Forest steeplechase training

A short preview before the end-of-season video. Enjoy!

BIG 25 Berlin – Preview.

One of the most famous Berlin’s road races has now an official Half-Marathon course. The start will be in front of the Olympic Stadium; the course then will lead the runners through the city centre of the capital, passing Brandenburg Gate, Unter den Linden, Friedrichstraße, Gendarmenmarkt, Potsdamer Platz, the Memorial Church at Kurfürstendamm and the TV tower (the Half-Marathon and the 10k runners will pass through a shorter version of the route). The finish will then be on the glorious blue track of the Olympic Stadium (a very rare opportunity to trample on the legendary track). Did you train for the event? You could check your condition with a simple Conconi-test, or refine your preparation using the Hypoxic chamber! For the most scientific race-enthusiasts: have you ever thought about Amino Acids supplements?
More than 10000 entries are expected and after the recent record set by the 6th Berliner Airport Run (3972 runners at the start) it’s not difficult to predict a great race!

The time limit to accomplish the race for 25k is fixed in 3h 15min and for 10k in 1h 30min. Anyone not reaching 12.5k within the time zone of 95 min after the start is kindly asked to end the race. These runners will be brought by bus to the Olympic Stadium.
BIG 25 Berlin has produced five world records in total over the years: Kenneth Cheruiyot 1:13:58 (in 1997), Rodgers Rop 1:13:44 (in 2001), Paul Kosgei 1:12:45 (in 2004) and Samuel Kosgei 1:11:50 (in 2011). The course seems to be very fast: every runner looking for a PB should think about the participation to this spectacular race.
Meanwhile…keep on training, people!

About avoiding supplements – The Amino Acids.

Running is sweat, fatigue, sacrifice. The systematic nature of training has always fascinated me: being just you, your body and your mind looking for the next limit it’s a kind of magic. But between what you can actually do and what you potentially do there’s a “Thin red line”, nowadays very easy to overcome: the line dividing the world of supplements by everyday’s world. I won’t write about doping and I’m not a Physiologist, a Doctor or a Nutritionist; I simply like to study those subjects that can be useful for the understanding of our body’s kinematics and dynamics (maybe it’s a professional bias, since I’m a Race Engineer; see my posts about Conconi-test and Hypoxic chambers).
Taking into account the RDA* indications of BCAA** provided by FAO***, what you can find in specific literature is that a runner (or any other athlete) doesn’t really need an amino acid supplement to increase his performance: “Research on healthy subjects does not provide convincing evidence for an ergogenic effect of regular intake of amino acid supplements on hormone secretion, training responsiveness, or exercise performance. In studies with appropriate design and statistical analysis, oral supplements of arginine, lysine, ornithine, tyrosine, and other amino acids, either singly or in combination, produced no effect on […] all-out running performance at V̇2max.”[1].
Using the values reported at the end of the article, one can easily build a spreadsheet to calculate the real need of BCAA. The basic athlete’s data are listed in Table 1.
Table1 – Athlete’s data.
In Table 2, for the above-mentioned athlete’s data, you can find an example of the RDA and equivalent BCAA contents in various kind of food: it’s easy to deduce how the equivalent BCAA found in normal quantities of food can be sufficient to satisfy an athlete’s need.
Table2 – Example of RDA and equivalent BCAA contents in various kind of food.
The main assumptions that regulate the calculations carried on in the two tables are the following:
“The indispensable amino acids are leucine, isoleucine, valine, lysine, threonine, tryptophan, methionine, phenylalanine and histidine. The requirements estimates in the 1985 FAO/WHO/UNU […] report were taken directly from the 1973 FAO/WHO report. […] since 1985 concerns have been expressed about the derived values, and all now agree that they were certainly too low. […] Finally, it must be recognized that these new values have not been validated in any entirely satisfactory way, i.e. in long-term studies at the requirement intakes with measurement of body weight, body composition and well-being. […] However, while these studies provide useful information on the adequacy of one intake level, they do not enable a requirement intake to be defined.
[…] total branched-chain amino acid requirements ranging from 110 mg/kg per day to 134 mg/kg per day depending on outcome used and taking into account an initial 10% overestimate. […] the three branched-chain amino acids […] 39 mg/kg per day for the leucine requirement, […] 26 mg/kg per day for valine and 20 mg/kg per day for isoleucine.
[…] Whereas some uncertainty remains over the adult indispensable amino acid requirements, the best current estimates are: […]
  • Mean nitrogen requirement of 105 mg nitrogen/kg per day (0.66 g protein/kg per day).
  • Assuming a mean total protein requirement of 0.66 g/kg per day, intakes of about 0.18 g/kg per day […] of indispensable […] amino acids, […] should be sufficient to maintain body nitrogen homeostasis in healthy adults.


[…] There is no information on the variability of requirements for individual amino acids. Therefore, approximate values were calculated on the assumption that the inter-individual coefficient of variation of the requirements for amino acids is the same as that for total protein, i.e. 12%. On this basis, the safe levels of intake for the indispensable amino acids are 24% higher than the values for average requirement shown […]”[2]
Tired? Bored? Or interested? Whatever…keep on training, people! And if it’s not enough, try this amazing motivational videos


* Recommended Dietary Allowance.
** Branched-Chain Amino Acids.
*** Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.


W. D. Mc Ardle, F. I. Katch and V. L. Katch, “Exercise Phisiology – Energy, Nutrition, & Human Performance,” in Exercise Phisiology – Energy, Nutrition, & Human Performance, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2007, p. 572.
“Protein and amino acid requirements in human nutrition : report of a joint FAO/WHO/UNU expert consultation,” in Joint FAO/WHO/UNU Expert Consultation on Protein and Amino Acid Requirements in Human Nutrition – Geneva, Switzerland, 2002.
Here you can find a list of my running-related posts. Now shut down the notebook and have a run!
Science and Training:

6th Berliner Airport Run – Preview.

In Berlin there are now two airports: Tegel (the main international airport) and Schönefeld. On 2 June 2012, at 10:50 pm, an Air Berlin Boeing 737-800 operating a special 50-minute sightseeing charter flight over the city will mark the end of more than half a century of Tegel’s commercial use.
Schönefeld is being prepared with the construction of another landing strip and the big news for pro and amateurs runners is that we’ll have the last chance to walk (or run) on the airstrip’s tarmac by participating to the “6th Berliner Airport Run”, on 22 April 2012. Around 3500 participants are expected, with an increase of 50% over last year (2125 starters).
The track is a 10k course (which is to be run twice by half marathon runners). It’s going along the construction side of the new Airport Berlin-Brandenburg BER, on the new runway and by the new terminal.  This is the map of the course:
It should be a good chance to make a new Personal Best, since the course seems to be very flat and fast (even if a windy day could change the plans of people looking at the chrono).
The current competition records are the following:

  • 10km M: André Pollmächer (Rhein-Marathon Düsseldorf) 31:15
  • 10 km F: Veerle Dejaeghere (Belgien)34:41
  • Half Marathon M: Joseph Kiptum (Kenia) 63:32
  • Half Marathon  F: Sylvia Renz (OSC Berlin)82:52

For more informations visit the official website:
Meanwhile…keep on training, people!

Motivation for training: two inspirational speeches by John Doman.

When the weather is cold, or the crucial race seems to be too distant, or simply if you keep on making questions to yourself, instead of giving answers, these two inspirational speeches by John Doman could be really helpful for your motivation, whatever your favourite sport is.
The first one is about second places and here’s my favourite quote: “Knock knock, who’s there? The guy that finished second. The guy that finished second who? Exactly…”.
The second one may be a bit more intense, if possible, even if too resonant in certain passages. My favourite quote is: “The only thing, the only thing you can count on at any given moment is you! It’s you versus them. You versus no. You versus can’t. You versus next year, last year, statistics, excuses! […] You versus the odds. It’s you versus second place. Clock is ticking, lets see what you got.”.
Again: enjoy.
Here you can find a list of my running-related posts. Now shut down the notebook and have a run!
Science and Training:


Running at 4000 m: the hypoxic chamber (altitude training).

Have you ever thought about training at altitude? If you are a runner with passion for mountains, probably the answer is affirmative.
But what’s altitude training?
Wikipedia says that “the basic concept of living or training at altitude is to cause the body to adapt to the lower oxygen content by producing more oxygen-carrying red blood cells and hemoglobin. This improves the athlete’s ability to perform work, because more oxygen is available to the working muscles”.
Why is there less oxygen at high altitude?
At sea level the air contains around 20.9% oxygen. On the top of Mount Everest (8848 m), too. Why do we say, then, that there’s less oxygen? The difference is all in the air pressure: at sea level there is a pressure over our heads equivalent to 10 m of water. At 8848 m this pressure is equivalent to around 3.5 m of water. The percentage of the oxygen is the same, but being the pressure lower, the molecules are less compressed and, thus, more distant from each other: there are few molecules of everything in the same volume. That’s why the oxygen intake is lower, if the respiration rate is the same.
Does this kind of training really improve performance?
Apart from the cool thing of running at 4000 m even if your city is at sea level, the results of hypoxia (lack of oxygen) training are not clear. As Prof. Dr. Joachim Mester said in his speech titled “Altitude training: on myths and methods” (you can find the pdf here), the analysis of more than 100 international studies in the last 40 years show:

  • “practical experiences and also controlled studies indicate performance enhancement effects, other do not;
  • acute and chronic hypoxia induce well-known physiological effects in gas exchange, hematology etc.;
  • performance enhancement may occur; it is, however, in onset, magnitude and duration very individual;
  • re-adaptation to sea level is quite rapid, the duration of positive effects is scientifically unclear;
  • the effects of all options live high/train low – train high/live low are not sufficiently proven;
  • criteria for individual input (training load at altitude) are often insufficient: High-low responders, early-late responders.”

One thing is for sure: training at altitude (simulated or not) is hard!
I tried two different conditions in three different session. The first day (06/01/2012), the chamber was simulating the 4000 m conditions: 12.2% oxygen (18.0 °C the temperature, 41.5 % the humidity). The workout consisted in:

  • Warm-Up (2.50 km @ 4’35″/km);
  • 1×1000, 1×800, 2×400 @ 3’40″/km, 2’30” recovery @ 7’30″/km;
  • Cool-Down (1.0 km @ 4’15″/km, 1.0 km @ 4’35″/km, 1.0 km @ 5’00″/km).

And here you have the HR graph:

HR acquisition of the 4000 m training (06/01/2012).
The second (09/01/2012) and the third day (11/01/2012), the chamber was simulating the 2500 m conditions: 14.8% oxygen (18.5-17.0 °C the temperatures, 72.5-60.5 % the values of humidity). Both workouts consisted in:
  • WU (3.00 km @ 4’35″/km)
  • 4×1000 @ 3’30″/km, 2’00” recovery @ 7’00″/km
  • CD (3.10 km @ 4’35″/km).

Unfortunately the acquisition of the first training is pretty bad, but the data are very clear in the second graph.

HR acquisition of the first 2500 m training (09/01/2012).
HR acquisition of the second 2500 m training (11/01/2012).

When the oxygen percentage goes under 14%, things are really difficult: the recovery time appears to be far useless (actually it isn’t, but my body said the opposite), breathing is difficult and HR cannot increase (188 out of 195 bpm, that is my max threshold) or decrease (150 bpm the lowest value between the repetitions) too much. For values of oxygen around 15%, everything is much easier and you can carry on your workout without any particular problems, even if the paces are slower than normal (the recovery time starts to be useful!).
Obviously if you train at low oxygen percentage, you should being constantly monitored: the oxygen saturation in the blood shouldn’t go under 80%, to stay distant from hypoxemia risk (the use of a pulse oximeter, a device that uses a red and an infrared light to measure indirectly the oxygen saturation of the blood, is the easiest way to stay monitored).

Blood’s oxygen saturation monitoring right after the training session.

For the record, al the data have been acquired in the Himaxx Center for Altitude Training in Berlin (Germany). If you have any question don’t hesitate to contact me! Keep on training!

Here you can find a list of my running-related posts. Now shut down the notebook and have a run! 

Science and Training:

My 2011 in numbers – Happy new year!

The 2011 is over or, better, the 2012 has begun. A lot has been done, but the most important thing is that a lot has to be done. Here is my happy new year wish for you, fulfilled of my beloved numbers: a very synthetic and concentrated abstract of 150 litres of sweat.
My training year in numbers:
  • 150 workouts
  • 95000 kCal burned
  • 1500 km run
  • 14000 m climbed
  • 110 h of training
  • 4’36″/km of average pace
  • 12 races
  • 10k race pace decreased from 3’58″/km to 3’35″/km
  • 10 kg lost
  • anaerobic threshold lowered of 16 bpm
  • rest HR lowered of 10 bpm.
Happy new year, people! And…keep on running!

“Veränderung bleibt”, happy new year!