Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Something Borrowed, Something New

The toasty smoke has gradually cleared from my kitchen these past two weeks. It's taken awhile, because I tend to leave windows closed on frosty Canberra mornings.

Until I can scrape together enough cash for the uber-expensive Polar or Suunto HRV watches ($699 online for the latter), I've decided to implement a rather conservative training program. This is a borrowed plan, but it's new for me. It comes from the training diary of Sean Wade. Basically it calls for two easy days between hard sessions. The easy days for me will be an hour or so of running at 76% or less of maximum heart-rate (about 5:45 to 6:00 per km). The hard days will be whatever I feel I need — most likely long hard efforts, such as marathon-pace runs, longer tempo runs, or intervals with minimal recoveries.

I scanned the photo below from a Kodachrome slide. It shows Adam Hoyle and Steve Moneghetti (792) racing in the 1986 World Cross Country selection trial in Canberra. The 12k race was won by Rob de Castella in 36:30, with a fresh-faced Moneghetti placing 4th in 37:18. It occurred to me that Mona has the longevity of my chrome-plated Chinese-made toaster. Just the other day he ran 30:00 for a road 10k in Launceston, two months shy of his 47th birthday. What an example to keep on running!

Mona, six months before his first marathonSteve Moneghetti - Canberra, 1986

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Burnt Toast and HRV

My toaster refuses to die. I purchased it in 1989, the year I bought my house. It was made in China — the country that produces most of our running shoes and LCD screens. It's chrome plated, and such are the whims of fashion, this virtue has transformed it into a totally modern, "must have" kitchen accessory.

So all is good with my toaster! Or is it? Occasionally I'll forget to adjust the timer and be presented with two pieces of charcoal encrusted raisin toast. I was thinking the other day that I'd love to have the longevity of my toaster. To be running with the same speed that I had (and took for granted) in 1989. The unpredictable burning of raisin bread, I see as a metaphor for my (I suspect) recent problem with over-training.

At some point during my 12 weeks of Hosaka-Hadd training my body started to object. I slowly went from continual gains in fitness to struggle-mode. I was becoming burnt toast. Looking back at my training diary, I can see the point where smoke started rising to the ceiling. For 10 weeks, my heart-beats per kilometre (the RS scale), had been steadily decreasing, showing gains in aerobic fitness. I was running my 7k kangaroo/wombat course at below 700 heart-beats per kilometre. At the point of over-training my heart-beats per kilometre climbed, reaching 715 to 720 beats per kilometre.

Is there a way of predicting the onset of over-training, or better still, preventing it from happening in the first place? I've been following with great interest a series of posts from Canute which tackle this issue. Heart rate variability (HRV), or more pertinently the lack of HRV, is a good indicator of over-training stress. "What is HRV?" I hear you asking. Simply put, it's the beat-to-beat timing of the heart-rate. If your heart is beating at 60 beats per minute and you have little HRV, then each of those beats will be extremely close to one second apart. This indicates a highly stressed (or over-trained) state. If you have good HRV, then some beats might be 0.9 seconds apart, with others 1.1 seconds apart.

So it seems you can use the HRV result on any particular day to indicate what sort of a training session you should do. If one's HRV is low, then it may pay off in the long term to postpone a planned hard training session. There are two heart-rate monitors (that I know of) capable of measuring HRV: The Polar RS800CX and the Suunto t6c. Now all I have to do is figure out if I should invest the money I've saved on toasters over the years into one of these high-end heart-rate monitors.

I hope everyone has had a great weekend. May your coming week be stress-free and full of happy running memories!

herb elliott sandhills at surfersOn the Beach at Surfers Paradise, July '09

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

On the Beach

After an all too brief five days in the blazing Queensland sun, I'm back in cool quiet Canberra. To tell you the truth, the sun lacked the intensity of the one now burning over the desert in Arizona — in fact the weather was as perfect as can be — and especially perfect on race-day.

In the end, I didn't run the fast half marathon I was hoping for. A late rush to regain some fitness resulted in a worrying injury gatecrashing the party. It wasn't the left shin — that was rather docile. It was a tight right hamstring. When we visited the expo, I transferred my entry to the 10k race, such was my concern about the leg surviving 21 kilometres of hard running.

After all that, the 10k went surprisingly well, although the tight right leg refused to lay low. My chip time was 45:44 — 37 seconds slower than last year — but the race felt quite different. Aside from the bothersome hamstring, the legs were good throughout. Strained breathing and a high heart-rate during the second half indicated some lost fitness. I was a minute slower on the return journey from Surfers Paradise — running the first 5k in 22:22 at an average heart-rate of 152, with the second 5k a fading 23:22 at 155.

Thinking about it now, two days later, I can see some good racing happening in the months ahead — perhaps in the City to Surf, or the Melbourne Half Marathon. I do feel rejuvenated after my holiday, and can't wait to resume training. There's something about catching up with old friends and witnessing some inspirational racing that's good for the soul.

At the Jolly Chinaman with Plu (photo by Luckylegs)Dinner with Plu outside the Jolly Chinaman in Main Beach

Room with a viewView north of the marathon and 10k course from the 22nd floor