Monday, 23 March 2015

2015 Maroondah Dam trail race - 8km

   The morning of the 2015 8 km Maroondah Dam Trail run was so different to most of our other runs. The 11 o’clock start in Healesville allowed us a leisurely morning. Up at 7 when the kids woke, breaky as we pleased and in the car at 9:15 to get to the Dam for 9:45.
   This gave us an hour to kill before the 10:45 race briefing. With a field of only 40 odd entrants, it was a low key briefing with just enough seriousness to keep us on course when we got out there.
I approached this race as a purely strategic experience. With my recent Heart Rate training, I wanted to set my parameters and see what I could achieve and how I got there.
   Knowing that I’d been recording some big spikes in my HR during the warm up components of my runs I did a couple of laps of the picnic area and car park and sure enough, I soon hit 185 BPM. Nothing to be concerned about, and after a few minutes it settled to 130.
   At 11:00 the field took off and I went with them. I wanted to run this race purely at a HR of 160 BPM. It didn’t matter who else was running and what they did or when they did it. I also had no intention of getting sucked in to looking at my pace. I just wanted to go by feel.
   Why the decision to run purely by HR? If you've caught my previous post on my recent summer training, I'd found training in the afternoon, and in the heat to be more challenging than I'd thought it would be. My target of 160 is roughly 87% of my recorded maximum working HR for this year in the heat (185bmp) - 15% (27 BPM) to put me at 158 BPM. I'd also lost my foot pod, so I didn't have any idea on what sort of pace I'd been training at. 
  160 BPM is also a pace I knew I could run strongly at for 7k, so the 8k was the chance to push it out just a little bit more. 
I think my form looks pretty good here
   For the first 7km I was going to limit myself to 160. Looking at the course elevation I knew that the fist 1.2k would be up a sharp incline, and sure enough there were a few who took off. I ran with them as I allowed my HR to hit the magic number and soon settled into my running rhythm. I felt really good as the pace of some eased while others pushed forward. Me, I sat at 160 and found myself in 7th place and enjoyed having no idea of how fast we were running. That information would all be there at the finish.
What I hoped my HR graph would look like, and it did :) 
   At the end of the first 2km we had reached the peak of the hill and the descent began. I knew I could push the pace here and I soon reeled in the runner ahead. The guy in 5th place had taken off and was a few hundred metres ahead and pulling away. This section of the race was a beautiful flowing downhill section with untouched bush to our right.  I resisted the temptation to try and pull another position and stuck to my strategy. By the third km we were on the flat and I was happily pushing a steady pace with who I now know is Dave who had caught me as I kept my effort level constant.
   As we reached the weir and half way turn around point we crossed a small creek just before the leaders came haring past on their way home. As we touched the check point and grabbed a water we worked out there was daylight between us and the top 5, and then daylight between 8th and the rest of the pack. So far I was feeling great and the strategy of running purely to an effort level was paying off, and Dave and I were having a great old chat. The fifth km was back on the flat before we hit the hill on the return home, roughly 2km to the finish.
   Dave started to pull away and as I checked the watch I was pushing 165 BPM. I slowed my pace a little and gradually pulled him back, and and just before the peak I had to give him a little encouragement to keep on going as I reached the first false peak before finally hitting the top.
   Knowing that once I hit the descent it was virtually all downhill I finally let myself go. I was able to turn on the taps and put some distance between Dave ad myself. I knew that 5th place was likely beyond my reach so I really enjoyed flying down the hill, racing across the top of the Dam wall and flying down the track that slowed us all at the start.  As I reached the finishing area I could see and hear the kids and it gave me the final kick I needed.

   Through the chute and the aeroplane wings came out, followed by a big air tap over the finish line.

   At the end of the day I was stoked to have finished 6th as this was all about strategy. I had trained to 160 BPM up and down the local hills and on the flats. Remembering I’d no idea of how fast I’d been running during training, I averaged almost bang on the 160 BPM for the entire race, with the last km pushing it to 164 my average per/km pace was 4:33. I’d been hoping to get under 5s as last year’s winning time was just under 38 minutes. My time of 35:41 would have easily won it last year.This year the really fast guys turned up J and I was about 20 seconds a km off podium pace, but I’m happy with. No ‘what if I…’ for this little fish.
   I've been asked what had I achieved at the end of this race? Why the experiment? I really enjoyed the run. I think the cooler weather helped to keep my heart rate down, allowing me to work a little easier than I had been doing in the evenings. Perhaps I could have pushed harder at say the 5k mark but I was able to run at a pace that was competitive and gave me the top 10 finish that I was hoping for, just missing my third trails + 5th place. It gave me the confidence to stick to my guns and race my own race (or was it just a good solid run?)
I was happy with the consistent pace, but according to Strava should be quicker down hill. But this was about constant effort.
   So, where to next? After I recover from the Roller Coaster Run I aim to gradually build up to 165 BPM for my tempo and interval work and 150 BPM during my long runs. As the winter season draws near I want to push that to 170 BPM and 155 BPM.

   I’ve played with Heart Rate training before, but not as seriously as this. I'm excited again.

   I can’t wait to see how it all goes. I’m excited, are you? 

Saturday, 21 March 2015

My Summer Training strategies - Heart rate training

   A while ago I posted about my experiences with Heat Rate training (initial post and the follow up post). With my increasing training load for the Roller Coaster run (a write up to come) and the Great Ocean Road in May, for my training during the Australian Summer I needed to find a baseline and manageable limit to my training.
   With a change in family lifestyle in February this year, my weekday training had to make the switch to afternoons. At the time I was super excited to not have to get out of bed, hit the road early and train before school. Most of the time I really enjoyed it, but in trying to establish better sleeping habits I liked the idea of an extra 20-25 minutes in bed each day.
   Fast-forward 6 weeks and it’s tougher than I thought. A long day, the drive home and then a regular 27 – 30 degree C heat I’m needing to find motivation and regularity. For me the regularity has become my heart rate.
I’ve continued to love my easy long runs, and have had no issue with running them at a heart rate of 140 – 145 on the flatter runs, while on the hillier runs I aim to keep it at 145 and up to 150 on the incline. Yes speed drops, but effort has to remain consistent. This also means I need to push a little harder on the decline – no slacking off. I’ve again built up to happily running 2 hours over varying terrain and gradients.
   As I mentioned, after work has been the challenge. So in the last 4 weeks and after some experimentation and realisation, I’ve been targeting 160 BPM as my happy place. I calculated it as about 90% of my working heart rate – 185 recorded max this year – 10%. Using a formula from Brian Mac, Sports coach, my 85% zone is 163 so when I push it that little more or allow it to fluctuate due to the many variables in a run and life I’ve been hitting the sweet spot. There are many different formulas out there. 160 seemed to be where I could manage a stupid steep 2km hill climb or push 3km on a constant 3-6% uphill course at about 4 – 4:15 minute km pace.
You can check out some of the data @

   So how am I utilising this? My weekday runs are a mix of a 5.5km rather steep hill run (Roughly 50% mix of ascent and descent as its out and back) where I limit 165 on the up and push to stay at 160 on the down (that stupid 2km incline inc), 7km over 3.5km out at a 3-6% gradient hill at 160 before pushing the speed to hit and maintain the 165 on the descent, 1km trails repeats on a favourite track at 160 bpm, dropping to 145 bpm during static recovery before the next repeat, diminishing ks where I start at a pace and increase the speed every k over 5km and finally varying high speed intervals (100m on an incline on a bush trail or up to 500m on the Warby Trail) where I try to max and sustain 165 – 170 and recover with a 50m walk. I think I get a great mix of training on my two nights a week and as I lost my foot pod, I’ve only had HR to go on.  And, this gives me a constant when the temperature has been hot. With the new Ambit 3 I bought I’ll be able to monitor HR and speed. The speed component I’ll only look at at the end of each run as I want to train my heart, not the head.   

   How do I know where I’m working? At 145 bpm or less I rarely have to think about my breathing, and if I do I can easily breathe nasally during the intake and exhale through the mouth. 150 bpm and higher I start to focus on my cadence and breathing in for three strides and out for two, on a 3-2 inhale-exhale cycle. At 160 BPM I drop to a 2-1 inhale exhale cycle and really have to focus hard to breathe nasally although I do revert to all breathing through the mouth when pushed.
   So, the big question is, has it worked? I’ve only really just found 160 BPM to be that happy place in the last few weeks and as luck would have it, my evening run nights have been those hot and humid nights that we all don’t love to train in. I’ve pushed the 1.1km repeats to 170 but by the third my time over the 1.1km dropped by 35 – 35 seconds.  Perhaps 160 has been an inflated target that’s not pushed me enough. I'll also monitor my resting HR by lying down for a minute (just enough to relax) and work from there. If it's a lower HR I'll be able to push harder, if it starts higher I may just take things a fraction easier. And, theres always just going by how you feel. 
   You’ll have to come back for my Maroondah Dam 8km race report to find out just how it all worked, as this was a race of pure forget the rest strategy. It was all about me and learning what makes my keeping ticking.

   Cheers and happy training, the Fish!

Monday, 9 March 2015

Guest review of the new Skins A400 range - Mrs Fish!

In 2014 Mrs Fish was selected to be one of the 2014 Victorian Skins recruits for the Melbourne City to Sea event. She has continued to develop her relationship with Skins who very kindly gave her the opportunity to proudly wear some of their new products and share her thoughts on the new range.

Here are her thoughts: 

"My review for the new A400 Skins!!!

My first impression of the new SKINS A400 range was one of excitement! So many added features and improvements and a great new look! The Plus range adds a touch of sportiness and the layering idea is fabulous to combine with other garments. For me, the SKINS Plus Revive Tank gave me confidence to wear a crop top and would be brilliant paired with the A400 crop or tank which is definitely part of my next purchase. It is lightweight, moisture-wicking, comfortable and a great fit. I love the idea of the toggle and was pleased to be able to pull it together to fit nicely over my Women's Rush Shorts.

What struck me about the shorts was the fabric. They are so lightweight, they didn't chafe at all and they are a great cut and shape. I wore them on their own, but could see them being super comfortable over the A400 or A200 Tights. A great idea for those who may want the extra visibility at night or in overcast conditions, warmth or even confidence to wear the tights. For somebody like me that seems to really appreciate compression, I found the Essentials Unisex Calf Tights brilliant! I often suffer from tight calves and didn't notice it whilst they were on. I use them for training, recovery and even warmth in the cooler weather under a pair of tights. I found them very comfortable, easy to put on and breathable. 

What really stood out for me was the new 360 degree reflective highlights. So simple, but highly visible at night! As shown in the photo below, we took one of the gear without a flash and one with to demonstrate how the logos will reflect at night.

They look great!

Exceptional visibility at night!

The SKINS logo really stands out 

I would call myself a middle to long distance runner and as such I need sports gear that is comfortable, breathable, reflective and most importantly functional. SKINS you never fail to impress me. Your new A400 range I believe has it all, and I will continue to spread the word and wear SKINS to show just how impressive it is."

Mrs Fish A.K.A Emma