Monday, December 31, 2007

A meeting of blog minds

One of the great meetings of blogging minds occurred over this past weekend. Ewen came up from Canberra to stay with a friend, Bruce, not so very far from where I am staying. On the Saturday afernoon Bruce took us for a run around the Harbour foreshore from Little Sirrius Cove around Bradleys Head and back to where we started. A nice easy 6 km with some special views over the harbour, including the site of where one of the Japanese mini-submarines was caught during WW2. After the run we went for a swim in a harbourside pool (MacCallum Pool) at Cremorne (where I had dumped off a carload of kids prior to our run; everybody happy).

Yesterday morning I set off from Chatswood at 6:50 for a 7:30 appointment with Ewen at the steps onto the Harbour Bridge at Milsons Point. I made a wrong turn and had to stop to take a load off my mind and was therefore running (literally) a bit late). Some 4:15/k mileage down the hill from Crows Nest to Milsons Point made up time and I was only 5 min late.

We ran across the bridge on what was an absolutely perfect Sydney morning. Deep blue skies, barely a cloud to be seen. A warmish 23 to 25 degrees, but lowish humidity. Extremely comfortable as far as I was concerned. The Harbour was a deep dark blue and sparkling in all its glory, the Opera House sails gleaming bright and the colours of everything blaring loud in the lurid sun. Tokyo's charms are subtle and lie beyond its drab physical appearance. Sydney hits you between the eyes like a sledgehammer with her gaudy glamour, "Here I am baby, look at me!"

Ewen took me for a tour of various sections of the noted Sydney race courses such as the Sydney Marathon and Half as well as the Blackmore's Half and the start of the City to Surf. We ran around the Rocks, around the Opera House, around the Botanic Gardens and Mrs macquaries Chair, past the Art Gallery and through Hyde park before making our way back to the Bridge and Milsons Point. Back at Milsons Point Ewen called Plu (his blog URL not at hand) and we had a chat for 5 minutes or so, which was great.

I then ran back up the hill to Chatswood to finish with 32 fantastic kilometers in 2 hours 52 minutes. Just the run to get the long runs happening again and a priceless experience to boot. I think Ewen will be posting photos at his place in due course.

Friday, December 28, 2007

It's Australia, mate!

After some anxious moments, with both my wife and middle son coming down with bugs 24 hours before we left, and after a 24 hour journey via Bangkok and Singapore, we finally arrived in Sydney at lunch time Thursday. It is now lunch time Friday and I have already managed to fit in two runs and a visit to the Australian Hotel in the Rocks to try a couple of craft beers.

The first run, yesterday afternoon, was just a 10 km jaunt from central Chatswood, where we are staying, through Artarmon to Flat Rock Reserve and back. After tyhat I went out to the pub and had many little Australia versus Japan experiences, like the absolutely useless level of organization surrounding the construction at Chatswood Station (but good , then getting change of a couple of dollars and feeling like a ton of metal, and having to ask for a glass when purchasing a bottled beer...

The second run was this morning to Lane Cover national Park. Running past Blue Gum Creek and Turrumbra reserve, there was no doubt what country I was in. I mucked up the roads a bit an ended up on a bush track for about 3 km. Slow bush bashing kind of stuff, but also really beautiful through that classic Sydney sandstone bushland. At times you could think you were hundreds of miles from the city, not a few kilometers. After I broke through to clear ground I crossed the bridge on Lane Cove Road and then ran back to the Park entrance via the proper road at a decent clip. Very steep hills back up to Chatswood. All up 16 km in 1:30, slower than normal due to the bush bashing and hills. But a nice run.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

End of year greetings!

The last week or two have been very hectic, not to say chaotic. The disruption of routine is a bitch to running schedules; throw in foul weather, seasonal lurgies, preparation for overseas trips (learning how to make a photo tribute for my parents 60th anniversary in iMovie), keeping up a commitment to brew once before I all adds up to one hell of an awful past week of running, with a couple of days before any light at the end of the tunnel (we leave on a marathon flight very early tomorrow morning). The two lovely runs last week were followed by several days of almost nothing. Sunday rolled around and I was desperate to run prior to brewing, but it dawned bitterly cold, windy and wet, and I was still heavy with a head cold. Needless to say I stayed indoors and grabbed more sleep. Yesterday (Monday) dawned much better and I managed 31 km at an average of 4:57 with a slightly faster finish. Then last night until midnight I was working to finish off the iMovie project, and today (December 25th) was flat strap preparing to leave for Australia, not a tremendously smooth process with my wife and one son down with various lurgies and desperately hoping to improve enough to fly. It will probably be Friday before I can run again, Thursday perhaps if I am a bastard to all around me and just go. I really hope it picks up after we get to Australia.

So, all I can do is conclude by saying that my stated objective of a sub three marathon at Tokyo is looking rather shaky. To those who thought I might be shooting for a big sub three (yes you, Tesso and Robert Song), I can understand your thoughts, and I will confess to mine having strayed into exactly the same place, but I knew that life and thus training was going to be disrupted like this. The head cold and a few other curve balls have made it even worse than I imagined. I hate December. If I really get in some quality training in Australia, maybe things could turn around, but it is very difficult to see it happening.

I'll try to keep you posted.

Au revoir for now...

Friday, December 21, 2007

End of an era

I am in the last few hours in my present job. In fact, as soon as I pack up some books and clean off my computer, I am out of here.

Last week at our end of year party, which doubled as a farewell, I was given a tiny little package of crepe paper wrapped up with a ribbon. When I opened it I was just knocked, over, flabbergasted and reduced to a near blubbering mess. It was a little booklet done up in Photoshop by the lovely Kaori from one of our sister companies, B&C. It chronicled the six years I have been in the company, mostly with photos from our annual company ekiden, but also two trips we went on and various shots around the office, not to mention Kaorin's artwork. It was pretty hard to compose myself to make any kind of speech, tired and emotional as I already was, but I think I managed to blurt out a few rounds of "honto ni arigato gozaimashita!"

Here is a quick sample of what it contained:

If anybody in Japan is in the market for a tribute type booklet, portfolio, or any type of package like this, get in touch with B&C. They are great!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Two nice runs

My last two runs were very nice. Last night was 6 km of warm up in Yoyogi Park with assorted Namban friends, after which we moved to the track for the weekly Namban interval workout. The schedule called for a ladder workout of 800, 1200, 1600, 1200, 800, 400 metres. I felt really smooth, relaxed and kind of fast. I suppose the cool but still 8 degrees Celsius and the funky just purchased AdiZero CS 3 WD shoes (6,990 yen from B&D Pro Sports Authority in Yoyogi) may have had something to do with it. My times (in pace) for those reps were: 3:30, 3:31, 3:34, 3:35, 3:22, 3:03. I felt fairly comfortable throughout and simply enjoyed this workout.

Due to the gym being closed and other commitments I had to either rest today or run before work. Getting to bed at 12 midnight was not a good portent for an early start, but I set the watch for 6:00 am anyway with the thought of doing an easy 10 km. Somehow I woke up fairly easily, got the shiny, happy shoes on and clicked the watch at 6:12. Surprisingly, my legs felt very little fatigue from the intervals and I simply rolled through the run, starting out at around 5:00/k for the first few km, gradually easing up to 4:30/k and staying around that level until I touched down at home with 12 km in my dilly bag for the log book. It was also a startlingly beautiful morning to be out and about.

I'm now starting to wonder what kind of shock to the system it will be to suddenly have to run in Australian summer conditions next week. Just looking at the weather forecasts, though, it seems quite mild with daily ranges of 21 to 26 or so. Sounds pretty nice actually.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wobbly but steadying

My self-assessment dropped a point to 6/10 after last weekend because I missed a day of training on Saturday due to a particularly heavy bonenkai/farewell party on the Friday night (and until 4:30 Saturday morning...I hate Roppongi!). The hangover developed into a cold and sore throat on Saturday night. Sunday morning the throat was not good and the head still doughy, so I rested more, downed vitamin C, and resigned myself to a crap week of not nearly enough running. It was a colder than normal day as well, which did not help any incentive I might have to get out the door.

After lunch that nagging voice got louder and louder and finally at 2:30 I got dressed and headed out the door with the intention of running at least 10k, just to salvage some pride. As I got moving I realized I wasn't feeling too bad after all and ended up running 20.5 km at 4:44/km average (and pretty slow start, hard finish). One thing that run did was take me over 4000 km for the year. Not a bad achievement I suppose, but still pretty modest by some people's standards.

This is my last week in my current job, so even though I am scrambling to get things finished, it feels a bit like a holiday. I called into the gym yesterday morning and did 10 km on the treadmill, 5k fairly easy and 5k on a moderate sort of hill program. Last night the boss took me out for a goodbye drink. Several flasks of good sake (cold of course) and lots of fish! Then today I ran three laps (5k/lap) of the Palace at lunch time. The first was north of 5:00/km pace as I ran with Ms Uchida from my company, then the next two were at a bit slower than 4:20/km. So like the title says, steadying. I just have to follow through for the rest of the week. I think all the partying is over for least I hope so.

Here is something to show you what 16/17 year-old boys get up to for kicks (pun intended) these days. To make it easier, Tatsuya is in the darker colored shoes. His mate is the better trickster, but Tats is proud of his free kicks:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Going for goal Part II

I left an important part out of that last post. I mentioned how I am travelling with the training. And generally I give myself 7/10. The lost marks are due to the effects of not being quite as successful on the socializing front. It is end-of-year party season here in Japan. Last Saturday we had our running club end-of year bash (bonenkai), which was a self-catered pizza, salad, sushi, snacks, and copious amounts of booze affair. I organized a partner race (run to an allotted pace for 6 km with no watch) in the afternoon, and when announcing the winners at the party startled everybody by stripping down to my Namban vest and shorts...hee hee. It was a wonderful, happy and ever so slightly boozy party. I got home well after midnight and was not terribly fit the the next day. Late morning I ventured out to run to Renald's place (photo credit and fellow who hosted the party) to see if I could help clean up. But it was all done and I just had to keep on running. I covered about 16 km at a very slow, gingerly pace. Every minute of that run felt like 5. I was also so knackered on Monday that I just didn't even try to run. Score one for the parties.

Then on Tuesday night I had a farewell party with my two English conversation classes. I will not be able to continue the classes when I start my new job. So we went to a craft beer bar, and well, I had a few craft beers and a jolly good time. Actually, the next morning I wasn't too bad. I couldn't get up and run at 5:30, but I ate into work time and did that tempo run in the gym that I mentioned in the last post. So not too bad really.

Tomorrow I have my main company bonenkai, which will also have an element of farewell party for me. The evil co-workers will be hoping to see me written off. We will be going to a restaurant in Roppongi, which is a place I prefer to stay well clear of. Anyway, I will just have to be strong and limit myself to a few glasses of better quality sake.

My boss also wants to take me out next Monday night for a farewell drink. They like to mark occasions over a drink.

So, the season is presenting plenty of shoals upon which my training is frequently threatening to be dashed. But so far I have escaped with only minor damage to the hull. Sta tuned for the next exciting installment.

Going for goal

I want to make it clear that I have a very firm goal of going sub three hours at Tokyo Marathon on February 18. Last year's weather and my performance, which were not necessarily intrinsically linked, were a bit of a disappointment and I want redemption. I wish to go into this race determined and motivated, and I need that to be reflected in my approach to training and socialising (the second of these being the most difficult).

The first part of the training plan required a conservative, restful recovery from Ohtawara. That was achieved quite nicely and now I've entered the second phase, which means getting back up to modestly high mileage while putting a certain degree of emphasis on speed work. For the next couple of weeks I want to run 80 to 90 km a week comprised of a couple of 14-16 km lower aerobic efforts, a not-so-long-not-so-slow (say 25km) long run, and two speed-oriented sessions (perhaps two items per week off a four-item menu of 1 k to 1600 m intervals, 6 to 10k tempo run, short hard intervals, hill repeats). Then any additional mileage would be just easy pace.

So how am I traveling? Last Wednesday I did a 6 x 1k interval workout with the club. Saturday I ran a short hard interval session of 10 x 30 s hard followed by 60 s easy. I also did a few plyometrics...just jumping from a static start up onto a 25-30 cm high block. Yesterday morning I did 11 km on a treadmill with 6 km at tempo pace of 3:52 to 3:55. I had the incline set at 1.5% at first, but after a while was going too lactic so backed the speed a tad and the incline back to 1%. I enjoyed this workout, especially since I'd had to squeeze it in to a tight day. Going pretty hard makes a treadmill more bearable.

This morning was scheduled as a 16km steady (lower aerobic) run. I awoke at 5:20 am fairly bright-eyed and ready to roll and was a bit shocked to see the steadily falling rain outside. Still, it didn't deter me and I got the run in without too much trouble, but I was a cold little boy at the end of it (it was 8 deg C). I am finding that a pace of 4:20 to 4:17/km is a nice comfortable aerobic run these days. I remember a time when I thought that 4:30/km was far too hard to be doing aerobic training! It eventually left me feeling a little fatigued this morning and perhaps I should have been a few seconds slower or should have shaved a couple of km off the distance. Finding that precise workload that pushes you to adaptation but from which you can recover for tomorrow is a fine line.

Anyway, the most interesting part of the training will begin on December 26 when we leave for Australia. The sudden switch to heat will be interesting. I'll have a few days based in Chatswood (Lane Cove Nat Park?), then maybe somewhere overnight on the way to Coffs Harbour, then almost ten days in Coffs with hills, heat, and humidity. I think this phase of the training will be a switch back to distance and endurance. I have a feeling that this period in Australia, timed as it is, will either make or break the ambitions for a good Tokyo. A few days after we get back to Tokyo I'll be running a hard half marathon, so that will be a good test of the efficacy of the speed and heat training.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Bits and bobs

I've been so busy since the marathon that I hardly have time to scratch myself let alone write blog posts. I'm changing jobs at the end of the year and have been preparing information for the new company and involved in trying to recruit my replacement at the present company; I have been trying to create a DVD movie thing from photos to commemorate my Ma & Da's upcoming 60th wedding anniversary; I have been organising the race to precede our club bonenkai (year-end party) on Saturday the 8th; I have been trying to be a bit supportive around the house (and failing); I have been trying to get the running kicked off again...

The week after the marathon (which was on Fri 23rd Nov) I only ran on Wed 28th, 7k, and felt great at first but some calf weariness by the end. Then I ran the same run on the Saturday and got through it fine. Then 15k quite slowly last Sunday and then this week 10k, 12k, 15 k (with 6 x 100 intervals at 3:45 to 3:32/km--weary after that), rest, and then 12k this morning. The aim has been recovery and settling back easily into it. Next week I will try to notch up the work load, but I have several year-end parties coming up and feel a bit run down from lack of sleep. Why am I writing this instead of going to bed?

Marathon Nutrition
Clairie wanted to know about what I ate before the marathon (I think that was the question). Well, Joachim got us a fix of maltodextrin from his secret source in East Germany, so a few of us were having 1g/kg of bodywweight per day of that for the four days before the marathon to supplement regular carb loading. I also made an additional effort to try to keep up protein intake; wherever possible I was trying to generally observe the 3-4g carb to 1g protein thing. I was taking protein in the form of soy milk, yogurt, eggs, that kind of thing. During the race I didn't have anything much until about half way, then had a gel. At 30k I had a special drink which contained sports drink and some gel with a protein component. I don't think the protein counted for much at that stage. Then I had another gel at 35k. Bloody wind was the limiting factor though at that point. I don't think the attention to protein ended up contributing so much to my performance because my calves were still holding me back. Maybe if I had the right shoes the calves would have been better and I'd have had a stronger second half...but I really felt mostly free of pain very quickly after this one and I think that may have had something to do with the extra protein.

Other stuff
It is now a bit cold and dark in the mornings and I am finding it interesting to try to get up at 5:30 after going to be at 11:00 to 11:30. I have no running tights at present and need a new heart rate chest strap to replace the one I lost. But I simply can't afford these investments at present, so I am running with icy knees and no metering other than time and, on the rare occasions the footpod decides to work, pace. At least I have gloves thanks to Jim.

So that's where I'm at. I think that will do for now.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ohtawara 2007

My preparations for this race were, I think, pretty difficult to fault.

I trained well, cross-trained and strengthened, managed niggles and blisters, gave up grog and cut way back on coffee and junk foods for the final month, generally ate healthily and took some vitamin supplements etc to keep colds at bay, freshened up my legs, carbo loaded well, borrowed a replacement heart rate belt, made sure my shoes and gear were good ... in short, everything I could control, I did.

The one thing I couldn't control was the weather, and while it was fine, the wind decided to blow and the temperature was probably the coolest we've had at around 6 degrees--the surrounding mountains were shrouded in snow. The race is two loops of a roughly rectangular course. We were lucky in one sense that for most of the course we were at worst just buffeted from the side and were not significantly affected. However from 15 to 21 km and 35 to 41.5 km we had to cope with the double whammy of a slight uphill combined with a strong, blustery headwind.

I'd decided that the right pace for me to go out at was about 4:05 to 4:07. If the fade was minimal and left me feeling strong near the end, it would get me very close to a PB. Right or wrong, I really did not believe a faster pace would be sustainable, so the best I was going to get would be a slight PB.

Joachim and I ran together from the start until just after the half way point, at which point he put the accelerator down. My calves were telling me that it would be suicide to try and stay with him. It is difficult to express my appreciation for his calming presence during that first half. We rolled through the first 15 km right on pace, mainly going off my heart rate and our combined pace judgment as he was having some troubles with his Garmin. An example of the kind of reassuring presence he provided was when I was having trouble with my race number. Two pins had ripped through the paper and I mentioned it to him. He said, "Ah, don't worry, it's not mission critical." Ha ha .. exactly. I really didn't worry about it after that. As we came to inclines or into the wind, it was "Don't push too hard, don't try to fight it, conserve energy." Calming, reassuring. We got through these sections on the first lap without incurring too much time or bodily damage. The second time around the fight would be a bit more serious.

We went through the half in 1:27:23, perhaps 50 seconds slow. Not too bad, but we'd lost more time on the windy, uphill section than I could really afford. And while I generally felt OK, leg fatigue was certainly starting and my calves in particular had been feeling tight since about 15k (the Tarthers were probably a bit too light). I knew at that point that the PB was going to be hard to achieve, but we were back to the non wind-penalized section of the course and I thought that a strong sub three was there for the taking. The PB was still not beyond reach, but there was zero room left for fade.

While Joachim pulled ahead I settled into fight on my own. I was happy that nothing really changed and I had decent splits to 25 and then again to 30 km. Then 30 to 35 was still respectable and I was moving well, sometimes really getting a move on with some wind assistance. But then came the 35 km mark, which signified the start of 7 km of slight continual uphill, strong headwind, and serious cold. I made sure I got my last gel into me and really knuckled down to the fight. Unfortunately it was impossible to avoid a significant slow down through this section. The wind was stronger than on the first loop and the leg fatigue, quite obviously, was much worse. Still, I did my very best and got as much pace out of my legs as I could muster and never felt like I was shot. All I wanted was a break from the wind and I thought I could have continued extracting my target pace, or perhaps better, out of my legs.

But after the struggle, by 40 km I knew the goal was simply to get under three hours. Even though I had a little bit of buffer, I knew I had to run at well under sub 5:00/km pace, so it was still no gimme.

The Namban cheer squad was spread out along the main road over the final kilometer to the stadium. They were a great boost and I felt that I was really pushing as hard as I could. "C'mon Steve! You're sub three!!" As I turned the final corner to run the last 150 to 200 m to the finish line, my watch ticked over to 2:59...bloody hell, cutting it a bit fine here, I managed to get a final spurt out of the legs and crossed, relieved, in 2:59:40. My third sub three-hour marathon in the bag! All of them on this course!

How do I feel? It's hard to say. Not rapturous, but satisfied. I had felt there was a very real chance of slipping under the PB. I did the best I could under the conditions and recorded a solid time when it would have been easy to give up and just coast in to a 3:02 or 3:03 or something. Beating three hours was always my B goal, and I achieved it, even if by a narrow margin. So yep, on balance, happy.

Enough for now. Here are the splits. I'll be putting the data onto my log tomorrow and might make a couple of follow-up posts on some other facets of interest, like my heart rate data, and maybe some piccies.

section time (pace/km)
0-5 21:05 (4:13)
5-10 20:00 (4:00)
10-15 20:34 (4:06)
15-20 21:21 (4:16)
20-25 20:27 (4:05)
25-30 20:44 (4:08)
30-35 21:47 (4:21)
35-40 23:26 (4:41)
40-42.2 10:16 (4:40)

Oh yeah, Joachim went on to run about a 1-minute negative split for a 2:53:xx!! Fantastic race for him. He'll be putting up his version of events on his blog.

And one more thing ... A huge congratulations to young Christian, the boyishly handsome young chap I met on the start line of the Shinjuku City half marathon at the start of this year. On that occasion he stuck behind me until about 14 or 15 km before fading to finish a couple of minutes behind me. He subsequently linked up with us at Namban and has trained the house down by following an on-line coaching system from Switzerland (his home country). Yesterday he ran a 2:50:xx! He could have easily gone sub 2:48:48 if it were not for the wind. Fantastic. Hard to say how much better he will get, but 2:40 and beyond is distinctly possible (not that I want to put any pressure on him :-)

Thanks one and all for the support and kind wishes. It has been hugely motivating.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Final countdown

If this were a normal marathon week, i.e. with the marathon on Sunday, then today would be Wednesday. But Ohtawara is always on the national holiday of the 23rd of November, no matter the day of the week, so this year it is Friday, making for a nice long weekend.

The last week of training, if you can call the late stage of the taper "training", went fairly well. If I did anything wrong it was probably to run just a little too much. But if this is the case, I don't think it was by a big amount, and the rest of this week will be very quiet. Maybe just a light run tomorrow with a few stretches at race pace.

Last week was as follows:
Mon: rest (was suffering from blisters as you may recall)
Tue: 12k easy at 4:45/km
Wed: 8.5 km of easy jogging and 5 km of 1k repeats at target race pace on the track with Joachim, Paddy & Adam. We tried to run the pace by feel and were a bit slow at first (4:12, 4:20, then a bit fast, 4:01, 3:57, 3:57)
Thur: 7.5 km on treadmill with 6k at about 4:00/km. 750 m swim
Fri: Nothing
Sat: 3.3 km easy followed by 10 km at race pace. Again, went out too fast. Three x 3.3 km loops at 3:59, 4:03, 4:08
Sun: 14 km running easy by feel. Felt fairly easy, but was in the low 4:20s for much of the run. I probably ran 4 or 5 km too long for this run, but bugger it, I also run because I enjoy it, and this was a nice morning for a run.

Week total: 60 km

What I've found over the past week is that 4:20/km feels like an easy pace and is one I am sure would have me still feeling pretty strong at 30 km. If I wanted to run the marathon as "train-through" race with only the thought of posting a solid but not best possible time, then 4:20 would be a good target pace. At the other end of the spectrum, I can feel aerobically fairly comfortable at 4:00/km, but it is clear that this would trash my legs and energy system by 20 to 25km and who knows how ugly it could get over the final 15 km.

My conclusion then is that 4:05 (2:52:18 marathon) is the fastest pace I could attempt to run, but I am pretty confident it would still result in a nasty fade that could see me struggling to squeak in under the 3 hour mark. I think that 4:10/km (2:55:49 marathon) should see me to 30k, after which it is hard to say what would happen. A faster finish from 30k is very unlikely, so targeting 4:10 pace would probably leave me with almost no chance cracking the 2:54:47 PB, but a reasonable chance of staying under 3 hours.

So that's my analysis and feelings; I'll leave it up to yourselves to conclude what I should do. I will reflect on this over the next few days and make my own decision. I'll probably decide on the day, most likely right about the time it is too late to undo the damage of yet another too-fast start! My honest feelings, though, are that a PB is a less than 50/50 chance.

On the body front: all the training-induced leg niggles have cleared up. My lower back and hips are as good as can be expected, the blisters and infected toe have all healed. The only real niggle is the long-standing Achilles. No doubt it will nag away until after 10k when it is warmed up. Later in the race other pains will overwhelm it anyway.

So that's it, nothing left to do except rest and carbo load. Thanks for the support and interest. I'll let you know how it goes. I can tell, you, I'll be looking forward to my first beer in a month at around 2:00 on Friday!!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

An appeal to Queenslanders

As you know I very occasionally depart from the usual patter about distances, pace, and what bit hurts most at the moment to have a little rant about politics.

This time, political though the message is, it is a very simple one targeted purely at my handful of Queensland readers. Anyone else who reads on is just being a stickybeak, but don't let that stop you...well, no, if you know a Queenslander and think you can influence their vote on November 24th, then you might want to read on...

From the last year or so of following his blog, I have formed the opinion that there is but one truly "good guy" in Australian politics. I am sure there are others, but this one, through his blog, lets you see what he thinks, what he believes in, and what he does about it in his day to day political life. Thus you can actually know he is genuine and a person rather than just another drone following the party line. And generally speaking, what distinguishes him most is his compassion and concern for people, especially the oppressed and disadvantaged. He is Queensland Democrat Andrew Bartlett.

And the problem is, Andrew's prospects for being returned at the upcoming election are looking a little shaky.

While I am nominally a pretty much welded-on Labor voter, the thought of Andrew losing his seat in the senate fills me with dread. I also think that the current parliamentary makeup is evidence that we really shouldn't let either of the major parties have full control of both houses. The best way to achieve this is to have a reasonable size block of sensible, intelligent, free-thinking Senators holding the balance of power. Generally speaking, the Democrats are perfect for this role. They are not spoilers and will allow the government to govern, but will treat any proposed new laws on their merits and subject them to thorough and thoughtful analysis.

Anyway, what I am asking of all Queensland readers, if you haven't yet thought about your vote in the Senate, is to please have a look at Andrew's blog, and if you find that you have sympathy with his ideals and objectives, make sure you not only vote for him, but try to suggest the value of voting for him to as many of your Queensland friends as you can. Andrew deserves to be re-elected. Australia needs better checks and balances in the Upper House than we currently have. Please tell your friends and ask them to tell their friends.

Vote 1 Democrats in the Senate

Thanks for your time.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


I bought some mega-bandaid type thing on Sunday afternoon. It has a sheet of soft stuff you cut out to shape to form a pad and sheets of band aid type stuff to cut out and go over the pad.

The blister settled down a lot yesterday. All the water seemed to get reabsorbed back into my body or something and it was not hurting to walk around.

I thought it was worth a try with the paddy bandaid thing this morning and sure enough, got through 11.5 km at an easy 4:45 type of pace this morning. Not even a flicker of pain and the pad was barely noticeable. So the dramatics of the last post were probably not justified. I appreciate the concern though. One day I might even work out what "rest your dogs" means. Would they be huskies, these dogs? Pete is from Maine, so I guess that kind of expression might creep into the lexicon around those parts.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The unbearable rightness of resting

Sorry, I have had that title in my head for a few days and just had to use it. I took yesterday off because it rained all day and my left foot was not good. Not good at all. I am having a hell of a time with skin problems on it. It all started two weeks ago with an ingrown toenail. I get these from time to time but they usually clear up quickly under a regime of hot water soaks and Savlon for a couple of days. But this one has really been persistent. It is finally starting to clear now, but there have been a few hurty runs. The real problem is that the bandaid for the ingrown toenail led to a blister under the 2nd toe. Then during last Wednesday's 4.4 km intervals a big blister started between the ball and arch of the same foot ... not sure why. During Friday's run the blister under the 2nd toe rubbed raw. That's why it was not difficult to convince myself to take yesterday off.

So with yesterday being a big fat zero, I was all set today for an important last, hard long run. I taped the blister under the 2nd toe and it was fine. But the tape caused a blister on the adjacent side of my big toe! And the blister under my foot flared up and was hurting with every footfall -- I was just hoping it hadn't burst (luckily it held up). But the run was going well, so I was loathe to pull out.

So blister pains aside, I ended up running 28 km and think it was a successful run. Mostly around 4:22 pace. But also finished pretty strong with a couple of faster last km and a feeling of there being plenty left in the tank when I finished. I had hardly any water and no calories since dinner the night before. (It was only 14 degrees, so the water was not an issue.) Heart rate barely crept over 150 just at the end when I was pushing it a little. It was just like a regular weekday lower aerobic run only...longer.

OK, so it was slower than race pace, but not that much slower. Fifteen to twenty seconds per km for the most. It was hard enough to give me a little stimulus in 12 days time, yet not so hard or long that it will set me back much. Some easy runs tomorrow and Tuesday. Some race pace intervals on Wednesday ... and we'll see how we go from there.

I see that Clairie has returned from maternity leave just in time to take up her duties filling me full of pre-race nerves! Thanks Clairie. It wouldn't have been the same without you!

And my new training partner Joachim has started a blog. Pop over and say hi!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A tough one

Had a pretty tough workout last night. I was proposing another tempo run, this time 12 km, and was going to write an email to Joachim to invite him to join me. Before I could, he wrote to me and announced he was doing 3 x 4.4 km "intervals" at 3:47/km with a mile recovery between each. My first reaction was to gulp. My second was to think that, well, that structure would be similar to a good tempo run. Tempo intervals I think they call it. Having not done any intervals quite as long as that (I think the most I've done is 2 km), I decided what the heck, but I told him that my target pace would be more likely to be 3:50.

And 3:50 is what we set out to do. I developed a sore left fetlock (soleus) during the first interval, but decided to press on. Despite a bit of concern about more severe damage, I went on to complete the workout, though it did suppress my pace a bit on the third rep as you can see from the data:

Time Pace HRav
16:43 3:48 155
16:41 3:48 156
16:56 3:51 154

Again noteworthy is how stable and low my heart rate stayed for this pace. At any other time in my running history, 3:50/k pace would have seen me getting over 160, if not in the first or second km, at least by 3 and 4. But not at the moment.

Before anybody gets too excited about what this means, I can assure you that it does not mean I can run a 4:00/km marathon. It just means that lactate threshold is not the limiting factor. There is no doubt in my mind that my legs would give way at around 25 km if I went out at that pace. In fact they might give way at 4:10/km. So balancing the theoretical potential against the biomechanical realities is what makes the selection of a target pace really interesting for this marathon. In some ways it comes down to a simple question: how bad do ya want it? How much pain are you willing to withstand? I suppose a lot depends on how the rest of the taper goes. But it is indeed getting interesting, even for me.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

I need another month

Well, I had a pretty good run today to finish the week. An easy 11 km with company at well north of 5:20/km. Then switched to race shoes (the deadly Tarthers) and a singlet for a race pace half marathon. It was a brisk 15 degrees when we first started, but quickly warmed to a balmy 17, so the singlet was a good choice for my solo race pace run.

I went off at a strong pace and got into a rhythm that I thought was about right. The first 2km was 4:12/km, not 4:00/km. And it felt hard enough on the legs so I saw no reason to change it. The pace did pick up over the next 7 km, but only to about 4:08/k, then slipped back to 4:12/km. Heart rate was mid 140s and stayed there pretty much through 17 to 18 km after until I picked the pace up again to 4:05/km and 4:03/km for the last couple of laps (a shade under 2k per lap). Then it got up to 151.

So I did the whole thing at an average of 4:10/km. I wasn't sorry to stop, but I certainly could have kept running a while longer at that pace. The left Achilles was a bit sorer than normal, probably because of some short, sharp hill repeats I did yesterday.

The title of the post reflects the fact that I think with three or four more weeks of this kind of sharpening week, I probably could have a stab at the 4:00/km marathon. I would want a few more longish weeks but with plenty of higher intensity, like the 1600 or 2000 m repeats, a longer tempo run, and a faster long run. Hell, I will do that again this week anyway, though with an eye on tapering as regards total mileage.

Well, gotta cut it short and get some sleep. Week in summary: 107 km, including a tempo run, a 4 x 2000 m repeats, and half marathon at race pace.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Colouring by numbers

I have been trying to spare you all the monotony of detailed daily posts and sticking mostly to weekly updates. But it is hard to resist as the marathon approaches and my body begins to cooperate ... and when I have a run like this morning's.

I happily took a big fat zero yesterday (yaaay .... rounds of applause), though did have a steady 30 min swim and a short sauna (booos....jeeers).

But generally all felt pretty well and I finally felt confident that I could get up early and launch into a 1600 m interval session. I nearly blew it by staying up a bit later than I should have and was in a deep slumber when the alarm went off at 5:10.

Took an easy warmup to Komazawa Park and to the "Start" line. Had a 5 min break, went to the loo, washed my face, had a drink of water, picked my ear wax and ate it ... (Australian political reference!)

Part way into the first 1600 I thought, why 1600? We are trying to build lactic tolerance here, why not push on to 2000? Well, let's see how the heart rate goes and legs are feeling ... so I went through 1600 in 6 min flat and kept running up the damn hill (it is a fairly gentle hill, but it is still a hill) to reach the 2k mark at 7:28 (3:44/k). Heart rate averaged 150 and topped out at 160. But I was breathing pretty hard. I'd have thought I'd see a higher peak heart rate over that distance at that speed and up the hill, even if it was morning.

Took a 3:45 break by which time HR was down to 80.

Next rep (I was pretty much committed to 2k reps now) I went through 1600 in 5:57 and the 2k in 7:25 (3:43/k). HR averaged 151 and hit 161.

Reduced the break to 3:00 with final HR = 83

By 400 into the next rep the legs were feeling heavy and I thought that I was rolling along more slowly, certainly not forcing it like I was in the first rep. However I went through 1600 in 5:54 and the 2k came up in 7:23 (3:42/k). That one felt hard towards the end but still my heart rate was at a silly 151/163 (at least the max was slowly climbing).

I considered calling it at that point, but opted instead to take a 4:00 break, at the end of which HR = 100

The last rep certainly was definitely hard work, and when I went through 1600 in 5:59 I knew that I was well and truly done. Still, despite pushing really hard over the last couple of hundred meters (uphill), my HR still only maxed out at 163 - rep time = 7:27 (3:44/k).

I felt like I was doing it all hard enough, including breathing, to be up near HR max, at least around 170. If I hadn't had a monitor on it would have just felt like any normal interval workout. I suppose the morning start has something to do with it, but actually the HR numbers were not that different to my 1600s at the Palace last week. I hope it's not, and don't think it is, over-training fatigue. I guess I just have to get used to the idea that, as Pete said in his comment to my last post, I am pretty fit at the moment. But robert song, 2:48? Come on, that is just fantasy land. But I have to say I'll be disappointed if I can't break 3 hours this time around, and I accept that all the signs point to a sub 2:55 if the planets come into alignment...still, that is getting ahead of ourselves. Next up, some distance at around race pace on Sunday. Easy day tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

And the winner is ...

I think (B) was probably the closest, but I wouldn't say that "much of it was at 10 race pace".

I was a bit sneaky though, you see. I got out for a shade under seven easy kilometers in the morning. Then I did an easy 6 km warm up tonight. Then a 10 km tempo run on the track (and we were just about there weren't we?) and then another couple of easy kilometers to cool down, just to make sure. So a lot of it was really at easy pace, and I think that was my crowning glory of common sense. And it was all directed around making sure I could do justice to the schedule 10 km tempo run. But end result, ta daaaa .. 503.0 ... 100 meters less than last month! Shit, what's the time? Where are my shoes?

And boy, wasn't that tempo run a weird thing. From my HRmax, I judge my lactic threshold to be up around heart rate 160 to 165. And based on current fitness and recent heart rates etc, I figured I could target 3:55/km to 4:00/km as being about right to get me to that heart rate after a few kilometers; It wasn't. I had Joachim for company (him fresh off a 78 minute half last weekend!) and we really got into a good rhythm. As good as you can on a track as crowded as Oda Field on a Wednesday night. By 5k we had averaged 3:58/k and my average heart rate had only got up to 153. Then we turned the screw to low 3:50s and my heart rate was up to 156/157. The last two km were a 3:50 and a 3:43 to come in at 38:59 (rounding errors in the log splits made it 39:01 ... phooey). It was only in the 9th km that I really felt my breathing go up that extra notch. So it seems I probably need to be under 3:55, close to 3:50, to really reach into my lactic threshold. That's a really good thing. Now if only my legs and back and everything else would just cooperate!!

Oh, and the Tarthers were beautiful! I think they'll be OK in the marathon despite how light they are.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Decisions decisions

Oh dear. One day to go. Don't go chasing numbers, I said to someone the other day. The log is on 478 km. Tomorrow is the last day of October. I feel pretty good. Recovered even. Tomorrow is Wednesday. Just 22 km. What will I do? Ewen will shoot me. Or maybe just laugh at me. Oh dear...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Last Week in Review

I should have written this up last night. I am already 10 km into this week.

So, it was a strange old week of mixed fortunes, some of which I mentioned in the last post. But leading with the positives:
  • The two niggle/injuries in my right leg have cleared right up
  • Despite a cold, the funeral, and a typhoon on Friday/Saturday, I managed to log 118 km
  • I had one very good quality speed workout, and another OK one (on a treadmill)
  • Logged a reasonable long run yesterday
  • In a pique of optimism yesterday afternoon bought some racing shoes (Tarther Duel LT)
  • Having cut out grog, coffee (mostly) and sweets and chips (mostly), my weight has dipped below 70 kg, actually it was 68 yesterday after the long run and 69 this morning before brekkie.
  • I somehow feel I am on the verge of peaking and being in pretty good shape for a good marathon. If only all the news was good.
The one bad thing is that I have this on-going pain in my lower right back and lower abdomen just above the pubis. It comes and goes and usually doesn't present much of a problem to my running, but both bugged me a fair bit yesterday during the long run and are still twinging away today. If they would only go away and let me put in a few more decent tempo and long interval workouts, then a restful taper, I would have cause to feel optimistic that I will be strong and ready and rearing to go on race day. But if they don't clear...God only knows how ugly it might get out there.

Mon: 8 km easy
Tue: 16 km lower aerobic @ 4:40/km
Wed: 17 km easy + 4 x 1600 m (6:06, 6:07, 5:54, 6:04) with 400 m recovery
Thur: 12 km following hill program on treadmill. Bloody tough! HRav=146!
Fri: 15 km three laps of the palace: easy, easy/lower, lower/upper
Sat: 12 km on treadmill (typhoon day), attempted tempo run, but treadmill max pace 16 km/h (3:45 min/km) did not get my heart rate up to threshold values. Highest it got was low 150s...puh!
Sun: 37 km seven laps of the Palace + 2km easy jog before and after. First four laps easy, around 5:00/km or a bit slower, then three at increased pace, around 4:40. These hurt a bit.
Week: 118 km
MTD: 453 km
(now 463 ... can he make 500 for October?)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Mid-week report: the good and the bad

The good is that things are going much better this week despite the fact I caught a cold on Monday. It slowed me down a little and threw the schedule around because while I planned to wake up and train every morning, it was impossible to face getting up at 5:15 for an interval session with the dullness that comes with a cold. But it is clearing now on the back of mega-doses of vitamin C. I managed a good set of mile repeats on Wednesday night and a hard hour on a treadmill (hill program at a fairly high setting) last night.

The bad was that a work colleague who joined my team at our company's ekiden in May this year, and who I would occasionally have contact with through my job, died during a trail running race, the 71 km Hasegawa Cup in far western Tokyo. That's him at far right in the photo of our ekiden team. The race goes through some pretty rugged terrain and there are a few places where if you fall off the trail you are a goner. Sadly he was the only person in the 15 years of the race to fall off one of those sections. It was terrible. Only 40 years old and as nice a guy as you'd want to meet. We were not really more than acquaintances, but it still hit pretty hard when attending his otsuya (like a wake the day before the funeral) especially the way it happened. Rest in peace Kazuhiro Tanaka. I hope I can finish the race for you next year.

On a slightly happier note, "my" beer is being consumed in the more discerning bars of Tokyo.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Another training week gets smacked down

Wish it really were that much of a testosterone-fueled triumph. But truth be told I limped and struggled my way through yet another week of niggle-restrained running. There were a couple of sessions that I felt glad to get under the belt, but by and large I felt like I wasn't doing anything more than barely maintaining the same fitness level. I want to be keeping up the miles while doing at least a couple of speed/stamina sessions. I did attempt a couple of faster stints, the best of which was some intervals on Friday evening. But always the right calf felt knotty and sore, threatening to split in half if I ran too hard for too long. On top of that I have kind of tenderness in the groin/pubis that comes and goes, and then, since yesterday, a sharp little shooting pain on the top of my right foot, though it has not troubled me during running, only when walking around the house. I know, I know, don't walk around the house.

Mon PM: 1.5 km swim (recovering from the race pace run on Sunday)
Tue AM: 12 km easy @ 4:52 HR 131 (definitely not yet recovered)
Wed AM: 12 km easy @ 4:42 HR129 (felt more recovered)
Wed PM: 13 km at a mix of paces including one sub 4:00 burst of about 1200 m
Thur PM: 10 km on treadmill, 5:00/km with 4% gradient ... HRav 143, so pretty good aerobic w/out
Fri AM: 11 km easy 5:17/km, HR122
Fri PM: 7 km easy and 6 km of 5 x 800 m intervals @3:40-50/k
Sat noon: 13 km @ 5:07 (no HR data)
Sun AM: 31 km @ progressive pace from 5:10/k, finishing 4:40/k. Average HR 127, pace 5:03/k
Week: 116 km
Month to date: 335 km

Aerobically I know I am pretty fit at the moment and could probably go out and run close to a PB at any short distance. The problem is my legs and whether I have the kind of endurance I need to keep up the speed over the last 15 km of a marathon. I can't really think of much in the way of strategies for getting over this except to keep up the load, but switching over to a "easy days easier, harder days harder" regime for the next two to three weeks, with gradual mileage taper, then a pretty hard taper over the last one week and five days. A few stamina (threshold) runs are going to be very important as is getting recovery happening in my legs, whilst not letting the aerobic base slip. Quite a juggling act.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

News items

A few things I have been meaning to mention:
  • Got news last week that I got selected in the lottery for the Tokyo Marathon in February. Guess I'll have to run the bastard now.
  • The family & I will be in Australia, mainly Sydney, Newcastle and Coffs Harbour from Dec 28 to Jan 13.
  • If I haven't already mentioned it, Tatsuya has decided he'll come back to live in Japan next year. He's had his ups and downs, but basically decided that he'll be more comfortable living with his own family and completing school in the Japanese system. He has got a lot out of his time there and definitely picked up some Aussie ways, like the impulsive crew cut at the brandishing of a set of clippers when on holidays at the rellies.

Another week down...

Another up and down week over (only six more of them to go!). Frustrations not being able to quite crank out the mileage or some of the more intense sessions that I would like, but despite the niggles and the nags, I am still in the game.
  • Mon 8th: Public holiday. Easy 10 km at 5:20/km
  • Tue AM: 16k @ 4:40 HRav 136 ... not feeling fully recovered from Sunday
  • Wed PM: 20k with a whole mix of paces. Some slowish warm up, some lower aerobic, and three mile cruise intervals at about 3:50/km (aggravated hamstring & Achilles a bit)
  • Thur PM: Work sprung a drinking party on me, so I snuck out to the gym at 5:30 and did 30 min "hills" on the elliptical and 5k on the treadmill with progressive pace: 4:40 for 1k, 4:17 for 2k and 4:00 for 2k.
  • Fri PM: 16 km around the Imperial Palace. First and third laps at around 4:40/km. Second lap was a fartlek of a 400 m, a 600m, a 700 m and another 400 m which was an aborted 1000 m because the right hamstrings started squawking. Would have done a fair bit more of this if the legs were more sound. Really ended up with quite a few sore bits after this one.
  • Sat AM: Recovery. 13 k @ 5:20/km, average HR of 122! Also took some Ibuprofens at lunch and dinner to help the legs settle for Sunday's pace run.
  • Sun AM: Set up and joined the marathon girls on a race pace run at the Palace. Legs feeling as good as could be expected. We did a lap (5k) to warm up, then five laps at our planned race paces (or thereabouts). Basically I was able to do all mine at between 4:15/km and 4:18/km and my heart rate never got into uncomfortable territory (details here). I was definitely starting to go off the boil by the fifth lap though and developed a new sore spot, in my right calf (sigh!). It was quite a good workout, but once again after I attempt a run with a bit of intensity and quality, I find myself asking at what cost? I recovered pretty well in the afternoon, but have little sore spots in various places in my legs. I think I'll just try and swim tomorrow.
Weekly mileage: 110 km

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Limping along

I had a couple of good runs amongst a week in which my main goals were 1) to not lose fitness while 2) try to nurse the right hamstring back to a healthy state.

  • I rested Monday, did two sessions on an elliptical trainer, one Wed morning followed by an easy/steady paced Wednesday night run of 18 km with marathon babes, Mary & Satohi.
  • The other elliptical was on Thursday night (with the only running that day being 3 km on the treadmill waiting for an elliptical to become available).
  • Backed up Friday morning for a run that was to really just be lower aerobic, but became upper aerobic. I think all the muscle fatigue is gone and all fibers are firing again. A couple of laps were comfortably down under 4:10/km, but then some heart rate drift crept in and the pace had to shift down a bit. It was still a satisfying run to come through with the injury feeling not too bad.
  • Saturday I clocked up an easy 14.
  • Then today, we did a bit of a funky trip from Yoyogi Park, our regular haunt, down to the Imperial Palace (6 km). I ended up running five laps (4.95 km each) of the Palace and back to Yoyogi a different way (7 km) for a total of a shade under 38 km in 3:10:56. I had no idea of the pace early on, but I have just checked my log and realized that it was low 5:00/km. From around 20 km (lap 3) I picked up the pace to 4:40/min for two laps, but by the end of the second I was a cooked goose. I still had to run back to Yoyogi Park by myself, having lost Gareth and Colin earlier to common sense. Then, mercifully, a few km from the end I bumped into the marathon babes. They were finishing off their 30 km run and were also heading to the Park. They were a real godsend as I was ready to just lie down and die. Seriously. But they hitched me up to their little red caboose and dragged me back to the park.
  • Total for the week: 108 km. Not to bad. But I till feel a bit like I am slowly falling apart.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Psst, they're onto us...

As I sit here nursing my still tender (in fact, 16 km of newly tenderized) biceps femoris, it was not very comforting to discover in today's SMH that there are certain eggheads who think it is unhealthy to exercise for more than six hours a week! Say what?! That's just ridiculous. Haven't they heard that too much running is never enough?

Still, I know can always go and read that old post of Jay's and make everything all better.


Monday, October 01, 2007

Funny way to treat an injury...

As some of the more observant of you are already aware, I made it to the end of September with a run every day. It never started out as an aim, but just became something I thought would be cool to have in the log once I realized it was possible.

After aggravating the injury last Wednesday it certainly took a measured approach for a few days to get there. The gentle late night run on Thursday, then a not so bad 7 km on a treadmill on Friday morning with the hill setting turned up to 6%. On Saturday I arranged to meet Satohi (who I am coaching for Tokyo Women's International Marathon) in Sendagaya to support her with a pre-speedwork run (i.e., she had to speed up to 5k pace for a couple of minutes with a good rest between efforts). I woke up at 9:00, precisely the time we had arranged to meet. Oops. Some quick calling and apologizing allowed me to get there only 35 minutes late. The run went quite well. The sore bit kept reminding me of its existence, but wasn't too bad. But we clocked up 12.5 km, which was certainly better than I expected.

So that just left one day, Sunday, to get the milestone. I had to leave the house at 10:00 to get to a craft beer festival by 11:00 (I was volunteer working there). That left not a lot of time for the run. The day dawned cool and wet, as in raining steadily. Without time for a proper long run, and with a slight head-fog created by a couple of drinks celebrating our 18th wedding anniversary on Sat night, it would have been easy to just can the run, hang out with the family for a bit, and head to the beer event. But there was just one run left to rack up the full calendar month of running! And it would be ages before the boys would wake up...they are teenagers after there was not much choice was there.

I got out the door and decided to keep it simple by heading off on my normal weekday course, up to Komazawa Park, a few laps and home. I thought that if the leg held up I would try to keep the pace up around lower aerobic level and try to make 20 km -- six laps. So I wasn't going to push anything much and was looking to settle at a pace of about 4:40/km. However I was doing that within a km or two of starting and things were feeling good. I started running laps of the park and was surprised that despite being under a heart rate of 140 I was running at around 4:20/km and feeling quite comfortable. The leg was even feeling alright.

As the laps started accumulating my heart rate rose only very slightly into the low 140s, climbing to high 140s only late in the uphill section. It was just a great feeling rolling along at this pace in the rain, knowing somehow that things were gunna be alright. The contrast to those fatigue- and angst-filled struggles of a week or two back was stark. I soon realized that I was running at about or not far off 90-minute half marathon pace and started to think that it would be good to measure the half-M point, though not do anything different to what I was doing. So I ran a seventh lap to reach 19 km and then worked out where the exact point would be on the way back home for the half, which ended up being 92 minutes. Not exactly sub 90, but not bad for a long-run substitute! I had another 2 km to get back home and just kept on with the same pace.

I was thinking about how far I could have kept running at this pace. While it is always hard to be sure, I was certainly starting to feel a fair build up of fatigue in the legs, despite still being able to turn them over at the required speed. I think I could have kept it up until 30 km without too much drama, but we would have been getting into leg-thrashing mode, and I certainly didn't want that ;-) (nor did I have the time).

So that completed almost 23 km for the day (at 4:24/km), 85 for the week, and 503 for the month. Not so bad. Not so bad.

While the sore bit has not healed completely, and I am still going to have to be a bit careful with it, I am feeling much more upbeat than I was a few days ago. I think I can carry on running some easy/steady training runs this week mixed in with some sessions in the pool and or elliptical trainer. Then we shall see what we shall see.

And today is definitely going to be a rest day (the beer event took its toll, you see).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

It's a sickness

Wow, thanks so much for all the comments of sympathy and encouragement. That's a good way of finding out the lurkers, just post that you have an injury, ha ha! I'm afraid what I have to tell you is going to wear thin your patience and forbearance.

Moving around this evening from work to Shibuya and up Dogenzaka to attend a kind of interview, involving a fair bit of walking, it struck me that there was not much pain or even discomfort coming from the sore bit. My mind got to working. Every day in September. Every day in September. Maybe you can still do it? I trotted a little bit in my work clothes. Hmm...doesn't hurt. No, don't be foolish! I tried to shove such thoughts to the back of my mind. So on the way back from the interview I popped into Tokyu Department Store 8th floor above Shibuya Station. There is an Osaka goods promotion (until Oct 2), and prominent among the stands was one from a craft brewery, Minoh Brewing. Their double IPA (9% ABV) was extremely tasty (both glasses), as was their real ale style stout. I got home at 9:30 and only Kohta was home and he was engrossed in his Play Station (Final Fantasy XII for those who are interested in such things).

"Hi Kohta!" I said. "Gomen ne, demo chotto atama ni byouki desukara, kore kara chotto hashitte dekakimasu." (sorry mate, I'm, a little bit sick in the head, so now I am going to go out for a little run." -- apologies to those who speak proper Japanese)

I thought that my 3.3 km loop would be enough to satisfy the "run day" requirement. But I moved well, the evening was extremely pleasant, I had a nice little buzz on from the Minoh beer, the leg wasn't too uncomfortable as long as I kept to an easy pace, so I added on a lap of Rinshi no Mori (forest park) to come up with 5.3 km at 5:18/km, HRavg 125.

It was definitely as much as I could hope for, especially considering I had tried so hard to reconcile myself to taking a day off, and I would like to think it did not set back the sore bit too much. At times I also had the thought that, well, you know, this is what I enjoy, this is what I get off on. Just the sheer pleasure of moving along, breathing easy, feeling alive. Kind of like 2P's happy place. So what if I endanger my marathon? Just as Naoko Takahashi said that running is about more than the Olympics, so too can I say that running is about more than a sub 2:55 Ohtwara. So I just enjoyed the run, sore leg be buggered.

Well, I know I am a SFI, but I promise that I am going to keep things very easy and next week really concentrate on cross training, just as some of you suggested in the comments, e.g., Toshihiko Seko. Sure I can get away with these little gentle runs, but if I am going to get to the start line in better shape, I have to give the leg a real chance to of coming good so I can fit in a couple more quality weeks down the line a bit.

Thank you for understanding this poor, sick, addicted runaholic.

Slipping onto the wrong side of the knife-edge

I have to acknowledge that I am now officially in injury management mode. I think I have a relatively serious problem, strain or inflammation, in the long head of the biceps femoris, hereafter referred to as the sore bit.

The sore bit was feeling good yesterday and otherwise my legs felt recovered. But as I got into my warm up last night I could feel some creaks and groans from the sore bit. This SHOULD have been enough to tell me to abandon my plans for running the monthly 5-k time trial as a tempo run (heart rate capped at 165). But I had done it for the past three months and was getting hooked on seeing the trend in the numbers. It was hurting a bit doing the T/T, but not really getting worse or hampering me. The numbers were coming out OK (1:29 to 1:33 per lap; not really any different to last month) and I was feeling quite comfortable at that heart rate. Then in lap 11 the pain went up a notch and was causing me to alter my stride, so I finished the lap and stopped. Today it is sore. There goes my hope of running every day in September. Only four days to go too...

I am kicking myself for not changing plans and just having an easy run in the park, that should have been a no-brainer. And I can trace the injury back to a couple of other strategic mistakes as well. Chasing Hadd's final time & intensity program before I had actually worked up to the weekly mileage involved at easier pace. Not responding more quickly to the realization that HR150+ was just too hard on my legs in the early morning (hence a couple of forced-pace runs when I must have laid the precursor damage to the injury). Of course it is easy to be wise after the fact, but in reaching for the highest fruit on the tree, it is pretty obvious you are eventually going to fall off the ladder. I should have been more cautious. Shoulda known better...

Well, day one of the recovery starts today. Complete rest. Tomorrow morning I will head into a gym and see if I can do some cross training, like on one of those dang cross-country skiing type machines, maybe some pool walking or swimming. Tomorrow might even be too soon for that. But whatever the case, I have to force myself to let this thing recover...and need to downgrade my marathon goals.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Age shall not weary them ...

...but running 120+ km weeks certainly seems to do a pretty good job of it.

With the leg tiredness & threatening thigh injury I was talking about last week utmost in my mind, I backed off the intensity on the Friday and Saturday runs. I went into Sunday's long run with a little trepidation about the hot spot in my leg, but otherwise being slightly fresher than the previous two weeks. I also had a piece of toast & golden syrup before starting and a bottle of Pocari Sweat (sports drink) at 25 k. As a result I ended up finishing much stronger and was able to extend the run to three hours, 34.7 km. That brought up 125 km for the week.

I went to an extremely enjoyable BBQ party on Sunday evening, at which I somehow assumed grill duties and spent most of the time tending to briquettes, grilling chicken, lamb chops, blackened fish, lamb fillets and vegetables. And drinking some nice craft beers. In other words, I had a ball! Got to watch some of the Australia vs Fiji WC rugby on Dominic's high-definition telly before leaving too. The clarity of the picture was just unbelievable.

So with a touch of a hangover yesterday and another public holiday on the agenda I refrained from a run in the morning. By 4 pm though I was about to climb the walls, so I talked my two sons into accompanying me on their bicycles and we went for a nice slow and easy recovery run of about 9.5 km in 55 minutes, exploring the roads over to Musashi-koyama, Osaki, and back via Gotanda along the Meguro River (drain).

My run this morning again felt like the limiting factor was leg fatigue. I could still some tenderness in the quads from Sunday and other little yips and yaps, especially in the hamstring region of both legs. So again I didn't try to force the pace and just let it unfold at what felt a firm but manageable pace. Again, this meant that while the pace was quite satisfactory at 4:35/km average for the run, the heart rate was very low at 134 for the run and 148 max (hill-related and very little time was spent above 140-142). So, all this by way of prelude brings me to another extremely timely "ask Mystery Coach" post concerning the Lydiard 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 running efforts. The take-away message from this for me, and what I had been more-or-less gravitating to anyway, was that I do not need to push the pace and chase the 150-155HR. Certainly not on these morning runs when my body just seems to be operating at a lower HR. I also think that I'll make a more concerted effort to back off the distance this week, maybe bite the bullet and take a rest day...maybe...then come back for a couple more seeks of harder conditioning before starting the sharpening phase. I really need to sit down and plan it out.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Third Hadd Test

Finally managed to get the data all entered tonight. And the result is...GOOD! Yes, I have become faster at doing the Hadd test.

Hadd Test: Average pace of last two laps
HR 20-Jun 8-Aug 19-Sep
135 na 0:05:15 0:04:53
145 0:04:50 0:04:37 0:04:30
155 0:04:17 0:04:13 0:04:00
165 0:03:54 0:03:54 0:03:43
175 0:03:44 0:03:43 0:03:38

Total running time for each test was: 43:20, 43:00, and 41: 06.

While the changes between 20 Jun and 8 Aug were pretty subtle, they were much more obvious this time round. The improvements at HR145 and HR155 are certainly very encouraging and match what I have been noticing in training at around these heart rates.

I have made some good progress, but still tend to think I might be a little soft in endurance at the critical 145 to 155 range of heart rates. I do need to keep working at running at these heart rates for a longer time, especially over these critical next few weeks when the temperatures start dropping.

Frankly I just don't accept that I can train myself to run a marathon at 165. Maybe it is physically possible, but 165 still feels like 5k/tempo pace...the kind of thing I could keep up for 5 to 10k, 20k maybe, but not the greater part of a marathon. Perhaps eventually, with continued persistent and methodical Hadd training, but it would take another three months at least and freedom from injury, which is the killer when trying to run longer distances at these kind of paces.

This time around the best I am can do is aim at getting myself prepared to spend a lot of time at HR155 and the kind of pace that will deliver. Based on the current status, that would deliver a very nice marathon time, but I repeat, I think I need a lot more endurance at that HR to come anywhere near a low 4:00/km marathon.


I don't know whether I am addicted to running or addicted to writing entries in my run diary, but when I got home from yesterday's meeting earlier than expected, and nobody due in the house for an hour and a half, it wasn't difficult to decide how to kill some time. But I did make sure that it was an easy run. Enough to stop me taking a blank on the log and not so much or hard as to feel guilty about it when I know I need some recovery time (11k in 57 min, HRav 129).

Similarly, this morning I decided not to go chasing the upper aerobic heart rate of the Hadd schedule. My whole framework for the run was to just let it unfold and see what happens. As it was, nothing very startling. Slow at first, gradually came up to about 4:15 to 4:20/km pace. Heart rate was only gradually inching upwards and I wasn't going to force it. I got up into the top end of the lower aerobic zone and only just touched on the lower end of upper aerobic a couple of times. So bagged 16.5 km in 1 hr 15 min (4:33/km) HRav 135). I again didn't feel like I was bursting out of my skin to keep running, yet wasn't all that shagged by the run, either. So I suppose that is still consistent with dragging some fatigue around.

On a not very bright note, I've developed a little pain in my right lower hamstring, just above the rear right side of my knee. It reminds me of a very similar pain I had on the left side I little while ago. Iced it and put some magic cream on. I guess I will not be planning anything overly ambitious for tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Wow! Fantasmagorically helpful comments from all concerned on that last post. I think you all made some great points. I had seen Mystery Coach's post about low heart rates and it was on my mind, for sure, but I needed to read it properly to recall the stuff about the different fibers, so thanks for the link. I think we are generally all in agreement that I have tuckered out my poor little muskel fibers. Tonight I did the Hadd heart rate test. I haven't even looked at the data, but I am pretty sure it is going to show some significant increases in pace for some of the heart rates. Most interesting was that at the last set, trying to run at 175...fergeddaboudit! Seriously, I was all but up on my toes sprinting, but the highest I could get the damn heart rate up to was about 173. If I'd gone into an all out sprint for 200m, maybe I could have briefly lifted up to near 180, but it sure was sticky around the low 170s. breathing like a steam train and really trying hard I was too. I am sure it will be a faster pace than the last test, but what it all really means...

Anyway, out of the office all day tomorrow so it will be Friday at the earliest before I can post the results. And I am 95% sure that tomorrow will be a work-enforced rest day.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Listen to your body

Lydiard underpinned all his training advice with "listen to your body". Similarly, Mike's Mystery Coach says, "don't be a slave to a heart rate monitor. Use it as a guide to see how you respond to different workouts."

Well, these words are ringing in my ears at the moment as I try to figure out what is going on with my body and how to adjust my training. The simplest analysis and solution is that I think that I might be accumulating fatigue and in need of some freshening up. Which is probably no great surprise after the last post.

This morning's upper aerobic run was a bit of a disaster. Just as in recent upper aerobic runs, I had to work really hard to get my heart rate up, and this morning I was even breathing hard. It felt like a tempo run. Then, once I did manage to get up over 147, I started feeling heavy and the pace slipped and heart rate quickly followed it down. It was just physically too hard to run at the pace required to achieve a heart rate over 147. I don't quite get it because the idea is that when you are stressed you have an elevated heart rate, and as you fatigue your heart rate stays fact you have to slow to keep the heart rate at the same level. Well, I didn't have to force myself to slow, I couldn't really help it, but not with heart rate racing away either. When I slowed, through sheer inability to keep the legs moving at pace, my heart rate also fell. It was just as though my system was saying "No! we are not going to run at that pace, fella!"

Resting heart rate this morning was 41. It has varied between 39 and 43 over the past couple of weeks since I started tracking it, so there is nothing there to suggest serious over-training or anaemia or anything. Maybe it is just tired legs.

Mystery Coach talks about the need for balanced training, typified by this statement on Mike's blog today: "It is better in the conditioning phase to see 1.25 hours and 45 minutes the next day than 1.5 hours and the next day off."

Maybe I have reached a bit too far trying to hit those numbers from the Hadd document. Maybe I am just going that bit too far or bit too hard to allow enough recovery. Maybe I am just being too much of a slave to the heart rate monitor (and Hadd) and I should put it aside for a few days and just run to how I feel. If I had tried to run to a target pace today, I probably would have found it tougher than expected, perhaps slower than target. I'd put it down to some residual fatigue and have a couple of easy days before making another attempt at that pace.

So, I think that's all I can do here too. I will take tomorrow morning off and do the Hadd heart rate test and some easy distance tomorrow night. I might be forced to take Thursday off completely because of an all-day meeting in Tsukuba, and then I'll perhaps have an easy run Friday morning and then another crack at an upper aerobic run on Friday evening (to see what difference morning vs evening makes). Seems about the best way forward. Listen to your body. Is it saying have a step-back week? Probably.

But right now, Hadd's theoretical HRmarathon (160ish) versus my envisaged marathon pace (4:15/km which I am hitting at HR147 but not maintaining) just doesn't make sense at all.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A solid week

133.5 km...

I think that was my longest ever week. Two years ago during my buildup I think the highest I got to was about 125 km. And this didn't really seem all that hard, in the sense that I felt like I was recovering from each run by the next day. Sort of. However I again struggled in the last 10 km of the 30 km long run today and feel a bit embarrassed about the slowness of the pace...I need to get faster as soon as the temperatures come down. It was warm today, but I'm also sure the legs were pretty full even before the start.

So in some ways I cruised, but I think all in all it has been a tough week and definitely a step up. So the most ambitious goal I could have for this next week is to consolidate. Do much the same and hope to find the hardest runs of the week, like Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday, feeling just that bit easier.

Following closely the same plan as I posted last week, and getting much closer to it than last week, here are the stats:

Mon: easy 12 km in an hour (forgot heart rate monitor)
Tue: UA 18.5 km, 1 hr 22 min, HRav 143, 4:28/km
Wed am: LA 14 km, 1 hr 06 min, HRav 131, 4:40/km
Wed pm: 2.5 km easy, 5.2 km on track alternating 200 m at 5k pace, 200 m easy, total time 22:49, 4:24/km, average HRav 141
Thur: LA 16.5 km, 1 hr 13 min, HRav 137, 4:28/km
Fri: UA 19.5 km, 1 hr 25 min, HRav 141, 4:23/km
Sat: fartlek, 14 km, 1hr 03 min, HRav 142, 4:29/km (included about 6x500 m at 5k pace)
Sun: long, 31 km, 2 hr 47 min, HRav 133, 5:27/km
(N.B: The Blogger compose window needs a table function)

Definitely needed a nap this afternoon and my feet are feeling a bit weary tonight. I think I might be in need of new shoes. I'm also nursing blisters on a couple of the calloused parts of my toes, one of which is infected and rather hurty. I'm glad tomorrow is a holiday here. I'll do my recovery run in the morning and join a dinky little ekiden in the afternoon that consists of 1-km/leg.

Note to Robert Song: the runs on Tues and Fri are "hard" in the sense that it is really hard to get he body up to working at that level so early in the morning. I run what feels fast, but am still at HR137 or so, targeting 148-153. I hit the park I do laps at and have to really work it up an uphill section to get the heart rate up to 147 or so (by about the third lap) and then I can hold it there, but I admit, I do feel like I've worked darn hard by the end of the run. I know I could keep going, for sure, but not necessarily all over again at that pace. But I am not exactly running on fresh legs either and it is not race conditions...hmmm...anyway, we'll see how it feels in a few more weeks.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Almost a Week of Pure Hadd

In the Hadd document there are some time-based (rather than distance-based) schedules that Hadd used for Joe to progress from 50 to 80 miles per week. I found my training was starting to approach the third of these tables, and without a clear plan for my continued progression, I decided it would be a good thing to aim at. It goes like this (with adaptation to remove the references to Joe-specific heart rates):


60 min easy

easy side of lower aerobic


90 min

incl. 70 @ upper aerobic HR


75 mins easy

lower aerobic


75 mins easy

between lower & upper aerobic


90 min

incl. 70 @ upper aerobic HR


75 mins easy

lower aerobic


3 hrs easy

lower (w/60 min @ upper aerobic)

Approx 80+mpw

All those "easy" descriptors are a bit misleading f you ask me. That schedule is by no means a stroll in the park. I actually got off to a bad start with only 5k easy on Monday morning. Then Tuesday I approximated the Hadd run, but only got to about 75 minutes (17.5 km) before knowing I'd had(d) enough. On Wednesday (15.75 km) and Thursday (16.4 km) I met the Hadd prescriptions pretty much spot on.

I was hoping to do all the runs before work, but a passing typhoon ruled out running on Friday morning. I got out in the evening for three laps of the Palace and again fell a bit short on the time (18.2 km in 1:20, with a couple of slow km at the start and finish). With that run still fresh in my legs, I went out for what should have been an easier run on Saturday morning, except for the little matter of six reps of my 700-m hill circuit. It was a warm, humid morning, and I was a totally different (as in wasted) runner leaving the hill circuit to the one I was when I approached it. So that was 13 km in 65 minutes, some of it tough, compared to the 75 min "easy".

During yesterday's long run I felt OK to start with and moved at decent but not fast pace. But my legs were definitely full from a fairly hard week, particularly the previous two runs. By 15 km I was feeling fatigued, and by 25 km I was almost ready to quit. I battled on to 29 km, at which point I decided enough was enough, and I resisted the lure of doing another 1 km for the sake of round numbers. So 29 km in 2:32 it was. Total for the week, 115 km. My longest week since October last year.

Overall I fell a little short of the time-based Hadd prescriptions. This is good because it says the schedule is achievable, but still gives me something I have to reach for. The Hadd workouts are also far from easy. The Tuesday and Friday with 70 minutes at upper aerobic are hard runs! And Sunday's three hours with 60 min at upper aerobic...what!? That seems almost insane, at least under current weather conditions. Insane, but not out of reach with sensible building. So as long as I take a couple of weeks to work up to completing this weekly schedule, I think it will be a really good basis for continued progression of the base-building phase.

I've managed to back up from yesterday's long run with a steady 12 km in one hour this morning, so this week is off to the right start. I have a sense of dread about tomorrow though!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Parse the ansar

As Scott said, it is a matter of realizing that the various words have different meanings. There is an entry with the answer to the buffalo one on Wikipedia. Basically it goes something like this:

buffalo=the animal aka bison
Buffalo=the town in upstate New York
buffalo= a verb meaning to bully
Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo (that other) Buffalo buffalo buffalo.
It is easier if you substitute alternative words:
Buffalo bisons bully bisons (that other) Buffalo bisons bully.

For the had one, it becomes a bit more contrived. Let's use the seven-had version. In this case I imagine one "had" could be one person's name, another can be another person, and another one can be a type of food. So let's imagine that the person is actually called Malcolm, another is called Billy and the food is called pizza.

Had Malcolm had pizza Billy had had? (..hmm, not sure... it seems wrong without a "the" in front of "pizza")

For the longer version I was thinking of something more like a short conversation...

A: Had Malcolm had pizza?
B: Malcolm had had pizza, had Malcolm.
A: Had Malcolm?
B: Malcolm had! (I said!)

Which with the originals subbed back in would of course look like this:

A: Had Had had had?
B: Had had had had, had Had.
A: Had Had?
B: Had had!

Aren't you all glad I shared this with you? And if you see any flaws in the above, and if you are still awake, shout it out. There is probably a better answer to the seven-had version, but I am too sleepy to think about it any more.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Parse the sentence, please

The frequent references to Hadd keep reminding me of this sentence parsing problem that my Year 12 (or was it 11?) English teacher gave us all those years ago. You have to punctuate the following to form a semantically correct sentence (or sentences):

had had had had had had had had had had had had

I couldn't get it at the time and I'm not even sure if he ever gave us the answer. And...I think the original might have only involved seven "hads". But I can now think of an answer that works for all those hads, and I think that it is likely there is more than one answer.

I never really understood the concept, to be honest. But a couple of us came across one recently that, now I understand it, allowed me to nut out the had one. The recent one is:

buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo

Let me know if you can do either of them. Answers in a day or two.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Hadd training is not all easy!

The weather has cooled a bit and I have gained a lot of adaptation for running at heart rates in the low 140s. My pace at this HR, at least while fresh, is actually very healthy at around 4:30/km. When the weather is mild I also seem to have pretty good endurance at that HR. So I think its time to start in with some more serious upper aerobic runs (HR147-153 or 79% to 83% of HRmax). From now on I will do them on Tuesday and Friday morning, aiming for about 90 minutes total run (just like Joe!).

So this morning I cranked out this. Reaching for the upper aerobic heart rate brought the speed up to a point that after completing 17 km, including some slower warm-up and cool-down distance, I was still 14 minutes shy of 90 minutes. I wasn't prepared to up the distance any more though as it was already 3 km more than recent Tuesday runs. But to get to 90 minutes means this run is going to have to be about 20 km. Should be interesting. Two things I got out of this run: 1) pace at this heart rate is very respectable, better than three-hour marathon pace (before fatigue sets in anyway). 2) the endurance needs a lot of work as evidenced by the slower fourth lap. I guess the temperature was still a little warm, but I think that after four to six weeks of these runs I should be just about cranking out 20 km at 4:05 to 4:00/km without getting over a HR of 153 or 154. Will be interesting to see if that comes to pass...