Sunday, 1 August 2010

Unexpected Joy of a Mid-Paced Hill Run

Location: Light Side of the Wrekin
Day: Today, Sunday

Workout: ran to the top of the light side of Wrekin hill and back down.

Time to top:

Total Running time: about 28 minutes

Post Workout Nutrition:Eggs, strawberries, wild blackberries, coconut cream, cocoa - two hours later:

I set out to run this at a pace I don't normally use - what runners call 'tempo'. I prefer to call it 'sub pain'. Most of the time I try to keep my short workouts intense and my long workouts easy. The Paleo/Primal way. Even when I am I ascending the Wrekin, which takes about 20 minutes, I tend to want to make it intense, albeit that I can't make it short.

But after yesterday's cycle ride, and with the Borrowdale 17m 6700' beast on Saturday, I decided to opt for an in between. I decided that randomness rules, and that includes random adherence to the short-intense-long-easy rule ;-)

I was really glad I did it. My time (17:14) to the top was nothing special. I've done it in under 16 in the past. But I felt strong. Although I was breathing heavily, I did not really feel any pain. My legs were not hurting at the end, in spite of the post-cycling stiffness at the start.

In short, I took it easy but made it count. I felt refreshed at the end, not fatigued.

On the way down, I gave my increasingly hardy feet something to think about by deliberately aiming for the rockier sections. My Vibram-protected forefeet seemed to be taking the punishment happily.

I have been walking on pavements in bare feet most days during the week recently. I am lucky enough to work in a place where the state of the pavements between the station and my office is pretty rough. At first this hurt a lot. Now I am much more comfortable with it. A combination of desensitisation and perhaps some skin toughening. I think this is helping with the tolerance to more significant trauma when I am wearing the Vibrams.

The knee, by the way, is in much better shape. My consultant told me not to worry. "It's just the stitches bedding in," he said. "Go away and have fun. Only bother me if it's getting worse, not better."

I'll probably write a separate post about that one.


Lightning said...

Sadly my Borrowdale preparation took a turn for the worst down the pub last night but I'm on it now.

Drs. Cynthia and David said...

What people think of as "paleo" training is actually the way most successful athletes train. Here is a paper ( and a brief excerpt from the abstract: "Elite endurance athletes perform 80% or more of their training at intensities clearly below their lactate threshold and use high-intensity training surprisingly sparingly. Studies involving intensification of training in already well-trained athletes have shown equivocal results at best. The available evidence suggests that combining large volumes of low-intensity training with careful use of high-intensity interval training throughout the annual training cycle is the best-practice model for development of endurance performance."

Too much high intensity just results in injury and burnout. When doing only high intensity (plus some walking say), you never develop the ability to handle the lactate that is generated, so yeah you can sprint well for short distances, but then you're dead in the water.

I think you'll find these two posts interesting too:
Both relate to improving fat oxidation. In the second one, they showed how one athlete was able to greatly increase his fat burning by very slow training. If you're a high carb eater and competing in shorter distances, this may not matter, but for ultra distances, it does. Hill running has the potential of depleting glycogen much faster than flat running too, so it should be an advantage there too.

I do understand the appeal of lactate threshold running and probably do too much of it myself. It's a sweet spot where you feel alive, strong and smooth, and is pretty hard to resist.

Good luck with your race. I'm excited for you.


Methuselah said...

Thanks Cynthia - I'll take a look at those articles. It does make sense in the context of our likely hunting patterns (or from what I understand them to have been) that the pattern you describe would work well.

I am not sure whether the run I did at the weekend would be classed as 'lactate threshold running' or not. I guess that's what you're saying. In my previous running life I tended to push myself harder on those mid-distance, mid-paced runs, but I was probably doing it wrong in those days.

Either way, I do much prefer the idea of very long easy and occasional short intense, anf generally it's what I do. It suits my leg recovery capabilities, which I suspect are not as good as some.

One reason I feel I should throw in the occasional mid-distance, harder run is that it keeps me in touch with the pain of running at the threshold. If I am only racing occasionally, and even then, only deciding to aim for a 'time' on some of those races, then that pain of running at one's limit does not feel as comfortable or familiar. What are your thoughts on that?

Drs. Cynthia and David said...

All I know is that some tempo-type training (the terminology is confusing) is necessary to adapt to using lactate in the muscle instead of throwing it away (sending it to the liver etc for processing). That's why just sprinting isn't enough, even though it develops VO2max nicely.

I think the easy training is pretty important for enjoyment, safety and health. David just trained pretty hard for a marathon and has some lingering injuries. His previous injuries were from sprinting on the track. When he was just hanging out doing easy running (keeping up with me), he never had any problems.

I decided that my current weaknesses might be helped by hiking up a steep hill (600 feet in less than a mile) carrying 25 lbs, and I tried it today. I used to weigh that much, but boy was it hard! What do you think of that as a strengthening strategy?

Happy training.


Methuselah said...

Thanks Cynthia - I think it's the adaptation to using lactate which equates to the 'being accustomed to pain'. I shall throw in the occasional one - in a random fashion, naturally. I am sure our ancestors sometimes had to get back to camp over 5 miles as fast as possible.

I think the weighted hiking is great training, if used sparingly. I have been guilty of over-using in the past, and ending up with fatigued legs. I would leave at least a few weeks between it and any important races!

Methuselah said...

Cynthia - thanks again for the links - good reading. In my most recent race (Borrowdale) my energy levels felt very consistent throughout, and I attribute this in part to some recent training that has been much longer and easier than previously. I have a very low carb diet already, so I like to think I am a pretty good fat oxidiser. I may try one of my upcoming races at 'race pace' to put this to the test. Mostly I like to run even the races as long, easy sessions because it's such fun, especially on the mountains, and I guess more 'Paleo', but at some point I ought to see what I have under the bonnet!