Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Early Morning in China

Rather than boring the readers with some description of a run, today I feel compelled to say what's going on at 6am in a mid-size town in South China:
- the wet market (vegetables, etc) is already in full swing. People are making purchases in the total obscurity. To be so early, there is already a good bunch of customers !! The Chinese have the mania of buying always "fresh", as fresh as possible, so they buy the vegetables every day or even they buy them twice a day !! It is not really common to make the shopping for a whole week !! All my neighbours are always staring at me when I come back from the supermarket with 5 shopping bags; they probably guess that I have a 10 people family to justify so much food for a day or two
- already some people going to work; waitress and small shopkeepers. Everyday I meet a couple of waitress who wander around wearing a Chipao (the traditional chinese woman dress, with a long cut along the legs). They look pretty much out of time and place
- contruction workers banging and hammering: the bad think about the fast development of China is that to grow fast, you must also build fast. That means working 24/7 in construction site. You can only pray your own Gods that they would never set up a contruction site close to your home: that involves 1 year of no sleep because the hammering goes on every single day and every single hour
- Cleaners: like everywhere else, someone is working to make up the mess left from the day before. But usually the mess in China is much more than everywhere else because of the bad habit of throwing the garbage everywhere ...
- some early bird like me is also doing his/her own TaiChi exercises or jogging. I remember many years ago I was staying in a hotel in a industrial city somewhere in Jiangxi. The Hotel was a "old style (50s)" site built in a park was it was common at that time ==> at 5am, a large congregation gatherred in the park and start singing and playing musice to go along with the TaiChi !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I got the lesson and now I carefully avoid hotel rooms facing parks !!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

January 22: A good week

Last week was a smooth week of good training, moving up the notch to a higher level in terms of speed and distance.
After recovering from the 10k race with 2 days of easy run (in the 145->160bpm range), I finally made my first LT run.
well, it is not easy to go flat out on a dark road with a face wind, so I felt it much harder than it should have been. The pace was in the 3'45" for 8k, but after 6,5k I gave a stop because I felt tired. HR stayed in the 170s range all the way.
I do not know if someone have other experience of how the performance is affected by running in the almost complete darkness.
on Sunday, a good 28km run with the final 8k at MP pace. It was a wet day, but almost perfect for running. Got out from bed at 5.30am (tough!) and start at 6am.
For long runs, I started to intake some maltodextrine (carbos drink) and it looks much better; no sign of slowing down in the second hours and the last section was very easy running at 3'55" with the HR always in the mid 160s.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Sunday 14th: Race 10k and I loved it

Today was race day: a 10k, held on a flat course in Hong Kong.

Saturday I got very good feeling about the incoming race: feel fresh, well rested (I do not know why, since I sleep 6 hours per night).
I think that with the experience, you can predict your race day performance with incredible precision even before the race:
- how do I feel on the Saturday afternoon (tired, rested, too excited)
- the Heart Rate on the warm up before the race. If I can jog and keep the HR under 150, than I know that I am fresh and is going to be a great day. If my HR immediatly climbs over 150 in the warm-up, than is sign that is going to be more of a struggle.

So Sunday morning I was very relaxed about doing a good "job": the race is pretty important in the local calendar and is a good test of my shape in the road to Boston.
Since I had (and I still have) a tendinitis on my right ankle, I swallow a pill of Ibuprufen before the start and hope that the ankle would let me alone for a while.
It was really a hassling injury, but I will post about it another time.
let's stick on the race.
I used for the first time the Polar Rs800sd HRM to check the distance, cadence and speed and was pretty useful: The start was pretty narrow so It was easy to be taken away and push too much from the start. I used the HRM and gave a look every 15sec to the instant speed.
So I basically executed the race strategy as:
- keep 3'40" for the 1st K or more
- settle in the 3'35" range from k2 to k7
- just push in the final 3k, trying to stay under 3'30"
At the end I finished in a 35'20" that is really good. It is my season best and probably also my PB of all time !! And I felt good at the end, so I did another 10k of easy run to cool down.

Everything went according to plans, but I noticed 2 interesting factors:
- my HR was always much lower than in previous races. I stayed in the hi 170s- low 180s' range for most of the race; while usually I reach very easily the hi 180s (eg: 186-188 bpm).
- the cadence was in the range of 87. So I still have to work more on repetitions to speed up the legs to 90 and more (recommended by Daniels in his book)

I think that the aerobic training is starting to make his effect. I did not make any interval or speed tranining in the past 6 weeks but I was still able to improve 20sec from my last 10k.
I start to believe that aerobic pace training can really bring substantial benefits also at higher speed.
Probably it brings your aerobic power at a higher level, so that a 10k pace is no more "very far" from the EZ.
Infact after the race I felt quite muscular pain because I was completelty out of training at moving the legs with such stride and speed, but the heart was actually not even close to the maximum sustainable effort for a 10k

Thursday, January 11, 2007

January 10 - Aerobic pace again

Another standard aerobic run of 50'. I caught the occasion to test once more my new racing flats (New Balance RC600).

I do not know if anyone out there feel the same hate and boredom in the first cycle of the marathon training period: piling up miles at aerobic pace, some strides here and there, but is really boring. I am looking forward to finish this cycle and move to the 2nd phase, targeted to stimulate the LT and more MP runs.
When I read all those training programs that are mainly based on regular aerobic runs, I feel sick for the poor runners who undertake them.
It is true that for a beginner, it is no sense to make more than steady runs for building up the endurance, but after a year or so, probably most of the average runners could also think of finding their own personal limits in speed, etc.
I mean: if you want to run a marathon in 3h00', this translate straigh away in running 10k at less than 38', otherwise you have no chance to run for 26 Miles/42k at a 4'15" pace .... So you must also train to run at 3'45"/k and faster.


Tuesday, January 9, 2007

January 9: my Polar RS800sd

this morning I made a steady run. It was supposed to be over in 40', but the air was fresh, so I went on to 60'. It was probably too much because my ankle started to be in pain again. I got a tendinitis during the Christmas period and missed one week of training. In the past 3 days everything seemed going better but the pain is still there. Probably I run too long.

But today I want to write about the Polar Rs800sd HRM. I bought it 1 month ago because my old Accurex was gone. I did not think it over too much to buy a Polar because I already owned 4 of them and they lasted for years under any weather conditions. Today it seems that also Garmin 205 and Suunto are giving a good run to Polar, but I went for a loyalty purchase.
The Polar rs800 is a fantastic HRM: small, compact, many functions. The SW is really useful because you can plan your workout in absolute details, phase by phase and transfer to the watch easily by IRDA.
BUT ... Jesus ... the food pod S3 is anyway still a hassle . I mean, it is small, very light, but the whole thing requires a calibration process that is never over. Also every time you move the sensor from shoe to shoe, you need to calibrate again ...mmm ... the SW does not manage a calibration factor for a specific pair of shoe, so if you have 2/3 pair of shoes (like most of the serious runners) you must input again the calibration once you change the shoes ...
On top of this, the distance displayed on the watch and the one of the SW are sometimes (often) different. A belgian guy made a very detailed study on the reason of so many bugs and errors in the Polar Sx625 and relative S1 pod, but I sincerely hoped that the new S3 would have solved most of them ... still seems that the weak point of old model are unsolved. I will try to figure out more in the next weeks about how to optimize the calibration, etc and I will keep you updated.
For the time being, I can only say that:
- the systems works ok if you have one single pair of shoes and run at steady pace.
- if you make intervals, or fartlek it is much much better to set the sampling rate at 1s or 5s and start your intervals not from still.

If one day I would meet a technician from Polar, I would have plenty of questions ...
- eg: why if you set up the autolap at 1,0km , the SW and the watch gives you a lap distance of 1,03/1,04km ??!! is there anyway to have autolap at 1,0k and get a lap distance of 1,0km ???

Monday, January 8, 2007

Where I Run

Unfortunately my running routes are the worst possible.... I read with envy those bloggers who write about wonderful runs in the forests or off-the road tracks !!
During the working days I am stationed in a industrial area in China, where there are no tracks, no paths, no "small side roads". It is a endless succession of factories and heavily polluted main roads, beaten by trucks 24/7 !!
So my Monday to Friday runs are either:
- in the town center of my village, you can carve out a loop of 1.5k to repeat as much as possible. The only problem is that traffic rumps up suddently after dawn, so I need to run before 6.30 otherwise I will be squashed by some careless chinese driver (just kidding, but is not feasible to run anyway once the road gets used)
- I luckily found a school very close to my house that incredibly have a all-weather track of 300m !! I do not know why a primary school should have a track, but it works really well for me. The only inconvenient: it is closed during school holidays (3 months a year in total) and running on a 300m track is pretty boring, I mean, you have to do 30 laps to make up 10k !! It also place a lot of strain on ankles and calves, so I have many times sore muscles because of some fast workout. But is fine to go there, there are also some oldster walking around in the early morning and they always cheer me (I am by far the only foreigner running there)