Saturday, August 27, 2005

A good student

About eight years ago my athletics club was looking for more coaches. They offered to pay the course fee which was about $100. I said to myself "why not, I might learn something" and after two weekends of lectures and practical demonstrations at the AIS track I became a Level 1 coach in the very general field of 'endurance and walks'.

Prior to this I had been training with Mike Sainsbury's Calwell group for a couple of years. This was (and still is) a group of mainly teenage middle distance and cross country runners with the odd adult like Marlene, Codger and now Karen and Kathy. I've been down at Calwell almost every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon ever since. I know every pothole, blade of grass and crooked line-marking on that 400m track.

In my early days at Calwell I was keen to find some of my old running form after being side-tracked for a while by triathlons. It's not easy to enjoy triathlons when you swim like a brick. My running form returned and at the end of 1997 I ran 4:58 for 1500m and 10:53 for 3000m. I know these are pedestrian times but at my best I could only run just under 10 minutes for 3000m.

After 1997 I became less interested in my own running. It was more exciting to watch the kids training and see how they improved over the months and years. Often they would start as awkward looking beginners who couldn't run out of sight on a dark night and progress to winning medals at state and national championships. This was exciting!

These days I'm still down at Calwell on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Usually I chat to Mike about the kids' training and might have a run with Karen (if it's not raining in Curtin - she has an aversion to running in the rain). I'm too slow to keep up with even the youngest runner on the track. I think Mike puts up with me as 'assistant coach' as I'm the only one who laughs at his eccentric jokes and brilliant puns. The kids just roll their eyes, turn around and walk away. We have an on-going joke about who was the last person to mow and rake the track and did they use a push-mower or nail scissors which the kids don't think is even slightly funny. I also know off-by-heart every inspirational speech Mike has ever made to the kids. If one's called for I'll say "how about trying number 47".

Over the years you see many runners come and go. There have been the sublimely physically talented runners who, sadly, haven't got it 'in the head'. There have been the beautifully smooth naturals who retire at 18 to take on an apprenticeship. There have been the moderately quick runners who win national medals through simple hard work and determination - the good students. It's exciting to see kids learn how to run and improve to the point where they can compete well at state or national level. Although it's sad to see some of them stop for whatever reason, you hope they've learned a love of running that might see them return to it later in life.

I've recently written a training plan for Luckylegs. She would like to improve her speed at distances up to the half marathon. Writing this plan hasn't been an easy thing to do. How do runners who are somewhat older than fifty respond to different methods of training? I don't know (but, through feedback, I'm learning). From personal experience I know that older runners don't recover from training sessions as fast as younger runners. I also know that 'speed' needs to be practised or the body forgets how to run fast.

For Luckylegs I've started with a fairly conservative program. There are two hard sessions per week. One is a time trial over 2km or 3km. I've decided to use this as an introduction to speedwork as it's less likely to cause injuries than interval training. The other hard session is either a long run or a medium long run which includes a faster paced section (around half marathon pace or a bit slower). We'll see how it all works in two week's time!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

My 22nd Sydney City to Surf

Sunday August 14 was a typically spectacular day for the 35th running of the City to Surf. This was my 22nd, although not in a row. In 1981 I had a knee injury, in 1982 I was 'out on the highway', in 1993 my foot was badly bruised after hitting a kangaroo on my motorcycle and in 1998 I was visiting Oregon with Gordon and Maggie.

This year Gordon offered me a lift to Sydney as he had to collect some plans and discs at Girraween and also wanted to give the mother-in-law's car a run. We stayed with Bruce in Artarmon and went for a walk down to the park on Friday afternoon. Late on Saturday afternoon we caught up with Andrew Shaw in at The Rocks. Andrew is a very talented runner who was recently training in Cairns with triathlete Simon Thompson. Unfortunately a calf injury meant that Andrew would miss the City to Surf.

On Sunday morning we found a parking spot near the Domain. I introduced Gordon to 'The Legend'. Keith was in high spirits and we chatted about races, training, the form of 'Fast Kath' who was doing the Sydney Marathon and some battles with Geoff Moore in recent Canberra Times Fun Runs.

Just after 9am I jogged with Gordon over to the start and left him in the 'A2' group while I joined the 'A1' group. This is the first time since 1994 (when I ran with Dad) that I didn't try and get close to the front. I talked to Rae Palmer and a girl from South Africa who was doing her first City to Surf.

Liz Ellis fired the gun at 9.30 and we were off! I started my watch at the gun and Forerunner Man when I got to the starting line which only took 25 seconds. The new grouping system worked amazingly well. I stayed over near the right hand gutter and had a reasonably clear run although we all came to a brief stop at the far side of the Kings Cross Tunnel where three lanes had been reduced to two. My first 1.2k to the far side of the tunnel was at 5:02/km pace which wasn't too bad.

Forerunner Man said the blue line to Bondi was 14.1km

The 5km mark at O'Sullivan Road came up in 24:10, just over 2 minutes slower than last year when I ran with Tanja and started with Jim White near the front row. I caught my cousin Don at the start of Heartbreak Hill. The kilometre to the top took 5:49. The Nike Frees were feeling really good and I reached the 7k clock in 35:14. My left hammy had been feeling bothersome but now I was confident of finishing so I stretched out a bit along the top.

Finally, down that beautiful hill with the sparkling Pacific Ocean in the distance. Along Campbell Parade, around the corner and a bit of a 'sprint' to the timing clocks. 66:35 was a bit ordinary as I'd been hoping to run 62 minutes but how could I feel disappointed on such a corker of a day? After the finish I had a brief chat to Aki (74:40) and Tesso (63:30). Then I bumped into cousin Don (70:22) and eventually found Gordon (64:21).

We walked up to the buses and arrived back at the Domain with the parking meter expired by 35 minutes but no ticket! Must have been our lucky day. It sure was. It was one of those days you felt privileged to be a runner and sharing the experience with 50,000 others. What made it even more special after I arrived home was a lovely email from Luckylegs who'd had the "very best time (of my life, not of the clock!) of any of my 17 C2S!!"

See you all again in 2006!

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Legend's contagious enthusiasm

I first met Keith Mayhew when I joined the Pennant Hills group for a light run a week before the 1997 City to Surf. He was excited! He chatted away continuously about the upcoming race [he would run 53:34], rivals he was aiming to beat and the old days. For Keith, the 'old days' happened a long time ago. He ran in the first ever City to Surf and is one of a handful of people who have completed every run.

Keith is a very accomplished distance runner with a City to Surf PB under 44 minutes for the 14 kilometre run. This year I ran with Keith and the Pennant Hills group before the Gold Coast Half Marathon. He was his same enthusiastic self, full of beans and excited about his goal of the 'Big Triple' in 2005. The 'Big Triple' is a sub-90 half marathon, a sub-40 10k and a sub-60 City to Surf. These are very respectable times, especially for a bloke who is 64 years old.

He didn't make the sub-90 at the Gold Coast but he's in great form and a sub-60 on Sunday looks very likely. When we were running through the bush at Pennant Hills I asked him once again about the 'old days'. He told me many stories. Like how John Andrews, on a training run, blew everyone away up the last big hill at Pennant Hills. The time when he ran an 'A-grade' 3000m at Bruce Stadium with Andrew Lloyd and Rob de Castella in the field and battled with a Canberra runner for second last place in 8:57.

I asked Keith how he trained back in the old days. Did he run twice a day? "I tried that but it was too much time away from home. I usually ran 20 kilometres through the bush every morning before work. On Saturday there'd be a cross country or track race. On Sunday it would be a 20 miler with another 10k in the afternoon." Along with his very impressive City to Surf results Keith was also an excellent track runner with PBs of 8:28 for 3000 metres and 30:19 for 10,000 metres.

All the best on Sunday Keith! Your enthusiasm is contagious and your lifetime of running and racing is a great inspiration.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Running to school - first report card

I've been trying to emulate Eliud for 5 weeks now so I thought I'd 'act the teacher' and write up a report card. Here it is:

Attendance - 7/10 [planned to run to and from 'school' 4 days out of 5 but didn't quite make it]
Creativity - 9/10 [found a number of different courses ranging from 6.7 to 10.3 kilometres and varying from 20 to 100% bitumen]
Neatness - 6/10 [my running form varied from a creaky, tired shuffle to a half decent impersonation of a runner]
Attentiveness - 5/10 [found out you can run with one eye shut but that is not the best way to catch up on missed sleep]
Efficiency - 8/10 [early days but I think my race at Goorooyarroo indicated a positive effect on my fitness]
Enjoyment - 7/10 [there is a unique satisfaction to be had from running to get somewhere rather than just running to 'train', although some of my runs home were very ugly shuffles counting down the minutes to when I could collapse on the couch]

Overall - 70%.
This week I'll make some changes. The runs 'home from school' have been quite tough because they happen after running 7 or 8 kilometres in the morning followed by reasonably physical work for 8 to 9 hours. Here is my plan for this week... Monday, bike to school, Action bus home, run at Parliament House. Tuesday, run to school, run home if I feel okay or else Action bus. Wednesday, run to school, run home. Thursday, run to school, run home if I feel okay or else Action bus. Friday, run at Lane Cove in the afternoon. Saturday, not much. Sunday, City to Surf!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Emma Murray: Fastest Enigma in the South

I was listening to ABC 666 radio last Monday morning. Tim Gavel was chatting about the weekend's sport. I was hoping for something memorable like 'Queanbeyan's Mark Webber has won the German Grand Prix' or 'Grant Hackett has broken Ian Thorpe's 800 metre world record'.

What Tim said made me stop work and listen: "... and in France, Canberra's Emma Murray has won the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships". Wow! How brilliant is that! "By 18 minutes from Austria's Marion Kapuscinski". Eighteen minutes. It's the Six Foot Track all over again, but this is the World Championship!

I found out later in the day that Emma had defeated some very well credentialed athletes. Such as Isabelle Guillot who has been World Mountain Running Champion on four occasions and Chantal Dallenbach, the French marathon record holder with 2:28:27 in 2002. That same year Dallenbach also ran 32:51 for 10km and 71:33 for the half marathon.

Emma is the definitive 'unknown runner' who has stunned the world's best mountain runners on one of the toughest courses in the French Pyrenees. The Marathon du Vignemale climbed 2000 metres over the first 21 kilometres. For those who have run the Six Foot Track that's over twice the climb from the Cox's River to the Pluviometer but on a very rocky track rather than a smooth dirt road.

Emma has no traditional running background such as cross country runs, track races or fun runs. She was a bush walker who developed into an orienteer and 6/12/24 hour rogainer. She only joined an athletics club this year. The first 'traditional' race I remember her doing was the 2004 Brindabella Classic which she won easily at an average pace of 5 minutes per kilometre. After that performance I predicted Emma would win the 2005 Six Foot Track 45km Marathon with 'daylight' coming second. This happened.

I was thinking about Emma's amazing performance again on Saturday when I was running up the only significant hill on the Bush Capital 16km bush run. This hill climbed a meagre 152 metres over 3 kilometres. I even walked a couple of times on the steep rocky parts. If this hill had climbed to twice that height it would have been the same grade as on the Marathon du Vignemale. Then you would have to keep on going for another 18 kilometres! It makes me tired just thinking about it.