Going out Fast. Or slow.

Shared by a runner who calls this her nemesis. Love her humor.
There was a time I could pretty much take off running right out of the locker room or truck door. My first mile or so would be a bit slower at a given heart rate, but it wasn't anything that really called attention to itself.

For the past year I've noticed a distinct change: my first hundred yards or so are just downright painful, and the first couple of miles I feel like I'm running dressed in armor. Along about mile 2 everything settles in, my breathing becomes easier, my pace picks up at a stable HR.

Along with other changes I see as time goes by, I've quietly filed it away as Well, this is what happens as a runner moves into another decade of life.

I learn from my own experience, but what I learn is always richer and more complex when I stay open to the learnings of others who share. In this week's posting at Sweat Science, Alex Hutchinson reports on a recently published study exploring pacing of workout sessions.

Of particular interest to me was his offhanded reference to oxygen kinetics.

That's where my research curiosity kicked in.

Jonathan Savage, a software-engineer runner with a most informative blog, explains it as the time it takes for oxygen delivery to respond to the demands of exercise. Here's his elegant graphic:

Now that I've got a name for my experience, it's an easy search, vo2 kinetics and age, and quickly any number of links show up. The short version?

Oxygen Update Kinetics of Older Humans are Slowed With Age.

As with every other age-related effect, I can choose to succumb to the reality, or I can work more systematically and with more purpose on my level of conditioning.

And I'll no doubt do some of each, depending on what else is going on in my life or the world.


Still running, still learning, still in the fresh air.

North Boulder Ranch, October 2014.
A while since an entry, but my habits persist.

Eighteen to 20 miles a week, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, never the same route twice in a row.


Urban trail run.

Under a springtime sky.
With the changing of the season, trail running has been on my mind. While the athletic activity in running is rewarding to me, at heart I run to be outside enjoying this beautiful world we've been given. On my off-days from running I hike and I bike. It's all sweet.

(I've been known to use a treadmill in recuperation phases from injuries. The running part of it feels good, the sweat is just as delicious, the breathing is invigorating. But it doesn't touch my soul.)

Often in the lowlands of Boulder Valley (elevation 5600 feet or so) I'll run neighborhoods and enjoy the landscaping, the university campus for the architecture and landscaping, the foothills for the grasses and trees and rocks and creeks--the landscaping. And of course the creek path system, all a carefully designed natural landscape. No matter where I run in my area here, the air and the humidity are comfortable and comforting.

This week, still easing back into a full distance regimen after the transition of working conditions, I did the garden landscaping at the Hawthorn Community Garden. With our garden at elevation still in early formative stages for the season I found encouragement and inspiration by seeing spring coming in in the valley. The fragrance of the grasses and the soils gave me energy to my fingertips. People are so clever in the way they lay out their plots of land, and as a community garden the variety is truly a work of art.

The loop around the garden space is about a mile, maybe a bit less--my gps was uncharged so I ran free of monitoring. Easy, flat, alternating surfaces of asphalt, gravel, woodchips, it was a splendid way to spend an hour or so.

Breathing. Waiting.
As I return to running I find my cardio and my skeleto-muscular system about at about equal levels of readiness, with a slight edge for better cardio conditioning. Last week I did a 4-mile run, easily within breath and HR target range, but felt a twinge of tenderness in my right knee the last half-mile or so. I kept my run today to 3 miles. It all felt great.


Springtime in the Indian Peaks.

Shadow reading the news.

Despite other changes in my daily life with my decision to invest full-time energies into my historic preservation work, my running routine continues to be Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday. That has served me well for 15 years or so, I enjoy it, and it's become an important part of my week.

For cross training on other days, I often bike in the warmer weather. In the cooler weather it's hiking or snowshoeing.

Outside my back door in the Indian Peaks region of the Colorado Rocky Mountains I step directly onto a trail system that weaves around some sections of the vast Roosevelt National Forest. For hiking it is incomparable. For running less so, for reasons I've noted elsewhere.

Moving into terrain further from home in the forest, this week I've discovered an entirely new network of trails to explore. They really are beautiful, and quite a bit of the network is trail that could be runnable, by which I mean it could allow me to do more than stay upright on rough terrain. Like, look around.

Here's a sample of it today, with my hiking / running companion reading her news along the way.

About a mile and a half into the hike today I had very good news myself. Springtime has officially arrived in our part of the forest.
Pasque Flowers, 04.30.14


Mountain Hiker.

Roosevelt National Forest, Colorado.
Though it's fun to post a good time on an event, and though good event times give me validating feedback for sustained, intelligent training and effort, I can't say I run primarily for speed. Were it so, I'd have arrived at different conclusions from exploring the Run Less Run Faster model.

No, what I come back to again and again is that I run to be outside, to breathe the fresh air, to soak in the glory of this beautiful world. Running simply helps me explore more territory than walking.

At the same time, often Less is More. As much as I enjoy running, love the rhythm, the chugachug breathing, the feel of muscles moving and feet pounding, I admit to some frustration when I'm on a mountain trail--which is of course my favorite running. The frustration comes from the focus required to stay upright without twisting an ankle. Trails are, after all and by definition, unfinished surfaces. In the Rocky Mountains, that means they are rocky.

Rolling Creek, Julie Kruger.
So when I run I watch the trail. At the same time, as a runner I'm scanning my body, my breathing, monitoring my effort. While I'm moving I miss out on perhaps 80% of the beautiful world I've immersed myself in.

As one of countless examples, at Caribou Ranch Open Space there is a segment where I am acutely aware
of this challenge. The east loop returning to the DeLonde Ranch from Bluebird Mine parallels the North Boulder Creek as it cascades down from the Arapahoe Glacier and the City of Boulder watershed. The trail follows a gracefully curving contour snaking gently downhill, through scattered chokecherry and rocky mountain maple trees, under magnificent ponderosa pines. The fragrance is heavenly. Beautiful.

But not for a runner. Treacherous is the word that comes to mind. Dance lightly, attentively, through and between and over the tops of scattered boulders. Run like the water of the stream. The entire distance. Take your choice, if you're a runner: enjoy the scenery, or enjoy the run. On any given run, you'll discover quickly which one you want to do.

All of this is prelude to what I'm saying today: on my cross-training days I've been truly loving hiking in these glorious mountains and forests.

Less speed = More awareness.

Pretty good tradeoff when you live in paradise.

Comanche Peak, Tom Fischer.


First day of Spring, 2014.

Continuing to ease my way back into full running, I'm doing 10 miles this week. It feels great, and to my surprise my cardio has held up reasonably well. Uphills aren't killing me. At least short ones aren't.

I've decided the Training Effect is a stupid feature that is misleading and absolutely interfering with my work. I take three steps--literally: I've counted--and I'm already at 1.0, with 5.0 considered officially overtraining. Within a quarter mile of moving as slowly as I can while still running, with HR still at 55% HR max, I'm already at 3.0.

So I'm only watching it for amusement, and to see if it ever becomes smart enough to serve as an aid.

Otherwise I'm back at watching my pace, maintaining HR where I want it, breathing 3-2. And enjoying God's beautiful earth.

Ready to bloom, CU Campus Police and Parking Building.


Caribou Ranch in January

Here's a note from a companion online journal on Arts, Life and the Cosmos.

Budd Coates, Running on Air

Here's what I wrote in my review of the book on Goodreads:

+++++++++   If you have one good idea and you share it with the world, you've paid some of the dues you owe for your time in this world.

Here's a coach that has one good idea, and it's simple, effective and not at all intuitive.

When you're running, with each step breathe in three times, out two.

I suppose if you want people to take the idea seriously you have to write a book about it, back it up with some scientific-sounding language, give it an historical context, elaborate on the benefits.

Credit to Budd Coates for paying attention to his own experience as a runner, thinking it through, sharing his learning with the world. Maybe he'll get a few bucks from selling a book about it.

But as a reader, keep your expectations modest about what you might gain from reading the book.

Give the idea an honest effort for a week or so of running, long enough for it to be built into your muscle memory, and write your own book. Be prepared to learn, to enjoy your running in new ways, pick up your pace with no increase in effort, expose yourself to less risk of injury.

Not bad for a single idea.   +++++++++

I've since incorporated the technique completely and intuitively into my every run. On another post I'll go into more detail on my many observations.

For now what I will say is this:

This idea has a permanent place in the top five things I've learned about running.

Breathwork 2014.

In another phase of my life, exploring human consciousness, spirituality, levels of reality, I spent several years practicing a method called Holotropic Breathwork. Developed by Stanislov Grof, MD, and based on decades of extensive, meticulous and encyclopedic research, it represents a model of the universe that I came to respect and confidently incorporate in my life.

Though I'm no longer engaged in active exploration of the same realms, I count that era of my life as being most influential in shaping the person I am today.

The method has four components, one of which focuses on an intentional form of breathing. I came to understand through experience, observation, study and mentoring the central importance of the breath in far more than the elemental role it has in the chemical reaction of human metabolism. Though millenia of language usage have drained it of its connection, the latin word for breath was spiritus, and references throughout human history have made that same connection. Breath and Spirit are deeply intermingled.

My family of course was well aware of my personal, professional and scientific interest in the work I was doing. Thus I was only mildly surprised last year when Morggan said in a note, "With your background of research in breathing, you might find this running technique of some interest."

Attached was a link to a Runner's World article, with an embedded video.

Morggan's track record for recommendations for my interest is impeccable. He seems to know his dad. So it was no eye-opener that I did indeed find the presentation and the concept intriguing.

The Runner in me also wanted to know more and to give it a try.

For years I've been conscious of my breathing pattern when I run, feeling most comfortable and meditative with a two-in, two-out, 2-2, breathing rhythm as I move through time and space as an athlete. I also discovered fairly early that whichever foot landed on my outbreath had more force behind it, often a discernible difference. And that whatever injuries I had sustained through the years had most often occurred on that same side of my body--knee, calf, hip, etc.

Thus for much of my running career I had been making a random, unsystematic practice of occasionally alternating from my habitual pattern of Right-Foot-Down-Breath-Out. I found that the moment my attention was diverted from that intentional effort, as soon as my mind drifted back to whatever zone it went to, my habitual right-footedness re-asserted itself.

I was eager to explore this idea.


Late Winter 2014.

After a few weeks of sabbatical from running to manage some dermatology surgery I'm back in the hunt.

Last autumn I upgraded my garmin GPS watch to the Forerunner 910XT, and only since the turn of the new year have I begun exploring its capabilities. When the season changes and I'm back running and cycling in my mountain trails, I'll find the more accurate barometric altimeter of greater interest.

For now what I've been working with is the measure it provides of a concept called Training Effect, based on an algorithm incorporating heart rate and several personal variables. I don't completely understand it yet, but I'll study it some more.

The Training Effect value may seem high at first until the device gets to know you and your workout patterns, says the Garmin FAQ page.

I'll say. I run barely three miles at a pace I could take a nap at, and I've already overtrained according to this scale.

So I'm taking it slow, introducing the device to my running and my body, and enjoying myself. Right now that means touring the campus at the University of Colorado, Boulder, running every conceivable direction, looking for paths I've never seen before, nooks, hidden courtyards.


Run Less Run Faster--Follow up.

Running yesterday at Boulder Reservoir gave me time and mental space to review my reactions to this training program.

In fact, that I had time and mental space to do some reviewing was what triggered my thoughts to begin with.

I began the Run Less Run Faster (RLRF) program on January 7, setting my schedule according to plan for my best 5K pace, at the time a puny 35 minutes. I wanted to be extremely conservative. Coming off my year of plantar fasciitis it seemed a reasonable, workable plan that would ease me back into regular workout stresses.

Over the next six weeks I followed the program religiously, with one exception. After about three weeks I found the 35-min 5K time unreasonably slow (my PR for 5K: 25 minutes), so I adjusted my programmed time under RLFR to 32 minutes, a minor adjustment. It went well.

Two more weeks, that seemed too slow. I had tons of energy left, felt great urge to speed up on all workouts, so went to a 30-min base. A bit too fast. I adjusted back to 32. Then come week seven, an interesting thing happened. I didn't feel like running.

So I found all kinds of other demands infringing on my time: I just don't have time to run today. This week. Then my trip to Italy came, and of course I couldn't run then.

Came back, found myself dreading the run. What's that about? It wasn't difficult running at that pace, not exhausting, not tiring or painful in the moment, no great soreness afterward. The workouts were quite easy, actually.

Rather than return to RLRF I decided to take a couple of weeks at running according to HR, as I've been doing these past years. And doing so I've easily returned to 3/week, looking forward to runs, easily finding time and energy, enthusiasm.

Here are the differences I can pinpoint at the moment that make the transition to RLRF a challenge for me:
  1. The paces for each workout are precise. Deviating by even .3/mi is too much, if you're  following the prescription seriously and want the promised results. For me this requires carrying my GPS unit in my left hand, staring at it almost continuously, making adjustments repeatedly to reflect changes in windspeed, terrain, topography, ground surface, traffic conditions. Focus: running.
  2. Two of the three workouts each week require running under controllable conditions. A track is best; even and smooth terrain is next best, the less traffic the better. The number of such locations is limited, within the range of easy distance from my locker room. This encourages running the same runs repeatedly.
  3. Finding a suitable pace is more challenging than it appears for the seasoned runner who is recovering from an injury. Exactly how much should the training program push you? There appears to be no progression of times built into the schedule: the pace decided on for week 12 (starting) remains the same for twelve weeks. Distances and intervals vary, but I found a moving sweet spot for optimal pace.
  4. The commitment required is total for the program entered, with no variation for other opportunities, shifting priorities, varying interests. Not only must the participant do all the prescribed workouts, he/she must do *only* the prescribed activities. If your grandchild wants you to enter a 5K with him at his school, you violate the RLRF conditions to do so.
With these experiences in mind, I reviewed the book again, reading from a different perspective. Then I noticed something about the endorsement letters (REAL RUNNER REPORTS, as the authors call them) that I had disregarded in my initial reading:
  • I ran my fasted marathon since 2001.
  • I qualified for Boston and ran my fastest ever.
  • I ran far faster than I ever imagined I could.
  • I felt great, ran with great form, and finished with a PR.
 Dozens, scores of  REPORTS all read the same. I have no reason whatsoever to doubt their veracity.

So I come to this:
I have to decide what it is I want out of running.

If I want increased performance, faster times, perhaps deeper conditioning, RLRF is a great program.

If I want to integrate running into a way of life as a way to enrich my personal, family and spiritual well-being, I'll follow the patterns shaped by my daily decisions over the last dozen or so years. I'll run by HR pace over richly varied terrains, enjoying the weather, the mountains, the trees, the wind, with conditions and challenges dictated by my more immediate states of being.

Where I am in my life at the moment is clearly for running as a way of life, not running as preparation for a PR. RLRF will stay on my shelf as an option for when I'm feeling the need to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

And Jackson Hole Marathon in September will be a joy to run, soaking in the glory of God's creation every step of the way. Even if I wind up walking a bit.


Training: Run Less Run Faster

Settling into a regular 3x week pattern again, and I'm beginning to trust that the plantar fasciitis is healed. There's a bit of enforcement here, reminding me regularly to expand slowly--good on all counts: pf, muscular-skeletal, cardiovascular. Three miles (5K) per run maximum, so far.

GOAL: Jackson Hole Marathon, September 22, 2013. I've made motel reservations.

Stair stepping:
March  10K
June     Half Marathon
Sept     Full Marathon

A great time to give the RLRF program a test, though with each program being 12 weeks long this is a tight schedule. Perhaps too tight for this time frame: there's no room for slacking off. I may or may not be able to fit the Half in and may have to go from 10K directly to Marathon, with some weeks of long runs between cycles to build up my base. Or perhaps replace the Marathon with the Half, for this year. We'll see what caution leads to.

From 10+ years of success with three runs per week, I'm comfortable with the concept. And my experience has taught me that running alone doesn't do that much--I need to add speed workouts, hill climbing, endurance runs if I'm going to continue to learn, grow and enjoy what I'm doing.

This research-based program appeals to the analytic approach I appear to thrive on in my athletic life. I find great pleasure in tracking data from each and every time I run, bike or swim.

I'll be the test-case for Morggan and Malachi, each of whom has put this on their training agenda as something to look into. In fact, they're the men who introduced me to the materials. Where I am in life leaves me in a good place to give it a try, with flexibility and availability of time, resources, energy.

First step will be outlining the precise training plan for the next 12 weeks. Studying the materials, I find it to be much more explicit and detailed than just a general "run three different kinds of runs each week." Many of the pages of the book are devoted to tables, and the prescriptions are specific for each day of the week, each week of the cycle.

Plus this: cross-training on two days of week is equally crucial to success, just as detailed in the programming. I've selected biking as my primary activity, rowing as secondary.

At this moment it feels right to launch the 10K program. We'll see if my present level of fitness will allow that amount of stress, or whether I've already committed myself to a step too large. I'm prepared to shift to the 5K program, and will watch carefully.