Thursday, January 22, 2009

25 Days

Today marked my 25th day in a row of running. My all-time record, which occurred years ago, was 73 days; that one seemed to happen without much thinking till it was over. My previous next-best was 13 days which happened numerous times when I was training seriously in the late 90s, as I was taking every other Monday off. In recent years, I typically have been running between 4 and 6 days a week, with usually some other kind of workout on the "off" days. My Leadville and Vermont 100 wins came on 5 days/45 miles a week, and the Heartland win in 2007 was on 6 days/65 miles a week.

I didn't begin this streak on my own; Rick made a bet with me, but it has gotten me thinking about the pros and cons of streaks. I have never believed streaks were a good idea, and feel you need look no further than the fact that no high-level elite athletes maintain streaks of any length. Most in fact take several weeks completely off each year (what a concept; taking time off when you are not injured!). I always shudder when I read about somebody's crazy streak that necessitated running laps around an airport waiting area, or a 10 minute shuffle after some kind of minor surgery. Clearly in these cases the person is running for the streak's sake, rather than for any fitness or competitive goals.

I was debating this with Matt C on a recent run and he did have an interesting reason for his own streaks (he has gone several years at a time on different occasions). He said that he is afraid that if he misses a day, it will get easier and easier to miss more (and more) days. This may work for somebody who is so light and injury-free but for me, I always felt that I'd prefer to give my legs a break and get some other kind of cardiovascular workout a few times a week. I personally like to walk so that was often my "off day" workout. To balance my injury concerns during this streak, I have been taking at least one day each week to run very, very easy up a slight hill on the treadmill for 10 - 20 minutes. It turns out that this is basically the same as a nice walk so maybe I could keep up a streak and still remain healthy?

As for my own growing streak I so far see at least three advantages; first by running every day I always have at least one easy run in-between each quality workout. For example, because I have always run hard on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I often did those two days with no run in-between. And, secondly, similar to Matt's logic, I no longer have to think about which 2 days to take off each week! Finally, I am obviously getting in more miles a week than normal which I guess is good; we'll see....

The biggest issue I've had so far is spacing the runs out so they are as far apart as possible (ie, not putting off my Wed run till the evening when I have to start running at 5:45AM the following morning for the CRUD hill workout).

If things go as planned, this streak will end at 76 days; I have decided to race the Way Too Cool 50K on March 14, and I will definetly be taking off the day after the race, so if Rick makes it till March 15, I'll happily buy him dinner.

Any other streakers out there who care to comment on their thought process?


GZ said...

You won hundred milers on 45 miles a week?

How did that training look?

Nick said...

Streaks are good for one thing: getting out the door. But the cons surely outweigh the pros with regards to injury.

I used to be a slave to schedules and miles, which led to an eight-month lay-off with a stress fracture. The mileage one's body can handle is dependent on numerous variables, but it would seem there is a breaking point for everyone. If you're getting out the door and running four miles every day, then the streak is probably not going to grind you down. However, if you streak with heavy mileage with a lot of downhill or hard surfaces, I can only imagine the streak will end with a long injury-induced lay-off.

My philosophy these days is to err on the side of caution so as to build a streak of injury-free years of solid running and racing. I take at least one day off every ten, and right now I'm basically putting in miles for fitness, with little intensity except on climbs.

Runners are obsessive enough as it is. Streaks, in my opinion, add an extra and unhealthy layer of compulsion when your body might be telling you to take the day off.

Paul DeWitt said...

Hi GZ - well in a word, hard! Back then I was pretty much 100% healthy and trained like my goal race was a flat half marathon. Then once a month I'd do either a very hard long run (for example I did the first 50 of the LT100 course just under 8:00 4 weeks prior to my first win there), or preferably a shorter ultra race somewhere. That is still my preferred training/racing schedule were it not for injury issues.

Now, my hamstring limits the flat quality work I can do so I'm running more mileage and doing very modest quality workouts (for the time being anyway) just so I can stay on my preferred hard/easy/hard/easy structure.
- pauld

GZ said...

That is pretty amazing. I understand that marathon and ultra runners will typically do less training in any one run than what a race distance is - whereas up to the half marathon, that is less likely to be true.

Still I am a bit in awe of how little training is necessary to achieve success at the ultra distance (Anton being a recent exception).

RE: my nickel on streaks. Undoubtedly, consistency is, in my mind, one of the top factors in assuring success in distance endurance events. So getting out there alot is generally better than less. But committing to it for a streak, like holding onto a single workout when it goes bad (and you ought to walk away) - is just a bad idea. The goal is to succeed at the race - do what it takes to succeed at the race - including ending a streak if you need to. The body gets stronger with stress, rest and adaptation. We tend to focus on the stress ... not the rest.

But all that said ... we all take confidence in different workouts. If hitting 2 hours a day for 2 years is what you need, okay. Just be sure to balance that, along with any one day's workout, against the end goal.

For me, streaks end up getting nuked by the realities of life: family, work, etc.

Now, if the goal is the streak itself ... well, that is different. Have fun.

brownie said...

Rick's been running way too well for too long, and I'd hate to see him win this too. You just say the word and I'll pull a Tonya Harding episode on him...

Derrick said...

Streaks definitely are not for everyone, but maybe that’s why they are that much more special for the folks who have them :)

I can only speak for myself, but I feel the benefits that I’ve gotten from my streak (19+ yrs) far outweigh any negative aspects to it. I didn’t really set out to streak for this long. It just kind of happened and yes, it did kind of take on an element of its own after a while.

When I started back in 1989 it was out of frustration of having looked at my training log and realizing that I was never going to improve if I kept taking days off for stupid reasons. There is absolutely no reason why you can’t make time each day for a run. Yes, I’ve run through some really dumb injuries, illnesses and scheduling challenges, and there are always a handful of runs each year that I really wish I didn’t need to get out the door, but on the other hand our bodies are meant to be active and meant to move every day.

I love to run and love to run a lot, but that doesn’t mean I don’t take recovery days. You can get just as much recovery, or more, out of an easy 20’ shakeout run than a complete rest day. I run at least 90% on trails and feel as though there is considerably less risk of injury running every day on soft surfaces as opposed to someone else who runs 5x per week on pavement.

As far as the racing part, not only do I feel as though I have gotten physically stronger from running high mileage day after day, but also feel that mentally it’s nice to have the confidence during a long race knowing what you have been able to train through.

Though, I would say that the day after a 100miler is a pretty tough shuffle.

Paul, I’ll buy you a good Canadian beer if you run on March 15. Come on, keep your streak alive!

Paul DeWitt said...

Thanks Brownie, expect a call anytime now. That's what CRUD is all about; one friend helping another friend keep a third friend from succeeding!

Derrick - holy cow, my hat is off to you, though I must say, I have now run more days in a row than you have run years on a row, so, I've got that going for me! I just visited your site; very cool photos and good luck at Rock and Ice. Thanks for the comments about your streak.

brownie said...

We need to get that quote on the t-shirts!

Jamie said...

Below is a link to some incredible running streaks. Among them is ultra runner, Bill Finkbeiner. His running streak is impressive but his Leadville 100 running streak is even more amazing.,7120,s6-243-297--9700-2-1-2,00.html

afuntanilla said...

When you say "slight hill" on treadmill, can u be more specific? What is the grade?

Paul DeWitt said...

afuntinalla - For me, that usually means just 8:00 pace at a 2% uphill incline. I usually walk for awhile at 15:00 pace and a 6% hill to get warmed up, then do the run portion. I feel like this workout gives me some cardio benefit but doesn't pound my legs at all. You just want to find a pace/incline combination that allows you to maintain an easy effort.

Hope that helps,