Friday, November 28, 2014

The mystery of the missing Strava Premium feature for runners

I had a Strava Premium free trial available to me for about a month up to mid November - and I took it up as I do find knowing a suffer score some source of amusement. But that is it - I really don't find that Strava Premium offers that much to runners. The pace bands are nice, but I can replicate that very easily in Sport Tracks. The 25% splits in the race analysis are handy, but it's not to difficult to calculate 25% of your run distance and do a little subtraction to figure out those splits.

Strava bases its pace bands on the best 5km, which I set as the best GPS-recorded 5km.

Sport Tracks uses pace bands set by the user - both in terms of quantity and the pace categories.

The only problem I have with Sport Tracks is that there is no Mac version. Each time I want to use it, I need to start a Windows partition on my Mac and lose 4GB of RAM. Just opening that partition slows my whole system down - so while I love Sport Tracks for a variety of reasons (check out DC Rainmaker's great overview here), it's annoying to use. So I'm always on the lookout for web-based logs that offer something useful.

I use Nike and Garmin GPS watches - I prefer the simplicity of the Nike, but I need the Garmin if I'm on my bike (very rare these days) or wish to set up intervals. I can easily export the data from both devices (to upload to Sport Tracks), although uploading activities to Smashrun or Strava is a much easier process that just requires a few clicks and no downloading/uploading.

But I persist with Sport Tracks because I love the Training Load plugin, which I can use to monitor my fitness and fatigue.

Yellow bars show the Training Impulse (TRIMP, read more about it here) for each day's activities, blue is the fitness and red is fatigue.
At the moment I'm trying to find a sweet spot for an easy run - the shortest distance at an easy pace that doesn't reduce my fitness score. Although I'll point out that the distance/time will increase as my fitness improves. But it means that I am opening up Sport Tracks (and thus Windows) each day. It is not an instantaneous process.

So imagine my annoyance when this little critter turned up on my Strava feed a day after my Premium Trial expired!

After a bit of digging I found a Premium Trial offer online, so I signed up again and tried to find out where this pot of gold was and what my data looked like. To say I was disappointed is an understatement.

Look at how unfit but fresh I am - because it's a feature for cyclists only!

Historically this "Fitness & Freshness" feature only used power meter data, and now they have enabled it to use heart rate data too. So now that this has happened, why can't this feature be opened up to those of us who run! Or swim (possible if you use an optical heart rate monitor), or do any other activity that can be uploaded with heart rate data? Of course, if the fitness/freshness feature was something some wanted to check in on, they could change the activity type to be bike rides, but that'd really annoying. And you'd fall off the appropriate leaderboard (which is what Strava is really about).

I changed the activity type for the last two days of last week from run to ride, and it did come up on the plot... so that's an option for Strava Premium subscribers who are desperate for this feature.
I do like Strava - it's a great way to see where your friends (and rivals) are running (or cycling, swimming, kayaking, etc), and how their chosen activity is going. It has the best privacy feature of all the web-based apps, allowing you to share runs without divulging the specifics of your home address (and/or other addresses, as required). But there is nothing in the current Premium subscription that I value. The goal-setting for specific segments is nice, but it's not something I'm interested in. At least not right now.

Despite all the segments and friends I have on Strava, I place a lot more value on the data I get from Smashrun. I even upgraded to Smashrun Pro because I really enjoyed the site, but now love all the Pro features! Plus Smashrun is just plain fun, albeit disguised as an easy way to keep track of your running. The notables are what do it for me - Strava may have something similar when it identifies top-three performances, but Strava Achievements are based on overall PB while Smashrun detects overall, quarterly and monthly PBs! You can be on the comeback trail and it will let you know when you're improving. Strava only let's you know after you put all the hard work in again.

So, for the moment, while I am exclusively a runner, I just don't see the point of Strava Premium.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Westerfolds Wednesday: a hit out

It was yet another lovely morning at Westerfolds parkrun on the weekend. The sun was out but it was still cool enough to be classified as "PB weather" - according to Smashrun it was 15℃ with a relative humidity of 84% although The Prof had 17℃ and 59%. The relatively good weather is definitely encouraging some to return to parkrun - one of our First Timers hadn't actually been to parkrun for over 18 months! Well, strictly is was their barcode...

Image from the Westerfolds parkrun Facebook page, taken by Cormac McCarthy.
We had 92 parkrunners, of which 23 ran a personal best time (including 4 of our top 5 finishers)! We had ten were first timers to our course; seven were new to parkrun while three had had some parkrunning experience - Senny from Brockwell parkrun in the UK, with Mark and Max from both Albert parkrun (I'll let you figure out which one had been away from parkrun for the 18+ month period...)

Image from the Westerfolds parkrun Facebook page, taken by Cormac McCarthy.
No course records were set, although the front end of the pack were definitely in a fast mood judging by the amount of PBs. Steven Griffin was the first to finish with a personal best time of 18:18, while a Battle of the Justins occurred for the 2nd and 3rd finishers with Justin Byrne (18:46) getting the better of Justin McFarlane (18:52, also a PB). parkrun may not be a race, but a little rivalry definitely helps those trying to chase down PBs!

Hannah Wearne was the first of the women to finish, also picking up a PB as she completed the course in 23:00. Magdel Mellet finished second with 23:35, while Lorraine Bradbury ran 24:08 (and picked up the highest age grade of the day - 78.18%).

I love photos that show off the course - how lovely is the view of the park is once you get to the top of The Hill? Very.
Image from the Westerfolds parkrun Facebook page, taken by Cormac McCarthy.

Oh no, the photographer! Better start running!
Image from the Westerfolds parkrun
Facebook page
, taken by Cormac McCarthy.
I ended up blowing up at parkrun - I was trying to go for a strong run and I was sitting with Gennine for most of it. But after completing the first 3.7km in 18:06 (I created a private Strava segment that shows it was my fourth-fastest first 3.7km), I just blew up and had to walk up the hill. The whole hill. I only started running again when I spotted our photographer, Cormac.

I knew I had done too much damage too early when I couldn't push the pace again on the downhill - Valerie and Bram caught up and overtook me, and that was more or less it for me. I ended up with 25:25, which was my 4th fastest Westerfolds parkrun according to Strava, but my fastest 5km in a month according to Smashrun (i.e. since the asthma), so I guess that's just where I am right now with running. Strava also picked up some non-segment achievements (2nd best mile 7:24, and 3rd best 2 miles 15:26), so the run wasn't a total bust.

Although the inability to hold pace is a problem right now given I acknowledged the problem in the Sri Chinmoy 10km, and that I had hoped to work on that in the leadup to the Sussan 10km! But I'm not aiming for 4:50/km in that race...

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The City2Sea

The weather on the two occasions that I ran the City2Surf was overcast and cold. So it was no surprise to me that the weather for the City2Sea would be similar, although as Melbourne is typically overcast then the weather could only worsen by raining. It doesn't really bother me, but it was a source of amusement as I made the trip into the city for the start of the City2Sea. And while Melbourne may not have the public transport access into the city that Sydney does early on a Sunday morning, you can't beat a spot with plenty of cover!

Plenty of runners waiting in the wings at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
I had been weather watching all night, hoping that the rain that was due on Sunday morning would be the last dregs of the storm that was coming Melbourne's way. MetEye suggested the worst would be at about 2am - and when I suddenly woke up in the middle of the night thinking I had overslept, it was only 1.58am and the rain was heavy at the time. Perhaps it had just hit, so the intensity of the rainfall may have woken me up.

I did have plans to wake up early - a 5.30am start gave me time to make coffee, get dressed, have some toast with peanut butter and pop my contact lenses in before I left at 6am. The race started at 8.25am, and bag drop-off closed at 7.30am, but I left home early so that I could reach an inner city spot with free parking, and have time to (a) guarantee finding a spot, (b) drive out to Plan B (and C), and (c) walk over from wherever I had parked with enough time to make the bag drop-off. I wasn't sure how wet the roads would be, and I wanted to make sure I had dry socks at the finish line!

I ended up finding a parking spot in the first place I checked, so I arrived at the starting line with plenty of time to spare. I have no idea how many times I went to the toilet (the downside of Sjögrens is that I find it difficult to tell the difference between having a dry mouth, and actually being thirsty and/or dehydrated). I spent the final moments before the start chatting to a couple of red-starters and another green-starter about the importance of dry socks, the various free parking spots we each chose, and other running-related chit-chat. The green start chute began to fill, but as it was early days I stayed under one of the wings with many other green starters.

Green starters waiting for the race to start!
Hopefully the Eureka Stair Climbers found their run event's location!

The end of the rapidly growing green start chute, as viewed from the unofficial green starters undercover area.
There was a surge in the green start so I made my way over to them... I walked up the hill (others had started jogging), crossed the timing mats and began to jog... until we came to a complete stand-still. I would later notice via the Strava Labs Flyby that fellow Westerfolds parkrunner Rohan had waited for longer and had a clear run without any bottlenecks. Definitely something to keep in mind for the next event!

While the bottleneck and complete stand-still annoyed me, I was quite happy with the cruisy pace of the crowd once we got going again. I then realised I needed to go to the bathroom. Again. I knew that there were toilets at Federation Square so I slowly made my way across to the left side of the course - once I spotted someone else in front of me making the very detour I was planning I reassured myself that it wasn't an unwise decision. I didn't even need to wait for a cubicle! When I went to rejoin the race I saw Rohan go past and I thought I might try to catch him - despite knowing that he's actually a few minutes faster than me at parkrun! But he and his fluoro orange shirt were a bit of a rabbit for me, and helped me make time on the slow start and pit stop.

As we made our way to the underpass to go under St Kilda Rd, I spotted another Westerfolds parkrunner - Wendy, who is easy to pick due to her love of running skirts! I had a bit of a chat with her until the end of the underpass was near and my pace was starting to settle in. The rest of the event was fairly uneventful until we hit Albert Park lake.

Seriously, look at those splits - uneventful steady splits in the middle of the course.

I knew there would be headwinds at some point around Albert Park, but I was unprepared for them to be coming and going. If it was constant, and just for an extended section, I would have been happy to ease off and sit at a slower pace for a period, but instead I became a little frustrated and forced myself to sit at a slower pace until I knew I could commit to the 5:20s again. At this point my right hip and left shoulder (yes, my shoulder) were beginning to be a little sore, so when the final drink stop came up at about 13.5km I picked up a cup of Gatorade, slowed to a walk and had a few sips before exiting Albert Park.

I was confronted with a very slow climb, but one that I knew would make my hip worse so I took a few moments to slow to a walk again, catch my breath and be ready to run the last 1km and a bit. Once the final sharp turn to the right was made I increased my pace knowing that I wouldn't need to slow down again for another turn. I could see all kinds of sponsor flags in the distance and while I struggled to figure out which one was the finish line - I settled on the sole Adidas one and kept running. Although all thoughts about that Adidas flag disappeared once I realised I was in the finishing chute! For once I didn't worry about whether I still had anything left in the tank as I really wanted to stop once the timing mats were passed. I saw I ran 82 minutes according to the watch and then headed down the chute, following the other finishers.

Official time of 1:22:22 looks pretty nice! While the first two splits are about right. I'm not sure about that final one!

I saw some more Westerfolds parkrunners after the finish line - Gennine was the first I saw spotted a bit out of reach, but I did manage to say hello to the super speedy ones who ran the course between 63 to 68 minutes! Simon was the fastest in the Westerfolds parkrun team with 63, while Barney and Scott both ran 68, with Barney smashing his sub-72 goal. Michael was with the group too and must have been standing around for a while as he was feeling cold. As we were about to disband we came across Rohan who must have made a detour after the finish line as he was most definitely ahead of me during the run.

Bag pick-up was quick, and I eagerly threw on a few more layers before making the trip back to the start and to my car. I spotted Wendy's son and asked him if he knew where his mum was - much to his confusion as he had no idea who I was! Ooops! He wasn't sure where she was either, but I later found a photo on Facebook that indicated that Rohan had found her! :) The only Westerfoldian who missed out was Lee - although I did see her briefly during one of my many toilet trips pre-race, apparently I was the only person she saw! Later Iwona (who was chaffeur for the day for Scott and Barney) would say she saw Lee and cheered her on, but Lee was just too focused to notice!

It was a great day, despite the weather. The volunteers were all lovely (except for one who looked like he was not having any fun, and was possibly frozen solid), and bag drop-off was a cinch. The only issue was the bottlenecks - the one at the start forced a complete stand-still, and others during the run forced some onto footpaths. I think this is why some missed out on the split times. And speaking of those split times - the distance for that last timing mat must have been short as I know that I didn't run 4:18/km for 1.5km!

Next major run is the Sussan Women's 10km. My best 10km today was 53:38, so hopefully I can pick up another 10km PB in December. Also I am definitely feeling better about my fitness post-hayfever-asthma as the Smashrun SPI score for the City2Sea 15km was 563!

Boom! Back above Smashrun's Pace Trend band!
I was hoping to have a hit out or two at parkrun today and/or next week to see what my speed is like at the moment. I didn't end up following through on the 10km training program due to the Asthma From Hell, so I really had no idea how my legs were going to  feel on a quick parkrun! Answer: fine with 14:28 for the first 3.5km 3km, and then I blew up on the hill (but SPI of 547!).

Friday, November 21, 2014

This makes me sad

Perhaps I had spent too much time away from Melbourne at the time... but it only just dawned on my that "Seals on the Move" is very much like the number plate slogan we had a few years ago: "Victoria - On the move."


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Westerfolds Wednesday: So Scott, where's my red shirt?

It's taken me almost two years but I am finally a member of the parkrun 50-Club! Of course, with no national clothing sponsor*, I'm not sure when we'll be getting the next batch of red shirts... and then I'd be down the list as we have not had new red parkrun 50 Club shirts for a while now.

The main reason why it took me so long to hit 50 parkruns would have been the lapse between my 6th and 7th parkruns. parkrun #6 was St Peters' 61st, and then my next parkrun was their 81st event! While I was not that consistent with Westerfolds parkrun in its first year (33/53 - although seven of the "missed" parkruns were volunteer stints where I gave up my run), it was far more consistent than I had been with St Peters. Being a smaller event has a lot to do with why I like Westerfolds parkrun so much more! You actually get to have a chat to people, and you remember faces more easily too.

Westerfolds parkrun event #57 was actually a little bit special, as Westerfolds parkrun First Timer Karen Thorp smashed the women's course record! The women's course record progression started with a strong 19:43 at a launch (October 2013), but took a few months to be beaten (19:22, March 2014), and was taken down to 19:11 in July. With 18:19, Karen slashed almost a minute off the previous best performance! She had little ones to go home to and her wedding the next day, but it would be great to have her back - she's also the first woman in Westerfolds parkrun's short history to be the first finisher overall.

The Westerfolds parkrun Women's Sub 20 club.

Hannah Wearne and Gennine Lamb were the second and third women to finish, with Hannah picking up a PB! Gennine was less than 30 seconds off her PB time, but obviously had plenty left in the tank as she ran a superb 1:17:51 at the City2Sea the next day. Surely a parkrun PB is just around the corner for Gennine!

The men finished in the same order that they had hit the hill - Derek Allan completed the 5km in a PB time of 19:04, while Jeremy Watson and Tony Langelaan finished a little further behind, but with only four seconds separating the second and third finishers.

It was definitely a good morning for running a quick parkrun, with 32 of the 92 parkrunners going home with a new personal best time (34.8%). We hadn't had a percentage that high since the last week of August (35.7%, although our best PB percentage was back in December 2013 when we hit 48.7%). We've never had an event with pacers, but no-one has requested that as far as I know. I wouldn't mind running a handicap event at some point as I think that would be fun. While it could be labour intensive, I already have a spreadsheet set up for it! :)

The parkrun itself was fairly uneventful for me (aside from it being my 50th, and something must have been said at the run briefing as I had a few congratulations thrown my way as the parkrunners ran past). With the City2Sea on the next day, I had planned to take The Dog with me again. But it was 7am, when I zipped up my backpack, that she poked her head out from under the covers. I knew that if I waited for her to wake up, go to the toilet and do her morning business we'd arrive at parkrun far too late to pick up the head start we needed to not slow all the volunteers down!

Despite the lack of four-legged accompaniment, I still set off early as I wanted to hit the 2.5km mark before the parkrunners streamed past. However, once I got to the bench and took some photos using other users of the park I realised that the shot just wasn't going to work!

The top of the climb isn't a bad spot for portraits, but the runners would be running uphill...
It's amazing how quickly this area dried out after winter.
I still think it's a good spot for a photo, but I need to wait until the grass height drops.

There were no nearby trees that were suitable for climbing to help look over the tall grasses in the area, so I needed to find another spot. I really wanted to find somewhere that our photographer volunteers didn't typically go, and I wanted it to be a spot where I could focus on someone and yet show there were others behind (or even take a photo of the conga line). The next point where the course would slightly bend back on itself was to small climb to "naked tree", and just before the start of the main climb.

Naked tree is a relatively young tree that didn't have that many leaves when I started parkrunning at Westerfolds, and is at the top of the bump before The Hill. So it's a bit of a landmark for me - I know that if I can run the whole way to that point, that I will then I have a very short respite (about 20 to 30m) before the start of The Hill. And The Hill hurts no matter how fresh you think you are!

Aside from being yet another uphill section, the field has thinned out at this point. This makes conga-line shots a pipe dream, although it does give you more time between parkrunners to take individual photos (and gives your camera time to save them, unless it's a whizz-bang DSLR).

I soon realised that it wasn't a pleasant spot to take photos (for the parkrunners) so I went back to the start of The Hill. I had set myself up there first - hoping to take a shot showing the parkrunners making their way up The Hill. But when the pointy end (i.e. the fast folk) came through, I found they didn't really fit in the frame! I use a teleconverter on my point-and-shoot Olympus and when that's on I essentially have a fixed zoom lens. To open up the frame I need to unscrew the teleconverter and change a setting in the menu - and I really don't have time to go through that when there's one parkrunner approaching after another!

What looks like a short distance here...

... extends on the lowest part of The Hill...

... and you can barely fit two people in the shot before the disappear behind the trees along the middle of The Hill!

Then by the time I sorted out the correct shutter speed (the fixed zoom means fixed aperture, so that's one less setting to worry about, I think half the field had already gone through. Out of 92 parkrunners I only uploaded 37 photos - discarding any that were out of focus, blurry, or if the parkunning subject had their eyes closed or looked like they were suffering too much! (eg. blood noses) I think I'm getting the hang of how to take photos I like, but my preference for "action portraiture" means that I really need my camera to save photos at a much faster rate than it currently does (but that may be my fault for choosing to save images in both JPEG and RAW formats).

Aside from being a nice (and different from the usual) spot to pick up photos, being at the base of The Hill meant I was next to the course sign saying, "It's just a hill, get over it." While this in itself isn't so amazing as I have run past it on numerous occasions, Saturday was the first time I was near it while kids were running past with a parent. That's when I heard it.

"It's just a hill, Dad. Get over it!" 

Followed by cheeky sniggers, I realised that this sign must have been one of the few times that the young boy was allowed to give his dad a bit of lip. I heard a similar phrase when the next youngster came past. And although it was with his mum, the tone and attitude were exactly the same! It was probably the highlight of the morning for me. 

When the tail runner came through I decided to take the "short-cut" up the hill - you cover the same elevation but over a shorter distance. So it's not really easier! As I approached the top I realised one of the cheeky boys was racing his dad up the hill! This was the same boy who looked miserable at the end of the run a few weeks ago when I was barcode scanning on a rainy day, so it was great to see that he was really enjoying himself... and on The Hill!

There was a gap until the tail runner came through again, so I tried to explore vantage points from near Manor House. It was a bit of a fail, but I did discover that one of the picnic tables is very unbalanced. Too much weight on the seats for too long, and the table could flip over. For some reason, my reaction to this imbalance was to jump onto the tabletop rather than jump off. While standing on the tabletop did feel more stable, the parkrun course wasn't very visible from this point and so the death-defying** experience was all for nought.

There is also a small garden in the front of the house with some boulders. The smaller of the two boulders is easier to climb, but a small tree impedes the views of the parkrun course. I ran out of time, but next time I shall investigate the second (larger) boulder and find out if it is (a) climbable, and (b) allows the parkrun course to be seen.

* It used to be Adidas, and so I won't be buying any of the Adidas parkrun merchandise on Wiggle. I don't understand why I should support Adidas (because common sense tells me that they would still be making some profit from the parkrun merchandise, and I haven't read anything to say that this is not the case) when they no longer support parkrun in Australia? Although I did pick up the parkrun 10th Anniversary T-shirt, because I liked it and it wasn't Adidas.

** Kidding.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Run for the Firies

While I had signed up for the Run for the Firies with plenty of time to prepare, the hayfever-related asthma stopped me from being able to include long runs or any kind of controlled tempo run!

Smashrun's Pace Trends plot clearly shows that something was amiss in my running - sure I'd had similar dips in the past, but it's only been the past few months where I've been running far more regularly and have been more or less committed to it. Typically runs where I put effort in (PB chasing parkruns, fun runs) have scored above the "Speed Improvement" trend band, while tempo runs fall in the middle of the band and long runs score at or below the lower end of the band. During my asthmatic-hayfever-hell, only my parkruns hit the trend band - the lower end of the trend band. My return long run (which was only 10.3km) hit well below the band.

Red arrow: my Sri Chinmoy 10km, Green box: asthmatic hayfever hell (AHH), Orange arow: first (and only) long run since AHH, Blue arrow: the Run for the Firies 10.7km.
Smashrun identifies the three best performing runs each month, which are represented by the yellow dots. The brightest dot is my highest-scoring run ever, while the grey band is the line of best fit across these runs. This plot is a Smashrun Pro feature. 
As I was definitely not feeling too fit in the lead up to the Run for the Firies, my plan was for a conservative start until Allendale Road, and then settle into what felt like a tempo pace for the rest of the way. I knew I was going to wind up the pace at the tail end of the run, but I didn't really know when that would start - it was going to depend on how my legs were feeling at the time.

Elevation, heart-rate and pace during the run. I walked up the steep sections, which I think was that correct choice as my heart-rate shot up despite the drop in pace!
Image generated with SportTracks software.

Perhaps I went a little too conservatively at the start as I was actively sitting back. Once the Allendale Road kicked just before the 2 km mark, I walked up the hill like many others! I enjoyed being able to overtake other walkers (which was most of the people around me), although most then overtook me near the top when crossing Zig Zag Rd. I didn't want to start running until we hit a plateau or downhill, whereas most started runnning once the gradient became a bit more hospitable. When the second kick came along at 4km most people ran while I went back to fast walking. If there's anything I need to work on, it's steep hills - and not just to be able to run up them, but to be able to run up them without lighting all the matches. I could feel my glutes and calves doing a lot of work at the bottom of Allendale Road, and I decided it wasn't worth tiring my legs so early in the run.

The middle section of the course consisted of rolling hills (and that kick at 4km), and was really enjoyable - gorgeous views across Research and Eltham to the right of the course, and the tarmac "Aqueduct Trail" we ran along is quite pleasant in itself. At this point I knew I could commit to a tempo feel, and just paced myself based on how my breathing was feeling. I knew that a four step cycle (in-in-out-out) with occasional sections of three (in-in-out) would get me through the run, and perhaps still allow me to wind up the pace at the end. I really enjoyed this section of the run in the rolling terrain - alternating between working a little harder on the hills with just letting the legs tick over.

Approaching Ingrams Road while on the Aqueduct Trail, which was approximately the half-way mark! I'm 1617, in the yellow visor and ribs singlet. I hadn't realised regular Westerfolds parkrunner Lee (1618) was right behind me most of the way around the course. Further behind was Madeline (1694), a less frequent Westerfolds parkrunner.
Images from the Run for the Firies Facebook photo album.

While I had skipped the drink station at 3km, I made sure to pick something up at the station just after 6km. I had a few sips of the water, and the rest went over my head to try and stay cool. It wasn't an overly hot day, but it was starting to feel a bit warm. Then down we went, along Main Road.

It was interesting to run this section - knowing that most of the trip back to the start was downhill could encourage a faster pace, and I could feel that that was how some were going. There was a familiar parkrunner (Madeline, she's attended a handful of events) with a friend who had had a stronger start, but that I had eventually caught up to during the previous rolling section of the course. After a period of alternating between the two of us as to who was running ahead of the other, as she was surging and easing off throughout, I finally broke away and settled into my pace. However, they made a strong push for home during the downhill section and overtook me in the process. I really needed to focus on my breathing otherwise I was going to get sucked in by their pace!

By the time 8km rolled around I had already picked up the pace from 5:32/km (for the second half of the rolling section along the Aqueduct Trail to 5:12/km (for the descent thus far), and considered ramping the pace a bit more but held off. Lee (another parkrunner) had been sitting behind me for most of the run so far, but I only saw her once she overtook me! The next 1 to 1.5km had a slightly faster average pace of 5:10/km, but I finally committed to a pace push when we reached Zig Zag Rd at 9.3 km - a marshall said we had one hill to go so I pushed hard up the hill (hello and goodbye surging parkrunning Madeline). My average pace wasn't that impressive for this section, but my HR shot up from 170 to 173, and then up to 179 as there was a second small hill.

Aside from a few road crossings and rail crossings, the entire course was on designated shared path (for both cyclists and pedestrians), and thus anyone can run it at any time.
Image generated with SportTracks software.

Then I hit the train tracks. Oh how I hated those tracks. Part of my body regressed to football agility drills, so I semi-ran and semi-side-shuffled through the train track gates! Once I was through I recommitted to the pre-train-track pace attack (Lee said I "took off") and overtook the guy who was ahead of me at the train tracks (I'm sure he stretched his lead through there as I struggled). Having to slow down for those train tracks meant I no longer had a sense of what pace I was running before the tracks. Turns out I had hit 5:01/km - no wonder I felt like I wasn't sure how long I could hold it for!

As we briefly ran along the Diamond Creek, I recognised that we didn't have that far to go. A quick glance at the watch told me I'd easily make it less back in under an hour, but as I overtook a lady on the bridge to cross the creek I wondered if I'd committed to the final pace windup too early! However, seeing the small posse of Westerfolds and Diamond Creek parkrunners at the final turn definitely helped me keep up the pace - there's nothing like a bit of accountability to keep you motivated! My final 200m was at 4:34/km, with the Garmin recording my peak speed at 3:58/km.

Some of the Westerfolds parkrunners: Frankie (1614), Westerfolds parkrun Event Director Scott (blue hoodie), Amanda (1615), Me (1617), and Leesa (1374). Lee (1618) took the photo - we never did find out who 1616 was.
Image by Lee (thanks!)
I ended up with an official time of 58:56, which I was pretty happy with. I'd run mid-52 as a PB for a flat 10km, so I figured another average km split time (~ 5:15) would be a comparable result and allowed for the extra 700m and some short, but nasty, hills. My time was a bit slower than the ballpark figure of 57:15. I'm sure I lost the time at the start (where I was trying to run conservatively in anticipation of the Allendale Road hill), but I don't think I could have made up almost 2 minutes to hit that estimated time.

With Lee at the end of the run.
Amanda might have taken it, but it's Lee image again (thanks!)
And I can't really complain too much about my performance considering the horrible leadup I had. I am happy with the quarter-distance splits of 16:18, 15:00, 14:08 and 13:32, so at least I had a lot more control over my running than at the Sri Chinmoy 10km (although the climbing at the start does contribute to the negative splits). Of course I am left wondering if I could have pushed a bit harder at the final stages of Main Road, as slowing down to cross the tracks could have allowed for a bit of recovery... but I suppose I'll have to come back next year to find out!

And hopefully next year's hayfever season won't affect me - or I'll be sufficiently fit that a couple of weeks off from running wouldn't affect me as much as it did!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Westerfolds Wednesday: watching the parkrun world go by

With the Run for the Firies on the next day, I really wasn't planning to do any kind of parkrun that required too much effort on Saturday. It had also been a long time since I had taken the dog to Westerfolds for a trip around the parkrun course - although this time I would be far more prepared for her pace than I was last time. We turned up a bit earlier and went for a lap of the course with a 30 minute head start. I brought my camera along too, as I was thinking that it might be nice to pick up some photos from spots that we don't normally have parkrun pics from.

The Yarra River is beautiful at this spot, viewed from the ~950m mark of the Westerfolds parkrun course.

I had estimated that the 30 minute head start would put us a bit after the 2km mark when the parkrun proper would begin at 8am, and that the first of the parkrunners would come across our path about 10 minutes after that. After a few distractions talking to walkers around Westerfolds Park, I noted some runners were catching up to us, but it was only after they passed that I recognised Luke Crozier! Oops!

Luke and Justin looking exactly how they normally look: out in front!

So it was time to start snapping, and try to keep moving forward so that we could still make it to the end of parkrun before the tail-runner came through! The dog was going forward and I was walking backward trying to take photos of the parkrunners. I had a lot of people smile and wave towards the camera, but a number of those ended up being out of focus. I didn't really have time to check the settings at the time, as the first batch of runners were coming through and I really did want to keep snapping.

Alan, in the navy blue shirt, was on his second lap of the course. He had already completed one lap to set up the course!

We finally reached the top of what I refer to being the first climb - it's a spot that I've always wanted to take a photo of parkrunners from since I last performed course setup. But it's probably the furthest point from the start, so we rarely have photos along that winding path. It was a lovely view a few weeks ago, but none of the photos quite worked how I expected them to. I think I could have remedied this with a bit of effort, but I was trying to not lose too much time!  

Who put that grass there?!?

Luke Crozier ended up being our first finisher for the day, while Celine Hepworth was our first female finisher (and she was also the highest Age Grade scorer for the day). We had plenty of tourists for some reason - and I'm not sure if it was planned, but we had TWO 100-club parkrunners as tourists with their awesome black t-shirts!

  • Jane Gaw has completed 122 parkruns at Edinburgh, and completed the remainder of her 145 at four other locations in the UK (and now one in Australia). Despite the large number of parkruns completed, she's not on the worldwide list as it appears she needs to have completed at least 20 (as she's from the UK) to be on it!
  • Roderick Hoffman was our other touring 100-clubber, with a home parkrun of Pymmes although he has only completed 5 of his 131 parkruns there! He is clearly a professional tourist, is ranked #29 on the most events list with 95 events! I think that is the closest Westerfolds has been to parkrun royalty this year!
Edinburgh's Jane
Pymmes' Roderick

We also had tourists from Albert and Balyang Sanctuary parkruns in Victoria, Torrens (South Australia), and Braunstone (UK) visiting Westerfolds for the first time, along with one from Diamond Creek - which was odd as it was their birthday on the weekend! (Happy birthday neighbours!) It was a warm morning, and it's reflected in the results - out of 89 parkrunners, only 9 picked up PBs. Toughest conditions we've had since winter passed, so anyone who even came close to their PBs deserves kudos!

And if you're curious, the dog and I came through at 50:56, and that's not including the 30 minute head start (1:21:09 according to my watch). She'll never be parkdog of the week at this rate!

Sniff ALL the things!!!

Saturday, November 8, 2014


I'd been using the German language setting on Smashrun for October, which revealed some quirks in the Smashrun website, but nothing too serious. I'd assumed some of the language updates were causing problems, as a problem with the order of the badges while using the German settings disappeared with a website refresh. It was fun for the month, but I couldn't wait to change the settings again for November. I couldn't think of a specific culture of language to associate with November, but I ended up with Latin American Spanish for Mexico's Dia de los Muertos.

So since September I've upgraded my wallpaper, and picked up three badges: 20 for 20 (20 days in a row), In it for October (10 days of running in October) and the Long/Steep Stairs (increasing mileage by 5 miles per month for 6 months). I only just scraped into hitting the 173km target, and you can see from the "Kilometres per day" section of the figure that what had been alternating long/short days turned into super-long/long days at the end of the month. No wonder I was feeling so tired at the start of November!

Aims for November

It is the final month of the Towering Stairs badge (increasing mileage by 10 miles per month for 6 months), so that will be my primary focus. I was trying streak-running, but decided to give it a miss again for the month after feeling so tired at the start of it. I am having fun streak-writing on, so that's a bit of a substitute! I am currently sitting on 32 badges and I think I should be able to pick up another three (In it for November, Monster 500, Sydney-Melbourne) by the end of the month to unlock another wallpaper option. Although I quite like the hearts, I'd prefer them in a non-traditional colour!

Away from Smashrun there's the Run for the Firies 10.6km tomorrow, and the City2Sea next weekend! They're just fun events, although I'm interested to see how the legs feel getting up Allendale Road tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Westerfolds Wednesdays: impromptu volunteering

It was bucketing down early on Saturday morning, but the rain didn't pass sufficiently quickly to allow Westerfolds parkrun to have a dry morning! I had planned to take the dog along for a barkrun (with a head start because she has an average speed of 3km/hour), but she doesn't particularly enjoy being out in the rain so she stayed at home.

I had received some parkrun shirts from Wiggle during the week and was looking forward to distributing them on Saturday, but received messages that they wouldn't be picked up as the owners weren't going to come to parkrun in the rain. They both have multiple quantities of young children, so I think that's understandable. As I was no longer going to be bringing the dog along, I turned up to parkrun only a little bit early. Rohan was Run Directing, so I checked with him that all the volunteers had turned up and I stuck around for Barcode Scanning once we decided the volunteer wasn't going to show.

Actually, I was at the marshalling point intially - thinking that I'd return to the start to check whether the barcode scanner had arrived before committing to it. If they did turn up, I was going to run along until I caught the tail-runner and then probably walked around the course as I'd been feeling quite tired (I had attempted a run in the previous day's 32℃ heat, and found I had my legs had had enough after the previous days' running).

So it was a fairly uneventful parkrun in the end - aside from Lorraine joining the parkrun 50 club and Jade joining the junior 10 club. Numbers were down because of the rain (but we still had a healthy turnout), and no finish tokens were lost.

Lorraine on the final stretch of her 50th parkrun
Jade (with her mum Narelle) and her 10th parkrun

We did have a small issue with the timer, where we were missing a time and I assumed that the timekeeper clicked once at the end for Jade and Narelle rather than twice. So I added a time to match the final one and sent the results through. If I'd paid more attention to the times I would have realised that the final two times were fine. Of course this would mean that the missing time occurred somewhere amongst the first 51 places... so I don't think I could have actually done anything at the time!

I'd completely forgotten about it until the Event Director mentioned something about the time being 20 seconds off for one person. A quick check on Strava indicated that the mess-up occurred between the 6th and 10th positions, and once someone emailed to point out they were over a minute out I assumed that was our missing time. It was really easy fix on the parkrun results processing site, so kudos to that piece of web design! :)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Lulu upgrades

Lululemon dropped their summer range campaign recently, and the sunshine and colours really had me pining for a number of items. Although the only one I could justify was the Stuff Your Bra as my current collection of sports bras will most likely not make it through summer. My current collection consists of a couple by Lulu, and one each by Blockout, Lorna Jane and Running Bare. However only three of those are on regular rotation as one of the Lululemon bras and the Running Bare one only suitable for cycling or low-impact activities. Three sports bras will not get me through summer.

Say what you want about the "Cult of Lulu", bright colours and bold prints will suck me in any day.
Check out the full campaign on their website.

The older of my two Lulu sports bras is an older style which is no longer available - it's called Run Engage and comes with convertible straps (that I always kept in a cross-back style) and a discreet pocket large enough to hold a key or two. The pocket is accessible from the top so it's easy to just stick your hand down your top and retrieve the keys once you're back at home. Like so many Lulu bras it comes with removable cups (which I don't use), but you can't really use those "pockets" to store anything. Trust me, I tried it with the All Sport bra and you lose your keys in there - it makes for a very awkward dance outside the front door.

Like this. Except on my chest. In public.
Image from here.
When I went shopping for my most recent sport bra a couple of years ago I couldn't find one that felt comfortable and had a pocket. I ended up with the All Sport because it is truly a fantastic sport bra, but was a little sad I no longer had the little key pocket. So these days I use a Spibelt to hold my mobile when I go out running with bottoms that can't hold the mobile itself, and the front door key is attached to a hair-tie that I keep on my wrist. I like that it's secure and I can keep an eye on it, but I don't actually enjoy wearing hair-ties around my wrist.

When I bought the Run Engage at the Bondi Junction store, I picked it up in a 10 as that was the correct size for Australian size 14 me. But when I found a sales assistant (or whatever it is Lulu call them) at their San Francisco store who was a similar build to me (but fitter), she suggested I try the All Sport in both an 8 and a 10 (the Run Engage had been discontinued at this point). I was hooked - I preferred the snug fit of the 8 and eventually the Run Engage was relegated to cycling.

Strangely the under-bust of the Size 10 Run Engage and Size 8 All Sport are quite similar, though the Run Engage has a larger bust measurement when flat...
... and is larger yet when you consider that it's shaped rather than flat. Note the convenient key pocket of the Run Engage that surely would not be difficult to add to the All Sport!

So now that Lulu have dropped their latest campaign, the Stuff Your Bra caught my eye because it had pockets! It's part of their regular range, but I hadn't really noticed it. I popped by their Doncaster store after parkrun one day and tried it on in an 8. The fit was fine, but having walked in wearing the All Sport meant I had a direct comparison, and the Stuff Your Bra just felt... bouncy? I actually jumped about on the spot in the change room. The sales assistant confirmed that the All Sport was more compressive and that's why she preferred the Stuff Your Bra. Why are all the Australian Lulu sales assistants flat-chested super-skinny types? The San Francisco store had far more variety in body shapes and thus was ultimately more helpful as they understand what you mean by a bra being overkill. I asked to try on a 6, which was a ridiculous idea in my head as a Lulu 6 is typically an Australian 10. Yes, the 6 was more supportive, but I was sure that the tight-fitting shoulder straps would bother me even on a short run!

I'm sure you're wondering why I'm sticking to Lulu despite not finding my ideal bra. It's because their sports bras have last longer than any of the other brands I've tried, and their wide shoulder straps are consistently comfortable (unless the sizing is obviously small). Lulu is also expensive, but the best bit about being back in Melbourne is that I can visit their Collingwood factory outlet. Of course, if you know exactly what you need, then the "we made too much" section of the website saves a trip into the city. Especially since there's free shipping.

No returns and no exchanges, so make sure you know what you're getting!

As long as you're happy to play the patient game, it's a great spot to pick up Lulu goodies. I was looking to add two more All Sport (as I am trying to minimise how much stuff I have), but I'm not the biggest fan of doubling-up on designs so I only picked up one of the sole design they had available in my size (the black and white Pretty Palm Black Angel Wing style pictured above). At $26 less than the typical retail price, you effectively buy three and have two "free". Also, I received the order the next day! Much easier than heading in to Collingwood!

As I said, I am trying to minimise how much stuff I have, so killing off the Blockout and Lorna Jane bras by using them as much as possible will still be happening, along with all my running shirts and tights*. I've ordered them in their drawer so the ones on top are those I like least (or are closest to death - hello random bits of elastane). Of course the order can sometimes be ignored if I'm going to run beyond the neighbourhood (e.g. parkrun) or just really want to wear a particular item!

*I used a pair of tights I hadn't used since my hammer throwing days the other week. Very much NOT comfortable for running. They'll be moved to sit next to my "yoga" pair of tights now.