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Showing posts from 2014

The Ultimate Weekly Run

Looking back through my years of training and racing, I've attempted to sort out the common elements that have lead to my successes and the also the what has been a feature of my failures. Unsurprisingly the elements leading into my better races were mostly the opposite of my not so successful events. The usual standards of consistency, good volume and long gradual progression featured. That's all well and good, but very generic. Could I zero in on a certain run or type of training session that was consistent with my better races?

Surprisingly I could. That training session is what I tend to call my Threshold Run. Looking back through my training logs it is clear that this particular training session is a consistent leading into my best races. With hindsight, it is also noticeably lacking leading into races that were well below par. So what is my Threshold Run?

First up I will say state it isn't an exact pace or an exact intensity. Over the build up of training the session…

Next Round

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With a week of not much running post 49km of the Surfcoast Century I feel somewhat rested and ready to start my next training plan. There are still a few concerns following on from the hamstring, but it's at a level that can be dealt with as part of training. The next phase will focus on the basics and what I know works for me.

What works?

First up is having enough time to build up. I am targeting the Two Bays Trail 56km in January which gives me a bit more than 3 months to prepare. Next on the list is a gradual progression with in built recovery. Finally is to focus on the blue collar training.

The result is the following weekly template. Importantly my week is usually a 9 day affair, but every now and then may be 7 or 8 days, usually depending on my work roster.

Easy 60minEasy 40-50min + hill sprintsThreshold run 10-26kmEasy 60min  +  Weights (basic)Easy 40-50min + hill sprintsLong 3:00-5:00Regeneration RegenerationHill reps   +  Weights (extended) The order of the above may vary…

Surfcoast Century 2014 - Relay - Race Report

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Opting not to run the full 100km this year I was looking forward to covering one of the later sections of the course without a whole bunch of kilometres already in the legs. Then the plan changed. One member of team Bumdogs decided to go and break his foot before the race. Down to three runners, the solution was a reshuffling of who ran which leg, and I was the lucky winning the esteemed privilege of running two legs. What's an extra 21km?

Since I was coming off a rehabilitation program rather than race training, 21km was definitely a lot more. My focus changed from going out at a solid effort, to just taking it easy, enjoying the run and covering 49km without doing any harm to my hamstrings. A different style than my usual race approach. I was looking forward to soaking up the Surfcoast Century in a much more relaxed way. So those two legs were the first two. In a short description, leg 1 is 21km of mainly beach running, sand and some rocky sections. Leg 2 is 28km taking us up on…

Rebuilt?

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One week out from this year's edition of the Surfcoast Century. This year I have elected to stay away from covering the full 100km. A decision I made before injury, but turns out it was an even better idea. Instead I am participating in a team of 4. I've scored the 3rd leg which is exactly the one I wanted. Being the longest at 28km with the biggest climbs and descents thrown in it is described as the crux of the course. I am looking forward to hitting this section with having 49km already in the legs. It will be great to attack the hills rather than trying to be efficient.

This race will also a test of my rehabilitation. I do not feel race fit. The training kilometres have been limited and I definitely haven't had any of the big sessions that give me confidence leading into event. Instead I've been working on strengthening and redeveloping my hamstrings, especially the proximal tendons. The training has involved almost daily strength work. Running has been a mixture o…

Feed Me

It is possible to find some form of reference to justify almost any nutritional guideline. A lot of these will even appear to be good science. Throw in all the opinion pieces and ideologies on the topic of what food you should be eating there is no end to contradictions. In my view nutrition is important. Day to day nutrition won't win you a race, but poor nutrition can cost you a race.

Amongst other things, I believe a less than adequate approach to my food contributed to my hamstring injuries. Why? A combination of laziness and an over emphasis of hitting a certain race weight. I had falling into the habit of not planning ahead with my food, and often grabbing what was faster and easier. This isn't an ideal approach and becomes magnified when work shifts encompass two meals. On top of this I tried to keep a limit on my intake in order to shed a couple of kilograms to be lighter for the marathon. As the time went on I found I had to eat less and less to lose a small amount of…

Feels Good

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Finally a long run came together. Great weather, great trails and the running felt good. Despite being well away from the paces I'd really like to be hitting, everything else appears to be on track. Not quite what I'd call a therapeutic but it was a good indicator my body is finally getting back into shape.

At the moment the numbers and science is somewhat distracting, and makes it harder to hit a good mindset about my training. This particular run helped highlight that focusing on the process, the now and the art of running does more than just feel good. The numbers do not mean much if there isn't the rhythm, fluidity or naturalness to my running. There is a big difference between forcing the legs to hit a certain pace versus that pace being the final outcome of getting it right.

But I'm Not The Patient

Despite describing my training plan in my last post, I haven't exactly followed it this week. Nothing to with my fitness or motivation. Sometimes other things in life trump what essentially comes down to recreation. Nothing too bad, but when one of the little ones has a tonsillectomy, the recovery for them means lots of time by his side, very regular medications and not much sleep. So naturally that takes the place of training. From a running point of view the week has been wiped.

One thing to learn from this episode is how important sleep is. While in theory I do know this, and should have learnt from past mistakes that sleep deprivation is a bad thing. Being a shift worker I am very familiar with running on reduced shut-eye. That familiarity also means I tend to underestimate just how tired I am and can persist in pushing through when I shouldn't. I tried getting in some training, but it is amazing just how sore the body can become purely from a lack of sleep. As a result I …

Limiters

I'm starting to feel like a runner again. This really just comes from the fact that I've been for a run nearly every day for the last couple of weeks. I've had to rethink my approach so as not to develop the same problems that limited the marathon. Those problems still exist to a certain extent, so there is a good deal of rehabilitation required within the training. So here's the basic outline of my current training approach...

I only have two races planned at this stage. First up is as part of a relay team at the Surfcoast Century in September where I'll be covering 28km in the hilly section. Second on the list is the Two Bays Trail 56km in January. I am hoping to throw a few more events in, but I'll see how the body goes.

With those races in mind, the basic structure is a 9 day cycle that looks little something like this...
easyIntervalseasyHill sprintseasyThresholdeasyLongeasy The easy runs are exactly that, easy. Something between 40-90 minutes depending on …

Training Big

Alright, back into it. Time to train big, think big, dream big, eat big and rehabilitate big. I celebrated this new go big mentality with a massive track session of 2x1000m. After the lack of running recently, that hit the legs harder than is traditional for me. Not exactly the levels of training I tend to aspire to. Of course I have the hamstring injury to blame. With a bit of creativity I should be able to get nearly two years worth of excuses out of that.

Rather than big kilometres and huge intensity I have to take a different approach. Maybe I have to focus the on big picture instead. As appealing as having a pig head buried in the sand can be, forcing the kilometres up and ignoring current limitations may not be the best approach. So reality, wisdom the weakest link all combine to dictate the limits of my training.

The big picture includes running for life, but also more than that. Just running is not enough. I still want to improve. Run faster races, and run longer races. Essent…

Return

Right, I'm building back into running. The blogging should also increase. So what's happened since my marathon in Traralgon fell apart?

I took 3 weeks away from running. For me that's is a ridiculously long time, and in the last 17 years, I've only ever gone that long without a run maybe twice at most. Why 3 weeks? It wasn't all injury related. A two week holiday in Malaysia with the family played a big role in the time frame. While there was some good running option where we stayed, I simply had no interest in exploring them. Sun, cocktails and pool were the clear winners. However, I did get into the weights a fair bit and focused on some important rehabilitation.

So what went wrong back in the marathon?

The short version is I did a hammy. The longer version is more complicated. Unlike a sprinter or football player, the injury wasn't from a one incident where I felt it go. Instead it has been building to be a significant problem over quite a period of time. Un…

Traralgon Marathon - Race Report

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A good time out from this race I had big goals. Not only was I looking for a PB, but I was aiming to absolutely smash it. Reality got in the way. Life, work, sleep (lack of) and plenty of other things collectively limited my training time. That isn't an excuse or complaint, but an acceptance of the way things are.

As a result I haven't devoted any time to updating this blog. The energy or interest in it hadn't been there. After all, I was struggling to get in the training I needed. Coming into the race I'd refined my goal to still having a crack at breaking my 2:58 PB. Some of training had gone quite well. I felt very comfortable at race pace, my nutrition was well tested and I had honed my sense of pace and efforts very well. What was missing was any extended sessions at race pace or any runs at all beyond 32km. That was a big deficit in the required endurance. Despite the last point I still planned on the sub-2:58 with an all or nothing race plan.

Race morning felt a…

Great Train Race 2014 - Race Report

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Somewhat of an iconic race, The Great Train Race is a bit of local favourite for Melbourne. A race over the hills from Belgrave to Emerald where you pit yourself against the course itself, other runners and the old steam train Puffing Billy. Even the distance is different. Slightly longer by 300m this year because some of the trail was washed away in heavy rains a couple of weeks ago, giving 13.5km to cover. In typical Melbourne style the weather was a mixture of cold, sun and rain.

Last year I finished in 50:25 and had plans of going under the 50 minute mark this year. The extended distance made that a much harder ask, adding some 60-90 seconds extra of running time. The morning started well with a bit of a catch with some other runners, a warm up where it seemed easy to hit my form. That had me feeling confident, which I needed because my run the day before could only described as a dismal failure, where I ended up resorting to walking. Still I wasn't too concerned. A few flat d…

Half Marathon APESG - Race Report

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I have absolutely enjoyed the Australasian Police and Emergency Services Games. Most years I get to compete in the state version, this year adds in competitors from around Australia and neighbouring countries and has created a new level. The level of competition stretches across all the sports from complete beginners to elite and everything in between. I've had the luxury to enjoy a lot of the track and field both as a competitor in the 5000m and as a spectator for the other events. The great culture amongst emergency service workers appears to be universal and delivers a friendly, but intense rivalry and competition.

My second and last event at these games was the half marathon. It was the race I was really aiming for. Not to take away from the 5000m, but my heart definitely was for the 21.1km. I do tend to favour the longer stuff. Plus with less than two months to my next marathon I probably need to be better at the longer event.

Conditions were great. A cool and sunny morning. …

5000m APESG - Race Report

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With all my years of running, I would I don't have much experience on the track, and 5000m definitely hasn't ever been a feature. At the end of last year I was struggling to find any sort of speed in my legs. To find the improvements I wanted, the 5000m was the perfect event to put me out of my comfort zone.

From all around Australia and from New Zealand, across the various emergency services 33 lined up on the blue at Lakeside Stadium. In my Ambulance Victoria colours I felt as ready as I could be. There was clearly a vast range of abilities and it was too hard to tell pre-race who would be at the pointy end. I was happy to see fellow ambo and semi-regular rival Mark Clarence in the mix.

We all crowded the start line, but once the gun sounded the spaces opened up immediately. Looks like my recent training had dialled in the pace and I moved through the first 1000m right on 3:36 as planned. This was my opening bench mark, setting up a reasonable first kilometre and allowing ev…

Peak Versus Taper

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Leading into the Australasian Police & Emergency Services Games, I was a little conflicted with how to lead in. I want to race at my best, but I know if I went in with a full taper then my preparation for the marathon to follow would suffer. Not because of any lost training sessions, more so because if I hit a true peak in performance, then there is very likely a slump to follow. So I took an approach that hopefully still has me performing well without carrying undue fatigue through my races and still has me improving in the weeks afterwards. As usual, what went on paper ended up a bit different when it came to putting the runners on.

This is what the previous two weeks of training has looked like:

Sat: 4x2km at 10km pace, with 400m jog recovery. Total 17km.

Sun: Easy 18km.

Mon: An attempted interval session, but realised I was getting sick (thanks to a sharing family), realised it wasn't going to happen. So ended up taking it easy for 12km.

Tue: Easy 11km

Wed: Feeling better, so h…

The Elusive Session

That hard, confidence building session. That fast and long set of intervals. The run that leaves you destroyed for the rest of the day, but once done you know you are ready to race.
They are planned ahead of time. On paper they look deceivingly simply, almost easy. You know there is a lot more behind the numbers, an x, a /, and an @. When training is going very well you look forward to these runs with an almost insatiable appetite. When it isn't going quite as well these runs come with a sense of trepidation.
Of course you don't have to match what is on paper. That is just a guide. A starting point. The essence of these sessions is to push your limits in a training context. You can try to predict those limits, but you don't know them for sure if you don't go past them. Sometimes, if you are lucky you surpass your prediction and you don't have to put the limit to a test. This is when you know you are ready. Other times, you fall well short of those predictions.
My buil…

The Power Of Hill Sprints

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There are a number of elements that influence how well my training goes. One that seems to have a surprisingly large influence is the regular inclusion of hill sprints. In short, my training can go well without them, but everything goes so much better with them.

What are hill sprints?
You'd think just saying hill sprints would cover it, but no, it doesn't. Running terminology is all over the place with people claiming they sprinted for 5km or that they completed a 10km marathon. So I define a hill sprint as an all out effort, running up hill for a very short distance.  How far? Generally nothing that takes over 20 seconds, but usually 6-10 seconds. How steep? Whatever I have in front of me, variety of incline is good, but I'll opt for the steepest if there is a choice.
What's the point?
Well there's a few. First and foremost I get a training effect on the higher threshold, fast twitch muscle fibres that don't get recruited in the majority of my other training. It…

Progress

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Not much blogging, but plenty of running. I've been pretty happy with the training so far. I've been more consistent through the last two months than anytime over the previous year. There have been a few sessions that didn't go to plan. I've had to take an extra day easy every now and then. A little bit of mild illness cut down some kilometres. Yet it is all coming together.


The volume is creeping up, and I hope the 100km+ weeks become more of the norm. Also I am seeing some very distinct progress, both in the fast runs and the long runs. The fast repetitions for the 5000m are feeling more and more natural and I'm able to the hold the desired paces for longer. For the long run, while my paces aren't up where I really want them, there have been big improvements from run to run. The endurance threshold, or decoupling point is being pushed further with each run. If the improvement continues, even at a slower rate, I could just be where I want to be come the marath…

Soft Versus Smart

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There are plenty of times when the plan on paper just doesn't become a reality. This week I was hoping to continue the trend from the previous week and hit over 100km. My end result was only 46km. Monday I had to drop my run due to a combination of a lack of sleep, due to a night repeatedly being woken by one of the kids, plus I felt like I fighting some form of illness off. I hoped that maybe I could play catch up with some of the kilometres later on.

One day down, a regeneration run highlighted my legs were still trashed from the 10km race on Sunday. Then I hit the track for a few 400m repeats, ending with a 200m near sprint. I was happy to put down some extra repeats, all at a faster a pace and feeling easier than the equivalent session a couple of weeks ago.

An easy follow up run and I then a sinus infection took hold. While I was able to get through the rest of activities in my life, a fever and a splitting headache meant I chose to skip two days of running to try and get som…

Sri Chinmoy Yarra Boulevard 10km

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Originally I had this race marked for the following week in my calendar. So in the last few days I did a little reshuffle of my training and managed to fit it at almost the last minute. I really wanted to run a proper 10km to help guide my marathon preparation. After last weeks, somewhat even pacing at the 12km, I wanted to test myself a bit more. So the plan was to go out fast and see if I could hang on. Not usually my strong point, but every now and then I find I can actually run faster than I thought.

The course is a 5km loop on the Yarra Boulevard. A reasonably smooth bitumen road that is gently undulating the whole way. Nothing in that you could call a hill, but basically a series of false flats that takes 10-20 seconds off your kilometre splits if you're not careful. I chose the 10km option breaking with my usual style of choosing the longer event on offer. That meant two laps for me, mixing it with the 5 and 15km runners as we all started together.


A moment's silence an…

Victoria Road Runner's Yarra Bend 12km

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Time to be my fitness to test. Have I improved? Is there any speed in the legs yet? Am I stuck still back in ultra marathon paces? Is there hope for my marathon goals? In an attempt to answer these questions I picked a 12km race down in Yarra Bend. It is suggested that is a cross country or off road course, but that now has different meaning than it used to. It has been many years, since I last did this event, and as it turns out, hills now also have a different meaning.

The race is organised by the Victorian Road Runners, who put on the type of events I like. Straight forward, small fields, accurate courses and a feel good nature that encourages some great racing. They don't go for the big fanfare, show bags, or any of the extras. Just old school running. I love it. The race had either a 6 or 12km options. I chose the longer, meaning I had two laps to complete of a course that was a mixture of concrete and bitumen bike paths, gravel, stone & dirt paths with a few hills thrown…

Making It Work

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Three weeks of training have been covered. A couple of points from my original plan have turned out not to be working for me. First is that I have some significant gaps in my long run. Mainly that it falls apart when I attempt to up the pace beyond anything down at the slow ultra end of the spectrum. No where near the marathon range. Second point is I was trying to cram too many key runs close together. Trying to squeeze in fast 400s, hill reps, a half marathon pace run and a long trail run into one week meant I wasn't performing well in key sessions. Plus it combined to cause some knee trouble requiring a couple of days off running and reducing a weeks volume down to 45km. That won't help if it gets repeated.
The solution can be characterised by doing a little bit less a whole lot better.  For the long run I will focus on bringing up the average pace weekly, rather than pushing out extra kilometres beyond 30km. I know I can run further slowly, but I really need to bring up the…

I Run

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Trail, road, track, marathoner, ultra runner, cross country, barefoot, heavy shoe... blah, blah, blah. Why can't I just be a runner? Why do people feel the need to classify and fit everything into a specific box? Personally I think it has a lot to do with the commercialisation of everything we do. Fitness is now sold as package and has to be structured otherwise there is the perception it isn't optimal. There is nothing wrong with specialising, but why let that define and limit you?

How about just running? Check out a bit of history and be impressed with the terrain and results. There is a lot be learned from the following video, not mention some fashion we could bring back.


2014 Marathon Training

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I'll keep this one fairly dry. With the first lot of training already under way, I've noticed I've got some significant gaps to address. Having run a 100km last September and covering a 56km race earlier this month just do not translate anywhere near to the level I wanted. Time for some honest training.
I'm aiming to the Traralgon Marathon in mid-June. On the way I'll have a good crack at the Australasian Police & Emergency Services Games in April where I'll race the 5000m, 10km cross country and half marathon in quick succession. I'll throw in a handful of other races along the way. My training will be geared towards developing the speed endurance required to perform well at the Games with the background of developing marathon specific endurance alongside this preparation. Beyond the games will then become completely directed at the marathon, depending on my strengths and weaknesses as they develop. So the following guidelines will take me into April.


Sub 3 Hours in 2014

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It's settled. My goal this year is to run my fastest marathon. After throwing around timeframes and race selection, I've decided to target the Traralgon Marathon in June this year. Given where my current fitness is the timing is tight, but it fits in with other aspects of life. Also, extending the plan out further makes me prone to make some of my more common training mistakes.
Training from now will be geared towards the marathon, and this should still allow me to hit my goals at the Australian Police and Emergency Services games along the way.
I've just put a few days of good basic running in the diary and am feeling good. A few days off work, beach and camping certainly made that easy. My legs are feeling recovered from Two Bays. Now the challenge is to get the required consistency in mixing it with rotating shift work, family commitments and all the other aspects life throws up.
Along the way are plenty of other runners sharing similar goals of running sub-3 hour or faste…

Two Bays Trail Run 56km - What Should've Been

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I had big goals for this race, but due to plenty of reasons this post is a lament to those goals. First up the race organisers were well aware of my concerns there was no aerobics or Zumba warm up before the race. I mean it just isn't an event without it. Managing to push past the issue with true champion thinking I found myself lining up for the start.
Another issue cropped up. The race started on time, there was even a countdown clock from 10 minutes out to let everyone know. Clearly a problem, as how can a race start on time, we weren't held in position for over half an hour getting cold and listening to crappy speeches from people telling us all how inspiring we are. As result I lined up a little back from the front as it was now really hard to be mentally ready.
Then I realised we'd skipped straight to the run leg. I mean as a triathlete I can't really swim so that's fine. The real issue is I had spent the last week incorporating my GoPro camera into my aero …