Friday, March 22, 2019

Clinton Lake 30 Miler: My Finish Time?

Clinton Lake Ultra elevation profile
The Clinton Lake 30-Mile Ultra is this Saturday (March 23). For the first time in a very long time, I am actually running the race rather than volunteering (or race directing). This is the same race I founded in 2007. It's on the 10-mile north fork trail at Clinton Lake. Three laps of the hilly trail around the lake gets you an ultra finish. Easy enough, right?

It would be easy enough if I was trained for an ultra. My longest run over the last 6 months has been 13 miles. I'm healthy and injury-free, but not ready for 30 miles. Not even 20 miles. A fast 10 miles would be a great tempo effort. My goal race for this spring is the Illinois half-marathon on April 27. I'm on target for the half-marathon in 5 weeks. Not on target for an ultra in 1 day!

So, what is my predicted finish time? Or, if a DNF, how far will I get before dropping out? I see three scenarios playing out this weekend:
  1. I slowly make my way around that darn lake three full times and finish the ultra. It would be my 105th ultra/marathon finish. If this happens, it would be a long day. Run, jog, hike. Lots of walking and talking to fellow back-of-the-pack runners. 
  2. I do two loops and get in a nice long run of 20 miles. See friends at aid stations, chat with fellow runners, and complete my longest run in more than a year. Yikes. About time I get in a real long run. 
  3. I run one loop, 10 miles, but do it fast. Perfect tempo-style run in preparation for the half-marathon in late April. Develop a little speed and also endurance. I'm certainly capable of 10 miles. Maybe I could hang with the leaders for one loop? Or the "almost" leaders? 
Honestly cannot say what I'm planning. I'll see what race morning brings. If I feel really good I may try for a fast 10 miles. If I feel OK, I'll shoot for an easy 20 miles. If I get 20 miles, maybe I'll just finish the damn thing! Maybe I can be DFL (dead fucking last). That's better than DNF, right? 

Monday, March 18, 2019

Stryd Critical Power Test

Just did my first Stryd power test. This is how you determine your critical power and affiliated running zones. So far, I was using zones based on an old (6 months ago) 5K race. To do the new power test, I was waiting to run on the local high school track, but that darn thing has not been open to the public whenever I try to go. So, today I ran on the Kickapoo Rail Trail. It's flat, packed dirt, and straight. Few trees. Very good GPS signal. Just run straight and keep an eye on your watch.

Stryd has a set protocol for these power tests--one using the track, the other timed on flat surface. Basically, you warm up with easy running for 20+ minutes, do some strides, then get ready to run. Hard. I did 9 minutes hard (instead of 6 laps on 400m track). Rest for 20+ minutes (easy jog or walk), then run hard again for 3 minutes (or 3 laps on track). Save each hard effort on your watch so you can track distance, time, pace, and power (from Stryd foot pod). This was my first power test...and I did not optimize my hard running. Supposed to be a consistent hard effort that you can maintain for the full 9 minutes (or 3 minutes). I charged out too fast, then hung on as best as I could. I wasn't terrible, but not ideal. I need to hold back next time and show some discipline! Also, my rest interval was less than 20 minutes. More like 10 minutes. I was not fully rested when I did the second 3-minutes hard (it was also into a slight head wind). Next time I will rest properly and pace myself for the full hard effort(s). Think I'll find a slightly warmer day with no wind and repeat this power test.

I entered all the data into the Stryd power center and it calculated my new critical power and zones for running (critical power = 323W, critical pace = 6:47 min/mile). The new settings are higher than my previous ones based on the old 5K race. Still, I think my average pace could have been faster with more even pacing. This test is actually a great speed workout. And not so taxing that you can't return to normal training within a couple of days.

Tips for others (or me) to do a critical power test correctly:
Avoid any extreme weather: wind, rain, heat, cold.
1. Go easy the day before your power test (nothing long, no speed).
2. Do a lengthy and relaxed warm-up (~20 minutes).
3. Don't forget the strides (4-5) after warm-up.
4. Go hard, but don't sprint, on the first speed effort (6 laps or 9 minutes). Time/measure each hard effort separately.
5. Take a long break, as long as needed. Preferably 20-30 minutes (walk and/or jog).
6. Go hard again on the second 3-lap test (or 3 minutes), try even harder since it's shorter (but still no sprint).
7. Cool-down however you want. It's over. Don't skip the cool-down.

Good luck to anyone doing the Stryd critical power test. Good luck to me repeating it. I'll probably do a new one every 6-8 weeks to keep zones accurate and up-to-date.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

New Balance Beacons at 150 Miles

When I first reviewed the NB Beacon back in November, I only had 2 runs in them, I compared them to the Altra Escalante and Skechers GoRun Ride 7. At that point, I liked the New Balance Beacons quite a bit. Now I have run 150 miles in the Beacons. Still like them? Better or worse than other favorites? Are they holding up OK?

My greatest compliment about the NB Beacons is that they just work. I don't notice them on my runs. Slow and easy? Just fine. Fast and intense? Still fine. Medium tempo? Fine again. I don't think about the shoes. I simply run. Whether roads or treadmills, they work. Easy trails or track, they work.

I'm still amazed that the Beacons are so lightweight. I thought that outsole would wear prematurely since it has very little hard rubber. Fortunately, that white rubber is holding up well after 150 miles. Slight wear pattern on the lateral heel where I must hit the ground first. The more durable black rubber is in that spot (but still has some wear). The upper is showing no wear. Fit and feel is still very good. Insole, while nothing special, is working out fine (and no slippage as a couple other reviewers have reported). I'm very pleased with this shoe!

In comparison to the Altra Escalante, the Beacon has slightly firmer cushioning and a more narrow (normal) toebox. The slight heel-to-toe drop of the Beacon (6mm) feels better to me than the zero drop of the Escalante. The Beacon is cheaper, lighter, and runs very smoothly. Overall, I'd take it over the Escalante.

In reference to the Skechers GoRun Ride 7, the Beacon is lighter and has a wider toebox. The Ride 7 has more responsive cushioning and can support my feet a little longer on runs. Drop is about the same (6mm vs 4mm). If I had to choose only one of these excellent shoes, I'd stick with my trusty Ride 7. Since they are both fairly inexpensive, I plan to keep using them as rotating twins. We'll see how the Beacon 2 and Ride 8 compare later this year.

Monday, February 18, 2019

It's About Run Power, Not Heart Rate

I've had my Stryd power pod for about 10 days and I've run every single day with it! I love this little pod and all the data that comes with it. Still don't know all the details or how to best utilize it for training and racing, but it has motivated me to run more, with greater variety, and to think about my runs. Power is correlated with heart rate, but it is a more direct measure of your effort. Cyclists have used power meters for years, now runners have the same option. I'm excited to see what this tool can do for my running and racing.

Post-run analysis is rather fun. Lots of numbers, charts, and graphs. I need to do a "functional threshold power test" (critical power) to better establish my personal power zones, but I started with entering a recent race time to estimate zones. Here is an example of the data from the Stryd power center (their software tool) for a recent 5-mile treadmill run:


My maximum power output was 358 watts, average was 261 watts. The max power reading came when I pushed the pace to 6:00 minutes/mile! It also tracks ground contact time, vertical oscillation, leg spring stiffness, fatigue, power used on form rather than forward propulsion (77.2 watts in this run) and a few of other stats I haven't figured out. Trends over time are also displayed (but I need more data). Stryd also provides training programs based on power zones. Might use one for a fall half-marathon.

The same 5-mile run viewed within the Runalyze web-based program (the best free running software available):


Once I have real power zones, I'll be able to adjust training and racing with power numbers displayed on my Garmin watch. After about 30 days, Stryd starts to give insights and analysis based on your past and current fitness. I'm definitely happy with this device after 10 days, but the real proof will be after 30 days...and after my first couple of races where I monitor power during the race.