Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Life After - Part 1

So, wow, apologies due. I just realised that I haven't blogged for two days in a row. That never happens. My mum thought I had fallen off the planet. I don't have many excuses other than to say I had a busy day on Sunday and then I had an impromptu date night with my wife last night. To be honest by the time I got to yesterday I had forgotten that I hadn't blogged on Sunday. If I had remembered the lack of blogging on Sunday I think I would have made more of an effort yesterday. Oh well. Apologies again.

Now that I am here blogging, got an interesting topic to write about, this might even be the topic of a couple of blogs, see how it goes.

So yesterday a good friend of mine got some not so good medical news (he reads this and so he knows who he is). It wasn't anything terminal, but the doctor pretty much said he wasn't to run anymore. Wear and tear on his knees over the years had been too great and more running was going to accelerate that damage leading to a knee replacement sooner rather than later. Pretty cut and dried. No more running, which of course means no more triathlon. Pretty devastating news for a triathlete. More or less the the news that a triathlete dreads hearing the most.

So, what do you do when you are a triathlete and you get news telling you that you can't be a triathlete anymore? Well that is a pretty tough question and it is unfortunately one that I have had to ask myself in the last 12 months.

When I was told to stop racing I think the best bit of advice I got was 'take time'. Up until that point I had been working in a world where every missed session meant three that I would have to do to regain the fitness. There was a real sense of time pressure, I had to get back to training as quickly as possible. I was so used to that time pressure that it was the norm. Once I wasn't able to race that time pressure went away and so I did have time to sit back and think about what I wanted to do. The advice I got was to make sure I let myself take that time. It was pretty important advice. 

Taking some time gave me the chance to have a think about what I actually enjoyed doing. Triathlon may be off the table, but it didn't mean that life stopped. Cycling, open water swimming, coaching, being a dad, paddling, just generally hanging out with friends, the list of alternative activities is a long one. The advice I was given was to give myself some time, perhaps 6 months and see what I was gravitating towards, then do more of that. That is pretty much how I ended up coaching.

Taking that time and finding something that I enjoy has meant that I have avoided falling into a motivational hole, where I am down because I can't do what I want. Certainly I feel frustrated because I can't do what I wanted, but I have been able to shift that motivation and focus on to something else, which has really made the process of shifting away from training and racing much easier.

There were a couple of other things that I had to realise too, but I think that is a good start and I will save those for a post tomorrow.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Test Results

There we go, my wife's Cooper Test is done and dusted and she now has her pace zones for running. 

Fair to say it was not an easy test for her, but then again if you do it right then it never is. 

One of the problems with doing these tests for the first time is knowing just how to pace them. It is difficult to know just how hard to start these running tests, when you aren't entirely sure how fast you can go and what Threshold Pace actually feels like. It is very easy to head out too easy or too hard and fair to say that my wife did the later. 

Still, going out too hard is not insurmountable if it is addressed early in the run, which thankfully my wife did. It still made the later parts of the test pretty painful and it may also have had a minor impact on the over all result, but the fast start didn't cause her to hit the wall catastrophically. 

Over all the result of the test was about inline with expectations. Often with these tests they give a threshold pace that is a little quicker than people were expecting and so it was with my wife, with the Threshold Pace coming it about 10 seconds faster than she had thought. 

Now that we have done the test we have figured out her pace zones using the Front Runner Pace Zone calculator and is all set to introduce a bit of variety into her runs. At this stage we will keep her running program pretty simple, building in a light threshold session and another light tempo session, while keeping her weekend run steady. 

I say light for the threshold and tempo runs because with higher speed comes higher loads on the body and the last thing we want to do is push for too much intensity too early and cause an injury. Instead the idea with both the threshold run and the tempo run will be to start with lower amounts of higher intensity work and then increase the duration of the intervals with time. Gradually working towards a total of 20 minutes of work for the Threshold sessions and 40 minutes of work for the tempo runs. The idea with the steady runs will be to keep them as they are now, but use them to gradually increase volume. Introducing this variety in the running and also gradually increasing the load of the sessions will help us continue to build my wife's running capacity and speed. 

The other advantage to introducing Threshold sessions in particular is that my wife will now start to learn what Threshold feels like. That means that the next time we do a Cooper Test she will be better armed to know how to pace the run. 

All I need to do now is to convince her to do the test again in another 6 weeks.  

Friday, 19 January 2018

Testing Time

We are going to a bit of a testing time in our household tomorrow. Or more particularly, my wife is. 

My wife has been running regularly for a while now. She started last April and while she has had a few off periods, and a bit of an injury for a while she has managed to maintain the habit more often than she hasn't. As a result she is now sustainably running 30 minutes or more, 3 times a week. It has been slow, but impressive progress.

Now that she has built a bit of a running base, the time has come for her to start introducing some variations in pace to her training, some threshold work and perhaps a bit of a tempo session. These variations in pace will help her work more of her energy systems and will help further drive improvements in running fitness and efficiency, in turn helping increase speed. 

But just how do we fine these pace zones for her. Well of course we can work on perceived effort, but for a new runnier like my wife it can be hard to know just what threshold should feel like, let alone tempo. Enter the need for a bit of testing. 

By running some simple testing it will be fairly straight forward to define my wife's pace zones. Once she has those pace zones defined she will know just what her target pace is for any one session, allowing her to bring pace variation into a session confident that she is working at approximately the right intensity. 

The test we are going to be using is what is known as a Cooper Test. In a Cooper Test you try and run as far as you can in 12 minutes. Front Runner often use a Critical Velocity Test based on 30 minutes which gives great pace predictions, however, with my wife still be quite new to running, a 30 minute critical velocity test is not realistic. A Cooper Test is much more manageable though and she is fit enough to run consistently for 12 minutes which means we are more likely to get an accurate result, whereas I suspect she would fade over 30 minutes. The shorter test means you aren't going working hard for quite as long, but it is still quite a tough test, that will require careful pacing. Going out too hard in a 12 minute test is just as bad as going out too hard in a 30 minute test, so my wife will meed to be careful. It will certainly be a solid morning out for her.

Once we have the results of the Cooper Test we pop the results into this page:

which gives nice clear guidance on pace zones. Once the pace zones are defined all that is left is to build a program using those values and then get out and start running.