Monday, January 25, 2010

Naked Mole Rats and Western States

In college, I wrote a biology term paper on naked mole rats (Heterocephalus glaber). The naked mole rat is one of two known mammals to exhibit eusocial mating (along with their more modest cousin, the Damaraland Mole Rat). Like bees and ants, the mole rats have a single breeding female ("the queen") who mates with 2-3 select males. The remaining 75 or so members of the colony don't breed.

My paper discussed how this situation actually allowed non-breeding colony members to pass MORE of their genes on to the next generation (colonies are fairly inbred so each member is more closely related to their siblings than to their own offspring) and the paper explored social risk/benefit to this model. The paper was well written, with nearly two dozen references. You could have read just my paper and been an expert on Naked Mole Rats. It was the longest paper I had written up until that point and I was quite proud of it. It got a B+. The professor's comment: "Very informative, but lacks an original hypothesis."

This past week I have been working hard on getting my training schedule for Western States together. Last week, I stopped by the WS webpage and saw a bright red counter in the sidebar: Days to Go = 163. Wow, here I was thinking it was a whole five months away, but then I come to see there are only 163 days to go! ;) Definitely time to get serious. It didn't help that Western States superstars Annette Bednosky and Meghan Arbogast both told me training should start in December. Yikes, I am already behind! (well, maybe Bandera training counts for something, right?).

Anyway, in my 20 years of running, I don't think I have ever had a plan to follow. Certainly, in high school and college, my coaches had a plan that they had me following and I could see the patterns in the schedule, but I didn't really think more than one day at a time. Some days, I wouldn't even know what the track workout would be until after the warm up was complete.

After college, though, I have always just run what I have wanted to run or what I thought would be good for that day. I had a general grasp of what a training plan should include and what I wanted to accomplish, so some days I'd decide to do speed work or hills. I knew I wanted to go long on the weekends, but even up until last year, the mileage was mostly determined by what other people were doing. And some times the situation would dictate the mileage, like when I went to run at Silver Falls I did 15 miles, because that is the distance on the perimeter loop. When we vacationed at Diamond Lake my long run was only 12 miles - one lap around the lake.

I made it through one hundred miler with this type of training, but that seemed WAY too amateur for Western States. So I have been researching and reading and finally have a REAL plan. The plan mixes ideas from many people. The skeleton came from Tim Twietmeyer's training plan for his 1996 WS victory (published in Runner's World, with a photocopy in my nightstand table) and added in a good dose of Scott Jurek's coaching plan (shhh...don't tell him; I didn't pay!). I liked Duncan Callahan's 2-2-2, 3-3-3, 4-4-4 workouts so I put them in. And when Craig Thornley and his merry band of Western States worshippers told me to run downhills, I listened and put it on the schedule. Then to top it all off, I stole Jerry Seinfeld's wall calendar idea.

So in lieu of artwork, my bedroom wall will be adorned by a big calendar for the next 22 weeks so I can watch my string of X's grow!

I feel much less intimidated by Western States now that I have a concrete idea of how I am going to get prepared. I think the plan is a good one, but like the naked mole rat report, it definitely lacks original content! The final grade won't be in until June 26th.


Olga said...

Can we all have a better resolution picture of the calendar so we can all learn from the greatest? :) No reason to be intimidated, just respectful.

SteveQ said...

Naked mole rats are the standard for finding the line of "what is a mammal?" Nursing young - sort of. Hair - a few whiskers. Live birth - for the queen only.

I once had a class where 180 students handed in 30 page reports to be graded the same week the overworked TA had to grade finals. I managed to say all I had to say in 5 pages, figured the TA would prefer the brevity and probably didn't read more than the introdutory paragraph, so I padded the rest with a short story about squirrels, which I stopped when I hit 30 pages.

The TA finished the story and gave me a C.

crowther said...

Lucky for you, you get to grade yourself in this case. So ... do you want to take Western States "pass-fail," or are you going to insist upon a letter grade?

Pam said...

Greg- by grading myself, I can certainly evaluate the performance however I want, but you should know I suffer from bouts of being my own worst critic. I do suppose the clock provides an objective measure.

A pass/fail grading scheme would imply one only needs to meet some minimum standard. For Western States, I would think the obvious standard for "passing" would be finishing under the time limit of 30 hours. That is certainly a worthy and admirable accomplishment, but it also something I know I could do right now. Besides, I am a grade grubber! ;) I am quite sure you will understand why I am "going to insist on a letter grade."

Goes On Runs said...

how do you train for something like this? as a mom of small kids without a paying job, it is a stretch to find the time to train for a half-marathon..... this amazes me.