Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Is this how it's supposed to feel?

I do a lot of runs over 10 miles... Heck, a lot over 12 miles. It's part of the Pfitzinger training plan I'm on. These runs are hard, by virtue of their length, but also...  because they are done at an aerobic pace that ranges from easy to moderate. I do them easier when the schedule ahead looks a little harder; closer to moderate when the schedule ahead looks reasonable. Today I did one at my moderate aerobic pace. It was a 14 miler, and when I was done...  well, I was ready to be done.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Diatribe against "torsional stability" with digression on natural running

One of the things that many shoes are marketed as providing for the foot is "torsional stability." What that basically means is that they have something in to prevent the sole from twisting at the midfoot. Some of the shoes that offer this also claim to be designed to support "natural" ways of running.

Colorado Marathon 2011: Training Week 3 Summary

Ok, Week 3 of Colorado Marathon 2011 training in the bag. Actually the fourth week of the Pfitzinger & Douglas 55-70 mile/week training plan from their book Advanced Marathoning.


Unexpected soreness from the 10 X 100 m strides with my first workout of the week, Tuesdays 9 general aerobic (GA) mile run, and icy conditions that forced me to shorten my planned 14 mile medium-long run (MLR) to 8 miles on Wednesday threw me for a loop, and I made up the 6 missing aerobic mileage by adding some very easy aerobic miles to the ends of workouts from Thursday through Saturday. The idea was to run these workouts easier than I otherwise might, add a total of 6 very easy miles to the end, and hope that I had gone easy enough that my 18 miler on Sunday (today) didn't hurt like hell.

For the most part, I think it worked out pretty well, except I felt so good on Friday, that I let myself just take it as I normally would run an MLR, and I think that might have taken more out of me than I realized, because the 18 mile long run (LR) wasn't easy.

Of course, there were other extenuating circumstances. My wife had agreed to meet me with a refill for my fuel bottle at the halfway point in the run. That's something we had never done, and I was looking so much forward to reaching that halfway point, that psychologically my mind and body must have taken that for the end of the run, because after a quick stop to change my fuel bottle out for the full one, and to drop off some clothes I thought were keeping me too warm, I headed back down the trail for home again.

Unfortunately, I hadn't realized that I was a little warm, because the breeze was at my back for the last four miles to the halfway point, so when I turned around, I was running into a quickening cold wind. It wasn't long before I regretted having left my tights behind at my wife's car in favor of just running in my compression shorts, but I knew I would only have to tough that cold wind out for four miles... Which turned out to be four grueling miles, as everything including my legs had decided to slow down. Miles 11-15 were pretty crappy, in general.  After mile 16 I realized how close I was to the end of the run, and found a little extra some some to pick up the pace--just a little at first, but then I peeled off mile 18 in 7:45, which I gave my morale a little boost.

The word for week three of my Colorado Marathon 2011 training: Fatigue.  I really needed lower mileage in the three days before this 18 miler, but I made the choice to make them up, and just to do so in the least taxing way possible, then I screwed that up by really hitting that MLR a little too hard. Do I regret it, though?  Not at all.  I'm glad I'm finishing the week with the full complement of aerobic miles on the plan under my belt, and despite how difficult the 18 mile run was, an 8:17 average pace is nothing to feel badly about.

Next week promises to be quite difficult, and coming off this difficult 18 mile run, I'm considering some modifications to next week's schedule, so I can finally get fully recovered. I think it's important to do that, because the long run at the end of next week is another 18 miler, but only with 10 miles at Marathon Race Pace.  That promises to be a tough one unless I can recoup a little before then.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Growing accustomed to being tired

Tired Runner

I've heard it said that to have a really strong marathon performance, it's important to grow accustomed to running fast despite fatigue. You have to learn to embrace and almost enjoy the fatigue, because there is not beating it. There is only working with and through it.

I'm becoming convinced that this is a big part of the Pfitzinger training plan I'm using to prepare for the Colorado Marathon. The plan includes lots of mileage, much of which is accumulated in relatively long runs that are done two to four times/week. After three weeks now, I'm growing accustomed to the mileage, or am I just growing accustomed to a higher baseline level of fatigue, and running faster and longer on legs that are always at least a little tired?

I suspect that it's the latter that's going on. The Pfitzinger & Douglas training philosophy really appears to focus on teaching runners to run well, despite static fatigue. Along the way, you have some crappy tired runes you barely get through, but invariably there are then runs where despite a little fatigue you have a really excellent and fast training run. You go from questioning yourself after a few crappy tired days, to suddenly feeling like your goals are well within reach when you have a really great run out of the blue.

Scheduling... Not a problem

A lot of people have a real difficult time fitting in their workouts, but with my current employment situation, that hasn't been a major problem for me. Underemployment has given me what I like to call a "flexible" schedule. I can basically work out at whatever time of day I want, within reason.

I still have to be aware of my wife's work schedule, but otherwise, I'm free to work out at the most advantageous times. During the summer, I can workout early in the morning without any real problems, and in spring and fall, I can switch to late morning, then midday during winter. It's not a problem for me.

Granted, I would rather be employed and faced with a scheduling dilemma, but until the job search produces results, I'm free to workout whenever it works best for me, and I'm ok with that. If the job search does come through, I suspect I may go through a period of withdrawal, as my prime workout times are filled with scheduled work, and my workouts get pushed to less ideal times. I'm determined not to reduce my workout load, but a full work schedule could make my current load difficult to maintain.

I'll just have to do what I can to make my workouts happen.

Cheers!

Compression Garments

Occasionally, I am asked what I think about compression garments. Particularly socks and calf sleeves. Many runners are interested in whether there is any performance advantage to wearing them.

I use compression garments. Particularly tights, shorts, and calf sleeves. I like the way they feel after a hard running workout. My impression is that I don't get as sore and recovery more quickly when I wear them the remainder of the day after a long or hard run. I also wear them during these runs, if I am not feeling 100% at the start, or if I want a little extra warmth, in some cases.

Do I wear them because they help with performance? No, not with speed/pacing anyway.  I don't think they make me run faster or farther, in general. I do think it's possible they may help me run more frequently and train more consistently, and perhaps even avoid some injuries that might cause me to otherwise cut some runs short. By helping with recovery, my sense is that compression garments do help me carry a heavier training load more comfortably, which is great.

I have some question about whether it's the compression or the added warmth, or both, which confers the perceived benefits, but the jury is still out on that.

So, there you have it. Not very scientific, although consistent with what little science there is on compression and recovery.

Colorado Marathon 2011: Training Week 2 Summary

My second full week on the Pfitzinger & Douglas 18 week 55-70 mile/week training plan (actually the third week of the plan, since I started on the second week), went fairly well, although at first it was a little touch and go. Touch and go between this week there were three Medium Long Runs (MLR), two of which were back-to-back early in the week (Tuesday, Wednesay), and then a 4 mile Tempo run (Friday), and a 15 mile MLR again on Sunday.

Monday's rest day was good, since the end of the previous week had been a 16 mile run with 8 miles at Marathon Race Pace. I ran them around 7:30, which is in the neighborhood of my predicted marathon pace (we'll see), so I was a little fatigued and a touch sore when the first MLR came due. Fortunately, it was only 11 miles. I know, I know...  "ONLY" 11 miles...  Well, that used to be a long run for me. It's still long, actually, but it's not killer long.  I got through that run all right, despite the fatigue and slight soreness, then felt a little better for the second MLR the next day, which was 13 miles.

The 5 mile recovery on Thursday went easy and I felt good afterward, but I was still dreading the tempo run on Friday - and I actually like tempo runs!  Anyway, I managed to get through that, hitting my tempo miles at around a 6:50 pace, but had some pain in my right knee related to some ITB issues during the remainder of the run. I have felt the ITBS starting up there for a couple of days, but I've been mostly able to keep at bay for the last week or so by keeping it warm while running and focusing on good running form (which works for me). Following that Saturday's 5 mile recovery was trouble-free, and I felt pretty good on Sunday's MLR, so I kind of went for it.

You see, on Pfitzinger & Douglas plans, MLR's are useful for training on more...  interesting terrain. So, I set up a route where I would have the option during mile 7 to either climb 600 ft or so in a mile, or just run some rolling hills for a couple of miles. I chose the big hill, and on the way down from the climb I started having a little bit of pain in at the top inside outer edge of my right knee cap...  So, I finished the downhill at a super slow jog, and at the bottom the pain was basically gone, so I just finish the rest of the run as a progressive, that would take me from mid-8 minute pace down to 7:20 pace in the last 6 miles.

It all worked out well, but I'm left this week with some lingering pain when I run, at the top of my right knee cap, toward the inside. I've decided it's where the medial quadriceps attaches to the patella, so I either have a low-grade strain or some irritation at the attachment point.  Not sure.  In any case, it's more an ache than an outright pain, and if I run easy it's under control, so I've just taken my runs easier this week. It's gradually gotten better as the week progressed, which is good, but if I have to I'll definitely consider taking an extra recovery day after my Long run on Sunday, or making some other adjustments in the schedule to accomodate a little more healing time.

As I write this, I'm at actually at the end of week three, which I'll report on in a separate post, and things are all right for now.  Body is adjusting one step at a time to a fairly ambitious training schedule.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Not deeper meaning, but higher purpose

I don't find a deeper meaning in running. I don't think running past all of the minutia along a road or trail while I focus on my running form or listen for cars about to run me over makes me any more connected to the world around me. If that's what I wanted, I would move more slowly, with my senses directed outward. That's not what I do when I run, though.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Am I a "Run Bum?"

I've known a few bums in my time. Ski bums, flyfishing bums, beach bums, stinky bums.... Well, ok, I might have been joking on that last one (a little). By "bum" here, I'm talking about people who seem to make a living by, well, not making a living. People whose addiction to some specific pursuit (skiing, fishing, trail running, [insert any number of other pursuits here]), that they seem happy to sacrifice traditional career paths and skip from job to job, when they are employed at all, in order to support their addictions.

Recently, I've been unemployed. The unemployment has stretched out, despite a lot of time and effort spent in job searches. I've followed all the advice. I applied for EVERY possible job and had no luck (overqualified). Then, I started focusing all of my effort on applying for just those jobs for which I am most qualified. That hasn't worked either. So, what do I do? Well, I do run a lot. Along with meditation, I think it keeps me sane while I look for the next big step in employment, but I also wonder if it hasn't mellowed me out quite a bit, because now I find myself willing to sacrifice traditional career paths again. Of course, I'd like to think that this is because I'm just disillusioned/weary for now of all the striving for something that never seems to come to fruition.

Hmm... Too much navel gazing, perhaps...

Well, maybe not. I find myself seeking ways I can use my running to support my running. Of course, that's not the same as using serial employment as a means of supporting my running, but maybe it's a step along the path to becoming a run bum. Would that be such a bad thing? In any case, it's not entirely voluntary... Yet.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Famous Last Words

Famous Last Words...

Just a few days ago, I was tweeting with someone (on Twitter). The frustrating thing about twitter, but what also makes it pretty cool, is the character limit. At one point in the exchange, I wanted to say, that while running 26.2 miles at once wasn't easy, if you don't care about your time, all you have to do is train up with some long relatively low-intensity aerobic runs, if you're already in pretty good condition. Since I think that described me pretty well, I view the bigger challenge of the marathon to be finish it with a good time. Well, that's obviously too many characters, but I don't like to string a bunch of tweet's together to tell the whole story, so I tried to catch it in one single, perfectly worded tweet.

Friday, January 14, 2011

What's in a name?

On the internet, people often choose to use pseudonyms, or "handles," a term that originated in CB and/or amateur radio, I believe. There are often reasons that people choose the particular handle they choose. Some people like their handle to have some kind of 'deeper' meaning, and others just want something original.

I Chose to call myself FoCo Runner for the purposes of this blog, and on Twitter as well. The obvious reason for this is that I live in Fort Collins (FoCo), Colorado.  Fort Collins is a town in the Northern part of the Colorado Front Range area that is usually just called Northen Colorado (NoCo).  So, in any case, I thought about calling myself NoCo runner, but once I realized that foco is spanish for "focus," FoCo seemed like the logical choice, because I also practice meditation and like to focus my attention on different parts of my body as I run.  Plus, the focus of the blog is running...  So, FoCo Runner.

Ok, maybe not very exciting, but I liked it, and now it's out there.

Cheers!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pfitzinger & Douglas Periodization (Marathon Training)

In a previous post, I talked fairly generally about how periodization is used in training for endurance sports training. If you haven't previously considered carefully how and why training should change throughout a training cycle for maximum benefit, please refer back to the previous post.

In this post, I will discuss periodization of the 55-70 mile/week Pfitzinger & Douglas (2001; Advanced Marathoning) training plan I recently started to prepare for the Colorado Marathon 2011. 
I summarized the distribution of mileage among different workout intensities in this plan by mesocycle in Figure 1, below. Mesocycle 1 focuses on easy and moderate aerobic training. these are a combination of recovery runs, short runs (GA), medium-long runs (MLR), and Long runs (LR). I've defined these runs in a previous post, for reference. While aerobic training remains dominant in throughout the entire training Macrocycle, there is a marked decrease in the emphasis on aerobic training as some workouts shift to progressively higher intensity through time, leading up to the goal event at the end of Mesocycle 4. But, what about the actual weekly mileage during each mesocycle? Read on.

Figure 1. Distribution of training mileage among different intensities for each Mesocycle in the 55-70 mile per week training plan of Pfitzinger & Douglas (2001; Advanced Marathoning

What strikes me here is that overall weekly mileage seems high right from the start on this plan (Figure 2). Pfitzinger plans don't start low and work up mileage gradually. They are for runners who have been consistently training with mileage that is near the starting mileage load in Mesocycle 1, and who have completed a long run of nearly the same distance as the first long run in the plan during the month before starting. They assume the runner is not starting from the couch. So, if you use a Pfitzinger 18 week plan, make sure to select one with a mileage load you have already been working at, and also be aware that while the plans ask you to run a lot of mileage right off the bat, the emphasis at first is on easy and moderate aerobic running, which if you've picked your plan realistically should be within your capability.

Figure 2. Average weekly mileage in each Mesocycle of the 55-70 mile per week training plan of Pfitzinger & Douglas (2001; Advanced Marathoning)  
If I graph each week, you can see that there is some ramping up of overall milieage during Mesocycle 1 (Figure 3). Each week, mileage increases up to the level of the mileage in Mesocycle 2, when the lactate threshold (tempo) workouts increase markedly. Further, note that with 12, 8, and 4 weeks remaining, there is a dip in mileage. These are "recovery" weeks, that are intended to give the body a slight break and prevent fatigue from taking a bite out of your training benefits. 

Figure 3. Weekly mileage throughout marathon training Macrocycle in Pfitzinger & Douglas (2001; Advanced Marathoning

The Microcycles into which the Mesocycles are divided are also carefully planned so that one or two harder workouts are always followed by an easy or recovery workout. Further, two very high intensity workouts will not occur back-to-back (i.e., a Lactate Threshold workout won't be followed a day later by a VO2 Max Interval workout), but one of these high intensity workouts might appear back-to-back with a moderate aerobic run (i.e., VO2 Max interval workout followed by a Medium-Long Run), but only once in a given week. Also, Threshold workouts in Mesocycle 1 and 2 generally are planned at 2 week intervals, and speed work is programmed not more often than once per week and the end of Mesocycle 2 to the middle of the taper in Mesocycle 4. Speed Training (fast repeats or strides) are programmed about every other week during Mesocycles 1-3, then become once-twice weekly during the Mesocycle 4 taper. So, there are a lot of logical "rules" that apply to microcycle structure to help control fatigue and overtraining.

We'll see if they work. The real test for me as I attempt to use this particular plan is whether these measures will be sufficient to prevent me from getting fatigued enough to fall into bad form and end up with some of the form-related aches and pains I've had in the past. I'm keeping an eye on this.

Running on Snow

Running in the falling snow can be fun. In fact, I enjoy it a lot. Usually, when the snow is falling, traction isn't too bad, so you can maintain your normal stride without too much problem. A day or two later, however (at least here in Northern Colorado), if the temperatures stay pretty cold, you are left with stretches of tracked and packed snow that offers poor footing and little or no traction, alternating with stretches that have been cleared and/or melted some, which are pretty good for running.

The slippery spots can really sap your energy, particularly if you are obsessed with maintaining a strong pace. Having poor traction forces you to use a lot of extra energy, and the poor footing forces you to proceed with some amount of trepidation and before you know it, your form stinks. If you're lucky, that doesn't turn out to be a big problem for you. For those of us who rely on good clean running form to alleviate the stresses that contribute to a variety of overuse syndromes, like ITBS, the slippery uneven surfaces can really become a problem.

I faced this problem on my run today. An eleven mile run was on the schedule, and I figured I could pretty easily accomplish this but about halfway in, I started to notice a familiar pain on the outside of my knee, and really had to focus on form to keep it in check. Still, now and then I'd fall out of my form when I'd hit the crossing of a street covered with uneven packed snow, or when I was forced to on stretches of road or sidewalk that was tracked and refrozen, and particularly when the surface was slippery, offering poor traction. The sense of poor traction really seems to cause me to get lazy with my form.

So, I finished the run all right, but has some ITBS pain in my right knee for a little while afterward. This is frustrating, because I know what I need to do with my form to prevent this problem, but conditions caused me to lose focus, and to my obvious detriment.

I'll probably either have to work on getting access to an indoor track or gym with a treadmill for my running on cold days for the rest of winter, or will just have to get creative with my training schedule (or maybe both.

We'll see how things play out. Wish me luck in keeping the ITBS at bay.

Cheers!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Colorado Marathon 2011: Training Week 1 Summary

Week 1 (Week 2 Pfitzinger & Douglas Plan): 54 miles run (see explanation below).

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Your Training Plan: Periodization (Say what?)

Pe-ri-od-i-za-tion |ˌpi(ə)rēədəˈzā sh ən| noun - refers to the way some portion of time is divided into periods. 

Through a combination of exercise physiology theory and experience with preparation for endurance events, competitive athletes and coaches have learned that their workout schedule works best for them when properly periodized. This post is about the rationale behind the structure of a training plan. In later posts, I may talk more about the specifics of putting a custom plan together.

Assuming there is enough time to prepare for a target race (12-18 weeks or more), a complete training cycle (the "Macrocycle") is generally broken down into four to five smaller periods, called "Mesocycles," which are then further broken into "Microcycles." The purpose is to distribute the different types of workouts among the Microcycles and Mesocycles, so that workout intensity can build and taper optimally without overtraining and/or undue risk of injury.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

An inauspicious start

So, I tried to jump on a Pfitzinger 55-70 marathon training plan at the end of week one for a May 1 race. I made a nifty electronic bookmark on the plan in the Kindle version of Advanced Marathoning (Pfitzinger/Douglas), and I was ready to jump on board. And that's just what I did.

On Jarnuay 1, I participated in a 5K race. It was tough because 2 miles of it were on slippery packed snow (Can you say, "no friggen traction..." Great, I knew you could), but by the morning of the second (Sunday), I felt pretty good, and decided to go ahead and jump on the training schedule with the long run at the en dof week one. I didn't think much about it being 17 miles. I just did it. It was another day of unsure footing and crappy traction along many of the roads and sidewalks, but I got it done without too much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth.

Then, Monday I had a library book to pick up and the bookmarked schedule called for a 6 mile recovery run. I didn't think much of that either. I was a bit sore from the 20 miles of running with lots of slick surfaces, but I knew I could run 6 miles at a snails pace. I ran to the library (conveniently 3 miles away from home), picked up my book, and ran back home.

Then, Today (Tuesday), I woke up just as sore as yesterday, thinking the soreness should be starting to fade by now. Then I went down and looked at my schedule to verify my run for the day. It said 8 mile General Aerobic run, with 10 X 100 m strides.  I thought, well, I can probably do that, but then I scrolled down to see the rest of the week and saw the mileage total for the week. It didn't seem right. It was high.

So, I backed up to a previous page in the text and realized I had bookmarked THE WRONG PLAN! I had bookmarked the 70-85 mile/week plan (ouch), instead of the 55-70 mile/week plan I had intended! When I corrected my bookmarking mistake, I noticed that I should have run only 15 miles on Sunday, and rested entirely on Monday, which would have been perfect considering the soreness. So, I've only just begun training for my first marathon and I've already mistakenly screwed up the first few days of the plan (and I thought I was doing so well).

In any case, I decided to skip the General Aerobic run for today, and consider moving the set of strides to a recovery run day later this week. Today will be the rest day I should have had yesterday, and my legs are thankful for that, because tomorrow there is a 12 miles Medium-Long run on the schedule.

I'm glad I caught my mistake in the first few days, so I can get back on track and try to stick to the correct schedule for the rest of the cycle. I think the higher mileage plan could have resulted in some problems in short order.

Sheesh! Nothing is as easy at it looks.

Monday, January 3, 2011

FoCo Runner 2010: my year in review.

Year End summary from 2010 provided by dailymile. This includes all my cardio workouts logged on the website (mostly running and cycling). For full details, click on the image. It links to the full report.
This should be very brief.  I started the year, thinking I could reach 500 miles running by year's end, and planning to run a bunch of 5K races, and maybe one or two 10K's. I finished the year having run 14 races, including a half marathon, a 10 miler, four 10K's, a 3.75 mile trail race, and a bunch of 5K's. Some of the races were handicapped club races put on by the Fort Collins Running Club, but I ran them as hard as any other race.

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