Thursday, August 17, 2017

Lucky in my 33rd City to Surf

Last Sunday was my 33rd time running the 14k from Sydney to Bondi with 80,000 friends and, in retrospect, produced a very happy outcome. My finish time was on the slow side at 73:39 (5:16/km pace) and I finished well back in the field in 10,013th place but I didn't get injured. That's a good result!

What worried me prior to the race was a suspect left calf (the same one that took so much time to get right last year). On Friday I'd run some excessively exuberant 250m Verheul intervals — just four of them, but in the last two I pushed beyond 'relaxed and reactive', running under 4 minutes per km pace. After warming down, my left calf 'cramped' worryingly, walking down stairs to the car. On Saturday my only exercise was walking around the C2S Expo at Darling Harbour with Dave, Jen and Isaac. No problems, but I didn't even try jogging.

On Sunday morning I ran a very short warm-up, including a couple of tentative strides at race effort. The calf felt okay, but I was by no means confident of it lasting for the race. My goal was to make the rather daunting 14k distance in one piece. I didn't even try to get a forward position in the 'Green Group' (2nd corral to start). Once under way I ran down William Street with great care, pretty much in the 'angel gear' and passed through 1k in 5:47 (didn't know my pace at the time as I never once looked at the Garmin during the race). Running with the thought that at any step the calf might cramp or tear doesn't result in relaxed and enjoyable racing.

I made it safely over the early hills and ran along the flat through Rose Bay towards 'Heartbreak Hill' — all good so far! My legs were feeling quite easy and smooth. It was strange, as I felt like I could have increased the pace quite a bit at any time, at least on the flats. Up 'heartbreak' I ran/walked easily to keep pressure off the calves. Running along Military Rd through Dover Heights I again felt like I could have sped up quite a bit. I resisted the temptation though, thinking all the time 'just get to the finish with no heroics'. And that's what happened! I took Monday off from running and resumed 'easy' Verheul intervals on Tuesday. On Saturday I'm racing a 10k flat trail race at Wagga with my next 'all out' effort being in The Canberra Times 10k in early September.

Lovely sunny day for the 47th Sydney City to Surf

A few of my 80,000 friends ready to run

Good surfing conditions at Bondi Beach

Thursday, August 03, 2017

What are the advantages of the Verheul Method?

I'm into my second week of 'de Verheul methode' of training and still excited about the prospect of faster race times. I thought I'd briefly summarise my early thoughts on the possible advantages of training this way. I've always been an admirer of Arthur Lydiard and his training methods, as well as the Lydiard influenced 'complex training' of Pat Clohessy (Rob de Castella's coach) and Chris Wardlaw (Steve Moneghetti). Personally I've experienced success following the ideas of Hadd, Maffetone and more recently the LSD teachings of Joe Henderson ("Long Slow Distance: The humane way to train"). Most of my lifetime PBs were set when I was being coached by Geoff Moore. The Verheul Method is the first time I've run using 'interval training' on 5 days of the week. The advantages as I see it are as follows:

1) Changes to the leg muscles and tendons. This is the key advantage. Klaas Lok (Verheul's champion athlete) suggested there should be a 'muscle elasticity meter' that told the runner to stop a continuous distance run the moment reactivity (spring off the ground) decreased. Running a large volume of 'relaxed' intervals promises to change the muscles, thereby improving muscle reactivity and running form.

2) It's not a hard day/easy day style of training. Every day is a repeatable 'Goldilocks' day — not too easy, not too hard, just right. I presume this is because maximum heart rates are low and the running is well below anaerobic threshold (no lactic acid). Intervals are totally aerobic, short and relaxed. There's no waiting two days before the next hard session. Verheul agreed with Hungarian coach Mihaly Iglói who believed in not training harder than one's ability to be recovered for similar training the next day.

3) The only 'hard' running is the weekly race. This is the one time speed is continuous and the heart rate is high. Racing is a good environment in which to run fast because warm-ups are thorough, you're running with like-minded friends and intent is serious. Besides, racing is fun!

4) Mileage is relatively low. Having manageable targets for weekly mileage lessens the likelihood of over-training and sickness. You're not pushing your body near the tipping point of what's possible with volume. Verheul didn't prescribe schedules but I estimate that Klaas Lok and Joost Borm ran around 100 kilometres (60 miles) per week, possibly less. I'll target a weekly volume of between 60 and 70 kilometres (60 is the point below which I think I'd lose aerobic fitness). Such low volume is not 'Lydiard' and wouldn't suit marathon racers but Verheul's protégés Lok and Borm were Dutch champions. I'll list their track PBs in the last paragraph of this post.

4) The training is fun and not daunting. Thus far I've been looking forward to every session with legs feeling recovered and ready to go each day (often not the case when I've been logging higher mileage). Moderately intense and fun training has hormonal advantages over high stress training. I enjoy the feeling of running fast! The 3k to 5k race pace of most intervals is a lot faster than recovery or LSD running. I have the opportunity to do a few sessions each week within organised 'handicap start' runs and my usual 7 minutes per km average pace is quick enough to keep up with slower runners. Verheul used gymnastics as part of the warm-up for daily training, which would be fun in a group setting. I'll be using running drills instead of gymnastics.

5) Improved running economy at 5k race pace. If I add up all the fast intervals, fast sections of a fartlek trail run (and the weekly race), I'll be running about 30 kilometres per week at race pace. I think this will be beneficial at a neuromuscular level. Already I can feel that my cadence is faster and time on stance is shorter. I feel lighter on my feet. The other 30 kilometres of my training week is made up of the walk/jog recoveries, shake-out treadmill jogs and easy warm-ups and warm-downs.

Bob wondered in a comment on my previous blog if there would be enough mileage in a Verheul programme to race half marathons. The Saturday winter fartlek run was from 1 hour 15 to 1 hour 45 minutes duration so I think extending this a little in the build-up to a half marathon would be sufficient to race well. It seems that Joost Borm was a 'miler' and had PBs of 3:38.27 for 1500m, 4:01.5 for the mile and 5:01.27 for 2000m (which stood as the Dutch record from 1982 to 2001). Klaas Lok's PBs were 2:21.8 for 1000m, 3:38.83 for 1500m, 5:03.9 for 2000m, 7:52.5 for 3000m, 13:36.1 for 5000m, 28:24.7 for 10,000m and 3:57.69 for the mile — all recorded between 1976 and 1981. I've no doubt that Lok would have run a good half marathon if that distance had been popular when he was racing.

Spectacular views at the Gungahlin Gallop 10k on Sunday