In Steven Levitt's book Freakonomics, he cites Kenneth Galbraith's definition of Conventional Wisdom as - a set of unproven facts, hypotheses we like to believe true because they make us feel comfortable and give us some sense of control over what happens around us. Experts have their own agenda and their own interest in mind; and expertise is nothing more than a clever but often ruthless way to make money or to gain power from the monopoly of information.
As much as I wanted to read this book, I ended up listening to it on tape during one of my recent road trips. It is one of the best non-fiction read/listen to's I have ever read.
When I heard the chapter on Conventional Wisdom, I immediately made the link to my life as a runner AND.... get this..... my former years as a classically trained tuba player.
Yes..... I had aspirations to be a professional tuba player. One of the things I found interesting back then was, how much one practiced (time) did not necessarily correlate to how well they performed in auditions and recitals. I remember early on focusing on practicing smart and working harder than anybody else on core fundamentals. I spent more time than any of my peers playing "long tones", 5-10 minutes at a time playing one note. I would see how great of a sound I could make.
I never mastered some of the technical aspects or range I was supposed to, but I competed well during the years I focused on it.
I stepped away from it for almost 15 years. Came back to playing just for fun, and played one of the solos I struggled with the best I ever had during a father's day church service.
After that performance I remember thinking "why couldn't I have played it like that in college?"
Conventional Wisdom would say I should have been at my peak with all of the time, focus, and intensity I had. I was even studying under one of the best tuba players in the world, Rex Martin. (I still keep in touch with him, now that my oldest son decided to be a tuba player)
What I had traded all of the hard work, grinding, and high expectations for was a pure love and joy of creating beautiful music. Nobody in that audience would know if it was good or bad, they had never heard a tuba solo. I actually had the choir director in tears. She was expecting Tubby the Tuba.
After qualifying for Boston at the 1992 Chicago Marathon, I figured I had proved to my friends I was a good runner.
I did not run Chicago that year and the year before for myself. I ran it for other people. I can't explain why.
After not running for races for 10 years, I had a mild mid life physical crisis. I was out of shape, and wanted to be a "marathoner" again. I went full throttle on training and racing. I returned to Chicago to miss my time by about 40 seconds.
I spent the next 4-5 years trying to improve on that, all the while pounding my body into submission. I continued on a gradual slope of slower and slower.
I had this goal of breaking 3 hours. It became more and more out of reach.
Somewhere in there I ran the Superior 50K, and fell in love with trail running. In a strange way, the pressures of having to run fast were gone. And the race was like no other. I drove my wife nuts talking about the race for weeks on end.
I ran Ice Age 50M the next year, and had just as much fun (and I didn't even know the Lapham Gang yet.....).
A few weeks after that I pulled a muscle in my back building a patio. Ouch.
I did not run for 2 months.
August 1st of that year, I was a National Night Out in our neighborhood. Just about everybody came to me asking "what crazy race are you doing next?". The next day I ran 8 miles.
5 weeks later, I ran the Superior 50 Mile.
Conventional Wisdom would say 3 weeks training with a 2 week taper would not translate into success. I pulled off a 10:42? (may have been :52). LOVED IT.
I knew I had found my new home. Ultra/trail. Either.
I did fall off the wagon the following month and run Whistlestop Marathon. Just a momentary lapse of reason.
I first heard of Phillip Maffetone in 1992 when reading a book. I was so intrigued by this theory, I went out and tried to buy a book he wrote. He had not written one yet. 18 years later I buy his book "The Maffetone Method", advocating a low intensity approach to peak performance.
Conventional Wisdom would say you can't run fast, or at a high level with almost all of your running at a slow pace.
Mark Allen proved that wrong.
I used that method to run injury free in 2008, and set new pr's in 2009.
I am tired of running "LSD's" 50-80 mile weeks (or more here and there).
I travel 3 out of 5 weeks for work.
I have 4 kids.
I have a beautiful, wonderful, understanding wife.
I love the sport of Ultra/trail running.
These don't all work in a pretty harmonic way.
Conventional Wisdom would say Crossfit and/or Crossfit endurance are foolish attempts at becoming better at, or maintaining my current level in this sport.
I can cite 3 people, who I don't know and have never met, emailed, or have had any contact with.
Brian MacKenzie - Subject Matter Expert on Crossfit Endurance
-completed WS100 and Angeles Crest 100 using this program
Mark Matyazic - 2nd place at Javelina Jundred last year (I can't verify if he followed this to a "T")
Kim Battipaglia - Winner of the Dances With Dirt Green Swamp 50 mile this year. She went from 100 mile training weeks down to 15 I believe.
Crossfit and Crossfit endurance are not "cross training". Cross training is riding your bike as a workout, or swimming instead of running.
CF and CFE are very specific programs, designed to do and achieve multiple things to your body. They are... training.
I have felt more beat up after these lower body workouts than after a 30 mile run.
The CFE aspect has "programming" behind it (which I am working on getting dialed into). You follow an Interval/Tempo/Interval sequence MATCHED with anaerobic strength and conditioning workouts. You can choose the latter from the CF or the CFE site.
This is not a necessarily a "low mileage" program as it is an elimination of "LSD's". And if you think that is easy, try running a "tabata" workout and 3 hours later do any of the workouts.
Many of you have made the connection to Adam saying "I didn't work for him". Well, Adam did not follow the programming. At all. (Adam.. feel free to chime in). I suggest people be cautious disproving a theory by only looking at the failures. Adam beat me to the 100k point in that race by a wide margin, and I dropped as well.
Training was not my downfall there, it was a combination of a few other things.
The people who put on CFE ADVOCATE HEAVILY that programming is the key to success.
I just got an email from a guy who has been following CFE, and was surprised during his 10 Mile time trial to pull off a 56:50. Yes, he was fast before, but that is smoking with any type of training program. Way to go Redbarron. Nice work.
Bottom line is, Conventional Wisdom has led me astray many times in my life. I don't look at everything obvious and think "Conventional Wisdom?", but I do get cautious when people start speaking in terms of absolutes.
I can't do 70-80 mile weeks right now. My absent posts from November, December, and part of January were reflective of my state of mind and motivation.
I love being a part of the Ultra/trail community. This blogging thing started when I took a leave of absence from work a few years ago, and turned into this.
I can take the criticism, and any crap anybody wishes to deal my way. At the end of the day, the race clock tells all.
If I can finish 1 hour behind people like Dehart, I am happy. If I pull off a good race now and then, even better.
Nothing beats running with the ultra gang, telling stories, drinking home brew, and sharing a common bond that only they seem to understand. And none of us seem to be able to explain.
Thanks for reading.
I am now getting fired up again and having fun.
Sorry for the typos and grammatical errors. No proofread tonyte