The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of High Mileage Training

Photo Credit: 長跑 Long Run (Marathon) by Flickr user See-ming Lee, used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo Credit: 長跑 Long Run (Marathon) by Flickr user See-ming Lee, used under a Creative Commons license.

One of the bigger areas of debate among runners and coaches is the tradeoff between quantity of miles (or kilometers, of course) and quality of miles.  With the growth of the “run less, run better” and Crossfit approaches to training, there is a temptation to believe that you as a runner can perform your best by landing on the quality side of this argument in your training and cutting down your mileage to the “minimum necessary.” There are plenty of success stories claiming to prove that these approaches work.

It is, however, important to distinguish between what “can work” and what “works best”.  Yes, you can improve your race results with a low quantity / high quality approach, particularly if you are a newer runner (and don’t run with so much intensity that you get injured), or a runner who has been away for awhile but has a good aerobic and athletic base.  But these gains are going to be limited in scope and over time, as your returns on investment will begin to fade.

Read the rest of The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of High Mileage Training »

Five Ways to Tune Up Your Tune-Up Race Strategy: Perfect 10 Case Study

Perfect 10 Race Start

One error many runners make is in the management of their tune-up races.  These training elements, when used properly, can be a powerful tool for providing physiological and psychological development, feedback on your progress, experience in managing pacing and other race-specific elements, and in dialing in your “A” race goal.  However, they can also quickly derail your training if overused or scheduled and executed improperly.

There are a couple of more common mistakes in the management of tune-up races that you should watch out for (and it’s an area I work closely with Team Predawn Runner members in planning and avoiding).

Read the rest of Five Ways to Tune Up Your Tune-Up Race Strategy: Perfect 10 Case Study »

From the Archives:
Book Review – Once a Runner

Once a Runner, originally written in 1978 by John Parker, has gained renewed interest in the past few years, ranking #15on the Amazon best-seller list in the Running and Jogging category as of March 28, 2011. It has, as one reviewer put it, become a sort of “cult hit,” likely in line with the ongoing “running boom” spreading through the US and beyond. I was turned on to this book by the passages and summaries shared by Bob Kujawski on dailymile, and read it during my flights on a recent trip to Thailand.

Once a Runner is available in hardcover, paperback, and Kindle editions from Amazon.com

Parker combines his talents as a journalist and a collegiate track star into a gripping and fast-moving chronicle of the journey of fictional Quenton Cassidy. Cassidy is a competitive Division I collegiate runner chasing what seems like the “easy” goal of shaving a few hundredths of a second (<0.5%) off of his mile time to break the 4:00 barrier during his senior season. While this would seem an accomplishment that should happen by mere chance of a favorable field, surface, or weather, the sacrifices Cassidy must make and disciplined life he must follow are inspiring or, for those of a lesser stomach, perhaps discouraging.

Set on the campus of a fictional Southeastern Conference (SEC) school generically named Southeastern University (and based on the University of Florida, which Parker attended), the northern Florida seasons play a big role in not only carrying the timeline of the story but also in setting the mood. It begins with the lingering heat of the fall cross country season, a sport which Cassidy views as a necessary evil on the path to spring glory on the track. The perpetually cloudy and wet winter months bring the indoor season, with draining trips to the frigid Northeast and Midwest providing hot meets and a path to self-discovery. Winter finally melts into the passions of spring, in which life heats up in more ways than one for Cassidy.

The characters that surround Cassidy, from the Olympic-hero-cum-doctorate-student Bruce Denton to the hot-shot freshman Jack Nubbins, may run a bit stereotypical and indicative of the Vietnam War-era times. This is particularly true of Andrea, the girlfriend who represents the emerging independent-thinking college woman despite what might be perceived as an upbringing as a traditional southern belle. These characters do bring color to the story and keep it from being overly sport-focused, perhaps broadening its appeal.

Beyond the anecdotes of college dormitory revelry and rivalry, with pranks and other tales which could provide for a passable book on their own accord, the true inspiration and intensity comes from following along on Cassidy’s training, both physical and mental. Some aspects are of the “don’t try this at home” variety – few if any programs call for an interval workout that results in bloody urine. What stands out is the all-consuming commitment necessary to make the seemingly slight performance gains necessary to advance from college elite to world-class.  It is fascinating to follow the deep and profound thinking of young Cassidy as he struggles to cope with the isolation needed to focus exclusively on his training. While it would seem easy to slide over the edge into injury, burnout, or despair, and there are incidences in which Cassidy toes that line, one of the beauties of youth is the ability to continually push back that fringe, something us older runners can’t so casually enjoy.

In conclusion, Once a Runner has aged well, and Parker was either wise or fortunate in avoiding dating the book by too much reference to Vietnam or 1960′s popular culture. While, as Bob Kujawaki warned, you do need to invest a bit in learning the names early, it is otherwise a brisk read that is hard to put down. The book is well-paced with the right balance of intelligent philosophical reflection and on-the-track action. And the end is gripping – I stayed up late after a 2:30AM arrival in Thailand just to finish the story.

I can’t wait to read Parker’s 30-year-later sequel, Again to Carthage. In portraying an older Quenton Cassidy’s quest for the marathon as a path to rediscovery, it would seem to promise even more inspiration for this middle-aged marathoner (sans college track glory). In fact, it is calling from my bag on this flight to Houston right now.

Tags: , , ,
Posted in Books by Greg. 10 Comments

Running Shoe Review: Pearl Izumi Project E:Motion Road N1

PI Road N1 Side

It’s not often that I spontaneously buy a new type of running shoe.  But that was the position I found myself in when I went with my wife to help her pick out some new shoes at the best shoe store in the area, Vertical Runner in Hudson, OH.

First, I think a bit of a lesson is in order – be careful in trusting the expertise of running shoe salespeople, especially when it’s not a running-focused store.  My wife got her first shoes from someone who had been “trained by Brooks” on selecting shoes.  While the young lady got one variable right (neutral running form), she missed a few other key ingredients.  My wife spends most of her work day in high heels as a hospital administrator, and has never really run before.  The Brooks Pure Cadence sounded good on paper, but the low drop and limited cushioning were a complete miss.  Fortunately, the store took the shoes back after ~20 miles, so we decided to go to a better source for try #2 (note, I had intentionally removed myself from try #1, to let my wife find her own space in developing as a runner). Read the rest of Running Shoe Review: Pearl Izumi Project E:Motion Road N1 »

Tags: , , ,
Posted in Gear by Greg. 2 Comments

Seven Ways to Support Your Significant Other’s Interest in Running

Photo Credit: FUN RUN by Flickr user whologwhy, used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo Credit: FUN RUN by Flickr user whologwhy, used under a Creative Commons license.

Many runners are in a relationship where they are the only one pursuing the sport. Obviously, partners in a relationship can have divergent interests, that either predate the relationship or developed over time.  This is a good thing, as everyone needs their own “thing”, and their time to themselves.  Plus, running is a hobby that consumes a lot of time, and it can be difficult to balance with other needs like childcare – though hopefully you are doing your fair share of more of the work and supporting your partner’s own hobbies.

However, given the great physical and mental health benefits of running, which you are hopefully humbly putting on display through your fitness and good demeanor, it’s probably far more likely that your significant other (for simplicity, let’s just assume it is a spouse, and more specifically a wife, since Mrs. Predawn Runner has just started running) will develop an interest in running than in, say, golf or poker (especially poker). Or perhaps she just wants to have something more in common, something to talk about, or another way to spend time together.

Read the rest of Seven Ways to Support Your Significant Other’s Interest in Running »

Nine Helpful Tips on Your Running Form

Photo Credit: Dismal Days 2012 on Flickr by US Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District, used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo Credit: Dismal Days 2012 on Flickr by US Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District, used under a Creative Commons license.

A few Team Predawn Runner members have asked for help with their form of late. I’ve also been asked to provide some thoughts on the running form of one of the kindergarten soccer players coach.  My response? Maybe it’s a little early to worry about that…

Form is a tricky topic and in fact a bit of a “bunny hole”, particularly when coaching online. That’s partly because form is highly subjective and individual, and therefore “messing with it” can often be counterproductive. Since it is a common concern runners have, it’s worth sharing a few thoughts on a “form philosophy” that I’ve built over the years. Read the rest of Nine Helpful Tips on Your Running Form »