Wednesday, 2 December 2015

The Vertical K... Mt Donna Buang by Rapid Ascent

‘Let’s race to the top of that mountain’ said no one sane. Ever. ‘Yeah, and we can throw in one of Australia’s steepest streets too!’. While they were at it, they thought ‘And we can race your road bike mates as well!’

Need I say more?
And so I find myself here at the starting line in Warburton, about to head off as a participant in Australia’s first officially sanctioned Sky Race; The Mount Donna Buang Vertical K.  A Sky Race? It’s a race that has over 1000m of elevation gain, 1098m to be precise – that’s why this bad boy has been named the Vertical k!

The 8:30 start time allowed a very leisurely morning, up at 6:15 for a stretch, shower, coffee and a cliff bar and in the car at 7:15 to arrive at 7:45. Parking was a cinch and I quickly found Erica, Dion, Cheryl, Ashley and many other friendly faces. I took advantage of the warm up course and got in a very easy 1.5km before making it back well and truly in time for the start. There was lots of chin wagging and nattering before the gun went off at 8:30.

And you finish up there he says!
It was rather strange lining up beside the bikes, and there were a few friendly rivalries going on. The first 1.5km was a very easy, roughly at 150 BPM pace (I need to tweak the race day setting on the watch) alongside the Yarra river on a lovely walking trail, which turned onto the road before we hit the wall: Martyr Road. 

This is apparently one of Australia’s steepest residential streets. And steep it was. 60m of elevation gain in 400m. Many of the young, brave, foolish runners had run out hard and many were caught out on this first up. Half way up the hill the heart was pumping hard, but my breathing controlled as I felt like what was cruising up the hill. I happily passed many, said a few choice words myself and even saw Stuie for a very brief on the move chat. He was moving very well.

At the top of the road we entered the trail 60 m higher than we started (214m), and then had the only drop in elevation as we were swept beneath the trees on a very narrow and twisty path, littered with all sorts of jumpable tree debris. This short and fun section opened up alongside a very green field, which was stunning to look at. It also went up. Many runners were now walking/hiking and I ran as far as I felt comfortable with, overtaking a few before power hiking myself. Today was a day to pick your battles with Donna, not your fellow runners.
This section was soon over and we entered the forest again. 

The trees were a mix of gums and ferns, of varying ages and sizes. It was damp and soft underfoot – beautiful running if you could, it was still one long climb! This section saw lots of leap frogging. You’d run a bit, pass a few people and walk when the man ahead did. Someone fresh would pass you then you’d be inspired to chase them again. This went on for a while on some lusher trail. Some sections were tighter than others and the scrub caught your legs, other parts opened up for some deft passing manoeuvres. The only sound was very hard breathing and the birds…

With roughly 400m of height gained, the field had now thinned, and I was no longer being passed too often, and when I was it was a great game of cat and mouse as the terrain varied and the running/power hiking intervals changed. At this stage I think we all realised that we were being led by the strongest runners. As soon as the elevation was right, those in front would run again and we’d all follow. This strategy really worked well, as I was able to pick up a place or two with each ‘run’. Although tough, it was quite enjoyable.

At 550m of vert I was more than happy to let people know where we were and how the ‘k’ was tracking. Looking at the Strava stats some sections were 30-35% gradient inclines! At about 700m the trail flattened a little, and we got in a few really good 300-400m sections of running. Again, it was a real cat and mouse game. You’d chase down the person in front, pass where you could and hold on till the next elevation rise. Occasionally you’d get pinged and have to chase them again, but it was all great fun. Around 800m the group I was playing with split, I managed to pass Ashley, but the lady in front was too strong. I could just keep her in my line of sight, but then round the next corner she’d be gone.

After what seemed forever, and nearly an hour in we finally hit the road and the battle with the bikes would begin! Except it was a real peasouper of a fog and you could barely see 10m ahead! I could just make out the lady I’d been trailing and was pacing well. The first couple of bikes to pass me seemed to cruise on by, and that was it. I wouldn’t see any more until the finish. About half way along the road section I hit the 1000m point, and was also caught up to by a great bloke. He was racing his brother in-law on the bike and we had a great chat as the legs felt like lead. 

We finally spotted the last section of trail and after a quick drink we went on our separate ways. Or at least we did for about 100m when I passed him again. Then he passed me when I hit the hike. And I passed him when he’d over done it. We were chatting away and taking the mickey out of it for the last 600m section of grass and stone. The trail kept on going up, but up spirits were up as we mustered as long of a run as we could before hiking again. Finally it flattened out and the sights and the sounds of the finish line were in sight! He had about 50m on me and I was hoping he’d won his battle. I wasn’t going to catch him but I’d won mine. I’d run up a bloody mountain!

Yup, I did it!
I thought my time was around 1:10 for the 7.9km of vertical goodness, but the auto-pause on the watch (yup, another settings change to come) had really done a number on me. In fact it lost about 5 minutes worth of numbers on me!

My finish time for 7.9km in distance, and 1125m of sheer up was 1:15:16. I was stoked with that, I’d conquered the vertical k in less than the 1:30 time I was hoping for.

Will I do it again? Yes, I’d love to run with friends and either have a car at the top, or enjoy a longer, safer run down the road to return in pure speed. I’d also love to take on someone on the bike as well. It’s such an element of surprise and a twist on the usual run.

Cheers again to Rapid Ascent for managing the event. The atmosphere at the start was cool and calm, and the top was really buzzing. 

Go on, give it a crack next year. 

Cheers for now, TheFish

Friday, 13 November 2015

145 BPM MAF (Heart Rate Training) November update

Well, once again it’s been a while since I’ve posted an update on my Heart Rate (HR) training, and here it is.

At the moment I’m loving my EZ (Easy) run training. I’m continuing to work within my 145 beats per minute (BPM) boundaries and I’m making steady progress in the EZ or endurance running ‘zone’. I’ve been tracking my runs on Strava, it’s such an easy thing to do and the very friendly software keeps telling me that I’m trending faster! What does this mean?

Over the last 2 months, all bar one of my morning or afternoon runs on one of my routes have been run faster than the previous one. It sounds crazy, but it’s true!

These runs range from 5.57km – 6.5km and now take between 27 – 29 minutes. Both of the out and back runs were originally half an hour, as I ran out 15 minutes and aimed to be back by the 30 minute mark. On the weekend I like to get in an hour to 90 minute EZ run, though my recent focus has been chasing as much vert as possible to prep for the Vertical K race at the end of November.
Stupid hills!
The three morning/local runs that I most enjoy are the ‘Up the hill and back’ run which sees an elevation gain of roughly 63m up, and the lovely descent down, there is the ‘Bridge to bridge’ variation which is fairly neutral, though it also has more gain than you first think and finally the flattish, but with a steady 3% gradient home is the ‘Seville out n back’.

In the last two months my 'Bridge and back' time has dropped from 5:07pace to 4:48pace. 

The  ‘Up the hill and back time’ has come down from 5:03km/minute to 4:35km/minute.

Finally, the flattish 'Seville' run has come down from 5:00 to 4:34.

I’ll also note that these best times have now happened in the morning as well, where I was previously slower during my morning runs. Interestingly my best progress has come on the hill run. I am now running well ahead of the grade adjusted pace, in fact is says my 5:01 pace up the hill is nearer 4:23 pace on a flat. I’m still about 20 seconds behind what it says I should be running down the hill though. Hey, I’m more than happy to be hitting 4:03 pace down the hill though. You’ve still got to run, but imagine a sub 4 minute pace at your easy effort level!

Positives from this? My EZ pace/ half marathon plus pace is ‘this close’ to 4:30 pace. I’ve never run this fast at a sub 165 BPM effort level, let alone at a very relaxed 145 BPM level. I think it’ll soon be time to put it to the test somewhere.

Negatives? I do think I’ve lost a little of my top end pace. 3:55 km pace seems to be where I work best. Now I know this is a cracking pace to have, but I’ve been chasing 3:45 pace over 5kms for a while and it’s just not happening.

So, I’ll continue this training and see where it takes me. I’m hoping to improve on my 4:48 flat (football oval laps) 5km MAF (145 BPM) test, and I want to hit 4:30 pace. It’ll take time but time is what I have and I’m loving the training.

Till next time my friends,

ThisFishCANrun J

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

2015 Asics 5.7km race #melbournemarathon

Could I possibly win this?

Believe it or not, at about the 4km mark these words and thoughts were running (slight pun thought of) through my head. I had steadily ducked and weaved through the field, and Easy to Spot Guy in Orange was only just ahead. He was the last runner I could see…

The Fish family were packed and on the 8:27 train from the outer Eastern Suburbs and on our way into the city so that I could run in the Asics 5.7km race, a small part of the Melbourne Marathon Festival. The 11am start was very family friendly! The kids were excited and so was I. Matrix sportswear had asked me to run for them, and I was super keen to see how I’d go in a larger race, one with almost 3,000 participants. We also got to finish the race with a lap of the iconic turf on Melbournes hallowed ground; the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground).

We arrived with plenty of time to find the Generation Run viewing point & cheer squad before having a mosey round the stalls and retail as we worked our way over to the start line. I said my goodbyes, and went through my warm ups before working my way to the very front of the crowd to the starters tape. Now it’s been a while since I’ve run in a mass event – nearly 3,000 people in two waves and I was surprised at the number of younger runners; 7-12 year olds that were at the tape. Some of these kids might be able to run, but my worry was them getting smashed in the crush.
Eventually the clock ticked over and we were off!

Where's the fish? Orange and Blue - Does it stand out to you?
1st km : 3:57 (Gradient Adjusted Pace (Strava) 3:35) The plan was to take the first km easily, to find my place in the race and be ready to finish strongly. As expected the young bucks raced off, the kids smashed the first few hundred metres and then peeled away to the side. We ran along the famed Batman Ave (an early Melbourne politician, not the superhero!) and under the Willam Barak bridge. I was feeling great at this point, sitting somewhere between 3:45 and 4:00 pace. The field was thinning and little and I was gradually moving through the field, picking a shirt and catching them before moving on to the next. It was though the park and along the river briefly before a short but sharp climb up to the Flinders St Bridge and over to the other side of the river. It was here that I had my fist individual cheer “Go Mr Fin!”, someone from school! We eased over the bridge and the pace picked up as the path eased down to the riverside.

2nd km: 3:51 (GAP 3:50) This section of the race was nearly flat. I loved this section, and it was where I began to make my move. In my line of sight I could count about 10 runners. A few of the younger ones that were gradually flagging, some strong runners in the mid 20s and a group of 5 working together. In the distance was Mr Fluoro Orange.  As we ran along the Yarra River I hopped from one runner to the next. I was able to slowly reel them in, shadow them for a few hundred meters and then slipstream ahead and work on the next one. I caught Mr Aston Villa, Mr Yellow Nike, Mr Blue Brooks and ran with Mr Essendon for a while. I was starting to labour a little but no one had passed me back – a good sign.

3rd km: 4:00 (GAP 3:54) As we ran past the Botanical Gardens and crossed the Anderson St Bridge I was closing in on the group ahead. The path was just undulating and I was able to work the inclines and keep a consistent pace. The heart rate was now hitting low to mid 170s and I had to focus on form and breathing but I was also loving the thrill of the chase. As we neared the Batman Ave bridge and went under I caught the group of men and the leading lady and continued the hunt for Mr Flouro Orange. He was about 200m ahead.

4th km 3:53 (GAP 3:56) I was starting to hurt. The HR was now mid 170s to 180. As we left the path by the river and returned through the park I finally caught Mr Orange. He was breathing hard and tiring. After a brief word of encouragement to him I moved on. I could see no other runners – was I actually leading? The feeling was surreal, and I knew it was now or never to dig deep.

5th km: 4:02 (GAP 3:59) I pushed hard through the park and up and onto the Barak Williams Bridge. Smile and wave for photos, and drive over the bridge. I was a regular over the shoulder looker now, no one was going to catch me! Coming down the bridge it was a big turn onto Batman Ave again and we started the run home. I was almost pinching myself at this point. There was no one ahead, was this possible. I’d always said it depends on who turns up on the day, but my pace was no way near what I would have anticipated the lead runners to run. Did they just not do it today? What would I do at presentations?

I’d told Baden to keep an eye out for me at 11:19, and as I ran past the tents and stalls I heard another ‘Go Lachie!’. When we caught up later he told me he literally walked to the fence and saw me just as I ran past.

The last 700m… 3:38 pace and 3:37 GAP

The last 700m of a race is always the hardest. You’re feeling cooked but you have to just keep on pushing. The HR was hitting the mid 180s. If I was going to win I couldn’t let anyone catch me. Racing down Batman Ave and turning into the MCG was a surreal feeling. 

Turn to the left and it was full!
So often have I seen the concerts, athletic events and even Mrs Fish entering from this very post two years ago, it sends a shiver down your spine. As we came out of the brief tunnel and into the sunlight I veered down the 5.7km chute and started my lap. With a last form check, I hit the rubber track and then jumped to the side - I wanted to run on the hallowed turf! The short straight turned into a bend which very quickly straightened out and the finish line was there. I could hear my name and the kids on the cow bells, and with a last ditch sprint I crossed an eerily quiet line. So maybe I didn’t win?

There were three happy looking blokes getting photographed… Ah, it was a great feeling all the same, and I was stoked with how strongly I ran. 

It took a while to get through the lower area of the stadium and up to the family. I had one very proud and excited family and friendship group in the Generation Run crowd. They saw me enter the stadium, the mismatched pair of Royal Bay socks stood out like a sore thumb. Mission accomplished! 

I’d hit my sub 22:30 time, 22:10 and was secretly hoping I’d finished in the top 20.

You can imagine how ecstatic I was when I saw the ratified results, 9th overall in 22:10. 9th out of nearly 1000 men and 3000 overall. I was stoked. 

Will I be lured by the full #melbournemarathon next year?

Gear check:
#GenerationRun singlet
#poweredbyskins Powershorts and Skins essential short
Blue and Orange Royal Bay socks
Saucony A6 runners

Find and follow me on FaceBook and Instagram

PS - not my photos, except the one of me!

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

My Final 2015 Salomon Trail Series race - Race Four, Anglesea

Righto, and just make sure you listen to Grandma and Grandpa’. These are the famous last words of a parent leaving the kids behind on their way to Race Four and the final race of the Salomon Trail Series down at Anglesea on Victoria’s majestic surf coast. 
Kid free!
After catching up and checking in with Coach Bec and the Generation Run crew, Emma and I made our way down to the starting line down on the main beach. One final happy snap was taken before our warm up started in earnest. At the moment, I can’t think of a better place to do my pre-race run throughs than along a surf beach. Sure the sand can make it a bit tough but then we were about to start a trail race…

Could I beat Steve? Is David here and will I place ahead of him? These were my final musings as the race began. We took off down the beach on the 200m out and back and the pace was pretty hot. I was content to let the top of the field do their thing and I settled into a good rhythm. We soon hit the steps and began the run alongside the caravan park and up to the trail. The pace was a comfortable 4:25 for the 1st km and we soon hit the real trail.
Easing into a slightly quicker pace I enjoyed the little ups and downs of the 2nd km and was able to slowly reel in some of the fast starters who were now starting to feel the pinch and slow down on the hills.  As we navigated the first of the single trail and hit the track that started the big climb I had my eyes set on those who were around me. Mr Red top and Young Waverly Aths lad were running well, there were a couple of ladies and Mr Ironman all within a couple of hundred meters. This 2nd km was a quicker 4:18.
Finally the track broke open and over the road for a short blast be launching up the steps that took us up the long, winding hill behind the footy oval and to the high point of the course. This trail rose and rose, fell and twisted and rose some more. I was able to reel in Mr Red and one of the girls quite quickly while the others ran on. With each rise and turn they seemed a little closer and as the girls broke into a power hike I was able to move past them and focus on Ironman and Young Waverly. This was a gruelling km at a slower 5:46 pace, (But according to Strava the Grade Adjusted Pace was 4:23 min km) so I knew we were pushing it.
On the final rise I caught and passed Ironman, and put in a little spurt before he caught me again just before we hit the flat, winding, fast and fun section of single trail that lead us to the open land near the look out. Just as we broke out of the trail I passed Ironman for a final time and dug deep on the flat. In the distance I could see and reel in another runner and Young Waverly Aths lad was not too much further ahead. This 4th km was a solid 4:21 pace through the trails.
Uh, your f$#@&!g kidding was all I could say as we hit the stairs that started the decent down and the Suicide sorry, Suunto Sprint down the rocky ‘stairs’. Waverly Aths and I hit the stairs together and I made my move, trying to use the side of the track as opposed to the rocks of death. He was hot on my heels and all I could think was that I hope he knows what he’s doing. It was also a little buzz running past the small group that had gathered there to watch the sprint. Km 5 was done in 4:46.
Right now was the time to dig deep, and I spent the next 2kms chasing Steve down, catching a glimpse of him at each rise or round the bends before losing him as the trail turned or dropped. Even though the trail was a steady drop towards the beach, you still had to make your own pace and I was nearing my limits. Every time I felt I had him covered, he seemed to pull away, it was a real cat and mouse race to the finish. #These last two kms were covered in 4:03 and 4:01 and before I knew it I was hitting the sand for one last time.

A smile through the pain
Try as I might, I couldn’t reel him in and damn, did that soft sand hurt. It was all I could do to keep pushing through to the finish, and when I finally hit the firm sand again just 200m from the finish I could let it all go. I was thrilled to cross the line in 35:21, almost a minute quicker than last year, and to run 6th over the line was a rewarding finish to my winter training and the series.
As I regained my breath and waited for Em to finish I really got to enjoy the company and support of the Gen Run crew and to watch Em smash her goal time and finish in the top 40, and 8th female gave me an immense feeling of pride and joy. The smile on her face is what running is all about.

So, while I didn’t quite pull off the two placings ahead of David that I needed to secure 3rd for the series overall and divisional I loved every minute of the series and to finish 4th was a brilliant achievement. Thankfully the last race of the series was on the coast, in full sunshine and 20 degrees C weather. Gotta be happy with that! 

Series gear check:
Inov-8 f-lite 252, x-talon 190
Skins A400 compression tights, powershorts
Generation Run singlet
Suunto Ambit 3 HR 

Thanks again to Erica and Rapid Ascent for putting on the series and Baden @ Royal Bay Australia for the onsupport. 

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Group training or solo? The power of a great group...

'I think I'll just take it easy and cruise with you tonight Martin. Works been nuts, I'm tired and just feel like going through the motions.' 

When you train solo, these can be  famous last words. That tempo run that was due becomes another easy (EZ) run. The high intensity (HI) session that you should have done was run too easily. Your running plateaus and you lose your mojo.

This was a trap that I almost fell into before some careful negotiation with Mrs Fish allowed us to both attend one of a few of the offered Generation Run sessions once a week. While one of us gets to go out and for some professional coaching with Coach Bec and play with a great group of runners, the other gets kids duty. 

Running with Gen Run has been a revelation for my running. I'm still loving my twice weekly MAF 145 BPM heart rate runs in the morning, but the chance to run with the group for my tempo or HI runs means I get out there and do them. 

Coach Bec is amazing. she caters for runners of all abilities, and the mix of talent in her groups means that there is always someone who is going to make you push yourself that little bit harder (if that's what you need), or there's someone there to provide you the support when you need it most. 

I've always had a little bit of speed, and been respected for it, but to get the edge I want I need someone to push me as well. Running with a group and Gen Run has provided me with the opportunity to be pushed. When you get assigned your reps and expected intensity level, that little fella called 'ego' means that you want to perform. The fact that my brother-in-law also runs with the group sparks a little bit of friendly competition.  

So how has this translated in terms of performance? I've not yet raced since commencing my group training, but my opening lines were from last Monday night. 

Bec threw me to the lions (or the brother-in-law) pairing us up for the 6x1km tempo runs off 2 minutes static recovery. These were to be at our 10km pace, and consistent. No going out too hard and flagging on the last couple of repeats. 

If they say an EZ run pace is when you can run and talk in broken conversation, then these reps turned out to be just on the verge of and EZ run. The exciting part is, that we were runnning at 4:05 min/k pace, which dropped by a few each time to average 3:53 over the 6 reps. That kind of pace would not have happened if I were doing my own reps on the trail. Nor would I have done 6km. It would have been 4, maybe 5. 

I said it last year in my wrap of of the Salomon Series, that I felt my endurance was down by dropping my long runs with the Dandenongs Trail Runners and I've really enjoyed the weekend runs with them when I can. Now I know it's out there in the running world, but the power of a great group is something I underestimated. Big time. If you can, find your local group and make it happen for you. 

Cheers and happy running, 


Thursday, 23 July 2015

2015 Salomon Trail Series - Race 2, Plenty Gorge

-3 degrees C. That was the lowest we saw on the trip to Lower Plenty Gorge on the way to Race two of the Salomon Trail Series. The kids were fascinated by all of the frost on the ground and cars, I got excited when we arrived and it had warmed up to plain ol 0 degrees C.

So if race one started on the coldest Melbourne morning in 10 years, and race two started on the coldest morning in twenty years, I'm tipping snow and the 100 year freeze for race three at Silvan....

Back to the race recap. Of all the mornings to forget a long sleeve top, this morning was not the one to do so. At least it was a great reason to proudly break out the Generation Run singlet that I'd been so keen to race in If you've followed my posts you'll know how much of an inspiration Bex and Steve, the team behind Gen Run are to me, my friends and my family.

After catching up with Bex and Steve, and Colette McShane, AKA The Hiit Mum for some happy snaps and pre-race banter it was time to strip down and warm up.

This time I made sure I was well prepared and commenced my warm up about 20 minutes before the race start. It was some gentle jogs along the car park, followed by squats and lunges and repeat. The jog intensity slowly increased each time.

Phase One:

At 9:12 we were off. My goal was another top ten finish, so my first km was ran at a speed where I pushed down the road to keep the lead runners in sight, but not so fast that I'd fade near the end of the race. Although the graph shows a fairly neutral elevation gain, the severity of the ups and down meant that finding a regular pace was proving to be a challenge. The sharp left hander here just before we hit level ground was a real pinch.

Rocking #GenRun and the Skins A400 #equipmentnotclothing
Phase Two:

We dashed across the plain and as we reached the end of the first real rise the trail flattened out into that beautiful single trail that I enjoyed so much last year. We were ducking and weaving through the trees at a steady pace. Entering the 2nd km took us into my favourite section of this race, a free-flowing single/double trail through some beautiful old and young Aussie gum trees. Although the gradient and trail continued to climb, the pace continued to be hot and the field slowly spread. I played cat and mouse with a few of the other runners for a while before I made a move on the last brief dip down into the gully, and the following climb allowed me to break free from the pack and placed me just behind Mr Skins and Mr Green Fluro. I now had the rest of the race to slowly try and real them in.

Phase Three:

At this point we broke through the trees and continued to slowly climb alongside a wide open field. Everytime I thought I was making up ground, the gap between me and Mr Skins and Mr Fluro widened a touch before I reeled it in again. This was the section that perhaps allowed them to play to their strengths in the straight, I'd catch them on the next hill. Speaking of which, the wide open section you can see was a lovely, steep section of at least -12%. Here I bent the knees a little, increased my cadence and lightly danced down to the turning point. I though I was quick, however Strava's GAP suggests I should have gone faster!

Phase Four:

According to Strava, this is where I lost ground. The GAP compares your actual pace (if it were flat) to their algorithms on how inclines and declines should slow you down or speed you up. If your GAP is lower than your actual time, you are running strongly. If it's higher, you could have potentially been going faster. They do also state that it doesn't take into account terrain. This is good because this section was quite narrow and full of twists and turns - great fun! Maybe I wasn't so slow as I had managed to bridge the distance between myself and Mr Fluro Green and Mr Skins to about 20 - 50m.

Phase 5:

The 5th km was a tough one. The double trail we had been running soon came to an end and we took a sharp turn over a creek and onto a very slippery single trail that gradually rose and rose. It was one of those trails where you felt that one wrong step and you's slide down the gully and into the drink. I pushed as hard as I dared, and had my men in my sights. Through all the twists and turns, rises and falls of the cut backs I had them within 20m as we the trail plateaued and we merged with the long course runners. On a slower day this would have been wicked fun.

Here is where I made my mistake. I should have dug that little harder and pulled in behind them. I knew their was a long single trail section to come that followed the river, but I was hoping to nab them in the final 400m uphill Suunto Sprint. I had however underestimated the number of long course runners and my two marks were lost in the crowd.

Phase 6:

Before we started the fast and furious dash along side the river, we had one last, long descent to tackle. With the sun finally burning through the clouds and hitting you in the face, the narrow track dominated by loose gravel and tree roots, this was where you needed to be a mountain lion. Light on your feet and poised. 
I did pretty well, passing a few runners, hopefully aided by my 'Short course passing' war cry. We changed trails slightly onto a dirt track that was only just single trail, there was no room to pass and I had no idea where Mr Fluro and Mr Skins had got too. I was hoping they'd also got caught up in the mix. Finally the trail bottomed out and widened up again and I was able to pick up the pace heading up the gradual climb before the last little side track I call 'peek-a-boo' rise. 

This is where a number of runners came to a halt, catching a breath before hiking the hill. There was no way I was going to stop and I needed all sorts of high cadence, sidestepping trickery to keep moving past. At the top of peek-a-boo rise you seem to just pop up onto the road that we started on, and the long course runners turn left and the short and medium course runners start the final 400m 'Suunto sprint' up, and up, and up the hill to the finish line.  

Final phase:

The picture above looks a lot longer than 400m, and it felt it. This last climb was gruelling, and after being pinged at the post last year I was not going to slow down. I dug deep and headed for home. No one was catching me, but I think I'd past Mr Fluro Green at the bottom of Peek-a-boo rise, would I see Mr Skins before the last timing mat?

As I surged up the last of the road and turned across the flat to the finish line I saw Mr Skins gasping for air just beyond the finish, perhaps having finished 20 - 50m ahead of me.

I crossed the line in 30:30, good enough to see me finish 6th, 5th male and again, 4th in the huge 20-39yrs division. Bec had run and amazing 28:30ish, just behind the winner and Steve was 4th, also under 29:30. I was stoked to be within minutes of them.

Did you race the Gorge? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the race and how you handled the cold and slippery conditions.

Till next time, Thisfish   ThisFishCanRun@Facebook 

Saturday, 18 July 2015

My 145 BPM Heart Rate Training - Update 3 2015

Hello again my friends and running family. 

It's been almost 6 months since I commenced this seasons training, training using the Maffetone method of using my heart rate (180 - my age) as the measure of my consistency and effort levels. 

To make a potentially long blog shorter, I started using heart rate training in our Summer to monitor my effort levels and to train consistently regardless of heatwave or not, morning or night. For my EZ runs I run at 145 +/- 5 beats regardless of distance or elevation variance. 

Heart rate training works

I'm happy to share that I've reached a happy place. 

What have I learned in these six months? What have I gained? 

  • The machine and the beast.
My EZ runs are where I am the machine. I focus on my form: Cadence, the POSE lean, relaxed hands and breathing - 3 in to every 2 out. Run like a metronome - 180 strides per minute, lift your knees and place the feet, landing midfoot. 

The HI sessions is where you run like a beast. You push the body to it's limits. Your breathing is labored and 2 in to 1 out if you manage, you drive forward with your knees and your arms push the momentum forward. These are the moments of the last kms of a race where you dig deep. 
  • Consistency is king.
I was told at the Great Ocean Road Half Marathon that I was like a metronome - my pacing and cadence were that consistent. I've found that my EZ runs are almost like clockwork. At the given time of day, I find that I run at an average pace within 5-10 seconds per km. I have five routes that I like to use and on each one I have gradually brought down my average pace by about 5 seconds per km a fortnight over the last 6 months. 

  • Time of day matters.
I had done a little bit of reading about using your circadian rhythm (the natural ups and downs of your heart rate and energy levels) to match your workouts to the appropriate intensity level. Last year nearly all of my running took place at about 6:15am in the morning and I had the luxury of almost any time of day on the weekend. 

This year I have needed to change my routine to running at 5:15am two or three days a week and one 5:15 - 5:30pm run of an evening. I also have the luxury of the weekend run at any given time. 

My reading suggested that EZ runs should take place early in the morning and your HI (high intensity) runs are best later in the day to match your circadian patterns. 

My am runs are generally run between 5:10 - 5:20 km pace. These are run after a warm up of 2x20 push-ups, 2x20 squats, 2x20 clams or calf raises. 

My pm runs have come down from an average of 5:15 pace to my most recent run at 4:38 pace. They hovered at 4:55-5:05 for last couple of months before I changed my weekly work out pattern. You can follow me on Strava to see what I do. 

I don't know what it is, but matching my HI to the evening has also helped my push my limits and hit speed and HR highs. 

  • Intensity is vital
To race hard you have to train hard. I am in a happy place at the moment, with my 'flat' race time down to a very consistent 3:51-3:54 km pace. 

As I mentioned, I plateaued for a while. I think this was just before the start of the race season where I had been in the building phase and limited to 145HR runs for all sessions. Since reintroducing a weekly HI session selected from; hill sprints (up and down), Increasing HR pyramids to max and down to 145, Diminishing km tempo runs and uphill tempos I've seen my pm EZ times come down rapidly. I've put this down to getting the right mix of intensities. 

Train hard, race hard

  • You've got to enjoy it!
Most importantly, I've loved each and every training session I've had. 

I love my EZ runs, and seeing the pm times come down is highly motivating. I also really look forward to my weekly speed sessions where I can unleash and really run. 

With another two Salomon Trail series races to come and the City2Sea as a minimum on the race calendar I will continue to follow my HR training through to the end of the year. Make sure you follow along to see where my EZ pace ends up (or down if I'm getting it right). 

Happy running my friends. 

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Skins Plus Tech Vest review

    In our many discussions about running gear, Mrs Fish and I have often said that Skins needed something to mix and match their excellent A400 and A200 compression ranges with.
    It could have been something as simple as a cap or running shirt. People like to match up their go to gear and support a favourite brand, so when the new Skins Essentials and Skins Plus range was launched we were super excited.
    After checking out the new range on the Skins site I quickly hit the buy button on the $69 Skins Plus Men’s Tech Vest and the Skins Essential Macro Short Sleeve Shirt. 
Skins Plus Tech Vest

    Ever since I got drenched in the Elite Barrier Vest, I’ve been back on the hunt for the perfect running jacket. Our brothers in the US of A get the full sleeve version, but with the Skins A400 Arm Compressors I’ve been happy to mix it up with the vest (the running and cycling jackets are now available). The arm compressors are provide a little rain protection, are great in the cold, and can be quickly rolled down if you get too warm. Having said that, I hope that Skins Australia is able to extend our range soon.
     The Tech Vest is exactly as what the Skins site describes. First of all it is light, very light. When you slip it on you barely notice it’s there. Being of a slim build, the athletic cut fits well across the shoulders and chest and tapers to the waist nicely. On me the arm holes are possibly a little big, but they allow your full range of movement. The elastic toggles in the hem at the waist allow you to draw the vest in tight to keep it in place during your run. 

The length is just long enough to provide a little ‘modesty’ where you might feel you need it, and it keeps the full length of your torso dry in the wet. It has a full length zip that allows you to zip right up and under your chin. The two pockets are also very handy for keeping your keys close at hand, or a little bit of cash or gels etc. I wouldn’t use it for my phone as I hate the feeling of it jiggling around.
Good coverage, bright!
     The same glass beading that is used in the A400 tights is integrated into the logos and seems, and they work amazingly in low light and dark conditions. Again, I’ve full confidence wearing it along the trail at night or when running roadside. And being black, it accessorises very nicely with any coloured running shirt, or as a casual vest in mild to cool conditions.
     So how does it work as a vest that has been designed to work with the 2015 compression range and complete your sports performance kit?
     It works very very well. As we’ve moved from late summer into autumn and the early stages of winter I’ve been able to run in the Skins Plus Tech Vest in temperatures ranging from a mild 12-13 degrees afternoon run, to a very chilly 2-3 degree morning run. In the warmer weather it has breathed very well. When you get warm, simply adjust the zipper to change your comfort levels.

    More importantly, in the cold it is also very effective. Our autumn evenings often have a slight breeze, and the Tech Vest materials do a great job of keeping out the breeze. In the morning as you run through the fog and mist just pull up the zipper and your core is kept dry and warm. I can confidently head out with a long sleeve or compression top and know that this is all I’ll need. On the most extreme 2 degree morning that I’ve had so far, I wore a long sleeve top, gloves and the Tech Vest and I had no issues with the cold. In fact, I came home with a slight sweat after an EZ run!
With the hood
     So how does it work in the rain? As touted, the Tech Vest is lightweight and breathes very well. It also keeps you dry. I’ve finally been able to run in it, through light showers to moderate rain. In both conditions I came home dry, with the only moisture under the vest coming from my own perspiration. In my review so far, I’ve not mentioned the hood, something my barrier vest did not have. The hood is of the same light material, and rolls up nicely when not needed. It is also toggled, so you can draw it in tight against the wind and rain. For me, it works best with a running cap or under my head torch on early morning or twilight runs. Yes the cap keeps my face dry, but the hood also keeps my ears dry and warm, as well as my neck. Without a headband or the peak of a cap, it either closes in around my face too much or is too loose. A minor quirk but one that is easy to fix.

    In conclusion, the Skins Plus Men’s Tech Vest fits well, keeps you warm yet allows you to breathe, keeps you dry and it looks pretty sweet.

    Happy running once more, 

Great casual wear too!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

2015 Salomon Trail Series - Race 1, Kew

Zero. At 7 o’clock am when we left for Race One of the Salomon Trail Series at Studley Park in Kew, the temperature gauge said zero. On the way in we got excited when we saw it reach two degrees! That was about as warm as it got.

My #SalomonSelfie
Fast forward to 8:55 and I almost miscalculated the starting time. The long course runners had left and the short course competitors were cramming into the starting line. Everyone was finishing the warm up and I was still putting my shoes back on after stripping off the beanie, vest, jumper and trackie pants.
The crowd was huge and the vibe was great, and after a quick pose with my in-laws, and damn good runners Bec and Steve the 3-2-1 countdown was over and we were off.

Almost the podium order?
The first 400m – 800m was along the road, and gradually rose along what was probably the longest and most deceiving incline of the race. The pace was hot, a little quicker than last year’s start and I had to push harder than I wanted just to keep the top 10 – 15 in sight.  About 800m in the field settled and we deviated slightly on to the gravel walking path and raced our way to the first turn-off point. I was sitting happily in about 12th or 13th and breathing hard to keep my pace. A glance at the Suunto told me I was pushing 170 BPM and roughly 3:40 pace. This was a little harder than I wanted, and I eased slightly as we raced along the fence line before following the trail down a little hill and alongside the river.

Remembering where we were as we entered the 2nd km, I stole a quick glance at the Yarra River – it was a still as I’d ever seen it and continued along the trail. As the trail twisted through the towering river gums I finally settled into my rhythm and took control of my breathing and running. This section was picture perfect.

In the distance I could see Mr in Blue and Mr in White perhaps 200- 300m ahead. At roughly 2.5km in I decided now was the time to dig a little deeper and make a little surge. I was averaging 3:55 pace now and I slowly began to close the gap.
As we left the river for a moment and ran back up the path towards the road I managed to reel in Mr in Blue. 3kms in and the slight rise in elevation seemed to catch people out, and this is where my strength has been in the past. Just before we hit the ‘u’ turn to head along some free-flowing single track back along the river I passed Mr in White.

I enjoyed this section of the trail but a glance at the clock showed I had slowed to just on 4:00 pace, slower than anticipated but considering it was possibly just three degrees I was very happy with my positioning. My HR was hitting 172 -175 BPM, the upper limit of where I wanted to be. We ran along more flowing single/double trail by the river, among the trees and by the rowers and kyakers. This race had it all now. Ahead was another Mr in Dark Blue and just ahead of him was another Mr in White. Could I reel them in?

The trail narrowed and as we commenced the 4th km I was averaging 4:00 pace. We ran past the Studley Park boathouse (opposite side of the river) and by the bluestone wall before turning right over the swing bridge. We had all felt like drunks crossing this on the way to the registration tent, but with fewer people on it now it was straight over. At the far end of the bridge was Mrs Fish and the kids, and their smiles and cheers were what I needed. I was closing the gap on Mr in Dark Blue and we turned for the last 1200m. This was the true trail section of the race – through the trees and scrub on a narrow walking track. My playground! Within a few hundred metres I had caught and passed Mr Dark Blue and it was time to dig deep.

We raced through the trees, and I could see some of the lead runners picking their way along the river, back to the finish. As we hit the turning point I made a split second decision to slow and take the stairs, rather than hitting the slope and riding the angle and taking out the corner.

On the final stretch it was all bets off and time to let the running beast come out to play, the running machine had controlled the HR, focussed on form and guided me through the first 4kms. Now it was upto the beast to run free and get me through to the finish.

The track rose and fell, there was twists and turns and a couple of little jumps to navigate as I slowly reeled in Mr in White. About 400m from the finish was a lovely little sign – photographer ahead. This time there was no sky larking around and mid-air heel kicks – I had to finish!

200m to go I could hear the crowd and had Mr in White in my sights. Digging deep the HR flew into the 180s and my pace dropped to sub 3:20 as I gave it all.

With 100m to go I hit the Suunto Sprint timing mat and reached for home. Mr in White was just ahead and with each step I was drawing him in.

50m, left he was 10 paces ahead, 20m to go it was 5m. Mr in White crossed the line just in front, did he know I was there? The clock would show 1 second between him in 8th and 3rd divisionally and me 9th, and 4th in the Mens 20-39 division.

Could it have finished any other way? Just maybe had I taken a risk at the 600m to go turning point and shaved off those stairs.
Was I happy? Yes I was. I took 12 seconds off last years time and finished in the top 10. I had ran the race I wanted - I knew my limits and worked with them on the day. Being full of cold the week before certainly doesn't help. Oh, and I'm incredibly proud of Bec and Steve, who smashed the woman's field and finished 2nd in their divisions respectively.  

In a month we get to do it all again at Lower Plenty. You better get your single trail and hill training in, this next ones a lot harder…. All the more fun!

Cheers for now, Lachie

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Monday, 8 June 2015

Skins A400 Compression Tights - 2015 Range

Mrs Fish and I were super excited when Skins Australia sent us out each a pair of the new A400 compression tights to run in, and review. Mrs Fish in particular loves her Skins compression tights and I was hoping they’d be my go to pair for the Great Ocean Road half marathon in early May.

In my compression wear test last year, the Skins A400 had a great feel to them, but for me they were just not right. Everything about them should have worked, but for my build they just didn’t have the compression, or perhaps the girth allowance was a fraction too big for my legs. They also felt the most likely to catch or tear of the three, so they were relegated to cycling (nothing against cycling here guys, I just love my trail running).

In 2015 Skins took it to the field and changed the game. The new range is just about spot on perfect. They still come in the same great (although updated) box. We love the drawer, so easy to use.

I love the new gold 2015 Skins A400 compression colour
Great low light reflective glass on the 2015 Skins range

The new gold colour way looks fantastic. It’s got just enough bling with their new Japanese glass beading to catch the eye, but it remains Skins subtle. Throw them on at night or in low light however and it’s a whole new story. 

When viewed in the lowlight conditions of dawn, dusk or a gloomy day the glass beading reflects light like no other compression range and allows you to be seen a mile away. They even catch the light in a standard room. I kid you not, so as we head into winter this is an absolutely essential safety feature.

An important feature of any piece of equipment is how it feels in the hands and to wear. Mrs Fish has always loved the Skins feel and I agree, the 2015 range have a wonderful feel to them. They finally feel nearly $200Aud premium. They are soft but strong. While last year’s felt the weaker of my compression tights, I feel much more assured that the 2015 Skins range will handle whatever I throw at them. They are also made out of 24 individual panels, so they should fit like a glove.

This year, I also discovered the ‘S’ Small range. I don’t know how I missed it in the past. For me this was what I was waiting for, the ‘SS’ range. S for short! While the previous XS range catered for heights from 5’3 to 5’11, the new S range is capped at 5’ to 5’7 while still being designed for the same weight range. According to all the charts, this made them the perfect pair for me. The new S range is also built into the M, L, and XL sizes. Short guys all over the world can sing happy. They also have continued with their ‘L’ for long leg options if you're a taller guy.

See the panels on the Skins A400 tights
So, the important part, how well do they fit? Will my chicken legs finally get the famed Skins A400 compression? Last year I had the XS skins and they were too long and slipped. I even got a pair of XXS in from Europe, but these were also too big!

The new gold Skins A400 tights are almost the perfect pair. Pulling them, on they feel just right. Not too compressive that you have to do all sorts of dancing to get them on, but as soon as they are on you get that tingle in the legs. I feel like this is their patented Dynamic Gradient Compression technology at work, increasing my circulation to deliver more oxygen to my working muscles. I also like that the graduated compression through the calves and ankles slips over my foot easily.
Once they’re on, they fit true for weight (even my scrawny legs) and height. I think this is where the 2014 range missed the mark – too much variance from 5’3 – 5’11.

I instantly get the compression that I want around my thighs and hamstrings, and this is due to the 210D Memory MX fabric that gives it the weight and strength to really compress. This same material is used around the glutes and below the knees to correctly compress your calves. What I love about the new A400 ranges is that it’s actually a double density (dual layering) material around legs from the waistband down to the knees, and then from the knees to the ankles. This allows Skins to achieve greater compression, and for Mrs Fish and I the key to the A400 tights, the two segments are joined by a 70D Memory MX fabric around the knee. This gives a superior range of movement and flexibility through the knee, essential for running and riding.

So, how do they perform?

In a word, perfect! I finally have a pair of compression tights that compress in all the right areas. From long slow 20km + runs to high intensity 700m interval sessions the A400s have not slipped or dropped through my quads. For the duration of the 2015 Great Ocean Road 23km Half Marathon the new A400s did everything I wanted them to do. They reduced the muscle oscillation that you get from road and hill running to reduce fatigue and after my final 5km push I still felt strong. The lighter 70D material around the knees let me run freely, without any hindrance.

The duel layering of the 210D material across the Quads, ITB and hamstrings and the calves breathes extremely well.  Skins quote that the included ADAPTIVE Technology it there to ‘take care of temperature control and moisture management. When it’s cool, the unique polymer binds moisture in to keep you feeling warm. Then when you heat up it releases stored moisture to the surface where it can evaporate, helping your body cool down.’ I can say it does. I’ve run in 25+ degrees doing my interval training and felt just right. I’ve used them at 3 degrees in the morning and not felt at all cold. This indicates that the ADAPTIVE Technology works, and works well. It also gives a nice little bonus in the wet. The top layer rejects moisture quite well which means you stay dryer for longer. This is a great feature in the trails where the scrub along the trail very quickly soaks you if it’s been raining. The new A400 tights seem to have the water bead and then run off, a little like polish on a car.

If I have one gripe, it’s that the compression in the ankles is not quite tight enough for me. I was wondering if this was my pair, but I also did a recent run with the new Essentials Unisex Compression Calf Tights MX, which were amazing around my calves, but again loose around my ankles. I have another pair of Calf sleeves which have stronger compression and are a tighter band around my ankles. Am I losing a little of that venous return with them not quite compressing at their lowest level?

So are they worth the money? Will they last? I've been wearing the new Skins A400 Compression tights for nearly 3 months now and they are still as good as new. The Skins products are warp knitted which ensures controlled compression and superior durability compared to other circular knit brands. The Japanese glass beading of the Logos has been through the wash many times, and not once has it stuck or crumpled like a recent pair of 2XU tights. 

So to conclude another review, if you’re after that one pair of compression tights for the year, the new A400 have to be on the top of your list. I feel like the level of compression is spot on. I love the flexibility through the knees and the new glass beading makes them an essential in low light running or riding. For us shorter gentlemen (now that I’ve discovered it), the new ‘S’ short is a winner, and for me, the key change in 2015.

Skins A400 Tights and Active top
I’ve since gone out and picked up a pair of the new A400 power shorts and they are incredible, and the Essentials Tech vest is a new cool, wet weather favourite.

Happy running!