Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Running Index vs Cadence

Voila' another chart, exploring if there is a relationship between cadence (leg turnover) and Running Index (hence "effectiveness" in the run).

The graph shows a certain correlation (higher cadence positively related to higher Running Index, calculated automatically by Excel), but I can not swear that it could pass a more accurate statistical study (level of confidence of the correlation, etc), because the variance at each point is in the range of +/-5 (points of RI)...

Polar Running Index in practice

the topic might be interesting only for those using the Polar PPT SW...

I can draw a balance of my 2 years of use of the RS800sd and the related SW.
It is quite interesting to see that the Polar "Running Index" is actually a good predictor of the running shape
The chart maps 2 years of use of the watch and there is a clear relationship between my ups/down, the Running Index and the actual racing performance.
The red thick line is a 20 days moving average, to see better the overall trend rathe
r than the single workouts.
I must anyway remark that obviously also the external temperature has an influence: during the summer periods, the HR is usually higher at equal pace to, so the R.I. becomes unavoidably lower.
For myself, I could draw these references:
- R.I. around 77: means Marathon time around 2h42',
- R.I around 80: Marathon in around 2h38', HM around 1h15'
- R.I. around 84: Marathon likely in 2h33'-34' (that was the prediction based on workouts and 5k race time), HM around 1h13'

I would be very interested to compare data with other runners to see if these values have an "absolute" meaning (eg: 84 means 2h34' for everyone) or specific for each individual

Monday, December 29, 2008

Yearly Summary

The year in figures
- Distance run 4080km (vs 3550 in 2007)
- Workouts around 300 (vs 280/290 in 2007)
- Km/workout: 13.6km average
(Comment: In those 10 months were I was running, I was really consitent. it is a pity that I lost 2-3 months among the different injuries)

- races: 2 victories, 5 times 2nd
- PB in 5k, 10k, HM (sic... not in Marathon), 

Overall comment:
Well, in the figures all sounds good, but I am not really satisfied. In 2007 everything went to my plans, but in 2008 most of the time I had the bad feeling of having blocked by injuries right when it was the time to harvest the fruits of my work.
With the work done during the summer I was able to reach a "higher" level, where my racing style was more based on "running to win" than "running to do my best", but at the end I could not see the outcome in cool weather.
I think that I worked too much on the endurance and neglected hill sprints, general strenght and strides/fast work. The latest injury must also be related to this... because I was losing neuromuscolar condition.

So my "action plan" for 2009 would be:
- resume running and gradually reach a mileage of 100km/week and keep it consistently until end August. Than increase a bit more to prepare for a winter marathon (ideally Fukuoka).
I will try to run the first 4 weeks only "easy" and than gradually introduce  interval training and faster workouts + strenght training.

- I still do not know how to improve my running biomechanics. The physioterapist recommeded me to use orthotics and to add a 6mm lift to my right shoe to compensate for the leg lenght difference.  But how do you accomodate 6mm lift in a shoe ???? I tried but it is very weird feeling
I may try again with ortothics  made by different materials to see if the feeling is better. Or maybe just keep going with my 3mm heel lift (as in use now).  

- dedicate more time to strenght and core training (2 hours/week, ideally)

- dedicate more time to strides and repetition training (100m/200m sprints)

- in summer, reduce the workload compared to this year because I think I was too tired. With 30C/95%rh, probably the real impact on the body is x2 of the actual distance... I will try to make more use of my treadmill. It is boring but at least you can run in a less extreme environment and avoid the huge loss of water while running outdoor.

- also for the Summer, I will focus on short intervals at varied paces. It makes no sense to run more than 1k/2k fast without rest becuase the performance horribly degrades for the heat after few minutes of hard running.
I will avoid Tempos or long intervals and try to keep "neuro-muscolar" fresh. For a specific endurance period, the 2 months of October and November should be enough.

Race Summary 2008
- 6/Jan, HK Half Marathon Champs: 6th overall, 1h15'28". I was still tired from the 30K race of the previous Sunday so I suffered a lot, but the performance was very solid. It was a major local race, so the placement was realistic compared to my potential.

- 20/Jan, CC Half Marathon: 2nd overall. Hilly course, very good starting field, but that day I felt extremely well. I managed the effort very well, with a controlled initial 14k and than push very hard in the final 7k, leaving behind many talented runners. Felt very very confident.

- 9/March, 10k Shatin. 2nd overall, 33'36". This is the race where I have most of the regrets: we battled for the victory for 9900meters and I lost in the final kick. I did the mistake to train too much during the week, so I lacked the freshness for the final sprint...

injured. missed Krakow Marathon

-13/July: 10k. 5th overall, 35'03". Comeback race after the injury.  It was hot and I was decently satisfied with a solid performance

-17/July, 10k. 4th overall, 34'57". Very hot. I was beaten only by invited overseas runners, leaving behind most of the best local runners. So I felt confident to be able to make a good season. Time itself was disappointing because I was shooting more for a 34'30", but I was likely tired by the week.

-7/Sep, 5k mixed X-country. 2nd overall. Half disaster... I hate running in the afternoon and I did not digest the lunch properly. Maybe the first short race in my life where I had to stop to breath... the fact that I arrived anyway 2nd and improved my time by 32" with the year before was a sign of extreme fitness.

- 21/Sept, 5k hilly. 1st. Felt good and attached from the start on the big climb... the last km was painful becuase almost out of steam, but I had already a big gap

-28/Sept, 10000m track. 1st in 33'55". It felt wonderful to win a track meeting. I was very fit and lead alone the whole race. It was hot, so the time was really good

-11/Oct: 5k flat. 2nd overall in15'51". Never felt better. I did not even push 100% and come out anyway with a huge PB. Tagged with a good pack for 3k, than boosted away

injured. Missed Seoul Marathon

- 23/November. Half Marathon. 2nd overall in 1h14'28". Beaten only by a Kenyan is acceptable. This race remains a mystery: I was already crippled and missed many workouts, so I do not know why I felt good enough to run well. The achilles were not that bad and I shuffle run... so in retrospection was really a great race (maybe worthy of a 1h13' or less in ideal conditions)

-7/December: Singapore Marathon. crawled to the finish line in 2h57'.  It will be a souvenir for my older years: selected by HKA to run in their official team. VIP treatment all the way. It was a pity that my tendons lasted for 30k only; I wanted to finish anyway, but those 12k were of extreme pain...

Thursday, December 25, 2008



No snow here... temperature around 23C at noon. I had troubles to explain to my daughter that we could not build a snowman and that Santa would not able to come with a sled

For my tendons, I simply threw the sponge: it was crazy to hope in some miraculous recovery. More running would have only make it a chronic tendinitis. In the morning I could barely walk up the stairs.
So I will stop running until I am pain-free and I can resume in a appropriate way.

Unfortunately, here there is only 1 and only running season (from October to March), so I will miss out completely the whole season. Very likely I must already think that my next serious race might be not earlier than 10 months from now... a sad perspective for a competitive animal like myself, but this is the reality.
I trained all Summer basically for nothing... LOL...and another summer ahead
In the next post, I will analyze the year in retrospetive

Monday, December 22, 2008

Wk 51 summary

- 16 Km in 2 workouts

not much to say... the tendons are painful whenever I run. I am trying different combinations of shoes, heel lift, whatever to see if it might improve.
My most ardent wish is to gradually improve in order to run the CC Marathon on January 18th.
But the most likely scenario is that I hang the shoes until the pain is gone, so that sometime next year I can resume running in a proper way.
It is a real pity because now is the best period of the year for running. The weather is perfect, dry and around 15C.

I scouted the web for suggestions on the treatment of the tendinitis and you can find the most disparate opinions/suggestions:
- stop running vs run anyway in reduced volume
- use heel lift vs no using it
- eccentric stretching vs no stretching
- use cushioned shoes vs use flat

2 very authoritative sources like Dr Pribut's running injuries website and the sportinjurybullettin give almost opposite advices on stretching the calf...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Wk 50 summary

0 (zero) km in 0 workouts...
everyone is very well, my wife recovers faster from delivery than myself from the marathon...
baby is very well, taken care by his little sister (who is a bit over excited)...

The nightly feed pattern seems at 20/midnight/4am, so I will try to crawl out of bet at 5am to run starting from tomorrow. I need my daily running dose...

I take the opportunity to reply to a comment from (.) (who is actually a good runner himself) about running a marathon in the heat.
I also read that article from and, honestly speaking, I was surprise that the authors made such a plagiarism without even mentioning their obvious source...
.... because it was already everything black on white in the book "Lore of Running" (also from SA author Tim Noakes):
- Noakes reports some of his studies about running in the heat and that only smaller runners can dissipate heat well enough to sustain performance. There is even a chart with the relationship weight/temperature/maximum speed ... my weight condemns me to slow down inexorably at any temperature higher than 20C... while lighter runner (55kg) can handle up to 30C.
The subject of running in the heat covers a full chapter of this monumental book.
I am not in book reviews, but every committed runner should read it. There are countless information

- about the Wanjiru's victory, also Noakes makes a statistical studies that the "standard average winner" of Olympic marathon is not an established marathon runner, but most likely a rising star at his 3rd/4th marathon...
I am not even persuaded that Wanjiru did really trained a lot in the Japan's heat: in 2007 he barely achieved the minimum days of stay in Japan to mantain residenceship. I suppese that he did spend all summer in Kenya training, and stay in Japan mainly in Spring and Autumn to join the local racing season. Said that... he is a huge talent... we can not forget that his 10000m time at 18 years old is Junior World Record, only 20 seconds away from Bekele's open record...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

incredible 48hours

I likely got the most tiring 48 hours in my life (and I guess it could be well ranked also in a worldwide classification)
Sunday 2.50am : wake-up call
Sunday 5.30am: marathon in tropical weather, limping for 12km
Sunday evening: flight back from Singapore, arrived home around mid-night. Slept only very little for different reasons
Monday whole day: work. My general conditions were ok, just very tired. Obviously my calves were totally "locked" and painful, so even for walking I must use the "shuffling" style...
Monday evening: my wife went into labour (10 days ahead of schedule), so we rushed to hospital, after having trusted our daughter to some friends
all night in delivery room. Honestly I could barely keep myself awake...
Tuesday 6.45am: our son is born !! Mom and child are extremely well
Tuesday: all day rush between hospital, collect back our daughter, etc. Big exciting day, but I was almost falling asleep while driving, avoiding an accident at the last minute. Also got a speed ticket for driving at 80kmh, while the limit at 70, but I was so numb that I traffic signs were optional at that stage.
Tuesday 9pm: collapsed into bed.
so... that's an alternative way to recover from a marathon...
now it is time to enjoy the new-born !!

Monday, December 8, 2008

a review on the marathon

back to HK, here a more relaxed review of the race.

The organizers were very "supportive" to the sport, by inviting not only the usual Pro runners, but also asking to most of the Athletic Federation of South East Asia to send a couple of athletes.
For athletes from poor countries, it was a fantastic opportunity to race abroad, something that maybe that would not be able to repeat in their whole life: so I was very pleased to see a couple runners from Myanmar, from Sri Lanka, from Nepal, India, China and Indonesia (with a very kind and young female runner) and so on... at the start I also noted a barefoot (!!) female runner from India.
Said that, we are treated with fantastic hospitality and it was very interesting to see the working of the "Elite" section of a mass marathon.
There was a "technical meeting" to explain the course and other pedantic details (kind of "put your bib in the front" ... speaking to a audience of Pro runners..) + a course recognition by bus.
During the meal times, the big round tables were usually clustered by runners grouping by language: so a big Kenyan table, a big Ethiopian table, Russian table and so on... at the end, we were almost naturally forced to create a "greater China table" with our colleagues from mainland China, Macau and ourself (honestly to speak about running in Mandarin was not easy for me, a specific vocabulary to be learnt...).

Saturday evening, light dinner and than in bed by 9pm for a 2.50am wake-up call.
I took some Melatonin to sleep, so I was sleeping like a baby when I heard the bell ringing...
dressed, breakfast and short walk to the start point.

I felt incredibly excited, but I was sincerely quite anxious on how the right calf would have managed.
The Voltaren did have effect on the achilles and they were almost painless, but the calf was very tight, even if I did massage it in continously during the week.
A side effect of the Voltaren was that my intestine was blocked since 24 hours, so I felt weight down there, but there was nothing to do, just hope for the best.

5.30am.. gun goes (I was in the first line)
The weather was almost "pleasant". It was around 24/25C, with 80%rh and some breeze. The air is much cleaner than in Hong Kong, so I did not feel the same level of disconfort that it have been usual at those high temperatures. With sunrise, 1 hours later, the temperature went up to around 28C/29C.
It is totally dark outside, empty streets, no spectators.

the Elite Male all run off like rockets, while the Woman started in a different fashion: the Africans started like hell, while a pack of Japanese and Russian took it very easy and I hang up with them for a while.
My expectation was to run slightly below 2h50' pace (hence 4'00'/km) until the very few last kms and then maybe place a "sprint" to gain some 30" somehow.
I was conscious that my limiting factor would not have been the cardio-vascular system or general fatigue, but how much stress the right leg could have supported.

I was running with an abnormal stride, because I could not flex the food completely. But I run quite easily at my target pace of 4'/km until the Half (passed in 1h23'46") and I started to pick up many runners who were completely blown up by the heat.

but around 29.5k I felt that my intestine was in rebellion to the side effects of Voltaren and it was imploring for relief... so I made a long pit stop right at 30k mark and felt much better, with not that heavy sensation on the guts.
In spite of the stop (1-2 minutes), I felt still ok and decently confident, but not more than 500m later, the calf completely locked.
I was no more able to run at all, unless using one leg only and crowling back the right leg.
Stop? quit ? I thought about it, but it have not fair for those who selected me to race.
So I crawled at around 4'30" pace for 11km more... stopping time by time for a strech of the calf or for massaging it...
it was brutally endless... and I was not alone: I overtook 3 Russian women struggling and even last year Woman winner (an Ethiopian) crawled with me for several kms.
At the end I was done in 2h57'00" and I could "peacefully" succumb to cramps 20 meters after the finish line.

My team mates fared quite well:
Mr Lai (Man) 2h43' (well, 14' minutes off his PB but a solid race considering the weather)
Ms Fan SP (Woman) 2h58'58"... she is a stud, steady splits around 4'15" from start to end... no wonder she is the best woman marathoner in HK...
Ms Ross (Woman) something around 3h15', also slowing down for the heat in the end.

my take from this experience:
- if you are injured, take care of the injury first. Keep running makes the things only worse (my hip bursitis mutated into a achilles tendinitis... and I am already struggling for 2 months)
- pain killers pills have side effects and anyway you are somehow intoxicated.
- I have "balls" to make 12k in that conditions...

It was overall a fantastic experience and we made a great bond with our teammates.
I can put the national team singlet in a frame as souvening for this event !!

- rest until I am cleared of all problems (achilles, calf, whatever...). I will need to strecht, massage and do stenghening excercise, and refrain from running.
- do the husband/father for a while and focus on the birth of my child.
- maybe after Christmas, I will decide of what to do for the 2nd part of the season

PHOTO GALLERY(with Osaka World Champion Luke Kibet, before boarding the bus for the Pasta Party)
(4.45am Elite Tent)

(I look good in the uniform... this picture looks unreal..)(done... 42km can be soooo long...)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Done... With 12km of "via crucis"

Tomorrow a better report with pics, etc. Now in short:

I run at 4'00"/km pace until 30km. The calf was very tight so I used "shuffling" style and organically I felt easy, even if I was running in a very weird style for me. I was running with 1 leg and carrying the other...
10k in 39'30"
HM in 1h23'40"
30k in 1h59'
Than it was total collapse....
The calf locked and also I felt sickness from the huge Voltaren doses and made a long toilet break. I was crippling and jogged to the end in 2h55 or something like that (I did not care... Just happy to reach the end..). The last 12k was horrendous.
I saw many many Pro runners bouncing back for going out hard in such weather.
A pack of Russian women caught me at 10k and they were clocking 3'50" pace (I did not follow). At 25K I picked them up because they were totally done by the heat.

More details tomorrow (I do not know who is the winner, etc)...

Elite tent pre-race

5.00am, 30min to go, Elite runners tent next to starting line.
Everybody is making the final preparation, not much need for a warm-up.
The World Champ in Osaka , Luke Kibet, seems very focused.
another big name is the 3 times woman XC Champ Masai.

My calf is tight, but maybe better that expected. It will not last for 42km, but I will start slowly around 4'00"/km and see how it goes

(This combination BlackBerry + mail-to-publish function of the blog is really a "killer"... It might be tempting to run with a BB and report back home real-time....)

It is time...

It is 2.50am , the alarm clock kicks out of bed to get ready for the 5.30am start...
Outside a termometer on a building is flashing 26C (78F)...
It is going to be a long day...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

6/December : like an Elite Runner (apart from the legs)

Let's imagine that you could unleash your wildest fantasies as a runner:
- land for a big city marathon and the organizer is there greeting you, with a bus arranged to take you to your hotel
- go straight into a meeting room, where someone takes care of your room check-in and already gives you the race pack, without queing for it in some crowded race expo
- a full supply of GU gel, water and else is available to arrange your special drinks to leave at dedicated tables
- all luches already arranged for you and it happens that you are seated at the same table with the World Champion
- a marhsall will brings you to the Elite tent nearby the starting line
- no need to shovel at the start to find your own pace... You are in the front line...

Well, this is what happening to me here... At some moment I would like to approach one of the Organizer rep and ask them to check again if it is really my name in that list of Elite Runners...

It is all so unreal... Especially my status if representative of a nation...
Our HK team is strong and I believe that we can do well (obviously related to our standard... Here there are bunches of Pro Kenyans, Ethiopians, Russian women, etc)

Now I must live up to the situation...

Physycal conditions report: the achilles are sore and the calf is very tight, but Voltaren is doing his job
Now I am more concerned by the tight calf muscle, than from the achilles itself (they seem kept at bay by the Voltaren).

(Note: the Kenyans and Ethiopians here are famine-slim, but eat like hungry wolves... So I suppose their metabolism is up to their leg speed)..

Race Number: 0051

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

3/December - 4 days to go

honestly my right ankle feels like a crap... the achilles are really painful, so Sunday it will be a long long way. Since yesterday I am taking huge doses of Voltaren (Diclofenac Sodicum), to at least placate the pain. I would be happy to run on a single leg like on the Half Marathon, 10 days ago.
At 8.30am Sunday (GMT+8), I will hang out the shoes for a good while until I am settled.

Tuesday 2/December (HK): interval 4x2km at Marathon Effort, recovery 1'30". Since it was really chilly, it was easy to hold 7'15" for the 2k. HR was around 165/170, but after 3 intervals the ankle was painful (not yet taken Voltaren)

Wednesday 3/December(Dongguan): took the car and drive to the edge of the forest (to avoid the 5k on concrete). Run 10k easy on soft surface, but calf tightened more than expected

Friday we fly to Singapore. I will receive the running uniform only then, so I will go live on Sunday with a brand new kit (hahah... this goes against the rule #1 of marathon: use only tested gear..).

Race strategy: I will try to run at 3'50"/km until is dark (from 5.30am to 6.45am) and than settle for a more modest 4'00" under the sun.
That should bring me to finish in around 2h45' that is quite respectable for the Singapore's heat. Obviously if the ankle goes for the worst, then I will fight Km by Km to reach the end...
One issue is that the tendons are obviously more painful in the morning than in the evening, because of the shortening during the sleep. The race starts at 5.30am, so not the right time for my achilles...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

solo un Kenyano puo' battere il nostro Stefano

un post veloce sulle performance "italiane" a HK.
Domenica scorsa era anche la Mezza Maratona Unicef. Le condizioni meteo erano perfette, mai visto niente di simile a HK in vita mia...
Stefano interrompe la sua striscia di vittorie consecutive, ma alla grande...
solo il mitico Kenyano Thomas (che mi aveva stritolato una settimana prima) riesce a batterlo di un risicato minuto... in una gara di livello eccezionale per Hong Kong.
1. Thomas: 1h07'42" (nuovo all-comers record per HK, battendo il precente fissato da Gezahegne Abera (olympic and world champion) nel 2003
2. Stefano: 1h08'50" (questo per un runner che 1 anno fa correva in 1h17'....).
3. Chan K.H.: 1h09'02" (frantumato il record nazionale di HK...)

Tempo eccezionale... correre in 1h08' per un amatore "alle prime armi" e' realmente una prestazione straordinaria.
Adesso dobbiamo solo sperare che le ragioni "di cuore" che stanno ripetutamente portando questo Thomas a correre a HK non generino un dominio Kenyano in permanenza...

Rivincita: domenica prossima a gara 10km

Monday, December 1, 2008

wk 48 Summary

- 85 Km / 6 workouts

2 Quality workouts:
- Thursday: the wind was really strong, so our plan (with E.) to make a MP run was canceled (the training route is along the sea..). We opted for a 7x1000m in a shielded stretch.
7x1000m in 3'20"-3'24" (depending on wind direction), with 1'30" recovery jog. I felt in quite good shape, decent stride and the effort was not particularly hard.
- Sunday: long run 25km (with 5km at medium effort (3'45"/km)). It was very likely the best ever weather I had experimented in South China in the past 9 years. 15C with 30% humidity.... run at 4'05"/km almost effortless. Now I understand why my workouts are always so painful compared to what I read in other blogs, in better climates...
The bad news is that I really had serious pain on the achilles. I avoided to take Voltaren NSAID for 3 days to purify the body, but simply without Voltaren it did not work....
The right ankle was painful and remained stiff also after the warm-up... so my stride was altered. Really a awful feeling in such a beautiful day.

Later in the week I will post more on my current interaction with the physiotherapist... there are plenty of interesting notions on the subject of orthotics and leg length discrepancy.