Sunday, December 09, 2012

You'll find me at Stromlo

I joined the Speedygeese this morning for an interval session on the smooth grass of the Stromlo cross country course. That's six weeks in a row of doing this particular training session. It's become a habit. Philosopher and runner Jeff Edmonds wrote a blog post on running and habit. He notes that runners are creatures of habit (which makes the training process easy), but habit can also be the runner's worst enemy. There's a danger of repeating the same old running routine if conscious thought isn't given to what we might need to do in order to improve. If you're a competitive runner that is! There's nothing wrong with getting out the door for an easy 30-minute run each day. One may even enjoy racing off such habitual easy running.

This morning I ran with Geoff and Andrew — 4 x 1km 'hard' efforts with easy 1km jog recoveries. It was a warm (24C) and calm morning. My times were about six seconds slower than for the same session on 18 November. Today I ran 4:23, 4:23, 4:20 and 4:18. Maximum heart-rate only reached 154 (previously 157), so perhaps I wasn't chasing Geoff as hard as when I was following Kym and Lucia. On the other hand, I wasn't feeling all that fresh — in spite of reducing yesterday's long run with Susan and Andy to 70 minutes.

I'm sure the habit of running 1k intervals at Stromlo is a good one for the summer. My legs need the speed and 4:18 kilometres are close to my 5k race pace. That speed isn't feeling easy though! I should do as Canute suggested and fit in some faster/sharper running — 100 to 200 metre repeats. Having a reserve of speed that's faster than 5k pace should make it feel easier. We'll see.

This morning's run — the 1k loop is around the dam.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

When I grow up I want to be like Luckylegs

I'm happy with my running this week. This morning's 11k included 3 x 1000 metres on the cross country course at Stromlo. Had the company of Geoff, Miranda and Andy (not marathon man Andy!) — I ran a little conservatively for times of 4:24, 4:19 and 4:15. These times are close to my hoped for 5k race-pace. My right calf has been a little tender since the YCRC 5k cross country race on Tuesday. While warming up with Geoff I felt a sudden cramp in the calf. Massaged it out and completed the race without further complications.

The race itself was interesting. I eased my way into it, letting Geoff streak off ahead, thinking to myself 'can he hold that pace?' — 'he's coming back from injury and was well behind last week.' I gradually got into a smooth stride but only made small inroads into the 75 metres or so gap. It was a 3-lap course and my splits were 7:53, 7:40 and 7:42 — a total of 23:15. Last year on the same course I'd run 24:05 (although I hadn't tried quite as hard), so an encouraging result. Equally encouraging is the fact that Geoff ran 21:52 for 5k on the track two days later! Perhaps I'm not far away from that sort of time.

On Thursday night I ventured out to the AIS track for the combined Open/Vets meet. We had a special guest competing in the 5000 metres — Norma Wallett (known to her friends as 'Luckylegs') from Mittagong. It was her first outing on the track for quite a few years and she smashed the Australian record in her age-group. She's 83 years old! Ran an amazing 31:11.58, which works out to be 6:14 per km pace (10:02 mile pace). I ran behind Norma while counting her laps. There were (surprisingly) so many starters that runners in the combined 3/5k event were told to count their own laps. She recorded an age-group percentage of 95.0 while breaking the existing Ausralian record by almost 5 minutes. When I grow up I want to be like her. What an inspirational lady!

Friends Ruth and Luckylegs after the Australian Record

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Unforgiving Hour

I've had three races since the 22:17 track 5000. Tuesday November 6 was a 5k with the YCRC runners on Stromlo's lovely grass. I ran 22:43 for that and noted in the diary that the legs were still sore from the previous day's Speedygeese relay sprints. On November 13 I ran the YCRC Barrenjoey Drive 5k in 23:07. That was a fairly uneventful race — ran evenly 'by feel' again and caught up to a few fast-starting runners in the third lap. Although slower than last year (22:22), I was encouraged as I hadn't 'busted a gut' to run the time (it was more of a tempo run than an all-out race). Average heart-rate was 143 (compared to last year's 152) — so 680 heart-beats per km last year verses a 'fitter' 661 this year. Two days later I raced for an hour on the track. Strange race that one! I ran round and round. And round... trying to put in an effort something akin to half-marathon race-pace. Ended up with 12,575 metres in the hour — 4:46 per km at an ave HR of 144.

Running hard for an hour on the track isn't easy! Especially as our Mondo surface is over 10 years old — feels like running on concrete covered by a thread-bare kitchen carpet. My shins were complaining for the last 20 minutes. I ran by feel again, dropping back from Roger early (he stretched out the 'lead' to 40 metres). After about 6k I caught up rather quickly and moved ahead. With about 8 minutes to run he appeared on the track just in front of me following a porta-loo stop! Passed him again, then for a bit of fun after Steve and Helen lapped me (for the second time) tried to keep them from getting more than 200 metres ahead (1k for the race). Successful with that — also with running a 'huge' 7 metres further than last year. Average heart-rate was 2 beats/minute lower so I think I'm marginally fitter than I was at this time last year.

Immediate plans are to continue racing on the track, do the YCRC events as tempo runs, Speedygeese sessions for speed/strength and Stromlo interval sessions for speed-endurance/race-pace muscular co-ordination. If it all holds together I hope to be in M50 PB form by the new year. Good luck to all who are racing (or coming back from injury or trying to run!) — enjoy it if you're running well — if not, keep trying!

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Flying to a faster 5000

As I type this I'm listening to Scott and Kevin talking about Running in Japan. They ramble on a times (is that a Canadian thing?) but it's worth a listen. Scott recommended the Hosaka session of running fast downhill for a kilometre and jogging back up for the recovery. He does this six times. I could run such a session on the grass cross country course at Stromlo, using the first km of the 2000 metre loop. I ran there this morning with Geoff, Yelena, Andy and Joel — it was a perfect Spring day. As part of a 12k jog I ran 3 x 600 metres (200 of which is downhill), creaky at first but smoothing out to a last one at 4:15 per km pace.

On Thursday evening I raced another 5000 on the track. 22:17.48, so about a 54 second improvement on last time but less exceptional in terms of splits. The kms went: 4:24, 4:26, 4:30, 4:31 and 4:26. Average heart-rate was 149. I was really happy with the time, less so with the race. I didn't take my usual couple of easy days prior to the race — in fact, I've been returning my training to a more 'normal' volume (70k) this week. On Monday I ran hill loops and drills with the The Speedygeese; Tuesday my '17 hills' 10k course; Wednesday a steady 10k run. So to finish a 5000 just 47 seconds slower than my M50 PB took me to a happy place.

As a race though, it was rather sad. There were just five of us on the line, three of whom ran the 3000! Where are all the Masters track distance runners these days? So I came 2nd — running the whole thing pretty much as a solo time-trial. Lance was completing an easy 3k (he would run a PB the following evening of 9:54), but even so he was a little too quick. After 2 laps of 'sticking' I was by myself, running round and round and round. Craig was way up ahead on his way to a 20:27 PB. I want some competition (and fun)! To get this I'll switch to racing 3000s for a while — perhaps doing the earlier and more popular 6pm race.

Perfecting my 'both feet in the air' running style

Sunday, October 28, 2012

An exceptional 5000

The track season is now under way, so there are many opportunities from now until March to improve my 5000 metre times. I raced my first 5k on 18 October, four days after the Melbourne Half — don't try this at home! Energy levels were fine but my calves were less so — having a mild case of DOMS. In respect to their tenderness I decided while doing a short warm-up to run 'steady', not flat out (as if I could!) and be happy with a hard tempo effort.

I lined up with 14 others next to Roger A on the outside of the curved line at the 200m start. Only four would run the 5k (the rest doing the 3k option), so for me it was a rather sparse race. I can recall chasing 3k runner Carinna in the early laps and after this a couple of others in the 3k who were slowing following fast starts. I ran by feel and a little flat-footed as pushing off the toes was hurting the calves. I clicked my Casio at the km splits. What's amazing about my race is that I ran the most even kilometre splits I ever have in a track 5000 — 4:40, 4:37, 4:38, 4:38 and 4:38 for a final time of 23:11.20. I must have run over 100 track 5ks in the last 30 years, so to see numbers like that is amazing. I'm glad I wasn't able to sprint the last 200 metres! Average HR was 147, so pretty high for me for a race in which the legs were doing it fairly easy. I'd put that down to not being fully recovered from the Melbourne Half.

The lesson: even pacing in distance races works and is an efficient way of running a fast time. We know this as in the many world record attempts since the first sub-4-minute mile the pace-makers have always been asked to run even splits in distances from 1500 metres to the marathon. The only real-world problem is that very few average runners race this way. They always tend to start fast, drop off the pace in the middle and have a fast finish. Still, I'm going to try and use the elite marathoner's pacing method in my 5000 metre races this season — run relaxed and evenly for the first 20 miles (3-plus k) and race the last 6 miles.

Enjoying a recovery jog at the Vets' handicap this morning. Look at that green grass! We've had a wet winter.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Loose wheel nuts at the Melbourne Half

I share a phrase with my mate Bruce to describe what happens when a runner dramatically slows at some point during a race: "their wheels have fallen off". That phrase could have been used to describe me at the 14k mark of the 2012 Melbourne Half Marathon. More accurately my race was sabotaged by loose wheel nuts. Running on the slight downhill of St Kilda Road my right leg suddenly buckled. It was the 'pinched nerve thing' that I've experienced before (not for quite some time and rarely in races).

It disappeared after a couple of strides but I realised I'd have to ease the pressure that PB pace demands. I felt it on three more occasions during the next 3 kilometres (I was quite worried that I'd have to stop running) but eventually my reduced speed soothed the affliction and I made it to the finish line inside the 'G. My time was 1:44:31, well away from the 1:40 was hoping for. I was very happy to 'make it' and still able to smile at the typically perfect and spectacular running weather that Melbourne produced for our enjoyment.

My race started well — I ran with Liz for the first 4k and we weren't too inconvenienced by 'slower traffic' running up the hill just after the start. Again I 'ran by feel' and didn't look at the Garmin for the entire race (its beeping function is broken so thankfully no awareness of splits). One distracting thing was the erratic running of the pacing balloons (the ones that I saw). The 1:40 group for the first half were about 400 metres ahead, but I'm guessing were running at 1:38-9 pace. The first 1:45 balloon (I thought it was the only one) ran past me at 16k and disappeared ahead. Consequently I guessed I'd end up running about 1:47-8. Then just before the 20k mark on the William Barrack Bridge a second 1:45 balloon overtook me! It turned out he was running closer to the mark — about 1:44 pace. I'm not a big fan of pacing balloons.

Summing up, it was a great weekend and a pleasure to share with Speedygeese friends from Canberra. Coach Geoff (unable to race) was out on the course cheering us on. Most ran incredibly well. A special mention for Andy who ran 3:25 (at age 52) in his first marathon! Next up for me will be some track racing and perhaps another attempt at a half marathon in April. I'd like to run a good one!

Garmin splits: 4:52, 4:39, 4:37, 4:38, 4:44 (23:30), 4:50, 4:44, 4:48, 4:55, 4:52 (24:09), 4:50, 4:55, 4:57, 5:04, 4:59 (24:45), 5:06, 5:07, 5:08, 5:12, 5:18 (25:51), 5:14 + 1:01 (197m)

Carbo-loading at La Camera: Susan, New Balance, Andy, Suzi and Liz

Sunday, October 07, 2012

The 15k tempo run

I mentioned in my last post the idea of completing a 15k tempo run a week out from the Melbourne Half. This happened yesterday morning — a cool and cloudy day with some light rain falling late during the run. I had the company of running mates: Andy, Jen, Kelley, Mick and Tori. We ran one of my favourite 'long run' loops which starts on the Mount Ainslie trail (we hike the 600 metres or so up to the start from behind the War Memorial — Kelley jogged there as she doesn't like walking).

The first 3k took us along the main trail, down a narrow bush track to Campbell Park then towards the Duntroon golf course. This turned out to be the 'warm-up' as I chatted to Mick about his marathons, injuries and plans to return to track racing. 5:38, 5:41 and 5:30 for those kilometres. I wound up the pace as we ran down to and around the perimeter of the golf course. We re-grouped at Molonglo Reach before running the rest of the course which follows the bike path through the Wetlands, beside the lake to Commonwealth Bridge then back to a finish point at the bottom of Anzac Parade. This part of the loop is flat apart from the bridge, and easy running.

After the Wetlands, Andy and Jen took up the pacing duties. Easy running for both, as it was a little slower than Andy's expected marathon pace and slower than Jen's usual long-run pace. I was hanging on, not in total comfort. Mick, Tori and Kelley (chatting all the way) were about 50 metres behind. My kilometres from 4 to 15 went: 5:07, 4:49, 5:10, 5:02, 5:01, 4:59, 5:04, 5:15, 5:11, 5:26 (the bridge), 5:08 and 5:17. I was quite happy to stop at 15k with the others. Kelley though, insisted on jogging the 1k back up to the War Memorial (there's something strange about marathon runners). The 15k took 1:18:19 to run (5:13 per k or 8:24 per mile), so not quite the 15k at 5:04s I was thinking about last week. It was still a good run though and a confidence-booster for Melbourne. If I don't break 1:40 I'll be hoping for a result near the 1:41:50 that Canute ran last weekend — and also hoping for similarly pained and dramatic finish photos!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

An unpredictable half marathon

I'm running in the Melbourne Half Marathon on 14 October. It's been 3 years since my last 21.0975 k race. In Melbourne in 2009 I ran 1:43:00. This year I'd like to run faster — hopefully under my M50 PB of 1:40:48. For me this means running fast for a very long time. I'm not sure that my recent training is pointing in that direction.

Canute blogged recently about his many months of preparation for the Robin Hood Half, in which he was originally targeting a time of 100 minutes. Although his aerobic fitness is better than at any time in recent years he's been finding it hard to complete the race-specific training. Key sessions were to be long runs with the last 5k run at half marathon goal race-pace (4:44 per km). He's been finding it difficult to maintain paces of 5 mins/km for any appreciable distance. I haven't done anything like that in training so can I be confident of running under 101 minutes?

My recent training has been okay without being brilliant. McMillan predicts a 1:40:44 half marathon if I run as well as I did at the Gold Coast 10k (45:11). Long runs have been a little on the light side: 15, 15, 20 and 20 over the last five weeks. Kilometres, not miles! I think I may attempt a long (15k) tempo run a week out from the race. Back in 1991 I completed such a run on the Wednesday prior to my half marathon PB — ran a lap of West Basin (15.5k) at 4:11 per km pace. On the Sunday I ran 1:21:38 which is 3:52 per km pace. So maybe if I could complete a training tempo run 33% slower than HM goal pace I'd be on target? That'd be 15k at 5:04 ks. I think that's possible.

Melbourne had better be warmer than the Bush Capital 16k!

Sunday, September 09, 2012

A 5k race on a beautiful day

What a day! Just about perfect Spring weather in Canberra: A cloudless blue sky; soft warmth from the sun (temperature during the race was 13C); fragrant smells from blossoming trees; a barely noticeable breeze rippling the lake. An ideal day for racing!

This year I decided to enter The Canberra Times 5k (normally I race the more popular 10k). Good decision — the number of starters was about ideal (a couple of hundred runners with the rest of the field being walkers). We ran for a very short distance on a road then cut to a bike-path, but even so, by that time I was in 'free space', running next to a couple of girls with a young boy just ahead. Once again I raced by feel, starting the Garmin then not looking at it until the finish. The start felt a little fast (lack of speedwork showing up there) and I wasn't surprised when Jill sprinted past well before the bridge.

Once over the bridge I settled into what I thought was the right effort level for a 5k race. I found myself running mainly with unknown young runners: girls, boys and teenagers. The only Masters runner I could see (besides Jill) was Gary, who had also sprinted off at the start and was running about 200 metres ahead next to a young girl (who ended up being the third female to finish). I eased past Jill just beyond the 1k flag then soon after we moved onto the road detour (a small hill around an old landslide). The 3k flag was on the beach just beyond the Boathouse and at this point I still thought I was moving well (my stride felt smooth). I was gradually catching people while enjoying the pleasing feeling of not having any runners overtaking from behind. Splits show my pace lagging in the fourth kilometre (I do recall the race feeling hard at this point). After we ran under Kings Avenue Bridge our race joined the slow finishers of the 10k for the last kilometre to the finish. Even so, there was plenty of running room.

I kept the pressure on but a young boy and a twenty-something man that I'd been catching surged away. The final 80 metres of this race are a little cruel as the field is diverted off the bike path up a grassy bank to the finish. I stopped my Garmin and was happy with what it showed — 22:34. Not sure of my place yet or how I faired in my age-group. The pace was the same that I ran for the Gold Coast 10k but there's something about this course that doesn't make it a super-fast one. So I'm happy with the time — 5k-specific training of the type that Pete Magill recommends will reduce it quite a bit over Summer. Bring on the track!

Splits: 4:26, 4:32, 4:28, 4:40, 4:28.

On the beach for July's Runners Shop 5k

Friday, August 24, 2012

I'd like to run with Joanie

I'm happy with how I ran in my 28th City to Surf a couple of weeks ago. The goal going in was to duck under 70 minutes for the 14k (the new standard — reduced from 75 minutes — for retaining an A-group 'red' start). On the Thursday prior to the race a sore throat indicated the onset of a cold. This turned into a pretty nasty one as I'd totally lost my voice by the Monday. Once again I raced 'watch-less' and felt like I was moving well (and fast enough) when Warrick came up beside me as I ran into Rose Bay and said: "Hey Ewen, you're going well!"

My 'no watch' running method was somewhat compromised by hard-to-avoid large race clocks at 7 and 10k. The gun time at 7 said 35:XX and 50:XX at 10 — I guessed I'd taken about a minute to reach the start-mat so knew that my sub-70 goal was safe. I didn't bother letting it all hang out running down the hill. During the race I wasn't overly concerned when I came up behind runners who were moving a bit slower than my pace. I'd ease around them when it was safe to do so. Down at Bondi my final time was 67:54 (4:51 per k), run at an average heart-rate of 144. I was one happy chappy!

Canute observed in a comment on my last post that my pace has slowed by a little over 1% per year since 1988. Exactly 1% and I'd have run 66:24 which I think is possible on a good day and starting closer to the front of the A-corral. August the 12th this year wasn't a good day. The weather was more typical of the Pacific Northwest in winter. It was cold and we were running into a fresh southerly for the last 6k of the race. Not a lot of fun!

Slowing as we age is a fact of life. Unless, like Scott Brown, you started running in your forties — then you can look forward to defying the ageing clock by steadily improving for 10 or more years. I started running in my twenties and reached my 'PB peak' in my mid-thirties. Since then, it's been all downhill! To keep racing fun I try to run obscure time goals (like breaking 20 minutes for 5k), or score 'wins' over rivals with similar running form. I now have a new somewhat obscure racing goal: I'm going to try and run with Joanie.

'Joanie' is Joan Benoit-Samuelson — Olympic gold medallist and former world record holder in the marathon. She's three weeks younger than me — still running, and racing well. At the L.L. Bean 10k on 4 July this year Joanie broke the U.S. record for the F55-59 age-group, running 38:07. Now there's no way I'll ever run 38:07 again, but what's interesting about Joanie's time is that it's just over 20% slower (20.5 to be exact) than her PB from 1983, 31:37. My lifetime PB is 36:33 so I think it'd be a fun challenge to try and run 20.5% slower than that (44:03). This would be an M50 PB by 51 seconds, so not easy. I'll try and do it at one of the track 10,000s over summer.

 Joanie running in Brunswick, Maine (photo from her Facebook page). I ran 7k there on the morning of 27 July last year.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Mo, Rupp and the 1988 City to Surf

I've just watched the replay of the men's Olympic 10,000 metre race from London. It was an exciting race! The slow-striding Mo Farah won with a sustained 500 metre 'sprint' (last lap in 53 seconds), finishing ahead of training partner Galen Rupp. A triumph for coach Alberto Salazar, who I remember watching as one of the favourites for the '84 Olympic marathon, along with Rob de Castella (who shared Australian commentary with Steve Ovett for the London race). Rupp was featured in the July edition of Running Times. As per usual, the magazine also had a section for Masters runners. I'm always fascinated by the training and running philosophy of the chosen 'Age-Group Ace'. Ever since I started running I've been a rusted-on middle-of-the-pack ace. For a bit of fun I'm listing my training for the 1988 City to Surf in 'Running Times style'. Looking at it 24 years after the fact it reads like the training of a different person. The only session I could do now would be the 'easy day' — if I ran at race effort!

TRAINING REGIMEN Aug. 1-14, 1988

MON: 9k easy with Drummoyne Rugby Club runners & Bruce in 38 minutes (4:13 per k)
TUE: 15k at Lane Cove Park in 70 minutes (4:40 per k)
WED: 6K track session (Rotary Field grass track) - 10 x 300m, 53.5 ave, 2 sets (100 walk recov)
THUR: 7k incl 3000m track race at Hensley Field in 10:11 (3:24 per k)
FRI: 14k at Lane Cove Park 'steady' in 61:40 (4:24 per k)
SAT: 8k race at Auburn in 30:21 (3:47 per k)
SUN: AM: 15k easy at Harbord; PM: 11k bush track run at Lane Cove


MON: Rest day
TUE: 14k at Lane Cove Park in 59:40 (4:16 per k)
WED: 7k track session (Rotary Field) - 10 x 300m with George, 54.5 ave, 2 sets + 3 laps of sprinting straights, jogging bends
THU: 5k incl 800m race 'steady' at Hensley Field in 2:21 (69/72)
FRI: 7k at Lane Cove Park 'easy' in 33 minutes (4:43 per k)
SAT: Rest day
SUN: Race: 14k City to Surf - 590th in 53:33 (3:49 per k) PB

Still with a 'preferred start' in 1990

Galen Rupp: contented and happy after the London Olympics

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Runners Shop 5k

When I pencilled this race into my schedule I thought it might be possible to run 'fast' (which I'd define as 22 minutes or better). The course now has a hill (due to a detour around a landslide) and a U-turn at 1/2 way, but I'd still rate it as a fairly quick road course. Once again I ran by feel, never looking at the Garmin until I reached the finish. 22:40 — that's a bit slow. McMillan had predicted 21:45!

As a race though, it went pretty well. Wore my trusty Kinvaras again and took off along the beach at the start at what I felt was the appropriate effort. During the first kilometre I gradually pulled back a few fast-starting youngsters and overtook my rival Hugh as we finished the detour. I passed another three teenagers during the rest of the race, not quite getting to Brooke (3 seconds ahead) as I 'sprinted' across the 100 metres of hard packed sand to the line.

I think there were two things that worked against me in this race: I didn't taper off my training over three days as I had for the Gold Coast 10k, and my work hours for the past two weeks have been long and tiring. So I'm not terribly disappointed. It was what it was. My next attempt at a 'fast' 5k will be at the Canberra Times Fun Run in 46 days' time. As a 'tune-up' I'll be running my 28th City to Surf — love that race!

Splits: 4:32, 4:26, 4:36, 4:35, 4:31. AHR 147, MHR 155.

The City to Surf - Australia's biggest race!

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

A 10k from 2005 Reprised

Whew! Surprise, boyish excitement and relief are the emotions I felt when I looked up at the finish-line clock in the final blue-carpeted straight of the Gold Coast 10k on Saturday. The net time of 45:11 (checked later that day on the website) was my fastest 10k since 2008, and not far off the 44:53 track 10,000 I ran in 2005. Wow! At this event in 2010 I raced with Andy, Jo and Ruth — finished in a perplexing 49:26 — wondered afterwards how I could get back to running a fast 10k. If I would. I'm 55 years old, "push'n 60" as some 'friends' love to remind me, an age where springy muscles sometimes rebel and injuries are a clear and present danger.

The race went surprisingly smoothly. I walked up to the start from my digs at the Marriott in darkness, enjoying the mild temperature, wearing singlet and shorts, ready to race. Jogged a slow 2k and ran 4 x 50m strides to waken the muscles. I positioned myself about 50 metres back from the line amongst a crowd of 6000-plus runners. The first kilometre over the bridge produced the expected stop-starty, zig-zaggy running, but not overly so. After the U-turn I was running smoothly with sufficient personal space to feel relaxed. Atypically, as soon as the gun went off, I decided I'd start my Garmin when crossing the start-mat and not look at it until the finish. I ran by feel! This worked beautifully. I raced various people I picked out in the crowed: The greying long-haired dude with backwards baseball cap; the blonde girl in aqua singlet with a seductive light stride; the lady in pink shorts and blue crop-top; the long-shorts, bare-foot bloke. I tried to catch them, stay with them or keep them in sight as they moved ahead. Racing while blissfully unaware of the ticking clock was calming. I just monitored my effort, movement and position relative to others in the race.

I felt fairly strong throughout the race, although sensed a lag in my pace around 7k (which showed up in the splits). I fought against this tiredness and became excited when I heard a bloke reply to his mate "we're running four and a halves." At 8k I was wishing it was over, so I take that as a sign I was racing at maximum effort. Around the corner, over the bridge and suddenly there was just 1k remaining. I went for a long drive for home (as that is the best way to save time), passing some, others passing me, then managed something resembling a kick as I entered the last straight. Happy!

On Sunday morning I watched the marathon 'on the run' with Em from Melbourne, trying to spot running friends in the crowd. It was quite inspiring. Maybe I'll run another marathon one day. That evening I enjoyed a celebratory meal (and a wine or two) with Andy (who'd run the marathon), Beki, Em, Kelly and Janice down at Broadbeach. The perfect way to conclude a successful weekend!

Splits: 4:29, 4:31, 4:25, 4:27, 4:32 (22:24) 4:35, 4:38, 4:36, 4:33, 4:24 (22:47) - 45:11 @ AHR 148.

 Andy snapped a photo as I turned the last corner

 10k Progression 

Enjoying a walk on the beach after the race

Monday, June 25, 2012

I just want to play ball

I have a race coming up — 10k on the flat roads of Surfers Paradise this Saturday morning. A 6:30 A.M. start — not my favourite time of the day to unleash a cold, creaky body into the fray of a fast race. I should awake a couple of hours earlier. Yes, that might work. In 2010 I ran 49:26 but wasn't in the aerobic shape that I am this year. Back then my 10k local runs were at 750 heart-beats per km or higher — now they're consistently around 700. I should be good for around 680 in a flat 10k race so that indicates a possible time of 45:20. I'd be happy with that. I haven't had a serious race in a while so I'm keen to play ball. At least I've never missed out on the chance to play ball — like the women marathoners of the '70s or women steeplechasers of the '90s.

Joanie is 55, runs 70 miles a week [I saw this on Jeff's blog]

A couple of interesting images have shown up on Twitter: stills of the foot-strikes (captured from high-speed video) of every competitor in the U.S. Olympic Trials 10,000 metre races — men and women. The variation is quite incredible: there is heel-striking, toe-striking and mid-foot striking — all from elite (fast) distance runners. I think it shows that how the foot first makes contact with the ground is the least important aspect of running form. Forget about foot-strike. Think about hip extension, body position, relaxation and cadence if you wish to improve your running form.

 The foot-strikes of elite 10k runners is somewhat variable

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Runner Whisperer

I've been thinking more about that Sally Kipyego quote I mentioned in Sally's 14:43 Secret: "Julia, don't try to be great, just do every day pretty good like you're supposed to, and then you'll be great." There's a book called The Horse Whisperer (made into a Robert Redford film) that tells the story of how a traumatised horse and rider are coaxed back to a normal relationship by a horse whisperer, Tom Booker. The methods a horse whisperer uses are gentler and kinder by comparison to traditional horse training techniques. I think I should apply a similar philosophy to the training of myself as a runner. Hammering out 'PB interval sessions' or running weekly races with the desperation that a sheep station is riding on the outcome, seems to me like traditional horse training. Runner Whispering has to be a better method of finding that holy grail of improvement — the 'doing every day pretty good' that Sally Kipyego advises.

I've also been thinking about what's needed to be a successful distance runner (besides carefully selecting one's parents). In my search, I stumbled upon the blog of a running philosopher, Jeff Edmonds. One of Jeff's older posts caught my eye: 'Keep it Simple, Yo! Distance training, from 5k to 50k'. Jeff mentions that speed per se is not the problem for distance runners who want to run faster. The problem is extending one's speed over the distance of the race. For example, I can run 1k in 4 minutes, so how can I train my body to hold that speed for 4 more kilometres. Jeff's answer in three words: "run a lot." He put up one of his own weeks of training as an example — 83.2 miles, all 'easy' running except for 5 miles 'tempo' and 8 miles 'moderate'. He was hardly suffering a horse whipping in the tempo run — 5:40 mile pace (about 3:30 per k), which is quite modest for a 15:48 5k runner. Jeff is now running less 'mileage centric' training (about 70 miles/week including 2 'workouts'), but I'd still categorise that as whispered training.

I'm whispering my own training along quite well. Ran 80k last week, including an 8k tempo run (5:07 per k) and one of those 'almost perfect' easy runs on Friday (would have loved to have been racing that day!). This morning I raced 'easy' over the rarely run distance of 5 miles in the Sri Chinmoy event down at Telopea Park. The last time I raced 5 miles would have been in the late '80s or early '90s. Needless to say, I didn't threaten my lifetime PB (which is around 29-flat from memory), but ran a pleasing 38:43 at a comfortable average heart-rate of 143. My next big race is the Gold Coast 10k on 29 June — should be a good tune-up race for the Runners Shop 5k in late July and a happy break from the depths of a Canberra winter.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Six seconds in twelve months

Yesterday afternoon I raced in the 'Longstaff 8k' cross country event at Weston Park. The race is named after local running pioneer Rosemary Longstaff, who ran 2:43:03 in the '81 Boston Marathon (which was the 88th fastest female marathon time in the world that year). I've run this race quite a few times over the years, including the 3-lap (12k) and now thankfully defunct 4-lap versions. In 2004 I ran 79:54 for the 16k version (The Jack Pennington Trophy Race). This year I ran at a slightly slower pace for half the distance — 40:10 for 8k.

Once again I'm quietly encouraged by this result in what turned out to be a strange race. It was a glum afternoon but thankfully the rain held off while we were racing. Course wasn't fast — although the grass was short, it was wet and the run over one of the beaches was slower than usual as the beach had been 'ploughed' for some unknown reason. What made the race strange was my choice of tactics. After the initial settling down period following the start I had to decide who to run with on the first downhill 800m straight. I could see Pam up ahead and I knew she was a 21:30 or so 5k runner. At the time I happened to be in the company of Andy and Geoff, both capable of under 21 minutes for 5k on a good day. So my choice was "do I go, or do I stay?" I chose to stay and ran comfortably down the hill rather than pushing hard to get onto Pam's shoulder.

For the first 2k I ran along with a chatty Geoff and easy running Andy. At one point long-term rival Charlie edged ahead but I felt so easy I wasn't worried about eventually closing that gap. My legs felt amazingly good! I was running along with a nice feeling stride, breathing and heart-rate both comfortable. I moved ahead of Andy (Geoff had dropped back a little) and while we were crossing the first beach Andy alerted me to a loose shoe-lace. What the?! I must have forgot to double-knot them! I stopped to tie the recalcitrant lace, loosing 10 seconds or so in the process, which gave Andy and Geoff a small break. For the rest of the race I ran fairly hard but couldn't make up the lost ground. Geoff in fact took off in the last 2k, running strongly to finish in 39:06. Andy also increased the gap, finishing in 39:45. Meanwhile I'd managed to pass a fading Charlie.

On the face of it I've only improved my time for The Longstaff by six seconds in a year. For this race though my average heart-rate was 144 (150 last year), so obviously it was a much better performance (even accounting for the possible loss of a beat or two from my maximum HR that Canute mentioned in a comment on my last post). Bring on the next race!

My heart took a rest when I stopped to tie my shoe-lace

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The HM-eve 5k

This race was held last Saturday afternoon — a delightfully warm (for late May) and sunny day. Since then we've endured a couple of distinctly wintery cold, wet and windy days. I'm in two minds about this particular HM-eve 5k. I've run the event quite a few times over the years, so it's good one to compare how my 5k race-fitness is going. In that regard, I'll rate it a success, as I ran 22:21 at a satisfyingly low average heart-rate (147) — quite a bit lower than the 151 I averaged when running 22:14 for the ACT 5000m track championships in late March.

Of course it's yet to be done, but I think my current race-fitness is good enough to improve on my M50 5000m PB of 21:29.58. That race in 2008 was run at 662 heart-beats per km while the HM-eve 5k was at 657. A track 5000 is going to be faster as the 'course' is dead-flat, surface is perfect and there are no sharp corners (there were two last Saturday which needed momentary slowing to negotiate). I'm further encouraged by the times that rivals ran last Saturday. Robert ran 21:27 on Saturday and 20:22 in the track 5000. David ran 21:47 and 21:14 on the track. So I think I'm looking at running somewhere between 30 seconds and a minute faster on the track. The only problem being, there are no track 5000s until October!

So, as a fitness test the HM-eve 5k was satisfying. On the other hand, as a race, it was disappointing. I love the close competitive race experience — running with a 'bunch' of runners (half a dozen or so) and figuring out during the race what tactics to employ in order to win this race within a race. Last Saturday the first kilometre was 'fun', but thereafter I was running alone with the next runner about 40m ahead and try as a might, not making any impression on that gap. During the first k I was running with Robert (4:17 for that k), then he edged ahead. Near the 2k mark (4:22 split), David overtook, running strongly. The rest of the race was a bit of a grind (as races sometimes are), especially after the turn when we ran into a light westerly breeze back to the finish at Lennox Gardens.

This past week my training has been sort of okay, but I've succumbed to a cold over the past two days. I ran 78 kilometres including a couple of good 10k runs and a 5k tempo effort at yesterday's Parkrun — 24:32 at AHR 140, finishing 14th. The winner was Marty Dent, former steeplechaser, who'll be running the marathon for Australia at the London Olympics. Go Marty!

The HM-eve 5k course has a couple of sharp turns. Start is near the bridge; from there you run west. Finish is in the park at Lennox Gardens.

 HM-eve 5k races 
YearTimeAve HRH-beats/km

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sally's 14:43 Secret

I'm always on the lookout for gems of wisdom from coaches and runners. Words that reveal a unique and successful training strategy or some other secret to running faster. At the same time, I tend to be wary of advice from elite runners. Extrapolating the training of an elite runner down to my level (that of 'weekend warrior') isn't necessarily the best way to lay out a training plan.

Having said that, my excitement level was almost beyond containment when I read a gem of wisdom from an elite runner just last week. The words were contained in a story by Peter Gambaccini — "Brief Chat: Julia Lucas in the 5000" and they pretty much encapsulate my training philosophy. The story was written after the Payton Jordan Invitational, a 5000m race which was won by Sally Kipyego in 14:43.11, while training partner Julia Lucas placed second in 15:08.52 (which happened to be a 25-second PB). In answer to a question about Sally's example, Julia says "It's really easy to forget how good Sally is. She's just there every day doing exactly what we do. In December, when practices started back and I was looking better than I had, she grabbed me by the shoulders and said 'Julia, don't try to be great, just do every day pretty good like you're supposed to, and then you'll be great.'" That's a quote worth remembering. Prizes aren't awarded for interval session PBs or training runs that leave you so sore and tired that you can barely jog for the next two days. It's the sum of all training that leads to a race-day personal best. Do every training session in a way that results in the desired outcome for that session and then you'll be great. Here is the Youtube interview with Sally and Julia after the race.

My running continues to go well. I've run another 10k heart-beats per km PB (692) and a couple of low-key 5k races (23:16 and 23:32). On the 6th of May I ran the Nail Can Hill Run 11.3k race, placing 288th in 59:31. As I was running along the sandy tracks of the Nail Can ridge, if I had some spare breath I would have shouted out "How good is this?!" Here I was, running amongst a crowd of mainly younger people, legs feeling light and springy, moving through the Aussie bush at 4:30 per k pace without a care in the world (apart from how could I beat the girl beside me in the black bike shorts and the grey-haired old bloke running a few metres ahead).
My finisher's certificate from the '81 Nail Can

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A 10k PB of sorts

My running is going well. I haven't raced since the 5000 but have enjoyed a couple of particularly encouraging training runs. I think I may have jumped off a plateau (the 22-minute 5k plateau) to a slightly higher level of fitness. There were two runs in particular over the last fortnight that gave me cause for excitement. On the 11th of April I ran a 10k bike path course in 53:18 for an aerobic cost of 688 heart-beats per km. Then this past Wednesday I ran my 'School 10' course at 696 heart-beats per km, which was a personal best for this course (I hadn't been under 700 before).

Apart from the pleasing HR/pace data, on many outings my running is feeling good. When running I sense some springiness in the legs and am 'doing it easy' more often than not. Following Bob's advice in a comment on my last post, I ventured out to Stromlo Forest Park this morning and ran 3 x 1000m with 1k jog recoveries. The times weren't particularly flash (4:40, 4:37 and 4:28), but I felt like I was holding back a lot and running comfortably (my HR only got up to 153 on the last repeat). So I'm looking forward to my next serious race — not sure when that will be — perhaps a track 3000 at the first High Noon meeting in May.

For training, I've been running with the following pattern: Monday 8k, Tues 15k, Weds 8k, Thurs 15k, Fri 8k, Sat 15k, Sun 15k for a total of 84k per week. Effort-wise, I start each run with the intention of running at a 'good' pace (if the legs and energy levels are agreeable), which turns out to be around 80% of HR maximum or a pace of between 5:20 and 5:40 per kilometre. My overall weekly average pace would be a good bit quicker than it was a year or two ago. I'm trying to run with a springy quick stride, which I think is helping to (slowly) build some leg-strength. I'm watching the London Marathon at the moment and hoping Marty Dent can run the 2:12 he needs to qualify for the Olympics.

Some geese near the riverAbi took this photo of us during our long run beside the Molonglo River

Saturday, March 31, 2012

A good 5000

It wasn't an M50 PB, or even under 22 minutes, but I'm pretty happy with how I ran in the ACT Veterans' 5000m Championship race this past Thursday evening. I finished 22nd (out of 26) in 22:14. No 1/100ths of seconds to be seen in the results so the photo-finish timing equipment must have chucked a wobbly.

I only had time for a 1k warm-up jog but ran quite a few 80 metre strides (with the legs feeling good) so started in a positive frame of mind. Unusually for this track season, the weather was favourable — calm and about 16 Celsius. I positioned myself towards the outside of the curved line and after the gun, fell in behind Amanda. There was a good pack just ahead being led by Roger and Dale, with Rob, Helen and Kathy in close company. The clock at the finish line read 49 seconds as I ran past. That's a tad quick!

On the next lap Amanda slowed slightly so I had the choice of staying back or moving ahead (which I did) to trail Kathy. My legs felt good, but I could tell the pace was a bit on the ambitious side. Passed 1000 metres in 4:08. Too fast! That was the fastest kilometre I'd run since a 1500m race back in November (must have split about 4:09 then). I hadn't run the 1k intervals that Canute suggested (due to a niggly hamstring). The elastic between myself and Kathy snapped before 2k (8:33) so I ran the rest of the race in no-man's-land, hoping to limit the damage from the quick start and stay ahead of Amanda. My 3k split was 13:06. I drifted more after that, running 4:38 for the 4th kilometre before speeding up slightly in the last lap trying to get as close to 22 minutes as I could.

I'm excited about this race because I know there are areas where I can improve. 45 seconds isn't that far away from my M50 PB — interval training must surely be worth 30 seconds off a 5k time? Even so, for the time being I plan to continue with good paced and 'springy' aerobic running (along with regular short races during the cross country season). This morning I enjoyed such a run — 15k around the West Basin of Lake Burley Griffin. It was a perfect day. Rowing sculls were gliding over the calm water; cyclists were zipping along; walkers and runners were enjoying the missing precipitation. 15k in just under 81 minutes — a good run.

An old and sweaty photoRunning in the 2010 ACT 10k Championships - I can't believe I'm still wearing these old grey Frees! [D Appleby photo]

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I run like Mo Farah

Most runners would have read about the '180 steps' theory of good running. Apparently a running cadence of 180 steps per minute is close to ideal (taking into consideration variations for height — short runners are going to have a naturally faster cadence). I've always been self-conscious about my slow loping cadence, especially after being a spectator at recent track meets and viewing the very fast cadence of some runners. Jeff (a low 18-minute 5k runner) has a cadence of around 214 steps per minute during a 3k race.

I decided to time my cadence to see what it actually was. The easy way to do this (should you wish to try), is to carry a stop-watch and press start as one foot contacts the ground; then count ten contacts of that foot and stop the watch on the tenth. This gives you a time for twenty steps. Using a calculator you can later work out your cadence: 60 (seconds) / T (time for 10 steps) x 20 = cadence. For example, if your time for 10 contacts of the right foot is 6.66 seconds then 60 / 6.66 * 20 = 180.18 — the 'magical' cadence of 180. My timings averaged out at around 6.95 seconds which works out to be a very loping cadence of 172.66 steps per minute. When I consciously tried to speed up my turnover I recorded 6.80 seconds (a cadence of 176.47).

I found this video of Mo Farah running an indoor British record of 7:40.99 for 3000 metres. I like it — besides being a great example of fast running, it's easy to time his cadence as on many of the head-on shots he's leading (and thoughfully wearing different coloured shoes!). Surprisingly, Mo's mid-race cadence is around 175.69 (6.83 secs for 10 steps). In the last two laps his cadence increases to around 187. Further calculations reveal that Mo's stride length is around 2.2 metres (3000 / {176 * 7.683}). So, I (sort of) run like Mo Farah. Our cadences are naturally similar (considering my height). The only difference being my stride-length (should I run 12:30 for 3k) is only 1.39 metres.

Mo Farah running about 5 minutes faster than I do for 3000m

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Some good numbers

Thanks to the people who made suggestions on how I could improve a training week. The two weeks since then have turned out to be weeks of 78 and 79 kilometres, doing more or less aerobic running at efforts varying from easy to just below aerobic threshold. There was one 5k race on the 28th of February in which I paced myself to finish ahead of my long-time rivals Charlie and Jim. I caught Jim early (he was having a bad day), ran with Carol for a while (she broke 2:50 at the London Marathon in the 'old days'), then edged up to Charlie at the 4k mark. I could sense he was at his limit so I ran the last kilometre strongly, finishing in 23:41.

I've been enjoying running these Tuesday evening races with something in reserve. Recovery is therefore fast — I can do a normal run the following day — and I feel like this level of effort is building up my training and racing fitness. My next 'all-out' race will be on the 29th of March at the ACT Vets' 5000m Championships. I'd like to break 22 minutes in that race and go as close as possible to my M50 PB of 21:29.58. I'll do some sharpening interval work of the type suggested by Canute (5 x 1k with short recoveries) before then.

One thing that's helping to elevate my confidence are the numbers I've recorded for a few recent training sessions. Numbers that take me back to 2008 — the year of my M50 3000 and 5000 metre PBs. At that time I was running my Tharwa Drive Bridge 8k course at around 700 heart-beats per kilometre. For example, on the 6th of February I ran 42:31 at 691 heart-beats per km and on the 13th of February 41:07 at 694 heart-beats per km. On Friday just past I ran an easy 45:58 (ave heart rate of 122) for 701 heart-beats per km. So that's a good number, especially considering that faster running is more 'efficient' (there's better elastic recoil of the muscles/tendons when running fast). I recorded another good number during yesterday's long run with the Speedygeese. I ran 15k at 5:33 per km (716 heart-beats per km) in which the 12th kilometre was covered in 5:00 at an AHR of 139 (695 heart-beats per km).

The final good number (or silly and inconsequential number depending on your viewpoint), is that today marked my 100th consecutive day of running. Yes, a running streak that started on December 3 last year. I'm not sure when it will end, but thus far I'm feeling fine!

Not quite my best number for the high jumpMy technique for the running high jump needs work [J Kennedy photo]

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Improving a training week

Lucho used to have a list on his blog called 'The Rules of Joghard'. I don't remember all the rules. There was one that said: "There's a man called Canova." I do remember rules 1 and 2. Rule #1 - Family comes first. Rule #2 - Did you read #1, if not, read again. If I had list of rules about running, number 3 would be "Consistency produces great running." Which I guess is similar to the answer Steve Moneghetti gave when asked at a running camp about the best training session one could do. He replied "The 2 x 7 x 365."

I'm going to detail my training for the past week and include thoughts about how I might improve each day's running. Feel free to add your own ideas or suggestions in the comments section of this post.

Monday 20 February: 15k with the Speedygeese. A basic aerobic run. First 8k was at 5:40 per km (9:07 miles). How to improve: This could be a good day to run some strides at the end of the session.

Tuesday 21 February: 11k including a 5k club race in 23:17. Had a bit in reserve during this race, running a slight negative split. How to improve: Possibly a longer warm-up and some drills/strides prior to the race.

Wednesday 22 February: 10k easy run in 57:40. How to improve: Could run longer and easier — perhaps 12k at 6 minute kilometres (9:39 miles).

Thursday 23 February: 10k including a 1 mile race at the Vets' track meet in 7:51 and a 1200m race-walk in 7:19. The mile was a fairly easy effort, but I didn't feel up to racing hard. How to improve: Not sure, but I hadn't recovered sufficiently from Tuesday's race to race hard on Thursday.

Friday 24 February: 7k including a 3k tempo run on the grass track in 15:20. How to improve: This was a very good run as my average HR was only 136 and the track was soft. I think this run benefitted from the relatively easy Thursday. How to improve: Could possibly run a 4 or 5k tempo run.

Saturday 25 February: 16k long run at an easy pace. This run took 1 hour 45 minutes, so definitely 'long'. How to improve: Could possibly run longer (20k) or add some strides.

Sunday 26 February: 12k including a 6k race which I ran as an interval session of 1k easy, 1k hard, 1k easy, 1k hard, 1k easy, 1k hard. Didn't feel that fresh while running these. How to improve: Run a more structured interval or hill repeat session with some running drills during the warm-up.

Sprint Marathon Relay title=Finishing the Vets' Sprint Marathon Relay (like an Ekiden with 1k legs)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Racing 10,000 metres on the track

I'm not sure what it is, but there's something uniquely difficult about racing 25 laps of a 400 metre track. The ACT 10k Championships were held on Thursday evening. Although not my goal distance (that remains the 5k), I hoped to 'do well' and perhaps run close to my M50 PB of 44:54.57. Prior to the race I thought I was in good enough shape to do this, but it was not to be. My taper went okay (although in retrospect, perhaps it wasn't long enough) — I ran an easy 12.5k with the Speedygeese on Monday, an equally easy (and great feeling) 4k tempo run in the Summer Series on Tuesday, then a light 5k jog on Wednesday.

On Thursday I lined up with 28 other runners, all with the same goal: to run 25 laps of the track as fast as we could. Initially I followed Burkie, as his even-pacing is legendary and I thought he'd run around 45 minutes. Pete was running just behind, with Kelley and Mick ahead, while the fast-starting Bronwyn ran with Craig — these two quickly splitting away from our group. Following Burkie, I ran through the first k in 4:28 and the second in 4:28. Perfect! Or so I thought. I started losing contact with Burkie as we ran up the back straight to the 3k mark. 4:37 for that k — markedly slower. The rest of the race was pretty much a grind. Pete overtook just before the 5k mark (23:11) and ran a negative split, finishing in 45:59. I continued to fade, running the second half in 24:36, for a finish time of 47:46.96. Burkie finished just behind Pete in 46:07.

My average heart-rate for the race was 147 and it was lower in the second half than the first, which is unusual for a track race. For the same race in 2010 I ran 45:57 at an average heart-rate of 153. I'm slightly confused about this. I suspect my legs weren't fresh enough on Thursday evening to run at a speed that would have pushed my HR into a higher zone. Between now and my goal 5000 on 29 March I'll be running 'training' races pretty much weekly. I may turn some of those into extended training sessions as suggested by Sling in the comments on my last post.

HR data shows a poor second 5kHR data shows I couldn't maintain the effort beyond 3k

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Seeing through the fog of slow races

I've been on a 'running streak' that as of today has lasted 65 days. The idea came from Karla when I read via Twitter about the Runner's World challenge to run every day between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. Must say that I'm enjoying my daily runs, but am sensible enough to run a very easy 4 or 5k day if I feel the need.

My weekly mileage is around 70 to 80 kilometres. I thought I'd mention a couple of recent races because I'm coming around to the view that I can't race at 100% effort every week (as a soon-to-be 55-year-old) and expect to race well. A recent article from Running Times about how aging runners train (Keeping the Fire of Youth) is worth reading.

On January 25 I raced a 3000 metres on the track in 12:59.93 (missing a season's best by 3/1000ths of a second!). My taper for this race was 1 day — an easy 5k on the day before the race. My average heart-rate for the race was 149. My legs didn't feel fresh enough to run at my 'normal' 3k racing heart-rate of 152 to 155. On Tuesday 31 January I raced 5k cross-country race on the grass course at Stromlo in 23:30. For this race I noted in my diary: "legs tired in warm-up; not much better in race." My average heart-rate for the race was 146. Last November I raced a 5k in 22:22 with an average heart-rate of 152. My number of heart-beats per km for the November race was 680 and for the recent race at Stromlo, 686 (on a harder course). What all these numbers tell me is that while I can 'train through' races (using them as a hard training session), I can't expect great results from these races. I could at age-45, but not at age-55.

Now, apart from a few foggy races, I'm happy with how my running is going. I've done a couple of runs on the grass track at Calwell and come up with similar numbers to those I recorded in 2007 (the year of some M50 PBs), so aerobically I'm feeling as fit as a Mallee bull. I think I'll target two races for proper tapers (3 to 4 days) — the 10,000m on 16 February and the 5000m on 29 March.

Stromlo Forest Park is a great place to run!
The lovely grass of Stromlo Forest Park [D Appleby photo]

Friday, January 27, 2012

Lydiard and the Quarter Mile

Why the secret to running fast is confusing

Recently I stumbled upon a fascinating article titled 'Train SLOWER to Race Faster' by Andy Friedlander. It wasn't (as you might suspect from the title) about Lydiard-coached runners logging 100-mile weeks in the base-training period. It was about 400 metre sprinters! Now there's a contradiction in terms — how could training slower possibly produce a faster quarter-miler? Isn't the one-lap race all about speed, speed and more speed? Apparently not!

It turns out that the great coach Clyde Hart (maker of Olympic gold medalists Michael Johnson, Jeremy Wariner and Darold Williamson) found that "the key to running fast 400s is to slow down." Hart's method of training quarter-milers came about when trying to get an injury-prone Michael Johnson through a full season of racing. Hart's system is Lydiard-like in that it begins with a large volume of easier running (to build strength and aerobic capacity — Hart believes the 400 is 40% aerobic), then gradually progresses to a smaller volume of faster running. In the autumn his athletes start with 20 x 200m "at a very slow pace, about 40 seconds each, on the grass." Now 40 seconds for 200 metres is incredibly slow for an athlete with a PB of 20 seconds or less. These are done with a short recovery. As training progresses "pace quickens and the repetitions shrink, but never to the point of full-speed sprints." Eventually his athletes might be running 6 x 200m in 26 seconds with a 90 second recovery. Training 'slowly' didn't produce plodding runners with fast-twitch depleted muscles. It produced athletes with the aerobic capacity to withstand a full racing season and the multiple rounds of championship competition.

Janene has blogged about the 80:20 rule of training for distance runners (which states that 80% of running should be below lactate threshold and 20% above). This ratio is more likely to be 85:15 or 90:10 for elite distance runners. What's confusing for recreational runners is that the perfect ratio varies according to the weekly volume run, age, and individual response. If running volume and frequency is low (for example, 3 days per week for a total of 40 kilometres), then the best ratio of 'easy' to 'fast' running might be 30:70 or 50:50. As volume is increased, the ratio must change. For example, it would be physically impossible to run 160 kilometres per week with 70% of that running being above lactate threshold. One pay-off with higher volume training is that the volume of 'above lactate threshold' running can be higher.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Good training leads to a bad race

I try to embrace poor races because they usually teach rich lessons. I ran a 3000 metre track race Thursday night — this time finishing fourth-last in a time of 13:34.93, around a minute slower than I expected. I ran at the pace (4:31 per km) that I'd hope to hold for a 10k race. I was lapped twice by the winner Marty Dent (8:38) who I guess only ran at his 10k race pace; but he had the excuse of winning the mile an hour earlier in 4:25! The lesson I learned from this race goes back to the training I did with the Speedygeese on Monday night...

I've felt for a while that my fast-twitch muscles (and leg turn-over) could do with a boost. If it's not possible to run comfortably at 48 seconds per 200 metres (4 minute kilometre pace), then it's going to be bloody difficult to race a 5k in 20 minutes! I modified the session that Geoff had set out to give myself sufficient recovery to run at close to maximum speed for 200 metre repeats. These were run on a smooth grass foot-path with a favourable slight down-hill slope. I ran 11 repeats, walking back to the start each time in about 2 minutes. The average time for my 9 best runs was 42.1 seconds, which works out to be a tad over 3:30 per kilometre, so quite a change for my legs compared to my normal running speeds.

On Tuesday I ran 10k in 58:28 with legs that felt a bit ordinary. Wednesday another 10k in 57:55 but with a noticeable case of DOMS! Did those 200s do that much to my legs? On Thursday night I jogged a very easy 5k warm-up with Ruth — legs all the while feeling like they didn't want to be there. After the split start I ran a little bit behind Hugh, Carol and Amanda with Bob just on my heels. After two laps Bob eased past (he ran 12:57) and I gradually lost ground for the remainder of the race. My legs weren't agonisingly sore — they just weren't responding as I would have liked. Splits were 4:22, 4:38 and 4:34. So I guess the lessons from my bad race are that I do need to keep working on my speed and not to expect to race well with sore legs. My week's training will total 80k, including a good 'long' 15k run around Lake Burley Griffin yesterday and a pleasant recovery 13k run on the grass out at Stromlo Forest Park this morning.

At the track with Yelena
Yelena, now 30, can race on the track against old people!

Saturday, January 07, 2012

New Year, Same Goal

Although it's a new year, we're in the middle of the season for track racing in Australia. My goal for 2012 remains the same as for last year: run faster than 20:00 for 5000 metres. My mate Bruce suggested I have an easier goal — under 22 minutes for example, or even to break my M50 PB of 21:29 from 2008. Wimp! I like difficult goals!

Just how hard is it to run a 20-minute 5k? Not hard at all for some runners. Jaymee Marty runs faster than that pace for a marathon... on one good leg and rapping about it all the way. For me though, in 2012, it's plenty hard enough. I have to run at 75% according to the age-grading calculators. My all-time PB of 17:33.5 is equivalent to 72.69%, so I need to run over 2% "better" as a 55-year-old (in April), than I did as a 33-year-old. Phew!

My running has been going reasonably well, although my heart-beats per kilometre readings have taken a hit since giving blood last Saturday. Prior to that I'd been recording 710 to 730 HB/KM for my 10k courses. Three days after giving blood that number was 757. A temporary hiccup. I raced 5000m on Thursday at what I estimated to be a high tempo effort rather than all-out. In a 40-person field I finished last in 23:55.74. I was dizzy counting the number of times I was lapped!

The training I plan on doing to run 20 minutes for 5k revolves around two things: 1) Consistency, and 2) "5k" Training Sessions. I want to run consistent mileage (the more the better, provided I'm recovering well). I want to run one (or two if I'm not racing) sessions per week of race-paced or faster running of the type that Julie's doing as she edges towards 20 minutes. I started on Monday with the Speedygeese and a 10 x 200m session on one of the grassy footpaths at Parliament House.

World's biggest heel strike
If I'm to run 20 minutes for 5k I should fine-tune my heel-striking running technique! [J Harding photo]