Sunday, February 20, 2011

Running for a Sheep Station

I've completed another 4 weeks of Maffetone-style base training — 353 kilometres (a little under 55 miles per week). The pace for my 10k MAF tests (on a good day), is around 5:43 per km, so still some way off the 5:20 goal. On some runs I can detect a weakness in leg-strength, so I've begun running my hillier Rose Cottage course. I plan to introduce some short hill repeats (with long recoveries) and some short sprints (100 - 170m) on the track.

I was a spectator at the Stromlo Running Festival yesterday to watch the Australian Age-Sex Adjusted Cross Country Championships. A number of my running mates were competing in the 7.5k handicap race. The winner was back-marker and marathon silver medallist at the Delhi Commonwealth Games, Michael Shelley. My friends did well — Kathy being the first female to finish, with Liz, Michelle and Geoff not far behind.

It was a bit of a worry to see Kathy get "the staggers" in the last 400 metres, only just making it over the finish line in front of the next (much younger) female. It was a warm and humid morning. I can't do that. Don't know whether my Central Governor is wound up too tight, but I just can't push myself to the extent where I might collapse in a race. I'll stop running first. I think it comes from having done that a few times in my early years of running (particularly in the City to Surf), and giving myself a scare. Since those days my strategy has been to get in better shape than I need to be and race conservatively (my Dad would have said "you're not running for a sheep station"), only pushing the pace in the last couple of kilometres, and only if the weather is runner-friendly. How do you race? For a sheep station, or not?

Geese cheering Michelle at StromloGeese cheering on Michelle at Stromlo — green grass and humid clouds

25 Comments:

Blogger Andrew(ajh) said...

I have run two races where I pushed so hard I thought I was going to expire. The first was when I set my fastest race PB, a 4k, finishing in 16:31. It took me ages afterwards to get my breathing back properly, I thought I'd seriously done myself some damage. The second was a short while after that, my first ever 5k race. At about the 4km mark I stopped and threw up my breakfast, and continued on to record a 24:03. This probably would have been closer to 22 without the spew stop.

These were both in 2008, since then injuries, and common sense have slowed me down a bit.

7:13 pm  
Blogger Luckylegs said...

Your dad was right! Definitely not for a sheep station and after this morning's horrible long run, I wouldn't even try to keep up with the sheep!

7:15 pm  
Blogger Scott Brown said...

I don't reckon I put in a full effort when racing. Always think I could have done a bit more, but like you Ewen I prefer to get a good time based on a build up and fitness. I don't really want to leave everthing on the road, like Andrew(ajh).

I've heard many elites say that their fastest time was done with relative ease and some have said they were never the same runner after an "all out effort"!

I suppose we have to try one once but too often at it will shorten your running life as "Noakes" theorises.

8:01 pm  
Blogger Jog Blog said...

Thanks for your support out there yesterday Ewen. It was great to have you and Ruth et al cheering us on. As for red lining it, if a race means a lot to me then I try to run as close to the line as I can without losing it. But I think some things that are out of a runner's control can tip them over the line unwittingly, and yesterday the humidity was a big factor for all of us. May be that is what got the better of Cathy?

8:41 pm  
Blogger Black Knight said...

Too many times I have run with a too fast final rush and this is not wise (talking for myself of course). I mean the last 3/4 km.
About the tests, I never did them but I notice that if my pace during the workouts is 5.50/km. I succeed in running a sub 50' 10 km.

9:52 pm  
OpenID canute1 said...

Most of my best performances have been based on solid preparation rather than an utterly exhausting effort during the race. I have rarely finished with a fast time after struggling at any stage before the final few hundred metres. I definitely do not attempt to imitate Prefontaine.

Nonetheless, my competitive streak me encourages me to throw everything into the final 400m, but I believe that maximum effort over a relatively short period probably does little damage.

12:40 am  
Blogger trailblazer777 said...

The hill reps sound good. Hope the pace per K comes down soon. speed drills might be handy too. Your sheep station quote reminds me of a quote I remembered from my Dad today while running hill reps; its a golfing analogy; "dont try to hit the cover off the ball just let the club do the work", or my racewalking coach; "work yourself into it not out of it". I admire PRE for sure. Yeah I would try and give my all in some training sessions, and in some races. Especially races. depends on the occasion, how motivated I am for the race, and so on. The heart sets the pace, and the mind can be a powerful thing. I know I got the staggers at the end of that 1500m in Australian Masters last year, didn't die wondering. IMO if you are not kicking to the finishline to some degree you are missing out a lot. PRE race tactics are not the wisest thing to do all the time. But I won my first medal at state little athletics with PREish tactics, and used them many times successfully over the last 2 decades.
i think there are times when you should go all out, and times when you should hold back. That said, different people thrive on different approaches. I race best when I have an aggressive mindset. I also train best that way. I dont do that all the time though, and I do attemnpt to be tactical at times.
attacking races and training is a big part of the fun I like the intensity the buzz of high intensity...Others may not function well that way...injury is a big risk when you go hard at it. Unless the weather conditions are extreme or you dont get enough drinks, its pretty hard to do real physical damage to yourself. the alternative is just being soft in my opinion, and if people are happy with that then may they enjoy that, but some of us are not happy with that...
all the best with progress in the coming weeks even if its not for sheep stations

1:50 am  
Blogger RICK'S RUNNING said...

There is a good interview with Tim Noakes on Marathon Talk from last year, he goes into some of what you talk about in your post.
He reckons you need one session a week that pushes your pain limit back a little.
I think the hill efforts sound a good idea.
i think that if you push to hard in a race and have a bad experience the central governor can reset to a lower level the next race.
Maybe the key is to negative split in your races, pushing harder in the closing miles!

2:21 am  
OpenID sweatykid said...

I too have had a few scares, and I imagine pushing myself to that point in every race would, in short order, drain the joy out of the racing experience.

Very interesting point Scott Brown made in your comments, about elites not feeling like the same runner after an all-out effort. I agree with that... it changes your entire mindset, your expectations.

Like you, I prefer instead to be extremely well-prepared... so that racing is the "easy" part, if that makes sense. And yes, on some days you might have race where you "race out of your mind" and get to the point of wobbliness, but I have learned not to aim for that or expect it...

5:49 am  
Blogger Thomas said...

I only had two races where I could say with absolute certainty that I had left absolutely everything I had on the course. Both of them 5Ks.

I tend to start conservatively, which has the added side effect that I keep overtaking people in the second half of the race. This works well - only twice did I wilt an falter before the end but there have been occasions when I knew I could and should have run faster.

7:11 am  
Blogger TokyoRacer said...

No, I have never pushed myself to the point of collapse, and like you, I don't think it's possible - for me and for most runners. If a runner collapses I think the main cause would be heat/humidity, and in some cases, lack of training. Like Scott, I think with proper training you can run a maximum effort without collapsing. You "sprint" for the finish, give it "all you have", but one step beyond the line your body is already starting to recover.

10:46 am  
Blogger Girl In Motion said...

Well, you know this question hits home, right between the eyes. After a couple "crossing the line" efforts (3 if I count the first in 2008), I'll no longer push that hard again. Difficult to know where the line is drawn and sometimes I feel I'm drawing that line too easily now, but until I get confident of no evil surprises, it's how it has to be.

11:30 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks all for your great comments. Good value there - I've been enjoying reading them.

Andrew, with a good preparation (more running, less cycling?) I'm sure you can beat those PBs with no unscheduled pit-stops.

Thanks LLs. Your sheep will be slower in winter with a full coat of wool ;)

Scott, I tend to agree. Gabriela Andersen-Schiess after the '84 Olympics for example.

Liz, I agree about weather conditions being responsible for tipping runners over the edge. The humidity made the heat stress level quite high yesterday. I saw a boy collapse during the junior trials race for the World CC Champs and the conditions were similar that day.

Stefano, thanks. We are similar in race times so it's interesting to compare training notes.

Canute, I suspected your best races would be like that. And I recall your duel with the pony-tailed female in your recent half marathon which came down to the final 400m.

Jonathon, I love that quote from your Dad about not hitting the cover off the ball and letting the club do the work. I wonder how you'd race if you saved the aggressive mindset until the second half of a 5k?

Rick, I think that's what Marius would advise - trying to negative split races.

SK, interesting about your experiences and racing philosophy. That's the Kenyan way too - "train hard, win easy" - it does make sense. Then anticipating a race is a joy and not a dread.

Thomas, interesting about your 5k races. Hope the conservative approach does the trick for your sub-3 attempt, although it'd be exciting if you ran the last mile in 5:45 to get a sub-2:55.

Bob, that's interesting. I think deceptive warmth and high humidity was a factor on Saturday, plus a highly motivated athlete who was leading the race at the 2/3 mark.

Flo, I was thinking of you when I wrote this post. I'm sure you can run 'easy' PBs. Nothing wrong with that. Take care with that dodgy Philly weather!

4:00 pm  
Blogger Grellan said...

Plenty food for thought there Ewen. I can recall 2 races where I was wobbly at the end. The first, a marthon in 2007 doesn't count as it was purely a fuelling error (not enough) but the 2nd, a 5k in 2008, had me wobbling all over the place from 400m out as I had went out hard from the gun and while I felt great for the first 4.6k those last 400m were hell and I had to hit the deck after crossing the line - still got a PB though.

Is there a basis for your 5:20/km MAF target?

7:39 pm  
Blogger Jason said...

I think a true "all out effort" falls into the risk versus reward area. There is a lot o truth in the saying "you only get to know your limits when you go past them." Add some experience and you may be able to more accurately identify when you are close to your limit.

What that risk versus reward is will depend on the type of event, your fitness and health status plus the conditions. Personally I have gone too far a number of times, the result have included a DNF in IMoz with an ambulance trip, other times have been a significant tear to a quad muscle, extended time and treatment in the medical tent, plus more commonly just simply running of the ability to keep up the pace and slowing down during the race to a ridiculous degree. The reward side has been when I get it right, I have got some results well above what all the charts and my genetics or physiology testing say I should do. But most importantly it give that feeling you have got everything possible out of yourself for that event. That feeling can't be beaten.

I will say as I get older it gets harder to get close to the limit. Maybe there is natural self preservation built in. Or as Scott Tinley once stated, "every time you compete you take a little bit out of the well until one day the well is empty."

9:12 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Grellan, that's a tough way to run a 5k PB. The 5:20/km target (from previous experience) means if I were to race a 5k I'd run about 22 minutes. I want to be at that aerobic fitness level before doing interval-type speedwork.

Jason, great comment. Running beyond what physiology testing says is possible is a scary thought, but as you say, an amazing feeling if you can do it. Great quote from Tinley too. Thanks.

8:41 pm  
Blogger Jaymee said...

Okay, am I the only one who doesn't get the sheep station saying? Must be an Aussie thing:)

I'm with you Ewen. No need to push to the limit like that. My best races have always been in the category I would term as "relatively easy". That hasn't stopped me from beating myself up sufficiently about not pushing hard enough in races though.

4:19 pm  
Blogger rinusrunning said...

Dit your dad told you you va do the 5:20 goal!...
You can do it end can you sned some hot wether to holland!...

9:59 am  
Blogger Bill Carter said...

Hi Ewen.

As always, I look forward to reading your insights and thought provoking posts. I have to my recollection run 2 all out, running within inches of death, races. My first was my PR marathon where I paced pretty evenly well throughout and had enough left to run all out for probably the last kilometer. Brutal! The second was one of my best 5k races where I felt strong enough to run fairly fast (for me) for the whole race. I actually feel like I am willing to make the sacrifice (endure the pain if you will) if I know I am having a good race and will post a good time. I do agree that when you push that hard it does stay with you a while and the recovery is that much slower. It has to be worth it to take on such a burden of pain and recovery that will not be forgotten any time soon.
Take care Ewen and best of luck with the training!

2:36 am  
Anonymous Robert James Reese said...

I worry about pushing too hard sometimes. I often get dizzy and lightheaded at the end of a race and fear collapsing, especially the marathon. It's a scary sensation to not be in control.

10:41 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Jaymee, I forgive you - it is an Aussie thing. The US equivalent would be a large cattle ranch. Australia's wealth was built "on the sheep's back". Coming from an accomplished runner such as yourself, it's good to know your best races were done with relative ease.

Rinus, thanks! But we'll keep our hot weather for a while - 27C or so today is beautiful :)

Thanks Bill. Interesting about those races. I'm with you on "enduring the pain" and making the sacrifice in particular goal-type races, but what I worry about is pushing that hard when heat and humidity is on the high side. For example, like that year of the Chicago Marathon when they stopped the race (for slower runners) because of the heat.

Robert, agree with that, although I haven't pushed to that extent for many years. Even when I was running PBs the races were like Jaymee's (relatively easy) - such that I always thought I could run faster.

4:34 pm  
Blogger Scott Brown said...

Are you through sheering those sheep old fella?

How about another blog post?

6:44 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Yes young man. The sheep are shorn. Katherine (one of the Speedygeese) said I should be running for a winery.

Your wife told me you perform well under pressure (when racing). I perform well with inspiration ;) I have an idea - hopefully tomorrow I'll get a few hours away from the chain gang to get on the typewriter.

9:00 pm  
Blogger Sling Runner said...

I never have the guts to put in a full effort in races, which I admit is my weakness. I have tried both the mental (e.g positive affirmation etc) and physical stuffs (e.g race pace training) but still unable to handle racing discomfort.

2:44 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Sling, I don't think that's the worst weakness a runner might possess. One can still run great races and PBs without "doing a Yuki Kawauchi."

Scott, I had a long slog at work today so didn't get time to write the promised blog post - hopefully tomorrow afternoon.

9:04 pm  

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