Monday, March 10, 2014

Sunday Night Stretching

I completely crashed last week - my body just wanted to sleep most of the time, and then I would wake up with headaches most mornings despite the extra snooze hours! By chance I'd happened to have a blood test at the end of the previous week, and the results showed that my white blood cells and neutrophils were quite depleted, rheumotoid factor and erythrocyte sedimentation rate were high, and I had plenty of anti-nucleic acid antibodies  floating about in my bloodstream. i.e. My body was in the middle of an autoimmune flare and fighting itself. No wonder I was pooped!

I revised all my March distance goals for Jantastic down to 5km (achievable, but still difficult in my current state) and used a joker for the first week of March. I only got the one proper run in, and I went for a 2km walk to make sure I would still get a 100% record once the joker had been played. On the two occasions I got out on the bike, I was fine. I think that I manage the cycling better than the running as you can ease off in places and recover. Whereas the only way to ease off when running is to walk, and then you don't really feel like you're running! Although I'm not sure if I would be up for the Strava Gran Fondo challenge this month, especially since it's been revised to 160km!

At least fatigue doesn't make you not feel like stretching and not spending time on the foam roller. It's also a great time to catch up on TV, so I'm happy to see that ABC are now running Kenneth Branagh's Wallander again on Sunday nights. I absolutely love that show, and there's a new (and final) season out later this year which I am looking forward to. Looks like I'm going to have some great 90 minute stretching sessions for a few weeks. :)

Monday, March 3, 2014

The CyclingTips FebFifteen roundup

I had these wonderful plans to complete the CyclingTips February Fifteen Strava challenge, but they fell apart quite quickly - during the first ride in fact!

Ride #1: Annandale GirlRide

I left home 10 minutes behind schedule (at 5.10am) and so cycled into the city via Toorak Rd, bummed about Melbourne Uni checking out the new buildings and all the bike parking that had been installed since I graduated, and made my way to the group ride meeting point for 6.30am. There was just one, Caz, ready to ride (not unexpected as the ice hockey gold medal match took precedence for a Canadian rider), and I wasn't really fussed where to ride. Although we settled on taking in some hills as they're fun (once completed) and I needed the practice.

We headed out west - passing Brimbank Park, going up Annandale Road (which was burnt to a crisp during the recent bushfires, although I chuckled at a tiny patch of grass that had survived the fire and then taken on all the nutrients from the burnt grasslands so it was a ridiculously vivid bright green), approached the airport and then headed back into the city. The sun was popping out at this time, and it made a nice ride pretty damn pretty. That's my butt in Caz's Instagram snap. It was a bit past 8am when we rolled to the end of the ride and had a coffee at The Brunswick East Project.

In hindsight I should have followed Caz and taken Blyth Street east (as this becomes Separation St and can easily access the Koonung Trail). My plans unravelled at this point - I wanted to improve my Strava time up Studley Park Rd, so I headed south only to return north to hit the Koonung Trail. Now the Koonung Trail is slightly uphill as you head east, and for some reason I just struggle along the path! My planned 3-hour ride become 4.25 hours, and I was definitely feeling the combined effects of Annandale Road and the previous day's hilly long run.

Time tally: 4.25/15 

Ride #2: Maling Room Ride

I didn't go out for ride until Thursday! Gasp! I debated whether to just stick to the Breeze Ride and then join the Maling Room Ride recovery ride the next day, or to do an extended Breeze Ride and take Friday off. Completely off - no running or riding. Instead the Breeze Ride was cancelled (no Breeze leaders that day), so I went for a Maling Room Ride with the Cheese group. But I had a couple of problems:

  1. The previous day's 16km long run had not caused any leg soreness so I felt fine until I got onto the bike and started pedalling and realised that my legs were dead.
  2. No other cheese-types came out to play! 

So I was chasing the Mice (and then the Rabbits and Mice) for most of the way. Thankfully the traffic lights slowed them down a bit, and I rolled up to the Maling Room with two other Mice. I did some extra riding pre-MRR, and also took a longish way home to avoid main streets and to grab more coffee beans for home, so I added 2.25 hours to my tally for the week.

Time tally: 6.5/15

Ride #3: Westerfolds parkrun commute and some errands

Friday ended up being an enforced day off - I needed to get some bloodwork done for an autoimmune checkup, which involved fasting for 12 hours (so no pre-vampire ride) and (as usual) ended up with me having a useless left arm. So my next ride was to and from Westerfolds Park for parkrun. About halfway through FebFifteen, and Sunday's ride was looking to have to be seven hours long! :\

I'd experienced a chainring shifting problem during the morning, but that was easily fixed by adjusting the tension of the shifter cable as I rolled up and down the street outside home. I added that time to my FebFifteen tally, found that I was out of saline and so cruised over to the local shopping centre. Why is my local shopping centre so close?!?!

Time tally: 8.25/15

Ride #4: The Great Train Race Recon Ride

I knew that I wasn't going to make FebFifteen by the end of the previous day, 7 hours just wasn't going to happen! I had planned to do a reconnaissance ride of the Puffing Billy Great Train Race run course at some point, and the weather on Sunday was perfect for a not-too-hilly trip into the Dandenongs. I didn't get the route quite right, but did enjoy myself out there, so I'll have to have another go of it in a few weeks. 

Time tally: 12.1/15

Three hours short! After my 16km run on Wednesday I felt fine, and I started to consider moving my long runs to Saturdays (to incorporate parkrun as part of the long run) and backing that up with a long ride on Sunday. Although during Thursday's ride I discovered that this would be impossible for my current level of fitness - it was a relatively short ride and I really didn't enjoy my time on the bike! Bah.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Strava Challenge Time: The CyclingTips February Fifteen

I've been getting into Strava a bit more lately, mainly as I'm actually riding and running with other Strava users and not just using the site independently of the real world. So I've been paying a bit more attention to the Challenges - getting in 130km rides in for the monthly Gran Fondo series, and trying to improve upon the amount of riding and running I do each month by comparing each month's Monthly Training Series tallies.

Occasionally there are other challenges, involving covering a particular distance or total elevation over a defined period. From tomorrow, I'll be hoping to spend 15 hours on my bike over seven days as part of the CyclingTips February Fifteen challenge. It's why I didn't go for a long ride today (and thus why I got a bit lazy during the week and put off my long run until today). Further, it's a battle between Australia and (the rest of) The World. While we typically have lovely warm weather in February, compared to our friends in the northern hemisphere, The World kicked arse last year.

Now I'm still doing Jantastic, so I need to juggle my three runs (including a long run in which I'm hoping to cover 16km, although I only entered 12km into Jantastic) with saddle time. If I commuted to work I know that I could easily get the 15 hours done, but I work from home and spending time on the bike and not on the thesis could become a little hard to justify... so I'm going to get my extra hours done BEFORE my regular rides, and then do a few extra things. Hopefully it won't be unmanageable!


Today's postponed ride will consist of a trip into the city (~1hr), a ride with the GirlRide group (1.5hrs), and a trip back home (~1hr). Of course, if I get up an extra half-hour earlier and leave at 5am, then I can add another 30 minutes to the tally.
3 hours


The Maling Room Ride (typically ~2hours including commute time), but I am counting on getting an 30 minutes in beforehand if I leave home at 5am.
2.5 hours (and a total of 5.5 hours)


Long run day. Maybe a sneaky half-hour as part of a post-run doughnut hunting exercise.
0.5 hours (total of 6 hours)


The regular Box Hill Breeze ride (typically ~1.5hours including commute time), but with an extra half-hour beforehand and another half-hour afterwards (or however long it takes me to get to the bottom of a local hill).
2.5 hours (total of 8.5 hours)


Speedwork day - I think 400m repeats are on the schedule. I'm thinking that I need to sneak in a quick trip to the shops.
0.5 hours (total of 9 hours)


parkrun day! I haven't made my way to parkrun on my bike at all this month (I was chasing PBs and took the dog), but it typically takes me 45 minutes to get there and 50 minutes on the way back. I'm not particularly keen on the idea of more riding before the run, but I think I could easily add another 30-60 minutes to the trip home. Especially since I want to explore a potential long-run route starting from Westerfolds Park. And possibly stop by Doncaster Westfield to pick up some Lush products.
2.58 hours (total of 11.58 hours)


Long ride day - I "only" need about 3.5 hours to make it if all goes to plan. I plan to head out to the Dandenongs to visit the Puffing Billy Great Train Race course, which is a 70km out-and-back exercise. Depending on how much time I need to make up, I could take a detour through some of the climbs in the area!
3.5 hours (total of 15.08 hours)

Good luck me!

P.S. Berwick Springs parkrun have (surprise, surprise) parking problems! Although I thought they'd run into problems if they exceeded 50 parkrunners, but it's taken over 250!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Cycling adventures: going up!

I went on my first proper climb yesterday, meeting up with others in Millgrove and tackling Mt Donna Buang with a bit of a warm-up via Old Warby Rd.

It took me two hours to get up Donna, sitting in my lowest gear most of the time (28 chainring and 25 cog) and occasionally shifting up when I would want a break from sitting. While I managed to do the climb, I did learn a few things:
  1. I absolutely needed my granny gear, but felt I had too many low gears (I can shift two cogs in one go, so would change up to 28/21 when standing, but would have liked to go 28/19 if I wasn't worried about needing to shift back down 3 cogs to sit in the saddle again)
  2. I have poor leg strength over an extended period of time (not a complete surprise given my discus/hammer throwing background)
  3. My twice-weekly Breeze ride is complete rubbish for preparing me for this kind of riding
  4. I'm not a bad descender
  5. My fingers felt fine after the descent.
So I was up there with my heavy-esque flat-bar road bike. I really don't think that my bike is a problem just yet, as losing ~5kg wouldn't have made a large difference to how my legs were feeling after 16km of climbing. But I definitely wanted to take that bike up a proper climb so that I would get an idea of what gear ratios I would use when sitting and standing on the bike.

I suspect the leg strength issue will sort itself out with regular hill-climbing, doing rides in the big chainring (I did one of my Breeze rides in the big chainring once as a bit of a laugh, but now I feel like I need to do it regularly), and doing rides where I am continuously working for 1.5+ hours. The Breeze ride is 1.5 hours in total, and we ease off to keep everyone together or regroup at the top of hills. So I might find myself doing a faster ride with the Maling Room Ride group (although it would be with their slow group!) and then doing big chainring Breeze rides!

Yep, it was a gorgeous day for a climb!

Aside from the great view at the top (and it is a scenic ride during the climb) and the cooler temperatures in the hills (it was 41℃ on Sunday in Melbourne), climbing a fair distance means you get to come down too! I wasn't sure how I'd go with the descending, as every downhill on my surburban rides is a straight line and I freaked out a bit on the one high-speed curve I encountered during the Peak Cycles women's ride.

Turns out I was a lot better at descending than ascending, well, according to the rankings on Strava! I was placed 1958th out of 1995 on the way up (yep, I was THAT slow) but 579th out of 2075 for the first bit of the way down (until the water bottle refill point) and then 908th out of 1964 for the second bit. I encountered other riders in front of me for the second bit down, and I wasn't sure how to go about overtaking them on downhill curves so I sat behind them holding onto my brakes a bit more until I accidentally hit my bell so they slowed down a bit to let me pass. Ooops, but thanks!

When I got to the bottom, I checked how my fingers felt, and they were fine. No pain from the stupid lab injury! So now I now longer feel like I need to check out bikes with disc brakes. :) Good news for me as bikes with traditional caliper brakes are cheaper. And I'll definitely be looking at bikes with compact (50/34) gearing!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

It's been a while since my last post - since then I've started to log over 130km on the bike each week since my last post, although I haven't been doing that much running as I've just been doing parkrun really!

I must admit that only doing parkrun, and going hard each time is incredibly draining when there are Christmas Day and New Years Day parkrun events - 4 hard runs in two weeks with no running endurance base really took it out on my legs. They felt like lead on 2nd January, and so I ended up just cruising during the bike ride with the ladies (although there were a couple of Strava segments on the way to and from the ride where I was chasing PBs, so I pushed it a little tiny bit). Despite being super slow on the hills, it was nice to just cruise up and not mash the pedals.

I took it easy at parkrun today - legs still weren't up for a hard run, so I went easy and long. Also tried to run without my orthotics, and while I managed to do so pain-free for the first 3km, the next kilometre became a bit uncomfortable and the 5th was a bit of a struggle. I got back to the car and swapped in my orthotics for the actual parkrun, cruising along while chatting to a few others who were new to parkrun.

With the close of 2013, and the start of the New Year, it's also an apt time to assess my goals. Last year I wanted to break 25 minutes for 5km. I got close at Curl Curl parkrun with 25:05 and I seemed to be happy with that and didn't really feel the need to chase it again! I lost fitness as I prepared to move back to Melbourne, and the fastest I ran was 25:54 at a Berwick Springs parkrun trial run. While I ran a half-marathon and almost cracked the 2-hour mark (2:00:08), I only decided to enter the half with a few weeks to go and so didn't really mind that I missed the 2-hour mark by 8 seconds. Instead I was delighted with my pacing for my first half!

This year I have a few more running goals:

  • 23:30 for a flat 5km
  • 24:30 at Westerfolds parkrun
  • 49:30 for 10km 
  • 1:49:00 for a half-marathon
  • get down to 75kg
  • ditch the orthotics.
I also would like to enter a few runs in Melbourne such as the Puffing Billy Great Train Race, and the Run for the Kids (just because I would run over the Bolte Bridge, which I have a soft spot for). I also plan to enter the RunMelbourne 10km and the half-marathon that supports the Melbourne Marathon. I started getting back into long runs today, so I just need to stick to it.

Once I finish my thesis I'll be properly shopping for a road bike. Currently loving the idea of a Trek Domane but need to test ride it first. I enjoyed the Specialized Tarmac and Amira, with the Tarmac having internal cable routing (which I love) at all levels while you need to spend a bit more to get the same on the Amira (the SL4 Expert which is comparable in price to the Domane 5.2, the lowest level with internal cable routing). I had a lot of fun on a Specialized Venge, but it would be far too stiff for long rides. I also would like to try a Cannondale CAAD10 (because I've heard so many good things about it) and a BMC Gran Fondo. The BMC would be the most expensive as it's a road bike with disc brakes, but disc brakes sounds like a good idea for my fingers - it's almost been a year since the lab injury and I still need to stretch them regularly. :(

So those are my plans for 2014. Happy New Year!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Diamond Creek parkrun

It's been a few weeks since the Diamond Creek parkrun launch, and I'm yet to write up a review of the run! I fell sick the week or so after, so have been a bit swamped with work and sleep. I didn't cycle at all for that week, and haven't run since the launch, and thus I also neglected this blog during that time!

Diamond Creek is the site of my second-closest parkrun, although it probably takes about the same amount of time to get there as Berwick Springs! As an indication of how much more convenient Westerfolds Park is, I drove past it on the way to Diamond Creek.

The parkrun begins (and ends) on the western side of Marngrook Oval. It's a fairly straightforward course as you follow the path down to Allendale Road and then return. There's a clearly marked (and well marshalled) detour at Diamond Creek Reserve in order to make the run up to 5km. Organisation was fantastic, and there were definitely coffee facilities available across the road but I had to get back home straight after the run! I didn't need have time to scope out toilet facilities either. Parking shouldn't be too much of a problem - it is limited, but there were plenty of spaces on the east and west sides of Marngrook Oval. Diamond Creek railway station is nearby too, so it should be easy to figure out how to get there by public transport!

The "old" Diamond Creek parkrun course. Feedback from the launch run now means that the T-shaped part of the
course is now only encountered once (on the way back from Allendale Road) instead of both times. To make up the
extra distance, the looped path just east of the T is now taken on the trip to Allendale Road. 

One of the incentives to go to Diamond Creek was that it would be a much flatter course than Westerfolds Park. This is undoubtedly true - but it does not automatically make it a PB course due to it's out-and-back structure. I found that I lost a lot of time and momentum on the three U-turns along the course. Since the launch, one of the U-turns has been removed, but two U-turns will still slow you down. Of course, the out-and-back structure makes this a really good High Five course, so make sure you're ready to cheer on your fellow parkrunners!

Back to the elevation - while the course is relatively flat (Strava's given it an elevation of 12m), I definitely felt the first climb back from Allendale Road at about 3km. I don't know if I would run this course again, but I now know not to bother trying to regain momentum from the U-turn at Allendale Road straight away as that little incline knocked it out of me straight away. For comparative purposes, Berwick Springs is flatter (the Strava elevation is 0m on my run, but 4m on the segment - and I would agree with the latter) and the loop structure makes it a better PB course.

Another downside to Diamond Creek parkrun is that the path is entirely concrete! It's not a surface I enjoy running on, and while I didn't experience any problems during the run, my lower back was definitely sore the next day! Berwick Springs has a mix of concrete and gravel paths, so I suppose it's a better course from that perspective - but I hate doing laps! Despite the hill and lack of regular access to coffee, Westerfolds Park is definitely winning as my preferred parkrun. Give me bitumen and plenty of parking (and good public transport as I discovered today), and I'll run up whatever hill you throw at me.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Westerfolds parkrun

The latest location to join the Melbourne parkrun family is Westerfolds Park - it is currently my closest parkrun, and so it will be the one I attend most regularly. No shortage of parking and toilets nearby give it the edge over Berwick Springs. This Saturday was the first of the month, so the Farmers Market was on - giving Westerfolds Park parkrun the trifecta of parkrun accompaniments!

Last week was the launch of the run, and only had two of these three components, but I've noted that there are some cafes south of Westerfolds Park so I will have to visit them to complete my parkrun experience. :) We had flawless parkrun weather this week - plenty of sunshine, no clouds and the temperature was warm enough. Add coffee and treats (healthy and not-so-healthy), and it could be a fabulous once-a-month treat for non-local parkrunners!

Possibly a perfect parkrun: great weather and yummy post-parkrun treats!
Like my fake Instagram-like photos? I was using my mobile and needed to hide the poor resolution.
Although I like how the orange undertone matches the orange text I use on the blog.

As for the course - I think it would be the hilliest of those that are closest to me (so that includes Albert Park, Berwick Springs, and the yet-to-be-launched Diamond Creek). According to Strava, the total elevation for course at Westerfolds Park is 48m, which doesn't seem too more difficult than St Peters' 41m (that's the current course). But what's most important is where the hills are. Like Berwick Springs and Albert Park, the course is based on loops - so there are no high-five points on these courses (the Diamond Creek course looks like it will have them). It's bitumen the whole way - so no lower-back ache from running on concrete for most of the distance.

Let's consider St Peters parkrun first.

For those who notice difference between the SportTracks elevation profile and the Strava one - my recollection of the course fits better with the SportTracks profile.

When people refer to "the hill" at this course, it's the ~9m over 300m in the middle of the course. My "tactic" for this course ended up being to start at a decent pace - the first little climb is manageable at a faster pace as it's so early in the 5km. You fly down Campbell Road and then Euston (and barely notice you're going uphill), and continue to push it up the hill. That's half of the parkrun done, and most of the nastiness done too. Recover on the way down the hill and just hold on until you reach the finish line! The last kilometre is generally uphill, but you only have 1km to go! Shut up legs, the end is very, very near! My PB for the course is 25:54 (and I did 25:05 at the exceptionally flat Curl Curl parkrun the next week if we were to compare those two courses).

Now let's look at Westerfolds Park parkrun.

Yeah. I have no idea how to run this parkrun course. Aside from being supremely fit or something.

My goal this year was to break 25 minutes for 5km (Curl Curl parkrun is the closest I've gotten to that so far). I think my goal next year would be to break 25 minutes at Westerfolds Park parkrun. Having a bit more knowledge of the course this week, I ran 30 seconds faster than at the launch run. I eased back at the start (i.e. the opposite of St Peters) as I now knew a bit more about "the hill" (the climb that starts at 3.8km) and what I will call the "pre-hill" (the climb at about 3.4km). The "first hill" of the course is the one at about 2.5km - it's awful knowing that you're halfway into the run but only just starting the climbing! Especially since after getting through the "first hill" there's a sign saying it's 1.2km to Manor House. Thanks Parks Victoria. But it's good-awful really, it's nice to get to the top after passing Manor House and knowing that the rest of the course is downhill. Except the final little bit, but it's at the end, so its elevation is irrelevant.

I'm not planning to be at (any) parkrun for a fortnight (so that I can join the fortnightly Tenax rides), so I have two weeks to get back into my running routine (I fell off it as part of the Sydney to Melbourne move) and to find some good climbs around home to incorporate into my regular runs. The only way I'm going to not suffer as much up Manor House Hill and it's pre-hill is to climb regularly.

Oh, I hope I don't put anyone off joining Westerfolds Park parkrun - it's a lovely run, you just have to figure out how to run it without overdoing it too much too early! Next Farmers Market would be 7th December - but I'll be Tenax riding (I think - depends if they stick to their schedule over the silly season).

P.S. Apparently Berwick Springs has a coffee cart now. But given that it takes me ~35 minutes to get there, I would prefer a toilet block :P

P.P.S. South Bank parkrun in Brisbane had a record of 410 attendees last week. This week they broke that record by over 500. Yup. 944 parkrunners!

P.P.P.S. Old news, but Mosman parkrun in Sydney is having council issues and is not currently operating! Hopefully the council won't see the South Bank video and panic further about how parkrun affects public space, even if it was a 7am start! Curl Curl parkrun starts at 7am too due to council restrictions.