Sunday, 26 August 2012

Two weeks since I’ve updated my blog – doesn’t mean I haven’t been running

There’s one little problem when you commit to maintaining a blog with updates on your charity and running exploits – work. Forget the commitment of hours to long runs, the social agenda, the recovery sessions, even though they eat into your limited waking hours, they pale into insignificance when you have a full time job to hold down. Anyways I’ve managed to find a quick 30 minutes to update you on the past fortnight.


Tuesday –  Training program says 5 lots of 400m sprints with a 1 min recovery walk between each. How easy is that going to be? Under 3kms, surely a piece of cake. What it actually means is run as fast as you can for a lap of an Aussie Rules footy oval, walk slowly, run as fast as you can again (but slower than the 1st time as you’re still stuffed from the 1st one), walk slower, speed up again, walk even slower, speed up again if you dare, walk walk walk maybe even add 10 secs to the recovery, go fast again even though you need to stop to throw up, hold it in you only have a couple of 100 metres to go, stop short, double over, wonder why you chose bananas for breakfast, hope it’s still dark enough for none of the locals to recognise you, stagger for a minute, plan on doing a 5 min recovery jog, actually jog for about 2 minutes and then through in the towel. Go home re-eat the breakfast you lost, shower, feel nauseous for an hour or two and then complain about sore legs.

Thursday – An easy 50 min run. Clocked 7 kilometres at 5.20am so probably could have travelled a bit further if I could have seen more than 5 metres in front of myself. Pitch black and about 4 degrees Celsius, but the added advantage of no passing cars as everybody is still smart enough to be snug in their beds. Walk home with the added advantage of spotting the people heading to the running track, safe in the knowledge that they still have to commence their run, I’m all done.

Saturday – Not part of the training plan, but how can I knock back a ParkRun when the kids have a soccer “bye” and I (again) have a free Saturday morning? The long runs, sprints, hills etc are obviously weaving their magic as I clocked a personal best (that’s more commonly known as “a PB” for insiders) of 30.09 for the 5 kms. Only a couple of weeks ago I was lamenting if I’d ever break the 30 minute barrier – under 6 mins per km for a sustained distance. Well nearly there, if I’d only been at the start of the pack at the start I could well have made up those lost 10 seconds!!!! Maybe next time.

Now is probably a good time to show how training three times a week can improve your times, and I’ve noticed a considerable improvement in my 5km times since I’ve been running 10km+ in training. Below is a history of my ParkRuns – the same course and distance every week so a fair indicator of the improvements (although there are obviously weather impacts they wouldn’t be significant enough to slow me down almost a full kilometre).

14/1/12 – 36.51
28/1/12 – 35.53
4/2/12 – 35.15
18/2/12 – 34.08
25/2/12 – 36.05
3/3/12 – 34.07
10/3/12 – 33.45
12/5/12 – 36.54
23/6/12 – 35.48
7/7/12 – 32.48
28/7/12 – 32.01
4/8/12 – 30.39
11/8/12 – 32.30 (hungover something shocking)
18/8/12 – 30.09

Sunday – long run day – as per my last instalment I add 2kms to each long run, so this week it was 18kms. Not a lot to add here – a slow slog for 18 clicks, sore legs, sore body, sore shoulders, about 2 x 50 metre walks up a hill when I got to laps 14 and 15 of the 1.2km track. Eventually done and a slow stagger home. Averaged 7 mins per click so was happy with that. Surely I can now run a further 3 kilometres and finish a half marathon. Don’t know about a further 24 kilometres though – still have 5 months to get my head around that.

Later Sunday I had that “euphoric” I’ve been for a long run feel, that’s the moment when you decide to enter more official events, or put your name down for some obscure fund raising activity (anyone up for getting their head shaved or maybe a few rounds of boxing?). What I did was made the first commitment to running the Hobart Marathon in January…well I booked the flights, next step is somewhere to sleep and then on 20 September (the date entries open) I’ll be putting in my first ever marathon entry…..small steps but the commitment is there, may as well run it, I’ll be in town.

Tuesday – 3 km time trial. Was still a tad stiff and sore from the 18 km run on Sunday but managed to punch out 3 in 18.17. I was happy with that as it wasn’t that long ago it would have taken me 20 minutes. This one it was at 5.25am (so pitch black again) and a shocking head wind down one side of the oval with no tail wind on the other side as it’s protected by the grandstand. Finished that had my breakfast and headed into town for a 7.30am blood donation appointment. Overall a productive morning. Which I followed up with about 10 pints of beer that evening at a work team function.

Wed – Saturday – decided it was a week to take it easy. Had a chiro appointment on the Wednesday night as my back was playing up, probably from the long run on Sunday, all through my shoulders and neck area. It’s now looking as though it will be a regular fortnightly visit throughout this journey so add in the costs for treatment to the multiple pairs of shoes, gels, creams for tender spots, anti-inflams for soreness, band-aids and creams for blisters, apparently you need expensive socks too, all up this commitment is going to cost me to equivalent of a herd of goats and a well for a village in some third world nation. That’s not even counting air fares, accommodation and entry fees!!!!

Sunday - Planning for a long run was thrown out the window as I was invited to a fun event through the streets of Melbourne. The Royal Melbourne Zoo as part of their 150 year celebrations have arranged for 50 baby elephant sculptures (modelled on Melbourne Zoo’s own Mali) to be decorated by artists and scattered throughout the greater Melbourne area. Our own ParkRun organiser arranged a “run” to visit (and photograph) all 50 sculptures. This trek would cover approx 25 kilometres and take about 3.5 hours.

Here’s the honest bit – all the “acceptances” for the event run marathons (well nearly all of them), I’d run a maximum of 18 kms in my life, I’d had a lazy week, they run fast (well faster than me), so I decided to join them about 2 hours in at elephant number 22 and I’d take in the last 28 sculptures.

What a great time I had (even if I was the only one praying for red traffic lights so I could get a breather). All up 11.1 kilometres for me, taking in a few hills, busy Melbourne streets, all ending in a coffee and a meal over looking the Yarra River. So here’s a tip, you can make any long run interesting, instead of lap after lap, just add in a challenge, a few friends and suddenly you have an event.

This week is a few slow training runs culminating in a charity event for Kate and Turia, ultra marathon runners who were caught in a bush fire in the El Questro Wilderness Park last year. On Saturday, myself and 12 of my work colleagues are running two laps of the famous Tan track in Melbourne (7.4kms) to raise funds for the ongoing living and medical expenses for these amazing girls. For more of their story go to or to donate to our fund raising visit CGU Insurance will be matching us $ for $ in our fund raising (up to $1,000) so whatever amount you can spare will be doubled before it gets to help out Kate and Turia. I’ll have an update on the event in next week’s blog instalment.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Can I turn a boring week of running into something you may laugh at?

Bit of a boring week for you really, nothing outside of the ordinary, work hard, play hard and train hard.

Effectively worked 5 days, had a seriously hard session on the Friday night at a couple of local venues and ran with an illegal blood alcohol content the following morning. That was about it - no highlights, no events that will make the front page of the local newspaper, nothing of note....

I suppose I haven’t really covered off the sort of training I have been doing, other than the social events I get involved in so given it was a bit of a monotonous week I’ll go into a bit more running training detail (YAWN!!! – Actually don’t do that you’ll use up a bit of energy and you’ll need all you have to follow me on this journey!!!)

Now THAT'S a hill
Tuesday – ran some hills – now what that means is you find a place (which is not that easy in the sand belt region of Melbourne) with a hill, not a speed hump or a slight 2 or 3 metre rise but a HILL, not a mountain as we don’t really have many of those in Australia but something in between a rocky outcrop or escarpment and a small bower bird mound. Once you’ve found this hill, the idea is for you to RUN up it, yep I’ll repeat that you RUN up it. Now no scenes from Rocky once you’ve got to the top, you’re not Edmund Hillary, even though you may feel like you’re on top of the world (that could be due to the head spins), you’ve simply run up a hill - one single lonesome hill. Now here is the interesting bit, you WALK back down that hill and then you run up it AGAIN – no point in getting out of breath only once, you need to do it a few times to make sure that slight pain in your chest is really there. So this is the exercise, you run the hard bit and walk the easy bit - not the other way around. Now get this….last Tuesday I did that TEN times, the amount of distance I covered would have been enough to constitute a change in time zones but all up I’d moved 300 metres up and down the single hill. 

For those of you who have never ridden a horse, here’s a tip, you find you have muscle groups that you didn’t know existed, generally on the inside of your thighs as you've been gripping the bejeezers out of some poor hack’s rib cage, now with hill running it is pretty much the same. You have these muscles in your legs that you didn’t know were there, or if you knew they were there they were being used for strange things like gripping a jar of pickles as you attempt to prise off the lid. Here’s a secret for those who are yet to run up (and walk down) hills – it flippin’ hurts and the more you do it the more it hurts. Apparently this hill running will teach me to run further (who thought of that??? I would have thought I'd just run further - maybe my logic's a bit simple).

I have this book (I’ll talk about it at some later stage) where they tell you that if you want to run a stupid distance (like a marathon) you need to conquer your inner demons, or go slay a dragon or fight the Beelzebub within or some such self-help jargon, and how you do that is you have a mantra about wanting to be at one with the hills, or make the hills your friend, or go hug a hill or some other new age hippy rubbish. (I am exaggerating but you get what I mean), so I tried their method, and I cannot believe it, I actually enjoyed running up the hills. That’s not to say I enjoyed the rest of the day where I was walking around like Quick Draw McGraw, but the hill running I conquered and I felt proud.

Next day was a boring flat 40 min job to stretch out the legs from the Himalayan encounter I had undertaken the day before. Nothing too interesting just a slow steady 7 mins per km jog. Skipped Friday’s session as I didn’t want to dehydrate myself before I hit the bars of Melbourne and worked my way through, 3 or four glasses of nice wine, a couple of pints of average keg beer and half a dozen tequila shooters. All in preparation for a Saturday morning ParkRun event.

Am I still drunk???
Now I must admit I was a smidgin hungover on the Satdi morn, I think a few people in my slipstream could well have fainted from the stale alcoholic fumes, and the black coffee after the run did wonders for the palpitations. Having said all that I did manage 32.30 for the 5kms which I reckon is not too bad considering I was swaying the whole way as though I had an inner ear disorder.

Sunday – long run day, I’ve been adding 2kms per week to my long runs and this week pumped out 16 clicks (yep that’s 10 miles) with only a few short drink breaks (20 seconds at a fountain would be my guess) AND I ran it at the venue with the HILL, but this time I ran up the hill, around the track, down the hill on the opposite side, around a flat bit a bit more and then up the hill again. So from memory I conquered a further 13 or so hills (I legit lost track of how many laps I ran, I can’t recall if it was 13 or 12 as half way I was saying 7 more to go….7 more to go….or is it 6 more to go…6 more to go…no it’s 7 more to go….or actually I’ve just finished a lap….so did I just finish 7 or do I have 7 to go??? Get my drift???). That night I watched the Olympic Men's Marathon on the tv, safe in the knowledge that I'd run over 35% of the distance that same morning, I'm an expert in these running things now, should have had me commentating! Could have taught Eddie Ego Magpie a thing or two.  Anyway, after a boring week I can tell you, I love them there hills. One day I’ll tell you about wind – now that is one mean little demon to conquer, cause that one you don’t know that he’s waiting around the next corner, ready to stuff you right up…..

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Dry July over – so what’s next? Get on the sauce and run some more….

So I successfully made it through July without an alcoholic beverage, in most cultures that wouldn’t be seen as much of an achievement. In Australia, where we celebrate each minor milestone with another ale, that is close to climbing K2. I’ll put some perspective on this…..”Mate, had a win today… to work without a train delay and then the cute barista asked me if I had a good weekend….wanna go for a beer to celebrate?” or “I hear the boys are playing Greece in a qualifying water polo match, if we win we are a chance of making the quarters…wanna beer to go watch?” or “I heard they upped the tax on alcopops??? What does that mean??? Wanna a discuss over a slammer or two?” These are general lift conversations that you would hear any day of the week in this country. There’s no “I’m feeling a bit tense, would you like to go to a yoga class” or “I think today’s been a bit tough, I’ll be leaving a bit early to have a quick meditation session”. Not our thing here in Oz. So how it works is, 31 days off the sauce is heralded as the equivalent of finishing AND understanding James Joyce’s Ulysses – it just don’t happen.

So what does a red blooded male who has given up the beverages for a full month (for charity) do when his time is up? Get straight back on it of course. A couple of quick ones on the 1st, just to prime myself for the annual staff awards night the following night, where you drink free beer for approx.. 9 hours until you think you may end up indulging in an inappropriate conversation with Human Resources. So given I’m not your average red blood male, I kept a lid on it and only drank for 8 hours solid on the Thursday – and felt heaps better for it. Photo evidence on the blog? Not going to happen. But I do have a few stashed away in the photo archives, just in case HR are coming after me...

What’s this got to do with charity? Dunno. What’s it got to do with running? Dunno (although the carb loading – that’s my excuse – did help me to a brand new personal best for the 5km run on Saturday where I finished in 30.39!!!).

All up we raised $695 for the Royal Melbourne Hospital cancer patients so very happy to have done my bit (along with an anonymous team mate) by doing something for someone else.

Here’s another “charity” tip – not one you’d usually call charity, but one that any person (within limits) can do. On Monday I headed off to our local blood bank and donated blood plasma. Costs you nothing, helps heaps of people and all up it costs you 1 hour of your healthy life and a needle prick. Not any inconvenience at all – in the grander scheme of being able to assist people with cancer, children with clotting diseases, burns victims, people undergoing emergency surgery, it’s not a lot to ask. And this specific day, all I did was set the alarm clock for 5am instead of 6am – although probably not considered as “charity” it is something that you can give and it costs you nothing.

Running this week – as above did a new pb for the 5kms, that was after a 50 min run on the Tuesday, slow and steady it was after the 14 odd clicks I did on the Sunday, another 50 mins on the Thursday, a quick (get drenched) 5 kms on the Saturday and another “long run” of 14.32 on the Sunday. All of these were slow and steady, no speed runs or no hills….all bar the Saturday ParkRun. This one I amazingly cruised along for the first 2 clicks at 6 min pace and realised I was going okay so thought I’d just continue (what’s three more kilometres to a bloke who punched out 14 only six days before?) all was going to plan until the 4.5km mark when the heavens opened – now we are not talking a light misty rain that the English get, nor a hot tropical dump that you get in Asia or Florida or far North Australia, we’re talking similar volume to a tropical region but similar temperature to penguin’s bum. Did it make me run faster? Dunno, but it did make me gracious that I wasn’t wearing a white t-shirt.

All up a 34km week and I still yet to get to my rants about running hills, conquering Mephistopheles, crossing the River Styx and more – I’ll keep those for the journey ahead….