Friday, May 27, 2011

If I coached the way I trained...

...I'd probably be fired. I never write up my own training schedule ahead of time, it's all in my head more or less based on what I did last week and think that I might need in the coming week. These days I'm even less inclined to think more than a few days (or hours) ahead. I've been just getting out there and running--or not--and effort is based on how I feel on a given day.

For people that I coach I usually send out 3 week schedules, and if the schedule doesn't arrive within about 2 days before the first day my clients get kind of antsy. Sorry guys.

Here, the 11 miles at Murphy Dome Roam (equaling the longest run of the year) the other week off an average of 35 miles/week resulted in a longer than normal recovery. Last week I just jogged most of the time (41 miles whoo!). On Friday I decided to do a 30 min "tempo" (at slower than half marathon pace) at the UAF trails but by 20 min I could could feel my legs tightening up so I quit at 24.

Other than that over the past two weeks I've only run easy, other than another impromptu session at UAF on Tuesday when I did some half baked/half planned surges after a 35 or 40 min warm up. I just ran as hard as I felt (which wasn't too hard, maybe 10K effort) until I got tired or bored (which was about 3 min), and then jogged until feeling recovered (about 2 minutes). I can't remember if I did 4 or 5 reps, but stopped when I didn't feel like doing any more.

Wednesday was an easy run, only 30 min to chill in the 80 degree heat before the youth meet. Thursday was a bike commute (about 10 miles each way, including Summit Hill/a tough one), and today I'm planning on some threshold type reps (maybe 3 X 6 or 7 min on the turf over at West Valley. Trail run Saturday, and long run on Sunday.

So it's more or less training by default, sort of slackerish and going day by day depending on how I feel. In the past I've always gotten hyped up for track 5000 on the first week of June. I still might try one, but it'll be more of a time trial.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Equinox Interviews blog site

Seeing how probably five of the seven people who might read my blog from time to time are from Fairbanks or Alaska, this might be of interest.

Dee Daniels has created a blog called Equinox Interviews. Here's your chance to share some of your Equinox Marathon experiences and insights.

I've read all the entries posted so far and all are very interesting!

The questions and instructions how to enter your information are on the "About" section of the the Equinox Interviews blog.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Where Age Grading Breaks Down and Other Arcane Nuance

I have been planning to write this up, following the Chena River Run the other week, and out of the blue had a conversation with a friend about this very topic at Murphy Dome. So now's a good time to discuss this topic with some more depth--not that I'm deep thinker or anything.

I've been posting some age graded results for select Flint Hills races for the past couple of years, knowing that the system isn't perfect.

What age grading comes down to is that the percentages coming out of the calculations are only as good as the world record for any particular age. And there's the rub, a world class runner (say low 27 10K, sub 2:10 marathon for men or sub 32 10K, under 2:30 for women) can make a very good living at running, enough to set themselves up for life if they have a decently long career and the manage things. World record holding runners are definitely set for life. Free drinks, meals, and babes forever for the men runners I hear. So the incentive is very high to work incredibly hard for many years at something most of them love to do anyway. Therefore, open standards are very tough.

Masters runners at the 40+ age group can also do well for themselves, but there are just a handful in the world who can make a decent living at it. And once they hit 45, 50 and beyond it's all for fun. Ed Whitlock does not command a six figure endorsement from NIKE and he doesn't get huge appearance fees at races and clinics, although he is a huge cult figure and roll model for age group enthusiasts.

The achievement levels aren't as high into the late 40s and beyond. Not as many top runners keep at it past 45, therfore it's simply easier to get a higher age group ranking the older you get. If you can keep healthy and motivated. (those are Big Ifs).

Let's take my 5K past and age group regression for example's sake. 5K is a distance that I've done through most of my career, and I've run at least one almost every year from age 20 on.

Back in the day when I was most fit and spry (say age 25 to 34), like now I'd often start the season with a 5K or two. Those races would usually be in the 16 min to 16:30 range, and by mid-late season with a lot of work I'd usually get into the 15:20s and 30s. Twice I broke 15:20, with PR of 15:13.

Fast forward to the past few years in this outpost of melting permafrost rife with climate change deniers. My training is less intense now, I just can't hammer the hard workouts as I used to. Or maybe I'm just getting wimpy. I also weigh 10-12 lbs more. Anyway, I'm still in early season shape and if I can keep healthy and consistent, those 5K times should drop another 20 or 30 seconds from my last two outings (17:51 and 17:42, respectively). However, those two early season times age grade to 15:13 and 15:08 for a 53 yr old male. Whoo hoo PRs! Not.

Even with the decline of age--which I think does occur (otherwise we'd see dozens of 50 yr olds knocking off 13:20s...umm yeah right!)--there is no way that my level of running (it's lame & I know) at Beat Beethoven and Chena River Run were anywhere near equivalent to the PR races I ran in 1985 and 1986 when I was still in my 20s. At best, in my own body and mind, I'm at the equivalent of 16:00 16:10 shape right now.

So age grading has given me a minute for nothing! ehh, or all the slackers who were better than me 20 or 30 years ago gave it up too early. Yar to that.

The point is, age grading tends to get easier the older you get. Now if some 50 year olds start running 14:05 or so for 5K, which could very well happen in the next decade seeing how 13:10s are dime a dozen in the open categories, then maybe we'll see a more accurate performance index.

All that said, despite the limitations, I do like to dabble with age grading because it does provide an objective measure for a particular age or age group. Just like how we, well the geeky amongst us, used to play around with performance tables back 20 or 30 years ago (hmmm if I can run a 2 mile in 9:40, what could I do for the marathon...or 15K) it's also a great motivator. So what's wrong with that?

You can run into trouble with age grading by comparing athletes of different age groups that are decades apart or cross gender--who's to say a 44 year old male runner who runs 16:00 for 5K is performing at less of a level than a 62 year old woman who does 22:00? I think in 12 or 15 years someone like former Olympic marathoners Colleen DeReuck or Linda Somers Smith will still be at it and they'll be running in the low or sub 18s!

I first came upon the concept of age grading in my early 40s. I took it with a grain of salt then. And still do now, even though I post up some of the leading times from some of our local races. This sort of explains why I don't post up performance equivalent times, and just last week I was thinking about how I "rank" the performances. Maybe I should keep the overall times in ascending order (not by age graded percentages as I have been doing), but put the percentage in parenthesis and let the reader discern a ranking on their own.

Meanwhile, my goal is to get a 90. That'd be 16:47 for 5K this year. Out there.

P'nked at the Roam

I can't believe it. I just wrote up a long report and some analysis of the Murphy Dome Roam and it went zap on me!

Just the facts:
An ignominious 7th place in 1:14:38. After the first half mile I ran the entire way by myself. This was the first time I actually "raced" it (the two previous efforts were pace runs/workouts).

The 3 mile hill climb was much tougher than I'd planned for (25:58, avg heart rate was 162), while the 8 mile descent was not the cruise I'd expected (48:40, avg heart rate ~157).

The good news is that despite having sore quads today my knee is fine.

Thanks to Jane Lanford for putting this race on. It's a tough fun run.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Chena River Run Age Group Leaders

Here are age group leaders for the Chena River Run, which was held on May 7 here in Fairbanks.

Like last year, I'll post up the age-graded results (percentiles, but not age graded times) from races of the local Running Club North's Flint Hills Series. The races I hope to list this year include Chena River Run, Midnight Sun Run 10K, Flint Hills Mile, Run of the Valkyries (if they have an accurate course this year), Santa Claus Half Marathon, and Equinox Marathon.

Wow! Not only did we have some very good age graded performances this year, but Dorli McWayne just knocked it out of the park with a 92.36 with her 20:26. Anything above 90 is considered world class. That was an awesome run!

In the men's division it was nice to see a challenge (age group as well as in the race) from Bill Perry of Whitehorse, Yukon. He's father of graduating UAF skier John Perry. I had a brief chance to chat with him right after the race. Also great to see Chad Caroll running as a masters and Matias Saari made it back here to run in a 5K road race no less.

Using the World Masters Association age graded calculator: I don't have everyone date of birth, so will just go with year of birth (YOB) for age, so for example, there might be some 51 year olds who are actually 50 at the time of the race.

Go ahead and check the calculator for you and your runner friends. If I left you or anyone off the list let me know and I can fix it.

Melissa Lewis.. [1970] 20:07.8 (74.51)
Dorli McWayne.. [1952] 20:26.8 (92.36)
Jane Lanford... [1955] 21:38.6 (83.68)
Erika VanFlein. [1959] 23:36.6 (72.65)
Deena Doublex.. [1950] 25:20.7 (76.74)


Chad Carrol.... [1971] 16:43.7 (79.80)
Matias Saari... [1970] 16:51.5 (79.79)
Roger Sayre.... [1958] 17:42.2 (83.41)
Mark Lindberg.. [1963] 17:51.8 (79.52)
Bill Parry......[1955] 18:11.2 (83.34)

Chilly Chena

Dang, that was a cool one!

Chilly high 30s with a pesky 10-12 mph north wind made for some more difficult than usual conditions on this loopy/turny point-to-point course. The field keeps getting stronger for the Chena River Run, and there were a lot of good university and ex-college runners lining up. For some reason I lined up on the first row. Delusions of grandeur, I was shooting for top 10. Just a few years ago I was 4th here, but not close to top 10 this time.

photo by Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Not only did the top row take it out fast I was immediately swallowed up by most of the first and second rows. As predicted I was no better than 40th place at half mile. However, I made a big move at 3/4 mile was into top 15 or so by half way. Then I had a good 3 way battle with 2:41 masters marathoner Mark Lindberg (thinking about the times we raced against each other back in Ithaca, NY 20+ years ago) and UAF xc ski sprint specialist Erik Soederstrom (who's made some inroads at longer ski races this year). I tried to shake them over the Chena River bridge, but then we ran into a headwind over the stretch, with about a half mile to go, so I tucked in behind. Waiting to kick, as if a 53 yr old has a kick. I tried, and threw in a final surge just before 3 miles but Soederstrom caught me with 100 to go.

Mile splits were 5:40, 11:24, 17:10, and 33 (5:08 pace for the "kick"). 17:43 16th place, my lowest placing here, but this was the deepest field. Time wise, right in the middle of where I've been at past race efforts, about 20-25 sec faster than my slowest (last year, coming of knee surgery) and about the same amount slower than my fastest (2008 I think).

Friday, May 06, 2011

Training Update

First things first, my last ski was April 27th at Birch Hill. It was mushy and slow by then but I believe that's the latest I've skied here. All our ski stuff is still out, waiting for summer wax and storage.

Just a week later, this Wednesday, I had my first trail run. Warmed up on the UAF Commuter Trail (just behind the Botanical Garden and Reindeer Farm) and then did a 20 min tempo run and surges on the Sheep Creek trail with a long cool down. Sheep Creek is my favorite stretch for workouts. Straight, soft, no traffic. Great for strength work (slight uphill heading out) and sustained speed.

Workouts have been going okay. Up to 35 miles a week or so, plus cross training. Most of my "speed" and threshold training runs have been uphill. I've kind of switched from every other day of running to two days on, one day off. That seems to be working; I tried three days of consecutive running last weekend, but the knee was getting sore. So I biked Chena Ridge on Tuesday and it bounced right back.

Chena River Run tomorrow. Despite the Jazzercise crew and other pre-race BS I look forward to this one all year. 5Ks are not my cup of tea but it's usually a competitive race and the true opener to the spring season.

I don't usually make predictions, but hoping for 17:40. Everone is gung ho on this one, and the key is not to get sucked out too fast. At 3/4 mile I'll probably be in 40th or 50th place. Moving up is easy for another 3/4 mile, and then it's just hang on and hope not to get outkicked by those with younger-faster legs.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011


This probably won't help my popularity index any, as if I had one. But here are some things that sort of get under my skin.

Inaccurate race courses. Early spring is 5K season, and the number of these has doubled or tripled in the past year or two. There is one at least every week. However, other than a few exceptions (Chena River Run, Water Run, Independence 5K and Labor Day 5K) the local courses are rarely accurate. At the very least go out there and measure the damn thing with a Garmin. Better yet, get it certified. People like to have accurate times and that doesn't happen often enough here.

T-shirts like a billboard. This is not just a local issue, it happens everywhere, but I've never seen anything like this year's Chena River Run t-shirt. They put in all this effort to make nice shirt design on good tech material but the back of the shirt has something like 40 or 50 sponsors. How about one or two main sponsors, which you put on the sleeve and leave the rest blank? List your sponsors on the brochure. I'm not keeping my shirt this year, that's for sure.

Endless track meets. There are much bigger meets in the Lower 48 (Drake Relays, Penn Relays, Stanford Invite last weekend) with thousands of athletes participating in the time that it takes an Interior meet with maybe 200 runners. The officials are taking way too much time between heats and events.

A chute for middle distance races? I've never seen it anywhere else. But the other week I did see a couple incidents where a lapped kid got cut off by the rope and pylon, so they had to duck to run through. And one girl, after a strong finish, ran into the pylon and off the track (into a foot of ice cold water). Seriously you don't need a chute for a track race. But if we insist on a chute place it another 10 meters back from the finish line and so runners don't have to veer off into lane 2-3 before they finish, and runners won't crash into pylons and ropes. A simple fix.

Automatic timing. Well I guess it's accurate but it adds between 0.3 or 0.4 to times. My son ran 5:00.2 officially the other day, while everyone else who timed him (4 people I talked to) had him in under 5. (actually automatic timing is probably for the better, but still working out the kinks here).

Not enough 10Ks, and no 15Ks or 10 milers. Unless you want to drive 200 miles each way to Tok (Tok Trot in mid-April), or if you're slow (Back to the Pack 10K), or don't care about 10K times at all (Run Lulu Run on a hilly course), the Midnight Sun Run is it. And we have no mid/long distance races (12K, 15K, 10 mile, 20K) on an accurate road course. I'd develop/direct some of these but with the xc series coming up plus volunteer/coaching help I don't have a lot of free time.

No spring track for middle schoolers. I made a big fuss about this last year, as did many other parents, but the Activities Directors from the local schools just lent a deaf ear. Once again, dumb call.

Tamara and I have initiated Fairbanks Youth Track (FYT) this year, but we're a shoestring mom and pop organization. We have about a dozen kids, so off to a good start, but just two years ago there were 150 to 200 local kids participating in spring track. The decision to make middle school track a fall sport effectively killed it. Particpation is down by 2/3 or more, and the meets are poorly administered. For example, last fall the 4X400 relays were run in lanes the entire way, with no stagger, so the kids in lanes 2 and 3 ended up running an approximate extra 30 and 70 meters respectively. What's up with that????

My own limitations in the aerobic/political organizer game. I'd love to shake things up, make some changes. But I'll probably never be on a board. I'd rather visit the dentist. Although sitting through a 2 or 3 hour board meeting might not be as arduous as a colonoscopy, and all the rigamorole that proceeds it, I just don't have the patience and political acumen to sit through hours of decision making. Simply put, I'd rather be freezing my tail off timing kids in a workout, or teaching them the finer points of high knee drills, or setting up my own vision of a race series.

Looking forward to the fall XC series, but have to get on going on that!