Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Last athletics meet for the year.

Had my last athletics meet for the year last night.  It was supposed to be on Saturday, but with forecast temperatures of 42C, the Saturday meet was cancelled, and last night was organised as a cut down replacement.

With my leg now healed, I entered the 100 and 400 metres, as well as the long jump.  The 100m was first, and although healed, I needed to take things a bit cautious.  Despite taking the start slower than normal, and taking my time to reach top speed, I ran a PB of 13.68.  I pulled up a bit tight in the left hamstring, but still able to run.  My technique wasn't as good as it has been at training in the last month, so there's plenty of room to bring that time down.

Next was the 400m.  With my hamstring now a bit tight, I took the start very cautiously, before settling into the rest of the race.  Finished well, with a PB of 65.76.

My final event was the long jump.  I still have a lot to learn with any of the field events, but it was fun taking part.  My first jump ended up being my best at 3.51m.

It was good to back running sprints.  I plan to train through the Christmas break to keep my fitness up, and fine tune my technique for the country championships in late January.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Change of pace (literally!)

Back on the athletics track this week.  Unfortunately, I picked up a minor niggle on Thursday, which was sufficient to rule me out of the sprints.  As a consolation, I decided to run the 800m, which would cause less stress on my legs. 

Unlike the other week, I had sufficient leg strength available to perform a near normal start, then I settled into the rest of the race.  First lap was completed within 1:18-1:19, significantly better than any previous attempt at this distance.  During the second lap, I was passed by a couple of other runners.  However, in the last 100m, I was able to surge ahead and overtake one of them, finishing third in my heat, with a PB time of 2:45.25, 6.03 seconds better than any previous race.

While I'm not a middle distance runner, I was happy with my performance today.  Hopefully, I'll be back to sprints next week.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Fire brigade season begins!

Yesterday was the start of the fire brigade competition season for me.  This was the first competition since I started athletics training, so it was always going to be interesting to see how I went.  The weather was hot and overcast, but with only a slight breeze for most of the day.

First event was the ladder race.  Because the sprint part of the race is only short, and I haven't been able to work on my starts, it was difficult to tell if there was any effect on my performance.  However, due to a lack of ladder training (as our training track is under repair), the climb wasn't as smooth as normal.  Following the ladder race was the hose and ladder 5s.  Here was the real test, and the reason I took up athletics.  After collecting my gear off the reel and starting the sprint stage, I took off.  For the first couple of seconds, I had to be a bit careful, due to hose near my feet, then I could open up to top speed for a few seconds, until my assistant needed me to slow down (about 15 metres short of where I normally would).  The final part, was the climb, which had a bit of a slip near the top.  However, the run still finished in around 26 seconds.  I estimate that the short burst at top speed took a good 1/2 second off the time it took me to get to the top.  A combination of sprint and specific skills training could take another second off.

Next event was the 2 man marshall, one of the dry events.  Here, I'm at a disadvantage, because I'm not as quick at the turns, and there's no long sprints.  Unfortunately, a loose coupling put us out of that event.  Following the marshalls was the pumper events.  In the pumper and ladder 5s, I ran my usual ladder position.  By now, I was getting my muscle memory back and the climb was smoother.  However, a technical fault prevented the run from being completed, and we were granted a re run.  In the re run, everything went well, and we got a time of just over 18 seconds, which was enough for a 5th place, and less than a second slower than our 2014 state winning time.  Following the 5s was the pumper 4s.  In this event, something didn't go quite right, resulting in a "miss".

The rest of the day was hose and reel events, starting with the C section 4s.  There were only two C section sides, so we got to race against each other, instead of running singly.  This made the event more exciting.  I was running hydrant - a position I haven't run for some time.  However, with our pole only able to run on the right hand side of the reel due to injury, the hydrant person has to cross over in front of the reel, after picking up the hydrant, and my speed is a huge advantage here, not only allowing me to safely cross over well in front of the reel, but also have plenty of time to be setup.  The run went well, I got to the plug in plenty of time and was setup just as the coupler came to couple the hose on, allowing me to turn the water on immediately.  Not only were we first to hit the disc, but the other side was given a miss, meaning either way, we had won the event.

After the 4s, the A side asked me to fill in as first assist for their hose and reel 8s.  I had a good run here as well, though the guys on the opposite side of the reel to me had some sort of major hiccup.  Despite these problems, we actually won the event in a surprisingly good time (29 seconds)! :)

Due to a lack of training (because of the track maintenance issue), we didn't run in the hose and reel 6s.  This event can be very dangerous if not run properly, and half the team has never even run in a 6 team.  Following the 6s was the champion 4s.  We fielded a different team to the C 4s, and I was back in pole for this event.  I had a good run, though by this stage, I was being a little cautious not to overstress my hamstring (it didn't give any trouble).  Unfortunately, there was a miss somewhere.

The final event was the Y 8.  We didn't have enough people to field a team, and we hadn't been able to train it either.  However, another team was also short and asked if we could provide 2 extras to make up their numbers.  I ran pole and third branch - pull the reel to the far end of the track, hand it over to the catcher, then put the branch onto the hose and clip onto the ladder runner.  I used to run this position a few years ago, so I knew what I was doing, and only had to learn the specific way the team ran their Y8 (there's _many_ ways to run this event!).  Had a good run, with everything going well.  It's certainly not the first time I've filled in for another team, and I always enjoy that experience.  It's good to get a feel for how others run things.

So in summary, it was a very successful day.  Both our A and C teams won their respective sections, with the A side winning the grand aggregate and the C side getting 5th overall.  As for myself, the hard work of the last few months is bearing fruit, with significantly faster track speed when not on the reel, helping in the ladder 5s and when running the hydrant position.  The next competition is not until January 17, so my focus will switch back to athletics for the next several weeks.  I plan to keep training right through the Christmas break, and there are only 2 weeks without athletics meets.  The plan is to run athletics until the bulk of the fire brigade season, then focus there until the state championships in March.  A fortunate coincidence is that my last week of athletics will be the Victorian Country championships in late January.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Athletics week 7 - a rollercoaster ride

Been a bit slack posting this update.  Since my previous post and success, I had put in a good week of training.  Some technique improvements that significantly increased my top speed at training.  Later that week, I was also running 200m even faster than the PB I set 5 days earlier.  So, with my 100m having been around for over 2 months, I was pretty confdent of setting a new time for myself.  However, around 30 metres into the race, my left hamstring gave out, and I was unable to maintain speed.  I did finish the race, in a time of 20.95. That ended my day there and then.

3 days later, I had already entered in a Masters meet.  After the hamstring issue, I changed my entry to include the 800m event.  I don't normally run the 800m, it's a bit long for me to be really competitive, but it is a good one when I don't have power available.  Despite a (deliberately) very slow start and being unable to push into the wind on one part of the track, I finished with a PB of 2:51.28 (previous was around 2:55).  I also competed in the long jump, taking it easy, with a best jump of 3.20m.

The rest of last week was light training sessions and some massage.  The massage revealed a lot of lower back/upper glute tightness, which is likely to have contributed to the hamstring problem.  Last Saturday, there was no local meet, and I took the opportunity to mostly rest, but did some walking, running, strength work and stretching in the hydrotherapy pool at the local gym.  My last day of work for the year on Friday also helped recovery, as I do quite a bit of walking and light to moderate physical work on the job.

Returned to training last night.  This was my first real test since the weekend rest.  At athletics training, we were doing 400m starts.  I did take a couple of precautions to avoid overstressing my hamstring.  Firstly, I did a "rolling start", instead of a normal block start, and I did slightly limit how much power I used in the first 7 seconds, especially in the early acceleration phase.  After several starts, we finished the session with a full 400m run.  I completed that in 67 seconds, which is comparable to my 66.65 PB. 

A 15 minute drive across town and it was fire brigade training time.  Because we were time limited, we trained the dry events, known as marshalls.  On the positive side for me, there are no long stretches where I would be likely to stretch out too far, but these events require you to stay low, which does increase stress on the hamstrings.  However, I had no issues during this session either.  With a bit of care, I'll be 100% for the weekend.

This weekend is the first of the fire brigade competitions, so I'll be putting my sprint training to the test, especially in the wet events, where there are relatively long sprints required.  More news as it comes to hand! :)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Athletics week 6 - 200m magic and a nasty headwind

An interesting day on the track today.  Conditions were mild, but with a headwind starting at least as strong as last week and increasing from there at times.  This week, I entered the 200m and 60m events, same as last week.

Now that my injury issues are behind me, I could focus on running at my best.  The 200m started well.  Around 70-80 metres into the race, I felt the headwind take effect on the final part of the bend.  I noticed I was somewhere near the front of the field, so I gave it everything from there until the finish and hoped that my fitness carried me to the line, which it did.  End result was a new PB of 28.28 seconds (0.33 seconds off last week's time).  I also won my heat by 0.38 seconds.

The 60m sprint was run in difficult wind conditions, as the wind had picked up by this time.  Unfortunately, official wind readings weren't available, but by feel, it was probably in excess of 5 m/S.  I got off to a good start, but took a bit longer than normal to settle into rhythm (pity it wasn't a 100m event!).  Ran a solid 9.11 seconds, which was still OK, given that everyone else's times looked around 1/2 a second slower than their normal times too.

This week's relay was a 4x400m event.  There was no chance of a record this time around, as the existing record was set by a combination much faster than ours.  However, it was a great experience, as I had never run one of these relays before, but had watched them on TV.  I ran the second leg, which meant that my first change to receive the baton was done in lanes, then I was the runner to cut into the inside lane on the back straight.  Had a good run with a reasonably clean change to receive the baton, a smooth transition to the inside lane and passing another team on the home bend.  I finished my leg strongly, before passing the baton on to the third runner.  I really enjoyed this experience and look forward to the next opportunity to run a 4x400m relay.

Next week, it's back to the 100m and 400m sprints, as well as the 4x100m relay.  I'm also looking at competing in the long jump for something different.  Training wise, I still have to work on my starts to get out of the blocks faster, as well as more repetition, and managing the balance between my various training sessions.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Athletics - Week 5

So where was week 4 you ask?  It was on, but I had to pull out of all events due to injury.  Anyway, I came back this week, almost fully recovered from my injury, and now armed with a pair of spikes.  I had hedged my bets, entering the 800m, in addition to the usual 200m and 60m events.  The plan was to run the 200m, see how everything was holding up - if good, run the 60, otherwise run the 800, which wouldn't stress any weak areas.

First event was the 200m.  Conditions were tough, with a stiff headwind (later measured at 3m/S), blowing almost directly up the home straight.  This was my first actual race in spikes..  Anyway, I took the start a little easier than normal, so any acceleration issues didn't overstress my groin.  About 120m from home, I felt the full force of the headwind and felt it was safe to open up and hold that to the finish.  My energy held up and I finished strongly with a PB time of 28.61 (down from 28.96) seconds. 

Next event was the 60m sprint.  This would be a test of my recovery, as there's no room to take it too easy over such a short distance.  Got away to a good start, and cautiously accelerated to near top speed, finishing in a PB time of 8.70 (down from 8.91).  As is common for me, the effect of the headwind was hardly felt in the shorter race, doe to the excess power I have.  In both sprints, the spikes were certainly responsible for a significant portion of the improvement, as well as improved fitness, especially in the 200m.

To finish the day, we ran a "Swedish relay", which consists of 4 legs - 100m, 200m, 300m and 400m.  The teams were mixed together in age and gender, rather than tuned to win specific age groups, as this was more of a fun event, rather than a serious one.  I got the 300m leg in my race, which is towards the longer end of my range.  However, this run went better than I expected.  The whole 300 metres felt good, even the upwind in the home straight, just before passing the baton to the 400m runner.  This was my first experience with a "400m" style of changeover ever, which went well.

Anyway, a good day in all, I'm back on the track with a vengeance, and ready to build on this success.  Next project is to (carefully!) work on my starts and sort out the issues there.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Back in form. :)

Just about recovered from my injury.  Athletics training was cut short tonight, because of a thunderstorm which arrived just as we finished the warmup.  So, it was on to the fire brigade training.  Tonight, after the warmup, we had two 75 yard (68.55m) timed sprints.  My best time was 9.58 seconds.  Even allowing for this being hand timed, it equates to a time marginally faster than my 60m PB, nearly 2 weeks ago.  However, I was being a bit cautious, especially at the start and early acceleration phase, only opening up (and keeping that to 95%) relatively late in the run.

I'm looking forward to getting back on the track on Saturday.  - Tony.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

And now for something different.

Last weekend was a bit of a mixed bag.  My groin was still causing issues, and I was forced to withdraw from Saturday's track sprints.  However, on Sunday I had a 5k run, which I had entered ages ago.  In the longer, slower race, my injury wasn't an issue.  I had good results, running a PB of 25:37, just a fraction slower than my goal of 25 minutes (5 minutes/km).  As this was around 90 seconds faster than my previous PB, I was happy with the result.

Meanwhile, training goes on, and I'm steadily recovering.  Also had my first test run in spikes, which was quite successful.  Looking forward to when I can return to pushing the envelope. :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Getting off on the wrong foot! (or Oops, I just discovered a major bug!)

Had an interesting night at athletics training tonight.  As is normal for Tuesday, we focused on the shorter sprints, working on pure speed, rather than sprint endurance.  After the warmup and a couple of standard drills, we did 5 flying 30m sprints - these involve building up speed in the first 30 metres, then going all out for the next 30, and then for the final 30m, relaxing, while maintaining as much speed as possible.  In this drill, I performed quite well, with good form and high speed.

Next, we were given a choice of activities.  I decided to work on my starts, because I haven't spent much time on them.  That's when the fun started.  It turns out that despite having quite a fast start, I actually had a number of significant issues, and I was achieving my performance on brute force in the legs, and possibly losing in the acceleration phase too.  My arms and legs just wouldn't coordinate.  Further investigation seemed to indicate I was starting on the wrong foot, so with guidance from one of the other guys, I swapped feet around on the blocks.  This got  the arms working right, though things were still a bit rough, as the unconscious mind was still trying to do its thing, and on one attempt, this conflict resulted in a minor groin strain.

So where to, from here?  firstly, recovering from this strain, which will hopefully only take a few days, and from there, sort out the issues with my starts.  It's going to take a lot of repetition and some guidance, with the promise of significant improvements in my times. The experiment continues... :)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Athletics Week 3 - 2 PBs and a hand in a record!

Had another successful day on the track today.  This week was the alternate program, for the first time this season.  I entered in the 200m and 60m sprints.

The 200m was first.  Conditions were warm, with a stiff breeze that was a full on headwind on the bend, and a slight headwind (1.2 m/S) in the home straight at the time.  Had a good run, able to maintain top speed for most of the race.  Despite the challenging wind, I ran a PB of 28.96 - 0.19 seconds faster than the previous PB from September.

The next event was the 60m.  With over an hour between events, I had to spend a bit more time warming up.  Had an excellent start, got out of the blocks ahead, and finished with a time of 8.91.  As my previous 8.8 seconds was hand timed, this would be a PB.

My last event for the day was the 4x200m relay.  As in previous weeks, I was part of an over 40s club team.  This week, I ran in second position, which meant taking the baton from someone else for the first time in 34 years! :)  This run went well.  With much easier wind conditions by now, it felt at least as fast as my individual 200m race, over 2 hours earlier, and both baton changes were reasonably smooth.  We were going for the track record, which we managed to break by 2.7 seconds, as well as beating another team in our age group, who also broke the old record. :)

So, another successful day on the track, finishing on a high note. :)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Athletics - Week 2

Today was quite different conditions to last week, with cooler temperatures and the wind starting out as almost a cross wind and turning into a headwind as the day progressed, but the draw was the same, so I entered the 100m and 400m events.

The 100m went well, felt like my best ever, and I had plenty of power right up to the finish.  However, the clock told a different story.  14.00 seconds, just short of my PB.  However, this is the first time since starting training that I've run with a headwind (1.7 m/S officially).  A quick analysis of the results shows that the headwind affected me much less than most of the others, which I did expect.  My time was slightly faster than last week, though last week I was being a bit cautious.  It is also only 0.13 seconds slower than my PB, which was set with a tail wind.

Again, 400m was next.  Conditions were tough, with the wind having now changed from more of a cross wind to a near headwind in the final straight.  For the first half of the race, I took full advantage of the tail wind on the back straight, before taking on the headwind for the last 150m or so.  Finished with a time of 66.65, 1.22 seconds better than last week's PB.  This run also took everything I had, which made it double as an excellent training run to build fitness.

My last event was the medley relay.  This involves 2x200m legs, then a 400m leg and finishing with an 800m leg.  I ran the first 200m leg, starting into the wind (where I had a power advantage), before turning towards the back straight with a tail wind.  This went well.  I had recovered from my previous all out 400m run.  Overall, we did OK, except one of the guys had some soreness, and a rough changeover later in the race (long after my stage finished).

Overall, I was pleased with the day.  My 400m performances continue to improve, far beyond anything I had anticipated when I started.  However, 100m improvements remains a challenge, and I am taking extra steps to try and improve my form in this event.

Next week is the alternate program, which means I will be entering the 60m and 200m sprints.  It will be interesting to see how I go in these events.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Track season begins.

Today was the official start of track season.  I had entered the 100m and 40m sprints, but due to an injury 11 days ago, there was some uncertainty about the 100.  However, I decided to go ahead with that race, as my injury appeared to have come good by Thursday.  So, I headed to the track on a hot and humid afternoon.

The 100m was my first event.  Not wanting to cause further injury, I took this race a bit easier than I normally would.  The start was my usual fast start, but after that, I eased into the faster parts of the race, only pushing things in the last 20 metres.  The time was 14.04, slightly slower than my previous 13.87 PB.

400m was next.  At this distance, I didn't need to reach quite the same speeds, so the risk of injury was very low.  In this race, I ran my usual race plan, allowing a bit for the headwind in the back straight.  Finished strongly in 3rd place in my heat with a PB time of 67.87.

After the 400m, I was asked to run a leg of the mens 40+ 4x100m relay team.  My position was first, to take advantage of my fast starts.  Like the 100m, I took this one carefully.  Once I was up to speed, I eased into the race.  At the 60m mark, I felt good, so I decided to push the speed up to near my top speed, before passing the baton to the next team member.  Together, we completed the event within 1.5 seconds of the track record, and all of us were running well within out capabilities! :)  Looking forward to having a real crack at the track record. :)

Friday, October 02, 2015

A couple of hiccups

This week hasn't been one of my better weeks.  Firstly, on Tuesday, I pulled a muscle in the left of my groin early in a series of short (30m - 50m sprints).  That ended the night's planned training, and it was off to treat the injury with ice. :(

Yesterday, I did manage two light training sessions.  I'm already capable of around 1/2 of my top speed and 2/3 of my 200m pace.  My best 200m interval was 42 seconds (compared to 29 second race time and 33-36 second training pace).  I also did well in the fire brigade training session afterwards.  Unfortunately, I had a cold come on suddenly late yesterday afternoon, so I'm now out of action because of that. :(  The silver lining is that it might be a good opportunity for a proper rest and possibly some targeted rehab training in the gym.

Athletics season starts on October 10.  I've entered the 100m and 400m events, and hope to be at least capable of the 400 (which is a lot less stress on muscles), but would like to run both.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Encouraging early signs

Training has been going well at the athletics club.  Those who have been following my posts on this blog will recall that I initially started training with the athletics club to improve my sprint performance for the fire brigade competitions, and I later decided to compete in athletics as well.

Anyway, last night, the local fire brigades held a "winter comp" (yes, it's Spring now, this is the tail end of the series).  Last night's events were the 2 man marshall, in which we ran just over 19 seconds in our best run.  This time is at least a second better than anything I ran this time last year, yet, I felt I could go significantly faster.  The next event was the 2 man Y, which only juniors (under 17s) run in the main competitions.  Our best time was good enough to get 4th place.  In these two events, the distances between each piece of work are very short, so the improvements aren't due to increased sprint speed.  I suspect that training has subtly improved my overall gross motor coordination, giving me slightly better agility.

In the final event, I had a chance to try out my sprint capabilities, as after I finished my work, I then had a sprint of around 20 metres to the finish.  The sprint did go well, and I had to pull up much harder to slow to a safe speed, before I ran into the fence at the end of the track! :)

In the meantime, training has been going well.  Speed and sprint endurance are still gradually improving.  Ran some hill climbs on Thursday, which brought out my power - I don't slow down that much going up hill.

So, early indications are promising for the coming summer on the fire track.  Time will tell, when the season starts in early December.  In the meantime, athletics season starts on the 10th of October, which will give me plenty of opportunities to test and improve my speed.

- Tony.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Success on the track!

Today was the "Spring Special" athletics meet, which finished just under an hour ago.  This is the first real opportunity to test how my training is progressing.  I started intense training around 6 weeks ago with the local athletics club, but the effects of training are already clearly evident.

Today, I entered 3 events, namely the 3 sprints - 100m, 200m and 400m.  My previous PBs for these events were:

100m - 14.68 seconds, set July 12
200m - 31.62 seconds, set July 12
400m - 74.55 seconds, set August 6

The July times were before I commenced training, and the August time was within the first week or two of starting, so they are baseline figures.

Today, I ran 13.87 in the 100m.  This is a 0.81 second improvement, due mainly to improved technique from training.  However, there is a lot more room for improvement, as I push my neurological limits further.  I have very high power available, from the fire competitions, but still have to convert more that to speed.  My starts, where the power shows, are as good as anyone else.  Today's gain represents approximately half of my goal to achieve by March (in the order of 1.5 seconds over 100m).

In the 200m, I ran 29.15, which beat my previous mark by 2.47 seconds.  Here, a small part of the improvement was technique, with the bulk being improved sprint endurance and better race strategy.

400 metres was the big improvement.  I used to always struggle with this distance in my school years.  I ran 68.09 seconds, which is a massive improvement of 6.46 seconds.  Here, the bulk of that improvement comes from a combination of improved sprint endurance, as well as applying pace management techniques I've used for years in longer distances (1km to marathon) to the shorter race.

Overall, I'm really happy with my gains, and there's more to come.

- Tony

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A breakthrough, and a test to come!

Made a breakthrough this week in training.  With the help of the coach, I was able to significantly increase my stride length, which in turn increases my top sprint speed.  Now, I just have to practice that technique consistently, to make it ingrained.  It took a few goes to find a way for me to understand the instructions, then sense and make the necessary changes to my technique.

Good timing too, this Sunday I will be competing in a track meet.  I have entered the 100m, 200m and 400m sprints, and look forward to seeing how much progress I've made against my previous performances.

Also, the fire brigade training starts in a couple of weeks, which will be another opportunity to review my progress.  Looking forward to this summer! :) -Tony

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Making good progress...

Already at this early stage, I am making steady progress in my track training.  The longer sprints are showing the biggest improvement.  On Sunday, I ran a 73 second 400m training run, and that was after slowing down, because I was targeting a specific pace, so I'm capable of a significantly faster time.  3 weeks ago, I ran 74.55 in a race, so I'm easily beating recent race times now.  At 200m, my 31.6 second race time from last month has been bettered by steady training runs around 30 seconds, again with plenty in reserve.

100 metres is more of a challenge.  While my natural power suits this event, improvement here relies on improving coordination, rather than sprint endurance, which is where the gains have been made in the longer sprints.  However, I feel that I am gradually adopting better form.  In addition, my starts are among the fastest in our training group, being able to gain almost a metre in the first few steps.  I feel as though I'm expending less effort to maintain the same speed, though with a mild groin strain from Sunday, I wasn't able to really push my top speed.I will have an opportunity to see how much my race time has improved next month.

Looking forward to seeing what the summer seasons (both track and fire brigade) bring.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

More training

Another training session.  This one consisted of 6 x 200m sprints with decreasing rest between them (5, 4, 3, 2, 1 minutes respectively).  The aim is to run each of these at a 400m or 800m pace.  Given that this was likely to be a tough workout, I was initially conservative, with my first run being around 38 seconds, which corresponds to a time of 76 seconds for 400m.  My time for the 400 was actually 74.55 a few days ago, and I was surprised that the first 200 was so fast.  The next 4 sprints were in the range of 33 - 36 seconds, all faster than my 400m pace, and the final 200m run, which took place after only a minute's rest after the previous run, was still around 38 seconds.

I enjoyed this session and surprised myself at how well I performed in this training session.  I thought I knew myself well, but I'm discovering my capabilities are well in excess of what I had thought.  I'm really looking forward to competing in the coming track season.

And the athletics club have been showing interest in having me run in the 4x400m relay in my age group. :)

- Tony

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Breaking new ground - conquering a tough distance.

Made a major advance in my sporting pursuits last night.  I attended a small twilight athletics competition after training last night.  Because it was a small meet, event choice was limited - 1500m, 400m and 2 miles.

I am a sprinter by nature, but have always struggled with the 400 metres, and to a lesser extent with the 200, so I didn't expect any miracles with the 400 and was doing it more as a training run and to participate in the program.

During my training session, I did a number of 400m runs with a break (usually a lap of walking) in between.  The first run was like so many 400m runs of the past, a good strong start, fading around the 200 metre mark, but it was still around 80 seconds - among the faster ones I've done.  I did several more 400m runs, but eased back a bit, as well as some run throughs on the main straight to keep warm.

So, race time comes, I got off to a good start, then eased back - 100m, 150m, 200m and I'm still feeling rather good.  Hit the 300 metre mark, still feeling good, much to my surprise, so I decided to give it everything for the run home, and instead of running out of steam, I actually got faster, finishing strong.

The final time was 74.55 seconds, somewhat better than expected, but more significantly, with what happened, I feel I will improve on that dramatically, because it's as though I've unlocked an energy system that until now has been largely inaccessible (but most people have).

For the future, I will work on my 400 metre race more and see what I can do with this new found ability, and I will experiment with 800 and maybe 1500 metres to see what effect this has in the middle distance range, which has always been the most difficult for me.  Another benchmark will be my 3km cross country runs, where my performance is now well studied, with a couple of recent PBs among them.

- Tony

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

A new strategy, and two new sports!

After a successful 2014-2015 season, I took the chance to review my performances and looked for areas of improvement.  I feel I can improve.  Firstly, my strength preparation wasn't as good as it was the previous year, which may have contributed to injury issues.  Secondly, I haven't been satisfied with my top speed and have been looking for training options in that area.

To address these issues, I've stepped up the gym work to deal with the strength issue.  This has been going extremely well over the past 2 months, with good gains all over, and key muscles are as strong as they've ever been.  Resistance training has proven in previous seasons to be effective in both injury prevention, as well as developing the power required to haul the reel down the track.

To improve my speed, I decided that coaching by a sprint coach would be the way to go.  Through contacts, I was put in touch with the local athletics club, and have commenced cross country running (for a bit of stamina, as well as social interaction and networking), and have just started training with the club at the local athletics track.  Coincidentally, the week after I started cross country, there was a winter athletics meet, so I entered in the 100 and 200 metre sprints.  Despite being at the end of a 4 month break from any sprints, not having spiked and the weather being wet, I did quite well ib the 100m event, especially in the start, where my power worked to my advantage.  The 200m was a bit more of a struggle, but I've never been particularly good at this distance.  Definitely need a lot more work there.  Anyway, I've got the athletics bug, and though the season overlaps the fire competition season, I should be able to compete in a number of meets over the warmer months..

So I've now started training.  Tonight was particularly well suited to me, being focused on speed work.  I think the process of rewiring my motor pathways is already beginning, I felt a noticeable improvement as the drills progressed, though there's still a long way to go.  My goal is to take more than a second (preferably 1.5+) off my 100m time, which will give me the time I need in one of our key events to get down the track and up the ladder in a time that would give us a State win.

Anyway, the big experiment has begun, how successful it is, I won't know until at least the summer.  Pushing this boundary is something I have seen no documentation on for autistic people.  However, I have noticed one side effect, my mood in general has improved, even in the middle of the coldest winter I've experienced for over 20 years.

- Tony

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

autismwalk 2015

The weekend of May 23-24 saw the second autismwalk fundraiser.  This is a walk that takes place around a circuit in a park over a 24 hour period.  This year, 5 core walkers, who are all on the spectrum took part.  I was one of those walkers, this being my second year.

For the event, I walked a total of 119 laps of the park, which equated to 95km, some 14km more than in the previous year.  Interestingly, I spent less time actually walking, a bit under 16 hours.  The rest of the time was rest breaks, plus an estimated 1 hour stopping each lap to record the lap count! (119 times an average of 30 seconds ;) ).

As a fundraiser, it was a huge success, raising a lot of money for iOS devices for people on the spectrum.  In addition, it engaged the public, who joined in throughout the 24 hours to support us.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to next year, when I am planning to break the 100km barrier.

- Tony

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

From one extreme to the other!

Once the competition season ends in March, the next major physical event on my calendar is the 24 hour autismwalk charity fundraiser.  This year, the walk takes place on the weekend of 23 - 24 May.

Training is interesting, because up until the second Monday in March, my focus is entirely on speed and power.  The longest run I have there is a little over 100 metres (admittedly often much of that is with 150kg in tow), and the longest event takes less than 40 seconds.  So somehow I have to transition from that to walking for at least 18 hours in 24, in a 10 week period.  In addition, time for long walks is limited.  For some reason, this year has been socially busier than normal since the state championships.  Normally it goes fairly quiet, but not so much this time.

Last year proved that I could make the transition, and this year I am taking a similar approach.  The trick for me is to incorporate walking into my daily routine as much as possible.  I normally cycle or drive everywhere, but the majority of those trips have been replaced by walks.  It just means I need to allow a bit more time to get to places.  These short (2 - 10 km) walks tend to be done fast.  In addition, I try and schedule a few 3 - 4 hour walks, taking advantage of the network of shared walking and cycling paths around town here.  These usually end up being in the 20 - 30 km range, and are taken at a slightly slower pace.  This year, I seem to be a bit ahead of where I was this time last year, with both maximum average speed and "cruising speed" somewhat higher than they used to be.

At just over a month out, I'm feeling confident of both making the 24 hours and achieving the 100 km goal I've set for myself. 

After the walk, the long campaign to transition back to speed and power begins, and I will attempt to rewrite my motor neurology yet again. :) - Tony

Highlights from the last year

The past 10 - 11 months have really flown by, and not much activity on the blogs.  Thought I'd better give a brief update.

I took part as one of the "core walkers" in the inaugural autismwalk charity fundraiser last June.  This walk is a 24 hour event that takes place in a local park around a walking track, and as a core walker, I was expected to be out on the track for the majority of the time.  I logged 16 hours out of the 24, and covered 81 km, which is among the top contenders for the longest walk I've ever done in 24 hours.  However, one or two rogaines in years gone by are in a similar ballpark for distance, though I didn't have access to the same level of technology to log those accurately back then.

After the walk, it was back to basic fitness training in the gym for the rest of the winter and early spring, into October.  I also did some outdoor fitness work with some of my teammates once a week during this period.  As regular training ramped up during October, my self directed work tapered off.

In late October, I was awarded "Runner of the Year" in my team for the 2013 - 2014 season at the fire brigade's annual awards presentation dinner, which capped off a good season.

The fire brigade competition season started on the last week of November, through to early March.  This year, we ran quite well, managing to take out the season aggregate in our class.  I had a fairly good season, though some hamstring trouble took the shine off it.  The first time was in late January, but fortunately, I was taking the next competition off to participate in the Pride March for the CFA's first official involvement, and the following weekend had no competitions, which gave me plenty of time to rest.  The second time the issue came back was in my first home and reel event at the state championships in March.  Somehow, despite my injury, and that of one of my teammates in the same run, we kept up with the opposing side and even won the heat!  Being the first day of competition, this had a significant impact for all of us, as it meant we were a couple of people down, and I was not available for the usual heavy workload.  

Initially, it looked like I was out for the weekend, but I was able to run my usual position on the ladder in the pumper and ladder event, because the only physically stressful part was the vertical climb, which wasn't affected.  I also managed to run the Y8, but in a different position, again where I could avoid some of the stresses.  Turned out I still had quite a bit of useful power, despite the injury.  Finally, on the last day, probably the riskiest event being the hose and ladder 5 event, I had to sprint the entire length of the run, before climbing the ladder.  Despite some soreness, the sprint went well.  Unfortunately an unrelated slip on the ladder cost us a place.  In the end, we came up with a couple of minor placings for the 3 days, which was good, given that the team was severely disrupted, missing one key runner altogether (the other injured person was out for the weekend), and myself being limited in what I could do. 

In the end, I identified a couple of key issues to address for next season.  Firstly, it looks like I have to pay more attention to hamstring strength during the summer months, especially over the Christmas break and the weekends where there's no competition.  Secondly, I'm not happy with my speed.  With the power I have, and other traits, I feel I should be able to go faster in a sprint.  I also need to pick up a second or two for the hose and ladder event, to ensure I can get to the top in sufficient time to win the state championships.  Something isn't coordinating quite right, and my running form is a little unusual at higher speeds.  A couple of weeks later, during a Street parade march, I did notice that while my legs were in perfect time to the band, I had trouble with sensing where my arms were.  Past history suggests I can find ways to compensate, if I find the right way to train.  This is still under investigation, stay tuned! - Tony