Sunday, December 20, 2015

Touring some of Canberra's ridges

There have been lots of events on my wish list this year that have passed me by due to injury and illness. The final one in the calendar for 2016 was Tour de Ridges - a half marathon that covers several ridges in Canberra's south including Farrer Ridge, Mount Wanniassa and Isaccs Ridge. All up somewhere between 550 and 650m of climbing, depending on who's Garmin you believe. The weather report for this weekend was for super hot conditions, and with a history of poor heat tolerance I was rather anxious about whether it would be wise to attempt this run. Therefore a back up plan was in place that included switching to the 15km event if I was struggling at the 10km mark and having Gregg out on the course with ice water and high power water sprayer in his Bob trailer. As it turned out the early start made for a pleasant temperature for most of the run and there was much more shade than expected. The water spray and ice water were much appreciated, but ended up not being critical for staying cool on course. The legs don't have a lot of training for this distance, so it was always going to be a long run at a comfortable pace rather than an attempt to race.

Jen Bright doing it easy out on the course

Finish line in sight!
Given the conditions, all the water stations were frequented and many steep sections on the course were walked. I made it to the finish line in pretty good shape (feeling much better than in the Bush Capital HM), but it was at a pretty casual pace. Happy to finish feeling pretty fresh. Also grateful the ankle roll in the first 500m was only minor so I could keep running! Time to plan the wish list for 2016, hopefully sneaking in parkrun #50 before the end of 2015.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Dogged in December

Things are moving along in the right direction on the Kikka front. She has showed up for the last couple of runs as promised and she is starting to really enjoy the routine, yay! I am fortunate to have some inside help to enable me to stay ahead in 'the Kikka challenge'. That help is in the form of a 'ball of fluff' on four legs. Kikka's venture to Gungahlin parkrun, where a sub 42 should have been a piece of cake, was all too exciting for Yogi Bear (aka ball of fluff number 1). Yogi managed to slip his halter at the start and as I was starting the run with all the other runners, I spotted this massive ball of fluff out of the corner of my right eye running along side. This was quickly followed by a loud yell of "Yogi!" as Kikka quickly controlled the situation. A good thing he is an obedient ball of fluff! However, this meant Kikka had a delayed start. I ran super tired and did not have a good run. But with the ball of fluff shenanigans it meant my jog back to Kikka had a good head start and our meet up point was around the 3.5 km point. That would have been a win for me if at Gindy. Instead another target has been set for the 'Kikka challenge'.  Our next run was back on the Gindy course. I was not feeling at all confident given my run the previous week. However, a new ball of fluff entered the equation. Nala (aka ball of fluff number 2) was to tag along with Yogi bear, Kikka and Leah. Nala had some 'equipment issues' just before the start, so another head start for me. As it turns out I did not need the head start as my run was much better than last week. Jogging back to Kikka she was a few hundred metres behind the previously set mark, a win for me! Woot!
Kikka, Leah and my secret helpers - balls of fluff 1 and 2

Kikka now has the opportunity to set herself up for a 'Kikka challenge' win. I have work travel coming up and will miss the next parkrun. She has the opportunity get in some secret training while I'm away. I wonder if I will be able to continue to count on 'ball of fluff' assistance? The plot thickens.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Moving forward

We are making some progress with Kikka, but it isn't always easy. She didn't get to parkrun last week and was without any good reason for not being there. She still isn't at the 'newly formed habit' phase, so it takes a much bigger effort. However, after another pep talk she made the effort to get to parkrun on Saturday, with faithful Yogi Bear by her side. Lou and Gregg also joined us to form Team Kikka for the morning. I am leading the 'Kikka challenge' due to her defaulting last week. However, this time around it was a draw, with Kikka making it to about the 3.5km mark around the same time as my jog back (with Lou) to run with her to the finish. We all made an improvement on our recent performances, with Lou really smashing her Gindy PB to finish in 19:03, oh so close to a sub 19. I managed a sub 24 - 23:43 and Kikka finished in 42:17 a 1:38 improvement on her run 2 weeks ago. Gregg is not a runner, but still managed a respectable 46:22 for his first ever 'park walk'. Kikka now has the challenge to get up a bit earlier next week so she can make it in time for Gunners parkrun.
Team Kikka and the faithful Yogi Bear
No sign of my purple patch yet, but things are moving in the right direction. Lou is in her own purple patch setting PBs in the Mt Ainslie run up, the Black Mountain run up, Gindy parkrun, as well as some pretty impressive running in the Triple Tri. I have managed a couple of 1km interval sessions in the last couple of weeks, trying to improve fitness and pace. The positive is that there have been no neural/muscle problems. Long runs are pretty slow and hills are harder work at the moment. But distance is back up to 19km, so hopefully pace and hills will improve with better fitness. Here's hoping Kikka easily cracks the 42:00 at Gunners next week.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Motivating Kikka

It's proving to be a slow painful comeback from the yellow patch. A good thing there is the distraction of 'motivating Kikka'. Back in 2013, Kikka started running and was part of my GCC team. She was awesome and made tremendous progress, including losing something like 30kg and improving her 5K time by 16 minutes! Unfortunately at the end of 2013 her wheels fell off and she was away for an extended period. Over the next 18 months she made the odd appearance at parkrun, but then it all stopped. Finally she is back and we are trying to get her focused and motivated. It is very hard as she has regained all the weight she lost and this is hard on her knees and back. So it is one step at a time. So far I have joined her for 2 parkruns at Gindy with her trusty furry friend 'Yogi Bear'. I power walked with her for the first one. We took it easy so she didn't end up super sore and disheartened. For her second one back she managed to power walk/jog and cut a couple of minutes off her previous time, yay! I ran and then jogged back to meet her and encourage her to the finish. She has been set the goal to be ahead of where I met her (at about the 3.5km mark) next time she does parkrun. She didn't make it to parkrun today due to other commitments and a sore knee. Phew, as my performance was shocking today and she would have likely won the challenge! I'm struggling at the moment (but no neural/muscle problems), I hope things get better soon!
Kikka and Yogi Bear
Fingers crossed we can keep Kikka motivated!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A yellow patch

I'm having the opposite of a purple patch, so based on the colour wheel, that would be a yellow patch. Since the end of August I have had a sprained right ankle and wrist, a torn left soleus muscle, a strained right gastrocnemius muscle, a nasty case of tonsillitis and the icing on the cake - a thrombosed right great saphenous vein extending from the foot to the upper thigh. Fortunately the latter is NOT a DVT, it is a superficial vein. But there is a risk of it becoming a DVT should it so choose to. Understandably this series of events has been reeking havoc on one's running. It was a fluke to get to the start line for the final QOM at the handicap at the end of September. It was only a few days later that I was hit with the tonsillitis, which was closely followed by the thrombosed vein. This means I missed  competing in 'Run with the Wind' and 'Two Peaks', both of which were on my wish list. The loss of fitness and ongoing necessary conservative training means there are others on my wish list that I may yet again miss out on as I have in previous years. Seriously isn't it time for a purple patch?! The focus this year has been to try and be consistent and manage the 'muscle issues' that have been a problem over the last few years. It's been slightly better this year, but a long way from what one had hoped for. And then all this garbage happened!
Thrombosed dorsal arch of the saphenous vein
Gungahlin parkrun  had its 2nd birthday on Saturday. Although racing was out of the question, a trot around the course was within one's current capacity. It was a pleasure to catch up with Ruth, Margaret and Gary as well as the hoards of other runners out there just 'doing it'. The birthday cake was a yummy moist chocolate cake with icing depicting a lovely park scene, capturing images of the ever present magpies. We all ran well within ourselves on a very warm morning. It's hard to know when I will be able to up the intensity again. In the meantime, it's good to be able to enjoy the amazing Spring weather on display in Canberra.
Great cake!
Beautiful smiling Ruth.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Vets handicap and the QOM

The final KOM/QOM series race in the Vets handicap was today (best 3 results out of the 4 events decides the winners). In the past this event has been scored on age% results, so I would never factor in the placings. For some reason this year it was switched to a point score, which depends on where you finish overall in each series event. Going into this final event, to my surprise, I was leading by 14 points. To seal the victory I needed to finish close enough to the next closest rival (Nadine) to retain the lead. Nadine was starting 2 groups ahead (1:30 head start) and is a stronger runner than me. So it was going to be a challenge. The numbers said the following: if Nadine finished in 12th place or lower, it didn't matter how far behind I finished as my top 3 scores would be enough; if she finished 11th place or higher, I had to be within 14 places of her to get enough points to stay in top position. To add to the challenge, I've been injured and unable to do much running, let alone any hill training and the right calf has been sending threatening messages all week. The goal for the handicap was to show up and run and hope the right calf didn't follow through with its threats!
Altitude profile of the event

This is probably the toughest of the KOM/QOM events, it gets a difficulty factor of 1.14. Total altitude gain is 173 m over 8 km, ups, downs and lots of turns. I have only run this course once before back in 2011 and it's been a really long time since I ran on these trails. I forgot how tough it was. The first mistake was to go out too quickly, and at the 2km point I regretted the fast start. However, I had made up a lot of time on Nadine and could see her ahead. From there I hoped I could stay close enough to complete the challenge! But with the fast start and lack of adequate training, my pace slowed substantially and it was strugglesville out there. At the turn around point I noted I still wasn't far behind BUT we were catching all the slower runners and that meant more people finishing between myself and Nadine. Add to this that I was really struggling, so in my mind it was going down to the wire. I tried to reel in as many slower runners as I could, but I honestly felt like I was going backwards! I came across the line in 30th place and the score sheet showed Nadine had finished in 18th place. Official finish places (eligible for points) were 14th and 25th, so I had done just enough to finish 5 points clear in the QOM.

It was a beautiful morning for the event with a good turn out. It was nice to see Speedy Geoff back and healthy and Maria O had a great run to take the bronze medal just behind Dave C who took the silver. Finally Spring is in the air. It was lovely to finish the morning with a coffee at Sea Salt with Ruth, Jen, Margaret, Gregg and late comers Sheryl, Beryl and a couple of others I don't know. Here's hoping the right calf has been silenced and I can get back out in the hills.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Injuries and magpies

I think I have a subconscious love of being swooped and hit by magpies. I say subconscious as my conscious mind lives in fear of aggressive magpies. It seems I have a pretty good record of getting injured during the magpie swooping season. This is problematic as cycling becomes the mode of exercise and on a bike you are more likely to encounter more magpies by virtue of the extra distance you do. I also think magpies are more aggressive towards cyclists than runners/pedestrians, so you just get hit more.
They hit hard, they probably need their own helmet!
There's been a frustrating series of injuries that started with a fall while running in Mulligans flat resulting in a sprained the right wrist. Obviously not a running body part, BUT clearly I was distracted by this injury as about 200m later I rolled my right ankle. I felt lucky to get out of Mulligans flat in one piece that day! The ankle had a mild sprain, running was still possible without much pain and strapping helped keep things stable. However, it is likely this meant I was putting extra load on the left leg, as a week later while out doing a long run, I developed calf/achilles pain in the left leg. This was unpleasant enough to make me cut the run short. A follow up run a couple of days later confirmed this was an injury that needed rest and recovery, which brings us back to the magpies! Yes, since then I've been spending more time on the bike and am paying the price! Spring is in the air, babies are in the nest and magpies are sending a 'message'.

Please let this calf injury heal quickly or those magpies might run me off the road and who knows what other damage I might do!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

38th in #38

It was parkrun #38 on Saturday and as has been the case of late, numbers are being quirky and coincidental. I came across the line in 38th position for #38. Physio advice is to stay away from going flat out or doing fast intervals until the neural symptoms are under control. For now parkruns are a good way to get in a training session by running them at a hardish pace. So for #38 the splits were 4:38; 4:40; 4:31; 4:41; 4:44 - 23:15. A good effort that should have a beneficial training effect.
Sunday run around Ainslie

The downside in doing some harder training is that it leads to tiredness for the long runs. A lap today around Ainslie and along the Ainslie/Majura saddle was to tough slog. Ah well next week is the monthly handicap on Sunday, so no parkrun and a shorter long run will hopefully help manage that tiredness.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Parkrun #37 in some mizzle

The grey skies and light mizzle were not a hindrance at Gungahlin parkrun today. The conditions were actually pretty good for running. All the Gunners runners were joined by Gary Wilmot and his crew from Hearts Across Australia. It was good to have some red hearts to brighten up the day. Gary (aka no more Mr Fat Guy) is doing good things to raise money for the Heart Foundation.

Go Gary (B)!
Familiar faces doing the run today included Gary Bowen and the ever consistent Margaret McSpadden. The approach to parkruns in the next little while is to try and do them at a tempo pace. Intervals and racing are a trigger for neural symptoms, so it is best to limit those!  It took about 500m to free things up and get a bit of rhythm. However, it was not a tempo rhythm, 'twas a tad quicker, oops. The original goal was to be just a bit quicker than last week and get in under 24 mins. As it turns out, I judged the pace poorly and got in under 23 mins (22:59 official time). Ah well, it was probably good to 'clear out the cobwebs' as some like to say and it didn't trigger any neural issues. Km rates were 4:41; 4:41; 4:35; 4:41; 4:40. Pretty consistent!
Now the question remains what to make of number 32? At last month's handicap I ran off group 32 and finished in 32nd position. Last week I finished parkrun in 32nd position. This week there were 132 runners and I finished in 32nd position........ hmmmmm. Gary B managed 24:06 today and Margaret M 30:49. Gary Wilmot took it easy to finish in a leisurely 32:41.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Parkrunners in the mist

After a long hiatus away from parkrun, today seemed as good a time as any to head back. There is no real resolution of the muscle problems, but as they will remain a part of life, it's all about 'management'. Craig Wisdom from Kingston Physiotherapy thinks the tight muscle issues are probably neural in origin thanks to a very stiff lower back. Oh the joys of aging! He has advised that for the time being it is better to stay away from interval training and to not push too hard during parkruns. The plan also includes trying to introduce more flat terrain runs with the aim to build distance. There are also plenty of back exercises and 'nerve flossing'.
Nadine speeding through the fog
There was a thick fog around Yerrabi Pond for the start of parkrun. Many thanks to the hardy volunteers out on the course! Nadine and Margaret (who finished in 31:35) were 2 familiar faces in the crowd at the start. As expected I lost sight of Nadine very quickly, she finished in a sharp 22:10, a good 2 minutes ahead of moi. It's been a while since the legs have been asked to go any quicker than 5min/km pace, so it proved challenging convincing them just to do that. In the end it was a nice negative split run. Kms were 4:54; 4:58; 4:42; 4:46: 4:40 = 24:06. Not bad going off a tough half marathon last weekend. It didn't feel easy, but at least it's a step in the right direction.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Bush Capital Half Marathon Post Mortem

After managing to do some decent long and hilly runs over the last few months, it seemed like a reasonable idea to sign up to do the half marathon in the Bush Capital Bush Marathon Festival. I knew I could run the distance and I've run most of the course in training. Unfortunately my taper failed to freshen up my legs and I struggled out there today in the mud and puddles. My legs have been pretty tired over the last few weeks with a combination of leg exercises and long runs. Still I thought that a short long run (12 km) in the lead up weekend as well as few less leg exercises during the week would be enough rest and recovery. Unfortunately things weren't looking good with very tired legs on a run on Thursday and during a 4km light jog on Saturday.

There was torrential rain overnight and the course was wet and muddy with puddles and streams to traverse. We all had soaking wet feet from the 800m point and this soaking was reinforced in many locations around the course. Fortunately for those of us running the half marathon, the rain stopped and stayed away for the duration of the event. Big kudos to the ultra and marathon competitors who also had to contend with rain and the challenging slippery muddy course.
Plenty of this greeted the runners today

It was relatively warm and there wasn't much wind for the 9:30am start, shorts and t-shirt running conditions! As we started our way up to the Mount Ainslie trails, I knew I was in for a tough day as my legs were still tired and some neural symptoms were resulting in niggly muscles. I managed a tempo effort for the first 16km and was able to 'run' all the big climbs. However, at the last drink station, which was 5km from the finish, the worsening neural symptoms combined with fatigue saw my running grind to a halt, with the last 5km taking over 33mins!

I am left wondering what went wrong with the taper? It was so disappointing to turn up for the event with such tired legs. Clearly as one gets older, you need to look beyond running mileage and see what effect other activities are having on your ability to recover.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

More work in the hills

Keeping the runs in hilly terrain is helping keep the muscles happy and that means it is keeping me running! After an analysis, the evidence points to tight hip flexors and very weak glutes and core. Not at all surprising for someone with a desk job. The task now is to consistently perform a series of dynamic exercises that target those weaknesses. Each week will be reviewed and the exercises adjusted depending on progress. The good news is after only a couple of sessions, at least my balance is improving. Dynamic exercises are proprioceptively demanding!

Today was the monthly ACT veterans handicap held on the hilly Mount Ainslie course.  A good course to test the legs, despite it being cold and foggy. The start was chilly, but eventually I found some rhythm even if the heart rhythm was a bit dodgy between 2-4km. This odd heart rhythm thing keeps cropping up and I'm not sure what to make of it! However, such arrhythmias are not uncommon in older endurance athletes, so nothing to get too excited about at this point. 

I ran a tempo pace as best I could remembering there is a tough hill not far from the finish. This worked well and I gradually passed people that had started in groups ahead. As I neared the top of the climb I had passed at least 30 people and had not as yet been passed myself. However, I could easily hear Speedy Geoff coming up the hill and knew I needed to accelerate if I was to hold him off. This was also a timely reminder that I need to try some hill intervals to stop that backwards running feeling! It was a good thing it is a downhill finish and I fanged it as quickly as my legs would allow me. Indeed it was the lack of neuromuscular coordination that was the limiting factor running down that hill. However, it was good enough to hold off a fast finishing SG! I came across the line in 6th place, good enough for a silver medal on the day and SG was 8th good enough for the bronze! There was a bit of a mix up with the results, so we were incorrectly initially award gold and silver and thought we both had completed our medal sets. Alas it was not to be and we will have to hope for continued good form for future events.

Some results from the handicap (Thomas 9.3 km)

Position Name Time Age group Age grade%
6 Janene Kingston  47:40    W50    75
8 Geoff Moore  44:37    M65    81.5
15 Nadine Morrison  46:41   W45    70.3
16 David Clarke  41:40   M55    79.2
25 Steve Appleby  46:10   M60    74.5
42 Maria O'Rielly  48:01   W60    82
43 Helen Larmour  45:31   W55    82.2
55 Louise Sharp  41:34   W30    72.8
64 Roger Pilkington  51:41   M55    63
66 Stuart Doyle  35:58   M45    85.7
68 Ruth Baussmann  64:24   W65    65.2

Speedygeese Ainslie collage

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Back to the hills

Oh the irony, as a 'flat lander' hills have always been a huge weakness, I feel like I'm going backwards most of the time when I run up hill. However, it seems hills are what have kept me running these last 6 months, not just the HRT. Going back to doing more runs on the flat has really aggravated my hamstrings. They get super sore and tight and are certainly not interested in racing parkruns. However, when I go back to running on short, steep rocky hills, the hamstrings stop complaining. Case in hand, I ran a hilly 21.3 km last weekend and it went pretty well all things considered. It was further than planned, but I didn't suffer any serious consequences from the run (except for a couple of unhappy toenails from the downhills!).  It is unclear why I am overloading the hamstrings on the flat, it could be to do with muscle weaknesses elsewhere such as the glutes and core. So I am currently consulting with someone on how to correct these imbalances and see if I can banish tired and tight hamstrings. Only time will tell. Watch this space.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A little bit of training

When I first moved to Canberra, I joined the speedygeese training sessions held at Dickson oval. This was a fun way to meet other runners and boost fitness. Although I have occasionally joined in on speedygeese sessions over the last few years, I have not been able to consistently participate and it's been a while since it was in Dickson. It's a great venue, and they have recently improved the track's grassy surface. The grass is now lush and green and relatively even, making for a solid workout.

The sessions so far have been long intervals. All the sessions I've been able to attend have been 800m intervals with a 400m jog recovery. However, other interval lengths have been 1000m and 1200m. I think I'm glad I missed those sessions!

Unfortunately as has been the case in the past, I am not recovering well from these sessions. The muscles get very sore and tired and take days to recover. Trying to follow up with a parkrun on Saturdays is proving to be a big ask. It seems a bit of mixing and matching will be needed to avoid getting too fatigued. It would be a shame to stop the Thursday sessions as they are a nice way to train with a great group of people.
Mmm work those glutes
The focus over the next while will be to try to assist muscle recovery with regular foam rolling sessions of the major muscle groups. Stretching isn't proving to be enough given the degree of fatigue and soreness present even after 48 hours with a day off in between. I managed a comfortable 15km long run today after foam rolling yesterday and again pre-run. So far no major soreness post-long run after more foam rolling and wearing compression tights. No doubt aging muscles need all the help they can get.

It is interesting to note speedygeoff also has issues with overworked muscles as mentioned in his blog today.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

An ACTVAC handicap in April

Sunday was the ACTVAC handicap held near Mt Majura, only my 2nd handicap since July 2013. As I was not eligible for the point score or placings and with a head cold settling in, the goal was to take it easy. The start is up hill and the pace of my fellow group 25 runners felt pretty easy thanks to my regular Black Mountain lunch time runs. At the top of the climb I settled into a comfortable tempo pace and surprisingly my fellow 25ers dropped behind. At the time I assumed they would catch up further along the course. However, when I reached the 7km marker, no one had gone past. At this point I slowed for fear of acquiring a nasty handicap. Poor Lou and Stu were savaged by the handicapper last month, ending up in the wilderness in groups 44 and 54, respectively. With only about 800m to go John Harding advised me I was in 4th position. Arggghh, the handicapper would be rubbing their hands together with glee. The brakes were heavily applied and finally some people went past on the downhill finish. I finished in 8th place after sheepishly walking across the finish line. My time wasn't anything special around 53:45, pretty close to my 'group rate', so I hope not to be too heavily punished by the handicapper for next month.
Happy handicappers
It was good to see so many familiar faces out there, with a special appearance by speedygeoff, who was very happy with his run despite the ever fogging glasses issue. It was off to Wilbur's after the handicap, a favourite place for coffee and brunch.

Friends' results for the Thomas Series (10km)

Position Name Time Age group Age grade%
5 Helen Larmour  47:56    W55   84.5
8 Janene Kingston  53:45    W50   71.1
15 David Baussmann  50:02   M60   75.3
27 Nadine Morrison  50:47   W45   69.9
34 George Kubitzky  53:16   M60   69.8
42 Margaret McSpadden  70:35   W65   67.2
49 Geoff Moore  51:45   M65   74.5
51 Louise Sharp  44:00   W30   74.4
54 Ruth Baussmann  67:04   W60   66.9
57 Stuart Doyle  39:17   M45   84.8
59 Steve Appleby*  64:12   M60   57.9

*Steve kindly stopped to act as a marshall as cones and signs were taken away too soon!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Against medical advice

Standing at the start line of today's Australian Running Festival 5 km the starter advised us that if we've been sick in the last 2 weeks that we shouldn't be running today. Oops! I guess I was about to run against medical advice. I was in bed asleep for most of the day on Thurs with a lurgy. Fatigue, sore throat, headache and mild snuffles. However, while not 100% on Friday, I was well enough to go back to work. I did a light lunchtime jog on Friday testing the waters so to speak and was still feeling pretty flat. Thing is, we pay money to enter fun runs, unlike parkrun, so it's hard to walk away with an entry fee on the line. Worst case scenario, I'd feel like shite and drop out, so it didn't seem like a lot to lose. A week 'under the weather' can also classify as a taper ;-).
Start line - ready to go
The warm up jog left me feeling optimistic that it wouldn't be a worst case scenario. The weather conditions were absolutely perfect, not too cold and no wind. A shame about the little hill in the middle of the course! It was a nice downhill start, which probably explains the rather quick first couple of kms. Although as the course distance did not match up on the Garmin, it is hard to be sure of actual km points. The Garmin said a 4:13 1st km and a 4:17 2nd km. Then as the course started to climb, the km rate dropped 4:35 for the 3rd and a tough going 4:50 for the 4th. At least the final km was mostly downhill to the finish, 4:16 + :16 for the bit where the Garmin disagreed. Final official time 22:31, not bad off an illness and with that tough little climb in the middle. Maybe the climb would not have seemed so bad with a slower start.
Course elevation
I did not see anyone I know running in the 5km, most were focusing on the longer events. Tomorrow it will be an opportunity to pedal around LBG and cheer on the hardy marathoners and half marathoners. Here's hoping for similar perfect conditions for them.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Trending faster

Most runners (and cyclists!) are aware of Strava. It's a fun motivational tool for those that like to use it and it's kind of addictive as well. The app for mobile devices is fun as it shows you what segments you are getting quicker on, how you compare to other people doing the same segments and also how you are tracking on any course you have run before. At the moment I'm regularly setting new PBs on various segments and also 'trending faster' on most of my favourite running routes. It's a nice feeling after years of struggling (HRT rocks!).
Run with Strava
The latest 'trending faster' run was today's Gungahlin parkrun. It was a perfect morning, with crisp, clear and windless conditions. As I did a long run last Sunday, the running pattern this week meant a day off on Friday. A good opportunity to see how well things would go following a rest day. Alas, there wasn't a lot of optimism at the start as I was still feeling a bit tired despite the rest day. With Julia and SpeedyGeoff in the bunch, the plan was to sit behind them and see if I could get 'dragged along' so to speak. This was good, as the first km was a more sensible pace (4:35) than I have run for my last 2 efforts. At the 1km mark Julia pushed on, but I thought I should sit with SG for a bit longer. There is one little hill on this course and I noticed SG was slowing here (he's been doing some hard racing of late, so no real surprise there!). He indicated to me that he was feeling pretty tired, so my plan wasn't going according to plan! When the Garmin vibrated on my wrist, I noticed a quite slow 2nd km (4:47), time to pick up the pace! Fortunately there is a little downhill after that hill and the course is pretty well flat to the finish. I used the downhill to pick up the pace and get a good rhythm going. The whole time I expected to hear SG coming up from behind, but that familiar sound never did eventuate, he was indeed very tired. The 3rd km was 4:30, 4th was 4:29 and 5th 4:23 - a negative split, woo hoo! The 5th was the result of having passed two (young) women not far from the finish who weren't happy being passed and then tried to pass me again, this meant a hard push for the finish. Julia ran well, just a second off her PB 22:12. I managed a 13 second improvement for 22:39 - a Gunners PB, not as tired as I thought. SpeedyGeoff still managed a respectable 23:15.

Running on the trails will continue, here's hoping the 'trending faster' continues as I run with Strava :-).

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Chipping away

There's been plenty of trail running and a couple of parkruns since returning from New Zealand. The legs have mostly been good with no signs of fatigue. I'm going to attribute this to HRT. Some (by no means all) women report real issues with lost endurance, exercise intolerance and no speed when going through peri-menopause and menopause. My early fatigue waxed and waned during peri-menopause then it became much more consistent as the ovaries stopped doing their thing. After researching the topic and talking to a same-aged cyclist friend who had experienced similar issues, I approached a doctor about trying HRT. As would be expected, it took a while to get the right HRT balance. But when we sorted it out, which was towards the end of December 2014 my running started to feel much better, to the point now where I feel pretty much 'normal'. I am hopeful that we have solved the mystery and that I can get back to enjoying my running as I used to. Bearing in mind that I'm no spring chicken and am best sticking with cross training and minimal pavement running. Not sure what the new blog name might need to be ;-).

My first parkrun after getting back from NZ confirmed I had maintained fitness despite limited runs. It was paced poorly due to it being a parkrun PB event, so there were 22min and 25min pacers. Problem was the 25min pacer was going too quickly early on and as I tried to sit between the 25er and 22er, my first km cooked me for the rest of the run (4:26). In the end I finished with 23:11, the exact same time as my previous parkrun.

Parkrun number 2 was supposed to be an evenly paced affair trying out the slight change in course. Alas, the first km (4:26 again!) was also a bit too quick as I was trying to get some space to find some rhythm. Also out on the course were Speedy Geoff, his new protege Julia, the lovely Gary (birthday boy!) and Margaret. From the 1km point I could hear speedy Geoff encouraging Julia and I kept going to just after the 4km point when speedy Geoff dug in and went past. I was slowing substantially at this point and it wasn't long until Julia also went past. However, as a sub 23 was always the goal, I hung in there to finally get that 23 monkey off my back, finishing in 22:52. Interesting that the HRav for the 23:11 was 160, but only 147 for the 22:52. More than likely this is because I did a sprightly trail run on Friday and the legs would have been a bit tired with less than 24 hours recovery. This in itself is pleasing, good times at parkrun without needing a rest day beforehand!

Friends' results Gungahlin parkrun #74 14/03/15

Position Name Time Age group Age grade%
33 Geoff Moore  22:37  VM65-69   74.87
34 Julia Anderson  22:40  VW40-45   69.41
36 Janene Kingston  22:52 VW50-54   73.32
42 Gary Bowen  23:42 VM55-59   66.53
119 Margaret McSpadden  29:06 VW65-69   74.05

The last sub 23 was back in 2013, so it's been a long time coming. It will be interesting to see how easy it is to get down to 22:30. Interval training is not yet in the plans, but who knows what lies around the corner.
Just around the corner ...

Monday, March 2, 2015

Down time and lost fitness

I had a lovely time in New Zealand, but the running fell off the rails. I managed only 3 runs in 14 days, a couple of strenuous 'tramps' (we are talking NZ here) and lots of time sitting in a car or on boats! Like any runner, the lack of running left me anxious about what effect it would have on my fitness. In the lead up to the NZ holiday, there were about 7 weeks of very consistent running that were showing progressive improvements in fitness (and no significant fatigue issues). So to end up with very little running for 2 weeks, there was a concern that much would be lost from those 7 weeks! As someone that has studied exercise physiology, I should know better, but it's a common concern held by most runners, that even a couple of days lost from training is detrimental. Rest and days off are super important, but when those days extend to a week or more, then the brain starts to panic. There are lots of studies looking at the effect of time off training on fitness. The good news is that in the grand scheme, 2 weeks off has only a minimal effect. With some running in those 2 weeks, the effect would be even less. Back out on the trails of Black Mountain today confirmed only a minimal change in performance, phew!
The stunning Aoraki (Mount Cook in NZ)
An interesting finding for those 3 runs in NZ was muscular disapproval when running on paved flat surfaces. The soleus muscles have been pretty cranky after using the new trail shoes and they carried on their crankiness in NZ, despite a shoe change to my Asics DT trainers. No issues on Black Mountain today wearing Asics Nimbus, next test will be another run back in the Wave Hayates. Here's hoping the positive momentum continues post holidays.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Back to Mount Ainslie

It's been quite a while since I last ventured over to Mt Ainslie for a run. It's nice to have a change of scenery and it's only a short drive from home. Conditions were set to be hot, so some shade and a not too late start were in order. The track around Ainslie is mostly good under foot and it is a consistent series of ups and downs. I also had some new trail shoes to test out. Finally some shoes that are narrow enough for my long size 10 feet! Also much lighter than trail shoes I've had in the past.

Mizuno Wave Hayate - trail shoes
The course run today was a combination of the Majura and Ainslie (backwards) ACTVAC handicap courses for a distance of just a tad over 14km. This will be the last long run for a little while with the next three weekends caught up in travel plans. It's a popular place for runners and mountain bikers where I saw the familiar faces of Mick Horan (fully loaded with tunes) and Jon Adams (training for 6 foot track) running in the opposite direction.
The trail and elevation profile for Mount Ainslie
Again there were no signs of fatigue and the run was a good one. The last couple of kms reminded me of my limited endurance, but nothing out of the ordinary. Indeed this run averaged 20 sec/km quicker than the last attempt for much less effort. The shoes felt nice and light with good traction. They are well and truly christened, barely resembling the image above anymore!

It will be back to Black Mountain during the week, before hopping on a plane next weekend to head to the land of the long white cloud. I will do a few shorter runs when there, but the main plan is to do some long walks and enjoy the amazing scenery of the great landscapes across the Tasman. Happy running :-).

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Gungahlin parkrun # 68 (my 21st) report

After another week of trailblazing without any significant fatigue, the weather conditions looked pretty good for a parkrun. Of the three parkruns around Canberra, Gunners is the most low key with a pretty relaxed atmosphere and less numbers of runners than Gindy and Tuggers. I most like this course because it is a loop, not an out and back. Plus it's hard to go past something that is so close to home! Generally I don't run into many people that I know from Canberra running groups at this event. However, this morning I saw Ruth and David B, Margaret Mc as well as Nadine M. Ruth and David had decided on a change from their usual Gindy 5k. They chose a lovely morning to do it.

As would be expected, David and Nadine started at a pretty sharp pace. They were always in sight, but gradually got further and further away as the race progressed. I was surprised by the 4:33 first k, as it didn't feel that fast. However, it didn't take long for the pace to catch up with me and all 'feeling' returned. There were hopes of a sub 23, as I've yet to do that at Gunners. However, an improvement on the previous parkrun was the main goal. I did try and maintain pace with David and Nadine, but they started to get well and truly away at the 3k point. Next goal was to try and catch pram lady in front of me. Sadly pram lady showed no signs of slowing down and I just couldn't reel her in. To add insult to injury she was making it look so easy (and she ran a PB)! When I saw the 4k split I knew a 23 would be a big ask. In the end splits were: 4:33; 4:40; 4:40; 4:46; 4:38 for a total of 23:11. It was an honest run with HR in the 160bpm range for kms 2-5. A pretty good result off no interval work other than running up steep rocky hills! Ruth ran a Gunners PB (after doing a tough 10000m at the track on Thursday night!) and David ran the same time as his Gunners PB. Well worth their trip over from Belco.
Speedy Ruth supported by Dave. Speedy Margaret coming in as
I head out on my cool down jog.
After a 4km cool down jog it was lovely to have brekkie and coffee with Ruth, David, Margaret, Julia (another Ms Speedy!) and team JKK parkrun supporter Gregg. Next week, back out on the trails for me.

Friends Results:

30       David BAUSSMANN             22:25  VM60-64        74.13 %        
31       Nadine MORRISON              22:31  VW45-49       70.54 %        
33       Julia ANDERSON                   22:42  VW40-44       69.31%          New PB!
37       Janene KINGSTON                23:11  VW50-54       72.32 %                    
87       Ruth BAUSSMANN               28:02  VW60-64       72.29 %         New PB
104     Margaret MCSPADDEN      29:41  VW65-69       71.48 %        

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 :-).