Return of the Running Man
Sometimes it is a little unsettling getting old. You know that you are not the same at 50 as you were at 40, 30, and certainly not 20. But that doesn’t mean that you cannot still be a complete bad-ass and have the best time of your life, especially when things quiet down a little with kids grown and gone onto bigger and better things.
I have not written too much lately because I have been extremely busy at work and eagerly anticipating a spring that still has not sprung. That doesn’t mean that I have not been active though. I have been getting ready for riding, but surprisingly not riding at all. I have been on the run!
I decided to pursue running this winter as a way to get in something that was more of a weight bearing exercise without having to go to the gym and do squats. I also have been very hesitant to sit atop the bike for long periods of time after feeling any bit of number whatsoever in the nether regions. I cancelled Zwift and gave up my Xert workouts altogether. I bought a pair of running shoes, a Stryd running power meter, broke down and took the Apple Watch deal from my carrier, and I have not looked back. At least not yet.
I am not going to post foot pics, but let’s just say I have weird feet. I rely on the scans from the local running store, Fleet Feet Buffalo, to get my footwear spot on. I went with the Karhu Ikonix 2020, and they have passed my only true test of a running shoe…I don’t think about them when they are on my feet. That, in my opinion, is the best endorsement that I can give a shoe of any type. I have plenty of room in the forefoot and toe box without needed to go to the high volume version, which to me is quite a surprise as I seem to have Hobbit-like feet with a super high instep. The Ikonix have been great, and at a couple hundred miles, they are still looking like brand new.
I will save the details on the Stryd and the Apple Watch as a powerhouse of a running watch for a later post when I have more time to write about them, but suffice to say I have enjoyed a very modern approach to running.
The Stryd pod based power meter keeps me in the right zones, and I enjoy tracking the accurate TSS it generates in TrainingPeaks. For years, my runs (an non-power meter bike rides) messed up my stress data in TP, and now when coupled with my WHOOP strap, I feel pretty comfortable knowing how much stress I have undergone on any given day. The Stryd also does a great job of calculating pace and distance when I run inside on a treadmill that isn’t too well calibrated anymore. It has been a good reason to pass my also very nice Milestone foot pod (now called the Zwift RunPod) to my wife.
With the Apple Watch, not only does it run the Stryd app perfectly, but it also allows me to take music and the ability to make calls without having to drag the phone along. I absolutely love it. I slap in my Bluetooth Apple AirPods, and I can listen to metal while I kick out miles and wave at old ladies in the park.
Runs of 3-8 miles have been done using the approach found in Matt Fitzgerald’s ground-breaking book, 80/20 Running. I do 80% of the effort at a zone 1 pace and heart rate, and 20% above threshold. Sometimes this is based on a more complicated “Best 5K Ever” plan from Stryd, and sometimes it is simply an easy 5 mile run with 4 miles very easy and the last mile (or middle mile) really hard. I prefer to do the hard effort last, as I find that I am very ready for it then, a lot readier than in the middle of a run. This polarized approach works really well for me so far, and it is very similar to what I do on the bike outside. I prefer to go linger in zones 1-2 than to do a lot of interval work. (I meant to type “longer” there, but linger seems more fitting).
The big takeaway I have from Fitzgerald and other 80/20 proponents is that we often do not go easy enough to go again the next day, but we also don’t always go hard enough to reap true benefits. The body systems used at the end of an extremely long and slow ride are important to build, and the intensity can often be had in races and short bursts. It is really hard to limit yourself to the slower and longer approach, but I have found it to keep me fresh, as I see lots of benefits.
For me, the weight bearing that running demands is definitely helping me to be stronger on the bike. In the short time I did try to ride this winter, I had great legs. Actually, I had really great legs with lots of power and more importantly an improved resistance to fatigue. I think that the running and the monotony of it is helping me to gain a new level of mental strength and persistence. I am learning to suffer more and not quit. Lastly, it is no surprise that running gets my heart rate up high, and I have been able to keep it above 135 bpm for over an hour with no perceived strain like before. I am sure I am getting stronger both physically and mentally.
The running has brought a few odd looks from fellow cyclists and friends who have asked if I am “training for a marathon?” or if my “bike was broken?” All teasing aside, it was one friend who nailed it on the head when he commented on Strava, “Running is a great way to get fit fast.”
And in addition to the benefits I have mentioned above, I have also knocked off 8 pounds, and I am looking to get into the mid to low 160’s really soon. Running this winter has been fun, and it has been a great way to get ready for the year ahead.
And with that year ahead being so tenuous now in light of Covid-19, I think I may very well keep running a little longer. In these troubled times, the last thing I want to do is get in an accident on the bike that requires a hospital visit. I will keep the AirPods in as I practice my new found form of social distancing.