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? 


  1. great result lachie - and more importantly, FANTASTIC photos!

    1. Thanks Patrick, Mrs Fish gets all the credit for the race photos. Right spot right time :)

  2. excellent report Fish. Love the idea of running by HR and not looking at the time...but that would drive me batty. I also think your race pics are fantastic. keep it up!

    1. Cheers Stan. Once you get to know your body and the working signs it's easier than you might think. It is really on the hills that it's a great way to monitor your output so as to not peak too soon. so, you look less and less at the watch :) As I said to Patrick, Mrs Fish was the photographer for the day!