Monday, December 29, 2008

Jack Daniel's Point System

As if I wasn't tracking enough data already, I've decided to use Jack Daniel's Mileage Training Point system. The reationale behind the system is that not all running was created equal. For example, we can run hours and hours of easy pace running each week, but we can only tolerate a fraction of that time doing intervals. J.D. has designed a table that assigns a point value for every minute of training at a given intensity. The intensity used as a key can be either the %VO2max or %MaxHR. I prefer to use the pace (%VO2Max) but I'm sure using the HR would give the same results. According to J.D., typical weekly totals range from 50 for a beginner to over 200 for an elite runner.

The values I use are:

Recovery pace: 0.2
Easy pace: 0.25
Marathon pace: 0.45
Threshold pace: 0.6
Interval pace: 1.0
Repetition pace: 1.5

In the book, the table is much more detailed and I can't imagine maintaining a by-the-minute log in a spreadsheet, but I usually know what my workout is supposed to be and I can use that to get a value that is probably close enough to the "actual" value. 

Example: Typical hill workout 1.5 miles warmup (15 minutes easy) + 6 x (2 minutes hill + 2 minutes rest) + 1.5 miles cooldown (15 minutes easy)

This translates to: 15*0.25 + 6*(2*1.5+2*0.25) + 15*0.25 = 28.5 points in 54 minutes

If we compare this with a slow run of the same duration we get: 54*0.25 = 13.5 points, not even half the point value of a quality workout. Of course, we can only survive a couple of quality workouts a week without overetraining so we can't just limit ourselves to interval workouts.

By matching the HR or effort to other activities such as swimminf or cycling, one could keep track of the global quality of his (or her) weekly training.

The reason I decided to try this is that I want to be able to keep track of the "effectiveness" of my training. Looking at the point value of a workout, I see that if I have to drop a hill or interval workout, I lose more than double the training value of a Base run. I'm trying to build a decent spreadsheet on Google Docs but it's not really ready so I won't burden you with it, but as you can see, this is not rocket science.

Obviously, keeping track of all those numbers doesn't make me a better running Training does. But I'm willing to try anything that help me understand why I should suffer through the HELL of hill sprints and other quality workouts. I'm not a fast runner, yet I run faster than most because I'm willing to suffer. Hopefully this will help me make the most out of my training.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Race report - 5K PR!

I have no idea where this came from. This morning I got up after a horrible sleep and looked outside, only to see pissing rain and gail force wind. At least, temperatures were above freezing. I ate my breakfast, drank my coffee. About 40 minutes before the race, I got dressed and ran slowly about 1.5 miles to the race itself where I switched my shoes to my beloved Nike Free 3.0. The Resolution Run is a low tech, self-serve race. There is no official finish time, you are supposed to time yourself, which is not a problem since I'm running with technology that aircraft carriers didn't have access to only a few years ago.

5K races are intense but because they are so short, you see the light at the end of the tunnel from the start. My previous PR on that distance was 21:44, which I ran last St-Patrick's day. I won't bore you with the race, except to tell you that it was wet, really windy and that the sun came out at the end and reflected off the wet pavement so the last 500m you had to run basically blind. I ran hard, looked at my pace on my Garmin 305 maybe 5 times and sprinted the last 200m. My Garmin shows a heart rate at the finish line of 198 bpm, which is 2 bpm higher than what I had seen before. I actually had a cramp in my left calf about a minute after the finish.

20:31. Damn. Was the course short? Maybe, but the conditions more than made up for it if it was. Exactly one year ago, I ran 23:44 on the exact same course. I think it might be possible for me to break 20 minutes. That would be unbelievable. 

I wasn't really expecting much because of my two failed attempts to break my 10k PR last month. I think that was too close to my marathon and 2 week break.

This race time gives me a VDOT of 48 (see Daniel's Formula), up 3 from my previous VDOT of 45. I'll have to decide if I will use the new value for my 50 Miler training. I don't really want to, because it makes the training so much harder, but if I don't, I won't translate my gains to the longer distances so I will probably use the new adjusted paces. Harsh.

That's it for this unexpected development!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Heart Rate Musings

I know I've visited this topic in the past, but this blog is about things I think about while running, and lately I've been thinking about heart rates.

There is an aura around heart rates. People tend to assume that a low heart rate means you are in good physical condition. It is true, but not if you use the number as an absolute number. Having a rest hr of 65 means nothing. For me, it might mean trouble and for you it might mean you are in the best shape of your life. Running a tempo run with a hr of 145 means nothing if you don't also take into consideration the person's maximum heart rate and possibly the rest heart rate. The difference between the two is the heart rate reserve. 

I see a lot of focus put on heart rate monitoring lately. A fact I find disturbing is that to calculate the all important maxHr (maximum heart rate) most books  simply refer to the infamous formula used to calculate the maxHr from the age. I will not show the formula because it is USELESS. Sure, as an average for the whole population, it might be very precise, but as a running tool for you as a runner, it is no good. There is a very good chance that your maxHR is way off the number calculated using that average.

Case in point: me. My maxHr, according to the formula, should be around 178. My real maxHr, as observed in a number of races is around 195. For me to train using the training zones calculated using a maxHr of 178 makes my training stupidly easy and ineffective.

When I started running, I used those zones and found that I almost had to walk on my long runs, because I was supposed to maintain an hr of under 133 (75% of max). I quite simply could not do it. ANY kind of running brings my hr above 140. All my other types of runs were uncomfortable. Any kind of effort would blow the hr under which I was supposed to train. I thought I was physically challenged.

I tried the advice I saw in a book, and tried to find my ACTUAL maxhr by running hill repetitions. My hr did go up to 184 so I knew something was amiss. I decided to use 185 and my training felt better.

Finally, I ran a few races with my hr monitor and later when I analyzed the numbers I saw sustained periods with a hr of above 190. The highest I've seen was at then end of a 5k, with a value of 196. I never look at my hr while I race, but I still wear my Garmin and record the data.

So if you just bought yourself a heart rate monitor and you have a minimum of training, do yourself a favor and sign-up for the next 5k race in your area. Run it as hard as you can. Try for a good kick at the end. That should take you close to your maximum. That should make your training more effective and enjoyable, especially if the number you used was way off.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Winter blahs - and it's not even Winter!

Not much happening. Xmas tree is up. Following the plan. This week I should run between 35 and 40 miles, including a 10 miles long run on Sunday. I'm not too sure how I'm going to get my hills in. I drove by my favorite hill, and the snow has pretty much made the sidewalk unuseable. The city doesn't maintain the sidewalk there. Maybe the rain will clear it up before tomorrow.

My week looks like this:

Mon: Rest
Tue: 6 miles @ base pace
Wed: 1.5 mile warm-up + 6x90sec hills at 1-mile pace + 1.5 mile cool-down
Thu: 6 miles @ base pace
Fri: 6 miles @ base pace + 6 x 90sec intervals @ 3k pace
Sat: 6 miles @ base pace
Sun: 10 miles @ base pace

Although my running is going well, I still haven't gone back to the bike and swim. I should take my bike to the gym this week and leave it there. That way, it would make it easier to just go there and jump on the computrainer.

I'm still a bit bummed about not beating my 10k PR. A year ago, if you'd told me I would ever run 45 minutes, I would have been delirious with joy. Now, I'm wondering how to get below 42 minutes. Can I ever do 40? Well, not this year. I'm working for distance and I doubt if I can speed up significantly while doing that. Next summer I will embark on a 10k sharpening program and we'll see where that takes me. In the mean time, my dreams of dramatic speed improvements will have to wait.

The weather is getting more difficult for quality workouts. Going all out on ice can be a bit scary. My lunch run today was quite nice except for the fact that my feet were completely drenched in iced slush by the end of it. Still, my home made spikes are performing nicely. I hate running with the shell, but it was raining.

From Running

Monday, December 1, 2008

The easy ones are all gone ...

Well I couldn't do it. Raced my final 10k race last weekend and although I thought it was in the bag, I finished in 45:25, 25 seconds over my goal. It would be tempting to blame technology. According to my Garmin 305, my pace was fine but errors do add up and by the end of the race, my 305 showed a total of 10.15 km. So either the course was a bit long or I didn't run a straight enough line but the end result is that I finished just over my 45 minutes goal, again.

The thing is, even if I'd had perfect info, I'm not sure I could have run any faster. It was cold and windy. At pretty much any given point on the course, if I tried to go faster I got a side stich burning on my right side. My average HR for the whole race was 182 (90% of my max HR) and the last 5k was at 187 (94% maxhr). Sure, sitting here, I'm thinking I could have gone faster. But if I rewind to yesterday, all I remember of the last 5k was wondering when this was going to be over. My splits were all within 10 seconds of each other. I ran a good race, but I didn't have it in me.

Gone are the days of big surprises, except for bad ones. I guess I'm at that point now where I REALLY have to work hard to break a PR. My speed hasn't really improved on shorter distances since I started my marathon training last Spring. My 10k and 5k PR both date from last March. I guess I should be happy I didn't loose speed when I increased my racing distance. The point is that to beat my PR, I would have to really work on speed. I've plateau'd. To be honest, I feel like I can't run any faster. I know I can, but I feel like it's impossible. Hard, painful work should change all that.

For now though, I'm going for distance. Boston in April, 50 Miler in May. Then, in the summer, project speed will begin...