Can I Run a Marathon 12 Minutes Faster?

My last marathon was a PB and I am so pleased with my race that day. It was the Leeds Rob Burrow Marathon, my home town, my lifelong Rugby League team and two of my heroes. I was even lucky enough to spend most of the race yoyoing with Rob and Kevin Sinfield as they ran faster than me but had to keep stopping to check on Rob, the noise when they were near was incredible. All in, a fantastic day.

But……. I went 4 hours 12 minutes, so close to the magic 4 hour mark I had to give it another go to get sub-4 so I have signed up for the Yorkshire Marathon in the autumn. This wasn’t just a random choice, but I have picked a race that should help me get the magic time and I am going to explain my reasoning

It’s close to family

I have a lot of family in Yorkshire who all live within 26.2 miles of the start of the race so I should get great support and I can stay with family before and after the race. That means a lot and I always race better knowing that loved ones are nearby. It’s also an area I know from growing up nearby and I have a lot of happy memories around York, OK not as well as the Leeds marathon but it is a great second choice.

It’s flat (flatter than Leeds!)

The Leeds Marathon is not flat at any point other than maybe the last 50m on the rugby pitch at Headingley. Overall it has about 460m of climbing, including a 3.5km stretch where you gain over 100m in a continuous climb. Compare this to London (74m), York (84m) or the even flatter Manchester marathons (54m), there is a lot of time to be saved by running a flatter marathon.

At the hill from Otley to Bramhope, over a 3km section I gained 105m and compared to the previous 3km where I only gained 12m, I was 3 minutes 16 seconds slower or 196 seconds for 93m. Leeds is approximately 376m hillier than York which is just over 4 times the single hill where I lost 196 seconds. Multiplying that 196 by 4.04 gives an estimated time loss for me of 792 seconds or 13 minutes 12 seconds. All else being equal, the hills alon should give me more than the 12 minutes I am looking for.

It should be cooler than May

Leeds and York are only a marathon between them so the weather is normally the same temperature but May is going to be hotter than October. On average Leeds is 16c in May and York is 14c in October but May this year was hot and the race peaked at 21c in the second half of the race. The sun in May is also much stronger, being only 5 weeks from the summer solstice, where mid October is over 3 weeks AFTER the autumn equinox so even on a sunny day in October, I won’t be overheating anywhere near as much.

Heat affects runners in two ways, firstly it takes energy to cool down. Sweating is not a passive process and takes a few heart beats worth of energy to cool my body, energy that I could otherwise have used to run faster. Secondly, seating causes dehydration and although my hydration plan was good, I will have lost some time due to dehydration. Above 2% fluid loss you will suffer and slow down, proper management and drinking plenty will minimise this but I can’t do too much to minimise the heart rate changes.

The optimum race temperature for an age group marathon runner like me is about 8c, a little lower for the elite athletes, which is why marathon season is spring and autumn. If I compare Leeds to the 8c perfect temperature I can assume that the first half of the race was cooler – I was in the shade and it was earlier in the day. The first half of the race was about 13c and I can estimate that I ran 3% slower so for the first 2 hours I lost 3 minutes 36 seconds. The second half of the race was much hotter, especially in the bright sun so lets assume an average temperature of 18c for 2 hours and a 6% loss – 7 minutes 12 seconds and a total of 10 minutes 48 seconds lost to the heat.

York should theoretically average about 13c, bit less at the start, maybe a little more at the end but a 3% loss over the whole race seems reasonable. I will drink plenty and try to reduce that further, same as I did at Leeds but I can expect a 7 minutes 12 seconds loss, putting York 3 minutes 36 seconds quicker. On a cool October day, that number can be even higher.

It comes down to my training

Adding the figures together for heat and hills I have a potential 17 minutes I can save , everything else being equal so it will come down to my training as to whether I manage to get sub-4 or not. Can I stay injury free in the last few weeks, can I get my nutrition plan and hydration plan spot on and will I be prepared to suffer on race day and keep going when my rational self says STOP! That is the big question that I will find out next month!!

Sleep Your Way to Ironman Success: The Importance of Sleep for Triathletes

Ironman triathlon (or any other triathlon, marathon or long distance event) is one of the most challenging endurance events in the world. It requires a high level of physical fitness, mental strength, and proper nutrition. However, one often overlooked factor that is essential for success is sleep. In this blog post, we’ll explore why sleep is crucial for Ironman triathletes and how to optimize your sleep to improve your performance.

Recovery and Repair

During both training for and the actual race, your body goes through an enormous amount of stress. In a race you are pushing your body to its physical limits for up to 17 hours, in training you do this and often more every week which can lead to muscle damage, inflammation, and oxidative stress. Sleep is the most crucial time for recovery and repair. During sleep, the body releases growth hormone, which is essential for tissue repair, muscle growth, and bone density. Lack of sleep can impair the body’s ability to recover, which can lead to decreased performance, increased risk of injury, and decreased immune function.

Mental Preparation

Triathlon requires a high level of mental preparation. Mental fatigue can lead to decreased focus, increased anxiety, and decreased motivation, which can all affect performance. Sleep is essential for mental preparation, as it is during sleep that the brain processes and consolidates memories, emotions, and learning. Lack of sleep can impair memory consolidation, emotional regulation, and decision-making, all of which can have a significant impact on performance. Poor decision making can also have serious safety implications when swim, bike or running, especially when on the road.

Hormone Regulation

Sleep is essential for hormone regulation, especially for athletes. Hormones such as cortisol, testosterone, and growth hormone play a crucial role in muscle growth, recovery, and repair. Lack of sleep can disrupt the body’s hormone balance, leading to decreased testosterone and growth hormone levels and increased cortisol levels, which can lead to decreased muscle growth, increased muscle breakdown, and increased inflammation.

Female sex hormones also play an important role in sleep and recovery during endurance training. The two primary female sex hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, have been shown to affect sleep patterns and muscle recovery. Oestrogen has been found to improve the quality of sleep by increasing the amount of deep sleep and reducing the number of awakenings during the night. It also has anti-inflammatory effects, which can help to reduce muscle soreness and improve recovery after exercise.

Progesterone, on the other hand, has been shown to have a sedative effect, promoting sleepiness and relaxation. It also helps to regulate the immune system and reduce inflammation, which can aid in muscle recovery after exercise. However, the levels of oestrogen and progesterone in women fluctuate throughout their menstrual cycle, which can affect their sleep patterns and muscle recovery during endurance training. During the follicular phase (days 1-14) of the menstrual cycle, oestrogen levels are higher and women may experience better sleep quality and faster recovery times. During the luteal phase (days 15-28), progesterone levels increase, which can lead to increased sleepiness but may also lead to more disrupted sleep.

It’s important to note that every woman’s experience is unique and individual differences can impact how female sex hormones affect sleep and recovery during endurance training. You should adjust the intensity & volume of your training to fit in with your own cycle.

Tips for Optimizing Sleep for Ironman Triathletes

1. Establish a consistent sleep schedule: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.

2. Create a relaxing sleep environment: Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. Use blackout curtains, earplugs, and a white noise machine if necessary.

3. Limit screen time before bed: Blue light from electronic devices can disrupt sleep. Try to avoid using electronic devices for at least an hour before bed.

4. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed: Caffeine and alcohol can disrupt sleep. Try to avoid consuming them at least 4-6 hours before bed.

5. Use relaxation techniques: Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga to help calm your mind and body before bed.

Final Thoughts

Sleep is often overlooked but is a crucial factor in the success of Ironman triathletes. It is during sleep that the body recovers and repairs, the brain processes and consolidates memories, and hormone levels are regulated. By optimizing your sleep, you can improve your performance, reduce your risk of injury, and recover faster. So, prioritize sleep, and you’ll be one step closer to achieving your Ironman goals.

Maltodextrin: The Secret Weapon for Ironman and Marathon Athletes

When it comes to endurance events such as Ironman and marathons, fueling is a crucial component to success. Without proper fueling, athletes risk hitting the dreaded “wall” and slowing down. You can easily lose 30 minutes, up to 2 hours during longer events, an absolutely huge amount of time! Ironman is often described as an eating contest more than a triathlon and it is as much about enjoyment as it is about a fast time. No-one enjoys the feeling of having no energy. While there are many types of fueling options available, maltodextrin is a secret weapon that can make all the difference in your performance.

What is Maltodextrin?

Maltodextrin is an almost tasteless, complex carbohydrate that is made from corn, rice, or potato starch. It is made up of glucose molecules that are linked together, and it is a rapidly digestible carbohydrate that can provide the body with quick energy.

Why Maltodextrin is Essential for Endurance Events?

When an athlete is participating in an endurance event lasting over 90 minutes, carbohydrates are essential for fueling the body. While fat can be used as a fuel source, it is a slow process that is not efficient for the faster paced efforts needed during races. Maltodextrin, on the other hand, is quickly digested in the gut and converted into glucose, providing the body with a rapid source of energy.

Maltodextrin’s Benefits Over Other Carbohydrates

One of the biggest challenges in fueling during endurance events is taste. Many gels, energy drinks, and other options are loaded with sugar and can be too sweet for some athletes to tolerate. This can lead to decreased consumption and slower performance. Maltodextrin, on the other hand, is almost tasteless and has a very rapid absorption rate, making it an ideal choice. It is often mixed with fructose as a combination energy source.

How to Incorporate Maltodextrin into Your Fueling Strategy?

Maltodextrin can be found in many forms, including gels, energy drinks, and powders. It is important to experiment with different forms and find the one that works best for you. Some athletes prefer gels or chews for a quick burst of energy, while others prefer energy drinks that can be sipped throughout the event. Making your own maltodextrin drink is also an option, as it is an inexpensive option compared to other products. Check the race organiser’s website to see what nutrition products will be available on race day and test those out in plenty of time. Are they the best option or should you carry your own?

Final Thoughts

When it comes to endurance events, proper fueling is essential for success, both in a fast time and enjoying the day. Maltodextrin is a secret weapon that can provide a quick source of energy without the overly sweet taste of other carbohydrates. Whether you are a triathlete preparing for an Ironman or a marathon runner training for a big race, incorporating maltodextrin into your fueling strategy can make all the difference in your performance. So, try it out and see how it works for you!

Perfection is Not Needed: Why Good Enough is Good Enough for Triathletes

As a triathlete, you are no stranger to pushing yourself to the limit. Whether you are training for your first triathlon or striving to qualify for a championship race, you are always looking for ways to improve your performance. But what if we told you that perfection is not needed in order to achieve success? In fact, being “good enough” may actually be better for you in the long run. Here’s why:

1. Perfection is Unattainable

No matter how hard you train or how much effort you put in, perfection is simply unattainable. There will always be room for improvement, and no matter how much progress you make, there will always be ways to become faster or stronger. Instead of striving for perfection, focus on doing your best and improving your performance one step at a time. I suspect if we ask Alistair Brownlee or Flora Duffy, they will very rarely if ever have a perfect race.

2. Stressing Over Perfection Can Be Counterproductive

Stressing over perfection can be counterproductive to your goals. The pressure to be perfect can lead to anxiety, burnout, and even injury. It’s important to remember that you are a human being, not a machine, and that you need to take care of yourself both physically and mentally to achieve your goals. When you push yourself too hard to be perfect, you may neglect rest days, recovery, and self-care. You may also put yourself at risk of overtraining, which can lead to injuries, fatigue, and poor performance. It’s important to listen to your body and not push yourself beyond your limits. Your body needs time to rest and recover to perform at its best.

3. Enjoying Yourself is Key

At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you enjoy yourself. Triathlons are supposed to be challenging, but they should also be fun. If you are constantly stressed and anxious about achieving perfection, you may lose sight of why you started in the first place. Remember why you love triathlons and focus on enjoying the process, not just the end result.

When you’re out on the course, take a moment to appreciate the scenery, the atmosphere, and the camaraderie of your fellow athletes. Smile, high-five, and encourage those around you. Remember that you’re not just racing against others; you’re also racing against yourself. So don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself to be perfect; instead, focus on doing your best and enjoying the experience.

4. Good Enough is Good Enough

Instead of worrying about perfection, focus on doing your best and being “good enough”. This means putting in the effort and training hard, but also recognizing that you are human and that it’s okay to make mistakes. Being “good enough” means being happy with your progress and celebrating your achievements, no matter how small.

In conclusion, perfection is not needed for triathletes. Instead, focus on doing your best, working hard, and enjoying yourself along the way. Being “good enough” is more than enough to achieve success and reach your goals. So, don’t stress about perfection and remember to have fun!

Little Wins That Add Up

Being a great triathlete or endurance athlete is not just about training hard, it is about being a healthy human first of all. Being a healthy human can be difficult, life can be tough and doing the right thing all the time is not easy. One way to look after yourself and keep it simple is to work on little wins. You might just aim for one little win per day but keep trying and these little wins add up. The trick is to keep them easily achievable and if you miss a day, it doesn’t matter, but celebrate when you achieve your little wins.

It is easy to make up your own little wins but here are a few ideas to get you started. Maybe write them down when you have done one – in your calendar, on a notepad or in your training plan.

  • Eat an extra piece of fruit
  • Get an extra 15 minutes sleep
  • Turn off your phone before bed to get a better-quality night’s sleep
  • Do your stretching exercises
  • Go for a walk for 15 minutes instead of social media
  • Stroke a cat or dog – reduces stress
  • Get your drinks bottles and kit ready the night before
  • Try out an exciting new recipe
  • Read a book, magazine or article
  • Enjoy your favourite comedy – laugh more
  • Smile at a family member or friend
  • Smile at a stranger
  • Charge your Garmin before it runs out
  • Try a new running or cycling route
  • Play a board game with a loved one
  • Check your tyre pressures
  • Do a sweat test
  • Listen to your coach!

Is Triathlon the best way to boost your health & fitness?

Is Triathlon the best way to boost your health & fitness?

If you’re looking to improve your overall health and fitness, triathlon training is an excellent option to consider. It involves swimming, cycling, and running, and can provide a wide range of benefits for individuals of all ages and fitness levels. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a beginner looking to improve your overall health and wellness, incorporating triathlon training into your routine can help you achieve your fitness goals and enhance your quality of life. In this article, we’ll explore some of the general health and fitness benefits of triathlon training.

Cardiovascular health: One of the most significant benefits of triathlon training is its positive impact on cardiovascular health. Triathlon training combines swimming, cycling, and running, which are all excellent aerobic exercises that can help improve your heart health and reduce your risk of heart disease. Regular triathlon training can help lower your blood pressure, reduce your resting heart rate, and increase your cardiovascular endurance.

Weight management: Triathlon training is a highly effective way to manage your weight and improve your body composition. The combination of swimming, cycling, and running can help you burn calories and build lean muscle mass, which can help increase your metabolic rate and improve your body’s ability to burn fat. Additionally, triathlon training can help you develop healthy eating habits and maintain a balanced diet, which is essential for long-term weight management.

Strength and endurance: Triathlon training requires a high level of strength and endurance, which can help you develop lean muscle mass and improve your overall physical fitness. The swimming, cycling, and running components of triathlon training target different muscle groups and can help you build strength and endurance in your legs, core, and upper body. This can help improve your overall functional fitness and make daily activities easier and more enjoyable.

Mental health: Triathlon training can also provide significant mental health benefits. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, boost mood and self-esteem, and improve overall cognitive function. Triathlon training can also help you develop a sense of accomplishment and purpose, which can enhance your overall well-being and quality of life.

Social connections: Triathlon training can be a highly social activity that can help you connect with like-minded individuals and build a supportive community. Joining a triathlon club or training group can provide you with a sense of camaraderie and motivation, as well as opportunities to learn from experienced athletes and share your own experiences.

In summary, triathlon training can provide a wide range of health and fitness benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, weight management, strength and endurance, mental health, and social connections. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a beginner, incorporating triathlon training into your fitness routine can help you achieve your goals and enhance your overall health and well-being.

We are now a Strava Club

Did you know that Pennine Endurance Coaching is on Strava?

We have our own club for my coached athletes and friends. Strava is the biggest social network for triathletes, cyclists and runners and I know many of you use the app regularly. Strava is also great at finding new routes for your training, supporting your friends and making new friends.

For my coached athletes – watch out for a future blog post on how to use Strava to maximum effect and how to avoid a potential pitfall.