03 December 2009

The 7 in 7 is on.

Hi there, not much of anything happening around here at present. An ankle issue has curtailed any running for now unfortunately.

So this post is just a bit of a plug for Aucklander Mal Law, who is this week running New Zealand's seven great walks in seven days. The walks span much of the country from the Central North Island to Milford near the foot of the South Island and total 360 km, the longest being the Heaphy Track at 78 km.



Mal Law , photo from 7in7.org.nz

Mal is doing this challenge to raise awareness and funds for a charity close to his heart, the Leukaemia and Blood foundation of NZ.

Check out his website to read about his stunning adventure, and if you feel so inclined you can also donate to his worthy cause.

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20 October 2009

Jack Lovelock - Athlete and Doctor

Jack Lovelock, it remains a legendary name in New Zealand's sporting history. Until recently all I really new of him was that he was famous for winning Gold Medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The footage of that race is now almost folklore stuff and is unforgettable for the highly parochial commentator losing his composure as he calls the finish of the race.


photo courtesy Jacklovelock.com where you can also buy the book.


I recently learned a lot more about the Lovelock having read Dr Graeme Woodfield's biography on New Zealand's original Olympic track gold medalist.

The book is an in depth look at Lovelock's life from his early years growing up in Timaru, and at Otago Medical School, through to his time at Oxford University in Britain where he was a Rhodes Scholar and his early years as a trainee doctor St Mary's Hospital.

A talented sportsman in his younger days he finally settled on running, which he had always shown a special aptitude for. His move to Britain in 1931 led to numerous opportunities to further his running over the ensuing period. Races against Cambridge university and the top United States universities were common.

Lovelock attended the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics as a young 22 year old. Short on big meet experience, and prone to nervousness on big occasions, he faded to 7th in the 1500 meters. Shortly afterwards however he went to set a world mile record of 4:07.6 while representing the British universities at a meet against a Princeton/ Cornell team. That remained his personal best for the mile.

Further success followed at the 1934 Empire games in London where he won the mile and in 1935 he won a race dubbed 'The mile of the Century' where he beat home some of the best middle distance runners of his day in a time of 4:11.2 in what was a very tactical race.

By the time the 1936 Olympics arrived Lovelock was the hot favorite to win the 1500meters gold and this time he showed his class with a superbly timed run in the last 300 meters to win by 10 meters in another world record time of 3:47.8.

Lovelock retired from competitive running after the Olympics to concentrate on his medical career. He was now well regarded doctor with an interest in physiotherapy.

During the war years he enlisted in the British Army where he put his medical skills to fine use overseeing the treatment and rehabilitation of wounded soldiers. After the war Lovelock continued his distinguished career in medicine, eventually taking up a role in a New York hospital in 1948 where he settled with his American wife and two daughters.

The book also deals in depth with the mystery surrounding Lovelock's untimely death in 1949 when he tragically fell in front of a train at a New York subway station. Some have claimed that this was a suicide bought on by a depression. Woodfield attributes a fair bit of the blame for this unfortunate accident to a series of head injuries and concussions Lovelock suffered in the early 40's after which his eye sight and balance suffered as did his personality which is also said to have altered somewhat.

Though Lovelock went on to fulfil a distinguished army and medical career, he was evidently plagued by eye problems for the rest of his life which undoubtedly effected him. On the day of his death he was suffering from flu and had left work to return home. It is said that he had taken some new drug and that the effect of this combined with his bad eye sight and tendency for dizzy spells is thought to be the chief reason for his fall into the path of a train.

Jack Lovelock, long may we remember him as a fine athlete and a fine New Zealander.

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15 October 2009

Best leave your ipod at home next time

If you rate yourself a good chance of scoring a top result in your local marathon, you best leave your ipod at home it seems.

In the US a female runner named Jennifer Goebel, who had been awarded the title of first female in the Milwaukee marathon last week, was later disqualified apparently because she was found to have been listening to her Ipod for just a few miles late in the race.

The story gets even more intriguing however because Goebel was initially promoted to first place after the actual first place getter was also disqualified for accepting a water bottle from a supporter outside of an official drinks station.

Sounds like the officials were certainly kept busy in that race.

Click here for the full story.

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05 October 2009

Slight hiccup

Its been a quiet week.

I noticed early on in the month a slight twinge in my ankle and after a few weeks this was not improving - in fact was probably worsening slightly as I increased the distance of runs.

I thought therefore I'm best to rest and let it recover rather than ignore it and do more damage and prolong any recovery.

Thinking back to a cause the only thing I have really been able to point to as a possible cause was some ankle and shin strengthening exercises I had been doing. Perhaps I over did these a little?

I'm hoping with a weeks rest, some icing and some anti- inflammatory pills I will be able to recommence the running again soon.

Feel a bit guilty though as I've used this as a bit of an excuse to back off all my cross training which is not good.

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19 September 2009

Baby steps - The run walk run build up method

Well after a year off running this week I've taken my first, 'baby steps', back to hopefully some regular running.

The goal at this stage is to get through a ten week run / walk / run programme that gradually increases the time spent running and gets my body use to running again hopefully without stressing it too quickly.

The 10 week plan goes like this;

Week 1, walk 1 minute, run 1 minutes, 7 reps, total 14 minutes
Week 2, walk 1 minute, run 2 minutes, 5 reps, total 15 minutes
Week 3, walk 1 minute, run 3 minutes, 4 reps, total 16 minutes
Week 4, walk 1 minute, run 4 minutes, 4 reps, total 20 minutes
Week 5, Walk 1 minute, run 5 minutes, 4 reps, total 24 minutes
Week 6, walk 1 minute, run 6 minutes, 4 reps, total 28 minutes
Week 7, walk 1 minute, run 7 minutes, 4 reps, total 32 minutes
Week 8, Walk 1 minute, run 8 minutes, 4 reps, total 36 minutes
Week 9, walk 1 minute, run 9 minutes, 4 reps, total 40 minutes
Week 10,walk 1 minute, run 10 minutes, 4 reps, total 44 minutes

I'll be running three times a week in addition to also keeping up my swimming, biking, stretching and strengthening.

It might seem pretty tedious, and for some the thought of taking a walking break just wouldn't bare thinking about, but as far as I'm concerned I'm in no rush and is this is what I have to do to get back to regular running then I'm fine with it.

I imagine the first few weeks will be pretty slow in terms of speed while I just concentrate on getting my running form right.

Don't expect to see a lot of posts here detailing every run. Other than updating my training log (check out the link at top of page) I'm going to keep things pretty low key until I'm confident with how things are progressing.

Thanks to the team at Complete Running for the Run Walk Run programme.

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13 September 2009

Arrivial of the Newton Running trainers

My new (well not exactly as they are a trial pair which have done about 30 miles, nice price though) Newton trainers arrived during the week.



It is early days and we are still getting to know each other but initial thoughts are that they feel comfortable and they are considerably lighter than my Adidas trainers. The forefoot cushioning is actually firmer that I was expecting. I was a little surprized that the shoes have very little flex through the toe box though. Overall they have considerably less cushioning through the heel when compared with my Adidas. That's obviously intended as the shoe is specifically to accommodate a mid foot striking runner.

So far I have done one short run (with regular walk breaks) in them on Saturday which was on grass. I expect once I experience running on pavement I may notice the cushioning some more.

Will keep you posted how these shoes go.

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10 September 2009

Dean Karnazes - Ultramarathon man

l recently obtained from our public library Dean Karnazes' original book, Ultra marathon Man.



This was another fascinating read from the man who has really taken the sport of ultra running to another level both in terms of the challenges he has dreamt up to continue testing the limits of his endurance but also for the profile of ultra running which he has been able to lift through smart marketing of himself and the sport.

I'll admit to being feeling a bit short changed when I first met Dean at one of his public speaking engagements while on a down-under tour some three years ago. He came across as a bit of a smart alec who seemed happy cracking jokes rather that enlightening us on how and why he runs the distances he's famous for.

In reality though I new very little about the man at that time and now having read two of his books its clear that as much as he is a runner devoted to pushing his limits and discovering new extremes of physical endurance, he is also a devoted husband and father. He is an extraordinarily driven person who has unbelievable willpower and courage to fight through the toughest of conditions to achieve his goals. He has also raised countless dollars for needy children through his running.

This book takes us back to his childhood, growing up in Los Angeles and gives an insight into the athlete he would one day become when as a twelve year old he cycled for ten hours across LA to his grandparents' house. He was a gifted cross country athlete at high school, competing against and beating kids several years his senior.

After falling out with a college coach he turned away from running until, as if suffering from a mid life crisis, on his 30th birthday he laced up some old running shoes and promptly ran a marathon in the dead of night after returning home from some birthday drinks. He had not run mile for over ten years.

One thing led to another and within a few short years he found himself at the start line of the famed Western States 100 mile endurance run.

The book goes on to explain in detail, and in very entertaining fashion, the nitty gritty of the life of an endurance athlete. The ups and downs, highs and lows that he has faced while putting himself through the pain and suffering of the Badwater Ultra marathon, attempting to run a marathon to the South Pole (yes that's the South Pole in Antarctica!), and running a 199 mile endurance race solo, in which every other competitor was doing so as part of a relay team.

If Dean ever gives up running he could quite easily become a writer as the book was a very easy read which kept me interested the whole way through. There were several 'laugh out loud' moments as I pictured the scenes of suffering that Dean was so accurately describing. The chapter on 'soiling the Lexus' just had me in stitches.

If you haven't read this book yet, I can highly recommend it as an entertaining and inspirational read.

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02 September 2009

The hunt is over - a decision has been made

My hunt for a new pair of running shoes has taken me to three separate running shoe stores in search of the perfect shoe. Not all shoe stores are created equal though as I found out, and as posted about here.

Two stores did however stand out, giving quality customer service, having excellent knowledge and making good use of video running gait technology were. These stores were Shoe Clinic and Shoe Science. I visited the Albany branch of both stores and was equally impressed with the sales persons knowledge and friendliness and could easily have purchased shoes from either store.

It was interesting though the running shoe recommendations they came up with.

In the case of Shoe Clinic I was recommended the Brooks Adrenaline GTS9. A structured stability shoe that adequately kept my not too excessive pronation in check.



Shoe Science on the other hand recommended the Adidas Salvation, another Stability / control shoe which offered a superbly cushioned ride and controlled my pronation well. Of the two the Adidas was my favorite.



Neither store was able to offer me a shoe for mid foot running though Shoe Science suggested the New Balance MR 800 as being a good mid foot shoe . Unfortunately they had little stock and are waiting for the next model, the MR 801, to come out in the next month or two.

As great as the Adidas felt, the one shoe I have been reading about all year but just have not been able to get my hands on, due to New Zealand stores not stocking them, is a pair of Newtons, from Newton Running.

Newton Running produce a shoe specifically designed to accommodate the naturally efficient running gait of a mid foot landing runner. The shoes incorporate a radically different forefoot cushioning technology, termed Action / Reaction Technology by the folk at Newton. The design incorporates four external actuator lugs which upon landing are depressed into hollow chambers inside the shoes mid sole.


The revolutionary sole of a Newton Shoe. photo from runtotri.blogspot.com

These shoes seem to be a perfect fit for the style of running that I'm going to persevere with, and that's a mid foot running gait, specifically the style promoted by Danny Dreyer known as Chi Running .

As I've said these shoes are hard to track down here but I was lucky enough to stumble upon the local importer's website. Evidently the shoes are often on display and available for trial at events around the country. As it happens once these trial shoes have run up a few K's they are then sold off at way less than half price.

Given my history of injury and failed comebacks, I was naturally wary about forking out $260 for a pair of radical shoes that I haven't even been able to try on before. Instead for $110 I can pick up a used pair that may have done 20 or 30 miles at most - and still with plenty of life left in them. So the other night I took the plunge and ordered a pair online.

I am about to join the world of Newton Running - wish me luck.

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28 August 2009

Smiths Sports Shoes disappoint

Over the last few weeks I've visited a few running shoe stores keen to try out a few new shoes and hopefully find the right pair for me. I was keen to try out a several stores as a way of getting a second and third opinion from a suitably qualified (hopefully) running shoe expert.

At each store I've been sure to mention to the sales people that I have had about a year off running as I've tried to get over my foot and shin injuries so they were fully aware of my background and thus better informed to fit me with an appropriate shoe.

Of the three stores I had two good experiences but unfortunately my experience at Smiths Sports Shoes at Mt Eden was not so good. I'll get the bad out of the way first and write a post next time about the good.

Smith Sports Shoes is what I would call a bulk sports shoe discounter which tries to be a specialty running shoe store. They are all set up to provide running gait and video siliconcoach analysis but sadly none of this was offered to this customer and it didn't look like this technology was used in the majority of cases while I was there.

I mentioned to the salesperson that I was interested in a shoe which was suited to a forefoot or mid sole striker as this was a style of running that I was interested in moving towards. The salesperson seem confused by this and looked at me like I had just escaped from a mental institution as if to say 'why would you consider such a thing?'

It seemed that he had never heard of such a running style and despite my explaining the potential benefits , IE more natural style of running in keeping with how we run when in bare feet, he still was very dismissive of the idea.

There was no offering to take a look at my stride and trying to match me to a shoe it was basically take your pick of a few models off the shelf and try them on and see how they feel.

I was fast losing interest by this point. This was the last store on my list to visit and I did all ready have an idea in mind of what shoes had felt good previously. I therefore was not particularly fussed about not being offered a video analysis. I quickly tried on a few pairs( Brooks, New Balance & Nike) before thanking the salesperson for his time.

Smiths is after all a 'sports shoe store', catering to many sports so, while they stocked all the main brands of running shoe, sadly for this potential buyer I didn't feel I got an inadequate level of professionalism or quality running shoe advice to enable me to make an informed decision on what shoes to buy.

I am pleased to say that I did get some much better service from two other specialty running shoe stores and I'll post about those stores next.

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23 August 2009

On the hunt of a new pair of running shoes

I've been thinking a lot about buying a new pair of running shoes lately.

My current shoes, a pair of Adidas Supernova, would be two and a half to three years old now though they would still have way less than 500 km 'on the clock' due to my on and off running over that time.

Despite their low mileage I still think its a good idea to update the shoes so I'm starting a fresh when I start running again this spring.

So to try and improve my knowledge I've been reading up large on the topic and now I'm well versed with such terms as flat feet, high arch , medial post , motion control, stability etc. Runners are certainly spoilt for choice these days when it comes to shoes. There is literally a shoe to fit everybody (or foot).

Apparently the key to finding the right shoe for you is to know your foot type. Generally there are three types of feet, determined by the height of your arch. A simple test to see which foot type you are is to stand on a surface with wet feet so that it leaves an impression of your foot. If you can see almost your whole foot then you have a low arch , or flat feet. If the middle of your foot narrows to around half of the foots width the you have a normal arch. If you have a distinctive curve to your foot print from ball to heel, such that very little of the mid sole is visible then you have a high arch.

Most runners have a normal arch height which allows them to generally choose from a wide variety of neutral running shoes offering cushioning or some motion control features for those that slightly over pronate.

Runners with flat feet tend to overprotate due to the low arch lacking the shock absorbing qualities of a normal arch. They tend to need a motion control shoe offering firm support on the inside edge of the shoe to try and correct the over protation.

A high arches will also provide inadequate shock absorption often resulting in under pronation (or supination). A flexible, cushioned shoe which encourages pronation is generally recommended for these runners.

So having done my research (ie the 'wet test') I've found that I have normal feet. Well at least something is normal I thought! The next step was to find a shoe.

An interesting exercise is to go to one of the many running shoe websites and use their shoe finder tool. I did that at Roadrunnersports.com and here's what they came up with for me.

Runningshoes.com cam up with this selection for me.

Some interesting choices there with a notable exclusion being Adidas, which has been my shoe of choice for the last two pairs. Most of the recommendations seem to have me in a stability shoe with some additional medial support to guard against over pronation.

I generally like to try before I buy though so over the past few weeks I've visited several specialist running shoe shops in town to see what they can offer me. I'll post further about my findings shortly.

Until then happy running.

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17 August 2009

Extending your Lactate Threshold

I've said before here that I've been using my spare time recently to learn more about the many various training methods there are out there.

Last month I wrote a piece here about the benefits and reasons for including speed workouts in a runners training programme to improve ones VO2 max. This post is about extending your lactate threshold.

Keep in mind that this is going to be a pretty basic in terms of its detail and if you're looking for a high level analysis on the subject then you're not likely to find that here. If anything I'm just blogging about this as a means on keeping an 'on line diary' if you like to record of what I've learnt. I expect many of you will know this stuff like the back of your hand already.

Firstly I'll mention lactic acid. Lactic acid is a byproduct produced by muscles that builds up in our blood stream during intense exercise. Generally the body is able to remove lactic acid from our systems while we exercise.

The lactate threshold (also known as anaerobic threshold) is the point at which, during intense exercise, lactic acid is being produced at a faster rate than the body can remove it, which in turn quickly leads to muscle fatigue and a drop in performance.

So if your goal is to be able to run faster for longer then you need to work on improving your lactate threshold which can be done by including in your training routine specific workouts where you run at your lactate threshold pace for extended periods.

These are commonly known these days I think as tempo workouts where you might warm up with 15 minutes of jogging before picking up the pace to your LT pace for perhaps 30 minutes before slowing to a jog for the last mile or two of your run. Another approach might be to run several 1 -2 mile repeats at LT pace separated by shorter recovery jogs.

This type of workout is best done at the sharpening stage of a programme after you have built a base. Include a tempo workout once a week in your programme.

A good website for calculating VO2 max and LT threshold paces is runningforfitnes.org. Click the link and you can calculate your VO2 max pace appropriate to your age and 10K time. Then you can go further and find your recommended training paces for LT training, recovery runs, interval training etc.

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09 August 2009

Sam's Soccer

My six year old, Sam , has been setting the soccer pitch alight this winter featuring weekly on his team's score sheet, often multiple times per game. I was therefore stoked to be asked by his coach if he was 'available' for a rep team to represent our Albany club in a local tournament. Naturally I confirmed he was.


Sam and his coach celebrating a goal during a club game.

We had the tournament today. The intensity levels were certainly a step or two up from what Sam plays each weekend. Today he came up against opposing teams full of talented youngsters.

Sam's team, the Albany All stars, were looking pretty sharp in the Arsenal replica uniform and it was pleasing to see them win their pool after two wins by 4-1 and 4-2. Sam took little while to adjust to the pace of the games only really finding his feet in the second pool game after a wee pep talk from Dad.



The team were the narrowly beaten 2 -1 in a toughly fought semi final. Sam unfortunately only got a few minutes (the games are only 12 minutes each half) game time in the second half of this game as I guess the coach was opting for the strongest five players for the majority of the game.

It was easy to see that even at this age the sports stars of tomorrow really do stand out head and shoulders above the rest. Some of these kids just hate to lose and there were some tears from a few after the semi final lose. I could tell these were genuine tears bought on by the pain of losing, just as I'm sure a many a World Cup or Premier league player has probably shed after losing a final.

One not so pleasant aspect of following childrens sport is the behaviour of some of the parents on the sidelines. At one stage during one of our pool games, three or four fathers were all marching up and down the sideline just barking orders at their children in the opposing team. The same would happen when a player came off the field after a substitution. Sometimes I think we all need to remember the reason why we play sport and that is to have fun. I'm all for encouraging our kids to be winners but they've got to be having fun at the same time.

Sam has one more tournament this season in a few weeks and now that we have had a taste for these age group tournaments I cant wait for more.

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01 August 2009

Leg and core strengthening routine for runners

Weight training as a cross training activity for runners is one subject that splits opinion. I've heard it said by some people that the only possible result that could come from weight training is to add unwanted muscle mass and thus become heavier and slower.

On the other hand there are just as many if not more people who recommended weight training as a way of strengthening your muscles and thus ensuring that they are better equipped to withstand the stresses and strains that can come with running.

I was recalling recently the last time I routinely trained with weights, back in my twenties when I would regularly hit the gym four or five times a week mainly to weight train, though I also would do some some cardio work each week too. I do not ever recall suffering from running related lower leg injuries throughout that period.

Then three years ago when I took up running seriously and soon after the injuries started. Could it be possible that one reason I get injured is that I no longer train my legs with weights?

Well acting on the presumption that it could be, I've decided a twice weekly weight training / strengthening routine for my lower body and core can only benefit my running.

Here's what I'm doing;

1. Start with a five minute warm up on the Exercycle to warm up and loosen those leg muscles.

2. One legged squats. These are great for runners because when we run we are always effectively balancing on one leg. Keep the knee in line with your second or third toe, squat to your limit and stand up. The movement should be steady controlled. Build up to 20 or 25 for each leg.


3. Leg extension. Great for building up the muscles around the knee. Try to open your feet as you extend your legs. Knees should remain in line with the feet. Again build up to 20.


3. Lunges. Standing tall, step forward about three feet, drop the rear knee straight to the floor (don't touch the floor), rise again then step back so your feet are together. A variation would be to step forward and the end of each lunge rather than stepping back. Try for 20 on each leg.


4. Leg curls. It's important to also workout the hamstrings so as to avoid muscle imbalances. Simply lift your feet to your butt. Again aim for 20.


I do those four exercises as one large 'super set' in which each exercise is performed one after the other with no rest. I'll do the super set two or three times.

5. Kickbacks. Great for working the glutes which are important for maintaining an efficient running stride. Standing balanced on one leg, kick the other leg straight back in a steady controlled manner. Go for 20 and repeat on the other leg.


6. Clam. Another good exercise for the glutes. Laying on your side, legs together, knees bent, feet up near your butt. Slowly raise the top knee as far as you can and then lower it . The hips should remain motionless with only the glutes doing the work. Build up to 30 on each side.


I will complete exercises five and six as a super set, two or three times.

7. Calf raises. The final leg exercise is calf raises. Stand on a block of timber or a step with your heels hanging off the edge. Lower the heels and raise to your maximum. Build to 20. Two or three sets. For added difficulty try holding some hand weights.


8. Leg raises. A strong core is essential for good running form and one of my favorite exercises is the leg raise. Lie on your back, legs out stretched, slowly raise your legs to about 90 degrees and the lower your feet again though keep them off the ground. Try to keep your lower back pressed against the floor to really feel the abs working and also protect the back. Build up to 20.


9. Front plank. Lie on your front, use your elbows and your toes to support your body. Try and keep your body as straight as possible and hold the pose for up to a minute.


10. Side plank. As above but lie on your side with your elbow supporting your body. Keep your whole body as straight as possible and hold for as long as you can.


I'll do these core exercises as a super set and repeat two or three times.

That completes my strengthening routine for runners.

As I'm not yet running I'm doing this routine twice a week. Most regular runners should only need to, and would probably only find the time, to do this workout once a week, and that's what I'll be doing when I start running again.

Disclaimer: Please note I have no qualifications or training in the area of personal training so please consult your own gym instructor or health professional if you're unsure on whether any of these exercises are right for you.

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29 July 2009

Yoga for Runners

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm now focused on making a return to running in the spring. I'm trying to cover all bases this time and am leaving no stone unturned in order to avoid injury again. So with that in mind I'm now planning at least a month of stretching and strength work before I even lace up my running shoes.

In my last post I outlined a series of stretches and strength exercises that I thought I might do. I've now done a bit more research and decided an actual Yoga routine for runners might be the better way to go in order to get in all the stretches I need to focus on.

I've found a couple of sites so far which offer a range of Yoga poses suitable for runners.

- At the 'Younger Legs for Older Runners' blog there is a great Yoga routine especially for runners, explained by Kelle Taylor. This is the one I'm trying out at the moment.

- At Runners World they have another routine especially for runners. Check it out here. I like a couple of these poses that are not included in the Younger Legs routine which I may also include.

At this stage I will be doing this routine twice a week for the next month.

As far as the strength training is going, I've decided to dust of my weight bench which has been sitting idle in the garage for the last year. I'll detail that routine later.

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25 July 2009

Time to stretch and strengthen

In less than six weeks spring will be here and that heralds the start of what I hope will be a come back to running.

I've been maintaining the fitness work over the winter with stationary biking and swimming. Now its time to pick it up a gear and start a more intensive routine of stretching and strengthening to compliment the fitness work and to make sure my body is up to the rigours of running again.

The idea is to try and do each workout at least two times a week. It should take around 30 - 45 minutes. Here's what I've got planned.

Strengthening

Up to 20 reps x two sets each

- Lunge (standing upright, step forward and drop the trailing knee to the floor, rise and bring feet together, repeat on other side)

- Squats (one legged for more difficulty)

- Calf raises

- Toe raise (up to tip toes to strengthen feet muscles)

- Clam (lie on side, bend legs, raise one knee, feet remain together)

- Kick backs ( standing upright and kicking back each leg to work the butt muscles)

- Side plank ( Lie on side, elbow supporting the body, keep body straight, hold for up to a minute the repeat on other side)

- Leg raise (lying on back, keep legs straight and raise them to 90 degrees, slowly)


Stretching / yoga poses

Most of these I got from the Bikram Yoga class I use to attend. I'm still a big fan of Yoga for runners to improve flexibility. While I can not fit a regular Yoga class into my routine at present, hopefully a few key poses a couple times a week will do the trick.

Hold each stretch for up to a minute then repeat the routine. Forgive me for I don't know all the names of these poses so I'm just describing them here;

- Triangle pose - feet apart, arms wide , one foot pointed to side, bend at waist toward that foot, touch toe and stretch to ceiling with other arm.

- Stand with feet two to three feet apart, bend forward , hold heels - Gives a deep hamstring stretch

- Knee to shoulder - lying on back ,hug your left knee to you left shoulder, repeat on the right, then both.

- Airplane - lying on stomach arch the back, lift legs, arms wide.

- Kneeling stretch - kneeling on floor, butt between feet, fall back to stretch quads & improve ankle flexibility.

- Hamstrings stretch - straight leg, head on knee and hold.

- Back twists - sitting on floor, foot to butt, grasp knee with opposite elbow, twist back, look behind.

- Calf stretching


There are some more Yoga poses suited for runner described here. It could be worthwhile including a few of these in the mix also.


Lack of cross training in some of the areas I've mentioned is a common cause of injury due to the muscle imbalances created by running. So why not try to incorporate some of these into your weekly routine if you've been a bit lazy in this area.

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17 July 2009

VO2 Max pace chart

Estimated paces for VO2 max training (short speed workouts), lactate threshold(tempo) training and long slow distance training. All paces in minutes /mile.

10K time/ VO2 max pace/ LT pace / LSD pace

40 / 6:00 / 6:50 / 8:30
42 / 6:15 / 7:10 / 8:55
44 / 6:35 / 7:30 / 9:15
46 / 6:50 / 7:50 / 9:40
48 / 7:05 / 8:05 / 10:00
50 / 7:25 / 8:25 / 10:25
52 / 7:40 / 8:45 / 10:50
54 / 7:55 / 9:05 / 11:10

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15 July 2009

Increasing your VO2 Max

While I haven't been doing much (okay any) running lately, I haven't let that stop from trying to read as much as I can on the subject in order to improve my knowledge. The hope is that when I do start running again I'm going to be a better runner loaded with all sorts of new found knowledge.

One area in which I haven't paid much attention to previously (ie pre injury) is the various forms of training that one needs to undertake if your goal is to really become a stronger and faster runner, and really improve your race times - and who doesn't want that right?

As a beginner runner all I wanted to do was get outside and run, I wasn't concerned too much with such terms as VO2 max and lactate threshold. If I was able to run at a reasonable pace without too much discomfort for anywhere up to 60 minutes I was happy.

I'm now starting to gain more of an understanding about the physiology of running and how having a greater awareness of your own limitations can help a runner to improve and not risk over training and injury.

I'm learning about things like VO2 Max and Lactate Threshold which sound like a foreign language to most beginners, but really they are basic fundamentals of running that all serious runners should have some knowledge of.

What follows a quick synopsis of what I have learned so far - feel free to skip the rest of the post if you know all this stuff.

VO2 max is the highest rate of oxygen consumption that your your body or muscles can attain during hard exercise. Typically once you have reached you VO2 max your performance or training intensity will begin to plateau as your muscles tire. With regular training at your VO2 max pace a runner can increase their VO2 max and thus will become fitter an faster.


A speed workout. Photo by Frankjuarez

That, as far as I have been able to ascertain, is the theory behind the 'Speed' workout. A weekly workout where one runs short fast repeats of anywhere from 200 to 800 meters with jogging spells of two to three minutes in between.

How fast should these repeats be run though? Well that depends on the individual but it need not be an all out sprint but rather should be at a speed which is appropriate to your current VO2 max. Run faster than your VO2 max pace and you risk injury or over training.

Your VO2 max can be estimated based upon your time for a 10k race. For example a runner who runs a 40 minute 10K it is estimated would reach their VO2 max if they were to run at 5:59 mile pace for 11 minutes.

It is considered that the best way to improve ones VO2 max is to run intervals at your VO2 max pace and therefore this runner should run their intervals at their VO2 max pace of 5:59 miles.

What does this mean for me? Well I've never races a 10K but I have run a 5k in 23 minutes. Assuming I get back to that level of fitness I presume I could have run a 10K in about 48 minutes which gives me a VO2 max pace of 7:07 mile pace.

Now I'm some way off doing any speed workouts but when the time comes now at least I have some knowledge of what the aim of this workout is.

Next time some thoughts on Lactate Threshold training.

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07 July 2009

Lisa Tamati in Badwater

New Zealand ultra runner Lisa Tamati lines up at the Badwater Ultra marathon starting in Death Valley this weekend. It will be Lisa's second appearance at the infamous ultra marathon event, notorious for its scorching temperatures.


Photo by OmarOmar

In 2008 Lisa was the 10th placed female covering the 135 mile course in a time of 38:24 (that's 38 hours, 24 minutes!).

Lisa has been training for the last week in the heat and altitude of Arizona and is hoping for a finish under 28 hours this year.

Follow Lisa at her blog here.

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01 July 2009

Our new arrival

Our eagerly awaited new arrival joined our family on Monday. Alice Rose was born at around midday weight 2.9kg. She is a beautiful baby.

Mum and baby came home from hospital today. The boys can not get enough of their baby sister, Jack particularly. Any chance to help out and they are there in a second.

Here's a couple of pictures.


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27 June 2009

A great challenge for a great cause

Its becoming harder and harder to raise funds in these tough economic times, but that hasn't stopped one determined endurance athlete from doing his part to fund raise for a worthwhile charity close to his heart.

Aucklander runner Malcolm Law has dreamt up a challenge all of his own which is sure to test even the toughest of ultra runners plus hopefully some much needed funds for his chose charity, the Leukaemia and Blood Foundation of New Zealand.

Malcolm, or Mal, will be running each of New Zealand's seven 'Great Walks' in seven consecutive days. The Great Walks are a network of hiking trails set in New Zealand's stunning mountains and back country. They are well spread with two in the North Island and five in the South Island and range in length from 32 km to 78 km. The seven walks ( or runs in Mals case) cover a total of almost 360 km.

Aptly named the Mizone 7 in 7, the challenge will take place over seven days from November 29 this year. Mal will be be joined on each run by a number of keen supports but Mal will be the sole runner running all seven Great Walks.

Check out the 7 in 7 website for more info and follow his progress as he gets closer to the big event. He updates is blog regularly with details of his training which has just ticked over 1000 km of training runs. He reckons there's another 1000 in him before the event.

There's also a link on his site where you can sponsor him and you could even win some cool prizes by doing so.

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23 June 2009

The Pregnancy Marathon

I'm perhaps not qualified to comment on either pregnancies or marathons not having experienced either of these events, however it has struck me while observing Michelle's pregnancy, that pregnancy is a little like running a marathon in many ways.

Like a marathon a pregnancy can be broken up into smaller sections;

From what I have read, the the first ten k or so of a marathon is about settling in to a rhythm. You feel fresh and perhaps a nervous apprehension about what lies ahead.

Usually the first few weeks of a pregnancy will go unnoticed so this is one race that you don't actually know you've started until you're a few weeks into it. The next few weeks can be a breeze for some and tough on others as the body gets use to supporting a baby. Fortunately for Michelle the first ten weeks or so of her pregnancy passed without too much fuss.

Kilometers ten through thirty in a marathon are where you lay the ground work for the latter stages of the race. Maintaining a steady rhythm, looking after yourself, hydrating etc.

It's the same for weeks ten through thirty in the pregnancy. The body (and mind) are over the initial shock to the system and you can set about preparing for the final stages of the race. It's still important to look after yourself through these stages and not make you move too soon.

I've heard many people say the a marathon does not start until the final ten k and again I think the same can almost be said for pregnancies. It seems as each week passes the tension is building as the finish line draws near. The body is tiring and she just wants the race to finish. Sometimes there's a false alarm and you think you can see the finish but then it disappears again into the distance.

We're two days from the finish line. Hopefully the organisers will have measured the course correctly and we wont have to run an extra 'mile'.

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20 June 2009

Injury Prevention

Here's some great injury prevention tips from the guys at Newton Running.

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14 June 2009

Back training and waiting for a baby!!

Well after last weeks post about having lacked motivation to train for the previous two weeks I was left with little option to get back into it wasn't I? That's the great thing about maintaining a blog - all you have to do when you're feeling you need some encouragement is to write a post about the issue and a couple of things generally happen;

1, As soon as you've posted about something its there in black and white, online for the world to see. You look a bit foolish if you turn around and don't do what you said you were going to do. The act of posting your plans in a blog, is like taking the first step towards achieving what ever it is you were setting out to do. Once its there for all to see the words take on more meaning and your goals become clear again.

2, The second thing that happens is that generally you will receive some form of positive encouragement, and that's always pleasing to read also, knowing that you're not alone and that others are interested and can empathise, and are willing you along no matter where in the world they might be.

So this week I hit the pool for two 30 minute swims as well as my Exercycle for two rides of almost an hour each. If you haven't checked it out before, I record my workouts in the Training Log which can be accessed by clicking the link at the top of this page.

Any training woes are quickly forgotten when I consider that at some stage over the next week or two my beautiful wife Michelle will be giving birth to our third child. All the usual preparations have been made, baby's room readied , nappies stock piled, etc etc , and now all we can do is wait for the impending arrival.

Cant wait to meet our new bundle of joy and re-live all that 'baby stuff' again!

Happy running.

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07 June 2009

Losing that motivation to train and how to get it back

Why is it that sometimes we lose any motivation to train or exercise?

I'm sorry if this post is a bit negative but it's just that this is a topic that I can relate to right now and I thought as I'm going through it I may as well blog about it.


Photo from oddstock

For the last two weeks I have been the ultimate coach potato, not having any motivation to get up and exercise. I know I should but I don't. What's keeping me from staying with the programme?

1. I'm disillusioned by not being able to do what I would most like to do - run.

Instead I am faced with alternatives to running like biking and swimming.

Swimming is great cross training for runners and is certainly an excellent fitness builder, but a) I am darn slow at it and b) it ranks as one of the most mind numbing activities I've done. The monotony of swimming in a pool is a major turn off.

Unlike running where in just 30 minutes of running you can get a decent workout, I feel that you need at least twice that on a bike to achieve similar results. In the middle of winter now my bike options are basically reduced to my home Exercycle or a weekend ride on my bike.

2. Fitting it in - finding the time.

With running there is no question, I could always find the time fit it in. When exercise options are limited to those second and third favorites there always seems to be a whole host of reasons why you miss a workout. Too busy at work, its too cold, favorite TV show, spending time with family, catching up on peoples blogs etc etc.

The key to staying motivated I think is to know what your goals are and have a plan to reach those goals. For me at this stage my goal is run again and to reach that goal I need to maintain some fitness and flexibility so that when I do start running I am in the best condition I can reasonably be in so as to minimise risk of further injury.

To overcome point one I need to keep reminding myself of the end goal. No matter what the boredom and monotony of swimming and stationary biking, the cross training will help me later.

Overcoming point two is about planning. A training course I once went on dealt partly with planning and said that the first things you should plan for every day are those things most important to you. Now of course exercise is not the most important thing in my life but it's got to rank up there right? Therefore exercise needs to be somewhere in the daily plan and the other stuff needs to fit around that. For me that means taking my lunch breaks and going to the pool, getting on the Exercycle two nights a week for 60 minutes and getting out on the road at least once each weekend for 1-2 hours, no matter what the weather.

Wish me luck as I try to re focus on the goal and return to some better planning.

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24 May 2009

Heel or mid/fore foot striker - Which one are you?

The subject of heel striking vs mid or fore foot striking is one which I've been taking a key interest in of late. I sense a growing awareness and movement to the benefits of landing softly on your mid foot rather than the traditional heel striking.

Proponents of a mid foot landing promote this style as a more natural style of running, which seeks to emulate the way one runs if they were running barefoot. When running barefoot do you land on your heel? Chances are you will be wanting to land on your mid foot as continued heel striking would soon result in some heavy bruising to the padding on your heel. Proponents therefore surmise that its safer to adopt a mid foot landing as this is the more natural style which the human body is better suited to.

Another reason often put forward by those in the mid foot camp is that the running shoe industry has in a round about sort of way contributed to the problem by manufacturing shoes which are heavily built up with cushioning and support through the heel. The running shoe industry has therefore for years concentrated on the development of shoes designed to minimise the the adverse effects of heel striking, therefore encouraging continued heel striking.

Danny Dreyer, founder of Chi Running , is one that favours a mid foot landing. Danny's view is that knee injuries can commonly be traced back to heavy heel striking. Generally a heavy heel stiker will be coming down hard on their heel with their foot in front of their centre of gravity. What then happens is that you momentarily brake as your foot stops and your body catches up. The knee joint then is forced to take the brunt of the forces generated on landing.

The Chi Running method promotes a style whereby the forward lean moves your centre of gravity slightly forward so that you are then almost forced to land on the mid foot with your feet beneath your centre of gravity. Rather than a heavy heel strike sending forces up the leg to the knee, the result is a landing on the mid foot with a slightly bent knee and therefore none undue stress to the joints.

Back to the subject of running shoes and it seems that one company has finally answered the calls for a running shoe for the mid foot runner. Newton Running has manufactures a range of running shoes specifically for mid and fore foot runners. I've been following with interest the growing popularity of Newton Running shoes and though I haven't tried them myself yet, (very hard to get hold of down under, but they are coming) I can't wait to get some of these for myself. They will definitely be on my shopping list when I next head out to buy a pair of running shoes.


The unique soles of a pair of Newton trainers. Note the red actuator lugs on the forefoot. On landing these are depressed into hollow chambers inside the sole to act as shock absorbers and also to help lever you forward on take off. photo by Morton Liebach

If you haven't already, check out the Newton Running website to learn more about this exciting development in running shoe design. You can also read first hand from fellow blogger, Steve Speirs who has recently converted to Newtons.

I know this can be a hot topic so I'd be interested in others views on this one.

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11 May 2009

Danny Dreyer - Chi Running

It's been well documented throughout my blog the troubled past I've had with injuries in recent years first with Shin Splints and latterly an as yet undiagnosed heel/ arch problem. Consequently I'm currently in the middle of an extended break from running. As happens when one is injured we look for reasons and answers as to why we get these injuries. We also look for improved training methods to try keep from repeating the mistakes of the past.

A book I have taken a keen interest in, while trying to learn about a more efficient and safer running form, is Danny Dreyer's book, Chi Running. Chi Running is more than just a fancy name. It's a philosophy, a mindset, a group of principles and focuses which when combined together show the reader in a clear and logical way what is I believe to be a truly safer method of running.

I've read this book three times mow and each time the simplicity of Danny's explanations continues to just make such common sense to me. Not only does Danny explain in clear terms the technique but he also explains the why and how of the technique from a physiological sense.

To summarise Chi Running, the technique that is, very briefly

1. Posture - it all starts with maintaining an upright posture from head to toe. Danny calls this your column.

2. The forward lean - lean slightly forward, from the ankle, engaging your core muscles to maintaining your posture. Danny refers to the lean as your gas pedal, increase the lean to increase the speed.

3. The landing - as a result of the forward lean, your feet should naturally be landing at the base of your column and behind your centre of gravity. You will be landing on your mid foot rather than heel striking. This cuts down on the stresses transferred to the knee from heavy heel striking.

4. Relax - another big part of Chi Running is learning to relax. Danny says to relax your lower body. Rather than pushing off with each stride, your lower legs should be hanging limply when you pick your feet up. One of my favorite lines in the book is "If you don't use it you can't abuse it" referring to common overuse injuries like shin splints.

The book is full of other helpful hints and tips, including strengthening exercises, injury prevention tips (again which mainly revolve around relaxing muscles rather than using them, training programmes, racing, diet, interesting tips on how to run up hills and downhills.

I'm convinced that this method of running is right for me and will help me to stay injury free when I start running again. If you've been troubled by persistent injuries and haven't been able to find the right answers then I reckon you're a good candidate for Chi Running also.

To hear more from Danny directly click here.

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08 May 2009

2009 Training log

On this page I record all my training for 2009.

Week 42

zip!

Week 41

so far nothing !

Week 40

Rest a sore ankle and lazily skipped cross training also.

October 1 weight 91 kg (no change from last month)

Tue, Walk / run 1.6 miles, 16 mins

Week 39

Sun, run/walk/run , 1.4 miles, 15 min
Sat, Leg & core stregthening
Fri, swim , 500 m, 15 mins
Thur, Stregthening
Wed, run/walk/run 1.4 miles , 15 minutes. PM yoga stretches
Tue, Exercycle, 60 minutes , 15 easy, 20 tempo pace (95rpm), 5 easy , 15 tempo, 5 easy
Mon, run / walk / run, 1.4 miles, 15 minutes (walk 1 min, run 2 min x 5). PM Yoga stretches

Week 38

Sun, Legs & core strength training
Sat, walk / run, 1.3 miles , 14 minutes (walk 1 / run 1 x 7)
Fri, Swim , 1000 m, 32 minutes, PM stretching
Thur, walk/run 1.3 miles, 14 minutes
Wed, Stretching


Week 37

Sun, Legs & core strength training
Sat, Walk / run 1.3 miles , 14 minutes (walk 1 / Run 1 x 7), PM stretching
Thur, Swim, 1200 m, 39 minutes,incl 4 x 100 m intervals , PM stretching
Tue, Stretching
Mon, Exercycle 60 minutes


Week 36

Sun, Legs & core strength training
Sat, Exercycle, 82 minutes
Fri, Swim 1100 m , 35 minutes
Thur, Stretching
Wed, Exercycle, 62 minutes
Tue, Swim, 1000m , 33 minutes
Mon, Yoga/stretching

September 1 weight, 90.5 kg (down .5 kg from August)

Week 35

A bit of an up and down week this one. Car broke down Monday so spent Tuesday arranging to get that fixed. Flew to Dunedin for work on Wednesday, so th eearly part of the week was a bit of a write off training wise.

Sun, Legs & core strength training
Sat, Exercycle , 62 minutes
Thur, Exercycle 45 minutes

Week 34

Sunday, Legs and core strength training
Thursday, Yoga
Wednesday, Swim, 1100 meters, 35 minutes. 200m warm up, 4 x 100 m harder efforts separated by 100 m 'rests', finish with 200 m warm down.
Tuesday, Yoga
Monday, Exercycle, 62 minutes - Interval session, 4 x 7 minutes efforts at 100+ RPM / 5 minutes rest between each interval

Week 33

Sunday, Exercycle, 82 minutes
Thursday, Swim, 1100 meters, 34 minutes, Yoga
Wednesday, Leg & core strength training
Tuesday, Yoga

Week 32

Saturday, Bike ride, North Shore loop, 17.4 miles, 85 minutes (8 minutes down on the last time I rode this route in 12 weeks ago!)
Friday, Yoga
Thursday, Exercycle, 62 minutes, (hill workout - three 10 minute 'hills' , five min rest between.
Wednesday, Leg & Core resistance training
Tuesday, Exercycle, 62 minutes, including a 30 minute 'tempo' effort at above 95 rpm.
Monday, Yoga

August 1st weight, 91 kg

Week 31

Exercycle , 144 minutes
Swim , 2200 meters, 73 minutes
2 x Yoga and resistance training.

Sunday, Exercycle, 84 minutes
Saturday, Resistance training
Friday, Swim, 1100 meters, 36 minutes
Thurdsay, Yoga for runners
Wednesday, Exercycle, 60 minutes
Tuesday, Legs, Butt & Core workout
Monday, AM, Swim , 1100 meters, 37 minutes, PM, Yoga for Runners

Week 30

A lovely sunny winters day today so felt that I had no excuse not to venture out for my first bike ride of the winter. Obviously the Exercycle is o substitute for riding on the road because I was a goo five or six minutes slower today that last time I did this ride.

Sunday, weight / strength training
Saturday, Bike ride, Albany 13 mile loop, 64 minutes.
Thursday, Exercycle, 45 minutes
Wednesday, Swim, 1000m, 32 minutes
Tuesday, Exercycle, 45 minutes

Week 29

Swim, 32 minutes
Exercycle, 216 minutes

Saturday, Exercycle, 86 minutes
Thursday, Exercycle, 65 minutes
Wednesday, Swim, 1000 m, 32 minutes
Tuesday, Exercycle, 65 minutes

Week 28

Exercycle , 275 minutes

Sunday, Exercycle, 86 minutes
Friday , Exercycle , 63 minutes
Wednesday, Exercycle,63 minutes
Monday, Exercycle, 63 minutes

Week 27

Exercycle 206 minutes

Sunday , Exercycle, 82 minutes
Friday, Exercycle, 62 minutes
Wednesday, Exercycle , 62 minutes

July 1 Weight 91 kg

Week 26

Swim, 2200 meters, 72 minutes
Exercycle, 180 minutes

Sunday, Exercycle, 60 minutes
Friday, Swim, 1100 meters, 37 minutes
Thursday, Exercycle , 60 minutes
Wednesday, Exercycle, 60 minutes
Tuesday, Swim , 1100 meters, 35 minutes

Week 25

Exercycle, 175 minutes
Swim, 30 minutes

Sunday, Exercycle , 65 minutes
Thursday, Swim, 1000m, 30 minutes
Tuesday, Exercycle, 55 minutes
Monday, Exercycle , 55 minutes

Week 24

Swim, 1800m, 57 minutes
Exercyle, 105 minutes

Saturday, Exercycle, 51 minutes
Friday, Swim, 1000m, 31 minutes
Wenesday, Exercycle, 54 minutes
Monday, Swim 800 m , 26 minutes

Week 23

Another lazy week, haven't found that motivation yet to do anything.

Week 22

I've slacked off this last week and haven't done anything. No real excuses just laziness creeping back in. I need to re focus and look forward to the longer goal of running again. I need to keep up my cross training so I've got at least an average level of fitness for when I start running again.

Weight as at end of May , 93 kg.


Week 21

Wed, Swim 1000m, 31 minutes
Tue, Exercycle, 35 minutes

Week 20

Bike, 17.4 mile
Swim ,1600 m
Exercycle, 105 minutes

Sat , Bike ride, North shore 17.4 miles, 78 minutes
Fri, Swim , 900 m, 29 minutes
Thur, Exercycle , 55 minutes
Wed, Swim 700 m, 21 minutes
Tue, Exercycle , 50 minutes

Week 19

Sat, Bike, 8.5 miles, 38 minutes
Thur,Exercycle, 50 minutes
Wed, Swim, 550 m, 17 minutes

Week 18

Sun, Bike ride, 17.2 miles, North Shore 17 mile loops , 80 minutes

Weight 93 kg

Read more...

05 May 2009

Heartbreaking end to Rotorua Marathon

Has there been a more heartbreaking finish to a marathon than at last weekends Rotorua Marathon?

Race leader Steven O'Callaghan takes stumble just metres from the finishing line allowing fast finishing favorite Scott Winton to overtake him and take out the race.

I can't imagine what poor O'Callaghan must have been feeling as he staggered across the finish line but he must still be having nightmares about it. Winton on the other hand probably cant believe his good fortune.

Watching this I thought , wouldn't it have been good to see Winton stop to help up O'Callaghan and then cross the line together to share the victory? Maybe that sort of stuff just happens in movies, there was a trophy and winners cheque to pick up after all.

Anyway the fact that it all happened so quickly and so close to the finish probably gave Winton too little time to react. I'm sure when you're just ten metres out from the finish line in a marathon the only think that crosses your mind is getting to that line. One day I'll experience the pain of those closing metres.

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01 May 2009

Time to throw away the scales

My employer brought in the health experts this week and offered everyone free health checks. Not having ever had a Cholesterol test before I thought it would be an interesting exercise to get the experts assessment on my current well being (or lack there of).


Photo by Erix

What I found out was;

- Total Cholesterol was good at 4.5 (ideal level being less than 5).

- HDL Cholesterol (measures the good fats) was less than ideal at .84 (ideal is more than 1). More avocados, olive oils etc needed here. Suggestion was to look at fish oil capsules as a supplement. These evidently help with freeing up joints and the cardio vascular system also which sounds beneficial.

- Blood glucose was good at 4.9 , ideal level is 3 too 5.6, low risk for diabetes.

- Blood pressure 125 / 70. Good news there, that's a normal blood pressure.

- Weight 93.4 kg (206 pds), this was a bit of a shock. Thanks to some faulty scales
at home I've been under the impression that I was a reasonably trim 87 - 88 kg. Turns out I've tipped the scales at over 90kg again. This will definitely give me more reason to pick up my fitness work.

- Body Mass Index, 28.8. Ideal BMI is less than 27 so again this is slightly on the high side but still a low / moderate risk of health problems.

Apparently I need to be exercising MORE. I'm generally exercising four days a week at present. Apparently five days a week is the recommended. Guess I will have to do something about that.

My diet is one area I could pay closer attention to. Though I don't consider myself an unhealthy eater, I could definitely show a bit more restraint in some areas. It's best not to have things like ice cream or chocolate biscuits in the house as I will just polish these have in no time. I find though that if we don't buy these items I don't miss them terribly.

I'm not one to snack throughout the day on high sugar foods, and I generally eat fruit and vegetables every day. I do love my coffee though (with sugar) but I also know not to over do this. Two a day is generally my limit. Otherwise it's generally several glasses of water a day. Not many soft drinks really.

All in all an average report I would say. Will probably give my self a B grade based on the findings. Not a bad result but could try harder would probably sum it up.

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27 April 2009

Winter cross-training plan

With my race season (aka the Xterra) behind me I've had to quickly come up with a new training plan for the next few months as the longer I stay inactive the harder it seems to get back into a training schedule.

So here's the plan;

Its time to dust of the Exercycle which hasn't really been used for a year or so. Minimum two workouts a week. - 45 - 60 minutes

A weekly bike ride on the road - 60 - 90 minutes.

I will also be re-introducing myself to the swimming pool for one or two swim session a week - will alternate IE swim Mon, Fri, Wed, Mon etc etc).

I haven't swam in the last year so it will take a bit if building up to a decent workout. Will build this up to 30-40 minutes over the next month.

Swimming remains one of the most efficient forms of fitness training I know of and even one or two sessions a week combined with the biking I should remain in okay condition.

Still no date in mind for returning to running and with winter nearly here I'm in no rush. I still feel that my heel isn't right and would just play up again after 20 - 30 minutes of running. It still aches even now when I put my running shoes on either for a long walk or just mucking around playing soccer with the boys at the park.

I continue to stretch when I can, though I have not been as disciplined about this as I could be. It's not the most exciting way to pass the time is it?

With any luck time will heal these little niggles and while I continue to swim and bike to maintain some fitness. I'll perhaps pencil in the spring to commence some running again.

I've enjoyed the challenge of mountain biking this summer and I'll hopefully continue with this next summer also. Hopefully though it will be in addition to some running races also as at the end of the day I think I'm a runner at heart. It's running that I still desperately want to be able to do again. More on that later.

Have a good week.

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23 April 2009

Rotorua

Here's a snippet of a conversation with my five year old son when I was explaining about our upcoming trip to Rotorua,

Me: "Are you looking forward to going to Rotorua for the weekend?"

Sam: "Aww not Rotorua again, that place STINKS ...."



Photo mcaretaker
Rotorua is very much a tourist town. It's one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, certainly one of the most visited in the North Island. It's so touristy here in fact that we kiwis affectionately refer to the town as Rotovegas. It's a little Las Vegas only without the Casinos.

Sam wasn't being rude about the town when he said it stinks... as it literally does stink at times, due to the sulphur gases which are around. It's okay though its pretty harmless and you get used to the smell after a while. Rotorua, home to about 70,000 residents, is built on a geothermal area and dotted throughout the town and surrounding countryside there are hot pools of steaming boiling water seeping up through the earth, together with boiling mud pools and geysers.

As well as the geothermal attractions there's loads of activities to keep everyone entertained and that's part of the reason that so many kiwis also love to visit.

During our stay there last weekend, we stayed at the Heritage Hotel right beside the Whakarewarewa thermal village. The hotel kindly upgraded us to a third (top) floor room which had lovely views of the village and its steaming hot pools and then across to the Whakarewarewa forest. A highlight of the stay at the hotel was the geothermally heated outdoor pool. We certainly spent a good amount lounging in and around pool and the spa also came in very handy after my race.

Rotorua has some interesting colonial style architecture around the town.


This building now houses the Rotorua Museum of Art and History. In its day it was an internationally renowned bath house and spa.

No trip to Rotorua is complete without a trip up the Skyline Gondola. Not only is there the view from the top to marvel at but the luge rides down the hill offer more excitement. This year was the first year that Jack, 7, has been old enough to ride the luge by himself and he had a great time. We had three rides and with each one he gained in confidence and picked up more speed.

Sam on the other hand was with me and for some reason did not want to go fast at all. That most most unusual for Sam as he is usually the adventurous one.


Its doing stuff like the that makes the Xterra festival such a fun weekend. I get to race over challenging and scenic terrain and when the racing has finished, there lots fun things to enjoy with the rest of the family.

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19 April 2009

Disappointing effort at Xterra

The placing tells a disappointing story.

40th of 46 in the open men category or 86th of 111 men overall.


Setting up pre race.

I was reasonably confident going into the race, a 26 km Mountain Bike Race through the famed Whakarewarewa Forest, at Rotorua and was being raced as part Xterra festival. I hadn't done a huge amount of mileage on the bike in training, but in recent weeks and had increased my distances. I no illusions of posting a stunning result but I did think I could post a respectable result.

The one area that I was light on was actual off road training in true mountain bike trails. Only two rides in the last two months, one of around 20 km. I wasn't too concerned at this as I thought I has coped reasonably well on that ride. I was more concerned with spending ample time on the bike and riding some hills once a week to build strength hill climbing.

The race started near the shore of Rotorua's Blue Lake and we were straight away climbing back up the hill by road for perhaps a mile before heading into the forest. I placed my self near the back of the field at the start and settled into an easy pace for the first mile, feeling pretty comfortable going up the hill (again I did most of my training in road).


Underway.

We entered the forest and the track was now a rough and rocky but flat 4wd track. Though wary of the loose surface I was able to maintain my position through this section of the trail.

It was not long before we came to our first climb of the day. This hill was one of those demoralising hills that never seemed to end. Aptly named Hill Road, it snaked its way skywards, twisting and turning, as all the while you hoped that just around the next corner it would be over.

Ahead of me other riders were already walking their bikes a sure sign that others were too feeling some pain. Subconsciously I think I must have taken that as a sign that it was alright to do the same, as before long I too found myself walking up the hill. Thinking back now I must have only been climbing for minutes and it frustrates me that I gave in so early, perhaps only ten minutes into the race, and lacked the fight to continue riding up this hill.

Eventually the 4wd track linked with a single dirt track but the climb continued onwards and upwards through the Redwoods, via a series of switchbacks. I managed to get back on the bike temporarily through this section but still fatigued from the walk up the hill I was in no shape to push the pace and was again walking before I reached the top. I enjoyed the chance to regain my breath while negotiating the tight and technical downhill section that followed.


Photo by Rengber
The terrain of the Whakarewarewa forest, with its huge hill climbs and long challenging downhills, is so different to what we have at Woodhill in Auckland which though also forested is much more gently rolling terrain with small climbs and downhills and all on a nice sandy base.

Once on the flat again I soon caught two speedsters who had zoomed past me on the downhill. The flat soon gave may to another hill and the two in front were soon walking. Being a single track and still in no mood to try a passing manoeuvre I also elected to walk it.

Before long the single track linked with a 4wd track again. Straight away I was on my bike and from that point I didn't look back. I rode strongly all the way to the top of this climb, picking up a few other riders as I went. Over the other side and it was another enjoyable downhill which soon gave way to a fast section of flat quite open trail.

As I reached the shores of the Green Lake, I knew now I could push on to the finish and I and continued to make good time along this flat and open section of forestry road. I then successfully negotiated the final climb over the hill back to the southern end of the Blue Lake after which it was all downhill to the finish at the northern end of the lake.

My finish time was 2:08:50 which placed me 86th of 111 men overall or 40th of 46 in my division of men under 40.


Finished at last.

Looking back on why I ran out of puff going up Hill Road, clearly a lack of hill training is a factor and also terrain specific training. Two off road rides in the preceding two months was not enough preparation. I'm also afraid that I just lacked sufficient mental toughness to keep going. I will learn from that and next time I'm in a similar position I'll be challenging myself to carry on.

I'm not sure where to from here just yet. There's no more Mountain Biking events around locally over the winter so that might be getting a bit of a rest. I need to come up with something quick though as know I must stay active.

On a more positive note it was a great weekend away with the family. Michelle enjoyed taking in the racing at the Lake and the boys enjoyed the kids playground and other activities the organiser had set up for them. More on what else we got up to next time.

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07 April 2009

Abebe Bikila - The Barefoot Runner

I've been doing a bit more reading these days. I've been busing to and from work for about a year now (thanks to the astronomical fuel prices last year and a flash new bus way beside the the motorway which means we can just fly past all the other traffic). This gives me 45 minutes or so of spare time each way so I thought I could make good use of that time by doing some more reading.

I picked up a book titled "Barefoot Runner: The Life of Marathon Champion Abebe Bikila" from our local library which tells the story of the legendary Ethiopian distance runner Abebe Bikila. For those that don't know the name, Bikila was the first African to win an Olympic medal when he won the Marathon at Rome in 1960. Not only did Bikila win in world record time of 2:15:17 but he raced barefoot due to his inability to find a fitting shoe in the Olympic village prior to the race. Running barefoot was not new to Bikila having grown up running barefoot in the Ethiopian highlands.

Bikila's hero status was further enhanced when became the first athlete (and only second ever) to successfully ever defend his Olympic Marathon title when he won in Tokyo, four years later in a time of 2:12:12. The remarkable thing about this race was that he was able to win merely six weeks after undergoing an appendix operation.

Bikila almost went on to complete what would have been an even more remarkable hat trick of Olympic Marathon victories in Mexico in 1968. Sadly he withdrew with a knee injury at about the 17 km mark, while leading the race. In a nice touch his long time friend and mentor Mamo Wolde went on to win Gold that day thus continuing that Ethiopia's stranglehold on the Olympic Marathon.

Tragically Bikila was paralysed in a car accident in 1969 and was confined to a wheel chair until he died in 1973.

The book goes to some lengths to also cover Bikila's relationship with his coach, Onni Niskanen originally from Sweden, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, as well as political tensions, coup attempts, civil unrest and the disorder leading to the Emperors downfall in 1969.

I was slightly amusing when reading the reviews on Amazon. It seems that the author may have used a fair degree of poetic license to describe many of the events that took place, but never the less if nothing else the book gives a good account of Bikila's two Olympic Golds and his attempted third.

Bikila undoubtedly paved the way for the many talented African runners that would follow in his footsteps.

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04 April 2009

Queenstown

I'm fortunate that my work enables me to get to travel to some of the New Zealand's most scenic towns and this week I had the pleasure of spending a few days in beautiful Queenstown, nestled amongst the mountains in New Zealand's South Island.

Here's a few snaps I took.


A beautiful looking Lake Whakatipu and mountain backdrop. It's still autumn here and we've had no winter snow storms yet, but in winter these mountain peaks will be covered with the white fluffy stuff.

There's plenty to do here from ...



Jet boating and ...



Bungy jumping for the thrill seekers, through to ...



just cruising the lake on the on the 98 year old steamer, SS Earnslaw for those keen on a slower pace of life.

I also made it to the southern most point on New Zealand's South Island, Bluff.



In biking news, I've finally entered the Xterra Mountain Bike race in Rotorua which is taking place in two weeks. After 9 or 10 days of no training due to my South Island trip and then straining my back mid week, I have a bit of catching up to do. Still plenty of time though to get some good training rides in.

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22 March 2009

Fun in the forest

I got four more rides in this week, culminating in a nice 100 minute ride this afternoon at the Woodhill Bike Park, in the Woodhill Forest, a large Pine forest about 30 minutes North West of Auckland.


Not Woodhill but you get the idea. Photo by Irargerich

It was my first off road ride with the new clip in pedals. I wanted some off road practice before the Xterra Mountain Bike race in Rotorua next month. I still haven't entered this yet but the consensus from various comments seems to be that I should. Budget constraints have been one reason that I have held off entering to date. May be I should just to my bit for the economy and spend the cash.

The ride went well. I'm still a bit of a novice really at this off road stuff and am by no means a speedster on the downhills. I like the challenge and variety of it though and of course it offers a totally different experience to what most of my rides tend to be on the smooth seal of our roads.

I only had one spill when I lost all forward momentum while tackling a small rise in the wrong gear. Before I knew it, and before a had time un clip my foot from the pedal, I was toppling over sideways and backwards at the same time. I ended up flat on my back, sliding backwards a small way on soft forest floor of sand and pine needles. Fortunately for me there were no trees where I fell or it could have been a bit nasty.

I'm off to Queenstown and Invercargill for work next week and my good wife Michelle has invited herself along of the trip. I'll be working on Monday and Tuesday visiting colleagues, but we will be heading down Queenstown, the country's premier resort town, a couple of days early on Saturday. It will be just the two of us with the boys staying with the grand parents for the four days. It will be a great little escape for us just three months out from the arrival of our wee baby girl. I'll be sure to post some photos of the trip.


Photo by Cheetah

I'll end this post with a funny quote from my five year old son Sam. Sam asked me tonight .. "Does your boss watch you to make sure you eat all your lunch?", in reference to his teacher having to watch over her class to ensure all the kids eat their lunch. Oh how things change as we grow up, I think whether I have any lunch would be the least of his concerns.

Have a good week.

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