Showing posts from 2015

I'll Just Take A Couple of Days Off

The family decided get all germy, and apparently it's nice to do everything together. For the most part I tend not to get too unwell. So when I developed a fever and other fun things that go along with it, I decided to take a couple of days off training. That should do the trick and have me back healthy and ready for some good sessions. Those two days extended out to a week with no training and some days off work.

Not quite how I planned it, but it is what it is. Since then I have been for a handful of very easy runs, and they were definitely the maximum I should be doing. Just enough to tick the body over and a reminder of what it has coming back to it, but not too much to send me backwards. Historically that would be a struggle mentally. This time it hasn't. Maybe I've been lucky enough there's been plenty of other stuff to keep me occupied. Still I am keen to get back to training properly.

I think I am nearly back to normal, so over the next couple of days I should …

Hello Sunshine

After sooking my way through the cold of winter I've been quite pleased by the warm weather lately. So have the reptiles too apparently. A blue tongue lizard tried to make a home in our yard. I haven't seen my friend Tigey yet. With the extra sunshine comes a few changes. Longer days and shorter nights welcome in daylight savings and luckily we remember to change our and clocks and Prime Minister (or something like that).

The most obvious difference when running is the increased need for water. For the most part I am guided by thirst. This works fine during the colder weather. When it heats up I find thirst sometimes isn't quite enough of a stimulus for some of the moderate to longer runs. It could just be habits, but I tend to fall on the under-drinking side of the scale. It's fine in the short term, but once the distance extends out the lack of hydration starts to show up. While I like the concept of listening to the body, sometimes it's the interpretation that c…

More Training Progression

Progressing goes beyond basic mathematics (see Training Progression). Another session that makes a regular appearance is what I tend to call my Med-Long Run. On top of a warm up and cool down I am running 20km at a pace between 5:31-4:53/km. The run is over mixed terrain, definitely including a few hills. Onto the basics progress is made by extending the distance gradually out to 30km. Once I have achieved that then the pace can be increased, starting back at the 20km to a range of 4:53-4:35/km. Sounds straight forward, but it isn't quite that simple.

Ideally I'd like to extend the distance each week, but over the last month that hasn't happened. A big part of progressing goes beyond the external numbers and you have take into account the internal load. Being able to complete the session isn't always enough. When I first covered the 20km at the desired pace, the recovery requirement was high. Four days afterwards my legs were flat and struggling. I definitely wasn'…

Training Progression

Without getting into all the extra physiology details, I want to talk about defining my training progression. At risk of sounding like a generic goal setting fluff post I have to point out that having a definitive and measurable goal is the first step. The usual goes in here; a time frame, and an objective end point that gives a pass or fail result. This can be anything like, I want to run sub 5:15 for the Two Bays Trail 56km race on 17th January next year, or be able to run 60km without walking by August 2016. Both those examples give a clear line where you can either claim to have achieved the goal or not. Close is not a pass mark.

In it's simplest form, progression can be basic mathematics. In distance running there are two main ways of making a run harder.
Increase the distanceIncrease the speed For my long run I aim to hold a pace between 5:31 - 6:00/km. I started at a distance of 25km, and progress by adding 5km once I can successfully hold the pace for the full distance. Bui…


Clearly I had lost some interest in maintaining this blog of late. That may of changed. The new enthusiasm seems well correlated to how my running is going. For most of the year my running has been in more of the just exercising category. This predominantly has been because some complications from a hamstring problem had imposed a ceiling on what I can do. Recently that ceiling has been raised and I've entered the training zone. I like it here better.

What's the difference?

Beyond the obvious of some longer and harder sessions, there is also definite change in my mindset. When exercising I was just aiming to get some good runs in. It was more important that the run felt good rather than having any other definite goal. Now my runs have clear cut goals. It may be simply to enhance recovery between the harder runs, or it may be to run a certain distance. Now my runs have time goals attached to most of them. While exercising I just ran within my limits and to how I felt at the tim…

When To Start A Week

Now into proper training. Time to make it work and get past a lot of the problems that have imposed on my running over the last couple of years. I'm implementing a tactic taken from one of my favourite articles on training for ultramarathons, Train Like A Mother - The (so-called) Guide To Effective Training. This tactic comes under the heading of Trick The Mind. It is as simple as altering the day I mark as the start of my training week.

For me I have never followed the traditional seven day week. Fifteen years of rotating shift work has kept me out of sync with the majority. Usually my roster is an 8 day rotation and I have always thought that my week starts on my first shift of that 8 day cycle. My usual roster is 4 shifts of 10-14 hours followed by 4 days off, though that first day off isn't really one as I finish my night shift at 7am and need to sleep for the day. Looking back that creates mental difficulties in that each week of training starts when I have my biggest com…

The Prologue

Back from holidays and the reality of winter was my welcome back. It took a few days to shake the jet lag, longer than I expected. I thought years of shift work would have allowed me to flick back into gear quickly. Turns out it's quite different.
So back into training. After hardly any running over the last few weeks and the added stiffness that 15 hours on a plane brings I needed to make sure my body was going to cope. That calls for a short lead in before I hit a full week of training.
This was a simple three days of training. An hour run each day, and some moderate strength training on the first two. Plus plenty of stretching. There were no pace goals on these runs. Instead they went like this:  1. Easy, just relax and enjoy.  2. Easy again, but mix in a few strides to kick in the nervous system. They felt very sluggish.  3. A solid effort over a variety of hills.
The runs did what I hoped and had me feeling better each day and seemed to eliminate the stiffness. It served as a retur…

Running In A Movie

Continuing with the holiday we ended up in Las Vegas. What happened here could  make for an interesting post, but it happened in Vegas and you know the rule. However we did venture out the Grand Canyon and since this is in another state it can be mentioned.
The Grand Canyon was definitely a highlight. We took in the Western Rim. To be cliché, words will never do it justice. There is a reason it is a Wonder of  the World. Made me wish I had the time join in on a run down below, but I'm not on that type of trip. With only having one day and the fact the temperature was sitting at 44 degrees Celcius we opted for some awesomeness. The combination of boat, canyon and helicopter delivered that and more.
Final destination was San Francisco. Turns out we didn't appreciate how good this joint is and only booked a short stint here. I was keen to hit those steep streets. On my radar were the Filbert St Steps. Touted as a street that was too steep for a paved road in one section. So on this…

Bloody Tourists

Onto the mainland of America and running just hasn't featured. I've discovered I'm almost impossible to understand over the phone in the USA if I talk normally. Face to face the Aussie accent seems to be a good source of friendly entertainment. I've refrained from talking about drop bears and seasonal work as a Koala Pusher.
In LA I didn't run, basically because I didn't feel like it. It seemed more of a chore than enjoyment. Instead I battled Transformers, wondered just how much concrete is used here, got some local background on some protests and rode some bikes along the beach with the family. Over to Anaheim and well, it was all about Disneyland and that other park next door. This was definitely good preparation for the ultra distance events. No running because 10 hours a day through these parks covers the leg work. Thongs (flip-flops to others) work the calves after this sort of timeframe. The Health app on the iPhone told me that's over 12km worth of wa…

Volcanic Activity

I don't tend to post much about individual runs unless it's a race. Every now and then a run is just so awesome it's good to relive it. My Diamond Head run is one of those. It may just be the fact I'm on an overseas holiday in Hawaii that I really enjoyed this run. There may also be a few other reasons.
After a few recommendations to head east out of Waikiki and do the Diamond Head walk into the volcanic crater, I thought this could make a for good run. Scanning the travel forums showed up plenty of non-runners saying you shouldn't run it. Main reasons seems to be it is hot and it is steep. Sounded like good reasons to run to me. Runners on the forums seemed to agree.
Waking with the sun I wasn't having any trouble with the time zone changes. Probably an advantage of shift work. The ball of fire in the sky already had a bit of kick to it. I do love summer. Plenty of people were out nice and early. A change from the quiet streets at home in the morning.
Having the …

Always Perfect Running Weather

It's winter down here and the wet, wind and cold has become the norm. Of course there is no such thing as bad weather for running. It's more about what you wear. The beanies, gloves and extra layers has taken over from just a singlet and shorts. Even rocking a bit of old triathlon nostalgia (to my wife's horror).
As perfect as the weather is down here, I think I'll go in search of more perfecter weather. Hawaii here I come. I'm chasing summer.

I Wouldn't Call It Training

Over the last couple of months my running is back to a good level. While not at my fastest, I'm not too far from my better times. Importantly I am running injury free, and the running itself just feels better. Towards the end of last year I was getting fairly frustrated with not being able to ramp up my training and having to focus on some less than exciting corrective work. Now it looks like that has paid off. With some good racing in the bag I am ready to take a break before I target a major race.

Right now I am not following any targeted training. Just exercising how I want. That still means a good amount of running, but it is for fun. Fun may still include hill repeats. Separate to just allowing some reprieve for the body and mind, the main factor in this break is a family holiday. It isn't a running holiday, but I will definitely get in some exercise. I relax better when I throw in some form of exercise.

As far as formalised training goes I won't be touching that unti…

Why I Don't Use A Heart Rate Monitor

Back in the 1999 I had my copy of Triathlon Into The Nineties, motivation to get fast and a heart rate monitor. I jumped right into the sports science of the time and hammered out a few Conconi Tests before I realised it didn't work for me. This fuelled the search to learn more, which also took me through a degree in Human Movement. For years I used a heart rate monitor to guide my training. The methods evolved over time and I certainly got a lot out of it. Over the last three years I've stopped using a heart rate monitor.

A recent tweet from @paulrunslong asking prompted me to look at why I no longer use a heart rate monitor (HRM):
Do you use a HRM regularly?  How does it benefit your training? prompted me to look at why I no longer use a heart rate monitor (HRM).

After my Polar HRM finally succumbed to over a decade of hard use a few years ago I moved onto the newer generation of gadgets. GPS became a handy tool that I have incorporated. However, the newer generation has pu…

There's Running and Then There Is Running

For the most part running is simple. Kids do it naturally. Unfortunately, as we get older we find ways to stuff it up. As adults we get pretty good at making running unnatural. My best runs have tended to be those runs that just feel natural.

It is easy to focus on the metrics of time, distance, heart rate, cadence and whatever else you can put a number on. It is possible to force technique, perform drills and run hard or easy without it hitting that natural sweet spot. For the last couple of years that sweet spot has been pretty elusive to me. It also seems hand-in-hand with reduced training tolerance, poorer overall results and more injury problems. This isn't a chicken or the egg situation either. The combination of all is so entwined you cannot effect one aspect without having effect on the others.

Without this natural feel to my running it is like I am missing the most important ingredient. Therefore, this is where my training leads me. When my running comes naturally, I can …

Great Train Race 2015

Back for my seventh run against Puffing Billy since 2000. There's been relatively few changes in this race over those 15 years. The amount of runners have doubled in that time. A seeded start system has been added to cater for more people on the course. The last section has changed a little due to heavy rains washing away some of the track, moving the distance up from 13.2 to 13.5km. The fundamentals have stayed the same. Hit the hills with a mix of sealed and unsealed roads and trail amongst some spectacular scenery while pitting yourself against a steam train. It's an iconic race and I love it.

Typically wet and cold features in the weather, but this year we had a break. Sunshine and pleasantly cool made for perfect running conditions. Dry train tracks apparently also means the train can travel faster. Knowing this race well I didn't really think about it until I turned up. Being aware of where my fitness is based on recent races I knew I was not at my best, but would ho…

Half Marathon - Emergency Services Games 2015

If there is one thing the town of Ballarat does a lot, it is be cold. This year was no exception. The good news is tradition continued and the wet stuff didn't fall from the sky during the race. Icy wind was really the only weather issue to contend with. Not too bad for racing.

With popularity increasing the field was up to 47. This included some extra quality up front including the current record holder. Some new blood and some regular rivals. Should be fun.

Last week's cross country confirmed my weak points in racing. In particular that was my top end specific endurance. Anything above the so-called anaerobic threshold I struggled to hold for any reasonable time frame. The intensity level of the half marathon should suit me better than a 10km. Of course, if I went out too hard or surged, that was going to be costly. In almost every year at this race I have gone out pretty hard. This time I hoped to change that.

Lake Wendouree hosts the 6km Steve Moneghetti Track. A very flat…

Cross Country - Emergency Services Games 2015

The Victorian Police and Emergency Services Games is back on. As has become my usual I've entered both the 10km cross country and the Half Marathon. These events are a week apart. First up was the cross country.

My expectations weren't as high this year. I haven't been able to get in the type of training that has helped me achieve some pretty good results in previous years. I still didn't want to miss it. Some good rivalries has developed over time, and I might be lucky and pull out a break through performance.

The course is two laps that are each billed as 5km, but being the same as previous years the consensus is its long. My GPS gave my 10.7km for the full race, but I will accept its about 500-600m long. Not an issue being cross country, but it helps knowing this when comparing times. I like the setup. Starting with an uphill grassed section, then some downhill, with a couple of turn going from grass, to dirt road and finally onto a paved bike track. The ground then…


Going since 2007 this blog was as an outlet for my thoughts on training and racing. Putting them down in written form has been a great tool for gaining clarity and finding a direct route from idea to reality. It's amazing how something can seem like a brilliant idea when just bouncing around inside your own scone, but it takes writing it out to properly see the challenges to making it happen.

Putting my thoughts in writing also gives me a break from constantly thinking about them. It frees me up to focus on other topics knowing I can come back when needed. A great bonus is that it spares my wife from being used as a sounding board for my running thoughts. That's a win-win right there. As a little added benefit I hope those reading have been able to gain some knowledge or ideas to help with their pursuits, or even just found a bit of enjoyment.

As with anything that goes for a long time there has been changes. There's been an ebb and flow in the blog. Just looking back thr…

Gaz Coombes - Detroit

This is just cool:

The Ultimate Modern Contempory Guide to Running When Technology Fails

I've the use of technology in my training. Back around the turn of the century I had the bees-knees in heart monitor and cycle computer combination. Since then training has always been tracked electronically. The amount of data accumulated is enormous, but what happens when that technology fails? What are the best strategies to handle this? How can we still get the best out of training without functional technology? So here I present the ultimate guide to running when technology fails...

GPS stops working:
Whether it fails to lock onto the satellites, just doesn't work or is completely inaccurate the solution is the same. Don't use it. Run anyway.

Stopwatch fails:
The battery may have died, you forget to press start or accidently hit stop during the run without realising. Don't use it. Run anyway.

Pedometer carks it:
Don't use it. Run anyway.

Power meter has no power:
First we'll go beyond the arguments of what a running power meter is really measuring. Next... Don…

Relaxed Structure

A week? This is quite a foreign concept to me. Years of rotational shift work of varying rosters that could be 8 or 9 day, or even 6 week cycles with the added fun of often been being swapped around every month has absolutely no link to the traditional 7 day week. There are pros and cons in this. Having a family throws the typical 7 day week at me, but that seems to serve to eliminate any sort of pattern or routine I could otherwise develop. It certainly creates plenty of challenges to training. It doesn't necessarily make it harder, just a different set of challenges than those working Monday to Friday.

Over the last couple of years I've been having trouble holding down structure in my training. Sticking to something fairly strict keeps leading to problems with over training and fatigue or injury. Backing off and being comfortable with taking recovery as needed has led to a lot of skipped training. It's been difficult finding the right balance. Sleep and extra hours at wo…

Watch That First Step

With my first week more of a struggle than I hoped, the following week was a big step up. The running felt so much better and easier. I made a conscious effort not to push the boundaries, but the improvement was substantial.

The most important change is I am finding it easier to maintain proper technique throughout all my runs. Of course I am still having moments when I fall back into the habits of the last few months, but it isn't a battle through most of a run. The pace on my easy runs has consistently fallen into the faster end of the range, plus feels easier. The weakness in my hamstrings and glutes is highlighted on the hills. I have to fight my body's attempts of looking to what it thinks is the easy way out, which is to cut out the last push of the drive on each stride. Consistency here will bring big returns after a few months.

On that note, I have already experienced improvement in holding that technique through a long run. This week's long run covered 20km with w…

Lazy Running

Back on it.

Unfortunately for my ego I'm not as good as I like to be. Missing is any sort of tolerance to a consistent workload. Backing up running each day is more of struggle than I am used to over the years. However, I'm at where I'm at.

Hoping to hit a minimum of about 10km each day turned out to be slightly too high a level to start with. When put against my running background this appeared to be a reasonably conservative starting point. So why wasn't it?

Of course basic deconditioning plays a role here, but that doesn't explain the level of difficulty I've through the first week. It stems from technique problems that I've developed over the last six months as a follow on issue after hurting my hamstrings. Basically I became a lazy runner.

The body is amazing at finding what it thinks is the easiest and most efficient way of doing something. It also tends to be pretty good at protecting a part that is already injured. At least in the short term. The bo…


Finally back into this blog. Unfortunately I feel like this is a bit of a cliché, but hopefully this is a new beginning. 2014 was far from my best year in running. It started with the big goal of running a sub-3 hour marathon. I chose Traralgon in early June and tried to hit the training hard. Unfortunately I struggled to get the mileage up and couldn't seem to absorb the training I needed to. On the day I ended up injured with some hamstring issues that had me essentially out for three months. Since then I haven't been able to get back to the level of running I enjoy and am used to. Part of the reason is that a lot of my time was taken up in other activities, in particular was the ongoing industrial dispute at work. For the most part that is settled and has already seen some historic changes. That leads into now.

Right now I almost like I'm starting from scratch. Over the last couple of months I've had trouble stringing together runs. Each run takes a lot more recover…