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Make A High Stride Rate Work For You

Kelly O’Mara / July 15, 2014

 

Over and over, top runners maintain consistently high stride rates—and so should you. 

Running speed is a function of two very simple things: the length of your running strideand the frequency at which you take those strides. To go faster, either one or the other has to increase.

But, for elite runners, one of those two rarely changes. Top-level distance runners typically run at a high number of steps per minute – between 180-200 – no matter what speed they’re going; simply varying the length of their stride to run faster or slower.

“Fitter people have a little longer stride, but the rate stays the same,” said Jack Daniels, coach, exercise physiologist and author of the seminal book Daniels’ Running Formula,which first included analysis of stride rate.

Daniels’ initial study that established the magic number of 180 steps per minute was conducted during the 1984 Olympics. He counted the stride rates of every athlete competing in every distance from 800 meters on up. Only one racer had a stride rate below 180 steps per minute – and she was at 176. Conversely, over his years as a coach and collegiate physical education instructor, he never had a student above 180 steps. The average recreational runner is closer to 150-170 steps per minute.

That original research has since been duplicated and corroborated many times. In a race in London in 2011, Bernard Lagat outkicked Kenenisa Bekele with a 51 second last lap, but his cadence stayed just over 200 steps per minute throughout the entire race, not increasing as he sprinted for the finish. In the 2011 Boston Marathon, both Desiree Davila and Caroline Kilel held a 180-190 stride rate even as they struggle at the end of the race. Over and over, top runners maintain consistently high stride rates.

The reason a higher stride rate is ideal is two-fold, said Daniels.  Most casual runners run at a slower rate with longer steps. A higher step rate forces smaller strides, which brings a runner’s feet more directly under them instead of out in front, decreases the injuries associated with overstriding, and increases efficiency.

“You’re landing more in the middle of your foot than on your heel,” said Elizabeth Chumanov, from the University of Wisconsin. Chumanov recently co-authored a study where a group of runners ran at their natural stride rate and then increasd that rate by 5% and then 10%. A 5-10% increase was associated with lower forces as the foot hits the ground and a greater engagement of the hamstring and glute muscles as the foot prepares to strike and push off.

Chumanov is now conducting research that she believes will show an increase in stride rate can lead to a decrease in the tension and forces on the knee and, in turn, a decrease in knee pain.

he reason a higher stride rate can reduce injury is because it decreases the amount of time the foot hangs in the air and changes the angle at which it lands. The longer the foot is in the air the harder it hits the ground.

The second reason a higher stride rate can be ideal is related to that push-off. The force from your push-off the ground is what propels you forward. Spending too much time in the air decreases the amount of force pushing you forward. Spending too much time on the ground with each step means you’re, well, stuck on the ground and not running forward. A high turnover pushes a runner forward quickly and strongly.

“You want to just roll over the ground,” said Daniels.

Compared to changing your stride length, increasing your stride rate is relatively straight-forward. A person’s stride length can vary depending on their height, hip mobility, and general fitness.

It takes more energy to run with larger steps, which is why Daniels says that fitter athletes tend to have slightly longer strides. It also requires hip mobility, flexibility, and glute engagement to pull your leg back behind you. Though it was in vogue in the 1970s to try to maximize stride length by throwing your legs as far in front of you as possible, that’s now considered overstriding, which can lead to injuries and is not efficient. Mostly, though, an individual’s stride length can only be increased so much.

Studies done on 100-meter sprinters, who have the longest stride length of any racers, show that over a range of athletes the average length is consistently 1.35 times the runner’s height. In distance running, strides are understandably shorter than in sprints.

The best thing a casual runner can do, rather than worry about stride length, said Daniels and Chumanov, is to focus on increasing their stride rate.

First, count your steps while running. Count how many times your right foot lands in a 30-second period and then multiply by four to get your total stride rate per minute. Then, attempt to increase that rate slightly. It’s easiest to play with your stride rate on a treadmill where you can set the speed to stay the same, said Daniels. You can also purchase a metronome and use it for brief periods during runs to build up your cadence.

However, UK coach and sports rehab specialist James Dunne cautions runners not to become too focused on some so-called magic number for stride rate. Instead, he suggests simple small increases at a time.

“Unnaturally forcing an uncomfortably high cadence too soon can result in its own technique issues,” said Dunne.

****

About The Author:

Kelly Dunleavy O’Mara is a journalist/reporter and former professional triathlete. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and writes for a number of magazines, newspapers, and websites. You can read more about her at www.sunnyrunning.com

Explosive exercises for improving running economy

RUNNERS WORLD:

Improve your running economy and go stronger and longer at any pace.

 

BY JENNIFER VAN ALLEN

JUN 2, 2009

What makes a runner fast? Conventional wisdom says it’s high aerobic capacity, or VO2 max. But check out the 10 fastest runners at any race, and the winner won’t necessarily have the highest VO2 max. So what’s the secret? It’s running economy.

According to a new book, The Runner’s Body (Rodale, May 2009), the role of VO2 max has been way overrated. If you want to run faster and farther, the authors say, you’ve got to improve your running economy, or how efficiently your body uses oxygen. Like the fuel economy of a car, the less oxygen and energy you need to run at a certain pace, the longer you can go without ending up, well, gassed.

“Running economy is what’s going to help you run faster longer and cost you less than people around you,” says co-author Jonathan Dugas, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “VO2 max just doesn’t predict performance beyond a certain point.” 

That’s good news because there’s more room to improve economy than VO2 max, which is largely limited by genetics. Here’s how to do it.

GET GOOD FORM 

Sure, Paula Radcliffe set the world marathon record with her distinct loping gait. But for mere mortals, floppy form means wasted energy. Research has shown that through practice you can become more economical. “The more you rehearse, the more efficient you’ll become,” says running coach Matt Fitzgerald, who co-wrote the book with Dugas and Ross Tucker, Ph.D. You don’t have to analyze your stride; the learning occurs naturally as you gain experience.

Make It Happen: Practice running with good form at a pace that feels comfortable from start to finish. You shouldn’t be huffing and puffing, or moving so slowly that it feels unnatural. Over time, your gait will become more efficient. If you’re a beginner, just focus on logging miles. If you’re more experienced, add speedwork.

GET POWER 

Increasing the force in your stride will make your running feel easier. The more powerfully you can push off the ground, the less effort each stride will take, and ultimately it will be easier to run faster. “You’ll feel like you have more strength in reserve,” says Fitzgerald. 

Make It Happen: Try plyometrics—explosive bounding movements that help you push off the ground. These exercises (see “Jump Up to Speed,” below) mimic parts of the running stride and help give you more push-off power on the road.
GET STRONG 

Build up your all-around body strength, and it will be easier to stay on pace when you’re fatigued. “It’s about being equally strong everywhere, not just having your legs go fast,” says Dugas. Any weaknesses can throw off your biomechanics and cost you more energy. 

Make it happen: Core, back, and shoulder work will help you stay upright. Choose specific exercises that fit into your routine and do them consistently, Dugas says. “It’s most important that you’re just doing something,” he says. 

Jump up to Speed

Exercises to make your running more efficient.

Matt Fitzgerald, a coach and co-author of The Runner’s Body, suggests these three plyometric moves to improve bounding power. Try each of these once a week for four weeks. Do them after a run, or on a nonrunning day with 15 minutes of jogging to warm up.

Lateral Bounding 

Stand to the left of a box or a platform that’s about 12 to 16 inches high. Bend your knees slightly and leap up and over the box so that you land on the floor on the opposite side on the opposite foot. Continue leaping over the box in both directions for 30 seconds.

Single-Leg Box Jump 

Stand on your right foot facing a platform 12 to 18 inches high. Bend your right leg and swing your arms back, then forward, and leap onto the box. Don’t let your left foot touch down. Immediately jump down, landing on the same foot you jumped up with. Keep jumping for 30 seconds, then switch legs. 

Split Squat Leap

Stand with one foot ahead of the other with knees slightly bent. Squat, then thrust straight up. In the air, move the forward foot back and the rear foot forward. Land on both feet and immediately bend your knees to begin the next leap. Start with 16 reps. 

 

The relevance of proper recovery runs

Runners world:

BY JOHN A. KISSANE

NOV 10, 2014

The Easy-Day Pace

Are you running your easy miles too fast—or too slow?

In May, Sally Kipyego, a 2012 Olympic silver medalist in the 10,000m, sped to a 30:42.26 win at Stanford’s Payton Jordan Invitational—a pace that works out to 4:56 per mile.

Achieving that pace for 10,000m requires Kipyego to log plenty of hard track sessions and tempo runs. Yet on her non-workout days, she ambles along at 8:30-per-mile pace, sometimes even slower.

“I think most Kenyans do that,” Kipyego says about taking it slow on her easy days. “As long as I can remember, when I was a junior back in Kenya, the easy days were really easy. I am kind of old-school in some ways. You go by feel; you let your body tell you.”

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Mo Farah, winner of two gold medals at the same Olympics where Kipyego took silver. Until last fall, Farah had been averaging 7 minutes per mile for up to 40 percent of his weekly volume. But as he was preparing for his marathon debut in London, his coach, Alberto Salazar, instructed him to speed up his easy-day pacing in order to get more benefit from all that mileage. Farah now runs much faster; with training partner Galen Rupp, he works down to 5:30 pace on easy days.

If the faster pace leaves Farah with heavy legs, Salazar doesn’t sweat it; he told Running Times in March that the goal of feeling fresh for workouts is overrated. “If you’re always worried about feeling perfect for every workout,” he says, “you may never really get the conditioning you need.”

So who is right, Kipyego or Farah? And more important, what is right for you?

WHAT EASY RUNS DO

They’re all the other miles—not the tempos or track repeats or long runs. They’re the entries in your training log that make up a large percentage of your weekly mileage total, but with which you don’t bother to record much data: Simply an “8” or a “6” or a “park loop” suffice to remind you what you did that day.

The easy day is the Rodney Dangerfield of distance training: It receives precious little respect. Some hardliners might even use the term “junk miles” for Kipyego’s easy-day running, despite her international successes. Why do we do them? Because easy running—even very slow easy running—provides fundamental adaptations.

n easy days, you’re using mostly slow-twitch muscle fibers. They have a higher density of mitochondria, high levels of aerobic enzymes and greater capillary density than fast-twitch fibers, which are more involved in higher-intensity training, says Dan Bergland, principal sport physiologist at Volt Sportlab in Flagstaff, Arizona. On easy days, “You increase mitochondria and capillaries and blood flow to those muscles, so they’re better able to utilize oxygen,” he says. “Without that, you can’t do the intense runs.”

All runners, and especially beginners and those coming back from injury, benefit from the cardiovascular and muscular-structural development easy running promotes. The base fitness a runner puts down through a preponderance of easy runs enables the athlete to safely progress to other types of training.

Seasoned runners also need easy days in order to maintain hard-earned aerobic fitness and make continual gains in running economy. Of course, competitive runners are interested in moving efficiently at race paces, the primary reason for training at a variety of intensities, in addition to running easy. But even slow running allows for modest gains in efficiency of movement.

More important, it allows for recovery from the hard days. “A runner should achieve a training effect every day,” says Dennis Barker, coach of Team USA Minnesota, “and to me, recovery is a training effect, maybe the most important one. It’s during recovery that adaptations from the hard training take place. If a runner doesn’t recover, the body is not going to adapt, and you’ll either continue digging a hole for yourself or get injured.”

YOUR PACE OR MINE?

The question, then, is what pace is right, and what do you stand to lose if you go too fast or too slow? In a general sense, an easy run is a low-intensity effort of a short to moderate duration. So a long run, even completed at a relaxed pace, should not be considered “easy,” because, despite the pace, there comes a point where the duration raises the overall intensity out of the comfort zone.

A dozen years ago, Barker began working with Carrie Tollefson, a four-time national champion at Villanova. The transition to working with Barker was initially rocky, because Tollefson wouldn’t back down on her easy runs. “At Nova we were very low-mileage, but we ran hard all the time,” Tollefson says. “And then I came to Dennis and we were trying to hit 85 or 90 miles a week, and I couldn’t do it all. I was always pushing the envelope, but I just couldn’t run a ton plus go really hard in all my workouts, my easy days and my long runs.”

Barker’s solution was to mandate that Tollefson wear a heart rate monitor and keep her easy and long runs within appropriate ranges. It worked. “Slowly but surely, running slower helped me,” Tollefson says. “By 2004 I was having my best year, and that’s when I made my Olympic team. I just needed to grow into the sport and know that it was OK to back off on those easy days and not be so stuck on the watch and always running 6:30 pace. It didn’t matter what I ran on my easy days; they were supposed to be easy.”

Though Barker extols the virtues of keeping the pace relaxed on easy days, that doesn’t mean he sends his athletes out for short jogs. In fact, he’s been known to assign runners hilly routes on non-workout days, to give the run a little extra benefit. But pacing is almost always reined in.

“Pace is the most important thing to keep easy on an easy day,” Barker says. “Many runners can still recover if they run a few more miles, as long as it’s still at an easy pace. But from my experience, they can’t recover if they run a faster pace, even with fewer miles. So pace really needs to be governed on easy days, [but] mileage not quite as much.”

Bergland believes runners can’t really go too slow on their easy days, unless their form starts to break down. At that point, slower becomes counterproductive. In his opinion, as long as your form holds up, lower intensity trumps higher intensity for easy days.

While elite athletes have a finely tuned sense of pace and effort, rank-and-file runners often struggle with it. Bergland advises runners to use 10K race pace plus 2 minutes for easy-day pace, wear heart rate monitors (and aim for 65 to 70 percent of maximum heart rate) or take occasional treadmill runs to monitor pace.

AVOIDING THE RUT

Currently working with athletes across the spectrum of age and ability, Ian Dobson, an assistant with the Oregon Track Club Elite coaching staff in Eugene, Oregon (which is Kipyego’s team), sees runners fail to back off on easy days. He meets weekly with Team Run Eugene Flyers, a group of recreational runners, to oversee workouts. “I see some of them warm up and then run mile pace and 5K pace and marathon pace, and it’s essentially indistinguishable; they’re just running, you know?” he says. “Those people are suffering from this stuck-in-one-pace kind of thing. And it’s because they don’t want to run 11-minute pace, or whatever they really need to be running, on their recovery runs.”

Those who don’t run their workouts hard enough are stuck in a middle ground, in third gear. “The common denominator among most really successful runners, people running at a high level, is a really wide chasm between training-run pace and where they work out,” Dobson says. “It’s kind of counterintuitive, but when total volume is high, your average training-run pace is probably also a bit higher.” He explains that you see this with marathoners—when an elite athlete is running more than 100 miles a week, chances are his average training-run pace is faster than an 800m runner or miler running only 30 miles a week. The miler is running really fast when he’s on the track and really slow when he’s not. Brenda

Martinez, who has PRs of 1:57.91 for 800m and 4:00.94 for 1500m, is a perfect example of this. Under the guidance of coach Joe Vigil, she’ll run 8 × 1,000m repeats at 2:55, but on her easy days, she’ll run 9-minute pace.

KEEPING YOUR RHYTHM

While Farah’s 5:30 easy-day pace boggles the mind of most nonelites, he’s within the range of an easy day that a variety of running calculators prescribe. But not everyone is. Take Jason Ryf, who ran the 2013 Boston Marathon in 2:23:06 at age 42. He rarely trains slower than 6 minutes per mile. Most training calculators would suggest that Ryf run his easy mileage in the 6:15–6:40 range, but he just can’t do it. “Believe me,” Ryf says, “I go through the internal struggle quite a bit—’Hey, I should be going slower’—because all the training books would have me going easier. I do plan on it sometimes, but after a couple of miles I’m right back at 6-minute pace.”

But Ryf’s training is solely focused on the marathon. Any racing he does at shorter distances is training for his next 26.2-miler, and his PRs at 10K, 10 miles and the half marathon pale in comparison to his full marathon performances. Were he to spurn the long racing and target other distances, Ryf would attempt to modify his approach. “I would probably try to back off a little bit, so my legs would be fresher for workouts,” he says.

Ray Treacy, whose Providence women were the 2013 NCAA cross country champions, has his athletes running toward the faster end of the scale on most non-workout days and expresses disdain for “jogging.” The veteran coach schedules workouts every fourth day, less often than is typical, and instructs his athletes to go truly easy only immediately following hard training sessions. “The day after the hard workout might be easy,” Treacy says, “but the other two days you’re trying to get something out of it, to improve your fitness. I wouldn’t like to waste a day’s training on going for a jog; let’s put it that way.”

Some physiologists agree with the faster approach. One of those is Bob Otto, director of the Human Performance Lab at Adelphi University. The real question, he asks, is what does a slow run accomplish? In an email to Running Times, he details the downsides of going slow: It provides orthopedic trauma, allows athletes to practice something they would never use in a race and provides insufficient cardiovascular or metabolic stimulus to accrue improvement.

“Conversely, the faster-paced run may provide some cardiovascular stimulus, may enhance metabolic function, mimics the biomechanics of race pace and hopefully provides less orthopedic trauma than the slow run,” he writes. “Although the ideal scenario is to decrease one’s stride frequency to run slower and maintain a similar biomechanical foot strike, we know that most people change their mechanics significantly and their stride frequency moderately. I am an advocate of practicing like you want to perform and find little value in a ‘slow run.'”

For some highly trained athletes, moving too slowly throws them off. Marielle Hall, the University of Texas senior who won the NCAA 5,000m title in June, picked up the pace of her easy days from 8 minutes to about 6:40 over the course of the academic year. “I like to get athletes into a rhythm, whether it’s a recovery day or a general day, and not worry about pace so much. Make sure you’re getting something out of it but not killing yourself,” says Brad Herbster, who started coaching Hall last fall. “I think [Hall’s] base fitness slowly increased. I’d check with her and she never told me it was feeling too fast. So for her it worked out really well. I know some people are really different and some coaches will say ‘Oh, you’ve got to take every easy day really easy.’ And that might work for some, but for Marielle it didn’t.”

 

WHAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU?

Returning, then, to the easy 6-miler you do four days a week before work: Would you benefit from speeding up or slowing down? The answer, of course, depends on your goals, your other workouts, whether you’re hitting a variety of speeds during the week, your total weekly mileage, what your body is telling you each morning—and what time you have to be at work.

“Runners have to pay attention and learn about themselves because an easy day will be different based on how long you’ve been running, what you’re training for, how much mileage you have in your legs, all sorts of things,” Barker says.

While you never need to emulate the program of another runner, you might experiment with varying the pace of those Rodney Dangerfield miles—and test the changes with a race. Maybe you’ll find it’s not the hard efforts—the number of reps or the grade of the hill—that will make the difference in your training program. Maybe it’s what you’re doing on the easy days.

LEVELS OF EASY

You can calculate your easy-day target pace using a range of methods, from a percentage of current 10K ability to something a little less scientific—perceived exertion—as defined by Roy Benson, exercise physiologist and distance-running coach. We calculate the range for a runner who can do a 40:00 10K (6:26 pace) or a 3:04 marathoner (7:03 pace).

Run type

% of current 10K race pace

% of current marathon pace

% of max. heart rate

Perceived exertion

For a 40:00 10K/3:04 marathon (min/mi)

RECOVERY

130-138

119-127

60-70

Very easy; a short, slow run, jogging

8:22-8:53

EASY

122-130

112-119

65-75

Conversational; not fatiguing unless distance is longer than average and/or weather or terrain/course provide challenges

7:51-8:22

PROGRESS TO MODERATE

112-126

102.5-115.5

70-85

Easy to start, with a progression to near marathon pace; easily sustainable and only moderately fatiguing

7:12-8:06

 

Cape Town Marathon – by a Grand Stand Spectator

As you may know, I am on the “short side” in a few different ways (be it height, running distance, temper or concentration) – so the thought of even trying to run a marathon just does not even feature for me! So what else could I do when such an awesome event is hosted in the Mother City and when I belong to such a great club with awesome runners, on all levels……..what to do ???

SUPPORT – CHEER – ENCOURAGE – LOVE – UPLIFT and all the rest of it – that’s what you head out to do !!!

So that is what I decided to do at the SCTM on Sunday and what an experience it was. Usually when supporting at a race, I would find myself on the road somewhere, dressed up with pom poms or something silly to shout and cheer the runners along the way. But this year with the new fantastic finish in Vlei Road I thought the end of this grueling marathon would be extra special and a great opportunity to catch these top athletes as they crossed the finish line.

So I dressed up a bit, found a spot a few metres away from the clock and parked off, stood on a chair (yes because I’m short) and then waited patiently for the runners to come through…………

There is just something magical about being a spectator – you find yourself among all sorts of people, from all walks of life, almost making new friends for a short time as you discuss who is out there, who you are supporting, what times you are watching for, how you fit into this whole spectacular event…..and you ramble on with so much enthusiasm and excitement but then have to laugh when the questions get too technical and fly over your head!

But the buzz is just contagious – you don’t know where to watch, be it on the big screen, on your new friend’s cell phone (who is watching it live on SABC2), on the race App – or just keep your eyes peeled on that one corner… And then it happens and it is like the Mexican Wave – where the supporters further down the blue carpet start to cheer and you realize that something is happening! You can’t contain yourself and you just start clapping, cheering and shouting all sorts and get caught up in all the emotion around you, with your new found friends for the morning! The energy levels just rocket! It is goosebumps stuff, watching those long legged lithe bodies cross the finish line in just a matter of a couple of hours – and many of them still looked so strong as if they could have just kept on going. It’s amazing when you stop to think for a minute what they had just endured and in the time frame too! Record breaking stuff too – what an experience.

As time ticks by, the sun is baking your body, your feet start to ache, you need the toilet, you’re hungry, but you are just too scared to move from your spot for fear of missing out! And I hate suffering from FOMO !!! So you knyp, ignore the hunger pains and carry on cheering your heart out. I am not sure who actually heard what when they came running past our noisy bunch – but I will say, it was super rewarding when you are cheering for a random runner, who might be taking strain, who probably felt like just collapsing right there in front of you – but you shout out his club name and/or his name (if you can see it) and you get an acknowledgement of a wave or a smile….and then you just tell them how awesome they are! For me – that’s just the best!!! It may have lasted only 2 seconds but you know that someone appreciated your shrieks and cheers – and THAT is what support is all about – making a difference, bringing a smile, that little bit of oomph when you maybe needed it most. Of course the shrieks were that little bit louder when a familiar face came through – and I stood almost in awe watching the red, white and blue vests run past me. I felt like a proud mom almost – a mom to I dunno how many crazy WC peeps – and I even had many Gugs ladies in on my WC cheering – it was just awesome!

So here’s to many more silly outfits and screaming and shouting – this is what I love doing most and can’t wait for the next !!!

Your biggest fan!

Jax

Going gold: Sanlam CT Marathon race review

G is for Gold, Green and Generosity!

Sanlam Cape Town Marathon (SCTM) is Africa’s only Gold Label Status Marathon, and it truly offers participants a golden experience. It is no easy feat to achieve Gold Label Status. The criteria include (but are not limited to) sufficient depth and geographic representation of the elite field, obtaining an AIMS international measurement certificate, no vehicular traffic, equality in prize money regardless of gender and nationality, fully electronic timing and the list goes on. Hosting an event of this stature in our city is something to genuinely be proud of.

But wait, there is more. The SCTM was voted the Greenest Marathon in the world (2017), is certified climate neutral, and was the first event in the world to achieve 100% zero waste to landfill. If that does not impress you, last year the event won the South African Sports Industry Awards’ Participation Event of the Year for being ‘a leading event that stands out from all competitors, embraces new ideas or technologies and improves the industry standard’. 

As part of its impressive credentials, the SCTM Run2Change campaign focusses on sustainable development goals including health, fundraising, the empowerment of South African athletes and of course, peace. Each year the peace torch lights a flame at the start of the marathon and this flame is kept alight throughout the race until the last athlete finishes. Something about this gesture moves me; knowing that someone is keeping a flame alive while others, including myself, go through a literal and symbolic (often painful) journey sparks a deep kind of inspiration to keep going.

So considering all the above, simply being at the start line is an experience. According to event media coverage, 86 countries were represented at the race. I tried to count the number of clubs on the results page, but when I hit 300 (and I was not even nearly finished counting) I gave up. As for West Coast Athletic Club, close to a quarter of our members took part in this prestigious race on 23 September 2018.

SCTM has a vision of becoming one of the World Marathon Majors. Now of course it is not in my hands to bestow this upon them, but I do believe that they are brewing a winning recipe.  I for one will be back every year showing my support. To see why I think they have all the right elements in the blend, read my Sanlam CT Marathon race review in the infographic below.

G is for GEESies!

2018 saw SCTM launch its GEES competition, offering prizes in total of R500 000 to members of the public, charities and running clubs who come out in support of athletes. How to qualify? Show up, be creative and bring GEES to the event! Clubs qualified for prizes up to R100 000. Since we at WCAC are in the process of building our very own clubhouse, the response to such an invitation was a resounding “Hell Yes! We will bring the GEES!” Cos well, you all know we can.

The leader of the GEESie pack, Gillian Grobbelaar, is a force to be reckoned with. Is it a coincidence that her initials are GG – like gold and gees and go get ‘em? Me thinks not! It was weeks of build-up with daily social media motivations and GEESie elves working tirelessly to prepare costumes, make posters and cook finish line treats.

In the end, every ounce of effort paid off. The WCAC GEES station at 18km was phe-no-menal. Many of us whose families live far away, do not have the privilege of having a loved one on the side of the road to shout your name or to give you a hug while you challenge your body to go beyond its limits. Hearing your name called out loud by a crowd of crazy people with pink hair and blue tutus makes you feel like you got a family away from home.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who came out to support. You moved me! For more about our GEESies, read the special insert infographic below. 

G is for GO, GO, GO after your goals!

This whole event had me feeling all the feels – from hand shaking anxiety, to tears, to jumping up and down with excitement. And that was just in the the first five minutes after I woke up on race morning. This was my third SCTM, and both previous attempts found me bonking at 28kms and slogging myself to the finish line through pure mental tenacity.

So I came with a new strategy this year, based on a different training approach. I formulated a plan after hours of painstaking analysis of the route, race prediction tables, training data and insights of fellow runners (who very patiently listened to my anxious mumbling in the weeks before the race).

I stuck rigidly to my plan, but at 28km I felt the fear. What if it happens again? What if my body just tells me it is done with this self-torture? There was only one way to find out what would happen – follow the plan. And then it did not happen, I did not crash and burn – the strategy worked and it was all guns blazing till the end.

I managed to finish with a new marathon PB, taking about 5 minutes off my official course time and 7 minutes off my best net time (the time I record on my watch minus the delay at the start). I managed to run the coveted negative splits (second half faster than first) and the final kilometer was my fastest on the course.

G is for give yourself a pat on the back

No matter what your goals, your experience, or your talent, the marathon has the potential and tendency to humble you. It can teach you things about yourself you are not interested in learning or show you just how deep you can dig. One moment you are flying high, and the next cramps cripple you. This time round, it was all golden for me. Next time who knows.

People of the West Coast tribe, well frikking done! Whether it was your first, worst or personal best marathon or if it was just a regular day out running the city streets, I am humbled by your achievements and inspired by your stories. 

And now finally I have a question for the GEESies, are we thinking Rio Carnival next?

Walking – the taboo word amongst runners

Mention of the word ‘walking’ amongst most runners is equivalent of many other taboo utterances that in different contexts elicit the same sensations of disgust, weakness and inferiority. Such is the mind-trap that social pressures and at times conventional wisdom incorrectly leads us to believe.

Is there a place for walking in running? A fair number agree there is, but only within the narrow realms of easy runs, training runs or when tackling difficult inclines. Mention the word ‘walk breaks’ in the context of a race and the default vindication again falls back on tackling those difficult inclines and/or associated with a strategy usually applicable to ultra-endurance events. Mention ‘walking’ within the context of a 10km road race and people will think you are stark raving mad, unless of course you have hit the proverbial wall.

Conventional wisdom, social pressures and ego often dictate what we should and should not be doing or saying. And the same is often true when we run races. If one is dictated by one’s ego and the accompanying social pressures on how (or who) to race, then one is at the mercy of these external influences and has equivalently lost focus of what really matters – YOU. Unfortunately, we too often than not, get caught up in this idiocy on race day and hence risk jeopardising the many weeks of training and sacrifice that went before.

In everyday life, we go on a walk to clear the head, to take time-out, to relax or break the manic stressors and pace of life, often returning with renewed energy, vigour and clarity of thought. The same holds true in races. By applying a planned walk strategy we are effectively doing the same. These walk-breaks lower our heart rate, aids our recovery, clears our thoughts, breaks the accumulated stressors of our respective racing pace and just as importantly allows one to calm the ego and return one’s focus to YOU.

With the Cape Town marathon and 10km approaching this weekend, I encourage those bold and wise enough to incorporate a walk strategy into their race plan. Should social pressures and ego start to dictate and play havoc with your well intentioned plans, then provide your walk strategy with an appropriate euphemism such as “refuelling my shoes” to sustain your disposition.

Walking should not be taboo within running, but rather embraced as it is in everyday life.

Some Advice for Sunday

Runners World

Run a Perfect Race

The alarm clock rings…now what? Here’s how to navigate any course correctly

 

To race well, you need to train well. Duh.

But there are also race-day logistics to master. Even if you nailed all your workouts, you can still blow everything by tearing around on race morning in a manic panic in search of safety pins, finding yourself at the starting line with a jumble of jingling keys, or getting body-blocked midrace trying to pass an iPod-wearing runner. So to make sure your hard training doesn’t go to waste, we’ve compiled all the advice you need to successfully navigate race day. Our tips start before the start, finish after the finish, and–if employed properly–will guarantee a glitch-free race. (Maybe even a PR.)

Before the Gun

Your prerace goal should be to arrive at the starting line relaxed and ready to run. Here’s how

Lay It Out 
“The night before, lay out everything you’ll need race day on an extra bed or the floor,” says Greg McMillan, a USA Track & Field certified coach in Flagstaff, Arizona. With the race start still half a day away, you can think clearly about all the things you want with you on race morning.

Travel Light
Save yourself the postrace hassle of retrieving your supplies by not checking anything. Wear an old pair of sweats and a shirt over your racing outfit that you can toss at the start (most races donate the clothes). If you need to check your bag, don’t put anything in your sack that you can’t live without “Ninety-nine percent of the stuff gets back to the runner,” says Dave McGillivray, race director of the Boston Marathon. “But one percent always gets lost in the wash.”

B.Y.O.T.P
The longer the lines at the Port-a-Johns, the more likely the potty will be out of toilet paper. “So bring your own,” says Rod DeHaven, 2000 U.S. Olympic marathoner.

Show Your Number 
Even though most races time with chips, you still have to wear a number. “Bib numbers show race officials that you are a registered runner,” says Cliff Bosley, race director of The Bolder Boulder 10-K. “They should be visible at all times.” Pin your bib on the front of your racing outfit with four safety pins to keep it from flapping around.
Secure Your Key
Find someplace to stash your car key (note: singular), but not where someone might find it, like in the gas cap, on a tire, or in a hide-a-key under the car (sound familiar?). If the key is one of those bulky computer-programmed jobs, use the valet key instead, and slide it into a zippered pocket, lace it into your shoe, or use a Shoe Pocket, which is a waterproof pouch that Velcros to your laces. You could also hand your keys to a spectating friend–as long as he has a nicer car than yours.

Stash Some Cash
If you have money with you for an emergency, you won’t need it. If you don’t, you will. So pin a $10 bill inside your singlet.

Bag Yourself
They aren’t stylish, but plastic garbage bags do keep you warm and dry. “Cut a hole for just your head, and tuck your arms inside,” says Bret Treier, cochair of the Road Runner Akron Marathon.

Warm Up Wisely 
If possible, warm up by running the first mile or so of the racecourse to get the lay of the land. If you can’t do that, warm up on a nearby road or sidewalk, not in a grassy field. Early morning dew can soak through your shoes and socks.

Line Up on Time
Don’t get there first, since the extra wait will only make you anxious. Instead, watch the clock and keep an eye on runners as they fill in behind the start. Then join in. Many races have signs showing you where to stand according to your predicted per-mile pace. Your race doesn’t have markers? If you’re hoping to run a four-hour (or longer) marathon, don’t line up within 100 yards of a Kenyan.

Go As a Runner
If you must dress up in a costume, “make sure it doesn’t extend beyond your body so that it won’t interfere with other runners,” says Bosley. Elvis jumpsuit? Um, sure. Elvis cape? No.

And You’re Off 

Once the race starts, there’s more to think about than just putting one foot in front of the other

Look For Room
As you ramp up to race pace, try to achieve “daylight” between you and other runners, which is basically two full stride lengths.

Be Patient
Don’t bob and weave through the starting pack like a punt returner. You’ll waste energy without getting very far. Instead, jog or walk with your arms slightly out to help you keep your balance. And be sure not to follow the guy with the headband who has jumped the curb and is sprinting ahead. The race gods will make him trip.

Drink Second
The first water stop in larger races often resembles a crowded subway station at rush hour. As long as you’re not thirsty, go ahead and skip it. “You don’t want to trip or slip on someone else’s cup,” says Treier. “So move over to the double-yellow line and run right through.”

Pass with Caution
Runners with MP3 players likely don’t know you’re approaching. “In a crowded race, runners need to have a level of consciousness about their environment, and people wearing headphones don’t,” says Phil Stewart, race director of the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten-Mile Run in Washington, D.C. (That’s why so many races discourage headphones.) So wait until they’re done singing the chorus, then yell, “Passing on the left!” Make sure to give Mr. or Ms. iPod a wide berth–while making sure you don’t cut anyone off.

Steal Some Airtime
Look for TV cameras. If you spot one, move into an open space and simply point at it. Waving and shouting signals desperation.

Slow Down on the Side
If you need to slow your pace, do so gradually and move to the right side of the road, again making sure you don’t cut anyone off, like the ex-Georgia Tech linebacker behind you.

Slow Down on the Side
If you need to slow your pace, do so gradually and move to the right side of the road, again making sure you don’t cut anyone off, like the ex-Georgia Tech linebacker behind you.

Hold the Hoorays
Sure, it’s easy to get animated when you’re a couple of miles from the finish. You’re almost there. Yet yukking it up expends a lot of energy. “I once saw my wife talking, waving, and blowing kisses,” says Treier. “I yelled out: ‘Save it.’ She didn’t listen, and she did not finish with a smile on her face.”

Happy Endings
As you cross the finish line, you’re not quite done yet: the finishing chute stretches ahead

Keep Moving
Once across the finish line, runners are all striving toward a common goal–a cold drink and a shower. If you don’t keep moving forward, you’ll likely get knocked around.

Drink Up
Even though you are no longer running, you need fluids to rehydrate and recover. Take some and keep moving.

Wear Your Hardware
Drape your finisher’s medal around your neck. You need your hands for other things as you continue to move through the chute. Just make sure to take off the medal sometime in the next month.

Eat. A Little
Get yourself some food, but “just your share,” says Gordon Bakoulis, a running coach in New York City. You need carbs to begin postrace recovery, not to feed your entire extended family. Besides, stopping for extra food will only slow things down. And any leftover food is often given away to a charity, like a local food bank.

Find Your Family 
Have a prearranged spot to meet up with your family and friends after the race. Anything solid and immovable is best, like a tree, the front steps of a building, or Mike, who quit running three years ago. Don’t suggest something like the middle of a field, which could be jam-packed with runners come race day. Next, make sure you spot your group before they see you. Now start limping (cue the sympathy violins). But do so with a huge smile on your face

The Joy of Trail Running

We are extremely privileged to live in a beautiful City like Cape Town and trail running has become extremely popular and I can understand why. With it’s mountains and surrounding forests and vineyards within the City’s borders, it’s easy to see why it is such a trail runner’s paradise.

I still enjoy road running but mostly prefer trail over road because there is less congestion, prettier scenery, and awesome camaraderie. I was first introduced to trail running three years ago through a friend, Elschen Franklin, who has since relocated to New Zealand. But the bug bit and I’m addicted. Trail running has opened up a whole new world for me. I love being outdoors running with like minded friends through Rocky terrain, tackling hills, sprinting downhill or splashing through puddles of water. This has injected fresh energy into my runs and I am having so much fun exploring the natural world and getting away from it all.

Each and every trail has become a new adventure of discovery, as each trail event has its own unique terrain and challenge. There are wide trails, and of even surfaces. And then there are narrow single-track trails with a variety of obstacles, including tree-roots, rocks, sand, hills, mud and much more. Through trail running I have managed to explore many Wine Estates in Cape Town, which would otherwise have remained undiscovered. I also love to sometimes run up our beautiful Table Mountain although I leave the extreme technical trails to the pros.

Another attraction about trail running and I am pretty sure most of you will agree, is that it’s important to slow down and smell the roses, because running trails can be a lot more demanding than the roads, I figured that it was best to avoid comparing my pace, as I will be slower than normal road-running pace. For this very reason, at the start of any trail event I do not feel the pressure to perform as I do with a road race. On roads I tend to be very conscious of my pacing and sometimes push harder than I should, whereas with trail running I tend to be more relaxed and sometimes walk the hills (take selfies and/or panoramic pictures), sprint downhills (no selfies here) and run the flats. Most importantly, I have fun on the trails.

Each time I run trail I work different muscles because of the different motion and action of my body compared to road running. Afterwards I feel pain in places I never thought existed. It’s a great feeling as it means I have had a great overall workout. It is for this very reason that trail running can also prevent common running injuries. The camber of the road combined with repetitive pounding can cause stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, and shin splints. Running on grass, gravel, wood chips or sand can save your legs and add longevity to your running career. It certainly has aided in preventing me from getting another streets fracture.

All in all trail running lifts my spirits and adds joy to my running, certainly a breath of fresh air. Getting up early in the morning and driving to some or other exotic destination, practically on my doorstep and knowing I’ll be running in some beautiful forest or mountain adds a sense of wonder and adventure to my weekends. Early winter morning registrations have an added flair as we huddle around warm fires before our start, which adds to the fun and uniqueness of trails. But be careful! You know what they say about trail running – once you get on the dirt, you never want to go back to the roads.

Interesting study on nutritional and ultra endurance

  • eview
  • Open Access

Nutritional implications for ultra-endurance walking and running events

Extreme Physiology & Medicine20165:13

https://doi.org/10.1186/s13728-016-0054-0

  • Received: 4 June 2016
  • Accepted: 1 November 2016
  • Published: 21 November 2016

Abstract

This paper examines the various nutritional challenges which athletes encounter in preparing for and participating in ultra-endurance walking and running events. Special attention is paid to energy level, performance, and recovery within the context of athletes’ intake of carbohydrate, protein, fat, and various vitamins and minerals. It outlines, by way of a review of literature, those factors which promote optimal performance for the ultra-endurance athlete and provides recommendations from multiple researchers concerned with the nutrition and performance of ultra-endurance athletes. Despite the availability of some research about the subject, there is a paucity of longitudinal material which examines athletes by nature and type of ultra-endurance event, gender, age, race, and unique physiological characteristics. Optimal nutrition results in a decreased risk of energy depletion, better performance, and quicker full-recovery.

Keywords

  • Ultra-endurance
  • Energy
  • Nutrition
  • Performance
  • Training

Background

As a crucial aspect of the life of athletes, and a basic element of physical fitness, endurance is significantly impacted by not only physiological characteristics but very importantly, the body’s capacity to effectively utilize nutrients to sustain performance, particularly during ultra-endurance events. Defined as events lasting at least 6 h [1], ultra-endurance events place extreme and unique physiological demands on athletes. Some events span several days, including those that have no scheduled breaks [2]. The diversity in location in which these events are sometimes performed presents athletes with unique challenges including extreme temperatures, increase in altitudes, rapid energy depletion, and the need to consume nutrients during the event. Proper training is important to prepare for such extraordinary physical feats, but nutrition is paramount as these events would not be possible without adequate fuel availability. Nutrition, hydration, and recovery are among the most important considerations for athletes, which require advanced planning.

It has been identified that a comprehensive source providing succinct guidelines and recommendation to both protect the health of these athletes and promote performance is not available. Numerous case reports and field studies [3456789101112131415161718192021222324] show that few ultra-endurance runners and walkers meet recommendations that have been established throughout the literature. In an observational study of 42 amateur runners in a Swiss mountain marathon, researchers discovered that the intake of most participants were significantly below the requisite nutritional recommendations [7]. They further asserted that 90% of ultramarathon runners agreed that nutrition has an important influence on overall performance. This being said, adequate food and fluid intake is related to a successful finish of an ultra-endurance race [724] and an important key to attaining this adequacy seems to be an appropriate nutrition strategy during the race [25]. These findings are possible indicators that the difficulty which athletes experience in meeting standard recommendations could be attributed to various factors. Among these are lack of or poor nutrition education, norms of ultra-endurance sports, the development of physical symptoms including injury, gastrointestinal disturbances, suppression of appetite, logistic challenges with implications for both food preparation in terms of time and available resources/facilities to do so and, by extension, total food intake particularly in those periods of increased needs [152627]. Additionally, dehydration and fluid overload [1426272829] appear to be areas with which have challenges. The myriad of stressors, such as extreme environmental conditions, intense physical exertion, limited sleep, and rationing of food, which ultra-endurance athletes encounter [1426272829], highlights the importance of prior planning where individualized nutrition strategy is concerned. It is clearly demonstrated throughout the literature that there is a need for appropriate education of ultra-endurance athletes, coaches, medical staff and race organizers, based on environmental conditions and course topography. Overarching goals should be aimed at minimizing the energy gap between intake and expenditure, attaining adequate dietary intakes of micronutrients and avoiding over or under hydration. This review will comprehensively discuss recommendations to address these issues.

Review

Energy needs of the ultramarathon athlete

As can be seen in Table 1, ultra-endurance events are highly diverse, but available literature suggest that they result in an energy deficit. Ultra-endurance athletes typically train for 1–6 h per day and many have multiple training sessions per day [30]. It is not uncommon to train for longer than 6 h at a time as some events require more than 24 h of continuous activity [30]. Therefore, as shown in Table 1, quantities of energy intake well above those of the average person are required to fuel the activity for both training sessions and events. With performance as a primary goal, athletes should strive to achieve an energy intake that matches the energy output of their activity, basal metabolic rate (BMR), thermic effect of food, and other activities of their daily life. It is important that ultra-endurance athletes consider these variables both during activity and outside the context of activity as failure to restore energy between training sessions can delay recovery and be detrimental to performance. Extreme energy deficits have been found to be a common feature among athletes who engage in continuous and multi-stage ultramarathon events. This is subsequently associated with poor recovery from exercise and sustained fatigue [1415]. Both inadvertent symptoms such as gastrointestinal challenges and injury, including those that are dermatologically related, increase the risk of insufficient food and fluid intake with and without the addition of environmental challenges [3132]. In competition, field research suggests that ultra-endurance athletes finish their races with an energy intake between 36 and 54% of energy expenditure [1834]. With this in consideration, Ramos-Campo et al. [33] have found that the magnitude of the energy deficit is correlated with performance, which suggests that reducing this energy deficit may be an advantage.

Table 1

A comparison of ultra-endurance walking and running events

Year published

Name

Subject(s)

Location

Time length

Exercise mode

Distance (km)

Energy intake

Energy expenditure

Total energy deficit

Climate

Terrain/altitude

Nutrition/fluid stations

Self-procured nutrition

Reference

1977

N/A

1 male

N/A

20 h

Running and walking

160

9600 kcal

10,720 kcal

−1120 kcal

Temperature range: 12–20 °C Wind speeds range: 15–17 km/h

N/A

Fluid stations

None

[16]

1993

N/A

9 female

N/A

7 days

Running

N/A

14,270 kcal

20,940 kcal

−6670 kcal

N/A

N/A

N/A

Food: ad libitum

Liquids: ad libitum

[23]

1994

N/A

1 male

Sydney to Melbourne, Australia

199 h

Running

1005

5972.57 kcal/day

N/A

N/A

Temperature range: 8–25 °C

Accumulated altitude: 900 m Ascent: 1000 m Descent: 100 m

Food and beverage provided every 15–20 mins. Fluids: carbohydrate supplemented beverage  Food: Potato, rice, pasta, and bread

N/A

[21]

2000

Australian run

1 male

Australia

217 days (data compiled over 2 weeks of this time)

Running

14,500

N/A

6321 kcal

Negative

N/A

N/A

None

Food: ad libitum

Fluids: ad libitum

[12]

2002

N/A

26 (21 male, 5 female)

New York, USA

26.2 ± 3.6 h

Running

160

7050 kcal

14,340 kcal

7290 kcal

Temperature range: 21–38 °C

N/A

37 food stations

None

[8]

2004

Marathon Des Sables

1 male

Sahara Desert

6 days

Running

229

17,572 kcal

33,776.75 kcal

–16,204.745 kcal

Temperature range: 5 °C(night)–50 °C(day)

N/A

None

Food: ad libitum (dehydrated meals)

Fluids: ad libitum (carbohydrate supplemented drinks)

[195]

2005

Tour des Dents du Midi

42 (39 male, 3 female)

Switzerland

7 h 3 min

Running and walking

44

219–2405 kcal

N/A

−1889 to −2470 kcal

Temperature range: 18–30 °C Humidity range: 34–61% at the lowest altitude, and 57–92% at the highest altitude Wind speeds range: 1–21 km/h

Total ascent:2890 m Ascent and descent range: 860–2494 m

15 support stations

Fluids:water, sweet tea

Food: Banana and orange slices, dried fruit mix, cereal bars and grape sugar cubes

Food: ad libitum

Fluids: ad libitum

[7]

2010

100 km Biel

11 female

Biel, Switzerland

12.7 h ± 91 min

Running

100

570 ± 230 kcal

6310 ± 1340 kcal

−5750 ± 1170 kcal

Temperature range: 8–15 °C

N/A

17 aid stations

Fluids: isotonic sports drinks,tea,

soup, caffeinated drinks and water Food: bananas, oranges, energy bars and bread

Fluids: ad libitum

[17]

2011

N/A

1 male

Atcama Desert, Chile

23 days

Walking

593

40,733 kcal

110,791 kcal

–70,058 kcal

Described as: temperate climate

Average altitude: 3103 ± 704 m

None

Food: freeze-dried foods, snacks

Beverages: coffee

[13]

2011

100 km Biel

27 male

Biel, Switzerland

11.5 h ± 119 min

Running

100

760 ± 300 kcal

7420 ± 1660 kcal

–6660 ± 1650 kcal

Temperature range: 8–18 °C

N/A

17 aid stations

Fluids: isotonic sports drinks, tea,

soup, caffeinated drinks and water Food: bananas, oranges, energy bars and bread

Fluids: ad libitum

[20]

2013

MSUM

74 (46 male, 28 female)

Al Andalus Ultimate Trail, Spain

5 days

Running

225

16,740 kcal

19,155–24,995 kcal

–2415 to –8225 kcal

Described as: hot ambient environment

N/A

Aid stations situated 10 km apart

Food: fruit (oranges and watermelon)

Fluids: plain water, electrolyte supplementation.

Fluids: ad libitum

[15]

2013

MDUER

1 male

North Scotland to Moroccan Sahara desert

78 days

Running

4254

5541.2 ± 764.3 kcal/day

N/A

N/A

Described as: extreme weather conditions (maximum range: 2.8–45.0 °C)

Altitude of ascent and descent ranged between 0 and 2400 m above sea level, with 7 days at altitude 31500 m

Food and liquid provided daily

N/A

[9]

2014

Glenmore24 Trail Race

25 (19 male, 6 female)

Cairngorms National

Park, UK

24 h

Running and walking

122–208

4776.9 ± 2627.3 kcal

13,136.5 ± 2627.3 kcal

–8359.6 kcal

Temperature range: 0–20 °C in 2011 and 3–19 °C in 2012 Humidity range: 54–82%

Average altitude: 342 m (SD 303 m)

Plain water and electrolyte

supplementation every 3 km

Food: ad libitum

Fluids: ad libitum

[14]

2014

N/A

6 unspecified

Sierra de Gredos, Spain

14 h 6 min

Running

54

5124.6 ± 531.2 kcal

9856.6 ± 859.8 kcal

–4732 kcal

Temperature range: 8–26 °C Temperature average: 14.9 ± 8.7 °C

Maximum altitude : 2484 m Minimum altitude : 1149 m

None

Food: energy bars

Fluids: water from various natural sources

[10]

2015

South Pole Race

13 (12 male, 1 female)

Antarctic

22.5 days

Running

800

Faster finishers: 5332 ± 469 kcal/day Slower finishers: 3048 ± 1140 kcal/day

N/A

N/A

Temperature average: −24.0 °C Humidity: 59.3% Wind speed: 6.6 ms

Altitude range: 2000–2615 m

Snack bags provided (contents: macadamias, chocolate bars, cheese, candy, biltong, muesli, freeze-dried meals, noodles, soup, hot chocolate, coffee, tea, milk)

Food: ad libitum

Fluids: ad libitum

[11]

2016

N/A

11 unspecified

Castles of Cartagena, Spain

6 h 44 min ± 28 min

Running

54

1493.1 ± 491.5 kcal

5197.1 ± 488.8 kcal

–3704 kcal

N/A

Accumulated altitude: 5391 m;

None

Food: energy bars, glucose tablets and fruit

Fluids: Water and energy drinks

[33]

As in standard marathon runners, attaining an intake that is as close as possible to energy output should be a noteworthy ambition [35]. Both general and environment/activity-specific implications and strategies on how to do this will be discussed in the following sections. However, it should be recognized that other non-nutritional strategies to reduce the risk of inadequate energy intake, such as those to reduce gastrointestinal symptoms and injuries, play a role in achieving this. Common GI challenges that hinder intake include nausea, abdominal cramping, bloating, diarrhea, vomiting, flatulence, and belching [2636]. These issues are more common as intensity and/or duration increase. Common injuries that hinder intake depend largely on the environment and climate and include blisters, subungual haematomas, chafings, abrasions, and plantar fasciitis [2637]. Climate and environmental-specific injuries include blisters and sunburns in hot temperatures, [26] and frostnip and frostbite in cold temperatures [37].

Carbohydrate

Given that the majority of an ultra-endurance athlete’s training is spent engaged in lengthy durations of aerobic activity, many of these athletes are well adapted to utilizing lipids via oxidative phosphorylation [35]. However, the energy demands of their specific activity will vary, predominantly depending on the duration, intensity and type of exercise being engaged in [38]. Intensity, duration, and food intake will largely determine how much fuel is being sourced from carbohydrates (CHO), protein, and fat. Although all three are being used as sources of energy at any given time, the intensity and duration are primary factors which determine the extent to which one is used over another. When the athlete is exercising at the standard marathon pace that requires 80–90% of maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max) or above, carbohydrate will be his or her primary fuel source and could provide up to 96% of the energy being expended [35]. However, at lower intensities in which sufficient oxygen can be achieved, such as walking, much more fuel could be provided from fat [39]. Therefore, the fraction of macronutrient utilization distribution is of considerable dependence on individual and exercise differences as well as carbohydrate availability, with lower availability forcing the body to depend more highly on fat and protein.

Based on the preceding discussion, as well as the observation that elite marathon running is nearly 100% CHO-dependent [40], awareness of CHO intake is important during training and events, especially those for which completion in minimal time is an objective. In fact, many studies have demonstrated that increases in the hourly rate of CHO and overall energy intake are correlated with faster race times in ultra-endurance events [81841]. This suggests that athletes should strive to maximize availability of CHO for their working muscles and reinforce the need for adequate energy to maintain performance.

Glycogen provides a reserve of CHO for the body and low glycogen availability appears to be a stimulus for feelings of fatigue [42]. To maximize fuel storage as glycogen for events, a high carbohydrate diet is generally suggested between training sessions and events [43]. Current recommendations regarding specific recommendations for carbohydrate ingestion have recently been reviewed by Burke and Hawley [44]. Specifically, 8–12 g of CHO/kg body weight/day is recommended, with a more precise amount dependent on the athlete’s training intensity and duration [45]. This being said, the need for high carbohydrate intakes both before and during the event is dependent on whether carbohydrate fuel sources are depleted or limiting for the demands. Increases in intensity, duration, demand of terrain [45], experience level of the athlete [40], and altitude [4647], all, increase carbohydrate needs. It is not a concern of athletes’ about consuming too much as almost all ultra-endurance walking and running events result in a deficit (as shown in Table 1) and narrowing the gap between energy intake and expenditure correlates positively with performance, rather it is a question of whether to pack carbohydrates or fat as the fuel source if they are carrying their own food. Fat provides more energy per gram and if the above variables are towards the lower end and less carbohydrate is needed, packing foods higher in fat will make the athletes carry load lighter and could allow them to narrow the energy gap further. This will be discussed in further detail in the section discussing dietary fat.

Current practices suggest that carbohydrate intakes in the diets of ultra-distance athletes range from 5 to 7 g/kg/day in regular diets during training to 7–10 g/kg/day during the 3–4 days prior to competition [48]. A study by Mahon et al. [49] on mountain ultramarathon runners found that despite over 65% of athletes reporting that they intended to increase their CHO intake in the week prior to the event, no participants came close to their CHO-loading recommendations of 10–12 g/kg/d in the 48 h leading up to the event. This demonstrates that although a high carbohydrate intake is well known to benefit long duration endurance performance, athletes often fail to reach daily CHO targets needed to maximize glycogen storage due to the difficulty in practical application. As carbohydrate intakes both prior to and during ultra-endurance events with demanding characteristics of those discussed above are positively correlated with performance, athletes should strive to consume as close to this recommendation as possible if needed. Possible means of doing so is through frequent consumption of carbohydrate dense foods that are low in highly satiating nutrients, mainly being water, protein, and fiber [50], and high on the glycemic index. Examples include white rice, pretzels, breakfast cereals, bagels, and granola bars.

In addition, to restore glycogen stores between exercise sessions, a carbohydrate intake of 1.0–1.5 g/kg at 2 h intervals for the first 6 h and beginning within the first 30 min following exercise appears to be an effective strategy for recovery [51]. Consumption of carbohydrates during performance has also been shown to be beneficial to best conserve muscle and hepatic glycogen storage and to maintain blood glucose concentration. A carbohydrate intake as high as 90 g/h for the extensive duration of activities being discussed is suggested to maintain performance [43]. Again, however, this appears to have practical difficulties. Mahon et al. found that the average intake of the ultramarathon mountain runners was just 28 g/h. Another study on a 100 km ultra endurance running race found that mean intake was only 43 g/h. Again, narrowing the gap between energy intake and energy expenditure results in improvements in performance and athletes should strive to increase this g/h intake. Some ways in which athletes may be able to achieve this is through fluids, gels, and even whole foods, depending on the athlete’s preferences and gastrointestinal tolerance. Experimenting with different forms of carbohydrate in fluid replacement beverages such as glucose, maltose, fructose polymers, and branched chain starches with high glycemic indices at a concentration of 6–12% are recommended to provide carbohydrate late in exercise as muscle and liver glycogen stores become depleted and the risk of hypoglycemia is increased [52105]. These carbohydrates can also be provided in gel or bar form as it was recently demonstrated that carbohydrates in a beverage are oxidized at similar rates to carbohydrates from a gel [53] and from a bar [54]. Further ways to increase intake during events through management of gastrointestinal symptoms (GIS) will be discussed in the section on gastrointestinal intolerances.

Fat

Dietary fat is essential for optimal health and should not be overlooked by those engaging in ultra-endurance events. For those consuming a medium to high carbohydrate diet, a fat consumption similar to that recommended for the general population of 20–35% of energy intake is generally suggested to maintain performance and health [43]. Endurance training is known to enhance an athlete’s capacity for fat oxidation during exercise and fat oxidation provides the greatest relative contribution to energy expenditure during low to moderate intensities of exercise with a peak recently shown to occur at 64 ± 4% VO2 max [55]. Recent research has explored ways in which this can be further up-regulated to enhance exercise capacity and sports performance by reducing the reliance on the muscles’ limited glycogen stores and need to consume carbohydrate during prolonged events. Strategies employed to attain this include consuming a very low carbohydrate (<50 g/day) high fat (>70% of energy consumption) diet for either scheduled periods or permanently [56]. After 2–3 weeks on this diet, the body is able to adapt to using fat at greater contributions, sparing more carbohydrate [57].

With a reduced reliance on carbohydrates as a fuel source as well as the elimination of the need to consume carbohydrates during activity, many potential advantages are presented. The athlete would no longer be required to carry sources of CHO with him or her, worry about attaining enough CHO or risk GIS from eating during activity. However, this strategy also comes at a cost. This reliance on fat limits the intensity of exercise that can be performed and severely restricts the capacity to do anaerobic work [5758]. This is due to the decreased availability of CHO for glycolysis, the body’s fastest energy producing mechanism for intense work.

In a study on mountain ultramarathon runners, Mahon et al. [49] found that those consuming suboptimal amounts of CHO had higher levels of blood β-ketones post-event and that these post-blood β-ketone levels were negatively associated with performance. This further supports the need for CHO intake during prolonged events, given that ketones are an indicator of fat metabolism, particularly if an objective is to complete the event in minimal time. It is also important to note that in non-fat adapted athletes low CHO availability increases muscle protein breakdown [59] and if performed chronically can lead to a loss of skeletal muscle mass. However, naturally during multi-day events, exercise pacing tends to conform to submaximal levels of intensity, often below lactate threshold to preserve limited glycogen stores and optimize fat utilization and the Krebs cycle pathway for ATP resynthesis [60]. This being said, fat adaptation is worth experimenting with for those who consume far below the recommended intakes of energy and carbohydrates for their events, particularly for those who are prone to GIS. Bringing calorie intake closer to energy expenditure using fat also improves performance when compared to a larger caloric deficit without extra fat [6162]. Since fat is more calorically dense than protein and carbohydrate, athletes who must carry their own food should choose high fat food options if it allows them to reach closer to their caloric needs over carbohydrate. Therefore, this strategy may be most appropriate for those competing in ultra-events which have breaks and which athletes must carry their own food.

Although preloading with dietary fat, specifically medium chain triglycerides (MCT), has strong literature support to potentially improve performance based on its capacity to serve as a fuel source and spare muscle glycogen [6364], the majority of studies have found no glycogen preserving effect or improvement in shorter distance endurance performance [656667686970]. In longer duration activities, the research is conflicting. A study by Van Zyl et al. [193] found that performance in cyclists who rode for greater than 2 h in a 40 km simulated time trial had greater performance with supplemented beverages containing CHO+MCT during the trial rather than either CHO or MCT alone. Contrary to this, Jeukendrup et al. [67] also studied long duration cycling activity (180 min) and found that the contribution to energy expenditure was small and did not provide any significant benefit to performance or carbohydrate preservation. The difference in the results of these two studies is likely due to the quantity of MCT ingested by the participants. Van Zyl et al. provided 86 g in total whereas Jeukendrup et al. provided 29 g in total. However, an intake of 86 g far exceeds the recommended maximum by many authors (30 g) who suggest intakes higher than this lead to gastrointestinal discomfort and diarrhea [717273]. A later study by Jeukendrup et al. [74] attempted to test an intake of 85 g and found that it did indeed decrease performance due to provocation of GIS. At this time, the literature does not support the use of MCT supplementation in ultra-endurance activity.

Protein

Protein is a critical nutrient requiring considerable attention by the athlete to ensure proper recovery from exercise and to promote optimal adaptation between training sessions. The protein needs of athletes engaging in prolonged activity are greater than those required for the general population because of the need to repair damaged muscles and synthesize new muscle proteins. It further serves as an energy substrate during activity [75]. The repair and generation of body proteins greatly contribute to athletes’ sought after adaptations to induced challenges and consequent improvements in performance.

Bodily protein stores have been shown to provide up to 10% of the total energy used during endurance exercises [76]. The fraction of contribution is influenced by many factors including intensity, duration and, as previously discussed, the level of glycogen/glucose availability in the body [7677]. When it comes to increased metabolic efficiency with training, a certain degree of metabolic efficiency does occur to mitigate amino acid oxidation with training [95], however, the rate of oxidation still increases over 2 h of endurance activity resulting in a several fold increase compared to resting conditions regardless of training level [9697]. Due to both the use of amino acids as a fuel source as well as muscle damage associated with exercise, skeletal muscle mass seems to decrease in ultra-endurance running events without breaks, as has been shown in a few case reports of ultra-endurance athletes [378]. In contrast, in ultra-endurance events where there are breaks, skeletal muscle mass tends to remain stable [798081]. When muscle loss occurs from walking or running, with the exception of the thigh, it has been shown to occur in all muscle groups with the greatest losses occurring in the lower leg or calf region [38283]. The eccentric contractions involved in running cause the greater portion of body mass lost as muscle mass comparatively [82] to more concentric-based ultra-endurance activities such as cycling [84]. One way in which athletes may reduce the amount of endogenous protein lost, and by extension, promote recovery, is by ensuring adequate glycogen stores going into exercise and by consuming adequate energy during prolonged activity [35]. The following recommendations can also help ensure athletes are recovering lost muscle and preventing loss of skeletal muscle mass during training and events.

While a vast body of research supports a “hypertrophy-centric” view following resistance exercise, recent research highlights a critical role for dietary protein in supporting recovery from endurance exercise. Although the pre-eminent adaptations in resistance exercise compared to endurance exercise may be different, the requirements for amount, type, and timing are similar [75]. Protein remodeling, which is primarily determined by changes in muscle protein synthesis, is an important aspect of the acute recovery process after exercise that ultimately underpins the adaptations (e.g., greater muscle power, aerobic capacity) that accrue with endurance training [75]. Numerous studies have reported increases in mixed muscle protein synthesis following a single bout [8586] of exercise, and both short-term (i.e., 4 weeks) [87] and chronic (i.e., 4 months) [88] endurance training. Such increases in mixed muscle protein synthesis likely reflect enhanced remodeling of muscle proteins that may include mitochondrial-related proteins/enzymes, angiogenic proteins (e.g., endothelial and smooth muscle cells within capillaries), and myofibrillar proteins.

The current recommended intake of protein is 1.2–2.0 g/kg for a general athletic population [45]. Given the extraordinary caloric needs to fuel these unique tasks, it is likely that these athletes are meeting and possibly exceeding this recommendation if they are meeting their energy requirements [76]. In addition to daily protein needs, other factors are also important for optimizing performance adaptations, including timing and partitioning of intake. To maximize protein synthesis, and thus muscle remodeling and recovery [89], it is suggested that endurance athletes consume a minimum of 20 g of protein at 3–4 h intervals to maximize muscle protein synthesis [7590]. The amount required for ultra-endurance athletes and those who exercise longer than 2 h is presently unclear. However, it is likely that their needs would be even higher given the increase in total oxidation of amino acids during exercise as well as the possibility of splanchnic organ tissue damage due to the shunting of blood away from the digestive system during activity [91]. The rate of muscle breakdown is accelerated when muscle protein oxidation exceeds synthesis, which usually occurs in proportion to intensity and duration of the sporting activity [929394].

Currently, ultra-endurance runners consume an approximate average of 12% of energy as protein during racing [98]. It has been posited that supplemental protein or amino acids on top of this intake during an ultra-run may improve performance through provision of amino acids for use as a fuel source and to attenuate muscle damage [99]. Despite the use of supplementary amino acids having been shown to improve performance and decrease muscle soreness in cyclists, a study on ultramarathon runners showed no benefits. Knechtle et al. [100] supplemented 14 subjects with 52.5 g of amino acids immediately before and during a 100 km run and compared them against a placebo group. Contrary to their hypothesis, there were no improvements in performance or effects on parameters related to skeletal muscle damage in the supplemented group. Unfortunately, measures of skeletal muscle damage were only taken immediately after the race. More research is needed to determine if the intake of amino acids during the race would lead to lower values of these markers in the following hours and days of recovery. Therefore, at the present time, evidence would suggest no additional benefit from consuming supplementary amino acids or protein during ultra-endurance running events.

In comparison to resistance exercisers, the immediacy of dietary protein intake after exercise is critical for optimal recovery [101102]. The consumption of a snack or meal with a minimum of 20 g of protein within 30–60 min post exercise is suggested to optimally stimulate muscle protein synthesis and attenuate any existing breakdown that is ongoing from the bout of prolonged exercise [75].

Hydration

As little as a 2% reduction in body mass due to dehydration has been said to result in performance decrements as well as hemorheology, metabolic dysregulation, heat intolerance, and cardiovascular strain [103]. However, weight changes before and after an ultra-distance event do not provide an accurate indication of hydration status and weight loss greater than 2% does not necessarily have serious adverse consequences on performance [104]. Hoffman et al. [104] found that in addition to hydration status being unrelated to changes in weight, runners in a 161 km ultramarathon had a mean weight loss of approximately 3% and that many of the top performers had a weight loss of beyond 2% for much of the race. In other activities such as shorter duration endurance events, hydration needs for an event can be approximated during training through methods such as taking body weight before and after training at a duration, intensity, and environment that mimics that of a competition [105]. However, because reductions in body mass can be attributed to substantial breakdown of body tissues such as adipose and muscle [11] and increases in weight can result from reduced diuresis as well as decreases in intracellular osmolytes including glycogen, proteins, and triglycerides, this would be an ineffective strategy for ultra-endurance athletes. The reduced diuresis is induced by activation of vasopressin secretion and the angiotensin–renin–aldosterone mechanism during exercise and the decreases in intracellular osmolytes causes a shift of water to the extracellular compartment during very prolonged exercise [106]. With the complexity of hydration during these events, hyper-hydration has become increasingly common and is the most reported medical complication to occur during ultra-distance triathlons [107]. This is crucial as this can lead to the life-threatening case of hyponatremia by altering the blood serum to sodium ratio [108]. In fact, this shift appears to be a primary result of fluid overload and is unrelated to sodium losses [109]. To prevent over or underhydration, current available research suggests that the most suitable strategy to maintain hydration is to ‘drink to thirst’ [1527104109110111112].

Urine color (see Fig. 1) can also be used to guide hydration in ultra-endurance running. However, it should be noted that urine concentration (i.e., color and osmolarity) rises substantially throughout the race and increasingly becomes less reliable with duration [15]. Costa et al. found that it is in fact less reliable than relying on thirst as an indicator of hydration status [15]. It is important to note here that substrate metabolism is also altered as a result of dehydration during exercise resulting in greater reliance on carbohydrate as a fuel source [113]. Although the fatigue associated with dehydration is mainly a result of hyperthermia it also results in lower FFA uptake and higher muscle glycogen utilization [114]. Therefore, not only is maintaining hydration important for sustaining an optimal body temperature, preventing immediate fatigue, but it is also important to spare glycogen, potentially preventing or delaying later onset of fatigue.

Fig. 1
Fig. 1

Urine color as an indication of hydration status (reproduced with permission from [196])

Because sweat also contains sodium one might argue that sodium supplementation may be of importance during ultra-endurance walking and running events. Published data has shown that as high as 90–96% of ultra-endurance runners use sodium supplements [2729104]. Although past recommendations suggest a sodium intake of 1.7–2.9 g/L of fluid consumed to allow for fluid retention, more recent data have shown no benefit to hydration [19272829104115] or blood serum sodium levels [192829115] by consuming supplemental sodium during these races. This is likely due to the adaptations that increase sodium bioavailability and prevent losses (e.g. sweat, urine, and feces) which take place in response to periods of sodium deprivation or restriction [115116117]. In fact, sodium supplements taken in excess can result in inadequate weight loss and even unnecessary weight gain [118]. This ultimately results in fluid overload and decrements to performance as discussed above. It is therefore recommended that to best maintain hydration, athletes drink to thirst without using sodium supplementation beyond that taken in food and fluids, even when exercising in high ambient temperatures [104].

Other recommendations for maintaining euhydration during the event pertain to both the use of carbohydrate supplemented beverages and fluid intake before the event. As mentioned in the carbohydrate section, a concentration of 6–12% of carbohydrate is recommended for those that consume carbohydrate-supplemented beverages to achieve rapid absorption, reduce the risk of cramping, and provide energy [52105]. At 2–4 h prior to exercise, to achieve hydration balance going into the event, it is recommended to consume 5–10 mL/kg body weight from water or carbohydrate-supplemented beverage. This will allow enough time for excretion of any excess as urine before the event allowing for a balanced bodily fluid level going into the activity [45].

Vitamins and minerals

Vitamin and mineral considerations are crucial when participating in and training for ultra-endurance activities. When it comes to athletic performance, these micronutrients are particularly important for energy production, hemoglobin synthesis, maintenance of bone health, adequate immune function, and protection of the body against oxidative damage. They also assist in important physiological processes related to synthesis, recovery, and adaptation to exercise. Because of this, exercise may increase the turnover and loss of these nutrients resulting in greater dietary intakes being required. Some vitamins and minerals that athletes need to pay particular attention to are calcium, vitamins D, C, E, and the B vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium, as well as, beta carotene and selenium for their antioxidant properties.

Calcium and vitamin D play important roles in growth, maintenance, and repair of bone tissue as well as regulation of nerve conduction, and development and homeostasis in skeletal muscle. A deficiency in both or either calcium and vitamin D increases the risk of low bone-mineral density and stress fractures [119]. Calcium can be obtained from food; however, vitamin D is mainly synthesized through sunlight. Serum Vitamin D levels should be tested regularly, especially in athletes who do not receive adequate sunlight daily, such as those who live at northern latitudes (>35th parallel) or who primarily train indoors throughout the year [120]. In those with suboptimal levels (stated in Table 2), supplementation may be necessary. Current vitamin D supplement recommendations suggest 1000–2000 IU per day for athletes [121].

Table 2

Optimal serum levels for ultra-endurance runners/walkers

Micronutrient

Serum marker

Optimal serum level

Vitamin C

L-Ascorbic acid

40-60 μM

Calcium

Calcium

4.5–5.5 mEq/L

Vitamin D

25-hydroxyvitamin D

75–100 nmol/L

Vitamin E

Alpha Tocopherol

5.5–17 µg/mL

Folate

Plasma folate

2.7–20 μg/L

Vitamin B12

Holotranscobalamin

35–156 pmol/L

Iron

Ferritin

>50 ng/mL

Magnesium

Magnesium

1.5–3.0 mEq/L

Zinc

Zinc

84–159 µg/dL

B vitamins play a role in energy production and the building and repair of muscle tissue. There is some data suggesting that to obtain optimal health and performance, highly active athletes may need to double the current recommended amounts of these B vitamins though it is likely that these needs are being met with increased energy intakes [122]. Of particular consideration, however, are vitamin B12 and folate. A deficiency in either of these nutrients results in anemia which can greatly reduce time to fatigue and therefore endurance performance [123]. Because vitamin B12 is obtained through animal products, such as meat and dairy, athletes such as vegetarians or vegans may need to consume supplements with this vitamin.

Iron deficiency will also result in anemia, reducing the ability of red blood cells to transport oxygen. A deficiency in iron is common among those engaged in prolonged activity due to up-regulation of the hormone hepcidin. The increase in this hormone is observed hours after exercise and reduces the gut’s ability to absorb dietary iron [124]. Because of this, ultra-endurance athletes should pay particular attention to their iron consumption and obtain regular blood tests to check their ferritin status. Iron absorption can be improved by consuming heme iron found in meat products with non-heme iron found in plant products and vitamin C with sources of iron [125126]. Athletes should aim for blood ferritin levels of >50 μg/L for optimal performance and iron supplements may be considered under the discretion of a health care provider if this level is not being met through dietary sources alone [127128].

Zinc plays a role in muscle repair, energy metabolism, and immune status. A deficiency in zinc can result in disrupted thyroid hormone levels, affecting metabolic rate and performance [129]. It can also reduce cardiorespiratory function, muscle strength, and endurance [123]. Athletes are at high risk of inadequate zinc levels [130] and should therefore strive to achieve adequate zinc intake through zinc-rich foods. They should be cautioned if using zinc supplements that they do not exceed the tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) of zinc (40 mg/day) [131], which can lead to decreases in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and nutrient imbalances by interfering with the bioavailability of other minerals such as iron and copper [123]. Zinc-rich foods include shellfish, green leafy vegetables, and seeds. If supplementation is required, athletes should receive guidance from their health care provider.

Magnesium supports the proper functioning of the nervous and musculoskeletal systems [132]. Deficiency can cause multiple symptoms resulting in decreased performance as it is linked to many pathological conditions of the cardiovascular, skeletal, and nervous systems [133]. Ultra-endurance athletes are at increased risk of this deficiency due to increased urinary and sweat losses induced by magnesium redistribution within the body during prolonged intense activity [134]. In addition, the dietary reference intake of 310–420 mg/day is likely suboptimal for most athletes [135]. Ultra-endurance athletes should have their blood levels of magnesium tested regularly and self-monitor for common symptoms of hypomagnesaemia such as muscle cramps. Supplementation with magnesium is recommended if necessary and dosage should be determined under the discretion of their healthcare provider to avoid toxicity.

Antioxidants

Exercise can induce a release of free radicals or reactive oxygen species which have the ability to modify lipids, proteins, carbohydrates, and nucleic acids in the body [136]. These modifications are collectively known as oxidative damage or oxidative stress and have been linked to negative health outcomes such as insulin resistance, atherosclerosis, cardiac dysfunction, and injury [137]. Antioxidant vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and selenium can be used to mitigate these effects. These nutrients act in different ways to either remove oxidative species or prevent their reactions from happening [138]. However, because oxidative species also have some beneficial effects on the body, their function is not to completely eliminate these processes, but to keep them at homeostatic, and thus optimal, levels. Therefore, there is a threshold to which antioxidants can provide benefits for performance, health, and recovery. Research on ultra-endurance athletes has demonstrated that their need to prevent oxidative damage is higher given their extraordinary exercise volume [136].

Although more research is needed to examine the effects of these antioxidant supplements during and immediately prior to an event, current evidence suggests little to no benefit [139140]. A study on runners ingesting vitamin supplements (N = 9) and mineral supplements (N = 12) showed that the supplementation did not result in faster race times compared to the athletes without supplemental intake of vitamins and minerals [141]. It is important to note that although ultra-endurance athletes may benefit from ample intakes of antioxidant vitamins and minerals that exceed the current recommendations for the general population, they should be cautioned not to consume these nutrients at levels above the ULs. High doses above the UL can also result in pro-oxidative effects, causing risks of decreased performance, recovery and health [142].

Other antioxidants which have recently been investigated for their effects on endurance performance include polyphenols with the most popularly researched being quercetin, catechins, and resveratrol. These polyphenols are organic chemical compounds mainly found in plants that have strong antioxidant properties [143]. They have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory, cardioprotection, and anti-carcinogenic properties in clinical populations [144]. However, few studies have investigated the effects of these polyphenols on performance, particularly in an ultra-endurance population.

Catechins are commonly found in plants such as green tea and cacao. Some human studies have shown positive effects for endurance including V02 max [145], fat oxidation, and insulin sensitivity [146] in an untrained population; however, studies on trained subjects are yet to show benefits [147148149]. It is unlikely that supplemental catechins would be beneficial to ultra-endurance performance.

Resveratrol is present in concentrated quantities in grapes. It’s strong antioxidant properties have shown to be beneficial against degenerative and cardiovascular diseases from atherosclerosis, hypertension, ischemia/reperfusion, heart failure, diabetes, obesity, aging, and neurodegenerative diseases [150]. With one exception, studies to date have only been performed on rodents, and the effects on performance range from extremely beneficial to extremely detrimental [151152153154155156157]. Taken together, these studies would suggest that resveratrol benefits trained rodents and is potentially harmful in untrained rodents. The only human study was performed in untrained elderly participants and the effect demonstrated that supplementation was also potentially harmful through blunting of cardiovascular training adaptations to endurance exercise [151]. Further research is needed before supplemental resveratrol should be taken by ultra-endurance athletes.

Quercetin is found in foods such as red onion, dill, apples and capers and has been studied more extensively than other polyphenols. It provides many health benefits in humans [158] and has shown to encourage mitochondrial growth in rodents [159]. Although quercetin supplementation shows potential endurance performance benefits in cell culture and in vivo animal studies [160161], research on its use as a supplement in humans are less clear. Some studies have reported increased endurance exercise capacity and performance in humans following supplementation with quercetin [162163164]; however, many have failed to find benefits [165166167168169170171]. Of the 2 studies [172173] on ultra-endurance trained subjects, both have shown no significant benefit. Nieman et al. [172] examined the effect of quercetin supplementation on inflammation after three consecutive days of cycling and following an ultra-endurance run. No improvements in performance or attenuation of markers of muscle damage, inflammation, increases in plasma cytokines, and alterations in muscle cytokine mRNA expression were found [172]. Quindry et al. [173] supplemented half of their 63 ultra-endurance running trained subjects with quercetin combined with niacin and vitamin C for 3 weeks leading up to and during a 160 km ultramarathon. The supplement did not fortify plasma antioxidant levels against ultramarathon-induced oxidative stress in blood plasma or improve performance. This being said, a 2011 meta analysis by Kressler et al. [194] encompassing the above research concluded that quercetin supplementation can improve human endurance exercise capacity in a small but significant magnitude (~3%). Based on data showing favorable outcomes for supplemental quercetin [162163164], a daily dosage of 1000 mg could have small potential benefits and is unlikely to be detrimental for ultra-endurance trained populations.

Where micronutrients in general are concerned, there are currently no Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)’s in place specifically for athletes. However, the amounts needed in excess of those recommended for the general population are likely dependent on multiple factors including individual variability, training intensity, and training duration. To determine if ultra-endurance athletes are consuming adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals, they should obtain regular blood tests to ensure blood levels are being maintained at levels that are not only acceptable for general health but are optimal for performance (see Table 2). This may be particularly important during times when their training or nutrition changes. It is important to emphasize that regular adequate intake of vitamins and minerals is required for optimal performance and that consuming extra vitamins and minerals through supplementation immediately before or during an ultra-endurance event has not shown to provide any performance, health or recovery benefits [141174].

Gastrointestinal intolerances

During ultra-endurance activities and corresponding training exercises, food and fluid must be consumed while being active to minimize the energy deficit. Because of this, it is no surprise that GIS are a common issue for these athletes [175]. Endeavoring to prevent GIS is important as it is one of the most common cited reasons for inadequate intake during events [176177] and is positively correlated with increasing duration [178]. Running in particular appears to result in more pronounced GIS than other activities [175] as well as a dehydrated state compared with a euhydrated state [179]. There also seems to be an individual predisposition for GI distress during exercise as Pfieffer et al. have determined a positive relationship between GIS during races and history of GI issues both associated with and away from exercise [175180]. Another common issue in ultra-endurance athletes is reduced appetite, which is closely related to GIS as both are subsequent results of splanchnic ischemia. Particularly at workloads above 70 % VO2 max, splanchnic blood flow is reduced to about 30–40% as blood shifts to working muscles and skin to dissipate heat [177].

If the event has no enforced breaks, whole foods may not be an option as they may be too difficult to chew and swallow and could result in GIS. In this case, intake from fluids is a viable option as not only does it provide the energy but also hydration. However, in cases where the prevention of hyper-hydration is important, products such as sports gels can also be supplemented to the racer’s diet. With gels, it has been shown that high doses of CHO (1.4 g/min) are well tolerated by most runners [180]. Against this background, it may be best to determine strategies, such as use of different types of nutritional sources and frequency of consumption to find which methods work best to maximize carbohydrate intake during an event without causing GI distress. One of the possible ways that this could be done is through coingestion of glucose and fructose as a carbohydrate source rather than one or the other. Research suggests that this can increase carbohydrate oxidation from an average of 1–1.26 g/min mainly due to increased bioavailability as the 2 different compounds use different transporters within the gut [181]. With the use of gels as a source of carbohydrates, Pfeiffer et al. [180] showed no overall difference in tolerance between glucose-based gels and combined glucose and fructose gels. However, some individuals showed more symptoms with one or the other gel. It should, therefore, be advised that individual athletes, especially those who experience GI problems frequently, test their tolerance during intense training sessions, ideally under conditions similar to those of the races they aim to compete in.

The intake of the nutrients fat, fiber, and protein, have all been linked to GIS during exercise [182]. To prevent this, food items low in these nutrients, such as bananas, biscuits, energy gels/bars, and sports drinks, are popular food and fluid choices for ultra-endurance events. However, as the duration of ultra-endurance races increases, these food and drink choices have become less tolerable and appealing [183184]. In terms of athletes’ tolerance, individual testing of food and drink intake during training conditions similar to the event they are training for are vital. No matter where the athlete is starting from, another potential strategy is “gut training”, which involves increasing the absorptive capacity of the gut through high carbohydrate dieting and progressively increasing the hourly carbohydrate intake during training [185]. Although the evidence of this is mainly anecdotal, intestinal carbohydrate transporters can indeed be up-regulated [186187] and gastric emptying rates can be enhanced with training [188].

GIS occur less frequently after adequate training or when relative exercise intensity is reduced [189190]. Although more research in this area is needed, experimentation with this strategy during training is likely to present little risk and athletes should dedicate at least some time to gut training. Endurance training itself appears to enhance gastric transit time [191], and higher energy intakes during training further enhance this rate [192]. Cox et al. [187] demonstrated that exogenous carbohydrate oxidation rates were higher after the high carbohydrate diet (6.5; 1.5 g/kg BW provided mainly as a carbohydrate supplement during training) for 28 days compared with a control diet (5 g/kg BW/day) in endurance trained cyclists. The higher rates were attributed to improved absorption, which provides evidence that the gut is indeed adaptable and that this could be used as a practical method to increase exogenous carbohydrate oxidation. Therefore, ultra-endurance runners should strive to gradually increase their intakes as tolerated during training to further approach suggested intakes (kcals/km) for events. This could lead to improvements in performance through greater fuel availability as discussed in preceding sections.

Conclusion

There is a paucity of agreed-on and concrete nutrition best practices for ultraendurance runners and even less demarcating such by event type. From a macronutrients perspective, ultra-endurance athletes need to ensure adequate intake. Generally, carbohydrate, protein, and fat recommendations are 8–12 g of CHO/kg body weight/day, ≥20 g at 3–4 h intervals and 20–35% of energy intake, respectively, and athletes should strive to minimize the gap between energy intake and energy expenditure to optimize performance. However, the practicality of such recommendations needs to be considered on an individual basis and the importance of rehearsal of an individualized nutrition strategy prior to competition cannot be overemphasized. Because micronutrients are crucial and may sometimes be overlooked, special attention needs to be placed on each both in terms of interaction with the body’s internal physiology, other ingested foods and the nature and intensity of physical rigor the body endures. As far as is necessary, and in keeping with advice from healthcare providers, ultra-endurance athletes may use supplements to support training and events performance and aid in recovery. While some recommendations presented are prescriptive in nature based on the findings of various studies, ultra-endurance athletes are encouraged to apply them within the context of their particular training regiment, body mass composition, and corresponding physiological needs. All the literature reviewed indicate that ultra-endurance athletes must take great care in attending to their nutritional needs to maintain good health, promote optimal performance, and reduce the likelihood of injuries. Proper nutrition will result in decreased energy depletion, better performance, and accelerated recovery. With the growing international appeal of ultra-endurance events, significant research is needed to promote the health and wellbeing of athletes. More longitudinal studies are needed to ascertain the precise nutritional and environmental conditions under which athletes perform most optimally based on age, gender, type of event, body type, and other physiological factors.

Abbreviations

BMR: 

basal metabolic rate

 

CHO: 

carbohydrates

 

UL: 

upper intake level

RDA: 

recommended dietary allowance

 

GIS: 

gastrointestinal symptoms

ATP: 

adensosine triphospate

Declarations

Acknowledgements

The author wishes to thank the US Anti-doping Agency for their permission to use Fig. 1 and my professor, Dr. Greg Wells, for his constructive feedback and encouragement to publish this review.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

 

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Battle of the Sexes Medihelp 10km Race Review

And now for something completely different

Ever wondered what would happen if we neutralised the effect of gender at a race, and pitched the efforts of the top males and females against each other on equal grounds? Well, wonder no more. The Battle of the Sexes Medihelp 10km Tekkie Challenge does exactly that. How is this possible? By staggering the start times for males and females by the time difference between the personal records of the top participating athlete in each gender. 

While staggered-start, battle of the sexes type races are relatively well-known in the United States, the Tekkie Challenge is the only one of its kind in South Africa – therefore as a participant in this race you get a taste of something truly innovative and unique. As a female athlete starting out in the front, the “wait”  for the elite males to catch up adds a real element of excitement to the run and you find yourself pushing to see how far you can get before the boys come flying by.

There are countless events taking place in and around the Western Cape, and athletes are spoiled for choice every weekend. In this environment, I believe, event organisers who build innovative elements into their line up increase the attractiveness of their event and, over time, may see their races emerging onto the list of must-do-runs. In my opinion, the Medihelp 10km Battle of the Sexes is definitely one of these must-do-runs. Not only because of the staggered start, but also because the logistics of this event ran like a finely tuned machine in 2018. To top that off, the event is hosted in aid of a worthy cause. More about all of these aspects – and how far I got before the boys caught up – in the official ratings graphic below. 

Battle of the Sexes Medihelp 10km Review

Came close, but not quite as fast as I had hoped!

With the competitive nature of the start line I would have been hard pressed to stick to a low heart rate on this run. Lucky for me this week the programme prescribed a “flat out race”, dividing the run into three sections of 3-4-3. Tekkie Challenge Route Profile

The goal I set myself was to try break 50 minutes. However, sticking to the planned pace without tiring myself too much in the first five kilos proved hard since all the climbing was done on this portion. Although I made up time on the descent, I just did not have the leg speed to bring the pace down enough. In the end I finished 10km in 50:13 and the course (which was just over 10km) in 50:28 (my watch, not official stats). Still very happy with the outcome of the race, and will have to come back next year to try and beat my course best of 47:52. 

Proof that many little things all add up to something great 

At the risk of repeating myself, I would not fault this event on anything this year.

The event master of ceremony was a great entertainer, creating a good amount of hype leading up to the announcement of the staggered-start time difference. The 5km and 10km routes intersect at points, but enter the finish line area through two different gates which worked brilliantly. Yet, everyone finished under the same arch which was surrounded by a lively crowd. It was this type of logistical engineering around all the small details that added up to an outstanding event.

For all my raves about the pre- and post-race details, check out the infographic below. Battle of the Sexes Medihelp 10km Before and After

 

 

SATORI CAMEL RUN 2018 10 miler classic (16.1km)

Sunday 2nd September 2018.  Approximately an hours drive from Sunningdale through to Noordhoek.  So it really was a case of being up with the birds this morning, yes 05h00.  On opening our garage door we were met with heavy showers – a sign of things to come i’m thinking.  So off we set and well within an hour we reached our destination and parked in a well designated area.  The office was open for late entries and number collections – Nico Loubser however, collected his and my number the previous day, so no queing or hanging about for this.  The tea/coffee tents were buzzing with folk getting in a quick hot drink before braving the colder elements, mostly all suitably dressed for what lay ahead.  Possible temperature in Noordhoek a chilly 8 or 9 degrees – with rain or showers even, predicted.  The ever faithful Porta Loo’s were there in abundance, not disapointing those (including me) who needed a last one before hitting the road.  Again, really well organized with very little or no queing and a dedicated official armed with a ‘flushing bucket’.  Very impressive.

07h30 was set off time and that’s exactly what we did.  En masse we left the start line and shuffled our way forward to a narrow opening allowing just 2 or 3 runners at one given time to start the Camel Run.  Once through this and over a small slippery wooden bridge, it was go go go.  Until . . . yes, I have to add this – the dreaded camel hump hills that every man and his dog had warned me about.  Peter Chong had previously posted that the climbs were 329 metres x 2, I would have guessed they were a little more than that.  Torturous to be perfectly honest.  Handsoncoach Alan Green had advised me to run 20 steps then walk 20 steps, run 20 then walk 20.  I really started off with good intention until my second set and then all resistance crumbled.  Yup – all that good sound advice went in one ear and out the other.  I literally had to drag my sorry rear end up the camel humps muttering obscenities at each step.

Absolute bliss at the top of the hill however, one could see for miles if one dared take their eyes off the tricky surrounding terrain.  Down hill’s of grassy patches disguised under moss covered slippery stones – just asking to be slipped on or tripped over.  The remainder of the run was actually quite pleasant, if one likes running in the rain?  I was totally soaked from top to bottom along with every other participant.  Fabulous job from the marshalls – each one cheering us on – flags in hands for good direction.

And so crossing the final hurdle of yet more puddles and rain clouds, the last km became a reality that the Camel Run had been completed.  The hills were hard, no other way to describe them.  A beautiful run in the most scenic surroundings.  Finishers received a Camel Run Buff and I for one shall treasure mine forever.  What an experience.  And of course congratulations to all who entered and finished this course especially Iain Park-Ross who won his age category.  Who knew being 60 could be such fun!!

See you there next year . . . I’m in it for another Buff!  Fat bottom girls you make the rocking world go round.

 

The 2nd Dimension Of Running

I am going to take a few extracts from Mystical Miles written by Paul Vorwek who is a couch to extreme runner on both tar and trail. The more I read his book the better I understand my own views on running and what makes us runners. It also helps me to coach others in a more holistic way.

” Running begins as physical effort and practicalities: training , stretching recovering; of dealing with injuries, nutrition, sleep and supplementary exercises. This running becomes one of goals and targets; of running measured by achievements, victories, personal bests, training schedules completed and distances run. This is also a world of running filled with technology, gear, gadgets and shoes. Out of this running come all the great athletic events; the races and records, the successes, failures, heroes and villains. 

This first dimension is dazzling, exciting, vibrant, competitive, replete with ongoing achievements and celebrations; a celebration of people their doing and Life.

The second dimension of running is all this and more. This running grows out of the first dimension. This second dimension of running is the running enabled by running. It’s the running inner paths as well as the outer tracks, trails and roads; it’s running the inner and outer into one; it is the running of moon-tan and star -shimmered waterfalls.

The richer miles begin when the body, mind, soul engage with all that lies outside the runner. They grow as the outside world reaches in and engages with deeper parts of the runner, and grow fuller more when the two , when inner and outer become one.

The second dimension of running allows and later requires the uniqueness in each runner, in each of us, to blossom, to let the life in us bloom. It is from running that I learned how rich running can be, how it becomes so much more than just running. While we share some things we are essentially and existentially unique and it is that uniqueness that will colour our running.

In other words: our running, experiences and thoughts will differ, but for all of us they can be incredibly rich.”

” And then,

Sometime in the next day or so I will run. Choose a shirt and shorts. My socks choose themselves, the brightest yellow or green, even if they are a little hole-y. I will tie my laces. I’ll feel a familiar, peculiar, puckering, pre-run feeling as if my skin sensors have been switched on- somewhat like the feeling when the national anthem is played. Anticipation will rush through me as I remember all that running means to me.

I’ll begin. Probably walk a few steps and then lift myself into an easy stride. Step by step, my shoulders, arms and neck will loosen. I’ll know more or less how far and hard i’ll run. My mind will ration and distribute resources, manage the emergency reserve, fill it too if it gets a chance.

Breathing deeper and smiling, I’ll be running real in a real world. If it’s been raining I’ll probably shake the branches of a tree. Will glance upwards and savour stars, first glimmers of sunrise. Or clouds, or the perfect blue.

Most likely, I’ll shout or whoop, or jump on a bench. Unshackled I’ll run faster, feeling the goodness in the day; fostering life, opening myself to love, light, to learning, to experiencing every fragment of beauty and wonder. My legs will churn happily, rhythmically tracing a path over the planet.

Through city, suburbs or across a field, maybe next to a river or sea, welcoming whatever rushes at me, I’ll run. Deeper than any other feelings, will be that feeling fully alive, the enjoyment and satisfaction this brings. I’ll know deep inside that I am satisfied with my life and have a powerful reason to go on.

The road will unwind before me, and I’ll run down it into perfection.”

Read the above extracts from The second Dimension Of Running. Mystical Miles and try to see what drives you to run.

In the beginning it is all about strain and hard work to achieve even a small improvement but if you stick with it you will soon enough find that the joy of running or having a more active lifestyle brings greater rewards than you ever dreamed possible. I know that most often when running I seem serious and focused but inside I am smiling and laughing at myself. I do often write programs for others that reflect what I see inside of them and the possibilities that they might not of realised yet. They say things like I cannot run that fast or cover the distances required, however with a little prodding they surpass even these seemingly insurmountable obstacles and realise that they are better than what they thought.

I also believe that training for an event must be fun otherwise why would we willingly sacrifice so much to achieve something that most times will not matter to anyone else but ourselves. It is when we start enjoying the feelings we experience while training and running that makes us want to carry on with our journey and never actually reaching the end. 

Set what to others seem crazy goals and ideals that are seemingly out of reach and if you do reach them then look for other goals as the journey is most times more rewarding the end goal. Run with others as the company makes hard work feel easy. Run alone when you need to focus on getting through a tough patch or hard session. Run on the road, trail, beach or park to get you motivated to get out the door. When you see that you can survive a tough session while running, you realise that when life feels tough you can and will survive and keep moving forward.

Enjoy the running journey and all the rewards that it will bring.

 

A short runcation: Langebaan Half Marathon Race Review (2018)

Dialing the pace of life down, and the pace of the run up

We are at that point in the year when time is told in relation to the start of the December vacation. The tell-tale signs are everywhere and Whatsapp groups are flooded with memes of cute puppies reminding you that there are only 17 more Mondays until Christmas. The truly exhausted among us have already Googled and bookmarked a Christmas countdown clock telling the exact number of days, hours, minutes and seconds until holiday bliss. Honestly, 17 more Mondays is a long way off and adulting prevents me from taking a vacation right now.

Thankfully we runners are blessed with the opportunity to sneak in a short runcation to rejuvenate the spirits. Runcation is listed by Merriam-Webster as an obsolete word meaning “The act of weeding by hand”, but some creative runners have taken to using the word runcation to mean the type of vacation that involves a running event. My perfect opportunity for a short two-day runcation came in the form of the Arcelor Mittal Athletic Club Langebaan Half Marathon. This annual half marathon starts and ends at Club Mykonos Langebaan, and was held on the 25th of August 2018. 

You could imagine that on a runcation one turns the pace of life and your run down a notch. In my case the battery of my heart rate monitor died somewhere between race day and my last run, so I decided to forget heart rate and run my heart out! I paced myself according to perceived effort – a steady 10km, a harder 5km and then all guns blazing until the end. Disclaimer, this strategy was not advised or approved by any coach – but it was an utterly enjoyable run. Below is my Langebaan half marathon race review.

The end of trolling for profiles and routes, well at least partially

I decided it would be useful to add two additional elements to my reviews, (i) a screenshot of the route profile from Strava and (ii) a link to an interactive route map. I find myself trolling the internet and stalking stranger Strava profiles to find route profiles and maps far too often, since these are not always available on the race website or social media feeds. Having access to a route profile and map help me get my mental game ready, it borders on obsessive, but I have made my peace with obsessive. So, now you have the chance to experience this route vicariously on my review, and next year when entries open I can revert back to see what I am in for. Unless they change the route, and then, well, back to trolling and Strava stranger stalking. 

Route profile Langebaan 21.1km

As noted in my review, there is that not-so-little hill at the end of the course, and then after coming down from that, an ever so slight bump in the road before the finish line.  The route profile, unbeknownst to me at the time, lent itself well to my race strategy, with enough energy preserved for the second half of the course where the difficulty picks up quite substantially. 

What cannot be seen on this route profile is the large number of twists and turns this route takes. Several times you loop back to and through places you have passed earlier in the run. Just by looking at the route map it is pretty impossible to “get” which way you would be running.

Luckily we have many fancy sports apps that can help with that. Click here to access my Garmin Connect activity and press the black play button on the bottom of the map to “watch” the route. 

What else to do on a runcation in Langebaan?

Weather predictions for the weekend were not optimistic, and surprisingly the predictions were pretty accurate. On the upside, the rain (mostly) stayed away till after the runners were done but it came pelting down shortly thereafter. Stormy and grey conditions prevailed for the whole weekend, but it was just right for fireplace conversations, post-run massages and just plain laziness. The Coetzees were celebrating Dries’ entry into mid-life and booked into the historical Farm House Hotel which has majestic views of the lagoon, delightful staff and a must-try Americano. 

The 8am start of the race allowed “sleeping beauty” some extra snooze time on race morning (big plus point for this event). This start time also allows for those not on runcation to leave the Blouberg area at a reasonably humane time. For a full overview of the pre- and post-race ratings, have a look at the official reviews below. 

What to expect before and after the Langebaan 21.1km

Back to reality with a slightly elevated level of enthusiasm

Just a breather away was enough to add some va-va-voom back so as to get me through these next 17 weeks. I was reminded again this weekend of the innumerable benefits of running. In this case, the benefit of being able to combine (soulful) rest and racing in a 48-hour space just up the road from home. 

I am pretty sure many West Coasters have taken runcations over the years, some may be planning their next adventure as I write. What is your favourite or dream runcation destination? 

PUFfeR 2018 – The (in)experiences of a novice.

The PUFfeR (Peninsula Ultra Fun Run) is an 80km (approximately, depending on how well you know the route and the shortcuts) part road, part trail run hosted by Fish Hoek Athletics Club, which starts at Cape Point and finishes in Sea Point taking runners along the mountain range of the Cape Peninsula. 2018 is the 23rd year of this event, started in 1995 by a Belgian dude called Jean-Paul van Belle along with 17 other runners, this year they took 180 entrants.

The slogan “Running in heaven feeling like hell” is the perfect description of this race!

The route starts at roughly 5.30am (actually, as soon as everybody’s off the buses) in the dark and goes through the Cape Point Nature Reserve for about 13km to the reserve gate at checkpoint and refreshment stop 1, left onto Plateau Rd to Red Hill, the first biggish climb (half of the John Korasie route, backwards). On Red Hill before the descent into Simons town the rout takes a left at Pinehaven for a few km’s down a scenic tar road to the Waterworks at Lewis Grey Dam, there the runners hit the first trail section, over Black Hill and down into Fish Hoek for some more tar; up Ou Kaapse Road past Noordhoek Manor the route turns off onto the old Wagon Trail up another big climb and over into the Silvermine reserve, another climb on some tar before turning off onto Level 5 gravel road which runs along the mountain over the Tokai forests and around to the Vlakenburg trail and down a knee-busting descent to Constantia Nek. From here the race really starts with a massive climb from the Nek up past Castle (Camel) Rock to Maclears Beacon, highest point on the range, along the top of Table Mountain and down the long, steep Platteklip Gorge, onto Tafelberg road, past Kloof Nek and up towards Signal Hill where runners encounter the incredibly awesome West Coast AC support station (details about that later), down the hill towards Sea Point and to the finish at Hamilton’s Rugby Club.

West Coast: This year West Coast AC had 13 entries to the race,  2 ladies – Cathy & Jenny, both of whom unfortunately pulled out early due to injury. And 11 blokes, 10 of whom were at the start. Carl pulled out the day before due to the flu. The starters were Gary, Guy, David, Charl, Rob, Bruce, Malcolm, Marius, Izak, and myself, Justin. I was unfortunately the only one who did not finish, the other 9 all went on to collect their medals. Super strong team we had this year, well done to all the guys who finished. It was a hell of a tough day out on the mountains.

Some West Coasters before the race (click to enlarge):

My failure: So as you read above, I did not finish. I made it as far as Constantia Nek, 56km into the race, and missed the 1.40pm cut off by 10 minutes. I’m quite certain I was the only runner to be cut off at this vital point because the guy I was running with from early in the race, Laurence and myself were the last to make it through the previous cut off at Silvermine meaning from that point we were dead last, jokingly dismissing all the marshals we passed going forward, much to their obvious relief. He took off ahead of me at Vlakenberg and made the cut off by seconds, I couldn’t keep up down that steep rocky decline, especially in road shoes, making me the only runner in the field to be cut off at this most important cut off point. To be honest, I was relieved because by this stage, after 56km, I was broken. Looking ahead from the top of the mountain I was standing on at the mountain I’d have to climb on the other side of the Nek the thought of pushing my fat ass on up that mountain to Maclears Beacon and down Platteklip on legs that were exhausted, knees aching and feet burning was daunting to say the least, I was secretly quite ok with not going any further despite my usual hearty determination telling me to keep going and not give up. It was an uncomfortable inner battle of decisions between my head and my heart. But, my head had won, I’d already given up. I sat down for 2 minutes to enjoy the view, then hobbled off down to my own finish, both hating myself for now being a deliberate quitter, and also incredibly sad at the knowledge that I’d screwed this up and would be missing out on that beautiful medal that my friends would all be wearing later that day.

You see, I completely underestimated this race. Having done the 90km Comrades Marathon two months earlier I thought the (mediocre) training I’d done for Comrades with a few training runs in the mountains prior to Puffer would be more than enough, I mean, it’s “only” 80km, right? I thought I could take it easy from the start and keep a steady run-walk strategy and make it comfortably. Well I should have known when I was one of the last out of the Cape Point reserve gate at about 13km that I already had this theory wrong, but I didn’t click yet, even as the back-markers passed me heading towards Red Hill, I thought I was ok, and this was just an exceptionally strong field of runners (something I HAD noticed at the race briefing 2 days earlier, I was the only fat guy in the auditorium. Somehow I thought this was funny!) I also wasted time in the reserve taking photos, again thinking I had more than adequate time to bugger around with the camera. Of course I got some stunning photos, but to the detriment of my race, partly. Having listened to some advice in hindsight it became clear that “taking it easy” on the road sections is not gonna suffice, it’s important to make up distance as fast as possible without burning out on the road sections to provide adequate time on the trails to make the cut-offs and not finish in the dark.

Heading towards Red Hill I hooked up with Laurence and we decided to go all the way to the finish and pace ourselves comfortably. I didn’t know it yet but this was also a mistake. See, he had done Puffer last year and convinced me the pace we were going was more than enough. I stopped making calculations in my head and went along with his theories. Boy did we get them wrong, we were going too slow, too much walking at times we didn’t need to. When we got to the Silvermine checkpoint, coming up the road the supporters were yelling we had just 2 minutes to make cut off. I thought they were taking the piss, we believed that 11.20am cut off was at the previous checkpoint an hour back at the bottom of Wagon Trail (somebody there told us that!) Anyway, after some refreshments and a good 5 minutes for a badly needed number 2 we headed off to the Nek with only 2 hours to get there. We got our pacing wrong here too, much too slow at first and having to push hard later. By the time we got to the trails leading up to Vlakenberg I was knackered, yet still hoping to make the cut off. At the top of Vlakenberg before the descent Laurence went flying past me and down the trail to the Nek determined to make it despite his dodgy knee, I didn’t have the legs left to go down that descent at speed, nor, honestly, the desire. I let him go, resigning myself to the fact that my race was nearly over. Honestly, having just missed the cut at Silvermine and being stone last all the way from there had already broken my mental resolve, I knew I’d stuffed up and the new goal of having to play catch up and chase cut offs was already a deal breaker. 

However, despite failing due to a series of poor decisions and being grossly unprepared for the race, it was not all negative! I really enjoyed the experience as far as I did get. It’s a fantastic race in some spectacular places, if you are strong enough to do this and fortunate to get an entry it is well worth every moment, albeit a long tough day out!

I learned an enormous amount from my experience at Puffer, and I’m determined to come back tougher and stronger next year to fetch my medal with a strong finish. I have decided to skip Comrades next year in order to train properly for Puffer, the plan is to do a LOT of mountain running in the next year, loads of road and trail and strength training, and go back to Puffer with the strength and confidence to nail that bad-ass as a midfield finisher! (Providing of course Andy, the organiser, accepts my entry next year!! Pretty please Andy!!)

My journey to PUFfeR: As previously mentioned, I ran Comrades in June. It was not a good race for me this year because, like Puffer, I went in overweight and under-trained due to an overconfidence from having a good finish last year at my first Comrades, however I still finished in time, by a few ball-hairs, but I got my back to back, and regarded Comrades and the journey there as sufficient training for the road parts of Puffer. Basically, a lazy excuse to not have to do too much more.

I ran in the mountains a few times, getting to know the equipment I had and building up what I needed as money permitted. I entered and participated in the Bastille Day 25km which I absolutely enjoyed. That was a big confidence boost since that was a proper mountain trail run that I did fairly comfortably and wasn’t last. Thereafter through the Puffer Whatsapp group we organised weekly training runs on the actual routes, a few of which I dropped out of, for various reasons, basically I didn’t take them seriously enough. I ran sections of the route from Red Hill to the finish only once each. Not enough. Then came the taper leading to the big day. Through all this training I was not watching my diet and packed on about 6kg shortly after Comrades (the post ultra hunger from this one was insatiable and unstoppable), leading up to Puffer I lost about 2kg.

Let me tell you from experience – being overweight and taking on an ultra trail is NOT a bright idea at all !!! The extra energy you need to use to move the extra weight and the stress on the knees is huge. This fact, I believe, is the main reason I was so buggered by the time I was done. My knees were shattered and I was exhausted. 

Again, lessons learned!

Some photos I took at the beginning in the Cape Point reserve (click to enlarge):

My race: The day started with a 1am wake up alarm, all my kit was packed and prepped over the 2 days before, a full printed A4 page worth of stuff. Bruce and his wife Tammy and her dad picked me up at 2am, we picked up Izak and headed to the Cape Point Reserve gate where we get the bus to the start. I think we were second there, after the organiser. The toilets hadn’t even arrived yet. Over the next hour and a half the other runners arrived, there was an excited buzz in the cold night as we filed onto the buses for the long drive to the start at the tourist centre in Cape Point, close to the lighthouse.

We were no sooner off the buses and had a quick leak in the bush (I’m sure almost everybody did) when the race was started. This is the part I liked most about the race – running in the cold dark of night with the only light being the stream of headlights on the runners like migrating fireflies, and the bright stars above. No cars, buildings or other man made lights around, besides the distant glow of the city across the horizon. As we progressed the morning faded in slowly as the sky lightened and changed colour and broke into a beautiful day, perfect for the occasion!

The first checkpoint was at the gate, I forget which clubs hosted which checkpoint and refreshment station, which were roughly 10 to 15km apart. Each station was well stocked with food and drinks and varying degrees of vibe and cheer, some were well attended with crowds of supporters and runners seconds. But none came close in intensity and enthusiasm as the West Coast station!

Talking of supporting seconds, I have to say a huge thank you to Tammy Wood and her dad Anthony, for looking after me throughout the route. They were at all the strategic points with supplies, refreshments, clothes changes, toilet paper, etc. It’s vital to have support at this race, and we had the best.

Well, I plodded on slowly for the rest of my race, enjoying the people and the awesome scenery… you know the rest!

From Constantia Nek, when I retired, I got into the car with Tammy who was just waiting for me, and we drove around to the West Coast station on Signal Hill to wait for our club runners to arrive and pass through, all of whom were surprised and disappointed to see me there, obviously having bailed early. I was very happy for them all for doing so well.

The usual cheesy selfies:

The West Coast Station: This has to be mentioned! The WC station on Signal Hill has over the years become an epic part of this race, a club tradition to put on a show as the best support station on this race by miles! Positioned about 4km from the finish at the top of the very last climb on the day, it is a refreshing relief to the exhausted and broken runners who for a brief moment get to relax, enjoy a drink including beer, wine, OBS, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, etc, hot pancakes, sweets and loads of food choices. The ladies rubbed sore shoulders, the music and enthusiastic cheering made them feel like celebrities briefly. They left there revitalized for the final stretch to the finish.

A hearty thank you to Evette and her team of eager supporters who all played a role, from running drinks orders up the road to the tent (some racking up near half marathon distances on their Garmins), Louise on pancakes, Lisa on the camera, Justin R with his new GoPro, the name-checkers, hostesses with welcome drinks, dancers, DJ’s, Jacqui with her splash bucket, etc, etc. You guys were all fantastic! Well done!

The photos of the West Coast station (Facebook)

Justin Roux’ GoPro video of the WC station (Facebook)

A final word: This first Puffer was personally a bag of mixed emotions from the excitement of getting there and the disappointment of not finishing. I’ve learned a lot about what to expect for the event and about myself and my own shortcomings and potential capabilities. I know that with the right training and my head in the right place I can finish this thing easily enough, and next year that is what I will do. I regret missing it this year but the sulk and pity was over by the time I got home that day, I will use the lessons I’ve learned from this to come back strong as an ox next year and collect my medal at the finish and drink that free beer with pride!

Thank you for reading!

John Korasie 30km Road Race Review 2018

Same race, new strategy

Conditions were good for the running of the John Korasie 30km road race on 19 August 2018. It was cloudy (but not raining), cool (but not unbearable) and best of all the wind was not blistering. 

Many runners, including yours truly, use John Korasie 30km as a training run for the upcoming Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. There is enough time for the body to recover well before taking on the 42.2km event in September and for me it helps instill the confidence that I am ready to tackle the marathon distance. 

This was my third running of the event, but the first attempt to use it as a low-heart rate (LHR) training run. As a recovering race-a-holic who typically employs the “run like a wild rabid boar is chasing you” approach to events, it certainly ain’t easy to switch the modus operandi that drastically. 

It was a case of team work makes dream work

Enter a bunch of the Cool Cats from Norrie Training Group C. We chose to run the course together, stopping to walk together each time a member of our “bus” needed to bring their HR down. The five lovely ladies, and our dashing bodyguard made the vexing challenge of keeping my HR below 140 a pleasant and entertaining experience. Our team spirit was high and the support from fellow athletes and supporters on the road added to the genuine enjoyability of the run. It was great hearing the comments about the “sea of red and blue” as we passed by. And then there was the scenery, it is quite astounding just how much of the proverbial view you miss out on when charging along at (your version) of breakneck speed. 

My favourite moment in the race was our sprint finish in the final kilometer as we chased down the Spartan Harriers with whom we had been back-and-forth bantering with all along the route. One of the spectators shouted “West Coast team work is dream work” as we entered the Sports Fields grounds and the race MC welcomed our bus seconds after the Spartans. It was high fives all around and of course a group photo, special moments since I generally do not have the air in my lungs to enjoy these at the end of an event. 

So a BIG shout out to Ingrid Minter, Nicky Stander, Angela Lurssen, Zita Brandon and Lizl de Klerk (aka the lovely ladies), as well as Matt Smith (our bodyguard) – it was a delight to run with you. 

So how would I rate this race?

The race is certainly growing in popularity with an increase of more than 50% in entries from 2015 to 2017 when there were more than 2000 finishers. My estimate is that this has increased further in 2018, but we will have wait for the official race results to come out to confirm my observation. 

Readers of my earlier blog will be familiar with the set of criteria I have selected to rate events that I participate in, and below you will find my review of the John Korasie 30km road race on this set of factors. 

John Korasie 30km race review

What worked and what did not?

Let us start with me before we comment on the race. What did not work was my watch battery, or let me rephrase, my attempt to charge my watch battery the night before the race. It was plugged in, but obviously not properly because at 25.5km it died on me. I am not too fussed as this was a training run and not an attempt at a lifetime PB – but still my Strava now looks like I jumped off one of the cliffs en route! Meh. 

Now on to the event itself. I have to commend the race organisers on their continued improvements managing the race entries and collection. My experience this year was by far the best of the three. There remains, in my opinion, only one aspect of this race that needs tweaking – the infamous queue for the loo. Its long, and it takes long to get to the front. Longer than usual it feels, although this may be due to the fact that the drive from home is further than a typical drive and thus the wait feels worse. The pre-run bathroom stop is never going to be the best part of anyone’s race day experience, but perhaps just a few more porta-loos would do the trick. 

Read on below for a more detailed review of what to expect before and after the event.

John Korasie what to expect before and after

Want to rant or rave?

We all experience events differently, so keen to hear from other West Coasters what your favourite moment of the day was. Or alternatively, what did not work out?

Who Are You as a Runner?

There are many aspects to being a runner and I love it’s diversity. You get the fast runner, slow runner, average runner, the long distance runner, short distance runner, the road runner, trail runner and the list goes on. Imagine how boring the world would be if we all fell under the same category?

We might also have contrasting definitions of running and of course we set individual goals. To keep fit and stay healthy, to loose weight, to be outdoors and have fun. To get as many PB’s (Personal Best) as possible or to experience a runner’s high.

These are all valid points and I certainly run to experience all of the above but as a runner who has experienced the recurring disappointment of injury, (stress fractures) my definition of running has changed slightly. My number one priority is to run injury free, while still experiencing all of the above benefits.

First of all I have had to learn that our bodies are different and not all of us are made to run certain distances. Success has many different facets. Whether you run 3kms or 5km parkruns you are considered a runner and shouldn’t put yourself in a box because admittedly that is what we tend to do to. We are all unique and different and should celebrate each other’s uniqueness.

As a first time runner, many years ago I went all out and pushed myself to the point of burn out which inevitably ended in an injury in the form of a stress fracture. Since then I have had to learn to listen to my body and apply self restraint. While others are able to train everyday, I had to learn that I am “Me” and not “Others”. It meant running three times a week for me as an individual. At first, holding back was not easy, but the rewards have been well worth it.

Needless to say, I am delighted to announce that I have enjoyed running consistently, injury free for the past four years, which has led me to decide on a bold move. To tackle a new challenge which will be in the form of a 30km race.

I believe that when it comes to making resolutions, we should consider goals based on process instead of outcome. Be consistent with good habits, discover who you are as an individual and do not be afraid to make adjustments. That way, you can sustain momentum by celebrating small, frequent victories and that is what I intend to do, to enjoy the ride until I have reached my goal.

So how do we define a successful runner? You have laced up your running shoes, got up and hit the road or trails. You have run your first kilometer. Well done. You are an achiever. A success. Be yourself, make adjustments while doing what you love and enjoy the journey.

The importance of using all available training methods to reach your goal

The Maffetone Method, Base Training, and Why You Are Not “Lungs with Legs”

by JASON FITZGERALD
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Are you ready for a monster discussion on base training, the Maffetone Method, and more training geekery?

I definitely am  – and this article is a beast – so grab a cup of coffee and settle in for a wild ride.

Today we’re going to cover several questions and topics:

  • What is “base” or “foundational” training?
  • What is the Maffetone Method?
  • What are the benefits of the Maffetone Method?
  • The (significant) drawbacks of the Maffetone Method
  • How to design a proper base training phase

I rarely discuss specific training methods (“Run Less, Run Faster” for example) unless I have very strong opinions about them. Like CrossFit Endurance!

But I think there’s a valuable discussion to be had about how runners should build their endurance. And the base phase of training is the perfect place to start this conversation.

So first, what is base training anyway?

What Exactly is Base Training?

Let’s see how some famous coaches define base training.

Greg McMillan, of the “McMillan Running Calculator” fame and author of YOU (Only Faster), defines base training as:

Our base training comes directly from Arthur Lydiard with slight modifications for our athletes. There are two workouts that are performed in the base phase. The first workout is a leg speed workout. Year-round, it is important for distance runners to work on leg speed.

Leg speed workouts are NOT heavy breathing workouts. They are neuromuscular workouts to make sure the brain and muscles remember how to turn the legs over quickly. Since we don’t want to breath heavy (indicating a large build up of lactic acid- a big no-no while in the base phase), these workouts include repeats lasting less than 30 seconds.

A good example might be 10 x 150m striding the first 50m, running quickly the second 50m then at 90% of top speed for the final 50m.

You can see that the focus here is NOT on hard workouts – but even so, there is still a weekly session where you run quite fast.

And Brad Hudson, coach to many elites and author of Run Faster, explains the base phase (or as he calls it, the “introductory period”) as:

The purpose of the introductory period is to establish an appropriate fitness foundation that will prepare you for the more challenging and focused training of the fundamental and sharpening periods. Priority number one is to gradually but steadily increase your running mileage…

Other priorities of the introductory period include establishing a foundation of neuromuscular fitness with very small doses of maximal-intensity running and beginning the long process of developing efficiency and fatigue-resistance at race pace with small doses of running in the race-pace range

Bob Kennedy, the dominant American distance runner in the 1990s and first American to break 13:00 in the 5,000m, agrees. In this article, he says:

There are three basic phases to a training cycle: base, strength, and speed. The problem that most athletes have is that they think [the phases] are mutually exclusive. I think that the phase of training is defined by what you are focusing on during that phase.

But you always do a little of all of those things. There’s never a time of year when you’re just running mileage or you’re just doing speed. You’re always doing all of it, it’s just a matter of to what degree.

I also reached out to Jay Johnson, coach to multiple national champions, about what he thinks should be included in a base training phase (or “foundational training” as he calls it):

Foundational training doesn’t need to be so black and white. You can do a progression run that is mostly below [lactate] threshold and it might end with 5 minutes of running that’s just past threshold, yet the amount of lactate produced is minimal and is cleared in just a few minutes of cooling down.

And there is no reason that you can’t be doing strides several days a week.

From these definitions, we can agree that base training is preparatory training. It helps build your foundation so that you’re fit enough to tackle more race-specific workouts later in your training cycle by focusing on endurance but also a small amount of very fast and race-pace running.

So, what can we learn from the top minds in running about base training? Here are a few key points:

  • The focus during an early-season “base” or “foundational” training phase is aerobic development
  • Aerobic development is primarily accomplished through high mileage, long runs, and aerobic-focused workouts like threshold runs, progression runs, and fartleks
  • Base training doesn’t exclude faster running, however: the focus is simply on slower running
  • Strides, small doses of race-pace work, and neuromuscular workouts like hill sprints should be included in the base phase of training

This type of training is very similar to what my college cross country team ran every summer: mostly easy running but regular strides with an increasing focus on hill repetitions and tempo workouts.

What is the Maffetone Method?

Created by Phil Maffetone, the Maffetone Method is a style of training that focuses exclusively on aerobic running. Using a heart rate formula of 180 – your age (plus several corrections for injury, fitness level, health, etc.) you come up with an “aerobic maximum heart rate.”

To build your aerobic fitness (i.e., your endurance), your heart rate should never exceed this number. Most runners use the Maffetone Method for their base training phase, dedicating up to six months of running low-intensity paces that never spike their heart rate over this “aerobic maximum.”

The goal is to improve aerobic development and the percentage of calories burned from fat. Maffetone says on his website:

Some people rely on larger amounts of fat, with the result of high physical and mental vigor, improved health, and better all-around performance.

Those less able to burn sufficient fat must rely more on sugar, resulting in less fat burning each day—a problem associated with reduced health, including low energy, increased body fat and weight, less endurance for daily living, and lower physical fitness.

Phil Maffetone claims the benefits to using his method include reduced inflammation, lower stress hormones (like cortisol), increased fat burning, and the prevention (or REVERSAL) of injuries.

Wow, is this the fountain of youth?! The claims are bold – so let’s discuss the pros and cons of this method of training.

Maffetone Method Benefits & Drawbacks

I can’t agree more with the basic premise of the Maffetone Method: most runners lack aerobic fitness and the best way to improve endurance is through aerobic training.

The majority of runners – particularly beginners and those who start running later in life – must prioritize easy, aerobic running. It’s the foundation upon which more difficult training is built.

But after that high-level agreement, I completely disagree with the mechanics of this method of training. Mostly because, as Mike Smith from Kansas State would say, Maffetone is training “lungs with legs” – and runners are much more than lungs with legs!

There are several great takeaways from this presentation by Coach Jay Johnson:

Most notably, we can say that:

  • Runners are athletes and we must develop more abilities than simply aerobic fitness
  • Without well-rounded athleticism, runners will never reach their potential

You can also read more about the many components of athleticism here.

Maffetone claims his method provides “balanced physical activity” but then only focuses on one energy system  – the aerobic energy system. And within that system, he focuses on the slower end of aerobic development and ignores higher end aerobic workouts like tempo runs at lactate threshold or fast finish progressions.

Brad Hudson believes every energy system should be stressed during every phase of training. In this article, you can see that to get closer to a goal race performance, you have to focus on two types of training: endurance and muscular.

He also says:

We forget that muscles are so important. You have to have the muscular strength to be great. Yes, the aerobic system too—you have to build your aerobic house sometime. So it is really that balance.

Most people get hurt in the transition from what they consider base. And why is that? Because they are not going after the muscles, and it is very foreign to them.

During a base training phase – no matter your fitness level or goals – you must include muscular training that includes very fast running like strides, short race-pace repetitions, or hill sprints, which will all spike your heart rate (briefly) over this “aerobic maximum.”

Alberto Salazar, coach to the 2012 Olympic 10k 1-2 punch Mo Farah and Galen Rupp, believes training is like soup. If you only have one ingredient in your soup, it won’t taste very good. Training is the same; you need all the ingredients included. The other top coaches mentioned in this article agree that base training is not comprised of only easy running.

Finally, there are Phil Maffetone’s claims about injury prevention and general health which are exaggerated and unsupported. He says that:

  • By training aerobically, your injury will “go away” (like magic!)
    • His training methods limit stress and inflammation (but these can be beneficial)
    • Maffetone Method increases physical and mental “vigor” and improves “all around performance”

    Let’s get a few things straight:

    Injuries won’t go away if you simply slow down. Injuries are much more complex than that. You can learn more about injury prevention here.

    Stress and inflammation can be good things! We shouldn’t be constantly limiting our exposure to the effects of training – they prompt adaptation and make us stronger and faster.

    Vague assumptions don’t prove your training method. Claims like more “mental vigor” and better “all around performance” are unsupported, unclear, and too general to be taken seriously.

    What Do Runners Think About the Maffetone Method?

    In researching this article, I came across hundreds of testimonials for Maffetone, successful case studies, and scathing criticisms.

    Success stories for the Maffetone Method (MAF) usually go something like this:

  • I trained at MAF all last year and developed a great base. I only broke out of MAF twice – once for a tune-up half before a full marathon, and then again for the full marathon itself.

    Wound up setting big PRs in both – demonstrating how poor my aerobic conditioning had been.

    But this doesn’t show the Maffetone Method works – it shows this runner simply needed to focus more on his aerobic conditioning and endurance. And any good coach would help him do that, without sacrificing the development of other energy systems.

    And remember: just because something works for you doesn’t mean it’s ideal. Most runners could improve even more if they had smarter training. This idea is covered in more detail in my second CrossFit article.

    But most Maffetone Method criticisms don’t focus on training theory or science. They focus on the fact that training this way is incredibly boring! It’s excruciatinglyslow.

    Here’s a fantastic comment that summarizes a few key points about the Maffetone Method:

    I tried the concept for a winter of cycling training and totally sucked it up for the rest of spring.

    I honestly feel the concept has little practical scientific backing whatsoever and in a general sense is a waste of precious training time.

    Focusing on incorporating a smattering of different training paces ensures that you can fine tune your training in a rather short amount of time to hit a variety of race distances. It also allows one to move into varying aspects of speed work without any significant jolts to the mind/body.

    Sure, you can get faster by running slower in the beginning provided your overall stimulus is greater than before, but you can get even faster by running faster! There’s absolutely no reason to completely eschew faster running or running over a certain speed or heart rate. Limiting yourself to an arbitrary ceiling (and using a one-size-fits-all numerical formula is just that) is not the most efficient or effective way to direct your training.

    Do you really feel you’re going to maximize your improvement running your 20 mpw at the “excruciatingly slow 10 minute/mile”? I don’t think you will.

    Plus, in my opinion, it is a friggin’ SUPER boring way to train!

    I can’t agree with this more!

    One article that I won’t call out specifically encouraged runners to spend six months with the Maffetone Method. It told runners they’d likely experience:

    • changes in body composition
    • more energy
    • lack of injuries and illness
    • higher sex drive
    • Faster race times (with no stress or injury)

    Unfortunately, you can’t get faster unless you stress your body in a new way. And with only excruciatingly slow mileage, you have to do a LOT of it to see measurable increases in performance.

    Just think: if all of your running is easy, where is the stress to prompt you to get faster and stronger?

    How to Plan Your Base Training

    Rather than focus exclusively on one type of training (aerobic) at the expense of race-specific preparation, there’s a better way to plan base training.

    Instead, you’ll want to build a foundation of that includes fitness in three major areas: aerobic capacity, strength, and neuromuscular coordination (or leg speed).

    Aerobic capacity is built through easy mileage, long runs, and workouts like tempos, progressions, and fartleks.

    Strength is also built with high mileage and long runs, but also includes strength routines and core workouts.

    Neuromuscular coordination is built through strides, hill sprints, and small amounts of race-pace running.

    Just like the foundation of a house can’t be built without concrete, plumbing, and reinforcements, you can’t build a running foundation without all of these ingredients. If you do, it’s not as strong as it could be.

    Even marathoners, who will never run “fast” even during their goal race, need all three components included in their base training.

    By working on each aspect of your fitness, none gets “left behind” and you’re more prepared for harder runs later in your training cycle.

    My suggestion? Skip the Maffetone Method altogether and take a more modern approach to base training: include strength workouts, strides or hill sprints, and relatively easy fartlek workouts.

    You’ll get in better shape – and ultimately race faster.

What makes us females runners so awesome?

The below was my “speech”/contribution for our recent Women’s Day Awards Evening held at the club earlier this month.  I was a nervous wreck to stand up and speak but I knew it was something I wanted to do.  As we are still in OUR month, I thought I’d like to share this for those that perhaps missed the “ladies night”…and the pink bubbles…and the yummy cupcakes…and the TLC from our guys….and all the usual fun!

But have a read – maybe you need some reminding from time to time….

I work in the travel industry and our company DNA is something that is very close to my heart. Of our company’s 6 philosophies, there is maybe one doesn’t appeal to me that much but there is one that REALLY stands out for me.  “SAY IT AS IT IS” – that is me to a T and how I like to roll in life – and so I decided that I would bite the bullet, stand up here tonight and from my point of view, I will tell you why I personally think that women runners / athletes are just SO awesome!  No technical jargon and no higher grade statistics to comprehend – just my straight up thoughts on the subject.

So as most of you know, I’m hardly a runner, I have a handful of medals to my name which I am very proud of – and I still find myself puffing and panting for short 5 or 8km runs which is sometimes pretty frustrating I must be honest.  And being a woman, a thinker (or maybe more accurately – an OVER thinker in my case) – I often sit back and wonder as to why I haven’t given this whole running thing up yet……and it boils down to this – the following DNA bits about us running ladies in my opinion.

DETERMINATION

I entered the 10km Tyger Run last year with literally no training, other than maybe having half run and half walked around a soccer field a few times with my previous running club – but I had SUCH a bee in my bonnet, I wanted to do it and thought 10kms didn’t seem too much to ask. So on race morning we arrived super late at Meerendal (being the novices we were), we parked with literally 5mins to spare before the gun went off – but … we were there.  During the race, we ran when we could and we walked when we needed to and we didn’t stop other than for a quick selfie or a glug of water.  We were 2 determined friends on a mission that morning to achieve our first medal together – and we did it.  We couldn’t have been or felt any prouder at the end of that race, we were glowing (yes from the sweat) but also from such pride. The determination that day was and still is a big chunk of me – my goals may have changed now but that feeling remains.  And I think DETERMINATION is one characteristic that we all have inside of us.

FLEXIBILITY / ADAPTABILITY:

So in this pic of these beautiful ladies – lies a whole mix of talents. I looked at this photo and it struck me just how different we all are, how we all have such varied running outlooks, achievements and aspirations – from Puffer trail ladies, to Comrades champs, to first time Park Run heroes and so much more.  And in that vein, it struck me just how open minded, FLEXIBLE and ADAPTABLE we all are and we probably don’t even realise it half the time.  Here we were challenging ourselves on a hike, some trying to do something way out of their comfort zone – but yet still doing it and succeeding at it too. Sometimes one can become so fixated on a particular style or area of running – or just have such a habit with something that you close off to other ideas and just stick to what you know cos it works and it’s generally easier.

This can even go as far as to include things like training programs, running shoes, exercising or warming up and cooling down – where women would tend to be more open minded to adapt to things like that, than the opposite sex would. I think part of the reason is that we are so accustomed to change, not just with running matters but with life in general too – so being flexible with our sport comes almost naturally to us beautiful ladies!

STRENGTH

This is a very personal one for me but I think it very much applies to all us amazing females out there. We all have an inner strength, a physical strength, mental and also emotional strength inside each and every one of us.  We may not sometimes feel it or believe it – but it’s there. 

Recently I was getting tired of people always telling me how “strong” I was for whatever reason – but then I actually started to believe and feel it – and so I decided that this one word was going to be my first tattoo. It is now my personal constant reminder when I’m on the road or when I’m sweating it out with some weights at the gym or even if I’m having an emotional wobbly…..just that one word carries so much meaning for me.

I really believe that our bodies and minds are stronger than we realise, we can handle so much and I don’t think we give ourselves half the credit we deserve sometimes. So believe it ladies… STRENGTH  – you’ve got it !!!

INDIVIDUALISM:

We know we are unique and we are proud of it. We are comfortable in our own skin and do not shy away from being who we are.  We are happy to run our own race, be it alone on the beach or chugging along in a bus with a group of strangers at a race like I just did on Sunday!  I think we stand tall and are quietly proud of the things we achieve as individuals.  Sure we can be competitive out there too, we all have that in us somewhere,  but we know and accept that we have our own capabilities and can run our own race without having to keep up with the Jones’s.  And we do this with our own style, approach, attitude and manner – which just makes us fantastic INDIVIDUALS!

FRIENDLY & SOCIAL

So by no means am I standing here now and saying that you guys are all a bunch of anti social grumpy geezers – BUT – what I am going to emphasize is that the female walkers, runners and athletes out there, bring a different dynamic to the feel of this sport. We’re chatty, we can be giggly, we’re the first ones to smile, wave and chirp at others on the road, the first to dress up and have some fun too – and we have a soft element to us that takes away the “hardness” of running in a way.  

It takes all types out there and both sexes sure, but I think us chicks have the upper hand here! I know from my personal experience and from being around at a few races supporting and maybe even running the odd one – the buzz around us ladies is always so contagious!  Without us, let’s be honest – it would make for a pretty quiet and dull club!

 

But on a serious note, there is so much more that I could say as I do believe that we are complex souls and we have so many characteristics, traits, ways, attributes – call it what you like… BUT they are all just different aspects that make us women such diverse, powerful, interesting and awesome humans. I haven’t even touched on things like willpower, perseverance, endurance, positivity, patience, discipline, supportive and so on……we’re just FAR too awesome for me to keep talking here but I think you get the idea anyway…..!!!

Most of you know that I generally speak very openly and straight up – so I can admit that I know I am often very hard on myself, for whatever reason – and I think in general we all need to be kinder to ourselves, be gentler out there and actually believe that the few things I have mentioned tonight – are all very much a part of each and every one of us. Our DNA is amazing ladies!!!

Right – so in all fairness – I also could not stand here now and NOT say something about the opposite sex too!

So – to you rocking guys out there that are our partners, husbands, lovers, friends, relatives and more……I’m sure many of the ladies here tonight will agree with my sentiments. We may not always be easy, we may challenge you, push buttons, drive you to drink and whatever else – but at the end of the day, your love and support means the world to us and knowing that you are proud of our achievements, no matter how big or small, is all that matters.  Understanding our DNA will go a long way – and maybe you have heard a few words that ring true tonight about your better halves ….  So yes guys, we love and appreciate you loads.

In ending, I will say this to the ladies – stay true to yourselves, have the courage to face those challenges and have fun while doing it all. With regards to your running or even your walking goals – remember that what seems hard now, will one day merely be your warm up.

Your running shoes have magic in them. They have the power to transform a bad day into a good day, frustration into speed, self doubt into confidence – and my favourite bit of magic – the power to turn chocolate cake into muscle !!!

 

Running – it’s not all about time

We spend our lives obsessed with and controlled by time. We wake up at a certain  time, get the kids to school at a certain time, go to work at a certain time, attend meetings at a certain time, leave work at a certain time, fetch the kids at a certain time, and go to bed (mostly) at a certain  time … only for the cycle to repeat itself the next day, and the day after that.

For some this brings structure and we call it routine. For others, it brings monotony and inflexibility and we call it boredom. Some love the structure of time and are hardly ever late, while others operate as if time does not exist. It can be argued that where we fall along this continuum informs how we define time ­– as an immovable finite point or as an elastic band that can be stretched in perpetuity.

When it comes to running, our obsession with time escalates to the point of being unhealthy. Hang around any group of runners and the conversation invariably leads to, “What is your best time for …?”, “How fast can you run this distance?”, “What speed are you training at?” and so on.

When we run, we are constantly monitoring our time, speed and distance. If we can do a  5km in X time, then we should be able to run a half marathon in Y time. Or alternatively, if we want to achieve a target time in a race, then we need to train intervals or thresholds at a certain pace. Hence, time becomes ingrained into our running psyche, becoming the sole criteria that determines our ability.

But running is not all about time; it’s about far more than that. Running is about enjoyment, regardless of the time it takes to complete a race. It’s about the friendships we make, laughter, stories shared, journeys travelled together and supporting one another. Yet we often lose sight of this.

For example, when we get injured, we immediately want to know how long it’ll be until we can run again, rather than what we should be doing to avoid injury in the future. Time becomes the focal point, the end goal, and we lose sight of what actually is important.

In running, as in life, time will always be there – from the start of the gun to the finish line. What really matters is how we spend that time, how we enjoy ourselves, how we support one another and how we thank others for giving up their time .

So, at your next race, don’t focus on your finishing time. Rather focus on enjoying the camaraderie, helping or encouraging others, and thanking those who give up their time (like the marshals and supporters). Time flies when you’re having fun, so focus on the important things and you might fly as well.

Race review: Totalsports Women’s Day 10km 2018

What makes a race great?

It may sound like a simple question, but when you sit down to write a run race review and reflect deeply on this question (as one does when you are an amateur-athlete-wanna-be-sports-writer), it soon becomes apparent that the answer may resemble a cringe worthy Facebook relationship status. Basically, it is complicated.  

So, as any respectable researcher would, I set out to develop a set of criteria to review and compare races I participate in. The result is a set of six race-day, four pre-race and three post-race factors that I believe make a race great. 

So how did the Totalsports Women’s Day 10km run fare on my set of criteria? Take a look below….

Race review - TS Womens 10km 2018

What made this race stand out for me?

The race was a special one for me for two reasons. One, I got to run with a school friend (we were together from Grade 1 to Grade 12, not that we referred to them as grades back in my day!). This was thanks to the combined efforts of two awesome West Coast ladies – Mary Langebrink and Gillian Grobbelaar. These two superstars helped us track down an entry for Janine and get the substitution process done. Two, issues related to the well-being of women are (for obvious reasons) important to me, and the work #thepinkdrive are doing is truly noteworthy. Don’t believe me, take a look at their stats.

A race will always get kudos from me if results are available online and in (near) real time. If you are a data junkie, results can be viewed here. Filters on the site will help you do quick comparisons and you can download your finisher certificate.

My ever supportive husband and fellow West Coaster, Dries Coetzee, was the official support crew for the day and our official photographer (although somewhat reluctantly). He did a great job and managed to catch most of the West Coast ladies in action. The fact that he treated me to breakfast at Arnold’s after the race did not, I repeat did not, influence my rating of his photography skills. 

So now that we have established that this race gets rave reviews for race day experience, how did it stack up in terms of pre- and post-event criteria?

Pre-and Post- race review TS Womens 10km 2018

How would you rate this race?

Let us know what you thought of this race by posting your comments below. Oh yes, and what criteria would you add for rating a great race?