Thursday, August 30, 2007

Metrics schmetrics

Last night I joined the Namban Rengo monthly 5 km time trial to conduct, for the third month in a row, a tempo-pace evaluation run. I start out at roughly about 5k race pace, maybe a tiny bit slower, but when my heart rate hits 165, as it inevitably will at this pace, I hold it there rather than allow it to continue creeping up as it would if I was actually racing.

The good news is that I did much better than last month; the bad news is I did about the same as I did in June.

June: 19:18
July: 20:06
August: 19:20

The weather was not a factor. In fact all three tests have fortuitously been run at 24 or 25 degrees. We can probably dismiss the July result because I really wasn't feeling great that night and this was, I think, a precursor to the minor health problems I subsequently had.

At first it looks like I am in the same place now as I was two months ago. So let's look in more detail at the June and August data.

I ran faster at the start in June and slower at the finish, 1:28 for the first lap, 1:37 for the last, and took only four laps to hit HR165 average for the lap. I was also having difficulty keeping my heart rate down to 165 in the last full lap.

Last night it was 1:31 for the first lap and 1:34 for the last. I took six laps to hit HR165, and every lap from six to "13" was bang on 165 average HR except the eighth, which was 164.

I do think that I finished feeling more comfortable last night and in fact just clicked my watch at 5 km and kept running, albeit slower, to add another 5 km at upper aerobic heart rate to complete the night's work (I had done an easy 6 km before the time trial).

So, while the data are not totally convincing, and maybe I need a more taxing kind of evaluation run to bear out the improvements in stamina more clearly, I do think that there are signs of improvement. Phew, otherwise I might have started to lose motivation like my old mate Ingo.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Weekly washup

Mon: 7.8 km easy (4:54/km; HRav=71% of HRmax)
Tue: 14.25 km lower aerobic (4:40/km; 74%)
Wed: 7.8 km warm up/cool down
Wed: 9.7 km upper aerobic (4:40/km; 78%)
(c.f. Tue. This was a hot evening, Tue was a 3-deg cooler morning)
Thur: 10.7 km lower aerobic (4:28/km; 73%) (treadmill)
Fri: 16.4 km upper aerobic (4:30/km; 76%)
Sat: Zero (but 11 hours standing around in a brewery)
Sun: 29.4 km long (5:20/km; 70%)
Total: 94 km

I was pretty happy with this as a comeback after last week's set back. The Thur/Fri combo was a bit tough with Thur being in the evening after work and Fri being up at 5:20 am or so. I think I might have over-reached a little on Friday, but I knew I wasn't going to be able to run on Saturday unless I got up at 5:00 or so (I had to head out at 7:00 to go and join in a brew day of my prize-winning home brew recipe at a brewery out in Chiba).

Several runs, Wednesday night and Sunday in particular, were hot and tough. There is such a big difference between 27 degrees and 30 degrees.

Friday, August 24, 2007


Apparently Paul Keating gave a speech at Sydney University last night. Edited version here.

Australia's vital interests are in East Asia. They are not in North America or Southern Africa or Europe. They are here, where we live, in the fastest-growing part of the world. It is in this region that Australia's destiny lies; it is only in this region that our security can be found and that will only happen when our foreign policies and our economic and trade policies are in appropriate and sensible alignment.

Ahh...ten years. Ten wasted years.

I hope Captain Kevin point oh seven has the wherewithal to turn the good ship SS Australia back onto the right course.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Salvaging something from the week

Mon - 2 km (had to pull up short due to a macerated gut)
Tue - enforced rest
Wed- enforced rest
Thur- 5.6 km easy to lower aerobic on treadmill (feeling delicate and tentative)
Fri: 7.7 km easy in local park (condition still a bit delicate)
Sat: 12.1 km lower aerobic to Komazawa park, 2 laps & home
Sun 22 km trail run with a dip in the river after. Body fine.
Total: 49.7 km

Wow, you'd think I could have found another 300 m somewhere!!

The good news is that I seem to be pretty much back to normal, though I still need to be a bit careful. I guess I will be reverse tapering and will not be chasing a 100+ km week this week...I'll settle for 98 ;-)

Darn Achilles is still yapping.

Friday, August 17, 2007


That is the sound of egg hitting face.

I cringe when I read my last post.

This week, rather than continuing to "cruise" and churn out the miles, I have been meekly nursing a delicate part of my male anatomy...and running...well, not very much at all. In some ways that is fortunate as we are having a heat wave this week which has seen the mercury in the mid 30s all even topped 40 in a few places yesterday.

If you don't want a more detailed explanation of my medical situation. Then please close the tab now. But for those with a stronger constitution, feel free to read on.

Originally a couple of weeks ago, I had soreness and a lump in my epididymis. It seemed to settle down pretty quickly but I was put on antibiotics just to be sure. It is a reasonably common thing to happen to the man bits.

Then I had the good running week last week, albeit that some of the runs were in quiet warm conditions and much sweat was produced. During the trail run on Saturday I felt a strong discomfort like I needed to take a pee, only a bit painful as well, and it came back quickly after taking one. It was just like a bladder infection (cystitis), but it settled down when I stopped running.

Then during my running on Sunday the sensation returned, and when I did take a pee, blood came out!! Hell!! I was a bit shocked by that. Things cleared up later in the day after I had a rest. The strange thing was, as I did mention in that last post, apart from that, I felt so good during the run.

I went to the doctor again on Monday and he thought it was probably being caused by stones in my ureters. He got me to have an x-ray, but it didn't confirm anything. So he just said to keep taking the antibiotics and drink lots of fluid (and don't run for a few days). I felt quite doughy on Monday and Tuesday and the epididymis thing seemed to flare up again. I then started improving on Wednesday and Thursday (last night). Thursday I ventured for a short run on the treadmill and this morning (Fri) a slow 7 km around the neighborhood.

So, what was that I was saying about a knife-edge?

Unfortunately the doc also made me keep taking antibiotics and to stay off alcohol. I am almost a teetotaller!

The question that is burning in my mind is whether the attack had anything to do with the running I'd been doing the week before, or simply came on and obviously was exacerbated by the running. Either way, I do need to tread carefully for a while.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

110 km & cruising (kind of)

Mon: 7 km easy
Tue: 14 km lower aerobic
Wed: 10 km (Hadd Test) + 7 km easy
Thur: 12.7 km lower aerobic (evening)
Fri: (morning): 6 km easy//9 km upper aerobic
Sat: 18 km trail run in about 2 hours (uphill out, downhill return)
Sun: 26 km @ 5:19/km average

Looking over that list, it would be tempting to say that it must have involved a lot of slow running. But the thing is, that lower aerobic heart rate isn't that slow these days, as demonstrated by the Hadd test on Wednesday night. Each run designated "lower aerobic" was about 4:40 to 4:50/km average. The second half of the run on Friday morning was mostly at sub 4:30/km. And the Hadd test itself involved three rather fast 2-km reps.

A friend talked me into a trail run on Saturday morning. It was pretty steep terrain and the day was promising to be a scorcher, but once we got a couple of hundred meters up, the terrain leveled out and the air became noticeably cooler. Just nice easy running. I surged up some of the hills, but also walked a lot. Afterwards we cooled off in the river and ate watermelon (and drank about a gallon of assorted soft drinks).

Surprisingly, this morning my legs felt absolutely no ill effects from the trail run whatsoever. And then the run just peeled off at a steady pace. I felt comfortable rolling along in the low 5:00/km despite the 29 degrees temperature. But running with others for a while I slowed considerably below that. Then off again. I was waiting for the old familiar hip flexor fatigue to hit, but it never really came. I finished feeling only pleasantly fatigued and could have easily continued except...I seem to have picked up an infection in the downstairs waterworks area. It was quite uncomfortable during much of the run, so I was happy to finish when I did. I am scheduled to see a urologist tomorrow as a follow-up to what I can only think was a related problem from the week before. But that problem aside, with the passive help of Mike's Mystery Coach and Hadd (via Ewen), I seem to have stumbled on a really nicely balanced mix of frequency x intensity that is making me stronger without wearing me out. It is a precarious balance though, and another week of walking on a knife edge starts tomorrow.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Hadd Heart Rate Test No 2

My blogging mate and aerobic heart rate training devotee Ewen recently ran a Hadd heart rate evaluation and posted about it here. This was enough to make me get off my butt and do my second test, the first having been on June 20th. There were about five of us did the first test, but this time everyone else seems to be away or sick or having their nails done...getting the bumper bar re-chromed...anyway, I had to face it on my own.

Rather than the full 2,400 m, I run five laps, or 2,000 m per rep (five laps of a 400 m track). This makes each rep last about the same time as Hadd's runner, "Joe". The conditions can play an important role. During the first test it was 24 degrees and humid. On Wednesday it was 28 degrees and not so humid. All in all, I don't think the difference in temperature had too great an influence. So, the idea of the test, if you didn't read Ewen's post, is to run a series of consecutively higher heart rates, starting around 70 to 75% of maximum and then 10 beats higher each time with the last one being around 90% of max. In so doing, you should be able to identify your lactic accumulation threshold, where your muscles tip over from being able to clear lactic acid as fast as it forms to a state of net lactic acid accumulation, in other words, unsustainable.

Here are my results given as average pace (minutes per km) for the entire 2000 m:
Date 135 (73%) 145 (78%) 154 (83%) 165 (89%) 175 (94%)
20 Jun 5:08 4:50 4:13 3:52 3:40
8 Aug 5:09 4:41 4:10 3:51 3:40
*Percentages are percent of maximum heart rate.

It is easy to run a little erratically in the first couple of laps as you bring heart rate up to target, so I thought it would also be helpful to look only at the average pace of the last two laps. If there is more fade in one test than another, the data of the last two laps should highlight that.

Results as average pace (minutes per km) for just the last 800 m
Date 135 145 154 165 175
20 Jun na 4:50 4:17 3:54 3:44
8 Aug 5:15 4:37 4:13 3:54 3:43

There are two main points to take out of these numbers:

1) I have shown a fairly dramatic improvement at the 145 (178% HRmax) level. This is logical because it is where I have been spending a lot of my time in training AND, I think I tended to neglect it in the past, running either harder or easier than the low 140s.
2) There has been no noticeable improvement at the 165 and 175 levels. I attribute this to a combination of a few things. i. It was warmer on Wednesday, so maybe I was starting to get some heat accumulation. ii. I just haven't run enough km or at high enough heart rates to move these limits yet. iii. My aerobic fitness for these heart rates was already pretty well trained on June 20.

By the time of the next test the weather will be starting to get milder and I will have been doing more distance at upper aerobic pace, exhausting though it is. So it will be interesting to see what will happen next.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Hypocrisy of the Most Breathtaking Kind

For those gentle readers who do not like my occasional forays into Australian politics, please look away now. But this one is relatively brief.

In perusing the blogs and the news today, I just couldn't help but notice that in one breath PM Howard is ramming the NT Aboriginal legislation changes through Parliament with barely enough time for consideration, let alone debate or, heaven forbid, consultation with the communities concerned, while in the next breath he is attacking Queensland's proposed forced local government mergers for having a lack of community consultation.

The sheer bald-faced audacity. Consider these two reported quotes from Honest John:

1. From the ABC a couple of days ago

"[Labor] is entitled to see the legislation and to express whatever view it wants, but I want to make it clear, we will not be changing our approach in the Northern Territory," he said.

"We will be going ahead with all of the elements of the intervention plan that [Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal] Brough and I announced, including in relation to the permit system and the prohibitions on alcohol."

In other words, not Labor, which has indicated a willingness to take a bipartisan approach on this issue, not the academics who created the original reports on which Howard and Brough are acting, not aboriginal leaders in general, and not the communities concerned are to be given any voice or influence over the specifics of the legislation. They can all just go to Hell because We Know Best (or will not have Our Agenda meddled with).

2. From today's SMH

"I challenge the Premier of Queensland, let the people speak on your amalgamation proposal.

"Let this be a reminder that if you remove the check and balance in our system and if you have Labor governments at every level, this sort of behaviour will become the norm."

Checks and balances. Yeah, right, you are something of an expert about the abuses that can occur when checks and balances are removed aren't you, Mr Prime Minister. Makes me retch.

Feelin' alright

It finally feels like my body has caught up to the new workload. All leg and health issues are in good shape apart from the left Achilles, which continues to yip away. I now see the great benefit of slowing down a little and evening out to some extent the daily load. I ran 14 km this morning at an average pace of 4:41/km and it was just a steady rolling pace, well within myself. The milder 26 degree temperature helped.

Now, to deal with a couple of things raised in comments to my last post.

To Ewen: Yes, my lower aerobic runs tend to be relatively easy judging by heart rate, though not necessarily by how my legs feel. Though that is now finally turning around, as per the above note. Thanks for the prod, I added the link to my on-line log over on the right there. That takes you to the summary page and then you can click on Calendar or Workout views to see links to individual runs.

Clairie: "Do you throw in a 'drop down' week after several high mileage weeks?"

My reply: I probably should but haven't specifically programmed it in. I think I will do that if I feel myself starting to get worn down. But the specific strategy behind my current program is to run at distance/pace combinations that stress the system only slightly and from which I can recover from and adapt to and start to feel strong, as is happening right now. So with three 90-100 km weeks behind me, and this will be a fourth, I will try to ratchet up by 10-15 km adapt to that, then when it becomes comfortable, ratchet up again. I will also need to start introducing some hills and small amounts of speed work, moreso after the next four-week block of steady distance.

Clairie again: "I'm curious to hear what an 'easy' pace is for you as most of your runs seem to be tempo or decent pace for someone doing that much mileage."

My reply: I am using two kinds of reference systems for pace. One is the Lydiard "steady state" pace (the fastest pace you can run 10 km every day and recover from for the next day). I judge that to be about 4:30/km for me at the moment. Training paces are based on percentages of that. The fastest training pace is that pace and the slowest is supposed to be about that pace plus 10% (about 5:00/km). The other system is Hadd percent of maximum heart rate zones, which roughly line up with the Lydiard pace guidelines. I wouldn't say that any of my runs (except a 5k time trial two weeks ago) have been tempo pace (defining tempo as lactate threshold). So I guess the bottom line is that anything slower than about 4:55/km falls into "easy" (depending on the overall distance), and that is what I will use for warm-up, recovery and long runs. Just about all other training paces at the moment will be between 4:50/km and 4:20/km and if you did a frequency histogram of recent runs, the distribution would be skewed towards the slower end of that range. (But this will change as time progresses.) Because of the current heat, I am also not at all concerned about going slower than steady state + 10% if heart rate or common sense dictate.

milesandmiles: “Always amusing for us training in
Singapore to hear people complaining about a 29 degree day :)”

My reply: yes, yes, I know Arnaud, you Singaporeans have the worst of everything. Almost as bad as Texans, you are :-). At least you have the whole year to get used to those temperatures. We have to go from 4 degrees in winter to perfect conditions in autumn and spring, to boiler house conditions for 6 weeks in summer. And yes, I agree that cross training is helpful. I did use it to some extent during the early part of this build-up.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

-17 weeks: 90 km getting easier

That was the third week in a row over 90 km and it was much easier to handle. A combination of improved health and improved fitness I should think.
Mon: Rest
Tue AM: 13.5 km @ 4:51/km, HRav 129 (lower aerobic)
Wed PM: 17.2 km with 15.8 km @ 4:54/km, HRav 133 (lower aerobic)
Thur PM: 11.5 km @ 5:01/km, HRav 133 (lower aerobic)
Fri AM: 14 km with 6.3 easy. Then 7.7 @4:37/km, HRav 149 (upper aerobic)
Sat AM: 12 km @ 4:29/km, HRav 142 (upper aerobic, average lowered by including early part of run)
Sun AM: 26 km @ 5:25/km, HRav 134 (long run) in 29 degrees!
Total: 94 km

Health wise, my body is feeling better than it has for a while. I went to a urologist on Thursday who diagnosed epididymitis for the problem downstairs that I alluded to last week. I'm now on antibiotics and off the drink. It had been feeling better but I decided to go get it checked out to be on the safe side. I'm glad I did because I think it explained a lot of the other malaise I'd been feeling on top of the fatigue from increased mileage. Now all I have to worry about is the normal heat stress. This morning's long run was a bit of a killer, but I survived it OK. Longest for a while and at a better pace than last week (not that that is saying much).