Monday, December 22, 2008

Week of 12-08-08

Well, I have to say; this was a relatively disappointing week for me. I ran 85 miles (12.14 miles a day on average), which would make me pretty happy at most times of the year, but I was hoping to not really have any weeks much under 100 miles between last week and the end of February. A few things got in the way, causing me to have 3 pretty terrible days of running this week (including 1 complete off day...) Here's how the running went:

Monday: 0 miles: I had 2 finals on Tuesday, so Monday was entirely shot. I think I was in the Hopkins Academic Computing Lab (Hac Lab) studying for 13 hours straight or something ridiculous like that, so I just had absolutely no break to even hit a couple miles. I was EXTREMELY disappointed by that, but I ended up doing reasonably well on both finals and cementing a very good GPA with my 22 credits this semester, so I guess that's pretty important too...

Tuesday: 7 miles: I had finals from 9AM-noon and 6PM to 9PM. I was unable to justify running between the two tests since I had to still cram for the second one, so I had to wait until afterwards. My design team was coming over for pizza and beer (well, more like Bailey's since both I and another team member pretty much hate almost all beers... hah...) at 10:30 PM, so I had very little time. Either way though, the rain was IMMENSELY hard and painful in the mid-thirties weather that night and my legs were absolutely bright red when I was done, so I wouldn't have wanted to go much farther anyway... I just did a quick Druid Hills loop, felt like I was going to die with the rain, and turned it in.

Wednesday: 28 miles: After finally being done with classes, I put in a pretty beastly day of training. I think I exercised for something like 4 hours and 30 minutes on Wednesday since I also put in a pretty sick chest day in the gym. I wanted to do one massive marathon plus length run, but I ended up getting out the door a bit late and had to meet Henry Kaldre at the gym to lift at a specific time, so I only had a bit over 2 hours to run before lifting. I ended up throwing together a 19-mile run in that time and arriving at the gym breathless just on time to do an intense lift. Immediately after lifting, I ran back out the door and did another hour or so, putting in 9 more miles. The first run was a somewhat extended Robert E Lee run, hitting pretty much every aspect of the park at least once, while the 2nd was just a good Charles street run at a relatively easy pace since 28 miles in one day is fairly taxing, even when split up, when running at an average of roughly my marathon pace. Splitting up the miles the way I did, even with only a relatively short break, which was filled with other exercise certainly made the mileage much easier, but it was still a fairly grueling day. I have to say; I was incredibly pleased with my mileage on Wednesday and when I finished my 2nd run, I was pleasantly tired. Oh, and one other thing... Robert E Lee was frickin crazy on Wednesday... Tuesday's storm was pretty ridiculous, so many parts of the trail were outrageously flooded. There's one part of the course with incredibly bad maintenance problems and an insane amount of sawbriers, and both legs got pretty shredded when I had to weave in and out of the trail to avoid huge calf-deep puddles. Baltimore's park and trail department (or whatever department is in charge of such things) REALLY needs to get off their butts and clean up that part of the trail... When I'm able to stick EXACTLY to the trail, it's great since it's really rocky and quite technical, but honestly, the sawbriers are getting incredibly out of hand.

Thursday: 16 miles: Thursday was a pretty interesting day for me. I hosted the BME party on Wednesday night and a few people stayed until like 4:45 or so, so I didn't get to bed until 5 AM. I planned on sleeping in SUPER late, but Chris Chiang called me at 9 in the morning to have me look for his girlfriend Karin's credit card and camera, which he thought they left at my party. They ended up not being at my place, but by the time I was done looking and realized that, I had been up for 15 minutes, so I ended up not going back to bed. Running after only 4 hours of sleep
is never particularly fun, but the 16 miler I did wasn't particularly bad. I don't remember the exact time on it, but I remember it being pretty slow, like a 1:50 or something. I did a reasonable length Robert E. Lee loop since I can't seem to get enough of that place lately. It was still pretty wet, but it wasn't nearly as bad as the day before.

Friday: 7 miles: Well, I knew I was racing a 5 miler on Saturday morning, so I played it safe and kept it really light on Friday. I ended up just running to the gym from my apartment (about a mile) and then doing a quick additional 6 miler on the roads instead of coming directly home. I made the mistake of cutting through a quick stretch of woods without any lighting on the way there and I SLAMMED my head into a pretty big tree branch, which literally knocked me flat on the ground. It was bleeding slightly from the blunt force, but I thought it was funny more than anything. Hey, I guess it's no secret that I'm probably some sort of insane masochist. The 6 mile was a pretty good progression run with a pretty slow start building into a second half at a pace that felt pretty even with what I wanted to run in the 5 miler the next day (I was gunning for about 5:30 a mile and a top 10 finish).

Saturday: 17 miles: I'm an idiot. I'm just going to throw that out there. Brian Lange, Steven Houck, and Steven's fiancee Beth Hernandez came over just to hang out for an hour or so right before I was planning on going to bed around 11 or so. Right before they left, the mentioned that they were going to play Counter Strike at the Digital Media Center and I stupidly agreed to go play. Well... we ended up literally staying all night and playing until 6 in the morning. I was supposed to get up for my race at 7 in the morning for the local 8:30 race and 1 hour of sleep is clearly not very useful, so I just worked on grad school apps for an hour before i had to get ready to race. I somehow was able to stay pumped up on adrenaline and sugar until the race and somehow, unbeknownst to all but maybe God, I ended up managing to run a 27:55 5-mile at the hillier-than-expected Celtic Solstice 5 mile. Dave Berdan crushed the course in 25:09 for the win, which pretty much blows my mind; that guy is an absolute machine. According to the preliminary results, I placed 10th out of 1883 runners, but they said a number of chips didn't work properly at either the start or the finish and there were also many hundreds of runners running at a reduced price without a chip. There were something like 2800-3000 runners registered for the race, so I'd bet there were at least 2500 or 2600 running it. I had seen on a different results sheet that I placed 12th, so who knows which one is correct; I'd tend to believe the first one I saw that put me in 12th since I know there are numerous mistakes with the online one... Anyway, being completely honest, the 27:55 was NOT whatsoever a difficult run. I thought that I wasn't going to run particularly well since I hadn't slept, so I just didn't push very hard. According to a treadmill, I have run 5 miles on a completely flat surface in 26:58 (and that includes the 15-20 seconds wasted with the ridiculously slow start-up, so probably more like 26:40 to 26:45) when well-rested, but I thought that time was unbelievably fast. I guess I believe it now based on this time, especially since I was in MUCH more pain after my treadmill 5-mile time trial than I was after Celtic Solstice. Anyway, the entire run was a good progression. I did the first mile in a quite-slow 5:50 just to see how I felt and then the second in something like 5:45. I finally found a good groove around mile 2 and did the next 2 in 11:00 flat (running pretty even 5:30s for both). I knew that I was just a little off pace to break 28 minutes at mile 4 and Falls Road sort of expected me to break 28 minutes when they gave me a comp'd "elite" entry, so I edged up the pace a notch and put in a still-easy 5:20 final mile for a 27:55 finish. One thing that's sort of funny is that my last 3 miles were in a total of 16:20, which would put my last 5k split well under 17 minutes. I haven't raced one in a few years and I've done almost no speed training since well before my last 5k (never even having officially broken 18 minutes), so this just goes to show that I have been absolutely correct all along that my distance training would drastically improve my speed, even if I rarely or even never run at a 5k or 5 mile type pace when training. In the end, I wished I'd pushed a little harder since going sub 5:30 miles in less than 27:30, or probably even breaking 27 wouldn't have killed me, but hey, I was still able to hit a good amount more running that day, so whatever... 5 mile races are certainly not my focus right now, so I guess it was good to take it relatively easy. Anyway, I had to run a mile to and from the race and when I got to the race, I did another 1 mile warmup, so the morning total was 8 miles. I became extremely tired shortly after coming home, but I still managed to throw together another 9 miles later that day before completely crashing and going to bed.

Sunday: 11 miles: I was stalled up at the airport for most of the day, so my run was cut short. I got back to MN super late and it was absolutely freezing outside. The car's thermometer read -6 straight up, but that seems to probably be a bit warm in the winter and I saw a sign outside reading as low as -13. Sometime during the night or tomorrow morning, the windchill is supposed to exceed - 40 degrees, so I decided not to die and just ran on a treadmill. I actually put in 1 mile at the airport to get to the baggage claim rather than taking the shuttle, so I just pegged another 10 miles out at home. I have the feeling my parents' treadmill is pretty inaccurate in terms of pace (it's from the 80's, so who knows...) It was telling me that it took me 69 minutes to run 10 miles, though I'd imagine I hit more like 11 miles in that time. I almost NEVER take more than 62 or 63 to run a 10 and I worked up a REALLY good sweat on this run, so I just felt like there was no way this thing was accurate. I could see myself going even 65 or 66 on an off day, but 69 is ridiculous. Nonetheless, I just logged it as 11 total for the day since I have no real evidence to suggest that the treadmill is wrong other than the fact that it has numerous other ridiculous problems, (such as the fact that it moves forward approximately 5 feet every mile if you don't put a heavy object in front of it, it shakes back and forth uncontrollably if you're going at anything beyond a walk, and the calorie counter is way off... I happen to know that I burn roughly 124 cal/mile, but it was putting me at just over 100 per mile...) Anyway, the next several weeks ought to be interesting... If I get stuck having to run an insane amount on a treadmill since the weather is too crazy to do long runs outside, I might go out of my mind...

Anyway, weekly total = 85... Like I said, it was relatively disappointing, but I still had one 28 mile day thrown in there that I felt pretty great about. It was really more like 85 in 6 days since I took Monday off, so I guess that's not terrible. I just have to make sure I avoid missing entire days in the next month and a half.

Edited last paragraph: blah blah blah me trash talking certain training strategies a bit too much... hahahahaha... The main gist: You pretty much max your ability to do anaerobic work after about a month; that's a physiolgically proven fact. Aerobic training can be improved upon nearly indefinitely. If you want to do speed work, you need the endurance base to do it. My absolute hero, Lydiard, had even his 800 meter runners doing marathon training (over 100 miles a week), for many months before he would allow them on the track. How well did they do? World records and gold medals... seems pretty clear to me that the guy knew his stuff... As Lydiard discusses in "Running to the Top", which, despite its incredibly bad grammar and lack of focus, is the holy grail of running books in my opinion, Kenyans are only the best because all of their top runners were doing literally 100 miles a week as a means of transportation since the age of 10 or even younger. Their only truly legitimate genetic difference is an elongated gluteus maximus, which really only helps them to sprint a bit faster when fatigued, ie shave a couple seconds off max. There is proof that they have better developed endurance simply as a result of training their base for a longer period of time. By the time they start working on speed, their endurance is so through the roof that they are absolutely and utterly ready to crush anyone and everyone. The main lesson, focus on you endurance and get into shape before you run fast. I am doing that for several months this winter (virtually zero speed work between mid-December and mid February), ONLY focusing on building endurance, and I am confident that it will make me much faster in the end once I am finally doing some speed work.

Oh, one other edit: my treadmill was broken on Saturday... hahaha... I didn't realize it two broken wheels and was at a huge incline until after I posted this, so that is a bit of a relief to me. Hurray, I don't suck as much as I thought I did!


  1. But, in order to keep your own ego down a little, here's a few things to keep in mind:

    Hopkins is not a competitive varsity team. These kids, like you, are going to a great academic school to learn, not to run. Nobody there is getting their trip to college paid for by running. They like to run, and some run decently quick. It's not really fair to say that your way of training is best and that if everyone did it, they would see results like you.

    Dave Berdan does run some high mileage weeks, but he also does workouts like 200m on the track. Without that, you can't run a 14:05 5k. Even a guy like Remus, who is crazy, is very fast. He can work on his endurance easily enough, but speed is a lot harder to come by. That's what has led to him running a 2:42.

    A guy like Will Knox, who maybe ran 80 miles a week max leading up to his marathon, knocked out a 2:30.

    Lee DiPietro, who is a 50 year old woman, ran 2:55 recently, and Denise Knickman, a 40 year old woman, ran 2:56 at Baltimore. They do not run 100+ miles per week and are old women, yet have run faster than you or I.

    You had a great race on Saturday. I have every bit of faith that this year will be a banner year for you, and that you will continue to improve in all distances over the next couple of years, but you need to keep humility in mind, because without it you will just come off as arrogant - let your results speak for you!

  2. "It all boils down to seeing who is willing to train the best."
    ....ehhhh I don't know about that Collin. I have seen some of the most well trained endurance athlete fail miserably...many times. Yeah, training is a large part of it - maybe half the battle, maybe even two thirds of it. But what would happen in an ultra if everyone has trained equally? That's how you figure out what really matters in a race like that: someone's attitude, their ability to prepare nutritionally, and their ability to push their bodies past the point where their mind says "no." Trained or not - 50, 60, 100 miles is just plain hard.

    So, I don't think it comes down to training as much as experience. You have to know how your body will react in given situations which are impossible to train for. It's a matter of time, and the fact that over the years we will experience new and different things that we never could have dreamed of training for if it was even possible. Sure you and I may be faster than many of the ultrarunners out there, but we still have so much to learn and to experience, so ENJOY it. There is always someone out there who will be faster, and there will always be someone slower than you you should be learning from. It's not always about the times you run or the mileage in your log. :)

  3. Yeah, Ryan, I shouldn't have posted at 4 in the morning, I tend to speak my mind a little more when I'm super tired. But yeah, the thing was that there was some pretty serious trash-talking going on and I don't exactly like being called lazy, so I sort of lashed out, probably a bit harder than I should have. :P And yeah, I agree that speed training helps, but the endurance is really the meat and potatoes of the training. There's a reason why Peter Snell went from being a goofy no-name runner that wasn't particularly competitive in high school to being the best 800 and 1500 meter runner in the world. He was able to get much more out of his speed training because he had the endurance to stomach it. If you don't have endurance, even 200 meter repeats will eventually break you. As Lydiard says in Running to the Top, "I have a saying 'train, don't strain.' The Americans have the saying 'no pain, no gain' and that's why they have no distance running champions. They get down to the track with a stopwatch and flog their guts out thinking that it'll make them a champion, but they'll never make a champion that way." Clearly, as he even says himself, you need everything, but people generally TOTALLY overemphasize speed work.

    As to Alyssa's comment, I agree that experience is important, but at the same time, sheer determination and confidence from training and knowing that you can pull it off are pretty darn important as well. The higher my mileage and the tougher my training runs, the more confident I am. As I'm sure you know, running alone late in an ultra is one of the most demoralizing feelings you'll ever experience. Having that solid foundation is the one thing that lets you know you can get through it. The two times that I have broken down were both times when I just wasn't confident going in and didn't think I could pull it off.

  4. BTW, one other thing... Ryan, you're absolutely proving my point about the long term training. Lee and Denise have years upon years of base under their belts, something that doesn't leave you particularly fast with age. I am pretty sure that I'll be able to knock off 8 minutes at some point before I am 50 years old, so hopefully I won't have to eat my words on that. :) Also, the thing with Dave agrees with my modified unoffensive edit as well. Because he has such good endurance, he can handle that kind of track work. If he went and did that without a decent endurance base, I bet you anything he'd get injured a LOT more frequently. Too much endurance work will eventually break you, like Alberto Salazar and his training uppage to 200 miles a week, which is pretty much nuts. Hitting that steady 100, though, seems to be good enough not to kill people, but enough to really boost your ability, unless you're an absolute animal like Anton Krupicka or Kyle Skaggs, but I'm convinced that they're not actual human beings, so we'll discount them for now. haha

  5. Certainly nobody is calling you lazy, and if they are, then they aren't using the word properly. There are probably other adjectives one could use, but not lazy!

    I just happen to be friends with all 3 coaches at Hopkins, and understand the situation they're in, for instance.

    A friend of mine ran a negative split 2:53 this year in his first ever marathon. He didn't do a run over 15 miles, and in general is one of the laziest people I have ever met. He wasn't particularly fast in college, and hasn't really run at all since graduating in 2004.

    And obviously Lee has been running for 25 years now, but didn't START running until she was 25. A few years later she was placing 6th at Hawaii Ironman.

    There are some people that will always defy conventional wisdom, and while I agree with you and others that an accumulation of endurance is almost a surefire way to lead to improvement, I don't think it is paramount.

    If you can't run a 5 minute mile, you can't run 3 miles at 5 minute pace, and can't run a marathon at 5 minute pace. Once you've run fast, you know how to run fast.

    I think now that you're accumulating some speed, you will see greater improvement. I feel like striders and/or 400m repeats would do you a great deal of good, because the mileage you're currently doing is higher than anyone I know.

  6. Actually, Dave Ploskonka's mileage for 2008 was definitely higher than mine. He trained pretty consistently for almost the entire year. For the type of racing that I ultimately want to really get good at, the mileage really is necessary and I think Dave's insane mileage and resulting crazy performances help make that point. I actually am planning on doing speed work in preparation for Boston, but absolutely NOT before I am totally confident that my endurance is completely where it needs to be. If I'm not totally in shape before I hit the track, I'm really worried that I'll be risking injury and I simply can't take that risk.