Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Body as a Powertrain

Been pretty steady with training but not entirely satisfied: I keep on missing 1 workout a week, which has kept me in the high 20s for weekly mileage. Should be closer to mid 30s. So using that as an excuse, I turned today's Easy 4M into another experiment.

Near the beginning of the run, I started thinking about how I always have a pretty high HR on these runs. Wondered if that was just normal or a symptom of something. I know my max HR is higher than normal but that doesn't necessarily mean I have to be running at 180bpm all the time.

I broke it down into components: Air intake, Heart beats, Cadence, Leg power. To use a car analogy, the air intake (manifold, super/turbocharger) can control the specific power output of the engine, assuming a steady stream of gas (which in this case is available ATP). So the more I take in to my lungs, the greater amount of energy my heart can deliver to the rest of my body by enriching the oxygen in my blood a bit more. Cadence and leg power make up the transmission. Assuming equal power, pumping my legs higher/harder gives me greater "torque" while increasing cadence should give me greater speed.

In a modern car, there are electrical systems controlling all of these things and it can optimize the combination of these systems for different characteristics. For distance running, we want decent speed and efficiency, kind of like cruising at highway speeds. Analogously, I thought about how to get my bio-mechanical parts to function efficiently. Also, since I can't actually consciously control my heart rate, I assumed that the heart was sort of like a constant speed engine responding to need. Obviously it goes faster and slower but given a specific power output, the only variable I can alter is air intake to affect power.

So what I really wanted was a CVT. Keep my heart operating at an efficient pace and use transmission to effect acceleration and/or maintain speed. I noticed that I almost always have two-step in-out breathing cycles. Makes sense for higher work but filling and emptying my lungs that fast is wasteful for slow runs. So item 1: either breath more shallowly or slower. I chose to go for slower. Down to 4 steps for breathing in and 4 steps for breathing out.

The slower breathing should mean conservation of power, which should mean a decrease in heart rate. That would also mean a decrease in speed if I didn't change my transmission to a higher gear. So to compensate, I sped up the cadence and decreased power per step, the way decent distance runners do.

That was kind of a long walk for something people do naturally anyway but visceral results always work better for me when I have theoretical analogies in my head. Even applying it as I was thinking about it today made a pretty big difference though. I did a slow 8M about a week ago at 9:28 pace and 168bpm average. Today, the first 4 miles gave me a 9:39 pace and 148bpm. 148bpm! I never have heart rate that low. I then played around with breathing in/out on 3-step cycles, which gave me a 8:51 pace and 164bpm for mile 5. I then stopped thinking and just jogged and came out with a 9:44 pace and 159bpm. This last one was when I wasn't trying to speed up cadence and limit breathing so even though it's the last mile, I think the inefficiency shows. Big upside to this kind of running is that at the end of it, I was back down to 90bpm within a couple of minutes. It's just as fast but a lot easier on the body. Less waste.

Of course, changing my cadence dramatically means there are little bits of my joints and muscles that probably have to catch up. Also maybe my lungs. Goal is to have total freedom of all the controllable variables (air intake through lungs, cadence, and leg power) so that I can vary as needed. Kick down the transmission to power up a hill, kick it back up to cruise, and then pull out all the stops for the negative split.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

MacBook Pro impressions continued

  • Useless battery indicator button with the funky green LED lights. I like this now. I put the computer in sleep whenever I'm not using it and it's not plugged in most of the time so it's nice to be able to check battery levels without having to turn on the computer.
  • Supports dual monitors but only with 3rd party solutions.
  • No docking station.
  • Gets hot as hell. Probably not a MacBook Pro only complaint but not a comfortable lap machine when the CPU starts to spike.
So the verdict is, I think, that the Lenovos are still better "mobile workstations" than the MacBook Pro. There's a docking station, there's dual monitor support, it's more comfortable to work on when away from a desk, and it has enterprise security stuff the IT people like (biometric). I just luck out since I mainly work on a desktop that makes a lot of those points moot for me. I actually get to treat the MacBook Pro as a secondary/mobility machine rather than my main.

This was impression mainly based on hardware. Software, it's kind of between six and half a dozen. I'm happy with both OSs though in a corporate environment there's often less overhead to stick with Windows since that's what IT supports. On the other hand, because IT supports it, the windows environment is often a lot more bogged down. If I ever need massive corporate IT support (NEVAIR!), I guess I can always Boot Camp this machine and then I'll just have a very pretty but annoying (hardware wise) Windows machine.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

MacBook Pro

Got a MacBook Pro 15" as the new work laptop. Ooooooh, shiny. Used to be all PC all the time. Then convinced work to get me a Mac Pro desktop. Then I got a hackintosh netbook. Now the work laptop got refreshed to the MacBook Pro. Nice machine overall.

  • Design, packaging, owner experience. Sleek. One indisputable advantage of Apple products over most of their PC counterparts.
  • Browsing web with gestures. One-handed and easy to control navigation for scrolling, forward, and back. Other hand free to do...uhm...whatever, you know, and stuff.
  • Click-drag. Physical analogy makes a lot of sense. Only place where clicking the entire pad really wins me over.
  • Enough battery life to make the non-removable battery a moot point for me. Impressive.
  • Remote control. Not a new MacBook Pro feature but useful when I use the laptop for temporary media center duties.
  • SD Card slot. Makes me want to upgrade my DSLR to something that handles SD cards instead of CF.
  • Magnetic power slot doohickey.
  • Sharp edges digging into my forearms as I type this.
  • Effort required to click the track pad (enabling tap to click is a good workaround though).
  • Track pad click is LOUD. I hate noise.
  • Tap-to click response. Always seems to be half a second slower than I like.
  • Those damn edges are really frakking annoying.
  • Not enough buttons. No home and end buttons. I'd die in Eclipse without home and end buttons. Need another control button. And those arrows buttons are not comfortable. Tiny little stingy chicklets.
  • Mini display port and the expensive adapter nonsense. Machine is very portable otherwise but that's just one more thing to remember/carry.
  • This sharp edge is really pissing me off.
  • Back-lit keyboard. Neat looking I guess but meh.
  • Caps-lock indicator on the key. Again, kinda cool I guess but why do we still have caps lock? Caps Lock = missing the tab or shift button. No other use. Meh.
  • Fire wire. It's nice but it's not like a fire wire cable has ever come with, like, anything. So I have to go out and buy another cable? Meh.
  • Display resolution: I'm a screen real estate whore and work all day with a 2560x1600 and a 1200x1920 monitor. Even the old laptop was 1600x1200. 1440x900 makes thing easy to see, I guess, but everything looks too big and...fuzzy. Meh.
I'd post more impressions but my forearms are bleeding too much. Need to go get some band-aids.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Targeting Muscles

The base training I've been doing has a 3 weeks of progress--1 week of rest schedule. It's only recently that I felt, viscerally, how important that can be. That and how targeted a base building program is, in that it focuses on mileage, not speed.

After some vacation time and not running for almost 3 weeks, I came back with 30 mile (a little too aggressive), 20 mile (see 30 miler), and 25 miler weeks. I threw in a bunch of hills and speed in there so without those, I think I'd be at 30 miles per week of slow paced runs. The base building scheduling takes me to about 35, which is what another couple of weeks would get me. Close enough.

Last week was supposed to be a rest week. I did my heart rate experiment, which was fine. And then I made the mistake of trying to sprint around for a while playing ultimate frisbee. The reason why I needed a rest week became pretty clear: barely half an hour into it and my quads were done. Was sore for days after. Looking back, I compare it to doing a max weight low-rep set of bench presses after tiring yourself out with 3 weeks of push ups. Good way to freak out your muscles.

So after walking around like an old man for a few days, back in to it. Couple of slow 3 and 4s, 1 steady 2, and end the week with a slow 7. Also, I get real pace targets now too! Aiming for a sub 4:00 so put in a target 3:50 as upper limit, which gives me the following (with corresponding heart rate targets, based on a 206bpm max):

Up to 142
Steady (Marathon Pace)
Brisk (1/2 Marathon Pace)


I'm pretty confident about holding a 9:50 up to 20-22 so that pace seems right. I've also done a 10 miler in the 8:50 range already so that steady goal looks legit too (and the longest marathon pace run in the schedule is just only 10 miles actually). Conveniently, that 10K pace puts me in shooting range of a sub 50 10K and that Brisk pace puts me in similar range for a sub 1:50 half marathon. All the stars are aligned.