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.

Why You Should Use A Treadmill

treadmillTreadmills have been around for a long time. There is nothing polarizing about them. The “I hate treadmills” camp is strong, but I have a hard time finding anyone in the “I love treadmills” camp. There is also a strong opinion that running on treadmills is easier than running outside on pavement. I am not here to argue this point one way or the other. I for one am on the opposite side of this and think running on a treadmill can certainly be harder than running on pavement outside (given the conditions outside are similar). It is fine if you disagree and I will not say you are wrong or right. What may be harder for may certainly may be easier for you.

There are some major advantages to treadmill running:

1. Uphill Training – Unless you live in the mountains you probably do not have access to a hill that theoretically never ends. A treadmill gives you this. If you do have access to long hills you will have to run down after getting up. This may not always be ideal if you are going for just an uphill workout. I am an ultra runner and love mountainous races. I live in an area with 0 hills. The treadmill is essential to prepare me for the long 1000+ feet climbs of most of the races I run.

2. Speed / Temp Training – A treadmill allows you to hit a pace and stay there. You can turn your brain off a bit and just focus on pushing through the workout. You can easily measure your effort and improvement over a time period based on the same or similar workouts.

3. Mental Toughness – Most people will agree that running on the treadmill takes some mental toughness due to the boredom it brings. With no change in scenery you can quickly get bored. In my opinion (at least in ultras) being mentally tough is just as important as being trained properly. Hanging in on those tough treadmill workouts when your mind is bored and you can easily quit without having to walk 3 miles back to your house or car builds that toughness. Ultras that consist of loops are tough because of this car factor. A few years ago I dropped out of the Umstead 100 miler after 87 miles. I was at my car and a warm fire. If I was feeling that bad at a different point in the race I still would have had to walk it in and who knows, maybe I would of felt better. It is always easier to quit when you can quickly have the creature comforts we are accustomed to.

4. Race Simulation – Treadmills allow you to simulate a race course and reduce its length. A coach I had a few years back put me onto this idea. Break down your race into %incline of every segment and then simulate those climbs and flats/declines on the treadmill. This has really caught on as some treadmills now have a capability to upload a gps track and they will automatically change the incline based on real world data. I am going to write a post on this sometime soon and go into more detail about my manual way of doing this.

5. Time Saving – Unless you live near the hills or track you want to train on a treadmill can save you time (especially if it is in your home or at your work). I have a treadmill at my house and my office complex has one in its workout room. I can easily do a run at lunch or anytime at home. This gives me more time due to less driving, money savings on gas, and more time with my family.

6. Climate – Sometimes the weather is not cooperative even for experienced mountain runners. My former coach had a top of the line treadmill because he lives at high altitude in Colorado. The winters are snowed in, but he still had a need to get in quality workouts. This guy is no slouch as he has won the Vermont 100 and Leadville 100 twice. In my case the summers are hot and humid. This weekend the low is 80 with a “real feel” of 90. The high is 100 with a “real feel” of 115. I am sure I could go out and hit my long run in this weather if I ran at night and went really slow. I am choosing the treadmill instead. I know I will get a better workout this way and not be exposed to the heat and all the possible ailments it brings. I am not training for a hot race so why should I expose myself to this extreme heat when I can run a Race Simulation instead?

I hope you will consider the treadmill as just another tool to help you reach your goals. It can hold a key place in most runners training and can be very helpful in reaching your goals. In the following months I am going to continue to expand on each of the above points and hopefully give some more insight into how the treadmill can be a useful training tool. So what do you think, are treadmills useful to you or are they nothing more than “dreadmills”?