Tag Archives: marathon

Next Level Marathon Training: Earn the right to train hard

How do you reach your next level marathon training?

For me personally most of my run training hasn’t changed much since these restrictions have come in. Mainly because almost all my training is based from home and the runs are by myself. One of the issues with these changing in life is the lack of goals. I have always had a running goal going. Usually some race in the future that I’m aiming for. At the moment we don’t know when any of that’s going back.

Times when I’ve had problems in races and training is when I have neglected consistency.

Running Background

Now training is lots of easy runs, strength work, some tempo runs, the occasional MAF test and long runs. All while getting my Achilles back up to scratch. I still need to be careful not to aggravate the Achilles tendon.

I have a goal. It is to earn the next cycle of training.

Training is now going to go out to 8 or 9 day blocks. I need to be able to complete that training block without any issues cropping up. Without causing injury, without my Achilles flaring up or getting sick. I need to be able to handle and absorb the training.

The structure is to have 2 cycles of 9 days of very similar training. These will be my hard weeks. The first cycle is a step up in training, but the second should be a small extension. After which I will take an easier 9 day cycle which will focus on recovery and testing. This training should build me up, not tear me down.

Running Goals

This provides close goals. They are only 9 and 18 days ahead, so are achievable. The goals aren’t extreme. It’s to get through the training without it breaking me down. This forces me to look at recovery and consistency in training. I’ve got to do the daily workouts. I’ve got to be disciplined in the intensity. Take it easy when I should. Push it hard when I should.

Earn The Right

Earn the right to increase your training next week.

This week you have to be able to absorb, handle and adapt to the training you’re doing. If you pay attention you already know whether you are or not. If training leaves you stuffed for the next 3 or 4 days and you have to miss some training sessions you haven’t earned the right to train at that level. So do what it takes to build yourself up earn the right to train hard people and running.

Marathon Base Training : Training during restrictions

I’m gonna take you through my current marathon base training.

There’ll be a few tips on how you can apply it to your own program.

What Is Marathon Base Training?

Most people think it’s lots of slow training. Keeping down the intensity and pushing up the volume.  Lots of long slow distance work. To a point for some applications that might be the case. For me the point of base training is a bit different.

The Point Of Base Training

The point of base training is to develop a well conditioned athletes capable of optimally responding to the demands of competition specific training.

Previous post here: Base Training For Runners

Training To Train

Sounds complex. Basically it’s training to train.

Training to train is getting fit enough to handle the really hard training that makes up your competition specific work. The better your base the harder you can train further down the track. The more gains you can make as you get closer to racing.

Marathon Base Training Outline

I set up my training in four to five day blocks. At the moment given my circumstances, doing a lot of extra work hours. In this new world of corona virus my work is flat-out. Extra night shifts and extra hours. I haven’t really got a pattern. So only looking 4 to 5 days ahead seems to be the best approach at the moment.

In those 4 to 5 day training blocks I’m trying to include:

  • a long run
  • a tempo run
  • strength (running specific)
  • strength (other stuff)
  • easy runs

How these sessions fit into those days will vary with each block. It’s about the best fit each time. I’m gonna try and separate the tempo and the long run with 1 or 2 days in between. I could start with the long run. It could be the second session, or be the 4th. Whatever is the best fit in amongst the rest of life.

Keeping  tabs on recovery and if needed I’ll stick in an extra easy day or recovery day between the training blocks. It’s a work in progress. These times are uncertain at the moment. At the moment I’m still able to run outside. That may change in the not-too-distant future. Isolation or lock down may get stronger. So this plan though allows me to adapt to the ever changing constraints forced upon us. It also is a good setup for other situations as well.

Tempo Run

The tempo run is just my little bit of introduction into something a bit faster or a little bit harder. I’m going to keep it within a heart rate zone between 75 to 87%. Not too concerned about exactly where I sit in that range. Just going to run out on feel. Keep it at a steady consistent effort. An introduction to get my legs and Achilles tendon used to something a little bit faster. Pushing it any quicker than that will leave my Achilles tendon at risk. Faster running at this stage still leads to a bit of a flare-up. The basic approach with these tempo runs is to start out at 20 minutes and each time around will add about five minutes.

MAF Test

About every 2 to 3 weeks I’m going to replace that tempo run with a MAF test. It is the Phil Maffetone test where he’s talking about maximal aerobic function. For me being 42 years old 180 minus 42 that gives me a heart rate of 138bpm. The point for me is to run 8km at exactly that heart rate.

As my training progresses I should be able to maintain that exact same heart rate. How much I slow down from the start to the end of the run should reduce while the average speed of the run should improve.

I’m not following the Meffetone training program. I’m not limiting my training to below that heart rate. As such it’s a good reference point that I can go back over the years for my own training. It will give me a good guide to where my basic fitness sits.

Long Run

Probably my favorite run is the long run.

The aim is to get in about two hours and maintain a heart rate between 65 to 75% of heart rate max. Pacing I don’t really care about. I’m hoping to keep an even pace from the start all the way to the end nothing much more complicated than that.

About every second long run I aim to increase the time out by 10 minutes. On alternative long runs I’ll stick to two hours. Giving the pattern of:

2:00, 2:10, 2:00, 2:20, 2:00, 2:30, 2:00…

Hopefully I can progress safely with this format. As long as the Achilles isn’t flaring up I should be able to.

Strength Training For Marathon Base

For strength training I’m going to do one key session. This is the session that I have will make sure I include every training block. It’s my run specific strength training. Currently  concentrating on the calves, hamstrings and glutes. Predominantly leg work with core strength stability training. This is the primary strength training session. I will always include this. Skipping an easy run if needed.

A second strength session is listed as other. This covers everything that isn’t directly run specific. It can be just some fun stuff, upper body work such as  overhead presses, pull-ups, more core work. Basically anything in order to stay fit for the rest of life and work.

Easy Runs

Easy runs are dotted in between the mix of training. Ideally I’ll be running between 60 and 90 minutes, but I know how time pressures are at the moment. I’ll be happy with anything between 30 and 90 minutes.

Before a 6 a.m. work start I’ll be getting up at 4 a.m. giving about 30 minutes to fit training in. The pace of these easy runs is purely based on intensity.  I’m going to keep the heart rate between 55 and 75% of heart right max.  These easy runs will feel excruciatingly slow. They are so slow that I’ve turned off the pace data fields on my Garmin. I don’t need to know my pace. This helps with the intensity discipline that will allow me to get the ongoing training done. This is why including a semi-regular MAF test means I’m able to keep track of improvements around that first aerobic threshold. Improvement here I can indicate I’m setting up a good base.

Marathon Base Training Summary

The plan is pretty simple:

4-5 day training block to include:

  • long run
  • tempo run
  • strength training
  • easy runs

This simplicity makes it easy to adapt according to different roster cycles and other commitments of life while I’m still able to run outside.

It’s quite doable nothing overly hard in the training. What becomes hard is being able to maintain that consistency over a long period of time.

Keep on running.

Peak Training For Wings For Life World Run

With 4 weeks until race day. This is the peak training block. Training changes a lot.

 

Two key points for this block:

1. Develop race pace
2. Recovery

 

It feels amazing when you race well. The last block of training included the 10km cross country and Half Marathon at the Victoria Police & Emergency Services Games. Those races proved to myself I had made some big improvements.

 

The main goal of that last block of training was to improve my pace for the Wings For Life World Run. As a result there was a good amount of running at faster paces. My body responded and absorbed the training like a sponge. It went into over drive and the fast stuff became too easy.

 

Too easy?

 

My body wanted was hitting peak fitness. Unforunately that’s too far out from the WIngs For Life World Run. To try to capitilise on the my fitness gains, but delay a racing peak I dropped the speed and upped the volume, followed by a few very easy runs. It feels like it has worked. I’m ready to hit some specific training to peak on race day.

Peak Training

 

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.

 

This goal means I have to run a marathon under 3:10. Then keep it going for as long as possible. That will be my 3rd fastest marathon. It’s been over 9 years since I was in that shape. As result it means I’m treating most of the training as marathon preparation.

 

Two key points for this block:

1. Race Pace
2. Recovery

 

Race Pace

 

It’s important to be efficient at race pace for all long distance running. For a marathon this applies extra. The length of the race adds in extra elements. Being able to run efficiently under significant fatigue is paramount.

 

Overriding is the balancing of fuel use. Burn too much carboydrate at a your race pace and say goodbye to holding that speed for the entire distance.

 

The base training and long runs over the last few months play a big role in getting ready. Now it’s time to make the most of that and get everything in tune for my race pace. This calls for long runs at or very close to race pace. They are almost race simulations. Difficulty lies in the sessions being long enough to force the body to adapt to improve the fat to carbohydrate ratio, while not be too long to require a crazy amount of recovery.

 

These runs are big sessions. Too many will have likely be detrimental. Getting it right should lead to some big improvements. Only 5 key runs are being scheduled, all occuring in the first 3 of the 4 weeks. There will be an 8 day taper encompassing the 4th week.

 

Most of the training in the previous months has been focussed on getting the feel right. Times have been very secondary. This is flipped around for the key runs. In these key 5 runs the aim is to hit the paces as closely as possible. Let’s get into those runs…

 

All 5 runs begin with an easy warm up of 10-15min. I will try to keep it the same as what I aim to do on race day. After each run I will perform a very easy cool down of 15-20min. All runs will be over similar terrain as the race.

 

1. Specific Long Intervals 4 x 5000m / 1000m

 

Each 5000m repeat will be run at or just above race pace. That’s 100-102% of race pace. So if targeting 4:25/km then the range will be 4:25-4:19/km.

 

These repeats dial in the feel and rhythm of the top end of speed for the race. It is important to know what this feels like to control pacing over the distance. It also provides time training near the crossover point of fat and carbohydrate burning. Running faster switched the metabolism too heavily towards carbohydrate and will miss most benefits in fine tuning the balance of fuels.

 

The main set ends after the 4th 5000m repeat. After each of the first 3 repeats there is a 1000m recovery. Pacing the 1000m is important. It isn’t a simple jog aiming to take full recovery. Instead I will be looking to drop the pace down to about 90% of race pace. For a race pace target of 4:25km, that gives 4:51/km for the recovery. So the speed is still up there. It should provide just enough time for a mental reprieve to take stock of how the 5000m repeat went. There is also a sense of pacing that is enhanced when a small drop like this is practiced.

 

A total disance of 23km for the main with 20km at or slightly above race pace.

 

2. 30km Long Run @ 98-100% Race Pace

 

It’s as simple as it sounds. Between a warm and cool, run 30km at slightly slower to right on race pace. Using a race pace of 4:25/km this long run will be between 4:30-4:25/km.

 

This should develop fatigue resistance specific to racing. Sense of the slower side of race pace is enhanced. This will aid in preventing inadvertant drops in speed on race day.

 

The end of the run is likely to challenge carbohydrate stores. This should force the body to adapt and become more efficient in sparing carbohydrate at race pace. Holding the pace all the way through is paramount in this run. Being able to do so requires as much mental effort as it does physical.

 

3. Specific Long Intervals 5 x 5000m /1000m

 

Exactly the same outline as the 4 x 5000m in key run 1. Just extending out with an extra 5000m repeat and another 1000m. It is more important to be close to race pace than to run faster. The progression in race efficiency will come from. running further at this speed.

 

Jumping up to a total of 29km for the main set. Combined with the easier 1000m in between, the average for the full set should be right on race pace.

 

4. 32km Long Run @ 98-100% Race Pace

 

Exactly the same as the 30km long run for key run 2, just with an extra 2km. By now my body should have absorbed and adapted to at the first couple of key runs. Here I would any difficulty in maintaing speed to extend our closer to 32km. It will be a good guage to if I’m on track.

 

5. Specific Long Intervals Descending 7,6,5,4,3,2,1km / 1km

 

The last big run. Similar concept to the 5000m repeats in key runs 1 and 3.

 

Each fast interval will again be at 100-102% of race pace with a 1km repeat in between at 90% of race pace. After the warm I will begin with 7km at 4:25-4-19/km. Then 1km at 4:51/km, and moving into 6km interval.

 

If feeling good once down to the interval of 3km I can increase the speed slightly of 1km recovery, maybe to 4:40/km. On the final fast interval of 1km the aim will be run slightly faster than all other repeats just a few seconds. Maybe 4:16/km.

 

Will I hit those times?

 

I hope so, but that is 3 weeks away. It is the aim, but we’ll see how it goes. This last run is big. 34km as the main set. It won’t be performed closer than 8 days out of the race.

 

I'm looking forward to this block. When I'm feeling this is the type of training I love. Big sessions with no pressure in between

Recovery

 

To perform the specific race sessions properly you need to be fresh enough. This is not the time to carry over fatigue into key runs. The key runs are big and create a substantial recovery cost. So my recovery between them is extra important.

 

I’m moving beyond my usual 1-2 days of easy running between key runs. For this block, the easy days will be 3-4 days. Yes, that’s right.

 

The running on these easy days will be exactly that… easy.

 

Easy doesn’t always mean slow, but it usually does. Most runs will be between 5-13km at a very comfortable pace. Occasionaly, I may throw in a few short intervals to kick up the nervous system and remind the few fast twitch fibres they are needed. The rule is each run should have me feel better after running. They should not add a recover cost.

 

At the end of the this block is ultimate period of recovery. Eight days of taper. All runs will be ridiculously easy. The legs will turn over around race pace on occasion, but the runs will be short. Absolutely nothing should add a training load. The training is done.

 

I’m looking forward to this block. When I’m feeling this is the type of training I love. Big sessions with no pressure in between. How do you approach your last few weeks before big race?

Ultra Marathon Training: Block 1 Weeks 1-4

It has felt like years since I really trained fast. With ultra marathon training I’d become pretty good at shuffling my way over long distances. I get a lot out of this, but miss the faster running of my earlier years. So I’ve set a goal that should help me find some of that speed again. Some extra detail is in 2018 Running Goals.

 

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.

 

Block 1 is the first of 5 blocks, each of 4 weeks in my lead up to the Wings For Life World Run. An overview can be found in Training Plan Overview 2018: 7 Steps To Setup Your Running.

 

There are main 2 points in Block 1:

  1. Increase VO2max
  2. Increase distance of long run

Both these points will extend into Block 2. They should set the base for more specific training in the remaining 3 blocks.

keep on running ultra marathon training

1. Increase VO2max

 

This is the gold standard of aerobic fitness. A higher VO2max means you can do more work or run faster while using oxygen. It filters down to all intensities below it. Heavily determined by which parents you chose, there is still a substantial influence training can make.

 

There are a multitude of different ways to train to increase your VO2max. These have different effects on other areas of fitness. I will stick to what has been well supported in research and has worked for me in the past. It is a throwback to my university days when I was a lab rat in many exercise studies.

 

My go to VO2max training session is 4-8 repeats of 3-5 minutes with 3-5 minutes of easy recovery in between each repeat. The intensity of each repeat should be very close to my VO2 max, which will be about 3000m race pace.

 

 

2. Increase Distance Of Long Run

 

To make the Wings For Life World Run an ultra marathon I need to be able to handle running a long way. That calls for some long runs.

 

I know I can shuffle out some very long distances. However, the pace won’t get me anywhere near my goal. There is a big difference between 7:00/km and under 4:27/km. This means my long run needs to shift up a gear or two.

The struggle will be to find that balance in going faster versus adding distance.

 

Training Plan

 

Over the 4 weeks I was working in 8 training cycles. I know this doesn’t fit neatly, but it works for me. My work roster has a lot to do with it. The planned training for each of the 8 days is:Ultra marathon trining week 1 to 4

  1. Easy – likely a run commute to and from work. Anywhere between 4-10km each run at a pace that is comfortable.
  2. Easy – run commute. As per yesterday, but if feeling okay I’ll throw in some short hill repeats in the morning run.
  3. Easy – again likely a run commute between 4-10km. These first three days are about regeneration from the previous week/cycle of training. I want to come out of these three days feeling ready for some hard sessions.
  4. VO2max Intervals – this is my key “get faster” run. Starting with 3 x 1000m repeats with an easy 600m jog in between, I’ll add a repeat each week. The rest of may day is lazy as I will be following up with a night shift at work.
  5. Regeneration – this day is mostly written off as a nothing day. I’ll be sleeping for most of it after a 14 hour night shift. I hope to force myself to get in a few very easy kilometres of running. Sleep is definitely the priority.
  6. Long Run – Starting with 30km I want to add 2km each week. I expect to carry over some fatigue from the VO2max intervals, but I hope I can get this right.
  7. Easy – just a simple 6-14km to keep the legs moving.
  8. Hill Repeats – I will pick hills that take 2-3 minutes to run at a bit below VO2max pace, with a very easy jog back down. It is a mixture of specific strength and support for VO2max development.

The total kilometres in each period are not a goal. That total will take care of itself if I focus on getting each session right

 

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.