05 December 2014

from good to gooder

december often poses the opportunity for a year in review, and casting a vision for the future.  so i figured that this is a good time to re-tool.

i'm deluded enough to believe that with each passing year i can become a better and faster runner - even though i'm well into my 'masters' era.  with that in mind (and having just finished reading through pete magill's build your running body) i am incorporating a few changes to my race preparation regiment.  these changes include:
  • strength work - for the last few years i've basically lived by the credo that in order to become a better runner i need to ... run.  more.  and after that, run.  at this point, i think that i could definitely benefit from some focused strengthening exercises, and in particular squat, lunge and plyometric work.  i have a dayjob that has me sitting at a desk in front of a computer for hours on end, so i'm pretty sure that i have weakened glutes - nevermind horrendous posture.  while i've been consistent over the past five years with bodyweight exercises for my core and upper body, i have neglected anything that might induce additional fatigue for my legs.  again, thanks in some part to pete magill i've concluded that by developing some of these key running muscles (e.g. glutes, hamstrings) i'll not only be contributing to injury prevention but enhancing the horsepower of my running engine and lengthening my stride.

  • establishing race weight early - while i consistently get the "put some meat on your bones!" comment, i know that between my obliviousness to my weight over the last few years and na├»ve belief that running would counteract my penchant for late-night ice cream and doritos i've probably carried more than my fair share of pounds into each race.  i've determined that i want to hit a race weight of around 135lbs (and at 5'9" that would situate my body mass index at 20, well within the normal range), and that the best time to establish that is during my base phase training.  when i hit the next phases of race preparation i will likely be eating a bit more to ensure proper fueling and recovery, so getting to where i want to be at this time will set a good start point and will likely be simpler to maintain (than trying to lose pounds in the late stages of training in order to achieve race weight).

  • intentional increase in stride rate - i'd tried counting my strides-per-minute (SPM) rate before and landed in the 170 ballpark.  after a few article reads (like this one and this one) i thought that it would benefit me to pick up my feet a little faster, and to try to stay lighter on impact.  just making that mental decision has resulted in currently working on about a 190 SPM rate.

  • minor changes to running form - i confess to being a tinkerer.  maybe it's because i'm a visual learner, but i tend to try to model my technique in sport from watching others ... i've done it with tennis, volleyball, basketball, golf, and now running.  while i'm sure that what results looks nothing like the athletes that i try to mimic (e.g. michael chang, karch kiraly, isaiah thomas, karrie webb) i do try to emulate the form positives which helped each individual excel in their respective fields.  for 2015 the adaptation for me in running will be to try to swing my arms a little more like mary keitany - towards the midline, and a little less agressively forward and backward (like the motion of the side rod on a train locomotive).  i believe that it is a more efficient motion in terms of energy expediture and reduces unnecessary torsion while maintaining momentum (for more on this i recommend reading this article and this one).

  • dietary tweaks - as part and parcel of reaching race weight, i've been reviewing the quality of the fuel that i've been stuffing into my system.  i've substituted more fresh fruits and veggies into my meal recipes, as well as swapping out your econo-spaghetti for whole grain or brown rice pastas.

  • training plan - two years ago i tried preparing for a marathon with the online version of the Hansons marathon training plan that i found ... and while it did get me to a new PB at that time, i wound up leaving it behind due to how tough i thought that it was to maintain a six-day-per-week schedule of cumulative fatigue mileage.  since then i've gone on to, well, maintain a six-day-per-week cumulative fatigue mileage sort of schedule.  so now that i actually am reading the actual Hansons Marathon Method book (review to come!), i'm back on track with their approach and am eager to see how well it conditions me this time around.

how do you find that your end-of-training year time is best spent?  are you a tinkerer?  if so, on what kinds of adaptations do you tend to focus?


  1. great post Patrick. It's always good to stop and reflect on lessons learned and then remember to apply it afterwards. I am in the same boat as you in terms of thinking that my best days (years?) are ahead of me.

    As you know, I love tinkering too and it doesn't work all the time but that's ok because when it works, there's no better feeling :)

    Keep up the great running and blogging and have a wonderful holiday season. Get some rest!

    1. thanks stan! at every turn i feel like a newbie discovering that i hadn't been paying attention to something that i should have integrated long ago (read: *facepalm*). its definitely good to be on a continuous learning curve ... as my friend trevor encouraged me, it's the japanese spirit of 'kaizen'.

      guys like you keep setting the bar high, which inspires me to keep working harder!

      wishing you, abby and simon a fantastic christmas holiday season as well!

  2. Great post Patrick...very informative. I am totally with you on the race weight/Doritos correlation! Those blasted triangular bites of deliciousness have been my bane for years...yet I still get the same "meat on your bones" comments you do.
    Glad to hear the 190 is working out for you, that's where I am as well. Keeps you nice and light on your feet for sure.
    Hansons...really good read and I'm following their plan right now actually. It is a lot of running, but you can certainly handle the load. It is working wonders for me, my pace is faster than ever and it has resulted in what were "hard" paces for me just a few months ago feeling downright slow and easy. Hansons has really pushed me and shown me what I'm capable of...I'm looking forward to seeing how you do with it this time around!

    1. thanks for reading and taking the time to comment mike!

      interesting to hear that you are working through the HMM right now - what have been the big changes for you, aside from becoming kenyan-like in speed? what was your previous training mileage like? how different are the SOS workouts that you are doing now compared to the key workouts that you had before?

    2. First of all, I ALWAYS read!

      The big thing I have noticed is that compared to the last marathon cycle I did, my pace has improved month over month. Last time I started training 5 months out, which had me marathon ready a month too soon...lesson learned, 16 weeks is enough. This time with HMM I have run more km's, but not a whole lot more. They are MUCH higher quality miles though...and I've been running more, to the tune of 6 (or 7) days per week. My previous workouts were more like "I'll run hard today" and that was that...no structure at all. Now there's purpose behind what I'm doing.
      In fairness, I ran the first two months not really on the plan...I was just trying to run hard every day and see where that got me. Then I sorta realized I was basically following Hansons (I already had the book so I knew the principles), so I figured I would just start following their plan for the rest of this block. It's been great for me, that's for sure