Monday, July 25, 2011

Mileage decline

I've been feeling under prepared for the Voyageur 50 this coming weekend, so I decided to go back and look at my running logs to see just how I am doing relative to recent years. I was shocked at just how far my mileage has dropped off. Consider...

In 2009 I had run 1840 miles by late July, including an average of about 75 miles per week through June and Junly.

In 2010 I had run 1440 by the same date and but most of that drop off had been in the beginning of the year, and I had still been averaging 70 miles per week through June and July.

This year I have only covered 1100 miles to date, and have only been averaging about 45 miles per week over the last couple of months.


This got me thinking about the benefits of mileage in ultra running and broke them down into the following three categories; mental, metabolic, and anatomical fitness.

Certainly high mileage helps one prepare for the mental grind of an ultra race. In fact, if the goal is to just finish the race (as opposed to win or meet some time goal) this is probably the most important benefit of high mileage.

Another benefit of high mileage is that it encourages a change in metabolic fitness. This includes an increase in the mitochondrial count of the muscle cells, an increased reliance on using lipids over carbohydrates for energy, and even a change in the ratio of slow twitch to fast twitch muscle fibers.

Finally, there are the anatomical benefits. To me, this is just a matter of your muscles and joints getting used to the pounding that occurs over 50 miles, and developing the other muscles that your body begins to rely on after 30 miles or so that don't normally get used in shorter races.

So where do I stand? Well, we will see, but I am breaking it down as follows. I think I am in good shape in terms of mental fitness. I ran three 50 mile races last year, and it seems that this is a type of fitness that you lose only very slowly. I still know what to expect, and I know that I can push through the inevitable difficult periods. I also think that I am also OK in terms of metabolic fitness. Not great, but OK. This type of fitness also is lost only relatively slowly. Also, I have been doing some cross training and that will help here. Where I will really be suffering is with my anatomical fitness. Here is where specificity of training is most useful. Even in the Half Voyageur I ran last weekend, I was getting aches in muscles and tendons I don't normally think about. I shudder to think about how my legs will be feeling after 40 miles.

My guess is that it will hurt, and it will be slow, but I will finish and by doing so, I will be increasing my fitness in all three areas for my next event.

Friday, July 22, 2011

It's Time to End the War on Salt


"This week a meta-analysis of seven studies involving a total of 6,250 subjects in theAmerican Journal of Hypertension found no strong evidence that cutting salt intake reduces the risk for heart attacks, strokes or death in people with normal or high blood pressure. In May European researchers publishing in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that the less sodium that study subjects excreted in their urine—an excellent measure of prior consumption—the greater their risk was of dying from heart disease. These findings call into question the common wisdom that excess salt is bad for you, but the evidence linking salt to heart disease has always been tenuous."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

New Balance Minimus Trail

Like many who read Christopher McDougall's book "Born to Run" a couple of years ago, I became interested in the minimal running shoe trend. I quickly bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers' KSOs. I enjoyed wearing them around the house, and working out in them, but I ended up stubbing my toes whenever I tried running trails with them.

Soon, other companies began to spill out various versions of minimal footwear that were more accessible than VFFs. They tended to be easier to fit into, plus they looked like real shoes so you didn't have to answer as many questions about them. Last summer I got a pair of Inov-8's X-Talon 212s. These were light weight and very flexible, plus I really liked the super sticky outsole on more technical trails. I ran two 50 mile races in them last year with no problems. Interestingly, the only race I did have problems in last year was at the Surf the Murph 50 miler that I wore my very non-minimal Cascadia's by Brooks. I developed some overuse injury in my left foot after that race that prevented me from running for over a month.

This year I was going to get another pair of Inov-8 X-Talons until I started seeing ads for the New Balance Minimus shoes. I developed a pretty good case of shoe lust. They looked like the VFFs but with laces and without the individual toes. They have almost no cushioning, just a regular looking shoe over a Vibram outsole.

I've been wearing them on my runs, trails and roads, almost exclusively since I got them three weeks ago. They are very minimal; 7.1 oz with a 4mm heel drop and I have yet to have any problems with them. The real test was last weekend when I wore them during the Half Voyageur Trail Marathon. They performed very well with on the steep, muddy hills of the power lines, and on the wet rocks of the very technical trail right before you get to Carlton. They also dried very quickly after the inevitable streams and mud ponds.

Though I really like the Inov-8 X-Talons, I am going to be sticking with the NB Minimus for a while. I will definitely be wearing them during the full Voyageur 50 mile race next weekend. 

One note - they are designed to be a sock optional shoe. I have been wearing very light weight socks with mine, as I found that when I didn't I would get some rubbing in various places on my foot. At the Half Voyageur I wore Injinji toes sock, and didn't have any blisters at the end. As a bonus, I did have all of my toe nails.

New Balance also makes a Minus Life shoe, meant to be worn for walking. I am looking at getting a pair of these as well.

Monday, July 18, 2011

An interview

RJ: So, this is your second attempt at keeping a blog, is it not?

Ross: Yes. My first attempt was a miserable failure.

RJ: How so?

Ross: Nobody was interested, least of all myself. I posted maybe six times over a period of one year.

RJ: Yikes. So this is a reboot? How will things be different?

Ross: Definitely a reboot. I can't do anything about other people's interest, but I can at least be interested in it myself. I am going to expand the topics to include all of my obsessions, not just running. That will give me more to post about. Plus, in those times when I am getting burnt out with running, or just feeling down and unwilling to share about my running, I will have a diversion.

RJ: Will it be more entertaining?

Ross: Probably not, except to myself, I hope.

RJ: Are you going to be more committed to this use of your time?

Ross: That is the key question, isn't it? I have never been good at journaling. In school, whenever we were supposed to keep a journal, I would end up writing all of my entries they night before our journals were due. Even as a grad student, and later as a post doc, I was terrible at keeping my notebook up to date. I'm not optimistic, but we will see.

RJ: Formerly, your blog had been titled "The Rematch: Superior Trail Fall 50", how did that work out?

Ross: It was a push. My 2010 time was about the same as 2009, about 14:15. A little slower actually. However, with the heavy rain over night, the trails were much slower. Also, I felt about 50 times better at the finish than I did in 2008.

RJ: So what are your trail running goals now?

Ross: Right now I am hoping to finish my first 100K, with my sights set on the Wild Duluth 100K this fall. After that, I am looking towards doing a 100M next year, maybe the Zumbro 100.