29 September 2014

The Day After the Day That Was

Canberra 101 2014

I towed the line late September down in the ACT for the Sri Chinmoy Canberra 101 Trail Run. This event was my first 100km race 12 months before and I was keen to run well, off what was a solid build up. For some reason or another my pre-race thoughts on how the race would go began to unravel around 5hrs in. Then after a fall shortly after that point, my race fell apart. At 70km I decided reluctantly to withdraw, fearing an injury and not being able to weight bare on my right foot, I felt this was the most sensible decision.

Disappointment and dejection. Two words that come to mind the day after the day that was. I had been careful in my build-up, balancing my training for this event and the Edgell Jog, a 7.5km road race, three weeks earlier. My training had gone well and I felt faster, stronger and mentally better prepared than this time last year. I was ready to race the 100km and had been planning on a slightly more reserved start and building into the event a leg at a time.

Off Ainslie, a spot I didn't reach in 2014
I went through 50km in 4:49 and was on track for my 10:30 goal when the mid-race demons arrived. I was ready for this and backed up a notch walking and running until the moment passed. When I departed the Arboretum I was back holding my planned effort again pushing towards the shorter but tougher back half and hopefully a push towards the end. At this point I kicked my foot heavily on a tree root and fell, a fall that took the wind out of my sails. There was no return from here, my efforts to run became more and more difficult with the pain becoming quite strong.

I pushed on hoping it would settle but after climbing up and trying to run off Black Mountain my persistence was beginning to become stupidity and realising any more km would just further inflame the problem and lead to an injury. I really had my head on for this one and was pretty bummed I went out, it wasn't mental but physical and this is the hardest part to take. I felt I was running with discipline and believed that I would have finished well if my foot came good.

No excuses though, I dropped at 70km and it is unfortunately another DNF. Can I run ultras? Well the answer is yes, the optional comment box would probably read "still very inexperienced and learning how to transfer 2/3hr efforts into the long stuff. Hit and miss at the moment but will improve with further training and patience". The hardest thing is the time, dedication and sacrifice that I and also Kel had put into this event and its build up. Things like foregoing social events, getting up at 4.30am for runs and fronting the cash for accomodation, travel and so on all seem wasted when things good belly up. They arent but at the time you seem a touch lost in the disappointment.

I have only been running seriously for two years now, this I need to remember. I put a lot of pressure and high expectations on myself and the romance of an ultra is something I need to control better. I have made an effort to reduce my ultras next year and I feel I need another solid year of training before I can run the long ones hard. The next few months will be building, mindful of the year gone by and what my new goals for 2015 are. I aim to progress and by ringing things back a touch giving the body a rest from the long long runs I will be ready for 2015 and what it throws at me. I have a good year but a year not without it's low point so far, my main goal is to finish off well and have some fun again, because frankly speaking the last 1.5hrs was not fun at all and that goes against why I run in the first place.

So the next question, Canberra 102 in 2015Well I dont like leaving things open and I had planned on Surf Coast Century but nothing is finalised and I like the nations capital. Why is this race messing with me? what makes it tougher than the stats show? I dont know, maybe it is the heat that comes with late spring, while not overly hot Im not acclimatised as yet due to the cold winter, or just maybe it is the race itself. If I were to sum the Sri Chinmoy Canberra Trail Run, fast, open and exposed with short and sharp pinches thrown in along the way. All set in and around Canberra on its diverse, hard and rocky interconnecting trail system letting you see where you are going and where you have been.

So with that I leave that question unanswered, Canberra 2015who knows?

12 September 2014

Strengthening the Structure


Strengthening the Structure

With my injury issues from 2014 fresh in my mind I have been thinking about, reading about and looking at improving my strength training routine to avoid any further problems down the track. With endurance training comes many hours of work and this has an impact on the body in many ways so the likelihood of an injury, whether it be acute or chronic, is high. The challenge for all endurance athletes is finding their limit and not over doing it which may result in injury or a performance drop or both.

After consulting with my physio, John Roberts of Bathurst Physiotherapy and Sports Injury, and looking at some photos of me running throughout the year I concluded that I had some imbalances in my running gait and this was causing problems. John believed I had an issue within my glutes and I felt this along with poor balance and stability caused by poor hip strength/flexibility was my issue.

Why? I did no work on strength in 2013 and very little in early 2014, this was partly because I get bored with this type of training easily and because I felt hill training was enough. How wrong I was, I needed to be inventive with my routine because hill training isn’t enough.

I have been focused on two things with my strength, developing a routine I’ll stick to and a routine that is effective. I have been reading plenty of articles to provide me with solid evidence to develop my training and from this reading in the last few months I have been tinkering with my routine to suit my running training load (10+hrs a week) as well as my work and family commitments. I am currently happy with where it is at and really believe not only is this helping with my racing but also with recovery and injury prevention.

I’m a big stretcher, I know there is evidence pointing towards the other direction but with the addition of my foam roller the 20-30min I spend each night working out the sore spots helps me greatly. I have also been completing core work daily for 15min and this was to stay in my schedule permanently, it was up to me to include enough strength to get gains, but not too much to get disinterested.

My strength program is very much running based, single leg, uneven weight distribution, balance, plyometric and low weight/high reps. I do 3 x 20-30min sessions weekly and they are as follows;

Foundation – basic resistance moves, squats, lunges, calf raises, etc. with a kettle bell/plate/barbell generally on an uneven weight distribution. I follow a 3 set of 15 rep plan with no rest generally. These are the base building exercises aimed at allowing the other sessions to target the specific areas.

Balance – single leg and balance based. This is low weight and with a dynamic focus on my biggest weakness, my balance. I am improving but this is still in the early days and I anticipate further gains with consistency. Balance allows efficiency and lowers injury likelihood as well as giving me an opportunity to add resistance through the full range of movement.

Plyometric – bounding, hopping and jumping. I have always done plyo work but this time it is more specific and targeted in developing explosive power. Plyo is a great way to activate the fast twitch fibres that often lay dormant in endurance runners. I am careful with my training and would not recommend jumping straight into plyo work, it is very beneficial but if done incorrectly potentially debilitating.

So a bit of food for thought, but for me it is a direction I intend on following consistently in line with my running based training. I have been doing running drills and technique work but without the strength training this has been futile as when fatigue hits the body it can’t hold the form. The pictures at the top show this perfectly.

2013 – Same endurance base more or less but my form is sloppy, swaying and leaning right at the end of the Edgell Jog. My hips are weak, my balance is out and my torso is rocking from side to side. I am over striding, leaning forward too far and reaching in my gait. My arms are out and my drive phase isn’t going directly forwards.

2014 – At the same point in the race and still just as buggered but my form is strong and my technique is solid. I’m on my toes driving forwards with my knees and arms in equal drive planes (directions). My hips and shoulders are square with no torso roll or lean allowing my head to remain stable.

A picture tells a 1000 words, so I’ll leave it at that.