Friday, December 10, 2010

going the distance

is shorter better?
i was going to move on with my resolution assessments, but then shelby wrote this fascinating post on comparing one's performance in various distances, so i thought i'd focus on running for a change.

2010 hasn't really been a banner year for running long distances. i did just one half (no PR), and not a single full marathon (my last was thunder road, nearly a year ago!). but it's actually been pretty good to me when i consider the short!

i set my 5K PR in march at durham's great human race 5K, even winning a 2nd place age group award (uhh, as you can gather, it wasn't a huge event!). i had my sights set on breaking 23 minutes for years, and was thrilled with my (chip) 22:52.

ignore the fact that i look like a pygmy standing next to willowy meg in my HUGE reach-out-and-read shirt - the cause i had raised $ for!

i also (randomly) raced my first mile on the duke track: it was josh's idea. i was pleasantly surprised with my 6:43 time for 1600m as i had never clocked a sub-7 mile before . . . ever.

the official timepiece

however, when (much faster than me) shelby wrote her post about excelling in shorter distances, i immediately thought, "oh, how interesting! i am the opposite." after all, i feel more proud of my performance at last year's marathon than i do of my rando-mile.

i set out to graph my age-graded performances using the calculator shelby used . . .

and was surprised to find that i was wrong.

similar to shelby, my 'best' distances are clustered at the short end of the spectrum. so either the calculator is flawed, or i am not as great at assessing my own strengths/weaknesses as i thought i was.

reasons not to go long
a finish looking like THIS can't be good for you:

those last 6 miles . . .

except despite these reminders, i find myself crawling back for more. and in fact, the age-graded data just makes me hungrier for improvement! i have been wistfully reading about other people's marathon plans, and for a millisecond i even considered jumping off the deep and registering for this:

but then there's this
i mentioned in this post that our quest to start a family isn't going as smoothly as i once expected. while the specialist i have been seeing has not suggested that i cut down my running, various family members (including josh) have wondered if running long could be contributing to the problem.

from an endocrine perspective, i find this hard to believe -- without going into detail, i have evidence that my problem is more ovarian than hypothalamic. furthermore, i do not have superlow body fat (and like many females, my running does not seem to have any impact on that anyway).

however, the process is getting to be a bit frustrating, and so yesterday i sent the specialist an email asking for specific recommendations regarding running (i fear i'm becoming one of those patients . . .). i'll let you all know what those recommendations are, but i have a feeling they are not going to be to sign up to race 26.2 miles.

and i will be okay with that! because if this lady can slow it to a walk and the women below can smile for the camera, really, what business do i have complaining about it!?!

glowing kara goucher + paula radcliffe [source]



workout: 4 miles @ 9:13/mi, 0.5% incline

cooking: did not happen. it was one of those come-home-and-crash kind of evenings.


  1. I mentioned something similar on Shelby's blog, but obviously what AG doesn't take into account is what you like to do (and what your lifestyle, to a certain extent, dictates). You have a major advantage over Paula and Deena because you can run what you darn well please without worrying about, you know, making a living. Likewise, if you stop running due to baby, it won't affect your income.
    I do wonder about the AG-slope towards short distances though, and if there's any mathematical reasons for it. Or if we are more inclined to "race" short stuff and "run" longer distances.

  2. It's definitely worth a shot to see if cutting down on running helps any. Especially in the winter, when running is less appealing (at least to me, it is!)

  3. Anonymous8:20 AM

    i just read shelby's post. i think i'm going to have to play around with that calculator. but i'm not sure what it'll tell me because my HMP = MP!

    if you do choose to run less then i think that this winter might be a good time to experiment with it as the weather might not be so nice (although you're in the south. do you get bad weather? ;) )

  4. Anonymous9:13 AM

    Fascinating that the AG data came out opposite of what you expected! I will admit that I don't fully understand the math behind it. I might have to do some more research.

    Regardless, I feel ya with the "pull" of longer races, even though I don't enjoy them as much and apparently am not as "good" at them.

    Can't wait to see you tomorrow night! :)

  5. I get frustrated with the "real runners run marathons" thing, because I know I get caught up in it. Although running a marathon gives you a great sense of accomplishment, I know I enjoy training for and running shorter distances better.

  6. i don't really understand how training for a marathon would affect (effect?) you trying to become pregnant. you aren't running a 100 miles a week with no period. kara goucher and paula radcliffe are pregnant...did they cut down on running? i understand you wanting to start a family, but i don't understand putting your running life on hold. u could take a break from trying to get pregnant, train for a marathon, and then try again. who knows, maybe it would happen during training. i hope i'm not sound mean or anything, i'm just sort of confused.

  7. I'm interested in hearing the specialist's opinion, but I honestly doubt a moderate training plan would hurt. Still, if you got pregnant, you might not want to run the race at say, 7 months, so I probably wouldn't sign up either.

  8. Heather3:59 PM

    Good luck to you as you try to start a family! My husband and I are in the same boat (and everyone is telling me to stop running...) No doctor I've been too has suggested running has anything to do with it...but I'll be interested to hear what your doc has to say. :)

  9. Annie4:38 PM

    I'd love to hear what the doctor says too, but I really doubt that running is the problem. It is not like we are talking about 100 mpw here and no fueling.

    Part of me thinks this "do not run if you want to get pregnant" is such a throw-back to when women were not supposed to run longer than a mile or else their uteri would fall out!

  10. Anonymous5:58 PM

    I would perhaps expand the question is shorter better to is running the correct exercise. I was a distance runner who through injury came to the end of my running career, so I had to find another outlet. I drifted into weight training. A weight trainer is interested in anabolism not endurance. If you read about the sport the diet of a weight trainer is dramatically different from the diet of a runner. If you read the athletic literature weight trainers report consistently they can NOT pack on muscle if they do distance running as well. This is an interesting observation. What it implies is that the humeral environment created by weight training is very different than the humeral environment created by running even though the athlete may still be using the same anabolic diet in both regimens. Weight training plus the weight trainers diet by its nature creates a highly anabolic humeral environment, and it would appear that distance running perhaps forces a more catabolic humeral environment. There are many interesting theories that invoke a lot of hormonal rationales (insulin, cortisol, eiconosaid pathways) for this observation. My guess is it's probably more cellular or related to protein expression in the cell wall due to the micro tissue damage inflicted on the muscle cell, than hormonal but that's just an opinion.

    In my view pregnancy is kind of like the ultimate anabolic state. So my question is, if distance running and a distance runner's diet tends to be on the catabolic end maybe changing to a sport and diet that tends toward anabolism will lead to a more amenable environment for pregnancy. For catabolic sports I'm tending to include biking and swimming and eliptical trainers etc. ie the endurance sports and in anabolic sports I'm tending to include sports that intend to pack on muscle all over the body. As far as the holy grail of "cardio" is concerned, you can develop a weight training routine that will easily maintain your cardiac status. If you are a woman your own hormonal environment aka estrogen will protect you against "looking like a man". Your muscles will tend to grow in strength and definition but not so much in hypertrophy.

    Here is a very interesting experiment: does choice of exercise and diet have an effect on fertility?

    Consider one clinical data point. If you have a sick pt in the ICU especially the surgical ICU or the burn unit, what are the chances of that patient getting better if they are in a state of negative nitrogen balance? Positive nitrogen balance is a strong measure of anabolic state, and I think sets up the humeral environment for tissues to grow. (like white and red cell mass, tissue and perhaps a fetus)

    Something to think about

  11. such thought provoking comments from you all thus far (not that i would ever expect anything less!)

    sarah: interesting idea about 'running' longer distances and 'racing' shorter. but i do think i pushed my limits on my half and marathon PRs! then again, i wasn't training 60+ mi/week either. . .

    kim, heather, annie, jess: i am inclined to agree with you! but i would like to get my repro endo's opinion. (and kim . . . i haven't really written about it, but while i'm not a 100 mpw runner with no period, i'm a 25-30 mwp-er with some repro issues, even on fertility meds. and i'm as surprised as you are.)

    anon: interesting thoughts on anabolism/catabolism, and i believe it. thank you for sharing your (clearly very educated!) thoughts. unfortunately, i don't avoid weights because of trepidations on what will happen to my body composition; i avoid them because i hate lifting weights with a fiery passion. i do the bare minimum just because i feel i 'should'. and i freaking i love to run. it would be such an easy thing to deal with if i didn't!

  12. atilla12:05 AM

    kudos to anon

  13. Anonymous9:58 AM

    Hmm. Sarah, have you considered a different weight training regimen? I am a cardio lover, attempting to switch to more resistance training, and I LOVE kettlebells. They are much more fun than barbells! -M

  14. anonymous: that would be a fun thing to try - i also think i might enjoy a body pump type class. my gym doesn't have kettlebells, but maybe duke does? i'll have to look into it.

  15. Anonymous2:17 PM

    I well understand the passion involved in running.

    There are a lot of regimens beside simply lifting the same iron the same old way day after day, and of course everybody is an expert and touts their favorite. Over the decades I have tried dozens of these programs.

    I'll suggest one regimen for you and your readers. It changes things up during the course of the program so you are not always doing the same thing over and over forever. I use it in my pain practice for men and women who are interested in continuing exercise but are injured.

    I have done the men's program myself after herniating 3 disks and find it to be a very well thought out program that is also safe for people with back issues etc, AS LONG AS ONE USES PERFECT LIFTING FORM. I have found it to be a good alternative for patients who can not run but have healed enough to be able to resume exercising. It gives their running issue time to heal while they continue to improve in strength and not loose cardiac conditioning or suffer weight gain.

    I'm not saying it's the best but I believe it's a safe, challenging and rational place to start, if you have reason to reconsider running as your exercise of choice. Personally I also believe engaging in this kind of activity/diet promotes the humeral environment consistent with healing because I have seen the success. I also think this kind of regimen in a format modified to ones level of disability, might be a good answer to patients who have metabolic syndrome and muscle wasting due to NIDDM. (more potential research)