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Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Childlike Running

"What's the Difference between a Terrorist and Two Year Old ?"

"You can negotiate with a Terrorist"

Although a joke a typical child does not START to develop the ability to reason until at least 3 1/2 years old and not start to make decisions based on conscious thought until they are around seven.

Until then they have two modes - Do or Do Not.  There are no other thoughts in terms of decisions.

A lot of athletes are at the other end of the scale - they are constantly having 'discussions' with themselves trying to rationalise whether to keep going or not.  Coming up with justifications, worrying about what-if, thinking about how, calculating times etc etc.  I often see statements in race reports starting with "I thought...".  I thought I was going too hard, I thought I was going to cramp.

Champions run like a two year old.

Understand (based on training/testing) what you can do, what pace you can hold, when you need to fuel etc.  Even take this 'thought' away by setting zones, alters, autolap etc on your device

Then, to quote Nike, Just Do It.

If you find yourself negotiating with yourself then be conscious of this type of thought.  This takes practise - to identify when your 'inner voice' is trying to rationalise/justify an outcome.  But when you identify this put those thoughts to the side and be in the moment.  There is a reason why, for most people, the last kilometre of an event (even a marathon) is their fastest - they stop negotiating and 'just run'.

When training, try doing some longer runs without an MP3 player.  Music can often drown out the inner voice which detracts from developing the skill of identifying and 'dealing' with it.  Plus all triathlons and a lot of running events ban MP3 players anyway.  The skills of identifying the inner voice and knowing how compartmentalise or respond to it is key in longer events.

So next time you are running practise Childlike Running - catch those thoughts and throw them away and just 'Do' like the 2 year old in the video below.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Would you make the team ?

When I was a teenager I played a lot of team sports - specifically cricket.  The cricket season meant a consistent pattern each week - practise with the team 2-3 times, practise by myself and then play both days on the weekend.

Practise with the team meant a couple of things but one of the main goals was quite simple - impress the coach enough to get selected for the team.  Show them not only your technical skill but your attitude and enthusiasm.  I used to look for Friday's paper excited to see whether I had been selected.

After cricket I moved to martial arts.  Martial arts is much more like triathlon - you train each week and then periodically there is a test of what you had learnt.  These tests for the higher ranks could be years apart.  There was no weekly team, no one really cared if you turned up or not.  Training was more about the process (and perfection) and is why I have the Japanese symbol Keizen on my left ankle.  Keizen means "Always Moving Forward" and the left side of the body, in Martial Arts, is the spiritual side.

For some people that come from team sports this difference in mentality - of not being 'selected' each week is a very different mindset.  The triathlon equivalent of a Martial Arts grading is obviously a race but these can seem a long way off (fortunately not years like in Martial Arts but in the case of a bad injury this may even be the case).

The trick is to treat each training week as a match week.  Have you done enough so that the coach will 'select' you ?.  Have you trained consistently - have you demonstrated the right attitude and enthusiasm for the game that would make the coach want you on the team.  Think back to your team sport and remember the feeling of making the team or missing out.

For people coming from team sports like Cricket and Football this change of mindset can make a big difference.  Make one day of the week 'selection day' - take a step back and give your training week a score out of 10 and ask yourself...

Would you make the team this week ?.  

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Pick out the Brown Smarties.

We've all heard the stories of demands 'Divas' make - Mariah Carey demanding 2 dozen white roses and no patterns on the couches in her dressing room, Jennifer Lopez demanding an all white dressing room, Madonna demanding a brand new toilet seat..  But maybe there is more to it than just being a tad eccentric..

For those that grew up in the 80's you will remember David Lee Roth.  He was the lead singer of Van Halen and also had a successful solo career.  In his contract conditions he demanded a bowl of smarties with all of the brown smarties removed.

Diva right ?

When asked recently about this he explained it was actually a quality control check.  What he meant was that if he walked into his dressing room and found a bowl of smarties without brown ones he knew that someone had read his contract in detail and that he didnt need to worry about as much about all the important requirements he had around staging, water, security etc.  If he found brown smarties he knew that the quality of everything else would also need to be checked to make sure nothing impacted the standard of the show.

You may train, you may watch what you eat, you may look after your equipment - but do you pick out the brown smarties ?  Do you make sure, when you go into a session, that the little details are right to get the most 'quality' out of the session ?  In some sessions the duration of the interval and the recovery time is critical to get the best bang for buck out of the session.  Mucking around with shoe laces, watch settings, chatting to your mates can all mess up these timings meaning the metabolic goal of the session cannot be met - it is a wasted session purely through lack of attention to detail.

In business there is an expression called The Six P's.  Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

Next time you are heading to the track, the pool, the gym ask whether you have picked out the brown smarties - have you done those small things that mean that you get the best out of the session.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Goal Setting - A Waste of Time ?

In the mid 90's a study was published in a magazine around what makes successful people successful.

It looked at high flying business executives, champion sportspeople, media personalities to try and find what common traits they possessed. One of the common traits was about the setting of goals.

They Didn't.

This is a trend that continues with modern organisations such as Google who do also not set annual goals.

When asked in the same study why these people and organisations do not set goals the response was simple.

"Defining goals defines your limitations"

As an example picture a 4 hour marathon runner who's goal it is to run a sub 3:30 marathon.  They work out what they need to do - train to that specific pace and come race day run a 3:29.  Goal Met.

Now imagine a 4 hour marathon runner who commits each week to followed a balance program of muscular endurance, weights, track work. Each week they meet this commitment - a commitment to continuously improve.  Come race day they run 3:19.

Imagine if, for Runner 1, a 3:30 marathon was never realistic based on time till the event, training time etc ?  Had they focussed on improvement over the goal they may have run 3:39 which is still a huge PB.  Instead they 'miss' their goal and are disappointed or worse still are injured trying to push for an unrealistic goal and cant run the marathon at all.

The same is common for people trying to lose weight.  They set a goal instead of focussing each day on eating smart and exercising properly.  For weight loss the issue also can be that a long terms goal is hard to be motivated for and 'slip ups' in nutrition are ok as they have 'months' left..

In Googles case they dont set corporate goals as it decreases their agility - the ability to respond to what the market is doing (which is often outside their control anyway).

There have been lots of studies on what makes successful people successful such as Stephen Coveys Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.  Things like single mindedness, focus, total commitment to a goal etc.  Not surprisingly you dont see many books on what makes abject failures unsuccessful but in some studies that have been conducted it has been found that these people actually execute the same habits.  Single Mindedness, total commitment to a goal etc can make the person oblivious to 'reality', unable to deal with changes to their market or environment.

So rather than defining your own limitation focus on continual improvement and commit to each day doing something that makes you 1% better than yesterday.  In 68 days you will be 100% better than you were yesterday.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Ketosis for Dummies

What is Ketosis

Ketosis is a state of elevated levels of ketone bodies within the body.  Ketones are a preferential fuel source for the brain and muscles.

What is the advantage
Within our liver and muscles we can store a maximum of about 1800 calories of glycogen.  For HARD exercise this means we have about 1 hour 50mins worth of energy.  Conversely an average athlete has about 65,000 calories of stored fat.

Ketones also burn 'clean' meaning less destructive bi-products compared to sugar which our bodies would need to process or clear.

By using body fat ketosis is a great way to 'lean up' whilst still maintaining energy levels as well as reducing blood glucose and insulin.

How do we measure it.
There are two methods of measuring ketones - urine or blood.  The difference is in the type of ketones measure.  Urine analysis measures levels of Acetoacetate.  Logically what appears in urine is what the body is trying to get rid of rather than what is used.  Blood analysis measures beta-hydroxybutyrate which are used by the muscles and brain for energy so is a better indicator of what is available and being utilised.

Blood analysis is performed using a simple meter (most of which can also measure blood glucose) available from chemists for under $50.

What is Nutritional Ketosis
Nutritional Ketosis is the 'sweet spot' for ketosis where blood ketones are in the range of 0.2 2.0 mmol/l

Can it be harmful
Yes.  Above 5mmol/l starts to move into what's called Ketoacidosis effecting the acidity of blood.  It is also strongly not recommended for type I diabetics.

How do I do it.
In simple terms a high fat / low carb diet is used to enable ketosis however the risk of too much fat as a ratio can push the body into ketoacidosis.  Similarly too much protein can lower the ketone level through a mechanism called gluconeogenesis.  It is commonly found that a diet ratio of 80% fat, 15% protein and 5% carbohydrate is optimal for nutritional ketosis.

Intermittent fasting has also been shown to increase blood ketones.

Isnt that Atkins ?
No.  Atkins is high protein, high fat which as mentioned reduces blood ketones through conversion of protein to glucose.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Length Matters

Back in High School (a long, long, long time ago) I managed to win 3 awards in the Australian Mathematics Competition.  Maths I could do (Geography not so much).

So I often look at sporting challenges from a mathematical or physic perspective.

Consider these Maths.

The average good runner has a cadence of around 94rpm or 188 Steps per Minute (spm).  If it takes them 3hours and 10minutes to run a marathon then they take 190 x 188 steps or 35720 steps.

As a side point here can you see why a lighter shoe is better ?  A shoe that is 100g lighter means lifting 357 LESS kilograms in a marathon.

Back to the maths.

To take 35720 steps over 42.2 means each step takes 118 cm.  Press M+ to remember that number.

If, like most people, you want to run a sub 3 hour marathon (2:59:00) then we are taking 179 x 188 steps which is 33652 steps.  These 2000 odd less steps means our stride length is 125cm - a difference of 7 cm or 5%. Grab a ruler and look at 7cm - it aint that much.  In fact it's 3/4 of the length of the average soft drink can.

So to go from a 3:10:00 marathon to a 2:59:00 is a 5% increase in stride length.

If you wanted to go from a 3:10:00 marathon to a 2:59 marathon WITHOUT changing stride length it  would mean still taking 35720 steps but this time in 179 minutes which means your cadence would need to go up to 200 steps per minute.  This is a 6.3% increase in cadence (and a much higher energy consumption) and from my experience holding a cadence greater than 97 for a marathon duration is almost impossible.  Most World Record holders have broken the record using a cadence of 90-94.  If we look at the maths for that it means 182 steps x 123 minutes or 15129 steps which means a stride length of 278cm (wow)

When cadence starts to max out the only way to get faster is to increase stride length.  As you can see from the maths - even a relatively small (5%) increase can be the difference between languishing just above 3 hours and breaking that magical barrier.

Stride length can be increased in a number of ways.  Drills, stretching (PNF or Ballistic), Bounds/Strides etc  Of course care must be taken to avoid overstriding.

As in cycling and swimming cadence or turn over is extremely important but when you reach the max in cadence and seem to be languishing - look at stride length.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

What's your (swim) number.

"You need to breath bilaterally - you need to breath every third stroke"

I hear this all the time from 'coaches' and 'arm chair experts'.

Being able to breath bilaterally (on both sides) is definitely a skill that needs to be developed.  Breathing bilaterally has benefits such as

People who only breath on one side tend to have an asymetrical body roll and position - typically rolling more on the breathing side.  This means than on the non breathing side they typically have less lat muscle and more deltoid engagement (using a smaller muscle).  They often mention feeling less strong on that side.  Balance (or lack of) makes it harder to swim in a straight line especially with no black line for reference.

Responding to conditions
Imagine you are swimming straight along a beach and you have trained only breathing on the 'ocean' side.  Any type of swell and you end up sucking a lot of water.  Being able to change sides means you breath where the conditions are easiest.

Similar to above if you are swimming down a beach and always looking out to sea how will you know when you are near the turn buoy without constantly looking up (hint - look for land marks on any open water swims rather than relying on sighting the buoy.

If you swimming close to someone on your breathing side breathing on the other side turns your face away from them reducing the risk of being hit.

So if bilateral breathing has all these advantages then I should breath every third stroke ?


Bilateral literally means both sides.  There is nothing that specifies every 3rd stroke (commonly called "breathing on the three").  Every person is different - everyone has different lung capacities, different hematocrits, different VO2, different stroke efficiencies, different turn over rates (cadence).  The need for air can also change during an event as your pace changes.

Bilateral means you CAN breath both sides.

Some people breath every second stroke.  For most of a race I will actually breath every four strokes.  I find that if I try and breath every second stroke it is borderline hyperventilating but everyone is different.  The key is though that even though breathing on an even number means you are always breathing on the same side that side will change based on conditions.  During a race I may switch sides (but still breath on the same count) based on conditions, seeing where people are, protection etc

If you have a look at this video of Kieran Perkins winning Gold at the 1996 Olympics you will note that he is breathing every 2nd stroke BUT he changes sides so he can see where his competition is in the pool.

Being able to breath on both sides is definitely a skill you should develop but do this based on a breathing rhythm you are comfortable with.  For example if you set is 10 x 100 do them alternating sides each interval - or even go up the pool breathing left, down the pool breathing right.  Develop the skill without forcing yourself to breath every third stroke.  Practise breathing both sides using drills - you will find that if you cant breath on one side it means there is an issue with your stroke on that side.  Have someone check out your stroke and see what's causing the issue

Friday, 10 May 2013

10 Tips to Training with an Injury

Four weeks ago it was a nice morning so I decided to go for a run.  It wasnt a tempo run or an interval run - just a nice run to enjoy the sunshine and the beach.  About 2km into the run BANG - a searing pain my  right foot.  By the end of the day I couldnt even put weight on the foot.

Surely my life was over, my fitness would evaporate and I would be morbidly obese by the end of the week (this seems to be the thinking whenever an athlete gets an injury..)

The next day I went to get it checked out - I went to see Astrid at Brighton Podiatry.  I like Astrid - if you want warm and fuzzy buy a kitten - if you want to know the facts go see Astrid.  A ultrasound scan revealed a 17mm tear and inflammation  in a tendon in my foot.

Tip 1.  Find out quickly from a professional what the problem is.  Dont go see a GP, dont see a physio, dont spend hours checking out Doctor Google - find out the real issue fast.

According to Astrid I couldnt run for 6 weeks.  Weight bearing was out - even swimming was to be avoided (due to plantar flexing)  Astrid's partner is a runner - she understands the mindset.  Rather than focussing on what I cant do I asked Astrid what I could do.  There is an important difference between pain and damage.  For example riding a bicycle in a carbon soled shoe was painful but, according to Astrid, wasnt going to cause further damage.  Riding up hills (additional stress on foot) was out but flat riding was fine.

Tip 2.  Find a professional you can work with.  Find out what you can do rather than just what is off limits.

For most of the day I wear an airboot.  One of the keys to healing is to make sure you dont create a situation that will cause you to re-injure ie healing in a shortened state.  This is an important one for things like Achilles etc.  Simply having a cortisone injection would mask the problem (pain) but would not allow for proper healing.  The boot keeps the foot flexed which means the tendon doesn't heal in a shortened state.  I also roll the foot on a hockey ball to facilitate blood flow.

Note I avoid Anti-inflammatories due to the direct link to gut issues (Cox-2 Inhibitors)

Tip 3.  Heal the injury - dont just mask the pain.  Would you just take pain killers for a broken arm or have it re-set in place ?

So far the first 3 tips have been fairly obvious - now we get lateral.

Most injuries cause inflammation.  If we are introducing other inflammation into our body we slow the healing processes.  My diet is pretty good but after the injury I decided to not work against my body and focussed on cutting out inflammatory foods even more.  Wheat (even hidden wheat in gravies, hamburgers, crumbs etc), refined sugars - I focussed on cutting these out completely.

Tip 4.  Dont work against your body.  Dont 'distract' the healing by creating other problems.  Be stricter on an anti-inflammatory diet.

There are several supplements that can aid with healing.  Colostrum and Lacto Ferrin are two I use to help the body heal faster.

Tip 5  Look at supplements that can help you body recover from injury.  Look specifically at the injury type eg tissue, bone etc.

Now for the fitness side (and read on for an interesting stat on the efficacy).

Fitness can be simply broken down into two factors.  1.  Bloods ability to carry oxygen and
2. Strength.

1. Blood
The bloods ability to carry oxygen is measured by the red blood cell count (hematocrit).  Studies, such as this one here have shown that high intensity, anaerobic intervals causes an increase in red blood cell count (even more efficiently than long boring miles) but surely you need to run or ride to do intervals.  Enter the Krank Cycle.  This allows me to do high intensity intervals with zero impact on my foot.  My protocol was 30 sec HARD / 3 min recovery times 10.

I also kept on top of my iron intake so as to not 'waste' the intervals.  The net result is my red blood cell count has gone from 40 up to 44 in 4 weeks.  Pro cyclists aim for a count of 50 often using artificial means to get there.  In essence I have actually got fitter whilst injured.

Tip 6.  Use High Intensity Intervals to maintain/increase base fitness.

Tip 7.  Do what you can to get that heart pumping.  Krank Cycles, Single Leg Riding - whatever gets it done without loading the injured area.

2.  Strength
Obviously it is hard to do strength work for the legs without... well, using the legs.  Or is it.

Here's an interesting one.  In a number of studies such as this one here it was found that when working a single leg that growth was also shown in the other (unused leg).  It wasn't as much but your body does like to try and balance itself.  Single leg squats, leg extension, lunges etc can all be used to build and maintain strength

Tip 8.  Work the uninjured leg - you will still get an increase in strength in the other leg and also reduce atrophy.

The other tool I use is the Compex Electrostim.  These have some a long way since the old days of simply placing the electrodes on your chest and hitting a button.  Modern units have variable levels - even specific programs.  For example the unit I use has an endurance program which uses shorter duration 'shocks'.  I use this to build strength but also to fatigue my legs before a flat ride to solicit greater fiber recruitment.

BTW - It's also good justification to keep shaving my legs.  Pulling the electrodes off hairy legs is not a highlight of the day..

Tip 9.  Consider using alternate tools such as electrostim, aqua jogging to create muscle contractions without loading the injured area.

As you can see dealing with an injury is holistic.  You should look at diet, look at alternate 'tools', work with a professional etc.  Trying to do this on your own (from my martial arts days my injury list is long so have spent years looking at this :)) is difficult and time consuming especially with the amount of mis-information out there so this leads me to the final and most important point.

Tip 10.  TELL YOUR COACH.  They wont (or shouldn't) think you are soft but will work with you.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Little Engine that could - A Scientific View

"I think I can, I think I can...".  We've all heard the story of the Little Engine believing it could puff

right over that hill. We've all heard Henry Fords famous quote "Whether you think you can or you think you cant - you're right".  But what if there was actually a scientific reason for why this works ?

Your brain's number one priority is self preservation.  If it doesnt function your body dies.  So above all else it prioritises it's own protection.  Your brain knows what it needs (and doesnt need).

1.  Oxygen
2.  Fuel
3.  Avoid Trauma

As you can see running a sub 3 hour marathon doesnt appear in this list.

The brain subconsciously uses a number of pathways to enforce these priorities.  Two that are of interest from an endurance and athletic performance are the Vagus and Golgi nerve Pathways.

Vagus Nerve
The Vagus nerve is part of our parasympathetic nervous system which controls all organs except for the adrenal glands (which are part of the sympathetic nervous system - fight or flight).  Specifically for us the vagus nerve lowers cardiac output.  Ever wondered what actually controls Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) - that's the Vagus Nerve.  When the brain senses (or more importantly 'believes') it is at risk it will decrease cardiac rate essentially slowing us down so that more oxygen and blood glucose is available to the brain rather than the muscles.  Essentially our brain slows us down whether we like it or not.

Interesting your brain will also produce seratonin when your body works hard.  The 'Runners High" isnt a reward - it is our brains way of trying to relax us so as not to work so hard.

Golgi Nerve
The golgi nerve controls the maximum contractional force of a muscle.  Every heard the stories of people who never went to the gym geting trapped under a car and suddenly lift an engine block off their chest ?  They tear muscles doing it.  In essence the brain is overriding the Golgi nerve.

As a personal trainer I used to see this a lot.  A client would struggle to do 8 bench press reps and then quit.  I'd say lets do 4 more - I'll lift the weight off you - you just lower it.  That's is exactly what we would do - 4 more reps.  Except I wasnt lifting it off them (sometimes I wouldnt even be touching the bar).  The brain was placated, it didnt think it was at risk due to a bar being dropped on its blood supply, so your muscles could do the work.  Ever tried standing in front of a bench -you really want to jump onto it but something stops you ?  You squat down a bit but physically cant jump ?  That's the brain stopping your muscles from contracting

It is pretty clear how this applies to endurance sports - in simple terms if our brain doesnt believe we can do something and thinks it is at risk it will slow us down and make us less powerful. Let me repeat that - in simple terms if our brain doesnt believe we can do something and thinks it is at risk it will slow us down and make us less powerful.

So how do you do this ?  Is it as simple as just being like the Little Engine and saying "I think I can".  No (although that doesn't hurt).  Saying something doesn't mean you believe it and frankly your brain has no reason to trust you :).  You need to convince your brain that it is 'safe'.

1.  Pushing the limit past failure in a safe environment.
Interval and Repetition pace reps, HARD anaerobic efforts all serve to convince the brain that it can safely allow the heart to operate at a higher level (Vagus Nerve) 

2.  Forced Reps.
Like the fake spotter forcing reps will also help placate the brain.  Negative reps, over-speed work on the bike, treadmill, pool all help convince the brain our muscles can work harder (Golgi Nerve).

3.  Belief.
Self belief is a hard thing to implement - so try trusting someone else.  One common fact I see in high performers in business and sports is not a belief that they 'can' but more a lack of belief that they cant.  They trust in the science - the PhD scholars for wattage, running pace etc and, as Nike says, "Just Do It".  Their belief is in the science and 'logic'.  What is interesting is that I see that high performers are the least likely to ask 'Why ?" for a particular set.  'Why' often indicates, either consciously or sub consciously, that doubt exists which is then used by the brain to validate protecting you.

I like the quote by the Spinervals guy (who also did a sub 9 ironman at Kona) - Troy Jacobsen when he says "You pass out before you die"

It is often said that endurance sports are 70% mentally.  As you can see this is medically true - training the parasympathetic nerve path ways can improve our performance more than hours and hours of comfort zone training

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Dark Speed Bag Mount

One of the limitations of the current Specialized Shiv is the ability to mount bags on the top tube.  New bikes such as the Cervelo P5, Trek Speed Concept and BMC all now include bidon mounts on the top tube and a number of bag manufacturers are now making bags specifically for these mounts.

Whilst the Specialized Shiv doesn't contain such mounts and drilling into the frame would be dangerous the Fuelselage cover does create an opportunity to mount a bag.

The hard plastic fuelselage cover is held in place by a standard size M3 screw.  The first step was to drill another hole within the plastic cover.

Two holes were then drilled in the plastic former within the bag so that screws could be passed through that align with the standard and new cover holes.  A nylex nut was then used on the new bolt to secure the bag.

The cover was then replaced ensuring the tab fitted into the frame.  The screw without the nut simply screwed down into the existing thread within the frame.  Most of the velcro straps on the bag were now unnecessary and were cut off however for stability purposes the strap furtherest from the head stem was shortened and utilised.

Note this means the internal bladder cannot be used however I use seat mounted bottles so this is not a major concern versus carrying sufficient gels etc.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Pain? There is No Pain

A good article by one of my athletes who probably has one of the best race day brains I've worked with.  Chris McCormack got asked once if it ever stops hurting - he said No - You just get faster at the same level.

Pain...There is no Pain

I often get asked about my performances and running marathons. I mean given my physical ability I run pretty well and the longer the race the better I am in relative terms. But I often get accused of many things and one of those things is simply not true...enjoying Pain. I often get accused of being able to block out the pain or enjoying pain. Neither are true. No one enjoys pain, that's just stupid.

Can I block out the pain? No, I'm not super human, I hurt just like everyone else. But my reaction to the pain, now thats something I can control. What do you do when pain arrives? Most people I know start backing off. They start managing the pain by slowing down and trying to make it go away. I did that once and I didn’t run well. I kept slowing down and eventually walking. I was still in pain but the pain lingered as I looked up my race results several days later. Albert Einstein's definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”. I live by this in my life, work and my sport. So next time I trained and the pain arrived I didn't back off. It was one of my first long runs at around 30km but I had planned to stay on a 5.30 per km pace. I figured I'm out here I might as well do what I set out to do. I stayed at the same pace and just gritted my teeth and pushed harder. I pushed harder but went no quicker. Seem liked very little reward at the time. But I finished that training run, I ran the times I set out and the pain...well it was the same but ended the moment I stopped my watch. This was different from slowing down because the pain didn't linger. The moment I knew I held pace - well the pain went away. It had a reward. It started me thinking...

I read a lot of running books and take in many quotes to see if they apply to me. Most don't. In fact I find most running quotes annoying and lame. But every now and then some make sense. One of these quotes was from Running Coach - Jack Daniels. It is simply “When Struggling...Speed Up!”. I didn't understand it at the time but thought to myself “now that is something different”. Insanity it ain't.  

So I arrive at my first marathon nervous, excited but enjoying the atmosphere. I wasn't scared which is a reaction I hear from many first timers. I had put in the training, what was there to be scared of? A work colleague at the time and later my coach gave me some rather valuable advice. He said “most races are lost in the first 5km”. His meaning was that it was dangerous to go out too hard and burn yourself up well before the race had even started. He also advised me that the half way point wasn't 21.1km, it was 32km. The effort to get to 32km was the same effort as the last 10km.

I had my three secret weapons. Don't burn out too early, half way is 32km and my new concept never tried before “When Struggling...Speed Up!”. So everything went to plan. I ran the pace I needed. A very slow 5.45 per km. I had no idea what lay ahead so I ran within myself. It was my first and I had no idea what was to come. I managed to get to 32km and thought oh my god, this hurts. It hurts unlike anything else you have felt. Not a pain from running out of oxygen, not an intense burn like you get at the top of the hill. A pain that every nerve in your body says stop. Every foot step is an effort to get it in the air. My legs were lead. It brings tears to your eyes. The fact that I had run within myself to this point meant that I had enough sense to recall all the things I had in my kit bag. Don't go out too hard...check. Half way is 32km...check. When Struggling...Speed Up. So I figured now is as good as any time to try this crazy (not insane) idea. So I sped up instantly. I ran the next km in 5 mins flat and figured it didn't hurt anymore than running slow. I ran hard again for the next km and managed another 5km flat. I even did the math and worked out that if I kept going like this I would finish earlier. Yes a simple concept, run faster and finish sooner, but at the time my mind wasn't overly functional. I felt the pain, like everyone else. I even knew it was coming. But I welcomed it. Not because I enjoyed it. Not because I can block it out. It was because I had a plan to do something when it did arrive. I kept going with this plan and ran the final 10km in 50 mins.

In that final 10km I passed hundreds of people including some runners that had told me before the race that they were “better” than me. They were right too. They were better runners than me. Much better. What they werent so good at was managing pain. When the pain arrived they slowed down. They tried to make the pain stop or they tried to block out the pain when it arrived. Pain management is never about blocking it out. You can make it stop by stopping yourself but “Did Not Finish” never looks good on your resume.

So next time you're out on the road and the pain arrives change your mindset from pretending it doesn't exists to acceptance. Accept the pain is there and its the same pain that everyone else feels. Even the professionals feel the same pain as you. What sets them apart is what they do when it arrives. Don't try and block it out. Don't try and make it stop. When Struggling...Speed Up!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Setting up your Garmin for Racing

Did you know it is possible to race (either Bicycle or Triathlon) with absolutely nothing displayed on your Garmin Computer ?  Within the Garmin menus (Under Training/Alerts) you can set up Alerts for Cadence ranges, Wattage Ranges, Heart Rate Ranges and more.  Whilst technically possible this may be a tad boring but the Alert feature is a very useful one that I will talk about later.

(BTW - Did you know the Garmins have a cool feature that allow you to take screen shots using the Power Key)

There are really only two values that need to be displayed when racing although the Garmin 800 has a minimum of 3 fields.  The two values are Energy Zone and Cadence.  Before you go looking for Energy Zone this is a term I use for the value to measure energy output.  For most people  this is Heart Rate but for people with a Power Meter this would be Wattage

Heart Rate.

It is far easier to use Zone than actually Heart Rate.  This is because trying to remember the actual numbers for your heart rate zone eg aerobic, threshold, lactate etc can be difficult.  By entering these as zones mean you just need to keep the range in that zone.  For me, I set Zone 4 as 159-166 BPM so as long as my Zone say 4.x I know I am working hard enough without overly tapping into Glycogen.

For triathlon it is important to maintain an even cadence (so as not to grind) in a range similar to your expected run cadence.

Using these two numbers together is simple.  As mentioned I ride in Zone 4 and with a Cadence of 95. If, at that cadence, my HR starts rising I go to an easier gear - if it starts dropping I go to a harder gear.  Simple.

On my bike I have a Power Meter.  The concept is the same in terms of adjusting gears etc.  I use the 10 second averaging as it is much easier to read (smoother)

I strongly recommend against having speed displayed.  Speed has too many variables that are outside of your control specifically wind and course profile. Using speed into a head wind can mean pushing yourself out of your optimum zone and 'burning out' your legs for the run.  Speed can also 'mess with the head' of some people as they feel they are riding slower than they should but are in fact riding better than expected relative to the rest of the field.  Similarly having time displayed can cause similar issues.

I originally mentioned Alerts - this is a feature I use for my Nutrition Plan.  By setting a Time Alert for every 20 mins I am reminded when to take on fuel. (I use the Distance Alert on my 910 for the equivalent reminder on the run).  By using the Alert Feature it negates the need to have the mind-messing time displayed

As you can see the key is to keep it simple.  You have enough to focus on whilst racing without the need to be performing calculations, remembering times, zones etc.  By using the features of the Garmin you can focus on racing - and where the draft marshalls are.....

Thursday, 7 February 2013

The Power of Negative Thinking

Walk into any bookshop (showing my age here, I mean browse on your e-reader) and you will see the shelves are full of self help books touting the power of Positive Thinking.  Books like The Secret tout that if you focus only on positive things and positive thoughts then only positive things will come your way.

As a side note it is interesting that 90% of people who buy a self help book will buy ANOTHER self help book within 12 months.  If they worked so well why do people have to buy another one..

Let's not confuse positive thinking with being positive.  Positive thinking is roughly classified as ONLY focusing on the positive outcomes and not being distracted by the negatives.

Bad Idea.

Consider this.  A rumour goes round your work place that they are about to lay off people.  Your co-worker insists on being positive, on believing it wont happen to them and going about their day.  You look at the negative - what would happen if YOU got laid off.  You think about your skills and how you could get another job, you think about your finances and how you could live, you think about a career change (did you really like that job anyway).  Both of you get retrenched.

The positive person is in a tail spin - their belief is shattered and they have no idea what to do next.  You simply shrug your shoulders and go about executing all those things you had thought of.

So what has this got to do with racing.

I hear a lot of people say "I'm just going to be positive and not think about cramping, I'm just going to think positive and not think about getting a puncture".  An athlete came to me the other day who had a history of cramping and told me he was going to be positive and that he was not going to cramp.  I told him "You are going to cramp".  He looked at me shocked and I asked if he does cramp what does he do.  He thought and then mentioned ideas like shortening his stride, stopping for 15 seconds to stretch, carrying some magnesium.

Now when he races and (as I suspect from his training and race plan) DOESNT cramp he has a great day but if he DOES cramp, no big deal.  He was expecting it and just deals with it.

Chrissie Wellington after setting the Ironman record at Roth said it was her perfect race.  When asked what that meant she said it wasnt that she didnt feel pain or discomfort but that she managed the pain and discomfort perfectly.

Many of the extremely successful people in business, sport, the arts etc are not Optimists or Positive Thinkers but are what are termed Eventualists.  Rather than saying if I do X really well I can make a million dollars they say "What if I fail - what will I lose - is that acceptable - yes - go for it"

One of the best examples of an Eventualist was the scientist who tried to create a new kind of glue but found it didnt bond very well.  His name was Arthur Fry - the inventor of Post It Notes.

Rather than being a positive thinker and then be shocked and (worse) under prepared for a bad outcome maybe practise the power of Negative Thinking - make a list of what could go wrong in an event, come up with a plan for those situations and you may be amazed just how relaxed you feel in your next event.