Half Marathon Emergency Services Games 2018

There’s racing. Then there’s racing the hard way. The Victoria Police & Emergency Services Games Half Marathon 2018 was definitely the hard way.

 

Even though my training has been aimed at future events, I felt it would have me on track for this race. During the week I was confident in the running over the last couple of months. I thought I knew the course. All I had to do was put it all together on the day. A last minute change in venue meant I no longer knew the course. Full credit to the race director, Tamara who pulled the race together at the last minute.

 

The Scene

 

Ballarat is notorious for being cold. The drive over reinforced that. The temperature started out at a nice 22 degrees Celcius at home, but when 20 minutes out of Ballarat plummeted down to 15. A few minutes later down came the rain.

 

Once at the race start, the rain decided stay away. The sun even snuck out from behind the clouds. Conditions were looking pretty good. The wind was trying to make its presence known. I remarked to someone, “It’s only wind, doesn’t look like it’ll be too bad.”

 

Today I felt ready.

 

A new, last minute course. The format for the 21.1km was simple.

⦁ 1.1km out and back loop
⦁ 4 x 5km circuits of Victoria Park

 

The track is a mixture of bitumen and gravel. All considered flat. It was pretty similar to the usual course around Lake Wendouree, just with a few more twists and turns. Other than the wind, the run should just be a matter of effort and whatever my fellow runners can deliver.

 

Flat Lay Emergency Services Games Half Marathon

 

Half Marathon Time

 

“Runners ready…”

 

Bang

 

I ran.

 

There was a simplicity in the opening loop. No clock watching. No over thinking. Just running. It came naturally. It felt right.

 

Coming into the wide turn around I was in second place. Coming out of the turn I was in first. As we finished the opener 1.1km I noticed there was a slight gap behind me already. Time to start the first of 4 laps.

 

The wind picked up. It gave me a nudge from behind and threw an acorn at my head. Might get interesting on the other side when it would be a headwind. I could make use of this.

 

I increased my speed. Seeking that balance between fast enough to gain an advantage, but without blowing my race later. It’s something I don’t get it right very often. This time I had a lot of faith in my training. While it wasn’t directed at the half marathon it should have given me a solid base. I’ve strung together a few 100km weeks. That should allow me to surge and recover more than usual.

 

Keeping this up for the next 2km put me a good distance out in front. I guessed it was something between 20-30 seconds. From here I thought I could settle back into something a little more sustainable. The plan was now to time trial to the end and respond to any attempts to catch me. Confidence was high today.

 

Which Way?

 

Suddenly the gravel path came to an end.

There were two options:
1. Cross a large intersection over a 6 lane road
2. Run on the verge of the road without a path

No way would the race course take us over either of those options.

 

I stopped. Weighed up my options and struggled to make a decision. Checking behind 2nd and 3rd were almost with me. We all decided we had missed a turn somewhere. Behind them we could see a lot of other runners. Had everyone just followed me?

 

We ran down the verge of the road. It was the most likely way to get back. The three of us discussed where we may gone wrong. We weren’t sure. After some running we could make out the track over in the distance. We cut across the grass. Back on course. Looking over my shoulder the other runners followed.

 

Closing down the lap. The detour didn’t add much distance. Maybe a bit over 100m. It did cost me time and gave away the lead I’d built. Running over the line I let the organiser know what had happened.

 

Some paranoia had entered my thoughts. Looking at every possible turn or side trail I now wondered where I should go. Other than that I was pleased my thoughts were in check. Not worrying about what could have been, my mind looked ahead and focussed on the now.

 

Let’s Try This Again

 

Again I pushed the first 2km of the lap. It was less effective this time, but I still create a gap. Around the back of the course and returning into the headwind. There was no obvious turn off to me. I was running with confidence when Mark who was in second place called out to me.

 

I’d missed the turn off. Mark had been smarter and asked a couple of random guys who appeared to be local. They pointed him in the right direction. For the same reason, the lead was gone again. At least I knew where the course went. That would be handy in for the last two laps.

 

My earlier viewpoint on the wind was now null and void. It wasn’t “only wind,” anymore. This was really hard. So hard I made a point of checking the weather observations after the race. Looks like we were battling 40km/h winds. That’s why it felt so easy to let it suck the speed away. If I’m feeling it, then others might feel the same.

 

With that thought I came up with a new strategy. I was worried I’d used up any kick I had in my legs. My best chance was to make the most of the volume I’d been running over the previous weeks. I pushed in against the wind. Only 9km in. This was going to hurt.

 

Somehow that had me out in front again at the end of lap 2. A boost from the wind at my back helped me find a solid rhythm. My mind was clear. I had found flowstate. The intensity was up, but I wasn’t having trouble maintaining it. Through the trees and the wind threw another acorn at my head. I was glad it wasn’t one of the pine cones.

 

Around the back of the course and up to the infamous turn off. There were now some markings to make sure nobody ran the wrong way. I certainly didn’t this time. Back against the wind and across the line marking the end of lap 3. I was proud of that lap.

 

Last Lap

 

The final lap. 5km to go.

 

Now the event was catching up with me. I was able to keep my cadence up, but each step was covering a little less ground. Despite increasing the effort, my pace was down slightly.

 

One advantage of the twists and turns on course is it makes it easy check out what’s happening behind. Second place was a new person. He was in a bright orange singlet, making it easoer to keep tabs on him. The gap was closing at a convincing rate. With how much I was hurting, I was concerned.

 

The finish line came closer.

 

The gap behind narrowed.

 

Into the final kilometre. I could feel my competitor behind me. I could hear his feet and breathing. Without looking it was clear he doing everything he could to pass me.

 

Now about 500m out. I’d invested too much into this race to give it up now. I felt sick as I forced my legs into a sprint. They responded and I was moving faster. It didn’t seem like it was enough.

 

Only 300m left. Somehow I found more than I thought I had. This was outside my training. Outside my fitness. The foot steps behind me seemed to vanish. Maybe I pulled away. More likely it was just too hard to pay attention.

 

The Victoria Police & Emergency Services Games Half Marathon 2018 was likely the hardest half marathon I have run. Consistent training put me in a good position. Happily I got more out of myself than my fitness suggested. My mindset worked. It was a throwback to my younger days when I used to be able to race above myself. This day I achieved exactly that.

 

It feels great to come away with the win.

10km Cross Country: Emergency Services Games 2018

Days like today are needed. Running provides more than just fitness and competition.

 

Motivation for running has been low this week. My mind has been on other concerns. Things I cannot control. Challenges and worry many of us face. A good run can help get those thoughts on track. The right kind of run can also remind you about great things in life. Today provided one of those runs.

 

Victoria Police & Emergency Services Games

 

Get Ready

 

My playlist spun out some tunes on the drive down. Gradually my mind absorbed the music and began to feel some relaxed readiness.

 

The race has such a low key feel. I arrived extra early as usual. This gave the opportunity to explore the top section of the course. The ground was so dry it was like concrete. A far cry from a muddy cross country. It would still provide it’s own challenges.

 

Eventually I started something resembling a run to warm up. It was probably the most easy going warm up I’ve ever done.

 

There was once a time when I hardly spoke to others before the race. It wasn’t deliberate. It was a byproduct of what I thought I had to do to become focussed. To reduce the nervous feeling. To be at my best. That has changed. I smiled to myself as I realised I was so comfortable socialising before race start.

 

 

Thinking

 

A bit of spraypaint between two witches hats marked the start. My foot pressed in on the dry grass behind the paint. I looked up at the small rise we were about to run over. Heard the call “On your marks…”

 

Pressed start on my watch.

 

“Go.”

 

That rise felt hard.

 

It shouldn’t feel hard. Why did it feel hard?

 

I’m in 4th place and the three in front look too comfortable. My mind flicks back through the previous week of running. At the start the of the week I procastinated and gave opportunity away to the unexpected. I missed some training. Delayed my key run. That key run went well. I nailed all the intervals. Now I’m thinking I did it too close to the race. The legs haven’t had time to recover.

 

Only 200m into the race. Why am I thinking all this? It certainly isn’t going to help.

 

Now heading down hill. I know I’m good at using gravity, but I’m not feeling the flow. Thinking is getting in the way.

 

Bringing my mind in on my breathing. The single point focus happened quickly. Using the mindfulness I’ve been practising do it’s thing. It was only four or five breaths and I broke the cascade of negative thoughts. It was a reset.

 

Thinking was overrrated. My body knew what to do. It had practiced it. Time to give it the freedom to get on with it.

 

 

Racing

 

The pace didn’t change. It didn’t feel so hard anymore. No clock watching. Instead I ran at what felt right. Comfortable in the uncomfortable.

 

Third place became my new position. The field spread out behind me, while the 2 up front still looked comfortable out there. Already 26 seconds ahead at the 2.5km turnaround. My mind was clear enough to allow some simple productive thought. I made to the decision to free myself from tactics. They were only going to get in the way. My best shot was to try to run the course as fast as possible. Basically continue doing what I was doing.

 

Just before 4km the hills start. Going up still isn’t my best point, but I have been working on it. I’ve improved my speed going up, but it now comes at a cost that I can’t pay back within a 10km race. So I approach the climb more like an ultra runner. Upping the cadence, keeping the stride relatively short and reducing the toe off I made my way up. My pace was a result of leg turnover and not from any power in my stride. It worked better than I anticipated. On this hill I moved up into 2nd place over all.

 

Briefly down, up again and down over the spray painted line. That’s the first 5km complete.

 

Repeat

 

A low grade burn was building throughout every part of my legs. The welcoming relief of dropping back into an easy jog touted a sales pitch. Luckily I was distracted with chasing down the remaining runner. Not that I closed down the gap since the turnaround. Let’s see what that gap is second time through.

 

My intensity was up. More effort was put into lowering my mental load. I lost myself for a moment in the irony of the concept. Which was also counterproductive. Breath in…

 

…breath out… back on track. Luckily my body was mostly on autopilot. It was doing what it was supposed despite my brain.

 

At the turnaround again.

 

No gain and no loss on 1st place.

 

A different runner was gunning for me from behind. He gave me the familiar competitive look. I love racing. This moment pushed the away my negative thinking. I was again back in the moment. Back to feeling the mix of intensity and movement.

 

Ambulance Vic Medals Cross Country Emergency Services Games 2018

 

Results

 

Along the path, back to the hills. My body didn’t slow. Running became physically harder. I was at the limit of my fitness. My lungs felt like they wanted to leap out of me to catch a break. The contents of my stomach considered following the lungs. It wasn’t enough to take the out right win. But it was more than enough for 2nd overall and 1st in my age group (40-44 male).

 

Flicking through my GPS data showed I managed to negative split the race. Gaining 1-3 seconds in achieving kilometre on the second lap. That’s something I don’t usually do in 10km.

 

This race more than just a simple cross country. It’s the people who make it.

 

Ultra Marathon Training: Block 4 Weeks 13-16

Welcome to the business end of training. Time to move beyond just getting fit, to getting race ready.

The four weeks of Block 3 went really well. Not every run was I hoped, but I had plenty of great runs. Better yet, I hit a new level of volume and consistency. I don’t aim for a target weekly mileage. Instead I focus on the individual runs and how they fit amongst the days before and after. The totals are a byproduct of that. I’m happy to say I covered at least 100km in each of those 4 weeks.

Focus

 

Following the Training Plan Overview the focus is:

  1. Emergency Services Games
  2. Increase Wings For Life race pace

 

Emergency Services Games

 

This has become an annual event for me. It is a collection of events to compete for the Victorian emergency services, police, fire, ambulance and the other services that make up trying to keep be people safe and well. It is a great to time to mix it up with work colleagues and not talk about work.

 

Instead we compete. The range of abilities varies a beginner in any chosen to sport all the way up to elite at times. I absolutely love it. Some friendly rivalry has developed over the years.

 

The first 2 weekends of this training block I’ll be racing. In the first week I’ll back off the volume. Let the legs absorb the previous 4 weeks of training. It won’t be a taper. Just part of the normal training cycle. Hopefully that eliminates the tightness and niggles starting to sneak in.

 

Between the 10km cross country and half marathon I throw in a long run. Likely 30km early in the week. The remainder will be dependant on how I pull up from the cross country.

 

Increase Wings For Life Race Pace

 

Racing over 10km and 21.1km in the first 2 weeks will contribute to this goal. In the last 2 weeks of this 4 week block I’ll get more specific.

 

I’ll extend the long run back out to 40km and try to hold the faster pace with a focus on trying to lift over the final kilometres.

 

The fast runs will now be targeting my race pace. These will be interval sessions, but quite different to the VO2max and anaerobic threshold intervals I performed over previous blocks. Time to move beyond just the feel and general intent of the run. It’s time to target specific paces over similar terrain to the race. This session becomes intense.

 

Intense Race Pace Intervals

 

On paper it looks easier than it is.

  • Warm up as usual.
  • Pick a speed 3% faster than race pace for the fast interval.
  • Pick a speed 3% slower than race pace for the slower interval.
  • Perform 8-10 repeats of 1km fast, with 1km slow.
  • On the last repeat end with the fast 1km and eliminate the slow.
  • Cool down as usual.

If targeting 4:25/km, a run with 8 repeats would look like this:

  • Warm up for about 20min.
  • 7 repeats of: 1km @ 4:17 / 1km @ 4:33.
  • On the 8th time, only run 1km @ 4:17.
  • Cool down for about 20min.

That would give a total of about 22km for the session with 15km at around race pace.

 

This session aims to develop the efficiency and feel for race pace. Importantly it will develop a better combination of fat and carbohydrate use. Running faster will stop that effect.

 

A Week In Block 4

 

  1. Long 40km
  2. Easy (40-60min)
  3. Easy (70-90min)
  4. Intense Race Pace Intervals
  5. Easy (70-90min)
  6. Intense Race Pace Intervals
  7. Easy (70-90min)

 

What’s your training plan at the moment?

 

 

 

How Not To Miss A Day Of Running: 6 Steps To Running Consistency

  1. Consistency rules in running. But life gets in the way. We skip a session here and there. That eats away at our consistency. How can we not miss a day of running?

 

Anyone can put together a good week of training. Most will put together 2 weeks. The numbers drop off at a full month. How many can back it up month after month?

 

Life, family, work, injury, health and my own head have all gotten in the way of consistent training over the years. Since returning from injury I’ve turned that around. This is what has worked for me.

 

  1. Know Your Goals
  2. Know Your Weaknesses
  3. You Can’t Do Everything
  4. Keep The Plan Simple
  5. Use Friction
  6. Switch On Switch Off

 

Life, family, work, injury, health and my own head have all gotten in the way of consistent training over the years. Since returning from injury I've turned that around. This is what has worked for me. Know Your Goals Know Your Weaknesses You Can't Do Everything Keep The Plan Simple Use Friction Switch On Switch Off

 

1. Know Your Goals

 

Be clear on your goals. The doubts will set in. When they do it really helps to know what you are striving for.

 

I chase goals that register something deep in me. Understanding what I want out of running helps with this. Further thoughts on this are in Run Alive.

 

Putting the goals in writing as clear, simple and measurable statements make them easy to reference. It leaves no doubt as to why I am training. Having these goal statements in a place I see often makes it easier to grind out a session when I otherwise don’t want to do it. Check out 2018 Running Goals.

 

2. Know Your Weakness

 

When are we at our weakest? When am I most likely to skip training? What’s my go to justification for slacking off?

 

Training at the end of the day is often a fail point for me. After a day of work, family stuff and assorted other items I find it too easy to justify skipping my run. By avoiding scheduling training in the evening I give this weakness less opportunity.

 

When my weekend falls on a weekday I have the advantage of training during the day. After dropping the kids off at school I run straight away. Trying to fit something else in before the run usually causes me to run out of time to fit in the training. Again I make a point of structuring my day to avoid this weakness.

 

3. You Can’t Do Everything

 

It is impossible to include every type of run in a training week. Trying to cover all bases just doesn’t work. Understanding there is a big cross over of training effects helps. Knowing what to prioritise is important.

 

Comes back to knowing your goals. Focus on what will lead you there. Then allow enough space and recovery to perform those runs well. Anything else is extra. Be careful with the extra, it usually gets in the way.

 

My main focus is aiming to run fast enough at the Wings For Life World Run to make it an ultra marathon. Along the way there I will be racing a 10km cross country. Using the 10km as a stepping stone towards the ultra marathon keeps me heading in the right direction. However, I have to accept it may not be my fastest 10km. Altering my training to achieve my fastest at the shorter distance will take me away from my big goal.

 

 

4. Keep The Plan Simple

 

Writing every detail in a long training plan sets it up to fail. I write out a basic overview which lists 2 to 3 key points for each block of training. As I come up to each block I right out about 4 weeks at a time. Each run is listed as a headline rather than a detailed description.

Headline: Long 40km

Description: Start very easy, making an effort hold back the pace over the first 3km. Then hold 5:35/km for the remainder of the run. Accept I will likely have to push the intensity heavily in the final 5km just to maintain pace. When running uphill focus on being relaxed but ensuring good form, don’t worry about pace. Use the assistance of gravity to bring back some of the time on the downhill.

 

The difference allows for the ebb and flow that occurs in training.

 

Check out Training Plan Overview 2018: 7 Steps To Setup Your Running for an example of how I keep the plan simple.

 

5. Use Friction

 

Make it easy to do what you want. Make it difficult to do the things you shouldn’t.

 

The more steps there is to do something the less likely we are to do it. I use this principle to get in my training before an early start at work. When the alarm goes off it be would easy to hit the snooze button and go back to sleep for a while. This is where I throw in some friction. Using my phone for the alarm I disable the snooze function. I place the phone a bit out of reach so I have to sit up to turn it off. There is enough in the way to make it harder for me to go back to sleep. My clothes and training gear are all set out from the night before. As a matter of habit I just put it on before my brain has had a chance to think.

 

Make it easy to develop those habits that get you training. Habits beat motivation.

 

6. Switch On Switch Off

 

Be on task. I have the urge to keep going over my training statistics and explore my training looking for the fine details that may help me get faster. Doing this over and over is a very inefficient way to spend my time. It also doesn’t lead to much improvement beyond just getting the basics right.

 

When training I get the most out of a session if I focus completely on it. Being free of distractions. It isn’t an easy skill to master, but it is a skill we can develop with practice. On a run I am only running. My concentration is on what I need to do now. Of course random other thoughts float into my head. They try to pull my attention away down another track. Being able to pull mind back on task works wonders.

 

This is a concept to apply to other areas of life. Essentially it is the act of mindfulness. I should place my attention into what I need to do now. That may be as simple as paying attention to what my kids are saying to me. It may be my work or getting chores done at home.

 

Being able to switch on and switch off allows me to get more out of the other areas of my life. As result it reduces the loose ends. This makes it easier not be distracted when it is time to train.

 

 

Last Word

 

It isn’t easy to back it up day after day. It is something I’ve rarely been able to achieve. That is part of the journey. Trying to make the hard a bit easier. Running consistency does get rewarded with results.


6 Steps To Running Consistency

Starting My Running Story

We all start somewhere. Why do we start running? My running story started back in primary school.

 

The Early Years

 

It was clear I wasn’t fast when I was a kid. In primary school races were short and I was a tail ender. I wanted to be quick, but it didn’t take too much enjoyment away. I still loved sport, even if I thought I wasn’t very good at it.

 

At 12 years old I had my first hint there was something in running for me. I did the school cross country. I didn’t win, but 2 points stuck out:

  1. I really enjoyed the run
  2. I didn’t feel I could run faster, but  felt like I could run again

Over the next few years I didn’t do anything with running beyond the yearly cross country in high school. Each time the above two points were reinforced. Because of this I went on a few extra runs up and around the local park. Then my knee hurt.

 

A doctor and podiatrist later had me in some orthotics and a suggestion to not run for a while. That I took up and played table tennis instead.

 

Running Calls Me

 

At the end of high school I rediscovered running. At first it was just a means to add some fitness around my table tennis training. Running soon took over. Albert Park Lake was next to where we trained and the different squads would run a lap. Somehow I joined the different squads for their runs. Each run was about 5km, and I would do 2 to 4 in a day once or twice a week. It took others to point out it was a lot of running.

 

Around this time my Dad asked me, “You like running and maps don’t you?” A few minutes later I found myself up the road in my first orienteering race. I got lost.

 

A few more orienteering races. I didn’t get lost as much. Why not try a road race? The Victorian Road Runners offered a 10km race at Westerfolds Park. It seemed like the distance I should run for some reason. So I did.

 

It hurt. I struggled. I blew up. I crossed the finish line hurting. It was absolutely fantastic. Wanting more, the next obvious step was to run a marathon.

 

Melbourne Marathon

 

It  was 1996 and I was toying with the idea of running a marathon. I went down to watch the Melbourne Marathon. My sister and I set up spot at about the 33km mark on the course. It was astounding to see how most runners were hurting and struggling through this section. It was the point where many hit the so-called wall. They are also far enough from the finish they doubt if they can make it. There was something in all this suffering that sung to me. I had to have a go.

 

My first marathon was to be the Melbourne Marathon in 1997. That gave me a year to build up. With a strong fear of failure I felt I needed the full year. For some reason I plucked sub-3 hours out as my goal. Over that year I ran, ran some more, read as much as I could on running, got injured, ran more and then some more. It was a big learning curve. In the final 3 months I took a program from Runner’s World magazine and followed it pretty closely.

 

The race was amazing. I crossed the finish in 3:18:27. Outside the sub-3 hour goal, but it was best I could get out of myself on the day. It felt like the hardest thing I could ever do, and I loved it.

 

 

Ironman Triathlon

 

While preparing for the marathon I had a bit of injury time out. Trying to keep up some fitness I took to swimming and cycling while I healed. That had me explore the world of triathlon. I got hold of the book Scott Tinley’s Winning Guide To Sports Endurance: How To Maximize Speed, Strength & Stamina. It has some timeless advice and still worth a read today.

Pick up a copy at Amazon by clicking on the book…(affiliate link)

 

The more I read, the more I wanted to race triathlon, but it just seemed like a sport other people did .

In 1997, after the marathon I watched the coverage of the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon. The footage of aussie Chris Legh staggering and collapsing just before the finish was mesmerising.

 

 

Running Became My Lifestyle

 

This was the launch pad to years of running and triathlon. I joined the Jones Cycles Triathlon Club. Raced marathons, Ironman, triathlon, rogaines, orienteering and many different endurance events. I changed my direction at university and studied human movement. Became a coach and worked different jobs related to sport.

 

My whole life was sport related, and I loved it. Yet I wanted more. But that’s another story.

 

How did your running story start?