Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2009: The Athletic Year in Review

It’s often true that the only time you realise how far you’ve come is when you stop to look back. And when I look back over the last year I can see a whole lot of performances that I would only have dreamed about at the start of January. This year, in the fading twilight of my prime athletic years, I have set several all-time PB’s and achieved many more results better than anything of the last five years. Here’s a [long] review of this amazing year.

-- January --
The start of each year has most recently been a cycling focussed period and this was no different with two big rides on the calendar to start and finish the month. This was the first time I have done Amy’s Ride and it was a lot of fun to ride around the Bellarine Peninsula near Geelong with a few thousand others - including some guy called Cadel Evans who just happened to go on to win a World Road Championship later in the year.

A week later it was the first triathlon this season that actually had a swim (the first two races had the swim cancelled) and another wonderful morning of racing. Not fast, but good to be out there. The final event was one of my favourites, the Audax Alpine Classic, and for the second year I did the shortest ride up Mt. Buffalo. This is my favourite Alpine climb with beautiful views over the Ovens Valley and I am always sad when we drive back home after the few days up at Bright.

4-Jan: Amy’s Ride, Geelong. B 120km. 4:00.28hrs.
11-Jan: Gatorade Triathlon, Sandringham. S 750m/B 20km/R 5km. 1:23.36hrs.
25-Jan: Audax Alpine Classic, Bright. B 72km. 3:17.03hrs.

-- February --
This was the month that I began running again. After spending the better part of a couple of years doing only modest levels of running - and with (no great surprise) only modest levels of achievement - I received the following note from a friend “Want to run the marathon in Sept/Oct and I need someone to coach me! Are you up for a run & a catch up in the next couple of weeks...i could meet you at the tan for old times sake! K.” That day I committed to running the marathon and set myself on a two-year plan to run a 3:20hrs time.

My first race didn’t exactly set the world on fire, with a time that would have equated to a 3:23 marathon if I’d been able to hold that pace for 42k! It was two-laps through our zoo, staring at gorillas, zebras, kangaroos and the like and is a fun race to do. It was also a start. Add in a triathlon later that week then another 8k race later in the month and I was back solidly in the groove. Still a long way to go, but at least on the journey.

11-Feb: Super Sunset Series, Melbourne Zoo. R 8km. 38.30min.
15-Feb: Gatorade Triathlon, Elwood. 1:15.43hrs.
25-Feb: Super Sunset Series, Princes Park. R 8km. 37.00min.

-- March --
I began March with our family holiday to the Gold Coast and ran most days there but found the humidity to be energy-sapping and really struggled to run for any length of time. But I ran five times that week and clocked up 35km so was pleased nonetheless. (I have not run five times in a week since!) Coming back from the holiday and it was two races in quick succession. The first was the final of the Sunset Series, another 8k, this one around the famous Tan Track at he Botanic Gardens. I went out too hard on the first lap and suffered intolerably on the second before taking a toilet break that temporarily expunged the suffering. An ordinary race made worse by the fact that I forgot the key to my bike lock and so had to ring for help to take me home!

Later that week I raced a 10k on the very flat Yarra Boulevard course and set myself to run under 45-mins. A controlled effort saw me finish in 44.58mins which I was very pleased with - my fastest time in a number of years. This time would be my baseline result for the half marathon training program.

In the third week of March I bought a book that would be pivotal in changing my whole training routine for the year. “Run Less Run Faster” was always going to appeal to me and I immediately reset my training plans to adopt the principles from the book. Early attempts to follow the pace described in the book were difficult. What have I done!

11-Mar: Super Sunset Series, Tan Track. R 8km. 39.30min.
15-Mar: Sri Chinmoy, Yarra Boulevard. R 10km. 44.58min.

-- April --
The month began with the Run for the Kids, a fundraiser for our local Children’s Hospital, which runs on many roads normally off limits to runners (like tunnels and bridges). I ran a solid time here, but within my limits, my focus remaining on the bigger training program and the half marathon in May. It was also the month that I got stuck into my track sessions and rediscovered the joy of running around in circles at night!

An interlude from all the run training was the annual Melburn Roobaix. This event is a little hard to describe, except to say that it is for people on bikes! In essence, you have a bunch of checkpoints you need to go to, each of which neatly coincides with a stretch of cobblestones, and ultimately finishing with a lap of a velodrome. As the name hints, this is a part-tribute to the Paris-Roubaix bike race which is on at a similar time of year. Lots of fun this one!

18-Apr: Melburn Roobaix. B 40km. 2:16hrs.
5-Apr: Run for the Kids, Melbourne. R 14.1km. 1:04.51hrs.

-- May --
This is when it all started to come together. I began May with one of my favourite races, against an old steam train called Puffing Billy. This race has a bit of everything: roads, trails, uphills, (steep) downhills and four train crossings. To beat the train is quite an achievement. Normally! This year there was some kind of train problem and it ran slow enough for most halfway decent runners to give it a licking. So I chalked up another victory over the old engine. Highlight of the day is the ride on the train back to the start, which my daughter Brooke just loved.

After this race it was final preparations for the half marathon. I got sick in race week (no good) and even got a bit ambitious with my race plan. My 10km pace from March had predicted a 1:39.09 half which I adjusted to 1:38.07 based on nothing more than how I felt during my tempo runs. I figured I could maintain my long tempo pace for the full journey. Or at least I hoped to be able to!

On a perfect running morning I went through 5km more than a minute under my revised target pace in 22.02min and 10km in 44.15min. Woo! Hoo! A faster 10km in this half than I ran flat out in March. Hmm, I was either going to die a miserable death in the second half or was on a great run. The running gods were on my side and I ran strongly to finish in 1:33.20hrs - an all-time PB for a half marathon. Amazing - not bad for an old bloke I thought!

If adopting the new training plan from “Run Less Run Faster” was the catalyst, this was the proof. I was now a real runner again. Suddenly my horizons opened up and I began to harbour thoughts of fast marathons, PB’s, sub-3:20’s … I started June trying not to get ahead of myself. As I knew all too well, the hardest part about a marathon is getting to the start line.

3-May: Puffing Billy Great Train Race, Belgrave. R 13.2km. 1:00.35hrs.
31-May: Sri Chinmoy Half Marathon, Williamstown. R 21.1km. 1:33.20hrs.

-- June --
June began with a few weeks off to recharge the batteries before beginning the 16-week marathon program. I enjoyed this time and ran just for the pleasure of it. The real work came around again soon enough and on 24-June I ran my first track session of the marathon campaign. Later that week (on my birthday) I did the ‘Run Melbourne Half Marathon’ which was two-laps around some of Melbourne’s major landmarks. This was a very cold morning but I enjoyed the event although found trying to run a 1:44 half a lot harder than a 1:33 half did a month earlier. One week down!

28-Jun: Run Melbourne Half Marathon, Federation Square. R 21.1km. 1:43.19hrs.

-- July --
In July I got sick (again) and in one week missed two sessions and cut my long run short. Add to this the struggles I was having with my track sessions where I was not really able to make the time targets, throw in some muscular problems for good measure and I was not a happy camper. I felt like it was looming as just a bit more than I could handle. So I made some changes. Most importantly I ignored the track pacing targets and just adopted a “run as fast and as even a pace as you can” strategy. And I also decided that the 30km run at the end of July would be where I’d make a call on my progress and whether I’d enter the marathon or not.

My target for the 30k was to run 5.06m/k for each of the six laps. This was to be my longest run so far so I was uncertain how I’d go. Thankfully I managed to hook in with an (informal) pacing group who planned to run 5m/k. Close enough I thought and joined in. The difference that running in a group made was enormous. When the going got tough I knew it would be much easier to sit in the bunch at a higher pace than drop off the back and run more slowly. And when I recorded a negative split for the distance I was stoked. My marathon campaign was back on in full swing and I entered the big race.

26-Jul: Sri Chinmoy, Princes Park. R 30km. 2:29.36hrs.

-- August --
The first week of August I ran a 32k - the first of these - and then prepared to run the City to Surf. The C2S is an event I love to do, even though it is in Sydney - 1000km from my home. I’ve been running it each year since 1988 so I know the course pretty well. Unfortunately sickness struck again and I was not well in the week leading into the race, missing another training session, but was really pleased to run strongly to my best result in six years. Maybe a sub-hour result is a chance next year?

A week later and it was another half marathon. The plan here was to run about 7km to the start and do the first half conservatively, then pick up the pace in the back half. It didn’t really pan out that way. The wind was really strong and I was fatigued enough by 15km that I more or less plodded my way to the finish. But they gave us some compression socks in the race kit so that was a great bonus.

Another 32k run to finish the month and I recorded my biggest month of running ever and first time over 200k’s. (I remain unsure how people can run that far in a week???)

9-Aug: City to Surf, Sydney. R 14km. 1:01.29hrs.
16-Aug: Sandy Point Half Marathon, Sandringham. R 21.1km. 1:43.36hrs.

-- September --
The plan would build to a crescendo in September with a couple more 32k runs, some long tempo sets and the last of the really hard track sessions. I knew if I could get through this then I would be well placed for a great marathon. By this stage I was also getting sick of the stupidly strong winds that were plaguing Melbourne every time I went for a run. Winter had been chronically windy and normally spring was worse! My mind started to think of the horrors that could occur on race day.

I finished the two 32k runs in great shape. My pace was getting faster in each one and was right on target. Sandwiched between these two runs was another half marathon, this one again intended to be a ‘fast finish.’ Strangely enough, it turned out that way, though not really through good execution. I ran the first few k’s way too hard and then spent seven k’s trying to get my heart rate, lactic acid and head all in a good place again. With that done I picked up the pace and ran a strong second half with a big negative split to finish right on target time. I was happy that I could still conjure a ‘result’ with such poor execution and this gave me more confidence.

I began my taper with a 21k run over the last half of the marathon course. On another stupidly windy morning I set out for what I hoped would be a cruisy but slick run. It felt great, very controlled, and when I finished in 1:35.58hrs I was thrilled. My second fastest half marathon distance run ever had just been done on a miserable day by myself! This was great motivation that would hold me through to race day.

13-Sep: Sri Chinmoy Half Marathon, Yarra Boulevard. R 21.1km. 1:37.41hrs.

-- October --
I am not certain that I was particularly good company through early October. Added to all the pre-race nerves was a big project delivery at work and, to top it all off, another bout of sickness during race week. Aargh!! I was thoroughly sick of being sick and it was happening again in a race week (third time this year). I ended the week on antibiotics and just hoped against hope that my body would be ok enough to run a good race. I had worked so hard and it just didn’t seem fair that it could be taken away from me. (Actually, mostly I think I just couldn’t face the thought of having to go through all this training again!)

Race day dawned a perfect day - cool and hardly a breath of wind. Who would have thought after the rubbish we’d had! After the lead up I’d had I set a target pace of around 3:16 but did the ‘gumby’ thing of going out too hard, covering the first half in 1:34.45. (I promise, it felt sooo easy that I thought I could keep it up.) Any half-knowledgeable reader knows what happened next: a big bear jumped on my back and the last 10k were crazily hard. I held it together just enough to run to a 3:18.38hrs time. A huuuge PB and a Boston Qualifier time standard for my age group.

I felt immense relief. It was accomplished. My illness got dramatically worse in the days that followed and I barely ran again for the rest of the month.

11-Oct: Melbourne Marathon, MCG. R 42.2km. 3:18.38hrs.

-- November --
My post-marathon R&R period got extended a little and before I knew it we were deep into November and I had barely run at all. Time to get fired up again, this time for a summer triathlon season, an open water swimming race or two and some decent bike rides. I started swimming again and by month’s end I was back into good form with a six-year best time over 1500m.

The first triathlon of the season once again (like last year) became a duathlon due to an overnight rain storm. I rode ok and had a great second run over the 5km. What a buzz it is to pass so many people while none pass you!!

22-Nov: Gatorade Duathlon, St. Kilda. R 1.5km/B 20km/R 5km. 1:10.08hrs.

-- December --
The final month of the year has disappeared in a flash - as December often does. A little more swimming, the occasional run and bike ride and far to many fruit mince pies! And to make life more interesting I discovered a new way to have time off work (and training) by pinching a nerve in my bum. So I couldn't manage anything but sit in a chair for five days which was not a whole lot of fun.

No real surprise then that the triathlon in the middle of the month was a little more sluggish than I had hoped for. But at least I was moving again, if not quite at the same speed as before.

And in the final run up to Christmas, as my clothes seem to be fitting just that little bit tighter, I am looking forward to a whole five weeks holiday and the chance to get stuck into some real high quality training again.

13-Dec: Gatorade Triathlon, Elwood. S 500m/B 20km/R 5km. 1:16.27hrs.

Merry Christmas to all and a safe, happy, healthy and fit 2010.

  • Fastest Marathon ever (3:18.38hrs).
  • Boston Qualifier standard for marathon (Male 40-44).
  • Fastest Half Marathon ever (1:33.20hrs).
  • Fastest City to Surf in six years (1:01.29hrs).
  • Improvement in running: from 4.49m/k at the Zoo 8km (February) to 4.42m/k for Melbourne Marathon (October).
  • Fastest 1500m swim in six years (29.50min).
  • Beating the train at the Puffing Billy race (first time since 2000 - ok, the train was slow this year!).
  • More running km’s this year than in the last five years combined and most in one year ever (>1300km).
  • More swimming km’s this year than in the last four years combined.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Back in Action

After the horrible pinched nerve of last week which rendered me all but inert for the better part of five days it was a great relief to be back up and about this week. The ailment seemed to go as fast as it came (thank god) and I have been moving this week with no real problem. Very strange! Took it a bit easy in the sense that I did not run until Sunday as I figured that would be the thing most likely to flare the problem back up.

Gatorade Triathlon Series. Elwood.

Today was Race 2 of the Gatorade Triathlon Series and we had a swim - unlike Race 1 where the only water was that coming from the heavens. And the swimmers were rewarded, with an on-shore breeze whipping up the chop and making for an uncomfortable start to the race. I took a few mouthfuls of water and found the going tough, but not so tough as the several I saw making their way back to shore in the rubber ducky. My 500m took 10.27min and I was very glad to get out of the water!

Back onto dry earth and made my way through transition to the bike leg. This is a 2-lap 20km course along the dead flat Beach Road. Again, only the breeze made it tricky. I couldn't really get any zip to my riding today and just rode along at a comfortable pace as the super-cyclists roared by. My pace was fairly even with the laps both in 19.20min at an average for 20.5km of a tick under 32kph.

Through transition again and out onto the 5km run where I hoped to feel comfortable. Alas, I did not! I wasn't running badly, just with no real pace. As the technique experts would say, I was running "with a long time on stance" as my feet seemed glued to the tarmac and I just couldn't get going. I guess that's what a couple of weeks with no running (and a stack of fruit mince pies) will do. In any case, only two dudes passed me while I ran by a lot of folks and I covered the 5.1km in 21.55min.

Happy enough to finish the race. Nothing really great, but nothing really diabolical either. Unlike my mate Roger who kissed the road after crashing into a witches hat (traffic cone) on the bike - I think it walked out in front of him.

When I arrived home my five year-old Brooke put it all into perspective. She wasn't interested in the race or how I went. She only wanted to know if they gave me a bag of lollies in my race kit and if she could have them. Kids!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Weird Stuff

A new blog entry, a new photo for my blog home page, and a new way to injure myself.

Not a whole lot of training going on around here recently. After a busy last weekend on family duties (that's my excuse) I found a new and improved injury to keep me off the training track. This one even has my physio confused, but consensus of conjecture is that I have pinched a nerve in my lower back which is giving me the pain in my right buttock. (Strange word, that ... buttock!)

Regardless, this pain is extraordinary ... and odd. I can sit ok, but anything else brings on excruciating pain. Can I stand up ... only for a few minutes. Can I sleep ... nope, not really. Can I walk ... I have an inkling of my old age as a 15 minute trip took me 40 minutes yesterday - had to stop several times to sit down. Which isn't to say sitting is pain free, just pain minimal. Everything else, game over. And this pain just laughs at all the drugs my wife has given me to consume. (Don't ask me what they were, I just put them in my mouth and swallow.)

So, thank goodness I don't have anything important on - like running a marathon - I think I would have gone mad if that were the case. But this is really annoying. And getting worse. Not happy :-(

Oh yes, and the new photo for my blog home page. I thought I needed something there seeing as you all have such amazing pics on yours. So I dug out a relic from 1999. This pic - taken by my wife - is of me (running) during the swim leg of a Half Ironman Triathlon in the Victorian town of Shepparton. And before you ask - no, I am not a deity. I cannot run on water (though I can talk under it some would say!). At this race we were swimming in a man-made swamp - I kid you not - near the normal swimming lake which was off-limits due to a blue-green algae infestation. As the course bent around to the right I found myself "beached" and had to get up and run for a few metres. Of course, that is when my wife shot the photo. Thanks dear!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Proud Moments

It's been a big week for achievements in our household. The most minor of these was my effort on Thursday at the pool in swimming under 30-minutes for 1500m. I've been going there for a month now with my mate Mark as we train for the Pier to Pub in early January. Our times have been around 32-minutes up to now with a best of 31.45min last week. So imagine my surprise when we tipped in at 29.50min this week. Wow! Very happy with that one.

Stopping halfway for a quick picThe biggest achievement this week was from the littlest member of our family, Keira, who decided at the grand age of just over two years she would finally walk her first steps! It has been a very long journey with two worried parents trying their best to remain calm whilst every other kid crawled, walked and ran when ours just bum-shuffled her way around. But she must have been paying attention to how it is done cause when she finally did walk it was for a very long way, 20 or so steps, rather than the 2-3 you'd normally expect first up. Go figure!

Finally, it was the turn today of our biggest girl, Brooke, to chalk up a first as she competed (?) today in her very first fun run. It was the 2km junior event run as part of the Great Australian Run. Brooke was so proud as she did her warm ups at the start although her running is a little odd. She prefers the sprint then walk method ... with the occasional stop to say hello to the swans which grace the lake we ran beside. At the finish she outsprinted dad to take her first medal. A big morning, finished off with a play at the nearby adventure park and some yummy food from our favourite cafe. What more could a girl want?

And what more could a dad want?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Drought-breaker Dave and the would-be triathlon

A mate of mine called David Hansen (Super Sprint Promotions) has been running triathlons in Melbourne for over 20-years. In that time he has organised hundreds of events including triathlons, runs, bike rides and even the Olympic Games Triathlon in Sydney. He really knows how to put on a show and his events are normally sold-out.

In the last couple of years, though, his season-opening race has become better known for something else. Today - as last year - the swim was cancelled because of a Noah's Flood rain storm that hit Melbourne before, during and after the race (my rain gauge overflowed at 50mm). Throw in a reasonable dose of wind and it was quite an apocalyptic scene.

Which makes it all the more amazing that about 1500 folks braved the conditions to turn up and race. I had been looking forward to the swim (NOT!) and so wasn't too upset when it was replaced with a 1.5k run. My age group was off 41-mins after the gun so I had to wait around a bit till we got underway.

Run 1.5k
This run was more a token to break up the field a bit before we got on the bike than anything else. About 300m in there was an enormous water crossing which you could either ford for a few steps or leap up onto an uneven bluestone wall and run along. I rekindled my childhood and took to the wall. After a little more than six and a half minutes it was back to my bike.

Bike 20k
The ride has always been my favourite leg of a triathlon, but generally not my best one (hmm, strange that). And whilst I have spent most of this year focussing on improving my run it has been the cycling that has given way. So much so that it was only today that my yearly cycling distance outstripped my running distance.

The ride at this race is a two-lap affair. It is dead flat with only wind - and rain - to contend with. My cycle computer had given up the ghost in the rain so I had only a passing notion of how well I was going. But I felt good and in control despite the conditions. That said, a few folks blew by me like I was standing still. Sheesh!!

Happy to get off the bike in just over 37min for an average speed of just over 32kph (20mph). Not quick by normal standards but a good yardstick of my current condition.

Run 5k
I was really looking forward to this bit. Though I've not done much for a month I thought I was still in reasonable nick to run a fast 5k. Again, tough conditions with a headwind on the way out and my feet already soaking wet from the ride. Then, to make it worse, a torrential downpour on the return leg.

Funniest thing was the aid station attendants asking me if I wanted any water - as if I didn't have enough!!! Had a great run in any case and no-one passed me whilst I cruised by a lot of folks. Went through the (slightly long) 5k in 21.37min (4.14m/k pace) so my fastest triathlon 5k in about six years. Very happy.

As if it had not rained enough during the event, after the race it came down in biblical proportions. I was lucky enough to be 'rescued' by my long-suffering-and-very-understanding-wife, complete with two kids, and this saved me a miserable ride home. At least I feel as though I did some decent training today!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Warm Weather Running

For as long as I can remember I have suffered intolerably on my first few warm weather runs each year. No matter how great a shape I am in beforehand, when the temp's ratchet up from 15 degrees (59 F) to 25 degrees (77 F), my pace suffers a precipitous fall. I thought (hoped ... prayed) that today it would be different. After all, I am now super-marathon-man!

Alas, it was not to be :-(

I set off on a regular run down South Road hopeful of setting a 'PB' for this course, especially seeing as I had run it so well in my marathon training. It is a 12.5km run with a net elevation drop (it is undulating) of 40m on the way out and obviously uphill the same on the way back. Not hard, but not easy. And so often my nemesis.

I have never run under the hour for this course - except for my last 32km training run for the marathon where I covered it in around 59.50min as the first 6 and last 6 k's of that run. Certainly I could now run a similar time or better without the 20km in between!

I cruised down to the turn in 28.46min (4.36m/k) at a pace that felt very controlled, but getting harder as I heated up. Surely I could run back home in 31 minutes???? Ok, I'll cut this bit short. No I couldn't. It was run/walk/jog/walk/walk/jog all the way back. A return leg of 36.05min (5.46m/k) and a total time of 64.51min (5.11m/k). Aargh!!!!!!

Well, I did it. But it is clearly not one of my more convincing efforts. Hopefuly as I get used to the warmth (this is not heat, I will run in 100+deg.F later in summer) my times will come back down.

Or maybe I'll just focus on my cycling for a while. After all, my training calendar does have six of our state's highest rideable peaks on it over the next few months (Mt Buller, Lake Mountain, Mt Buffalo, Mt Hotham, Falls Creek and Mt Baw Baw). Goodness knows we'll probably throw a seventh (Mt Donna Buang) or eighth (Dinner Plain) in our pursuit of "stampys" for the Alpine Ascent Challenge. But that for another post.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fighting the Sloth Within

It is 34-days since the marathon. In that time I have run a grand total of three times for a sum of 15-kilometres. Hmmm. Not much, eh? In so many ways it is like the whole thing never happened. Or at least happened so long ago to be just another distant memory in my sporting annals. How does that happen? For eight months it was hard not to run; it was what I did, it was my routine. Now it seems hard to do; I have no routine.

Not that I've been completely lazy. I've been swimming a few times (not with the jellyfish and stingrays at our beaches here) and have entered the Pier to Pub swim I mentioned in my last post. Crikey, I've even got my first triathlon for the summer next weekend. So I have a lot to prepare for. Just not the dedicated motivation to do so in a structured way.

And I still dream of the Boston Marathon. I've even ordered some books from Amazon about the race. I am not sure if it is because I really want to do the race or if it is just because it is the first major race I have ever qualified for on my own athletic merit! In any case, my qualification (as far as I can read) will also cover me for the 2011 race, so I have some leeway there.

Must go now ... my two-year old Keira has just woken from her slumber and the song-like sound of "dadda ... dadda ..." is coming from her room. I wonder what she thinks about in her spare time .....

Friday, October 30, 2009

A New Blog ... PB Down Under

With the completion of my 2009 Marathon Campaign it is time for a new blog - and one whose name will endure beyond a single event. So here it is: "PB Down Under" - a blog about my otherwise ordinary athletic endeavours.

Thanks to my friends in the blogosphere who made suggestions for the new name. You each gave me some ideas which helped with my choice. A special commendation to Spike with his proposal "Disco Underlord of Running" - you've no idea how close I came to using that one!

A Run and a Swim
Had my first good run after the marathon on Tuesday. A little bit warm and I didn't have great rhythm, but banged out 5km over the loop around home in 22.22mins. Happy with that time. My left calf is still not 100% but is mostly ok.

And on Thursday morning I went for my first early-morning, and longest, swim in five years. Not that it was any epic effort or anything, just a steady 1.5km but my swimming is basically non-existent these days so good to at least get something on the board. Covered the journey in a (slowing) 32.03mins. Ok for a first effort.

Went to the pool with my neighbour who has convinced me to enter the Pier to Pub Ocean Swim here next January. It's a 1.2km swim from the Lorne pier to the Life Saving Club (originally it finished at the pub hence the name). It's a classic swim now in its 30th year. I've done it about six or seven times, the last one in 2004.

Lots more work to do before then!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

First run back, next event and the hazards of running ...

First run back today after the marathon. Was looking forward to this as my legs have felt really good the last few days. Then I started running (easily) and realised that I still have some recovery to go. Covered 5km at a gentle pace but my baby cows are now very unhappy! Will continue to take it easy for another week or so.

I have decided that my next big running event will be the Great Ocean Road Marathon next May. This 45km event runs from Lorne to Apollo Bay along one of the most spectacular coastlines anywhere in the world. At this stage I don't plan to run it hard, just coast along and enjoy the scenery.

Finally, saw these two articles recently about strange things that happen in marathons. The first was in the Des Moines Marathon where a train (!) stopped the leading runners 400 metres from the finish of the race. Bizarre! Would never happen here, of course, because our trains are so hopeless they wouldn't likely be running in the first place!

The second one was the sad passing of three runners in the Detroit Marathon and Half Marathon. Crikey, how often do you hear of even one runner dying in a race, let alone three. That race director must have really annoyed some black cats or something.

Finally, I need a new name for my blog. "2009 Marathon Diary" is so passe now. Any ideas?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Reflections on Race Day

 These are some thoughts on my race day and how it unfolded.

Race Morning
  • Woke up at 4.45am.
  • Shower to help warm up the muscles .
  • Breakfast of oats and peaches.
  • Take my drugs (antibiotic, vitamins and ventolin - so I can breathe!)
  • Taxi picked me up at 5.30am.
  • Everyone else still asleep!
  • Weather is perfect, 9 deg's or so and no wind.

At the MCG
  • Got out of taxi just before 6am at Hisesnse Arena where a dance party was still in full swing.
  • I looked at the people coming out of the party and thought "you guys are nuts."
  • They looked back at me probably thinking the same thing!
  • Walked over the footbridge to Gate 2 at the MCG and entered the stadium
  • A quick visit to the loo then up onto the concourse to look around
  • First time I have been to the MCG since all the stands were redeveloped ... it is amazing
  • Sat down and took in the atmosphere while listening to some music
  • Feeling pumped, but relaxed, this will be a big day
  • Walk down to deposit clothing bag then over footbridge to start - lots of up and down stairs here; must be careful not to trip (that would be embarrassing)
  • Woman in front of me (talking to her friends) says she hopes her bra doesn't fall off during the race. I said I hope so too cause I'd hate to trip on it!
Race Start
  • I desperately need to go for (another) pee. I remember all the talk about police not tolerating peeing behind trees. Too bad. (Sorry tree.)
  • Rob De Castella (Marathon World Champion, world record holder, Boston winner, multiple Comm. Games champ, etc.) gave the pre-race rev-up speech. Just fantastic! This guy has no time for wimps.
  • Get a spot in the front corral very easily.
  • They introduce (the late) Kerryn McCann's son who will start the race. His mum won the 2006 Commonwealth Games marathon here at the MCG in an epic race. Feel sorry for this kid.
  • The gun goes off at 7am and we are off. Only takes me 10 seconds or so to cross the line and I am running basically straight away. No problems there.
  • Glad to be on my way.

First 10km

  • The biggest "hill" on the course is over within the first 400m as you rise up on a bridge over the train lines.
  • Through the first kilometre in just over five minutes, feeling good. The 3.10 pace leader is behind me already. Hmmm.
  • Running along St. Kilda Road, fellow blogger Jason runs up beside me and says g'day (first time we have met!)
  • Worry a bit at the second km sign as I have either slowed dramatically or it is way later than it should be.
  • Cruise up St. Kilda Road enjoying the scenery, take a drink at the first aid station.
  • Through 5km in 22.59min (target was 23.10) so happy with this start.
  • Round the corner into Fitzroy Street; young female copper gives a "Go Cool Runner" to the guy beside me.
  • Onto the Grand Prix track around Albert Park Lake. Notice lots of swans beside the road; they seem oblivious to the thousands of runners passing them by.
  • Ask a guy beside me what time he is planning to run. He says 3:15. I think that is quicker than I plan to do. Not sure if I should slow down. Pace feels easy, conversational.
  • Take a drink and gel at the 9km aid station and wind our way back up from the bottom end of the lake.
  • Pass through 10km in 45.26min (last 5km in 22.27). Plan was 46.20. I know I am going fast, but is it "too fast?" (How fast is too fast anyway????) Still feels easy.

10km to half way

  • Glance over and can see the u-turn at the very bottom of Pit Straight - further down than I thought it was going to be. I know the Elwood end of the course must now be different (shorter) to what I though too.
  • Over a timing mat, around the corner then down into Pit Lane. No need to put on my 'speed limiter' but have to shuffle over to get another drink. Try a water sachet and cop a face full as I open it.
  • Have been running with my CR mates for 6km now. They say hello to every other CR out there. I wonder if they can keep it up.
  • We exit back onto Fitzroy Street then run down to the beach and turn right towards Port Melbourne.
  • I feel comfortable along here. It is my 'stomping ground' and I know every landmark up and down this stretch.
  • See the two Ethiopian leaders going back the other way. Gosh, they look quick!
  • Through 15km in 1:06.55hrs (last 5km in 21.29). Plan was 1:09.30. Is this marker in the right spot ... seems awfully fast. Doesn't feel that fast.
  • After my really successful run on the second half of this course a few weeks back I am just looking forward to getting to half way.
  • Beautiful conditions along the beach; make the turn at Port Melbourne (think of mum and dad - who live nearby).
  • Another drink, gel, water sachet at the aid station; not losing time now. 
  • Through 20km in 1:29.51hrs (last 5km in 22.56). Plan was 1:32.40. This is definitely going too quick. Anyway, almost halfway now. Have a neat group forming around us as we move through to St. Kilda.
  • Over the halfway timing mat in 1:34.45hrs. Ok, this has definitely been too quick. Plan was 1:37.46 or up to a minute ahead of this. But three minutes quicker! Curse myself for doing this. Suspect I am going to pay for it later (soon).

Halfway to 30km

  • Looking forward to this next stretch down to Elwood and back. I know this bit really well too and expect to see family and friends at the turn.
  • There is a big crowd on the "hot corner" at Fitzroy Street as they cheers runners going in three directions. Gives you a lift!
  • Just after halfway the "3:10 bus" comes up behind me ... and passes me by. I have also lost my earlier CR companions too.
  • Nearing Elwood I have my first signs of discomfort. Not major problems; just not as relaxed as before.
  • Do a right-left-right-left combo at Elwood Beach to get through the carpark; then another left after 100m to head back to the road. This is the only "technical" (as they'd say in cycling) section of the course.
  • Through 25km in 1:52.19hrs (last 5km in 22.28). Plan was 1:55.50. Have held on nicely through here. Am getting further ahead of schedule, now up to 3.31.
  • Turn right to head down to turnaround at Kingsley Street (where my mate lives). He is there with his son Colin and - most importantly - my crew are there with him (Fiona and our girls Brooke and Keira)!!!
  • Stop to say hi to all and give the girls a quick kiss. That's not outside assistance is it???
  • Run away from them back towards St. Kilda, trying to look strong and relaxed, even though I don't feel that way. Am later told I looked ok (not great) but a lot better than some!
  • Still feeling ok, but I know it is getting harder. The return stretch to Fitzroy Street seems longer than I would have thought.
  • Love the crowds up here and make the turn onto Fitzroy Street. Do not notice what many people call "the hill" along here.
  • Cross 30km in 2:15.58hrs (last 5km in 23.39). Plan was 2:19.00. Even I can do the simple maths - still 3.02 ahead of schedule; but now losing time instead of gaining it. The tide has turned. Time to dig in.

30km to The Finish

  • 250m further up the road and OMG ... there is a wall of half marathon runners streaming out in front of me.
  • I go from having plenty of space and a few marathon runners to pace off to havingwhat feels like the entire universe of slow runners blocking my path.
  • We turn onto St. Kilda Road in the service lane where we will be crammed together for the next four km. 
  • I dodge and weave through the crowds whilst trying to maintain my diminishing pace. 
  • I miss an aid station because I cannot get near it for the crowds.
  • I miss three of the next five km markers as you cannot see anything for all the runners.
  • I hope the half runners will keep going straight at the Arts Centre so I can get some peace! Aargh! No such luck, they make the turn with me.
  • Through 35km in est. 2:40:48hrs (last 5km in 24.50). Plan was 2:42.10. I still maintain a small buffer of time to my goal.
  • Finally, just before 36km, they turn off and I am alone with a rather diminished field. I have my first bad moments around here and need to stop to yell at myself! Come on, I am so close now, just keep going.
  • The 37th km takes 5.37 which will be my slowest of the day. Stop some more. Beat my thighs and yell at them some more. I am still 5sec in front of my target time; but I know this will be the last time I am ahead.
  • Round the bend onto Domain Road and a gentle downhill. Pass by a spectator who yells out "you're a gladiator." I don't really feel like one but this lifts my spirits and gives me an emotive soundtrack for my brain. Just the tonic!
  • Turn back onto St. Kilda Road. There are now people walking, running and everything in between. I go past the "Cobbers" memorial to the battle of Fromelle. Remind myself of what they went through and how weak I am in comparison. Resolve not to stop any more.
  • This resolve is good - while it lasts - but I have a couple more bouts of stopping for a few seconds over the next km or so. Not sure why???
  • Have merged back with the half runners but try to ignore there presence. 
  • Through 40km in est. 3:07.28hrs (last 5km in 26.40). Plan was 3:05.20. If I can hold it together I'll run 3:18 or so.
  • Go through Federation Square and right onto Flinders Street. Must run it home from here. Soon the MCG looms large in my vision as we veer right and down a gentle hill to Jolimont.
  • Less than one km to go now and my time is good. I start to get a bit emotional but keep it in check. Run around the outside of packs of half mara runners; feeling strong.
  • Left into the MCG tunnel and out onto the arena. What a buzz, running on the MCG. Start out running on the matting, but quickly decide to run on the turf.
  • An official shunts me across other runners into the marathon finishers chute. I choke up with emotion as I cross the line in 3:18.38hrs. Woo! Hoo!
  • Am filled with a feeling of sheer relief. Eight months of preparation, lots of problems along the way, but I DID IT.
  • I lay on my back and notice the heat in the sun for the first time. Just stare up at the grandstands in awe of them and of what I have just done.

Post Race
  • Down the ramp into the bowels of the stadium to collect my gear and finisher medal. Why didn't we get the medal as we crossed the line like every other event I've done?
  • Have a piece of banana and a drink. It is very crowded down here.
  • Wander over to the physio section where my mate Rob O'Donnell is running the show (Southern Suburbs Physiotherapy Centre). Because I am a client of theirs I get straight in. Woo! Hoo! No queue.
  • A quick rub down then back up into the sunshine to find my mate Roger.
  • Leaving the 'G I collect a Timex Ironman watch for my wife (with iPod control for only $50) and also my race kit which has the most pathetic souvenir towel in the history of crappy souvenirs. Who cares ... my finish time is my souvenir!
Days Later
  • Learning to walk again :-)
  • My cold, for which I have been on antibiotics, gets dramatically worse. No real surprise there.
  • I take an interest in the Boston Marathon for the first time. After all, I do have a qualifying time!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

3h 18m 38s

I have seen many people break down in tears at the end of athletic events and often wondered why. Today I found out. As I entered the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the final 300m of the marathon I could barely hold back the emotion. And once I crossed the line it all came out. These were not tears of joy - and certainly not of sadness - but of sheer relief. Eight months of absolute hard effort distilled into a single moment and it was too much.

The clock read 3h 18m 38s. When I started this marathon journey in February I would have laughed if someone had told me such a time would be possible. And this week when I was sick and on antibiotics (still am) I thought it had evaporated. Today I cannot imagine that it is reality. It will take time to sink in.

After all of the cr@p weather (read: chronic winds) we have had in Melbourne over the last few months it was an absolute joy to have relatively benign conditions today. No wind to talk about and reasonably cool for the most part. This was one out of the box.

First 10km - the warm up
By all accounts the first 10k of a marathon should be a bit of a stroll in the park. Time to look around, enjoy the atmosphere, say g'day to fellow competitors and generally get into the groove. For the most part I did this (even bumped into Jason for the first time!), but found pacing rather difficult as the organisers seemed to be having problems working out where to put the markers. That said, I was probably going a little quick. My target pace was 4.38m/k and I hoped to run the first half in around 4.35's so 10km in 4.32's probably wasn't the best idea in the world.

To Halfway
By 10k you are running on the Melbourne Grand Prix track which circumnavigates a local lake and is a regular road most of the time. It is pretty cool running here and even the swans come out to say hi. From here you pop out onto Fitzroy Street and down to Beach Rd where you'll spend the next 15km.

I have run up and down this stretch of road more times than I care to think about in the last 20-odd years so I know it fairly well. I think that familiarity may have bred contempt - or at the least complacency - as I went through the next 10km a minute quicker than the first 10; crossing halfway in 94.47min.

Now, to put this in perspective, my time at halfway was only a minute and a half slower than my super fast half marathon time in May. And I was running ahead of the 3:10hr pace leader. I think I knew then that I had stuffed this one up. Only a few km later I knew this was the case as I could feel myself slowing.

The Premiership Quarter
I knew that the third 10km of the race would be where I needed to work really hard. It is here that fatigue really starts to set in and you can see your time goals disappear at a rapid rate. The bulk of this section was down to Elwood and back - again, a road I know well. I also knew my family and friends would be at the far turn so I wanted to (hopefully) look strong when I passed them - mostly so they didn't think I was about to expire.

By about 24-25km I was having the odd wobble and definitely wasn't feeling 100%. I knew that my pace had slowed but it was still 4.36m/k so I was actually putting more time "in the bank" which was great and what I had hoped for. So whilst I had gone out a bit too quick, I ran this 10km right about where I would have hoped. It just felt slow!

Just after the 30km mark was where the hoardes of half marathon runners joined the course (they started an hour after we did). From there it turned to crap!

The Business End
Everyone knows that marathons don't really start till about 30-32km. I had looked forward to this fact as I really wanted to explore my own character in being able to run through what would occur to me at this point.

So at the point when I most needed to be able to run my own race, concentrate on my own pace and rhythm, I found myself dodging and weaving (literally) through thousands of people running another race. For the next five km I could barely find a distance marker and could not get to an aid station because they were so clogged. For a major marathon this was a disgrace.

There was some respite for 3km (36-39km) where our courses diverged and we marathoners were once again left to ourselves. Ahhh, the serenity. It was here that I had to stop a few times and beat my thighs and yell at myself to get going. I was now running slowly (5.15-5.20m/k for a few) and was doing it tough.

As I still harboured dreams of a sub-3.20 (and a Boston Qualifier Time) I knew I had to keep going. So I willed myself to continue. With about 4k's to go a spectator yelled out "you're a gladiator" to me and that fired me up, giving me a vision and some useful theme music to play in my head. No more stopping now, must run.

The last couple of k's are quite easy. A bit of downhill, you can see the stadium in the distance, you know you are home. Just run it strong to the finish I told myself - which I did.

The last few hundred metres is like a major Olympic Marathon as you come through the "tunnel" into the stadium and run a lap to the finish line. And the MCG is a modern-day colisseum befitting a race like this. It is just sensational!

I yelled with joy as I crossed the finish line in 3:18.38hrs. Sure, a couple of minutes slower than my target time, but who cares!!!! A massive PB for me by over 12mins (and that time was 12 years ago at age 29).

All my goals were achieved:

1. Finish
2. Run the whole way (I say I did this cause I stopped a few times, but did not walk!)
3. Run a PB (sub 3.30)
4. Beat my good mate Roger's best time (3.24)
5. Run a Boston Qualifier standard (3.20)

Like most marathoners, I'll need a bit of a break to recover physically from this one. I'll also need to find a new goal or two ... anyone know which way Boston is from here?

PS - I am now walking like this:

Intermediate Splits (some of the km markers were way off!)
1-10km 45.26min (5.03/10.40/-/-/22.59/-/31.48/36.30/41.10/45.26) -4.32m/k
11-20km 44.25min (50.06/54.28/-/62.28/66.55/71.28/76.02/80.35/85.13/89.51) -4.26m/k
21-30km 46.07min (94.19/(half 94.45)98.47/103.15/107.45/112.19/117.01/121.43/126.25/131.12/135.58) -4.36m/k
31-40km 51.30min (-/147.12/-/155.53/-/165.44/171.21/176.39/182.00/?187.28) -5.09m/k
41-42.2km 11.10min (192.56/-/198.38) -5.04m/k

Course Map

Friday, October 9, 2009

Last Thoughts

It is Friday morning and as I sit here I know that in less than 48 hours it should all be over. Done in the blink of an eye. And that's the thing with big events like this. You spend a very long time preparing for them, thinking about them and then - in no time at all - they are gone. So I thought I would take this time to reflect on the last 8 months and the amazing journey it has been.

How it Began
It all began in February with an email from a friend (thanks Kim!) inviting me for a run and asking if I'd be interested in running the marathon in October. I was dreadfully out of shape at that time, with not much running for a number of years, but decided to give it a go. My best time was only 3.30hrs and my last marathon was in 2002 (3.47hrs) and I always felt that I had never really run to anything like my potential, so this was just the excuse to give it another go.

I also set myself a two-year goal which was to run a faster marathon time than a good mate of mine (thanks Roger!) This would mean running better than 3.25hrs. I hoped that this year I might be able to run close to 3.30hrs - maybe even a PB - and then next year, with lots of miles under my belt, I could give 3.20hrs a shake.

So I began running again in mid-February with only a broad idea of how I should structure my program. I printed out a 'Runners World' plan and began to follow it. The part I did not like - have never liked - about these running plans is they all have you running 5-6 days per week. I knew that I'd be unlikely to sustain this level of consistency so looked around for an alternative.

Run Less Run Faster
In late March it happened, my epiphany as I called it when I discovered the Furman FIRST guys and their book "Run Less Run Faster." This was the breakthrough for me. Finally a program that I knew I could stick to. Three runs per week, no easy stuff, just high quality running. I immediately set myself to use this program for my Half Marathon (Sri Chinmoy at end of May) and marathon (Melbourne Marathon in October).

I found this program took some getting used to. The long run pace, in particular, I found to be quite quick. It was certainly no "easy long run" as I had typically experienced in the past. On the plus side, since I was coming off a reasonably low base, my fitness was constantly improving so I adapted quickly to the intensity of the sessions.

Half Marathon
Going into the Half Marathon I was confident that I could run the target pace (4.45m/k) I had set a couple of months earlier. In fact, I had found the tempo run pace (4.38m/k) so controlled that I optimistically decided to recalibrate my target time to run 4.39m/k (1.38hrs) for the distance. I figured I had improved heaps in the two months so why not give it a go!

Well, something amazing happened, and on race day I ran a 1.33hr time. To this day I am still not sure how I ran that fast, but it felt great. A wonderful race strategy executed to perfection. Of course this meant I had to totally rethink the marathon plan as this half mara time indicated I could run somewhere near 3.16hrs for the big one. Hmmm.

Marathon Program (Weeks 1-5)
The first part of the program would culminate in a 30km run at the end of July after which I would make the final decision on whether to commit to the marathon or not. And it was a close thing. The early track sessions were a disaster. I found the Furman target paces way too quick and was blowing up after a couple of reps. I eventually decided to run to how I felt (ie, as hard as I could go!) and these times matched what Greg McMillan indicated I should be doing so I once again felt like I was on target.

I was no sooner on track again when sickness struck. A diabolical case of sinusitis laid me low for a couple of weeks, causing me to miss a couple of sessions and cut a couple of long runs short - and run them horribly slow!

I went into the Sri Chinmoy 30km event not really expecting much but hoping for the best. And the best was what I got. This time in the form of 'Tiger Boy' from the Cool Running chat site. He drove the 5-min/km bus to perfection that day, motivating us all to a great result. On the back of this effort I entered the marathon.

Marathon Program (Weeks 6-13)
These are the long serious days of the program. This is where the big efforts are done and the big gains are made. I knew if I could get through this part then I'd be mostly there as there were four 32km runs in these 8 weeks. Over the course of these runs the improvement flowed: from 5.16m/k for the first 32k effort right down to 4.45m/k for the last one.

Thrown in another bout of sickness, my fastest City to Surf in six years, a couple of good track sessions and this segment had a bit of everything. Importantly though, I came through it in good form, injury free and in good health. Only the taper to follow!

Marathon Program (Weeks 14-16)
The final three weeks of the program is the taper period, time to freshen up and peak before the race. For me it also signalled the onset of more sickness. What started out as tightness in my chest has now developed into a nasty throat infection, runny nose and a dose of antibiotics. Not exactly what I was hoping for.

I've had some great runs in there too, including a good 21km over the last half of the marathon course a couple of weeks back. So here I am two days out from race day with nothing to do but rest.

Of course, I could not have reached this point without the support and inspiration of so many people. I have already mentioned Kim who inspired me to take on this quest; and my good friend Roger who has not only supplied a target time for me to beat, but has more importantly supported/sledged me along the way. Thanks mate! To my mate Andy, I promise to Go Hard or Go Home. What would Jens do, eh?

To my work colleagues, neighbours and friends who have heard me endlessly rabbit on about this race for more than six months. I appreciate your good humour in listening to me. Rest assured, it is almost at an end now.

To my fellow bloggers, you have each provided more inspiration, encouragement and laughs than you can imagine. Your stories of struggle, achievement, good times (and bad) have more than once made me wonder why I have bothered to publish my own drivel on the internet. (Even my wife doesn't bother to read my blog!) But I will think of each one of you at some time during the race and draw upon your efforts as motivation for my own. Thanks!
Finally, to my family: Fiona, Brooke and Keira. You remain the most important thing in the world to me and I would not be here without your love and support. Thank you. Brooke, I am sorry you won't be able to run the final 200m with me as you normally do in my races. Perhaps just as well. Might be a tad embarrassing to be outrun by a five year old proudly proclaiming to have "crushed her dad like a paper cup!"

I'll let you all know on Sunday how it went.
Paul :-)

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Not the preferred title for a blog post three days before the marathon but one which actually pleases me as it means that I at least have a fighting chance of getting to the start line feeling ok.

After spending this week getting progressively worse I finally managed to see a doctor today. And the marathon gods smiled on me a little as this doc was himself a marathoner and knew what I was going through, what I am going to go through (!) and what I needed.

So I am on the drugs now and am happy about that. A day of rest at home tomorrow (I have a very understanding boss too); easy Saturday - then the big race.

This morning I went out for a 5km run which I did in 23.40min (4.44m/k). I felt very ragged, far from smooth and with no rhythm at all. Not the best final run I could have but not really of much concern as I just wanted to roll my legs over.

Now to Sunday!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Farewell to the Track

In preparation for the marathon this weekend I have run down at the Moorabbin Athletics Track 22 times this year. More than 130km. Over 320 laps. Any way you look at it ... a lot! Mostly in the dark. Very often windy. Sometimes with unexpected canine company. Rarely with any other runners.

Tonight was my last session there (for a while at least) and it felt kinda strange. Like saying goodbye to a friend for a while. As it was, this 'friend' served up a bit of everything. Plenty of wind, the odd spot of drizzle, and a few fast laps. A reasonably good summation of our relationship this year!

The main set today was:
6 x 400m (1.28/1.31/1.27/1.28/1.26/1.24) (400m RI)

Did this whilst still battling my throat lurgies.

Happy with these times.

One more run then race.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Consistency and My 100 Runs

One of the hallmarks of my return to running this year has been some proper consistency. Week after week I have recorded my three planned runs with only an occasional miss due to extreme illness. As more than one friend has pointed out - imagine if you had trained like this 20 years ago. Hmmm, I wonder.

Today I clocked up my 100th Run for the year with over 1200km covered. This year is now as big (by total km's) as the last five combined. (Says more about the last five than this one in all reality!) But no wonder the results have come.

Today's run was 16km at marathon pace (4.38m/k). I have not been able to overcome this minor chest infection and it was just plain annoying today. I feel like it is holding me back about 5% and no amount of magic potions seems to get rid of it. As long as it gets no worse I'll be happy.

Other than that and a minor left calf strain the run was good. Nice conditions, sunny with a light wind. And a small neg split. All is good.

Total run: 16km in 1:13.39 hrs (4.36m/k)
Lap 1 36.53 (-/4.35/4.34/4.35/4.32/4.36/4.41/4.45/-)
Lap 2 36.46 (-/4.41/4.37/4.34/4.32/4.31/4.33/4.38/-)

Saw the first weather forecast for next Sunday (race day) too:
Mostly sunny. Winds northeasterly averaging up to 25 km/h.
Min 7. Max 22.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A final tempo run

These tempo runs have variously been fantastic, uplifting experiences or outright disasters during this prep. Today was the third time I had run this particular set: 10km with 5km in the middle at short tempo [aka hard] pace. The tally stood one great run and one disaster. I am feeling a little sore in the throat and tight in the chest right now, so what would the decider be??

In short - a winner! Not exactly sure how much of a winner as my watch ran out of recording memory (100-laps and I have none free!) But, as I glanced down each km I could see about four and a quarter minutes flashing by so it was aroud 21.15min for the fast 5km which was exactly where I wanted to be.

I am really counting down now. Only four more runs till THE BIG ONE. I am nervous as all heck. Every day I pass by the MCG going to/from work and I just stare at it. We have a big date, a rendevouz. I just hope we will be nice to each other.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The last big set

There's a training adage that says you need about 10-14 days to feel the benefit of any training session. Which means that today is perhaps the last session that will add to my fitness level for the marathon From here on it is about maintaining the fitness I have accumulated. So with that in mind I tackled my second-to-last track session this evening.

The set itself was pretty straight forward. 5x 1km reps with 400m float as the rest interval. Conditions were ok, not too cold or windy, and I hoped to go around 3.59 average for each of the reps.

As usual, I took the first one a little easier and did a 4.01 (hmm, slower than I would have liked). But I built up each of the subsequent reps, doing 3.59, 3.58, 3.57 and finally a 3.52. That's what I like to see: getting faster on each one! And a great 3.57/8 average being a small improvement on the last time I did this session.

This was especially pleasing as I have a bit of a sore throat and my chest is still not 100%. Cannot shake this illness, but it is not holding me back dramatically. As long as it gets no worse I'll be happy.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Stocking up some karma

After Friday's debacle of a run I was really worried. In fact, I think that mild paranoia is a personality trait of most marathoners - especially in the latter stages of training before the race. To my family, friends and work colleagues - I apologise in advance for the next two weeks!

I wanted to complete this run - 21km at marathon pace - over the last half of the Melbourne Marathon course. I know it reasonably well, but I wanted to get it ingrained in my head, hopefully make friends with it, and get some 'positive karma' that I could draw upon come race day.

I have split the marathon course into small pieces and today I would run four of them - the Elwood leg (8km), St Kilda Rd (5km), Shrine loop (5km) and MCG (3km).

To say conditions were ordinary is an understatement. The good lady wife dropped me off in St. Kilda where I think the whole suburb is in mourning after yesterday's loss in the AFL Grand Final. I could barely get out of the car it was so windy!

I received some good advice/words of wisdom from fellow blogger 'canute' who reminded me that the purpose of this next two weeks is to "sustain the muscle ‘memory’ of race pace, and your confidence, while allowing your muscles recover from the preceding months of hard work. This goal can be achieved with a relatively small amount of running at race pace." For me this took a little of the "must do" out of the run and made it more a "keeping the faith" run.

With no particular pacing strategy in mind and no real km markers memorised (just a few checkpoints) I set out just to run comfortably. I hoped that comfortably would equal fast when I checked out the stats back at home. Did I mention how windy it was????? At Elwood Beach the waves were crashing in way up the beach and foam covered the roadway at least 50m from shore. Nuts!!

I cruised back to St. Kilda and was pleasantly surprised to see I was running ahead of target pace. Up Fitzroy Street and left in St. Kilda Road. This is a lovely tree-lined boulevard and, thankfully, it offers reasonably good protection from the elements. I made my way down here to the Arts Centre where you turn left to do a loop around the gardens surrounding the Shrine. I had covered this 5km in just over 22min so was thinking either I am running well or my distances are all way out!

The next part of the course is the only "lumpy" bit and, to be perfectly honest, it is pretty flat. It is here that you also get your first glimpse of the MCG, albeit with still about 7km left to go. But it is inspiring. Unfortunately the water taps here on the famous 'Tan Track' are USELESS. Not a single one worked which was a bugger 'cause I had just swallowed a gel and was in desperate need of some water. Aargh!

After making your way around part of the Tan you make a u-turn to take you back to St. Kilda Rd where you head for home. On this corner, just by the shrine, there is a monument of a Digger (Aussie soldier) carrying his mate over his shoulders. Entitled 'Cobbers' it commemorates the WW1 Battle of Fromelle where 5500 Aussie soldiers died in just over 24-hours. It was great to pass this in training. On race day it will be inspiring. I went through this 5km section right on race pace at 4.38m/k.

From here it is only 3km to the finish and probably the easiest bit of the course. Down to Federation Square and turn right into Flinders Street. Along here then down the gentle hill to Jolimont; right turn into Brunton Avenue and only a km to the MCG which has loomed large in your vision for a few k's now. The MCG is a modern-day Colisseum, holding in excess of 100,000 people at major sporting events. I think there'll probably be oh, 100, there to see us marathoners, but I could imagine a much bigger crowd as I made my way down here this morning.

I felt strong and finished in great shape. The total journey of 21km in 96 mins at an average pace of 4.33 m/k. Just fantastic! Absolutely thrilled with this. I hope to travel as quickly and efficiently in a fortnight over these same roads!

SK-Elw-SK 8.05km 36.36min -4.32m/k
to VCA 5.02km 22.21min -4.27m/k (13.07km in 58.57min)
to Grant St 4.86km 22.33min -4.38m/k (17.93km in 81.30min)
to MCG/Punt Rd 3.16km 14.28min -4.34m/k (21.09km in 95.58min)

Map of Run:

Friday, September 25, 2009

Early Warning!!

I have been right on the edge this week as I try to keep evil-spirits away before this race. I have had some minor chest congestion and a tickling throat along with some general lethargy at work; just not feeling right. I got through my track session on Wednesday ok. "Adequate" times but certainly not fast - I think I should have been 3-4sec quicker on each.

But today it became a real worry. I headed out this morning to do my 8km tempo run (4.22m/k pace) and was immediately in trouble. For the first km it was just working out the pain from this stupid "fascist foot" (aka plantar fasciitis) but I quickly realised it was worse than that. My breathing was laboured and my stride and footstrike choppy.

I picked it up for the second km, barely held on for number three and was going backwards by four. Needless to say by this stage I was 1.08min behind schedule and decided to call it quits, returning home by the 'short route' and feeling woeful.

At first I thought it was just low blood sugar but I did not pick up after breakfast and spent the rest of the day feeling a bit shaky - much like I do if I have a second cup of coffee in the morning! So right now I am a bit worried. I know I am suffering from something though I am not sure what. I just wish it would come full-on so I can deal with it and move on. Not much time to play with now.

I wonder how I'll go on Sunday with my planned 21km at marathon pace. Might be interesting!

Total run: 6.3km in 30.02min (4.45/4.32/4.37/4.42/4.43/5.10/-)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

800's and Bart Yasso

Back down to the track tonight for a set of 8x 800's. Was looking forward to this session but have been struggling with the beginning of a cold in my chest again (aargh!). Hopefully I can ward off the evil sickness-spirits without much impact.

It was a windy evening tonight, thankfully minus the rain we have seen a bit of here recently. I seem to be doing a reasonable job of dodging the worst of the weather at the moment. Thank god for training only three days per week!

Covered the reps in a 3.09min average with a 3-second spread so a fairly even paced effort:

8 x 800m (1.30 min. RI) in 3.08/3.07/3.09/3.09/3.09/3.09/3.10/3.10

Yasso 800's
There is a fairly well-known (read: marathon geeks have heard about it) article that appeared in Runner's World way back in 2001 about something they called "Yasso 800's" after the fellow who coined the theory, oddly enough called Bart Yasso.

The basic premise is that a runner who has put in requisite training for a marathon should be able to complete a set of 10x 800's in about the same time min:sec as they can do the marathon hrs:min. So running 800's in - like me - a 3:09 average suggests I can run a marathon in around 3:09 (others suggest up to 5-min slower than this time).

Of course, some people are better suited to running short intervals than long races, but on the whole, he found this applied from elite marathoners all the way down to (ahem) plodders.

It certainly is one more thing that gives me confidence that I can run to my 3:16 target.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

32km Done ... Let the Taper Begin

Today was my final 32km run before the marathon in three weeks time. The whole preparation has been building to this run - and I could see why. It was the single session I feared the most as it was long and quick (10sec/km faster than my fastest long run to date).

As always, my plan was to get a minute or two of time "in the bank" for the return journey - especially the last 6km up South Rd. Obviously this would be a bit harder today since the overall pace was already quicker. Conditions were good and wind was not a major factor (maybe our luck here in Melbourne is changing).

Felt good for the most part out to the turn at Middle Park, going through 16km in 74.44min, so by then I had 1.13min up my sleeve. I consolidated this for the next 5km, going through half marathon distance in about 98.40 and ultimately getting to the final 6km with a wonderful 2.22min to play with.

As it was, I ran strongly up South Rd (fastest time yet for this prep) and lost only 10 sec/km; finishing the 32k 1.19min ahead of schedule. Fan-bloody-tastic! It was no easy run at all, but it was controlled and run perfectly to plan. I have real confidence in running the marathon to a similar plan.

Only three weeks to go now. Let the taper begin!

Total run: 32km in 2:31.45hrs - 4.45m/k

1-6km 27.56min (4.40/9.21/13.55/18.33/23.16/27.56) - 4.39m/k
7-12km 28.10min (32.43/37.21/42.02/46.45/51.27/56.06) - 4.41m/k
13-16km 18.38min (60.47/65.19/69.57/74.44) - 4.39m/k
17-20km 18.39min (79.19/84.00/88.34/93.23) - 4.39m/k
21-26km 28.36min (98.06/102.52/107.38/112.25/117.12/121.59) - 4.46m/k
27-32km 29.46min (126.57/131.49/136.50/141.52/146.48/151.45) - 4.57m/k

Friday, September 18, 2009

"Nice one Centurion!"

Headed out for my 13km run tonight knowing that this is my last big weekend before the taper. I'll cover 45km before Sunday night and if I can get through this in good shape then I'll be happy that all the really hard stuff is done.

Great conditions again tonight - I ran just on sunset. Nice temp and no real wind. This run should be a cruise. It was! A lazy 12.9k in 59.50min - bang on 4.38m/k over the rolling course around home.

Very pleased with that. "Nice one Centurion!"

I could have written this ....
One of the blogs I enjoy reading is Ana-Maria's "Running and Living." She has just posted a description of how she feels during the various phases of a marathon build up. Wow! It is like she is channelling my thoughts. This is exactly how I have gone. There must be something universal in there.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I feeeeeel good ..... I knew that I would

(With apologies to James Brown.) But I am now starting to feel really confident. Had a great run tonight, a set of 10x 400m with 400m float in between. Thought I might run about 1.30min for each given last time I ran a 1.31 average. Conditions were great. I repeat. Conditions were great. Still pleasantly warm at sunset and only a breath of wind. Ahhh, heaven.

Ended up running a 1.27 average with splits of: 1.26/1.28/1.27/1.28/1.28/1.27/1.26/1.27/1.28/1.27.

Felt strong and relaxed the whole way and probably could have done more. This is a great improvement on the April times and is, for the first time in this program, a track session completed at the FIRST target times. Not that this matters much to me, but yippee!

Two more runs of this, monster week, then taper begins.

Physio thanks
Perhaps some thanks to my physio, Rob O'Donnell, at Southern Suburbs Physio. He gave me a tweak last night which I am sure just loosened things up a little. I am lucky because his business is running the massage at the Melbourne Marathon and as an existing patient I'll get special "back room" treatment. (I think this is good????)

Inspiration for runners comes from many places. I get a fair dose of mine from reading what other runners have to deal with and overcome as part of their journeys. One that has stuck with me is the blog of LBTEPA (I still have no flippin' idea what that means???). Read this post of her recent 35km training run for the same marathon I am doing next month. Tell me after that you do not feel (just a bit) inadequate. Inspiring!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Last Half

Many people say marathon running is all about the last half. Plenty of folks can start out strong, but it is those who "bring it home" who typically do best. Greg McMillan's ideas on the long run are all about training yourself to do just that - finish strong.

Today's run was one of those - the "fast finish" as he calls them. The others I have attempted have not been terribly successful. I have not really found it possible to lift the pace late in a long run. Holding it steady is about the best I can manage.

The goal today was 24k at 4.44m/k so I was planning to run a half marathon race (Sri Chinmoy at Burnley) with a few k warm-up to get me going. The plan was to run the half at target marathon pace (4.38m/k).

Things did not exactly to plan this morning and I got to the race venue later than expected. In fact, with only a couple of minutes to go to race start I was still trying to make final 'evacuations' in the loo. I just made it in time for the moment of silence and the official 'go' so no warm-up k's today.

The weather was not like anything we've had for a while in Melbourne. At 9pm last night it was still 29 deg's and by race time it had cooled to about 18 deg's. Couple this with some bursts of rain and it was rather more humid than we normally get. But, at least the wind had subsided!!!!

As for the race itself, I think I am happy, at least with the end result. But I totally stuffed up my pacing. I thought I was taking it easy at the start, but ran the first couple of k's way faster than target pace. And died! For the next 8k's all I tried to do was get my pace back under control so that I could at least finish. It was really that bad. I went through 10km in 46.51min with a string of 4.40+ k's.

At 10km, with everything back in control I decided to give it a bit of a go and pick up the pace. After all, it was supposed to be a 'fast finish' run and I had comprehensively managed to do the 'slow start.'

And, miraculously, I did get faster, putting together a group of 4.30+ k's for the next couple of laps. It was great to pass people again who had disappeared off into the distance earlier in the morning. I ran to 20km in 92.49min, with the second 10km in 45.58min, so a big neg split for those.

I ran strong to the finish, notwithstanding my 5 year-old daughter Brooke joining me for the last 100m and, in her words, once again "crushing me like a paper cup!"

Total time for the event was 1:37.41hrs so - bizarrely - 4 seconds under target time for the day. Hmmm, not sure how I managed that. It looks like a well executed fast finish run, but trust me, it wasn't!

Part of my cheer squad (Keira) after the race

Race Splits
1km 4.17min (4.17)
2-6km 23.33min (4.24/4.43/4.46/4.52/4.48) Full Lap 1 - 4.42m/k
7-11km 23.32min (4.48/4.42/4.43/4.48/4.31) Lap 2 - 4.42m/k
12-16km 22.51min (4.32/4.33/4.39/4.42/4.25) Lap 3 - 4.34m/k
17-21km 22.55min (4.29/4.35/4.45/4.46/4.20) Lap 4 - 4.35m/k

Friday, September 11, 2009

Gale Warning (who is Gale anyway?)

It seems like every time I check the weather forecast before a run in the last few months it looks something like this one. "Gale warning" and "damaging winds" have become synonymous with Melbourne recently. It is driving me nuts! Whatever happened to pleasant days which are "calm" or with a "light breeze" I wonder.

In any case, it was this forecast which heralded my second run this week, a 16km trip at target marathon pace. I did the same workout only two weeks ago and it didn't feel particularly easy then. What a difference a fortnight makes. It felt much better tonight (despite the wind).

Today I covered the two-lap course in 1:13.54hrs at 4.37m/k (a second below target pace). The two laps were in 37.00min and 36.54min so a negative split too without really trying to do so. Wow! And this pace felt much cruisier than last time. This is what it is supposed to feel like. I'm pretty pleased with this one.

Who was it that said "I love it when a plan comes together." Mine certainly is!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Four minute mile

Sounds good, doesn't it. And fast. I did one. Well, my version of one.

Tonight's track session was 3x 1600m with 400m easy in between. I felt good, conditions were as good as I've had for a while, the session was short. Everything was there for a fast set.

Covered the first one in 6.36mins which is what I ran them in back in April. I had expected to go closer to 6.30 but don't run the first one flat out so was happy with this. Pushed a bit more for the second one which I did in 6.26 (pleased with this) then ran the last quicker again in 6.23 (stoked with this)!!

So where do I get the four minute mile from. Simple. 1600m is the metric equivalent of the mile and 6.23min for this distance is a tick under four minutes per kilometre. A mile at four minute pace!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Confession and An Ark

A Confession
I've been going around doing athletic events for many years now, more than 22. And - apart from feeling old when I write that sentence - I have a confession to make. It is this: I have built up my running this year waaaay to quick.

Why is that a big deal? Well, I am now, more than ever, aware of the need for my body to recover and recuperate. In earlier years I'd build up to a marathon with 8 weeks of (sporadic) training. I know I shouldn't have done it then. I know I can't do it now.

So I got onto this Furman FIRST program which I really love. Trouble is, I probably should have built up my running gradually for a year or so before starting the program earlier this year.

When January rolled around this year and I was doing an occasional triathlon I could barely run the 5km leg such has been my lack of running. Let's look back at the last six years of running for me:

2004: 27 runs (356km)
2005: 19 runs (110km)
2006: 25 runs (259km)
2007: 26 runs (343km)
2008: 28 runs (190km)
2009: 88 runs (1051km) ... and still plenty more to come!

Hmm, yes, I see the problem now. More running this year than in the last four combined. Actually, it is more running in the last six months than those last four years. And by the time Christmas rolls around it will be more than five years crammed into one.

Life in the fast lane! Is it any surprise I suffer the odd injury or two? Just don't tell my physio (hi Rob!)

An Ark
I decided to skip my run tonight and do it tomorrow instead. It has been bucketing down here all evening. I am going out into my garage to build an Ark instead. It might come in useful.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

How to Have Fun on Father's Day!

In the olden days the marathon programs I followed all built up steadily over a long period of time reaching a crescendo exactly three weeks out from race day with the almighty thirty-two kilometre run. This time round I decided to get on board with the blokes at Furman and their FIRST Marathon Program.  It is based on a different view of the world: Run less. Run harder. Run long (more often).

With this 16-week program I have run 32k in weeks 6, 9 and 11 (today). Week 4 should also have been 32k but I shortened it due to sickness (to 25k) and I have one more to come in week 13. That's a 32k run once every three weeks on average. Either they are on to a piece of training wizadry that no-one else has considered or they've run out of ideas for other distances to run!

In any case, it certainly means lots of long training days like today. It certainly means that I am not worried about the first 32k of the marathon. These long runs are starting to feel a bit easier now and I am gradually getting a bit quicker each time. More importantly, whereas the last 6k was originally a big struggle, I now find that it is hard, but I can run at a strong, controlled pace. This is very motivating.

Conditions today were fairly typical with a northerly wind blowing (not as strong as some weeks but still there) and overcast with temp in mid-teens. Pretty perfect for running I guess. The only thing different today was my nutrition. Normally I'd take a couple of gels on these runs but I had run out so I had a PowerBar instead which I nibbled along the way. I prefer the gel whilst running as they are easier to ingest, but the bar gave me a small boost often.

I also took my heart rate monitor out today to gauge my effort levels. This was good news too. It was typically in the range 146-150 with the final 6k surge up South Rd to home at around 154. Overall average was 150bpm which compares to something in the mid-160's which I expect to see come race day.

Finished the run in 2:27.45hrs (4.56min/km) which was 39-sec ahead of target time. Excellent! I am also getting quite adept at running slightly faster early on to get a minute or so "in the bank" for the harder bit at the back end. I plan to utilise the same strategy on race day so it is good to practice it.

1-6km 28.35min (4.47/9.34/14.18/18.58/23.48/28.35)
7-12km 29.41min (33.35/38.30/43.27/48.30/53.26/58.16)
13-16km 19.44min (63.17/68.08/73.02/78.00)
17-20km 19.36min (82.57/87.51/92.35/97.36)
21-26km 29.34min (102.32/107.24/112.24/117.29/122.19/127.10)
27-32km 30.35min (132.21/137.22/142.28/147.24/152.20/157.45)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Good. Sort of. I think?

I am not sure how I went tonight. I was there, of course, it was me who actually ran around-and-around that track again. But I am not really certain about whether I ran well or not. Which is odd (on many levels) since normally I'd be quite definite on this.

After a great week last week and some solid rest from my last long run on Sunday I felt as good going into this track session as I have all preparation. I don't think I can blame the wind, even though it was blowing in the opposite direction to how it normally does. I am not sure why, but that put me off; it felt all ass-about.

I just didn't have it. Bugger, since I was looking forward to this session which was reps of 1k-2k-1k-1k with 400m float in between. I really thought I'd knock out some solid sub-4's for the km reps with maybe an 8.10 for the 2k. Not even close. Not awful times. Just not very good.

Now is not the time to mention the secret injury which has been ....

Total run: 10.4km in 54.31min

w/up to track and 200m strides (11.48)
1km hard (4.00), 400m easy
2km hard (8.27), 400m easy
1km hard (4.03), 400m easy
1km hard (4.01)
c/down to home (12.21)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Picking up the pace

Only a 24km run today. It's all relative I guess. Not so long ago 24k would have been an 'OMG this is a freaking long way run,' but not now. And lest I think things are actually getting easier, those wacky guys a Furman (whose program I am following) decree that this run would ratchet up the pace to make up for the shorter distance. Lots of fun!

The last couple of weeks I have found the first km or so a bit hard. Not pace hard, but just getting my body into the groove and my head in the right place. Both times I have wondered if I'd be able to finish the planned run. Not sure why.

These runs are basically in four parts: down to the beach, along the beach foreshore and back, then run back up to home. And, given terrain and wind have not varied at all, it is essentially an easy warm-up down to the beach, hard slog into the wind, easier run back with the wind and hard slog uphill to home. I think the time splits below show that out.

Today, if it was at all possible, the wind was probably stronger than it has ever been???? Certainly it had more "west" in it and less "north." In any case, it was unpleasant on the run from Brighton up to Elwood. I pray that we get a relatively calm day for the race. This wind just sucks big time.

I certainly picked it up for the first 6k of the second half of the run, covering this in 4.42m/k which is quite good. Obviously the mother of all winds was behind me so it probably isn't that great. What I was pleased with, though, was the time up South Road. I traditionally struggle along here. Today, somehow, it was a quick-paced struggle - despite walking for a few seconds when it just got a bit hard.

Overall, very pleased with this run. The training plan says to run it in 1:56 and the watch says I did 1:55.44 so right on target. Another woo hoo! And a great end to the running week.

Total run: 24km in 1:55.44hrs (4.49m/k)

1-6km 28.32min (4.45/9.30/14.09/18.56/23.46/28.32)  4.45m/k
7-12km 29.22min (33.20/38.04/42.52/47.51/52.44/57.54)  4.53m/k
13-18km 28.15min (62.32/67.10/71.56/76.37/81.22/86.09)  4.42m/k
19-24km 29.35min (91.02/95.59/100.54/106.01/110.49/115.44)  4.55m/k

Only three more big weeks now!

Friday, August 28, 2009

When is Marathon Pace not Marathon Pace?

Tonight's run was a 10-miler (16km) at marathon pace (4.38min/km) which means it should be comfortable, not overly hard. After all, in six weeks I am supposed to run 42km at this pace. OMG!

Now it was only a few months ago during my half marathon training that this same speed was my mid-tempo pace. And apart from that one very fast race I'm not sure that much has really changed. Which means that the 16km tonight felt like a fair workout and anything but a cruise about town.

I ran my regular North Road loop doing two laps to give me 16km. They were fairly even, run in 37.27min and 37.39min. There was also the now obligatory wind blowing which kept it a bit more interesting than I'd like, but what can you do!

Overall a pleasing effort. A few seconds behind target pace, but still ok. I am confident that come marathon day, this same pace will feel a whole lot easier.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

At Last ... Improvement!

It has taken until week ten of this program for me to replicate or improve upon any of my track session times from the half marathon program earlier this year. But tonight I finally did it! It feels so good to see some times that are faster than I have ever gone.

Tonight's set was 3x (2x 1200m) with 2min rest between intervals and 4min rest between each of the three sets. I last ran this set on 8 April (another Wednesday night) with times generally around 4.56min for each rep.

Tonight I did the now customary "first rep steady, not too fast, don't blow up before you've even started" routine. This seems to be working. Perhaps more accurately, now that I have ditched the Furman target times which were sooo fast for me that I was exploding after the first rep, I am better able to pace my efforts.

This time the reps were completed in: 4.56/4.52 - 4.53/4.52 - 4.53/4.46

What I am looking for is a comfortable first rep, even in the middle, and fastest last rep if possible. Realistically, tonight's times tell me I could probably have pushed to around 4.50min for each of the reps.

But who cares!!!! This is fast for me, faster than last time, right in the McMillan time ranges (4.44-4.59) and felt great.


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