I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father

A few days ago in a Goodwill close, close by…

Episode IV A New Hope

It is a period of civil war…

newhope

 I was at the Victor Goodwill looking for a snowsuit for Roo when I saw this sitting on a shelf.  I really wanted to buy it, and it was only $25 but for some reason I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  What was I going to do with an awesome Millennium Falcon replica?

Episode V The Empire Strikes Back

It is a dark time for the rebellion…

empirestrikesback

 As soon as I returned home I regretted my decision not to buy it, a quick post to Facebook confirmed that I was stupid for not making the purchase.  So the next day during my lunch break at work I drove out to Victor (from Spencerport), only to find the shelf empty.  I was heart broken.  I began to think of who out of my Facebook friends might have raced out and bought it from under me.  I am sorry to say that I had some dark thoughts about some of you.

Episode VI Return on the Jedi

Luke Skywalker has returned to his home planet of Tatooine…

returnofthejedi

I have the best wife, I really do.  It turns out that she dropped the kids at daycare and then raced over to the Goodwill before her morning class.  She had planned to surprise me at Hanukkah, but after seeing my post of disappointment on Facebook she just couldn’t bear to see me suffer.  While Hazel, Roo and I were playing in the living room Lisa brought in the Millenium Falcon, I don’t know whose eyes lit-up more, mine or Hazel’s.

Hazel immediately began playing with it, I’m not even sure how she knew it was a ship, because it doesn’t look a “rocket ship”, but she did.  After a few minutes of examining my new favorite possession I headed into the kitchen to start making dinner.

A small tug on the back of my shirt.

Hazel~ “Daddy will you play with your rocket ship with me?”

I swear I almost broke down crying right then and there in the kitchen.

For those wondering this is not the original one I had as a kid, but a 2008 Hasbro Legacy Collection remake.

Scarecrow 5k

Ready? GO!
Ready? GO!

There is something very nice about being able to jog to a race as part of your warm up.  The Scarecrow 5k starts in front of the Fairport town hall exactly 1 mile from my house, so on Saturday morning I packed my racing flats into my little running backpack and shuffled out to meet Kenny and Joe.

This weekend was actually an Upstate XC series race weekend, but we couldn’t get 5 people to commit to racing in Buffalo and it looks like only Syracuse Track Club ended up fielding an open men’s team at that meet.  I’m not sure what it says about the state of the series that even the hosting team didn’t have a team.  It just so happens that the Scarecrow 5k has a team scoring component that only requires 3 runners so we focused our attention on winning a bit closer to home.

The race is a flat fast course that finishes with a mile and a half stretch on a paved section of the Erie Canal Trail.  The only downside to the course is you can see a big brick smoke stack that marks the finish line pretty much from the time you turn around and head to the finish.  It is a little depressing to be able to see the finish for 8 minutes, it seems like it just never gets any closer.  Last year you may remember that the 3 people ahead of me made a wrong turn and I had to stop and yell at them to get them back on course.  Well this year I had 3 people in front of me, Mark Streb-again, Kenny Goodfellow-again, and Todd Meyer replacing Mark Andrews (both Todd and Mark made the US Olympic trails for the marathon about a decade ago).  Everyone went the correct way this time, maybe because I assured Mark Streb that if he took a wrong turn this year I wasn’t going to save him.

Fast Kenny
Fast Kenny

Kenny kept his string of great races going, setting a new 5k PR of 15:54, but Mark Streb managed an impressive 15:46 for first.  I say managed and impressive, because he raced the Wineglass Marathon last weekend.  I managed an unremarkable 16:27 for 4th place, while Joe dropped 30 seconds from his time last year and ran a 18:37. Overall Results.

In a very competitive team race, Roadkill Racing eeked out first place by 238 points over the other 16 teams.  I’m particularity proud of the fact we beat the cross fit team by 1534 points.  For our winnings we got 4 certificates for a family night of bowling at AMF Fairview Lanes.  Each certificates gives us 2 hours of bowling for 6 people including shoes, popcorn and a pitcher of soda.  Obviously there will be a Roadkill Racing bowl-off in the very near future. Team Results

Next up is the Finish Strong 5k and then back to cross country.

 

Adjusting your Training/Eating/Supplementing

I am a voracious reader of exercise related studies.  I love reading about anything that might make me a better runner, and for a long time I was apt to try out lots of what I read in these studies.  Whether it was new type of workout, a prerace fueling strategy or the hottest new supplement I was willing to give it a shot.  In the 10+ years of my second running life I have learned a great about training both through reading and experimenting.

books

I’ve tried all of the following as a result of something I read in a study.

  • Tabata protocol (the real one)
  • Fish oil supplements
  • Beetroot juice
  • Various caffeine prerace loads
  • Hill Sprints
  • Plyos
  • DHEA
  • Lower body strength training
  • Iron supplements
  • Tea
  • Shakeout runs
  • Doubles
  • Vitamin D supplements
  • Innumerable warmup stratagies
  • Innumerable taper/peaking strategies

That is actual just a partial list of the things I’ve tried, I’ve forgotten many and am too embarrassed to admit some of the others.  Through trial and error I have focused both my intake of supplements and my training.  I’ve also learned enough about scientific studies to not bother to try most of what I read these days.  I’ve narrowed down the above list to the following.

  • Drink my normal cup of coffee in the morning before a race and sometimes have a cup of tea later in the day if I’m tired.
  • Iron supplement once a day at bedtime. (my hemoglobin hovers around 12)
  • Vitamin D 4000 iu October through April

I don’t do any plyos, weight lifting, Tabata workouts, biking etc but I do hill sprints at various points of my training cycle.  I’ve given up trying to “properly” taper or peak and usually just take it easy with some strides the few days leading into an important race.  As for my warm up I’ve settled into a 20-25 minute easy run with some strides and dynamic stretching beginning 45 minutes before race time.

labrunner

So how did I go from a crazy try anything experimenter to a training change skeptic?  For starters I never saw any improvement in my race times when i tried most of the stuff these studies said would make me faster.  Even the iron and vitamin d which I still take is hard to equate to any improvement in my racing.  The other big shift in my thinking came when I made some realizations about studies, even good studies published in respected peer reviewed journals.  Here is what I finally realized.

1.  These aren’t the participants you are looking for.

slowrunner

What do you consider a well trained runner? How about an experience runner?  Most studies done on runners don’t apply to you because you are just too good of a runner.  To a researcher in small college in Idaho, running 15-20 miles a week and having a 5k time of 25 minutes +/- 3 minutes is a well trained or experienced runner.  It is should be no surprise then that nearly any change in training will result in an improvement.  If you take a bunch of people who run 15 miles a week at an average pace of 9 minutes per mile and race 26 minutes for 5k and add in 2 times a week of 8×10 second sprints they are going to get faster, often a lot faster… you not so much.

When it comes to supplements, often the studies are done on people suffering from some ailment, or they are older non-exercising folks.  I remember a study that showed something along the lines of 20% improvement in muscle strength with DHEA supplementation, but this was in an elderly population suffering from a muscle wasting disease, not healthy already fast distance runners.

2. Training for a marathon ain’t like playing pickup basketball, crossfit boy.

NikBruce

I’m sure by now you have all heard about the many benefits of high intensity interval training or HIIT.  This new miracle method of training trains both your anaerobic and aerobic systems at the same time in as little as 30 minutes a day.  Study after study prove that HIIT raises VO2max higher and faster than the simply doing aerobic training.  The implications are clear, you are wasting your time doing all that running.  By doing cross fit a few times a week, not only can you get ripped and shredded but you can run a faster marathon too!

Only one problem… no one I know trains only by running slow all the time.  Beware the study that setups unnatural dichotomies.  I’ve yet to see the study on HIIT that shows improvements in VO2max (or god forbid actual races times) that are superior to what you would get training like most distance runners I know train.  That is to say doing 65-75% easy running a week and 25-35% of some form of speed work.

3. Don’t get technical with me. What P value? What are you talking about? I’ve just about had enough of you. Go that way, you’ll be malfunctioning in a day you near-sighted scrap pile.

c3po 

Researchers love their P values… and really who doesn’t love a good P value?  According to Goodman and his article  “Toward Evidence-Based Medical Statistics.” (via wikipedia) In statistical significance testing the p-value is the probability of obtaining a test statistic at least as extreme as the one that was actually observed, assuming that the null hypothesis is true.

Fine whatever you say Goodman. In more easy to understand terms a P value tells you how unlikely it is that some other thing is causing a result.  The lower your P value the more likely your hypothesis is, or I suppose the more unlikely the null hypothesis is… look it doesn’t really matter, it’s just a bunch of bullshit.  It is kind of like our monetary system, it is a collective delusion.  Born to Run apologist and Harvard Professor  Daniel Lieberman has published studies about how awesome barefoot running is based on “research” done on the Harvard cross country team.  The research showed that the 2 out of 13 kids on the team that ran with a forefoot strike the other 11 rearfoot struck.  Those 2 kids  didn’t get hurt during the season and 3 of the kids who rearfoot struck did get hurt, so clearly barefoot running is great and he has the data and sweet tiny little P value to prove it… yeah Dan you have a real small P value all right.

First off, that story about Dr. Lieberman is only partly true, I’m not even sure what parts because I don’t feel like looking up the study right now and I’m just going roughly off what I remember about it from 2 years ago.  Second off, this seems to be the basic approach that major news outlets including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal take to writing about research.  They see some result that people will want to believe and they write about it without really knowing the subject matter or the details involved.  Which leads me to my final thoughts on the matter.

4. I find your lack of faith disturbing (OK now I’m just being lazy and not even changing any words in the quotes)

Lucy_CharlieBrown-779461

The wonderful thing about the internet is that it gives everyone including me a voice.  The terrible thing about the internet is it gives everyone including me a voice.  And while certainly major and formerly respected news outlets should do a better job of critically reviewing and reporting on scientific studies, they are the least of the problem.  Pay for content sites like Livestrong.com, About.com and many more are willing to pay for and give the title “expert” to just about anyone.  These sites come up early and often in search results, and do a very good job of presenting themselves and trust worthy sources of information.  But we all need to be smarter about critiquing our sources.  I’m not going to get into all the problems these sites present (maybe I’ll address that another day I’m bored and a little grumpy at work).  The next time you find yourself reading something posted on one of those sites just think of poor trusting Charlie Brown.

The bottom line is, there is a lot of information out there.  Some of it is interesting, some of it is useful and some of it is just a wanked pigskin.  Be smart about what you consume both with your mouth and your brain.

Upstate Race #2 McQuaid Invite at GVP

The second race in the Upstate New York XC series took place at Genesee Valley Park in Rochester. Our race was at the end of massive McQuaid Invitational which featured over 6000 high school runners.  Despite being essentially a home meet, Joe and I were the only 2 Roadkill Racers in attendance. While the rest of Roadkill was off gallivanting, Joe and I were shoring up the High Noon ranks, me on the open team and Joe making his first start on the masters team.

And they
And they’re off!

I had 1 goal for this 3 mile fast track of a cross country race, beat everyone my age or older and I am happy to report that I was the only person over 34 to break 16 minutes.  In that respect the race was a great success.  On the downside, High Kill Noon Racing finished 3rd for the second race in a row; our lack of depth really hurt us this time.

fast track
Passing someone older than me.

Joe ran with the High Noon masters team, that turned out to not be a team.  This of course is always a possibility when you only have 5 guys registered for a team.  All Joe’s hard work however was not for naught as he beat both the kid who didn’t know enough not to wear his race t-shirt in the race he was running and Pete’s wife (by 2 seconds).

ouch
Joe feeling better than he looks.

Next up is a 6k at Akron Falls Park.  The race will also serve as the USATF-Niagara Master’s Championship race.  It was very nice of the Buffalo club to put the race on the East side of town instead of sticking it out on Grand Island which added another 40 minutes to the drive.  This trip should be less than an hour, and hopefully the race will feature more than 2 Roadkill Racers.

Overall Individual Results

Team Results