Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The RunACT Stromlo 5k Road Race

It's been a while! There wasn't much to report during the final two months of 2020. I was happy to be able to run consistently throughout the year, averaging 49 kilometres per week. My goal for the year was to break 25 minutes in a 5k race, so a fail there — my fastest 5k was back in July, 25:38 for the Runners Shop race.

For 2021 my goal remains the same, under 25 minutes for a 5k race. In my current form, that seems quite a difficult goal! The first test was at the RunACT Stromlo 5k Road Race, held last Saturday evening. The course was 5 laps of a 'AA-Certified' accurate 1k loop on the smooth bitumen of the criterium circuit. It was a relatively flat course, just a short rise into the U-turn at the northern end of the course.

I started out at what I estimated was 5-minute per km pace — my 'opposition' (Jimmy and Zoe), not far ahead. My first lap, in retrospect, was too fast for my fitness level, 4:57. I was already slowing, but still going fast enough to pass Jim and gradually catch Zoe. I moved ahead going into the third lap (5:09 for the second) but it was feeling hard already, far too early! There were around 65 runners in the race and there were a couple I slowly pulled in during the third lap (5:19). For the last two laps I tried to maintain pace but was getting slower, eventually crossing the line in 52nd (5:29 and 5:20) for a time of 26:14. A long way from 25 minutes, but I'm looking forward to the challenge of chipping away at that time during the course of 2021. I hope you are all well, and looking forward to more running events than were available last year.

Start of the Community 5k race at Stromlo, myself in yellow, Jim in blue singlet

Thursday, October 08, 2020

The Easy Interval Method

Back in July of 2017 I wrote a blog post about my discovery of the Verheul method of training for running, following up with further posts about my experiences training this way. Last Christmas I received a book — Easy Interval Method by Klaas Lok (one of Verheul's original pupils). I was excited to read the book and find out if I'd been doing Verheul training correctly back in 2017.

The book has many examples of runners who improved and ran successfully using the Easy Interval Method, from 'average' club runners to Olympic and World Champions. An example of the former is Bertrand Maas who improved his 10k from 52 minutes to 44:21 and half marathon from 2 hours to 1:47 — of the latter there is Faith Kipyegon (gold in the 1500m at Rio) and Geoffrey Kirui (26:55 10k and World Marathon Champion in 2017), both coached by Piet de Peuter in Kenya. There are examples of Masters runners such as John van der Wansem who switched from high mileage (Lydiard style) training to the Easy Interval Method at the age of 35. John ran 14:21.6 for 5000m as a 40+ runner and 31:49 for 10k at the age of 51.

For ACT Masters runners, track racing has commenced again (there have been no Covid-19 cases in the ACT for a number of weeks). Last Thursday night I ran the 3000m with no expectations besides putting in a solid effort. I found myself racing Roger and Thea in the early laps. After 1k I passed Rog and tried to keep the gap to Helen ahead from growing larger. This was a successful strategy and I placed 10th in 14:52.16, with Helen running 14:36.58. The winner (M30) Adrian ran 9:22! I will continue to race on the track for the remainder of 2020 with perhaps a parkrun 5k if we get started again (Tasmania is starting on October 17 so it's likely we won't be far behind).

Easy Interval Method book by Klaas Lok (available on Amazon)

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The ball is still rolling

 Is anybody out there? The title for this blog post comes from the coaching philosophy of Tom 'Tinman' Schwartz. Tom tells a story about building a snowman as a boy and rolling a ball of snow for the base of the snowman. His mum calls him in for lunch; he returns and is disappointed that his ball won't budge from the frozen ground. The first 'rule' of good distance running training is to 'keep the ball rolling' — avoid superman workouts that might leave you too sore to complete the following day's training. Build day upon day, week upon week, year upon year and your running will improve. Interruptions from injury and illness will be minimized.
My ball of snow has been carefully rolling since the hamstring injury which followed the City to Surf last August. Weekly distance has been hovering between 50 and 60 kilometres. Races have been few and far between with large fun runs cancelled although there are plenty of local events (limited to 100 starters at the moment). No parkrun 5k runs which is a bit sad.
The racing goal this year is to run as much under 25 minutes for 5k as I can. The one 5k I've raced was the YCRC Runners Shop 5k (road) on 18 July, finishing 50th in 25:38. The field was composed of mainly fast juniors (the winning times were 14:52 and 18:32). I was running alone very early on, with Speedygeoff disappearing in the distance to run a good 24:12 at the age of 72. It looks like parkruns won't start up again until next year so my 5k races will be on the track from October or on the road at the weekly 5k Customs Joggers run. I hope you are all well — I'll catch up on blog reading over the coming weeks.

Geoff with some of the lunchtime Speedygeese runners

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Injury and fitness recovery

Dear readers, I'm sorry for not producing a blog post since the City to Surf back in August! I suffered a hamstring injury (strain) shortly after that race, I think due to a combination of running that event off inadequate training, and sprinting at the end of a handicap run in the week following City to Surf (inadequate recovery). I eventually rested from running during September, substituting brisk walking and cycling, then resumed running at the beginning of October.

I started with light Verheul intervals, running with walking recoveries with a first continuous run of 3k on the treadmill on 6 October (5:55/km pace). My first 5k was on 11 October, 30:32 at an average heart-rate of 140. So slow, so hard! It was sobering how unfit I'd become. On 19 October I ran 28:17 for the Tuggeranong Parkrun at an average heart-rate of 144, so an improvement in speed but a very high heart-rate (my recent recorded maximum is 160). Prior to the injury, on 20 July, I raced 5k in 24:51 at an average heart-rate of 145. My last full effort race was in the Canberra Times 5k on 10 November (a hilly course), running 27:42 at an average heart-rate of 144. My fitness is returning, but very slowly.

My strategy for regaining fitness is to build mileage to 60 kilometres per week (or a little more), with adequate easy/rest days, and most of that running being low heart-rate (very easy, HR 125 or less for me), easy Verheul intervals, and short races (2k to 5k) being the only 'hard' running for the time being. My weekly mileage has progressed since the beginning of October: 23k, 29k, 31k, 33k, 41k, 50k and approximately 60k this past week. So far, so good! I hope you're all doing well and looking forward to good running and racing in 2020, year of the Tokyo Olympics!
Traditional ice-cream follows the Lake Stakes lunch run

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