Monthly Archives: October 2012

Back of the Envelope (Increasing Running Mileage Safely)

A Realization.

Looking forward to getting the Garmin data storage to work at some point — but in the meantime… It recently occurred to me that the last few weeks has netted me not only a new record for weekly mileage (last week’s 37 miles), but a monthly record that includes 5 straight weeks of 30+ miles per week. Throw in the speed work I also did during a few of those weeks and you have a recipe for injury. I semi-knew this regarding the speed work, but had not really thought about the cumulative effects of all the miles…

I sketched out my recovery week (above). It includes two rest days (one of which I’m in the process of phasing out), a 10-mile effort (originally set for today, but will do tomorrow) and the dictum that a couple days must be easy. Maybe all the days. I’m a little unnerved by the fact of running that cumulative mileage and doing speed work — not to mention the maniacal adventures in the hills! Very thankful to not have sustained any kind of serious injury.

(I’ve also sketched out a possible 40-mile week following. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve not ruled out this exploratory week, as long as the pace is E-A-S-Y. My cousin may be in town — en route to the NYC marathon that she probably won’t be able to get to — so the running schedule may be somewhat elastic.)

Browsing some of the following websites helped knock some sense into me.

A Few Links For the Curious On Safely Increasing Running Mileage:

The first one took me by surprise. Put together by some Australian guy, it has some very down-to-earth thinking on the (overly) general nature of the “increase by 10 percent” rule that many of you readers of running publications will be familiar with. His Guide to Increasing Running Safely is worth a look. Another good one? Pete Pfitzinger has a guide to increasing mileage. A real pro that beat Alberto Salazar in the 1984 Olympic time trials, Pfitzinger knows his stuff. He also expresses some skepticism about the 10% rule. And finally, Strength Running has a smartly titled entry, “Forget the 10% Rule: How to Increase Mileage Safely.” Please note, I’m not suggest anyone toss the 10% rule out the window — just examine its limitations.

Today’s Run

Thought I’d just check in with the body — ditch the planned 10 miler for an easy inquiry into the state of affairs. The weekend runs were quite demanding hill intensive adventures, and even with a day off in between, and given the aforementioned miles, a break seemed in order.

43:08     5.02 miles     8:35 min/mile

8:51   8:50   8:47   8:22   8:08

All in order. This was very comfortable. Even forgot to hydrate afterwards, though I do hit the water fountain at 2.35 miles on this route. Hydration. That’s another post.

Aches, Pains, Contentment

The calves ache from bad bounding on Saturday. The right shoulder is strained, hurts when I raise my arm — on the final ascent up a steep bluff, cliff (can’t call it a hill), grabbed a branch to steady myself, but it was just the wrong moment. For a split second I was worried. The left hip and shin are a bit scraped up. Upper shoulders sore. 

Yesterday’s run was a bit longer than usual. Not by much. My daughter really did well — did not end up doing an easier alternate route. She ended up with some technique tips and growling directives. This was more like basic training than a run. Fantastic. And I am content.

The Week In Review

Today was some sprints, some endless, agonizing hill bounding up a long, steep hill, then a slow run up a long, long winding hill. 5.31 miles.

For the week it was, so far as I can recall, an all-time high for mileage:

5:44        37.14 miles

I forced myself to run some easy miles yesterday. That was 5 miles at 8:52 with some pleasant mile splits:

9:49   9:06   8:47   8:07   8:28

On Thursday, I absolutely had nothing in the tank. Having run the handful of half-miles at 7 minute pace, I found only emptiness in the reservoirs. It was 3.26 miles for the day. Average pace: 10:03. So the Tuesday-Wednesday combo, 9 and 11 miles runs, respectively, were more of a cautionary tale than anything.

But for the week, triumph. There’ll be something big in the park tomorrow, tradition dictates, I’m told, as there’s a tailgate afterwards. This coming back I’ll probably scale back the miles a little. Here are the last few weeks, in reverse: 37, 35, 32, 31, 34, 24, 27, 21, 21, 22.

Strengthening the Hip Flexors

It’s hard to describe what proper running form should look like and include, and beyond that there’s a fair amount of disagreement. (I found some great sites that address some of these questions.) It appears there are a few key elements, having the foot land (more or less) under the body, not ahead of it. If the foot is landing ahead of the body, then you’re putting on the brakes the whole time, which is both inefficient and stressful.

And then there’s the mystery of the hips. The motion of the hips, I have on good authority, is critical to form. Perhaps you are already convinced of this. Maybe not. Here’s an excerpt from The Science of Sport blog, the authors, Ross Tucker, PhD, and Jonathan Dugas, PhD, published a book entitled The Runner’s Body in 2009. This taken from one of their excellent posts on running technique:

The hips are, as described by the Pose website, one of the more important parts to consider. This is where Pose theory is particularly strong. Ideally, the hips should be as far forward as possible (within reason) because the hips are more or less where the centre of mass is. As we described the other day, if you land well in front of your centre of mass, you decelerate. That’s one reason why when you run downhill, you feel like you are jarring much more. If you want to speed up on a downhill, you know what to do – simply lean forward. Not at the shoulders, but by getting your whole body tilted forward just a little. That means getting your hips in front. In otherwords, all runners know that when running down hill, they can control speed by moving their hips. Slowing down involves “sitting back”, or dropping the hips slightly.

Applying the same principle to running every where else, if you can just learn the habit of keeping your hips “high” then you will always be in this position. In otherwords, don’t “sit” and run at the same time – get your centre of mass up and forward, if you can. This is not easy, it requires quite strong core muscles, and so that’s why runners often benefit from some Pilates or gym training in this area. But the take home message is the same – get the hips up and lean forward if you want speed.

One of the biggest mistakes made by runners is to lean forwards at the shoulders. The problem if you do this is that you hips actually go backwards! This means that by putting the shoulders forwards, you even less likely to be in a position to harness gravity to go forward. This is most noticeable on uphills, where the temptation is to lean forward, hunched over. Not only does this hinder breathing, but it actually destroys your efficiency. Rather concentrate on leaning from the ankles, so that your hips are forward. It sometimes even helps to pull your shoulders back, as though you are standing in the upright, soldier ‘at attention’ position.

If one accepts this, how can one strengthen the hips, or improve mobility of said anatomical item?

Well, for one, you could check out the video of this little warm-up sequence, the Myrtl routine, posted by one Coach Jay, an ex-runner that “coaches several elites in Colorado”. The whole things looks to take about 6 minutes. It looks like a good warm up.

Besides, who could resist doing a few clams, donkey whips, or fire hydrants?

Some Time at 7:00 min/mile Pace

Today’s run: 

I wanted to spend some time at 7:00 min/mile pace. Don’t ask me what that pace represents as I’m not sure. Steady state? Threshold? 5k race pace? Probably somewhere between 5k and 10k pace. I’m not sure about my paces at the moment. Though I did get some time in at pace, much of the time I was focussed on form — keeping the hips forward, posture up, shoulders relaxed, etc.

1:19       9.21 miles     8:36 min/mile

First, the warm-up:

min/mile (pace) splits     8:36   8:33   8:31 (.5 mile)

The rough goal was to run the pace about half a mile at a time, with some kind of slow recovery. The first couple recoveries were just two minutes, but I was having trouble finding the right pace so I switched to 4 minute recoveries (roughly the time it took to run the half mile at that pace). It was still tricky to find that pace — not a sprint, but still quite fast for me.

7.51 (.54 mile)   9:34 (.26 mile)   7:22 (.51 mile)   9:27 (.23 mile)   7:06 (.52 mile)   9:41 (.44 mile)

7:03 (.5 mile)   9:54 (.45 mile)   7:02 (.51 mile)   9:49 (.47 mile)   7:34 (.35 mile)

I knew I was cooked at this point and switched to cool down.

9:48 (1 mile)   9:09 (.92 mile)

In the end, I suppose the “some time at” ended up being about 4 x .5 mile @ 7:00 min/mile pace. Given that’s hardly a blow out, I think I’ll still attempt some quarters tomorrow — but I’ll be doing them on dirt rather than on the tarmac, and my goals will be modest, given today’s workout.