Trail Running

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.

 

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.

12 Expert Trail Running Tips.

In keeping with my trail running theme this week as I prepare for the 6 inch ultra in a few days. ( http://www.6inchtrailmarathon.com ) I’ve attached this great article on 12 Expert Trail Running Tips from Lesley Paterson ( http://www.lesleypaterson.com/coaching/ ), in an interview by Brian Metzler first published on 2013 but great advice is great advice no matter when it was given, enjoy.

Trail Racing 101

When you’re racing on trails, there’s a real feeling about battling against terrain and the environment, versus battling against each other. So there’s a mutual support in that endeavor. It’s still a race, and we’re all out there trying to do the best we can. But, on trails, I think there’s just a sense of being out there in nature—there is a happiness about it. There’s a fulfilling feeling about it that’s less neurotic than some of the races on roads, where time and pace and all of those details are a big deal. You can’t really measure yourself at a certain minute-per-mile pace, and even power meters on a bike are somewhat obsolete when it comes to off-road racing. There’s a bit of creativity involved out on the trails and with that comes a very relaxed nature and you really have to go with the flow, even though you still might be running hard.

Running Fast on Trails

Running fast on trails is completely different than running on roads or any flat surface. When you’re training and racing on trails, your movement and your gait are varied all the time. You have to have strong ankles, a strong pivot point, a strong core, and strong hips to be able to navigate rocks and bound off of them and dance around obstacles so you don’t get injured, but also not to take too much energy from your body.

Fartlek Training

Fartlek training is really good. I do a workout called “over-unders,” where you’re running just above your anaerobic threshold and then just below it. You’re constantly pushing those boundaries and continually going over the red line and coming back. I also do a lot of strength-based workouts and cross-training in the gym to build functional strength with the muscles you use while you’re running on the trails. It’s not only the eccentric strength you need for uphill running, but also the concentric muscle movements for running fast downhill and then immediately attacking another hill.

Hill Repeats

Hill repeats are a great drill for building strength and you can do them on road or you can do them off-road. You can do them all different times of the year with a different emphasis. In the offseason, I’ll do them with a lower heart-rate and focus on high-knee drive and engage all of those muscles as a strength component rather than a cardio component. I’ll also do bounding up a hill, which is almost like a plyometric drill up a very steep hill. They’re a controlled effort that really works the calves and feet. During the race season, I’ll pick up the pace and do sprints uphills and threshold workouts up hills. Strength is the basis for all of those kinds of workouts, but you can vary the intensity depending on the time of the season.

Tempo Run

Try to find a trail that will mimic your race course and do a long run of about 90 minutes and do a 30-minute tempo effort on that trail after that so you’re teaching your body how to deal with the fatigue of being on a trail and still being able to maneuver around that trail. That creates strength if you’re doing at the end of a long run.

Intervals 

I think one of the hardest things in trail races is that you run an uphill and your legs are smashed, but then you hit a downhill hard and your legs are like jelly. Then you do another uphill and you’re like, “What the heck?” But you can train to improve on the same kind of terrain. Depending on the course you’re running, you should work over a hill and down the other side so you’re mirroring what’s going to happen in the race. During a race, if you work the uphill, you don’t just give up at the end of the hill, you get into a quick stride over the top of the hill and try to maintain your cadence. For example, I’ll have my athletes do a 4-minute interval on a hill, where it’s 2 minutes up a hill and 2 minutes down the back side of that hill. There are also some great intervals you can do where you run down a hill to start, then up a hill.

Leg Turnover

I do a lot of track work in the weeks before a race to get more leg speed and leg turnover. Sometimes when you’re on the trails, I think it’s easy to lull yourself into a false sense of security as to where your fitness really is or lull yourself into a pace that is less than what you’re capable of running. You need quick leg turnover to keep your timing sharp, even if you can’t run with that same fast turnover on a trail. There are times you need it, though, and if you don’t train for it, you won’t have it. So that’s why it’s still important to run fast on the track and road while you’re training for a trail race.

Tracking Trail Volume

I don’t track the miles I run on trails. You can never really get a consistent measure of how far you’re running, especially when you compare that to how far you might run on roads. I measure my running by time on my feet, not by pace or even distance. Pace is mostly irrelevant on the trails. I started trail running when I was about 11 years old with my dad over the fells in Scotland. In 2 hours, you might only cover 10 miles, but boy it sure is a hard 2 hours.

Cross-Training for Trail Running

I do a lot of CrossFit functional strength work like box jumps, single-leg hops, lunges in all different planes of motion, medicine ball tossing and other exercises that engage all of the muscles in all different ways. When you hit the side of a trail or the side of a rock at a different angle, you’re using a whole different set of muscles. So you need to be versatile and efficient to be able to do that and spring off that into your next stride. A lot of single-leg work is really important training for those kind of situations. I call them ice skate hops where you’re hopping from side to side. You’re teaching your body to propel off the side of the foot. When you’re running down a trail, chances are you’re going to be picking your line and propelling off one side, then another off rocks, so that can be really handy.

For me, the cross-training involved with triathlon has made me a much stronger runner. I think the endurance aspects of triathlon and the versatility aspects of training for triathlon are amazing. When you’re working on a few different sports like you do in triathlon, you’re using all planes of motion and building strength in a wide variety of muscle groups. One sport really feeds into the other very, very nicely. The swimming, for example, gives you so much more core strength, and that’s the basis for being an efficient runner. The biking gives you leg strength and muscle mass for trail running. Generally, you get much stronger from swimming and biking and that really benefits your running.

Running Form

From a balance point of view, when I run on trails, I tend to use my arms and have my arms out to the side so I can flail them a little bit in a bit of a circular motion. Practice a couple of techniques like that when you’re running downhill. Your body position and having enough of a forward lean is important. You don’t want to be jamming on the breaks when you’re running downhill, because that’s really going to damage the muscles and throw you off. If you have too much of a forward lean, that’s going to throw you off because you’re going to create too much speed.

Falling on Trails

I have almost perfected the Army roll. It’s about going with the fall rather than trying to breach it. The first reaction is something like, “Oh my god, I’m going to fall,” and then you tense up and stiffen your limbs and ultimately land a lot harder than you need to or potentially even break something. But if you roll with it and go with it, you can kind of get up and keep going and not have too much damage. But that also shows why strong ankles are really important. I sometimes roll over my ankles, but they’re strong enough to cope with that and I’m able to keep running and not fall over. The more you practice running downhill sections of a trail, the better you become and less likely you are to fall.

Recovery

I wear a lot of compression apparel after workout for the rest of the day. I always use Podium Legs at night and, for circulation purposes, I also vary back and forth between ice baths and hot baths and do a lot of stretching as well. And, then, of course, I always address it through proper hydration and fueling, before, during and after a race or workout.

Makes you want to lace up and get out there….

 

 

The Choo-Choo run, an exercise in living on the edge.

To continue on with the trail running theme I thought I’d like to talk about the only other time I wonder off my beloved concrete.  This is for the Simon Coates inspired ‘Choo Choo’ run. The idea here is to meet at North Dandelup Station (I say station in the broadest sense of the word. I think it has a small concrete outcrop it calls a platform but that really is it!) This is the same North Dandelup that the 6 inch ultra marathon  ( http://www.6inchtrailmarathon.com/ ) starts from , give or take 3k as the race actually starts at the beginning of Goldmine Hill, but close enough. Anyhow we meet at North Dandelup station and then run via the trail to Serpentine Station, 35k away. The ‘living on the edge‘ bit is there is only one train through Serpentine a day so if you miss it you have a long walk back to Dandelup where we leave the cars.

So we all meet at Dandelup and depending on how confident you are of making the Serpentine train dictates your departure time.  The train gets in at Serpentine at 10:21am  so we normally give ourselves 4 hours for the run. Thus we leave around 6:30am, just as the sun rises before we enter the trail after a nice 4-5k of concrete hills to warm you up. Hopefully no one gets left behind.

The graphic below was created when Dave ‘Sugar’ Cane ran the inaugural Choo-Choo run when someone did get left behind.  The story was the group of five set off but one of the runners was never going to make it and basically was sent back to the car rather than taking the rest of the group with them on the long walk of shame back to Dandelup from Serpentine. There is more to this and even an amusing You Tube video but I am not at liberty to divulge the full carrying on’s……

Choo-Choo run details.
Choo-Choo run details.

I’ve ran this the last two years and made the train quite comfortably, so much so we are talking up a 7am departure next year to really give the run that touch of danger. Last year Jon ‘Trail blazer’  Phillips cut it very close. In fact in the first photo you can see he is not even at the station and we’re talking minutes to the train arriving.  At least I look worried …?

Waiting for TB
Waiting for TB

In the (selfie) photo below you can see the elusive TB bottom right looking very relieved. After running 35k the thought of a 10-15k walk back on the road (as the crow sort of flies) is not enticing. We would have probably come and got him, probably?

TB cutting it very close...
TB cutting it very close…

This year it was far too easy and we all made the train with so much time to spare we were able to pose at the local deli and even had time to eat a smorgasbord of home made cup cakes that a local had brought to the store to sell for charity. It was her lucky day as she encountered a bunch of runners with the appetite of a pack of Wildebeest. (I am making an assumption that a pack of Wildebeest have large appetites ? They always seem to look hungry whenever I see them on any nature programs. Not so sure about the eating cup cakes bit but you get the general idea? If anyone has a picture of a Wildebeest eating a cup cake I’d love to see it. )

 

Far too easy in 2016..
Far too easy in 2016..

So the point of this post is to once in a while challenge yourself.  Give yourself a challenge where there will be consequences if you fail but if you succeed you never know you may get rewarded with cup cakes or faced with a bunch of runners smelling like Wildebeest.?

Footnote. I probably forgot to mention the actual 30k of trail you get to run on this bad boy of a run. (I took out the 5k of concrete at the start and finish) As you can see from the elevation at the start of this post there is a steep hill at the start which softens you up for whats to come. You then get about 20k of undulating trails and some wondrous views before the best finish to a run EVER ! The last 5k off the scarp is just biblical in its awesomeness. You are catapulted towards the train station and spat out at the end of the trail like you’ve been shot from a cannon. No wonder we all had such an appetite, at then end I reckon I was running faster than a pack of Wildebeest. There was one Wildebeest who may not have been as excited about the finish as some of us but he shall rename nameless. Roberto Busi 

 

Look busy the 6 inch is coming….

After a week recovering from the World Masters my mind is started to wonder towards my next goal race. I’m a big fan of hopping from goal race to goal race, improving each time. To this end I have raced nearly 30 times this year already and my next menu choice is the ‘6 inch ultra marathon’  ( http://www.6inchtrailmarathon.com ) on December 18th from Dandelup to Dwellingup. Even the start and end point sound like ‘trail places’, and it gets better as it is ran on the Munda Biddi trail. Man this is trail running country gone mad.  I almost expect to see a young Bert Reynolds in a wetsuit wandering on the trail (For the older generation amongst us you’ll know what I mean.) I’ve attached the map below.

6 inch ultra marathon map.
6 inch ultra marathon map.

 

A description of the course form the race director, Dave Kennedy.

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

My favourite bit is the last sentence. This run is designed to be tough but most marathoners can expect to finish within an hour or 2 of their best marathon time. This is no understatement. This is one bad ass of a race that starts with a 3km hill to get you in the mood for the rest of the elevations, and then just when you think it can’t get any worse Dave has found the ‘rutted hill from hell‘ where my mate Jon actually fell in one of the ruts and had to be helped out ! I mean he disappeared. You hit this bad boy around the 32k mark when you are at your weakest and the first time you see it you really think it is a wall rather than a hill. Actually Jon has had a few mishaps on this course. Two years ago he found the only puddle on the whole course, and that is over 46k, and promptly fell in it, twice. He was running well at that point and it was deep into the race, this mishap cost him his mojo and he fell away quickly.  Because of this he was made to wear armbands at the start of the following year.

Jon and his pink armbands, just in case.
Jon and his pink armbands, just in case.

Last year , because he fell into the ‘rut from hell‘ we made him take climbing rope to the top of Goldmine Hill. Unfortunately I got lost last year and turned a 46k into a 50k (for the second time in 7 attempts, even after wearing two gamins!) , because of this I have to carry a map up Goldmine Hill.

Trail running is something I must admit I don’t do enough of. Truth be told this race is probably the only time I get out on the trail bar the Simon Coates inspired Choo-Choo run. (I’ll save that for another post.) I revel in the first 10k and marvel at the wonderful views, basking in the freedom and joy of running at one with nature. After 10k I start to complain a tad about the elevations, grip (or lack of) issues and difficulty finding a pace when you have to wait ever step. By 20k I am seriously reconsidering my love of trail running and then when I see the hill from hell I am well and truely convinced concrete is the way go. This is further enforced when you are faced with the last 10k which seems to go on forever,  especially the last 2k where I swear Dave had found some time and space portal where you seem to run forever and move no further forward.

When you finish the 6 inch you know you have been in a race and I have attached finishing shot of yours truely in 2014 which backs up my claim that this is a ‘kick ass’ race that tests you and pushes you to then limit, drawing a line in the sand and then forcing you over it.

Runners high after the 6 inch ?
Runners high after the 6 inch ?

This will be my 8th running and I can’t wait because although it’s a hard race these of the sort of events that you need to run to become a better runner , to be tested and face Dave’s 2k of ‘running and but no moving‘ after a 44k warm up. It’s sold out this year but if you are ever going to run a trail race in Western Australia I highly recommend the 6 inch…I’ll see you at the start.

 

 

 

Improving Stamina.

Stamina is so important in running and to improve it there are several elements that need to be combined. First is consistency, basically run and keep running on a regular basis. Next is distance. You all know my opinions on this, go further and you will go faster eventually. The Long run is the next piece of the jigsaw. This needs to be as long as possible and if you can add a bit of tempo all good, most important though is time on feet. Next some gym work on conditioning wouldn’t go a miss. I’m not talking about big weights here but cardio workouts, light weights , high repetition. Concentrate on the core muscles and we’re not into weight gain so lots of sit ups, planks, burpees, press ups, medicine ball work  and leg strengthening . Now sprinkle in some off road work. This is better than your normal straight line concrete run as it improves the aerobic endurance as well as ankle strength and stability. On a good trail you have to watch ever step and this makes the whole running process so much more testing. Don’t worry about pace too much as you’ll end up on your backside; more important to feel the benefit of the constant ‘stepping’ from foot to foot as you navigate the trail obstacles.  (see image below with right knee bearing the brunt of not concentrating!)

All this talk of off road trail running has me excited. Me think Kings Park for some trails lunchtime. Living the dream guys, living the dream…

6 Inch Trail
6 Inch Trail

…and there’s more… while enjoying my lunch time trail run through Kings Park I thought I need to add hill work to my stamina improving workouts.  The benefit of hill runs is as well as being bloody hard work, which is always a good sign, they tend to be a bit more forgiving than say a temp or threshold run. If you’re on tired legs  and add speed you’re dancing with the devil. A good hill workout, even on tired legs, will give you the benefit of a time spent in the higher heart zones (between Threshold and VO2 max!) without the risk of injury.  It’s not to say a good tempo and/or threshold is also good for building stamina but you do run the risk and these should be set aside for when you are fresh.

Trail Running

I love concrete, Garmin Watches, splits and racing. Once or twice a year I do venture outside the City limits into the hills for the 6 Inch ultra marathon. Last Sunday before Christmas Day. 4am start as in Perth it’s the middle of Summer , and we get a hot summer ! Anyway , love this shot taken by my mate Dennis Tan, sums up the event. img_0826

Notice two Garmins as one records distance and pace the other holds the course. Still managed to get lost in 2 of my 7 finishes !

Trail running takes concentration, notice nice cut on right knee.
Trail running takes concentration, notice nice cut on right knee.