Running by effort

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

I think I sometimes drive the runners I coach crazy talking about efforts. Easy, 10K effort, 5K effort, half marathon effort. These are common phrases in discussions.

Just this past week, I’ve had discussions with three runners I coach on what exactly these efforts mean and/or why I prefer training by effort over other methods, such as pace. I may explore this topic further in a future post but I’d like to share some high level thoughts on a few key points that I believe make training by effort the best way to train.

1) Training by effort helps you learn the correct effort to run a race at. You’re going to make a few mistakes when learning a new skill like running by effort. Would you rather make those mistakes and learn from them in a workout or in a race? Why is this skill important in racing? Read on…

2) Training and racing by effort allows you to adjust for variables on the fly. Once you’ve honed your skill to run by effort, you will naturally adjust for things like adverse (or more ideal than expected) weather conditions, course related factors such as hills or even factors such as the lack of sleep you got last night or the stress of a bad day at work. Running simply by pace won’t account for these factors and will leave you running a less than optimal pace/effort level. Running by heart rate may help you with some of these factors but it won’t do much when your legs are fatigued because you helped your friend move yesterday. Also, your heart rate doesn’t always respond to all stresses in an expected way and doesn’t always respond to your effort level instantly. If you fine tune your ability to feel your effort, you can know instantly when your effort level changes. Relying on heart rate may leave a delayed response. You’ll find out before disaster strikes but will you find out in time to adjust for an optimal performance?

3) Running by effort ensures you’re doing the workout you intend to do. When trying to stimulate a physiological response from our training, we need to hit a certain effort level. Depending on some of the factors mentioned above (weather, course factors, life factors leading to more or less stress than usual) a given pace may be too fast or too slow to best target the training stimulus we want to focus on. If you’re doing a workout that should target 5K pace/effort but you take the workout to the hills, you have to back off your pace. How much? Every hill is different. It’s hard to tell without going by effort.

4) Running by effort removes your succeptibility to technological glitches. Just last week, I had a run where my Garmin flaked out. It had me starting far from where I actually did start and reported a first mile of 3:31. No problem. I wasn’t relying on it so I just ignored it and figured it was just a stopwatch for that run. What if I was relying on it to set my pace? Would I have been lost until it locked into my location? What if this happened on race day and I was relying on it to set my race pace?

Effect of weight loss (dehydration) and muscle break down on performance

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

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Writing about another study (I promise this blog won’t become all about reviewing studies but this will be a part of it). This time, a study of how weight loss as a proxy for dehydration and myoglobinuria as a proxy for muscle breakdown are related to reduction in muscle power. Essentially, the idea of this study is to determine what the correlation is between late race muscle fatigue and two commonly held explanations for that muscle fatigue.

In a break from commonly held assumptions, body mass loss (the proxy for dehydration) did not seem to affect muscle power output. Participants in the study ranged from gaining body mass to losing more than 4% of body mass (that would be 6 pounds for a 150 pound person) during a marathon but loss of power output was not correlated with body mass loss.

On the other hand, there is a quite strong correlation between myoglobinuria production (the proxy for muscle breakdown) and muscle fatigue.

What does this tell us? Well, I would still strongly suggest not ignoring fluids during a marathon, especially a warm weather marathon. However, don’t go to extremes. I recall a few individuals telling me that I should follow their hydration plans because they actually gained weight during marathons. Why should we believe that this is ideal? It’s been shown that the best marathoners tend to lose weight during marathons, typically in the range of 5% of body weight but some even more. Now, we have more evidence that this singular focus on hydration may not help.

Instead, we should be focused on not breaking down our muscles. So how do we do that? We train our muscles. Nothing all that new here. Lots of long runs, lots of volume at faster paces. In addition, though, I think this suggests again the importance of not going out too fast. If you go out too fast, your muscles are going to break down earlier. This will reduce their ability to keep performing at an optimal level earlier than if you go out on pace or even negative split a bit.

With Boston coming, here’s another thought. The early miles are downhill. Getting too carried away on early downhills will damage your muscles, especially the quads, even more. We all know (I hope) it’s important to not get too carried away early at Boston. This likely explains one reason for that. Your muscles will break down earlier and you’ll again lose your ability to perform at an optimal level earlier than if you play it safe on the early downhills.

Starting a running blog

This article was originally posted by Charlene at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

Yes, I have been drinking tonight and that has spurred my desire to start a running blog. I would never do this out in the blogosphere as I just don’t think I have thick enough skin to take some of the negativity or drama that I sometimes see targeted at some of the bloggers I follow. I really don’t want any of that in my life. As for the blog I just plan to post my weekly mileage and any random thoughts that I have about running or life in general. I am always trying to improve at both.

About my running; As of today I have 696 miles logged for 2013. Some were fast, many were slow, and a few 1k intervals were really fast. Way too many miles were on the treadmill due to the splendid ice accumulating conditions we had this year. I have a half marathon in May and I feel really good about where I am at right now in my training.

As for me; I am selectively compulsive and tend to take things to extremes but only about certain things like running, being on time, my shoes always being just right for my outfit, and clothes, shoes, and hair in general. Oddly though, I do not feel the same way about my running clothes and will wear them til they fall apart. I even raced a goal half marathon in a 5 year old dingy tech shirt with paint on the sleeve. When it comes to running it is all about the running and not at all about all those extra things that stylish runners need.

For a compulsive person though I do have a messy house. I just was not programmed to be tidy as much as I was programmed to get the miles in every day or shop for just the right pair of heels. A friend of mine told me that she cannot get out to exercise as she cannot bear to leave the house if there is a dirty dish in the sink. Entire kitchen can be trashed and I just see it as one more reason to leave for a run. You can always clean a kitchen to perfection even if the dishes were piled up by the sink for a week but your own body is not so forgiving if you do not work out. Not that I let my dishes pile up for a week. I learned long ago that the best cure for an untidy house is fewer possessions so I only have about a one day supply of dishes. And that last sentence is most likely the best advice I will ever offer on this blog.

My hobbies besides running are looking at red cowboy boots on E-Bay and trying to make sure that my kids grow up to be adults that are not annoying. Not that I am never ever annoying but you always hope for better for your children.

This year compared to last

This article was originally posted by Ed at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

Just wanted to put it out there that this year while inconsistant is leaps and bounds over last year at this point.

Last year 1/1 through 4/3 I had only run 22 times for 83.83 miles and I still had a pretty good racing year.

This year 1/1 through 4/3 I have run 40 times for 258.63 miles.

I know I should have had nearly 500 miles so far but I have plenty of time before my goal races to step it up and work extra hard. Looking forward to the five races I have planned for the year.

Breaking news: Hill repeats are good for your 5K

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

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Hill repeats will of course help if you’re racing here

Well, maybe not exactly breaking but a recent study backs up what we’ve known for some time. It also adds to the picture a bit.

This study found that hill repeats of any kind improved a runner’s 5K performance by about 2%. That’s a pretty significant number. For a 20 minute 5K runner, 2% would be a 24 second improvement.

What I found interesting here is that they looked at repeats at different intensities and how that affected running economy and 5K performance. The result was that the highest intensity hill repeats improved running economy the most but, to quote the author, "there was no clear optimum for time-trial performance". In other words, while running economy improved most with the highest intensity hill repeats, other factors played into making 5K performance gains similar across all intensities.

What to take from this? First, hill repeats are good. No news here. Second, high intensity repeats are great for running economy. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise. We’ve known that short bursts of high intensity work are good for running economy already. That’s why we all do strides, even marathoners. Many runners would already at times take those strides to a hill to get a little more intensity. Third, there are other benefits to longer repeats. Again, we already knew this. That’s why hill repeats have been popular for decades.

So why am I writing about something that just tells us what we already know? First, it’s always good to make sure the science confirms what you already believe. Second, it never hurts to remind ourselves of what we’ve already known. We all know strides are good for us but I know I’ve forgotten this lesson at times and gotten away from doing strides. Have you gotten away from hill repeats? Maybe this is an opportunity to consider whether it would be a good idea to add them back.

Barefoot running: It’s about how you run more than what you run in

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

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Another study on barefoot running is out. I find this one to be of particular interest because it’s asking a question I would like to see asked more often: is the benefit of barefoot running due to what you’re running in (nothing or next to nothing) or how you’re running (eliminating the heavy heel strike)? I have my opinion on this answer but I’d like to see science back it up.

This is a small study (only 12 runners) so it hardly closes the book on the question but it’s a step forward in beginning to explore the question.

As for the answer itself, it seems to conclude the same thing many people, myself included, believed. The benefits (and risks) of barefoot running have to do more with how we run (forefoot plant) when barefoot than what we’re running in.

Specifically, the runners, whether wearing shoes or not, gain shock absorption when switching to a forefoot plant. Going barefoot and keeping your heel plant, not surprisingly, increases injury risk. The risk of switching to a forefoot plant, also not surprisingly, is an increased load on your calf muscles. Specifically, the gastrocnemius, which is the outer muscle of the calf.

What’s the takeaway of this? Here’s what I’m taking out of it. If you’re going to consider minimal or "barefoot" shoes or barefoot running itself, remember, the shoes are a tool. It’s not the shoes that improve your running, it’s the form changes that the lack of cushioning in those shoes forces. At the same time, proceed with caution. Your calves will need to work harder than they are used to if you currently heel plant. As with anything, build up slowly.

In other words, the same thing some of us have been saying for years, going back even before Chris McDougall’s book was published.

Birthday races

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

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A less serious topic, just because (and it’s not even my birthday, this was spurred by a conversation with another runner who recently celebrated a birthday).

I have often been asked why I don’t celebrate my birthday with a race. Maybe it’s because I’m not a huge fan of racing in Wisconsin winters, which complicates things with an early February birthday. Maybe it’s because, while I’ve always thought of myself as a competitive runner, I’m a runner first and competitive second. Racing is an incredible experience and my running life would have a huge hole in it if racing wasn’t a part of it but I don’t run to race. I race because it’s a part of the running experience for me. I sometimes enjoy a relaxing long run through nature even more than I do a race.

Or maybe it’s because last time I did a birthday race, not running well was only half the story. Guys in the age group I joined just days earlier took 3 of the top 4 spots overall. What a welcome to a new age group that was.

Thoughts on GPS watches after 6 months with one

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

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It’s been just over 6 months now since I began using my Garmin Forerunner 410. My first run with the Garmin was September 8th. As any of you who know me well know, I’ve long had concerns about using GPS devices for training. I have to say that some of my concerns have been proven correct through my own experience, while others have been allayed. At the same time, I’ve found some benefits to using GPS.

First, to go over my primary concerns and what I’ve found through personal experience:

Runners trust the GPS too much. I know it’s not 100% accurate so I haven’t fallen into this trap but I’ve seen the inaccuracies that show how dangerous this trap can be. When running on roads, it’s usually quite accurate. There is some error in the early stages when the device is still locking on to the satellites and you can always find error even late in a run but it will get your distance pretty accurate most of the time. There are exceptions, though, so you’re playing with fire if you place too much trust in your GPS. On wooded trails, it’s another story. You will get very strange results. Don’t be surprised when your readings turn out very inaccurate. I’ve heard of similar problems when surrounded by tall buildings in urban areas but I have no personal experience in this regard.

As a sidenote, certified race courses as well as many that aren’t certified are measured with far more accurate methods than GPS. Please don’t tell race directors their courses aren’t accurate based only on the fact that your GPS said it was a little off. Chances are it’s the path you took through the course and/or inaccuracies in GPS measurement that are a little off.

Runners are too dependent on the GPS, forgetting how to run by feel and focusing too much on trying to hit the "right" number. This is a real problem. Maybe it’s partly because I’ve always been a numbers guy but this has personally been a constant battle. The numbers are too readily available. I can check my current mile pace at any time in real time and it’s generally reasonably accurate. I can get reasonably accurate mile splits. This creates constant problems for a numbers guy like me. Maybe it’s different for others, though that’s not what I hear when I listen to other runners talk about using their GPS watches, but I’m constantly working on paying less attention to the Garmin. I generally do a good job but I won’t deny falling into the trap at times.

Now, a couple primary benefits I’ve found:

Workouts are even easier. Want to do mile repeats? Not a problem. Set your watch to give you an alert by distance. Want to do timed repeats? Just like any good running watch, it can also handle that. Mile repeats with timed recoveries? No problem. Of course, we can accomplish the same type of workout by time. 5 or 6 minute repeats in place of mile repeats will, for someone running 5-6 minute pace, be the same workout. However, I don’t think I’m alone when I say there’s something nice about doing mile repeats. Also, when not running on a track, it’s nice to have time and distance so you know what paces you were hitting.

Tracking your training is a breeze. This can be a double-edged sword but, used properly, can be very helpful. Just upload your data to Garmin Connect and it’s all there. I’ve been able to easily notice where in my tempo runs I might surge or let up a bit, which has allowed me to focus on those parts. This helps me get more out of my tempo runs and carry over what I learned into my racing so I can run my races more efficiently, which should translate to faster times.

I know I’m leaving off a lot of both pros and cons of GPS watches. I’ll probably touch on some or even expand on the above topics in the future. In the meantime, do you think I left off something that is a significant benefit or detriment? Feel free to comment with pros and/or cons that I left off the list.

Revival

This article was originally posted by Andrew A. at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

With a new team for the new year, I am once again wanting to blog more. I have committed myself to a seasonal summer focus on middle distance (800m-5000m) and leading up to that will race 5K-21K on the roads. The ideal is to be ready to compete in either 1500m or 5000m at Masters Track Nationals in mid-July in Kansas. I will likely be blogging more about my own training than I have in the recent past, hence reviving the blog I had used for that in the distant past.

Today I went and spectated at C.U.’s early-season home meet, the Jerry Quiller Classic. It was invigorating to be around a track meet setting again, to see competitors getting after it in spikes. The crack of the starter’s pistol, the field bunching together and then dispersing, the labored gasps, the rhythmic coordination of arms and legs, the grins at the finish. Part of me wanted to be racing the 3000m, though I am keenly aware that today I would have been drubbed royally by the guy who finished last. I take that to mean that I should move one of my weekly workouts to the track, though.

The year so far –

This article was originally posted by Ed at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

My feelings are a bit diametrical regarding my running so far this year.

On one end I have placed my distance goal of 2,013 miles for the year in jeopardy because of a bad Januray and bad February. As of tomorrow I should be hitting about 414 miles for the year so far to be on the correct pace. I am only going to be at 202 miles for the year. That is a differnce of 212 miles! That is a lot of ground to make up.

On the other end I am way ahead of where I was last year at this point. Last year at the end of March I had 62 miles and this year I will be close to 300. So I have a great shot at achieving my race goals of cutting my times down significantly and placing well overall as well as in my age group.