For new readers

To get an idea of what I'm trying to do and why I think it's possible, check out the following entries, they'll help get you up to speed.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Detailed Balance

Just a very quick post/update as i struggle unsuccessfully (at least this is how it feels) to write write write my way into a master's degree.  I'm normally fond of procrastinating until the last minute - i work better under pressure and find i'm more efficient this way - but i've never quite been in a situation like this where two weeks out from the deadline for a completed first draft is the last minute.  I often don't know how i'll manage it - but truth be told it will end up managing itself in one way or another.  It only makes me a little bit grumpy because it's on my mind all the time and i end up by default withdrawing unconsciously into my own little world filled with the language of statistical mechanics (and granted - there is some cool language in this world - words like Lagrangian, ergodicity (one of my favorites!), phase space, Markov, etc) - and i end up somewhat isolated from the family and kids which is a bummer.  I'm trying to separate work from home but it's getting harder and harder to do and soon the nightly ritual of two episodes of Arrested Development on netflix that's been keeping me sane will have to be abandoned too.  I only hope that i can just get this done - 10 weeks is better than having it loom for another entire semester.....

It's making it hard to train a bit too - although i sucked it up and had a decent week last week.  Here's the update:

  • Workout #1:  Tuesday.  I found out that i'd actually got less fit (my Vdot went from a 52.2 about 10 weeks ago to a 51.6) based on my 4 mile 'time trial' (which was positively brutal) 
  • Workout #2: Thursday.  I was able to get some support from Erik Sanders, a fellow triathlete and collegiate bike racer, who agreed to join me for a workout.  I knew he'd be faster than me but thought it would motivate me to go hard.  It did - and i managed to keep up with him but only by staying in his slip-stream after about the first 6 miles or so.  I'd actually get to recover a bit while drafting - so much so that i'd imagine i could take a turn pulling - but as soon as i'd try to do so i'd realize my mistake (it's amazing the difference the draft can make!)  I finally got a chance to share the load as we neared the end of the ride and headed into a stiff headwind - Erik politely looked back and said "you can take a turn up here if you'd like" - as if he was concerned that i wasn't getting the workout that i wanted because he was doing all the leading.  I'd decided to do a brick and so threw on shoes after the 22 mile ride and tried to push the opening pace and cadence (the key to a fast run in an olympic or shorter tri, in my opinion, is to get right into it and, as my wife is fond of saying, 'begin as you intend to go on').  Erik paced me on his bike and after a few blocks where i struggled with cramping calves i started picking up the pace and was right around 9 mph (6:40 pace) within the first half mile.  1.7 miles later i was headed back to the house with Erik convincing me to finish as though it was a race.  Bastard.
  • Workout #3:  I paddled for an hour on the Red Lake River - using my normal kayak blade (as opposed to wing paddle) to ascertain the speed difference.  Even though i did intervals (20, 40, 60, 80,100, 80, 60, 40, 20 paddle strokes on each side at tempo with 20 easy strokes in between) and otherwise tried to set a good pace, i was still, at least based on my calculations,  a third of a mile per hour slower than with the wing blade.  Might not seem like much but its more than 5% - which when you're trying to win a race is more than significant.  Now i'm not sure which paddle to take - if i take the wing paddle the last mile or so of the chippewa paddle section (the race i'm training for) might be messy as it winds through a narrow creek termed the 'snake pit' and i've far from mastered the difficult art of sculling, drawing, etc with the wing that seem necessary to successfully navigate such a waterway in a 16+ foot surf-ski.  I'm considering trying out hand paddles, but will leave that for this weekend.
Alright - that's it. Back to work.  It's time to write about 'detailed balance' with credibility, even though it's rather clear that i don't have any.  

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fruits part 2

This video is even better than the first. I'll let it speak for itself.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Running Slowly

My brother commented the other day after his last Vdot test (see 'participant workout logs' on the sidebar and then TMF crew for training specifics) that although there was a huge improvement, he felt like he was really struggling - so much so that he imagined he was going quite slowly.

I learned to deal with this feeling long ago, and have pretty much been able to adjust my internal sense of 'fast and slow' as a result.  The fact is that when you run twice a week (or sometimes even once) and are always pushing the intensity to some degree, you're going to end up exhausted.  There are no 'easy' runs, and it turns out that my meaning of 'fast' from years of not doing any HIT (high intensity training) used to translate to 'easy'.

I am waayyyy faster than i've ever been.  But because i spend all my running time in at least Zone 3 (Marathon race pace or better for those not well versed on training zones) i never really end my runs feeling good.  I do end them feeling good about the run however; but because this is usually accompanied by some level of gastro-intestinal distress, severe calf tightness, and shivering (as my body struggles to regulate its body temperature after the exertion), it's not the classic endorphins and runner's high.  The last few miles I always feel like i'm plodding - dragging along horribly - and wonder if i'm even managing an 8 min. mile.  I feel  slow.

But the training works - for me anyway - and although the time spent suffering never gets to be enjoyed by having it make something previously uncomfortable less so, it does get to be enjoyed in that for a given distance, i won't end up suffering quite as long.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Proof in the pudding

While Jason (my twin brother) and Chelsea (his then GF, now fiance) were visiting last summer we went running together a few times.  They were both in excellent fitness in general from very active lifestyles and their almost constant (but un-regimented) training for adventure races.  They had heard about my training philosophies and had even read a few of my workouts - but the speeds that had become normal training paces for me were apparently less impressive on paper than they were when viewed through the lens of direct experience.  They were planning some big races in the fall and winter months and thought that maybe some high intensity work might be the ticket to make them even more competitive.

So i crafted them i program around their busy schedule which they dabbled in a bit - fitting it around their existing 'training' of the more fun type which might consist of a 3 mile trail run to a crag, a 10 route climbing blitz, and a 3 mile run back to the car followed by teaching a two hour acro-yoga workshop.  They got some good workouts in no doubt but struggled with consistency.

But recently, after some tantalizing successes (5th place in the Wenger Patagonia Expedition Race last february) and also some disappointments (19th place in the Abu Dhabi adventure challenge) they both felt that they were on the cusp of starting to truly be competitive in the world of professional adventure racing. But they realized that one thing that they could improve was their baseline speed.  So they signed on again.

In addition, a member of the yogaslacker eco-expedition team, Tom Grundy, was coerced into taking part in the experiment in order to get ready for this years Too Much Fun expedition slated for july, which was more ambitious than ever and would require miles and miles of back-country travel, both on and off trail, between climbs.  We'd need to cover these distances in hours rather than days and although Tom is the go-to guy in the mountains, he hadn't done any dedicated endurance training in, well, ever.

Because i knew they all did other things to stay in shape - we decided to focus on running.  I came up with a program that would require two runs a week, and that would base training paces on Vdot scores. The second week of the program included a test to determine this score (the first week served as a general 'warm-up' so that the 5 mile tempo run required for the Vdot wouldn't do too much damage).  Tom scored a 38, Chelsea a 43, and Jason a 47.

5 weeks later (this week) they retested.  Tom had jumped 5 points to a 43, chelsea 4 to a 47, and jason up to 50.  To put this in perspective, Tom's predicted 10K time at the start of the program was 52:17.  After five weeks of training only two days a week, it had dropped to 47:04.  This is perhaps not surprising, given tom's lack of previous running fitness.  Jason, who began the 'test' much more highly trained however, would have clocked a 43:36 (a respectable showing for a recreational runner!) initially and after five weeks dropped this to 41:21 - well under a 7 min per mile pace.  Perhaps even more exciting is the fact that tom, who as i mentioned, hadn't run more than a few miles since training for wrestling back in college (nearly 20 years ago) is already running mid-distance runs (7 miles) at about an 8 min pace and longer distance runs (10+ miles) at a 9 min pace.  Starting from scratch and following a traditional program would require many months to even be running these distances - but because of (in my opinion) the low volume, high intensity focus of the program, improvement comes much quicker  with minimal time (but maximal effort) invested.

Eventually these guys will plateau of course - you can only get so far running 15-20 miles a week - but again the idea is to get within 10% or so of your actual physical potential in a short amout of time and be able to stay there with only minimal time investment.  Thats the goal - and i think, at least in this case - it's achievable.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Fruits of Labour

The Extreme North Dakota Spring Primer Adventure Race (END-SPAR) came and went last saturday here in Grand Forks, ND.  18 teams turned out to challenge the course and it was a pretty fantastic day of adventure racing all around.  It was the third event I've helped to stage and by far my favorite, for a pair of reasons.  First, my brother Jason and his fiance, Chelsea - were managed a well timed visit the week leading up to the race and worked tirelessly to help make my vision a reality. Secondly, i got to share that vision with my wife, Tammy, who did her first ever adventure race with perhaps the most experienced local team (by local i mean actually living right here in good old Grand Forks).  The guys - Jim and Pat - weren't planning to race and hadn't been training as their teammate, Theresa (Jim's wife) was recovering from an operation.  But they were coaxed into it and ended up taking third overall (missing second by seconds!) and first in the three person coed category.  Tammy loved the race, much to my relief, and now is cautiously talking about maybe trying another one in the fall.  Sweet!

Although the planning was time consuming as always, we were well organized and despite only having a handful of volunteers (thanks guys - couldn't have done it without you!) pulled it off beautifully.  Jason and Chelsea were able to spend the entire day running with the teams and shooting footage - the video above which Jason put together give's a taste of the adventure that is just waiting to be found, even here in the most unlikely of places. In case you're wondering - Tammy's in the one in purple.

Now that it's over i'm struggling a bit with 'post race depression' which i'm coming to realize is even worse after planning an event than just racing in one (though it's no surprise, given the respective levels of effort involved). I'm envious of Ja and Chels getting to jump right into the next adventure - which for them is a 24 hour race out in Las Vegas that they hope to make their third straight win.  Having to pound away at the thesis to catch up after the last several weeks (during which academia fell below setting checkpoints in a swamp on the priority list) isn't quite as fun as pounding away on the pedals, climbing desert single track, in search of a fleeting moment of racing glory.