May 2021 status report

I’ve had a particularly tough May on the non-running front, though to some degree I expected it.

I had some annual equipment service things come up that ate up a bunch of my time, and though I dialed back my training this last couple weeks to attend to them I still got rather exhausted.

I DNF’d a hot 10K at 4 miles last weekend (putting it on the schedule seemed like a much better idea 3 months and 40 cooler degrees ago), and have had issues with waking up during the night and not getting back to sleep.

Thankfully, Indy Monumental is months away and there’s no urgent need to ramp up training. That said, I did substantially improve my running frequency and mileage in April as I transitioned from mostly cross-training to mostly running. I still have a ways to go: I peaked a couple weeks ago at 32 miles, and I at least want to build to the 40-55mi range through regular running.

But even at reduced volume I’m running 4-6 days each week and feel comfortable with near-daily running, thanks in no small part to the little 1500-2000m runs I’ve taken during the workday and an improved eating schedule.

My current regular running goal is 10K Per Day, 6.2mi in the early morning most days with occasional rest or easy days. The obvious exception aside from easy days would be longer runs for the marathon, but otherwise I intend to run 10K each morning, whether regular easy runs or cumulative mileage on a speed workout.

The weather currently is getting Vegas hot, and those short workday runs/walks are not yet challenging but 100+ degree temperatures will provide the true test. The morning workouts in 75-80 degree heat are now doable as I’ve heat acclimated at least to those conditions. I still have some ways to go to feel okay with the true Vegas heat.

I’ll ramp up marathon-specific training during the mid/late summer, though I should first take a page from Podium Runner and focus for May-July on building 5K/10K fitness. I want to get back to Chicago 2018 performance levels on mid-range speed, and I know I still have the ability to do it if I can whip back into shape.

I also need to shed some weight. I’ve made some progress to get from 182-183 to 180 lbs but it’s very slow going right now on the scale. I have to balance getting enough nutrition to fuel training and recovery, with cleaning up my system and shedding fat or unneeded water weight.

Adding more training volume and consistent strength training should likely produce the same results I saw in 2018 when without any “dieting” I went from the mid 170’s to the low 160’s. I have tightened up my diet a great deal, and now I just need to land on a consistent plan that consistently gets me every nutrient I currently need.

More later on the training strategies as I ramp up volume and get knee deep into summer training.

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Next Up: The 2021 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon (11/6/21)

Now official: I plan to run the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on November 6, 2021.

I wanted to run a marathon before the end of the year, before training for Vancouver in 2022. This will be it, for a few reasons.

I also wanted to take the plunge on a personally unprecedented task: Training for a marathon through the brutal Vegas summer.

After a summer and a half (I did move back in mid-summer 2019), I learned from experience that during summer the only time of day you can do a serious run workout is early in the morning before temperatures top 90-95°F. You also can’t go particularly long once the sun is up, so longer runs beyond an hour ought to begin before the sunrise (which to be fair was true in Chicago summer weather as well).

But I also previously went on walks outside during work breaks on hot summer afternoons, lasting anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes. Recently these became shorter runs, and since I keep these easy they probably won’t be much more demanding than those previous 100-110°F walks. Either way, I know what being out in this heat feels like, and am confident I can still go on short 7-10 minute work break runs to add to my volume, keep my body active, and get extra form practice.

I had considered various marathons between September and December, but Indy landed in the right spot timing wise. November allows for peak training (e.g. 20 mile run days) to take place after the weather has cooled off a bit. It’s not so late that recovery could possibly impact Vancouver training, which should begin at the end of the year. Plus, with food holidays like Thanksgiving and Xmas shortly after Indy, the extra food can help with recovery.

Also, Indy’s race day weather should be rather mild by November, in the 50-60°F range which should make Indiana’s somewhat high humidity feel good rather than terrible.

Colleagues in Chicago have run Indy with mostly amicable feedback. It’s an accessible marathon with a reasonable topography. There is a hilly section around the middle of the race but the terrain is overwise mostly flat with mild undulations. Vegas’ slanted valley topography should make that course feel easy. It’s not exactly a “starter marathon” but it’s an easier marathon to do well in before you train for a tougher marathon.

I didn’t want my first marathon back to be Vancouver in May 2022, in case my comeback training cycle didn’t go well or I made any major training mistakes (There is also a chance that circumstances could prevent me from running Vancouver AGAIN). I could apply any lessons from this cycle to training for Vancouver. Having trouble with Indy wouldn’t exactly break my heart, though obviously I intend to do well.

What’s the training plan for this race?

Mission one is base building. This is not just about adding weekly mileage but template building.

I currently plan to follow a variation of the Higdon Novice 2 Plan, doing the weekday runs in the morning while doing my work break jogs afterward. The latter will add about 15-20 miles per week to the base training volume, and for now I don’t plan to do those break runs on the weekend.

In short, the Higdon Novice 2 plan has you run Tuesday-Thursday, then do your long run Saturday and an hour of cross training on Sunday. Monday and Friday are days off. The Wednesday run is longer than the Tues/Thu runs, though shorter than the long run, and every other week the Wednesday run is done at marathon pace instead of easy pace like all the others. Obviously, the extra work break runs would be done as easy as needed and would rarely go longer than a mile each. Higdon recommends strength training Tuesday and Thursday if you already strength train, and I certainly will.

The weather and needing time to prepare for work is the key reason to keep weekday runs easy while technically not training Monday and Friday (obviously I’ll still be doing work break jogs those days and logging some miles). The later Wednesday runs reach 8 miles and could be a challenge, though the plan for Wednesday and Saturday was already to get up before sunrise (I already typically rise around 5am) and log some time before the sun is up.

Higdon Novice Marathon is an easy plan to follow if indeed you’re a novice. Though I’m certainly more advanced, I wanted the freedom to add the extra work break runs to my training volume without overtraining.

The key here with the break runs is heat acclimation. Smaller 10 minute doses of running in extreme heat will acclimate me to heat without much distress, which will help with the longer morning runs down the road, and certainly will help with racing the marathon on race day regardless of the conditions.

So right now I’m following a shell schedule version of the plan, gradually adding morning run workouts matching the schedule of the actual training plan, though at a lesser volume. The goal before July is to get accustomed to the schedule so that when I start the actual plan it’s not a big jump or change.

(As always, this could change based on evolving needs and fitness development. But the plan is to build to this schedule going into July.)

So the plan is set, and now it’s time for the long ramp to Indy in November.

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Why Does Pachev’s Always on The Run Routine work?

I’ve talked before about Sasha Pachev, the prolific patriarch of the prolific Pachev running family in Utah. To this day, I still consider his simple advice among the most effective for marathon training. Much like Hal Higdon, Pachev preaches volume first through a consistent diet of easy running, before progressing to a simple but consistent variety of speed and tempo workouts.

One of Pachev’s preached staples is what he calls his Always On The Run Routine. Basically, after training in the morning, every few hours he will take a break and go jog a mile. Pachev, to paraphrase, says this is to get the body moving, that we as humans were not designed to sit all day and that a short run every few hours is more natural, plus adds running volume and practice.

Keep in mind Pachev at his peak trained 80-100 miles a week, and was capable of running a sub-2:30 marathon. He was an elite-caliber runner and even in his older age probably still is. Even with such a high volume it didn’t take him more 10-12 hours a week to train. So, sure, Pachev’s scheduled short jogs between workouts were probably not too taxing after 10-20 mile workouts in the morning.

That said, though I’m nowhere near the prolific runner Pachev is, I have also taken inter-workout jogs during breaks to generally positive effect. I used to occasionally do them towards the end of my time in Chicago.

And now, I’ve been doing these short jogs during the workday, around the neighborhood during 15 minute breaks and after eating lunch. I had previously walked outside during breaks, but along with wanting to do more than walk I also didn’t like being out in the Vegas sun as long as it took to take these “short walks”. I could finish a jog 5 minutes faster on breaks, and well before the end of my lunch break, without being in the sun long enough to cause distress. Though sun exposure is good for your body, the decreased time in the hot sun was better for my skin.

I’m now running about 3-4 miles during the workday, in addition to training during the morning and weekends (as the heat rises and wanting to get better sleep, I’ve ditched postwork evening runs for now). I have effectively, though somewhat inadvertently, adopted Pachev’s Always On The Run Routine.

And, despite my current weekly mileage rocketing upward from all these little runs, I don’t feel any significant signs of burnout, no issues other than a bit of random soreness here or there, or occasional fatigue accumulation (as you would after a few days of multiple runs).

Plus, my running has shown more substantial week over week improvement than it was during earlier conventional training. I simply took one day off this weekend, and my running improved dramatically once I returned on Monday. Bear in mind that I’m not coming off a break in training: I’ve been running and endurance training for a while.

So obviously this had me considering what about this routine contributes to run development. I did land on a few ideas.

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The Fitbro Bodybuilder Low Carb Diet Issue

The next time you see a weightlifter preach the value of a low-carb high-fat diet, remember that low-carb works for low activity.

The average bro spends most of his time sedentary. They may work out hard for the half hour or hour or so they are at the gym, but other than maybe a few minutes of walking on the treadmill or elsewhere “for cardio”, they’re not burning much of any carbohydrates.

So of course it makes sense for them to preach low carb dieting. The reason high carb diets have produced obesity is because people consume a lot of carbs they don’t use. We’re sedentary, yet people consume hundreds of grams of carbohydrate a day suitable for someone physically active.

If you’re a runner or a triathlete, meanwhile, you likely are endurance training over longer periods of time, and your body draws on available glycogen stores, which can only be replenished through carbohydrates.

Sure, there is a whole other discussion around the value of a metabolic reset by avoiding carbs for a period, or carb cycling (eating lots of carbs around training and relatively few carbs when not), and taking it easy on carb intake when not training or during an extended recovery period. And, in some endurance training situations (ultrarunners can vouch for this), a low carb diet and “fat-adapting” may be more useful for training than consuming large amounts of carbs.

But for most athletes, a carb-rich diet is less harmful and more important to you than any benefits from a lower-carb higher-fat diet.

That said, as always, focus on whole foods (fruit, vegetables, nuts/seeds, meat) rather than packaged and processed foods. The quality of your food matters as well.

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Stryd Footpod Data, Two Weeks Later

With a couple of weeks of running with the Stryd Footpod, I now have substantially more data on my running than I did on day one, and I want to dive into what I’ve found.

First off, if the Stryd benefitted my training in any way, it’s that it got me to run a LOT more often. I previously ran more sporadically, and leaned more heavily on aerobic cross training (mainly with the spin bike).

In wanting to assemble more running data, I put the Stryd to use on a lot of shorter runs, mostly during work breaks. I now have a lot of 0.9-1.2 mile runs (1500-2000m) that don’t exceed 10 minutes, plus some slightly longer 15-20 minute lunch runs. As Vegas begins to warm up, these require more effort, plus I have to be mindful that I have to go back to work afterward so I can’t go hard and get sloppy, and the area where I work is somewhat hilly and at higher altitude… thus these have been somewhat easy efforts.

The tracker also tracks measured walks, and these often include momentary sprints as I have to cross streets quickly. So I have a lot of 10-15 second high intensity bursts included in the data.

As a result I have a large sample of shorter runs, giving a lot of consistency to the short-end data at least. I still haven’t taken many longer runs yet (I have yet to take a run longer than 5 miles since getting the pod), so that data is more limited.

Because of this short-haul-centered data, my Stryd Critical Power (CP) is measured somewhat low, and probably lower than my Critical Power actually is. Once I get some hour+ runs in, the CP number will likely increase.

One item that jumps at most new Stryd users is how low the recommended running power is. My first runs were in the 200-220 Watt range, and Stryd initially recommended my easier runs sit in the 140-180 range. Runs at this level felt like grandpa jogs and still do.

Perhaps, after moderated paced easy runs from doing Garmin training plans, I got accustomed to running at a higher intensity, and got away from the easier intensities I ran with in Chicago. While still living in Chicago I ran that easy partially out of necessity: I was often running from home and to some extent tired, so I had to conserve energy since I was above all else transporting myself home. But on the flip side I effectively trained so much at a suitably easy intensity, was thus able to run longer distances, and my aerobic fitness improved dramatically as a result.

Either way, my current 219 Critical Power seems somewhat low and might be. My measured Power Curve lacks longer run data, and the long end of the curve presumes I couldn’t maintain more than 180 W, which I know I could exceed without much trouble.

I did a 9/3 Critical Power test last weekend (which includes a max effort 9 minute run and a max effort 3 minute run mixed in with a longer easy run). This helped fill in some of the data. But the missing link is a longer easy run.

Also, since obviously I’ve been running a lot more than usual, I may also need to rest a bit. I know for sure I haven’t crossed into overtraining, as very few of these runs I’ve done this last couple weeks were particularly long or taxing. After some recovery, my overall easy running may get stronger. I imagine, however, that this will take some time to manifest.

As for other key pieces of data:

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My First Look At Stryd Footpod Data

So, my Stryd footpod arrived today. After a somewhat complicated setup process (and though cumbersome to get attached, the pod does stick perfectly fine to my front end shoelaces), I went out in the increasingly hot Vegas sun and ran a couple of brief miles around the neighborhood to give the tracker some data for me to review.

This was as standard and normal a running effort as I could get myself to do, to make sure the data had no abnormalities. Sure enough, the run (though hot and a bit arduous for that reason) felt like a typical effort, so the data should be a roughly objective view of my standard issue effort.

Sure enough, footpod IQ data showed up in Garmin Connect for the run. It’s a bit complicated to get the Garmin data uploaded to Stryd for review (I had thought it would sync automatically, but apparently not), but once I did I had dashboard data to review.

Here you see a lot of data that’s not just typical mileage, times, pace, and heart rate.

(While not pictured, the log also includes a map of my run, so Garmin’s file did port that over just fine.)

Unfamiliar items on the log include:

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Getting a Stryd Footpod

I ordered a Stryd footpod, whose purchase terms require a 6 month subscription to the Stryd service.

I’m now interested in getting and using the additional stats these sorts of accelerometer running pods provide: Running power, ground contact, etc. I’m now at a point in training where I may have a use for that data, and it could better inform my training going forward.

I previously considered ordering a Garmin Running Dynamics pod to pair with my Forerunner, but balked at doing it (I even had a Dynamics pod ordered, but thanks to ongoing general shipping delays it hadn’t shipped for a few days, giving me time to reconsider and cancel), and now am glad I went with Stryd instead.

First of all, Garmin’s support history for their pricey accessories is a bit spotty. They previously sold a footpod that has now been discontinued and decommissioned. I didn’t want to spend $70 on a running pod that would eventually become obsolete and useless.

Also, while I like the functionality of my Forerunner 245, some of the pod stats I’d want aren’t available for the 245. I’d have to upgrade to a new watch, and while I can afford that I don’t want to decommission this watch after only a year of use.

Also, others reported that the Running Dynamics pod, designed to clip to your waistband, had fallen off and been lost during runs for some people. Again, I don’t want to spend $70 on something and then lose it, especially if it’s that easy to lose (it’s a small, less than a walnut sized device). While I have solid running form with minimal bounce, I have had clips and other similar devices fall off my body or otherwise get lost during and after runs. I can see myself easily losing that pod during a run and not knowing until too far after the fact.

The Stryd pod, meanwhile, is a standard footpod clipped to your shoelaces, and in my experience those stay on solidly with no issues. Worst case scenario, I forget to transfer the pod to my current pair of shoes, and it sits at home.

The Stryd is also intended for use with their 3rd party Garmin Connect IQ app, which provides full functionality through any compatible Garmin watch (and my Forerunner 245 is one of them). I don’t need to change my watch to use it, and it shouldn’t compromise the regular Garmin data from my workouts (including maps, which for me are fairly important).

So that’s why I went with the Stryd instead of the Running Dynamics pod. Now what exactly am I looking to get out of a Stryd versus the regular data from my Forerunner?

Stryd, instead of focusing on pace and other standard running metrics, focuses instead on running power. Pace is subject to a variety of variables beyond your control, e.g. inclines and declines, temperature, humidity, wind, your ability to handle altitude, etc. Most devices spit out just your pace, and what metrics they have evaluate your pace in a vacuum, as if all runs were in equal conditions. That’s not totally accurate.

Meanwhile, your running power measures the force you produce per step, and can be measured regardless of pace or conditions. It can give you a much more accurate, objective idea of how hard you’re running and how hard or easy to run. This pod uses an accelerometer rather than your GPS, so readings are dead-on accurate no matter where you are.

Stryd’s metrics can objectively determine what you’re capable of doing in any time trial from a second to 90 minutes, and can give a more accurate estimate of your current and potential performance all the way up to a marathon.

For me, the difficulty with conventional metrics (mileage, pace, heart rate) was that changes in my pace or heart rate didn’t necessarily tie back to my current fitness or performance. Temperature, high winds, and substantial differences in altitude between locations in the Las Vegas Valley can make workouts of the same intensity and effort look completely different, and make algorithmic judgments of my fitness based on those subjective results.

So, presuming it gets here in one piece this next week, I’ll begin using a Stryd for runs and look forward to what it shows me during runs.