Tuesday, August 25, 2015

9 of 16: Consistency

Melbourne Marathon 2015 - Week 9 of 16

After what seems an endless few weeks of up-and-down training my theme for this week is going to be consistency. I'd like to be consistent within each run and from day-to-day. I'd like to have a solid week of feeling good about what I am doing and how I am doing it. I'd like a series of runs where I feel on top of my form - comfortably uncomfortable as some say. And I'd like all of this starting today!!!

Tuesday 25 August

After my great run on Sunday my legs were feeling suitably tired yesterday and even today they were less than zippy. My right calf seems good, but my left achilles is a bit tender and I was somewhat apprehensive about today's sprints. When I looked out of my office window at midday and it was raining it was all I could do to actually drag myself out of my chair and down to the change rooms.

By the time I ventured outside the rain had cleared and it was ok for running. Damp underfoot (obviously) but not cold and a light-moderate breeze blowing. I am sure that on one of these sprint days I will get calm weather, but that was not today.

I headed down to Olympic Park which is becoming a regular now. Last year it was more 'street speed' but this year it is Olympic Park with its weird 520m track. The session was simple and straightforward - 2x 1600m at 6.11-6.26 pace then 2x 800m at 2.57-3.05 pace, all with 1 min rest interval.

Now for a side note about these training paces. My program is a bit two-headed this year, or perhaps even four-headed depending on how you want to count your heads. But I digress! I am following the Furman FIRST program once again but am using the McMillan pace ranges for some of the faster runs. And, to complicate it even more, I started with the 3.15 program and am now trying to use the 3.10 pace targets. Stay with me here as I give you an example ... Furman has a 1600m rep time of 6.11 (3.15 plan) and 6.01 (3.10 plan) whereas McMillan has a range of 6.25-37 (3.10) and 6.16-26 (3.10). Go figure, so that means McMillan reckons I can run slower on his faster plan than Furman has me going on his slower plan. So I have kind of Frankenstein-ed the whole thing and have a 6.11-26 target on my 3.10 plan. All of which is, to say, that there probably is no single road to success!!

All of the above is in the "Training Paces" section of my Training Plan worksheet which is linked below; and each week I look at it again just to be sure of how fast I should be running.

Now, if all of this isn't enough, since I am running on the 520m track my actual interval distances are not 'standard' so today I ran 1560m and 820m which meant I had to do even more time conversions to work out 'equivalent' times for the regular plan. Ridiculous!! Let's be super-simple - I try to run as fast as I can for any rep whilst keeping the times consistent!

Today there was a kids footy match on at Olympic Park (it doubles as Collingwood's training facility hence the odd distance and shaped track) so I had to be careful of balls coming at me as a zoomed around on each rep. The first rep went by in 6.01 which I knew was very quick, right at the top end of expectations. It took a lot out of me. My achilles was in pain and I was doubled over the fence trying to catch my breath during my minimal 1 min rest. Of course, when you are tired the wind seems much worse and I was rather pedestrian in my second rep, doing a 6.15 (aargh)! So much for consistency!!!! These times calculate out to 6.10 and 6.25 for 1600m so bizarrely on plan or close enough to it. I'd have preferred to run a pair of 6.08's but stuffed this up.

On to the 800's (or 820's) and I did 3.10 (OMG, I am getting worse) followed by an acceptable 3.05. These are 3.05 and 3.03 equivalents so again right in the target range but they did not feel good at all. I really struggled with these and on my first day of "consistency" I ran probably my most inconsistent track times for ages. Go figure!

I have ice on my achilles tonight and hope a couple of easier days of running might help it recover.

Wednesday 26 August

Tonight's Nike Run Club run was the last in our eight week Zoom Boom promotion leading into tomorrow night's Fastest Mile event. In the course of this series we have introduced runners to some tempo, fartlek, intervals and the fast mile. It has been a lot of fun and tonight was a more relaxed session with just the mile then running according to our pace plan. We had to make a small detour around William Barak Bridge which was closed off at our normal ramp and so we got in a 'bonus' 500m for the night. It was a good gentle run, and even though I ran with heel raisers I could still feel my left achilles.

Thursday 27 August

Tonight, on a cold and rainy Melbourne evening, we did our Nike Run Club Fastest Mile event at Lakeside Stadium in South Melbourne. It was a bit sad that we had such poor weather because only 20 or so people turned up for what was a fantastic evening. After some warm ups and drills from our coach Mathieu Dore, it was into our fastest mile. We had the legit starters gun and full electronic timing and I led the 8.30 mile group. We set a modest tempo around the track and after 800m I had lost one off the front and all bar one of the rest off the back. With 200m to go I ramped it up slightly to bring my last runner through the line in 8.27. It was a lot of fun - and even the rain and wind died down for the mile. If we could do it all again on a balmy autumn evening it would be just fantastic!

Friday 28 August

It was back to the future on Friday as I did my tempo 7k on this day (just like old times) before I switched it up to a Thursday. I was conscious of a couple of things: firstly that my achilles was still not very happy with life - possibly not helped by now running on it for four consecutive days - and that in a week with the theme of consistency I had run a poor first session and now faced a generally bigger task of running an extended distance at a set pace. The day was somewhat windy but not horrible and I was optimistic that I could "hit the target" for the main set of 7k @4.14-4.20 pace.

I planned my "old faithful" course around the Yarra, incorporating just a 1k warm up before getting into the business. The first 3k were 4.16/16/13 which was good - conservative, not blowing myself up, and I felt in control. The fourth km is a bit harder and takes me up and over the freeway bridge and I was happy to get this done in 4.17. A stock-take at this point and I felt strong, average pace was on target at around 4.15-16 and I believed I could run this one out. The final few km I ran in 4.09 (nice!), 4.15 (up the incline at stop to Chapel St) then a 4.07 to finish off feeling great.

I was really pleased with this run, completing the 7k main set at 4.13m/k so one second faster than the quick end of my target pace. It felt very good going into the weekend with this one done so well.

Sunday 30 August

After my first Saturday ride in a while and another ride down to St Kilda to met instafriend Adam Murphy for this run, I was a bit worried that I may have used up a bit too much energy going into the most challenging long run of the campaign so far. At MP+19 sec/km this was to be a 32k effort at 4.49 pace. This would equal the fastest long run I'd done in training for Gold Coast - and I still have seven weeks (and faster pacing) to come. The plan on this almost pan-flat course was to run easy out to Sandringham (10k), gradually pick up the pace down to Port Melbourne (26k) then steady to the finish at St Kilda (32k). Or, in other words, we'd probably be 20 or so seconds behind target at 10k which we'd gradually reel back in then run the last 6-10k on exactly 4.49 target pace. Time would tell!

This was also the longest run I've done with someone else which meant two things for me. First was the small pressure not to crack (umm, that would be embarrassing) and, second, I suspected chatting away may slow us down somewhat. And so, when we turned at Sandy with 10k done at 4.52 pace (30 seconds behind) it was not completely unexpected.

The next 3k didn't get any better and so I tried to lift the pace so we could pull the deficit back. Unfortunately the next 3k were only covered in 4.46/48/50 so I began to get a bit worried. We had a cross-tail breeze which was 'freshening' as they say and with 16k done we were still averaging 4.51 so I was still 30 seconds back from where I wanted to be. Of course, in the grand scheme of things this is absolutely no big deal, but in my head I wanted my 4.49 pace and so after another 4.49 km apparently (I didn't realise this at the time) I put the hammer down and we ran a 4.38 then a 4.44. We got back to St Kilda now averaging 4.50 which was better, but still 20 seconds off. I was getting concerned.

By now I was really starting to feel tired and the wind became more cross- than anything so it was just hard. My heart rate was rising as it normally does but was still controlled. It was time to step it up. The next 5k went by in 23.47 (4.45 pace) and so for the first time I saw a 4.49 cumulative average on my watch. I was very happy but this had come at some expense. My HR was up to mid-150's and I was only just hanging on. I was really glad to make the final turn at Port Melbourne and be heading back to St Kilda.

At this point I thought back to last week where I ran the last 6k up South Rd and felt good. This would be a much easier course (dead flat) but I definitely didn't feel nearly as good, even though the average pace was the same. We ran these last kilometres pretty evenly at 4.48 pace and I was pretty happy to finish. My heart rate was now over 160 so this effort had come at a toll. Oddly enough, my achilles felt perfectly fine, but I was exhausted. This was a great run to finish and looked perfect on paper, but it wasn't anything like I thought it would be.

The end of a big week, 65k done, and time to look forward again.

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

Strava links for the week:
Tuesday - Watching Footy 8.1k @4.45; 2x 1600m and 2x 800m
Wednesday - Nike Run Club 10.5k @5.30; easy run with magic mile
Thursday - Nike Run Club 4.2k @8.06; warm up, drills and fastest mile (8.30 group)
Friday - Hit The Target 10.4k @4.27; incl tempo 7k @4.13
Sunday - Run With Murphy-Man 32k @4.49; long run ... a bit hard

Week 9 of 16 (this week): 5 runs, 65.2 km, 5 hrs 30 mins
Week 8 of 16: 4 runs, 59.0 km, 4 hrs 57 mins
Week 7 of 16: 5 runs, 55.9 km, 4 hrs 35 mins
Week 6 of 16: 4 runs, 44.1 km, 3 hrs 31 mins
Week 5 of 16: 4 runs, 53.3 km, 4 hrs 21 mins
Week 4 of 16: 5 runs, 65.8 km, 5 hrs 38 mins
Week 3 of 16: 4 runs, 58.3 km, 4 hrs 46 mins
Week 2 of 16: 4 runs, 52.4 km, 4 hrs 30 mins
Week 1 of 16: 4 runs, 50.1 km, 4 hrs 11 mins
Total: 39 runs, 503.9 km, 42 hrs 2 mins

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

8 of 16: Half Way

Melbourne Marathon 2015 - Week 8 of 16

This week marks half way in my marathon training program and by the end of this week I will have a really good sense of where I am placed and how realistic my goal looks. As is often the case for me I have found the first month a little hard as my body adapts to the rigours of sprints, intervals and tempo workouts. By now I am normally well into the swing of things and am looking to increase my target as my fitness improves. But, being a little more optimistic this time, I increased that a couple of weeks ago and so everything still feels pretty hard.

This and the next four weeks are the really big ones. I've got to make them a success!

Tuesday 18 August

I normally run at lunch time these days but my work schedule today meant that I did not get out as planned and so deferred my run until the evening. It was a good night in Melbourne, cool with hardly a breath of wind and so I went down to Olympic Park for my session of 400's. The plan was two sets of 6x 400m in 1.24-27 with 90 sec rest between each rep and 2.30min between sets. Given the odd distance of Olympic Park I would run the 400m then walk 120m during the recovery to complete a full lap.

From the start I felt pretty good. Each rep followed a similar pattern where I'd run strong for about 250m then hang tough for the last 150m. None of them were flat out and I quickly dialled in a pace of about 1.24 for each rep. The range between fastest and slowest was only 4 seconds which I am pretty pleased with.

Unfortunately my calves are still feeling tender and though they are not stopping or hindering me, I certainly know they are there. Would like to get these under control before very long.

Overall, quite pleased with tonights first session for the week, I certainly found the 400's to be far more manageable in pace than the longer 800-1660m reps I have been doing.

Wednesday 19 August

Nike Run Club tonight and another chance for me to lead with my now favourite - and mostly the only - group I run with, the 5.30 pace 10k group. This is a really great team and we normally have in excess of 20 people running with us. This week was the first chance for me to lead with one of our newer leaders, Claire Hodgart, a speedy track athlete; and so I dutifully pointed her to the front of our bunch and off we went!

In addition to our now standard magic mile we did 3x 1k efforts at about 5m/k pace. Most folks did really well with this pace, though a few struggled as we would expect. It has been great to see the general improvement in everyone over the last seven weeks and next week we bring the Zoom Boom campaign to a close with our 'fastest mile' run on Thursday.

Felt  good tonight, though legs still tired.

Thursday 20 August

When I looked out my window at work today I could see a mostly sunny day with a bit of cloud cover. A short time later when I got outside I discovered the rather nasty wind that was blowing and which would make my tempo run along the Yarra another blustery affair.

The prevailing north west wind is essentially behind me on the way out, unfortunately when I am mostly protected by the freeway and bridges, then right in my face when I have nothing but clear water beside me on the return leg. All of which is to say that when you have a crap run you reach into the grab-bag of excuses to help explain why you ran like rubbish!

My legs have not yet recovered fully from City to Surf and I am having good runs followed by bad runs. They are consistently sore, my calves especially. I am walking slowly and today running was a drag. But I was still optimistic of being able to meet my target pace of somewhere between 4.04 and 4.10 for the 5k. After a mile warmup down to Morell Bridge it was into my work.

The kilometre splits really tell the story: the first one was a 4.04 so not super-fast and right on target. I felt ok at this stage. The second was a 4.11, a bit slower, but not outrageously so. The third km takes in the small rises up to Macrobertson Bridge and I slowed here to a 4.20. Not wonderful and getting slower but this is a harder km so I thought I was still good to bring it home fast. Then it went south. Well, actually, I went west, but my times went south! Into varying levels of cross- and head-winds I began to struggle. I had no zip, no power, no nothing; and crawled the fourth km in 4.17; only to get worse and finish the last one in 4.32.

So where I'd hoped to complete 5k in 20.20 or so, I was a rather woeful 21.24. I jogged miserably back to the finish where I hoped I could just crawl into a hole.

What have I learned? I though about this a lot in the final few k's of my run today. I'm not really sure is the short answer. I am not certain what my body is telling me. Perhaps it is just tired and needs some rest and maybe a good massage on the legs to get them going again. Or maybe shifting up the target paces is too much. Maybe I am trying to 'force' my speed to this level, rather than letting it come to me. In any case, I need to monitor this very carefully. My long run on the weekend will tell me an important tale.

Sunday 23 August

My training at the moment is proving to be a real rollercoaster ride and today it was back to a high as I tackled a 29k long run. It was a beautiful day in Melbourne, sunny and hardly a breath of wind, and running was a real joy.

After Thursday's debacle I had left two full days of recovery with not even a bike ride to break the monotony. I slept a lot over those two days and just tried to get my legs into some kind of shape again. I was a little apprehensive when I headed out this morning as I was not sure how I'd feel, but within a km I could sense that I'd be ok. The course was the reverse version of one I did a few weeks ago down to mentone then back along the beach before returning up South Road.

When I look back to my training from years gone by I would rarely have selected a course like this do do my long runs on the basis that any inclines slow you down and the fewer of these the better as I am trying to target a specific pace. These days I'm not so worried and figure that the small undulations just help to make me stronger as I progress towards my goal.

And when it comes to pacing I now usually follow the "Weeks Method" (named after my good mate David who first showed me how successful this can be) and keep an even pace throughout rather than trying to 'bank' time for a late slowdown. On a course like this where the last 6k is reasonably challenging as it rolls steadily upwards it means dealing with both the mental and physical challenge of maintaining pace late in a run. I think this has served me well and should do so again.

I started off very easily with a first km in just 4.59 and gradually picked up the pace over the next 5k, turning onto the beach at Parkdale and passing 10k at a 4.51 average. This was the easy part of the run - feeling fresh and mostly downhill. I knew the next 13k along the beach to South Road would be the tester. I made a conscious effort to pick up the pace a little here even though the terrain is a bit up-and-down through Beaumaris. I did this section at 4.48 pace and so turned up South Road with 6k to go right on my target pace of 4.49.

Now the challenging bit! To run successfully up here I need to lift my effort so that my pace can stay even and on plan. When I look at the data I can see I did just that, upping the HR from 152 to 157 and logging a solid pace of 4.47 for the last 6k. I have rarely run under 30 min for this section and did so today whilst feeling very controlled. I arrived back home with 29k done right on 4.49m/km. I could not be happier with this run; a great end to what started as a good week and had a mid-stream blip just to thrown me off. Next week: consistency!

Training Program:

Full session details for my whole training plan here.

Strava links for the week:
Tuesday - 12x400 Chewy Mints 9.5k @5.35; 12x 400m
Wednesday - Nike Run Club 10.1k @5.29; incl 3x 1k and magic mile
Thursday - O Legs Why Have You Abandoned Me 10.3k @4.45; incl 5k tempo @4.17
Sunday - Sunny Days Are Here Again 29k @4.49; beautiful long run

Week 8 of 16 (this week): 4 runs, 59.0 km, 4 hrs 57 mins
Week 7 of 16: 5 runs, 55.9 km, 4 hrs 35 mins
Week 6 of 16: 4 runs, 44.1 km, 3 hrs 31 mins
Week 5 of 16: 4 runs, 53.3 km, 4 hrs 21 mins
Week 4 of 16: 5 runs, 65.8 km, 5 hrs 38 mins
Week 3 of 16: 4 runs, 58.3 km, 4 hrs 46 mins
Week 2 of 16: 4 runs, 52.4 km, 4 hrs 30 mins
Week 1 of 16: 4 runs, 50.1 km, 4 hrs 11 mins
Total: 34 runs, 438.7 km, 36 hrs 31 mins

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

7 of 16: Re-ignite

Melbourne Marathon 2015 - Week 7 of 16

I am well into the middle section of the marathon training program and it is time to get the big, hard work done. After an easier (?) week last week culminating in the City to Surf race I need to quickly get back into the swing of the full marathon program. The challenge is do this this whilst allowing enough recovery from what is a very tough event and one that tends to trash your legs for a week or so. My mantra this week will be 'Re-ignite' as that is what I feel I need to do to get back onto the main track after my little diversion!

Tuesday 11 August

After Sunday's City to Surf my legs were not yet ready for a hard interval session so I ditched this in favour of a shorter and easier recovery run. There was a bit of a breeze blowing along the river, but it was not so bad once I crossed the road for my easy lap of the Tan Track.

It was a lot of fun to run in the sunshine at no particular pace, just for sheer joy, and my legs felt ok whilst doing it - even if they are still sore once I stop!

Wednesday 12 August

Back to Nike Run Club tonight and another 10k run with the 5.30 group. This week was another big group of around 25 people and we headed via the MCG to Fitzroy Gardens where we completed our magic mile. Then it was over to the Olympic Boulevard and around the Tan to complete our 10k. We also did a solid 4k effort too which really extended the team a little. I could tell it was a challenging pace as the chatter stopped and the breathing became more pronounced. It was a lot of fun as usual!

Thursday 13 August

My legs are still not 100% but they are good enough for this tempo set. Last week's pace changes meant the 9.5k tempo should be at 4.23 m/k but I set a target of between this pace and the previous target of 4.29 with a plan to see how I felt.

Thankfully I felt a whole lot better than last weeks tempo run where I struggled at 4.21 pace. Right from the start I was just under 4.30 and despite a slight diversion at Punt Road because the path was closed, I held a pretty even pace the whole way.

I'd rate my intensity here at about 7 out of 10 so a long way from full gas. It was good to be running reasonably strong. My right calf is a little sore (I felt it twinge on Monday and it hasn't come good yet) and my upper back isn't feeling great either. Minor stuff, just have to monitor it and see how it goes.

I'm looking forward to Sunday's 21k run!

Saturday 15 August

Today in Melbourne was pretty good for winter. The wind was not too bad and the sun was out. I once again bypassed a Saturday ride so that I could do my long run today and get an extra day of rest or a light run in on Monday. The plan was for a 21k run at 4.39 pace (MP +9sec/km). This was by far the fastest planned run I have attempted as a result of me changing up the pace ranges last week. Last year my target marathon pace was 4.40 so this is a big step up and I am going to be wary as I could end up 'racing' my training runs if I'm not careful.

The course I ran was a reverse of the Henry Dendy's Brighton run I did a month back. On that day I struggled my way to a 4.59m/k average and it was not good. To go a full 20 sec/km quicker seemed a big step up. I headed off down South Road and my form was a bit ragged. Some days I feel smooth, and others it just feels a bit less fluid. Unfortunately this was one of those days. I could still feel that my legs were sore/tired from last weeks race so I'm sure that was part of it too.

A slower first km then a couple of quicker ones, then right onto target pace. I turned onto the Beach Rd at just over 6k averaging 4.37 so I was right on target. This part is slightly downhill and I knew the return up North Road might be a couple of seconds slower so this was right where I wanted to be. The good part about the next 3k or so is that it is along the beach path and so you get to see other runners. Sometimes this makes a real difference, just being able to see people out and about and it takes your mind off yourself for a while. Picking up a slight tailwind here my pace increased to 4.36 m/k but still in an ok range.

By 10k I was onto North Road for the long haul back towards home. This is quite an undulating section with some steady rises and also a few short and steep ones. Despite the odd minor downhill it is gradually going up and I was pleased to run at 4.40 pace for this section even if it came with a small increase in heart rate.

Turning onto East Boundary Road and I wanted to pick up the pace but my legs were just tired. Even though it is a net downhill here I was only able to get down to 4.38 m/k and even a last km push only rendered a 4.41 km to finish. Overall this was a hard run on tired legs (with a right calf that is not very happy about life either). Good to get it done, but not 'butterflies and unicorns!'

Sunday 16 August

After a nice bike ride with Brooke this morning to the cafe, on a beautiful afternoon I went out for an easy 5k recovery run. All good. A nice way to end the weekend!

Training Program:

Full session details for my whole training plan here.

Strava links for the week:
Tuesday - Cruisy Tan 7.9k @5.20; easy lap of the Tan
Wednesday - Nike Run Club 9.9k @5.31; magic mile and tempo
Thursday - Down, Around and Back 11.5k @4.34; incl tempo 9k @4.27
Saturday - Reverse Henry Dendy 21.2k @4.38; faster long run
Sunday - Suburban 5 5.3k @5.06; easy 5k recovery

Week 7 of 16 (this week): 5 runs, 55.9 km, 4 hrs 35 mins
Week 6 of 16: 4 runs, 44.1 km, 3 hrs 31 mins
Week 5 of 16: 4 runs, 53.3 km, 4 hrs 21 mins
Week 4 of 16: 5 runs, 65.8 km, 5 hrs 38 mins
Week 3 of 16: 4 runs, 58.3 km, 4 hrs 46 mins
Week 2 of 16: 4 runs, 52.4 km, 4 hrs 30 mins
Week 1 of 16: 4 runs, 50.1 km, 4 hrs 11 mins
Total: 30 runs, 379.7 km, 31 hrs 34 mins

Sunday, August 9, 2015

City to Surf 28

For three-fifths of my life the second Sunday in August has been the annual pilgrimage to Sydney for the City to Surf fun run. Over the years I have travelled on overnight buses to get there (when I was a poor student) and now planes (luxury by comparison). I've stayed in good hotels with my family, dodgy pubs by myself, and at friends homes where we have had pre-race parties fuelled by beer and donuts whilst singing Midnight Oil songs.

The race itself has been a mixed bag too. Early days of learning the course followed by some fast times. Years of turning up undertrained and overzealous and flaming out long before the halfway point at Heartbreak Hill. Times the warm (coming from a Melbourne winter) weather has got to me and even rare cold and rainy days.

I've seen pretty much everything along this course too. Many, many bands – playing ‘Eye of the Tiger’ from the roof of the Golden Sheaf has always been a favourites. The Hari Krishna handing out oranges, kids giving away lollies, the Smurfs and their early morning spirit intoxicated cheering, (too many) people collapsed on the side of the road – some unfortunately never to recover, and more fancy dress costumes than I could imagine.

This race is part of Sydney culture, it is at the core of the Australian running fabric and is renowned internationally as one of the major road races on the world calendar. It has been won by the glitterati of Australian running history – Andy Lloyd, Rob De Castella and Steve Moneghetti leading the charge.

It has changed a lot over the years, mostly for the good, but not always; and in 45 years the race has grown to in excess of 80,000 participants. I have loved every one of my 27 previous participations and looked forward to this year and number 28 as much as ever.

Though I would only have a short stay in Sydney I was lucky enough to be hosted by two of my wonderful Nike Run Club friends, Dean and Shriya, who are both living in Sydney now. I was collected on a glorious sunny Saturday afternoon in their ‘Go Get’ car which all the cool inner-city kids use and whisked away to lunch at The Grounds of Alexandria. This place, a former pie factory, was an array of cafes and carts selling all manner of food and drink. The place was humming and we enjoyed burgers before getting some donuts for a treat. My first Nutella donut and it was marvellous!!!!

I was made to feel very welcome in their city fringe apartment and we chilled out for a few hours before heading off to a little Italian restaurant called Pastabella for dinner. The food was nice but the crowning glory here was the Nutella pizza topped by strawberries and banana (Nutella is a thing these days!). This was simply sensational, no words can adequately describe this tasty goodness. I went to bed a slightly full but very satisfied man.

I slept beautifully and vaguely remember a dizzying array of dreams keeping my slumber entertaining. We woke just before 6 am and after some peanut-butter toast and a cup of tea we headed outside to catch our cab which had been booked the night before. Unfortunately we were a few, ok ten, minutes late and he had justifiably headed off to get another fare. Facing a long walk or an uncertain wait for a bus, my hosts unveiled another of their modern genius inspired ideas and hailed an Uber cab. The guy arrived in about two minutes and we were driven in pleasant comfort to the race start. It was magically easy!

Recent changes to the bag handling procedure meant we needed to drop our clothes off by 7 am and it was good to see that last years baggage debacle had been addressed and we moved swiftly through this procedure. A quick pit stop in the ‘Leaning Porta Loo of Hyde Park’ (I seriously though it would topple over and I'd be covered in … ). A chance meeting of another former Melbourne Run Leader Michelle, another photo opportunity, and we headed down to the start area.

There was little crowd to speak of and Dean and I shimmied our way down right near the front while Shriya hung over the fence for a chat before moving off to her start area. The last 45 minutes before the start passed quickly as the sun rose above the tree tops, defrosting our cold hands and legs, and entertainment played out on the big screens. When the preferred and later, seeded, runners move in at the front we get the opportunity to move forwards, seeking our way to the intersection and only ten rows back from the front. 80,s retro aerobics warm-up, the National Anthem, a countdown, helicopters overhead and the starters gun fires. We were off!

It is maybe 10 seconds before we cross the timing point for the official start of our proceedings and we run down Park Street towards the Kings Cross tunnel. This part of the course is a great downhill and many a fast time has been kiboshed by running like the clappers down here only to feel the burn a kilometre later. Today one guy felt the burn as he tripped whilst trying to run past people by skipping up on the kerb. Ouch!

Though Dean and I had started side by side, we were parted soon after in the melee. Heading up into the tunnel we were briefly reunited before Dean moved ahead. My plan was reasonably simple – run hard but conservatively and use my endurance to run strong in the back half of the race. I knew the uphills would not be my friend, but equally the downhills would offer me a chance to run more aggressively and pull back time.

Up and over the hill to Edgecliff and I was feeling good, except I had a big urge to make another stop for ‘number twos’ and this hindered my free running style somewhat. I made the decision to keep going and not stop at all costs, hoping there'd be a ‘De Castella Sponge’ on course if the need arose.

At three kilometres after another steep downhill we run past the Golden Sheaf Hotel which, on this day of go-to-whoa bands and entertainment was bereft of their band. Very sad, they were missed by many!

The next 1500m is a series of small rollers and I maintained a good rhythm here though noticed I was getting passed by smaller and lighter runners including one ten year old looking kid who I'd first seen not long after the start. I don't remember passing Dean but somewhere along here I did and headed into the only flat section of the course at Rose Bay in good shape. I was running all the tangents on the course in an effort to save seconds, even if this meant crossing from one side of the road to the other.

I'd also made the decision not to take any drinks as the weather was not too warm and I tried to draw some breath for Heartbreak Hill which begins right at the 6km mark. There is no avoiding the difficulty of this hill. It is steep for one kilometre and continues on for another kilometre before you get any respite. As the saying goes “it never gets easier, you just go faster” and so I consoled myself in the knowledge that even though it felt as hard as ever, chances were I was running ok! I felt like I crawled up the steep section, but in reality I zig-zagged my way up here at 5.22 m/k pace. About a third of the way up Dean roared past, tapping me on the back and offering encouragement. I fear I only grunted in acknowledgement.

Eventually I reached the top and enjoyed a small downhill as we approached 'cemetery corner,' a tight right hand turn on a steep 40m hill. I was surprised to catch back up to Dean at this point and offered a reciprocal tap as I went by. I didn't expect my stay at the front to last long!

This section of the course is quite varied. A series of left and right turns, some nice downhill with a few short and steep climbs punctuate the road up to the high point on the course at about 10.5km. I was still running strong and was looking forward to the big downhill into North Bondi. Soon enough it was upon us and I zoomed through this section, doing the fastest 2k’s on the course in 3.54 and 3.48.

Right at the bottom of the hill I saw a guy in the hands of medical staff as he lay prone on the ground. Over the years I think I have seen more people in trouble at this point than any other. Perhaps it is the sight of the finish which puts their psyche into overdrive and their bodies into reverse.

It is still 1000m to the finish from here and the road at Campbell Parade bends to the left as it rises imperceptibly to the eye, but agonisingly so for the weary body. I focussed on running strong all the way to the finish and took the sharp left hand u-turn onto the last straight before looking up to the clock and seeing that I would be good to finish under the hour.

A final burst of energy and I crossed the line in 59.35 which was only a handful of seconds slower than last years amazing time. I was very happy and only had to wait a few seconds before Dean crossed the line too. As we congratulated each other we saw more Sydney run leaders Tom and Ganesh finish too. Very cool. Another photo ensued!!

We moved around to the baggage area, collected our things and sat down to wait for Shriya to finish her race which she had started in a later wave. It was here that I got to meet former Melbourne run clubber Brendan and his sister; and Sydney head coach Rachel. Cool.

When the time came to get up my legs reminded me that they were very sore and tired, and they begrudgingly carried me along the shore so we could cross the road to a café and brunch. Mmmmm. It was then off to a local watering hole to meet the Sydney crew for some beers and stories. This was heaps of fun and we shared a good laugh or ten before Dean and I walked back to Bondi Junction.

A short train and bus ride later and we were back home for a shower and some chill-axing before I made my way back to the airport for the trip home. It was a super fun trip and a wonderful way to spend time with like-minded friends. For now it is time to get my legs back in order and continue the hard training ahead for Melbourne Marathon!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

6 of 16: Changes

Melbourne Marathon 2015 - Week 6 of 16

After five weeks of the program I have decided to recalibrate my training times towards achieving a 3:10 marathon which is an even 4.30m/k pace. I am really confident that I can achieve this time. My long runs are going well and I'm generally running faster than at an equivalent time last year. I am confident of hitting the long run paces and I will use the McMillan pace targets for my intervals as these are a little more generous than Furman (translated: I can actually do these)!

I am adopting the changes from this week and will monitor this for the next month to see how I am going.

Tuesday 4 August

First up session with the new times was a track set. Today I was working from home which gave me the opportunity to head out for a late lunch down to the Moorabbin Athletic Track (G R Bricker Reserve). It's a fairly desolate place down there and I have almost never seen another runner, just the odd person walking their dog ... off the leash which drives me nuts but that's another story!

Today was another cold and windy day in Melbourne and I didn't really warm up too much for the whole session. It was a stiff headwind in one direction down the back straight and a tailwind home. I'm not sure this cancels out and it certainly felt hard.

The set was 2x 1200m in 4.31-47 (McMillan gives a range) and 4x 800 in 2.57-3.05, all with a 2 minute rest interval. My target, given there is a range of times, is to be somewhere in the middle. The 1200's were remarkably even (and in the middle!) at 4.38 and 4.37. They were comfortably hard, the long rest was appreciated. On to the 800's and I should be able to run under 3 mins, but ran these in 3.01/05/05/02, so on target but slower than I'd hope.

All things considered, this was a good start to my revised plan. Yippee!

Wednesday 5 August

This week at Nike+ Run Club I was able to run once again with one of my favourite pace groups - the 10k 5m30s group, this time with Vanessa as co-leader. We had a crew of over 20 with many regular faces which makes for a great atmosphere. As part of the Zoom Boom campaign we are running a variety of different paces within each run. Tonight, after the warm up, was 1 min harder/1 min easier then 2h/2e and so on up to 5h/5e. Of the harder bits we were normally around 15s/km faster than the target average pace of 5.30, so somewhere around 5.15.

After completing this series of efforts we re-grouped at the top of Anderson Street for our "magic mile" which I think a lot of people have come to enjoy. The way I approach this is to run near the front and try to encourage and cajole people along at whatever pace they wish to do. For a 5.30 group, this team was fast and we cranked out a mile in 7 min (4.20 pace). Just wow!!

Once again, I was a very happy and proud run leader, as these folks continue to extend themselves.

Thursday 6 August

Today's session was an 8k tempo run with a target pace of 4.14. After completing a shorter 6k effort last week at 4.10 pace I expected this one to be manageable. I decided to run up and down on the north side of the Yarra, thus avoiding a road crossing and likely traffic light stop at Chapel Street. After a 1k warm up the plan was to run at 4.18-19 on the way out then pick it up and run 4.09-10 on the way back. Simples!

Outbound I was right on pace with 4.18/21/18/19 for those k's. I was aware that this did not feel especially easy and feared I was running with whatever wind there was behind me. Turning around and the next km was also in 4.19 though this is over the 'undulating' part of the course so I thought was ok. But when I tried to pick up the pace there was nothing. My legs felt flat and empty and had no zip at all. The next couple of km's were in 4.24 and 4.22 so I was going backwards and when I tried to run a really hard last km it only came out as a 4.26. This was so depressing and I finished the 8k at the ordinary average of 4.21.

I took the unprecedented step of getting on the foam roller on Thursday night (I'm not really a fan of that thing) and am desperately trying to recover something ahead of Sunday's City to Surf.

Sunday 9 August

Today was my 28th City to Surf and after the disastrous run I had on Thursday I was not confident on how I'd go. As it turned out I had a very good race, slightly slower than last year but still under one hour which is a fantastic time for me.

I have posted a separate race report for this event.

Training Program:

Full session details for my whole training plan here.

Strava links for the week:
Tuesday - G R Bricker 10.1k @5.12; 2x 1200m and 4x800m
Wednesday - Nike Run Club 10.0 @5.25; incl 1-2-3-4-5 harder/easier and magic mile.
Thursday - Tempo 8 10.0 @4.31; incl 8k @4.21
Sunday - City to Surf 13.95k @4.16; hard race!

Week 6 of 16 (this week): 4 runs, 44.1 km, 3 hrs 31 mins
Week 5 of 16: 4 runs, 53.3 km, 4 hrs 21 mins
Week 4 of 16: 5 runs, 65.8 km, 5 hrs 38 mins
Week 3 of 16: 4 runs, 58.3 km, 4 hrs 46 mins
Week 2 of 16: 4 runs, 52.4 km, 4 hrs 30 mins
Week 1 of 16: 4 runs, 50.1 km, 4 hrs 11 mins
Total: 25 runs, 323.9 km, 26 hrs 59 mins

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