9/1/05 S*** storm
Orienteers are by nature a fairly anal lot, so it's no big surprise that the reaction to change
is predominantly negative. I must say, though, that the latest news from the IOF does
make one wonder what the championships committee is thinking. The inclusion of
Micro-O in the Middle Distance finals at world championships has been greeted with
universal derision. The
on Attack Point is consistent with orienteering message boards around the world.
Micro-O is an experimental form of orienteering where there are multiple controls at each
site and you have to figure out which control to punch. It's supposed to test the ability to
read detail and interpret small features. Most people think that Middle distance (known as
Short Course in North America - winning time of 30 minutes) already does this because
the short legs force you to stay in constant contact with the map.
What really seems to be eating folks is that this was done in order to get a better TV
contract. Messing with the sport for the purposes of dubious coverage strikes most as
making a deal with the devil. This is particularly true for those outside of Europe since
there isn't much upside to extended coverage on Norwegian TV.
A lot of sports wrestle with this. The NFL is constantly tweaking its rules in response to
network requests. The Tour de France is several hundred miles shorter than it used to be
because shorter stages make better TV. Sometimes the changes improve the sport,
sometimes they don't.
Adventure Racing has seen it's limited coverage bulldozed by the more sensationalized
Survivor series (and it's many descendents). Fortunately, at least at the grassroots level,
race directors have stayed focused on what the participants want rather than what might
generate more publicity. I hope that continues. Orienteering and Adventure Racing are
never going to be the media draws that the major North American sports are. It's best to
accept that and make the sport as good as possible for the people who enjoy it.
9/2/05 Sylamore race report
I got a race report from Carrie which I've
From the sound of it, experience took the day. They didn't panic when they fell behind.
Instead they just continued to cover ground and when the team ahead ran into trouble,
they were there to take advantage of it.
Pro golfers talk about playing the course, not the competition. By this they mean that you
need to focus on making your own score as low as possible and not worry about what
others are doing. I think that's good advice for adventure racing as well. The races we've
done best at are the ones where we've pretty much ignored everybody else.
This is a lot different from some other forms of racing (particularly cycling) where what
your opponents are doing can force you to change your strategy. I used to think more
about other teams, particularly approaching navigation sections since that's what we're
best at and we don't want to be followed. I've come to realize that, while there may be
some objective merit to trying to separate, once you start thinking about other teams, you
are inviting disaster on your own. Focus counts for a lot.
The Flatlander 12-hour was a great experience. I experienced both some success (50
miles in under 9 hours) and some challenges (overheating in the afternoon). I've posted a
9/5/05 Ultra success
We'll get to the lessons learned in a bit, but first I'd like to review the things that went
right on Saturday.
First and foremost was raising over $1200 for MDA. That's the reason I entered. Thanks
to my generous sponsors who pledged a total of $16/mile plus $250 in "fixed" donations:
Paul Heckathorn, Ted & Janet Buckley, Terry & Lea Koesterer, Ed & Beth Skelton, Roy
Brammer, Mary & Pat Geldemeier, Rusty Fry, and Kelli Brown.
I was really concerned about my feet. I've had problems with blistering in long races and
my right foot has never really been the same since I broke it twice in 2003. I changed my
shoes and socks every couple hours and had no trouble at all. I think taking electrolytes
throughout the race helped quite a bit as well � my bad blistering problems have been at
races where I've let that get out of balance.
I think my pace was really good. The short walks in the shade each lap gave a little
recovery without stopping and stiffening up. I did back off at 9 hours, but that was a
conscious decision based on the heat. I think I could have kept running that pace for quite
a bit longer if I had wanted to. Miles 46-50 were done at the same speed as 1-5, so fading
wasn't an issue.
I did a good job of tending to food and water. Coming through the aid station every 1.4
miles certainly helped. I took a small bit of food and water each time. I also stopped at
the two water fountains each lap. That meant my stomach never had to deal with a lot at
once, but always had something in it. After about six hours, I stopped eating anything
with sugar in it as I've found sweet stuff messes me up in the latter part of long races.
Overall it was a very good experience, but there are a few things I'd do differently. I'll
write about those tomorrow.
9/6/05 Lessons learned
Sorry for using management jargon in the title, but at least I don't write things like,
"Performance is maximized when teammates leverage their synergies, utilizing a strategy
of load shifting where the outstanding performers are tasked with transporting items for
members who threaten the critical path" when I could just write "The stronger folks
should carry more of the gear."
Anyway, here's some things I might do a bit differently next time I run an ultra:
That's a pretty short list for a first ultra, so I consider the race a big success. The speed of
my recovery would indicate that the brush with heat stroke wasn't as close as it seemed.
I'm wondering if maybe putting sunblock on top of already burned skin caused the chills
and I wasn't really overheating at all. Seems an interesting coincidence that the chills
came right after applying that. They persisted for half an hour, though, which seems like
a long time if it was just a reaction to that. I never had any other symptoms, so it will just
be a mystery.
Get up on time. I don't really know what went wrong here. I've entered over 1000 races
during the last 30 years and while I've had some close calls, this is the first time I've ever
been late for a start.
Get properly set up. I just dropped my stuff and started running. Over the course of the
race, this probably set me back another 3 or 4 minutes because every time I needed
something, I had to dig through my bag.
Wear a shirt. I had planned on running with a singlet, but took it off after three hours
because it was chaffing. I got a bit of sunburn. I think a loose fitting technical shirt would
have worked much better. I've never had a problem with one of those chaffing. They not
only protect from burning, but are also a bit cooler in the direct sun.
Run a little faster and walk more. My early running pace was so slow (about 9:40/mi) it
was pretty inefficient. After three hours, I started running faster and walking more. My
overall pace (10:20/mi) stayed the same, but it felt easier.
Back way off if it gets hot. I was surprised that I would overheat when I was well
hydrated. Just no arguing with a 90-degree day, I guess. If I had backed off just a couple
laps earlier, I'm sure I could have run the full 12 hours (actually, I'm pretty sure I could
have, anyway, as my legs were fine at 50 miles, but I didn't want to take any chances
with something as serious as heat stroke).
9/7/05 Fill 'er up
Today, I filled my gas tank for the first time since Katrina nuked New Orleans. I was
surprised that prices were only $3.18/gal for premium (the WRX doesn't much like
regular gas). I had expected prices to go up more than that. Meanwhile, I hear that all our
fine public servants in Washington are holding hearings as to why gas prices are so high.
Well, duh, maybe because there isn't enough of the stuff?
It drives me nuts that the same folks who just passed the most ridiculously industry-sided
energy bill in history are now up there whining about prices and oil company profits. The
only way that people are ever going to buy more fuel efficient cars is if prices go up. This
isn't really such a bad thing.
Adventure racing makes you a gas hog. I wish that wasn't so, but it is. We haul around a
lot of gear and have to drive a fair ways for both racing and training. I'm sure I use more
gas than the average person. The fact that I drive a high-performance car doesn't help
matters any. I'm thinking about changing that. I like the WRX, but since I don't race cars
anymore, I could get by with something a lot more economical.
Actually, all the intake and exhaust mods I did on my old car for racing really helped the
mileage - it went from high 20's to low 30's on the highway. I was so surprised by the
improvement that I wrote a letter to Honda asking them why they didn't make the cars
like that in the first place. I mean, who wouldn't want a car that gets 10% better mileage
and goes half a second faster in the quarter? I suppose the fact that you could hear it
several blocks away might be viewed as a downside.
The Subaru is turbocharged which makes economy gains a lot more problematic.
Fiddling around with boost levels and fuel maps is just as likely to screw things up as
improve matters unless you've got some really good diagnostic equipment. I've left the
WRX stock and put a rack on the top. The result is mid-20's on the highway, which isn't
very good for a small car.
I've tried to drive a lot less the last couple weeks. I have a very short commute (less than
3 miles). I can do my cycling and running training right from my house. I don't have any
out of town races until October. Hopefully, things will be a little back to normal by then.
9/8/05 Don't go slow
I never did get around to posting any analysis from the Cliff Cave meet. There were a few
interesting legs. This one is particularly deceiving. Take a few seconds to decide which
way you would have run it. I'll give you a hint: straight is not an option - the woods are
far too thick this time of year. Also, at the point you need to make this decision, you have
seen the rough open field - it's pretty tall grass, but it's mown along the edge.
This is one of two legs where David took significant time out of me. In this case, the "no
brainer" route taking the trail west and then following the east edge of the field to the
control is the quick route. My mistake was not in missing this route, but in missing the
significance of the decision.
To me, this looked like a common course setting error referred to as "caliper-O". This
means you have two nearly identical routes and the only way to know which is longer is
to get out a set of calipers and measure. This leg isn't quite that bad in that the road route
to the right is clearly a bit longer. But I figured that the speed advantage of the road
would wash that out. When choosing among seemingly equal routes, I usually take the
route that offers the fastest running. Thus, I took the road.
What I missed was that from the road, there is a fairly good stretch through the field. This
was slow. Assuming you angle in from the first telephone pole south of the road, you
you run about 100 meters in the long grass. Taking the other route, you can get all
the way to the edge of the circle and then run the last 30 meters through the tall grass.
David got me by about 20 seconds on this leg.
The lesson is that you want to minimize the time you are going slow. Even a little extra
distance in the slow section wipes out a lot of fast running.
9/9/05 Addicted to trails
Yesterday, I showed a Cliff Cave route where David got me. Today, I'll turn the tables.
This leg came fairly late in the race so there had been plenty of time to get a feel for the
Again, there are two fairly obvious routes (indicated by pink dots from the point where they diverge).
David took the longer
trail route while I went more or less straight. Now, I know the woods are thick, but the
trail route is a LOT longer. Also, even the trail route cuts through the woods at the end,
so the actual distance of woods running saved is only about 150 meters of light green.
That's sure not worth going 200m out of the way.
David knows this, of course, and never would have taken the trail route early in the race.
The problem here is something we call being "addicted to trails." When you're running
on trails for a while, you get used to the speed. As you look into the woods, particularly if
they are thick, you just don't want to go there because you want to keep going fast.
Sometimes the symptom of this is that you leave a trail later than you should. Other
times, it's taking crazy route choices just to stay on trail.
The only defense I know against this is to convince yourself (not because I told you, but
because you actually go out in the woods with a stopwatch and verify it) that the redline
is almost always the best route. You need to have a reason not to run straight.
Only if there's a problem with the direct route should you consider alternatives that are
This is my least favorite time of year. It's still hot and the woods are thick, but I have to
train in them to be ready for the fall races. Today, I ran at Rockwoods. It was hot (92
degrees) but the vegetation was OK. Not nearly as fast as it will be in another month, but
still fairly fast by most standards.
Last Wednesday was another matter. I did some night training at Lost Valley on the
USGS map. The woods were terrible. In places I had to crawl to get through. There were
still a lot of bugs, too. I have chiggers all over my feet, ankles, and calves. I have a lot of
other bites on my torso as well. I must have picked those up when I was crawling.
Today was the SLUG (St. Louis Ultrarunners Group) picnic. Olivia and Kate went along
with me. It was a pretty fun outing.
I've drifted in and out of SLUG membership for the last 5 years or so (I think my
membership might be currently lapsed). They're a fun bunch to run with and there is
considerable experience to draw from. Just about any high-profile ultra in North America
has been completed by at least one member. Of course, the best advice often comes from
those who have failed to complete a given ultra.
Now that I'm officially an ultrarunner (having raced more than 26.2 miles at Flatlander),
I suppose I should renew my membership.
My latest issue of Adventure Sports magazine came bundled with an issue of a new
magazine called ASX. I assume it stands for Adventure Sports eXtreme, but I didn't
really look at it carefully enough to find out. The layout and writing are definitely
targeting the MTV crowd. I've got nothing against that, but I prefer to get my incoherent
news blurbs off the web. I turn to print for a more substantive approach.
It did occur to me as I was flipping through the pages that it would be darn near
impossible to do the crazy stuff in that magazine and also have enough time to train for
Adventure Racing. Freestyle skydiving sounds fun, but I'm sure it takes a long time to
get good at it. I suppose a full-time athlete could shoehorn in some "extreme" activities,
but there aren't many full-time Adventure Racers
It is interesting that even though Adventure Racing is seen as an extreme sport, the
participants, at least at the elite level, aren't really part of that culture. Adventure Racing
was featured in the first X-Games before the ESPN producers realized that it was actually
a bunch of old farts who just know how to go forever. Almost without exception, the top
adventure racers that I know are pretty traditional athletes coming from one of the three
major disciplines (running/orienteering, biking, or paddling). I guess it's Mark Burnett's
(Eco-Challenge race director and Survivor producer) influence that got the extreme label
applied. I don't think many adventure racers see themselves that way.
Last Sunday, a world record was broken for most controls on an orienteering course. The
course setter was J-J Cote, one of the more capable setters in North America. His course
had 203 controls. A partial map of the course is
What impressed me most about this course is that it wasn't just putting out controls for
the sake of putting out controls. With very few exceptions, each leg is a legit (albeit
short) navigation leg. Having such nice terrain helps, but this is a really fine
from participants was quite positive. I wish I had been able to go.
9/14/05 New teammate
It took some searching, but we finally found a woman for our second team at Raid the
Rock (I was getting worried that I might not be able to do this race). Vicki Vojak will
join Doug Nishimura and me. Vicki's done a fair bit of adventure racing. She has a
regular team so we were lucky to snatch her up for this event.
9/16/05 Thirty seconds for free
Today it was below 70 degrees during my lunchtime run. That's the first day we've had
like that since last spring. My pace wasn't particularly fast because I was running the
powerline, but on the road sections I was about 30 seconds per mile faster than my
normal summer training pace.
This happens every year. My spring pace is a little on the slow side because I don't do
much road running in the winter. Through the summer, my fitness improves, but my pace slows
slightly as it gets hotter. Then the cool weather comes and all of a sudden the
summer fitness presents itself. Even though I've come to expect it, it's always fun when
9/17/05 Go YaYa!
Olivia got her first win today as we entered the group category at the Kirkwood Night-O.
It's held in a Kirkwood City Park and even the woods controls are accessible by trail, so I
decided to take her in the jogger. She was up to the task, taking the many bumps and near
dumps without a complaint. She was very excited when she was called up to get her first
I was pretty happy that we posted fast time overall (David was meet director; he would
have beaten us easily). Shows that clean navigation trumps speed at night.
9/18/05 Test loop
I find it helpful to have some reasonably objective way of measuring where my fitness is
at any given time. I could just run some time trials at the track, but I prefer to measure my
speed as I will use it in races: through the woods. To this end, I have the Rockwoods Test
Loop. It's actually a course that I designed for the Cold Nose meet back in 2000.
That meet was a memory-O, meaning that you ran it without a map. At each control was
a map showing where the next control was. I designed the legs to be fairly easy to
remember. This makes it a really good test loop course because you don't have to look at
the map very often (especially after you've run it a few times). Since I generally don't
lose any time to navigation, this loop does a good job of measuring how fast I can run
through the woods.
David Frei won the Cold Nose meet on this course with a time just over 40 minutes. That
comes to 8:00/Km which is pretty good in Rockwoods. When I run the loop, I feel that if
I'm under 40 minutes, I'm ready for local competition. Before going to an A-meet, I
prefer to be under 35 minutes. My PR is 32:20, but that was after running it three times in
as many weeks so I didn't really have to look at the map at all.
Every so often, I go out and put some flagging tape at each control location. I haven't
done this in a while, so when I ran the loop yesterday, there were very few tapes. I'll re-
tape it this fall. I don't really need the tapes since I know all the control locations, but it's
good to physically touch the tape just to reinforce the habit of running all the way to the
control and not loosing focus in the circle.
9/19/05 Big crowd
I don't envy other sports their popularity. I've always felt that the more obscure activities
are more interesting simply because they aren't part of our everyday culture. When I
started cycling, there were only 1500 licensed racers in the US. Ten years and Greg
Lemond later, there were 85,000. I liked the fact that the level of competition came up,
and it certainly made it easier to squeak out a semi-pro existence with so many more
races, but I missed the tight-knit community of the late 70's.
Orienteering and Adventure Racing have a very small base of athletes. The folks at the
top are pretty good, but there are probably fewer than 1000 people taking either sport
particularly seriously in the US. I enjoy that.
That said, it was interesting to attend the Lewis & Clark marathon in St. Charles
yesterday. This is not a big race by running standards, yet 3200 people were entered. An
army of volunteers lined the course. A fairly large arena was used to serve post-race
refreshments. It had a "big event" feel that is impossible to duplicate with the field sizes
we see. There's a lot to be said for numbers.
I've been doing a bit of reading about training methods in the first half of the 20th
century. In the period between 1895 and 1931, the mile record dropped from 4:15 to 4:09.
Three more seconds came off in the 30's.
From 1940 to 1945, a rivalry between the two great Swedes Arne Anderson and Gunder
Haag brought it down to 4:01.4 and it became clear that the "unbreakable" 4-minute
barrier would soon fall. It took nearly nine more years to get under 4, but that may have
been as much a psychological barrier as a physical one.
Four-minute miles are routinely run in college meets now and the world record for the
mile is now down to 3:43. Interestingly, the downward progress of the mile record has
been very nearly linear since Bannister's 3:59.4 in 1954, which would indicate that the
real limit is still a ways off. The mile is just a convenient event to look at because there is
a tremendous amount of data on it. The pattern is similar for all distances.
What happened in 1940 that made this perceived barrier suddenly so fragile? From what I
can tell, there were two things. The first was a fundamental shift in attitudes towards
what the human body was capable of. The general feeling in the early 1900's was that
running hard was very dangerous and that too much of it would leave you seriously
disabled if not kill you outright. There's some truth to this, but the fears were clearly out
of line with the risk.
The great runners of the middle part of the century were all noted for their "heroic"
training plans. The training schedules of runners like Emil Zatopek and John Landy
certainly were exceptional for their day, but would not be viewed as excessive by elite
runners today. It was the example of such runners that made coaches rethink the amount
of training required to reach ones full potential.
The other breakthrough is attributed specifically to Zatopek, although there were
certainly other influences as well. That was the idea that workouts could be designed to
train the cardiovascular system without putting undue stress on the skeletal muscles. This
was the beginning of interval training and it was so effective that in 1952 Zatopek
became the first (and still only) man to win the distance running triple crown: 5,000,
10,000, and marathon in the same Olympics.
As I read about these things and then read the multitude of overtraining warnings and
"quality over quantity" articles today's fitness magazines, I have to wonder if some of
these writers didn't get the memo from the last 50 years. It is nearly impossible for an
amateur athlete to overtrain. Pros are constantly looking for ways to jam in more training,
not less. Those of us with other responsibilities are in no danger of training too much.
It is surely true that suddenly doubling one's training is a foolish undertaking. Any step
up in quantity or intensity needs to be done at a rate the body can adapt to. It's also true
that if one misses the second big lesson and does workouts that tax the skeletal muscles
every day, it won't be long before the body collapses. But assuming that the training is
properly structured, too much of a good thing is the least of your worries.
Since I brought him up yesterday, here are a few of my favorite quotes from Emil
Zatopek whose wit was nearly as quick as his times on the track.
On why he didn't stretch: "You never see racehorses stretching out before a race." and
"Why should I have to touch my toes? I never do that during a race."
On interval training: "Everyone said, 'Emil, you are a fool!' But when I first won the
European Championship, they said: 'Emil, you are a genius!'"
On his unorthodox gait: "When they start giving points for style, I'll attend to that. Right
now they only care about the watch."
On goals: "You can't climb up to the second floor without a ladder... Try for a goal
that's reasonable, and then gradually raise it."
On accomplishments: "To boast of a performance which I cannot beat is merely stupid
vanity. And if I can beat it that means there is nothing special about it."
This last one makes him out to be humble, which he certainly wasn't. I do think it shows
he had a pretty good grasp on the fact that there was nothing superhuman about what he
was doing. He simply out-trained everybody and when the race came there was nobody
who could dig deeper.
Taper is pretty much taken for granted, now, but it's actually a new concept. Prior to the
big upswing in training duration and intensity, there was no particular need to alter
training around races. In fact, since racing was about the only quality work that most
runners got prior to 1940, the more they raced, the better they tended to be.
Roger Bannister might have been the first guy to really get a taper right, although it was
partly by accident. In the spring of 1954, feeling burned out and knowing that he
probably had only a few weeks before John Landy broke 4 minutes for the mile, he
decided he needed a break to clear his head. He went on a climbing trip with his running
buddies for a weekend. When they returned, they went back to the track and found that
workouts they were struggling with seemed easy. Since he was about to take the medical
board exams, he got in very little training between the trip and the record attempt.
Despite terrible conditions, he ran a full two seconds faster than he had ever run and
became the first person to break a 4-minute mile.
As expected, Landy answered a month later with a new record of 3:58 and their meeting
at the British Empire Games just six weeks ahead was suddenly anticipated as the "Mile
of the Century". During the lead up, Landy continued his ferocious training. Bannister,
still working on his exams, fit in as much training as he could, focusing on speed work.
Looking at their race records, few doubted that Landy was the fitter of the two. He
routinely ran under 4:02 from the front whereas Bannister had only broken that mark
once, and that was with pacers. Nonetheless, on race day Bannister hung tough and had
the kick to come around on the final straight. He posted the fastest time of his career,
knocking nearly a second off his record run two months earlier. Furthermore, it was
essentially an unpaced effort because Landy held a commanding lead for most of the
It's not clear that Landy (or for that matter, Bannister, who retired shortly after their
showdown) ever grasped the importance of taper. Two years later, Landy ran an
unofficial world record 3-mile in training three days before the Olympic 1500m final,
killing his legs and his chances for victory.
Taper is not simply resting, although that's a big part of it. It also involves some very
high quality workouts separated by longer than usual recovery times. In the summer of
1954, Bannister had no choice but to train this way because of his study schedule. The
result was performances that are remembered as two of the greatest in history, and by a
runner who, while of undisputed talent, didn't have a particularly impressive race record
leading up to that point.
9/23/05 Strange signals
Most of the time I'm amazed that the human body (or any other living thing) works at all.
Still, some of the functions seem a little screwed up.
Last night, I did some night training at Rockwoods Range. Shortly into the run, I was
moving through thigh-high vegetation and couldn't really see where I was stepping. I got
tangled up in some dead branches and went down. To avoid getting impaled on one of the
branches, I had to twist my hips in a manner that wrenched the right hip just a bit. It
didn't hurt much (the gash on my chest from the offending branch was a significantly
greater, albeit still superficial, concern). I ran for another 100 minutes without really
When I got out of the car after driving home, I noticed my hip was really stiff. It got
worse overnight. I could barely walk this morning. At lunch, I limped over to the locker
room thinking I might be able to loosen things up a bit with a short jog. The first few
steps hurt, but as I got moving it felt better. The farther and faster I went, the better it felt.
After 9 miles at a decent pace, I felt fine. By the time I was done with my shower, it had
stiffened up again and I was back to limping.
So, does it need rest or not? Who knows? Running makes it feel better, but walking hurts
a lot. You'd think if running was good for it, walking would be even better since it's less
stress. My nervous system certainly doesn't think so. Oh well, I had an easy weekend
Annie and Al came to visit for the weekend. It was nice to take a weekend off and just
hang out. We did go hiking on Saturday. Mostly we watched Baby-O.
I found out today that Carol's Team (David, Jeff, Carrie, and James Fawcett)
won the Berryman Adventure. That's not really a surprise, since it's basically
the winning team from last year, but certainly good news. I'll try to get a race report
out of them.
9/27/05 Nice surprise
Yesterday I ran at Forest Park. I did half the bike path and then ran one of the loops from
the relay last spring. My time for the loop was 30:09, which would have been fast time in
the A-meet. However, as mapper, course setter, and test runner, I certainly wasn't losing
time to navigation.
It was still a pretty hard run, not quite what I'd put out for a 10K, but close. As I finished
the loop on the bike path, I felt very relaxed, even though I was conscious of the fact that
I was running a bit faster than normal. The last mile of the bike path is completely flat
and it felt like I was running it in around 7 minutes. When I checked my watch I was
surprised to see I did it in 6:33.
Now, a 6:33 mile, even at the end of a hard 90-minute workout isn't exactly the stuff of
legends. What was nice about it was how smooth it felt. My training this summer was
targeted at increasing my ability for hard efforts when I'm already fatigued. I think it has
been largely successful. I'll look at some of the things I did in that regard over the next
I ran with Nadim Ahmed last evening. He lives just outside Washington, DC and was in
town on business. Nadim is one of the stronger orienteers in the M40 class.
While I run basically even with Nadim in O meets, he'd trash me in a running race. As
we were running along the bike path at Creve Coeur Lake, I asked him (between labored
breaths) if this was his normal training pace. He replied that he usually goes a bit faster.
So much for confidence about my fitness.
9/29/05 Tuesday night stamina
I mentioned a few days ago that my focus this summer was to improve the ability to go
hard at the end of a long workout. This is different from being able to go hard for a long
time. The latter simply comes with a general raising of fitness. The former is a
combination of mental toughness and some subtle physiological changes.
The mental toughness part is something that most seasoned competitors know how to
deal with. In a nutshell, it's your mind winning an argument with your body. The body
always errs on the side of caution. This is a protective device that I'm sure was useful
when you never knew when you might need a little something in reserve for running
away from a tiger. It is possible to work oneself to death, but that is usually a result of
dehydration and overheating, not too much effort. If you properly tend to your condition,
there's not much real risk in pushing hard, it just requires some fortitude. I'm not really
sure how you train this, other than doing workouts and/or races that require it.
This past summer, I've been using Tuesday night's for such workouts. There's nothing
magical about that day, it just coincides with some group rides that are particularly well
suited to it. The Tuesday evening criteriums are probably the best such ride. Since I'm
over 35, I can ride both the "A" and "B" races. If I preface them with a longish warm up
(usually by riding there instead of driving), the second race doesn't finish until I'm nearly
3 hours into my workout. Sufficiently depleted from the races, I ride home at a stiff
tempo. This requires some focus because I no longer have other riders around to push me.
The whole workout takes between 3 and 4 hours. The important thing isn't the length of
the ride as much as the fact that most of the hard stuff comes after 2 hours. Up to around
2 hours, pushing is fairly easy because your blood sugar levels are quite high. While I
drink a lot on these rides, I don't eat anything immediately before or during. After two
hours my sugar levels are low enough that my body complains quite a bit about the effort.
Naturally, you want to avoid this situation in a race. I wouldn't recommend it too
frequently in workouts either. But limited to a few times a month, it does serve nicely for
getting your body into a state where it doesn't want to keep going, but can be pushed
without any real danger. As an added bonus, there is some evidence that these types of
glycogen depletion workouts do have a long-term effect of increasing your body's ability
to store glycogen. By increasing such stores, you reduce the amount you need to eat
during a race.
9/30/05 Fall fever
Many people get spring fever, I don't. Maybe it's because I grew up further north so the
two months of barely freezing temperatures we get in St. Louis don't strike me as
excessive. Actually, the winter is a pretty nice time to be running through the woods
I do get fall fever.
Yesterday was about as perfect of a fall day as you could hope for. Today is looking at
least as good. After three months of really hot weather and then another month crashing
through the woods while the summer vegetation dies down, I'm more than ready for this.
The timing couldn't be better. This weekend we have a training camp and meet at Cuivre
River. It's a great map and the vegetation is pretty open year round. With the cool
temperatures keeping the bugs in check, conditions should be fantastic. Add the fact that
we've got (former National Champ) Michael Eglinski and some other O-Kansas folks
coming in and it should be a great start to the fall season.