Spring is Coming

2014-03-22 19.01.44Spring is coming. Due to my hamstring issue last week I took most of the week off. This left me with an abundance of energy on Saturday and I used it on prepping all the landscaping beds at the house and spreading two truck loads of mulch. I was pretty sore on Sunday morning from all of this shoveling and raking, but the end result was worth it. We also mowed for the first time this year.

I ran yesterday morning for an hour before church. Everything felt great except for the soreness from the work. The hamstring feeling normal again is a truly answered prayer from God. I know I will have to take it easy for a while and really limit the time I spend running fast. I may put more time and focus on running hill repeats and tempos on the hills. This will be easier on my body and give me the needed adaptations for Old Dominion.

I listened to a few installments of Endurance Planet Ask the Coaches and Ask the Ultra. I really enjoy listening to Lucho answer questions and give quality insight. Two things of note stuck out to me when it came to 100 mile training. 1) A good goal would be to have a 50 mile weekend or try for 30 mile back to backs. It is ok to push past your limits and comfort once in a while as you will surely be pushing past them in the race. It is good to see what that second day feels like and get that kind of soreness from so much up time. and 2). Back to backs are not necessary if you are running a lot of miles during the week. If you are not able to run much on weekdays throw them in, but not every week. Shoot for every other week. I feel this is really good advice and is very much aligned with my current thoughts. For me a 50 mile weekend is much better than a 40 mile day where I really beat myself down. There needs to be a balance and you must realize if you push too far past your current ability you will have a hard time recovering and continuing to train.

This really is one lesson I wish I would have know a year ago. In training for the C&O Canal 100 last spring I pushed too hard in general. I decided to jump into the race a little late. At the end of March I found my volume to be up 80% higher than any other recent month. The volume was manageable if I would have taken 2 months to build to it, but all at once was too much. Throw on the end of the month a 42 mile rail trail run where I pushed pretty hard at the end and I was doomed. After that month I never felt good about running again. My pace slowed for any given effort and ultimately my race really suffered. What should have been a flat and fast for me 100 (actually closer to 106) miles turned into a slog fest. Lesson learned, watch those miles and do not push too hard.

Running Week Massanutten

2014-03-15 08.56.18 Last weekend I was at the Massanutten Ski Resort and managed some time to get a few solid runs in. I wanted to log 5+ hours running and hit it if you count my family hike on Sunday. Saturday morning started out at the overlook with a trail run. I asked on Strava where to hit the trails from the resort and got a quick reply from this guy, thanks for the intel. As soon as I left the car my headlamp was dead. It still worked on the emergency low level. The sun would not come up for 45 minutes. I found a flashlight in the car and headed off. I really was not sure where I was going until only 2 miles left in the run. It ended up being pretty off as I ran on the poorly marked Mountain Bike Trails and finally made it to the ridge and Kaylor’s Knob (after taking a wrong turn on the trail and my gut telling me to turn back). Overall a poor effort and not a good run in my mind.
On Saturdays run I turned my ankle and it was feeling a little of Sunday morning so I opted to stay on the roads and take advantage of the Mountains. I ran from my condo to the overlook and back. It was a 12 mile round trip and took ~67 minutes for me to get out and ~47 to get back. I pushed pretty hard coming back and started to feel a little twinge in my right hamstring, but nothing to worry about. In fact this niggle has been there for a few weeks since I started speed work.

2014-03-15 07.17.37 Monday was rest, but Tuesday brought me to the treadmill to run a 1/4 cutdown run. I was taught this run by a former coach named Paul Dewitt. You start off on the treadmill flat and slow. Every 1/4 mile you move up .1 mph until you cannot go any further. Then you back off and run mary pace until a quick cooldown. This is not for the faint of heart. I had not run one for almost a year, but jumped right in. I hit a speed faster and a distance longer then I have ever done. I was a minute from jumping down to mary pace and then I felt just a little more of a twinge in that hamstring. As I cooled down and got off I knew something was up. By the time I got home from work it was in some pain. I was advised by a friend to take a few days off. I immediately taped it with Kinseo tape and it instantly took some of the pain away. I have no idea how that stuff works, but it does. I have also been treating it with heat and rolling it a few times a day. As of today it is feeling 95+%. Tomorrow I will test it out and see what happens. A few days off now is much better than being injured up until and during my race in June. I may have to stick with running base and up to LT on hills if it continues to bother me. I do not think this would make a huge difference in my overall performance, but who knows.

Metabolic Efficiency Training

I have been running by the Dr. Maffetone methods for quite a while. It was not until I changed my nutritional input that I really began to see major changes in my performance. In this time I have seen my MAF pace drop by over 1:30 per mile. I have also become very fat adapted to where I can run for 3+ hours with nothing but water. I do not know how this will translate to race day, but I believe there is no way that it can hurt my efforts.

Recently I was listening to a podcast with Ultra Nutritionist Sunny Blende where she went into detail on how to become a better fat burner. She also did a prior podcast on this subject and has written an article on Metabolic Efficiency Training.  She goes into enough detail to get you started down the path to become a better fat burner.

If you dive into Sunny’s material you will quickly find that you need to determine what your crossover point is. You can either be tested in a lab or you can use the well established MAF formula presented by Dr. Maffetone in this article.  He also defines how to test if you are improving here.  For some people this formula may be off, especially for those who have trained for many years. Here is a different view on the formula. This lines up better with where I am at right now based on my personal experimentation while running. Keep in mind these are based on a heart rate and will varying effects once Cardiac drift begins to occur. Here is another method described by Zach Bitter to determine a pace associated with the crossover point. This likely will need to be adapted to a shorter version unless you are running high mileage like Zach does.

Dr. Maffetone has also published some books on his training methods. I highly recommend the Yellow book as it goes into great detail on MAF running and nutrition. He has a newer Red book, but I have yet to read it. I believe it goes more into nutrition than the Yellow book.  Dr. Maffetone has also appeared on many podcasts that are all worth your time if you are interested in his training methods. To start I would check out the archives of Trail Runner Nation, Ultra Runner Podcast, and Endurance Planet.

At the core Metabolic Efficiency Training (MET) and MAF are very similar. The both prescribe running at a sub Aerobic pace where you are burning mainly fat as fuel. They both prescribe a lower carb diet where you cut out processed foods and limit grains. One difference is that MET  theorizes that your crossover point, or MAF HR will go up with training. Maffetone does not appear to prescribe to this.  I do believe that this crossover point does go up as I have experienced this.  Another difference is the duration of training. MAF states that you can continue to train this way until you hit a plateau with your performance. MET is prescribed for a period of time in your base training.  During this period you must really watch your carb intake to maximize fat adaptation. Once the period is over you can go back to eating some grain carbs.


UPDATE: My N=1 Experience

After my period of MET training I was on travel for a week and off of that kind of nutrition. It is always hard for me to eat this way when away from home and eating out every meal with co-workers and in this case my wife. Upon returning home I continued on a low card, moderate protein, high fat diet. My focus has been on not eating inflammatory foods. So far this has been a success, but I must admit that I have a hard time on the weekends fully staying on point. I also have a theory that I run a little better when I add in one carb meal per day. What I do not know is how to maximize performance on race day. I think there are 2 options:

1) Train on very low carbs and race with moderate carbs

2) Train on some carbs and race with moderate carbs

I also have been experimenting with some intensity over the last 2 weeks and have been having a 3 carb to 1 protein recovery shake after the intense sessions. I believe this is good carb timing and allows for proper recovery on days I clearly go over the crossover point and into the glycogen stores. It may not be necessary as I am not doing these harder sessions every day and I think the science shows that recovery nutrition only speeds up recovery (need to cite this). I do not see the harm in feeding the muscles when they are most ready to be fed carbs.

Performance Journal

2014-03-25 13.59.11I enjoy listening to Podcasts while I run. Lately I have gotten a lot of miles out of Trail Runner Nation. The banter back and forth between the two male hosts (Don Freeman and Scott Warr) is always fresh and funny. They also bring on some high quality guests that deliver very practical knowledge that anyone can apply. Recently they had on Lanny Bassham. Lanny is not a runner, but does know a plethora about competing and winning. He has Olympic Gold and Sliver medals in International Rifle Shooting and many other achievements. He also is a consultant to PGA pros, the Navy Seals, and many more high performing people. He was discussing the idea of mental management and how this effects performance. They go into detail about why someone does well in practice and not well in the actual event as well as always thinking positive and only think about the negative when coming up with a way to solve the issue that brought on the negative. The podcast is worth a listen. The one point that really hit home is the idea of a performance journal.

I enjoy writing things down, but until recently I did not have a good way to capture all the things I wanted to remember. Like most runners I keep an online log. Almost all of my running data is contained in attackpoint. Over the last year I have started to use Strava. There is something about the look and feel of it that draws me to it. I also enjoy looking at segments to see how my running has improved or declined over time. I think an online log is a valuable tool for anyone, especially those using a Garmin to track their runs. I personally have always been searching for something more. I wanted to track more data and do it more conveniently. I have tried many online and/or computer based systems including evernote and simplenote, but nothing stuck. I finally went back to the old school and started to just write things down with a pen and paper. This quickly evolved into a pencil, highlighters, and a nice Moleskine notebook. The act of writing helps me to remember and it does not require anything to consume or produce information. There is something wonderful aboperut flipping through a notebook of hand written data. Around the beginning of this year I found a system called the Bullet Journal. This has become the basis of my performance journal. One major item in the Bullet Journal System is an index or TOC where you record were you wrote items. This makes it quicker to find what you are looking for. This is what works for me. You must find your own solution and it must be something you will stick with in the long run.

My performance journal consists of everything that is important to me. This includes my long term running plans, performances on certain trails or courses I run numerous times in a year, nutrition ideas, sleep, weight, how I feel each day, daily tasks that need completed, what I completed each day, events, projects that need done, notes from sermons, ideas that just pop in my head, knowledge that comes from reading or listening, part numbers and maintenance for my vehicles, and so much more. There is a daily entry that lists each task that I need to do that day, the foods I ate that day, how much sleep I got the night before, how I feel, and notes from the day. I also have 4 week tables where I list the quick details about my run plans, actual runs, and how I feel. This is the quick look section that will be helpful in the future.
The fun part is looking back at the data I have collected and seeing how it impacted me. For example this morning I was feeling pretty bloated and a little blah. A quick look showed me what I ate over the weekend and gave me some insight into how eating that way makes me feel. I also just found a longer term use case. My online training log showed a few very minimal weeks leading up to Old Dominion in 2012. I did not note any long term patterns, just the runs. That was 2 years ago and I cannot fully remember why I had those low mileage/time weeks. Had I been keeping a performance journal and not just an online running log I could have easily looked at the trend of how I was feeling, what I was eating, how I was sleeping, and what I was thinking and gotten some major insight into the situation. This is where the performance journal will pay dividends. We should never forget our past mistakes, but remember them and learn from them so we do not repeat them. When we encounter an issue or a problem and we solve it we must record this solution. This way if the problem arises again we already have a good understanding of why it happened and how to solve it. Every competitor who wants to get better should keep some form of a performance journal.