Category Archives: Journey

Surf Coast Century 2018 Relay: Race Report

There is something extra special about the Surf Coast Century 2018. This race has become an annual trip. It is more than just a run. If you want to experience some of the best the running community has to offer, then try out the Surf Coast Century.

Now an annual trip with some mates from work. This year we had two teams in the relay. We hardly even talked about work. That’s a good thing.

Friday was a beautiful sunny Spring day.

 

Mother Nature

 

 

Race day was Saturday.

Cold, wet…. let me correct that…. very wet. Windy, hail with a little sunshine and blue sky mixed in.

 

Start time is dictated by the tides. Unless it’s low tide, some sections on the first leg are impassible. Good news was the race started after the sun had gotten out of bed. A relative sleep in. Bad news for those running the first leg, they didn’t get to experience the amazing sunrise that has made this leg phenomenal in previous years.

 

 

Leg 1

 

 

Running along the iconic beaches of the surf coast is amazing. Rory got to enjoy this leg. He showed his fitness and running pedigree by smashing through the first 10km nice and quick. The slippery and sharp rock beds in the remaining 11km presented him a new challenge. I was impressed he stayed upright. Rory closed down the first leg at Point Danger looking like he pushed it hard.

 

Leg 2

 

 

The changeover was fast. Paul took on the 28km of Leg 2. Returning back to the start across the cliff tops. Straight into the wind. He took off at speed. I wondered if he would hold it or crash and burn.

 

The weather went from unpleasant to disgusting. At the half way mark I waited for Paul to arrive. A short warm up didn’t warm me up. I hid amongst the people hiding under the shelter. It helped me go from freezing to cold.

 

Paul came running in. He was saturated. A fist bump and it was my turn.

 

 

Leg 3

 

 

Wearing only a light spray jacket I wondered if it was a mistake. As the rain fell harder and harder I was wet through. For the first time we didn’t have to crawl under The Great Ocean Road. The river was too high. Finding gaps between the cars instead. After crossing the rain turned to hail. It was at this moment I wished I had worn a cap.

 

In these conditions there was only one way to stay warm…

 

Surf Coast Century Moggs Creek end of leg 3 start of leg 4

 

 

 

… run hard

 

That First Bit

 

On starting the first main climb the rain eased. Still cold, but I was happy little bits of ice were no longer bouncing off my face. Soon enough I was feeling a bit warm. I walked a few steps while I took off the jacket up the steep climb. Then it was on.

 

Mud, clay, water and more mud. The trail so slippery. Up and down, over and over. Staying upright was harder than usual. The clay slid and slipped like crazy. Confidence and technique kept my speed high on the descent. Leaning forward what felt way too far kept my feet from skidding out in front of me. In some sections you could ski on the mud for a few metres.

 

The more I ran the better I felt. My legs were responding well. First time in a while I felt good going uphill. An extra boost came from passing many of the 50km runners who had start about 25 minutes before me. Surprisingly social while racing so hard.

 

After the hills and clay it was time for some flowing single track through The Otways. Some protection was given from the icy winds by the trees and hills here. A mild downhill brings you to the start of a steady 6km climb. It is runnable, especially if you are only doing one leg of race. What got me over this climb was the anticipation of the 3km descent over the other side.

 

Definitely my favourite part of the course. The terrain isn’t super steep or crazy technical, but it requires concentration and confidence. Lean forward, open up, pick your line and fast feet. Down and down in a controlled fall. Weaving through the bush with the twists and turns. I found my flow. This is why I love trail running.

 

That Next Bit

 

Check point time. 21km covered of leaving only 7km for me. It wasn’t so much of a check point for me, more of a boost from the amazingly enthusiastic volunteers and supporters who had made their way out. Extra spring in my legs and into the last section.

 

Each year I forget just how hard this section is. Why don’t remember how steep and long the hills are?

 

Over the climbs I was sucking air. Heading down my legs threated to cramp. Despite this I was able to hold my speed into the check point to hand over to Mick. The hardest part of this was trying to coordinate my fingers to pass over the mandatory first aid kit. They were frozen.

 

Next challenge was trying not to bring up my breakfast.

 

I was successful…. just.

 

Leg 4

 

 

Mick smashed out the final leg. After an almost sunny start to his run the weather came back with a vengeance and threw hail down at him. He returned with stories of runners missing turns and a high tide forcing everyone into the softest of sand. Another solid run.

 

There is something extra to running when it is a team event. It brings out something extra in everyone.

 

 

Thank You

 

The Surf Coast Century is probably the most social of trail ultra marathons out there. Way too many people to mention everyone I met, chatted too, cheered, was cheered by or otherwise had some positive vibes. Still some shout outs are needed. To our other team, Jane, Jerome who were the solid rock of the team. Thank you to Jason who filled in at the last moment. Kudos to Rory from Leg 1 who jumped across and ran Leg 4 for so the others could record a finish due to an extra late withdraw. Extra thanks to my understanding family who tolerate and support me in this running thing.

 

Well done to all those who braved the conditions at Surf Coast Century 2018.

 

 

Hard Core 100 Mile: Anatomy Of A DNF

What does it take to DNF at a 100 mile race and still be happy?

My first 100 mile race didn’t go to plan. It was cut short at 110km. In the hours and days following I’ve gone through a mix of emotions. Mainly flipping between disappointment and happiness.

Let’s break it down and put it back together.

In choosing the Hard Core 100 Mile Race I was aiming for something on the edge of my ability.

 

Preparation

 

This called for some solid training. I wrote out an amazing training plan. It was pretty impressive. Problem was I overestimated how much training I could fit into life. Instead of the plan, I did what I could. Some of the best training I’ve ever done, but one important element was still missing.

 

The really, really long run.

 

I never got over 40km for any of my training runs. Still a long way, but there is a big gap between 40km and 160km. I incorporated some work arounds to bridge the gap. Would it be enough?

 

Let’s Do This

 

Race morning felt good. Coffee, breakfast and my “race ready” tunes accompanied me on the drive down. Set up was simple and there was time to relax around the fire to chat. I felt nervous about not feeling nervous.

 

The 100 miles is broken up into 8 x 20km laps. The start of each lap takes us straight up Flinders Peak. About 300m elevation gain in only 1.5km. Just walking up can put your heart rate through the roof. Travelling back down with gravity is a technical descent that can beat up your legs if you make it too much fun on the way down. The remainder of the each lap is mainly runnable, with a moderate climb back to start / finish line.

 

Of utmost importance is not to go out too fast in an ultra marathon.

 

I went out too fast.

 

For the first 20km lap I was 30 minutes faster than planned. It felt ridiculously easy. Fresh from a taper. Excited with the race. Distraction of some good conversation with fellow runners. Caught up in the beauty of the You Yangs. All combined to for a fast start.

 

Better fix that.

 

I dropped back the pace and came in off of the second lap on pace. A good 30 minutes slower. This seemed right. My legs were hurting. That’s okay, I’d just run 40km.

 

What does it take to DNF at a 100 mile race and still be happy? My first 100 mile race didn't go to plan. It was cut short at 110km. In the hours and days following I've gone through a mix of emotions. Mainly flipping between disappointment and happiness. Let's break it down and put it back together.

 

Thinking?

 

What goes through your head when running so far?

 

Over the first two laps it was just enjoyment. There is a rhythm to the running that the mind follows. Relax, run, absorb the down hill softly, eat, drink, look around, relax…

 

During this opening time there isn’t much conscious thought. The process has been trained and I am just absorbed by it.

 

Beyond Training

 

Past 40km and I beyond anything I have done in training. What will happen from now?

 

Still in day light and moving well. Keep on doing what you are doing.

 

Simple. I had a patch where my body felt generally flat between around the 45km mark for a few kilometres. It soon passed. I was aware I had slowed a little bit, which wasn’t a concern. My legs weren’t hurting as much as they were back closer to 40km.

 

Another lap. This time a bit slower, but not deliberately. Still well in front of any time goals I had considered. Surely I couldn’t keep this up… oops… a little bit of doubt snuck in for a second. Better just climb Flinder’s Peak again.

 

Off the Peak and it’s time to pick up my headlamps for later in the lap. As the sun goes down so does my ability to run. My quads and calves are locked up. Not cramping. More like they are beaten and swollen so they just don’t very well. This is where I ignore my body’s pleas to stop.

 

Food Is Balance

 

If there is one thing I got right on the day it was my nutrition and fluid. Averaging 220 calories each hour made up of a mix of Hammer Perpetuem and Hammer Gel. Plus a Hammer Bar after every 2 laps. This worked a treat.

 

Only one slight issue was around 9 hours my stomach clearly wasn’t emptying. I had a mild slump in energy as I wasn’t absorbing what I had been taking in. The main contributor seemed to be I’d be a bit heavier on consuming the Perpetuem and Gel mix over the previous hour and was down on the water. Easy fix. Drink more water and back off on the Perpetuem and Gels for a while.

 

Knowing that fine, moving line of what the body can absorb and adjusting as needed makes a difference.

 

100 mile nutrition #howihammer

 

Shut Up Legs

 

It wasn’t reduced effort that had me travelling slower. My intensity was definitely up. I could feel my heart beating faster. My breathing rate increased and my legs went slower.

 

Up the Big Rock climb towards the end of lap I checked my dashboard:

  • Headspace: good, a few negative thoughts, but none taking hold
  • General energy: surprisingly high
  • Nutrition: on track
  • Upper body: tending to tighten up, fixed with conscious relaxation
  • Middle body: back is getting lazy, need to make sure I hold posture
  • Legs: locking more and more, left leg is very tight laterally and pulling my kneecap across, should be able control with some taping
  • Pace: slower and slower

80km completed. A restock of food and water. Tape around my knee. Back up and down Flinder’s Peak. Out for another lap.

 

Pain in the legs was irrelevant. It was getting worse, but that was always going to happen. My legs were having moments where they would just fail. Loss of power and coordination made for some questionable footing over rocks. It was a stretch to describe my movement as running.

 

Past 90km and I could hardly force my legs to move. It was slow.

 

Decisions

 

Make the right decision.

 

I told myself this on the climb up to Big Rock. At this point I couldn’t see how I could keep going. My legs had almost completely shut down. I kept doing the maths and the numbers weren’t good. A lot was telling me I couldn’t keep going. If I went with the flow, then I was going to pull at 100km.

 

Instead I made a decision.

 

Take your time at the aid station. Change into warmer clothes. Sit down and eat some real food. Some pasta found it’s way into my hands because this race has the most amazing volunteers. Give your body a chance to recuperate. Then go out easy and keep moving.

 

This decision was extremely important. With the value of hindsight if I pulled out at that 100km mark I definitely would have had regret. It would have been giving up.

 

On my feet. Up Flinder’s Peak again. Going up was slow. I keep knocking my feet on the rocks as I failed to lift them enough. There was a disconnect between what I was trying to do and what my body would do. The descent was ridiculous. It was constant problem solving on how not to fall on steps and rocks. I stayed upright, but it wasn’t pretty.

 

Onto the relatively flatter portion I forced myself along. Running was no longer possible. My left ankle and leg was giving me problems. I thought I’d gotten past those injury issues, but I guess this is the sort of race that will show up your weak links. I got out the tape and added more to my mix.

 

It didn’t help much.

 

Other’s came past me. No longer were they just asking how I was going or having a chat. There were genuine offers of help. My struggle was that obvious.

 

Eventually I made it to the Sandy Point aid station at the 110km mark. I would have described myself as stumbling in, but I was moving too slow to stumble. The body had gone past it’s limit. I had passed the point of mind over body. My mind still was trying to move, but my body had finally failed.

 

 

Summary

 

Writing this report up helped me work through how I feel about the event. I’ve settled on a small dose of disappointment wrapped up in happiness and pride on achieving my further distance so far.

 

Could I have finished the race?

 

In the state I had reached I know I couldn’t finish the full distance. However, I got myself into that state by missing out on some important training then going out way too fast in the first part of the race.

 

Even without changing the training, if I had of raced smarter and slower over the first 40km I definitely would be in a different state. I would likely have been able to finish. I was stripped down to my absolute basic and found my current limit. Next up is working to push that limit out further.

 

Thank You

 

Thank you to everyone who was ever involved in any way in this event. The volunteers are unbelievable in their commitment. I cannot thank them enough. The race organisers, especially Brett who put on this race and even drove me back to the start after I failed. My family are amazing. Your support for my craziness makes life awesome. My friends who are just so cool. Plus all you others who inspire me through your own running and achievements. The online running community is something to be proud of.

 

Wings For Life 2018

Putting down some big goals for Wings For Life 2018. I hoped to regain the running form from 10 years ago. Back when I had less commitments in life. From where my fitness was back in December last year, it was going to be a very big ask.

 

The training went well. Each month I went from strength to strength. It was hard to complain about improvement. I didn’t hit the numbers in training I considered were needed to run beyond a marathon at Wings For Life 2018. I was somewhat close, so I hung on to the hope of pulling it together during the race.

 

No point in being conservative. Might as well put out the effort to reach beyond the marathon. I wasn’t going to fail from lack of effort.

 

Wings For Life Event Hub

 

Keeping to usual form I arrived early.

 

Being early allowed me to have everything sorted and ready. Then time to relax and socialise. This was one of the best parts of the event. The vibe was positive. Many familiar faces. Some new faces. Unfortunately I didn’t get to catch up with everyone I wanted to.

 

Time for business. Stiffness has seeped into my joints. A brief warm up and I was feeling ready. The mass of runners worked their way down to the star line. Near the front with a couple of friends, we talked rubbish waiting for the countdown that seemed to take for ages.

 

A few minutes out an official picked me out and asked if I was going to run beyond 40km. I told him that was the plan. That meant for a shirt swap. The race shirt I was given at registration was orange. Apparently they wanted the runners out front all to be in yellow. So yellow it was. It created an obligation to run well.

 

Event Hub Wings For Life World Run Melbourne 2018

 

World Run Global Start

 

As one we all started around the world.

 

Running for those that can’t.

 

My legs had practiced race pace so they knew what to do. Straight into it. The seeding seemed to work well. There were lots of runners, but plenty of space. Taking over a freeway probably helped with the space.

 

At the 5km mark I hit my target split of 22:05 to the second. I wasn’t feeling great. A headache was crashing in and I just felt tired. It was early days, so I just sucked it up and expected to feel better as the run unfolded. When I’m fit I often find something tends to click about an hour in and running can feel easier. I knew I was that fit.

 

For the next 5km is the majority of ascent on this course. When driving the Monash Freeway you don’t notice the hills. Running is a different story. None of the hills are steep, but they are long and steady and can be risky. The sort of hills that can have you run too hard and come back to bite you later on. My plan was to allow for only a slight increase in effort. Thinking if I crossed the 10km mark at 45:00 then I would be spot on.

 

So close, 45:01 was the 10km time. The clock I was on target. My body was having doubts.

 

Fight It

 

The headache had increased. That was something I could put up with. Worrying me was the fact most of my joints hurt. Feet, ankles, knees, hips, shoulder and elbows just hurt. It didn’t make sense. Certainly wasn’t something I was use to feeling when running.

 

Rationalising it was a bad patch I pushed on. Maybe the uphill was just harder than I gave it credit. Now slightly down hill I could spin the legs and let gravity do some of the work.

 

Gravity worked. The landing of each foot not so much. My joints became stiff. They felt almost like they were swollen. Running became more difficult. I was maintaining my pace, but it was far from my usual efficiency. Something wasn’t right

 

Around the 14km mark and my body decided it wouldn’t play nice. There was only a semblance of strength left in my legs. Despite plenty of mental effort, I just couldn’t make them go any faster. I’d completed plenty of training runs that were faster and longer than where I was now.

 

Fighting back got me to the 15km mark and my 3rd 5km split. 22:35. Those extra 30 seconds were all added after 14km.

 

Acceptance

 

That was it. My running continued to slow step after step. I continued to hang to hope of “coming good” at some point. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a way to make it happen. My head hurt with the mix of emotions churning around inside the headache. Gradually I accepted it wasn’t my day.

 

Now with a bit of mental freedom I was able to find enjoyment back in the run. It was still a struggled, and despite pushing I kept getting slower. I smiled when I realised this race was probably the only way you could enjoy being on the Monash Freeway.

 

The inevitability of the catcher car crept into my thoughts. When hurting a race I often latch onto the concept that if I run faster I can finish sooner. In the Wings For Life World Run running faster would prolong the pain, but also the enjoyment. A tug of war between wishing the car would catch sooner versus wishing to run further rage amongst my grey matter. I wondered what could have been if the race went somewhat close to plan. This had become an event I will be definitely be back for.

 

You feel the buzz of energy approaching as the catcher car comes into range. There is an excitement and celebration. A mixture of enjoyment and relief hit me as the catcher car passed. 24.8km. A long way off trying to go further than 42.195km. I was disappointed with the result, but I still enjoyed the Wings For Life 2018 World Run. Definitely a race to come back to.

 

Race Coverage

 

Check out all the coverage from the event around the world:

 

 

 

Wings For Life World Run Training: Taper

There were 5 peak runs I wanted to hit before I began my taper for the Wings For Life World Run.

 

The first of the peak runs went well. The other 4 not quite so well.

 

Information and insight is what those runs gave me. How does it all stack up against my goal?

Make the Wings For Life World Run at Melbourne an ultra marathon.

 

Check out the goals and plan:

 

 

Numbers

 

It is a matter of making the mathematics fit. Write it out on paper. Cement the numbers in the brain. Back it up with the Garmin. Add in some effort. Simple.

 

A relaxed warm up and it’s time to really run. Five repeats of 5000m with 1000m in between. Running right on or just above predicted marathon race pace. It should be doable as 25km is a lot less than 42.195km. Even with the slightly easier 1000m it is still only takes the distance up to 29km.

 

Through the first repeat. There was a smoothness that made me happy. It was nice to get the numbers all matching. Coasting through the 1000m brought up to the second 5000m sooner than I realised. The alert buzzed on my wrist and the pace was dialled back up.

 

Second time around the numbers still matched up. One difference. My legs hurt a little. This was unexpected, but nothing to worry about.

 

Keeping the times nice and neat I completed the 3rd 5000m repeat. My mind was good. I was enjoying the run. My energy levels were high. The intensity felt about right. My legs on the other hand didn’t feel right. They were taking a beating. Something a bit short of taking a hammer to them.

 

Now the 4th repeat wasn’t so pleasant. Each step shot pain through my legs. It should feel better than this. I was able to hold onto my pace. Those numbers still looked good. Harder to achieve this time. So I relaxed as much as I could during the 1000m recovery run.

 

My legs still hurt.

 

“Last one.. fast one.. last one.. fast one..”

 

Pushing the mantra through my head. It wasn’t enough to override my body. The muscles in legs began cramping only a short way into the last repeat. My quads kept locking up. My lower legs refused to coordinate. Energy levels were still high. My heart and lungs weren’t screaming for relief. Motivation strong.

 

It wasn’t enough.

 

My legs just wouldn’t do what I demanded of them.

 

Running was reduced to an awkward shuffle. That wasn’t going to benefit me anymore so I called an end to the session. On the slow trip home was time to reflect.

 

What’s good?

 

Distance

 

With a bank of 30km to 40km runs behind me the distance is obtainable. This is reinforced with consistently running over 80km per week, with a string of over 100km for 4 weeks in a row. The base is there.

 

Fuel mix

 

Worried I was burning too much glycogen at the start of peak training. Coming off a good 10km and Half Marathon meant I was comfortable with the speed. I wondered if I’d gone too far in working on that pace. As the peak runs unfolded it was clear the fat versus carbohydrate mix wasn’t my limiter. Energy levels even as my legs fell apart were high. I wasn’t getting those feelings of glycogen depletion. No big suck out of energy. Adding in some carbohydrate loading and fuelling on race day should see this covered.

 

Sense Of Pace

 

It’s funny how no matter how fit I am in any other endeavour, if I don’t feel fit in running, then I just don’t feel fit. Right now I feel run fit. Having worked back a lot of my running fitness from 10 years past. When I am truly run fit I become so much more in tune to my body. I become so much more sensitive to form and pace.

 

Adding to being more sensitive I put in a lot of work at understanding what different paces feel like. This is one of the main aspects I work on during the peak runs. Over the last couple of runs I found I could easily pick my pace to the second. Even allowing for fatigue, gradient and wind.

 

What I’m Worried About

 

One thing only.

 

The ability of my legs to hold the pace for long enough.

 

In the peak runs the limiter has been muscle fatigue. Not just soreness. Pain I can deal with. It is the ability of the muscles to keep working. Similar to cramping. Basically it comes back to conditioning of the muscles themselves.

 

A lot has gone well in training over the last few months. There are still some aspects I have been missing. I’ve deliberating kept away from hard down hill running. Still having to tape my ankle half the high ankle sprain last May means I am wary of what will aggravate it. The reduced down hill training has reduced my fatigue resistance to the impact of running fast over a long time.

 

The Taper

 

The hard work is all done. No more big runs until race day. This puts me into a race taper.

 

I’m really hoping the taper can work some magic. I will need every benefit I can get out of the taper. Maybe it allow for some adaptions in my muscles so I can hold onto the right pace for long enough. It is a big ask.

 

I will need every bit of the 2% improvement a good taper can give. Plus something extra.

 

Race Plan

 

My race plan is built on hope. The numbers from my key runs tell me I’m not quite where I need to be. Science suggests another month would get me there. There is also an art to training and racing. I’m going to lean heavily on the art side.

 

There’s not point in conservative. I’m still going to try and run beyond the 42.195km at the Wings For Life World Run. I may crash and burn before I reach my goal. If that happens I will know it wasn’t through lack of effort.

 

On the other hand. It just might work.

 

 

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?

 

 

 

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?

When You Have A System That Works: Mess With It

When you have a system that’s working why not mess with it?

 

One day hard followed by two days easy has been working well for me lately. In fact it seems to be the gold standard for progressing my running. This training block I’ve decided to mess with that. I’m not sure if it’s impatience, the drive to get more out of myself, or simply a bad tendency to fit in more. Is it a mistake, or will it raise my fitness to the next level?

 

The Format That Works

 

  1. Easy
  2. Easy
  3. VO2max Intervals
  4. Easy
  5. Easy
  6. Long Run
  7. Easy
  8. Easy
  9. Hill Repeats

New Format

 

  1. Easy
  2. Easy
  3. Anaerobic Threshold (Continuous) 10km
  4. Anaerobic Tolerance: 12 x 300-100m, 1min recovery
  5. Easy
  6. Long Run
  7. Easy
  8. Easy
  9. Anaerobic Threshold Intervals 4-6 x 2000m / 1000m float

 

In the new format, day 3 is not crazy hard. It would be better to think of this run as a medium effort. The continuous threshold run is still a solid effort. I’m hoping it doesn’t suck anything out of my legs for the following day. I often feel a bit quicker the day after some faster running, as long as it doesn’t leave my legs wasted. It may give me a little extra kick for the tolerance intervals.

 

The 300m tolerance intervals are meant to be at about 1500m race pace. That’s a speed I haven’t run at for a long time. That will leave me sore the next day.

 

Now I’ve I’ve added a little extra faster running and taken away an easy day. All before my long run. This is the day of truth. When training for ultra marathons you need to nail the long run. If this wrecks my long run it isn’t worth doing. On the other hand, if I can also hit my targets in the long run then I expect some big benefits.

 

First Time Through

 

The easy days were exactly as they should be…. easy.

 

The first key was the 10km at just under my anaerobic threshold. All on feel over an undulating course. The intensity felt right. I felt quite fast during the run. However, once I downloaded the data, turns out I was a lot slower than I felt or expected.

 

That dampened how good I was feeling about the run. Still I shouldn’t complain. It was only one aspect that wasn’t up to what I expected. I’ll be curious to see how the repeat of this run goes next week.

 

Anaerobic Tolerance

 

Next day I hit the athletics track. The goal was to run 12 x 300m at 1500m race pace with 1 rest in between. I got through 7 of them right on target. How good does it feel to run fast?

 

Repeat number 8 was where the concept of anaerobic tolerance explained itself. It hurt and it was slow. More important to keep the speed up here. The remaining 4 repeats were dropped down to 200m. I was just able to hold onto 1500m race pace in these.

 

Next day I was sore.

 

But the day after that… still sore.

 

Long Run

 

Hmm, not so sure how the long run will go. I’ll give a go anyway. So out I went. At first I wondered how the 40km would unfold. Luckily I see found myself caught up in the act of running. I allowed myself to relax and resist holding back. My running felt good. Even easier than my last few long runs. I definitely had sore spots, but they weren’t a problem.

 

This feeling good got me to 36km faster than I have been in so long. The drop off over the final 4km was quite brutal. I still finished 5 minutes quicker than last week’s 40km. This became the first run I’ve done that gives me confidence I can hit my race goals this year. Better than the doubts I’ve taken out of most key runs.

 

Maybe it was a good to take my training and mess with it.

 

View this post on Instagram

Sometimes there’s a mismatch between how you feel, what you expect and the outcome. 🤯 This morning’s #run was 10km at just under anaerobic threshold. All on feel over an undulating course. The intensity felt right. I felt quite fast during the run. However, once I downloaded the data, turns out I was a lot slower than I felt or expected. 🐌 That dampened how good I was feeling about the run. Still I shouldn’t complain. It was only one aspect that wasn’t up to what I expected. 🏃🏼 ______________________________ #anaerobic #threshold #temporun #at #10km #runningalive #expectations #runbeforework #melbournerunners #keeptraining #buildthehouse #anaerobicthreshold #morningrun #runnerclick #running_highlight #runnerscommunity #runnerschat #pursuitwithpurpose

A post shared by Jason Montfort Running Alive (@jason_monty) on

 

How do structure your training?

 

 

Ultra Marathon Training: Block 3 Weeks 9-12

The last 4 weeks of training was a bigger challenge than I anticipated. Well off target for quite a few sessions. I tried not to dwell on them too much. Took a little extra recovery. Tested myself in the last week. Surprisingly I still ended up pretty close to where I hoped to be. Now ready for training block 3.

 

Focus

 

Following the Training Plan Overview the focus is:

  1. Increase pace at Anaerobic Threshold
  2. Increase pace of long run.
  3. Small amount of anaerobic tolerance development

 

 

Increase Pace At Anaerobic Threshold

 

Anaerobic threshold training provides big improvements. I start to feel invincible and find the faster paces feel easier and easier. Anything powerful tends to come with strong side effects. Anaerobic threshold training has a big impact on me. I find it easy to over do. I get caught up in the feeling. So many times I have over shot the mark. It tends to give my immune system a hit and I am prone to getting sick. After a week or 2 of feeling fast, my legs tend to come crashing back down as if wrapped in concrete.

 

Trying to sort out how to get the benefit without the downside had me searching through my training logs. Looking back over the years there is a trend. Over training with anaerobic threshold work has been related to 2 main issues:

  1. Trying to extend anaerobic threshold work beyond 60 minutes in a session.
  2. Pushing the pace too high on continuous threshold training runs.

This training block I’ll avoid the above 2 ways of training.

  • I’ll save pushing the pace up for the interval runs.
  • Hold back a little on the continuous threshold runs.
  • Limit any session to well under 60 minutes.

 

Increase Pace Of The Long Run

 

The distance will be limited to 40km or 4 hours, whichever comes first. With how my long runs have unfolded over the last 2 months, it is clear increasing pace isn’t about going hard in the first half. Long runs of 40km are definitely not easy. Where will the improved speed come from?

 

Most of that pace will be from maintaining my form and pace all the way to the end. Avoiding the drop off in speed that has occurred in almost all long runs will be my priority. Just holding it together over the final 5km will bring my average pace back by about 20 sec per kilometre.

 

The secondary push up on pace will feel subtle. It involves attempting to relax and allow my body to open up. So far I’ve had to artificially slow down the first part of my long runs and it still feels quite restrained. I want to gradually release those restraints and let the legs find a more natural rhythm and pace. The risk is that pace is too fast for the full distance.

 

Small Amount Of Anaerobic Tolerance Development

 

There’s 2 reasons for this:

  1. Creating a stimulus to maintain or enhance the VO2max gains from the past 2 weeks.
  2. Be able to maintain run form in the closing stages of the races at the Emergency Services Game in a few weeks.

VO2max can be maintained with less than it takes to raise it. So a couple of sessions over the month that have me gasping for air should be enough. Hopefully it helps me with a little extra kick in my legs for the end of races.

 

Anaerobic tolerance training intervals track

 

The Template

 

A training week covers 9 days for me at the moment. There will be some variation to fit around the other areas of my life, but here’s the basic template I’ll be working from:

  1. Easy
  2. Easy
  3. Anaerobic Threshold (Continuous): 10km
  4. Anaerobic Tolerance: 12 x 300-100m, 1min recovery
  5. Easy
  6. Long Run 40km/ 4hours
  7. Easy
  8. Easy
  9. Anaerobic Threshold Intervals 4-6 x 2000m / 1000m float

 

I’m curious to see if the Anaerobic Threshold (Continuous) and Anaerobic Tolerance combination over days 3 and 4 will work for me. I think it will, but am open to adjustments if needed.

 

There is definitely a nice dose of faster running injected into the program. None of the fast running should feel forced. While there are physiological adaptations I’m going for, it is more important I develop the right feel in my running. Block 3 is about trying to develop that right feel in running faster.