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)

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