Sunday, January 31, 2016

Inserting Speed into Your Endurance Routine

Many runners who contact me are always saying they want to get faster (for information on coaching, click here). They want to set a new personal record (PR) in the half marathon, the 5k, or qualify for the Boston Marathon. All of these goals are admirable and interesting. But how do you get faster?

First all of the above goals have to do with endurance running. Endurance running focuses on mostly aerobic running, with the marathon being powering by the aerobic system for a staggering 98% of the distance. You might go anaerobic at the start and during that final kick of a PR race, but overall you are hanging out in the land or aerobic power for all but about half a mile. Aerobic capacity can be increased in a myriad of ways ranging from workouts to recovery runs to the week’s most important session: the long run. As aerobic capacity increases, you can and will get faster. Miles increase aerobic capacity, variations off of your miles (running them faster) can make you faster. Common, understood, expected.

But the error arrives right here: do you need to run fast, to work on your speed? I’ve heard it many times, I am an endurance runner, so I’m slow. I don’t want to sprint, I will get hurt if I sprint, etc. That said, to get faster, one must spend a certain amount of time running fast. Not just at tempo, not at race pace, but at a sprint. Jack Daniels, the famous author and running coach, notes the need to run 5% of your weekly mileage at or around repetition pace, or close to 100% effort for a specified distance. Look around, and any coach who is thorough with his research and keeps up with the science will validate these claims. Could this be 200m, 400m, 60m, 100m, 30m? Yes. All of these distances work when used correctly with ample and proper recovery. Why?

Reason one comes in the form of neuromuscular fibers. They need to be engaged and put to work. The more muscles you use, the more often you practice at top speed, the easier it is for your brain to use them, to fire the neurons and put them to practice. Late in a race, when your standard form starts to falter because of muscle taxation, say the last 800m of a 5000 or the last 6.2 miles of a marathon, your body will look to recruit other fibers, the ones not as commonly used, and put them to work. By working on speed, you have a larger, more complete account to draw upon. More fibers to work with, better economy of running, better energy overall, and thus better results.

Reason two extends from working on leg turnover. Speed develops in multiple ways, but mostly through the ability to improve one’s maximal rate of motion while working on your body’s ability to hold said work rate for a longer duration. Go hard, really hard, more often and you turnover picks up, as does the length of time you can hold said maximal rate of motion. Now you can blast a quarter mile at the end of a 5000m race instead of just two hundred meters, now you can hold your goal pace more often, because your leg turnover will apply to all pace ranges.

High speed efforts, these 5% of your weekly mileage efforts, are not going to add up to all that much. A runner running thirty miles a week, runs around one to two total miles a week at max effort. Nor should one sprint every day or at the end of every run. Each run has a purpose, live by it, understand it, and in doing so work within each segment of your training cycle to achieve your goals. Want to know more? Drop me an email through the contact form on the right side of the page or tweet me at @stamgator.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake: A Book Review

Much has been made of the language in Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake, and rightly so. The style blends Old English with the modern, and in doing so creates a daunting visage of the post-apocalyptic life of the Anglo-Saxon farmer Buccmaster. Now this not the nuclear winter we all await nor is it the global environmental calamity standing in our path, but is the end of a way of life and thus the emergence of new way. So in a way Kingsnorth is right: this text would not stand in modern English and would be illegible to most in the Old. To understand Buccmaster, we must think like him, to think like him we need his language, his thoughts, and his culture.

Distracting at first, after a few pages the text flows, and we find our way into Buccmaster’s skull through the word play. The language imbeds, forces one to understand and comprehend just what Buccmaster should be and is. Coupled with Kingsnorth’s extensive research, the novel claws at you, dragging you down and into the era. Buccmaster is at the end of his rope. An English man in a time of French invasion, a pagan man in a time of Catholic insurrection, a father that finds himself without children, a son who once banished from his own home, and ultimately, a man who seeks to reclaim all of that in more, only to find that the world is not willing, that the old gods are just that: old and so is his now passing life. Thus the reader travels with him, looking through his eyes, feeling his pain and confusion. It is a long, slow trek, a wake that will not end at times, but one the reader will gladly endure. He builds a band of warriors only to watch it crumble, he built a family only to have it endure the same fate when he refused to pay tribute to his new king. All in all he suffers, but that is the outcome of war, something that Buccmaster, even in the end is too blind to see. His world is burning, but he is unable to make the world around him burn.

Favorite Lines

  • “so it is when a world ends who is thu i can not cnaw but i will tell you thu this thing be waery of the storm be most waery when there is no storm in sight” (2).
  • “angland was not in synn angland was in fear now the bastard he grows fatt on it” (24).
  • “my grandfather woulde sae men does not lysten to the wise for what the wise has to sae is not what they wants to hiere for what thewy wants to hiere is that their lifs is right as they is and that they is good folc and does not need to do naht” (71).

Sunday, January 3, 2016

John L. Parker's Again to Carthage: A Book Review

Again to Carthage, John L. Parker, Jr.’s sequel to the seminal text Once a Runner leaves more than could be desired. One must admit that after the ending of what could possibly be the best work of fiction to ever tackle the subject of running, a return to the running exploits of Quenton Cassidy could both be welcomed and desired. Unfortunately, Parker not only fails to advance the legend of his main character, but he also struggles to write a convincing, conclusive novel in its own right. First off, the novel struggles to start as it limps through Cassidy’s adult life. While everyone must age, we see just how dull life as a single, ex-Olympian lawyer can be. A cliché sexual interlude here, a zany running competition that harkens back to the old days there, an overdrawn fishing trip to the keys, and of course he still longs for the college girlfriend, running into her arms at the death of his grandfather. This death sparks his change, his return to running, but now the marathon is the challenge.

No longer the miler, he tackles the mammoth distance in a time when people both feared and dreaded the idea of twenty-six and change. Here we do get some training moments, some classic glimpses into the heart of a champion, but the narrative is bogged down. The chapters fail to link, the incidents more incidental than cohesive. He goes into mountain seclusion as opposed to west Gainesville (which might be more secluded), and pontificates about life as one would expect. In the end, Parker goes for broke with a triumphant, dramatic marathon that of course is stacked against Cassidy. People try to prevent him from racing and interfere with the actual race itself. While this well worked okay in the first effort, it pangs with cliché this time around. Parker repeats himself, even down to the customary disappointment found at novel’s end. If you want a fishing trip to the keys and an uneventful walk through the mundane on your way to these truths, give the novel the whirl, otherwise leave your last memory of Quenton Cassidy alone and move on.