Sunday, April 12, 2015

Chasing Isaac to a Parkrun 5k PB

It was a stunningly beautiful morning down at Lake Tuggeranong on Saturday. Conditions were perfect for running fast: cool (about 10 degrees C), dead calm and sunny. I was determined to run a course PB so made a point of having a rest day from running on Friday and only cycling an easy 24k. My warm-up was a tad shorter than ideal (1k of jogging rather than 2 or 3) but the legs felt good during the four strides.

As it was 'Australian Running Festival' weekend, start congestion was less than usual — there were 232 finishers rather than the 300-plus of a normal Saturday morning. I placed myself (a little impetuously) three rows back from the front and lost no more than 2 seconds crossing the start line. Started quickly then settled into a steady pace out of the park. Passed my mate Jim earlier than usual at the rowing pontoon (600 metres) then smoothly negotiated the left-right-left corners near Maccas.

Just beyond Maccas, Jen and son Isaac ran past — "I think we'll run with you" said Jen. If I can keep up was my immediate thought! And so it transpired — Jen and Isaac put about 40 metres into me over and off the footbridge. My legs, energy levels and breathing were all okay so I kept the speed at what I presumed was about 4:30 kilometres. Jen was obviously doing it easy (being a sub-20 5k runner) and was encouraging 11-year-old Isaac to keep a steady pace. Their lead was reducing up to and beyond the turn, but ever so slowly. On the downhill run to the 4k mark I started to feel confident of 'victory', closing to within 10 metres. I was psyched up to run a strong last kilometre. I ran hard, but Isaac surged with 800 metres to go and the elastic was broken. Although the 'race' was lost, I kept running hard, managing a modest sprint off the last 'speed bump' into the park. 30th place and 22:31 — a new Parkrun PB!

Isaac had run a 2-minute PB of 22:18, a fantastic run. I was feeling happy with my time and excited by the thought of running faster in coming months. I'm sure the cycling and sessions of 'strides' are making a difference. My only worry is the sharp drop-off into lactic acid pain (which I also notice when cycling). I don't have any leeway — 4:30 ks in the middle of a 5k feel fine but if I push just slightly faster my legs start protesting. I'm not quite sure what to do about that.

Jen and Isaac surge away from the old wombat

Wear a Speedygeese shirt and you'll run a PB!

Happy running friends after the Tuggers Parkrun

Friday, March 20, 2015

A Parkrun PB, cyclocross race and a tired 5000m

I raced in the ACT Vets' 5000m Championship last night — it was one of those awful races where the wheels fall off very early. After passing 1k in 4:31 (way behind Kathy, Roger and Geoff), I realised the pace would have to slow dramatically if I were to keep running. I was tired and feeling off-colour. I dragged myself to the finish at a much reduced pace, placing 20th in 23:57.17 — well off my goal of 22 minutes. This was disappointing as last Saturday morning I'd run a PB for the Tuggeranong 5k Parkrun.

I was quite excited after Saturday's Parkrun — not only had I run a Parkrun PB, but the racing itself was fun. I was psyched up to run quickly and positioned myself closer to the front row of the corral, losing only 2 seconds before crossing the start. There was the usual chaotic shuffling of bodies after the start, then I settled into a nice smooth pace, passing my mate Jim unusually early — near the rowing pontoon at 600 metres or so. Just beyond the 1k mark Adam drew up beside me, saying "We're on!" which I knew to mean 'on for a sub-23', Adam's PB goal. I followed Adam over the footbridge, around the ess-bends and under the road bridge, drawing beside him up the little incline before 2k. I was feeling good! Caught up and overtook Sophie before the U-turn and was surprised to see Adam just a few metres behind. He pushed ahead on the return journey but I was able to draw alongside on the little downhill to the 4k marker. This was where I began my 'run for the finish', passing (and keeping pace with) some younger men and women. Over the little hill into the park I sprinted for the finish — 22:38! Yes! Very happy with the time and the race. Average heart rate had been 145 and splits: 4:37, 4:33, 4:32, 4:33 and 4:34. Adam ran well for a PB of 22:50.

That afternoon I rode the mountain bike in my first ever cyclo-cross race. What fun! The course was bone-dry and dusty, unlike European cyclo-cross races which often traverse stretches of thick mud or slushy snow and ice. This course had many sharp turns, made slippery by leaf and bark litter and four areas where jumping off and carrying your bike was needed. Three of these were over low hurdles, about 30cm high and one was a very steep off-camber U-turn (which some skilful cyclists were able to ride). As a beginner, I was in the C-Grade race along with other novices and slower riders. I think there were 11 or 12 riders in our race. The race was '20 minutes plus one lap' — quite short, so no surprise the start was fast. I was left in a cloud of dust and only had one rider behind me at the first set of hurdles. After that I made up time on the turns and 'off bike' sections, passing riders and eventually having a good race with the lady who came 2nd and another old bloke. The bell was a little soon for me (being more of an endurance rider) but I managed to pass the lady and old bloke on the last lap. I know there were five riders behind me so maybe I was 6th or 7th. Anyway, it was great fun and a sport I'm keen to try again.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Cross country and track racing

My running (and cycling) is going well. I'm comfortably managing to do around 40 kilometres per week of running and 220 of cycling. I reckon the cycling is keeping my aerobic condition at the level it would be if I were running twice that much and doing no cycling. I'm enjoying the cycling — it's fun and less sweaty than running. In the past two weeks I've had a couple of races that excite me to the possibility of running really fast. For me in 2015, 'really fast' is 22 minutes for 5k. A time that once was so easy!

The first race was a cross country 'Summer Series' event at Barrenjoey Drive — 3 laps for 5k around a dirt road and bumpy, sandy track course near Lake Burley Griffin. I felt good during the race, running evenly, catching and passing people during the second and third laps. Maria said afterwards "You're running well!" My time was 23:29 at an average heart rate of 143, only marginally slower than the 23:17 I ran in February 2012 (AHR 148). Four weeks after the 2012 Barrenjoey I raced a 5000 on the track in 22:14.

The second race was the 'Pennington' 3000 metre event on Thursday afternoon. It was an 'age handicap' with start groups based on WAVA A/G % tables. I took off with Roger as Sue was about to complete her first lap. Rog bolted, so I settled into my 'run-by-feel' race pace with Sue breathing down my neck after her first lap. I gradually cut into Roger's 30 metre lead over the next 2k. Sue went past when she had 1 lap to go (2 for myself and Rog). I got to within 3 metres of Rog but he sprinted hard over the last half-lap, beating me to the line by 2 seconds — 13:22 to 13:24. Not a brilliant time, but it was a warm afternoon and I'd felt good during the race. Really good! Cross country and track racing are the two types of running I enjoy the most. I'm looking forward to further solid training before the ACT Vets' 5k Championship in a month's time.

 Cycling back along the Tuggeranong Parkrun course after volunteer duties

Monday, January 26, 2015

The most exciting thing I've read about running in a long time

A very long time! I've been following the running career of American 2:14 marathoner Nate Jenkins for many years. He has kept 'training diary' style blogs on various websites (including Running Times online) and has recently resurrected his own blog. He tweeted two weeks ago about one of his blog posts titled 'Strides' — immediately I followed the link and my eyes widened; brain ticked over (slowly) as I read words that made so much sense, thinking to myself: Yes! Yes! Yes!

I expect you'll click the above link to read all about strides and return to this post later. That's okay. Do it!

Strides are very short runs. You jog into them, accelerate over a distance of 75 metres or so to 'near top speed' then ease off to a stop. You then walk until fully recovered (this depends on how fit you are) and repeat. Nate mentions the numerous benefits that come from running strides regularly and often —"every single day if you can." In the 'old days' I used to run strides prior to every track workout and race, which would be roughly three times per week. I've done six 'sessions' of strides (mainly following runs or races) over the past two weeks and am starting to feel some fluidity returning to my running movement.

Strides also fit in perfectly with my mostly steady MAF heart-rate zone training. Being so short (and untimed) they're not stressful in the least. Lactic acid isn't produced and my heart-rate during a stride (if recovery is sufficient) only just reaches the top end of MAF heart-rate (around 130 for me (about 80% of my 162 maximum). After 100 metres of walking between strides my heart-rate has recovered to around 94. My intention is to run strides following every run (and before races) if I can. I'll let you know how it goes.

Strangely alone during the last k (4:36 split) of the Tuggeranong Australia Day Parkrun 5k on a very warm and muggy morning.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

4th place at the Bowral Parkrun

Yesterday I raced the Bowral 5k Parkrun in the beautiful Southern Highlands of NSW. Seven runners from Canberra made the trip — Jim (driving), myself and Bryan leaving at 5AM for the 2-hour journey to Bowral. We'd had a lot of rain on the Friday and overnight but thankfully the day remained overcast and mild. In the carpark of the Briars Country Lodge and Inn (run venue) we met the famous Norma Wallett (W85) as well as Ruth and Marg, having already surveyed the notorious damp grassy 500 metre finish hill.

At the start, Jim took off like a man on a mission to break the M65 course record, vying for the lead of the race down the grassy slope towards the bikepath by the river. 'Go Jim!' I thought, 'he can't last at that pace!' I settled into a smooth rhythm once on the bikepath, running in step with a young girl for quite a while. Jim was a good 150 metres ahead, but starting to fall back through the field. I caught up to Jim well before the turn on the out/back course and then tried to catch other runners. Ran with a young bloke in a black shirt for quite a while (Luke I see from the results). On the run back towards the grassy hill we were slowly catching the first lady (Lorraine). Half way up the hill I overtook Luke, then Lorraine with a 'sprint' over the last 100 metres. 4th place! 24:13 was my time (ave HR 143), but the course was considerably harder than the Tuggeranong Parkrun!

Others in our group ran very well — Norma's time of 35:20 was just outside her W85 course record; Marg broke the W65 record; Bryan the M70 record and Ruth was within shouting distance of the W60 record. Before driving back to Canberra we celebrated with breakfast at Maccas in Mittagong.

I'm happy with how 2015 has kicked off. The previous week I ran 23:23 at the Tuggeranong Parkrun on a warm, humid morning. My running goal this year remains the same — to race 'a good 5k'. Yesterday was a good 5k, but the finishing time was less than good! I'm confident of running under 23 minutes soon, but the ultimate goal of a sub-22 Parkrun "isn't meant to be easy!" as my old running mate Malcolm Fraser once said. I'm very much looking forward to enjoying the process of trying to achieve that goal. After all, that's what it's all about.

 Jim finishing the Bowral Parkrun!
The amazing Norma Wallett races up the grassy finish hill at the Bowral Parkrun
Happy Canberra group after the Bowral Parkrun

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Finishing 2014 better than 2013

I'm home recovering from a suspected viral/sinus infection, so have time to write what will be my last post for the year. Looking out the window, the weather looks pretty ordinary (windy, wet and humid), so I'm not minding too much being away from exercise. Well, being a little Obsessive/Compulsive I am! But anyway...

I finished 2013 babying a nasty right calf injury after making a good recovery from the right arm DVT problem in May. This year I'm shaking off a viral infection, so some bittersweet synchronicity  in play there. In 2013 my fastest 5k (on the road) was 22:46 in April before my health problems. Most of 2014 has been spent 'getting fit' again — helped hugely I'm sure, by taking up cycling as cross-training (and for fun!) late in the year. I'm feeling in fantastic aerobic shape — just have to talk the muscles and tendons into keeping up. I need to overcome my inclination to limp (caused I'm sure by 'running through' many niggles).

The video below is from the Lifeline Majura Parkway 5k Fun Run. You can hear my mate Jim encouraging me (he'd raced the earlier 10k). It was a beautiful day — hot and sunny, unlike today. I was given the ego-boosting result of 19th place (2nd 50-59) out of 568 finishers :) My fastest 5k of the year was the 22:54 Parkrun on 4 October. Love the Parkrun! Very happy with that race, although well short of my 21:59 goal for the year. The thing is, I feel incredibly fit at the moment (ah, before this illness) — running the Stromlo 5k as a tempo run (in hot weather) on 2 December at 4:53 per km (and a low for me, 678 heart-beats per km). I'm relishing the thought of racing in 2015.

Hope anyone reading this is doing well. If not, all the best for achieving your goals in 2015. See youse all next year!

My Official Finish Video

Vineyards enjoying a lovely warm day

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Racing Ron and Riding

On Thursday 6 November I was helping at the ACT Veterans Track Meeting and was able to compete in the 'late' 3000/5000 metre race at 8PM. An unplanned race that turned into a good one. The 3k is my favourite distance on the track — long enough to require excellent aerobic endurance, yet short enough to be fun by eliminating the 'this is taking forever!' thought.

After the pack shuffle at the start of the race I slotted in behind Ron Vines with Jim and Roger close behind. Ron is 71 and a very good runner — at the age of 43 he ran 2 hours 34 minutes for the marathon. This race was his tune-up for an attempt to improve the Ginninderra 5k Parkrun 70-74 record two days later (he was successful with a time of 22:21). Ron pulled out a 10 metre gap after two laps. Roger passed me as we approached 1k (4:28) while Jim said "What are you going to run?" I blurted out breathlessly "Under fourteen!" Jim, rather surprisingly, soon dropped off. Roger had passed Ron and I managed to reduce the gap to a few metres, covering the middle kilometre in 4:34. With a lap to go I sensed I was stronger, overtaking Ron with 250 metres left and finishing with a time of 13:32.97 (4:31 last k).

Speedygeoff always (good naturedly) stirs me by saying I have to race old people (or young children) to be competitive. I don't care! I know I'm a very average runner in the 55-59 age-group but I like racing, so I'll race anyone of a similar standard to myself. This particular evening it was Ron — next Saturday at the Parkrun it might be a 9-year-old girl. As an aside, young kids are very hard to beat as they usually possess a devastating sprint finish!

I've been riding my bikes quite a bit, covering around 130 kilometres a week. I'm really enjoying the riding (with the Strava website providing good motivation to improve my 'segment' times). My quandary is fitting in the amount of riding I'd like to do and balancing that with running and recovery. I feel very fit aerobically and would hope to improve that 3k track time to sub-13 before the season's finished. If that happens the sub-22 5k goal is a realistic possibility. On a mild and calm evening!

With Norma and Jim at the Fisher's Ghost Fun Run last Sunday. Norma placed 3rd in the 'Over 70' category. She's 85!

I was lucky enough to spot a young wombat during one of my recent bike rides. Very cool!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Coffee Club Melbourne 10k

I was looking forward to the Melbourne trip as a social occasion more than anything — a short holiday to one of my favourite cities with the prospect of hanging out with Canberra friends Ruth, Dave, Cathy and Liz. During my jog around 'The Tan' late on Friday afternoon I revised my race goal to 'sub-50', a time I'd be happy with on the hilly Melbourne course. That night we enjoyed a lovely Italian meal at Triim on Hardware Lane. I like Melbourne! At the civilized hour of 9.18 AM on Saturday I joined the girls for a 'shake-out' jog along the Yarra (Dave was out riding his bike in preparation for the Australian Duathlon Championships to be held in Adelaide the following weekend). My legs felt okay, but nothing special. That evening we 'carbed up' at Vons on Hardware Lane.

On Sunday morning (very early for me) we walked the 2k from the city to Race HQ near the MCG. The 10k was starting at 7.30 with the half marathon (which Liz and Ruth were racing) half an hour later. Just prior to the start I bumped into Twitter friend Sal and coach Bill near the river, Sal doing run-throughs and very psyched up! She would run an excellent 41:14 on a course where the hills are worth about 30 seconds. My race went well — once up the short hill after the start I found myself running near a lady with her two young children. Their pace was good so I followed them along St Kilda road and around through the tunnel. The kids started slowing on the gentle (but long) climb beside the Royal Botanic Gardens so I moved ahead and selected other distinctive runners to chase.

I ran by feel (and the effort certainly felt quicker than 5-minute k pace!), but did sneak a look at my Garmin at the 5k mark. 24:53 — I'm sure I can double that — we're almost to the high point on the course! I was enjoying myself! Especially running back towards Flinders Street Station; mostly overtaking runners, or at least keeping up with other conservative starters. Finally I was over the last nasty bridge and 'sprinting' up to the finish arch just outside 'The G'. 49:25 — I'll take that! I've raced the 10k in Melbourne before — in 2008 I ran 46:38 at an average heart-rate of 151 (704 heart-beats per km). This year my AHR was 143, so 707 heart-beats per km. I'm not sure when my next 10k race will be but I'd love to run a time in the 46 to 47-minute range. I think a time like that is possible, even for an old bloke!

Ruth, Liz, Cathy and Dave walking to the start beside the beautiful Yarra River 

Relaxed Melbourne runners means there's no problem starting near the front

Enjoying a beautiful Melbourne morning!