Showing posts from 2009

Happy New Toe Nails

Since the marathon I just haven't hit that real training mark. Despite my best intentions, training has only ever felt okay. Never great. Which is disappointing, because I had gotten used to feeling great with running every day. Moving away from the stupid season that is the lead up to Christmas, it is now appropriate to look at how I can get back to where I want to be.

The plan outlined in Progression still makes sense to me. The fundamentals are fine, and really are not the problem. However, there are a couple of slight changes I now plan on making. These changes are not really about the technicalities of exercise science, rather more about my head space.

Where to begin?

It seems best to identify where the problems are coming from. No point fixing the symptoms if the cause isn't dealt with. Taking a good hard look at life and training I now believe the following to be the key to my lack lustre training:

Stress: selling the house, and now having only a few weeks with no new place…


So much for some quality running in the few days leading into Christmas. There have been too many people of sharing nature around me over the last week. Unforunately they have decided to share their gastro germs with me. This will leave me with doing just whatever I can before the New Year. As much as I tend to avoid the setting of resolutions for the next calendar, it looks like that's exactly what I'll be doing this time around.

It Isn't Just Overtraining

There have been many different methods touted to monitor training versus recovery levels. Overtraining as a concept now seems to encompass any regeneration period required from a training load. With the wealth of advice on avoiding overtraining and trying to ensure adequate recovery it appears to me that the pendulum is stuck on the conservative side. The ultimate standard being aimed for seems to being able to recognise when overtraining is about to occur, before it actually does.

The various methods suggested to achieve this mainly try to attempt to make it an objective exercise. Those from the scientific mindset usually like definitive numbers to work with as they are much easier to replicate, measure and compare than are subjective feelings. Methods include making decisions based on variations in resting heart rate, orthostatic heart rate changes, R-R variability, heart rate at set paces, ratings of perceived exertion versus either heart rate or pace, or various predictors from the…


Having covered the reasoning and rough plan of my training in a rather long-winded way, I thought it would be best to make things more practical. Instead of paragraphs of reasoning or justifications for what I am doing, I'll simply write down, what I plan to do.
No racing for the rest of the year. Just an attempt to get in a reasonable training load up until Christmas. Once into the new year I'll have a think about how my training is going, work out when my leave is likely to be and decide on what races I want to do. I still think starting out with getting my 10km time down before hitting the marathon again is the way I'll head.


There is a template for my weekly (which is really a 7-9 day cycle) training. The order of each session will vary depending on work. family and other life commitments. So my VO2 runs will not always precede my long aerobic runs. I'll make a decision on the order from the perspective of only a few days, trying to make the most of wha…

New Values

Over the previous year my training status progressed considerably. Twice I found it necessary to adjust my heart rate zones. Over the last month of training, I noticed these adjusted zones became almost redundant. I am heading back into a new training plan I need to put down some heart rate guidelines. My last few races and, particularly the marathon provide me excellent reference points for these zones.

Using four intensity levels I have the following:

VO2 V: 170-188bpm
Threshold T: 160-169bpm
Endurance E: 141-159bpm
Base B: <= 140bpm
HR maximum is 188bpm.Resting HR is approximately 40bpm, but I never worry about measuring it any more.

The key difference is how I define the Threshold zone. It used be 153-169bpm, but with my training progression and values from races, it is clear my threshold is well above 153 (which was taken from the Maffetone formula). Key reasoning for the upgrade is I was able to sustain a pace, that was a little below the point of lactate accumulation for about 30k…

I'll Consider Myself Educated

A very successful training and racing stint over the last year points out I have got a few things right. By now I should know at least a little bit about running. With a degree in the topic, work experience in various coaching and training roles plus a good number of years of competing in endurance sports (mainly running), then you would hope I would be on track by now. Using the back drop of my recent marathon training, I present a kind of summary on the important elements of run training.

Science is only an attempt to explain:
Just because something is scientific or involves formulae, doesn't mean it will work. There are plenty of training packages or diet advice being marketed as science based. Using a one or just a few numbers to define training intensity, load or recovery is too simplistic to be used all the time. How can you put into a number the elements of sleep quality, toll of work, family responsibilities, recovery requirements of reducing interval rest periods from 2min …

The Last Bit of 2009

The first training cycle is out of the way. I've had some catch up sleep. Feeling good again.

Now where do I go to from here?

The short answer is base building. Which of course raises another question?

Building a base for what?

Naturally that leads to more questions, which lead to more questions and I really need to keep to basics so I don't get caught up in the details and miss the overall concept. At this stage I don't have plans set in concrete. Instead I really just have an idea of where I want things to head.

The Idea

No racing for the rest of the year.In 2010 my main aim is running another marathon in the second half of the year, most likely Melbourne again, but may not be.Naturally I want to run faster again, with the outlook to working towards a preferential start in the Melbourne marathon within 5 years. That means running sub 2:50.In the meantime, before I start specific marathon training, I want to really get my 10km and half marathon times down.I will probably go on …

Athletes Run

Being at the end of my first training cycle, it would be time to take of whole I am responding to the training. The eight days ended up only involving running. No time for the extra swim or bike ride and not even a go at the weight room. It was hard enough managing to fit in the runs. Choosing the my heaviest rostered work work to start, I should have anticipated this a little more. At least I am used to modifying the training according to how I pull up from work so no big deal.

The Week That Was

Just to confuse those working a normal 7 day, Monday to Sunday lifestyle, I started my week on a Friday and continued for 8 days to include the following Friday.

Friday (number 1)
Up at 5am to drive straight to work, from which I complete my morning run. Just grabbing the gear and food I prepared the night before, allows me to sneak out of the house without waking the little one and my wife so early. If I'm efficient enough I can get in a 40 minute run. Today I hit a hilly course, over most c…

Gotta Start Somewhere

My first structured run back was simple. A hilly circuit before an early start at work. Nothing much to it, just 40min of running. It felt great to be back in official training. The run did point out that I have lost a a fair amount of fitness, including specific strength, flexibility, basic workload tolerance and of course pace. All of this was to be expected.

I'm aiming to keep the plan simple. The aim at the moment is to build up a high level of base for the rest of the year before I work out where I really want to go with my running. To that end I am working on having key sessions on 8-9 day cycles against a back drop of sustained aerobic running, a couple of strength sessions and optional swim or bike ride.

The key runs will be:
Long Run (2 hours)VO2 maxThresholdSpeed/AgilityThe rest will be interspersed with steady aerobic running, and if needed replaced with much easier recovery style sessions. The amount of high end could be considered minimal to begin with. Performing only …

Lack of Posts

No blogging for over a week reflects my lack of running. It has taken a lot more to shake what turned out to be a sinus & upper respiratory tract infection. I have definitely been missing covering the kilometres out on the trails. Finally on the mend, still with some antibiotics on the go, I am finding my energy levels are again picking up. I am keen to start training properly again.

With the extended lack of training, I will have to accept that have entered detraining territory instead of simply recovery post marathon. The first few weeks of training will have to take this into account. It will be easy to train beyond my current fitness capabilities. The solution will be to have a few days simple running, to ease back. No heart rate guidelines, no set speeds or paces. I will just go out for a run each day. Vary my normal routes and hopefully finish each run feeling refreshed and ready to do more. From that platform I will gauge my response and develop a more formal program.

Break-In (down) Period

One of the many infective bugs attacking Melbourne has changed my plans on getting back into training over these two weeks. A ridiculous cough has interrupted most of my sleep and combine this with more than plenty of extra work hours, the time, energy and health just isn't there to train well. In fact, attempting to catch up on sleep is really my goal at the moment. Needless to say, I'll be missing the Eltham fun run tomorrow (plus I'm now working an extra shift instead). At least I've some extra time to sort out where I want to head with my next training plan. More on that later.


After the false training start, I took a few more days off. Ate more food, drank plenty and finished off the last my non-training lifestyle. Even so, I still snuck in a couple of runs. I needed to get my head around what I wanted to achieve in training, plus needed another reminder of what it is like not living my usual healthier life.

I'll give myself about a two week break-in period which will include running most days. I'll stick in a local 10km race, a longer run and maybe something else faster, but the rest will be around steady aerobic and as long as I feel. In between I throw in some strength training, a couple of bike rides and a swim or two. Once I get an idea on how my body is responding, then I'll nut out a more structured plan.

False Start

Nearing the end of two weeks downtime I decided I wanted to get back into training. So I picked last Monday to start on a more triathlon orientated program. The basic intent was to build some good conditioning using the different disciplines and intensity levels. The break from running everyday (yet still training) would likely work to stay injury free. The plan seemed solid, yet flexible. Over each 8 to 9 day cycle I had up to 12 training sessions listed in order of priority. I never expected to hit all of them, but the priority system meant no matter what came up I knew what session to pick and could be happy with what I left out.

The basic premise of each cycle involved a sessions in each discipline that focused on building endurance, working at or above threshold intensity, plus an easy or technique orientated workout. Supporting this was a bike/run transition plus some strength training. It looked quite manageable.

My view of this training quickly changed once I started. It wasn…


Currently the training plan isn't really one at all. I'm taking at least two weeks to catch up on other things. In that time I'll only perform whatever exercise I feel like. So far I haven't been for a run. Luckily I haven't come away with any injury or the like from the marathon.

Melbourne Marathon - 42.195km

Surprisingly there were no moments of stress or doubt over the final pre-race hours. Maybe being at work for the two days lead up provided enough of a distraction. Maybe getting out of bed at 04:30 meant I hadn't really woken up until race start. My brain wasn't fully functioning in the morning. I'd left my sunglasses at work the day before, so picked them up on the way to race. Then thought I left them in the car once at the MCG, and was without them for the marathon. Which was fine, except they were in the bag I was carrying and could have had them for the run. At least I didn't notice the lack of sunglasses during the race.
The warm up felt good. It started with some slight heaviness in the legs, that soon gave way to a light, springy run. Even standing at the start line, I was relaxed and keen to get on with things. Rob De Castella's speech was perfect. No pretending the day was going to be easy.

The race started. I now have no idea if we had a coun…


Unofficial gun time.

Enough said for now.


The last day before I get up ridiculously early to run a ridiculous distance. Yet I enjoy it. Enjoy it to such an extent that I have spent six months working towards it.

I've run a good number of races from sprint to ironman distance triathlons, running races of all distances too, including a 24hr rogain. I have a background in the science of human performance, coached others and coached myself. Finally it has all come together this year. Because this time the lead up now simply feels routine.

The stress levels are low. There is very little doubt.


My goal is to run sub 3 hours over the 42.195km. I will do what it takes during the day to make it so.

I'm reminding myself I have a good base of fitness behind me. I know what I am capable of running for 30km comfortably, plus I am now fitter. My half marathon times are faster than I really needed. I have completed a reasonable number of long runs. Race pace feel good. I am injury free and well rested.

On the day I need to remem…

Drink Stations

The Melbourne Marathon is aiming to be international level event. They are offering some reasonable prize money, it is host to the National, State and University championships. They are even offering extra support for some athletes. However, I believe they've missed getting one of the key fundamentals right.

It is important to get the drink stations correct. After all, race nutrition and hydration is so important during the marathon. Initially they were going to provide only Powerade NO SUGAR as the sports drink: ie. no liquid carbohydrate source during the race. This changed after plenty of complaints. Now they are providing Powerade Isotonic, which is a 6% carbohydrate and exactly what should be provided. However, the problem is there is no consistency as to when this is provided. I was hoping for it to be provided at every aid station (approximately each 2.5km) or at the least, every second station (5km). This is not the case. Instead there are varying gaps, and no pattern that …

Carbo Loading

Unfortunately it doesn't involve drinking beer.

The Australian Institute of Sport provides a fact sheet that summarises the current scientific view and gives some useable examples. This is very similar to how I am approaching. The sample menu is almost identical to my three days of the loading phase. However, there are a few slight differences.

The fact sheet states that a depletion phase is not necessary. All that is required is a reduction in training and a high carbohydrate diet for 3-4 days prior to race day. It doesn't take into account that my training has been reduced for 10 days. There is a difference between simply increasing muscle glycogen stores above normal levels and maximising these stores. I would prefer to have 200mmol/kg ww of stored muscle glycogen, instead of 150mmol/kg ww. Both values are above normal values, but it could mean the difference of performing 3% better instead of 2% better on race day. I'd like to attempt to achieve that benefit.

As a result …

The Marathon Taper

As with the rest of training, there is an art and science behind a good taper. Interestingly the taper period causes lots of stress, discussion, self doubt and unrealistic expectations. With feelings of being unfit, heavy and flat alternated with some exceptional speed in the legs. Combine that with extra time to eat or worry about losing fitness, it is no wonder it is mentally a difficult period. Add to this the usual amount of conflicting opinions, and misinformation that pervades through the fitness and sports communities, it is clear why many struggle to get things right in the lead up to race day.

There is some good research on the topic. While the science doesn't answer all questions, it does provide a good guide. Combine this with the experience of has been found to work, and we should be getting close to the a good taper. So what are the guidelines I like to work from when constructing a taper?

IntensityThe intensity should be held at current levels. Possibly even slightly i…

Biggest Return

The athletics track was the perfect place for the last hard session. 6x1000m run in about 3:45, equivalent to 10km race pace, with 200m float recovery. The great thing about this run is it felt good. The intensity was up, the heart rate was around 90% of max, but the speed felt natural. The shortened recovery periods were just enough to ease the mild lactate build up without too much drop in the rest of the physiological work load.

Benefits of this type of run include stimulation of VO2max, increased neuromuscular efficiency, strengthening of type I, and IIa muscle fibres, facilitation of the lactate shuttle, mild stimulation of muscle and blood buffering, and stimulation of most aerobic enzyme activity. Essentially all the elements I wish to enhance beyond just simple endurance for the marathon.

Best of all, the session felt how I hoped it would. No struggle, just good smooth running. The exact confidence boost I needed to get through ten days of doubt during the taper.

The Last For (a training) Effect

There are only a few days between injury recovery and the official start of my taper. I need to fight the urge to prove myself with a few ridiculously hard training bouts. So instead of pushing my limits and trying to add that little bit of extra fitness, I'll play things relatively safe and train within my limits. I a physiologically very fit, but as is usual, the weak link is connective tissue. My lower right leg has few issues which cannot be fully rectified in the next two weeks. So I have to keep this in mind with the last few key sessions.

As a result, I've had to wrap my mind around the concept that I'm maintaining my fitness instead of improving it. With acceptance of this idea, things to do get easier. It takes less training to maintain a performance level, than it does to reach it in the first place.

The result is three last sessions.
ThresholdLong AerobicVO2 IntervalsI've left out the anaerobic work, as the injury risk is too great versus the limited return.Alr…


The acute management has worked. The mixture of increasing training load, with a focus on recovery and remedial exercises in between has worked. I've now been predominantly pain free over the last few days of training. Yesterday I was able to complete a high quality run without any problem during or afterwards. A total of 16km with a solid 10km progression starting at 4:00/km and finishing at around 3:45/km.

An easy weekend to lead into next week. Then a 2 hour steady run on Monday and 6x1000m repeats on Wednesday should ensure I continue to carry my fitness into the final 10 day taper. It looks I have managed to maintain my performance base, I just missed out on the opportunity to add that extra kick on top. Naturally that's bringing in a few doubts for the marathon. Then again, those doubts do tend to creep in during the lead up to a big race.


Today was meant to another Coburg Harrier's Fun Run. The same 12km course I raced last month. It was also meant to be my last race before the marathon. Unfortunately injury has changed those plans.

The good news, is my foot is responding as it should to treatment. Ice, elevation, NSAIDs and some light remedial work is doing its job. The running is very, very limited and modified slightly. With the pain almost non-existent and the swelling significantly reduced it is now clear the key injury is to the right digitalis extensor longus muscle. Specifically the distal tendons. There is also some less than great response in the anterior compartment of my lower leg. Part of the medial tibial stress syndrome complications over the last few weeks.

After some complete rest, my running has progressed as 10min stupidly easy, 15min moderate and finally 30min comfortable today. The last two runs were on the treadmill, so I could eliminate downhill running which aggravates the problem. In order to…

Extensor Tendons

After the half marathon on Sunday I was feeling really good. A few general aches and pains, but nothing that seemed out of the ordinary. Running felt good the next day except I wondered if there was a little bit of inflammation on the dorsum of my right foot. Then on Tuesday there was no question about it. Plenty of diffuse swelling with a decent amount of pain signalled an injury.

In short it's the extensor tendons of the toes that are causing me grief. It is a typical presentation:dorsal, diffuse swellingpain on active extension of the toeseven more pain on passive plantar flexionpain during runningSo the last part of my Specific phase is about ensuring I recovery from this. Luckily I'm already at the fitness and performance level I believe is required to hit my goals in the marathon.

The extended increased training load, combined with the recent MTSS, plus with the go hard approach on the uphill segments at the half marathon seem to have exposed my weakest link. (yes Paul, I …

Sri Chinmoy Yarra Boulevard Half - 21.1km

Sunday's half marathon was a culmination of eight days worth of training and racing that if I can handle, should see me right for the marathon. Those eight days were a fine example of marathon multipace training.
Last Sunday was the Grape Run, 13.2km at threshold to VO2max intensity with some decent hills.Monday hit the anaerobic pathways with 4x120m, 5x500m, 4x60m hill sprints.Tuesday was 3 hours worth of running at around 5:11/km (below marathon pace (MP)).Wednesday was a very easy day, as the MTSS (aka shin splints) was threatening to flare up again.Thursday was 26km @ MP (plus 3km of warm up/cool down).Friday was the world shortest run due to being stuffed after night shiftSaturday about 15km at a steady clipSunday: 21.1km worth of racing.A good amount of work above, below and at marathon race pace. Averaging out to 115km per 7 day week, my work rate has been solid. Interestingly the stiffness and fatigue I've been experiencing at the start of each day seems to be easing a …

Training, and More Training

Apart from a couple of days of recovery for shin splints last week, every day has had a decent level of training. The consistent workload looks to be working. I'm having to keep a close watch on my right shin, as there is a bit of an ache every now and then. Having identified the issue is with the insertion area of the tibialis posterior muscle, the management and preventative/compensation work appears to doing its job. That said, this week I've swapped the order of the steady long run with the marathon pace run to move the faster paced stuff further away from the speed day. It's the faster work that is aggravating things.

Each day my legs are always a bit stiff and sluggish at the start of every run. This sometimes remains for the whole session. A few seconds per kilometre have been knocked off the paces at or above anaerobic threshold level as a result. The promising note is the slower stuff, is naturally getting faster, but is actually feeling easier. For example, yester…

Yarra Valley Grape Run 13.2km

It's a road I have cycled over many times. This will be the first time I've run it. There is something appealing about running a point to point course. Even more so when its from a pub to another pub. Leading in to the event it was unclear whether the distance was 13.2 or 13.7km as all the information varied between the two different distances. In one place they do write "(approx)" which I guess covers that half a kilometre difference. On the day the finish line announcer kept claiming it was 13.5km. I'm now convinced it was 13.2.

The couple of easy days to allow the damage over my tibia to heal seemed to do the trick. This made for a risky exercise by racing. Feeling rested, on the background of some very good training means I could race very hard and undo the recovery of the previous two days. I needed a simple solution.The answer was to ignore heart rate and any splits and simply go out at a solid tempo along the course at least until beyond halfway. During thi…


A day after I get asked for some advice on shin splints, I end up having to deal with the problem myself. Really I'm not a fan of the term shin splints, but then the more medical sounding medial tibial stress syndrome doesn't cut it either. After all, a syndrome is just a collection of symptoms. In short, it have pain at the front of my lower leg.

It is a bit difficult to ascertain exactly which tissues are involved. It could be the muscle, tendon, interroseous membrane, the periosteum, swelling within the anterior compartment or a combination of some of these. The good news is the pain is new. With a little hindsight I should have been aware there was some discomfort in the area over a couple of days leading into yesterday's planned fast-finish long run. As Georgie Clarke has pointed out in an interview in R4YL, athlete's aren't necessarily as in tune with their bodies as every one likes to believe. We are more of a slave to the training program. The run became a s…

Brain Harvesting

Secondary - Aerobic Conditioning

I'm slightly confused at the aerobic conditioning runs being 'secondary'. You call these 'in between' runs. Are you not planning to have any easy days between the first four sessions (long run, marathon pace, V02, speed/anaerobic)? - Ewen

To clarify my current training. I tend to list my training runs in order of importance, rather than the intended chronological order. Being a shift worker on a rotating roster means the order of training is dictated by when I can do it, instead of what would otherwise be ideal.

So listing the sessions as follows:
Long Run Marathon Pace Run VO2 track intervals Speed/Anaerobic Conditioning Aerobic Conditioning Strength/Core ConditioningMeans over an 8-9 day period I will complete training in each of the above categories. Usually I will have a day of slightly easier running at aerobic conditioning intensity in between the harder runs (ie. long, marathon pace, VO2 or speed), but this isn't always the c…

Specific Marathon Training

This is it. The last chance to mould my mind and body for the marathon.

Before I reach the taper I have five calendar weeks of Specific Phase training. These five weeks will be covered as 4 x 8-9 day cycles. Each cycle will consist of the following:Long RunMarathon Pace RunVO2 track intervalsSpeed/Anaerobic ConditioningAerobic ConditioningStrength/Core ConditioningThe first four in the list are key, not-to-be-missed runs. The aerobic conditioning and strength work, while important is still secondary.As mentioned previously, I was heading towards a premature performance peak. Running a marathon on the downside of a peak is an invitation for a very poor result. Therefore, I am attempting to put the brakes on the recent, fast increase in racing ability and hopefully have myself in even better condition on October 11. To do this, the next five weeks will consist of some relentless training. The key difference will be instead of having some really hard key sessions that require 2-3 days of …

Coburg Fun Run 12km

I highly recommend the monthly fun runs put on by the Coburg Harriers each month. I have participated in their various events over all my years of running and they never disapoint. They have found a simple formula that works. Accurate, traffic free courses. A low key, very welcoming and friendly style that includes everyone of all abilities. With a little bit of tradition thrown in, it is the style of event that first really got me hooked on running.

This Sunday was a 12km affair. Two laps of an out and back course, starting at the Harold Steven's Athletic track and run along the Merri Creek path. A bit of wind and a reasonable hill makes for a good race. I'll be repeating the effort next month over the same course too. My plan is to go for placing and not worry too much about time. For me it's not a time trial, just a chance to try out some different race tactics based on how things unfold.

Still feeling a bit of extra weight in my legs, I decided on a long warm up. It real…

Until You Feel Better

Thankfully this week was scheduled for recovery. After the last 3 cycles of threshold training followed by a big effort in the Sandy Point Half last Sunday, I've been wasted all week. The key ingredient for a recovery week is actually recovery. While it sounds obvious, I do have a history of not really taking it easy enough. This time I've pretty much had no choice.

In the marathon build up, easy weeks have planned to include a 400m time trial, a maximal aerobic function test (MAF) and an easy 2 hour run, plus easy recovery/aerobic conditioning runs. This is easier than my harder weeks. The problem has been that I need it to be even easier of late. Maybe I'm getting old, but it's probably because I am making such rapid improvement, something has to give at some point.

I ran the MAF test the day before the half marathon and came out with a 4:19/km pace. A big improvement, and under the 4:20 I have been hoping to achieve prior to the marathon. The 400m time trial had to be…

Sandy Point Half Marathon

Any race that uses a picture of myself as promotion makes me think I should compete in it. Wouldn't want to disappoint the masses.

Last year my race slow and cold over the same course. A time of 1:30:20, was disappointing and a kick up the backside to get to what really works in training. Since then I have put in a lot of consistent kilometres and have seen some improvement. I was definitely going to race faster this year. Based on my race results over the last few months the hope was to see if I could get down to near 1:24:xx.

The weather was very different this year. Far from cold, in fact I think it was our warmest night in a few months. However, there was a Damaging Winds warning issued, with predictions of 65km/hr gales to slow things downs a bit. The winds hit, according to the weather sites: NNE averaging around 50km/hr with gusts of 76km/hr. That made for some interesting race tactics. Luckily the rain held off until after the race.

For some reason I felt ready with only 10 m…