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. ;-)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The lab rats

The AIS has been conducting some research looking at the combined effects of sleeping at altitude and training in the heat. Two good friends who are both more youthful and athletic than me (and therefore eligible to be part of the study) became 'lab rats' for 3 weeks as they participated in this study. The general gist is they stayed in a low oxygen house for at least 9 hours per day (essentially sleep and meal times) and had treadmill training sessions in the heat. Other than that, they were told to maintain their normal training. It made sense that 1 week after completing the study they would see a big increase in performance (more blood volume). Sure enough, we got to witness this at Gungahlin parkrun on Saturday. Lou ran an all time 5k PB 18:57 (age grade 78.28%) and Stu ran his best parkrun time 16:51 (age grade (85.46%). The results from the study are still being analysed. For both Lou and Stu, they lost body fat despite eating well (not that Stu ever had much to lose!), so no doubt the weight change was also an assisting factor in their performance. They are both lining up on 27 September for the Centenary 101 teams challenge, combining with Elizabeth (another lab rat) and DaveO (a freak of nature) to take on Vince Puffy, Jackie F, Vanessa H and Tom Brazier. Can the lab rats hold their form and win the event? It's going to be a great contest, one not to be missed!
Speedy lab rats
Back in the real world with normal oxygen and cool conditions, I'm still plodding away running 3 sessions a week, as well as doing a bit of cycling. I still can't convince the muscles to run much distance and so I continue to chip away with short sharp sessions of running interspersed with easy cycling. It is far from an ideal running training programme, but at least there is some subtle improvement. Inspired by the lab rats, I managed a Gunners parkrun PB. There is still some work to do to catch my Gindy PB, but at least the time is heading in the right direction.

Friends parkrun results

1          Stuart DOYLE*           16:51              VM45-49        85.46 %        
3          Louise SHARP*          18:57              SW30-34        78.28 %        
4          Bede WEBSTER         19:08              VM50-54        77.09 %
27       Janene KINGSTON     23:06              VW50-54       72.58 %
82       Skye FRUEAN             32:53              SW30-34        45.21 %        

Thursday, September 4, 2014

If only the Garmin was right!

The new Garmins on the market have some neat features for the technically driven runner. These include information about running cadence, ground contact time and body movement. They are also programmed to calculate a VO2max estimate and use this to predict potential race times. Given where I am these days, I sure wish what my Garmin has been telling me was true. It currently has my VO2max at 48 ml/kg/min and as a W50, this ranks me in the 'superior' range. Not only that, it presently predicts I could run a sub 22 min 5K. Last week is was predicting a sub 23 min 5K, but my effort at parkrun did not get even close. The VO2max estimate is an algorithm from Firstbeat technologies. I've found that the value drops after a tough session and then increases after an easier session.
Running 'metrics' from an intervals session
They say that fast runners have high cadence and less ground contact time. So is it the chicken or the egg? My cadence is quicker and I spend less time on the ground when I'm running faster. I'm guessing most people would find the same thing, when comparing slower paces to quicker paces. Question is, could a slow runner get faster by simply changing the way they run? Maybe yes and maybe no, it would be an individual thing. But hey, it's lots of fun looking at all the graphs and numbers. I wonder when that race time predictor will get it right? Time will tell ;-).

Sunday, August 3, 2014

'Secret' overseas training

Saturday saw a Gungahlin parkrun PB. Not sure where that came from! It must have been all the secret overseas training in hot and sunny Europe. Actually, there weren't that many running opportunities. And for the few taken, it was really just to make sure that the legs had a few gentle sessions to keep them ticking over. In particular, a favourite was a morning run along the Mosel river when staying in the small village 'Piersport'.
Run route along the Mosel and amongst vinyards near Piersport
Maybe it was all the carbo loading from all the Riesling consumed ;-).

There were no big expectations for the first Parkrun back from holidays. Simply run by feel and see how things panned out. Conditions were good, cold, but clear and no wind. The focus was on 'running tall' and trying to drive from the hips. At the 2 km point, it all seemed to click and the run went well, finishing in 23:13. The glutes seemed to work better than they have been. Maybe all the squats and painful trigger point work on the hip flexors are starting to help. Time will tell.