Thursday, September 17, 2009

In Search of the Perfect Run

As Viper said to Mavrick "A good runner is compelled to evaluate what's happened, so he can apply what he's learned. Up there, we gotta push it. That's our job. It's your option, Lieutenant. All yours."

I love that quote, and the movie. It came out at time when I was younger and could recover from just about anything overnight. I was not a runner then. I was a Marine, we didn't walk anywhere, we ran, or did push ups. I ran when
told and didn't really enjoy it though I ran much faster than I do now. The fastest and easiest run I ever had was in High School.

I remember it, a crystal clear spring day in Boulder just before graduation. I would run in gym class with my friend Mark. We ran with the ease of teenagers and paid no attention to running. It was about horse play and not sitting in a class room. It meant talking about girls and what we would do the following summer. I was off to boot camp, he was a year younger and his summer would be spend hanging out with friends and deciding what the future held in store.
We would power down the hill from the school and out for a couple miles oblivious to the altitude and effort. But the perfect run, the one that I remember to this day came at a cost.

I still remember getting the call that weekend. Mark and another friend, Jeff had been in an accident. A drunk driver ran a stop sign landing Jeff in the hospital and Mark gone from our lives. The following Monday, I found myself in the locker room without my running buddy. Lacing up my shoes I headed out with the class, but alone. I flew down the familiar hill and out away from the school and to this day, 30 years later I know it was the fastest and furthest I ever ran. Everything clicked and it was the easiest run physically I have ever known despite the angst and the tears. Just over a week later I was standing on yellow footprints being yelled at by USMC Drill Instructors and the running was never without urgency and purpose

It would be ma
ny years before I ran again for pleasure, for clearing my head, reaching a goal, or just to enjoy a beautiful day. But that run after Mark's death has never been far from my thoughts. It's hard to express the feeling that memory evokes and I have backspaced and edited this last paragraph much as much as I rolled over in my head what was it about that run, how do I recreate it and apply it forward. Maybe, like the MiG in Top Gun, I just need to relax about it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Bachus and the Numbers (or, an unscientific study of the effects of hydration on running)

I am a pretty diligent runner when it comes to the numbers. Negative splits, hitting my pace targets, training to Lactate Threshold, Easy Pace, Marathon Pace, Tempo Pace etc. Once I have my training plan in place I work to stick to it and I have seen my speed and endurance increase.

I have read with some detachment the effects of hydration or rather dehydration and pride myself on keeping well hydrated. Here in Chico we "enjoy" some fairly blistering summers and you get pretty acquainted with the need to hydrate.

I had a bit of an epiphany during this last weekends long run though. My friend Bill E. is a great guy, solid runner and a great sense of humor. We are pretty evenly matched and I enjoy running with him when I get t
he chance. Bill has been telling me of late that he has been reading up on training better along in your heart rate zones and had been feeling that he wasn't giving his ole ticker the rest it needed at times. He got me thinking about it and I have begun wearing my heart rate monitor and paying a bit more attention. Of course I was not the least concerned; those who follow my blog know I have wrestled with going on statins and have done a cardiac stress test and according to the sage Doc M. I have "the max heart rate of a 32 year old." But we digress.

Saturday dawned a bit cloudy as the marathon and half marathon training groups I am helping coach set off for our weekly
long run. Today's workout: half mile warm up, plyo's, stretching then off for a 10 mile loop round Bidwell Park. First mile at easy pace then step it up to race pace and hold it for the remainder.
Bill and I fell into an easy rhythm and trotted out our run talking about heart rates, the weather and our target times for C.I.M. I noticed that while I felt pretty normal for the pace, Bill seemed to be having a bit of an easier time of it and finished looking obviously more at ease than I.
In comparing our numbers we were dead matched except for the heart rate. His was a solid 20 BPH lower than mine! I had done everything I normally do before a long run, same breakfast, same amount of sleep, same basic type of meal the night before and I didn't feel bad, just my hea
rt rate seemed elevated and it took a bit longer to get back to normal.
The only thing different was a couple of glasses of wine the night before. I felt no effects from the wine, went to bed and woke up clear headed and got roughly the same amount of sleep and had essentially the same diet.

Conducting a bit of an experiment I went out after a good day and a halfs rest for a recovery run and really kept an eye on my heart rate. After a couple mile at easy pace, with my heart rate solidly where it is
supposed to be I stepped it back up to where Bill and I had been running and low and behold, almost 20 beats lower than the same pace just 36 hours previous!

Doing a bit of math, this whole debacle translated to my heart beating 2400 time more in a two hour period than normal. Extrapolating that to my marathon race pace that's roughly about two miles more that my heart runs due to the dehydration effects!! Not to mention the recovery time now needed at exercising my heart at 80-85% max as opposed to where it should have been, about 70%.

Now no one in their right mind has a couple of glasses of wine before a marathon, and candidly, the only reason I had any was because I planned on a leisurely long run not doing any race pace work. But we do frequently underestimate how hydrated we are and I certainly didn't realize how much harder my heart has to work to pump that thicker blood until I got to actually see the numbers and compare to someone who is in the same shape as I am.
Fall racing season is upon us and I for one, don't need to add these ghost miles to any of my upcoming endeavors!
Hydrate, pay attention to your training heart rates and enjoy the fruits of lord Bachus AFTER your accomplishment!
Tight Laces,