August 9, 2012

  • Exposition Park circumnambulation

    Interesting trivia: Los Angeles' Exposition Park is encompassed by four noble thoroughfares: Figueroa on the east, Martin Luther King on the south, Vermont on the west, and of course Exposition Boulevard on the north (a border it shares with USC).  Each of these four sides is almost exactly half a mile long. So if you start at one corner and run all the way around it, you will have run two miles. 

    When I began Crossfit around the end of last year, I was able to run (really run: not jog, not sprint) about a quarter mile without having to slow or stop for a breath. With the ToughMudder looming nearer, and my Crossfit workouts eerily consistent at just twenty minutes (not including warm-up and "skills & mobility" training), I was beginning to worry about translating 20 brief minutes of firebreathing-intense effort into 12+ long miles of sustained effort punctuated by 20 obstacles that will each be a physical challenge of its own.

    Kathryn has been running the two-mile perimeter of Exposition Park almost weekly for some time now, and is gradually improving her time since she joined me at Crossfit. But I had no idea how my endurance or stamina might have improved during these past nine months (I missed the GB25, remember, but beat my old time on the Fletcher Loop at Campus By the Sea).  With many weeks of summer travel and camping behind me now, during which I tried but did not really maintain my workout frequency or intensity, I was getting worried. So yesterday I gave it a shot.

    But since I'm training for a twelve-mile-plus event, I decided to try three laps around Expo Park-- six miles, almost half my target distance.

    And since it's a ToughMudder I'm training for, I decided to stop every mile and do something in place: burpees, or box jumps, or pullups, or mountain-climbers, or something.

         I learned a lot on that run today.

    First, I learned that high-intensity interval training (e.g. Crossfit) does indeed improve your cardiovascular endurance (oxygen transport to your muscles) and your stamina (long-term metabolic energy for those muscles).  I ran the first mile without feeling any need to slow down or stop to catch my breath!

    Second, I learned that brief high-intensity exercise (e.g. a set of five burpees or five pullups as fast as possible) will really drain your low-intensity endurance and stamina.  I did nine burpees at the end of the first mile, six burpees at the end of the third mile, and ten burpees at the end of the fifth; I also managed six pullups at the end of the second mile, and four pullups at the end of the fourth and sixth miles.

    That first set of burpees surprised me, the way it rattled my running rhythm for the second mile.  And that first set of pullups, after running two miles punctuated by a burst of burpees, was much harder than I expected, even when I allowed for the fact that I was doing them from a tree branch.

    Third, I learned that those 20 Tough Mudder obstacles might actually make the 12+ miles easier that it otherwise would be. After the first complete lap of Expo Park, the later sets of burpees nearly killed me, but the pullups were actually an opportunity to catch my breath: doing those pullups "as fast as I could" was pretty slow, and though my arms were trembling when I left the tree, my lungs and legs had gained a second wind each time.

    My total elapsed time was 63 minutes. Considering that the three sets of burpees (the last one pretty slow) and the three sets of pullups (all of them embarrassingly slow, but strict) must have taken about ten minutes total, that means I averaged nine minutes per mile in my running.  Not too shabby for someone who couldn't run one full mile just nine months ago.

    So, I have hope regarding this Tough Mudder. Hope, but not much confidence yet.  It's a good thing I've got a couple more months of training to go...

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