Mike Trees on parkrun, training and STRYD.
At one of my local parkruns, I often noticed the name “Mike Trees”.
I pretty much always noticed it above mine in the results table. OK, EVERY time I noticed it above mine in the results table 🙂
Mike has a parkrun Age Graded PB at just under 95% (15:44/5km).
In the UK that would generally be classed as somewhere between a begrudging ‘alright‘ and a ‘good‘, depending on how the person doing the classifying was feeling on the day. Elsewhere in the world it might be described as ‘awesome’, or similar.
Being a bit more serious, I asked him some questions to glean his opinions on various parkrun- and run-training-related matters. Covering topics as diverse as: parkrun 100 T-Shirts; the ideal cadence; and STRYD.
Here are the questions and answers…
Q: How have Belgrave Harriers managed with their not-so-secret weapon now living overseas?
A: Ha ha..Belgrave can survive ok without me these days, I am now 55 so am not a force to be reckoned with anymore. Also I had a back operation last October for a herniated disc and so have been struggling with my running for a couple of years now. I have kept fit by swimming every day.
Q: You got your parkrun 100 T-shirt at Bushy just before Xmas 2016 after 9 years of parkrunning. To what extent does parkrun play in the training of a serious athlete like yourself?
A: Actually, I did not make it last year it was March this year in Brisbane Australia that I finally made it. I was invited over by some friends and parkrunners who wanted to celebrate my 100th Park run. What with my back injury and living in Japan, where there are no parkruns, it’s made it a long slow haul too finally get to 100. In the end it took me over 10 years!!
Q: You’ve run 75 times at Bushy parkrun. Was that local for you?
A: Bushy is my favorite parkrun, even though it is not local. I lived near Reading. In fact when I started, I think Bushy was the only parkrun in the country. It may not be my local one but it is my favourite parkrun in the world and where I consider my ‘home’ course. I love the park the atmosphere, all the volunteers there and many of them have become friends, and I have made many friends amongst the runner there. In my totally biased opinion Bushy parkrun is the best parkrun in the world.
Q: For many parkrunners going sub 20 or getting an age graded score over 70% is a great achievement. Your best is almost 95% in 2014 (awesome!), to what extent do you think genetics or gait/technique will hold most people back from pushing themselves forwards towards excellent performances. (ie how far can “just training” get someone)
A: I have been an athlete all my life, I started running when I was 9 – 46 years ago. Over the years I raced internationally, representing both the UK and Japan for triathlon, and been lucky enough to win a few national titles in both countries as an elite athlete. I retired from professional racing at 42 and took up masters racing and I still enjoy racing in masters events around the world. When i was at Loughborough Uni I was told I did not have the genetics to make it to the top in sport. But I still had a pretty big engine. I didn’t take NO for an answer and made a living racing professionally for almost 20 years. Yes genetics plays a part, but hard work and intelligent training can get you most of the way.
In my view, a sub 20/5km is a realistic goal for any male runner under 40 who is motivated. It’s obviously a harder goal for women. Running is the simplest of sports. There are only 2 ways to run faster:
- Increase your stride length; and
- Increase your cadence.
Put simply, If you can make your stride longer and keep your strides per minute constant,you will go faster! Also, if you can keep your stride the same length and increase your strides per minute, you will also go faster. If you can do both then that is the holy grail !! How we go about achieving this is the $64M question.
These days I coach professionally in Tokyo and video my athletes regularly. Through video we can look at their form.This is very important, because as adults we can not easily make our engines bigger. The easiest way to go faster is by making ourselves more efficient. Video analysis and working on a runners form allows me to make them more efficient.
I also practice what I preach. Over 10 years of parkruns I have got quicker each year, although I am aging I should have got slower, but I kept working on my running economy and this has helped counter my loss of performance due to natural aging. At 52 Just before my back herniated, I managed to get a parkrun, age world fastest time of 15:45 at Bushy Park and almost 95% age grade score.
I love the age grading system as it can motivate us to keep going as we get older and slower.
Q: How often a week would you weight train? And have you varied that over the years
A: As we get older muscle mass drops, but I find weight training boring, also it takes up valuable training time. Instead I have developed functional strength work such as skipping up hill or up hill hopping, step ups, lunges, punish ups etc combined with a lot of core strength work that I do outside, interspersed with drills for running form. Flexibility is also often overlooked as stride length can fall from loss of power and from a lack of functional flexibility. I do my circuits/core/ hill reps work out 2 times a week in 6-12 week blocks.
Q: How many hours a week would you typically train when training for 5k/10k
A: I have picked up so many injuries and been told I will never run again so many times that I have lost count. My body can now only tolerate about 25 miles a week of running. To get to the level of fitness I need to race well I also swim 5 or 6 times a week and do aqua jogging after most swims. Also have been working on an indoor XC ski training a lot this year as I have not been able to run due to the back surgery.
Q: Typically how many of those hours would be long/aerobic running
A: I do zero long aerobic runs. I run nearly all my running at either 1,500m 3,000m 5k or 10k pace.
I often do 2 hour sea swims for aerobic fitness. In fact my swim gearing has been very successful this year and I was lucky enough to win the World Masters Games Open Water Swimming world title in NZ in April. Coming from a running, non-swimming background I am very proud of this win. Swimming plays an integral part of my fitness regimen. I try to run 7 days out of 14 ( every other day). Which means making a two-week training cycle. Typically I do about 10 training sessions a week. Between 10-15 hrs
Q: As race day approaches, say 3 weeks away, what training sessions do you feel have the biggest impact on race day performance ie what makes YOU faster.
3 weeks out is a bit late. I start specific trading speed work out 8 weeks out and taper for the last two. The content depends on the distance. Assuming, it’s a 5km run, then i will combine 3km speed work on the track say 6x600m with 100m jog, with some longer aerobic endurance work such as mile reps.
My best advise is that training makes you weaker not stronger, it is rest that makes you faster. This is what most inexperienced runners get wrong. They often think they are not training hard enough, when in reality they are not resting enough. In the last 3 weeks, my advice is; If in doubt leave it out !!
Q: For a parkrunner on limited hours a week, say 4 hours a week (for someone doing 21 minutes). What sessions do you think offer the best bang for their buck with that limited time.
A: If they do 4 sessions They will need to alternate a 3k/5k session ( eg 6x600m or 12x400m ) for speed with a 10 km session ( eg 5×1 mile) for stamina. They can run a 5km TT every Saturday at 9am !! I would suggest a two-week cycle. Run a 3k speed session one week and a 10Km stamina session the next.
Q: If you had to train 1 hour a day every alternate day for a parkrun 4 months away AND you are only allowed to do one session (repeatedly) what would it be?
A: If I had 1 hr I would jog 5 mins warm up then do 15 mins of run drills 10 mins of core work and leg strength. Then run 12x400m at race pace with 100m walk recovery then jog as a warm down. This should take about an hr give or take a few mins. It gets in everything. It is not ideal but is the best I can suggest with the constraints you just given me.
Q: My site dwells a little too much on running tech. Can you tell us a bit about your favourite sports watch, perhaps focussing on functions that you would actually use in a) training and b) racing
A: I use the Suunto Spartan Ultra. It is the ultimate techy watch that has power as a native running data field, for when I use my Stryd food pod. It also looks so much cooler that Garmin which is my wife’s choice.
Q: You are professionally linked to AlchemyNRG in the UK and they are the UK distributor for the STRYD powermeter. Before a recent operation you were using STRYD in your training. What have you personally got out of running with power?
A: Power is the future. When I coach I get my athletes to run on the treadmill and I video them. I also measure their power output. As the treadmill is a fixed, I can keep the gradient and speed constant and get them to shorten their stride, for example, and pick up cadence. If they had been over striding their power output will fall when they shorten their stride length . This gives instant feedback, which we have never had before, it is so motivating for the athlete. For younger athletes I can give them strength sessions and I can monitor their increase in power output over time.
Q: Looking at people you train with can you see a place for STRYD in their training? If so, where?
A: As the feedback is instant you can work out race power output so that the athlete runs at their most efficient pace. With heart rate there is a time lag which often means athletes using heart rate alone may start off too fast. Using Heart rate and power is the optimum choice.
Once an athlete knows their training power zones they can literally train any where and know they are being very efficient and effective with their training
Q: Looking at parkrunners who are training to improve, perhaps based on 3-5 hours of running a week. How would you recommend they fit STRYD into their training schedule.
A: I think they should used it as suggested above, to help them find their most efficient way of running, and also too work out their race power threshold.
Power can be a great motivator when running uphill when your pace is slow, but the power number is rising! It’s also super interesting to see how much less power you use running downhill. Sometimes using a more abstract number like Power to pace to, instead of speed (pace) can be good mental refreshment and help keep your confidence up when speed and heart rate are not where you expect them to be!
Q: What other bits of sports tech have you found useful and why?
A: Zwift. I think this is going to be the next big trend in running.
Q: Have you ever had any gait analysis recommend you change your running technique? If so how? and if so what was the end result?
A: See above
A: I have worked as a natural running coach, analysing gait professionally for many years, and may aim is to get athletes running at around 180 steps per minute, as this is the optimum pace to utilise natural recoil and so is the most efficient pace to run at. Natural recoil is stored energy in the tendons, which are loaded like a spring when we land. As the runner pushes off this free energy us spring forwards. This tendons work most efficiently when firing at 3 times per second. ( 180 steps per minute).
Landing with you feet under your centre of gravity is also very important, too many runners throw their feet out in front of them to try and lengthen their stride. This creates breaking force which slows them down. It is a common mistake. The longer stride comes actually from the push-off at the back.
Q: What motivates you to keep COMPETING?
A: I still have not got a masters world record. I have won many world titles but I want to get a world record. But apart from that I just love running, and it keeps me active. I may not be able to add years to my life but through running I can had life to my years !
As we saw in a link at the start, Mike’s parkrun athlete ID is 8473. At least I beat him on that! Mine’s lower. Do I win a prize?
A: No 🙂