Life, Running, & Medicine.
Notes on life as I see it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Caution: Running Must Merge with Oncoming Life

My long run for the weekend was cancelled due to a) illness in the family pet saturday morning that required a 6:30am vet trip b) rain the rest of Saturday and c) a commitment to take on hardwood floor installation for a small bedroom in our house Sunday.

I did manage to get in 6 miles last night at the Power's Ferry Park on the Chatahoochie River and another six this morning in the neighborhood. I wanted to do more this morning but I only got about 3 hours of sleep last night and that took its toll.

And FYI the hardwood floors were installed to set the platform for an elliptical trainer (just ordered the Sole Fitness E35 model last night). We put down a vertical bamboo flooring (nail-down), given its softness probably not the best for a home gym, but it looks great and serves as the trial room for doing the other bedroom floors later. We've been looking at ellipticals for some time, and while I definitely prefer actually running, a few pros come to mind: great low impact workout for a pavement break or when injured, my wife will use it, and just anything inside my house will effectively double my opportunities for a workout. I'll leave a full review in a few weeks after I give the elliptical a whirl.

Later this week starts a tough block of several months at work for me, making training even more difficult. So far I have been doing good with my mid week runs but have missed my long weekender twice now. Good news is my pace has been improving on my shorter runs.

I was hoping to shoot for a PR for the Komen Race For the Cure 5K in Atlanta May 10th. If I feel as good then as I have been lately it is a possibility.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Good Week

So I'm finally feeling like I'm back on the bandwagon again.  Did a 10 miler Monday, and while the first five were brutal my breathing and muscles finally leveled out and I found a groove.  I could've run a couple more (but alas! I must return to work).  Today I followed it up with a 6 miler.  My legs were sore, but I'm glad to say they were the right kind of sore.  Cardio-wise I felt great.
I'm planning a longish run this weekend, probably around 12 miles or so early Sunday morning.
Also, a followup on my new Nike Equalon+ 2 shoes - I've been alternating running with those and with my Saucony's.  While I still notice myself everthing my right foot, I am conscious of it now and actively work on correcting it when running (It especially becomes apparent when I fatigue).  I've had no further problem with the Nike's rubbing my inner toe despite my asymmetric running.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Lactate Threshold & Maximum Sustained Heart Rate

Multi-step process for estimating Anaerobic Threshold using Maximal Sustained Heart Rate:
This is fundamentally different from the other two methods I posted previously in that you are estimating a heart rate that corresponds to your anaerobic threshold, NOT a specific pace.  Using this method your pace will vary a bit, but the idea is to run at a specific heart rate regardless of pace.  This is probably more accurate.
This technique is quite laborious and requires repeated 45 minute runs on a treadmill.  The premise is that your LT correlates very well to the maximal heart rate sustainable (HRms) for a thirty minute period.  It is described in Vobejda C et al. Estimating MLSS From Heart Rate … Int J Sports Med 2006; 27: 368–372.
STEP 1: Initially you should set your target HR at 165 or 175.
  1. First you need a heart rate monitor that measures and outputs in real time.
  2. Get on a treadmill, adjust grade to 1%.  Slowly increase pace over 15 minutes until you hit your target HR.
  3. Run for 30 more minutes at this target HR.  Continuously adjust the pace up or down to keep your target HR.
  4. If you must stop early, then stop early ("exhaustion")
STEP 2:  Next we start repeating the test, with a 1-2 day break in between, adjusting target HR.
  • Increase your target HR by 10 beats and redo the test above.
  • When you reach an unsustainable target HR (exhaustion), redo the test above but decrease your target by 5 beats.
  • The goal is to zero-in on the max HR you can sustain for 30 minutes (HRms) regardless of pace.
Note that this estimates your LT as a heart rate, not a running pace.  So to train using this method you need to constantly adjust your pace in order to maintain your personal HRms.  As you continue to train at your HRms won't change much but your pace at the HRms will improve.
An example:
Martha runs on a treadmill, starting slow and building up speed over 15 minutes until her heart rate is 165 (for her an 8 min/mile pace).  Over the next 30 minutes she is able to keep her heart rate 165 by slowly decreasing her pace to 9 min/mile.  The next day she gets on the treadmill and slowly increases pace until her heart rate is 175 (a 7:45 pace), and is able to maintain HR 175 for 30 minutes by decreasing her pace somewhat as she runs.  On day 3 Martha runs again and reaches HR 185 (a 7:00 pace).  She struggles to keep from exhausting.  Finally despite reducing the pace she is too fatigued to keep up a pace high enough to give her HR 185 and she quits early.  On day 4 Martha redoes to the test, slowly increasing pace to get her HR to 180 (7:30 pace).  She is able to run for 30 minutes at a HR 180, even though reducing her pace to 8:30.  So Martha's HRms is between 180 and 185.
Martha can then tailor her runs in the in the future to keep a 180-185 heart rate (by wearing a HR monitor and adjusting pace).  This will build her endurance the fastest.  If Martha is in "pretty good shape" to begin with her HRms probably won't change, but her distance running pace should improve.  I suspect that if Martha was "a little fluffy" still her HRms would creep up after further training.
Let me know if anyone has tried this method.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Already back in a rut?

My planned "long run" in Kiawah Island last week turned into a 10K jog Saturday before heading back to Georgia.  It was the hottest run (about 80 degrees and sunny) I've done since last summer.  I ran the first couple miles along the beach, the cut back through the forest trails to our villa.  A wintertime marathon in Kiawah is awesome I bet.  I will have to add it to the list one of these years.
That being done I ran some at work monday night but got cut short by the ER.  I wound up with 5 3/4 miles of farklet-style training.  The run was quick, I felt strong.  But this morning's 6miler was all-but brutal.  My average pace well above 10 minutes.  I just don't get it - last week had the pace down to about 9 1/2, now almost a minute slower.  Once again I am amazed at my fluctuations.  [Note to self I did gorge on pizza and heavy stout beer last night]
I plan to next run Thursday or Friday then a longish run over the weekend (11 is on the marathon training schedule).

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Re: The Lactate Threshold

In reference to Brian's question about the lactate threshold (LT):
[Insert here a disclaimer that (a) I am not an exercise physiologist and (b) everything published below is available from a quick google search]
LT is essentially a physiologic state at which lactate begins to accumulate in your body (your blood specifically).  For energy, your body breaks down glucose into an intermediary called pyruvate.  Under aerobic conditions your body then must INPUT a little energy into the Kreb's Cycle to fully break the pyruvate down and get OUT the most energy possible.  This is very efficient and allows for the maximal "bang for the buck" in terms of energy per sugar molecule.  The problem is that when your body is really pushing hard you run out of the energy needed to jump start the Kreb's Cycle, so the pyruvate can't get fully metabolized.  This is when we switch to anaerobic metabolism.
In anaerobic metabolism the pyruvate gets fermented into lactate, which created energy as byproduct.  It is faster but produces far less energy per sugar molecule.  The lactate accumulates either until you rest and it gets converted back into pyruvate and enters the Kreb's Cycle, or it finds its way to the liver to get turned into sugar.  Basically, lactate accumulation is a marker for your body entering an anaerobic state.
We care about LT because studies have shown that LT is the best predictor of endurance sport success.  In other words, winning runners have to run faster to accumulate lactate than losing runners.  It follows then that training to specifically raise your LT will get us quicker faster.  This is a little odd because we generally consider distance running to be an aerobic sport, so it is counter-intuitive that training anaerobically is useful.  I think of it as improving aerobic 'reserve'.  Most recommendations for improving LT have to do with training at or just above your personal LT.  Interval and Fartlek trainings aim to do this (interval trainings shoot well above your LT, Fartlek aim to be just at or slightly above).
Really determining your LT requires serial blood tests at various training intensities, to literally measure when lactate blood levels start to rise.  This is preposterous for most of us.
The two easiest (but less accurate) methods for determining LT are the following:
  1. Heart Rate Method.  At 85-90% of maximal heart rate (MHR=220-age) you are at your LT.  For those badly out of shape its more like 60% of MHR (in which case you shouldn't be doing LT training yet).  This varies between individuals so I would make sure this is concordant with the Race Pace method below (for runners).
  2. Race Pace Method.  Your 15K race pace roughly approximates your LT.  If you run less, use your 10K pace minus 20 seconds or your 5K pace minus 30 seconds.
In short, LT training aims to be an efficient method of training for endurance events (do fewer miles but do them harder). 
Good sources for LT info:

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Kiawah this Week

Later today I'm headed out to Kiawah Island, SC for one of those "doctor conferences".  I hear there's pretty good running there - they host a marathon every year.  Most notable though is the golf at Kiawah, arguably the best in the SE United States.  I'm still a 100+ golfer, but lately have been driving and pitching well, which makes the game A LOT more fun.
So far still on my (new) marathon training schedule, even ahead a little.  After the half last week I took Monday off, I ellipticalled for 450kcal Tuesday, then 700 Wednesday.  Friday I did what I guess you'd call a "lactate threshold" run on the treadmill for 30 minutes, just over 600kcal (20/minute) at a constant 7mph but the "hills program".  My Friday treadmill LT run was with the new Nikes, which gave no probs.
Monday this week I ran about 6 on the road with the new Nikes.  Disturbingly they gave a little trouble... The inside bottom edge of the right great toe was getting worn by the Nike sidewall.  No blister formed but it got pretty tender.  After further analyzing my gait it looks like I follow with my right foot everted just a little, making a little extra medial-to-lateral force on my right great toe.  This caused my toe to put extra pressure on the medial sidewall of the shoe.  Hopefully I don't always run like that.  Maybe I was splinting a little from a hard week last week?
I put back on the old Saucony's today for a 6 miler.  No problems.  I paid special attention to gait, and it seems I do have a tendency to evert my right foot.  I forced it straight today.
ll try to get in one or two longish runs in Kiawah (my schedule calls for a single 10 miler once more this week).  I'm only bringing the new Nikes.
See you out there!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

New Feet: Nike Air Equalon+ 2

My Saucony Hurricane 8's have been excellent running partners the past few months, but alas they hit 400 miles just before the ING Georgia Half Marathon last weekend.  Before they totally go to the dogs I went ahead and made the investment in a new pair of shoes.  Previously I had only been a discount shoe shopper (got the hurricanes on discontinuation clearance for $60), but with my longer and longer runs and a marathon on the line I decided to get fit by the "pros".
I went down to Phidippides in Atlanta to get checked out by the experts.  I sort of had a suspicion I might be a pronator (given that most people are, and the suspicious wear pattern on my sole) but have never done any sort of critical analysis before.  I was never in love with my old Reebok's or New Balances, then some Asics came along that were nice at the time but mostly because they were slightly better than the NB's, then the Saucony's were here and I loved them.  They looked and felt a bit like boats on my feet but the cushioning and motion control were awesome... turns out its cause they are really good for pronators who like cushioning.
So playing total dumb with the salesguy/gait analyzer today my top two shoe picks were the Saucony Hurricane 10 and the Nike Air Equalon+2.  I honestly could not tell them apart from a cushioning standpoint.  The Nike has a metatarsal cushion that is noticeable but actually quite comfortable.  It aims to keep the metatarsal heads from crunching into one another.  The Hurricane 10 has a more low profile upper that is much less boat-like, and boasts a full-sole "progrid".  They were priced at $130 each.  Interestingly the rep had me up my shoesize by 1/2... I've always felt like a 9 3/4 size, but usually buy 9 1/2's.  The size 10 gives a little more breathing room for the feet, but still good support.  Also I was told I probably have a slightly wider foot than just regular, something I never thought before.  They say not really a full size wider, just that I need to be sure to pick a shoe that doesn't squeeze much.  The final determining factor was that the Hurricane 10's were same color as my current shoes and I wanted something new! [have also heard some warnings about getting too addicted to the same shoe]
We will see over the course of the next month or so how the Nike's pan out.  I will try to max out their life by keeping them on road and wearing the Saucony's still quite a bit, before they go the way of the Asics and get retired to the OR.