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.

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