Now, I'm almost half way through the Run Auckland series having done a lacklustre 5km and a personal best 10km (with an awesome half-marathon time at the Rotorua Marathon). Things seem to be quite well in general and I learned a lot from that mediocre 5km race.
I've tried to transform my running towards how one is meant to train. Prior to the half-marathon, I'd only really done out-and-out runs, usually with the intent of speed. Probably this has helped me with speed - I've been quite satisfied with the speed that I've got in my short, stubby legs. But as I found out in January, constant speed can lead to an injury. Mixing things up and testing out the different systems of the body can help. Slow running exerts different challenges on the body that sprinting. Varying pace teaches your body to recover on the go. So now I'm trying to be a bit more methodical about it all, while listening and observing how my body reacts.
I've always had belief in the long run but now I am a bit more understanding of pace. The long run I did last weekend is a case in point: I did my "ideal" from last year, a 28km Titirangi loop. Even though it was my ideal I failed so many times to finish it until I eventually did in December last year. And I hadn't touched it since then. I have literally improved in pace and endurance in "leaps and bounds" since then but at the 10km mark was actually 3 minutes slower than December. I overhauled my previous self at the 23rd kilometre and in the remaining 5km, I gained 3 minutes. This works out at a pace 36secs/km faster. And that is the truth of it: I was still able to be fresh and fast. I deliberately set out on Owairaka rd to run fast and did a sub-5min/km, and still felt fine to cruise to the end. I could have gone further. I'll run another long run soon, another "classic" that I've run only once - The Te Atatu loop, which if I get to the end will be over 32km. I'd like to think that I can finish these without feeling in any way impeded from enjoying the rest of the day. It is good to feel fresh after an exertion.
But speed has its place, too. Intervals, or fartlek, will play a role in getting me to push and recover, to push and recover. Even in that mediocre 5km race I recovered to a degree. After hurting from going to fast and being hit with hills, I slowed down for a lap and then in the last kilometre I really did push. In fact, whether it be Coatesville, Rotorua or any of these Run Auckland events, I've found that I have quite an effective sprint. I haven't been passed in either of these but have used the silhouettes of those ahead to drive me hurtling by.
The 3-lap Botany 10km race was like this. I really wanted to beat 45mins so stuck close to the 4:30min/km pacer for the first lap; in the second lap I decided to push ahead of her using some of the runners ahead as a target, but I fell back near the end of that lap. The pacer and her pals rounded me up and then passed me briefly. In the last half of the last lap, I pushed to keep up with them and then in the last km cruised by and the sprinted up the hill and through the gate. She must have been out of pace because I cracked 44mins (43:52). Thanks, Pacer Anne!
These events have been a lot of fun and I'm really glad I took the chance to get into them. With each run the lessons of the different runs are coming into fruition. I've made the move and registered for what will be my first marathon, North Shore Marathon. There's plenty of time and I can't wait for it.
Sunday, May 07, 2017
Pleased. As I entered the final stretch going from a slightly ragged gait to a sprint to beat a fellow runner through the finishing arch, I saw the numbers 1:38:27. It was far better than I'd imagined. I'd hoped to break 1:40 but knew it would require optimal pacing, good conditions and my body to hold up. In actuality, it was a flat course permitting runners to run naturally; conditions were perfect, dry and cool; and though the body had a touch of misbehaviour, on the course I was fine. All in all, what could go right, did.
My lead-in started the day before. As planned I went for what should have been an easy jog. It was easy - but afterwards I noticed with a touch of dread that a tendon in my arch felt twinged. I gave it some treatment but the night before and on the morning of the event, it was still evident. These niggles can magnify over distance and 21 km is plenty of time for it to happen. The night before I did a set of stretches for all muscles, added heat and foam rolled them.
The next morning I got up at 5am. This was based on something I read: Get up 3 hrs early to eat, digest and warm up. Apparently if you eat later, your body is hooked into burning glycogen and blood glucose and not fat. Giving yourself three hours means your glycogen is replete but your body won't burn it first. Anyway, I ate, drank, went for a run walk, stretched, foam rolled and got dressed. I left my dynamic stretches till 20 mins before the start.
And then it was the start! As I feared and as I tend to, I got off to a quick start, roughly 4:34/km for the first 4km. I'd planned to keep my pace within 4:46-4:52 for the first 5km. I kept telling myself to slow down but like a swimmer in a current I struggled to decelerate until I bumped into another runner, "Pink Asian girl", who was falling back. I ran with her for a couple of kilometers and it got me to the pace I was planning. Perhaps some misinformation helped, too. The course map had implied a hill which wasn't there - I slowed preemptively but it never came.
Either way I churned through the distance with my running app chirping updates with each kilometre. As I went I swang from one running companion to another. After "Pink Asian Girl", it was "The Argentine", who I chatted with. He was doing his first half marathon but did triathlons before. He said we should push forward but I declined and slipped back. "Nondescript Man" caught up to me and we exchanged some weather-related small talk.After he pushed on I was without a partner till "Platinum Headphones" I kept pace with her for a while before thinking that I was going too slow and decided to take a corner to push past her. I knew my time was just about on target for my target time and needed to keep up the pace till the end. It was in the last 5-6 km's that I met the two people who'd be my most important pacers.
"Little Boy Black" was a teenager dressed in black t-shirts and shorts. He was an early companion around the 6km mark that I accompanied for a short time before passing. He must have paced the race well because he grinded past me at about the 16km mark. Or perhaps I was what kept him going. We all pace each other. In the final stage of the run, he was just a little bit faster than me but keeping up with him as much as I could helped me to maintain the speed I wanted. Though he was faster he didn't leave my view until the last stretch. In his slipstream I came within 10 metres of "Balding YMCA". He was pretty quick, probably in my division too, and for a time, I never seemed to be catching up to him but I kept pushing with both of them as my targets. "Balding YMCA" stopped completely for a drink and I shot by him. He then overhauled me briefly within a kilometre but he couldn't maintain it and I grinded past him and never saw him again. While "Little Boy Black" was there, I knew I was certain of a good time and it was important to have him in the last five kilometres. My splits kept coming in below 4:50, mostly in the low 4:40s.
The final 5km were made easy by the fact that they were the same as the opening 5km. The familiarity meant you knew exactly how long it was to the end, and when you're running faster for the distance, you cannot wait till the end. With 500m to go, I felt like I was on the verge of being completely spent. Perhaps it's just because my legs knew it was so close to the end. Surprising the final kilometre was my fastest split, 4:20. The fact was that despite me feeling like I was out of speed, I was speeding. And with the line begging, I broke into a spring to overhaul the runner in front of me. According one app, I ran the last 30m in 3:48/min - a pretty fast sprint when I'm fresh.
Overall, this is going to be a high water mark that will be hard to surpass, at least in the short term. I'm unlikely to have such a flat course with such perfect conditions. But I feel like I've still go space to improve. This year will still be the year that I conquer the full marathon and this performance puts me in pretty good stead to do it with the endurance and power to achieve it. Fingers crossed I can keep my improvements up without injury.
Thursday, May 04, 2017
I don't regard myself as an impulsive shopper but when it comes to running events, I seem to be a bit too quick to jump online and register for events. Last year, in a fit of motivation following my Auckland Half Marathon completion, I registered for both the Coatesville Half Marathon and the Rotorua Marathon, which were within 8 weeks of each other. It was only afterwards did I do that calculation and it didn't really make training sense - I needed some recovery time, surely. In the end, it was all academic; my calf strain in January made me revise and downgrade my events. Coatesville went down from a half-marathon to an 8km event, but it was a jolt to my imagination. It went like a dream - I was faster than I'd hoped at pace of 4:34min/km, a pace I'd have been proud of pre-injury for a hill course. I knew I'd come back from my injury and suddenly I wanted more.
Events have a lovely buzz to them. There was a Whenuapai event just a week later that I could so easily have jumped onto but instead I decided to take part in the Run Auckland series which started in April. The chief motivator was that it had six events, five of which were a choice of five or ten kilometres. Both of these distances were my standard training runs. What's more the last event was a half marathon, which I thought capped it off nicely. I wanted to formalise my achievements in all three distances and a competition would push me on. So I registered and paid. Only then did I think about what this meant for my running. I'd have a 5km event and the Rotorua Half Marathon separated by only 5 days; and then a 10km event 14 days after the half marathon. I didn't want to prioritise any event, and wanted to really achieve in each so there was no use thinking about using one to expressly prepare for the others. Any run you want to try for your peak performance will take a bit out of you that takes some time to recover. Nonetheless, that's the hand I dealt myself.
The first one was last weekend, a Run Auckland 5km event in Te Atatu. My lead-in as describe in previous blogs was not perfect but definitely more than adequate. I'd run my regular 5km in just over 21 minutes (4:12min/km), according to my GPS trackers, 3 days before the event which was close to the best I'd ever done. But that was a track that I know better than any other. It has hills but hills that go up then down in a way I can pace. The Te Atatu route was mostly an unknown quantity. I did have the map off MapMyRun but no hills were obvious. According to the app, it had just 21 metres of ascent compared to my run's 46 metres. I was pretty confident that I could improve my pace.
To cut to the chase, I came, I ran and found it rather hard-going. I burst off the finish line slightly faster than my usual pace and went down what was a rather steady slope and then up the slope to a plateau. Perhaps in that one phase I scripted my own blow-out. I went fast partially in over-confidence in my previous performance, ignorance that the track wasn't flat and also with a feature I strangely hadn't encountered - a rise to a plateau.
My over-confidence and ignorance could be my reliance on my app's to inform me. All my knowledge of my best pace was from my app's own measurements. Even though I thought I had done 5km in 21km, it wasn't necessarily the case. My app for this run had the length as 5.4km whereas the event is measured to 5km. The app isn't perfect with ascents either - I knew this from other runs but had believed it. The app doesn't have a perfect accurate three dimension map to refer to. Topography is sophisticated and the slope I mentioned is right next to an estuary. Probably it didn't feature digitally in the referenced map. I'd estimate that it would have about the same amount of ascent as my run but without the familiarity.
The effect of a rise to a plateau feature might need some explaining. My runs go over mountains all the time; they go up and then they go down. For short runs there is nothing wrong in really hammering your way up the slope because you'd have the descent to gain the time back and also recoup the energy. At Te Atatu I hammer up the slope and then got none of the immediate pay-back. My first 2.5km lap where I had felt I'd pounded it was at 4:30min/km pace according to the official time. According to MapMyRun I was running at 4:08min/km pace. When the third kilometre was done I felt like I was tiring. Worse, there was no-one around me to pace me. My time ballooned by both the official and application reckoning. I went home only having the app timing and was moderately disappointed and even moreso when my official time was published: 23:31 (4:42min/km). The only solace being that that was somehow good enough for 8th place out of 107, coming second in my division (males between 30-39).
I am now 36 hours away from my second half marathon. In the few days since the 5km race, I've done a fitness session at the physio, rested a day, got up early and ran my fastest 10km loop (44:29) and then rested a day. Tomorrow I might go for a light jog in the morning to loosen up and then have a calm simple day to drive down to Rotorua. It promises to be a frosty cold start but fine and dry, too.
I can't wait.