Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Evaluation run 5k and a new on-line log

So I have been running a bit, though this blog would not stand testimony to it. Sort of 60 to 70 km a week. Until a couple of weeks ago I was trying to put emphasis on speed "renshu" (training), but there are no races or anything coming up, so my motivation has flagged and I am now looking towards the aerobic endurance build up over the next 20 weeks for an autumn marathon. I am thinking that if I can keep injury free and can juggle family and work enough to put in the miles, it would be so nice to try and make a tilt at a 2:50 marathon. After last year's disappointments that seems a bit ambitious...but there is no point namby pambying around. Let's aim for perfection and perhaps we will end up with very good (or however it goes).

So tonight was the monthly 5 km time trial. I decided to run at around my lactic threshold, which is the heart rate that Hadd says you can run a marathon at IF you are fully trained. For me, that's about 165. Intersting results that showed I have a way to go before I could run a marathon at that pace.

I have discovered this really excellent on-line log called RunningAHEAD. I mean really excellent. Has a pedometer tool and other neat ways of displaying your data. About 100 times better than the one I mentioned six weeks ago. See if this link shows you the results of my run, then take it from there if you are interested.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

And now for something completely different


Last Saturday I joined a large (16) group for a trail run. The idea was to run from Hakone-Yumato to Gotemba. I really didn't have time for the full version, so together with a couple of other pikers ran (and I use that word very loosely) out for a couple of hours to the top of some peak or other then turned around and came back to where we started and had a bath in a hot spring and bento (lunchbox) beside the river. The trail was bloody rugged in places and even though we we out for almost three hours, we only logged about 15 km. Prior to turning around we probably lost 30 minutes waiting for the back-markers, which, considering I was only out for an abridged version, I found a bit frustrating. Still, it was bloody nice to get out of the city and into the bush for a few hours. Thanks to Shoji-san for organizing the run.

(photos from Shoji-san's blog)

Friday, June 22, 2007


A comment from Gordon (oldsprinter) on my last post has prompted me to follow up a bit. You know that hackneyed evangelical refrain, What Would Jesus Do? Well, Gordon opined that Whitlam and Keating never said sorry either. While no Australian government can exactly shower itself in glory over issues of aboriginal reconciliation, neither Whitlam nor Keating, nor Hawke nor Fraser, nor any who came before them, had a Stolen Generation report to respond to. Howard did, and his response was to duck and weave and consider it an embarrassing part of Keating's "black armband view of history".

So let's just stop and ask ourselves for a minute, what would Keating have done? The thing is, Keating, I believe, came closest to a sincere and honest response to aboriginal justice. In 1992 I was driving home from work and his Redfern Speech, delivered earlier in the day, was being replayed on the ABC current affairs radio program, PM. I have always strongly felt a sense of injustice and shame about the long sad treatment of aborigines. I had long wondered when would our politicians stop the obfuscation and shirking of responsibility. And here was Keating's voice, the new Prime Minister, delivering these powerful, moving, honest words. Here was the representative of the Crown admitting that there were wrongs and inhumane injustices in our past that needed to be confronted before we could move on to build something better. This was a real and true brand new dawn for reconciliation. I suddenly realized that it could happen. The emotion was enormous and overwhelming and I found myself weeping openly in the car. Tears were streaming down my face and snot was running out my nose. I still remember where I was, right there in Mowbray Road near the primary school headed towards home in Artarmon. I remember it like it was yesterday. When I got home I sat in the car and listened to the end of the speech and then had to sit some more before I could go inside.

Of course Keating's short few years in power didn't exactly create domestic bliss in every aboriginal home throughout the land. But it was the Keating government that introduced the Native Title legislation in response to the High Court's Mabo decision. This created howls of protests from the States as they saw Crown and leasehold land slipping "into the clutches" of the aborigines. It required enormous political will to make this happen. And I believe the impact of this legislation on furthering aboriginal pride and dignity and giving them some basis for self determination is vastly under-estimated. Don't forget Keating also tried to set us on a path towards becoming a republic and tried to get us fully engaged with Asia. Compare all that with the Howard government's approach.

I don't mind admitting that the other time that Keating made me cry was when he was voted out in 1995. I couldn't, still can't, understand how the Australian people could not see what great things he was doing for us as a country. I really think that was the single worst thing to happen to Australia in my lifetime. And I was alive during the Dismissal (though a bit young to remember it. I still think it rates behind 2 March 1996).

Anyway, here is an excerpt from the Redfern Speech. Listen to it, think about the legacy of the Native Title legislation, and ponder what else might have been...

Jackboot Jack

John Howard sits on his hands with regards to aboriginal issues for ten years. No, that's not quite true. He does actually engage with the issue rather robustly, and on each occasion it is to find a way to smack aboriginal Australians in the face. He refuses to implement all the recommendations of the Stolen Generation report. He attacks land rights gains won in the High Court, he publicly insults and belittles aboriginal leaders, he even goes so far as to abolish ATSIC.

So when I read on the SMH web site yesterday that he will be tackling the social problems of aboriginal communities by marching in with his jackboots, I was outraged but not surprised. This is just so exemplifies how myopic, small-minded and bigoted he and his coalition henchmen are. It is entirely consistent with his patronising and paternalistic pre-1968 world view that aborigines are incapable of self-determination and beneath being treated with equal respect.

This is a highly complex and nuanced problem that requires concerted sophisticated solutions. Is it a crisis? Of course. Has it just suddenly reared up out of nowhere? Of course not. The politicians have for decades done nothing to seriously address the underlying causes of the social dysfunction, of which drug abuse, violence and sexual abuse are but symptoms, not some kind of primary cause. And now, when they finally decide to act decisively in the face of a horrifying report on the state of affairs, it is through high-handed, draconian, knee jerk measures that only serve to reinforce the alienation of aborigines -- they are different to "us" so can be treated differently to "us". This is a sickening response calculated to appeal to the deep-seated racial bigotry of every simple-minded ugly Australian -- the ones who have recently deserted the government in droves. The ones who need a Tampa to bring them back. This is John Howard in Pauline Hanson's clothing. This is vintage Howard seizing a political opportunity, playing the charade of care and compassion for the underprivileged while having nothing but political expedience in mind.

I was surprised then that the initial responses and commentary were pretty positive. Oh, yes, isn't it terrible, all the sexual abuse of the poor children. Cluck, cluck, coo coo. Kudos to Mr Howard for having the guts to do something decisive.


This has to be seen for what it is. A mean-spirited grab for the minds of bigots and a push to exert greater Commonwealth control over aboriginal lands. I was relieved then to start to see s ome comments surface that accord with my reaction, and I hope that this trickle becomes a stream, and the stream a torrent, and the torrent a deluge, and then wash this evil bastard and all his witless cronies into electoral oblivion.

And then perhaps we will find a more humane and respectful way of addressing this tragic problem. How about massive public education campaigns? How about handing greater power and responsibility to the elders of these communities? How about a big increase in health and social workers to help those who are vulnerable to these problems make better choices? These may not offer immediate and comprehensive solutions, but it would be a far more measured and humane response than basically labeling every aborigine a drug-addled, alcoholic pervert until proven otherwise.
Update: I dashed off the above before checking any of the political blogs to make sure that I was relying pretty much on my own analysis. I don't always trust my ability to analyze an issue, but I am pleased to see, now that I have had a bit of a look around, that I am not alone and that there are other much more considered and intelligent analysts coming to much the same conclusions. See also: Andrew Bartlett, Larvatus Prodeo, Club Troppo. A common theme that also disturbed me, but I didn't mention above, was Kevin Rudd's inability to spot the leading edge of the wedge. Labor should have thought through their response a bit more carefully, though I don't believe they have put themselves completely into a corner and still have an opportunity to turn this back on Howard. I only hope they do.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

To everything there is a season

Another week, another Wednesday at the track trying to pop a foo-foo valve.

Funny how we go through these phases. When I first joined Namban Rengo it was my introduction to interval workouts. Hell, I didn't even know you called running "workouts". That sounded kind of weird. I thought you did workouts on a weight machine in a gym or in front of a TV screen with Jayne Fonda yelling at you. But I got into these lung-busting sessions and quickly enough got used to calling them workouts. The first few I went to certainly worked me out. Or over, or something. And I enjoyed it in an S&M kind of way. It reminded me of those nasty "one lap of the oval" things we would do at footy training when I was a kid. I think I progressed quite a lot due to the dual approach of intervals on Wednesdays and long runs on Sundays with Team Touch of Grey.

But then two years ago I discovered heart rate training. I became a slave to the HRM. Building mitochondrial density. Racking up the miles at sub lactate-threshold pace. And it got results too. I largely eschewed intervals and anaerobic speed training, though I would still join the occasional track session or do a couple of 1600 m repeats by myself.

So this spring, after an ever so slightly disappointing string of fall and winter marathons, I resolved to spend the spring and early summer putting a bit more focus back on speed work with a view to going into the next aerobic base building phase with increased leg speed.

A few good sessions at the track through May led to the 17:47 around the Imperial Palace in late May. And ever since the 5 x 1200s the Wednesday preceding that race, I have felt the interval sessions starting to have more quality about them. So it is all starting to feel like things are going to plan.

After last week's 6 x 1000s session, Ewen suggested that some shorter reps wouldn't hurt. So in amongst a 10 k run last Saturday I did 5 reps of 80 m stride outs, building up to top speed for the middle 50 m. I'll do some more of that and would like to do a session of 200 m to 400 m repeats one day soon. I've never really done any significant number of repeats that short.

Last night club leader Bob set us the menu of 800 m, 4 x 1200 m, and a final mad dash 400 m. The 800 was supposed to be more or less a warm up. My times were 3:11, 4:09, 4:16, 4:14, 4:19, 1:12.

I'm a little bit disappointed with the spread of times on the 1200s, but I was slightly distracted supervising a couple of other runners I am helping at the moment, so that's OK. And they were faster overall than the five x 1200 last month. The 400 was flat out and I recorded a higher heart rate than I've ever seen before, 186. I guess that's my new HRmax.

In contrast to all that, I went out at lunch time today for two laps of the Imperial Palace (5k per lap). During the first lap I worked my heart rate up to high 140s, approaching 80% of HRmax. That all felt quite comfortable despite a reasonably brisk average pace of 4:17/km. On the second lap I decided to maintain my heart rate at around 150 as much as possible. If it got up higher, I would slow down. This is what I will be telling the people I coach to do, so I have to do it myself. It felt so slow, but with a 24 C humid day, the heart rate and breathing were always threatening to race away into "hard" territory. In the end the lap pace wasn't that slow at 4:29/km, but it was definitely a big slow down from the first lap and an average HR of 150 versus 145 for the first lap.

So I think the story overall here is that I am getting a clear indication of how difficult it is to train or maintain two energy systems at once. Right now I'm getting faster, as far as interval and 5k type race distances are concerned, but I'm losing aerobic endurance. To everything there is a season...speed work now, aerobic endurance later.

I can also report that my left leg injuries are relatively good right now. They can feel a bit niggly after a run or workout, but are much better than they were right through the winter. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Running towards motherhood……

No, not me you silly sausages, my Melbourne-based friend Nicola. Nic wrote the article below for a sports web site of some sort, something to do with adidas I think she said. Anyway, she gave me permission to post it here. Reading of Clairie's exploits the other day, I decided I should put it up. Here's to all the expecting mums...

Running towards motherhood……
As a seasoned and serious runner, driven by PB’s and how many km’s I can run in a week, my reaction to my pregnancy news was somewhat mixed. The excitement of becoming a mother for the first time was somewhat tempered with the trepidation that my running days as I knew them would be over. Every pregnancy book I read, written before 2005, extolled the virtues of exercise in the form of gentle swimming and an occasional brisk walk. Difficult for a 90k a week, 3:15 marathoner to hear! Luckily, enlightened health care and sports professionals put my mind at ease and outlined the benefits to both mum and baby of maintaining an existing exercise regime, including running.

Naturally, as the weeks have progressed, I am no longer a slave to my running watch. And I have realised that a longest run of 10k is an achievement, even if it takes me 70mins. So, at 29 weeks, as me and my tummy are running slowly along the beach, and the thought crosses my mind, “will I ever be able to run like I used to, will I ever get a new PB?” I think about how lucky I am, how I can still do what I love, and that I’m going to give birth to a future Olympian!

Nicola Thomson and Bump, 17th May 2007

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Going hard

I am definitely falling a bit behind on the old blogging front at the moment. I have a fair bit going on with work, keeping up the running, and I brewed a beer last Sunday afternoon/evening (a story in itself).

Last week I treated as a kind of recovery and mental break after the Ekiden. I only ran 42 km from three runs: Wed, Fri, and Sunday. I also swam 2 km on Thursday night. Sunday was a pretty sedate kind of 20 km in Yoyogi Park.

Yesterday morning I forced myself out of bed early and ran around a loop I used to run a long time ago. Nothing really special, just a good steady 10.8 km in 47:56 (4:27/km), average HR 139, max HR 165 (up the hill at the end of the run).

Tonight was the more interesting run. After a 5.5 km warmup with Gareth and, later, Stuart, I joined the interval workout with the rest of the club. First Wednesday of the month, so therefore 6 x 1000 m.

The first one I did in 3:35 and it felt solid but almost a little bit too relaxed. The next one I seemed to start off a bit faster and held it and finished in 3:32. This time I was closer to someone, lets call him J-meister, who finished somewhat ahead in the first rep causing me to remark to myself, "gee, J-meister is in pretty good shape at the moment." I didn't set out to chase him, but in rep 3 I finished in 3:27, right there with the J-meister. Rep 4 saw a 3:26 posted. I think this might have been the rep in which speedy Gordon came whizzing past me at about the 600 m mark, but I then found myself pulling him in over the last 100 m and finished about a second behind him.

Reps 5 and 6 were both bang on 3:27. Rep 5 I led J-meister the whole way, rep 6 he got a jump on me at the start and would have finished several seconds ahead. But that was OK because I knew I had put in a lot and finished really spent, but with a nice even set of numbers. Maximum heart rates for the six reps were: 170, 171, 178, 179, 179, 180. Last time I looked, my HRmax was about 184, so this was really getting up there.

Actually, on that last rep, I remember now that I really ran the last 400 hard. A lady in our club called Masako, very fast runner with a 2:40ish marathon PB, came past me at about 400 m. She stayed just ahead until 800, then I lifted and sprinted past her on the home straight and yelled at her to finish it hard. "Come on Masako, finish it!!" It really gave the sense of a hard workout. The 180 maximum HR would seem to agree.

So, what do you think Ewen? Is that a good solid interval workout or not?