Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Two rights and a left

I was going to title this one "2008 was great mate" — but I worried if it was ever read by Kate, she might become irate. Before talking about the year that was, I'll tell you a little about Kate...

She ran with us at Calwell for most of her teenage years. She loved running and racing. She always smiled at our silly welcoming rhymes: "Are you feeling great today Kate?" or "We've had a debate, and it's your fate, to run hill repeats Kate." She was a talented middle-distance runner, clocking 5:03 for the 1500 metres as a 13-year-old. Various injuries and illnesses meant her performances as a junior runner went sideways. Now in her twenties, she works as a personal trainer and runs for fun and fitness.

My 2008 has paralleled Kate's racing career. I finished the year with results pretty much the same as they were at the start. Well — both my 3000 and 5000 are actually a little slower. I believe I can scrape a slight M50 PB in the 3000 before the track season finishes in March, but it would be nowhere near 11:07. That singular goal for the year hasn't been helpful. It was too far away. Would Scott aim to break 2:45 for the marathon before dipping under 3 hours? Next year I'll select a goal for 3000 metres that's more alluring.

Even though I didn't achieve my goal for 2008, I really enjoyed my running. It's all about the journey. Arriving is secondary. I hope you had as much fun as I did, and continue to do so in 2009. Keep writing about it, and I'll keep reading.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A barefoot 1500m race

Thanks all for your comments about my unlikely victory in the 5k last week. Robert Song's rang true — I'd rather have a memorable race against other runners that results in a PB, than win by "doing a Bradbury". On Thursday I raced over 1500 metres on the velvety grass of the Woden track. I was rightfully flung back to my usual mid-field position — placing 9th in 5:46.8 — 8.4 seconds shy of an M50 PB.

I warmed up in the Frees on legs that were again uncooperative. My confidence was less than effusive. I decided to run barefoot — I did much of my training and racing sans-shoes in the old days — I remember it feeling good and fast. The race went fairly well. I didn't quite have enough zip in the legs to go out with the small group of Gary, Dale and Heath (5:32, 5:34, 5:41). I concentrated on keeping the third lap from sagging too much, and was partially successful. My splits were 90, 92, 95 and 70 (300m). I'm sure I didn't look as good as Zola, but it was fun emulating her famous method of racing.

This week has been similar to the last — what I'd call "a good training week". There have been three hard days — two interval sessions and a race. The second interval session yesterday morning was run with the Speedygeese on the delightful grass of the "international standard" cross country course at Stromlo. We ran 3 x 1k with 1k jog recoveries. My times for the fast kilometres were 4:16, 4:08 and 4:02. I must say I haven't felt on top of my game for all three of the hard days this week. One day of easy running between hard days doesn't seem enough.

Go Zola!Doing my best Zola Budd impersonation on the grass track at Woden [Speedygeoff photo]

Sunday, November 30, 2008

200s and a rare win

This is funny. I actually won a race on Thursday evening! The circumstances were curiously strange. It was a combined 3000/5000 metre event at the ACT Masters' track meeting. I had intended to compete in the earlier 1500 metre race but my legs were creaky, and complained incessantly during the warm-up: "I don't want to do this!" they whined in unison.

I relented, and told them "we'll run the less intense 5000 metre race instead". My decision was fortuitous — the field of 22 had been running for 7 minutes when rare summer rains started drenching the track. I caught and passed my rival Jim. I knew he was running the 3k, so wasn't surprised when he regained the place during the 6th lap.

After 3k I splashed on. Coming into the home straight with 4 laps to go I took a quick look around the track. I was the only fool still racing! All the other runners had bailed out at 3k. I was going to "win" (or come last) — take your pick. I'll call it a win, as for mid-pack runners, wins are rare. I crossed the finish line in a fairly pleasing 21:44.8 — not far from an M50 PB in a race I wasn't targeting for a fast time. Salchows — 4:11, 4:14, 4:22 (12:47), 4:33, 4:25.

It's been a happy week of running. 103 kilometres (64 miles) covered, including a half-decent race and some good 200s down at Calwell on Tuesday. The 200s showed a little speed at last — 39.5, 39.1, 38.5, 39.8, 38.1, 38.5, 38.3, 38.1, 38.7 and 37.9. If I can turn those numbers into 36 to 37s I'll be confident of running a respectable 800m race later in the season.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


I've had a fairly quiet week of training — four easy runs of 10 to 12 kilometres, one rest day, one struggle of an upper-aerobic run, and one track session. As is my habit, I ran the track session on the sumptuous grass at Calwell, using my lane — the one with the gentle curves — lane six.

The grass track at CalwellThe grass track at Calwell is my second home

I modelled the session on a few from Sky's blog. It was a mix of distances (200 metres, 500 metres, 1000 metres), and therefore speeds — from 800m race-pace to 10k race-pace. I ran three "sets" of 200, 500, 1000; taking a 2 minute walking recovery between repeats and 4 1/2 minutes' recovery between sets. It was raining lightly and comfortably mild, so pretty good conditions. My times for set one: 44.3, 2:02, 4:27. Set two: 42.7, 2:05, 4:26. Set three: 40.8, 2:05, 4:31. I found this a good session, as it combined some fast and moderate running speeds.

I want to keep doing some 800m race-pace training, as well as begin some all-out sprinting and short hill work. I think this might help reverse my tendency to run low to the ground. I'm too grounded! I'd like some spring and power in my stride, like that shown by Adriana Pirtea on the cover of November's Running Times.

I need to run like a girlI need to get off the ground like Adriana

Friday, November 14, 2008


Putting it bluntly, my 10,000 metre race last night was a failure. I was attempting to improve on my M50 PB set in December last year, but missed by 28 seconds. I placed 11th (from 18 finishers) in 45:21.64.

The conditions for the ACT Masters' track race were pretty good for November in Canberra — about 23°C (73°F) and calm. I had a plan in my mind to try and run about 1:45 per lap (4:22 per kilometre), which, allowing for a slight fade, would result in a time of under 44 minutes.

Despite having an easy 3 days (including 2 rest days) prior to the race, my legs didn't feel fresh at all. The race was hard from the start, and that feeling lasted for each of the 25 laps. Initially I ran behind Dale for a couple of laps until I sensed he was slowing. I moved ahead and ran through the first kilometre in 4:23 — not bad, but it was feeling ominously harder than it should have. I picked up the pace a little, and could sense Nadine (breathing heavily) and Roger on my heels.

At 4k I started to slow, and Roger moved decisively ahead. There was nothing I could do to keep up with him. Nadine's breathing became quieter, so I was by myself through 5k in 22:14. For the rest of the race I was running alone, and wishing for it to be over. I thought I had enough of a buffer to come in under 44:54, but my pace drifted, and it was not to be. I was close to an M50 PB, but not close enough. To do it in January I need my legs to cooperate, and be feeling fresh and eager to run. Come on legs!

Salchows — 4:23, 4:20, 4:26, 4:29, 4:36 (22:14), 4:35, 4:42, 4:46, 4:42, 4:23 (23:08).

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

91 miles

In the end, I ran 147 kilometres last week. Canute was perceptive — the temptation to try and surpass my previous high week from 1991 (140k) was overwhelming. Especially after Speedygeoff dragged me along on an unexpected 14k "warm-down" around Lake Ginninderra after our equally woeful 1500 metre races on Saturday.

I'm glad I did it. Elite distance runners do this type of mileage year-round, and I now have a little appreciation of what it actually feels like to run twice-daily. And Bill, there's no secret (unless durable genes are a secret) — I just completed most of the runs at an easy pace — except for two races, which were more like speedwork than races.

A tale of two weeks:

1991 (140k)
Monday 25 Feb - 20k on bike-paths in 95:01 (4:45/km)
Tuesday 26 Feb - 2pm, 6k easy in 29:03. 6pm, 14k including 10k race in 41:30
Wednesday 27 Feb - 12.3k on trails in 56:06 (4:34/km)
Thursday 28 Feb - 17k at Aranda, including 8 x 600m in 2:03
Friday 1 March - 15k on trails in 71:24 (4:46/km)
Saturday 2 March - AM, 33k at The Cotter in 2:39:30 (4:50/km). PM, 7k including Interclub 4k Fun Run in 15:11
Sunday 3 March - 16k at Stromlo very slow in 84:00 (5:15/km)

2008 (147k)
Monday 27 Oct - AM, 13k trails in 1:28:27. PM, 6k moderate in 34:37
Tuesday 28 Oct - AM, 7.3k trails in 45:54. PM, 13k trails in 1:14:54
Wednesday 29 Oct - AM, 7k easy in 41:48. PM, 14.3k flat in 1:28:53
Thursday 30 Oct - AM, 7k easy in 44:54. PM, 10.5k including 5k track race in 21:53
Friday 31 Oct - AM, 10k trails in 60:42. PM, 13k trails in 1:18:38
Saturday 1 Nov - AM, 10k trails in 62:18. PM, 17k including 1500m race in 6:02
Sunday 2 Nov - AM, 7k easy in 45:47. PM, 12k trails in 1:11:24

Friday, October 31, 2008

Farewell, My Lovely

I expect my twice-daily dalliances with running will finish on Sunday. I'm on target this week for 135 kilometres (84 miles) — that's after covering 130 clicks last week. If I make it to Sunday without the wheels falling off, this will be my second biggest week ever. In late February '91 I ran a 140 kilometre week. A fortnight later I raced my lifetime PB for 5000 metres — 17:33.5.

I'd like to continue with 'doubles', but my work isn't conducive to play. Swinging a sledge hammer on a railroad gang, knocking down them cross ties, working in the rain, tends to develop a lingering tiredness, and a propensity for Walken-like instant sleep.

"How's the running been?" I hear you ask. Well, my friends... in three words — fun, tiring and illuminating. There's a chink of light shining on some physiological improvements. In my two races, I've felt strong, but understandably not that speedy or fresh. I raced a 3000 metres in 12:32, and last night recorded 21:54 in the 5000 to finish last. Yes, last! I was lapped twice by the female winner, a very svelte looking Jackie Fairweather. My time shaved negative 24 seconds from my M50 PB. I was hairier than a San Franciscan hippie! The illuminating part of the two races has been the feeling of having a strong heart and lungs. The Polar showed an average heart-rate of 89% for both races, which is encouragingly low. The legs however, were cantankerously tired and uncooperative.

I hold some hope though, that my 'holiday of running' will bolster my chances for an M50 PB in the 10,000 metres on November 13. If not, I'll still take with me a greater insight into how it feels to run fourteen times per week.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tempted by the 10,000

My stratospheric goal for 2008 was to race 3000 metres in 11:07. Although there are two months left, I can't see any way I'll be running that fast by year's end. I'm going to extend the goal until the finish of the track season (March '09) and beyond. Maybe forever! Scary thought: I might be pushing my Zimmer Frame around the AIS track as a 95-year-old, still chasing a "respectable" 3000 metre time.

For a diversion from this singular goal, I've pencilled in two 10,000 metre track races for attention. The first is organised by the ACT Masters on 13 November, and the second is the ACT Championship event on 15 January. I'd like to improve my M50 PB. Doing these two races shouldn't unsettle the 3000 metre plan too much. I'm encouraged that my training partner Kathy was able to race well at distances from 800 to 10,000 metres last season — she was ranked 5th in the world for her age in the 1500m, and won the ACT 10,000m Championship earlier this year.

I'm currently on two weeks' leave from work, and indulging in my love a little by running twice daily. I last tried this in 2005, attempting to emulate Eliud Kipchoge. In the past 7 days I've covered 121 kilometres (75 miles). My hard (speedwork) sessions are suffering a little, but not too much. My faster speed was OK a month back — 10 x 200m in 38.1, so I'd like to retain (or improve) on that, as well as restore some aerobic condition with the higher mileage weeks.

I'm fashionable in my 6' shirt!I'm fashionable!
My Six Foot shirt matches this sign at the Melbourne Cricket Ground

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Em is for Melbourne

On Sunday morning I raced 10k through the streets and parks of that most cosmopolitan of Australian cities, Melbourne. She was at her sparkling best — warm and welcoming. At 9.30am, around 4,720 similarly obsessed individuals charged off towards St Kilda Road. After passing stranded tram passenger "spectators", we turned left and ran along the lovely shaded avenues of King's Domain.

It was somewhere in this delightful park, around 2k into the race, that I became overwhelmed with the thought that I was close to moving like Christopher. I was feeling good! Runnin' like Walken. My movement was fluid — in my wild imagination I was a perfect example to children, teenagers, adults and fellow ancients, of how to run.

This is why I'm happy with a seemingly average finishing time of 46:38 — I felt strong and in control throughout the race. I was also towards the pointy end of the field. As we ran beside the Yarra River, with 3k to go, I was running in groups of two or three, with gaps to runners ahead. Before long we were racing down the William Barak Bridge, past cheering spectators, and into the stadium used for the 1956 Olympics — The MCG. I was the 211th of the 10k runners home. Not long after finishing, I heard my name called and turned to see a smiling Em. She's a runner I've always wanted to meet. It's hard to believe, but I think she loves running more than myself. One day soon, she'll be free of injuries and running well.

Bill recently suggested that I may be a better runner now than my younger self. By the numbers, I'm not. I'd need to be running around 42 minutes for 10k races. In Melbourne on Sunday the numbers didn't matter. It was how I was feeling as I was moving that mattered — fast, smooth, racy, and as happy as Em, to be a runner.

The Yarra RiverBetween 6k and 8k the race follows paths with superb views of the Yarra River

Friday, October 03, 2008

Just like Christopher

As much as I love running in mid-pack obscurity, there are times when I daydream about being like Christopher. Moving like him. As far as I know, he's not a runner. He's not the Christopher from Calwell; who was once one of the best middle-distance runners for his age in Australia; who's now training for Olympic distance triathlons.

The Christopher I'm talking about is the one in the Weapon of Choice video. There's one skill this particular Christopher demonstrates that I do quite well — sleep. Point me to a lounge chair and I'll be snoring like a trooper in 30 seconds flat. His other skill is the one that I'll never have — a natural flair for mesmerising movement. The kind of natural movement that's inspiring to watch, and when seen in a runner, offered as an example of "how to run".

Movement like Herb Elliott winning gold by running away from a class field in the Rome Olympics. Like Haile Gebrselassie smiling his way to a 2:03:59 marathon. Like Tirunesh Dibaba in Beijing, sprinting to a phenomenal 29:54.66 victory in the 10,000 metres. I daydream about having that sort of natural running movement. I'd like my mate Trevor to point to me as I run on the grass track at Calwell and say, "Patricia, that's how to run!" instead of, "Don't run like that!"

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Progression – 1980 to 2008

The lazy hazy days of summer are beckoning. I enjoyed a fragrant long run (and the company of other ACT Masters) around and over Mount Stromlo this morning. We covered 14 kilometres, at times savouring superb views of a distant city and lake — views that before the 2003 bushfires, were obscured by towering Radiata Pines.

I'm still plugging away with my training, confident in chipping some time from the M50 3000 metre PB. I'm not confident it will be a 51-second chip. A chunk of wood that size would require a massive axe, and a broad-shouldered swing — a swing that I fear is beyond my 2008 puny-muscled ability.

Nancy and Jason are devotees of spreadsheets, so I've compiled the one below for their (and other number-nerds') viewing pleasure. It follows on from 'Progression – 1992 to 2007', and shows my best track-race and half marathon performances for each year since I started running. From 1980 to 1982 I was blissfully unaware of the esoteric pleasure and elbow-bumping challenge of track racing. I can remember one road race from 1979. It was my first — the 9k Wagga Wagga City to Lake Fun Run, in which I placed 418th. Funnily enough, I conveniently fail to remember the time on the finish-line clock!

Year800m1500m3000m5000m10,000m1/2 M
20042:42.495:32.5912:23.020:54.942:20 (r)1:38:40
20032:40.75:28.712:02.721:48.1844:14 (r)1:42:39
20002:33.75:09.111:32.8-39:16 (r)1:37:39
19992:29.25:11.911:19.420:04.041:15 (r)1:36:55
19982:31.45:08.111:21.319:46 (r)41:09 (r)1:39:26
19972:24.64:58.910:53.7-38:51 (r)1:33:22
19962:27.94:59.410:34.218:58.439:33 (r)1:25:18
19952:19.84:56.410:31.818:36.538:17 (r)1:23:31
19932:22.24:49.110:16.417:59.839:39 (r)1:25:25
19922:20.24:50.99:56.918:17.537:57 (r)1:24:01
19902:20.54:52.010:27.617:51.036:55 (r)1:23:06
19892:18.34:40.210:0417:35.237:31 (r)1:21:47
19882:21.05:07 #9:56.617:37.436:25 (r)1:23:33
19872:18.54:48.99:56.517:5037:12 (r)1:24:58
19862:15.064:41.110:2718:0136:46 (r)1:22:15
19852:15.24:43.010:2418:3138:31 (r)1:25:55
1982----44:00 **-
1981----41:363:28:28 *
1980----36:35 (9k)-
(r) = 10k time run on a certified road course.
* Marathon. ** Canberra Times 9.6k. # Mile.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

800 the Movie

I ran another M50 PB last Sunday — for 800 metres. I was racing in the slowest of four heats at the ACTA High Noon meeting. I'm not as rapturous as I'd normally be about a PB as it was my first ever 800 in the 50+ age-group! It had been over two years since I'd savoured the exquisite pain that is the 800 metres. In January 2006 my time was 2:55.70. Last Sunday I ran 2:48.55.

I thought about titling this post "Laurent Yves St Claire-Monfrere's revenge". As fortune would have it, I was racing my adversary from the 3000 metres on 27 July, Lily du Maurier-Passante. If you recall, young Lily accompanied me for the whole race and steadfastly refused to be overtaken — surging like Tirunesh Dibaba every time I dragged my ponderous body to her side.

This time I fashioned a tactic to thwart Lily's surging style. At the sound of the gun, I sprinted hard from the curved starting line and positioned myself ahead of Lily as we ran up the back straight for the first time. The race was being led by one of the three adults in the race — another master, somewhat younger than myself. In second and third place, running side-by-side were U14 runners Caitlin and Corey. I sat behind these two and ran through the first 200 metres of the race in 40 seconds.

I steeled myself to accelerate should young Lily try to overtake. Luckily she didn't, and I was happy to follow C&C through the first 400 metres in 84 seconds. Then I ran as fast as possible for the next lap, arms pumping and throat burning. C&C sprinted with 100 metres to go, whilst I was already at maximum speed and starting to get that lactic-arms feeling. The finish line couldn't come soon enough. I safely held my fourth place, with Lily finishing fifth, just over a second behind.

In one respect, the 800 metres is very similar to the marathon. A couple of days later, I'd forgotten the pain and was already planning how to improve in my next race. Madness? This is the 800! Runners... Prepare for glory!

I love the grass at Stromlo AND the track!Racing 12k on the grass at Stromlo is less painful than the 800!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

300s and the 3000 metres

I'm sorry if I bamboozled some readers with a surplus of numbers in my last post. I'm prone to an obsession with numbers — is this obsession stranger than my buddy Susan's fascination with torture and closets? Another blogging friend (and fast marathoner), Bill, commented that I appear to be attempting some reverse-aging sort of thing. Ah Bill, if only that were possible!

I'm blessed in that all my runs these days feel exactly the same as they did 20 or more years ago. Every single one! The long runs, the tempo runs, the track sessions, the easy runs, the races, the dawdle through the bush runs, the run 'til you drop then crawl home runs. They all feel exactly the same, and I love every one of them! The only difference these days is the numbers. Give me feeling over numbers anytime!

Two decades ago I was a Sydneyite and habitually ran track sessions on the exquisite grass that is Rotary Field, Chatswood. My favourite session was "300s". I liked the simplicity — simple is as simple does. I ran 300 metres of the 400 metre track fast, then walked 100 metres to recover, repeating this ten times. I'd start a fast 300 every 2 minutes, which gave me a little over a minute for the 100 metre recovery walk.

Another thing I liked about this session, is that it gave a fairly accurate indication of what time I might run for a 3000 metre race. If the total time of my ten 300s added up to 9 minutes (54 seconds for each 300), I could expect to race 3000 metres in around 10 minutes. So I'm running 300s again.

I've produced a table which predicts my 3000 metre race time from a session of 10 x 300 metre repeats. Try a session of ten 300s if you like and let me know how you go. Don't cheat on the recovery time! The formula I've used to calculate the recovery time is '300 time x 1.222 = recovery time' (54 seconds x 1.222 = 66 seconds). The formula for the 3000 metre race time is '300 time in seconds x 0.185185 = 3000 metre time in minutes' (54 seconds x 0.185185 = 10 minutes).

10 x 300m predicts 3000m race time
300m timeKm paceMile paceRecovery3000m race

Sunset over Lake Burley Griffin from the BoathouseSunset over Lake Burley Griffin from the Boathouse — 3 September 2008

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Evaluation Runs

The table below shows the results from the four evaluation runs I've completed since 17 June. I do these runs on the track at Calwell using the same method each time:
Firstly, a 2.5k warm-up followed by some strides. Then 2 laps of the track (in lane 6) to raise the heart-rate to 138 (84% of my maximum). I then run a further 5 'miles' (1,748 metres) of the track at HR138, recording the split time and average heart-rate for each 'mile'.

Something new is the 'Diff 1 and Ave' result. This is the difference in seconds between the first 'mile' and the average of the last 4 'miles'. Mystery Coach tells me the evaluation runs show how a runner is doing in either the distance or speed phases of training. A small 'Diff 1 and Ave' number is usual in the distance phase, while in the speed phase this number is larger.

After looking at the figures, I'm not sure whether I'm going well! I know my speed training is improving. I've been running 300 metre repeats — most recently 7 x 300m in 65.4 seconds with a 1 min 25 sec recovery. More about this in a future post.

I hope everyone has recovered from the Beijing Olympic Games. So many great moments! Both the marathons were incredible, as was Kenenisa Bekele, winning gold in both the 5,000 and 10,000 metres. What a runner!

5 x 1748 metres @ AHR 138 (8.74km)
17 Jun
24 Jun
8 Jul
19 Aug
Ave last 49:01.8 9:27.5 9:31 9:25 
Diff 1 and Ave10.8 sec 8.5 sec 12 sec 14 sec 

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

25 City to Surfs

On Sunday I joined 70,000 friends for the annual dash of the lemmings from Sydney to Bondi. It's the biggest "fun run" in Australia, and I must like it because I keep coming back — 25 times and counting.

It was a good day! I joined the A1 starting group 15 minutes before Jana Rawlinson fired the gun, chatting to speedygoose Adam as sporadic second-hand clothing flew over our heads. This year the City to Surf had timing chips, so there was no need to panic about the 40 seconds it took to reach the start.

I found some running room on the left footpath and stayed there until the tunnel. The rest of my race went pretty smoothly — I caught "The Legend", Keith Mayhew running up the Edgecliffe hill. Keith has run all 37 City to Surfs, for the first twenty years they were all faster than 50 minutes! I ran past O'Sullivan Road (5k) in 22:52 and knew I was on for a quicker time than last year's 69:16. The climb up heartbreak hill went well. 47:56 at 10k, then shortly after, the brilliant rush down to the white sands and blue ocean of Bondi Beach. 64:54 on the finish clock gave me 2,484th place.

Thinking back on the race, I'm most pleased about how I felt. The mild day no doubt played a part — 7 to 16°C, but I think the switch to 'phase 2' of Lydiard training made a big difference. I felt an unusual reserve of speed in the legs. I wasn't at my limit the whole way — I hope that's a feeling I can retain for the track season.

Eagle's view of Bondi BeachBondi Beach looks great from the air!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Caption Writer

Strewth is one of my many training partners. She claims not to be one of the odd ones — unless you think running through freezing puddles when there is a perfectly dry path around them a sign of oddness. Strewth is handy with the digital camera, and she timed the shutter release on the photo below to perfection.

It shows me "racing" the young girl in the 3000 metres that I wrote about in my last post. I'm making one of my many fruitless attempts to overtake. On the infield is another of my training partners, Kathy. Well, when talking about Kathy, the term "training partner" is not totally accurate. I'm barely quick enough to keep up with her on warm-up runs. She holds the Australian Record in the 3000 metres for females aged 50-54, with 10:42.87.

My analytical eye has spotted one obvious weakness in my running technique — my stride, after months of distance running, is very short and weak. I'm open to caption suggestions for this photo. One friend has already offered "The whole crowd is on their feet"! The winning suggestion will receive the following exclusive prizes: 1. The honour of having your caption used for the photo with a link to your blog; 2. A virtual six-pack of Steve's award-winning Nenmatsu Tripel beer!

Ewen races the girl, 3000mLily du Maurier-Passante, Daughter of France's Secretary of Crepes, is well protected by her bodyguard Laurent Yves St Claire-Monfrere.
[caption by - KK Cookies & Cream]

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Comes a Time

I'm tired. I ran in a 3000 metre race at the track this afternoon — finished 11th in 12:19.93. This is a very long way from 11:07. So far away, that I now doubt my ability to run such a time.

Anyway, it was an interesting race. The Speedygeese cheer-squad and odd other friends offered me enthusiastic encouragement from the sidelines. I had a serious (and fun) battle with a young girl over the last 5 laps. Each time I pulled up beside her to overtake, she would surge ahead with youthful impetuousness. I made my last attempt with 200 metres to run — she might have said "see ya later old man" by the way she sprinted off to thrash me by three whole seconds!

Today marks the end of my first week of the hill/speed phase of Lydiard training. It comes after 13 weeks of base training, averaging 95 kilometres (or 9 hours) of aerobic running per week. I decided that 13 weeks was long enough — my aerobic improvement seemed to have reached a plateau.

I've reduced my weekly mileage to around 75 kilometres. This should be enough to maintain aerobic fitness. I've also introduced a "hill run" — a 13.9 kilometre circuit which includes 18 short hills of various gradients. In addition to this, I plan to run two track sessions per week, starting with fairly aerobic, race-paced intervals one day, and shorter 'leg-speed sprints' the other. After a certain number of weeks (not sure exactly) of this, I'll move on to the anaerobic phase of training. Just quietly, I'm looking forward to this part — that lung-burning, leg-dead sensation is a far too distant memory.

My 13.9 kilometre hill courseCity lights make my hill course a great one to run at night

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Bad Hair Day

I've been to Hollywood, I've been to Redwood
I flew to Paradise for a run of gold
I've been in my mind, it's such a fine line
That keeps me searching for a run of gold
And I'm getting old.

My 10k race at Surfers Paradise didn't go as planned. I finished in 45:15. I was expecting to run 2 minutes faster. My mate Jim had recently run 43:14 at the Canada Day fun run — if I'm on song, I can duke it out with Jim.

So... I couldn't even eke out an M50 PB. The hill in the final kilometre quashed that last-minute idea. On the day, I was simply bad — Anton Chigurh on a bad hair day. That bad.

I'm not sure what went wrong. I raced hard from the start, but I wasn't generating any speed. My first kilometre was 4:14 net — quick enough, but by 5k (22:11), I was behind schedule and just got slower. The encouragement of Em and others lifted my spirits, but not my speed.

I finished dazed and tired — just like in 1995, but also confused. Perhaps I'd caught a bug. From Plu maybe, or Katy? Or CJ, or Strewth? It would be rude to blame friends, so I'll choose our starry-tattooed young waitress from Saturday lunch. She did get rather close when leaning over to place the second round of coffees on the table.

Q1. The surf flags are blowing
Q1 at Surfers Paradise is the tallest residential building in the world

I should have given the 10k a miss and gone for a surf
I should have given the 10k a miss and gone for a surf

Me by phone
A phone self-portrait on the beach at Surfers Paradise

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

After the Gold Rush

After bragging about our mild winter, the weather took a decidedly cold, wet and windy turn yesterday. Never mind — soon I'll be flying 1000 kilometres north, following the sun to the Gold Coast! This year I'm racing in the 10km event for the first time. Usually I've done the half marathon — chasing a fast time on a flat course. As I'm training for 3000 metre track races this year, I thought the 10k would be far enough.

The photo shows me (yellow singlet) after the finish of the half in 1995, looking a bit dazed and tired. I'd been running with Raewyn Blair (2510) during the race and she out-sprinted me to the finish. Although not a PB, I was fairly happy with the run. I wrote in the diary: "Great result, course PB. 1st k 3:38, last 3:55. Early start was hard, no warm-up. Good conditions, 12°C, light breeze. Training shoes. 83 minutes may have been possible. 5k splits - 19:33, 19:45, 19:54, 20:02".

I'm catching up with some old (and ancient) friends on the weekend — we'll be eating, drinking, being merry, and running. See you all next week!

I'm looking a bit dazed and tiredAfter running 21.1k, I'm looking a bit dazed and tired

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Base, Racing, and Training

Our winter continues to be mild — I run in the afternoons, enjoying distance runner friendly temperatures in the low teens Celsius (around 54°F). I continue to plug away with the Lydiard base phase, guided by Hadd heart-rates. I've just finished my 9th week of 96-ish kilometres (that's 60 miles for my metric-challenged readers). Hardly huge miles, but I'm not a fast runner — if I were, I'd be covering 125 clicks (78 miles) in the same time.

In Hadd for Ancients, my plan was to switch to the next phase of training after six to eight weeks of base. Now I'm not so sure. I feel there's still some improvement to come from running slowly. I've been fairly good at sticking with my plan of including upper aerobic runs and occasional short sprints during the base phase in order to keep the fast-twitch muscle fibres "awake".

Some of these upper aerobic runs have been races. Now; this has been interesting! I wasn't expecting age-PBs in these events, so it's been surprising to have more good races than bad:

17 May - 5k road in 21:46. Good, although well behind my rival Jim.
25 May - 1500m track in 5:38.49. Good, an M50 PB.
7 June - Stromlo 5k cc in 21:04. Good, very close to Jim.
15 June - 3000m track in 12:24.39. Bad, a parabola of slowing laps.
21 June - Stromlo 12k cross country in 54:14. Good, ahead of Jim!
6 July - Gold Coast 10k. See you there!

I've also completed my first 'Evaluation Run' — made famous by Mystery Coach. I'll do these in lieu of the Hadd 2400m test due to the simplicity. My method for the Evaluation Run is to run a 2.5k warm-up, followed by some light drills and strides. Then I run 2 laps in lane 6 at Calwell (a 400m grass track) to gradually raise the heart-rate up to 83% of maximum (138 for me). I then hold a steady HR of 138 for a further 20 laps of lane 6, recording splits for each 4 laps. If my aerobic condition improves over the next few weeks, I should run faster at the same heart-rate. Results for 17 June:

Times for 5 x 1748 metres @ AHR 138
17 June

Time (pace/km)AHR
18:51 (5:04)137
28:59 (5:08)138
39:05 (5:12)137
49:02 (5:10)138
59:01 (5:09)138
TOTAL44:58 (5:09)138

4k on the way to Rose Cottage
4 kilometres from home on my Rose Cottage Inn course

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Ewen and the Real Susan

I've been memed by Susan! "Who's Susan?" I hear my millions of readers asking. Well, she's an all-real skateboard punk rocker from the second largest state in the union — Texas!

On my next visit up-over, I'd like to go for a run with Susan. Then I'd be able to call her my running mate (a description Barack will never use for Hillary). I'd also have a beer with Susan (whilst she sipped Aussie wine), and sing this song (in the key of Scott Brown) — adding a verse for Susan, meaning I'd need a word that rhymes with "Suze". I'm supposed to spread the meme by tagging five friends. Susan, I was always hopelessly slow at playing tag — and I haven't got five friends! These days the only runner I can catch is Strewth, so I'll tag her. If you're a reader who thinks I can catch you, consider yourself tagged. Now for the Q and A section:

1. How would you describe your running 10 years ago?
I was running less, but I was faster. Sad, but true. In 1998 I ran 40k per week, but youth was (lingering) on my side. I ran a 10k fun run with one of the girls from Calwell in 41:09. I was lucky enough to run in Oregon — what a spectacularly beautiful part of the world! I also dabbled in triathlons. I was a useless triathlete due to my brick-like swimming.

2. What is your best and worst run/race experience?
The best was in 1991 — breaking 11 minutes for the 3000m Steeplechase (10:51.3), when seven years earlier I honestly thought a time that fast was impossible. Oh, and not falling over, like poor Harry. The worst would be clobbering my knee against a steeplechase hurdle and hitting the deck, which put me out of action for three weeks.

3. Why do you run?
It's fun! Oh, and the friendships one makes (that includes you)! One friend (and rival) is Jim. That's him in the photo below — running with childlike abandon, racing a girl whose older sister has run for Australia. He always races "all-out", so a victory against Jim is well earned.

4. What is the best or worst piece of advice you've been given about running?
The best was: "Find a good coach, race short distances and train on a grass track".

5. Tell us something surprising about yourself that not many people would know.
I'm very unsurprising. Sorry, that's something you all know. Very well — I placed 2nd in the Moth Class in the 1972-73 Riverina Sailing Championships.

Jim sprints with childlike abandonJim sprints with childlike abandon to the finish of a cross country race

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Childlike abandon

I've been waiting to tell you about a race that happened two Sundays ago. It was an amazing race. 1500 metres on the track. Even my up-over readers would know how far that is — the metric mile. One-and-a-half kilometres.

The race was one event in the first of the High Noon meetings to be held at the AIS track over winter. It was an "all-comers" meeting. The weather was all-perfect — 16°C (61°F), sunny, just the occasional zephyr ruffling the windsock near the long jump runway.

A field of 23 runners and 2 race-walkers crowded the curved starting line. Our ages ranged from under 10 to 60; boys and girls, all anticipating the excitement and tactics that 1500 metre racing provides. At the crack of the gun we charged off, aiming for the same bit of Mondo 100 metres away. I thought I'd started with blinding speed, but looked around after 50 metres and thought 'wow, I'm last!'. Why couldn't I run with childlike abandon? Why was my central governor set permanently in slow motion? It didn't matter. I was racing. I was having fun!

Around the top curve and some of the littlies started to slow. I picked my way around them — at times contemplating testing my steeplechase hurdle technique. Speedygeoff was just ahead, but he pulled inexorably away. The Seiko showed 1:04 at 300 metres. I didn't get any other splits — I just chased the one other person in the race who was on the ancient side of thirty and within reach. I caught him with a lap to go, then increased the pressure trying to bridge the gap to Emi. Youth prevailed by 3 seconds. I finished 13th — incredibly pleased (and surprised) with my time — 5:38.49. This was an M50 PB, but what gives me hope for the future is that it was "out of the blue" and run off endurance training. When I introduce interval training, theory has it that I should become faster.

For the record, the 15-year-old winner of the race ran 4:11. The first in a line of talented girls ran 4:52. My 5:38 is apparently equivalent to 4:56 for a 33-year-old.

Lake Burley Griffin - May 21
Calm conditions are good for racing — as we have here on Lake Burley Griffin in this view of the National Library from the National Museum

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Where am I?

Last Saturday I ran in a 5k race on the scenic bike-paths adjacent to Lake Burley Griffin. My time was 21:46. I had a good race, even if the weather was less than desirable. A chilling westerly, which I'd have been rapturous about in my old sailing days, turned my final 2k into a Michael Jacksonesque moon-walk.

I've been pondering where this result leaves a naturally ponderous athlete when it comes to a lofty goal of running 11:07 for 3000 metres. My 5k was 48 seconds faster than for the same race last year. A mere 3.5% improvement. Am I optimistic in believing I'll be 3.5% faster when the summer T&F season rolls around in October? If I can be this much speedier I'd be rewarded with an 11:33 — leaving me lactate-legged and panting, over 100 metres behind the runner who's face expresses the immediate relaxation of sheer relief upon looking left at the Seiko and seeing 11:07 click over.

I'm in for a long hard winter. As I train through wind-swept afternoons, I'll take great inspiration from a movie not yet in production. "Far out in Fargo" is the story of an ice-encrusted runner who staggers in from the frozen plains of North Dakota, slashes 6 minutes from his PB to win a famous marathon in 2hrs 30mins 34secs — in doing so, he leaves a highly ranked Kenyan sitting in the gutter, dumbfounded and head-shaking in disbelief.

LBG is a beautiful place to runLake Burley Griffin sunset from near the Carillon. I like the coolness of this photo and the mystery of the unknown runner.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Thinking of Kate

Last Sunday I went on a day trip to Albury. My mate Jim was driving — we left Canberra at 3am! The purpose of our foolishness was to do the Nail Can Hill Run. I ran this race last year; and the year before that. It's becoming a habit. I'm not sure why. Nail Can is an 11.3km race with a thumping big hill! I'm no mountain goat. Give me the flatness of a 400 metre Mondo track any day.

It was foggy and cold as I shivered with a record field of 1500-plus starters. I carried my trusty Sony phone camera, thinking I'd take some photos to show you what you're missing. As I raced towards "the hill", I thought of two Kates. One Kate we've nicknamed KFC — after her initials. Kate's parents named her before Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC. She's a very talented runner. The other Kate, I first saw on Countdown. I sang a tune of hers in my head as I plodded up "the hill", pausing occasionally to take photos...

Say if I only could,
I'd make a deal with God,
And I'd get him to swap our places,
Be running up that road,
Be running up that hill,
With no problems...

Singing along with Kate worked. As "the hill" flattened out, I started to run, and realised my pace was good. I was having fun running fast, just like KFC used to; so there were no more stops for photos. I raced down to the finish, very pleased to record my best time since 1981 — 56:53. My mate Jim ran 54:11 — watch out next year! One runner I'd loved to have swapped places with is my training partner from Calwell — Kathy was the third female, and broke the 50+ record running 48.34!

A tad brisk before the start. Kathy (in pink) finished third.A tad brisk before the start. Kathy (in pink) finished third

First part of the hillFirst part of the hill

Runners appeared out of the fogRunners appeared out of the fog

It was a long hill!It was a long hill!

Nearing the top of the climbNearing the top of the climb

The finish line was a welcome sightThe finish line was a welcome sight

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"That's all", she wrote.

Joan "O" has stopped writing. Well, she's only stopped writing for us — the readers of her blog. I'm feeling a little melancholy about this, as I enjoy how Joan uses words to convey a love of running.

At Calwell I've always done the longer winter warm-up runs with the kids. In pre-ancient times, I would chat to them during the run (these days I need every breath just to keep them in sight). Sometimes I'd say "What are your goals?", or "Can you see where running might take you in ten year's time?". I remember a couple of the girls replying "I want to run in the Olympics". I said "You have the talent to do that". They really did have the physical talent. Maybe they'll still run in the Olympics. I want to show them (and other young runners with similar goals) something Joan wrote in May 2005 about "doing your best": Pinball Wizard.

Joan started running seriously in 1980. In 1996, at her fourth attempt to make an Olympic team, she was successful. As was her habit in every race, she tried her very best, and on that day third place was enough. She became Joan, "O"lympian. Every race forever after was like a bonus game in pinball.

I sat up late on Sunday night to watch the US Olympic Trials Marathon for women, held in downtown Boston the day before the famous marathon. There was no video, just an intermittent text update of each mile split for the runners. As expected, Deena Kastor won, catching Magdalena Lewy Boulet in the 23rd mile. Blake Russell placed third — two minutes behind, but her best, on that day, was good enough (at her second attempt) to become Blake, "O"lympian.

Ancient geese
On some days I run with ancient friends. It's still not easy to keep up. They're fast!

The right 'tude
Having the right 'tude is important if you wish to run well. Here I emulate CJ while Mark just smiles. [Katy photo]

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Hadd for Ancients

As I drove the Toasts to the airport after the Canberra Marathon, Mark asked "How's the 11:07 for 3k plan going?". "It's not going to be easy", was all I could blurt out, while navigating our circuitous roads and avoiding the worst of Canberra's suicidal P-plate drivers.

There's purportedly nothing new in distance running training. I'll call my plan Hadd for Ancients, which I hope is something which will work for me. In a recent post, I wrote about being shocked at losing my sprint speed whilst doing Hadd-training. For those that don't know, Hadd is similar to the base phase of Lydiard training, but using heart-rates to guide the effort on any particular run.

Why Hadd for Ancients? Because as we become ancient (for argument, over 40, although I know teenagers who regard 25 as ancient), we lose sprinting speed. However, if we regularly practise sprinting, we can limit this loss. For the next six to eight weeks I'll run aerobic Lydiard-style base training; similar to what I did in the second half of last year, but with a few modifications. Once per week, after one of my steady runs, I'll do some barefoot 100 to 150 metre sprints on the grass track at Calwell — not flat out, but running relaxed and fast, with full recoveries between sprints. I'm also going to do a short race (about 3k), every two weeks. The other significant modification is to run more of my aerobic runs at Hadd's "upper aerobic" heart-rates — 80 to 85% of maximum (HR 133 to 141 for me), sometimes a little higher, but trying to stay under my lactate threshold. I think these faster runs will be beneficial because the mechanics of running movement at 5 minutes per kilometre pace (8:03 miles), is not dissimilar the mechanics of running at my 5k race goal pace of 4:00 per kilometre (6:26 miles).

After this six to eight weeks, I'll reduce the weekly volume, and start running one or two anaerobic interval sessions per week. More on that later. I hope everyone is having a great weekend — especially those like Jen, who are lucky enough to be running the Boston Marathon. Go Jen!

Toasts and Geese cheer a marathonerUnder the bridge - Toasts and geese cheer on a marathoner in Canberra.

Go CoolRunner! Rob #174 about to pass Tim #190 - 2k to go in the Canberra MarathonGo CoolRunner! Rob #174 (3:15:38) about to overtake Tim #190 (3:15:41) - 2km to go.

Luckylegs runs 5:34:06 in her last marathon at age-78 (Jim White photo)Go Luckylegs! 5:34:06 in her last marathon at Canberra. [Jim White photo]

Friday, April 11, 2008

She ran out of sight

The Canberra Marathon is on this Sunday. I'm not racing! Not that I was ever talented enough to race a marathon. The marathons I've run have always been a test of endurance. How long could I endure?

Canberra was where I ran my first marathon in 1981 — 3:41:14. This Sunday I'll be joining some friends to watch the excitement unfold by running to various places on the loopy course. Other friends from near and far are running the marathon (or making a spectacle of themselves by dressing up in strange outfits and cheering).

I'm particularly interested in one competitor, 'Luckylegs', who is running yet another marathon at the remarkable age of "three score and sweet eighteen". On Sunday I expect her to run out of sight... not on a dark night, but on a sparkling Autumn morning. I've been coaching Norma for three years, and the 2008 Canberra Marathon will be our last as a team. Yes, I've been sacked! I suspect she's decided to hire a better looking coach, such as Bob.

Some observers think Luckylegs's greatest achievement was her W75 Australian Record for 50k (6:32:28). Others insist it was coming within 8 seconds of the W75 world record for the mile (9:06.88). I believe her greatest achievement was the ability to endure the demands of a such a strict and humourless coach.

I hope you all have an enjoyable weekend. For us in Canberra, I have a feeling it's going to be a goof one!

I like the jet trail in this phone photo
Sunset at Lake Burley Griffin from near the Carillon - 9 April 2008

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Lulled by Autumn

I spent the four-day break over Easter at my old home town; Wagga. It's still my mum's home town. It was a gathering of siblings, minus one: my little sister is living and working in Minneapolis. So, we had one less person to assemble the 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle — All About Chocolate! My brother and his family helped out. My nephew is 13 and my niece 11; it's amazing how much they've grown in six months.

So, it was a happy family time. I squeezed in two short runs — both down to the lake. In the sixties we could see the lake from our front porch, hence the name of our house — "Lochfyne". Now tall trees obscure the view. On my second run, I tried 'tempo pace' for the last 6k, which sent my heart-rate skyward. I've lost some aerobic fitness since Six Foot. During the last kilometre of the run, I huffed and puffed my way past my old primary school; Kooringal Public. I thought about the afternoon 'quiet time' we used to have — where you crossed your arms on the wooden desk (being careful to keep your sleeve out of the ink well), put your head down, and slept for 15 or 20 minutes.

Since Six Foot, I've been having a 'quiet time' from serious training — just running the miles, on any particular day, as I feel. I'll call this my Lydiard 'train-off' phase — the few weeks of easy running to allow recovery from the track season. The 3000 metre goal will take a concerted effort, and I want to be ready.

So ... I run, sometimes with a friend, or friends, sometimes alone; watching silvery autumn leaves from the birch trees floating through the air like winsome butterflies; and I savour a less intense warmth from the sun, shining brightly out of a clear blue sky.

Where's Strewth?
Phone photo attempt 1 - When running with Strewth I have to be careful not to elbow her in the head.

We found a milk crate for Strewth to stand on
Phone photo attempt 2 - Strewth is not really that short. Sunset is reflected in her glasses.

Autumn sunset over Lake Burley Griffin
Autumn sunset over Lake Burley Griffin.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The reason we run Six Foot

It's been one week and two days since Six Foot. Only now am I able to run normally. Without pain. Well, some of my normal running involves pain, but not the delayed muscle-soreness kind of pain that comes from having run too far, and over too many mountains.

Grellan expressed surprise that I'd gone and run an 'ultra', when I'd been spending the summer training studiously for faster 3k times around the 400 metre track. The Six Foot Track Marathon has something which keeps drawing me back, year after year. I just love it.

Blogging friend Hamburglar ran Six Foot this year with a mate Will, who was carrying his trusty Olympus digital camera. Will's video, wonderfully produced, does a brilliant job of conveying the emotion of Six Foot. Have a look. I hope to see you running through the Blue Mountains on a Saturday in March, some year in the near future.

Will's Six Foot Video

Monday, March 10, 2008

An inadvertent Six Foot PB

I feel a little like the freckle-faced child who has raided the neighbours' peach tree and got away with it. On Saturday morning I stepped, ran, walked, shuffled, and plodded, 45 kilometres through the sublime Blue Mountains from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves. I was just one of 762 finishers in Australia's greatest trail race – the Six Foot Track Marathon. In deference to my mate Scott, I'll refrain from Tolstoyising the day. Let's just say it was a long one, and a long weekend.

It was the fifth time I'd completed this race. Something keeps drawing me back. I can't help myself. This year I didn't do any specific preparation. I was so keen to run well around the 400 metre track, that I didn't want the long, slow, hilly runs diverting attention from my speedy track goal. I restricted my long runs to around 16k, usually out and back to Rose Cottage Inn.

On Saturday I felt good; relaxed. Before the Cox's River, I ran easily, having a ball on the single-track until I came upon a very long Woolies-style queue of runners, impossible to overtake. Luckily the coasting only lasted for 2km or so. The river was cool and refreshing, as were the stream crossings of Alum creek. On the hike up to the Pluviometer, a multitude of delightful bellbirds were in full tinkly voice. The distant sounds of Kookaburras added to the Aussie bush atmosphere.

It wasn't until after the Pluviometer that I contemplated a PB, and possibly going under six hours. One never knows how one will go until the Black Range. It was good! I was able to run – albeit with a shuffling stride. Walks were confined to the uphill sections. I waited for the cramps, which never came. I repeatedly thanked Blair for the cool day. By the Binda Cabins, I knew a wheel would have to seriously fall off, to keep me from running well under six hours. The landscape finally tilted down and I picked my way, with 'talking quads' gingerly to Caves House. 5 hours 41 minutes and 7 seconds! This was a 37-minute PB and placed me 469th. Very happy with the run, and very happy to be amongst friends.

Splits: Nellies (1.7k) 19:25, Megalong Valley Rd (8.1k) 52:14, Pinnacle Hill (10k) 1:03:07, Cox's River (15.5k) 1:39:40, Mini-Mini summit (20k) 2:25:24, Pluviometer (26k) 3:22:28, Caves Rd (37.9k) 4:49:42.

Saturday, March 01, 2008


On Thursday I slid the DeLorean to a stop in the year 2002. That was the last time I'd run faster than 12 minutes for 3000 metres – 11:57.95 at an Interclub meeting on December the 14th. On Thursday afternoon I ran 11:58.44. Needless to say, I'm happy to be in the elevens once again. I've been asked to "tell all", so here is the whole story...

I worked for 9 hours, but tried to forget about it. Managed a 30-minute nap before driving out to the AIS, for once allowing plenty of time for a good warm-up. I jogged 5k slowly, with some breaks for stretches and rest – felt OK doing this, but not great. My movement did feel good after swapping to the Frees and running some strides. I had my mind in the right place, and was positive about doing well. My mate Blair at the BOM had organised the temperature to be a mild 16°C.

I started on the outside of the curve, with a plan to slot in behind Burkie. He's not a fast starter, but was in good form (40:55 for 10k last week). Nev took my spot, so I followed him and Burkie through the 200m mark in 44 seconds – 11-minute pace, but it didn't feel that quick. Robbie was about 10 metres ahead of our group of three.

The photofinish clock showed 3:55 after one kilometre. I was still feeling comfortable enough. At this point, Burkie slipped ahead by a few metres, but I decided to stay behind Nev. I was having to chop my stride at times to stay at this speed – it's been so long since I've experienced that in a race, that I'd almost forgotten the feeling. I pulled wide in the home straight and thought about passing Nev, but the moderate head-wind was enough to deter my enthusiasm for the move.

We overtook Robbie, and at the start of the next lap, I sensed Nev was slowing, so went past. Burkie was 40 metres ahead, but I couldn't do anything about it. I was pretty much at my limit. 2000 metres in 7:55, so 4 minutes for that kilometre. Speedygeoff was standing at the 200m start, shouting (quietly) encouragement to all the geese. Thanks Geoff! The last kilometre was feeling hard (as it should) – I was hoping I had enough time in hand to sneak under 12 minutes. Geoff called "eleven fifteen, go for it!" My mental arithmetic went into overdrive... sub-45 needed for the last 200 metres. I sprinted as well as I could, very thankful for the sprints I've been doing in training lately. 11:58.44, an M50 PB! 6:25 per mile pace for imperialist friends such as Grellan.

That was the last 3000 metre race of the season. The good result has fired my enthusiasm for the rest of the year. My next opportunity to race on the track will be at the High Noon meets in June. That will be novel – racing a distance event on the track in Canberra's perfect arctic-like winter stillness.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Did Hadd do it for me?

Does Hadd-training work? Did six months of running slowly make me faster? The short answer is that it did, and it didn't. As John Hadd predicted, my lactate threshold improved, and my running speed while 'sitting on' various heart-rates became faster. This translated into some marginally quicker races compared to 2005, my last good year: 1 minute faster for the half marathon, and 6 seconds for the 3000 metres. Hardly earth-shattering, however there was one race which did show dramatic improvement. The wondrous 5k at Stromlo – 20:54, finishing ahead of people who usually leave me far behind in races, like road-kill left to decay on the Stuart Highway. This one race has me convinced about the importance of aerobic conditioning.

How slow did I run when doing Hadd-training? The upper aerobic (harder) runs eventually got down to 5:06 per km (8:12 miles), while the lower aerobic (easier) runs were around 6:00 per km (9:39 miles). How much did I run? 91 kilometres per week, or for about eight and a half hours per week.

So, towards the end of Hadd-training, I became faster, but there was one unforeseen consequence. My maximum speed became slug-like. When asked to run significantly faster* than the speeds used in Hadd, my body protested. I suspect this is because one becomes so expert at the shorter stride used when running slowly, that suddenly switching to a more powerful, longer stride causes bitter complaint from the body. The marathon-shuffle I used for slow running was too far removed from the expansive stride needed for a fast 3000 metres. My running economy (use of oxygen) with an unfamiliar stride was poor.

Discovering that I've become both faster and slower is my epiphany. I like Hadd, but the downside is that it takes too long after finishing Hadd to regain maximum speed. I can see now why Nick Bideau (Craig Mottram's coach) recommends one session of sprinting in the weekly schedules of his distance runners – 4-5 x 80 to 120 metres at 95% of maximum speed, with full recoveries. The 'fine speed' that Arthur Lydiard talks about is therefore retained throughout the year.

I hope everyone has a good week. For my up-over readers struggling through icy blizzards, you'll be pleased to hear our final weeks of down-under summer have been mild and idyllic with temperatures around the 70°F mark.

* My 11:07 goal for 3000 metres requires a speed of 3:42 per km (5:58 per mile).

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Speed, come back!

An unforeseen consequence of doing six months of Hadd-training is that my speed has departed on the last train to Clarkesville. By speed, I mean my ability to sprint. Okay Geoff, you can stop laughing. I've never claimed to be the bearded answer to Cathy Freeman. As a clean-shaven 28-year-old, I could only sprint 400 metres in 62 seconds. "Anyway", I hear my vast readership asking, "why does a distance runner need to be able to sprint?" Because I need some difference between my top speed and 3k race-pace.

In my first post-Hadd interval session, I ran 200 metre repeats averaging 41 seconds for each. If I'm to run 11:07 for 3000 metres, I need to run every 200 metre split of the race in 44.5 seconds. Clearly there's not enough space (yet) between my top speed and goal race-pace. In my ancient sub-10 minute 3k days, I could jump on the track any time of the year, and run 10 x 200 metres in 32 seconds. Race-pace for 3k back then was 40 seconds per 200 metres, so about 25% slower than top speed. If I can eventually run a similar interval session in 35.5 seconds per 200 metres, my top speed should be sufficiently fast enough to run 11:07. At least top speed won't be a limiting factor to my goal.

When this season of track racing finishes in March, I'm thinking of using the 'conditioning' phase outlined by Arthur Lydiard, rather than simple Hadd-training. What I like about Lydiard's 2-week schedule, is that it includes one day of 'relaxed striding' – 4 to 8 repeats of 200 metres, and one 'time trial' of 3000 or 5000 metres. The 200s should help maintain some sort of fast-twitch muscle condition over winter.

Recent races:
17 Jan - 1500m in 5:51.01. 2 Feb - 5000m in 21:29.58. 7 Feb - 3000m in 12:16.07.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Progression – 1992 to 2007

Commenting on my last post, Rachel asked "Why the 3000 metres?". In short, I like it because a fast 3k is challenging, and the distance suits my physical abilities. Speedwork and other specific training is needed for a good 3000, whereas it's possible to run reasonably well at distances of 5k and above, purely off the base mileage phase of Lydiard, or with simple Hadd-training.

I'm not a marathoner, and I'm definitely not an 800 metre runner. The 3000 sits in that happy running place that requires both endurance and speed. There's no wall to be broken through, like the tank-proof one Kayoko Fukushi found in Osaka. There are many opportunities in Canberra to race 3k over the summer months, and our Arizona-like heat is less of a problem when racing shorter distances. Speaking of which, I never claimed it was humid on that hot January night! That was a rumour initiated by some toast-hating, juvenile lipstick wearing dame; now sporting a wrinkled, collapsed bag of a face.

I always find those 'progression tables' seen on elite athlete profiles interesting. They usually show a trend of steadily improving PBs over the years – such as the ones for Benita Johnson and Craig Mottram. The table below shows the progression of my race times since 1992 – the last year I broke 10 minutes for 3000 metres. If I'm to run Eleven-07 in O-eight, it looks like I need to somehow drag my decrepit doddering body back to the year 1997. I hope my goal doesn't need a DeLorean.

Year800m1500m3000m5000m10,000m1/2 M
20042:42.495:32.5912:23.020:54.942:20 (r)1:38:40
20032:40.75:28.712:02.721:48.1844:14 (r)1:42:39
20002:33.75:09.111:32.8-39:16 (r)1:37:39
19992:29.25:11.911:19.420:04.041:15 (r)1:36:55
19982:31.45:08.111:21.319:46 (r)41:09 (r)1:39:26
19972:24.64:58.910:53.7-38:51 (r)1:33:22
19962:27.94:59.410:34.218:58.439:33 (r)1:25:18
19952:19.84:56.410:31.818:36.538:17 (r)1:23:31
19932:22.24:49.110:16.417:59.839:39 (r)1:25:25
19922:20.24:50.99:56.918:17.537:57 (r)1:24:01
(r) = 10k time run on a certified road course.

the 11:07 bumper stickerThe 11:07 bumper sticker is available at a campaign office near you!

Friday, January 25, 2008

One Goal

I'm an abject failure when it comes to multi-tasking. This malady is said to be typical of males. I'm unable to chat on the phone, eat breakfast, use a laptop, shuffle the iPod, and apply make-up, whilst driving the Corolla. For 2008 I've chosen a single goal for my running. Having just one task may be more sympathetic to my male brain.

I came up with the One Goal plan after stumbling upon a couple of one goal websites. Alex Vero has the goal of qualifying for the Beijing Olympics. Actor Patrick Clarke wanted to be the second runner over 40 to break 4 minutes for the mile. Patrick fell short, running 4:59.19. Alex has recently been training in Ethiopia, but with a half marathon best of 73:45, is unlikely to run the minimum marathon standard of 2:14 needed for the British Olympic team.

In recent years I've been a contemptible failure at achieving goals, so I wanted one that's at least theoretically possible. My goal for 2008 is to run 3000 metres on the track in eleven minutes and seven seconds. For up-over readers, this is slightly faster than 6-minute-mile pace for 1.864 miles. I used the McMillan and Age-Equivalent calculators to come up with 11:07. Eleven-O-Seven has a nice ring to it, don't you think? For a 50-year-old who's often described using D-word adjectives (decrepit, dismal, doddering), this time is apparently equal to the 9:57 I ran as a youthful 34-year-old.

The plan is to race the rest of this track season (finishing on 13 March). Over autumn and winter I'll do two shorter periods of Hadd-training, following each with speedwork and key races. The second period of racing will commence in October on the track. For a bit of fun this year, I'm also entering Half-Fast's Shave Your 5k Challenge – just so I can look smoother than Speedygeoff.