Sunday, May 4, 2014


Gold Coast Marathon - 10 Weeks to Go

The theme for this week is recovery. After a massive (well, for me anyway) week of over 70k last week I need to get some freshness back into my legs. The program is almost one-third through and I have survived the "shock tactics" of the big ramp up in distance and intensity without getting sick (touch wood) and with only the hint of an injury. So with a suitable recovery this week I will be well placed to push on through the next big phase of training.

Tuesday 29 April

Today's weather was only going to get worse so I decided to bring my running gear to work and try to get out at lunch time to do my track session. Unfortunately by that time it was already raining, but what the heck, at least it was daylight :-)

At the site of the old Olympic Park, now Collingwood's training venue the Westpac Centre, is a footy ground with a 3-lane track around the outside. The track itself is really nice and since it's close to work I decided to go down and run there.

Westpac Centre Athletics Track - Source: PILA Group

As best I can estimate - without a trundle wheel or a quality satellite map - the track is probably 500m in length. There are various markings on the track, but none that I could see which definitively tell me how long it is. And given that Garmin watches are ok in straight lines but not so good at measuring circles I think this is probably about right.

In any case, I started at the big light tower (right of photo above) where there's a 200m marker and ran till I got to another marker (goals at the far end) after about 3.08min which I estimated would be 800m based on my normal pace. A bit agricultural but probably close to the mark.

The plan was for a 1.30min rest interval but this was replaced by a ~200m walk back to the start point before beginning the next rep. Though my legs didn't feel too bad I think they are actually a little 'soft' after my big week last week. The 800's were done in 3.08/07/13/10/13/14 so a little slower than planned but still ok. As always, great to get the session done!

Friday 2 May

End of the working week and another two runs completed.

On Wednesday night was the weekly Nike Run Club. Once again I was leading the 10k @7m/k group, this time down the back and had ace fun chatting away for the whole run. It is great getting to hear the stories of some of the run clubbers!

Last night I met up with my physio Rob O'Donnell at Southern Suburbs to get this troublesome popliteus looked at. He did his usual selection of treatments including some ultrasound and gave me a few stretches to do - including a wacky cramp-inducing hamstring stretch. Fun :-(

Whilst there he had a look through my run plan for the remaining 10 weeks and promptly determined that I should increase the duration of some of my long runs. I think i agree with him on this one - so I will be running some of them for time (rather than distance) and will run up to 3.5 hours if all goes well. If nothing else it should make a big psychological difference come race day.

Today I had one of my longer tempo runs to fit in and managed to get out at lunch time - again in the rain - to get it done. This was a 13k run with 10k of Tempo pace in the middle. It's a good track along the Yarra, mostly flat with some small "undulates" and today it was largely empty. My plan was to run the outbound 5k at just on/over target pace of 4.42m/k and the return leg a bit quicker. I did this pretty well spot on - running out to Richmond at 4.44m/k pace; returning to the city in 4.35m/k pace. Overall, finished the tempo section in a 4.39m/k average. So very happy with that!

Just the weekend ahead!

Sunday 4 May

Today was one of my all-time favourite events - the Puffing Billy Great Train Race. Now in its 33rd year, this race from Belgrave to Lakeside at Emerald pits man against machine in a race to the finish. Each year the big unknown is just how fast the train will go, with anything from 51-mins through to 61-mins a possibility.

I've raced this event at least 15 times and beat the train on at least 4 of those occasions prior to today. In the last two years I was once again back to running "under the hour" and with all the marathon training now I was going to go fast ... or be very tired.

Conditions were perfect for running, about 9-10 degrees with a couple of minor showers before the start. National anthem sung from the back of a fire truck by Mike Brady (some traditions live on here) and we were off. I was a bit nervous about how my popliteus would hold out on the first downhill but it was ok and I got off to a good start.

The first 5km is just an hors-d'oeuvres of what is to come with a sharp fall, bigger climb then another fall to warm you up. Gradients here range from -8% to 7% so you are working right from the gun. Past the Trestle Bridge and first crossing ahead of the train so looking good so far. I went through 5k in 20.59 feeling ok.

Then the hill begins! The next 1.9k rises at at average of 5% with solid sections at 9%. I realised that I was not actually feeling so fresh during this section but was determined to make it through the second train crossing ahead of the train whose whistle was a constant reminder of how close he was. I crested Menzies Creek ahead of Puffing Billy but now behind David Weeks who had blasted by me on the hill and left me feeling very slow!

After a super-steep downhill it is time for the long climb up to the fourth and final crossing at Emerald. I was running every tangent on the road to save precious seconds and still the whistle blew. I was convinced that at any time the train would roll on by but never once did I see him. Through Emerald township and up the nasty rise out of town (not steep but at full tilt and late in the race it punches above its weight).

Then the long descent to Lakeside and the finish. Due to rains the course had been changed (ie, lengthened) by about 500m so what would previously have been a comfortable run to beat the train became a nervous dash. On the last steep downhill pinch the guy in front of me took a tumble - crashing down to the ground before rolling and rising straight back to his feet - barely losing a second in the whole manoeuvre. Up to the finish and the clock read 59.08mins which I was very happy with. On the "old" course this would have been closer to 56.53 and - in any event - it was faster than the train. Victory was mine! This never gets old :-)

This year I made sure to get a quick massage before taking the warm option of the bus back to belgrave. Another beautiful morning and a great fast race hit-out. A great end to the week.

Training Program:
Full session details for my whole training plan are here.

Strava links for the week:
Tuesday - Westpac Centre 800's 9.6k @5.00; wet 800's on the odd distance track
Wednesday - Nike Run Club 10k @6.39; cruisy night run
Friday - Tempo 10 13.3k @4.47; another wet day along the Yarra
Sunday - Puffing Billy Great Train Race 13.4k @4.25; fast race!!

Weekly Summary:
Week 5 (this week): 4 runs, 46.3km, 3 hrs 57 mins
Week 4: 5 runs, 71.7km, 6 hrs 24 mins   (biggest week ever!)
Week 3: 4 runs, 57.7km, 5 hrs 9 mins
Week 2: 5 runs, 48.6km, 3 hrs 51 mins
Week 1: 4 runs, 41km, 3 hrs 28 mins
Total: 22 runs, 265.3 km, 22 hrs 49 mins


  1. Paul
    I am delighted to see that you are once again blogging about your preparation for a marathon. I had been very impressed by your preparation and performance for the Melbourne Marathon 2009. It appears you have set yourself a target that is only about 5 minutes slower than your race time this year. You appear to be coping very well with the sessions this time around. I hope the popliteus settles down. I look forward to the remainder of the journey.

  2. Nicely done at Puffing Billy. Good luck with the marathon prep.


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