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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 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 that 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 at the end of this post. 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.

 

Skins, the runners friend for all seasons.

 

Good times over the years wrapped up in Skins.

I’m a big fan of SKINS and have been since they first came out.  As well as being incredibly well made they do what they say they do and do it well. I remember when they first came out I created a social media storm (well a few comments anyway,  which in 2008 was probably a storm. ) on www.coolrunning.com.au when I predicted a 5 minute improvement, minimum, just by wearing skins. With hindsight it was probably a tad optimistic but at the time I really believed that made such a huge difference to marathon times.  I could never understand looking around at my fellow marathon runners why there was only a few runners ‘skinned up’. Over time I came to realize that maybe I was wrong regarding massive marathon improvement just by wearing skins and their real benefit lay elsewhere.

I feel now, after owning a pair of skins in various forms for nearly 10 years, their main benefit is injury prevention, delaying DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness) , recovery or keeping your knees warm . (That last point is why Jon wears them and I chuckle everytime I hear him talk about his ‘cold’ knees ! ) Before I talk about the new generation of SKINS some history. In 2008 when first encountered SKINS I brought them with a view to helping keep the heart rate down  by compression, the theory for me was simple, the compression tights would help the heart pump blood around the body easier and thus it wouldn’t need to work as hard, which meant a lower heart rate. Being a marathon runner a higher heart rate equates to a higher fatigued state, which equates to slowing down. Thus wearing SKINS would keep (or help) the heart rate lower  for longer and thus you would feel less fatigued and thus you could go faster for longer. Pretty simple really, ‘physics‘ as my Dad was so fond of quoting. I’m not sure if this was a placebo or it just coincided with a bit of running form but wearing SKINS always seem to coincide with a good PB. I was convinced. They were also good for long runs, to keep fatigue at bay and of course recovery and delaying DOMS. Was there nothing these wonder garments could do ?

As a fashion statement I probably can’t endorse them but back in 2010 after Melbourne Marathon I did try to start a new trend among runners of wearing skins under your shorts while drinking at the bar. As this was a once only happening, and I have seen little or no uptake, I can only assume this didn’t catch on. Truth be told this was probably the last time I was in a bar so if it has caught on I’d probably miss it anyway ?

 

A recovery Guinness after the Melbourne Marathon, at the Transport Pub, wearing my SKINS as a recovery aid, and a fashion statement ?

Right, as always I digress but as a blogger I feel this is something I need to be allowed to do otherwise the posts would be a lot smaller. The main point behind this post is to discuss the latest SKINS that apparently came out this month. The nice people at SKINS got in touch with me and asked if I’d like to test out these new versions. Funnily enough I have just moved house and mysteriously in the move I ‘mislaid‘ my two pair of SKINS compression tights , which were both past their sell by date by many years. Neither was wearable without shorts on top for various reasons and it is because of this I suspect my Wife may have aided in their disappearance. Karen is denying any knowledge but the jury is still out on this one. (Note: Karen have since found my SKINS packed away with half my wardrobe in a box  in the garage, so I must apologise to No1. Wife.  )

So after a few emails with Naomi Marshall, the Global Digital Marketing Manager, a package turned up containing a pair of compression tights and calf socks as promised. The timing was perfect as my calf was still in recovery mode after a 5cm  tear and I had taken to wearing my old calf socks (the ones missed by my Wife in the move !) on every run. These calf socks, I believe, are probably a permanent fixture after a calf tear, if nothing else for a placebo affect, but more importantly to give your calf ongoing support. As with all tears there is probably not a 100% recovery as some scare tissue will be present and this will always be weaker than muscle, so you will always be susceptible to re-tearing.  Please note I am a Google Doctor and have no formal qualifications so that last statement is probably more ‘it makes sense so must be true’ type statement but feel free to research yourself. Bottom line you ain’t going to tear your calf muscle again because you wore calf socks, they can only be help never a hindrance.

My joy was not matched by my children and current Wife who were dismayed at the thought of me running around the neighbourhood in my new SKINS, for some reason it’s not that cool for dads to wear SKINS but I rebuke this statement. (Though looking at the photo of me in the pub in SKINS may not help me in my argument?)  I then fanned the fire so to speak by tabling wearing SKINS while riding my Ellpitogo bike ( http://www.elliptigo.com)  and picking them up after school. This didn’t go down to well with my teenage daughter at all, and that is an understatement.

 

Test driving the new calf socks.

So how good are the new SKINS ? Easy answer, very good. My old SKINS were well over 7 years old and in that time SKINS have obviously been busy. The new versions have more panels and are constructed of a more breathable material. I certainly noticed the difference with the tights as overall they are a  better fit and don’t feel as restricting as previous models. This is a two edged sword of course because the whole point of compression tights is that they compress, so surely you should need to feel them ? Off to the website I went looking for answers. ( https://www.skins.net/au/skins-science/ ) There is a wealth of information on this site and of course you can use our old friend GOOGLE and find even more information. (on anything !) There is plenty of journal support advocating SKINS but this is something I already knew. For me every runner needs compression tights for recovery, as a bare minimum, after long runs or hard tempos and of course marathons and anything longer. They definitely help the legs recover and will also help injury prevention in the time when they are susceptible to picking up knots or tears as the muscles are tired and in a weakened state.

For my test run I chose a day when my legs were fatigued from a long training week and forced myself to run 20k when I was only really up for a 10k. This meant my legs are well and truly tired and I was interested in seeing how the SKINS would help in the final 30 minutes. They coped very well and I was certainly helped by the tights towards the end of the run,  when I was running on empty. The legs felt the benefit of the compression and the heart rate was lower than normal albeit by a small amount of course but still noticeable.  Wearing the SKINS  for this run reminded my why they are so good for endurance events and I made a mental note to wear them more often for my longer runs when towards the end of the run they would help, this is something I use to do but running in Perth the heat can sometimes be an issue and wearing black compression tights is not the most intelligent thing to do. (Note: I have run the 6 inch ultra in SKINS when the starting temperature was 25c and humid. It was an ‘experience’  not helped by getting lost and turning a 46k into a 50k. I survived but have never wore SKINS  in the heat since, I think it’s a ‘mental thing’ now ?)

The calf socks are also a big improvement on previous models with the extra paneling and better material really helping in keeping the calf nice and secure wrapped up in SKINS heaven.  Moving forward I’ll probably be wearing these socks for the foreseeable future as it seems another benefit of getting older is you are more likely to be struck down with calf tears, the joys of aging.

So for all the science go to the SKINS website and they will bamboozle you (  http://www.skins.net ) better than I can but to me SKINS are a necessary part of all runners wardrobe, they aid in recovery, endurance, injury prevention, performance but probably not fashion, according to my teenage daughter but what does she know ? They also keep Jon’s knees warm, so useful in colder climates apparently, living in Perth, Australia, it is hard to verify that bar Jon’s knees of course but one would assume they would be a benefit in the cold !

 

 

 

Rock Tape, looks silly but it seems to work?

 

This weekend I have three weeks left pre-City to Surf marathon. Will that be enough time for me to grab the required cardio fitness needed to run the marathon in under 3 hours ? This time last week I would have confidently said ‘no problem’, I had just ran a 150k training week, including some quality paced runs, that had give me my ‘mojo’ back. Unfortunately I was a tad premature, as always, and my calf started to act up on the Monday after a long weekend of training. Luckily Monday coincided with an awful day of storms, wind and rain in Perth ( a rarity luckily) , so a day off was a blessing. Not being one to ‘sit on my hands’ I booked myself into my nearest physio and had some dry needling on the offending calf Wednesday afternoon with another session on Friday. My physio confirmed that it wasn’t a tear as such just the calf responding to the last 4-5 weeks of ‘proper’ training after such a long time recovering. I suspected as much as I had run over 100k for the last 3 weeks in a row and if the calf was going to tear again I felt it would have weeks ago. Of course I have no medical qualifications but a runner knows?

So today after dry needling the calf my physio offered me some Rock Tape (He had been given a free sample so was happy to share.) I had obviously seen Rock Tape many times over the last few years but wasn’t convinced of its effectiveness and always felt it looked a bit silly (not that I’m one to ever worry about looking silly of course .) Well not being one to turn down a freebie I allowed the physio to put some Rock Tape on my calf after first consulting the video from the Rock Tape website ( https://rocktape.com.au/products/#videos. ) Well, for a change, I seemed to underestimated this product. I ran the lunchtime after the physio appointment for 11k at a reasonable pace , albeit mainly on grass, and felt great. So good in fact I doubled up this evening for another 13k and only stopped due to hunger pains and dog walking duties. The Rock Tape has so far survived two showers and will go to bed tonight still stuck to my calf, doing whatever it does ? So how does Rock Tape work ? From the Rock Tape website :-

I’ll certainly be purchasing some in the near future and I feel this will become my friend as I continue in my battle for full fitness.  Of course all this good work may be undone when I attempt to take off the Rock Tape currently clamped to my calf. I assume it will just peel off gently and leave all my hairs untouched or maybe not ? I feel trouble ahead, served up with a good helping of ‘pain’. There doesn’t seem mention of the removal process on the website funnily enough but looking at sone of the athletes featured they look more like mummy’s than athletes and if the Rock Tape caused any issues when removing they would probably need an anaesthetist to help them. I’ll let you know how I get on but assuming all is good this product definitely gets the thumbs up from me. Now do you think I could get away with bright pink ?

Real men wear pink?

After writing the post last night I ran a 12k progressive this afternoon with the Rock Tape still on my calf and felt great, not a murmur from my troublesome right calf and I gave it a good workout (see my Strava details below. Remember if it isn’t on Strava it didn’t happen, you do have a Strava account don’t you..? http://www.strava.com  feel free to follow me, Big Kev, Perth, WA should be enough to find me in the search option.) Admittedly the calf would have benefited from my two visits to the physio and dry needling but the Rock Tape seems to have totally cured my ‘tired calf‘ niggle that has been troubling me all week. As with all things injury based time will tell but this afternoons run has given me the confidence to lock in that sub 3hr City to Surf Marathon time again,  after I’d almost given up earlier in the week. Maybe that was the Rock Tape brings to the party, a placebo effect that convinces your brain the injury is cured and/or does enough to concentrate the brain on doing what needs to be done to overcome the injury i.e. making small adjustments to reduce the load on the affected area. My physio seems to think this is how Rock Tape works, by concentrating the mind on the injury and there by curing it by adjusting what needs to be adjusted. This seems to ring true with the Rock Tape company who claim a Neurological effect  – altering the perception of pain and improving body awareness. However it works for me it certainly seems to have helped and I couldn’t be happier. Of course with all things running this could change in an instant, right back to my original question, could I get away with pink Rock Tape ?

Strava is life, the rest is details.
It seems to know no bounds?

 

Can you now cheat legally ?

4% performance boost, where do I sign ?

 

This week sees the release of a shoe that is designed to give you a 4% performance boost . To put that in context for my goal marathon time of 2hours 40 minutes, if I purchased the Nike VapourFlys, I would run over 6 minutes quicker. Surprisingly they are sold out instantly and I don’t expect to be able to get my hands on these bad boys for a few months minimum. I mean c’mon, Nike have designed the holy grail of running shoes, 4% performance boost for no extra effort, you would be mad NOT to buy these running weapons of mass destruction.

Some people may bulk at the price of $350 AUD but I just spent over $3000 on an Elliptigo so I wouldn’t lose too much fitness while injured. (Money well spent by the way, I love my Elliptigo) $350 for 6 minutes off my marathon time, a small price to pay, hell I’d paid 10 times that  !

These shoes could put EPO suppliers out of production, why waste money and risk being DQ’d if now, legally, you can find 6 minutes, more if you are slower ! Of course there are rumours they are not IAAF accredited yet but I’m sure your local marathon club will turn a blind eye as long as you don’t show off and break a world record. They even look cool and will probably add a few inches to my height as well. My vertically challenged running buddies Jon and Bart’s will wet themselves when they realise they can be 6foot tall , run faster, look cool and all for $350, is there is a God he just delivered to runners , big time !

So to the title of this post. Are these shoes just cheating wrapped up in a pretty package with a nice swoosh logo on the side. Personally I don’t think so, as long as they are ratified by the athletic governing body. If they aren’t and I am allowed to wear them to my local races, which I think will happen, can I still take the moral high ground? . Hell yes, Triathletes have been doing this for years. I remember when I first did my half iron man in 2001 I completed the whole course in speedos (budgie smugglers as they are known in Oz. ) and my bike was less than $1000. No fancy triathlon bike with aerodynamic everything, silly helmets taking from the Death Star scenes in Star Wars (I mean seriously?) , Zipp wheels costing the same as a small house on the Florida Keys and coaches reinventing the ‘wheel’ so to speak making something that really is quite easy so difficult. (Again is it me or has every triathlete got a coach? Maybe they get confused with all the different events?)  So for us runners we finally get the chance to get something for nothing , well not really nothing but in the scale of things $350 for 6 minutes in  a marathon is ‘nothing‘.

Shoes are so often overlooked when it comes to getting better times. So many people train in their Asics Kayano’s , a shoe that weights about half the weight of the owner and is built for the mass market who know no better. (Oops , there goes my Asics sponsorship) I have nothing against Kayano’s and have more than 10 pairs in my garage from a by-gone age where I believed the hype that you must change your shoes every 400k and you need as much support as an alcoholic on his first visit to AA with a bottle of Gin in his coat pocket. I, personally, now use shoes with less heal drop and run them to the ground, literally, believing that a show moulds itself to your running style and is good for nearly four figures of distance if looked after. (This is my personal opinion and every runner is different so make your own call.) This is more of the barefoot running school of thought. ( http://www.chrismcdougall.com/born-to-run/ ) 

You need your training shoe and your racing shoe, there is a reason there is a marked difference and the reason is weight. Your racing show is lighter and, according to physics, will make moving forward easier due to less weight attached to the end of your legs. For me I race in racing flats choosing the Nike LunaRacer (now that was a great shoe!) or the Adidas takumi sen 3 .  These shoes are expensive and don’t last as long as everyday trainers but they are a must have when you are chasing PB’s. I reckon these shoes are good for 2-3 minutes over a marathon compared to heavier alternatives. Of course the market for every race shoe is now completely destroyed and if I had shares in any shoe company advertising racing flats I would sell very quickly, they are now dinosaurs.

On the bright side I hear Adidas is throwing its hat in the ring and organising  its own sub2hour attempt and I’m sure they won’t be wearing the Nike VapourFly 4%, I’m hoping it will be the Adidas <insert silly name> 5% (or more) which will mean I will be able to go even faster. If this keeps up in the near future I will finish before I start and that will be a sad day because the need for training will be obsolete, all us ‘runners‘ will need to do is put on the latest Nike <insert silly name> and be teleported to the finish in the wink of an eye. Maybe, as with most things, the future is not as bright as I first thought. I miss the world before the internet, mobile phones, TV’s the size of a wall and social media but will I miss the world without the Nike VapourFly 4%, I’ll let you know once I get my grubby paws on a pair!!!!

Worth two photos!!!

 

 

Elliptigo is proving a life saver.

What’s better than one calf tear, two calf tears !!

My second ultra sound on the calf (above) revealed I had a new calf tear, albeit smaller,  at the top of the original 5cm calf tear. Shown in the image  by the ‘black hole’. On the bright side it is a lot smaller than the original one which is healing nicely apparently. I assume shown by the left-most arrow which looks like it shows the top of the first tear ,which is now a long thick black line. Not being a Doctor I could be completely wrong (it has happened before..) but the tear is definitely  the ‘black hole’ like image. So more rest apparently, which is what I assumed I would be told.

Truth be told I have been resting rather well recently and this has added another 3kg’s to the racing frame. For the first time in many years I can only just make out my ribs where as normally they stand proud like a WW2 prisoner of war with an eating disorder  To a runner a thing to be proud of, to Mrs. Matthews not so, I don’t think Karen realises we need to look like ‘racing snakes‘ to gain entry to the front of the pack club ! Although she may be happier with the bigger me I am not !

So in an effect to find my ribs again I have been spending more time on the Elliptigo and must admit to enjoying the experience thoroughly. The Ellipitgo really is so much fun and every time I use it I have to force myself back to the family home because of either hunger or, more likely, family (Dad’s taxi!) commitments. Today I was out and about on the Elliptigo and called Jon as I was close to his house,  ‘playing with’ a good size hill. I invited Jon along to take some photos of me and the Elliptigo with this post in mind. I’ve added a few of his photos below and I hope you take from these photos the look of joy on my face. I am having serious fun on the Elliptigo and working the right muscles,  without having to clothe myself in lycra and work the wrong muscles.

There are other advantages with an Elliptigo,  because of the longer wheelbase and smaller wheels, combined with extra shock absorbers (i.e. legs) you do get that ‘floating on air feeling’. This is so much better than the pounding you take on carbon fibre bikes as you do battle with the bike paths which, if there are anything like the ones in Perth, set numerous ‘concrete lip’ traps that jar your back into next week. You also lose that ‘John Wayne’ like-walk when you get off the bike after a long ride, even with the extra padded lycra.

Of course the main benefit it the ability to grab yourself a good cardio workout without damaging injured legs. I can ride the Elliptigo for hours where-as if I tried to run, with my original calf tear, I’d be lucky to get 500m without pulling up lame.

I also believe the Elliptigo helps with the healing process as it stimulates blood flow around the calf tear, this is my opinion of course and probably ‘bull’ but even as a placebo it must be helping ? In my opinion a good Elliptigo workout would act like a good stretching session, realigning muscle, without the risk of re-tearing the calf, again my opinion. (Any Doctor’s reading this are welcome to leave comments.)

Another plus point of the Elliptigo is just the fact you are out in the open enjoying nature, in all her splendour, instead of being forced to watch the bold and the beautiful repeats on tv while being sweated on by a rather large executive with hygiene issues. (I am assuming of course you are not ‘the bold and the beautifu’l fans or do not enjoy large executives sweating on you; given the choice of course I’d choose the latter. )

Right another good day on the Elliptigo and I have plans to commute to work every day next week so should rack up a few hundred kilometres,  pre-weekend. I must remember why I brought the Elliptigo on the first place though, it was something to do with running but it has been such a long time I’ve nearly forgotten what it was? This of course is a joke, I am as focused on my recovery as ever and after two 4k runs in the week so far (for a massive 8k weekly total, for readers who find it hard to add 4k and 4k.  ) pain and niggle free I am confident I will returning sooner rather than later. In the mean time I have my exercise outlet and little Jon on call, what more can any runner ask for?

 

A Jon Pendse classic…

 

Just before I ran Jon over….

 

 

The answer to an injured runners prayers?

So much fun I was laughing out loud.

 

On the weekend I made the bold decision to purchase an Elliptigo as my calf tear seemed to feel like it was becoming a permanent fixture and I could not face hours and hours in lycra ! I lined up a test ride Saturday morning  and asked the Elliptigo rep to bring round the shiny gloss red version ( as we all know anything red is faster!), which he dutifully did of course sensing a definite sale.

I made a promise to myself that this would only be a test ride as they aren’t the cheapest things but as soon as I saw it I knew it was a sale, I mean what other option did I have? . Once I got on the bike (is it a bike ?) and started to use it the rep could have charged what he wanted, I wanted it and I wanted it now ! (I had a similar feeling when I was searching for a puppy to replace Stanley, I needed a puppy now and nothing was going to stop me.  Ended up buying two from Melbourne but that’s a different story. Actually if the rep had brought two along I probably would have brought them both, I’m sure I could have come up with an excuse for such a purchase, maybe if one gets a puncture I have a replacement, a wet one and dry one, different colours ; the excuses are endless? Luckily my Wife was with me when the Elliptigo turned up so maybe buying two wasn’t an option. I think she has learned after the puppy incident that her not being present when I buy things can be costly.)

So off for the test ride we go and instantly I’m smiling. This thing does everything it promised and more. My calf tear was forgotten as I glided on air while running and not riding, perfect. It really is as close to running as possible without running and without the impact of running. For injury rehabilitation this thing is a must but with the added benefit of it is just so much fun. No boring gym wall to look at for hours or pointless TV dribble.  I was smiling like a  Cheshire cat having a good day looking forward to a fish supper. Lawrie and I cycled for about thirty minutes and when I return to ‘Chez Matthews’ I knew I had had a workout, another box ticked. Finally the best reason for buying the Elliptigo is you don’t have to wear lycra, this is a massive plus as, as runners, we’re not lycra friendly; and that is an understatement.  (For all triathletes reading this you may not be as bothered about the non-lycra tick box but I’d probably recommend not donning the lycra for an Elliptigo session, you get enough attention as it is , wearing full lycra may just tip you over the edge and cause accidents !)

After Lawrie left with a sale, the easiest he had probably made truth be told, I was left counting the minutes until No2 Daughters dance lesson in the early afternoon. This would give me the chance for an hour of Elliptigo time on my Balcatta 1k Industrial Park loop. (Funnily enough where I pulled the calf initially 10 weeks ago now.) The session did not disappoint and I had the best hour on a moving object ever. Every loop I got more and more confident and around the 6k mark gave a loud ‘Ye-ha’ as I was just having so much fun. This thing cannot be over stated, you will smile so much your face hurts ! It got even better at around 8k as I started laughing out load. Luckily I had to stop after an hour as I probably would have exploded !

That night I struggled to sleep as I knew , once I had those puppies walked, I had a long Elliptigo session booked. After telling my Wife to expect me back in an hour (yeah, right!) off I went the following morning. What a glorious ride , I started with hill repeats for 10k to get the heart rate up and then a quick 5k speed session before a 25k cruise around the streets and the beach front,  just generally having fun. After a few stops to friends along the way I staggered home three hours later , an Elliptigo addict. My legs felt they had a good workout and the upper body had taken a pounding too, perfect. Best of all the suspect calf was barely noticed and pulled up great. This really is the toy that keeps on giving.

Of course there are a few downsides to this machine of joy. Although most women and small children find the Elliptigo ‘awesome’ I have had a few derogatory comments from my male friends. One asked ‘if they made them for men? ‘, very funny Ryan and other comments have been less than complimentary. I must admit before I brought one I was worried about the adverse reactions but once you straddle the beast and get going you feel a million dollars and lets face it I’m a 50 year old balding , bearded runner who looks like he has hasn’t eaten in a while (like a year..),  looking good is not something I strive for.  (Although my Daughters have threatened to disown me if I come anywhere near their school riding the Elliptigo, go figure.? )

So as you might have guessed I’m a convert. If it’s good enough for Meb Keflezighi, 2014 Boston Marathon Champion, it’s good enough for me. I wonder if this will help me to the Boston Marathon podium, at least we have the same taste in Elliptigo’s ?

 

Meb also has a shiny red one !

Light at the end of the tunnel, or is it a train?

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.

The runners bike.

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 ?

Training plans, who needs them ?

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’.

Best thing to do when injured is buy puppies and read Matt Fitzgerald books.

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.

Cadence Defined

Your run cadence is measured in strides per minute. There are many ways you can determine your current running cadence:

  1. 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.
  2. Many watches now have the ability to measure your running cadence.
  3. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. Start by increasing your cadence for only one to two runs per week or for short periods during each run.
  3. Practicing on a treadmill is often the best way to start since you can set your correct speed and it will remain steady.
  4. Pretend you are running in hot lava to promote faster turnover
  5. 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.

 

 

 

10k race, only one way to go, suicide pace please.

In Western Australia there are a number of iconic events in the West Australian Marathon Club calendar that attract a large field of the states best runners. ( http://www.wamc.org.au ) Tomorrow is one of them, the bridges 10k. (There is a 5k but c’mon, when there’s a 10k option the 5k really is just an appetiser, and not a very good one at that, maybe a pumpkin soup compared to the Surf ‘n’ turf main course.) The bridges, and the name suggest runs alongside the Swan River in Perth and crosses the river twice via two bridges, giving you a point to point loop course. Flat the whole way bar the rise on the Narrows Bridge it is built for a good time and a run that I run probably 20-30 times a year minimum.

Last year, as this year probably, my main objective is not to get ‘chicked’ (beaten by a woman) as Linda Spencer, a Zatopek runner in her time, runs this race and at her best will beat me hands down.  Last year I ran with Linda for the first two kilometres at a pace far faster than I wanted to go but luckily she dropped off and I managed to sneak in before her.  We’ll see what transpires this year ? Truth be told there are a number of women runners in Perth who are making great improvements under various coaches and my days of finishing ahead of them are numbered. As always I will go down fighting and, while I still can, keep them honest.

A 10k is a good indicator race before a marathon which I happen to be running next week. I go by the ‘mile a day to recover’ rule and being the 10k is about 6 miles I should be recovered by next Sunday for the Bunbury Marathon. ( http://bunburyrunnersclub.org/3-waters-marathon/ ) I certainly need to be at my best as this marathon destroyed me in 2014 and put me in a running slump that lasted well over a year. This was in stark contrast to the previous year when I won the event. (My one and only marathon victory and one I will cherish to the end….) My plans for Bunbury will be to initially try and keep my average sub 4min/k and finish sub 2hrs 48mins but if the conditions are ideal I may be persuaded, on the day. to go a tad quicker. It is really a starter race to the main course ,which is Perth in June this year.  Bunbury is known for bad conditions ranging from winds to heat to humidity, the three things all marathon runners try to avoid. I’ll talk more on ‘bunners’ in a post later in the week as I move in taper mode, this will at least give me more time to spend blogging.

Right back to the Bridges 10k. I’ve said on just about every time I’ve ran t’his 10k  will be my last’. It is a race that can put you in the pain box early if you go out too fast and unlike a half or a marathon doesn’t really give you enough time to work into it. A 5k is all about speed and worst case scenario you’re only go to blow up with maximum 3k to go (and that take’s some doing to blow so early !!) , in the 10k if things goes awry early you can be looking at a true 5k pain train and believe me 5k is a long way when you have nothing left in the tank. It also asks some serious questions at around the 6-8k mark and you need to dig deep to answer these before finding that finishing burst for the last kilometre. (Why doesn’t that ‘burst’ happen at 5k ? All down to the central governor  I suppose?) So many people ran a 10k at 5k pace, which is find for 5k of course but then they wonder why the wheels have fallen off and there’s still 5k to go.? Funny that.

So how do you run a 10k successfully ? I think the best advice is to run a lot of them, like all things practice makes perfect. Last year I think I ran five 10k races with each one easier (relatively speaking.) than the last. I even managed a couple of sub 35 minute efforts, which was always the dream, so was happy to tick that one off. My advice would be to start at slower than your 5k pace and then build into it and finish strong. How easy was that to type? I am actually smiling to myself while typing this because I know tomorrow when the guns goes off I’ll be sprinting with the leaders for the first kilometre and regretting it at the second, while they continue on their merry way and smash 32 minutes, making it look easy, bless ’em.  Meanwhile I’ll be staggering to 5k and opening the ‘5k to go pain box’, jump in, assume the foetal position and close the door behind me.

Tomorrow will also be , probably, the last outing for my weapon of choice lately, the Adidas Takumi Sen 3 racing shoe. These bad boys have got me through three marathons, numerous half marathons, 10k’s and a load of park runs. Over 400km currently (thankyou http://www.strava.com ) but they are now well past their sell by date. The shoe is expensive (and if anybody finds them on special please email me!) but like all things in life you get what you pay for and these are worth 2-3 minutes over a marathon compared to the normal training shoes like the Asics Kayano. (I consider the Kayano more of a boot than a running shoe truth be told. I use to wear these shoes believing all the marketing hype about protecting your foot with their magic gel, about a kilogram of the stuff ! and raising the heel so much you’re virtually tipping over. Not for me people but as with all things running it is personal and this shoe may be right for you but I’m a less is more , when it comes to runners and wear those bad boys down to the bitter end before changing. We were built to run without shoes so, to me , all the shoe does is protesct you from the nasty objects on the concrete. )

Weapons of mass destruction.

Right that’s if for Saturday, I’ll be back tomorrow and post the race details ,which will of course involve lots of questioning myself, time in the pain box and maybe even me getting chicked. Wouldn’t have it any other way…. as you were.

Want to run faster, toughen up !

I’m a big fan of mental toughness and believe it is overlooked by so many runners.  To this end I have been reading Matt Fitzgerald’s book ‘How Bad Do You Want It’. As with all Matt’s writing it is insightful, thought provoking and just a damn good reason to spend time reading a good book. I highly recommend all runners read this book and also the holy grail of our running group ‘80/20 running’.  The ‘80/20′ Running will make you a better runner , to a point, while the ‘How bad do you want it‘ will let you notch up your effort and performance to a new level. This means new PB’s and PR’s all round. These books really are that good. Have a look around his website, http://mattfitzgerald.org/ , it is a treasure trove of all things running.

In Matt we trust…

Without giving up the plot of the book Matt states that all runners can run faster for longer and it is not the mind that dictates pace but the mind. This also backs up the work by Tim Noakes who was the first to talk about the ‘Central Governor’.  I have attached a link to a Runners Connect article on the Central Governor, worth a read. https://runnersconnect.net/running-training-articles/central-governor-theory/ Tim, like Matt, puts down the limiting factor to the mind not the body.

Of course don’t stop training and just hang around eating junk food before turning up to a race and ‘thinking happy thoughts’, unfortunately that ain’t going to cut it. The mind is part of the overall package which includes training (the harder the better!) , a good training base (the longer the better) and weight (the lower the better) . I suppose the four things combined give you the tools to attack your race. Get all four right and you’ll PB (PR) for sure (assuming it is physically possible as other factors may effect your performance , like being 90 years old?) Runners , in my opinion, ignore the mind and the weight advantages. Most runners train hard if they can, over a good length of time, injury permitting. A lot of runner fall into the ‘I run a lot so can eat what I want‘ trap or even worse , ‘I run so I can eat what I like‘. Sorry people, not true. To really busy your best you need to watch what you eat and keep your weight down as much as possible. For most this is not something they can contemplate and that is fine but if you want to go faster, lose weight. It can be that simple if all other variables stay the same. Physics really I suppose.

Luckily I’m racing this weekend so will be able to put into practice what Matt has taught me from the first few chapters of his book. As I’m in the middle of a mini-taper (three days of just one run a day and it’s killing me!)  I have some spare time so hope to finish the book by the time I get to the start line Sunday morning. By then I should be unstoppable ? Of course this sort of post needs a Steve Prefontaine quote to finish.

The master of mind over matter.

 

I’ve attached a short synopsis of How Bad Do You Want It’ to wet your appetite below.

 

Master the psychology of mind over muscle!

The greatest athletic performances spring from the mind, not the body. Elite athletes have known this for decades and now science is learning why it’s true. In his fascinating new book How Bad Do You Want It?, coach Matt Fitzgerald examines more than a dozen pivotal races to discover the surprising ways elite athletes strengthen their mental toughness.

Fitzgerald puts you into the pulse-pounding action of more than a dozen epic races from running, cycling, triathlon, XTERRA, and rowing with thrilling race reports and revealing post-race interviews with the elites. Their own words reinforce what the research has found: strong mental fitness lets us approach our true physical limits, giving us an edge over physically stronger competitors. Each chapter explores the how and why of an elite athlete’s transformative moment, revealing powerful new psychobiological principles you can practice to flex your own mental fitness.

The new psychobiological model of endurance performance shows that the most important question in endurance sports is: how bad do you want it? Fitzgerald’s fascinating book will forever change how you answer this question and show you how to master the psychology of mind over muscle. These lessons will help you push back your limits and uncover your full potential.

How Bad Do You Want It? reveals new psychobiological findings including:

Mental toughness determines how close you can get to your physical limit.

Bracing yourself for a tough race or workout can boost performance by 15% or more.

Champions have learned how to give more of what they have.

The only way to improve performance is by altering how you perceive effort.

Choking under pressure is a form of self-consciousness.

Your attitude in daily life is the same one you bring to sports.

There’s no such thing as going as fast as you can―only going faster than before.

The fastest racecourse is the one with the loudest spectators.

Faith in your training is as important as the training itself.

Athletes featured in How Bad Do You Want It?: Sammy Wanjiru, Jenny Simpson, Greg LeMond, Siri Lindley, Willie Stewart, Cadel Evans, Nathan Cohen and Joe Sullivan, Paula Newby-Fraser, Ryan Vail, Thomas Voeckler, Ned Overend, Steve Prefontaine, and last of all John “The Penguin” Bingham

— Matt Fitzgerald

“”How Bad Do You Want It?” will make you see your world as an endurance athlete in a new way. Fitzgerald’s research will help you become your own sports psychologist.” – Joe Friel, leading endurance sports coach and author of the Training Bible series

THE GREATEST ATHLETIC PERFORMANCES TAKE PLACE IN THE MIND, NOT THE BODY.

“How Bad Do You Want It?” looks at epic moments in endurance sports to mine habits and tactics we can use to cultivate our own mental strength.

Top athletes can seem godlike in their abilities. But no matter how skilled they are, talent takes them only so far. The hardest races demand that a champion rely as much on the mind as on the body, using it to confront the fears that we all face: fear of failure, suffering, or change, to name a few.

In “How Bad Do You Want It?” renowned endurance sports journalist Matt Fitzgerald examines the “psychobiological” model of athletic performance, exploring how athletes are able to overcome physical limitations with mental might. In gripping accounts from triathlon, cycling, running, rowing, and swimming, Fitzgerald puts the reader inside breathtaking races, shedding new light on what science says about mental fortitude and how anyone can cultivate the mental strength to surmount challenges–in sport and in life.

Matt Fitzgerald is a journalist, coach, sports nutritionist, and author of more than 20 books, including the best-selling “Racing Weight.” “