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. )
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.
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.
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.
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.” “
I had some spare time this week so decided to reacquaint myself with one of my favourite running books “The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing’, by Dr. Phil Maffetone. If you read just one book this year make it this one. The Holy Grail of running books in my opinion with some advice that will change your running life for the good. Admittedly there are a few aspects of the book I’m not so sure about but each too his own, for the most part it preaches good old fashioned common sense tips from a man who had experience measured in decades and a list of World Champions that includes perhaps the greatest triathlete ever , 6 time Hawaii Iron-Man Champion Mark Allen. ( https://philmaffetone.com )
Maffetone divides his book into three sections. The first one deals with building your endurance foundation before moving onto Diet and Nutrition and finishing off with a section on the importance of self-care and injury prevention. That just about covers the running spectrum as we know it. As I said before it really is the holy grail of running books.
I won’t spoil the book for you if I summarise, very quickly, what Maffetone is all about but must stress this is a summary, you really need to read the full monty to get the full picture. In the first section he preaches building endurance by training constrained by a heart rate figure dictated by following four simple rules. This is your Maximum Aerobic Training (or Maximum Aerobic function), once you have calculated this heart rate figure you then train to stay below it, not interested in pace or time. The theory is the more you train at this reduced pace, in the aerobic zone, the fitter you become. Over time the pace will increase while the heart rate will still be stable. This is the theory behind his technique, similar to the Matt Fitzgerald train slower, to race faster. ( http://mattfitzgerald.org )
I must warn you Maffetone may not be for everyone’s taste. He has some radical theories on running shoes preferring as little support as possible and pouring scorn on the ‘high heel‘ padding favoured by the shoe industry as a whole. I must admit to changing over time from the good old fashioned Asics Kayano’s to running these days in Nike Luna Racers. I’m light on my feet and very much a Supination (under pronation) foot strike. This means I can generally run in any shoe and have a garage full of all different kinds of shoes (I never throw out an old pair of running shoes, too many good memories, much to my Wife’s disgust ) I understand running shoes are so important to all runners so will reserve judgment on selecting running shoes as to me it is so personal and each person is different, I cannot really condone sweeping statements about footwear selection.
Maffetone’s next section is on nutrition and again he has some great sections which I’m sure will help but also some very ‘interesting’ ideas on carbohydrates particularly a two week test where you take carbohydrates out of your diet completely to see if you are carbohydrate intolerant. I couldn’t bring myself to do this as I love my carbs so yet again me and Dr. Phil have a small difference of opinion. He has some great points on Protein, Fats, Electrolytes and Water as well as offering great advice on nutrition for endurance athletes. A really good read and worth digesting. (That was a play on words by the way.)
Finally Maffetone dives into the importance of self care and avoiding injuries. Another great section and all good common sense advice. Yet again he pushes the limits with his advice about avoiding sun protection as Vitamin D is good for you, living in Australia with it’s high skin cancer rates I find it hard to agree with him on this point. He is also very anti-supplements which I probably agree with him but again I may need to sit on the fence.
So to sum up, in my opinion, Maffetone is spot on when it comes to building endurance by slow running using your heart rate as the limiter, combined with distance. His thoughts on nutrition and injury prevention is provoking and again in my opinion for the most part credible, there are also great sections on over training, competition, reducing stress, improving brain function and even training at altitude, I highly recommend this book with the caveat that there are some ideas that may be out with the normal consensus of the running community but this may not be a bad thing. Finally, as with all running literature, you take out what applies to you. For me it was the building the endurance base and slowing down my ‘slow’ runs. There were great nuggets of useful information but I also felt some ideas didn’t resinate with me, these I chose to ignore.
One thing I do agree with is Maffetone’s thoughts on steak and eggs. He loves them and so do I , so tonight Dr. Phil I’m having steak with a couple of eggs and salad, the sacrifices one makes for his sport.