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Handicapped

I fronted up early for the Trotters' Kerry Anderson 10km Handicap Time Trial on a miserably wet and dark Saturday morning.  After getting the post-run drinks ready, I ran over to The Haven and for four laps of the road, splashing through puddles and trying not to trip over in the misty darkness.  It was important that I run about 3km for a warm-up if I want to be able to start the event at a reasonable pace.  I also wanted to see how sore my arch was and found it to be detectable but not painful.


Runners get ready to start in Terrigal Trotters' Kerry Anderson
Handicap on the Terrigal promenade
A couple of years ago, I began to notice that I was going into oxygen debt very early in races and struggling to get enough oxygen into my lungs.  After persevering for a year or two, I sought medical advice, was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma, and have been on medication since then.  For the first time in a while, I began to feel like I was able to fill my lungs with a deep breath, and have been, on average, running more comfortably since.  However, it still works better if I start out slowly.


Backmarkers watch from shelter as the frontmarkers head out
The Trotters' Handicap is a fun event, generating lots of pre-race banter on social media and in person.  The Handicaps are published a week beforehand on the web and runners keenly scan for their own handicaps and those of potential rivals.  The handicaps are calculated to have all runners finish exactly at 7am, but of course this is not the way it works out.  There are always a couple of runners who get generous handicaps and then run their best times by a large margin.  I was off the same mark (6:18am) as two friends, Mike and James, and found the early pace just a little faster than I liked.  I could feel some minor pain in my right arch, but it wasn't causing me to limp, which was a good sign.  After a couple of kilometres, I warmed up and was running more freely to about the 6 kilometre mark, where my lack of racing caught up with me and I lost some momentum.

I finished with a time of 41:37, which was a little slower than I had hoped, but acceptable.  On the downside, high in my right arch there is now a some quite specific pain, even when I walk around.  I am fearful that I need a more extended rest from running to get it right, which will significantly impact my Melbourne Marathon preparation.  I won't jump to conclusions at this point, but will see how it feels tomorrow.

Tempo runs

As I feared, this morning's easy 5km run, after two days of light running and two days off to rest my sore right arch, was inconclusive.  I didn't feel the minor burning pain after half a kilometre or so, as earlier in the week, but it didn't feel 100% either.  As I warmed up during the run, I moved more freely and felt better.  There remained some minor discomfort in the arch, although it's not as bad as earlier in the week.

Later in the day, I went for a 5km walk with the same result.  No real pain, but a sense of warmth, and maybe inflammation, in the arch.  It's hard to know what's best.  Maybe a slow build up in mileage would make most sense, but I also don't want to waste more training time if it has repaired enough to resume normal training.  Tomorrow is the annual Terrigal Trotters Handicap 10km Time Trial, which provides the chance for a fast run, something I need.

Hard runs at speed form an important, and often shirked, part of a training program.  I find it difficult to do these tempo, or speed endurance, runs solo (though many do).  I have always found it easiest, and most effective, to run fast with a group.  The competitive juices flow and there's peer group pressure to hang in there when the going gets tough.  In the various clubs I have belonged to over the years, in Australia and the UK, there has usually been a weekday evening tempo run of 15 to 20 kilometres.  We all head out at a modest sociable clip, but finish at virtual race pace.  For a few years, my club's (Kew Camberwell) Tuesday 15 kilometre evening run from Olympic Park in Melbourne was a classic.  Below is an edited copy of an article I wrote for the Club's May 1980 Newsletter about the run.
__________________________________________________________


TUESDAY NIGHT TRAINING

The clicking of the turnstiles is answered by the clicking of the wristwatches as the runners file out of "the Park".  The first "hurdle" is encountered almost immediately.  The runners dash twixt rush hour commuter cars across Batman Avenue.  Ken baulks and misses a gap, losing 50 metres immediately (he "hates this ******* course!").  The main pack moves on towards Anderson Street hill with Ken almost catching us before he misses the lights at Alexandra Avenue and loses another 50 metres (he "hates this ******* course!").  The pace picks up as we ascend the hill with Andy making the running and occasionally expectorating on the pack to make sure they kept their distance.  This occasional shower for the following runners usually elicits some good-natured comment from Pratty such as "Do you want a punch in the face, Andy?".  Undeterred, Andy presses on.  Ken catches the bunch.  At the top of the hill, those who are already finding the pace a bit hot announce that they "were only going to do track training tonight, anyway" and continue around The Tan back to the Park where they do something easier like 20 X 300 metres in 45 seconds with 100 metre recoveries.



Some members of the Kew Camberwell distance squad
 at Olympic Park, Melbourne, in 1977.
(l. to r. JB, me, Kev, Dicky, Rod, Ray and Ken)
The pack heads off towards Fawkner Park at an ever-increasing rate with Greg now sitting on Andy's shoulder and Stan covering them both. JB and Pratty, at the back of the pack, chat nostalgically about the good old days when training pace never exceeded six-minute miles.  Ken gets caught again by the traffic at Toorak Road (he "hates this ******* course!").  We skirt the edge of Fawkner Park with everybody making sure everybody else runs around the correct trees.  Greg is really starting to push the pace a bit now. Andy spits on Pratty again - more good-natured banter.  Everybody is psyching themselves up for the next big obstacle: St Kilda Road - four lanes of traffic trams and traffic lights.  You can see Ken sweating in anticipation.  With much whooping and hollering, we dash across.  Brakes squeal, tram drivers curse and we all make it - except for Ken (he "hates this ******* course!") who loses 50 metres.  We cross Queens Road in similar fashion and encounter a new obstacle: Albert Park Golf Course in the pitch darkness.  Those who don't run into trees, fall into bunkers, trip over raised greens or drown in ponds, build up a good lead by the time we reach the Lake.

The Lake is a dangerous place.  Dangerous because Ken makes way for no man, as a number of cyclists on the bike path will testify.  Heading north along the western side through the hockey fields the pace is really on.  Greg and Andy are striding out.  Conversation has dropped to a minimum and the only sounds are heavy breathing (particularly Cashy) and the monotonous click of Stan's ankle.  A few fences are encountered and JB's steeple-chasing skills get him a 20 metre break, though this is quickly made up as he swerves to avoid being clobbered by the backswing of an overzealous hockey player.  We round South Melbourne Cricket Ground and run along Albert Road towards the Shrine.  Moves are coming from everywhere.  Stan makes a break up the service road with Dave in hot pursuit.  Ray, under cover of darkness and trees, moves up on the inside.  Fortunately, Ray's break is halted by a red light (traffic variety) at Queens Road and we all catch up.

A good position is vital now, as we have to negotiate several major roads before the long surge northwards along St Kilda Road.  Ken gets caught again and loses another 50 metres (he "hates this ******* course!").  The race is really on now with Dave, Pratty and Ray pushing to get to the front, and JB and Andy attempting to block.  Andy spits on Pratty again, and receives a good-natured tap on the shoulder that nearly knocks him over.  There are more pedestrians around now and quick thinking is called for.  Cashy nearly runs Dave into a traffic light and is then, in turn, steered into a post by Dave as we round Princes Gate Station.  It's on for young and old.

Dave puts on the pressure along Flinders Street, but is nearly fouled out by a rather stout Italian lady who steps sideways at a critical moment.  Ken is getting scared - a missed traffic light now and he knows he won't recover.  Pratty's crossed the road and piles it on.  Cashy, JB, Ray, Stan and Andy settle back to a leisurely 5:30 pace whilst Dave and Ken chase Pratty.  Ken misses the light (he "hates this ******* course!").  Has Pratty made his move too soon?  Self doubt takes over as Dave comes up to his shoulder and they race up the Lansdowne Street hill.  At the top, Dave eases off, but Pratty doesn't and surges past - the race isn't over yet.....

Inspiration

Another day of no running, though I couldn't resist jogging a few metres on the grass while the Thursday morning track group went through their paces at The Haven.  I couldn't feel any pain, but it was only a few metres.


Some of the Thursday morning track group go through their
paces in the pre-dawn gloom.
I'm not an essential part of either of the track sessions I supervise each week, but I enjoy encouraging the athletes' efforts and am inspired by their commitment and effort.  I get great satisfaction from playing a small role in their development and watching "ordinary people do extraordinary things".  Within Terrigal Trotters and elsewhere, I have seen new runners discover that with regular and sensible training they can accomplish feats they never dreamed possible.  Their self esteem gets a boost, as does their quality of life.  It's easy to see some wish they had discovered the sport earlier while others recapture the joy of running they had experienced earlier in their life, but which had been lost to the pressures of family and work commitments.

Of course, no runner escapes injury if their career lasts long enough, and there's always someone struggling with a new injury or coming back from an injury.  I try to offer relevant advice and some encouragement, but everybody is different and nobody, including doctors, is infallible in diagnosing injuries or prescribing the correct treatment.   Runners have to learn to deal with uncertainty, and often disappointment.

If my planned 5km jog tomorrow morning is pain-free, or near enough, then I hope to return to my marathon training program.  Of course, it may not be that straight forward, but I am an optimist.

Unexpected hazards

I stuck to my decision of yesterday and did not go for a run, or even a walk, today.  The pain in my arch is minimal walking around the house, so I'm hopeful that after another day off tomorrow, the pain will no longer be an issue.

With no training to report on today, I thought I would include a copy of an article I wrote for my Kew Camberwell District AAC's July 1981 newsletter about an incident in a race earlier that year.
______________________________________________________
IT'S NOT ALL BEER AND SKITTLES UP THE FRONT

The gun fired (Fred's whistle blew) for the start of the annual Victorian Marathon Club Tullamarine Half Marathon on 2 May 1981 and the field settled into the traditional bunch to fight the gale-force headwind. The pace was extremely slow, but like half a dozen others, I was more than happy to let a "bigger bloke" bear the brunt of the conditions. The course consists of two equal laps with three-quarters of each lap passing through windswept rural land and the remainder through suburban Tullamarine. Initially you head north into the country and I waited until we turned south out of the wind before making my move to the front. By the time I had covered five miles, I was into the suburbs again with a lead of some two minutes.



On my way to 2nd Place (2:31) in the 1976 Victorian
Marathon Club Marathon Championship.
As I ran along the left-hand side of the broad suburban road (as instructed by Fred) I was contemplating the hazards of starting too fast when another hazard drew itself to my attention. The extremely loud screech of brakes and tyres immediately behind caused me to simultaneously break the Club high and long jump records (not to mention heart rate). I landed in a quivering heap on the grass verge and looked back to see that a bright red panel van complete with wide wheels and chrome trim had stopped about two metres behind where I had been at "lift off". Inside were two lads having a good laugh at a joke I failed to see. We exchanged a few pleasantries, which did little to dissipate my fear-turned-to-fury, and I looked for a more tangible means of expressing my disapproval. My gaze fell on a small stone in the grass and picking it up I took hurried aim (I was now running again) at the open passenger window. Alas! I missed and hit the bright red duco on the door. This was a joke the lads failed to see. The van was quickly in pursuit and pulled into the curb a few metres in front of me. The driver and passenger started to get out but were too late and I was past. The driver's IQ was not as bright as his duco and he tried the same thing again only to miss me by a wide margin. At this point he must have been hit by a flash of inspiration because he drove to a point one hundred metres in front of me this time before stopping.


I unleashed my finishing burst eleven kilometres early and rapidly closed on the rear of the van as the driver struggled for traction on the road attempting to round the front of his vehicle. He was wearing football boots and they were slipping on the bitumen! The passenger was also getting out and I really put my head down. The driver reached the grass verge and accelerated rapidly but not quite quickly enough and I just managed to evade his outstretched hands. My nascent sense of victory was aborted by the sight of another van stopping further up the road. Two large fellows got out, and with arms spread-eagled, blocked the path in front of me. The footballer was still hot on my heels and I had visions of the rest of the field seizing their opportunity to overtake while I was pummelled to a pulp on the footpath. On my left was a metre high school fence. Just as I was about to vault it and head for Mildura, the fellows in front yelled to my pursuers to leave me alone and moved apart to let me through. They then jumped on the footballer and I never looked back. However, I did run on the right-hand side of the road for the remainder of the race (despite Fred's remonstrations) figuring that if the lads wanted to run over me from behind they would at least have to drive on the wrong side of the road to do it.


[Footnote:  I finished 1st in 68:16]

Erring on the side of caution

My training plan had a 22km tempo run scheduled for today, but I had already decided last night to do an easy 10km instead, at the most.  My bothersome right arch seemed better than yesterday, and I set off for my run with some optimism, but like yesterday, after about half a kilometre I felt a slight burning sensation in the arch and then some low level pain on foot strike thereafter.

Running has been a source of many memorable experiences
all over the world.
I decided to switch to my 5km flattish loop through Copa, running slowly and deliberately limping a little to protect the foot.  The pain was still only a 1 - 2 out 10, so not very bad, but I'm worried there's a chance it could become worse if I persist.  Many years ago, when I was a National Serviceman in the Australian Army, I developed a serious arch problem that impacted my running for a year or more.  I blamed it on Army boots, but don't really know what caused it.  The pain I feel now seems faintly familiar, so there is some reason for concern.  On the other hand, I ran 36km on the road two days ago and that didn't make it too much worse, so I'm guessing a minor tear of some sort is the problem.

After completing the run, I spent some time Googling my symptoms, but couldn't positively match them to an injury.  Most arch queries related to running suggested plantar fasciitis, but I don't think that is the problem (hopefully).  I can't really say why, but I sense that if I give it total rest for a couple of days it may repair enough for me to run without pain.  I may be wrong, but I've decided to give it a shot and have two days of minimal activity with no running and then resume running on Friday.  Managing injuries is the most difficult thing most runners face, and as discussed in a previous blog post, it sometimes only takes a few steps to go from "fit" to "out for three weeks", or worse.  And there's no "do overs".

Trying to follow my own advice

My first steps of the day were very tentative as I tested out my sore right arch.  Of course, these days, my first steps are always tentative in the morning, and especially the day after a log run.  I hobble around, descend the stairs sideways and slowly, and wonder how I could hope to run at any speed any time soon.  After my usual exercise routine and a cup of coffee, my outlook and walking tend to improve.  This morning, pain was perceptible in the arch, but it wasn't too bad.


At the 16km mark en route to my PB marathon (2:19:06)
behind Rob De Castella at Point Cook, Victoria, in June 1979
Today was a planned recovery day, but the bigger decision was what training to do for the rest of the week in light of the arch problem.  I did want to run in well two races coming up this weekend, the Terrigal Trotters 10km Time Trial on Saturday, and the Woodford to Glenbrook 25km trail race on Sunday, but also wanted to stick to my training plan.  The "easy" decision would be to train lightly for the next four days, let the arch repair, and  freshen up for the races.  However, in my running prime, I credited my best marathon performances to staying focused on a specific event, adhering to my program, and not succumbing to minor injuries or the temptation to freshen up for intervening races.  I don't like missing races, or performing below par because of a heavy training program, but have always been willing to pay that price in quest of a greater goal.

On the other hand, I know that because of my innate stubbornness, my bigger problem can sometimes be my unwillingness to change my training program in the face of injuries and illness.  I'm trying to be more mature in approach these days and test my running decisions against the standard of the advice I would give someone else in the same situation.  The main game here is to be fit and injury free for the Melbourne Marathon in October.  I would tell another athlete that missing a couple of quality sessions sixteen weeks out from the target race is much less important than getting an injury right.  I would also tell them that it was OK to keep running so long as the injury was not getting worse, but to back off if it was.  I decided to follow my own advice for the rest of the week.


The lagoon about to break out in to the ocean at Copa
It had been raining heavily all night, and the lagoon at the back of our house was as high as I have seen in my nine years here, so I decided that, for today, my training would be a walk down to the sandbar separating the lagoon from the ocean and then a 4km jog/walk around Copa, depending on how sore my right arch felt.  My training plan called for an easy 10km recovery day, so walking and jogging 5km wasn't much of a shortfall for today.  There was some arch pain, but I didn't feel like I was making it worse and, more importantly, it was less painful than after yesterday's run.  I'll plan for an easy 10km tomorrow, but be ready to modify that if necessary.

Round the Bay

When walking around the house before this morning's planned 36.5km run around Brisbane Water, I could feel discomfort, but not pain, in the right arch that was a bit sore after yesterday's run.  I agonised over whether I should change my plans for a long run this morning.  Was it just a niggle, or the start of something worse?  It's not unusual for me to get occasional foot pain, but most times it disappears as mysteriously as it appeared, and I write it off to a pinched nerve or tying shoe laces too tight.


Looking across Brisbane Water on a much better day
Having only just got into the meaty part of my marathon training program, I was very reluctant to start missing planned sessions, so drove to my starting point in nearby Kincumber and set out in light rain and darkness soon after 6am.  Terrigal Trotters has an annual run called "Round the Bay" that follows much of the same course I ran this morning, but it includes some bike path and quieter road sections making it about 0.7km longer.  Not much difference, and you might ask why I would not run the same course.  It comes down to my long-held preference for running on the road where I can (bitumen is "softer" than concrete, and more even) and for just following main roads rather than winding back streets and bike paths.  If I'm on a long road run (they are seldom easy), I just want to get it over and done with.  The simpler the course, the better.  This course has become one of my favourite long runs for training.  It has hills, but not too onerous, and a lot of flattish road running that I think builds strength in the legs and an efficient gait.  I enjoy trail running much more than the roads, but don't think it is as good for building the leg strength necessary to run a good marathon.


The Rip Bridge is run across at the entrance to Brisbane
Water (in the distance)
This morning was not going to be enjoyable.  I wasn't very motivated, exacerbated by anxiety about how my foot would handle the distance.  The early kilometres were along the unlit Empire Bay Drive and I kept a close eye on oncoming vehicles in the misty drizzly gloom as the kookaburras called from the surrounding trees.  I could feel my sore right arch with every step, but only rated the pain as a 1 to 2 out of 10, and didn't feel like I was limping as a result.  As it became lighter, the rain became heavier and I was soon saturated and quite cold.  But my pace was OK, and I was generating enough internal heat to ward off hypothermia, though I did have trouble articulating words when fellow Trotter, Greg, slowed his car while passing to offer encouragement.


Aerial view of part of Brisbane Water
The rain continued for the rest of the run, with varying intensities, as did the pain in my foot.  The gutters were filled with rushing water and I gave up on trying to dodge puddles, some of which were almost ankle deep.  I found Dunlop Hill, the last before Kincumber, quite hard, but was generally happy with how strong I felt for the run.  However, I was concerned about the foot pain which was 3 to 4 out of 10 by the end.  My time for the run was 3:07, a bit slower than I thought I was travelling, but that could be attributed to the wet conditions and some favouring of my right foot in the latter half.

I'm now faced with a decision about whether a rest for my sore arch is necessary.  Walking around after the run has not been as painful as I might have expected, which makes me doubt the seriousness of the injury.  On the other hand, would it hurt my marathon training plan so much if I took it easier for the next three or four days in the hope the pain goes away?  I'll leave it to tomorrow morning to decide.  Tomorrow was supposed to be an easier recovery day anyway.

Risk analysis

After the lower back stiffness and nerve tingling of yesterday, I was quite anxious about how I would go at this week's Saturday morning Trotters' Avoca Amphitheatre run.  This was to be the first serious tempo run in my training program for the Melbourne Marathon and I hadn't tried to run fast, apart from Thursday evening's track session, for two months.  I was very conscious that running fast with the niggles left over from Thursday significantly increased the risk of injury.  However, I'm also very conscious that to get myself to the level of fitness necessary, I need to try and follow my program.  This will involve taking some calculated risks and not taking it easy every time I have a niggle.  The terrible thing about running injuries, especially soft tissue (muscles, ligaments and tendons), is that they can happen very quickly, often in a couple of strides, and there's no going back.  A soft tissue injury at this point will set me back a minimum of six weeks - three weeks for the injury to repair and three weeks to get back to where I am now.  A sobering thought.

Looking back down one of the gentler hills on Trotters'
Avoca Amphitheatre run
My approach is to take commonsense precautions, such as making sure I'm warmed up and starting slowly.  Then, if an injury occurs, I can put it down to bad luck and the risks that must be taken to reach new fitness levels.  I have always found that in running, as in life, you make the best decision you can given the available information and accept the consequences, be they good or bad.  There's no point in looking back and saying "what if?".  If the worst happens, accept it and move on.  If it resulted from a deficiency in your analysis, then learn the lessons and don't repeat the error next time.

Running is definitely a sport where you learn more and more about your own body as you go along.  The hard part is harnessing that knowledge to make smart decisions and avoid emotional choices.  I know that I have always been a lot better at suggesting rational running and injury management plans to others than following them myself.  I was notorious in my running club, back in the eighties, for suggesting to attendees at marathon running clinics we organised, that "consistency and moderation" were the key to success.  My fellow clubmates knew that my own training was anything but "moderate" - 240, and more, kilometres a week.

Anyway, for this morning's run, I found time for a one kilometre warm-up beforehand and then started slowly at the back of the pack as we climbed the challenging Kurrawyba laneway away from Terrigal.  After a couple of kilometres, I felt sufficiently warmed up to begin chasing the leaders, who by now were long gone.  I was moving well and feeling fit as I gradually worked my way through the field, though I lost my momentum a bit on the infamous climb up Coast Road and never did catch Ian or Kev.

It was a satisfying run, and where I want to be at this stage in my preparation.  I did have some sharp pain in my right instep at times and am hoping that it is just a minor issue.  Maybe the way I tied up my shoelaces today?  I will find out tomorrow when I tackle my scheduled long road run.

Other sports

Golf at 7am again this morning and I headed out for my easy 5km at 5:15am on the longest night of the year. It was cold and my right Achilles was sore, but didn't feel too bad considering how hard last night's track session had been for me.  One of the reasons that I squeeze my run in before golf is that I think it loosens me up a little.  There have been occasions in the past when I have run after golf and suffered from side or back injuries.  I can't specifically tie those injuries to golf, but I do think that participating in other sports can be risky if you are a serious runner.


Melbourne Herald, 1 February 1973
I gave up other sports I enjoyed playing, such as cricket, tennis and volleyball, during my twenties because either running took up too much time, or because of the risk of injury.  I also frequently represented my Club in hurdles and jump events, and even competed in the State Decathlon Championships when 22, coming 10th out of 18 entrants.  My pole-vaulting was execrable and inspired the accompanying article in the Melbourne evening newspaper.

In my late twenties, when I got really serious about my marathon running, I realised that injuries in other sports and events risked derailing my ambitions and I began to focus strictly on running.  I confess that I now question the value of time devoted to other types of training, such as cycling or cross-training, and particularly think they should not be substituted for running training for the serious runner.  But, everybody is different.  I always raced best when running a very high mileage (200km -240km per week) which didn't leave much time for other training when working full-time, but I know of others who have successfully used a different approach.

During my preparation for the Melbourne Marathon over the next four months, I have decided to stay away from my bike and kayak, just in case they are incompatible with the running.  I decided, however, that playing golf had lower risk, but after this morning am not so sure.  Not only did I play my worst round for a long time, but I could feel tingling nerves in my lower back and some stiffness from yesterday's track session.  The two are probably connected.  Hopefully, I will feel more flexible for tomorrow morning's run with Terrigal Trotters during which I hope to run hard.

Where has my speed gone

Thursday, 20 June 2013

I was quite anxious about today's running because I had scheduled my first track training session for a couple of years.  I believe the biggest obstacle to running a sub-3 in October will be my speed, not my stamina, assuming I get there uninjured.  As I have aged, my stride length has shortened and I have lost flexibility and anaerobic capacity.  My plan to overcome this deficiency is to run more shorter races and include a track session a week.  Assuming I can do both of these, my ability to sustain the necessary speed will improve.  The reason for my anxiety today was that, in the last ten years, whenever I have decided to include a track session in my weekly program, I have only lasted a couple of weeks before succumbing to injury.  I'm hoping that by running repetitions of no less than 800 metres, I won't reach the speeds that risk injury, but it will be a fine line.


I used to be faster on the track.  On my way to a PB 14:26
for 5000m at Olympic Park, Melbourne, in March 1977
The day started with supervision of the regular Thursday morning track session at The Haven in Terrigal, and I followed that with an easy 6km run during which I felt quite comfortable, though my right knee and Achilles were a bit painful.

Around 4:30pm, I started my second training session for the day with a 3km warm-up around Adcock Park in Gosford, followed by a few drills on the mediocre grass track.  After marking out my 800m start in lane 3 on the damp track, I began my session of five 800m repeats with a three minute recovery between each.  Ideally, I want to build up to ten repeats averaging between 2:50 and 3:00.  I knew I would find today hard, and I was right.  The kebab I had for lunch at the mall came back to haunt me, just to make matters worse.  The first 800 was in 3:13 and I felt awkward all the way.  My right calf and hamstring felt tight and I could hear my bad knee clicking with every step.  The remaining 800's were all between 3:05 and 3:10.  I tried not to think about how this was slower than 6 minute mile pace (3:45 mins/km), the speed at which I used to run my regular Wednesday night 20 miler (32km) in my heyday.

I finished the session with another easy 3km and decided that the rough damp grass track was not a good surface for an old guy like me to train on.  The soft surface provided little support, leading to more strain on calf muscles and knees.  For next week's session, I will try to find a flat section of quiet road and use Google Maps to identify an exact 800m.  I think I will feel more comfortable on the road.

Small explorations

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

My usual training regime has been a bit messed up this week because I postponed my long run until Monday and helped at the Bay to Bay Fun Run on Sunday.  The pattern I prefer is recovery days on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with quality sessions on Tuesday and Thursday.  Having missed the quality session yesterday I decided to run a little further and faster today and mapped out a 14km course with three tough climbs.


There was no shortage of public footpaths and country lanes
to run along when we lived in Chorleywood
Motivation was in short supply so I picked a route that let me check out a potential new trail that I had spied on Google Maps running between Avoca Beach and Kincumber.  I love maps and spend a lot of time perusing them and thinking of potential running routes that might be interesting.  In my experience, the best place for finding interesting routes to run is England where the network of historic public footpaths augments the plethora of country lanes.  When we lived in Chorleywood, outside London in the Chiltern Hills, I had a totally different morning run course for each day of the week, each of them scenic delights.  Running every day can be mentally tough, especially when you get older and I'm a great believer in variety.

Anyway, I set out on this morning's 14km at a good pace and was pleased to be able to maintain my momentum the whole way, including up the three significant hills, although I was getting tired by the end, and my right knee was quite painful at times.  With a kilometre to go on an exposed road high above Copa, I was hit by a short and vicious rain squall which blew me all over the road and soaked me through.  It was cold.  During the run, I did detour a little way down the new trail I had identified on the map, but it was quite overgrown and wet.  I decided to leave tackling its full length for another day.

Appropriate dress

Tuesday, 19 June 2013

I had a commitment at 8:30am this morning, so had to choose whether to get up early enough to run my 10km and get to the appointment (30 minutes drive away) on time, or leave it until afterwards.  I set the alarm early, knowing from long experience that I would regret leaving the run until after the appointment, and spent an hour warming up and doing some chores before setting out at 6:30am.

For the past few years, I have usually scheduled a 5km walk for the day after a long run, and that might have been the safer option today, but I have accepted that I need to run a higher mileage and accept some injury risks, if I am to raise my fitness to the level necessary to run a sub-3 marathon in October.

I expected to feel very sluggish and sore as I set out, but actually felt quite good, although my right Achilles tendon was stiff and painful.  I took care not to force it and hoped it would loosen up as I ran.  This was a recovery run, so I made it as easy as possible by crossing the sand bar to McMasters Beach and running out and back along the road.


Not a pretty sight!  Running in Maine, USA, in 2009
It was relatively cold, for the Central Coast, and my fingers would have welcomed some gloves.  However, you get a bit weather-soft living on the Central Coast where it never gets too cold or too hot.  Having lived in other parts of the world subject to extreme running conditions, I always feel a bit soft if I wear more than the regulation shorts and T-shirt for my training runs here.  While living and working in the U.S., I occasionally encountered air temperatures of -25°C with wind chills of -45°C, while at the other end of the scale, I have dealt with the humidity and heat of Singapore and Hong Kong on extended work assignments.  Only once in my memory, have I ever put off a training run because of weather and that was when I arrived in Chicago late one night in winter, on my first business trip there.  As I went through my pre-run exercises listening to the local radio at 5am the next morning, the announcer warned that it was cold enough outside for exposed flesh to freeze in two minutes!  I only had shorts and a long-sleeve top, so abandoned my run.  However, later that day I visited a cheap clothing store and bought track pants, another long sleeve top, and a balaclava, and didn't miss another run on that trip, though did have some weather-related adventures on subsequent trips.

I finished today's run comfortably and hope that my Achilles tendon is a little less painful tomorrow.

Getting fitter

Monday, 17 June 2013

An early appointment meant that I had to get up early if I wanted to squeeze my planned long run in beforehand.  Given how jaded I felt on yesterday’s run, I gave myself over an hour of “wake up” time before I hit the road at 5:45am for my 33km.

1976 Australian Olympic Trial Marathon (2nd from left)
[14th, 2:37:33]
To my surprise, I didn’t feel too bad in the first kilometre.  Of course, I’m speaking relatively and to any observer I would have looked like an old bloke going for a very slow and shambling jog, but I could feel that the leg muscles were in better shape than the last few days.

It wasn’t going to be light for the first 45 minutes, but I had shied away from carrying a light or wearing reflective gear because I was going to be out for so long.  So, for the early kilometres, including a long section of road made narrow by roadworks, I ran very defensively making sure I was well off the road surface for any oncoming vehicle and never assuming the driver had seen me.  I’m sure a few drivers would have cursed me as I suddenly loomed in their headlights, but it was safe.

After that initial period, it turned into a beautiful morning for running as the sun rose and I cruised at better than jogging pace along roads busy with commuter traffic.

Any route from Copa involves quite a lot of hills and this 33km course was no exception.  I expected the climbs to gradually wear me down but it was only really the last five kilometres that became hard.

I finished in 2:55, an acceptable if not spectacular time for this course.  That’s only 5:20 mins/km pace and just a week ago, when I was definitely less fit, I could manage a 3:24 marathon at 4:50 mins/km pace.  I still find it amazing how a competitive event lifts my physical and mental performance.  However, have come to accept and rely on it, and don’t let apparently slow training runs bother me anymore.  It’s always nice to run well in training, but so long I do the training, regardless of how I feel, I can have confidence that my body will respond as I want when race day arrives.

Bay to Bay volunteering

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Today was the annual Bay to Bay Fun Run and Half Marathon organised by Terrigal Trotters, and I had agreed to supervise a drink station at the half-way point for both events.  I wanted to be there from 6am (many of my fellow Trotter volunteers started the day much earlier than that), so it wasn’t practical to fit in a run beforehand.  Normally, I would have gone for a long run on a Sunday, but knew from experience that I would not feel like doing so today after standing around cheering on runners for three hours, so scheduled myself an easy 10km with a long run to follow tomorrow morning.


Start of the Bay to Bay 12km         Source: News Limited
With over 3,000 entrants, the Bay to Bay is a well-patronised event, and I enjoyed encouraging the runners and giving a special cheer to those I knew as they passed through, including my daughter on her way to completing her debut half marathon.  It’s inspirational watching people, many of whom are clearly not regular runners, challenge themselves to complete this event each year.

We finished packing up the drink station soon after 9:30am and it was time to get my run out of the way.  I was very unmotivated, but knew if I left it until later in the day, I wouldn’t do it.  To make it more interesting and therefore less of a chore, I employed a trick I have used in the past by choosing a course that incorporated some exploring.  It did involve climbing steeply up on to the Somersby plateau, but I took it slow and ran through some bush and parkland I hadn’t previously visited, before linking up with a fire-trail I was familiar with and then finally descending steeply back to Brisbane Water and my car.

Although it was only a slow 10km, I was surprised how tired I felt and how stiff my leg joints were.  Presumably, this was a hangover from yesterday’s run.  It must have been harder on my body than I had thought.  Tomorrow’s long run promises to be hard work.

Pre-dawn "Edventures"

Saturday, 15 June 2013

I got up at 4:30am with a slight headache and not feeling in the least like running a hard 15km at 6am.  I went through my usual pre-Trotters Saturday morning routine, including preparing the post-run drinks (it’s my turn this month), and by the time we set off at 6am, was feeling a little better, though not perfect.


Enzo's Edventure Route.  Terrigal Trotters publishes maps
of all its 33 Saturday morning runs on the Club's website.
As usual, I had reviewed the run scheduled for this morning, Enzo’s Edventure, last night to make sure I knew the route.  This is one of the more infrequently run courses and is quite complicated, linking up lots of road sections with short legs through parks, bush and suburban laneways.  Even though I had done it before, I still needed some effort to memorise the trickier sections and knew that there would be Trotters getting lost all over the place (but they would take it in good humour).  I also realised that some of the more obscure park and bush legs would be run in pre-dawn darkness, and for the first time, I packed a headlamp for the Trotters run.  The Committee, of which I am a member, has been emphasising safety and the use of lights when running in darkness, so I feel some responsibility to set a good example.

As it turned out, in the early stages of the run the headlamp proved very useful and nearby runners were grateful for the light it shed as we negotiated some of the challenging off-road sections.  I had already decided not to try to stay with the front-runners, even though I felt able to chase them down up the early steep hills.  It was a tough course and I was sure that once with them, I would not be able to resist hanging on to the end as best I could.  It would be good training, but my legs still had traces of marathon fatigue and stiffness and the risks of tearing something were significant.

Instead, I settled into a comfortable, but quickish pace (probably around 4:30 mins/km) and gradually left the bulk of the runners behind.  There were some very steep hills around the 9-10km mark which exposed my leg fatigue, but I was still moving quite well and always felt I could go faster if I wanted.  The only issue was my chronic right knee problem that was getting painful at times.

The last two kilometres of the “official” course was back along the steeply sloping beach between Wamberal and Terrigal.  The slope was down to the left, which is the camber my knee hates most, but the desire to run the “official” route, even though there was an equidistant road alternative, was too great.  Once on the beach, the lack of runner tracks made it clear that those in front of me had chosen the road.  I slowed my pace, and favoured my bad knee as much as possible finishing the 15.3km course in a reasonable time (1:24) given its challenging nature.  It was a good hit-out and I’m looking forward to mixing it with the front-runners, all of them ten or more years younger, next Saturday, and thereafter.

In the dark

Friday, 14 June 2013

Golf was on the agenda again for today, so I rose early to squeeze in my easy 5km, and headed out soon after 5am.  Only having been out of bed for 30 minutes, I really hadn’t loosened up and, as expected, it was a very slow first few kilometres.  Gone are the days when, during my working life, my routine involved rising at 5am and hitting the road for a (frequently quick) 10-12km at 5:30am.  Age certainly slows you down and I rarely feel loose until I have run 5km, or up a significant hill, these days.


Running at night is not a problem at New York Road Runners
New Year's Midnight Run
Anyway, it was a routine 5km through the very dark streets and I didn’t press the pace.  When living in the northern hemisphere, it seemed I never saw daylight during my morning runs for three or four months every year.  I never carried a light, but did wear a reflective vest and developed the habit on the darkest streets of running down the middle of the road where the surface was most reliable, ready to move to the left or right, depending on the direction of any approaching traffic.  This generally worked well enough in the ambient light, although I did have the occasional surprise.

One morning, running along a hedged English country lane I was nearly hit head-on by a van travelling at high speed with no lights on.  I suspect criminality was involved.  On another occasion, in the US, I stumbled on  thieves breaking a car window with a hammer.  I yelled very loudly and then took off at high speed down a side street.  My worst experience, however, occurred while running for a short distance on a sealed footpath alongside a main road in England unaware that, since the last time I ran the route, the Council had installed some concrete bollards across the path at a farm entrance.  I smashed my knee at tempo running pace into one of the bollards and went down like I had been shot.  The pain was excruciating and I spent several minutes lying on the damp pavement in the pitch darkness trying to work out what had happened before limping home.

There were no such incidents this morning.  I noticed that my right Achilles tendon hasn’t been quite as stiff and sore this week, which is a good sign, but my right knee still has stiffness from the marathon and I sense fatigue still lurks deep in the muscles.

Recovery with caution

Thursday, 13 June 2013

I didn’t feel too loose when I got up, but by 7am when the track session I supervise ended, I felt more positive about my scheduled 15km run on a clear sunny morning.


Terrigal Haven (foreground)
As usual, my run started up two quite steep hills and I took it slowly, still a little fearful that one of my tight calf muscles might tear.  However, by the time I reached the ridge along the Scenic Highway overlooking Terrigal and the ocean, I was well-warmed up and settled into a comfortable pace.  My course took in three more significant hills and, on each, I still felt some post-marathon fatigue lurking below the surface but otherwise felt strong and free-moving.

For the last flattish section into and through Terrigal I even stretched out a little and finished what turned out to be a 16km run at an average pace of 5 mins/km, which was quite good at this point.  A morning bonus was seeing a whale spouting offshore during my post-run walk around Terrigal Haven.

Tomorrow will just be an easy pre-golf 5km, but I’m conscious that for Saturday’s run at Trotters, which incorporates some tough hills, I might be wise not to get carried away and competitive, at least early on.

Tactical modifications

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

I decided last night that I would be wiser to just run a “no pressure” 10km today and postpone the scheduled mid-week long run until tomorrow.  I do believe that the long runs are successfully converting me from a hiker to a runner and want to stick to my original plan, but I also want to have a faster run on Saturday morning at Trotters and can’t afford to leave the long run until too late in the week.  If I did that, then I would risk injury from running fast too soon after running long.


The main road into McMasters Beach.......
the only flat running nearby.
After spending time warming up with exercises and a few household chores, I set out around 9am for the flattest 10km available from Copa.  This involves crossing the sand bar at the mouth of the adjacent lagoon and running out and back along the main road into McMasters Beach.  There are still a few hills, and I generally avoid out-and-back courses if I can, but it’s the only option for an easier 10km from home.

I felt good in the early kilometres, moving more freely and with better running form than expected, and even contemplated converting the 10km run into a 30km run.  However, I decided to stick to the plan and later on felt a few twinges in my calf and back and some muscle fatigue in the legs, which confirmed the wisdom of my choice.

I finished in good form and decided, perversely, that I would be wiser to cut back tomorrow’s long run to 15km instead of 25-30km.  My thinking is that I have reached the point where my running form is good again, which was the purpose of the long runs, and now I would be smarter to ensure my full recovery from last Sunday’s marathon before embarking on my 17-week Melbourne Marathon program, starting this Sunday.

A fine line

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

My right knee and Achilles were less painful than I expected as I went through my exercise routine and when I eventually set out on my planned 10km run I was also moving better than expected, though very slowly.


Copacabana (Copa) at top and McMasters Beach at bottom
The one kilometre climb up the Copa Hill seemed to take longer than usual and I could sense fatigue just below the surface.  There was tightness in joints and down the back of the right calf.  It’s so easy to tear a muscle and I felt sorry for friends Mark and Denise who had both torn muscles quite badly during yesterday’s marathon and then continued bravely to the finish.  I was sure they would be depressed today as they contemplated lost opportunities and the running time they would now lose during the recovery process.

I plodded along on my own run, thinking how fine the line was between fitness and injury, but you can’t afford to back off every time you get a niggle.  My own niggles didn’t seem to be getting any worse, but I was tiring quickly despite my slow pace, and decided that I would not run up Avoca Steps to avoid over-stretching fatigued muscles.  I never walk up Avoca Steps, so this was a big concession to injury risk for me, and perhaps a sign of maturity at last.  Or, maybe it was just that I was too tired to contemplate that tough climb this morning.

I finished the run in a little over an hour, and although I didn’t feel too bad, wondered about the wisdom of another long run programmed for tomorrow.  I decided to leave it until this evening to decide.  I want to stick with my plan, but obviously don’t want to run a higher than necessary risk of injury.

Post-race injury paranoia

Monday, 10 June 2013

It was hard to make my sore knee comfortable during the night and, despite going to bed early, I tossed, turned and slept badly.  The knee and right Achilles were both painful and stiff when I started walking around, but less so after my usual pre-run exercise routine.


The Terrigal Trotters crew at the Macleay River
Running Festival
I had no intention to go for a training run today, but did want to walk about 5km to just stretch and loosen up the muscles, ligaments and tendons.  South West Rocks, where we were staying, borders a beautiful protected sandy bay with a couple of forested mountains forming a headland to the south.  I followed the bike path that we had run along yesterday for a short distance before crossing a footbridge and then walking slowly southwards along the beach.  It was a pleasant morning for a stroll along the beach and I had a warm inner glow from exceeding my expectations yesterday.

After a few kilometres, I left the beach and followed a sandy trail through coastal forest before rejoining the bike path and following it back to our apartment.  I felt tired, but not exhausted and was reasonably loose, which was a good sign.  My Achilles remained stiff and sore throughout the walk, but I tried to avoid forcing it, and think it will be better after a couple of easy days.

We drove back to the Central Coast during the morning and then spent a couple of hours preparing the investment property Sharon had recently purchased for interior painting.  I was a bit anxious about damaging a stiff and somewhat sore body as I applied masking tape to various doorways, windows and skirting boards, but moved slowly and deliberately and don’t think I incurred any damage.

Better than expected

Sunday, 9 June 2013

I got up at 5am to give myself two hours before the Macleay River Marathon started at 7am.  I was determined not to drink anything after 6am and just had a slice of toast and jam as food.  A problem for all marathoners is balancing the risk of a full bladder and bloated stomach against the hydration and energy needs of a marathon.  I don’t think I did a good job before the Canberra Marathon in April, so decided to cut back significantly on both for this race.  Of course, I only decided on Thursday to run this race and had run an arduous 30km on Wednesday, so I never had any illusions that I would run a fast time, but perhaps that is the best time to try new approaches to pre-race nutrition.

Having my timing chip removed after the Macleay River
Marathon
I resolved to fight off any urges to go out hard and, when the gun fired, found myself at the back of the field as it climbed a modest hill away from the beach.  It took 2-3km to warm up and then I started to work my way through the field, constantly reminding myself that I did not want to start “racing” and wanted to reach the half-way turnaround feeling like I still had plenty left.  That is pretty much what happened, though my pace was marginally faster than a number of people in front of me and I was very gradually catching people all of the time.  Although every kilometre was marked, I had also resolved not to worry at all about my time.  I estimated that I was in shape to run between 3:20 and 3:40, but did not have a lot of recent running form on which to base this estimate.  The best way not to worry about time was not to look at my watch, and I never did check it until I crossed the finish line.

After halfway, I stretched out for a kilometre or two, but began to lose form a bit so backed off and tried to settle into an efficient pace.  This seemed to work and I continued to gradually pass runners right through until 30km.  From that point, the course became more undulating and my legs started to feel very tired.  I could see some more runners in the distance, but was unable to make ground on them.  With 5km to go, I decided just to try to keep my form and not to worry about my place or time.  Regardless of how fast anyone runs a marathon, I think they will always find the last kilometres hard, and I was no exception.  I ran through the finish in 3:24:34, a time with which I was quite happy, though the thought of running 30 minutes faster to get a sub-3 seems very daunting.  I won $75, equal to the entry fee, for finishing first in my age group.

Quite a few Terrigal Trotters journeyed north for the Macleay River Running Festival and there was strong mutual support and an enjoyable post-run celebration at the town pub.  My right knee and Achilles tendon stiffened up significantly after the run, but I don’t think they are any worse than usual after a hard long run and I’m hopeful that the pain will diminish and the joints loosen up in the next few days.

Choosing distance over speed

Saturday, 8 June 2013

It was an early start for me.  I was rostered to get the post-run drinks prepared for the Terrigal Trotters run and had volunteered to register the morning’s athletes, while Kev was away.  This meant that I could not warm up for the run and had to leave a couple of minutes after most of the runners.  However, I hadn’t been looking for a hard run so happily started slowly and then gradually worked my way through the slower runners, chatting as I passed, never pushing the pace.  There was one very steep hill, but rather than trying to run up it as I would normally have, I walked with my fellow athletes.


Finishing the UK Three Peaks Race in 2004
Despite the modest pace, my legs still felt more fatigued and stiff than I had hoped, particularly the quads, so the run didn’t boost my confidence that I would do well in tomorrow’s marathon.  I did feel that I was moving better, but doubt that I will be able to hold my form for 42km.

We left late morning for the five-hour drive up to South West Rocks where we were sharing an apartment with Jo, Graham and Eric for the race weekend.  Sharon was originally going to run the marathon, but sustained two stress fractures in her lower left leg a month ago, and had to withdraw.  I had entered the Half Marathon, just for something to do, but decided two days ago that my recovery from the hike that finished two weeks ago wasn’t sufficient to allow me to run fast safely.  Instead, I reasoned that an easy 42.2km was less likely to result in injury and was more in keeping with my recovery program of long slow runs every three or four days.  We arrived at race headquarters in time for me to change my race and I paid the extra fee and “upgraded” to the marathon for tomorrow.

Managing a chronic Achilles

Friday, 7 June 2013

Golf again early this Friday morning, so I was up even earlier to squeeze in the planned easy 5km run.  I definitely felt a bit looser as I moved around before leaving, though my right Achilles was quite stiff and sore.

Achilles surgery put an end to my steeple-chasing career
(on my way to a PB of 9:10 for the 3km Steeple, 19 Mar 77)
After four Achilles surgeries over the years, I’m very wary of forcibly stretching a painful Achilles.  I know from experience that forcing it will result in short-term flexibility and less pain during the run, but the next day it will be even stiffer and more painful before running.  By repeating the cycle, as I have done in the past, the injury becomes so chronic and severe that surgery becomes necessary.  Nowadays, I stretch it very gently before setting out, and then keep it slow and favour the offending Achilles until it gradually warms up.  The best solution might be to leave the run to the evening when it will have gently stretched from walking around all day, but this is not always practicable.

The Achilles did gradually loosen up during the this morning’s 5km but it was still sore at the end and my time was slowish.  On the plus side, the pain in my right groin is diminishing and I did feel like my running posture and stride length have improved since last week.

I think I’m on track to run the Macleay River Marathon on Sunday assuming the 10km run with Trotters goes all right tomorrow morning.

Recovery is important

Thursday, 6 June 2013

I wasn’t sure how I was going to be moving this morning after yesterday’s long run.  However, walking around while the Thursday morning track group went through their paces, loosened me up and I didn’t feel too bad.  It was a recovery day, so I had no reason to force the pace or run to a time.


I used to love my warm-down walks to the end of our
cul-de-sac and back in Darien, Connecticut
As usual, my run from Terrigal Haven, where the track session is held, started with a couple of very tough hills and I wasn’t running much faster than walking pace.  But, by the time I reached the ridge overlooking Terrigal, I was feeling a bit better and confident that I could manage the planned 11km without problems.  There was another big hill after 5km, but I just plodded up it and then enjoyed the flatter section at the top.

It was a slow 11km, but I felt as good as I could hope for after the long run yesterday and am looking forward to an even shorter run tomorrow to help me freshen up.

I often think that the best part of any training run is the slow warm-down walk I always try to take straight afterwards, wherever I am.  I can vividly remember most of the warm-down walks I have done over the years from regular running locations.  Apart from the relief at finishing a possibly hard run, your senses are alive after the exercise, you have a sense of well-being, and you can quietly contemplate what the day ahead holds.

At The Haven, it’s possible to walk round the low headland with spectacular views out to sea and along the coast and I always feel very lucky to, firstly, have such a lovely part of the world in which to run, and secondly, not to be one of the commuters I could see rushing off to work in their cars.

Some runs are no fun

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

I could tell by the top of the hill out of Copa this morning that my 29km was going to be hard work.  My legs felt leaden and I was breathing hard.  This wasn’t supposed to be happening.  I expected to be fresher after two easy running days, and wondered whether I was coming down with something.  I considered cutting the run short, but if I wasn’t actually ill, I couldn’t think of a good excuse.


I used to be pretty quick up hills, even aged 38.
I resigned myself to a miserable run and tried to tune out from the fatigue I was feeling.  Fortunately, I had brought along my radio and headphones, so I had some current affairs and talkback to listen to as I plodded along.  The issue with comebacks, whether from injury or a lay-off, is that the muscles that you had fine-tuned before the layoff have lost their strength and their fine-tuning.  During the comeback phase, it’s hard to maintain the most efficient posture, your running style suffers, your stride length shortens, and it takes more effort to cover the ground.  At my age I know it will take about three weeks to get this strength back.  Long slow runs help the rebuilding process, but can be very hard work.


Runners near the finish of a recent edition of the
Mount Washington Road Race (7.6 miles and 4560 ft)
Today, the hills seemed to be especially hard work, which was frustrating because I have always prided myself on my hill-running strength.  I continued on, trying not to think about how far I had to go, and eventually finished in a slow 2:41.  The whole run was worse than I had expected, but that added to the sense of satisfaction I felt when I finished and it was out of the way.  I have faith that I will feel the benefits in two or three days and have taken another step towards my goal.

Niggles or injuries

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

My feet were still red, swollen and itchy from the leech bites when I got up and I tied my shoes more loosely than usual to ease the discomfort.  However, my main concern was how my right groin niggle was going to feel on this morning’s run.  If it was worse than on Sunday, then I would be smart to rethink my training plans for the remainder of the week.  I was hoping to do another long run tomorrow as part of my comeback, but knew I would be stupid to do that, if I had a worsening injury.

The climb out of Copa is never easy
I have found that it is often the second day after a long and/or hard run when any injuries show up.  I’m not sure if there’s any medical basis for this theory, but maybe the general soreness and fatigue on the day after a long run can mask injuries.  I also sometimes wonder whether long runs generate certain reactions in the body that facilitate lubrication and movement and that it takes these responses a day to fade away and reveal the extent of any specific injuries.

Anyway, this morning I set out with a little more trepidation than usual on the second day after Sunday’s long run.  The first kilometre of my usual recovery 10km is mostly flat and I jogged very slowly as I examined my body for any signs of injury with every step.  My right knee and Achilles were a little sore, but although I could feel some minor pain in the right groin, it didn’t seem any worse than on Sunday.  The second kilometre of this run is a steady climb, and as usual, I was warmed up by the time I reached the top.  Despite some general stiffness and lethargy, I felt comfortable and went on to complete the run without any problems in a reasonable time for the course.  I never force the pace or run to a time on these recovery runs, just cruise along at whatever pace feels comfortable.  The time I run for the known course gives me good feedback on how recovered I am.  By tomorrow, I should feel a bit fresher and will take the risk of a longer run.

I have entered the Macleay River Half Marathon on Sunday, more by default than for any other reason.  Sharon was entering the associated marathon, and since we were going to be there for the weekend anyway, I decided I might as well have a run.  However, during today’s run I began question the wisdom of running the Half.  I would probably end up running faster than was good for me at this time and maybe risk injury for no reward.  Instead, depending on how the next few days of training goes, maybe I will upgrade to the Marathon, if I can, and just treat it as the next long run in my comeback series of long runs.

Recovering from long runs

Monday, 3 June 2013

In my running prime in Melbourne, I frequently ran with a group for a hard 30km or more in the Dandenong Ranges on a Sunday morning and followed it up with a social 10km warm-down run with some of the same running friends on the grass oval at Wattle Park in the evening.  I won’t say it was easy to do, but it was quite manageable in terms of recovery.  As the years have passed, there has been a very noticeable decline in my recovery rate after a long run and even a 10km run the next day has become a chore.  My body is still very stiff 24 hours after the long run and these 10km runs would be very slow and very hard work.

It took me a long time to get over the 2008 Deep
Space Trail Marathon
For many years, right through into my fifties, I still forced myself to run on the days after long runs thinking that it was weakness to give in to the creaks and groans from my ageing body.  I finally began to wonder whether this dogged perseverance was actually hindering my recovery and increasing the risk of subsequent injury and began to experiment with walking on the recovery day as an alternative.

I feel sure that, for the cardio-vascular system, it would be better to run than walk on recovery days.  However, I am now of the opinion that walking is the right option for me in my sixties.  It gently works the same muscles, is weight-bearing and burns nearly as many kilojoules as would a run of the same distance.  I am thinking about adding an evening jog to my morning walk as I ramp up my training for the Melbourne Marathon on the basis that the morning walk will work out the post-long run stiffness, but will back off if it seems not to be working.

After a bad night’s sleep resulting from yesterday’s leech bites, I was late to get myself out the door for my recovery 5km walk and a little fearful that the right Achilles and groin pain might still be significant.  As it turned out, I could feel both injuries, but not badly enough to change my training plans for the week, and I felt better for having the exercise.

Joys of trail running

Sunday, 2 June 2013

In the last two years, I have organised occasional runs along the Great North Walk (GNW) for interested Terrigal Trotters members.  We hire a bus, charge a small fee, and drop runners at one point on the GNW and pick them up at another.  The runs vary in length between 25km and 40km and we provide some drinks and nibbles somewhere along the way and at the finish.  The runs have become quite popular with usually 20 to 40 people participating.

Today was the GNW run from Wakefield to Congewai, a distance of 40km, with a shorter 30km option.  I planned to do the 40km as the next in my program of a long run every three days with the goal of turning myself from a hiker into a runner.  Although yesterday’s run indicated to me that I was making progress, I still didn’t feel like a runner and my right Achilles tendon, and now my right groin, were giving me some trouble.  It may have been safer to have a rest day, but I enjoy the GNW runs for the camaraderie and bush experience, and with two easier training days coming up, I decided to take the chance and run.


Finishing the Wakefield to Congewai 40km Trotters Trail Run
It turned out to be a wet, cold and windy day and I hung back early and tried to run within myself while enjoying the company of some fellow runners for the early kilometres.  This section of the GNW is particularly tough and it took about 4 hours to cover the first 23km that included precipitous ascents and descents on slippery muddy trail through very dark and gloomy rainforest valleys.  I wasn’t going fast, but the climbs and dangerous footing gradually wore me down anyway.  Much of the last 17km was on a saturated and puddle-strewn fire trail along a high windswept ridge in steady rain and gale-force winds.  I was only wearing a T-shirt and shorts, and began to get very cold with an hour to go and was dreaming of dry clothes and a warm bus.  I stopped to put on the rain-jacket I was carrying and this took longer than it should because of the difficulty I had in using my fingers.  I was getting clumsy and I knew this was a bad sign in these conditions.  As is my habit in challenging conditions, I kept reminding myself that I was still moving at an acceptable pace and that my brain was functioning.

Eventually I reached the point where the trail becomes single-track and drops off the ridge down into the Congewai Valley where the bus was waiting 5km away.  I caught a couple of the club’s female members, also ready for the bus, but still in good cheer after having been lost for a while.

I knew I was a bit cold-affected when I took an inordinately long time to dry off and change into warmer clothes, and I was still shivering 30 minutes later.  However, I had completed the run as planned, and although both Achilles and groin were quite sore at times, was optimistic that there was no serious damage done.  One after effect of the run lingered through the night during which I woke numerous times with itchy, painful and swollen feet reacting to the number of leech bites I had sustained.  Leeches are an occupational hazard of runs in the Central Coast bush in, or soon after, wet weather, but I have never reacted as badly.  It’s uncomfortable, but only a superficial problem that does not prevent me training and will be gone in a few days (although I have known people to have leech bites develop into significant infection problems).

Terrigal Trotters

Saturday, 1 June 2013

I have come to love my Saturday morning runs with Terrigal Trotters.  There’s a lot to like about a Club that consistently draws more than 100 people down to the Terrigal beachfront for a 6:00am run every Saturday morning, rain hail or shine.  Saturday runs are recorded for each member and several have more than 1,000 to their credit.  I’m on the Club Committee and do a few volunteer jobs around the Club so still go down to Terrigal, even if I am injured, but it’s much more fun when I am fit and running well.  We have a variety of courses between 10 and 16 kilometres in length and most incorporate some killer hills and trail.  They start socially, and then get more serious for those of a competitive nature in the second half.  I enjoy the camaraderie and rivalry and savour the sometimes hard-fought runs back to the beach and finish.


Terrigal Trotters gather after a Saturday morning run
I believe that it’s important to have some fast “tempo” running as part of a training program and the Saturday morning runs with Trotters provide a weekly opportunity  for one.

However, for this morning’s run, I knew I would be foolhardy to get competitive, given my still tired and sore body.  So I hung back early, chatting to friends and waiting for my body to warm up and see how I was moving.  There were a few tough hills in the first four kilometres and I just jogged slowly up them, passing many of my fellow Trotters who tend to walk up the very steep hills.  As is usually the case, the hills warmed me up quickly and by the top of the first, I was getting into a comfortable running rhythm.  For the rest of the run, I concentrated on just running steadily without straining and fought off the temptation to chase some fellow runners I could see ahead, who I would usually expect to beat, and on whom I was gradually closing.  I could feel the competitive juices starting to flow, but restrained myself and finished the 13.5km run comfortably tired.  There were still a few niggles, but I feel like I am making progress on my plan to spend these three weeks turning myself back into a runner after three weeks of hiking.