Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday 20 miles + tempo/ marathon pace at 9000ft

Little sleep again last night but all the years of insomnia have prepared me for this day. I had 2 choices- to drive down to 5500ft elevation and run on a flat trail through condos in the muggy heat, or drive up to 9000ft and run on a moderately rolling dirt road in 50 degree temperatures looking up at the Continental Divide and following a pristine river with no people... What would you do?
So all of this was between 8500 and 9200ft elevation. First 8 was uphill and jogging but it ended up being quick considering how high I was (and no, not THAT kind of high). I ran by HR and held 140-150 and averaged 7:17 pace. That alone is solid.
Then 8 miles with a net elevation loss in 44:XX. I tried to just run by PE with a progression in HR from 160 to 170, this became easier because it got rolly in the last 2 miles. My LT is 178 so I never got within 5 beats of LT, this was barely a tempo run and felt much like marathon effort, which it turned out to be. Averaged 5:35 per mile for the last 8. I wanted to, and thought I would, hurt a little more but I never really pressed. I saw a few mile splits and became complacent with the pace. Below is the Garmin data. The last split (lap 17) was about 3 feet. Lap 1 was 2 miles and lap 2 was me stopping to get my Garmin to do lap splits. Huh?

Note: there is no pace conversion for altitude unless you are from sea level and racing at altitude. Jack Daniels says, and if anyone knows for sure it's him, that an athlete living and training at 8000ft can expect a 5" per mile conversion (if anything) going to sea level. It has to do with acclimation. An athlete doing a short (~4 week) training camp at high altitude can expect more of a conversion once they go back to sea level, but a fully acclimated athlete will not. Steve Jones and Alan Culpepper have both told me the same thing.
One suggestion has been to run long downhills in order to stimulate my CNS (central nervous system) and my race specific strength, which are both important aspects of running. Today was with this in mind. If there is an aspect of altitude that hurts you it's this. In order to run fast for a long time you need oxygen. Since the amount of oxygen being pushed in to your blood stream is limited you can't hold the same pace for as long when you're high and you simply can't strengthen the muscles or teach the CNS appropriately. When you drop to sea level you have the oxygen but the muscles are not trained to move at that specific pace.

pm) 4 miles jogging super easy and slow.


GZ said...

Great workout.

Agree with this last paragraph based on my experience. I have never run faster at sea level. When I was running about 16 flat to 16:30 up here for 5k, I went to sea level expecting to break into the 15s ... never did and ran 16-16:30 anyway. Some of that might have been execution but I think it was just was I was trained to do.

All that said, the biggest difference I felt at sea level was the ability to recover seemed greater. I could do similar intervals with less rest. So for example if I did 8 x 400 in 70 with 60 seconds rest in Boulder, I could drop that to about 45 in New England (of course, maybe that was my head telling me that).

Lucho said...

Ya- I think a lot of the research on altitude is from people who are not there very long. Everest is a good example. Do research on a Sherpa that has lived there his whole life and you'll get different results than the guy who pops to the summit for a few hours. Acclimation is what it's all about. The stimulus from altitude is your body fighting to adapt. After it adapts then the benefits slowly fade away. That's why 3-4 weeks at high altitude is the biggest benefit.
But- I honestly believe that running WHERE I did today had a bigger benefit. It was cool (cold!) and peaceful and ... well you already know what the mountains are like! I love training up here. It's hard but it's not monotonous. I think Deena K has alluded to this aspect too. It's not just the altitude but it's the environment.

Matt said...

For the marathon, you're shooting for avg HR 160-165? Does that correlate to 5:18 pace (for the 2:19)? Is that still your goal?

Nice workout. You should be running something like Leadville you beast!

Lucho said...

Yes on the HR. I'll race Chicago with out a HR monitor though. My goal this year is 2:24 or 5:30 pace.

Paul said...

Tim, With all of your choices to run in the cool and at altitude do you ever worry what may happen if it is hot again in Chicago? The last few years have not been ideal conditions for a marathon. Do you feel that is something that can be trained for? Specifically the heat and humidity.

Lucho said...

Paul- I'm more interested in training in ideal conditions so that training is more effective. A long run in hot and humid conditions would be considerably slower, harder, and more difficult to recover from. Also, the average low in Chicago in October is something like 46 degrees... I'll bet on the averages, not recent freak weather. If I'm wrong then I'll suffer for it for sure and that's a poor choice on my part.
I think I'm better in the heat than the average guy. I always felt that was my strength at Ironman Hawaii where the ground temperatures would be 130 degrees on the run. Maybe that's changed since I've been here? We'll see.
Good question- thanks!