Saturday, July 05, 2014

Moving On

There are just two more quick thoughts about the Waterford marathon.

One, I was fairly sanguine about the whole fiasco until I got an email yesterday where they are celebrating how great it all was and how many runners got new PBs on their new course. This really pissed me off. Of course runners get PBs if the course is short, problem is they are all worthless. I was perfectly prepared to forgive an error but the complete lack of response and acknowledgement from the organisers has now completely turned me off the race. I won't be doing it again and I will advise any runner who asks me about it to pick a different one.

Two, since I was able to run a 3:07-ish marathon 2 weeks after a 100k without killing myself, I would also have been able to run 3:15 2 weeks after a 50 miler. Therefore me chickening out of the 3:15 pace group in Cork was entirely needless. Next time I will have more confidence in my body. You live and learn, I suppose.

Anyway, let's move on. Robert Osfield left some cautionary comments about pace. He reckons I should be running 10-minute miles in training because I am going to be running 10-minute miles in Belfast. Robert knows what he is talking about, he just ran a great race in the 95-mile West Highland Way Ultra over in Scotland and the race report is well worth reading, check it out.. My argument against that was that running 10-minute miles in training on fresh legs has nothing in common with running 10-minute miles in a race after 15 or more hours when the entire reason for 10-minute miles is that you cannot lift your legs any more. But since I very much respect Robert's opinion, I investigated this further. I went back to the training bible I had been using this year, Training for Ultra Running. Amongst other gems it includes an entire chapter dedicated to 24 hours racing that draws its wisdom from the likes of Dave Cooper, Mike Newton or Don Ritchie. I like the old-school approach and those runners were hard as nails, and none of them ran 10-minute miles in training. In fact, they often ran hard right up to the race itself, though one of them acknowledges that running a 20 miler the day before a 24 hours race might have been a mistake.

I'm not copying that approach either, I don't think I would survive that, but I will compromise. I do run 10-minute pace at the start of every training run anyway, that's how I operate, until the pace picks up naturally. I will do a few runs at very slow pace in the next two weeks, especially the week of the race, but I won't entirely be doing that. In fact, I am planning on doing 2 or 3 fast runs as well.

The last few runs have all been very easy, with the pace on Friday coming as a bit of a surprise. I couldn't tell that I ran a marathon a week ago, recovery from that has taken no time at all. The HR in the last 2 days has been a bit higher than expected, which I can't quite explain, but I won't panic just yet. It's not the first time that happened and in the past it always settled down quickly.

2 Jul
10.8 miles, 1:35:35, 8:50 pace, HR 143, Windy Gap
3 Jul
8 miles, 1:03:19, 7:55 pace, HR 139
4 Jul
5 miles, 38:06, 7:37 pace, HR 142
5 Jul
8 miles, 1:02:51, 7:51 pace, HR 142


  1. You're teed up for a great one, Thomas; see you there: I'll be a part of one of the humble relay teams, all the best, Andrew

  2. Steve Magness has just written a good article on taper:

    It doesn't cover the whole topic and his perspective if from marathon and shorter distances, he also covers the topic in more depth in his book (that I have read, well worth buying.)

    My own approach to taper extends Steve's approach to the requirements of ultra-marathoning. I believe a big taper is probably bad for the majority of ultra runners - the fibre adaptation towards fast twitch fibres that Steve mentions when we rest is potential killer for performance as our fat burning capacity is so dependant on slow twitch aerobic fitness. This approach of not cutting mileage massively echo's that of the "old school" ultra runners training right into the last week. My own race "taper" had a 15 mile mountain run one week before the West Highland Way Race.

    A second element that I extend is that for short distances you want to a higher level of muscle tension going into the race, while for an ultra you want a very low muscle tension - so you last week of training needs to avoid workouts that increase muscle tensions and do predominately ones that lower muscle tension - which means very easy workouts of modest length.

    Another element is running economy at race pace is crucial. You have to feel as comfortable at race pace as possible, this is particular down to getting the right muscle tension, but it also goes further into motor programming. If you don't feel comfortable running at race pace all day long then this is the area you need to work on most until you can do it on auto-pilot. auto-pilot == efficient and low stress.

    A final factor that Steve doesn't mention is that of heat adaptations - if we stop training then we stop our bouts of sweating each day so our heat adaptations will ebb away. We don't want to loose these adaptations so if you are running lower mileage and with not so many high intensity intervals then you'll need to add in heat training. Visiting the sauna through to hot baths can help. Also choosing to run at the hottest part of the day.