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.
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
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.
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).
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.