August 2017

42nd time lucky or how to pace a marathon, finally.

 

After 42 marathons I finally get it right.

 

The Perth City to Surf Marathon was my 42nd marathon and first this year after my calf tear in March. With only 7 weeks training since the injury I really was putting my sub3 streak on the line but was confident I could make it. In the last few weeks of my 7 week training block I could feel some form coming back and decided that on the day I would go out with Jon and Mark and hang on for as long as possible at 4min/k average pace. This was probably way too fast but I figured if I could get to half way in around  1 hour 25 minutes it would give me 1 hour 35 minute to get to the finish, a nice 10 minute positive split.

The day was perfect and as expected I managed to run with the boys to half way and went through in 1 hour 24 minutes and change. The race then enters Kings Park and as you can see from the graphic above there’s a few hills, two good size ones to be exact. I managed to negotiate these and move out of Kings Park unscathed. I have ran this marathon the last eight years and if you can come out of Kings Park strong the last 10k isn’t that bad. This year the organisers put on perfect conditions and even supplied a tail wind for the last 10k. This was embraced and I was caressed home maintaining the 4min/k , or thereabouts. average pace. I finished in 2 hours 49 minutes and 23 seconds according to the offical timing, just about a perfect split considering the second half contains more hills than the first. So for the first time in probably 42 marathons I may have finally ran the perfect paced race.

The splits ,above from Strava, (remember ‘life is Strava, the rest is details’, http://www.strava.com ) show my 5k splits as 21.10, 19.45, 20.13, 20.04, 20.54, 20.50, 20.00, 21.11. This has got to be my best paced marathon ever so have I finally found the answer to running marathons ? Probably not, I may have been underdone but with perfect conditions and a tail wind maybe, just maybe, I had something left in the tank. That is a big maybe because all marathon runners, when reflecting on the race, feel they could have gone harder but , trust me, at the time it was a whole different story. I think with experience comes the ability to know what is coming and prepare mentally for the ‘pain train’ heading your way at around the 32k (20 mile) mark. Experience may allow the mind to release the ‘central governor‘  enough to make the last third of a marathon a tad more bearable. (Google Tim Noakes and the Central Governor theory) I, like Noakes, believe we are capable of so much more but are restricted by the mind to protect the body. This way we don’t all run to exhaustion and blow a head gasket resulting in a seized engine, you get the picture. The mind puts on the hand brake using fatigue and slows us down, bringing down the heart rate and protecting the body from any damage. Can we release the central governor, I believe we can, just a little but enough to make the second half , and more importantly the last 10k, of a marathon bearable and dare I say enjoyable (in a masochistic type way ?) 

So do you have to run 42 marathons to get to this stage in your marathon running career, hell no ! Mark C. went through halfway with me and then finished in 2:48.42; an even better split and it was only his 4th marathon. Mark though is well read in the way of the mental toughness needed to complete marathons and has digested many Matt Fitzgerald books in his short career. He even brought a tailored Fitzgerald plan for the Perth Marathon and this helped him to a 2 hour 55 minute finish, right on the button. We discussed this race and he admitted he felt he dropped the ball in the last 10k and let himself down mentally when he could have ran faster. As I said earlier all marathon runners put themselves though this ‘what if‘ conversations but on the day I’m sure most leave nothing in the tank. Mark was determined to put his mental demons to bed in the City to Surf and with the help of another Fitzgerald book about mental toughness he achieved his goal. Mark learned quickly about the mental side of running, it look me ten times the amount of marathons and probably 7 years longer, never said I was the ‘brightest cookie in the cookie jar’ ‘(Is that even a saying? I think it may be but really , intelligent cookies , sorry people but that is dumb? I digress….)  A good read on mental toughness is “How bad do you want it” by Matt Fitzgerald, it worked for Mark and I enjoyed reading it. I have read a lot of Matt’s books and have never been disappointed.  Can reading alone make you mentally tough, sorry no, as with all things running you also need to put in the hard years. Training and mental toughness combined produce results, you need both to succeed. That’s running , there’s no short cuts just short courses. Right,  the Rottnest Marathon is calling, marathon number 43, can I produce another perfect paced marathon, probably not but that’s not the point really is it?

 

In Matt we trust…

 

 

 

Matt Fitzgerald wins by a muffin.

As I mentioned in my last post this years Perth City to Surf Marathon was shaping up as a straight fist fight, bigger than Mayweather and  McGregor, between the general consensus of running diets being carbohydrate focused, to the new pretender, albeit from last century, citing high fat and low carbs, the Banting diet.  In one corner was Mark ‘extra maple syrup please’ Conway and the other Jon ‘ hold the bread and add bacon’ Pendse. It was gong to be a beauty and I couldn’t miss the main event so , against my better judgment, I decided to run with the boys and watch the fight unfold.

Both Mark and Jon had ran the Perth Marathon in June with Mark just edging that by a few minutes but it was decided for, the show down, it was a straight race to the line. They both has sub 2:50 in their sights with Mark targeting the next step on his road to running greatness a sub 4min/k average for a marathon, 2:48:48. Jon was setting his sights a little lower on a sub 2:50 but on the day they would start together and run together and what would be would be.

So at 6am off we charged from Perth’s CBD to the surf at City Beach, via Nedlands and Kings Park. The route is a new one and the organisers have found a few extra hills but overall I loved the new course. The perfect weather conditions helped as everything looks better bathed in Winter  sunshine with a tail wind caressing you home.

The first half of the marathon Jon and I ran with two other runners with Mark a few hundred metres behind us. We cruised along at 4min/k pace which was probably faster than I wanted to go but as I said earlier I had a ring side seat to the biggest fight, in my view, of the day and it only cost me $130 for a marathon entry fee, and the best part was I got to run a marathon and got a medal at the end. (Maybe Mayweather and McGregor might take this onboard for their rematch, there will be a rematch right? With Mayweather earning $111k a second for a 10 round sparing match you’d have thought he’d go again? )

At the half way stage and just before we got into Kings Park Mark , fuelled by a carboshotz no doubt, made his move and me and Jon were dropped like a bad habit. Although Jon and I didn’t slow and actually dropped the two other runners in the group we let Mark go as there was still over 20k to go to the finish and as everybody knows a marathon is a 32k warm-up and a 10k foot race to the finish. We had plenty of time to reel in Mark once he carbohydrate fuelled body ran out of fuel and he hit the wall, just a matter of time. Funnily enough a few kilometres later the Banting pin-up boy started to drop off the pace and I was left alone between the two of them.

For this marathon, being the first since a three month lay off for a calf tear, I was entering unknown territory, without the long runs in my training block,  pre-race. I was not confident of how the last 10k would go. As it was my splits show I just about ran a perfect split between the first and second half, nearly a perfect paced race. I put this down to mental toughness from experience, sometimes age can be a bonus. As Jon loves to quote ‘ the person who slows down the least wins marathons’.

Perth City to Surf 5k splits.

After I left Jon I kept Mark in sight, albeit a long way in the distance and he stayed there till the last hill when he started to come back to me. This was a temporary drop off in pace and he pushed on for a 2:48:42 (13th overall) , leaving him 6 seconds to spare for the infamous 2:48:48 required time. I cruised in behind him, hamming it up for the finishing shots, for a 2:49:23 (14th overall)  , a time I had no right to claim but sometimes ‘magic happens’. (I wrote a post about that once . ) Jon finished strong for a 2:51 and a 16th place. So there you have it Matt Fitzgerald 1, Banting Diet 0, we are now all safe to go back to eating muffins, pancakes and pasta and Matt Fitzgerald can continue to preach to the converted. ( https://mattfitzgerald.org/)  Jon was not convinced by the result and begrudgingly admitted defeat but he wouldn’t go down without a fight citing improvement times from previous marathons rather than the result of the marathon distance on the day. He is still convinced the Banting diet is the way to go but the Judges scorecards read a different story. Unlike the Mayweather and McGregor fight there will be a rematch between these two sometime soon so I’ll keep you all posted.

 

Nike Vaporflys 4%.

I broke a few rules for this marathon. Running way too fast for my training block, wearing a new ‘Front Runners’ singlet that was probably a tad tight and the biggest sin of all , new shoes for race day. My Nike Vaporflys 4% turned up on Tuesday but due to work and family commitments I never got the chance to test them out prior to the big day. (How does this happen !?) This was a massive risk but I hoped with all the positive reviews there wouldn’t be a problem and losing toe nails is part of marathon running right ? (In the end I would lose two.) So the first time they were used in anger was Sunday morning. I am happy to report they passed the test with flying colours. They really do do what they say on the box and then some. Admittedly they are expensive but what price can you put on a finishing time improved by minutes and a comfortable ride to-boot, priceless (well actually $350 Australian dollars)  I’ll give a full report in another post but as a parting comment regarding these shoes, quoting Nike, should you buy a pair, ‘Just Do It!’…

 

 

Weapons of mass destruction.

When you run these events you need to do it in company with runners who have shared the pain that is needed to put in a good showing on race day. Brothers-in-arms (and pancakes normally) who know what it takes to get the start line in shape for the challenge ahead and the sheer determination that is needed to get to the finish.  The experiences shared in training and running marathons is unique to us runners and non-runners would not understand.  This is what makes the time at the end of the marathon as precious as all that has come before it. Sharing the experience of the day over a muffin and coffee (or a bacon sandwich with no bread for Jon?) is as important and, certainly as enjoyable, as the race itself.  (Well for me anyway?) The photo below shows the lads all smiling like Cheshire Cats decked out in their new bling basking in the glory of their achievements, a wondrous feeling trust me. Please note:  Mike only ran the 12k so is not decked out in bling due to an injury. Also Mark L. is portraying more of a grimace rather than smile as he ran just over 3 hours (his target) on a potentially short course, this is on par with Mike’s 1:30+ at the Fremantle half, both times hard to stomach.

 

A bunch of happy marathon runners bar Mark L. and Mike…

 

Faster running without running, sounds too good to be true?

Although runners have less opportunities to increase pace without actually putting in the hard yards there are limited options to increase your race pace and bring down your finishing time. Of course we are not offered the easy options experienced and embraced by cyclists. While running long on Sunday we were once again passed by a ‘gaggle’ of cyclists freewheeling down a hill merrily chit-chatting away, cocooned in lycra, and excited about another stop for frothy light frappacino’s and banana bread. As runners we can’t free wheel, when we run downhill we actually have to run downhill, funny that ? We can’t spend thousands of dollars on Zip Wheels, silly helmets or extra-extra light carbon-fibre bikes to shave a  few minutes of our finishing time. Admittedly there is the Nike Vaporflys 4% now available which offer a 4% improvement in running economy but that is about all us runners can hope to achieve without doing the extra hard yards, or is it ? ( I have attached a review of the Vaporflys at the end of this post from http://www.roadtrailrun.com . I have mine and will be testing them tonight, very excited !!)

So how do runners gain that few extra seconds without training more or harder. I’ve added a list of things below which are guaranteed to improve your finishing time and you don’t even have to lace up your runners

Race shoes on race day. Sounds obvious right, you train in comfortable, high heel, extra padded trainers which help with the constant pounding you subject yourself to while you train. On race day though you can add a turbo-charger by bringing out the race shoes, lighter, less forgiving but a race-only treat. These race shoes make you feel like you’ve been running in concrete , or Kayano’s as I like to call that feeling, and as well as a placebo effect, they also make the whole running process easier due to good old fashioned physics, less weight attached to the end of your legs. I’m lucky that I can run marathons in racing flats and have used Asics Piranha’s, Adidias Takumi Sen3, Nike LunaRacers  and Saucony Kinvara’s on a number of occasions. All these are light , around 210g , compared to a ‘training’ shoe like the Asics Kayano which is about 326g. So my first tip to shave those seconds (or even minutes) off your time is to find your favourite shoe manufacturer racing version of your everyday runner

A free turbo-charger .

Taper properly. One of the hardest thing for a runner is to stop running just before a goal race. It is counter-intuitive to stop doing what you love to do and, paranoid as all runners are, you grapple with the ‘I’ll lose my fitness’ argument that always rages as you taper towards the big day.  Well I’m here to tell you that the week before the marathon (we’re doing a marathon right?) there is nothing you can do to add to your fitness levels, all you can do it too much.  Thus you could do nothing all week and this would actually help towards your finish time. Of course no runner can do nothing, especially with a marathon on the horizon. I generally run a 10k Tuesday and Thursday of marathon week and that’s it. Twenty kilometres in a week (bar the 42k on Sunday of course) when I’m use to running 6-8 times that. How do I do it ? Easy, I tell myself that I am improving my finish time for every day I don’t run and also with the experience of running 41 marathons I know this is a tried and tested method that works for me. When I first started running I use to taper for three weeks before the big day and I look back now and I’m amazed I even finished. A good week of tapering may be extended to two at a push (assuming you put in good numbers in training) but three weeks is too many for me. I’m more of a ‘aggressive two week taper’ rather than a gradual three week taper. As with all things running though you need to find the ideal fit for you and that comes with experience but the last week doing little or nothing is a guaranteed finish time improver

Carboload well, some pass me a muffin ! Running is an unforgiving mistress, she (she is a she isn’t she ?) insists you train hard, eat right, get up early, miss family time and spend quality time in the pain box on a regular basis. For three days before a marathon though she relents and turns into your best friend EVER. This is because she allows you to carboload to improve your finishing time. Hallelujah , for three days you get to eat just about as much carbohydrates as you can physically stomach. I use the 10g of carbs per kilogram of body weight , per day for three days before the marathon. For me this equates to 700g of carbs a day. Trying to eat 700g of quality carbs a day is actually very hard and you need to be careful you don’t add too much sugar into the mix or you and the bathroom scales are going to fall out big time. For me I aim for a toast for breakfast,  pasta meal every evening, orange juice and electrolytes, honey on toast (probably twice a day), yoghurt, bananas  and more pasta for lunch. This gets me to around the 700g I need. Very few runners actually make the right mix of carbohydrates to protein and the other major food groups, they either fall short on the carbohydrate count or add too much sugar (assuming a ‘if  looks good I can eat it mentality’) This can lead to weight gain (rather than the ‘good’ weight gain due to more water in the last few days. This also needs to be addressed, you should be ‘peeing’ clear the three days before a marathon as you hydrate before the big day.)

Got to love marathon training for the last 3 days, pass me a muffin !

 

 

Of course there is the one day carboload for runners who feel that three days of gorging on carbs makes them feel bloated, heavy and generally lethargic.  Dr. Paul Fournier from The Conversation published this post on the subject below:-

During the London Olympics, and beyond, many endurance athletes will attempt to increase their muscle glycogen stores by carbohydrate loading. This is because, despite its importance, glycogen is a fuel present only in small amounts in skeletal muscles and can be rapidly depleted during prolonged intense aerobic exercise, thus causing fatigue.

Unfortunately, many athletes aiming to increase their glycogen stores find this aspect of their preparation challenging. It is thus important to remind them that nearly a decade ago my colleagues and I developed some carbohydrate loading regimens to make this task easier.

Six-day regimen

Close to the end of the 1960s, a team of scientists from Northern Europe introduced a carbohydrate loading regimen that resulted in a near two-fold increase in muscle glycogen stores.

treehouse1977

This regimen involved a glycogen-depleting bout of exercise followed by three days of a carbohydrate-poor diet. Another bout of exercise was then performed to deplete once more the stores of muscle glycogen.

For the next three days the athletes were asked to eat a carbohydrate-rich diet and to avoid any strenuous physical activity.

As one would expect, despite its benefits, this regimen was difficult to tolerate and highly impractical, particularly for athletes wishing to train during the carbohydrate-deprivation phase of this regimen.

Three-day regimen

It is in part for this reason that nearly 30 years ago, Sherman and colleagues introduced an improved carbohydrate-loading regimen that resulted in comparable increases in muscle glycogen levels, but without the disadvantages associated with the classical regimen.

These investigators found that the accumulation of high levels of muscle glycogen is possible without any glycogen-depletion phase.

Emily Barney

All that is required is for athletes to taper their training over several days and rest on the day before competition while ingesting a carbohydrate-rich diet for three days prior to competing.

Unfortunately, even this three-day carbohydrate loading regimen was difficult to adhere to given the large amounts of carbohydrate that needed to be ingested over several consecutive days.

For this reason, nearly a decade ago my colleagues and I at UWA undertook to develop an improved carbohydrate-loading regimen that allows the attainment of maximal muscle glycogen levels within a shorter time period.

One-day regimen

As a result, we introduced two novel one-day long carbohydrate loading regimens (published here and here).

Since the rates of muscle glycogen synthesis are generally higher during recovery from a short bout of high intensity exercise than during recovery from prolonged exercise of moderate intensity, we examined whether combining a short bout of high intensity exercise with a one day high-carbohydrate intake could provide a faster way to carbohydrate load.

To this end, we asked a group of participants to cycle for 150 seconds at 130% of their maximal aerobic capacity followed by a 30-second all-out sprint. For the next 24 hours, we fed them the equivalent of 10 grams of carbohydrate-rich food per kilo of body mass.

To our surprise, after only 24 hours their muscle glycogen stores increased to levels comparable to or higher than those reported in previous studies on carbohydrate loading.

foodiesathome.com

One limitation with this regimen is that many endurance athletes may not wish to perform three minutes of intense exercise on the day before competing. Ideally, it would be better if they could accumulate as much glycogen within one day but without a glycogen-depleting exercise bout.

Sherman and colleagues had shown it was possible without a glycogen-depleting period of exercise to store maximal amounts of muscle glycogen if a carbohydrate-rich diet was adopted for three days while tapering exercise-training.

We examined whether this approach could work in endurance-trained athletes fed the equivalent of 10 g of carbohydrate-rich food per kilo of body mass while remaining physically inactive for a whole day.

We found that muscle glycogen stores reach maximal levels within only one day of starting this regimen, with no added benefits by extending the high-carbohydrate intake period for up to three days.

In other words, all that is required of our endurance athletes who trained regularly and want to carbohydrate load before competing is simply to interrupt their training for one day and eat the equivalent of 10 grams of carbohydrate-rich food (e.g. pasta, bread, rice, potatoes) per kilo of body mass during that day.

Simply, the best

To the best of our knowledge, no better carbohydrate loading regimen has been published since then, but many athletes still rely on earlier regimens.

Our carbohydrate loading protocol sounds simple, and it is simple – but it works.

 

A good review of the Nike Vaporflys 4%, basically save up your pennies and buy a pair when they become available, nuff said !

 

Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% Detailed Breakdown and First Run and Race Impressions Review: Sensational, A Game Changer

The Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% ($250) is the non customized version of the shoe worn by Eliud Kipchoge at the recent Breaking 2 attempt where he ran the fastest (unofficial) marathon time of 2:00.25. It was worn by both the men’s and women’s winners of the 2017 Boston Marathon.

The Vaporfly 4% is the product of extensive bio mechanics and materials research as part of the goal of  Nike’s goal of breaking 2 hours in the marathon, the 4% representing Nike estimate of the potential improvement  in running economy, with individual runners varying up or down from the shoes. Added to running economy are the ideal training, course conditions and nutrition required to break the magic barrier.
Stats
Official Nike weight: 6.5 oz/184 g size 10, equivalent to approx. 6.2 oz size 9
My production pair in US size 8.5 weighed 6.56 oz /186 g, so a size 9 would weigh approx. 6.8 oz.
-approx.1.6 oz/145 g less weight than Zoom Fly)
Stack height: 31mm heel/21 mm forefoot, 10mm drop.
-2mm less stack heel and forefoot than Zoom Fly)

RoadTrailRun first tried on a single VaporFly 4% at the Boston Marathon here, tested and reviewed the heavier, “similar” Zoom Fly ($150) here and now have had a chance to take a first run in a pair of our own.
Unlike the Zoom Fly, with nearly identical stack heights and midsole geometry, the lighter weight (by approx. 1.6 oz), Vaporfly with its soft and bouncy ZoomX Pebax midsole foam and full carbon plate provided me in my first test run a similar but far more cushioned, responsive, shock free and fluid ride than the Zoom Fly.
The Vaporfly 4% is far more forgiving on the legs than the Zoom Fly and for sure the Zoom Streak 6, easier on the legs is part of the Breaking 2 goal of getting runners to the marathon’s later stages with something left.
Time will tell as to durability of all these new materials but I would not hesitate to not only race but do all faster workouts in them.

First Run
I struggled at faster than my marathon paces in the Zoom Fly but not at all in VaporFly. While of course I was excited to try them, my 4 mile run at 6800 foot altitude on a fairly hilly course with lots of sun and temperatures above 85 F was a solid 15-20 seconds per mile faster than I would have expected for the effort, coming in at 8:17 pace.  It was my second run of the day, the first being a slower 4 mile run. The only place I struggled was on a very steep 600 meter hill, the stiffness of the carbon fiber plate, the Vaporfly being a completely flex free shoe in the conventional sense, requiring knee lift and drive something I do not have.  I walked away from the workout with fresh legs but a touch of soreness in the achilles.

First Impressions and Fit

  • Impossibly light and yet highly cushioned.
  • Step in is soft and slipper like, a bit squishy up front.
  • The “falling forward” I felt when I first tried them on at Boston is noticeable but not extreme when walking and becomes part of the flow when running.
  • The sole is literally tacky and sticks ever so slightly to pavement.
  • Trying them on with light socks at true to size I was initially concerned that the very minimal heel counter and collar would not stabilize the heel.  On my first run no issues or concern with heel hold so far and my test run had steep uphills, downhills and flats but it was short run so more testing is required
  • The fit everywhere was impeccable, roomy secure, and pressure free.
  • This is not a race flat type such as with the Zoom Streak 6 or even I would say the Pegasus but a marathon fit, clearly designed for some foot expansion. The toe box has high vertical volume.
  • The mid foot is eerily secure without any pressure as the VaporFly does away with Flywire and uses an internal underlay tied into the laces. I felt a touch of pressure under the arch trying them on but not on the run.

Upper

Fit was true to size with light socks. 
The upper is a single layer Nike’s Flymesh with no lining and with lots of ventilation across the top. There is a touch of stiffener baked into the toe area to create a soft toe bumper and vertical volume.There is only one visible overlay, a strap running from the last lace hole to the rear and only on the medial side. It is bonded on the outside and stitched on the inside so this strap means business and is effective.

The mid foot hold does away with any Flywire, as the Zoom Fly has, adopting a similar approach to the fine Zoom Terra Kiger 4 trail shoe (RTR review).

An inner ventilated suede like “strap” is attached at the top of the midsole bucket seat side walls on both sides, the foot does slightly sit down into the midsole on both sides of the mid foot. It free floats up to the lace loops, wraps to the outer upper where it is attached becoming the lace loops.

As in the Kiger (which also adds a second inner stretch bootie sleeve) the wrap is consistent and pressure free.The sock liner is flat and securely glued down..
The heel counter construction or lack of it had me initially concerned as for sure I am a heel striker.

The far rear at the red “timing themed strap” is moderately firm down low then gets softer up to the heel tab. A thin wishbone of decently firm padding wraps the heel collar just below the top of the knit upper.

Part of what I initially felt, and which concerned me, was the fairly loose last rim of mesh. On the run the  hold action is down lower at the padded collar. While I might prefer a bit more heel counter especially given the pointy rear foot landing all has been just fine so far and in fact more securely held than the Zoom Fly, although I was a half size up in those which was not really necessary and maybe contributed to some of the instability I felt.

The bottom of the tongue is an extension of the forefoot mesh material with the top an asymmetrical plasticky but soft enough material covering most of the lace up and then lower down running down each side in strips on either side of the mesh to provide some structure to keep the tongue from bunching and folding.

Lace up was perfect. I found that over tightening the laces creates some top pressure as the tendency given the unstructured upper is to cinch down which I found was un necessary as foot hold is more than adequate without over tightening.

Midsole
The midsole is Nike new ZoomX Pebax foam with the embedded 100% carbon plate. The plate is located as illustrated by the pen line drawn on the midsole in the picture below.

Once the plate reaches the outsole it runs directly above the outsole, at ground level. The location of the plate appears to be the same as in the Zoom Fly with the Zoom Fly’s is a polymer carbon composite and not full carbon.
It is clear the combination of 2mm less stack, ZoomX foam, removal of the full heel counter and carbon plate is where most of the weight reduction comes from compared to the Zoom Fly with its more conventional EVA and carbon polymer composite plate.

Essentially Nike has put a spike plate in the Vapor Fly. It is close to the heel at landing with 20 mm plus of foam below to cushion impact and provide 10mm of drop, accommodating for the fact that marathoners don’t run on as much on the forefoot as track runners do but also cleverly given the plate near the foot even heel strikers won’t linger long. As the foot transitions it sinks into the front foam which is effectively thicker over the plate than at the heel.

So from contact at the rear where the plate is close to the foot it is clear the design wants us

  • to not feel shock at the heel but also to move along, all that cushion below the plate at the heel,
  • then get/fall forward as the foot compresses the front foam on the way to toe off.

The front cushion is sublime  and when the foot pushes down and forces meet the plate at ground level the toe off is immediate but smooth and fluid quite unlike the firm harsh response of most road flats. So while response is not as instant as a firm midsole race shoe, even Zoom Air ones such as the Streak, or the Zoom Fly which relies on EVA, there is much less shock transmitted to the legs. The shoe is forgiving where it needs to be for long races and then just at the right moment.  Pop!

Usually saving such weight or putting a shoe way down below 7 oz means that in comparison the ride will be firmer and more responsive. Well here the Zoom X carbon combination is actually far easier on the legs than the Zoom Fly. The cushion is silky smooth and softer under load, softer, more forgiving but at the same time with far more bounce back when combined with the carbon plate which surely plays a role.  The softer yet more dynamic cushion and response upfront is particularly noticeable when compared to the Zoom Fly . There is a distinct sensation of  sinking into the foam on transition and “falling” forward to toe off.  While the stiffness takes some adjusting to, as the Vapor Fly is completely and totally stiff the stiffness is far less noticeable here than in the Zoom Fly. With my poor knee lift and drive I didn’t struggle at all to transition and drive up and away expect on a very steep uphill where things went south.

Some have commented on the wrinkling of the outer midsole side walls as being a sign of compression of the midsole.  After 4 miles I see some wrinkles but think the midsole has an outer “skin” which will for sure wrinkle and something I have seen in other shoes. I have no idea yet how long this super light and lively new midsole will last. This is after all a race shoe.  I will carefully tabulate miles for our full review.
Outsole

The outsole is full contact up front and patches at the rear with very thin sipes cut in to the material.

It is literally tacky and slightly sticky on the pavement. I could feel the slight stick both walking and running.  The heel rubber feels slightly firmer than the forefoot rubber which makes sense as that carbon plate is right under the forefoot rubber.  It is not particularly thick.  I do wish, as with the Zoom Fly that the rear of the heel geometry on the ground was more conventional less pointed and more rounded.  While the elites likely land further forward most of the rest of us could use more ground contact back there.
It is important to note that while the Vaporfly 4% is a very comfortable up tempo trainer this is a racing shoe which was not designed for trainer class mileage. Depending on your landing, foot scuffing during gait, etc… the outsole has significant areas of exposed midsole which can scuff and wear. I have seen some wear at one heel in particular. Use a layer of Shoe Goo as I have to protect these areas.

Initial on the Run Data from a Road Trail Run Reader
Road Trail Run reader Joshua Sun also received an early pair from Running Warehouse where I also purchased my Vaporfly. Joshua is a former avid cyclist who has run a marathon and several halves. He focuses his running on short fast efforts on the same loop and has also run the Zoom Fly. He was kind enough to share his first run impressions and comparative data using a Garmin Forerunner 935 and Running Dynamics Pod (see our article here) with us:

“There’s a 3.25 mile route that I run frequently near my home.  I use this route to benchmark my performance and to test out running shoes.  Basically I run this route as fast as I can.  There’s not much room for placebo effect because I’m pushing myself about as hard as I can without blowing up.  Over the years, I’ve developed a good sense of how hard I can push without blowing up and I run this route with a very consistent effort.  I track these runs using my Garmin 935 with RD pod.  Based on how much better the numbers were with the Vaporfly, I’m pretty certain that I would run faster in the Vaporfly than any other shoe out there.  I’m less confident in exactly how much better it is without a lot more data.

Here is some data about my runs in the Zoom Fly and Vaporfly – about 1 week apart so fitness level shouldn’t be much of a factor.

Distance 3.25m
Pace: Vaporfly 7:18; Zoom Fly 7:33
HR Avg: Vaporfly 156; Zoom Fly 155 (However, both of these are about 4% lower than my average heart rate when I try to run this route fast – so it matches up well with Nike’s claims.  I think the range is about 2-6% in Nike’s testing.)
Cadence: Vaporfly 157 Zoom Fly 160
Stride Length: Vaporfly 1.39m; Zoom Fly 1.31m
Vertical Oscillation: Vaporfly 10cm; Zoom Fly 10.9cm
Ground Contact Time: Vaporfly 264ms; Zoom Fly 248ms

What this shows is that I’m running at a slightly slower cadence but that my stride has gotten longer and lower (more horizontal and less vertical, which is how better runners usually run).  You can see from the ground contact time that the shoe really takes longer to compress but then propels me forward longer and lower than with the Zoom Fly.  (And I’ve run faster in the Zoom Fly than any other shoe.  I ran about a 7:37 pace in the Zoom Streak, which is next fastest.) ”

Ride and Conclusions
What more can I say. Only one run in, the ride and performance is incredible. Vapor Fly is light, cushioned, dynamic and despite the stiffness of the shoe far more fluid than the Zoom Fly for me.  I ran 15-20 seconds faster per mile than I would have expected to for the course and effort in my first run. Can I sustain those kinds of improved paces over longer distances given the unusual stiff geometry? Only more runs will tell.  I will be running a downhill 10K race Monday and will update this post.  I am particularly curious as to how they will perform at faster than half marathon pace for me. I had difficulty running faster paces in the Zoom Fly as I had difficulty transitioning to toe off rapidly enough with my poor knee lift and drive.  Here I am almost sure I will not struggle nearly as much but racing will tell.
More testing to come but I will certainly reach for them for 10K and  half marathon and if the heel stability is adequate and the stiffness not issues when tired for a full marathon. Faster runners may still reach for “racing flats” for up to a half but many will consider the Vapor Fly for the marathon.

Considerations
Are the VaporFly 4% worth $250? Well sports “toys” can cost big money, just think bikes and ski equipment. Lighter weight and performance advantages claimed, real or otherwise, always come at a premium cost and some downsides as well.
Are they only for world record setting elites? Absolutely not!  These are very forgiving if unusual shoes. I think they will provide at least some of the advantages of Breaking 2 to serious recreational runners, not the least of which is the demonstrated advantages of lighter weight for racing shoes yet here with plenty of cushion. Here incredibly light weight is combined with outstanding bouncy cushion, plenty of it and response.  My initial run was considerably faster than I would have expected.
Are they only for racing? I say for most yes.
While they are fabulous for up tempo training the exposed midsole under foot may see accelerated wear depending on your foot strike and scuffing patterns. I see some at 25 miles I am saving mine for races, their intended use, and will protect these high wear areas with Shoe Goo. To date apart from some creasing of the midsole walls the cushion and stability is intact.
Some caution advised
Some may struggle with the stiffness so caution getting used to them is advised as I think you will work your achilles and calves more than usual if you have poor knee drive and the narrow landing in the back may not be for everyone.

Update: My 10K went very well. 1st in my 60-64 age group at 7:04 pace on my watch which is certainly faster than my marathon pace and with no issues. The course was at altitude between 5100 and 4500 feet so downhill with about 1.5 miles of flats and the Vaporfly performed magnificently on flats, moderate downhills, and uphills. The first half mile was a very steep downhill where they did feel somewhat unstable at the heel. The combination of the outstanding cushion, fluid transitions, snappy response was outstanding and truly unique. My legs were none the worse for wear the next day.
Update: Ran another 10K race in the Vapor Fly, this time a flat course at sea level. I have run this race 3 times since 2013 and this was race was my fastest time by 7 seconds. Faster isn’t easy at my age… 60.   The entire difference came in the last 1.2 miles. My legs were just fresher in the finishing stretch. I had no soreness the next day and the day after “ran” a very mountainous (over 4000 feet of vertical)  half on slick trails none the worse for the 10K race. While there may be faster shoes, even for me, for a 10K as race distances increase the advantages of the VaporFly in terms of performance also seem to increase.

 

Fitzgerald vs Banting , next weekend it is on like ‘donkey kong’!

As you will know I have spent many hours pontificating over diets since my injury earlier in the year gave me so much free time. I mean if you can’t run you might as well spend time talking about all things running, via a blog of all things, now there’s a thought ? Anyhow next weekend it will be time for two diets to go to war, in the words of Frankie goes to Hollywood (google it!) In one corner we have Jonny ‘boy’ Pendse, the Banting diet poster boy,  ( http://www.health24.com/Diet-and-nutrition/Weight-loss/The-golden-rules-of-Banting-20140409 ) while in the other corner we have the  Matt Fitzgerald ( in Matt we trust) up-and-comer Mark ‘extra maple syrup with my pancakes please’ Conway.  ( https://mattfitzgerald.org). Both have been following their respective diets over the last few months and this has culminated in similar times for City to Surf marathon pre-race indicators.

Mark’s improvement has been nothing sort of spectacular since purchasing  an individual training plan from Matt (available on his website and training peaks ( http://www.trainingpeaks.com  ) ) Our running group is in awe of Matt and we have all read most of his books and live by his high carb, low fat diet (with extra maple syrup whenever possible) so when Jon announced he was following a different diet it was met with much rebuke by the group. Once we looked further into this ‘banting diet’  there was much shaking of heads and murmurs of discontent. The major stumbling block, which stood out like an ISIS suicide bomber at an ‘eat as much bacon as you can‘ party, was no pancakes  after our long runs (or at all really?) , which meant no extra maple syrup. This was enough for nearly all of the running group to give this banting thing the cold shoulder, as they gleefully tucked into their pancakes. We won’t even get into the ‘no Yelo’ muffins or no sugar rules. On the plus side banting does recommend high fat which means bacon, good quality meat and lots of eggs. This was acceptable even if it meant adding salad and vegetables but the no or little sugar was the real killer. As I have said many times a runner gives up so much in their pursuit of excellence or their goals, with the Matt Fitzgerald , and the long held running diet, we don’t have to give up too much diet wise. I mean who doesn’t like pancakes after a long run and muffins when we’re carboloading, running is a possessive and demanding soul mate but at least once in a while we can treat ourselves.

Mark C., far left, living the Matt Fitzgerald dream, muffin in hand at Yolo, after a 10k PB earlier in the morning. Also in the shot Mark L. and Mike who both also advocate the carbs, carb, carbs diet !! (albeit Mike finds a lot of his carbs in beer ?) 

So Mark is thriving on his Matt Fitzgerald training plan, and the diet that he recommends, while Jon has now decided after the ‘Mr. Squishy’ (search for the posts on this in the blog.) comments that he needed to change to a banting diet to improve and lose some of that puppy fat he was holding onto,  albeit into his thirties. Photos start to arrive on Whats-app of Jon’s chosen breakfast options and they are worlds apart from the choices the old ‘Mr. Squishy’ Jon would have made. In the photo below he even puts the toast to one side and adds bacon. This diet has helped Jon lose a lot of weight and his half marathon time has dropped by 9 minutes in a matter of months (albeit it was pretty slow to start with thanks to the extra ‘puppy fat’ he was carrying.) The new diet and weight loss has allowed Jon to improve enough to contemplate a sub 2hours 50 minutes City to Surf next weekend , which coincidentally is the same time Mark is looking for. This will be a 5 minute PB for Mark and a return to 2012 times for Jon. Either way it is going to be one hell of a race and I am desperate to join them and watch the whole thing unfold.

 

Eggs, salad, vegetables and always, extra bacon. Jon’s new breakfast of champions. He tells me he doesn’t eat the bread.

 

This is where we come to the crux of the problem. I  have had 6 weeks of quality training under my belt since my 3rd comeback from my calf tear and realistically should be targeting a safe sub 3 hour marathon. Due to the rehabilitation from my calf tear I have only ran two long runs and both of those have been in the last week, come race day at 30k , if I go out too fast, I could be in a world of pain with 12k to go to enjoy the sensation. A safe sub 3 though would mean I don’t get to watch Jon and Mark , and their respective diets, go at it and unfortunately this is too good an opportunity to miss. Fitzgerald, the poster boy of the present running community, globally, a best selling author and accomplished runner against an undertaker from the early twentieth century who wanted to lose weight and goes against everything that is sacrosanct in running diets. This could redefine running diets as we know it , globally and save the lives off billions of people if Jon and the banting diet come through. Pancake sales would plummet and the world would be a ‘thinner’ place, runners would probably improve and we’d all live a lot longer and we get to eat more bacon. On the face of it this sounds like a good thing but you must then give up our sugar addition , which if managed, ain’t that bad , is it ? Pancakes once a week after a long run, is it too much to ask and maybe the odd muffin or two weekly, surely not?  So next Sunday I’m going to run with boys and see how long I can hang on while these two runners fuelled by diets poles apart  go head-to-head. Probably won’t make the finish but I’m sure the winning runner will tell me all about it and, as an added incentive, I’ll let them have free reign for a post on the subject, better than winning the event I reckon.

 

Long runs, do you really need them ? We are about to find out next Sunday.

 

 

Of course you could always sit on the fence and go for a high carb, high fat and high sugar diet as shown in my lunch after completing the Australia Day Ultra earlier in the year but it would probably be best if you run a 100k minimum before eating this on a regular basis, mores the pity !

High fat, high carb and high sugar, is this the answer ?

 

Skins, the runners friend for all seasons.

 

Good times over the years wrapped up in Skins.

I’m a big fan of SKINS and have been since they first came out.  As well as being incredibly well made they do what they say they do and do it well. I remember when they first came out I created a social media storm (well a few comments anyway,  which in 2008 was probably a storm. ) on www.coolrunning.com.au when I predicted a 5 minute improvement, minimum, just by wearing skins. With hindsight it was probably a tad optimistic but at the time I really believed that made such a huge difference to marathon times.  I could never understand looking around at my fellow marathon runners why there was only a few runners ‘skinned up’. Over time I came to realize that maybe I was wrong regarding massive marathon improvement just by wearing skins and their real benefit lay elsewhere.

I feel now, after owning a pair of skins in various forms for nearly 10 years, their main benefit is injury prevention, delaying DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness) , recovery or keeping your knees warm . (That last point is why Jon wears them and I chuckle everytime I hear him talk about his ‘cold’ knees ! ) Before I talk about the new generation of SKINS some history. In 2008 when first encountered SKINS I brought them with a view to helping keep the heart rate down  by compression, the theory for me was simple, the compression tights would help the heart pump blood around the body easier and thus it wouldn’t need to work as hard, which meant a lower heart rate. Being a marathon runner a higher heart rate equates to a higher fatigued state, which equates to slowing down. Thus wearing SKINS would keep (or help) the heart rate lower  for longer and thus you would feel less fatigued and thus you could go faster for longer. Pretty simple really, ‘physics‘ as my Dad was so fond of quoting. I’m not sure if this was a placebo or it just coincided with a bit of running form but wearing SKINS always seem to coincide with a good PB. I was convinced. They were also good for long runs, to keep fatigue at bay and of course recovery and delaying DOMS. Was there nothing these wonder garments could do ?

As a fashion statement I probably can’t endorse them but back in 2010 after Melbourne Marathon I did try to start a new trend among runners of wearing skins under your shorts while drinking at the bar. As this was a once only happening, and I have seen little or no uptake, I can only assume this didn’t catch on. Truth be told this was probably the last time I was in a bar so if it has caught on I’d probably miss it anyway ?

 

A recovery Guinness after the Melbourne Marathon, at the Transport Pub, wearing my SKINS as a recovery aid, and a fashion statement ?

Right, as always I digress but as a blogger I feel this is something I need to be allowed to do otherwise the posts would be a lot smaller. The main point behind this post is to discuss the latest SKINS that apparently came out this month. The nice people at SKINS got in touch with me and asked if I’d like to test out these new versions. Funnily enough I have just moved house and mysteriously in the move I ‘mislaid‘ my two pair of SKINS compression tights , which were both past their sell by date by many years. Neither was wearable without shorts on top for various reasons and it is because of this I suspect my Wife may have aided in their disappearance. Karen is denying any knowledge but the jury is still out on this one. (Note: Karen have since found my SKINS packed away with half my wardrobe in a box  in the garage, so I must apologise to No1. Wife.  )

So after a few emails with Naomi Marshall, the Global Digital Marketing Manager, a package turned up containing a pair of compression tights and calf socks as promised. The timing was perfect as my calf was still in recovery mode after a 5cm  tear and I had taken to wearing my old calf socks (the ones missed by my Wife in the move !) on every run. These calf socks, I believe, are probably a permanent fixture after a calf tear, if nothing else for a placebo affect, but more importantly to give your calf ongoing support. As with all tears there is probably not a 100% recovery as some scare tissue will be present and this will always be weaker than muscle, so you will always be susceptible to re-tearing.  Please note I am a Google Doctor and have no formal qualifications so that last statement is probably more ‘it makes sense so must be true’ type statement but feel free to research yourself. Bottom line you ain’t going to tear your calf muscle again because you wore calf socks, they can only be help never a hindrance.

My joy was not matched by my children and current Wife who were dismayed at the thought of me running around the neighbourhood in my new SKINS, for some reason it’s not that cool for dads to wear SKINS but I rebuke this statement. (Though looking at the photo of me in the pub in SKINS may not help me in my argument?)  I then fanned the fire so to speak by tabling wearing SKINS while riding my Ellpitogo bike ( http://www.elliptigo.com)  and picking them up after school. This didn’t go down to well with my teenage daughter at all, and that is an understatement.

 

Test driving the new calf socks.

So how good are the new SKINS ? Easy answer, very good. My old SKINS were well over 7 years old and in that time SKINS have obviously been busy. The new versions have more panels and are constructed of a more breathable material. I certainly noticed the difference with the tights as overall they are a  better fit and don’t feel as restricting as previous models. This is a two edged sword of course because the whole point of compression tights is that they compress, so surely you should need to feel them ? Off to the website I went looking for answers. ( https://www.skins.net/au/skins-science/ ) There is a wealth of information on this site and of course you can use our old friend GOOGLE and find even more information. (on anything !) There is plenty of journal support advocating SKINS but this is something I already knew. For me every runner needs compression tights for recovery, as a bare minimum, after long runs or hard tempos and of course marathons and anything longer. They definitely help the legs recover and will also help injury prevention in the time when they are susceptible to picking up knots or tears as the muscles are tired and in a weakened state.

For my test run I chose a day when my legs were fatigued from a long training week and forced myself to run 20k when I was only really up for a 10k. This meant my legs are well and truly tired and I was interested in seeing how the SKINS would help in the final 30 minutes. They coped very well and I was certainly helped by the tights towards the end of the run,  when I was running on empty. The legs felt the benefit of the compression and the heart rate was lower than normal albeit by a small amount of course but still noticeable.  Wearing the SKINS  for this run reminded my why they are so good for endurance events and I made a mental note to wear them more often for my longer runs when towards the end of the run they would help, this is something I use to do but running in Perth the heat can sometimes be an issue and wearing black compression tights is not the most intelligent thing to do. (Note: I have run the 6 inch ultra in SKINS when the starting temperature was 25c and humid. It was an ‘experience’  not helped by getting lost and turning a 46k into a 50k. I survived but have never wore SKINS  in the heat since, I think it’s a ‘mental thing’ now ?)

The calf socks are also a big improvement on previous models with the extra paneling and better material really helping in keeping the calf nice and secure wrapped up in SKINS heaven.  Moving forward I’ll probably be wearing these socks for the foreseeable future as it seems another benefit of getting older is you are more likely to be struck down with calf tears, the joys of aging.

So for all the science go to the SKINS website and they will bamboozle you (  http://www.skins.net ) better than I can but to me SKINS are a necessary part of all runners wardrobe, they aid in recovery, endurance, injury prevention, performance but probably not fashion, according to my teenage daughter but what does she know ? They also keep Jon’s knees warm, so useful in colder climates apparently, living in Perth, Australia, it is hard to verify that bar Jon’s knees of course but one would assume they would be a benefit in the cold !

 

 

 

Fame at last, but I don’t think anybody noticed.

Sunday times photo, my best ‘Blue Steel’ look.

I have a good relationship with the local newspaper and specifically the sports wrote Glen ‘Quarters’ Quatermain, who luckily for me is also a marathon runner. Glen, like myself, has competed all eight previous City to Surf marathons so we have a common bond as we try and keep ourselves in this ever diminishing group. I have attached the article at the end of this post as well as a hyperlink.

I may have been a tad uncomplimentary to my swimming and cycling skills in the interview to drive home the point I was a more reasonable runner. I was certainly no Michael Phelps but would never finish dead last, maybe last 25% . Cycling I could probably manage a mid-table finish but running was always my forte.

I have made the Sunday Times on two previous occasions and unfortunately both times my life has remained unchanged. No book deals  or Hollywood producers fighting over film rights, just the odd comment from work colleagues as we huddle around the coffee machine.  I have mentioned to a few people about the impending article but it seems these days no one actually buys the paper. As Ross explained it to Zac, a young runner ‘in our circle of trust’ ‘a newspaper is like a static ipad displaying yesterdays news’. A tad harsh but for the latest generation of ‘I-users’ but probably about summed it up.

Either way I feel this article will not be my golden ticket out of the daily grind but stay tuned, funnier things have happened,  and Hollywood may need a balding, skinny, bearded runner for the latest blockbuster.?

 

City to Surf Perth: Big Kev’s on a roll

FOR a decorated marathon runner, Kevin Matthews makes a pretty average triathlete.

When the engineer emigrated to Australia from the UK in 2001 he decided to “embrace the Aussie lifestyle” and complete three half-ironmans.

“What is more Aussie than completing triathlons in Speedos, it ticked all the boxes in my view,” he said.

“I realised I swam little better than a brick, rode a bike just as bad but could hold my own running, albeit in budgie smugglers. So I turned my attention to marathons and initially ultra-marathons.”

Ironman’s loss has been the Chevron City to Surf for Activ’s gain with 50-year-old Matthews is one of only 20-something runners to have completed every one of the eight marathons held so far on the last Sunday in August.

He’s pretty good at it too. “Big Kev” is on a hot streak, running his past 25 marathons in under three hours. He also completed the cherished 89km Comrades ultra-marathon in South Africa three times from 2008-2010.

He will put his streak on the line on Sunday, August 27 in the Chevron City to Surf for Activ marathon.

“I pulled up lame a few days before the Bunbury Marathon in April this year,” he said. “I initially thought it was a calf knot and had it treated accordingly but it just got worse so I had an ultrasound scan and it turned out to be a 5cm calf tear.

“I set myself a goal of competing the Perth Marathon as I still had a good 10 weeks.

“But I broke down again a few weeks out and another scan revealed another new, smaller, calf tear.

“There is no fool like an old runner. I had probably pushed it too hard, too early but was desperate to run Perth as it would have been my 10th Perth Marathon in a row, and my 13th Perth in total.”

Matthews has since put together a five-week training block, averaging about 120km a week.

“Runners love numbers, be it fastest times, distance, pace or streaks,” he said. “I’m privileged to be part of an ever decreasing band of runners who have run them all.

“Missing Bunbury and Perth hurt but missing the City to Surf would have been devastating. To get the opportunity to be in the inaugural marathon of a big city these days is virtually unheard of, so to have that opportunity in your home town is a double bonus.

“I think the group is down to 30 now from the inaugural 1000 who started the first City to Surf Marathon in 2009.”

The Chevron City to Surf for Acitv will be marathon number 42 for Matthews.

His personal best of 2 hours 41 minutes and 14 seconds was set on the course in 2013 and he went within 30 seconds of beating that last year when he ran 2:41:41 for a fifth-place finish.

“This will be my first marathon since I turned 50 earlier in the year but I have no plans of slowing down or stopping in the near future,” he said.

Matthews will post his account of the marathon on his running blog before, after and probably during the race. Go to www.runbkrun.com .

http://www.perthnow.com.au/sport/city-to-surf-perth-big-kevs-on-a-roll/news-story/6c74ebdedb9913cc7b735e39e2152549

 

Gotta’ love Winter mornings, or do you ?

The sun always comes out eventually.

 

Winter in Perth isn’t really that bad, truth be told. It is dark until 7am , give or take a few minutes depending on how deep into Winter you are, but temperature wise it very rarely gets into the single figures and if there is rain it is normally sporadic and avoidable. Today was a great example, it had been forecast as rain all day and torrential so I set the alarm for a 5am start determined to get one 10k in before the onslaught which was promised later in the morning. Now I’m a morning person when morning means sunshine and cooler temperatures, like in Summer. Winter is a different story as I have never really enjoyed running in the dark. I can stand the conditions because after 8 years in Aberdeen Perth has got nothing but darkness is not my friend. When I run it is to soak in the surroundings (when I actually look up , which truth be told is rare. Example this morning on Facebook there were several photos of a beautiful sunrise which I missed completely. ?) in the dark it is hard to soak up anything when you are watching your every step. (assuming there is little or no street lightning,  which is normally the case in Perth due to the size of the metropolitan area, too large apparently to kit out with decent street lights?)

Summer mornings though are the complete opposite. Summer in Perth can be brutal with temperatures hot enough to cook eggs on concrete, and that’s a cooler day normally ! Mornings is the only rest bite from these temperatures that would probably make hell seem cold. Anything past 8am and you’re struggling to survive the temperatures,  so most of the important runs need to be early morning.  Early evenings can sometimes be acceptable but lunch time runs are for the suicidal runner and mad dogs of course. Morning runs in Summer are a thing of beauty and  set you up for the day ahead. You bounce out of bed like tigger on steroids and explode into the outside surroundings. Winter, not so much, you struggle out of bed and then normally spend 5 minutes talking yourself up to put on your running costume before sheepishly opening the front door hoping for a monsoon to justify retreating back to the comfort of the warm bed, which you were mad to leave in the first place. When you eventually start it normally ends well and I reckon in the 8 years I’ve been logging my runs I’ve only had a handful that I actually regretted starting. This thought alone has propelled me into the dark on a number of occasions.

So what are the benefits of running on those Winter mornings ? The most important is the regimented approach you need for training, when you say you are going to run , you run. If you set your alarm then you need to follow through and go for that run. It’s a discipline thing and runners need discipline. The run itself need not be that important as running in the dark is hard to judge pace as you always feel you’re running faster than you actually are. (Which doesn’t help the situation !) The main benefit is setting you up for the rest of the day. After a dark morning run and a warm shower you feel so much better pre-work.

Sometimes though you need to pick your battles like this morning.  With a forecast of possible storms I reset my alarm and decided I’d chance a lunch time run and the possibility of an after work recovery run if the planets aligned, by this I mean if I can complete my Dads taxi and dog walking chores before dinner and still find 50 minutes for a relaxing 10k. Confidence is low but after a good double-up day yesterday and the marathon less than three weeks away I’m actually happy with one soaking a day, two soakings a day would be greedy surely ?

With less than three weeks to the City to Surf Marathon now is the time when you can avoid to miss the odd run as you really should be tapering and concentrating on quality over quantity. Three weeks stills seems to be the norm when it comes to tapering but personally I have knocked a week off that and go down the road of a more aggressive (I.e. less running) two week taper. I found three weeks was just too long and I often felt I was losing fitness rather than rebuilding tired muscles. I’m use to running twice a day, every day and to suddenly stop running just makes me feel flat and also gives me more time to spend standing in front of the fridge, fidgeting !! Body and mind love routine and to change this can have the opposite effect to what you are looking to achieve. Well that’s my excuse anyway, as with all things running it is runner specific and I’m sure most runners benefit from a 3 week taper. It did give me the excuse I needed this morning to avoid the wind and rain and grab a few extra minutes in a warm comfortable bed performing one of a runners most important exercise, often over looked, sleeping ! (Though I was probably dreaming about running so maybe I should put down a few kilometres on Strava ? Interesting concept…..)

 

Rock Tape, looks silly but it seems to work?

 

This weekend I have three weeks left pre-City to Surf marathon. Will that be enough time for me to grab the required cardio fitness needed to run the marathon in under 3 hours ? This time last week I would have confidently said ‘no problem’, I had just ran a 150k training week, including some quality paced runs, that had give me my ‘mojo’ back. Unfortunately I was a tad premature, as always, and my calf started to act up on the Monday after a long weekend of training. Luckily Monday coincided with an awful day of storms, wind and rain in Perth ( a rarity luckily) , so a day off was a blessing. Not being one to ‘sit on my hands’ I booked myself into my nearest physio and had some dry needling on the offending calf Wednesday afternoon with another session on Friday. My physio confirmed that it wasn’t a tear as such just the calf responding to the last 4-5 weeks of ‘proper’ training after such a long time recovering. I suspected as much as I had run over 100k for the last 3 weeks in a row and if the calf was going to tear again I felt it would have weeks ago. Of course I have no medical qualifications but a runner knows?

So today after dry needling the calf my physio offered me some Rock Tape (He had been given a free sample so was happy to share.) I had obviously seen Rock Tape many times over the last few years but wasn’t convinced of its effectiveness and always felt it looked a bit silly (not that I’m one to ever worry about looking silly of course .) Well not being one to turn down a freebie I allowed the physio to put some Rock Tape on my calf after first consulting the video from the Rock Tape website ( https://rocktape.com.au/products/#videos. ) Well, for a change, I seemed to underestimated this product. I ran the lunchtime after the physio appointment for 11k at a reasonable pace , albeit mainly on grass, and felt great. So good in fact I doubled up this evening for another 13k and only stopped due to hunger pains and dog walking duties. The Rock Tape has so far survived two showers and will go to bed tonight still stuck to my calf, doing whatever it does ? So how does Rock Tape work ? From the Rock Tape website :-

I’ll certainly be purchasing some in the near future and I feel this will become my friend as I continue in my battle for full fitness.  Of course all this good work may be undone when I attempt to take off the Rock Tape currently clamped to my calf. I assume it will just peel off gently and leave all my hairs untouched or maybe not ? I feel trouble ahead, served up with a good helping of ‘pain’. There doesn’t seem mention of the removal process on the website funnily enough but looking at sone of the athletes featured they look more like mummy’s than athletes and if the Rock Tape caused any issues when removing they would probably need an anaesthetist to help them. I’ll let you know how I get on but assuming all is good this product definitely gets the thumbs up from me. Now do you think I could get away with bright pink ?

Real men wear pink?

After writing the post last night I ran a 12k progressive this afternoon with the Rock Tape still on my calf and felt great, not a murmur from my troublesome right calf and I gave it a good workout (see my Strava details below. Remember if it isn’t on Strava it didn’t happen, you do have a Strava account don’t you..? http://www.strava.com  feel free to follow me, Big Kev, Perth, WA should be enough to find me in the search option.) Admittedly the calf would have benefited from my two visits to the physio and dry needling but the Rock Tape seems to have totally cured my ‘tired calf‘ niggle that has been troubling me all week. As with all things injury based time will tell but this afternoons run has given me the confidence to lock in that sub 3hr City to Surf Marathon time again,  after I’d almost given up earlier in the week. Maybe that was the Rock Tape brings to the party, a placebo effect that convinces your brain the injury is cured and/or does enough to concentrate the brain on doing what needs to be done to overcome the injury i.e. making small adjustments to reduce the load on the affected area. My physio seems to think this is how Rock Tape works, by concentrating the mind on the injury and there by curing it by adjusting what needs to be adjusted. This seems to ring true with the Rock Tape company who claim a Neurological effect  – altering the perception of pain and improving body awareness. However it works for me it certainly seems to have helped and I couldn’t be happier. Of course with all things running this could change in an instant, right back to my original question, could I get away with pink Rock Tape ?

Strava is life, the rest is details.
It seems to know no bounds?