by Paul Thompson
A few weeks ago I shared my running plans for 2016. I’m pleased to say that two weeks into 2016 I’m still pretty much on track. Significantly today marked the first proper day of my preparations for a spring marathon – the ASICS Greater Manchester on April 10 where I hope to duck under my PR of 2:29:56. I’m now following a 12 week program from new coach Lee Troop. Today, 84 days out, was day one. I ran 10 miles at 6:35 pace, a little faster and further than Lee had me down for, the day after I did an easy 20 miles in Central Park (that 20 rounded off a 70 mile week, one of many as I laid a base for a spring marathon).
Today’s slightly irrational exuberance I figure is in order as I board a Etihad plane – in case you’re wondering ask any Manchester City fan – on Friday night to Colombo, Sri Lanka, and arrive at the other end Sunday morning. My Saturday run will be the 15 minute walk between gates connecting in Abu Dhabi Airport. Once in Colombo I’m then stuck for five days with hot sticky weather in the low 30s Celsius and limited running options in a crowded city. The only real place to run, on basis of past experience, is Galle Face Green.
I had a new partner on my run today – a Garmin Forerunner 235. It’s quickly living up to the promise of DC Rainmaker. Yesterday it came with me on my 20 miler in Central Park and owing to some widgets (I thought these were only to be found in educational text books) my run was regularly interrupted by notices for weather updates, Facebook comments and more. Today I did not carry my phone so the widgets were impotent and the silence was bliss. And by tomorrow I’ll have figured how to turn ’em off!
Maybe I’m biased in my initial reaction to my new toy by all the good news its sharing. Yesterday it told me – I didn’t even have to ask it, this thing almost has a life of it’s own – my VO2 max was 57 and today 60. This prompted me to do a crash course 101 on what’s VO2 max and whether 60 was worth sharing with you. With a little help from Google of course.
Google eventually led me to this article about VO2 max and aging athletes. I spent time in academia so I was enjoyed reading the dense text spiced with footnotes, equations et al. If it deters you or you simply lack the endurance needed to get to the finish line(s) of this article the conclusion reads:
“In summary, Masters endurance athletes are capable of remarkable athletic and physiological functional performance, thereby representing a uniquely positive example of ‘exceptional ageing’. Nevertheless, endurance exercise performance decreases during middle-age and declines at an even more rapid rate in older age. The available data indicate that decreases in VO2 max are the most clear and consistent contributor to these declines in performance. Reductions in the lactate threshold also may contribute, whereas submaximal exercise economy is preserved with ageing in endurance athletes. The age-associated decreases in VO2 max in endurance exercise-trained adults are mediated by reductions in maximal cardiac output and maximal arterio-venous O2 difference, with reductions in both maximal stroke volume and heart rate contributing to the former. The decreases in endurance exercise performance and VO2 max with ageing in endurance exercise-trained athletes are associated most closely with reductions in exercise training intensity and volume, probably as a consequence of changes in a number of physical and behavioural factors (e.g. increased prevalence of injuries, and reductions in energy, time and motivation to train). The ‘Masters athlete model’ continues to be a rich source of insight into our ability (or lack thereof) to maintain peak physical performance and physiological function with human ageing.”
In plain English what these academics are saying is that the main reason for our getting slower with age is a reduction in the amount and intensity of training. So maybe my slight exuberance today is vindicated. As for my VO2 max of 60 well all I’ve read suggests its good. It will be interesting to see what it is when I really crank it up. And what my heart rate is when digging: today it was around 140 while cruising at 6:30 pace.
It’s now time for me to rest and relax in time for the second day of Lee’s program. Maybe I’ll go play with my new toy and upload some more widgets.