Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Hill Training

Info source: Runnersworld UK


Going Up

It is the moment all runners dread. You turn the corner and right in front of you is a big, imposing hill. But don’t wince, focus. Shift gears both mentally and physically and prepare to attack the hill; don’t let it attack you. Running hills well is all about rhythm; if you let the hill break up your rhythm you will slow dramatically. But if you make the proper adjustments and maintain your cadence you’ll make molehills out of the mountains. Here’s how:

  • As you start uphill, shorten your stride. Don’t try to maintain the pace you were running on the flat.
  • You are aiming for equal effort going up as well as down, not equal pace. Trying to maintain the pace you were running on the flat will leave you exhausted later in the race or session.
  • Take ‘baby steps’ if necessary and try to keep the same turnover rhythm that you had on the flat ground.
  • Your posture should be upright – don’t lean forward or back – your head, shoulders and back should form a straight line over the feet. Keep your feet low to the ground.
  • If your breathing begins to quicken it means that you’re either going too fast, over-striding or bounding too far off the ground as you run.
  • Use a light, ankle-flicking push-off with each step, not an explosive motion, which will waste energy. If the hill is long or the gradient increases, keep shortening your stride to maintain a smooth and efficient breathing pattern. If the gradient decreases, extend your stride again. Try to maintain the same steady effort and breathing throughout.
  • In a race, or when you’re training on a undulating course, run through the top of the hill. Don’t crest the hill and immediately slow down or pull back on your effort.
  • Accelerate gradually into the downhill.

Coming Down

Most runners make one or two obvious mistakes when running downhill. They either sprint, which causes severe muscle soreness later on, or they’re so hesitant to surrender to gravity that they’re constantly braking, which fatigues the quadriceps muscles. The optimum pace is somewhere in between. Try not to let your feet slap on the ground when you are running downhill. Step lightly and don’t reach out with your feet. Slapping can be a sign of weak muscles in the shin area, in which case you need to strengthen them. To help your downhill technique, follow these simple tips:
  • Try to visualise gravity pulling you down the hill.
  • Try to maintain an upright body posture, keeping your torso perpendicular to the horizontal.
  • Keep your feet close to the ground for maximum control, and land lightly.
  • As you increase your pace, emphasise quicker turnover rather than longer strides, though your strides can be slightly longer than normal.
  • The key to efficient downhill running is to stay in control. When you start, keep your stride slightly shortened and let your turnover increase. When you feel in control, gradually lengthen your stride.
  • If you start to run out of control when descending, shorten your stride until you feel you are back in control again.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Two Bays Trail Run 2014 - Pushing Beyond Blisters!

Yea damn blisters! the toes were clearly in unfamiliar territory crossing the 50k mark, plasters started falling apart, blisters started forming etc.. still just an ultra rookie :)

Anyway it was worth all the pain...

Reasons? GREAT organisation, just like Rollercoaster, you really do see how much effort has been put in, the volunteers keeping the carnival atmosphere going & no doubt the presence of friends who were there to share the pain & joy of the course.. the scenery actually became secondary, I mean it was a nice route & all, but it served to just complement what already was a great event. So now I understand why Two Bays came highly recommended..  very glad we signed up.


We didn't have Two Bays in our radar until early December.. I couldn't even quite qualify to do the 56k last year (only the 28k)! so it was all a bit here-there-everywhere in terms of preparation & my legs only started really twitching in the final days leading up to the run.

It didn't help that I got myself injured 1.5 weeks before run-day, having pushed a bit too hard while training with the wifey in the Dandenongs (we had a great run in the rain tho!) - the upper quads on the right leg was strained. It was going to be hit or miss for Two Bays at that point. Was definitely pretty worried, and could only just focus on recovery stretching recovery stretching recovery & praying for the best.

Training hard. we love running in wet & miserable rain!

Thanks to a miracle medicated plaster (that cost a bomb) my leg was actually back in action just after a few days (brand is Dencorub, check it out!) - out came the paper & pen it was back to studying the route & planning target times again.. anyway, I couldn't ask for more & had to be contented with going into the run without 1.5 weeks of scheduled training runs.

The 777 Plan 

Well I had target times for every 7k but the general plan was to meet a 7hr target - pushing for sub-7 if possible. Try to get to half-way point 28k sub-3 hours and with as much spare time as possible given that the legs will definitely slow down beyond the 30k mark..

Nasty elevations? not crazy nasty I suppose - but an ultra should never be taken lightly regardless especially if one is pushing hard & doing it in an unfamiliar route.. and in my new-ish Rapa Nui shoes too.

Hydration would be 2 bottles - one water, one sports drink + electrolytes. Wasn't sure whether I was carrying too much given there were many aid stations - but I wasn't going to over-think it and with the 2 bottles I was confident I would always have enough water & electrolytes. Brought spare electrolytes tabs for when I would refill the sports drink bottle.

Nutrition - I opted for the usual trail mix, gels, a mini snicker bar. Aid stations would have gels so I just packed only two - was feeling good about nutrition prep since the trail mix did me well during Razorback.

Hawaiian costume - There was some FB discussion in the SCTR group about dressing up for the run (since the event organiser encouraged it!) - we went round to the $2 shop & just got flower garlands, couldn't possibly pull off the sexy grass skirt with my thunder thighs!.. hehe..

The Run

Weather was overcast with a light breeze when we arrived at 6am at Cape Schank - perfect running conditions.. runners were all visibly happy about it.. it would be a day of record-smashing for the fast runners!

Scene at 6am.. promising weather for the day! 
Met up with the SCTR crew - all raring to go! (Photo credit: Jon Lim's iPhone)

Our flower garlands were comprehensively outdone by the crazy Wombat boys Isaac & Tim, who not only signed up at the very last min but came in full glory of grass skirts, flower bras & all.. characters! :D Few of us were still shy but anyway it was hilarious coz we were amongst such serious runners that it was obvious only a handful of runners were in costumes of some kind. It was good to know that the SCTR group not only had running talents but more importantly a great sense of humour :)

0-28k (3:00) - Soon after we were flagged off, we were on single trails & it was funny that after no more than a few mins of running, we had to stop coz there was a massive traffic jam at the park entrance.. ! so much for the adrenalin start! anyway this first stretch was pretty much keeping a steady pace & staring at the bum of the runner in front of me.. :)

The trail started to open up a bit more after 10k, & managed to pick-up some pace. It was quite worrying because I felt that I was already pushing kinda hard & didn't build up much spare from targets every 7k.. I had even skipped all the aid stations (I still had plenty of water thanks to the weather)... but I could only keep going & see how things transpire.

This was somewhere between 10-15k? (Photo credit: Andrew O'Brien)

We had great kids from the neighbourhood hi-fiving us & spraying water just before the 21k mark it was really nice.. glad they were having as much fun as we were!

Generally I was feeling good & moving well - slightly worried that I was pushing too hard & not leaving enough gas for the 2nd half. But I wasn't hitting the target times with much spare time either so I just stayed with my pace. I finally reached the 28k mark around 2:57 hours.. rung the bell with only few mins shy of the 3:00 target..

28-35k (4:10) - The climb back up to Arthurs Seat was expectedly tough I could only walk most of it. Wished I could follow some of the runners who had the legs to run up the hills but I knew if I did that I was gonna just kill myself. Bumped into the wifey on the way up & instead of a sweaty loving hug, we took pics of each other haha.. nonetheless was very happy she was looking strong mentally & physically.

I remained on target when I hit 35k but signs of toe crush was starting to develop after the quick descent from Arthurs Seat.. started to mutter to myself, not sure what exactly but I could tell I was mentally & physically getting beaten up - not just by the toes' discomfort, but with the day getting warmer & my legs were feeling more lethargic. I was sweating a lot & needed to rehydrate more..

35-42k (5:20) - Surprisingly I did faster than anticipated for this stretch & got myself some 20mins of buffer when I reached 42k. Somehow I had become numb to the soreness of the toes but could feel the sun much more by now... my mouth was constantly craving water water water.. I poured water over my head to cool down at the 42k water station, drank my fill & refilled the water bottle to the max - I could see runners before me doing the same, it was going to be a very tough stretch ahead!

(Photo credit: Benjamin Fox / fstop5)

(Photo credit: Benjamin Fox / fstop5)

42-49k (6:10) - Eating more of my trail mix, it was getting dry & hard to swallow, but I needed fuel every 20mins so I just kept munching bit by bit. The tummy was also getting a bit upset from too much sports drink + electrolytes. My body just wanted water. True enough the 42-45k was the toughest 3k stretch for me. I was tired & without a single runner in sight, I remember seeing a big kangaroo hopping away, & the backside of an echinda crossing our trail.. they reminded me to take a moment to enjoy the serenity (not like I could go any faster anyway!)

Fortunately at 45k the trail started going downhill.. like a stuttering stalled engine of a car, I was able to make use of the downhill to jump-start my dying engine - popping in a few more jellybeans, I could feel my 2nd wave is arriving. I remember thinking runners would be loving this event for this particular stretch as well - that the 45-49k gentle downhill stretch was really helpful & invigorating!

49-56k (7:00) - All was going perfect after the last aid-station & I was really cruising.. feeling great I was well on target to hit a good sub-7! The view was opening up too towards Cape Schank.. kangaroos were hopping in a distance & it was just magical (I was probably a bit delirious too)

Hello curious ones! Keep hopping & don't come after me!

AND THEN DISASTER .. as this cruel life would often have it, my joy was short-lived when a sudden sharp pain emerged from my right foot at the 52k mark - it was my little last toe. I had to stop & check.... it was bad. The entire little toe was a giant throbbing blister!! The plaster I had taped over it had come loose & was not providing any protection at all for god knows how long.. I searched my pack & cursed at myself - I had forgotten to bring the Elastoplast. GREAT!

So making use of whatever tattered plaster is left, I tried my best to cover up the blister but to not much avail.. I was in real sharp pain & couldn't really run fast.. I was still hobbling along when at least half a dozen of runners came running pass me.. oh man.. after running 52k all the effort was going down the drain, GREAT!

Feeling frustrated I just kept moving. At that point my big left toe started blistering too (I wasn't running naturally). I will not get defeated by the last 4k! - and certainly not by some blister on some little toe.. But the fact was I couldn't run properly, my foot placement was all awkward, the last 4k was just horrid. I tried to bring my mind far-away from the pain & just focused on staying with the two runners in front of me.

But with every sharp pain it jolted me back to reality. I was pre-occupied with fighting these mini-battles all the way to the very end.. the last 4k easily became the longest stretch on the course.. I swear I could've cried when I finally saw the finishing line.. :)


Keeping it together - lucky to still have a sub-7!!! (Photo credit: Steve Taylor / fstop5)

Unfortunately I missed the wife crossing the line! Was still hobbling back from the car when the announcer mentioned her bib number... but what a champ she has been, smiling all the way, yakking to all the volunteers, glad she had fun & what a beautiful strong finish.. good on ya Wifey! :D

(Photo credit: Steve Taylor / fstop5 )

Post-run chill out & making new friends.. :)

Race Summary

What went well
1) Carrying water bottles = did not have to stop at every aid station..
2) Nutrition = had enough when I needed it..
3) Target times for every 7k was pretty spot on

What didn't go well
1) BLISTERS & chafings, not enough plasters / glide for toes / other parts of body
2) Did not pack Elastoplast - must always pack this!
3) Hoka Rapa Nui toe box - still tight, downhill was killing my toes.. need to do something about this

I suppose it was the ultra rookie mistake not being prepared enough for chafing & blisters - especially running with the new-ish Hokas.. nonetheless was very happy the legs were holding up well, ITBs were a little tight but I stretched whenever I had a break & they did not really trouble..

All in all Two Bays 2014 was a fab event - we absolutely enjoyed ourselves! The carnival atmosphere, the weather was great & people still lingering around after the 8 hours cut-off supporting the final finishers. It was just a very positive vibe throughout... truly double thumbs up & all bruised & blistered toes up for Rohan & his team!

(And not just because they take nice pics of us in action... all for free!) More pics here

Once again, thanks for reading folks.. if you have doubts about signing up for Two Bays next year, I hope this post has helped erase those doubts :)

Have a great 2014 & keep running!

(Photo credit: Benjamin Fox / fstop5)