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!