StayTrue racing’s Stuart Hill completed the Melbourne Ironman in March, Melbourne Marathon in October and is putting the finishing touches on his training for an Ultra Marathon in Tasmania in early December. He gets a fair bit of stick from us for having this running fetish I have to say. He runs often and with not much on…enough said. I thought it would be good to dissect why Stu disagrees with the folklore that running and riding are incompatible.
NB: When did you start running?
SH: I ran all the usual stuff as a youngster – school cross country and a few years doing multisport racing and triathlon. I rediscovered running 12 months ago after I entered the Melbourne Ironman and had to get myself in shape for the Marathon off the bike.
NB: Before we get to running a Marathon after riding 180 kms, can you tell us how you approached your run training after many years not running and essentially racing bikes?
SH: The key was running to time not distance. I started doing 3 runs a week all at 45 minutes. I didn’t run with GPS but I suspect I was running around 5-5:30 min/km. Basically, it was a slow jog to mitigate risk of injury and build a base. After the first month I started to progress and extended 1 run per week to 1 hour. At the 8 week mark I started to incorporate some speed work.
NB: Why do you need to do speed work when running a Marathon as a part of Ironman?
SH: If you look at all the best Marathon runners they all have pedigree on the track or at least over 10 kms. Any decent marathon program incorporates speed variability. Essentially anyone can become good at running long and slow. You need to do specific sessions and drills to develop speed. Doesn’t need to be done on the track it can be done in the street by mapping out set distances or using GPS.
NB: Give me an example of a typical speed session.
SH: 20 minute cruise (4kms) and then 6-8 x 1km efforts timed with a 3 minute relaxed jog between each effort. First time I did these I recall running them at 4 minutes each. Prior to Ironman/Marathon I was running them at 3:20-3:30 per km. Easy 20 minute cruise at the end. This session makes you appreciate fully how the best marathon runners hold their speed over the marathon distance.
NB: It has been said that if you have a long nail you need a heavy hammer to drive it. With that in mind we have noticed that you’re not the heavy hammer you once were. Is running the culprit and more importantly has it had any negative effects on your riding?
SH: I love it when someone else does the gags. There in no doubt for me that running is beneficial in terms of weight management. 5 Slurpees a day is not conducive to being sub 70 kgs and super lean. My Slurpee addiction is well known but not well appreciated. It pains me when people talk of Slurpee season being summer only. Slurpees can actually be consumed all year around and I have proved that. In terms of any negative effects I would say that if I got all technical and measured watts and all that pro stuff then yes I would have diminished a bit at the top end but I have also gotten older. Does that worry me? It would if I was trying to make a living out of it. For me it’s great to ride with my mates and be competitive. Racing, being aggressive in terms of moves that are made and having a presence in the break as much as possible is what makes it enjoyable to me.
NB: You initiated and rode the A grade break a few weeks back with some strong guys one of whom rides full time so how has running helped in terms of general fitness given that your weekly km count is low?
SH: Aerobically I am fitter since I have been running. Weight loss makes things a little easier in terms of responding to surges in pace and the associated demands on heart rate. Generally I feel a lot more controlled when sudden surges takes place as well as repeated increases in pace without time to fully recover. Pure cycling for us mere mortals is relatively passive in terms of upper body conditioning. Guys riding full time spend time in the gym to supplement any losses. Running is ideal for improving core and upper body strength and I would say this has helped me as well.
NB: Any other reasons why cyclists should consider going for a run?
SH: Studies exist that have shown that cyclists suffer in the bone density department.1, 2 Bone density is reliant on weight-bearing activity. Running is therefore an ideal way to enhance bone density. We all know of cyclists that have fallen off and sustained significant long bone fractures to bones such as the femur. The mechanism of injury obviously plays a part in the degree of damage but so does bone density. Innocuous falls onto the tarmac can result in significant damage if the bone is brittle in the first place. Bone density also is integral to swift healing of the fracture. For me exercise is about general health and wellbeing and is not solely related to cycling. If you have long term health goals then I would suggest mixing it up and perhaps doing some sort of weight bearing activity even if it is in your “off season”. Other than that I would say the time efficiency of running is a huge attraction for me. Pure cycling is very time dependent so to be able to do most running sessions inside 2 hours is a huge advantage.
(Credit to super-photographer Simon for this photo)
NB: How does Slurpee consumption factor into your long term health goals?
SH: I envisage that I will be consuming them in the long term.
NB: Any reasons why cyclists should not attempt this running caper?
SH: Look I’m a big advocate but it’s not for everyone. The hardest part would be the first 4-6 weeks. Anyone with knee or hip vulnerability to injury may want to consider synchronised swimming. Fashion conscious pro loving cyclists should note that the same degree of pretentiousness doesn’t pervade running in the same way it does cycling. Such individuals would have to be comfortable running without carbon fibre in close proximity to their bodies. The same can be said for running clothing in terms of the angst that some cyclists may experience in not being able to find Italian made running shorts. The Chinese imports whilst functional do not come with a red white and blue Italian flag tag the size of a 5 cent piece.
NB: Whilst on the subject of fashion and pretentiousness you competed in the Melbourne Ironman Stu so how did you cope hanging out with our Triathlete buddies?
SH: Look it was an orgy of visors, compression socks and trisuits. It was optically arousing but at the same time nauseating if you know what I mean. I made a pair of blinkers and wore them in an effort to reduce the sensory overload.
NB: Marathon off the bike at Ironman Melbourne: talk us through it.
SH: Having just run the Melbourne Marathon under 3 hours I can safely say it was actually enjoyable in comparison. Ironman suits the diesel engine in terms of pacing. I found running under 3 hours for the Melbourne Marathon much harder due to the speed and relentless nature of not being able to deviate from a set pace over 42 kms. In terms of running off the bike the first few kms are used just settling and transitioning to weight bearing activity. After that it was just running to a plan of 5 minute per km. The course was conducive to finishing strong given that you can see the finish from Brighton baths and the crowd was out in force. To give the readers an appreciation of the speed that the pointy end of the field ran at the Melbourne Ironman, the winner Craig Alexander ran a 2:38 Marathon!
NB: That is quick and he did acknowledge in his press conference that running out of Frankston gave him his quickest Marathon time off the bike yet.
SH: Yes I heard that. It’s a pity he didn’t know that Frankston Macca’s do the best soft serve cones in the southern hemisphere.