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.

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.

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