfect, then wondered why no one had ever trained that way.

Well, of course, looking deeper into it, there's a simple explanation. Most runners actually start from a position of combining short sprints and long distance and then, over a season, bringing those extremes closer to specific 800m training - which, when stated by itself, looks like nothing else and seems unreasonable. The problem is: these plans are aimed at 1:45 runners and not 2:30-3:00, for those who have a racing season rather than sporadic races and for those who have a team, a coach and a track where they're welcome. A guy in his 50's, running in winter, in Minnesota - there's no plan for him.

Except mine looks pretty good.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Lessons from Year 40 of Running

Friends have been forwarding this article: http://trainright.com/5-best-habits-athletes-over-40/ and, of course, I don't agree with it. Parts of it are correct for most people, which is true of just about everything. Athletes don't need more protein, older people don't need more protein; if you're getting 15% of your calories from protein (up to 20% if vegan), you're getting all you need and more just increases your cancer risk.

Here's some things I've learned about running when over 50:

1) Don't do the races your friends think you should want to do.

What you enjoy most, what you do best and what you do most should be the same thing. If you're running the Boston Marathon because every time a co-worker hears you're a runner they ask if you've run Boston - and you're a sprinter - something's wrong.

2) Rest better.

Rest more, sure, but rest better as well. You can still run hard workouts, but you'll need more days between them than you did in your 20's. I used to follow a day of 800m repeats in 2:25 with a 24 miler under 3 hours, because I couldn't run fast that second day - but it was, of course, a hard day, just "hard" in a different way. Take at least one day off per week, but be wary of masters programs that are only 3-4 days per week. The days you don't run can be devoted to:

3) Do all the preventative maintenance stuff you've neglected.

When I was in college, I had a coach that had us doing calisthenics that he was better at at age 70 than I was at 20. But I didn't need to do those things; I felt my time was better spent either running or doing nothing. Now, at 50, I have a million imbalances and weaknesses that could've been prevented and I do all the therapy exercises for rehabilitating old injuries every day; essentially, I'm doing the same exercises my 70 year-old coach was doing that he learned the same way I did.

4) Ignore the hype of the new.

Whether its Cordyceps, propioceptor neuromuscular facilitation or shoes with some "revolutionary" design, if you haven't needed it thus far, it probably isn't going to make much difference. "Runner's World" has survived for 50 years on finding new fads to promote because what you really need to know wouldn't fill one issue.

5) Know that no one will heed your advice.

Sure, you've had the same injury as your friend now has and you found a way to recover, but they're not going to listen. Yes, you've done the race they're training for, but it was a long time ago and that somehow negates it. That guy running faster than you, whose only been running for 6 months - now he must have the answer, because... he's faster than you.

You'll get used to it, once you remember that you were the same way once.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

10 Year Anniversary - The Elf Workout

This blog's turned 10! You've endured dating stories, cooking experiments, poetry and enough training theory to earn a doctorate. Time for the post-doc. I'm starting on a new project which will be of little interest to most people, but I think I can supply some grist for the windmills of curious minds (and there's the worst metaphor ever). As I do some workouts, I'm going to explain their history and that might be of some interest.

"The Elf"

On Tuesday, I went to the track and ran 20x100m in 19.5 seconds (800m pace) with recoveries of 100m in 1 minute. There were 75 year-old women running laps and a functional fitness class doing whatever they do, but I had the inner lanes to myself. This is a workout that's never been popular, but keeps coming back because, empirically, it works for some. I called it "extensive low volume," which became E.L.V., then ELV and finally "The Elf."

In the 1950's, a standard work-out for milers was 10x400m (440 yds then) at 1 mile pace, with 3 minute recoveries. For those whose pace kept dropping at the end of repeats, they started the season with 20x400; some thought about doing 40x100 first, but forty of anything seemed drudgery and the workouts became too long - they also discovered that the workout seemed to be different in essence; there was something physiologically different, but no one could say what it was.

When Lydiard was king, his high mileage runners did "leg speed" repeats and "wind sprints" which were a large number of short repeats, somewhat like my workout. The idea was to keep the legs fresh with some fast running, to work on form, to get a feel for a fast pace. This message ultimately got lost among those who did high mileage.

Doing a lot of short repetitions worked for a few runners, such as Jim Ryun and Ralph Doubell, 800/mile specialists, but it never caught on. Physiologically, there's a delay before your body reacts to moving fast and the energy used comes from stored creatine phosphate; after 5-20 seconds (5 for most runners), the body starts using glycogen anaerobically and recycles the creatine, so one can do a lot of short bursts. After a large number of repeats, it becomes a matter of producing lactic acid (I'm going to ignore some facts in favor of convention here). Your body adapts to the workout by storing more creatine phosphate, by increasing the speed you have to run to deplete the creatine stores and by increasing tolerance to levels of lactic acid (actually, of ADP).

There were a group of East German coaches that developed an engineering approach to training. They would look at this in the following way: if you allow the heart rate only 1/3rd the time required to return to normal after a repeat, then the training stimulus comes from the heart having to start from a higher rate with each interval until one is running largely near maximal heart rate, even during the recoveries, but a large number of repeats is required.

In the late 90's, a version of this workout was rediscovered by Veronique Billat and became a favorite of high intensity interval training aficionados. This workout consisted of 30 seconds run at a pace that could be maintained for 6 minutes, followed by 30 seconds done at half that pace, repeated until one could not continue. The best runners ended up managing 12 minutes run at their maximal oxygen uptake.

It's never going to be a favorite of long distance runners, but it's a good weapon to keep in one's arsenal.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Steve's Evil Kitchen Presents the Vegan Apocalypse

I haven't done one of these posts in a long time, and it's Friday the 13th, so why not?

The year I ate vegan included 51 weeks of "Why does vegan 'cheese' taste good for 5 seconds and then get progressively more disappointing?" The other week, I just wept. What I missed most was the really smelly French cheeses, the ones that can't be brought onto public transportation (it's a law in France - no Epoisses on buses!) and get pasteurized to blandness when imported. Then it occurred to me that all the rules/laws/traditions/regulations for making cheese don't apply to cheez.
Epoisses - the bacterial source

Later, it occurred to me that they're all designed to keep one from dying. That is a consideration.

What makes cheese stinky are bacteria. The ones I wanted thrive on air, moisture, salt, protein and cellar temperatures. I could grow the bacteria first - making the bacteriologist's pal LB media, substituting soy protein isolate for tryptonized beef by-product; it's made of protein, yeast extract (which is vaguely cheesy on its own), salt and water (and a drop of sodium hydroxide for pH balance). This would give years of bacterial cheese growth in a few days.

Most of the flavor and "stank" ends up in the water, unfortunately. It also made my basement unliveably smelly - well, more unliveably smelly than usual. Some of the components are fat-soluble, so I added coconut oil and kept it at a warm room temperature to keep it liquid.

The next step was to coagulate the protein. Tofu is made from calcium precipitation of soy milk and I wanted to up the calcium content of my product, so I added pickling lime (calcium hydroxide) to denature the proteins. Then, to coagulate the proteins, I added citric acid (I considered phosphoric, but that involved some tricky analytical chemistry problems and isn't readily available to home cooks) and cooled it rapidly. The proteins clump while the coconut oil hardens, forming a mass that floats on top of the liquid.

Straining out the water, I had a vaguely cheese-like substance. The calcium citrate crystals formed add to a smooth mouthfeel - a lesson learned from molecular gastronomy. I considered pressing out the excess liquid, but didn't want to lose the flavors trapped in water, so I set it out to dry. This led to a white mold natural rind.

It looks wrong (no photo, sorry), it smells like barnyards and feet and the taste ended up a bit sour from the citric acid. But it didn't kill me.

It did make me ill for a few days, though. Evil kitchens will do that.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

How Hugh Hefner Informs Your Personal Social Media

After the passing of Hugh Hefner, there's been a lot of talk about his influence on modern society, ranging from "chauvinistic smut-peddler" to "empowerment of women and liberation of restrictive mores." There's a planned biopic, starring Jared Leto (an odd choice). I have not seen anyone address what I think is the essential story of Hef, so here's my take.

When "Playboy" magazine was started, there were already a lot of nudie magazines. What Hefner realized was that most people have little problem with nudity, if they think it's tasteful; the number of people who insist on putting a fig leaf on Michelangelo's "David," for example, are few. What Hefner was selling wasn't sex - there's little sex in Playboy; I doubt anyone could figure out the mechanics of sex from the magazine - but "sophistication." The 1960's were a time when French films would show in the U.S. and they'd have some nudity, but it was okay, because it was "European," it was "sophisticated." "Playboy" was based on the idea that anyone could put on the trappings of sophistication and remain "masculine." That was the selling point: this wasn't pornography, but art.

This ersatz sophistication was eventually his undoing. He started with a smoking jacket and pipe, then dropped the pipe when smoking became taboo, which left him "an old man in pajamas." The choice for sophistication went against the trends of society; "Playboy" always sided with jazz over rock&roll, because we all instinctively feel jazz to be more sophisticated. Hefner, a poorly-educated Chicago publisher selling "sophistication" to blue collar guys, relied on some odd choices, such as Norman Mailer over Tom Wolfe, because "masculine" trumped "sophisticated."

The legacy of Hefner, I think, is found in social media. In your (yes, your own personal) social media. First, let's consider the photographs. Though you may not post nude photos of yourself or others, you probably edit your photos to look their best, whether with Instagram filters, Adobe Lightroom or going all-out with Photoshop. The women in "Playboy" didn't exist, but were idealized images, just as what you see in every magazine and now throughout social media is altered.

Secondly, there's the image of fake sophistication and luxury. People post photos of themselves standing next to luxury cars they don't own, or at exclusive resorts they pass by, or with celebrities they just happen to meet; it's not "look who I am" or even "look what I have" but "look at what I have access to." People do not post their lives, but an idealized image of what they want people to think their lives might be.

Hefner pretended to live in a bubble of an endless party among beautiful young women. What are you pretending?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Generalized Training Schedule

I've been asked how I run when I'm not training for something specific. Here's a schedule of how I plan to train for a while - it's pretty good for racing from as little as a mile up to about 25-30K.

Monday 5 miles AM, 5 miles PM
Tuesday 12 miles with 10x400m @ 1 mile pace with 3-5 minute recoveries.
Wednesday 5 AM, 5 PM
Thursday 10 with 20x400m hill (100 foot climb per hill)
Friday (rest)
Saturday 12 with last 6 at marathon pace
Sunday 16
Monday 3 AM, 3 PM
Tuesday 10 with 5x 1 mile at 5K/10K pace with 3-4 minute recoveries
Wednesday 3 AM, 3 PM
Thursday 10 with 6x50m sprints (long recoveries)
Friday (rest)
Saturday 10 with race or 10K time-trial.
Sunday 12

I usually give schedules based on time rather than distance. This one, with easy runs done at 9 minutes per mile, is a good 1/2-marathon schedule, at 8:15-8:30 per mile is a good 15K/10 mile schedule and at 7:45 is a good 10K schedule. The interval workouts are HARD - they're more aspirational than realistic.