Tag Archives: race

Wings For Life World Run 2019 – Lessons Learned

We couldn’t have asked for better weather for the Wings For Life World Run in Melbourne. It still feels strange starting a race at 9 pm. That’s what you get depending on your time zone for a worldwide event.

Last year and I came in with big goals and they fell apart. This year I took the opposite approach. No time or distance goals. No set pace. Instead, my only goal was just to put in what I felt was a solid effort.

To help stick with that goal I stayed clear of checking the goal calculator. That way I was vague on where any splits were leading. For this run, vagueness was a good thing. There were some lessons learned.

Watch

While trying not to pay any attention to my pace and time I discovered how much I check them.

Each time I turned my wrist I cursed myself for taking another look. Knowing the splits wasn’t going to help me here. This was a test in pacing on feel. To race without any preconceived ideas.

My pacing has become too reliant on technology.

Cadence

I’ve put in a lot of work to improve my running stride. The focus has been on bringing the glutes and hamstrings into action. Getting away from the lazy ultra marathon shuffle I had developed.

Turns out I’d been fairly successful in this.

The side effect is I’d slowed my running cadence at the faster speeds. Running faster as a result but at the expense of endurance. This caught up with me during the race.

Decoupling

Decoupling is the point where you slow down despite putting in the same effort. There are many factors that go into this. For me, the dominant factor is a failure in the muscles themselves.

The rate of drop off in pace is huge for me at the moment. Two main factors have led to this.

First is simply inconsistent training and a resulting lack of volume.

Second comes straight back the lower cadence. More impact on each stride leads to more muscle trauma and a bigger drop in pace.

Fun

There are plenty of issues I can find in my running. Plenty of ways to improve. It still comes back to having fun.

I run because it helps me feel alive. It enhances key moments in my life.

I will always seek improvement. Yet, I will always take a moment to absorb what I have achieved. The Wings For Life World Run is such a cool event. It raises dollars for an amazing cause. There is a uniqueness in being chased by the finish line. Down in Melbourne it is the most fun you can ever have on the Monash Freeway.

My Biggest Race Weakness: How To Fix Your Race Pacing

Pull apart my biggest race weakness. You learn a lot from mistakes. Learn from mine. Learn from my mistakes and fix your race pacing.

 

Pacing

 

Over the years I’ve prided myself on my pacing skills. I can run an out and back course and hit my return split within seconds. On a track I can become a human metronome. I’ve paced some races perfectly. As a result I developed the belief I was pretty good at race pacing.

 

Funny thing is I also have many races where I seriously got it wrong.

 

In many race I’ve gone out way too hard. Not just a little bit. So fast those watching say “he’s gone out way too hard.”

 

In those races I suffered spectacularly. From a massive slow down to a DNF. These are not the way I want to race. My goals are bigger. I’m sure yours are too.

 

 

When It Goes Wrong?

 

The problem in an ultra marathon is the correct pace is so slow. Running way too fast actually feels way too easy. Race pace is slower than your usual slower training run.

 

When working out predicted times and going through the maths, I have often thought:
How is it possible to run so slow?

 

The revenge on me is I end up unable to reach that slow pace later in the race.

 

Too fast feel very natural and too easy.

 

When It Goes Right?

 

Sometimes I get my pacing absolutely spot on. What was different? Why did I get it right?

 

Going through training history reveals one consistent factor for nailing race pace. I practiced race pace in training, a lot.

 

Repeating the speed over and over in training until it feels natural. Until it becomes the pace you naturally start with. Repeating until you can do it without thinking.

 

Along with the other elements of training, honing in on your race pace will set up the start of your race. One word covers this:

 

Repeition.

 

Why Is It Hard?

 

When we look at the speeds required to perform well at an ultra marathon they are actually slow. You might be able to rock out a 6:00/km long run of 30km in training and feel pretty good. Yet holding 7:30/km over 100 miles becomes impossible. Funny because running at 7:30/km at the start feels way too easy.

 

It usually feels easier to run faster.

 

Then the muscle damage accumulates. Your legs stiffen up. You lose some of the elasticity in your legs as the kilometres mount up. 7:30/km no longer feels easy. Your heart and lungs might be working at the same rate, but the legs don’t give the same return.

 

We can change this. Keep reading and I’ll take you through my approach.

 

 

 

 

Training To Fix Your Race Pacing A double approach is needed. Make race pace natural Condition your legs to hold race pacing

Training To Fix Your Race Pacing

 

 

A double approach is needed.

  1. Make race pace natural
  2. Condition your legs to hold race pacing

1. Make Race Pacing Natural

 

Start your training runs with your goal race pace. This has you running at the correct speed when you are feeling fresh. If you do this most days, your body gets used to it. After a few weeks it become natural.

 

Dedicate at least one run each week to honing on race pace. Find similar terrain. Hills, flat, trails, whatever you will encounter on race day. Go over it at the exact speed you should be running from race start. Then do it again the next week.

 

You know have it right when you no longer need to look at your watch or heart rate. When you can run at exactly the right speed without relying on other props. Once you no longer accidentally speed up or slow down. When your body hits the correct pace on autopilot.

 

2. Condition Your Legs To Hold Race Pacing

 

Once you have your race pacing honed in you need to hold it for a long time. Most of your training is already dedicated to this. Your long runs especially. Endurance becomes a byproduct  of ultra marathon training. We can get more exact. You can get more out of yourself.

 

There are 3 styles of training I have used to get this right:

  1. Down hill running
  2. Long run at race pace
  3. Progressive run

 

Down Hill Running

 

Is usually performed on a steep hill where I walk/hike up and run quickly, but lightly down. I repeat this over until I accumulate 60-90 minutes of up and down. The impact from the down hill running fatigues the legs in a certain way. Adapting to this improves the legs ability to tolerate for longer the impact of ultra marathon racing. The legs don’t become as stiff and take longer to lose their elasticity.

 

Long Runs

 

Long runs at race pace are exactly that. Go out and aim to hit your exact race paces on one of your regular long runs. Make it a full dress rehearsal. Same food, same gear and terrain. See how your body responds. You’ll not only get a specific training boost from this, you will also gain some insight into how you respond as the distance mounts up.

 

Progressive Runs

 

Progressive runs for race pace are not super long. I like to do them in 5 stages.

  1. Stage 1: 30 seconds / km slower than race pace
  2. Stage 2: 15 seconds / km slower than race pace
  3. Stage 3: Exactly race pace
  4. Stage 4 15 seconds /km faster than race pace
  5. Stage 5 30 seconds / km faster than race pace

Try to make each stage a lap of course you can repeat for each stage. Stick as close as possible to the pacing guidelines. You’ll learn to feel the subtle difference between a few seconds per kilometre. It will help you become more in tune with your body and how it reacts to small variations in pace. Making it easier to recognise those changes on race day.

 

Your Turn

 

How do you get your race pacing right?

Is it something you always struggle with?

Hard Core 100: Race Week Doubts

What goes through your head in the week before a big race? Doubts are normal. Here I share my strategies for overcoming race week doubts.

 

Only a couple days out from my first 100 mile race. I’m nervous.

Despite having raced many different ultra distance races, this will be my furthest. Usually before a big race I get doubts. This time they are bigger than usual.

A big influence on that is I never did hit the bigger runs and mileage I was hoping to in training. The rest of life threw extra at me. Over the last three months I had a lot of choices to make.

Those choices included cutting the planned training down to something more achievable. I don’t regret those decisions. Many aspects of my world are better for it. In terms of running, it means I never got to run those sessions that would give me the confidence I was looking for.

Does this mean I’m not ready?

No it doesn’t.

 

 

3 Steps to overcoming race week doubts

  1. Let the thoughts happen
  2. Plan the race
  3. Meditate

 

1. Let the thoughts happen

 

Having doubts and negative thoughts before a big event is normal. It takes a lot of energy to fight. Forcefully trying to stop those thoughts leads to spending more time focussing on those doubts. It seems to lead to more doubts.

 

Take the mindset you will have those thoughts. Accept them when they happen, but don’t dwell on them. Move on.

 

 

2. Plan the race

 

Plan for the worst.

Plan for the best.

Plan for the in between.

 

I put some serious thought into what steps to take to handle different race situations as I can think of. These include what to do if my pace is slower than expected, if I run faster than expected, have gut issues, drop my nutrition, it rains and even if I hit my splits exactly.

 

Lots of this thought happens when running or driving. I will support it by writing it down. I’ll ask myself the question of “What if…” and will answer out load to myself.

 

The above takes care of the slow thinking. It covers the time and energy consuming analysis that is difficult to do in a race. Doing this before the race makes it easier to use fast thinking to make solid tactical decision during the race. It always gives confidence I have things together.

 

3. Meditate

 

Racing 100 miles is dependant on your mind. It is no doubt a massive physical endeavour, but it is your mind that will usually break first.

 

The mind is very trainable. Just like your body.

 

There are many different ways to meditate and train mindfulness. I take 15-20 minutes that is a combination of breathing exercises followed by stillness. Practiced often this carries over well into settling my mind during running.

 

 

 

What do you do to over come your race week doubts?

 

 

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:

 

 

 

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.