Running

How to run a perfect 10k, without selling a kidney.

The title of this post may elude to the possibility I have actually ran a perfect 10k. Unfortunately I have not and today was another example of poor pacing but luckily sheer stubbornness , as always, got me over the line. As the Rottnest Marathon is two weeks away I decided discretion was the better part of valour and avoided the Fremantle half but instead ‘downgraded’ to the 10k instead. I have ran the Fremantle half on numerous occasions , including last year where I was leading the event with 3k to go before being cruel overtaken by two runners to finish 3rd. (I actually felt great just before I was cast aside by two quicker runners and was working on my victory speech. Probably why I was taken by surprise, that and I had nothing left in the tank for a sprint finish, c’mon people I was 49 , at that age we’re glad to be near the front , no mater at the front leading….it was nice to dream , albeit briefly, of Fremantle glory.) So back to the 10k.

After my last race where I was completely cooked by k2 in a 7.5k race, mainly due to my friend Zac and his blistering start, I decided this time I would go out and run myself into the race, maybe even a negative split. Of course this went out the window as soon as we started and yet again I was running with Zac, although this time he was running the half . This was my plan, surely if Zac was running the half I could keep up with him for 10k. Nice in theory but unbeknown to me young Zac was going to run a blinder and this included the first 2k @ 3.19k/min pace. So yet again I was cooked early in the event, thanks Zac, again ! I was actually able to sustain a good pace to 5k which I hit in sub 17minutes, actually quite respectable. The second half of a 10k is a painful experience and this one didn’t fail to deliver. I managed to hold onto 2nd place (Roberto Busi, our local gun-runner, was running a tempo 10k and finish in just over 32 minutes, oh to be that good. He is Italian , if that helps?) until mid way through the last kilometre where I was caught and passed, so third it was and a good time 34:35. Actually , for me, a very good time, my second fastest  ever, so very happy.

I credit the time to my Nike Vaporflys 4% shoes, people these really are that good. If you are serious about your running you need to buy a pair, we all have two kidneys and really only need one; you’ll probably be faster without the weight of the second kidney and you get to sell it for Nike Vaporflys 4%; which will also increase your pace; people it really is a win-win situation. Apparently there is a market for quite a few organ parts that are saleable,  without doing long term damage, I’ll let you google it but it you can’t afford the $350AUS fee for the shoes then it’s off to the surgeon’s table you go, quick smart, before everybody buys a pair and we all lose the advantage off being an early adopter.

Worth a kidney, probably?

 

Of course I am joking about the kidney thing, there are other easier methods, maybe a go fund me page ? ( https://www.gofundme.com ) or ask a friendly Nigerian to send a cry for help email to half the worlds population, somebody will probably bite ? Of course all of this doesn’t help with the Nike Vaporfly 4% harder to find than the Tasmanian Devil. Nike seem to have got the supply and demand just right, i.e. no supply and massive demand,  equals nice profit margin for Nike. I can’t imagine they cost that much to produce and I’m sure the labour used by our caring multinational will be paid minimum wage , at best, bless ’em. Anyway I digress again, this post is about running a perfect 10k not Nike and it’s morals.

So to run a perfect 10k you need to start at a pace just below what you think your average pace , overall, should be. Hold that for the first 2-3k and then accelerate up to your overall pace for the next 5k before a finish ‘spurt’ above your overall average to make up for the slow start. How easy is that to actually achieve, nigh on impossible. You’ll go off at your 5k pace and then at 5k realise the error of your ways and lock yourself in the pain box in the foetal position enjoying the ride for the last 4-5k and trust me people that doesn’t sound like a lot but in the pain box time can sometimes feel like its stand still. ( I wonder if it hurts more with two kidneys or one ? )

Ways to improve, read this post and learn by my mistakes, something I never do and also run more 10k’s, it really does help if you run the race more often, funny that ? Today I was 15 seconds off my all time PB set last year and as it’s only my second 10k of the year so I am pleased with the time but maybe not the pacing ; although I never really blew-up but my last kilometre was 3:32 compared to my first of 3:19, they should be closer than that for a perfect pace.

Funnily enough another running friend of mine , Clement, had his appendix out last year and never ran so well afterwards. He is well into his fifties and ran a 73 minute half at a World Masters event, taking out his age group by minutes. Clement swears blind his appendix ruptured but after his form post-operation I’m not so sure, maybe I’ll get back to my google search, if only I had some ovaries……

3rd place in a 10k, a rare sight.

After distance comes pace. The next step to faster marathons….

After my last post on the simple activity to get faster, basically run more ( http://www.runbkrun.com/2017/10/02/the-secret-to-running-a-marathon-faster-really-is-quite-simple/ ) my running buddy Ken ‘The Duck’ Dacre summed up my post in a few sentences; basically…..

Hi

For people with limited time reading it.

To run a marathon you need distance

To run a good one you need quality on top of the distance.

hahahaha

Ken Dacre
Systems Administrator

 

I replied to Ken and highlighted his rookie error when it comes to blogging, you need quantity and quality,  not one of either. He has so much to learn but he did have a good point . Distance will get you cardio fitness and allow you to run a marathon but, as he rightly points out,  (which if you know Ken you’ll know this is not the norm!) to run a good time you need to add pace.

There are many type of ‘pace’ runs that will help towards your goal including tempo, thresholds, VO2 max, fartlek’s, intervals the list is quite long with many variations but the one session that every marathon runner needs to take on is the long run at MP (Marathon Pace). This is when the magic happens and you can dial in your goal pace. There really is no point aiming for a finish time and then never running the required average pace for any length of time. A long run at MP allows you to test out what it will feel like on the big day , and although you will be better prepared come race day, after a good taper and a few muffins (gotta’ love carbo-loading) , this run allows to get some quality race practice and also give you some confidence.

When I was training with Raf in 2015 ( http://www.therunningcentre.com.au ) the MP run was a 15k warm up at 4:15min/k pace and then 20k at 3:50min/k pace. I remember struggling with this session as it looked beyond me but on the day I ran the required time and distance and felt great afterwards. It was a real confidence booster. These are the sessions that make the difference, ones you see coming in your training plan and actually worry about completing them , knowing the pain time coming your way.

Another one of Raf’s favourite sessions was the 3 * 5km, at 5k pace, with 3 minutes rest in between. I christened this bad boy the ‘pain train’ session because as you complete each of the three 5km’s  (at race pace) ; you know the next one will be even tougher and more painful. The last one is as much an exercise in pain measurement as running. The benefit of these is when you have finished them you feel awesome and this alone is worth the pain you will embrace while running.

A similar run is one of my all time favourites the Mona Fartlek. Names after its inventor the great Steve Monaghetti and described below :-

Steve Moneghetti is set to leave a lasting legacy that goes beyond his set of marathon medals. As a young man from Ballarat he and coach Chris Wardlaw devised a session that fitted in with his usual stomping ground of Lake Wendouree helped him become a four-time Olympian.

Steve Moneghetti

The Session:Mona Fartlek: (2x90sec, 4x60sec, 4x30sec, 4x15sec with a slower tempo recovery of the same time between each repetition. The session takes 20mins in total.

Distance Mona covered: The session was most often used on Tuesday night at Ballarat’s Lake Wendouree. The first time Mona did it as a 20-year-old he did not complete the Lap of the Lake (6km) in the 20minutes but in his prime he completed the Lake in 17.19 and then continued on to finish his 20min session. He still does it most Tuesdays and even at 52, covers 6km.

History

Mona devised the session with his coach Chris Wardlaw over the phone back in 1983 when he was just 20. He wanted a solid fartlek session, one that would help improve his speed as well as endurance and stimulate an ability to change pace mid-run, something that helped later on his career when tackling the Africans, who had a habit of surging mid-race.

The session became a Tuesday-night ritual for Mona and while it was set up for Lake Wendouree, he’d use it whether training at altitude at Falls Creek or overseas preparing for a championship marathon.

It is still widely used today with Ben Moreau and a host of Sydney athletes doing the session. A recent feature in the UK has led to a number of British runners adopting the session along with a number of runners in the US, although some are calling it the “Mono” session.

A good idea is to set your watch to beep every 30 seconds, so that you don’t have to look down at it all the time.

Mona says

“I was always a stickler for routine and I feel that this session, coupled with my usual Thursday night session of 8x400m with 200m float set me up and gave me continuity with my training.

The 15-second reps came at the end and really forced me to concentrate on accelerating hard when I was fatigued. One night when I was in top shape I covered nearly 7km with Troopy (Lee Troop).”

Tip for other distance runners

For many runners, the session will be too demanding initially and you will need to build into it.

Mona recommends just walking or jogging the recovery as you adjust to it.

Middle distance runners may wish to reduce the length of the session, halving everything (ie: 1x90sec, 2x60sec, 2x30sec, 2x15sec) to make it a 10minute session.

The benefit of a Mona is the session is over in 20 minutes, the same time for all runners. The distance travelled of course will vary depending on ability. Personally I can get to around 5.6k, normally with a tail wind if I can find one!, so I’m a long way of Mona at his best and even Mona now.  Surprising that given his pedigree of World Record holder, Commonwealth Games Champion and Olympian, while I won a couple of WAMC club runs ?  There is a striking resemble mind, as shown below, when we met at a photo shoot for the Perth Chevron sponsored City to Surf. (I’m the pretty one with the beard…)

 

Me and Steve Moneghetti, a running god!

 

So to sum up this post we have addressed Golden Rule no2 in my 9 golden rules of running. :-

  1. Run Further. Add distance, not speed.
  2. Run Faster. This is about adding pace after you have got your foundation after rule 1.
  3. Don’t get injured. This is the hardest rule to obey as you always want to do more of rule 1 and 2 which can result in an injury. (I even hate typing the word!)
  4. Nutrition, nutrition and nutrition… Did I mention nutrition. It’s all about the proper fuel.
  5. Weight. So important, use to believe because I ran 100k+ a week I could eat what I wanted. Not true.
  6. Baseline, document and evaluate everything. If it isn’t on www.strava.com it didn’t happen. Once you set a goal you have to be able to know how far you have come to achieving this, small steps but constant feedback. So buy a Garmin and start recording , everything !!!
  7. Sleep. So underestimated but the bodies way of refuelling and preparing for the next day of running. Common sense but so often ignored.
  8. Consistency. No point running 100k one week and then nothing. Marathon fitness is built up over time and this works hand in hand with rule number 1.
  9. It’s all in the mind. After 32k a marathon is down to mental strength and the ability to persuade your body you can still perform at your desired pace without falling to fatigue, which is the minds way of protecting itself. Never underestimate the power of the mind in long distance racing

Apparently people take more notice of odd numbered lists according to my good friend and triathlete  coach extraordinaire Phil Mosley.  ( http://www.myprocoach.net/ ) We discussed this on a medium long run earlier in the week but that is a story for another day…

Phil giving his best Zoolander ‘blue steel’

The secret to running a marathon faster really is quite simple.

Boat Shed Sunrise by Paul Harrison. If you lay in bed you miss these views… why wouldn’t you get up early ?

After my last post about the marathon being two separate distances , encompassing a 32k warm-up before a 10k ‘sprint’ to the line,  I thought I’d share one of the sure fire ways to improve your marathon finishing time.  As readers of my ‘ramblings’ will know I have some golden rules to improving your running , summarized below.

  1. Run Further. Add distance, not speed.
  2. Run Faster. This is about adding pace after you have got your foundation after rule 1.
  3. Don’t get injured. This is the hardest rule to obey as you always want to do more of rule 1 and 2 which can result in an injury. (I even hate typing the word!)
  4. Nutrition, nutrition and nutrition… Did I mention nutrition. It’s all about the proper fuel.
  5. Weight. So important, use to believe because I ran 100k+ a week I could eat what I wanted. Not true.
  6. Baseline, document and evaluate everything. If it isn’t on www.strava.com it didn’t happen. Once you set a goal you have to be able to know how far you have come to achieving this, small steps but constant feedback. So buy a Garmin and start recording , everything !!!
  7. Sleep. So underestimated but the bodies way of refuelling and preparing for the next day of running. Common sense but so often ignored.
  8. Consistency. No point running 100k one week and then nothing. Marathon fitness is built up over time and this works hand in hand with rule number 1.
  9. It’s all in the mind. After 32k a marathon is down to mental strength and the ability to persuade your body you can still perform at your desired pace without falling to fatigue, which is the minds way of protecting itself. Never underestimate the power of the mind in long distance racing

Without doubt the most important rule, in my opinion, is number 1, ‘Run Further. Add Distance, Not Speed’ This is the foundation on which you build success. Whatever distance you are currently running, do more,  with the caveat of avoiding injury of course (Golden rule number 3)  I have said many, many times ‘running is an honest sport’ , there are no short cuts, to really improve you need to run more distance and more often. For a runner there are no Zip wheels, Death Star helmets or mega-buck carbon-fibre bikes to gain an advantage , it’s just down to physical and mental strength and who wants its the most. ( This may now not be as true as the new Nike Vaporflys 4%  do seem to give the wearer an advantage over your Asics Kayano’s type marathon runners, albeit only a 4% efficiency improvement if you believe the hype; which I do.)

I believe there is no such thing as ‘junk miles’, every run you finish has helped and thus if you run more, and more often, it stands to reason you will improve quicker. Another way to turbo-charge your improvement is to run twice a day. Most runners struggle with this concept but all the professionals run minimum twice a day. Of course, I hear you say, they have time on their hands and it’s what they are paid to do but even us mortals can find time for a second run with a bit of time management. Personally I am lucky enough to be able to run every lunchtime in near perfect conditions , the curse of living in the colonies. I then normally run mornings, pre-work,  as for most of the year this is the best time to run anyway. In summer especially it can be the only time to run as my home town , Perth, is situated in a desert and for three months of the year can be unpleasant after the early morning sunrise.

Some runners find is hard to find time in the mornings with family commitments etc. so will need to step-up in the evenings and this may involve running in the dark. I personally find no enjoyment from this but understand you have to put in the hard yards to continue to improve so take one of my David Goggins ‘suck it up’ pills and off into the night I go. ( http://www.davidgoggins.com ) What I found was, in the evening, if you’re sitting at home watching rubbish on TV you should be running. This is where you can get your second run, substitute sitting down at the end of the day wasting time to doing something constructive towards your next goal race, it really is that simple, go for a run. The second run of the day is all about time on feet anyway , there are no objectives bar the actual time spent running. No pressures, no time constraints, the second run of the day can be liberating because it is running for running’s sake, nothing more , nothing less.

The second run is where the magic happens, this is the reason the professionals run minimum twice a day. It allows then to add the distance needed to see the improvements required without the risk of injury, if they are careful and the run really is a time on feet exercise. Recreational runners will also see the same benefit and probably more because they will starting from a lower level with greater opportunity for improvement.

Of course it is to be noted that this is only one of the jigsaw puzzle that is running improvement but it is one I feel every runner needs to embrace as much as possible. I understand most runners will not be able to hit the 14 times a week goal,  that is a double run a day, but any additional run to your weekly schedule will be beneficial. Small steps for big gains, maybe try one double day a week initially and then build up. Of course if this puts too much strain on you then move back to the single run but maybe try and add weekly distance before trying a double day later. Remember adding distance is all about adding to the foundation of your running and this foundation needs to be stable and strong before you start to add pace.  There are several coaches who support the distance theory of running including the late, great Arthur Lydiard ( http://lydiardfoundation.org/ ) Phil Maffetone  ( https://philmaffetone.com/ ) and Matt Fitzgerald. ( https://mattfitzgerald.org/ )

So next time your sitting at home watch that mind-numbing soap or a reality show making overweight people exercise to the brink of death maybe think ‘I could be doing something more constructive’. Go and do what you love and ‘smell the roses’ (or whatever wild flower is available in your area?) with a relaxing second run. Payback will be so sweet when you rock up for your next race and find you’ve fitted a turbo-charger and leave the pack behind as you explode towards the finish line.

 

Christine Junkermann sums up the Lydiard method below from a Runners World post in 2000. ( https://www.runnersworld.com/

)

 

Forty years ago at the Rome Olympics, athletes guided by legendary New Zealand coach Arthur Lydiard made history. Among Lydiard’s protégés were a total of 17 Olympic medalists, including Peter Snell (800 and 1,500 meters), Murray Halberg (5,000 meters) and Barry Magee (marathon). Lydiard, now 82, toured the U.S. last fall, speaking to runners on the Lydiard method of training. He was as passionate as ever about sharing the methods he developed 50 years ago.

Lydiard hasn’t changed his training advice over the decades, and why should he? His ideas work. Moreover, if you look carefully at the most popular and successful programs today, most have a Lydiard emphasis. For Lydiard, running to your potential is about having a substantial mileage base and not overdoing your anaerobic training. There are no shortcuts.

A Revolutionary Method

Lydiard discovered running for sport when he struggled to run five miles with a friend. Forced to confront his own unfitness, he self-experimented with training, including running more than 250 miles in one week. He developed a plan that he felt confident in using with other runners. Central to his method was the importance of training in phases and peaking for major events.

According to Lydiard, any successful training program must culminate in a goal race or racing period. This means planning several months. The ideal training schedule is at least 28 weeks: 12 weeks for base conditioning, eight weeks for hill training and speed development, six weeks for sharpening and 10 days for tapering/rest.

Phase 1: Base Conditioning/Aerobic Training

This three-month period is the most important in the Lydiard system. If you want to give yourself every opportunity to reach your goal, you must commit to developing your aerobic capacity, says Lydiard. Why? Because although every runner has a limited anaerobic (speed-building) capacity, that limit is largely set by one’s aerobic potential—the body’s ability to use oxygen. Thus, the aerobic capacity that you develop determines the success of your entire training program.

The foundation of Lydiard-style base conditioning is three long runs per week. These are steady runs done at more than recovery effort. To determine your pace, choose a relatively flat course and run out at a strong pace for 15 minutes, then run back. The goal is to return in the same time or slightly faster. If it takes you longer for the return trip, you paced yourself too fast. The objective of these runs is to be “pleasantly tired,” says Lydiard. Running slower will produce positive effects, but the results will take longer. Do not run to the point of lactic-acid buildup.

An ideal training week during this period includes a two-hour run and two one and one half-hour runs. On the other days do short, easy runs; one run with some light picking up of the pace; and one 5K to 10K tempo run (below lactate-threshold pace). Decrease the times and distances if you don’t have the mileage base to start at such high volume, then build gradually.

Phase 2: Hill Training/Speed Development

Lydiard-style hill training, the focus of the first four weeks of this period, involves a circuit that includes bounding uphill, running quickly downhill and sprinting. These workouts develop power, flexibility and good form, all of which produce a more economical running style. Ideally, you should find a hill with three parts: a flat 200- to 400-meter area at the base for sprints, a 200- to 300-meter rise for bounding and a recovery area or moderate downhill segment at the top. Alternatively you can work out on a treadmill with an adjustable incline.

After a warm-up, bound uphill with hips forward and knees high. Lydiard describes the stride as “springing with a bouncing action and slow forward progression.” If you can’t make it all the way up, jog, then continue bounding. At the top jog easily for about three minutes or run down a slight incline with a fast, relaxed stride. Then return to the base of the hill for the next bounding segment. Every 15 minutes (after about every third or fourth hill), intersperse several 50- to 400-meter sprints on flat ground. These sprints mark the end of one complete circuit. Lydiard recommends a total workout time of one hour (plus warm-up and cool-down). Do this hill circuit three days per week.

On three of the four remaining days, focus on developing leg speed. Lydiard suggests 10 repetitions of 120 to 150 meters over a flat or very slight downhill surface. Warm up and cool down thoroughly.) The seventh day is a one and one-half to two-hour steady-state run.

During the second four weeks, shift from hills to traditional track workouts. The objective here, says Lydiard, is to “finish knowing that you could not do much more nor any better.” This sensation of fatigue matters less than how many intervals you do at what speeds, though the workout should total about three miles of fast running. Perform these track sessions three times per week. Use the remaining four days for a long run, leg-speed work and sprint-training drills traditionally done by sprinters to develop strength, form and speed.

Phase 3: Sharpening

How many times have you died in the last half of your race? Or alternatively, finished with too much left? Sharpening allows you to test for your strengths and weaknesses as you prepare for your goal race. Three workouts do not vary. The first is the long run, done at a relaxed pace. The second is an anaerobic training session done at a greater intensity and lower volume. Lydiard suggests five laps of a 400-meter track (about seven to eight minutes of running) alternating 50 meters of sprinting and 50 meters of easy, but strong, running.

The third consistent workout is a weekly time trial at or below the distance for which you are training. A 10K runner would do a 5K to 10K trial; a 1,500 meter runner would do 1,200 to meters. Ideally, do this workout on a track and record every lap to determine your weaknesses, and work on them throughout the rest of that week and the following week. For example, if the second half of your trial is slower than the first half, run a longer tune-up race that week and a longer time trial the next week. If the pace felt difficult but you were able to maintain it pretty evenly, work on your leg speed.

Round out your training week with a sprint-training session, a pace judgment day (4 x 400 meters at goal race pace), a leg-speed workout and a tune-up race. All these workouts should be geared to your goal distance and pace.

Phase 4: Tapering and Rest

Lydiard calls the final 10 days before goal race “freshening up.” This involves lightening your training to build up your physical and mental reserves for the target competition. Train every day but keep the faster running low in volume and the longer runs light in effort.

Unquestionably, Lydiard’s program tests your commitment and desire, and it requires a solid understanding of your individual needs. If you are serious, start counting out those 28 weeks.

 

Proper pacing prevents poor performance.

At the weekend I entered the City Beach Cup 7.5k at , surprising enough, City beach, Perth. I have never ran a 7.5k race before and it obviously sits between a 5k and a 10k so pace is a difficult thing to dial in . Do you run it fast your 5k pace and then hang on for the last 2.5k , which doesn’t sound a lot but trust me when your legs are gone running another 2.5k is not fun! Alternatively do you run at 10k pace and then finish strong ? Add into the mix this was my first “fast” race since my calf injury in March this year and I was entering a world of unknown. In these situations setting a game plan pace is important because you need to make sure you give yourself the best chance of getting a goal time. I have talked about this before but even us ‘older’ runners can get carried away with youthful enthusiasm at the start of a race, which always ends badly.

Truth be told I was entering this race as part of the West Australian Marathon Club age group category competition, where the best 8 clubs runs are taken into account and the fastest winner of each age group is presented a trophy at the end of the year. I had ran 4 races before my injury so needed 4 more to have a chance. This was number 5 with my next 3 planned for later in the year. The criteria is your average pace over the 8 races, then race distances and finally head-to-head if two runners cannot be separated. Because this was one of the smaller distances it stands to reason I could get a good average pace. This race was thus more about a fast finish rather than any thoughts of a top 3 finish. All this changed of course on the start line….

As with all clubs runs we tend to know our main ‘rivals’ who we complete against over the year, as well as the ‘top gun’ runners who disappear into the distance as soon as the race starts. For some reason when scanning the front of the line-up on Sunday there was only two other runners who I would consider quicker than me. My running buddy Zac who has progressed so quickly this year , and continues to (oh to be in my twenties again when ever race is a PB and training seems so effortless.) , would run unchallenged to victory by well over a minute, and another runner I have had many good battles with over the years , Rob, who would prove too strong in this race. Bar these two it looked like there was a chance of a medal, which as I’m now 50 is an opportunity  I always think will be my last.  With this in my mind when the gun went off I went off  like a scolded cat chasing Zac and all thoughts of pacing discarded instantly. I’m not even sure I had a game plan, just run fast for as long as possible and see what happens. This was to prove my undoing as the first kilometre sailed past in 3mins 13seconds, way , way to quick. It was a Scotty to Kirk moment with the famous ‘She’s going to blow’ quote ringing in my ears as the second kilometre came up in 3mins 40seconds. In my defence there was a slight hill but not enough to justify a 30 second delta compared to the first kilometre. This was me blowing up in spectacular fashion.

So onto kilometre 3 which was luckily a downhill section because I was hanging on for dear life. Zac and Rob started to move away and I prayed there was no one close behind me or my podium goal would have evaporated. I managed to ‘steady the boat’ so to speak and dig in for a few kilometres before finding a second wind, in the broadest sense of the word, and finishing in a semi-respectable sub 27 minutes (26:51). Funnily enough this was the goal before the races but the manner I achieved it could have been better executed. I had turned what was to be a pacing race, to get a run on the board, into a suicidal start and a very painful last 15 minutes with ‘engine close to blowing a head gasket’, not ideal.

 

3rd place with WA local legend John Gilmour presenting the medal.

What did I learn ? 7.5k is a long way when you are finished after 1k. What should have been an enjoyable pacing run turned into a  ‘near death‘ experience by ignoring all I preach on this blog, not for the first time of course. I have mentioned this on many occasions about ‘old dogs and new tricks’ and it seems it still rings true. On the bright side the calf survived the beating and I managed to grab another podium, which I know will be harder and harder to achieve , so all-in-all a great day.

What should have been the right approach? If I had ran the first kilometre at 3min 30-40seconds I would have been better placed to attach the hill rather than crumble into a mess , I could then have used the down hill third kilometre to prepare for the second half of the race and finish strong, compared to finishing like a weak kitten with a cold ! What could have been ? Will I learn from this experience, probably not. I have plans of a park run 5k this weekend and already I’m thinking start slow, finish strong, make the last 2k your fastest, accelerate into the finish etc. All great ideas but when that starter pistol goes off its all forgotten like a Donald Trump tweet and it’s ‘on for young and old.’  I know I’ll get to the first kilometre in sub 3 mins 20 seconds red-lining all the way with legs and lungs about to explode , faced with 4 more kilometres that will testing and a finish that will be as painful as always. Would I have it any other way ? Probably not, I understand Proper Pacing prevents poor performance but sometimes a Steve Prefontaine approach is best.

A Steve Prefontaine classic quote.

 

 

 

Training limited to 5k every other day, perfect, enter a marathon.

There are certain races that a runner learns to love over time as they are filled with golden memories. For me , as I race so often and in the same place (Western Australia) I have a few of these. They would include the Rottnest Island Marathon (you really need to click on this link, Rottnest is just one of the most beautiful places on earth. http://www.rottnestisland.com/  I’ve ran ‘Rotto’ 10 times and have loved every minute. ), the Perth Marathon, the 6 inch trail ultra ( http://www.6inchtrailmarathon.com/ ) and the Chevron sponsored City to Surf Marathon.

This morning after a bumper week of training last week , for a weekly total of 13k, I entered the City to Surf Marathon for the 9th time. This race to me is special for a number of reasons. It  was the first marathon I first broke sub 3 hours in 2009 in it’s inaugural year. I have ran two of my fastest marathon times on the course (2013 my current PB of 2hrs 41 min 14 seconds and last year 2hrs 41min 41seconds) , finished top 10 on numerous occasions but best of all won $6,000 once as the first Australian  (even with my English dulcet tones) to finish. I am also one of the last 26 runners to have ran all the previous 8 iterations of this race. (see below)

City to Surf finishes 2016

As I have mentioned before runners love numbers, be it your PB time, number of marathons ran, average pace, distance, VO2 max, cadence, numbers of runs a week etc. the list is endless but one of the biggest numbers runners love is ‘streaks’. To be involved at the beginning of a major city marathon, even better in your home town, is priceless and a once in a lifetime opportunity.  This is why, even with a calf tear less than 8 weeks,  out I am determined to run the ninth Perth City to Surf. (I say ‘run‘ , it may end up being a lot less than that by the time I get to ‘heartbreak hill’ at the 40k mark?)

I worked with Chevron from 2007-2015 and during that time suspected I was being kept on as the ‘poster boy’ for the event as I always seemed to be the first Chevron marathon finisher and normally attracted a bit of media attention. Most of that was mainly aimed at the ‘look at the old guy finishing the marathon in a semi-reasonable time’ angle more than anything else. Not many balding, bearded, mid-life (I hope?) runners at the front of the pack so might as well interview this one ? I have been lucky enough to make the papers, local TV and even You Tube on occasion, much to my kids disgust.  Apparently watching your dad on the TV doing press-ups after finishing a marathon is not cool. Actually I seem to have this issue with anything I do funnily enough. (and you can imagine how the Elliptigo is going down at the moment in my house ? http://www.elliptigo.com )

So close to finishing first woman.

There was also the time in 2013 I was nearly ‘first woman’ after running with the lead woman the whole race and then , in the sprint for the line, I was forced to slow so she could take the tape. The beard would have probably given the game away if I had crossed ahead of her and took the tape. At the time I was working for Chevron and reasoned my contract would come under some pressure if I was seen on local TV barging past the first woman in an effort to save a few seconds. Truth be told this was actually my PB run and I still maintain this act of chivalry cost me a few seconds, whether I could justify it cost me 1 minute and 15 seconds for a sub 2:40 is difficult.

Other notable events over the years is one of my favourite photos of  Jon barking orders at me in 2010 about 10k into the race. My Garmin watch had died at the start so mentally I was shot before the first step. My plan was to stay with Jon and this group to he finish and grab another sub3. It was about this time I gave up and got dropped like a bad habit. I ended up running alone for the next 30k and finishing in 3hours and 3 minutes. With a fully functioning Garmin I’m convinced I could have gone under 3 hours. Jon was moving into his prime at the time and I was no match for his endurance or speed. Also note this was before the ‘speed beard’ was added to my arsenal and I don’t think I’ve ran over 3 hours with the beard ? (for female readers I would recommend growing a speed beard or any beard really, probably not going to help you attract a ‘life partner’, or maybe…? ) Also notice it was about this time Skins first came out and me and Jon were convinced of their magical properties. I even wore a pair to a 10k once ! We both decided that if the Africans didn’t wear them then we wouldn’t either in the end. Still good for injury prevention on training runs and recovery of course.  ( I still remember the first time Karen encountered me wearing skins to bed , for recovery purposes you understand, it was a once only event, I think she nearly died laughing.)

Little Jon laying down the law !

Even got to meet the great Steve Moneghetti at one of the photo shoots for the event when he was the ambassador in 2014. There is a slight resemble, feature wise,  as he is also blessed like myself, just needs a beard of course  but when it comes to running performances he in a different league, actually a different planet.  A genuine nice guy though which is something you find with most good long distance runners. I reckon it is because they’ve been through the same pain we have albeit probably harder , longer and faster; and they are better people for it. This goes for all long distance runners, as a whole they are normally nice people.

Separated at birth ?

There was also the time Mike ran the course and at half way ‘blew his hammy’, he then couldn’t remember his Wife’s mobile number so had to wait until she returned to the family home before calling her and asking to be picked up. Unfortunately for Mike his Wife was the wrong side of road closures and it took her over three hours to get to him. He could have limped to the finish quicker and at least got a finishing medal and probably saved an hour or two hanging around. There was some good karma last year when I got him a free entry and he ran , with very little training, and got his medal he missed from his last failed attempt. The marathon god giveth’ and the marathon god taketh; away.

I have so many more City to Surf stories but will save them for a rainy day when I have run out of things to talk about, assuming that is possible as with each passing day running you are blessed with new experiences, adventures and memories. This is why we run and this is why we are what we are…

 

 

 

Something about old dogs and new tricks springs to mind.

Well after yesterdays post it was time to practice what I preach and run a controlled 10k , win my age group, finish high up the field and not get ‘chicked’. Four objectives to achieve, well I managed two, which is nearly a famous song by Meatloaf; or was that 2 out of 3 ? The ‘run a controlled race’ went out the window in the first 3k with a tailwind and runners to chase. Of the four objectives this was always going to be the hardest to achieve. I am well known for sprinting from the start quicker than Usain Bolt and paying the price down the line. Today was not going to be a change from the status quo. In my defence there was a tailwind and I had erred on the side of caution and put on my new racing shoes of choice, the Saucony A6’s . These boys are light and new so there was an extra spring in my step. Add to this a 3 day break from running due to circumstances beyond my control and it all added up to a suicide pace first 3k,  feeling ‘on top of the world‘.

Unfortunately as I explained yesterday when you go out at your 5k pace things start to fall apart at 5k, the tank has been emptied and your halfway through the race. Today we had the added bonus of the wind moving from a tailwind , encouraging you to run faster and caressing you forward, into a headwind with an attitude, joy ! Chuck in the ‘O’ I’ve done it again feeling’ and it was time to assume the position in the pain box a few kilometres earlier than planned. Then at 7k things started to get very ugly when Linda Spence, remember I mentioned Linda yesterday, cruised past me with another runner both looking very relaxed. I hung on for as long as I could but I was now in the ‘I’m never going to run a 10k again’ mode. (Remember yesterday I mentioned I go through this conversation with myself around the same time every 10k I run !) So that was 2 objectives out of the window and I was going to have to work very hard to fulfil the remaining two.

The headwind was brutal for the last few kilometres but I managed to hold my position in the field and even managed to pass a couple of runners towards the end of the race. I found my second wind, which again I mentioned yesterday when the central governor is switched off with the finish line in sight, and set of in pursuit of Linda. I’m not sure is she was just teasing me but I managed to close within 10 seconds and finish one place behind her for second female (and first female with a beard?). Age group victory and finish high hip the field , tick. Not sure how high but I suspect I may have sneaked into the top 10. Finishing time of 35:13 which is a bridges course PB but as they change the course every year not sure it counts. Last year we ran the opposite direction and I managed 35:50 so progress of sorts, I think.

So another learning experience and what did I learn. ? As always the 10k really starts at around the 6k mark. This is where you can either maintain your pace or even step up to the finish. In this case it was ‘hang on and survive‘ (the normal for me.) but the conditions played a part in that. (Did I mention it was also quite warm ?) The tailwind, new shoes and rest pre-race lulled me into a false sense of security and this explains the 3k pace, of course at 5k I was done but I did manage to handgun and not lose too many positions in the final part of the race. This was probably due to my ‘pig headed refusal to quit’ rather than training but I suppose this is the one benefit of age, you have resilience as well. I’ve attached the Strava ‘tale of the tape‘ below and as the caption explains the tailwind and headwind played a part in the splits, it wasn’t that bad really ? Although there really is no defence for the first 3k but as the title of this post suggests , ‘old dogs and new tricks‘ are a hard thing to master.

 

In my defence there as a tailwind for the first 4k and a headwind for the last 4k so it looks worse than it was…

 

This is the closest I got to second place runner Alex Dyer. (on my left)

 

Finally the highlight of the day I suppose, on the way home we managed to sneak into a new Yelo ( http://yelocornerstore.com.au ) at Subiaco. Same format so it was coffee and muffins all around. In the picture you have Mark Conway who ran a huge PB of just over 37 minutes. Mark is on a Matt Fitzgerald plan and it is working big time (in Matt we trust! http://mattfitzgerald.org ). He is at the stage in his running career where every race is a PB and it really is a wondrous stage of any runners career. Next to Mark C. is another Mark, Mark Lommers who is training for the Boston Marathon and will certainly run his first sub 3 marathon. Again Mark is in that stage where every run is faster than the last and every race a PB. Even Mike, next in line in the photo, is chasing PB’s and we have high hopes he will break the West Australian Marathon Club ( http://www.wamc.org.au ) age group record, 55-60 , for the upcoming Perth Marathon.  Then you have me who is just trying not to slow down and that is enough. Four runners at different stages of their careers united over quality coffee and muffins. It really is a thing of beauty and this goes back to one of my posts earlier about the social side of running. On the way back from the presentations (remember I did manage an age group win) we had Mark C. in so much pain laughing he had to stop running. This continued for most of the cool down and onto the coffee and muffin race debriefing. This part of running is as important to me as the race itself and, truth be told, as you start to slow it becomes more important.

Right that was the bridges, more time in the pain box than I would have liked and my first ‘chicking‘ for three years but overall a success and a stepping stone for next week when I saddle up and get to race the marathon that just about destroyed me in 2014. Look out Bunbury the BK running machine is on its way and this time it’s personal…..

 

Exploring new Yelo cafes. Mark C., Mark L. and Mike.

10k race, only one way to go, suicide pace please.

In Western Australia there are a number of iconic events in the West Australian Marathon Club calendar that attract a large field of the states best runners. ( http://www.wamc.org.au ) Tomorrow is one of them, the bridges 10k. (There is a 5k but c’mon, when there’s a 10k option the 5k really is just an appetiser, and not a very good one at that, maybe a pumpkin soup compared to the Surf ‘n’ turf main course.) The bridges, and the name suggest runs alongside the Swan River in Perth and crosses the river twice via two bridges, giving you a point to point loop course. Flat the whole way bar the rise on the Narrows Bridge it is built for a good time and a run that I run probably 20-30 times a year minimum.

Last year, as this year probably, my main objective is not to get ‘chicked’ (beaten by a woman) as Linda Spencer, a Zatopek runner in her time, runs this race and at her best will beat me hands down.  Last year I ran with Linda for the first two kilometres at a pace far faster than I wanted to go but luckily she dropped off and I managed to sneak in before her.  We’ll see what transpires this year ? Truth be told there are a number of women runners in Perth who are making great improvements under various coaches and my days of finishing ahead of them are numbered. As always I will go down fighting and, while I still can, keep them honest.

A 10k is a good indicator race before a marathon which I happen to be running next week. I go by the ‘mile a day to recover’ rule and being the 10k is about 6 miles I should be recovered by next Sunday for the Bunbury Marathon. ( http://bunburyrunnersclub.org/3-waters-marathon/ ) I certainly need to be at my best as this marathon destroyed me in 2014 and put me in a running slump that lasted well over a year. This was in stark contrast to the previous year when I won the event. (My one and only marathon victory and one I will cherish to the end….) My plans for Bunbury will be to initially try and keep my average sub 4min/k and finish sub 2hrs 48mins but if the conditions are ideal I may be persuaded, on the day. to go a tad quicker. It is really a starter race to the main course ,which is Perth in June this year.  Bunbury is known for bad conditions ranging from winds to heat to humidity, the three things all marathon runners try to avoid. I’ll talk more on ‘bunners’ in a post later in the week as I move in taper mode, this will at least give me more time to spend blogging.

Right back to the Bridges 10k. I’ve said on just about every time I’ve ran t’his 10k  will be my last’. It is a race that can put you in the pain box early if you go out too fast and unlike a half or a marathon doesn’t really give you enough time to work into it. A 5k is all about speed and worst case scenario you’re only go to blow up with maximum 3k to go (and that take’s some doing to blow so early !!) , in the 10k if things goes awry early you can be looking at a true 5k pain train and believe me 5k is a long way when you have nothing left in the tank. It also asks some serious questions at around the 6-8k mark and you need to dig deep to answer these before finding that finishing burst for the last kilometre. (Why doesn’t that ‘burst’ happen at 5k ? All down to the central governor  I suppose?) So many people ran a 10k at 5k pace, which is find for 5k of course but then they wonder why the wheels have fallen off and there’s still 5k to go.? Funny that.

So how do you run a 10k successfully ? I think the best advice is to run a lot of them, like all things practice makes perfect. Last year I think I ran five 10k races with each one easier (relatively speaking.) than the last. I even managed a couple of sub 35 minute efforts, which was always the dream, so was happy to tick that one off. My advice would be to start at slower than your 5k pace and then build into it and finish strong. How easy was that to type? I am actually smiling to myself while typing this because I know tomorrow when the guns goes off I’ll be sprinting with the leaders for the first kilometre and regretting it at the second, while they continue on their merry way and smash 32 minutes, making it look easy, bless ’em.  Meanwhile I’ll be staggering to 5k and opening the ‘5k to go pain box’, jump in, assume the foetal position and close the door behind me.

Tomorrow will also be , probably, the last outing for my weapon of choice lately, the Adidas Takumi Sen 3 racing shoe. These bad boys have got me through three marathons, numerous half marathons, 10k’s and a load of park runs. Over 400km currently (thankyou http://www.strava.com ) but they are now well past their sell by date. The shoe is expensive (and if anybody finds them on special please email me!) but like all things in life you get what you pay for and these are worth 2-3 minutes over a marathon compared to the normal training shoes like the Asics Kayano. (I consider the Kayano more of a boot than a running shoe truth be told. I use to wear these shoes believing all the marketing hype about protecting your foot with their magic gel, about a kilogram of the stuff ! and raising the heel so much you’re virtually tipping over. Not for me people but as with all things running it is personal and this shoe may be right for you but I’m a less is more , when it comes to runners and wear those bad boys down to the bitter end before changing. We were built to run without shoes so, to me , all the shoe does is protesct you from the nasty objects on the concrete. )

Weapons of mass destruction.

Right that’s if for Saturday, I’ll be back tomorrow and post the race details ,which will of course involve lots of questioning myself, time in the pain box and maybe even me getting chicked. Wouldn’t have it any other way…. as you were.

At Darlington, what goes up normally comes down quicker.

This weekend I ran one of my favourites half marathons, the Darlington half. Favourite for a number of reasons but the main one being the finish. The first half is 11k uphill initially and, being a point to point , there is a 10k downhill for the return. (For the more intelligent amongst you there is a small loop section which explains why its not a 50/50 split between up and down.) So if you get to the turn around with something left in the tank the final 10k is normally the quickest. It really is built for the holy grail of running , the negative split, often talked about but rarely achieved. At Darlington to positive split is actually harder than a negative split with gravity as your co-pilot you are normally caressed home. This year we even had a head wind up the hill to make sure it was negative splits all around !

Darlington half start, maybe the return to the pack can be put off for another year or two ?

So back to the race. We drove to the start in Jon’s new BMW and this certainly set the tone for a fast start. Jon is certainly a young man on a mission behind the wheel of a weapon of mass destruction that is his 330d . Please note I do not advocate speeding but if you do indulge it might as well be in a German sports car. So to the start line. The Darlington half starts downhill for the first 100 or so metres and then it’s 11k up, in different degrees of ‘hard’; i.e. hard, very hard, very very hard and this is surely classed as a wall hard !! As always I started way to fast and found myself sitting in 4th place after the first kilometre with another runner who I knew. We settled into the hill climbing part of the half and a stiff headwind, which meant we took turns at the front. Truth be told I think Chris took more time at the front than me but I played the ‘I’m 50 and so, being older, am entitled to sit behind you longer’ card. I’m not sure if this is proper running etiquette but in my mind it worked and I was more than happy to take it a read this was the way. Darlington is always a struggle initially as you race up a 10k hill. You feel you should be running faster than you actually are (according to your Garmin or GPS watch. Sometimes technology can be a curse!) but know you need to save something for the return journey. There is more ‘pacing‘ involved with Darlington as the race really is two different races in one; one a 10k slog uphill and then a ‘run as fast as you can without falling over‘ return 10k.  The 1k in between these two races is flat and serves as a divide between the two seperate terrains.

Myself and Chris ran past the half-way cone (well I think it’s about 11k?) together and then started on the 1k in-between flat part of the course,  pre-downhill. This also gives you an opportunity to see who is behind you without looking around (as we all know a cardinal sin in racing is looking behind you, never, never do this !) I noted that there was a group of 3-4 runners who were closer than I would have liked and all would be gunning for me on the downhill section, joy, just what you need when you’re knackered and still have 10k to run. (albeit downhill) I up’d the pace in a desperate attempt to put some distance between me and the chasing pack and started on the downhill section with a ‘spring in my step‘ as gravity and the tail wind combined to push me forward. The next 5-6k’s were eventful only in my continued effort to pull back 3rd place, a young man I could see was slightly slowing giving me renewed hope of a top 3 finish. (My best Darlington finish was 5th in 2014 and this becomes important with 2k to go…)

Unfortunately the faster I ran I was still unable to bridge the gap to 3rd and about 18k into the race I resigned myself to a 4th place finish as Chris had dropped off a tad, probably a by product of dragging a 50 year old up the hill earlier. This was going to come back and bite me as, at 19k, I heard footsteps behind me and my friend Luke went past after checking all was good. Luke, being probably 25 years younger than me , was cruising home and had left his dash for the line as late as possible. I moved back to 5th place, which given the race so far,  I would have been happy with. Alas, not to be, another runner probably half my age (and then some) went past me with less than 1k to go and down to 6th I tumbled. All in all a 1:19:16 and 6th place was a reasonable hit out for the day. it was my second fastest finishing time on my 6th Darlington half.

What did I learn from the race ? Yet again I struggled at the 5-10k part of the race and felt better for the second half. Not sure if this was gravity and tail wind assisted but it was certainly less painful than the 16k race a few weeks earlier. I still feel I am struggling a bit with my form at the moment but I’m managing to hang on to some respectable times. I have 3 weeks to my next race which is a 10k so this will give me some focus to concentrate on shorter, faster training runs and maybe drop the odd double day; what will I do with all my free time I wonder ?

On a side note Darlington was also witness to a World Record as young Tom Alexander ran 1:24:22. You may wonder why it was a World Record, well Tom is 10 years old. ! He beat the current World Record by nearly a minute running a notoriously slow course . I personally reckon it is at least 2 minutes slower than a flat course, thus young Tom has it in him, on a flat course, to probably put 3 minutes on the 10 year old WR . Now that is impressive.  As well as worried about being ‘chicked’ I know need to worry about being beaten by a 10 year old,  life as a runner can be a stressful one.

Negative split guaranteed, what a course.

So it was back with the boys this afternoon on the 10k recovery. Mike and Jon enjoy this run as they seem to recover better than me. I struggle to keep up with them as they discuss the race and I hang off the back cursing getting old and recovering like a 90 year old. I personally put this down to leaving very little in the tank after a race where as I sometimes think Jon enjoys the social side of racing a bit too much. Mike was chastising him for striking up conversations with strangers while racing and must admit this is not something I have ever down myself. Give Jon his due he did finish like Usain Bolt but I feel this had more to do with the free breakfast , including muffins,  rather than the finishing time. Priorities Jon, priorities !! Once we dragged Jon away from the free breakfast it was back to his BMW and his best Lewis Hamilton impression on the way home. I did feel sorry for Mike in the back trying to eat his croissants and fruit as we went round corners faster that the space shuttle reentering orbit !  Oh well, that’s racing……

My favourite part of any race, the finishing straight ! Mission accomplished , 6th place finish and time not too shabby…

Is this the return to the pack I have been dreading ?

I have been quiet the last couple of weeks as I digest the findings from my last WAMC (West Australian Marathon Club) race where I worked very hard for a podium finish. The race itself was harder than expected and although I was happy with the end result it has certainly left me ‘scarred’, and this explains the lack of posts.

As runners we all run for different reasons, some for health, some wellness, some to escape life and others to embrace life. For me it has always been about racing myself and trying to better my best time, always looking to be my best or even beat my best. Over the years I have been very successful at this and ran many PB’s . This though has come at a cost and truth be told it has always been one I have been more than willing to pay. Each year I have increased my weekly distance and still ran the hard sessions when needed. It was always worth the extra effort as the PB’s kept coming and I even started to grab some podium spots as I hit my late forties. I had successfully moved from the middle of the pack to the front and this is an addiction that is stronger than any illegal drug. (Please note I assuming this to be true as being a dedicated runner my only vice is pancakes and muffins !.) Last year was perhaps my best ever as I left the forties and moved into my fifties. Admittedly I put in more distance than ever before and also changed my diet but the results came and they were better than I ever could have imagined.

Thus 2017 I started off on the same foot (excuse the pun) and kept up the double days and hard sessions assuming this PB trajectory would continue. The first hint of trouble was a 5k race at the beginning of the year where I ran over 17 minutes for the first time in a year. I put this down to the conditions and a tough training week pre-race. Looking at my training log I had ran the same race 3 years ago and go the same time so it wasn’t a complete disaster, or was it? Next was the ADU 100K, my first 100k ultra. This was a complete success with a 2nd place finish and a strong race throughout. The video was even good documenting the experience, thanks to Rob’s talent rather the subject. Next came a 16k race that I had run twice previously (for two 2nd place finishes.). This race was going to be the tester for the season and I was expecting to do well and try and break my 59:59:07 time from last year. The race report can be read here :-

How can a race so short teach you so much ?

This race has made me question my training and I am certainly more worried about what the future holds rather than usual excited anticipation you experience at the start of a racing season. With the Darlington half this weekend I need to make sure I work on my mindset as currently I am not in the right frame of mind to ‘attack’ the course and I feel similar to the last time I ran Darlington in 2014 where I was a few minutes slower than planned. This doesn’t sound a lot but when you race as much as me a few minutes is a lifetime and I certainly spent some serious time reflecting on that 120 seconds slippage! All of a sudden runners who I would normally never see where chasing me in the closing stages and when I finished there was a procession of runners behind me, far too close for my liking; I was being dragged back to the pack.

I understand that at fifty my time at the pointy-end of the race is limited and truth be told I was actually looking forward to moving back to the pack and relaxing my arduous training load but as I mentioned before being near the front is addictive and it’s not something I am willing to give up without a fight. I need my fix of ‘success’ and last year was a good year where I over dosed on medals. I’m just not ready to go back to the pack just yet but maybe I don’t have a choice?

Point Walter was hard in many ways but what was hardest to digest was the feeling that maybe I have ‘shot my bolt’ and the downward spiral of finishing times is over. I had the same feeling in 2014, after a particularly good previous year, and was prepared for the return to the pack. Last year though I reignited my PB streak but now I feel I am again facing the prospect of slowing down. Am I ready for this, no, can I do anything about it, I’m not sure and this is the problem. I have mentioned many times the mental part of running is so important and I need to ‘toughen up’ my approach as this took quite a hit after my last race.

So we’ll see what Darlington has to offer and I am hopeful I can put in a good performance, rather than excited about chasing faster times. Even typing this I feel it is an admittance of the first stage of accepting moving back to the pack and this may be a necessary journey because if the effort required to stand still is so great it becomes undoable you would soon lose your love of racing and then for me running, as the two for me are joined. I had already resigned myself for this journey in 2014 and last year was a bonus which was unexpected , albeit hard work to achieve. Is this my second attempt at accepting my times are now set in stone and no longer beatable, we’ll see, maybe as soon as this weekend at the Darlington half?

Darlington half start, maybe the return to the pack can be put off for another year or two ?

As you can see from the photograph above I did manage to keep ahead of the pace at Darlington and although I dropped a few places from my start sprint I still managed a top 10 finish so maybe I can keep myself ahead of the pack for another year or two? It’ll be fun trying……

How can a race so short teach you so much ?

This morning I lined up for the West Australian Marathon Club ( http://www.wamc.org.au ) Point Walter 16k (10Miles), my first race as a fifty year old. I’d ran this race twice in the last three years and managed a second place finish both times (58:24 and 59:59:07 , that 07 is important as the club (and Strava) rounded it up to an hour dead !, the first time was a PB and is important for later in this post…) I had a mini taper for this one as I was determined to go faster than the 59:59:07 I ran last year and the Race Director and Club President both knew I was out to set the record straight.

So to the start, I turned up and saw my friend and training partner Ross warming up in the car park and this threw me a bit as he had earlier commented he’d be running with the lads and Ross is on fire at the moment, winning his last two events. Mentally this was a blow as I was hoping to cruise to a podium, truth be told , and seeing Ross I knew I was probably now one place down. Speaking to Ross at the start and it seemed another ‘gun runner’ was doing the 16k (there is a 5k option as well) so I moved myself one more place down the finishing list. I was now, probably best case, gunning for 3rd.  Next thing alongside me my friend Zac turns up after running a 1hr15mins half the previous week (a 5 minute PB, oh to be young again!) , so much for a cruise to a podium, although I knew Zac would probably fade he has the benefit of youth, something I can no longer draw on. This was not a good start to the race and add in a hot day , it started at around 25c and rose quickly, together with a headwind for the first 4k (it is an 8k loop twice); I was mentally finished before I even started.

Once we started I found Ross and sat behind him, cocooned between the 5k runners who went off like scolded cats and a group of 16k runners who would challenge for the podium places. At the 2.5k point the 5k runners turned and the 16k race unfolded before me. The gun runner Ross spoke off was well ahead and barring injury a shoe in for the win. Ross was comfortable in 2nd and I was just behind him with young Zac hot on my heels.

I found the initial pace taxing into the wind and came up with all sorts of reasons why I could pull the pin and end the pain, which was unusual for me. Maybe this ‘tapering lark’ is not all it’s cracked up to be, either way by 4k I was in trouble. Zac went past me about this time and moved away with Ross and with him all thoughts of a medal. This added to my anguish and did nothing for my mental state which was now at its lowest. I had spent all week reading Matt Fitzgerald’s ‘How bad do you want it’, and realised about the 5k mark I didn’t want it at all ! This was the compounded by another runner cruising past me , so I had now moved to 5th and was seriously thinking of pulling out at the 8k mark.  I have raced hundreds of races in my time and never DNF’d so the thought of doing so on a 16k WAMC race was never going to happen but option ‘B’ was to start a long 8k cool down, and work out valid reasons for this approach; truth be told I could think of none. (Funnily enough I was on Facebook yesterday, as I was tapering, and replied to a comment about taking days off as a sign of weakness, here I was thinking of pulling the pin on a 16k race; karma I think! )

Right, halfway in around 28:30; on track for my sub one hour target but on the inside well and truly finished. The Race Director and Club President cheered me on and informed me I was right on time but I remember thinking they were dreaming if they thought I’d be back within the hour, never going to happen. Reluctantly  I moved onto the second lap and knuckled down to endure what I thought would be more of the same. The 4k headwind embraced me and my pace started to drop above the 3:3xmin/k I had targeted, only just,  but enough.

Well at 9k it happened, the whole race changed in an instant. The lead ‘gun runner’, who was well ahead, was on the side of the path and obviously out of the race. Suddenly I was in 4th place and looking up ahead young Zac was now paying the price for racing the half the week before and I was catching him. Boom ! Suddenly the voice inside my head which was shouting for mercy was now shouting for medals and it was on like donkey kong for young and old !!

The headwind didn’t help me but Zac was paying the price big time and I know from past races he is not the best finisher. (He’s young and starts every race at suicide pace, it won’t be long before he finishes the race as the same pace and then he’ll be out of my league; if not already. ) Put these two things together and I knew I was with a good chance of a podium. At fifty my days of getting on, or even near, to a podium are limited and I was quite prepared to put it on the line for the last 6k to grab one more before my time is done. In about 4 minutes I had gone from pulling the pin for the first time in my career to putting my head down, finding a second wind , and rolling in the runner in front of me. This I did at the last turn around with 4k to go. With the wind behind me I was able to maintain the sub 3:40min/k average pace and even managed to get within less than 20 seconds to Ross, who at one point was just about out of sight. How did I do this ? When the lead runner pulled out and I could see Zac struggling my whole mental approach changed, and when I convinced the mind I could grab a medal the limiters were taken off and I was allowed to run quicker, with fatigue ejected to the back of my mind.

Although this was only a 16k race I had been through the ringer when it came to emotions. I was finished at 2k, pulling out at 4k, heading to a world of pain and 8k and reborn at 9k. This running really does teach you so much about yourself. If I had pulled the pin at any time during that race I would be typing such a different post, as it is I am happy that yet again I managed to pull it out of the fire and convince myself I could finish, and finish strong.

Was the book helpful, (ref: Matt Fitzgerald)? To tell you the truth probably not, it’s easy to sit on a train on the way to work reading about all the great athletes who have dug deep when faced with impossible odds and how the mind has helped them achieve their goals. When you’re in a massive hole at the start of the race you know it’s the mind telling you to stop but ignoring it, or even convincing the mind it is wrong, it not so easy. I suppose the real answer is to trust in you training, if you’ve put in the hard yards you will come good, you may not get the PB you were chasing but you will finish; never ever stop.

Overall I managed to grab that podium and even managed a 1 second PB finishing in 58mins 22seconds, a second quicker than my 2013 time but a world apart for race experiences. Three years ago I was in the form of my life and this was another PB in a long line of PB’s, those days disappeared for a few years but I have been lucky enough now to sneak a few more. Today I had to work so hard for that 1 second PB but I’ll take it and really it is worth so much more because of the mental torture I put myself through to get it. I’ve asked this question before about how many times I can keep going to the well and pulling these runs out , eventually the well will be dry , eventually ? Until then it looks like running easy PB’s is never going to happen (not that they really ever did?) for me in the future, at fifty if you want a PB you are going to have to REALLY WANT a PB. No worries, today I have the medal which whenever I look at it I will remember the pain and the pleasure I put myself through to get it. That piece of metal is worth so much more to me, to me it is memories of another run where I asked myself some serious questions and , this time, came up with all the right answers.

I really earned this bad boy of a medal and time with the Club President, Davo’