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!

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Racing the Old Blokes

On Saturday morning I raced my 44th Parkrun 5k, which happened to be on International Parkrun Day. There were a record 320 finishers at Tuggeranong, no doubt helped along by the beautiful calm morning with a hint of Spring warmth in the air. My pre-race plan was to run hard and see if I could improve my 22:52 Parkrun PB.

I arrived a little late so warmed up with a short jog and 3 strides. Our race director had set up a rather narrow start chute so my usual grid position produced a momentary delay of 5 seconds or so before I was up and running. I was wearing the Hoka Cliftons — the super cushioned and stunningly light (265 grams, size 13) training shoe. The harder Kinvaras may have been faster, but my legs are liking cushioned shoes! After 500 metres I found myself running behind a lady with a dog on a lead — she on one side of the path and the dog on the other. Should I resurrect my steeplechase skills and hurdle the lead? Ah, maybe not! It wasn't long before I was able to get past and settle into a steady (hard) tempo.

Passing the Maccas morning breakfast crowd I looked up ahead and saw my rival Jim taking the sharp left turn that leads under the bridge. Wow, that's quite a lead! As we turned onto the concrete footbridge I could see that Jim had formed a group with two other old blokes, Paul and Graeme, with younger bloke John along for the ride. Their advantage was about 75 metres but I could sense it was slowly reducing. I didn't feel like I was speeding up (which was proved by my post-race splits). Maybe they've started too fast? At the half-way turn I was closer and felt like a catch was inevitable. I hope it happens before the last 100 metres! As we ran off the bridge onto the west side of the lake the small downhill gave me the momentum to overtake John and Graeme then Paul and Jim in quick succession. 1k to go! I ran as hard as I could, fearful of Graeme's final sprint (which he used to defeat me in an earlier Parkrun).

Now I was using young blokes and kids as unofficial pacers, racing along beside the lake and readying myself for the final speed-bump of a hill into the park. Up and over, then a modest (it felt devastating!) sprint to the finish. Stopped the Garmin after the line, pretty pleased to see 22:52 (official time was 22:54, so agonisingly short of a new Parkrun PB). Never mind, I'd had a good race! I think the additional cycling training I've been doing is starting to produce results. I still don't feel 'fast', but I feel strong which is a good place to be. My average heart-rate for the race had been 146, so a pleasingly low 669 heart-beats per kilometre. One kilometre splits were 4:38, 4:34, 4:34, 4:35 and 4:33 (the first closer to 4:32 taking into account the delay at the start). This coming Sunday I'm racing the  Melbourne 10k, looking forward to it as a catch-up-with-friends holiday rather than a race. I hope the weather is typically Melbourne-perfect!

Jim, unknown young bloke, Paul and Graeme still ahead approaching the 2k marker

 Chasing old blokes in my cushioned, light Hoka Clifton slippers

Heart-rate trace from the race with a bump at 1k to go and max of 161 at the end of my 'sprint' finish

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cycling and the Sydney Harbour Bridge Run

Inspired by Harley's 2:50 marathon on ten miles a week (plus a lot of cycling!) I've been rediscovering the boyhood joy of riding a bike. Forty-plus years ago I was into cycling as a teenager (as most kids were in those days) — riding to and from school; heading out for all-day jaunts in the summer holidays and even completing a couple of multi-day rides including a memorable one from Wagga to Melbourne via the Victorian Alps.

I've bought myself a couple of new bikes (to go with my '96 Cannondale R400 — bought when I was briefly into triathlons): a nice lightweight aluminium 650B 30-speed mountain bike and a Trek FX 7.5 aluminium 18-speed road bike (more versatile and comfortable than the Cannondale and almost as fast). Daylight hours are lengthening so I've been heading out for rides some afternoons as well as running around 40 kilometres a week. I've joined Strava (a web-based and mobile application) to log my rides (and runs). Strava is good fun as there are many cyclists in Canberra, with most cycle paths and trails having established 'leaderboards' on which to try and improve one's PRs for the various segments.

My races have been going well — nothing spectacular, but some solid results. 5k Parkruns in 23:23 and 23:20; the Canberra Times 10k in 48:03 and last Sunday, the Blackmores Sydney Harbour Bridge Run. This one is advertised as 'Approx 9.0 kms', but is certainly longer. The timing results on the website show it as 9.23k, which seems correct — after running sub-5 minute ks most of the way, my '9th' k was 5:56! Anyway, my finishing time was 45:23 (4:55 per km at an average heart rate of 145). This result compares quite favourably to my race in 2007 when I ran 44:01 at an average HR of 144. There were 11,960 finishers and I just squeaked into the first 1000. More importantly I felt good during the race and competed well against a few distinctive runners including a lady running with a 'Canadian' white/red jacket tied around her waist (it wasn't cold!). I hope you're all going well. I'm a little behind in blog-reading, but hope to catch up over the coming days.

National Gallery stop during a ride around LBG 

Turning off Macquarie Street to finish the Blackmores Sydney Harbour Bridge Run

Saturday, August 30, 2014

How to break 3 hours for the marathon on ten miles a week

"That's impossible!" I hear you all shout. Well, it's not and it's actually pretty easy. The runner who most recently achieved 'the impossible' was not a 2:06 Kenyan who'd been running ten miles a week for six months. It was a 37-year-old Australian who placed 7th in the Adelaide Marathon last Sunday. Harley Vegan (who promotes the 'vegan high carb' diet) ran well under 3 hours with a time of 2:50:47. He was on 2:48 pace until 38k so lack of running training didn't cost him much time. His run training for 2014 amounted to 19.6k on average per week (actually 12 miles as he says in the video below). The video is a reply to a person who claimed a sub-3 marathon on ten miles a week couldn't be done in a comment on Harley's marathon race report video.



"I use cycling to build my cardio" says Harley. "I can't even do speedwork because I haven't got the [running] base!" Cycling is Harley's preferred sport and he's a very good cyclist. He cycles A LOT! He doesn't own a car or even have a driver's licence. On his Youtube Channel there's a video of Harley riding up the Corkscrew Hill in Adelaide and keeping pace with the Movistar Team professional riders. He has a high VO2Max and has built up impressive endurance from cycling. "My challenge with the marathon always comes down to leg fatigue — I do runs so the legs can withstand the impact and use heavy cushioned shoes [in the race]."

I must say that I'm excited by this video from Harley (and that's coming from a rare user of the 'f' word!). I'm adding cycling to my rather modest 50 kilometres or so of weekly running (I do like running and 16-19k a week just wouldn't do it for me). I predict that the cycling will enable me to maintain (or improve) my stamina over and above simple running. As Harley says, "Ego crushes potential. Always have an open mind [about different ways to train]."

Friday, August 15, 2014

City to Surf Number 30

Last Sunday I found myself in a familiar and comfortable place. Yes, it was early in the race! I was running along the flat section at Rose Bay, approaching the 5k mark. This was my 30th Sydney City to Surf. Yes, I was just a boy when I ran my first. I glanced at my watch as I passed the marker (something I usually don't do when racing). 24:40 was 18 seconds more than last year's split. Sub-70 and a 'Red Group' qualifying time wasn't going to be easy. Last year I ran with desperation over the final kilometres to run 69:39 and already I was behind schedule.

Approaching the top of 'heartbreak hill' I had a déjà vu moment when I spotted Jenny Gilbert in the crowed, running strongly about 30 metres ahead. Jenny used to run with the Lane Cove Riverrunners when I lived in Sydney in the early '80s. We ran 10k in the park on Tuesdays, usually in less than 40 minutes. Jenny finished second in the '85 City to Surf in 50:17 (American Nancy Ditz won in 48:30). I bumped into Jenny earlier in the morning at the 'secret toilets' and she was typically reserved about discussing her plans for the race. "Same here" she said when I revealed my plan of trying to run 70 minutes. Here we were, amidst 80,000 others, running (almost) together again, just like the old days in the park.

I tried to increase my pace as we crested the hill. My mind was willing but my legs weren't! I soon lost sight of Jenny's pink singlet in the crowd. When we turned into Old South Head Road after 8k I found myself in survival mode. I was keeping up with some distincively attired people in the river of humanity, but most runners were moving ahead. The 10k clock said 51:41 (1:12 more than last year) so I knew sub-70 wasn't going to happen. I still raced as hard as possible and managed a modest sprint down Queen Elizabeth Drive to the finish. I'd run 71:52 — 5:08 per km pace (average heart-rate of 141 compared to the more desperate 144 of last year). Jenny had run 70:11 (!) with an official 'Heartbreak to Bondi' split 31:31, while mine showed a distinct lack of endurance at 32:43.

My lesson from this result is that a diet of mostly 6 to 8k flat runs and modest mileage (51k per week) is short of what's needed for a 'good' City to Surf. Not surprising, as the race record is held by a marathoner (Steve Moneghetti's 40:03 from 1991). Next year I'll aim to prepare more thoroughly. Until then, 5k racing here we come!

Staying with my mate Jim meant we were up excessively early ('to get a good spot at the start') for the 2014 City to Surf. Sparse crowd near St Mary's Cathedral.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Running on a NordicTrack T20.5 treadmill

After running through more Canberra winters than I care to remember, I've finally given in to my soft side and purchased a treadmill: The NordicTrack T20.5 with "iFit." Canberra isn't Minnesota, so it's possible to run outdoors 365 days a year. Possible, but on a zero Celsius rainy day in July with a southerly wind blowing off the snow, not pleasant.

I joined a local gym in mid-June for 3 months in order to try treadmill running and see if I liked it. The gym has other equipment I use like the Concept2 rowing erg, elliptical machines and stationary bicycles. I enjoyed the warmth of the gym so decided to buy a home treadmill. After a little internet research I chose the NordicTrack T20.5 ($1999 delivered including the iFit module and 12 months' membership of iFit). The treadmill has a 3.5 continuous horsepower motor 0 to 15% incline (8% is bloody hard!) and 0 to 3% decline. The decline feature is great for downhill training (working the quads) and for simulating rolling hills. There's a Youtube video showing the T14.2 model being run on at the top speed of 22 kph. Scary!

So how am I liking it? It's great! Perfect for the distances I want to run — usually 5k (although I completed the 'Isle of Arran' iFit course the other day, which was 8.09k). The iFit module links the treadmill to your laptop or tablet computer. As you run a course (there are many different ones available — or you can design your own), images from Google Earth street view and matched to the treadmill's speed. The images are downloaded instantly every few seconds so not video-like but good enough for the bush. The viewpoint is quite high too, perhaps the height of a bus, so you get a tall view of the scenery you're running through. The treadmill's incline is automatically adjusted, which I've found is sometimes exaggerated from real world courses. Because of this I've been preferring flat courses.

I've been finding treadmill running a little harder than running outside. Heart-beats per kilometre seem to be a little higher on the treadmill — perhaps because the temperature is so warm! I noticed when I turned on the built-in fan to high speed half way through a steady-paced run that my heart-rate declined! The treadmill also demands quite a bit of concentration to stay in the same position relative to the console. Drifting back could be very dangerous! For this reason I've been conservative when choosing speeds for steady runs and interval sessions. As well as the iFit and in-build programmes there are some good treadmill workout ideas on the web — for example, ones such as this on Carrie Tollefson's Youtube channel.

Running 'in the snow' down the Stavio Pass in Italy

Friday, July 11, 2014

2 Red Balloons at the Gold Coast Half

I'm back in cold, windy Canberra after a short holiday to warm, sunny Surfers Paradise. My excuse for the holiday was to race in the 'Gold Coast Asics Half Marathon', held last Sunday. I would have preferred to race in Saturday's 10k but couldn't get a flight until mid-morning Saturday. My weekly 'long' runs over winter have been around 12k with weekly mileage at about 60k so my enthusiasm for racing a hard half marathon was rather lacking!

I knew there'd be a split-timing mat at 10k so I decided in advance to race hard to 10k (hopefully running around 48 minutes), then jog/walk my way to the finish and collect my 'finisher's shirt' and medal. It was cool (about 9C) and calm on Sunday morning as I walked the 2k from my unit to Southport for the 6AM start. The road was already crowded and loud (inspirational?) music blared from speakers adjacent to the start. The City-to-Surf-like crush of bodies kept me from moving forward so I started not too far from the 'red balloon' (1:50) man. I abandoned my idea of running a fast 10k and decided to run at 1:50 pace for as long as I could.

One minute after six and we were off. Exciting! Once past the start mat I was able to run fairly freely and didn't have too much trouble keeping with the 1:50 group. As is my habit I ran the race not looking once at the Garmin and felt after the 5k marker that we were running a little quick. Post-race splits showed the story: 5:22, 5:05, 5:08, 5:03, and 5:02. The red balloon man was averaging 1:48 pace. Ouch! Anyway, I kept running, feeling comfortable. Enjoyed watching the leaders coming back at the far turn — Reuben Kosgei way out in front (1:04:56) with Milly Clark leading the women (1:14:03). I passed the 10k timing mat (my split would be 51:34) feeling okay (especially my breathing) but 1k later my legs were getting sore. I'd also dropped 100 metres off red balloon man. I decided to stop running at 12k and walk for a while. The walk had lasted about 1.5k when I saw Tesso run past on white 2-hour balloon pacing duty.

I started running again with a spur of the moment 'B goal' of breaking 2 hours (thinking of Karla and her life-time goal of breaking 2). My stride became smoother again and I managed to get into a rhythm of clicking over ks around 5:30. Before I knew it the 18k marker came up, then over the little bridge and 20k. Nearly there! Into the park, past the grandstands in the finish straight and under the clock. 1:58:32 on the clock ended up being a net 1:56:59. Pretty happy with that! Met Jonathon after the finish (he'd run a season's best of 1:49) and walked back to my unit at Main Beach. Then down to the course at 28k to watch the marathoners come past. Saw the leader Silah Limo looking sublime and smooth, racing to a 2:09:14 win, the fastest marathon ever in Australia. After a while 2:09 man Lee Troop came by, finishing his last marathon in Australia (2:27:23). Well done Troopy! Then the female winner Asami Kato (2:28:51). I was sorry to miss recognising the legendary Yoshihisa Hosaka who won the 65-69 age-group 'by a mile' in 2:52:13.

The next morning I ventured out for a jog up to the delightful sandy trail at The Spit — tentatively at first. My legs didn't feel too bad. I could run! Over the next two days I managed a couple more easy runs and a 45k mountain bike ride with Roger (4:04 in the marathon). A happy finish to the short holiday.

Speedygeese shirt produces a season's best half marathon

Post-race jog on the delightful trail north of Main Beach