Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Trialling the Alter G Anti-Gravity Treadmill

Over the last month or so I've had the opportunity to trial out the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill at Sydney West Sports Medicine thanks to Moon Runners. Moon Runners were founded in 2014 by husband and wife team Thomas & Joy Gan. Both being medical doctors, their initial vision was to make available to the general public the AlterG anti-gravity treadmill, a world class training and injury rehabilitation device which was previously only accessible by professional athletes. To ensure the highest quality of service, their aim is to only install units in established sports medicine centres run by excellent health practitioners specialising in sports rehab.

A decision was made in early 2016 to convert the business to a social enterprise whereby 100% of the profits would be donated to charitable organisations.

The innovative AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill is a game changer in physical therapy rehabilitation. Whether you’re a patient or an athlete dealing with lower body injuries, chronic pain or neurological conditions that inhibit mobility, you can benefit from the unweighting capabilities. The Anti-Gravity Treadmill helps a broad spectrum of people – top level athletes, orthopaedic and neurologic patients, paediatric, geriatric and those looking to lose weight - to achieve their personal health, wellness or performance goals.

With Aussie Rep Teammate Andy Lee watching
Anthony Famigletti punch out an AlterG session back in 2010.
I personally first came across this treadmill while in Colorado for the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships in 2010 while visiting the Olympic Training Facilities in Colorado Springs. That day I watched in awe of rehabilitating Team USA Olympic  Steeplechaser Anthony Famiglietti push out a high intensity session on the treadmill. I've been curious about it ever since, but had no idea if these were even available for use in Australia, let along Western Sydney.

My main interest in the AlterG is of course mainly as a Coach in terms of athletes in rehabilitation returning from injury but also for athletes of the more high performance focus being able to benefit from the extra miles of lower impact running but also those wanting to be able to enjoy longer periods of fast twitch muscle activation. I'm keen to explore if, over a period of time, athletes will develop greater leg speed, turnover and efficiency. This of course interests me as an athlete too.

To book sessions, or obtain a referral form for your physiotherapist, click here.

Here is a little video I took from one of my visits to the centre.



Gravity getting you down? Give your training a lift on a Moon Runners AlterG P200 High Performance Anti-Gravity Treadmill in partnership with Brendan Davies from UP Coaching.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Running Apps: Strava...help or hinderance?

This blog was written for, and originally appeared on the www.inov-8.com website here

Screen-Shot-2014-10-17-at-15.58.38-1024x641

The popularity of Strava and other similar apps has skyrocketed in the last couple of years off the back of the latest global running boom. It’s really changed the dynamics of training sessions. These days before athletes start their post-run stretch, it’s almost de rigor to now whip out the smart phone and upload the session to Strava to check out the stats and the goodie bag of rewards.

As a coach, this is worthy of some further thought, and the use of apps such as Strava poses many questions in terms of athlete motivation, reinforcement and the very nature of what drives us as runners and indeed human beings.

But firstly, I’ll speak from an athlete’s point of view. As a performance focused athlete over many years, I can recognize the benefits of such an app as Strava. Its ability to centralize all my recording devices is convenient and for me it acts as a central log for all of my training. Its interface is simple and user friendly. It attempts to offer some deeper analysis based off heart-rate data… ‘suffer scores’ etc. and has a couple of cool features such as a pace ‘evener’ (great for working out equivalent flat speed over trail/elevation). However on the whole, I tend to ignore the science and head straight to the ego, I’m of course talking about CR (course record) / KOM (King of Mountain) and segments.


Branden Davies Checking over his Strava account after hitting the trails
Branden Davies Checking over his Strava account after hitting the trails. Photo by Nadine Davies

What better positive reinforcement is there than running a course or year best PR, or better still snatching the coveted solid crown. It’s no wonder that it’s mobiles and not protein drinks that are first reached for post-session. Motivationally speaking it’s fantastic, but like everything in life, one can have too much of a good thing.

There are numerous pitfalls; and as a coach I can see how the allure of the virtual ‘pat on the back’ can take away from the essence of training. I’ve known athletes to choose routes based on segments, to choose to run solo rather than in a group, or basically become more obsessed about the rewards rather than the very process of training. I know because I’m also guilty of it.


A visual of the INOV-8 All Terrain Running Club
A visual of the INOV-8 All Terrain Running Club

There is also the unrivaled ability via Strava to view others’ training. One of the pitfalls of any athlete is to use comparison with others as an indicator of progress and a guide for the future. This is simply a recipe for disaster.

I’m sure I’m not alone in saying if we all tried to replicate Steve Way’s training, we’d all end up broken and an over-trained mess! While there is nothing new under the sun as far as training goes, the access to information and the ability to imitate can be detrimental. One man’s easy run can be another’s tempo, and so caution must be taken.

As runners we have different physical and mental compositions. You have to find what works best for you according to your own goals and intuitions. A good coach should be able to identify your strengths and weaknesses and create an individualised plan that is right for you.


Brendan Davies WSER100
Brendan Davies at last year’s famous Western States 100 ultra race. In 2015 he will compete at Western States again, this time wearing our RACE ULTRA 270. Photo by Matt Trappe http://www.trappephoto.com/

For the recreational runners, features such as ‘recovery time’ are generally features that should be given some thought. However, these often amuse me somewhat. On my Suunto Movescount I’m regularly in over 100 hours recovery deficit… so should I be listening to the watch and putting my feet up? I think not. Running, unlike the layman’s view, is not a simple sport. While there is of course room for science, it’s the ability to try new things, go against the orthodox, try and fail and try again approach that has taken all the recreational runners to the pointy end.

Other features from devices that buzz and beep and generally remind you to do everything from drink, eat and breath are handy and as a training and racing aid can be beneficial. If you are a heart rate trainer, it’s never been easier.

While it’s great to have this level of assistance, it’s also easy to become a slave to the data and bogged down in it. Remember how the champions of the past used to do it, and every now and then, go try running naked (no mobile or watch!) and get back to the core of why we run in the first place.


* I log every km of my training, both as an athlete and when coaching on Strava. My account can be found here: https://www.strava.com/pros/1768350

* I’m also a member of the INOV-8 ALL TERRAIN RUNNING CLUB on Strava. Join the club here: https://www.strava.com/clubs/146080

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

TransGranCanaria Training Update

Yep, this ain't a road run!
It's been a very busy start to the year for me; investing a lot of time into my UP Coaching business has meant that I've had to scale back a lot on races and so far, a paired 3h event I ran with Wes Gibson's wife Kellie at the Knapsack 6h Lap race has been the only race this year. I'm pretty sure as far as quantity goes, my races this year are going to be very low in numbers and limited to the majors outlined in the previous post and a few smaller one's around Oz that I've been invited to attend.

Post Coast 2 Kosci I really sat down and had a good think about my training and outlined a plan towards my first biggie of 2015, Transgrancanaria. I just had to change things up and do things a little differently. First thing on the agenda was of course a good rest and relaxing the strict routines I have in both my training and lifestyle.

So I ate, drank and rested and generally was merry from mid December to Early January, just doing some easy training sessions to maintain fitness and cut right back on track and strength sessions, as well as halving my usual long run durations in order to freshen up. I also spent a lot of 'time on feet' with clients and training at ranges of paces more broad than I've ever done before! Overall this left me feeling refreshed and reinvigorated for the year ahead.

I then spent a lot of time just building up aerobically, reaching 100mile weeks off mostly 10-35km runs at easy or steady state pace. Not much speed at all. Only in the last few weeks have I began some faster track sessions and longer tempo runs.

Another factor - it's been a challenge at times to do so much group and individual training, while still training my own sessions as well. At times I've had to just get out the door and get it done on tired legs and I've thankfully got many good training partners that have helped me maintain the quality of these sessions. Having an extra coach in Jo Brischetto on board at my group training has also allowed me to participant in one of my own speed sessions too :-)

So onto Transgrancanaria, just a beast of a race on the island of Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands. It's 125km and 8500m+ OUCH indeed. The saving grace is that it looks to be on terrain that doesn't look particularly technical from what I've seen in videos and some of the big climbs may be quite runnable. I'm hoping anyway. As far as tough goes, this will be the toughest I've done to date, even outdoing UTMF at 169km and 9500m D+.

To get myself ready, I've been doing much much more vertical ups and downs than ever before, often challenging myself with weighted vests and fully loaded packs on big hill repeats. This has the duel purpose of building up my muscle strength by overloading the glutes, quads and calves as well as conditioning up the VMOs via the extra eccentric loading on the downs (and generally toughening up my ankles too).


The other great benefit is of course on overall cardio fitness via increases to my V02 max and lactate thresholds. I've found doing my regular 12km bread and butter runs on undulating terrain but with added weight has turned them into medium-hard efforts; particularly on small climbs where I'm forced to go anaerobic for small sections of time where otherwise I would have stayed in the aerobic zone. This is training the body to clear lactic build up more efficiently and my recoveries are super short and sharp which is essential for any trail running.

Of course the mental toughness training of these sessions can't be underestimated either. If there's going to be a race that tests my mental fortitude it will be this one.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

2015 - The Year Ahead

2015 will pick up where 2014 left off and again I'll be competing extensively both in Australia and internationally.

My major races are locked in and they are:

March
Transgrancanaria, Spain
This is the first of four of the UTWT events I'll be taking part in this year. This event is located on the beautiful Grand Canary island off the coast of Morocco. This 125km course looks a beauty with 8500m+ Unfortunately this will mean that I won't be able to run in the 6 Foot Track Marathon...again!



April
Buffalo Stampede, Australia
With Transgrancanaria training keeping me on my toes in January and February, I should get to the SkyRunning Oceania Championship race in better shape than last year and hopefully be able to climb Mick's Wall faster than at 40:00 pace :-)



May
Wings For Life World Run, Australia
Unfortunately due to recovery from UTMF, I had to miss this event last year. With it now in Melbourne, it's penned in for this year. This will be my first road ultra for the year.

The North Face 100, Australia
My second UTWT event, and one that I couldn't miss for the world.

Trail des Cagous, New Caledonia
My half of the prizes that I shared with Dave Eadie last year from Surf Coast Century. This should be an interesting race!


June
Western States Endurance Run, USA
The Grandaddy, so excited to be able to come back and have another crack at this great race. With Tucks also being selected through UTWT, this will be awesome for so many reasons.



September
IAU 100km World Championship, The Netherlands
The third World Championships and the one run I'm desperately trying to nail a top 10 at after 11th and 12th on the last two occasions.

Ultra Trail Mt Fuji (UTMF), Japan
The date has moved from Cherry Blossom season to September, but I'll be back for my third tilt at this great 100 miler, the 4th and last of my UTWT events.

October
The Hounslow Classic
Another SkyRunning race; this time in my own backyard.


No doubt there will be a few other races along the way too!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 - Year In Review

video

Like most things these days I seem to be running way behind...but I have finally found a few minutes to reflect back on the last 365 days and remind myself of some of the great running related memories, achievements, surprises and a few inevitable disappointments of 2014.

If I could summarise 2014 in one word it would be busy! It seemed, and it certainly felt like I was always a couple of weeks away from travelling or coming back to reality of life and my passport pretty much remained on the office table all year round instead of it being put away in it's safe place where it should be. I certainly racked up some frequent flyer points this year. Hong Kong, New Zealand, Japan, USA and Qatar were all visited internationally with a couple of additional trips to Victoria and South Australia too for good measure!

At the start of 2014, if there was one big goal I wanted to nail was a big result in a big international ultra event. What that result would look like I didn't know, that was to be an internal measure that I could only determine at the time. Being a perfectionist of some sort this was always going to be a bit of a futile task and it's probably then no surprise that I feel like there were a couple of missed chances despite what on paper look like descent results.

So what about the races? Well it was another huge racing year. There were a stack of highs and there were one or two lows too. I can reflect back and be content in knowing I stayed true to my values as a runner, and this has never changed over my career - to be a prolific racer but have a one or two 'A' races, to be versatile over various distances and terrains and to give back to the sport the very joy that I get out of it.

If you like numbers, then these are the statistics.

Races: 41
Range: 5km to 240km, Road and Trail (no track this year)
Podium (Top 3): 33
Victories: 18 (1 shared victory)

Road

Running for Australia in the IAU 100km World Championship was definitely a highlight of the year
Although it didn't really feel like a big year of road running in comparison to trail, it actually ended up being quite significant. The highlights being.
  • 2nd at the Narrabeen All Nighter 12h; running 145km and ranking 3rd on the Australian all time 12h road rankings. Quite a surprise given I was planning to stop at 100km.
  • Breaking my only road PB for the year, lowering my 5k time by one second!.
  • Winning the Centennial Park Ultra 100km (although how this is called a road event is still a mystery)
  • Picking up a couple of podiums in road marathons at the M7 and Carcoar.
  • 12th at the 100km World Championships, running a sub 7h time.
The World Championships was an 'A' race for me this year and I finished just a minute outside my PB (although to be fair on a much tougher course and in more testing conditions). However, I can't help thinking that it was a case of a missed opportunity. I was definitely going into the race thinking I could get deep in the Top 10 with a time of around 6:45. Unfortunately things took a bit of a turn in the last quarter of the race and I missed the Top 10 by less than 80 seconds. But a wonderfully rewarding and fulfilling experience for sure.

Another highlight was regularly attending my local parkrun at Penrith Lakes. I love the parkrun concept and it's just a wonderful global health initiative. It's grassroots racing and it's where, for many, the joy of running is found. I look forward to continuing to be present as often as I can and spending time with other runners from the local Penrith and Blue Mountains area.

The other moment on the road this year, which deserves a blog post of its own, was Coast to Kosci, the 240km mammoth that I finished the year on. So many mixed feelings and lessons learned and I will get around to putting all these down soon.

Trail

Running in Western States was a dream come true
Some highlights:
  • 6th at Ultra Trail Mt Fuji (UTMF)
  • 3rd at TNF100
  • 8th at Western States 
  • 1st, shared with Dave Eadie at Surf Coast Century
  • 1st at Heysen 105
  • 1st and setting a new course record at Oxfam Sydney Trailwalker with 3 mates.
The trails were once again where it all happened this year. There were a couple of great results but the one I probably got the most satisfaction from was at Ultra Trail Mt Fuji. It is a 100mile race with +9500m and not really the type of race that I'm suited for, nor where my strengths lie with all the ascending. The field was stacked, with a classy international field assembled, and I fought hard all day and night for that result. The other result of significance was of course my other 'A' race of the year, Western States, the Grandaddy of all US 100 milers. But like the World 100km, I can't help but think a Top 5 spot was within reach, especially as I was there abouts with the finishers 4th to 7th all day. In the end only 12 minutes separated 8th to 4th. This has definitely left me hungry to go back next year and finish the job!

I also finished 5th in the overall series rankings of the Ultra Trail World Tour. This was a big surprise and to be in the same cohort of some big name international runners was a huge honour but good reward for all the hours of training.

Of course I have to thank my sponsors and supporters for enabling me to be able to do what I love. I hope I've been a good representative for what you and your companies stand for. I'm very grateful to Barefootinc, Hammer Nutrition Australia, 2XU, Injinji Performance Products, Ferei Australia, Valley Fitness, Suunto Australia and of course my main sponsors Inov-8. Many thanks to Lake Crackenback Resort and Spa, Mountain Sports, Southern Highlands Challenge, Heysen 105, Sydney Trail Series and the Australian Running Convention who have given me opportunities as an ambassador this year.

Thanks always to my awesome wife Nadine for being my number 1 supporter, sustainer and maintainer! It was just as big a year for her as it was for me and I know the sacrifices and compromises you've made for me. Thank you so much.

It was also a massive year from a work perspective. This year I've spent a lot more time investing into my UP Coaching business and getting that off the ground and running in more a full time capacity. I've been overwhelmed with the response and on a lot of levels I've learnt a lot of lessons in what it means to run a fully fledged business. But I've enjoyed the journey so far immensely. From running two weekly training sessions; running weekend camps, taking groups for trail running clinics and all the online coaching; it's been another super busy but rewarding journey. Look out for plenty of UP Coaching Crew to feature in and around big races in 2015. Thank you to all my clients and casual visitors who have been part of UP Coaching in 2014.

The other initiative that I feel particularly proud of too is Trail Kids which I cofounded with my good friend Jo Brischetto. To see kids getting outside, being active in the great Australia bush and introducing them to the wonderful sport of trail running is just incredibly enriching for both the kids and myself. It's at the grassroots where the future of the sport in Australia lies and I'm proud that I have a small little input at this level.

Shortly, I'll post my running plans for 2015.

Nabbing 5th in the UTWT was a nice reward for a lot of hard work!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

IAU 100km World Championship Review - In Numbers

Well it was a road race after all. So this review is one for the data lovers!


Quarter Split Rankings
  • 0-25km: 32nd
  • 26-50km: 32nd
  • 51-75:10th
  • 76-100km: 9th
Result
  • 6:56:45
  • 12th out of 91 finishers (139 starters)
  • Seconds outside the Top 10: 74s
  • Missed PB: 1m19s
  • Lapped by: 2 (Max King and Jonas Budd)
  • M35 Masters Championship placing had I entered: 1st! Arrggghhh
Australian Teams Positions
  • Women: 6th out of 9
  • Men: 8th out of 18
Nutrition
  • Number of Hammer Gels consumed: 18
  • Average Carbs consumed per hour: 54g
Water and Electrolyte
  • Water: 600ml-800ml per hour
  • 1 Hammer Enduralyte Extreme per hour
  • Peed in my pants: 2
Environment
  • Temperature at start: 25
  • Humidity at start: 69%
  • Number of U Turns: 300
Gear
  • Shoes: Inov-8 233g, 6mm drop


Lastly, thanks to Rob Boyce and all at AURA for another opportunity to represent and be captain of the might Aussie Team. Thanks for the hosts Aspire Zone and the IAU of course for making this all possible. I will be back next year!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Coast2Kosci - Yikes!


It's D-day for my last event of the year, the epic 240km Coast 2 Kosci

I'm nervous as anything, this will by far the furthest and longest time I have gone 'out for a run'! Previously I've run the 175km Great North Walk and close to 22h at UTMF. I've been pouring over the details and my plan and think I have something in place that will see my finish and not be too broken!

It was nice of the boys over at Ultra168 to put me forward as a favourite, but to be honest, I'm going into an event like this very much a rookie and have only a small idea what to expect. 240km on the road is a long long way!



It looks even longer from space. See how zoomed out you have to make it just so the route fits into that space. That's freaking scary! You can probably tell how nervous I am by the excessive amount of exclamation marks in this post!

From all I've heard and from following the race in the past years, I know it will be a special journey. I can't wait to undertake it with all the other runners, crew and organisers.

I have my splits in place, my gear ready, my nutrition sorted and my Suunto loaded up with the race route. A race like this is never going to be to perfect but it's a blueprint of a plan and thankfully I have 3 wonderful crew that will be able to help me deal with issues as they arise. Thank you Stephane, Marcus and Lauren for giving up your weekend for me. I really hope I can repay the favour one day.

Last weekend I was down in the area hosting a trail running camp at Lake Crackenback Resort and the weather was superb. I hope it stays the same this weekend too. But I know too well the unpredictability of the mountains and will be preparing for blazing sun, rain, snow and wind. I've almost packed my whole wardrobe in preparation!

This is my last race for the year, and I couldn't think of a better way to end the year! Oh yes...I just did, sitting back on Saturday night downing a few Kosciuszko pale ales in the company of some extraordinary people.

Whichever way this race goes, it will sure make for one hell of an epic race report!

I believe you can track all the runners' progress here

Safe, strong running to all competitors and wishing all crew a wonderful experience with your athletes!