Category Archives: Journey

Ultra Marathon Training: Block 2 Weeks 5-8

There’s a reason we skip hard training. It is hard.

 

The past 4 weeks were a re-education for my body on hard training. I started to feel really good after the first couple of weeks. It was okay though, I soon got over it and struggled in the 4th week.

 

 

Lessons Learnt

 

I came out of that first training block with the following lessons:

  1. The more I do VO2max intervals the better they feel. They still don’t feel easier.
  2. Long runs are well off where I want them to be
  3. I skipped most of my strength training
  4. My headspace has a big influence on how my runs go.

 

The 2 main points of Block 2 are an extension of the same from Block 1:

  1. Increase VO2max
  2. Increase distance of long run

These two will be over laid with a 3rd concept:

Increase over all work capacity

 

Training Structure

 

I’ve moved from 8 out to 9 day cycles for training. Mainly because I’m on a different roster cycle for work. It also does work in quite well with what I am trying to achieve. It makes for a simple structure of 1 day hard followed by 2 easy days.

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

 

feet on the track

 

1. VO2max Intervals

 

I’ll continue with 1000m intervals at something heading towards 3000m race pace. Starting this block with 6 repeats, I’ll try to add one repeat every 9 days. There is enjoyment in the exactness and repeatability of intervals on the track.

 

As part of increasing and supporting my VO2max I will continue with the hill repeats. Mixing it up with a different hill each week. There are plenty of options around me.  The outline will be about 2-3 minutes per repeat at a similar effort to the track intervals.

 

2. Long Runs

 

While I want to get the speed up, it is more important to build volume at this stage. I’ll throw out set paces. A lot less watch watching. Instead I’ll focus on keeping my running form in check. Something well above the ultra shuffle. I’m hoping if I get the process right the speed will creep in naturally.

 

3. Strength Training

 

Instead of skipping most of what I thought were well planned strength sessions, it would be best to at least do something. Out the window is a strict plan. In is a commitment to do 15-30 minutes of strength work most days. It should lead to more work than trying to save it all for a bigger workouts. Most will be at the end of my easy runs.

 

4. Headspace

 

Thinking has been getting in the way on my hard runs. Especially the long runs. While great for the planning, too much going on in the head has my brain explain to my body why it shouldn’t keep going. My brain can be very convincing.

 

When I’m at my best I tend to hit flow state reasonably often. Time to rebuild my skills and practice to better tap into that. A mixture of mind training is now back in the training mix.

 

Training Balance: Going Fast and Far

I can shuffle out some long distances. The pace won’t get me anywhere near my goals. This brings me to the classic dilemma of most runners:

How do you balance going fast with going far?

 

Going Fast

 

My first attempt at 3 x 1000m repeats was a struggle. There wasn’t snap in my stride that I look for at the faster paces. It had been a long time since I really tried to run this fast. The running felt forced. I managed to just get within the pace range I was aiming for. It was the start I should expect.

 

The next week I wanted to add an extra repeat. As if 1000m repeats at between 3-5km race pace aren’t hard enough, the heat was on this day. 35 degrees Celsius was the highlight of the day. I thought I could handle it by taking the recoveries extra easy.

 

I couldn’t handle it.

 

The heat and intensity was overwhelming. All energy seemed to suck out of my body. I was disappointed. Deep down I knew it was a big ask. I struggled through 3 repeats. Each one slower than the previous. The 4th just wasn’t going to happen. To salvage some ego and get a better training stimulus I took a good rest in the shade, poured plenty of water over myself and ran a few angry 200m efforts.

In the 3rd week I felt redeemed. Not being able to finish 4 repeats last time,  why not try for 5?

 

Five it was. All on target. It is a good feeling being able to do more. Improvement in running is never a straight line.

 

Going Far

 

That’s only one part of the going faster challenge. Pushing up my VO2max pace is needed, but it certainly isn’t enough to reach my goals. I need to be able to run long. After all, that is basic concept of ultra marathons. The problem is I’ve given myself the goal of running ultra marathons on the fast side. This is where I am struggling.

 

What pace should the long run be?

 

Search the internet and you can find plenty of different guides and formulae to tell you how fast to run the long run. Unfortunately they are often gross generalisations or don’t take your fitness and goals into account. Is there an exact answer?

 

For myself there isn’t. I see the long run as an ever evolving tool to use. There are many different ways to approach it. It isn’t always just about time on your feet. I can do time on feet at very slow paces for ages. That may work for some goals, but it certainly won’t get me down to 4:27/km or faster for an ultra marathon.

 

Super slow is also very different to fast running. Slow running takes out the glutes and hamstrings a lot. That leaves those muscles under trained for when you try to race long at faster speeds. The solution appears to be simple. Run faster on the long runs. I wish it was that easy.

 

Training Balance

 

How much faster? How far? What’s the cost versus benefit?

 

To find a starting I point I plugged in some numbers through a variety of resources. Taking in some race times, looking through my Strava history and plugging the numbers into some pace predictors. Shooting back at me was the suggestion my long run pace should be about 5:30/km. It didn’t sound unreasonable. Let’s see if I can hold it for 30km.

 

Turns out I couldn’t. Not even close. I finished with my tail between my legs at under 27km

 

Trying for a slower 30km the next week worked a bit better.  I fell right off the pace beyond 27km. A lesson my faster long run pace was a lot slower than I wanted.

 

This wasn’t working for getting the length of the long run up. Third time around my approach was to focus more on kilometres rather than pace. In fact I ignored my pace. I made sure my stride felt like running and was removed from the slow, ultra marathon shuffle. As an added bonus I go to follow the coast line along the George Bass Coastal Trail for this run. Some slightly tougher terrain than my recent runs, but an awesome location to run. It helped get me through.

 

 

The balance point is moving in the right direction. I am getting a little faster. Just small gains over the weeks should add up to some substantial improvement. The difficulty will be in handling sustaining the speeds I want over long distances. When I first set the goal of running further than a marathon at the Wings For Life World Run, I knew it was going to be very challenging. I didn’t appreciate how far away I was when I set the goal.

Let’s see if I can reach it.

 

Training Balance going far and fast

 

Training Plan Overview 2018: 7 Steps To Setup Your Running

How do you plan your training? Do you get the most out of yourself? Will you achieve your goals?

 

There are 7 steps I take to developing my training plan. Join me as I take you through my process. At the end I’ll share my overview for the 20 weeks leading up to the Wings For Life World Run.

  1. Gather The Essentials
  2. Know Your Goals
  3. Create An Overview
  4. Pen In Important Dates
  5. Pencil In Key Training
  6. Details, Details, Details
  7. Train, Adjust, Train

 

How do you plan your run training? I sit down with my calendar, goals, commitments and make the most of what I have

 

1. Gather The Essentials

 

 

2. Know Your Goals

 

There are two key races I am focussing on in 2018.

Check out those goals in 2018 Running Goals.

 

Along the way I’ll throw in a few shorter distance events. Most will be based on what is available when my work roster allows me to race. Not to be missed will be the 2018 Victorian Police and Emergency Services Games in March.

 

3. Create An Overview

 

My training started part way into December 2017. This gives me 20 weeks until the first main race, The Wings For Life World Run. Then there is 11 weeks to the Hard Core 100.

 

Break up the 20 weeks. I work in 4 week blocks. It is a manageable time frame, plus it fits with how my work roster is scheduled. The easier training fits in with life, the easier it is to do.

 

Pick a main focus for each cycle coupled with a secondary focus. Remember you can be great at anything, but you can’t be great at everything. Choose wisely.

 

4. Pen In Important Dates

 

Put in everything you know. This should include your fixed commitments and anything that may affect training.

  • Work days
  • Family events
  • Holidays
  • Races

 

5. Pencil In Key Training

 

Think of the bench mark training sessions when want to hit. Pencil them into the overview of your training plan.

  • Do they work?
  • Do they fit in with your other commitments?
  • Is there enough time between the sessions?

I find I rewrite this quite a few times. The first draft is always too optimistic.

 

6. Details, Details, Details

 

Plan out each session of your first training block. For me it is 4 weeks. Start with the main sessions such as long runs, intervals, tempo runs.

 

Next fill in the recovery or regeneration sessions. This can include the very easy runs, days off or anything else you do to help recover and absorb from you training.

 

Fill the remaining runs. These will usually be easy runs.

 

Finally schedule your supplementary training. Weights, yoga, pilates or anything else you do.

 

After the first training block, I will then pencil in the main sessions for the following block of training.

 

Now we have a detailed view of the first block plus a reasonable idea of the following block of training. Compare it to the over view of your training plan and make sure it all fits together. It is at this point I find the reality of the rest of my life means my main sessions don’t quite work. Usually I have less time between then than I first thought. Again it usually involves a rewrite.

 

7. Train, Adjust, Train

 

Now for the fun part. Start training.

 

Have some patience and confidence in your plan. Allow time to see results, but be honest with how you handle it. What looks good on paper doesn’t always work in real life. Take note and adjust. Keeping the plan in line with your overview.

 

Training Plan Overview 20 Weeks

 

I break 20 weeks down into 5 blocks of 4 weeks.

 

20 Week Training Plan Overview: Wings For Life World Run 2018 then 11 weeks to the Hard Core 100 mile ultra marathon

 

Block 1: Weeks 1-4

 

  • Increase VO2max
  • Increase distance of long run

Different and bigger goals require a change in approach. The main difference is a regular inclusion of faster running. The fast running won’t work on it’s own. It is only part of a bigger picture. Let’s break it down… read more here

Block 2: Weeks 5-8

 

  • Increase VO2max
  • Increase distance of long run

I’ve moved from 8 out to 9 day cycles for training. Mainly because I’m on a different roster cycle for work. It also does work in quite well with what I am trying to achieve. It makes for a simple structure of 1 day hard followed by 2 easy days… read more here

Block 3: Weeks 9-12

 

  • Increase pace at Anaerobic Threshold
  • Increase pace of long run
  • Small amount of anaerobic tolerance development

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… read more here

 

 

Block 4: Weeks 13-16

 

  • Increase Wings For Life race pace
  • Emergency Services Games

 

 

Block 5: Weeks 17-20

 

2.5 Weeks targeting efficiency at Wings For Life race pace

1.5 Weeks of taper

Race: Wings For Life World Run: Melbourne

All the preparation work has been done. The focus of these last 4 weeks is only on being ready for race day. My goal is to make the WIngs For Life World Run an ultra marathon. That is run further than 42.195km before the car catches me… read more

 

 

Final Word

 

Having a clear plan helps you make the most of what you have. How do you plan your training?

 

 

2018 Running Goals

Big goals have you do more than just go through the motions. I need to make my running come alive.

 

It has been too long since I’ve run something that feels big. Big doesn’t have to be distance. It is bigger than that. By big, I mean something that really excites me. Something that pushes me.  Goals need to feel just outside my reach.

 

I’ve brought my health and fitness back up to a level I’m happy with. It is a level from which I can direct my training towards bigger goals. It has taken more time to get here than I thought it would.

 

Over the last couple of months I’ve looked through race calendars. There are so many races now. Spoilt for choice. It doesn’t make it easier for me. The races tend to blur into each other. Nothing immediately stood out as a must do event above all the others.

 

I kept searching. Reading all I could. Reading blogs. Followed discussions in running groups. Eventually I kept coming back to the same events. These events put some extra fuel on my fire. They are the races that make me want to push my limits.

 

The Races

 

Two key races are in my sights for next year. They are:

 

Wings For Life World Run

 

There is a uniqueness to this event. Being chased by the finish line is an awesome concept.

 

I want to make this event an ultra marathon. Running further than 42.195km is a big ask for me.  It will require getting back to speeds I haven’t hit for years. I’ll need to be around my marathon PR shape and then hold it for longer.

 

Right now I’m at 19:13 for a flat 5km. A long of way off the marathon 2:58:44 I set 8 years ago. Am I a marathon has been? Living in the past? Only one way to find out.

 

 

Hardcore 100 Mile

 

This will be my first 100 mile ultra marathon. Further than I have run before. Finishing will be a massive challenge in itself. I want to do more than finish. I want to find push it out to as fast as I can go.

This is an ultra marathon that is likely to teach me new lessons. I want to be a student.

It is set up as 20km loop in the You Yangs. That’s 8 laps to bring up the full race distance. On each loop you go up and down Flinders Peak. Apparently it is a very runnable course. Nothing crazy technical. That doesn’t make it easier than an ultra marathon with big mountains. It is a different challenge when you can potentially run it all. I may be looking for an excuse to walk.

 

 

 

 

Both these races scare me. They are in a setting that makes it impossible to hide. There is no faking these races. They give me a fear of failure, and I like it.

 

The Wings For Life World Run should be a good lead in to the Hardcore 100. There are other races I’ll throw into the mix. They won’t be my training priority which means I won’t be peaking for them. In the races I won’t be holding back either.

 

Stay tuned and I’ll take you through my training program. That’s for another post. Make sure you keep up and subscribe:

Ultra Marathon Races: Lessons Learnt

Why run an ultra marathon?

 

There is more to ultra marathon races than just completing the distance. More than just the finish line. Ultra marathons take you on a journey of discovery. You can learn a lot about yourself. Both good and bad.

 

This post isn’t the usual short tips and tricks on how to race an ultra marathon. These races can break us down to our core. The extras get stripped away. You can find out if you have what it takes… whatever that really means.

 

I have taken 3 key lessons from my ultra marathons

  1. Pain is information
  2. You can do more than you realise
  3. The body does have limits

 

Surf Coast Century rock scrambling

Pain Is Information

If anything is guaranteed, it is you will experience pain during an 100km ultra marathon.

 

Pain is powerful. It can wear us down or bring us to an abrupt stop. It can weaken our resolve, change our emotions or snatch away our goals. We don’t have to let pain have this influence on us. It may not be easy, but it is possible to change our response to pain.

 

I’ve learnt pain can be an amazing source of information. Assessing pain as it happens in an objective way, rather than responding in a subjective manner can make pain a useful tool.

 

Pain is a defence mechanism. It is designed to protect us from harm. The obvious example is if we place our hand on a hot stove top we will feel an intense burning pain. We’ll pull our hand away to protect ourselves from being burnt. When we push our limits in an ultra marathon it gets a little more complex.

 

If you listen properly pain can tell you a lot of things. We all know the burning pain from running fast, above our anaerobic threshold. If we experience this in the early stages of an 100km race it is telling us we are going too fast. Other times it’s not that simple.

 

Once past the 40km mark in my first 100km race (the Surf Coast Century) I developed a deep ache in my muscles. It was cross between the feeling of burning and bruising. This was the same pain I usually experienced in the late stages of a marathon. Just not quite as intense. What to do with this pain? I didn’t know. So I took note of it, tried to accept it and kept racing. Over the next 20km it didn’t change and didn’t seem to slow me down. When I had trouble later the pain changed. I discovered some pain may just be a reflection of effort and it is the trend or the way the pain changes that is more important.

 

Making the effort to understand the different pain experienced can be a useful tool. It can also be a way of handling the pain itself.

 

 

You Can Do More Than You Realise

Going into big races I have had some lofty goals. Do I truly believe I can hit those goals? To be honest  I’ve always had significant doubts. It is easier to write something down on paper than to actually do it. The doubts are a blessing and a curse. The fear of failure can be a powerful force. We often don’t know what it really takes to reach these goals until we have achieved them. Ultra marathons are really good at feeding those doubts as they reveal what it takes during the race.

Ultra marathons tear away your perceptions of how good you are. Each race has revealed the reality of what is required to reach my goals. Almost always it is harder than I hope. Every big event requires digging deep into my abilities. It is different each time. What has worked in the past doesn’t seem to be enough next time. This creates massive doubts before and during races.

 

Once the crutches and comforts are stripped away, you are left with the reality and doubt. Responding to these moments is what defines your races. It is a large part of why I race. In these moments I have discovered I am capable of more than I knew I was.

 

At the 55km check point of the Great Ocean Walk 100km in 2016 I felt destroyed. A combination of the brutality of the course, less than adequate training and going out too hard early didn’t get me to this point in good shape. My support team asked “How are you feeling?”

“Worse than I ‘ve ever felt in a 100km race,” was my answer. I still had 45km to go. The next 25km were considered the toughest section. How was I going to get through that? It didn’t seem possible. Yet I did. Better than just surviving this section, it was the closest I got to any goal times all day. I was able to do more than I realised.

 

 

Surf Coast Century 2012 Leg 3

The Body Has Limits

Ultra marathons are meant to test us. Many times our minds keep us in check or stop us from achieving more. Sometimes we discover our body’s limits. To truly know your limit you have to exceed them.

 

After discovering I could do more than I thought in the third quarter of the Great Ocean Walk, I found some limits in the closing kilometres of the race. My mind was strong. The pain was intense, but I had come to terms with it. As the kilometres ticked over, my muscles began to progressively fail. No matter how much I wanted to keep running. No matter how hard I tried. I couldn’t make my body do what I wanted. It had reached the point it was physically failing me. Running became impossible. Walking no longer resembled what it should. This race  brought me to and past my physical limits. I finished, but hours beyond my goal times.

 

The above is a safe example of finding those limits. A big part of racing successfully is we override our body’s defence mechanisms. Pain is now information. We find tricks and techniques to keep going. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it gets us in trouble. For this exact reason I have been taken off a course in ambulance. It is worth thinking about those limits. Having good support around you can keep you out of long term trouble if you exceed your body’s current capabilities.

 

 

Keep your running alive.

Training Recap October: Training To Train

Base Training

Working within my training limits I tried to set up a base to launch future improvements over the next few months. Many think of base training as low intensity and high volume. It’s not how I define it. For years I’ve run from the working definition of base training:

 

To develop a well balanced athlete capable of optimally responding to the stress of competition specific training

 

The aches and tightness from the previous month dissipated and my running felt smoother. My ego still tried to get in the way. It argued against dropping the volume on my easy runs. Yet dropping a couple of kilometres on those runs has made a big difference.

 

No monster sessions. They are still some months off. Instead, I’m creating habits. Trying to make my training a day after day thing. The volume will come out of consistency and progression. Not from pushing it crazy hard now.

 

Time management is important. I’ve let it slip lately. Over the last year I’ve worked on accepting last minute changes to my schedule because of kids, life and work. I’ve seen improvement in a lack of stress when I’m presented with changes. It’s also morphed into a lack of planning ahead. As a result I’ve lost a lot of efficiency. This needs to change if I want to increase my training. I need to get other stuff done. Life is more than just running.

 

Habits

Willpower is limited in how far it can take you over time. It can work as a bridge, but is almost impossible to rely on every day. Habits are more useful. The brain works well with habits. We become what we do. I use triggers and repetition to change and create habits. It takes some deliberate action and critical thinking. Over the last few weeks I haven’t been doing this. Time to start again and follow these general steps:

  1. Decide on the action I want to take and when.
  2. Use a trigger to prompt me to take that action.
  3. Develop a protection against negative actions around that trigger

 

It sounds simple, but it takes repetition to make it work. Procrastination is the biggest enemy here. It’s become a habit to procrastinate.

 

Running

The running bit wasn’t too bad. Each week I covered about 50-60km. Kept my long runs relatively short, but focussed on making sure I was running and not shuffling. I sprinkled in a few hill repeats, but mainly kept it all conservative. Most importantly I’m getting the right feel and flow in my running. It not just about the paces I hit, but how I achieve those paces. Anyone can force up the speed, but it takes a bit more time, patience and skill to achieve the speed and keep it relaxed. That is what I am aiming for. I’m just starting to see the early hints of it since coming back from injury.

 

Coburg Lake Classic 10km: Race Report 2018

Coburg Lake Classic 10k

The Coburg Lake Classic could well be Melbourne’s longest running fun run. The inaugural event was back in my birth year of 1977. I

didn’t run it then. A classic it is. In charge of the event are the Coburg Harriers. They focus on getting the basics right. No extras.

No fanfare. Just a friendly, relaxed and accurate race. I really love the old school style.

 

During the week I wondered if I should skip the race. I knew I wasn’t race fit. A combination of school holidays and some unexpected extra

work hours meant a lot of training was skipped. My long run earlier in the week was missed. I could justify not racing the 10km event

and just put in some longer and easier kilometres. It would also be pretty easy to write a blog post about the importance of not missing

the long run. But that would just be an excuse. The reality is I was scared of racing 10km.

 

I know I raced 5km a couple of weeks ago. To a degree I can fake a 5km. Doubling the distance will show up fitness gaps. It

could be better staying in ignorant bliss. I could skip the 10km and claim I’m an ultra runner. Sprinkle over a bit of acceptance

and go on about still coming back from injury. The truth is racing a 10km hurts and it can hurt a lot.

 

At times we are faced with a choice between what is easy and what will be best.

 

Don’t choose what is easy.

 

The not so easy option

On the morning I didn’t feel like was about to race. I didn’t have my usual buzz of anticipation.  Best to take a long gradual warm up. Working up from a ridiculously slow shuffle to a few run throughs at race pace eventually uncovered some of that buzz. We assembled in the club rooms for the briefing.

 

I was now ready to race.

 

Simplicity is my preferred option in race plans.  I haven’t trained at around 10km race pace. Best to avoid smashing my weakness and try to suck some advantage out of my endurance. The plan:

  • Go out conservative for a 10km.
  • Ignore the front runners. Today is not the day to try and stay out front.
  •  Keep that pace until 7km and try and pick up in the closing 3km.

 

That seemed doable when bounced around inside my head.

 

Time to Race

 

The opening kilometre is interesting. The 5km runners start about 200m ahead of the 10km. Despite the faster 10’ers passing the slower 5’ers  it works. The numbers are small enough. The path is wide enough. Plus the friendliness of this race shows up. No one is held up.

 

The course can be thought of as 2 main sections. First is a mildly undulating out and back covering 4km. The return takes you almost back to the start before turning into a different out of back of 6km with a good size hill in the middle. You get to hit the hill from both sides.

 

I keep my speed in check and feel I could hold it for the full distance. The legs are happy. I’m not breathing too hard. I trust my experience to know I am a bit above threshold. Hopefully I’ve picked the sweet spot.

 

Over the mild undulations of the 2km brings up the first turnaround. I find myself in 5th place. The front 3 are moving off ahead and I know they are likely to stay that way. I’m feeling pretty good at this point. Retracing my steps back over the 2km seemed ok. I didn’t feel as comfortable and my pace seemed a little erratic. Honestly, I just felt out of practice.

 

Onto the second section. Out by myself, 3rd place was well ahead of me. It was just myself against the course. A brief flat section and then into the first climb. I tried to make the hill feel good.  It didn’t work.

 

The down hill is usually my friend. Not for today. I felt like I was playing just behind the beat.

 

Part 2

 

Off the hill and it’s mostly flat with some very mild undulations to the turn around. Now past 5km I was struggling. My pace was lagging. I knew I was working hard, but it wasn’t hurting in the way a 10km should. It was more I lacked the strength to keep up my speed. My legs just seemed to be failing me. This was disappointing. It wasn’t part of my race plan. I was still meant to be running at my opening speed. Picking it up over the final 3km seemed unlikely.

 

The turnaround allowed me to check on the top 3 runners. First and second were challenging each and well in front of me. Third certainly had a clear gap on me. Just not as big as I thought it would be. Maybe I could catch him. It was a thought I made sure I grabbed hold of. Maybe I could get myself out of this slump. The idea was appealing. Make it more than just an idea.

 

Now I was hurting. Around the turnaround. Forcing the idea out of my head and into my legs. I managed to get my pace back up. There was plenty of space between those behind me, so no point looking back. Best to set my sites in front. Over the next kilometre I was able to keep up the speed. The lactic acid burn flooded through my legs. In a strange way I was enjoying the burn. It made me feel like I was truly racing again. My muscles didn’t enjoy it. They reminded me I wasn’t race fit. They struggled in the acidic environment and just wouldn’t fire properly. Running coordination seemed to dwindle quickly, and with it went any speed I’d been able to muster.

 

It wasn’t through a lack of trying, but the final 2km were relatively slow. I’m not so sure I could call it running. Was I getting any air time in my stride? Maybe I was just walking quickly. This took me back over the hill, which wasn’t pretty. Eventually back onto the athletics track and across the finish line. Still in 4th place, and a time of 41:52. Far from my faster 10km races and slower than predicted off my 5km race time. I learnt a lot this day.

 

 

Training Recap September: Return To Start

It has been an exciting month for running. It marks my return to racing and what feels like real training. The 4 months since May have been about rehab from a high ankle sprain after the Wilsons Promontory 100km DNF. It has been a slow process just to be able to cover some race distance.

 

The racing tests were poles apart. First I wanted to see if I could cover 50km of trail running. The speed wasn’t important, just the ability to cover the distance. Followed in a week with a 5km fun run to see if I could handle pushing some speed. Check out the race reports to see how these unfolded:

I learnt I have the ability to cover 50km slowly. It was certainly at the limits of my conditioning. It was survival, not running, and definitely not racing. I was pleasantly surprised I could handle a 5km race. Far from my best race form, but it felt good to run faster than 5:00/km. Something I haven’t done since before May.

 

Oliva Newton John Cancer Centre Wellness Walk and Research Run 2017

 

I Held Together

 

The day after racing 5km. I felt alive. A few sore spots let me know I’d raced yesterday. Nothing major. As an over all feeling I felt awesome. Everything was a little bit enhanced. I’d forgotten just how much I love racing. I also think my mind and body needs to go hard every so often. I went out for an easy 10km. There was definitely a bit of heaviness in the legs. My running felt a little strange. My legs didn’t want to run at what I thought was an appropriate easy pace. Instead they wanted to give me only two options:

  1. Run fast… like race fast again
  2. Shuffle crazy slow… even just walk

So I switched off from thinking about running. Interestingly that kept me at about the same pace for the rest of the run.

 

Testing The Next Training

 

Now to test out my next training cycle. I have proven to myself I can run a long way slowly. I also have a recorded 5km race time. That’s enough to plug in some potential training guidelines. Time to start working on getting fast.

 

Not running fast for over 4 months means there is a lot of conditioning I don’t have. I can’t just say I’ve recovered from injury and then hit the training crazy hard. Chances are I’ll break something else down. I decided to use this week to test the waters.

 

I calculated paces off the 5km time for my long run, a steady-kind-of-tempo run and some intervals. For the week I decided to only use the long run and tempo run as key sessions. Everything else was to remain easy, with some very short pick ups thrown into the easy runs. Out of the mix was the slow shuffle that had been the mainstay of the last few months. In some ways it felt good to be a little quicker. It became clear near the end of the runs my legs weren’t quite used to this.

 

The week went by. Some aches and pains developed. Nothing major, but it was clear there is a lot of conditioning of the connective tissues that is missing. Some tightness and weak areas have developed over the months from compensating from the injury. I’ve learnt the hard way in the past not to force the return. The week ended with a little 2km regeneration run. A total of 70km for the seven days. All a bit faster than most of my recent running. It felt good to pick it up slightly. It felt like real running rather than just covering some ground. I liked the difference. There is definitely a want to up the anti next week to keep chasing the feeling. But I do know better.

 

Listen

 

My body whispered at first. I thought the 2km run was enough rest. Then my body spoke up. The faster running has revealed tightness and some built up issues. More rehabilitation work needs to be in the mix. Over the last few days of September I have taken the safe option. I’ve backed off the volume. Kept the pace up a bit on most runs. Took an extra day off and threw in one super easy and slow shuffle.

 

I’ve found my current training limit. A training limit is very different to a racing limit. Racing limits are much higher, but training needs to be repeated each week. In racing you can afford to break down to get the result. Training needs to build you up.

 

Now to plan training for October.

 

Wellness Walk and Research Run 5km: Race Report 2017

Preamble

 

Time to test the ankle. I pulled through 50km last weekend without injury problems. Some conditioning issues, but no injury concerns. This weekend it was time to test how I held up against some speed.

 

It was a last minute decision. My Dad told me the before he was going to run 5km at the Wellness Walk and Research Run in support of Olivia Newton John Cancer Centre. A great cause. With no other plans, I had to join in the fun.

 

Usually I pick the longer option. I tried something different and ignored the 10km, opting to run the 5km instead. There was a little bit of safety in this decision. I haven’t run faster than 5:00/km since May this year. If my ankle didn’t hold up, there would be less damage at the shorter distance. Of course I was hoping there would be no problem.

 

The morning was cold. I had to clear the ice off my car to head down. A Melbourne Spring morning. Cold giving way to a warm, sunny and clear day. For the 5km run, the numbers weren’t huge. The masses were turning up later for the walk instead. However, there were enough to make a good event. The mood was exceptionally positive. Such a feel good start.

 

I attempted to shake out the heaviness my legs seemed to be carrying over from last weekend. During the warm up I realised it wasn’t heaviness. My legs just haven’t run fast for months. They didn’t know what to do. Can’t change it now. Best not to worry. Chatting with my Dad passed the last few minutes. I moved to the front for the start. Even if I couldn’t stay there, I would see how I compared to the front runners.

 

Oliva Newton John appeared, shared some awesomeness. Then we were off and running.

 

WWRR2017 Map

Racing

 

I ran out. No checking pace. Just relying on what seemed to feel right for a 5km race. That feeling erred on the side of feeling a bit too fast. Surprised, I found myself in the lead. I could here footsteps right at my heels. No point looking behind. Aim for the lead cyclist. Run the lines well. Keep the cadence up.

 

This was a road race. No technical trails or slippery surface. Black bitumen flowed underfoot. It is a style of racing that clears away the distractions. It shows your weaknesses easily. This race did exactly that.

 

I kept the lead position for maybe the first kilometre. The road became a mild hill. I’d almost forgotten how a small gradient can be a big obstacle when the pace is high. My legs wanted to run the slope as an ultra runner. That wasn’t going to help. I forced the legs to keep some semblance of 5km stride in them. This certainly wasn’t my strong point. I was relegated to second place. My legs weren’t really hurting, but I couldn’t make them go faster. Interrupting my racing brain a realisation crept in. My ankle seemed to be handling the faster running!

 

With my fear covered, I now had permission to just race. I pushed the cadence and tried hard to toe on each stride. Run tall. Hips forward. It was a small battle against some bad habits that had crept into my style. For the most part I won that battle. It wasn’t a completely convincing victory. The mild climb crested and became a very mild down hill. I loved it. Gravity was again my friend. I focussed on keeping my body forward, and pushing quickly through my toe off. Feeling fast I gained a couple of metres back on first place.

 

Now about halfway. The remainder was almost completely flat. A few turns. Nothing hard. The course weaved through the buildings of La Trobe University. It had been many years since I last had a look around this campus. I was impressed in how much nicer it now looked… oops… where was I? Oh yeah, I’m meant to be racing. Not sure how long I was lost in other thoughts. Did I drop off the pace? Maybe a little, but hard to tell. First was moving further away. I couldn’t see any challenges coming up behind. Safe in second. But this is a race! Nothing exceptional comes out of being safe. A little over 1km left. Better make the most of it.

 

I know I put all my effort into the closing section. I felt like I couldn’t suck in enough oxygen. My legs developed the lactic acid burn I haven’t felt for so long. Despite this increase in effort, I didn’t really go any faster. I just stopped myself from slowing down. Which I am happy with. Across the finish. Aaron who took first place was waiting across line. He deserved the win. I was happy with my effort combined with the bonus of taking second place.

Olivia Newton John Cancer Centre Race

Afterthoughts

 

After crossing the finish I made my way back to find my Dad. It was quite cool to run a bit with him as covered the final section.

 

Most people will be touched by cancer in some way. I was impressed with positivity this event created in the fight agains cancer. It will be good to support the event next year.

 

I knew I’d missed racing. I’d forgotten just how much I love racing. Well off my fastest times (and I should be at this stage). Now I know I am ready to really train. No longer just building back from injury. Time to work out what goals to chase.

Surf Coast Century Relay 2017: Race Report

There is so much to love about this race. I’ve only missed one year since the inaugural Surf Coast Century in 2012. I plan to keep coming back.

 

If you are looking to try out trail running or an ultra marathon this would be an event to get to. The atmosphere is huge. The course is spectacular. It is a challenge whether you are doing a 21km leg or the full 100km, but there is so much support this event lifts you to achieve more than you thought you could.

Surf Coast Century Race Start Head Torches

It’s becoming an annual event for me with some awesome work colleagues. Our numbers seem to be growing. Fielding 3 teams this year. Two as 4 person relays. My team was 3. Andrew taking out the first 21km leg. Mick for 28km in leg 2. Myself given the job of two people and covering the 52km of legs 3 and 4.

 

Racing this year was an important benchmark. After injury at Wilsons’s Promontory 100km in May it is my first event back. Still no where near what I consider race fit, it was a challenge to get up to cover 50km of trails. If I can do this, then I can start thinking big for next year.

Anglesea to Torquay to Anglesea: (0-49km)

Having others run makes the first 49km a lot easier. It’s one of the advantages being part of a relay. It’s still an early, predawn start. Andrew trained well. Despite some injury issues got himself into great shape to smash out the  21km of Leg 1 across the beaches.

 

Mick took over at Torquay. Putting his hyperactivity to good use, set out and gained many spots over Leg 2. Face planting into a puddle didn’t seem to slow him down much. He ran hard and fast over the 28km of trails, hills and hinterland.

Surf Coast Century Leg 1 to Leg 2

 

Anglesea to Moggs Creek: 0-28km (49-77km)

Half way through the race (or near enough) for the team. One difficulty in ultra length relays is timing being ready for your leg. It was a mixture of trying to relax and keep moving. A balance that would be more difficult if I was aiming for a fast time. The pressure was off on my speed. The challenge was to see if I was able to cover the distance. Recent rains resulted in a minor course change. Bringing the distance up to 52km for the two legs I was about to run. We’ll just ignore the extra distance. I just wondered if I could make it.

 

Mick returned looking like he had run it hard. Passed over the first aid kit which was operating as our relay baton. Over the timing mats I went. My test had started.

 

The first few steps felt great. My body felt smooth and relaxed. My mind was a different story. A flood of what if scenarios smashed through my thoughts. None of them particularly positive. I knew the stretch between where I had trained versus what I was attempting was big. Thinking about all the possible reasons of failing wasn’t going to help. I distracted my brain by attempting to count my breaths per every 10 steps. Trying to count different breathes and steps at the same time fills brain space. Using numbers often overrides my subjective thoughts. It worked.

 

The trail takes us under the bridge of the Great Ocean Road. It is a narrow space to crawl through. A solo 100km runner in front of me was cramping through this crawl. I had an appreciation for doing this move fresh.

 

Into the hills. Nothing technical for the next few kilometres. Just lots of up and down. Not putting time pressures on myself allowed me to really enjoy this section. Mostly wide fire trail here. When focussing on the few steps in front it has felt a bit bland in previous years. Now I had the head space to look around more. The views into the Otways are spectacular. I’m surprised I haven’t appreciated this before.

 

Venturing off the fire trails it gets a little more interesting under foot. A few more turns. A little extra concentration on where you land. I started feeling pleasantly lost in the bush. No longer thinking about how much further I had to run. Instead I was looking forward to the journey.

 

The sound of cheering seeped through the trees. Indicating I was almost at Distillery Creek Road. This was exciting. The trail beyond the road crossing is some of the best single track in the country for running. I was excited. So was the small crowd at the road. My sis and bro-in-law were there giving me a boost. As was a girl dressed up as a strawberry!

 

Off the road… “it’s swim time!” I announced as I took the straight line through a knee deep puddle that others were taking the long and muddy way around. My shoes were already wet, and the dip seemed to clean off some of the mud I’d previously accumulated. A slippery, muddy and flowing single track led down into bush paradise. There was a lot of variety in speeds of runners through this section. Some were doing the 100km solo, others the 50km option and the remainder one leg of the relay. It was an interesting mix up. Quite social.

Surf Coast Century Leg 3

In trail running what goes down must come up. In this case it was 6km of moving against gravity. Not too steep. In my frame of mind it was very enjoyable. I also knew better was yet to come. Over the top and the trail travels with gravity for my favourite 3km of the whole 100km Surf Coast Century course.

These 3km is steep enough you can allow gravity to do almost all the work. It is just technical enough you need some agility and skill. It is a combination that hits my sweet spot in trail running. Because there is a risk to my ankle from going hard down hill I modified my stride a little. I made an effort to shorten the stride length and avoid any big step downs. Taking multiple steps down any drops where I normally just would have just jumped down. This worked. My legs spun. The impact seemed light. My ego was boosted as I passed a lot of other runners. It felt perfect. This is why I run.

 

Moggs Creek to Anglesea 28-51km (77-100km)

The checkpoint was full. So many people to support all the runners. It’s amazing as it is the most difficult one to get into. So it is an effort for spectators and supporters to be here. It was crowded.

 

I’d absolutely loved the previous 28km. Some warning signs of fatigue were showing up in my ankle. There was also some pain in a risky spot. Maybe I’d taken that 3km down hill a bit too fast. Part of me wished I had a relay runner to swap over to. Turns out my head wasn’t working very well. Having attempted to calculate a finishing time I asked my team to make sure they got my head torch to me later. They had to explain to me I could walk the remainder and be in before dark. Not sure what was going on there. Mick gave me an espresso, I ate some food and my mind cleared. Eventually I left the checkpoint. It was only 6 minutes, but I felt like I’d kicked back for an hour.

 

Fueled and refreshed. Climbing up the single track. My ankle was hurting. This made me worry , so I walked a lot of the next couple of kilometres. Gradually I added in more running. A process of trial and error revealed what hurt and what seemed to allow me to keep running.

 

With a careful style I ran slowly. I really wanted to go faster. Instead I erred on the side of caution. I didn’t want to take another month off running. This race was meant to be my springboard into more. In a lot of ways it didn’t feel right to hold back. It created a lot of conflict in my thinking. It was much harder than I realised to be in a race and not racing.

 

The battle in brain distracted me until the trail spat me out at the Great Ocean Road. Another bridge to go under. My mind clearly wasn’t working well. This bridge is much easier than the first, but not for me at this time. With no ability to focus or decide where to put my hands and feet I was embarrassed in my efforts. Jane from one of other teams caught me here. She was polite enough not to openly laugh at me.

Check Point 7 Surf Coast Century

On the other side it was good to run with her into the checkpoint. Only 14km left. I stopped and smashed down a Red Bull and Clif Bar. Jane ran off ahead. There were no doubts now. I knew I was going to finish. On and up towards the Airey’s Inlet Lighthouse. The trail was easier here and allowed for some better running. I got into a disconnected zone and soon had over 7km covered.

 

This brought me out to the beach. Sis and bro-in-law were nailing the supporter roles big time. The muscles of my feet and lower leg were cramping and basically failing to do their job now. Sand didn’t help. Luckily I was caught by a blast from the past of my triathlon days. We had about 6km to the finish. It was good having Christian to run with. Catching up and reminiscing helped distract the mind and we pushed each other to cover the final kilometres faster. My technique wasn’t the prettiest, but it got me through. This the was first race I’ve ever run where I didn’t try to beat those around me in the closing stages. I finally understood why many cross the finish together. It is a different feeling, but it is a good feeling. There is more to racing than just racing.

 

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Also check out the race site itself at Surf Coast Century.

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