Monday, December 19, 2005


Last week's training really put me through the paces. Well I should say pace, since there was only one and that was slow. By Friday I was eating nails and spitting tacks as I struggled through the the horrible 18 mile workout (15.7 miles completed). I was granted a short reprieve on Saturday with a nice 10.4 mile easy run but was thrown back into the fire yesterday with a 22.2 mile long run that ended ugly.

Friday's tough run that ended short had one amazing effect. The right calf that had been bothering me for the past 8 days (since I picked up the pace one morning to catch Eric) completely healed. It went from very sore to completely not-sore in one day. Saturday morning I awoke to no calf pain and before, during, or after my run. No calf pain Sunday or this morning. At one point during the run (about the time I was desparately running a flat portion repeatedly), I recall the calf muscle "moving" like a knot coming undone. It's too bad it takes me getting to what I described in my log "the end of my rope" during a training run to fix a sore calf muscle.

But as no good deed goes unpunished, nor shall a problem be solved without the introduction of a new one. While the calf muscle was miraculously cured, it was replaced with a very sore left knee and left quad (iliotibial band?) pain. The pain is not acute, but rather a very tender soreness. After a warmup the soreness can sit in the background, always there but unless the pace is pressed, doesn't do much. So yesterday I headed out on my 22 mile long run.

Mindful of the trouble I have had with the hills in Eastport and all my soreness, I resolved to run most of the 22 miler on relatively flat surfaces. So I ran the 7 miles to Perry corner and back as the first leg of the run. This course has a couple of hills but they are long and not so abrupt as the hills in town. Also, it has a few miles of causeway that are flat along the ocean. My big mistake was similar to Friday's mistake (not a fast learner I gather). While I had tea and toast with honey before I left, I still came back from that leg a little depleted. I was taking advantage of the flat road and the background nature of the left leg pain by running at a pace near 8:30/mile. This is faster than I've been able to maintain since I got into high mileage. Unfortunately, this only served to have me dehydrated and depleted by mile 14. As I approached the house I really wished the run was done. I wanted to be able to go in, sit down, and rest the rest of the day. Instead, I took about a 6 minute break while I checked the woodstove, ate a banana with honey, and drank lots of water. When I went back out I felt fresh again but this only lasted a mile if that. By the end of that first mile, with seven left to go, I was feeling the distance.

Miles 16 - 22 almost hurts to think about. The soreness in the left leg was no longer in the background, but rather the only thing on my mind. My pace dropped to somewhere near 11:00/mile and I was starting to struggle, not unlike Friday. I struggled on like a trooper putting myself in what I call the "orbit" - a loop around town that avoids passing the house and solves the parachute problem of bailing out when the going gets tough. And the going was getting tough. Many times, soreness or a running battle plateaus and it's just a matter of hanging on. But yesterday saw deteriorating conditions with each passing mile and the run became a quest to finish. A fresh bailout on my mind from Friday, I was determined to see this through since I didn't have the same time constraints. But when sweat breaks out on your face at 25 degrees and not because you're running hard, you know you've got problems.

At mile 19 when I was the furthest away from the house in my orbit I thought the end had come. But from deep in the subconscious a crazy idea came to the surface. This idea was planted there by none other than Mike from our first long run together back on November 20th. I'd count my steps. And I did.

Mike talked to me about this technique for overcoming distress while we ran next to the beautiful shore in St. Andrews. He was describing how this method of disassociating works at getting some runners through the rough patches of a marathon. Mike related a story about a race where he helped a young lady count steps and got her through the rough spot and to the finish. (Not even a thank you kiss - I hear). Mike says if Paula Radcliffe does it, it must be ok. I'd have to agree with him on that point, but to count steps - you'd have to be in a bad way.

At mile 19, I found myself in a bad way. So with a nod to Mike, I started to count, and count, and count. It was horrible! I was struggling and counting. Breathing and counting. Shuffling and counting. Grimacing and counting. I thought I'd throw up.

I counted through to mile 21 where the psychological effect of being only 1 mile out allowed me to re-engage my brain. 22.2 miles in 3:27:40 (last 8 at 10:55 pace). So needless to say, with two brutal runs so close together, I was interested to see what this morning's workout would produce. The leg is still sore and while not any worse, it is time to adjust the plan to accomodate a recovery for this particular issue. Thus I begin again...

In the past 7 weeks, I've put in 2 weeks of low mileage recovery running, a steady progression to 100 in singles and finally one week of added supplemental runs (two of them). I shall do the cycle again. Resilience refers to hardiness or toughness from something's flexibility and ability to adapt, adjust, and not break under stress. An elasticity. In my case, I wish my plan (and me) to be resilient - it's character of hardiness or degree of toughness defined by its ability to withstand pressure through flexibility and elasticity. To bounce back after being stretched to the limit. After Friday and yesterday, I have found the limit.

The key to the adaptation is control. 50% psychological and 50% physical, controlling the when and how of rest, recovery and build-up is essential. For me, avoiding the haphazard nature of "on" days and "off" days is important. It characterized my previous running with the results to prove it. This time I have run through a lot of soreness and the feedback has been giving me the green light to continue. Just slow the pace down. Now, however, the feedback is different, the tender muscle different, and the pace is abnormally slow (today it took 30:54 to go 3 miles comfortably). Therefore, I will reduce the intensity (in this case miles) to improve the condition of the muscle. I will do this using the same 7 week cycle just completed: 25, 50, 70, 80, 90, 100 + supplemental.

I had a feeling this is what would happen. I've never known a plan go to plan, so the fact that I was very successful reaching week 7 before the red light came on is very satisfying. I've been thinking about the quote, "To get what you do not have, you must do what you have not done." Well, I am trying just that - to do what I have not done. The redo of the initial 7 week cycle is part of that. No fooling around: push the envelope, develop the aerobic capacity, repeat the cycle if necessary to accomodate muscular/skeletal limitations. It will be interesting to see if the 2nd installment of this 7 week cycle allows for further progression into continuous 100+ mile weeks. We won't know unless we try.

Last week: 114 miles. Includes 2 brutal runs.
On tap: 25 miles @ 3 miles / day - recovery week #1.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

My Finger Hurts

You know you've gotten into the zone when you've catalogued just about every possible part of the lower body that can suffer from running 100 miles per week. Unfortunately, I don't know the names of all the bands, tendons, muscles, ligaments, and other connective parts so I generally just categorize every new pain by its location. So I suppose it's possible I haven't exhausted the list of available tender spots that are ripe for pulling, cramping, tightening, or generally just upset about being used. A quick list:

Groin... check. Hurt right away, both right and left and at different times. Doesn't like lateral movement while carrying wood for woodstove.

Feet... check. First complainers during build up. Screamed murder, cried a little, whimpered, then finally shut up.

Calves... check. Right one having a blast with me now. Running the show, controlling the pace. Thinks he's special. Left one not so bold but like a better behaved child, lets loose once in awhile just for attention. Skipped the holistic approach and went straight to drugs.

Shins... oops. Looks like I've found a sleeper cell. They'll terrorize me before long. Buggers, I hate them already.

Quads... check. Sore is their middle name. They can't keep up the pain though. A night's sleep and they're good to go.

Knees... check. Left one being Mr. Tender. Have iced the culprit with the frozen pea trick. As I type on the computer at work, a bag of frozen veggies plays nurse to the knee. Works like a charm.

Butt... check. Why does my butt hurt? I guess the hip bone is connected to the leg bone and so on.

Hamstring (area)... check. Long lasting but I outlived it. Obviously an underuse injury.

Finger... check.

Running hurt my finger. Not from the cold, or gloves too tight, or sliding pell mell down an icy hill and diving into the pavement with my fingers outstretched. Nope. My finger hurts because my aerobic system, the capacity that is being developed, the key to future fast times, is being stressed, worked upon, challenged, and basically wrung through the wringer. Last week, I was on the road for 16 hours. This week, it is shaping up into 18 hours of training. This amount of road time has put me into a fog at times. One of those times was this morning as I lost control of a simple sequence of events involving getting into the car, closing the door, and putting on my seatbelt.

After this morning's 12 miler which took an inordinate amount of time (2:04:04) in the cold Downeast morning with a brisk North wind blowing off the frigid Passamaquoddy Bay I failed to recover fully even with a hot shower and bowl of hot oatmeal. So I as I crossed the snow covered yard to my car to drive to work, I wasn't exactly in my most alert state. I slid into the driver's seat and with my left hand gave the door a tug to close it. But for some reason, I didn't wait for the door to close and with the door still in motion I reached back with the same left hand to grab the seat belt. I don't know if I was trying to save milliseconds or what, but the attempt to grab the belt failed and I inadvertently stuck my index finger outside the door jam at the very moment the door slammed shut. Startled, I yanked it out and sat there looking at. I don't know what I expected to see, but the damage appeared light and it throbbed with pain. I then thought to myself, "If my legs can hurt, I suppose the finger just as might as well too." Then I ignored it, put my seatbelt on and foggily drove to work. It's not often one finds a way to jam his finger in the car door while seated inside. But I did.

Training this week so far:

Monday 15.5 AM in 2:32:37
6.4 PM in 58:59
Tues 10 in 1:34:36
Wed 15.6 in 2:32:00
Thu 12 AM in 2:04:04
6.5 PM in 1:01:08

On tap: 18 tomorrow (what fun), 10 on Saturday, and 22 on Sunday. Completed the two planned doubles this week (1 hour jogs at lunch) and will increase to 4 doubles next week. A storm is on its way for tomorrow but I'll miss running in it as I think it will arrive after I am done with my workout. Instead, I'll have the pleasure of running in the result of it which should be a nice tenth of inch layer of ice on every surface in Eastport. Looks like I'll be re-doing my pain list shortly.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Aerobic Conditioning

The pursuit of becoming fit, fitter, the fittest in marathon training is known as aerobic conditioning. Lydiard's success in his program all hinged upon his runners being so fit, they could run "tirelessly". Lydiard started the jogging phenomenon, he was attributed the father of long slow distance (a term that actually does not describe Lydiard), and was known to have a distaste for mixing phases. If you were doing speed without finishing your conditioning phase, he'd have you stop the speed or stop the conditioning. He believed that many runners had training "imbalances" that led to less than optimum performances when it mattered.

Yet, when I go on the internet and look for Lydiard, I see many people focusing on the later phases exclusive of the aerobic conditioning phase. Hills/Speed/Coordination/Taper. 10 weeks + 2 to taper. Add 8 weeks of a "build-up" and a pretty Lydiard-style program exists. Not much is said about the aerobic conditioning phase except in the context of getting through it to the next phase. However, if you read Lydiard - the words - he talks the most about developing the runner's aerobic capacity to exercise. He describes key physiological changes and developments. He mentions the need for voluminous running and if you actually sit down and do the math, you're out on the road almost 20 hours per week. It's a job in itself.

The error comes when you just read the schedules. It takes two words to describe the appropriate conditioning phase: 'run far' or 'run often' or 'run early' or 'run again'. But when you read the schedules for the final 10 weeks, there's technique, repeats, course descriptions, time trials - you name it. Grasping the whole program takes a little work and time becomes short. But the benefits derived from the last 10 weeks are only as good as the conditioning. This seems to be easier said than understood. Everybody has a level of conditioning from the years spent running - long or short. Put some speedwork to this level and improvement materializes. But this is not Lydiard. Lydiard wants the athlete to optimize the aerobic conditioning of the body. And I think this aspect of the program - the key aspect - is ignored, minimized, diluted, or rationalized away too often.

You don't get immediate improvement when you start aerobic conditioning. In my case, I've slowed down to avoid muscle and skeletal injury. My friend Marc says it must be like boot camp: "It breaks you down and then builds you up." The success I have found in my first 6 weeks of this program have come from pressing on when it would be easier to drop back; from hitting the new limits in miles; from showing myself I am capable of consistency with a little planning; and from rolling out of bed after a 22 miler and putting in 15.5 miles without too much trouble and on legs that feel better with each passing week. Last year, I could run my 20 milers over the hills of Eastport at 7:00 per mile. But that was at 50 miles per week. With the increase in miles, my times have slowed. I must have faith and patience that the aerobic development is taking place and the results will be my reward. Mike once posted that "100mpw is Hard". He is very right and I think that post is worth reading again.

What aerobic conditioning is:

1) Running high mileage - at the expense of pace. Slow down and develop the capacity to train over long distances for long periods of time. Build, build, build. Patience.
2) Running high mileage for a long period of time. If this "phase" is the "long as possible" phase, why do we allocate less time to it than speed? Long bouts of high mileage running will build the necessary stamina needed to excel. Multiple peaks serve to carve out 10 good weeks of aerobic conditioning per cycle. Lydiard always crowed about his runners performing when it mattered and occasionally pointed out their mediocre performances when they were in the throes of aerobic conditioning.
3) Increasing the pace that can be held for an hour (the steady state so-called). This pace increases from aerobic development not from smokin' 440's. (The 440's have a different function.) The more volume that is run, the greater the aerobic pace that can be handled.
4) Running close to the 'steady state' pace. Faster paced running - but all aerobic. If you can't hold the pace for an hour than it's too fast. Running at this pace stimulates increased aerobic development even greater than slow paced running.
5) Finally, aerobic conditioning is about gathering, transporting, and using oxygen in order to metabolize fuel. It's our lungs, blood, and muscles. The system to keep the oxygen flowing. This is why we want to fatigue our aerobic capacity when we train and not our muscles or tendons/bands/ligaments/joints etc. The pitfalls of high mileage running lie in the injury risk to our muscular/skeletal system. If this system fails us, we fail to reach the point of aerobic fatigue - the point when we are truly optimizing our training by zeroing in on the proper system. This is the main reason for slowing the pace down until the muscles can handle the mileage, for avoiding speed or hard hills, or too hard race efforts. We must avoid limiting our ability to stress the aerobic system.

Finally aerobic conditioning is not boring. It may not be as glamourous as running in circles on an indoor track, nor does it make for great stories of monster hills attacked and conquered, or races where we smoked the competition. Instead it is hard work that has the following components:

* Pace variation day to day
* Tempo running
* Fartlek training
* Leg Speed training (avoiding lactic acid buildup)
* Time trials (under the steady state)
* Supplemental jogging to keep blood flowing (junk miles some call it)
* High mileage (over 100)

I am new to this myself - all of this is from my reading and conviction that this first Lydiard phase is the greatest component of all - the limiting factor that all other training rests on. If it minimized, we miss great opportunity in achievement. Don't you want to *know* just how good we can get?

Knowing my propensity for over-excitement and resulting injury, when I wrote out my weekly plan for two years, it was an outline who's purpose was to build in slow progression. I remember when I wrote it out a few weeks ago I thought to myself that I was being overly cautious. I know now that I was not. So far the build up has been slow and appropriate. I reached 103 miles last week in singles and I feel great. I have weathered some soreness in about every muscle and Motrin is my new best friend. Yet, by slowing down I have been able to continue. This is amazing, wonderful, and very motivating. This week I introduce the supplemental jogging at lunch. It consists of 1 hour jogging (30 minutes out and 30 minutes back) slower than the core workouts. It's purpose is therapeutic. It increases bloodflow which relieves cramping and soreness. It also provides additional aerobic benefit. Today, was my first "double" in a long while and it felt great. Just like an hour massage. The full supplemental goal will be maximum of 6 sessions. This will be built up over the next three weeks. This week I will add 2 sessions (today and Thursday), next week add another 2, and finally 2 more the 3rd week.

You'll have noticed that my running so far hasn't included any of the varying components listed above. That is because the addition of each component (or inclusion I should say since it doesn't increase the mileage except for the supplemental) requires time in order to avoid injury. Each 2 week cycle will see additional components included and I will share this plan in the future.

Training last week: 103.4 miles. Wonderful long run with Steph and Mike on snow covered roads in Perry. Please see Mike's blog for a rundown and photos.

This week:

Monday 15.5 miles AM (2:32:37) completed
6.4 miles PM (58:59) completed

Tuesday 10 miles
Wed 15 miles
Thu 12 miles AM
~1 hour jog PM
Fri 18 miles
Sat 10 miles
Sun 22 miles

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Fog Of 18 miles

My fascination for 18 miles continues. It's never treated me right. I sit here in the depleted fog of having risen early for the sole pleasure of shuffling 18.2 miles up and down the streets of Eastport in the dark. My thoughts are fuzzy and my mind unfocused as a cloud of fatigue surrounds me. A huge bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, a box of couscous & 5 apples for lunch along with 2 large coffees minimally aleviate the the symptoms. Why fight it? 18 is not a magic number; it's never liked me, and sometimes I am forced to admit the feeling is mutual:

Oct '04: Mile 18 sits at the top of a very steep hill and I had to concentrate to rise up the hill with as much economy of motion as I could the race gets hard physically and mentally. I found that physically, short of stopping there isn't any remedy.

Nov '04: Red flag #4 happened right at mile 18.... I tucked in behind him as we zigzagged around a few tight corners and onto a treelined parkway. Then the first "hitch".
Sep '05: Today's workout is the one that is the hardest of all the workouts in the week. It is the dreaded 18 mile mid-week run.... 18 miles seems to be approaching that never-never land of depletion. It's just past the end of the feel good miles...
Oct '05: Bad enough my vacation is over. Bad enough it's another Monday. But doubly bad when I have to run 18 on a Monday....Ugh.
2:58:48. Two hours, fifty eight minutes, and forty-eight seconds. That's how long it took me to wander about town in pursuit of 18.2 miles. I stopped twice at the house to load the woodstove, eat some honey and drink some water. But at 13 degrees & sleepy, I was in shuffle mode.

And that would have been OK. But nooooo..., if something is to go wrong, it will go wrong on the 18 mile day. And that is what happened.

It's hard enough getting up at 4am on the last workday of the week. It's hard enough to deal with my foolishness of overdressing for 13 degree days because I don't want to be "cold" during the 1st 1/2 mile ("uh, what about the other 17.5 miles?" - I forget to ask). It is also hard enough to run 18 miles at the end of the workweek, near the end of the training week, and in the pitch dark. Yet, complain would I not if that was all that was wrong. Today's 18 miler was fraught with the danger of simple things about to go wrong.

First, as I am climbing the hill at mile 4 I spied Eric zooming through the intersection at the top. Not having run with him in a few days, I decided that I'd pick up my pace a little bit and catch him so we can run some miles together. He's not exactly slow these days and it took me a mile to pull up beside him in the blackness. (He didn't suspect company until I said "hello" as I came up from behind). Unfortunately, being one big tender spot these days, the effort to catch him, while not very impressive in terms of speed, made a startling impression on my right calf muscle. The whole exercise of catching Eric only served to slow him down as I pleaded soreness and brought the pace back down to shuffle. He obliged me and we had a nice visit. The calf muscle bothered me the whole way and especially up hills and any sort of pace increase. We ran the next 8 miles together before our courses diverged. The calf really had me down because I had been so careful during the buildup and now to have a possible showstopper making an appearance was disappointing. But then I thought of the faux advice, "Most running injuries are 'underuse' injuries thus cured only by more running". By slowing down the pace, I was able to get the pain to subside and to actually feel at times that the slower pace was sort of a therapeutic massage for the muscle (runner's fantasy?). No matter, I lied to myself enough to keep the clocking running and the legs moving.

So now that I'm shuffling through 18 miles before work on a cold morning, knowing my morning routine at the house is shot because I'm way behind the clock, what else could go wrong? Well, my pants could fall down.

So they did. The 15 year old running pants that are stretched out at the waist and jury-rigged with a string of yarn (only 16 days to Christmas) to hold them up overcame the yarn's best efforts at maintaining moral order and temperature control to hand me yet another classic 18 mile challenge. With 3 miles to go on a glycogen depleting, calf muscle straining, out-of-time shuffling, sleep depriving Friday workout I now had to run "one-arm" as I had to use my other to hold up my pants. This did not help my pace nor my standing in the community.

Imagine the concentration needed to avoid reflexively using the wrong hand to wave to my neighbors as they drive to work.

Training this week:

Mon 15 miles 2:25:09
Tue 10.4 miles 1:32:54
Wed 15.4 miles 2:09:36
Thu 12 miles 1:53:49
Fri 18.2 miles 2:58:48
Sat 10 mile shuffle
Sun 22 miles easy (13 with Steph & Mike)

Good news: Calf muscle feeling much better. Just needed a little ice & Motrin.

Monday, December 05, 2005

There Goes 90

Finally the weeks seem to be going by quicker. When I first started this new program, beginning with the two week recovery period, the weeks droned on as I was anxious to start making progress toward high mileage training. Now it seems that the week just begins, then it is over. After an extremely sore start to the week, I was able to finish out the week with 93.1 miles. Here's the recap:

Monday 13.5 miles
Tues. 9.2 miles
Wed. 13.8 miles
Thu. 11 miles
Fri. 16.4 miles
Sat. 9 miles
Sun. 20.2 miles

Average pace 9:00. I was telling my friend Marc today, that the slow miles is what saves me and allows me to keep going. The typical run starts out with a shuffle and gradually increases to a steady pace until the halfway mark or slightly beyond. Then the pace quickens to a healthy yet injury free finish. Also, I have found it beneficial to stop and stretch at some point throughout the run. This has been loosening the calves and other tight muscles. The soreness evident in the beginning of the week entirely faded by the end. Sunday's long run was my fastest per mile of the week (8:44 pace which included a 4 minute tend-the-woodstove stop).

The problem with high mileage is I am now susceptible to tiny pulls doing normal activities. This evening for instance, I was locking up the bank and bent down to pick up my briefcase. Unfortunately, I tend to pack several years worth of reading in the briefcase so it isn't exactly light. Well, I swooped it up and then turned on my heel to give the door some assistance with closing with my foot. My groin muscle let me know (and is still whining) that that was the wrong way to close a door. I get other twitches and pains lugging wood up from the cellar, picking up the kids, or sliding out of the car in too cavalier a manner. I'm a walking tender spot.

Today's run went surprisingly well. 15 miles was on the schedule and it felt like a short run even though I was out there for 2:25:09 (including a 5 minute tend-the-woodstove stop). You can pretty much figure that my times all have embedded woodstove stops. The reason I say it was surprising is because while yesterday's long run went great, the recovery was a bear. After the run was over, it took all day to get back to normal. The legs ached and ached, I was feeling the effects of slight glycogen depletion / dehydration, and I was tired. Luckily, not much was on the agenda besides church (and if it lasted any more than an hour I would have fallen asleep) so I was able to rest out the day. So today I was curious about how it would go. There was tightness in the legs but no pain. Well I'll take that.

Now I am curious how tomorrow will go with my groin muscle giving me hassle. Par for the course. One problem down, one pops up. This is probably good as it accelerates the half-life of most problems. It's like curing your headache by jamming your finger in the car door. One pain masks the other. This very thing occurred on Friday which was the beginning of the cessation of most of my soreness. It rained dreadfully hard that morning and I got chafed rather severely from my wet clothes. Well, chafing causes an acute, surface pain similar to someone pinching you. Needless to say, my next run was focused on getting my mind past the acute pain of the chafing and all other problems faded into the background. When the chafing pain subsided the prior soreness failed to reappear. So be it.

Nevertheless, I gave myself the green light to proceed to 100 this week. This will be the final progression for the morning miles. I considered taking all the wonderful advice I received regarding "drop weeks" and such and still may do so. However, many of the creaks and groans have been the typical awakening of muscles being used beyond their normal capacities and thus are labeled "normal" aches and pains. Easing the pace to accommodate these issues has allowed me to carry on. I believe this is common according to Lydiard. The body will get fatigued and sore, but if it is pressed gently, the build up can continue. As Mike relayed from one of his friends (tongue in cheek), "Most injuries are 'under-use' injuries and thus cured by more running."

So far, the most enjoyable part of the build up has been the transformation of 15 miles from a short long run to a long short run. This morning I did a 6 mile loop and realized I only had 9 more miles to go. A weird form of relativity. The downside is I don't get warmed up and really relaxed until several miles into the run. Here's what's on tap:

Monday 15 miles (completed in 2:25:09)
Tuesday 10 miles (easy)
Wed. 15 miles (easy)
Thu 12 miles (easy)
Fri 18 miles (easy)
Sat 10 miles(easy)
Sun 22 miles (hopefully this one will be done -in part- with Stephanie and Mike running around Boyden's Lake in Perry.)

After this week, the build up ends for the morning and I begin re-introducing the one hour lunchtime run. Stay tuned...