Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Review of the Training

Now that I am about 3-4 months into this new training program and less than a week before the first race, I thought I would make an attempt of a review on how it was worked for me.

First off, I have to say that there are no absolutes in the world of training. There are plenty of well proven training methods for all distances.

Over the years, I have become a little suspect of the "standard" methods (or, most popular). I think they work great for talented and great runners, but not so much for the average Joe. I have tried many of them, and usually felt beat up, injured or just metaphorically pounding a brick wall.

Up until 2 years ago, my 2 best races were done without much attention to a training plan. My worst years were the ones I tried to follow them to a "T". My full realization came a few years ago when I ran the Whistlestop Marathon on a whim, without any "marathon" training. I had run Superior 50M 4 weeks prior, but had barely trained for that. No speed work, no tempo work, not a lot of mileage. I ran it faster than the races I put all of the work and training into. I was at a loss.

Later that year I made the switch to the "Maffetone" low heart rate training method. It was surprising hard. The difficulty was from the discipline to keep it "low and slow" for a solid 3 months. It worked well for me that year, but even better from me last year. The thing it lacks, I have recently realized, is intensity training.

Now 3-4 months into "Crossfit" and/or "Crossfitendurance", I have seen a new side of things. I am running harder than I have in probably 10+ years, yet am not burned out or injured (kind of - Fran on Monday kind of tweaked my knee - I should be fine).

So here are some pros and cons from my experience.


Time efficiency - I work out 5-6 times per week, 3-4 "2 a days". The workouts rarely last more than a half hour. Some last 5-10 minutes (those are usually the hardest). I am not taking off to Afton State Park every other weekend at 4am and returning at 2pm. Also, I am not waking up at 4:30- 5am every weekday to run 8-12 miles.

Burnout - With the shorter time spans, burnout is less likely. For me, the running workouts are easier than the strength and conditioning workouts. Doing the running ones is just a matter of starting, and focusing. The strength and conditioning workouts are different every day. It is kind of fun to be constantly trying new things.

Intensity and Commitment - This is a big one. I used to be able to roll out of bed, have a few cups of coffee and hit the road to run. Within 1 mile, I was ready to run. Can't do that with the strength and conditioning workouts. If you are not FULLY COMMITTED to the workout, you WILL fail. This is good and bad. You can dial them down to a different scale, but even those are hard. You have to follow Yoda's advice on these. The reason this falls in the "pros" category is because of the benefit. I can now take on high intensity without fear. Fear has always been something I have struggled with, and part of the reason I love ultras. The fear aspect is hard to explain here, but I have chipped away at some of it.

Results - I know I can run a 5:30 mile or better right now, and my PR at Afton last weekend sealed the deal. I can't say yet if this will work longer than 20 miles, but I am not as worried about it as 1 month ago.


Difficulty - This is not for everybody. The workouts are not only intense, but many of them take certain equipment and skill to perform. Someone asked me a few months back, "Do you think a lot of people will get on board with this low training scheme?". The insinuation was that this is easy because of the low mileage. I don't think this will become a trend. The average runner who is not competitive will not do well with the intensity. This is not a recreational training program. It is hard, it takes commitment, and doesn't take excuses. This narrows the field of runners down significantly. If you don't do the workouts as intended, you won't see the results. With any program, I can't stand it when people do it half-assed and say "that didn't work well".

Potential for injury - Not on the running part, but on the strength and conditioning part. There were days I felt like I was in a street fight. I tweaked my back, neck, and legs all at different points. These workouts take a certain skill you have to learn, and continually develop. But caution, a bad push press or dead lift could side line you.

Ignorance - If I have one more person ask "is that P90x?", I am going to scream. I guess it is the equivalent of the "how long is that marathon" question. The point of this con is I have to constantly field questions. AND... I have to listen to people telling me what I should "try". Without fail, the person giving me the advice is in far inferior shape/weight than I am. I don't go around telling people about this, the questions are a result of them asking "how are you training".

Equipment - You really need some equipment and space. A good olympic bar is essential. Pull up bar is essential. I took a 3/4" od pipe and mounted into a header beam in my basement ($8). You can search the forums for making stuff on the cheap.

In conclusion, I have had fun and have enjoyed the last 3 months of training. I would not have made it with my planned 70+ miles per week. I just did not have that in me this year. If I lay an egg at Zumbro, don't blame Crossfit too quickly. There are a lot of things I have done wrong. I will judge the success based on Zumbro, Ice Age, and Kettle. The actual times might not be the deciding factor, though.

Few more posts coming in the next few days regarding Zumbro. Thanks for reading.


brothergrub said...

I think the most critical aspect is INTENSITY. I see lots of people who run loads of long slow miles - for years - and don't see a lot of improvement. Without some intensity your fitness just remains static. Intensity for me is just up-tempo runs or stair-workouts, but I can see how spreading that intensity between running and full body workouts would be beneficial.

Londell said...

Very detailed and interesting. I have said many time by first and third best marathon times were on two a week training, track hard for an hour on Wednesdays and 20 plus miles every Saturday while I was playing on the College tennis team. Thanks for sharing.

Julie said...

Hi Matt,
Isn't it funny how we can do better sometimes when there is no real plan and we just go out and do it:) I love reading other peoples comments and take on things. Brothergrub and Londell have some interesting takes on training too!! I hope that you and your family have a wonderful weekend!

Anonymous said...

Agree with BG that you have to include intensity to sharpen up the cruising speed. I try to do 1-2 workouts a week that involve hill repeats or a short tempo run.

I have run exactly one 100 miler, but have done five 100ks on the road. Not even remotely similar to each other. I may be going out on a limb here, but I think the strength you have acquired may be more beneficial for the 100 miler. Let's face it, one is going about 2 miles an hour faster in a 50 miler compared to a 100. Aerobically your not trying to push as much to the limit in a 100 miler compare to a 50 miler. Your a lot stronger than I thought you would be, but hope this translates well to the 50. Of course I wouldn't dream of running a tough 100 4 weeks before Ice Age, but I only do about 2, maybe 3 ultras a year.

I don't care who it is, runs of that length take something out of you. Because the majority of us are lucky to do 40 - 70 miles a week, there just isn't enough to pull from. Now I know most of us state (me included) we are just going out to do "our" best. However, I've been around enough of the folks to know we want to accomplish a little beat down if possible. When you put the number on, things happen. Which is why I am always pontificating that the best way to achieve the second option is train specifically, race seldom, add some intensity, and rest accordingly.

Everyone I know out there today is trying to get by on less total weekly mileage and this included me. None of us are in the monster island training (like Zach G.) where someone is breathing fire every day. If you have found the formula which produces results then we will all take notice. Most of us are aging beyond 40 and 50 and the simple act of running a lot is not as practical as it use to be. I'll be the first to admit I don't enjoy any other methods for ultras besides running. It gives me the best read on how things are coming along. For me it is all in my brain on race day. I just climb in there and operating all the working parts as best possible. Stay aerobic, find a nice pace, take care of myself, adjust for problems, and get to 40 with my legs under me.

For anyone who's reading this jibberish, most mistakes are made 5-6 weeks from race day. The hay is in the barn, you have to pull the workouts you need over this final period. Especially as you age. It is tough to make up ground and the tendency is to do more. One is better to get a few longer runs in, the bread and butter workouts, and rest.

Good luck at Zumbro. I wish I had the stones to run 100s.

Double/Deuce/Dehart/DD/Paint King...and occasionally A$$ Face

senator said...

You will crush Zumbro. I enjoyed your post about CFE and how you think it will not become a trend. I agree. In many way I think traditional LSD programming is much easier. Also, I appreciate the advice you gave a fellow CFE'r and CF junkie Brandon Wilton. I talked him into the Bull run run 50 this coming weekend. It will be his first 50. Looking forward to RR on the Zumbro.

Matthew Patten said...

brothgrup - Mr. Lyon says hi.

Londell - Thanks for reading

Julie - Brothergrub is about as interesting as watching paint dry. Although, he does still have records on a wall at UW River Falls?

Dehart - I am guessing I should copyright your response and send it to the Library of Congress. As always, you have free reign to say what you like here.... mainly because you can back it up with your resume.

Senator - Thanks for reading. I would tone down the "Crush" and Zumbro comments. I don't think anybody crushes one of Larry's (the RD) races. Yeah... Brandon looks like one tough dude.

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