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, April 29, 2011

A good run

I had my first great run in a long time last weekend.  8 repeats on a nearly 3/4 mile dirt road loop that included a pretty decent hill climb for about 2/10ths of a mile.  I tried to run pretty consistently, knocking out all the laps in about 4:55, except for the seventh which was about 5 seconds slower.  Legs were threatening to seize up at the end, but never followed through.  overall pace was about 6:47 per mile or so - definitely a better result than i was expecting. I was pretty worked, but not completely so, by the time everything was said and done.  It gives me some confidence for the Sioux - Hustler which is coming up in about three weeks i guess!

I've also been thinking about another way of looking at this type of training.  It's beyond a doubt that i could be far fitter were i to devote more time to, well, fitness.  But if you accept a few key premises, it's a pretty logical argument that the way i'm training is the most 'efficient'.  Here's how i figure it:

High intensity work requires greater physiological adaptation than low intensity work and so provides the greatest gains with least amount of time commitment, but High intensity work doesn't necessarily mean only sprint intervals, however - race pace intervals,  longer near max effort tempo runs,  and threshold zig zags are going to be necessary to develop the mental and physical stamina required for longer events, and are still performed at considerably higher intensity than what is required for the bulk of training in most programs.  I'm pretty maxed out right now in terms of my mental capabilities.  I'm doing three workouts a week, each of them is a significant effort and gives me 10-15 minutes of Z5+ effort, about 30-40 minutes of Z4-5, and the remainder in Z3 and Z2, with most being in Z3.  I don't think i'd be able to add much effort in Z4 or above without it hurting any of my existing workouts.  If i added volume at lower efforts, the average efficiency of my training time would go down.

So in other words, i'm trying to make all of my workouts at a level that provides pretty near the best results per time spent.  I'm focusing on hitting each training zone throughout the week with a workout that focuses on short, super high intensity intervals, one that focuses on longer intervals, and one that requires longer duration tempo work.  If i took something away i would't be doing as much as i could at this intensity.  If i added something, the intensity would suffer.  If i keep doing what i'm doing i think i'm going to comfortably be able to run a rugged 35 mile backcountry wilderness trail and race at an with an elite team in a seven day adventure race.  Not bad.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Status update and a bit of nostalgia

I've gotta get outside.  I've had a good run on the treadmill and stationary bike - the automated nature of these beasts have enabled me to consistently push myself in the limited time i've been on them each week, but the sun is coming out and the repetition is getting pretty old.  Last friday I had a great run on the treadmill - three miles @ 6 min pace with easier miles at 7:30 (and 7 the last 'rest' interval) - but half way through i had pain in my left foot.  I stubbornly pushed through and then woke and then could barely walk afterwords - and in the days following.  Internet research made me believe it to be a stress fracture, but by my next scheduled run (yesterday) it seemed to be getting better.  I hate missing workouts (yeah, i know i should work on this - at least this is what tammy tells me) and so thought i'd see how bad it was.  I'm half convinced that the problem resulted from the speed work i've done over the last couple of runs - speed work on a treadmill might not be the best - and so decided to do hill intervals instead.  it was my short workout and i figured i couldn't damage too much in 20 minutes.

I don't really have any baseline for comparison but on a perceived effort scale it was right up there.  15% grade for the duration - rest intervals (RI) at 2 miles per hour (3 miles per hour for the warm up) with work intervals (WI) at a 7:30 pace for the first one and then down to 8:00 pace thereafter.  WI were 1 min long, although it took about 12-15 seconds to be fully up to speed.  This was exhausting.  I was redlining hard for the last 10-15 seconds on the last four.  My lungs burned, heart pounded at near max capacity, and my legs threatened not to cooperate.  Awesome.  I could feel my foot but it wasn't too bad - a bit worse this morning than yesterday (pre run) but can still walk normally.  we'll see how things shape up this weekend and whether i can go for my planned longer run.  fingers crossed.

I've been thinking these past weeks about the mental side of things - after all hitting it hard becomes more and more mental the longer the duration of the challenge.  I find myself worrying a little about August - my next race with the Yogaslackers - a six day event in Idaho.  Apparently all the big boys are coming from overseas - it'll be the first race with international powerhouses going toe to toe with American squads on US soil in over 5 years.  In fact, even half of the 4 time Abu Dhabi championship team will be in attendance - damn i'm getting nervous just thinking about it.  I mean i have no doubt that i'll be in good enough shape to complete the race - but thats not going to be good enough for Yogaslackers.  These guys want to win, or at least get on the podium.  So i'm hoping my belief in mental over physical is on the mark - i'm hoping that my reasonable level of fitness and superior mental fitness will be enough not to let the team down.  Again, fingers crossed.....

Here's part 1 of the Primal Quest 2006 closing ceremonies video - this is what started it all for me.  It was my second ever adventure race, and a real education.  It's also the last time a race in the US has really drawn international teams. Part 2 is below.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Minus one (excuse)

Can't eliminate 'em, but maybe I can reduce their number...
I've been thinking about what if anything i'm trying to accomplish by training like this.  I certainly won't reach my fitness potential, but how many of us are even after that anyway?  i guess what it comes down to is that i'm trying to be fit enough to do big things without putting in even close to the volume that is usually thought of as being necessary.  My goal of course isn't to be able to pull a 'one off' effort and merely survive it, but rather to develop an extremely truncated plan that is easy for me to sustain essentially indefinitely that gives me well above average general fitness and allows for some level of specialization so that i can seek to improve race outcomes over a variety of disciplines.

A simpler way of looking at it is that i'm aiming to remove one excuse that is often used for not doing endurance and ultra-endurance activities.  Its clear to me that at least 90% of what it takes to complete these sort of big efforts is mental, not physical to begin with - and my training does not really address this mental side -  but neither do most (or all?) of the more 'conventional', high volume programs.  But if you've got the mental will, are comfortable with suffering, and have confidence in your abilities, then i'm convinced that the amount of time available to train should simply not be a factor in whether or not you're able to do big things.  Granted, i'd theoretically be able to do everything faster if i had 4, 6, or even more hours a week to train - but this also assumes that the quality of each of these hours stayed high.

As it it presently (training 2 hours a week), i'm able to keep all of my training pretty high value.  I've currently structured it so that i'm doing one 20 minute, one 40 minute, and one 60 minute a week.  The 20 minute workout usually involves short, super intense intervals of less than 90 seconds, with comparable length rest periods.  The 40 minute workout is also an interval workout, but the intervals are longer, lasting up to 5 minutes.  The 60 minute workout is a tempo workout, with anywhere from 30-60 minutes being at race pace (or greater) effort.  I'm currently alternating bike and run workouts which keeps my motivation pretty high.  I'm in my fourth week and have yet to have any noticeable mental or physical fatigue going into the workouts, which thus far has allowed me to string together nearly 10 sessions where my perceived effort was very high.

Previously (using 3 hours a week) i was able to get my running up to a level equivalent to a Vdot score of 52 - I'll be testing again in about two weeks, so i'll have a bit of hard data for comparison.