Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Eco-Training - close . . . but not perfect yet!

If you are one of the 10s of people that actually take valuable time out of your day to read this blog, you may remember the new training program I have in development I am calling 'Eco-Training'.  Essentially, with Eco-Training, you keep your long runs to an absolute minimum and back off your mid-week runs to eliminate trash miles.  The motto is basically 'Low and Slow'.

Well, after this last weekend I have come to realize . . . 'Eco-Training' isn't perfect!    There are still a few, what I believe to be, minor 'tweaks' needed for perfection.

Realistically, few true innovations are perfect when first conceived and put into practice.  Even Albert Einstein's theory of relativity wasn't perfect to start with.  Few people realize that his original formula was E=m^2c.  But things were just not working out for him using this formula.  Quite frankly, it was just a big dud!  Nothing!  Perfection came for 'Al' (as us friends like to call him) only when he realized he needed to just move the '^2' to the far right!   Then . . . magically . . . BANG!!!  Perfection!

So 'Eco-Training' isn't perfect yet.  A few minor adjustments still do need to be made.

My first test to the Eco-Training experiment was at Hinson Lake 24 hour Endurance Classic this last weekend and it was here where a few of the weaknesses of the original plan started coming to light. 

First, 'Eco-Training' doesn't seem to help one build blazing speed. 

I was disappointed that my lap times increased to a small degree.  So I'm really not sure at this point what adjustments are needed to the Eco-Training plan to correct this.  I have determined three possible hypothesis to investigate . . .
  1. Long runs and mid-week runs need to reduce even more to allow more time for those 'fast-twitch' muscles to be fully prepared, or 
  2. Training needs to be increased to better prepare those 'fast-twitch' muscles to get up to speed with the rest of your body, or
  3. My lack of speed at Hinson Lake was actually within the normal range of performance fluctuation and no Eco-Training plan adjustment is really needed.
I have trouble believing it could even possibly be #2, but as a highly-trained scientist I need to keep my mind open here!

Secondly, my endurance could have been better.

Originally I had established 75 miles within the 24 hour period as a goal and would have considered 100k as an acceptable minimum.  At Hinson Lake I completed 27 miles - falling just short of this minimum goal.  True . . . 27 miles is VERY, VERY close to 62.5 miles (when you consider intergalactic distances) but a miss is still a miss!

Again, the same two possibilities exist and perhaps additional adjustments to the plan will be necessary.

Other Runner Input

Additionally, along with excited runner support from across the world, I have received suggestions for a few additional factors to consider in the Eco-Training plan.
  • Psyche Wimberly, the world renown ultra runnerette from the Asheville area suggested I begin testing the addition of mid-run naps into both the training and the target event itself.  All I can say is "BRILLIANT!"  Since I didn't want to spoil the scientific integrity of work I had already done, I chose NOT to incorporate Psyche's addition into the Hinson Lake run.  But I do plan to add this to all future development and testing.
  • Diet and it's possible effects on performance was suggested as an addition by 'Dr.' Jim Plant, an innovative dietitian known around the world for his unique perspective on food and drink.  I plan to have a number of special 'diet sessions' with 'Dr.' Plant (aka 'Jimbo') in order to get a fuller understanding of all the principals involved.  Right now, I've only heard a few of his theories surrounding beer (specifically Yeungling beer), Spam, Vienna Sausages, jerky, bacon, cheeseburgers and a specific variety of cupcake know as a 'Shimmel cake' developed by Amy Schimmel another well-known ultra runner.  (Incidentally, Amy just set the new World Record for mileage with a full leg brace . . . . and yes, she was fueled with her special cupcakes!)  These foods and other 'Plantings' (as I like to call 'Dr.' Plant's suggestions) will be included in the grueling sessions we are  planning.  I have full confidence that with Jimbo's help there may be some very positive outcomes coming soon.
  • And I am thinking I should include rest during periods of 'non-exercise'.  As we all know, training involves both the running 'work' as well as rest and recovery.  So, to bolster the rest period effectiveness, I am planning to experiment with the use of crutches during the periods between running sessions.  This should give one's body additional time to prepare for the next exercise-intensive running session.
All in all, I'm pretty sure we're on the right track.  These 'tweaks' should provide us with additional data for analysis.  As with all scientific endeavors, progress will be slow and careful . . . but the results should be well worth the wait.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hinson Lake 24-hour Endurance Classic

Hinson Lake 24 is still my favorite race . . . . this year I had even more fun then last year . . . but in very different ways.

Going in I had virtually NO expectations.  I honestly hoped to finish five laps or so,  The day before, as I was setting up, my hip started killing me so I questioned if I would be able to even finish two laps.  Honestly.

But Saturday morning came and my hip felt pretty good.  After 5 laps it did start tightening up and the pain started, but it was on and off.  Really quite strange . . . for maybe 1/2 of a lap I would limp along at less then a stroll.  But then . . . the pain would reduce for a little while!  Then the cycle would repeat, though it if hurt more and more as time went on. I have not idea why the pain would come and go.  Very strange.

But I did manage to limp through a marathon.  My slowest marathon ever!  BY FAR!  But my spirits were high all day and I had a total BLAST!

But there are a number of things that make Hinson Lake special . . . and a few thing that made this year at Hinson special.  Here are some of them . . . in no particulay order.
  • Ultrarunners are, for the most part, just incredible folks to be around.  Warm, friendly, fun-loving and encourging are a few words that come to mind.  To a degree, this is true of all runners . . . but you just have to spend some time at an event like Hinson Lake to see and feel the difference.  Jim Plant said Hinson Lake feels like a family reunion and that is 'spot-on!'  For some strange reason, I just feel very close to a large number of the folks . . . even though I really don't know them all that well nor do I really see them very much.  But the feelings are real.  There is a love out there amoung this group and newcomes are welcomed with open arms.
  • Tom Gabell and his family quitely put together a fabulous event.  Things run smoothly.  Seemingly low stress (from my perspective but I bet Tom has stress that he hides!!).  Volunteers always make races and Hinson has excellent volunteers.  Extremely supportive and understanding!
  • Two spectacular athletic performances this year that I knew about.  First was Mike Morton finishing over 160 miles within the 24 hours.  About three miles short of the North American record I believe.  The second was Andrew Surrette . . . an 8 year old who had not signed up to run but just wanted to.  No training at all.  But some great genes!  Drew finished just over a 50k . . . 21 laps or 31.92 miles!  His mom tells me was 'a little sore the next day!!!   :-) The picture above is Drew running with Naresh Kumar and Joey Anderson.
  • I love to see people break through limits!  PRs are great but they focus on time.  I especially love to see people go further then they have ever gone before.  That first time they finish a 10k or a marathon, etc.  At Hinson Lake we had a ton of folks that busted through their previous longest runs: Amber Shingleton, Jon Shingleton, Brandie Ghiloni, Eric Ghiloni, Margaret Bentley, Arthur Bennett, Alane Floyd, Liz Fuson, Amy Surrette, Drew Surrette, Kayla Surrette, Andy Surrette, John Adamof, Chad Wollenberg, and I'm sure I'm missing or forgetting many others.
  • Having a 1.5 mile loop in a 24-hour event is fantastic.  You just keep telling yourself you can do 'just one more loop' and then another.  All in an enviornment where other runners just 'suck you along' with words of encouragement.  You think you're done . . . but you rest a few minutes and you stary thinking "Another lap is ONLY 1.5 miles . . . I can do THAT!"  And you cam!
The run itself was fairly uneventful.  Race started at 8am.  There had been rain the afternoon before and during the night, but it pretty much ended by race time.  But MAN . . . was the humidity level high!  Temps were comfortable but you almost sweated just standing still. 

I did my usual run / walk for maybe 10 miles.  Then the walking started getting longer and longer.  Around my 12th lap I was running some and the ol' hip just gave way . . . not really 'locking up' but more just not able to support any weight.  Then, a little later, while running again the same thing happened.  So from that point on I just walked.

We were very lucky we had the rain as it made the hill just after the bridge easy to negotiate.  Last year it was like running in the loose dry sand high on a beach.  This year the footing was easy.

Liz Fuson ready for Mt Hinson.

Only cool thing I ran into was the biggest copperhead I've ever seen crossing the trail.  He was probably 3+ feet long and 2 inches wide at his widest.  Beautiful.  I stopped just to make sure no one hurt him . . . and he just crawled off, minding his own business.

Stopping at 18 laps was an easy decision.  Hip was hurting pretty bad.  Plus, everyone from RMEC had bailed when they heard another storm was coming.  So I hung around the shelter for awhile with Joey Anderson and then decided to go take a nap.  I had ever intention doing a few more laps when I woke up, but that was not to be as the hip had other ideas.  So about 2 am I started counting laps.  What a ton of fun!  The madhouse of people from Saturday had dwindled to a small but steady stream of runners all night long.  Saw so many people achieving there goals . . . a bunch of 100 milers, 62 miles, 75 miles, etc.  Saw RayK finish his second 100 miler in as many weeks!  Saw Bill Keene finish another 100!  And saw Mike Morton rock the running world with his 163.9 miles completed in 24 hours.  Not quite a North American record . . . but close . . . the second best all time!

Here a a few pictures: 

Doug 'Boogieman' Dawkins just before the 8 am finish.

Sharon Scott at the start.

RayK finishing his second 100 miles run in as many weeks!  Amazing!

Denise Martin saving another runner!!

Mike Morton maybe 3 minutes after he finished!

  • Tom Gabell, RD, presenting Mike with his award!  Amazing!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Totally Ready for Hinson Lake 24

Ever since my Boogie 50 finish this June, I've been carefully planning and training for Hinson Lake this year.  I know a lot of you all were not sure what was going on . . . no races for me since mid June.  No races, very few posts . . . all part of a carefully laid out and executed plan for a fantastic Hinson Lake performance!

The secret is I have been following a totally new training plan in preparation for this endurance event.  One that might seem odd to some and stupid to others.  But let's just wait and see how this training experiment turns out!  "The proof is in the pudding!"

Going back to my Boogie race / walk . . . many of you thought the blisters were the reason for my slow time and actually I tried to make you BELIEVE that was the case!  But Boogie was really just part of the plan!  The key to solid endurance running is pacing and dealing with the mental side of a challenging run.  So Boogie was really a carefully planned race and I intentionally developed the blisters on the bottom of my forefoot for two reasons: 1) character training . . . learning to deal with the pain and suffering involved when things just do go well, and 2) I had to figure out a way to keep me from going too fast!  The blister idea was brilliant, if I do say so myself.  Few of you would have ever even thought of this tactic and fewer still would have executed it to the degree I was able to!  So Boogie wasn't the disaster you thought . . . it was just part of the plan.

Now my new training plan is equally innovative and has required a significant amount of "out of the box" thinking again!  But really the plan is quite simple and is based on the premise that "less is more!"

Now I've got to admit that this as been an excruciating plan to actually execute.  In the past I have kept my mileage fairly high and tried to race a marathon or further every other weekend or so.  But that needed to change, it just wasn't working for me any more.  My times were just getting slower and slower.  I needed a totally new and innovative approach to my training.  Hence . . . my new plan which I am calling "Eco-training!"

Eco-training (soon to be patented) centers around not wasting needless energy by doing too much running or exercise.  Save all that for the "focus event" . . . in this case, Hinson Lake 24.
  • First and key to Eco-running . . . long runs are a total waste of effort, all they do is make you tired and sometimes sore.  So with Eco-running, I've minimize my long runs leading up to Hinson Lake.  With effort, I've managed to keep all my long runs under 6 miles.  In total I've only run 4 times over 5 miles since mid June!  That's right!  Think of the energy I've saved!  This is not insignificant!
  • Mid-week miles are really just trash miles and no one needs many trash miles.  So with my new Eco-training, I've eliminated these from my weekly plan.  Since Boogie, I have run no more then 2 times per week and many weeks only ONCE !  Eliminating all trash!  Another hallmark of this brilliant plan.
Okay . . . I know some of you are already questioning the wisdom of this, but remember what I said . . . the proof will be in the pudding!

So my training is complete and it time to start the "tapering phase" of my Eco-training for next Saturday's race.  But enthusiasm may have gotten the better of me and I'm hoping I didn't do too much today: 5.43 miles at a 11:17 pace . . . a solid 1 hour and one minute of quality training.  I just hope that wasn't too much . . .

Monday, I'm having an MRI and a follow-up visit with my doctor mid-week just to make sure everything is in perfect condition for my PR effort!  I should be perfect come race day!  Then . . . I can apply for my patent.

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Littleton, North Carolina
World's Slowest Runner . . . well, at least in contention for the honor. Just your average "below average" runner.