Sunday, August 05, 2018

The Runners Shop 5k

The YMCA of Canberra Runner's Club organise the annual 'Runners Shop' races — a choice of 2k, 5k or 10k distances on relatively flat bike paths beside the Molonglo River. It was two weeks ago, on Saturday afternoon, 21 July. I was keen to race the 5k and prove to myself that the 23:14 from Hervey Bay wasn't a fluke of Queensland warmth and friendliness. The 5k and 10k races incorporated the ACT Road Championships for juniors and seniors respectively but runners of any age were free to enter either event.

My warm-up went well and I lined up on the flat 'beach' amongst a field of 54 runners, three quarters of whom were under 20 years of age. I was expecting a fast start but it never ceases to amaze me just how fast young runners take off! Their frenzied sprinting off the line had me doubting my pace judgement. Once around the point and onto the main path I settled down and ran an effort which felt similar to Hervey Bay pace. Thankfully I had a few runners for company. I didn't look at my Garmin during the race but afterwards the first km showed as 4:29, too fast!

The course is out/back with a small rise onto the bridge over the river and two more tiny hills in the final kilometre. I'd say it's a fraction harder than the Hervey Bay course. After 1k I set my sights on chasing Cameron (about 50m ahead) and a couple of young runners. It was a 'grinding' type of chase, my legs not feeling as fresh as I would have liked. At the turn I was about 15m behind, while chasing me closely was Fiona. Running back to the finish I was gaining on Cameron but at the same time felt like Fiona would go past if my speed slowed a fraction. I overtook Cameron with about 500m to go but then he flew by in the final sprint for the finish line. I could see the clock ticking over 23 minutes, but just over — 23:10, very happy with that. Garmin splits: 4:29, 4:38, 4:42, 4:46, 4:30 +7s.

Race week had been 107k and since then my mileage has been similar. The Canberra winter is finally sliding away and with that we're all looking forward to warm Parkrun mornings, crowds of happy runners and fending off swooping magpies at the BBQ Stakes 6k and on long Sunday runs with the Speedygeese.

Tuggeranong parkrun on 7 July with Rob de Castella (back to camera)

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Good 5ks at Hervey Bay

I've just returned to Canberra from a three week holiday in Hervey Bay, Queensland. The weather was perfect for morning runs, between 15 and 20 degrees, usually sunny. Nearly all of my running was on the flat brick paved Esplanade path beside the beach, averaging 90 kilometres for each of the 3 weeks. Runs were mostly easy, including light Verheul interval days, a couple of short tempo runs and 3 race efforts at the Hervey Bay Parkrun 5k.

I'm excited that the Parkruns showed improvement in my 5k speed. In the first on June 16th I placed 48th in 23:32, faster than recent 5ks and the 23:44 I ran at Hervey Bay in 2017. A week later it was 32nd in 23:14 and for the last run, 32nd in 23:19. I now feel like my goal of running under 23 minutes for 5k in 2018 is within reach. The last two runs were quite different in pacing but both give me encouragement.

The 23:14 race had John Street pacing for 24 minutes. John has run an amazing 20:51 in the 75-79 age category, over 90% age-graded. I started with John's group, the initial few hundred metres faster than the previous week. About half way to the turn on the flat out/back course I drifted ahead of John and found myself chasing a bloke wearing a '100 run' shirt, a lady and a couple of youngsters. Coming back I felt like I was running fast and relaxed, quicker than the previous week. The time of 23:14 was faster than expected. The following week I started perhaps a little too fast, 4:20 pace for the first 500 metres. Although I passed a few other fast starters, most of my race was a tale of gradually losing places and wishing it was over. The lady in 27th who ran 22:59 gained that 20 seconds over the second half.

Now I'm back in cold, sunny Canberra, waiting for warmer Parkrun mornings. While I was on holidays I finished reading Scott Brown's Samurai Running Book. A number of things resonated. Among them, that training is like the dripping of water that slowly carves out a rock. With distance running it's the cumulative effect of months and years of unspectacular but consistent training that produces success. And the tale of the apprentice swordsman who wanted to become great, asking the master swordsman 'how long will it take?' The answer he hears is 'ten years' but the apprentice doesn't have that long so offers to work twice as hard. The master replies 'if you work twice has hard it will take you thirty years to become great.'

A few steps from the finish on 30 June at Hervey Bay

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Running well and running faster

Since my last blog post in May I've grown in confidence and have been enjoying my running. I feel like I'm moving well and with that, becoming faster. I agree with Pete Magill when he says "If you want to become a better runner, begin by running better." I don't agree with the oft-expressed philosophy that running is a simple thing that we all learn to do naturally as children and to run faster you just move your legs faster. When we observe runners in a race it's easy to pick out the runners with good form and those with bad form. Sometimes those with 'bad form' are faster than those who look good — some people say 'it doesn't matter what you look like if you're running fast, your form is natural to your own physiology and shouldn't be changed.' I believe all runners can make adjustments to their form which will help them to run better and faster. Having said that, don't make wholesale changes and expect problem-free running. Change gradually, just as you would gradually increase your mileage or the amount of speedwork in your training.

My weekly mileage is now averaging 78 kilometres. In that mileage there's some 'vert chasing' on a couple of days. Last week I climbed 1,666 metres according to Strava. The reason for this change is to build leg strength and resilience. I'll look for the steepest hills I can find, hiking strongly the 'ups' then running cross country on a gentler descent for balance and speed. It's fun! My 5k race time is down to 24:46, run at the YCRC Half Marathon Eve 5k on 26 May. I enjoyed the race, running with Brian early as we chased Jim. I couldn't close the 100m or so gap to the group of Christine, Miriam and Richard as we ran towards the turn. They ran 22:59, 24:03 and 24:07 which is where I'd like to be in another six weeks. Last Sunday I ran in a 2.5k cross country race and had a fun 'win' over Dave, who left his finishing sprint way too late!

View of Mt Tennent from the lower slopes of Mt Rob Roy

Saturday, May 12, 2018

A slow return to running and racing

It's been a while between posts. Sorry about that! I'm back running and racing, with the dodgy calf staying respectfully quiet. Touch wood. I ended up having 4 weeks off running, using cycling and small amounts of racewalking for cross-training during that time. I used to racewalk for Interclub points back in the '90s and have found it to be an excellent low impact alternative to running. I can walk at 6:40 per km pace at heart rates similar to when running a 5k race.

Weekly mileage has progressed from 8k and 32k in the first two weeks of April to 45k and 58k for the first two weeks of May. Generally I've been alternating racewalking days and running days with the latter usually Verheul interval sessions (light and reactive 250m runs with 250m walk recoveries). Research suggested that massage is vital during the recovery phase for this type of muscle injury. I've been using a foam roller, spiked ball and 'roller stick' to find the knots and sore spots then massaging them for a good 20 minutes every day.

I raced the hilly Mount Ainslie trail Parkrun 5k on 28 April in 26:06 and didn't notice the calf at all. Yea! I did notice a fading last 2k and general aerobic weakness at race pace. This morning in cool, blustery conditions I ran 27:31 for the Tuggeranong Parkrun 5k — my legs felt tired but the calf was fine. Average heart rate was 133 (about 84%) so if I raced hard at 142 HR I'd probably run around 25:40 for 5k. The journey back from injury is one of gaining confidence, ever so gradually. I know I'm a long way from running 23:00 for 5k but am excited to see improvements to my times over the coming weeks.

 My cousin Don also ran the Mt Ainslie Parkrun. He has finished six 6 Foot Track 45k races and run a marathon in every state and territory of Australia

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The dodgy calf strikes again

Tuesday will mark three weeks since I did something (a tear most likely) to my left calf. Annoyingly it was a predictable injury, more or less self inflicted. I've been somewhat gung-ho with my training in recent months — running 'doubles' 2 or 3 days a week to reach my mileage target of around 80 kilometres per week. On Tuesday 6 March I ran a double of 8k and 7k after doing a double on the Monday. The second run on the Tuesday was a race — The Boathouse 5k and my calf felt a little tight warming up. It was uncomfortable in the early stages of the race (I should have stopped!) but at 3.8k it suddenly cramped and I was forced to walk slowly to the finish.

This is exactly the same injury I suffered in March of 2016, ironically towards the finish of the ACT Masters' 5000m Championships. My calf 'went' with 2 laps to go but I managed to run painfully to the finish. My mistake in the aftermath of the injury was not giving it enough time to heal before resuming a gradual return to running. I gave it a day, then a week, then another week, then two weeks etc. Never enough time. Eventually I took six weeks off, which was enough for full recovery.

After three weeks off the calf feels pretty good, although it was a little tender on Friday following a test run/walk on the grass track on Thursday. I'm hopeful of resuming running soon. Unfortunately I missed the ACT Masters' 5000m Championships race that I was targeting. I think I could have run around 23 minutes. Ann (2 minutes ahead of me in the 10k) ran 22:15, Helen 22:58, Roger 23:01 and Kathy 23:16. It would have been good to have been in a race with the latter three. That would have been fun. Now it's back to the drawing board, which will be a plan based on volume of around 55 km per week of running — better in terms of scheduling recovery days.

A cool evening for the Masters' 5000m Championships

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Masters' 10,000m Championships


The 10k Championship race for 2018 was held last Thursday evening, 15 February. My last track 10k was back in 2014 — ran 52:57 then for 17th place on a hot, calm night. For this year I thought my 23:44 5k form would make 5 minute ks a realistic target. 25 laps of 400 metres is never easy, especially on the hard Mondo surface at the AIS. Luckily, Roger was entered and I knew he'd be good for 2-minute laps.

The field was disappointingly small, just 12 runners facing the starter. The air felt cool after recent hot days, around 19C, but there was a fresh northerly breeze to face as we ran up the back straight. I followed Roger around the first lap, the large Omega clock at the finish line showing 1:57, right on target. Quick enough, so I stayed in Roger's draft for the next 5 laps. Sensed he was slowing so went ahead. Bron shouted encouragement as we passed the lap-scorers each lap. My 5-minute k goal was gone by half distance, the unforgiving seconds slipping from under round minutes to over.

During the 17th circuit Ann lapped me and I used her as a pacer for the next few laps until the elastic broke. That was helpful in a race in which I was running alone most of the time. Finished in 7th place with a time of 50:33.28 and a gold medal for the M60s (only entrant!). I would have loved a 49:XX time, but perhaps that'll be the result next year. The story will be embellished in future reminiscences to say we faced a Queensland-style cyclone up the back straight which cost every runner at least 2 minutes.

Catching up with Carolyne and the legendary Norma Wallett (38:34 for 5k at 88!) at the first Goulburn parkrun

Saturday, January 27, 2018

More thoughts about Verheul Training


Not a lot of serious racing has been going on since 2018 commenced. It's been too darn hot! Even at 8.00 AM for the Parkrun 5k the temperature has been rarely below 19C. The humidity has been high too — this morning my shirt, shorts and socks were soaked in sweat by the time I'd finished running. My fastest 5k so far this year was on the 13th of January, 24:35 on a warm morning that also happened to be windy! My goal for this year is to run under 23:00 — even 22:59 will do! I don't think this will be an easy task, as it means finding another 34 seconds over my best time from last year.

Besides the lack of hard racing, my training has been going well. I'm averaging a little over 80 km per week, or around 8 and a half hours for those who measure by time. Looking back at my training diaries from the 1990s, I would have covered about 105 km in 8.5 hours (sufficient weekly time in my opinion for good race results). I'm back doing regular Verheul interval sessions, but in a different manner to how I ran them last year. I think my execution of the Verheul Methode wasn't how it should have been.

The most important thing is how the feet and legs interact with the ground. What we're looking for is a feeling of 'reactivity' with each stride. Now this doesn't mean striving for exaggerated 'springing' and vertical movement. It means running lightly with reactivity and forward movement. Last year I was too concerned with split times of the faster efforts and not enough with how each stride felt. I thought there was good value in doing a large amount of running at near race pace, when the real value comes from repeating the feeling of good reactive strides. For Verheul sessions now, I'm typically thinking about how the stride feels, without concern for how fast I'm running. My walking recoveries are now shorter than previously. I might walk for 100m and run for 400m, or walk for 200m and run for 300m rather than the 1:1 walk/run by distance that I did before. I'll let you know how things progress over the coming weeks.

Long run with the Speedygeese at Majura Pines

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Looking forward to fast times in 2018


When I set myself the goal of racing 5k in 22:45 or faster at the beginning of 2017 I thought I'd be closing the year by writing about the successful achievement of this goal. Unfortunately not! My fastest 5k remains the 23:32 achieved at the Tuggeranong Parkrun in March. Recent racing and form has me feeling optimistic about running a 22:45 5k in 2018. Conditions will need to be good though — cool and calm. Recently it's been very warm in the mornings and as a big sweater, I don't do well in warm conditions. For the CJs' 5k lunch runs in spring it was inevitably blowing a gale.

Last weekend I had a good 'double' of races — Tuggeranong Parkrun 5k on Saturday in 24:06 (very warm at 22C) and on Sunday, the 'Tour de Ridges' 10.6k trail race in 57:09 which equalled my PB from 2014. The other run that gives me confidence was an interval session the previous Tuesday — 3 x 1k in 4:33, 4:22 and 4:33 with 1k jog recoveries. That's my 5k race goal pace, run on a warm (26C) day. Bring on some cool mornings!

One thing I've struggled to get right on a 'traditional' training plan (as opposed to Verheul training), is the correct effort/pace for easy days. I've always tended to run too fast. I've never had enough separation of effort between hard days and easy days. Former Australian 10,000m record holder Shaun Creighton talked about this in a recent podcast. You can listen to the interview here, starting at 63 minutes. Shaun has recently broken the Australian M50 5000m record, running 15:34.71. He said that he's always run the easy days very easy, the reason being that in order to improve, the body is stressed on hard days and allowed to recover (and supercompensate) on easy days. This is something I want to improve on in 2018 — run very easily and relaxed on easy days.

Celebrating after the Tour de Ridges on Sunday