Monday, March 2, 2015

Down time and lost fitness

I had a lovely time in New Zealand, but the running fell off the rails. I managed only 3 runs in 14 days, a couple of strenuous 'tramps' (we are talking NZ here) and lots of time sitting in a car or on boats! Like any runner, the lack of running left me anxious about what effect it would have on my fitness. In the lead up to the NZ holiday, there were about 7 weeks of very consistent running that were showing progressive improvements in fitness (and no significant fatigue issues). So to end up with very little running for 2 weeks, there was a concern that much would be lost from those 7 weeks! As someone that has studied exercise physiology, I should know better, but it's a common concern held by most runners, that even a couple of days lost from training is detrimental. Rest and days off are super important, but when those days extend to a week or more, then the brain starts to panic. There are lots of studies looking at the effect of time off training on fitness. The good news is that in the grand scheme, 2 weeks off has only a minimal effect. With some running in those 2 weeks, the effect would be even less. Back out on the trails of Black Mountain today confirmed only a minimal change in performance, phew!
The stunning Aoraki (Mount Cook in NZ)
An interesting finding for those 3 runs in NZ was muscular disapproval when running on paved flat surfaces. The soleus muscles have been pretty cranky after using the new trail shoes and they carried on their crankiness in NZ, despite a shoe change to my Asics DT trainers. No issues on Black Mountain today wearing Asics Nimbus, next test will be another run back in the Wave Hayates. Here's hoping the positive momentum continues post holidays.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Back to Mount Ainslie

It's been quite a while since I last ventured over to Mt Ainslie for a run. It's nice to have a change of scenery and it's only a short drive from home. Conditions were set to be hot, so some shade and a not too late start were in order. The track around Ainslie is mostly good under foot and it is a consistent series of ups and downs. I also had some new trail shoes to test out. Finally some shoes that are narrow enough for my long size 10 feet! Also much lighter than trail shoes I've had in the past.

Mizuno Wave Hayate - trail shoes
The course run today was a combination of the Majura and Ainslie (backwards) ACTVAC handicap courses for a distance of just a tad over 14km. This will be the last long run for a little while with the next three weekends caught up in travel plans. It's a popular place for runners and mountain bikers where I saw the familiar faces of Mick Horan (fully loaded with tunes) and Jon Adams (training for 6 foot track) running in the opposite direction.
The trail and elevation profile for Mount Ainslie
Again there were no signs of fatigue and the run was a good one. The last couple of kms reminded me of my limited endurance, but nothing out of the ordinary. Indeed this run averaged 20 sec/km quicker than the last attempt for much less effort. The shoes felt nice and light with good traction. They are well and truly christened, barely resembling the image above anymore!

It will be back to Black Mountain during the week, before hopping on a plane next weekend to head to the land of the long white cloud. I will do a few shorter runs when there, but the main plan is to do some long walks and enjoy the amazing scenery of the great landscapes across the Tasman. Happy running :-).

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Gungahlin parkrun # 68 (my 21st) report

After another week of trailblazing without any significant fatigue, the weather conditions looked pretty good for a parkrun. Of the three parkruns around Canberra, Gunners is the most low key with a pretty relaxed atmosphere and less numbers of runners than Gindy and Tuggers. I most like this course because it is a loop, not an out and back. Plus it's hard to go past something that is so close to home! Generally I don't run into many people that I know from Canberra running groups at this event. However, this morning I saw Ruth and David B, Margaret Mc as well as Nadine M. Ruth and David had decided on a change from their usual Gindy 5k. They chose a lovely morning to do it.

As would be expected, David and Nadine started at a pretty sharp pace. They were always in sight, but gradually got further and further away as the race progressed. I was surprised by the 4:33 first k, as it didn't feel that fast. However, it didn't take long for the pace to catch up with me and all 'feeling' returned. There were hopes of a sub 23, as I've yet to do that at Gunners. However, an improvement on the previous parkrun was the main goal. I did try and maintain pace with David and Nadine, but they started to get well and truly away at the 3k point. Next goal was to try and catch pram lady in front of me. Sadly pram lady showed no signs of slowing down and I just couldn't reel her in. To add insult to injury she was making it look so easy (and she ran a PB)! When I saw the 4k split I knew a 23 would be a big ask. In the end splits were: 4:33; 4:40; 4:40; 4:46; 4:38 for a total of 23:11. It was an honest run with HR in the 160bpm range for kms 2-5. A pretty good result off no interval work other than running up steep rocky hills! Ruth ran a Gunners PB (after doing a tough 10000m at the track on Thursday night!) and David ran the same time as his Gunners PB. Well worth their trip over from Belco.
Speedy Ruth supported by Dave. Speedy Margaret coming in as
I head out on my cool down jog.
After a 4km cool down jog it was lovely to have brekkie and coffee with Ruth, David, Margaret, Julia (another Ms Speedy!) and team JKK parkrun supporter Gregg. Next week, back out on the trails for me.

Friends Results:

30       David BAUSSMANN             22:25  VM60-64        74.13 %        
31       Nadine MORRISON              22:31  VW45-49       70.54 %        
33       Julia ANDERSON                   22:42  VW40-44       69.31%          New PB!
37       Janene KINGSTON                23:11  VW50-54       72.32 %                    
87       Ruth BAUSSMANN               28:02  VW60-64       72.29 %         New PB
104     Margaret MCSPADDEN      29:41  VW65-69       71.48 %        

Sunday, January 25, 2015


The trail running continues with Black Mountain being the running ground of choice (due to close proximity to work). It is probably a combination of a softer surface for the muscles and having the mind distracted by heat and hills that sees less awareness of 'fatigue'. I still think much of the fatigue is a mental thing.  It's become an expectation after 4 years!
Beautiful Black Mountain - place of awesome running trails
It would be easy to get excited by these recent consistent runs. It has been a long time since I've consistently strung together regular 10km runs. Certainly this is the best its been for 2 years. The question remains, can one tolerate both distance and a bit of intensity in a regular running week? It's probably a question that doesn't need to be answered just yet as there is some travel on the horizon that will disrupt training.
Now that sounds like my kind of trailblazing :-)
A test parkrun at Gungahlin (in 23:38) on 17 January 2015 was tough going, and I pulled up pretty sore for a couple of days with increased tiredness for the following week. That's probably a good enough indication to hang back and stick with trailblazing. The long run is up to 14kms and probably doesn't need to get much longer until pace gets better. Except my OCD behaviour is being encouraged by Smashrun (and Strava)- help!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Running on trails - brain training

Before I moved to Canberra I was a 'road runner' and lamented the fact that Canberra didn't have a road running club. The clubs around Canberra use a lot of trails and some of the bike paths to run their events. Trails were hard, there were 'hills' and 'uneven surfaces' to deal with. It took me a while to accept the trail running gig. When I did (back before my fatigue issues) I saw big improvements in my running and I started to relish doing my long runs on the local trails.

For some, trails pose a problem with falls. Cathy can tell you all about doing a 'CJ' and Ruth recently reported on her worries with running on trails. The thing is, as we get older one of the best things we can do for our brains is to challenge them to keep them young. This includes challenging our balance mechanisms. When older people fall they often make the mistake of thinking it is better to look down at their feet to keep steady on their feet. This actually makes it harder for the brain to get balance right and these people then fall more and get more and more timid with their mobility (see Chapter 24 in Dr Michael Merzenich's book - Soft-Wired). Sure, we don't want to fall and hurt ourselves, but the best thing we can do for our brain is to keep challenging it on awkward terrain (or even on cobblestones), by looking up and ahead rather than down at our feet all the time. Look ahead and plot your course, keep the brain active and engaged. Not only does running on trails make us stronger by working different muscles and by doing some some hills, it challenges the aging brain.

Little Black Mountain circuit - from work
I finally got out on a favourite running trail during the week. My fatigue and training intolerance has stopped me doing this one as it's a hardish climb at the start. As I've been feeling better the last few weeks I took advantage and headed out to Little Black Mountain circuit for a lunch time run. It was bliss to be out there again. Interestingly as I was heading back down the long climb, another runner I caught up with was complaining that the trail was too rough after all the storms we've been having. I reminded him that it's great training for our brains. Lovin' the trails :-).

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A nice start to 2015

Things were looking pretty grim at the end of last year, like the air had been let out of all of my tyres. A good distraction from running has been continuing with regular cycling (tyres fully inflated). After volunteering at the Hartley Challenge and watching the riders ascend to Charlotte Pass, particularly a very large chap who would have done it hard up any hill, I set myself the challenge to ride some hills. Like running, hills on the bike are not my forte! So this was no easy challenge. Each year Canberra has an event called the 5 Peaks Challenge (soon to be the 6 Peaks Challenge if they get approval for Diary Farmers Hill) which involves riding up the various 'hills' around Canberra. People pay money to do this! Could I manage to ride up all 5 peaks? With the ever looming fatigue in the background, I took the simple approach of starting with 1 peak and building up to 5 over several weeks. It made sense to do the hardest climbs first, where possible and then finish with the easier peaks. Week 1 - Stromlo; Week 2 - Red Hill and Stromlo; Week 3 - Mt Ainslie, Red Hill and Stromlo; Week 4 - Black Mountain, Mt Ainslie, Mt Pleasant, Red Hill and Stromlo.

Mission accomplished - Garmin shows all 5 peaks ascended
The good news is there have been no major signs of fatigue. Sure the legs were well and truly trashed for a few days following 5 peaks, but they recovered. Even better, with the start of 2015, I've been able to do a series of 11k runs and feel okay (factoring in it's been HOT and there were some hilly sections in the runs). I'm not sure what to make of this recent improvement in form. Is it a secret present from Santa, being relaxed after some time off work or is it the lack of vino since NYE (the liver needs some time to recover!)? Wouldn't it be great to be back to normal?! Alas, there have been times over the last few years where things have looked positive only to see the problems return. I remain ever hopeful, but ever wary. Lets see what the next few weeks bring :-).

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Finishing 2014 with a whimper

There were times in 2014 when it seemed, just maybe, that things would turn around. However, as 2014 draws to an end, it seems it's all ended in just a whimper. Run times have stagnated, long runs are a distant memory (ha ha, a pun) and a resolution of this odd training intolerance phenomenon has not been forth coming. Could it be that for some people as they age, their wheels well and truly fall off? It will remain one of life's mysteries.
Who knows what 2015 will bring. One thing is for certain, I'm not getting any younger. Over and out for 2014. Wishing you all the merriest of Christmases and a most wonderful 2015.