Saturday, July 06, 2019

Relays, PBs and Hills!

This past 5 weeks has seen a lot of activity.  With the winter season in full swing, cross country and longer runs are the order of the day.

Early in June, I did what’s become my “regular double” - running the 5km Parkrun first thing on a Saturday morning, then backing that up with a fast 1km cross country in the afternoon.  This pairing resulted in my Parkrun time reducing from 26:36 down to 24:56 in the course of a few weeks.  This stands as my PB on my home Parkrun course, and is only 34 seconds slower than my all time 5k PB on any course.  That is my next mark.

Meanwhile, my 1km times, while not PBs are quite good for the fact that I’ve already run a hard 5k in the morning.  I’ve got to around 3:45 for the 1k in this way.

A better indication of my middle distance capabilities was the Global Running Day virtual mile, which I ran in the first week of June.  Like last year, I ran this event at the athletics track, where I had access to a measured mile.  This year, my time was 6:22, 19 seconds faster than last year.  In addition, I made a mental note of my 1500m split as I rounded the home bend.  This was around 5:55, which is faster than my 1500m PB. 

The latter part of the month was dominated by bigger events, which meant taking a break from Parkrun for a while.

The first of these weekends was the Anglesea Ekiden relay.  In this event, multiple runners combine to complete a longer race between them.  I had the third of 3 legs, which was the shortest at 5.8km.  The first 2k was mostly an uphill grind from the seaside caravan park into the hills behind the town.  This was tough, forcing me to slow to a walk on 2 occasions.  Next was the run on narrow trails, before descending back down to seaside level.  Finished my leg in 29:45, which I was happy with under the tough conditions.

The following week was the Bendigo Harriers invitation cross country.  I had a choice of attempting a PB over 1km or running the 3km event.  As the weather was wet, with possible storms forecast later in the day, I decided to inspect the 1km course, which was around the pony club oval, near the pavilion.  With a lot of water on the course, I decided that it was too risky attempting to get my 78kg around at speeds of up to 20 km/h, and opted for the 3k course as the safer option, with slower speeds on a well drained route.

Started the 3k in light rain.  The course was mostly uphill for the first half, before turning around and coming back down.  While the hill was tough, as a grind like the previous week, I made it to the top in just over 7 minutes, which meant I was looking at a good time.  Finished the race in 13:41, after a fast downhill leg, making it my second fastest 3k time.

This weekend was a bit all over the place.  I had originally planned to go to Sandown in SE Melbourne yesterday (Saturday) to run a leg of the AV road relay there.  However, due to withdrawals and team rearrangements, I found myself without any teammates.  With that situation, I stayed behind and focused on local events.

I decided against the Parkrun due to lack of sleep, and slept in a little instead.  For the afternoon, I had the same choice as the previous week - attempting a 1k PB or running the 3k.  After initial indecision, I went with my gut and entered the 3km event.

Unlike the previous week, weather conditions were perfect, and in addition, the road that formed the first and last 650m of the course had been recently graded and was in excellent condition.  Got off to a good start and ran the first km in 4:23, and reached the halfway mark in 6:35.  The next 900m were mostly a slog, before starting the fast downhill run to the finish.  Finished in 13:32, which made the run a new 3km PB, beating the 13:33 PB that has stood for almost 3 years.

This morning was the first of our training sessions away from the track.  We ran a series of 200m hill repeats at a fairly good pace with walk recovery.  This fits perfectly with where I’m at, and should push my performance to the next level for the latter part of the cross country season.  In addition, I’m hoping it will improve my speed endurance for the 400m next summer.

Anyway, the winter season is progressing very well, with excellent progress.  I’m looking forward to seeing what I’m capable of.

- Tony via Tumblr

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Action shot from a recent Parkrun.

Action shot from a recent Parkrun.

- Tony via Tumblr

Cross Country and Other Updates for the Start of Winter.

With winter officially starting today (June 1), and the track season long over, focus has shifted to cross country and general base fitness.  Most of my training has been longer and slower work, combined with time in the gym for strength conditioning.  The remainder of my training has been some speed work, more focused on technique, some hill sprints and a lot of drills.
Competition wise, I have been doing a mix of things.  I started my cross country with a 6km leg of the XCR relays at Jells Park in Melbourne.  I’ve then been mixing things up, running either a 3km cross country, or combining the Saturday morning Parkrun (5km) with a faster 1km cross country in the afternoon.
Today, my club (Eaglehawk Athletics Club) joined forces with the Bendigo Harriers for the annual combined cross country relays.  I ran a leg of approximately 3km of the longer relay.
This ended up being my best longer run of the season so far, running 3.32km at an average of 4:40/km pace.  My first km was the fastest at 4:28.  This allowed me to overcompensate for the headwind encountered along the dam wall at this stage of the race.
Overall, I was very happy with my run, and this bodes well for the rest of cross country season and my general fitness for the coming season, which is still 4 months away.

- Tony via Tumblr

Saturday, May 04, 2019

AV Jells Park XCR Relays

Just back from my first run in the Athletics Victoria XCR cross country series.  In the past, I hadn’t considered running in the XCR series, because they are a distance event, but this year, I’ve decided on doing some longer work, mostly through Parkruns.  As a result, I decided to make myself available for some of the shorter XCR events this season.  As it turns out, with further examination of the XCR fixture, the only events that are suitable for me are the relays.  I’ve set myself a limit of 5k for distance running, and some of the relays are around 6km - slightly “long”, but close enough to be worth running.

After being approached by our regional cross country team manager to run in the season opener, I took a look at the program and offered myself on an “as needed” basis.  This allowed them to field an extra team and give more people a run in the event.

The event was run in Jells Park, which is a large area of parkland in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne, and for my division, consisted of 4 legs, each 2 laps of the 3km circuit (6km total).  I was set to run in the second leg, which suited me fairly well.

The course was set in undulating parkland, with the biggest ascent starting just behind the start/changeover zone, and continuing 400-500 metres beyond the end of the zone, a total of almost 1km.  Th rest of the course meandered around the park, approaching the main assembly area on 3 sides.  This also made it an excellent spectating course.

I went down to the start to get a sense of the lay of the land, and get familiar with the changeover zone for our division, then proceeded to warm up for my run, which would start around 25 minutes after the start.  Once warmed up, I proceeded to the changeover area, got myself ready for the race and then waited.

My teammate came up the chute to the changeover area, and we hi fived to officially change runners, and I was off.  The first part was a 650m ascent to the highest point on the course.  Being fresh, I took it steady to the top, rounded the first of the sharp bends, then started the first downhill stretch.  Passed the 1k mark in 4:40, near the main assembly area, then continued down the winding route to the next major turn, around 500 metres away.  Lap 1 halfway done!

Next, it was back uphill another 500 metres to the 2km mark, also near the assembly area.  The second kn was run in 5:19.  The last km of the loop was a meandering course over relatively gentle gradients, before the start of the almost 1km grind, during which the second lap started.  This third km took me 5:13.

The second lap was pretty much identical to the first, except for being routed into the “middle lane”, away from the relay change zones.  The second run up the long hill slowed my 4th km down to 6:00, and my final 2 km splits were 5:30 and 4:43 respectively.  My ability to sprint finish shows there. :)  Finished my leg in 31:17, as I handed over to the third runner.

After my leg, I got changed, then proceeded to one of the marshaling points to assist our first runner, who had now taken up marshal duty.  I helped there for the next 45 minutes or so, then went to the finish to greet our last runner when he finished.  Once we were all together, we had a quick chat with the other Bendigo teams, before heading home.  Just checking the results, we finished in 9th place out of 13 teams.

Anyway, it was an interesting and challenging day.  I’m definitely out of my league over these distances, but in chatting with the other guys, they’re equally blown away by my capabilities on the track over short distances.

I’ve decided to give a few of the other XCR relays a go later in the season.

- Tony via Tumblr

Monday, April 29, 2019

2019 Australian Masters Athletics Championships - And some insights.

The past month, since the Victorian Police and Emergency Services Games has been spent in training for the 2019 Australian Masters Athletics Championships, which were held over the past few days from Friday April 26th to Monday April 29th at Lakeside Stadium in Melbourne.

Training during this time consisted of a lot of speed endurance work with some speed and hurdles practice for the first 2 weeks, then more speed in the third week, before tapering off in the 4th week.  During a speed session nearly 2 weeks ago, I achieved speeds I haven’t done before, since taking up athletics 4 years ago, but not in a way that I can (yet) use in a race.  More on that aspect later.

For these championships, I entered the same 6 events that I ran at the Victorian Masters - 60, 100, 200 and 400 metre sprints, as well as the 100 and 400m hurdles, and logistically, these events were on days 1-3 (Friday to Sunday), which meant I could get away with staying 2 nights in Melbourne, with an early departure on Friday. 

Unfortunately, when the final program came out, my start on Friday was earlier than anticipated - 8:55 AM for the 400m hurdles.  This meant I needed to arrive at the track by around 7:30, relying on public transport to run on time.  This meant catching the 5:41 express to Melbourne, which would save a little travel time.  Fortunately on the day, the train ran on time, and I arrived in Melbourne in pouring rain.  A short tram trip later, and I was at the track right on 7:30 AM.  I picked up my race pack and checked in for my 100 and 400m events, while I was there, leaving plenty of time to pin my numbers on and warm up for the hurdles.

After warming up for the hurdles, I arrived at the start, only to find that the program was running at least 15 minutes late, which made the race even tougher for everyone.  I got around without touching a single hurdle and getting my technique into the strong and gusty wind the best it’s ever been, only to struggle with some of the “easier” tail wind hurdles.  Being a bit cold, I also felt a little stiff when going over the hurdles.  Finished in 5th place (4th among the Australians) with a slow time of 1:22.53.

Next event was the 100m sprint.  This time, there were 3 heats.  To progress to the final, I had to be either in the first two finishers, or one of the next 4 fastest overall.  Unfortunately, a poor start saw me run a slow 13.64, and I failed to qualify.

My final run was the heat for the 400m.  Knowing the calibre of the field, it was always going to be a tough ask to progress to the final.  The first 3 placegetters in each heat, plus the next 2 best times were to qualify for the final.  I ran well in the windy conditions and finished strong, but my time of 1:05.08 was a long way from what was needed to qualify.  Still, I was happy with my time, considering the tough conditions, the fact I had run the 400m hurdles and a 4AM start and 2 hour commute.  

This ended day 1.  I left the track, walked to my hotel, checked in, found a place for dinner and settled down for the night.

Next morning was another early start, with my 60m heat at 8:40AM.  This time, I only had to travel 2km (instead of 160!), but with breakfast only available from 7AM, timing was still going to be tight.  Everything progressed well, until I missed my tram stop, due to a lapse in judgement.  Attempting to find the quickest way to the track using the official app were fruitless, because the app assumed walking speeds and shorter walking legs than I’m capable of!  In the end, a quick look at Google Maps and hopping on the next tram back did the trick, and I was able to use the 1.1km walk from the tram stop to the track as the first stage of my warmup to save time.

After a quick (but still thorough) warmup, I was ready and lined up for my race.  There were 2 heats this time, with the first 3 in each heat and the next 4 fastest times progressing to the final.  With a better start than the 100m, I finished 5th in my heat, but my time of 8.51 seconds was one of those “next 4 fastest”, and I qualified for the final.

In the final, I had another good start.  Finished 9th with a time of 8.48 seconds.  Slower than I hoped, but still my best time for the season.

My final event was the 100m hurdles, which, like the 400m hurdles the previous time was a straight final against time.  Started out OK, but for some reason, I got out of stride at hurdle 6, necessitating a quick shuffle to get over safely, then a hard acceleration to restore a better hurdling speed within several metres, before having to go over the next one.  I cleared the rest without any further incident.  My time was slow at 23.05, and I finished 7th.

With the early finish, just before lunch, I was able to spend the afternoon catching up with a friend, before settling down for my second night in Melbourne.

I had only one event on Day 3, with the 200 metres starting at 9:30 AM, a much easier starting time.  This time, it was 2 heats, with the top 3 in each heat and the next 2 best times progressing to the final.  Had a good run, finishing third in my heat with a time of 27.26.  My third place finish meant automatic qualification for the final.

Ran well in the final too, though finishing 8th (last!) by 0.01 seconds, with a time of 27.19.

Overall, I was pleased with my performances.  The competition was tough, with quality fields from all over Australia, with some international invitationals.  With my relative inexperience and still a fair bit to work on, I couldn’t expect too much, but qualifying for at least one final was one goal that would be a measure of success.  Qualifying for 2 finals was a bonus! :)

The events of the past season have given me some more insights into my training and performances.  My main challenges are:

Proprioception - getting inaccurate feedback about where my limbs are.  This has been evident when watching video of races in the past.  I am looking forward to seeing the video that was shot during these championships, to get some more feedback on my technique. 

Slow conscious processing of movement.  This makes it difficult to learn complex movements, and means I have to work on technique a small piece at a time.  This is also making self monitoring during starts and acceleration, where things are rapidly changing, very difficult.  I’m effectively on “autopilot” until about 30-40 metres into the race, when things stabilise enough for me to monitor and fine tune my technique.

Some interaction between my acceleration and top speed is limiting my top speed by at least 5%.  This was the minimum estimate of the higher speeds achieved at training with a “rolling start”, instead of the block start used in races.  This amounts to a considerable potential gain.

Now that this season has ended for me, my focus is on next summer.  I’m going to be doing more work in the gym with weights and plyometrics for strength and speed.  I’m also going to be using cross country and Parkrun for general fitness.  Of course, I will be training at the track throughout, as well.

The more difficult part will be finding solutions to my neurological issues.  I will need to find out more information on how best to deal with this aspect, and possibly consult with others.  Progress here could make a huge difference to my performance.

Anyway, now is a time to regroup.  Bring on the 2019-2020 season! :)

- Tony via Tumblr

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Medals from the Police and Emergency Services Games.

2019 Victorian Police and Emergency Services GamesYesterday, I traveled to Croydon in...

2019 Victorian Police and Emergency Services Games

Yesterday, I traveled to Croydon in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs to compete in Track and Field at the Victorian Police and Emergency Services Games. Unfortunately, the weather forecast wasn’t the best, with cold conditions and showers.

On the way down, the weather deteriorated as I headed towards the eastern suburbs. On arrival, it was raining heavily, and the rain persisted for the whole day.

First event was the 100 metres. Despite the weather, I had a very good run. The official time recorded was 11.66 seconds, which seemed a bit quick. However, I easily won the gold.

I immediately went to the long jump, where I won the silver with my third jump of 3.78 metres.

After an hour’s break, the 200 metres was next. Ran a steady race to take the gold with a time of 27.93.

After the 200, we broke for lunch and the medal presentations for the morning events.

After lunch, the high jump and 400 metres got underway. These clashed, because the high jump was postponed from the morning due to rain, and there was a break in the weather after lunch. Due to the clash, I was only able to clear 1 metre, before going to the 400 metres.

In the 400, I raced against mostly younger guys, which ended up being a good match. Started on the inside, which meant I was behind in the staggered start. I passed one of the others by the end of the back straight, and passed the other younger guy in the second bend, where I normally push hard the race finished with a close race for the line, I was beaten to the line by a fraction of a second, but easily won the gold in my age group.

After the 400 metres, I returned to the high jump to attempt 1.30 metres, but that height is right on my limit on a good day, and clearing it after 400m was a bit optimistic. I had to be satisfied with 1 metre and silver.

After the high jump, a thunderstorm forced cancellation of the rest of the program. The final medal presentations were conducted, before proceedings were wound up early.

Another successful Games. Now on to preparing for the Australian Masters in 4 weeks time.

- Tony via Tumblr

Monday, March 25, 2019

2019 Victorian Masters Track and Field ChampionshipsThis past weekend, the Victorian Masters Track...

2019 Victorian Masters Track and Field Championships

This past weekend, the Victorian Masters Track and Field championships were held at their usual venue in the Melbourne suburb of Doncaster.

This year, I entered 6 events - the 4 sprints (60, 100, 200 and 400 metres), plus the 100 and 400m hurdles.

On day 1, I made the 2 hour journey to the track. As I didn’t need to be there until around 1 PM, I was able to take the drive fairly easy. I arrived at 11:45, checked in and had lunch.

First event was the 100 metres. Had a good run, including holding off a last minute challenge to finish with bronze in a season best time of 13.28.

Shortly afterwards were the 100m hurdles. Finished second with a time of 22.02. after the hurdles, I collected the medals for both events.

After a 2 ½ hour wait, my final event for the day, the 400m, was run. Conditions were difficult, with a strong headwind in the back straight and second bend. My race went mostly to plan, except for hitting the wall in the last 50 metres. Finished 5th, in a time of 1:04.30, which wasn’t bad, considering that I lost some fitness due to injury, and was recovering from a cold.

After the 400m, I left the track and checked into my hotel, had dinner and settled in for the night.

Day 2 started with the 400 m hurdles. Again conditions were difficult, with the strong wind from the previous day persisting. Finished with silver in a time of 1:16.80.

The day’s events were in rapid succession. Next up was the 60 metres. Finished 6th, didn’t quite get the start I wanted, and had a slow time of 8.65 seconds.

My final event was the 200 metres. The wind was a headwind for most of the bend, and a slight tailwind in the home straight. Had a strong run in the bend, and held pace well in the straight. By this time, I was in a 3 way race for the minor placings. Managed to push my way to a bronze medal in 27.81 seconds.

Overall, I had a good meet, with a couple of unexpected medals. Next up are the Victorian Police and Emergency Services Games on Saturday, followed by the Australian Masters in late April.

- Tony via Tumblr

Monday, January 28, 2019

2019 Victorian Country Championships.

This weekend was the 2019 Victorian Country Athletics Championships.  This year I extended myself and entered 7 individual events.  With the 2 relays on offer, that made the total number of events 9 for the 3 days.

On Saturday, my first event was the long jump.  I had been doing a bit of work on this event and have improved in recent weeks.  Anyway, my third attempt was my best jump at 4.47 metres.  My best for 2 years, and 2cm short of my PB.  This scored me a silver medal.

A couple of hours later were the 400m hurdles.  For my second attempt at this event, I ran 1:15.16 and won another silver medal.

Sunday looked like my toughest day for winning medals, with big fields and a lot of talented opposition.  First up was the 100 metres.  Here, I got off to a good start and managed to stay close to the front of the pack.  Finished third with a bronze medal in a season best time of 13.39.

Next was my only other field event, the triple jump.  Because of my niggling foot injury, this is an event that I’ve rarely done this year (not since the Australasian Police and Emergency Services Games in October).  I quickly found myself in a battle for bronze and coming from behind.  However, on my third attempt, I managed to sneak into third place by 1cm with an 8.15m jump.  On my 4th and final attempt, I was able to extend that to 8.32 metres, giving me a decisive bronze medal and a triple jump PB.

My last event for Sunday was the 400 metres.  I’ve been in my best ever 400m form this past month with both fitness and tactics on my side, or so and knew I had a lot of competition.  The race went pretty much to plan.  I started fast, then settled to target pace for the back straight.  Despite the headwind here, I didn’t compensate and took the risk of maintaining pace into the wind.  At the 200m mark, it was time to increase speed slightly and work the second bend into the strongest headwinds.  This put me in perfect position for a race for third place.  At the top of the straight, I was level with another runner for third place.  At this point, I went all out and gave it everything, hoping I could maintain pace for the last 85 metres of the race.  This tactic paid off, and I was able to pull ahead slowly, gaining over a second on my opponent in the straight, winning bronze with a time of 1:03.02.

Today was the last day of the meet, and I had 4 events.  First up was the 100m hurdles.  Ran second in a time of 21.62 for another silver medal.

My last individual event was the 200 metres.  As is typical of multi day meets, some of the competitors dropped out of the competition, so the field was smaller than expected.  I got away to a great start and by the time I had reached top speed, it was obvious that I would finish second, barring the unexpected.  I settled back to cruise the rest of the way to the finish line.  I did consider seeing how close I could get to the front runner, but decided it wasn’t worth the risk and kept cruising.  Finished with silver in a time of 27.67.

Now it was time for the relays.  The first was the 4x100m relay.  There were only 2 entries in our age group, but unfortunately, the other entry was forced to scratch from the event, meaning we only had to complete the event as a formality for the gold medal.  Pity, as I was hoping for a good race.

The 4x400m was a different story.  This event was different, because there’s no 50+ age group, we had to run in the 40+ age group.  This ensured a lot of competition.  By now, conditions were hot, with a strong headwind in the back straight.  I ran the first leg.  Here, I used similar tactics to the individual 400m the previous day, though the heat, headwind and fatigue did make this run harder than the previous one.  However, I was still able to finish strongly and leave us in a good position for the rest of the relay as I handed the baton only slightly behind the leader.  The other 3 guys in our team performed very well, and we took the gold medal by about 5 seconds.

This was one of my most successful meets with 9 medals from 9 events, a result I’m very happy with.  From here, it’s a mix of fire brigade and athletics for the next month or so, before focusing on the fire brigade state championships in March.

- Tony via Tumblr