Looking for a change of pace – with Rory McGuirk

Looking for a change of pace – with Rory McGuirk

Markus chats to one of our CoachParry Online Training Platform members on today's episode of RUN with CoachParry - Rory McGuirk. Rory has both a green and blue number for Comrades and Two Oceans respectively, however has been struggling with getting some motivation back. Markus and Rory explore some ideas to to find new ways to tackle the training; they venture into the advantages of perhaps changing Rory's weekly schedule from a 7 day cycle to a 10 or 14 day cycle and the positive influence of strength work in his program.

They also look at some new exciting tech ideas such as training with power and discuss the aspects of Rory's critical power tests and how to interpret and use the data to plan for Rory's next Sainsbury attempt at Two Oceans next year.

 

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Transcription

 

BRAD
We head to a double whammy in Pretoria today and we've got one of our coaches on the line, Markus. Markus, nice to catch up once again.

MARKUS
Hi Brad, thank you so much.

BRAD
And we've got one of the members of our online running community, Rory McGuirk, with us as well. Rory, How's it?

RORY
Very well thanks.

 

Rory's running background

 

BRAD
Very good. So Rory, the reason we're here today is for you. We're going to try and put a plan together and help you out as best we can. Tell me, for those who don't know you and don't know anything about your background. Tell me about you from a running perspective. How did you get into sport? How long have you been running that sort of thing?

RORY
I started running about 12-13 years ago Brad. I just picked up a pair of shoes, went out for a run one day, so I enjoyed it. I always used to run cross country in high school. I always enjoyed running but after school I just sort of left it and went basically to gym. You know, one day like I said, I put on a pair of takkies and went out for a run and enjoyed it so much that I started looking for race to do. I think I did a 10km race at the Wally and from there I was looking for a 21. I bumped into an old friend at a road race and he said he was a member of a local club and I should come down and I went down there. All of them were into running Comrades and Oceans and Om Die Dam and those kinds of races so I got dragged into that as well.

BRAD
Sounds like you struggle with peer pressure, Rory, you got sucked into Comrades.

RORY
Yeah, well, I suppose it's always a dream that you want to have and you want to do. So it was always there in the back of my mind, but I just never went on with running. Maybe starting a bit late in my mid 30s was a good thing, my body was more settled and I was more ready for it. Also I tried to play football after school and I had problems with my knees, dislocated both patellas, so you know, I was always that concerned with the legs. How would the knee joints handle running? But that actually helped me strengthen the joints, strengthen the muscles and it's actually been the best thing ever.

 

The green number...

 

BRAD
So how many Comrades have you done now?

RORY
I've done 10. I did my 10th one in 2017, I took the year off this year, I went to go second my wife on her third Comrades so the bug has spread into the household as well.

BRAD
I love it and so many people say that's it like especially when they get to five or six Comrades. They're like you know what, I'm over this, I'm running 10 and that's it. I'm not going to do another one. I'm guessing you are not planning on stopping at 10, you're going to go back in because you can't just have a green number at home, nobody gets to see it. You've got to run in it.

RORY
Yeah that's what everybody says, and I agree. My running just sort of hit a bit of a wall and I struggled a lot after my 10th one. Might have been motivation or a couple of things like that and I just knew that I needed to take a break from the race. But I definitely will be back but not next year probably the year after.

BRAD
But that's the cool thing, Rory, is and I think you hit the nail on the head when you're working towards 10 Comrades, you've obviously always got this goal and you're working towards something. And sometimes you get to the point where you are gatvol, it's like you know what, I'm running Comrades, it's a lot, I need something else. Is that where you're at at the moment? Is it like you need a different challenge, something else to get you out of bed in the morning, so to speak?

RORY
Yeah, I think so, Brad. I always felt Comrades was a little bit tough distance wise for me. That last 20-30 k's that people talk about where you know, I definitely, relative to mobility, didn't perform. I felt that I had a lot of hydration issues, I got nauseous, threw up, ended up in medical tents, ended up in hospital once. Whereas when I would run Two Oceans, it was perfectly in my sweet spot. I ran 10 Two Oceans in a row as well, I got my blue number and then my green number like minutes apart. I think after that you're kind of demotivated in a way. It's a long time in the making. And yeah, I think I just took a bit of a backseat and started looking at running from a different point of view. And I've actually switched from being basically just a runner to a more rounded person now. I'm doing strength training, and I'm doing the runng and I'm finding from a health point of view that I feel a lot better.

 

What's next for Rory?

 

BRAD
So what are you working towards at the moment? What are some of the goals?

RORY
Oceans I've carried on with, I would love to do 20 Two Oceans, going for my 12th one this year. I had a bit of a horror run last year, I went from running eight Sainsbury's in a row to running a blue medal. There were mitigating circumstances but that was still a very poor performance. So I'm determined to come back stronger and run the Sainsbury again next year.

BRAD
You're talking Sainsbury and I know your Comrades times, you're a machine, Rory. I mean, you're not a mug, you've got some ability.

RORY
Yeah, I train hard. I don't you know, I get a training programme. I follow a training programme. I do the mileage. I don't think I've ever gone into a big race, undercooked or underprepared, maybe a little bit of a cold once or twice but never undertrained. I've always felt that I've trained properly for Two Oceans, and even Comrades, I've always felt that when I pitched up I've trained well, done enough mileage and done enough quality. But just on the day with Comrades, I got it a hiding more often than not.

BRAD
That race is definitely a beast. You talk about going in under done, there's nowhere to hide in Comrades. I mean, you can fudge a marathon, and I know international listeners are going oh I don't know about fudging a marathon, but you can fudge a marathon and you can possibly fudge a sort of 50 k but if you haven't done the work Comrades will show you up in that final third. It's not pretty.

RORY
No absolutely and I think if I'm brutally honest. it's the long runs where I came short. I didn't do them consistently enough. You know, you go do a 21 but you actually needed to do 26, 27 that day and you end up just doing the half marathon. Those five or six k's are actually crucial because it's running on those tired, sore legs.

 

Markus's initial thoughts

 

BRAD
Absolutely. Rory I'm going to hand you over to Markus now. Every time we do one of these calls we send through like a questionnaire to get a bit of a running background. Markus has got yours. I'm involved with Coach Parry because I'm good at talking, as far as coaching goes, Markus is the man along with Lindsey on the running side of things.

So Markus, just your take on that questionnaire and sort of Rory's background. I know you've worked closely with Rory in the past as well. What are some of your thoughts there? And then let's get into some of the questions that you've got for Rory and some of the questions that he's got for you.

MARKUS
Thanks Brad. So Rory, obviously working with you in the past obviously makes this much easier. I remember the last time we spoke it was your motivation that tended to a failure every now and then. I mean, just listening to your pedigree again, it doesn't doesn't really surprise me. You know, you said 12 Oceans and 10 Comrades, the fact that you can consistently and the fact that you've done it for so many years consecutively, that to me it's only natural that you start losing motivation and I just think the winds a bit out of the sails. But I like the idea that you're going to do Tokyo Marathon, just for the same reason that one needs to do stuff like that.

You need to experience different cultures, still take what you like and what you're fond out doing, but go and experience it in different ways. I had a few people running New York this year and they absolutely loved it. And if you're in the position to go and do things like that it's absolutely brilliant. I mean having a look at your questionnaire, your old times, your better times as you refer to them in 2016, 2017 compared to what you currently run, there's no real major difference.

So I think it was just a matter of once again, just shifting the focus slightly. But I think now with Tokyo, you know, as a carrot in front of your nose to chase, I think that's a good thing. I just want to find out from you. What would your goal be for Tokyo? But before then, the training that you submitted in your weekly training schedule? Is that pretty much what you've been doing over the last few months still? Or is that just an average if you're in a full training season?

RORY
I think that's an average for the year so it does vary. Yeah, definitely it does pick up towards you know, towards an Oceans or a Comrades. Typically what I've been doing, Markus, is after Comrades I would take some time to recover and then I would focus on running a fast 10k. Because that high mileage, you know, it takes its toll and it can steal a bit of the joy of running. So I like running fast. And with Comrades and Oceans, you can't really do that. It's a different type of race. So I love to try thrash out a fast 10k, a fast 21k after Comrades.

And then roundabout now, beginning November, I start focusing on Oceans. And that's typically what I've done, I will train for Oceans, and then I would just convert to Comrades from there, in the years gone by. So my big goal at the moment, my big focus is Two Oceans. So I'm 20 weeks out and I'm planning on that 20 weeks, and Tokyo is a building block for that. My wife and I started doing marathons overseas and we're very privileged to do that. We run at different paces, so what we do when we go overseas is we tour and we run and we do the race. There's no pressure, we have fun.

MARKUS
Okay so basically there's no specific goal for Tokyo, it's just to experience with your wife.

RORY
Yeah, so we've actually got a goal, we want to run the World Marathon Majors together. We've managed to do two, this will be the third one and we've them from start to finish. So the plan is to do all six from start to finish if possible.

MARKUS
Okay, okay. Awesome. Rory, what is your goal for Oceans?

RORY
My best one is a 4:38, I think it was about 2014 if I'm guessing. I'd be happy to come in at 4:55 next year, but the competitive side of me would like to push close to that 4:38 if at all possible, maybe even dip below it.

MARKUS
Okay. And then what's your most recent race that you've run?

RORY
I ran a 21 k race in Pretoria, it was very quiet because everybody was off at Kaapsehoop. It was a relatively flat area, I ran a 1:35.

MARKUS
That already takes you to a 3:19 marathon.

RORY
I ran Cape Town Marathon in September. I ran really well up until about 35,36 kilometres and then I started cramping which is something that doesn't typically happen to me and so I was on target for three hours 30, I ended up running 3:40. So it was still a very good, reasonable run. I think I had that fitness when I went into this 21. So after this 21 that I could really push the whole distance.

 

Putting together a training plan

 

MARKUS
Okay and if you say that fitness, obviously not running Comrades this year, what did your training look like?

RORY
Not running Comrades, we travelled after Two Oceans and it was a bit hectic. We actually ended up doing Two Oceans, Paris Marathon and Boston Marathon three weeks in a row. To train for that, we did two marathons here in Pretoria plus the Sunrise Monster three weeks in a row. So I think my body was pretty slim. By the time I got back from that trip, I just took a bit of time off and then I started training for Cape Town Marathon with the idea that I wanted to try get back to what I thought was better running form for myself, because I really had a horrific year, I ran a six hour Two Oceans and I had a terrible marathon at Tuks, I got sick. I had a terrible 32 in the spring so I got sick.

I just really had a terrible year. Even the McCarthy Toyota, you know, I struggled to break five and just the whole beginning of this year was horrific for me from a running point of view. I went through a lot of medical tests and stuff, and I actually found out I had high blood pressure which I didn't realize. So I've been patient now for about three or four months and I must say that I don't know if it's the medication, I'm doing strength training with running, bringing a bit of balance into the thing, but my running is definitely returning to what it was say 18 months, two years ago.

MARKUS
Okay. So based on your weekly training schedule, I mean running for five days in a week is really good going. So generally what I like to do is for your shorter races and I'd say almost up to a marathon, but because of your running history, we can possibly play around with even going to 2 strength sessions in a week or 2 speed sessions in a week. So one would be a tempo run, the other one would be, so generally I do an easier run on a Monday coming off your long run on a Sunday, in your case a rest on Sunday, but we can still do an easy-ish run on a Monday, just to get the legs going, just to get the blood flowing, you know before your speed session on a Tuesday.

Generally we do a semi long run on a Wednesday. And then Thursday again, we do either, if we've done a tempo session on the Tuesday, we do speed session on Thursday, and then a rest day on a Friday. And then a long run on the Saturday, and what I like to do is, if if you've done 2 tempo sessions on a Tuesday and Thursday, I just give a normal long run. But if we've only done one tempo session on a Tuesday or a Thursday, I prefer it be on a Tuesday.

Then I'd like to crank it up to a race pace effort. So I'd give you a certain duration, usually between 25 to 40 minutes, where I make a person run at their target, either 21 k pace or their target 21 K wattage. So depending whether you're just running on a normal watch, with or without a power meter, those details can be ironed out. So let's work off that 1:28 on a half, when was that run exactly?

RORY
That was 2016, I ran 1:28 that year, and I ran 3:11 Cape Town marathon as well. That was a really rock solid year for me.

MARKUS
Rory, what did your training look like then if you don't mind me asking?

RORY
I typically followed something similar to what you do but with a bit more variety because I've quite enjoyed variety and there was a generic programme that I think Old Mutual offered for Oceans. So I would typically follow a programme like that, which would be short hills and tempo running and race pace, very much along the lines of what you're describing now. So not a programme I designed myself but just one that I found. And I liked the variety of it.

So, you know, that made it less boring for me. The straightforward, easy pace runs I find quite difficult and the long runs. I like the ones where there's a bit of speed work or tempo or something just a bit different to the run. It just engages my mind more that it's a more enjoyable workout.

 

Tempo runs and strength training

 

MARKUS
And how does your body react to speed work generally?

RORY
That's the one issue Markus, I've found and that's why I started doing strength work. I'm not recovering as well as I used to. And that's why I'm wondering if I shouldn't look at say, I know some coaches look at a 10 day cycle rather than the seven day cycle for their older athletes. And they would have a very similar breakup to what you have now, they would have a tempo and they would have a speed or quality session and a long run, but instead of over seven days, they would do it over 10 days. So I don't know, if that's something I should start looking at. Approaching 50 rapidly now and the body is not the same as it was, it can still perform, it just definitely doesn't recover as quickly as it would have previously.

MARKUS
Okay. It's strange that you mention that because I work off a 14 day cycle with my triathletes. So the more advanced the person is, yes, then we can put onto a four week, you know, a three or four week plan, but ideally, the 10 or the 14 day cycle is good because it's 10 days on, four days off. If I say four days off, that's not necessarily off as in no activity whatsoever. It's just shorter sessions, easier sessions. Just give your body time to recover and then basically go on from there as well. So you can do 2 tempo sessions in the first week, including an easy, long run, then one tempo session in the second week and then obviously at the 10th day then one just turns down the running a bit and just build it up from there or just keep it even.

 

All about power training

 

RORY
It's interesting, yeah, it's just the thought I've been having lately as well. Markus, you referred to power training there at this stage, it's something I've looked at and I invested in Stride a few years ago and I run with it and it's interesting data, because it's something I've never specifically trained with because I know Garmin has got their own power metres as well within the app but their measurements are vastly different in terms of what they produce, but I suppose it's more about zones, rather than actual specific measurements.

MARKUS
Yeah, so it's all about the different percentages that you train at. So generally your easy runs would be at 70 to 80%. Some depending on the level of experience of my athlete, I sometimes take them up to 82 to 83% for easy runs. It's just some times super frustrating to run at 80% or less. So basically what it boils down to when one calculates your critical power, your critical power is the pace you should realistically be able to hold 10 kilometres so if we want to work out your 21 k projected wattage, then you times it by 0.95 and that will give you a number. Can you remember what your critical power is at the moment?

RORY
No, but I did a 10 k at home the other day, unfortunately it wasn't a race, but I ran in like a race, I did it in 43 minutes, so it's at 4 minutes 12 something like that.

MARKUS
Okay, let's say for argument's sake your critical power was 300, well for that 10 K, so if we want to work out your current, based on your critical power, current 21 k pace or 21 k wattage, you'd have to run at about 285, so that's on 10k's. We want to work at the 21 obviously we times it by .95, we got to 285, if we want to get your marathon pace, then we times it by .95 again, so 270 would be your go to wattage for a marathon, but also keep in mind when one runs on a hilly route, if you go uphill I'd say add about five to 10 watts.

Otherwise, you might just burn yourself out towards the end of the race. And if you go downhill you can take five to seven watts off, otherwise sometimes it's just an unrealistic figure to try and stick to, especially if it's quite a steep downhill, you really need to ramp up the pace in order to stay within the targeted zones.

RORY
Yes, I understand. Okay. It's very interesting. I've never really looked into this stuff or discussed it with anyone. I just got the device and I've been keeping the records, but I've never actually trained with it. But I find it quite interesting. And I think it makes a lot more sense and you know our train zones which are a lot more variable than the [***23:18] and once again, that is percentages, but I like the power and the fact that say, you manage the route profile with the power.

BRAD
Yeah. And what it does too is it gets you to run within yourself early on. Markus, I mean, correct me if I'm wrong here, but we see it so often, guys go out too hard, and then they suffer in the second half because they've basically burnt all the matches in the first half. And by sticking to those numbers that Markus mentioned on the power metre, it keeps enough in the tank for later on so that you can sustain those numbers going forward.

RORY
Yes, I must actually experiment with that on a race sometime like a 10 or 21. It would be very interesting to see. Set a goal and then try run within that goal and see how it manages, it would be very interesting to see how I finish the race opposed to how I would normally feel.

MARKUS
So that's obviously two of the methods that you can, you get the three or six minutes test. I think there's 4 different three or six minute tests, then there's another one that I can't remember. And then there's the five k estimate and the 10k estimate. Your five k estimate, obviously it calculates it into a value of what you would be doing on a 10 K, but your 10 K is directly translated from your time into wattage and that is you critical power, is the power you should be able to hold for a 10k.

So for instance, I'd make someone do 4x2K intervals at a wattage, let's say 102-107%. But still, there will be a nice solid rest interval between each 2K interval. So obviously there's that slight overreaching taking place. 2k's is also a nice long interval, but once again, you should only be taking, so let's say there's 4 intervals, about halfway through the third one you should start taking a slight bit of strain, and then the fourth one should be a proper fast pace session but it shouldn't be that you can't finish the session at all. Then the wattage is totally too high.

But it just gives you a good indication of what you're capable of and the work that obviously your legs are experiencing and that to me is what makes training on power so effective. I cannot tell someone how excited I get when tools like these are available, because it makes a massive difference. It really makes a massive difference.

RORY
Yeah. Really, really interesting. And maybe I can run Oceans on power next year, that will be something interesting to do.

 

When the metrics aren't always accurate...

 

MARKUS
We can chat again at a later stage, it's really no worry. When we're closer at the date for Oceans, I'm more than willing to help you work out your power zones for that race. But not just that, I think if you go onto the actual Stride website, they've got podcasts and various things where you can get information.

The one shortfall that Stride does have is as soon as, let's say for arguments sake, you pick up your shoes in your room, you walk to the lounge, you put them down, put on your socks, drink a quick glass of water, by the time you're out the door it started recording as soon as you started, you had enough you know movement to activate the stride. So it starts recording your run say five minutes before you start your actual run. So that I really don't like about it. But that's why apps like Training Peaks, you know, it times it all, it takes recording from when the actual activity started to its end. It doesn't record as soon as the motion sensors is activated.

RORY
So it'll give you a different reading than to what Stride would give you?

MARKUS
Yeah. It's really not great because Stride also gives you some tips and all those good things but it's not the most accurate reading that it's working off.

RORY
That's been my perception of it as well. And sometimes the thing doesn't pick up, doesn't work and then Stride hasn't got your full history so they're giving you information that's not complete in terms of your training stress scores and all those kinds of things. So for me, it's not ultra reliable, I wouldn't really use it but I think the idea of understanding your political power, understand your wattage, train with that wattage, that makes a lot of sense to me.

MARKUS
Yeah. So look, I hear what you're saying, it's not reliable. Look, I trained with my Stride, and I'm 100% committed to the little device because look, I had a chat to the guys that import them into the country and I listened to these podcasts and I must say the information that I get from there is really valuable. And once you get all that kind of information, and obviously I've built up the necessary knowledge over time. The stuff that I make my athletes do, it's very pinpoint and it's obviously all based on your critical power, the same as with how we do cycling activity.

I have the person's FTP or the threshold power, and everything's based on that. So what's nice is by trial and error, we've worked out certain sessions that a person can do and say, Okay, this is your warm up between 70 and 80% or lower than 80%. Then do like I said four times 2k intervals at 100 to 107% of your critical power. So the more you play around with it, the more you know how effective it really can be. But unfortunately, the readings that you get from the Stride app itself isn't too accurate.

RORY
Okay, all right, because they give you that improvement page where you look at it and like I say, it didn't record my long run. It didn't record the time trial yesterday so now it's missing that data and it's not like I can manually input it, so that's a shortcoming that it has unfortunately.

MARKUS
But once again, if you recorded a time trial you can always just put in the time that you ran, and then I don't know what was the distance of the time trial that you ran?

RORY
8k.

MARKUS
Okay, so if one converts that to a 10 K, what was your time yesterday?

RORY
It wasn't very good, I wasn't feeling well, it's 41 minutes. So wasn't terribly fast but it's also extremely hilly route so it's not a fair measure.

MARKUS
So in that case, it's good to run with the Stride but if it was a flat route and you relied more on the time as opposed to the route profile? Yes, then it's good to enter time but if it's very hilly, then obviously running further it actually measures your actual wattage, I think that would be good.

 

Final thoughts

 

BRAD
You got any other questions for Markus? Markus, I don't know if there's anything that you want to add just from a plan going forward for Rory in the buildup to obviously Tokyo and then Oceans.

MARKUS
Yeah, I think the fact that you got it figured out and I'm referring to the fact that you know your body by now and you know that the two week cycle works best for you then stick to what you know and stick to what you know works. That to me is the most important. Unfortunately, you know once again going back to not being bored, it's such a sensitive topic because one, put it this way I always try and run with music or new music at least, just try and mix it up. Yes tempo sessions really does keep it interesting, speed sessions, hill sessions.

So there's ways and means of overcoming the boredom thing. But to me, it's still very important to focus on your engine. I always say engine first speed second. And I always refer back to the example when I was training for Copper, my first Comrades, I barely did any speed work. I just focused on running at the right intensity when I was supposed to run easy and then running with different people, different groups, different times of the day, I really just mixed it up to keep it interesting, you know, whether it be different routes as well.

Do what you've done in the past that had worked for you. If it's long runs that really break you, then I don't know, try and mix it up and running with people to make time pass quicker or maybe just change of scenery in general would be great but like I said, do what works for you. I mean, the times you ran in 2016, I worked that out, if I work on your 1:28 half marathon that equates to 3:05 marathon and that's some solid running. So based on all of those good things if you just stick to what you know works, I think you'll be in great shape come Oceans.

RORY
Excellent, Markus, thank you so much.

BRAD
Cool, Rory, anything from you?

RORY
No, I'm very happy. Thank you so much, Brad, for the opportunity, it was fantastic, I really appreciate it.

BRAD
No worries. And if you've got any questions pop them in the forums, we love having you there. And yeah, obviously you know where to find us and we look forward to following your journey. Enjoy Tokyo and let's hope we get another Sainsbury at Oceans next year.

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