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Ladybower return

There are so many things that I love about racing. Big races, fast races, hard races, beautiful races. The opportunity to put yourself to the test and prove to yourself that those hard hours of training have yielded the results you hoped for.

Some of my favourite races have not necessarily been the big ones, but rather those situated in stunning locations. The Cortina Skyrace, the Dorset Coastal Trail Race, Alpe D’Huez Triathlon, Ashbourne Duathlon etc. However, one particularly sticks in my mind.

Many years ago, I was allowed, as an ex-Steel City Strider, to race in their annual club championship 10k. On a beautiful Wednesday evening in mid-July, I persuaded my Dad to make a rare return to racing and come with me.

We drove out to the picturesque surroundings of Ladybower Reservoir. With not a ripple on the water, it was the perfect evening for running in this magnificent part of the Peak District.

I have wonderful memories of running that night. One of those great days when the body is perfectly tuned up and moving gracefully – a rare thing for someone who spends a lot of time hunched up on a time trial bike for large parts of the year. Probably my favourite part was jogging back up the course afterwards to find my Dad and run the last 2km with him. Enjoying a sandwich and beer at the Ladybower Inn afterwards as the sun went down over the reservoir will live long in my memory. There is something about the shared sense of endeavour with running racing that bonds people in a special way. It makes running very special for me, and will sustain me in running long after my speed has gone.

With this great memory in mind, I’m excited to be coming back to race the Ladybower Trail Marathon. It’s shaping up to be a great event with a full field ready to put themselves to the test. Training and racing has been going well for me of late, so I’m looking forward to putting myself through my paces on what looks like a fantastic course.

Best of luck to everyone who will be racing in a couple of weeks’ time. It’s shaping up to be a super day.

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‘The Basics’ – Outsoles.

 

‘The Basics’ – a regular look at the simple elements which make running gear useful to the runner. Explanations for those who don’t yet know, along with some facts to cut through the marketing nonsense out there, of which there is plenty!

Part one was Midsoles

This time – Outsoles.

The strip of material which makes contact with the ground.  Often refered to as the ‘Sole’ or ‘Grip’ of the shoe.

Its purpose…. Traction.

“these old things still have plenty of wear left”

The facts:  The Outsole should only outlast the midsole, so at most it will have been tested to withstand 500 road miles.  You may well find that the outsole still looks effective, long after the midsole has given up and no longer protects the foot from impact and potential damage.

The job of the outsole is gripping the floor enough for us to land, then push without slipping and losing drive.

There are various styles for traction over all kinds of surfaces, but no outsole can grip on everything as well as a specialised sole for a particular environment.

Sticky outsoles which grip brilliantly well, usually wear out the quickest.  Harder wearing types will usually lose some traction in favour of greater lifespan.

A flat outsole will grip a flat surface brillaintly well, due to the maximum amount of friction.  Broad flat studs will maintain a lot of contact, therefore a lot of friction.

Deepen those studs and you might find that they sink a certain way into softer ground.  And the narrower they become, the better they will sink into the ground and therefore provide traction in wet ground and wet grass, which is one of the hardest surfaces to stick to.

There is, in all cases, a trade off between grip and wear resistance for any given surface.

So road shoes (below) employ a fairly flat outsole design with a lot of contact.  They wear very slowly and evenly (unless you run on one part/the wrong part of your foot all of the time*).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trail shoes (below) have a series of broad lugs with a variety of depths and in a lot of cases, multi-directional lugs that grip in all directions.  They too will wear quite slowly, although the studs will grind down when used on tarmac, concrete or rocky trails in particular.

 

 

Fell shoes (below) have the most aggressive, spread out, narrow, long lugs which will dig into soft and loose terrain in order to allow people to claw their way up and down steep wet hillsides.  The wear might be very slow if they’re used only on soft ground, such as mud or bog.  Wet grass at the least, if not cross country on occasion.  But on anything hard, the thin pieces of soft, sticky rubber will begin to tear and shave themselves flat in no time, leaving a healthy midsole perhaps, but a complete loss of traction where it counts.

 

 

There is of course no better way than to have a collection of footwear, allowing the choice between types, according to where you might be spending the most time on any given run.  If it’s been wet, the studs will help on off-road routes.  The wet road should still allow traction, but if it seems safer than aquaplaning, take the trail shoes and have the studs press through the surface water, with space between them for the water to escape.  For outright prevention of unwanted slips ‘n’ slides, on steep ground or anything soaking wet and/or muddy, then the fell shoes ought to be the weapon of choice.

But there are a great many ‘hybrid’ shoes these days, with depth of cushion on top of a multi-directional outsole full of fairly deep lugs.  These will never be a match for the speciality shoes in their appropriate environment, but they’ll allow the ‘explorers’ out there a freedom to run anywhere within reason and get away with it.

While buying one pair of ‘do-all’ shoes might seem a cost effective move, it’s our personal and professional opinion that owning a number of pairs allows a better choice of shoe for the task in hand.  Twice as many last twice as long, if not longer for not damaging them on surfaces for which they were never intended.  Not to mention, you’ll more often come away in one piece!

If you think you might need more traction, better value for money or more confidence in your footing, then feel free to call in to Accelerate to talk footwear.

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How did that happen….?

Caroline French runs for and represents the Accelerate ‘Community’.  As part of Team Accelerate, she not only blogs, but also attends events, group runs (well, coffee & cake afterwards) and sessions in the Accelerate store.  She’s about to focus on completion of an event supported by Accelerate, the Peakrunnrs Ladybower Trail Marathon.  This is part two of a series, recording her progress, with an eventual race report for good measure.

Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So how did that happen?

I wrote a collection of thoughts and ramblings after entering the Peakrunners Ladybower Marathon 3 months out and it seemed ages.

– It’s now 4 weeks to go. Eek!

In the last 2 months I’ve been practicing this crazy thing called focused, sensible training.

For those who know me well, you’ll appreciate that this is impressive.  I have a brightly coloured ball of wool habit: of getting excited by the prospect of entering races, you know the one “ooh this is happening, ooh friends are running this…” I’ve run to plan.

Don’t get me wrong I’ve had to have words with the excitable me, but I’ve done it.

I’ve transitioned from long runs of 7 miles – to 3 hours, focused on building endurance, loving the development and sheer joy of long runs again.   I’ve gone back to heart rate training, which I know is a touchy subject for some.

For me it’s actually been amazing during this training schedule, as it’s given me justification to slow down in the long runs and keep it easy on recovery runs.

Results: not felt drained and/or over trained!   Got to say a huge thanks to Austen and Stu at Accelerate, for coaching, being a sounding board and having faith in me.

So with 4 weeks to go, the right combination of eating, sleeping and training are all important.  Not sure a week in Ibiza mid June is the ideal training plan – but will force me to start my taper!

The distance and timing since injury mean Ladybower isn’t going to be a race for me.  What it will be (to finish comfortably), is an achievement.

That’s still something that feels strange, but by no means makes it any less to be proud of.

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Running Hot

The weather forecast says ‘Hot, Hot, Hot’.
Today is race day and over the last couple of weeks the weather has been warm, yet in an effort to be ‘sensible’ and to be able to run at your usual training speeds you’ve simply avoided the heat and missed training.  Is this the right thing to have done?
Often, runners fear the heat and just avoid training at all and then rock up to their target race, lacking any sort of ‘heat training’ and therefore acclimatisation.

So what can we do?

How We Keep Cool
Our bodies are constantly adapting to keep our core temperature at roughly 37°C.  As we run we burn fuel for energy and 80% of that energy is returned eventually as heat.  Add to that a warm sunny day and the risk of hyperthermia increases. So in order to keep things cool the core moves blood to the surface of the skin to dissipate heat to the environment. As we do this our sweat glands produce sweat to cool the skin.  As a result of this added demand, our heart rate increases for the same running pace on a warmer day.
As you get hotter you are increasing the stress on your body and there are three important factors that we need to understand as endurance runners.

How is Performance Is Affected?
Muscular endurance is most definitely affected on hot days as the ability to maintain muscular contractions greatly reduces. This is not helped as hyperthermia shifts energy production from an aerobic to a more anaerobic form which means that the bodies stores of glycogen are used up much more quickly.
‘Circulatory Strain’ is also experienced as the amount of blood volume available to your running muscles is greatly decreased as it is being used to keep you cool.
The one we always talk about of course is dehydration. We know there is a critical point at which too much water and salt loss has a degrading effect on performance, let alone putting you in danger of serious illness or in a worst case – a life threatening situation.
High humidity on top of warm sunshine also causes problems, as this slows the rate of cooling sweat evaporation from the skin.

Heat Acclimatisation through Sensible Training
The best and most effective way to acclimatise to heat is actually to plan to train on hot days. Yet we should be sensible.
Some folk will be predisposed to adapting to running in heat.  Others will not.
The first thing to do is to cut back on both duration and intensity during your period of acclimatisation. As it will take around 14 days of training in the heat to experience acclimatisation; therefore you should plan your training load to get back to normal through this time frame.  Training to heart rate has shown to be a very good way of aiding adaptation, as more heart beats will be required to push blood to the skin so to stay within your known ‘zones’ you will be forced to slow down.  As you adapt you will speed back up again.  Many report that Zone 2* (L2) is a great way to get the adaptation process started.
So cut back, take your time and give your body a chance to adapt.
If you are not yet acclimatised and wish to continue with speed or high intensity training then go for the cooler parts of the day, either early morning or late evening.  Also avoiding the ‘Black-Top’ and heading for the trails is no bad thing. Tarmac absorbs much heat and you can definitely tell when running on it.

Hydration
If you know you are going to train on a hot day then clearly it is sensible to drink more fluids. Little and often through the day is better than leaving it to the last minute to down a half litre of water. Some people will benefit by increasing their salt intake, either through their normal diet or by taking a salt tab such as High Five Zero. This will have more relevance if you are running a longer endurance event than a short 5km run.
So what should you do? Well it is more about trial and error. Many find the unquenchable thirst is solved by taking a drink of water with a salt tab added or a sports electrolyte drink that also contains some carbohydrate. Others who are heading out for a longer run of two hours or more on a hot day sip a High Five Zero through the couple of hours prior to their training session and this works just fine.  Others will prefer to take this on board as they run, instead of or in addition to.
The science appears to be mixed as to whether plain water or a sports drink are better and again I would suggest it is down to personal preference through trial and error. Some have found that a 50-50 mix of water and orange juice with a teaspoon of salt will work just fine.
Generally, it is agreed that sipping your drink whilst running, little and often, works just great. Work around 125ml every twenty minutes or so and see how you get on whilst you are running at Zone 2* heart rate – you can always adjust the amount and timing later. Always remember to start this early, as leaving it until you are thirsty – is leaving it too late. Conditions and your own personal preference will dictate exactly how you adopt this strategy.
It is also important to remember that just because you are seeing a good adaption to training in the heat it does not mean you can get away with drinking less water – this is just not the case. You will still sweat more.

Clothing
Fine yarns definitely dry quicker and the general rule has been that loose fitting open knit clothing keeps you cooler, allowing air to move against your skin, so aiding the cooling process. Likewise open mesh garments more easily allow evaporation of sweat from the skin to take place.
Some runners are finding that close fitting garments that move the sweat away from the skin are more beneficial as evaporation takes place from the garment. Again it’s all personal preference.
Light colours that reflect heat and sunlight are definitely better than blacks and navy blues by a significant margin.

Race Day or Training Warm Up – Is It Still Necessary?
Yes, is the short answer.
That said, I always advise runners to cut back on the duration and the intensity as you do not want to raise core temperatures too much immediately prior to training or a race. Limb and joint mobilisation whilst walking in the shade can definitely take place which followed by a cool shower (not freezing cold) can then help to lower the core temperature once again before heavy exertion and therefore delaying a rise in core temperatures. Again, not something for everyone or always practical even.
Keep the running to a minimum, but some is still a good idea, as you raise the heart rate slightly and you get your cooling system active.

Racing (and Training Hard)
We’ve heard it all before, yet it still holds true. Slow down and keep the fluid intake going, having experimented with what you feel to be the correct approach in training.
Also, give yourself a fighting chance and find races that take place in the early morning or late evening and if you are particularly prone to the heat then find another race.

So there you have it, taking a sensible approach to your training and racing during hot weather periods can reap many benefits as you become more adapted to the processes your body undertakes to keep you cool. Yes, some experimentation is in order and thinking about your clothing is also sensible. Then there is what to do if you become too hot and head into heat exhaustion, let alone which sun cream to use that avoids blocking your pores and so reducing sweating – all of which are another topic in themselves.
The key is simple, summer is coming and if you are planning a race when the conditions could be ‘Hot, Hot, Hot’ then some serious thinking time about your training planning and hydration strategy will most likely not be wasted time.

  • Plan for the warm weather and schedule your training accordingly.
  • Train to heart rate, even if the speed is lower than normal, your body is working just as hard to keep you moving and cool.
  • To help you adapt to warmer weather, try running at a cooler part of the day, slowly increasing the time you may spend in the hotter part of the day (although still best to avoid the hottest part).
  • Reduce your normal running time on especially hot days. A normal 90 minute run could be trimmed down to an hour.
  • Split your run in half. Run half your normal time in the early morning and the second half later in the evening, both when it is cooler.
  • Think about the best clothing to wear, that suits you.
  • Develop a hydration strategy that works for you – this could include a plan for longer runs that includes bottle drops on route.
  • Drink early in your run, never wait until you are thirsty.

 

*Note: Zone 2 or L2 running is just out of breath and talking is still comfortable in sentences.

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Sheffield Half Marathon 2018 – a lesson in pacing

When it comes to the best way to mentally approach a race, one of the greatest pieces of coaching advice I have ever been given is this,

‘Start logically, finish emotionally’

Emotion is certainly a powerful weapon to help drive you to achieve great things, but it’s a little bit like anaerobic respiration – great for short, powerful bursts, but a disaster for sustained efforts.

While this is true, applying it in a race is sometimes a lot harder than it seems. Having the confidence to trust in your own pacing, and not be drawn into the race for the lead in the first 400m is not easy to resist – particularly in a championship race, or a hometown race where emotions tend to run high.

Due to the course, Sheffield Half Marathon is a course on which pacing is vital. If you go off to hard, you’re going to suffer on four to five miles of climbs, which will compound both the pain, and the impact on your overall race result. It’s a tough course, and that’s why we love it. Amazing atmosphere, brilliant support, and a super challenge.

I’ve not always been the best at living up to the important piece of coaching advice I highlighted earlier. However, I’m delighted that this year I was able to do so. For probably 60% of the race I wasn’t in the podium positions. I was with my chasing group and together we caught and passed 2nd place. Looking back, possibly we could have caught 1st place.too (the challenge for next year).

Coming down Ecclesall Road with two miles to go I felt strong. Moving into the last mile I knew exactly where I was going to attack. Executed it to perfection and I took 2nd with 15-20 seconds to spare. That was only possible because I started the race in a logical, controlled manner. That enabled me to empty all the emotion into the last 400 metres and sprint flat out.

Delighted with the result, and even more delighted to have the chance to race in my hometown on one of my favourite courses. Having now finished 2nd twice in the Sheffield Half Marathon (once on the old course, once on the new), it’s probably time for me to focus on making that final push for No.1.

 

Bring on Sheffield Half Marathon 2019!

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