fbpx

MARATHON

Jim Walmsley – The Road to Atlanta

Jim Walmsley – The Road to Atlanta

His training is heavily volume based. Jim’s huge aerobic base that has served so well in the ultras is the foundation for his performance in these shorter road races too, with the speed work and increased leg turnover serving as the icing on top. At the end of a 283km/175 mile week in December, balancing heavy training with the stresses of having family in town over the holiday season – think, fitting in Christmas celebrations around a 49km run… – was becoming a bit much. Despite feeling strong, the accumulated miles were amassing in the legs, leading to feeling slower and entering the realm of overtraining. It was decided to abandon the plan for a 300km+/186 mile week and hold constant at the 175 mile mark. All of this was relatively slow running, with few structured sessions – but finishing each session with some strides to work on “hidden speed”.

Following this he started to lower the mileage and ratchet up the speed work, preparing for a half marathon in Phoenix. With only three weeks of speed sessions, sometimes two sessions in a day, he jokingly says he was “cramming for the half marathon”. He decided to take to the track, wanting to see some fast times on the watch. “Before the half marathon I was trying to stay on the track a bit more to get the leg speed up, and my confidence with running that speed a little higher.” A lot of these sessions were on a track down at Sedona (4,300ft/1,320m) rather than Flagstaff (7,000ft/2100m) where Jim lives and does most of his training.

read more
How Fast Do You Lose Endurance?

How Fast Do You Lose Endurance?

In a 1990 study Houmard et al looked at detraining of experience endurance runners who were averaging 81km per week in training (~60km at ~75% VO2 max and 21km at ~95% VO2 max). Over a three-week period of detraining the athletes cut their volume by 70% to 24km, maintaining the intensity distribution with 17km at ~75% of VO2 max and 7km at ~90% VO2 max.

The participants in the study had an increase in maximum heart rate (2.3%), and plasma volume decreased (-5.6%) during the period of reduced training, so some physiological adaptations regressed. However, performance saw no change, with VO2 max and 5km time trial results holding steady. Another significant finding in this study was also that time to exhaustion during VO2 max testing increased by 9.5%, suggesting that the decreased training left the athletes much fresher. These results indicate that being smart with limited time or training capacity can still help massively in maintaining running performance.    

These changes also appear to be less pronounced in older athletes and athletes who have trained for a longer time. Which makes sense, the accumulated progression and adaptations from consistent training over a long time are more entrenched, and therefore more resistant to deterioration than acute improvements in performance from relatively shorter training blocks.      

As Ross puts it, defending physiology requires much less work than earning that physiology, and a little goes a long way. With races off and freedom of movement restricted in many places, despondency is pervasive. But lamenting the situation and the certainty of your lost fitness gains won’t serve you well. These studies highlight that even though it may be difficult to stick to training plans and complete hard sessions, a significantly reduced load of training still goes a very long way to preserving the physiological adaptations for which you have laboured.

read more
Keep Motivated During A Pandemic

Keep Motivated During A Pandemic

With upcoming races off, a huge extrinsic motivator is out the window for many people. And the joy so many take from running outdoors with their friends is being tainted by the uncertainty around everything that’s going on. Is running, even just with one other person, unethical in the current circumstances? Are you opening yourself up to the risk of being infected? And could that ‘harmless’ run you did yesterday end up harming someone else tomorrow? In many places running outdoors alone, or with those sharing your home, is still allowed. However, in some jurisdictions even that luxury has evaporated.

It says a lot about the social nature of us humans that solitary confinement is considered one of the most abhorrent punishments within a prison. Although the social distancing people are experiencing is much less extreme than strict solitary confinement (people are spending time with the people in their home, and online connectivity is blossoming now more than ever), the resultant disconnect is still placing many people under a lot of mental strain. Add to this the uncertainty and disruption and it’s no surprise some are struggling with motivation.    

Even though it may feel like so much is spiralling out of control, and the uncertainty may be fuelling a growing flame of anxiety, it’s time to focus on what you can control. Amidst this chaos there is opportunity. The silver lining on the most ominous of stormy clouds may be very thin, but it will always be there. Much of what’s going on is well beyond your control as an individual. Incessantly checking the growing number of cases and deaths in your vicinity isn’t going to do anything to change the trajectory of the numbers. Worrying about what will happen to the economy won’t change the number of percentage points it fluctuates each day. 

read more
Tom Evans – Pushing Limits in the World of Ultrarunning

Tom Evans – Pushing Limits in the World of Ultrarunning

A few weeks ago we sat down to record a podcast episode with British athlete Tom Evans for some insight into his life as an ultrarunner. Having only recently devoted himself to running full-time – leaving the military to focus on athletics – as we sat down Tom said, “I’m really excited to share some of my knowledge, some of my wisdom that I’ve built up over my very short running career so far.” Throughout our conversation, Tom shared captivating anecdotes of his journey into ultrarunning and a wealth of information on his training that has taken him to where he is now.

Articulate and charming, Tom Evans, an ex-captain in the Welsh Guards, has had an unorthodox trajectory to reach the upper echelon of the ultrarunning world. The now twenty-eight-year-old initially tested the turbulent waters of ultras by diving headfirst into the scalding Saharan vortex that is the 251km self-supported stage race, Marathon Des Sables. What’s more is that this came about from a bet in a pub, where Tom thought that he could outdo some mates who had recently placed in the top three hundred of the 2016 edition of the race.

With six months of preparation – self-coached, with no proper training plan and without much direction – Tom managed to place third in the 2017 MDS. A slew of impressive results followed, with Tom taking out first place at the 2018 edition of the 100km Ultra-Trail Mont Blanc CCC event and third at the Western States Endurance Race hundred miler in 2019 – becoming the first non-American to go sub-15 hours at the event. Tom prepared for some of these mountain races whilst still based in London. When asked about how this worked, he responded “running is running, no matter where you’re doing it.” But he also admits that he had to run some sessions that were a bit “outside the box.”   

read more
Lactic Acid – Friend or Foe?

Lactic Acid – Friend or Foe?

Another commonly held belief is that the warm down after a hard workout or the shake out the next day is important to ‘help get the lactic out of the legs’. However, again the science doesn’t back this up. Yes, walking or jogging does shorten the time it takes for lactate levels to return to normal, but this return to baseline occurs relatively quickly anyway. By the time someone is doing a shakeout the day after a race or hard session, the lactate generated by that effort has long ago left the muscles. And where is it going? This is where lactate being a fuel source again comes into play, according to Brooks, after ‘exhaustive’ exercise lactate then becomes the preferred energy source, being burned up by muscles that are no longer using anaerobic respiration, and by the liver to regenerate glucose.

read more
The Perplexing Depth Of Talent In Japanese Running (Part 2)

The Perplexing Depth Of Talent In Japanese Running (Part 2)

Discipline, honour, self-restraint. These are some of the stereotypical character traits people think of when considering Japan. However, devotion to athletics and a motivation to succeed are not enough, in isolation, to explain how so many athletes are competing at such a high level in Japan. Ekiden and the elevated position it holds in the collective conscience of the nation explains a bit more of the situation. However, a final factor that we found came up over and again was the integral role of corporations in the fabric of Japanese running culture. I’m not talking about Mizuno, Asics and Nike.

Many corporations within Japan – Honda, Japan Rail, Kanebo Cosmetics– employ athletes to race and train in-house. The living expenses of the athletes are taken care of, food is cooked by in-house chefs that prepare a menu laboriously agonised over by a nutritionist. Training takes place multiple times per day – some runners in the corporate system reportedly average more than 600 miles (965km) per month – and around these sessions the athletes spend time with the team’s physiotherapists, strength coaches and masseurs. In addition to such extensive support from the team, living expenses being covered, and daily tasks such as cooking being taken care of, athletes running in the corporate teams reportedly receive a salary of US$35,000 and upwards each, depending on performance and their stature within the sport – there are plenty of high performers on six-figure salaries.

read more
The Perplexing Depth Of Talent In Japanese Running (Part 1)

The Perplexing Depth Of Talent In Japanese Running (Part 1)

Japan. Nihon. The Land of the Rising Sun. A country globally renown for many things. A rich cultural history. A cuisine like no other. The world’s largest metropolis – Tokyo. And… running?

Japan is not one of the nations that first comes to mind when most people think about the global running scene. However, in the marathon distance, Japan comes in third place behind Kenya and Ethiopia when looking at the number of athletes in the top thousand marathon times in history. Japan has over one-hundred athletes that have run sub-2:10 in the marathon. Compare this to the USA: with a population nearing triple that of Japan – and massive infrastructure surrounding their collegiate athletics system – the States have only twenty athletes that have run sub-2:10 (thirteen if you exclude record-ineligible Boston).

Our interest piqued, we decided to plunge headfirst into the Japanese running scene and investigate what was going on.

read more
How Much Protein Do Athletes Need? (Part 2)

How Much Protein Do Athletes Need? (Part 2)

It’s interesting that despite studies suggesting that the (already elevated) recommendations for protein intake by endurance athletes may be too low – failing to optimise performance – there are many top endurance athletes who controvert this. An interesting study looked at the dietary habits of elite runners in Kenya.

The athletes were consuming a diet very high in carbohydrates (76.5%, 10.4 g/kg of body mass per day) and low in fat (13.4%). Protein intake represented 10.1% of their total calories which worked out to be 1.3 g/kg per day, which matches the recommendations by the American College of Sports Medicine mentioned above. Another interesting point is that the estimated energy intake of the athletes (2987 ± 293 kcal) was lower than energy expenditure (3605 ± 119 kcal).

This aligns with what we witnessed whilst training with Kipchoge and other elites in Kenya. Coming in from a long run, there was no sign of protein shakes. The snacks of choice were bananas, white bread and milky tea saturated with sugar. The authors of this study also noted that fluid intake by the Kenyan athletes studied was modest, mainly in the form of water (1113 ± 269 mL) and tea (1243 ± 348 mL). Their conclusions: “Although the diet met most recommendations for endurance athletes for macronutrient intake, it remains to be determined if modifying energy balance and fluid intake will enhance the performance of elite Kenyan runners.”
Here we take a look at some of the research and recommendations on how much protein athletes should be consuming, and the reasons why. There’s no universal answer but I hope this will provide some interesting points to consider when making dietary choices. Protein is obviously of significance – playing a key role in myriad bodily functions – but figuring out how much, what type and when you should be consuming protein is really quite a confusing undertaking. It’s by no means as simple as protein = gains. I mean, firstly, what is protein?

read more
How Much Protein Do Athletes Need? (Part 1)

How Much Protein Do Athletes Need? (Part 1)

Protein! A hype word like no other in the health and fitness world. Endless tomes of information and misinformation on the subject lurk out there on the internet, with mud-slinging fights aplenty in any forum you care to look at. There is likely no other dietary component that inspires as much debate, insofar as athletes are concerned, as protein. This article isn’t being published to add more fuel to the fire, and I must warn you that there’s no magical solution proffered in the conclusion. Nutrition is something that different bodies react to in different ways and if someone is trying to bludgeon you with a concrete opinion, it’s probably worth questioning their motives.

Here we take a look at some of the research and recommendations on how much protein athletes should be consuming, and the reasons why. There’s no universal answer but I hope this will provide some interesting points to consider when making dietary choices. Protein is obviously of significance – playing a key role in myriad bodily functions – but figuring out how much, what type and when you should be consuming protein is really quite a confusing undertaking. It’s by no means as simple as protein = gains. I mean, firstly, what is protein?

read more
Jake Riley – Training for the Olympic Trials

Jake Riley – Training for the Olympic Trials

Troop detailed two key sessions that had been completed in the leadup to the trials.

One was completed at Teller Farm trails outside Boulder, as follows. 5km warm up. 4 miles of hills out, return and do a 5km press uphill back towards the parking lot. Jake closed the final 5km uphill in 16:45 in windy conditions, which Troop took as a good indication for his preparedness for the hilly course in Atlanta. He said that Jake’s cross-country pedigree would really favour his chances come race day.   

The other key workout which Troop uses is an eighteen-mile progression. This should be run eight and then four weeks prior to a race, with a three-hour run six weeks out. Troop aims to simulate race conditions as much as possible. The workout is completed on a three-mile loop, a drinks table is put out to practice taking on fuel. Practice makes perfect.

Three miles easy to warm up, change shoes. 

Miles 3-6: 5:55-6:00/mile

Miles 6-9: 5:30-5:35/mile

Miles 9-12: 5:15/mile

Miles 12-18: 5:00-5:05/mile – marathon pace (with a ~5second/mile concession for the 1600m elevation)

Jake ran this workout significantly faster in the leadup to Trials than when he was preparing for Chicago. Troop says he executed the session really well and looked comfortable.

read more
German Silva – The Wrong Way to the Top

German Silva – The Wrong Way to the Top

A major chunk of running history and culture of which I was completely oblivious until last year was the dominance of Mexican athletes on the roads throughout the 1990s. On a run through a valley near Sululta, on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, Knox Robinson regaled us with stories from that period: the athletes who were so dominant, their successes and their missteps. As well as what he experienced during his time spent there, learning from some of the most colourful characters in running.

One such character that kept popping up was German Silva.

Delving into some research on the topic, I was fascinated. A beautiful article in the New York Times depicted a committed group of elite athletes living in austerity and tackling some alarmingly tough conditions, training at altitudes well above what most elite runners would deem productive as they ascended into the crater of the 4680m volcano, Nevado de Toluca.

read more
Pain, Endurance and The Art of Suffering

Pain, Endurance and The Art of Suffering

One study that Hutchinson cites, highlighting how differently people can process the same painful stimulus, was published by Wolfgang Freund in 2013. Participants were asked to hold their hands in ice water for three minutes and rate the pain they felt as the trial concluded. A group of ultrarunners completed the protocol and their average pain rating was six out of ten. Contrast this with the non-athlete control group who averaged 96 seconds before removing their hands as their pain maxed out at 10. Only three of the control group lasted the full three minutes. It must be noted that the ultrarunners tested were running the gruelling TransEurope Footrace which covers 2,789 miles in 64 days: athletes with an especially insatiable appetite for suffering.

Similar findings came up in a study by Karel Gijsbers, looking at Scottish swimmers and their tolerance of pain. The test protocol involved inflating a blood pressure cuff around the subject’s arm to cease circulation to the limb, followed by repeated clenching of the fist once per second, for as long as the subject could bear. Thirty elite (national level) swimmers were compared with thirty club swimmers and a non-athlete control group. The implications of Gijsbers’ findings are enormous.

The results show that the pain threshold was very similar for the three groups, with most participants beginning to report painful sensations at around 50 contractions. Athletes are not insensitive and feel pain like everyone else. What sets them apart lies elsewhere: there were stark differences in the pain tolerance exhibited by the three groups. The control group averaged 70 contractions before throwing in the towel (only ~20 beyond when they started to feel pain), club-level swimmers averaged 89, and the elite averaged 132, almost double the control group!

read more
Bruce Fordyce – Training To Win Comrades 9 Times

Bruce Fordyce – Training To Win Comrades 9 Times

But what does it take to win the Comrades Marathon a record number of nine times?

Inspired to take running more seriously after watching the 1976 Comrades marathon aired on TV, Fordyce’s voyage to victory started under the stars on the night of 18 June 1976, when he ran around his university rugby fields for a meagre 10 minutes. At the time, this was all he could manage. One can only guess that this is where his love for ‘consecutives’ began, because he ran again the next day, and the next…

Good genes, commitment, a solid training programme and career-long consistency are factors Fordyce attributes to his Comrades’ successes. It took Fordyce three years to grow his mileage from that initial 10 minute run to 160-190kms a week during peak season, and around 100-115 kms a week during his off season.

In his book titled: “The Marathon Runner’s Handbook”, a must read for all potential Comrades runners and ultramarathon runners, Fordyce breaks down the necessary training required for Comrades success as follows…

read more
Why Running Alone Feels Harder – Explained

Why Running Alone Feels Harder – Explained

COVID-19 has changed a lot in the world of 2020. But one notable difference for runners is the absence of group training in the last few months. Has anyone else noticed that a solo workout just feels worse than when you’re running with others? The effort may feel just as hard, coming up with the motivation to finish the set may be taking an unusually high toll, and the splits you’re running may not reflect what you’re normally capable of when running with training partners.

Alex Hutchinson of Sweat Science just published an article analysing a recent study in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, which provides some really interesting insight into why this may be the case. The study takes a close look at affective feelings and how they may alter performance in either a solo time trial effort, or an effort run with others. As Alex puts it, affect essentially means how much pleasure or displeasure you’re experience, and it is very tightly correlated with mood.

Conducted by researchers in São Paolo, the protocol was to have 14 runners complete a pair of 10km efforts, one alone on a track, and the other competing against the other participants of the study (with at least a week between the efforts). No prizes for guessing which trial saw faster results, the group run resulted in an average time almost one minute faster than the solo effort (39:32 vs 40:28).

read more
Kilian Jornet – Training Insights

Kilian Jornet – Training Insights

Some people defy what we can conceive to be within the realm of possibility. Some manage to do it again and again.

A hero to many, one of the most accomplished and inspiring athletes in the world, a man with a beautiful message. Kilian Jornet has been an enigma since he took the world of mountain sports in the late 2000’s (I can’t just say mountain running because he also was winning world championships in ski mountaineering and taking on FKT expeditions).

After amassing a lifetime’s worth of accolades whilst still in his early twenties – having won all the races he ever dreamed of winning – Kilian moved onto some more out-there adventures. Embarking on a self-styled adventure project he called Summits of My Life, Kilian set out to establish FKTs ascending and descending some of the world’s most iconic mountains, including Kilimanjaro, Mont Blanc, Aconcagua, and culminating in a record-breaking summit of Everest. Kilian set the Everest FKT in 26 hours from base camp, with no oxygen or ropes, and battling gastroenteritis along the way. A mere six days later he repeated the performance, earning himself the Adventurer of the Year award from National Geographic (for the second time).

read more
Emil Zatopek – Marathon Training Insights

Emil Zatopek – Marathon Training Insights

Once described by an observer as resembling “a man wrestling with an octopus on a conveyor belt,” Zatopek’s style was unorthodox. But he was notorious for unrelenting grit, not smooth running. “I shall learn to have a better style,” he retorted, “once they start judging races according to their beauty.” His was not an effortless lope that carried him smoothly across the track, Milne of Athletics Weekly once reported on a race: “He ran as only a Zátopek could run such a distance one moment looking like a super-tuned machine, the next like a fugitive from justice; grimacing painfully in one lap, smiling contentedly in the next, and finally winding up with a last lap that would have done credit to a first-class miler.”

Interval training wasn’t invented by Zatopek, but after a lull in its use by athletes during the period of WWII it was Zatopek who began to push its use to new extremes. When he first began his experiments with startlingly high-volume interval training in the forests of Stara Boleslav (often run in his army boots, through the snow and mud), contemporaries were appalled. ‘Everyone said, “Emil, you are a fool!”’ he reminisced. ‘But when I first won the European Championship, they said: “Emil, you are a genius!”’

At the time the use of such techniques was not standard practice. Emil was not known for his natural speed, and the training was aimed at running a fast pace, with recovery allowing repetitions and a gradual extension of the cumulative distance that could be run at that increased pace. “Why should I practice running slow? I already know how to run slow. I want to learn to run fast.”

read more

Subscriber? Login here to unlock all articles!

X

Forgot Password?

Join Us