Thursday, December 11, 2014

Finishing 2014 better than 2013

I'm home recovering from a suspected viral/sinus infection, so have time to write what will be my last post for the year. Looking out the window, the weather looks pretty ordinary (windy, wet and humid), so I'm not minding too much being away from exercise. Well, being a little Obsessive/Compulsive I am! But anyway...

I finished 2013 babying a nasty right calf injury after making a good recovery from the right arm DVT problem in May. This year I'm shaking off a viral infection, so some bittersweet synchronicity  in play there. In 2013 my fastest 5k (on the road) was 22:46 in April before my health problems. Most of 2014 has been spent 'getting fit' again — helped hugely I'm sure, by taking up cycling as cross-training (and for fun!) late in the year. I'm feeling in fantastic aerobic shape — just have to talk the muscles and tendons into keeping up. I need to overcome my inclination to limp (caused I'm sure by 'running through' many niggles).

The video below is from the Lifeline Majura Parkway 5k Fun Run. You can hear my mate Jim encouraging me (he'd raced the earlier 10k). It was a beautiful day — hot and sunny, unlike today. I was given the ego-boosting result of 19th place (2nd 50-59) out of 568 finishers :) My fastest 5k of the year was the 22:54 Parkrun on 4 October. Love the Parkrun! Very happy with that race, although well short of my 21:59 goal for the year. The thing is, I feel incredibly fit at the moment (ah, before this illness) — running the Stromlo 5k as a tempo run (in hot weather) on 2 December at 4:53 per km (and a low for me, 678 heart-beats per km). I'm relishing the thought of racing in 2015.

Hope anyone reading this is doing well. If not, all the best for achieving your goals in 2015. See youse all next year!

My Official Finish Video

Vineyards enjoying a lovely warm day

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Racing Ron and Riding

On Thursday 6 November I was helping at the ACT Veterans Track Meeting and was able to compete in the 'late' 3000/5000 metre race at 8PM. An unplanned race that turned into a good one. The 3k is my favourite distance on the track — long enough to require excellent aerobic endurance, yet short enough to be fun by eliminating the 'this is taking forever!' thought.

After the pack shuffle at the start of the race I slotted in behind Ron Vines with Jim and Roger close behind. Ron is 71 and a very good runner — at the age of 43 he ran 2 hours 34 minutes for the marathon. This race was his tune-up for an attempt to improve the Ginninderra 5k Parkrun 70-74 record two days later (he was successful with a time of 22:21). Ron pulled out a 10 metre gap after two laps. Roger passed me as we approached 1k (4:28) while Jim said "What are you going to run?" I blurted out breathlessly "Under fourteen!" Jim, rather surprisingly, soon dropped off. Roger had passed Ron and I managed to reduce the gap to a few metres, covering the middle kilometre in 4:34. With a lap to go I sensed I was stronger, overtaking Ron with 250 metres left and finishing with a time of 13:32.97 (4:31 last k).

Speedygeoff always (good naturedly) stirs me by saying I have to race old people (or young children) to be competitive. I don't care! I know I'm a very average runner in the 55-59 age-group but I like racing, so I'll race anyone of a similar standard to myself. This particular evening it was Ron — next Saturday at the Parkrun it might be a 9-year-old girl. As an aside, young kids are very hard to beat as they usually possess a devastating sprint finish!

I've been riding my bikes quite a bit, covering around 130 kilometres a week. I'm really enjoying the riding (with the Strava website providing good motivation to improve my 'segment' times). My quandary is fitting in the amount of riding I'd like to do and balancing that with running and recovery. I feel very fit aerobically and would hope to improve that 3k track time to sub-13 before the season's finished. If that happens the sub-22 5k goal is a realistic possibility. On a mild and calm evening!

With Norma and Jim at the Fisher's Ghost Fun Run last Sunday. Norma placed 3rd in the 'Over 70' category. She's 85!

I was lucky enough to spot a young wombat during one of my recent bike rides. Very cool!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Coffee Club Melbourne 10k

I was looking forward to the Melbourne trip as a social occasion more than anything — a short holiday to one of my favourite cities with the prospect of hanging out with Canberra friends Ruth, Dave, Cathy and Liz. During my jog around 'The Tan' late on Friday afternoon I revised my race goal to 'sub-50', a time I'd be happy with on the hilly Melbourne course. That night we enjoyed a lovely Italian meal at Triim on Hardware Lane. I like Melbourne! At the civilized hour of 9.18 AM on Saturday I joined the girls for a 'shake-out' jog along the Yarra (Dave was out riding his bike in preparation for the Australian Duathlon Championships to be held in Adelaide the following weekend). My legs felt okay, but nothing special. That evening we 'carbed up' at Vons on Hardware Lane.

On Sunday morning (very early for me) we walked the 2k from the city to Race HQ near the MCG. The 10k was starting at 7.30 with the half marathon (which Liz and Ruth were racing) half an hour later. Just prior to the start I bumped into Twitter friend Sal and coach Bill near the river, Sal doing run-throughs and very psyched up! She would run an excellent 41:14 on a course where the hills are worth about 30 seconds. My race went well — once up the short hill after the start I found myself running near a lady with her two young children. Their pace was good so I followed them along St Kilda road and around through the tunnel. The kids started slowing on the gentle (but long) climb beside the Royal Botanic Gardens so I moved ahead and selected other distinctive runners to chase.

I ran by feel (and the effort certainly felt quicker than 5-minute k pace!), but did sneak a look at my Garmin at the 5k mark. 24:53 — I'm sure I can double that — we're almost to the high point on the course! I was enjoying myself! Especially running back towards Flinders Street Station; mostly overtaking runners, or at least keeping up with other conservative starters. Finally I was over the last nasty bridge and 'sprinting' up to the finish arch just outside 'The G'. 49:25 — I'll take that! I've raced the 10k in Melbourne before — in 2008 I ran 46:38 at an average heart-rate of 151 (704 heart-beats per km). This year my AHR was 143, so 707 heart-beats per km. I'm not sure when my next 10k race will be but I'd love to run a time in the 46 to 47-minute range. I think a time like that is possible, even for an old bloke!

Ruth, Liz, Cathy and Dave walking to the start beside the beautiful Yarra River 

Relaxed Melbourne runners means there's no problem starting near the front

Enjoying a beautiful Melbourne morning!

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Racing the Old Blokes

On Saturday morning I raced my 44th Parkrun 5k, which happened to be on International Parkrun Day. There were a record 320 finishers at Tuggeranong, no doubt helped along by the beautiful calm morning with a hint of Spring warmth in the air. My pre-race plan was to run hard and see if I could improve my 22:52 Parkrun PB.

I arrived a little late so warmed up with a short jog and 3 strides. Our race director had set up a rather narrow start chute so my usual grid position produced a momentary delay of 5 seconds or so before I was up and running. I was wearing the Hoka Cliftons — the super cushioned and stunningly light (265 grams, size 13) training shoe. The harder Kinvaras may have been faster, but my legs are liking cushioned shoes! After 500 metres I found myself running behind a lady with a dog on a lead — she on one side of the path and the dog on the other. Should I resurrect my steeplechase skills and hurdle the lead? Ah, maybe not! It wasn't long before I was able to get past and settle into a steady (hard) tempo.

Passing the Maccas morning breakfast crowd I looked up ahead and saw my rival Jim taking the sharp left turn that leads under the bridge. Wow, that's quite a lead! As we turned onto the concrete footbridge I could see that Jim had formed a group with two other old blokes, Paul and Graeme, with younger bloke John along for the ride. Their advantage was about 75 metres but I could sense it was slowly reducing. I didn't feel like I was speeding up (which was proved by my post-race splits). Maybe they've started too fast? At the half-way turn I was closer and felt like a catch was inevitable. I hope it happens before the last 100 metres! As we ran off the bridge onto the west side of the lake the small downhill gave me the momentum to overtake John and Graeme then Paul and Jim in quick succession. 1k to go! I ran as hard as I could, fearful of Graeme's final sprint (which he used to defeat me in an earlier Parkrun).

Now I was using young blokes and kids as unofficial pacers, racing along beside the lake and readying myself for the final speed-bump of a hill into the park. Up and over, then a modest (it felt devastating!) sprint to the finish. Stopped the Garmin after the line, pretty pleased to see 22:52 (official time was 22:54, so agonisingly short of a new Parkrun PB). Never mind, I'd had a good race! I think the additional cycling training I've been doing is starting to produce results. I still don't feel 'fast', but I feel strong which is a good place to be. My average heart-rate for the race had been 146, so a pleasingly low 669 heart-beats per kilometre. One kilometre splits were 4:38, 4:34, 4:34, 4:35 and 4:33 (the first closer to 4:32 taking into account the delay at the start). This coming Sunday I'm racing the  Melbourne 10k, looking forward to it as a catch-up-with-friends holiday rather than a race. I hope the weather is typically Melbourne-perfect!

Jim, unknown young bloke, Paul and Graeme still ahead approaching the 2k marker

 Chasing old blokes in my cushioned, light Hoka Clifton slippers

Heart-rate trace from the race with a bump at 1k to go and max of 161 at the end of my 'sprint' finish

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cycling and the Sydney Harbour Bridge Run

Inspired by Harley's 2:50 marathon on ten miles a week (plus a lot of cycling!) I've been rediscovering the boyhood joy of riding a bike. Forty-plus years ago I was into cycling as a teenager (as most kids were in those days) — riding to and from school; heading out for all-day jaunts in the summer holidays and even completing a couple of multi-day rides including a memorable one from Wagga to Melbourne via the Victorian Alps.

I've bought myself a couple of new bikes (to go with my '96 Cannondale R400 — bought when I was briefly into triathlons): a nice lightweight aluminium 650B 30-speed mountain bike and a Trek FX 7.5 aluminium 18-speed road bike (more versatile and comfortable than the Cannondale and almost as fast). Daylight hours are lengthening so I've been heading out for rides some afternoons as well as running around 40 kilometres a week. I've joined Strava (a web-based and mobile application) to log my rides (and runs). Strava is good fun as there are many cyclists in Canberra, with most cycle paths and trails having established 'leaderboards' on which to try and improve one's PRs for the various segments.

My races have been going well — nothing spectacular, but some solid results. 5k Parkruns in 23:23 and 23:20; the Canberra Times 10k in 48:03 and last Sunday, the Blackmores Sydney Harbour Bridge Run. This one is advertised as 'Approx 9.0 kms', but is certainly longer. The timing results on the website show it as 9.23k, which seems correct — after running sub-5 minute ks most of the way, my '9th' k was 5:56! Anyway, my finishing time was 45:23 (4:55 per km at an average heart rate of 145). This result compares quite favourably to my race in 2007 when I ran 44:01 at an average HR of 144. There were 11,960 finishers and I just squeaked into the first 1000. More importantly I felt good during the race and competed well against a few distinctive runners including a lady running with a 'Canadian' white/red jacket tied around her waist (it wasn't cold!). I hope you're all going well. I'm a little behind in blog-reading, but hope to catch up over the coming days.

National Gallery stop during a ride around LBG 

Turning off Macquarie Street to finish the Blackmores Sydney Harbour Bridge Run

Saturday, August 30, 2014

How to break 3 hours for the marathon on ten miles a week

"That's impossible!" I hear you all shout. Well, it's not and it's actually pretty easy. The runner who most recently achieved 'the impossible' was not a 2:06 Kenyan who'd been running ten miles a week for six months. It was a 37-year-old Australian who placed 7th in the Adelaide Marathon last Sunday. Harley Vegan (who promotes the 'vegan high carb' diet) ran well under 3 hours with a time of 2:50:47. He was on 2:48 pace until 38k so lack of running training didn't cost him much time. His run training for 2014 amounted to 19.6k on average per week (actually 12 miles as he says in the video below). The video is a reply to a person who claimed a sub-3 marathon on ten miles a week couldn't be done in a comment on Harley's marathon race report video.

"I use cycling to build my cardio" says Harley. "I can't even do speedwork because I haven't got the [running] base!" Cycling is Harley's preferred sport and he's a very good cyclist. He cycles A LOT! He doesn't own a car or even have a driver's licence. On his Youtube Channel there's a video of Harley riding up the Corkscrew Hill in Adelaide and keeping pace with the Movistar Team professional riders. He has a high VO2Max and has built up impressive endurance from cycling. "My challenge with the marathon always comes down to leg fatigue — I do runs so the legs can withstand the impact and use heavy cushioned shoes [in the race]."

I must say that I'm excited by this video from Harley (and that's coming from a rare user of the 'f' word!). I'm adding cycling to my rather modest 50 kilometres or so of weekly running (I do like running and 16-19k a week just wouldn't do it for me). I predict that the cycling will enable me to maintain (or improve) my stamina over and above simple running. As Harley says, "Ego crushes potential. Always have an open mind [about different ways to train]."

Friday, August 15, 2014

City to Surf Number 30

Last Sunday I found myself in a familiar and comfortable place. Yes, it was early in the race! I was running along the flat section at Rose Bay, approaching the 5k mark. This was my 30th Sydney City to Surf. Yes, I was just a boy when I ran my first. I glanced at my watch as I passed the marker (something I usually don't do when racing). 24:40 was 18 seconds more than last year's split. Sub-70 and a 'Red Group' qualifying time wasn't going to be easy. Last year I ran with desperation over the final kilometres to run 69:39 and already I was behind schedule.

Approaching the top of 'heartbreak hill' I had a déjà vu moment when I spotted Jenny Gilbert in the crowed, running strongly about 30 metres ahead. Jenny used to run with the Lane Cove Riverrunners when I lived in Sydney in the early '80s. We ran 10k in the park on Tuesdays, usually in less than 40 minutes. Jenny finished second in the '85 City to Surf in 50:17 (American Nancy Ditz won in 48:30). I bumped into Jenny earlier in the morning at the 'secret toilets' and she was typically reserved about discussing her plans for the race. "Same here" she said when I revealed my plan of trying to run 70 minutes. Here we were, amidst 80,000 others, running (almost) together again, just like the old days in the park.

I tried to increase my pace as we crested the hill. My mind was willing but my legs weren't! I soon lost sight of Jenny's pink singlet in the crowd. When we turned into Old South Head Road after 8k I found myself in survival mode. I was keeping up with some distincively attired people in the river of humanity, but most runners were moving ahead. The 10k clock said 51:41 (1:12 more than last year) so I knew sub-70 wasn't going to happen. I still raced as hard as possible and managed a modest sprint down Queen Elizabeth Drive to the finish. I'd run 71:52 — 5:08 per km pace (average heart-rate of 141 compared to the more desperate 144 of last year). Jenny had run 70:11 (!) with an official 'Heartbreak to Bondi' split 31:31, while mine showed a distinct lack of endurance at 32:43.

My lesson from this result is that a diet of mostly 6 to 8k flat runs and modest mileage (51k per week) is short of what's needed for a 'good' City to Surf. Not surprising, as the race record is held by a marathoner (Steve Moneghetti's 40:03 from 1991). Next year I'll aim to prepare more thoroughly. Until then, 5k racing here we come!

Staying with my mate Jim meant we were up excessively early ('to get a good spot at the start') for the 2014 City to Surf. Sparse crowd near St Mary's Cathedral.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Running on a NordicTrack T20.5 treadmill

After running through more Canberra winters than I care to remember, I've finally given in to my soft side and purchased a treadmill: The NordicTrack T20.5 with "iFit." Canberra isn't Minnesota, so it's possible to run outdoors 365 days a year. Possible, but on a zero Celsius rainy day in July with a southerly wind blowing off the snow, not pleasant.

I joined a local gym in mid-June for 3 months in order to try treadmill running and see if I liked it. The gym has other equipment I use like the Concept2 rowing erg, elliptical machines and stationary bicycles. I enjoyed the warmth of the gym so decided to buy a home treadmill. After a little internet research I chose the NordicTrack T20.5 ($1999 delivered including the iFit module and 12 months' membership of iFit). The treadmill has a 3.5 continuous horsepower motor 0 to 15% incline (8% is bloody hard!) and 0 to 3% decline. The decline feature is great for downhill training (working the quads) and for simulating rolling hills. There's a Youtube video showing the T14.2 model being run on at the top speed of 22 kph. Scary!

So how am I liking it? It's great! Perfect for the distances I want to run — usually 5k (although I completed the 'Isle of Arran' iFit course the other day, which was 8.09k). The iFit module links the treadmill to your laptop or tablet computer. As you run a course (there are many different ones available — or you can design your own), images from Google Earth street view and matched to the treadmill's speed. The images are downloaded instantly every few seconds so not video-like but good enough for the bush. The viewpoint is quite high too, perhaps the height of a bus, so you get a tall view of the scenery you're running through. The treadmill's incline is automatically adjusted, which I've found is sometimes exaggerated from real world courses. Because of this I've been preferring flat courses.

I've been finding treadmill running a little harder than running outside. Heart-beats per kilometre seem to be a little higher on the treadmill — perhaps because the temperature is so warm! I noticed when I turned on the built-in fan to high speed half way through a steady-paced run that my heart-rate declined! The treadmill also demands quite a bit of concentration to stay in the same position relative to the console. Drifting back could be very dangerous! For this reason I've been conservative when choosing speeds for steady runs and interval sessions. As well as the iFit and in-build programmes there are some good treadmill workout ideas on the web — for example, ones such as this on Carrie Tollefson's Youtube channel.

Running 'in the snow' down the Stavio Pass in Italy

Friday, July 11, 2014

2 Red Balloons at the Gold Coast Half

I'm back in cold, windy Canberra after a short holiday to warm, sunny Surfers Paradise. My excuse for the holiday was to race in the 'Gold Coast Asics Half Marathon', held last Sunday. I would have preferred to race in Saturday's 10k but couldn't get a flight until mid-morning Saturday. My weekly 'long' runs over winter have been around 12k with weekly mileage at about 60k so my enthusiasm for racing a hard half marathon was rather lacking!

I knew there'd be a split-timing mat at 10k so I decided in advance to race hard to 10k (hopefully running around 48 minutes), then jog/walk my way to the finish and collect my 'finisher's shirt' and medal. It was cool (about 9C) and calm on Sunday morning as I walked the 2k from my unit to Southport for the 6AM start. The road was already crowded and loud (inspirational?) music blared from speakers adjacent to the start. The City-to-Surf-like crush of bodies kept me from moving forward so I started not too far from the 'red balloon' (1:50) man. I abandoned my idea of running a fast 10k and decided to run at 1:50 pace for as long as I could.

One minute after six and we were off. Exciting! Once past the start mat I was able to run fairly freely and didn't have too much trouble keeping with the 1:50 group. As is my habit I ran the race not looking once at the Garmin and felt after the 5k marker that we were running a little quick. Post-race splits showed the story: 5:22, 5:05, 5:08, 5:03, and 5:02. The red balloon man was averaging 1:48 pace. Ouch! Anyway, I kept running, feeling comfortable. Enjoyed watching the leaders coming back at the far turn — Reuben Kosgei way out in front (1:04:56) with Milly Clark leading the women (1:14:03). I passed the 10k timing mat (my split would be 51:34) feeling okay (especially my breathing) but 1k later my legs were getting sore. I'd also dropped 100 metres off red balloon man. I decided to stop running at 12k and walk for a while. The walk had lasted about 1.5k when I saw Tesso run past on white 2-hour balloon pacing duty.

I started running again with a spur of the moment 'B goal' of breaking 2 hours (thinking of Karla and her life-time goal of breaking 2). My stride became smoother again and I managed to get into a rhythm of clicking over ks around 5:30. Before I knew it the 18k marker came up, then over the little bridge and 20k. Nearly there! Into the park, past the grandstands in the finish straight and under the clock. 1:58:32 on the clock ended up being a net 1:56:59. Pretty happy with that! Met Jonathon after the finish (he'd run a season's best of 1:49) and walked back to my unit at Main Beach. Then down to the course at 28k to watch the marathoners come past. Saw the leader Silah Limo looking sublime and smooth, racing to a 2:09:14 win, the fastest marathon ever in Australia. After a while 2:09 man Lee Troop came by, finishing his last marathon in Australia (2:27:23). Well done Troopy! Then the female winner Asami Kato (2:28:51). I was sorry to miss recognising the legendary Yoshihisa Hosaka who won the 65-69 age-group 'by a mile' in 2:52:13.

The next morning I ventured out for a jog up to the delightful sandy trail at The Spit — tentatively at first. My legs didn't feel too bad. I could run! Over the next two days I managed a couple more easy runs and a 45k mountain bike ride with Roger (4:04 in the marathon). A happy finish to the short holiday.

Speedygeese shirt produces a season's best half marathon

Post-race jog on the delightful trail north of Main Beach

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Confounded by unexpected tactics

Last Saturday I was thinking of having another crack at my Parkrun 5k PB (22:52) — until I commenced my warm-up jog with Andy. I couldn't coax the legs into anything resembling warm and fluid movement. The temperature was 2 degrees Celsius. I was cold! I put aside the PB attempt and decided to take the race as it came, running fast if my legs were agreeable and most importantly, finishing ahead of my rival Jim.

After the pre-race briefing I positioned myself in my usual spot, 10 to 15 metres behind the start line. The Tuggeranong Parkrun uses a 'chute system' to produce a clean start for all runners. We line up in a chute that's about six runners wide, self-seeding according to expected finish time. The front two rows would be for sub-20 minute runners. Jim usually lines up on row thee while my habit is to stand about 8 to 10 runners back from the front row. I was in my grid slot when Jim walks in at the last minute and stands right behind me. What's going on here? I was confounded by his unexpected tactics. He should be up ahead — the hunted!

The race starts and after three or four seconds we're off and running. Jim ambles along beside me. Is he just having an easy run? An off day? Then after 100 metres or so he overtakes on my right, taking to the grass. There he goes! But he doesn't — he just runs nice and steadily (as is my custom), a metre or so ahead. Then he's on my left side; then ahead again as we zig-zag around the corners near McDonalds. As we run under the bridge at 1k I sense Jim is slowing so I ease ahead. I'm more than a little surprised when he surges decisively past just 500 metres later. Just after the 2k mark his pace falters and I move ahead once again. Stay behind, will you?!

At the U-turn on the out-and-back course I see that the elastic hasn't stretched that much. I'm worried. I have no idea of our pace, as I'm running by feel. I can see John up ahead (on his way to a PB) and Andy in the far distance (he'd run 22:24, a time I hope to achieve before too long). My major goal is to keep Jim behind — knowing that he likes to run a fast last 500 metres I decide to push hard from the footbridge, which is about 1.5k from the finish. The only runner within striking distance ahead is Kelly, pushing her daughter in a stroller (and she's already stopped a couple of times during the run!). My 'run hard from a long way out' tactic is successful — I finish 4 seconds behind Kelly and 6 seconds ahead of Jim. Woohoo! Time was 23:18 which I'll put down to the cold weather. Splits were good once again — 4:44, 4:42, 4:39, 4:37 and 4:36. I'll need a warmer day for a serious PB attempt. 10 degrees and sunny would be nice.

Racing scared (and cold), with Jim out of sight behind

Warming down with Brian (22:30 and 34-minute 10k runner in the 'old days') and Andy (22:24)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Hunter Becomes the Hunted

I'll let you in on a secret: my tactics for racing during a 5k. These tactics are sensible, but take practise to execute to perfection and don't always guarantee success. After the start I ignore my opposition and begin at even pacing to produce a finish time I know I'm capable of running. This is harder than it sounds, as adrenaline is high at the start of a short race. Many runners fly off with Usain Bolt-like acceleration. I ignore these speedsters and settle into my even-paced rhythm, running by feel (feeling a bit slow usually ends up being perfect).

After about 500 metres I look ahead (it's always ahead) to spot my opposition. Last Saturday this was Jim (red singlet) and Graeme (aqua long-sleeve shirt). I keep running evenly and this is usually enough to gradually shrink the gap. By 2k I was just 10 metres behind Jim but Graeme seemed to be out of reach, still about 50 metres ahead. I quickly drew level with Jim and passed him before the turn. In the middle of a 5k my even-paced running continues (it feels like I'm running faster). On Saturday this saw me drawing away from Jim, then just after 3k (somewhat surprisingly), rapidly gaining on Graeme (running next to a lady in black).

If I'm even with my opposition at the 4k mark of a 5k I begin my long surge for the finish. Sprinting isn't my forte so I like to get away from my opposition well before they get a sniff of the finish line. Such was the case on Saturday — I drew level with Graeme, sensed he was weakening, and moved ahead. In retrospect I should have overtaken with more authority and perhaps he would have thrown up the white flag. He didn't. The hunter had become the hunted. My tactic in the final kilometre of a 5k is to keep running hard and save my alactic energy (modest sprint) for the last 150 metres. At the Tuggeranong Parkrun there's a small hill 150 out and I sprinted off that as hard as I could. I thought I was destined for a 'win' but with 50 to go Graeme flew past with a devastating sprint. Bastard!

I'd run a Parkrun PB (22:52), so happy with that, but not happy to lose the race with Graeme by one lousy second! My k splits had been 4:31, 4:35, 4:37, 4:37 and 4:32. My goal this year is to run 21:59 (or better) for 5k so to be less than a minute away from that goal is encouraging. I'm also looking forward to more exciting races. Love racing!

Go! Graeme (aqua shirt), myself behind John in blue shirt

Sprinting, Graeme in hot pursuit — Tuggeranong Parkrun

Friday, May 16, 2014

A good 5k and racing Jim

Last Saturday I raced the Tuggeranong Parkrun 5k in a time which confirmed my improving form: 23:12 — 30 seconds faster than my best this year. Not far off the 22:46 I ran last April prior to the DVT 'injury'. I'm happy! The race was one in which I was catching people all the way — Jim unusually early at about 200 metres (he was taking it easy due to a second race that afternoon), others before the turn, Karen as she was approaching 3k and a few more after the bridge. My splits were very even: 4:38, 4:38, 4:37, 4:39 and 4:40. Not an express last kilo, but I was getting tired! With some interval training (or more endurance?) the idea of holding 4:30 ks seems entirely possible.

I also raced Jim the previous week down in Albury at the Nail Can Hill Run. One tough mother of a fun run! Caught up to Jim before 2k (he'd started at a suicidal pace) and ran away, 'winning' in 61:01 to his 62:12. My splits show the rather steep hill in the first half of this 11.3k trail race: 4:58, 5:20, 8:09, 7:06, 5:27, 4:48, 4:47, 5:20, 4:41, 5:18, 4:40 + 0:28s. Jim was happy as he'd run his 7th 'age buster' race — three more and he'll be awarded the coveted 'Age Master' racing singlet.

I like racing Jim because he always puts in an honest performance, racing hard all the way (unless there are extenuating circumstances, like recovering from having his ankle in plaster last year). At the moment we're closely matched but 20 years ago I could win by using the secret weapon of... youth! We're different in many ways but our racing times are similar. Jim's 64, I'm 57. He weighs 60kg, I'm around 74. My training is 6 or 7 days a week of MAF effort running and a weekly race for a total of 60 to 70 kilometres. Jim rarely trains — he just races. A typical week might be two races on the weekend and one on Tuesday or Thursday. Very occasionally he'll do a steady training run, but not often. So it surprises me somewhat that we're close rivals. Racing Jim is good fun!

Myself and Jim after driving 350k to Albury on the morning of the Nail Can Hill Run. Yes, Jim's 'driving endurance' equals his running endurance!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The second age of high motivation

I enjoyed a good run this afternoon — a run which showed I've finally improved from a plateau of fitness on which I've been stuck for the past six weeks. Nine kilometres out and back beside the 'Tuggeranong Creek' at MAF heart-rate (129) and an average pace of 5:25 per kilometre. So, 699 heart-beats per k — a number I haven't seen since before the hamstring injury in October last year. Exciting!

I'm extremely motivated to run well. I turn 57 this week, which is really "pushin' sixty" as Ken White would say. I don't feel that old! Early forties maybe. The last time I felt this motivated was in my early thirties. I'd been running since 23 and desperately wanted to run some lifetime PBs before I hit forty. I turned to Geoff Moore for coaching and trained with his small group a couple of times a week.

Below is a page from my 1990 training diary. The numbers seem incredible now, but they were pretty average for the group. I wasn't the fastest runner — that honour belonged to Geoff, who would push out 1k repeats in well under 3 minutes. I didn't run the most mileage — sub-3 hour marathoners such as Mary Silver would have been running 140 kilometres per week or more. My training was consistent and did result in lifetime PBs for all distances from 1500 metres to the half marathon. In 2014 my focus is on 'racing well' from 3k to 10k. Especially the 5k! I'd love to run 'a good' 5k and hope to do so this year!

In the days before computers (and Garmins!) we used a paper diary to record our running.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Great racing!

I'm really enjoying racing the Tuggeranong Parkrun on Saturday mornings. Never thought I'd say that, being a natural 'afternoon/evening person' — I take forever to get going in the mornings and afternoon runs are always more comfortable. Since my last post I've chipped another 17 seconds off my 5k time, running 23:43 on March 8 in an exciting race with a few of my regular competitors. As usual I ran by feel but couldn't quite catch the fast-starting Jim. However I managed to draw level with Karen (PB of 22:57) just after the 4k marker and running with a good measure of desperation, held on for the 'win'. Splits were 4:50, 4:45, 4:46, 4:47 and 4:35.

Yesterday I had a 'couldn't get going' type of run with Jim and Karen disappearing ahead in the fog. 24:08 for myself while Karen just out-leaned Jim in the sprint finish, both timed at 23:41. I still enjoyed the race, passing some other veterans and youngsters in the second half — including the old bloke and young lady pictured on my shoulder in the photo below.

I'm a track racer at heart, but competing in a field of six or seven for 12 and a half laps on Thursday night is becoming less appealing. I'd love track racing to be like the 'old days' when there were two divisions of the 5000 with 25 or so runners in each. Perhaps when the new track at Woden opens competitor numbers will improve. The great thing about the Parkrun is the intensity of the competition — that's all through the field, but especially around the times that I'm now running. Yesterday there were 41 runners finishing in the space between 22 and 25 minutes. That's my space! No wonder I look forward to it every week.
Preparing for a sprint finish with 200 metres to go in the Tuggeranong Parkrun
Chasing Karen with just over 1k to go in the 8 March Parkrun

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Chipping away at the 5k time

I've had some feelings of improved fitness over the past 4 weeks — barely perceptible at times, but I sense movement in the right direction. Yesterday I had a good Parkrun 5k race, placing 55th (out of 208) and 3rd M55 in 24:00. That's 33 seconds quicker than when I raced Leonie on January 26. Also encouraging is that I trained normally during the week rather than taking two days off prior to the race as before. Average HR was a little lower too at 146 compared to 148 — a good sign.

The race itself was good fun. It was Tuggeranong Parkrun's 1st birthday event and special guests at the run were Katy Gallagher (ACT Chief Minister) and Rob de Castella. They congratulated organisers Kelly and Gareth before lining up at the back of the field for a run. Shortly after the start I found myself running just behind my long-time rival Jim. I tailed him and a girl in blue through the first km before pushing ahead under the bridge. To my surprise Jim struck back shortly after on the footbridge across the lake and surged to establish a 20 metre break. Luckily a lady in purple came past and I latched onto her in an effort to keep the elastic to Jim from stretching too much.

For the last half of the race I was running as hard as possible. Trying to limit the damage and not giving myself a chance of catching Jim. He actually extended the gap to 16 seconds at the finish. I ground to a chug up the slight hill into the park (that felt like the mountain displayed on the birthday cake!). Kilometre splits had been 4:51, 4:49, 4:45, 4:50 and 4:44. So, a happy race in spite of finishing behind Jim, the aforementioned lady in purple and a mum pushing a child in a stroller. Hopefully a sign of more happy races and fast times to come.

Deek posted this great photo of the birthday cake on his Twitter account

Barely a ripple on the lake during the February 8 Parkrun

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Coming back, ever so slowly

Yesterday I raced in the Tuggeranong Parkrun, my regular 'test race' (and only fast or hard running of my week). It was good fun — I had a race-long tussle with Leonie (the runner who dragged me into injury over the mountains of Majura and Ainslie last October). She'll be the first to admit that 5k isn't her favourite distance: "I've been thinking nervously about this race since Tuesday!" she said as we lined up for the start.

At the rather casual command of 'Go!', 225 runners (and walkers) set off on the twisting out and back course by the shores of Lake Tuggeranong. The first 300 metres was the usual somewhat chaotic scramble through the town park. I found myself running behind Brian Wenn (who quickly gathered himself and made his way up the field, eventually finishing in 22:53). Just before 1k, Leonie rounded me up on a sharp corner so I settled in behind her (told myself that at the time!) as we ran over the footbridge to the eastern side of the lake. The midfield of our Parkrun is popular, so there were many other runners to overtake or be overtaken by. Not long after the 2k mark I forged ahead of Leonie, using Gareth (pushing a stroller) as a bit of a pacer for a while.

Around the turn and back towards 'home' I huffed and puffed away, mainly passing people at this stage. I sensed Leonie running at my shoulder and just before the 4k mark she surged ahead. I ran hard, but it was all I could do to keep the elastic from breaking as we ran back into the park. Finally I was running over the last deceptive hill before an attempted sprint finish. I ran 24:33 for 57th place, with Leonie running a 5k PB just 3 seconds ahead. Next time! My splits had been 5:02, 5:02, 4:53, 4:48 and 4:47.

My comeback to full fitness is progressing well, but ever so slowly. This past week I noticed a sudden improvement in heart-beats per km for one of my 10k courses — 748, down from the 800 or more it had been a couple of weeks ago. If the improvement continues, I'd expect another jump down to the 720s, before another to the 700s. My 5k Parkrun races have also been improving — 26:07 at an average HR of 147 on January 4 down to 24:33 at an average HR of 148 yesterday. My advice to anybody reading this is to never (if you can help it) have more than 3 weeks off running. It takes a long time to come back!

 Warming down with Brian (who puts his improved form down to losing a few kilos on a sugar-free diet).

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Whitechapel Road

A belated Happy New Year(!) to the readers of this blog. I'm back to regular pain-free running, no doubt due to the form changes recommended by Douglas Wisoff in the Youtube video I mentioned in my last post of 2013. Weekly mileage since 9 December has been 8k, 26k, 36k and 50k. I plan to eventually 'hold steady' at around 60 to 70k, the volume that preceded my good race at Dunrossil Drive on August 3 last year. Touch wood!

I'm so unfit! I feel like I'm starting from square three — that's Whitechapel Road on the Monopoly board. Square one (Old Kent Road) would be starting to run after six months of inactivity and a ten kilogram gain in weight. My weight has gone up by about 1kg so I'll blame Mum's cooking and the Christmas excess for that. The last time my heart and lungs worked so hard during 'easy' runs was in September 2006 (following a trip to Canada and America then a calf injury at the City to Surf). On September 29 of 2006 I raced the Customs Joggers 5k in 27:13 at an average heart-rate of 157 (855 heart beats per km). Last Saturday after the modest training mentioned above, I raced the Tuggeranong Parkrun 5k in 26:07 at an AHR of 147 (768 heart beats per km). My 'normal' heart beats per km when racing a 5k would be around 670.

I'm really curious to see how long it takes for my aerobic fitness to return. I'm not going to rush things. I'll do steady MAF heart-rate running, 8 to 10k per day. Parkruns on Saturday as a hit-out type race or maybe the 3000 now and then at the ACT Vets' track prior to the end of the season in April. My race goal for the year is the easiest one I've set myself for many years. I'm over my habit of never achieving yearly goals. Bugger reaching for the stars or the moon — I'm reaching for a low flying satellite! The goal is 21:59 for 5k — not all that easy as my recent best is 22:14 from 2012. It's 70.5% age-graded — 18:18 for a young runner, surely not impossible.

Conservative start in the last Tuggeranong Parkrun