Trailer Trash


What Separates Them From Us? (Read 84 times)

Occasional Runner

    I give the topic a lot of thought and have never come up with a really good answer. Maybe there isn't one, but it's worth discussing.


    What do the elite trail runners have that we don't? If we trained, ate, slept and lived EXACTLY like they do, would we run like they do? Or is there something hidden deep inside them that makes them great?


    I know what it takes to race the way I race and I often think about what I would need to do to break that barrier down. I'm sure I can train harder, we all can. I could eat better, drink less, sleep more...but I still don't think it would bridge the gap. I don't think I could ever run at that level, no matter what I do.


    I also have a hard time believing genetics is the missing link. It may play a role, but there has to be more to it.


    I've studied individual runners, hoping to find a common thread, but I can't find it. They all seem to be totally unique. They have different running styles, eating habits, fueling strategies and training practices. Yet, they're all winning races.


    If nothing else, it confirms to me that there is no "one size fits all" approach to running well.




      When I used to race on the roads I gave this a lot of thought. You can have folks with the right genetics but not the inner fire and you could have folks with the inner fire and the wrong genetics(me) but when you had the blend of inner fire and the right genetics--well look out.


      But the fire has to burn in the training too. They have to love the pain you put yourself into in training to race well. And of course basic, sound training.


      But assuming the inner fire burns intently in my mind it is still all about genetics in the end.

      Occasional Runner

        My brother and sister are morbidly obese. They claim it's due to genetics. I just scratch my head at that.


          My brother and sister are morbidly obese. They claim it's due to genetics. I just scratch my head at that.


          Smile  You should see my wife v her sister. I happily scratch my head!

          Brian Runner

            Training hard, sleeping, eating, sometimes coaching etc... are important factors of course. But take two people, give them the same resources and opportunities, as well as the same enthusiasm / work ethic… and all things being equal, genetics, without a doubt is the difference.


            Sure, maybe if you started the experiment at birth / early childhood, perhaps you could raise any two able bodied people into elite athletes. But even starting at the scholastic sports level its apparent that some people are racing with bigger engine.

              Nice question lace! I've given this some thought as well, as I plan and train for my 100 mile debut next year.

              The first question I have to ask myself is "What's elite?" The reason I ask that is that I've got a goal time for that 100 debut (which I dare not speak out loud at this point) and I wonder if mere mortals can attain that goal, or if it's reserved for those in the top 5-10% of our sport.


              I firmly believe that through hard work, smart training and dedication, I can get into that top 25% of the sport (I want an runner rating over 75%, is that shallow of me?)


              As far as genetics go, I think that's a convenient excuse for lots of people. I think that genetics make the difference when we're talking sub 16 min 5K runner and sub 15 minute 5k runners. Genetics don't matter until then, work does. 


              edit: since I threw out lots of percentages already, one last one. I firmly believe that hard work and training account for 90% of what we achieve. genetics are the last 10% 


              My grandpa had a favorite saying

              "That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do—not that the nature of the thing is changed, but that our power to do is increased."




                As many have said, genetics, specifically, VO2 max and ability to burn fat (lipid power). These things can be trained, and the longer you go, the less important top end speed becomes in my view. I can ride a double century in about the same time (I have come in ahead of him, he has come in ahead of me on different occasions) as a rider who can blow me away on any single climb and rides more than I do. I think my fat metabolism is better than his, so his power advantage is diminished on 10+ hour rides. Real elite endurance athletes have both elements.


                Also, there is a limit to how much we can improve. Kilian, Greg LeMond, etc. have VO2max readings off the charts, and burn fat very efficiently.


                If it were my job, would I be much faster than I am? Certainly. Would I ever be fast enough to be a pro? Never.


                  If genetics only mattered maybe 10%, why do the elite horse racing stables spend millions to find the magic DNA- Why not just breed the old nag in the back 40 and train that horse to be elite?


                  Usually it's the elite people that will say it's just training. If we only trained harder, smarter we could run that well. Well maybe none of us truly reach our own personal best but if it was just about training we should all be running Boston qualifiers at least.


                  At my peak road running I ran a 17:20 5k. That took an intense amount of training, smart training and a ton of racing. I know what I put into that and I know that I couldn't have shaved off any more time. That was it.  No way in the world is someone gonna tell me I should have been able to go faster, it's all about training. Ha!   If your running 17minute 5k's  that puts you into the top  maybe 5% of any local race and winning some. Hardly elite but I guess I should have been able to run 16 minutes before I use my genetics as an excuse. Bullshit.   I blame my parents.


                  Faster Than Your Couch!

                    Even though I strongly believe that one must have a favorable genetic disposition to be an elite athlete, I' like to point out that genetics are not set in stone at any time in life. Genes can be turned on and off, in response to environmental influences. Maybe that's why there are athletic and non-athletic, or obese and normal weight members in one and the same family. Even though the initial genetic disposition and early environment might be similar, they are never identical, and the evolution of the genes can go one or another direction. Also there are many more factors, like hitting a performance high at just the right time to receive attention from sponsors and media, a sociable temperament to come across as worthy, capable and a good return on investment to a potential sponsor, mentors, networking capability, pushy parents (for kids and teens) who work both kids, sponsors and media, and just simply luck. In some sports, looks can decide whether the athlete will go further or not, in some sports friends and mentors are most important. And there are many top athletes around who perform well but will never make it into the top 10 nationwide because one or another factor is missing just at that point in time when they'd need it, and they never get a second chance. I have seen some extraordinary talents, even prodigies in some areas among kids, and they did not go to the top (e.g. one was an olympic candidate) for many different reasons. Talent and willpower can take you far, but all these other factors become just as important the closer the athlete gets to the top.

                    Run for fun.


                      first off, that 5 K time is fast. Crazy fast (In my opinion). I'm going to be thrilled the day I break 20 in a 5k (which is a long way off)

                      My use of sub 16 and sub 15 5K's was probably a bit too fast. I don't have much experience road racing, so I just threw out random times. Sorry about that.


                      I don't want to discount the genetics, I've seen how they play in my life.

                      I swam competitively for a long time. I like to think I was pretty good.

                      There were people on my swim teams that worked harder than me (not that I slacked off, but some days they'd give 110% and I'd give 90%), but never were as fast as me. I always accounted most of that to being taller than many of my teammates, and having a longer reach. I'm tall because of my parents and grandparents. that's genetics. But I also put in 20+ hours a week in the pool. I swam for miles and miles each day.


                      As far as BQ for marathons, sure, why not? If you took your average person and got them to commit to a dedicated training regiment for a few years, I think most people, barring injury, could get there.


                      Anton Krupicka ran for 22 hours last week and covered 30,000' vertical feet. Yeah he has great genes, but if he didn't put the time for training in, would he be as good as he is?


                      Maybe the inner fire is genetic too.


                      edit: I blame my parents for lots of things too Smile


                        This is a good topic but one which we should be discussing around a campfire with a beer or two.  I always forget to put the little smiley faces in so I don't come off so grumpy Smile.


                        One of the troubles in our sport is that the window of time is really short for being at our own personal best. An injury or two, screw up in training, or focusing on triathlons instead of distance can close the window a little faster. Would we benefit during those times with a "GOOD" trainer? Maybe, but the wrong trainer can be worse than no trainer. It does take considerable time to build towards that period where you can have a few years of operating at your own personal high level, wherever that is. And then the wheels come off! Angry

                          Genetics play a big role.  Sure we can work hard an get the most for what we have to work with, but if we weren't blessed genetically we won't do as well as if we were.


                          Tallahassee, Florida

                          running under the BigSky

                            I'll probably continue to not give it much thought, as there is too much separation at this juncture Big grin


                              Scientists haven't proven it yet, so doubtful I ever will.  The one key component that pops up for, distance runners, is physiology (VO2 max, efficiency and anaerobic threshold) which is a component of genetics.  These can be improved though training, but elite runners may start at a higher level and can reach levels not attainable by most of us.  When they examine elite runners after a long lay off, they fine that even without running for months, their cardiac output remains higher than non-elite athletes with the same time off.


                              Running form is not the same as efficiency.  Elite runner "A" and elite runner "B" may have totally different looking strides and form, but can both be efficient, as far as translating energy to forward motion without waste.


                              This isn't the article I was looking for, but it does summarize well.

                              Occasional Runner


                                I firmly believe that through hard work, smart training and dedication, I can get into that top 25% of the sport (I want an runner rating over 75%, is that shallow of me?)



                                Don't be confused by your Ultrasignup ranking. A 75% doesn't mean you're in the top 25% of the sport. In reality, you would probably be consistently placing in the top 10% of all your races. Your ranking is based on the finish time of the winner of the race. I usually carry a 72% or 73% ranking and it's not likely to improve much because I have so many races under my belt, so it would take a lot of 100%'s to move the needle much.


                                Here's a perfect example...


                                I finished in 9th place at the Antelope Island 100 but still got ranked 71.3% for that race. This is because Karl Meltzer came along and destroyed the course record. My rank is based on HIS finish time, not on the fact that I came in well in the top 10% of the field.


                                I came in 8th overall at Javelina, but got ranked 73.9% for that race. That's a HUGE race, so I was probably top 3% in the field, but I don't get a rank of 97% because the winner was still hours ahead of me.


                                A lot of guys will run races that the elite's avoid so they can pad their ultra ranking. I study the ultra rankings before every race so I can see who I have to compete with, but I can't rely on the ranking. I have to research their race history and see how their ranking was developed. There are a lot of runners with 90% rankings but have never been paired up with Wardian, King, Koerner, Anton and the rest of the guys that seem to spend all their time coming up with ways to screw up my ultra ranking.


                                Regardless, your ranking is pretty useless. It's best to prove it out on the trail and let the "other guys" gloat about their imaginary place in the sport.