Sunday, December 2, 2012

Macau Marathon

I'm too lazy to re-cap this race in full, so let me just describe some of the most important aspects.

After gathering at 4:30am onwards at the track in the Macau stadium, we finally set off at 5:00am. It took almost 30 seconds for me to reach the official start, at which point I started my Garmin. the next few minutes were still slow, and we seemed to be running very slowly through fairly crowded streets. I was trying to balance the two thoughts in my mind of "getting caught in a crowd in the first few minutes is a blessing in disguise" with the thought of just wanting to get running at a decent pace. After about three or four minutes, it seemed possible to settle into my target pace of around 4:30-4:40ish K pace. (In hindsight, this was really too fast, and I should have targeted 4:40-4:50).

Anyway, I was shocked to see that at the official 1K marker, my Garmin said 2.2K and there was about 10:30 on the watch!  Sure enough, at the official 2K marker my Garmin was at 3.2K...and so on. My mind couldn't help thinking that any time goal was nearly impossible when I was delayed by around two minutes by the crowded start, and another 5 minutes and an extra kilometers for some unforeseen reasons. Sure enough, after the race it was found out that the whole crowd took a wrong turn out of the stadium, and the race organization (staff/barriers) failed to prevent this. While I would say that much of the race organization was pretty good, this mistake was fairly costly and certainly preventable.

Besides this, I was feeling fairly ok at a 4:35-40ish pace, despite the fact that it was raining. However, soon we reached the first bridge, and just in time, the rain increased, and the winds were blowing really hard. the bridge was stepper than I had imagined.

If I had finished 5-10 minutes slower than goal pace, I could have simply just chalked it down to weather and poor race management. However, by around 30K, I was almost reduced to walking, and indeed, I did walk/run/jog most of the last third. With my eye on the watch, trying to salvage a sub-4 from this embarrassing outing, I ended up finishing in a slow 3:57:59 (albiet over 27.2 miles). This failure is more my fault only, and was caused by a few factors:

1) Lack of specific long-runs. Unlike past my last major marathon build up, I hadn't been doing my weekly 30K efforts (out and back to Shek Pik). Although i'm in better shape in general, I noticed the lack of long runs in my legs.

2) Lack of volume.

3) Insufficient calories.

4) Bad pacing (ie. went faster than I should have, and I probably should have even adjusted more due to weather).

While I'm disappointed, I'm not going to beat myself up about this too much. I feel I learned something through the race, and know I have valuable feedback for next time. Also, I'm excited to start training for the two 100K's coming up: the HK and Lantau 100s! These will require, more stamina, more trial training, more vertical, and more pole work. All things I'm excited about. Also, I'm excited at doing more real speed work, and after the 100's, my focus will move to training for the 1500m-5K for a while.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Week ending Nov 25, 2012 (taper week 1)

55k in 5:10 over 5 runs. Around 3,000ft in elevation. Overall, a surprisingly good week. I felt fresh and fast. I did a mini-Vo2 session, and hit the kilometer repeats at 3:47 fairly easily.I did a nice run with Kevin, in which hitting 4:50-5:00k pace felt easy and relaxed. This week will be 2-4 easy 5K's, with a few strides thrown in. Then Sunday it's the Macau Marathon!

After that, I'll rest a bit, and then switch focus to training for the HK and Lantau 100's, with a focus on ubber-long runs and lots of stairs.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Week ending November 18th

49K over 4 runs in 5:57 in time. Roughly 5,000 ft in elevation (two run commutes, one going over the cemetery  plus a TC to Shek Pik via Nei Lak).  One solid VO2 session.

Not a bad week of training, but as the last week before taper, I would have liked to have hit 80-110K. However, I was too sore to run on Mon/Tuesday, and had family obligations on Sunday.  Oh well!

On a side note, I've also considered more and more the thought of training for the mile/3000 from April to August next year, in order to gain better leg turn over, form, running economy and VO2. 

Week ending November 11th

62.6km over 5:48 in time in 6 workouts. Main race was Gold Coast. Also did a quality on Tuesday.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

New Balance Gold Coast 15K Race Report (Updated)

My main "A" race is the Macau Marathon on December 2nd, and as such, I was hoping to find a nice road 10K to use to predict my marathon finishing time, and thus my pace. After a bit of thought on the subject, I chose the Gold Coast 15K, which I though might be more accurate since it is longer, obviously.

This race is relatively flat, since it mainly goes along the side of a mountain on a catchwater. However, as with most catchwaters in HK, there are actually quite a few turns, slight undulations, and unevenness to the surface, which make it a bit slower than a purely flat surface.

My friend Kevin told me that I could get caught in traffic going up the first hill, and thus to avoid this, I showed up early, and after a brief warm up, and got a fairly good starting spot, only 5-6 rows back.  My pre-race plan was to go up the first hill easy (about the same as I would in training) then slip into a comfortable pace on the flats, hopefully hitting between 4:10-4:20k pace. Kevin told me that due to the crowds, it might be best to simply use the final 10K as a prediction tool.

Race day felt a bit "chilly" by HK standards (ie. 22 C/ 72F, with 72% humidity), ie. not cold in the North American sense whatsoever, but relatively cold. The wind was also blowing around 10-20MPH.

As the race started, it looked like my strategy would pay off. I went up the first hill hard, but not too fast, doing a 6:01 first K after gaining 270ft, and I was able to get into a comfortable groove on the flats, hitting 4:19 pace, which I thought was on the conservative side.

However, I quickly found that running sub-4:20 was getting hard. My legs would not turn over fast enough, and soon my mind was filled with negativity  I though about my tight hips, from Friday's 16.5K to Tung Chong via Pak Au Gou. I thought about Tuesday's hard workout, with 5 relatively fast miles. I thought about my lack of VO2 sessions, and how that was slowing me down.  I thought about how my targets for a 3:05 or 3:10, would have to be replaced with 3:20-3:30's.

I went through the first 5K in 23:15, and sooner after, the 4:20's dipped to the 4:30's in the last few K. I was able to go a bit faster towards the end (4:27), and in the final downhill (3:54), finishing in 1:08:02.

Overall, I was fairly disappointed.

However, later I mentioned how it went to Kevin, and he remarked that he ran this race in 1:09 and a few weeks later did a 3:12. Also, due to the first hill, the final result is more like a 1:06 on a normal course. If that is the case, then I'd be in for around a 3:17 marathon, according to Daniel's Running Formula. If you take the fact that I didn't taper and was a bit sore and tired and that it was windy, then I'd probably be even a bit faster.

In a nutshell, I gained that feedback that a 3:05 (4:22) -- ie. a BQ --  is unrealistic right now. I'll probably aim for a 3:15, and maybe even try to do a negative split, 1:40/1:35 marathon. To some extent this depends on how this last week of hard training goes before a two week taper. We'll see.

Update: 92nd out of 1245, 85th out of 1046 in gender, 28 and out of 318 in category.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Week ending Nov. 4th, 2012

75.6K, 6:59 in time, over 5 runs, but not much elevation (around 2,000ft). A good week of training, including a 5K tempo in 20:40 and three by 6K at goal marathon pace 4:20, which was an exhausting workout.

I would have hoped for much more volume this week, since I only have basically a week or two of quality training before the taper period. Oh well!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Week ending October 28th, 2012

87K over 4 runs, with 9:27 in time and 7,920ft in gain. Highlights were the MSIG 50K and the trail tempo on Chi Ma Wan, in which I did the 3 mile outer loop in roughly 27:30 (which matched previous PR).

Overall, 309K in October. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Lantau 100

This morning when I woke up, I could not have been happier to see that there is going to be a Lantau 100!

Just a week or two ago, I talked with Lantau 50 race director, Clement Dumont, about the possibility of creating a 100 miler, or 50 miler on Lantau. We discussed possible routes, and I mentioned that if I were making a route in Lantau, I'd certainly try to hit the plateau area between Tai O and Kueng Shan, which has beautiful rolling hills that reminds one of the rolling green hills in the northern UK.

Then there is the wonderful mountain bike trail that goes down from the Big Buddha towards Shek Pik, with lots of mossy rocks and strange mushrooms, somewhat the opposite of its sun-soaked sister trail the Nei Lak Shan.

I'm glad it looks like a few of these sections made the cut, and will be in the race.

Overall, I'm really happy for Clement, and it'll be great to have another 100K in Hong Kong. This course will be ridiculously steep, technical, and demanding: probably more challenging that many 100 milers. Clement could not have designed a better route!

I'll go ahead and make a prediction that it'll sell out with 24 hours too!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

MSIG Hong Kong 50 Race Recap

Quick recap: Somewhat miserable and a bit disappointing, but I can't wait to do it again next year!

That about sums up my feeling of this race, which I was mainly treating as a training running for my true fall "A" race: the Macau Marathon on December 2nd. Nonetheless, I still tried to pick a reasonable goal and race strategy, and after looking at the previous year's results, I figured hitting 5:30 would be in the general ballpark. As always, I had the mental goal not to take it out too fast in the first half, especially in the first hour.

On race morning, I left the house fairly late and couldn't find my bike keys, which meant that I had to take my wife's bike and sprint to catch the morning ferry. After making the ferry by 20 seconds, I was later shocked to find that my race number had fallen out on the mad dash to the pier. After taking a taxi up to the Peak and having my friend Marvin help out, I was able to get an extra race bid.

The race started out with a fast road section on the little loop the goes around the Peak. I had competing thoughts in my brain, with one voice telling me to slow down and run 50K pace, and the other voice, driven by competition and energy, not wanting to take run slower than all these people around me.  I've dubbed this problem the "King of the Hills" syndrome  because this always happens in King of the hills races in which I run the full but stupidly compete with the people in the half (since we both go off at the same time), thus sowing the seeds for a miserable positive split effort. 

I got to the first check point at roughly one hour --yes, I'd forgotten my Garmin too -- and reaching CP1 at one hour was a good 5-10 minutes ahead of goal time, further giving me confirmation that I'd taken it out too fast. Nonetheless, I was happy to do the next section up to Wan Chai Gap, which is one of my favorite trail sections in HK Island. 

Coming down towards Wang Nai Chung, I could feel my hips tighten, and my calves and quads had started to weaken a bit. This was clearly not a good sign going into the 23K mark, which I reached at 2:21. 

After reaching WNC, and seeing Marvin (who ran an impressive 2:07, getting 14th place in the half), I set off towards CP3, and even though this was in many ways the most runnable section of the course, I was reduced to run/walk/shuffle. This was the proverbial low point. I thought of dropping (although never seriously), and I tried to do the math of how long it would take me to finish if I had to walk in the last 20-25K.  

To my credit, I didn't get too down on myself, I resigned myself to the idea of walking it in, and just having a nice scenic day out hiking on the beautiful Hong Kong trails, even if my ego would be bruised by having a shockingly slow time associated with my name.

Luckily, as I got down to the Tai Tam area, my legs started to come back a bit. Although my hips were tight and my right calf kind of stopped working, i found that I could still lift my legs upward from the abs/upper thigh to get a bit of a stride.  So, I actually felt a bit better and ran most of the last 15K.

It was always great to meet my friend Kevin, who met up with me at around 5K to go on the last technical trail section. He helpfully gave me some coconut water (a great drink for a weary stomach) and engaging with him in lively conversation helped give me a mental boost. 

I was able to run it in, clocking in at 5:48. This was good enough for 43rd out of 189, and 20th out of 65 in category. Not great, but not a direly terrible as I had thought at the halfway mark. 

In general, I was pretty happy with the day in general (if not my performance). The race was also well organized, clearly marked, and with good check points.After doing the race I met my wife and son, and we had a nice family day too.

This race, although on trail for about 2/3 of the race, is still very runnable, and the beauty of the Hong Kong Trail never ceases to amaze me. I'd estimate that there are only about 15-30 minutes of it that need to be hiked, except for the most hardcore. Thus, in many ways, this race presents a nice alternative to crazy technical and/or steep trail races in HK (such as the 2 Peaks, some of the K.O.T.H., or the  Lantau 100). Those races are wonderful in their own right, but I think this race, as well as the RTI fill a nice niche.

With that in mind, I think that next year I'll be back, but with a smarter race strategy that focuses on more recon runs, and taking the first section out easily, while running hard from WNC to CP4, where the race is at it's most runnable and potentially the fastest. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Week Ending Oct. 21st, 2012

86K, in 5 runs, in 9:06, and 7068ft in elevation.

Overall, this was one of my best weeks in training in 2012. The run commute and run around MW were fairly high quality. I did a tough MP run (2K Easy; 8K MP (my goal is 4:22, I used the treadmill setting of 4:20); 1K Threshold (4:07K pace for me); 4K MP; 1K T; 2K MP; 2K Easy), a good run with Kevin from Gold Coast to Yuean Long, and a run from Big Buddha to Lantau and back.

This week will be easier, as I rest up for weekend 50K! 

Friday, October 19, 2012

My Training Schizophrenia

A quick note on some of the contradictory impulses that I have right now. Basically, as I head out the door each day, I have a strong desire to do three different types of runs:

1) Marathon Pace (MP) runs. As I've mentioned, I'm trying to get in a good number of MP runs before the December 2nd Macau Marathon. These are difficult, but always satisfying when done. Yesterday I did a modified workout from Jack Daniel's Running Forumla (he had this in his Elite Marathon plans with miles as the distance, but I changed it to kilometers): 2K Easy; 8K MP (my goal is 4:22, I used the treadmill setting of 4:20); 1K Threshold (4:07K pace for me); 4K MP; 1K T; 2K MP; 2K Easy. Very tough, but satisfying. I've also been struck by one of Running Times's recent articles on Renato Canova, trainer of champion Kenyans, who advocates doing a lot of slightly faster than goal MP running. I'm fairly convinced that, over the long run, doing lots of MP-based workouts is one of the best ways to boost running economy at MP speeds, and hit realistic time goals.

Of course, there's a limit to how often one can do MP runs, but I generally try to get in either an MP or a Daniel's style Threshold run each week.

2) Easy runs. This is basically like my daily commute runs. If I had more time, I'd probably do more easy miles, just for the joy of it.

3) Trail runs with lots of steep ascents. I've basically fallen in love with steep ascents, especially after training for the Lantau 2 Peaks, and especially since I've been using my Black Diamond poles more. Doing steep climbs with poles gives me a chance to use my arms and lats a bit more, and for whatever reason, it's really changed my attitude towards steep climbs, whereas before, I'd generally prefer more runable trail routes. Perhaps, subconsciously, I feel that using poles gives me a chance to utilize all the muscles and efficiency gained over decades of swimming, and in a strange sense, going up a steep hill can have the feel of doing butterfly in swimming.

Thoughts? What types of running do my readers (if there are any) prefer to do these days?

Week ending Oct 14, 2012

Only 36K of running, 10K of biking, and over 5 workouts, total time of 4:59.

The main issue was that my calves were sore/strained, so I used this as a rest week. On the plus side, I avoided injury, ran a good 5K (20:32 at South Bay course), and did the hike from Mui Wo to Sunny Bay, which was actually overgrown and not fun. Nonetheless, 3,284ft in elevation.

Logging this one somewhat late.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Race recap for Lantau 2 Peaks

The Lantau Two Peaks is one of the premier trail events in Hong Kong, with over 800 participants running, hiking, panting, and crawling up a course that ascends and descends about a mile of elevation in less than a half-marathon. About 80% of the course is on trails, much of which consists of the large stones that comprise the stairs that make up the trails to the peaks.

Every year the course changes directions. Last year, it did the steep ascent up to Sunset Peak from Tung Chong first, and I took out that section too fast. Then, feeling overly-confident in my downhill running prowess, I took out the downhill from Sunset way too fast too (or at least as fast as I’d normally do it in one training run up and down Sunset, which is right near my home). I over exerted myself going up Lantau Peak, and by the time that I had 3,000ft of desending to do, much of it simply running down stairs, my quads were shot. To make matters worse, I was still in the ball park of hitting a 3:30 finish, only having to do around a 5k in 30 minutes, most of it on the last flat section going to the mall in Tung Chong, City Gate. But by then I was suffering heat stroke, and I miserably walked it in, and near collapsed at the finish. Luckily my wife Rhea and friends Sabrina and Clement (the winner of the race) were there to dump water on me, and cool me off.

This year, I was determined not to run such a disastrous race. Based on the past experience and three recon runs, I decided on the following:

1)      Don’t take out the first section too hard. In some ways, the first uphill section up Nei Lak Shan to the Big Buddha is one of the hardest assents of the course, and it comes right away. The path goes up from the flat section near Tung Chong up to the base of Nei Lak Shan, which is actually the eighth highest peak in Hong Kong. (Note: they could easily call this two and a half peaks!)  Simialrly, just as in the marathon, if you run the first part too fast, you are not “banking time”, you are sowing the seeds for your demise.
2)      The heat could be a factor. In my training runs, which were often done at 30 C, I often noted that I felt about done when hitting Pak Au Gou, after Lantau Peak. If it were hot, it would be vital to rein it in.
3)      Don’t overstride on the downhills.
4)      Use poles. Luckily, I bought the Black Dimaond polls for the HK 100. In a few training runs up Lantau Peak, which comparable to an assent up a skyscraper, I noticed that polls could relive 20-40% of the burden from my legs, and by using my tris/lats, I could spare some of the energy in my legs.
5)      I divided the race into sections, and had a strategy for each. Flat area at start of race: don’t take out too fast, but run comfortably hard. Stairs up to Nei Lak and Nei Lak trail: again, don’t go too hard, stay within one’s ability. In training, I’d hit the part of the Nei Lak wooden stairs with the warning signs at an hour, in the race hit it at 53. Up to Lantau Peak: again, don’t go too hard, but use arms and poles to do the heavy lifting. Down Lantau: take advantage of this scenic downhill section, a relative comparative advantage for me, but don’t overstride. Up Sunset: again, use what’s left in the arms. Down Sunset: run fast and confidently (knowing I had done this section a few times, prepping the quads for the soreness in the process), but keep enough in the legs for last section of flats. Flat last 2K: give all that there is left.

The endresult is that I implemented this outline of a plan very well, and I ran just about as good of a race as I could expect on the day, given my fitness and training. I was also happy that I was able to do this in my Altra Lone Peaks, which performed very well on this terrain. 

With a time of 3:26, I took off around 20 minutes from last year. When the results come out, we’ll see how I placed, but hopefully it’s near the front side of the mid-pack, so to speak!

UPDATE: 57th overall (out of 441 finishers), and 30 out of 148 in category (male 30-39).

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Week Ending Oct. 7th, 2012

79KM in 5 workouts, with 13:19 in time, and 12,908ft in elevation. I was extremely happy with my performance at he Lantau 2 Peaks, a race with about 5,200ft in elevation over 20.6K. I got a 3:26, beating my sub-3:30 goal, and taking 20 minutes off last year's time. I also raced it just about perfectly, breaking the race into sections, and having and hitting my goal for each section. Also, this is a record in elevation for me in one week. thus, rest day today, and maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Week ending 9/23/2012

87km in distance, 10:08 in time, 9,731ft in gain, in 8 runs. Overall one of my best weeks of training in 2012, with the highlight being 14K at faster than goal MP (4:18km, goal of 4:23 pace).

Hopefully I can get in around 10 MP runs before the Macau Marathon. Two done thus far this cycle: one 3 by 5km at GMP (actually did 6.2 for last k), and this 14k one. Trying to get more comfortable there.

Meanwhile, trying to get used to elevation for Lantau 2 Peaks. however, if it's still as hot on race day as it was this week, I'll make an adjustment from treating it as a "B" race to simply doing it very easy to finish.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Week of 9/10/-9/16/2012

Overall, 66KM in 7 workouts. 7:17 in time and 6,560 ft. in elevation. This was a "down" week since there was no longer run.

Hope to get up towards the 85K/9-10hour/8,-10,000ft range this week! Rest day today though.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Review of Altra Instincts

Now that I've logged about 60 miles in my Altra Instincts, I think it's about time that I can offer a review.  There are better technical reviews out there on the web (ie...see Runblogger's review for example), so I'll limit this review to two main aspects: 1) why I bought the shoe, and 2) did it live up to my expectations for that purpose.

Like many, I've been interested in minimalism for some time, but especially after hearing about the barefoot movement, and the hype surrounding Born to Run. Thus, over the past few years, I've been trying to become more and more minimalist, and do so in a way that is sustainable and realistic -- in other words, not just switching all of a sudden to Vibrams and running 20 miles on pavement.  Meanwhile, I had heard about Altra via Run Run Live and Geeks in Running Shoes, and I was very interested in giving them a try.

Currently, in my shoe rotation, I have the Kinvara 3, Altra Lone Peak, Montrail Rogue Racer and Rogue Fly, Altra Instinct, and Mizuno Wave Universe 4.  I can hear what you're saying..."that's a ton of shoes! Why so many?" Well, A) I like running shoes, and each has a different purpose, and B) Hong Kong is so humid that sometimes it may take 2-3 days for a shoe to be dry enough to run in again!

Well, here's how I use each: Kinvaras are for my daily running and some speed work. Lone Peaks are for trail running, especially on dry days. Montrails are for either trail or road, but I mainly use them now for either wet trails or if my calves need some rest. Mizuno Wave Universe are used for races, speed work, and treadmill running.

That brings me to the main reason for getting the Instincts. On most week days I run commute to work, going 10-15K via the Hong Kong Olympic Trail from Mui Wo to Tung Chong. This scenic route goes through sub-tropical areas, through old villages, up and around a mini-mountain range on Lantau Isalnd , and then back down towards the coast. In practical terms, this means that two sections of semi-flat running are separated by  a section in which 600ft are gained and descended in the course of about two miles...all on concrete!

For me, this means having decent cushioning on the steep descents going down concrete is a must.  In other words, for my daily running I wanted a minimalist or zero drop shoe that had good cushioning, that would be comfortable, but would also be fairly lightweight.

I very happy to say that the Altra Instincts are just about the perfect shoe for my run commute requirements, and I would go so far as to say that they're just about the ideal shoe for people who are looking for an everyday minimalist or zero drop trainer. As others have mentioned, the wide toe box and foot-shaped design makes for a very comfortable fit.  I've even done some tempos in them, and while they feel slightly heavy for faster running, they certainly do ok.

Perhaps my biggest surprise is that, compared to running in zero drop shoes with no cushioning or racing flats, say, the Merrell Train Glove or Mizuno Wave Universe (both of which are good shoes for specific purposes), there's probably less overall strain on the calves and Achilles that one feels when running in the Instincts, perhaps due to the fact that it has a smoother , more cushioned ride. On a practical level, this means that, assuming you have built up to it, you can run in them several times per week, or even use them as the "go to" shoe in your rotation, rather than just a form or strengthening tool.

Going forward, I'd hope that the Altra folks could decrease the weight a bit, and also add a bit more grip/traction underfoot. Otherwise, I wouldn't suggest dramatically altering an already great shoe.

So, I hope this review helps. I'd be happy to hear others' views, or discuss any questions related to Altra Instincts or the zero drop phenomenon!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Week of 8/27 to 9/02/2012

75K, 8:08 in time, five workouts, and 6,448 ft in elevation. Four quality sessions, including a tempo (20 min @ 4:11K/6:45mile pace), a trip up to Sunset Peak and down to Tung Chong, a disappointing 5K race, and a 30 run around Chi Ma Wan.

In short, a terrible race, but overall, not a bad week of base training, including elevation.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Week of 8/20/2012-8/26/2012

A total of 8 workouts (five running), 9:19 of activity. 60K running, with 4,900ft in elevation.

Overall, a very solid week: with a good speed session (5 by 800m at 3:47k pace, plus 400m, 400m, 200m at same pace), and a near PR on Sunset (via contour trail), with splits of 13:30 to Nam Shan, 1:09:20 to Sunset, 1:25 to Pak Au Gou; 2:15 to Nam Shan; and back in 2:23:56.

Going forward,  I hope to consistently log elevation, and bring it up to 10,000/week range. Also, I hope I can break PR of 1:05 to Sunset, and ultimately break an hour.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Altra Instinct 1.5

I saw this video of the Altra Instinct 1.5 today. The shoes look awesome! I have the Instinct (ie, 1.0, I suppose) and have done 3-4 runs in them. It's basically exactly what I was looking for: a comfortable "zero drop" shoe with decent cushioning, which is needed to handle the route I run commute to work on (ie...gains and losses of 700ft in about 3miles on a hard concrete path, with some flat sections before and after the hills).

Any one else an Altra fan (assuming anyone is reading this blog)?

Sorting through an injury

Perhaps in my attempt to boost mileage and do speedwork/tempos at the same time, I came down with a knee injury and a foot injury last week that I self-diagnosed as "Seseamoids" (definition of that below, from Running Times). Anyway, knock on wood, all seems ok now.

"Two small bones under the ball (head) of the first metatarsal are known as the sesamoids. These bones are in the flexor tendon to the big toe and act as fulcrums for flexing the toe; they are weight bearing structures. Runners may experience several sesamoid problems. 
Inflammation of one or both sesamoids is known as sesamoiditis; increasing mileage, doing speed work and hill repeats, and poor footwear may all contribute to this problem. The affected sesamoid will be very tender to touch and pain may occur when the big toe is flexed upward. Swelling may be present under the first joint. Treatment includes application of ice to the area, anti-inflammatory medications and protective padding (dancer’s pad) that is cut out at the tender area, eliminating pressure on the sesamoids. If this relieves pain, easy running may continue. Sesamoiditis usually resolves in two to four weeks. If there is pain with pushing off, cross training should be performed to avoid an abnormal gait and the myriad of injuries that it may cause. On occasion, immobilization may be necessary to eliminate sesamoiditis.
Sesamoid pain may be due to a stress fracture of one of the bones. A bone scan is often needed to diagnose this injury. It is not uncommon for one of the sesamoids to naturally be in two pieces (bipartite); this does not cause pain, but may create a diagnostic challenge if a sesamoid fracture is suspected. Treatment is similar to sesamoiditis, though impact activities should be minimized. The sesamoids have a poor blood supply, so stress fractures may take several months or longer to heal. On occasion, there is persistent pain; as a last resort, the affected sesamoid may be surgically excised."

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

July mileage

I did 240 KM in July, down from 400 the year before. Nonetheless, it's arguably my best month of running thus far in 2012. Mileage-wise, February and March both beat July, with 294KM and 269KM respectively, but thus total are a bit skewed due to the HK100 in Feb. and the Lantau 50 in March. In other words, as far as regular training months, July has been my most regular in 2012.

Also, today I did a repeat of the tempo at VDOT 51 (20 minutes at 4:11k/6:44 mile, plus another 10 minutes). Overall, I felt great, and am running as fast as ever (or at least it feels that way). My endurance in runs from 2-4 hours is weak compared to the past, but hopefully it will get better as I slowly up the mileage.

I'm also pleased that my wife Rhea had a good, consistent month of training, and she's getting better (and thinner) each week!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

VDOT, onward and upward!

So, I've decided to run using Jack Daniels Running Formula, which is an excellent book, since it has a nice chart "VDOT values based on current race performance" from which you can calculate easy pace, tempo pace, marathon, interval pace, and rep pace, all based on current times over common distances, from the mile to the marathon. This is useful since it's common for people to run these paces either too fast or too slow, and either way can be harmful.

In any case, my last 5K (done almost a year ago) was 19:47, right between VDOT 50 (19:57) and VDOT 51 (19:36). I erred on the side of caution, and have been doing workouts based on VDOT 50 for the past 2-3 months, but I think i'm ready to kick it up to 51, which I did this week with a 20 minute tempo at the prescribed pace, 4:11K/6:44mile.

I'll keep doing workouts at 51 for at least a month, but ideally I'd like to work up to 52, which has a predicted marathon of 3:04:36 (ie...a hair below a BQ for me) or 53 (3:01: 39), or even 54 (2:58:47).

The key in doing this is to do it gradually, and have the move upwards based on true comfort in paces and race results, not just a strong desire to move upwards. In that sense, I'm keen to see where my 5K on Sept. 1st will put me, as well as the Magic Mile that I have planned for early September.

Hopefully they'll put me squarely in the 51-53 range.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Trails vs. Road: the Wardian approach

I subscribe to Trail Runner. I buy each issue of Running Times. I follow iRunfar closely, and I really enjoy reading blogs of some of the best ultrarunners out there (Anton Krupicka, Geoff Roes, Karl Meltzer, Dakota Jones, Nick Clark...etc) but also take interest in road racing results.

It seems that quite often these days people are defining themselves as "trail runners", or "ultra runners", or even "mountain runners", while a separate road running culture exists, to some extent, disconnected and disinterested in what is happening in the trail running scene. What should one make of all this?

I guess there are a few questions I'd like to explore in this post.

1) Which is better: trail running or road running?

The obvious answer to this is trail running. There's nothing better than enjoying the solitude of nature, enjoying scenery and mountains, and reconnecting with nature. It reminds me of when I was a teenager skiing in Colorado. On some days, when skiing in fresh powder down steep unmarked tracks, one felt a awe inspiring respect for nature, and felt one's own complete insignificance in the face of nature's enormity. Trail running at its best invites us to reflect on deep thoughts and clear our heads. If one believes the main thesis of Born to Run, ie. human beings evolved to run and walk over large distances, then certainly trail running helps us accomplish the primal goal that is locked in our DNA. Sometimes I think that, just as fulfillment of sexual desire and the need to socialize are part of what makes people happy, and that not fulfilling these needs leads to psychological issues, perhaps too, running over natural surfaces is something similarly necessary for human happiness. 

On the other hand, I find that there's another, different joy associated with road running. There's obviously the "runner's high" that comes with it, but road running is much more simple (since each foot strike is pretty much the same), and with road running, especially treadmill running, there's a strange joy to be had by being with the pain of a hard workout. Frank Shorter has said that he took to running because he "enjoys the movement" and I couldn't agree more. Especially in treadmill running, there can be something almost meditative about embracing all of the body's feedback signals, almost like vipassana (insight) meditation.

In short, and personally, I love each form of running, but for different reasons. That leads to the second question:

2) Is it possible to train well for both?

The obvious answer to this is yes, since at the end of the day, they're both running. However, I've started to think that there really are some major differences. First, at least in Hong Kong, almost all trails have lots of steps. Many races have several thousand vertical feet in steps. I'm increasingly convinced that going up steps/stairs is fundamentally a different sport from pure running, when one looks at the muscles involved. Granted, stair-climbing and running are two very related sports, not unlike biking and running (or perhaps in swimming, butterfly and freestyle might be a better analogy). Nonetheless, my point is that to be a good trail racer, at least in HK, a decent amount of stair work is needed, and a specific training strategy should be devised, perhaps not unlike someone planning to enter a dualthalon or swim meet involving different strokes. To this end, I try to do a lot of routes that have steps, and in daily life, I take the steps whenever possible (ie. at the MTR). Second, trail running requires better core muscles and stability. This becomes evident, especially in longer races. Third, and on the flip side, I think too much trail running can lead to a decline in leg speed and turnover. Too much trail running can lead to a bit of dullness. Fourth, and conversely, it's also necessary to do some trail running at high speeds, since I would posit that good technical trail running is not only physical in nature, but also has a mental component (ie. perhaps it is training your "central governor" to accept a higher degree of risk).

I've written too much, but I'll just close by saying that in this question of what to run, I love the attitude of people like Mike Wardian, who is willing to do technical trail ultras, local 5K's, road ultras, or basically any running race put out there. 

Training to do that has to be well thought out, and doing that will hopefully be one of the main themes of this blog.

Outline of my training for the rest of the year

In 2011, I logged 4052KM (2,532miles), with 32 weeks over the 80k/50mile mark, and 10 of those being over the 100K mark. However, with the birth of my son Jimmy in December 2011, and with being increasingly busy at work, my mileage (or, really, my free time to train), has taken a major hit. For much of January to April, my training was minimal, as I learned to scope with the stress of having a colic-y infant.  However tough it was for me, it was even harder for my wonderful wife, but she's also adapted really well to being a Mom.

However, things have started to become a bit easier (knock on wood).  As Jimmy gets older, he's generally getting easier to take care of. Also, since my office moved to Kowloon, it now makes sense for me to run commute, which has long been a dream of mine.

                                          (He's hurt my training, but his cuteness makes up for it!)

To make a long story short, I hope to once again ramp up the miles. Thus, here is my plan for the rest of the year:

July-August -- Do a lot of easy miles, plus one tempo per week, and one speed session. Goal: get comfortable running 50 miles a week again, and do regular 30K long runs.

Late August-September - Focus a bit more on speed, for 5K series and "Magic Mile". Goal: build up some speed and leg turnover before starting the slow slog of a marathon build up.

Sept- Dec-  Go into a marathon build up (most likely for Macau Marathon, Dec 2nd). Build up to around 80-120K/week, and do quality tempos, and limited speed work.

Post marathon -Feb 2013-- Work on long-long runs (30-50K), focus on steps and elevation in preparation for Hong Kong 100.

I hope I can fit this all in while being a good father and husband!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My first post and some thoughts on a blog name

Excuse me while I get the hang of this, but I hope to start an interesting blog about running in Hong Kong: an unlikely running gem. There are probably few cities in the world in which a major cosmopolitan city is located next to some of the best trails, many of which are steep, and technical. At the same time, running in Hong Kong poses several challenges: asphalt, concrete, extreme humidity, steep climbs, unending stairs, and so on.

So, when searching for a name for this blog, I thought of two things that symbolize the contradictory nature of running in Hong Kong: water buffalo and concrete.

Feral water buffalo roam free in Lantau and in parts of the new territories. Running in these areas, which are often remote and free of people, along beaches, abandoned Chinese villages, and tropical areas, you might assume that you were in another era or another place, with only the water buffalo munching on his/her nearby greens to remind you that you have company. In contrast, when finishing up a trail run, often you reach catchwaters or cement paths, which eventually lead back to one of the densest places on earth, a compressed and cramped city brimming with pollution, dynamism, and vibrant humanity. When in the claustrophobic and loud parts of the city, you can easily understand the Chinese saying 人山人海 "people mountain people ocean", meaning a place so crowded that the people have overwrought the landscape. 

In this blog I'll try to embrace these contradictions: the remote trails, the steep technical mountain runs, the concrete paths, and flat road races, all which makes running in Hong Kong unique.