The Runner's Reward

Thursday, March 26, 2015

What I learned from running 60 miles this week


I ran. I conquered.

This week I ran 60 miles. My schedule called for 48. Up to this point I have observed and adhered to my training schedule with the piety of a monk. The results have been great thus far so why change the game?

At the start of the running week on Tuesday I was in Imperial for a certification test for work. The written exam was at 7:00 AM and the performance exam at 11:00. I knew I would have some time to kill and that the Bogg's Road trailhead for the Montour Run Trail was around 1 mile from the test location. I packed a running bag and some extra food. At 7:20 I had confidently completed the written portion of the exam. With 3 hours to kill I bumped my Wednesday tempo run up to Tuesday and decided to go for 10-12 miles (6 were planned) with the intention of trimming miles from the rest of the weekday runs.

During that run I remembered an article about high volume and high intensity training weeks. The thought kept coming back to me throughout my weekday runs (which I hadn't reduced mileage on.)

Friday, I found out I would need to go into work Saturday to stay ahead of the game. At that point, I decided to split my long run into 2. My schedule said 20 miles. I managed 15 that AM in the city. A few hours later I went out to the Montour Run Trail to finish up with 7 for a total of 22.  It really amazed me how a short break re-energized me. I finished that run feeling fresh and all around great. All was going better than good so I figured I'd make it a high volume week.  On Sunday I ran 7 miles of trail at Boyce Park and later that day ran 6 in Oakmont and Verona wrapping up the week at 60.5 miles. A weekly mileage PR for me by a long shot.

So what is the deal with a high volume week?

Studies of athletes training at high altitude compared to those training at sea level showed that high intensity and/or volume of workouts could yield just as much gains in VO2 max and strength as altitude training.

Here is the article:
Get faster and stronger with high-intensity and volume training 

The risks

 Increasing mileage by 40-50% for a week is a huge jump. Most sources recommend no more than a 10% mileage  increase per week. The main risk, of course, is injury.  If you are to incorporate a high volume week you need a strong base behind you and a good bit of rest in front of you.

What I learned

 This week I surpassed my highest planned mileage week in this 24 week training cycle. First off, this builds confidence. I know I can handle those back to back long runs and high mileage weeks now.  I no longer have that looming fear: How am I going to find the time and run that kind of load? I know how now AND I did it working 6 days a week 9+ hours a day.

I now understand the huge benefit in double sessions and plan to use them more.

I am seeing the benefits in running most of my training at easy effort, Z2 by heart rate zones.

These lessons are becoming internalized with each success. When it comes to distance running confidence is something learned over time as these successes amass. As it builds, things which seemed impossible become entirely attainable provided the hard work is put in.

The Aftermath

After this huge week I skipped crosstraining and took Monday as a rest day. Tuesday I went out and got 4 miles in. I felt a little sore, but not too bad.  After that run a had a hell of a migraine and was run down. I took Wednesday and Thursday off.  I have no issue with taking extra rest days when needed. It is all about the long game and being ready for the big races ahead.

On Wednesday I stopped at Elite Runners & Walkers in Robinson to get my packet for the Just a Short Run 30k. I talked with Matt Imhoff about the high volume week and afterwards. He felt that I would feel more like myself around 4 days out from the big week. That seems to be holding true. He also felt I would gain a good bit of strength from a week like that (though typically he wouldn't recommend it) and would come out all the stronger.

It is now Thursday. I foam rolled this AM. No soreness anywhere. I feel strong, but still a bit sleepy. I am looking to run 2 light miles to shake out tomorrow and then hit the 30k! I won't be racing the 30k. Just using it as a fun training run for the marathons and 50k ahead.

Happy running and training to all of you out there!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Hearts & Plans

There are a number of people touting the benefits of training by heart rate, and more than a few of them are my friends. I have been intrigued.  I have been reading articles about it and reading reviews on watches. The science behind heart rate training makes a lot of sense.  It is an objective way to quantify effort and to keep that effort consistent, which is especially important to me for long races like marathons. I have been known on one or two occasions , okay maybe every occasion, to go out too fast and pay later in the race.

After a lot of review reading and selling items on Ebay I upgraded from the Garmin Forerunner 10 to the 920XT. I wanted something with long battery life.  I'm that person who gets really annoyed when my battery dies mid-run.  The 920XT can track in GPS mode for up to 24 hours and in ultratrac mode up to 40 hours! It also has multiple profiles including a tri-sport mode guessed it, triathlons. Will I use it? Hopefully someday. Accelerometers measure your progress when there is poor satellite reception and for indoor workouts. I am fairly certain this watch will drive me home and draw an epsom salt bath after a marathon too.The price tag is high on this baby, $500 with the HRM-Run strap. The HRM-Run measures heart rate and running dynamics like cadence, ground contact time, and vertical oscillation. I am a science guy, a geologist, and the more data the better.

 Will you look at that! Data nerds rejoice!

 This watch can do quite a bit more, like indoor and outdoor bicycle tracking and swim tracking in both a pool and open water. I will leave those features for you to check out if you are so inclined.

There are plenty of more affordable options on the market if you want a good GPS unit with heart rate capabilities.  Garmin's forerunner 15 is a good base model for around $150.  There are also monitors that pair with apps like Map My Run that are very affordable.

After about 1 week of training with a HRM I have made a few of observations:

1.      I am running my easy effort runs too hard according to most heart rate training advice.  I'm not too far off base on flat ground, but I live in Penn Hills.  Any direction I leave my house from puts me on a hill. What I see is, for an easy effort day, I need to walk some sections of the hills to keep my HR down.

2.      When I run easy efforts in the recommended heart rate zone I finish feeling fresh. I ran 6 miles with 636 feet gain and felt like I hadn't even run yet by the end. I am certain this will help me as I move into the untrodden territory of multiple 40 mile and 50 + mile weeks. It will also help me come into hard efforts fresh and ready to capitalize on those runs.

3.      It helps me push hard, but not overdo it, on the hard workouts. Last Wednesday I did a hill bounding session and today intervals.  I could see where my effort level was at and know if I needed to put more or less distance on the repeats. 

Time will tell, but I get the feeling this was one of the best run investments I have made to date.

Here are a few excellent articles I have come across on the topic of training by heart rate:

1.  How to use a Heart Rate Monitor - Runners World
2. Training paces by heart rate
3. 3 common heart rate training mistakes

Plan to Win

We are under 8 short weeks from the Pittsburgh Marathon! It has been a tough winter here in the Burgh.  Brutal cold temps with a number of negative windchill days.  I've spent more time on a treadmill than is healthy for my mind state, but at the same time I am thankful for that treadmill. It has kept my training on track no matter the weather AND having a gym membership makes it much easier to get into a regular crosstraining routine.

For each marathon I have run I have made my own training plan and schedule.  What are my qualifications? None. But I do try to stay well read.  I look at different plans for the target distance, read articles on scheduling and planning, and throw a flexible plan together based on that.  My planning keeps getting more detailed as I learn.

The first marathon I planned for was Philadelphia 2013.   The plan was very basic, but it got me across the finish line. I ran 4 days a week and took a rest day or crosstrained on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Every other week I alternated my long runs weekly between a build up in distance and a lower mileage long run. For example: 16 miles one week, 12 the next, followed by 18, and then 12-13 again.

I forgot my Garmin in the hotel on race day. The adrenaline was surging and I went out too fast. By mile 17 I had cramps in my calves. In the final 3 miles I found myself getting tunnel vision and needing to slow to a walk every 1/4-1/2 mile or so. That was the longest 3 miles I have ever run.   I finished the Philly Marathon in 4:17:11 which is my current PR.

My next marathon was Pittsburgh 2014. The schedule was similar except I started paying more attention to total weekly miles. Early in the winter we had some brutally cold days and I missed a lot of these miles that were scheduled.  I was starting to pay attention to my diet at this point, but I really wasn't serious about it.  Come race day I was on track to PR. I was surprised just how well the race was going so around mile 13 I picked up the pace for a negative split and forged ahead towards the 4 hour mark. I was feeling very strong.  Around mile 22-23 my quads went out on the downhill from Bloomfield. Again 3 miles from the finish I found myself walking quite a bit and ultimately I finished a little over 4:19. 

In the fall of 2014 I ran my first 50k, The Marshall Mangler 50k.  I have a full race report up if you are interested at the link above.

So here we are getting ready for the Pittsburgh Marathon 2015. Looking back at previous training cycles I hadn't run enough miles for the task at hand.  Sure I ran enough to finish the events and my times weren't half bad, but if I was to up my game the training plan would be the first thing to re-tool.

This time around my goal at Pittsburgh is not a PR...far from it.  Pittsburgh is a training run. The first in a series of 3 races over the course of 8 weeks that will qualify me for the Marathon Maniacs and hopefully secure a 50k PR. The following is my schedule. The orange denotes what has already been done.

Some of the major differences in this plan as compared to previous plans are as follows:

Mileage - Within the first 4 weeks I was up to my max mileage for previous cycles. Mo miles, mo miles, mo miles!

More run days - I am up to 5 run days per week as opposed to the 4

Scheduled speed sessions -  More structure with rotating speed workouts. Variety is the spice of running! I have also added back to back long runs in the second half of the schedule. One long run on road and the other on trail. This will set me up good for a 50k PR attempt.

More crosstraining - In the past my crosstraining was very basic. Crunches, some planks, a thighmaster. Not only was it basic, I was inconsistent at doing it.  With my gym membership I now go at least once a week for weights, bicycling, and a variety of other fun workouts.

Dynamic warmups - Dr. Vonda Wright's warmup routine has really helped. It doubles as light crosstraining and gets you out the door warmed up and ready to go. No wasting that first mile getting loosened up! I do this warmup or a variation before almost every run.

Nutrition - I have had some problems getting enough carbs and calories in the past. See my post   Bread and Pasta : The Return Of for some details. In short I started tracking my food intake and ensuring I eat enough of the right foods to fuel this body.

Bling! - You will notice this schedule has bling! color! pizzazz!  Ain't she a beaut?

It took me a while, but I am putting in the work and receiving big payoffs already. I am running more miles and feeling better after it.  We always hear about crosstraining and nutrition and I always tried to incorporate both, but now I am more serious about it.  Almost 10 weeks down in training and I am ready for the next 14!

Happy running to you all!