Robin Hood Half Marathon and plans for the future

I lined up for the Robin Hood half marathon yesterday hopeful, but uncertain.  I had a successful six months of training behind me.  By using of the sub-maximal tests described in my posts in June and July to monitor for signs of over-training, I had managed to achieve a 10 % greater training volume than I achieved in the corresponding six months last year.  My aging legs had coped well.  My aerobic capacity had improved slowly but steadily throughout the six months, and furthermore I had managed to do a large number of training runs longer than 15Km, many of them in the range 18-21Km, so it was reasonable to expect that my endurance would be adequate for a half marathon.

In several of these long runs I had increased pace progressively, aiming to reach something near race pace in the final few Km.    However, the disappointing observation was that I had struggled to achieve a pace any faster than 5 min/Km in these runs.  On the one occasion when I achieved even this modest pace, my breathing and heart rate indicated I was already beyond the anaerobic threshold.  Simple physiology indicated that a 100 minute target for the half marathon (4:44 /Km) was unreasonable, but I pinned some hopes on the fact that in last year’s Robin Hood half marathon, I had run far better in the race than prior training suggested was possible.  While my aerobic capacity wasn’t quite as good this year, I was confident that my endurance was better.  So I planned to start at around 4:50 min/Km and adjust pace according to how well I was coping.

The weather was ideal for distance running: broken light cloud with bursts of sunshine and a cooling breeze.  Within the first few hundred metres I was a little surprised to see my heart rate shoot up to an alarming level and wondered whether there might be an impending cardiac problem.  However it soon settled to a reasonable level.   Perhaps I was a little more nervous about this race than usual.   I covered the first two Km at 4:53 min /Km (103 min HM pace).   I felt much more comfortable than I had felt at a similar  pace in training, but it was clear by 3 Km that I would not be able to maintain that pace for much longer.  My breathing was still quite comfortable but my legs were not coping.  In an attempt to reduce the impact forces on my legs, I increased cadence to over 200 steps per min, but my stride gradually shortened further and pace gradually ebbed away.

Although it was clear in the later stages that I would be far short of my target, and indeed had no chance of even achieving 105 minutes, I pushed on as fast as my failing legs would carry me in the final few Km.  However the increased effort was to little avail. As each runner went by I tried to lift my pace, but despite my attempts, each one forged inexorably ahead. Then with a little over 1 Km to go I spotted a young lady with a pink top and swishing pony tail who had passed me about 16Km earlier. The gap was slowly closing, so I had a target for the final Km. I caught her as we climbed up to the flood defence embankment with a few hundred metres to run. She defended strongly for a few metres but I was able to find a little extra drive. So despite being passed by many in the final stages, I claimed one scalp at the end.   My finishing time was 107:49

Afterwards I felt pretty wobbly and a couple of first aiders were quite solicitous for my welfare.  I managed to stay upright though I did need to steady myself against a tent pole.  I wasn’t in danger of fainting; I was simply exhausted.   So what does the future hold? I trained about as well as I could have for this event, but I am not yet ready to abandon hope of pushing back the tide of advancing years.  Perhaps on another day I might have achieved a time better by a few minutes, but if I want to run substantially faster in future, I need to carefully evaluate my strategy.

Aerobic capacity

It is important to note that my aerobic fitness did improve steadily during the six month of training.  In the final sub-maximal test, done during the taper, I achieved 650 heart beats/Km, whereas 6 month previously, shortly after resuming training after a bout of arthritis, the rate was nearer 750 beats/Km.    But the improvement throughout the six months had been painfully slow.  In 2010, when the year had started with a bout of arthritis similar to this year, I had made greater improvement in aerobic capacity in less than 3 months, with a much lower volume of training at a higher intensity.  However that year, my half marathon campaign was stymied by a several illnesses in the summer.    Nonetheless the progress in spring of that year indicates that higher intensity training would be likely to produce a more rapid gain in aerobic capacity.

The phenomenal marathon performances of Ed Whitlock, who does a very large volume of low intensity training, spiced up with fairly regular races, demonstrates that a program based largely on low intensity training can work well.  However, despite the relatively satisfying demonstration that I could cope with a moderate volume of training this year, it appears that I am unable to cope with anything like the volume of training that Ed Whitlock does.  He doesn’t record distances, but runs for several hours each day at an easy pace.  If I increase my training volume to 50 miles in a week, even at an easy pace, I experience rapidly accumulating exhaustion.  So, if I am to produce substantial further improvement in aerobic capacity, greater intensity offers the best prospect.

As I have described on several occasions previously, there is good evidence that high intensity interval training can produce increases in aerobic capacity, including increases in aerobic enzymes and muscle capillary density.  At this stage, I am very tempted to try HIIT for at least a few weeks, as soon as I have recovered from yesterday’s race, to see how well I cope with it.

Muscle power

But there is little doubt that yesterday the principle limitation was my lack of leg muscle power.    I had reached a similar conclusion last year.   Loss of muscular strength is one of the most overt problems of the elderly, and therefore at that stage, the logical step was a program of weight training to increase strength.  Since squats provide a very good ‘whole body’ workout, with particular benefits for legs and trunk, I embarked on a program of squats augmented by dead lifts.  In the final months of the year, I made major gains in strength, increasing my 5 repetition maximum (5RM) for squats from a little over half my body weight to more than 160% of body weight in a period of three months.

I had intended to follow that lifting with a program of plyometrics to increase my capacity to handle the eccentric loads that the leg muscles bear at footfall when running.  Unfortunately, the episode of arthritis confounded that plan.  Since recovering from arthritis, I have continued a maintenance program of squats, and my 5RM has only deteriorated only a little.  However, apart from a small amount of trampolining, I have not dared to introduce plyometrics for fear of stressing my fragile joints.

Eccentric strength

The crucial test of eccentric strength is hopping.  Unfortunately, the distance I can cover in five hops has deteriorated by about 20 percent compared with three years ago.  It is interesting to note that subsequent to the program of weight lifting, my performances on the elliptical cross trainer have been better than at any time in the past three years.  Since the elliptical requires a leg action similar to running, apart from a minimal requirement for eccentric contraction, it is almost certain that the increased strength has helped me perform better on the elliptical, but has had little impact on my running because there has been little improvement in eccentric muscle strength.

So the major challenge is to find a way to increase eccentric muscle strength without placing too much stress on my knees.  I will continue with squats and dead lifts, and probably also add hang cleans as these are good for developing power in the upper leg muscles, but  this program is unlikely to provide the eccentric strength required for powerful running.  At this stage, hill sprints appear to offer the best option.

Next steps

I have not yet formulated a detailed plan for the winter, but it will include a trial of HIIT and also lots of hill sprinting.   Next year I want to focus on preparing for a marathon in the autumn, so I will begin working on endurance in the spring.   Although the half marathon will not be a key target, I will probably attempt a half marathon sometime in the spring.  I will not set a specific goal at this stage, but think it is reasonable to hope that a time somewhat better than yesterday’s performance will be possible.

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19 Responses to “Robin Hood Half Marathon and plans for the future”

  1. Ja'far Railton (@jrr0) Says:

    I admire your approach, your attitude, your perseverance, as well as your efforts in documenting your training so meticulously so that other might benefit from your experience. Here’s hoping that you get the elusive formula exactly right for your next race. You’re a King!

  2. Ewen Says:

    Canute, that’s a bit of a shock. I agree the 1:40 goal was a stretch but I thought 1:43-1:45 would have been relatively easy as a ‘B’ result. In fact I would have put my whole house up on a house in Forrest on that result. Lucky I didn’t 😉 Pleased to see your competitive instincts were still sharp at the finish though.

    Perhaps following Whitlock’s example on one front (the regular racing) would be another way to maximise aerobic capacity on low volume (as well as help with eccentric leg strength)? I know the regular racing I do helps in this regard (although many races are at 90-95% effort). If you don’t have regular short races availble, short 3-5k time trials could substitute. I also run regularly on a trail course of continuous rolling hills which I’m sure is having a beneficial effect on my leg strength.

    Anyway, good luck with your recovery and trial of HIIT training. Interested to see how that goes.

    • canute1 Says:

      Yes, it was a bit disappointing. Just as well you didn’t bet the house on the outcome.

      I will do some more parkruns. Racing usually brings out a bit more speed (sometimes with less subjective effort) than training. I have not placed much emphasis on shorter racing in recent times because it tends to leave me a bit too exhausted. Maybe occasional maximum effort would actually be good, but as you suggest, I would probably benefit from regular 95% efforts as well.

  3. ThomasBubendorfer Says:

    It might be a bit disappointing, but not a disaster either. I guess time waits for no man.

    While I’m not entirely convinced that a HIIT approach is what you need, I am looking forward to the results, if you really go down that route.

    • canute1 Says:

      Thomas,
      My HIIT will definitely be experimental. I will base my program loosely on that used by Bangsbo and colleagues from Copenhagen. Their program included 2 HIIT sessions, 1 intense aerobic session and 1 easy aerobic session per week. The HIIT was a bit gentler than the Tabata protocol. The Bangsbo HIIT protocol consisted of 8–12 repeated 30-s running bouts at 95% of maximal speed separated by 3 min of recovery. That program led to significantly improved 10K time in a group of well trained runners.
      I will start with 6×30 sec at 95% max speed and see how well I can handle that before gradually increasing the number of repetitions. Because I do not want to lose too much endurance, I will try to fit is as much easy aerobic running as I can without compromising recovery from the HIIT; maybe 2 HIIT sessions and 4 easy aerobic sessions per week. This should probably be described a polarised training.
      Because I want to increase strength in addtion to aerobic capacity, as an alternative, I will consider replacing the 30 sec effort epochs with maximal effort short hill sprints – probably not very different from the short hills you used to do. Do you still do them?

  4. Robert Osfield Says:

    While missing your goals is frustrating your are still performing better than most 20 something adults running half marathons. You really should look at the overall race stats for the race and compare these to yours, also looking at the age categories will further cement that your performance was pretty impressive.

    I do know you wanted to go faster, and given your past performances if everything went right in preparation on race day you should be able to go faster. Getting race sharp requires racing so it might be that you need to add a few races into your schedule to push your upper end and get tuned up for racing. I’d recommend you find 5k, 10k and half marathons this autumn to go do some speed play. You might just surprise yourself.

    Using HIT vs more volume is something you could try, as you have a decent aerobic base this may well be what’s required to shift you up a gear. Entering shorter races could be a good way of adding some really intensive tempo and VO2 max sessions.

    Another aspect that you haven’t yet discussed is the role of nutrition. Nutrition can help with illness and your bodies ability to recover quickly from training and races. Dropping wheat from your diet, as well as avoid omega-6 sources might help as these are known to increase of inflammatory issues.

    From my own experience I have found that intermittent fasting and reducing wheat consumption, eating more healthy fats have made a significant difference to my fat burning capacity and with it my ability to cope with multi-hour runs. Both my speed on these runs and recovery are better.

    Also doing a 10k at the weekend seems to have given my fitness another kick up a gear. Today (three days on) I did hilly 16 miler with 2000ft ascent/descent and blitzed it in just over two hours, my HR for a given pace was better than in previously weeks/months and I felt strong on ascents and descents. I feel pretty worn out but then I really attacked the run. I did the run after an 18 hours fast and finished feeling strong, with no hints of hypoglycaemia.

    A year ago I struggled to get to lunchtime even with eating breakfast, let alone missing breakfast and doing a hilly 16 miler just before lunch as I have just done. What and when you eat can make a huge difference to performance.

    • canute1 Says:

      Robert,
      You are running extremely well at present. It is very interesting to speculate that the change in diet has played an important part.

      I am not yet convinced about the need to drop wheat, though I am reasonably convinced about the desirability of shifting the balance from omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.

      Thank you also for your positive comments about my performance. In fact according to WAVA, my performance on Saturday gives me almost exactly the same age graded score as my M60 half marathon PB recorded 6 years ago. Nonetheless, I had hoped that I could push the tide of aging back, and I still think that is a reasonable hope. Last year’s performance suggested that my hopes are reasonable though it is notable that I ran far better last year than training performances in preceding months suggested was likely. It is clear that I will need to employ all the wiles I can to push the tide back by a substantial amount. I certainly do consider nutrition is an important factor, and I take care in selecting what I eat. However, despite moderately extensive examination of the evidence, I find it hard to draw any very clear conclusions. Nonetheless, your experiences have certainly piqued my interest.

      • Robert Osfield Says:

        I am now at the point that I no longer consider my dietary change contributing to my change in energy levels when running as speculation. The change is so clear and consistent that it’s has to be directly related – I’ve done less training yet performing better over long distances. I know several other Scottish ultra-marathoners that have lower carb intake and found similar improvements.

        W.r.t balancing the polyunsaturated fats Omega-6 and Omega-3, this is important, but the way to do is to reduce Omega-6 intake rather than significantly up Omega-3. Eating oily/cold water fish once or twice a week is plenty to provide the necessary Omega-3. While polyunsaturated fats are essential fats to consume they are toxic above even a modest consumption levels, even Omega-3 has been found to cause cancer when consumption is too high . Sadly most western diets now contain massively more polyunsaturated fats than is healthy.

        Dietary fat should be mainly mono-unsaturated and saturated fats, with a small amount of poly-unsaturated fats. If you want to up you fat intake and drop carb intake then adding olive oil, avocados, coconut, eggs, butter, cheese, yoghurt, fat from ruminant meat (cow,sheep etc.).

        One needs to completely avoid standard vegetable/seed oils as they are massive sources of Omega-6 fats. Also foods high in Omega-6 needs to be avoided.

        The fun thing is that foods I know eat are more tasty, no more guilt about adding cream to a dish, eating eggs, pouring olive oil on a salad, eating lots of cheese. Eating steak and all the fat attached. A year ago and I used to trim off fat, drain off cooking oils, generally avoided consuming fat, especially saturated fats. I now eat closer to what I used to eat as kid before all the crazy anti saturated fat dogma exploded and am healthier for it (I’ve even dropped a few pounds as well.)

        I am planning to write a blog entry on metabolic training, but have so many other things to get done first work wise and around the house that I don’t have much time for it. Will get there in the end. The short message is that you can do a significant amount of training without putting your trainers on, and has no injury risk associated with it either, just eat smarter.

    • canute1 Says:

      Robert, Thanks for that interesting summary.

      I agree that your recent experience strongly suggests that a diet low in carbs, together with reduced omega6/omega 3 ratio, augmented by the various other dietary and drug related strategies you have implemented recently, contributed to your great performance in the Devil and to your current strong endurance during training. I know of others who report benefits from a low carb diet or from carbohydrate depleted training, but I also know yet other runners who have tried a low carb diet and felt more exhausted. The scientific studies of these issues are similarly inconclusive.

      My tentative conclusion is that nutrition is indeed very important but the benefits or penalties probably depend at least in part on the individual’s genes and other life-style factors. It is also possible that several of the features of your comprehensive diet (and perhaps to a lesser extent, ergogenic and anti-inflammatory drug usage) have combined to produce the beneficial effects, whereas runners who have adopted a less comprehensive package have not reaped the benefits.

      Your very positive recent experiences have prompted me to think again about nutrition. I hope you do find the time to write a more detailed blog on metabolic training.

      • Robert Osfield Says:

        For a bit more clarity, I would classify my diet as moderate carb rather than low carbohydrate. Previously my diet was high in carbohydrate. I haven’t done any calorie counting before and after changes by I’d guess I’ve gone from around 60% carbs to 35-40% carbs. I probably now have as much calories from fat as carbs.

        From what I’ve read there is a zone in carb intake where you don’t consume enough for your body to run smoothly but too much carbs to allow ketosis to kick in. If you go very low carb then ketosis will kick in and energy levels will return. My diet is above the problem zone.

        Another factor that is important to get right is with very low carb diets the way the body manages sodium is different so one has to make sure you consume enough sodium to keep the body ticking over, if you don’t again energy levels can crash and burn.

        I also believe some experiments with higher fat content have relied upon polyunsaturated fats to bolster the fat intake, this isn’t at all healthy for the body so it will again under-perform, or at worst result in serious illness. High poly-unsaturated fat consumption really is by product of industrialisation of food production, so this pitfall is very much modern problem that our ancestors are unlikely to had to deal with.

        For myself I find that working to the principle of managing insulin levels is key to success, as insulin is the key hormone that suppresses fat metabolism. I have 16-18 hours a day of no carb intake so my bodies insulin level can fall to a level that fat burning dominates for a good number of hours. I exercise during the fast so am training where fat burning isn’t suppressed. After the fast, training I feast in the remaining 6-8 hour window.

        How my day looks is, wake, have cup of tea, no breakfast most mornings, go for training run just prior to lunch. Have a decent sized lunch at around 1 pm, often it won’t contain too much carbs. May have a snack in the afternoon if feeling peckish (if I go for a two hour run then I usually need a bit more food). Dinner at 6pm, main meal of the day, plenty of everything including the bulk of my carb intake. The insulin response from the carbs helps one get a good night sleep, something which is important for general health & recovery.

        When I do eat carbs I prefer to have them with fat and protein, especially if they aren’t complex carbs. Combining food in this way reduces the glycemic index of the meal/snack so avoiding a big spike in insulin. Avoiding these spikes is key to maintain good energy levels through the day and not suppressing fat metabolism. The more time you can spend metabolising a high percentage of fats the more stimulus the body has for developing the necessary biological hardware for doing it efficiently.

        Almost certainly all of this will be familiar ingredients, hopefully the recipe I follow will make it clearer how one can make it all work.

    • canute1 Says:

      Robert,
      Thanks for those additional details. I agree that it is unwise for a runner to restrict carbs drastically. Your description indicates that the major question regarding carbs for the athlete is ‘when’, though glycaemic index is also important. I also agree that insulin regulation is crucial. In fact I think that the balance between cortisol and insulin is central.

      One of my concerns about training when carb depleted is the likelihood of excessive cortisol rise. This will suppress insulin which is perhaps desirable. But the cortisol might have other significant adverse effects. Further analysis of my own recent training, together with information for a recent study looking at long term cortisol accumulation in distance runners adds to my concern about the risks if driving cortisol levels too high during training.

      • Robert Osfield Says:

        Increase levels of cortisol is something I have been concerned about too, I haven’t seen any discussion about it in the books on low carb diet I have read, so I expect it’s not a serious issue – they go in depth into lots of other issues so it’d be odd for them to miss it out. One of the common benefits cited is recovery is better on a low carb diet thanks to the lower oxidative stress associated with burning more fats over carbs, perhaps this has an influence as well.

        From my own experience I don’t feel carb depleted, my liver and muscles don’t seem to be hitting the buffers on empty and then fat metabolism cutting in, rather fat metabolism is always at a higher level so I don’t get carb depleted to the same extent that it did before. As I no longer get really low in blood sugar when exercising I don’t think my body will have to be relying upon adrenaline and cortisol to prop things up.

        During the period of transition in diet it may be that cortisol levels are higher to compensate for the initially lower blood sugar levels. Once the body has become well adapted to fat metabolism blood sugar levels become more stable, I’m pretty sure hormone management becomes more stable with it too.

        Recovery wise I think in general I’m recovering better from long training runs, but this is complicated by foot injuries that have prevent me from doing sufficient training for the ultra’s I’ve done. The Devil it took me two weeks to recover, 6 weeks later the RAW it took me a week to get back into proper training. I’m planning on doing the Jedburgh three peaks ultra at the end of October so it’ll be an interesting test – I’ve finally getting on top of the injuries and able to train consistently as well as have the benefit of increased fat metabolism.

        One has to wonder if my slow recovery from my foot injury as being a consequence of higher cortisol. However, I’ve had similar bone injuries before that I have taken a long time to heal fully as well so I don’t think there is any conclusive I can make from this. What I can say that changes in my diet don’t seem to have made my body heal significantly quicker, but then doesn’t look to be a hindrance either.

        General recovery does seem better though. Even down to the hours after a long run, previously I’d be hungry but if I ate too much too quickly I’d feel ill, perhaps due to elevated levels of adrenaline needed to prop up low blood sugar. This is something that used to affect me late in ultra’s as well, after fours running I’d begin to suffer with gastric stress and be unable to eat and drink much. These days I can just chow down loads right after a run, and the ultra’s I’ve done I’ve been able to easily consume food right through the ultra races. I feel that my body is staying much closer to homeostasis now, with less big excursions in blood sugar and hormone levels.

    • canute1 Says:

      I agree that the evidence does indicate that you are in a healthier metabolic state. Perhaps the fact that you have done a lesser total volume of training this year compared with previous years has limited harmful accumulation of cortisol. I discuss this possibility in my next post.

      • Robert Osfield Says:

        It would interesting to find out just what is happening to my hormone levels through the hours, days and weeks. For someone changing their diet I expect that your hormone levels will initially over-compensate but once you become adapted levels will settle down.

        Given the others have reported better recovery and ability to tolerate higher volume of training when moving to lower carb/higher fat diet I would suspect that change in metabolism and resulting reduction of oxidative stress helps. Perhaps it could be that cortisol levels don’t accumulate as much once adapted, or perhaps the negative impacts of cortisol are more protected against.

        When looking at studies relating to changes in diet on performance is extremely important to look well beyond the first week or two of the new diet. It’s takes time to fully adapt. I’m now getting six months on from starting my experiment with dietary changes, I’m still on that journey.

        I haven’t yet looked at seriously at going into ketosis, and frankly it looks to be far more effort than I’m really prepared for – I rather like an easy life, eating and enjoying what I want, not having to worry about eating carbs. I am however still really curious about ketosis, perhaps dabbling with it for training purposes to really push up ones fat adaptations might be something for the future.

  5. EternalFury Says:

    Well, on my end, I ran 1:36:23 at the Santa Rosa Half Marathon. It’s not a stellar result for 42-year old, but the context makes the difference: 12 months of plantar fasciitis leading into that race.
    The good news: I got rid of the plantar fasciitis in the last month prior to the race.

    Anaerobic work increases acidity and acidity destroys aerobic enzymes. Anaerobic work also makes you a sugar-burning machine, unless you you do anaerobic work in a carbohydrate-depleted state, which is gruelling and somewhat dangerous if you are not exceedingly well fat adapted.

    I think we all need to train a lot more like Ed Whitlock, because clearly what he does works.
    He tries to run 2 to 3 hours every day at a very slow pace. He does so on an empty stomach and he does not eat or drink during those 2-3 hours.
    He doesn’t do any strength training. He doesn’t do any intervals or speed work. He just builds a colossal amount of aerobic capacity by (probably) maximizing his body’s ability to carry mitochondria.

    As for me, I have followed Tim Noakes turn-about on carbohydrate-rich diets, which followed many other high-performing athletes who run on very low amounts of carbohydrates. It sounds crazy and dangerous, but I am now at the end of my third week under a modified version of the “paleo” diet and I am feeling great!
    I think there is something there. I don’t know why it works or how it works, but it really appears that one can become fat-adapted to such a point when your body becomes able to replenish its glycogen stores by metabolizing fat. Then, during a race, it takes a lot longer to run out of fuel as your body has become adept at using fat as fuel. And no matter how skinny we all are, we carry plenty of fat.

    • canute1 Says:

      EF
      Thanks for your comment. I am pleased to hear that you overcame the problems with plantar fasciitis, and ran a creditable half marathon.

      The issue of whether anaerobic raining destroys aerobic enzyme is a crucial topic. I think that the past few years has provided fairly clear evidence that it does not. High acidity inhibits aerobic enzymes and therefore within a session, is one of the factors that contribute to exhaustion within the session. However, inhibition is not the same as destruction. In fact, in many instances the body’s response to inhibition of enzymes is to mobilise the synthesis of increased amounts of that enzyme. This appears to be what happens in the case of aerobic enzymes as there is good evidence, for example in the various studies reviewed by Giballa (Appl. Physiol. Nutr. Metab. 34: 428–432; 2009), that high intensity training leads to an increase in the aerobic enzymes in muscle.
      In considering whether training is likely to increase or decrease aerobic enzymes it is also necessary to take account of the overall balance between anabolic and catabolic hormone levels. Anabolic hormones such as growth hormone and testosterone increase protein synthesis (and therefore are likely to promote development of aerobic enzymes) whereas carbolic hormones (such as cortisol) degrade proteins. In general higher intensity training produces a greater increase in the ratio of anabolic to catabolic hormones. This is a complex topic but is at least consistent with the evidence that high intensity exercise promotes the development of aerobic enzymes

      Ed Whitlock is a fascinating individual, and understanding why he is such a wonderful runner is a worthwhile challenge. I think that there are five notable issues relevant to Ed Whitlock’s running :

      1) He was a sub-elite runner in his youth (for example beating Gordon Pire as a schoolboy)

      2) In early middle age he did a large amount of high intensity training – mainly interval sessions

      3) He has aged extremely well in many respects. With minimal troubles with illness, a lightness of step, and has at least one close relative who lived to be over 100 year old.

      4) He runs for very long periods of time at an easy pace most days.

      5) At least in recent years, when setting many of his world records, he raced about 40 times per year, mainly over distance of 10K or less and in most of these races, almost certainly was at or above the second ventilatory threshold.

      I suspect that all five of these factors contribute to making him the amazing runner that he is. A person in early middle age might well aim to emulate items 2), 4) and 5). For an old timer like myself, 4) and 5) are probably more important, though for all of us, we need to recognise that we have different genes and life-history than Ed and therefore might need to adjust our approach according to our own strengths and limitations.

      I agree that nutrition is important and that adapting to increase proportion of fat utilization is beneficial for an endurance athlete. The question of how best to achieve this is a topic of current investigation, and the answers are still debateable. Robert and I discuss nutrition in more detail in the response to my next post so I will return to that issue there. But it is important to note that high intensity training also increases capacity for fat metabolism. The evidence is also discussed in the review by Giballa.

      • Ewen Says:

        Canute, good points regarding the reasons for Whitlock’s success. His ‘lightness of step’ would be no doubt helped by his body type – small and wiry – about 52kg in weight. Which would help explain his ability to cope with 2 to 3 hour easy daily runs without getting injured.

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