Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What Runners Want

I told Scott Brown that I had a great idea for this post. Woke up in the middle of the night with the first paragraph fully formed in my head. It was well written. I failed to write it down. There's a tip for you. If you wake up startled with a great idea in the middle of the night, resist the temptation of the pillow and write it down!

I wanted to talk about what runners want. Well, what I as a runner wants. I'd like my running to be at that exciting stage where I can see potential for improvement. Faster times. Exciting races. M50 Personal Bests. For the majority of 2010 I haven't been in that place. My races have been struggle-fests. Killing myself at the Gold Coast to break 50 minutes for 10k. Since March this year I've felt like I've been running in six inches of powdery red dust on the back road to Uluru.

On the 15th of December I bumped off that dirt road onto a narrow ribbon of bitumen. Coarse bitumen. I saw a number on my heart-rate monitor that indicated I was, at last, improving. My heart-beats per kilometre (the RS scale) for that 10k run with my mates, were 745. Since March this number has been north of 760 — often closer to 800. The day before my one good 5000 (21:50.7) back in January, I ran at 718 heart-beats per km. As 2010 draws to a close I'm excited that improvement once again seems possible. The 20-minute 5k can happen.

What do you want as a runner? Maybe it's nothing more than feeling the breeze cool your sweat during a warm evening run in late December. If so, enjoy!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

In Slow Motion

I'm writing this just before heading out for my last run for the week. It's a lovely afternoon — sunny but not too warm or humid. 15k will see 85 for the week — not too bad considering this crazy time of the year. Dubs asked in a comment on my last post about how I felt the Hadd/Lydiard base-building was going. It's going well thus far!

This week I ran in three 'training races' — a leg of an 8 x 1 mile relay on Tuesday (roped into it, and took it pretty easy, running 7:14). On Thursday night at Vets I ran a 3000, followed an hour and a half later by a 10,000. Felt pretty tired for the last half of the 10k. 14:55 and 51:49.

I've made a short video of the aforementioned relay race. I slowed the runners down to get an idea of how they ran. The times for their mile legs are sub-titled below the runners. I'd like to get hold of a Casio High Speed camera (which uses high frame rates) to do more of this slow motion photography. The music is by My Little Trotsky. As Molly would say, do yourself a favour and check them out!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Good to Go!

I had an appointment with the thyroid specialist on Friday. He told me my hormone levels are back in the normal range and I'm to continue with a daily dose of 50 micrograms of Thyroxine. This is great news! It means that (all things being equal), I should no longer suffer from fatigue, low energy, muscle soreness, and numerous other symptoms which interfere with good running. He has ordered another blood test to check my Vitamin-D levels. If those are low I'll be on 2-3000 IU per day for 2 to 3 months.

So, I'm good to go! The only thing holding me back over the next 3 weeks is an excessively busy schedule at work. Last week I slaved through three consecutive 12-hour days. It's an effort to squeeze in even a 45-minute jog on such days. I'm wary of pushing myself over the edge in terms of stress. It's like a jungle sometimes — I often wonder how well Jaouad Gharib or Tirunesh Dibaba would run if they had to fit training around 12-hour work days? I guess they'd be a little slower, and not win so many races!

Last week I ran 55 kilometres — about 40 below par for my Hadd/Lydiard base-building plan. On Monday I had an inkling that my heart-beats per kilometre were falling slightly — a sign that my aerobic fitness might be improving. Yesterday I ran 20 kilometres with my mates on bike-paths near a swollen, muddy and debris-filled Lake Burley Griffin. Amazingly, this was my longest run since March! I need to become more familiar with this sort of distance for a long run. I hope all of you have been training well and are good to go. Race well!

Go!! EwenMy shirt says it's time to go!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A fork in the road

In my post The Unforgiving Twenty Minutes, I said I'd be basing my training on the Pete Magill article in Running Times: Solving the 5k Puzzle. I've decided to take a detour for a couple of months before embarking on Pete's training program. My aerobic condition is somewhat less than brilliant, so I'd like to polish that particular weakness first. My idea is to do some running which is fairly similar to the Hadd Training I was undertaking in 2007 — training that preceded a 20:54 5k at Stromlo.

I plan to run a "good" volume of mileage at an intensity which is at or below the 'Maximum Aerobic Heart Rate' as described by Phil Maffetone in this article. For me, this is running at a heart-rate of 130 (or lower) — around 78% of my maximum heart-rate. Over time (hopefully) I'll see an improvement in aerobic condition. My running speed at that heart-rate (and higher heart-rates) will become faster.

At the same time (if it's not too stressful), I'll do a small amount of training to work on my glaring "top-end" speed problem. Things like short/steep hill repeats, 100 metre fast strides, and running drills. I'll also run a few of the ACT Vets' Thursday evening track races — most likely some 3000s and 1500s.

An ugly sweaterSweating up a storm at the end of a 10,000 in February

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Base Camp 23:54

On Thursday evening I raced my first serious 5k since the ACT Championships on 14 January. Finished 2nd-last in 23:54.55. One of the many things I like about track races is that one (usually) receives a finish-time recorded to hundredths of seconds. 19:59.99 is infinitely superior to 20:00.1 — I can say with confidence that there's much work to be done before I'm anywhere near running 19:59.99. My base camp is a long way down the mountain.

The race itself was a little boring. It was a combined 3000/5000, with the majority of runners stopping after 7 1/2 laps. Warming up with Speedygeoff before the race, he told me his goal (achieved) was to run 4:30 kilometre pace. Summoning up the confidence of Scott Brown, I thought 22:30 sounded logically possible. I kept up with Geoff for the first kilometre (4:32 for me), thereafter gradually slowing with splits of 4:40, 4:52 and 4:59. Bronwyn was calling times at the 200 start, so I knew I had to get a move-on if I was to break 24 minutes. Managed to do this with a 4:51 last kilometre.

So, another lesson learned. I'm not only slow in terms of top speed, but I'm also slow aerobically. My heart-rates for the race on Thursday were pretty much the same as for the race in January, which was a little over 2 minutes faster (21:50.7). Maybe a lack of base mileage in recent months is the reason for my glacial 5k speed? My weeks since September have gone: 40, 5, 0, 30, 44, 52, 56, 74, 65 and 82 kilometres. I'd like to run mileage in the 90 to 100k range over the coming months and see if that produces an improvement in aerobic fitness.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A stunning revelation

I'm slow. Not in the way you might think (how fast I can race a 5k), but in a different way. I have run a couple of low-key 5k races in the past two weeks, and I must admit they weren't speedy (for a person wanting to run 5k in under 20 minutes) — 25:57 and 26:43. I tried to run these at "tempo effort", so I'm expecting something quicker next Thursday in a track 5000.

The slowness that stuns me is the time it takes me to run 200 metres. Last Sunday on the lovely grass at Calwell I ran 10 x 200 metres, with full recoveries between each run. Average time: 46.7 seconds. This is not nearly fast enough for someone who wants to run 48 seconds for each 200 of a 5k race. History shows that I need to run 10 x 200m in 36 to 37 seconds. When I was doing that (2001), I raced 5k in 20:06. In 2004, with 200 metre interval speed of 37 to 38 seconds, I ran a road 5k in 20:43.

I ran another session yesterday to check my basic speed — 10 x 100 metres, again with full recoveries, and running pretty much flat-out. These averaged 20.2 seconds, so quicker than the 200s, but still slow. I put this lack of basic speed down to weak fast-twitch muscle fibres. I've been lax in doing fast speedwork in recent times. I should exercise my fast-twitch muscles regularly to improve their strength. I'm wondering how fast you are in terms of basic speed? How fast can you run a session of 100s or 200s? How fast can you run a lap of the track? Do you think it's important to be fast over 200 metres in order to run a fast 5k race?

Racing on the grass at Weston ParkAn 8k race at Weston Park in June 2010

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Don't Fight It

I guess this is a brief report into the status of my quest to run 5k in under 20 minutes. You're not going to get much! One of the things I've realised about distance running (after doing it for 30 years), is that improvement is usually slow. For me that is. You might be one of those runners who's blessed with fast improvement. I ran most of my personal-best times in 1991 — ten years after I started running.

What I'm trying to say is two things: Firstly, if you haven't been running long and think your race-times have plateaued, keep trying; and secondly, don't fight it. Do the training you think will produce the desired result and the times will come. Eventually. Consistency and patience count for a lot.

By tomorrow I'll have run 70 kilometres for the week (my biggest week since late July). I enjoyed my first interval session on the grass at Stromlo last Sunday — 3 x 1k in 4:34, and on Tuesday ran some continuous laps on the lush grass of the Calwell Track. I can tell that I'm not yet fit enough to race well (which I'd define as 22 minutes for 5k). I guess I'd run 24 minutes. I think I'll "race" the Cross Country Club 5k events on Tuesday afternoons (as tempo efforts) to ease my way back into the racing scene.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Unforgiving Twenty Minutes

I've been thinking about racing goals for next year. I should choose a goal that's exciting; on the edge of impossibility; one that I'd love to achieve. A fast marathon maybe? No, that's not my scene. I do believe in ideals, and my ideal race is not the marathon. OK then, here's the goal: I'm going to try and break 20 minutes for 5k. My history and progression indicates I'm likely to fail. Breaking 21:30 would be hard enough. Why set myself up for probable failure? I like the idea of the challenge; the likely long and arduous journey that will be set in motion by the goal of running under 20 minutes for 5 kilometres. I've never derived satisfaction from achieving soft goals. I'd rather fail at a difficult goal. There's also the good story I'll be able to tell at the end of the journey — a story surpassing any tall tale Scott Brown is able to tell.

On Tuesday night I was chatting to Gary at the Speedygeese dinner. He said something that has inspired me to try and run this hitherto considered impossible time. It so happened that back in July, Gary ran a six-year PB for 800 metres. 2:32 was quicker than any 800 metre race he'd run since 2004. What's more remarkable is that he's in the 60-64 age-group! I'll have to turn back the form-clock to 2001, but why can't that be possible? Getting on top of my thyroid problem is sure to help, as will shorter hours at work and "proper" 5k training. I also received further inspiration from an unlikely source — the description of an angry 5k race that resulted in a 19:51 finishing time. I need to get angry with my racing!

One consequence of my 5k racing goal is that I won't be running Six Foot next March — the training for a 45k race over mountains is too far removed from what's needed to run fast for twenty minutes. I should give myself at least 18 months to race under 20 for 5k. My training will involve putting together the puzzle-pieces talked about by Pete Magill in the April 2010 issue of Running Times. I'm not aiming for a particular race (although I'd like to run well at the ACT Championships in 2012). There will be many races, as I tend to improve with regular racing. There will also be breaks from racing, to recharge the batteries.

Six Foot 2009Not 5k Racing

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A measurement of fitness

In spite of not racing a half marathon in Melbourne today (or perhaps because of that fact), I'm feeling pretty good. Quite a few of my mates were running — you can check out their results in due course at Speedygeoff's. I ran 44 kilometres this past week, including a session of 200 metre repeats on the lush grass track at Calwell. As expected, these 200s were a bit of an eye-opener. They averaged 48.5 seconds (4:02 kilo pace), so pretty slow. The only other time I've run 200s this year was back in June and those averaged 45.3 seconds. I need to do more of this type of running.

Being a bit of a pedantic bastard, I've made a habit (regularly since 2006 and haphazardly before then) of recording my average heart-rate on regular (non-track-session) runs. I record my "average heart-beats per kilometre", for I believe this is a good measurement of aerobic fitness. I call this the "RS" number (for marathoner Robert Song who gave me the idea). On the 3rd of October I ran 10k at 866 heart-beats per km. Yesterday I ran the same course at 833 heart-beats per km, so that indicates a fitness improvement in one week. It's exciting how fast one improves after a lay-off! The faster one runs the more efficient one is, so running speed needs to be not too much at variance when using this test (and that goes for weather conditions too).

One thing I haven't done well in recent years is to match leg strength and speed to improving aerobic fitness. Having a comfortably low heart-rate is great, but it's even better to also have speed and strength in the legs. Short intervals, short hill repeats, and running drills are regular sessions I plan on doing to address this shortcoming. I hope all who raced on the weekend enjoyed it and ran well. I'll catch up with your blogs over the next day or two.

DateTimeAve HRH-beats/kmDescription
31 Oct 199341:2016467810k race
10 Nov 199374:52148652Corkwoods 17k
16 Nov 200758:53124730Pines 10k
7 Aug 200959:29120714Pines 10k
3 Oct 201060:34143866School 10k
9 Oct 201058:39142833School 10k

The above table shows that I'm "fit" when heart-beats per kilometre are 730 or better

Monday, October 04, 2010

Learning to Run

This past week I've gradually resumed running. On Monday, 5k with the Geese (Katherine dropped me at Kings Avenue Bridge on the 8k warm-up run — 5:44 kilometres was too much); Wednesday a very slow 9.5k with my mates, enjoying the lengthening daylight hours; Saturday, 6 x 500 metres with 58 second walking rests (these 500s were hard, slow); Sunday 10k on the flat in 60:34 at a heart-rate that's usually good for 53 minutes when fit.

I feel like I'm learning how to run again. Not exactly with a blank sheet of paper — more like a sheet of paper pencilled with a few numbers and doodles. I'm glad to have scrambled 75k in the past 4 weeks. I haven't lost it all. Whatever "all" happens to be. It's just so joyous to be running — breathing in the lovely temperatures and smells of Spring.

I know I have readers who'll soon be racing marathons or half marathons, perhaps in Melbourne or Chicago or New York. Enjoy the experience, run well, and have fun! Others of you have just raced — perhaps a 5k in Philly, a 10k in New York, a marathon in Zeeland or Toronto. Well done! Still others are injured and not running, or postponing races à la Ryan Hall. I have no idea how many people read this blog, but thanks to those who take the trouble to leave comments. They're quite encouraging (and at times entertaining). There could be readers who've run off course (as in a poorly marked fun run), ending up here at the end of a Google-search for "obsessive compulsive runners" or "good looking Aussie blokes" — to the latter girls I apologise — even my Mum doesn't think I'm deserving of a walk-up part on The Bachelorette.

Racing on the trackRacing a 1500m on the track in 2008

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Do you remember the 4th of July?

Physically, I'm over my recent illness. I haven't run for 13 days. For me, this is a long break. I'm one of those runners who loses fitness quickly — four days off and I'm puffing on the warm-up run for the Speedygeese session at Parliament House. For this reason, I tend to run pretty much daily if possible.

The last time I had a significant break from running was in 2006. I ran sporadically during a 5-week holiday to America. On the 4th of July I ran from Old Town in San Diego through Presidio Park. That evening we rode the trolley down to the marina to watch the fireworks display over the harbour. The following afternoon I ran 5.5 kilometres and the next day we drove north on 101 to Los Angeles for the flight home. I didn't run for the next 9 days.

I'm happiest with my running when the training is ticking over with regularity. Runs build upon runs, sessions upon sessions and fitness for racing well seems to be there all the time. It's taken for granted. When this is happening I'm loathe to choose to stop running. Why stop? Looking at running as a lifetime activity, I think it's healthy to have one or two periods every year where one doesn't run. Of course, these periods would be choices, not stoppages due to injury or illness. I know many of the Kenyan elite runners, at the end of the competitive season, have a break of up to a month where they don't run a step. I want to be running when I'm 81 — not racing marathons mind you, just running! I think a planned break from running will make this long-term goal more likely. I've extended my rest due to illness into an "end-of-season" break. I think I'll run tomorrow.

You see lots of US flags on the 4th of July
Playing games on the 4th of July, 2006

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Missing Melbourne

I have my number for the Melbourne Half on 10 October, but I won't be running. I'm sick. The doctor says it's a viral condition. If so, it's one tough virus! I started to feel a cold coming on four weeks ago, 21 August. Had 5 days off work, then started running again but wasn't 100% cured. Ran two weeks of 64 and 40 kilometres then started to feel crook again last Saturday. I've had the last four days off work — it looks like being a few more days (hopefully that's all) before I'm well enough to return to work.

This setback means I won't be racing the Melbourne Half. My preparation hadn't been great anyway, but I was looking forward to the run and mini holiday with my friends. Separately to the virus problem I've also had a couple of blood tests. I was curious to see if iron deficiency (rather than slogging through too many 10-hour work days) was a reason for my lethargy and lack of enthusiasm for training. Turns out my iron levels are okay, but I have Hypothyroidism — not all the symptoms mind you. The ones I have experienced are: fatigue and low energy levels, intolerance to cold temperatures, and fatigued and aching muscles. I'm on a daily 50ug dose of Thyroxine which will be monitored with future blood tests.

In the grand scheme of life, the universe and running, missing Melbourne is no big deal. It has made me think though, that we shouldn't take our health for granted. Running usually brings one good health, but one needs to be healthy to run! Stay healthy friends, and have a great week.

My number for MelbourneMy Melbourne number. There's always next year!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

A hiding place where no one ever goes

I'm honoured to have been chosen to join Joe's dream road-relay team. It's probably beyond the bounds of cyber-friendship, but I'll ask my captain in advance if I can run the short and/or downhill legs. The requirement for hopping on board Joe's van was to answer an intriguing question: If you had the chance to go back and change one thing in your life, would you and what would it be? Before I answer the question, I'll offer six random readers the chance to ride in my van if they're brave enough to answer the same question. It takes a little manning-up to ride in a van that could be driving on the wrong side of the road. Let me know if you take on the challenge.

Now... changing one thing. Backwards time travel isn't possible, so I'm fortunate to be an optimist. I look forward to future possibilities. I might as well be creative with this question. My answer: I'd change my parents and I'd get a better (university) education. If I could choose my parents, I'd select Herb Elliott and Grete Waitz. A 15-year age gap, but possible. I'd have been born in 1975. That'd make me 35 years of age. I'd be in the twilight of my professional running career — preparing to race the marathon at the XIX Commonwealth Games in Delhi. With parents like Herb and Grete I'd have been blessed with talent for running. I've always wondered what it's like to run with talent. How much easier is it?

The better education part of my answer is because it's something I really do miss. I was intelligent enough to go to university, but at the time, had my mind set on doing something that didn't require such an education. A well-rounded education, even if it seemingly serves no practical purpose (besides giving one a qualification and a high-paying career), provides knowledge of life and the world. There are things one just doesn't learn from the school of hard knocks.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

One hundred k in a day

I flew to Melbourne with Ruth last weekend to "crew" for Liz in her first 100k ultramarathon. It was quite an experience — I now have some understanding about what lures seemingly sane runners to push themselves over such incredible distances. Sunday passed surprisingly quickly (for us!) as we watched Liz and friends complete 26 laps (plus 500 metres) of The Tan — Melbourne's famous and popular running track.

The track is a 3.827k loop with most of the surface being compressed gravel. There's one hill — the not insignificant Anderson Street, an asphalt footpath. The unofficial one-lap course record is held by Craig Mottram at 10:08. At the end of the day, Liz was the first female to finish. She passed the early leader not long after 50k and pushed on to run 9:47:30. She was amazing! One hundred kilometres in not much more time than a regular working day. Also running in the 100 were two other friends from Canberra, Steve and Nick. Steve finished in 11:38, but Nick had to retire at 54k.

In conjunction with the 100k there was a 53.5k "fun run" starting at 9:00 AM, 2 hours after the 100k. We got to cheer on a couple of trail-running friends — John and Di. We also managed a little shopping, eating and coffee drinking over the weekend. It was good fun.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Still Red

I raced the City to Surf on Sunday — my 27th trip from Sydney city to Bondi Beach. On the face of it my time looks slow, but I must say I'm very happy with the result and how I ran. Finished in a chip-timed 72:04 for the 14k, which is 5:09 per km pace (8:17 miles). Significantly, this was safely under the 75 minutes needed to start in the Red Group (first corral to start) next time. I also enjoyed a great weekend spending quality time with my friends from Canberra.

I used my disliked Ryan Hall race strategy — running an even effort throughout — dropping down a gear on the uphills and staying off the brakes on the downs. I avoided racing until the last kilometre, when I tried to kick-down with a couple of teenage girls wearing tutus. I lost that race!

Speaking of Ryan, I was reading Rick's blog and saw an article by Ryan's wife Sarah. It came from the Master The Shift Facebook page (under the 'Ryan' tab). Sarah contends that there are two types of runners — those who train to race and those who train to train. She places herself in the first category and Ryan in the second. Sarah races about 20 times a year and Ryan 4 to 5 (of which one or two will be marathons). I was wondering where people lie on this running spectrum. I myself am more Sarah than Sarah, having raced 18 times already this year. This might seem like too much racing, but in my "PB year" of 1991 I raced 41 times. I like racing! However, when you end up running like a dog that's been beat too much, you don't look forward to racing. The results from a blood test will be back on Tuesday — I'm hoping a simple iron deficiency (rather than working too many 11-hour days) is the cause of my poor recent form.

Fast City to Surf Beard
With my fast beard and mate Gordon — weekend of the '98 City to Surf

Sunday, July 25, 2010

An interesting experiment

I haven't been running much these past few weeks. Some focus group high up in Massive National Corporation has decided that understaffing the wage-slave class is a sensible way to improve productivity. We slaves have been working 11 and 12 hour days (including a 30-minute lunch break). If this madness continues, I fear I might have to "do a Thomas" — drag myself out of bed at 3:30 AM and run before work.

I raced a 10k on Saturday, finishing 60th in 54:57. I ran at high-end tempo effort (an average heart-rate of 87%). If I'd laced up the racing flats and let it all hang out (92%), I suspect I may have run around 52:30. What's interesting about this result is how much slower I race due to running less mileage. The faceless executives in a Sydney glass tower have given me this wonderful experimental opportunity.

Glen Coward told me once that a runner is only as good as her previous six weeks' training. My experiment proves this contention. I raced a track 10,000m on 11 February in 45:57. In the previous six weeks I'd run 530k, or 88k (55 miles) per week. In the six weeks prior to Saturday's 10k I'd run 327k, or 55k (34 miles) per week. Result of the experiment: I run 60% of my normal weekly volume and I race six minutes slower for 10k.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Good holiday; bad race

Embarrassingly, I wasn't able to offer Jojo even a modicum of competition. I was unceremoniously smacked down — flattened to the canvas inside the first round! 49:26 for myself; 46:01 for the victor. Although it hurts, I'll be paying the café bill when next we meet.

It was one of those races in which I never felt entirely comfortable. Or in pain. Got stuck early in a groove that was more like half marathon effort. Started next to Andy, not too far from the front, but couldn't spot Jojo. After the gun, we were 14 seconds to the start mat; Andy ran to my right and gradually drifted ahead. He would run 43:42. I split the second kilometre in 4:43 (my fastest, but still slow) and soon after was running around 5-flats. It was my slowest 10k race since I-don't-know-when. The only bright spot was being amazed by the beautiful running of the girl who placed 5th in the 12-14 age-group. She flew past in the last kilometre. I bumped into her in the recovery area — she had just turned 12, and run 48:45.

A dud race failed to spoil my holiday. Had a great time with my roomies Andy and Ruth. Enjoyed running in warm temperatures and doing the tourist thing in summer clothing — an all-too brief respite from Canberra's sometimes gloomy winter. So, it's back to the grind of wage-slavery next week. Before then I hope to catch up with your blogs. We didn't have an internet connection in Queensland — being out-of-touch for a while was kinda nice.

The view from our apartment was spectacular!

Enjoying lunch after the marathon on Sunday

Roger, Ruth and Andy during our Tuesday bush-walk in the Lamington National Park

Monday, June 28, 2010

Smackdown in the Sun

I thought I'd write about two things that pretty much sum up where my head is at the moment. I'm totally excited about trying to improve at 5k. I raced the Canada Day 5k last Sunday. It's an annual fund-raising fun run (for the ACT Cancer Council), and happily for me, only the times of the first 25 men and women in the 5 and 10k races are recorded. I timed myself at 23:31 — a small improvement on my CRRF race. Started fast (4:16 first k) and died an ugly death in the hills with 5:16 for the fourth kilometre.

I'm reading a novel. My generous Minnesotan sister Anne gave it to me. It's Once a Runner, by John L. Parker Jr. I've just read chapter 17 — Breaking Down — in which the protagonist Quenton Cassidy is left in a broken state by seriously difficult training.
"The toll on the runner — and those around him — was high, psychologically as well as physically. He became weak, depressed; he needed twelve to fourteen hours of sleep a night. He was literally desperate for rest, spent his waking hours with his legs elevated, in a state of general irritability. He became asexual, rendered, in the words of the immortal limerick, really quite useless on dates. He was a thoroughly unpleasant person."
Now quickly I must say, I hope that doesn't apply to me. I do however, regard myself as a serious runner. I hate offering (and generally never do) excuses for a poor performance. Later in the same chapter, the inevitability of training that serious runners do is talked about:
"Quenton Cassidy knew what the mystic-runners, the joggers, the runner-poets, the Zen runners, and others of their ilk were talking about. But he also knew that their euphoric selves were generally nowhere to be seen on dark, rainy mornings. They primarily wanted to talk it, not do it. Cassidy very early on understood that a true runner ran even when he didn't feel like it, and raced when he was supposed to, without excuses and with nothing held back. He ran to win, would die in the process if necessary, and was unimpressed by those who disavowed such a base motivation. You are not allowed to renounce that which you never possessed, he thought."

The other thing I'm thinking about is how, as an older runner, to run faster. There was a link on Flo's blog to a July/August 2010 Running Times article about running form. It's a great read. In it there's talk about running economy, and how the body becomes economical (with energy use) after doing many years of running. Pete Magill says "This belief system that just doing it over and over is somehow going to make us better is really crazy. Long-time runners actually suffer from the body's ability to become efficient. You become so efficient that you start recruiting fewer muscle fibres to do the same exercise, and as you begin using less muscle fibres you start to get a little bit weaker." This is where I am right now.

Next Saturday morning I have a 10k race at the Gold Coast. I challenged Robert Song to a race in the Half Marathon, but have decided to race the 10k. So now I have a showdown with Jojo — the Smackdown in the Sun. She's an 800m runner with a 10k PB of 44:35. I'm decidedly nervous about the outcome. I fear that I'll be buying the cappuccinos.

I was a fast runner back in 1852
Hitting the wall 4k into the Canada Day 5k

Thursday, June 17, 2010

How much should I run, and how fast?

I've been thinking about the weekly volume of running I need in order to race "a good" 5k. In the last 4 weeks I've averaged 65k per week (40 miles). My aerobic fitness doesn't feel as great as it could be. When I ran 20:54 for the Stromlo 5k at the end of 2007 I'd run 92k (57 miles) per week for the previous 4 weeks.

Flo wrote recently asking "Is more mileage better?" — to which Joe Garland replied "I think the more the merrier provided that you’re not constantly worn down." That pretty much answers the first part of the question posed by this post. Now I know there are runners out there who do amazingly well off "low mileage." Like my friend Kathy S, who runs very fast age-group times off 50 to 60k per week. That's kilometres, not miles! I'm not the type of runner who can produce PBs off low mileage, no matter how intense those miles are run. I'll run as much as I can — more than 80k, but a good few less than the 170 to 200 weekly kilometres Scott Brown's putting away.

So, my simple plan will be modified. A confession here — it wasn't working that well anyway! One day of long easy running wasn't enough to recover for a hard session. I'll try "Simple Plan 2.0." — a workout day followed by two easy/long days. The second part of my question is "How fast do I need to run?" For the easy days, I don't believe it matters. The easier the better, so my legs are good-to-go on the workout day. The famous black/white training of Nic Bideau. Or in my case, black/white/white. How fast do I run on the workout days? Maybe a variety of speeds — from near maximal sprinting all the way down to half-marathon paced tempo running. I see sprinting as important because my old mate Gerard Ryan (3k steeple in 8:30-ish) said that 5k speed depends on how fast one is over 100 metres. At the present moment my 100 metre speed is more Athabasca Glacier than Niagara Falls.

me on tuggie hillA Sony phone photo from the track around the hill near my place

brindabella sunsetSunset over the Brindabellas from the same location

Sunday, June 06, 2010

How to choose an event

Following up on my last post, I thought I'd outline my reasons for choosing the 5k as my main racing distance for the foreseeable future. I've used a simple table to do this — with a rating of 0 to 10 for different reasons to choose an event. The 5k is the easy winner, 40 points to 23. The 'good at it' row is based on my performance as a percentage of the world record. As you can see, I've pretty much sucked at running ever since I started doing it! My best event ever was the 800 metres, at 74.9% of the world record. As a 50+ aged runner, my 1500 ranks highest. I'd like to get the 5k up to 70%, which would mean running 21:05 at age 53.

I hope everyone is having a great weekend. I know some have raced the Christchurch Marathon, and some haven't. I raced an awful 8k cross country race yesterday, which is best forgotten. An enjoyable 15k jaunt through the Aussie bush later this afternoon will make up for it.

 Marathon5k100 metresOlympic Tri
Like racing it2945
Like the training61054
Good at it2532
Friends do it7712
Emotional attachment6922

EventMale World RecordAll-time PBOpen A/G %M50 A/G %
100 metres9.5813.869.4No PB
800 metres1:41.112:15.0674.969.6
5000 metres12:37.3517:33.571.967.7
Half M58:2381:3871.567.0
Marathon2:03:593:11:0264.9No PB
Olympic Tri1:48:242:46:5564.9No PB

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Reasons not to race a marathon

First up, a confession. I haven't followed my simple plan to perfection. Running last weekend was the second thing on my mind. I had a couple of days in sunny Melbourne with my non-running friends Joy and Mal. The primary purpose of our visit was to see the Blues thrash the Hawks in an AFL game Sunday afternoon (Mal is a huge Blues supporter). Sadly, "our team" lost — badly! We slunk out of the ground before the final siren.

I managed two runs — 7.5k on the hotel treadmill (finishing in a lather of sweat), then on Sunday morning a lovely 8.3k run up the south bank of the Yarra River to the famous Tan track. While in Melbourne we also shopped (Joy for shoes, us boys for motorcycle accessories), visited Mali at the Melbourne Zoo, and won/lost money at the Casino. It was a good weekend.

Back in cool Canberra I ran 4 x 500 metres on Friday afternoon, then a solo 15k in the rain Saturday morning, before catching up with serial marathoner Liz for a coffee. The 500s weren't that quick (2:07.5 average — 6:50 mile pace), but what was amazing was how they seemed to transform Saturday's easy run. My stride felt easier, longer and bouncier than it's usual slow-run shuffle. A friend of Flo's linked to her blog an article in Running Times where coach Greg McMillan talks about changing the stride of Paige Higgins. According to Greg, Paige is a "super shuffler", who needs to improve her stride in order to make the US team for the London Olympics. I'd like to improve my stride so I can run a faster 5k. That's the distance I'd like to improve the most. After listening to Joe, Flo and friends at the Runners Round Table, I now have a couple of extra reasons not to rush into another marathon.

Bikers and the BeachMy mate Mal (blue T-shirt) in April 1983. We were having a 4-Owners motorcycle club weekend at Narooma Beach

Friday, May 14, 2010

A simple plan for a simple man

I've devised a training plan to (hopefully) carry me through this busy period of wage-slavery and emerge from the darkness as (perhaps) a better runner than I am now. An admission here: I like backing sure things, and it wouldn't take much to improve from being a 24:02 5k runner!

My plan borrows from Yoshihisa Hosaka — the World's best M60 marathoner, who repeats the same training day ad infinitum. In my plan, I repeat the same two training days. The first day calls for a longish easy run — 90 minutes to an hour 45, which is around 14 to 16 kilometres at my pace. The second day is short — 7 or 8 ks, run as some sort of workout. This could be as simple as a sustained upper aerobic run, to as complicated as 8 x 400 metres with 200 metre jog recoveries preceded by a set of Pete Magill drills. I'll decide on the day what I think I need/can cope with/would enjoy.

Every eighth day will be a rest day. That bit is borrowed from the training of Paula Radcliffe and Mara Yamauchi. The diary will look something like: 16, 7, 14, 8, 16, 7, 16, Rest. What is the thought process behind my simple plan? Day one is for cardiovascular endurance but is gentle running, so easy on the legs. Day two is for running at efforts somewhat slower than (or faster than) 5k race-pace, and using race-pace form. I think this modest plan will help me hit a sweet spot of training that produces improvement. On the weekends I'll run on soft trails through local bushland with friends and curious kangaroos.

Three kangaroos watch us runWe often see kangaroos on runs around Canberra

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Zen and the Art of the CRRF 5k

I talked in my last post about the idea of planning a strategy to beat an opponent in a race. This presumes one is capable of running with the opponent in the first place — just as Marty Liquori was capable of running with Jim Ryun in 1971. On Saturday afternoon in the CRRF 5k I was no Marty Liquori. After 1k I was already 30 seconds behind my rival, Jim White. I was having the Dave Moorcroft dream — racing in the 5000 metres at the '84 LA Olympics; losing contact early; being lapped by the winner; eventually finishing 14th, a minute outside my PB (which happens to be the world record).

I'm not running well. Maybe I've caught the Scott Brown or Steve Lacey virus? I've been working unavoidable longer hours recently — 10 hours or more some days. Training at the end of a long work day isn't something I look forward to. Maybe I should employ a Zen attitude and pretend that swinging a sledge hammer on a railroad gang, knocking down them cross ties in the rain, is a pastime of beauty and empowerment?

The ugly splits: 4:30 (147), 4:41 (153), 4:58 (156), 4:47 (153), 5:07 (153) = 24:03. Jim ran 21:49.

Me trying to race 5kNadine snapped this photo and posted it on Facebook. I'm running through the park up the hill (well, it felt like a hill!) — I think I look suitably tired but not totally ugly.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I race like Ryan Hall

The Boston Marathon was run late Monday night our time. A couple of online mates of mine were running — Flo and Robert. Both ran great times. I followed the elite race coverage after the fact on The women's race resulted in an exciting finish as Tatyana Pushkareva came from behind to almost run down breakaway leader Teyba Erkesso. In the men's race, Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot and Deriba Merga traded second-half surges until Cheruiyot eventually despatched the pretenders to win in a course record of 2:05:52. Ryan Hall employed an even-pacing strategy which saw him dropping off the lead pack when surges were applied, then suddenly appearing at the front of the pack when they slowed. He eventually finished fourth in 2:08:41.

It has occurred to me that I race like Ryan Hall — at least in long races, which I'll classify as 15k or longer. I try and run an even pace throughout the race, which is the proven best way to run a record time — in my case, a personal best. The thing is, I'm not actually racing! I'm running a glorified time-trial with other runners for company. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I'm not sure. I think I'd like to RACE! You know, sit on a rival's shoulder before throwing in a mid-race surge to break their spirit. Or run quietly with the pack (that's the local pack of runners I know who are near my ability) for a few kilometres before running a fast 2k split to get away, then surviving until the finish. This is the tactic Ismael Kirui used in the 5000 metres at the Stuttgart World Championships. He jumped away from a pack which included Haile Gebrselassie by running a 4-minute mile, then survived the chasers to win in 13:02.75.

My next major goal race is the "21k" at the Gold Coast. It's actually run over a distance of 21.0975 kilometres (13.109416 miles), but apparently the correct distance is too long to fit on the T-shirt. I'll be trying to run an M50 PB — 1:40:47 or faster, and probably use the Ryan Hall even-pacing method. There will be shorter races before then, both on the track and over the country. I'd like to be game enough to sometimes try Kirui, Merga, Steve Prefontaine, or Ron Clarke tactics in those races. In the next days and weeks various on and off-line friends will be running marathons in London, California, Oregon, Kentucky, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Canberra. Good luck to all!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Running and Watching

I've decided not to run the Christchurch Marathon. Rinus said I could run a marathon "for fun", and that's true enough, but I'd like to attempt a respectable time for my next marathon. If I do run one, it'll be later in the year. Until then I'll keep trying to improve my times from 3k to the half marathon.

I thought I'd show you one of the places where I run. It's the track at Calwell. If I had a dollar for every kilometre I've run down there I'd be rich enough to shout the bar many times over at Scott's Bar & Grill. Late on Thursday afternoon I ran 3000 metres at tempo pace and felt the best I have since Six Foot.

On Saturday morning I ran 16.7k down by the lake with my mates — felt fine for that one too — then this morning marshalled near a bridge and had the pleasure of watching 1000 or so women and girls participating in a 5k fun run. It was a good weekend!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Unsure about Christchurch

I've been thinking about the Christchurch Marathon — it's on the 6th of June. That's ten weeks away — just enough time for a marathon preparation under normal circumstances. Trouble is, I've been struggling to recover from the Six Foot Track. The legs are feeling pretty normal now, but aerobically I'm not great. My heart-rate is much higher than usual for any given pace. I didn't start in the 5000 metre race last Thursday. I'll wait a few more weeks before deciding one way or the other about Christchurch.

Yesterday I ran 20 kilometres around the lake — quite slow at 6:23 per km (10:49 mile pace). I ran with Ruth and Jen, who were happy to jog easily on what was a typically perfect Autumn morning in Canberra. We saw many others doing the same thing, including Martin, running fast with a back-pack.

Something else I've been thinking about lately is the possibility of running better. That's "better" as in running with improved form. Would overhauling my form help me to run faster? Paul showed me a link to a fascinating video which shows a side-by-side comparison of a female runner using markedly different running form. The left half of the video shows her running with a heel landing while the right side shows her with a forefoot landing. The forefoot side certainly looks better, and if function follows form, one would have to say it's probably faster.

Three geese having a rest on the bridgeSelf portrait of three Geese on the wooden bridge

Monday, March 15, 2010

An email from Colin

I'm sitting here feeling a bit battered and bruised, licking my wounds while thinking about what was a fantastic weekend in the Blue Mountains. It started last Monday with an email from Colin Jeftha, Race Director of the Six Foot Track Marathon, offering ten guaranteed last-minute entries. There had been late withdrawals from the race and the committee wanted the event to start with "as close to the 850 race limit as possible." In a sliding doors moment of impetuousness I pulled out the credit card and entered.

My taper wasn't that scientific! I jogged shorter and easier with the Wednesday group, then had two days of no running. This didn't work! My legs felt ominously sore during the first slippery downhill 300 metres of the race. Once at the bottom of the Nellies Glen steps I continued to run easily hoping the legs would come good. They didn't. My official split at the Cox's River was 1:51:21, about 9 minutes slower than last year. I knew then it would be a long day!

From the Pluviometer (26k in 3:46:08) to the finish at Caves House there was much more walking than jogging. 2 hours 50 minutes is a long time to cover 19 kilometres! I was extremely happy when Finisher's Medal #7 was hung around my neck by a smiling volunteer after a 45 kilometre adventure. 749th place (out of 806 finishers) in 6:40:05. I'm not sure this over-distance run will have a positive effect on my 5000m race on 25 March, but right now I'm not too worried. It was a fun weekend.

Damper and tea prior to the startPre-race breakfast with Graeme (5:49:22), Steve (4:52:15) and my cousin Don (6:11:41)

Wondering what I'm doing here!John Harding's photo shortly after the Wave 3 start

Happy 6ft runners the day afterThe day after - Nick (4:58:28), Steve, Ewen, John (5:18:06), Graeme, Catherine (6:13:55), Michael (5:21:21) and Diana (6:35:37)

Monday, March 08, 2010

How do we run?

I've been reading some interesting blog posts from Steve Magness about running technique, shoes, barefoot running and the like. There was one about footplant and the role it plays in efficient/fast running. Apparently a mid-foot or forefoot landing is faster, due in part to the 'storage' of elastic energy in leg muscles and tendons. Mid or forefoot landings also produce shorter ground contact times. The one caveat is that changing your running form from a heel landing to a mid-foot landing needs to be done gradually if one is used to the cushioned shoes designed to touch the ground heel first.

Yesterday afternoon I did a session of running drills with Ruth and Jen on the grass near the Portrait Gallery. When we'd finished I took some slow-motion video of our running footplants. My camera is not the greatest for this as it only records video at 30 frames per second. A high speed video camera would be better. I've slowed the video down to 5 frames per second in the YouTube video at the end of this post.

On Saturday morning I ventured out with the Molonglo group — we started in light rain, which soon abated. The temperature throughout the run was about 19°C. Andy turned at the National Museum while Ruth and I continued around West Basin for a total of 30.5k. Ruth ran extra to make 31, but I'd had more than enough at 30.5 — that's close enough to a nice round 19 miles, so my obsession with round distances was amply satisfied.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Long runs are possible

I'm similar to Joe Garland (and Flo for that matter), in that I won't feel bereft if I never do a long training run again — once the marathon is over. The 30k on Saturday went well. It was one of those calm sunny mornings that Canberra prides itself on this time of the year. Hot-air balloons were floating high over the lake.

We were out for a bit over three and a half hours, but the running time was 3:06. Coming back through the Wetlands near the end of the run, the foot-bridge over the river was blocked for repairs. We ran down to a railway bridge and sheepishly made our way across, then bush-bashed through an old dump before climbing a few fences and rejoining the path. All good fun! Bronwyn's Garmin map below shows our anti-clockwise trip around the lake and the detour near the end. The run went so well that I'm planning a similar distance on Saturday. It's most likely that I'll aim for the Christchurch Marathon on 6 June.

The YouTube video below shows part of the warm-up run for the Speedygeese Monday session at Parliament House. Yesterday we ran 'relay sprints' on the soft grass in front of the house. 30 minutes in teams of 3 — it was challenging and fun!

A run around the lake + a slight detourFollow the yellow bitumen road (and a railway bridge)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sweating on a long run

Tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn I plan on running 30k with friends around beautiful Lake Burley Griffin. We'll be out for around 3 hours 15 minutes — afterwards, hopefully I'll be feeling normal enough to enjoy coffee and breakfast. I've been sweating on this run. It's a good bit longer than the 23k I'm used to on Saturday mornings. It's a bit of a test to see whether I'll like marathon training.

I'm slightly worried because my races haven't been going well. Thursday a week ago I started in the 5000, but reached 5 laps feeling very ordinary, so decided to bail out at 3k (12:47.4). Last night my legs were totally dead — was lapped by Speedygeoff, Brett and Nadine. Janene, Jim and Bronwyn were out of sight. I ran 13:59, which is more like half marathon goal pace. The heart-rate monitor told me I was running at tempo effort (86%), but the legs just wouldn't go faster! Anyway, my fingers are crossed for tomorrow's run.

Speaking of sweating, I've posted a couple of David Appleby's photos from the 10,000. You can see the sweat pouring out of me! In the second photo I'm being lapped by the third-placed female. There's also a link to a YouTube movie of a mystery run with the Wednesday Wiggles group. The quality isn't great — I need better video compression software, so if anyone knows of a good program, let me know.

Sweating up a storm in the 10,000
Sweating in the ACT 10,000m Championships

Being lapped by the 3rd-placed lady
Being lapped by the 3rd-placed lady

View Movie at YouTube
Wednesday Mystery Movie

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Aging Disgracefully

I ran 45:57.54 in the 10,000 last Thursday evening — 1:03 away from an M50 PB. I'm at peace with the result. The race plan went well — started with 1:48 for the first lap, 4:28 for the first kilo. Kept up that effort throughout the race and ran the last kilometre in 4:29. Unfortunately the weather decided to put on a show more suitable for outdoor dining at midnight, rather than one for racing 25 laps of the track. It was 27 degrees when we ran (81 Fahrenheit), and humid. The sweat was pouring out of me. I'm a generous sweater, so don't run next to me on a training run in summer! Deek once said that the marathon should be held during the Winter Olympics. I'll add the 10,000 to that request.

For the first few laps I ran behind the group of John, Roger and Bronwyn. I overtook Bronwyn but John and Roger gradually got away — they were running too fast for me. The rest of my race was pretty lonely. I just concentrated on keeping the effort constant. Took one drink from the table set up on the back straight, but could have taken more. With 10 laps to go I saw the distance between myself and John shrinking from the 100 metres he'd built up. I managed to pass him with 2 laps to go, then calculated I'd need a quick last lap to break 46 minutes — did this with 1:40 for the last lap.

I've been thinking that I haven't aged gracefully. Like the motorcycle club I'm a member of, I've grown old disgracefully. If I were to run 45 minutes for 10k (on a cool day), the age-grade tables say that's worth 39:45 for a whipper-snapper. I'd need to be running 41:30 now to be "as graceful" as I was back in '91. Anyway, I'm having as much fun with running as I was back then, so that's the main thing. With running, it pays to have a sense of humour. If you can't laugh, you won't survive the pain inherent in running to the best of your ability. That's why I run with funny people — like the Speedygeese, or the Wednesday arvo runners — pictured below doing their best Wiggles impersonation on the front porch of Parliament House.

10k splits: 4:28, 4:32, 4:35, 4:33, 4:34 (22:42), 4:37, 4:41, 4:43, 4:45, 4:29 (23:15).

I run with escapees from Shutter IslandRunning is less painful when you run with funny people

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Coach and I

I'm racing 10,000 metres on the track this Thursday. Canute expressed confidence when commenting on my last post that a time "comfortably under 45 minutes" was likely. If the Seiko at the finish reads less than 44:54 I'll have an M50 PB — how I want one of those! My tactic will be to run the very even schedule that worked for the one hour race. First lap in 1:48, first kilo in 4:30, and so on.

Scott wondered if my absence from blogging was due to stumbling through the back verandah's glass sliding door in a lamb chop and wine induced stupor! Thanks mate! Actually, I've been looking over my training diary from 1991 — trying to figure out what led to seven lifetime PBs. I think the simple answer is that I was desperate to run well, and sought out a good coach. That coach was Geoff Moore, who these days leads the highly popular Speedygeese running sessions. Geoff is a great motivator and in '91 gave me the confidence I needed to achieve breakthroughs.

The group was small compared to the multitudes that run with Geoff these days. There were less than a dozen serious runners, and we trained on a lovely grass track that's since been taken over by the Canberra Raiders football club. Geoff introduced me to long warm-up runs. We'd run 5 or 6 kilometres around the hilly Eucalypt Trail before doing our 1000 metre repeats on the grass track, then finish with a 3 or 4k warm-down run. In the depths of icy wind-blown Canberra winters we'd sprint hill repeats on Regatta Point. In the dry heat of Canberra summers we'd race on the AIS track. Wherever we were there'd always be friendly encouragement from all in the group. Happily, not much has changed.

Geese sprint. I take phone photos!Geoff (dark blue), supervises hill sprints at Parliament House, February 2010

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Shortest Hour

Sliding Doors is a movie I remember seeing on a flight to Canada in '98 with friends Gordon and Maggie. It's about the life of Helen (Gwyneth Paltrow) and follows her through two parallel universes after she's fired from her job. The movie made me think about what might happen to my life if I opened a different door; followed an unfamiliar trail; was active instead of passive; became a 'yes man' instead of a 'no man'.

What has all this philosophising got to do with running? On Thursday I was set to race 1500 metres on the track. The previous day I felt confident of running a season's best. Maybe sub-5:50 if all went well. I did a slow warm-up jog and all the while my legs were saying "We don't want to be here! We feel second-hand and sluggish!" I listened to my argumentative legs and decided to miss the 1500. I'd take lap splits for some of the Speedygeese and jog 4 or 5 k for an easy running day. I had also arranged to lap-score for a friend in the annual one hour race. Fifteen minutes prior to the start my friend still hadn't arrived, so I said 'what the heck', and decided to run the one hour race myself for 'training kilometres'.

The race went sublimely well! It was a warm evening (around 27°C), and as luck would have it, I guessed the correct pace by feel from the first lap. I gradually caught up to Bronwyn, then as the race went on, others who had started too fast — Roger, Dale and Susan. I had an amazing run! Sped up just prior to 10k so I'd break 47 minutes, but apart from that, ran very evenly. Finished with 12,811 metres and felt afterwards that I could have run another 10 laps at that pace (4:41 per km). If I'd gone through the sliding door of the 1500 I'd have never run this race. Yesterday morning I ran 'long' through the bush of Mount Ainslie and around the lake with Michelle, Brett and Nadine. 22.6k, with 14k of 'good' and 8.6k of 'less than good'. Starting fast on a long run is a sure way to find one's limits!

2k splits and average HR: 9:18 (139) 9:23 (148) 9:29 (148) 9:28 (148) 9:21 (150) 9:27 (151) + 3:34 for 811 metres (152).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A lonely 5000

Last Thursday evening I raced 5000 metres on the track. Finished 9th out of the 10 who ran 5k. The race was combined with a 3000, so us long-distance nuts continued on for 5 more laps. Crazy people! Time was 21:50.7. Sort of OK with that, as it was a season's best and my fastest 5k since November 2008.

I felt tired warming up, so decided to practise running as evenly as possible. I didn't want to hit the wall in the 4th kilo due to an early attack of the 'Steve Prefontaines' (I was going to say 'Scott Browns', but Scott is now the master of even-paced running). My tactic was successful, but perhaps detrimental to a faster final time. After the first 200 metres, I detached myself from the runners ahead (Jim, Bronwyn, Thea and Janene) as I felt they were running too fast. I ran the next 8 laps about 30 metres behind this group. In still conditions this would have been fine, but there was a noticeable headwind in the home straight. Nobody to draft behind — not that I like doing that, but I'd have been happy to share the work into the wind. My km splits were 4:22, 4:19, 4:21, 4:27 and 4:21.

I said in my last blog post that I'd start trying longer Saturday runs to see if I might enjoy training for a marathon. Bugger that! Something is whispering to me, so I'm listening. I'm excited — just haven't decided which marathon to target. Greg reckons my 5k on Thursday is worth 3:32:51 for the marathon. What would he know?! I've never been the best at converting 5k times, but if I follow a good training plan I know there's room for improvement!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Marathon — Maybe

Joe Garland recently described, with particular eloquence, a conversation he had with himself while on a cold Walkman-less run. It was about the siren call of the marathon. Particularly the New York Marathon, and the magic of 'being carried by the crowd through Brooklyn'. It was about wanting to race 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons, and the fear of 'failing' at the marathon. It was about possibly not having the genetic gifts of a born marathoner.

Joe's conversation is similar to an on-and-off one I've been having with myself since my second marathon in June, 1981. That marathon was 3:28:28 — a 13 minute PB and sub-8-minute mile pace (I used miles and kilometres back then). I wouldn't finish another marathon until 1992. You see, 42.195 kilometres has never been my favourite race distance — but I've been thinking lately that I might run another marathon. My last was in 2005 — a very unsatisfactory 4:37.

With this scary thought in mind, I've decided to allow my Saturday long runs with the Molonglo group to gradually lengthen. Yesterday we ran 24 kilometres — starting in relative coolness, and finishing in uncomfortable warmth under an azure blue sky. At times I ran with Michelle (3:31:09 last year in Auckland). She was too fast, but graciously ran with us at the start, and stopped at the Mount Ainslie saddle for the group to catch up. If these Saturday runs get out to 30k, I'll ponder more seriously the prospect of a marathon. Perhaps at the Gold Coast in July, or Melbourne in October. I'd only start if I thought I was capable of a 'respectable' time. I'll define that for myself as 3:40, or on a dream day, a Boston Qualifying 3:35. My racing plans in the meantime, are at the track — trying to improve at 1500 and 3000 metres.

The Wednesday/Saturday running groupDecember BBQ with the Wednesday afternoon runners — Richard, Andy, Jen and Ruth. Chris was the honorary photographer