Success with New Training Strategies

With the extended base phase done I am now looking at the addition of hilly tempo efforts done on trails and in terrain to my schedule. These high intensity sessions will complement the slower running that has dominated my training for the past 10 weeks and will still be a big part of my training right up to WOC.

The Australia-New Zealand Elite Test Match over the long Queen’s Birthday weekend has given me a chance to gauge my fitness at this clear midpoint in this training block. I attribute my strong performances primarily to 1 factor, consistency, which I have achieved through 3 different methods.

Firstly, I have reduced my weekly rate of progression and modified my progression pattern. Previously my training has progressed with 4-week cycle of 3 progressively harder weeks and 1 recovery week. This is a common progression pattern, but I have now abandoned that in favour of a smoother long term progression which smooths out these fluctuations between overload and recovery. My weekly progression has averaged 5% for most of this block, reduced to 4% last week, and will continue to reduce. This is compared to around 10% (but with 1 in 4 weeks being an easier “recovery” week) in previous training programs. I suspect that 3 weeks with a 10% increase per week as seen in my previous training is enough to cause me to train harder that I should giving my level of injury resistance, and so a smoother progression could be desirable to prevent these peaks.

This is what a long term progression based on my numbers looks like. This is a shift in thinking for me and one way to look at it could be captured in the phrase “training to train”, emphasising that we are improving injury resistance first and foremost. This contrasts to the overload and recovery strategy that I have been exposed too most of my life.

This is what a long term progression based on my numbers looks like. This is a shift in thinking for me and one way to look at it could be captured in the phrase “training to train”, emphasising that we are improving injury resistance first and foremost. This contrasts to the overload and recovery strategy that I have been exposed too most of my life.

Secondly, I have better quantified the additional stress on my skeletomuscular system of higher intensity training, and have assigned different values for the different intensities I train at. Michael Adams did this for me in some of our last work together in 2015 but I have taken this 1 step further by making it the primary measure of my training. So instead of progressing in term of training duration (measured in hours) I am now progressing in terms of training impulse points (TRIMP). So the 5% progression I see each week has taken into account additional stress from higher intensity sessions, such as a race on Sunday. From now on the presence of tempo runs will cause a step down in weekly duration because those sessions are worth more points per minute of running. It also provides motivation for me to run slower because I know exactly how much extra stress the higher intensity is putting on my body compared to a lower intensity, most of which is unnecessary during a base training phase. I’ve kept my heart rate zones the same as the previous year.
My training plan full of easy running. Boring? No way! Most of these sessions are very adventurous and often social too.

My training plan full of easy running. Boring? No way! Most of these sessions are very adventurous and often social too.

Thirdly I have been working a lot on my running mechanics with Sports Lab starting with pelvis stabilisation and then moving into foot placement. We have done a number of analysis sessions using their 2-camera set up to view my running and assess the improvements. Comments from my training partners who are used to seeing my bum bouncing along have also provided encouraging feedback – and without me even posing the question, which brings more reliability to their comments. A major advantage of working with Sports Lab was finally seeing a physio who finally explained core activation and how to recruit my deeper abs properly. I can’t believe I saw so many physios who told me to do more core strength work without explaining how tricky it is to activate the deeper of these many muscles. All I got from years of core was a 6 pack! Now I have been doing a new core routine with lower load, more precision, and a lot of thinking to get exactly the right muscles to turn on at the right time. I have been doing this with Sports Lab for 6 months now and for the first time in 5 years I have seen any improvement in my pelvis stability, despite the hours I have put into it.

Some of the tools available to use at sports lab to make assessment easier and more reliable.

Some of the tools available to use at sports lab to make assessment easier and more reliable.

So overall, a successful year so far in terms of my development as a runner, especially the past 10 weeks, and this gives much needed confidence that perhaps I can break this barrier I have found myself stumbling on every year.

Strong Performances at QBD

The Australia-New Zealand Elite Test Match over the long Queen’s Birthday weekend has given me a chance to gauge my fitness at this clear midpoint in this training block leading up to WOC. I have completed 10 weeks out of my 20 weeks and focussed entirely on improving my endurance and injury resistance. As a result, I attribute my strong performances over the weekend primarily to 1 factor, consistency, which I have achieved through 3 different methods, and I will discuss these in my next post, but for now I want to reflect on my technical performance at these races.

The first race at Kuku Beach was my poorest performance of the weekend, with around 4 minutes lost through mistakes, but certainly many others made more mistakes than usual in this complex sand dune terrain. I was fast of the start line, spiking the first 3 controls. This gave me a great buzz and I was feeling focused and running aggressively. The first seriously challenging leg was 3 to 4 with the control nestled between some small hills across a flat area. I didn’t understand the hills here and struggled to relocate wasting 80 seconds, and my 2nd place. I got into a good rhythm again but did notice that I was navigating “on the edge” and being a bit risky in favour of running faster. This caused me to make a small parallel error at 8. I was also on the edge coming into 14, where the mapping of the trees was sub-standard and my reliance on them came to be my undoing. Keeping in contact with the contours here would have prevented this error. I finished strong and pulled myself back into 4th place, 4 minutes down on what I would have considered to be a clean race.

Back in black: Racing for New Zealand for a the first time Europe last year. Photo cred: Matt Ogden

Back in black: Racing for New Zealand for a the first time Europe last year. Photo cred: Matt Ogden

Kuku Beach map and GPS. Link to DOMA.

Kuku Beach map and GPS. Link to DOMA.

The second race on the weekend was a long distance (although slightly short for a long) and featured more complex open dunes, but this time balanced with a large area of fast flat-running forest where straight was great. We all knew the complex open dunes and adjacent low visibility strip would be a great challenge and could end someone’s race in and instant if they were not careful. I ran hard off the start again, taking the early lead and navigating very well through the low visibility strip and out to the open dunes. I made some key simplifications in the open dunes by using the thickets and highest hills to great effect. I came out of this first part of the course with a with significant lead of almost 2 minutes over 2nd place and feeling very fast. I quickly got up to full speed in the flat forest and was prepared to sit on my physical limit for the rest of the rest.
I did push very hard and my speed was good, but a few small mistakes cost me crucial time. The first issue was coming into 12 where I was first confused to pass some unmapped tracks and then found the detail in the control circle hard to work out – I was not the only one to find this confusing. I was generally a bit hasty through for the rest of the race and you can clearly see a number of small mistakes on my GPS throughout this technically easier, but high pace, half of the race. I felt under some pressure to out run everyone else through the flat forest and lost concentration on too many occasions, eventually costing me my 1st place by only 3 seconds to Australian Leon Keely.

Osligiath map and GPS

Osligiath map and GPS. Link to DOMA.

The 3rd and final race was in a similar area to the previous day, but included more slower running forest, and less flat fast running. This was another day to be aggressive, but pull back at just the right moments in the low visibility forest. This was my most satisfactory race of the weekend but I still made 2 parallel errors, one early on at 4 and another towards the end at 23. This was also my first race using my Silva Race Zoom magnifier, which was a benefit coming into some of the detailed control sites where I could read the map more precisely without having to stop running or use both hands to hold the map.
The route choice to 11 proved to be crucial and I quickly identified that the beach was going to be faster than the longer track option, and faster than straight through the open dunes, although riskier with no features to read from the beach. I mitigated this by intentionally coming up off the beach early to do a quick relocation and then back to the flat beach to regain the high speed surface. It was here where I took the lead from Nick which I held until the last few controls where my navigation was a little messy. I opted for wide route choices on 8, 12 and 15 also. Nick did very well to win this race as I was running very fast it was another 2 minutes down to the previous days winner, Leon.

Walda Map and GPS. Link to DOMA.

Walda Map and GPS. Link to DOMA.

So no doubt a challenging weekend, and Nick is clearly still top dog in New Zealand and it’s a shame that he isn’t racing WOC this year. I’ll drop another post in the next few days on my physical training up to this midpoint in my build to WOC.