Email newsletter #5: 13/11/2019
Last week I finished up my first phase of training towards 2020 which was focused on running economy. It was a fun phase of training and towards the end of the phase I could definitely feel the benefit of running strides and short uphill efforts. My form at all paces seemed to benefit, which makes sense as that was the point of the training, and I was feeling smoother and more fluid on each run. This week I started with the next phase which is a mix of working my intermediate muscle fibers (to prepare for the cross-country season) and some VO2 Max intervals. It has been hard work so far, but I'm really enjoying the different focus and different type of running to how I finished up last season.
This week I wrote an article about trail running poles on my website. This was a fun post to prepare as I went through all sorts of different techniques for stowing poles, I looked at different poles and their weights, and I gave an overview about the types of pole straps and their advantages and disadvantages. If you enjoy reading about gear and trail running skills this might interest you.
I've been thinking about fatigue and accumulated fatigue recently so it was interesting to see this article by David Roche on "tiredness and soreness in training". He brings a good perspective and some useful information about the impacts of fatigue and stress in training. I like his simple formula of deciding when to back off based on a limit of feeling tired for 36 to 48 hours. It's difficult to know how to feel so I think it's very useful to calribrate a personal baseline and decide from there how you feel in relation to that baseline.
I use HRV4Training to help measure by readiness to train each morning and I work in supporting customers for HRV4Training. One of the things that I've noticed in the queries we receive is how different people respond and how unique the baseline is for everyone. The signals from the body are not always easy to interpret and it can be difficult to distinguish good fatigue from bad fatigue and also to identify the source of fatigue - is it from training or life stress, etc. I think that having a set of objective measurements, in this case heart rate variability, can be a great addition to subjective data and can help us to calibrate and assign meaning to different body sensations. If you're interested in reading more about this topic then the article on the big picture and long-term trends in HRV may be of interest to you.
In addition to the articles I mentioned above, I listened to the Scientific Triathlon Podcast 207 with Walter Staiano. He discusses mental fatigue and the impact that can have on endurance exercise. I expected to hear that mental fatigue could impact performance, but I was surprised by the magnitude of the impact especially in time to exhaustion tests which in many ways are a great test protocol for ultra-marathon runners. He mentioned that the impact of mental fatigue could reduce performance by up to 16%! This podcast was a good introduction to the concept and now I'm reading more and trying to learn more about mental fatigue because it's clearly very important to performance.
Friends' race results
Marco and Alessandra ran the New York City marathon. It was a beautiful day and they were both happy with their performances. I haven't ever thought about running one of the big city marathons, but after hearing from Marco about how good their experience was I'm definitely thinking about it now.
Stuart ran in the Soweto marathon and had a tough day. He was hoping that a quick turnaround from the Cape Town city marathon and some very focused training would be helpful to run a PB, but it was just a little too much this time around. It was useful as we both learned a lot (for me as a coach) and can build on this experience in the future.
Email newsletter #4: 29/10/2019
In the last couple of weeks I've been back at training and I'm starting with some gentle strides and economy intervals. I enjoy working on my running economy and this phase is quite simple and relatively easy which makes it a pleasure to return to running. I'm already imagining races in 2020 and starting to put together a race calendar for next year.
I posted part 2 of the LPC Nutrition conference to complete my notes with the last three presentations. The presentations covered the latest reseach on nitrates, protein requirements for weight loss, and tried to answer the question of whether or not breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You can find both sets of notes along with other resources on my website.
I appreciated this post with lessons from Arthur Lydiard by Dave on his blog A way to train and think. Lydiad said that "the idea that you can't lose contact with the leaders has cut more throats than it has saved". As ultra-marathons become more competitive we see a lot more "racing" in lead packs and also people going out very hard. The sport is changing, but it's always important to remember that we have to race to our own strengths. Over time it may be necessary to adjust and develop skills that match the new level of competition, but in the race itself it's vital to run within the bounds of our preparations and ability.
I have incorporated multiple different exercises, routines and movement patterns from following Lawrence van Lingen's advice. He breaks down movement and flexibility in a way that is easy to understand and is specific to a runner's needs. I particularly like this Happy Hip Flow.
I use poles in long races and I've found them to be very useful. It's not always a straight-forward decision of whether or not poles will help in a specific race situation. That's why it's very useful to have this thorough four part series from Jason Koop on when to use poles (part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4). If you do want to use poles then my advice is to practice with them a lot, to make sure that stowing and retrieving them is fast and easy, and to make sure that they are secure and not bouncing like crazy on descents.
During a run in the forest I listened to a podcast from Jay Johnson with Alex Ostberg as the guest. Alex shared a list of things that he wished he knew while running in high school. The podcast was aimed at helping high school coaches, however, I found the tips to be a good reminder of the basics to put in place for building a solid running programme. In fact one of Alex's ten tips is to "nail the basics" and I feel this is applicable to all his tips as they include all the basic and well known principles in developing a running programme.
Friends' race results
Alex and Nico ran the Cappadocia Trail in Turkey. Although neither of them had the race they were hoping to, they managed to finish together and achieve their Western States qualifying runs for this year's lottery. Fingers crossed that they have a good lottery season!
Francois ran his 18th sub-3hr marathon at the Lausanne marathon. It's a fantastic performance and continues a streak of over a decade of running the Lausanne marathon.
V and I ran in the 10km race at the Lausanne marathon and V achieved her goal of running under 60 minutes. She hasn't run in a big race in a while and she loved every moment of it. For me it was awesome to see her pleasure at running a goal time and her joy of being in a race environment; it was a good reminder of why running races is so much fun.
Email newsletter #3: 15/10/2019
In the last newsletter I wrote about my race at LG Trail and since then I've posted my race report for anyone who wants to get some more details and see some more pictures from the race. After the LG Trail I decided to take some time off and recover from the summer. In the few weeks I had off I spent some time planning my base training leading into 2020, I decided on some races for next season, and I also did some research and development of my running knowledge.
The most interesting things that I learned were from the Leaders in Performance Conference on Sports Nutrition. I've shared the first set of notes from that conference which included presentations on fueling the brain, carbohydrates for performance, and "train high, sleep low". I've also been adding other interesting links and compiling a list of resources on my website.
Now I'm slowly easing back into training and enjoying the easier pace of training that's still far from the race season. I'm working on my running economy and gently building up the base miles.
A couple of weeks ago I started following Virginie Terrier on Instagram. She's a nutritionist from Geneva and her posts are all ideas for meals or general nutrition advice. She also works with trail runners and triathletes so her advice is applicable to athletes too. I've already learned some great ideas about timing of nutrition and there's quite a few healthy desert recipes that I want to try. (in French)
As I'm starting up a new phase of training, I like to spend some time working on my strength, running form, and mobility. I've always considered arm carriage as important for running form, but I haven't thought much more about it than keeping my arms in a comfortable position and occasionally when I need to using my arms to encourage a change in cadence and pace. This article about improving running efficiency through "getting you elbows back" has been useful and has given me some drills and cues to try.
I'm also planning to include more strides and sprints in my training to work on my speed. In the past I've used ABC drills, other drills from the Pose method, and short strides to work on my form. However, I haven't really understood sprint training and where the cross-over to endurance sports could be. This article on ten spring facts I wish everyone understood has been helpful in clarifying some concepts for me. I will definitely be doing some short (5-6") all out sprints to help develop my speed and form this winter.
Friends' race results
This weekend Joel ran in the Moab 240 race and came 4th! This race is just insane. It's 244 miles and as far as I can tell from the live tracker (the race is still going for some people!!) he finished in 2 days and 23 hours. A tremendous achievement.
Moises raced in the Endurance Challenge Chile 80km and came 2nd. He has been so dominant in that race over the years it was a surprise for me to see him not win. However, he finished 16th at UTMB not so long ago and had to travel back to Chile for this race so on further reflection it's actually very impressive that he managed to run so well.
Email newsletter #2: 01/10/2019
On Saturday 21 September I ran the LG Trail race and it went very well. I finished in 12h37 for 4th place overall. The weather was perfect which meant we had incredible views over the riviera and lake and could clearly see the alps on the other side of the lake. The race was well organised and the race atmosphere was light and fun. After the race I was thinking about running one last race at the end of the summer season (three weeks after LG Trail), however, I have since decided that I need more time to recover and that LG Trail will be my last race for summer 2019. I'm taking a couple of weeks for an off-season now and recovering from a season fulled with lots of ups and downs.
I really enjoyed reading this article about Kenenisa Bekele and his training in the Netherlands. It's a little ironic that someone from a very desirable training location (Ethiopia) would end up going on a training camp in the place where many of the athletes who go to Ethiopia come from. Of course choosing a location of a training camp often needs to be based on specific environmental factors such as altitude and climate, however, it's perhaps the lack of certain factors, homely distractions, that is most important of all. I also found it interesting that one of the greatest athletes of all time managed to make improvements by working on the basics: good nutrition, sleep, and consistent training.
I read an article about mental toughness and then clicked through to take the quiz. While the article was more an introduction, I found the quiz and its results to be useful and interesting. The quiz was about 5 minutes long and provided a multi-factor result with scores for different components of mental toughness. There isn't any specific guidance as to what to do with the results, but it's a great starting point to identify weakness in certain components of mental toughness.
HRV4Training released a new feature in the Pro platform. This feature is training monotony and it tries to identify how varied an athletes training is with the premise that more variation is better. It's an interesting concept and something worth reading further about. Even if you're not an HRV4Training user, it's a good article giving an overview of the idea and providing some additional links to dig deeper.
Mikael and the team at That Triathlon Show shared a podcast this week about base training. I enjoyed listening to it as it helped me to start thinking about how to structure my base training over the winter. There is lots of good information in this podcast; the important points I took away were to include strength and injury prevention training in the base and to work on technique while the training intensity is lower.
Friends' race results
Lucja Leonard finished the Trail des Aiguilles Rouges in 12h45. An impressive outing just four weeks after UTMB.
Email newsletter #1: 17/09/2019
It has been just over two weeks since I got a cold and had to drop out of CCC. Since then I've managed to recover and fire up the training again. I'm planning to run the LG Trail race this weekend so I spent some time running on the route and trying to sharpen up a little before the race. I'm feeling positive about the race, the weather conditions look good, and I'm all set to use the fitness and condition I built up over the summer. Hopefully in the next newsletter I'll have some good news to report!
Jim Vance from Running with power talks about Ben Kanute's training before the Half-Ironman World Championships. The interesting point I took from this discussion was the inclusion of walking in the run training of his athletes. For recovery runs he recommends 4' run and then 1' walk and for maintenance runs he recommends 9' run and then 1' walk. It's a good way to keep the easy days easy and to reduce injury.
Dan Plews from EndureIQ contributed to a study on using HRV to guide training. I already use HRV daily as a useful objective measure of my stress and I believe it is a useful metric, however, it's always good to see tools I use backed up by science. "These results suggest manipulating the session performed at a daily level in accordance with HRV has favourable effects on the adaptive response to training, even without altering total training load."
Here are some classic cross country sessions to include in training if you're thinking about running any cross country over the winter. I really like #1 and #2.
@SportSciPod is an awesome podcast by Ross Tucker and Mike Finch. This week I listened to the Running Shoe Technology podcast and really enjoyed it. They debate deciding how to find the right shoe for you and what science tells us about shoes. The answer is that "it depends", but their guidance of starting with trying a few neutral shoes in the store and then buying the one that feels best makes sense to me. From there it's an interative process adjusting based on how you feel in the initial shoe with the goal to be in the right shoe after one or two rounds.
Friends' race results
Natalia ran Tor des Geants and finished in 129:23 - that's 5 days and 9 hours! The TdG instagram account was great all week. Definitely worth following to see the mountains and terrain this amazing race traverses.
Stuart ran in the Cape Town Marathon and finished in 3:24.