Monday, December 30, 2013

Base building

It's been awhile since my last post, with my races over for awhile, it was nice to take a little break!

I've been doing some reading and thinking about my training and my goals for my upcoming races.  Reading about peaking, it seems clear that i can't be where i want to be for a whole season right now. There is just no way to do it. People peak for a specific event.

However, there are people who could show up to any event i do and blow my socks off, and some of them don't have any more genetic potential than i do. How do they do it?

Because they have such a good aerobic base.  What is an aerobic base?  It's something you build by steady, easy work, climbing, running, biking, etc, in zone 2, working at a place where your body can maintain that workload for many hours.  Spending a lot of time here causes your body to grow more blood vessels, to produce more mitchondria and enzymes to create energy and break down fat.

These changes in your body increase the level at which your body can work aerobically.  Without going into a lot of technical definitions, when you are doing aerobic work, your body is not going into deficit: it is not consuming energy faster than it can be freed from stores ( the liver, stored glycogen, fat ).  It is not consuming oxygen faster than your lungs can absorb it and your heart can deliver it. You are also not creating waste products ( lactic acid, carbon dioxide ) faster than your body can process and remove it.

The opposite of this is anerobic work, where you exceed one or more of these factors.  You are working so hard your body cannot free stored energy, absorb oxygen, and remove waste.  So, obviously, you can only work at this level for a short period of time.  But you can go very fast.

To illustrate, imagine a stair race that is only 20 floors, vs sears tower, vs a power hour.  Even if the 20 floors in the 20 floor race are pretty tall, i should be done in about 2:30 minutes, for about 7 seconds a floor.  I'd be hurting right from the start, and ready to collapse at the end..

My time for sears tower is right about 19 minutes, for 103 floors.  So about 11 seconds a floor.  Considerably slower than the 20 floor building, but after 20 floors of sears tower, i feel basically fine.  Even at 60, i feel better than the end of the 20 floor race, though i've done much more work.  That is because i've not exceeded, at least not by much, my aerobic capacity.

Then there is the power hour.  31 floors, as many times as i can in an hour.  I managed 9 climbs in 54 minutes, so my rate of ascent was 11.6 floors a second.  Not much slower than sears tower, though there was 5+ minutes of rest in there as i rode down the elevator, though some of that was running.

You can build your anerobic capacity, but it's very hard, and you generally cannot maintain it: you need to do brutal workouts at intensities that use your body up and expose you to maladies and illness. But you can do it very fast.  Building your aerobic capacity is the opposite: months or years of long, boring workouts, where you stimulate your body a little and let it recover before the next workout.  But your reward is that you can, on most any day, have a solid result in any race other than a sprint,, simply because you will be able to work under your aerobic threshold. Also, since you are not breaking down your body with an anerobic effort, you can do it again next week, or even a day or two later. Contrast that with my race season where i found myself unable to perform well after a few weekends or races, or at the end of the season.

So, that being said, i'm going to focus on my aerobic work, maybe trying for a mini peak for stratosphere/hancock.  But i'm looking at the long term, both in performance and health.  Lots of varied easy workouts with lots of attention on recover.  Instead of obsessing on the Aon race, i'mm be building slowly and steadily, maybe for years to come, seeing where it can take me!

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