Tuesday, November 29, 2011


As it turns out, I opted out of the Handicap on Sunday. My calf and achilles were both feeling just a bit dodgy and I was also feeling quite tired after my increased training efforts. With lots of rain I was concerned about the impact the handicap course could have on my right leg niggles. I'd rather 'give it my best shot' when I'm not nursing an injury. This sets me up for potentially a great start to 2012, when I can run that January event off my current handicap. In theory I should be even speedier by then.

As it turns out, the handicap had a very worthy winner of Jim White. Jim has run over 200 handicaps without ever winning a medal. It was great to finally see him 'break through'! Also good to see Roger win the bronze and to take out the Thomas Series point score for 2011. Roger has had a very consistent year and is a worthy winner of the point score. It was also good to see Katie score lots of loot for winning Queen of the Mountain, equal 1st in the Frylink point score and third in age%.

Jim White (centre), David Wallis (left) and Roger Pilkington (right)

Latest training:
Friday - an easy run with ~800m progression finish (7.2K total)
Saturday - tried to do an early run and really struggled, felt quite tired ~8K
Sunday - skipped the handicap and headed out for a PM 'long' trail run of 10.9K @~5:50min/K pace. Definitely feeling tired, glad to have not run the handicap
Monday - took a rest day
Tuesday - Intervals
4 x 400m 91, 89, 90, 91 - 2 min passive recovery between intervals
4 x 200m 42, 43, 42, 43 - 1 min passive recovery
4 x 100m 19, 19, 20, 20 - 30 sec passive recovery
With warm up and cool down total distance ~7K
The day off made all the difference, I felt good during the session. And no niggles to speak of.
It's also good to see me making progress by being able to do quicker intervals with each session.

Thursday at Track there is the 3000m and a 7 lap spiral. I don't have any plans other than to run by feel. If I feel strong I'll see what pace I can hold for the 3000m. I wonder if Ewen will be there to help push the pace in the 3000m? :o)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A name change .......

There has been a remarkable improvement after nearly 2 weeks of liquid iron supplementation (in addition to 1 month of iron tablets). All the muscular discomfort and fatigue I felt when running appear to have disappeared. That said, the sorbitol in the liquid iron supplement does not agree with my gut! I'm going back to tablets once I get through my supply of liquid iron!  I do still get tired, but in a more 'normal' feeling way than I have had to endure for the last 12 months or so. Yes, happy 1 year anniversary Mr Fatigue Monster, I'm sorry but this relationship seems to have finally reached its conclusion.

The track session in spikes last week has left my right calf feeling just a little suspicious. I suspect there are some microtears given the extent of the scarring from the injury in 2010. I'll steer clear of the spikes for a little while and allow the right gastocnemius time to heal and adapt.

Latest training:
Saturday - 10 x 100m hill repetitions in quite hot conditions. I completed them just fine. Total distance was 5.4K with the warm up and cool down.
Sunday - 10.4K trail run that ended up being @ 5:40 min/K pace with avHr of 138 bpm. Normally I have been averaging 6+ min/K on this loop. It was meant to be an easy run and indeed it was despite the increased pace. No muscle discomfort at all!
Monday - 8 x 400m repetitions. I was aiming for 6 @ 96 sec and then 2 @ 93 sec. Actual times were 99, 96, 94, 97, 96, 95, 92, 92. A bit better than the last time I did this session. I felt fine and did not suffer any fatigue :o). Total distance including warm up and cool down was 8.1K
Tuesday - an easy 5K that didn't feel so easy! No doubt the preceding few days left me feeling a bit tired & flat. A good thing Wed was a scheduled day off.
Wednesday - rest day.
Thursday - This track session confirmed that I am on the road to recovery. I knocked another 22 seconds off my 3000m time, managing to get that 13 min monkey off my back and finish in 12:50. I also ran in the 1500m hopeful of a sub 6 min. However, a sub 6 was not to be, I very much felt that 3000m in my legs on the last lap. Time was 6:07. I heard Ewen sitting right behind me the whole way. ET, I needed you to pass me and set the pace!! Based on the 3000m time I should be able to go under 6 min for the 1500m. I'll try and do one on fresh legs next time. I should mention the awesome Heidi Johnston who ran a PB for the 1500m in 5:14, she just flew! Well done Heids. It won't be long before she starts knocking on the 5 min door! The lovely Gary Bowen managed a speedy 5:12 after arriving thinking he was running an 800m. Great run Gaz.

The ACTVAC handicap is on Sunday. I'm on a good handicap at present. I will indeed give it my best shot!

Friday, November 18, 2011

More heart required!

After taking Wed off as a well deserved rest day, I fronted up at track on Thursday armed with new spikes and the goal to run the 800m. I jogged 1600m as a warm up and then donned new spikes for several run throughs at intended pace (22sec/100m). The spikes felt good. Alas there was a delay in the start and I probably let myself cool down too much before the race. As is always the way, the seasoned 800m runners took off at a cracking pace and I quickly slotted into last place, where I remained for the whole race. It was a race of 2 groups, the super speedy ones at the front and then the three of us bringing up the rear. I did my best to hang with the other two, but couldn't really find my rhythm. However, I did manage to sneak in under 3 min @ 2:58. That's 8 sec quicker than the 800 I ran a few weeks back. As it turns out I really didn't run that hard as my HR only got up to the low 160s. When I'm really racing I manage 170+. This is what confuses me about my anaemia! I'd be expecting to see a high HR, but as it turns out I'm not able to get to my usual racing HR Hmmmmm?!

Today Fri, I headed out for a lap around LBG. The first time I've been able to run the central basin for quite some time as I've been wanting to keep the distances down to 5-6K. The little program I'm following called for a 5-7K run today, so I thought I may as well try 7K. It was quite warm and I was expecting it to be a bit of a struggle. Instead I was pleasantly surprised to run comfortably averaging 5:20K/min pace with HRav 138bpm. It could well be that 1) the change in training approach is working and 2) the iron supplements are starting to boost body iron and Hb levels. I haven't felt that good running in heat for a very long time!

I thought I had managed to run in spikes without much musculoskeletal impact. Alas when I cooled down from my lunch time run, the calves were a bit sore and tight and I suspect I did a bit of heel striking with my left foot as my heel is mildly sore. The scarred right calf is the sorest of the two, not surprising all things considered. I think it is more a DOMS thing.  I'll see how they feel over the weekend. Hill reps on Saturday and a 'long' run on Sunday.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The waiting game (or is that crying game?)

It is good to have a potential explanation for at least some of my running fatigue. However, it also opens up so many questions. Probably the most pressing is how long will it take to know if low iron has been a major factor? Treatment guidelines suggest a good 3 months of treatment with 100mg daily using a liquid iron supplement. However, there isn't much to suggest boosting iron will increase performance, other than via correcting the anaemia. I wasn't anaemic early in the year, but would have been iron deficient. I'm not able to identify any specific research that points to marked muscular fatigue associated with iron deficiency. Yes anaemia causes fatigue, but I wouldn't describe most of my symptoms as being consistent with anaemia. Of course, it is easy to over think it. That's what us academic types like to do!

In the meantime, really all I can do is treat the deficiency, keep training and keep hoping that I will shortly have to rename this blog!

Training since my last entry:
Saturday - 9.3K around Mt Ainslie @ 6 min/K pace. All okay except for the hills (I'll blame that on the anaemia ;o) ).
Sunday - Compound 800m x 3; these were 600m @ ~1500m pace and 200m @~800m pace. As they were run on grass, the effort was RPE rather than speed. 5 min passive recovery in between each one. 1.2K warm up and 800m cool down at slow jog. Total = 4.2K
Monday - easy 5K, tired + DOMS from gym session on Saturday, so this was especially slow.
Tuesday - 4 x 400m (98, 94, 93, 94) with 2 min passive recovery each interval; 4 x 200m (43, 44, 43, 44) with 1 min passive recovery; 4 x 100 m (20, 20, 20, 20) with 30 sec passive recovery. Gentle jog for warm up and cool down. Total distance 6.7K. Saw the awesome duo of Katie and Amanda doing speedy intervals while I was out doing the Tues session.

Not a lot of choice at track this coming Thursday as there are no 3000m events and there is a 1 hour run at the end of the night. I'll try the 800m and try spikes for the very first time ever, ever, ever. Could be good for a laugh!

New speedy spikes.

Friday, November 11, 2011

All ironed out?

I've done a little research on iron deficiency and am quite surprised by some of the studies that have been performed. Most interesting is the focus on plain and simple iron deficiency regardless of Hb status. Even more curious is the potential difficulty in getting a true assessment of tissue iron levels. This is not unlike some of the difficulties faced with accurately assessing intracellular ions, such as potassium and magnesium. As Ewen suggested, it is possible that this low iron thing has been around for a while. My last series of lab tests showed borderline ferritin levels (at the bottom of the range, but still deemed 'normal'). This may of in fact been an indication of poor tissue levels, since there aren't any readily available (outside of research) tests for measuring tissue levels. Inadequate tissue iron can impact on performance, most prominently in those that do endurance type endeavours. Now hasn't that been my main problem!? If you are interested in a bit of research. See: Tissue iron deficiency without anemia impairs adaptation in endurance capacity after aerobic training in previously untrained women. Thomas Brownlie IV, Virginia Utermohlen, Pamela S Hinton, and Jere D Haas. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;79:437–43. This article is freely available at the journal website.

As per my previous post, I will continue to supplement iron for a bit longer and then head back in for some follow up tests. I still have the mystery of why I am iron deficient in the first place. It could well be related to poor absorption given the diet is pretty good. Doing this follow up test should help give an indication of absorption capacity.

In the meantime, training has been okay this week.
Tues - Day off, friend visiting, ran out of time and couldn't squeeze in run
Wed - Gentle 6K run @ Stromlo @~5:35/K pace
Thurs - ACTVAC track - 3000m - knocked another 6 seconds off this season's best time - 13:12; 5 lap spiral 9:27 and way back in the placings this week!
Fri - an easy 5K

Track wasn't at all cruisy this week, but glad to see a few more seconds coming off that 3000m time. I  live in hope that improved tissue iron levels will help boost performance back to 2009/10 levels so I can then work on beating some of those old times! I'd prefer to be struggling to beat 12 min rather than the current 13 min battle!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Down on iron .......

Well it's taken a little while to hear back from the blood bank.  I finally have confirmation that my low haemoglobin level (109 g/L - normal 120-165 g/L) was due to a low iron (ferritin) level (7.8 ug/L - normal 15-200ug/L). This is a good thing, since I have been self treating with iron! Still the question remains as to why I became iron deficient in the first place? I donated blood just the once 3 months ago and have been on a healthy diet that contains adequate red meat. With my perimenopause/menopause I haven't been losing any iron 'that' way. So it is a bit of a mystery. Some may say that my fatigue could have been caused by this. The problem is that at the onset of my fatigue all my blood work was within normal limits. I will also add, that I don't get a racing heart with exertion which is what you would expect when suffering from anaemia. The heart works harder to get oxygen to the working muscles (trust me I'm well trained in physiology!) in anaemic patients.  Now I am a huge fan of 'Vitamin I', i.e. ibuprofen. It is good at alleviating some fatigue symptoms. However, NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen) can affect iron absorption. They can also cause blood loss via the gut. Maybe a factor? Since I was rejected by the blood bank, I have been taking iron with Vitamin C (well actually OJ and a berocca) and have reduced my intake of NSAIDS. I imagine that my ferritin is on the rise as well as my haemoglobin. It can take a few months to restore things back to normal.  I've been on supplemental iron since October 12th. Hmm so does this mean that given another month or 2 I'll get a bit speedier due to better oxygen supply to those working muscles? That would be nice! It will be worth getting a follow up blood test in another month or so to look at progress.

Since I am currently blogging, an update on training.
Saturday - did a series of 8 x 100m hill reps and felt pretty good.
Sunday - felt the need to try and run long. Survived a 10K trail run, slow but NO fatigue!
Monday - 8 x 400m reps. These were supposed to be 6 @ current 1500m pace and then 2 @ goal pace. As it turned out they were a bit all over the place. 98, 94, 94, 98, 95, 99, 96, 95. However, it was nice to be able to back up after the 10K on Sunday. Here's hoping things keep moving in the right direction. It is nice to know the low Hb was due to lack of iron. Something that can be easily supplemented :o).

Friday, November 4, 2011

Tracking along .......

The fatigue monster does like to keep me honest. He came out to play on Wed during a gentle slow jog. I was forced to stop and walk part of the way. I would have taken the day off, but had Friday scheduled off for a visit to Clinic 88. It does reinforce the importance of listening to the body rather than trying to stick to a rigid schedule. Ah well, not too much damage done as I was still able to do some events at track on Thursday.

Once again Track was just a 'play it by ear' approach. I did the 2000m at the start, aiming to run ~8:20. I couldn't quite hold that pace and so settled for 8:31. HR was up in the mid 160s bpm, so a decent effort. This was followed with a 3000m at the end of the night, thinking it would be nice to get close to 13:00. I even had the assistance of a Jeff Grey pacer. The pacer did a great job, but the previous day's fatigue and the 2000m were just enough to take away some vital energy and I couldn't hold the pace. The default goal was to beat the season's previous PB 13:20, which I did just manage to do by 2 seconds! I wonder how long it will take to start to see some gains? Anyone reading this with any ideas, please jump in. At this point I have just come to the end of 4 weeks of consistent targeted training. Not much change in that time from what I can tell. However, the good news has been no serious episodes of persistent fatigue. Next week is stage two of the targeted training plan with increased effort and pace in some of the planned interval sessions. As an example: Monday will be 6 x 400m @ current 1500m pace and then 2 x 400m @ goal 1500m pace. Track will continue to serve as a 'long intervals' session and also a gauge of signs of improving pace. I like running on the surface and my biorhythms do prefer running in the PM. There will also be some hill reps in the mix to build strength and focus on form. I like these as they are short!

Finally, many thanks to Mr Handicapper who left me in the same group for the ACTVAC handicap. I will give the Thomas Series another go as I am in such a good group still and the course isn't so evil at the next event!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Delusional .......?

I did end up running the Thomas series at the last ACTVAC handicap. Ouch, that was one tough course! Yes, trying to run well over 7K on a course like that and expect to be amongst the placings was indeed delusional! Once I got to the turn around I knew my race was run. This fatigue monster has me nervous and I'm wary of pushing my luck. Hence, I eased up on the way back and walked some of the hills. The positive that I can take out of this is that it was a similar pace as O'Connor Ridge where I didn't walk! Actually the numbers show me to be a bit fitter as average HR was 154 bpm and average pace was 5:30 min/km. Yes not an earth shattering pace, but it did include some walking.

That run probably knocked me around just a little bit as my easy jog on Monday felt a bit tough. The body felt weary. That said, as I am currently only doing very short recovery jogs, it's all quite manageable.  Those jogs get me out of the office and into some lovely sunshine, so the mental benefits out weigh the discomfort associated with the fatigue.

Today I repeated a session I did 2 weeks ago. 4 x 400m; 4 x 200m; 4 x 100m (total distance for the day was 8.5 km). When I was jogging to the start of the marked course I thought it was going to be a session cut short. However, once I pushed through the first 2 intervals, the body decided it could keep going. I wonder if the neural signals from pushing a bit hard override those nagging 'chronic fatigue' signals? Time will tell! Overall today's session felt productive. I also bumped into the dynamic duo of Katie Forestier and Amanda Walker out doing 5 x 400m. All I saw was Katie's dust and Amanda wasn't too far behind her, when I tagged along for one of those intervals. They are both inspiring, hard working runners!

Heidi, Katie and Ken - all inspirational runners warming up at the Arboretum pre-Frylink
I will see how things are feeling on Thursday and try a couple of events at the ACTVAC Track and Field meet. There's a 2K to start with and then a 3K at the end of the night. While I won't get ahead of myself, I remain hopeful that I'll be able to bump up my distances in the new year. Heck, depending on my new handicap, Weston Park may be a good one to go all out for a medal!