I was looking for some running motivation at the start of the year. I enjoy races but I don’t need to do them very often. So when I was invited to run 46 miles in the Grand Canyon I said heck yeah! That was end of February. With just over two months to train for a long self supported run with 11k feet of elevation, I decided I should hire a coach. So I’m working with Tim Long who is putting together a training schedule that has me running nearly every day, and pushing myself harder than I have ever done. The workouts can be exhausting but it feels good after.
Last week I had a 4 hour run with hills on the schedule for Friday. I drove up to Pantoll Station on Mt Tam and ran four very strong hours down to Stinson Beach and back up Steep Ravine. Then down the super fast and fun Ben Johnson trail before climbing out the Lost Trail and finally, ending with a nice climb on the Dipsea. I felt really strong throughout the run even though I was trying to set a vigorous pace. I drank a lot of water and took a Gu every 30 minutes. This is new for me as I’ve always done every 45 minutes. The 30 minutes makes a *huge* difference for me. I didn’t feel very sluggish and felt alert and awake the whole drive home, and stayed out late that night. I felt great!
I like this chart because it clearly shows I’m spending most of my time in zone 2 which is where I want to be during a long run.
Today’s training called for 6 x 4 minute hill repeats. Luckily I live close to Divisadero and Lombard which is at the bottom of a steep six hill climb. I ran hard the whole 4 minutes and pushed it the hardest on the 4th interval. You’ll see this at the 40 minute mark. I was pretty spent after that as you see my hr didn’t get back to 160 in the last two repeats.
I like the charts. The first is the hill elevation profile. It’s like a dragon’s mouth. The second is my hr overlayed with the elevation. Cool stuff!
I wish I had recorded some vitals like body fat percentage and resting heart rate etc when I started so I could see what effect 31 days of running consecutively has. I definitely saw fat just melting away from my midsection which is always a challenge for me to lose it. Overall I felt more energy and clear headed as running is a great stress reducer for me.
In case you’re wondering, no, I did not run on February 1. I was too worried I’d convince myself to go the whole year running every day, which was my original idea.
On our training schedule, Sundays are noted as ‘Run on Tired Legs’. On Saturdays we have our long runs (we’re now up to 12+ miles) and for the first month of training the last thing I wanted to do the next day is run again. So for the first few Sundays, rather than run, I counted my walking around the city as my ‘tired legs workout’. I mean, have you seen the hills in San Francisco? They’re a workout in themselves.
But these past two Sundays I decided to go out for a real run and I’ve made running from my place to the Golden Gate Bridge and back my recovery run. It’s a flat 6 mile run that never gets old as there’s always people watching and sailboats and the bridge to watch. And after running up and down hills the day before, it’s a welcome change of pace to just run flat. I can definitely say though that running on concrete and asphalt puts more shock and impact on the body, especially the knees and hips. Trail runs cushion a lot of that.
A couple of coaches and experienced runners I’ve talked to say the recovery run is one of the most important parts of the training schedule. It makes your legs work a bit harder before you rest them for the next two days and this process helps build up strength. It’s too early for me to tell that for myself but one observation I can share is that it definitely makes for a more tired Sunday. Both weeks I’ve come home and needed to take a nap.
Additional research has shown that when athletes begin a workout with energy-depleted muscle fibers and lingering muscle damage from previous training, the brain alters the muscle recruitment patterns used to produce movement. Essentially, the brain tries to avoid using the worn-out muscle fibers and instead involves fresher muscle fibers that are less worn out precisely because they are less preferred under normal conditions.