Sunday, October 19, 2014

8 weeks to 10km

Seven weeks (and a day) until the Sussan Women's 10km. I am not feeling prepared because the asthma really threw me out. I was tempted to just pootle along until then and on the day, but the idea of only pootling really bothered me! So I am going to try and stick to a training plan and see what happens.

The first problem when attempting to train towards something is that there is no shortage of training plans out there on the internet and in running publications. I've tried the Runner's World Smartcoach app before, but I would grow really bored of the monotony of it. Given it's a four week cycle with a taper as you approach "race day", I'm not surprised I grew bored of it. This time around I'm trying one of the 5km/10km programs in Claire Kowalchik's The Complete Book of Running for Women. I like that different plans can be connected (e.g. base level Bronze 5km to mid-level Silver 5km, or base level Bronze 5km to base level Bronze half-marathon), and that there is variation week-to-week in the interval training and that easy runs have variation in distance.

Image from its Amazon listing.

I had initially planned to play mix and match between the Silver and Gold levels as I had felt that I could handle the Gold interval training and long run despite my overall mileage being relatively low (and thus more Silver-like). While there are recommended paces in the text, I can't get my head around running the same pace for 400m intervals and for 1600m intervals - so I'm using the training paces from McMillan Running, which are faster than recommended for my pace (and faster for shorter intervals), but I knew I was capable of hitting those paces provided I walked the recoveries as I had tested for this before the asthma set in. I'm happy to walk recoveries as it means I put all my effort into the speed component of the run.

Of course this plan was completely thrown into disarray as I had to ease back on running thanks to the asthma symptoms (which oddly went away once the new heater at home was reinstalled, leading me to believe that perhaps the cold night air was causing the spasms). I did initially start at with the interval session from Week 1 of the Gold training program, but I couldn't finish the planned intervals despite increasing the recovery period by an additional two minutes each time. The plan was to complete a pyramid of 400m, 800m, 1200m, 800m and 400m. By the time I started the second 800m interval, my legs were pooped so I eased off and only really did a half-pyramid.

This week I went switched to the mid-level plan, where this week's interval training was 400m, 800m, 1200m. Yup, just an easier version of the advanced level with a one-week delay. I have to admit that it made changing the workouts on Garmin Connect a lot easier than entering them all in from scratch! The two plans look fairly similar, although the Gold Level starts with more intense interval training types. Also, the Gold Level intervals are generally bounded by longer warm-up and cool-down distances, along with longer intervals and/or more repeats. By missing the first Silver Level 400s & 800s session the Gold Level has an extra full pyramid and an extra rollercoaster.

WeekSilver LevelGold Level
1 (6th Oct)400s & 800sfull pyramid
2 (13th Oct)half-pyramidtaller full pyramid
3 (20th Oct)full pyramidrollercoaster
4 (27th Oct)rollercoastermile repeats
5 (3rd Nov)mile repeatsrollercoaster
6 (10th Nov)steep pyramidsteep pyramid
7 (17th Nov)800s800s
8 (24th Nov)400s400s
Race prep (1st Dec)300s300s
Recovery (8th Dec)half-pyramidmini pyramid

As my asthma had settled down I decided to stick to the recommended recovery time (and skip the additional 2 minutes I gave myself the previous week). I ended managing the interval perfectly fine. :) So I'm back on the right track - although I now need to build up my mileage and long run again!

What's not clear here is that I was doing laps of a wetland with a short climb on one end (and thus a descent at the other). The Smashrun plot that shows elevation just wasn't as clean as this figure!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Westerfolds Wednesdays: the week of the ill-fitting goodies

Having a Westerfolds Wednesday is going to be a little confusing on weeks when I go parkrunning in other locations, but I'm going to try to make it work. Somehow. Perhaps those weeks will be "Not Westerfolds Wednesday."

While I have a couple of other parkruns on my "hit list", I headed to Westerfolds on the weekend because I had some deliveries to make! The parkrun 10th Anniversary T-shirts had arrived from Wiggle earlier in the week, and they needed to go to their new mummies. I had a problem with my shirt: it was too big! I selected the Medium because the published chest size of the Small (96cm) wasn't compatible with my chest size (99cm, but I can get it down to 96cm if I don't breathe).

In order to reach the minimum spend for free shipping ($80) I also ordered shirts for Sophie, Wendy and Amanda. Technically I only needed another two shirts to add to mine, but three it was. Sophie and Wendy were at parkrun on the weekend, and they found their shirts small too. I have ended up with Sophie's Small one (with an Extra Small now on order for her, along with some cycling kit to hit the free shipping mark), and my Medium went to Tony, the Inverloch parkrun Event Director.

As for parkrunday? Well, this weekend was Westerfolds parkrun's 52nd event - and we had 86 parkrunners. It was also Berwick Springs parkrun's 1st birthday, but I don't think our attendance wasn't affected by that or by the Melbourne Marathon Festival. I think we have a small, but loyal, following. ;) Our attendance record of 107 was set on a day when Diamond Creek parkrun was cancelled, but we then had 103 last weekend on International parkrun Day. I'm calling the 103 our unofficial record as is wasn't "wind-assisted", where the wind in the case of the 107 was the Diamond Creek Rotary Town Fair.

The steadily-increasing population of Westerfolds parkrun since launching in October 2013. There's no monthly average for October 2013 because the inaugural run attendance distorts that statistic (especially with a sample size of one).

Saturday was a gorgeous morning for parkrun - although it was a eerie to turn up a little bit before 7.30am and find the place empty. You could almost hear the tumbleweed! I was going to head off on a recon run to see where Simon was up to in the pre-event course setup, but I heard my name being called by John, our Run Director for the day. Three flags and some discussion later (Westerfolds parkrun HQ discuss things during the week via Facebook, and John's not on Facebook), and it was almost time for the pre-run briefing!

I decided to try a "strides" workout during parkrun - 3km of easy running to warm up, and then 8 sets of 20s bursts with 40s of recovery. Unfortunately, the 3km of warm up meant that the work was done up the hill, so I needed to walk while making my way up the hill to recover through a few of the intervals. The last interval finished as I hit the bridge at about 500m to go. I heard my watch beep and I went off on another 20s burst only to find that it was now just "free-running" and thus much longer than 20 seconds! At least I had a nice strong finish - although I was definitely feeling the effects and decided to take on more of the asthma medication before it progressed to the post-run-worsening stage. I took a few snaps with my camera, but then found myself performing Run Director Department duties (collecting money for our Westerfolds parkrun birthday dinner).

Lee was today's timekeeper while Wendy handed out the place tokens.
I was also becoming increasingly annoyed by the Walk the Wall people who just kept on taking up more space for their charity event. They also had a blower vac going to "clean" the BBQ area a bit, but all that did was throw debris onto our belongings, create noise to distress some of the younger children, and increase the amount of allergens in the air. If I wasn't part of the Run Directing Department I would have had a go at Blower Vac Man, but I wasn't sure how I really should be acting in that situation. 

Adam's taken on Finish Token sorting duties in recent weeks, although sometimes he needs a little help from his dad.
Next week is our final parkrun of our first year! For those who care about the points competition: it's still a close contest amongst the men, while the women's contest was finalised a couple of weeks ago. We're not going to know until next week whether Ehuli (4124 points) or Brett (4091) will be our men's "champion", and it's undecided whether Michael (3342) or Tim (3273) will pick up third place! Riveting! The women's competition will be won by Amanda (3538), followed by Valerie (3351) and then hopefully by Nicole (2811).

"Hopefully" because I personally don't care about how I am going in the points competition. I don't go to parkrun to win medals. I don't want a medal to be wasted on me (3178 points) as I will regard it as clutter in a few weeks. I don't even want a paper certificate as it has no purpose - it's just a waste of paper and resources. I like the 50/100/250 t-shirts that parkrun have because they have a purpose (clothing), although it bothers me that contributing to the parkrun community by volunteering messes that up (unless you have your cake and eating it too by setting up the course and going for a second lap or tail-running, and then having your barcode scanned). I know that the points system accounts for that, but I don't think it should count towards your volunteer count if you also run - it gives a false sense of "giving up your run" to volunteer.

Yikes! A little off-track there, but I'll try to keep parkrun things positive in the future! Time for some Happy Thoughts! Here's a puppy!

Think Happy Thoughts! Here's one of the dogs that belongs to Sonia and Ashwin - their other dog is a poop machine.
Generally it is this lovely weekly event, it's just that there are a few things that annoy me and they happen to coincide with parkrun birthdays, where we reward/recognise those in our community - although I think the system doesn't work as well as I think that it should.

P.S. I'm serious about medals/trophies/keepsakes = clutter. I picked up more than enough medals, trophies, ribbons and certificates from little athletics, senior athletics and football. And all most of them ever were to me were dust collectors. I threw most of them out about ten years ago. I only kept my state championship medals for discus and hammer - things that I actually trained for. Further, my favourite state-level medal provides a silly story, so I've kept the whole set because I feel a bit silly getting rid of all of them but one. My age group and the younger age group competed in our respective state discus finals at the same time, and I threw the equal-third furthest out of both lots, yet I won my age group and my first/only state title. I find this highly hilarious as it also meant I had these wreaths signifying "State Champion" on my registration bib the following season).

Saturday, October 11, 2014


I've been suffering from asthmatic symptoms for the past couple of weeks. It doesn't just affect me while running - I have a shortness-of-breath throughout the day and a really tight throat whether I've gone for a run or not. I monitored the symptoms for a few days before seeing the GP, and I've been on a preventative inhaler since then. After a week of using it twice daily for almost two weeks no not thinking it had made a difference, I eased off to single puffs twice daily, and then once daily. I'd have occasional deep-breath moments, but nothing persistent.

After easing off the inhaler I was OK. For about a day. Then the deep breaths occurred more often, and the tight throat returned and progressively became worse. Then, I went for a run, because that's what runners do when running could make something worse! Naturally the symptoms became worse as I had been outside, and I ended up with a hoarse voice for a few hours.

I did have "exercise-induced asthma" about 15 years ago, but discovered it was only set off at specific athletics tracks! I suspected then (and still do now) that it was because those tracks were in open spaces and that an allergen was causing the problems. I was in my second-last season of Little Athletics at the time, and I think it was only the 1500m (and possibly 800m) that I was having problems with. The year after I moved to to a different athletics club (and thus, track) for my final Little Aths season, and never really ran again when I was doing seniors' athletics as I just stuck to my discus and hammer (with some comical dabbling in shot put and just as hilarious dabbling in javelin).

I don't know if the problem ever actually went away - by the time I started running again in 2011 I was in Sydney and I'm sure that its humidity helped me avoid these problems. I've been back in Melbourne for a year now, and this is the first full season of Spring I'm going through since I've been running.

I don't have any fun runs until November (and yes, I'm relieved that I didn't sign up for anything in tomorrow's Melbourne Marathon Festival), so hopefully this asthma thing can be sorted out this month. I did pick up a referral for spirometry if I found that the inhaler didn't help. Although it looks like the inhaler just makes things less worse, so that might become part of my life in springtime. I hope it's only for springtime and that it goes away soon as so far it has affected my attempt to train for the Sussan Women's 10km!

During my first week of the asthmatic thing I did a session with 400m intervals (with 200m rest/recovery) and couldn't quite finish it. I managed the first six 400m intervals at goal pace but just couldn't get the legs going on the seventh so gave up on it all there and then. I only planned for eight intervals, so I figured managing to do six of them was good enough. But I was in so much pain that evening with a sore back! I'm sure someone will tell me that I need to breathe properly and use my diaphragm - which I do day-to-day, but it just doesn't happen when I run! More practice is definitely required.

For the second week I had planned to find out what would happen if I doubled my recovery time, i.e. allowed myself to have 400m of recovery instead of 200m after 400m intervals, and 800m of recovery instead of 400m after anything longer. I never got around to testing this because I decided to experiment with the medication instead and, as explained above, the symptoms became worse. I'll give it a shot if my symptoms settle down by tomorrow morning (i.e. if I wake up without the sore throat).