This photo from the 2015 Bolder Boulder captures how I’ve been feeling during my 120 miles worth of running over the last two weeks in the summer heat. I completed another 60 mile week today – week two of my 13 week plan training for the Boulder Marathon. I had to squeeze in 60 miles in only four runs since Sunday. I had to commute to Denver for training Monday and Tuesday which didn’t leave time for working out. Then Karen and I are spending the weekend in Denver to see Wicked and the Denver Art Museum. And possibly the Botanical Gardens. Ran 21 Sunday, 10 Wednesday, 14 Thursday and 15 today. Hope I don’t have these sorts of time challenges going forward when my mileage increases. I like long runs, but not every time. This photo also captures how my left foot turns outward when I’m fatigued. Not very pretty form but I’m working on it.
I saw Dave and Amy biking on the LoBo Trail after two miles. Apparently they don’t spend the first hours of the morning drinking coffee and reading the paper like me as they were just finishing their ride. I also saw Steve on my return in nearly the same spot, maybe a mile further between Ogallala Road and 83rd. Steve was running with his dog. They have similar form.
My body is holding up fairly well after two 60 mile weeks. It’s fatigued but I can’t point to anything that feels like a pending injury. Haven’t lost any weight. I’m good at replenishing lost calories. Karen is worried about me wearing myself out. Along with my mom. Karen had her dad talk to me about the health benefits of ultra distance running. Basically, there aren’t any, but I know that. I don’t do this year long, only to prep for marathons. I’ve never put in this many miles though, assuming I complete my plan.
The medical studies, which my father-in-law pointed out to me, fall into two areas. The first are studies that suggest ultra endurance training, coupled with your genetic makeup, can lead to a higher incidence of heart disease, such as cardiomyopathy or enlarged heart. This is what killed Caballo Blanco (Micah True), the famed ultra distance runner from Boulder. I don’t tend to run over 35 miles a week, at least not for prolonged periods, so this is not something I worry about.
The second set of studies suggest a U-curve graph around the negative health benefit of running less than or more than 35 miles per week. Or in that range. I find the symmetrical nature of U-curves specious, suggesting inherent sample bias. The studies I’ve read in the paper or have been able to google don’t have control groups. They simply record results from volunteers. They have many less results from people running much longer than 35 miles because really, how many nut jobs do you know who run 100 miles per week? Sample bias is when smaller sample populations appear as outliers because the larger sample essentially establishes the average. I’m not a scientist and I failed college statistics, but I have friends who are scientists, so I’m like one degree of separation away from knowing what I’m talking about.
I’ll take this further. Correlation is not causation. You can show that people who run less than the average runner or more than the average runner live shorter lives, but you can’t say it is due to the miles. Figure people running less are possibly more obese. Anyone running 100 miles a week is clearly obsessive and likely displays many more characteristics that could just as easily be responsible for their shorter lifespan. They likely drink more, experience more dramatic weight loss and gain, get more speeding tickets and have more sex partners. They are doomed to a shorter but highly satisfying life.
Part of Karen’s concern for me is that I look so bad after finishing some of these long runs. Click on that picture to enlarge it and you’ll see the pain in my face from fatigue. Anyone who hikes or runs with me knows how I grunt loudly and am generally highly expressive when I hurt. It’s part of my pain management routine, but it doesn’t mean I’m dying. Just sounds and looks like it at times. I did well today staying hydrated during my 15 mile run and am doing everything possible to recover for our weekend stay in Denver. I drank a protein smoothie after my run. And just dropped 10,000 IUs of vitamin D and 20 mg of Cialis. I’m expecting fireworks this weekend.