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.