Monday, February 06, 2006

Finally, a real run...

It's not that I've been lazy in contributing to the blog lately, it's that I haven't really felt like I've had much to say. See, I'm still technically in base-training, and that is, as I've discussed, pretty wholly run-specific. And, since my present training regimen is focused around a Half-Marathon in April, my mileage isn't really anything extraordinary. So, not that anyone should expect anything too extraordinary, but there's only so many ways to say "3 mile maintenance run today. Not much to report" before we all start to spasm from boredom. In fact, this has been psychologically affecting my training a bit. Until yesterday, my training really hasn't been anything the average guy trying to just stay in shape a bit doesn't do pretty regularly. I've not felt tested or tried, or that I've been in a position to gauge any kind of general fitness or improvement, save for the few O2 training runs I did. So while I've been in training, I haven't really felt like I've been in training. And that's important - I haven't had the level of internal awareness that the serious tri-specific training provides for me. I haven't had an ache in my legs the next day. And my workouts have been almost exclusively on the treaded dreadmill. So I was happy to finally have a "real" run yesterday.

Yesterday's run was 7 miles, which isn't a great distance, and later this summer will really be a maintenance run. But it is over 10k, and anytime one surpasses that distance, he's wise to incorporate a strategy: Where I can just go outside and run 3 miles with little forethought or concern, when I go over 10k I treat it as part of my larger training - I organize time to drink, I analyze nutrition, I make a plan for pacing, am attentive to splits, etc.. In short, an opportunity to apply all my general endurance knowledge and strategies, and use that time as broader training for the nuances of the sport.

So it felt good to have to actually plan my day around a run, instead of just "run to the gym" for half an hour. It felt good to run outside - ass cold as it was - and to bring out the old Fuel Belt and Under Armor Cold Gear to keep me toasty. My plan for the run had three parts: 1: Be fast, but be comfortable. 2: Do not, under any circumstances, exceed my AT (anaerobic threshold), which has gone up in the last 2 months, and I figure to be right around 170bpm heart rate. 3: This is a mantra for the season - consistency, consistency, consistency. It's useless if I sprint out my first mile at a 7:30 pace only to run my last mile at 11:00 or something. I call this Jackie Dog Syndrome. When Jack and I go out for runs, he's so freaky happy for the first mile that he winds all over and hops and sprints and tugs on his leash. By the third mile, dude is literally trotting along behind me, he's so spent. He learned this from his old man, and I have more than one race report that begins "Run started strong", only to finish with the words "have to do better next time." So I want to be attentive to that all season long.

Also important - critical, really - is something I say out loud entirely for my own benefit: Ironman is NOT about who can go the fastest. It's about who can slow down the least. Unless one is a contender - and so far it appears that I, in fact, am not - it is more important that I find and maintain a comfortable pace than that I push myself into discomfort from the surge of competitive adrenaline or some delusional aspiration that I'm capable of something utterly outside myself. Running as fast as I can will not get me there. Running as smart as I can will.

So. Note that my day's goals said nothing about a particular pace or time - I'd let that dictate itself relative to my other goals. I'd stop every 2 miles and walk for as long as takes to comfortably sip through 8 ounces of Gatorade - about .15 miles, taking a couple of minutes. I'll not bore you with details, but in the course of an Ironman I'll need to consume around 600 mg of sodium and 86 grams of carbohydrates/hour. With some other nutritional elements in place, that means I need to drink 24 ounces of Gatorade/hour. These strategies will be in place all year long, all the way through race day. I start them now to train my body, establish the routine, and familiarize myself with any ongoing adjustments I need to make. So with all that in place, it was time to actually put one foot in front of the other and run!

Overall, I'm very encouraged and pleased with how things went, particularly this early in the season. My pacing broke down like this:

Mile 1: 8:49 HR: 155
Mile 2: 8:54 HR: 156
At this point I'm very encouraged. I was comfortable and still hovering around a 9:00 pace, which is just about perfect. My heart rate was at least 15 beats away from AT, and I was consistently pulling back on the reins - my body could've and wanted to go faster. I was never struggling and was enjoying myself.

Mile 3: 9:57 HR: 153
This is my first drinking mile, so the pace is misleading because I slow down to walk for .15 miles. This gives my heart rate a chance to recover to the mid 120s or so. As long as I don't exceed my AT, I should have no problems with digestion. When the heart starts pumping past AT, it's using a great deal of energy to force blood around the body's many moving parts. If you then introduce the need for digestion - even of water - into this mix, the body will literally revolt, spending its energies on its most important function and refusing to spend it on anything else (even sweating in absurdly bad conditions). This is when runners start to experience major GI issues, or start vomiting. Without fuel, then, the body starts to naturally slow down. The runner's first instinct, then, is to push harder to go faster, attempting to compensate. This sends the heart rate climbing continually higher while still not digesting. In a protective measure, then, the body tells the brain that food is disgusting, so now the very introduction of water or juice or anything makes the runner want to puke. You can see the vicious cycle. Best to steer clear. In keeping the heart rate low, the runner can easily eat. Gels and liquids are best - easily digested, and more directly introduced into the bloodstream and energy stores for quick use.

Mile 4: 9:13 HR: 161
In wanting to stay consistent, this is an important mile to look at and compare to mile 2 - the previous non-drinking mile. An increase of only 19 seconds is pretty consistent - anything over :30 would be cause for concern. My heart rate started to climb now a little, but I could feel I was still far from my AT. I was never uncomfortable, and had no problems with digestion from the drinking mile before.

Mile 5: 9:49 HR: 157
My second drinking mile, so I want to compare this mile to Mile 3 - as you can see, I negative split these miles: Mile 5 is 8 seconds faster than Mile 3. With the rest my heart rate fell from the high at Mile 4, and is only 4 ticks faster than Mile 3. At this point the end is in sight - I can gauge how the rest of my run is going to go, and what changes I might need to make from here on out.

Mile 6: 9:13 HR: 165
Again, this mile should consistently compare to Mile 4. Both were at 9:13. Brilliant. My heart, working for an hour now, is climbing to AT. Still not there, I can feel it, and this is encouraging because two months ago my AT was 165bpm. At this point I consider to push to the end into my AT (and discover where it might be...) - the end is near, and there's no reason to continue to monitor the tank. But I choose not to, to remain disciplined - I made my 3 rules before the run, and now I need to stick to them.

Mile 7: 9:52 HR: 157
Another drinking mile, and only 3 seconds slower than Mile 5, with the same HR. I finished the run in 1:05:50, with an average HR of 158 and an average pace of 9:24.

As I said, I'm very encouraged by the run because 9:24 is a very acceptable pace for me (consider I ran the Twin Cities 10 Mile in 2004 at an 8:59 pace - and uncomfortably) at any point in my history, but especially this early in the season. Also that my heart was never working hard - this makes me think I could've pushed to a mid 8:00 pace for much of the run and still been okay. Why didn't I? That's what tempo runs are for in the middle of the week - short bursts to push your heart rate past your AT, which in time raises your AT. These distance runs, then, are the product of those runs. Distance runs - long and comfortable - build endurance. Each is critical to my having success at IM, and that's why I decided not to push it at the end - I've had a habit in the past of competing with myself during training runs, and before you know it every workout pushes the AT, and endurance is sacrificed. I really, really need to be disciplined this year not to do that.

Okay! Hopefully not a boring analysis for you, but if it was, oh well. This is the stuff of training for Ironman. It's not all pretty girls and ribeye steaks, you know.


Michael Anderson said...

Just so you know, I read your blog everyday. It's the home page to my web browser, and my web browser starts up automatically when my computer starts up. So along with my email and the weather, your blog is one of the first three things I see in the morning.

I wouldn't want you to think that anything you say here, no matter how detailed and exhaustive in information is "boring" to me or any reader: If you're going through it, thinking it, learning it, or wondering about it, it's worth writing down. And worth it to me to know - so please, feel free to be verbose.

It's a great quote: "Ironman is NOT about who can go the fastest. It's about who can slow down the least." Great perspective on the event - insight from the experienced.

Those things being said, I continue to admire your thoroughness. Outside of all the physical training, which is an enormous challenge in itself, you are wonderfully mentally in shape and skilled. I think that's outstanding.

It's great that you earn the title "Ironman" after completing one. I never realized what a laudable and exceptional conferment it is. One is tempted to compare it as an equivalent to academic degrees or elite job titles. But it's more unique than that too.

I couldn't wish a more fitting merit to one such as you.

Nice link to Jackie-dog.


Patric said...

I once saw some dude at the gym with one of those fuel belts on. I understand how they work and what they are for, but I dont think he did. It was quite funny to see some random guy on the treadmill with one of those belts on. Random story. Keep on keepin on Mr. Bintliff