Saturday, July 3, 2010


"If you start to feel good during an ultra, dont' worry you will get over it." - Gene Thibeault

Well, I must say that a lot of the wind has blown out of the World Cup sail with the USA taking an overtime nosedive out of the competition losing to Ghana. I mean, Ghana...really? I know I said the size of the dog doesn't really matter in the game of soccer, but Ghana...really? Actually, yesterday, Ghana and Uruguay played one of the most exciting soccer games you'd want to see and Ghana literally snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Lots of upsets. Tournament favorite, Brazil has bitten the African serengeti. Both finalists from the last World Cup are out...France went so shamfully out that their soccer federation made them fly home by Coach instead of First Class, and I'm still trying to figure out who was wearing the Italian jersies. At least we're still the best at faking injuries...why? Because we practice, practice, practice. (Don't believe me? View this funny 30 second video ). England got completely pummeled by Germany. I wish all of you could listen to the England sports talk shows like I do (thank goodness for the internet). Believe me, this material is much better than any SEC football stuff. There are Englishmen about to renounce their citizenship. So, now I don't really have a dog in the World Cup fight anymore, so I can just sit back and enjoy soccer at it's supposed highest level. One more week before we can pack up the vuvuzelas. OK, if I haven't put you all to sleep, let's talk some running.
Last Sunday I was running with Bob Evans and I asked him how his training was going. Bob is training to do his first Half Ironman Triathlon (70.3 miles) in September and is raising money for Leukemia research through Team-in-Training (see Bob's fundraising site: As long as I'm around, I'll never for the life of me figure out how anybody has enough time to train for a triathlon. I barely have time to slip on shoes and head out the door, never mind figuring out the logistics of getting in training for running, biking, and swimming. I mean, c'mon, biking is not just riding around the block - a good long ride will take you through several zipcodes, counties, and social structures of humanity. You have to outride dogs that look like something from Avatar, change flats in the middle of nowhere, and try to ignore the hootin' and hollerin' from country folk that make the guys in Deliverance look like a step up. Then there's the swimming. Got to get to the pool before the masses show up or head to the State Park and hope all your shots are up to date. My hat is off to all of you, and the longer your tri is, the bigger my hat is. Anyway, to get back to Bob...I've known him for several years as a runner and this tri thing is relatively new, however, he told me, surprisingly, the running is his most difficult discipline of the three. "How can I get faster for the Half Marathon after the bike and swim?". I guess I should mention, that, like Coach AL, Bob hates track work. So, I started thinking that getting faster in the running portion of a long tri event should be no different than getting faster in a marathon or an ultramarathon. So let's look at a couple of strategies to improve speed and endurance in the running portion of a multi-hour triathlon.
OK, if you want to get faster, you have to train faster. Training at 10 minute miles is not going to get you a 4 hour marathon (9 minute miles). You have to teach the body that you're serious about moving from A to B faster than you used to. So, just like any other daunting project, you break it down into smaller pieces. In my many years of experience (remember, veteran runners say experience instead of mistakes, bumps in the road, and trial & error), I found that hands down, if you want to run a faster marathon, Yasso 800's is the most effective method I can offer. Named after the Runner's World writer, Bart Yasso, it's so simple, it's crazy. First you have to have a time goal - say 4 hours for the marathon, or 2 hours for the half - then you go to a measured half mile course (doesn't have to be a track), and you run. The goal is to run the half mile IN MINUTES what your marathon goal is in hours. Huh? Ok, in this example, you run the half mile in 4 minutes (for a 4 hour marathon)...or 4 minutes, 30 seconds for a 4:30 marathon goal. If you have a half marathon goal, you double that HM time to get a marathon equivalent so you know your half mile goal...a 2 hour Half Marathon would still mean 4 minute half mile laps. In the past, I found the most efficient interval was to walk about 2-3 minutes between each repeat. Start with three to four repeats the first session and gradually build to about 12 over the next two months. Do them once a week. As with all your training, if you have someone to share the misery with, it helps. This method does work!! You just have to be consistent. The tendency is that as you improve, you'll want to run your laps faster. DON'T. The object is that your goal pace will feel easier to do. Why? Because you're stronger, you're producing energy more efficiently, and you're learning to recover from fatigue quicker. Don't keep pushing the fragile envelope.
I asked Bob how long this event would take him and he mentioned probably about 6 hours. Now, the body has absolutely no idea what you're doing. It just knows it has to keep breaking down stuff (carbohydrates & fats) and convert into usable energy. It has to keep throwing coal in the engine. With training for an ultramarathon, you do longer runs to get to that close-to depleted stage OR you run back to backs. This is my favorite method for teaching the body to squeeze the most efficiency in sparing the precious carbohydrates as a primary fuel supply. See, we have a limited amount of carbs and a ton (not literally) of fats. Unfortunately, energy is derived from carbs MUCH easier than from fats, so we have to cajole the energy Gods into accepting fats as an acceptable primer for energy. We could run for hours in training till we run close to dry OR we can run long (say 20 miles)on one day, not replenish the lost carbohydrates after the run, and run semi-long (say 15 miles) the next day. We begin that 2nd run depleted, and voila, we're teaching our body "My-way-or-the-hiway" and it quickly sees that you're serious and the grand transformation takes place. Your ability for doing long endurance events improves significantly while reducing your chance of an injury due to the fatigue of a multi-hour training run. The 20/15 back-to-backs may be pretty ambitious to those training for shorter than a full marathon, but I think the minimum to get usefullness from this method is probably 15 miles the first day and 12 miles the next.
Ok folks, that's about it from near-earth orbit. I just realized the Tour de France begins this weekend. Can't they space this stuff out? Overlapping with the World Cup just won't work. I wonder if France can screw up the Tour as bad as they did their soccer team. I hope you all have a happy and healthy (eating excluded) 4th of July. I'll see you all on the red, white and blue roads. Remember to email me if you have any questions or topics you'd like me to address - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

1 comment:

Gretchen said...

Al is my hero!