Why negative splits?

How do you attack a race?  Do you believe in ‘banking time’ up front or starting slow and building up as you go?

I’ve always been a believer in training at a certain pace until that speed becomes my ‘forever pace.’  Of course, I can do that because I’m not aiming to break world records.  All I have to do is focus on cadence and stepping lightly during training, and that lets me ‘go zombie’ during a race, zoning out and maintaining that familiar pace.

But I had a race a couple of years ago where I unexpectedly and unintentionally went with the negative split approach.  It was amazing!

fb-stopwatch2.pngScience is against trying to ‘bank’ time early in a race.  The point is this:  If you’re running at a speed faster than what your body typically trains at, your body enters its anaerobic metabolic zone.  While in that zone, your body uses carbs to fuel your effort level, and not oxygen.  When your body burns carbs, it produces higher amounts of lactic acid.  That acid builds up in your muscles and other tissues and blocks enzymes from breaking down more carbs.  Additionally, cell membranes are damaged and electrolytes build up inside cells, causing swelling.

In short, operating at high intensity will drastically inhibit performance over time.  And that’s just the physical effect.  Of course, the psychological effect might be even greater.  While there’s no greater high than passing people and pulling away from your competitors, there’s also no greater low than knowing your competitors are closing in, seeing and hearing them getting closer and finally watching them go by, knowing there’s nothing you can do about it.

glycosisA slower early pace helps the body conserve its supply of glycogen.  If you’re not burning it at a prodigious rate, you’re also not building up that evil lactic acid early on.  If you’re running a half marathon, starting off a race at 20-30 seconds off your normal pace and staying in that range for the first mile or so, and then settling into your goal pace will pay benefits down the line.

By mid-race, you should still comfortably be running within yourself.  Now it’s time to start increasing the pace – but not all at once.  Slowly build your tempo, speeding up only a little at a time.  The increase should be hard to notice.  Soon, you’ll notice your splits are slowly falling.

Regardless of how well you pace yourself, you’re going to feel fatigued around the last third of the race.  Focus on form and cadence, and forget about the clock.  At this point, you should start to see the people who bolted out of the gate in an effort to bank time coming back to you.  That will be a motivator in itself, and your confidence will increase, too.

Hitting the road again, and loving it

A fundamental change has helped me get back on the running trails again.

After months of dealing with hamstring issues and years of Achilles issues, getting away from low heel-drop shoes seems to have done the trick – I’m back to double-digit miles in a week for the first time since July.

Mileage would have been a bit more, but we took advantage of a snow day Wednesday, and hit the slopes for some snowboarding.  Given that the snow was wet and heavy, I’ll consider that my cross-training/active recovery day!

The current training plan has me on target for a half marathon sometime around Memorial Day.

Next milestone:  a 5K race next weekend.  Ideally, I’ll be somewhere between 7:30 and 8:00 per mile, and will complete it without injury!

running log

Next run:  Tomorrow’s LSD – 6 miles.  I know it’s not much, but I’m very much looking forward to it!

Finally healthy, and looking for more

thoughtsIt’s been a long road back to relative health, which means it’s been an equally long time between posts.

I deeply hate the ‘poor me – things aren’t going well’ kind of posts, so I simply don’t do them.  As a result, that meant a long time away from working on the fitness journal.  But I’m back at it, so that’s a good thing! Continue reading “Finally healthy, and looking for more”

Here’s How Cycling Can Slow Down the Aging Process

Originally published on http://www.bicycling.com


It might not grant eternal youth, but cycling, scientists have found, can slow the aging process and keep your muscles and immune system healthy well into your golden years.

Aging, it turns out, can do a number on your muscles. Humans typically lose muscle mass as they get older. Fat and connective tissue also start invading, affecting the muscles’ ability to contract. Furthermore, muscles can no longer suck up oxygen at the same rates.

However, a new study questioned if these age-related muscle declines are inevitable, or if regular exercise—cycling, in this case—can slow down or even reverse them.

To figure this out, researchers at King’s College in London biopsied the vastus lateralis muscle—the largest and most powerful part of the quad—in 125 male and female cyclists. Participants were all between 55 and 79 years old and deemed highly active (meaning the men could bike at least 62 miles at 15 mph, and the women 37 miles at 7 mph, twice within three weeks).

The researchers then analyzed muscle properties related to aerobic function and explosive muscle power. They found that, compared to sedentary populations, the cyclists showed less age-related muscle deterioration. That is, at the tissue level, muscle mass and strength stayed intact.

A second study turned the researchers’ attention to the immune system, which can also decline as you age. Specifically, your thymus—the part of your body that produces white blood cells—begins to shrink. It then produces fewer cells, meaning your body gradually loses the ability to protect itself against disease.

This trend, however, has been observed primarily in inactive populations, so the researchers wanted to see whether regular cycling could help prevent it. They compared blood samples from the same group of cyclists with blood from 75 older sedentary adults (aged 57-80) and 55 younger sedentary adults (aged 20-36).

They found that while cycling didn’t protect against every single measure of immune-system decline, the cyclists had white blood cell levels comparable to those of the younger control group—meaning that their immune systems were acting “younger.”

These studies are only two of many that demonstrate how physical activity like cycling can slow the aging process. One 2017 study found that high-intensity interval cycling increased mitochondrial capacity—a big deal when it comes to aging, as the decline of these organelles leads to the onset of age-related disease.

Another study from last year found that regular vigorous exercise protected telomere length. Shortened telomeres are what cause cell death—i.e., aging—and those who exercised saved themselves up to nine years of cellular deterioration.

The Genius of “Run Fatboy Run”

run-fatboy-run-51fe2e9c68580Runners come in all shapes and sizes.  The reasons we run are as diverse as our body types.

Respect is often part of the equation.  Sometimes, it’s self-respect, a by-product of confidence.  Other times, it’s to prove something to someone else.  To prove we can lose weight.  To prove we can endure.  To prove we can stick with something – anything.  To prove (?) that age hasn’t caught up with us yet. Continue reading “The Genius of “Run Fatboy Run””

Starting to build again!

It wasn’t far, but it was enough!

After eight months of no running (in an attempt to soothe my angry Achilles), I started running again a few weeks ago.

It’s been a slow progression. I’ve only added about a half mile in distance to my longest run each week, starting at a half mile back in November.

Due to travel and the holidays, I didn’t do much for the last two weeks of December, but have picked it up since then.

At first, I was only running three times every two weeks, then twice a week. This week marks the first time I’ve run three times in a week since the re-start. I’m cautiously optimistic.

I’ve deliberately kept the pace a little slower than what I’d like – typically between 9:00 and 9:15 per mile, and it’s been great.

I took my daughter on my third run of the week yesterday. We ran outside (😱) on a January day in northern Virginia and didn’t freeze to death!

I took her on this run deliberately. Although a track runner, she doesn’t typically run longer than 2-3 miles, so that helped force me to keep the pace sane. We went 3.9 miles at around a 10:00 pace, which was fine with me, given that it was on rolling hills.

10+ in a week for the first time in *forever*!

Of course, having Jana running with me gave an added bonus – we got to run together, which rarely happens!  And…the biggest milestone so far was achieved – more than 10 miles in a week!

I know that isn’t that much, but it still means a lot to me. Sure, there were weeks where I was averaging more than 10 miles PER RUN, with five workouts per week.  But that was years ago, before I was hurt, and when I was in the best shape of my life.

Even so, this is important to me because I’m starting to feel like a runner again.  That means the world to me!