Monday, February 11, 2013

Running As An Experiment Of One

I wish I had stronger convictions at times, but then again, one thing I am sure about is that I truly dislike certitude.  When I hear someone speak with certitude, it comes across as narrow-minded, rigid, and dogmatic, and that they have perhaps not taken the other side of their own argument. 

Running is an experiment of one. The results you get will work for you and you alone. Sure, there needs to be some sort of theoretical and empirical reason for your training efforts, but we all have different body types, muscle types, strengths and weaknesses. God knows I have training logs that, based on specific theories, should have provided specific results.  It just doesn’t work like that.  

In the huge smorgasbord of decisions you have to make while training, there’s not necessarily one that’s right, but there is what works best for you. Finding what works is a perpetual battle.

Here’s a list of just some of my ongoing experiments.

1.  High Mileage versus High Speed
I realize these two, like all on this list, aren’t mutually exclusive, but it’s difficult to run high mileage while also recovering from speed workouts.

I run a lower number of weekly miles than most marathoners. In the past, I have topped out at 55 miles for a few weeks, but this didn’t do anything for me. My performance was best when I topped out in the mid 40’s, but mixed it in with some recovery weeks of mileage in the 20’s. These days, I top out at in the low 40’s during marathon training.

2. Long or Short Intervals
When it comes to doing speed workout, I have nailed my ten Yasso 800’s in my projected marathon time, but once again, it did not get me my hoped for goal. I fared better when I did longer intervals and more tempo runs, such as 2 x 3 miles with a mile recovery in between. Or threw in hills to substitute for speed.

3. Longest Long Run of 16 or 23 Miles
Hanson’s method versus the Michael Jordan method. I’ve tried all sorts of variations. So far, doing up to 22 or 23 has worked for me, but as I age and run slower, and my body breaks down faster, I’m thinking of scaling back. As I’ve heard more and more, there’s less to be gained for running longer than 3 hours except for a dictionary of injuries.

 3. Outside or Inside
Running on streets of ice and snow messes with my gait so much it doesn’t’ feel like running anymore.  Trying to find clear trails to run long runs can feel like a chore, and there’s something wonderfully mindless about going to my basement and putting on a movie. I can handle long treadmill miles. But treadmill running seems not really running but a simulation of running, a cheap substitute at times, and rarely have I regretted forcing myself outside.

 4. Long Steady Distance or Progressively Faster Long Runs
There are so many variations to do long runs. On one end there is the belief to run them a minute slower than goal marathon pace. Another method is to start at this pace and then pick up along the way so that you are running at or under goal marathon pace at the end. 

“Why should I learn to run slow? I already know how to do that,” said Emil Zatopek.  Doesn’t it feel great to rip through the last miles of a long run? And I nailed my BQ after doing progressively faster long runs. Then again, this is a near race effort and requires days of recovery. Last season, a slew of progressive long runs injured me.

5. Practice Fueling on the Run versus Glycogen Deprivation Runs
Should I take a gu or stop by a gas-station and get a kit-kat? Or eat nothing and make my body suck out all the mojo in my own cells, so that it teaches my body to burn fuel more efficiently and preserve my glycogen.   Yes, I need to learn what my stomach can handle, but it’s also good to know that a gu is just a race day benefit, rather than an essential crutch. Gu is like a cheering spectator this way, something to take a few seconds off my time, not an everyday crutch.

 6. Running on Injuries or Complete Rest?
I can run through pain. I expect it and welcome it, but injuries are different.
Rule of thumb is if it gets better as you run, as opposed to worse, than running on an ‘injury’ is a go, to a degree. And if it doesn’t’ mess with your gait. But complete rest, like taking the entire course of antibiotics, seems to be the best way to wipe the whole thing out.

7. Maximalists versus Minimalist
Shoe, shoes, everywhere, but not a Zero-Drop to drink.
I have experimented with some Saucony Kirvana’s.  We had a torrid 3 month affair, but they left me after mile 16 for something younger and with more social status, so I’ve moved on to something more stable and predictable. I do run in as light a shoe I can get away with, but this debate carries on.

8. Two, 3, or even 4 Week Taper?
Switching from a two to a three week taper paid off huge for me, so, if two is okay, but three is better, why not do four?  About a month after a marathon, I always feel like I could run another, faster one.

9. Gatorade or Electrolyte Tablets
Rather than Gatorade, I  started taking S-Caps, and it made a noticeable difference. (placebo?) I am a salty sweater, and there are dried white streaks down my cheeks after a summer long run. It's bizaree to see. At times, deer come out of the woods to lick my face. But S-caps are a great replacement..  (click here to learn about  S-Caps) To the dude who stopped me in Hines park after the Running Fit training run and preached the benefits of the little white pill, I thank you.

10. To Cross-train or Not To Cross-Train
In the past I have done heavy mountain biking and played hockey while marathon training, and my aerobic threshold was sky-high, but my tendons and ligaments weren’t so happy. These days I only do light biking.

 11. Compression Socks or Calf-Naked
I love compression socks and they've done wonders for my calves. They are like a warm blanket for my soul. But are they good for recovery, for the actual run, or for both? I have settled largely on only using them for recovery, and not for the run itself, since it feels like if my calves are tight, the compression sleeves make them worse. This could all be in my compressed head.

12. Buy the Professional Course Photos or Not
Where else are you going to find professional on-course photography?  Then again, should you contribute to this insane market of 50 bucks for a photo?

13. Oil Change at 3,000 or 5000 miles, Regular or synthetic
The auto manual and oil shop guys say change every 3 months or 3,000 miles. The car talk guys say that’s bull crap.

So many choices, so few days in our lives. When it comes down to it, and you’re unsure, I go by what Jack Kerouac wrote: Until you learn to realize the importance of the Banana King you will know absolutely nothing ….”  


Detroit Runner(Jeff) said...

Run at the Metroparks for your long run. Always plowed, As far as Hansons plan, yeah only 16 on the long run but have you read it? It's not easy at all. Hansons is going to do group runs 2 miles from my home starting in March for one mid week run. I plan on joining them.

Mark Matthews said...

Hansons has lots of weekly mileage and speedwork, including a 7 miler or something the day before a long run, and thus the 16 feel like the 'last 16 of a marathon' rather than the first 16. I'll meet you at the Hansons store before hand to turn the 16 into a 20 perhaps.

Cait the Arty Runnerchick said...

running is crazy because it SO is a 'test/fail' approach for each person. talk about one crazy experiment and it looks like u've learned plenty about urself. i will also say that i can bust of miles on the treadmill but no matter grade or not i totally agree that treadmill miles are easier/faster than outside.

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