Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Workout Wednesday Australian Quarters

Welcome to the first installment of workout wednesday.  I will focus mostly on interval workouts in these posts.  Today I want to talk about one of my favorite sessions.  I call them Australian quarters.  Some call them Deek's quarters session after their most famous practitioner. Robert DeCastella, aka Deek.

  They are an invention of Deek's coach Pat Clohessy, himself a world class runner in his day, and were a staple for most of Pat's runners traditionally done every thursday.  Done throughout the training cycle and across events with subtle adjustments to meet the time of the season and the event being focused on.

   First a few facts about Deek, a four time Olympian who was overall the finest marathoner of the 1980's.  He had a lifetime marathon best of 2:07:51 set winning the Boston Marathon, but he produced a half dozen sub 2:09's and a bunch of 2:10 and 2:11 efforts over the years.  He won the world championships marathon in 1983 and finished in the top 10 in three Olympics.  Additionally he ran world class performances in cross country, on the roads and was a sub 28 sub 13:30 man on the track.  All of this despite being a rather stocky man with very limited speed.

  The workout is very basic. You run 8x400m with a 200m QUICK jog before EVERY repetition including the first one.  This means that you will cover 3 miles during the workout when the rest is included.  The trick is that the 200's must be run at a solid pace.  Somewhere around what you run on your fastest regular training runs or even a bit faster.  This session is sneaky tough but by forcing the pace of the recoveries it leads to enormous gains in latic threshold and race specific speed.

  I have an friend who early in indoor track his senior year in high school had a PB in the mid 4:30's for the mile.  On a recruiting visit he joined some red shirt athletes in a workout, behind the coaches back obviously, and they happened to be doing Aussie Quarters. The plan was to do the 400s in 70 and the rests in 45. My friend was surprised it was so slow he often did 400 repeats faster than 70 and 200 rest seem like quite.  Still he knew these red shirts had all run miles under 4:20, much much faster than he had ever approached.  He said the first rep felt easy as expected and the second seem pretty much the same. He said as they started the third he had this feeling like he hadn't recovered at all and he barely survived the rep.  The fourth rep was his last by 200m he was off the back and as he crawled in to a mid 70's finish he knew his day was over.

  He went home very humbled.  But this young man was not one to take a defeat as a negative.  He examined the workout and decided that he should be able to do it. 45second rests were 6min mile pace which he routinely ran on training runs and 70's were pretty relaxed for 400 reps.  He talked to his coach and they decided to attempt this session once a week until he could master it.  The results?
Over the first month or more he struggled but finally he found a way to approach the workout that lead to him finishing the workout and getting closer and closer to his goal.  During the outdoor season he master the workout and as the weeks went by his times plummeted and by the end of the season he ran 4:15 mile.

  The part that my friend missed when he first heard about this session was just how fast that rest makes it. 70 plus 45 is 600m in 1:55.  That means running this workout involves running 3 miles in 15:20!  Which was about as fast as he had ever run in cross country.  This workout forces you to learn to truly relax at both your rep speed and your recovery speed. There is no faking it or lying to yourself.  Believe me I have tried and it has without exception lead to me not finishing the workout.

  How fast?  Well in his training book Deek says if you run under 14:30 for the whole workout it is time to find a race as you are super fit, under 15:00 is bread and butter you are doing well. Over 15:30 and it was time for him to get blood work done as something must be wrong.  However Deek was a 2:07 marathoner!  Personally my goal is to break 15:00 and my fastest ever session was around 14:30 and I have qualified for the world championships.

  So what should you do?  Well generally speaking your reps should be at 3k to 5k race pace, as slow as 10k pace if you are getting ready for a marathon. Your rest pace should be as slow as a quick training run.  This is a great place to start or to even keep the pace if you are training for 3k to 5k racing.  If you are looking to a longer race than you should drop your rest pace down towards 95% of marathon pace or even in the final weeks before a marathon very close to marathon pace.

 When should you do this workout?  This is one of those rare workouts that can with a little adjustment be done pretty much year round, as long as you have access to a track.  It can be adjusted to be a fairly easy session in the base and early season and you can really crank it down to be a monster late in the season.  The biggest advantage of this over traditional intervals is the faster reps make it a very very aerobic battle.  In HS I routinely ran 8x400m in 65 seconds or faster, often with very short standing rests but I never came close to averaging 70 seconds per 400m for a 2 mile, 9:20.  Why?  I was teaching my body to get very good at fast reps but that isn't the test it was taking.  It was trying to run very fast for 2 to 3 miles continuously. This workout teaches your body to do that. I have no doubt that if I had replaced my faster 400 reps with aussie quarters at 70 and worked on getting the rest 200 down towards 45 I would have easily run 9:20 or better.

  What system does it work?  Really it would be easier to answer what system it doesn't work.  This type of session is obviously anaerobic. It is most directly tied to latic threshold.  But the recoveries make you super efficient at marathon pace and a bit slower which is aerobic training to a t.  Athletes who do a lot of workouts like this traditionally move to the marathon with far greater ease than normal.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Fundamental Pace Tempo Runs for Marathoners

  Welcome to the first installment of 'tempo tuesday'!  Tempo runs are a huge part of a successful training program and yet what they are is often debated and disagreed on.  Many people put them in a very specific corner, a tempo run is a 4 mile run at 10k to half marathon pace for example. From my perspective this is a little silly.  It is like saying intervals are only 12x400m at 5k pace with 100m jog rest.  It is my perspective that tempo runs are one of what I call the four major workout types, interval, long run, tempo run, hill workout, and are as varied or more varied than all the other groups. So each week I plan on trying to highlight one specific type of tempo run and how you can use it to improve your running.

  This week we start with a fundamental pace tempo run for marathoners.  Fundamental paced tempos are the least strenuous of the tempo paced workouts I will highlight.  All runners should be using them, and most do whether they know it or not.  They are most used and best used in the early stages of a training cycle though they can be sprinkled in throughout training for various reasons.  Depending on what event you are focused on the exact type of fundamental tempo you should be doing varies.  Today we I will be talking about fundamental tempos specifically for marathon training.  This is not to say that non marathoners or those focused on a different event this season shouldn't use these at all but only points to the fact that the fitness benefits of this workout most directly impact your ability to do better marathon specific workouts later in the training cycle.

  The fundamental tempo for marathon runners should be run at 80% to 90% of marathon goal pace.  Put another way at 1.1 to 1.2 times marathon pace. This is not a particularly fast effort.  For a national class marathoner targeting a mid 2:13 marathon- 3:10 per Kilometer/ 5:06 per mile- your fundamental pace would be only 3:29 per k, 5:36 per mile to 3:48 per K, 6:07 per mile.  For a runner with a realistic expectation of running a 2:13 marathon 6:07 per mile would be considered in most instances a normal training pace, not a tempo but that is the low end of the fundamental tempo.  A pace which would normally be viewed as just a good training run pace.

  Now how to find your fundamental tempo pace.  There are a number of ways to do this and I will attempt to pick just one despite the math teacher in me wanting to show you 9 different ways and wax lyrical about the symmetry of math…  The easiest way is to take your goal marathon pace in minutes per mile or per kilometer and convert it to seconds.

  So a runner looking for a 3 hour marathon has a goal pace of 6:52 per mile which is 412 seconds ((60x6) + 52).  Now you multiply that number by 1.1 to get the fast end of the pace range, yes calculators are allowed, 1.1 x 412 = 453.2   Now convert back to minutes and seconds by dividing by 60, calculators are discouraged because you want a remainder, as this will be the seconds, not a decimal answer  453/60 = 7:33 per mile.  Now to find the slow end of your pace you multiply your goal marathon pace by 1.2. 412 x 1.2 = 494.4 again divide by 60 to get the time in minutes and seconds 494/60 = 8:14 per mile.  So for the runner with a goal of a 3 hour marathon your fundamental tempo goal pace is 7:33 to 8:14 per mile.

  Now that you know your pace the next part of the equation is how long to run for.  Traditionally the marathon focused fundamental tempo is pretty long.  Actually it borders on being what many would refer to as a long run or at least a medium long run. Basically you want to it to be from 1 hour and 20 minutes to 3 hours in length.  I am very specifically using time here not distance as I would not advice running at a high effort for much over 3 hours even if your marathon goal time is 5 or 6 hours.

  Now you have the basics of the workout set. The devil however with this and with every workout is in the details. The single most important detail of this workout and every workout is not how to do it once but how to IMPROVE it so that at the end of a given training cycle you are doing it better than you were capable of doing it at the beginning of the cycle.  In other words you have improved or gained fitness which is the goal of all training.

  I had a conversation early in my running career with a coach I would characterize as not very good and he was going on about how coaching was easy and success was based entirely on the talent that came to you, luck of the draw.  His basic premise was logical. There are only a handful of training methods and we all know what they are.

  My question at the time was 'why are some coaches consistently more successful than others?' His response was that they were either better recruiters, had more numbers of people to work with or were simply more lucky.  No doubt all these things can impact success but still again and again you have certain coaches who's athletes outperform their piers with similar backgrounds.  If this success was just luck than the Joe Vigil, Don Larson, Bill Bowermann etc… would have been far better off spending their lives in the local package store scratching lottery tickets as they would certainly have made more money that way.

  My point is the key to training is not just WHAT you do but HOW you do it. For improving with fundamental tempos and really all tempos there are a couple of possibilities. The most obvious is to try and run faster each time out. Unfortunately often this just means we run too hard and we do not see great improvement in this way. The next most obvious is to keep the effort the same and increase the distance.  Logically you would expect this to lead to the same problem as just going faster BUT the physiology of how our body improves under the stress of aerobic activity defies logic in this case.  As you increase the distance you will notice as you pass shorter marker that were once challenging that your effort at that stage is far less than it was in prior attempts.

  So what you must do is start with a shorter tempo, in this case 80 to 90 mins preferably in the slower end of the tempo range though if you are a very strong aerobic runner you may be able even at the early stages of a training cycle to run on the fast end of the pace window and if you can do so than it is perfectly right for you to do so.  Now after your first session you should return to this workout every week or two but each time out try to increase the distance of the run by 10 to 20 minutes. When you reach a length of time similar to your goal marathon time or 3 hours you should drop the time back down to the 90minute range but also increase the pace by 10 to 20 seconds per mile.  You will be shocked by how easy your body finds the new faster pace.  If there is still time in your base phase you should again build the time/distance of your tempos up at the new faster pace targeting your goal marathon time.

  It would be expected that in preparing for a marathon a person would spend 1 to 3 weeks tapering for the race, 6 to 8 weeks in specific prep for the race and 6 to 10 weeks prior to doing base work for that specific prep.  The fundamental tempo belongs here in that base.  During the Specific phase you may want to touch on this fitness as a secondary workout but in that case it should be a fairly light session not be more than 90mins in duration and it should not be the focus workout of the week.

  In the base phase of 6 to 10 weeks you should be doing this tempo 6 to 10 times. Basically every week. You are building your basic aerobic endurance as well as improving your bodies ability to burn fat at slightly quicker speeds which is the key to avoiding the wall in the marathon.  If you burn more fat at a given speed than you inherently burn less glycogen, which is a much more finite resource.  If you can reduce your glycogen burn enough you will not run out of it in 26.2 miles which means you can hold your pace and finish strong in the marathon with your aerobic abilities being your limiting factor rather than your muscles glycogen stores.

  This session alone will not solve the glycogen problem but it builds towards the sessions in the specific phase, specific intervals, specific fartlek, specific long tempo, specific progression, specific alternations, that all together will teach your body to burn a fat rich mix at marathon pace so you can be racing in the last 10k instead of battling for survival.

  A sample progression for marathon fundamental tempo runs in a marathon base phase would be
week 1- 1:30 at 1.2x marathon pace
week 2- 1:50  at 1.2x marathon pace
week 3- 2:10 at 1.2x marathon pace
week 4- 2:30 at 1.2x marathon pace
week 5- 1:30 at 1.1x marathon pace
week 6- AM 80mins at 1.1x marathon pace PM 80mins at 1.1x marathon pace
week 7- 2:10 at 1.1x marathon pace
week 8- 2:20 to 2:30 at 1.1x marathon pace
 Now you are ready for some specific marathon work!!

 Finally the down and dirty summary for the marathon focused fundamental tempo.

What it is- A 90minute to 3 hour tempo run at 80% to 90% of your goal marathon pace.

How it is progressed- Like all tempo runs you should increase the duration not the speed on a week to week basis.

Why it is done- The goal of this workout is to increase general aerobic endurance. Improve muscular endurance so that the body is ready for long hard marathon specific workouts.  This is the first step towards getting your body ready muscularly, aerobically and in terms of fuel consumption for the very specific demands of running 26.2 miles at a startlingly quick pace.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Training December 22 to 28, 2014. Picking up Steam

AM 3 mile walk with Uta, my dog.
NOON 30mins on Curve treadmill-4.85 miles- than 4 strides with jog breaks top speed 15.4mph total 5.5 miles
4PM Dale 5 with Uta in cold rain, 34:57 tot. 5
XT pull ups on assisted machine, YTI, wharton thorasic

AM 20min warm up on curve with 4 strides mixed in. 2.65 miles.  Monaghetti fartlek on curve, 3.25 miles in 20mins, this was a full effort. Gives some idea of how much tougher the curve is than regular running. I have never covered less than 3.7 miles on a Monaghetti on the road. I averaged only 6:09 pace which is about a minute per mile slower than I would have expected on the roads today.
PM 4 mile walk with Uta
XT pull ups on assisted machine, YTI, wharton

AM trail 4 with Uta in light cold rain 27:55 tot. 4
PM regular 10 in driving cold rain 1:02:39, should have done strides here but had to go to the bathroom and after sitting a few minutes in cold wet gear I was fairly well locked up and not heading back out to tear something trying to force the strides tot. 10+
XT YTI, wharton

Merry Christmas!!
AM 4 miles with Uta and Melissa on the roads, 28:36 tot. 4
XT ankle drills, YTI, wharton, drinking of egg nog, eating of fudge etc..

NOON 2 mile warm up, 14:20, skipping warm up, light drills, regular 10 loop run as moderate progression run- 56:17, half way in 29:06, last mile 5:12. no loss of coordination, did not wear shoulder back harness. This is not a hard session aerobically but I was very happy it was not hard for the coordination either. tot. 12+
4PM on curve treadmill 20mins warm up, 2.78 miles, 10x30second hard efforts with 1min jog recoveries. This is to replace 30second hill repeats. I hunch forward even more on hills where as the curve forces me to hold perfect body position so this is much better for my form while getting similar benefits in most other regards. tot. 5+
XT pull ups on assisted machine, YTI, wharton

AM 45mins on curve including 4 strides in the last 5 minutes. 6.65 miles, this is my longest run on the curve yet and my shoulders felt it! tot. 7ish
PM Trail 47:35 with Uta, tot. 7+
XT pull ups on assisted machine, YTI, wharton

Fundamental Block
AM 2+ mile warm up with Uta, 14:00, dropped her off, skipping warm up and light drills. 20k at fundamental pace around my regular 20k loop, 1:11:38. That is 5:45/3:34 pace. tot. 14.5ish
PM  2+ mile warm up with Uta, 14:17, dropped her off, skipping warm up and light drills, 20k at fundamental pace on my regular 20k loop, 1:12:55. That is 5:52/3:38 pace. tot. 14.5
XT YTI, ton of wharton, 2xskipping warm up, 2xlight drills


95 miles for the week with three workouts. Missed strides on a couple of days but that is going to happen in the winter be it for ice or cold rain stiffening you up. Not much running on Christmas and only the one workout run on Tuesday but given how sick I was at the end of last week I will take it for sure.  
The best session of the week was certainly the fundamental block. This is not as tough as a special or specific block but it was a HUGE test for the coordination and I didn't even wear the shoulders back harness and I was able to hold coordination without any issue. That said my shoulders were screaming by the last few miles of the second session.  This is my first block session of any type in years and it has also been years since I have run 29 miles in a day so I was pretty wrecked after.  
To steal from a song. 'I ain't as good as I once was…' In years past no matter how tired I was I could pretty much guarantee that the second session would be faster than the first but also back than stuff like this was my bread and butter.  I expect with consistent endurance training that will again become the case.  I also expect a very big jump in fitness from being able to do these long tempos and other workouts I have been away from for a long time that always had the largest impact on my fitness.  I find that potential very exciting because I was actually pretty fit coming into this cycle- raced ok last fall - consistently around 30:30 10k effort on the roads- and did some very solid sessions- i.e. covering over 4 miles in Monaghetti fartleks and the like.  
I am going to try and start posting a few times a week.  My idea is to post about the hows and whys of different workouts- tempo tuesdays, workout wednesdays that sort of thing and perhaps to do a throw back thursday thing where I talk about workouts, races or other running centered experiences from my past.  If there is any workout or whatever that you are particularly interested in please let me know.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Training December 15 to 21… Sick...

Monday Still sick so no AM run. PM 10 miles, 63:51 then strides, did first 5 with Uta, my dog, in 32:31 tot. 10.5
              XT YTI, rubber bands, whartons- see last week's blog for descriptions.

Tuesday still sick so no AM run PM 10 miles, 63:46, first 5 with Uta, 32:38, strides after tot. 10.5
               XT YTI, rubberband, whartons

Wednesday still sick so no AM run PM 10 miles 64:58, first 5 with Uta, 33:46, strides after tot. 10.5
                   XT YTI, rubberband, whartons

Thursday- much sicker, no running did all cross training as normal.

Friday- Even sicker barely got through the day at work- I do everything in my power not to skip work. I've missed one day in 2 and a half years I had a flight canceled and was stuck in LA. Though I have scheduled my first ever personal day to go to Boulder in late January to speak at a marathon clinic. Point is I figure as a teacher I get plenty of scheduled days off no need to be taking extra's unless I REALLY have to.  Also I teach in a school where it can be hard to get people to sub.
            XT YTI, rubber band, whartons, mile or two walk with dog.

Saturday Even sicker, did a 4 mile walk with dog and was wiped out for rest of day. did all cross training but was a hurting unit.

Sunday Feeling a lot better. Just a lot of sinus pain/pressure and feeling tired.
             PM did 30mins on Curve, 4.82 miles, then 4 strides on curve with jog rest top speed 15.4 mph, 58 second 400m speed, not that is top speed not average but I feel the curve is a bit tougher/slower than flat running. That speed represents my max speed on the given day. To compare I have run in the very high 27's for 200m and very very high 13's for 100m on my very best days.  In general strides should not go up to max speed but where my max is so slow I always build up to top speed during my strides. I mean my full sprint on a given day is 100m in 14 seconds and change. My goal 3k pace when I am fully fit is 16.0 seconds per 100m.  3k pace is way to slow for strides so I just go full steam.
            XT did all normal stuff plus 10 pull ups on assisted machine- I am so far from doing a real pull up it is crazy. When I was a kid I couldn't do pull ups. Over the years I have done a lot of cross training and built myself into a MUCH better athlete than I have was. I have become very accustom to my current reality of being able to do pretty much any exercise with little or no effort very shortly after first attempting it.  It is crazy to find this one are to be so weak and untrained. Really amazing and it really gives me great confidence that with work I can make enormous improvements. It also makes it very easy to believe that this is in fact the source of the coordination problems and that I at long long last am finally going to get to return to the marathon this year.

Summary- that sucked. I have been sick for about 16 days now. Hopefully Saturday was the worst.  I have a couple weeks off from school so hopefully I can get healthy and get the training rolling forward.  I fell pretty decent today and will try a short double along with a bit of walking and cross training and hopefully I'll get a workout or two in by the end of the week.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Training December 8 to 14 2014

Monday PM still quite sick, did 5 miles with Uta in 32:34, strides tot. 5.5 or so
              XT wharton thorasic spine  exercise, YTI

Tuesday off did cross training for shoulders but that was it. SICK

this is Uta by the way

Wednesday PM road 10, 66:21, first 5 with Uta in 34:19. strides after. still sick also shaky/weak
                    XT wharton, YTI, rubber band

Thursday PM road 10, 65:35, first 5 with Uta in 34:10. strides after. still sick but not weak. tot. 10.5
                XT wharton, YTI

Friday PM feeling tons better still coughing and blowing my nose but just felt really good by the time
                  the afternoon rolled around that I decided to try to do a 10k at 95 to 100% mp.  I did about
                  5k warm up with Uta. After I dropped her off I did strides and got started. As soon as I saw
                  the mile split I knew this was a bad idea, 5:28.  It is uphill but still the effort was there and I
                  was not moving quickly.  I muscled through but felt sick. 33:02 10k.  The positive side was
                  I had no coordination issues and this was a tougher loop than what I used a few weeks ago
                 for the same session so this was probably a bit quicker effort in comparison and no
                 coordination issues where as a few weeks ago I was barely holding it together at the finish
                 tonight if I hadn't been sick I would have continued on. tot. 10
            XT wharton, YTI

Saturday AM 3 miles with Uta and Melissa, 22mins. tot. 3
               PM marzuka 20k, 1:20:27 this is actually a bit longer than 20k and very hilly tot. 12.5
               XT wharton, YTI

Sunday 1pm 30mins on woodway curve, 4.5 miles, then 4 strides with jog breaks still on curve.        
                     Noticeable how this forces me to control my form and engage my core differently. Also
                     theshape of the treadmill seems to increase the effort at pace. So at 9mph I felt like I would
                     expect to at around 10mph tot. just over 5 miles
               I had planned a second run later but my stomach made it a no go.  I am still on the anti biotic
                     and I don't handle them well.  Really hoping to start to get some momentum going in the
                     right direction next week.
             XT wharton, YTI

Summary      Still sick but getting better. Hopefully will come the rest of the way around soon. The workout was obviously a bit pathetic but I'm sick so it is what it is.  The nice thing was it was still a good step forward in terms of the coordination.  Each run I am feeling more and more control over my shoulders and upper back but I still only feel comfortable for a mile or two before it becomes hard to hold them back and I really have to fight to hold form from that point on.  That said a week ago I was struggling from the start so really this is a pretty big improvement.  I am still very weak but at least I'm starting to get stronger.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

First 3 Weeks of Training; a bumpy road

Week 1 November 17 to 23

Monday PM- road 8,54mins, in cold rain, than 4 strides tot. 9
XT- rubber band exercises for shoulders

Tuesday AM Bear Hill 4+ loop with Melissa and Uta-31:20 tot.4+
PM 3+ warm up,21mins, skipping warm up, light drills and strides 10k tempo around Phillips Academy neighbor hood- lightly rolling at
95 to 100%mp, got caught in the dark on this one with no light and no vest, almost got run over in the first 500m- screeching
tires and a pretty decent ninja jump to avoid disaster. ran 32:50 focus on holding shoulders back was a struggle coordination was
going by the end. No cool down. tot. 10
XT rubber band exercises, drills referenced above and ankle drills

Wednesday PM same 8.2 mile loop as monday, 51:57, strides, wore shoulders back harness on a run for first time have been wearing it for
stretches during the day. tot. tot. 9
XT rubber band exercises for shoulders/back

Thursday AM 3 miles with dog, she revolted against running in the dark in the morning without Melissa and we had to head back early so only 3
miles tot. 3
PM 3+ warm up,21:40, drills, strides, two mile tempo on road- 9:57, bathroom break in a briar patch. Seriously it was dark it looked
like a likely spot I was at one point so ensnared I couldn't move I got all scrapped up. It was very not fun. But when nature
calls.. 3x55s hill repeats just under 3 mile cool down tot. 11ish
XT rubber band exercises for shoulders/back, ankle drills

Friday- scheduled off day did all cross training per usual.

Saturday AM Bear hill 4+ with Melissa and Uta, 28:44 tot. 4+
PM 2 warm up, 13:25, light drills, strides, regular 20k loop as fundamental pace tempo, wore shoulders back harness and focused on
keeping shoulders back and down, VERY HARD to hold. coordination on the edge of 'going' for much of second half but each time I
got shoulders where they belonged it would get better, 1:11:36 for 20k tot. 15+
XT ankle drills, rubber band stuff, added YTI's on bosu ball.

Sunday AM green 6 loop with Melissa and Uta, 42mins, my hamstring on the right is shredded.
PM bikram yoga, for those who don't know this is a 90min hot yoga designed for healing. I like it because it keeps me healthy and they
do the same things in the same order every time. I am a complete creature of habit.
XT yoga, rubberband, yti

Week 2 November 24 to 30

Monday PM regular 10, 65mins, strides hammy pretty much good to go.
XT rubberbands, yti

Tuesday scheduled off day did all cross training per usual.

Wednesday PM- half day of school so this was in the light! road 10, first 5 with Uta, 33mins- with a break for strides on a field at 3 miles,
2nd 5 in 31mins solo tot. 10.5
XT rubberbands and yti had wanted to go to yoga but too much prep work in the kitchen for hosting Thanksgiving.

Thursday AM 3 warmup, skipping warm up, light drills, strides, race Maudslay Turkey Trot, 5k cross country in 4 to 5 inches of fresh snow,
1st place 17:48. 20min cool down tot. around 10 miles
XT rubberbands, drills and yti

Friday AM 10.5 first 5.5 with Melissa and Uta then 5 solo in 31mins then strides, 74mins total, tot. 11 miles
PM bikram yoga
XT yoga, yti

Saturday AM 2 warm up, skipping warm up, light drills, strides 24km fundamental paced tempo(1:24:53), started on regular 10k loop-1:10:24.
Really a war to keep shoulders in good position the last 10k or so but coordination held and was noticeably better than on 20k
last weekend. tot. ~18 miles
XT yti ankle drills, drills mentioned above.
Sunday AM regular 10, 63mins, hamstring tight but 100 times better than it was last sunday after the first fundamental tempo. strides
tot.10.5 miles
PM bikram yoga
XT yti,yoga

Week 3 December 1 to 7

Monday AM bear hill 4+ with Melissa and Uta, 31:29, tot. 4+
PM regular 20k, 1:19:20, strides tot. 13ish
XT ankle drills, yti

Tuesday 2:30PM out early because I was observing at a school that has an earlier schedule than mine, 21min warm up with Uta, dropped her off,
drills, skipping warm up, strides. Monaghetti fartlek on pretty darn flat loop. Monaghetti is 2x90seconds, 4x60s, 4x30s, 4x15s
with equal rest after each rep so 20mins total. You focus on the rests being pretty quick. I covered 6540 meters, just over
4 miles for an average pace of 4:55.2 per mile. This is my fastest mona session though this loop is flatter than my normal
loop. I can't use this one at night and when it gets icier because of one busy road and a few very tough turns. 3++ cool down
tot. around 11 miles
PM ~3.5 with Melissa until you sprained her ankle and all with Uta- we ran back to the house to get the car and go get Melissa.
tot.3.5 miles or so
XT ankle drills, drills mentioned above, yti

Wednesday opted for no AM run because I wanted to be awake for parent conferences after school.
PM Ran 12 miles, 1:15:46, in cold rain from my school between when we let out and when conferences started. Not enough time to get
home and run, really just a break so we can eat, I skipped eating to run instead, strides after the run tot. 12.5
XT rubber band and yti

Thursday AM again opted for no run because we had conferences again and I wanted to be awake.
PM schedule a bit different today so we had conferences pretty much right after school when I came home I was just completely zonked
and I did 5 miles with uta in 33mins and called it a day. tot. 5
XT rubber band and yti

Friday AM- just wiped out skipped run for sleep.
PM- 5 miles with Uta, 35mins when I stopped in to drop her before heading out for more off Melissa pointed out we were already late
for the UMass Lowell kick off banquet we were going to and I had forgotten so that was it for the night. tot. 5
XT yti
Got a sore throat before bed

Saturday woke up very congested with sore throat.
AM- test drove a woodway curve treadmill Melissa and I are considering buying. Very awesome but very expensive. She is all about
it. I am cheap and not sure anything is worth that much money. It does help my shoulder position and awareness and a treadmill
you can do strides on is pretty amazing. I only ran about a half mile on it but I did get down to 4:20 mile pace and it didn't
stress the machine in the tiniest way.
PM 3 warm up, skipping warm up, light drills, strides, race Frozen Frolic 3.4 mile in Wakefield, MA- first year race. Really nice.
Fun after party awards in a deli/restaurant. Light rain and cold. I had been invited and signed up but was feeling pretty much
like total crap but if I say I'll be there I do everything I can to live up to that. I ran hard but even on the perfectly flat
course I was not fast- 16:48 for 1st place. 2 mile cool down tot. 10ish with some extra jogging around mixed in.
XT yti

Sunday woke up super sick ear infection and possible sinus infection. This happened last winter and I went with the my body can fight it off
plan, against Melissa's advice, and was sick for 6 weeks with no workouts and only some running. I decided to do as Melissa said this
time and get on an antibiotic. Very frustrating.

Summary not the start I was hoping for in many ways. I think I am close to being quite fit. I ran fairly well this fall and did some pretty
decent workouts. My general plan is to progress my two or three marker base phase marathon workouts while still doing other general
fitness workouts. I have an outline but not a set in stone plan. I will do these until I can manage about 40k at fundamental pace
and around 20k at around 95% marathon pace. At that point I would feel ready to start marathon specific workouts. So my race plans
are dependent on the rate of improvement in the coordination. This past fall I went to Fernado Braz's tuesday night track workouts. I
don't like giving up control but the set time and place to meet a group made sure I got a workout done early in the week and helped
keep the rest of my week on track so I will likely do the same for the winter season when they start meeting up again in january.
Hopefully on the anti b I will back feeling improved tomorrow and running full steam in a couple days. It is a 10 day course and I
don't tend to handle them well, part of why I have only been on them now 3 times since 2003, but hopefully with some extra hydration
and probiotics I'll be good enough to keep building up.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Blog is Back

I have decided to bring the blog back. At least for a time. The general format will be basically the same with my weekly training in all its glory or lack there of posted with some basic commentary on how I feel it went and why I did it. I don't have the time I used to for responses to comments which were always the highlight of the blog for me but I'll do my best. I am also hoping to add some more multi-media stuff and some extra weekday posts that are not necessarily focused on my specific training that week. Why did I stop in the first place? Those who followed the blog in any of its old forms, running times, trackshark, jasonjo, here, know I was for a long time struggling with a coordination problem in my right leg that made racing the longer distances effectively impossible and had a heavy impact on the type of training I could do. I had surgery on my lower back in January 2011 to fix the issue but by the middle of 2012 it had become obvious that though my symptoms had been greatly reduced by surgery they were not fully gone. I was also working full-time and had an additional part time job by this point and my excitement for writing my weekly failures was non-exzistant. I always felt the blog should be a 100% honest assessment of not just what I was doing but how I felt about it. If I run like crap I don't want to put a sunny face on it or make excuses, there is plenty of that out there already, I want to frankly say I ran like crap, I feel like crap about it and yes it sucked. The thing was after a few years of almost everything I posted being a rehashing of the same old theme. My leg doesn't work, I can't train how I want, I can't race the distances I'm good at, etc… I felt I was not adding anything positive to the running world. That was really hard for me. Early on in my blogging I spent a good bit of time on and for those who were into the sport back then you will remember the comments sections were brutal. You may think the message boards contain a lot of trolls and negative attack type people but they are Sunday at church compared to what people use to post on some of the blogs in the comment sections. I started a policy there that I would respond to every single positive post and that I would only answer direct and legit questions in negative posts and they would otherwise be ignored. So if someone posted "you are obviously a drug cheat and you do bad things with farm animals" they got no response. If someone posted "You are using drugs right?" they got a simple "no I am not using drugs." I didn't allow the baiting and more to the point I tried to be positive even in responding to negative posts. IE "no I am not using drugs and thank you so much for giving me a chance to state that clearly and publicly." Very quickly the negative posts basically stopped on my blog. They went elsewhere. The point is It confirmed something for me that I hold very deeply. It is of the utmost importance to do what you can to bring a positive tone to the world. We won't always be able to be positive. We all have negative unproductive thoughts, judgements and feelings. We all have bad days but I want to do my best to produce something of a positive nature. I don't want it to be fake and sometimes you need to express all the negativity and doubt and fear you have so people know that we all feel that, we all fight self doubt. That makes the good have meaning. It makes us see our best moments only sweeter when we have suffered to earn them. Thing is I had by 2012 reached a point where I was only griping and not really producing anything positive and it made me feel like a whiner and a person who was bringing others down. So why come back? I have always felt that I missed the chance to really find out what I was capable of as a runner. My best performance is most certainly the 2008 Olympic Trials Marathon in the fall of 2007 but even there I lost coordination at around mile 19 and I felt that the limping that followed cost me between 1min and 1:30 on my overall time. Beyond that though fitness wise the fall of '07 was not nearly the best period of my career. Most all of 2008 and 2009 I was in much better shape and I took huge chunks of time off my personal records in the events short enough for me to run without the coordination shutting me down. In the years since '09 I have often been in better general shape than I was in the fall of '07 and I have at times been in exceptionally good shape but unable to run a long race without the impact of the loss of coordination and having speed best defined by my 400m best of 59 seconds I was between a rock and a hard place in trying to produce professional level performances. Still Melissa and I have continued to seek out new treatments, new specialists and tried to find the last piece of the puzzle to get my leg back to 100%. The surgery was a game changer at the time. The problem had been getting worse and worse and by the time I went into surgery I could only do a training run of around 9 miles before losing coordination. I could not race over 5k and even in 5k races I was starting to feel the all to familiar sensations that proceed the loss of coordination. After surgery I was able to get through 5k and 10k races pretty much without issue and I was able to regular training runs of up to 15 miles with regularity and occasionally 20+ miles with no problems. Also when I would lose coordination the problem wasn't nearly as bad. I would still have huge difficulties controlling the hip and hamstring and would still feel a huge lack of stability in my hip/low back area but I would no longer suffer from my ankle and calf locking up like granite. This meant if I lost coordination I could maintain a more normal pace than when I had lost it in the past. Not 100% on pace but say 10 to 20 seconds slower per mile rather than 20 to 30 seconds. At first I assumed as the nerves came back I would steadily regain full coordination. But somewhere in the middle of 2011 improvements stopped. Over the next couple of years I would have some good days and think I had found the solution. Then there would be the inevitable set back. I searched out and found other runners who had the same problem and found generally I was doing better at fixing it than them. Not a good thing. EMG's confirmed my nerve function was back to normal ranges but still I could not race over a half marathon. I could not do tempos over 10k with any consistency. Basically I knew that there was still a problem and despite our best efforts we couldn't seem to find the last piece of the puzzle. A few weeks ago I raced the Manchester half marathon. I did it on a whim signing up about 12 hours before the race. They pay a $1000 for the win and I was fit. In the race I as surprised to have two runners with me in the early miles and more surprised when I started to battle with them after 5 miles or so. I didn't recognize either one but I wasn't really looking either. At the finish I realized the winner was Josh McDougal, as in the guy who beat Galen Rupp at NCAA xc a few years back. I knew Josh had the same problem as me. We shared the normal post race congrats and then Josh brought up the coordination thing and how he felt he had 'solved' it. He expressed that he still had sensations and that 'holding' his form in order to fix the problem was still a work in progress. In talking to Josh it was like I had been working on a super complex math problem for a long time and no matter what I tried it didn't work then suddenly someone tells you the next step and even as they are explaining it you can see the rest of the steps all falling into place, see why what you thought would work wouldn't. Confusing little details that seemed previously to just muddy the waters now made sense. The short version is that Josh and his PT were running on the theory that the problem was caused by a lack of motion in the ankle AND tightness/poor posture in the thoracic spine- area around your shoulders. When I was getting surgery the one thing that bother my surgeon was that the nerve problems he could find on the emg and the disc I was struggling with only impacted the ankle and calf area yet I had symptoms in my glute/hip/hamstring. At the time the hope was that it was the locking of the ankle that was starting a chain of events and if we fixed the source of the issue. Now it was clear. The herniated disc that was locking up the ankle was only half the problem. I needed to address my hunched upper back and the shoulder swing that accompanied it. I was super excited because this made sense but I had false hopes before so I was cautious. I went home and discussed the whole thing with Melissa and she gave me a few exercises to work on for my shoulders and T-spine. I decided to take my planned end of season break that week because if this worked I was going to want to train for a marathon soon and I had been training far to long without a break to add a marathon cycle on now. In doing the exercises I immediately found I was crushingly weak in some of the smaller muscles that help hold your shoulders back and up. As a one time professional athlete this is not normal. Generally even when I am hurt and a PT gives me exercises I can do the quite well right from the get go. In this case two of the exercises Melissa gave me that she demonstrated with a 3 pound weight I was unable to do at all. In fact even just holding pencils I was only able to do the exercises a couple of times at first, never mind the sets of 10 Melissa was telling me to do. I also ordered a riding harness called Shoulders back that Alberto Salazar was using to help Mary Cain and Galen Rupp with their shoulder position while running. The first couple times I wore it I was fighting it so bad that I could feel my hands going numb because the circulation was getting cut off. I then set to planning my build up of workouts. Basically I want to return to the marathon. To do that I need to be able to do marathon specific workouts. To do those I need to be able to do certain base workouts. I looked at what I knew I could currently do and set out what I would need to be able to do start marathon prep. This served two purposes. First it would create a ladder for me to climb in terms of the coordination. I have had this problem since January of 2007 it would be foolish to believe I could just go out and think about my posture and be fine tomorrow. It is going to be a process with setbacks and gains. I need an outline to be able to measure clearly how things are going. Second there was a time when these longer marathon focused workouts were my bread and butter. They were the corner stone of the my fitness when I broke through to running on a competitive level. It has been years since I was able to do them with any consistency. I may be a born marathoner but I still need to do the workouts to bring that out. If I could magically fix the coordination for one day to race a marathon I would not perform well even if I was very fit aerobically and running very fast 5k and 10k's because I would not have the specific fitness needed to run a marathon. The aerobic and muscular endurance that was at one time my greatest strength. This build up would allow me to target these areas and bring myself steadily back towards the long race. I was very full of hope but I had been burned before. In my first week of training I would attempt two workouts that were just slightly beyond what I would normally expect to do. A 10k at 95 to 100% marathon pace. This type of workout I am at best 50/50 at getting through and after a week or two off the coordination is always worse so I knew it would be a no go. After work one night I set out to start my tempo. After an unplanned bathroom stop on the warm up and coming within inches of getting run over, screeching tires me ninja jumping up and around the hood of a very nice mercedes, in the first 400m of the tempo things were not getting off to a good start. As I tried to focus on my posture I realized at pace unlike the couple easy runs I had done it was nearly impossible for me to keep them in a good place for more than a few seconds. Very early on I started to feel the sensations that precede the loss of coordination but as I soldiered on I quickly realized when I could hold my shoulders in good position for a little while the leg would feel progressively better. In the last mile or so I was still very much on the verge of losing coordination but I finished. This was far from the success I had been hoping for. I met the absolute minimum level of performance that I could consider a success at all. Melissa was actually driving home from work and stopped when she saw me starting my cool down and I basically climbed in the car, skipping the cool down, very much a dejected man. She assured me it was early days and I tried to look on the bright side. One of the things I have found with the coordination is that if I lose it or push it to the point of almost losing it and then push it again in short order, a week to 10 days, it is much more sensitive and quick to be a problem. So it was with a less than positive attitude that I set out for my second marathon base session that weekend. I knew I could run 20k at about 6min pace without losing coordination on a very good day. I also knew that if I sped up just a little or if I added a warm up then I was asking for problems. As such I decided to only test one of those things. Fundamental pace, base phase marathon tempo, for my current fitness is 5:32 to 6:07 pace on flat terrain. My regular 20k tempo is not flat. I decided to aim for 6:07 pace but do a warm up and some strides. I decided if I could do that and not lose coordination it would be a success. Right off the bat I screwed up. First mile was 5:47. A sure kiss of death. Even without a warm up there was no way I could run 5:50 pace and hold coordination for 20k. Now I was testing my limits in two ways. Too much. Sure enough by about 4 miles the old familiar feeling began to return. However this time I was wearing the shoulders back and it really help me focus on my shoulder position and I realized that even when I thought I was in a good upright shoulder back position I was not and around 5 miles I found a good position. Immediately the sensation in my leg began to improve. Then I would slip out of form and it would start to come back. This continued for miles. Sometimes I would realize my shoulders were forward before the leg started to feel a bit funny sometimes I would notice the leg and sure enough my shoulders were forward again. However the coordination never went. By the skin of my teeth I made 20k in 1:11:36(5:45 pace). This was undeniable the best tempo I had in years in terms of the coordination. Still I had in the past a few breakthroughs and had turned out to be a singular day and dead ends so I remained cautious. Still I knew this had been different. I had felt I had some control over what happened with the leg not like I was running along waiting to see. I had come into this session with all the wrong build up for a good coordination day yet it had worked out. Still better though it was I told myself to wait a bit longer before getting to excited. I also found a bunch of marathons I would be interested in racing and figured out when I would have to be able to complete my base level pre specific workouts to be ready for marathon specific workouts for each of those races. I was teetering between excitement and caution. A week later came the next test. A repeat of the fundamental run but now trying to push the distance. I knew full well that I had been at the edge of what the leg could do the following weekend. I also knew my leg had been very agitated by the run and that based on the old rules setting out for another go was a recipe for failure. I decided to run the same loop and do the same warm up in order to keep the variables to a minimum. This time I was a week further on. A week more of runs focused on my position. A week more of exercises. I'm up to 1 pound weights from my pencils. I set off after the warm up and was quicker off the bat. I had some muscular tightness but I didn't feel any of the 'weirdness' that proceeds losing the coordination until after 8 miles. Twice as far as last week. What I did notice was that by that point it was incredibly hard to hold my shoulders back. The muscles were exhausted. In retrospect I really only started holding them back at 5 or 6 miles in the run the previous weekend- so about 6 total miles of working those muscles. Eight from the gun meant they had done more work already. I had been working on this in regular runs and during my shorter weekday workouts but at slower paces it was easier to do. Still as I rolled by 20k in 1:10:24. I was in very much the same place I had been from 4 to 8 miles the previous week. The leg would threaten and I would get the shoulders under control and things would improve and the cycle would repeat. However by 22k I reached a point where I could only hold the shoulders in good position for a few seconds. I decided to target 24k and the last 2k were as much like repeated shoulder isometrics as running. Still coordination held and more over was not nearly as agitated as it had been at 20k the previous week. 24k in 1:24:53(5:41pace). This was huge. It was for me the confirmation that I am on the track to getting back to the marathon. That is where I am at today. I feel I am ready to attempt to return to the marathon. Do I hope it will be a straight line of successes? Of course. But do I believe it will be? No. I do however think that the build up and struggle with changing my form with all its possible pitfalls and set backs could be one of the most interesting training cycles of my life. It may take only a matter of weeks until the small muscles in my shoulders and back can grow strong enough for me to do marathon workouts or it may take months with set backs and unforeseen new problems caused by the change in body position. Thing is for the first time I feel I am on a road that is going somewhere. It may be straight and quick or long and winding but it no longer appears that I am stuck going in the same circle around the same cul de sac. As such I want to begin to blog again and share those ups and downs with the running community that has been such a big part of my struggles and successes in the past.