Sunday, January 25, 2015


The trail running continues with Black Mountain being the running ground of choice (due to close proximity to work). It is probably a combination of a softer surface for the muscles and having the mind distracted by heat and hills that sees less awareness of 'fatigue'. I still think much of the fatigue is a mental thing.  It's become an expectation after 4 years!
Beautiful Black Mountain - place of awesome running trails
It would be easy to get excited by these recent consistent runs. It has been a long time since I've consistently strung together regular 10km runs. Certainly this is the best its been for 2 years. The question remains, can one tolerate both distance and a bit of intensity in a regular running week? It's probably a question that doesn't need to be answered just yet as there is some travel on the horizon that will disrupt training.
Now that sounds like my kind of trailblazing :-)
A test parkrun at Gungahlin (in 23:38) on 17 January 2015 was tough going, and I pulled up pretty sore for a couple of days with increased tiredness for the following week. That's probably a good enough indication to hang back and stick with trailblazing. The long run is up to 14kms and probably doesn't need to get much longer until pace gets better. Except my OCD behaviour is being encouraged by Smashrun (and Strava)- help!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Running on trails - brain training

Before I moved to Canberra I was a 'road runner' and lamented the fact that Canberra didn't have a road running club. The clubs around Canberra use a lot of trails and some of the bike paths to run their events. Trails were hard, there were 'hills' and 'uneven surfaces' to deal with. It took me a while to accept the trail running gig. When I did (back before my fatigue issues) I saw big improvements in my running and I started to relish doing my long runs on the local trails.

For some, trails pose a problem with falls. Cathy can tell you all about doing a 'CJ' and Ruth recently reported on her worries with running on trails. The thing is, as we get older one of the best things we can do for our brains is to challenge them to keep them young. This includes challenging our balance mechanisms. When older people fall they often make the mistake of thinking it is better to look down at their feet to keep steady on their feet. This actually makes it harder for the brain to get balance right and these people then fall more and get more and more timid with their mobility (see Chapter 24 in Dr Michael Merzenich's book - Soft-Wired). Sure, we don't want to fall and hurt ourselves, but the best thing we can do for our brain is to keep challenging it on awkward terrain (or even on cobblestones), by looking up and ahead rather than down at our feet all the time. Look ahead and plot your course, keep the brain active and engaged. Not only does running on trails make us stronger by working different muscles and by doing some some hills, it challenges the aging brain.

Little Black Mountain circuit - from work
I finally got out on a favourite running trail during the week. My fatigue and training intolerance has stopped me doing this one as it's a hardish climb at the start. As I've been feeling better the last few weeks I took advantage and headed out to Little Black Mountain circuit for a lunch time run. It was bliss to be out there again. Interestingly as I was heading back down the long climb, another runner I caught up with was complaining that the trail was too rough after all the storms we've been having. I reminded him that it's great training for our brains. Lovin' the trails :-).

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A nice start to 2015

Things were looking pretty grim at the end of last year, like the air had been let out of all of my tyres. A good distraction from running has been continuing with regular cycling (tyres fully inflated). After volunteering at the Hartley Challenge and watching the riders ascend to Charlotte Pass, particularly a very large chap who would have done it hard up any hill, I set myself the challenge to ride some hills. Like running, hills on the bike are not my forte! So this was no easy challenge. Each year Canberra has an event called the 5 Peaks Challenge (soon to be the 6 Peaks Challenge if they get approval for Diary Farmers Hill) which involves riding up the various 'hills' around Canberra. People pay money to do this! Could I manage to ride up all 5 peaks? With the ever looming fatigue in the background, I took the simple approach of starting with 1 peak and building up to 5 over several weeks. It made sense to do the hardest climbs first, where possible and then finish with the easier peaks. Week 1 - Stromlo; Week 2 - Red Hill and Stromlo; Week 3 - Mt Ainslie, Red Hill and Stromlo; Week 4 - Black Mountain, Mt Ainslie, Mt Pleasant, Red Hill and Stromlo.

Mission accomplished - Garmin shows all 5 peaks ascended
The good news is there have been no major signs of fatigue. Sure the legs were well and truly trashed for a few days following 5 peaks, but they recovered. Even better, with the start of 2015, I've been able to do a series of 11k runs and feel okay (factoring in it's been HOT and there were some hilly sections in the runs). I'm not sure what to make of this recent improvement in form. Is it a secret present from Santa, being relaxed after some time off work or is it the lack of vino since NYE (the liver needs some time to recover!)? Wouldn't it be great to be back to normal?! Alas, there have been times over the last few years where things have looked positive only to see the problems return. I remain ever hopeful, but ever wary. Lets see what the next few weeks bring :-).

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Finishing 2014 with a whimper

There were times in 2014 when it seemed, just maybe, that things would turn around. However, as 2014 draws to an end, it seems it's all ended in just a whimper. Run times have stagnated, long runs are a distant memory (ha ha, a pun) and a resolution of this odd training intolerance phenomenon has not been forth coming. Could it be that for some people as they age, their wheels well and truly fall off? It will remain one of life's mysteries.
Who knows what 2015 will bring. One thing is for certain, I'm not getting any younger. Over and out for 2014. Wishing you all the merriest of Christmases and a most wonderful 2015.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A running teeter totter

There's been a fair bit of fatigue to contend with since returning from the US. On the plus side, the muscles are not tight and uncomfortable, the fatigue is more of a general malaise, similar to what it was like when it all began way back when (it's been nearly 4 years!). I think the reintroduction of deep (light) weighted squats has rebuilt lost muscle strength, limiting muscle fatigue in those major running muscle groups. Even the iron levels are pretty good, ferritin was up to 90 when last measured in September. There just remains this unexplained blah that prevents me from being able to build up any running distance, limits me to 3 runs/week and on some days makes me question why I even bother when it feels so hard to run a slowwww 5km. No doubt age is a factor, but it doesn't explain the inability to gradually build up a long run. My doctor and I are currently experimenting with HRT. There have not been any indications that it is assisting the exercise fatigue, but at least the night sweats are gone and sleep quality has improved!
Since returning from the US, I have run a couple of parkruns. The run on 1 November was a shocker and wasn't helped by the wind. But the body felt very fatigued and it performed accordingly! Today there were excellent running conditions and fatigue wasn't an issue. But the start was a tad quick and for some reason I had breathing difficulties (hay fever?). Splits were 4:28 (HRav 147); 4:37 (HRav 161); 4:39 (HRav162); 4:52 (HRav 162); 4:37 (HRav 163) - total time 23:16. HR shows it was an honest run despite the breathing issues.
Gungahlin parkrun 1 November, the end is in sight!
It was also nice to attend my first YCRC 5km event last Tues, the first time in ages, so nice to see many familiar faces. That was a training run of 4 x 1km intervals with jog recoveries. There was a great 2nd km (4:20 pace) but that was not sustainable and I reeled it in to a more realistic pace for the remaining 2 intervals. Interestingly even after a day off, the next run was an extreme struggle and training was abandoned for that day. So yep, it's like sitting on a teeter totter (a bit of US language carry over ;-) ). Who knows where it is all heading. But I still pine for those wonderful trail runs of old .........

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Running in Kansas City

A trip for work saw me head to Kansas City, Missouri. Such trips generally don't make it easy to fit in any running, but before leaving Australia, the hotel advised that it would be busy over the weekend due to the Kansas City marathon scheduled for Saturday 18 October. Fortunately there was a 5k event on offer. Depending on the degree of jet lag, I planned to place a late entry if I felt okay on Friday 17 October. The event was ideal as it started at 7:20 am, so it wouldn't interfere with my reason for being in KC. I had Thursday 16 October as a free day to allow some time to recover from the flight over. I was able to get in plenty of sunshine to reset the clock as well as an afternoon run. On Friday I felt sufficiently good enough and placed a late entry. Even if it was a total disaster, the souvenir shirt was quite nice.
Nice New Balance running top

The 5k run went as well as could be expected, sleep the night before was pretty restless. There was a bit of a climb to contend with at the start, so starting pace was a bit sluggish. I started fairly close to the front of the field and was surprised when I wasn't being regularly overtaken. Indeed I came in 55th overall (out of 954) and was 9th woman out of 574. Splits were 4:43; 4:44; 4:25; 4:34: 4:39; 0:24. HRav 154bpm. Clearly the talented runners were taking part in the half and full marathon events. Looking at the course profile and the times, yes that is where they were all hiding.

The rest of the time in KC I managed to hop on a hotel treadmill each morning to keep the legs turning over. This was a great way to test the Garmin, which uses its various motion sensors together with accumulated running data to predict the distance for each indoor session. Overall it did pretty well.

Back in Australia, it is now time to recover from jet lag and see how well the muscles handle the summer. Step one, a bit of marshalling at parkrun.
Parkrun marshal with the faithful 'Betsy' by my side, and tail runner Ledy

Monday, October 13, 2014

Stuck in 4th gear

The motor (aka cranky muscles) isn't working well at the moment. It feels like there should be at least another 1-2 gears, but finding those gears is proving challenging. Admittedly there have been some of the usual cranky muscle signs messing with training, so that doesn't help. I headed over to Gindy parkrun last Saturday, mostly to be there to cheer Kikka when they announced her position in the '50' Club. However, it was also nice for a change of scenery and to catch up with some familiar faces.
Kikka - another parkrun Club 50 member
 The conditions in Canberra on Saturday were perfect running conditions, cool and windless. I was well slept and rested and felt pretty good during the warm up. Alas when it came to the run, I couldn't get out of 4th gear. It's been a similar finding in recent training, with the 4:40 min/k proving a popular 'rev' zone for the legs. For the Gindy parkrun I finished in 23:42 something like 4:40, 4:39: 4:40; 4:57 and 4:44 to average 4:44 for the 5km. There was no coaxing the legs to go any faster and that's been the case with recent 1km reps. 4:40 is about as good as it gets. All the intervals sessions are based on feel (aiming for a pace that feels sustainable for 5km).

With this latest stint in 'Groundhog day,' today some 400m reps were needed to see if I could, even briefly, shift into 5th gear. Good news is that yes, a slightly quicker pace was possible. Bad news is it was very hard to stay in 5th gear and there were no signs it was a sustainable gear change! Average pace for 6 reps of about 430m were 4:22; 4:10; 4:11; 4:11; 4:13; 4:14. I stuck with just 6 reps as the effort was not sustainable. With more travel on the horizon, there won't be much training opportunity. Hopefully just enough time on the hotel treadmill to keep the legs ticking over. It sure would be nice to see a similar parkrun outcome as when I returned from my travels to Germany. Unfortunately as this is a trip for work, there won't be a lot of time for relaxation and I don't think US Riesling will have the same 'medicinal' qualities as those of Germany. ;-)