Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Yin and the Yang

It has been a while since I have posted anything substantial on my blog - nearly an entire month.  I won't lie, the time away from this bastardized form of social media has been a bit of fresh air.  Ultimately though, I have been drawn back into it.  My last post on this blog was about me getting back into running after taking seven days completely off due to an achilles injury.  Since then, things have gone well.  I am confident that I am 100% healthy and - even though this is hard to say - the injury was probably good for me and my body.

I have spent some time lately learning and thinking about the science aspect of running.  It is something I have not paid much attention to and don't buy into much either.  Terms such as Lactate Threshold, running economy, V02 Max, Muscle Fiber Type, Metabolism and Enzymes....  Who knew people could make such a simple, minimal thing like running into something so complicated to the point that it debases the basic principle of one foot in front of the other.  Elite "fast" guys - or their coaches rather - would argue that the only way to maximize their speed and endurance, results, would be by understanding their body's physiology and training to that type. 

I believe runners can run to their maximum potential without an understanding or training based on science.  It has been interesting to learn a little about this though.  If I were to become collegiate coach, I think it is pertinent to know both sides of the spectrum.  The other side of that spectrum of course, is running mainly off of "feel" and a slew of other factors.  Looking at a persons body type is one good indication of what type of training they need to do.  Is their form natural?  Are they tall and skinny?  Their leg turnover quick?  Shorter and muscular runner?  One example I always think about is between myself and Keegan Rathkamp.  I ran 24:42 in the 8k by running 120 miles a week.  Keegan ran 24:37 in the 8k by running 65 miles a week.  Two completely different types of runners maximizing our running by finding what works for us and getting very similar results.  Of course, people can state a scientific explanation for that - Keegan thrives with his fast-twitch muscle fibers and I thrive with my slow-twitch muscle fibers.

To me, certain terms can be translated into phrases more understandable by people like me.  These are all ideas that crossed my mind in the past and who knew their were actually doctors out there giving it meaning:
VO2 Max:  Yes, I understand this has been around a while.  I read an article in Trail Runner Magazine about how Steve Prefontaine had a much higher VO2 max than Frank Shorter but their times were similar.  That is due to Frank Shorters more efficient running.  VO2 max to me would be explained as how natural a runner.  Is it easy for them to just go out and run 8 miles without running a step for months?  I know people like that.
Running Economy:  This can be best explained and understood by me as how "smooth" a runner is.  How hard is he working to run a certain pace?  The less flaws in his foot strike and arm motion, the more energy he is conserving.
Metabolism:  Metabolism to me is how a person responds to eating.  I know a lot of people who can eat a ton and not gain wait.  But I also know a lot of people that eat a lot and gain wait.  Also, how much time before they run do they like to eat... some people don't like to eat three hours before they run because they will have stomach issues.  Others can eat right up until they run and not have problems on the run.
Muscle Fibers:  This is the example I stated above about Keegan and me.  Keegan is big, strong, and fast.  I am tall, skinny, and "not as quick."  He has a quick flip of his foot and he is off the ground in a hurry.  I probably am on the ground a little longer and using my biggest muscles.  His calf muscles are twice the size of mine but my quad muscles are more worked than his.  Just another way of how different muscles get people to the same place.

It comes down to observing the patterns of your own body and experimenting with different types of training.  I would be worried that running scientifically would hold back certain people, but the opposite can be said of people that don't run with science... they they never reach their maximum potential.  I quickly learned that running 60 miles a week was not getting me fast results.  People now think it is crazy that I run so many miles - I say to them that I am only doing this because it is the only thing that will make me as fast as I am.  That is actually not true though because I do it for so many other reasons.

Aside from all of that, mentality plays so much into reaching the maximum potential for an individual runner.  Confidence, motivation, belief, and a clear mind are needed for any runner to be maxed out.  So, maybe running isn't so simple as I though...

Enough talk about that stuff and on to what I have been doing the last several weeks...    

I have been running!  I like the sound of that.  After seven days off and a massively swollen achilles back to a normal size, I am on a normal routine.  I feel that with my huge base before the injury, I was able to jump up quickly.  Here is my past weeks:

Feb. 21 - Feb. 28:  40 miles (all in the first two days, then days off)
Feb. 28 - Mar. 6:  30 miles (a couple days off still this week)
Mar. 7 - Mar. 13:  60 miles
Mar. 14 - Mar. 20:  75 miles
Mar. 21 - Mar. 28:  88 miles (5 mi. tempo)
Mar. 28 - Apr. 2:  95 miles (3x2 mi. and Half Marathon)

Half Marathon Thoughts

Today, I ran my first ever half marathon.  I needed to run a half to qualify for the NAIA National Marathon race. "A" standard is 1:14:00 and just wanted to run as "easy" as I could to qualify with that. I knew there wasn't going to be much competition - just Craig Leon who has ran 1:05:00 in the past, an OU grad; another guy ended up running away at the beginning.

Corey Culbertson decided to register and run with me for as long as he could and that provided much help. Without him, I would of been by myself for the entire 13 miles. He faded back a little after 8 miles - then Chuck jumped and led me through to the 9th mile. I ran the last 4 miles alone.

Started out downhill and was surprised when CC and me came through the mile in 5:02. After that I tried to slow down and settle into a pace around 5:30-32. Started feeling good at the turnaround and went below 5:30 for a while. Here are my splits.

1- 5:02
2-3- 11:11
4- 5:32
5- 5:30
6- 5:30
7- 5:27
8- 5:26
9- 5:21
10- 5:22
11- 5:27
12- 5:33
13- 5:07
.1- 41

(Didn't get my last 1.1 split and haven't saw the official results yet; I'll get it updated soon)

Overall I am happy with the run. I didn't "compete" or really dig deep but rather tried to stay as comfortable as I could and find that rhythm at the pace I wanted. Once I found that rhythm I was not going any faster or slower.

Had to turn down $110 which went to Corey who came in about a minute behind me. Perfect weather on the day. mid-40's up the the 50's during the race and maybe 5 mph breeze. The course was out and back on the bike path that finished with 1.5 laps on the track.

I have seven more weeks until National, where I will make a road marathon debut.  Between then I will be running a couple 10k's and building some more mileage.  I am liking the way this is setting up... 



  1. Glad to see you're back in action and could bust out the A-standard so easily. Good luck with these next weeks of training for the marathon.

    Hook-up with me sometime this summer for some slow running!

  2. effin awesome job! rip into that road marathon!