torsdag 30. august 2018

Ambassador's mission

When the going gets tough, the tough gets going!

Trondheim marathon is less than two days away! For the last couple of months I have been wondering whether I would at all be able to participate in any of the distances, but I have just signed up for half marathon and I am really really looking forward to it!
Things haven't been going as planned this year. After an incredibly successful 2017, I was perhaps a bit too ambitious in the beginning of 2018, and wore myself down with just a bit too hard training over time. As a result, I had to skip Bergen City half marathon at the end of April. But May was good; the weather was wonderful; I kept to the mountains and terrain, and at the beginning of June I was surprised by my performance at Bergen Fjellmaraton. You might remember all my good excuses during Fjellmaraton, one of which was that I fell and hurt my knees badly towards the end.
Although the knees were sore and stiff for a while, only nine days after Fjellmaraton I participated in a 27 km run from the center of Bergen to Knarvik. This race deserves a post on its own, which I never found time to write. It was such a wonderful experience, thanks to my friend Annbjørg who guided me through it helping me all the way. The race traverses over quite a few mountains,  and I was again surprised by my performance there. I took this as a good sign for the coming goal of running full distance at Trondheim marathon, feeling happy that my knees seemed already to have recovered after the fall.
Then during the summer holidays, I started slowly to increase my running distance with Trondheim marathon in mind. I was building up really cautiously, running only every second day, only one long run during the week, and the length of the long run only slowly increasing. Still a few weeks into this scheme, towards the end of a 24 km run my left knee started to hurt really badly. And after that I was more or less unable to run throughout the summer. Whenever I tried, it started hurting after a few km, so I simply stopped. The nice weather continued, so again I kept to the mountains and the terrain, and the knee started to get better, albeit very slowly.
A couple of weeks ago I started street running again, just to discover that my running form was completely gone. I gave up the Trondheim project totally. There is of course no chance of being able to run a marathon, as the knee is still not 100% yet. And my form did not motivate me to try a half marathon either. At some point I was considering 10 km, but then I found that it started too late in the day to fit the schedule of the rest of the family. So I was simply planning to skip the race, and just cheer for the others from the side line. Aksel, Frank and Annbjørg are going for the full distance, whereas a bunch of other friends from Bergen are doing the half marathon, and I thought I could at perhaps keep the marathoners company through the last 10 km and then cheer the half marathoners to the finish.
But then a friend suggested that I could help her achieve a half marathon PB. And that changed everything! The desired pace seemed doable for me without pushing my knee too much, although it would by no means be easy, given the lost form. Suddenly I had a new goal for the race, meaningful and within reach, and the motivation came back immediately! I am so grateful to her for this suggestion, and quite surprised by its effect on me. Still I had a small hesitation about whether or not the knee would survive 21 km...
On Wednesday I went for a 10 km run in the aimed pace for the race, both to test the knee and to test the form. Both seemed to be up to the challenge, and right afterwards I signed up for the race. After that I received yet another request of pace holding with the same finish time, so now I feel like a real pace holder. I really really hope I will be able to guide and motivate my friends in the right pace throughout the race. I am surprised to find out that this is actually even more motivating, exciting and fun task than trying to achieve a PB myself. And it fits so well with being an ambassador for the race. In fact, I've always dreamed of being a pace holder. Now I get to try it out, and perhaps I can volunteer to be an official one another time.

It's all about finding the right motivation!

søndag 10. juni 2018

All the right excuses: Bergen Fjellmaraton 2018

A good race is all about the good excuses...
Many "unfortunate" things can happen before and during a 21 km terrain race with 1080 meters of elevation gain. But don't despair! Each of those things can be used as an explanation of not reaching your goal, or to make reaching your goal appear even more impressive. :-)

Bergen is bathing in sunshine and warm weather since the beginning of May. During my 31 years in this city, I cannot remember such a long and continuous period of warm, dry and sunny weather. The winter was unusually cold with excessive amounts of snow, and in early spring I was wondering whether all that snow would disappear early enough to start training for Bergen Fjellmaraton, which took place last Thursday evening. The snow did indeed disappear impressively fast, and the mountains of Bergen have been free of snow and during the entire month of May. So no good excuse there for not being able to train for the race.
In fact, I did get a lot of opportunity to train for the race. The nice and hot weather inspired for mountain running much more than street running. Except for asphalt intervals once a week, all my training was in the terrain involving a lot of uphill during May. But I did of course also have a lot of good excuses all the way! :-)

The sudden loss of form in April: You might remember that I had to take it really really easy during the the whole month of April, after training a bit too intensively in the early spring. But May has been pretty good, although my heart rate has been higher and my speed lower than usual. Concentrating on simply having fun, and never pushing too hard, I ended up doing 250 km distance and 9500 m elevation gain during the month of May, according to Strava.

No previous races in 2018: Last year, when I achieved my PB in Bergen Fjellmaraton, I had already participated in two half marathons earlier that year, in addition to a couple of 10k races, with pretty good results. This year, all I have had so far is my worst 5k and my worst 10k ever, plus a half marathon which I quit after 9k in the beginning of April. All my training since then has been pretty easy, except the intervals, and I was thinking that pushing hard would feel very unfamiliar after such a long time.

My mind elsewhere: Perhaps enjoying life is closely related to mastering challenges all the time, and when new challenges emerge, old ones might loose their importance a little bit. I started a new job on the 1st of May, with responsibility for 150 colleagues and 500 students. I am enjoying it immensely; not a single day is like the previous day, with endless challenges, opportunities, duties and tasks. I notice that my mind is occupied with work related things most of the time, and training and competitions have perhaps come somewhat in the background.
With all these wonderful excuses, I was prepared to take it easy and just have a great time over the mountains on Thursday. In fact, after my PB last year, I was so eager to do an even better time that I had signed up in the race class for this year's race. But thanks to my excuses, I changed to an earlier start so that I could go with most of my friends who have comparable finish times as myself. When, in morning of the race, Annbjørg wrote to me suggesting that we should aim for a really enjoyable experience with 3:30 as the finish time, I felt wonderfully uplifted, and let my shoulders even further down, expecting nothing else than a great hike in the sunshine.

The race day itself had room for even more excuses, and actually some good ones, too!
Lack of sleep: Working long hours, sleeping too little, having been to a party the night before the race, where I was standing the whole evening, blah blah blah, yeah, the usual stuff. 

The heat: Despite what most of my friends think (since I am from "the south"), I actually don't take hot weather that well. I was pretty worried about the sunny and warm evening of the race. But in the end this didn't turn out that bad. And there was a wonderful breeze in the right direction once on top of Ulriken.

Almost drowned at 4 km: Wanted to take a sip of water, while breathing heavily, and got it in the wrong tube. Coughing heavily, I had to stop completely and in fact ask for help from my fellow competitors to hit me on the back. I definitely lost a minute there! Yeah, at least! :-)

Fell and got badly bruised at 16 km:  So happy to have managed to run pretty fast down all the technical parts, just in front of Brushytten, where it is completely flat and on gravel ground I fell badly with high speed. Cramps got my legs immediately, blood started pouring out of my both knees and hands, and many kind people stopped to get me back on my feet. After a quick assessment of the situation and wondering whether I would be able to continue, I decided to try. To my surprise, I was able to get back at normal speed and did not feel any discomfort from the wounds (until after the finish line). I lost at least another minute there. Yeah, right! :-)
Despite all these wonderful excuses, it actually went pretty well the whole thing! It was my most enjoyable Fjellmaraton ever. I felt like I was taking it easy, but the speed was good, and my times at various milestones kept surprising me. And it all went very quickly. I was like, "Oh, already 8 km!?", "Oh, already Rundemanen!?" all the time. I think the low shoulders and the easy start helped a lot for the rest.

Also a lot of fortunate things can happen in a race, and they did. In fact, the reason for the good experience was vastly thanks to wonderful friends! It was as always great to gather at the start line and give each other inspiration, and then gather again at the finish and celebrate together. But the help I got from some of them during the race was just invaluable!
Jan-Tore, Linda, Annbjørg, Vibeke, Cathrine, Ove, Leif, Mette, Solveig: Jan-Tore, the kindest and most enthusiastic guy on earth, is usually a lot faster than me (similar speed to that of Frank). But these days he is struggling with a groin strain and has to take it easy especially downhill. Still I was expecting him to be some 10-15 minutes faster than me, I was really surprised to catch him around half way. After that we kept more or less together all the way to finish, Jan-Tore taking pictures and talking to everybody and entertaining all the time. I cannot describe how uplifting it was to just once in my life be able compete with him. I wish you quick recovery Jan-Tore, but until then let's race together as much as possible! :-D Then there was Linda, also normally faster than me, and as expected she came from behind and passed me around 4-5 km, stopping to take pictures, shouting encouraging words and smiling her dazzling big smile. But then quite unexpectedly, I caught her after a few more km, and then she caught me, and then I caught her, and we went like that all the way to finish. Such surprises gave a sudden surge of energy and instantly everything felt a lot easier. And then the cheering gang: Vibeke at Vikinghytten half way, got an energizing hug, Cathrine and Ove just before the ascent to Rundemanen, got high fives and good pep talk, and then Leif, Mette and Solveig on top of Rundemanen, with cheering words and big smiles. After that only the easy part left!
I finished only two minutes behind my PR from last year. One minute penalty for each of the kilos I have more now than this time last year. There! Yet another excuse which I forgot to mention! :-) And just imagine how it could have gone without the fall, the drinking incident and all the other wonderful excuses! :-D

Another terrain race next Thursday. Jan-Tore, are you in? 

(Photos courtesy of Jan-Tore and Cathrine.)

lørdag 5. mai 2018

Trondheim calling

Loose some, win some.

Just two days after I shared with you my loss of form due to chronic lack of recovery, I received an email from Trondheim Marathon. I had been picked as one of their ambassadors! Yay! I get free registration, free t-shirt, and free jacket, and I get to hand out 100 NOK discounts for the registration fee to everybody I want. The email came just at the right time. It gave me renewed motivation and hope, and it made me look forward again.
In fact, Trondheim (full) marathon had been a cautious main goal of the season since the start of this year, with Bergen City just as a side goal on the go. Why Trondheim? If you want to pick an event in Norway, which offers half and full marathon on the same day, then only Bergen can beat Trondheim, in my opinion. :-) Of course I have not tried all such events in Norway, but I did try two of the most famous ones, in addition to Bergen and Trondheim: Tromsø and Oslo. Tromsø has a world wide reputation, because it takes place at midnight in the middle of the summer, so you run at night with the sun high up, and that is a pretty interesting experience. But the course is not the most inspiring, I'm afraid. The half marathon takes place on the main road between the city center and the airport, back and forth. And at the finish, all restaurants are closed, and pubs don't accept guests in running outfit. I think the organizers can make a lot more out of Tromsø midnight sun marathon, if they can make an after-run organization with food and drinks. The course of Oslo had also its weaknesses when I participated in 2014, but I see that they have changed it quite a lot since then; it looks much nicer now. I was not very pleased with the organization in Oslo, but perhaps that has improved as well. The worst part was that when you finished the race, it was impossible to get out of the racing area. There was a long queue along a narrow path both sides of which were blocked. I was at the edge of fainting, and found that crowded slow exit really tough.
Trondheim, on the other hand, was so spectacular and well organized, just like Bergen. The course is really pretty; you run along the river or along the sea, mostly on pedestrian and bike paths, all the way. What I in advance thought would be hard, the fact that the course is only 10.5 km long, and you have to run in twice for half, and four times for full, turned out to work pretty well in the end. There is some satisfaction in completing one round after another, and recognizing places you have been to. This year, the race celebrates its 50th anniversary, and I think the organizers are planning a lot of additional fun activities around the race.

Last year I participated in the half marathon in Trondheim. The goal I set in January for this year's race was full distance. Of course that was before my training plan went wrong. So now the question is: will I be able to make it?
I don't know, to be honest. But the idea appeals to me, and I find it motivating. So I will stick to it, as a hope rather than as a goal, just like I did for Amsterdam in 2016. Running feels a little better now than it did a couple of weeks ago. To try to recover as quickly as possible, I did not take a single running step or any other kind of training between 16th and 28th of April. The only exception was some really easy skiing in the middle of that period. Then, on April 28, while all my friends were running the Bergen City Marathon, I had my first very slow and very short run. In did not feel that good. The day after, I tried again, still very slow, keeping heart rate zone 1, but a little longer this time, and with some hills. It felt better. Two days after that I did run/walk session in terrain, and that felt really nice. Two days after that again, I did a slow run along Fjellveien, with a 16 minute hard session incorporated, walking fast up to Stoltzekleiven. That felt very nice, too.
Finally yesterday I was back with my friends at our regular Saturday uphill intervals session. It felt really nice. I felt good, I was at my normal speed, and I felt that my heart rate and my lactate level was under control. I was really surprised to see afterwards, though, that my heart rate had been really high. Around 6 beats higher than usual at the peak of the intervals. But it definitely did not feel like that. And my legs did not feel stiff. This is very interesting. What does it mean? I suppose I should still be cautious, and follow the heart rate carefully, but I definitely feel more optimistic now. In a month from now, there is the Bergen Fjellmaraton mountain half marathon. Do I dare to race there? Time will show. The most important for me right now is to

go with the feeling and have fun!

søndag 22. april 2018

Never change a winning game

And don't ever suppress your inner compass...

For the last three months I have been doing the opposite of what I was preaching during the whole last year. Why?? Heaven only knows... I wanted to try something new. As a result I ended up wearing myself down, and not getting enough recovery for at least two months. Now I realize that I won't able to run Bergen City half marathon next week...
It all started so well. 2017 turned out to be the year of my best performances ever. Thanks to deep conversations with and great advice from my friend Mats (whom I miss so much!!!), I had a great winter training season with quickly improving form. The recipe was reconfirmed by our test coach Dag: all running should happen either in zone 1 or in lactate threshold zone, nothing in between! That resulted in my best performances ever in every course last year.  Six half marathons in total:  1:56 in Fana in April, 1:57 in the hilly Bergen City a month later, 2:48 in the mountains in June, 1:53 in Tromsø later in June, 1:54 in Trondheim in September, and finally 1:52 and current overall PR in Oxford in October. And in between, a PR of 14:05 at Stoltzekleiven.  I had the recipe! It was working!! And I ruined it all by completely changing the game...
Why? After Oxford came a period of quite a lot of travels and rest, followed by an unusually cold winter with a lot of snow, ice, and freezing temperatures. At the same time, I was losing a little bit of motivation after all the achievements of last year: "Am I now simply going to repeat it all?". On top of all this, it was a busy period with family visits, celebrations, and significant changes concerning work. I was not being very disciplined in my training, so I thought it would be a good idea to have a strict training program to stick to. In January I entered a program which I ad read a lot about and many people had a lot of success with. On the background of my performances so far, it instructed five days of running every week: two interval sessions, two moderate runs, and one long slow run. Nothing special so far; this was anyway more or less the amount I was running before. However, the speed of the runs were quite different from my previous regime. The intervals were slower than my previous intervals and the moderate runs were faster than my previous zone 1 runs. I think those moderate runs were what "killed" me. They were easy enough to perform, but not slow enough for recovery.
It is hard to imagine that someone at my level, with a program that on paper looks pretty moderate and reasonable, can actually end up becoming overtrained, but I am afraid this is exactly what happened. I know it might sound ridiculous, and that's also exactly why I never thought of this option on the way, until my body stopped functioning. In retrospect, I should have seen it coming. I was simply too dedicated in following the plan. I never missed a single run. I did it early in the morning if I knew I would be busy in the evening. I did several in a row if I were going away for the weekend, sometimes two per day. I  also had two hard strength training sessions every week. My legs were tired and stiff most of the time, but I was able to conduct everything as planned, and that gave a certain feeling of achievement and satisfaction. There were clear signs, though, that I should have taken more seriously. I could see that my heart increased over time, when the pace was the same. Also my resting heart rate has been increasing steadily. I was somewhat worried about all this, but I comforted myself thinking that all this was simply about getting adjusted to the new regime...
The first serious sign came during Easter. I did a hard interval session in the morning, before leaving for the mountains for the Easter, which went well. Then came several days of skiing, and that all went in pleasant pace. But during one of the longest skiing sessions I felt really exhausted already from the start and did not really feel well throughout the entire day. It was strange, since we weren't going fast at all. Even Frank got worried and suggested that perhaps I should see my doctor. But I thought I was just having a bad day. Right after Easter, another hard interval session. Then a couple of days rest before a half marathon in Fana, just outside of Bergen, two weeks ago... I ended up not finishing that half, my first DNF ever. My heart rate was high, my speed low, my legs heavy. After this, I started to do some serious thinking. I had to quit the plan and take a couple of days off. I was feeling down, and to regain the joy of training I went running with friends just for the fun of it. A short (200 m) relay race and a great hike to Stoltzekleiven just last week felt really good. So I thought I was over the though days. So I just had a little too much training and a little too little recovery. Nothing that cannot be fixed with a couple of days taking it easy! Well, unfortunately it turned out not so. Although Stoltzekleiven was great and I felt wonderful, the next three days I could not take a single step. It was a wonderful sunny weekend, but I stayed at home the entire time, mostly sleeping. My body would simply refuse to do anything straining, and I listed to it and let it be.
Then came Monday and I felt ready and fresh again, and eager to train. Still I wanted to be cautious, so went for just a slow run with friends. Although I was at the back line with a friend who had completed a 10 hour ultra race a couple of days earlier, and we were going really slow, it still felt though and my legs were stiff already from the start. How could this be? After three whole days of rest?? I realized that it was time to seriously figure out what this was. I was at the doctor's and got everything checked that can be checked with blood tests. According to the results, there is no lack of anything that can explain this very strange behavior of my body. Then I started to Google the symptoms, and came to the conclusion that I simply got no recovery at all during the past two, three months. This lead to the situation I am in now, which cannot be repaired by just taking off  two or three days from running, or by simply taking it easy.
What now? Well, nothing, simply nothing. No running, biking, rowing, swimming or strength training for at least a week. Then, wait until the resting heart rate comes down to normal. Hopefully, I managed to catch this early enough that I won't need a very long time for recovery. (In bad cases it can take a year to recover, but I hope that only applies to serious athletes training much much more.) Then I will start very cautiously with very slow short runs. And then I will take it from there. And for sure, whenever I am ready, I will go back to my winning game: everything either in zone 1 or in threshold zone. Nothing in between!

On the other hand, if you never try, you will never know....

lørdag 13. januar 2018

Friends with the treadmill

Practice makes perfect

The winter in Bergen has so far been colder than usual with quite a bit of ice covering the ground and the roads. I must admit that I find it harder and harder to run in the cold. Uphill intervals and slow runs go fine, but when the temperature is below 0 degrees C, fast flat runs become quickly unpleasant. Not only my spike shoes get uncomfortable, my muscles become stiffer, and I never get them properly warmed up with the outside temperature all the time cooling them down.
Fortunately there are treadmills! You might remember that I have had a hard time getting used to running fast on a treadmill. There I get the opposite problem: it very quickly gets hot, and of course very boring. But practice makes perfect, and having a plan makes it all much more pleasant. Last year, I followed the treadmill plan that the Norwegian marathon queen Ingrid Kristiansen was posting regularly throughout the winter. Most of those sessions were quite doable, and with music in my ears, I slowly got used to doing longer and longer intervals on the treadmill.

I still find it quite unbearable to do a long fast run in steady pace on the treadmill, but I have found a couple of interval sessions that work really well for me. They are motivating, as one can measure progress all the time, and they are both well established among coaches toward the goal of faster running in races. They turned out to be doable and fun for me, so I wanted to share them with you.
For improving your 10k race time:
This interval session is recommended by several coaches. There are of course many ways to improve your 10k, but I have seen the following mentioned many times: when you can run 3 x 3000m in the pace that you want to achieve during a 10k race, then you are ready. This interval session prepares you to get to that point. The important thing is to do all the intervals in the pace that you want to achieve at the race. So, if you want to run a 10k in 45 minutes, then your pace should be 4:30 min/km, which corresponds to 13.3 km/h. I would actually be happy with a pace of 5:05 in my next 10k race, so I set the treadmill to 11.8 km/h. The first goal is to run 6 x 1500m in that pace, without getting your heart rate much over lactate threshold. When you are comfortable doing this, then you do 1 x 3000m + 4 x 15000m in the same pace. When this goes well, then you do 2 x 3000m + 2 x 15000m, and so on, until you reach 3 x 3000m in the desired pace with not too high heart rate. At this point you are ready for your next race. Just rest for a week, and then GO!

I am not even at the point of 6 x 1500m yet. I can do 4 of these, but my heart rate is a bit too high at the end of the fourth one, so I have so far stopped after 4.  But I feel that I can very soon do 5 of them. And then after a couple of weeks hopefully all 6.  On my way to the 6 x 1500m, I am also considering to do 4 x 1500m + 4 + 750m on my next attempt. The 1500m intervals, in my speed, take about 7.5 minutes. The first one feels the longest. Then it gets more manageable. I have to work with my brain all the time, and use the milestones 500, 750, and 1000 meters to motivate myself. It helps if the gym has TV screens or the treadmills face the weight training / cross fit area. Watching other people makes time go faster.
For improving your marathon time:
This is something I learned from our local running guru Per Gunnar, who had a remarkable article in the Kondis running magazine about how he helped a runner to achieve a sub 3h marathon time. The interval session is called Yasso's 800s. I have read a lot about them since then, and they are surprisingly easily doable. The session consists of 10 x 800m intervals. You run each interval in a time that reflects your goal time for a marathon. If you want to run a marathon in x hours and y minutes, then you have to run each 800m in x minutes and y seconds. So if you want to run a marathon in 3h 30min, then you run each 800m in 3min 30 sec. The break between the intervals is 400m, and you spend exactly the same time in the break as you do in the intervals, meaning that you run in half the speed.

I tried this immediately after reading the Kondis article, and of course I had to try sub 4h marathon time. Running 800m in 4 minutes corresponds to speed 12 km/h, so I set the treadmill to 12.1 km/h and 0.5 incline. Consequently, I did each of the 800m intervals and each of the 400m breaks in slightly less than 4 minutes. I was pleasantly surprised that I could do this without getting my heart rate much above threshold. But what does it actually mean? Can I run a marathon in sub 4h now, if I train for it? My single marathon attempt so far resulted in 4:17. Can it be that I am in better marathon shape now? At least, in 2017 I broke all my previous records in single every race and on every single course. I also participated in more races in 2017 than the total of all races before that, so perhaps I should try a marathon again this year?  In any case, the fact that Yasso's 800s are so easily doable, and one can all the time improve by setting the speed just a tiny bit higher, makes them a really fun interval session on the treadmill.

Of course, for street races, the intervals are better to do out on the road. But with 0.5 incline on the treadmill, I hope that the effect can be comparable. Running on the treadmill is in theory easier than out in the street, since the mill goes without you having to push your weight, and there is no air resistance because you are not moving forward. But at the same time, the fact that you are not moving forward is really hard on your brain. You have to constantly convince your brain to keep pushing your body forward although you are not getting anywhere! I am sure this plays a different role for each person, but the fact that you actually can focus on a point in the distance and run towards it and it gets closer and closer, definitely makes outdoor running much easier psychologically. The advantage of the treadmill, when it comes to these particular intervals, though, is that you can make sure to run at the correct speed all the time!

Hit the mill and get the skill!

fredag 8. desember 2017

A star is gone

Døden kan flamme som kornmo;
Klarere ser vi enn før
Hvert liv i dens hvite smerte:
Det er de beste som dør.

(Nordahl Grieg)

Some people touch the lives of others in very special ways. And then they leave.... Running and training with friends is great fun, and in every running group there are special people who are very good in sharing their wisdom, motivating others, and genuinely enjoying to help others achieve new goals. Still, some of these people stand out. Like Mats. So pure at heart, so full of love and kindness, so uniquely wonderful in giving and helping, so wise and knowledgeable, so curious and interested, and so much fun. And then he leaves...
Mats is best in everything. He is the complete athlete. First person from Bergen to reach the top of Mount Everest, super fast street runner, ultra marathoner, trail runner, mountain climber, skier, biker, swimmer, and a tough triathlete of extreme races, ... you name it. There is nothing he cannot do, nothing he is not good at. But what makes him unique and outstanding is not the list of all these achievements. It is his extreme kindness and how he gives so much of himself to lift others up. He volunteers to accompany youngsters in races, and to teach kids skiing. He takes the goals of those of his friends with much much more modest achievements as important as his, and helps them in every possible way. Countless people have been helped by Mats when he accompanied them through races to reach their finish goals. Even more have learned so much from him, have gotten invaluable advice and motivating pep talk through tough times. Including myself. But now Mats has left... I cannot bring myself to write these sentences in past tense. I cannot accept that he is not here anymore. Because he is. And he will always be.
This blog already contains several posts about Mats. Just look at the above picture. It says it all. During the long injury period of 2015, Stoltzekleiven Opp uphill race was the only thing I could train for, and reaching a new PB was really really important to me. Things simply did not go so well during training. But Mats was there with help, support, motivation, inspiration, cheering, and making me believe that I was doing all the right things, and it would all work out at the race. Which it did.
So many of us have our own memories with Mats, and we are grateful to him for so many different things. You might remember that I was struggling both with motivation and form during the winter that followed the Amsterdam marathon last year. During a 20 km run with friends, I felt exhausted already from the start and decided to go slower than the others. Mats, pushing the stroller with his little daughter inside, immediately slowed down and ran with me behind the others the whole way. During this run, we had one of our perhaps most interesting conversations. He taught me about veganism and the benefits of cutting out dairy. I was convinced right away! Since that day I have avoided milk, cheese, cream, yogurt, and I have been feeling so much better. Gradually, this has even grown on Frank. Now we don't at all buy milk or yogurt anymore, just the alternatives made of almonds and soy, which we have come to like even better than the dairy versions.
We also talked a lot about how to train correctly, keeping everything at heart rate zone 1 or lactate threshold. I have also been implementing that conscientiously since then, with very good effects. Everything started to get better since that run. This year I have broken my previous records in every race, have achieved a calmness and confidence about my training, and started to enjoy everything in a different way. So much thanks to Mats! There is one thing that makes me sad, though, about that conversation. Mats was so thrilled that I was so enthusiastic about the things he was telling me. Because these were not just things that he was telling from the top of his head. He had read a lot, watched a lot, and he had quite a bit of evidence for why it should work. Still he experienced that some people would be negative, even condescending, about what he was trying to explain to them. I find comfort in thinking that maybe I was able to cheer him up in that matter, telling him that people find it so difficult to change their habits that it is sometimes easier for them to dismiss the facts than to try to understand them.
There is so much I am grateful to Mats for. I miss him so much already. We all do. I must admit I am struggling to imagine how we will go on as a group without him. But hey! We are not without him! He is with us all the time. He will always be...

De øket det livet de gikk fra.
De spøker i nye menn.
På deres grav skal skrives:
De beste blir alltid igjen.
(Nordahl Grieg)

lørdag 4. november 2017

Slower the training, faster the race?

Embrace the break, break the record! 

Seasonal break, periodic training, alternating workouts,... all these highly recommended things sounded difficult to plan and fit into a busy life just a few weeks ago. But now suddenly they are all happening automatically!
I have been traveling a lot since Oxford Half. With the result that I have been feeling quite exhausted for the past few weeks. When the trips were being planned long time ago, I naively thought that they would give a good opportunity to recover from the race. However, it did not work out that way. I think I underestimated the effects of flying, sitting and walking a lot, little sleep, combined with more than normal alcohol consumption.
During the trips I did in total just three very slow runs. In between, I only had time to join a few of the scheduled Melkesyre training sessions, and other than that I again did mostly slow runs. I even did not have the energy to do much strength training. In the days just before and just after Oxford, I was planning to participate in a couple of 5k races this past and coming week, but I did not (and still do not) at all feel up to it. So all in all I have been taking it pretty easy, and there: automatically a period of serious cut in the training effort, almost a seasonal break!
During this time, somewhat to my surprise, I was not really stressed by the thought that I might be losing form. But I did find quite a lot of comfort in reading about smart training. We know it, but it still helps to read what all experts write: the slow runs are the most important. And they have to be really slow. There should be no more than 2-3 hard effort training sessions (intervals or tempo runs) in a week, and the rest should be all in zone 1. Anything in between is called "junk mileage" by many coaches. And you might as well just drop it. In fact, several coaches and athletes advocate that dropping it is actually better for your form.
I have found a lot of inspiration in reading about Deena Kastor recently. She is the US marathon record holder for women with 2:19 in 2005, and ten years after that in 2015 she broke the US masters marathon record with 2:27 at the age of 42. She explains that her continued success is probably due to cutting down on mileage and concentrating on quality. Her mileage now is about half of what she used to have 10 years ago, and this adjustment has enabled her to continue to be better than all her peers. Of course her current mileage is still way more than most of us, around 120 km a week, but hey after all we are talking about 2:27!
Another study I have read was comparing short and max intensity intervals to longer threshold intensity intervals. Tested on two groups of otherwise equivalent athletes, the study showed that intervals that lasted 5-10 minutes (rather than 1-4 min), and had a lesser intensity than those of the shorter intervals, enabled the athletes to race faster at the end of the test period. So no need for those short sprints!
Maybe it's all in my head, but reading all this, and getting finally enough sleep during the weekend, I feel like I am doing just the right things at this point in time. Ok, so I still don't feel like street racing, but do I really need to? There are no important street races coming up soon, whereas the uphill season is definitely here with two Blåmanen races in the coming two weeks, the Little Christmas Whisky race in December, and then the Fløyenkarusellen starting just after the new year. My training, except some of the really slow runs, has been mainly uphill in the past weeks, with a peak this last week with several uphill (short and long) intervals. They say periodicity in training should also involve doing different types of runs so that your body does not get used to the same thing which leads to stagnation of improvement. So there, with almost no effort suddenly I have also achieved variation between street running and uphill running in separate periods!
The most important thing is of course to have fun the entire time. And when having fun coincides with what seems to be the right way to train, it feels pretty good. Another thing that Deena Kastor strongly believes in for success is the power of positive thinking. In fact she has just written a book about this which will be out in April 2018. For example, she finds great comfort in reading her own training logs before a competition, seeing all that good training before her eyes, and having confidence that it will give her the results that she is after. So who knows, perhaps believing that you are training in just the right way is as powerful as actually training in the right way?

Listen to your body, and make your mind listen to you.