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Sydney and Hobart runs by a Melbourne lad

Soldier Memorial Walk in Hobart, Tasmania

Soldier Memorial Walk in Hobart, Tasmania

In this last week I have had the need to travel to both Sydney and Hobart for work. With the last big push for Melbourne Marathon underway I needed to run, but also the travel meant I could so without feeling bad for taking time away from the family to run so I managed to get some quality runs in. I must say though the difference in runs between the two cities was chalk and cheese.

Sydney

I was in Sydney on Thursday and Friday last week and planned all along to manage to use this trip to replace my long run on the weekend (weekend was my only two days at home so didn’t think a 3 hour absence would go down well…) but at the same time I didn’t want to commit to doing 30km as it didn’t really fit into the timeslot I had so, so instead I ran 18km on Thursday evening and 26km on Friday morning.

Thursday’s run saw me run from the CBD over the bridge and around the northern beaches to Mosman and Neutral Bay. I thought I would be able to run along the harbour and enjoy the waterviews. Wrong. Due to the fact that the harbour on the northside is largely private property it meant running inland along roads with very few waterviews. Part of my disappointment was certainly due to my lack of pre-planning a route, but it was a pretty frustrating experience. It was a pretty hilly run in the end and when I got back to the hotel I saw it was 27 degrees which explained why it felt a bit harder than usual.

The second run was much more enjoyable, I ran from the CBD up Oxford St all the way to Bondi Beach and then back along the coast. This had a gradual incline on the way out until the beach and then a few hills on the way back but was a much more pleasant and scenic run. The killer on this one was the humidity, I got back to the hotel and was drenched. The legs certainly also felt the run from the day before.

Usually in Sydney I just run around Darling Harbour/Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, etc but knew that wasn’t going to get me the distance I needed for these runs.

Hobart

On Monday and Tuesday work took me to Hobart and I came in thinking that despite having two runs planned, I was a bit run down and thought I would get one at the most. It turned out to be two of the most enjoyable runs in a while. On Monday afternoon I headed out of the city up to the Domain and discovered a trail called the Soldiers Memorial Walk. I had grown up in Tasmania but had never heard of this before and since found out it was upgraded after I had left.

This was a nice gravel trail up through parklands where originally the Hobart community had planted 510 trees for soldiers from Hobart killed in World War 1. The upgrades had seen plaques installed to commemorate the soldiers and told a short story of each of them, what unit they were in and where and how they were killed. The parklands were beautiful, I had uninterrupted views of the Derwent River and I literally had to watch my step for rosellas sitting on the side of the path at regular intervals. It was like an untouched world. The trail itself went for about 3km and then I followed some other paths up to a look out before returning via the Domain Athletics track for a few laps and then the gradual descent down the trail. All up I did a leisurely 12km and it was thoroughly enjoyable.

My second run in Hobart was again one that I had thought of skipping, but I woke early and saw it was a nice day out so instead pulled on the runners and did an interval session around the Cenotaph, Regatta Grounds and Domain. It was pretty peaceful and I was able to do 8x600m with 60 seconds rest in between and felt invigorated to start the day.

Pack you’re running gear when traveling

I wouldn’t really like to say I preferred one location over the other as they both offered great challenges and different benefits for running. The warmer weather in Sydney was a great reprieve from a Melbourne winter but the stillness and easy ability to escape to nature in Hobart was a true thing of beauty. Either way it reinforces to me that if I’m traveling for work the most important thing to pack is my running gear so that I can get out of the hotel room and truly explore the city I’m visiting in a way that many people can’t or don’t.

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Two weekends, two marathons?

Catalogue-road-running

Last weekend I ran the Sandy Point Marathon in Melbourne, Australia in blustery and challenging conditions and finished in a reasonable 3:45, although the last six kilometres were not the most pleasant. I was happy with that given my main focus remains on the Melbourne Marathon on October 13 and I had only done one run of 30km or more in the lead up to last weekends race; this run was essentially a training run for October.

I was concerned how I would pull up after the race, but Monday morning came around with nothing more than slightly heavy legs; stairs were fine, walking was ok and I made sure not to stay seated in the one position for too long. I stretched, wore compression tights to bed and hydrated plenty. So come Tuesday I was looking on a running forum and saw that another smaller, regional marathon was on this weekend. Surely not? Surely I wouldn’t be thinking of another run already? What would it mean for my Melbourne preparations?

Well, I thought about it. The main area I needed to focus on between now and Melbourne was building up endurance and getting in those 20 mile runs. I was going to be running this weekend anyway although I had only half marathon distance on my schedule but then 30km the next weekend. Why not change it up, run a back to back marathon and get another solid hitout in. 7 weeks out from Melbourne meant that this was a great time to be putting in the really long distance and still have time to recover and adapt for my main race.

Originally I thought I was pushing my luck doing two marathons in eight weeks. No training plan I have ever read recommends running the full marathon distance – in fact most are pretty strong in their direction not to run the full distance. They say the recovery will take too long and the risk for injury, illness and muscle damage is high. They may be right but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I had done one marathon and recovered really well.

I waited to see how the week unfolded; a gentle run on Wednesday morning and the legs felt good. My interest piqued. Entry fees were much cheaper than normal marathons and the run was three laps of a 14km loop. This also worked in my favour; if I got to 28km into the race and felt atrocious I could simply pull out and not have to worry about getting to the finish line. Thursday morning I ran again, a conservative effort run but my pace was amazing. It was enough to sway me; I entered and now will be doing two marathons in seven days!

I will certainly be taking it easier this week and running conservatively, perhaps working towards achieving a negative split if I feel good at the end as opposed to blowing up.

I figure I may never get this opportunity to test myself in this way and say I have done it, and I remain convinced that it will help not hinder me come October. That remains my key race for the year so I don’t want to stuff that up, but the lure of this has drawn me in. I’ll never know if I don’t challenge myself and I can’t back down now.

Have you ever run the marathon distance in training for a race?

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Energy drinks and supplements blamed for London Marathon fatality

A coroner has ruled that 30yo Claire Squires death in the 2012 London Marathon is attributable to an energy drink she had consumed before the race.

A coroner has ruled that 30yo Claire Squires death in the 2012 London Marathon is attributable to an energy drink she had consumed before the race.

The safety of so called energy drinks and supplements have again been bought into question with a coroner ruling that one product likely contributed to the death of 30 year old Claire Squires in the 2012 Virgin London Marathon.

dmaa

Source: The Independent

UK Coroner Philip Barlow stated that Squires ‘had taken a supplement containing DMAA which, on the balance of probabilities in combination with ­extreme physical exertion, caused acute cardiac failure which resulted in her death’.

DMAA has the chemical name methylhexanamine and is commonly known as 1,3-dimethylamylamine. It is traditionally sold as a diet, energy and body building supplement. It is believed that the DMAA was consumed by Squires in a product called Jack3d. DMAA is banned in many countries after links to a number of deaths by cardiac arrests, especially soldiers in the US Army.

Coroner Barlow added ‘My hope is that the coverage of this case and the events leading up to Claire’s death will help publicise the potentially harmful effects of DMAA during extreme –exertion.

‘She was obviously a very dedicated and well-motivated person. She died raising money for charity. I can only offer my condolences to all members of the family for a very tragic loss of an obviously dear person.’

Dr Jon van der Walt, who performed Squires’ post-mortem said that, on the ‘balance of probability’ based on his own examination of Squires and on evidence from the inquest, the cause of death had been a heart attack caused by ‘extreme physical exertion complicated by [DMAA]’.

Dr van de Walt added: ‘[Squires] had taken vigorous exercise over many years. I would regard that as a stress test: she has been able to do all this before, therefore it is unlikely that she had fatal arrhythmia.’

Have you ever used an energy supplement during your marathon preparation?

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Increasing speed through parkrun 5km

In attempt to increase my marathon speed, I raced my first ever parkrun 5km race

In attempt to increase my marathon speed, I raced my first ever parkrun 5km race

In an attempt to increase my speed, break up monotony and get a bit more racing in than marathons allow I made the aim this year to try and go sub-20:00 for 5km. Training so far has been going great with a much more focused schedule including much more intense speed work which has been fun in itself.

The first test came for me two weekends ago when I made the decision to get a baseline and race a 5km. Despite been a runner for more than 10 years I had never really raced a 5km race, I’d done a few 4km races when I started out and a number of 10km races but largely my racing was over the longer distances.

So it was I nervously decided to register to run my first ever parkrun race – and as an event I can give it a glowing endorsement.

Formed in the UK in 2004, Parkrun is a great initiative designed to get more people into running. They are weekly 5km races, free of charge, run by volunteers and with costs covered by sponsors now held at 155 locations around the world and run regularly by more than 12,000 runners.

I attended Albert Parkrun in Melbourne and despite having never attended before was met by a friendly group of organisers and fellow runners. There was just over 150 runners in attendance and after a short warm up and event briefing, we got underway at 8am.

My Garmin battery had gone flat so I raced naked which I am sure meant that I went out way too hard, but also meant that I was limited by my perceptions. I raced pretty hard and had to hang on at the end but managed to cross the line in 21:47 – a time that I was delighted with given I had no real expectations or awareness of my current fitness levels.

park_run_harrogateParkrun record times using a barcode system where you must pre-register and receive a barcode and then when you cross the finish line you receive a second barcode that is linked to your time. Both your registration barcode and finish time barcode are scanned and then results are upload to the website within a few hours.

I’ll now race this course a few more times over the coming months on my plan to go sub-20:00, but irrespective of whether I hit that target or not I’m glad I discovered parkrun and will be making sure I stay a regular in the community. The more I race the faster I will get and hopefully that added speed will come in handy when I do my next marathon.

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Variety is the spice of life

My favourite running podcast, Marathon Talk, had a great initiative in the lead up to Christmas called Advent Your Run. The concept was basically one idea each day to add something different to training and keep some motivation and inspiration going in the lead up to the festive season.

Personally I found these tips really useful and loved the variety that it bought to my running. The tips were originally posted on the Marathon Talk facebook page with one post each day, however for the sake convenience I have compiled them in a list below. I hope you find them as enjoyable as I did!

73050_10152282323585652_2081576853_nAdventYourRun Day 1 – Dec 1st. Make the final 5minutes of your run the fastest 5 of the run. Regardless of your run duration ramp it up for the 5minutes at the end.

Adventyourrun Day 2 – Dec 2nd.  On the hilliest run route you can find include 20minutes where you work hard up every hill you run.

AdventYourRun – Day 3 – December 3rd. Do you stretch? Complete 10minutes of focussed, purposeful, controlled stretching exercises. Warm muscles stretch best.

AdventYourRun – Day 4 – December 4th. Complete 5x1minute runs where you focus on form, posture, balance and rythym. Feel light, strong and fast. Take 2minutes walk/jog between each.

AdventYourRun – Day 5 – December 5. Complete your planned run (or 30minutes) at a pace much slower than you’d normally run. Be disciplined and controlled. Less can be more.

AdventYourRun – Day 6 – December 6th. Don’t be a one paced plodder. Include 3x5minute clear changes of pace in your run. The paces must be different.

AdventYourRun – Day 7 – December 7th. Give yourself the gift of a quiet 10minutes. Write down why you run. List your top 5 reasons in no particular order 🙂 Run or rest today, reflection is great for improvement.

AdventYourRun – Day 8 – December 8th. Take your run by the scruff of the neck. Whether you’re doing a training session, a race, a parkrun or solo smash up, take a risk, hit it from the start and enjoy the outcome 😉

AdventYourRun – Day 9 – December 9th. Run somewhere new. Go exploring and find a few miles that are new to you. Enjoy!

AdventYourRun – Day 10 – December 10th. Keep a food diary making a note of everything you eat and drink in a 24hr period.

AdventYourRun – Day 11. December 11th. Over a continuous 20minute period run every 4th – 5th minute faster. Increase the intensity of your effort to ‘controlled discomfort’ or 85% effort.

AdventYourRun – Day 12 – December 12th. Support someone else. Read and recommend a running blog.

AdventYourRun – Day 13 – December 13th. Be disciplined. On a run on December 13th include a 20minute section completed at ‘tempo’ pace. That is around 70-75% effort. Hold back now – it shouldn’t feel flat out but controlled concentration! Enjoy.

AdventYourRun – Day 14 – December 14th. Wow, just 10 days to go! Post 1 idea here for a Christmas present for the runner in your life. (It could be something you’d like!). The runners Christmas gift list…

AdventYourRun Day 15 – December 15th. End your run or race with a full on sprint finish. Whether it’s you versus your nemesis or you versus you, get yourself a smackdown!

AdventYourRun – Day 16 – December 16th. On your run smile to yourself and think of someone who has helped you in some way to achieve your running aspirations.

AdventYourRun Day 17 – December 17th. Mix it up. Include a 20minute fartlek. Vary your pace between super easy and super fast in an unstructured way for the 20mins. Have fun with your running 🙂

AdventYourRun – Day 18 – December 18th. Dial in to your top end! This one’s for those of you who love a little ‘controlled discomfort’. Include 3x7minutes of threshold paced running (80% effort) with 3minutes walk/jog recovery between each. A real Advent Christmas cracker for you.

AdventYourRun Day 19 – December 19th. On your run give yourself clear time to think about 1 thing in your running that you did this year that was a mistake. What went wrong and why? Then commit to yourself that you’ll take positive steps to change this next year. Identify one thing you’ll do differently.

AdventYourRun – Day 20. December 20th. Do a run as far as you like, as fast as you like. Don’t think, plan or analyse. No watch, time or pace. Just run

AdventYourRun – Day 21 – December 21st. Everyone can do this for sure. Rest. For those training demons out there you might find this tricky but a total day off will leave you feeling more sparky for the weekend. Rest = no running, no cross training, no stretching, no, nothing!

AdventYourRun – Day 22 – December 22nd. Run like you stole something. At any point in your Saturday run pick the pace up until your shifting like you’ve robbed something for 10minutes. Smile when you’re done.

AdventYourRun – Day 23 – December 23rd. Add 1 extra mile at the end of your run. During that mile think of 1 person you have connected with through your running. When you get back send them a message / text / FB or even better call them and wish them a Happy Christmas.

While some of them are very Christmas specific I think they can be adapted easy enough to any time of the year.

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My Running New Year’s Resolutions

2013Well as the clock countsdown on the final hours of 2012, I like many have sat down and thought about what I want to focus on in 2013.

In my running life I have not so much decided on resolutions as on goals that I want to achieve and I think that this is a great time of year to reflect on what was achieved in the last 12 months and what the new year may hold going forward.

2012 was a great year for me running in terms of overall consistency. I raced two marathons and made improvements between them. It was however also the year I had my most ever injuries ranging from a stress fracture through to ITB. I need to make sure 2013 is less injury prone while still maintaining my consistency in running. Where my consistency did lapse is when pressure at work increased dramatically so I also need to ensure that I develop a strategy to run when life gets crazy!

My goals are short and sweet and can be summarised as such:

  • Focus on 5km races: I’ve never really raced short distances as I always thought it was the marathon or bust. Now that I have a family and can’t commit all year round to the time needed for marathon training I’ve decided I’m going to focus on some shorter races early in the year and use it as speedwork for future endeavours. My goal is to break 20 minutes and I hope that I can do it by the end of March.
  • Run the famous City to Surf fun run: Australia’s largest fun run is based in Sydney and is called the City toSurf. It goes from Sydney’s CBD and rolls out through the suburbs, over Heartbreak Hill and finishes 14 kilometres later on one of the most beautiful locations in the world, Bondi Beach. It attracts 85,000 entrants and is THE event in Australian road running – yet I have never done it. 2013 is the year to change that.
  • I will run the 2013 Melbourne Marathon in October and my goal is to go sub 3:30.

In terms of actual running resolutions as opposed to just goal setting:

Sydney's City to Surf: one of goals for 2013

Sydney’s City to Surf: one of my goals for 2013

  • I will have a better nutrition plan and drink less Coke
  • I will do a Yoga class at least once a week to increase flexibility
  • I will make time to run at least four days a week
  • I will stretch after each run and also on days that I don’t run

And I will also make sure that my blogging becomes more regular, focussed and beneficial for both you as the reader and for me as the author.

So what are your running resolutions for 2013?

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Travelling for work: fitting in training

busrunningDue to a major incident in my work I’ve had to spend the last week away from home, living out of a suitcase in a motel. Although the work has been hard, the hours long and the focus has been on managing the incident for the business, it did also pose a challenge to me on how to get some training in.

I knew the morning before heading off that I was going to be away for the week so I was able to pack my running shoes, a few pairs of shorts and a mix of t-shirts and singlets. Work days were long with early starts so morning runs were taken out of the equation but I was able to set aside time for an evening run between leaving the workplace and meeting up with colleagues for dinner.

The one positive of the experience was that I was able to run in a completely new environment, along the coast of a small town called Warrnambool in regional Victoria.

The Warrnambool coast, a beautiful but windy training run

The Warrnambool coast, a beautiful but windy training run

It is known as the surf coast with high winds and massive surf. There is also a great paved trail that runs along the coast.

On the first day I headed out and put in six kilometres along the coast, enjoying the scenery and awestruck at the power of the waves. I was making great pace, felt very comfortable and was seriously considering a sea change – until I turned around and had to deal with a massive headwind on the return six kilometres!

I’ve managed to get a run in most days, including a hills session, and braved the hotel gym for a short strength session which was worthwhile. I’ve missed been away from my wife and daughter and work has been exhausting, but with a little bit of forethought to throw my running gear into my bag I’ve been able to maintain my training and possibly even got in more runs than normal without the pressure of the family commitments.

The long work hours though has undoubtedly impacted the quality of my training with less sleep than normal and minimal recovery time.

How do you factor in training when you have to travel?

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Marathon = death? Call me a sceptic

All my time running I’ve loved the way that it’s made me feel, made my body look (well except for when a little too undernourished!) and the good that I know it is doing for my health.

I’ve also had to deal with the comments from friends and family on how it’s bad for my knees, will wear out my heart and the tales of people who die whilst running. The recent example is two people who died last week in the Guangzhou Marathon in China, one of which was running a 5 kilometre event, while there was major international coverage after the death of 30 year old Claire Squires in this year’s London Marathon.

Well that debate looks like not disappearing any time with the publication of a report and subsequent article in the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph about the health risks of marathoning.

The article, titled ‘Too many marathons can kill, warn doctors’ essentially claims that too much sustained exercise can lead to “overstretching of the organ’s chambers, thickening of its walls, changes to electrical signalling, accelerated aging in the heart, diastolic ventricular dysfunction and large-artery wall stiffening”.

30yo Claire Squires died in the 2012 London Marathon. It was later revealed she had an irregular heartbeat.

To me this is ridiculous. The claim is essentially that there is more damage to the heart by running than there is listed by the Heart Foundation on how smoking damages the heart. There is also more damage done to the heart by running than by being obese. This really, really scares me as I reckon people will use this as an excuse to not exercise.

I’m not saying that the science is fraudulent. I do reckon though that the sample they are looking at is miniscule and similarly the number of people who die each year running a marathon as a percentage of entrants is tiny.  I could just easily scan the entrants list of an Ironman or marathon race and find people racing well into their 80’s.

Just like everything in life, training for marathons and running needs to be done in moderation, but there needs to be caution in over exaggerating the risks to the masses of something that is relevant to a very small number.

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Training session: hill reps

Anyone training for a marathon will have come across hill repetitions somewhere in their training program. For me, it is one of my favourite marathon training sessions and one that I know can leave me feeling exhausted but as strong as an ox.

It’s important to remember that a hill session is not necessarily a hill repetition; gentle rolling hill runs or sprinting up hills encountered on a training run all provide running value, but for me the pick of hill sessions is definitely hill reps. My session of choice is 15 repeats of 300m hill sprints with easy jog back down for recovery, preceded and followed by a 10-15min easy jog warm up and cool down.

The benefits of hill repeats include the physical benefits of quicker and longer leg strides, improved leg strength, increased cadence or stride frequency, increased VO2 max and higher anaerobic and lactate thresholds as well as the psychological benefit that comes from knowing hills are no problem.

If your marathon in on a pancake flat course, the strength benefits of hill training and hill reps in particular will still carry through so it is recommended as a part of a structured training program. It is important to remember though that while hillwork is sometimes called speedwork in disguise, there is still a need to incorporate standard speedwork as well as the best way to run fast in a race is to run faster in training.

For me I’m lucky enough to be able to do this in the Melbourne running mecca known as The Tan, which has an iconic hill called Anderson St which just so happens to be a perfect distance from my gym to do my warm-up and cooldown there and back. I find it important to start off so that I feel a slight effort but with plenty in reserve, because I want to be able to hold the same time for each hill repeat on my first as I do on my thirteenth or fourteenth time. After reaching the top I jog comfortably back to the bottom, focusing on form on the downhill but certainly not worrying about pace other than not stopping or walking – always running!

What is your favourite hill session?

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Cross training: Yoga

After finishing my second marathon of the year and having missed six weeks of valuable training time in the lead up to race two due to ITB, I have made the decision to improve my flexbility and hopefully reduce future injuries.

This year is the first in my 10 years of running that I have had to deal with injuries – and I didn’t like it one bit! I realised as I got older and the laughs from my physio got louder that I needed to do something to improve my flexibility. I have since recommitted to post-run stretching and for the first time in years can touch my bum with my foot when I do a quad stretch 🙂 The next step was to sign up for a yoga class. My gym runs three a week at lunch time, so three weeks I ventured off to my first class.

It was a little daunting, having never done anything like that before, but I went at my own pace and felt pretty good afterwards. My downward dogs and sun salutations were great and I could feel my back stretching out. The years of neglect of stretching certainly restricted me on a number of moves though and I know there is a lot of work ahead before I think I’ll truly be able to complete a lot of the moves, even at a basic level.

I figure though that something is better than nothing so I will keep at it for a while yet and see how I feel, how my flexibility goes and the impact that it has on my running. I’m not going to be shouting the benefits from the rooftops yet as I’m just not sure if it is for me, but this experiment of one will continue for a while yet.

What is your favourite cross training exercise? Do you find yoga has helped your running?

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