Balancing speed & endurance – One on One Coaching Session with Jeff Ostrom

Balancing speed & endurance – One on One Coaching Session with Jeff Ostrom

Today's one on one coaching call is with another one of our athletes on our marathon programs - Jeff Ostrom. Coach Parry advises Jeff on how to get faster across all distances, with KaapseHoop Marathon particularly in mind. Jeff comes from a team sport background and so Lindsey shares how this has probably helped his speed as well as his endurance for running.

They also discuss how much mental tenacity is required for running and how to overcome some of these hurdles.

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Welcome back on to this edition of RUN with Coach Parry. My name is Brad Brown. It's good to be with you once again this week. And once again, some great feedback off the last week's podcast with Janine, I hope you did enjoy it. We've got another one of those fly on the wall coaching sessions today with Lindsay Parry and Jeff Ostrom that's coming up.


Jeff's running background


Cool, so give us a bit about your background, what's your backstory?

Okay, so I come from quite a strong sporting background and like a typical South African boy grew up most of my life playing cricket, and hockey and soccer and rugby and whatever else came through. But cricket and hockey became sort of my two main focus areas where I played those at provincial level right through to the end of varsity. A lot of the time sportsman, you underestimate the value of running fitness within your sport, you do what's required to become strong at that specific sport. And you kind of enter each season undercooked but you get yourself to a fitness level by playing.

So if you never quite break athletic barriers, being a sportsman, you just kind of do just enough to get yourself ready for when you've got tournaments and so on. So when it does come down to running, you end up being quite lazy and wanting to have a vomit on the side of the field after doing a fitness session. So running was always something that just had to be done as part of the training. When I stopped playing sports, I did quite a lot of cycling, enjoyed that, the cycling was pretty cool.

Then got married and you get lazy and you don't do a hell of a lot. My wife actually got me into running and I only did it purely because she said I must, otherwise I wouldn't have done it. To such an extent that I actually fell in love with the running, there was there was something just pure about the ability to go out and run 10, 15 or 20 kilometres, which previously was never ever entered my mindset, it was just kilometres, you jump in a car, and that's it.

There's something pure about being able to do that and be outside and it wasn't cost impact sport, you bought a pair of running shoes and you're in a T shirt and shorts, and your biggest splurge was your earphones or your sunglasses. So it was just a very easy, cool thing to do. And I suppose the bug bit, the competitiveness got the better of me and you started entering 10K's and 21K's and then you start really biting off more than you potentially can chew and you head to marathons. And then you suddenly realise you need a lot of help. So that's where I am.

Ok. Cool. So having a look through both your training questionnaire, as well as the kind of distances that you've run, you are a fairly typical case study, if you like. That is to say that you have a lot of running ability, which also is fairly typical of hockey I find, footballers and hockey players that come over to endurance sport, they do tend to have fairly natural engines. So if we look at that, your 5k 21:30 5K PB tells us that you should be capable of running under 45 minutes for 10 k's, under an 1:40 for 21k, and under three and a half hours for a marathon.

Okay, so if we run through what your actual terms are, as we move longer, we go from from a predicted 44:39 for 10 K to an actual 51:30. Your 51:30 then predicts to a four hour marathon. So you can already see that that difference does show drop off, and it predicts a 1:50 for half and as soon as we slide across to the half, your actual half is at 2:06. That 2:06 in turn predicts to a 4:25 and your reality is a 4:38. So you have got plenty of speed and your weakness would either then be a real inability at endurance or limited training spent working on that strength and having a look at time available to you, I would say if you really wanted to kick on and get close to that potential, look, there's nothing saying that you couldn't get faster over 5K's of course.

Of course, if we got you under 20 minutes that would then also have a knock on effect all the way through. But in the short term, I think your interest will be best served by trying to address this imbalance between your speed and your endurance. And that would mean making a little bit more time. Somewhere in your week for one longer run. Look in terms of your goals, you really should cruise your time goals if we just help and get that mix and that balance right. So now we're going to move over to you, you kind of ask me any questions, any pressing stuff that you've got on your mind, and then I will maybe ask one or two more questions based on that. Then round off with some advice.


Running with a heart rate monitor


Yeah. So I think there's so much out there that you can read, listen to and get advice from. I just think, like runners themselves are probably the worst people to ever ask, because people find something that works for them. They can't explain why it works for them, it just does. And it ends up invariably messing with your head and everything else. So you run and you go and you get a heart rate monitor. And then you spend every 200 metres looking at the heart rate monitor to check that your speed's still the same, to check that you're not having a heart attack number two, and, and then you actually don't know anything else, because there's too much on the device that makes no sense to an average, social runner.

So you place a lot of priority on finishing a 10 k run, then you look at your average speeds, were my kilometres relatively consistent, and was my heart rate consistent within that? And that kind of half provides a modicum of fitness to you, but you never improve. This is this is where I find myself, it's almost like, if I go do a 5k run, I know that barring being hit by a bus, I won't die. But as soon as it comes to a 21k run, some defensive, subconscious thing in my brain kicks in and says you will only run at 6:15 for this run, you know, I almost can't break out of that. I don't know if it's because I'm watching the watch too much. And I should just maybe just run without the device for a while I don't know?

So there's some very good evidence to suggest that at the very least covering up the device or putting it on screens that you can record the heart rate and see it afterwards, but set up your watch so that you can only see the information you need to see, which to be honest, when you're running a race, quite possibly is only the time of day. So I find that some people intuitively have a very poor understanding of how they are feeling and those people normally tend to be right at the front of races and somewhere between halfway and two thirds in. It's quite amazing that that doesn't matter whether it's a five k, 10 k, 21k doesn't matter, the five K, you will typically catch them at three K's and 21 typically catch them at 16,17 k's.

They don't have any governor and you've obviously gone slightly in the opposite direction where you over govern yourself. That may well be due to bio feedback that you're getting but it can't be from feedback that you're getting from yourself. Unless of course because you really haven't done enough volume, but you know what the that you cycle and the cross training that you do, that's not going to be the case, I mean, you should very definitely be able to convert your five k time into 10 k. So you really should be running pretty close to 45 minutes for 10 k's. Therefore between 1:40 and 1:45 for a half.

Thereafter, things like do enough long runs, these things do become important. So I think that by doing a couple of runs where you actually just let yourself run. If we really listen to our bodies, and we honest with ourselves, we know what easy is, you can run with mates, have a have a flat out conversation, arguing about the game on Saturday, then that's an easy run, if you are running harder, you can get a few words out to each other but there certainly won't be any arguing when you're doing a sort of tempo session. And when you're running a five k, well, if you're talking, you're not running hard enough, okay?

So talk test is actually probably the the best of all the tests for you to use. I do like to use devices to track and check, but typically, I very seldom use heart rate in a run, or to prescribe training to anybody unless they've been sick or battled with very specific things, I do use heart rate to give me warnings about things that are coming, but again, that stuff you can look at afterwards, you don't need to see it while you're running. So I think you are spot on there. Your physical training between 10 all the way up to 21 doesn't need a big change. I mean, I know that you've got yourself a programme now and you'll be following it. I think you took the four hour programme. So look, in terms of your ability, three and a half hours, probably more appropriate.

However, what the four hour programme will do is will ensure that in a systematic way, you do get to the kind of volumes that you need. For me to give you the confidence that you, similar to how you feel in a five K, you should feel quite close to that in a 21. You obviously can't go out at the same pace, it has to be a slight tap off. But really, if you get in the kind of volume, and you follow that 4 hour programme, I can kind of predict that you would get around 45 to 46 and a half on a 10k, you'd get to around 1:45 to 1:50 on a 21. And you'd end up at about 3:45-350 on the marathon, which in turn we will have the confidence to go for 3:30 down the line.


Running slower to run faster


Absolutely. I've obviously seen you talk about this before, on like Facebook, or other blogs, and so on. It's a difficult concept to understand, to run fast run slower. Okay, so I get that, but like almost like your brain tells you, you cannot improve unless your times are improving. So how do you get the balance between, you know, if you look at your easy runs split for example, you say go for an easy run, you've got a specific amount of time that you must run for, and try to keep your splits say between 5:45 and 6:30. The longer the programme goes on, should you be getting closer to the 5:35 mark or is that just purely how you feel on the day?

Yeah, so it's a lot to do on how you feel on a day. Those zones should be seen in the context of human physiology and that we don't stop doing one thing and start doing another thing physiologically accountable. It all happens on this continuum where it slides up and down. So as you get down to the faster end of that, you are more likely to be moving out of your aerobic and more into anaerobic. However, as you pointed out, as you get fitter, you should naturally slide down to the faster end of those paces. It kind of defeats the object if you're making yourself go down there but there should be a bit of a gradual tendency towards that.

Then obviously, there'll be days where you just don't feel great and that allows some flexibility to slow down to know that okay, the further I move, the slower I move, the closer I move into a slightly different zone. However, there is a grey area, I'm still getting my aerobic stimulation, okay. So someone like you that has got a bit of natural speed and I've got no doubt that you could get faster. I mean, I would say that if you got onto the three and a half hour marathon programme, you could probably get somewhere in between 18 and a half to 19 and a half minutes for five K's.

So someone who's been running now for the amount of time that you have and that you do have this bit of natural speed, I would be inclined to say that actually you should be doing a day of higher intensity training in the week, and that could be a Parkrun. It could be your club time trial. It could be some hill work, it could be some fartleks, it could be some interval, could be a tempo run. It's not that important what it is. But I would say that for you, you want to have a shorter session in the week that has you running in a variety of intensities. For the rest of the week, you want to focus in on those slow, easier runs.

The reason why the running slower to get faster works is exactly what you said, is that once we dial in on the right aerobic zone, we slowly but surely get faster and faster and faster in that zone. And ultimately, soon as we go longer than five K's and five K's too to a certain degree, but it's slightly different. But as soon as you go longer than five K's we rely heavily on aerobic, not much on anaerobic. As soon as you go beyond 10k's, that becomes stronger and stronger. So that is why what we really trying to do is push out your maximal aerobic function. That's a phrase that kind of sums up really what we trying to do. In other words, the fastest you can run aerobically, that's where we're trying to get to.


Should you run at a consistent pace throughout your half marathon?


That make sense. So in approaching like a 21 k race or 21 k run, do you try to work on a consistent pace the whole way through? Or do you rather try to look at running a negative split?

Yeah, so in 21k race, I try to look at a fairly even effort, so that would imply that if it was on a flat route that I'd run a fairly similar pace all the way through. I always try to finish just a little bit stronger towards the end. And I've managed that very well in half marathons. Although that is the goal in marathons, I haven't done that too successfully in marathons yet. But in essence, that's kind of how we try and do, we try and plan each race. Having that little bit in reserve, besides how positive you feel when you feel that strong, just passing people, it gives you that extra little kick, but to run your absolute fastest time would require fairly even meeting out of energy.

Okay, alright. Cool.

All right, Jeff, any other question?

Um, no, I think running almost more mental sometimes than it is the training because it's just like the time barriers always just sort of kick into your brain, where you talk about running a 3:30 marathon, I think if I did that I'd be, sounds ridiculous. But you know, why shouldn't it be, it's only a 5:30 k.

Yeah. Look, the reality is to go from 4:38 to 3:29 does seem absurd. And running is all about taking the steps along the way. So now on this marathon programme that you're following now, I would try and race at least 18 and a 21 in the build up and well it depends what race you're running, but certainly, it just gives you those little pieces of confidence that you are in improving along the way. So as you said, you know, if you went from 4:38 to four, it's a big jump already, but then you'd really be like, oh, yeah, I can do 3:50 and when you do 3:50 I know I've got a 3:30 in me and that's kind of how you go.

With Kaapsehoop being there sort of race we targeting now for the beginning of November, which would be obviously a qualifier for Two Oceans and potentially Comrades, gotta still see if I was that brave, I said I'd do it. It's a downhill race more than anything. It sounds fantastic. But do you have to in that preparation, do a lot of downhill running for quad strength? Or is it not completely necessary?

You don't want to avoid hills, for sure. But what I would do, you could do this at home, is I would start doing some squats, single leg squats, step ups on to a bench to strengthen your quads. The most important thing with it being a downhill run is that you need to take advantage of the downhills within reason. So yeah, typically what people do is they run so fast down those hills and it feels good. But then you hit the last 10k's and your legs are absolute porridge and they can't do anything.

Around three weeks before Kaapsehoop you probably want to run a 10 or 21 quite hard, because then that'll give you an idea of what you should target at Kaapsehoop. You will be on Kaapsehoop, if you pace yourself properly, you should finish between five and seven minutes ahead of that particular time and to get around three to four minutes ahead of that by half way, that's a reasonable amount of being ahead. Because you are running downhill you are going to be ahead. You should be able to hold on to kind of what you should have been able to run on a more flat marathon through to the finish, provided you've done enough long runs and yeah, so but if you do have have 2 half an hour little sessions in your week where you can get in and do a few squats, single leg squats, step ups, lunges, that sort of thing, that's the stuff that really will make your quads nice and strong for Kaapsehoop.

Cool. That sounds good.

Yeah, great chatting to you. Let us know how the progress goes.

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