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The Long Run Route

As we get into July we are getting into our favourite time of year – another marathon training cycle.

The long run starts to ramp up this time of year. There are many things you need to know and learn to master the long run. But one that often gets missed is the route you run. The more specific this is to your race the better. The most important aspects of the race course to mimic are the changes in elevation (ie lots of hills, flat, net downhill) and the twisty-turny-ness of the course.

In an ideal world you’d run the actual race course in training, like many of you did with us prior to BMO Vancouver marathon this spring. But if you don’t have the luxury of living in the city you’ll be racing in, you can still take some time to plan a route that has similar features to the race course for your fall marathon. We did this for our Boston Prep long run in Vancouver, with our UBC-Camosun loop.

This will benefit you both physically and mentally. You can train your body to better endurie ups and downs and twists and turns. The more efficient you become at these the better you’ll be on race day. And simply knowing that you’ve done long runs to mimic the course should give you the confidence to race without fear of the course bearing you.

Coach DW has been doing some route planning with a few of his athletes who are running the Jack & Jill marathon in July. The course runs along an old railway bed and has a consistent downhill grade that drops from 2,500ft to 500ft over the 42.2k. This is a unique course and we’ve been practicing that downhill by doing some race pace sections of their long runs on the revamped Arbutus greenway. Let’s hope it pays off!

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Fuel for the fire

Last week we talked about how to pick the right fuel for your marathon training and racing. The take home message there was; it is very individual, try out a bunch different things and go with what you like the taste of and what agrees most with your stomach.

This week, let’s talk about how much of that fuel you should be taking in, whether it be gels, sports drink, bloks, stingers, straight up honey packets (as one person on Instagram suggested). Similar to picking you’re fuel, you need to practice, practice, practice to dial in the amount of stuff you need to take in.

We do suggest some minimums that you should aim for, and these are based on the grams of carbohydrate in your fuel. Most gels and sports drinks will give you that info on the packaging. What you want to focus on is consuming at least 30grams of CHO per hour. Most gels have between 20-25 grams of CHO in them. There is a good listing of the nutrition facts for a lot of different fuelling products HERE. But you’re unlikely to suck out every gram of gel as you franticly stuff it in your face mid race. So subtract 5grams from that and you have what you’re getting in with each gel. So to hit 30grams you need to be taking down roughly 1 and 1/3rd gel per hour. Or 1 gel every 40minutes. That is at MINIMUM.

(If you’re using sports drink instead, you can change up the concentration of the drink to get in more CHO. Instead of adding the standard 1 scoop of powdered drink per XmL of water, add 1.5 scoops. See where that lands you.)

What’s the maximum? There isn’t one. It’s when your GI system shuts down! When is that? You’ll only find out by practicing and pushing your limits. Practice on your long runs or long tempos. Those runs will best simulate the blood flow through your gut that you’ll be experiencing on race day. We don’t know of anyone that can push much beyond 60 grams of carbs per hour.

You can mix up your fuels too. Sometimes taking the sports drink on offer on the course, other times taking gels or bloks you carry with you. Variety is good, as long as you know your stomach can handle it. Dylan’s best formula was a 1.5x concentration of PowerBar Endurance drink at one aid station and a Powerbar Gel at the next station. But what worked for him isn’t necessarily going to work for you. So get out there, practice, practice, practice and get things dialled in.

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Plan a route & tune out

We know your GPS watch is all the rage: from tracking your pace to reading your text messages to brushing your teeth and combing your hair for you. It has lots of fancy bells and whistles. But sometimes we should ignore all the info it’s throwing at us and just run by feel.

Now we’re not going to ask you to leave your watch at home altogether. We tried that before and it didn’t work – we wouldn’t wanna miss out on that Strava mileage… Instead on your next recovery run we want you to plan out a route ahead of time that is a prescribed distance and just go out and run it. Don’t look at your watch a gazillion times and adjust your speed to try to hit your prescribed easy run pace. Just listen to your body and try to run easy. See where that lands you.

We tend to get distracted by the info from our watches when some of the most valuable info we can get as runners is from the signs our bodies give us. Your recovery run pace isn’t going to be exactly the same everyday and you need to learn to let your body tell you when you should dial it back. This is something Coach Dylan is trying to get back in the habit of doing and it’s something that can be very valuable for everyone. Next time we will delve into why you should run this same route you’ve mapped out on a regular basis. And how doing so can benefit your running.

We believe this a simple, low-tech way to track your recovery or lack thereof. Here is what we suggest and the thinking behind it;

  • Run that same route on your recovery runs, on the day after your usual speed work and/or tempo runs.
  • Record an overall time for your run, but don’t obsessively check your pace and HR and all that jazz during the run. Just get a time. Heck wear an old chrono watch or carry a stop-watch if you want to be really old school.
  • Try to run the same ‘easy’ effort for these runs.

After a few weeks of doing this you should be able to get an idea of how well you are recovering from your hard workouts. If you consistently run 60 minutes for your 12k route and then one day you run 63 minutes (while going what feels like your usual easy run effort) it might just be you’re having a bad day. Or it might be a sign that you went to the well too much on your last hard workout. Or that you are still feeling the long run you did 3 or 4 days prior. If the next time out your go back to running 60 minutes, great. Let’s call that 63 minuter a bad day. But if you’re consistently slogging away and finding your running 63 minutes again and again, it might be a sign you need an easy week or a rest day.

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First Half Course Preview

With the First Half 1/2 marathon coming up quick, we wanted to get you guys prepared for what to expect on race day. At first glance this course looks pretty easy and fast. A little loop around Yaletown and then out along English Bay, around Stanley Park and back. A lot of Vancouverites are familiar with this route, covering parts of it in training. But it’s not as easy as it looks, especially the last 6k.

Here’s our breakdown for you:
0-5km: This part of the course is pretty straight forward. Your GPS might go wonky on you passing under the viaduct near BC place. Don’t panic, keep running, please don’t complain when Strava tells you, you only ran 20.9k – the course is certified folks! If you’re having a bad day the race goes past the start/finish area at ~1mile, if you’re thinking about bailing out this is the time to do it. The uphill along Pacific Blvd at ~2k comes early enough that you don’t really notice it. Heading out along English Bay you might notice a bit of a head wind. Just tuck in behind someone. Be thankful you’re not 6’2″/155lb, in which case there aren’t too many runners that make for a good shield.

5-10km: The sharp little hill up off the seawall can sting, even this early in the race. And the tight turns to go through the tunnel under Stanley Park Dr are going to slow you down a bit. Don’t try to be a hero and blast around these tight corners. They are often slick with mud and you might end up on your arse like our friend Kelly Wiebe did back in 2014. If it’s a windy day you might get hit with it as you scoot up towards Brockton Point. A wind coming in that direction would actually be a good thing, as it would then be at your back/side along the far side of the wall. So bear with it. Don’t fall into the Burrard Inlet around Brockton Point, please.


10-15km: Ok, we know the seawall is flat as a pancake and therefore should be fast running. But there are lots of sharp little twists and turns around the wall that can break up your rhythm. When you’re having a tough day these turns just keeping slowing you down more and more. A strong headwind from Brockton Point to Lions Gate is likely and a real nuisance, but just try to not to fight it too much. Also it’s really sandy right now as you approach Si’wash Rock. The City of Vancouver threw down 4th Beach there a few weeks back to try to get rid of the ice. It’ll be a mess on a wet day. Be ready for it.

15-20.5km: You hit the gravel path around Lost Lagoon just past 15k. If you were feeling good up to this point, well count your lucky stars, because you won’t for much longer. The gravel throws you off your rhythm and slows you down. This is usually the point in a half-marathon when you start to regret signing up for the race and that ~1k section around the Lagoon really makes you question why the heck you’re out there and not sipping on a latte at Musette Caffe instead. Once you’re clear of the gravel you get hit with a few short steep hills that on any other day you probably wouldn’t notice. But they feel like bloody mountains at the end of this race. They completely trash your legs and make you scramble hard to get back up to speed and find a good rhythm again. The first comes at ~17k, out of the tunnel heading out of Stanley Park. The next comes at the driveway of the Aquatic Ctr. And the final doozy comes right at 20.5k, under the Granville St bridge. Be prepared to hurt and to loose a good 30 seconds in this section.

20.5-21.1k: Once you get up onto Pacific Blvd again it’s a clear shot downhill to the finish. You can see that freakin’ finish line forever though. At that point you just put your head down and go for it!

Yikes, we just made that course sound terrible. It’s not. In fact it’s really nice and on a good day it’s fast. But, we just want you to be prepared for the worst. Thank us after, when it’s better than we described it.

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Yearly Training Plan

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The Yearly Training Plan. What is it and why is it important to help you become a faster runner.

We talked previously about this being a time of the year when many of you are in transition, having completed your goal race for the season and taking a little time to rebuild. One of our suggestions was to sit down with your coach, set some goals and plan out the year ahead.  Your goal race for the season should be the starting point for your YTP. You should work backwards from there to develop a plan of attack.

Your YTP is not going to be the details of every single days training for the entire year. Instead it’s a template that outlines different phases of training throughout the year. The focus of your training during a particular phase will depend on your racing schedule and your goals. This is important from a physiological point of view so that we can plan proper periodization into your training. You can’t go to the track every week, all year long, hammer out a set of intervals and expect to continue to improve exponentially. You’ll hit plateaus throughout the year. So it’s important to plan those peaks and valleys ahead of time.

A YTP is also a great way to avoid burnout or a sudden lack of motivation midway through the year. For example knowing why you are going to spend several weeks in a base phase; building your volume, while keeping the workouts less intense, is important. If you hammer those workouts but don’t get in the volume intended it might hinder your ability to execute the training later in the year.

Your YTP is also important so that you don’t just train from race to race. We all love racing, for most of us that’s what this is all about. But planning your running week to week or even month to month, based on what the next race is on the local race calendar isn’t going to help you become faster season after season. You might see some initial improvement. But you’ll miss out on some important phases of your overall training plan and inevitably stop improving.  Along those same lines, the YTP is important to help you know which races on your schedule are peak races and which are just part of the training process and a stepping stone to that peak race. Understanding this can help prevent too many peaks and valleys in your emotions throughout a season.

So grab your coach, a coffee, a calendar and a pen and get to work on your YTP.

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When to hit the dreadmill

Last week we gave you some winter running tips including letting you know that we’re cool with you hitting the treadmill (aka the dreadmill) from time to time this winter. Well, mother nature hit the greater Vancouver area pretty hard last week. I know, I know, those of you east of the rockies are laughing right now. But, really, it snowed and it was cold. Dylan even broke out his Mizuno sleeping bag coat for practice on Tuesday night!

WHEN
We are most often asked when is it too cold to run outside. There isn’t really a temperature that we set the limits at. You aren’t going to do damage to your lungs by breathing in the air at temps that most of us experience from coast to coast in Canada. If you dress appropriately you should be okay running outdoors at temps as low as -30C. Dylan has become super soft after moving to the west coast and won’t run outside if it’s colder than -5C. But, again, he is a wimp when it comes to the cold.
Our biggest concern when it comes to deciding whether to brave the elements or stay inside is the footing. If the ground under foot is terrible because of ice, black ice, any colour ice and you risk falling and busting yourself we think the treadmill is a pretty decent option. It’s also okay if there is a blizzard and you can’t see 5 inches in front of your face. Running outside might not be safe in those conditions, so break out a singlet and shorts and head inside.

WHERE
Anywhere you can find a treadmill. Start with your local gym or your next door neighbour (if you live next door to Chip Wilson). But be aware most gyms have a 20-30 minute maximum use. Try to find one where there is no limit at all. But be warned many treadmills shut down automatically after 60 minutes. Dylan has learned this the hard way, by falling on his face when the treadmill stopped dead unannounced.

HOW
The same way you run when you are outside, one foot in front of the other, over and over and over again. We recommend setting the incline to 1%. Although the research is mixed on this, we believe setting the treadmill at this slight incline best mimics running outdoors. And do not try to change your running gait in anyway. It might take a minute or two to find your groove on the tmill, and even though it might feel strange, your gait should be more or less the same as it is running outside.
It might get a bit boring, so load up your mp3 player (remember those!) with a good mix – we recommend Whitehorse and Arthur Oskan. Bring a bottle of water to stay hydrated. And a towel to wipe off the ridiculous amount of sweat that you will expire. If you need some variety, throw in a few hills periodically by changing the incline.

If it’s still winter next week we will try to come at you with some of our favourite treadmill workouts. We’ve done a few doozies in our day, like Dylan’s 20miler with 8*1mile @ 5:00 thrown in, done at 7,000ft elevation. That was just silly…

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Winter training tips

Well this may not apply to all members, some of you may be looking out your window right now at a winter wonderland, even in Vancouver this week; cue the winter training tips. If you’ve been hit with Snowmaggedon, don’t be discouraged, many great long distances runners have trained through a great Canadian winter. How does the saying go….’what doesn’t break you, will make you stronger’. Well that’s true and good motivation to get you through the winter, there are some things to keep in mind to make sure you bound through the snow without setback. 

  • Be safe – Injuring yourself by slipping and falling is a concern when running in snowy and icy conditions. Sometimes road are cleared better than sidewalks and pathways, and you’ll be relegated to running on the roads. Try to find quite roads to run on.  Be sure to run against traffic so you can see what’s coming at you. Snow banks can get very high after a few snow storms and drivers may not be able to see you crossing the road. Pay extra attention at intersections and when drivers are turning right.
  • Footwear modifications – there are several options out there for providing better grip while running on snow and ice. A good pair of trail shoes can go a long way on icy pavement. Another popular option east of the Rockies is to use Yaktrax. Another is to put good old fashion 3/8″ sheet metal screws in the bottom of an older pair of runners. This is only recommended if your entire running route is going to be on packed snow or ice.
  • Plan your route – there are several things to consider when planning your run that you don’t really have to think much about during other times of the year. Since you may be relegated to running on the roads, try to plan a route that is in a low traffic area, this is one instances in which living in the ‘burbs may be an advantage. You should also plan out an approximate time or distance for your route, nothing worse than running too long or far in the cold. You should also be conscious of the wind direction. Start your run into the wind and try to finish with it at your back. If you run with the wind at your back during the first part of your run you’ll get hot and sweaty and then when you run into the wind during the second part of your run you’ll get cold very quickly.
  • Dress Appropriately – Layering is very important in winter. We recommend a wind proof outer-layer, and insulated and wicking mid-layer that moves sweats away from the skin. Your body temperature increases with running so dress for conditions that are warmer than it is. You should feel chilled when you go out, but your body temperature will increase and you’ll warm up quickly. Also wear a reflective outer layer if you run at night.
  • Don’t be afraid to adjust – It’s better to adjust your scheduled training for the day, by either cutting it short, finding an alternative, or pushing your workout off til a better day, when the snow is too deep or the roads too slippery. It’s better to alter the schedule a little bit in this way, than try to push through and potentially end up slipping and falling and tweaking a muscle that then hampers you for weeks or months afterwards.
  • Aches & Pains – Speaking of tweaking a muscle, you have to read your body really well when running on snow and ice. There’s a good chance that you’ll be a bit sore the day after running on snow, especially loose snow. Running on loose snow is similar to running on sand, it requires the use of many more stabilizing muscles than running on solid surfaces. So, if you’re sore the day after running on loose snow, it may not be reason for huge concern, as you’re waking up some stabilizers that have been dormant for a while. But, if you feel a particular muscle getting tighter and tighter during exercise, this may be more serious and cause for concern. So, tread carefully…
  • Hit the Treadmill – This is always an option that we don’t want to deter you from. Sometimes the elements just aren’t worth braving, and a run on the treadmill is a better option. We’ll have more tips for treadmill running in the coming weeks.
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Dylan talks about the Off-season

For many of you that goal race for the season has come and gone, whether it was 1 mile or the marathon. So let’s talk off-season. You are now in that transition time between seasons and big blocks of training. I can remember that time well, the post-marathon blues were something I often experienced during this time. You’re out of routine, eating like crap, drinking more than usual and those spring races are way off in the future.
This is definitely the time to indulge. But don’t just sit on the couch, instead now is the time to try something new in training or in racing. Sign-up for that trail race you’ve always wanted to do or start that strength training routine you’ve neglected for so long. Mixing it up a little should help you to get rolling again this fall.
If you haven’t planned out your racing schedule for the spring, now is a good time to do that too. Sit down with your coach, talk about your goals and make a plan to achieve them. This has always been something that helped me kick start my training again after a little down time. Getting those goal races set in stone can help you visualize what the training will be like over the next few months.
All that said, it is important to respect your downtime. It’s as important to listen to your body now as it is when you are in the thick of training. If little niggles pop up, don’t try to run through them. Deal with them. After the 2012 Olympics I had some nagging pain in my hip and pelvis. It took several months of running through pain before I took the initiative to deal with the issue. It turned out to be a stress fracture. Ignoring it set me back in my training cycle and made me rush things. That set off a cycle of injuries for me. So please listen to your body and deal with any issues your experiencing now, during this transition time.

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Rob’s 10 tips for a kickass 10k

  1. Be prepared for race morning: Leave nothing to chance. Know what you are going to eat, know how you are going to get to the race, know where you are gonna stash your gear. Arrive early, no need for added stress on race day, you are there to compete and perform. Unnecessary stress will affect your performance.
  2. Warm-up: For some this is a 20min run and active strides. For others this is a 5min walk and some stretches. Either way, get those muscles loose and ready to go, it’ll help avoid injury and have you primed to perform.
  3. Find your place: Get on the start line and line up with people whom are at your same level. A 45min 10km is a great accomplishment, but you probably shouldn’t be lining up at the very front- you will get pulled out too hard and you will impede faster runners. Also, if you wanna run 35min get yourself to the front- if not you are gonna spend too much energy passing people and you may be trampling over slower runners. Be smart here.
  4. Get off the line: The 1st km of this race is the fastest. You will feel fresh and there is a nice downhill. If you are several seconds faster than your goal pace do not worry, get the 1st km in and then settle into your race.
  5. Settle and Flow: From 2-6km you should relax and find your flow. If you are pushing too hard at 3km you are gonna be suffering hard by 8km. Have your goal pace in mind and focus on maintaining that effort and rhythm. Being 5seconds too slow is fine as you can make up time with a strong last 2km, but being 5seconds too fast can be disastrous as when you blow up you’ll be giving time back in chunks.
  6. Enjoy the Scenery: The Eastside 10km course takes you on a tour through one of Vancouver’s most beautiful and culturally rich neighbourhoods. Appreciate the city and take it in. We live in a really friggen cool city.
  7. Find a Group: There is power in numbers when it comes to racing. Working as group can help a lot. A group can pull you along, you can fight the wind together and you can thrive off the positive vibes that come from sharing a common goal. Find a friend and roll together.
  8. Focus: This is racing, it is supposed to hurt! Your legs will burn, you’ll fight for breath and you’ll wanna stop. You trained for this. Focus on your goals and stay positive. The pain of racing is brief, but giving up will sting for a whole lot longer.
  9. Bite your tongue and give’r: Ok, you got to 9km. Time to get going! This is where you put your head down and give it hell. Dig deep and push. Give it everything you have until you cross that finish line.
  10. Reap the spoils: Congrats on finishing the Eastside 10km! Now enjoy yourself a bit- go get brunch, drink a beer or just do something to spoil yourself. You have earned it!