Marathons

A marathon in paradise.

Paradise Island with a “Mother of a Marathon.”

Next weekend I’m running the Rottnest Marathon for the 11th time. Without doubt this is my favourite marathon as it takes place in what I can only describe as ‘paradise’; from a runners point of view that is.  I admit some peoples idea of paradise may be a tad different to mine, maybe involving Casino’s , dancing girls, nightlife etc. For me it’s peace and quite, beautiful beaches and time with the family,  away from the hussle and bussle of life. Rottnest allows you and your loved ones to transcend back to a time before electronic devices (can we even remember that far back now?) when kids (and old runners) just enjoy being kids. How I miss the seventies…..

I’ve attached a few images of the Island but they really don’t do it justice, it really is so special you need to experience it yourself. The marathon itself it testing due to the heat and hills but the scenery helps, at least for the first couple of laps anyway , I’ve attached a post I wrote last year on the event below.

This weekend is the Rottnest marathon, probably my favourite marathon and one unfortunately this year I am going to have to miss. I’ve ran ‘Rotto’ ten times but being two weeks out from the World Masters marathon was just too close. I am big believer in a day a kilometre (‘ish)  to recover, at my age anyway. It normally takes me between 3-4 weeks to really get over a marathon. I know other runners who can recover a lot quicker. My mate Tony ‘T-train’ Smith takes about 12 hours and always winds me up on Strava the day following a marathon by running a sub 4min/k average run. Suicide but he seems to get away with it.

Rottnest is a small Island 30k from the Perth coastline. A pristine Island with numerous untouched beaches and no cars allowed so everybody bikes, or runs. It really is from a by-gone age and I’ve been holidaying there since the kids were babies. This year there is an inaugural half marathon so I have a race to keep me interested but it’ll be just two laps rather than the obligatory four I’m use to.  ( http://www.rottnestisland.com )

Each year we stay in the same apartment on the beach and as you can see from the photo below when I say on the beach I mean on the beach. A week at Rottnest is the perfect ‘down time’ after the Winter running season and the last marathon of the year. I have the 6 inch ultra marathon in December ( http://www.6inchtrailmarathon.com ) but that’s more of a long training run getting back to nature running some glorious trails. Next race of any significance isn’t until March next year when I race the Darlington half, then it’s Perth, City to Surf and Rottnest again. Maybe throw in an ultra or two, a sprinkling of shorter races and off we go again. Almost forgot the Australia Day Ultra in January ( http://australiadayultra.com ). I may race the 100k but I’m worried I’ll put too much weight on !!

Another glorious day on Rotto.
Another glorious day on Rotto.

Right back to Rottnest. A four lap course, with four good hills, runner unfriendly in my view. i.e. long undulating up sections with sharp down sections where you seem to get to the bottom too quickly before the next rise. It also gets pretty warm and windy. Finally did I mention the four hills, remember you need to times that by four for the four laps. So 16 runner unfriendly hills, 4 laps, it gets hot (and humid!) and windy. I’m not selling this am I, but the reason I love it so much is because of all the aforementioned issues. It is a hard marathon and these days there are fewer and fewer hard marathons where everybody is looking for a quick course. Rottnest is more about finishing rather than a time. It’s about going back to a by-gone age where life was just simpler and enjoying running a small marathon with good friends. There’s even a good pub on the Island where everybody congregates afterwards with the compulsory marathon war stories which get wilder and wilder the more they drink. This is then followed by the obligatory run to the last ferry when you realise you’re late.

Rottnest really is special and I urge you to click on the link at the start of this post to see the Island for yourself if you are not in Western Australia. You never know next year we may be lining up together at the start line together.

Assuming you didn’t sign up last year here are a few more images to try and convince you to come along in 2018, it really is worth the trip, big time !

On the new course you actually run past “the Basin”

 

The local wildlife, the friendly and adorable Quokka.

 

Rottnest even looks good in black and white. Briefly in the lead in 2015, didn’t last long.

 

After distance comes pace. The next step to faster marathons….

After my last post on the simple activity to get faster, basically run more ( http://www.runbkrun.com/2017/10/02/the-secret-to-running-a-marathon-faster-really-is-quite-simple/ ) my running buddy Ken ‘The Duck’ Dacre summed up my post in a few sentences; basically…..

Hi

For people with limited time reading it.

To run a marathon you need distance

To run a good one you need quality on top of the distance.

hahahaha

Ken Dacre
Systems Administrator

 

I replied to Ken and highlighted his rookie error when it comes to blogging, you need quantity and quality,  not one of either. He has so much to learn but he did have a good point . Distance will get you cardio fitness and allow you to run a marathon but, as he rightly points out,  (which if you know Ken you’ll know this is not the norm!) to run a good time you need to add pace.

There are many type of ‘pace’ runs that will help towards your goal including tempo, thresholds, VO2 max, fartlek’s, intervals the list is quite long with many variations but the one session that every marathon runner needs to take on is the long run at MP (Marathon Pace). This is when the magic happens and you can dial in your goal pace. There really is no point aiming for a finish time and then never running the required average pace for any length of time. A long run at MP allows you to test out what it will feel like on the big day , and although you will be better prepared come race day, after a good taper and a few muffins (gotta’ love carbo-loading) , this run allows to get some quality race practice and also give you some confidence.

When I was training with Raf in 2015 ( http://www.therunningcentre.com.au ) the MP run was a 15k warm up at 4:15min/k pace and then 20k at 3:50min/k pace. I remember struggling with this session as it looked beyond me but on the day I ran the required time and distance and felt great afterwards. It was a real confidence booster. These are the sessions that make the difference, ones you see coming in your training plan and actually worry about completing them , knowing the pain time coming your way.

Another one of Raf’s favourite sessions was the 3 * 5km, at 5k pace, with 3 minutes rest in between. I christened this bad boy the ‘pain train’ session because as you complete each of the three 5km’s  (at race pace) ; you know the next one will be even tougher and more painful. The last one is as much an exercise in pain measurement as running. The benefit of these is when you have finished them you feel awesome and this alone is worth the pain you will embrace while running.

A similar run is one of my all time favourites the Mona Fartlek. Names after its inventor the great Steve Monaghetti and described below :-

Steve Moneghetti is set to leave a lasting legacy that goes beyond his set of marathon medals. As a young man from Ballarat he and coach Chris Wardlaw devised a session that fitted in with his usual stomping ground of Lake Wendouree helped him become a four-time Olympian.

Steve Moneghetti

The Session:Mona Fartlek: (2x90sec, 4x60sec, 4x30sec, 4x15sec with a slower tempo recovery of the same time between each repetition. The session takes 20mins in total.

Distance Mona covered: The session was most often used on Tuesday night at Ballarat’s Lake Wendouree. The first time Mona did it as a 20-year-old he did not complete the Lap of the Lake (6km) in the 20minutes but in his prime he completed the Lake in 17.19 and then continued on to finish his 20min session. He still does it most Tuesdays and even at 52, covers 6km.

History

Mona devised the session with his coach Chris Wardlaw over the phone back in 1983 when he was just 20. He wanted a solid fartlek session, one that would help improve his speed as well as endurance and stimulate an ability to change pace mid-run, something that helped later on his career when tackling the Africans, who had a habit of surging mid-race.

The session became a Tuesday-night ritual for Mona and while it was set up for Lake Wendouree, he’d use it whether training at altitude at Falls Creek or overseas preparing for a championship marathon.

It is still widely used today with Ben Moreau and a host of Sydney athletes doing the session. A recent feature in the UK has led to a number of British runners adopting the session along with a number of runners in the US, although some are calling it the “Mono” session.

A good idea is to set your watch to beep every 30 seconds, so that you don’t have to look down at it all the time.

Mona says

“I was always a stickler for routine and I feel that this session, coupled with my usual Thursday night session of 8x400m with 200m float set me up and gave me continuity with my training.

The 15-second reps came at the end and really forced me to concentrate on accelerating hard when I was fatigued. One night when I was in top shape I covered nearly 7km with Troopy (Lee Troop).”

Tip for other distance runners

For many runners, the session will be too demanding initially and you will need to build into it.

Mona recommends just walking or jogging the recovery as you adjust to it.

Middle distance runners may wish to reduce the length of the session, halving everything (ie: 1x90sec, 2x60sec, 2x30sec, 2x15sec) to make it a 10minute session.

The benefit of a Mona is the session is over in 20 minutes, the same time for all runners. The distance travelled of course will vary depending on ability. Personally I can get to around 5.6k, normally with a tail wind if I can find one!, so I’m a long way of Mona at his best and even Mona now.  Surprising that given his pedigree of World Record holder, Commonwealth Games Champion and Olympian, while I won a couple of WAMC club runs ?  There is a striking resemble mind, as shown below, when we met at a photo shoot for the Perth Chevron sponsored City to Surf. (I’m the pretty one with the beard…)

 

Me and Steve Moneghetti, a running god!

 

So to sum up this post we have addressed Golden Rule no2 in my 9 golden rules of running. :-

  1. Run Further. Add distance, not speed.
  2. Run Faster. This is about adding pace after you have got your foundation after rule 1.
  3. Don’t get injured. This is the hardest rule to obey as you always want to do more of rule 1 and 2 which can result in an injury. (I even hate typing the word!)
  4. Nutrition, nutrition and nutrition… Did I mention nutrition. It’s all about the proper fuel.
  5. Weight. So important, use to believe because I ran 100k+ a week I could eat what I wanted. Not true.
  6. Baseline, document and evaluate everything. If it isn’t on www.strava.com it didn’t happen. Once you set a goal you have to be able to know how far you have come to achieving this, small steps but constant feedback. So buy a Garmin and start recording , everything !!!
  7. Sleep. So underestimated but the bodies way of refuelling and preparing for the next day of running. Common sense but so often ignored.
  8. Consistency. No point running 100k one week and then nothing. Marathon fitness is built up over time and this works hand in hand with rule number 1.
  9. It’s all in the mind. After 32k a marathon is down to mental strength and the ability to persuade your body you can still perform at your desired pace without falling to fatigue, which is the minds way of protecting itself. Never underestimate the power of the mind in long distance racing

Apparently people take more notice of odd numbered lists according to my good friend and triathlete  coach extraordinaire Phil Mosley.  ( http://www.myprocoach.net/ ) We discussed this on a medium long run earlier in the week but that is a story for another day…

Phil giving his best Zoolander ‘blue steel’

A Marathon really is a 10k sprint to the line, with a 32k warm-up.

Yet again I was dissecting Strava splits from some of my running friends who had ran Berlin and it became apparent that most had fallen into the ‘marathon trap’ that is the norm these days. They had trained long and hard and were prepared for the first 32k of the race but had fallen away for the last 10k. This is why I believe a marathon really is a 10k race with a 32k warm-up.  These two separate races are as important as each other, if you do badly in either the end the result is normally the same.

So why does the marathon lend itself so well to these two separate distances ? The first part, the 32k warm-up, is where all your training and hard work pays dividends. If you have put in the hard yards you will be able to maintain your goal pace for the first 32k most of the time. Add in proper nutrition and a good taper and the first 32k can actually be an enjoyable experience.  Its at 32k you will first encounter every marathon runners worst nightmare, ‘the wall’.  Susan Paul from http://www.runnersworld.com    sums up the wall in an article below :-

A runners worst nightmare….

 

In general, hitting the wall refers to depleting your stored glycogen and the feelings of fatigue and negativity that typically accompany it. Glycogen is carbohydrate that is stored in our muscles and liver for energy. It is the easiest and most readily available fuel source to burn when exercising, so the body prefers it. When you run low on glycogen, even your brain wants to shut down activity as a preservation method, which leads to the negative thinking that comes along with hitting the wall.

It’s important to note that you burn a blend of stored carbohydrate and fat for fuel all of the time. However, the ratio of these two fuels changes with the intensity of the activity. For example, during a speed workout you will use a higher percentage of glycogen in your fuel blend. On a long slow run, you would burn a higher percentage of fat and a lower percentage of carbohydrate.

If you do the math, it’s easy to see why many runners hit the wall around the 18- or 20-mile mark. Our bodies store about 1,800 to 2,000 calories worth of glycogen in our muscles and liver. On average, we use about 100 calories per mile when running, depending upon run pace and body mass.

However, proper training for marathon mileage gives your body and mind time to adapt to these rigors. Since you don’t use purely carbohydrate as fuel, you have the ability to continue running by accessing fat stores.

The energy issue then, is really about reaching for those fuel sources. In order to utilize your fat stores, you must have some carbohydrate present to facilitate this metabolic pathway. When you deplete your glycogen stores, it becomes difficult to access fat as a fuel source because burning fat for energy is a more complex process. Long runs help train your body to utilize the fat metabolic pathway more efficiently.

During training you should also experiment with taking nutrition on longer runs for a quick carbohydrate source. By the time you build up to 20 mile runs, you should have a pretty good idea about how much fuel you need to sustain yourself for this distance. (Here are more tips to help you avoid hitting the wall.)

Hitting the wall is not something that needs to be feared, dreaded, or avoided (unless it’s race day, of course). The old adage of “if you don’t use it, you lose it” can be applied here.

Training is more than just logging the miles. It is a total body process, and by the end of it you will be transformed into a runner that is prepared and ready to meet all the demands of the marathon. Between stored glycogen and stored fat, you actually have the ability to run many, many miles.

This is why on Strava ( http://www.strava.com If it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen!) you see the splits from 32k slowly, to start with, get longer and continue to increase until most marathon runners ‘stagger’ over the line, albeit elated to finish. This brings me to the second mini-race in any marathon, the 10k sprint to the line.

Pace the marathon right and you can switch over to ‘finish mode’ with 10k to go, if, and this is a big if, you have the experience and confidence you are not going to be visiting our friend ‘Mr.Wall’ anytime soon.  Personally , with the experience of 60 marathons and ultras on my CV, I know at 32k how the last 10k will pan-out. Mentally now I can switch over to the ‘finish mode’ and this allows me to call on my last resources available and start to think about the finish. I now look forward to the 32k mark of any marathon because I know I’ve put in the training (and you should always ‘trust in your training’.) and I am not going to hit the wall. To me the last 10k is about shaving a few minutes of my estimated finish time, a time I would have worked out way before the 32k mark. These mental arithmetic exercises also help you concentrate on something other than the constant kilometer pacing targets and when you run a marathon you’ll understand you have a lot of time on your hands; bare minimum well over 2 hours and upwards of course.

I’ve said this many times but it is always worth repeating , to quote Jon ‘the marathon runner who slows down the least wins’. So true and this is where the 10k sprint to the line comes into play. If you can hold your pace while all around you start to drop off you’ll be amazed how you will move through the field, ‘like a hot knife through butter’. (Pretty cool how I could get the old ‘hot knife through butter’ synonym to relate to running, happy with that.) Why is this possible ? This is where the part of training that is rarely touched on comes into play, the mental toughness.

Mental toughness is not something you find on trainingpeaks  ( http://www.trainingpeaks.com ) or strava ( http://www.strava.com ) ,there’s no app to help you train it. Mental toughness is a state of mind and a ‘how bad do you want it’ though process that you will need to draw down on from 32k onwards. No one, not even the top Kenyans, can run their best marathon and not need to put themselves in the ‘pain box’ for the last 10k of any marathon.  Sure they can probably convince the central governor, explained briefly below, that all is good and push harder than us normal runners but trust me those Kenyans are experiencing the same pain we do, probably even more.

In short, the central governor theory is based around the premise that the brain will override your physical ability to run and “shut the body down” before you’re able to do serious or permanent damage to yourself.

Dr. Tim Noakes believes that the point in the race when you think you’ve given everything you’ve got is actually a signal or response from the brain to slow down to preserve health, rather than a physiological reality. In actuality, Noakes believes you have more to give physically when this happens.

Runners experience this during almost every race they run. At mile 8 of a half marathon, goal race pace is extremely difficult and the thought of running faster, even for just a minute, seems impossible. Yet, when you get within 400 meters of the finish, you’re somehow able to summon a kick that finds you running minutes per mile faster than goal pace.

Once your brain realizes it won’t die if you pick up the pace (because the finish line is close) it opens the biological pathways to run faster.

That’s not to say that the physiological demands of a race aren’t real. Rather, the central governor theory posits that racing is a balance between: (1) physical preparation and biological systems; (2) emotional components, such as motivation and pain tolerance; (3) and self-preservation. The exact combination of these factors is what leads to how hard you’re able to push during a race.

Another one of my favourite mentally tough runners is David Goggins ( http://davidgoggins.com/ ),  it is well worth spending some time on his site. He is one tough runner (and that’s putting it mildly, the Chuck Norris of running ?) and his running CV is impressive to say the least, as are his quotes which are recited on most of our long runs.

When you’ve as tough as DG even your shirt tears….

I seemed to have digressed for a change so to get back to the main point of this post. Training will get you to the 32k mark of the marathon, from there it becomes a games of mental toughness, you versus yourself really. It is up to you to persuade your central governor to release what limited running resources you have left to enable yourself to push on and finish the race strongly, maybe even a negative split ? I can tell you it gets easier with experience as I believe each time to run a marathon , and don’t die!, your mind learns and  is encouraged to release the governor a little bit more. This in turn enables you to attack the last 10k of your next marathon with more confidence and more energy, resulting in a better performance , which in turn persuades the mind that next time you can go even better.

So if you are preparing for your first marathon or working towards your next you really need to also work on your mental toughness because at 32k, as sure as night follows day, you are going to need to draw down on this to continue to travel at your target pace, your mind will start to play his favourite card, Mr. Fatigue, to try and protect you and this is when you need to say ‘no thanks, I’m fine, it’s time to ‘toughen up and take a ‘suck it up pill’ (Thanks DG)…..

 

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

 

After 42 marathons I finally get it right.

 

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

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

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

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

 

In Matt we trust…

 

 

 

Matt Fitzgerald wins by a muffin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perth City to Surf 5k splits.

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

 

Nike Vaporflys 4%.

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

 

 

Weapons of mass destruction.

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

A free turbo-charger .

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

Six-day regimen

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

treehouse1977

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

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

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

Three-day regimen

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

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

Emily Barney

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

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

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

One-day regimen

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

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

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

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

foodiesathome.com

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

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

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

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

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

Simply, the best

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

First Impressions and Fit

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

Upper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Once in a while the magic happens.

Recovery going as well as could be expected.

With the Chevron City to Surf Marathon now less than 4 weeks away it is time to start to dial in a predicted finish time. Normally I’m pretty accurate with my predictions as with the experience of 59 marathon (or longer) finishes I know the distance well enough. Of course its not to say each one doesn’t hurt and I’d be kidding you if I said they got easier the more you do but with experience does come wisdom.

This marathon though is different,  I am coming off the biggest break in the last 7 years and, truth be told, am not 100% sure how this will affect my finishing time, albeit how much slower than the last time I ran this course last year where I ran a 2:41:41 for 5th place. There is no way I am in that form after such a long lay-off but I certainly feel the old cardio fitness returning. I have Mark L. looking at sub3 (his first of many I predict, if he can stay away from triathlons!) , Mark C. looking good for a sub 2:55 (minimum) and Jon, the wild card , probably closer to 2:50. Who do I choose to run with as when you make your decision it will be near impossible to change as you won’t know until around the 32k mark (when you come out of Kings Park) if you have made the right decision. Leave Kings park ‘full of beans’  and you probably went out too slow, ‘stagger‘ out of Kings Park and you went out too fast, logical really.

So how can you decide on a goal marathon pace without experience to guide you. There are several websites that offer good predictor times using race distance from 5k up to the near race distance. Anything under 5k and you’d be hard to predict a marathon time and even 5k is probably a tad short IMHO. (Note, Mike K. use to predict his marathon time on metres rather then kilometres but he is a special case, in every sense of the work. )

The best, in my opinion, is the McMillan Running website ( https://www.mcmillanrunning.com/ )  In the example below I typed in my last 10k time of 35:12 (ground zero for my calf tear , in April) and put in a predicted 2:39:59 marathon finish.  The resulting table shows my current numbers in the left column, as predicted by my last 10k time , the numbers I’d need to run in the right column to hit my sub 2:40 goal. As you can see they don’t marry up showing running a 35:12 is not going to be enough, probably, to hit a sub 2:40 marathon time. This is a fair call.

 

Sometimes the truth hurts but dialing in your marathon pace correctly is so important , it’s better to find out now than 21k into the marathon when you have nothing left !

Looking at the times needed to run a 2:39:59 I have the 1/2 marathon time covered (my PB is 1:15) but not the 10 Miles (57mins.  required, my PB is just over 58mins.) , the 10k (34:06 while my best is 34:18) or 5k ( 16:25 while I have ran 16:40). Admittedly I’m close but all these near misses probably add up. (the 50km time of 3:14 is way quicker than I’ve ran a 50k , currently!)  So it looks like the McMillan calculator has got my number, literally, and in my current form (or even when I was running well at the end of last year)  I was always doomed to fail.

Of course what the calculator does miss is the ‘run of your life’ type races. When these happen all tables are thrown out the window and you get to rewrite the record books. This happened last year at the Fremantle half when I was in the middle of a hard training block for the World Masters which involved a massive increase in weekly distance and many races. I remember sitting in the car before the start of the race hoping I wouldn’t embarrass myself after racing a 10k the previous week and a massive weekly training total. The conditions weren’t that good either with a strong wind.  I even turned up late to the start and made it by about 2 seconds, everything was going wrong. When the race started I decided I’d run with the leaders until I couldn’t hang on and then gradually work my way back to the pack and chalk up the race as a nice training run with a medal at the end. The first 10k was painful but I hung on and even managed to get to halfway with the lead group. It got better within the next 5k when my friend Ross decided he had enough and it left myself and two others in the leading group. Now both these two runners were better runners than me but both seemed to be off their game, to such an extent that at 18k I found myself leading and actually feeling comfortable (well as comfortable as you can be 18k into a 21k race.) Anyhow a kilometer later both the other runners in the group suddenly realised they were in a race and I was dropped back to third place,  which would be where I would finish. (Truth be told I was distracted at the time practicing  my winners speech in my head.)   The placing wasn’t important though as I managed to run 1:15 dead. A massive PB when, less than 90 minutes earlier, I had to making all sort of excuses to justify the bad run I was about to have.

There really was no rhyme or reason why I ran a PB on that day and I still don’t really understand what happened but when a ‘run of your life’ happens just go with it, don’t hold back or ask questions just enjoy the moment and cherish the time you are in ‘the zone’ . These runs are few and far between , otherwise they’d become the norm, and how or why they happen is a mystery. I was tired, over trained and mentally ready for failure before the start of the race but something magical occurred and I managed to run a time I doubt I will ever threaten. My only regret on the day is a rookie error of checking my watch as I crossed the line rather than smiling like a Cheshire cat at what will probably be my fastest ever half finish, luckily of course I have photoshop trickery, so this can be ‘amended’ to show my true emotion at a later date. (I may even adjust the time, what is the current half world record I wonder ?)

Lesson learnt, when you have a ‘run of your life’ look happy at the finish and don’t check your watch !

 

Helium filled arm-bands, an Ultra Runners dream.

Today registrations opened for one of the best trail ultras in WA, the 6 inch ultra marathon. http://www.6inchtrailmarathon.com  

The event was started by Dave Kennedy 13 years ago as a fat-ass (free entry with no volunteers) and has morphed into this powerhouse of an ultra that sells out in days and is the highlight of the ultra racing calendar. It offers everything a good ultra should and then a bit extra for good measure. Dave explains the thinking behind the ultra below.

Six Inch Trail Marathon is inspired by the famous Six Foot Track Marathon in the Blue Mountains near Sydney.Returning from New Zealand in January 2005 I bemoaned the lack of trail races in Western Australia. I wanted to move to the land of the long white cloud but family and circumstances warranted at least another year in WA. One evening I headed out to run a gravel road signposted “Goldmine Hill”. What followed was a soaking wet 15K with the highlight being running into the Munda Biddi Mountain Bike trail. The Munda Biddi was built to keep cyclists off the 964K Bibbulmun walking track. The first 335K section from Mundaring in the Perth hills to Collie was completed in 2004. I had seen some road crossing signs during the construction and was keen to one day experience the track either by bike or foot. Finding the track so close to my house in Mandurah had me pondering a race in the near future. On my return from New Zealand I had been discussing a possible trail race on a local runner’s message board. I bought the map and found that this town to town section was about 44K. Six Foot which I had dreamed of running for years sprang to mind. “We could have our own version”. I had ridden between the 2 towns, North Dandalup and Dwellingup, and the road was super hilly. I was a little disappointed by the lack of hills when I ran the trail but some less masochistic runners didn’t agree with me. The result is a 46K trail race starting at the foot of Goldmine Hill 1K from North Dandalup and finishing in Dwellingup. This run is designed to be tough but most marathoners can expect to finish within an hour or 2 of their best marathon time

He wasn’t joking about adding an hour or two to your marathon time. I raced it 9 times and my best is a 55 minute marathon delta. That is due to many ‘trail’ challenges including hills (and lots of them), single track trail where you have to watch every step, navigation challenges (I wear two Garmin’s for the race , one with the course plugged in and I still get lost?) , did I mention the hills ? and also just the whole ‘trail running’ thing where you can’t really judge pace as the lay of the land dictates how fast or slow you can run. With the 6 inch you can never get into a road marathon type rhythm where you can concentrate on average pace and enjoy the scenery and the journey. A trail marathon will kick you in the backside the moment you let down your guard and start too drift off, add in ‘pea-gravel‘ ,which is God’s way of teaching ultra runners how to fall over , and unless you bring your end game you are going to end up covered in ‘claret‘. Actually this seems to be the in-thing for the 6 inch finisher, some sort of wound weeping claret, if you don’t have one you are ostracised and scorned !

I’ve done several posts on there 6 inch so search the archives to read about last years run and other general comments. You’ll see I’m a big fan and typing this post now am getting excited of the prospect of lining up again at 4:30am faced with Gold Mine Hill and what is to come. The BK running posse has already entered and it promises to be another Stella event with Jon getting his red spike this year, although there is some conjecture over a possible disqualification pending over the use of (potentially) helium filled arm bands he wore in 2014. Bart’s is conducting an enquiry into this heinous crime (if proved) and his red spike (you get a red spike for completing 6 events) could be in jeopardy.  It probably doesn’t bode well for Jon as last year Bart’s got his red spike despite getting an official DQ asterix against name for getting lost one year. Jon, being the owner of the official spreadsheet, was not happy with Bart’s receiving his red spike a year early, in his view. This could turn nasty for all concerned.

Helium filled arm bands, an Ultra runners best friend?

Truth be told the reason Jon is wearing the arm bands was the previous year he found the only puddle on the whole course, in WA it doesn’t rain for months, and then proceeded to through himself into it , get up and slip into again. Of course he was left to struggle alone as is tradition in these events and stumbled to the finish line a long way back, covered in mud. The following year he was made to wear a climbers rope as he fell into the deep ruts up the ‘escalator hill‘ and Bart’s had to jump over him while he again struggled to find his feet.

This is why I love this race, so many happy memories and that is why we keep going back year in year out to these events to add to the memory banks of ‘great  times spent with great  people, racing great events’, and of course documenting Jon and all his adventures.

 

Look busy the City to Surf Marathon is coming…

This week has been a break through week for me with my calf finally feeling under control, I won’t tempt fate and say completely healed as I saw the scan a week last Tuesday and the tear is there, albeit a new one and a lot smaller. I spoke to my physio on Wednesday and he is the most pessimistic (or realist?) person you could ever meet when it comes to recovering from injury and even he said if I could run 10k without any issue then I should continue to run and build up my cardio fitness. He did recommend not running the City to Surf Marathon in August and I was vague on this point knowing full well I had entered only a few days before. I suggested we discuss this subject again in 4 weeks time, knowing full well that in 4 weeks, if I’m still running, then I’m lining up for my 9th City to Surf in a row, come hell or waters high.

Letting the boys know I’d entered spurred on an avalanche of entires and it seems I won’t be alone on the big day with the two Mark’s entering and Jon. Gareth has ‘footy’ coaching but I’m sure he’ll find a replacement for the big day  as , speaking from experience, missing out on these marathons is frustrating, and that’s putting it nicely.

Training wise I have to walk a tight rope for the next few weeks. It’ll be a lot of Elliptigo time (which I love at the moment) and any running will be at a very relaxed and slow pace. This morning for instance I was awoke by one of the puppies early so had an hour to kill. What could I do but go for a run but this was to be a rest day so I had to make sure the run was at a pedestrian pace at best. As it was 5:30am and pitch dark outside this was easy enough and I managed a 5:45min/k average for the 10k. Returning back to the family nest very happy that I managed to maintain this pace and truth be told at the end I was quite tired , which doesn’t bode well.

The Elliptigo is my new weapon in the sub3 attempt arsenal…..I wonder if I can sneak it onto the course ?

 

Can I break sub 3 ? It’ll be a big ask and my training will need to go very well but that is the target. I’ll plan for 50k this week (maximum) and then increase that to 70k next week and maybe nudge 100k the following week. This will then give me 3-4 more training weeks of volume before a 1 week taper. Add in some serious time on the Elliptigo and I should be in sub3 form. The only fly in my ointment is the last time I was out for a 4 week period I ran the Bunbury Marathon a month later and ran a 2:59.xx time, cutting it very fine. I remember running through halfway at 1:28 feeling absolutely ‘goosed’ and I had to work very hard to scrape under three hours, very hard ! I have the finishing shots and you can see the emotion on my face, it was one of the highlights of my running career, not for the time but for the effort required to dig very deep to get out of a very big hole.

The City to Surf will require another lazarus like comeback to go sub3 but I’m hoping the Elliptigo will be the extra weapon in my arsenal that will allow me to get some serious time on legs without the pounding of running but with the added benefit of being a better workout than cycling. I’ll know so much more in a week or two as my last attempt at returning from my original calf tear went well for a week and then ended up with a new tear,  probably due to over training so soon after injury. I certainly ate a large portion of humble pie but it was a risk I had to take with the Perth marathon as a carrot dangled infront of me.

What’s different this time ? The original tear is healed and the new tear is a lot smaller and probably nearly healed as well. I still haven’t got the confidence to add pace to my runs but I don’t have to for a few weeks. I will of course need to eventually add pace as I need to be comfortable running 4:15min/k or better to break the sub 3hr barrier for the 29th time (and hopefully number 26 in a row; remember what I said about runners and streaks; if I was to go over 3hrs I would be devastated, and that’s putting it mildly!)

Right back to training, a big week so far for me , 25k and with a 10k pencilled in for tomorrow I should be able to find 15k over the weekend to hit my 50k target. this will be the first hurdle; next week I add another 20k, hurdle number two. I will feel a lot more confident once I move towards hurdle number three as by then all calf tears will be well and truely healed.

What have I taken from this injury ? The main point is it could have been avoided. I knew I was pushing my limits and the calf had felt tight and sore for weeks before it eventually gave way. If I had rested more, even visited a physio for a massage, done some calf stretching exercises or hydrated better I’m confident I could have avoided this situation. Moving forward I really need to listen to my body more but the old saying about old dogs and new tricks seems to resonate in my mind for some reason. I suppose the only thing on my side is my youth? Still making rookie errors but hopefully learning from them, after all at 50 I still have another 50 years of running ahead of me, I hope my Elliptigo is up to the job, may have to check the warranty ?

Look busy there’s a marathon coming.

Well this Sunday I get to run the Bunbury Marathon for the 5th time. The previous four occasions have all had very different outcomes. The first time I ran it I PB’d and ran a 2:52 but was probably in better form. I remember in the first 10k leading a group of runners and actually running backwards in a ‘Rocky‘ like way encouraging them on. This bravado came back to bite me about 10k down the line when the group left me and I struggled home.

The following year I was returning from injury and did just about everything wrong on the day. I had new shoes for the marathon and I hadn’t even tried them on. On the morning of the race I realised they were too tight so took on the course in a pair of shoes I had travelled down in. Needless to say these were past their best. I remember getting to halfway in 1:28 realising I was in trouble and in serious danger of losing my sub-3 hour marathon streak. I had to work very hard to finally finish on 2 hours 59 minutes and change. To this day this was one of the most satisfying finishes to a marathon albeit the time was one of my slowest.

The next year I was back into some good form and actually won the event running a 2 hour 43 minute PB time. I was racing my good friend Steve ‘Twinkle Toes’ McKean and we were neck and neck until the last 8k where I managed to grab a few hundred metres, which in the end was enough. My one and only marathon victory and one I will always cherish. This was 2013 and in 2014 I returned to defend my title. This was to prove my undoing when I went out way too quick with a group of three other runners and basically ran myself into the ground at 10k. Mentally shot I was walking through drink stops and staggered home in 2:54,  when I was in 2:45 form all day. This really taught me how much mental preparation is so important in marathon running as physically I was in great form coming into the race but I had just given up when it all started to get too hard. It was definitely the added pressure of being the defending champion which had been my undoing.

On Sunday, as well as taking on my 42nd marathon, I’ll be taking on the disaster that was 2014 and hopefully putting that behind me. This will of course be dictated by other runners in the field. It would be nice to podium  at Bunbury or better but truth be told this is a ‘B’ race which means it’s more of a tempo run,  with a medal at the end. My three ‘A’ races are the Perth marathon in June, the City to Surf marathon in August and my favourite the Rottnest marathon in October. After that we have the 6 inch ultra in December and my assault on the AURA Australian age group record in the 100k ultra in January. As I have mentioned before I don’t believe in ‘down time‘ and always have a goal race to work towards, always.

So with Bunbury happening on Sunday it means tomorrow starts my favourite time as a marathon runner, carbo-loading, As you can imagine the first place I am going to start this exercise is my usual 14k progressive run pre-Yelo muffin and coffee tomorrow morning.  ( http://yelocornerstore.com.au ) As I’m tapering it will be a shorter run but as I’m carbo-loading it should be a longer post-run food and coffee smorgasbord. Unfortunately this has been the undoing of many a runner, they get to three days before the big day and assume carbo-loading translates to eat as much chocolate as possible. Sorry people it’s about carbohydrates and although chocolate does contain some carbs there is certainly not enough to justify going overboard. ! Life could never be that good. The odd extra muffin may be accepted but it’s mainly orange juice, pasta, honey on toast and bagels. (or such like). I aim for 10g of carbohydrates for every kilo of body weight. So for me at 70kg it’s about 700g of carbs a day. This is actually quite difficult and you need to stay hydrated of course for this exercise to work , so add in about 600ml per hour and you are one eating and drinking machine.

You will put on weight if you carbo-load properly but a lot of that is water so you shouldn’t be too worried. Carbo-loading, done well, will ensure you avoid the dreaded 32k wall or at least push it back a few kilometres. (pushing it back 10k would be very nice of course!) You’ll need gels or similar on the course if you are aiming to run longer than 2hours 30 minutes, which I’m sure all the readers of this post probably are.  As I mentioned earlier in the post this will be my 42nd marathon so I am well versed in carbo-loading and what is required for the big day. I am actually quite relaxed pre-race but will become more nervous (excited?) as we move closer to Sunday.

Conditions are also a big influence when you run a marathon. Too hot, humid or windy and you’ll need to adjust your predicted finish time. Going out chasing a time you would have achieved if the conditions had been better is fraught with danger. Heat and humidity can be especially damaging and both of these command respect. Once you start the race I always keep an eye on my average pace and last kilometre split, the total time takes care of itself I find. I’ll have a goal average pace set before I start and will adjust my pace to match it during the race. It’s only after the 32k point in a race I’ll start to think about increasing my pace, if I can, to try to finish ahead of my predicted time. This has been rare in most of my marathons but each time I have PB’d I’ve been able to raise my game towards the end. As my mate Jon is fond of saying’ the runner who slows down the least wins’. Find your pace early and maintain it for as long as possible, hell even negative split if you can. (After 41 marathons I have come close but never have I had the pleasure of a negative split.)

Right, as well as tapering (running less to allow your body to recover, and also blogging more) and carbo-loading,  another marathon pre-requisite is sleep. As with the tapering it helps the body recover from the months of hard training. To this end I’m off to bed as I’m up early tomorrow to start carbo-loading at Yelo, sometimes being a runner is just the best thing EVER !

 

The holy grail of running…Yeo muffin and coffee combo. (and for three days before a marathon it is actually recommended!)