Showing posts from 2013

Peak Training

About 2 to 4 weeks out from a goal race is an interesting time for me. This tends to be when I develop a good idea how my training has been. It also is the time to  target what will make the biggest difference on race day. I have moved away from labeling periods of training with start and finish dates as I find I work better treating training as a continual evolution where elements progress rather than suddenly change. Of course you see clear differences comparing 4 months out to 10 days out, but from a week to week perspective the change is blurred or intertwined. This approach gives me the freedom to be comfortable stepping away from the more typical periodisation that is found in most generic training plans. Of course to do this I also have the confidence in understanding how I respond to different styles of training.
I've now reached a bit over two weeks out from the Two Bays 56km Trail Run. For a reality check my training over the last three months has been far from consistent…

Some Inspiration for Two Bays

This is the second half of the 56km course (or the complete 28km course). It's a brilliant course. Only a few weeks to go. Thanks to runforbodyandsoul for the footage.

Sum Of The Parts

Improving running performance comes down to creating a training environment where the sum is greater than the total of all parts. This is harder to do than most think. Many create a training situation where the sum is less than the total of all parts.
We know the cliches. Trainers rather than racers. Don't leave it all on the training track. Here I look into the concept of getting the most out of your training to maximise race performance. Despite that being the main point of training, it is easy not to achieve. I've made plenty of mistakes and had a good number of successes. Overall I would say I tend to race at a higher level than my training indicates. Back when I used to participate in exercise studies which measured performance values like VO2, muscle fibre distribution, substrate metabolism, and power output my race results at the time were consistently above lab predictions. Here are my ideas on the topic.
Know Your Target You cannot excel in every distance at the same tim…

27 Hours Per Day

Again there's been a lack of posts lately. The reason is quite simply I'm struggling to fit everything into each day that I want. I've missed more training than I like, but looking back it's just how it is. Needs versus wants have been in competition. That doesn't mean run training has been poor, but the level of consistency I want hasn't been there. I haven't been able to hit those extras that really give confidence 4 weeks out from a big race. Instead I need to have more trust that the benefits of training will appear on race day without proving them with one or two breakthrough runs leading in. On the other hand I've put in some good solid runs that with them ticked off the list I know I can complete the distance. The question is how fast? How do I get the most out of the few weeks during the stupid season?

Coburg Lake Classic 10km

A few more training runs have passed since my last attempt at racing the shorter distance. There have been improvements since the Hurstbridge Fun Run. The Coburg Harriers are definitely one of my favorite race organisers. I usually get the opportunity for some head to head racing.

A wet course, that somehow managed some reprieve from water falling from above. No flooding this time, just some puddles on the concrete bike trail and about 50m worth of muddy grass make up what's underfoot. The topography is fairly flat, with some undulations that can drag some speed out of your legs.
Both the 5km and 10km started at the same time, with the 5ker's having their startline about 20m in front. I lined up at the front of the 10km runners and weaved through the slower of the short course runners before the events split in different directions. I found myself out in front at this point. I dropped down one gear and let a small pack of 4 others form around me. We looked like we were all goi…

Relay For Life

Cancer = bad. People fighting cancer = good. Played a small role in the Whitehorse Relay For Life which raises funds for Cancer Council to fight the awful disease.
I was part of the Ambulance Victoria team called Pierre's Pilots. My part was easy, run a few laps of an athletics track and otherwise socialise with the team. The running was sporadic depending on who was there at the time. So stints of 800 to 2400m with resting as long as took for others to have their turn. It's a strange way to run. Eventually it gave me 24.4km, or 61 laps. Why 61? Well it was one more than a mate ran earlier in the day. Have to add some comepetition.
Speaking of competition, there's always the Tri-services Trophy to race for against the Police and Fire Services. Unfortunately it appears to have been marred by some suspect lap counting by another team. Surprising and disappointing. Still it was fun to be part of the event and not use the watch or heart monitor and keep the running purely social…


For distance running, the long run is the most important run in training.

Is it?
As a stand alone statement I no longer think it's accurate. Yes, the so-called long run is important, but it may not be the most important run. I am including race distances from 10km through to 100km. I'll also add that I don't believe one type of run session repeated each week can ever truly have the tag most important. Improving running performance comes down to creating a training environment where the sum is greater than the total of all parts. This is harder to do than most think. Many create a training situation where the sum is less than the total of all parts.
Back to the long run. If you want to race well in long distance, then of course long training runs will feature to some degree. But how much? How long should your long run be? Should be longer than your race, or shorter? How fast should it be run? These are the typical questions I have considered over the years and that also mak…

The Rock

Nothing like a few days away. Wind, rain, sun, sand, surf, wildlife, beer, food, wine, scenery and new trails. Enough said.


Rotating shift work. Long hours, constantly changing sleep patterns, a different cycle than most others and plenty more reasons shift work isn't appealing. Sounds like there's a lot to overcome to get in any sort of reasonable training.
Over the last month I had the opportunity to get into a more normal work week. No night shifts, following the usual seven day week and having weekends as my days off. As it turned out I couldn't wait to get back on shift. After 13 years of shift work it is definitely what I am used to. I know it isn't for most people, but Monday to Friday doesn't quite work for me.
Now I am back into the rotating shifts I feel like I have a better handle on how I can fit my training together than I did over the previous month. Taking 8-9 days for a training cycle has always made more sense to me than seven days. Even before I was a shift worker I believed this. Round peg, square hole.
Now it's a matter of getting the system working. Keeping on top …

Hurstbridge Fun Run 12km

Back into racing. Picking a local event, the Hurstbridge Fun Run to get a low key, 12km hit out. The goal was as simple as race hard and see where my fitness is at. Not surprisingly it wasn't my best race. I definitely felt like an ultra marathoner trying to run a short race. What I liked about the event was that it had a country town, community feel to it. I almost felt like I was in some Australian television series. The wife put in an appearance in the 3km event and took second place for the open women's, plus my dad ran his first fun run. Not too bad in retirement age.

Perfect weather. A course that was a mixture of gravel trail, cross country grass and mud, plus a hilly road section meant times weren't going to be people's quickest. Not knowing the field, and not knowing if I was capable of pulling out any speed, I just settled into a fairly normal start for me. I went a little quick, but nothing extreme. This allowed to get a gauge of the front runners over the f…

Just A Runner

Erring on the conservative side, the kilometres covered this week were about the same as last. The progression came from a some more hill work and a longer and better quality long run. It feels good finishing runs feeling stimulated rather than destroyed.
In the aftermath of running 100km I've noticed people make assumptions about you. The biggest standout is that I don't think highly of other peoples achievements at shorter distances. Another is the labeling of fitting into a specific category such as a trail runner versus a road runner, or an ultramarathoner. Apparently I must think marathons are short now.
My views aren't exactly what is assumed. If I was to put any label on myself, it would simple just a runner. Running goes beyond just enjoyment. It is hard to explain, but the best I can offer is it just seems right when I run. There are plenty of other things I enjoy too. What makes me tick if often different to other people. It works the other way too.
One main thing I…

Universal and Individual

These guys have brought out some amazing running videos in the past. Every now and then they just nail it in providing the style of inspiration that works for me. I'm keen to see what season 3 brings.

What Do You Think About?

My first week of training has been knocked off. For the first three weeks my work roster actually gives me a more traditional 7 day week. That's a rarity for me. The week definitely is conservative.
Total distance run was 53km. All easy kilometres except on Tuesday where I ran hard for a single rep up the Yandell Hill. It only takes 1:50 to finish, but it is steep.  This was followed by some more moderate hill work in the same session. It is a starting point. Thursday and Friday were complete days off as I needed the sleep, plus I had accumulated more fatigue in my legs than I was comfortable to carry into another run. Sunday I finished with a very comfortable 2 hour run into the trails. Then focus was mainly fun, but unpicked the more technical trails to help re-establish the trail agility that has dissipated from my legs over the last few weeks. Plenty of rock hopping, twists, turns and river crossing.
Out on the comfortable runs I often solve plenty of life's problems in my h…


Even managed to get myself into one of the promo pics.

56km of fun. Details here.

Listen To The Legs

It's only two weeks since my 100km race, but it feels like a year ago. In that time I wouldn't say I've done any training. I've exercised as I've felt like, but only to a level that has me feeling good. In there have been a bit of weight training, a swim and four very easy runs.

The body and mind feel even better than rested. I'm ready to start what I consider training. Trying to take on lessons of the past, I'll endeavour to base the training on how I respond. It is easy to quickly feel awesome and ramp up the training in a short time after a big race. I have done this multiple times previously and the result is a false start followed by a substantial slump and extended down time. I want to avoid that this time.
So I need to be alert to how I am truly absorbing the training. How quickly does fatigue accumulate? Does a low grade, but deep pain persist into the next run? Does the connective tissue tighten? Do imbalances increase during a run? Do I find mysel…

A Few Things Learnt - Surfcoast Century

If you are going to race a 100km trail run, then chances are you will learn a few things along the way. Here are a few lessons I have taken away from this year's Surfcoast Century.

New Limits
This isn't about how fast I can run. It is about how much I can get out of myself. It isn't something I can objectively measure or fully explain. The biggest thing I learnt is that I can push myself further and dig deeper into whatever it is than I thought possible. The combined onslaught of the body's defence mechanisms creates a situation where it feels almost impossible not to slow down at the very least. I've been there before and pulled out some efforts to be proud of, but this time it was a new level. Does that push my threshold out further? Will I be able to tap into it again?

Mental Training
It is cliché, but so much of an ultramarathon is mental. Without a wide selection of well practised mental techniques I would not have performed so well. 100km means for a long day, …

Surfcoast Century 2013 - Race Report

I'll start by giving away the ending. This was definitely my best race ever. It goes beyond that initial caught up in the moment reaction, I dug deeper and got more out of myself than I thought was possible. The result was I smashed the race with a result I am absolutely stoked about. This report is how it unfolded. It isn't whole lot of number crunching, heart rate analysis and dry facts. That isn't how I raced. Here's my attempt to convey my best day of racing.

Grand plans and big goals initiated my training months ago. Having covered the 100km in 12:26:01 last year, I was thinking I could slash that down towards 11 hours. The training did not go as expected. No runs longer than 40km, and not much over 30km, plus quite a few gaps. I was genuinely worried about my ability to finish let alone be happy with my time. In the final two weeks I spoke about running sub-12 hours with the full size beer stein as incentive. Honestly, I didn't believe that was possible at al…

Ticking a Box, Run

After watching the reconnaissance videos of the course that I posted in my last blog, Number 43, I remembered a section from the SCC Back Fifty video that I was really looking forward to running last year. Unfortunately it was this section where I was really struggling and had been reduced to a walk, despite the very runnable terrain.
This year I plan on amending that. The section is in Leg 3, in the Otways on the trail loop through the Currawong Falls. Last year I recognised an exact spot by the rock step, that I found myself slowly stepping down over, instead of smoothly running through. Below is a still capture of that spot...

This gradual descent followed by the 7km climb afterward is where I should make up the most time compared to last year. Now get out there and do it.

Number 43

Only five sleeps to go, or 4.3 if I follow Harro's thinking. The traffic on has increased as D-Day approaches. The training has been done. Just a handful of comfortably quick 200m reps tomorrow, an easy 10km on Wednesday and then complete rest for the final two days. My main aim this week is to get in as much sleep as possible.

For those who want all the details check out the full race program here.

The weather is looking pretty damn good. 9-19 degrees Celcius, with a possible shower and light winds. Looks like a bit of rain at the start of this week, should leave a few wet, muddy and slippery sections. Maybe that will make some of trails a little slower, but it should mean the sand will be harder packed. Swings and roundabouts with that one.

Some details:

Solo Competitors: 155

My Race Number: 43

Live Race Day Tracking:

Twitter: #surfcoastcentury

Course Video:

Working Out The Details

Only eleven days to go to the Surfcoast Century. The training is what it is, nothing I can do to change the past. The focus is now on making the most of what I have. That involves a few things, but for the most part it comes to sorting out the logistics.

I've been looking at the race maps, looking at how people went last year, how I race last year and comparing it to what I see as my current strengths and weaknesses. I've crunched a lot of numbers, paces, distances, heart rates etc. and looked at things in a scientific, objective way then added a few layers of art over the top. That's led me to settle on some time goals for this year. I'm not as optimistic as I was a few months ago, reality has crept in. Still, I am looking to running faster than last year's 12:26.

The biggest influence on goal setting is the 1 litre beer stein. To get the full size, I need to run under 12 hours (not 13 as per last year). Essentially my race plans are geared to achieving this.


Three Weeks

Six days straight of no running due to illness brought me up to exactly three weeks out from the Surfcoast Century. The rest of the month had further gaps too. My long runs never exceeded 40km. So what am I doing to make the most of what I have?

So far the runs have been:

Saturday: easy 14km, with some hills. Run at what feels like my natural running pace, which is turning out to average around 5:15/km at the moment.

Sunday: Long with full race kit. 26km. Some trails and good hills thrown in. This was about hitting what I thought would be the appropriate feel for race day. Unfortunately that turned out to be a bit slower than I wanted, but it is what it is. The run still felt about right.

Monday: easy 14km. Same as Saturday, except I ran the loop in reverse.

Tuesday: Hill reps. Not exactly what most people would picture. I have a hill that varies between 10-14% gradient, 1/3 is even stairs and the remainder rocky and grassy single track. On the up, I alternated between one repetition …

Back On It

Well overdue for a check in. I'm still racing the Surfcoast Century and it is less than three weeks away. Has the training gone well? Am I ready?

The short version is no, the training hasn't gone well. August was meant to be my biggest month of training. Hitting about 120km or so each week, with long runs of 40-60km, plus an assortment of hill sessions and prolonged tempo runs. Training went in the opposite direction. A mixture of extended shifts, a mild back injury, kids waking at night and destroying my already limited sleep, then some illness and this August saw the least amount of training and greatest number of days off. Not the ideal build up to a 100km race.

Prior to this my training had been going well, and I was quite happy with the base I had developed. Now I'm healthy and feeling surprisingly fit. I need to get in some good training, but there is a definite limit on what I can so close to the race. So the is two weeks of solid, persistent training without any ri…


On the plan are a number of runs I've marked as Fundamental. What on earth is a fundamental run? For those looking for a physiology definition there will be disappointment. It isn't based exactly on a threshold, it's not a set heart rate zone, but it is prescriptive in pace.

There is probably a better term than fundamental for this type of run, but it works for me. Originally taken from concepts used by Renato Canova, but I don't strictly follow his explanation. I've calculated the pace range to be based on what my recent race results suggest I am currently capable of for a marathon if I modify training for a couple of months to hit that time. This gives me my marathon pace. The fundamental pace is then simply 80-90% of that.
For me that works out to be 4:04/km for marathon pace, and fundamental is 4:52-4:28/km. It is clearly aerobic conditioning. How I use this pace range depends on what event I am training for. If my target was a marathon, then I would really pus…

Hill Sprints

For some further insight into training for the Surfcoast Century it is worth picking apart the individual sessions. Of course, single sessions don't make the program, in a total is greater than the sum of all it's parts, kind of way. How everything comes together over the weeks is more important. That said, the devil is in the details. I'll start by looking at the Hill Sprint session. Since I am preparing for a 100km race, sprints might seem far removed and even irrelevant to some. After all, how is sprinting as fast as you can related to the slow pace and different mechanics of an ultramarathon?

Hill Sprints will make a weekly appearance. After a thorough warm up, which will likely include some mobility work I hit the main set. For this I pick a hill that's at least a 10% grade, but preferably steeper. The surface will vary weekly as I will pick a different location. Each repeat will cover roughly 70-200m for 8-12 repeats. Recovery will be some very easy jogging, for …


Picking the Winter solstice as the starting day of my next training block leads to some cold sessions. At least I know each day from now leads to more sunlight. The first three days all started well before dawn. The temperature was below freezing point. You know it's cold when you finish your run with ice on your beanie and beard.

Missing Summer, but still getting out for the runs. It is definitely easier to run faster when the temperature doesn't start with a minus. When it turns this cold, a bit of my top end speed and stamina seems to be sucked out. As a result my interval session wasn't up to where I wanted. I was happy to find the next day's 20km was around the required pace.

Focus: Surfcoast Century 2013

Training now moves away from the generalised style I've been holding recently. Time now to kick in the focus and aim directly for the Surfcoast Century in September. That gives me exactly three months from today.

From here on in I will mainly be working on an 8-day week, with a fairly standard weekly structure. Most variation from this will be a byproduct of having to find different ways to get the training in. Of course there will be progression embedded into this structure.
Day 1: Easy - Fundamental run 8-10km Day 2: VO2 Intervals: 4x1000m @ 3:45, 1000m rec @ 5:30, progressing towards 4x2000m with 500m rec. Total 12-15km Day 3: Fundamental 20-25km Day 4: Hill Sprints 10km Day 5: Regeneration - Easy 8-12km Day 6: Long 40-60km with race gear/nutrition. Aim for even style pacing, err on easy. Only after distance is covered then push up pace. Day 7: Easy 10-12km Day 8: Fundamental 12-18km on technical terrain.
A pace guide for flat terrain is: Regeneration: 6:30-5:40/km Easy: 5:30-5…

Downhill Running

Having claimed downhill running as one of my strengths, it is probably worth delving into the details. In most of my races when the course heads down I tend to move faster than most of those around me. Often I close gaps or make a move on the descents and it tends to feel relatively easy. That said, there are some aspects of downhilling I don't think I'm at the required standard.

Before I get into my thoughts on the topic, I recommend visiting the following two links if you want to improve your downhill running.
Ultra168: The Art of Downhill RunningMile 27: Downhill RunningPreparation

The obvious needs to be pointed out. If you want to improve you have to put in the effort. Without concentrating on improving technique, without conditioning, and without proper recovery the gains won't be much. That said, improving downhill running does not require as much volume as most other aspects of run training. A bit of prehab and rehab work can go a long way when targeting downhill ru…

CODE RED: A little off topic

I believe this is the first post on my blog that is somewhat removed from my training. The link is that it does directly affect my training as it is about my job. Since my job is how I earn an income, involves a good portion of my week and has its various stressors as is the case with most people's work, it influences most things in my life. The main reason there has been big gaps between posts of late is work is taking up more of my time. At least I am managing to get some reasonable training in.

I'll try and keep this short and to the point. I am a paramedic with Ambulance Victoria. At the moment we are in the midst of fighting for fair pay and conditions. There are other issues such as plenty of failures in the ambulance system of providing resources for patients that need us. Response times are getting longer, we are being ramped up at hospital for ever extending times and unavailable to respond and we are working longer beyond the end of our rostered shifts. The main pro…


After 4 good races in 5 weeks it was time to take a break from focusing heavily on race preparation. My mind needed to move away from constantly making sure every session had a target, analysing paces versus effort and pushing to hit difficult target times. Plus various parts of my body could do with a break from the higher volume of faster running.

So I took that mental break and went out for a few easy runs with the idea just to enjoy them. If I didn't want to run, then I didn't, if I wanted to go longer then I did. I also snuck in a swim and returned to some basic weights. As the week progressed all the niggles I had been developing from racing dissipated and my body was feeling recovered. Interestingly over the week I still covered 84km, and it felt a lot easier than my recent 70km weeks.

On these runs I made a point of venturing off my usual routes. I found a couple of extra links between some of my favourite trails. One run I enjoyed especially was a long effort based on…

Great Train Race 2013 - Race Report

Hoping my hamstring would hold up for the race. With most of the week off, and just 30 and 40 minute runs over the last two days, I really had tried to ensure healing. Yesterday it didn't feel quite right, but was probably good enough to race. The big problem is that this course is all about hills. The same style of race where I injured myself in the first place. So I had the idea that I would race hard and take full recovery afterwards. No other races planned in the near future means I also have the mental space to truly take the required break.

Anyway, onto the race itself. 13.2km of hills racing against the famous Puffing Billy steam train. The elevation profile:

So far I've beaten the train in my attempts over the years. I'd like to keep that record intact. Check out the following video for an idea of what the race looks like.

Weather was perfect, minimal wind, a bit of cloud cover and cold (but not freezing like it gets here). A tentative warm up gradually relieved th…