TULOY PO KAYO sa aking munting kastilyo.... WELCOME TO KASTILYONG LAPIS ....

Aug 6, 2010

And My New 1-Kilometer Best ...

Just this morning.. I woke up at around 5:20 AM for my scheduled training run. As usual for an interval training session, I was debating with my inner self if I need to do this run. Perhaps I can rest for the day and sleep for a few more hours. After all, rest is an integral part of the training. Right?

Then again, I don't want to miss my first 5x1Km speed workout run of a 13-week or roughly 3+ months of training cycle. [ Training for what? Let's keep it a secret for now. My short term goal is a sub-20 5K in week 5 or 6 and then a 40-minute 10K in week 9 or 10. If I can successfully do both, I will proceed with my secret training goal. ]

So off I went to the park. On my way there, I bought and consumed a P10-worth of hot "taho." I then stretched my arms, shoulders, legs, knees and ankles. Then a one-kilometer warm up run in 6:15 minutes. Still feeling a bit tight and uneasy to run at full interval speed, I ran for another kilometer warm up in 5:59 minutes.

Then it's time to break my 1Km course loop best of 3:40 minutes.

The strategy? Run like hell. Hehehe. Seriously, I wanted the first 200 meters at a relaxed but fast pace. The next 400 meters at my 8x400m interval speed. Then catch my breath for the next 100 meters. Lastly, finish the last 300 meters sprinting strong. I hope the strategy would be enough to smash 3:40 minutes today.

My legs understood its role. I went for the first 200 meters as fast and relaxed as I could as if nothing happened. I have to be as fresh as possible for the next 400. Of course, the strategy is always simple. The actual roadwork is much harder. But I did run as fast as I could.

I ran slow on the next 100 meters trying to catch my breath for a strong push to the finish. The last 300 meters, I was so tired and breathing so heavy already. But there's only 300 meters left and so I pushed myself hard and just focused on the next tree up ahead or the next parked car on the side of the road.

Reaching the last 100 meters.. I was almost about to stop and put a halt to this grueling nonsense. But I did not. I tried to sprint with longer much powerful strides. And then I hit the LAP button on my running watch.

3:37 minutes! Oh yeah. I knew I could do it. But not on the first try. This is just amazing. Yehey!!!

I followed the 1Km fast interval with a 400-meter recovery.

The next 1Km was 4:40 minutes. Perhaps I was still celebrating. Perhaps I am now so tired. Perhaps it's a combination of both.

On the third try.. I whispered to myself that this should be my best effort to try and reach the 3:30-minute mark. I know that my strategy worked. I just have to do it again.

And I did. 3:36 minutes! I beat 3:37 by the slimmest of margins. How happier can I get now? Hehehe. I was ecstatic. My training is now paying off. I'm getting to my top speed once again.

But I'm not done yet. Two more 1Km intervals to go.

I took the 4th interval as a breather. I finished it in 4:29 minutes. Then it's time for the last and final effort. I am so tired. I have already beaten my 3:40-minute best. Need I run the last one fast? Can I just have another breather?

No. I figured the last kilometer could be my fatigued-pace training run. And a mental toughness test. Could I still go for full speed at this fatigued-state? I have already ran 2 kilometers of warm up and about 6 kilometers of intervals+recovery. I felt I can't run much faster.

Still, I pushed for my limits and tried to strengthen my mind and battle fatigue. Last push!

I was like the drunken master on that last lap. Wow. I was too tired but had to sprint still especially on the last 100 meters approaching the 1Km mark. 3:37 minutes final lap!! Yey!

I went back to my bed and laid down for a while. I beat the 3:40 mark three times today. It's so special I feel like I'm dreaming. :)

Aug 5, 2010

Why My Calves Cramped On a Long Slow Run?

I have a theory why I suffered from calf cramps during my 31-kilometer marathon-preparation long run.

I am forefoot striker. I used to strike with my heels but learned that I could run faster by switching to forefoot running. The transition went rough. My calves often hurt as I tried the new strike. Gradually, I used the forefoot strike more and more during runs. And as I got comfortable with it, I began to use it with my speed workout runs. Later on, the tightness on my calves disappeared and I managed to successfully switch to forefoot running.

Then came my Milo marathon preparation. After several 21-kilometer Sunday runs and three 27-kilometer Sunday long runs, I went up to 31 kilometers. That was on the 8th week of my 15-week marathon training. Pained and exhausted, my training run speed went as slow as 7 minutes per kilometer. I finished the 31 kilometers on an average pace of 6:08 min/km.

Then after that run, my calves tightened and would always cramp after just 1 or 2 kilometers of running. For the next three weeks, I had to rest the cramping calves. I really had no other choice, I was only able to run 2 to 5 kilometers on each training day and they only aggravated the pains on my left and right calves. Rest became mandatory.

The 3-week hiatus proved costly. I finished my second marathon in 5:22 hours and had to walk the last 13 of the entire 42 kilometers.

Why it happened?

My theory is that running with the forefoot strike on a slow pace of 6:00 min/km (and slower) puts a lot of pressure on the calf muscles. I experienced it while trying to learn the strike. I would run slow just to feel how it is to run with my forefoot. It was really painful on the calves. Then as I get more comfortable and faster with it, the pain disappeared. But when I tried the much longer runs where I had to slow down because of fatigue, my calf muscles were again put to a lot of stress.

I am not a doctor or a specialist.. I am just observing how my body suffers from running and what I could to to avoid pains and injuries and improve my running form and techniques. That said, I have the following adjustments to make sure my training does not suffer from the same set of cramping calves:

  1. When running long distances, especially during my Sunday long runs, I do try to switch back to heel striking when my pace is dipping and I can't do anything to speed up. In doing so, I am using different sets of foot and calf muscles that leaves my forefoot-running muscles to rest and recover (until  the moment I can run fast again and switch back to forefoot running). 

  2. I have a mandatory walk break halfway thru my long distance run. I will buy drinks (I prefer Cobra Energy drink) and carbo-loaded food (pandesal or any bread sold at the bakery). I will then consume the bread and drink the refreshments while walking for a few minutes. Again, I am shifting to other group of muscles and letting my forefoot-running muscles to have their much needed break. 

  3. I strengthen my calves once a week by use of weights. I have three strength training sessions each week and one of those sessions focuses on strengthening my leg muscles.

After the Milo marathon incident, I am happy to write that I haven't encountered the same problem anymore. But my theory is still what it is as of now -- just a theory. The jury is still out on whether this theory is right or wrong when I start to train for my third marathon and start to run that 31+ kilometers of Sunday long runs.

Aug 3, 2010

After Three Weeks of Post Marathon Training

Post Milo Marathon

I'm doing great on my marathon recovery path. Recovery - yeah still hurting deep inside for being an hour and a half late on the Milo Marathon Eliminations cut-off time.

But I'm perfectly fine. Motivation-wise, the Milo marathon assignment is a huge push for me now. Simply because I don't want to fail again. Milo serves as an important hurdle that I need to cross to meet my running dreams. As Milo's slogan "Building Champions in Life." I see it fit and perfect to me as an individual. Maybe I'll never be a Milo Marathon Champion. But in my own life, my own way, my own running career, I could very well be a champion. And Milo has taught me to be patient, to work hard for my goals, to learn from my mistakes and to never stay on the fallen state.

I am slowly and patiently running back on the right track.

Physically, my cramping problems have fully disappeared. I am very happy to have completed my first three weeks of training without any muscular pains on the calves that have hindered my marathon preparations on the past.

My running speed is still not at par with my 5K speed at the start of 2010. If I had raced last Sunday, I would have finished a 5K race in 23 minutes. That's comparatively much slower than my 19:25 minutes last February 2010.

But I'm already working on it. 3 weeks back, I would not even have finished a 5K in 25 minutes! Seriously. My target marathon pace was 5 - 5:30 minutes per kilometer. And much to my surprise, that was also my pace for a much shorter 5K distance.

I have totally forgotten how to run fast.

First week post marathon. 5:19 minutes per kilometer. I thought I was OK. That was just a recovery week for me.

Second week post marathon and first week of a 3-month training period. 5:18 minutes per kilometer. I was surprised and worried. I can't even run as fast as 4 months back?

Third week post marathon and second week of a 3-month training period. 4:57 minutes per kilometer. I would have finished a 5K race just under 25 minutes. I'm slowly learning how to run fast again.

A month post marathon and third week of a 3-month training period. 4:48 minutes per kilometer. I can now finish a 5K in 23 minutes.

Still 3+ minutes short of my sub 20-minute 5K goal next Sunday..

And that's not too bad. I still have two weeks left before my upcoming 5K race. I believe I can get back to 3:50 minutes per kilometer by that time.

By Speed Work

I remembered one of my Strength Trainer when he said "Kung gusto mo lumaki katawan mo sa pagbubuhat, matuto kang bumuhat nang patay kung patay." He emphasized the determined attitude to lay everything on the line.

When I lift weights to strengthen my leg muscles, chest, back, arms or shoulders.. I pretty much remember my Trainer's words of wisdom (or is it? Sometimes they sound like words of insanity).

And I do apply the same principle when running my interval splits. I even called this workout Suicides. The 8x400 meter sprints with 100 meter recoveries. They are meant to squeeze my lungs till I can't breathe and pound my legs till they can't stride any longer. Mind you though, this training run satisfies my never ending thirst for speed.

[ Just a word of caution.. Patay kung patay and Suicides are just motivational jargons to put emphasis on unparalleled focus and determination to train as hard as possible. Don't take the word literally and die lifting weights and/or sprinting. ]

High Intensity Interval Training. Scientifically, my 8x400m Interval workout is an anaerobic training method that aims to maximize my volume of oxygen uptake. It's a difficult training method. It leaves me gassed out after about 4 or 5 repeats.

Some trainers / coaches / reading materials do not suggest running intervals at maximum speed. They encourage running the splits at close to race pace and nothing faster.

I am not listening. I go beyond my 5K pace while running my 400meter splits. As with high intensity training, my goal is to let my body adapt to the stress of high-speed running and make myself comfortable with the speed. If I can run my 400s in 2:50 - 3:20 minute per kilometer pace (min/km), it should be a little easier for me to run 5Ks in 4:00 min/km.

It's never easy. In fact, the hardest time for me to wake up for a morning run is when I have an Interval running workout day.

My body is reluctant to experience this hell of a training run. And my mind remembers how brutal the run could be to my legs and lungs.

But then again, I also want to improve my speed and this training run has proven its worth to me in the past - a 19:25-minute 5K PR. And compared to a Sunday long run, or a 12-16K easy run, Suicides only lasts for 30 minutes and does not take longer than 6 kilometers. That's how Suicides should be right? I don't want to suffer for a long period of time. [ I can't. ]

Early 2010, my recorded best 400 meters was 1:05 minutes (2:43 min/km pace).
It eventually lead to 5K and 10K podium finishes and PRs.

On this training period, after 3 weeks, my best 400m best stands at 1:12 minutes (3:00 min/km pace).
And I'm not done yet. Suicides are going to be a staple workout for me for my upcoming 5 and 10K races this August and September.

Tempos and Races

As planned and as I've written already. If I can run my 400s in 2:50 - 3:20 minute per kilometer pace (min/km), it should be a little easier for me to run 5Ks in 4:00 min/km.

Sounds logical enough to me. But as a runner with more than a year of running experience, I have come to learn that "should be" does not necessarily translate into reality. I must work hard and train hard to make the logical abstract translate into something concrete.

By running the Intervals, it should be a little easier for me to run 5Ks in 4:00 min/km.

Only a little easier. And I did not really intend to say it will be easy. It would still be hard and difficult to achieve. But with the hard interval training, the tempos and races should be a little easier to handle. Running 4:00 min/km for 3 and 5Ks were never easy. But they were super satisfying. It's an incredible feeling to finally achieve and deliver what I thought was just a dream.

And I want to have a taste of that satisfaction once again.

After three weeks of endurance building and speed training runs, the time has come for me to do some Tempos and join some races. I am excited. At the same time, I am nervous and challenged. I still have to wake up at 5 in the morning five times a week to train and reach my goals. Sub-20. Sub-40. Sub-1 hour. A 1:30 half marathon. A Boston Qualifier.

Long runs on Sundays, easy maintenance runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Suicides on Wednesdays and Tempos on Fridays. I'm banking on these runs as my training tools to triumph. (With 3x a week Strength Training program, 3x a week Core Drills and Friday Night Boxing Fights.)

This 4th week of training, I'll have another Suicides on Wednesday and a 5x1Km Interval speed work on Friday. Then I will conclude the training week with a half marathon long run on Sunday in Cavite.

On the 5th week, another Suicides on Wednesday and a 3K time trial / tempo run on Friday (Aiming for a sub 4:00 minute pace). Hopefully, I get to race under  20 minutes on race day Sunday, August 15 at Run to Read Race. See you there! ;)

Velazquez Park, Makati City

Great photos from @icarusrising of www.skyscrapercity.com.
This is my training place. :)