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7/1/06 New trail

I was out doing an easy run tonight at Creve Coeur Lake. There's no real direct route back to my house from there. I was just leaving the park when I noticed a tiny trail that I hadn't seen before. I decided to follow it and was delighted to find that it hooked up with the power line cut. Even better was the fact that the power line was runnable, so I was able to come most of the way back home on trail rather than roads.

It's a small thing, but I love discovering new routes on a workout. I suppose that's a good indication that I'm in the right sport.

7/3/06 Kayak

Today I did my paddling in the kayak. It's been a few months since I've used it because I've been wanting to work on my single-blade strokes. I'd forgotten how much I prefer the kayak to the canoe.

I think the difference is that in a canoe you feel like you're paddling through the water, but in a kayak you feel like you're in the water. It's not just that you're lower (although that's a lot of it). Everything just feels smoother in the kayak. I suppose some of that is a reflection of my deficiencies with a single-blade paddle, but even when I use kayak paddles in the canoe, I don't get the same sense of smoothly moving through the water.

7/4/06 Happy 4th from Yaya

Yaya

We actually celebrated yesterday. Yaya really liked the fireworks (her first). I'm working tonight (such is the schedule of a contract programmer). I'm only on the fourth floor, but my building in Creve Coeur is on one of the higher points around, so the visibility is excellent. I just walked around the office floor and was able to see 10 different fireworks shows going on.

Every once in a while (some might argue more often than that) I find myself being a little snobbish when it comes to Midwestern culture. Growing up in New York City, you do come to expect the best. I have to give credit where it's due, though. Midwestern towns do great fireworks. Even the small cities rival NYC's display and the larger cities are in a class of their own.

7/6/06 Recovery

During the base period of training, recovery is usually not a problem for me. The workouts are primarily aerobic, so there isn't too much strain on the skeletal muscles. The workouts that do tax the skeletal muscles (long workouts do this, even when done at a modest pace) can be surrounded by technique sessions or work in another discipline.

During buildup, recovery becomes much more important. This is particularly true if the buildup is targeting a specific discipline. Since I'm currently basing my buildup on 10K training, I'm doing more quality running workouts. Even my "easy" days include some running. On two occasions so far, I've found that my legs weren't quite back when I had another hard workout planned.

The foolish thing to do in that situation is to go ahead with the hard workout anyway. Even if you don't injure yourself doing that, the recovery time from the new workout will also be longer, leaving you again in a sorry state for your next hard workout. After not long, none of your hard workouts will be of the quality they need to be because you're always too tired. You'll basically fill your training with junk miles - too hard to recover, but not hard enough to get the desired training effect.

I'm a little disappointed that my recovery time from moderately hard workouts seems to be pushing out over 70 hours (I ran steps on Monday afternoon and still feel it). It used to be more like 60. That's normal when getting older, but that doesn't make it any less troublesome. I'll need to make some adjustments to my buildup schedule so I can get in the quality sessions without sacrificing recovery.

7/7/06 Doubling up

Following on yesterday's post, let's suppose that you do take 72-80 hours to recover from a hard workout. (Note that we're talking workouts here, not races. Recovery from races is something else altogether.) That's basically 2 hard workouts a week. How are you supposed to get better on that?

Well, you probably won't, but there's a way around it. At any period of the training cycle, you are working two sets of muscles. Your skeletal muscles and your heart. There are lots of other adaptations going on as well, but we'll keep it simple for the moment. Your heart recovers very quickly; your skeletal muscles are where the long recovery times come in. Also note that the skeletal muscles are very specific to the activity. You might have sore calves after training hills, but experience tight hamstrings when you run hard on the track. Cycling usually gets your glutes and quads. Paddling works your shoulders and torso. You get the idea.

Because the heart recovers quickly, there's no downside to doing workouts aimed at the cardiovascular system prior to working the skeletal muscles. Thus, you can slide a couple extra hard workouts in. Also, by changing the activity, you can do hard skeletal work on one muscle group while another recovers (there is some overlap, though, so you have to be a bit careful doing that).

I like to run tempo work or intervals (not sprint work, but repeats at just below threshold) prior to my long run. I'll usually combine a hard cycling workout with sprint and/or hill work. The cardio work can be done the day before or the morning of the skeletal workout. I usually do my paddling during the recovery true recovery period (36-48 hours) from hard or long running.

7/9/06 It's enough to make one wonder

Just before the start of this year's Tour de France, several riders were suspended as the result of an ongoing doping investigation. This is the latest and most draconian in a series of crackdowns on doping in cycling (and other sports, but cycling is clearly the primary target) by European governments. Just as our own Congress has decided that Baseball is important enough to warrant steroids investigations, various EU parliaments have been rattling their sabers on the doping issue. Some of these guys will not only be fined and suspended; they could wind up in jail.

While the complete lack of due process in much of this is troubling (the suspended riders haven't even been afforded a hearing, much less an appeal), there's no doubt that an impact is being made. I used to have lunch with a prosecutor who worked on organized crime cases. He felt that it's not severe punishment that deters crime, but certain punishment. People don't mess with the mob because they know you'll get whacked if you do. True, it takes down a few innocent folks in the process, but it certainly does deter the action. The recent one-sided investigations and punishments may be having the same effect in cycling.

On Saturday, a whole bunch of the favored riders had inexplicably terrible performances in the first long time trial of the Tour de France. The opening week hasn't been particularly hard and the conditions were quite good. It makes you wonder if some of these guys are running on a lesser grade of gas these days.

7/10/06 1000 Day

I've had a few people ask me what on earth the 1000-Day is. Well, it's not a 1000-day race. The story I have on the name is that it started as the Rocky Mountain 5-Day, modeled after the big 5-day orienteering events in Europe. These are typically five races held on successive days, with prizes for each day and an overall prize. The race distances are typical for orienteering: Sprint (15 minutes winning time), Middle (30 minutes), and Long (90 minutes).

As years went on, the five main races were augmented with some extra events such as the Stampede (mass start), the Prolog & Chase (times from the prolog determine the start time for the Chase and the fist across the line wins), and Relay. The name was changed to the 6-Day, 7-Day, etc. Race Director Mikell Platt was getting some ribbing about the name changing every year on what was supposed to be an annual event, so he just started calling it the 1000-Day, figuring he wasn't likely to exceed that.

The event is held primarily in Wyoming, but often includes some racing in Colorado. This year, the final weekend will be in Colorado. The terrain is predominantly high prairie - between 6,000 and 8,000 feet, tall grass, prominent rock features, and little patches of woods and marshes. Speeds are quite fast; the elite men run well under 5:00/K.

I don't have much experience on this type of terrain, but I'm generally better at courses where the running speed is high. I'll be running Blue (elite male) for the first time in a couple years. I'm looking forward to it, even though it's pretty obvious from the start list that I'm going to get my ass kicked.

7/11/06 Scaling back

As with last year, the realities of life are intruding on what would otherwise be a pretty nice race schedule. Looks like both Sylamore and Thunder Rolls are off the schedule. We might miss USARA Nationals as well. Disappointing, but one needs to keep it all in perspective. There are more important things than racing.

7/12/06 Hangin in

Three laps into last night's races I was seriously wondering if I'd even be able to stay with the field. This time of year, most of the "A" field (category 1-3 riders, for those familiar with the USCF system) is racing short events 2-4 times a week. I've been primarily training for longer races and haven't done any bike racing in over a month, so the pace was a shock to my system. Still, I've felt bad and managed to hang on many times before, so I didn't get discouraged.

The Tuesday night criteriums are 45 minutes plus three laps for the A field. By halfway through the race, I had made the adjustment and was moving around what was left of the field. With three to go, I rolled off the front. I was really just trying to close a gap to a break that was dangling 50 meters off the front, but I had a teammate on my wheel and he let the gap open. Given a free ride up to the break, I figured I was obligated to give it a go. We stayed off and even though I blew up and fell off from the other two on the last lap, I finished a few seconds in front of the field sprint.

I don't write that to brag about a good finish in the Tuesday night races. They're just training races, after all. Rather, it's to make a point about when not to listen to your body. Just because it's telling you it doesn't want to go, doesn't mean it can't. In a race where I was pretty sure I was unable to keep up with the field, I finished in front of them. This is hardly the first time this has happened. Everybody goes through bad patches. Usually, you can work through them if you don't give up.

7/13/06 Really scaling back

Well, shoot. It looks like I can't go to the 1000-Day, either. What had looked like a pretty full racing schedule is starting to look pretty sparse. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with my peak fitness, but since I'm most of the way through buildup, I'll finish it off and see if I can find a decent race.

On the up side, I'll have a little more time to devote to Adventure Camp. Look for an update on that over the weekend.

7/14/06 Adventure Camp cancelled

Sorry to disappoint those who indicated an interest, but we've been stuck on some permitting issues and I don't want to start registering and making preparations when we're not sure that we have a venue. I do expect that we'll run this camp at some time in the future, but it won't be August (and probably won't be this year).

7/17/06 Cookin'

Well, it's that time of year again. We have an extreme heat warning in effect all week. Last night I ran for two hours and came back six pounds lighter despite drinking a fair bit during the run.

One common mistake when running in the heat is to drink a lot but forget about electrolytes. If you do this, you risk a really unpleasant condition known as Hyponatremia. Basically this is when your body can't absorb water because the electrolyte balance is too messed up. I've had it happen a couple times on really long runs. Fortunately, it's never hit me in a race.

The early symptoms are a bloated feeling, like your stomach is too full of water (which it is). This is followed by nausea, vomiting, and a general shutdown of your whole GI system. If it gets to the vomiting stage, you're out for a few hours because it's really hard to fix an imbalance when you can't keep anything down.

Some people errantly assume that this means they have drank too much. That is, of course, a problem, but it's not the cause of Hyponatremia. The cause is not enough electrolytes. When your body becomes too diluted, it won't absorb any more water, even if it needs it. That's one of the reasons emergency crews use an IV to re-hydrate people: it gets both the water and salt directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the problems of digestion.

The simplest way to prevent this is to be vigilant about taking electrolytes. I take an electrolyte pill for every 20 ounces (or so) of water I drink. That ratio may need to be adjusted depending on what else I'm eating and how much of my water loss is due to sweat, but it's a rule of thumb that's worked reasonably well for me.

7/19/06 Adjusting for heat

Although much of the country isn't used to what we're getting right now, the current heat wave is pretty typical for St. Louis. In fact, with "only" 4 days over 100 so far, this July has been slightly on the cool side. Still, just because the heat is normal doesn't make it easy on your body.

I usually run my hard workouts at night when it's this hot. Today, I ran repeat 400's at lunch. The plan was 8x400 at 5K pace with 200m recovery between each. I ended up running them couple seconds fast, but my pulse was still staying in the low 160's (my max is currently right around 170 - I've always had a low max HR). Everything felt fine despite track temperatures well into the triple digits. That is, until the seventh one. Halfway through #7 the pace suddenly felt quite labored. I thought about quitting then, but a quick pulse check showed 164, so I figured I'd finish up the workout. The last one didn't feel quite so bad, but when I took my pulse again, I was maxed at 170. Clearly I had done enough so I jogged back to work really slowly.

In this case, there was no need to adjust things but if the plan had called for any more work at speed, I would have still stopped when I did. It's important to push yourself in training, but it's just as important to realize when you are forcing positive adaptations to effort and when you are just wrecking you body. Pushing through dehydration, heat exhaustion, cramps, injuries, etc. does not make your body stronger. On the contrary it leaves you needing more recovery before your next constructive workout. Being able to push through such things is a valuable mental skill in a race, but not one you should apply to training.

I think that running coach Alan Lawrence put it well: "Tenacity is the distance runner's lifeblood in a race. It is his 'killer instinct' that allows him to push when his body wants to stop. In training, it is just as deadly, and it turns on the nearest victim, the runner himself."

7/24/06 Forest Park sprints

Lots to write about from last weekend. I'll start with the Forest Park sprints. The Forest Park meet has traditionally been the centerpiece of SLOC's summer season. I was meet director this year and decided to add it to the North American Sprint Series. Two sprints were planned one during the day and one after the sun set.

Maps: day, night.

I designed the day course. I'm particularly proud of the route choices on leg 9. There are 4 viable options, and the best one is significantly better than the other three. I'll post an analysis in a few days; you can work on it yourself for now if you like. The course was a little long; Mark Geldmeier posted fast time of 19:47.

David designed the night courses. While the first and last legs had some dead distance, the rest of the courses required a good deal of concentration. Keeping track of the trail network while running full speed at night provided plenty of challenge. I had fast time with 20:45.

Unfortunately, many of our regular competitors were dealing with larger problems of life: that is, recovering from last week's storms. With half a million people still without power and trees down everywhere, attendance was fairly weak. For those who did come, the break in the weather provided perfect conditions for a fun meet.

7/25/06 Show Me State Games

Last Sunday, I rode the Show Me State Games Duathlon. I suppose it's the closest thing we have to a state championship in the event, although there are other Missouri races with stronger fields. Part of the dilution comes from the fact that the race is held at the same time as the Triathlon and many of the best multi-sport folks prefer tri's.

This is the third year I've done it and the field seems to get a bit better each year. I've won 40+ each year and got the outright win last year. This year, I was second overall, but the top 5 were all a lot closer than in the past. As this year's overall winner was 39, my streak in 40+ may come under some real pressure next year.

I was surprised that my time was slower than last year (by about 30 seconds). I was a little faster on the run this year which isn't surprising given how hot is was last year (nearly 100 degrees). I think I should have pushed harder on the bike. I was leading, but not really putting much time into three guys who were close behind, so I backed off a bit after 5 miles to save my legs for the run. Last year I was chasing the leader on the bike and kept the pressure on the whole way.

While I'm happy with the result, I'm not pleased that I let myself off the hook on the bike. I know that that's the leg I have to ride well to win, and I shouldn't have given up just a quarter of the way into the course. The course was quite hilly and there was still plenty of time to see if the others would crack. A bit more discipline is called for.

7/30/06 Junior nav

I trained with Anna Shafer-Skelton of the US Junior National Team today. We did some shadowing exercises and some control picking. During the shadowing, I noticed that watching her navigate was a lot different than shadowing adult orienteers. Although it's easy to see, it's not a difference that's easy to articulate. I'll give it a try anyway.

Adult orienteers can be roughly grouped into four camps. There are the recreational folks who don't move very fast and may or may not be accurate. While there's nothing wrong with that, these people aren't particularly interesting to analyze because they're making no attempt to be competitive.

The next group is the run and boom crowd. These folks are trying to do it well and may run some legs quite quickly. Somewhere along the course (usually multiple times) they will outrun their navigation badly and lose a lot of time.

The slow and accurate group is largely older orienteers who have a lot of experience but have lost (or never had) the fitness to turn in top times. These guys lose very little time to errors and will beat the run and boom runners most of the time even though they are moving much slower.

Finally, there are the competitive orienteers who run well and are generally pretty good at keeping mistakes from getting out of control. With proper training, it usually takes around two years to get into this group, with another significant jump in performance noted at 5-7 years. Most people take a lot longer because they spend too much time working on fitness and not enough on navigation (leading, inevitably, to membership in the run and boom club).

Most juniors are firmly in the run and boom camp. The top juniors are competitive with seniors, but there is a difference in the way they run. I believe this is a result of a different ratio of experience to knowledge.

At least in this country, junior orienteers are generally the offspring of other orienteers. They are introduced to the sport at a very young age. They've heard lots of advice (some good, some bad) and seek out post-race analysis. Their knowledge of the sport is high.

However, juniors don't start running advanced courses until they are 16 years old. From an experience standpoint, they are still in that early period where they are learning to read the patterns on map and match them to what they see in the terrain. Whereas most adults don't really grasp the concept of constant contact until after they are able to do it, the top juniors have mastered it on the intermediate course and are trying hard to run that way on the advanced course. The fact that they are struggling unsettles them.

Granted, it was really hot today, but it didn't seem like we were moving particularly fast. Anna's a faster runner than me, at least over short distances, but she is careful not to outrun her navigation. She slows down to check off features that I would normally note on the run and has no qualms about stopping completely to verify her position. However, at the end of the day, our pace would have been quite competitive at most local meets because there were no big mistakes.

Most adult orienteers get good at the outward indicators of going well first. They learn to run fast in the terrain, read the map on the run, change directions without hesitation, etc. Top juniors appear to be less adept at these things, but what's really happening is that they are sacrificing them in order to attain the much more important goal of staying in contact with the map. It's a strategy a lot of us older runners could put to good use.

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