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It’s taper time but do you taper for an ultra ? I asked this last year.

I asked this question this time last year just before the Australia Day Ultra ( http://australiadayultra.com ) . A year later I can report I ran a good first 100k ultra and finished just over 8 hours with a constant pace throughout. It seems my ‘no tapering for an ultra’ strategy worked. This year I’ve ran 118k / 130k / 154k and 100k this week , since the 6 inch ultra in late December. The 100k this week was my ‘taper’ week before the final week where I’ll probably run 10k a day similar to last year. Is this a guarantee of success come the race ? In an Ultra unfortunately not. For any race, upto and including the marathon, I can probably predict my finishing time to within 1-2 minutes, with an ultra there are just too many variables to be really confident of a predicted finishing time.

In a marathon it’s all over in less than 3 hours so the time period for things to go wrong is small, assuming you have experience at the distance of course. I’m talking personally here and with 43 marathon finishes to me it is a fast long run, one I have completed many times. With this experience comes confidence, confidence to go out at a pace I know I can maintain and confidence to know that at 32k when most people are worried about ‘hitting the wall’ I mentally switch over to finish mode. There have been no unpleasant marathon experiences since 2014 when I was defending my Bunbury title and mentally fell apart at 15k. I learned from that mistake and its all been good since. (Note. the distance still hurts but ‘been good since’ really means as good as any marathon can be. Sorry people but if you race marathons you are gong to spend serious time in the pain box, there is no sugar coating this.)

An Ultra though does not give you the benefit of confidence because of all the variables that come into play. Last year was a great year for me and it all fell into place beautifully. I even managed to grab a second place finish when two runners in-front of me dropped out, the lead runner (who shall remain nameless)  even pulled a hammy while going for an unscheduled call of nature, how lucky is that ? (for me of course , not the lead runner.) My nutrition and hydration strategy was spot on, again more luck than judgement, and the conditions were perfect. Because it was my first time I wasn’t under any real pressure (bar the video shot by Rob where I mentioned a 8hr 30min target time.) and truth be told actually enjoyed the whole experience bar lap 6 and 7 (it’s a 8 lap 12.5k course) Who is going to enjoy laps 6 and 7 though, this is when you are settled in the corner of the pain box in the foetal position asking yourself some serious questions?  (the joy of running an ultra?) Lap 8 is bearable because it is the last one and every step you take you know you won’t repeat it, it’s one step closer to finishing rather than starting a new lap.

So in a few days I come out of my retirement (I retired as soon as I finished last year !) and take on the ADU again. Can I run a sub 8 hour 100k and grab an AURU age group record ? We’ll have a good crack but with so many variables you can never tell and the Piper may come a-calling this year and ask for payment. If he does , that’s cool,  it’ll give me something to blog about when I eventually crawl over the line, after my pancakes, bacon and maple syrup of course, somethings will be constant in a world of variables.

 

 

Do you taper for an ultra ?

Being mainly a marathon runner I’m not as confident or sure of the taper period for an ultra. For the 6 inch ultra marathon in December last year I experimented by not tapering nearly as much as I would for a marathon. On the week of the event I actually ran twice a day Monday through Thursday and only had 48 hours rest before the race. Admittedly all runs on race week were slow and easy but I still managed over 80km’s pre-race. On the day I felt great and ran a good race for a 7th place finish but more importantly I was 4th quickest over the second half of the race. I actually ran my first negative split for an ultra. The week before the ultra I had ran 140k so there really wasn’t a taper period to talk off. ( http://www.6inchtrailmarathon.com )

Could this work for a marathon ? I don’t think so. The ultra is normally ran at a more subdued pace and although longer I feel not as testing as ‘racing’ a marathon. (Well ultras less than 100k, when you get above 100k I’m sure it becomes a tad more testing that a marathon. Once I run further than 100k I’ll confirm?) In an ultra the race pace normally decreases brings your overall cardio fitness in to play more than resting the legs a few weeks before. If you haven’t got the fitness a two week taper will not help, you’ll still be underdone. With a marathon, as the distance is less, you normally have the fitness required to finish the event, the tapering helps more by letting tired muscles recovery.

Also I feel running a good ultra is more dependant on the nutrition and hydration plan, get this right will benefit you so much more than a taper period. Again get this plan wrong and the taper will not save you. In an ultra any mistakes will be paid for, that is a certainty. In an ultra there is no where to hide.

Researching tapering and ultras on the web and there are stories advocating no tapering and setting PB’s while others advocate a 3 week steep taper and lean more towards relaxing rather than stressing about the event. All have their pro’s and con’s and as with all things running there’s no one shoe fits all. It really depends on the runner and also their experience and fitness. The more experienced runner with a good foundation of distance training under their belt will be more likely to be able to go into an event without tapering. They will not need the confidence boost that comes from a good taper as much as someone with less experience. Remember a good taper will also aid confidence and going into any race this is  important, anything that helps put you in a positive mindset is welcome and needs to be embraced,

Of course if you have any niggling injuries an enforced taper may be called for. When this happens there is nothing you can do about it, just sit back and smell the roses concentrating on things you can influence like carboloading. Now carboloading, that is a whole new post and one I shall tackle next. Until then enjoy this article below by Ian Torrence which highlights ‘peaking’ rather than tapering as a benefit,  pre-ultra. Ian is part of the Greg McMillan stable of writers so has a wealth of knowledge and experience to call upon.  (Please note I do not advocate the Joe Kulak method of peaking described below but as you can see in the photo below my friend Jon is convinced it works… ?)

 

Jon practicing the Joe Kulak method of peaking !

 

The final weeks before an event are the toughest to get right. The common notion that all hard work must cease and inactivity must ensue is incorrect. It’s also foolhardy to continue amassing mileage and tough workouts as race day nears in hopes of improving fitness. Depending on your approach to this all-important time period, you may be left feeling lethargic or simply exhausted. A runner with the proper peak will feel rejuvenated and ready to go on race day.

Greg McMillan, my mentor, has devised a set of rules to live by as race day approaches. Greg explains, “By studying peak performance research – both physiological as well as psychological – as opposed to just the tapering research, I’ve been able to dial in how to truly peak on race day. It works for all athletes no matter where you find yourself in the pack come race day.” By placing Greg’s simple and effective system into context, let’s get you prepared for your next ultra.

1. Do not drop running volume drastically

Though there are some that prefer three weeks to peak, two weeks seems to be the most popular choice. During the first week of a peak, drop the length of each run by 10 to 20 minutes. The week before your event, drop volume by 20 to 30 minutes per run. I recommend that ultrarunners limit their last long run(s), done a week before the key event, to 90 easy minutes (regardless of the distance of the event). This is enough to give you that long run feeling, but short enough that muscle recovery and glycogen-storage continue. Light, non-impact cross training can be done in lieu of runs, but only if you are used to those forms of exercise.

2. Keep the routine

Run, eat, sleep, work, and socialize when you do normally. Your body and mind have achieved stasis over the past few months of training. Keep them both happy and the keel even. Now is not the time to experiment with new workouts, forms of exercise, foods, and social events. Use the extra time not spent running for sleeping and sticking to “safe” hobbies.

3. Keep the intensity and build confidence

Before the 2007 JFK 50 Mile, I had an exchange with fellow competitor Andy Mason. Nine days before the race, he completed a round of very quick mile repeats on the track; his last quality workout before the race. I knew he was fit and feeling confident. That year, Andy finished in the top ten.

Though most ultrarunners do not need to perform a tough round of mile repeats before their next race, they might consider doing some sort of confidence-building workout 10 days to two weeks out from their event. This workout, however, should be in tune with recent training. Running a 30-mile training run or time trialing up and down Hope Pass (like the author) a few days before a race is neither smart nor beneficial. A moderate length workout that you’re familiar with, that is aerobically challenging, allows for adequate recovery before race day, and demonstrates your fitness should be the order of the day. If you don’t routinely perform hard hill, stamina-building, fartlek, or fast finish workouts then this is not the time to start. Maintain your current training and follow the guidelines for reduction in mileage as mentioned above.

Now is also the time to reflect on all of the training you’ve done thus far. Remember that you’ve done the work necessary to get you to the finish line.

4. Stick to the original race plan and have fun

No one starts a race without a goal. Whether it be to keep your Grand Slam hopes alive, finish your first ultra, or win the event outright, don’t lose sight of why you’re out there. Be deliberate in your actions and calculate each move you make on the race course. Run your own race and enjoy the time you’re having on the trail or road. Greg McMillan sums this up perfectly, “Let’s face it. Most of us aren’t going for an Olympic gold medal here. We are simply enjoying the challenge of doing our best. There is no real pressure, so quit putting so much on yourself. We run for fun, and you should remember that. Have fun!”

PEAKING FOR MULTIPLE RACES

What if you’re gearing up for several important races that are separated by a few weeks or less? The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, as well as others of that genre, and several race series like the NorCal and SoCal Ultra Grand Prix are perfect examples. In essence, you are recovering and peaking in unison between events. There are two ways to approach situations like this:

1. Reverse taper

This is like returning from injury. Gradually and slowly increase the length of your post-race easy runs and avoid fast and difficult workouts. You won’t reach your normal training level, but you’ll satisfy the need for a few runs before your next event.

2. The Joe Kulak Method

When I asked Joe Kulak what he did between each of his four 2003 Grand Slam record- setting 100-mile races, he quipped, “I sat on the couch and drank beer.” If beer is not your drink of choice, water works just as well. The reality is that you can’t gain fitness in the two or three weeks between long ultras. Recovery will be your best “workout” while preparing for your next event.

Do race finish time predictors work ?

I’m a big believer in trusting in your training, put in the hard work and you’ll be rewarded. I have said it many times on this blog running is an honest sport, this of course is a two edged sword with very few examples of running faster than expected times off poor or no training. Of course returning from injury can sometimes be a blessing in disguise because you are forced to take some time off and this, combined with good training before and after the injury, can surprise you with better than expected times. Which leads me to the point of this post, predicted finishing times for longer races from shorter races.  The main example I use is my current half time times two and add 10 minutes, this  will normally be pretty close to my marathon time. e.g. if I’m running 1:20 for the half my marathon time is around 2:50 (1:20 * 2 + 10 minutes)

My current half PB is 1:15:00 but this hasn’t translated to a 2:40 marathon ( I managed 2:41:41 ) mainly due to the half time being one of those races when ‘the magic happens‘ and you out perform what you thought you were capable of. Saying that to get to within 2 minutes is pretty accurate. When I ran my marathon PB , 2:41:14 my half time was 1:16:24 which was closer. You can use a 10k or even a 5k time as an indicator but of curse the margin for error is probably larger as you are multiplying the finishing time by either 4 (10k) or 8 (5k). There are various websites where you can ply in your predictor race and your goal race and get an estimated finish time.  A good example is the McMillan website ( https://www.mcmillanrunning.com ) or Runners World ( https://www.runnersworld.com/marathon-training/heres-a-better-marathon-time-predictor )

The Runners World race time predictor has bee rebuilt apparently (see below)  It seems most race predictors are overall generous with their predictions and the work by Andrew Vickers paints a gloomier picture by also adding in weekly mileage. Common sense really as those runners running higher mileage would be better prepared , cardio-wise if nothing else, for the longer races. Most, if not all, race predictors never ask for weekly training mileage, strange this has been over looked.

As always I have an amusing story reference race predictors. My good friend Mike Kowal wasn’t running as much as he should have been due to injury (we use to call him ‘sick note’ as he was injured so much. There was the amusing story where he got injured at the sports massage clinic because the physio left the heat pack on and told Mike to call out if it got to hot. Not wanting to seem a wimp Mike kept quiet and ended up with second degree burns ! You get the picture…)  Anyhow because Mike hadn’t run a half , 10k or even a 5k he started to predict his marathon finishing times off even shorter distances, At one point I’m sure he had it down to a 10 metre sprint. This is not to be recommend for predicting a marathon finish not matter what magic he used, it is to be noted Mike is an Engineer and probably developed some devilish formula to show a sub3 prediction of a 4 paces sprint. Funnily enough he did go sub3 on his first marathon but has yet to repeat the magic on subsequent outings.

All joking aside can you use a race predictor and rely on the predicted time to set your pace for a marathon ? Remember the marathon runner who slows the least normally wins (or achieves their goal). Predicted time and the resulting race pace is pivotal to success when it comes to running a marathon so get the predicted time wrong and the race pace will also be wrong,  which equates to failure. I like the idea of entering two previous results in the Runners World predictor because it adds in experience which is so important to race finish times. I can predict to within +/- 90 seconds my marathon time these days and this is all down to experience. With over 60 marathons and ultra’s under my belt I can predict my race pace very accurately and have only hit the wall twice, once in my first marathon by not preparing and running a time beyond me and once when I was struggling mentally and talked myself into failure. (I have covered the mental part of marathon running in various posts, so important and so under estimated.) With experience and good quality training comes consistency. 

I used the Running World Race Time Predictor and added in my best 10k and 5k times and adjusted the weekly mileage until I got a sub 2:40 marathon time. I had to get two 160 km a week (100 miles) to get my predicted time under 2hrs 40 minutes for the full marathon. Probably about right truth be told but it never asked for my age which would surely be another factor that would be pivotal to the accuracy ? I’m 51 in a few weeks and assuming all the variables where the same I would expect a 35 year old runner, for example, with the same race times  to out perform me. Maybe I’ll try and run a 2:38:30 in June this year, hell the computer says ‘Yes’ so what could possibly go wrong ?

 

160km a week, piece of cake.
A Mike Kowal 10metre marathon predictor run with the man himself. I think he predicted a sub 2hour marathon off this one?

Secret to running a PB (PR) really is simple.

I was looking back in my Excel spreadsheet training journal recently at my PB’s (PR’s for our American cousins. (You need a manual record just in case Strava  ( http://www.strava.com ) gets taken out by North Korea, that funny looking leader of theirs doesn’t look like a runner, just saying.) All my PB’s have come at the end of a high mileage training week(s) and on all occasions I have ran with runners who I had no right running with, truth be told. In most cases I have been dropped but not before I was deposited into a situation where a PB became a reality. If I had ran to a set pace I would have not ran as fast. So it seems we all have the ability to run faster than we think we can but we rarely put this theory to the test as we are worried about ‘blowing up’ or failure.

For my 10k PB of 34:18 I raced this new young runner I had not seen before as I thought initially he was running the 5k option. When the 5k runners turned we both moved to the 10k course. As it turns out this young runner became a good friend of mine who I train with weekly. Zac has turned into a very accomplished runner who is currently training with Raf and targeting a sub 2:30 marathon. Needless to say I don’t race in the same league as  Zac anymore and this was brought home to me recently at the Fremantle half where I placed third in the 10k and ran with Zac for the first 3k , unfortunately Zac was running the half and then dropped me on the way to a 72 minute time and the victory. I couldn’t even keep up for 4k. I digress of course, the first time I met Zac I decided to try and run with him for as long as possible as he was running quicker than my PB pace. Any thought of a predetermined race pace went out the window and I just ran to see how long I could keep up with this new face on the Perth running scene. As it turned out Zac was also outside his comfort zone and I managed to sneak home for the win and a new PB. I feel without my ‘gun-ho’ approach I would have achieved neither.

Racing with Zac at the Darlington half this year. This was as close as I got as he grabbed a podium and I was a few minutes behind him. (He is number 11912 to my right)

It is a similar story for my 5k PB. This time Chris O’Neil turned up at my local park run (a very accomplished ultra runner and marathon runner with a marathon PB of 2:25 ) and I was again at the end of a long training week with double-up days all the previous 5 days. I wasn’t expecting much truth be told but thought I’d try and keep Chris honest for at least the first kilometre, it was my local park run after all. So off I went like a scolded cat running 800m pace from the start. I did manage to get to the first kilometre marker before Chris but after that he was off and I managed to maintain a pace quick enough to run a 16:40 which was a time that myself and Dan ‘the man with a plan’ Macey had often talked about achieving. I had been close on many occasions but this time I had given myself the extra few seconds I needed by running the first kilometre at suicide pace and then hanging on.

Rottnest Marathon Start line. Chris is number 287 and he won by a margin of over 10 minutes if my memory serves me right.

My half marathon PB was achieved in similar circumstances when I again decided to try and run with the lead group for a long as possible as see where it took me. It actually took me to the lead at 18k feeling great and I started to think about a winners speech, ( do I thank all my extended family first and  then the Marathon Club for hosting the event, marshalls, God, the list soon became quite large ? ) The Fremantle Half is quite a large event and for some reason this year a lot of quality runners had decided to run elsewhere. I was left leading Gerry Hill and Tom Bakowski, two runners outside my pay grade but both had not been running at the top of their game and I dared to dream, briefly. At 19k they both decided to stop playing with me, like a cat plays with a mouse, and both put on the afterburners consigning me to third place but a massive PB of 75 minutes dead. Yep, that’s right, a rookie error finishing dead on 1hour 15 minutes. One step quicker and I would have been a 1:14;xx half runner, albeit the xx would have been 59 seconds, not important it’s all about the minutes when it comes to half PB’s. As with the other two PB’s this one came at the end of a massive training week and I remember sitting in the car before the event actually contemplating pulling out as I was so fatigued from the weeks training and I didn’t want to embarrass myself.

So to sum up this little gem of a post it seems if you really want to grab a PB you need to run more and then on race day hook up with someone you know is quicker, than your current PB, and hang on for dear life. Don’t worry about the time as they’ll take care of it, all you need to do is hang on for as long as you can and they will sling-shot you to a PB, simple really.  Perfectly summed up by the late, great Steve Prefontaine below.

 

A Steve Prefontaine classic quote.

Note: I must stress this can also work with longer distances like the marathon but a certain amount of self restraint needs to be shown. I wouldn’t recommend slotting in behind the lead Kenyan at a marathon hoping to take the ‘gung-ho, nothing ventured, nothing gained ‘ approach because unfortunately this will end in failure and normally pretty quickly.  By all means find someone who normally runs a few minutes quicker but running a marathon at suicide pace normally results in just that. Young Mr. Prefontaine never ran a marathon and was a specialist 5k runner, for 5k you can run at suicide pace and sometimes survive, for a marathon there is no finishing if you start at 5k pace. No one ever said at the end of a marathon ‘that was easy, I shaved off 30 minutes off my PB with no training’, sorry but that’s running for you……

 

 

Some runs are about “mental preparation” rather than running. Bring on 2018…….

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.

This image is to keep you interested , it serves no purpose but to remind you and I that pancakes are life, the rest is details..like Strava, good coffee and muffins.

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 whenhttp://whywalkwhen.com ), put together this video of my first attempt this time last year. Worth a look…. https://vimeo.com/201134104

Was is that bad, I’m even smiling in this photo? ADU100K.

 

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……

 

A finer bunch of runners you’d be hard to find. I’m privileged to know them and run with them, even Mark Lee.

 

Sometimes a glazed ham may be the answer?

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.

Maple, Mustard and Orange Glazed ham, I’m sure Evan’s was nicer?

Best thing about racing is recovering from racing.

After the 6 inch ultra it’s time to smell the roses and eat the pancakes..sometimes that’s enough to get you to the end !

 

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.

Recovery really can be a time to rejoice…with extra maple syrup of course.

It’s not a good trail race unless you get lost ?

Loving life on the trail.. The 6 inch ultra really is just ace. (Photo thanks to Focused Ninja Photography)

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’. 

Once more into the breach… Photo reference . another Dennis Tan classic. Paparazzi on the run.

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 ?

http://www.runbkrun.com/2016/12/19/sometimes-6-inches-is-enough/ 

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?

Even I smile on a trial run, a rare sight when racing ! (Note, this was before I got lost !) (Photo thanks to Paparazzi on the run. Dennis Tan)

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….

Masters Award with the RD and WA running legend Dave Kennedy.

 

The weekend is all about racing.

You want to improve, put a bib on your chest and get racing….

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. !

 

The pain train is coming and it’s an express. !

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.

My last win, we’ll see ? Time with John Gilmour and Ray Lampard, two of my past and present favourite runners and a gold medal around my neck. Life really is good, even better the sun is even shining ! (to be noted in WA it shines for months on end!)

 

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……..

 

This is one happy runner , a runners high perhaps.?

 

 

 

 

Want to go faster, easy, do nothing.

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.

A 48 hour taper, more than enough ?

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.

 

Surrounded by Jon’s at the start of the 6 inch.  Notice Jon’s pink arm-bands, a performance enhancer perhaps?

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 )

Big weeks , no taper and then two massive PB’s ?

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.