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, April 9, 2013


One of the biggest problems i've faced in trying to discuss the path that low volume, high intensity training provides as a potential alternative to ambitious (but time crunched) amateur athletes looking to take on serious endurance challenges (other than the lonely factor) is the N=1 argument.  When the only one following my training program and having success is me - the project is more case study than experiment.  Interesting, perhaps, but hardly evidence.

But i can happily say the days of N=1 seem to be behind me.

Subject number 2
Meet Ryan Wagner - a 35 year old father of 5 whom i met about a year and a half ago.  He's a fit guy with the physique of a greek hero who has a real passion for exercise.   When he was introduced to what I was doing (and the crazy events ENDracing offered) he was just getting into endurance sports, and most of his exercise consisted of a steady diet of standard fare lifting and 'cardio'.  He'd run one marathon in 3:43 following a more traditional training program back in September of 2008.  But between his wife's heavy law school load, his own full time student status, and all the kids, he was fitting in training at 4 a.m. obviously at the sacrifice of sleep.

When i convinced him to try some long events (a 6 hour adventure race for starters) he got super excited and, not surprisingly, upped his training.  After all, longer races meant more training, right? Simply put, he didn't feel he was doing enough.  Long story short - he developed a slight injury leading up to the event that forced him to DNF after 2 hours.

But he healed.  And I started inviting him to workout with me.  It took him a while to 'let go' of the junk miles.  He tried to rationalize a need for them - that it gave him something more - that it relaxed him or kept him sane.  But i suspected differently.  What he needed was sleep.  And i felt that what he really wanted was just to feel like he could go out and do crazy long super hard stuff -that he was fit enough - and that how he got there really wasn't as important.  So for a while he was tagging along with me on my gut wrenching 10 minute workouts and trying to squeeze in all the other stuff too.  He put in a one or two longer runs leading up to the 50 Kilometer winter ultra we did together in March.  We did really well at that event and i think he was convinced.

It was in the let down from the 50K that we decided to add a 50 miler to our racing calendar on May 11th.  He agreed to follow my training program more or less (he still gets to lift - i've been there - hard to give that up) and see how it goes.  I'm nervous but confident.  We'll run together which means i can talk him through the low points that will undoubtedly come.  And he's demonstrated that he is very capable of producing the genuine level of extreme effort required for the truncated program to yield good results (something i'm starting to think that few people are able to and/or interested in doing in the first place).

And granted, N=2 is hardly evidence either.  But it is a 100% increase in numbers, and that has one other important benefit - it fixes the lonely factor.  Suffering side by side, even in breathless silence, is - at least for me - better than suffering alone.  Thanks for being along for the ride, Ryan.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Running through Jello

I feel like I'm back on top of things and fully recovered.  I can always tell when i get there because as crazy as it sounds, when i'm not fully recovered (i.e. in the week or two following a bigger effort) i start thinking i should cut my already ridiculously low training volume down even lower - say to 30 minutes a week.  I'm tapped out of motivation after my three 10 minute jaunts and the idea of that single half hour session on the weekend just seems too much.

But this last week has been awesome.  It's only three weeks since the 8+ hour winter 50K run and i'm already at my 'high-water' marks for the super intense sessions - this week I managed to match my best past efforts on the bike and run and exceed it slightly during my rowing workout.  All were brutal and it took nearly as much time for the feelings of agony to subside immediately post workout as it had to create them.

But it was the run this week was particularly fascinating. It was my progressive interval day which called for a constant speed of 8.2 mph (7:19 pace) starting with a 0% incline and increasing 2% every 2 minutes.  The first three intervals reach a 4% grade but never demand an intensity i can't 'wrap my mind' around.  6% is a different story - and by the end of the 2 minutes i'm usually above Lactate Threshold - the point where i'm maxed out my cardio system and increased efforts come with time limits.  It feels hard enough where if i placed too much stock in 'feelings' i'd be convinced that i should just stick at 6% for the final 2 minutes and hope i could make it.

But instead, i make it harder.  The only way to go into this last 2 minutes at 8% is with guns blazing.  I usually roar internally (i tried doing it externally once but this is apparently frowned upon?) and charge up a simulated hill toward a mentally simulated finish line.  It's only 2 minutes, right?  I can do this.

Unfortunately, that bravado and fake finish line only get me through about 45 seconds.  With over a minute to go it really becomes interesting.  I start counting down from 100 every time my right foot hits the spinning belt.  Even though i'm sure i don't actually close my eyes, the optic nerve impulses must not make it past the Cerebellum, being used to keep me on my feet but never making it into my active consciousness.  My focus is entirely abstract  - nothing but numbers (55, 54, 53, 52.....) and an odd and heightened awareness of the approaching end of my ability to continue performing coordinated movement.

you want me to run through there?
I start to feel like i'm running through jello or some other viscous fluid.  It's not purley a cardiovascular difficulty, or a lactic acid/muscular difficulty one like i often get on hard biking intervals - its this beautiful whole body sort of thing.  Arms, legs, chest, gut, skin, lungs - messages being sent from all remote outposts simultaneously declaring that actual war is about to be lost.  Defeat is on the horizon.

I think maybe if i'd actually had a gun to my head i could have pulled out another 30 seconds or so.  Maybe.

I thought it was pretty sweet to come that close to actual physical failure on purpose.