But I'm not talking about speed here. At least, not entirely.
I'm talking about how you train.
I've recently really cranked up my cross-training. Not so much on the bike, but I'm doing strength and core training 2-3 times a week and have been for about a month. One of the things I've heard said about strength training that I'm becoming more and more convinced of is that it helps prevent injury. I think it's even helpful in rehabbing a minor injury.
My foot injury which pretty much squelched all my running for the second half of last year reared it's ugly head in the other foot. I decided to run through (albeit fewer miles - for a while) and have been consistent with my strength training and after six weeks I'd say it's about 85% healed. I have no reservations at all about running my planned 12-miler this weekend.
Okay, now back to Karno and Tony.
Dean Karnazes is the author of Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner. He's the king of ultra-running stunts, from his fifty miles in fifty days to 300 and 350 mile runs to raise money for charities. He also is totally ripped. He mixes in a fair amount of strength training so he can keep up his windsurfing, climbing and swimming. He claims to have never been injured (except when he fell on a boulder and cracked several ribs at the Gore-Tex Trans Rockies Run).
Anton Krupicka's body type is a lot different than Karno's. Krupicka is lean. His cross training consists of "a few push-ups in the grass," but doesn't really amount to much. He routinely logs 150-200 miles in a given week (often more). He's won the Leadville 100 twice and routinely wins races between 50 and 100 kilometers. But he's also injured fairly frequently. This has been a good year for him, since he's reduced his mileage to less than 200 miles in a normal week and only does long runs of 30-50 miles once a week.
Photo: Glenn Tachiyama
This comparison also brings to mind and article in August's Trail Runner. Titled "Maybe it IS About the Bike," author Garett Graubins tells the story of Mike Mason who after suffering torn ligaments in his foot trained on his bike for the Massanutten Mountain Trail 100. All of his long workouts were on the bike and he only mixed in some "very easy" runs. He ended up setting a course PR of 20 hours and change.
Then what about specificity? You don't run with your arms! But research has shown (as mentioned in the Trail Runner article) that the principles of specificity tend to apply more for highly trained athletes than the general population. So maybe there is something to all this cross-fit stuff after all.
I still think that if you want to be a good runner the most important thing to do is run. But my view of fitness for those of us in the middle and back of the pack could be compared to a marching band. The instruments that you see the most of in a band are the clarinets, flutes and other high-pitched instruments. They carry the melody and you need a lot of them. That's running. Then there are the saxophones, trumpets and maybe even french horns. There aren't as many of them as the high winds and they still occasionally carry the melody. That's your hiking, cycling and other endurance events. Finally you have the low brass. I was one of two trombones in the eighth grad band and we had only one tuba. We almost never had the melody, but the band would have sounded a little off without us. That's your weight training (and bowling).
You can still play a descent song with just one section, but for the best melody, and harmony it's best to involve high medium and low instruments. I think for those of us still trying to break 4 hours for the marathon (maybe even 3:30) and aspire to a 24-hour 100-miler, the Dean Karnazes example may be a good one to follow. You won't be stick-thin and super-fast, but you can be more durable and maybe even bowl a pretty descent series.