There are certain races that a runner learns to love over time as they are filled with golden memories. For me , as I race so often and in the same place (Western Australia) I have a few of these. They would include the Rottnest Island Marathon (you really need to click on this link, Rottnest is just one of the most beautiful places on earth. http://www.rottnestisland.com/ I’ve ran ‘Rotto’ 10 times and have loved every minute. ), the Perth Marathon, the 6 inch trail ultra ( http://www.6inchtrailmarathon.com/ ) and the Chevron sponsored City to Surf Marathon.
This morning after a bumper week of training last week , for a weekly total of 13k, I entered the City to Surf Marathon for the 9th time. This race to me is special for a number of reasons. It was the first marathon I first broke sub 3 hours in 2009 in it’s inaugural year. I have ran two of my fastest marathon times on the course (2013 my current PB of 2hrs 41 min 14 seconds and last year 2hrs 41min 41seconds) , finished top 10 on numerous occasions but best of all won $6,000 once as the first Australian (even with my English dulcet tones) to finish. I am also one of the last 26 runners to have ran all the previous 8 iterations of this race. (see below)
As I have mentioned before runners love numbers, be it your PB time, number of marathons ran, average pace, distance, VO2 max, cadence, numbers of runs a week etc. the list is endless but one of the biggest numbers runners love is ‘streaks’. To be involved at the beginning of a major city marathon, even better in your home town, is priceless and a once in a lifetime opportunity. This is why, even with a calf tear less than 8 weeks, out I am determined to run the ninth Perth City to Surf. (I say ‘run‘ , it may end up being a lot less than that by the time I get to ‘heartbreak hill’ at the 40k mark?)
I worked with Chevron from 2007-2015 and during that time suspected I was being kept on as the ‘poster boy’ for the event as I always seemed to be the first Chevron marathon finisher and normally attracted a bit of media attention. Most of that was mainly aimed at the ‘look at the old guy finishing the marathon in a semi-reasonable time’ angle more than anything else. Not many balding, bearded, mid-life (I hope?) runners at the front of the pack so might as well interview this one ? I have been lucky enough to make the papers, local TV and even You Tube on occasion, much to my kids disgust. Apparently watching your dad on the TV doing press-ups after finishing a marathon is not cool. Actually I seem to have this issue with anything I do funnily enough. (and you can imagine how the Elliptigo is going down at the moment in my house ? http://www.elliptigo.com )
There was also the time in 2013 I was nearly ‘first woman’ after running with the lead woman the whole race and then , in the sprint for the line, I was forced to slow so she could take the tape. The beard would have probably given the game away if I had crossed ahead of her and took the tape. At the time I was working for Chevron and reasoned my contract would come under some pressure if I was seen on local TV barging past the first woman in an effort to save a few seconds. Truth be told this was actually my PB run and I still maintain this act of chivalry cost me a few seconds, whether I could justify it cost me 1 minute and 15 seconds for a sub 2:40 is difficult.
Other notable events over the years is one of my favourite photos of Jon barking orders at me in 2010 about 10k into the race. My Garmin watch had died at the start so mentally I was shot before the first step. My plan was to stay with Jon and this group to he finish and grab another sub3. It was about this time I gave up and got dropped like a bad habit. I ended up running alone for the next 30k and finishing in 3hours and 3 minutes. With a fully functioning Garmin I’m convinced I could have gone under 3 hours. Jon was moving into his prime at the time and I was no match for his endurance or speed. Also note this was before the ‘speed beard’ was added to my arsenal and I don’t think I’ve ran over 3 hours with the beard ? (for female readers I would recommend growing a speed beard or any beard really, probably not going to help you attract a ‘life partner’, or maybe…? ) Also notice it was about this time Skins first came out and me and Jon were convinced of their magical properties. I even wore a pair to a 10k once ! We both decided that if the Africans didn’t wear them then we wouldn’t either in the end. Still good for injury prevention on training runs and recovery of course. ( I still remember the first time Karen encountered me wearing skins to bed , for recovery purposes you understand, it was a once only event, I think she nearly died laughing.)
Even got to meet the great Steve Moneghetti at one of the photo shoots for the event when he was the ambassador in 2014. There is a slight resemble, feature wise, as he is also blessed like myself, just needs a beard of course but when it comes to running performances he in a different league, actually a different planet. A genuine nice guy though which is something you find with most good long distance runners. I reckon it is because they’ve been through the same pain we have albeit probably harder , longer and faster; and they are better people for it. This goes for all long distance runners, as a whole they are normally nice people.
There was also the time Mike ran the course and at half way ‘blew his hammy’, he then couldn’t remember his Wife’s mobile number so had to wait until she returned to the family home before calling her and asking to be picked up. Unfortunately for Mike his Wife was the wrong side of road closures and it took her over three hours to get to him. He could have limped to the finish quicker and at least got a finishing medal and probably saved an hour or two hanging around. There was some good karma last year when I got him a free entry and he ran , with very little training, and got his medal he missed from his last failed attempt. The marathon god giveth’ and the marathon god taketh; away.
I have so many more City to Surf stories but will save them for a rainy day when I have run out of things to talk about, assuming that is possible as with each passing day running you are blessed with new experiences, adventures and memories. This is why we run and this is why we are what we are…
I am a tad OCD when it comes to emails and never delete them, EVER. On my work computer I have every work email I ever sent from 2005 to the present day for no reason that I can. Once in a while they do turn up some little gems which then become ammunition for a good post.
This morning the boys were carrying on about cramping as three of them suffered this ailment in the last part of the recent Perth Marathon. I ,of course, gave them my words of wisdom ending up with a quote that was our ‘go to comment’ many years ago regarding a famous runner, and general super human, Dave Goggins. (http://www.davidgoggins.com ) He was famous for drinking his can of ‘hard’ and taking ‘suck it up’ pills ; his only rest day was yesterday and his journey never stopped…. anyhow, as always I digress. As you can see from my email below I gave the boys heaps using Goggins as my final point.
From: Kevin Matthews Sent: Wednesday, June 21, 2017 8:43 AM To: ‘Conway, Mark (GE Oil & Gas)’; Michael Kowal; Mark Lommers Cc: Jon Pendse; Michael Kowal; Gareth Dean Subject: RE: THE MARATHON LONG RUN
It seems this ‘cramping’ is becoming a problem amongst us, Jon and the T-train both also suffered towards the end. I think the problem is three fold.
- First I don’t know how many times I say it but the marathon starts at 32k and as Jon always says the person who slows down the most wins. !! Imagine if you could take your pace at 21k and replicate it for the rest of the marathon; that is the goal and with training is do-able. To over come this you need experience of running marathons (in my case) or god given natural talent (in Stuart Caulfield’s case, the winner on debut; also Ray Boyd as your trainer helps!! I wonder if Ray would consider training some of us ??)
- Second you need to get the gel, electrolyte, water salt combination right; fuel fuels runners ! Rhys has the best idea taken a smorgasbord of gu’s and popping one every 5k or so.. if your stomach can take it this will work !!
- Lastly you need to man-the-f**k-up. I’m a big believer in the mind playing games to avoid total melt down (as is Noakes and Fitzgerald of course) , cramps may be another one of the minds games to slow you down. Next time this happens (which it won’t if you take on board tips 1 and 2) tell yourself to ‘toughen up princess and do what Goggins would do, .run through it !!) (http://davidgoggins.com/ )
Also don’t get injured !!!!
While searching my old emails for some Goggin’s quotes I came across another set of email sent in 2010 on a similar subject with the usual suspects again involved.
My final email first and then the trail follows….
Don’t listen to Rhys Jon ..he is the dark side of running…..run till you feel you can’t run anymore then run some more…remember cans of hard and suck-it-up pills…David Goggins does not rest and apart from his ruptured kidney, 4 knee operations, 2 hamstring reconstructions, 1 new appendix and 25 foot operations..and open heart surgery …he has never rested..
From: Jonathan Pendse [mailto:JPendse@thiess.com.au] Sent: Friday, 19 March 2010 10:41 AM To: Kevin Matthews; Rhys James; Macey, Dan D. Subject: RE: slow lunch run – uwa
Does less than 10k count as a run… J
Well I might give myself a day off today (I usually have the day after a race off, and didn’t this week). I’m sure I’ll feel a lot better for it on tomorrow’s 30ker.
Often forget the days off are just as important as the training days.
From: Kevin Matthews [mailto:Kevin.Matthews@gujv.com] Sent: Friday, 19 March 2010 10:27 AM To: Rhys James; Jonathan Pendse; Macey, Dan D. Subject: RE: slow lunch run – uwa
Haven’t got time to read this I’m going for a run……..
From: Rhys James Sent: Friday, 19 March 2010 10:21 AM To: ‘Jonathan Pendse’; Kevin Matthews; Macey, Dan D. Subject: RE: slow lunch run – uwa
I am supposed to be going to boot camp, so will give the run a miss. Was out for a steady one yesterday with Kev, though he was complaining of being knackered.
I include the following specifically for him:
Overtraining syndrome frequently occurs in athletes who are training for competition or a specific event and train beyond the body’s ability to recover. Athletes often exercise longer and harder so they can improve. But without adequate rest and recovery, these training regimens can backfire, and actually decrease performance.
Conditioning requires a balance between overload and recovery. Too much overload and/or too little recovery may result in both physical and psychology symptoms of overtraining syndrome.
Common warning signs of overtraining include:
- Washed-out feeling, tired, drained, lack of energy
- Mild leg soreness, general aches and pains
- Pain in muscles and joints
- Sudden drop in performance
- Decreased immunity (increased number of colds, and sore throats)
- Decrease in training capacity / intensity
- Moodiness and irritability
- Loss of enthusiasm for the sport
- Decreased appetite
- Increased incidence of injuries.
- A compulsive need to exerciseTreating Overtraining Syndrome Measuring Overtraining There are several ways you can objectively measure some signs of overtraining. One is by documenting your heart rates over time. Track your aerobic heart rate at a specific exercise intensities and speed throughout your training and write it down. If your pace starts to slow, your resting heart rate increases and you experience other symptoms, you may heading into overtraining syndrome. Another way to test recover to use something called the orthostatic heart rate test, developed by Heikki Rusko while working with cross country skiers. To obtain this measurement:
- You can also track your resting heart rate each morning. Any marked increase from the norm may indicated that you aren’t fully recovered.
- If you suspect you are overtraining, the first thing to do is reduce or stop your exercise and allow a few days of rest. Drink plenty of fluids, and alter your diet if necessary. Crosstraining can help you discover if you are overworking certain muscles and also help you determine if you are just mentally fatigued. A sports massage can help you recharge overused muscles.
- Note the last point there Mr Matthews.
Treating Overtraining Syndrome
If you suspect you are overtraining, the first thing to do is reduce or stop your exercise and allow a few days of rest. Drink plenty of fluids, and alter your diet if necessary. Crosstraining can help you discover if you are overworking certain muscles and also help you determine if you are just mentally fatigued. A sports massage can help you recharge overused muscles.
Measuring Overtraining There are several ways you can objectively measure some signs of overtraining. One is by documenting your heart rates over time. Track your aerobic heart rate at a specific exercise intensities and speed throughout your training and write it down. If your pace starts to slow, your resting heart rate increases and you experience other symptoms, you may heading into overtraining syndrome.
You can also track your resting heart rate each morning. Any marked increase from the norm may indicated that you aren’t fully recovered.
Another way to test recover to use something called the orthostatic heart rate test, developed by Heikki Rusko while working with cross country skiers. To obtain this measurement:
- Lay down and rest comfortably for 10 minutes the same time each day (morning is best).
- At the end of 10 minutes, record your heart rate in beats per minute.
- Then stand up
- After 15 seconds, take a second heart rate in beats per minute.
- After 90 seconds, take a third heart rate in beats per minute.
- After 120 seconds, take a fourth heart rate in beats per minute.
- Well rested athletes will show a consistent heart rate between measurements, but Rusko found a marked increase (10 beats/minutes or more) in the 120 second-post-standing measurement of athletes on the verge of overtraining. Such a change may indicate that you have not recovered from a previous workout, are fatigued, or otherwise stressed and it may be helpful to reduce training or rest another day before performing another workout.
The point of this post is I was probably over training in 2010, according to Rhys, and am probably over training now, 7 years later. In that time I have achieved so much in my running , so much more than I ever dreamed I would, so have I been over training or just doing enough. ? My days of running 700k a month seem a distant memory now as I struggle to make double figures for the week but looking forward I fully expect to be up around the 600-700k a month total by the end of the year and off we go again. Will my calf or another part of my body give way , who knows ? There’s probably a good chance but I’ll have my Elliptigo and/or Predator Plus in my corner so should be able to ward off injury. At the moment I can’t wait after another massive 4k lunchtime run to go with my Monday one. 8k for the week, now that , currently, is what I call over training. Someone pass me a can of hard and some suck it up pills…….
Yesterday I ran 4k and it felt ace. The one benefit (if there is any benefits?) of being injured is when you actually get back on your feet the feeling of running is awesome and almost like starting again. Even though it was only 4k at 5min/k average it felt so good to be outside in the sunshine just doing what I love to do, run. Is this a benefit of being injured, not sure, maybe? Of course the longer you are injured the better the feeling.
This was my second attempt at a comeback after the first ended when I ramped up too early with the possibility of running a marathon , what was I thinking with hindsight? Today I have a second scan to check on the calf tear and hopefully confirm that is has at best fully recovered, at worst is smaller than its original 5cm. Either way I will have some confidence moving forward in my rehabilitation.
Returning from injury is fraught with danger of course and I am very mindful that I really need to get it right this time with the year slipping away from me and some very important races appearing on the horizon. You are in a catch-22 situation when faced with this dilemma as you want to be ready for the races ahead but to do that you need to put in the ‘time on legs’, without too much time on legs of course. This is the fine balancing act you need to maintain as you return from a long layoff.
The most important factor is the cardio fitness you have lost over the period of your injury. As I have said many times I’m a big believer in a 3 times rule, this equates to multiplying your time off by three to give you a rough idea of when you can expect to be back to your pre-injury fitness levels. In my case I’m now looking at 6 months minimum, which writes of the year unfortunately. This does not mean I cannot still compete and run the races ahead but I should not expect any PB’s (or PR’s for my American Cousins). Truth be told I’ll be happy to just complete a marathon at the moment, of course by complete it will need to be sub 3 hours, one has certain standards you know and I’m not losing my 25 sub3 marathons in a row streak. As I mentioned in an earlier post runners love streaks or was that steaks , whatever?
Confidence is high at the moment, pre-scan, as my 4k yesterday was pain and niggle free. The calf has felt good for the last week and with the elliptigo work I have been doing last week I am sure the tear is either fully recovered or very close. After 10 weeks I would expect this anyhow but the set back a few weeks ago has left me second guessing my recovery which is the reason behind the second scan.
I am so looking forward to posts on injury recovery and marathon training rather than all ‘doom and gloom’, ‘woe is me’ posts which have been my forte over the last few months. How I miss my double up days and weekly mileage nudging 150k minimum. happy days which seem like a distant memory now. No worries, I am up for the challenge and actually looking forward to my ‘return from injury stronger and quicker ’ posts. Have I written off future PB’s and finally bowed to Father time, no way. This is a speed bump on the Big Kev PB road train and I’m expecting bigger and better things in 2018, especially with the Elliptigo (http://www.elliptigo.com.au/ ) and Bionic (www.run4.com ) in my corner.
I have attached an article by Caitlin Chock for Active.com which has some good points and worth reading…..
The Slow Build
The second you get the green light to begin running does not mean you can jump full-force back into where you left off. It is important NOT to rush things, as patience pays off in the long haul. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend running and supplement the rest with cross-training.
Don’t Slack on PT
Many runners, upon getting over their injury, start to get lax on their physical therapy or other rehab exercises. Don’t get comfortable and forget that, in order to prevent getting injured again, you still need to keep up on your preventative care.
After a long break, you need to chuck out any and all comparisons to your runner self pre-injury. It will only set you up for frustration and can ultimately derail your comeback. Track the progress you make post-injury and take every victory (ie: extra miles, faster workouts, etc.) as it comes. Eventually you’ll return to “old you” workouts and times, but before you hit that realm think of yourself with a totally clean slate.
Miracle of Muscle Memory
Oh how those first few runs will whip your butt! The important thing is to remember that while those first runs will feel like you’ve got legs that have never run a step in their lives, the good news is, thanks to muscle memory, if you’ve been a runner for a number of years, you’ll snap back into fitness rather quickly. The first couple of weeks will be rough, but stick it out and you’ll be motivated by the progress that follows.
One Day at a Time
Being patient is tough for everyone. Sometimes the only way to retain sanity is to take it one day at a time. Rather than focus on how much work you have ahead of you, look at what workouts and goals you can achieve for that day or that week. Set mini goals each week and check them off as benchmarks along your route to making a full comeback to running.
Core, Strength and Flexibility
Make the most of the time you’re not able to run by focusing on other weaknesses. Gain flexibility, improve your core and overall strength; not only will this make you feel like you’re being productive despite not being able to run much, but it will also pay dividends when you are back and running at your optimal level.
Baby Steps Back
If you start to notice old injury symptoms or new injury symptoms creep up, reassess right away. It may mean not increasing your running for that week, or even taking a few baby steps back for the week. Cut back on the amount of time spent running and do more cross-training. Don’t think of this as a sign of defeat; typically, if you catch it and take steps back early, you’ll avoid anything serious and be back on “schedule” the next week.
Positivity and Perspective
I’ll say it again: The biggest deciding factor in how well you can come back from an injury is perspective. Even on the days when you’d like to burn the elliptical or bike to the ground, give yourself a little window of time to vent. But, in the end, get on the cross-trainer and get it done. Look forward to the runs and more miles as they come and do not forget that each mile is NOT a given. Be grateful for them and, as you are able to run more and are back to full training mode, remind yourself not to take them for granted. This will help you remain patient and keep your eyes focused on the long term.
Honestly, coming back from an injury doesn’t stink because, while those first few miles hurt like nothing else and may leave you sore for days, the act of “feeling” like you’re a runner again is one heck of a high. So smile, even if it looks more like a grimace, and have faith that muscle memory will eventually kick back in soon!
Tomorrow for the first time in 10 years I will not be lining up for the Perth Marathon, 9 years straight (and 12 in total) I have ran this marathon but not tomorrow. This hurts, really hurts , tomorrow all my running mates will be waking up with that ‘marathon morning’ feeling, a mixture of fear, excitement and trepidation. Have you done enough training, have you done too much training, is that a niggle ? The most nervous people in the world are marathon runners in the week before a marathon of course. Someone sneezes in the same postal code and you are certain you feel pneumonia coming on or worse. I have a theory regarding the last few days pre-marathon, it is like your start to taper and instantly the mind tells the body ‘that’s it, job done, it’s head cold time just to teach this runner a lesson for putting me through hell in the last 12 weeks’… for 3-4 months pre-marathon you are bullet proof, nothing stops you training, bubonic plague, pah, a morning off; black death, maybe cut the session short by 5 minutes but all this changes when you start to taper. You are like a ‘weak kitten’ with the smallest niggle manifesting itself into a fracture at best or maybe worse; a cough and it’s all over and a sneeze, O’ my God the world is about to end. The boys will be going through this right now, me, I’m sitting here with a cup of tea and two crumpets writing a post feeling very sad for myself.
Of course the elephant in the room now for me is the City to Surf Marathon in August. I am one of only 36 people who have ran all eight and I’ve ran with the number 1 bib twice and even one year had my name on my chest, ‘very elite like’. (Truth be told this was to outdo my mate Rhys who managed to get number 1 the previous year, consigning me to number 2 and Jon to number 3.) It is my PB course ( a 2:41:14 in 2013) and also the course I ran my first sub 3 hour marathon. (2hrs 58mins in 2009). It is sponsored by Chevron and in the days of the ‘Oil and Gas boom’ I actually won $6,000 as the first Australian to finish. I was 7th overall but behind 6 Africans, at the time I had no idea there was prize money for the first Australian finished but the money was well received by my Wife who stole it for one of my Daughter’s private school fees, bless her. Different story now as we are in a recession, last year first prize was a $50 Athletes Foot voucher, which probably gets you a pair of socks. I remember in 2009 the first place was $25,000, got to love a recession.!
The image below shows me ‘winning the event’ in 2013 but what you can’t see if the first Woman about to break the tape. She has been conventiately photoshop’d out. Please note I had to slow to let her break the tape ahead of me as I was working for Chevron at the time, the major sponsor, and they would have been less than impressed if I had barged past the first woman and taken the tape myself. Funny thing was this was my pb run and I still maintain that young lady cost me a few seconds but I am gentleman and ladies always come first, especially when there’s a finishing tape and my beard probably gave away the fact I was not first lady….
So today was the first day I started to think that there was a chance I was not going to make the City to Surf. This will hurt and hurt big time. Runners love numbers and more than numbers they love streaks and finding a big city marathon and being one of the inaugural runners is the holy grail of streaks for a runner. If I was to miss the City to Surf Marathon in August I would have blown probably my last chance to be an inaugural runner at a major marathon, this is a big worry as of now ! I will know a lot more Tuesday as I have booked in for my second UT scan on the right calf. I’m prying it has shrunk from the original 5cm tear to something more manageable. Am I confident ? Not sure, I’m enjoying my Elliptigo time but it ain’t running and although I feel my fitness is not taking too much of a batting it will serve no purpose if I can’t run. My physio always said missing the City to Surf was a possibility (but he is the most pessimistic person the the world!) but I never really took his view on board until this week where I’m still unable to run. This culminated in a failed attempt on Tuesday where I managed 500m before turning back feeling very sorry for myself. You start to feel you’ll never run again which I know is preposterous but runners, when injured, are the most pessimistic people and will always ere on the worst case scenario when they feel there is no improvement.
On the bright side I’m still young (compared to an 80 year old?) so have plenty of Perth marathons ahead of me and even if I miss the City to Surf this year there will always be next year and running streaks are there to be broken so it had to happen eventually, of course you can be sure I will do everything in my power to not miss the City to Surf. Right another cup of tea me thinks, roll on Tuesday .
Well my ‘roll the dice’ attitude seems to have come back and bitten me. It was always a risk that I was willing to take by ramping up quickly on my calf tear comeback. I knew it was going to end in glory or abject failure. Unfortunately this time it looks like abject failure !
In the back of my mind I had the Perth Marathon as a goal as it would have been my tenth in a row and to this end make a conscious decision to push my recovery safe in the feeling that I had taken it easy for the last 8 weeks and done everything my physio had asked. I adopted the ‘when its fixed, it’s fixed’ attitude toward my 5cm calf tear and pushed on , albeit at a recovery pace. (I’m not completely bonkers!)
The first week went to plan and this gave me the confidence to push on for the second week and ramp up the distance culminating in a 16k run last Tuesday. Although this felt ok I could feel by Thursday all was not right. This was compounded by a similar feeling Friday and a good old fashioned telling off from my physio convinced me to take the weekend off. The second coming started Monday with a 3k on grass and then a 4k the following day but both days I felt the calf hanging on and if I even thought about increasing my pace the calf would remind me that it was a pointless exercise.
So that’s it then ? Well for the moment yes, I can only hope I haven’t done too much damage but I certainly feel I have undone some good work. Time off the feet seems to be the only way forward as this has cost me well over $1000 in scans, physio fees and I can’t chuck any more money at it. (Think of all the shoes I could have brought.) If I was a rich man I’d go for another ultrasound and see how much damage is left to be repaired but instead I’m going to rest and then rest some more. I may even try and do some exercises recommended by my physio but I normally leave those for the waiting room just before I visit him.
Another alternative is to splash out $3500 on a Elliptigo bike. ( http://www.elliptigo.com.au/ ) These look like ‘the dogs’ but I just got to convince my better half that $3500 is worth spending on my rehab.
I have heard good things about these bikes , allowing you to recover from injury while still exercising the ‘running muscles’ that a normal bike would miss. Plus you don’t have to wear lycra which is a huge plus. On the down side you will stand out like a bacon sandwich at a Jewish wedding so be prepared for some admiring (?) glances and comments from the general public as you glide past.
Dean Karanazes is a big fan apparrantly https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D63-VUMGCDQ and so is Boston Winner Meb Keflezighi ( http://womensrunning.competitor.com/2016/03/strength-training/why-you-should-cross-train-like-meb-keflezighi_55166#yHcKwIZfz1V5vCgo.97 ) Noted both are sponsored by the bike manufacturer but I believe they do genuinely use them. My mate John Shaw, who holds the current age group world record for 60-65, is another big fan and swears by these little beauties. He credits the bike with helping him set a half marathon PB after a long injury lay off with calf issues (sounds familiar?) I may get myself a test ride over the weekend and I’ll report back. Apparently they do them in gloss red, what more do I need to say? I wonder if they do a basket for my puppies ?
One of the benefits of being injured, if there is any of course, is the free time you find you have on your hands. For me it’s an extra 12 hours a week to fill. Luckily I was due to move house and had just brought two golden retriever puppies so my eight week injury layoff was fully booked out. I also spent extra time with the family but that never ends well for either party, bless ’em. Another past time you can catch up on is reading and I was able to start re-reading one of my favourite Matt Fitzgerald books, (remember in Matt we trust… http://mattfitzgerald.org/ ) ‘Run, Running by Feel’.
Without wanting to spoil the findings of the Fitzgerald novel he recommends training by feel (funnily enough looking a the title) rather than be constricted to a pre-designed training plan with the caveat that you would need to be an experienced runner of course. You would of course always need to be have the staple diet of training plans in your weekly program somewhere including the basics I.e. a tempo, threshold, recovery and long runs. Matt recommends deciding on the day what type of run you intend to digest without forcing yourself to the training table and taking what is on offer. More like a buffet rather than a set course. If you decide you feel good maybe add in a tempo run rather than constraining yourself to a slow run, when your body wants more. This also works in reverse when you may need a recovery run while your training plan calls for a threshold. In this situation a threshold run will only end in failure and add no value to your confidence or general cardio fitness. It would be far more prudent to listen to your body and embark on a recovery run while saving the threshold for when you feel you can do it justice.
Matt also makes a good point regarding training plans in that no two runners are the same so generic training plans can not really work as they assume a certain initial base foundation fitness and ability and then continued improvement based on the authors knowledge and experience. Matt himself sells hundreds of plans on websites like http://www.trainingpeaks.com but is honest enough to admit these are very rarely the ideal way to improve. What a guy, he’s even honest ! Matt gives examples of highly successful coaches who agree with Matt on his ‘training by feel’ approach and these coaches have Olympic Gold medalists on their books. The book of course goes into a lot more detail but I’ve probably saved you the bother of reading it with this paragraph.
That last sentence was meant as a joke of course, Matt’s books should be compulsory for all runners and we should be tested regularly on them, a sort of pre-school for runners. I cannot recommend them enough and if you take nothing from todays post it is to go to his website, read, learn and purchase. Just in case you missed it the first time I’ll add the link again … http://mattfitzgerald.org/books/
Matt also makes the point in running by feel that cadence is another point overlooked by most runners and one that can be improved normally with beneficial results. Changing your running style has been found to decremental to pace in most cases but adding a few extra steps a minute by increasing your cadence will certainly improve your running. My friend Mike K. is very cadence originated and monitors his cadence on every run, (as well as his heart and just about anything else to tell you the truth, he is an engineer…. ?) he can monitor improvements in his running , brought about by good training, with an increase in his cadence. Some runners of course have high cadence naturally like my friend Tony ‘the T-train’, he must takes about twice as many steps a minute compared to me but if I was to try and replicate this I would be destroyed very quickly. A higher cadence can also help in avoiding injury apparently. If you can get above 180 it lessons your chance of injury as the impact per step is not as great, as cadence below this figure, where you would begin to heal strike probably. This article below from Training Peaks last year, written by Allie Burdick, helps to explain the cadence theory.
The right cadence for runners is a hotly debated topic among runners and triathletes. While there is no perfect single number, there is a range that you should aim for. Improving your cadence not only will help you run faster with the same or even less effort, it can also lessen your chance of injury. Most running injuries result from three aspects of your form: heel striking, over-striding and/or cadence. The good news for runners is that cadence is probably the most important of these three and, when improved, will also improve your chances of having zero knee issues1.
Your run cadence is measured in strides per minute. There are many ways you can determine your current running cadence:
- Count the number of times your left foot hits the ground in 30 seconds then double it to get the total for 60, then double it again to get the total for both feet.
- Many watches now have the ability to measure your running cadence.
- Other wearable devices also measure running metrics, including cadence.
Most recreational runners will have a cadence between 150 to 170spm (strides per minute) topping out at 180spm2. A cadence of less than 160spm is usually seen in runners who overstride. The good news is that as you improve your cadence, you will simultaneously be correcting your overstriding.
How Stride Length Affects Your Cadence and Form
The shorter your stride length, the quicker your stride rate, the faster and better you run. If you have a low cadence, you most likely have a long stride which makes for a choppy and more bouncy run. The more bounce and over striding in your gait, the more susceptible you are to injury3. Shortening your stride length with increase your cadence, which will make you faster and less injury prone.
As a bonus, when you shorten your stride you will also change the position of where your foot lands beneath you. The optimal placement of your foot is beneath your hips (not out in front of them) which is where your foot will automatically land if you take the necessary steps to increase your cadence and shorten your stride length. This is the point of your center of gravity and where the least amount of impact will occur.
Your turnover will increase which will propel you forward and will waste less energy since you will now be moving forward and back not up and down.
How to Improve Your Cadence
There is not necessarily a magic cadence number for everyone but, there is an ideal cadence for you personally. Several unique factors such as height, hip mobility, and level of overall fitness will all play a role.
- Find your current cadence and then add 5 to 10 percent. For example, if you’re current cadence is 160spm, your goal would now be 168spm.
- Start by increasing your cadence for only one to two runs per week or for short periods during each run.
- Practicing on a treadmill is often the best way to start since you can set your correct speed and it will remain steady.
- Pretend you are running in hot lava to promote faster turnover
- Once you have comfortably run your new (and improved!) cadence for a 5K run or race, you can confidently add another five percent and repeat the process.
Beware of anyone or any article touting 180spm as the “best” or “correct” cadence. This comes from the 1984 Olympics where famous coach Jack Daniels counted the strides of all of his elite distance runners and, of the 46 he studied, only one was under 180spm (176spm). Coach Daniels further noted that in his 20 years of coaching college students, not one was over 180spm. Unfortunately, he is being taken out of context and even misquoted lately, stating all runners should be at 180spm which simply is not true.
Each runner has a cadence that is best for them. By recording your current cadence and using a few simple cues around your stride length and form, you can increase your cadence to be more efficient and faster.
For those of you following my tales of woe regarding my 5 inch calf tear you’ll know that this week is a pivotal one in my recovery journey. After last weeks 40k total ( a massive week!) the prudent thing to do would be to add 10-15% and aim for a 45-50k week. At all times I should be keeping a lid on pace and just enjoy ‘smelling the roses’ and the fact I’m running at all after such a long lay off. Of course this is probably not going to happen. Those silly ‘add 10%’ a week rules don’t apply to ‘real runners’ like me do they ? Even typing this I know the right thing to do and the wrong thing to do but will almost certainly listen to the little devil on my shoulder encouraging distance over common sense. Will this aggravate the injury ? Of course not, well I hope not. This is the quandary all runners find themselves in and it doesn’t just apply to injury prevention.
Moderation is the key to most running related subjects. Food intake, moderation; injury recovery, moderation; intervals/speed work, moderation, the list goes on. Moderation though is hard for runners as we normally live by not being moderate. An ultra runner who runs 160k races is not moderate, a marathon runner aiming for a sub3 is not moderate, runners who run twice a day every day is not moderate. What we do is not about moderation it is about excess or extremes, so to expect us to become ‘moderate’ is alien to us which is how I justify my ‘BK rules of injury recovery’.
I have my training log for the last 9 years where I have documented every run and kept weekly , monthly and annual totals. This gives me the confidence to examine my recovery distances from previous injuries and using this experience set my own recovery program. This is not limited by an ‘add 10%’ mantra but instead listens to my body and past experiences to set my boundaries. To this end I will aim for a 100k week this week in the, probably futile, attempt to get myself fit enough to run the Perth marathon in 3 weeks with the sub3 bus driven by my friend Ray ‘Smiles’ Lampard. My physio would go bananas if he knew of my devious plan so I hope he doesn’t read this or even find out pre-marathon. (Anyone who knows my physio please keep this to yourself.)
There are glitches in my ‘run sub3 or die trying plan’ of course. The first one, barring the obvious calf breakdown, is my ability to run 42 kilometres at 4min/k average pace when on the weekend I was very happy with a 14k run at 5:18min/k average. Even at this pace I was certainly tested and my previous 9 years of constant running seem to have been dismissed by my body as history and all running parameters reset according to 8 weeks of little or no exercise. Running is a harsh mistress and will beat you down at any given opportunity, recovering from injury is a perfect example of this. Eight weeks ago I was a few days out from the Bunbury Marathon harbouring thoughts of a podium finish and a possible sub 2:40 marathon, now I’m lucky to run 14k at around the 4 hour marathon pace. How did this happen so quickly, how can nine years of running constantly disappear in eight weeks ?
The only bright spot in this sad tale of running woe is the ability to return from ‘whence you came’. As I have mentioned before I follow the ‘recovery is three times longer than the time out injured’ mantra. Given I was out for 6-8 weeks I’m looking at 3 months before I should be back to my pre-injury levels of fitness. No problem, being a young runner (??) I have time on my side……
An article by Sabrina Grotewold from Competitor.com highlights so useful points regarding recovery. Point 4 is all the justification I need in the paragraph below for my BK recovery plan of course…..
Making an intelligent comeback to running after taking time off due to injury requires a gradual approach that some runners might find frustrating, but ask yourself this: Would you rather make slow, pain-free progress toward building a healthy running base, or jump back into running and possibly experience a setback that leads to prolonged pain or re-injury?
Your re-entry to running plan should be formed strategically from the following five factors:
1. The severity of your injury—a stress fracture or injury that required surgery differs vastly from tendonitis.
2. How long you were sidelined from running.
3. Your fitness level prior to getting injured.
4. How many years of experience you have as a runner.
5. Whether you could cross-train during your layoff.
According to DeeAnn Dougherty, a Portland-based physical therapist and RRCA and USATF-certified distance running coach, the worst thing a runner can do post-injury is doing too much too soon—particularly, increasing distance and speed simultaneously. “It’s about being really conservative, always opting for less than more, and avoiding pain. It helps to have a coach or medical professional help with the return to run in order to set parameters.”
Dougherty suggests that runners be able to walk for 30 minutes pain-free before returning to running post-injury. Depending, of course, on the aforementioned five factors, Dougherty’s rules of thumb can be applied: For two weeks off, start back with 50 percent of previous weekly mileage; for four weeks, start back at 30 percent; for six to eight weeks or longer, start with a walk/jog. “After a 10-minute walk to warm up, jog for 100 meters then walk 100m for four laps on a track—jog the straights and walk the curves—followed by a 10-minute walk. Add one lap each time—a max of every other day—for up to eight laps, then gradually increase the running and decrease the walking until you’re running two miles straight.”
In this case, all running is easy and Dougherty recommends straying from hills and any speed work until you’re back to running 75-80 percent of your mileage prior to the injury. San Marcos, Calif.-based Jenn Gill, an RRCA-certified coach, recommends that runners build their base to a consistent 20 miles per week before incorporating any speed elements. “If you can’t run the miles, you can’t run them fast,” she says. “You can probably throw in some strides if you’ve been running pain-free for four weeks, depending on how experienced you are.”
If you feel pain while running during your comeback, stop running. Go back to walking until all pain subsides.
Discovering the root of what caused the injury should also be a priority, as this knowledge can prevent re-injury. “Is it a strength, biomechanics or flexibility issue,” Gill says, “was it a training error, or is it your shoes?”
If you’re mobile during your layoff from running, cross-training on the bike or elliptical, combined with functional strength training, foam rolling and stretching will do wonders for your sanity and fitness level. During your down time, get into a routine that includes a dynamic warm-up, 10-15 minutes of core work and functional strength exercises such as squats, lunges, clams, planks and superman (see sidebar), followed by some yoga poses—the bridge and pigeon pose are great for runners. Building muscular as well as tendon, joint and ligament strength will only help your running form and economy when you resume running. Just make sure to keep up the strength and stretching when you start running again.
“If there’s nothing else you do strength-wise, you have to work your core because it’s your center and that’s where all of your power comes from,” Gill says. “If it’s not strong, when you get tired, your running form will change because your core will collapse.”
I’m currently at that most dangerous time in injury rehabilitation, the stage where you feel totally cured and think about ramping your mileage right back up to what it was pre-injury. Forget all that ‘increase by 10%‘ rubbish, that’s for other people. I’m fixed so I can go right back to 150k a week, trouble free. Probably not the right attitude and you have to be very strong not to listen to the little voice on your shoulder urging you to do more.
To tell you the truth I have been hampered by general fitness, or lack of general fitness. These last 8 weeks of little or no running have sapped my cardio strength, and although expected it is still a sobering feeling when 5min/k average feels like a tempo run ! Yesterday I was chasing a runner who was certainly new to the game but he made me work very hard whereas pre-injury he would have been a blur in my rear view mirror as I exploded past him with ease.
At the physio today we discussed injury prevention and all the formulas for adding distance to your weekly mileage. As my weekly mileage is so small, and has been for months, adding 10% a week would take me months to get to any decent weekly total. There is also a formula, used for football players apparently, where you average out your last 4 weeks and then multiple by 1.5 for your weekly total. Again as my last 4 weeks would average out to virtually zero this formula is also unusable. So what do I do ?
It comes down to common sense and a certain degree of ‘fear of re-injury’. Combine these factors should give you an obtainable mileage without pushing yourself into the ‘death zone’. For me I’ll hit 30k this week if I run the weekend. (I can’t believe I typed that after hitting 200k a week around Christmas and averaging 150k a week pre-injury.) A good total next week would be 50k in my view, maybe a tad higher if I feel good, with at least two days rest. So 5 * 10k looks to be the go for next week. After that I’ll move up to 70-80k and then the following week back into triple figures.
I still have a full racing calendar for the second half of the year and there’s always a marathon around the corner so there really is no need to rush the recovery. Talking of recovery I found this article on the holy grail of recovery drinks, apparently. The good old fashioned chocolate milk. Is this true good to be true ? Not sure but if Sir Mo Farah drinks it after his hard runs then it can’t be all bad. I was a big fan of Brownes Mocha in a previous life and only gave up my one 600ml Brownes Mocha a day in the middle of last year. It was my only real vice but the 38g of sugar made it hard to justify. I did lose some weight after dropping the mocha but my life was darker because of it, the sacrifices we make as runners.
Mo Farrah has a penchant for chocolate milk after races and intense training sessions, but far from being a rare moment when the double Olympic champion strays from his almost monastic nutritional regime, this is actually a vital part of his post-run recovery programme.
The explosion of research in sports science over the past decade has allowed elite athletes to approach every aspect of racing in minute detail in a bid to gain even the smallest of edges. And as unlikely as it sounds, there is a growing belief that a humble bottle of chocolate milk may be the best recovery drink out there: “We now know that chocolate milk has the ideal carbohydrate-to-protein ratio, which your muscles require to replenish glycogen levels,” says Kelly Pritchett of the department of foods and nutrition at the University of Georgia.
The surprisingly revitalising qualities of chocolate milk were only discovered by accident. A scientific study looking at the best beverages for post-exercise rehydration was supposed to pit the finest electrolyte sports drinks on the market against each other. Nine elite cyclists were taken through a series of glycogen-depleting exercises, consuming various recovery drinks in between, while a handful were given just milk as a control to gauge the relative benefits of each drink. But in an unexpected twist, the cyclists on milk outperformed their rivals by a considerable margin.
Initially this was thought to be a fluke, but sports scientists from a variety of different institutions have since repeated the experiment with similar results. Chocolate milk contains a three-to-one ratio of carbohydrate grams to protein grams which appears to enhance glycogen replenishment, as well as far more potassium, calcium and vitamin D than most sports drinks. Crucially, chocolate milk also appears to be naturally tuned to human digestive systems – the dairy-intolerant or allergic clearly notwithstanding – containing exactly the right balance of fast-absorbing proteins such as whey protein (which pumps essential amino acids into the bloodstream promoting muscle growth and repair), and slow-absorbing proteins such as casein (which keeps amino acids in the blood stream many hours later,
In response, the manufacturers of Gatorade and other similar post-exercise thirst quenchers have attempted to copy the optimal carbohydrate-protein ratio found in milk, but even with their upgraded products, they cannot outperform the real thing.
“The key thing is there are still no studies which have found chocolate milk to be inferior, so it’s always either equal or superior to your over-the-counter recovery drinks,” Pritchett says. “And from a cost standpoint, on a weekly basis you’re looking at maybe £7 a week versus up to £24. So it’s more economical.”
While it may appear that the chocolate is only there to make it taste nice, the extra sugar actually plays a key part in ensuring you’re getting the post-exercise recommendations for carbohydrate: an 8oz glass of chocolate milk contains about 30-35g of carbohydrate compared to just 12g in normal milk.
With athletes including Farah constantly seeking ways to push the boundaries, several studies have also investigated whether alternative milks such as almond or soy may prove even more effective recovery beverages. But while it was found neither contains the optimum balance that makes low-fat chocolate milk ideal – with soy lacking the carbohydrate content and almond lacking the requisite amount of protein – this research did reveal that timing is crucial.
“In order to enhance recovery, the key is to get the carbohydrate and protein you need in the first two hours after exercise,” says Pritchett. “We say this is the window of opportunity, as the ability to replace muscle glycogen is boosted during that period when you have increased blood flow going to the muscles. If you wait longer, it could take more time to restore your natural levels.”
Chocolate milk has also been found to be an excellent drink for runners taking part in intense multi-day endurance events. Last September, 52-year-old Tom Denniss, a mathematics researcher from Sydney, broke the world record for a round-the-world run, completing more than 600 consecutive marathons to cover 26,000km in just 622 days. Denniss firmly believes that chocolate milk made a huge difference to his ability to clock up the miles without sustaining injury: “To recover I just sat down at the end of each day, and before the day started, and I’d mix up a litre of chocolate milk,” he said. “I found that was really important for hydration. I had always been a reasonably big milk drinker anyway, but I thought that was just me, just what I liked. It turns out it contains exactly the right sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium electrochemical balance which the body requires for the muscle synapses to fire.”
Denniss’s route took him across five continents through some of the most remote locations on the planet, from the Andes mountain range to the Nullarbor desert, and he admitted that the ready availability of milk proved to be a godsend.
“You can’t be too precious about anything because you never know what you can find. You can’t rely on electrolyte drinks, as those won’t be available when you’re running through the Malyasian jungle.”
Such challenges put a vast calorific demand on the body – studies on Tour De France cyclists show that they need to consume around 7,000-8,000 calories a day to maintain performance levels. Actually eating that amount of food is nigh-on impossible, which makes chocolate milk again ideal.
“Chocolate milk is a very effective recovery beverage especially when doing something like multiple marathons back to back,” Pritchett confirms. “You’re not going to be able to recover if you can’t get in the carbs and the protein, and the nice thing about it is that it’s convenient and it’s an easy way to get something in if you find you don’t want to eat after exercise.”
My first hit out on Saturday night was a 3k run where it felt I was running around the 4min/k pace which turned out a tad slower according to my Garmin. (see below) 5:45min/k average which would please my physiotherapist but did nothing for my state of mind. How can a pace so far off what I’m use to seem so hard ? Where has the last 9 years of constant running fitness disappeared to ?
Sticking to my plan I ran 4k today and again suffered the ‘post injury’ pace curse that makes 5min/k pace feel like a tempo run. No worries, I knew this was coming and it’s just good to be ‘out there’ running again, at any pace. I have the City to Surf Marathon in August and to be ready for this I need complete recovery, this entails ‘small steps for big gains’. Patience , when it comes to injury recovery, really is a virtue. Rush a recovery and you’ re only heading back down the same path, muscles need time to recover and there really is no shortcut. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt running so slow and feeling exhausted at the end but you need to keep in mind your pace will return with your cardio fitness.
Personally I feel the best way to look at recovery is something that everybody needs to do at sometime in their career and it really is all about taking it slow to make sure the recovery is as good as it can be. On the bright side your fitness does return quite quickly but more importantly it just feels so good to be out there running, pace is secondary. My two runs this week have been so satisfying as my calf feels good and I know it is well on the way to a full recovery. If I can adhere to my plan I’m sure my physiotherapist will give me the green light, and after a brief discussion about injury prevention, I’ll be let loose back into the world of double up days and massive weekly distances, heaven to me. It’s then be on for a big City to Surf Marathon, Rottnest Marathon , 6 Inch Ultra Marathon and the Australian Age Group 100k record at the ADU in January. Plenty of things to keep me motivated but first things first I have to rest before my big 4k Wednesday, baby steps…..
Well its been over 6 weeks since I tore my calf muscle at the Bridges 10k warm down and stopped running. I’ve had a lot of people ask me how I’ve been coping and they can’t believe I could go from running twice a day , everyday, to nothing and not start climbing the wall. Well I’m happy to report (I think?) that I’ve handled not running very well, maybe too well.
Initially , as per my earlier post on the 5 stages of injury, I was in denial but seeing the ultrasound of the 5cm tear left me in no doubt I needed complete rest which would help me towards complete recovery. I have embraced this complete rest rather well truth be told and now enter my third week of no exercise at all. Of course there has been the obligatory weight gain and I hit the scales 3kg heavier than when I injured myself six weeks ago. Happy enough with that as I’m also using this time as ‘down time’ and letting my hair down. (in the literal sense only of course, I do miss my hair ? ) . I even treated myself to two glasses of wine over this six week period which for me is a lot. (my normal annual intake is about 4 glasses.)
So when do I start running ? This is the million dollar question. A calf tear of my magnitude would normally be a 6-8 week recovery period , minimum. ( Why do health professionals give you recovery windows ? All runners when told the recovery period is 6-8 weeks only really hear 6 weeks. They then take a week off because they are better than everybody else and then another week because health professionals are overly cautious. This brings it down to 4 weeks. Factor in the ‘ my injury is probably not that bad’ and you can justify another week, so we’re moving towards 3 weeks. Finally add in a bit of ‘ my muscle is probably stronger than most and also recovers better’ and we’ve turned a 6-8 week recovery window to 2 weeks max. ?) I have been very cautious with this calf injury as I cannot afford to keep tearing the calf and continually reinjuring myself, as is a common theme with calf tears. Being on the wrong side of 50 I need to make sure when I return I come back 100% so I can try and recapture some of that lost fitness. I must admit a part of me is holding back because I am worried about breaking down again. This is the first time I have had this worry and I’m putting it down to having such a good 2016, and start of 2017, and worrying I may never get back to that level of fitness as Father Time tried to ‘drag me back to the pack.’ I have also picked up a slight hamstring ‘niggle’ walking the dogs and this has also got me concerned as I know I may compensate for this when I start back running and do more damage.
Am I actually making excuses for not running ? This is the worry. Am I too worried about starting back and finding I cannot reach the same targets I set and achieved earlier in the year? This may be the real reason I have been ok with not running. Of course you also need to factor in I’ve moved house and brought two golden retriever puppies since my injury, so I’ve had other things on my mind. These ‘distractions’ will become less of an issue over the next few weeks so maybe that will help me realign my focus back to where it needs to be. ? On the flipside of this argument is the change in attitude needed for me to embrace this calf tear as ‘a setback and another challenge to be overcome’. Can I get back to where I was pre-injury and even get better , with the added rest helping reinvigorate my tiring muscles.? I was due a rest, I must admit but was not expecting it to because of a calf tear.
The right mental approach will be paramount for the success or failure of my return. I need to start slow and just start racking up ‘time on legs’ , distance fist and then add pace, rule no1 of my golden rules of running. It doesn’t matter how fast the pace is really, it is just time on feet and not doing any damage to the calf. To this end it will be grass running only initially, probably with two golden retriever puppies snapping at my heels . ( A recipe for disaster?) First sign of any calf problems and I will stop of course and reevaluate the next stage.
There is a stretch goal that is always in the back of my mind and the complete wrong thing to do, probably undoing all my good work. The Perth Marathon is on the 18th June. If I was to start running again tomorrow I would have a month to get into sub3 form and run with the boys. Currently Mark C., Mark L., Mike and Jon are all looking to run sub3 and it would be good to run with them on the sub bus (to be driven by my mate Ray , on my left in the photo below of the bridges presentations.) Can I do it ? If the calf holds up I think I can but there is no margin for error, even a few days setback will scupper the plan but there is a small chance if….
Of course this is completely the wrong thing to do. I should rest a few more weeks and then take it very easy for a month before looking to the Rottnest marathon in October. Even miss the City to Surf marathon in August (a race where I am one of only 20 people to complete all 8 previous marathons.) This is my physio’s approach but what do they know ? Even typing this I could be in trouble if he reads my blog.
I always said I’d need a full month for Perth and a sub3 ( to continue my sub3 streak which currently sits on 25 in a row) so tomorrow is ‘d-day’. I will try and run 6-8k on grass and then if that goes ok build up slowly. I’ll know pretty quickly as the last two previous runs I broke down at 4k both times. I have rested for 3 weeks since so I should be ok for this distance. If not, no worries, there’s always another marathon in the calendar and all this extra weight will keep me warm as we move into winter.