Monday, May 11, 2015

27 Apr-10 May

27 APR -- 1:30:00 -- 3.00 miles -- 214 elevation gain
28 APR -- stationary bike 4 miles (morning)
              -- upper body weightlifting (afternoon)
29 APR -- stationary bike 10 miles
              -- 30:00 -- 1.50 miles -- 110 elevation gain
30 APR -- swim 1200 meters (morning)
              -- 10:15 -- 1.00 miles -- 85 elevation gain (afternoon)
              -- stationary bike 4 miles -- upper body weightlifting (also afternoon)
01 MAY -- off
02 MAY -- 52:21 -- 5.86 miles -- 726 elevation gain (24-hour ATR team relay race)
                -- 54:07 -- 6.01 miles -- 729 elevation gain
                -- 52:57 -- 5.81 miles -- 747 elevation gain
                -- 56:01 -- 6.02 miles -- 778 elevation gain
03 MAY -- 1:44:15 -- 6.10 miles -- 793 elevation gain (sweeping the 24-hour ATR course)
               -- 40:00 -- 2.00 miles -- 190 elevation gain (family walk)

TOTAL -- 7:39:56 -- 35.80 miles -- 4262 elevation gain

Heck of a week.  Did a little swimming, biking, and running.  The 24-hour Adventure Trail Run was fun and served as a great final race before moving to NC.  I got some bro time with Alex, Scott, Dave, Jack, and Snipes.  Kari and Eli even made an appearance and made some PB&J sandwiches in the kitchen.  When I wasn't running I tried to make myself useful wherever needed - timing, the aid station, or eating as much as I could (which isn't really useful to anyone other than me).  It was a great race with a positive and motivating environment, as always is present at Athletic Equation events.





04 MAY -- 42:05 -- 3.84 miles -- 604 elevation gain
               -- 40 pull ups -- 150 ammo can presses -- upper body weightlifting
05 MAY -- stationary bike 9 miles (morning)
               -- 29:24 -- 2.88 miles -- 363 elevation gain (afternoon)
06 MAY -- 47:01 -- 6.02 miles -- 400 elevation gain
07 MAY -- stationary bike 3 miles -- upper body weightlifting (morning)
               -- 1:30:00 -- 3.00 miles -- 174 elevation gain (mowing the grass in the afternoon)
08 MAY -- stationary bike 10 miles
               -- 9:35 -- 1.00 miles -- 55 elevation gain
09 MAY -- 1:00:22 -- 8.40 miles -- 292 elevation gain
10 MAY -- 41:58 -- 5.77 miles -- 372 elevation gain

TOTAL -- 5:20:25 -- 30.91 miles -- 2260 elevation gain

Did some more biking and some running here and there.  This was my last week at Expeditionary Warfare School, so now I am on vacation until 7 Jun.  I hope to get in some decent longer runs during my break, but we also need to pack the house and move to NC.  I've been spending every second I can with Eli over the past 4 days and it's been too fun.  I've already shortened a run so I could get home by the time he woke up from his nap so we could hang out.  It's hard to willingly be absent from home to go running, but I'll need to get in a few longer training runs to stay in shape. 




Tuesday, April 28, 2015

13-26 Apr

13 APR -- 26:10 -- 3.03 miles -- 16 elevation gain (another Physical Fitness Test)
14 APR -- off -- rest
15 APR -- stationary bike 5 miles
16 APR -- swim 1600 meters
17 APR -- stationary bike 6 miles (morning)
              -- upper body weightlifting (afternoon)
18 APR -- off
19 APR -- off

TOTAL -- 26:10 -- 3.03 miles -- 16 elevation gain

A total of 16 feet of elevation for the week is an all-time low!  Took a full week to recover from Bull Run, except for the 3-mile PFT on Monday morning.





20 APR -- 10:00 -- 1.00 miles -- 145 elevation gain
21 APR -- swim 1600 meters (morning)
              -- upper body weightlifting (afternoon)
22 APR -- 31:21 -- 4.08 miles -- 192 elevation gain
23 APR -- 9:00 -- 1.00 miles -- 75 elevation gain
24 APR -- off
25 APR -- 9:08:17 -- 58.71 miles -- 884 elevation gain (C&O Canal 100)
26 APR -- 45:00 -- 1.00 miles -- 89 elevation gain

TOTAL -- 10:43:38 -- 65.79 miles -- 1385 elevation gain

So, another drop from C&O Canal 100 on Saturday.  I hit the 50 mile mark at 7:40:00 and was feeling great all the way to the point where I dropped.  I should have kept running - I felt really good, my legs were feeling good, I had a lot left in the tank, I was in third place, and I was on pace to break 16 hours if I kept my pace below 9:30 per mile.  I just didn't care whether or not I finished the race, so I stopped and went home...





I believe I've hit a point in ultraRACING where it isn't fun anymore, but ultraRUNNING still has my deepest interests.  It really bothered me to know that I would (most likely) have finished under 17 hours, possibly even under 16 hours, and there's no fun in that.  Most of you, as you read this, are thinking I'm an idiot for giving up such a great race with a great time, and you're right.  But I just don't care to say "I did it."  Also, an overwhelming feeling of guilt swept over me the last few miles that I did run, and I felt that I needed to be home with my family instead of being selfish and chasing meaningless goals all weekend.  I hope you don't take offense to that.  It's how I feel about ultraRACING at this point.  Simply put, my racing hobby isn't aligning with my personal interests right now. 

Maybe I raced too much over the past few years and sucked all the fun out of it.  Maybe I put too much pressure on myself to beat my watch every race.  Who knows.  But what I do know is that I'm done racing for awhile.  I still really enjoy testing my body through endurance running and I don't intend to stop training, but I'll be training only to satisfy my personal curiosities about pushing my body to the limits.  I might race once in awhile with some friends or to keep my ultraracing flame burning, but I won't be racing every month anymore.  Right now my priorities are spending time with family, preparing to change jobs, finishing my MBA, and watching my son discover the world. 

I have aspirations of finding new limits and finding new ways to incorporate endurance running in my life.  I want to run across the country one day, the long way, not the short way.  I'm talking San Diego to Boston, or Seattle to Miami.  And I won't be finishing in Times Square with a hoard of media and cameras.  I'll probably walk the last day with my son on a skateboard and my wife dragging my ass the rest of the way to the coastline.

Maybe I'll run the entire Appalachian Trail.  Or, maybe I'll make my own damn challenge and run wherever I want.  I'd really like to be a college professor one day and take a sabbatical to complete some nonsensical running challenge for 6 months and call it "research."

I also wouldn't mind having my own television show where I travel around the globe running the best trails and eating the best foods, all while giving viewers a glimpse of the life of an endurance athlete.  As popular as ultrarunning has become over the past few years, there are still masses of people around the world who can't fathom that someone could run 50 miles in one day, let alone 100 miles in 16 hours.  Those folks should be exposed to our culture.  Maybe this show would be inspiring to people.  Maybe it could show people that they can go almost anywhere and do almost anything with just their two legs.  Or that people can do something amazing with nothing more than a pair of shoes and a little desire to push the limits of what they thought was possible.  I'd give Anthony Bourdain a run for his money. 

My high school baseball coach used to say that it takes no talent to hustle, and he couldn't have been more right!  It really doesn't take any talent to run, only the motivation and desire to do so.  You don't need to be fast or look good while you do it, trust me.  I ran my first 50 mile race in basketball shorts and basketball shoes, and I was unaware that I looked like a clown in my headband and cotton t-shirt.  I'm telling you...anyone can go run 50 miles today, right now.  It might take you 20 hours, and you might have to walk the last 40 miles, but you can go cover 50 miles of ground right now! 

For me, I'm doing some searching deep down to find a new challenge to test my personal limits.  My 10,000 hours study will continue, without a doubt.  I'll continue running because I truly enjoy the sport, but I'm done racing and done executing race-specific training until I can find new ways to challenge myself.  I have no interest in achieving new PRs at any ultra distances, and I won't be trying to win any races anytime soon.  I am, however, intrigued about where else my feet can take me.  I look forward to new trails, new locations, and new opportunities to test myself when we move to North Carolina in a few weeks.  I'm going to really miss Shenandoah National Park, Buck Hollow trail, Hazel Mountain, Prince William Forest, Quantico base trails, and all the other places I've been running around in VA since 2012, but it's time for a change and time to find new places to run (not that I had a choice). 

Lastly, I'm honestly amazed that over 1,000 people have read my most recent post about 10,000 hours of ultrarunning.  I hope that all of those readers enjoyed it and that it stirred up conversations within groups of runners.  It's a shame that NOBODY left a comment though.  Strange.  I was really hoping to create some dialogue and that someone would call me out for something so that we could continue with an academic and professional discussion about an interesting topic.  I've heard that a few folks left comments on Facebook somewhere - it's unfortunate that I don't have Facebook...  I suppose I'll never know whether I'm onto something or if I have tunnel vision and I'm lost somewhere out in right field.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

10,000 Hours of Ultrarunning


10,000 HOURS OF ULTRARUNNING
AJ Cillo

I’ve been much busier than anticipated lately and, to be honest, I’ve been quite lazy about writing on here.  But, I’m feeling refreshed after my grad class ended and I finished my 2,000-word paper for work, so I’ll finally write this post.  I’ve been wanting to for a while because I’m interested in where I can go with the data.

After doing much more research about this, it appears that many people have written about running in relation to the 10,000 hours theory.  Some things were well written and made sense, some were self-indulging but offered great alleys into other topics of research.  That’s my opinion, of course.  And that’s the beauty of this blog – it’s mine and I can write what I want.  If you’ve read my posts in the past then you know that I’m critical of many people and many things, but none more than myself.  I genuinely enjoy making fun of myself, whether I’m telling the truth or making up a bunch of lies – you’ll never know.  I’m a humble person and I don’t like to be the center of attention, but on here I like to lay it all out for the reader.  I’m not hiding behind my words and I’ll gladly have these discussions in person.  But nobody ever asks.

A brief refresher about this theory.  Malcom Gladwell in his book Outliers claims that it takes about 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a skill, sport, trade, etc.  Reaching mastery, therefore, classifies that individual as an expert in that field.  Gladwell describes a few historical examples to illustrate his point, all of which have been used all over the internet since his book was published.  The Beatles, violin players, and chess players form the heart of his argument.  If you do a quick Loogle search about the 10,000 hours theory and spend 10 minutes reading the first few hits then you will have a decent understanding of the wave tops.  You certainly don’t need to rush over to amazon.com to buy Gladwell’s book, but I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. 

Ok.  Up front, I’ll give you my running statistics from 12 Feb 2014 to 12 Feb 2015, an entire year’s worth of running:

Number of runs:              246

Total running time:          371 hours, 41 minutes, 52 seconds

Total Distance:                  2,111.06 miles

Average Pace:                   10:34 per mile

Total Elevation Gain:       219,441 feet

Average Miles/Month:   175.92

Average Miles/Week:     40.60

Average Miles/Day:         5.78

Average Miles/Run:         8.58

Average Elevation/Run:  892 feet of gain

Average time per run:     1.51 hours


I want to break down each data set, for my own satisfaction.  Feel free to read on if you’re interested. 

The number of runs, 246, is not entirely accurate but is within +/- 5 runs.  During the summer I remember lumping together morning and afternoon runs a handful of times, then logging them as a single run.  Oh well.  This isn’t necessarily critical to the study but I wanted to point it out anyway.  Some of the runs were races, some were more like hikes, some were actual hikes, some were walks with my photographer during her (our) pregnancy, some were simple training runs, and some were meant to keep me from punching someone in the chest.  I counted them all as “runs” because they were all adding to my mileage and adding to time spent on my feet (which I’m more interested in than the mileage). 

I want to really dissect the time, distance, and elevation stats, so I will come back to them at the end.

Average pace was 10:34 per mile – not bad I suppose.  I calculated this using “running time”, meaning that when I stopped to sleep for a few hours during 3 Days at the Fair, I also stopped my running time which affected average pace.  I find this more practical than averaging my pace including stoppage time because, ultimately, I want to test the accuracy of the notion that spending 10,000 hours practicing something will make you an expert in that field/sport/hobby/etc.  If I had included stoppage time in my calculations I could probably add 30-40 hours onto my total running time, which isn’t accurate and will skew the data for this study.  In theory, I would reach 10,000 hours of running months or years sooner if I included stoppage time.  This isn’t soccer.  Or futbol.

I averaged just over 40 miles per week, based on a 365-day calendar, 12 months, and 7-day weeks.  I’m not satisfied or dissatisfied with this number – makes no difference to me.  Deep down, I wish I had trained more and harder, but who doesn’t.  I’d say 95% of those miles were focused, meaningful, purpose-related miles and only a few runs were “junk” miles simply to burn some calories so I could eat cookies later that day.  However, over the summer while I was working at Officer Candidates School, the majority of my runs and hikes were not directly focused on training for races but were scripted, prescribed events that didn’t allow for any flexibility.  Nonetheless, I counted the fartlek courses, hikes, sprint workouts, and other courses we ran towards my mileage and running time.  On the flip side, the nature of working there meant walking everywhere, at a fast pace, every day, all the time.  Thus, I probably walked or hiked 30-40 miles back and forth across the parade deck that I never accounted for because I didn’t have the time or patience to mess with my watch in front of candidates all day.  Consequently, I probably didn’t account for 7-10 hours as a result.  In the long run, this won’t tremendously affect the study and I will account for this data separately and consider it the alpha, or delta, or difference, or (whatever) of the results. 

I ran 246 times for a total of 2,111.06 miles – an average of 8.58 miles each run.  Keep in mind that I took plenty of days off but also ran multiple times on other days.  Also, my races and longer training runs skewed this number slightly.  For example, 3 Days at the Fair tallied 120 miles over a weekend, Bull Run and JFK tallied 50 miles each of those days, etc. etc.  If I consider the data without the longer runs, I most likely average between 4-6 miles during a typical training run.  Although I care more about quality than quantity, I would like to increase my miles per run this upcoming year to 6-8 miles, but that will require larger chunks of time which I probably won’t be afforded due to the workload of my next job. 

Elevation gain was a planning factor for every run.  Sometimes, I deliberately ran particular routes because of the elevation they offered.  I oftentimes ran hill repeats as well, especially in/around the I-95 corridor where the biggest hill I’ve found over the past 3 years has less than 300 feet of gain.  On average, I climbed just under 900 feet during each run.  Not bad.  Not good.  But, considering where I live and the limited options I have when compared to west coasters, I’m satisfied with that number.  I wish the number was closer to 2,000 feet, but it is what it is.  I can’t afford, nor do I have the time, to make the hour and 15 minute trip to the Shenandoah Mountains on a daily basis.  If I lived in Colorado Springs I’d have those trails memorized by the end of the first month…and I’d have long hair, a beard, and wear sunglasses to bed.  But for now, I’ll settle with being a mediocre runner at 40 miles per week and continue giving up my time to provide the warm blanket of freedom that covers my wife and son every night.

Ok, now to the meat and potatoes of this paper: distance and time spent running.  I also found a few other studies out there that were very interesting to me.  I’ll discuss all of this below.

First, a quick reminder that all of my statistics were tracked using my Garmin 310XT GPS watch.  2,111.06 miles over a period of 371 hours, 41 minutes, 52 seconds (371:41:52).  Again, average pace was 10:34 per mile and each run lasted roughly 90 minutes (1.51 hours).  My mileage averages were 5.78 per day, 40.60 per week, and 175.92 per month.  I’ve told a few people these numbers and they raised their eyebrows at me.  Some standard responses followed: “I don’t think I drove my car that far last year”, “That’s insane”, “That’s why you’re so skinny”, and “How did your knees not fall off?”  But is it really that impressive?  After doing some research, it appears that I’m still on the JV squad.

Andy Jones-Wilkins wrote an article on 22 March 2013 on the topic of running for 10,000 hours.  In it, he proclaimed the following: “But I can say, for me, this 10,000 hour rule has proven true. For the past 20 years I have run roughly 600-700 hours a year (with a few inevitable “breaks” for injuries). So, as of now, that is right around Gladwell’s magic number.”  I didn’t see any hard and fast numbers anywhere else in the article, and it’s hard to do the math with a potential delta of +/- 100 hours, but I think his numbers would look something like the data below.

I assumed that he held a pace roughly the same as I did at 10:34 per mile, and I think that’s reasonable considering he is, after all, Andy Jones-Wilkins.  Thus, he ran roughly twice as much as I did.  Let’s call it 80% more due to the 100 hour swing in his reporting.  So, taking my numbers and making them all “roughly” 80% bigger would result with this:

Roughly 600-700 hours per year (?)

Roughly 3,800 miles per year, for 20 consecutive years (How did his knees not fall off???)

Roughly 316 miles per month

Roughly 73 miles per week, every week, for over 1,000 continuous weeks…

Roughly 10.4 miles per day

These numbers are really high.  Like, roughly 80% higher than mine!  Think about this: if Andy had decided to take a day off, at an average of 10.4 miles per day, he had to run over 20 miles the next day to make up for it...for 20…straight…years…  Can you imagine what his Monday run was like if he decided to take a weekend vacation???  Obviously, there were 100 mile races in there, a lot of them.  And there were taper weeks, 50 mile races, 40 mile training runs, etc. etc.  I’m not oblivious to the training cycles and other factors that contribute to these numbers.  But, clearly, I’m not at the top of my field if other folks are putting in these kinds of numbers.  With the absence of solid data, however, can we really trust these numbers?  Are they inflated?  Who knows and who cares…  Andy’s been crushing the sport of ultrarunning for nearly longer than I’ve been alive, so I’m certainly not going to question him.  Furthermore, he got it right at the end of his article when he wrote, “And, while I don’t pretend to think that I have mastered this craft like Gates and the Beatles have mastered theirs, I can say that this is one place in my life that I have achieved a level of success and satisfaction with which I am content. And, I dare say, for a middle-aged guy putting one foot in front of the other, contentment is about as good as it gets.”  The best part is that we don’t need a GPS watch to measure his level of humility here…or maybe we do…

But did Andy peak after 10,000 hours, or did he peak earlier into his career?  Since the article was written two years ago, he should be over 11,000 hours by now.  So, does the 10,000 hours theory translate to more and more mastery in the sport of ultrarunning?  Heck no.  He was certainly faster 10 years ago than he is today, even with all the added deliberate practice.  Gladwell’s theory applies to things such as chess, playing the violin, and other things, but I don’t think ultrarunning is one of them.  Alex Hutchinson would agree (refer to his article at the bottom).  Nature vs Nurture?  (do I hear a Wedding Crashers quote?).  Are there naturals, or do all experts practice incessantly to reach mastery?  My head hurts…  Anyway, another runner named Steve Magness mentioned this in an article as well when he said, “The problem is that we've oversimplified genetics and talent. Talent has almost become a negative word. It’s often used in the context that if someone is talented they don’t work hard, as in “oh, he’s just really talented,” to explain a person’s success.”

Karl Meltzer might disagree with this, though, because he hasn’t really lost a step over the years, nor has he made any significant improvements since the early 2000’s.  He’s been at the top of the sport since the day he stepped onto the trail.  To illustrate, consider the following.  In 2011 he ran the Wasatch 100 in 20:59:53.  He ran the same race in 20:08:00 in 1998, 20:54:18 in 2002, 20:46:35 in 2003, 20:06:08 in 2004, and 20:18:58 in 2006.  This is the epitome of consistency over time.  On the flip side, he won the Massanutten Mountain 100 in 18:40:23 at 46 years old in 2014, which was an hour and 20 minutes faster than his time in 2005 at 37.  He is the ageless wonder, much like the 71-year old Gary Knipling who continues to finish 100 mile races after 23+ years of ultrarunning (his first recorded ultrarace was the Vermont 100 in 1992, according to www.ultrasignup.com). 

Going back to Steve Magness – I ran across two articles that he wrote recently.  Both are listed as (scholarly) references at the bottom of this paper.  According to Steve’s website he is the cross country coach for the University of Houston.  He also stated that he coached Nike runners for a year and a half before heading to Houston.  Unlike Andy, Steve apparently tracked and logged his runs from 01 November 2001 to 12 May 2012, right around ten and a half years.  This captured his runs from his junior year in high school until he was 27 years old.  He claimed his mileage added up to 44,000 miles during that time.  But, he explained later in his article, “Of course I didn’t have my freshman and sophomore year recorded [in high school], so it’s more like mile ~9,000 in a 48,000mi journey, but you get the point...”  He was making the claim that he reached “mastery” around mile 9,000 of the 48,000 he ran, or, as better explained in time rather than distance, around 3.5 years into his career.  Doing the math I was able to quickly convert years into hours, as the study is focused on hours based on the title of his article (“Why Gladwell’s 10,000 rule is just plain wrong”).  I assume that 9,000 miles and 3.5 years into his career equates to 1,050 hours using a 7:00 minute per mile pace.  I am also assuming that, since he arbitrarily declared that he ran 2,000 miles during each his freshman and sophomore years in high school (4,000 miles, divided by two years), I calculate that he ran a total of 48,000 miles over 12.5 years.  Thus, his numbers would look like this: (roughly, of course)

800 hours per year (?)

3,840 miles per year

320 miles per month

73.8 miles per week, every week, for 650 weeks

10.5 miles per day

These are eerily similar to Andy’s numbers.  In fact, Andy ran 10.4 miles per day, Steve ran 10.5.  Again, these are all numbers I pretty much pulled from thin air using the little bit of information they gave me in their articles.  There are numerous external factors that would affect this data such as pace per mile, stoppage time, etc.  But one thing sticks out like a hooker in church: Andy reached 10,000 hours in 20 years, Steve in 12.5 years, but the rest of their numbers are the same.  How did that happen?  Something isn’t jiving.  But, in Steve’s defense, he wrote, “Add in my freshman and sophomore year plus all the strength, biomechanics, and extra work and you’re looking at easily over 10,000 hours of training.”  So, maybe Steve’s numbers sway to the left if his total run time is 12,000 hours, or even 15,000 hours.  All of his numbers would decrease: miles per year, miles per month, miles per week, time per run, etc.  Something that only interests ultrarunners is the elevation statistic, so it isn’t surprising that he didn’t track it. 

So is this proof that Microsoft Excel works?  Did Andy drastically miscalculate how many hours he ran?  Or did Steve miscalculate the number of hours he put in?  I’m sure that Steve’s pace per mile during his 10,000 hours was nearly half what Andy’s was, which could have significant impacts on the rest of their data.  I’m not saying that my way of logging runs, using a Garmin GPS watch and Excel, is the correct way to do this study, but it sure makes sense to me.  Nonetheless, I’m still at the mercy of Garmin’s device to correctly track mileage and elevation.  It’s hard to screw up time spent running – any watch can do this.  Either way, I’d still buy some shares of Microsoft if you have some disposable income under your mattress… 

Something else I noticed while reading Steve’s articles is that he contradicted himself.  Again, that’s my opinion, of course.  The title of one of his articles is “Why ‘Gladwell’s’ 10,000 rule is just plain wrong”, which tells me he isn’t a believer in the theory.  He gave it that title because in his personal running career he peaked much earlier than 10,000 hours – around 1,050 hours.  But if you interpret the 10,000 hour theory in other ways, it clearly paid dividends.  To illustrate, consider that he is currently a college cross country coach and has coached Nike runners in the past.  Evidently, running for 10,000 hours gave him the credibility and expertise he needed to initially be placed in those positions.  But, the title of his article claims that the 10,000 hour rule is baloney.  Sure, maybe he hit his peak running performance when he was younger, but he still compiled experience and knowledge along the way to 10,000 hours.  Maybe he wasn’t an expert runner, but he certainly gained an expert reputation within the field.  If he hadn’t ran ~48,000 miles and upwards of 12,000 hours, would he be coaching college runners today?  Would he have coached Nike runners?  Hence, there is a contradiction.

In any event, I don’t have the time, energy, money, running shoe inventory, patience, iTunes playlist, or interest to sustain running 74 miles/week for 1 year – let alone 10.5 or 12.5 of them.  I have a lot of respect for Andy and Steve, and for cross country runners everywhere, because I know guys and gals are putting in 70-80 miles per week all around the country.  In the end, I still can’t fathom running that many miles on a weekly basis for 10+ years.  But one day soon, the 2-hour barrier will be broken in the marathon distance by one of those runners – it certainly won’t be one of us older guys.  It’ll be a younger runner, probably in college or a recent graduate, only 3,000-5,000 hours into his running career.  Certainly Meb isn’t going to get any faster in his old age.  I don’t foresee Ryan Hall breaking two hours.  In fact, after feeling my heart sink as I watched Ryan Hall drop from the Olympic marathon a few years ago, I don’t think much of him at all anymore.

But, a fellow named Dennis Kimetto recently ran a marathon in 2:02:57, so the human race is getting closer and closer to breaking the barrier (Todd Hargrove article).  What’s fascinating about Kimetto is that nobody has a record of him running a race prior to 2011.  Has he mysteriously reached 10,000 hours of running from his home on the other side of the world?  Has he always deliberately practiced running, or was it simply the only way to get from point A to point B?  Just four years ago he was a farmer…  I would call Kimetto a Black Swan, but that’s just me.  By the way, his 2:02:57 marathon equates to 4:41 per mile…

Moving on…  I averaged just 1.5 hours per run during the last year, for an average of 40 miles per week.  Doing quick math yet again, I would have to spend nearly 3 hours running on 246 days out of the year to reach 73 miles per week.  Albeit, that is using my average pace of 10:34 per mile.  Magness ran competitively in both high school and college, neither of which I did, and I’m sure he spent at least 3 days each week on the track, whereas I spend 0 days ever on the track.  I’m sure he put in his mileage on the track with Nike runners as well.  His pace per mile had to be in the 6:00-7:00 minute range during his 10,000 hours, maybe even sub-6:00, meaning he spent far less time running 73 miles per week than it would take me on the trails in my clunkers.

I came across many other interesting articles and writings during my research.  Some of the stuff I read was pertinent to this paper, some a little less relevant.  Here are some other things that are loosely related but still good knowledge to have. 

Maria Popova explained in her article: “Ericsson finds world-class champions – whether weight-lifters, pianists, or a dog-sled team – tend to limit arduous practice to about four hours a day.  Rest and restoring physical and mental energy get built into the training regimen.  They seek to push themselves and their bodies to the max, but not so much that their focus gets diminished in the practice session.  Optimal practice maintains optimal concentration.”  Right off the bat, it should be obvious to nearly everyone that 4 hours of running every day is not sustainable for 10,000 hours.  Again, this applies the 10,000 hour theory to only certain sports, trades, hobbies, fields, etc., and ultrarunning isn’t one of them.  It can’t be.  Running for 4 hours every day until reaching 10,000 hours would take 2,500 days, or 6.8 years.  Depending on pace, someone could easily run a marathon a day in that time, totaling mileage to an astronomical 65,500 miles over that short period.  Sure, Dean Karnazes ran across the country, did 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days, etc., but can he run for 4 hours every day for 2,500 days?  That isn’t a dare, Dean.  Just me putting my thoughts onto paper.  In contrast to all this, if someone practiced chess, playing the violin, reading, knitting, or painting for 4 hours a day, then they might truly be an expert in their field.  This leads to more questions…

Is there a maximum heart rate tied to this?  For instance, elevating your heart rate above a certain level might take away training value to whatever it is you’re practicing.  Playing soccer for 10,000 hours might be beneficial for someone, but only if she keeps her heart rate below a certain level so that she can remain focused on improving a particular ability rather than switching into survival mode.  The fight or flight concept isn’t new, but does it apply to the 10,000 hour theory?  I’m not smart enough to answer that, but maybe someone else wants to research it…  Furthermore, practicing soccer for 10,000 hours might work if the individual can stay healthy and receive feedback.  Staying healthy is obviously essential to continued practice, but the feedback loop is essential to continued accurate practice.  It should be evident that practicing something incorrectly for 10,000 hours doesn’t mean you’re an expert.  However, it could result in being an expert idiot.  The first thing that comes to mind is something my college baseball coach once told me.  He said, “I don’t care if you put the bat between your legs and hit the ball that way, as long as you’re efficient it doesn’t matter to me.”  Hence, if I practice hitting with the bat between my legs for 10,000 hours, I might be able to rack up base hits and homeruns, but I’m going to look like a real idiot the entire time.  Then again, my coach was kind of an idiot, so take that for what it’s worth.  Or, if you don’t care what people think of you, then swing away!  That’s why I run without a shirt every chance I get.  And because my nipples chafe.

There is a YouTube documentary/series called “10,000 Hours” by a basketball player named Devin Williams.  It’s entertaining and pertinent to the study, but you won’t learn much scholarly information from it.  This was more of a shout out to Devin, who I don’t know but I’ve learned to really like simply by watching his series on YouTube. 

I found a really good definition of deliberate practice in an article, which was essentially just an excerpt from Cathy Utzschneider’s book Mastering Running.  Cathy explains, “Deliberate practice is practice aimed at reaching goals just beyond your present level of competence; it involves focusing on your weaknesses and specific needs, practicing your skills repeatedly, and continually adjusting them with feedback from a coach or teacher.”  I really like this.  It’s exactly what I always thought deliberate practice meant but I could never put it so eloquently into words. 

Cathy also wrote, “One reason it takes more than a few years to achieve one’s best result is simple: it takes that long to figure out the mix of physical and mental training habits, including strength training, patience, and race strategy that work best for you, and that mix changes over time.”  I completely agree!  However, I think the timeline to reach mastery can be shortened with good coaching, establishing good practice/training habits at the forefront, and a good feedback loop from experienced people in that field.

Cathy made another point in the little bit of her book that I read.  She wrote, “Masters runner Priscilla Welch started running at age 34 and achieved her personal best in the marathon 8 years later, at age 42, running 2:26:51 (Rodgers and Welch 1991). Older legs can be fresher legs. It took the female masters runners in my doctoral dissertation an average of 7.5 years to reach their best times, whether they started running in their teens or after age 30 (Utzschneider 2002).”  Here is a picture which helps to explain this.  I copied it from the website listed in my references.

 

 

This reminds me of Rob Krar and how he appeared from thin air to storm onto ultrarunning podiums all over the west coast.  Albeit, he was in and out of running his entire life, and at different points took years away from the sport due to surgeries.  But he was never competitive in ultrarunning before 2012.  Now he has back-to-back UROY awards above his fireplace. 

But Cathy – finally!  Someone who did legitimate research on this topic, rather than some young punk just writing aimlessly without an agenda about his annual statistics on a blog…  Thank you, Cathy.  I just bought the Kindle version of your book.

There is one last article I’d like to break down here by a gentlemen named Christopher Russell.  He wrote, “We hear a lot of new-agey talk about getting into flow states these days.  A flow state is when you’re ‘in the zone’ when everything just flows effortlessly and perfectly from you without thought or direction.”  Although I’ve never heard the term flow state, I understand the philosophy of being in the zone.  He also wrote, “In a flow state people report a feeling of confidence and well-being and peaceful bliss.  They report that time either slows down or that it speeds up to facilitate the flow state.  They know what to do without thinking about it, like an inner voice is making the decisions, the right decisions, seamlessly, every step of the way.”  I couldn’t agree more, Christopher!  During numerous longer runs or races I remember completely losing track of time, place, weather, breathing, eating and drinking.  I seemed to sort of float along the trail until something external to the sound of my shoes hitting the dirt, such as hearing another person or hearing something out of place in the woods like a plane or sirens, finally broke me from my trance-like state.  Surprisingly, I sometimes “wake up” from these episodes feeling groggy and suddenly realizing the pain.  I think Russell hit the nail on the head when he wrote, “The flow state doesn’t happen magically.  It can only be accessed through hours of practice.”

Russell also wrote two things that I went back to read a few more times so I could get a grasp on the concepts.  First, he stated, “I propose that the Zone 2 and long easy form runs are the physical practices that enables flow.  This repetition creates a physical memory that you draw from without thought.  These training runs are your 10,000 hours of practice.”  I partially agree.  The guy that runs the same 8 mile route, at the same speed, at the same time every day, is not the expert runner once he hits 3,000 hours, 5,000 hours, 10,000 hours, or even 20,000 hours.  I think the expert is the well-rounded runner who has trained outside of his/her comfort zone to determine every area for which practice is needed.  It’s the guy who reads about running, writes about running, listens to stories from other runners, and accepts criticism from others.  For example, I rarely step foot on a track, therefore I probably won’t ever be an expert runner because I probably won’t develop the fast-twitch muscles needed for speed, and I probably couldn’t hang with the local high school cross country team during their track workout.  But I read about track workouts, and I’ve done some longer training runs with high school track and cross country coaches and soaked up every word they said. 

On the other hand, someone like Steve Magness, who has spent years (although he’s the same age as me) training on the track, doing longer runs, etc., might be more qualified as an expert.  Do I think he IS an expert in the field of running?  Not really.  Do I think Andy is an expert in ultrarunning?  Not really.  But then again there’s no true way to measure whether they are or aren’t, so I can’t be wrong.  Do I think Alberto Salazar is an expert in the sport of running?  Yes.  He has years and years, and more years, of experience and being around runners of different calibers from which he draws his training programs.  I think he is more well-rounded and knowledgeable about running than anyone else, anywhere.  It’s sort of like History majors…we always want to poke fun at them while we’re in college, but now we all work for one…probably because they spent 10,000 hours reading and studying while the rest of us spent 10,000 hours partying, running, hooping…

This brings up arguably the most important and most debatable question that we should all be scrambling to answer: What defines someone as an expert runner? 

Many questions branch off from this: What is the unit of measure to determine whether or not someone is an expert runner?  Is it a question of quality or quantity, meaning the number of races won or the number of races raced?  Or is it a matter of neither quality nor quantity of racing, but of quality or quantity of coaching experiences?  Or is it simply the educated runner who has read every piece of literature, every magazine, every article, etc., but who has never won a race?  Is it the runner who has logged 100,000 lifetime miles?  200,000 lifetime miles?  Is it Scott Jurek?  Is it Dean Karnazes?  Is it Kimetto?  Does someone have to look like a runner to be considered an expert?  If so then Salazar is out.  How do we define mastery in ultrarunning?  We can take this in so many different directions that it boggles my mind.  How people define an expert runner could be drastically different than what people perceive an expert runner to actually be.  This is fundamental to the study, but I’m not about to offer a solution to this just yet.

The second thing Christopher wrote that made me physically laugh was, “You become a mystic being – a flow warrior.”  This is awesome!  I don’t agree or disagree, it’s simply just too crunchy for me…

At the end of the day, I had fun researching and writing about this theory.  Reaching 10,000 hours, for me, seems out of reach until my 50’s, which is fine.  I’ll continue logging my training and racing simply because I’m a math geek and I think Microsoft Excel is possibly the greatest invention ever.  I know my brother Alex would agree.  He’s an accountant. I’ve seen his work.  It’s well above average. 

After reading this you might be thinking, “What was his argument?”  That’s because I didn’t really make one.  It’s too early into my running career to be scientific about this stuff.  Plus, I haven’t done legitimate research.  I’ve merely read a few articles, books, and magazines.  This paper was mostly an exercise in copy-and-paste and compare-and-contrast.  I intend to continue writing about this as the years go on and I continue to work towards 10,000 hours of running.  Not because I want to reach 10,000 hours, but because I enjoy running and racing.  I still contemplate many questions, though. 

First, and most importantly, how many hours have I racked up so far?  I’ve only logged the last year and some change, but what about the previous 28 years of my life?  What about 2012 and 2013, when I raced about 10 times each year?  How many hours did I spend training for those races?  I don’t have a clue.

What counts as time spent running?  Do the times I spent chasing frisbees at the park when I was 7 years old count towards my 10,000 hours?  If so, how do I measure the amount of hours I spent running 20 years ago?  I’m certainly not going to throw a guestimate on a spreadsheet.  If I ran to the mailbox and back to get my mail, but I focused really hard on landing softly on the balls of my feet, should I add 23 seconds towards my 10,000 hours?  I might be getting a little ridiculous with this, but seriously…that all counts, right?  Before every football practice, baseball practice, and basketball practice, we would do some warm up laps around the field/court, some suicides, sprints, you name it.  Do those count?  What about the running during the practices themselves?  Does that count?  During football we were always running, but we were mostly focused on something else – carrying the ball, catching the ball, chasing the dude with the ball, etc.  So, since I wasn’t deliberately practicing running, do all those hours and hours count towards this study?  Should I consider other fitness activities towards my 10,000 hours of running, since they also increase stamina and may contribute to decreased 5k times, 10k times, etc.? 

I like where this could go and I really enjoy thinking and writing about it.  In another year, look for the dash-2 to this paper…

Feel free to comment on this post and let me know what you think.  Am I jacked up?  Did I say anything that doesn’t make any sense at all?  Don’t be afraid to tell me I’m an idiot, as long as you have some ammo to back it up. 
 

References

Alex Hutchinson.  August 22, 2013.  “On Malcolm Gladwell and ‘Naturals’.”  Runner’s World. 

http://www.runnersworld.com/general-interest/on-malcolm-gladwell-and-naturals

Andy Jones-Wilkins.  March 22, 2013.  “Running and the 10,000 Hour Rule.”  iRunFar.

http://www.irunfar.com/2013/03/running-and-the-10000-hour-rule.html

Cathy Utzschneider.  “Ten Years or 10,000 Hours to Excellence.”  Human Kinetics.  Excerpt from

Mastering Running. 

http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/ten-years-or-10000-hours-to-excellence

Christopher Russell.  May 28, 2014.  “Finding Flow in your running and your 10,000 hours.”  Run Run

                Live.  http://runrunlive.com/finding-flow-in-your-running-and-your-10000-hours

Maria Popova.  “Debunking the Myth of the 10,000-Hours Rule: What It Actually Takes to Reach Genius-

Level Excellence.”  Brain Pickings.  http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/22/daniel-goleman-

focus-10000-hours-myth/

Steve Magness.  “The 10,000 hr rule and why talent and genes matter.”  The Science of Running. 

http://www.scienceofrunning.com/2010/07/10000hr-rule-and-why-talent-and-genes.html


Steve Magness.  “Why ‘Gladwell’s’ 10,000 rule is just plain wrong.”  The Science of Running. 

                http://www.scienceofrunning.com/2014/03/why-gladwells-10000-rule-is-just-plain.html

Todd Hargrove.  October 2, 2014.  “10,000 Hours and Marathon Records.”  Better Movement. 

http://www.bettermovement.org/2014/10000-hours-and-marathon-records/

Ultra Signup.  http://ultrasignup.com/




Tuesday, April 14, 2015

06-12 Apr

06 APR -- 20:36 -- 2.45 miles -- 563 elevation gain (hill sprints)
              -- 38:00 -- 2.85 miles -- 201 elevation gain (family run/walk)
07 APR -- off -- 55 pull ups
08 APR -- stationary bike 10 miles
09 APR -- off -- stretching
10 APR -- 17:22 -- 3.00 miles -- 161 elevation gain (Physical Fitness Test)
11 APR -- 8:34:15 -- 46.85 miles -- 4089 elevation gain (Bull Run Run 50)
12 APR -- 1:47:51 -- 5.07 miles -- 296 elevation gain (family run, then mowing the grass)

TOTAL -- 11:38:04 -- 60.22 miles -- 5310 elevation gain

Unfortunately, I had to run my Physical Fitness Test (pull ups, crunches, and 3-mile run) on Friday before Bull Run.  It was either then or the Monday after, so I chose wisely and knocked it out on fresh legs.  The obvious drawback: I felt it on Saturday morning, particularly in my groin. 

Bull Run was awesome!  Greatest race on the east coast!  I was a little slower than I wanted but who cares.  I ran the last 15 miles with a friend who was struggling, which made it more meaningful and enjoyable than running alone and trying to hang onto a specific finishing time.  I think I may have squeezed into the top 10 at some point, maybe at the start of the do loop around mile 30-ish, but I never asked the question because I didn't care.  Once I ventured into the do loop I hit a wall anyway and got passed by a platoon of runners.  In the end, I'm grateful for the beautiful weather, superb trails, camaraderie, and the challenges that always present themselves during ultramarathons.  I'm very fortunate to have a healthy and happy family, and to be able to race and enjoy the trails.

In other news, I'm almost complete with my 10,000 Hours write up.  Currently, it's an 11-page Word document.  It might take you 30 minutes to read, but I've put some good thinking into it and I hope it serves our community well.  I'll post it this week - I promise. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

30 Mar-05 Apr

30 MAR -- stationary bike 6 miles (morning)
               -- 50:23 -- 4.98 miles -- 749 elevation gain (lunch break)
31 MAR -- 45:27 -- 5.35 miles -- 461 elevation gain
01 APR -- off
02 APR -- 43:39 -- 4.72 miles -- 663 elevation gain
03 APR -- 58:46 -- 7.10 miles -- 650 elevation gain
04 APR -- 51:35 -- 7.23 miles -- 448 elevation gain
05 APR -- off

TOTAL -- 4:09:50 -- 29.38 miles -- 2971 elevation gain

Just another week.  Tried to maintain fitness but not overdo it with Bull Run Run 50 coming up 11 April.  I've gained about 10 pounds of muscle over the past 2 months and I can feel it slowing me down.  The goal this coming week is to lose maybe 4-6 pounds of it to be a little lighter for racing through April and May. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Cheesin'

 We told Little Man we were going to the mall to people watch, and this was his reaction: 
 

 He is growing up quick.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

09-29 Mar

09 MAR -- 12:45 -- 1.00 mile -- 350 elevation gain
10 MAR -- 13:30 -- 1.00 miles -- 485 elevation gain
               -- 32:00 -- 2.50 miles -- 1150 elevation gain
               -- stationary bike 4 miles -- upper body weightlifting
11 MAR -- 9:30 -- 1.00 miles -- 245 elevation gain
12 MAR -- upper body weightlifting
13 MAR -- off -- rest
14 MAR -- 8:04:44 -- 42.93 miles -- 3038 elevation gain
15 MAR -- off

TOTAL -- 9:12:29 -- 48.43 miles -- 5268 elevation gain

Boring week leading up to the TJ 100k on Saturday.  Another DNF.  Weird foot pain started at mile 10 and lasted until I dropped at mile 43-ish.  The top of my foot was mushy and purplish/greenish the day after.  Strangely enough, the pain was intense during the race and the day after, enough to cause me to limp, but the pain was gone by Thursday the next week.  Figured out that I probably had my gaiters on way too tight because I went for a jog later the next week and both feet hurt in the same place - on top of my foot where the gaiter stretched over the shoe laces.  Lesson learned...just when I thought I had it all figured out...  Even though I might be considered somewhat of a "veteran" with nearly 30 ultras to my name, I'm still a juvenile in the sport and learn something knew with every run.




16 MAR -- off -- travelled to NC -- but we played racquetball when we got there!
17 MAR -- 11:15 -- 1.00 miles -- 0 elevation gain
18 MAR -- 18:40 -- 2.00 miles -- 105 elevation gain
19 MAR -- upper body weightlifting -- 100 push ups -- 50 pulls ups
               -- 45:00 -- 5.00 miles -- 485 elevation gain
20 MAR -- upper body weightlifting -- 100 squats -- 100 pull ups
21 MAR -- 1:30:00 -- 3.00 miles -- 205 elevation gain (walk with Kari and Eli)
22 MAR -- 44:47 -- 5.91 miles -- 240 elevation gain

TOTAL -- 3:29:42 -- 16.91 miles -- 1035 elevation gain

Slow week after the TJ almost 100k the weekend before.  My foot pain lasted until nearly the next weekend but finally subsided and the bruise went away.  I spent most of the week on a treadmill or on a track, trying to rehab.




23 MAR -- 25:03 -- 3.78 miles -- 128 elevation gain (after arriving in Georgia)
24 MAR -- stationary bike 4 miles -- 45 pull ups (morning)
               -- 26:07 -- 3.36 miles -- 187 elevation gain (also in the morning)
               -- 48:30 -- 6.35 miles -- 203 elevation gain (afternoon)
25 MAR -- upper body weightlifting -- 65 pull ups (morning)
               -- 40:52 -- 5.67 miles -- 180 elevation gain (afternoon)
26 MAR -- 30:45 -- 3.84 miles -- 220 elevation gain (morning)
               -- 23:25 -- 3.40 miles -- 108 elevation gain (afternoon, after arriving in FL)
27 MAR -- off -- travel day from FL back to VA
28 MAR -- off -- but I did an Insanity workout with my photographer -- and 100 pull ups
29 MAR -- 2:32:17 -- 17.44 miles -- 1233 elevation gain

TOTAL -- 5:46:59 -- 43.84 miles -- 2259 elevation gain

I finally got in a good run today (29 March), my first long run since the TJ almost 100k.  Bull Run 50 is 2 weeks away so I need to get in some good runs this upcoming week as well.  After Bull Run, I need to hit the hills hard for MMT 100 in May.  But, I've truly been considering running the 72 hour event at 3 Days at the Fair this year instead of MMT 100...I did MMT in 2013 and it was awesome!  My first 100.  But something about 3 Days at the Fair makes me want to go back.  The 1-mile loop was dreadfully boring after rounding it 120 times, 10 of which I was intoxicated.  I can't explain what makes me want to go back.  The food didn't compare to VHTRC events, especially MMT 100 where the food is restaurant quality.  The other runners, except for Bill Gentry, weren't all that friendly.  For example, Joe Fejes is amazing and I tried talking to him about 7 times but got shut down about, oh, 7 times.  I think I subconsciously enjoy a race with no finish line, one where you create your own finish at the point where you can no longer endure the pain or boredom.  And that point will be somewhere between mile 0 and mile 1, essentially, if you want to look at it that way.  We'll see...  I want to spend my final days in Virginia with the club at MMT 100, but I'm not sure I'll be satisfied with that decision knowing I could be so much more miserable for 72 hours in NJ that same weekend.......

On a side note, I've started a decent post about the 10,000 hours theory and I've done a decent amount of research for that post.  It seems the 10,000 hour rule has been written about and applied to many different trades, hobbies, sports, etc., but never to ultrarunning.  There also exists numerous counterarguments to this theory, which I have also been exploring to feed the beast.  It might take me another week or two before I have a finished product for you to read, but I hope that my time and effort spent on this "paper" will be worthwhile and contribute to the ultrarunning community.  And if not, oh well, I'm having fun writing it, if anything simply to increase my own awareness of the sport, Gladwell's 10,000 hour premise, and in general the limitations placed on the human body due to natural forces such as time, sleep, recovery, nutrition, yada yada...  It'll be interesting, anyway.  Maybe not studious or worthy of publication in a journal, but then again I don't have a sponsor to appease via blog posts either...