Between a race and a hard place

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When you are between races and don’t necessarily have to get out and train for a race motivation can be difficult to find to get out the door. This is my situation currently with my next gal race not till April my motivation has been lacking in the last week.

When my I completed my 30 day run streak recently I took the easy option and stayed in bed rather than run a few times. getting up and getting the job done would have been a smarter decision but I didn’t take this option. Now with the end of year madness starting I am busy at my job, which impacts family time and running time.  What I don’t want to do is lose the fitness base I have developed when my training starts again.

Finding some stepping stones in training to keep me running and motivated to continue running before its necessary to knuckle down to specific training is important  in the short term.

Training for my next goal race will start at the beginning of January giving a 14 week program leading up to the Canberra Marathon in April. In the time between now and January I will aim to keep developing my aerobic base, incorporate a weekly interval session to develop my speed and run a longer run each week. I also aim to run another goal race pace long run, my last was a half marathon distance so aiming for an increase of 2-3 kilometres added to this run, there will also be another scheduled for the beginning of January again to test my fitness. This will be a valuable guide to where my fitness is and whether it has decreased since the run streak ended.

This next six week period is a busy time of life so creating this training stepping stone is aimed at making sure I am ready physically and mentally to jump into specific marathon training once the new year starts.

With hard work comes greatness, however staying motivated to start the hard work in the first place can prove a hurdle needed to overcome.

Four discoveries from a 30 day run streak

This morning I completed my 30 day run streak and during this time I made some discoveries about my running. Here they are…..

  1. Aerobic training is beneficial

At the start of the run streak I decided that all my running in these 30 days would be aerobic and I would forget about pace. On the whole I was able to manage this only running twice outside my aerobic capacity. This was a parkrun effort and last weeks goal race pace half marathon run.

Running purely aerobically for the majority of the 30 days has seen me develop my aerobic capacity. Running aerobically often is easy on the body and recovery is simple, when you run within your limits there is no soreness the next day and you are able to run more. Following this when I did increase the intensity and complete a tougher workout, my half marathon felt very comfortable. Building the aerobic engine is very beneficial for running performance.

The take away from this discovery is that during my next focussed training block I will have more aerobic training to compliment the focussed harder workouts.

   2. Technology is unnecessary (almost)

Another goal of this run streak was to divorce pace and use perceived effort to measure my run rather achieve a pace for the run. This has been a successful discovery where I am now unconcerned by the pace my watch is saying and rather the feeling my body gives me from the effort I output.

During each of the runs I have only looked at the time for the run on the watch and not pace. This has taught me to focus on my feeling and breathing to stay aerobic and run consistent pace through effort. During the harder half marathon effort the same applied and I was impressed by the consistent pace I was able to achieve.

The future of my running will feature less reliance on technology, I am committed to continuing to monitor my running by feel and use the data to analyse post run.

3. Running everyday is good for you

While I am normally an advocate for rest days, life balance and letting the body recover from runs I found the task of running everyday good for me. All my runs are completed in the early mornings and the simple task of committing to getting up each morning and going through the process to get out the door and run was mostly pretty easy.

During the 30 day streak I had wet weather on 5-6 of my runs, only one of these days did I consider not running through the rain, however this doubt lasted about 15 minutes before I decided to get the job done.

I enjoyed the day to day commitment of getting out the door to complete my run. Committing to a run streak is a way to challenge you to overcome a small challenge everyday and start the day ready to tackle something bigger if it arises.

4. Minimal footwear is better

This may have not been a discovery but more a reinforcement. Every run I did with the exception of one run were completed in zero drop footwear. these specifically were Gladsoles sandals both the trail 8mm and new 6mm and Carson Footwear Iguana Racers.

If you are fully transitioned to barefoot running then minimal footwear is better for your running. After 4-5 days of the run streak I had a slight pain in my right calf that was evident for a few runs, this went away by itself and I was able to run without pain for the  all the other runs. Minimal footwear keeps you aware, your feet stronger and running with better technique. To run injury free for long periods of time these are important. Without trying to jinx myself to an injury I believe the benefits of transitioning to minimal shoes will help me run longer into my life.

Don’t be scared to make a change to your footwear if you are on a path of consistent injuries. It will take time but it will be worth it.

Overall the run streak has been an enjoyable experience and most likely will continue beyond 30 days. My routine of running every morning is a habit I would like to continue.

Photos from a 30 day run streak

 

New workout – Goal race pace long run

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I’ve been recently thinking about it and this morning completed a new workout that I plan to add to my usual schedule. Once a month I aim to complete a goal race pace long run to complement my other training.

During a race preparation training cycle I will complete my three key workouts which are intervals for speed, hills for strength, and a long run for endurance. These three key workouts are complemented by aerobic runs aiming to let the body recover and rest days.

The goal pace long run I have designed into my schedule to give a fitness test of where I am currently and also build confidence. Whilst regular, weekly long runs are completed slower at an aerobic pace to build endurance this run will have a different purpose. The goal pace long run will reach a maximum distance of close to 3/4 of the race distance. With my next goal race being the Canberra marathon I will build this run to around 32km run at goal pace. My normal long run will continue to build to about three hours.

This morning I began putting this run in my schedule with a half marathon. With my goal in Canberra to beat my marathon personal best of 2:57, I aimed this for my goal pace to be slightly better than this at 2:55 marathon pace of 4:09 min/km.  You can see from my Strava file below that I went a bit quicker than this at 4:03 min/km. I was slightly ahead of my goal pace with 5km to go and decided to pick up the pace and finish strongly.

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During my current run streak I am running at the moment, (currently at day 25) I have kept all of my runs aerobic and forgotten about pace except for a parkrun last weekend. Whilst forgetting about pace I have built my aerobic fitness and today’s run was aimed to test my progress during this run streak. I felt strong this morning and was comfortable at this pace throughout the run. Whilst any marathoner knows that the pace they hold through halfway should feel comfortable, it was good for the confidence to be able to run this pace without any focussed training over the last month.

Recently I have made a decision to not focus on pace during my runs, this was still a factor during this run and will be moving forward. I kept my watch only on the time setting of my run this morning and only looked at pace as it told me each kilometre split. This gave me the ability to focus on effort throughout the run, trying to remain consistent and evenly pace the run. This is a learned skill that every runner should concentrate on, being able to run a goal pace is great, but being able to recognise the effort it takes to run your goal pace and consistently run the pace is much more valuable.

Post Christmas, in fact 8th January marks 14 weeks to my next marathon and the time my focussed training will begin. During this time my training will focus on my three key runs every week , aerobic recovery, rest and every month a race pace long run. I believe this run adds value to my training and gives a platform to improve on my marathon result. In early December I’ll build on to todays run and extend the distance by a few kilometres and give myself a marker of progress from November to December.

Do you have a run in your schedule to test your fitness?

 

 

How to choose your next marathon?

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Hands up if you searched the internet today for marathons you are planning to run? Research shows that 95% of runners searched the internet for marathons today. I made that statistic up by the way.

When planning your next marathon or race there are a number of considerations to take into account. These will vary depending on the type of marathon experience you are looking for. Do you want to go on a holiday and run a marathon while you are there? Are you looking at running for new personal best?

Here is four simple considerations that you may think about the next time you search for marathons or races.

Location

Choosing the location of your next marathon is an important consideration. You could choose your marathon to allow a holiday in a new city or choose the city based on the marathon you want to run. Either way location and the logistics of reaching the marathon destination is an obvious consideration.

If you decide on a marathon as part of a holiday obviously you will need to plan your holiday around the time the marathon takes place, which may or may not be the best weather to visit a particular place. Many marathons are held in cooler months as more suitable times for running, this may not be the best time to visit some cities.

If you decide on the marathon location for other reasons then you’ll need to decide on travel arrangements and how long the travel to the race will be. Logistics of arriving at the race location is a consideration. Racing close to home gives the benefit of easier travel, but there is a mystic about racing a marathon in a far away exotic destination.

Another factor in choosing your marathon location is whether you want to race in a large city or smaller country venue. Both have their positives, do you go for the excitement of a big city race with many runners to create an atmosphere or a more interment country race with fewer runners but easier logistical challenges on race day.

Choosing the location of your marathon is exciting part of the process. This has certainly been a consideration I have used for both reasons to see a new destination and also to be able to complete a race on an already planned holiday.

Cost

Everyone has a budget and although running is less expensive than a lot of sports the financial costs certainly add up when you factor in all the requirements of running and travelling to a marathon.

When you look at the simple costs of entry, accomodation and travel to a marathon costs are another important consideration. Cost of entry will vary depending on the race and entry requirements, certainly the larger city marathons with entry criteria which make it challenging to get into the field let alone run are more expensive to enter than a small rural marathon.

The other factors depend on the location of the marathon you choose but include travel (planes, train or automobile), accomodation, food and also leave requirements from employers. This can start to add up and become and expensive way to put yourself through a 26.2 mile torture test.

Course

The course you choose can shape your race, marathons are not created equally and depending on your goals for the race may help you decide which events to run (or not to run). If you want to run a personal best time then choosing a hilly run in a hot climate may not be ideal.

With so many marathons to choose from these days be sure of your goals and what you want to experience in your marathon. If you choose a big city marathon you are likely to see plenty of the sites of the city. for the first half of my marathon in Seoul earlier this year it felt like a guided tour of the city with 20 000 friends.

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Seoul Marathon 2017 medal

 

If you are looking to set a new personal best or aiming for a goal time look for a flat course in a cool climate. This will greatly increase your chances of reaching your goals. Alternatively if you are looking for a fun atmosphere then the course is likely less of a considerations.

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Choose your course wisely

 

Size

Choosing a marathon based on the size is important so you know what you are getting yourself in for. Marathons in big cities are great, thousands of people running together makes for a certain energy that is fantastic. They also come with the challenges of getting to the start, lining up at the port-loos prior to the race, challenges of positioning in the start area and potential crowding, especially if you are chasing a time.

Smaller marathons allow for much easier logistics on race day, and an overall less stressful race experience. But not the same level of energy and atmosphere that you get when you run a big city race. If you like the solitude of running alone or just want to avoid the crowds smaller marathons are a great option.

 

The easy choice to make is deciding to run a marathon, the feeling of accomplishment at the end of a marathon is an amazing feeling and one every runner should know. Deciding which marathon to run is a harder choice, decide on the type of experience you want and the choice will be much easier.

How did you decide on which marathons to run?

 

Things to do when transitioning to barefoot running

 

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In a recent post I listed the reasons why you should be barefoot running, however how do you transition? The main barefoot running transition question people as is how long will is take? This is different for everyone and may take as little as a couple of months or much longer. In order to give yourself the best chance of transitioning successfully and without injury the following tips may help.

If you take the time to transition correctly and build the strength and mobility needed to barefoot run long term you will reap the benefits down the track.

Be Patient

If you are an accomplished runner and have decided to transition to a flatter more minimal shoe or to barefoot running then it is difficult to stomach that you may only be able to run for very short periods for the first weeks or months. Patience is essential to avoid injury. For the first few weeks you should be combining walking and running either barefoot or in minimal shoes and running for no longer then 10 minutes working up to 30 minutes at a timely the end of the first month.  This will require patience and humility if you are used to running for much further.

Be ‘barefoot’ in everyday life

Increasing the time you walk barefoot will assist in building strength in your lower limbs and feet that are essential for barefoot running. Look to purchase some minimal shoes for work or casual life and try and be barefoot when at home. This will increase your mobility of the muscles that need to be retrained in order for injury free barefoot running.

Concentrate on your form

While you are transitioning to barefoot running concentrate on your form. Concentrate on landing on the balls of your feet, stay upright, don’t over stride and stay light on your feet. This will make sure you use the muscles associated with barefoot running and give them the best chance to gain mobility and strength.

You may choose to continue to run some mileage in your ‘old’ cushioned running shoes, especially if you are a seasoned runner. This is perfectly fine however make sure you concentrate on your form even in your cushioned shoes and retrain the body to run on your forefeet.

Listen to your feet

When you start running barefoot or in minimal shoes it is essential you look for the signs that you are overdoing it. It is normal to experience a small amount of pain in the calves, achilles and feet however too much and you may need to reduce the mileage and take longer to transition. This is a key sign of taking the time necessary to transition successfully and avoiding injury. Be prepared to have a long term view if the pain is experienced.

 

Use these simple tips and ask for advice if things don’t go to plan. Every runners barefoot transition is different and will therefore the process for each runner may be different.

If you have successfully transitioned to barefoot running  how did you do it?

What obstacles did you need to overcome, and how did you do it?

 

 

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The road is a long one, be patient

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Yes, you can go running without technology

Its taken me two runs to confirm what I already knew. You can run without technology dictating your running and you will most likely enjoy your running more. With the decision made to let go of the reins on technology and run only with feel I set my watch with one data field set on time during my runs over the last two days.  I am wearing the watch simply to track how long I run for and afterwards to track my distance run over my 30 day run streak period.  While the jury is still out on whether it is better to divorce from technology completely, there are certainly signs to suggest it could be beneficial.

Whilst not focussed on pace, you’ll automatically focus your run on feel and effort. Focussing on feel and effort allows you to not be a slave to the watch and the pace you are trying to stick to. If you feel good you will likely run faster, if you feel a bit off it’s likely you’ll slow down. However you’ll understand how you feel from the effort you put into each step of the run.

If you are not tracking pace, you’ll look at your watch a whole lot less. This is allows you to focus on running and being outside. Enjoy the scenery, fresh air and the reasons why you enjoy running in the first place. I’m guessing you didn’t start running so you could look at your watch, be easier to do this at the pub with a cold beer.

Looking at pace may in fact slow your progress towards your goals. You may be capable of running much faster then what you think and sticking to your goal pace may be limiting you. Run with feel and put in your best effort and who knows how fast you can go.

Take a break from technology, you don’t have to completely stop looking at pace but choose some runs to simply enjoy running and teach yourself to run with feel.

Stop looking at your watch and you may see some beautiful scenery out there.

The top 4 reasons you should be barefoot running

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While barefoot running has faded somewhat from the mass media attention it was receiving a few years ago there are still some very valid reasons why you should be running barefoot.

By barefoot running we mean running without shoes or in minimal footwear. By minimal footwear we mean shoes with the following attributes. Low heel to toe differential or heel drop, wide toe box and less cushioning and flexible materials. There are many different minimal footwear options available today.

Transitioning to barefoot running takes time. If you try to rush the process, you may suffer injuries in the calves or achilles. Be sure not to rush the process, it may take months or even years. Once your transition is complete your running will benefit.

The four top reasons you should be barefoot running are;

  1. Reduced injuries

Once you have transitioned to barefoot running you will likely run lighter, with a forefoot landing over a bent knee. This will ensure that you suffer less lower limb related injuries related to running. While barefoot running is not a panacea to injury free running it will go a long way to helping you run consistently more without injuries. Cushioned shoes won’t stop you getting injured, most likely they are the cause.

     2. Stronger feet

Running in an inflexible, cushioned shoe will inhibit the natural movement of your foot. The shoe does the work which the foot is designed to do, this will weaken your feet over time. Running barefoot or in flatter, more flexible footwear will build strength in your feet and lower limbs.  With strong feet comes a strong platform to run successfully and run injury free.

    3 Better awareness

” The more minimal you are the more aware you are” Chris McDougall

With more awareness comes better ground feel. While running you will become more aware of your posture,  foot landing, surroundings and effort. More awareness of your foot landing means you will be aware of every step and how and what you land on. This is a key reason why accomplished barefoot runners can run injury free as their awareness for where their foot lands is greater. Simply put running barefoot allows for more sensory feedback which increases awareness.

    4. Get faster

Forefoot running is faster than heel striking, pretty simple. Landing on your heel with a straight leg gives a braking effect, landing on your forefoot with a bent leg is faster and a more efficient way to run. If you want to get faster barefoot running can help you achieve this.

Transitioning to barefoot running is important, be patient and don’t rush the process however slow it may be. Once you successfully transition you will be free of heavy, inflexible running shoes and your running will become transformed.

If you wear traditional cushioned running shoes and have suffered injuries, it’s time to rethink your running footwear. Taking them off or replacing them with minimal shoes could be the answer.

 

 

 

 

My divorce with pace – Day 4

Earlier this week I committed to a month of running where I divorced myself from pace. Or at least committed to not monitoring pace during my runs. My watch has been set to a single data only of time to measure to monitor the length of my runs only.

Being overly reliant on technology is an easy trap to make for the modern runner and a trap that I have fallen into at times. My goal for this month of running is to enjoy my running and divorce myself from needing technology to measure my pace on any runs.

When I started running there weren’t GPS watches, I measured my runs simply on feel and perceived effort. I was still able to train and race as well as I do today without technology. My goal is to get back to this level of feel before I start training for another race so that I am ready to train without the burden of technology. Technology will be used to analyse my effort post run.

I guess you could call this the next step in my minimalist running transition. The transition to minimal footwear has enlightened my running and I believe a minimalist approach to technology will do the same.

During these four days of running all my runs have been easy aerobic runs. I have resisted looking at pace or any other metrics during these runs. I have also resisted pushing the pace on these runs and ensured the pace was easy.

What have I noticed in four runs?

  1. I’ve looked at my watch a whole lot less

2.  There is scenery around me everywhere

3. The mind works better with less distractions

So far the divorce from pace has been a positive experience. Looking beyond the next month where the pace will remain aerobic, I aim to continue this approach to when I resume with my three keys weekly runs being the long run, intervals and hill repeats during my next race preparations.

Just some of the scenery I was able to take in during my last four runs.

 

This is now a run streak

When I woke up this morning and went for my morning run I hadn’t planned it being the beginning of anything. I’m in Sydney for a few days and i just woke up and went for a run. Later in the day it came to me to start a run streak, there were two good reasons;

  1. I’ve never tried one before
  2. Why not?

I’ve given myself a short term goal of 30 days – 17th October to 17th November and a long term goal of 100 days 17th October to January 25th. We will start with plan A of 30 days and see how it goes till November 17th.

A couple of self administered rules;

  1. Minimum run is 5km
  2. All runs are outside ( no treadmills)

One other thing I’m going to concentrate on for at least the first 30 days is to keep all the runs aerobic. 30 days without hard training, all my runs will be easy aerobic efforts designed to be relaxed running and enjoy what it is about running that I love. The aim is to reconnect with running and enjoy my running, nature and the outdoors. It’s not that I need a jolt of motivation, just that I want to try something slightly different.

I would like to have less reliance on technology during this time. I am not currently training for a race, there is no need to monitor my pace and complete any specific training aimed to peak for a race. Therefore there is no need to look at my pace for any of the runs and just enjoy 30 days of relaxed running. For these 30 days I will wear my watch, however set it to not show me pace or distance through the runs. The only data to measure is time and later distance as I log my miles for the streak period. I have a belief that most runners including myself are over reliant on technology and this has taken away some of the simple joys of running.

The reason i’ve chosen to avoid treadmills during this time is to harden my resolve in times of poor weather. It’s time to get tougher, no hiding from the weather.

I’m looking forward to noticing what I learn from a 30 day run streak and whether i can continue further than this. Something often gets in the way to stop us running even when the best intentions are there. I’m also looking forward to how I react to a different, more relaxed form of training during this time.

Have you ever attempted a run streak?

If so, how did you go?

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My week in running

My running week was mostly casual and relaxed with five runs completed for 41km overall all completed in my hometown. Started the week on Tuesday with a solid interval session, decided to break my intervals into two sets of 6 x 2 min with 1 min recovery, this gave me five minutes of easy running between the first and the second set which worked out fine and allowed me to push through to the end of the second set harder.

Most of the week saw me complete aerobic runs over a variety of runs with an undulating terrain. Didn’t have a specific hill session so added some hills to my aerobic runs for some variety. On Saturday morning I abandoned my aerobic run after 4km after being in a wild lightning storm, probably wasn’t in too much danger but for a short aerobic run I didn’t feel the risk was worth the reward.

I’m not normally a big fan of tempo runs during race training blocks as I feel I get more value from other training. However I decided to run a tempo on Sunday and went through a 2km warm up, 3km at 4:10min/km, 2km easy and 4km at 4:10 min/km. This run felt good and I enjoyed the tempo run for some variety. It might be something I revisit during my next marathon training block on semi regular occasions.

Mixed my footwear up for all these runs with Gladsoles trail sandals, Carson footwear Iguana racers and Salming Race 3 all being used during the week. Really enjoy the difference nuances of running with different footwear throughout the week.

There were a couple of performances on the international stage which really caught my eye over the weekend too. Both inspiring performances, one to win the world championship and another a rising star of Australian running.

Patrick Lange at the Ironman World championships in Hawaii, to run 2:39:59 for the marathon and run from 11th off the bike to not only win the world championship but break the course record was an outstanding achievement. Most of us don’t know what running a 2:40 marathon which is averaging 3:47 min/km or 6:06 min/mi feels like, it’s quick by any standards but at the end of an ironman is even more impressive.

Celia Sullohern won the Melbourne marathon in Australia on Sunday and ran 2:29. this is impressive running for a 24 year old. Into the top 10 all time Australian womens marathon times and putting her hand up for a Commonwealth Games birth on the Gold Coast early next year.

Hope you had a happy week of running.

 

Here are some places I ran this week.