Will Thames

swim, bike, run, tech

Looking Back on March

In March I’ve felt like I’m going from strength to strength. I don’t yet feel ready for the North Face 100km but if it was the 50, I reckon I’d be all set! Still, a few more weeks of solid training and hopefully I’ll be a lot readier.

As per the plan, I’ve been trying to get more specific in my training, and including hills and steps in my runs. So I’ve incorporated hill intervals up to the Story Bridge and down again, circuits of Kangaroo Point steps, and long runs to Camp Mountain from Bunyaville and back.

Other than the last week, I’ve done over 60km per week, which is reasonable. For April I think I’ll have to up my sessions to 5 per week, or start to go very long if I’m to continue to increase distance and ascent.

I’ve been using the last week of the month as a chance to recover and recharge and replenish motivation. This week was well timed I had the Twilight Half to recover from (a new PB of 1:39:35) and this Saturday I had a brewery tour in the city - suffice to say a Sunday morning long run yesterday was never on the cards.

I haven’t done quite so well at cross training - in January I was doing more weights, and in February I was doing more yoga, now in March I wasn’t doing either. But I did do some gardening and carpentry!

As usual the plan is more distance, more ascent, more steps. Also I need to do more runs with my backpack and I still need to finish buying my mandatory kit (at least I managed to book flights and accommodation in March).

I’ve been trying Tailwind energy drinks for run fuel - so far they seem very good so I just need to check that I can cope with it on longer runs, otherwise I’ll need a different nutrition strategy.

Less than seven weeks to go now, and I’m much much stronger than seven weeks ago, just need to keep it up!

March stats:

  • Distance: 233km
  • Ascent: 3946m according to Garmin - usual disclaimers apply (seafront runs sometimes show up as 200m of ascent!).

Twilight Half Race Report

I’ve become less diligent at writing race reports over the past few years, particularly for races that aren’t super special to me. However, there are a few things worth noting from this race.

This was my first race of the Twilight series. I’ve been wanting to do another half marathon for a while, but this seems to have been the first one that has suited me.

Due to the upcoming North Face race in less than two months, which really is my absolute priority A race of the year, I couldn’t let this race distract me. Obviously if you’re training for a 100km race, a side effect of that is that a 21km race shouldn’t be a problem endurance wise - in fact the weekend before I did a 4 hour 32 km hilly trail run which was probably marathon level effort.

I also decided to experiment a little. Normally I’d taper for a race and reduce volume significantly in the lead up to the run. This time I decided that I’d reduce intensity a little and only do flat runs in the week before, but I still did 42km in the week of the race.

The day leading up to the race itself was pretty uneventful. I decided I’d go with another experiment, and use Tailwind energy drink in the hours before the race to give myself extra fuel. I went for public transport rather than car, and caught the train to Park Road and then walked across the footbridge to the Boggo Road bus station (I have no idea why they can’t just choose one name!) and then a quick bus ride on the busway to University of Queensland St Lucia campus.

I meandered my way across campus following the herd of people to the start (I figured if I followed the majority of runner-looking people, that would likely work) and found the Parkrun tents and had a chat with various runner friends - Jo, Kim and Neil from Sandgate, Andy from Bunyaville.

The max temperature of the day was supposedly 31C but by about 4pm it was very comfortable in the shade, so I just had to hope the course wasn’t too exposed before sunset.

After the 1km race had got underway, I found a spot in a suitable position (between the 1:35 and 1:45 pacers) and got ready to set off. After the usual preliminaries and preamble, we were off!

My strategy was to run comfortably for the first 16km and then allow myself to get out of breath. There were a couple of exceptions on some of the hills but mostly that worked well. I definitely remember thinking the first couple of kms were quicker than I expected, but I settled into a rhythm after that and my pace wasn’t a concern. I just tried to enjoy the sensation of running well within myself and avoid working too hard.

I was very impressed with the volunteers - the girls of Clayfield College were out in strength, in Mexican costume giving out water effectively and being very supportive.

I found the temperature perfectly workable - I might have benefitted from being a little bit cooler, it’s always difficult to say, but I never felt like I couldn’t keep cool - the water stations certainly helped with my thirst and keeping cool.

Once I’d got to the 16km point I knew I could open up a little if able - but by that point maintaining current pace was all I could really do - i.e. I was having to work harder and breathe harder to stay constant. But that was fine.

In the last km I noticed lots of people trying to overtake, like they’d suddenly been unleashed. However, I still found a little in the tank to finish strong, and certainly the last full km was the second fastest of the race (after the 2nd km), and the last 200m was very fast indeed (sub 4:00/km!). So perhaps I could have paced it slightly better, but that’s easy to say with hindsight.

After the race I had one of the most expensive ice coffees I’ve ever had ($7 - but it tasted worth every cent at the time), caught up with other runners and then headed back to the bus station for a relatively straightforward journey home.

I think my fuelling, tapering and transport decisions were all well-judged. That’s not to say that none of them could be improved but I’m not unhappy with any of them.

In all, given how I prepared, I think I was fortunate to do so well for this race, and wonder how I’d do if I actually tapered, and did some actual speedwork - I shaved 1m30s off my PB, but how much more potential is there - perhaps I’ll try and find out for Twilight bayside at Wynnum in Spring.

Final result: 1:39:35 race data

Looking Back on February

February was where my training started to come together. I would have likely averaged 50kms per week were it not for a poor first weekend (I think I just tired myself out in the heat and gave up 7km into a planned 21km run) and an indisciplined last weekend (should have got up on the Friday morning before we went away but was tired and hungover!).

Some very strong weeks including the first week with 56kms, and a good trip to Mount Glorious for a shorter but hillier race than last year’s altered course to cover 22km in 2:43:47 with 1200m of ascent.

Also, I was back to Bunyaville most Wednesdays to rack up some more hills. I thought that my month off hills might have worsened my performances but most sessions I felt as good as I have done previously.

A hilly route around Shorncliffe has also been useful, but I think might pad out the hills a bit too much - I might change over to a more intense session of hill and step repeats (I trialled a version in the city yesterday and could do something similar locally).

Plans for March include more hills, more steps, and a half marathon race at Twilight. I also need to start training with my backpack, start booking accommodation and flights for the North Face, and ensure I have all the mandatory kit. Still ten weeks to go, but that’s feeling anywhere near far enough right now!

February stats:

  • Distance: 179km (same as January but in fewer days running)
  • Ascent: 2907m - much better than January, includes some genuinely hilly runs but still likely a massive overestimate.

Looking Back on January

January wasn’t a terrible month - I ran every other day, and did upper body/core strength training pretty much every day in between (I admit I missed a couple). Most weeks were around the 40km mark, which is fine for the time being.

My Achilles niggle isn’t entirely gone away but I am recovering better and gathering more strength. Today I went on my first trail run this year, and while it wasn’t 100%, it didn’t impede me either, so I’ll be happy as long as it doesn’t feel terrible tomorrow.

Last week I ran one of my fastest 11km Wednesday nights for a while, so I do feel I’m maintaining speed and so it’s just a matter of keeping uninjured and then building endurance.

I’ve also entered my first race of the year - Mt Glorious mountain race. I’ll need to be confident that I’ve recovered before I start, but it’s looking good so far. After that I think I’ll go for Twilight half marathon and then Pinnacles in April. That might be it for races before The North Face - last year I did Mt Mee marathon four weeks before, but this year it’s just two weeks before.

In terms of how things could be improved, I need to do more hills, more steps and more distance, but I plan on doing all of those.

January stats:

  • Distance: 180km
  • Ascent: 1321m according to Garmin, probably only 200m really (a lot of flat seafront runs show up as 200m of ascent!).

2013 in Review

2013 was a bit of a mixed year - I didn’t have the same kind of breakthrough successes as in 2012, where I smashed 24 minutes off my 2011 marathon PB - indeed both 2012 marathons were better than my 2013 effort.

Successes

5km PB - I broke the PB I set at North Lakes (20:50) at New Farm (20:40), then again at Mitchelton (20:23). I also bettered the time at Sandgate too (20:42). I also attended five courses new for me, including two inaugural runs (Mitchelton, Bunyaville). I think I did around 25 park runs this year - just under one a fortnight. I also did a few social runs with the Sandgate Parkrun spin-off, Bayside Breezers. One of my happiest moments was pacing Dean, co-event director of Sandgate, to his 5km PB. Although amusingly I later found that I’d been pacing someone else for the last km.

10km PB - this year I managed to get to the start of the Bridge to Brisbane on time which meant that the traffic was far easier to negotiate, and I ran three minutes faster than the previous year. I wasn’t 100% fit so I know I can do better.

50km PB - this year I didn’t go the wrong way, and I just about made it home slightly quicker than last year. I don’t think it was a better performance, but the heat got to me (the heat got to me the year before, so who knows!)

The North Face 50 - I finished it. In a time I was ok with. I vowed to give up trail running during the event. Of course I’ve since signed up for the 100km next year. But I do plan to be better prepared!

Lots of other trail races - Mt Glorious, Wild Horse 30km, Mt Mee to Dayboro trail marathon, Glasshouse 50km, Beerwah at Night 30km. Lots of trail running with friends from Bunyaville Trail Runners.

Failures

Brisbane marathon - I did so well last year, and it wasn’t looking bad at the halfway point this year, but the wheels fell off around 25kms in. I’d been suffering a little from injury, and suspect that while my speed and stamina were still well trained, my endurance wasn’t sufficient. I suspect heat and nutrition issues, of which the latter I must address in future.

Injuries in general - at one point I’d suffered almost every runner’s injury going in short succession - shin splints, plantar fasciitis, hip flexor issues, pulled hamstring. Ok, so that leaves illiotibial band and achilles tendonitis, but I managed to acquire the latter in the last run of 2013. Lessons learned are to work on strength, core, balance and flexibility, and not to ramp up too much. Recovery will be key for me. Also better warmups might have prevented niggles picked up at Kingscliff parkrun (hamstring) and Bunyaville parkrun (achilles) - I must be more diligent about warming up.

I didn’t do a half marathon in 2013 - I missed both twilights (I can’t remember why I missed the first but as it got stopped halfway through due to the storm (in which a runner was sadly hit by a falling tree and later died), the reason why is relatively unimportant) and no others really took my interest.

The North Face was tougher than I expected, mostly due to the last 15km being more of a challenge - a lot of steps. I could have found this out and been better prepared, even if only mentally! Still, at least I’m forewarned for 2014.

Lessons for 2014

  • Practice steps.
  • Warm up better.
  • Work on flexibility, strength and balance.
  • Try not to injure myself!
  • Get race nutrition right.

And So 2014 Begins

So I signed up for the North Face 100km. I decided to take most of December easy, most weeks were 20km tops, to give myself some downtime in preparation for nearly five months of buildup towards TNF100.

The last race of 2013 was supposed to be a nice sociable 5km at the recently created Bunyaville Parkrun. I was there for the inaugural event and due to time pressures (I had a 9am ferry to North Stradbroke Island to catch) I ran a 25 min PB in warmish conditions. Last Saturday I thought the conditions were better, but maybe I wasn’t feeling the pressures, as I was a bit slower (20 seconds or so)

However, my Achilles took a battering. I’m not sure what if anything I did differently, but I’ve been suffering since. I could barely walk on Sunday - I was kind of taking half steps until I realised I wasn’t using my Achilles at all and overrode that.

I’ve done some digging and found a great exercise, eccentric heel drops, that is already giving me some relief.

I’m reducing the intensity for the next week or so, and likely the volume will be low (although hoping to manage 20-30km or so).

In addition, I’m adding strength, balance and flexibility to my training program. And if I can’t run, well the pool will do (assuming I can actually get in the pool with everyone else avoiding the heat!)

Reflections on Sunday’s Brisbane Marathon

Note: most of this was written Sunday afternoon - so although it’s posted a few days late, it’s a fairly timely (and therefore more accurate) recollection.

Last year’s Brisbane Marathon was the highlight of my running season - an 18 minute PB just five weeks after a 7 minute PB at Gold Coast, bringing my PB down from 2011’s 3:54 to 3:30 after a solid few months training with a coach. I’ve said since that it was the perfect race, the conditions were ideal for me, my training had gone very well without injury.

The lead up to this year’s Brisbane Marathon has been a little different - since Blue Mountains I just haven’t managed to achieve a level of consistent running with which I can be happy - as alluded to in my two previous posts. I haven’t really managed a run longer than about 25km since the Blue Mountains, with most long runs being around the half marathon mark.

I’ve been succumbing to almost every runners niggle going - thankfully not in a severe way but enough to make me feel the need to slow down. I’ve had shin splints, plantar fasciitis, runners knee, hamstring and ITLB at one point or another. Some of it might be new shoes, some of it might be old shoes breaking down, and as I get used to new shoes or replace old shoes hopefully I’ll get settled again.

So I had few expectations of today - I gave myself four days off to allow the hamstring to recover sufficiently, and figured I’d see what happens. My ideal target was a PB, but I realised that if I was actually capable of that, then there was something wrong about my training plan. I’d have been happy with sub-3:45, and content with sub 4:00.

As I started I felt good, and quickly settled into 5:00/km pace. As with last year, my head said this seemed fast, but my body seemed fine with it - no problems breathing at all, my legs felt light and painfree, and I was having the best run I’d had in months.

This lasted nearly the whole first lap, although I think I started slowing from onwards of 18km. The day started heating up, and I started to feel more and more sluggish. By about 25km I was feeling that the rails had come off my race and that it would be a sufferfest to the end. At this point my friend Dave (who started in the zone behind mine) caught up with me, and kindly gave me a gel, before heading on his own race, looking strong.


Between 29 and 30km, just after Victoria Bridge - by Peta

While the gel perked me up a bit, I think it caused some stomach issues, but a quick pitstop and I could carry on - might have lost a minute or two but sometimes when the race is going badly, and temperatures are heating up, an enforced break can help.

However, this didn’t mean it wasn’t a sufferfest until the end. The highlights from this point on were seeing Peta who’d come to spectate for the second lap, just after Victoria Bridge (29km) and just before Go Between Bridge (35km), and also the wonderfully crazy kids manning the water stalls, so supportive and enthusiastic as ever! I got overtaken by the 3:45 pacer at the 32km mark and tried my best not to let them get too far past without a struggle, but I was pretty much cooked.

At a few water stops I tried the water over the head cooling method, which provided some temporary relief, but I was in full-on ultra-event survival mode by now - walking the hills, taking some walk breaks, anything I could to just continue to the end.

The last few kms felt so far and so hard, I couldn’t even maintain 6:00/km by this point as I was having to stop at water fountains or take quick breaks. I even used the water stop at 41km, in spite of it ‘only’ being another 1.2km. Finally, I crossed the line in 3:52:07, and I was ok with that. My worst road marathon on Australian soil, but still slightly better than London 2011.

The race execution felt a bit similar to London, in that I had an awesome first half, although slowing towards the half way point, to get a positive split of around 1:45 first half and around 2:00 second half. At least this time, I can walk afterwards!

As with all my marathons, I suspect temperature played a massive part (start temp was 6C, end temp was 20C), but I may have stuffed up the nutrition too - I was hungry not long into the race. That and the lack of long distance training all combined to play their part. For all my niggles, I don’t think they really had a major effect on the race.

I might have a few days off running now, I’m shattered! [It’s now Wednesday, and today I had my first run since Sunday (just 5km)]


Just after the Sombrero kids, at 35km

Not the Kind of Consistency I Was After

I read an excellent article recently simplifying running to three rules - consistency, rest, and listening to your body.

That’s not bad - my rule of thumb is train as consistently as you can without getting injured - but that’s pretty much the same thing.

My recent aim has been to up my run volume in a consistent fashion towards 80km per week, but I seem to be consistently achieving 50km/week as a result of lack of runs or not long enough runs. This week I had two great runs on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then a terrible run on Friday - 12km of just really slow suffering - I managed to just about pick up the pace for the second half but it was very sluggish. Yesterday morning I had a nice quick Sandgate parkrun, which made me feel confident again.

Today my plan was for a 24km run, but after about 8km I started noticing a minor foot niggle that I’ve had before, but it usually happens at the start of a run and goes away as my foot loosens up. Today it got worse to the point where almost every step was slightly annoying (not really painful but twingey). In the end I decided listening to my body was the right step, and packed it in after just 12km. I did some stretching afterwards, and even got the foam roller out when I got home, and just hope a couple of days rest is enough to manage the niggle.

Assuming my foot does recover, I’ll run as normal on Tuesday and Wednesday. This week I’m off to Sydney on Thursday for a conference on Friday and Saturday, probably with evening events too, so consistency will be tricky (particularly my usual Friday evening run). I plan to do parkrun on Saturday morning at St Peters, so I might just have to add Friday’s run to that (maybe run a bit of there and back if it’s runnable).

Hopefully I’ll have some weeks that boost my confidence overall soon!

Looking Ahead to Brisbane Marathon

With less than five weeks to go before the Brisbane marathon, I find myself reflecting upon my training so far and to come.

I only have one goal for Brisbane, and that is to beat last year’s time. It’s not impossible, and looking at my training times and parkrun results, it should be doable. But it won’t be easy.

Since the North Face, I’ve tried to get up to a 60km/week training volume, with the aim of reaching 80km at peak. But I haven’t been able to maintain even 60km/week - either my legs give up, or last week, it seems my entire body decided to go on strike (I wonder if I was fighting something off, I had what is best described as a half hour cold on Friday night - sneezing, runny nose, snuffles, the works, but it went as quickly as it came, and I’ve felt great since)

We also had our wedding anniversary, where we went away to the Bunya Mountains - not much running, but good hill walking - not very far, but I definitely felt it, and again, a possible cause of last week’s lethargy.

So now, with five weeks to go, the last few weeks don’t look that great in terms of consistency, but I have a great training base, the last couple of runs have convinced me that I’m still fast enough, and so I just need some decent long runs and hopefully I’ll be set.

On Sunday I did a half marathon in training in 1:50, today I did 15km in 1:15. The latter is still a slower pace than last year’s Brisbane marathon though, which absolutely stuns me - a 5:00/km tempo run feels like it should be fast enough, but I need to be getting below 4:55/km on the day to actually beat last year.

This year I’m uncoached, so it’s all down to me. Of course there are plenty of variables (last year was almost perfect weather conditions for me) but I’m happy with my performance overall, and I’m enjoying the social side of running more than I ever have, with social runs and friendly competition with my fellow Bunyaville Trail Runners and those at Parkrun. This has also encouraged me to experiment with different runs (my two best parkruns were both preceded by a 10km the evening before, which is new) to get the kms in at the same time as the social side.

Fantasy North Face 100km

It was mostly clear to me at the end of the North Face 50km event that I’d have seriously struggled to complete the 100km. That’s not to say I couldn’t have done, but it might have involved walking much of it (to be fair, that’s not that different to the second half of the 50km, except that I do feel I ran the majority of the runnable stuff, except for the brief point around 37km where I was out in the sun and struggling to maintain mental discipline - and it did only last a km or two). But to really feel like I succeeded at the 100km, I’d want to be running most of the way between the last checkpoint and the finish.

Given that I don’t feel that I could have done the 100km this year instead of the 50km, what would I need to do between now and a future such opportunity?

Hill training

One of the two key things I took from the pre-race Runners Forum was that Kilian Jornet (2011 winner, international trail running superstar) has vertical training goals. So more important than kms clocked per week is elevation achieved. To improve in the Blue Mountains, I need to do more vertical distance, preferably over a continuous run (doing 30 sets is not the same as running 5km uphill). These opportunities exist, and I do do hill work but probably not in sufficient volume to be ready, yet.

Step training

There were an awful lot of steps in the Blue Mountains, far more than I envisaged there could possibly be, even if a psychotic race director routed you down and then back up every possible staircase (I’m not convinced that isn’t the course). So, with that in mind, I need to do more stairs and steps. While running up and down an office block is boring, it’ll probably help, but I also need to find some uneven steps, as that is the reality of running in the Blue Mountains.

Distance training

To get from 50km to 100km, I need to increase my weekly mileage. One suggestion from the elites at the Runners Forum was to aim for weekly kms the same as the race distance, which seems reasonable to me. I’d say that’s conservative for marathons and 50kms, and for me ambitious for a 100km race (that’s about eight-ten hours running per week, depending upon session speeds), but this is Fantasy North Face 100km.

Fatigue training

I should do some more running when I’m tired from previous runs, to simulate how it feels at the 80km mark. That probably means back to back training runs at the weekend, particularly considering the desire to get nearer to 100km per week.

Consistent training.

My training has been fairly ad-hoc this year. It’s not been terrible, and I’m not doing dissimilar kms than this time last year when I had a coach. I haven’t used not having a coach to skip very many training sessions (but there have been one or two). However, I haven’t achieved the levels of consistency that I’ve been hoping for - doing 50km or more every week, without fail. I suspect slotting in parkruns on Saturday morning haven’t helped - they do help with fatigue training for the Sunday, but I should probably do more than just the 5km. However, having a weekly km or elevation target (rather than simply aiming for 4 runs a week) would allow me to do parkruns, have them count but not replace a full session.

Normalise the distance

At the moment, 50kms seem like a hard event, and 100kms seem very scary indeed. And let’s not even think about 100 milers, for now. However, just as running marathons seemed to make running marathons normal (to the extent where I decided to do one five days before the race, three weeks before the North i Face 50 and suffered no obvious issues as a result). So running 50kms and longer on a more regular basis (not racing them, not running them hard, just doing the distance), and long runs with a lot of time on my feet, could help to get to a place where a 100km race is just a particularly long run.

Weight

I should probably be about 5kg lighter for an event with as many hills - or indeed any event where I’m landing thousands of times! I’m working on this by cutting down on excuses to binge - whether it’s too much alcohol (in an evening or in a week), too much junk food, I just need to choose my battles wisely and attempt to limit everything to moderation (including excess).

Local knowledge

As this is Fantasy North Face 100, I suspect that living in Leura or Katoomba would be the ideal preparation, giving you the ability to get to know the trails that much better. Both winners this year cited training regularly on the course - I think Brendan is bit more local than Beth but she still got there every couple of weeks. Short of moving house or burning up a lot of aviation fuel, this one might have to stay fantasy. However, there are training events on the course - if this was my A-race, perhaps doing at least one would be of help.

Don’t be afraid of the big races

Brendan Davies, this year’s winner and new record-holder, did Ultra Marathon Mount Fuji just three weeks before the North Face 100. That goes against almost everything I’ve ever read regarding recovery times from big races, and yet in his blog entry he says it helped him. I do understand the theory - if you do a tough race beforehand, the legs will hopefully recover even stronger afterwards, but it must be a real gamble. I certainly don’t think Mt Mee three weeks before did me any harm, but the recovery period in between might better be spent peaking in training. One to think about, at least.

Support

It’s not impossible to do TNF100 without a support crew - I’m sure 100s of people do it every year - the race logistics seem awesome, you can get drop bags sent to whichever checkpoint they’re needed (I gather) - which means you don’t have to carry every gram of kit for the whole race (e.g warm clothes need only be picked up at checkpoint 4). But friendly faces and encouraging words can definitely help. Involving the support crew in the planning process is essential so that they know where to be at what times, and what I’m likely to need. As with any endurance event that requires a lot of training, having an early conversation with family about support levels and training volumes and time away from home is better than having it too late.

Planning

It seemed that the planning needed for the 100 was significantly greater than for the 50. I made some terrible choices that could have compromised my race, but I got away with it because I was only doing the 50. Kit choice, drop bags, nutrition strategies are all things I barely worried about for the 50 that would require proper thought for the 100.

Conclusion

Am I going to go for it? I’m going to focus on my road running for the next couple of months until Brisbane marathon, and then hopefully throw in a couple more trail races before the end of September. There are 50 weeks until the next North Face 100, and 102 until the one after that, so there’s no need to hurry. I should bear all of the above in mind, as most of them are good for trail running in general, a sport in which I aim to improve.

Race Report: The North Face 50km

One week on, and a race report gets harder to write as memories of pain and suffering fade. If I leave it much longer I might accidentally document that it really wasn’t that different to the average walk in the park.

The Day before

Skip this section if you just want the race details!

I flew down to Sydney on the Friday morning, picked up my hire car from the airport, and drove straight to Leura. I did want to get to my accommodation as early as possible as the descriptions sounded sufficiently complicated that I didn’t want to try it first in the dark. But I was hungry as it had gone 2pm and I hadn’t been fed much on the flight. So I got to Leura, found a great sandwich at Wazygoose and went for a wander to eat lunch in tranquility.

After lunch I bought dinner for the next two nights (bacon and courgettes and mushrooms and pasta), cereal for the next two mornings (It was supposed to be cereal and muesli but they didn’t have my type, and I rarely risk new mueslis!). From there, it was back to Wentworth Falls and finding my cottage, Wattle, at the end of a long and bumpy dirt track, which I was glad I tried in daylight.

By now it was 4pm so I quickly moved some of my luggage around in a vague attempt to start preparing for the morning, before heading back to Leura to have a look at the North Face shop (lots of stuff I didn’t need and nothing I did actually want) and listen to the Runners Forum, which had some great tips for training and preparing for the race, but any really useful advice would be a bit late by then! I also met up with Dave and discussed plans for car sharing for the morning (parking wasn’t allowed anywhere near by so getting dropped off was almost essential).

When I got back to the cottage I lit the fire, had dinner, ensured all my stuff was in the right place for the morning, chatted to Peta on the phone, read for a bit and went to bed not long after 10pm. I had to be up at 6.30am, which is almost a respectable time of day for this kind of thing.

Race Day

In the morning I had breakfast and a cup of tea, sorted out what I was wearing in the race, what I’d take until leaving the car and what I’d have in the bag for emergencies. I had a good idea what the temperatures would be (a low of 6, a high of 16) but didn’t really know what that would feel like. I was also worried about cooling down in the case of injury or getting lost, and so wanted to pack conservatively. But even so, I think I packed too much stuff, which would have consequences later.

I got to Dave’s, dropped off my car there for the rest of the day along with my fleece, and we headed to the start with his parents. We had some fun taking some photos and then it was time to head to the race briefing. The first wave went not long after at 8:50am, and then at 8:55am, it was time for us to go!


The first couple of km were around the Fairmont Resort golf course, which was certainly hilly enough for me to slow down to a walk and be out of breath within a km. I don’t have any timings as I’d turned my watch on before leaving home, told it ‘yes, I am indoors’ and then forgot to turn GPS back on when going outside. I managed to fix that on the run, but only after a couple of kms.

After about 3km we started heading down some steps, and then the bottlenecks started to become apparent. This is always likely to be an issue, as some people are good at steps but slower at running, and others like me are middle of the pack at running and terribly slow at steps. I tried to let obviously faster people through, particularly when the faster third wave runners caught up, but it was the same for everyone really. I never minded (unless I was holding people up), a slow pace up steps just keeps me well below threshold.

There were some ladder climbs to get back up the cliff, then some biggish hills before we hit dirt track and then road on the way to the checkpoint. I’d thought the checkpoint was at 15km, so was surprised when someone said it was only a couple of kms, but my watch being 2.5km behind, and the checkpoint being at 12km combined to make it arrive quite soon.

I wasn’t able to fill my bladder very much at the checkpoint - my bag was full and compressing the bladder. I could have taken some stuff out, and repacked it again, but I took the risk with it being a cooler day.

The next 10km were downhill, pretty much, so that I did them in about 50 minutes to take me to the 2 hour point at the 20km marker. After this I calculated it would be mostly uphill for the next 3 hours (based on 5km/h which was what I was doing when walking). There were the odd few kms where I was able to run for a while, meaning that I was getting 5kms done in 50 mins rather than the hour, but I realised I’d need that for the steps, where I’d get no horizontal distance in a lot of time! I could see the Three Sisters from below at one point which was quite exciting.

I took a bit of a sitting break around the 30km mark to get some food and water into my system before the last couple of kms before the steps. As expected, the steps were hard, and took a while, and a few breathers to get to the top, but finally I made it!

From there it was roads to Checkpoint 2. I ran those I could, and walked the hills, but I made it to the checkpoint with about five minutes to go before the 5 hour mark. I hoped to be out by 5 hours, but I faffed around for a bit (I wasted time going to the toilet - it was near the entrance but I only found this out at the food station on the opposite side of the hall). I took down a lot of melon, had some energy drink and water and a few chews. I put what I thought to be a sensible amount of water in my bladder, but didn’t fill it, as I just had the last 14km to Leura - how hard could that be? In the end I got out just after the five hour mark.

At this point I was hoping for sub 7 - I realised 14km in 1:30 was likely to be unrealistic, but surely 7km an hour was doable. Even though I’d just had a break, I found it very difficult to maintain a good running pace for the next couple of kms, I would have to run and then walk. I realised shortly after that those two kms (and a few beforehand) were completely exposed, and once I got back in the shadow of the cliffs I was able to maintain a decent pace, when I could actually run.

My memories of the last 10km are just one set of steps after another. I felt able to run when the track was runnable, but there were sections where I’d descend 200m vertical in steps, and then almost immediately ascend again. There were more kms which took 24 mins (so joint slowest with the Furber Steps!) and it just felt relentless, particularly around the Leura Cascades. When I got to the top of the Olympian Rock lookout, someone said “it’s runnable for a bit now” and it was, but that bit was very short as I went down towards Gordon Falls! Suddenly we were off the tracks and onto tarmac, and then it was just the couple of kms. At this point my water error had finally materialised and I was totally out, but thankfully I no longer needed any. Indeed, the last km was very runnable (i.e. it was mostly downhill) and so at least I felt that I finished strongly - in fact, my best km since around the 18km mark.

After the finish gear check I collected my medal and tshirt, grabbed some water, and energy drink and a couple of sausages, and then went to get myself together so that I could let Peta know that I was safe, and call Dave and find a lift home. Dave actually found me, and then sorted me a cup of tea, and we compared stories. It was reassuring to know he’d found it just as tough, particularly the steps. He even said he’d found it tougher than last year, although I do wonder whether the memories of last year had faded!

My final time was 7:24:52, and I was 130th out of 266 runners. I was very happy with that, and pleased not to have to run another 50km. While on the course, at one point I gave up on my goal of ever doing Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, and then even considered retiring from running entirely!

Photography notes

Many of the photos are from Aurora Images, the professional photographers on the course. I have noted these with (Aurora) in the photo titles.

David Abrey took the photos credited with (Dave), Chris Abrey took the one credited with (Chris).

A couple of photos were taken by fellow competitors while on the run, apologies for lack of credit.

Inspirational race reports

Well, mine is a report from the middle of the pack. The winners’ race reports are happily both online and make for inspiring reading, perhaps because they’ve both come such a long way in the last few years - I’m sure they both have innate talent too, but working hard can make a big difference:

The Day After

I went to find Bridal Veil falls, which Peta tried to show me seven years ago on our first trip together to Australia, after several years of drought, and the falls looked a bit pathetic. It looked much better! I also took a trip to Cliff View lookout at Katoomba, and Wentworth Falls lookout. It was a beautiful day and I was happy to be walking without too much pain (down steps was the only tough move). I bumped into a guy who’d done the 100 and was out with his family, and had a nice chat with him. I badgered some other tourists to take my photo at Cliff View.

Stuff Just Got Real

With just 12 days to go until the race, things are definitely getting exciting. My race pack arrived today, with map and race number!

Had a great run up Camp Mountain today with the Bunyaville Trail Runners, I didn’t manage to run all the way to the top, but given I had my full race pack on in training for the race I didn’t mind too much. And I made up for it on the downhills, they felt great.

Training wise, I feel in a good place - my legs feel in great shape.

Looking at the conditions in the mountains, if it’s like today, the starting temperature will be not much above zero and max temperature below 20C. I might need to take some warmer clothes than I was planning - but those conditions would be ideal for me!

North Face Kit List

Mandatory kit

  • 1 x waterproof and breathable jacket with fully taped waterproof seams and hood (plastic rain poncho, wind jacket, water resistant jacket etc. not acceptable) - I scored at the Columbia store with a half-price rainproof soft-shell. In orange.
  • 1 x High Visibility Safety Vest that complies with Australian Standard AS/NZS 4602:1999 –D/N Class for day and night time wear. Need to check it covers my backpack - it is on the large side but might need a larger one.
  • 1 x mobile phone (Telstra Next G is strongly recommended as coverage on the course is far better than any other network) - I have a phone, but not Telstra. But I can get a SIM for $30, or it might be worth getting a cheapy PAYG phone rather than risk my smartphone.
  • 1 x emergency space blanket, light bivvy sack or equivalent
  • 1 x compression bandage minimum dimensions 7.5cm wide x 2.3m long unstretched. If in doubt the wrapping should list ‘heavy weight cotton crepe bandage’ or ‘heavy cotton elastic bandage’ (this item is used for the treatment of sprains or snake bite).
  • 1 x lightweight Dry Sack to keep your compulsory clothing dry (plastic bags or zip lock bags are fine but Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil dry sack is recommended)
  • Capacity to carry 2 litres of water (water bladder or water bottles)
  • 2 x bars / food portions - need to decide what to take here!
  • 1 x Ziploc bag for your personal rubbish
  • 1 x waterproof map case or any other way to keep your maps protected such as map contact - I should have one somewhere!

Other useful stuff

  • Freezer packs to keep water bladder cooler
  • Blister plasters
  • Spare socks

Mt Mee Trail Marathon

Deciding on a Tuesday to do a marathon that Sunday isn’t my normal approach to race planning. On Monday Peta expressed concerns that my North Face 50 training didn’t seem to have a plan, and that I haven’t done enough running with my backpack. And it’s true, my planning has been fairly adhoc, mostly to run four times a week, with some fast, some hills, one long run, but it’s not written down. And I haven’t run that much with my pack loaded, certainly not with many hills. I don’t think Peta expected that I’d sign up to do a marathon to address some of the gaps in my training.

But that’s what I did. My plan was to treat it as a long training run, try not to get bogged down with expected times, try not to do too much damage. In the end that bit was easier than expected.

Getting to the start was relatively uneventful - an 03:40 alarm, left the house by 04:10 and was at Dayboro Show Grounds for 04:45, to catch the bus leaving for the gantry at Mt Mee at 05:00. We got there around 05:30, leaving me with plenty of time to register and be ready for the 06:00 start. Which indeed I was, but the start was more like 06:20 - in the mean time I had a good chat with Dave, a fellow North Face 50er who hadn’t talked me out of it when I asked what he thought of it as a pre North Face training run (he’d done it last year before the North Face 100).

Once underway, I quickly found my rhythm, which seemed to be behind other people. After a few km I settled into it and the running was fairly easy for the first 13km. There was an unexpected creek crossing (it was in the race briefing but it was too late to do anything about it by then - all my fault for not researching the course thoroughly, and leading to my main lesson of today - unless you know that there are no creek crossings, pack spare socks!) but nothing else to worry about.

The reason the first 13km felt so good was that they were almost entirely downhill. The 18km point was at the same place as the start, and so what went down had to come back up. This was a bit of a struggle, and I started losing time and places here. It seemed to take forever to get to the 18km point.

I had a quick blister patch just after 18km, and then it was smooth running downhill for a few kms, before coming back up again to about 24km, and then a rapid descent to the 26km mark. From there it was no longer a trail run but a road run - another 16km to go.

It was getting a lot hotter by this point - it was very pleasant at the start, but the temperature reached 30C at Dayboro (according to our probably less than accurate car thermometor - it was definitely warm though!). I wasn’t really struggling anywhere in my body, but I just couldn’t motivate myself to go any faster or work any harder.

There were still plenty of hills to walk, and I passed just two people between 26 and 33km! At 33km was the out and back of 2km each way, which seemed to involve far more hills than I’d have liked. At the end of the out and back, it was just 5km to go (or so I thought) and I managed to keep a level of forward progress.

At 40km I had a go at more blister patching, but it wasn’t massively successful - but enough to get me to the end. I also paused to indulge in some gratuitous photography when I spotted some actual view (a lot of the run was through forest, which while pretty, wasn’t necessarily very photogenic)

I was very pleased to get to 41km and realise it must be downhill from there, and had a quite quick descent to the 42km marker just before the turnoff to the Show Grounds - just 200m to go, right? Well, at 200m I couldn’t even see the finish, and then there was another bloody hill which I had to stroll up, before the finish at 42.7km by my watch. Normally I’d blame my Garmin, and trust the markers, but it was 700m from the marker to the finish!

I was hoping at various points to make this only my third slowest marathon, but in the end, my final time was 04:40, making it the slowest marathon I’ve ever done - two of which were after a 3.8km swim and 180km bike ride. Having said that, of course it’s also the hilliest marathon I’ve ever done, with a total ascent of I DON’T KNOW, MY GARMIN DIDN’T TRANSFER IT :(*

The number of people I overtook, and who overtook me, after the 18km point was such that I figure I got my pacing right, for me, on a warm autumn morning. The good thing about my less than stellar pace is that I will have done myself very little damage. Indeed, other than my blisters, my legs feel great.

My finishers top was much appreciated. I’d be interested to see what the race was like in the other direction, it would definitely be very tough for the last 5km.

Other than spare socks, my main other lesson is to ensure I have adequate nutrition - I had coke and jelly beans at the aid stations but I could probably have used a bigger breakfast and some extra energy bars/shots/gels. Taking the right compeed is also important, and perhaps having something to dry feet before applying new socks or even blister plasters.

Part of today’s training was to run a decent distance with significant ascent with a pack not too dissimilar to the pack I’ll use at North Face - to that effect it was the same rucksack with most of the contents I’ll be taking, but I took a freezer pack rather than my fleece, which was very welcome on a hot day - even after the run, the contents of my water bladder were still very cool.

I know I can do North Face 50 (that doesn’t mean that something can’t go wrong, just that my body is more than capable of the distance), the question remains how quickly - I don’t think my estimate of 7:30 has changed as a result of today! If it’s cool I’ll have a much better day than if it’s hot. But that’s not a massive surprise.

* I would have loved to have provided graphs, but the datafile must have got corrupted during transfer. Apparently you should reset before transferring, but I’ll also be upgrading firmware.

My First Mountain Run

I hadn’t really considered that I’d never done a mountain run before. I just wanted to sign up for another trail run and see what I could do. So Mt Glorious it was. As with Pinnacles last year, the course description is quite clear that it’s a run for fit runners. At least I’m significantly fitter than this time last year. But perhaps not yet as mountain fit as I’d like - something I should sort out before North Face!

I decided to take the bus option, which involved driving to The Gap and having the bus drive me to the start. It’s quite a windy road, and involves avoiding cyclists a lot at that time of day, so I was glad someone else had that to worry about.

Due to recent weather, the course had been changed from a one-way course involving an ascent of around 450m, followed by a similar size descent, and then you run out the 600m of Mt Glorious. The new course involved running down that 600m, and then back up it, with a little singletrack trail of 2km at the end to take the total to 24km. So the new course involved significantly less ascent, but lengthened the course by about 3km. The changes made the race easier and I can’t claim I wasn’t glad of that!

After a bit of time spent at the time waiting for the first two waves to take off, and catching up with the other Bunyaville Trail Runners, listening to the race briefing urging caution on the slippery descents, after the bagpipes we were off!

The first couple of kms were spent finding my feet and warming up after the pre-start downpour, but I got into my stride and at one point even achieved a 4:25 km which is good for me on the trails, even if was a downhill km.

There were a few uphill sections on the way down, which gave me some comfort that I’d be able to run a little of the return journey, including one longer section that I had to walk on the way to the halfway point.

I felt pretty reasonable at the halfway point, and managed to put in a couple more well paced kms, but after that we hit the uphills. I didn’t really feel able to do much running on the uphills, which is something to keep working at, but I made sure I kept a reasonable walking pace, and I never stopped thanks to a full water bladder on my back. The way up seemed mostly like a relentless slog, separated by the occasional km or so where I was really able to open up again. I overtook a few people, and very few people overtook me, so I was happy with that.

The last couple of km were interesting, a slippy singletrack through the woods, which I’d been led to believe was downhill, but there were steps up, and it pretty much tracked uphill (not surprisingly, as we finished above the start). In the end I was glad of my 2:31, I know I should be able to do better, but that will take some more suffering on the hills! And compared to Pinnacles last year, I never felt like I shouldn’t be there. I’ll probably end up middle of the pack, but I can live with that!

North Face Mandatory Kit - Part Two

An update on the things that weren’t green last time…

  • 1 x waterproof and breathable jacket with fully taped waterproof seams and hood (plastic rain poncho, wind jacket, water resistant jacket etc. not acceptable) - I scored at the Columbia store with a half-price rainproof soft-shell. In orange.
  • 1 x High Visibility Safety Vest that complies with Australian Standard AS/NZS 4602:1999 –D/N Class for day and night time wear. It must be made of a combination of retroreflective and fluorescent materials. This is not a running vest but a workwear vest. It can be purchased at hardware stores or workwear stores for about $20. Your vest must have AS/NZS 4602:1999 or AS/NZS 4602:2010 as well as Class “D/N” on the tag. This must be worn on road sections at night. The vest must be clearly visible from both the front and the back, even when wearing your backpack so you must have an oversized vest that covers your whole torso AND your backpack.
  • 1 x mobile phone (Telstra Next G is strongly recommended as coverage on the course is far better than any other network) - I have a phone, but not Telstra. But I can get a SIM for $30, or it might be worth getting a cheapy PAYG phone rather than risk my smartphone.
  • 1 x emergency space blanket, light bivvy sack or equivalent
  • 1 x compression bandage minimum dimensions 7.5cm wide x 2.3m long unstretched. If in doubt the wrapping should list ‘heavy weight cotton crepe bandage’ or ‘heavy cotton elastic bandage’ (this item is used for the treatment of sprains or snake bite). - need to check the contents of my first aid kit
  • 1 x lightweight Dry Sack to keep your compulsory clothing dry (plastic bags or zip lock bags are fine but Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil dry sack is recommended)
  • Capacity to carry 2 litres of water (water bladder or water bottles)
  • 2 x bars / food portions - need to decide what to take here!
  • 1 x Ziploc bag for your personal rubbish
  • 1 x waterproof map case or any other way to keep your maps protected such as map contact - I should have one somewhere!

In my last post I said I expected I’d need a new backpack - in fact, the recommendations I’ve seen are for a smaller backpack - the Salomon S-LAB 12. So I’ll probably stick to my tried and tested Salomon Revo 20.

North Face 50km - Mandatory Kit

Now that I’ve entered the North Face 50km, it’s time to track my mandatory kit. I don’t want to have any expensive surprises (or even any cheap ones that I realise too late)

  • 1 x long sleeve thermal top (polypropylene, wool or similar). Cotton, coolmax, lycra and any compression garment will not be sufficient even if the compression garment is called a “thermal compression garment”. You may still use compression garments however they do not replace this mandatory item.
  • 1 x waterproof and breathable jacket with fully taped waterproof seams and hood (plastic rain poncho, wind jacket, water resistant jacket etc. not acceptable) - I probably need a lighter and more compressible coat than my ski jacket or Rohan coat
  • 1 x beanie, balaclava or buff
  • 1 x High Visibility Safety Vest that complies with Australian Standard AS/NZS 4602:1999 –D/N Class for day and night time wear. It must be made of a combination of retroreflective and fluorescent materials. This is not a running vest but a workwear vest. It can be purchased at hardware stores or workwear stores for about $20. Your vest must have AS/NZS 4602:1999 or AS/NZS 4602:2010 as well as Class “D/N” on the tag. This must be worn on road sections at night. The vest must be clearly visible from both the front and the back, even when wearing your backpack so you must have an oversized vest that covers your whole torso AND your backpack.
  • 1 x headlamp (test your headlamp on bush tracks at night prior to the event to make sure it provides enough light to both see the track and the course markings)..
  • 1 x mobile phone (Telstra Next G is strongly recommended as coverage on the course is far better than any other network) - I have a phone, but not Telstra. But I can get a SIM for $30, or it might be worth getting a cheapy PAYG phone rather than risk my smartphone.
  • 1 x compass for navigation in the very unlikely event that you get lost. While we recommend a good quality compass such as the Silva Field 7, you can bring any small compass as long as the magnetic needle will settle quickly and will point to magnetic North. A waterproof watch compass is allowed as long as you can calibrate it and use it correctly. An iPhone compass is not acceptable as it is not waterproof and the batteries may be needed for making emergency calls.
  • 1 x whistle
  • 1 x emergency space blanket, light bivvy sack or equivalent
  • 1 x compression bandage minimum dimensions 7.5cm wide x 2.3m long unstretched. If in doubt the wrapping should list ‘heavy weight cotton crepe bandage’ or ‘heavy cotton elastic bandage’ (this item is used for the treatment of sprains or snake bite). - need to check the contents of my first aid kit
  • 1 x lightweight Dry Sack to keep your compulsory clothing dry (plastic bags or zip lock bags are fine but Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil dry sack is recommended)
  • Capacity to carry 2 litres of water (water bladder or water bottles) 1.5l
  • 2 x bars / food portions - need to decide what to take here!
  • 1 x Ziploc bag for your personal rubbish
  • 1 x waterproof map case or any other way to keep your maps protected such as map contact - I should have one somewhere!
  • 1 x set of maps and course descriptions (provided by organisers in your race pack). You will need to protect these from getting wet (using item above)
  • 1 x A5 Participant Emergency Instructions card on waterproof paper (provided by organisers in your race pack)
  • 1 x race number with timing chip to be worn on your front and visible at all times (provided by organisers in your race pack). A recommended method of securing your race number is to use an elastic waist strap like a triathlon band which allows you to easily have your number visible over the top of your outermost item of clothing. You will need to provide your own elastic waist strap if you choose to do this.

I’m going to likely need a new backpack to put it all in too - can’t see that all fitting in my current Salomon bag!

2012 Is Dead. Long Live 2013

2012 in retrospect

2012 was a year of change having got to Australia just before Christmas 2011. I’ve tried my hand at a number of things, including brewing, and various tech things that I’ll discuss shortly. I’ve barely cycled or swum since around April, and again, the reasons are worth mentioning.

I think my philosophy has changed somewhat, in that it’s very difficult to do many things well - one should instead focus on the most important aspects. Although I enjoyed the results of brewing, and it is difficult to get the kind of beers I like in Australia, it’s not impossible and I can pay people to send me beers I like from the other side of the country. At the moment it’s pointless brewing due to the heat anyway, but once things quieten down again I hope I’ll devote some more time to it.

For swimming and cycling, I decided in April that I was going to focus big style on my running. With four days a week running, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for other exercise - but if I really wanted to, I could find time, I’ve clearly chosen not to. The swimming pool closing over winter, and the swimming lessons stopping over winter don’t help. I imagine if it gets much hotter I may be replacing runs with swims soon though! I’d like to cycle a bit more but it needs time to do well.

As for tech, I’ve really tried to pare down my interests this year. I’ve decided to limit myself to one language (python) rather than looking at everything. So for web apps it’s been django and flask rather than rails or node, for configuration management it’s been ansible (I’ve made a number of contributions which has really helped my python and my ability to contribute to open source through git and github). I’ve looked at data analysis using pandas, although I really really rate D3 for client side rendering using javascript - and indeed the training log entries on this site make extensive use.

The move of this site to Octopress was half pragmatic (keeping drupal up to date was a chore) and half research - how to publish a site using just git and heroku using markdown for rendering. There are a few minor tweaks I’ve made using ruby under the hood (in particular the training pages) which might seem to break my python-only rule, but it really was minor.

For running, this year I’ve made personal bests at 5km (by over a minute), 10km (by three minutes, but I’m not happy with either of my 10kms) and the marathon (first by 7 minutes, then by 17 minutes). I also finished my first ultra run with a 50km run at Glasshouse. Time wasn’t great, and I had some routing problems, but I did it nonetheless. I’ve done a lot more trail running this year, racing at Pinnacles and regularly attending Bunyaville Trail Runners. I’ve also attended more parkruns this year than other years, and the birth of Sandgate Parkrun has found me volunteering more too. I also volunteered at Wild Horse Criterium, and while I fancy doing that race this year I do want to ensure I contribute to the trail running community too.

2013 Goals

I have a vague goal of doing something like Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc by the time I’m 40 (or given it’s in September, just after my 40th). So many of my goals will be not only to qualify, but also to prepare. Right now I wouldn’t stand a chance!

Runs I plan to do in 2013:

  • Brisbane Marathon (a new PB would be nice - so sub 3:30)
  • Oxfam Trailwalker 100km (sub 20 hours seems possible but depends on team and me)
  • Wild Horse Criterium (considering the 60km or even the 80km as it approaches Trailwalker)
  • Any timed 10km that fits with the rest of my schedule to get the kind of PB I’m theoretically capable of (below 45min seems reasonable)
  • On that note it would be good to get a new half marathon PB too, although it’s not letting the side down as much as the 10km.

I also want to significantly reduce my 5km time - but suspect it’ll need a cool windless day before that happens - my usual time right now is 90 seconds longer than PB!

With our recently bought house I really want to dedicate time to improving it as much as is sensible and affordable (not exactly a smart goal but without the advice of experts I don’t know what is sensible or even possible).

I also want to carry on learning - I have a few home monitoring projects that will require some Arduino investigation.

Hopefully I’ll brew the awesome Sorachi Ace Imperial IPA that I planned last year and never got around to.

Training Log Data

I’ve really wanted to be able to take more control of my data for years. In recent months this has become more concrete and I’ve focussed all the time I have to dedicate to coding to just working on the visualisation of my training data.

I’ve strived to favour shipping over perfection - various choices that I’ve made have been short-term so that I can get something out there. At present I have to manually run a script that takes binary formatted data from my watch and turns it into JSON. Octopress can do the rest, with the help of a plugin I wrote to generate the three types of ‘pages’ that power the training log: the training log entry itself, the data behind that training log entry, and the index of all training logs.

I have made incredibly heavy use of other people’s work. For dynamic visualisation, d3 is pretty much the best thing out there - it does all kinds of graphs, tables, maps and much more. For mapping, I used Leaflet, backed by the tiles of CloudMade, which rely on the data of OpenStreetMap.

To be honest, the results aren’t much different to what I currently get from Garmin Connect, but this is just the first step.

There are bugs. If the training data doesn’t show first time, just refresh. I think that’s a fairly normal Javascript script loading ordering problem, that I haven’t fixed over shipping (and writing this page). The time x-axis is currently in seconds (I’d rather have 1:00 than 3600 but I haven’t yet worked that one out).

Other things on my list include publishing the script I use to convert Garmin FIT data to JSON, based on the fitparse library, plotting lap markers, having lap popups. It’s quite exciting, the possibilities are endless. Oh, and the training log index needs some styling applied. But at least it has some entries. The most recent training entry seems to have a duration of 4.5 hours. I know why it thinks that (it’s rendering the data I present it correctly, and the start time is correct so what I think is the end time might be something else). Hopefully that’ll be fixed soon.

Key Workouts

It’s been a while since I’ve added anything, which is a shame with a shiny new blog platform and no new content. There have been other focuses, on which hopefully more soon, but for now here are my four run types that I’m practising

Long run

Not exactly an unknown - but I don’t really bother with long slow distance running. My long runs start off nice and easy, ramp it up to comfortable in the second third, and then build the pace for the last third, finishing strong for the last km or three. It’s a difficult one to get right at first but after a while, I found I could manage the last few kms at a minute faster than the first few.

Tempo run

Very much like the long run, but much shorter and much faster. I find the first few km allow me to get into my rhythm, loosen up, to such an extent that I’ve got close to my 5km personal best on a number of occasions over the second half of the run. It’s impossible to compare the two, with differences in adrenaline and pressure in the race but with the possibility of wind assistance on a 10km out and back, but it does show a strong, fast finish.

Hill sessions

One alternative is hill intervals - I find a hill that takes nearly a minute to run down, just over a minute to run up. The downs are supposed to be fast and the ups are just recovery. I can do this 20 times in 40 minutes, and then head for a 30 minute run after that.

However, these days I just tend to head to my local hilly trail run once a week, which pretty much becomes a hilly fartlek style run. Again I try and run fast down the hills, and just try and maintain a steady rhythm going up. The idea is not to walk (although in a race I’m happy to walk to conserve energy, here I’m trying to improve my hill stamina) if I can avoid it.

Intervals

At the moment I’m aiming to improve my 5km race pace so that I sharpen my race pace. I’m hoping to get down to 20 minutes, which means each kilometre should take 4 minutes. The last couple of times I’ve done a 4 or 5km warmup and then run back the same distance with a minute recovery in between each km. In theory I should be able to get to 4 minutes per km, and then reduce the intervals in between. I’ll see how it works in practice!

Acknowledgments

The details of the first three of these sessions were first suggested to me by my former coach, Mad Dog Mike. Should you wish to have a more detailed plan1 tailored to your abilities, check out his website and get in touch with him, he’s a nice guy and he’s not expensive.


1 there are two sides to a detailed plan - it’s great to know what you’re supposed to be doing but it does make training weeks less flexible. In the end I chose my own plan for flexibility but would consider being coached again if I wanted to succeed in a concrete goal.