Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Year of Milk and Roses

Christmas this year was at Wagga Wagga – the town so nice they named it twice! It's also the town where I started running 27 years ago. This time I didn't run as my foot was complaining following the track session I did the previous Thursday.

I've been thinking about what happened in 2006. My racing wasn't good. In fact, it was impressively worse than the bad 2005. I had just 18 races – the best one a low-key 5k, finishing 46th in 22:30. There is more to racing than a finishing time, so there were some races that, with the wisdom of hindsight, were satisfying.

After an eternity of walking, I was very pleased to receive another finisher's medal (sub-7 hours) at the Six Foot Track. The Nail Can Hill Run was great fun on a mud-covered course in miserable weather. I was relieved to run fast enough in the Sydney City to Surf to retain an 'A1' start for next year, despite tearing my calf muscle in a finishing sprint, which triggered an endless string of clever cow puns on the blog.

Running is very much a 'now thing', and as of now, I'm quite excited. I'm able to run and also do the type of running I like - the long slow bush runs, the faster shorter runs and the grass track intervals in the Frees. I'm looking forward to more track racing in January and February.

2006 was also about my trip to America and Canada. This provided a rare chance to see, and run through, some stunning landscapes - Lone Pine, near the Sierra Nevada mountains, Stanley Park in Vancouver and the beach at San Francisco to name a few. This year was also about trying to help other runners, seeing them do well or deal with the lows of being injured. Good luck to you all in 2007. Finally, a sincere thanks to those who have read the blog and/or left comments during the past year. To those I haven't met, I hope we can have a run together one day.

Monday, December 11, 2006

In a league of their own

3 foot track training
Back in May I wrote down my training plan for the 5000 metres. I put this plan aside during my trip to America, returning with a sliding base of training and looking alarmingly like Morgan Spurlok's twin brother.

Then came the Don Juanesque calf tear in the City to Surf which kept me grazing in the back paddock until the cows came home. Finally, I'm back to regular training and starting to 'learn how to run faster'. Looking over my plan from May, I notice an omission, which was pointed out by 2P, even though Kathy considered I had 'enough endurance'.

I didn't include a regular long run in my plan (the longest was 60 minutes). I know I've benefited from long runs in the past, and reading the thoughts of Nic Bideau on middle distance training has reminded me of this. So, I've returned to doing long runs with the Molonglo group.

Last Saturday, I found myself following Steve, John, Chris, CJ and Carol up Mount Ainslie. This group is training for the Six Foot Track race in March. They are all much faster than myself. Steve has finished 9 Six Foots and hopes to once again run under four and a half hours. Steve, John and CJ edged ahead as we ran and walked (with me mainly walking) up the gnarly 'Trent's Grave' hill.

They were very kind to wait at various points until, after 13km, my 'shortcut' arrived at Majura Pines. "Thank goodness for that!" I thought. Steve, John and CJ continued on for a total of 3 hours 45 minutes. I was more than happy to take the cowardly way back to the river, missing out on two mountains and 1 hour 10 minutes of pain. 24 kilometres was more than enough for this wombat!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

How to run faster

In a response to my last post, Hilda asked me to reveal the secret to finding the 89 seconds. The following plan depends on being able to keep the calf grazing happily.

For the last month my training has been generally aerobic in nature, running an average of 64 kilometres per week. I've done a few 'Slow Race Tests' which have shown a trend of improving fitness. My times for these 3 kilometre tests have been 16:57, 16:51, 17:01, 16:35 and 16:17.

I want to increase my weekly kilometres to about 70 while working on improving my speed. It's quite amazing how you forget how to run fast if you don't practise this movement. I can't run at a decent pace in longer intervals yet, so I'm going to run 200 metre repeats. Last Tuesday I ran eight of these at an average speed of 43.2 seconds. This speed is equivalent to 3:36 per kilometre.

I'm hoping to bring my speed for the 200s down to 40 seconds, before increasing the distance to 300 metres. Then I'll add another session of longer intervals - 500 to 1000 metres. The speedy shorter repeats should enable my legs to run the longer intervals at a decent pace – hopefully about 1:50 for the 500s and 4 minutes for the 1000s.

Clairie asked how I ran my recent 13:28 3000 metre race. Did I run consistently or were some laps slow? I only timed the kilometres, and they did get slower – 4:21, 4:32 and 4:35. Even-lap pacing is definitely the best way to run all but the last one or two laps of 5k and 10k track races. With a 3k, it's possible to run less evenly and still run well, although it does help if the last km is speeding up and not slowing down, like my sad 4:35 from last week.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

89 seconds

I've just finished my first Interclub 3000 metre race for the season. I ran about what I expected – 13:28.37. It was a pretty lonely run. I started in last place and had this position well and truly secured after less than 100 metres! I was lapped by the entire field and twice by the leaders. The winner was Kale Symons, an under-20 Victorian who ran 9:05.

I need to find 89 seconds before March if I'm to run under 12 minutes for 3000 metres. I've taken a few positives from the race. These are simple facts to remind me what happened, as I hate making excuses... It was a warm and windy day, so conditions were less than ideal. I didn't bother with light shoes, so there's a bit of time there. I only started speedwork this week. I ran for 1 hour 46 minutes yesterday morning which I wouldn't normally do the day before a race.

In the comments on my last post, Tesso asked about my best 1k time. I rarely raced 1000m, so my good 1k times were run in training. 1000 metre repeats on the track were a common session we ran in the late 80s and early 90s. I can remember running 3:06 during a set of 3 x 1000m. On November 8, 1990 I was training with Speedygeoff's group on the 400m grass track at Bruce Tafe College (now Raiders HQ). I wrote in the diary: "4 x 1000m in 3:10, 3:16, 3:09, 3:15. 800m slow recovery jog in 5:54. Steady, felt good, chasing Robert Ey. Cooler, track good." If I can do a similar session, with 45 seconds added to the times, I'll be confident of achieving the 3000m goal.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

How did I do that?

The running has been going well since I last blogged. No mooing at all from the calf, which has been a great boost for the confidence. I've managed two Saturday long runs with Steve's very sociable 6' group – 18.2 and 18.7k. In the first, I used the 2P 'distance extender' to good effect. In the second, I struggled on Mt Majura and Trent's Hill, but didn't mind as it was simply the most perfect morning for running.

On Thursday I did another 'Slow Race Test' for a slightly better result than the previous week – 16:51 for 3000m. I received an SMS from an excited Luckylegs yesterday morning after her good 1500 metre time trial. This news, and watching competition at ACT Interclub on Saturday afternoon, has inspired me to soon resume track racing.

I looked through my training diary from 1987. This was the year I ran regular track races on Thursday evenings at Hensley Athletic Field. I started on March 19 with a 3000m in 10:27. Thereafter, I had a goal of running under 10 minutes. The 3000s were held approximately every second week and my times progressed like this: 10:18, 10:16, 10:09, 10:15 and 9:56.5 on 11 June (which remains my 3k PB).

Training diaries from two decades ago can be quite sobering. I look at the sessions and wonder how I did them. I have the same wonder at times when watching the athletes who train at Calwell - especially the very young and 'slightly older' ones. The week of my 3000m PB went like this:
Sunday - 14k, first 10k a race in 37:12. Monday - 4x90m ave 13.7 + 2x200m ave 27.9. Tuesday - 15k at Lane Cove Park including 9.7 to top gate and back in 42:09. Wednesday - 7k easy jog through Chatswood west. Thursday - 3000m race in 9:56.5 (3:17, 3:23, 3:16.5). Friday - Lane Cove Park 9.7k easy in 43:45. Saturday - 5k including 5x300m Chatswood grass track, average 50.8.

These days I don't even contemplate training like that. It does however, reinforce the need for some 'speedwork' as well as some 'good' aerobic running if I'm ever to get near my current goal of running under 12:00 for 3000 metres.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Slow Race Test

I'm excited! Since my 'gift run' on October 21, the renegade calf has been well behaved. Some readers, such as 2P, DJ and Tesso might even suggest it has been corralled. Last week I ran 42 kilometres, a rule-breaking increase in volume of 35% over the previous week.

Reading the blogs of Robert Song and Steve L has given me an idea for a fitness test. I'm calling it the 'Slow Race Test'. My usual way of testing fitness is to run as fast as possible in a 3 to 5k race. My Slow Race Test is to run a set distance (I've decided on 3000 metres) at a set average heart-rate and time how long it takes to complete the distance.

I've chosen a heart-rate of 138, which for me, is about 84% of my 165 maximum. It's easy, controllable running for speed and heart-rate. If you decided to try it, you'll need a flat course and 'normal' weather with no wind. It takes me 400 metres or so to gradually accelerate the heart-rate up to 138.

I did this test on October 12 for a 3000m time of 18:16. I repeated the test today in 16:57, which shows an improvement in cardiovascular fitness. I think it's a useful test, as it can be done at any time during the week (even on an easy day) and is less stressful than racing. Eventually I want to do the test during the week of a 'fast race' (if that ever happens), so I'll have an SRT time that indicates possible good racing form.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Gift of a Run

I was particularly nervous before running last Saturday afternoon. It wasn't the edgy 'fear of impending pain' nervousness that strikes me prior to racing in the D-grade 800 metres at Interclub. It was just the 'running could make my injury worse' kind of nervousness.

I thought my calf was on the mend. On Wednesday I ran 11.7k with Chris, pushing at times to keep up with his occasional 5:40 kilometres. The calf was fine during the run, but I was devastated to find myself walking around like John Cleese for the next two days. On Saturday there was still a little tenderness happening, so I debated with myself the merits of trying to run, or settling for a mountain bike ride. Finally, I laced up the Brooks and shuffled, Cliffy style, down the street, with the promise that I'd stop at the first sign of pain.

I made it to the edge of Theodore. This was looking good, I thought to myself. There was a lightness in my stride as my shuffle expanded to accommodate a few 5:20 kilometres. I continued along the banks of the 'Melrose River' (actually a stormwater drain into which it flows). A small brown snake slithered from my path towards the trickling stream. I was happy to be running without pain – just the normal stress of a neglected cardiovascular system.

After covering 6 kilometres in 33:46, I was back home, very happy in the knowledge I had given myself the gift of a run. It very nearly didn't happen.

Monday, October 16, 2006

A big number

I'm very happy to be back running again after taking three days off last week due to calf soreness. I put my lameness down to an excess of enthusiasm the previous week when I ran six days out of seven.

In the two runs I did last week I managed a grand total of 15.7 kilometres. On Saturday I ran two laps of the Central Basin of Lake Burley Griffin. This is the best 'dead flat' scenic course in Canberra with about one third of the 5.1k lap being on gravel paths. The calf remained niggle-free throughout.

Before I drove to the lake I did something foolish. I jumped on the bathroom scales and was confronted by a big number – 80 kilograms. This is close to a PB for heaviness. When I had my heel injury over a decade ago I briefly made the scales struggle to 82 kilos. I know 2P will consider this nothing to worry about, but I'm feeling all this extra weight.

Although at the time, friends said I looked "in need of a feed", I'd like to approach the 71 to 73 kilos I was in my thirties. I always remember a small article in Runner's World about weight and VO2 max. It was a university study of a group of runners which came up with the result that a loss of one kilogram of excess body weight reduced the time for a 10k race by 30 seconds. Perhaps, but I think the best reason to lose some weight will be to regain that light feeling on my feet which should make running more enjoyable.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Life in the slow lane

My calf problem came back towards the end of this week. I'm hoping it's only a strain. I've run 126 kilometres during the past four weeks but I'm still a long way from being fit for racing. Then why race? I just wanted to see how bad I was. I've done two 5k races in the past two weeks, both at the Customs handicap, for times of 27:13 and 27:00. This is nowhere near a goal I had for this year of running 5000 metres in 19:59. This goal won't happen. The challenge will be to get somewhere near the 22:30 I ran back in May.

In my 27:00 Customs 5k I did feel more comfortable than the previous week. It was strange running flat out yet falling away from Bob and Colin who were jogging along having an animated conversation. My average heart-rate was 153 – a little below my usual racing heart-rate of 155 to 158. The race showed my lack of fitness. Earlier in the year I was running 4:44 per kilometre pace at this heart-rate rather than 5:24s and I wasn't fully fit.

Feeling like I do at the moment in races gives me a real appreciation for the struggles that beginning runners and novices go through. I also have a greater understanding about the long road back from injury or illness.

Many years ago there was a young runner in the group that Geoff used to coach. She had been injured and was doing her first Sunday long run for a while. We ran a course of 17 kilometres out around the Corkwood plantation and back through Stromlo forest. She kept dropping back from the group and would breathlessly catch up when we stopped for a drink or to open a gate. She was clearly out of shape but completed the run. Years later she ran in the trial for the 10,000 metres at the Sydney Olympics.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Running in circles

Thankfully my calf injury seems to be progressing well. After a worrying run on Saturday where it started to tighten up after 5k, I managed an easy 7.6k on Monday afternoon with Geoff and Alan. It was all good.

Last Monday night at Speedygeoff's group dinner the subject of running on the track came up. One of the ladies said "I don't like the track – all that running in circles. I'd rather be out on the trails". At the time, I didn't quite know what to say.

I love trail running, but I also love the track. You might have noticed that I've only listed my track PBs on this blog. They mean the most to me. Here are my ancient non-track PBs: 36:25 for 10k road, 53:33 for the 14k City to Surf, 81:38 for the half marathon, 1:48:57 for the Cotter 15 mile and 3:11:02 for the marathon.

The track PBs mean the most because I can compare my modest achievements with those of the best distance runners in the world. They've all raced on the track – Paula Radcliffe, Meseret Defar, Benita Johnson, Haile Gebrselassie and Craig Mottram. Even marathon runners such as Steve Moneghetti and Kerryn McCann. I can remember 'racing' Rob de Castella at the old Bruce Stadium many years ago in a 3000 metre event. I was lapped twice. The 400 metre tracks in Canberra or Wollongong are just as fast as the ones in Rieti or Hengelo. No two marathon courses are the same.

The other good thing about the track is how training on it can help you to run faster. A 400 metre track is a great venue for speedwork (especially if you can find a good grass one). It's nice and safe. You don't have to worry about cars, bikes, dogs or falling branches. When you arrive at the track you are thinking about doing purposeful fast training. You run exact distances and can relate the time that you've run for those distances to your race goal time.

You can do your speedwork at venues other than a track if you don't have access to a good one. A flat smooth gravel trail for instance, or a large well grassed park, or a quiet bikepath can work well – that's if you really do hate running in circles.

Friday, September 15, 2006

So Far Away

I started running again on Tuesday. I was probably more nervous before this run than when lining up for an 800 metre race at Interclub. Thankfully the calf was okay although the session was incredibly modest: 2.5 kilometres of alternating one minute jogs with one minute walks. I averaged 7:01 per kilometre, which is quite a respectable average pace for the Six Foot Track, but very slow for normal training. Nevertheless, I was extremely happy to be back running.

Since the City to Surf I've had a total of 26 days off. This is my biggest break since a bout of plantar fasciitis in the early 1990s which needed cross-training to overcome and led me to a brief, uninspired career as a triathlete. Good fun, but not what I love doing.

Coming back after such a break makes me appreciate the difficulties beginners go through when learning how to run. It's a slow process. I feel so far away from the runner I was in 2004. The funny thing is, back then I didn't realise that 42:20 for 10k is quite respectable.

I'll miss the Canberra Times Fun Run on Sunday because it clashes with the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival. I've decided not to start in the 9k Bridge Run. It's a shame, as running over the Sydney Harbour Bridge is such a buzz. I'm driving up to Sydney on Saturday, perhaps singing one more song about movin' along the highway. I'll be watching the events, which also include a half marathon and marathon, from somewhere near the finish. Good luck to all CoolRunners and bloggers!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Tell Me Baby

I'm injured. For some crazy reason I decided to sprint at the end of the City to Surf. During this frenzy I did something to my right calf. I rested it for five days and then ran. It was still sore. After another six days off I ran on two consecutive days. The next day I could hardly walk. After another seven days off I can now walk without looking like John Cleese.

I haven't been doing long runs on Saturday mornings so I sometimes watch Rage. Last week I saw this great video clip by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I thought Dani California was pretty cool, but Tell Me Baby was both inventive and stunningly familiar. The video features singers and musicians who have come to Los Angeles to try and fulfil their dreams. They are interviewed before singing and playing with the band.

It reminded me of most of us. We're never going to score the running version of a recording contract or make a living from what we love doing. That doesn't mean we aren't dedicated or don't love it as much as the Mottrams and Johnsons of this world. We get to 'play with the band' every time we run in something like the City to Surf.

The first three lines of the chorus go: "Tell me baby, what's your story; Where you come from; And where you wanna go this time". I read blogs because I'm interested in how and why people run. Some of these bloggers train as hard as those few runners who are lucky enough to fill that rare piece of road or track at the front of races. Every one of them has a story to tell.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Now I know the way to San Jose

I've been back in Australia for six weeks. During the second half of our trip I gave up on the idea of updating my blog. Various things have conspired to keep me from blogging since I've been home. One problem was the large number of photos I took - 1,723 in all. I've finally edited them down to the manageable number of 48 for viewing on this web page.

The trip had quite an affect on me. America is a beautiful country. We drove over 3,000 miles Crater Lakeafter picking up the Ford Taurus in Portland, Oregon. We arrived there travelling by bus from lovely Vancouver to Seattle then train through picturesque and green southern Washington.

We enjoyed wonderful hospitality at Joe and Deb's in Kings Valley, Oregon. Here a hugely fortuitous decision was made to drive to San Francisco via Crater Lake rather than visit the home town of Steve Prefontaine at Coos Bay on the Oregon Coast. I haven't space to describe the beauty of Crater Lake. Snow was abundant for our visit on a perfect day.

I'd received an email from Sarah with some tips on what to do on the way down to San Francisco. When we arrived at our B&B, I couldn't contact her for our planned Golden Gate Bridge bike ride due to a phone number mix-up. From San Francisco we drove south on highway 101. Fifteen miles north of San Jose we turned east on highway 84 and drove to Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite has huge rock formations and waterfalls and, as it was the holiday season, lots of tourists. The road from Yosemite over Tioga Pass at 9,945 feet had been open for just over a week after being cleared of snow. New York in Las VegasThis was a spectacular drive as was the trip south on US 395 to Lone Pine. On June 27 we drove east through the fascinating and hot Death Valley to Las Vegas.

Joy loved Las Vegas. I think she'd have happily spent the remaining 9 days of the trip right there. Instead we drove north-east travelling briefly through Utah, arriving at the Grand Canyon on July 1. We were only there for 5 hours. Our original plan was to stay at the North Rim the previous night but bushfires had closed the only road to our lodge.

I want to return to the Grand Canyon. Looking out at that vast space which had it's beginnings 20 to 30 million years ago makes you think about all the beauty in the world. The Grand CanyonTheodore Roosevelt said "keep it for your children, your children's children, and for all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see." I think every visitor to America should see The Grand Canyon.

In Flagstaff, Arizona, we stayed at a motel on Route 66. Our drive continued to San Diego through some more spectacular and varied desert landscapes. Only too soon it was time to head north. We escaped from the hectic 6-lane Interstate 5 and followed highway 101 with it's Pacific Ocean views. We passed through Carlsbad, San Clemente, Laguna Beach and Long Beach, arriving at LAX with four hours to spare before our flight home. Thanks Joy and Mal for a great trip!

Monday, June 19, 2006

LA is a great big freeway

At the Bread Cafe in Beverly Hills our waitress was Sarah, an actress from New York. She was young, bubbly and genuinely interested in the epic travels of three "Ahhzees".

LA is a city of huge contrasts. Most of our fellow commuters on the Metro buses and trains were workers of Latin-American background. In Beverly Hills you would see teenagers driving Lexus SUVs while the truly rich cruised Rodeo Drive in Bentleys and Lamborghinis. On the other side of the road from Guess sat a homeless man begging for change with all his worldly possessions in a shopping trolley.

After six busy and exciting days in LA (Disneyland, Universal Studios and Hollywood) we flew to Vancouver. I love this city! I think I'll buy a condominium near Stanley Park and stay here during the northern summer. I'm writing this on Wednesday 14 June. We're sitting at Teresa's Cafe on Denman Street [All day breakfast, Tel: 683-7321]. They do the best breakfasts in British Columbia and this, sadly, is our last day in Vancouver. Today after checking emails, we're catching the SeaBus to North Vancouver, then the Gondola to the summit of Grouse Mountain. We can still see drifts of snow on the mountains!

My running on the trip thus far has been infrequent. We're doing touristy things in the afternoons and enjoying the local night life in the evenings. I may run with a group at 6pm this afternoon that meet at a local shop - The Running Room.

I'm missing reading your blogs. An hour at the Joe Fortes Library on Denman Street goes so fast! Sorry for neglecting everyone. Wish you were here. Until next time, 'au revoir and good luck'.

[Posting this on Sunday 18 June from Joe and Deb's property in beautiful rural Kings Valley]

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Grand Canyon

This time next week I'll basking under a summer sun in the city of angels with my mate Mal and his wife Joy. We're starting our tour of the western United States with two days at Disneyland, as it's been Joy's dream since childhood to get dizzy on the 'cup and saucer' ride!

After 6 nights in LA we're flying up to Vancouver BC, staying at the Buchan Hotel. Bruce reckons it's a 'buchan good place' and he's right, as it's within easy walking distance of Denman Street and Stanley Park.

We're hoping for goof weather so we can catch the train up to Whistler on one of our 5 days in Canada. We then bid farewell to English Bay before hopping a bus down to Portland, Oregon. This is where we hire a Chevy Impala for the rest of our holiday. It's a short drive down to Joe and Deb's place outside Philomath where we're staying for 3 nights at the Aboriginal Embassy, Oregon annexe. Joe is one of the best running coaches in the Pacific Northwest and he rates Percy Cerutty as his biggest influence.

From Joe's we head down the coast via the Redwood forests to San Francisco. We'll bust a few myths in this city before driving out to Yosemite National Park. Maybe I'll get to run with the bears? After a one night stay, we have a long drive to Las Vegas (Joy was keen to stay in a swanky place so she chose the Aladdin Hotel). With a bit of luck we'll win back a few US dollars.

We then drive to the Grand Canyon, staying at a lodge within the park on the north rim. The next stop after some photos of Route 66 is Flagstaff, Arizona, then it's over to San Diego. Here we spend 2 nights including the fourth of July before returning to LA for the flight home.

All this travel means my blogging and blog visiting will have to be curtailed. I'm having withdrawal symptoms already! I'll try and keep my running diary up to date while we're in various libraries checking emails. Good luck to all who are racing at the Gold Coast and anywhere else in Australia over the next 6 weeks. I can't wait to read all about it!

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon

Everything went so well. My plan for the half was to run in such a way that I could encourage Norma over the closing stages of the race. I decided to mix some walking with easy running for the first seven kilometres then run hard for a while before easing off again.

I was staying with Norma at the Phillip Street Travelodge which was within walking distance of the start down at the Rocks. The previous night we'd enjoyed a surprisingly good meal at the downstairs leagues club with Don and Bruce. Then, to relax that evening we watched an absolutely brilliant in-house movie - 'Good Night and Good Luck'.

We walked across town arriving about 20 minutes prior to the start. It was great to catch up with a number of CoolRunners including Blkbox, Johnny Dark, Gronk, Plu and Go Girl. Before long we were off, shuffling like cattle through yards directing us over the timing mats.

After we were released towards the Harbour Bridge I had to run with the flow of runners down the narrow streets. I briefly caught up to Horrie and Gnome who were pacing the 2 hour group before I found some space to the side where I could walk. Pretty soon the 'unstoppable ageless wonder' overtook me. She was running well.

When I reached the 7k mark I decided to run hard for a while. I caught Norma running out of the Domain, then shortly afterwards I was lapped by the leaders. I covered the next six kilometres in 28:27 then walked. It was fun trying to spot people in the crowd coming the other way. I saw Nick Mesher from Canberra, Go Girl, Don, Plu and many others.

I stretched for a while at the bottom of the Argyle Street hill and was happily surprised when Norma rounded the corner and admonished me for slacking off. We then ran the last 2.5 kilometres together. She was really powering along overtaking many runners. We were joined in the last kilometre by 2P and Gnome which really lifted our spirits. Gnome ran all the way to the finish with us while 2P joined us for a few hundred metres before going back to check on some other runners in his team.

It was hard to remain calm in the final minutes of the race as I knew Norma was going to beat her time from last year. She put in a very stylish sprint for the last 50 metres to finish in a net 2:24:47, over 4 minutes faster than last year! Perhaps she is ageless. After witnessing that race, I know she's unstoppable.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A base 5k race

On Saturday afternoon I ran in the ponderously named Canberra Half Marathon Eve 5k. The weather was close to perfect. Sun shining out of a clear blue sky, barely a zephyr disturbing the surface of the lake and a temperature in the high teens.

During my warm-up I didn't feel that great but was determined to race hard from the start and just see what happened. I was hoping to run under 22 minutes.

I positioned myself next to my rival Jim, about 4 rows back in the field of 169 runners. I was swamped at the start as Brian from The Runners Shop, Kerry and many others zoomed past. Jim had done his usual wheel-spinning start. It was amazing that he ran 21:34 and broke 1:37 in the half marathon the next day!

The first kilometre took 4:16 but soon after this I must have slowed, even though I felt I was keeping the pace going. I was having a hard time keeping up with a couple of young kids from our club. Not long after running under the bridge Eliza went past and for the rest of the race I tried not to let her get too far ahead.

As each kilometre mark came up I'd click the Casio for a split, look down and think: 'Is that all!' I lifted the pace in the last kilometre to close the gap to Eliza and finally finished with a time of 22:30 for 46th place. A bit disappointing but not a disaster. My splits had been 4:16, 4:30, 4:37, 4:40, and 4:27.

So that's where I'm at. Eight seconds slower than the first 5k of my Canberra Times 10k race last September! My goal of 19:59 for 5k is not looking easy.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Slip sliding away

The 2006 Nail Can Hill Run
It's hard to remember all the details about a run you last did 25 years ago. One thing I do remember about 1981 was the lack of rain.

This year it was wet. Ten minutes before the start only a handful of the 700 or so runners were lined up ready for their 11.3km journey. Most of us were sheltering under tents or up at the club 200 metres away.

I can remember running in worse conditions, such as the time it snowed at the ACT cross country championships, but at least snow is wondrous. There's nothing wonderful about a cold gusty wind and scudding showers. I felt woefully underdressed in shorts and a CR singlet. I'd have to run faster than I wanted in order to keep warm.

After we started I spotted Gronk in CR cap and Striders singlet about 20 metres ahead. I couldn't get through the crowd to say "g'day" and in any case he soon took off into the distance. The third and fourth kilometres are the hard ones, made even more so this year by the slippery clay soil. I walked and jogged these in 7:32 and 7:24. Once up on the ridge of the hill I found myself running sub-5 minute kilometres.

The downhill sections of the course were truly scary. There was a good chance of hitting the deck with every footfall. There were a few lurid skid-marks in the mud which really opened my eyes. Finally I was safely back on the bitumen for the last 2k down to the park. I spotted Gronk next to the finishing chute cheering in the runners. I found out later he'd run an 8 minute PB!

As for myself, it was a 10 minute PW. 60:56 placed me 262nd. Thinking about it a couple of days later, I really did enjoy the run. There's something whimsical about running through kilometres of mud, around puddles as big as small lakes and splashing straight through the little ones. Good fun! It'll be somewhat less than 25 years before I'll be back.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

My training plan for the 5000

It's the day before the Nail Can Hill Run. I'm getting a lift with Jim and he wants me at his place at 3.45AM! It should be a fun and memorable day - that's if I can stay awake. At least I shouldn't be coughing too much as my cold has decided to go somewhere else. Thanks everyone for your good wishes!

I've finally worked out my training plan for the sub-20 5k goal. I've decided on a 14 day program. The first 7 days are for mainly aerobic training and the second 7 days for anaerobic training. After 28 days I'll have an 'easy' week then start again. Recovery days will be run at a 'low to moderate' heart rate (bloody slow) sometimes finishing with a few 'strides' or 'downhill 100s'.

Geoff has suggested running lots of 50s, 100s and 200s within a longer run maintaining good leg speed. I'll try this on Day 4 and Day 8. Wannabecoach has suggested 'fast gradual downhill 100s' which I'll do on the downhill part of the Calwell track. He's also suggested I try surging on the uphill parts of my aerobic runs.

I'll be starting the plan on Monday at 'Day 8' as I want to do a 5k race next Saturday. You can follow the plan in my training diary.

Ewen's 20-minute 5k plan

Day 1 (Monday) - 9k aerobic run 'hard' (PH?)
Day 2 - Recovery run 45 to 60 minutes with 100s after.
Day 3 - 9 to 12k aerobic run 'hard'.
Day 4 - Recovery run 45 minutes including 50 to 100s.
Day 5 - Long intervals at 10k race pace - e.g. 3 x 2000m.
Day 6 - Recovery run 45 to 60 minutes with 100s after.
Day 7 - Intervals at 800m race pace - e.g. 8 x 200m.
Day 8 - Recovery run 45 minutes including 50 to 100s (PH).
Day 9 - Intervals at 1500m race pace - e.g. 300s and 400s.
Day 10 - Recovery run 45 to 60 minutes with 100s after.
Day 11 - Intervals at 3000m race pace - e.g. 4 x 1000m.
Day 12 - REST.
Day 13 - RACE - usually 3 to 5k cross country.
Day 14 - Recovery run 45 to 60 minutes including 50 to 100s.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Back to the border

My brother's head on left watching Bruce in Sydney - 2003My running is going nowhere fast. Before Easter I came down with a sore throat which turned into a bad cold. That's B.A.D. as in bad-assed dreadful. I haven't been feeling well enough to commence my new schedule of training. I said in my other blog that I was feeling "A little less sick than a dead dog lying in a ditch". These words are from 'Reason to Believe' - a Bruce Springsteen song...
Seen a man standin' over a dead dog lyin' by the highway in a ditch
He's lookin' down kinda puzzled pokin' that dog with a stick
Got his car door flung open he's standin' out on highway 31
Like if he stood there long enough that dog'd get up and run

Back in 1981 when I was young!There was no way I was going to get up and run! I had two days off work after Easter and I'm now taking things day by day. I think I'll be okay for the Nail Can Hill Run on May 7. This is a 'fun run' over a big hill in Albury, 350 kilometres from Canberra on the Victorian border. I found my finisher's certificate from the last time I did this run. It was 25 years ago! Needless to say, I don't expect to run a PB.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Something fairly basic

My main running goal for the remainder of 2006 is to run 5000 metres in under 20 minutes. There will be other goals along the way such as running the SMH Half Marathon and keeping Tesso in sight during the City to Surf but the sub-20 5k is the main one.

As a 45-49 aged runner my best 5000m time has been 20:25.0 in 2002. In recent years sub-21 minutes has been difficult, so how can I manage to turn things around? I plan to do something fairly basic... train for the event.

Running diaries are useful tools but they can sometimes be deceiving. Last year after looking at old diaries I said in a club magazine editorial that I "run poorly off low weekly mileage". I should have said "I sometimes I run better off higher mileage". With my best 3000 metre times, some were run off a preparation of 50-70 kilometres per week and others off 90-100.

So... what is low mileage? For me, it is 50-70 kilometres per week. Any mileage where you're not really bothered about adding it up. For an elite runner, low mileage might be 120-140 kilometres per week. Kathy from Calwell has shown me some interesting articles on mileage and training research which are worth reading.

During winter I plan to train 'around' the 5000 metre event. I will do speedwork where I run faster than 4 minutes per kilometre pace, 2k or 3k time trials at goal pace and steady but not slow 'other' runs for up to 50 minutes. There will also be short cross country races. The 'Sunday long run' is missing but every second or third week I might do a 60-75 minute run just because I like long runs!

In future posts I'll outline my planned training in more detail. It will be a modification of Frank Horwill's schedules. I want to have this plan accommodate Geoff's Parliament House sessions and the Calwell group's winter training.

Monday, April 10, 2006

On Any Sunday

Something happened yesterday which is more important to write about than my new training plan. It was the day of the Canberra Marathon and 50k Ultra. You couldn't have wished for a more spectacular and sparkling day to be enjoying the autumn sunshine.

One corner to go - a guard of honourI wasn't running the marathon. This year I was happy to finish my long training with the Six Foot Track trail run. Norma was racing the 50k so I decided to run around to various parts of the course, taking photographs and offering encouragement.

Horrie was running with her. His main job was to control the autograph hunters, CoolRunning cheer-squads and paparazzi. He was also timing the running and walking parts of Norma's race. The basic plan was to alternate running for 22 to 23 minutes with walking for 3:40 to 4 minutes.

Peter James presenting CB with her awardsIt's fine to have a plan but the success of any plan is in the hands of the athlete. Norma, with the guidance of Horrie, executed the plan to perfection. The plan said the finish would be reached in 6 hours 35 minutes. Norma ran 6:32:28 to set an Australian W75 record for 50 kilometres. It was also a PB by over 20 minutes.

It could have been just another run on any Sunday past the familiar cow paddocks east of Mittagong instead of the last chance to set this record. She'd completed another long run. It was a good one.

[My other photographs from the weekend are on CoolRunning]

Sunday, April 02, 2006

I slept in

It's a shoe! It's a beautiful cool and sunny morning. I was going to ride into town and watch the Women and Girls' Fun Run but I slept in. Is this a sign that I'm not getting enough sleep?

Today there's a race in Port Macquarie which I'll follow on the internet. It's an Ironman race and these things take as long as a working day plus overtime. There's also the World Cross Country Championships in Fukuoka to chase results for... Go Benita, go Craig and go Marty!

This week I indulged in a little retail therapy by purchasing some new shoes from Brian's shop – The Mizuno Wave® Rider™ 9. Okay, so they're not made of satin and don't give the high of chocolate but they're very comfortable. Not quite as slipper-like as the Frees but for a substantial trainer they're good.

I was in need of retail therapy because I'm still wallowing in that lull between finishing a big event and starting a program for the next one. There are a number of opportunities to achieve my next goal which is to run 5000 metres in under 20 minutes. Track racing doesn't commence again until October so I'll be running some short cross country races and fun runs before then.

I'll outline the program I plan to use to achieve this goal in my next post.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Too emotional

I cried. Twice. Watching Kerryn McCann winning the Commonwealth Games Marathon yesterday had me with tears running down my cheeks. Her battle with the young Kenyan runner Hellen Koskei over the final 4 kilometres was brilliantly captured by the television cameras.

The second occasion was that afternoon when Steve Moneghetti presented Kerryn with her gold medal and they hugged for a long time.

I remember reading about Kerryn in Fun Runner magazine in the early 1980s. She was yet another promising junior runner. In September 1986 I ran with her for many kilometres in the Mercury Tooheys Wollongong Half Marathon. At the age of 18 she won the race in 82:54. Twenty years later, she has won a race that will be remembered for a very long time. A race that will define her career and also define the essence of what it means to win on guts and emotion.

I've been feeling a bit flat since the Six Foot Track. You train for a big event for months and suddenly it's over. The Canberra Marathon is on in less than three weeks. Norma has been battling an injury but, thankfully, it looks like she'll make the starting line. What happens after the gun is a mystery. I hope it's a mystery with a happy ending. I think I can cope with happy emotions.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Where the bloody hell was I?

I thought about subtitling this story 'A slow and lingering death out on the Black Range'. Unfortunately the photo Plu took shows me appearing to be out for a relaxing Saturday afternoon jog. In reality, I put on an Oscar-winning performance for the short run past his lens.

Wombat on the Black Range by PluThis was my third 'race' of the 45km Six Foot Track. There was also the non-race 'Slow Version' last November. On Saturday morning I was feeling quite excited about the coming day. Breakfast at the Youth Hostel with the rest of Gramp's Army was a great beginning although my two muffins and honey seemed woefully inadequate after seeing race-winner Emma Murray tucking into a big bowl of muesli and bananas.

I think my day was locked into a slow spiral of death with a snap decision. This was very strange as snap decisions are not my forte. I lined up in the middle of the third wave of runners with Elizabeth and Chris. We made quite a bit of forward progress before the steps and only had to queue up for about 15 seconds before commencing the descent of Nellies Glen.

I started to get excited when we reached the fire trail in 20:19 (about 10 minutes quicker than my two previous runs). Elizabeth and Chris were running at a good pace and I made my snap decision to stay with them. It was three hours later when I realised my folly. Our sub-5 minute km pace had us passing many runners including a chap from the 'B' wave which had started 15 minutes earlier!

Our focus was such that we pursued a large group of runners 'up the garden path' into a property rather than turning right and following the 6 foot track signs. A couple of runners up ahead stopped and surveyed the scene explorer-style, both with one had pointed and the other scratching their heads. Soon, they jumped the fence and bolted across the paddock. I followed as did the rest of the sheep and soon we were back on the right track after a 300 metre detour. This got the adrenaline going and I raced the single-track down to the Cox's River with some purpose.

After wading through the cool water I very soon made a second snap decision... I'd walk the uphills. I mean, most people were using this technique. Notable exceptions were Elizabeth, and later on the Pluviometer, Mike W. My split at the river had been 1:40:42. As this was 30 minutes faster than last year I was confident about finishing in under 6 hours. My PB was (and still is) 6:18:10.

The 4km ascent of the Mini Mini hill went well at about 11 minute kilometre pace. I ran down to Alum Creek still with quite a crowd of runners in view ahead and behind. I splashed through the small creeks and began the next 4km climb to the Pluviometer. This was getting difficult! Near the top, Mike W joined me for a while before running on ahead. I crossed the Pluvi timing mats in 3:35:28, still 29 minutes quicker than last year. I still thought sub-6 was possible. That thought was soon shaken out of my blood-starved brain on the stony trail of the Black Range.

I walked much more of the Black Range than last year and soon realised even a PB was out of the question. When James M caught me at the Deviation I was calculating whether I could make it to the Jenolan Caves as an official (sub-7 hour) finisher. At this stage it was all I could do to keep walking. The few times I tried jogging were a bit wobbly so I put that thought aside. I didn't want to fall over!

I lost count of the number of runners who went past after Caves Road. One of these was Chris who was ridiculously cheerful. At long last, the trail tilted down for the final time. I managed a slow run for the last few hundred metres. It was great when the announcer, Belinda, called my name plus I heard a few other yells of "Go Ewen", "Go Wombat" and "Where the bloody hell were you?" from the crowd. My finishing time was 6hrs 56:09. I placed 675th. There were 696 sub-7 hour finishers and 718 from 757 starters who made it to From Katoomba to Jenolan Caves.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Three's a good number

I gave the track & field meeting a miss tonight. My enthusiasm for the track has been on the wane since the bad 1500 metre race a month ago. Instead I rode the mountain bike down to Calwell and just did a warm-up and warm-down run plus some drills. I'm very keen to commence a new training program after the Six Foot Track.

Yesterday I decided to try one of the sessions from this program - aerobic repetitions at 10k race pace. I remembered that Jim often used the bike path next to the floodway for fast running. I didn't want slow numbers and this would be easier than running long repeats on the grass of Calwell. The plan was to do 3 x 2000 metres with an 800 metre jog recovery. I thought three would be a good number of hard efforts to get the feel of this session as I've rarely done repeats longer than 1000 metres. I set the Forerunner GPS to measure the distances.

For the first half, the session went quite well although try as I might, I couldn't get my 'current pace' faster than 4:30/km. The first mainly downhill 2km was completed in 9:12 - not bad I thought. I jogged slowly for 800 metres then took off again turning back near Monash after about 1400 metres. The second 2km took 9:11. After another even slower 800 jog I took off near the bridge for the last repeat. I was running slightly uphill, but worse than that, I was into a bloody headwind! The third 2km seemed to take forever, and it did - 10:00.

I jogged home thinking this had been a good reaquaintance with faster running. I'd managed to cover 6km at 4:44 per kilometre. Not quite 10k race pace but at least I'd made my legs move faster than they normally would on a Wednesday run. The plan is taking shape!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Long Runs – Goodnight

Yesterday I completed my last long run in preparation for the Six Foot Track 45k trail run. The group started from Molonglo Reach and ran around the golf course at Duntroon and up to the saddle of Mt Ainslie and Mt Majura.

It was blessedly cooler than last Saturday but again promising to be a warm morning. Everyone was still pretty much together up at the horse stile 4.5k into the run. For me this had been a bit of an effort as we'd been running at 5:35/km pace - quicker than I like on an early morning long run. Steve, Elizabeth, John, Zel, Gordon and Carol were running easily and looking strong.

google earth mapThankfully Steve had decided to do an easier run and we didn't climb to the summit of Majura, stopping at the '4-ways' to admire the fantastic views to the south-east. Once back at the base of Ainslie I let the hares run off ahead while I plodded on at a more civilised and comfortable pace. Surprisingly the stragglers were still admiring the view and drinking from the tap when I reached the summit of Ainslie. The last 8k of my 28.3k run was difficult. My running pace had slowed to 7:00/km while the kilometres I walked were around 9:00/km pace. Still, the run bore no comparison to last week's disaster.

So, for me, it's goodnight to the long runs. Next Saturday Steve has said we'll run 15k or so around the base of Ainslie then the following Saturday a leisurely 45 kilometres through the beautiful Blue Mountains west of Sydney.

In the afternoon I was still 'living' so I rode the GSX out to the track to watch the ACT T&F Championships. It was a warm and windy afternoon - less than ideal for the 1500 metre events. Some runners ran surprising PBs while others were perplexingly slow. Ben ran a brilliantly paced race to win the U20 event in 4:08 off a 3-week preparation. Many of the younger runners from Calwell ran exceedingly well in both the 1500 and 400 metre races while one of the older ones was disappointed with her 5:10. I just said "the good days will come, besides, there's always the 800 metre race tomorrow".

Sunday, February 19, 2006

All still smiling

I'm still in recovery mode after yesterday's long run. It was very difficult - harder than the 40 kilometre run/walk of the previous Saturday. Steve Appleby had decided to take his 6ft group over Mount Rob Roy and beyond for 'about' 35 to 38 kilometres.

I joined them at the Calwell Shops and we ran across the oval and onto the track behind Theodore. The sun was rising to a cloudless blue-sky morning and, already at 7.20am, it was ominously warm at 20 degrees C. Us at the summit of Rob Roy (by Zel)
We all carried extra water. I had an 800ml bottle of 'Mizone' in addition to the 700ml in my fuel belt. This would prove to be woefully inadequate.

Some sections of the tracks on the northern ascent of Rob Roy are incredibly steep. One particular rock-strewn hill reduced even Steve and Elizabeth to a walk. After 14km we re-grouped at the very ancient trig station on the summit of Rob Roy. Zel took a couple of photos with his mobile phone. At this stage we were all still smiling.

Soon we were off on a free-fall descent down the south-eastern side, dropping about 300 metres in 3 kilometres. Once through the paddocks at the bottom we turned right and commenced climbing again.The old trig station (by Chris) I walked all these uphill bits. I could see that Catherine and Mike were using a combination of walking and jogging. Chris was jogging slowly and I presume Elizabeth, Steve, Zel and John were jogging quickly.

I wasn't having a good day and decided to take the shortest route home. I was rationing my water. There was a cool breeze blowing on the high plains which disguised the energy-sapping sun. I was walking, but quite slowly as I knew I was suffering from dehydration. I was thinking "How bad is this! I'll be glad when it's over".

This was the opposite to my mood on Thursday night. How good had that been! Luckylegs, in her first race on the track had missed the world mile record for a 75+ female by just 7.48 seconds. This was in spite of me telling her to chase Cory who I thought was in the same age-group. I was shocked by Cory's seemingly suicidal fast start. I know she has good genes from daughters Sarah and Melanie, but... that good? Luckylegs took it all in her stride running a very even-paced race to establish an ACT record for W75s - 9:06.88. Afterwards we celebrated at Dickson with Aki and Flash Duck.

I rested in the shade of an old Eucalypt on the descent of Rob Roy and gathered myself for the final plod through the bush to Theodore. After 29km in 4 and a half hours I was home and downed two big glasses of Coke before lowering my salt-covered body into bed. It was so good to be lying down! I didn't have the energy to drive to the Murrumbidgee where the other Six Footers had planned a swim. I just slept.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Two fast ladies

This week I ran with two different women. Yes, I run around. On Wednesday I had the pleasure of introducing Luckylegs to the track at the AIS. She was very keen to try out the facilities and have a run before attempting a race on the track.

It was a perfect Canberra motorcycling day which meant it was probably a tad warm for running. LL's better half, Jim, was there to supervise and make sure we didn't run or ride out of sight. The running part of the session was to be one mile.

Before starting, I timed LL over a number of 50 metre runs so she could get a feel for the right pace. The goal mile time was to be 9 minutes which meant running these 50s in 16.77 seconds. In the first of these LL must have been out to impress Patrick Johnson and Nova Batman who were both casting an eye in our direction as she ran a blistering 13 seconds for the 50 metres.

After a while she had the pace right so we walked around to the curved line with 'MILE' written next to it. The next 4 laps of the track were very interesting. For the first two laps it was all going quite well - only 3 seconds behind schedule after one lap and about 5 seconds after two. Then, during the third lap LL's pace slowed dramatically. Thankfully she switched to 'reserve' and spluttered back to life. The rest of LL's mile was difficult but she made it to the finish in 9:30.2.

In retrospect, the goal time of 9 minutes was too quick considering her present training is aimed at completing the Canberra 50km Ultra at a much slower pace.

On Thursday I ran with another fast lady during her warm-down after a track session. We chatted about her 3000 metre track race on Tuesday. Kathy lamented not being able to break 10:40 after being 'with' Andrea (10:36) and Ruth (10:37) in the back straight with less than 300 metres to run. Kathy ran 10:45 which is still a very respectable time for a lady somewhat older than 45.

Kathy put her slow finish (42 second last 200m) down to not practising enough fast 200s in training. Most of her interval training this summer has been at 19 to 21 seconds per 100 metre pace. Her legs are very used to running this pace but they objected when asked to run faster at the end of the race.

It was a learning experience for me to hear from two fast ladies with a similar problem.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

It's difficult teaching rats to run

I'm still a slow runner. I don't think I can do anything about it until after the 11th of March - the day of the Six Foot Track Marathon.

I don't want to suffer in this race so I'm still doing long slow runs in training - 29km yesterday in a bit over 3 hours. I'm finding it hard to change my form in other training sessions from the ultra runner's shuffle.

I've been thinking about the benefits of slow, or more accurately 'low heart-rate' training, since reading the article mentioned by Robert Song. One of the findings mentioned in this article was that the maximum improvement in slow twitch muscle fibres of laboratory rats occurred when they did long runs at 50-70% of VO2max (low heart-rate running).

One thing you can't do with laboratory rats is change the way they run. You can't teach them to run with the expansive stride of a Sebastian Coe. Rats only have one way of running - a shuffle. When running 'fast', it's a fast shuffle. A shuffling stride is only good if you want to be an ultra-distance runner. Yiannis Kouros would have a very high development of mitochondria but his best marathon time of 2:25 was quite modest.

Frank Horwill summed up the laboratory rat research of Gary Dudley this way: "To bring about the greatest adaptive response in mitochondria, the length of daily exercise becomes less as the intensity of the exercise is increased."

There's a great benefit to be had from learning the running form used by good middle distance athletes. By learning the shape and quickness of their stride pattern. If you can do this you'll be able to run faster over 800 and 1500 metres. Your longer races will feel easier because the speed of these is so much slower than your newly aquired middle distance speed.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Erin was the best slow runner

I think I may have saved myself. I was in danger of becoming a good slow runner.

Many years ago there was a girl who used to train at Calwell. Erin was one of those lucky runners blessed with natural talent. She could run fast and make it look easy. She also practised with the dedication that produced top-three finishes in national competition as a young teenager. She once placed third to Georgie Clarke in the national U16 800 metres. Erin no longer runs seriously and you're more likely to find her photograph in the social pages than the sporting pages of The Canberra Times.

Back in the 1990s during winter I'd sometimes take the group on 'long runs' lasting 45 minutes to an hour or more. One of these adventures sticks in my memory. It wasn't the one where we stopped for ice creams; or the one where our shortcut through the bush became a swamp; or the one where we practised our discus throwing with dried cow pats; or the one where Kelly rolled her ankle and had to be carried through paddocks to a farmer's house. It was the one where I discovered an extra quality to Erin's running.

We were homeward bound when I noticed Erin was falling behind the group. I dropped back to run with her. She kept running slower until we were crawling along at a snail's pace. She was the best slow runner I'd ever seen and nine years later I take great pleasure in reminding her of that fact whenever I see her around town. By moving like a glacier on that run she was making a 13-year-old's not so subtle point that she disliked slow running.

Thinking about Erin reminds me that I also dislike slow running. Why then have I fallen into this pattern of moving slowly? I guess it's 'easy' and doesn't take much thought. The bad thing about doing so much slow running is that over time your body learns this pattern of movement. A 'Cliffy shuffle' is not the best style of movement to adopt if you want be a fast distance runner. What works best is an economical version of the middle distance running pattern.

Erin was a fast runner because that's what she did most of the time. Her body felt comfortable running that way because that's what it knew best. The drills Mike taught her reinforced this pattern of movement. For her, running slowly was uncomfortable just as running fast these days is uncomfortable for me. My body has learned all too well the pattern of slow movement. It's time to change.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

At the end of every hard earned day

The big running thing for me this week was the 1500 metre race on Thursday evening. This was my second middle-distance race of the season. Middle-distance races for those who don't know are 800 and 1500 metre races held on a 400 metre athletics track. How I wish I'd run more of them... the pain happens fast and is over fast! This is the opposite to this morning's 31km run over the mountains of Majura and Ainslie... the pain happened with the gradualness of rising damp and is still happening hours later as I hobble around the house.

On Thursday I had a rough goal of running under five minutes, fifty two seconds. I'd worked this out by doubling my 800 metre time of 2:56 from the previous week. This calculation provides a reasonable relationship between 800 and 1500 times. If you run 2 minutes for 800 you should run about 4 minutes for 1500.

As I warmed up my confidence grew as my legs felt like they wanted to work for a change. In this regard I think only running 8.4 rather than my usual 12 to 16 kilometres on a Wednesday made the difference. Also, I didn't feel 'dead tired' in spite of working nine and a half hours that day. I stopped in at Calwell and then drove to the track thinking of some words from a Bruce Springsteen song: "Still at the end of every hard earned day people find some reason to believe". I wasn't going to let a tough day at work spoil my race!

I lined up on the outside of the curve with Geoff and when the gun sounded I ran up the back straight and found a place in the middle of the group. I was behind Kathy and Charlie and happy to stay there as the pace seemed about right. I passed 300 metres in 68.6 (5:43 pace) and felt okay. Going up the back straight for the second time I sensed the girls were slowing so I went ahead.

For the rest of the race I concentrated on trying to get closer to Katie. She'd opened up a big gap with her usual fast start. After 2 laps I noticed Geoff had drawn level with her but they were still about 50 metres ahead and 30 metres or so behind Gary who would eventually win the race in a PB of 5:17.02. I clawed back some metres from Katie in the third lap (my second and third laps were about 94 seconds each). I summoned what only I would call a 'sprint' in the last 200 metres to place 6th in 5:47.89. My last lap was 90.2 seconds. Katie had run 5:41.54 and Geoff improved a huge amount with 5:23.65.

Overall, I had positive feelings about my race. I'm sure I can run faster - hopefully well under 5:30 towards the end of the year if I can get some specific 800/1500 training happening. The important thing is I've rediscovered my love of middle-distance racing. Times don't really matter if the racing is fun!

Friday, January 13, 2006

A reason to run

Last night I ran my first 800 metre race since February 2004. It wasn't good. In spite of the unsatisfactory result I'm glad I ran. It was a valuable lesson in preparation... what not to do in order to avoid embarrassing myself in future races.

On Tuesday I'd watched the 800 metre races at Interclub. Paul (another coach in our club) said "why don't you have a run in the slow heat?" I replied "No, I'd struggle to run 3 minutes", secretly thinking I'd probably run about 2:48. Besides, I wanted to watch two young runners from Calwell who were racing...

In the slowest heat, Sarah ran 2:44 and in the previous heat Tom clocked 2:30, both running with determination that belied their lack of experience. Watching all the 800 metre races at Interclub made me want to try one on Thursday night at Vets. As I drove home from Interclub I decided I needed to run. I stopped near Lake Burley Griffin with the plan of running around Central Basin.

It was still muggy and warm at 9pm. I put on the Frees and then sat in the car watching a group picnicking by the lake and some couples enjoying an evening stroll. I began thinking 'this is silly - it's late and I'll be tired in the morning if I don't get home'. I started the car. I didn't have a reason to run. Then I suddenly thought about writing 'nil' in my diary. I switched off the car for the second time, got out and started running.

I began the run with as much speed as my creakiness would allow, not wanting to do a slow plod. After a kilometre or so things loosened up and I found myself moving along quite smoothly. The 5.1 km lap of the 'two bridges' took me 24 minutes 18 seconds. I'd been running 'hard' but not 'flat out'. It was one of the best, most memorable runs I've had in ages and strangely, one that was ever so close to not happening.

I lined up on the outside of the curved start of the third fastest 800 metre heat on Thursday night. To my inside were mainly 'Team Moore' runners, one, Maureen, would run an ACT W55 800m record. I started well and fast but after 50 metres was quickly shuffled to the back of the pack. I was trying to run fast but I wasn't getting anywhere! I trailed Kathy by ten metres after 200 and tried to not drop further behind.

The first lap was 1:26 - depressingly slow. I kept running as hard as possible and tried but couldn't find any sort of a kick for the last 100 metres. I placed 9th (second last) in 2:55.70. At least I knew I'd tried hard as I was suffering the post-race 'burning throat' that is familiar to all 800 metre runners. My dismal performance didn't turn me off the event. I know they're 'fun' if you're closer to the middle of the field and have a little speed in the legs. When is the next one?

Sunday, January 08, 2006


I need to write another post before I receive more comments than CJ or Susan.

There's a 400 metre grass track down at Calwell which I've been using since the early 1990s. Mike Sainsbury coaches a group of runners there numbering about 15 and ranging in age from 12 to 49 (although most are under 20). I've been assisting him since the mid-1990s. The track is only about 2 kilometres from home but I usually drive the car or ride the bike there before doing a 2.5k warm-up run with the kids. Am I becoming lazy, or is it that I just can't face dragging my tired, fat, wombat ass, 2km uphill after training?

Last Thursday I decided to run a very basic track session... 'hundreds'. I haven't been doing serious fast training for six months or more. 'Hundreds' is running 100 metre repeats. There's nothing more basic. I mean, everyone has run 100 metres, right? All the kids know what 100 metre speed means. Mike might say to a runner "do 700 metres at 21 seconds per 100 for the first 400 then 18 seconds per 100 for the last 300". They know exactly what he means!

I tried to run my 100s with good 'middle-distance' runner's form, not resorting to the frenetic leg-speed of a sprinter. Good 'middle-distance' form means 'running tall', having 'good arms', good knee-lift and driving strongly and quickly off the ground. I avoided the uphill first 100 metres and used the back straight, bend and home straight. For recovery I just walked around until I felt ready to run again (about 45-55 seconds). I ended up running 23 x 100 metres averaging 20.7 seconds. This is not very fast! It's the same pace as 5:10 for 1500 metres or 34:30 for 10km. Obviously I'm not running fast enough to attempt 5:14 for 1500 metres! I need to practise more for speed and do 'fast drills'.

At the other end of the scale, on Saturday morning, I attempted my first 'really long' run in training for the Six Foot Track Marathon. It didn't go well! I felt really tired after just 17 kilometres and walked all of the last 10k of the 29.5k 'run'. I don't rate it as a total failure though as the Six Foot Track requires 'good walking'. Perhaps I should stick to running 'hundreds'?