Sunday, March 23, 2014

Great racing!

I'm really enjoying racing the Tuggeranong Parkrun on Saturday mornings. Never thought I'd say that, being a natural 'afternoon/evening person' — I take forever to get going in the mornings and afternoon runs are always more comfortable. Since my last post I've chipped another 17 seconds off my 5k time, running 23:43 on March 8 in an exciting race with a few of my regular competitors. As usual I ran by feel but couldn't quite catch the fast-starting Jim. However I managed to draw level with Karen (PB of 22:57) just after the 4k marker and running with a good measure of desperation, held on for the 'win'. Splits were 4:50, 4:45, 4:46, 4:47 and 4:35.

Yesterday I had a 'couldn't get going' type of run with Jim and Karen disappearing ahead in the fog. 24:08 for myself while Karen just out-leaned Jim in the sprint finish, both timed at 23:41. I still enjoyed the race, passing some other veterans and youngsters in the second half — including the old bloke and young lady pictured on my shoulder in the photo below.

I'm a track racer at heart, but competing in a field of six or seven for 12 and a half laps on Thursday night is becoming less appealing. I'd love track racing to be like the 'old days' when there were two divisions of the 5000 with 25 or so runners in each. Perhaps when the new track at Woden opens competitor numbers will improve. The great thing about the Parkrun is the intensity of the competition — that's all through the field, but especially around the times that I'm now running. Yesterday there were 41 runners finishing in the space between 22 and 25 minutes. That's my space! No wonder I look forward to it every week.
Preparing for a sprint finish with 200 metres to go in the Tuggeranong Parkrun
Chasing Karen with just over 1k to go in the 8 March Parkrun

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Chipping away at the 5k time

I've had some feelings of improved fitness over the past 4 weeks — barely perceptible at times, but I sense movement in the right direction. Yesterday I had a good Parkrun 5k race, placing 55th (out of 208) and 3rd M55 in 24:00. That's 33 seconds quicker than when I raced Leonie on January 26. Also encouraging is that I trained normally during the week rather than taking two days off prior to the race as before. Average HR was a little lower too at 146 compared to 148 — a good sign.

The race itself was good fun. It was Tuggeranong Parkrun's 1st birthday event and special guests at the run were Katy Gallagher (ACT Chief Minister) and Rob de Castella. They congratulated organisers Kelly and Gareth before lining up at the back of the field for a run. Shortly after the start I found myself running just behind my long-time rival Jim. I tailed him and a girl in blue through the first km before pushing ahead under the bridge. To my surprise Jim struck back shortly after on the footbridge across the lake and surged to establish a 20 metre break. Luckily a lady in purple came past and I latched onto her in an effort to keep the elastic to Jim from stretching too much.

For the last half of the race I was running as hard as possible. Trying to limit the damage and not giving myself a chance of catching Jim. He actually extended the gap to 16 seconds at the finish. I ground to a chug up the slight hill into the park (that felt like the mountain displayed on the birthday cake!). Kilometre splits had been 4:51, 4:49, 4:45, 4:50 and 4:44. So, a happy race in spite of finishing behind Jim, the aforementioned lady in purple and a mum pushing a child in a stroller. Hopefully a sign of more happy races and fast times to come.

Deek posted this great photo of the birthday cake on his Twitter account

Barely a ripple on the lake during the February 8 Parkrun

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Coming back, ever so slowly

Yesterday I raced in the Tuggeranong Parkrun, my regular 'test race' (and only fast or hard running of my week). It was good fun — I had a race-long tussle with Leonie (the runner who dragged me into injury over the mountains of Majura and Ainslie last October). She'll be the first to admit that 5k isn't her favourite distance: "I've been thinking nervously about this race since Tuesday!" she said as we lined up for the start.

At the rather casual command of 'Go!', 225 runners (and walkers) set off on the twisting out and back course by the shores of Lake Tuggeranong. The first 300 metres was the usual somewhat chaotic scramble through the town park. I found myself running behind Brian Wenn (who quickly gathered himself and made his way up the field, eventually finishing in 22:53). Just before 1k, Leonie rounded me up on a sharp corner so I settled in behind her (told myself that at the time!) as we ran over the footbridge to the eastern side of the lake. The midfield of our Parkrun is popular, so there were many other runners to overtake or be overtaken by. Not long after the 2k mark I forged ahead of Leonie, using Gareth (pushing a stroller) as a bit of a pacer for a while.

Around the turn and back towards 'home' I huffed and puffed away, mainly passing people at this stage. I sensed Leonie running at my shoulder and just before the 4k mark she surged ahead. I ran hard, but it was all I could do to keep the elastic from breaking as we ran back into the park. Finally I was running over the last deceptive hill before an attempted sprint finish. I ran 24:33 for 57th place, with Leonie running a 5k PB just 3 seconds ahead. Next time! My splits had been 5:02, 5:02, 4:53, 4:48 and 4:47.

My comeback to full fitness is progressing well, but ever so slowly. This past week I noticed a sudden improvement in heart-beats per km for one of my 10k courses — 748, down from the 800 or more it had been a couple of weeks ago. If the improvement continues, I'd expect another jump down to the 720s, before another to the 700s. My 5k Parkrun races have also been improving — 26:07 at an average HR of 147 on January 4 down to 24:33 at an average HR of 148 yesterday. My advice to anybody reading this is to never (if you can help it) have more than 3 weeks off running. It takes a long time to come back!

 Warming down with Brian (who puts his improved form down to losing a few kilos on a sugar-free diet).

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Whitechapel Road

A belated Happy New Year(!) to the readers of this blog. I'm back to regular pain-free running, no doubt due to the form changes recommended by Douglas Wisoff in the Youtube video I mentioned in my last post of 2013. Weekly mileage since 9 December has been 8k, 26k, 36k and 50k. I plan to eventually 'hold steady' at around 60 to 70k, the volume that preceded my good race at Dunrossil Drive on August 3 last year. Touch wood!

I'm so unfit! I feel like I'm starting from square three — that's Whitechapel Road on the Monopoly board. Square one (Old Kent Road) would be starting to run after six months of inactivity and a ten kilogram gain in weight. My weight has gone up by about 1kg so I'll blame Mum's cooking and the Christmas excess for that. The last time my heart and lungs worked so hard during 'easy' runs was in September 2006 (following a trip to Canada and America then a calf injury at the City to Surf). On September 29 of 2006 I raced the Customs Joggers 5k in 27:13 at an average heart-rate of 157 (855 heart beats per km). Last Saturday after the modest training mentioned above, I raced the Tuggeranong Parkrun 5k in 26:07 at an AHR of 147 (768 heart beats per km). My 'normal' heart beats per km when racing a 5k would be around 670.

I'm really curious to see how long it takes for my aerobic fitness to return. I'm not going to rush things. I'll do steady MAF heart-rate running, 8 to 10k per day. Parkruns on Saturday as a hit-out type race or maybe the 3000 now and then at the ACT Vets' track prior to the end of the season in April. My race goal for the year is the easiest one I've set myself for many years. I'm over my habit of never achieving yearly goals. Bugger reaching for the stars or the moon — I'm reaching for a low flying satellite! The goal is 21:59 for 5k — not all that easy as my recent best is 22:14 from 2012. It's 70.5% age-graded — 18:18 for a young runner, surely not impossible.

Conservative start in the last Tuggeranong Parkrun

Sunday, December 15, 2013

What difference does mileage make?

Once I recovered from the City2Sea I commenced a gradual return to regular running. After a few days I discovered that daily outings were reducing the level of pain in the left hamstring, and paradoxically, rest days had the opposite effect. I surmised that my gentle jogs were giving the cantankerous muscles and tendons a beneficial stretch while rest days caused them to tighten. On the eleventh day of training I was 20 minutes into an easy 8k run when I noticed a fairly sudden pain in the lower right calf. Instead of stopping and walking it in I continued jogging. The next day I had to limp just to walk — running was out of the question!

I took four days off, jogged (with only one brief twinge) the 2k race at Stromlo, then took another four days off. Last weekend I was visiting Urunga for an 80th birthday party and went body-surfing in the delightfully refreshing salty water. While doing this 'foreign exercise', I tweaked the calf again — how annoying! Another four days off were needed before I was able to jog 2k on the grass track and 2k at the Parkrun yesterday morning. The calf felt fine, so I plan to gradually increase my daily run distance over the coming weeks. I'll also try and improve my running form as I found (thanks Rick!) this great video showing miraculous improvements to chronic hamstring pain. Core engagement, pelvis position and hip mobility play key roles in solving hamstring issues.

Prior to the hamstring injury I'd been running around 64 kilometres per week. This mileage was all steady MAF heart-rate running apart from Parkrun 5k and YCRC races. A week after the 12k mountain run in early October I raced the Tuggers 5k Parkrun in 23:10 at an average heart-rate of 146 (close to my best 5000m track time for the year). Four days later the left ITB/hamstring started feeling niggly. Five weeks after the aforementioned good 5k I raced the same course again (flat out) and ran 25:32 at an average heart-rate of 149. Obviously my aerobic condition had fallen away with the dropping mileage. I'd averaged a little over 16 kilometres per week prior to the second 5k race. A gross simplification I know, but quadrupling my weekly mileage from 16 to 64 would appear to improve my 5k race time by 2:22. Mileage makes a difference to how fast I am in 5k races. Would doubling my mileage to 128 ks per week take another minute off my 5k time? Maybe, but I don't intend to try and run that many kilometres any time soon. Maybe when I retire! I'll let you know how long it takes me to get back to 64 kilometre weeks and sub-23-minute 5ks. I hope this will be a time measured in weeks rather than months.

My beach house at Urunga was air-conditioned but sandy

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Melbourne City2Sea Fun Run

This race was held last Sunday. It's a sister event of the Sydney City to Surf — same distance of 14k, but NOT the same crowd or hills. The field is limited to a very manageable 13,000 and the course is pretty much dead flat. My mate Jim encouraged me to enter after the City to Surf — he was going to 'do the double' of City 2 Sea followed by the Eureka Tower Run-Up. Mad bastard! Anyway, I'd entered and paid for everything prior to the hamstring injury so was committed to go, even though it looked like I may be a spectator.

In the end I was able to run (if in some discomfort) for part of the race. I decided early on to stop at 5k and walk the remaining 9k to the finish at St Kilda. It was a beautiful run — quite low-key compared to the City to Surf, but equally well organised. I started about 100 metres back in the 'Red Group' (for sub-75-minute runners). I would take a slightly embarrassing 1:52:10 to complete the 14k. I was pretty happy with my first 5k, keeping up with the people I was running with, clicking off ks of just over 5 minutes. Stopped at 5k in 25:42 (average HR was 144, the same that I recorded for the City to Surf!). Not fit!

Afterwards I easily met up with Jim (who'd run 71:08) and we caught a crowded tram back to the Arts Centre. We walked back to our hotel, then returned to the Eureka Tower. Jim then ran up the stairs, taking 14 minutes or so, exactly twice the time of the winner. Pretty impressive if you ask me!

Since then I've been doing short runs and the hamstring is responding well (to that, and stretching exercises). I think it's hamstring tendinitis. Anyway, yesterday I raced the Tuggers 5k Parkrun, finishing 53rd out of 161 in a time of 25:32. Average HR was 149, and more interestingly, maximum was 162 as I sprinted to the finish, successfully holding off an older lady. It's easy to get high maximum heart-rates when you're not fit!

Monday, November 04, 2013

Going fast, backwards

Over the last four weeks I ran 122 kilometres (30 and a bit ks per week); the four previous to that, 255. I'm injured, and rapidly losing fitness. I've done something to my left hamstring — I think probably related to the aftermath of the mountain race. I feel like the 23:10 5k, which at the time indicated a return to the 22-somethings (good for me at 56), was a dead-cat-bounce of a run. Now (if I could race) I wouldn't be confident of breaking 25. This injury has come at a bad time as I'm flying to Melbourne on the 16th with my mate Jim to race the 14k City2Sea fun run. I think I could be a spectator — hope it's a warm, sunny day!

I'm susceptible to hamstring niggles/injuries. A search back through my diaries since '04 reveals over 70 mentions of 'left hamstring', so there's something sinister going on there. I think the main cause is asymmetry. Few runners are perfectly symmetrical left to right — run blindfolded on a large flat field and you won't run in a straight line. We use our sight to keep running straight and make automatic adjustments to the stride to do this. Run on a flat sandy beach at low tide and measure your strides — one will be longer than the other, if only slightly. I'm right-handed (legged too — can't high-jump off my left leg) so I have a left hamstring weakness.

I think this hamstring strain is minor in nature. It's responding to rest. In the past I've been able to run through it, or at the most had a week or so off before resuming normal training. I had five days off last week but ran on Thursday and Saturday. Thursday I jogged 3k on the grass track and the hamstring was bearable. On Saturday I raced the Parkrun and the leg felt okay through the first kilometre. I actually ran my fastest first k split (4:43) and was gaining on Jim who ended up running a PB of 23:46. Running up the slight incline onto the bridge my leg started feeling sore and a few hundred metres later it was getting worse so I stopped running. A DNF! Well, after running 1.5k I walked the rest of the course so strictly not a DNF. I've run over 1000 races and had to DNF only five or six times. DNS is definitely preferable to DNF.

Running to a 23:25 in the Tuggeranong Parkrun on October 5 in my Brooks Racer STs