Sunday, April 23, 2017

Short weeks

With the double-edge sword of multiple statutory holidays, life feels like it's flying along. The working week is a blur of five days into four and the resting week is far from restful as it's being filled with delight. We've had a few "bumps" at work - trouble joining an industry association; a resignation of an interesting team-mate; a death in the family for one, which led to a lot of teaching for me.

On the plus side, one team member can also do cryptics so I now have a little cruciverbal collegiality. Perhaps that has stimulated me in a way: I polished off a Kropotkin in a pre- and post- dinner sessions. (About two hours, which for me is a pretty good time.) Saturday morning I didn't have any cryptic grit to grind so I went looking for a Guardian Crossword, which is usually a harder proposition, but demolished it even faster. It was a delightful piece, too. One with the delightful clue, "Set about 30 8 of 18 3? (8)" for which you had to solve four other clues before it was clear what the clue was going on about.

I'm glad I've said the above because this blog has quickly become a running log. And the running has been interesting. I'm entering a "business" phase with two events in the next two weekends: the first 5km run of the Run Auckland series in 7 days' time, and my second official half-marathon in Rotorua in 13 days time. As mentioned previously I've had some good runs that suggest I should do well. In the last week, I've had interesting niggles that make me worry. Last week I got up early on three occasions and felt something "odd" in my right quadricep. It felt fine doing during the day, doing stress loading exercise but every time that I ran (i.e. accelerated from a walking pace) there was an unbearable tightness laterally about 5cm above my knee. It seemed to have developed spontaneously. Each time I got up early (and it's getting cold here now) and aborted my warm up because of the sensation. Yesterday morning, being a weekend I got up later and tried to walk more to warm it up but it was obvious again. I did some dynamic and static stretches and kept trying to run but there was no change. After a lot of hesitation, I decided to just do a proper run and try to run through it. And so I started what was going to be a half-marathon loop like the previous week but avoiding the ascents. Surprisingly I barely thought about it after the first 30 seconds. I ran again today and didn't feel it at all. My legs are like some old machinery with a mix of patch-up parts with varying compatibility with the rest of the set-up. I'm just glad it works in the end. I have had and continue to have interesting shin and ankle niggles that come and go, too.

Yesterday's run itself was to be a record. Having run my Twin Peak circuit at a great tme, I decided to do the same run but without peaks. Perhaps it was the delight of anticipation but my first 8km were at an excellent pace... perhaps too excellent because my pace slumped over the next 7km. And in the end after the 15th kilometre I wasn't feeling done and already thought it better to walk and rest my legs, with the intention of running today. The time overall was still good - but had I kept going with my pace dropping I would have had a time equal or over the time from the previous week, with the exception that I hadn't climbed any mountains.

Today though I tried something I've been meaning to try in a place I've been meaning to go to for a while. I went to the Jack Lovelock Track and did interval training. Interval training is doing slow running, with stretches (for me it was 200m) of all-out fastest running possible. In total I only did 5km with 6-7 bursts. There is all sorts of research into interval training these days. ( I intend to try this every week and try to stretch the sprints. I'd like to see if I could do a 400m sprint at some stage. Anyway, ANZAC day is around the corner, and it is well placed for another run. I'll taper a little for the 5km and moreso for the half marathon. It should be an interesting fortnight.

The Rotorua event is coincidentally just before my 5th anniversary. It's breezed by to 5 years of marital bliss. I'm not good at celebrating these things though so will have to think hard about what to do and how to spend it, apart from running.

Sunday, April 16, 2017


Just an addendum to my blog from Thursday: I did finish my Friday training run. I beat my fastest half-marathon time by about 2 minutes with a time of 1:42:41 and at a pace of 4:52min/km. Considering it was my Twin Peak course, I'm feeling like my fitness and body when well rested should be able to run a flatter course in less than 1:40:00 so that will be my goal in the Rotorua Half Marathon.

I remember listening to running blogs about "performance runs", i.e. when you are pretty much running to your limit. This run felt like this. I have to make sure that I "lock" in this performance and focus on other aspects like recovery, strengthening and endurance. If I try to blast my legs again there could be a risk of injury.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Better early than never

I've always been naturally inclined towards early rising. It might just be that my sleep is most prone to disturbance around 5am. Or maybe it's just that I have always had the pessimism that I can't fall back asleep. Those early hours though are rich with feeling. Pin-dropping. Sound always sounds so fresh when it has no precedent. Hues. Because unlike sound, they just develop on their own accord. I can recount all sorts of tales of times when I rose while it was still a darker shade of sparrowlight.

I remember in Taipei waking at 4am and getting up not long after just to walk the streets. There were already old people in the parks. I remember mornings on Marsden ave, waking and making sandwiches and breakfast. Or going for walks to pick up rubbish and nick off with the Hells Pizza tokens from discarded pizzas. I remember walks in the dark to my carpooling rendezvous point on Mt Albert Road. Even last years walking commutes stand out as something more than just walking merely for the early hour that they were made.

These mornings I've been using this tendency to my advantage with running. It was the only way to fit regular running into a busy life. 5am is now a standard alarm time for me and I aim for mid-week runs around that time. Lately there was another advantage to this habit - avoiding the rain. Twice now with torrential rain threatened I've awoken to find it still holding back and been able to sneak a run in. It's very motivating to think that the heavens could open up at any moment!

This is my first blog since the Coatesville Half Marathon in which I went in an 8km run called the Coatesville Classic. It had been a disappointment at first to downgrade it from the half marathon event, but I eventually reconsidered it as a "fitness test" of sorts to see how my recovery from a calf strain had gone. I trained specifically for it and planned how to pace myself. The run was very satisfactory exceeding my modest expectations and it sent me into all kinds of dangerous optimism.

It's 4 weeks later now and a lot has happened. On an impulse I entered the Run Auckland series (6 events) of which the first one was cancelled due to an inundation of the course. During the time I had all sorts of random short-term pains that I usually get when starting up again. In one week I thought I had shinsplints; after another couple of runs that problem was gone but then I thought I had stress fractures in my foot. On one 5am run I bailed after 800m on account of sudden discomfort in what I thought was the anterior cruciate ligament. I don't mind these irritations because it has always been how my legs feel getting back into running - I have to break them to make them. It's good to be concerned but then to treat, strengthen and then train them not to be niggles. I have to be careful that now that they feel invincible I don't repeat the same mistake and break them in a real way!

Presuming I finish my training run tomorrow as expected, I'll have run 100km in the last four weeks, which isn't a big amount. But the results have been pleasing: my last half-marathon length run was a PB (1:45:07). My last 10 kilometre run was a PB (45:40). My last 5 kilometre run was my second best ever (21:36, PB: 21:23). Things are going pretty fast and I'm not sure if I'm reaching a plateau or whether I can still make sizable progress. There is probably a ceiling of performance, i.e. what with perfect training my body might be able to achieve, that I must be getting closer to. I'd dream of doing a 20 minute 5km or a 42 minute 10km, or even a 1 hour 30 half marathon, or a sub 4 hour marathon. These might be above or below that ceiling because at this point they're all just theoretical conceptions as far as I'm concerned. Especially the marathon which is still just an idea whose reality is yet to brutalise my body.

5 kilometres is the length of my next event, my first Run Auckland event on 30 April. The following weekend I'll do my second official half marathon in Rotorua. The training for each serves the other. After that I have four more Run Auckland events culminating in what will be my 3rd half-marathon. Assuming I maintain my fitness through this, the next step would be to use this fitness for a marathon near the end of the year, with the choices being the North Shore, Auckland or Queenstown marathons. Unlike last year, I'll leave my decision later and not get ahead of myself.