Monday, January 28, 2013

Running by feel and heart-rate monitors

I raced a disappointing 5k at the Gindy Parkrun on Saturday morning — 24:02 when I thought I could easily run a minute faster. The whole race was a struggle, so no fun at all! Training has been okay — good Speedygeese sprint relays on Monday, an introduction to 200 metre intervals on Friday and some fast (downhill) kilometre intervals on Sunday. Now those were fun — felt like I was running fast and smoothly for a change and the times backed that up: 4:12, 4:07 and 4:01. Maybe I've just been having an off week or two.

Anyone who reads my training diary will know that I habitually record a lot of data. For aerobic runs I'll record the course, time, pace, average/maximum heart-rate and the weather. Why? Well, it's useful to have a history of data for backwards comparison — I can see what sort of training I was doing when I was 'in good shape'. However, this doesn't mean (as an ageing runner) that repeating training blocks that resulted in PB times is the best way to train now.

I'm a huge advocate for running (and racing) by feel. I know how easy running should feel. The same for tempo running, intervals, sprinting, hill repeats, racing and long runs. One thing I don't do (these days) is 'heart-rate train'. When following Hadd training back in 2007 I used to stay strictly within the suggested zones for various training sessions. If my heart-rate went too high during an easy run I'd stop and walk! These days though, I'll start the Garmin prior to a run or race and not look at it until I've stopped. I run by feel and ignore the numbers. The only exception would be if I'm running a new out/back course and I'm looking for a kilometre point on the way out.

The main thing I like using post-run heart-rate data for is to work out my 'RS result' (for Robert Song who I got the idea from). The RS number is actually 'heart-beats per kilometre' — it's calculated by multiplying average heart-rate for the run by average kilometre rate (you can use heart-beats per mile too). Every week I'll do a steady run over a familiar course of 8 to 10k (often the Speedygeese warm-up) and afterwards calculate my RS number. I think it's a great way to keep an eye on one's aerobic fitness (besides racing a 10k or half marathon — which one doesn't want to be doing every week!). Each runner will have their own scale of what's great, average or below average in terms of aerobic fitness. For myself at age-55, below 690 h/beats per km is great, 715 is average and over 800 means I'm not fit!

The best place to finish a 1k interval — lowest point at Stromlo!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Assessing strengths and weaknesses

When I buy Running Times from the Erindale Newsagency I'll turn straight to the 'Masters Running' section. The website also has a good range of articles for older runners — recently I found a 'Web Exclusive' called 'Five Minutes with Malcolm Campbell'. The interview backgrounds Campbell's running history and finds out about his preparation to win the USATF National Club Cross Country title (10k in 32:47). One interesting thing about the preparation for that performance was that Campbell increased his yearly mileage to 4,000 (average of 124k per week) from the 2,500 to 3000 miles he had been running. He said that the higher level of mileage enabled him to recover faster from training and racing.

Another thing from the interview that really caught my eye was the way Campbell assesses his readiness for racing. He said "I work on improving four different systems to function as close to 100 percent as possible. These systems are endurance, recovery, speed endurance and finally speed — change of pace acceleration." I think that's a great basis for a self-assessment system for all distance runners. I'd probably add 'consistency' — the regularity of our training over weeks, months and years. I've assessed my current preparation as follows: Endurance 85%, recovery 70%, speed-endurance 75%, speed 50% and consistency 90%. How are you going? Probably better than myself in some, worse in others.

In JKK-style, my latest training:

Monday - 10.5k Speedygeese session (recovery run for me).
Tuesday - 8k, some on the grass track (easy day).
Wednesday - 10k, 3k 'easy tempo' on the grass track at 5:20/k.
Thursday - 10k long tempo run in 53:48 (warm and smoky).
Friday - 5k very easy, 3 on the grass track (recovery run).
Saturday - 15k long run progressing from 6:20 to mid 5:30 ks.
Sunday - 10.5k Speedygeeese Stromlo intervals - 4 x 1k.

 Chatting about the weather prior to Stromlo intervals

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

No rest days in 2012

I did something last year that I'm not sure I'll ever do again — ran every day for a minimum of 5k per day. Yes, a modest streak of running compared to 2:09 marathoner and Commonwealth Games champion Ron Hill's multi-decade running streak. I'll blame Karla and CJ for getting me started on the streak. It seemed like a fun thing to do back in November 2011! Then fellow streakers Geoff and Janene kept me honest in friendly competition.

Did I learn anything from this obsessive-compulsive-disordered craziness? Anything useful that is?! Well, a few things: It's possible to run every day and not get injured; one can run with a bad head-cold during a wet, cold winter (outdoors); a new appreciation for the secret Steve Moneghetti training session — when asked what was the best training session to improve one's running, Mona said "the 2 x 7 x 365" (run twice a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year).

With all that running (3,728 kilometres), my racing performances pretty much stayed the same throughout the year. My first 5k at Stromlo on 31 January was a 23:30 and my last on 4 December a 23:21. Between those races I ran a very pleasing road 10k at the Gold Coast — a 45:11, my fastest 10k since 2008. I didn't run the 5000m track race I think I was capable of — the 22:17.48 in November should have been 30 seconds faster. Similarly for the Melbourne Half — a 'pinched nerve' kept my finish time down to 1:44:30. I think a 1:40-41 went begging that day. Looking forward to this year, I'll continue to try and race "a good" 5k (time yet to be defined) and also chase a sub-1:40 time (and a 'victory' over Canute) for the Canberra Half in April.

Thanks all for reading and commenting on the blog over the past 12 months. I was snowed under with pre-Christmas work, followed by 'family time' during the holidays so I'm a little behind on reading and commenting on your blogs. All the best for 2013 and enjoy your running!

On boxing day the Wagga geese weren't that speedy. It was hot!