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 !!! Contentious subject here. I’m a Strava addict and I know it but the purest will be horrified. You need a baseline to see improvement, set new goals and realize your goals. Buy a Garmin and to quote a small clothing company ‘just do it’.
One of my Golden Rules is quoted above. It’s all about recording information and then using this to build future training plans. Of course there are thousands of coaches who will do this for you and probably do a better job but even then if you decide to go this route you still need to record everything. (or ask your coach but you might as well have the information for your own records.)
I first heard about Strava ( http://www.strava.com ) about 4 years ago (from my Dentist actually, a triathlete training for a half-ironman. ) and only really started using it religiously about 2 years ago. There was nothing , for runners, before Strava to record, save and show your training runs to the world. I suppose Strava is the Facebook for runners. As with Facebook there are people who do Facebook and people who don’t. I suppose the same thing is true of Strava users, you either get it or you don’t, all or nothing, I remember when you use to run with a watch and record your distance, normally estimated (and normally estimated up!) in an excel sheet or better still a notebook. (and I don’t meant an electronic notebook, one with paper. For the younger readers of this blog don’t worry, paper is something you will never probably use.) Even now I still have an Excel spreadsheet where I record all my runs, albeit just distance, as a backup to my Strava information. This spreadsheet has all my runs backs to 2008 and I never miss a run, sort of old school but there is something satisfying about typing in the data rather than downloading it from a GPS watch via Garmin Connect straight into Strava. I’ve attached the Excel table detailing my running adventures during the last 8 years updated manually on a daily basis. Must admit to never owning a running notebook though.
Before Strava we use to use a website called Coolrunning ( http://www.coolrunning.com.au/runningguide/wiki/index.php/Main_Page ) but Facebook and Stava put an end to its userbase, in WA anyway. I suppose it became the Nokia or Blackberry when Apple turned up. Either way now it’s all about Strava. Is Strava perfect, no. It is still mainly aimed at the cyclist and has more functionality for our free wheeling friends but it does do enough to make it indispensable to some runners, me included.
Is this a bad thing? In my view no as it allows you to document everything automatically and there is enough functionality built in to make the software very useful to spot trends and set targets for training sessions. Also it allows you to encourage your friends with kudos and helpful comments. This can be a double edges sword of course if you have a bad session as everybody knows about it instantly. Runners , though, being a forgiving lot will normally even give you kudos and encouragement on any run, it’s about building a running community I suppose. Of course a bit of banter is also encouraged and I’ve left a few comments asking ‘if they ran the whole way’ to gee people up . (In a nice way.)
If you haven’t got a GPS watch and an app to connect said watch to Strava then I recommend you remedy this as quickly as possible. Strava really is life and the rest is details as I’ve said many times in this blog. I really cannot recommend it enough and my four Garmin watches and iPhone6 make it impossible for me to run unrecorded. Please note I think I ran twice last year, out of the 464+ runs (thanks Strava) , without a watch and both times I hated it, sorry people but that’s just the way it is.
What Strava gives you is a way to record your run with kilometre splits, heart rate, elevation, cadence and even VO2 max figure (with some GPS watches) All of these can then be checked against previous runs of the same distance and terrain and compared. This will hopefully allow you to see improvement and then set new goals, reach these goals and then set even faster, longer ones. Keep reporting this and eventually you will be the best you can be. Without a baseline of information and then continued data logging of running information to compare how can you see improvement. How did we survive without Strava ?
So back to my post title, if it’s not on Strava did it happen ? I think the answer is no, in this world of online running data collection verbal boasting just doesn’t cut it anymore. Pity as this morning I ran the first sub 2hour marathon but forgot to turn on my Garmin, and if it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen!
This weekend I made a bold decision and stopped running at 29.5k when I got back to the City Beach car park after our long run into the Bold Park hills. It was a conscious effort to take control of my running from the evil that is Strava ( http://www.strava.com ) that has taken hold of many a good runner and turned them into a run recording web junkies. Truth be told I already had 121k banked for the week and knew I was over the 150k weekly total with another 10k planned in the evening to take me over the 161k (100 mile) threshold. So really who was I kidding stopping at 29.5k? It did impress the rest of my running group who ran in ever decreasing circles around the car park to get the extra 500m needed for 30k.
How did this happen ? Social media has a large part to play and these days every run is accompanied by a Strava upload as a minimum and a social media post if the run justifies it. Compare this to when I started running before the Internet and GPS watches (Yep such a time did exist and to tell you the truth it wasn’t that bad. ) when a runner who have to record all their information using a thing called a pen and paper. (To the young followers of my post these things are now defunct and serve no purpose bar to be used a weapons in disposing of zombies and other evil creatures in the mindless video games you spend hours playing. Note. That is the pen, the paper would be used as fuel to set fire to said zombies if the pen failed to do it’s job.) I’ll put my hand up with most of the running population as an avid Strava addict who has 4 Garmin watches and an iphone to make sure that every kilometre I run is documented and shared. I did try and run without a watch once, on the advice of a ‘friend’ (?) to try and recapture the feeling of that bygone age. I hated it and all the time kept thinking how I was going to record this and document my findings to the world. It is like if a tree falls in a forest does it make a sound, if you run without recording it on Strava did it happen ? Not sure about the tree and forest scenario but for the Stava question the answer is ‘no’, if it ain’t on Strava it didn’t happen.!
This brings me to the point of this post this morning. We do live in a digital world (this may or may not be a good thing?) but you still need , as backup, a non Strava recording of all your totals. I have attached mine below for the last 8 years and with the table as backup will use these totals to complement my golden rules of running.
In my post earlier today I described the various different paced runs you can start to add after the distance foundation stage. I forgot to mention the ‘ultra marathon’ pace. This is a recovery like run albeit a very long one but the bonus is because it’s a race you get to basically eat and drink what you want, within reason, on the pretence it is required fuel and hydration.
When I prepare for a marathon I’ll maybe hand-carry a couple of Gu’s, as extra nutrition, as the 42k distance without these bad boys can be a challenge. You add the word ‘ultra’ to a race and you have hydration packs filled to the gunnels with about 6 litres of some super-drink full of electrolytes, sugar, carbohydrates and more protein than a field of chickens. Then you add a fuel belt with more confectionary than a corner store. This could be for a race an extra 4-5k longer than a marathon. What happens in that extra 4-5k that justifies this food and drink smorgasbord ? Worse still is a supported ultra because every 10k or so these runners get to feast on all sorts of weird and wonderful delicacies.
I’ve always said an Ultra is an eating and drinking conception with running between meals. The person who finishes first and normally eats the least normally wins. My mate Jon in his first ultra ( http://australiadayultra.com ) actually put weight on in the 100k race and still finished second. If he spent more time running and less time eating he could have won !
All joking aside Ultra pace is obviously slower than normal and is dictated by distance and terrain. Common sense dictates the longer the race the slower the pace and if the terrain is mountainous add a few seconds per pace, in between snacks of course.
I’ve ran 16 ultra’s in my career ranging from 46k up to three Comrade campaigns in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Comrades varied between 86-89k depending on how sadistic the race director felt I assumed. ( http://www.comrades.com ) My lasting memory of Comrades was the constant deluge of food offered from organised race tables or just the general public. This consisted of barbecues serving all sorts of meat in all sorts of disguises. and of course beer, and lots of it. Unfortunately this is not the norm for ultras, normally you have too work vary hard between aid stations , which is another excuse to spend serious time at the aid stations eating and drinking, apparently.
So if you like your ‘tucka’ then maybe the ultra world is the answer to your dreams., I know Jon can’t wait to get stuck into the 100k in January next year.
This post could be a big one. So much information out there on pace in all its different forms. I’ve just made myself a cup of tea as I prepare to dive into this subject. (A runners treat, a cup of tea while blogging. Funny thing is I actually believe that to be true. I’m really am a sad runner, I suppose, or on the other side of a coin a finely tuned running machine fueled by sweet tea and the odd chocolate digestive..anyway I digress back to the post…)
So after the foundation has been laid with some quality ‘time on legs’ distance it’s time to put that fitness to good use and start to sprinkle in some speed. Nothing too strenuous to start with, the old ‘walk before you can run adage’ comes into play because we need to avoid injury (I hate even typing that word!) .
So what are the options when it comes to adding pace.
So there you have it, a few different kinds of pace you can now add to your training runs. As you know I’m a 80% slow and easy and 20% speed work, this seems to have the double benefit of increasing your general running fitness without the risk of injury .(there’s that word again!) As always this is a Matt Fitzgerald split and in Matt we trust. ( http://mattfitzgerald.org )
Assuming you have just added distance I would recommend adding 2 steady runs a week initially. The following week substitute a tempo for one of your steady runs and then add a threshold in week 3, as well as the steady and tempo. Moving forward I’d also try to work in the odd Interval or fartlek (check the internet for various options, there are a few to play around with) . The most important thing is you enjoy the change in pace these sessions offer you.
One final word of warning. I would avoid two hard sessions in a row as this can lead to injury (I am not typing that word again in this post!) and also listen to your body. If you are fatigued swap out a pace session for a recovery run, in the long run it’ll be better for you and you avoid the ‘I’ word.
Right, I’ve earned my cup of tea…..
Fartlek is a Swedish term to describe ‘speed play’, training method that blends continuous training with interval training. Fartlek runs are a very simple form of a long distance run. Fartlek training “is simply defined as periods of fast running intermixed with periods of slower running.”
Today was my Mona Fartlek day, a 20 minute workout that I adore. Though lesson to self, eating banana bread 2 hours before is not such a good idea ! I can normally get to around 5.6k for the session. Steve Monaghetti stills hits over 6km I hear and in his prime was nearer 8km. !! He is a running legend though.. enjoy the article on a true sporting great below.
I was lucky enough to meet Steve at a photo shoot for the Perth City to Surf in 2014 and again this year as he was Ambassador for the Perth marathon. Both times I was taken aback by his down to earth attitude and his willingness to embrace all our questions and comments.
This session is good as it is fairly short but you know it’s doing you good. Golden rule no2 , add pace after the distance phase. This bad boy workout is all about pace.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
As runners we are creatures of habit and nothing confirmed this more than the Strava heat map attached below. ( http://www.strava.com ) What Strava does (if you pay for premium membership) is take all your recorded runs (in my case well over 1,000 and rising 2 a day !) and map them onto a map with the different colours indicating the runs you run the most. The bright red lines show where I spend all my time.
As you can see I spend all my time running around Kings Park and the Bridges on my lunch time runs and then up and down the coast on the weekends. You can also see my go-to run of choice, a 10k loop from my house to Star Swamp and back through Carine Park that I run 4-5 times a week minimum. This run is normally my recovery run and I can just about give you a breakdown of kilometer times to the second of each one of the 10k’s. For example the first kilometer is always between 4:40 – 4:50 min/k and I run k2 at 4:37min/k (this one is normally within 1-2 seconds) etc. etc…. These runs are built for time on feet and as I discussed yesterday recovery runs. A run you can run in your sleep but one where sometimes an autopilot is just what you need to rack up the kilometers without the need for mental engagement.
Golden rule number 8 is about consistency and this heat map shows me that I am Mr. Consistent. As well as establishing your go-to runs consistency is also about maintaining a good foundation, even on the off-season. (not really sure what an off-season is in my case?) The biggest threat to this is of course rule no.3, injury. Once injured consistency is no longer an option and it’s back to rule no1 , distance, to rebuild.
No one said this running was easy..
So after the City to Surf marathon I gave myself one day off before launching into a 100k recovery week , followed by three 100 Mile weeks (160k+) including the biggest ever week of my running career this week , 190k and 14 runs. Today I managed a 30k long run this morning, wolfed down a few pancakes, took the dog for a walk and then snuck out for a 12.3k run to give me the 190k and 42.3k for the day. So here I am typing this happy to know that it’s time to turn the distance foundation into pace pre-racing.
The Running Centre did a survey of a number of athletes recently who had trained with them and broke the 3hr marathon mark. They examined their 10k times, half times and marathon times in-conjunction with the number of kilometres trained over a set period. While looking at different training methods, different zones i.e. did they train mostly at tempo pace or more recovery runs, or thresholds etc. After all this analysis the end result was basically distance was the most over riding dominant factor. He who runs the longest will normally run fastest. Running is an honest sport and basically the more you do the better you get. It’s ain’t rocket science. (I wonder what people who study Rocket Science say when they’re talking about complicated matters… like Rocket Science, they have to say ‘well you know, it is Rocket Science’ or maybe ‘it’s ain’t Quantum Physics’.. ?)
Over the next 6 weeks I have 5 races planned starting next Sunday with a 10k, then the following weekend the Fremantle half, ( https://www.wamc.org.au/major-events/fremantle-half-marathon/ )a week off and then the Rottnest half. ( https://www.wamc.org.au/major-events/rottnest-marathon-fun-run/ ) Then it’s straight into the World Masters Games ( www.perth2016.com ) for a 5k starter on the 29th October before the reason behind all this high distance training, the World Masters Marathon on November 6th. I’m hoping for a podium in my age category (45-50). As I have home advantage (the course is the same one as the Perth Marathon which I have run the last 3 years ) and will be acclimatised, maybe it’ll be enough.
This will be a good test of the distance Golden Rule no.1 morphing into pace, Golden Rule no. 2. Maybe 5 races in 6 weeks is a tad testing but i wouldn’t have it any other way.
Golden rule number 6 is baseline everything. This involves a Garmin ( http://www.garmin.com.au ) or any other device that records distance, pace, heart rate, steps, temperature etc. I have mentioned before that over the last few years I have become a Strava tragic ( http://www.strava.com ) . I cannot run without the resulting data being uploaded as soon as possible afterwards. Strava, although predominately still cycling software, has been embraced by the running community and has turned itself into the Facebook of running. Over time it has added the ability to add photos, comments and now you can even tag fellow runners and add groups. I envisage soon the interface will start to morph more and more into a social media type look. In Australia it has been taken the place of CoolRunning which use to be the go-to site of choice for runners, which is a pity as I use to love that site. ( http://www.coolrunning.com.au ) i did manage to get to a 1000 posts before it really stopped being the place to go. I’m hoping it can reinvent itself but Stava has become so widely accepted it will be hard to dislodge.
So baseline, what does that mean and what is the benefit ? In the ‘good old days’ before GPS watches and the Internet (Yes, once there was no internet !) a runner would keep a diary of distance (normally estimated) but pace and heart rate or cadence was unmeasurable. Once GPS watches and the internet came along all this changed. Now the data you produce from the GPS watch can be uploaded to a variety of software tools in the internet and all sorts of reports produced. Training peaks ( https://www.trainingpeaks.com ) is a good example of whats available.
So what is the benefit ? If you don’t baseline how do you know when you improve ? All this data is useful to show how week on week, month on month, you are improving. That may be running the same pace at a lower heart rate, or average pace increasing for known runs or just keeping tracks of your PB’s and race times. Software takes out all the guess work and the watches themselves give you so much information, real time, there is no hiding from a bad run or instant gratification from a good one.
I remember back in the day running marathons with a stop watch and the mental arithmetic needed to work out splits and target times as you reached a K marker, which was normally in the wrong position anyway. Not knowing what pace you had just run or were running at the time and always leaving it late due to either bad maths or optimistic finishing pace. Happy days. Always made the last 10k of a marathon a surprise. These days you can set your watch for a certain pace and even ‘virtual partners’ to race against. No surprises, instant feedback. Sometimes I miss the challenge of that last 10k when you can finally work out what you need to run and still have no real idea if you are going to make it until you round the last corner and see the finish line…. maybe one day I’ll dust down the stop watch and go ‘old school’….. who am I kidding ?
I thought it was time I started to go through my Top Golden Rules for improving your running and staying uninjured. The first rule is the most important, probably the most overlooked and the one that if you get it wrong can do the most damage. A good foundation is pivotal to running success and this means starting slowly and building up distance week by week before you add pace. Everybody has a starting point, be it a 100m walk in the park that turns into a 200m the next day or a 10k recovery run after an injury which then becomes a 11k in a few days time. It’s all about a slowly, slowly approach. There is the old adage you shouldn’t add more than 10% a week but I feel this has become a bit ‘old school’ and it’s more important to build up by feel.
Get this stage right and good foundations, like in so many environments can be built on them without the whole lot falling down. So, slowly, slowly; build up the distance until you are happy and confident enough to add some pace. This will be different for each individual and there’s no distance or time period that I can offer really. I will say it’s probably impossible to do too much, slowly. Where as it is certainly possible to go too fast too early, resulting in an injury.
One of my favourite authors Matt Fitzgerald advocate the 80%/20% rule which translates as 80% easy running, 20% at pace. I try to follow this split myself most weeks and it seems to work. The 80% easy is a lot ‘easier’ on the body and also , I find, more relaxing and enjoyable as you are running to feel not your Garmin GPS watch. Initially the 20% at pace doesn’t need to be that quicker than your normal pace but something to get the heart beating a little harder. Over time pace will come.
That’s a lot of typing, time for a photo. This one is by one of my favourite Perth Photographers and runner Paul Harrison. Very talented. This photo is of the view from Matilda Bay as you run towards Perth, a run I’m lucky enough to do once or twice a week minimum.
After another 100 mile week I am now faced with the prospect of going for a three-peat or having a ‘down week’ to let my body recover. But does my body need time to recover or has it adapted to the new mileage and has this then become the norm. ? This links to the top 3 Golden Rules I abide to regarding distance , pace and not getting injured. Juggling these three is a fine balancing act and get it wrong you’ll be spending time on the sidelines watching all your fitness drain away, a runners worst nightmare.
I’m a big ‘listen to your body’ believer and also adding distance is possible if you have easy runs and avoid two hard sessions in a row. Raf Baugh, the Running Centre owner, ( http://therunningcentre.com.au )is a big advocate of big distance and doesn’t consider any mileage to be ‘junk miles’. As far as he is concerned they are all good, even the slow recovery ones. Taking this onboard I have made my second run of the day (how did this become the norm?) a slow one and must admit to enjoying the freedom of just running on heart rate rather than chasing pace and being constrained by the 1k Garmin splits. To this end I have managed a massive block of training since June but understand I am on a tightrope. This is sustainable for the moment as I train for the Perth Masters in October/November this year but must admit to looking forward to a month or two of ‘normal’ 100k a week running later in the year. (and maybe even a glass of red for Christmas)
This tightrope of distance, pace and avoiding injury is one all runners must walk and I know so many who have trained so hard for events and at the last minute been struck down with injury. Truth be told I don’t even like typing the word injury. !! Damn that’s twice I’ve typed it in one paragraph but it needs to be discussed. Every runner, in my opinion, has a distance where they can safely operate in, be this 40k, 100k or more. This is limited by their running gait, general genetics, weight, surface they train on, shoes etc. the list really is endless. Spend too much time outside the ‘safe zone’ and eventually its time to pay the piper.