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!


  1. I want a top like yours ... a male version of course. Well done on a great result considering the build-up and course. Wouldn't know what its like to battle hay fever but I'd imagine for a runner, it'd be really tough.

    1. Well that singlet is available in an XL... I love wearing it at big events when people know I'm wearing it - you receive unexpected hellos from being easily spotted. :)