December 2016

2016 proved it’s all about distance.

As 2016 draws to a close the one thing I can say for sure is distance is king when it comes to improving your running.  Arthur Lydiard got it spot on and his method of training has been mimicked by most of the successful coaches ever since. From the article below  “For Lydiard, running to your potential is about having a substantial mileage base and not overdoing your anaerobic training.”  Matt Fitzgerald, as you will know my go-to man, also advocates this method of training. ( ) and I recommend you purchase any of his books.  This year I have managed to achieve times I though beyond me on a number of occasions and far from slowing down has refocussed my goals for 2017 on faster times and more PB’s.

What changed for me in 2016? Distance, plain and simple. I achieved the extra time on legs by running twice a day as much as possible and since June this year averaging nearly 140k a week and 10-12 runs. Pace wise I slowed down in the week but tried to race at least once a fortnight, sometimes more often. This allowed me to move into the Matt Fitzgerald 80% slow and steady and 20% at pace training split.  I’ve attached a typical few weeks blow taken from my Strava account ( you have to be on Strava, , and feel free to follow me; search on ‘Big Kev’, Perth.)

It’s all on Strava, always.


The yearly totals for 2016. Please note I intend to run one more time this year. Not sure I’ll make it a 90k I need for 6000k….

Last year was a record year for me as I managed to break 5000km for the year, this year I’ll be over 5900km’s and this extra 1000km, I believe, has been the major difference, coupled with the twice a day running. It seems with running the more you do the better you are, it really is that simple. Of course you can add tempo, thresholds, VO2 , Mona fartlek’s , progressive etc. to make the training more interesting but in the end just put on your trainers and get out there more. Of course there is always the issue with injury waiting in the shadows to pounce  when you are at your most vulnerable and by adding all the ‘exciting‘ training methods you leave yourself susceptible to falling victim. Common sense dictates you are more likely to get injured straining your muscles on quicker paced training runs but it really is a two edge sword as the benefits can be worth the risk. Distance running does minimise the risk of injury as you’re putting less strain on the muscles, increased fitness purely by repetition.

Maybe improving isn’t that simple after all ? After reading the last paragraph again I realise that there is no magic bullet for improvement but running distance is probably the best way to stack the odds in your favour. It has many benefits, you get to do what you love most, i.e. run, a lot, it minimises the risk of injury and it is a sure fire way to improve. This is good enough for me. The adding pace bit is a necessary evil I suppose and worth the risk. After all the whole point of this running thing is to improve and run distance faster,  isn’t it ? To do this you need to understand what your goal pace is and also be able to better it at shorter distances.

An article below is a good starter on the Lydiard method and I recommend you adjust your training accordingly. If it can help an ageing runner like myself achieve times beyond my wildest dreams it can make a difference to your running. Finally remember, the best part of this training is you get to do what we all love doing in the first place, run a lot.

Forty years ago at the Rome Olympics, athletes guided by legendary New Zealand coach Arthur Lydiard made history. Among Lydiard’s protégés were a total of 17 Olympic medalists, including Peter Snell (800 and 1,500 meters), Murray Halberg (5,000 meters) and Barry Magee (marathon). Lydiard, now 82, toured the U.S. last fall, speaking to runners on the Lydiard method of training. He was as passionate as ever about sharing the methods he developed 50 years ago.Lydiard hasn’t changed his training advice over the decades, and why should he? His ideas work. Moreover, if you look carefully at the most popular and successful programs today, most have a Lydiard emphasis. For Lydiard, running to your potential is about having a substantial mileage base and not overdoing your anaerobic training. There are no shortcuts.

A Revolutionary Method
Lydiard discovered running for sport when he struggled to run five miles with a friend. Forced to confront his own unfitness, he self-experimented with training, including running more than 250 miles in one week. He developed a plan that he felt confident in using with other runners. Central to his method was the importance of training in phases and peaking for major events.According to Lydiard, any successful training program must culminate in a goal race or racing period. This means planning several months. The ideal training schedule is at least 28 weeks: 12 weeks for base conditioning, eight weeks for hill training and speed development, six weeks for sharpening and 10 days for tapering/rest.

Phase 1: Base Conditioning/Aerobic Training

This three-month period is the most important in the Lydiard system. If you want to give yourself every opportunity to reach your goal, you must commit to developing your aerobic capacity, says Lydiard. Why? Because although every runner has a limited anaerobic (speed-building) capacity, that limit is largely set by one’s aerobic potential—the body’s ability to use oxygen. Thus, the aerobic capacity that you develop determines the success of your entire training program.

The foundation of Lydiard-style base conditioning is three long runs per week. These are steady runs done at more than recovery effort. To determine your pace, choose a relatively flat course and run out at a strong pace for 15 minutes, then run back. The goal is to return in the same time or slightly faster. If it takes you longer for the return trip, you paced yourself too fast. The objective of these runs is to be “pleasantly tired,” says Lydiard. Running slower will produce positive effects, but the results will take longer. Do not run to the point of lactic-acid buildup.

An ideal training week during this period includes a two-hour run and two one and one half-hour runs. On the other days do short, easy runs; one run with some light picking up of the pace; and one 5K to 10K tempo run (below lactate-threshold pace). Decrease the times and distances if you don’t have the mileage base to start at such high volume, then build gradually.

Phase 2: Hill Training/Speed Development

Lydiard-style hill training, the focus of the first four weeks of this period, involves a circuit that includes bounding uphill, running quickly downhill and sprinting. These workouts develop power, flexibility and good form, all of which produce a more economical running style. Ideally, you should find a hill with three parts: a flat 200- to 400-meter area at the base for sprints, a 200- to 300-meter rise for bounding and a recovery area or moderate downhill segment at the top. Alternatively you can work out on a treadmill with an adjustable incline.

After a warm-up, bound uphill with hips forward and knees high. Lydiard describes the stride as “springing with a bouncing action and slow forward progression.” If you can’t make it all the way up, jog, then continue bounding. At the top jog easily for about three minutes or run down a slight incline with a fast, relaxed stride. Then return to the base of the hill for the next bounding segment. Every 15 minutes (after about every third or fourth hill), intersperse several 50- to 400-meter sprints on flat ground. These sprints mark the end of one complete circuit. Lydiard recommends a total workout time of one hour (plus warm-up and cool-down). Do this hill circuit three days per week.

On three of the four remaining days, focus on developing leg speed. Lydiard suggests 10 repetitions of 120 to 150 meters over a flat or very slight downhill surface. Warm up and cool down thoroughly.) The seventh day is a one and one-half to two-hour steady-state run.

During the second four weeks, shift from hills to traditional track workouts. The objective here, says Lydiard, is to “finish knowing that you could not do much more nor any better.” This sensation of fatigue matters less than how many intervals you do at what speeds, though the workout should total about three miles of fast running. Perform these track sessions three times per week. Use the remaining four days for a long run, leg-speed work and sprint-training drills traditionally done by sprinters to develop strength, form and speed.

Phase 3: Sharpening

How many times have you died in the last half of your race? Or alternatively, finished with too much left? Sharpening allows you to test for your strengths and weaknesses as you prepare for your goal race. Three workouts do not vary. The first is the long run, done at a relaxed pace. The second is an anaerobic training session done at a greater intensity and lower volume. Lydiard suggests five laps of a 400-meter track (about seven to eight minutes of running) alternating 50 meters of sprinting and 50 meters of easy, but strong, running.

The third consistent workout is a weekly time trial at or below the distance for which you are training. A 10K runner would do a 5K to 10K trial; a 1,500 meter runner would do 1,200 to meters. Ideally, do this workout on a track and record every lap to determine your weaknesses, and work on them throughout the rest of that week and the following week. For example, if the second half of your trial is slower than the first half, run a longer tune-up race that week and a longer time trial the next week. If the pace felt difficult but you were able to maintain it pretty evenly, work on your leg speed.

Round out your training week with a sprint-training session, a pace judgment day (4 x 400 meters at goal race pace), a leg-speed workout and a tune-up race. All these workouts should be geared to your goal distance and pace.

Phase 4: Tapering and Rest

Lydiard calls the final 10 days before goal race “freshening up.” This involves lightening your training to build up your physical and mental reserves for the target competition. Train every day but keep the faster running low in volume and the longer runs light in effort.

Unquestionably, Lydiard’s program tests your commitment and desire, and it requires a solid understanding of your individual needs. If you are serious, start counting out those 28 weeks.

Christine Junkermann has a 10K PR of 33:34 and lives in Woodbridge, CT. She recommends Run the Lydiard Way and Running With Lydiard, both by Arthur Lydiard with Garth Gilmour, for more information on the Lydiard method.

Mark Lee can’t run slow.

This morning I had a 90 minutes easy run planned with a 7am finish at our favourite go to cafe Yelo. ( ; they still serve the best muffins in the Southern Hemisphere !) There were seven of us who started at 5:30am with Mark L. meeting us at 7am as he was running for an hour and progressively. We were again joined by Mark Lee who you may remember came along on our last 90 minutes easy and fidgeted the whole time. Mark is a ‘speedster’ who loves the sorter distances and finds the running slow and long run alien to his training regime. This is obvious to all as he struggles to maintain the easy pace we all quite happily settle into. This morning it was too much for Mark and after a 5k warm up with us he bounded off to run a Mona Fartlek alone. By the time we got back to Yelo he had ordered his coffee and muffins for the whole family and was on his way back to the family home.  As you can see from the photo below, no Mark Lee. !


All the boys minus Mark Lee who was already on his way home…Jeff whose Wife wanted the car and Jon who was still running! (Mike , me, Gareth, Barts and Mark L.)

At the other end of the scale Jon joined us at the start of the run, after already running 10k, and then carried on for a 55k total, again not stopping for the best part of running, the apre-run muffin and coffee. Actually while I type this Jon is probably still running. (..and eating as he was carrying a handful of treats which apparently you’re allowed to do if you run ultras.)

Two different training approaches for two people training for different distances. Jon is training for the ADU ( ) and has gone down the path of several long runs (50k+) compared to my double up days and no real longer distance runs. Mark is more focused on pace rather than distance as he aims for the 5k and 10k races he excels in.

Me and the posse just do enough to justify the coffee and muffin at Yelo and we actually discussed the calories in (via the coffee and muffin) compared to the calories out gained after the 19k easy run. We all agreed we’d be calorie negative after the 19k run and this certainly made the muffin taste that bit sweeter.

Should you train differently for different distances or can one training method be a good fit for all running distances. ? I believe building distance first , as a foundation, concentrating on time on legs, does benefit all distance running. The change occurs when you fine tune your training for your specific race distance. Myself, being a jack of all trades, I have built a big foundation through years of injury free running. (I hate even typing those words..) This has then allowed me to fine tune to a specific race distance given a few weeks notice. For example if I have a 10k or half marathon coming up I’ll concentrate on more speed work like a mona fartlek or some 5k park runs. These will get me use to the pace I need to maintain during the upcoming race. Also helps the fast twitch muscles fire ( A good article on the different muscle fibres) For marathons I concentrate on longer tempo runs at marathon pace getting use to running for longer at the pace I need to maintain for the marathon. I’ll also keep working on the shorter, faster runs as these will still add value, if nothing else if feels good to run fast.

Ultra running is all about time on legs and Jon’s approach is certainly the ‘normal’ way of training. Slow and steady and all about time rather than distance, the most important factor is finishing fresh as you move towards the required distance. Obviously you aren’t going to run a 100k training run for a 100k ultra but you should probably get up in the 50k area , probably ? This is from a runner who doesn’t intend to run past 30k but what can go wrong after 8 hours of running ? (Also there is a parachute clause that you can stop at 50k and claim a 50k ultra medal. Funnily enough my friend Rhys used this to his advantage when he entered the 50k and bailed after 25k. The RD insisted on giving Rhys a 25k race medal so really he’d won that race albeit he started 3 hours before anybody else as they were staggered starts. A technicality according to Rhys.)

So back to Mark Lee and his inability to run slow. Is this causing him a disservice in his training , probably not as he has been at the front of the pack for a number of years and continues to record great running times. Would he benefit from a 3-4 month period of slow, high mileage training; undoubtably. Will he ever be able to achieve this ? Not a chance, far too much time fidgeting , looking at his watch, adjusting his shorts and top, looking at his watch etc etc Some people just don’t get the beauty of slowing down to speed up. Saying that I’ve raced Mark many times of the years and am yet to beat him so maybe I need to fidget more or just run faster ?


How long is long enough for an ultra?

As I move towards my first 100k ultra at the end of January ( ) I’m in a quandary as to the right amount of weekly distance versus the weekend long run distance. The weekly distance I have covered as I’ve been averaging 130k a week since June but the long runs have been very marathon focussed, by this I mean always around the 30k distance and no more. Will this come back to bite me around the 70k mark in the ultra ? This has been playing on my mind lately but I personally don’t enjoy running over 30k unless there’s a bib on my chest and I’m being measured for time. The thought of a time on feet 3-5 hour run has never appealed to me and I much prefer to run twice a day to achieve the required distance. Jon on the other hand revels in the long lonely run,  normally at some God forsaken time in the morning. Recently he woke at 3am and ran 70k, by himself ! I know he has a 55k run planned Thursday but have been deliberately avoiding him as I am not that excited about the distance or the starting time knowing Jon. I did say I’d meet him at Yelo at 7am. (Just didn’t mention I’d probably be starting at 6am.)

I suppose because I’m still chasing a marathon PB I haven’t found the need to look further afield to get my PB fix. As well as the marathon PB I feel in 2017 I may have a good tilt at all the shorter distances and would like to think there may be the odd PB still there for the taking if I keep putting in the hard yards. I’m not a total beginner when it comes to ultra marathons as currently I’ve ran 18 of them but none further than 89k ( ) Admittedly I did train very hard for my three Comrade campaigns (2008 /09 /10) and this training included the 50k runs that now days I find so hard to complete. On the plus side I running so much quicker now than when I ran Comrades and consider myself a lot fitter than those years, I’m certainly running further. So the question is does a better prepared runner beat a fitter runner over 100k ? I suppose we’ll find out next January as I have no inclination to run further than my normal 30k marathon long runs but I will be maintaining my 130k weekly average and may even nudge that up a bit over the next two weeks.

Tapering will be a two week exercise for this ultra as I feel the distance demands respect and I really need my legs to be as rested as much possible without losing fitness, the old taper tightrope we all walk pre-marathon or ultra. I believe you start to lose fitness after 2-3 weeks of no training so as long as you keep the legs ticking over, with a few rest days, you’ll be ok for a 2 week taper. When I first started marathons I use to give myself a 3 week taper but now I realise this was probably too long and I felt I lost some fitness which combined with the normal 3 day carbo-loading made the marathon uncomfortable. As it’s a 100k I may even treat myself to a leg massage, my friend Mike has recommended a good masseur but after a discussion over a Yelo muffin on Boxing Day I’m not so sure this is the type of massage I’m after. (There was talk of special garments which raised a few concerns amongst us?) It’s important to make sure the legs are ready for the onslaught of running for at least 8 hours (and probably more!) and the massage and a good taper will certainly help.

Once I get the legs ready  next will be the mind. Looking at the quotes below it looks like the mind plays as much a part of a successful ultra run than the legs, a lot more than in the marathon when it becomes an issue at the 32k mark with 10k to go. In an Ultra it looks like the wall may be a tad longer to get to but unfortunately there is more distance the other side to overcome. By this I mean if you hit the wall at 70k in a 100k race you still have 30k to use all your mental strength to get you to the finish line, not the normal 10k in a marathon. I’m not selling this to you am I ? Actually I’m not selling it to me either.!


  • “If you start to feel good during an ultra, don’t worry, you will get over it.”
    -Gene Thibeault, ultrarunner


  • “We ultrarunners alternate between depression and stupidity.”
    -Don Kardong


  • It hurts up to a point and then it doesn’t get any worse.”
    -Ann Trason


  • “Ultrarunners understand, perhaps better than anyone, that the doors to the spirit will swing open with physical effort. In running such long and taxing distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of their being–a call that asks who they are.”
    -David Blaikie


Finally once I get the legs ready and the mind prepared the final piece in the jigsaw is the food and hydration that is so important in an ultra. Haven’t really nailed that one either , truth be told. Typing this has not given me the confidence I felt it would but has instead left me with some unanswered questions and the feeling of what is ahead of me will be a challenge. Would I want it any different, no way ! This is why we run to challenge ourselves and be that by distance or time the end result is always worth the effort we put in. I shall of course draw down on this post at the 70k mark of the Australia Day ultra and hopefully it’ll bring a smile to my face as I power on to the finish…..



An article below from Ian Corless form the Run Ultra website describes the Long Run……

Every weekend, runners all over the world lace up their shoes and head out for a long run. But what is a long run and how long should the long run be?

Running long depends on what type of ultra you are training for, what your objectives are, what the date of the event is and so on. If you don’t have answers to these three questions, stop, find the answers and then start planning. Read an article about planning and running a race here.

If you are used to running 5km and 10km events, a long run for you may well be 75-90 minutes. If you are a marathon runner, your long run will typically be 21/22 miles or 3 to 3.5-hours. If you are running an ultra, mmmmm, this is where it gets tricky.

First of all, let’s look at why we run long. This is something discussed in a previous article on ‘Base Training,’ it would be a good idea to read that here. In summary, we put an emphasis on three key points: Efficiency to use fat as a fuel, muscular and physical adaptation and mental strength.

If you never run for more than one hour in training, then three hours on your feet just feels like a really long time so you need to adapt mentally for the challenge ahead and you need to be strong to get the job done.

You have had sore legs from running, yes? We have all been there, it comes from running fast and hard and building up lactic acid or it comes from running long. Muscle soreness will come for everyone, however, we can train to reduce the impact or delay the process. Progressively running longer with recovery periods allows our muscles to adapt to the stress and become stronger. The term DOMS refers to the ‘Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness’. You may well feel muscle pain during a training event or race but it’s usually in the 24/48/72-hour period after that the soreness really kicks in. By running long in training we adapt to delay or reduce the DOMS.

You need fuel to do anything, even a shopping trip. Our bodies can only store so much carbohydrate and once those stores are used up we have only two options left: top them up or slow down and maybe even stop if they have got very low. As an endurance athlete we need to tap into our almost unlimited fat stores. We do this by teaching our body to use fat as a fuel in the long run. The more efficient you become at this, the longer you can run and the longer you can maintain a pace. Ultimately it means the whole race/training experience will be better and more enjoyable. Check out our diet advice for training here.

The Long Run

Let’s be clear here, running longer requires running slower, especially if we are going to switch fat burning on, mentally make you strong and allow you to last the distance. Running hard has its place for sure but be specific and think of your objectives and what you are trying to achieve.

Think of long runs in terms of time and not distance. Distance adds some confusion and also as runners we get stressed and worried by mileage. Time on feet does very much depend on the terrain we are running on, for example in three hours on the road you may well cover 20-miles, but on the trails or in the mountains you may only cover 12-miles.

This brings in another very important and key point, make long runs specific and in line with your objectives. No point doing three hours on the road if you are doing a 50 mile mountain race with 4000m of vertical gain.

Slow down! Many runners run the long run too hard which impacts on the following days’ training and it also impacts on the long run session. Maybe use a heart rate monitor or GPS to keep on top of this and don’t worry about walking. Walking is a key element in completing ultra distance events. You can read an article on this here.

The big question, how long should the long run be?

Short distance runners often run over distance in training. Think about it, a 10km runner may run a long slow half marathon to build endurance. A half marathon runner may run a long and slow steady 16 miles in preparation for a fast race.

This all falls apart when we go to the marathon and beyond. How often have you heard in marathon training that the long run should be 21/22 miles or 3 hours and 30 minutes in preparation for a race.

Long runs and adapting for an endurance run such as an ultra comes from not one run but a combination of all runs. It’s about your accumulative run history. They all add up to make you an endurance machine.

First and foremost, consistency is key and long runs should be progressive and based on ability and experience. A long run should test you but not break you.

What do I mean by progressive?

Let’s use a 12-week scenario based on a runner who can currently run two hours in a long run. I am not looking at base training here, but the specifics of a long run and how to make the long run longer. I’m a big fan of building over three weeks and recovering for one week, I call this 3/1.


Month 1
Week 1 – Sunday 2:30 hours
Week 2 – Sunday 2:45 hours
Week 3 – Sunday 3:00 hours
Week 4 – 2 hours

Month 2
Week 1 – Sunday 2:45 hours
Week 2 – Wednesday 90min / Sunday 3:00 hours
Week 3 – Wednesday 90min/ Sunday 3:20 hours
Week 4 – Sunday 2:30 hours

Month 3
Week 1 – Wednesday 90min/ Sunday 3:00 hours
Week 2 – Wednesday 1:45 hours/ Sunday 3:30 hours
Week 3 – Wednesday 2:00 hours/ Sunday 4:00 hours
Week 4 – Wednesday 60min/ Sunday 3:00 hours

The above scenario provides a structured example on how to build up from running two hours comfortably to four hours. But remember the above scenario is 12 weeks of running with over 37 hours of running, just in the long runs! That is huge and a great place to start for any endurance challenge.

But my race is 50 miles, can I run the distance?

As mentioned above, it’s not wise or sensible to run too long in anyone session. But the 12-week plan above on a 3/1 scenario shows you how it’s possible to build time and confidence. As you gain more experience you can look at doing back-to-back sessions and plan long training weekends all as part of a long term plan. Ultimately though, running too long in terms of distance or time is something that should be very carefully planned. You will always here about runners who can do 200 mile weeks or 50-mile training runs; they are exceptions and not the norm. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security and don’t feel inadequate, we are all individuals and this is maybe the most important aspect. Running long is a voyage of discovery. Check out our 50km training plan to start you towards your 50 miler here.

Training should be about preparing you to tackle the challenge, but it will never FULLY prepare you. There’s always going to be a bit of extra and a bit of unknown on the day of the event, but surely that’s why you’ve entered?

Running ultra’s, you’d be mad not to ?

Lord Coe is a better man than me.

One of my favourite runners growing up in the UK in the early eighties was Sebastian Coe who , together with Steve Ovett and Steve Cram, dominated middle distance running between 1980 and 1984. Coe and Ovett between them won four gold medals at a time when the UK middle distance scene was in disarray with Brendan Foster the only real athlete of note.  My favourite all time Seb Coe quote is below and I have mentioned this before on my blog.

In the winter of 1979, during the lead-up to the Olympic Games in Moscow, I remember training on Christmas Day.

It was a harsh winter (harsh enough to bring down a government) but I ran 12 miles on Christmas morning. It was a hard session and I got home, showered and felt pretty happy with what I had done.

Later that afternoon, sitting back after Christmas lunch, I began to feel uneasy but was not quite sure why. Suddenly it dawned on me. I thought: “I bet [Steve] Ovett’s out there doing his second training session of the day.” I put the kit back on, faced the snow and ice and did a second training session. I ran several miles, including some hill work.

Not long ago, over supper in Melbourne, I told him the story. He laughed. ‘Did you only go out twice that day?’ he asked.

Well Christmas Day was too good an opportunity not to try and repeat what Seb had ran on that cold day in 1979. Admittedly it was a tad warmer in Perth, mid thirties I think, but it was about getting out there after a ‘monster Christmas dinner with all the trimmings’ cooked so beautifully by my lovely Wife. I did give myself a break after wolfing down the meal by watching ‘the Trolls’ on TV with the family before announcing to my Wife I was off for a second run for the day. (I had sneaked in a 10k earlier after the kids had devoured their presents and it was quiet time as they scurried off to their rooms to do whatever young girls do in the privacy of their bedrooms?)

So I off went on another 10k thinking how much fun this was going to be as I had noted on Strava earlier in the day there was quite a bit of activity earlier in the morning but so far no double runners, to good an opportunity to miss. Initially my bravado was rewarded with a 4k pleasant enough run into Star Swamp and I must admit to feeling quite smug with myself. This feeling was not one that was to continue with me on the rest of the run unfortunately when, around 5k, the wheels fell off big time. Actually thinking about it now it wasn’t just the wheels that were ejected I suspect the head gasket, cylinder head and all accompanying items on the engine decided to seize at the same time. This was not good 5k into a 10k loop. I had nowhere to go but forward and to finish it was a 5k run in either direction.

The next 5k was a regressive run at it’s best (or worst?), each kilometre got progressively slower and more painful and luckily I managed to find some comfort in a toilet break at 8k. I say comfort in the broadest sense of the word by the way, more a place to sit down for 5 minutes and try and regain my faculties. I did eventually get home where I stumbled past the onlooking Wife mumbled something about being ‘ill’ , survived a shower and straight to bed. It wasn’t even 8 O’Clock on Christmas Day but my day was over, big time. ! Luckily I had arranged to meet the BK posse for a 90 minutes easy run at 5am the next morning. As you can imagine this gave me great comfort as I lay in bed replaying the whole sorry affair.

In my defence , as a family, we all suffered a small dose of food poising on Christmas Eve eating some fish and chips while watching the sunset. (Funnily enough we all remarked at the time how good the meal was.?) I’m not sure Lord Coe had this issue before his run, and if he did he never mentioned it? Anyhow the moral of this story is two fold. First never ever attempt to run a second run after a full Christmas dinner with all the trimmings (luckily I was too full for sweet and had planned to eat it after my run ! Yeah right ! It’s still in the fridge). Secondly I now realise why  Sebastian Coe has two gold medals and two silver medals at two Olympics and I haven’t and never will. It takes a Olympian , and a bloody good one at that, to run twice on Christmas day.

Next year I’m goint stay with the family and go for the Trolls and Dr. Seuss’s ‘How the Gringe Stole Christmas ‘ double header…….

Only Seb Coe can run twice a day on Christmas Day. (apparently)



Ketosis and fat adaptation, is it time to say goodbye to Carbs?

Mindful that I haven’t posted much on nutrition lately. Mainly because I do not claim to be a nutritionist and can only really post interesting articles by professionals. This article seems quite relevant as I start to think about the 100k ultra I’m running in a few weeks.

I’m going to skip breakfast tomorrow before my long run with the weekend posse. I’ll let you know how it all goes.

Note: As promised I did skip breakfast and ran 21k with the BK posse on an empty stomach. Felt surprisingly spritely and finished strong. Albeit as we only ran 21k I’m not sure I was going to start burning fat for a few kilometres but small steps.

Of course, being Christmas Eve, we were never not going to have our long run (21k is quite long?) coffee and pancakes.


Christmas Eve City Beach, where else would you rather be?

About the author
Amy Tribolini currently works as both a Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Professor. She lives, trains, and competes as an ultra runner out of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Amy specializes in fueling endurance athletes, athletic performance, and plant-based diets. Amy holds both a Bachelors Degree in Dietetics and a Masters Degree in Human Nutritional Science from the University of Wisconsin.

You might like to read these other articles on the topic of fat burning:
Plant based carbohydrate recipes for fat burning strategies
Nutrition for stripping fat and building lean muscle mass for race readiness
How to lose fat ultra running



Runners – All you need to know about ketosis and fat adaptation

Many runners have been convinced that they need carbohydrates to fuel for their endurance conquests, but a new question has been circulating in the ultra running community: “Can a high fat diet also be a high performance diet?”

More elite runners are emerging with claims that fat burning, ketosis, enables them to run more efficiently than their carb-dependent peers. With all the fad-diet advice flooding the mainstream, it is essential to understand how specific fuels are metabolized in the body and what current research is saying.

When training and competing in ultra marathons, proper fuel can be a huge part of your success.  Whether you are consuming carbohydrates or fat, your body will find a way to convert those fuels into energy so you can endure for long distances.

Carbohydrate is the body’s go-to fuel source. Carbs are quickly and easily converted to glycogen and stored in your cells. When you need energy, your body can rapidly convert glycogen to glucose and release it into your bloodstream to burn. Ketosis occurs when your body is not consuming enough carbohydrates to meet your energy needs, and as an adaptation process, it begins burning fat instead.

There are many proposed benefits of being in ketosis on long runs. Runners state that they don’t experience the dramatic energy spikes and crashes that accompany using high-sugar (high carb) sport supplements, such as gels, bars, and sports drinks. This is due to the fact that fat is a smooth burning fuel, that does not instigate a sugar-insulin cycle. Additionally, even a very lean athlete has around 30,000 calories of fat stored. Compare that to the approximately 2,000 calories of carbohydrate stored in the body. Just by acknowledging the greater storage capacity of fat, you can see why it is a desirable fuel source.

Now, let’s go back to discussing how carbohydrate is more rapidly converted to energy in the body.  This is true, but in part it is true because the body does not have significant practice in converting fat to fuel. For non-athletes, going into ketosis may never occur. Eating carbohydrate-heavy meals, accompanied by low physical activity, keeps the body from ever transitioning to burn fat as a primary fuel source. In this case, if it were ever necessary for the body to burn fat as a primary fuel, it would be an uncomfortable process and the body would likely feel fatigued.

The good news is it doesn’t have to stay this way. An athlete that commonly enters ketosis on long runs has more practice and has thus become more efficient at burning fat. Once athletes become well adapted, they may not feel a significant difference burning fat versus carbohydrate. The main distinction may be that they no longer feel the desperation to replenish their lost sugar stores frequently, during a run.

Attempting to live full-time in ketosis is an extreme lifestyle change and can require cutting out entire food groups, but the lessons learned from ketosis can be applied in a more moderate manner through a method called ‘fat adaptation’. You may not have heard of fat adaptation, but if you’re an ultra runner, your body is likely to be no stranger to it.

If you have ever ran out the door on an empty stomach and decided to do a longer run than planned, your body may have had no choice but to turn fat into fuel.  Since one pound of body fat contains 3,500 calories, the average 150-pound person could run for three hours and burn a mere half a pound of stored fat. Ultra runners can find peace of mind knowing that their bodies already contain the necessary fuel for long runs. I am not advocating for runners to starve themselves for better results, quite the opposite. I am encouraging endurance athletes to fuel with healthy fats and limit sugary, high-carbohydrate supplements as a means to ultimately perform more efficiently on long runs.

What is fat adaptation?

I’ll start by explaining what fat adaptation is not. It is not a low-calorie starvation diet; it is also not like the Atkins diet. Fat adaptation is a ‘state of being’ where the body is comfortable, efficient, and content burning fat as fuel. This method works by understanding food’s macronutrient content: carbohydrate, protein, and fat.

Fat adaptation requires two things: decreased intake of carbohydrate and increased fat consumption.  These dietary changes coupled with the right kind of physical activity can be the magic combination.  Since converting fat to fuel is a slower metabolic process than converting carbohydrate to fuel, especially in the untrained body, practicing this technique with lower-intensity physical activity is where athletes want to start.

How do I become “fat adapted”?

The easiest way to jumpstart fat adaptation is by skipping your morning breakfast and going for a run first thing in the AM. **Gasp** Isn’t this what every nutritionist says not to do? Yes, breakfast is an important meal to fuel your body, especially if you primarily burn carbohydrates as fuel. But, if you are an endurance athlete looking for that edge in long races, this is for you.

When first trying out this technique, your body may hurl hunger cues to your brain, desperately demanding a bagel, orange juice, cereal, or other high carbohydrate foods. If you feel you need to eat before heading out on a run, selecting high fat/low carbohydrate foods can provide satiety without sabotaging your fat adaptation goals.

I like to make coffee in the morning and put a large scoop of coconut oil in it. The bonus with coconut oil is that the fat structure (medium-chain-fatty-acids) increases energy expenditure and ultimately allows your body to burn fat more rapidly. If you are a big breakfast eater, this may seem hard at first because your body is so conditioned to burn carbohydrates as fuel.

Dietary tips to enhance fat adaptation

  • You don’t have to remove all carbohydrates for fat-burning to initiate, what is more beneficial is removing grains.
  • Continue to eat fruits, vegetables, proteins, and a lot of healthy fats such as: avocado oil, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds.
  • Exercising on an empty stomach (or a high-fat snack) in the morning can be the most effective way of entering the fat adaptation zone.

How should I train to aid fat adaptation?

Start with moderate intensity running (approximately 70% effort). While your body is adapting to converting fat as fuel, remember, this is a slower process at first. Be prudent, lay off the high intensity running until your body has more time to adjust. For example: my comfortable running pace is a 9-minute/mile. I know this because I can carry on a conversation, run long distances at this pace, and not feel exhausted when I’m finished. If initially I tried to enhance my fat adaptation while doing 7-minute/miles, I would feel exhausted, struggling, and desperate for sugary, high-carbohydrate snacks when my workout was done. This is because the body requires carbohydrate for high intensity workouts. Whatever your comfort zone is for running, utilize that as your pace while adapting to fat burning.

Just weeks into your training phase for fat adaptation, your body has likely adjusted to burning fat more efficiently. You may notice that you feel less hungry during and after runs. This is due to the stability of your blood sugars. Burning fat does not give you the severe highs and lows in blood sugar, it allows your blood sugar to remain steady despite burning significant calories.

If you want to re-introduce high-intensity training, such as hill repeats and speed workouts, you can re-introduce more carbohydrates into your diet. Carbohydrates are not harmful; they simply turn off or decrease your fat burning for the time being. High-intensity exercise benefits from carbohydrate burning because of how rapidly your metabolic process can convert it to energy. Using the naturally rapid metabolism of carbohydrates coupled with your newly acquired fat burning efficiency, you should be more equipped to handle any pace, distance, or course.

What are the benefits of fat adaptation?

Research is showing that fat-adapted athletes are able to race endurance events with just a fraction of the calories typically consumed. They are achieving these goals with stable blood sugars and minimal crashes in energy. Additionally, they are not suffering the typical gastro-intestinal malaise often caused by sugary, high-carbohydrate sports supplements. Consuming fewer calories, while feeling steadier levels of energy, may allow ultra-runners to reach higher levels of performance.

Research also shows that lactic acid, a compound produced when glucose is broken down and burned as fuel, is decreased in athletes burning primarily fat as fuel. Once built up in the body, lactic acid can produce painful, burning sensations. Fat adaptation and a heavier reliance on fat as fuel during a race, can cut back on lactic acid formation and decrease overall discomfort in the body.


Fat-adaptation can come in extremely handy during long endurance efforts such as ultra marathons.  I like to think of it like a ‘get out of jail free’ card.  If my stomach turns sour or I simply don’t want to take as much time eating during a race, I know that my body is well trained to adapt.  This is because my body has become more self-sufficient using itself as a fuel source.  Just like ultra runners count on their physical training to get them through a hard race, I can count on my body to do what it has practiced: to efficiently burn fat as fuel.

Old Faithful brings up the double century.

It was a big night in the Matthews running household tonight. I got to run my go-to 10k for the 200th time (Well 200th time on Strava  ( ) and if it wasn’t on Strava it didn’t happen.) I’ve ran this route so many times it has a name , ‘Old Faithful’. 

200th time running with old faithful.

As you can see from the image above my 10k loop takes in Star Swamp where I get to watch the sunrise in Summer and race the sunset in Winter. There a couple of nice rises which can test you if you’re fatigued, especially the last one after the Kings Straight. (The King of Carine has a 1k segment which he runs ridiculously quick. Nic, The King of Carine, Harman will one day represent Australia at either the Commonwealth or Olympic Games, mark my word.  The only downside in having young Nic in the neighbourhood is you don’t get to keep any Strava segment records because as they appear on Nic’s radar they disappear from mine. ! )

The run itself starts with a nice downhill to ease you into it before a small rise as you register your first 1k. It’s downhill again to the corner of Marmion Avenue as you hit the 2k mark just before you cross the road into the Star Swamp. It’s here you get to watch the sunrise most mornings and it really is like the first time, every time. It certainly inspires me and puts a smile on my face every time as I think of the rest of the population of Perth in the land of Nod missing this spectacular show of nature at her best. As you pop out of Star Swamp, just after the 4k mark,  onto Beach Road and into a kilometre rise on a bike path before a nice downhill section that encourages pace and sets you up for the Carine Park section of the run. You hit 7k as you enter the park and normally you have the park to yourself in the early morning light. If you time it right you get to watch the suns tentacles move through the trees and long lines of sunlight dance around you as you continue on you way.

You hit the top of the King Straight just over 8k and you have a decision to make either taking the Kings bike path and steeping up a gear or slowing it down and cruise on the grass. Must admit lately the cruise has been my route of choice. At the end of the Kings Straight is the third road crossing where you can prepare yourself for the last hill and the final small section back to the house.

So what makes this run so interesting that I’ve ran it 200 times. I believe it has everything you need in a running route, some nice hill sections, some off road trails, a section that encourages speed, the King’s Straight if you are really excited and a park section that reminds you how lucky you are to live in this wonderful country. I’m as excited about running it tomorrow (probably) as I was the first time I ran it and hope to run it another 200 times and more, assuming the status quo is maintained. If I was to move I would find another old faithful and I’m sure I’d start to rack up the mileage but this route will always have a special place in my running heart and sometimes familiarity does not breed contempt.

Did I make a big deal of the 200th running, not really, just me and the old girl doing what we do best, enjoying each others company. As runners we all need an Old Faithful…….



What to eat while you run for over 8 hours ?

It’s now less than 4 weeks to my first 100k race ( ) and I feel I need to start to think about nutrition. I’m a big believer in the saying ‘an ultra is an eating and drinking competition with running between aid stations’. Basically it’s all about keeping the body hydrated and fuelled at all times. The fitness bit will take care of itself as I’m confident I have the foundation to complete the event. So I need to scour the internet  using google as my co-pilot and try and find the magic diet that will get me to the end of the race at a similar pace to what I started. Running an ultra it’s even more important to get the pacing right because unlike in a marathon where you hit the wall at 32k and then stumble home in an ultra you could be hitting the wall and looking at a 30k run to finish, minimum. That has got to hurt.

I posted an article last week about the human body being capable on running on just about anything and ice cream was mentioned as a possible fuel. (You should have seen Jon’s eyes light up when I mentioned this to him. It was like all his Christmas’s had come at once ! I see trouble ahead for Jon next month. He’ll probably end up spilling the ice cream all over his triathlon top, not a good look for the photos me thinks !) not totally convinced on the ice cream diet for my first 100k so have done some more digging.

I’ve attached two articles below on different approaches to the ultra diet by two greats on the ultra scene. Dean Karnazes and Scott Jurek are two of the best ultra runners on the circuit at the moment. Both have won the Badwater Ultra , considered to be the hardest ultra in the world, and both have different approaches to diet.

Myself I’m still an old fashioned carbohydrate junkie so will probably, in the short term, stick to what I know. Not to say in the near future I won’t be adapting my nutrition and when I do it’ll all be on the blog.



A look at the diet of Dean Karnazes, who once ran 50 marathons in 50 days and adheres to a mostly Paleo food intake.

Professional athletes don’t get to the top by accident. It takes superhuman levels of time, dedication, and focus—and that includes paying attention to what they put in their bellies. In this series, GQ takes a look at what pro athletes in different sports eat on a daily basis to perform at their best. Here’s a look at the daily diet of ultramarathon runner Dean Karnazes.

Running is the easiest sport to get into casually, because all you need are shoes and legs. As a result, there’s a lot of lore and common wisdom about the ideal runner’s diet: Everyone knows that the night before a big run—whether you’ve signed up for a 5k or a full-on marathon—you’re supposed to carbo-load on stuff like diavolo pasta, brown rice, or buckwheat pancakes.

Well… supposed to. “That’s so passé,” says Dean Karnazes.

Karnazes, 52, is an ultramarathoner who ran 350 miles—or a little less than the distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco—in 80 hours and 44 minutes; completed 50 regular, 26-mile marathons in 50 days; and wrote Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner. Come September, he’ll be hosting the third annual Navarino Challenge, a marathon in Greece meant to raise awareness of childhood obesity. And in the last 20 years of professionally being someone who runs very, very far, Karnazes has transitioned to a mostly raw diet that upends a lot of conventional wisdom about what runners need to eat to perform.

On a good day I run a marathon before breakfast.

“I used to live on junk food, thinking that since you burn 30- to 40,000 calories on some of these runs, you need to get as many calories as you can no matter how you get them in.” One time, on the solo leg of a 200-mile relay run, in the middle of the night with a cell phone and a credit card, Karnazes ordered a pizza delivered to him and kept running while he ate the whole thing in a big roll.

His running times never suffered from his diet, but his daily energy levels fluctuated wildly, so he started experimenting with different foods to see how they affected his recovery time and how they made him feel. “When you push your body that hard you get a feel for what builds you up and what slows you down.”

That intuitive elimination process led him to a diet that’s pretty close to the Paleo Diet, based on the idea that humans aren’t meant to eat anything they can’t pick from a tree, pull from the ground, or kill themselves. Karnazes’s diet isn’t as bacon-heavy as most Paleo-enthusiasts. Instead it’s heavy on fruits (VERY heavy on fruits), vegetables, cold-water fish, and yogurt. If he has any meat, it’s organic, free-range bison, usually so lightly cooked that it’s practically tartare.

The absence of oatmeal and pre-run waffles may cause skepticism, but the fact that Karnazes’s diet is enough fuel to just get him through his workouts, let alone his monster runs, is a pretty strong argument for its effectiveness. When gearing up for a big run he eats 8,000 to 10,000 calories a day. He starts with a base of 3,200 calories, and then adds 300-500 calories per hour of running.

His only real meals are yogurt at breakfast, sometimes flavored with oregano, often with fruit and nuts, and a very large dinner of salad, vegetables, and fish or bison. Most of his carbohydrates come from fruit, which Karnazes eats throughout the day whenever he’s hungry (“I think the notion of three meals a day is rubbish”). And—surprise!—he’s hungry often.

“On a good day I run a marathon before breakfast,” he says, starting off with nothing more than coffee and flax milk. After the three-and-a-half to four-hour run, he waits over half an hour to eat anything else, letting his body adjust to powering itself just on fat reserves.

The rest of the day is constant motion. Not only are there several modified high intensity Navy SEAL workouts (push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, dips, and burpees) and eight to 12 miles of sprinting up hills and jogging back down, but Karnazes rarely sits. His office space is designed to work at standing-level and he’s rocking on the balls of his feet all the time, never letting his legs rest. He is almost physically incapable of staying still.

Like a hummingbird? I wonder aloud.

“Kind of like a shark,” he says.

Pre-morning run
Coffee with flax milk

Post-morning run
Greek-style yogurt (full fat, no sugar added) with cashews, banana and blackberries

Eaten over the course of the day

Food and hydration for long runs
Nut butter
Unflavored coconut water

Large mixed green salad with avocado, olive oil, ground ginger and turmeric
Raw beets
Cooked sweet potato (the one vegetable eaten cooked)
Wild-caught sashimi grade salmon

Greek-style yogurt (full fat, no sugar added), topped with olive oil and Himalayan blue sea salt



This Man Ran the Entire Appalachian Trail in 46 Days. Here’s What He Ate Along the Way


Can feeling this bad be good for you ?

This morning I have the classic onset of DOMS after my 6 inch ultra adventure on Sunday. DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness) is your bodies way of reminding you you just did something very silly. (This is of course different to your mind which is still stoked after the previous weekends exploits and looking forward to the next beating.) I find DOMS comes on strongest on my second or third run after a marathon and today was my third recovery run after a double up yesterday and a day off Monday.

As I hobbled into my morning run, and it was a hobble, I realised I was certainly walking a tight rope where the benefit of the morning run was more for my sanity than my running fitness well being. I could have just as easily hit the snooze button on my alarm , rolled over and went back to sleep. Of course I would have missed running my favourite 10k for the 199th time ( thanks Strava.) and a biblical sunrise over Star Swamp but as for doing me good I would probably argue the snooze option was the better one.

There has been numerous studies showing after a marathon doing nothing for a week is probably as good as recovery runs. The snooze option is also safer as you avoid the risk of injury as you roll over and get some more sleep, which is another benefit as more sleep helps your body recover. Typing this I wonder what the hell I was doing running this morning ! The answer is of course because we are runners we like to run, even when we know the right thing to do is rest and recover. We kid ourselves these slow runs are doing us some good even when the legs are screaming in protest. It’s the same when we have to taper and of course hits us worst when we are injured.

I have been working hard on adding distance since June this year and even pre 6inch gave away the normal easy week pre-race and ran eight times for 82k before the race on Sunday. I justified this as the ADU (Australia Day Ultra ) is my goal race at the moment and the 6 inch was to be a long run with friends. Of course when the gun went off it was on for young and old and I ended up running a 4min PB and racing the event. (As if that was never gong to happen!) On the bright side it did get me another good week of distance (130k) and some serious ‘pain box’ time , which is all good. Downside, my legs are complaining more than Hilary Clintons supporters after the American election at the moment with a huge case of DOMS.

Anyhow after searching the internet I actually found an article that advocates DOMS as a good thing rather than just a side effect of a good beating a few days previous. Google was very generous on this subject and offered another good article from ( ) which also was worth a read, so go get yourself a cuppa and a chocolate digestive, settle down and digest these articles.


An article from Runners World on Why Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is a Good Thing. By MacKenzie Loddy.
Whether it’s caused by mile repeats at 7,000 feet, a brutal long run before the upcoming Houston Marathon, or digging out from under 16 feet of snow in Mammoth, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) has yet to evade anyone who engages in physical activity. The discomfort associated with DOMS usually materializes 24 hours post-exercise and lasts anywhere between two and four days. When your legs hurt immediately after a marathon, it’s not DOMS. However, when you roll out of bed the next morning and find yourself unable to descend the front steps to retrieve the morning paper, you’re experiencing DOMS.

As a result of the fact that nearly every athlete has experienced this type of soreness, much research has been devoted to the prevention and treatment of this side effect. Massage, microtherapy, icing, hyperbaric oxygen treatment, fish oil and i.Tonic whole body vibration are just a few methods that have been tried with varying degrees of success.

While the silver bullet to avoiding DOMS has yet to be identified, several methods have been shown to be more effective in lessening soreness and encouraging optimal recovery. Probably to the surprise of no one, it all relies on smart training.

Where does DOMS originate?

According to Dr. David J. Szymanski, assistant professor and the director of the Applied Physiology Laboratory at Louisiana Tech University, there is currently a lot of misinformation floating around about DOMS — namely, the assertion that the accumulation of lactic acid causes it. While DOMS results from new, higher intensity workouts and an increase in lactate comes along with such activity, the soreness felt the next morning is not related. “That lactate concentration will go back down to resting levels within 20–40 minutes after exercise,” says Dr. Szymanski, who has studied the subject extensively. “Because of that, the pain that somebody associates with delayed onset muscle soreness 24–72 hours later cannot be because of that lactate that was built up while they were running.”

He contends that lactate does cause soreness during or immediately after exercise, and can end up decreasing performance if the athlete can’t clear it. However, the deferred discomfort has nothing to do with that process. Higher intensity workouts that you are not accustomed to, like hill repeats or intervals on the track, are often the culprits of DOMS. The eccentric component of exercise, in particular, can damage the integrity of the muscle cell membrane. This micro trauma creates tiny micro tears in the muscle fibers, which leads to inflammation, and thus soreness, fatigue, stiffness and reduced range of motion

Treating and preventing DOMS

Although the cool-down has long been touted as the main tool in a runner’s arsenal to combat muscle soreness by flushing out lactic acid (which is still important), research suggests that the warm-up is more important to reducing DOMS. One of the world’s leading researchers on the subject, Dr. Priscilla Clarkson of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has demonstrated how important it is to get out and warm up before competition. By increasing the muscle temperature by 1 degree Celsius before eccentric training, the amount of muscle soreness experienced by athletes is noticeably reduced.

“If you already have the muscle warmed up and prepared, it is better able to handle the activity,” explains Dr. Szymanski. “Before a race, you need to lubricate the joints, ligaments and tendons so your body is better prepared for what’s coming next.”

He also identifies the “repeated bout effect” as a method by which DOMS symptoms can be ameliorated. While the term may be foreign, the concept is far from rocket science. For instance, the Boston Marathon is known to be brutal on the quads as a result of its many downhills. To prepare for this, a runner should train on downhills the few months leading up to the race. “The more times you repeat the activity, the less pain you’ll feel because your body will continually adapt to it,” explains Dr. Szymanski. “Keep doing this multiple times and your body will say, ‘No big deal. What else you got for me?’” Physiologically speaking, the body recovers and rebuilds, and with each passing week, is less fazed by the hills.

While this is a good way to avoid continued DOMS from the same types of workouts, it doesn’t mean you should simply train your body to withstand one form of training. It’s about building on your workouts week after week and training your body to withstand more. Dr. Szymanski explains: “We have what are called chronic adaptations. Once you do a specific amount of training for a certain length of time, your body will be able to handle it. That’s why training plans help you gradually progress.”

Perhaps the best news is the fact that delayed onset muscle soreness isn’t all bad. “Although DOMS is associated with something negative, it’s actually a physiologically positive reaction,” says Dr. Szymanski. “Once your body is exposed to whatever made you sore, the next time your body will say, ‘I got it, I’ll protect you.’ It’s actually a beautiful thing.”

An article from by Roy Stevenson, MS, Exercise Physiologist

Muscle soreness and inflammation are some of the biggest nuisances for distance runners and unfortunately, many of the dubious treatments of these symptoms are based on all sorts of witchery and myth. Some of the treatments even exacerbate the soreness and prolong recovery. Runners can be a superstitious lot, and many continue to swear by certain ineffective treatments.

Since 1902, over 2,000 research studies have been conducted on various aspects of muscle damage, muscle soreness, inflammation and potential recovery treatments for these afflictions. You’d think that with this impressive pile of studies we’d be closer to figuring out some sort of effective therapy for the symptoms, or better yet, some sort of preventative measures that would minimize or eliminate them. Well, take heart, sore runners, because we are getting closer to answering these important questions. First, let’s look at what causes delayed onset muscle soreness (known as DOMS), what the symptoms of muscle soreness and inflammation are, and the recommended treatments for reducing the pain from this affliction. I’ll finish with some recommendations on how to prevent or minimize your chances of being reduced to hobbling around like a stiff-legged duck, based on some promising recent research.

Causes of DOMS

It is very common for out-of-condition or beginning runners to experience DOMS. Its severity depends on how much and how intensely we exercise, and whether we have performed that exercise before. But it’s not just beginning runners who are susceptible to DOMS – even well-conditioned runners who’ve been training consistently for several years can experience DOMS after a race or vigorous training session, especially a lengthy downhill-running workout.

What specifically triggers muscle soreness are the high force eccentric contractions we experience when we take up unaccustomed exercise, run harder than usual, or downhill. Our leg muscles lengthen under high load or impact, while trying to contract or shorten – a lethal combination! Recent research shows that some people are high responders to eccentric exercise, meaning that their muscle damage and inflammatory markers remain excessively high for several days after running.

The effects of DOMS on muscle tissue look formidable when seen through an electron microscope. Traumatized muscle is a war zone! Your leg muscles are under siege after repeated eccentric contractions and the descriptions of the damage sound horrifying. Here are some of the main protagonists: disruption to the muscle sarcomere; breaching of cell membranes; swollen muscle fibers; wear and tear on connective tissues (ligaments and tendons); calcium spillage from muscle tubules; cell inflammation and increased production of superoxide free radicals;

We’ve all experienced the nasty symptoms of DOMS: dull, aching pain, soreness, tenderness, stiffness of muscles and joints, swelling, loss of strength, and reduced range of motion. Typically, symptoms appear 24 – 48 hours after we run, and peak between 24 and 72 hours. After five to seven days, DOMS has usually abated.

Over the years many treatments and interventions for muscle damage repair have been proposed and tried. Some “work” and some don’t, and you’ll be surprised at what the research shows.

What Doesn’t Reduce DOMS Symptoms

Stretching Surprisingly, the majority of studies that looked at the effects of stretching on DOMS have found that stretching before or after exercise does not alleviate DOMS, or that its effect is so small that it is not worth the time. My recommendation here would be that if you try stretching, make the stretches mild, and hold them for only a few seconds. If they aggravate your soreness, discontinue them.

Massage therapy Research suggests that massage is either ineffective or has only limited influence on DOMS, muscle repair and swelling. Its effects are minor or transitory.

Ultrasound Using ultrasound in physical therapy was found ineffective in reducing DOMS (Tiidus et al 1999).

Heat Above all, resist the temptation to apply heat in any form immediately after an ultramarathon or intense training session. Heat vasodilates (widens) the capillaries and arterioles, hastening the release of inflammatory substances into the muscle, thereby increasing swelling and inflammation. Sitting in a hot tub after a long run, no matter how tempting, exacerbates muscle damage.

What Might Reduce DOMS Symptoms

Much research into the hot topics of antioxidants and natural supplements is underway. Some substances being looked at are alpha-Tocopherol (vitamin E), Beta-Carotene, Ubiquinone, flavanoids, bromelain, Genistein, alpha-Lipoleic acid, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Glutathione, and Cysteine. In addition, there are enough kitchen ingredients thought to decrease inflammation to make a good curry: sage, black cumin, cinnamon, capsaicin, quercetin, turmeric, and ginger.

Most of these substances have no effect on DOMS, but a glimmer of hope shines through for vitamin C, D and E. Before you rush off to buy these supplements, consider the modest findings first. Although vitamin E has shown a reduction in cell leakage, thus far it shows no alleviation of DOMS symptoms. A Vitamin D supplement of 2,000 IU, twice daily, has been shown to alleviate muscle soreness, but only if Vitamin D levels are lower than 75 nmol/L. The Vitamin D Council has some interesting anecdotal evidence of its effectiveness, although this source is hardly likely to be objective.

Several promising research papers support the practice of ingesting a solution of mixed carbohydrate and protein immediately after our training and racing efforts to rebuild our muscle tissue.

What about homeopathic remedies? A natural anti-inflammatory preparation comprised of plant and mineral substances including St. John’s Wort, echinacea, belladonna, arnica, and chamomile, under the brand name Traumeel ©, was found in one study by Peter et al (2009) to reduce certain anti-inflammatory markers after running downhill on a treadmill for 90 minutes on a -6% gradient, but no mention in this study was made of perceived pain relief.

What Does Reduce DOMS Symptoms

Warm-up One study found that a ten-minute warm-up reduced DOMS a small amount 48 hours post-exercise, while a cool-down performed after strenuous eccentric exercise, surprisingly had no effect at all.

NSAIDs and other drug therapies Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have the benefit of relieving DOMS pain by blocking the production of prostaglandins, a compound that activates the inflammatory response in damaged muscle. However, bear in mind that several studies show that by doing this, NSAIDs actually delay the recovery process by impairing protein synthesis and muscle cell regeneration.

Currently, we think it is necessary for inflammatory cells to invade the injured muscle to control the tissue damage, so the muscle tissue can then be repaired. This needs to take place for the muscle to bounce back stronger and be more resistant to future encounters with DOMS.

However, if you are in extreme pain and hobbling around like the walking wounded, NSAIDs may be just what the doctor ordered. Thus, short-term use of NSAIDs or painkillers when the pain and soreness is unbearable may well be recommended, but the prudent runner will discuss this therapy with a sports medicine physician before popping NSAID pills like candy, especially in light of what I’m about to say about their side effects.

There is strong evidence that long-term use of NSAIDs can cause gastro-intestinal bleeding, stomach upset, ulcers, kidney problems, impaired blood clotting, and possible death with long term (greater than 90 days) use of NSAIDs. So if you must use them, take them with meals and monitor yourself for sharp stomach pain and distress that could indicate ulceration. And never, ever take NSAIDs before competition or training! They can mask pain signals and reduce blood flow to the kidneys, which is definitely not what you need during a race.

RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)

Rest, then light mobilization Temporary rest during the most acute phase of inflammation is indicated if the athlete is in severe pain. However, this is not an invitation for complete bed rest until the soreness has dissipated. Mobilization, or light exercise using the affected area, has been shown to reduce soreness to some extent. Some physical therapists recommend that when the pain has subsided to a manageable level, light exercise – such as walking on a soft surface (sawdust, dirt trails, or grass) will help disperse residual waste products. Then you can progress to several days of slow, easy running on soft surfaces. Use your own subjective pain and soreness to help decide when to resume normal training intensity and duration, somewhere around two to four weeks.

Ice. Cryotherapy (application of ice) has been found effective in pain reduction and limiting inflammation, presumably by limiting swelling through vasoconstriction of the capillaries and arterioles in the affected area. Ice also temporarily deadens the nerve endings, bringing temporary pain relief. Ice is most effective when the ice pack or “cold cup” is gently rubbed back and forth over the affected area for no longer than ten minutes; cold-water baths or showers can also be helpful.

Compression One study found that compression bandaging of the legs was more effective than massage. Moderate pressure bandaging of the calf and quadriceps muscle groups, with frequent bandage release to encourage blood to circulate, may help prevent swelling and pain.

How to Prevent DOMS in Distance Running Training Apart from using the modalities recommended above as preventative methods (warm-up, ice, compression, some antioxidants, and post-training carbohydrate/protein mixtures), stimulating DOMS to a minor degree in training will prepare the runner better for DOMS muscle trauma.

The Repeated Bout Effect This effect occurs when a bout of unaccustomed exercise (such as running downhill) gives a protective effect in subsequent running sessions of the same nature. This explains why, after recovering from muscle damage and soreness from a race or hard session, you recover faster, and experience less soreness and pain in subsequent workouts.

What can we learn from this to implement in our training programs? Start slowly and gradually allow your muscles time to adapt.

When beginning running, or coming back from a layoff, avoid strenuous eccentric muscle movements such as downhill running, until your muscles are ready for it.

After a month or two of steady running, while slowly increasing your distance and pace, include an occasional faster, more intense effort. Then hit it hard again after allowing yourself time to recover and adapt. Every two to four weeks, do a strenuous high-intensity or downhill workout again.

Studies indicate that higher intensity eccentric workouts designated for the repeated-bout effect do not even need to be maximal in quantity or quality, and can progress in small increments over more than two weeks. The repeated bout effect lasts from two weeks to ten weeks, so runners should include hard, long or downhill running sessions at least once or twice every month to retain the effects of this training phenomenon. By gradually increasing the intensity and duration of higher intensity workouts, you should avoid that painful zombie walk that accompanies severe DOMS.

Incorporate resistance training into your program. Using a different mode of eccentric exercise (such as weight-training) confers the repeated-bout effect. Thus runners, especially beginners, benefit greatly from a basic resistance-training program that starts several weeks before beginning a running program. The resistance-training program should involve the major muscle groups used in running: quadriceps group, calf muscle complex, and hamstring group.

Recovery after repeated-bout workouts You will need to determine how easily you run after these intense workouts by how you feel. It is unwise to set a prescribed workout schedule and stick rigidly to it because your body may need extra time for the inflammation and repair process to take place. The days following repeated bout workouts, either take the day off, or run very slowly, for a short period of time.

Warm up Perform five – ten minutes of general aerobic activity, such as jogging or cycling.

Run on soft surfaces as much as possible. Harder surfaces impart a higher impact, causing more muscle damage than running on soft surfaces.

Consider some form of cross-training at least once a week to give your leg muscles a break from impact. Cycling, swimming, deep-water running, elliptical trainer, Stairmaster or similar modes are ideal.

Roy Stevenson has a master’s degree in exercise physiology and coaching from Ohio University. He teaches exercise science at Seattle University in Washington State and has coached hundreds of serious and recreational runners and triathletes in the Seattle area. As a freelance writer, Roy has over 200 articles on running, triathlons, sports, fitness and health published in over fifty regional, national and international magazines in the U.S.A, Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.


Started running with friends as this photo proves. Photo by Ninja Photography..


Sometimes 6 inches is enough.


Today I ran the 6 inch ultra marathon ( ) for the 8th time in perfect conditions , or about as perfect as you can get for Perth in December. Rather than drive down from Perth on the morning of the race, which means a 1am alarm call as the race starts at 4:30am, we stayed locally so had a lie in until 2:50am, luxury. (I may have been woken a tad earlier thanks to Felix Meister as he was volunteering this year after setting a new course record of 62k last year, the course is officially measured at around 47.5k. I think it’s safer if Felix volunteers rather than runs. )  Dave Kennedy, the Race Director,  organises a finely tuned race which includes a bus from the check in point to the start and three aid stations crammed with goodies before a final smorgasbord of sandwiches and drink at the finish. (including alcohol, naughty Dave.) Even an esky to cool down with, but that’s a different story for another time.

The 6 inch is more about the comradery of running than a race itself.  Truth be told it seems all ultra-marathons and trail runs are similar. There is a togetherness that you will not find in marathons because I feel a marathon is more about personal time and goals where-as an ultra, or trail run, is about a community together trying to achieve the same goal, which is usually to finish. Time, although not totally irrelevant, is something just to measure how long you took on the course and not as a mark of achievement. The achievement was finishing and this is shared by all. At the end of an ultra all you hear is tales of the journey and not the time taken to complete the journey. Of course the front of the field pays some attention to position and time but on the whole it is all about the journey from the start to finish and the experiences embraced along the way.

Even now tying this post my mind is wandering back to some of the scenes on the trail yesterday. Running with good friends discussing all sorts of topics while moving forward towards an end goal, combined with some wonderful scenery and you start to see why some many runners move away from the sterile concrete world. It reminds me of the opening scene of the Wizard of Oz with Dorothy in Texas filmed in black and white before being taken, by a tornado, to the Land of Oz where the world is all of a sudden in Technicolor Colour. Maybe that was a tad over the top but yesterday I feel this analogy was justified. The morning sunrise through the trees really was that inspiring. Maybe I better look into buying some more trail shoes on sale this Christmas, the old Brooks ‘Pure Grit’, after 4 successful 6 inch runs are looking a tad worse for wear. Soon time to join my other 60 pairs of trainers in the garage in semi-retirement. That again is another story.

So back to the race. The start of the 6 inch is a 2k hill with some serious steep sections. You’ll be lucky to make 6min/k average for the first 2k, and that will put you at the front of the 330 runner field.  You seriously question whether you can make the full 47k distance after this 2k introduction. It does get easier, briefly. Overall the race is testing, and that’s putting it mildly. Being a trail race there are some serious rises together with some encouraging descents. The race itself takes about an hour longer that a ‘normal’ marathon distance, albeit the race is only 5k’s longer.  This shows how challenging the terrain is and what it can do to the unprepared runner. I was lucky enough to finish high up the field this year, a 7th place finish with a 4min course PB of 3hrs44mins. Other runners weren’t so ‘lucky’  with an 8 hour cutoff they cut if very fine. Running can be a cruel sport with the quickest (and thus normally fittest)  runners finishing first , the less ‘fit‘ runners (this is in italics because there could be a number of reasons for taking a little longer to finish)  are forced to spend more time running in conditions which can be really testing. Today I stayed at the finish line to cheer in the slower runners who had been ‘out on the course’ for anything between 4 hours to 8 hours. There is an 8 hours cutoff for the 6 inch but I think all the runners who were past the last aid point finished within this cut off, though I’m talking a few minutes for the last runners. Serious kudos to these guys.

I attached the Strava race report to highlight the start I described earlier in previous paragraph. Goldmine Hill is highlighted within the first 3k, thanks for that Dave. The escalator or elevator as it is called is at 37k and that, although very short, is a monster of a hill which is just about unrunable in both directions. (photo attached below) Admittedly it looks very minimal on the chart above but trust me it can break you if you are unprepared as you still have 10k to go if the legs give way and the last 10k, although not overally testing elevation wise, is slightly uphill for the most the way, and as it’s the last 10k it soon becomes a big deal !  On the 6 inch ultra it really is the person who slows down the least who wins or at least , in the last 10k, cuts through the field like a hot knife through butter. ( On a side note Jon fell into one of the ruts on this hill last year and never made it out until June, he never speaks of what went on in the dark recesses of that rutted hill but  as you will note later in this post he now drinks with both hands. )


6 inch race analysis, by Strava.




The Escalator or the Elevator or Meat Grinder. When a hill has three names you know it’s steep!


Todays race was, as I already mentioned,  ran in perfect conditions but it was more than the conditions which were memorable. The trails today shone in the natural first light as the sun rose for another summers morning. Running into the sunrise, at times, lit up the trail infront of you and it was a pleasure to be out there running with friends. The bib on your chest was a secondary afterthought at times as you turned another corner and marvelled at the wonders that presented themselves to you.


Turning the corner into another perfect scene framed by the morning sunlight.


Highlights of the day was most of the BK running posse running the event and all having a great run. Jon managed a sub 4 hour run for the second year on the trot and instantly started drinking in preparation for the Australia Day Ultra in a months time. I tried to convince him I had read on the internet that beer has been proved not to be any good for carboloading but he ignored me and just said he’d start drinking twice as much just to be on the safe side. I’m not sure his logic is sound myself, we’ll find out in a month I suppose.

Jon carboloading hard !

Another highlight was ‘Barts’ get his ‘red spike’ for completing six 6 inch ultramarathons, in the picture below shown with the Race Director Dave Kennedy, a three times winner of the event. That’s over 24 hours and nearly 300km’s of trail running for one red spike, that people is a good deal.  There is some contention about this award and Barts has an asterix next to this name in the all time excel finishers sheet but that is something only Jon knows about.

Barts and his red spike…

Finally no 6 inch finish is complete without the head in the esky shot. Unfortunately this year I left my head in the esky too long and ended up burning my forehead. Lesson learnt for next year, maybe , and there will be a next year I promise you that as I’m missing my trail fix already, somebody get me to a tree quickly I need a hug.

6 inch esky shot…don’t leave your head in there too long or you get burnt.




You need friends to run further, even unplanned.

This morning it was meant to be an easy 10k as the last run pre-6 inch ultra marathon on Sunday. As Thursday is normally a progressive run day and we normally run 14k, starting at 5:30am outside Yelo thus finishing at 6:30am when Yelo opens,  it was decided to start 10 minutes later and slow the pace and shorten the distance. If all went to plan we would run for 50 minutes at 5min/k pace and be back ay Yelo for the 6:30am opening, as per usual.

Off we went,  myself and ‘Marky’ Mark Lommers meeting with with Mike Kowal after the first kilometre before being joined by Mark Lee who had been running a Fartlek but decided to slow down the pace for company. The four of us headed south for the planned 5k before turning to complete the morning 10k. As always with our group the banter was fast, relentless and amusing. That’s the good thing about company the time just disappears and before we knew it we were 6k into our run, unfortunately with all the banter I had lost track of distance and 6k into the run would have been fine if we had turned a kilometre ago, we hadn’t.

Thus my 50 minute, 10k run was now going to be at least a 12k run and nowhere near the 50 minute time allowed to get back to Yelo for opening. I blame Mark Lee myself but I’m sure he’d say the same thing about me. That is the point, the four of us were having such a laugh we forgot all about distance and time, just ran with good friends having a great time, well I was anyway. This is the point of the post, friends really do make running seem easier and actually a more enjoyable experience all round. It gets even better as you get to sit down with them afterwards , over a muffin/pancakes and good coffee and ‘chew the fat’ for an hour. How good is that ? I can never understand how people say running is ‘boring’, they obviously haven’t spent anytime with my group of runners, we are many things but boring ain’t one of them.

It gets even better on the Sunday long runs as we have 2 hours to kill and the banter is again normally continuous, like a tsunami of useless facts (and fiction) or putting the world to right. The topics can be humorous or thought provoking but never dull. Lately the state of American politics has been a constant source of amusement and on a couple of occasions the run itself has vanished in a blink of an eye as we discuss the merits of a Donald Trump led superpower (How did that ever happen, it’s a joke right ?)  Admittedly towards the end of the run, when you have the normal last 5k pace pick up as you smell the coffee (literally),   conversation can temporarily stop as all energy is reserved for keeping up with your fellow runners and not coming in last for fear of verbal retribution over the obligatory pancakes, or maybe banished to the table of shame.

Friends will also keep you honest. Apparently some people find it hard to get out of bed in the morning and go for a run. (go figure?)  Meeting a friend will give the extra impudence to make an effort and actually get out of bed and go meet them. (There is the Mark Lee card of course, though give Mark his due there’s always a valid excuse for not turning up, normally involving alien abduction, Lord Lucan, bears or the like…) Also if you are going to run fast go alone but if you want distance I highly recommend friends. I love my running (you may have gathered that already.) but a long run alone can test even me. As I mentioned earlier in the post a good conversation can last for miles.

Working towards a common goal is another benefit of finding like minded people. Every year my group and I train for the same marathons and ultra’s. The ADU in January ( Bunbury in April (for Jon,, Perth in June (  , City to Surf in August,( ), Rottnest in October  ( ) and finally the 6 inch ultra in December. ( ) Add in a smattering of half marathons and shorter distance and you’ve always got a lift to the race and a partner to warm up with and then normally discuss the race with afterwards. Joined together by a common goal and bond. Wow, this post is getting deep.

Finally if you are really keen you can all get together and form your own club and then buy tops so you all look the same. Now that is living….

The St. Georges Terrace Running club.