7 Tips for Running Tip # 5 (Fartlek)

Originally posted on The Riddle of an Ironman's Life:

NMMU Grass Track

NMMU Grass Track

Once you have developed your aerobic engine, you can aim to improve your economy, strength endurance and speed by incorporating a few quality workouts into your training. A change in training adds renewed focus, but training for a road race ( or IM/70.3) is very different and there are many added stresses, so be careful of going too fast, too soon.

There is no real need to try and become the next Haile Gebrsellasie or Raynard Tissink, but taking yourself out of your comfort zone will improve your running tremendously. At this stage I would like to emphasise the need for a ‘vision’ of what it is you are aiming for (Bill Hybels defines vision as “A picture of the future that inspires passion”), because you need to be really passionate to want to transform yourself, as moving out of your comfort zone requires determination and perseverance, as it can get…

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7 Tips for Running (Tip #4 The Long Run)

Originally posted on The Riddle of an Ironman's Life:

“The Long Run is the Golden Key to becoming a good runner” – Alec Riddle 

The one key component of developing your ability as an endurance runner, is the Long Run, so try and do 2- 4 long runs a month (experienced runners can do a midweek long run of 90 minutes). One cannot develop a decent Base, without long runs and variety is, in my opinion, the spice in a runners life, so don’t try and do the same course, at the same time, same pace, week in, week out, or your motivation may wane.

How long is a Long Run? I would say 90 minutes or longer.

Doing a Long Run in Kona (Energy Lab) with Kyle Buckingham 2012. Young Jamie in the foreground doing his 'long' run!

Doing a Long Run in Kona (Energy Lab) with Kyle Buckingham 2012. Young Jamie in the foreground doing his ‘long’ run!

How fast should a Long Run be? In the inital stages of Base Training, I think err on the side of caution and run…

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7 tips for Running: Tip #3 (Base Training)

Originally posted on The Riddle of an Ironman's Life:

Base,Base, Base!!! You have to develop your aerobic engine and the bigger the base, the more solid the foundation, the higher the peak. Build gradually, steadily
and frequently, interspersed with regular recovery sessions.

Putting in the hard yards!

Putting in the hard yards!

The more consistent the pressure you put on your plumbing system(cardiovascular)  the better and the best way to do that is to train at a more consistent ‘effort’ level in base training, so be careful of taking the hard/easy methodology of training too literally.

I am a great believer in what I call steady state running. In an ideal world, discovering your  aerobic threshold, lactate turnpoints and key heart rate zones would be great,
but it is not absolutely necessary. Steady state running is running just beyond
conversational pace and upwards and there are two ways to judge when you have
‘maximised’ this form of training. (In other words just below the red line…

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The Bigger the Base, The Higher the Peak!

7 Tips for Ironman Running-by Alec Riddle

7 Tips for Ironman Running-by Alec Riddle



7 tips to Ironman running Tip #2 (Easy Running)

Small choices and Little steps lead to GIANT consequences over time.
Successful people take little steps each day, embracing the small windows of opportunity that are presented to them. They march towards their goals, one step at a time and the days become weeks, the weeks become months and the months become years. And before you know it they have reached a place called Extraordinary.

Your running could improve beyond recognition; it is about making small choices and taking little steps over time BUT it requires immense patience and belief in what you are going to do, or have signed up for! The problem in this modern world that we live in, is that we expect instant results and we think that by going faster, harder, longer & more often we can accelerate our improvement. Unfortunately the opposite is true, so set aside the instant gratification mindset and be prepared to build slowly. Ironman Kona 2012 017

When you start out, or get going after a break (Rest & Recovery) it is important to start with easy running. This is the tedious part of the programme, as you can’t see quickfire results, but this is about laying a foundation. It is about preparing the body (and the mind) for the base training; the long runs and quality sessions which will be added in months to come BUT first up you have to allow the body to adapt to the low intensity stress that any form of running will subject it to (even easy running).

I call this Training to Train (T2T)! IT entails many conversational type runs and just allowing the body to feel comfortable with running. In preparing for Ironman, our group would run a 20km run on a Tuesday at a comfortable/conversational pace, nothing hard just Time on Legs for 1hr40-50. For most folk training for Ironman (and it was for our group), this would be a key session in the months leading up to Ironman as we are often time limited in our build up.

Imagine if you decided you wanted to be a better runner and you started 8-10 months prior to your IM or 70.3 and one of the first things you worked on was ‘easy running’ and within 2 months you were running an easy 20km mid week run every fortnight? Picture the foundation you are building and what can be built upon that Foundation, it is actually quite mind blowing to say the least!

I have utilised an example of a 20km run, but don’t go leaping into 20k runs, as I could and perhaps should have utilised an example of a 5 or 10km run. It should not be taken out of context.

Another important thing to realise is that ‘stress’ occurs when we exercise and it is about the time spent doing, so I would rather advocate time as opposed to distance. The reason for that is that a top IM runner may take 80 minutes for 20km and another athlete may take 2 hours, same distance but more stress for the slower runner, assuming both are running at the same effort.

I would advocate 3-4 weeks of easy running, before moving on to a more focussed Base Training Phase, which will be discussed under Tip #3.

7 tips to Ironman running Tip #1 (Rest and Recovery)

Originally posted on The Riddle of an Ironman's Life:

When preparing for an Ironman and particularly the marathon run, as the anchor leg of the Ironman, it is important to identify with the fact that for the majority,
Ironman is a very long endurance event.

There are essentially two types of athletes doing IM, one set will be the beginners, or novices and the majority of their training time should be spent on developing their aerobic engine. I think that 80% of Ironman entrants could improve their IM marathon time by 20-30 minutes +, if they were armed with the knowledge of what they should be doing. IM is not a fast race, it is an endurance  event and you need to ensure that when the going gets tough, that you keep going, particularly on the run.

The second set of athletes are those who have done IM, or ultra events previously, are Age Group contenders and are looking at improving…

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Running Principle #1 (Specificity)

boulder2011 527To get better at something you have to practice doing that activity (regularly). Runners would naturally spend most of their time running, while Triathletes have to try and balance their cross training efforts. However, Triathletes have to realise that swim, bike or gym training may well limit their development as a pure runner, even though it prepares them for the rigours of running after a swim/bike.

As we are focussed on Running here it is important to acknowledge that to get better at running, that is what you need to repeatedly stress. Distance runners will avoid heavy cycling, swimming or gym work, as the extra body or muscle mass will impede their running ability.

For Ironman participants, Specificity is extremely important. Read more…. http://ironmansa.com/2011/11/27/7-tips-for-im-running-tip-5-specific-conditioning/1174929_634108286611304_1718684164_n[1]

Did you factor in the most important training block?

Never underestimate the importance of developing your Aerobic Engine!

If you are training for IMSA 70.3 you still have time and if you are training for IMSA in April you have plenty of time to maximise this little training tip.

A tough Marathon lay ahead….

Many just run easy, as they like the competitive element they get from riding the bike or chasing times in the pool. The truth is though that easy runs just don’t cut it, if you want to be better than you previously were, or if you want to maximise your potential and remember the run is the most important discipline in Ironman.

The flipside is those athletes who cut straight to the chase, doing quality track workouts or hill repeats, without building a strong base. Just as with the Three Bears, if you don’t have a strong base, your structure will collapse in time.

The most important phase of the training plan for me is the ‘Aerobic Engine’ development and this is how I go about it! I will do 8 weeks of this type of training every 6 months and have just commenced with a 4 week phase in my build up to 70.3 and then will do another 4 weeks in the build up to the Ironman (if I decide to do IM 2013). Bear in mind I’ve had quite a long break since Kona Ironman (Mid October) and am carrying an extra 4 or 5 kilos, so my pace is a little slower than normal and I’m behind the 8 ball somewhat.

For me, I will work out what my potential 5km time (and corresponding Heart Rate) is relative to my fitness ( this gives me an indication of what my threshold pace or HR is) and then I will set out to run as many runs as possible close to my threshold pace/rate. Some are steady to hard runs, but avoiding the red zone and some are easy to medium, but keeping the HR working and trying to avoid junk miles.

So for me I will try and run my easy runs at 4:45-4:50 per km (HR would be about 130) and I would rather run 8km at this pace than ‘plod’ 12-15km at 5:30′s. It won’t be long before I’m running 15km easy runs at 130 HR, especially if I am developing my aerobic engine.

My steady runs will target a HR of 140-145 which means I would be running 5-8km at about 4:30/km. Sure, I could run 5-8km at a faster pace, but then my HR would go beyond the ‘red zone’ and then I would need more recovery. (Bear in mind that I am also doing biking and swimming so I don’t want to overdo it)

My threshold pace would correspond to a HR of close to 155 and in a week or two I will add a 5 or 8km club TT to the mix and aim to target a HR of about 145-150. My long run pace would be just below 120HR (75% of threshold), so it would be comfortable and conversational, but would still fatigue me when I start approaching 90-120 minutes.

The goal is to try and run as many sessions as possible at a decent HR and for me 3 runs at ave 140-145; 2 at 130 and 1 long run at 120ish will be far more beneficial than a few easy runs at 120 or below, with 1 or 2 really hard hill or interval sessions.

The best way to monitor an improvement in your Aerobic engine is to run a set route (example 15km) and to aim to run at about 90% of your Threshold, so for me it would be about 140HR and I may record a time of about 70 minutes (4:40/km) dependant upon the terrain. Every 2-3 weeks I would run the same course and aim for the same HR and it is amazing to draw a graph and watch the pace get progressively faster and faster.

I know I am fit when I can run the same course 5 to 6 minutes faster at the same HR and once the improvement stops, or plateaus, then you know you have maximised the development of your aerobic engine. Now it is time for those intervals or hills.

7 Tips for IM running (Tip #6 Specific Conditioning)

Specific conditioning is perhaps the biggest missing ingredient in most Ironman training programmes and if you don’t focus on this key area, you will never achieve your full potential.

You can do all the running training in the world and be a world class runner, but you will never be able to perform at your best in the run, unless you ensure that you are conditioned for the bike leg and by that I mean being prepared for a 180km solo effort, the majority of the time being on the tri-bars.

If you don’t you will experience extreme muscular fatigue before you start the run and then there may be no way back, as you will be running the marathon in a serious state of fatigue. Having run numerous marathons, including the Comrades Marathon I can tell you from experience that an Ironman Marathon is a very tough challenge, both physically and mentally.

Hence it is important to consider what we can do to specifically condition ourselves for an Ironman Marathon and in this post I will focus on some of the physical aspects that I consider vital.

Core fitness is extremely vital! Having a strong core is instrumental in translating the power of the legs to propelling the entire body forward. This will improve efficiency which improves running. A strong core will help you in the swim, on the bike in the aero position and also on the run, so don’t neglect your core. If your core is weak your body, particularly on the run, is like a house of cards that will collapse under pressure.

Biking fitness is also vital as mentioned earlier and I am of the firm belief that it is a good bike that sets up a great run. Personally I’ve always prepared well on the bike, but have always held something back during the bike leg (except Las Vegas where I gambled and put it all out there on the bike but that was a 70.3), seeking to set up a decent run. This is really tough to get right, as you have to swallow your pride somewhat and forgo racing on the bike. It’s a tough ask when somebody you know comes past, especially if you believe you are stronger than they are and it can be compounded somewhat when they throw in a chirp or too as well.

One of the key challenges facing Ironman participants (particularly professionals and age group racers) is the fact that the IM Marathon is actually quite slow. A 50yo age grouper for example would ‘only’ need to race at 5 min/km.

So your normal speed-work will make you more efficient, but it won’t ensure you are specifically conditioned for your race. Hence we need to do some training at ‘race pace’, but the 50 yo would probably be doing most of his easy runs at 5 min/km which is hardly going to prepare him for how tough 5 min/km will be in an IM Marathon.

We could introduce some ‘brick’ sessions to assist us to narrow the gap between our race pace and our speed-work pace. An idea would be to do a steady bike ride (or longish ride) prior to the speed session, which should slow your pace down somewhat but not the effort, which is what we want if we are trying to simulate race conditions.

Another idea would be to ‘deaden’ the legs with a speed session or 5km steady run, then do a 2-3 hour bike ride at IM pace and then to run 10-15km off the bike at IM running race pace. I introduced Raynard Tissink to this type of session and it not only helped simulate race conditions, but also helped improve self confidence too.

Other methods of training ‘slower’ whilst still doing a quality workout, would be to do sessions with very short recoveries.

Pacing is also very important, so don’t gun it in the swim, or in the first hour on the bike, you will need all the energy that you can conserve for later in the day. Believe me seconds saved early on, could lead to minutes lost later on, invariably on the run, so remember that you are not racing anybody else, so stick to your plan and aim to beat the course and the elements.

Tapering fitness is all important, as arriving at the start line 90% fit and 100% healthy is far better than arriving 100% fit and 90% healthy, so be careful of overdoing it in the final month. Remember that you are tapering so that you can run well off the bike, not to record an awesome bike split, so stick to the game plan.

Long Rides provide endurance to set up the run

7 Tips for Running (Tip #4 The Long Run)

“The Long Run is the Golden Key to unlocking the door (potential) to becoming a better runner!” – Alec Riddle 

The one key component of developing your ability as an endurance runner, is the Long Run, so try and do 2- 4 long runs a month (experienced runners can do a midweek long run of 90 minutes). One cannot develop a decent Base, without long runs and variety is, in my opinion, the spice in a runners life, so don’t try and do the same course, at the same time, same pace, week in, week out, or your motivation may wane.

How long is a Long Run? I would say 90 minutes or longer.

Doing a Long Run in Kona (Energy Lab) with Kyle Buckingham 2012. Young Jamie in the foreground doing his 'long' run!

Doing a Long Run in Kona (Energy Lab) with Kyle Buckingham 2012. Young Jamie in the foreground doing his ‘long’ run!

How fast should a Long Run be? In the inital stages of Base Training, I think err on the side of caution and run very easy, as just running long is stressful enough. Time spent running, or Time on Legs, is more important than the quality and running too hard in the Long Run can be self destructing. As you adapt and become more comfortable running long, then you want to run closer to your Aerobic Threshold/Limit for part of the run. (or most of the run for experienced runners).

Adap-tability is important in running & in an IronMan and improving your ability to adapt to various situations can be improved, while developing your base.

I once went to a talk by Arthur Lydiard inthe early 80′s, arguably one of the greatest running coaches of all time and he said that running two hours or longer is vital. He said that you stimulate & (re) awaken dormant muscle fibers and the more muscle fibers/capilliaries you are able to recruit, the better and more improved the bloodflow, resulting in more oxygen for your muscles. (Even Peter Snell Olympic 800m Champion did 22 mile hilly runs weekly under Lydiard’s guidance)

Awesome hills/trails in Boulder, Colorado

Awesome hills/trails in Boulder, Colorado

Incorporate hills and/or trails into some of your long runs, as this will help improve all round leg strength. Do at least one of your long runs, or part thereof for inexperienced runners, say once a month at a steady pace (for IM athletes remember the marathon run in an IM is much slower than your normal training pace and it is just as important to train at this ‘slow’ pace, for specific conditioning). In my earlier days a lot of South Africa’s top distance runners, including 9 times Comrades Champion Bruce Fordyce, used to focus on ‘time on legs’ runs, whereby you just go out enjoy the run, stop for drinks and spend time on your legs. I used to enjoy those runs immensely.

At the same time we don’t always want to run slowly (the plods), so when doing an easy long run, incorporate 2-3 ‘steady’ sections into the run. Example when running a Long Run run mostly @ an easy pace, do 20 minutes at a slightly faster pace (not too  hard simply a little faster), recover for a km or two and repeat 2-3 times depending on your level of fitness, finishing off at your easy pace.

One of the biggest mistakes made by ultra runners/triathletes is believing that they will lose endurance if they don’t run long regularly in the build up to their key race. DO NOT do Long Runs (longer than 90 minutes) within 3 weeks of your target race, as you may find your legs won’t recover sufficiently in time.

Additional benefits of the Long Run:

The Long Run builds both muscular strength and fitness. If your body is not strong you can push your body too hard, leading to injury. The Long Run strengthens the joints, ligaments & muscles.

The Long Run helps prevent injuries, as it provides a foundation that enables you to do faster work as you build to your key race. Think of a building, the bigger the fundation, the higher the peak.

The Long Run importantly assists the body in the utilization of energy sources. Most people try and run too hard and burn Carbohydrates (or Glycogen) which is very inefficient. Running long (and slower) enhances your ability to burn fatty acids as an energy source, thus sparing the more limited carb stores.

Hydration is important during Long Runs

Hydration is important during Long Runs

Ironman Tip/s: We will talk more about specificity in a later Tip, but I would suggest running the odd long run, after a medium bike ride, as this will assist you to ‘slow’ down.

I thoroughly enjoy reverse bricks to improve running endurance (and reduce the chance of injury) and have found these to work very well for me. This involves running first and following up with a decent bike ride. For me, this is a common 3 hour workout, where I would run 90 min and then bike 90 minutes. This was a tip I picked up in Korea from Brendon Downey of endurancecoach.com, coach of many world class Triathletes.

Illustrating the importance of building a Base in the link below…..