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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Run Free Friends

I get so wrapped up in my work with runners & triathletes who wish to improve their mechanics that I sometimes forget that the reason why most of us run is simply as an escape to a more child-like time. I watch my son run & it's always with simple & sheer joy! When racing it is important to always keep this in mind. The voluntary nature of what we do allows us to tap into areas of motivation that are different than toughness, or competitiveness, or even a winning mindset, but rather a peaceful, balanced, rhythmic process, fueled by amazement & gratitude. So in the spirit of this I refer you to a laugh out loud YouTube clip of Friends so that whether you are a serious runner or just a happy-to-be-out-there runner, you can tap into power & motivation that is available from the not so usual sources of plain joy & fun. Enjoy:
Bobby McGee

Monday, October 26, 2009

Further to New York this weekend

Another note to you intrepid New York Marathoners:

I am excited for you all as you launch down the streets of New York this weekend.

If you get this next week right I believe that all that stands between you & a big breakthrough is the mental component of overcoming the inevitable bad patch. If you closely follow your plan of starting conservatively, but ensuring that you DO get into the running as soon as you can, then typically there will come the precipitous moment where you have to decide to push through at a level perhaps only achieved in the marathon once before & then get all of it out of you in those final miles – racing, rather than hanging in there.

It’s when you are at that point when the decision becomes, “I break through with a mindset that this next part is/will be particularly challenging, but relatively brief”, & then take up another challenge & that is to “compete” over the closing 6 – 8 miles with an understanding that you are physically able to do so even though you may have no recent marathon experience in support of this. Trick is to trust the training & yourself & believe that tough patches & especially that tough patch is still temporary & finite & to shake off the shock of it & have prepared a way to restart & then race the final section, i.e. succeed at the access game.

Those that do, joyously recollect afterwards as best they can, what they did when barging through the door of opportunity. Those that don’t, observe themselves as they stumble. Have Spirit & self join hands in a truly merry dance through the perceived valley of shadows that needs but a bold flip of the switch to illuminate this great festival of delight that is the willing application of mind through body to access soul.

Bobby McGee

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Have a great run in NY everybody!

“Poetry, music, forests, oceans, solitude – they were what developed enormous spirit & strength. I came to realize that spirit, as much as or more than physical conditioning, had to be stored up before races”. Herb Elliott

Running the NY City marathon is a lifelong dream for many runners. You have been storing up spirit for NY for a long time – through other marathons, through your career as a marathon runner, through your desire to run this race, through your willingness to have had the discipline to beat the heat & cold, the dark & the social resistance, the disappointments & the successes, the bad GIT moments & the frustrations, the obstructions, the joys, the people; meeting the demands of job & life – in short all the moments have either prepared or slowed you down for this moment & it all now lies in the moment by moment decisions you make along these last few days.

I ask you to consider an approach that goes way beyond ego – an approach that cannot be held captive in mediocrity by the subterfuges & constructs that so much of everyday life holds, because it lies beyond their influence.

I ask you to create a race time span that may be used as an epitaph to a marathon runner – one that you may be proud of yes, but more; one that will remind you of a series of unforgettable moments – etched into your heart & soul as the most enjoyable doing, a process that you wanted never to end. Imagine & pre-experience a time of unbelievable, other worldly experience – something so melodious, so in tune with a rich life’s rhythms, so in vibrational harmony with your soul, that it needs not description nor explanation, only a statement perhaps like this: “You would have had to have been there, in order to understand.” This followed by a smile so deep, so eye-wellingly emotional as to leave no doubt to the observer that self-transcendence has taken place.

Can you do that for yourself? You many runners, whom I have observed for so long, have done it for me – I ask you to do it for you.
Bobby McGee

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Getting schooled on pacing

Hoo boy, pacing really is where it’s at right now. Probably has been for a long time! Anyway, just after answering the question from Australia on pacing, it turns out that the new wisest man in exercise physiology & its interpretation, my friend Ross Tucker, is in Chicago for the marathon this weekend & they are going to try, instead of the usual 5km by 5km analysis, a 1km by 1km analysis, which would bring into much starker relief the whole issue of what these great runners, like Sammy Wanjiru, current Olympic champion, who ran an impossible 2:06 in the heat of Beijing, actually do out there.
I highly recommend you read this post for Thursday Oct. 8th:
When you compare this, to what I had to say yesterday it becomes clear that the great modern runners are running closer to even pace & that the mental component is far from resolved – it is clear that we are approaching human limits & that the great breakthroughs in world records will become less & less & that the mind will play an ever more increasing role when it comes to accessing our human limits & determining winners & also rans.
Boy is it ever humbling & a great learning experience to be involved in endurance sports in this modern day & age.
Good luck this weekend to all of you running the Chicago marathon & taking part in the Ironman world championships in Kona, Hawaii.
Bobby McGee

Comment from someone who ought to know on the Vit. D article I referenced

The Vit D article is misleading.

First, the studies quoted aren't recent as the NYT says - they go back to the 1950s, when no one knew what the hell to measure to assess Vit D levels accurately.

Second, there is also an alternative theory suggesting that the body increases vitamin D production to deal with inflammation.

Athletes are "fittest" in August, not because it's sunny and they have high vitamin D, but because that's when the season peaks, for goodness sake!
They are producing more vitamin D to deal with the increased inflammation and immune system stress.
As they ease off on training, the need for vitamin D declines and so yes, as they get less fit, vit D levels drop.

So, not totally convinced that I need to be drinking cod liver oil, bleeeuah!!!!!!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Perceived Effort versus even pace

Here's a great question I got from an Aussie triathlon coach: "I had two junior girls do some time trials on the weekend and I took all their splits and have plotted them. It seems they have taken a rather common curve in their splits, fast early – slow down – bring it back at the end. What are your thoughts on pacing in a TT? Should I try to bring them back a bit early? Or is this a common curve for all athletes and I just need to work with it and work on their endurance in that middle zone?" PC

Yup stats have shown this over & over again. There are many reasons, some of which we discussed: The mental zone - come too far to quit, got too far to go to smell the barn, think about past & future, lose focus in the present moment & de-recruit/de-facilitate, de-potentiate. 2ndly the central governor is insufficiently experienced, testosterone (ego) kicks in & they go fast while they still can & the same at the end – central governor (brain?) calculates that they have a finite, comprehensible manageable amount left & they won’t blow up, so they give it schtick over the last section.

They should absolutely be taught in rep work & progressively more & more intense steady effort runs to go out at a pace that they think is right, then back off that, then mid run they should risk going harder than they feel is prudent & then go at the finish sooner than they think they can. Warm them up super well. Then using a treadmill, the GPS, or you on the bike, set a pace that you have determined they ought to be capable of. Then have them stick with the pace (even sometimes without knowing the distance they have to run!) & hold it as long as they can & only focus on dealing with the current, in-the-moment consequences of pace & effort, i.e. stay present to what is so, second by second – staying away from concerns about what impact such a pace may have on them 5sec or 5min or 50min from this moment – just stick at it, renegotiate & stick at it some more & more & more. They soon learn how to override the bodies too-early warning signs & learn how to push towards more real physiological limits that have not been filtered through the interpretation network too much.

Even do 100m, flying start strides beforehand till they master the feel of the sought-after pace. They can learn that even pace (no more than 3% on either side of sought after effort) is most economical & fastest. Effort is the key word in terms of physiology – i.e. at an effort, that under ideal conditions – flat road, no wind, firm surface, will produce a given pace; faster on downs or with the wind & slower on climbs or against the wind or on a slow surface. The mental effort is trained as a crescendo effort – i.e. in order to produce an even pace (under ideal conditions again) the effort needs to escalate throughout – a 3:30km (as an example of the pace required) for the 1st km of an 8km TT may feel like a 4:00 & a 3:30 for the 5th, might feel like a 3:20 & for the 7th an intense 3:00 in order to stick at 3:30s – get my drift?

The top Kenyans sometimes use 3 groups of training partners: the weakest group for the 1st 3rd of the workout & the strongest for the last 3rd! All workouts, from easy to VO2max go from easy to fast throughout, never the other way around – but they do train for fast starts as well.

Hope this helps

Bobby McGee

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

YASSO 800s & half marathon predictions

I recently received a good question regarding using Yasso's 800s as a means by which one can figure half marathon shape using the formula. If you don't know about this workout, you are in for a treat. Bart Yasso, Runner's World figure, author & running guru extraordinaire & good friend, discovered that if you run 10X800m with a 400m jog recovery between each, your average time in minutes & seconds for the workout approximates your time capability, in hours & minutes, for the marathon - so if, for example, you run 3min & 55sec for your 800s, your marathon time could be predicted at 3hours & 55 minutes - weird huh? Well there's no physiological basis for this, it's just a quirk of statistics. Anyway, I use the workouts & suggest the process in my book, Run Workouts for Runners & Triathletes that came out earlier this year.

Check out this article on Bart & the workout:

Here's the question: "LOVE your Run workout book - have a question re Yasso - for the Half Marathon - in the taper week you have athletes doing 8x800 - I know the routine for a marathon pace prediction but how does Yasso's 800's predict for a Half Marathon? Divide by two and then take another say 5% off." GW

& here's my answer: Bobby McGee: "Yassos are a good workout & as you might have read from my stuff, or even Greg McMillan’s stuff, we feel they under read by about 5:00, i.e. 10X800m with 400m jog recovery in 3:00 with sufficient mileage (55/60+p/w) equals about a 3:05 marathon. Of course with what I see at altitude it gets a little vague; but again sufficient volume is the key. I set the 8X800m as a HM workout because it is a good solid rep workout, not as any kind of prediction workout, as Yassos aren’t physiologically quantifiably justified any way – they're just a very quirky, freaky coincidence really & well done for Bart to see it & create a legend!

If however you want to use the number as a bit of a cross reference, even if based on Bart’s fantastical fancy, I suggest extrapolating the 8 reps out to 10, (say your runner averaged 3mins) & then pop that on McMillan’s calculator & add 2:30 & you’ll have a fair reflection based on the Yasso theory, i.e. about a 1:27:50 half marathon. I think your way, minus a further 5% would possibly under read too much.

Hope this helps,

Bobby McGee

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sub 13 for 5km

Yes I know, it does not have that magical ring to it that sub 4 for the mile has, but it's a much greater feat. I love the 5km - it's that blend of miling speed & 10km strength that intrigues me. If a group of exercise physiologists had to have chosen events, this is the one that they most certainly would not have - too complex, requiring super human ability to master, too hard to define the prerequisites the athlete requires to master the event. The fastest athletes I have ever coached got into the teens, never 12-anything; it would be an honor indeed to coach someone to go sub 13, or sub 15 for women for that matter.

The 1st guy ever to break 13min for 5000m was the great Moroccan Said Aouita in 1987 in Rome - he was a great miler & world record holder for multiple other distances from 1500m up to 5km. He even ran in the Olympics in the 800m such was his range!

It's not been around that long - the 12.5 lap event was born from the 3 mile event. I think the real buzz around the event came about when a flamboyant Brit by the name of Chris Chattaway (who was a rabbit in Bannister's world's 1st sub 4 clocking), who did minimum mileage, defeated the Russian iron man, Vladimir Kuts, who was famous for his incredible training volumes in a Russia versus England 5000m match in 1954 by hanging on for dear life through a suicidal pace & multiple surges. He set a new world record in 13:51.6 some 5sec faster than the previous record. (About 10 days later Kuts broke this record).

The current world record is just south of 12:40 (12:37:35to be exact), held by the still current king, Kenenisa Bekele from Ethiopia & there have been quite a few runners from Africa below

the magical barrier. My interest was perked when British miler David Moorcroft, somewhat unexpectedly ran 13:00:41 27 years ago (& still the British record- 3rd oldest). This was the last 5000m record set by a non-African (July 1982!). Incidentally this time was set without pace-makers - wow some race that must have been! This was 5sec faster than anyone had ever run before. He sadly never did go sub 13, as he became injured soon thereafter (stress fracture, hepatitis & chronic pelvic misalignment) & had a tragic exit from the '84 Olympics, coming last in the final in excruciating pain.

Bob Kennedy from the USA was the 1st non-African to go sub 13min, (12:58:21) in 1996. It took many years before the Aussie, Craig Mottram followed him under 13min - 12:55:76 coming 2nd to the great Gebrselassie in a UK all comers record with a last lap of 55.67 seconds in 2004

Now to cap it all, in one glorious season for US men's 5000m running both Dathan Ritzenhein (AR 12:56.27) & Matt Tegenkamp (12:58.56) also joined the exclusive sub-13 club. They join Bernard Lagat (12:59.22 to Bekele's 13:00.04) when he beat the unbeatable Bekele, as US runners sub 13. Lagat is formerly from Kenya, so has the pedigree.

Hope that inspires you to go out & break 25, or 20, or 15min for 5km - & if you break 14 without any formal coaching, give me a call & we'll talk, especially if you are a member of the fairer gender, hee, hee.

Bobby McGee