Port Macquarie Half Marathon 2018 – Race Report

Just a few weeks before I was in two minds whether to compete in this half marathon or train through to my goal marathon in April. Two weeks out from the event I decided to race and test my marathon training progress.

Port Macquarie half marathon is in my home town in NSW, Australia and a race I have competed in twice before. It’s a nice three lap course around the river and beach area of the town centre. A three lap race can however be tough mentally, particularly heading out for the third lap. My normal race strategy is to break my race into thirds and a three lap race gives me an easy way to transition through each phase of the race.

The race began under perfect conditions, very light wind, cool conditions for this time of year and overcast clouds. In the early stages of the race there were a number of guys that went out quite hard, with a couple of elite runners in the field they went out very fast and some of the other runners tried to stay with them. I decided to stick to my pre race plan of 3:50 min/km for the first two thirds on the race and then give my best effort. I went through the first kilometre in 3:45 and felt really comfortable, although slightly quicker than planned I felt I had found a nice rhythm and was with a small pack of guys running well and decided to stay at the back of this pack. Next two kilometres were also ticked off in 3:45’s and I decided to stay with these guys. I recognised one of the guys who had beaten me two years ago here and knew he was going to go close to my planned goal time and thought I’d stay in touch even though quicker than planned. First lap felt really good, I had averaged 3:45 min/km for that lap and we had started to overtake some of the guys that had gone too fast early.

Second lap was much the same. Some rain showers started to fall and this was nice to keep us cool. In the second third of the race I try and focus on discipline. And by that I mean staying disciplined to keep my pace even and not go too fast or too slow at any stage. The field had started to thin out now, the guy I mentioned earlier had just got away from me by 50-100m so I just aimed to keep him in sight and stay disciplined on my pacing. I went through 10km in 37:40 and was happy with this. At the 13km aid station I took my gel I had planned to take just before the aid station, it didn’t go down so easy and I almost coughed it up. Took some water at the aid station and then proceeded to cough and spit till the next aid station at 15km I was still running well although starting to fatigue but was able to keep my 3:45 min/km average pace to the end of lap 2.

By lap 3 the race had begun and it’s now time to give my best effort. The field had thinned out considerably and my calculations had me 12th at the start of the third lap. At this moment I focus on giving my best effort. My pace was slightly erratic over this lap and slightly slower than the 3:45’s. Still felt relatively good up until 4km to go and then I had to dig deep. It’s always pleasing to be able to give your best in that moment, when you need to dig deep and are able to find something to stay at goal pace. I was able to do that and finish the race off fairly strong. Over these kilometres I was able to overtake three runners and finish in 79:30. Overall 8th place and 1st in my age group.

Overall happy with where this race puts me in relation to marathon training. 79:30 is my second half marathon under 80 minutes and a new personal best. My last time under 80 minutes was 2001 a few months before my first marathon.

I ran this race in my Gladsoles Trail sandals. They were great to run in again, really light and flexible and allow me to run free. My 5km and now half marathon PB is in Galdsoles so they certainly are as fast as any shoes I’ve worn. Still undecided whether I’ll wear them at Canberra marathon, I’m leaning towards shoes although I’ll explain in a future post why, when i make that decision.

Port Macquarie running festival continues to get better. Much bigger numbers then my race here two years ago and a great atmosphere on course and from the spectators. Always nice to race in your home town too. Look forward to next years event already.

 

Will running a half marathon improve your marathon?

 

Running a half marathon during a marathon preparation is both a common and a logical stepping stone to the marathon. But will it help improve your running if running the marathon is your true goal?

Personally, I am running a half marathon in ten days which will feature in week 9 of my 14 week marathon preparation. Do I believe running the half marathon will help me run a better marathon?  No and yes.

The reason I don’t believe the half marathon helps improve the marathon is because the marathon doesn’t really start to well after half way. When you run through halfway in a marathon you’ll need to be feeling pretty fresh if you plan to run a solid second half. This won’t be the case when you race a half marathon, as the pace should be faster and you’ll give your best effort over the half marathon distance. You shouldn’t get to the end of the half marathon and feel like you can run it again.

Having said that, racing a half marathon gives an opportunity to have a better then race pace effort and test your fitness. If you can run a hard half marathon and finish in good shape then training must be going well and confidence can be gained from this race performance.

On the flip side, running a hard half marathon may result in you needing to take a day or two off training post race that could be used to continue to train for the marathon. You could be better advised to skip the half marathon and put in a longer then half marathon distance long run on the weekend of the race.

Running a half marathon isn’t easy though and has it’s own set of challenges. It is not half as much effort or half as hard to run a half marathon to a marathon. Naturally you will run at a faster pace when running a half marathon and being able to hold this pace consistently becomes difficult. Arguably just as difficult as holding your pace at the end of a marathon. This is where the benefit of racing can help you improve for your next race.

Ultimately when holding your pace becomes difficult during the end of a race of any distance the mind is what needs the training. Running a half marathon and fighting off the mental thoughts to give up can certainly help you run better at the marathon. When self doubt creeps in it’s important to shut that door quickly and give your best effort. Really it’s only racing where you get to test this out, you can’t get this from training.

Whilst running a half marathon won’t physically improve you on the way to a marathon, racing gives the strength and confidence that you’ll need during a marathon. Racing gives a valuable experience in staying in the moment and not giving up, this is an ingredient that has to be present during a marathon.

In ten days time I’ll race a half marathon and while I’m not expecting to gain any physical benefit that will help in the marathon the practise of racing will help when the mental battles start in the marathon. And this is the reason why a race during a marathon preparation is valuable.

Let me know if you have any questions or feedback.

Run well.

 

 

Marathon Training – Week 8

Another good week of marathon training. The run is going well with six runs this week and just over 80km covered. Unfortunately the swim and bike components have not gone well and today I have made the decision to not progress with training for the Ironman 70.3 in May. Whilst I am disappointed I haven’t been able to put it together and get my triathlon training on track it gives me time to focus purely on running a good marathon in Canberra. I may revisit my triathlon goals at a time in the near future when a marathon isn’t in the midst and requiring my focus.

Running this week started on Tuesday with my usual hill session. Hills went well and half way through this preparation I can feel the strength needed for a good marathon returning nicely. Wednesday was a 10km aerobic run that helped the legs recover and be ready for intervals on Thursday. I had a real purpose with intervals this week of 20 x 1 min with 1 min rest to keep every interval under 3:30 min/km. I failed on two of these intervals and stupidly one of them was the first, the other was the last which I can cop because I was spent after this session. All the other intervals were run between 3:20 and 3:30 min/km.

Friday was another aerobic run, this time only 7km. I knew I had a tough long run planned so ticking the legs over was the purpose of this run. Long run on Saturday had a purpose of 5km aerobic then 5km at my threshold pace of 4:10 min/km x 3. Meaning every 45 min contained a 5km effort with a 3km warm down afterwards to give me 2 hours 30 min overall. Really happy with this run, the efforts felt hard, particularly the 3rd but I was able to hold the pace and finish the session feeling confident. I rounded out the week with an 11km aerobic run on Sunday over grass. The grass was nice on the legs and a good way to finish my biggest week of the year so far.

Getting through my three key runs every week is a goal for every preparation of mine. I continue to believe that developing speed, strength and endurance is the best way to run best on race day. This week i was happy with all three of my key sessions and how my running has progressed in the seven weeks of this marathon preparation so far.

Week 8

With triathlon off my mind it’s now purely focussing on running and this marathon. Working hard over the next 5-6 weeks before tearing for the race.

Monday – Aerobic – 1 Hour

Tuesday – Hills – 1 Hour

Wednesday – Aerobic – 1 Hour

Thursday – Rest Day

Friday – Long Run – 2 Hours 40 min (Aerobic)

Saturday – Aerobic – 45-60 min

Sunday – Intervals – 14 x 2 min with 1 min recovery

 

I have also decided to compete in the Port Macquarie Running Festival half marathon, March 11th, just two weeks away. Looking forward to a solid week of training before a race that will test my fitness. Aim of this race will be to stick to a consistent pace, quicker than marathon pace and try and hold this pace of the duration. There will be no taper for this race, it will be a good test of my current fitness deep into marathon training.

I’ll also run this race in Gladsoles sandals, most likely the trail 8mm model. Looking forward to testing my speed over 21.1km in sandals. I haven’t raced a pure half marathon for a while and I haven’t decided yet whether Canberra marathon will be in sandals or shoes. This half may make the decision for me.

Looking forward to another week of marathon training. Feeling like my fitness is coming together.

Run well.

 

Marathon Training – Week 6

Another marathon training week passed and one where I gained a lot of confidence in my running currently.

Four runs this week and two cycles. Didn’t swim this week as I just didn’t have the motivation to get to the pool on Wednesday so cycled instead. Planned to swim in Friday although motivation didn’t return and I took a rest day. This gives me doubts about whether Ironman 70.3 is a good idea as the swimming is certainly dragging to this point.

Running is going well though, my hill session on Tuesday felt great. I added a third repeat of my 2km Hill which I train on. The third was my 50th repeat on this hill over the past 12 months.

Intervals on Thursday was another strong session. 8 x 3 min at 3:30min/km with 1 min rest. Struggled to hit a couple of my splits but felt mostly good throughout.

Long run on Saturday was my best session and the one that gives confidence moving forward. 2 Hours 20 min with 2 x 12km at 3 hour marathon pace. Felt my pacing was good for both efforts. Ran into some hills in the last 3km of the second effort close to home which slowed me down although my effort didn’t change through this period.

Running a strong long run capped off a good week. Cycled twice for an hour each time, Sunday the legs felt average so I dropped the Sunday ride back from 1:30 to 1 hour.

This week I am away for work for a couple of days so will run early in the week and may not swim again. Trying to increase my run mileage over the next 2-3 weeks so a little less cycling too.

Monday – Run – Aerobic (1 hour 15min)

Tuesday – Run – Intervals (20 x 1 min 30 sec rest)

Wednesday – Cycle – Aerobic (1 hour)

Thursday – Run – Aerobic Long Run (2 hour 30 min Last 10km at 4:20min/km)

Friday – Rest or swim (30min)

Saturday – Cycle – Aerobic (1 hour)

Sunday – Run – Hills (1 Hour 15 min)

Looking forward to this week. Main highlights are continuing to increase my long run time and also increasing the time of my aerobic run and hill sessions. Overall trying to increase my mileage.

The end of this week will mark half way to my fitness building stage of the marathon preparation. Building endurance will stop after week 9 and then the focus becomes maintaining endurance and increasing speed through tempo and interval sessions.

Run well this week.

Reach out if you have any feedback or questions.

When does a marathon hurt?

The short answer is a marathon will hurt at some stage between the start and the finish. The long answer is difficult to quantify, it will be determined by how committed you were to training and how ambitious you’ve run the race to this point.

If you’ve trained well and run your race at a consistent pace then the marathon will hurt somewhere between half way and 35km. If you haven’t done the training or run too quick early then this point may arrive somewhat earlier then you like or expect. Ultimately at some point during a marathon you’ll hurt and you’ll be asked some questions of yourself.

How you respond to these questions ultimately determines the outcome of your race.

If you run your marathon smartly or strategically you’ll have run a consistent pace throughout, the effect of this will mean running will be relatively comfortable for the first half of the race before the effort required to maintain this consistent pace becomes more difficult. The elastic band gets tighter as the race unfolds, with the goal being for the hypothetical elastic band breaks.

How do you do this?

Know when the marathon is going to hurt.

There is no an exact science as every race is different and every run can unfold differently. But knowing your ability and being smart about goals and execution will help.

  • Understand the pace you can run. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, but also don’t be too conservative and leave time on the course.
  • Run the race consistently – Running too fast early is a recipe for disaster
  • When the elastic tightens – Be ready to give your best effort

 

Know your Pace

Knowing your best race pace is difficult. We all want to run personal bests and improve our race times. A couple of marathon specific training sessions you can run to test your marathon ready fitness are;

  • 3 x 14km with 30 min rest between each. Run each effort at marathon goal pace. If you can hold this pace for each of the efforts then you can run this pace in a marathon. The third effort should feel hard and simulate the end of the marathon.
  • 5 x 5km with 5 min stationery or 1km jog rest between each. Run each effort at goal marathon goal pace. Another session where the difficulty becomes harder as the run increases. Again, the final effort should feel difficult but not too hard.

These session should be run no closer than three weeks before the marathon. Particularly the 3 x 14km as it is a tough session and has 42km of running within it.

 

Run the race consistently

Running consistent pace throughout your marathon is the best way to maximise the time before the marathon begins to bite back. If you run too fast you’ll suffer in the back end, if you run too slow you’ll give yourself too much deficit to make up when things get tougher and also risk leaving time on the course.

The best marathoners in the world use this method when they attempt to run fast marathons. Eliud Kipchoge in berlin last year is a perfect example of this method of marathon running.

 

Be ready to give your best

When the marathon hurts and the elastic begins to tighten be ready. And be ready mentally to give your best effort. If you’ve done the training and ran the race consistently to this point then you’ve given yourself the best chance to succeed.

This point in the marathon is when you need to give everything you have, dig deep and ask yourself why you are doing this in the first place. We all have different motivations to run a marathon and these motivations can be what helps you through when the marathon bites back.

Be ready and be prepared to give everything you’ve got when the moment arrives.

Good luck in your next marathon. Reach out if you have any questions preparing for your next race.

Run well

 


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

 

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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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.

 

 

 

 

The first week of a streak

When I committed to a run streak last Tuesday I made a goal to run all my runs outside and not let the treadmill in my garage allow me to avoid any inclement weather. Running in the rain is a part of running and usually not bad once you get started, especially in October in Australia where the weather is starting to warm up before summer.

During the first seven runs of my run streak I have run 63km over the seven days. All of them at an aerobic pace and all of them forgetting pace on the watch. Longest run has been 11.7km and shortest was this morning at 6km in heavy rain. The first four days of my running were in Sydney where I was having a short holiday and used these runs to explore the northern suburbs of Chatswood, Artarmon and Willoughby as this is where we were staying. Running in different surrounds allowed me to find some new trails around this area and was a nice change of scenery. There is some great running terrain around these areas which I wasn’t aware of before.

My challenge of not avoiding rain may have jinxed me to some degree as three of the first seven runs have been held in relatively heavy rain. My last run in Sydney was wet, my Saturday run including my local parkrun was wet and this morning was particularly wet. For this mornings run I had just gotten out of bed and started getting ready to run when the rain started making a jinx even more believable. Good to get the job done in the rain though, on a normal week I may have skipped some or all of these runs and stayed in bed.

I am back to Sydney this week for work on Wednesday which may cause a challenge fitting my run in. With an early 6:30am flight I’ll either be up very early to run or running later in the evening after dinner. I’m leaning towards a late evening run backed up by an early morning run on Thursday. Otherwise the normal challenges of work and life are present but I’m confident they won’t get in the way of my continuing the streak.

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.