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.
I have been to Malaysia several times on business over the years and each time managed to find some magic hills to play on, cocooned in Malaysian jungle of course. Every time the hills have been brutal, the heat and humidity unbearable but the experience exhilarating. Could I run a marathon in these conditions ? Probably not. There’s a funny story there of course. Earlier this year Jon , fresh from running his first sub3 marathon for many a year, entered the Phuket marathon as it just happened to be on while he was holidaying with his young family. (Nice one Jon!) Anyhow we discussed his time pre-marathon and added 10-15 minutes to account for the conditions. Well how wrong were we.
It all started well enough and Jon made it to halfway in a respectable 95 minutes, give or take, near the pointy end of the field. Unfortunately around this point the wheels well and truly fell off culminating in a ‘nap’ on the course . Yes you read that right, Jon decided to have a little rest by the side of the road and woke up 20 minutes later.!! This is what humidity and heat can do to a good sub3 runner. Of course when Jon discussed this, probably over a bacon and egg sandwich , with no bread ( remember he is the high fat, low carb (HFLC) pin up boy.) the boys could hardly contain themselves. Jon has been known to walk once in a while, which is always a source of amusement to the rest of us, but a nap while racing a marathon and probably in the top 10%, well he has taken it to a new level.
So back to my latest business trip to KL. I arrived after taking the red-eye ( so named as the flight is either very early or late, either way you arrive with ‘red eye’s due to lack of sleep) I checked in at the hotel and decided I needed to run 10k. After a brief conversation with the hotel porters who looked at me like I had two heads (I’m use to that of course) as I stood there in my running attire preparing to leave the sanctuary of the hotels air condition and venture out into the soaring midday humidity oven. I found a park a block away from the hotel which had a 500m loop around a lake (for lake read large expanse of brown stagnant water) . I admit it was hot and humid but I always enjoy running in new locations so off I set around the lake for loop number 1 of 20. The run itself turned into a progressive for one reason and one reason only, self preservation. It was the middle of the day at a time when most normal people were hiding from the heat with only one silly Englishman running in circles around a brown lake, getting hotter and hotter with each lap. I did eventually manage the 20 laps but it was more of a lesson in mental toughness rather than enjoyment. I think enjoyment left the party at around lap two to be replaced by ‘what the hell am I doing this for’……
Eventually I finished and even put in a good progressive but looking at my heart rate there was no way I was going to continue. That’s what I like about hot and humid conditions, every run is a long run and leaves you gasping for air. I don’t think the word ‘easy’ and ‘humid’ are bed partners. After the run , on the way back to the hotel, I couldn’t help thinking about Jon and how he had got to half way in a marathon at a reasonable pace before succumbing to the conditions and resting his weary head. Must admit to a chuckle or two as I staggered back to the hotel looking like I had just showered , a lot !
My next run in KL was around a 1.3k loop in central KL close to the PETRONAS twin towers in the evening, This was a lot more pleasant and I cruised the loop for another 10k. All was good of course until I caught the train back to the hotel. In KL the trains are cold, really cold, and I was hot and sweating, really sweating. Well as you can imagine when I boarded the train it was like Niagara Falls, mothers grabbed their small children for fear of losing them in the tsunami of sweat. Not nice for all concerned.
I had to find a run that would let me get to the start without too many MRT stops and speaking to my colleagues at work it seemed that there was a hill close by with good running facilities. They weren’t wrong, it must be a Malaysian thing but the hill was perfect , long, steep gradient and brutal. Add in the heat and humidity and you had a real test. (treat) I set off up said hill with a smile on my face and wasn’t disappointed 12k later when I eventually left the hill to return to the hotel for breakfast and work. It was too good to not go that evening and grab a few Strava CR’s (course records) after the initial visit showed some ‘gettable‘ records. (Remember Strava is life, the rest is details ; feel free to follow me on Strava , search for Big Kev, Perth, WA… All my runs are on Strava and if you can take anything from this information please do. http://www.strava.com )
That evening I went back and on tired legs did grab a few CR’s so I l left my mark in Malaysia. I enjoyed it so much I went back again this morning but the legs were well and truly past their sell by date so it became a recovery run very quickly. I suppose 30k of gut busting hills in two days was a tad too much, but what can you do? The conditions were brutal but the scenery inspiring , typical Malaysian, monkeys, wild pigs and all sort of exotic bird life, how can you not go for a run and be part of that?
So the point of this post is when you do get to experience new surroundings go for a run. We all love out local ‘old faithful’ loops we run continually with our friends but once in a while stepping outside your comfort zone is just so much fun. So find a big hill and go and play with it, variety really is the spice of life; and if it all gets too much for you then just find a kerb and have a nap, worked for Jon. (He did eventually finish the Phuket Marathon when he awoke from his ‘beauty sleep but well over the 10-15 minutes extra time we had given him. Lesson learned.)
Sunday was the obligatory long run with the boys and it reminded me of a post I wrote earlier in the year. Yet again we started at a reasonable pace and the first 15k was very relaxed, mainly due to the fact the T-Train was unable to get to the front of the group and set the pace. This was left to Bart’s who had ran 32k the day before and was very keen to keep the pace as slow as possible. This worked until the 10k mark when he announced he was only running 20k and scurried off back to the start to await our arrival after a quick dip in the ocean and a treat of some description no doubt.
Luckily I managed to position myself to the front of the pack and keep Tony at bay for another 10k or so but unfortunately when we hit the coast it was on for young and old as the T-train turned on the afterburners and all of a sudden we moving along at just over 4min/k average pace. This of course made the last 10k challenging but as you’ll see from the post below it is nothing new.
The fast finish at marathon pace is a run that is worth mastering for a number of reasons. Firstly you need to be fatigued to get the benefit of the last 5-10k MP pace, thus you need to probably run at least 20k to enter this state. Time on feet is enough as you’ll bank nearly two hours of running pre-MP finish. This gets you use to the feeling of fatigue and speed that you will need to embrace come the big day. Second once the pace starts to increase us runners are proud beasts and hate nothing more than being dropped. Stubbornness is a trait you will need in abundance to be a successful marathon runner, that and a large portion of tenaciousness. Either way when the T-train explodes, which he will invariably do, you want to be as close as possible at the finish.
Today I managed to keep Tony and Mark C. in view but even with my top off I was unable to keep up. I was happy enough to keep them in my line of sight truth be told and managed to finish the week off with a 154k total and 11 runs. More than enough for the week and I managed to avoid the second run to make the 100miles, this was mainly due to family commitments but a big week none the less. This week I’m off to sunny KL for work for so will hopefully be exploring some new runs, well I will definitely be exploring new runs as this is my first time in KL , outside the airport anyhow. The climate will be a challenge, hot and humid, but at least there’ll be no train to chase, maybe, just maybe, I’ll miss him…..
Being Sunday it was the normal early morning alarm call and the obligatory long run with the boys. This morning it was a 2 hour easy run, not worrying too much about pace but more time on legs, the bread and butter long run. We set of from Hillary’s car park and move gingerly towards City Beach which was 13k to the South and would make a good turning point. As it was we reached City beach dead on 13k and 1 hour , perfect pacing.
Of course on the way back we up’d the pace as we got closer to the finish and the lure of coffee enticed us quicker kilometre by kilometre. A good negative split of 3 minutes and a quick last 5k was always on the cards and yet again we all probably failed in our main goal of a time on feet, easy long run.
So yet again our long run turned into a progressive, my third for the week, and I realised that running in a group you are always going to end up with a progressive finish, it must be a ‘man thing’ , too competitive. Maybe we need to try and get more females into the Sunday long run group to try and calm the testosterone that eventually always comes to a crescendo when you can smell the coffee, around the last 5k mark. On the bright side because Mark Lee decided to have a lie in we weren’t running sub 4min/k average for the last 5k and the finish was testing but not ‘pain box’ suffering. Looking back through my last few months of long, easy runs and I seem to have this ‘fast finish’ spurt on all of them, if it’s not Mark it’ll be Ross or the T-train pushing the pace and I’ll hang on because what other option is there ? All thoughts of a long easy run are forgotten and it becomes a ‘last man standing’ sprint to the finish. Maybe I’ll get Matt Fitzgerald alone on one of these long easy runs and see how he goes with 5k to go and the smell of caffeine in his nostrils !! I’m sure he’ll be sprinting to the finish with the rest of us.
An article below from Matt Fitzgerald explains the theory behind junk miles and recovery runs, good news if you like to run slow, which unfortunately me and the boys don’t do on a Sunday. Maybe I’ll print this and hand it out before the next ling run and we’ll discuss it’s merits. It won’t help of course because with 5k to go you know it’s on for young and old……
If you asked a stadium-size crowd of runners to name the most important type of running workout, some would say tempo runs, others would say long runs, and still others would say intervals of one kind or another. None would mention recovery runs. Unless I happened to be in that stadium.
I wrote the post below on November 17th last year which was ironic as I ran with Mark Lee yesterday morning on yet another Yelo progressive run, he didn’t let me down yesterday as the photo above shows. In the post below I ran alone but lately we have a regular Yelo 14k progressive crew now who all meet at 5:30am and explode onto the bike path for a 14k out and back loop to Floreat Beach.
The progressive run really is one of my favourites because you can build into it and although the ‘pain train’ cometh there is an element of acceptance which makes it a little more bearable. It is to be noted this progressive was extra brutal due to the Rottnest Marathon a few weeks ago, the heat (as we are coming into a Perth summer) and my rabbits, being Mark Lee and Phil, being relatively rested and thus uncatchable.
At 10k I was making up all sort of scenarios to slow, I have to race the weekend was one, my legs are still recovering from the Rottnest Marathon another, it’s too hot, I’m too old, etc. etc. Needless to say I ignored all of these negative thoughts and pushed on for another couple of kilometres before accelerating down the last hill as I smelt the coffee and muffins.
It is to be noted the run itself was an extra 500m’s due to Phil persuading us all to run through a building site and several dead ends, I felt like a lab rat ! At the time there was much laughter and joking about this mini-detour but I can tell you it was a different story at the end of the 14k distance and you still had another 500m to go, with your heart about to explode through your chest cavity ! Thanks for that extra time deep in the pain-box Phil.
As I posted this article at a time when only my Wife and Mother actually read my posts , for different reasons, my Wife to make sure I was actually running (though I can’t for the life of me think of anything else I could have been doing?) and my Mum because that’s what Mum’s do, take an interest in their Sons hobbies even when he’s the wrong side of 50, bless ’em. Thus it worth a read if only for the excellent article by Greg McMillan, who knows a thing or two about running. ( https://www.mcmillanrunning.com )
Rereading the post below I realised this was probably the first 14k Yelo progressive, a run that has since become a weekly occurrence, if Mark had turned up that fateful morning we may had run a completely different route and the 14k Yelo progressive may never have happened. All those muffins that I have enjoyed over the last year may never have happened. Looks like I owe Mr.Lee and his ‘man-flu’ a big debt of gratitude as this run now must rank as probably my favourite, for various reasons. Over the last year there has been so many good memories created because of this run and of course some serious coffee and muffin combinations put away. It has become more than just an early morning run, it’s more of a time for runners to just enjoy the pure art of running faster and faster until you can go no faster. The thrill of reaching a point of near exhaustion and pushing on, albeit briefly, of feeling totally alive and at one with yourself and your surroundings. Running gives you so much and never more so than on a well executed progressive, trust me on this people you need to run progressive runs, the coffee and muffin combo afterwards is a personal taste and unless you live in Perth, Australia, you ain’t ever going to get that Yelo feeling. If you ever do make it to Perth you’re more than welcome to pop along to Yelo, Trigg Beach around 5.30am on any given Thursday morning, just look out for a motley crew of men wearing very little with a glint in their eye……..
As I was let down by my training partner this morning (For the second time in 2 weeks !, for a fitness coach my friend, who shall rename nameless ,
Mark Leedoesn’t half get a lot of colds.?) I decided to still leave from my favourite cafe, Yelo, so when I returned in an hours time it would be just opening and I could reward myself with a muffin coffee combo before scurrying off to work. Setting off towards City Beach I was enjoying the views of an early morning Perth spring morning, see below. Ok I may have put on a filter to boost the colours (as is the way on social media these days.) but it was pretty inspiring, albeit alone.
While initially dawdling along towards City Beach I did start to feel a little guilty knowing what I was going to reward myself with at the end of the run . (photo attached at the end of this post) To this end I thought I’d better at least run for a full hour and also make 14k. I was also wary of running the marathon less than 2 weeks ago so had to make sure I didn’t get too excited as the second week of recovery is the dangerous time when runners think all is good and step up too early. I put that last bit in italics for a reason, it needs to be digested and understood. Take it easy for 2 weeks, not just the first week post marathon.
So while I was dawdling along I concluded the best type of run for the occasion would be a progressive. As the names suggest you get progressively quicker each kilometre with the last few being the fastest. This has many benefits as I feel it allows you to warm up first and also you gradually increase the pace rather than shock the legs by hitting the turbo button with little warning. This to me is a lot easier on the legs compared to a threshold or tempo where you can find yourself running quickly on cold legs, a recipe for disaster. Another good point is you can start as slow as you like, I’d even encourage you to start real slow as it makes the progressive pace increase easier. No point exploding out of the blocks on a progressive run as it makes the whole experience null and void when you start to progress the wrong way half way through your session.
This morning I was perfectly primed for a good progressive and managed to gradually increase the pace each kilometre , the pace of course quickened after the turn around as I was heading back to my favourite cafe in the whole world with the best muffin combo on this planet. (And probably the solar system , though this is my opinion and cannot be substantiated.) I didn’t kill myself as I was wary of my two week rule (post marathon) so finished relatively fresh which allowed me to skip up the stairs to Yelo and claim my reward.
It seems I am not the only advocate of progressive running as Greg McMillan has written a great article also highlighting its benefits. He agrees with my points about being easier on the legs due to the slow start but also gives you 3 options and explains more about the stamina benefits. Personally I have only ran the increase pace each kilometre progressive but must admit to a few fast finishes as I’ve chased the young whip-snapper the T-train at the end of a long run, got to keep these young fella’s honest. The marathon pace finish to a long run is another favourite of mine but I’ll leave that to another post.
Greg McMillan wrote a great article on progressive running which is worth a read.
START SLOW – FINISH FAST: HOW THREE TYPES OF PROGRESSION RUNS BOOST YOUR FITNESS
Over the last few years, my athletes have benefited greatly from workouts called progression runs. In a progression run, you begin running at a slow, easy pace but finish at a fast pace. Not only will you find progression runs to be fun, but they are a great way to boost your fitness without any lasting fatigue. And, the benefits are the same no matter if you’re a 2:15 or a 4:15 marathoner.
Three Types of Progression Runs
While the idea of the progression run is simple – start slower, finish faster, I recommend that you begin with structured progression runs until you learn how to properly gauge your effort throughout the run. Below are the three structured progression runs that I have used successfully.
The first type of progression run is called Thirds. As the name implies, you break your run into three equal parts or thirds. For the first third, you run at a relatively slow, comfortable pace. As you progress to the second third of the run, your pace will have gradually increased to your normal steady running pace. Over the last third of the run, you increase your speed so that you’re running a strong, comfortably hard pace. For many competitive runners this effort corresponds to somewhere around marathon race pace to as fast as half-marathon race pace and a heart rate between 80 and 90% of maximum. This strong running significantly improves your Stamina which raises the pace you can run before you begin to rapidly accumulate lactic acid.
For your first thirds progression run, choose a 45-minute easy run. Run the first 15 minutes slowly, the second 15 minutes at your normal pace and finish the last 15 minutes at a strong pace. While I break the run into thirds, your pace doesn’t radically change after each third. Instead, it is a gradual but steady increase across the run. After getting your feet wet with this first thirds run, you can adapt the concept to any duration/distance.
It’s important to note that the pace of the final third is NOT all-out running. An appropriate pace for the last third is approximately Steady State or Tempo pace.* Could you run faster at the end? Of course! But that’s not the goal of this particular progression run. In fact, if you run too hard in the last third, the workout becomes more like a race, which causes too much fatigue for the purposes of a progression run.
It’s likely that on some of your runs, you already do a thirds progression run without even trying. When you are fully recovered from previous workouts, the body seems to just naturally progress to a faster pace as the run goes along. And please note that I suggest you do this on an ‘easy run’ day not a ‘recovery run’ day.** For all but a select few elite athletes, progression runs should not be used on days when you are recovering from a previous workout or race.
Lastly, I find a thirds progression run to be an especially beneficial workout for experienced marathon runners – runners who can handle an additional up-tempo day in addition to their other key workouts and long run. The most important caveat, however, is that you must not push too hard in the last third. Strive for a medium-hard pace (around your Steady State Pace).
The second type of progression run I call DUSA – after the Discovery USA program where we did a lot of this type of running. To perform a DUSA progression run, run for 75-90% of your total run at a steady, easy pace. Then, as you approach the final 15-25% of the run, you really pick up the pace. For competitive runners this means half-marathon to 10K race pace with a fast finish the last quarter mile. It’s exhilarating! You can then jog or walk for five minutes to cool-down. DUSA’s are not a race but almost feel like one, and you’ll likely find that your heart rate goes to over 90% of maximum by the finish.
For many runners, I assign this DUSA progression run as part of a 50- to 60-minute run where they run easily for 40 to 50 minutes then “progress” to a strong pace for the last five to 15 minutes. With my elite marathoners, I assign DUSA progression runs of up to 90 minutes in length and with up to 15 to 25 minutes fast. But, by simply using the idea of running the last 15-25% of your run at a faster pace, you can adapt this progression run to whatever duration or distance you run.
Compared to the thirds progression run, a DUSA involves a slightly faster pace for a slightly shorter amount of time and provides a little different stimulus to the body.
You’ll be surprised at how fun a DUSA workout is and that it really doesn’t take much out of you. I insert it into an athlete’s program where I want to make sure the athlete gets some quality running but can’t afford a long recovery time after the workout. Again, the idea is that we get a few more minutes of Stamina training integrated into the training week but that none of these fast portions are intense enough or last long enough to cause any lasting fatigue. You should not feel any effects of the DUSA progression run on your next run. If you do, you are probably pushing too hard in the faster portion. You may also want to change where you insert them into your program. Consider including more recovery runs before or after your progression runs.
3) Super Fast Finish
The final type of progression run is one of my personal favorites and was utilized by Paul Tergat in his build-up to the Berlin Marathon where he set the world marathon record of 2:04:55. For this workout, the name says it all. You run a normal steady run but run super fast in the last three to six minutes of the run. When I say super fast, I mean super fast. Pretty much like a 5K race to the finish. Like the DUSA workout above, these runs are exhilarating yet don’t require a long recovery. They are fast enough to really stimulate your Speed and Sprinting ability (muscle recruitment, coordination, mental focus and lactic acid tolerance) but short enough (three to six minutes) that you will feel no lasting effect on your next run. That said, you must be accustomed to fast running before trying to run asuper fast finish progression run otherwise you will likely be sore from the speed.
We did a lot of these when I was in high school. We would run our normal easy run pace but as we approached the last half mile before getting back to campus, we would begin to push very hard. It’s probably even fair to say we raced each other to the finish line. Our thought was that this super fast finish established a habit out of finishing fast so that when it came to a race, no other team would be able to finish as fast as we could. It would just be automatic that we would run hard at the end. As warned in the previous progression runs, we did not do this on our key recovery days. We ran it on a day where we were completely recovered.
How Progression Runs Benefit You
While the above told you the “how’s” of progression runs, I want to also tell you the “why’s” so that you can be smart if you integrate this type of training into your program. I find that progression runs are effective for three primary reasons. First, we know that warming up the muscles by starting out slowly not only decreases your risk of injury but “primes” the physiological pathways that will be used in faster running. If you push too hard before the appropriate energy delivery systems are ready for the effort, then you will stress the anaerobic systems; not what we’re after in our normal, everyday runs. In fact, going anaerobic (or more correctly, building up too much lactic acid) can even inhibit the development of your aerobic system so make sure that if the purpose of your run is to develop your aerobic system, you don’t start the run too fast.
Second (and I think this is most important), progression runs allow you, across your training cycle, to increase the volume of faster, stamina-type training. For example, if you include a couple of 60-minute progression runs that include 10 minutes at a fast pace in your program each week, you will add an additional 20 minutes of stamina training to your program. Across your training cycle, this additional stamina training results in a much fitter athlete.
Third, this increase in the volume of stamina training comes at a very small price. Correctly using progression runs results in very little fatigue compared with normal running. In fact, my experience has been that the athletes who most often suffer from overtraining, injury, undue fatigue and poor racing are those who push too hard, too soon and for too long in their runs, particularly their easy and recovery runs. Progression runs allow you to insert fast running into your training runs (feeding your need for speed) but in a way from which you can easily recover.
How to Integrate Progression Runs into Your Training
As important as it is to understand the why’s and how’s of progression runs, it’s more important to know how to safely and effectively incorporate them into your training. I recommend that near the end of your Lydiard-style base phase you first add one progression run into your weekly schedule with ample recovery time leading up to and after the progression run day. In other words, don’t do a progression run on the day after your long run. Once more accustomed to progression running, then you can begin to include more in your weekly schedule based on your experience level, training frequency and training phase.
One note: just because progression runs are beneficial, this doesn’t mean that “all” of your runs should be progressions. Progression runs are just one component of a well-balanced training program and can be used to temper any tendencies to start runs too fast. They also add some (often much needed) variety to runs, which keeps things fun. The number of progression runs that you can tolerate each week is dependent on your experience level and ability to tolerate training. If you run three to four times per week, you may only run a progression run every other week – the other days being devoted to other types of training. A pro runner who runs ten to 13 times per week, however, may run two to six progression runs per week, mostly DUSA and super fast finish workouts. Like all training, you must start conservatively and see how your body reacts to progression run workouts. With this information, you can find the optimum training routine that works for you.
The next time you are in a relaxed training phase, try incorporating progression runs into your program. The workouts not only add variety and make training fun, but significantly boost your fitness without a lengthy recovery. Used as part of a smart, overall approach to training that includes building an endurance base, gaining strength through stamina training, adding speed and working on your finishing sprint, progression runs will give your fitness a boost.
This is the last photo of my Yelo muffin this week I promise, but I must warn you it is a beauty. The muffins at Yelo really are special. ( http://www.yelocornerstore.com.au )
Sunday morning is the traditional long run for myself and my running brothers (and in todays case a sister, thanks for bringing some decorum to our group Jules.) It is after said run we get to do what I run for basically, eat sugar disguised as either pancakes, waffles or muffins all washed down with a good Cappacino, People ask me what I enjoy most about running and to me , and it must be said most of the running group, it’s the post-long run (or the Thursday Yolo progressive) ‘tukka’ and conversation. Admittedly living in Perth we are spoilt rotten when it comes to the scenery we play in and the weather as a whole. In Winter it may be dark and rain (once in a blue moon) but it’s rarely cold and I’ve never not ran because of the conditions. There’s been a few times when we’ve all sat in our cars as a ‘squall’ passed over but it’s normally pretty quick and I’ve never had a run I regretted. As we move into spring in Perth we really are blessed with near perfect running conditions and today was no exception. As a few of us (myself included) are racing Rottnest next week the run was to be a 20k , time on legs, easy run. More about the banter afterwards than a hard session, all the hard work has been done and we are in taper mode.
It is to be noted there were a few runners in our group who find it difficult to run slow, Zac and Ross being the main culprits, so we gave Damo’ (front row, far left) the task of grabbing pole position and slowing the pace down. This lasted about 1k before Damo’ failed in his task spectacularly and blew up big time. Unfortunately it was then on for young and old as the pace dropped from the planned 5min/k pace down to the low 4:30min/k very quickly. This continued to the half way point with much grumbling from the back runners including myself. At halfway though I suddenly felt a second wind and decided to put in 5k of MP (marathon pace) before slipping back to a more respectable pace as I stumbled towards City Beach and waffles. It’s been a long few weeks of quality training so my 5k of MP was never really going to happen. In the end I settled for 4k of ‘near MP’ and then a drink stop, while I waited for the group to catch up.
In the end Jeff and Ben came running past and I joined them briefly for the next hill before setting off alone again drawn to the waffles and coffee that awaited me at City Beach. In the end my overall average was 4:22min/k for 20k but more importantly I felt relaxed and enjoyed the hit out. Without doubt though the best part was the first 10k and the company. The kilometres really do pass so quickly when you run with friends as you have a week of ‘man stuff’ to catch up on. Being mostly a male dominated group we don’t tend to speak in the week unless we run together and we have found ‘What’s App’ now so all runs are organised online. Actually running together forces conversation, a lost art these days it seems, also if you know me you know I like to talk, so without company I struggle with distance.
Today was no different and we chatted like long lost friends , well it had been a week, about all the latest ‘stuff’, I would try and be more specific but it really can be anything and everything. The main topic is normally running related of course, about upcoming races, who just ran what and in what time is always high on the agenda, new shoes (a very topical topic at the moment with the Nike arrivals) and when will the 2 hour marathon be broken and will anybody from my group do it? Either way the time ticks along nicely and a long run can be over before you know it, well maybe not that quick but certainly a lot quicker than running solo. Back in the day I use to do my long runs alone and boy when you ain’t in the mood, and you start counting K’s early, you are in for along day at the office. I had a 34k run from my house to the end of the bike path at Burns beach and back as my ‘last long run of choice‘ before a marathon and most times it was a killer. I remember the last time I ran it I was counting kilometres very early and the run just seemed to drag on for ever as I slowed with every K. Mentally I was finished before I started and I have had so many bad runs on that route but still perceived , we’re a funny bunch runners?
Different story with the current day ‘BK posse’ , the long runs are more bearable and dare I say ‘enjoyable’, well as ‘enjoyable’ as a long run can be. The conversation and shared suffering helps, maybe it the shared suffering that really helps. Watching your fellow runner in as much pain as you makes your suffering seem a little easier, I say that in a nice way of course? That’s not to say every long run is painful but when you’re in the middle of a training block for a marathon, I’m sorry people, you need to spend some time in the pain box, with or without your running buddies. Maybe it is the ‘problem shared is a problem halved type ‘ scenario but with pain and suffering, I’m not sure but it just works. Nothing I enjoy more than seeing my running buddies in pain, again in a nice way?
Some competitive rivalry is also useful within the group as it spurs on good performances. In our group at the moment most of the runners had ran a sub3 marathon with the exception of Gareth, Jeff and Mark L. Mark C. was a member of this group but with the help of a one-on-one training plan from Matt Fitzgerald ( http://www.mattfitzgerald.com in Matt we trust! ) had gone from just over 3 hours to a 2:55 and then a 2:48 in the last few months. (fuelled on carbs!) Mark L. was desperate to enter the sub3 club and did so last weekend with a second place finish at the Bussleton Marathon and a 2:57 finish. Give Mark L. his due he had been taking a severe ‘ribbing’ since missing out on the sub3 target at the Perth City-to-Surf ,which was well short. (Even his Mum joined in.) This time there was no mistake. So instantly the mantra of ‘not ran a sub 3‘ falls to Gareth, Jeff has a get out of jail card as he is well over 100 years old and thus , age adjusted , has actually ran sub2; probably sub1 truth be told !!
I read a great article recently written by Matt Fitzgerald , In Men’s Journal, as he documented the top 5 things he learnt from training with the elites for the recent Chicago marathon, where we ran his target time of sub 2:40. One of the top 5 tips was train with people of similar abilities and goals. I wonder if Matt would have been so sure if he’d met my bunch of running reprobates, interesting , maybe we’ll get him over to sunny Perth one day for a Sunday long run, I just hope he can keep up with the banter as he’ll have no troubler keeping up with the pace , especially if we can get Damo’ to the front albeit briefly ?
Do the Little Things
Listen to Your Body
One aspect of pro training that really hit home with Fitzgerald was the willingness of the elites to cut a workout short or even take a day off if something was hurting. This is something most amateurs are loath to do, opting instead to stick it out and do the work on their training plans. Often, it sinks their ships. “This ‘live-to-fight-another-day’ mentality reduces the risk of injury and overtraining,” he says.
Train With People Who Have Similar Abilities and Goals
“You’ll benefit more from your training if you surround yourself with athletes who can pull you along on their good days and whom you can push on your bad days,” Fitzgerald says. If you don’t have ready training partners, seek them out via your local running club or shoe store.
Spend More Time at an Easy Pace:
Fitzgerald says that most amateurs run their easy runs too hard. “Most pros spend 80 percent of their runs at low intensity,” he explains, “but too many recreational runners fail to truly dial back.” Make easy pace your respected friend unless you’re out to do speed work, realizing it will establish a base to carry you through long term.
While there’s much that amateurs can adopt from the pros, Fitzgerald points out that unless they scale it to their own level, it will be too much to handle. “Few amateur runners can or should run 100 miles per week, for example,” he says. “but they can and should run a good deal relative to their personal limits if they want to get the most out of their God-given ability.” That said, Fitzgerald reminds every-day runners that some pros take risks that shouldn’t be emulated. “They might train or compete injured — risks you shouldn’t take if your livelihood doesn’t depend on your performance.”
After my last post about the marathon being two separate distances , encompassing a 32k warm-up before a 10k ‘sprint’ to the line, I thought I’d share one of the sure fire ways to improve your marathon finishing time. As readers of my ‘ramblings’ will know I have some golden rules to improving your running , summarized below.
Without doubt the most important rule, in my opinion, is number 1, ‘Run Further. Add Distance, Not Speed’ This is the foundation on which you build success. Whatever distance you are currently running, do more, with the caveat of avoiding injury of course (Golden rule number 3) I have said many, many times ‘running is an honest sport’ , there are no short cuts, to really improve you need to run more distance and more often. For a runner there are no Zip wheels, Death Star helmets or mega-buck carbon-fibre bikes to gain an advantage , it’s just down to physical and mental strength and who wants its the most. ( This may now not be as true as the new Nike Vaporflys 4% do seem to give the wearer an advantage over your Asics Kayano’s type marathon runners, albeit only a 4% efficiency improvement if you believe the hype; which I do.)
I believe there is no such thing as ‘junk miles’, every run you finish has helped and thus if you run more, and more often, it stands to reason you will improve quicker. Another way to turbo-charge your improvement is to run twice a day. Most runners struggle with this concept but all the professionals run minimum twice a day. Of course, I hear you say, they have time on their hands and it’s what they are paid to do but even us mortals can find time for a second run with a bit of time management. Personally I am lucky enough to be able to run every lunchtime in near perfect conditions , the curse of living in the colonies. I then normally run mornings, pre-work, as for most of the year this is the best time to run anyway. In summer especially it can be the only time to run as my home town , Perth, is situated in a desert and for three months of the year can be unpleasant after the early morning sunrise.
Some runners find is hard to find time in the mornings with family commitments etc. so will need to step-up in the evenings and this may involve running in the dark. I personally find no enjoyment from this but understand you have to put in the hard yards to continue to improve so take one of my David Goggins ‘suck it up’ pills and off into the night I go. ( http://www.davidgoggins.com ) What I found was, in the evening, if you’re sitting at home watching rubbish on TV you should be running. This is where you can get your second run, substitute sitting down at the end of the day wasting time to doing something constructive towards your next goal race, it really is that simple, go for a run. The second run of the day is all about time on feet anyway , there are no objectives bar the actual time spent running. No pressures, no time constraints, the second run of the day can be liberating because it is running for running’s sake, nothing more , nothing less.
The second run is where the magic happens, this is the reason the professionals run minimum twice a day. It allows then to add the distance needed to see the improvements required without the risk of injury, if they are careful and the run really is a time on feet exercise. Recreational runners will also see the same benefit and probably more because they will starting from a lower level with greater opportunity for improvement.
Of course it is to be noted that this is only one of the jigsaw puzzle that is running improvement but it is one I feel every runner needs to embrace as much as possible. I understand most runners will not be able to hit the 14 times a week goal, that is a double run a day, but any additional run to your weekly schedule will be beneficial. Small steps for big gains, maybe try one double day a week initially and then build up. Of course if this puts too much strain on you then move back to the single run but maybe try and add weekly distance before trying a double day later. Remember adding distance is all about adding to the foundation of your running and this foundation needs to be stable and strong before you start to add pace. There are several coaches who support the distance theory of running including the late, great Arthur Lydiard ( http://lydiardfoundation.org/ ) Phil Maffetone ( https://philmaffetone.com/ ) and Matt Fitzgerald. ( https://mattfitzgerald.org/ )
So next time your sitting at home watch that mind-numbing soap or a reality show making overweight people exercise to the brink of death maybe think ‘I could be doing something more constructive’. Go and do what you love and ‘smell the roses’ (or whatever wild flower is available in your area?) with a relaxing second run. Payback will be so sweet when you rock up for your next race and find you’ve fitted a turbo-charger and leave the pack behind as you explode towards the finish line.
Christine Junkermann sums up the Lydiard method below from a Runners World post in 2000. ( https://www.runnersworld.com/
Forty years ago at the Rome Olympics, athletes guided by legendary New Zealand coach Arthur Lydiard made history. Among Lydiard’s protégés were a total of 17 Olympic medalists, including Peter Snell (800 and 1,500 meters), Murray Halberg (5,000 meters) and Barry Magee (marathon). Lydiard, now 82, toured the U.S. last fall, speaking to runners on the Lydiard method of training. He was as passionate as ever about sharing the methods he developed 50 years ago.
Lydiard hasn’t changed his training advice over the decades, and why should he? His ideas work. Moreover, if you look carefully at the most popular and successful programs today, most have a Lydiard emphasis. For Lydiard, running to your potential is about having a substantial mileage base and not overdoing your anaerobic training. There are no shortcuts.
After the Perth City to Surf I faced the normal marathon ‘come-down’ where you struggle coming back to earth after the high of a good marathon finish. The early part of the following week is particularly hard as you are forced to lay off the normal running routine to give your legs, and body, some time to recover from the beating you gave it on the previous weekend. More time off you feet which is always compounded by the previous few weeks pre-marathon, which were tapering. Thus with any marathon you are always faced with a very minimal month of training, two weeks pre-marathon and two weeks post-marathon.
This is when the self-doubt starts to set in as when you do eventually start to return to the normal training schedule you are normally way off your normal cardio fitness levels. I always find I can normally return to the same weekly distance pretty quickly but pace is always more challenging.
For some reason though this time I am having trouble retuning to my weekly routine. I have been promising myself I’ll ramp up for the Rottnest Marathon end of October ( https://www.wamc.org.au/major-events/rottnest-marathon-fun-run/ ) but find every morning I just find a reason to justify not running. There have been many excuses, it’s far too cold, too dark, I’ll run longer lunch time, dogs need feeding, possible ISIS attacks (ok that one is clutching at straws but you never know, we live in a dangerous time apparently ?) I’m just finding it hard to return to my normal twice a day, 7 days a week training routine that use to be the norm.
In my defense I have moved house recently and I still haven’t found an ‘old faithful’ , a 10k run that I enjoy enough to run 4-5 times a week and one that can be run on auto-pilot. Every runner needs an ‘old-faithful’ to help them rack up the time-on-legs while not requiring any thought or too much effort. Without one of these routes you need to think about each and every run and ‘thinking’ can be mentally challenging, well it is for me. I have tried a few routes but just haven’t nailed one that I’m totally happy with. This makes the morning runs difficult to justify and at the moment this is all the excuse I need. (bar the ISIS threat of course?)
I put down my ‘stella’ year last year down to the extra training distance and double-up days and if I was to return to my pre-2016 training levels am I going to suffer, performance wise ? Add in the mix my age ‘challenges’ (This is being the wrong side of 50. ) and I seem to be in a corner. What’s the answer ? Maybe a funny looking bike with no seat.? On the weekend I dusted down the Elliptigo ( http://www.elliptigo.com/ ) and rode 40k before a 10k easy run on grass and it felt great. I got the cardio workout I required but also didn’t feel like I had exercised for over 2 hours because I have the bike and run combination. Trust me after the workout I was goosed for the rest of the day, in a good way. Maybe my days of 14 runs a week are behind me, for the moment, but with the Elliptigo I have the opportunity to keep up the hourly weekly exercising total.
So tomorrow morning I am going to run a pre-work 10k, return home, pat the dogs and then get on the Elliptigo and charge to work before treating myself to a Coffee and Banana and Walnut bread, toasted of course. I will then repeat this for the next four weeks giving me the chance to aim for a top 5 finish at Rottnest and an age group win, this is important because the competition on Rotto’ is heating up and my days in the top 5 may be numbered. The Elliptigo may be the weapon I need to drag me to the Rottnest podium one more time, that or the Banana and Walnut bread ? Also on my Elliptigo I’ll be a lot to harder to hit if ISIS do decide to target balding, bearded runners on bikes with no saddles, you never know people we live in dangerous times ?
So to sum up this post , because sometimes I lose track myself, if you lose your running mojo you need to look at other ways to maintain your cardio fitness and cycling, swimming, the gym or even funny looking bikes where you stand up may be what you need to scratch that itch. Anything is better than nothing and eventually your mojo will return and when it does you need to be ready.
The Choo-Choo run was an idea of Simon Coates a few years back. Basically we all drive to North Dandelup Station (and I use the word ‘station’ in the broadest sense of the word, it is actually a small raised platform and a car park.) and run to Serpentine train station to catch the only train back to the start. Miss the train and you are faced with either a 10k walk back via the road (and in the country running on the road is suicide due to the drivers all believing they are Michael Schumacher, before the skiing accident !) or worse, repeating the 35k trail run in reverse. (Now there’s a thought ? )
It’s not a race as such, more of a man versus train type run with friends. Everyone leaves at different times with the idea being you’ll all arrive together at the finish, a handicap run I suppose. There was talk of a prize for the last person to leave North Dandelup and make the train but this, for this year at least, was shelved. As it was I have attached a photo of the runners who left last @ 7am, this was 30 minutes after last years leaving time so we’d given ourselves little margin for error . Its a 35k testing trail run which should take around 3hours and the return train leaves Serpentine @ 10:20am.
So off we went full of the joys of spring bounding up the first 6k which is all uphill and on road. As I mentioned earlier this is testing for two reasons, one, the hill is large , unforgiving and long (as all good hills should be) but there is also the threat of getting cleaned up by the ‘country drivers’. In the country life may be slower but the driving is anything but. There’s a reason that even Kangaroos get wiped out on a regular basis. Faced with slowing down country drivers decided to speed up and fit ‘bull bars’ to their cars, so rather than avoid Kangaroos(or runners!) they accelerate into them . Bless ’em.
We managed to get to the top of the road section intact after one close call when three cars cut a corner and we happen to be on it, you certainly feel alive when that happens trust me. Once we regrouped a quick headcount indicated we were one short (literally!) . Bart’s , who had driven me down to the start, was missing so I volunteered to run down the ‘hill of death’ and find him. After a longer run that I had wanted to take on at such an early stage of the adventure I found Bart’s ‘huffing and puffing’ up the road in a world of pain. This after 6km’s into 35k challenging trail run , racing a train. Not a good start and I indicated the best thing he could do was return to the car and wait for us or at least give me his car keys (as my bag was in his car, it wasn’t about the bag though , honest ?) Bart’s insisted on carrying on and asked me to come back and check on him during the run. Due to the time constraint we had set ourselves I told him in no uncertain terms this was not going to happen and once I left him he was on his own. Surprisingly he was ok with this and, with no prior knowledge of the route and less than 3 hours to run the remaining 29k, was happy to take on this adventure , alone. So Barts was dropped quicker than Hilary Clinton endorsements after the American Election, never to be seen again, or so we thought ?
After dropping Barts like a bad habit I caught up with the back markers and eventually the main group. We continued on our merry way commenting how enjoyable trail running was and how we should do it more often. Please note this is the same conversation we have at the beginning of every trail run, unfortunately our views on trails can sometimes be a tad different by the time we finish; and that’s be nice about it ! Anyhow we made it to the 21k mark where our ‘race director’ Simon Coakes had dropped water and gu’s, it was the least he could do after DNS’s the previous evening due to umpiring his son’s footy game and pulling a hammy. (He’s getting old Si, bless him.)
The last 14k after the drinks stop is the best part of the Choo-Choo run as you run off the scarp which means some wicked descents into Serpentine. Last year I was able to take advantage of the terrain and put in some seriously fast splits but this year, due to it being 2 weeks after the Perth City-to-Surf marathon, my hammy’s had tightened up so every step was painful as I hobbled (and that’s being nice) down the hill. No worries. reached the Deli and tucked into my first Brownes Mocha for probably 6 months, man did that taste good !!
We had 20 minutes until the train arrived so just enjoyed telling tales of the day when all of a sudden who comes into sight, walking the wrong way to the Deli, but Barts. ! Unbelievably he had somehow managed to get to the finish in time for the train, albeit running 3k less , somehow ? At the time of writing this post it has to be noted we have not seen any Strava evidence ( http://www.strava.com) of Barts and whatever trail he did run but assuming he said he did what he did I am in awe of the man.
Funnily enough the train was graffitied at the main depot so was cleaned before it set out on its journey, resulting in a 45 minute delay. We could have started at 8am, not 7am, and still made it easily. When the train did arrive at the station there was no sign of any graffiti and maybe next year this could be a cunning plan for a lie-in, just got to persuade someone with a spray can to get the train before it leaves ? That’s wrong, right?
The photo below is all the crew who made the finish including a few runners who left before the 7am sweepers. There has already been lots of talk of leaving even later next year but we’ll see; no one has actually missed the train yet so there will be a first. One thing for sure it won’t be Barts, if he can recover from near exhaustion at 6k and then still finish less than 3 hours later after running 32k I reckon the man could fly if he wanted to. Running gives you so much and on that Sunday it allowed me to witness a miracle, how does one go about nominating someone for a sainthood ? Saint Barts of lost causes, it has a nice ring to it, if only he was taller…..
This Sunday it’s the annual Simon Coates inspired ‘Choo-Choo‘ run where a bunch of runner leave North Dandelup train station and race to North Serpentine train station, with a ticket for the return journey. Of course miss the train (and there is only one a day) and it’s a long walk of shame back to North Dandelup. (because after 36k of trails you ain’t going to be running, trust me!) As you can read from my report last year we left at 6:40am (give our take or a few minutes) and all ran well and finished at Serpentine in good time for the train to return to the start. It must be noted this was the last long run before the City to Surf Marathon so most of us were in peak condition. This time we’re leaving 15 minutes later and its’ two weeks after the City to Surf, so we are in ‘ we’ve just been run over by a freight train‘ mode; got to love the 2 weeks after a marathon eh?
To add to the mix I picked up a head cold from no3 Daughter earlier in the week so am nowhere near 100%. No one said it was going to be easy?
You can read last years report here :-
The run itself is a 36k trail run, though by road it’s only 10k. It’s always funny to see the look on the other passengers faces when we get on the train for the 10minute training journey back to the start after taking nearly 3 hours to get from A to B. I’m sure they’re happy to see the back of us as after 3 hours of running I can imagine we’re not the sweetest smelling bunch, an acquired taste probably? Must admit to being a tad disappointed the first time we did this ‘race’ as I had settled down for a nice long rest on the return train journey only to be kicked off the train after a few minutes. on the bright side Mark L. is driving so we can all have a power nap on the journey back to sunny Perth.
This will be a big end to a good week, bar this head cold, and then next week we need to start to think about the next marathon, there’s always a ‘next marathon’. ! This one of course is special as it’s my favourite, the Rottnest Marathon, you really need to click on this link… http://www.rottnestisland.com . One of my favourite places on this planet with a 4 lap hilly marathon to really test you. If I make the train this weekend I’ll tell you all about it…..
After the ‘runners high‘ of completing a marathon comes the ‘runners low’ of realising the enormity of what you have done and realising it will be some time before you get to the next marathon finish line. I have a favourite corner in the Perth City to Surf and funnily enough it is the last one before the finish straight at the bottom of a good sized down hill. I’ve ran that corner 7 times and every time I know all there is left is to ‘ham it up’ for the crowd and the ‘marathon photos’ photographers. All I need to worry about is getting that finishing shot that will one day join hundred of other finishing shots on a yet to be purchased study wall, where I will surround myself with pictures of me running marathons. (Actually typing that it sounds a little bit sad but not sad enough to stop me investing ( wasting) money of more photographs of myself covered in sweat and carboshotz with a smile that would make a Cheshire Cat look gloomy.!) It is a wonderful corner and when I’m training I sometimes run past it and it always puts a smile on my face. Of course, being a busy intersection, if I ever tried to recreate that ‘finishing feeling’ I’d probably get run over by a truck! Once a year though that corner is mine and it makes me the happiest marathon runner on the planet, for that moment in time. That’s where the runners high starts and it last all the way to the finish line a few hundred metres down the road. Those few hundred metres are magical and even typing this now I can’t wait to get there again at the end of August 2018 and explode to the finish, milking the crowd for everything I can.
Each marathon I have ever ran has had that magical finish and on a few occasions I’ve been brought to tears due to an over whelming out pouring of joy. Crying tears of joy is something that does happen and it just adds to the mystic of running marathons. This has not happened that often, probably a handful of times but when it does it makes everything that has gone before it seem worth while. From memory when I ran my first Comrades, and my last, I was certainly moved to tears and my fastest Perth marathon in 2013 was also an emotional finish That may be it, three finishes from 60 starts (if you include ultra-marathons). This may have something to do with the last few years mimicking Usain Bolt when I finish followed by press-ups (which are getting harder , trust me!) No worries, all marathon finishes are special , just some are really special. Those three are enough to make me come back again and again, just one more tearful finish, like a marathon junkie looking for that one last big hit?
This bring me to the point of this post, finally. (I have mentioned I digress sometimes haven’t I?) With all things there is a Yin and Yang, a positive and a negative, an up and a down. (There are probably a few more of these but you get the idea.) After the high of the marathon finish comes the low of the recovery week. This is probably compounded by the taper pre-marathon which results in a 3-4 week period of little running. Thus when you start again, after the marathon, it is normally a very painful experience where your legs feel like wooden blocks and your heart rate is 10-20bpm higher than normal. If you have a Garmin 235 I guarantee your VO2 max score is also lower. I always give myself 3 days of completely when I will also indulge in some of the forbidden fruit us runners try to avoid when training. More visits to Yelo than normal and maybe the odd packet of dark chocolate digestives (or two). This week you don’t have to worry about weight gain or diets just enjoy your time as you have certainly earned it. Release that ‘sweet tooth tiger’ that you spend the rest of the year caged up. If you run in the week after a marathon you do so out of some sort of need to keep active. I personally don’t feel you need to as I reckon it’s the same as the week before a marathon, you can only do too much , never too little. This translates to no running can sometimes be the better option.
So do I take the whole week off ? Hell no ! Do as I say not as I do. I normally take Monday to Wednesday off but then get back into it Thursday albeit slowly, very slowly. This week for instance I even gave myself until Thursday and made the first run a 17k easy run. The second run on Friday was a lot harder. I personally find the second run after a marathon the hardest, maybe a DOMS thing? (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness) On Saturday I planned a 20k easy run but turned at 7k and only made 14k. No problem, when you are recovering you really need to adjust any workouts to how your are feeling. If you aren’t feeling it, no problem, stop. Doing nothing really is the best option in this week. This was highlighted today when I put on my running gear for an afternoon 20k but decided against it. Got changed, had some toast, felt guilty and then put on my running gear again before again taking it off and deciding walking the dogs was the better option. Do I feel this was the wrong thing to do now as I type this post? . No, I think I may actually be learning my lesson listening to my body for a change, actually quite proud of myself for making the right decision two days in a row, Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks ? Right Yelo anybody……
I’ve attached a post from the McMillan Running website as a guide ( https://www.mcmillanrunning.com/payback-time-a-two-week-scientific-plan-to-optimize-recovery-after-your-marathon/) Some very useful points that are worth taking onboard.
It’s at this time of the year that marathon recovery, not marathon training, starts to take center stage. The best recovery is one that optimizes your musculoskeletal recovery yet also maintains your conditioning. You’ve built superior fitness before the marathon and you don’t want to lose all of it and then have to start from scratch.
Research indicates that the muscle damage from running a marathon can last up to two weeks. The research also indicates that soreness (or the lack thereof) is not a good indicator of muscular healing. In other words, just because you aren’t sore anymore doesn’t mean that you are fully healed. This is the danger for marathon runners: post-marathon muscular soreness fades after a few days but submicroscopic damage within the muscle cells remains. If you return to full training too soon–running more and faster than the tissues are ready for–you risk delaying full recovery and the chance to get ready for your next goal.
The solution, it appears, is to recognize (and accept) that the muscles will take a while to heal and to be prepared to take it easy for the first couple of weeks (even longer if you’re particularly sore after your marathon). While the research isn’t very promising when it comes to things to do to relieve soreness and aid healing, a couple of concepts appear to help. First, providing gentle blood flow to the area helps bring healing nutrients into the muscles and also helps to remove waste products and damaged tissue. Walking and gentle massage can help, particularly in the first few days after a marathon. Once muscle soreness has significantly reduced (usually two to four days after the race), light jogging can commence. The recovery program above forces a runner to let muscles fully heal but also provides some light jogging to aid blood flow and “feed the need” that we all have for our daily runs. Just be mindful to run very slowly.
No runner wants to get super fit and then lose that during the recovery process. But since you must reduce your training load following your marathon, it can be tricky as to how much and how soon to insert running into your post-marathon training.
The bad news is that no matter what you do, you will lose race sharpness. But that’s OK because your next big race is probably several months away. The good news is that most research indicates that as long as there is an aerobic stimulus once every two to three days, aerobic fitness will be maintained. In this recovery plan, you run at least once every other day (except for the first two days after the marathon) to minimize any loss of base fitness.
Many runners liken recovery training to a “reverse taper” without the fast workouts. Easy running is gradually increased over the weeks post-race. By the fourth week, your normal level of training is approached.
Recovery time is also the best chance to pay back your support system for the help provided during your build-up to and participation in the marathon. Use this time to help others with goals, whether running-related or not, and spend more time with family and friends.
Also use this opportunity to celebrate your success and recharge your systems. Determine what went right in training and in the race and what you would fix. If done correctly, you can come out of this period fully healed and ready to take your marathon fitness into the next training phase.
Now it’s time to use your marathon fitness before you lose it – read Turning Marathon Fitness into 5K/10K PRs.
Optimal Marathon Recovery Program
Notes: Can include gentle walking for 15 to 20 minutes. Eat well and stay hydrated to facilitate recovery. Ice baths are favored by many runners (read more about ice baths).
Notes: Can include gentle walking for 15 to 20 minutes.
Run: 20 Mins Very Slow + Easy
Notes: The first run back is often very awkward so go slow and run on flat terrain.
Notes: Don’t forget to enjoy the accomplishment of your marathon.
Run: 20 Mins Very Slow + Easy
Notes: Muscle soreness should be subsiding.
Run: 30 Mins Very Slow + Easy
Notes: You may not feel like a runner but you are laying the groundwork for your next training cycle.
Run: 20 Mins Very Slow and Easy
Notes: The first back to back running day provides insight into how the recovery is going.
Run: 30 Mins Easy
Notes: The muscle soreness should be gone and you are finding your stride again.
Run: 30 to 45 Mins Easy
Notes: Depending on how your body feels, you should notice the pace increasing and your body returning to its running rhythm.
Run: 45 to 60 Mins Easy
Run: 30 to 45 Mins Easy
Notes: You should now start to feel like a runner again, just not a runner ready to race. Over the next two weeks, gradually increase your volume toward your normal training level.