Saturday, 23 February 2013

Running in the Dandenong ranges 2 - Hill running tips and tricks

A blog about my weekend run with the Dandy Runners and some thoughts and hopefully advice for tackling Puffing Billy in the great train race or any other hillier race. This run may have been a little hillier than the Great Train Race, but I had a ball. The Puffing Billy tips come just after the Dacite Track, so feel free to skip down to there. The later tips are for some of the more extreme hill climbs you might find out on your trail runs or mountain runs. 

5:45 and the alarm goes off. Quick breaky, top up the Camelpak and after stumbling about in the dark to get all my gear ready I finally get to lace up the Invo-8 Trailroc 235s (hit for my review) after a few weeks on the bitumen and head for the hills. After arriving in the car park and meeting up with the rest of the runners we took off down Doongalla Road towards the trails. The first couple of kms came easily as the conversation did. I got some great pointers as to how I should be training for my up and coming half marathon (a  blog to come next week, I want to test how I am running at race pace on a week day training run) and before we knew it it was the first rest stop... actually the bathroom stop but we wont go there.

The first track was the Staples track. A gently undulating track, quite wide and  a very enjoyable run. I got talking to some of the group and the kms soon rolled over. The gradual incline eventually led us to the Dactite track. As we looked up the track a feeling of dread came over me. Steep was an understatement. Ah, this is a 7 minute track one of the group said. Hmmm, 7 minutes of pain... maybe. He was going to time the run, so I hung back and picked his brain before I took off with him. 

A sign of coming pain...

Puffing Billy tips:
1. On a long and steep incline, the trick is to keep up a high but manageable tempo. You also want to keep your self tall - don't hunch over thinking this makes it easier. You'll actually be compressing your airways. No wonder your're sucking wind so hard :)  Shorter steps will allow you to keep the same pace/effort level over varying inclines and gradients. Ultimately you want to be maintaining a steady effort. It is worth it, you'll get to the top!
2. The descent can be your friend. The key to hill races/trail runs is to use this as your recovery phase. You want to find a balance between using it to recover and lower your heart rate but also to pick up the average km time that you have lost coming up the previous hill. You should be trying to relax your legs and not build up to much return energy by shortening your stride. Again, keep it higher but steady tempo.
3. What pace will you need to run? The million dollar question. I'm hoping to run about 4 minute kms to finish in about 52 minutes. I'm hoping that will fast enough. 
Does not do the incline justice

So we took off and soon reeled in the others in the group. We passed some walkers who were resting at the 'peak' of the gradient but the track continued on around the corner. I saw another of the group and was relieved to be at the top but was told to keep going.... So not what I wanted to hear but I had to keep at it. The track eventually flattened out a little and I finally reached the end. My running mate was already heading back for more. His time - 8 minutes, mine was about 8:45 - 9:00. I do know my heart rate had peaked at 183 somewhere along the way up. 

We regrouped and turned up I believe the Channel 10 track. This was a much more pleasant run through ferns and the Aussie bush, a nice rolling gradient where a good conversational pace could be kept. 

Another ridge and we stopped to regroup. As we looked to our right there was this insane track - Toroa Track - The steepest incline I've seen and the conversation from a few of the runners was: Oh, maybe it's dry enough to run today. Nah, not me another said. Yeah, usually you've got to hang onto trees and roots to get up it. Should be doable today though. Well, my new partner for the was keen to do it and so was I. We worked out the next meeting point and took off while the others took off. 
So tip one was high tempo, tip two was on your toes. I managed that quite well but was wondering if I should be picking off the roots/ridges or hitting the clear clay. My thoughts were that hitting the roots gave more grip...

The trailrocs once again performed sensationally. They have to be the best running shoe I have at the moment. The tri-compound grip (link to a little more info on the shoe) worked a treat. I was able to run forward on my toes and really dig in and grip the earth. The flexible sole allowed me to toe off and use all my foot and calf strength. I felt like spiderman!

At the top it was a well earnt breather, then 'how the hell do I get back down?
Again, I asked the question. My thought was like a bike, slow, steady short strides. But on the toes or flat footed?

Crazy hill tips:
1. On the ascent keep running forward on your toes and use your calf strength. It hurts to begin with but when you get that strength it becomes easier. Nothing helps more than just getting out there and doing more hill runs, trail runs and mountain runs. 
2. When on crazy inclines keep to the smoothest path (the clay or trail 'gutter') possible. You'll get the grip you need and it also allows you to control your stride to keep it short and regular. You waste extra energy when you stretch or reach. And, when its wet those roots are treacherous. 
3. On steep descents, keep your high tempo but with short strides. try and keep your lift low so that you retain complete control and can stop at any given step. 
Loving the off the beaten path

Phew, got all that? I made it safely to the bottom and enjoyed a fast recover descent with a little up now and then as we continued along the trail to catch the rest of the crew. Massive credit to my running mate for the tips and again, the trailroc 235s really enabled me to run freely and more importantly, safely down a pretty crazy track.

From here we went real bush! The track became single file through dense ferns and scrub- avoid the divots, the blade grass, prickly creepers and bobs your uncle! Brilliant fun, perhaps the most true trail running I've done. I got chatting with another Inov-8 runner as we discussed our shoes of choice and how we are going with our natural running journey. 

At the end of this great section we went along school road which was again rolling up and down but very manageable. We turned onto another track and went bush for a while before coming to 'Deer Hill'. This was named for the deer farm to the left. It could also be 'Oh dear hill' as it was another insanely steep hill. My running mate had given me a heads up on this one as he had previously held the timed record of 28 seconds up the hill. A few weeks ago it was run in 26. Well, lets see how quick we can do it today he says. Again, sucker me thinks why not. 

The rest of the group left us to it and the watch was armed. He took off, me not far behind. High tempo, short lifts and the quads and calves were pumping. Another name for the hill came to mind as I was ascending but I won't print it here. 3/4s of the way up and I was in a world of pain but had to press on. Non existent pride was at stake! Apparently the track turned to the left and the old dead trees was the finish. Focus... push on... YES! done in 37 seconds. Very happy with that thank you. 

The heart rate peaked at 178. Working hard I am. We regrouped and continued on the trail. I ran ahead with the faster runners only to meet this tree who had parked on the track. Fortunately we could work our way through it and continue on. It was a laugh watching the other runners appear from no where. 
We can't go over it, we can't go under it, we'll have to go through it!

The trail rolled on, and we got to Olinda - Basin Road and crossed over to another great bush section that required us to pick and weave along the track as through the rather unforgiving scrub. Terrific fun but not when your calves play up with cramps. 

Well, thats about it. A lazy 16.3km of the hardest hills I've done, including that insane optional extra. Following the Puffing Billy tips made a massive difference to my run up the longer more graduated hills today. On those insane little side tracks and sections... I'm not quite a mountain goat yet, but I loved it!

To get all your barefoot trail gear head to

I also found some very tempting new trail and road shoes at the

New Arrivals

Wednesday, 20 February 2013 - the best running shoes store

Just a really simple post today...

I'm super stoked to be proudly supporting, the Australian distributors of Inov-8 road and trail shoes. I love the new banner guys! It 'rocs'!

Cheers and happy running


To get the best shoes for running head to

Use the fish followers code fish10 to get 10% discount on Inov-8 shoes and the rest of the range at barefootinc!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Inov-8 Road X 233 shoe review

The best running shoe
Road X 233 

The Road X 233 (hit for product details) was my first taste of the Inov-8 road range, in fact, of any of their range. I had been experiencing some trouble with my hips, and after being fitted for a 'support' shoe I thought I can either let my shoes for ever tell me how to run or I could learn how to run again and become more free with my running. Why the review now? I'm having some slight plantar fasciitis pain and I want the additional support of the Dynamic Fascia Band™ shank that is embeded in the midsole of these shoes. I'd forgotten just how good they are as I've gotten to know them again over the last couple of weeks.

The Kinvara had worked well for me for the last 12 months, but research and development had led me towards running more minimalist. Enter the world of Inov-8.

The runningwarehouse website with its shoe fitter and comparison guide suggested that the Road X 233 would be a close fit to my Kinvaras. Many hours of trawling reviews convinced me that these were worth a try. So, how did they work out? Will they be the best running shoe?

The Road X 233 (hit for the link, they're a great supplier) are what Inov-8 call a 2 shock zone shoe, or they run off a 6mm drop - My kinvaras were off 4mm. This was an easy transition, in fact, possibly a backward step? Known for the wider toebox, the 233 was instantly a whole lot roomier than the Kinvaras, but still felt secure fit wise. I did need to lace them a little tighter to begin with. The Inov-8 foam is much denser than the Kinvara and also a lot less - The Road X 233 is 9mm thick at the heel and 3mm thick at the front. This drop in stack height did take a little getting used to. Finally I was getting some 'ground contact'. I was being made accountable for how my foot landed. They also have the Dynamic Fascia Band™ which Inov-8 say replicates and supports the foot's plantar fascia ligament. What does it do? It is designed to store additional energy from your foot and give you a little extra whip with your toe off. 

For me this is where the real difference was. My first run in these and I suddenly became a lot more aware of how hard I was landing, so I spent a week doing 2-3 minutes of barefoot in the gym before each run just to get my gait and fore/midfoot landing right. When I used the correct gait and motion, these felt 'just right'. The cushioing felt like it moulded to my foot and was right where I needed it. When I got lazy and landed more on my heel I could certainly tell what was happening, thus the Road X 233 have certainly helped me to transition to the fore/midfoot striking when I run. On a side note I ran a 10km PB the first time I wore these in a race.

You might be looking at the soles and thinking 'how can these things grip'. Inov-8 have placed a super sticky compound on the high contact points near the heel, mid and forefoot strike zones and it works a treat.
I've run on the flat and some crazy 20% incline hills (road) in both the dry and the wet. I've been able to ascend and descend these hills with full confidence - the only issue I had was wet socks slightly slipping inside the shoe.

As you can see my shoes are now a little dirtier but still holding up really well after 300kms of use. For a smooth transition into the minimalist/natural/barefoot running style, these shoes are a must have. All my friends can pick them up at

Let them know the fish sent you :)

Cheers, Lachie

Use the fish followers code fish10 to get 10% discount on Inov-8 shoes and the rest of the range at barefootinc!

Keep Hydrated on the roads with UltrAspires 2013 packs

Monday, 18 February 2013

Beach running

Last weekend was a corker here in Melbourne - 33 C on Saturday and 37 C on Sunday. I'd done 11km on Friday in resignation that with family commitments I wouldn't be able to get a run in. So be it...

Not the surf on Saturday
Saturday was planned as a trip to the beach down at Torquay where I grew up. We had planned to meet at Point Danger or the 'front beach' which is the calmer of the three coastal beaches.

A long story short, the youngest needed a trip to the hospital on Friday night and was diagnosed with asthma. We were due to meet the paediatrician at 10am on Saturday morning back at the hospital - she arrived at 11:50. Thanks very much, there goes two hours of beach time :(

At 2pm we finally got to the beach and had lunch with my family. A ripper chicken and bok choy roll, a double choc Tim Tam munched down and then we were able to hit the water. Our 4 year old had a ball learning to swim with and against the waves and after supervising duties were done I was able to go for a swim my self.

The tide was coming in, but I could still see the boarders and swimmers standing waist deep on the sandbank about 300m out in the surf. This is where the great training session starts.

We were at the far end
I took off at a quick run, really striding strong, knees high, arms pumping. With the tide and surf pushing against me and the waist deep water it was damn hard work. By the time I reached the boarders my quads were burning and I was completely out of breath. Fantastic! After a quick breather I swam the 300m back into the shore and repeated the exercise again. Again, the quads got a surreal workout, I really needed to be aware of my footing and feet and ankle strength and by the end I was knackered, stuffed. A quick breather and again the 300m swim back in. After a 3rd repeat I was more than happy to be back on sandcastle duties.

And that was that. The weekends training compacted into about 20 mins of exhausting exercise. That eveing the legs felt great and my 11km run this Monday morning felt really good. This was a surprise as the 20 C heat and high humidity had me worried, but I was able to run for enjoyment at a 145 BPM heart rate,  which really surprised me as I was expecting it to be sky high.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Compression Tops

Also love the skins A400 shorts for trail runs!
Hmmm, compression tights. You either love em or hate em. Compression socks, you either swear by them or think they look ridiculous. If your reading this chances are you use either, or both of them in your running or chosen sport.

Compression shirts? That’s a whole other, and scarier area. Why would I want one? What do they do? Do they work? Well this little blurb can hopefully point you in the right direction. I’m hoping you’ve searched for ‘Nike Pro Combat 2.0 ss/ls compression shirt’ or ‘Under Armour Heat Gear compression shirt’ or something similar and ended up here.

I’ll start with the Under Armour top (check it out at wiggle). Bluntly, I love it! It’s Under Armours lightest top and is designed to keep you cool. With mesh construction to wick away the sweat, compression to strengthen the core and increase blood flow to keep your muscles going when you can’t.  I saw it in a local sports store and thought ‘why not?’ I have an older Under Armour Compression tank and a 2XU compression short sleeve tri top that I love.

Being 167cms on a good day and weighing 57-60kg when I’m soaking wet and with a backpack on the only size option was a small. I put it on and it fit like a glove. It was very snug but not at all compressing or restrictive. It felt incredibly light and I could move as free as though I were not wearing a shirt at all. The red colour, I love, it’s me. 
The first run was on a 25 C day. During the run I was certainly sweating from the brow but my chest and back felt great. When a slight breeze blew up it went straight through me and felt awesome, the wicking of the shirt and the breeze was instantly cooling. In fact, any breeze at all is like magic. The second run was 29km at 27 C plus. By the end of the run I’d had it. The shirt, I felt free all the way and it certainly felt like it was keeping me cool. At the end of my run my chest and shoulders were dry. My back, well with the Camel Pak on that was another story. Soaked through, but everything has been with that one on.

The run finished by a river and as lunch was being sorted I went in for a dip. Of course I kept my gear on and anyway, it was a good way to rinse out the shirt. Within about 10-15minutes of being out it was dry again. Perfect.
I’ve since worn it for the Portsea run and the Two Bays run and it’s still as good as new. In all, perhaps I’ve worn it for 20 plus runs and its still as compressive (or as snug) as ever. I have torn the neck collar slightly but that was from being careless. You do need to be fairly flexible to get these things off. Think pulling it up your back then reaching over your shoulder to pull it up and over your head from the bottom.

The Nike Pro Combat Core Compression 2.0 should do a similar job. Mesh construction it’s not. It’s fibrous but still very light. It does have mesh under the arms though. I ordered a small and according to the size charts it was the same as the Heat Gear top. The colour of the Nike compression shirt, a very cool photo blue. Noice… I was a little disappointed with the fit. While it was nice, it’s not quite as tight as the Heat Gear. It is still very snug and the chest and shoulders feel compressed and kept in place so that I can hold my form, the stomach and hips does not have the same tapering as the Heat gear and feels loose, but still comfortable. It is a longer top and I was hoping that it would hold its form and stay in place but when you run it does tend to ride up. I get full range of freedom when running and must admit, after my two runs it is growing on me. It’s almost like it’s not there at all.  

The next question must be does it work?

For the last 2 weeks we have been struck by a heat wave and both mornings I ran with the top have been 20-22 C but 80% plus humidity. Soon into my runs I was again sweating at the brow and could feel the top starting to keep me dry. Once again when even the slightest breeze picked up it instantly felt a lot cooler. From here I need some advice. Either the Nike compression shirt is very effective (and I did feel dry) as at the end of my 40 and 50 minute runs I had the classic runners sweat V down the chest to the abs. I thought it made me look very tough, but that’s just me. I don’t normally sweat too much so I was surprised at how much sweat had been ‘wicked away’ by the top, or the humidity just made me sweat like no tomorrow. 
I was able to pop it on a hanger in the change rooms and when I popped back in an hour or so later it was pretty much dry, so big thumbs up there. Off the record, it also wasn’t too smelly.

To surmise… As a shirt I much prefer the Under Armour Heat Gear top. It feels so much nicer both with the materials and to wear. One of the Nike website reviews states ‘you have to be fit to wear it’. As just the top I would agree, neither top hides very much. Hmmm, can I get away with it? In my mind yes, I look damn good running past those reflective shop windows (remove tongue from check here).

As far as compression shirt goes... I’m not sure that these two are true compression when I compare them to my Skins tights and the 2XU/Sugoi compression socks. They certainly keep me feeling cool and don’t restrict movement at all. At the end of a run and I can take them off and feel pretty dry. In the gym I can do my full range of exercise with no restriction, and no top falling over my head or getting caught in the weights. They are my new go to running top and I’ve got a long sleeve one ready for the winter to wear as my base layer.

Get em, you’ll be a happy runner.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Refine Training - The finest gym in Kew, Melbourne

After 5 fantastic years of training with Refine Training a.k.a the Refine Gym in Kew, Melbourne it's time for me to share the love. Refine is a hidden gem, one of Melbourne's best smaller gyms. 

Refine is located within the grounds of Trinity Grammar School, Kew. An easy 5 minutes off the Eastern Freeway then via Charles St off Barkers Rd or Stanley St off Wellington St (both also accessible from Glenferrie Rd) it's location is second to none. 

The gym has a large number of spin cycles, treadmills, fixed form and free weights and ample floor space. If that's not enough they have access to full sized basketball court as well as the Peter McIntyre gym composing of three full sized basketball courts. Want more? There's also the Junior School synthetic turf oval which is great for sprint sets and other drills. 

In my time at the gym I've been exposed to and really enjoyed the spin classes and the monstrous Watt bike, boot camp sessions and personal training sessions with Leigh - the director at Refine Kew. Working with Leigh has enabled me to go from a 'runner' to a serious runner. How serious? Check out my race results and runs to find out more :)  Leigh's devised some running programs that have got me through two half marathons, managed me on the bikes to help improve my leg strength and anaerobic and lactic threshold capacities and incorporated core body strength through the Pilate's ball among things. 

The spin classes are always tailor made for each individuals strengths and weaknesses. The strengths are built on and your weaknesses are gradually picked and pulled at until they too become a strength. The camaraderie that I have made at refine get me through the toughest sessions and back for more each week. We often joke of it being the 'house of pain' but its a great pain and for some insane reason, we are back every Tuesday. 

Whilst I've rarely participated in the classes on the other mornings as my recent focus has been on my running, Leigh also offers a different style of training that is just as effective - as I said, tailored to your needs. Don't tell him, but I've often tried them out at home that night.

Speaking of which, Refine Kew is big enough to be everything that you need, but small enough that everyone can say hello with a smile and do what they want to do. 

Still wanting more? Leigh and his team also offer a huge variety of 'non traditional', or are they traditional training methods such as the heavy ropes, sled runs, kettle bells, boxing, one-on-one body strength and core strength specifics.
 I'm just waiting for him to bring an old tree trunk, Rocky style! 

So, at risk of exposing one of Melbourne's best kept fun and fitness secrets, come on down to Refine Training in Kew and join us for a spin or take on the challenge of Boot Camp. Tell Leigh that 'this fish' sent you and check out Refine Training at Kew. 

Cheers, Lachie

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Heart Rate Training Update

Well, it's two months on and the results are in. What are the results? To recap hit here on my Initial Heart Rate training post. 

On Monday I revisited my initial 9.2km course and ran it at the 145 BPM heart rate. The first run was at 48:30, after 2 months of training I ran it in 46:13 this time. End result? I've taken 2 minutes 15 off the time for no perceptible extra effort. I call it speed for free!

I do feel that I have been able to be more consistent with my running now, but perhaps the Aussie summer was not the best time to commence it. 

Temperatures can be as high as 35C, even the mornings can be 20C + - not good for keeping your heart rate down. This has been the case in more recent weeks and I've really struggled to keep in the zone. This also could be attributed to the fact that I was training mid morning or late afternoon where my natural circadian rhythm may have been naturally higher. 

Where to next? All the reading suggests that if you run 3 times a week or less then you should do your mid distance runs at or just below race pace. As I fit into that category what do I do? 

My new morning training HR will be at 150 BPM as I want to build up a little more speed on the flats and inclines. 150 is just shy of the 85% range they recommend for half-marathons so this should allow me to comfortably push myself if I'm in the mood. On most other occasions I will still try and sit at 145 BPM, especially when I'm running 15km and upwards.

I'll drop back in a couple of months to let you all know how it goes. From here I'm also hitting the Watt bike once a week to try and build up leg strength and push my HR to the higher limits and keep it there in more controlled conditions. A post on this is soon to follow.

Cheers and happy running, Lachie