Thursday, August 15, 2019

Sydney City to Surf #35

On Sunday I ran in my 35th City to Surf — it was the 49th running of Australia's biggest fun run. I had no goals or expectations for the run apart from enjoying it, not getting injured and recovering well from the effort. I wasn't expecting to 'run well' due to the missing long runs and hill training in my preparation. Since the Canberra Half Marathon in May my longest run has been 11 kilometres — weekly mileage has been 50-55 km, not enough to be at my best for racing 14 kilometres.

I travelled to Sydney with Jim on the Saturday and met up with Trevor and Roger on Sunday morning. Warm-up was a jog from the train station to the toilets then a little jogging in the 30 minutes remaining before the start. Trevor was in the 'Red' group (for sub-70 minute runners) and would run 67 minutes at age-67! Jim, Rog and myself were in the 'Green' group (2nd group to start, sub-90 minutes). We employed the same tactic as last year, starting near the back of the group and waiting as long as possible. This gave us a sparsely populated road for 3 kilometres which gradually filled as the race progressed — by 10 kilometres it became difficult to overtake runners.

I ran with Rog through the Kings Cross Tunnel then Edgecliffe and Rose Bay, passing 5k in 27:02. I was feeling pretty good at this early stage of the race. There were a few short walks on the steep corners going up Heartbreak Hill, that kilometre covered in 7:12. My legs and energy were still good and I was growing more confident about completing the race at the same effort. We were still overtaking runners with a few speedsters from the Blue group weaving past. Rog dropped back on the run to 10k, I passed that mark in 56:25. It's always a drag from 10k to 12k where the course finally drops away down to Bondi. I was happy to maintain position down the hill, still overtaking when possible. I caught up to Liz around the 13k mark, then we were on the 'flat' of Campbell Parade, the U-turn and the final gentle down slope before the last corner and 150m sprint to the finish.

My last 3 kilometres according to the Garmin were 4:58, 4:54 and 4:36. Finish time was 76:10 for 13,656th place out of 70,000+ finishers. Happy with that! I think this result shows that having no expectations prior to a race can be a good thing. I was happy with how I spread out my effort over the course, just running by feel. The weather had been good for running, less than 10 degrees and the blustery wind not a problem running in such a packed field. Roger finished in 77:05 and Jim in 86:18 to stay 'Green Group' qualified for 2020. See you there!

With Jim and Roger after running to Bondi Beach

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Racing 5k in 25 minutes

Since my last post on 12 March I've been gradually increasing my weekly mileage and racing the 5k regularly. I'm now at close to 60 kilometres per week, which seems to be producing slow fitness gains. My 5k race results since early March have proceeded thus: 28:11, 26:34, 26:03, 26:06.01 (track), 25:11, 25:49, 25:37, 24:36, 24:59 and 25:31. The 24:36 on 12 May was in the Mother's Day Classic 5k, a big fun run in Canberra. It was a harder effort than races since then, average heart-rate of 145 compared to 141 for the 25:31 Tuggeranong Parkrun.

There was a big fun run atmosphere for the MDC in spite of the cold (5 degrees C) and calm conditions. My mate Jim called me towards the first 'pen' of runners — we were only about 6 rows back from the front. Jim bolted at the gun and I spent the first 800m or so pegging him back. At about the same time the 25-minute pacer went past — 'Okay, this is good, I'll try and stick with this group' as we passed 1k in 4:58. The pacer opened up a gap of 20 metres as he ran over Kings Avenue Bridge. I ran hard on the down slope of the bridge and passed 2k in 10:04. I never caught the pacer but the small group I was with were overtaking runners who had started faster. My third kilometre was 5:01, then 5:03 over Commonwealth Avenue Bridge. I ran hard down the bridge and to the finish, 4:33 for the last kilometre but still not quite catching the pacer! I was very happy with my finish time, good enough to win the 60-69 age-group. Jim came in about 90 seconds later to win the 70-79s, a solid run and one of his better recent races.

Looking forward, I plan to continue racing regularly while maintaining mileage at 50 to 60 kilometres per week over winter. I'm feeling confident about improving the 24:36 5k time towards 24 minutes. I hope to run faster than 24 and will have a good idea if that's possible after a few more months. I hope everyone is enjoying their running — until next time, be well!

Jim (left) has run over 300 Lake Stakes lunch runs

Monday, March 11, 2019

A long time away from running

I've been coughing and spluttering my way into the 2019 running year, much like a learner driver kangaroo-hopping down a suburban road, nervous clutch foot, a parent offering calm advice from the passenger seat of an ancient manual Holden.

A 20-day break in January was followed by a week's running, then another 33 days of zeros in the diary. The cause, a 'medical condition' which I'm confident is in the past. I'm up to 2 days of running in a row — yes! The details of those runs: 1k in 5:24 followed by 4k of easy walking at the Coombs Parkrun then on Sunday evening, 2k at 5:40 per km, puffing along with the expected high average heart-rate of 139 (my maximum is about 160).

My intention is to very gradually increase the daily distance over the coming weeks until I'm somewhere near a goal volume of 60 kilometres per week. My long-term racing goal for this year is to run 5k in a time yet to be determined, something 'respectable' — in the vague range of 22 to 24 minutes. I'll stick my neck out in due course, but even 25 minutes seems lofty when out of shape. I hope all readers are having a good 2019 so far — a shout-out to Mark, who recently ran a big marathon PB of 3:08, an excellent result, achieved with clever coaching from young Scott Brown. Until the next post, be well.

Lake Stakes runners celebrating after the weekly 6k handicap run on 1 January

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Break on through to the other side

Obviously this is my last post for 2018 so I'd like to say 'thanks' to readers and wish you all the best for achieving your running goals in 2019. For myself, I didn't quite get there in 2018 — my goal was to run faster than 23 minutes for 5k and my best time was 23:10 at The Runners Shop 5k in July. I had been targeting a 5000m track race in December but the meeting was cancelled due to storms. I haven't had a full race effort since the Wagga Parkrun — I've been waiting in vain for a cool night or morning.

I still remain excited about the possibility of running a 'good' 5k so that will be one of my main goals for 2019. Time-wise, I'd still like to break that pesky 23-minute barrier. There are a few reasons for my excitement and I'll talk briefly about two of them in this post.

1. I've started reading the book by Alex Hutchinson — 'Endure: Mind, Body and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance.' In chapter 1, Alex talks about his own running breakthrough, having had the goal of breaking 4 minutes for 1500 metres since the age of 15. He eventually did so, unexpectedly, at an obscure indoor meeting when the split times were read incorrectly and he ended up running 3:52. Having broken the mental 4-minute 'barrier' he continued to improve and ran 3:44 to qualify for the Canadian Olympic Trials. Prior to the breakthrough, Alex tried to replicate training that preceded good races, something I've always done, having kept detailed running diaries since the early 1980s. Running well is organic and mental rather than mathematical.

2. A podcast by Steve Magness and Jon Marcus where they also talk about the unpredictability of breakthroughs and the importance of trusting the process (of training) and 'racing the race.' I tend to get hung up on running even splits (especially in track races) when I'd give myself the chance of running faster if I raced the race.

The lush track at Dickson, venue for the 2018 ACT Beer Mile

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A 3000m race and a 5k Parkrun

I've decided to write about races in a little detail as a record of my progress towards racing 5k in under 23 minutes. Since the last blog post there have been two full effort races, a 3000m on the track and a 5k Parkrun at Wagga (strictly not a race, but a 5k timed run which many treat as a race). I also raced the Fisher's Ghost 5k a little off full effort (wary of the hilly course) in 24:29, 11 seconds slower than I ran in 2017.

ACT Masters' 3000m, 8 November — I was hoping to run a season's best and dip well under 14 minutes but I had one of those awful races where the second half feels like you're running through ever-deepening mud. It was an unusually cold night at the Woden track, not my favourite weather, about 9 degrees celsius. Helen was running and had been good form, recently breaking 30 minutes for the hilly BBQ Stakes 6k lunch run. I started a little faster than customary to take up a position following Helen for the first 3 laps, passing 1000m in 4:34 (13:42 3k pace), Dale and Roger just behind. Then it all started going wrong, the elastic to Helen breaking as Dale and Roger gave chase. I continued to fade, running the second km in 4:44 and third in 4:53, finishing 11th in 14:10.4. Roger way ahead in a good 13:40 followed by Helen in 13:51 and Dale in 14:06.

Wagga 5k Parkrun, 17 November — A much better race! Three members of the Speedygeese were running, Geoff (chasing the M70 course record), myself and Lisa (returning from injury). It was a beautiful morning, calm as we warmed up (which turned into a very gentle breeze), perhaps a fraction warm at around 17 degrees celsius. The small field of 124 runners and walkers allowed us to take up position close to the front on the wide start line. Geoff took off purposefully (I knew he was aiming for under 24 minutes), and his pace felt just about right as we moved past a few overenthusiastic starters. "Sub-5 pace?" enquired Geoff after a few minutes. "Definitely!" The 1k split was 4:37 and we were still catching people. I eased ahead of Geoff on the rough section at the north of the lake, setting my sights on catching a lady running about 30 metres ahead of us. The split for the second k was 4:41 and I knew Geoff wasn't far behind (hearing his loud breathing, which continued all the way to the finish). I overtook the young lady (she would run 25:03) before the turn on the out/back course. I tried to keep the speed up running back and it felt like I was, even though the next two splits were both 4:48. I had another bloke to chase for the last kilometre as a young runner flew past, making us both look slow! A final sprint for the line and 24th place in a time of 23:42, Geoff not far behind (smashing the M70 record by 2 minutes) in 23:50 and Lisa having an excellent run with a course PB of 25:09. Good race!

A calm Lake Albert, perfect for ducks and geese

Monday, November 05, 2018

A lot of running and a rare win


The 2018 goal of breaking 23 minutes for 5k is still motivating my training. I think I can do it! I've raced regularly since The Canberra Times 10ish k but none have been 100% flat-out efforts. My weekly mileage has also been consistent, averaging around 100 kilometres per week. I feel fit and just need a calm and cooler day for a fast race. Cool and calm days haven't been as common as warm and windy days of late.

With my future training I plan to only run 'hard' on two days per week and I'd like to make those days very hard. One day will be a race, most likely on the track at the Thursday Masters' meetings. I will race the 3000m or 5000m most likely, with an occasional 1500m. On 18 October I ran a 5000m, placing 2nd in 24:14.2, a long way from 23 minutes but it was a warm night and I wasn't motivated to 'go to the well' that evening. Last Tuesday afternoon I ran 23:59 on bikepaths in 'The Boathouse' 5k. Once again it was warm and we were running into a headwind for the second half of the race. My legs felt good and I was moving well so that was pleasing.

Back on Sunday 21 October a large group of Speedygeese headed out to Tarago for the annual 'Run with the Wind' Fun Runs. I entered the 5k and knew there were only a few old blokes entered in the 60-69 category, my mate Jim one of them. The course was out/back on a smooth gravel access road to the giant wind turbines and over challenging hills. The start was crowded and I had no idea of my place until the leader and those following him came back from the turn. Most were obviously young and fast but I was on the lookout for the wrinkly skin and grey hair of ancient runners. Nothing! A couple of runners looked to be around 50 but I appeared to be racing for the win. Good fun! All I had to do was stay ahead of Jim and Jeff and I'd be on the top spot of the podium! I ran back to the finish (walking a couple of times on the hills), pacing myself with teenagers and 20-somethings, not concerned with the time, just winning. And that's what happened. Racing without concern for the finish time is liberating and enjoyable. I like racing!

Speedygeoff won the 10k 70-79 category!

Spectacular views from the 10k race turn

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Canberra Times almost 10k

But not quite. I last raced The Canberra Times 10k in 2016, placing 402nd in 52:01. On Sunday the organisers introduced a new out/back course, hillier in my estimation with a climb up to New Parliament House at the 6k mark. The old course was point-to-point, no sharp turns (a net downhill run) and reasonably fast depending on wind direction. My certified road 10k PB was run on that course. For the new course I was hoping to break 50 minutes but thought it would be close, due to the new extra hill and turns.

I did a trial run on August 30 and my thoughts at the time were 'this is going to be hard!' — it was also a fraction long by my Garmin, 10.2k, but I didn't know exactly where the finish would be placed. On Sunday the U-turn at the southern end of the course was earlier than expected and Strava data from runners shows that we did in fact run a short course. I recorded 9.88k and saw distances between 9.8 and 9.9k, most around the 9.86k mark. The person who set the turn up must have placed the cone early, in my estimation between 60 and 75 metres, thus making the course between 120 and 150 metres short. This is annoying for runners going for a road 10k PB, especially on a course that's supposed to be certified accurate. Short (and long) courses were common in the 'old days', so much so that I count my track times (10k and under) as my PBs even though I ran a faster '10k' on the road.

So how was my race? In a word, great! I ran 47:19, which should have been just under 48 minutes if I'd run the extra distance to make it a true 10k. I wasn't expecting to run that well, especially on the new course. We were blessed with the weather, cool (6C) and calm for the 7.45am start. I lined up next to Jim and just behind Trevor and Craig, about 10 metres back from the starting arch. The road narrows to one lane after 400 metres or so but there wasn't too much elbow bumping going on — I followed Jim through there before edging ahead. I knew we were running quickly (didn't bother with the watch during the race but the first 500m was at 4:20/km pace). The 1k (flat running) split was 4:42. I was fortunate near the Carillon to find myself next David, who was running with his daughter Maia. Following them up Kings Avenue, the pace felt just about perfect — relaxed yet quick. I wasn't stressed on the long but gentle rise and was conscious of keeping something in hand for the hills.

Running down State Circle we could see the leaders coming back (a good feature of the new course). Will caught me at the U-turn and again at 6k while David and Maia got away by 20 metres back down the State Circle hill before I passed them just prior to Kings Avenue. I gathered myself for the dreaded climb up to New Parliament House. That 500m was my slowest of the race, at 5:16/km pace. From there it was gentle down or flat running and I was feeling good, the New Balance Beacon shoes nice and light, soft on the road. Back over the bridge I was surprised there were sometimes gaps to the person ahead, with odd small groups running together. My legs felt good! I was relaxed knowing that the speed throughout had felt fast enough to be under 50 minutes. I took a quick look at the watch for reassurance running beside the lake and saw 45:XX with the finish line in sight. Wow! A late sprint to the line, with James flying past showing me how to really sprint! Good run! But oddly disappointed that the course had been short. 47:59 would have been much better! This had been my best 10k race since Melbourne in October 2015 — 47:39 that day, which preceded a 5k the following week in 22:46. Looking good for sub-23!

With Jennie (PB) and Ruth after the race
First Braidwood Parkrun on Saturday (J Harding photo)

Monday, September 03, 2018

A 5k with Deek!

I've been racing regularly since The Runners Shop 5k on 21 July. I agree with Greg Meyer ('83 Boston marathon winner in 2:09:00) when he said on a podcast that today's runners don't race enough. He said there's a feeling and training effect one gets from hard racing that's impossible to replicate in training. My race results over the past 5 weeks have been: 4 August, Dunrossil Drive 4.1k XC in 19:50; 12 August, City to Surf 14k in 74:47; 18 August, Wagga Parkrun 5k in 24:31; 24 August, Customs Joggers' 5k in 23:26; 1 September, Tuggeranong Parkrun 5k in 23:37. That's quite a bit of racing. In addition there have been races run as tempo runs or interval sessions.

The most recent races (CJs' 5k and Tuggeranong Parkrun 5k) gave me a good feeling about my chances of breaking 23 minutes for 5k (my main race goal for this year). My mileage has averaged 106 kilometres for the past 7 weeks and I'm feeling strong in races off that mileage. I haven't been feeling fresh and rested for the races, so there's some 'free' time to be had there — I don't know how much, perhaps 10 or 15 seconds? Then there's the time saved with good weather conditions (calm, not too cold, not too hot).

For the Tuggeranong Parkrun on Saturday the weather was cool and we were running into a gentle breeze towards the turn and during the last kilometre. Parkrun is officially a "timed run, not a race" but in spite of that, there's always some friendly racing happening throughout the field. We were welcomed to the run by Rob de Castella (director of the Indigenous Marathon Foundation) as this was the 'Warrior Parkrun' event day. Deek has run at Tuggeranong before and has a PB of 23:27 when he ran with his daughter. He obviously wasn't running flat out on Saturday, but the results do show me finishing ahead of the great man — 47th for me in 23:37 and 71st for Deek in 25:47.

I've had the pleasure of racing Deek when he was a force in marathon racing in the '80s — I raced him on the track, on the roads and in cross country. The only time we were in close company was before the start or when he was lapping me! It was usually twice in a 5000m track race — it was breathtaking when the leading pack (usually Deek was pulling them along) flew past with the draft of wind seeming to rustle my singlet. Along with many thousands of fun runners I 'raced' Deek in The Canberra Times 10k in 1990, the year he set the still standing course record of 29:01. That day I remember being particularly pleased with myself as I'd just started training with Geoff Moore and finished in 101st place with 36:55. Running is one of those rare sports where we can compete against the best. If you can sprint you can even be briefly ahead of the elite runners during the rush at the start! That doesn't happen in tennis or golf.

Just after the start with 260 other Parkrunners!
Racing Will, approaching 4k in the Tuggeranong Parkrun