Monday, October 16, 2006

SMC Half Marathon: A Long Time Between Drinks

Most runners have a period of time when they take the sport where the
PBs come thick and fast and improvement is constant. My honeymoon period
lasted from July 2003, when I took running up until July 2005. That was
when I ran 1:55:30 at the Gold Coast Half. Since then I had not run a PB
at any of my regular racing distances.

Until last weekend.

As I stated in my last post, my training has been great over the last
month and I've dropped a few kilos, so I knew I was in the PB ballpark,
and I also felt that I needed to break the old PB on the weekend if
there was to be any chance of running 1:50 at the Central Coast in six

So I trained normally during the week, running a speed session (10 x
400s) on Thursday and a short hilly run on Friday and took a rest day on
Saturday, and lined up feeling pretty fresh on Sunday morning in good
conditions (10 degrees, 70% humidity, slight breeze) with most of the
usual suspects.

I decided to run my own race, and set the virtual partner feature on the
Garmin to a 1:55 half marathon.

I paid a lot of attention to the Garmin in the first couple of
kilometers so that I could settle into a rhythm at the right speed.

The first 10K passed without incident - I stuck with the virtual partner
and felt great.

This was my first attempt at the SMC half. It is basically two laps of
the 10K course (I've done that a few times) with a small loop in the
middle. I wasn't expecting that the loop in the middle would contain the
nastiest hill on the entire course. This upset my rhythm a bit and put
me behind the virtual partner by about 100m. I tried to lift the pace a
little, but this felt a bit dangerous, so I decided to try to stick to
the same pace and kick in the last K and try to pick up the 100m there.

So although I was tiring, I felt OK going into the last K. This was
where Bernie G passed me going a fair bit quicker than I. This was the
perfect opportunity to stick with her, which I did for the next 200m,
but I couldn't keep it up, and for the rest of the race I just tried to
stay as close as I could to her. Bernie went through right on my target
of 1:55, and I finished in 1:55:10 - a 20 second PB.

I'm stoked. My eyes are still firmly focused on the main game - 1:50 at
the Central Coast, but the relief of actually setting a PB after such a
long time is great. I'm also pretty confident now that if I can shift
another 3Kg and lift my speed a bit 1:50 is a realistic target, and I
wasn't so confident last week.

Oh, and thanks to all of you for your kind words regarding our family
news. Much appreciated.

Monday, October 09, 2006

And Baby Makes Five

*** Warning - Enormous post with little reference to running ***

In my last post I promised major race reports and reports of earth shattering developments in my life. This post fits into the latter category.

DJ has just passed into the second trimester of her pregnancy. We're having a baby! We had an ultrasound today and we have two arms, two legs and lots of energy.

My beautiful (step) daughters, Em and Bop, didn't believe us at first - it was too good to be true. We had to show them an ultrasound. They have gone into a baby naming frenzy.

You'll have to indulge me in a little reflection at this point. It's been a massive year for me, and I'd like to give a recap for those who would like a summary of the last year. Those who are not in the mood for a mushy love story should close their bwowsers or skip to the end where I promise I will tell you how my training is going and describe my program.

DJ and I used to work together four years ago, when DJ was a PA to my Mum and then my Dad. When she was looking for a fit person to do the Walk Against Want, my Dad suggested "Ben is pretty fit. Why don't you ask him?"

So DJ and I re-established contact after four years, and things clicked immediately. We already knew most of each others friends from the old days (it was the type of workplace where you make lasting friendships). Within two months I had all but moved in with DJ.

At this point I took off to Venezuela for a number of reasons. One of the main reasons was we both felt we needed an opportunity to catch our breath, and think about things seperately.

What followed was two weeks of the most pathetic pining ever seen in the history of human existence. I'm sure my brother (whom I was visiting in South America) was moved to vomit regularly by the intensity of it. I moved my stuff into DJs place the day I got back.

Children will always be a concern in any relationship. DJ has eight year old twin girls, Em and Bop. The twins and I were very cautious about each other to start with. It was maths homework that started the ball rolling. By July they gave my my first timid hugs. I now get crash tackled when I walk through the door after work. Let me tell you, it is an extraordinarily special moment when your step-daughters tell you that they love you for the first time. I cried.

In late July I proposed to DJ with the help of the twins. Five weeks later DJ was feeling "a bit funny", so she took a pregnancy test, and our lives have not been the same since. Holding the water bottle through the first trimester has been a full-on experience. DJ has been crashing on the couch and I have been revelling in taking a more active parental role.

So how has all this affected Ben the runner? The relationship has been a slight distraction from training, but DJ and the girls are incredibly supportive - they go to races and cheer me on. I've struggled with my weight as DJ and I have worked out what common meals work for us.

In the last six weeks or so we have started to get this working a bit better, and I've shed a couple of kilos.

All training at the moment is geared towards a sub 110 minute Central Coast Half. I feel that I've already built the endurance up in my legs over the last few months, so I'm working on speed. Typically my week will consist of:

A long run of 15 - 20K (6:15 pace)
A midweek run of 10 - 14K (5:45 pace)
A recovery run of 6-9K (6:30 pace)
A tempo run or a race
An interval session (400s or 1K).

I've all but dropped cross training - I'm just finding it difficult to fit in.

I ran a pretty good 5K at the Coolrunning challenge a couple of weeks back (24:15), and last Saturday I ran the Striders 10K with the intention of running it at 1:50HM pace. I achieved this, but it was hard. I still feel 1:50 is possible if I can shift another 3 or 4 Kg and continue to train at the level I've described.

So that's my story. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed living it.