Running

The weekend is all about racing.

You want to improve, put a bib on your chest and get racing….

There are thousands of training programs out there on the inter-web and tucked away in coaches clipboards, all aim for one thing,  an improvement of running times and/or distance. Personally I feel one of the most useful activities is often over looked, that is lining up with fellow runners with a bib on your chest and pushing yourself to breaking point and beyond.

Racing serves many purposes but the main one is to help cement the fact that are improving and give you your next goal to work towards, people,  if you are a runner you must have goals, no goals you morph into the dark side and start ‘jogging‘ or worse get taken by the lycra posse and you find yourself sitting in cafe’s discussing the best way to shave your legs while drinking a frothy, light, soya frappacino with extra crème, ye gods !!

Goals do not even need to be faster or longer, as we mature they may be just to get within a certain time or distance of a previous PB, it doesn’t matter what the goal is  it just needs to be there.  My old friend Jon ‘TB’ Phillips resets his goals each season and chases ‘season bests’ which works as you have a new baseline each year and this is then adjusted after your first race. PB’s can also be chased but with a ‘within X seconds/minutes’ if have moved over the top of the PB hill and are travelling down the other side and back to the pack, literally.

Time and distance really aren’t the measuring sticks of course it’s still good old fashioned ‘pain time’ and how long you can stomach it. I’ve mentioned before I feel the elite athletes train as hard as us , well probably a tad harder of course given all their free time, but the real difference is their ability to spend more time in the ‘pain box’, tucked up in the foetal position ! As we age the body of course degrades and performance suffers but mentally I believe we find it harder to justify the ‘pain time’, I feel there really is a finite time we can spend in the pain box and when you’ve used it up it just gets too hard to open the door, so you loiter outside  pretending to try the door.

Tim Noakes  ( https://thenoakesfoundation.org/prof-noakes ) also adheres to this and reckons the top elite athletes only have so many world class marathon times in them before they can no longer reach the dizzy heights they once scaled. Runners like Alberto Salazar pushed themselves beyond what their bodies could cope with and ultimately ended their own careers prematurely. Salazar’s competitive decline is often attributed to the stress on his body from the famous “Duel in the Sun” with Beardsley. Salazar recounts falling into a “more-is-better” mindset which led him to reason that if 120 miles per week yielded a certain level of success, then 180 miles (290 km) or even 200 miles (320 km) would bring even better results. This intense and grueling regimen of such extremely long distances led to a breakdown of his immune system, and he found himself frequently sick, injured, and otherwise unable to continue training.

So why spend time in the pain box at all ? Because like all good things you need to work for them. You want to run faster, or longer, you need to put in the hard yards because distance only gets you so far, excuse the pun. Distance is a big part of improving due to the cardio improvement gained even on slow long distance runs but adding pace (and pain) is the icing on the cake or was that the cherry on top? You get the picture, distance is the foundation of improvement , while pace, and pain,  are the finishing touches.  This is where the bib on the chest comes in. You can push yourself in training but to really go to that next level you need competition or a PB to attack, you never run as fast as you run in competition.

What happens with no running goals ? Eventually I feel you would stagnate and one day find yourself dressed in lycra in a coffee shop , clip-clopping around in your funny cycling shoes and generally annoying all other patrons. This is not a good outcome for anybody bar the local bike shop. My friend Ryan is experiencing this feeling at the moment as he struggles with the daily lunchtime run. I worked with Ryan for many years and he did not show the smallest interest in running, actually any exercise really. Since I moved on he has found himself and running, lost a load of weight and I’ve even ran with him on many occasions. Lately though he has struggled with the weekly lunchtime runs and started to find the pace and distance are stagnating, along with his interest. His runs are all at a good pace for his current standard and he pushes himself but I feel he is stuck in the ‘not easy but not really hard pace’. This pace is dangerous because he is not giving his body time to recover , as there are no real slow recovery runs but he is not pushing himself to gain the cardio benefits of time in the pain box.  Thus over time when you start to see little improvement you lose interest. I have challenged him to run a 5k time trial once a week and measure progress. I feel just adding this one run to his weekly schedule will be enough to maybe get the competitive juices flowing and move him towards putting a bib on his chest.

Of course the current parkrun explosion is a perfect place for young Ryan to wet his competitive urges. ( http://www.parkrun.com/ ). Started in the UK in 2004 with 13 runners it has morphed into a free weekly event attracting many thousands of runners, globally.  Here you can go and race (although it’s not about racing more about participating but they record your times online) with other like minded runners and have your time recorded and available on the internet, giving you a target for next week. The mood is relaxed and inviting compared to the more intimidating ‘proper‘ races. It is built as a stepping stone to initially attract people back to running and then to prepare them to move on to the more competitive arena of paid entry and longer distances. I have a smorgasbord of parkruns available in the Perth area, at last count more than 16 I think and climbing.  There’s even a parkrun ultra where a bunch of crazy runners start at 8am on Saturday morning and run each parkrun in the Perth area, transported between each one by bus. It takes nearly 24 hours and I can’t imagine the aroma on that bus towards the end of the event, it would be challenging I suspect.  Luckily this year it clashed with Rottnest so I missed it but there are rumours they may move the date next year, I’d better getter my Brut deodorant ordered as this event sounds right up my street, literally. !

 

The pain train is coming and it’s an express. !

This weekend was one of my most successful races of the year, historically,  for podium finishes. Over the last three years I have managed second place each year and slowly improved my times. Of course when the distance is only 4k I’m not expecting big improvement. The City Beach 4k is one of two distances offered with a ‘big brother’ 8k option , which is the normal chosen distance. I justify the shorter distance as it is normally a week before the 6 inch ultra ( http://www.6inchtrailmarathon.com/ ) and those extra four kilometres may make all the difference in a weeks time.  Truth be told it’s more about chasing bling and the quality of the 4k event is not as high or deep as the longer version. As I advance in years I’m always keen for one more podium, or medal, and these smaller distances offer that opportunity.

Not to say a 4k is a walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination. As I have always maintained you suffer the same amount of ‘pain’ in short distances just magnified exponentially to match the amount of time running. Imagine a ‘pain box’ water tap, in shorter distances the tap is fully open  and ‘pouring pain’ , while over a marathon it may be drip feeding ‘pain time’ over the longer period, to match the distance.  The end result is its going to hurt and this is magnified by the race pace, which for a 4k is just about an all out sprint from the start.

So I lined up on Sunday with the Nike Vaporfly 4% on ready for the all out sprint at the start. I wasn’t disappointed and set off like a scolded cat slotting in behind the leader for the first 500m’s before deciding the pace was far too pedestrian  and moving to the front. This is another reason I love the City Beach 4k as most of the runners are pacing themselves for the 8k so it gives me some time at the front of the pack , albeit normally briefly.  I managed to get to the first  kilometre marker in the lead in a time of 3mins 9 seconds, which was far too fast but as it’s the first kilometre it felt right.  Of course the ‘chickens come home to roost’ in the second kilometre when the legs start to complain and the mind starts to realise there’s three kilometres to go and, at the current pace, this is undoable. Add in a hill and this kilometre becomes pivotal to success at this distance.

There was no way I was going to repeat my first kilometre time and dug in for damage limitation concentrating on the 2k marker, and the half way point up ahead.  In the meantime I was passed like I was standing still and assumed that this would now be my fourth year in row for the bridesmaid award. No problem, I had more pressing issues at hand with the normal meltdown heading my way with another two kilometres ahead of me.  People always assume that because the distance is so short how bad can a 4k really be ? I tell them to look at 400m runners and see the pain etched on their face as they round the last bend. It’s all relative, trust me. The 4k is all about hanging on from 2k onwards when you have used up most of your available energy and you are fueling on vapors with the preverbal  head-gasket about to blow. This year I managed to finish both the last two kilometers in 3minutes 20 seconds so was happy enough to finish in 13:17. You always feel you could have done more but Jon had videoed me crossing the line and watching myself ‘stumble’ across the line (and that’s being generous!) I realised I was well and truly spent.

The best part of the morning was the lead runner , who had left me for dead, was actually doing the 8k race which allowed me to claim the plaudits and a win, after three consecutive second places as I mentioned earlier. The 8K winner did set a new course record so I wasn’t totally disgraced in the fact he could have ran through the start/finish line, made his speech, took some breakfast  and still won both events quite easily. In my defence he looked half my age, minimum, and we’ll see if he’s still playing at the front of the pack when he’s fifty.

My last win, we’ll see ? Time with John Gilmour and Ray Lampard, two of my past and present favourite runners and a gold medal around my neck. Life really is good, even better the sun is even shining ! (to be noted in WA it shines for months on end!)

 

A few of the lads actually ran before the 8K and then entered and ran the race as a tempo. Mark L. started in the middle of the pack and , after running 13k pre-race, put in a sterling effort to make the top 10 of the 8k passing many runners and being past by none. (according to Mark and not yet substantiated.?)  He was feeling so good he went for the Mike Kowal coffee and cake combination which,  in Mike’s absence,  they seemed to have up’d their game and the cake was of biblical proportions. I’m not sure the ‘if the furnace is hot enough it will burn approach’  works for this portion of cake but Mark was happy enough to risk the extra few pounds, come 6 inch race day,  to devour the lot ! Being that Mark weights about as much as an Kenyan runner with bulimia he can afford the extra weight me thinks, although the proof will be in the pudding (excuse the pun) when he attempts Goldmine Hill next Sunday morning at 4:30am at the start of the 6 inch ultra but that’s a story for another day……..

 

This is one happy runner , a runners high perhaps.?

 

 

 

 

Want to go faster, easy, do nothing.

Tapering, every runners worst fear, well most runners anyway. It’s a topic that usually divides runners, we all know it is probably the right thing to do but so is eating more vegetables and avoiding sugar, and we ignore these gems of wisdom normally. I have attached a post I wrote back in September 2016 on the subject when my only avid reader was my Mum and her feedback was minimal at best, being in her late seventies and never have run in her life the subject tended to alienate her but she did enjoy the photos of me running.

I have the 6 inch ultra marathon coming up next Sunday ( http://www.6inchtrailmarathon.com/) and should be in week two of taper mode. The common consensus when it comes to tapering is a three week period of reduced mileage and I use to follow this religiously in my earlier running days. This then morphed into two weeks and lately a very ‘steep’ one week taper. Funnily enough looking at my running spreadsheet, you have a running spreadsheet right?, (of course you have Strava http://www.strava.com) I noticed last year  pre-6 inch I ran twice a day Monday to Thursday and gave myself a two day taper. This then translated to a top 10 finish and a course PB time.

A 48 hour taper, more than enough ?

Last year, as in seven of the last eight years, I ran with my good friend Brett Coombes, who paces me for the first half of the race and then lets me accelerate to the finish from the halfway mark, admittedly it is a long acceleration given the course is 47k long (note, this distance is never set in stone as the course director, Dave Kennedy, is always find new and more brutal hills and trails to add to the race, bless him.) I remember going through halfway with Brett and meeting the half marathon runners who were about to start, this gave me the boost I needed to propel me up the next hill and towards the finish. For the first time in many years I finished strong and would have probably ran a negative split, off a 48 hour taper , go figure ? Would I have ran better if I had tapered the normal way giving myself 2-3 weeks rather than running twice a day , not sure and that’s the issue with tapering, it is so personal. (as all things running are truth be told.) Admittedly the 6 inch ultra, being on trails, is more about survival and time on feet compared to a ‘marathon-sprint’ distance  and the finishing times are normally an hour on top of your marathon finishing time minimum, sometimes a lot more if the hills get hold of you ! The pace varies with the terrain and the conditions of the trail so you never reach marathon pace or if you do its only when you are running downhill aided by gravity. Does this mitigate the need for a taper ?

I know Dave Kennedy, the race director of the 6 inch ultra, isn’t a big taper fan and treats most races as a ‘fast long run’ but he is mainly an ultra runner where the pace is slower than a marathon or shorter. Is it the ‘need for speed’ which justifies the taper and does distance mitigate the tapering requirement ? I’d argue it does as an ultra to me is a long run , just longer  and if you get your nutrition right the fuel and your general fitness will get you from A to B. Not so with a marathon where, if you race it, you will need every ounce of your available resources , so these need to be at 100% pre-start, without a proper taper I don’t feel you’ll start at 100%. Nutrition does not play as an important a role in a marathon as you do not need to be out on the course that long compared to an ultra. When I ran the ADU 100K   ( http://australiadayultra.com/ ) I ran every day in the week up to the race and felt no ill effect but for a marathon I will only ever run twice in the preceding week and both times only for 10k at a very sedate pace. (my ‘steep taper’ I talked about earlier.)

 

A day off running pre-race tomorrow, unlikely.

As I’m racing tomorrow there was no early morning run this morning. I am now wondering around lost. I have persuaded my Wife to get up early so we can drive to Yelo for a coffee and muffin breakfast (carbo loading for a 10k?) and after that I will return to my ‘lost’ state.

I’m a runner who loves to run and hates not running. Even now i’m making excuses for reasons why running today would be a good idea, not twice as that would be silly wouldn’t it? So my reasoning behind a run would be to loosen the legs (they aren’t tight), it’s not really a target race tomorrow (that is actually true, tomorrow is really a good hit-out pre-half next weekend)  or get rid of some pre-race nerves (I ain’t nervous) . No luck there, let’s face it the reason I want to run is I love running, plain and simple.

Tapering for my next marathon will be a challenge. The last one I ran 100k the week before and called that tapering as I was averaging 130k a week. I’m normally ok on marathon week as even I understand the need to rest. I normally only run twice in the week before a marathon and actually enjoy the calm before the storm, but for a 10k tomorrow, hell I should be running now not typing.

So will probably sneak out for a ‘relaxing’ 10k sometime today, c’mon you’d be mad not too wouldn’t you…..

A quick article on tapering below by Pete Pfitzinger, M.S. suggests a 7-10 day taper for a 10k, I’m thinking 7-10 hours.

Most performance oriented runners will do pretty much what they’re told in training. Run 8 x 800 meters at the track? Sure. Do a 40-minute tempo run? No problem. It’s when we’re instructed to scale back, run less and conserve our energies, that we balk.

Training provides long-term fitness improvements but produces short-term fatigue. Leading up to an important race, the challenge is to find the optimal balance between maintaining the best possible racing fitness and resting to reduce the fatigue of training. This is referred to as a well-planned taper.

To achieve your best when it counts, you can only afford to do a full taper before a few key races each year. If you race often and were to taper thoroughly for each race, you would have little time left for hard training. So you learn to “train through” some races. But for the big ones, you will want to go all out to achieve your best.

A recent paper published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine reviewed more than 50 scientific studies on tapering to find out whether tapering betters performance, and how to go about it. The review showed that there is no question tapering works. Most studies found an improvement of about 3% when athletes reduced their training before competition. This translates to more than five minutes for a three-hour marathoner or more than a minute for those racing 10K in 40 minutes.

How Long Should You Taper?

Several of the studies concluded that the optimal length of taper is from seven days to three weeks, depending on the distance of the race and how hard you’ve trained. Too short a taper will leave you tired on race day, while tapering for too long will lead to a loss of fitness. How do you find the right balance? Consider than any one workout can give you far less than a 1% improvement in fitness, but a well-designed taper can provide a much larger improvement in race performance. Therefore, it is probably wiser to err on the side of tapering too much than not enough. The optimal number of days to taper for the most popular race distances are as follows: marathon, 19 to 22 days; 15K to 30K, 11 to 14 days; 5K to 10K, 7 to 10 days.

There are other ways to aid performance without running. In the picture below you can see Jon has gone for performance enhancing pink arm-bands to aid his ascent of Goldmine Hill, the meanest start to an ultra globally I reckon. The hill is at the start of the 6 inch ultra and is long, steep and normally ran in a half-light pre-sunrise. You get to the top of the 3k climb absolutely ‘goosed’ and this then sets you up for the next 43k of trail ‘pain’, got to love a trail ultra? As the race is in the middle of a Perth summer it is normally hot and very, very dry. One year Jon found the only puddle on the course that I have seen in 8 years of running this event and proceeded to fall in it not once but twice. He was then dropped like a bad rash as he struggled on encased in mud which dried almost instantly. Because of this he was made to wear arm-bands the following year for the Goldmine hill ascent.  This year is his 6th running the event and he will be rewarded with a red spike, which is a tradition of the race. Barts though has other ideas and my lodge a stewards enquiry into the use of the arm-bands as they constitute a performance enhancement and are, as such, banned by the IAAF rule book, similar to blood doping according to Barts. I’ll let you know if Dave takes this protest on board and makes Jon run another 6 inch next year as punishment, over here in sunny Perth we take our trail running very seriously.

 

Surrounded by Jon’s at the start of the 6 inch.  Notice Jon’s pink arm-bands, a performance enhancer perhaps?

Footnote:- on my lunchtime run I couldn’t stop thinking about this post and the relationship between a good taper and PB’s. Last year I made a big effort to run twice a day whenever possible and this brought my weekly average to around 130k a week, compared to around 100k the previous year. On the back of this I ran some times I though beyond me as I approached 50. The highlight of the year was a 10k PB (34:18) followed by a half PB the following weekend, (1:15:00)  both were at the end of long weeks,  crammed with distance. I’ve added the Strava image for that period below. (remember ‘Strava is life, the rest is details’… http://www.strava.com )

Big weeks , no taper and then two massive PB’s ?

So my question is do you need to taper or can you just increase your base fitness levels to such a point that even without rest you can run a PB just because you are just ‘fitter’. ? I believe you can and my Stella 2016 was down to purely running more, a trait championed by Maffetone and Fitzgerald.

 

If you want to improve put on a bib.

Last weekend I ran the West Australian Marathon Club (WAMC) Deep Water Point 15k ( http://www.wamc.org.au  ) and ran a PB time, albeit I’ve only ran this race once before in 2012. My 2012 time was 55.14 and good for a second place finish. This year I ran a 53.37 which was a big PB but only good for a fourth place finish and yet again the ‘first finisher with no medal’; got to love 4th !

What did I take from this race, sometimes a PB can be disappointing. The race itself is a two lap course giving runners an option to pull the pin early at 7.5k. I myself have taken this option before when faced with a 5th place finish in the 15k race or a 3rd , and a medal, finish for the 7.5k. Too good to miss , I get to stop running, squeeze out of the ‘pain box’ and also get a nice shiny medal. There is a small feeling of guilt as you watch the  15k runners continue on their merry way but this is more than made up for at the presentation ceremony with a nice medal hung round your neck, or is it ?

This year I needed to run the full distance to complete my eight races needed to put my hat in the ring for the WAMC age group awards. With this in mind I set off at 10k pace, which is the norm for this ‘in-between’ distance. This resulted in arriving at 7.5k in a world of pain with the opportunity yet again to claim a 3rd place in the 7.5k race . Running in fifth two of the four runners ahead of me had ‘bottled‘ and took the 7.5k ‘medal’ option.  Instantly I was on the podium and looking good for a third place finish. I had scanned the start line and recognized no threat to a medal placing bar the two runners now ahead of me. This allowed me to settle back in the ‘pain box’ that is racing and start counting down the kilometres towards the finish.

Racing is painful, there is no sugar coating this. Putting on a bib loosens the central governor and can allow you to possibly take a step up to your next level of running. This comes at a cost, trust me. I love running and I love racing but both ask you to pay , in different currencies. For running generally you pay with time normally, time away from your family and friends (unless all your friends are runners like me.) , early mornings, late nights and normally a general feeling of ‘fatigue’ with the odd niggle and twinge thrown in for good measure. Racing is a different world completely, with racing you pay in ‘pain’ , a single currency that demands total attention. The more pain you can endure the faster you are going to run. This was a conversation I had with Steve Monaghetti after the Perth Marathon in 2016 . I asked him why the elites were so much faster than us ‘normal runners’ , he replied they could stomach more pain, that was the main reason. Got to love racing.

So as always I have digressed from my original story. If you remember you left me cruising along in third place generally happy with life and contemplating another shiny medal. This was about to change very quickly at the 13k mark when, from out of nowhere, I heard the pitter patter of not little feet but a runner behind me. Initially I though maybe it was a really 7.5k runner who had miraculously  found a second gear with a Usain Bolt like finish, clutching at straws unfortunately. It was a 15k runner and he was in a far better way than me, so much so his 13k split was 3.22min/k, faster than my first kilometre, I was in trouble.  Mentally as soon as I heard him on my shoulder I was ‘goosed’, after 5k of suffering in the pain box (and trust me I was in deep!) the only thing that had kept me going was the shiny medal, this was now to be taken away from me. He could have heard me deflate like a balloon as he cruised past and accelerated away to take my medal.

A PB time was no consolation compared to missing out on the medal as these opportunities, at my age, will soon disappear. I treat every podium finish like my last. No worries, onwards and upwards, the PB is a good sign moving forward and maybe next time I’ll treat myself to the odd backwards glance to check for young triathletes bearing down on me, perhaps.

I’ve been recycling some of my posts that I first wrote at the start of this blog when the only readers was my family, well Mum anyway. The one below describes my last race victory, and probably ‘my last race victory’. It also has a good article on reasons to put on a bib and race. Last weekend the magic bib got me a PB and although, at the time, I was disappointed on missing out on the podium now it has give me some confidence for races and challenges coming my way.

 

10 miles is a long way to go after chasing 5k runners.

Today I put on my race bib for the first time since the Masters marathon three weeks ago. I normally allow four weeks before I race after a marathon but this race is special as I won last year, mainly because none of the normal suspects turned up.  The WAMC (West Australian Marathon Club http://www.wamc.org.au ) Founders 10miler (16k) is one of my favourite races in the calendar and I have placed in it on two previous occasions with a win last year. The opportunity to defend my ‘title‘ was too good to pass up so after a day off yesterday I set off to the event.

Some people recover quicker than others when it comes to racing marathons and as I mentioned earlier I’m a four week man normally. This is inline with a day per mile going with the imperial system of measurement, so about 26 days.  Other people like Tony ‘The T-train’ Smith use the same imperial system but substitute the day for hours so he can recover in about 26 hours. He is one naughty runner !

This event also includes a 5.15k as well as the 16.1k race. This always make the start interesting because you are never sure who you are racing until after the 5.15k runners dart for the finish line instead of ‘manning’ up and continuing on for the full distance. (I need to be careful here because I have been known on a few occasions to be tempted by bling and take the easier option when faced with a podium for the 5k or a top 5, with no medal, for the longer distance. I admit it , I have a bling problem…)

As expected the start was quick as a number of 5k runners set off at their ‘suicide’ pace and I joined them with the goal of staying as close as possible to the leaders incase one of them decided to continue after the finish line and go long. I didn’t want to leave myself with too much to do to catch them. This works great in theory but of course the fly in the ointment is you normally end up going through 5.15k just behind the leaders and way too fast for a 16k race. As expected this is what happened and I went through the 5.15k mark in second place at 17:35, must admit it was tempting, run through the chute for a nice shiny silver medal and all the pain ends or carry on for another 11k curled up in the foetal position in the pain box.

Funnily enough I was reading the Lore of Running by Tim Noakes yesterday (The bible of all things running.) and the chapter on Training the Mind. (Remember I didn’t run yesterday so what else is there to do but reading about running?) This went into detail about how the mind can be trained during competition. Paragraph headings like dominate from the start, allow for the unexpected, concentrate and focus, give a maximum effort and perform up to expectation. All easy to read while you wait for your daughter to finish her dancing lesson but when you’re racing at maximum effort and in a world of pain it’s not so easy. I did recall this while racing and it certainly brought at least a smirk to my face, not sure I ever really smile when I’m racing short distances.

Right, where were we, of yes at 5.15k and in the lead as the only runner infront of me was a 5.1.5k runner and had scuttled of to collect his gold medal. So it was just me and the lead bike ridden by my friend Ross who I run with on the weekend. Ross is a good lead bike in the fact he knows just to ride, let runners know I’m coming and avoid any type of conversation with me as , like me, he knows when you’re racing it’s all about concentration and pain mitigation, conversation does not come into it, ever ! Luckily for me , like last year, none of the usual suspects turned up so I was able to record another victory, which at my age is cherished. This would be my third for the year but only my 6th ever top finish so it really is a wonderful feeling.

WAMC Founders 10 milers. A rare win.
WAMC Founders 10 milers. A rare win.

So what did I take from the run.

  1. Nothing makes you run faster than a race bib pinned to your chest. I understand this comes with a price, the nerves pre-race, doubting your ability, training and the pain you know you must go through to be your best. All these things are part and parcel of racing and need to be embraced and overcome. When you cross the line and achieve your goal all these are forgotten instantly and the ‘runners high’ that takes their place justifies everything that comes pre-race. You will also use more fast-twitch muscles in these race situations with is another big benefit.
  2. You need to be realistic pre-race and set yourself goals determined by past experience, current training workload and pre-race training runs. Every race cannot be a PB time so adjust your goal accordingly. You may not need the goal A, B or C option that comes with longer races but still give yourself a range of what could be called ‘acceptable’.
  3. Do not start the race at suicide pace and then expect to finish strong. Doesn’t happen unfortunately. As described above my splits were not ‘one for the ages’. They varied by around 20 seconds a kilometer which is not ideal. Ideally I should have started about 10 seconds a kilometre slower and this would helped to towards the end of the race. I knew I had started too quick but experience allowed me to roll the dice so to speak in an effort to give me a good buffer to second place. This would have been enough to probably make them settle for second early and not make an effort to catch me. This is more racing tactics but even in the middle of the pack you are racing people and this little tip may help gain a few places.  (Assuming the suicide pace start doesn’t morph into a suicide pace finish which has the opposite effect.)
  4. Enjoy the experience of racing as these times are the litmus test of your training and can be a great confidence booster and also give you renewed energy once you get back into the ‘slog‘ of daily training.  You will find a spring in your step (after a few recovery runs) after a successful race and this can be carried forward to the next one and beyond. I certainly use races as justification for all the hard effort I put myself yourself through in training, coupled with the benefit of point 1 of course.
  5. Sometimes a good race can move a runner to a new level complete with new expectations and goals. Yesterday my mate Gareth ran a 10 minute PB and was elated with the whole experience. I have mentioned Gareth before in my posts as the ‘runner who treats running as something he does in-between injuries” , to see him so animated after such a great run sums up the feeling only a race can give you when you achieve something you thought beyond you. Gareth has been on the cusp of breaking through his current ‘expected times’ on a number of occasions but has been thwarted by injury, maybe yesterday was the start of his rise to greatness. If nothing else the run would have given him the confidence to move forward and I guarantee he’ll be ‘champing at the bit’ to get running post-race.

Had to end with an article I found on the subject of racing that probably sums it up better than my ramblings. So to sum up racing in a few words ‘just do it’.

 

 

7 Reasons to Make the Start Line Your Friend

BY CLINT CHEREPA

The race is the beauty part. The time you put it all together is the race,” said noted running author Dr. George Sheehan. And, whether you run one kilometre or 50, racing is exhilarating.

Many run so they can race, but some are leery of the endeavour. Let’s delve into why racing comes with benefits.

Community
Nick Walker, a runner for 15 years and owner of Frontrunners store in Langford, B.C., says racing helps connect people. “We find a lot of people through races who are new to the area,” he says. “Racing gives people a goal and purpose. It encourages them to get out and go.”
Keith Iskiw, a runner from Kingston, Ont., says, “No other sport allows both beginners and professionals to share the same arena. The excitement, tension and joy shared between people makes the race events fantastical.”
Alan Brookes, race director of the Canada Running Series, says racing gives people at the front a platform to develop athletic careers and gives amateur athletes a chance to race head-to-head against age-group categories and clubmates. New runners get a sense of achievement in their new, healthy lifestyle, with benchmarks, rewards and encouragement.

Motivation
“When I participate in an activity, I like to do it well. I don’t have to win. I just have to be satisfied that I gave my best effort,” says Jerry Kooyman, a runner who has competed at a national level, running in a couple of Canadian Olympic trials. When he hits rough patches in training, the prospect of a race motivates him to train and set goals such as achieving personal bests, winning medals or beating other successful runners.

Structure
Ken Parker is the founder and coach of the Ottawa Athletic Club Racing team. He is also a co-founder and race director of Ottawa’s National Capital Marathon. Parker is no stranger to racing; his marathon personal best is 2:42. He feels racing encourages discipline and enticed him to study running to optimize training. “It made me focus on a goal and get organized to do what was required to achieve that goal,” Parker says.
Walker, a former University of Victoria track athlete, says racing keeps him honest and modest. It keeps his competitive edge honed and says shorter races can be great preparation for longer challenges. Walker recently won the Island Race Series Sooke 10K and the Merville 15K, races he ran at 3:17 and 3:20 pace as part of the preparation for his first marathon in Vancouver in May. “I try to have a fun outlook,” says Walker. “But I take racing more seriously. I still like to push hard.”

Fears
Race-day fears are normal. After more than 40 years of racing, Kooyman says in the back of his mind he worries about injury during a race and fears that he will work hard during the race, only to be out-kicked at the end. Still, he keeps racing, leaving his fears in the dust of his race-day speed. Iskiw’s advice for hesitant runners is to remember we are built for competition, and that deep down we all have a drive to win and the only way to satisfy that hunger is through competition.

Measuring Progress
Your first 10K may not tell you much about your progress, but after a year of racing, a runner can gauge success.
“Progress may initially be measured by weight loss and increased mileage, but once I get beyond those basic measures and get into a regular training program, the most reliable measure of progress is improved race times,” Kooyman says.

Competition
Races open themselves to runners of all levels. A racer can compete even if he is at the back of the pack. A suggestion from Brookes is: “If you’re really nervous, start right at the back, run the first half easy, then count how many people you pass in the second half or the number you pass the whole way.”
Competition helped Parker. He says: “In the marathon, I ran against the clock and ignored other runners for the most part, using them only toward the end of the race when, hopefully, I was passing them. In track races, I used the head-to-head competition to race harder. Fast times would come as the result of racing a strong competitive field.”

Learn
Through his racing, Parker learned that anything worth doing is worth doing well and that success does not come about by accident. A progressive runner never stops learning. Introducing racing into your running program provides a platform of wisdom. You learn more about yourself, and running in general. The race and people involved provide the anecdotal evidence. The question lingers, “Why not race?” If you are hesitant to toe the starting line, take Kooyman’s words to heart: “You don’t know what you are missing!”

The magic of trail running, it’s in the company.

The Yaberoo trails less than 20 minutes from home but I rarely, read never, venture north and inland. It’s always the coast or a trip to the ‘hills’ via Darlington. I stumbled upon the Yaberoo trail via Google of course, how did we survive before Google ? My first foray was a few weeks ago pre-Rottnest marathon and I only ran 10k as I was in taper mode. It was hard to turn at 5k for my return trip because I was enjoying the trail so much but knew in the last few weeks pre-marathon more really is less.

With the T-train that is Tony Smith being a local  ‘up-North’ we were in good hands but truth be told the trail was just about idiot proof so getting lost would be difficult. We met at the trail entrance at Burns Beach road at 6am all ready to hug trees. The day was going to be warm so the early start is mandatory in Perth from about October onwards, this was another reason to hit the trails, shade. As with all Sunday long runs the first 5-10k are all about catching up with the local ‘man gossip’ in Perth, well the running world anyway. This is one of the main benefits of company, time and distance can disappear very quickly. The T-train had dropped water at 7.5k  and this was eagerly consumed as the day was warming up quickly, as is the way in Perth. We continued on our merry way and were surprised to hit the half way point at 41.5k as Tony had promised us a 32k run, so even with our limited math we expected the halfway at 16k. Jon, being an accountant, confirmed this. We’re not sure if the trail had been shortened due to the earths tectonic plate movement (and no one noticed) , unlikely, or Tone got it wrong, likely. Either way we stopped for a selfie using Jon’s seflie stick which I assume all trail runners have and do , well looking at the various Facebook trail running groups this seems to be the case ?

Half way and all is good. (from left to right, Bart’s, Ross, T-Train, myself and Jeff,  with Jon and his selfie stick at the front. Well it is his stick…)

Another reason for our disappointment was the run had disappeared before us so quickly and effortlessly. This either meant we were in good form or , the more likely option, the first half was mainly downhill and we would pay the piper on the return. Not to worry, there was still plenty to talk about and off we set on the return journey bouncing up the trail like Tigger chasing heffalumps and woozles.  It soon became apparent option two was the reason behind our rapid outward journey, well maybe not rapid but requiring less effort than our inward journey would. Not to be deterred we all remarked on the scenery and even though there seemed to be hills where before there were none (How does that happen? So many times on out and back courses you find hills that were not there on the outward journey, running is a weird and wonderful sport with so many little surprises, appearing and disappearing hills is obviously one of them. ) our mood was not dampened.

What is the difference with trail running compared to the concrete jungle most of us run daily ? I think the biggest difference is the virtual silence, bar the native fauna, (and the constant chatting of your fellow runners) and of course the natural beauty that really is inspiring. When you look up from the trail and take it all in it is breath taking. You realize how lucky you are to be doing what you love with good friends in a surrounding that is just amazing. For me the icing on the cake (excuse the pun) of course is the breakfast coming my way at the end of  the trail, but that is personal I suppose. (Must remember this is a running blog, not an eating blog , though looking back on many posts they seem to be related?)  Trail running is also good for teaching a runner good form as they cannot ‘zone out’ and aimlessly put one foot infront of the other,  paying little attention to the terrain. Do this on a trail and you’ll find yourself on your backside quicker than you can say ‘sprained ankle with ligament damage’. If you look at the finishing photos of the 6 inch ultra you’ll see a lot runners sporting claret indicating a fall somewhere on the trail. This was another reason for the trail adventure, 6 inch training.  ( http://www.6inchtrailmarathon.com/)

I think the photo below sums up our feelings compared to the first photo just after the start. Another thing trail running does it test you, which is good but you certainly earn your waffles and coffee after a long trail run, more so when you add in some altitude. After this photo there was still another 7.5k to the finish and a couple of those nasty hills that weren’t there on the way out, funny that ?

 

Return journey, a few less smiles , more grimacing. ?

Mission accomplished we then all scuttled off to the nearest café , which in this case was at Burns Beach and after a quick swim we settled down to the post run conversation, good company over good food sitting in the sunshine, we really are blessed in the land of milk and honey. (or should that be pancakes and coffee?)

I reckon the trail was too much for Bart’s as he over ordered for the first time in many years. Mug of coffee plus a large boost juice pre-breakfast. Fatal mistake as the food was late arriving and by the time it did he wasn’t in the mood to eat it. It was a pity because the breakfast looked really good but Bart’s certainly played a DNF card. He did confess to over indulging the night before and this may have combined to his downfall, either way it was another talking point, I’m surprised we left that café before lunch.

 

A rare sight, Bart’s well and truly beaten even before he stared.

If you want to experience the Yaberoo Trail in a race situation it is part of the WA Ultra Series run by my friend Shaun Kaesler. Have a look at the website for the event, http://yaberootrailultra.com.au/ , or the Series as a whole , http://ultraserieswa.com.au  . Shaun has put together a World Class Ultra Series for WA and is to be commended for his passion for all things Ultra, he’s also a really nice guy with a great beard !

Yaberoo Ultra Series part of the WA Ultra Series.

After a marathon it’s time to smell the roses. (and eat pancakes)

It’s now been just over a week since I ran marathon number 43 on Rottnest Island and managed to grab a 2nd place. I normally give myself 2-3 days off after running a marathon but as I stay on Rottnest Island for a week post marathon I restrict my non-running days so I can take advantage of the running conditions available to me. Rottnest is a beautiful Island with no cars , bar the maintenance vehicles, and kilometres of undulating hills and trails, with little or no other runners. (  http://www.rottnestisland.com ) An opportunity like this only comes around once a year so I can’t just lay on the beach and frolic in the sea, that would be silly ? I may treat myself to an extra coffee and danish but other than that it is normal training,  albeit maybe just one run a day, I am on holiday.

Lay on the beach and miss running these roads, never going to happen !

The solitude of getting up early before the first ferry arrives and exploring the Island is inspiring and although the legs are complaining the views and atmosphere of the Island entice you along, adding one extra kilometre after another. Of course when I return home for breakfast it has to be a trip to Geordie bay for a large cappuccino and pancake stack with maple syrup and bacon, a match made in heaven.  No worrying about calories or nutrition the week after a marathon, your body craves all things nutritional and that includes sugar, carbs and fat (good or bad). The week after a marathon is a time to treat yourself for all the hard work that has gone into the previous months of training. I’m sure there has been times you’ve missed out on a night out with friends due to an upcoming long run or dessert as you’re watching your weight pre-race. Well all that goes out the window post-marathon,  albeit briefly. Meb Keflexighi, America’s greatest marathon runner, ( https://marathonmeb.com ) aims to put on 10 pounds after a marathon and enjoys ‘letting himself go’, his book ‘Meb for Mortals‘ is a must read and I personally thoroughly enjoyed it. Meb is retiring from competition at the New York Marathon this year and will spend his time training others. if you live in the States you can sign up for some Meb time from his website. Unfortunately couldn’t see a way to sign up with my Australian address. If anyone does sign up could they let me know how it all goes ?

 

The Geordie bay cafe pancake stack, a runners dream.

There’s a great article from the running competitor website on marathon recovery which highlights several areas that require almost total rest for at least a week or more. As I said earlier in the post being on Rottnest for the week leaves no time for recovery, I’m having too much fun running and eating pancake stacks, but that could be the point I suppose ?

The Importance Of Recovery After A Marathon

When I get back to the mainland I start to think about the next race, there is always a ‘next race’ otherwise what is the point ? I’m not one of these ‘I run for the thrill of being at one with nature’ type runners, no, no, no , for me it’s about the rush of competition and the bib on my chest which keeps me coming back for more. Don’t get me wrong I love the training and truth be told my favourite sessions are the ‘smell the roses’ type recovery/easy runs, but the pain box and competition is where its’ at.  Racing yourself and trying to go faster than you have ever ran before, c’mon you know this is why we do what we do. I certainly a Steve Prefontaine when it comes to racing and often recite his quotes pre-race to inspire me, he has a few.

A Steve Prefontaine classic quote.

Not sure how I started this post citing rest days and recovery links and then ended up with classic Steve Prefontaine quotes advocating suicide pace and today being a good day to die ? That’s a thing with writing, it’s like running on Rottnest, you never know where it’s going to take you, and maybe that’s the point.

A marathon in paradise, there is no other description.

On the weekend I ran the Rottnest Marathon for the 11th time, marathon number 43 (61 if you include ultra-marathons). Rottnest Island is about 20k off the Perth coastline, a small island that is stunning as it is brutal.   ( http://www.rottnestisland.com  ) The marathon itself is a 2k initial loop and then a 10k loop four times, sounds like fun eh? Add in 3 good hills on each lap and some serious heat and you have the recipe for a brutal test of ‘mind over marathon’. The weekend didn’t let me down this year with some serious heat to contend with from the outset as the WAMC, (West Australian Marathon Club) who organise the event (  http://www.wamc.org.au  )  , start the race at 6:45am to account for the marathon runners who like to get up really early and add a 45 minute ferry journey to the pre-start logistics. Personally  I can think of nothing worse then playing Russian roulette with the ocean conditions and hoping for a smooth crossing after training for 6 months minimum . Call me old fashioned but I’d prefer paying the cost of at least one nights accommodation on the island so you’re guaranteed a good nights sleep, and a nice leisurely stroll to the start line,  rather than risk a George Clooney inspired ‘Perfect Storm’ crossing.  Both years since they started the early ferry option the crossing has been bearable but it’s just a matter of time before runners are ejected from a hell crossing, losing about half their body weight in vomit,  straight to the start line of a brutal marathon, that is really going to hurt trust me.  Anyhow, I digress, back to the start.

This is the 24th running of the Rottnest Marathon and as I said earlier my 11th. I’ve ran 8 of the last 9 only missing last year as I chose to race the inaugural half-marathon as I had the World Masters marathon 2 weeks later. I felt quite a fraud running only two laps as my fellow runners battled four laps in some hot conditions. Luckily this year was more of the same, maybe even a bit hotter, so it was my turn to run the ‘man’s distance’.  (please note this is not a slant on women but I can’t think of a better description at the moment?) After a minutes silence and some powerful bagpipe music for a fallen runner and a good friend, Andre Bartels, we set off.  My friend Zac was determined to try and run around the 2hr 45minute mark for the marathon which, given the conditions,  would be a winning time but also a bid risk, given the terrain and heat combination. Zac set off at an incredible pace which I matched initially but always knew that time was out of my league and was happy to let him disappear into the distance before we even got to the first last proper after an initial 2-3k loop. I was joined by another runner aiming for a podium , Matt McNally, and together we moved onto the first lap proper.

Sharing a joke with Zac at the start. I mentioned we’d opened up a large gap after the first 100 metres, probably not a good idea in a marathon?

Whenever I run Rottnest my main goal is to finish top 5 as they hand out medals for the first 5 and also win my age group. If I do that Rottnest has been a success, anything better is a bonus. Over the years at Rotto’ I have placed 2nd, 3rd, 4th , 5th and 6th so I’ve been reasonably successful. (Note; this is mainly due to Rotto’ being a small field due to the testing conditions and the logistics of having to stay the night , before the early ferry option the last couple of years.) This year was my first in the 50-59 age category so I was confident of an age group win, well more confident than being the oldest in a 10 year age group window. Anyhow I was more than happy sitting in the top 3 moving along around the 4min/k pace I was hoping to sustain throughout the four laps. As I have said many times on this blog, in a marathon the person who slows down the least wins, this was so nearly true as I will show later in this post.  After the first lap Matt up’d the pace and I was happy to let him go, in a marathon you run your own race and what will be , will be, there is no point staying with another runner who is running quicker early in the race as it will end in tears. This goes back to my the runner who slows the least wins previous quote, this is doubly true for Rottnest because of the heat and the terrain, make a bad decision early on in Rottnest and that last lap becomes even longer and the hills even steeper, trust me on this I speak from experience.

So after crossing the start/finish line I moved on to lap 2 alone, sitting in third place. The half marathon had started just before I had arrived so I instantly started passing the slower half marathon runners. This continued for the whole of the second lap which was, truth be told, uneventful.  I continued to maintain my 4min/k pace while struggling with the oppressive heat which was of course rising by the minute. Toward the end of the second lap I passed the halfway point which is always a relief and I always picture myself ‘touching a post’ and then returning from where I had come. This is a mental ‘pick me up‘ and always seems to help with the next 10k or so until I move too ‘finish mode‘ at 32k onwards.  I went through the finish line again for the second time and made some ground on Matt who was initially only a few hundred metres ahead. Coming out of the settlement I put in a spurt and got to within 50m of Matt but then decided the pace was unsustainable and let him go, returning to my 4min/k pace.

Running past the piper, on the last lap you get to put a gold coin donation in the bucket.

The third lap on Rottnest is the defining lap of the marathon. The first two laps are to prepare you for lap three where it all comes together or falls apart. Today was going to be my day and I was determined to reach the start of lap four with something left in the tank. Head down I continued to pass half marathon runners while seeing no one in front of me fro the marathon and not looking behind. The cardinal sin of racing is to look behind you, it only ever encourages your pursuer, if you get the chance of a sideways glance while you turn a corner all good but never directly look behind you.  Truth be told I had no idea who was behind me and how far they were behind me, I was happy enough in third place behind two very good runners who I considered more than good enough to keep ahead of me. Moving through the start and finish line for the penultimate time , moving from lap three to lap four , I was encouraged by the announcers who informed me Zac had been passed by Matt and looked like he had blown up spectacularly. Remember earlier I said Zac was aiming for 2hrs 45minutes and this was a dangerous tactic, it seemed the heat, pace and a possible stomach virus had combined to derail his day.  This was confirmed a few kilometres later when I passed him quickly on the salt lake, he was not in a good place with 8k to go, it would be a long 8k for Zac.

So I was sitting in second place which was more than I could have hoped for at the start of the day, better still I had got to lap four in good shape and could still maintain my 4min/k average which meant I was now lapping some of the faster half marathon runners. This kept me honest as there was always a ‘bunny’ to chase ahead. I worked hard maintaining my pace as with 6k to go I knew if I could keep running I would be good for a 2nd place finish. My running buddy Luke , who was second last year with a 2:52 finish, told me he had walked a few times on his last lap the previous year and I suspected he’d do the same today as the conditions were more brutal than 2016. If I didn’t walk I reckoned he wouldn’t catch me. (This was actually how it panned out with Luke taking 3rd place and admitting to me afterwards he had walked like the previous year. I suspect next year he won’t walk that last lap so I’ll need to raise  my game again, the joys of competition! )

The last lap was a test of course and this was soon to become even more so when I spotted Matt coming back to me just before the last hill at Longreach. All of a sudden my ‘happy with 2nd‘ changed to ‘I could win this‘, remember the person who slows the least wins, I had put myself within 10 metres of first place,  with less than 2k to go. Unfortunately Matt had something left in the tank and as soon as he breached the hill he set off at 3:50min/k pace and left me , again. I continued to move along at just over 4min/k pace but had no sprint finish, it was to be another bridesmaid  run at Rottnest, albeit a lot closer than my last second place in 2013. In the end 25 seconds separated myself and Rottnest victory, after over 2 hours and 48 minutes of racing. my finish time of 2hours 48 minutes and change was more than I could have hoped for and a 2nd place another massive bonus but what could have been…

One happy runner who is smiling, on the inside !

The marathon itself was brutal of course but satisfying in so many ways. Got to run my 2nd fastest Rottnest Marathon at my 11th attempt, age group win and a podium finish. All my goals ticked. Add in the fastest last lap of the field and I’ve taken some confidence into my next race mid December, the trail ultra marathon that is the 6 Inch Ultra. ( http://www.6inchtrailmarathon.com ) This bad boy can make Rottnest seems flat if the conditions turn on you, but that’s another post for another day. Last thing , can’t leave with a Quokka photo. This is my best from my week on the Island.

 

My best Quokka shot of the holiday..google it.

Footnote: Rereading this post it sounded like the run itself was maybe too easy. Thinking back on the event I realised I may have left out a few details which may help readers in their battle with the marathon distance, because people it is a battle.  My target was a sub 2:50 time which was why I set the pace around 4min/k average pace to give me a few minutes in the bag for the inevitable pace pressure of the third and fourth laps, I say ‘pace pressure‘ I mean fatigue and general ‘I am knackered , why the hell do I do this‘, type thoughts. The first 10k were uneventful but there were thoughts of stopping as early as the end of the first lap. Running behind Matt he had opened up a lead and, as I was slipping away, I suddenly just wanted to stop running knowing what was ahead, that being 32k and heat, hills and pain. I feel sometimes the pressure I put on myself by doing this blog and the bravado I sometimes seem to portray can be a double edged sword. Sometimes the fear of failure is greater than the sweet smell of success and what I fear most is slowing down, in-fact I know that to be true. Being advanced in age I realise that I cannot be expected to hold my position at the pointy end of the field ad infinitum, each race may be my last competing for podiums. This is why I probably race as much as I do, the sands of time are dropping through my racing egg timer, how much is left? At halfway I was in a beer place than 10k previous but the third lap was a test and although not as bad as the first lap there were thoughts of pulling the pin.

So far in my career I have never DNF’d a race and this alone has kept me honest on a number of occasions when the urge too just stop has been compelling. I always feel that once you DNF once it will become an option moving forward in all your races and easier each time. This is my personal feeling so please do not take offence as sometimes a DNF is the right thing to do. I know a number of my friends who have continued when they should have stopped and this has resulted in chronic fatigue sickness which they still struggle with, basically they cooked them themselves and it really is game over. Luckily I have never reached that point but unfortunately being the stubborn bugger I am know I will probably continue on to the finish and pay the consequences. Rottnest was not to be that day but believe me I suffered with all the runners but also succeeded with all the runners at the finish. That’s the thing with marathon running, ask a runner in the last 10k if they will do another marathon and most will say no, probably not as politely. Ask them 24 hours after the finish and you will get a different answer, probably. This is why we come back for more, the euphoric feeling when you cross the line, there is a runners high and trust me it is worth the pain and so much more.

Two more points before I sign off this war and peace post. (I hope somebody actually reads this ?). Rottnest proved yet again that marathon running is as much mental as physical. Of course you need to train and trust in your training but mentally you need to be prepared to ask yourself some tough questions. Anybody can run a marathon but to really appreciate a marathon you need to race it and by race it I really mean race yourself. You set yourself a target time and it is all about you putting yourself though hell and back to get that time, to do this and achieve your goal is what a marathon is about. Once you have experienced that feeling of achievement as you cross the line you will be hooked and want to do it again and again, trust me.  I saw so many runners at Rotto battling through 4, 5 and even 6 hours of racing when stopping would have been the easier option. These runners really deserve the accolade, medals and trophies , these battle longer and harder than the elites who finish hours earlier and are sipping gatorade and giving interviews while they toil on.  It is a privilege to watch these runners race themselves and cross that line victorious in their one-on-one battle with themselves and the marathon distance. That’s why the marathon is such a personal goal, it really is you against yourself and it just makes you a better person, period.

Last point, I promise. Everybody talks about a marathon as a 42.2k foot race over in a few hours, this couldn’t be further from the truth. A marathon is 6 months (minimum) of putting your life on hold and sacrificing everything you hold dear including family, friends, time, sleep and diet. To do a marathon justice you need to put it ahead of everything and the last 42.2k is just that, the last long run in a multitude of long runs. A marathon is Saturday night running round a dark park in the wind and rain when all your friends are in the pub or sat down watching TV in the comfort of their lounge. It is waking before the birds and struggling out of a warm bed into the cold morning, normally alone, and exercising when your body and mind tell you to stop. It’s about missing those morning tea’s with your work colleagues and those Friday night drinks as you have a long run planned Saturday. It really is about sacrifice but somewhere along the line it changes from being sacrifice to being the ‘norm’ and dare I say you even start to enjoy it. When this happens you become a ‘marathoner’, when every run is like the first and you’re excited about your next goal be it a 5k , ultra or even just a tempo session, this does happen eventually. I’m typing this excited about my next training block as I prepare for a 10k in a few days and then two shorter races before my next ultra in December. I’m as excited about my next run as I was about my first many, many years ago, I hope this feeling never changes…….

Right, enough typing, I’m going for a run.

 

I’m normal tea-total but once ever 10 years treat myself to a Guinness.

How to run a perfect 10k, without selling a kidney.

The title of this post may elude to the possibility I have actually ran a perfect 10k. Unfortunately I have not and today was another example of poor pacing but luckily sheer stubbornness , as always, got me over the line. As the Rottnest Marathon is two weeks away I decided discretion was the better part of valour and avoided the Fremantle half but instead ‘downgraded’ to the 10k instead. I have ran the Fremantle half on numerous occasions , including last year where I was leading the event with 3k to go before being cruel overtaken by two runners to finish 3rd. (I actually felt great just before I was cast aside by two quicker runners and was working on my victory speech. Probably why I was taken by surprise, that and I had nothing left in the tank for a sprint finish, c’mon people I was 49 , at that age we’re glad to be near the front , no mater at the front leading….it was nice to dream , albeit briefly, of Fremantle glory.) So back to the 10k.

After my last race where I was completely cooked by k2 in a 7.5k race, mainly due to my friend Zac and his blistering start, I decided this time I would go out and run myself into the race, maybe even a negative split. Of course this went out the window as soon as we started and yet again I was running with Zac, although this time he was running the half . This was my plan, surely if Zac was running the half I could keep up with him for 10k. Nice in theory but unbeknown to me young Zac was going to run a blinder and this included the first 2k @ 3.19k/min pace. So yet again I was cooked early in the event, thanks Zac, again ! I was actually able to sustain a good pace to 5k which I hit in sub 17minutes, actually quite respectable. The second half of a 10k is a painful experience and this one didn’t fail to deliver. I managed to hold onto 2nd place (Roberto Busi, our local gun-runner, was running a tempo 10k and finish in just over 32 minutes, oh to be that good. He is Italian , if that helps?) until mid way through the last kilometre where I was caught and passed, so third it was and a good time 34:35. Actually , for me, a very good time, my second fastest  ever, so very happy.

I credit the time to my Nike Vaporflys 4% shoes, people these really are that good. If you are serious about your running you need to buy a pair, we all have two kidneys and really only need one; you’ll probably be faster without the weight of the second kidney and you get to sell it for Nike Vaporflys 4%; which will also increase your pace; people it really is a win-win situation. Apparently there is a market for quite a few organ parts that are saleable,  without doing long term damage, I’ll let you google it but it you can’t afford the $350AUS fee for the shoes then it’s off to the surgeon’s table you go, quick smart, before everybody buys a pair and we all lose the advantage off being an early adopter.

Worth a kidney, probably?

 

Of course I am joking about the kidney thing, there are other easier methods, maybe a go fund me page ? ( https://www.gofundme.com ) or ask a friendly Nigerian to send a cry for help email to half the worlds population, somebody will probably bite ? Of course all of this doesn’t help with the Nike Vaporfly 4% harder to find than the Tasmanian Devil. Nike seem to have got the supply and demand just right, i.e. no supply and massive demand,  equals nice profit margin for Nike. I can’t imagine they cost that much to produce and I’m sure the labour used by our caring multinational will be paid minimum wage , at best, bless ’em. Anyway I digress again, this post is about running a perfect 10k not Nike and it’s morals.

So to run a perfect 10k you need to start at a pace just below what you think your average pace , overall, should be. Hold that for the first 2-3k and then accelerate up to your overall pace for the next 5k before a finish ‘spurt’ above your overall average to make up for the slow start. How easy is that to actually achieve, nigh on impossible. You’ll go off at your 5k pace and then at 5k realise the error of your ways and lock yourself in the pain box in the foetal position enjoying the ride for the last 4-5k and trust me people that doesn’t sound like a lot but in the pain box time can sometimes feel like its stand still. ( I wonder if it hurts more with two kidneys or one ? )

Ways to improve, read this post and learn by my mistakes, something I never do and also run more 10k’s, it really does help if you run the race more often, funny that ? Today I was 15 seconds off my all time PB set last year and as it’s only my second 10k of the year so I am pleased with the time but maybe not the pacing ; although I never really blew-up but my last kilometre was 3:32 compared to my first of 3:19, they should be closer than that for a perfect pace.

Funnily enough another running friend of mine , Clement, had his appendix out last year and never ran so well afterwards. He is well into his fifties and ran a 73 minute half at a World Masters event, taking out his age group by minutes. Clement swears blind his appendix ruptured but after his form post-operation I’m not so sure, maybe I’ll get back to my google search, if only I had some ovaries……

3rd place in a 10k, a rare sight.

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

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

Hi

For people with limited time reading it.

To run a marathon you need distance

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

hahahaha

Ken Dacre
Systems Administrator

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Moneghetti

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

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

History

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

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

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

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

Mona says

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

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

Tip for other distance runners

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

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

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

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

 

Me and Steve Moneghetti, a running god!

 

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

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

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

Phil giving his best Zoolander ‘blue steel’

The secret to running a marathon faster really is quite simple.

Boat Shed Sunrise by Paul Harrison. If you lay in bed you miss these views… why wouldn’t you get up early ?

After my last post about the marathon being two separate distances , encompassing a 32k warm-up before a 10k ‘sprint’ to the line,  I thought I’d share one of the sure fire ways to improve your marathon finishing time.  As readers of my ‘ramblings’ will know I have some golden rules to improving your running , summarized below.

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

Without doubt the most important rule, in my opinion, is number 1, ‘Run Further. Add Distance, Not Speed’ This is the foundation on which you build success. Whatever distance you are currently running, do more,  with the caveat of avoiding injury of course (Golden rule number 3)  I have said many, many times ‘running is an honest sport’ , there are no short cuts, to really improve you need to run more distance and more often. For a runner there are no Zip wheels, Death Star helmets or mega-buck carbon-fibre bikes to gain an advantage , it’s just down to physical and mental strength and who wants its the most. ( This may now not be as true as the new Nike Vaporflys 4%  do seem to give the wearer an advantage over your Asics Kayano’s type marathon runners, albeit only a 4% efficiency improvement if you believe the hype; which I do.)

I believe there is no such thing as ‘junk miles’, every run you finish has helped and thus if you run more, and more often, it stands to reason you will improve quicker. Another way to turbo-charge your improvement is to run twice a day. Most runners struggle with this concept but all the professionals run minimum twice a day. Of course, I hear you say, they have time on their hands and it’s what they are paid to do but even us mortals can find time for a second run with a bit of time management. Personally I am lucky enough to be able to run every lunchtime in near perfect conditions , the curse of living in the colonies. I then normally run mornings, pre-work,  as for most of the year this is the best time to run anyway. In summer especially it can be the only time to run as my home town , Perth, is situated in a desert and for three months of the year can be unpleasant after the early morning sunrise.

Some runners find is hard to find time in the mornings with family commitments etc. so will need to step-up in the evenings and this may involve running in the dark. I personally find no enjoyment from this but understand you have to put in the hard yards to continue to improve so take one of my David Goggins ‘suck it up’ pills and off into the night I go. ( http://www.davidgoggins.com ) What I found was, in the evening, if you’re sitting at home watching rubbish on TV you should be running. This is where you can get your second run, substitute sitting down at the end of the day wasting time to doing something constructive towards your next goal race, it really is that simple, go for a run. The second run of the day is all about time on feet anyway , there are no objectives bar the actual time spent running. No pressures, no time constraints, the second run of the day can be liberating because it is running for running’s sake, nothing more , nothing less.

The second run is where the magic happens, this is the reason the professionals run minimum twice a day. It allows then to add the distance needed to see the improvements required without the risk of injury, if they are careful and the run really is a time on feet exercise. Recreational runners will also see the same benefit and probably more because they will starting from a lower level with greater opportunity for improvement.

Of course it is to be noted that this is only one of the jigsaw puzzle that is running improvement but it is one I feel every runner needs to embrace as much as possible. I understand most runners will not be able to hit the 14 times a week goal,  that is a double run a day, but any additional run to your weekly schedule will be beneficial. Small steps for big gains, maybe try one double day a week initially and then build up. Of course if this puts too much strain on you then move back to the single run but maybe try and add weekly distance before trying a double day later. Remember adding distance is all about adding to the foundation of your running and this foundation needs to be stable and strong before you start to add pace.  There are several coaches who support the distance theory of running including the late, great Arthur Lydiard ( http://lydiardfoundation.org/ ) Phil Maffetone  ( https://philmaffetone.com/ ) and Matt Fitzgerald. ( https://mattfitzgerald.org/ )

So next time your sitting at home watch that mind-numbing soap or a reality show making overweight people exercise to the brink of death maybe think ‘I could be doing something more constructive’. Go and do what you love and ‘smell the roses’ (or whatever wild flower is available in your area?) with a relaxing second run. Payback will be so sweet when you rock up for your next race and find you’ve fitted a turbo-charger and leave the pack behind as you explode towards the finish line.

 

Christine Junkermann sums up the Lydiard method below from a Runners World post in 2000. ( https://www.runnersworld.com/

)

 

Forty years ago at the Rome Olympics, athletes guided by legendary New Zealand coach Arthur Lydiard made history. Among Lydiard’s protégés were a total of 17 Olympic medalists, including Peter Snell (800 and 1,500 meters), Murray Halberg (5,000 meters) and Barry Magee (marathon). Lydiard, now 82, toured the U.S. last fall, speaking to runners on the Lydiard method of training. He was as passionate as ever about sharing the methods he developed 50 years ago.

Lydiard hasn’t changed his training advice over the decades, and why should he? His ideas work. Moreover, if you look carefully at the most popular and successful programs today, most have a Lydiard emphasis. For Lydiard, running to your potential is about having a substantial mileage base and not overdoing your anaerobic training. There are no shortcuts.

A Revolutionary Method

Lydiard discovered running for sport when he struggled to run five miles with a friend. Forced to confront his own unfitness, he self-experimented with training, including running more than 250 miles in one week. He developed a plan that he felt confident in using with other runners. Central to his method was the importance of training in phases and peaking for major events.

According to Lydiard, any successful training program must culminate in a goal race or racing period. This means planning several months. The ideal training schedule is at least 28 weeks: 12 weeks for base conditioning, eight weeks for hill training and speed development, six weeks for sharpening and 10 days for tapering/rest.

Phase 1: Base Conditioning/Aerobic Training

This three-month period is the most important in the Lydiard system. If you want to give yourself every opportunity to reach your goal, you must commit to developing your aerobic capacity, says Lydiard. Why? Because although every runner has a limited anaerobic (speed-building) capacity, that limit is largely set by one’s aerobic potential—the body’s ability to use oxygen. Thus, the aerobic capacity that you develop determines the success of your entire training program.

The foundation of Lydiard-style base conditioning is three long runs per week. These are steady runs done at more than recovery effort. To determine your pace, choose a relatively flat course and run out at a strong pace for 15 minutes, then run back. The goal is to return in the same time or slightly faster. If it takes you longer for the return trip, you paced yourself too fast. The objective of these runs is to be “pleasantly tired,” says Lydiard. Running slower will produce positive effects, but the results will take longer. Do not run to the point of lactic-acid buildup.

An ideal training week during this period includes a two-hour run and two one and one half-hour runs. On the other days do short, easy runs; one run with some light picking up of the pace; and one 5K to 10K tempo run (below lactate-threshold pace). Decrease the times and distances if you don’t have the mileage base to start at such high volume, then build gradually.

Phase 2: Hill Training/Speed Development

Lydiard-style hill training, the focus of the first four weeks of this period, involves a circuit that includes bounding uphill, running quickly downhill and sprinting. These workouts develop power, flexibility and good form, all of which produce a more economical running style. Ideally, you should find a hill with three parts: a flat 200- to 400-meter area at the base for sprints, a 200- to 300-meter rise for bounding and a recovery area or moderate downhill segment at the top. Alternatively you can work out on a treadmill with an adjustable incline.

After a warm-up, bound uphill with hips forward and knees high. Lydiard describes the stride as “springing with a bouncing action and slow forward progression.” If you can’t make it all the way up, jog, then continue bounding. At the top jog easily for about three minutes or run down a slight incline with a fast, relaxed stride. Then return to the base of the hill for the next bounding segment. Every 15 minutes (after about every third or fourth hill), intersperse several 50- to 400-meter sprints on flat ground. These sprints mark the end of one complete circuit. Lydiard recommends a total workout time of one hour (plus warm-up and cool-down). Do this hill circuit three days per week.

On three of the four remaining days, focus on developing leg speed. Lydiard suggests 10 repetitions of 120 to 150 meters over a flat or very slight downhill surface. Warm up and cool down thoroughly.) The seventh day is a one and one-half to two-hour steady-state run.

During the second four weeks, shift from hills to traditional track workouts. The objective here, says Lydiard, is to “finish knowing that you could not do much more nor any better.” This sensation of fatigue matters less than how many intervals you do at what speeds, though the workout should total about three miles of fast running. Perform these track sessions three times per week. Use the remaining four days for a long run, leg-speed work and sprint-training drills traditionally done by sprinters to develop strength, form and speed.

Phase 3: Sharpening

How many times have you died in the last half of your race? Or alternatively, finished with too much left? Sharpening allows you to test for your strengths and weaknesses as you prepare for your goal race. Three workouts do not vary. The first is the long run, done at a relaxed pace. The second is an anaerobic training session done at a greater intensity and lower volume. Lydiard suggests five laps of a 400-meter track (about seven to eight minutes of running) alternating 50 meters of sprinting and 50 meters of easy, but strong, running.

The third consistent workout is a weekly time trial at or below the distance for which you are training. A 10K runner would do a 5K to 10K trial; a 1,500 meter runner would do 1,200 to meters. Ideally, do this workout on a track and record every lap to determine your weaknesses, and work on them throughout the rest of that week and the following week. For example, if the second half of your trial is slower than the first half, run a longer tune-up race that week and a longer time trial the next week. If the pace felt difficult but you were able to maintain it pretty evenly, work on your leg speed.

Round out your training week with a sprint-training session, a pace judgment day (4 x 400 meters at goal race pace), a leg-speed workout and a tune-up race. All these workouts should be geared to your goal distance and pace.

Phase 4: Tapering and Rest

Lydiard calls the final 10 days before goal race “freshening up.” This involves lightening your training to build up your physical and mental reserves for the target competition. Train every day but keep the faster running low in volume and the longer runs light in effort.

Unquestionably, Lydiard’s program tests your commitment and desire, and it requires a solid understanding of your individual needs. If you are serious, start counting out those 28 weeks.