Thursday, April 20, 2017

New opportunities in a new age-group

I've been racing regularly since the 23:32 5k on March 11, the most pleasing results in non-parkrun events. The first was at Stirling Ridge in a YMCA Runners Club 'summer series' race — 4.85k of muddy single-tracks through bushland adjacent to Lake Burley Griffin. I placed 19th at 5:31 per km pace on a difficult course, feeling like I'd run well. On April 15 I ran in the Wagga Wagga Road Runners event at Pomingalarna Reserve. It was an unexpectedly difficult course with one particularly steep hill that required walking, compensated by long flowing downhills which were fun to run. I placed in the first half of the field, running 36:11 for 6.66k — 5:26 per km pace at an average heart rate of 142. Again I felt like I'd had a good race. Parkrun 5ks have been mostly tempo or progression runs, not enjoying the cold early morning temperatures.

The interval sessions have been careful and modest so far — 1k repeats at 5k to 10k race effort and some 'fast' downhill kilometres at the weekly BBQ Stakes lunchtime handicap run (I'll warm up for the first 2k before running the third mostly downhill km and fifth steeper downhill km fast). My fastest effort has been 4:15 so that's under the 4:20 I surmised would be necessary to be 'comfortable' at 5k goal pace of 4:33 per km.

Next week I move into a new exciting (and daunting) age-group: the 60-64s! For some races it's 60-69, so watch out you 69-year-olds! At the age of 59 it hasn't been easy racing 50-year-olds! For me, 60 doesn't feel that old — physically I feel like I'm in my mid-40s (besides running slower in races) and I'm looking forward to establishing and breaking PBs for the new age-group. Bring on next week!

Runners finishing at Pomingalarna Park
Course map and profile. Hard and fun!

Monday, March 13, 2017

A palindromic and pleasing 23:32 for 5k

In Saturday's Tuggeranong Parkrun 5k I placed 49th with a time of 23:32. I was happy with my race and the time, even though it was only 9 seconds faster than my best 5k time for the year. During the run I felt like I was moving well and I finished strongly (apart from the final 200 metres where Judy and Amy flew by in a blur). This week I backed off the mileage with the purpose of having a 'recovery' week, running 66 km instead of my usual 90 or thereabouts. During an easy 7k lunchtime run on Friday my legs felt tired and ordinary so I was lacking excited anticipation for Saturday morning's race. I hoped to at least have a good tempo run as I completed an exceedingly short (1 km) warm-up, not even bothering to run some strides.

I started about 5 rows back in the chute and my Garmin showed 3s to reach the start line. Being a long weekend in Canberra, numbers were down and I wasn't impeded at all by fast starting runners who slow down after 200 metres of furious sprinting. I overtook Jimmy unusually early (well before 500m) and was running with Sophie through 1k (4:54). She then surged a bit and would end up running 22:55. Surprisingly, my legs were feeling quite good! I followed Judy (running with Amy) to the turn and on the way back, overtook them just before the 3k marker — 4:39 for the second km, 4:43 for the third. I was generally maintaining my position in the field or passing runners (always a good sign). Crossing the footbridge, I was closing on Geoff W (M65) and I covered the 4th km in 4:47. Thought I'd be safely under 24 minutes (yes, I glanced at the Garmin at 4k — something I rarely do) and ran hard past Maccas, overtaking Geoff. I was hurting in the last kilometre (my split would be 4:29) but still sprinted off the little hill into the parkland finish.

On the face of it, 23:32 is a long way off my year's goal of 22:45, but I think I can get there! Racing off to a slightly faster start, say 4:40 through 1 kilometre, would be worth 15 seconds. There's also a gain to be made by lengthening my 'old man's shuffle' stride by running more regular 'strides' sessions and perhaps introducing some controlled interval work into the mix. That's the plan. My only other problem at the moment (no injury niggles — yea!) is day-to-day recovery. Our long hot summer has been very unhelpful to recovery! With the change of seasons, that will improve.

14k with the Speedygeese Sunday long run group

Friday, February 03, 2017

How much speed do I need to run 5k in 22:45?

There's an interesting article published in 2014 on by Jeff Gaudette which addresses the issue of 'Speed verses Aerobic Endurance' — the question of how much short distance speed does one need in order to run a desired time in a longer distance race, be that a 5k or a marathon. John states that 'speed is rarely the limiting factor in how fast you can race, even for a distance as "short" as the 5K.' The limiting factor is aerobic endurance. A runner's 'speed' over 400 metres to 1k is pretty much set genetically. A distance runner's job is to run as close as possible to that speed for the time of the race (which could be as little as 13 minutes for a 5k or longer than 4 hours for a marathon). The 'secret' to fast distance racing is to be aerobically strong enough to hold one's speed for the distance of the race.

John says "there is a limit to how much you can develop your absolute speed. At some point, your body approaches its natural talent point and working to improve speed provides diminishing returns. Luckily, improving your aerobic capacity is virtually limitless." For myself, I still feel like there are big gains to be made in my aerobic capacity, even though I'm now running 80 or more kilometres per week.

So, how fast am I over one kilometre? This is something I haven't tested in a very long time. I think I will though, just to have that information. My guess is under 4:20 (I can run a 4:30 k split in the Parkrun). Now when I was very young (34 or so), I could run a training 1k in 3:09 and ended up racing the 5000m in 17:33 (3:31 per km). My 5k race pace was about 11% slower than my pace for 1k — I wasn't a great 'converter' of my 1k speed into a 5k time. Looking back to those days now, I can say for sure that I hadn't maximised my aerobic ability. A fast runner who was also aerobically strong might be 4 to 5% slower than their 1k speed in a 5k race. That is, if they could run 2:48 'all out' for 1k they could probably hold 2:56 pace for 5k race.

How much speed do I need to run 5k in 22:45? When I was 50 years old I ran 21:29 for the 5000m on the track when I could run 4:00 for 1k in training (about 7% slower for 5k pace than my 1k pace). Extrapolating from this information, presuming I could run 1k in 4:15 and was as aerobically strong as I was in 2008, I could expect to run 5k in 22:44. Now all I need is to be feeling good on a cool, calm day!

Training on the soft grass of Yarralumla Oval on a warm Monday evening

Saturday, January 14, 2017

An age-graded 5k goal for 2017

I've been giving my 2017 running goals some serious thought. The number one goal is to enjoy my running and racing by training consistently throughout the year. This means not succumbing to sickness or injury — easier said than done! My favourite race distance is the 5k and luckily enough I have the opportunity to run a timed 5k every Saturday morning at Parkrun. So, what finishing time should be my goal time?

I've decided to aim for a time that's challenging yet (in my mind) achievable. My recent best (7 January) is 23:51, so obviously something faster than that! My all-time Parkrun PB is 22:31, run nearly two years ago at the Tuggeranong Parkrun. I don't think the pace needed to improve on that time is physically impossible, but the thing that's holding me back from declaring 22:20 or 22:29 as a 5k goal is my terrible track record of achieving yearly running goals. Since 2004 I've only achieved two goals, both related to finishing the 45k Six Foot Track Marathon in fairly modest times.

The Runner's World Age-Grade Calculator is the tool I've used to come up with a 5k goal for 2017. I'd be happy to improve on the 69.8% age-grading that 22:31 represents. The time I've come up with is the equivalent of 18:31 for an open aged runner, which is a time I could run fairly easily in my early thirties. So, the big 5k time goal for 2017 is 22:45 (70.18% age-graded).

I hope everyone is doing well in planning for and going after whatever running goals you have lined up for 2017. I'll be checking your blogs regularly to see how you're progressing. No pressure, but don't let me down!

A few of the 'Speedygeese' that make Monday training fun

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Racing my fastest 5k of 2016

I decided to race as fast as I could at the Tuggeranong Parkrun 5k on Saturday if my legs were feeling up to a hard effort. In the midst of LSD training I never quite know how my legs will feel, even after warming up. For this run I felt about average (somewhere in the middle of the range from dead awful to skin-jumpingly brilliant). I jogged for 2k, some with Dave (an 18:39 5k runner), then lined up in the start chute a little more towards the front than is my habit.

On "go!" from Nick it took me about 2 seconds to cross the start line. Great start! But still many runners ahead, sprinting through the park. I settled into my race pace, my progress a little zigzaggy for the first kilometre. One pleasant surprise — passing Jim after just 500 metres. As I was concerned about time, I glanced at my Garmin at 1k and was a little disappointed to see 4:55. Oh, well... just keep running by effort. I passed Peter after the footbridge, then Judy flew by effortlessly — I thought she'd run around 23 minutes (23:17 as it happened) but I couldn't quite stick with her pace. I glanced again at the Garmin at the turn and saw '12:01' — is that all?!

Returning on the out/back course I was racing runners I was unfamiliar with — Liz was there, some other veteran men and a teenage boy (who would surge every now and then). I added '5' to my time at the 4k mark (19:09) and was happy that I'd run a sub-24 unless the wheels fell off. Scott overtook me coming back into the park but I think my finish was fairly strong (if not an all-out sprint). 23:46 for 50th place! Yes!

If you'd asked me at the beginning of the year would I be excited about such a time, the answer would have been in the negative. My goal back then was 22:00 for 5k but the first 6 months of the year was written off with illness and injury. So to come from 27:26 on 16 July down to 23:46 in December is pretty exciting. Interestingly, both those times were at the same average heart rate of 143, so pretty good evidence that LSD training is working. I'm fitter, enjoying my training AND running faster.
Running out of the park, shortly after the start
A disinterested spectator, 600 metres from the finish
LSD trail run around Mt Stromlo with the Speedygeese

Friday, December 02, 2016

Attempting to perfect LSD training

I'm reading a book by Rich Englehart: 'SLOW JOE: Joe Henderson and his LSD (long, slow distance) writings that changed running' — it's about author Joe Henderson and features his seminal book of 1969, 'Long Slow Distance: The humane way to train.' For those who don't know, Henderson was Editor-in-Chief at Runner's World in 1969, ran his first race in 1958 and ran in university with coaches that believed interval training and hard sessions produced fast runners — the philosophy being 'the only way to race fast is to train fast' and 'running long and slow will make you a long slow runner.'

In high school Joe Henderson didn't finish his first mile race (after a 69 second first lap) and ran 5:25 in his second. He read in Track and Field News and Long Distance Log about how his Olympic heroes trained. The New Zealanders under Arthur Lydiard ran 100-mile weeks so Joe decided to run half that, averaging seven-plus miles a day. In his final high school race he ran the mile in 4:22.2. In university Joe struggled under a regime of intense interval workouts and rather than improving, his time for the mile slowed. He took a month off and during that time, missed running and decided that he never wanted to stop again. He realised that gentle running and LSD training was the only way to make running last beyond university. In his final year he ran 4:18.2 for the mile off LSD training and was in shape to run 4:10 but suffered a calf injury that ended his season.

Joe Henderson discovered that his sweet spot percentage of fast running was between 5 and 10 percent of total weekly mileage. He raced regularly and these races were his fast running. The rest of his 'training' was done at a gentle at 7:30 to 8-minute mile pace (4:40 to 5:00 per km), this for a runner who raced the mile at 2:40 per kilometre. Joe's training in those days is not unlike that of Ed Whitlock now — long easy running with short races as the only speedwork.

I've realised that my training since coming back from the calf injury has been very similar to Henderson's LSD. Long Slow Distance, with regular short races as the only speedwork. I've averaged 92 km per week over the past 4 weeks, with 5 km per week being fast running (usually a Parkrun 5k). I think I'm close to that sweet spot of 5 to 10 % of mileage being fast with the rest being slow or easy. I suspect that for LSD training to work well, one needs to do a small percentage of weekly running fast. You can't leave it too long between fast efforts. If all running is slow for months at a time I imagine it would be difficult to switch on to a fast pace in a race.

My most recent race was an enjoyable 5k on the grass XC track at Stromlo (using the mountain course). I started easily, keeping my eye on the gradually reducing distance to Jim up ahead. I caught him on the U-turn just past the lake after 2k. It was just like the 'miracle mile' of 1954 when Bannister beat Landy — Jim looked over his left shoulder as Landy had done and I passed him on the right like the sneaky Bannister! On the second lap I closed on Natasha but couldn't quite catch up before the finish — 25:37 for her, 25:48 for myself and 26:52 for Jim. It had been a successful and enjoyable race once again.

Enjoying a hilly LSD run with the Speedygeese last Sunday

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Feeling fast at the Fisher's Ghost 5k

Last Sunday (13 November) I was up at well before the crack of dawn, leaving Jim's place at 4.30 AM for the drive to Campbelltown for the Fisher's Ghost Fun Run. This is a very well organised and enjoyable event held on roads within the campus of Western Sydney University. I ran the 10k in 2015 at tempo effort (53:40) but this year decided to race the 5k.

The course is on rolling hills — thankfully only one lap of them for the 5k! It's a tough course, definitely not one for PBs, but good for racing. My goal was to run as fast as possible and finish ahead of Jim! Both races started together and we were positioned about 20 metres back from the front amongst 710 runners and walkers (446 in the 5k and 264 in the 10k). Jim must have run to the inside of the first corner as I lost sight of him. I thought I was comfortably in front. Then at the top of the first climb at 1k I caught sight of him about 50 metres ahead. Sneaky bastard!

I opened up my stride down the hill and drew beside Jim before we commenced the next climb. Without changing my effort I edged ahead and then ran with the fear of the pursued. I breathed a sigh of relief on the out/back section of the course when I saw that I had a significant lead. By this time I was running mostly with youngsters and had a good race over the last 1500m with the girl who finished 3rd in the F10-11 category. She was running with and being encouraged by her father, so that's my excuse when she beat me by 2 seconds in a sprint finish. My chip time was 24:23, with Jim coming home in 26:19. I was happy with the time as Jim reckoned the hills were worth a minute over a regular flat Parkrun 5k.

We waited at the presentations with Norma, who had run the amazing time of 37:24 at the age of 87! Jim placed 2nd in the 60-69s and I was 3rd in the 50-59s so it had been a successful and happy morning for all. My takeaway from the race is that the higher volume training is paying off already. We'll see where my 5k time is in a month or so but I'm pretty sure it will be faster, so that's exciting.

Winners are grinners at the Fisher's Ghost Fun Run
Norma wins the 70+ category at the age of 87!

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Finally, signs of running well again

I raced the Melbourne 10k back on 16 October, enjoying the weekend and catching up with Jo and Stu on race day. My finish time of 52:27 wasn't what I was hoping for when I entered the race in early August. I thought I'd break 50 minutes. Last year I ran 47:39. I was happy with how I raced, feeling strong (if not fast) until the bridge two kilometres out from the MCG finish.

I've been steadily building my mileage and Melbourne was in the midst of that so I may have been a little tired. For myself, I think having a good base of running mileage is important if I want to race well. I've backed off the cycling mileage to 'enjoyment' level — raced the E-Grade Vets' Stromlo Criterium last Tuesday and was dropped from the group early in the 25-minute race. My cycling muscles aren't what they were last year! My running mileage has been 70 kilometres per week for the past month and I can see that rising to 80 or so before holding that level for a while.

I had a very happy Parkrun last Saturday, finally breaking 25 minutes for 5k. 24:38 to be exact — Woohoo! Ran even splits on a calm, cool morning — 5:00, 4:52, 4:55, 4:56, 4:55. Finished 11 seconds behind my rival Jim (who is running well again). This was my fastest 5k race since 23 January when I ran 24:36 for the Bowral Parkrun, which is a harder course than Tuggers. On 9 January I ran 24:01 at Tuggeranong, interestingly at exactly the same 143 average heart rate as Saturday. I'm not quite as fit as I was before the illness and injury problems that have dogged the middle months of the year, but I'm close. Bring on the summer months of racing!

Caught up with Jo and Stu (taking the photo) before the start