Saturday, June 09, 2018

12 weeks

(Warning: This post is yet again running-related)

The North Shore Marathon is just 12 weeks away. It'll be my second full marathon, and out of all my goals for this year, it is the highest, most valued. I have the goal of a sub-3:30 time, and hopes of getting it considerably lower. My other goals in between it and now, my 10k and 5k goals are at this point to serve this greater goal. 12 weeks is both far and near - individual weeks can play huge parts in the lead-in; a single run or injury can bring it all down. It has clearly got my attention.

To understand and be better prepared than last year it's important to know what went right and wrong last year. I should have had the fitness to get close to 3:30 at the Auckland Marathon. Instead I got 3:46 with an exhausting last quarter. My post-mortem of factors that led to the disappointment, from close range to long range are as follows:

  1. Running too fast in the first half
  2. Not hydrating well during the race on a warmer than average morning.
  3. Risking fueling with just dates and never considering using the gel I had in my hydration vest.
  4. Doing my training runs on average too fast, with few easy runs.
  5. Not sustaining a consistent mileage in the weeks leading up to the event. 

Many of these lessons I've already applied. Point 4 I believe I've partly succeeded in. I now do 2-3 completely easy runs during the week and have reined in my long run speed, with only a few indiscretions. For example, last week I was doing an easy run and in the last 5 kilometres found a "second wind" that I just ran with. Considering I had a hard run the previous day, it was probably ill-advised. My calves felt quite tender on the rest day and then they still had some residual soreness, which then affected my long run today. It served as a reminder that speed has the capacity to kill this campaign. Going slow now can only lead to more speed and health in the long run.

And that was what went wrong last year, which led to point 5. I had momentum back in January 2017 until I did three straight days of fast runs, had one rest day and then one more intense run was enough to give me a calf tear and a couple of months out of action. After recovery and progress, I again were delayed by niggles both perceived and real. The biggest of these was my knee ligament issue that developed in July, which started once I started doing increasingly long runs far more early than I should have. For perspective, even though I was doing a few runs a week, the long run was often over half the mileage for the whole week. I was a so-called "Weekend Warrior" making up for a lack of running during the week by going overboard on the weekend. Every three "good" weeks of mileage would invariably be followed with a week of worry when something causes me to fret that I was overdoing it. This year I've built up in a more reasonable way. Two straight months I've average over 50km a week. In the last four weeks I've pushed it up from the 50s, now into the 70s. I'll consolidate around this level while aiming to push up further, peaking at 100km for the peak weeks in early August. In other words, touch wood, I've got a more informed, strategic mindset to get me in better shape to my goal.

As for points 1-3, that's race day.

Of course those are just to address the missteps of the previous attempt. 

Monday, June 04, 2018

Overtaking oneself (part 2) - Running related again

Almost two weeks on from the first Overtaking post, I have a better sense that I'm doing as the post title says. On the following Sunday, I set a new official 10km personal best with 43:16 at Barry Curtis Park. This was still not exactly "crushing it" but sets a nice measure of where I am at. At the same event last year I surprised myself recording 43:52 (mat time). I set off at a rather unrealistic pace for the first of three laps (below my 5km pace) but managed to hold on to an acceptable pace for the second lap before cranking it up for the final. In five weeks' time I'll be running in my next 10km race at Western Springs (8 July) where I hope to show my progress and get a time in the 42-43min range (target) or below (dream). Depending on how well the training goes, I may move this goal. In terms of really "overtaking myself" 42:48 is my fastest presumed 10km run which was at the peak of my fitness in October last year.

May was a good month for proving myself for mileage, too. The 266km I ran makes it the second highest mileage month of my running life. (Second only to September last year where I ran a half marathon and had my peak week before the Auckland Marathon. June 2018 is now set to become the biggest and, health-gods willing, should start a sequence of high mileage months to lead into the North Shore Marathon. In the first four days of June I've run 66km and I've no obvious aches or pains but will rest tomorrow before another two workouts, a rest day then the start of what I hope will be a pattern of six running days and one rest day until the taper for marathon. 

The next real tests of where I'm at are as follows:
5km - 16 June Cornwall Park Parkrun; 30 June - Western Springs Parkrun
10km - 25 June - Time trial; 8 July - Race: Run Auckland Western Springs
Half marathon - 23 June - TwinPeaks; still considering whether to do the Millwater Half prior to the full marathon.

Of course the main test is that final goal: North Shore Marathon 2 September 2018.


On Sunday I got to witness my little sisters' First Communion. Not having been brought up in a religious, let alone Catholic, tradition there was quite a lot to learn and a lot to go in the flow of even as a spectator. The girls themselves had gone through classes prior to their Confirmation (the day prior) and their First Communion to make sure they knew what to do. I could have done with a class though as each part of the Mass had some call-and-response element to it. If you did want to sing or talk along with the prayer, there were things you were meant to say at their conclusion. Not that my ignorance annoyed me - it was just interesting to be a part of. It was cute to see the girls and the other children have roles to play and rituals to perform. I couldn't help but be happy that they were brought up in such a tradition.

Ceremony is something that I have learned through experience is vital to being human. Perhaps that sounds like I'm going too far but it shows how far I've changed as I've aged. That is probably the case with a lot of people. As a principal of a school, there are many ceremonies to be done: Orientation for students and new staff; staff farewells; student graduations; recognition of performance or contribution. And not surprisingly their absence on occasion does get noticed. The "Why didn't we...?" question is commonly posed to me, when the "we" refers to "me".

One of the work topics that permeate my after-work hours is the lack of a sense of ceremony that our Chinese students have. Out of all the students who deliberately avoid a graduation by calling in sick or booking their flight the day before, most are Chinese. Ceremony isn't big in China and many ceremonies really are "for show". It's easy to be cynical.