Sunday, March 22, 2015

Hello! Long time no see!

I drafted this while lying on the bed, in the middle of a Persian food coma, and the dog decided that it was the best time to commandeer my legs. I hadn't taken her for a walk, and I wasn't planning to, so I let her be and drafted this post from the tablet that was within reach.

Soon after my last post, I had an extended Sjogren's flare where all I really wanted to do was sleep. Mileage went down, as did my capacity to stare at computer screens all day. I did manage to get quite a bit of parkrun tourism done during that period, so I have a number of reviews to add to the blog: Albury Wodonga, Balyang Sanctuary, Shepparton, Point Cook and Toolern Creek. I meant to go to Inverloch too but I was so exhausted that I stayed in bed instead. No shortage of content to write about, just energy - once I sit down in front of the computer and get a good amount of PhD stuff done, I have had enough of the computer screen and don't want to look at it any longer.

I am also still not over the hamstring niggle, but have managed to clock 25:37, 25:34 and 25:32 at the last three parkrun events I have attended (all relatively flat -  Shepparton, Point Cook and Toolern Creek). I'm not feeling fit by any means but am enjoying my consistency over 5k. Although with Puffing Billy in 6 weeks, I am a bit worried about how much I'll be able to push it. I should be able to do better than last year, when my average pace was 6:10/km. The first descent down to the overpass almost makes my hamstring hurt just by thinking about it! Along with pace, my long run has also suffered as a result of the niggle. I struggled through 13k (and 100m elevation) earlier today, but I'm hoping to build on that over the next 5 weekends! 

I'm planning on heading to Pakenham parkrun this weekend - I volunteered there at their Inaugural, but am yet to run the course. It is another flat course, so am hoping to get another mid-25 minute run in - or a little quicker if the hamstring can handle it! 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Swimming accidents

Although it wasn't really an accident because I suspected that it could happen. I just wasn't sure if it would happen.

But it did.

I killed my Garmin FR70. I don't actually have the best history for this watch. It's meant to be waterproof to 50m, but the story begins with the first incarnation I had of this watch - the FR60.

I went to Centennial Park on my bike on a foggy morning with the FR60. This shouldn't be a problem -  like it's successor the FR60 has a 50m waterproof rating. But I ended up with mist inside the watch and it made the screen illegible that morning. And it persisted all day, all week and the week after. It bothered me so I sought a replacement under warranty. This was quite a straight-forward process and this ease is why I cannot bring myself to now buy electronic equipment online from overseas. You might think that was the end of the story, but it's not.

Because the watchband of the replacement FR60 broke! Not cool. It was less than a year since my original FR60 was replaced, but the replacement watch was not under warranty itself! After a few phone calls I determined that it was cheaper for me to track down a FR70 on sale than pay Garmin to replace the band. This is also why I now have three Garmin heart-rate monitors, although only the one Garmin watch.

Eventually I grew tired of manually adding my routes on Dailymile so I ended up with the Nike+ GPS Sportswatch. Aside from a few days where it didn't map the route (I have no idea why), it's been fantastic. It's two years old now and the only thing that really lets it down is the inability to create complicated intervals. But if you just want to get out and run, I can't recommend anything else. I know there's a lot of love out there for Garmins, but given my history with them... the Nike has definitely been a better buy for what I use it for. Although it's not recommended for swimming, neither is the base GPS-Garmin FR10 (while its successor, the FR15, is waterproofed to 50m, it has additional functions that make the FR15 a different kind of beast to the Nike+ and FR10).

So my FR70 became redundant. Completely. When I took it to the pool on that first return swim this year, I had a suspicion that the waterproofing seal was dying based on how it looked when I last replaced the battery (one section looked a little skinny, although it was intact from memory). I did use the FR70 on a run a few weeks ago when the battery of my Polar HR monitor had died (which is what the Nike watch uses), and found that the "Mode" button was being a bit temperamental.

But the entire watch joined the "Mode" button's hissy fit once it was in the water.

This is what happens when your waterproofing seal (the red thing) fails.
So, if I hear you put down a Nike GPS watch because it's not a Garmin, do not wonder why I roll my eyes at you. I also own a Forerunner 610 (Ta dah! HR monitor #3), which I use on the bike because the Nike GPS does not record data points sufficiently often to deal with speeds above 40km/h - unless you go in a straight line. While I take the 610 out if I'm curious about cadence or wish to do a whizz-bang interval workout, I otherwise prefer the Nike watch. It's prettier.

OK, technically it still works - once it's dry.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Not the Twitchy Hamstring parkrun

During the week I had noticed that my right hamstring didn't especially enjoy going up hills when I did my tempo interval run (consisting of a warm-up, reps of ~5k pace with jogging recoveries, and a warm down). Last week my reps were 1 minute of pace and 2 minutes of recovery, this week I went for 2 minutes of pace and 3 minutes of recovery. I find it difficult to wind down the pace, so I tend to walk the first 30 seconds or so of the recovery until I no longer feel agitated and can jog.

I could feel that the hamstring was tight as soon as I stepped out the door, but while I didn't get enough of a warm up in (I only had an hour to fit this run into) it didn't feel like any length of warm up was going to help. I chose a slightly downhill path as my first rep and got through that without feeling any additional tightness and decided that I was probably going to survive the tempo intervals without incurring any additional damage. I got through the next 5 reps without any problems, regardless of whether I was going slightly uphill or not.

However, once fatigue set in I must have been working a little harder and I could feel the hamstring tightening. While the pace for my first 6 reps was fairly consistent (4:41, 4:55, 4:52, 4:43, 4:45 and 4:51 min/km), my last two reps were a bit slower (5:03, 5:05 min/km) but consistent between themselves so am not complaining at all. And my hamstring didn't feel any worse afterwards - although it was still tight when I walked/jogged a neighbour's dog the next day.

While I completed the Maribyrnong parkrun course last week with this twitchy hamstring, I knew Westerfolds parkrun was going to be a bit different. The first kilometre at Westerfolds is mostly downhill, and is followed by a flat second kilometre. But the third and fourth kilometres were going to work the hamstring as this is where the "warm-up hill", "pre-hill" and "actual-hill" sit on the course. The fifth kilometre is mostly downhill, although there is a short climb from the bridge to the toilet block that always feels hard as it's the last 400m of the course.

My enhanced version of the Westerfolds parkrun Strava segment, with the "warm-up hill" in pink, the "pre-hill" in blue and the "actual-hill" in green. Arrows on the map indicate the start of each climb.
The course topography means that I can't chase negative splits. I have tried even splits in the past, but it relies on pushing up the actual-hill, which wasn't something I was sure I could do with the twitchy hamstring.

In the end, it wasn't the hamstring that caused any issues. While I had had a late night tidying up some PhD data and didn't arrive at parkrun with sufficient time for a warm-up, my hamstring felt fine based on the walk between the car and the start line. It didn't stop me from having a strong start, and my first three kilometre-splits were somewhat consistent at 5:01, 4:54 and 5:10. But the last little kick of the pre-hill ended up causing a lot of damage - to my calves.

They were not happy as I pushed up the last section of the pre-hill. I had been so preoccupied with this hamstring niggle during the week, I'd neglected my calves and not given them any foam-rolling or release during the week. So at this point they tightened and I ended up having to walk up the actual-hill. I decided to have a relatively controlled run on the descent - my final kilometre was 4:56. But that fourth kilometre which includes the pre-hill and actual-hill blew out to 6:07.

So I ended up with a final official time of 26:26 (I forgot to hit lap at the end of my parkrun, and I went on to warm-down and try and loosen the calves before I returned to the car). My warm-down didn't really help, as the calves would loosen on the flats and descents but they'd seize up again on any of the short sharp hills in the area.

On a positive note, I did test the hamstring a few times during the run - consciously using my glutes on the hills and it felt fine. I'm hoping this means that the niggle has mostly passed... or it could be that the calf tightness is more obvious and masking any hamstring twitchiness!