On my obligatory Sunday morning long run today my mind drifted to the years highs and lows and what the future may hold in 2018. I have said many times on my blog you always need a goal otherwise what is the point, without a goal you can so easily turn into a ‘once a week’ runner or even worse a ‘jogger‘. The definition of a ‘jogger’ in my mind is someone who won’t commit to being a runner by putting in the time and also can be spotted by ‘jogging on the spot‘ at traffic lights. A real runner would never do this, instead they would stop their Garmin and wait patiently before exploding back into the run annoyed at the hold up; or worse in the middle of a Strava segment being stopped in your tracks when you were on for a PR or even CR. (you do have Strava right..? http://www.strava.com)
This morning as it is the holiday season I treated myself to a lay-in and started my Sunday morning run later than usual, around 10am. Unfortunately you pay for the lie-in with heat as your training partner and in summer this can become quite a struggle. Add in a hard 16k progressive the previous day and the 30k ahead of you is about as enticing as a turkey sandwich four days after Christmas. Needless to say I was tired after the first kilometre and things didn’t improve at all for the next two and a half hours. I counted down the kilometres one by one , every 5 minutes or so depending on the terrain. Every hill the pace slowed to a shuffle and even the down hill sections were a struggle, yep it was a good old fashioned ‘beating‘ in the heat. One thing I did notice is the second half of the run does get quicker as the kilometre’s are more reasonable figures. i.e. after 15k every new kilometre ticked off seems to be more of a reward than the previous. This is not the case with kilometre 1-15 where you are still moving towards the halfway point and the total seems so low but you are still moving so slow.
A 17k I must admit to having a sit down at a water stop and this turned into a 5 minute break from which I found it very hard to get going again. This is one of the main reasons I don’t carry money or a phone as I’m pretty sure I would have used both of these in this situation to get home quicker i.e. Uber ! After my mini-break (I was close to categorising the first 17k as one run and the next 13k as a seperate run, it was a long break ! ) I was starting back into a 1k hill which just about destroyed me but the next few kilometres were downhill so I stumbled down these and got enough of a second wind to make the 30k total I had set off to complete.
Lesson learned, wake up at 5am and run with the boys or at least in the cooler conditions, heat is a ‘bitch‘ ,and together with ‘hills‘ and ‘wind‘, (head wind only of course) is the runners mortal enemy when looking for a good time. (I mean good time in the hours and seconds sense not a good time in the Saturday night out with the boys sense.) These late runs do serve their purpose though and there is method in my madness. They teach you about mental toughness as the run really is a slog from the first step to the last. You need to have these runs once in a while because you will need this mental side to your running when you put on a bib, trust me. If every run was easy and required no effort then you won’t improve. Matt Fitzgerald realised this and stipulates 80% easy , 20% hard. (and remember “in Fitzgerald we trust“. http://mattfitzgerald.org/about-matt/ ) They both serve their purpose and both are needed to improve. All pace and you’ll eventually burn out or worse but with no pace you’ll just run slow, a lot , and when it comes time to step up you’ll be unable to maintain the required pace.
Of course this doesn’t make you feel any better when you are sitting in the shade after ‘suffering’ through 17k knowing you have at least 13k to go, with the temperature rising and your motivation draining away quicker than a bit coin portfolio when the truth eventually comes out. Pay back is when you crawl home and log the 30k run on Strava satisfied with completing this ‘once every few months‘ bad boy of a run. Personally I have run many of these and always normally just before the taper stage, so at the end of a long race preparation stage where distance is my friend. I actually know after one of these runs it is time to start tapering as my mind and body are fatigued. This is the case now as I have three weeks before I attempt my second 100k ultra, ( http://australiadayultra.com ) the one I promised myself I’d never run again (yeah right , as if that was ever going to happen?) For those new to my blog my friend Rob Donkersloot, owner of why walk when ( http://whywalkwhen.com ), put together this video of my first attempt this time last year. Worth a look…. https://vimeo.com/201134104
Right goals for 2018, remember I mentioned goals in the first paragraph which now seems a long time ago. ? Anyhow my goal for 2018 is the same as every year really, to run as much as possible and not slow down. Is this achievable as I reach 51 in a few months, not sure, maybe ? I’ll need my mental toughness that’s for sure as I feel this is the part of running that you lose first and once this weakens everything starts to fall apart. I feel 2016 was a stella year and an unexpected bonus as I was happy that 2013 was my best year , so far. The calf injury in 2017 made this year challenging but overall I’m happy with my times and even had a few PB’s and course records scattered among my results. The only downside is the runs are getting tougher and I realised that more this year than last. The enjoyment and motivation is still there but the training times of old seem to be unreachable these days. Even today I was reminiscing on some 30km plus long runs where my average would be hovering around the 3:50 minutes a kilometre, today it was nearly 5mins/k; admittedly it was hot and hilly. Could I run a 30km sub 4min/k average pace now , it would be a challenge, where-as a few years ago this was my Sunday go-to pace. In my defence I have embraced the 80/20 concept but several authors feel as you reach your fifties it is better to concentrate on pace rather than distance and spend more time in the gym performing specific activities tailored for the older athlete. Throw in nutrition and there is still a lot of variables for me to play about with as I enter 2018.
Last post of 2017, a good year with lots of great running adventures with good friends, great coffee, pancakes and world class muffins. I’m a lucky man to be able to surround myself with such good friends and live in perhaps the most perfect environment for running globally. There is lots to do next year and don’t you worry I’ll be writing about all of it. To sign off for 2017 I hope you all have a great New Year and lets make 2018 even better than 2017, bringing down our own personal best times and cranking up the distance for our longest run and race, remember it’s all about numbers. Yours in running……
Last Sunday I ran with the normal crew leaving from City Beach at 6am aiming for a relaxed 21k. There’s a couple of lessons I learnt from this run. Firstly , yet again, I ran with Mark Lee and this was always destined for failure if you put the words ‘easy run’ and Mark Lee in the same sentence, actually in the same chapter. As I said on many occasions Mark Lee cannot do ‘easy’, specifically… http://www.runbkrun.com/2016/12/29/mark-lee-cant-run-slow/ and http://www.runbkrun.com/2017/02/05/beware-the-mark-lee-effect/ Well surprise surprise Sunday yet again started easy for the first kilometre and then young Mr. Lee got to the front and it was all over bar the shouting. Adding to the pace was Jeffrey who had decided to wear his Nike LunaRacers for some reason (a racing shoe of the highest calibre) and he shadowed us for the first 15k of the run before exploding into a 5k sprint finish. Mark and Zac caught him with a few hundred metres to go after he ran himself into the ground. (as all good friends would on such an occasion, bless ’em!) I gave up with a kilometre to go and stopped for a shower, jumping the queue ahead of 3 dogs waiting for their apres-beach wash down. So this was lesson number one and truth be told to be expected. In Mark’s defence he is a ‘sprinter’ and really a 5k -10k specialist, anything longer and he has issues with his internal plumbing shall we say. The first time I met Mark was the Darlington half marathon where on the return journey he would disappear off into the bush ahead of us , return behind us, sprint past and repeat the whole process at least three times, he still beat me easily. Anyhow this post is not about Mark and his famous (or is that infamous) toilet stops.
At the start of the run we bumped into the ex-WAMC (West Australian Marathon Club) President (http://www.wamc.org.au ) and very talented runner that is Evan Kolbe. He was killing time before meeting his running group and ran with us for 4k as a warm up. As it was the start of the ‘easy’ run and Mark was just warming up we had time to chat and the discussion came around to motivation. Evan commented that his motivation for running , at a high level he once achieved, had disappeared many years ago and currently he was more interested in how he was going to glaze his ham for the forthcoming Christmas dinner. We joked that he would have preferred to eat the ham before the run or even better forego the run completely and just eat. I have spoken to Evan on a number of occasions about his running goals for the foreseeable future and he has always maintained he was now too interested in eating to worry about returning to his previous glory days and Evan had glory days in his past. He is fond of mentioning whenever he commentates at the Fremantle half marathon that he won the event once and his times , when he was in his prime, are very impressive indeed.
So what changed ? I suppose with all elites there is the constant pressure to maintain weight and training schedule to move forward and reach your ever increasing goals. Eventually the amount of time and effort required just becomes too much and athletes start to miss the odd session, put on the odd pound before throwing in the towel, so to speak , and moving back to the pack or at least closer to it. It’s a natural progression brought about by age in the long term but in the short term it can come down to just ‘getting a life‘ or maybe ‘getting on with life‘. I have said many times running is an honest sport and if you put in the time and effort you will be rewarded but the flip-side is it is a demanding mistress and you will be found out very quickly if you start to ‘slack off’. It is a two edged sword. Evan had had his time at the front of the field and after a certain amount of years had decided it was time to drift back to the pack and start to think about glazed ham and a multitude of other fine foods he had been denying himself for so long. He certainly didn’t let himself go and even as recently as last year ran a 75minutes half marathon with a sub 2hr 40minute marathon in his sights but the Evan of old would have been a lot quicker.
The topic of motivation came back to haunt me on boxing day as I had given myself the day off after last years double run disaster on Christmas day, ( http://www.runbkrun.com/2016/12/26/seb-coe-is-a-better-man-than-me/ ) so on Boxing Day I was determined to make up for it. I pontificated until midday when I told the family I was off for a long run and not expect me for a couple of hours. Off I toddled to the Yaberoo trail , a 29k trail route with some serious hills and challenging terrain, no water or shade. Remember this is Perth in summer so it was around 32 degrees when I set off. I had taken two water bottles but exhausted these at halfway, not a good idea as I’m sure the way back was hillier , it was certainly hotter ! Anyhow I managed to get to the finish after an extra long stop in an underpass where I attempted to lay on the shaded concrete to cool down. Needless to say I was shattered by the time I drove home and found it difficult to move as all the lateral movement of trail running had played havoc with my groin, so it was a double dose of Voltaren to enable me to take the dogs for a walk in the early evening.
The next day I set off for my morning run and was totally ‘goosed’ , returning 10k later with an average of 5:15min/k and questioning my reason for running generally. This was repeated in the afternoon and I went to bed that night feeling very sorry for myself. Thursday is the normal Yelo pain train 14k progressive run (with our friend Mark Lee !) I was not expecting this to end at all well but set off with the lead group for the first 4-5k before being dropped and left to run by myself. Funnily enough I managed to put together a semi-decent 14k progressive time and felt generally better than when I started. (note: I even beat Mark Lee back to Yelo for reasons already explained at the start of this post. The amount of time Mark spends in the Rendezvous Hotel foyer toilet he should pay rent ! ) This was then repeated in the evening when I ran a reasonable 10k and finished strong. Friday morning was more of the same and as I type this post I’m excited about running some 5k pain trains tomorrow before a long run Sunday.
So the point of this post, and yes there is a point to this post, is motivation may elude you for days, weeks or even years but if you really love your running it will return. For me is was a blip in the middle of the week but for Evan it has been a tad longer. One day though I am confident Evan will wake up one morning and walk past his glazed ham without a second glance before putting on his trainers and deciding the best years are ahead of him and all he has to do is run that little bit further and faster and put a lock on the fridge. I look forward to following him home in a marathon soon but for now I look forward to his ham sandwiches at the New Years Eve WAMC run in a few days.
After running the 6 inch ultra on Sunday I gave myself Monday off. Truth be told it was really the inclement weather which was the deciding factor as I was ready to ‘stumble’ along the Perth foreshore for 10k, remember I’m a runner , it’s what I do. Tuesday it was back on as I started my recovery two weeks. Personally I need two good weeks of easy running to help my recovery followed by two more weeks of slower runs but with a sprinkle of pace when I feel the need. Thus for me it takes a good 4 weeks to recover from a marathon or ultra.
This time doesn’t not have to be hard work though. As well as running what I call ‘smell the roses’ runs I also make an effort to reward myself for the previous marathon (or longer) by indulging in the things I love most, pancakes, muffins and even the off Brownes Mocha (choc milk). These are things that I may treat myself to ,once in a while, when I’m in training but in recovery you can over indulge for a week or two. Weight gain is not something to worry about for a few weeks and even something to work towards. 2014 Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi gained 12lbs in his 10 days off, and he said that it is good to gain weight for recovery. Don’t worry you’ll be back on the scales soon enough but for the moment enjoy living a normal life for a few weeks, albeit still running daily.
The article below was published by Matt Fitzgerald (In Matt we trust) in 2013 but still rings true today. Recovery runs are , in my view, one of the most important runs and one of the most over looked run. Everybody thinks you improve by running quick all the time, relying on pace without first building the foundation to all running success , distance. To build distance you can’t run fast all the time, unless you have youth on your side of course (Nic Harman!) and even then injury is normally lurking. Thus you need your second run (or third) of the day (you are running twice right?) to be slow and steady. I still believe most of the success I have had over the last couple of years has come from running twice a day and making sure at least one of my daily runs is slow enough I can enjoy the view and not stress about pace or distance.
Recovery runs are the foundation for improvement.
After my PB half this morning I couldn’t wait to get the compression tights on and get back out there for an afternoon recovery run. Over the last 2-3 months I am convinced these second runs every day are the foundation on which I have built my PB’s. As I posted last week a recovery run is more than just a slow run serving little or no purpose. This is how it is seen by a lot of the running community. I now feel it is so much more. It is an opportunity to run on fatigued legs and this increases fitness. This is supported by Matt Fitzgerald, my go to man when it comes to just about everything ! ( http://mattfitzgerald.org ) In an article he wrote for Competitor.com in 2013.
In short, recovery runs do not enhance recovery. Nevertheless, recovery runs are almost universally practiced by top runners. That would not be the case if this type of workout weren’t beneficial. So what is the real benefit of recovery runs?
The real benefit of recovery runs is that they increase your fitness — perhaps almost as much as longer, faster runs do — by challenging you to run in a pre-fatigued state (i.e. a state of lingering fatigue from previous training).
There is evidence that fitness adaptations occur not so much in proportion to how much time you spend exercising but rather in proportion to how much time you spend exercising beyond the point of initial fatigue in workouts. So-called “key” workouts (runs that are challenging in their pace or duration) boost fitness by taking your body well beyond the point of initial fatigue. Recovery workouts, on the other hand, are performed entirely in a fatigued state, and therefore also boost fitness despite being shorter and/or slower than key workouts.
Evidence of the special benefit of pre-fatigued exercise comes from an interesting study out of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. In this study, subjects exercised one leg once daily and the other leg twice every other day. The total amount of training was equal for both legs, but the leg that was trained twice every other day was forced to train in a pre-fatigued state in the afternoon (recovery) workouts, which occurred just hours after the morning workouts. After several weeks of training in this split manner, the subjects engaged in an endurance test with both legs. The researchers found that the leg trained twice every other day increased its endurance 90 percent more than the other leg.
Additional research has shown that when athletes begin a workout with energy-depleted muscle fibers and lingering muscle damage from previous training, the brain alters the muscle recruitment patterns used to produce movement. Essentially, the brain tries to avoid using the worn-out muscle fibers and instead involve fresher muscle fibers that are less worn out precisely because they are less preferred under normal conditions. When your brain is forced out of its normal muscle recruitment patterns in this manner, it finds neuromuscular “shortcuts” that enable you to run more efficiently (using less energy at any given speed) in the future. Pre-fatigued running is sort of like a flash flood that forces you to alter your normal morning commute route. The detour seems a setback at first, but in searching for an alternative way to reach the office you might find a faster way — or at least a way that’s faster under conditions that negatively affect your normal route.
Here are some tips for effective use of recovery runs:
* Whenever you run again within 24 hours of completing a key workout (or any run that has left you severely fatigued or exhausted), the follow-up run should usually be a recovery run.
* Recovery runs are only necessary if you run four times a week or more. If you run just three times per week, each run should be a “key workout” followed by a day off. If you run four times a week, your first three runs should be key workouts and your fourth run only needs to be a recovery run if it is done the day after a key workout instead of the day after a rest day. If you run five times a week, at least one run should be a recovery run, and if you run six or more times a week, at least two runs should be recovery runs.
* There’s seldom a need to insert two easy runs between hard runs, and it’s seldom advisable to do two consecutive hard runs within 24 hours.
* Recovery runs are largely unnecessary during base training, when most of your workouts are moderate in both intensity and duration. When you begin doing formal high-intensity workouts and exhaustive long runs, it’s time to begin doing recovery runs in roughly a 1:1 ratio with these key workouts.
* There are no absolute rules governing the appropriate duration and pace of recovery runs. A recovery run can be as long and fast as you want, provided it does not affect your performance in your next scheduled key workout. In most cases, however, recovery runs cannot be particularly long or fast without sabotaging recovery from the previous key workout or sabotaging performance in your next one. A little experimentation is needed to find the recovery run formula that works best for each individual runner.
* Don’t be too proud to run very slowly in your recovery runs, as Kenya’s elite runners are famous for doing. Even very slow running counts as pre-fatigued running practice that will yield improvements in your running economy, and running very slowly allows you to run longer without sabotaging your next key workout.
In Matt we trust, so if Matt recommends recovery runs that is all I need to take it onboard and I recommend you do the same. So get out there and smell the roses so to speak while you gain the benefits of one of the most under rated runs in everybodies arsenal.
One last plug for today is compression tights. ( https://www.skins.net/au/?gclid=Cj0KEQjw1ee_BRD3hK6x993YzeoBEiQA5RH_BIFsTBDtuRlHC3OyGJztj7LFtYlqXV04GHreid8abVoaAuQz8P8HAQ ) I wear these on my recovery runs and again I’m a big believer in these articles. I’m sure there’s lots of information and data supporting this but trust me, these things work. If you running on fatigued legs while on your recovery run you do run the tightrope of injury, compressions tights will help you I guarantee it.
McManus, C., Murray, K., Morgan, N. (2015)
The University of Essex, Human Performance Unit
During steady state running at a fixed intensity of 60% vVO2max(12.1 ± 1.3 km/h), running economy was significantly lower (p < 0.05) in correctly fitted compression tights when compared with running shorts. When wearing correctly fitted compression compared to running shorts, the runners demonstrated that they used less energy when running at a sub maximal speed. They were more economical and efficient. It is widely accepted that runners who are more economical during sub maximal speeds have the ability to push harder or run longer during their training and/or events.
This weekend I ran the 6 inch ultra marathon ( http://www.6inchtrailmarathon.com ) for the 9th time. A 47km race from North Dandelup to Dwellingup travelling through some of the best trails WA has to offer mainly on the Mundi Bundi trail ( https://www.mundabiddi.org.au ). The conditions looked perfect and did not disappoint with low temperatures and a cooling rain later in the race. The race starts at 4:30am to take into account the normal hot and hard Perth summer conditions but this morning you were more likely to get pneumonia rather than heat stroke ! Driving to that start at 3am in Jon’s SUV it was pouring with rain, dark and 14 degrees, about as inviting as feeding a steak sandwich to a hungry Great White, with an attitude ! There was talk of of a DNS but we all knew this was never going to happen as, with all things in life, once the sun eventually breaks over the horizon life, and trail running, looks so much better. This proved to be the case as once Dave Kennedy, the Race Director, gave us about 30 seconds notice we were, off right on time. Dave is not one to hang around and I’m sure the 15 or so people in the toilet queue would have been stuck between the rock and a hard place when all their running colleagues set off up Goldmine Hill and they were faced with the quandary of ‘do you go before you go or risking going after you have gone’.
I only race trails once a year and this is mainly due to my incredibly bad sense of direction, I could get lost in a 100m race without the aid of marshals trust me. Two years ago , the last time I got lost, I even managed to persuade another runner to come with me on my own personal ‘trail race’, sorry Phil. Anyhow this year I managed to download the route onto my Garmin 235 and decided I was confident enough to only wear one watch compared to the previous years when I wore two, one with the course map and the other for interesting running stats to read when you get bored ? (Like you ever have time to switch between screens in a race on a watch. If you ever do find yourself switching between data screens you are running too slow and need to spend more time concentrating on racing !
The start of the 6 inch ultra is called Goldmine Hill and , in my view, should be renamed Goldmine Mountain, please note I am a concrete pounding prima-donna (and proud) so me and trail hills are not ideal partners. Goldmine Hill is long and steep and you embrace when you haven’t even had time to get your first wind, no matter a second one. The first time I ran the 6 inch I had no idea what to expect and remember thinking , about half way up the hill, what had I let myself in for and doing some mental arithmetic to work out if the hill continued at this rate for 46km would it be higher than Everest. ! In my defence that first year it was stinking hot and I think we had daylight saving so it was even dark (‘ish) . I’m not saying that day went badly but I came home and tried to cancel my flights to Comrades the following year as I was well and truly over ultra marathons. (Luckily South African Airlines refused to cancel my flights so out of spite I went and had a great run, but that’s another post for another day.)
I have written a post on this race from last year so not much has changed bar better conditions this year and I got lost again, the third time in nine attempts. In my defence I am getting lost later in the race each time and got to 44km this year sitting just outside the top 5. A small 2k detour cost me a few places but I still managed a top 10 finish. It wasn’t getting lost which hurt, as I’m use to that, but it was the opportunity which went begging to maybe chalk up one more sub 3:40 finish. Next year I may be in better shape (I’m only young you know ?) but the conditions play such a big part and if it’s a hot one the trail can become a brutal place to be with any chance of a good PB time evaporating with the heat. No worries, as I said I’m getting lost later and later in the race so I should be good to go next year for my 10th time, couldn’t get lost again surely ?
What’s different about trial running/racing ? You know what, it’s more fun I reckon. Looking at the photos of the runners from Sunday most of the runners are smiling, you look at a marathon and they are mostly focused on their goal and concentrating hard on stuff marathon runners concentrate hard on. Trail running is different, time is not so important and by releasing yourself from this weight of expectation you can actually just enjoy running for the pure joy of running. I’ve always said trail runners are a funny bunch and that’s probably the main reason, they don’t burden themselves with things that they feel are not important. They buy their multi-coloured uniform of backpacks, gators, drink dispensers of all shapes and sizes and just get on the trail and run. It’s more about the comradery of the trail , the experience off being at one with nature and the ability to hug the odd tree or two when nobody is looking. At the finish there is an in-depth dissection of the event with the sharing of trail-stuff, which normally entails explaining how they are covered in claret. (Again a big difference with road marathons, on a good trail race most people ‘wipe out’ and their wounds are a badge of honour.) I must admit I’ve hit the deck the last two times I ran the 6 inch and even that was fun , in a masochistic type of way ? You feel if you finish without falling over at least once you were doing something wrong and not trying hard enough; or maybe that just me?
One thing the trail does though is give your body a good old fashioned beating. There’s no getting into a rhythm and working the same muscles, on a trail run you are hopping from one step to the next and concentrating on your footwork constantly. This probably explains the falls later in the event, just good old fashioned fatigue and his best mate tiredness working together to conspire against you. This year when I fell I knew it was coming but the legs were just too slow to arrest my upper body moving ahead of them, result in a face plank. I must admit it did bring a smile to my face as I lay in the dirt (luckily wet from the previous shower) and I congratulated myself on my choice of dark garments for the race. Funny the things you think of when you laying on the ground 45km into a 47km trail race. This also makes the next day more challenging especially when faced with your mortal enemy the day after an trail-ultra, ‘stairs’. On a side note you must go to South Africa one day and even if you don’t run the Comrades spend some time the next day in Durban and watch the Comrades runners ‘hobble’ (and that is a compliment) around the city, even one stair is too much for some and they are totally contained by any sort deviation from horizontal. ( http://www.comrades.com ) On Sunday the boys did take a good beating with Gareth admitting to a good old-fashioned chunder towards the end of the race, Mark L. sprained his ankle 7km from the finish and had to stumble to cross the line and Bart’s was so goosed at the end he asked me to tie his shoelaces as he kept cramping when he tried, of course I ignored his pleas and just sat back and enjoyed the show.
One final ‘shout out’ to Kathryn Hookham who ran the 6 inch only weeks after completing the 50 mile Feral Pig Ultra ( http://feralpigultra.com.au ) in conditions that can only be described as barbaric ! It was incredibly hot on the day of the event which caused a 50% DNF rate and as I said to Kathryn yesterday I found it hard to walk from the kitchen to the pool due to the heat. ! Kathryn optimises the ‘trail spirit’ where it’s about finishing the job no matter how hard it gets, this mental toughness goes hand-in-hand with the earlier comments about trail runners always smiling. Yes, they are having fun but when push comes to shove they can knuckle down and answer the tough questions every runner asks sometime during all distance events. I’ll catch up with Kathryn on my next adventure which begins tomorrow.
Right, day off today only because the weather was atrocious and then back on it tomorrow for the first day of Australia Day Ultra training. As I’ve always maintained with running you need a goal and my next one is in January next year/ ( http://australiadayultra.com ) . Last year I did swear I’d never run another 100km ultra but that was said only a few minutes after finishing, by the time me and Jon had finished our pancakes and bacon we were already discussing the 2018 event and here we are now, all entered and only a few weeks away. As the event is a 12.5km loop , eight times, the chances of getting lost are virtually zero but we do start at midnight so there is 5-6 hours of running in the dark and with my history of navigation maybe I better invest in some sort of tracking device, I suppose if I end up back in Perth I’ve probably gone too far….
There are thousands of training programs out there on the inter-web and tucked away in coaches clipboards, all aim for one thing, an improvement of running times and/or distance. Personally I feel one of the most useful activities is often over looked, that is lining up with fellow runners with a bib on your chest and pushing yourself to breaking point and beyond.
Racing serves many purposes but the main one is to help cement the fact that are improving and give you your next goal to work towards, people, if you are a runner you must have goals, no goals you morph into the dark side and start ‘jogging‘ or worse get taken by the lycra posse and you find yourself sitting in cafe’s discussing the best way to shave your legs while drinking a frothy, light, soya frappacino with extra crème, ye gods !!
Goals do not even need to be faster or longer, as we mature they may be just to get within a certain time or distance of a previous PB, it doesn’t matter what the goal is it just needs to be there. My old friend Jon ‘TB’ Phillips resets his goals each season and chases ‘season bests’ which works as you have a new baseline each year and this is then adjusted after your first race. PB’s can also be chased but with a ‘within X seconds/minutes’ if have moved over the top of the PB hill and are travelling down the other side and back to the pack, literally.
Time and distance really aren’t the measuring sticks of course it’s still good old fashioned ‘pain time’ and how long you can stomach it. I’ve mentioned before I feel the elite athletes train as hard as us , well probably a tad harder of course given all their free time, but the real difference is their ability to spend more time in the ‘pain box’, tucked up in the foetal position ! As we age the body of course degrades and performance suffers but mentally I believe we find it harder to justify the ‘pain time’, I feel there really is a finite time we can spend in the pain box and when you’ve used it up it just gets too hard to open the door, so you loiter outside pretending to try the door.
Tim Noakes ( https://thenoakesfoundation.org/prof-noakes ) also adheres to this and reckons the top elite athletes only have so many world class marathon times in them before they can no longer reach the dizzy heights they once scaled. Runners like Alberto Salazar pushed themselves beyond what their bodies could cope with and ultimately ended their own careers prematurely. Salazar’s competitive decline is often attributed to the stress on his body from the famous “Duel in the Sun” with Beardsley. Salazar recounts falling into a “more-is-better” mindset which led him to reason that if 120 miles per week yielded a certain level of success, then 180 miles (290 km) or even 200 miles (320 km) would bring even better results. This intense and grueling regimen of such extremely long distances led to a breakdown of his immune system, and he found himself frequently sick, injured, and otherwise unable to continue training.
So why spend time in the pain box at all ? Because like all good things you need to work for them. You want to run faster, or longer, you need to put in the hard yards because distance only gets you so far, excuse the pun. Distance is a big part of improving due to the cardio improvement gained even on slow long distance runs but adding pace (and pain) is the icing on the cake or was that the cherry on top? You get the picture, distance is the foundation of improvement , while pace, and pain, are the finishing touches. This is where the bib on the chest comes in. You can push yourself in training but to really go to that next level you need competition or a PB to attack, you never run as fast as you run in competition.
What happens with no running goals ? Eventually I feel you would stagnate and one day find yourself dressed in lycra in a coffee shop , clip-clopping around in your funny cycling shoes and generally annoying all other patrons. This is not a good outcome for anybody bar the local bike shop. My friend Ryan is experiencing this feeling at the moment as he struggles with the daily lunchtime run. I worked with Ryan for many years and he did not show the smallest interest in running, actually any exercise really. Since I moved on he has found himself and running, lost a load of weight and I’ve even ran with him on many occasions. Lately though he has struggled with the weekly lunchtime runs and started to find the pace and distance are stagnating, along with his interest. His runs are all at a good pace for his current standard and he pushes himself but I feel he is stuck in the ‘not easy but not really hard pace’. This pace is dangerous because he is not giving his body time to recover , as there are no real slow recovery runs but he is not pushing himself to gain the cardio benefits of time in the pain box. Thus over time when you start to see little improvement you lose interest. I have challenged him to run a 5k time trial once a week and measure progress. I feel just adding this one run to his weekly schedule will be enough to maybe get the competitive juices flowing and move him towards putting a bib on his chest.
Of course the current parkrun explosion is a perfect place for young Ryan to wet his competitive urges. ( http://www.parkrun.com/ ). Started in the UK in 2004 with 13 runners it has morphed into a free weekly event attracting many thousands of runners, globally. Here you can go and race (although it’s not about racing more about participating but they record your times online) with other like minded runners and have your time recorded and available on the internet, giving you a target for next week. The mood is relaxed and inviting compared to the more intimidating ‘proper‘ races. It is built as a stepping stone to initially attract people back to running and then to prepare them to move on to the more competitive arena of paid entry and longer distances. I have a smorgasbord of parkruns available in the Perth area, at last count more than 16 I think and climbing. There’s even a parkrun ultra where a bunch of crazy runners start at 8am on Saturday morning and run each parkrun in the Perth area, transported between each one by bus. It takes nearly 24 hours and I can’t imagine the aroma on that bus towards the end of the event, it would be challenging I suspect. Luckily this year it clashed with Rottnest so I missed it but there are rumours they may move the date next year, I’d better getter my Brut deodorant ordered as this event sounds right up my street, literally. !
This weekend was one of my most successful races of the year, historically, for podium finishes. Over the last three years I have managed second place each year and slowly improved my times. Of course when the distance is only 4k I’m not expecting big improvement. The City Beach 4k is one of two distances offered with a ‘big brother’ 8k option , which is the normal chosen distance. I justify the shorter distance as it is normally a week before the 6 inch ultra ( http://www.6inchtrailmarathon.com/ ) and those extra four kilometres may make all the difference in a weeks time. Truth be told it’s more about chasing bling and the quality of the 4k event is not as high or deep as the longer version. As I advance in years I’m always keen for one more podium, or medal, and these smaller distances offer that opportunity.
Not to say a 4k is a walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination. As I have always maintained you suffer the same amount of ‘pain’ in short distances just magnified exponentially to match the amount of time running. Imagine a ‘pain box’ water tap, in shorter distances the tap is fully open and ‘pouring pain’ , while over a marathon it may be drip feeding ‘pain time’ over the longer period, to match the distance. The end result is its going to hurt and this is magnified by the race pace, which for a 4k is just about an all out sprint from the start.
So I lined up on Sunday with the Nike Vaporfly 4% on ready for the all out sprint at the start. I wasn’t disappointed and set off like a scolded cat slotting in behind the leader for the first 500m’s before deciding the pace was far too pedestrian and moving to the front. This is another reason I love the City Beach 4k as most of the runners are pacing themselves for the 8k so it gives me some time at the front of the pack , albeit normally briefly. I managed to get to the first kilometre marker in the lead in a time of 3mins 9 seconds, which was far too fast but as it’s the first kilometre it felt right. Of course the ‘chickens come home to roost’ in the second kilometre when the legs start to complain and the mind starts to realise there’s three kilometres to go and, at the current pace, this is undoable. Add in a hill and this kilometre becomes pivotal to success at this distance.
There was no way I was going to repeat my first kilometre time and dug in for damage limitation concentrating on the 2k marker, and the half way point up ahead. In the meantime I was passed like I was standing still and assumed that this would now be my fourth year in row for the bridesmaid award. No problem, I had more pressing issues at hand with the normal meltdown heading my way with another two kilometres ahead of me. People always assume that because the distance is so short how bad can a 4k really be ? I tell them to look at 400m runners and see the pain etched on their face as they round the last bend. It’s all relative, trust me. The 4k is all about hanging on from 2k onwards when you have used up most of your available energy and you are fueling on vapors with the preverbal head-gasket about to blow. This year I managed to finish both the last two kilometers in 3minutes 20 seconds so was happy enough to finish in 13:17. You always feel you could have done more but Jon had videoed me crossing the line and watching myself ‘stumble’ across the line (and that’s being generous!) I realised I was well and truly spent.
The best part of the morning was the lead runner , who had left me for dead, was actually doing the 8k race which allowed me to claim the plaudits and a win, after three consecutive second places as I mentioned earlier. The 8K winner did set a new course record so I wasn’t totally disgraced in the fact he could have ran through the start/finish line, made his speech, took some breakfast and still won both events quite easily. In my defence he looked half my age, minimum, and we’ll see if he’s still playing at the front of the pack when he’s fifty.
A few of the lads actually ran before the 8K and then entered and ran the race as a tempo. Mark L. started in the middle of the pack and , after running 13k pre-race, put in a sterling effort to make the top 10 of the 8k passing many runners and being past by none. (according to Mark and not yet substantiated.?) He was feeling so good he went for the Mike Kowal coffee and cake combination which, in Mike’s absence, they seemed to have up’d their game and the cake was of biblical proportions. I’m not sure the ‘if the furnace is hot enough it will burn approach’ works for this portion of cake but Mark was happy enough to risk the extra few pounds, come 6 inch race day, to devour the lot ! Being that Mark weights about as much as an Kenyan runner with bulimia he can afford the extra weight me thinks, although the proof will be in the pudding (excuse the pun) when he attempts Goldmine Hill next Sunday morning at 4:30am at the start of the 6 inch ultra but that’s a story for another day……..
Tapering, every runners worst fear, well most runners anyway. It’s a topic that usually divides runners, we all know it is probably the right thing to do but so is eating more vegetables and avoiding sugar, and we ignore these gems of wisdom normally. I have attached a post I wrote back in September 2016 on the subject when my only avid reader was my Mum and her feedback was minimal at best, being in her late seventies and never have run in her life the subject tended to alienate her but she did enjoy the photos of me running.
I have the 6 inch ultra marathon coming up next Sunday ( http://www.6inchtrailmarathon.com/) and should be in week two of taper mode. The common consensus when it comes to tapering is a three week period of reduced mileage and I use to follow this religiously in my earlier running days. This then morphed into two weeks and lately a very ‘steep’ one week taper. Funnily enough looking at my running spreadsheet, you have a running spreadsheet right?, (of course you have Strava http://www.strava.com) I noticed last year pre-6 inch I ran twice a day Monday to Thursday and gave myself a two day taper. This then translated to a top 10 finish and a course PB time.
Last year, as in seven of the last eight years, I ran with my good friend Brett Coombes, who paces me for the first half of the race and then lets me accelerate to the finish from the halfway mark, admittedly it is a long acceleration given the course is 47k long (note, this distance is never set in stone as the course director, Dave Kennedy, is always find new and more brutal hills and trails to add to the race, bless him.) I remember going through halfway with Brett and meeting the half marathon runners who were about to start, this gave me the boost I needed to propel me up the next hill and towards the finish. For the first time in many years I finished strong and would have probably ran a negative split, off a 48 hour taper , go figure ? Would I have ran better if I had tapered the normal way giving myself 2-3 weeks rather than running twice a day , not sure and that’s the issue with tapering, it is so personal. (as all things running are truth be told.) Admittedly the 6 inch ultra, being on trails, is more about survival and time on feet compared to a ‘marathon-sprint’ distance and the finishing times are normally an hour on top of your marathon finishing time minimum, sometimes a lot more if the hills get hold of you ! The pace varies with the terrain and the conditions of the trail so you never reach marathon pace or if you do its only when you are running downhill aided by gravity. Does this mitigate the need for a taper ?
I know Dave Kennedy, the race director of the 6 inch ultra, isn’t a big taper fan and treats most races as a ‘fast long run’ but he is mainly an ultra runner where the pace is slower than a marathon or shorter. Is it the ‘need for speed’ which justifies the taper and does distance mitigate the tapering requirement ? I’d argue it does as an ultra to me is a long run , just longer and if you get your nutrition right the fuel and your general fitness will get you from A to B. Not so with a marathon where, if you race it, you will need every ounce of your available resources , so these need to be at 100% pre-start, without a proper taper I don’t feel you’ll start at 100%. Nutrition does not play as an important a role in a marathon as you do not need to be out on the course that long compared to an ultra. When I ran the ADU 100K ( http://australiadayultra.com/ ) I ran every day in the week up to the race and felt no ill effect but for a marathon I will only ever run twice in the preceding week and both times only for 10k at a very sedate pace. (my ‘steep taper’ I talked about earlier.)
A day off running pre-race tomorrow, unlikely.
As I’m racing tomorrow there was no early morning run this morning. I am now wondering around lost. I have persuaded my Wife to get up early so we can drive to Yelo for a coffee and muffin breakfast (carbo loading for a 10k?) and after that I will return to my ‘lost’ state.
I’m a runner who loves to run and hates not running. Even now i’m making excuses for reasons why running today would be a good idea, not twice as that would be silly wouldn’t it? So my reasoning behind a run would be to loosen the legs (they aren’t tight), it’s not really a target race tomorrow (that is actually true, tomorrow is really a good hit-out pre-half next weekend) or get rid of some pre-race nerves (I ain’t nervous) . No luck there, let’s face it the reason I want to run is I love running, plain and simple.
Tapering for my next marathon will be a challenge. The last one I ran 100k the week before and called that tapering as I was averaging 130k a week. I’m normally ok on marathon week as even I understand the need to rest. I normally only run twice in the week before a marathon and actually enjoy the calm before the storm, but for a 10k tomorrow, hell I should be running now not typing.
So will probably sneak out for a ‘relaxing’ 10k sometime today, c’mon you’d be mad not too wouldn’t you…..
A quick article on tapering below by Pete Pfitzinger, M.S. suggests a 7-10 day taper for a 10k, I’m thinking 7-10 hours.
Most performance oriented runners will do pretty much what they’re told in training. Run 8 x 800 meters at the track? Sure. Do a 40-minute tempo run? No problem. It’s when we’re instructed to scale back, run less and conserve our energies, that we balk.
Training provides long-term fitness improvements but produces short-term fatigue. Leading up to an important race, the challenge is to find the optimal balance between maintaining the best possible racing fitness and resting to reduce the fatigue of training. This is referred to as a well-planned taper.
To achieve your best when it counts, you can only afford to do a full taper before a few key races each year. If you race often and were to taper thoroughly for each race, you would have little time left for hard training. So you learn to “train through” some races. But for the big ones, you will want to go all out to achieve your best.
A recent paper published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine reviewed more than 50 scientific studies on tapering to find out whether tapering betters performance, and how to go about it. The review showed that there is no question tapering works. Most studies found an improvement of about 3% when athletes reduced their training before competition. This translates to more than five minutes for a three-hour marathoner or more than a minute for those racing 10K in 40 minutes.
How Long Should You Taper?
Several of the studies concluded that the optimal length of taper is from seven days to three weeks, depending on the distance of the race and how hard you’ve trained. Too short a taper will leave you tired on race day, while tapering for too long will lead to a loss of fitness. How do you find the right balance? Consider than any one workout can give you far less than a 1% improvement in fitness, but a well-designed taper can provide a much larger improvement in race performance. Therefore, it is probably wiser to err on the side of tapering too much than not enough. The optimal number of days to taper for the most popular race distances are as follows: marathon, 19 to 22 days; 15K to 30K, 11 to 14 days; 5K to 10K, 7 to 10 days.
There are other ways to aid performance without running. In the picture below you can see Jon has gone for performance enhancing pink arm-bands to aid his ascent of Goldmine Hill, the meanest start to an ultra globally I reckon. The hill is at the start of the 6 inch ultra and is long, steep and normally ran in a half-light pre-sunrise. You get to the top of the 3k climb absolutely ‘goosed’ and this then sets you up for the next 43k of trail ‘pain’, got to love a trail ultra? As the race is in the middle of a Perth summer it is normally hot and very, very dry. One year Jon found the only puddle on the course that I have seen in 8 years of running this event and proceeded to fall in it not once but twice. He was then dropped like a bad rash as he struggled on encased in mud which dried almost instantly. Because of this he was made to wear arm-bands the following year for the Goldmine hill ascent. This year is his 6th running the event and he will be rewarded with a red spike, which is a tradition of the race. Barts though has other ideas and my lodge a stewards enquiry into the use of the arm-bands as they constitute a performance enhancement and are, as such, banned by the IAAF rule book, similar to blood doping according to Barts. I’ll let you know if Dave takes this protest on board and makes Jon run another 6 inch next year as punishment, over here in sunny Perth we take our trail running very seriously.
Footnote:- on my lunchtime run I couldn’t stop thinking about this post and the relationship between a good taper and PB’s. Last year I made a big effort to run twice a day whenever possible and this brought my weekly average to around 130k a week, compared to around 100k the previous year. On the back of this I ran some times I though beyond me as I approached 50. The highlight of the year was a 10k PB (34:18) followed by a half PB the following weekend, (1:15:00) both were at the end of long weeks, crammed with distance. I’ve added the Strava image for that period below. (remember ‘Strava is life, the rest is details’… http://www.strava.com )
So my question is do you need to taper or can you just increase your base fitness levels to such a point that even without rest you can run a PB just because you are just ‘fitter’. ? I believe you can and my Stella 2016 was down to purely running more, a trait championed by Maffetone and Fitzgerald.
Being a runner I love running, it’s what I do and cross training has never been high on my agenda. I use to enjoy a weekly circuit class but that was a ‘freebie’ in the works building gym. Once I moved buildings my circuit class career stopped abruptly. Of course I could have joined a gym and paid for a circuit class but I could run for free and running is my thing, not sweating in-front of mirrors. Another reason I always avoided cross training was I managed to avoid injury for so long. Over the last 7 -8 years I reckon I’ve missed about 4-6 weeks due to a couple of calf knots and/or a small calf tear. If you ain’t getting injured why cross train ? Of course you could say that cross training helps in injury avoidance or prevention but I go back to my earlier point, I’m a runner and faced with option of a cross training session or a run I’ll always ‘lace-up’.
This all changed earlier in the year when I managed to tear my calf and was faced with a 2-3 month period without running. My options were ‘don the lycra’ and get on the bike, join a gym or stop eating (to avoid putting on weight, I’m pretty sure this was unachievable over a 3 month period ?) None of these options inspired me but then I found the Elliptigo ( http://www.elliptigo.com ) and I had an outlet for my exercise addiction. I wrote a post on said item below :-
Just after I brought the Elliptigo, assuming it was the only product available, I found out about an Australian version which seems is cheaper and more suited to running. Always the way, I find out after I ‘splashed the cash’ of course. This Australian product it seems is certainly more running inspired that the Elliptigo (which is more Elliptical based) and built to provide a more ‘running experience’. The Bionic or Predator Plus is available at Run4.com ( http://www.run4.com).
The Bionic was invented in a dusty tin shed in regional Australia which sounds very Australian of course, probably the same shed they invented Holden, Castlemaine XXXX and Ugg boots. Steve Cranitch, the inventor, had noticed in his early 40’s that many of his avid running friends were being forced to give up running due to injuries. The alternatives , as I have already mentioned in this post earlier, just didn’t feel like running. Thus the non-impact running trainer was born.
The Bionic is built to mimic, as close as possible, the running stride and give you the same workout you would expect from a run. I have tested the Bionic and can concur it does work the same muscles, more so than the Elliptigo but both have their place. To me the Bionic is more for a good workout akin to a tempo or interval session, while the Elliptigo is more suited to a long run, of course both can be tailored to your needs with the gears and terrain but personally this is how I would see you justifying both products.
Can I justify both products ? I can yes, my Wife, no and as we are happily married (or that is what I have been trained to say if anybody asks ?) my Wife opinion over rides mine. This is a small price to pay for my ‘running tokens’.
So how would you use the Elliptigo or Bionic as part of your training schedule. I’d swap out a couple of sessions a week initially , to get use to the different training method and then also when you’re tapering, or even ramping-up, use this either as a ‘second run’ option or instead of a run if you are tapering but still need that exercise fix. They can be tailored to everybodies training and the best part is they really are fun. I used my Elliptigo over the weekend as I pulled up sore after the 14k progressive pain train on Thursday. It has been a few months since I rode it as, already mentioned in this post, I love running and given the choice will always choose a second run over all alternatives. Injury , or possible injury, forced me to the Elliptigo over the weekend and I must admit to yet again being pleasantly surprised at the workout the Elliptigo gives you and the general ‘fun factor’. When you ride an Elliptigo it really does put a smile on your face, it is serious fun people and this is the reason why it is my weapon of choice for cross training. It is cross training while still working the running muscles and you don’t have to go to a sweaty gym full of mirrors and ‘wanna-be’ body builders strutting around like ‘preaming peacocks’ .
I surprised myself how much I enjoyed the Elliptigo experience and I made a promise to spend more time aboard the product starting with commuting to work over Summer. If nothing else it’ll give me 3-4 hours a week of extra cardio-training compared to sitting on a train glued to my kindle or iphone. So cross training really can be running, working all the major running muscle groups without the impact , thanks to a dusty tin shed in regional Australia.