Friday, November 18, 2011

The Hundred Up Challenge - Week 1

Perhaps the first update should be titled “Weak 1.” For such an innocent looking drill I must admit I find it surprisingly difficult. To make matters worse, my ten year old watched in disbelief as I explained “it’s harder than it looks” only to have her knock out the same workout I had just completed, apparently with less effort.

Let’s face it, the human body has the extraordinary ability to adapt to the stress it is given. Mine is finely tuned to running long distance and short bursts of speed. It has become capable of handling my weekly track workout with very little, if any residual soreness, the following days. My guess is starting something new, such as The Hundred Up therefore puts us at about the same level. It is only through consistent practice and further adaptation that it will become less strenuous to perform.

Results for week one:

Five completed attempts. I started with 40 reps my first attempt just to make sure there was nothing the next day that would interfere with my regular routine. Added 10 reps each session, still without any stiffness or aches the following days. Keep in mind I am do “the Minor” as described by G. W. and will not attempt The Major until the successful, repeated completion of 100 reps of The Minor.

What has this done for my running? Obviously it is too soon to expect any significant change. But I did notice during my final and therefore most grueling track intervals this week, if I leaned forward slightly and tried to incorporate the movement of the exercise, I gained ground on those ahead of me.

I expect to continue with The Minor this week and begin The Major as soon as next week. Results to follow. Precursory conclusion:

There is no down side to this exercise. Let’s see if there is an upside.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The 100 Up Challenge

What is it? A one hundred year old running exercise that focuses solely on running form. The unique aspect of the 100 Up is that it does not involve running, it is a simple stationary drill. Created and documented by an early 19th century miler, W. G. George, with the intent of “perfecting running form.”

Fast forward about 100 years and you find yourself in the midst of a running revolution which claims that all the advantages of high tech shoes created since the 1970’s have not lessened the instances of injuries, but actually increased the injury rate among runners. The solution proposed by the revolutionaries? Running barefoot. To hell with the shoes, run as nature intended.

Needless to say you won’t see me running barefoot any time soon. I have experimented on more than one occasion with a few barefoot miles, but only on the treadmill. However, those few miles taught me something within the first ten minutes that fundamentally changed the way I run:

I run completely different when running barefoot.

My heels never touched the treadmill. Not once. This was not a conscious effort, but my legs taking charge of my running and landing using all the muscles of the lower leg to cushion the impact of each strike. It was a true epiphany. And as natural as running itself, in the purest sense.

I run now only in flats or shoes that have a “zero drop” front to back in elevation on the sole. I still prefer some protection from the elements as well as surface impediments. But the feeling is the same as on the treadmill barefoot, my foot strike is on the ball of my foot, every step.
As stated in my blog title I am always looking for continuous improvement and the idea of perfecting form appears practical to me. Let’s face it, by taking the challenge I could again stumble onto another break through. At this time I do not really see a downside.

I will post updates weekly detailing my progress and thoughts along the way.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Real Reason

Over the years I have refined my answer to the most common question when interrogated by someone who does not understand running when they ask “why do you run marathons?” My answer has ranged from a sarcastic comment to a drawn out explanation of the benefits I derive from running and how they permeate other aspects of my life. More recently I have learned that running is not a selfish decision made with my self interest in mind as i previously believed. I also run for other people.

Prior to the 2010 LA Marathon I was committed to running the full marathon but unfortunately life got in the way. As a result my training consisted primarily of quality runs and much less on mileage. I did not have the opportunity for the usual five weekly runs that I depend on when training for a full marathon and instead wound up most weeks running only three times.

Since this had never happened I had no idea what to expect for the outcome. Would the race turn into a long day of regretting my lack of preparation, or would the abbreviated weekly schedule leave me feeling fresh and strong on race day? I came to terms with this race as an experiment in training and all I could do was hope for the best.

I trained and ran the race with a friend of mine who coincidentally wore the same shirt on race day. We both had very distinctive singlets from a previous company sponsored race and we individually decided to wear them in LA. They were bright red with the company name across the back of the shirt.

To his advantage he did not experience the missing weekday runs and followed our training program to the letter. If it said “run 9 miles on Tues” he ran 9 miles. Come race day we started the race together. I intended to gage my ability to keep up as we went along since I was breaking new ground with so few hours and miles of training. Unfortunately by mile six I had to let him go as I began to fall behind. I labored to continue at what felt like the same pace we started running, only to be reminded at each mile marker I was running a little slower.

As I approached the twenty mile marker something most unexpected happened. I spotted the bright red singlet ahead of me, on the right hand side of the road, walking. Sure enough it was my training partner and friend. He proclaimed he was “done” when I caught up to him which frightened me. I had never known him to tap out in an event. Ever.

Encouragement seemed like a viable option. I said “just stick with me, we’ll get in under four hours.” He would manage to pick it up and jog a few steps, only to announce “I’m done” again and start walking shortly after. After a few more failed attempts I realized that it was my turn to leave him behind. I announced I would see him at the finish as I drudged on ahead of him.

I managed to cross the finish line in 3:48 which is not a bad time for me. The training three runs per week proved to be sufficient to finish a marathon, but it was insufficient for preparing me to run hard the entire race. Wondering how he was doing, and worried he may not have been able to complete the race, I started to make my way back upstream hoping to find him and encourage him to finish when I noticed he was already entering the finisher’s area. He managed to pull it together and ended up finishing with a 3:56 to my surprise. If I had any reason to suspect he would be able to get moving again I would have stuck with him. I would gladly give up an all out effort in a marathon for the chance to help get a friend through their first marathon.

When we reunited in the finisher’s area he began to tell me a story. Something truly wonderful and amazing. An unknown runner approached him at the finish line and asked if he was part of a race team? Confused by the question he replied that he was not, but that there were two of us wearing the same shirt. She continued, and asked him to thank me, the other runner wearing the red singlet. She then explained that she was really struggling late in the race yet noticed this person ahead of her, dressed in red, hanging on. She figured if that person can hang on, so can I. And so she did. This runner, unknown to me, was lifted just enough to remain in the race when she felt like stopping encouraged only by a stranger in a red shirt ahead of her who also refused to give up. And sometimes that is all it takes. Knowing it is possible. That we can hang on in spite of overwhelming feeling to give up.

For the first time I knew and to this day my answer no longer varies. In fact I look forward to hearing the once dreaded question from others “why do you run marathons?”

“To inspire other people” I now reply content with my answer. That is the real reason.