Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A 100 Days in Review

As I've mentioned a few times, as well as in my first post for the 150k in 100 Days, it was never the amount of climbing that was going to be the major challenge in this challenge - it was all about time management, follow through and putting in alot of vertical when I had the chance. It was the getting in as much as I can when I can that seemed more like training than just pure fun at a moderate effort because after 10,000'-15,000' in 3 days the next few days offer no moderate effort!

The only negative effect the last 100 days had on me were the inefficiencies I've developed for "flat" running that running up and down steep hills/mountains will cause. This video posted by GZ a few weeks ago spoke volumes to me about inefficiencies in running. The first one that comes to mind is the toe lift. I don't think you can run up a steep incline w/o applying some sort of toe lift. Not a huge thing for me as I won't be doing any flat racing anyway, but doing this much incline for 100 days certainly has made flat running feel like I'm running into a 60 mph head wind.

I have become much more efficient at running up and down steep inclines, but I'm not much faster at it. This has everything to do with the fact that I did almost all of it a very moderate effort. I am a little faster at this moderate effort, but as soon as I try to put the hammer down the heart isn't quite ready for the hard effort. This is probably just a specific training issue.

So, what I've realised, or I should say verified, is that training to be fast/efficient at any race takes a good mix of training. To be fast at PPM requires some flat speedwork. To be fast on the track also requires some hill work. I'd go as far as saying that in an extreme case flat running is more important than hill running for speed on a hilly race. For example, look at 2 completely different demographics, a flat lander that never trains with hills and a hill lander that never trains flat. I think a flat lander who has a great marathon base and is capable of doing alot of speed work can do well at say the Pikes Peak Ascent or the Imogene Pass Run. And this flat lander will be "more successful" at his/her mountain race than the hill lander who just runs a ton of hills. And yes, since this is hypothetical I'm disregarding the altitude factor!

Anyway, my point being is that, for me, I have seen a HUGE deterioration in some running efficiencies that are very important in any racing and I need to do some things now to get them back. I'm quite sure my stride length has suffered quite a bit as well.

Now for the good stuff!

The biggest challenge the past 100 days was the travel I had in my schedule. This was also the greatest part. I had the opportunity to run in some amazing places that I'd never be able to on my own. NH is an incredible place to explore the mountains. I was able to take a slow, steep climb at near max effort in the French Alps in Chaminox - I actually left my breakfast on that mountain! Without a doubt, though, it was Snowdon that was the most memorable of all the places I was able to visit. Something about this area that made me feel like I was in another time. Perhaps on a clear day in Wales I wouldn't have felt as strongly about this, so I'm glad I had the damp, foggy day on Snowdon.

It's funny how, in alot of great experiences, the difficult part of it is usually tied very closely with the best part of it. I've been doing this for years and plan to do it for many more, and right now the challenge is fitting this in while still making the most of my time with my family. I feel strongly that I've done this part well. Why? Because my kids ask and plan to go on trail runs and hikes. That, my friends, is the greatest part of all of this - a life-style that seems to be getting passed on to the next generation in my family. An activity that my whole family loves to do. As this continues and the kids get older balancing the 2, family and trail running, will be obsolete. The 2 will become 1 and the balance takes care of itself.
I'll just have to figure out a way to keep up with them!


  1. Hmm, being a case in point for the guy who runs pretty much nothing but hills, I would have to disagree with some of your conclusions.

    Firstly, I don't think running hills has made me any slower on the flats. Quite the opposite in fact. With that said, I think some legitimate flat speedwork added to my training regime would certainly help my road performance, but not to the extent that the hills do. More to do with turnover and getting the body accustomed to working at faster paces. The fitness and strength are already there for the most part. Might experiment with flat speedwork for Pikes or some other hill race next year, as there is definitely something to be said for the translation between straight speed and power for shorter hill races. I'd imagine mile repeats and longer tempo efforts at LT would be a good training tool for short-distance mountain running.

    Secondly, I don't see any collapse in my form, but then my form has never been that great. I think I carry my arms and shoulders too high now, but that is more a function of always carrying a water bottle than it is anything else, I think.

    You should jump in and run a longer hilly trail race on the back of this training block and see how it goes. I bet you'd be pleasantly surprised.

  2. Nick - Your training log and race results certainly speak for themselves - everything you're doing right now is working quite well for you. I think you are an exception to the rule though, or maybe not, maybe you're actually a sub 15 5k'er? I also think that you develop and maintain a lot of your speed from your downhill ability, and this is where I really struggle. Weather you're on the "super highway" or Jamez you are moving your legs very fast with a good stride.
    I am looking for a good hilly race - the one I wanted, the Shut-In Ridge with 5,300' of climbing is full. There will be something else soon, I'm sure. I wish Mtn. Masc. had a 25 mile option.

  3. I have given this a lot of thought and have concluded ...

    ... it depends ...

    Mountain runs like you are talking about here require a few different things
    1.) ability to go long (yeah, I am going to say that 2+ hours is long, given that other than the regular road marathon, all other distances are typically accomplished in this timeframe)
    2.) ability to run up hills
    3.) ability to run fast (hills and flats)
    4.) ability to run down hills
    5.) ability to deal with altitude

    It seems that for every guy I find that does well at a race via training exclusively on hills (Elliott for example), there is an equivalent example of a guy who does well coming from the roads (let's use Call as a recent example).

    There are guys who run well on the roads, but poorly in the mountains, poorly on the roads but incredibly in the mountains.

    It comes down to that runner's strengths, what kind of training they want to do, and what sort of training they ought to do to compliment their strengths for whatever race they are doing.

    Rick - I think I am a bit like you - that if I hit the mountain stuff too much and / or exclusively, I tend to loose a step overall, and eventually this erodes my abilities to run fast on the hills. I know that is not true for everyone though.

  4. Yup, we are all different in what we need to do well out there. I specifically remember being a little slower after following MC's PP Training in his book he co-wrote. There may have been other factors involved, but whatever I was doing with that training wasn't working for me. I realised I needed to do longer than 30 minute tempos and 1 hard, 1 easy wasn't making me any faster either. The 1 minute stuff is alot of fun, but shorter speedwork wasn't doing me any good, I was sort of maxed out on that from a background in soccer and hockey, I think. I tend to have the same speed over the 400 meter distance right down to 100 meters for the past 20 years no matter what. It's maintaining a faster pace over a long distance is where I need alot of work.

  5. Really interesting discussion. A couple of thoughts in looking at my own training this summer.

    I agree w/ Carpenter (and others) that if you want to race fast uphill you have to train fast uphill. That means uphill tempo runs and hill intervals (one minute on/one minute off or fixed time/distance). I also agree that ideally one should mix in some flat speedwork and tempo runs. The catch, for me, is that on many days I'm more interested in a long day on the trails than in specific training requirements. Toss in a busy professional and family life and it's easy to opt for a fun run over a prescribed regimen. (That's where balance and flow come in.)

  6. Hi Jim - Long days on the trails over a specific training session is definately not a bad way to go, a long run seems to beat out anything else in that situation. Your double at PP this shows it worked well for you!

  7. I hit my PPA goal (which I'm very satisfied by), but not by as much as I secretly hoped. I think that's because I didn't invest enough time on running fast uphill. I did lots of moderate and slow uphill stuff, but not enough focused hill work. I'm thinking about trying to do some trail 10Ks (Vail) and/or halfs (Golden Leaf in Aspen) next summer in addition to the PPM. That will require some more focus to the training...in addition to more of the soul-soothing long trail runs.

  8. I get what folks are saying here about having to run fast uphill.

    But there are guys I know who are fast on really steep stuff, but don't do as well at Pikes because ... well, Pikes ain't as steep.

    I guess what I am saying is that I learned that banging up Green at some of its 40 percent grades does not necessarily mean I am going to be effective rolling at Pikes at 11 percent.

  9. Jim - Looking back I can definately say that I was in the best running shape in 2003 living in Flagstaff. I had run a very tough marathon, Whiskey Row (3:20),early May, then was training for a hilly 20k at sea-level for late September. I was doing some really nice 20 milers on the mountain between 8,000'-12,000' and a load of flat speedwork at 7,000'. Mid August I was presented with a transfer entry into Imogene, so obviously no specific training for this race, but where I lived helped out quite a bit. I ran a 2:50 on a 2:01 ascent, then ran a 1:22:?? for the 20k 2 weeks later. That said, I think 10k and 1/2 training will do ALOT for PPM training. I would really like to concentrate on that type of training as well for the next 6-8 months again. I think I would get alot of what I've lost back. The base is so important though and I think that spring marathon in 2003 was definately the key.
    GZ - Definately! Then again, it looks like Roes (see his latest post) is another exception - some guys are just FIT and they seem to do well whatever the conditions.
    I remember being a young teenager playing soccer and complaining about the ball or the field conditions. My father made a great point that has always stuck with me. He said a good player will be good no matter what ball or what field they are playing on.

  10. I hesitate to jump in on a discussion like this, mostly because George has already said the most important--and obvious--thing: everyone responds a bit differently to different forms of training. It's individual.

    Granted, folks who are reading this blog are a bit of a self-selected group (i.e., if you’re reading a post about a lot of vertical, you probably run a lot of vertical), but I think you have to lump me in with Nick and Scott Elliott as another dude who does okay off of nothing but hills. In 2010 I've run more vertical than at any other time in my life and I was also easily in the best shape of my life this year.

    (At least) two caveats to that, though:

    1) There were plenty of other significant factors to my fitness this year, too, the most obvious one being sheer consistency. I've never done any kind of training as consistent as the last 9 months have been for me. However, I would argue that that consistency might be a function of running a lot of vertical, though, too (mostly because the slow, uphill terrain keeps the pounding low (reduced injury risk, in a weird way) while still building fitness, and, I’m most motivated by running up a mountain, so it’s not difficult to get out the door).

    2) Maybe I could've been even faster with some speedwork? It's just so hard to say. I do know that when I was in college I became overtrained very quickly/easily on too much speedwork, but that was also two 8000m+ sessions per week plus an 8K race on Saturday, so it might've just been too much speedwork. I tend to think that if I were focusing on the "shorter" mountain races (say BTMR and PPM) I would include at least one uphill speed session and/or maybe one flat session per week. But, more and more, I doubt it.

    Two other things that come to mind:

    1) I think there is definite danger in losing "legspeed" when running nothing but hills, but that is combatted by doing the neuromuscular training type of strides that George is doing now, NOT by hammering, say, 6x800 on the track (a VO2 Max workout) or a 5mi tempo run on the flat (a lactate threshold workout). Both those systems can be worked fairly effectively on a hill, too, I would argue, and I would say that a lot of my runs up Green are probably in the LT range, for at least the last 20min or so to the top (even though the pace might still only be 12-15min/mile!). And, there are times when I'm definitely working my VO2 Max (i.e. time trial-type efforts), so it's not just all moderate jogging, although there's a lot of that, too.

    2) All of this makes me think a bit about Rob de Castella and his coach Pat Clohessy and their “complex” training, which was just a way of saying, “screw conventional periodization, we’re going to work everything (hills, long runs, track work) all the time.” I’ve long thought about the fact that one needs to “progress” the training year-to-year and season-to-season, but you look at a guy like Deek and it makes you think that the only real “progression” happens through sheer accumulation of consistent training. Allegedly, he didn’t change anything year to year but he still managed to keep improving his whole career (a white man running 2:07 at Boston is fairly astounding).

    It’s an interesting concept and one I think about a fair bit when I consider how I’m going to become faster for next summer. A big part of me is pretty confident that just putting in another 8 months where I run up Green 200+ times will get me there mostly because I don’t think the body really knows that it’s a new season or a new year: it just knows that over it’s life it’s now run up a mountain 400 times instead of only 200 times, so it’s probably going to be more fit. That is, the mileage/vertical base just keeps getting bigger. At least that’s what Deek’s approach makes me think, and even someone like Carpenter who has basically done the exact same training/workouts 20 years in a row.

  11. I see that the more this discussion goes on the more obvious it becomes to me that we are simply talking about base/consistency. I think it's safe to say that Nick, GZ and Tony all have a better base this year than past years, right? Is that the same for you Jim? Is it also true, GZ, that you did the least amount of speed/hill work leading up to PPM this year while PR'ing? And, Tony, after taking just seconds off the White River CR 2 years ago, you took a big chuck out of it this year? And, Nick, didn't you take down every CR you ran this year ;-) w/o any specific speed work? Perhaps me using the term "exception to the rule" was false in the sense that I might not have known the rule when I said it. Maybe the rule is base/consistency. It's quite possible that in 2003 I was much faster because of the base I had and not the speedwork I was doing. Training for Whiskey Row I did the same 20 miler once a week on a 5 mile dirt road that gained 2,000', up/down,up/down. I think I'll take Nick's suggestion and find a hilly race and then decide if I feel slow or fast. Thanks guys!

  12. And what's most important about the base, in understanding Tony's point, is that it's not a seasonal thing, something that you start over once a year, it's an on-going thing, something you carefully add to every year.

  13. For the races we are talking about, Great stuff in there all. Especially the stuff about Deek. I agree that the most important thing is consistency in training. I should make that number zero in my list above.

    Consistency means at least two things though, right? It means that you are getting out there every day and doing something. It is that volume consistency.

    It also means that you are consistently doing the work that is effective for you to move your fitness forward. This one is the combination lock that everyone needs to hammer out as to what is right for them. And actually the first number in this combo is to find something that you will enjoy. Ultimately, I think if you are doing training that you do not enjoy but are doing it just because it is supposedly what you are supposed to do, you probably won't do it or do it right.

    Rick to address your direct question: yes, I was more consistent this past year in terms of volume. I don't have a year sum of miles from September 09 to August 10 immediately available, but I would guess that my mileage was in the 4000 range. Certainly it was my highest year ever. I got some flack from some folks that I was chasing mileage, but I enjoyed being out there and it set for a consistent base for me.

    As far as specific type of work ... comparatively I got up hills in training less than I had in past years. There were a couple of reasons for this, but the biggest one was that I was trying to keep my training "budget" a little tighter. I live 20 minutes (car) from the mountains. I sort of ended up in a mentality (more times than not) where I did not want to add that 40 minutes to my training window. That 40 minutes could be doing something else (family time, work).

    That said, I still got to mountains like Green occasionally - but certainly much less than say 2007 where I got to Green or Bear quite a bit.

    I did do some turnover work through the summer. Strides (although of a different nature of what I was doing now), and ladders mostly. While I realized these were not specific to Pikes, I also felt, saw that I was getting some benefit from them. Finally, I was getting some hill interval work by periodically hitting a hit a half mile from my office that averages 6.5% in grade for a half mile, but with pitches up to 10%.

    Given I PR'd at Pikes, I could say I found a combination of consistency, long running, fast running, uphill and downhill running and altitude that worked. To some extent that is true.

    But that said, I don't think I have found a perfect combination for me yet. My downhill was not great, and I feel I can still hit that uphill better (I have run it 9 minutes faster than I did this year).

    To that end, if I were to change only one thing for Pikes prep for me, it would be more about longer runs. I get 2 hour runs pretty regularly, but not enough of the stuff longer than that. I see the detriment in not getting these runs in given my inexperience with appropriate fueling, and hence cramping at later stages of races like Pikes.

    Certainly it is hard to argue with the results and experiences of Tony, Nick and Scott. I think they have found a combination of hill running with other training that works for them, and actually probably seems pretty simple for them.

    I have not found that combo quite yet, but I will admit I might be making it harder than it needs to be. However when I look at years where I have performed better, there is a bit more emphasis on flat work than hill work.

    Good conversation all - wish we could share it all on a run!

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  19. Rick - yeah I'm pretty much in the Jim camp when it comes to speedwork: it sounds like a good idea, but just not that fun when it comes to lacing up the shoes. However, as Tony has pointed out, just because you're running hills doesn't mean you're constantly jogging. The LT work is in there, it just comes a little more organically, when the mood dictates.

    And yes, consistency is huge. I ran a full year last year without injury and have basically built on that this year doing much the same thing. Like Tony, though, it leaves me thinking what the hell I am going to do next year to get any faster.

    I'm pretty much the opposite of George with regards to access: If I want turnover on flat terrain then I have to drive 20 minutes to get it - so the hills are a very easy choice for me day in day out. That's why I like to race a lot of distances and surfaces. Those 5k turnover races at least keep me moderately honest.

    I keep telling myself that I'm gonna work on the 5k speed for this last part of the season, but I'm still yet to hit the track or a stretch of asphalt. Maybe next week...

    Speaking of which, George, when's the showdown?

  20. Nick - I am game whenever you are. I suspect you still got me by 20 seconds at current but I am optimistic on my chances by Thanksgiving.

  21. Nick - The speedwork that you and Tony get in organically, dictated by the mood sounds very much like a pure, unplanned fartlek. That seems like the perfect way to do a fartlek.
    Will the 5k showdown be flat, hilly, both...

  22. George - thinking I'm gonna run this Oct 16: http://www.hes.cahs.colostate.edu/outreach/homecoming/Default.aspx?sm=e

    If you come up here for one, I'll go down there for one, and maybe we can meet in the middle for the tiebreaker (if needed).

  23. Great discussion here. Not sure if it was Shorter or Rodgers or someone else but I know somebody back in the '70's said, "Hills are speedwork in disguise.

    I have to say I side with Tony and Nick (although they're faster than me). For me, running hills day in and day out makes me feel good, takes me to great places, and makes me fit. Then, every so often when I run a 5K, a half-marathon, or, God Forbid, a 1-mile race I feel like I can battle through.

    That said, the one thing track work helps me with is the mental side of the last 30 miles of a 100 mile race. There is nothing like gearing up for that 6th 1200 that prepares you for the feeling you have leaving Green Gate, Fish Hatchery and Brighton.

    Finally, about base training, I am certain that all of the accumulated mileage really matters and I am reminded of the Norwegian xc skiers who train in four-year cycles or some of the Ethiopian runners who do the same. To be honest, I think it's totally normal to think about training as a long, slow process that makes us better, smarter, and, ultimately, happier.

  24. AJW - Right on. I think what I've learned most the last day or 2 is that I had been narrowly looking at my training as a yearly cycle, maybe even less than a year. A year is really such a short period of time and there's so much to benefit from looking at training as a continuous cycle without time limits. Hey, I don't just try to do a good job getting my kids to their next birthday, right? I try to do what's right for them for a lifetime. Applying this philosophy to running must be useful.

  25. Rick - Yeah, base/consistency this year was a huge thing for me...and a new thing. I'm still a relative newbie at all this (and feel well out of my league in this discussion).

    I do a poor job of tracking mileage. I write daily mileage in the blog, but have never added it up. I can't even tell you what my highest mileage week is. What I can tell you, though, is that the consistency this year has made a world of difference.

    For me (a front of the middle of the pack guy) it's not just consistency...it's the consistency of running in the mountains. Like Nick, I have to drive 20 minutes to find anything flat, other than a high school track. The variety of terrain on a given run and the attendant effort, as Tony suggested, means I'm working regularly a range of systems.

    On my home eight mile loop, for example, I get some speedy flats and gentle grades, some slow, steep stuff and some solid downhill...all in one package. For the races I've run so far, that's pretty close to race training specificity.

    Still, I think I would benefit from more focused speedwork, in no small part for the reason AJW cited...because you learn a bit more about where the redline is...or how far away it is.

    I don't think I'll ever be one to follow a highly structured plan. Running by feel and doing what feels right on a given day and consistently doing some long 3 to 6-hour runs is a hell of a lot of fun and already has miraculously allowed me to surprise myself.

    So far...so good.