Monday, July 29, 2013

Trail Running in the City

A while ago when I was shopping for trail shoes, the salesperson asked me where I did my trail running.  I replied that I did a few organised events, otherwise most of my off-road running was around town.  I don't think he really believed me, but it is true!  Even though I live in the centre of a city of 1.5 million people there are plenty of areas to run off pavement.  You just need to know where to go.

I managed to run 9.5km today (thank you ITB!) and a lot of that was off-road.  After a couple of k's of pavement and grass verges, I ducked down some steep steps into Jagger's Bush:

 My spirits instantly soar as soon as I hit this little oasis - it is short, but sweet!

I emerged at the sports field, ran around the crunchy gravel track, then crossed Meola Road into more bush - this time alongside the water's edge and a tangle of mangroves:

I introduced my immaculate white Wave Riders to some lovely mud, then it was out onto some open grass with a track - obviously somebody else runs this route!

At the tip of this peninsula Meola Reef runs right out into the harbour - it is actually an old lava flow and you can walk all the way out there when the tide is low:

Not today though - instead I continued around the peninsula and returned home via Western Springs park.  No pics from there today though, so that can be another story!

So many city parks are linked by great running routes, allowing you to reduce the amount of pavement you pound.  I keep discovering more and more of this secret network as my distances increase and I venture further.  I thought I knew Auckland well - until I started running!

If you have a choice, which route do you prefer to take - the trail or the pavement?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Half Marathon Training Plans

My big running goal this year is to run my first half marathon, and I've entered the adidas Auckland Half Marathon in early November.  This year it sold out in a record 8 days, so I'm glad I got in!

At the moment I am looking at training plans and there are tons available from so many different sources - running books, running magazines, running websites, online coaching, etc.

And then there are the different levels of training plans too - run to finish, run to a PR, or run to win (lol!).  This will be my first half so I don't have a PB to beat, but I don't want to merely aim to finish.  A lot of run to finish plans seem to be aimed at total beginners - like the non-runner who signs up for a charitable cause or a Friday night dare and then thinks: "Gee, I better do some running, where do I start..."  Not that there is anything wrong with that, in fact I admire anyone who does, it's just that I have been running for 18 months now and 'just finishing' seems under-ambitious to me.

I would like to train for a time goal estimated by the McMillan calculator from my 10 km PB.  I haven't run a 10 km race recently, but did run a 5k last weekend.  Going by my 5k time of 28:39, the McMillan calculator it gives me a guesstimate of 2:12.

Before my injury I had a few training plan options bookmarked, but post injury they are looking seriously ambitious.  I've had to cut back my expectations a lot as I'm just not ready to jump into long runs yet.  To be honest I'm pretty gutted about this and it has taken a while to accept. Especially as my previous prediction time was 2:04 (and I was harbouring a secret ambition to run under 2 hours...)

I need to start at a level where my long runs are between 5-10 k, so I'm considering following a 10 k plan to begin with, then merge like a zip into a half-marathon plan.

Paula Radcliffe's 'new intermediate' training plan for the 10k starts around the level I want, and if I cut a couple of weeks out (the 10km taper ones), that and the HM plan brings me exactly to Sunday 3 November. As long as I stay injury-free of course...

What I like about Paula's plan is that she schedules in strength training days and cross training days - something I need reminding of!

Rest day + core strength exercises and stretches!

It also suits me that it starts with four days per week and builds to five.  But the mileage does increase considerably, and I am concerned that there are no cut-back weeks - I think these are important for me post-injury.

The final weeks have long runs of 12, 12, 13, 14, 14, 13 and 10 miles

 Maybe I should stick to the plan in the book I have been following all along, where the final weeks are 10, 11, 8 miles:

Where oh where is the perfect half marathon training plan?!  I suppose I will just have to see how my ITB behaves.
Which training plan did you follow for your first half marathon?  As you can see I am still open to recommendations!
At the end of the day I want to a) run all the way, and b) finish happy with my effort, so c) next time I will have a time to beat!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Race Report - Unitec Run Series #1

Today I jumped in the deep end and did a 5km race!  Lately I have been running 30 mins with no ITB problems so I decided to enter the first race in the Unitec Run/Walk series, thinking I was 'just going to take it easy'.  That is much easier said than done in a race!

The Unitec Run/Walk series is the official lead up series for the adidas Auckland Marathon/Half Marathon/Quarter Marathon, and I was expecting a bigger turnout than there was today.  But it was a cold windy Sunday morning and so I suppose it was only the craziest most intrepid runners who turned up.

I shed my outer layers and as I dumped them on my husband I thought I was going to freeze wearing just a skirt and T-shirt, but was OK once I started running.  I really don't like getting hot when I run so I always tend to under dress, but today I could have done with some long sleeves and long tights.

The course was a 2.5km loop around the Unitec Campus in Mt Albert, and you run 1-4 laps depending on the marathon event you are entered in.  There was a lot of gradual downhill (nice) and a couple of steeper but short hills towards the end of the lap (not so nice), so it was quite a good course really.  On the second lap I found the steepest hill hard going and briefly thought of walking, but I concentrated on my breathing instead and that got me through.  Once I recovered from that I felt strong to the finish, which just goes to show that most of it is all in my head!

My main aim was to run under 30 mins, my hopeful aim was to run under 28 mins, and I achieved somewhere in between at 28:39 - that's a PB for me so I'll take it!  The stats - average pace 5:45, 18/125 females and 62/215 overall.  My SportWatch recorded 4.98km, so I guess cutting all those tangents saved me 20 metres!

Today I had the pleasure of meeting another local blogger - Jody from kreacher's little corner.  She's much speedier than me and finished as 6th female - awesome stuff (and great to meet you Jody, I look forward to many more!)

After the race we were supplied with bagels, bananas and Powerade, and most people were in a bit of a rush to getaway as it was cold and windy.  When I got home I untied my shoelaces and there was my timing chip still attached - I had totally missed the drop off box.  Just as well we don't live too far away...!

Overall it was a good race, except the person at registration didn't give me my change so I paid dearly for the race (OK - I didn't realise at the time, but I wasn't the one on duty...), and I think the transponder return box should be more obvious as idiots like me completely forget in their post-race daze.  Total sport have a great system where you can't exit the finishing corral without handing it in, and that really suits my mental state after a race!

The next race in the series for half-marathon entrants like me is a 10km in 3 weeks time.  Since my leg is behaving nicely with no niggles, I expect to be there!

Did you race this weekend?
Were you at Unitec too?
Did you get a PB?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Preventing my ITB Problem

Without wanting to tempt fate, I think I am recovering from my ITB issues.  I have run 30 minutes with no pain at all, and I feel very few niggles at other times.  But I am continually nervous when I run - I don't trust my leg yet and I'm sure my ITB could flare up again under stress.  In other words, I'm still taking it easy.

While I recover I've been looking at causes of this problem in the first place.  If I can identify the cause I can reduce the chances of it ever happening again, right?  Here are a few things I've pinpointed:

Worn out shoes
When I got home on that day I checked my running shoes, and I'm embarrassed to say they looked like this:

I thought I was checking them regularly, but obviously not regularly enough.  Either that, or they wore down real quick in the last week!   When my Physio saw them he said rather politely "yeah, they won't be helping...". So I went out the next day and welcomed a pair of Mizuno Wave Rider 16's into my life.

Recent increase in mileage
The first thing my Physio asked me when I went along to see him was if I had increased my mileage recently, and I didn't think I had.  To be honest I had been without my Sportwatch for a month and didn't have actual stats.  I bought a diary, worked back over my schedule, and discovered that in the week prior to my injury I had run more than usual - including the hardest race in my life!

Muscle imbalances
My Physio noticed I had weak glutes and tight hip flexors, so I've worked hard on getting them to function properly and keep my pelvis and core stable as I run.  Now I can feel new muscles, and I feel stronger and more efficient when I run.

Pavement slope and hard surfaces
I have a habit of running on the left side of the road when I run out and back, so the pavement slope is the same in either direction.  I should alternate this - or better still keep off the pavement wherever I can, as it is the hardest and nastiest surface to run on.

No warmup/cooldown
I know, so naughty.
I warmup and cooldown before and after speedwork, but not for my usual easy runs.  My Physio told me to walk for 5 mins before running, so I'm going to be a good girl and do as I'm told.  Also, instead of a sporadic stretching routine, I have committed to a regular one by writing it into my training plan!

Excessive hills/downhills
I don't think I had been overdoing the hills, but my race the week prior to injury did have some biggies!

Also, the day of my injury I ran down the Franklin Road hill, and it felt really odd for some reason - sort of jarring and uncomfortable.  Maybe this was a sign, or maybe it wasn't, but I will be wary of that feeling in the future because about 15mins later my ITB was yelling at me!

So - that's my list of potential causes.  Whether it was one thing or a combination I will never know - unfortunately most of them are of the totally-obvious-and-should-know-better type!  I.e: avoidable.  Lesson learned.

If you've had a sore IT band or other running injury, did you manage to pinpoint the cause?  
Can you think of any other causes I should be thinking about?

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