Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Thinking Too Much

I tend to think about running.  A lot.  (A lot of thinking, that is.  Also, thinking about a lot of running, I guess.)  Curiously, my thinking about running, and what kind of running I'd like to be doing, and where I'd like to be doing it, and on which days of the week, etc. is also basically inversely proportional to my ability/likelihood to actually be doing said running.  That is to say, the more injured I am, the further I intuitively feel from being able to accomplish any running, the more I think about it.  I know, it's pretty sad. 

The most ridiculous thing about this phenomenon is that whenever I'm actually healthy and am able to run basically whatever I'd like to, I tend to just fall into a pretty familiar routine.  Run lots.  Run up mountains.  The details become a whole lot less important to me.

With my back giving me significant (but not complete) pause, my thinking about running has been steadily increasing.  In class, I think about running when I should be more focusedly taking notes.  Outside of class, I am plotting, scheming, and prognosticating when I should have my nose stuck in a textbook.  My academic productivity actually has a directly proportional relationship with the amount I am running.  I mean, shit, I'm writing on this goddamn blog instead of doing my homework, right?

So, what have I been thinking?

(Be forewarned: at this point, this post is about to become even more boring, full of excrutiating minutiae, and generally horifically and repugnantly self-indulgent...the shockingness of which is only surpassed by the embarassing fact that I apparently don't actually care enough to not post it.)

Right now, I am thinking that my running over the past 2+ months has progressed me to a point that it's probably time to start injecting an ever-so-slight amount of structure and planning into it.  I've laid a very sound base of volume and vertical, but it would now (granted health, of course) make sense to begin focusing my efforts a little more specifically to address my desires for the rapidly approaching mountain racing season.

Mostly, this means probably a subtle reduction and re-jiggering of the week-day volume (cutting out those random 2x2hr mid-week sessions) and an increase in the weekend volume.  That's pretty much it.  By doing this, I hope to increase the length of a weekly long run to the 4hr+ range, and eventually start including some back-to-back weekend sessions, body willing.  The counter-point to this will be more focused hillclimb efforts mid-week, probably Tuesday and Thursday.  Of course, I will still allow the energy of my legs to be the ultimate arbiter of whether or not I really nail a climb, but that doesn't mean I can't stack the odds in my favor with some simple planning of effort and volume.

In essence, I will be looking to replicate (down here on the Front Range, at lower altitudes) the training I was doing last summer up in Leadville, which I believe delivered me to the White River 50 and Leadville 100 in the best shape of my life, thus far.  Brass tacks of an actual week from last summer's training log, below:

07-13-2009
Mon-AM: 17 miles (2:25) Hagerman Pass, 2000'
        PM: 5 miles (:41) East Leadville
07-14-2009
Tue-AM: 12 miles (2:26) Mt. Elbert, 4500'
       Halfmoon Creek North Trailhead to summit in 1:15; 2:01
       roundtrip
.
      PM: 8 miles (1:05) East Leadville, 1000'
07-15-2009
Wed-AM: 18 miles (2:39) Mosquito Pass, 3000'
         Diamond Mine to top in :38.
        PM: 6 miles (:50) East Leadville
07-16-2009
Thu-AM: 17 miles (2:52) Mt. Massive, 4500'
      Halfmoon Creek South Trailhead to summit in 1:28; 2:28
      roundtrip.

      PM: 5 miles (:44) East Leadville
07-17-2009
Fri-AM: 11 miles (1:30) Turquoise Lake
07-18-2009
Sat-AM: 30 miles (5:01) Aspen Four Passes Loop, 8000'
        Maroon Lake parking lot to parking lot in 4:46:55
07-19-2009
Sun-AM: 25 miles (4:09) Hope Pass Double Crossing, 7000'
       Twin Lakes Fire Station to Winfield and back to TL in 3:39:55
Total
-Miles: 154
-Hours: 24h22min
-Vertical: 30,000'

This was a very standard week for me last summer.  Except for taper weeks and two outliers in the 180s, all of my weekly mileages last summer fell in the 150s, which actually showed mostly unprecedented restraint on my part with regard to overall volume in the build-up for a 100 mile race.

(Don't believe me?  Then let me point you to these ridiculous posts from my preparation for Leadville 2007 and Western States 2008.  150 MPW is child's play compared to that stuff.) 

After this particular week I tapered for five days and ran the White River 50 in Washington.  Which leads me to the next topic I've been thinking about: speedwork.

At White River I was able to break 2:13 marathoner Uli Steidl's (i.e. someone with lots of leg speed) venerable course record despite the race being at relatively low altitude (ranging between 2000' in the valley to 6000+' at the summit of the climbs) and the amount of speedwork I had done in training equaling zippo. 

Outside of races, the fastest I ran all summer was the occasional 6ish minute mile returning on the downhill gravel roads from Mosquito Pass, and other than my Tue/Thu 14er ascents (which I generally conducted at a perceived effort that would probably best be described as somewhere between "tempo" and "good-gawd-my-lungs-are-going-to-explode"; I tried to keep things from really getting dire until I was above 14,000', though) I never even really ran at an effort level that could have been considered anything higher than "moderate".

(Mustering some speed at the finish of White River last summer. Photo: John Wallace III)

I guess this just means that, especially when one's goal races are in the 6-16hr range of duration, Mr. Lydiard's most essential assertion that the majority of fitness comes from maximal aerobic development must contain some significant truth.  Lucky for me, this type of long, generally moderately-efforted running is the very kind that I enjoy most.

So, other than the odd road race, I think I'll mostly continue to forgo the structured "speed" component of training (well, at least that's what I think right now).  It's tough for me to argue with what has led to success for me in the past.  Additionally, at least until the snow melts up high, I'll also be substituting charging up a 14er on Tuesdays and Thursdays with double-lap efforts on Green Mt (in order to achieve similar amounts of vertical gain and descent).  Eventually, I hope to make it up to Mt. Audubon (13,2xx') and Grays/Torreys (14ers) on a regular basis.

(A recent view of Audubon from the summit of Green Mt.  Audubon looms on the horizon directly in the center of the photo.)

Hopefully, all of this will be as free-of-injury and fantastically fun as I envision it being right now, sitting here at this desk, icing my back, stealing more-than-occasional glances out the window to Green Mt. and Bear Peak.

22 comments:

Andrew Krone said...

Anton,

Your entries are far from boring.

Thanks!!!
Andy

Tuck said...

At least you're maintaining your sense of humor.

Good luck with the back.

connor said...

Take care of that back, there are WS spots to be won in your near future.

*tc said...

Anton,

Interesting observations. I've been thinking about running A LOT off and on since about 1976. And as you alluded to, seems the more injured or exhausted from over training I am, the more I scheme/dream about setting a PR or a course record; nay a world record (why not, I'm dreaming after all).

The difference is that I'm just dreaming and for you it's a reality. I think it's a good diversion. Also, I find that when I can't stop thinking about running, and finally put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard?), I can let it go to some extent and move on to other tasks that I "should" be doing.

Good stuff! Keep it coming.

- The older, much less accomplished Tony

GZ said...

Enjoyable post because - most of us tend to think about this stuff way too much. And particularly this time of year. It is always good when we get validation from each other that we fret over it a lot, particularly when we cannot do what we love.

But soon, the sun will be blazing, the ridges will be open. Get that back well for the good times a'coming with spring.

... I'd say something about sun screen here but I tend to agree with your sentiments on that too.

ayarella said...

Anton, I know exactly what you mean about both the thinking about running when not able to run and the academic productivity being proportional to running.....

Great blog, btw.

-Abi

AJW said...

I am in the same boat with the thinking about running thing. And, with a two week spring break just around the corner, I am thinking, in particular, about running 300 miles in the Desert Southwest before the end of March. Get well soon!

AJW

My beautiful wife Pam and I at the 2009 Mohican Trail 100M. Right at the 100K mark!! said...

Great post! I would guess that most us (can't speak for everyone) who read this topic are either working or otherwise. I for one like the distraction. Wish you the best in recovery. Get that back better so you can run a good one at MiWok.

C.J. Hitz said...

Anton,

I look at your training logs and wonder how you keep up with your calorie intake...would be curious to know what your favorite food staple has been to replenish.

CJ

Anton said...

CJ,
Nutella on tortillas? I don't have a secret diet. However, I think I have a fairly unique (i.e. slow) metabolism, because I don't feel like I eat a ridiculous amount. Or, maybe it's all I've ever known and it is a ridiculous amount. Or, maybe other people just eat too much relative to the amount of activity they have in their lives. I don't know.

Charlie said...

Tony,

Craig Mottram - The Big Mazungo is a top 3k and 5k track runner (he is the only white guy who can match it with the africans). I remember an interview with him a couple of years ago when he really emphasised the much greater importance of the long distance sessions over the speed sessions. His point was that he didn't need to run faster, but he did need to be able to run at top speed for longer and the only way to do that was by running longer.

AshleyD said...

Anton,
What do you hope to get out of all of this running one day?

Anton said...

Ashley,
It's already been gotten; I just hope to be privileged enough to be able to keep gettin' it.

Peruse a few of my other posts (particularly from this past summer), and I think you may find the answer to your question.

Footfeathers said...

I thought you've mentioned your staple (or is it favorite) food is "ridiculous amounts of ice cream". Looking forward to bumping into you on Green, and Bear for that matter.
Tim

AshleyD said...

Anton,
I hope that you keep gettin it too. More than just your running is inspirational. Stay healthy.

oh yea-after reading some summer posts...i'd say july 8th is my favorite. the rooster sounds like some fun. enjoy life.

Marco Peinado said...

Tony, I actually found this post to be one of your more interesting ones. After my first ultra I found that speed was what I lacked the most. My training this summer was similar to yours, not in volume, but I felt like I had no speed. I find it specially hard to improve my speed in Leadville. Its a fact that you have great speed, you took Uli's record, so my guess is that you also have a bunch of fast twitch muscles to go along with that ridiculous endurance of yours.

sarah said...

Tony,

Awesome post....what I find intersting and relating is that I find I must read your posts rather do my own school work! Luckily, at the grad school level, you just know you will get the school work done somehow.

sarah

millau said...

... your style is great..

Jason said...

Hi Anton,

Love the blog -- I have been lurking for some time now but never commented until now. I often read your latest post while sipping coffee at 5:00AM before my own daily runs. Inspired by your Green Mountain challenge and the philosophy behind it, through late January and most of February I set a goal of at least 60-90 minutes of running daily on the steepest grades I could find (this is in the SF Bay Area). I noticed that in the past I’ve tended to evaluate my running on the basis of total mileage, which meant that (perhaps unconsciously) I often inclined to choosing easier surfaces, because a higher mileage goal is so much easier to hit if you are only running on the flats. Setting a time goal changed that – on the steepest ascents I was sometimes as slow as 20minutes/mile, but the steady gains in aerobic and leg strength more than made up for the temporary ego deflation of seeing that snail-like pace recorded on my Garmin. On Feb 27th I entered a hilly 50K (5,000 feet of ascent/descent) with no big expectations beyond enjoying the scenery and getting used to ultra pacing, and wound up finishing 11th in 5:02. More importantly, I had some great conversations with folks I met en route, loved every step, and felt strong even over the last few miles. So thumbs-up to the Green Mountain approach!
Keep the thinking coming….
--Jason Thompson

JenRunner said...

Anton- I am sorry if I missed what is wrong with your back in an earlier post but NMT (neuro muscular therapy) can work wonders to help in that area. It is fairly new to me and it has helped immediately (versus general deep tissue massage) Working to loosen trigger points (tight hips/PF area/hamstrings and lower back pressure points)it releases all that bad pressure. May be worth looking into a therapy session in your area if you haven't already.

Owen said...

Enjoying reading your progress! I have to say i have increased my running thoughts while dealing with suspected bursitis all up in my hip, any solid tips on that?
cheers,
Owen Dodd

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