Thursday, November 3, 2011

5000m .. done, now a long long rest

Not much posting in the past month, simply because for a running blog, the key ingredient should be running... and I did not have much to say about it.

I did a MRI on the left foot and the diagnosis was that the pain at the ball of the foot was not caused by sesamoiditis or worse a stresss fracture, but by a tendinitis of the "Flexor hallucis longus" . Digging on the web, I found that one of the possible root causes is poor flexibility of the calves, which put therefore more strain on the foot during landing and push-off phase of the gait.
Therapy: RICE, NSAIDS and stretching of the calf.
At the same time, my right back/glute tighness did not go away and I am trying to work on it with the usual array of treatments: deep tissue massage, acupuncture, stretching, etc... (with little success).
So most likely my running season is over before even starting. I must say that the disappointment is big, but I took it with a certain philosophy. Somehow my body is not really well suited to running and I must accept it. I do not feel even the urgency to go back again to training asap because it would be even more disappointing to fall into further injuries.
The satisfaction from running is mainly in the process of reaching the ideal shape through proper training and exert myself to my limits, so scraping through some kind of sub-par training to be able to run later 37 min on 10k is not my idea of running right now.
I might come back in time for a spring marathon or maybe for Berlin in 11 months time... 
So I put my mind into my family, my work and helping our running club.

This said, I ended up anyway running the final of the HK 5000m track championship.
The weather was nice and I brought the kids along to cheer me and also to give them some kind of inspiration to take up some/any kind of athletic/sport (rather than sticking in front of a PC): my daughter loved watching the Pole Vault and it was so enjoyable to make the warm-up with her on the warm-up track, pretending to race each other on imaginary 50m finals. While my elder son got scared by the starting guns !

So I lined up at the start line totally relaxed that I had only to enjoy the day and keep on running for 12.5 laps...
Honestly, I felt much better than expected. I could not really extend the stride, but I was not really breathing hard. I felt like a 3000cc car shuffling at 30kmh because of flat tire...
The 12 laps went away quite quickly and I even found myself fighting at the last lap with another runner for the second-to-last place.. but I could not really run any faster.
At the end, I placed 5th in 17'10" which is somehow pathetic (for being a National Championship) and somehow a positive surprise because I could not believe that I would have run that "fast" after 2 months of no running...
Disclaimer: of the 8th finalists, 2 DNS and 1 DNF... so I arrived 5th 
Full results available HERE (there were good performances by the local sprinters).
But  the man of the day was my teammate Colin, who was able to complete an amazing double feat:
- in the morning, winning the 5000m
- afternoon, double it with also the victory in the 10000m 
Really a big hit which will cost me 3 bottles of wine which I willingly put at stake if he would have been able to achieve the double !! But well deserved !

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Am I a 5000m specialist ??...

Today I got the "pleasant" surprise to learn that I qualified for the 5000m finals of the HK track championship

Somehow I did a 5000m track race in February, 5 days after the HK marathon and scored a time of 16'21"...
In May, I popped up for another round because the race was right in front of my workplace and managed a very pedestrian 17'00"...
Now, I have no idea on how they counted the scores (it seems an average of the best 2 performances) and why some runners who run 14'56" are not in..., but these 2 modest performances made me anyway good enough to be ranked 6th and reach the finals to be held on October 30th.
I am very aware of the modest accomplishment becuase I have a IAAF score of only 524 points, which would not have made the cut in any other discipline from 100m to 10000m....

Now, I am planning to not do any run in the next 2-3 weeks to eventually recover from all my niggling pains, but at this point I plan to go anyway to the finals... at worst I will be the 8th best 5000m runner in HK....
For a middle-age guy... it is anyway a satisfaction to compete at Open level and I can bring the kids to cheer me up !!

For a proof that I am not making this up... click HERE and scroll down to 5000m
Good to see that my teammates Colin and David will also be in the race (so we will be 3 out of 8 !!)

Monday, October 3, 2011

we delivered.... 1st place at the XC National Championship

Lately I have been absent from this blog because my mood was terribly low... no point to afflict others with the stories of my injuries, etc, etc...

I also know that I still have to make a detailed report about my visit to StrideUK and explain why I am inured and how I am trying to solve it (especially because the case might be interesting also for many other readers).
So this week I will try to clean up all the overdue...

without dwelling into all the details, the tightness in the glutes obviously ended up also "killing" my back...
so I basically did not run for 10-15 days while I was doing my sessions of acupuncture, massage, etc.

Now... the fact was that I was entered as one of the 6 man team for our club into the Hong Kong Cross Country Championship, to be held on October 2nd. So I really felt the pressure to be there and contribute points to the team. 
Moreover, the idea of our young club reaching the podium of the championship was giving me extra-motivation to give it a try.

After 15 days of no running, last Thursday I went for a jog and it was painful everywhere.... those 6km felt harder than a marathon and I was really thinking to quit running altogether because it did not really make sense to hurt my body further.
Friday so I ended up for another session of treatment at the local clinic and endured very deep tissue massage and a session of acupuncture with at least 10 needles placed in the back and in the leg...
Saturday I tried another easy jog and felt better, but running at 5'/km with the HR already at 150bpm did not really hint into a good state of fitness...
To patch up the different ailments, I took a good dose of pain-killers and muscle-relaxants to keep the glutes at bay for the race...

On Sunday morning, I really felt energized... we were there, with our "azzurro" jerseys, ready to take over to more established teams, but I felt confident because our club has a great depth and we had at least 4 runners capable of a Top10.
How many years without running a XC race...? at least 15... and at least 25 from my last team XC at school... 

On top of everything, the weather in the past few days has been awful, with heavy rains and a thypoon: so the course was MUDDY... really muddy, with large patches of flooded grass... honestly I was salivating to the idea to make a real XC, albeit my poor conditions...

Anyway, we start hard as in any XC... but I want to be really conservative because on that course the last lap is going to be very long . 
While in front my team mates were doing a terrific race, my personal challenge was to finish the 3 laps without blowing up too much and run as smarty as I could...
In the last lap the soil has totally loosened up and in some patches my feet went 20cm in the mud... in one section I peeped my Garmin and noticed that I was running at 4'/km while being at full effort to get out of the mud...

My honest performance was good enough to grab the 2nd place of the Master, well behind my teammate Curtis and few seconds ahead of the 3rd.
But the real deal was the awsome performance of David, Colin, Stefano...
They ended up 2nd, 5th and 6th overall with Curtis just few positions behind...
The race was won by the Kenyan Thomas Kiprotich while the Ethiopian Aboye was third.
So David really eventually pulled out a great race, after suffering for months for different ailments...

Our team won the Team Championship by a large margin versus TWAC and WAC , 2 of the most established clubs in HK.
Really a huge pride in winning it... we are a small club, just founded 14 months ago and we really emerged as a top local club in few months, thanks to the dedication of all the runners.

Team podium
Once the pain killers pills weathered off... I felt again awful, but the sweetness of the days really deserved it...

Masters' podium

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

This is not a torture in Guantanamo...

Acupuncture with electric stimulation...
I guess that relying  to my TENS machine from Compex might be more or less the same effect.

Blog post done live with needles in...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Acupuncture ....beyond belief

Friday The back was aching so much at I eventually decided to pop into the "physical therapy" clinic in Dongguan.
Honestly speaking, my confidence in the medical care services in Chna is low.... Knowing how most things work in China is enough to make me doubtful whether the doctor in charge might have actually gained his degree properly or via some backdoor arrangement.
Also because any public institution cares about avoiding an unsuccessful handling of a foreigner, the response can drift in 2 opposite directions:
- being taken care in an utmost dedicated way and assign the best resources
- at the opposite, the institution will find every possible way to get rid of you ASAP or to even not acknowledge the need of their activity, in order to navigate away from potential troubles and loss of face
These 2 approaches can happen either going to then hospital or to a police station to report a crime (my personal experience on this has been mixed...) or at a building bureau office to buy/sell a property....

Going back to my back... I was just aiming for a light massage when the therapist on duty had actually other ideas... Using the approach #1 Of deploying all the resources, she called 2 other doctors to check on my back, asking all the possible questions on how happened and firmly said that what I needed was acupuncture...
My reaction was kind of "wtf!!!" but I relented after making sure that needles were disposable single use, etc, etc...
I thought they would have places the needle somewhere in the back.....but soon I realised that I will have needles planted in my hands and head...
To make it short, to my absolute horror, I had a needle right in the Center of the forefront and others in the back of my hands...

I was even asked to walk around 15 minutes while "wearing" them...

Well, you would not believe it, but after that I was able to lift by myself from the bed without help (something which was unthinkable until 20 min earlier) and I could say there was a 50% improvement in back mobility....I even tried the bridge position without pain and effort...
I left the clinic almost in shock....

Friday, September 9, 2011

spell of bad luck continues

I do not want to sound a whining kind of person, since overall I enjoy a very good life...
but runningwise, the past 2 months are going from bad to worse...

the spell of bad luck which begun on July 19th continues at full speed...

- last week: run decently while in Europe, the hamstring and glutes were starting to get better even if I still could not handle any fast pace... foot pain had his ups and downs..

- week-end: between the trip, jet-lag, etc.. I decided to skip running for 3 days to give some time to the body to completely heal (foot, hamstring, etc...)
I also feel refreshed by the fact that I have now fairly understood the root cause of each problems, thanks to the excellent running gait analysis done at strideUK (more about that in the next post...)

- Monday: for no apparent reason, my back become very stiff and painful ... I did not lift any weight or did anything strange, but I was completely blocked...

I tried the usual therapy, without much success...

The attempt at a releasing back massage on Wednesday was almost pathetic and funny at the same time: once the massage was over, I could not get up from the massage bed... the massage therapist was in tears fearing that she could have been sacked for screwing up the back of a foreigner; so she called other staff and they together handled me like I was a wooden pole to put me back in vertical position...

Thursday I got some benefit from doing some electro-stimulation of the back and at least I can walk properly...

so... another week of total screw-up and going from bad to worse...

Weekly totals: 0 Km run, 0h0' bike, 0'0' gym....

Due to a lot of time spared from being incapable to run/walk, etc I had the time to read 2 books on Kindle

Charlie Spedding

From Last to First: How I Became a Marathon Champion

This is a real interesting book... Spedding takes the time to write about all his career from childhood race to his retirement. It is very interesting how he describes all the mental obstacles he overcome to become a Olympic medalist. He was for sure a talented runner, but not really achieved much until later in his career when he "changed gear" mentally. It is also very down to earth narration, very humble and without the hype and self-celebration typical of these kind of books
All his ups and downs are well narrated and makes it a compelling read...


2) Running For The Hansons: An Insider's Account of The Brooks-Sponsored Marathon Training Group Made Famous by Olympian Brian Sell

Sage Canaday is a runner in the Hanson-Brook team and gives this narration of his everyday life as pro runner who tries to make a breakthrough into "real" Elite running, while having to work to anyway cover the bills, etc
The book is written in the form of daily journal and while it will not win a Nobel Prize for literature, it is a good easy read...
It is somehow interesting to see how just below the real elite level, the life is quite harsh and the guy basically just live around "poverty line"..
We might read about the Alter-G and Aqua-treadmill of some runners, but this guy does not even have time/means to do some gym...
Interesting to read also how their training schedule is based on 2 days easy/1 day hard without sticking to a static weekly schedule...
Lastly, I like how he candidly tells about his personal opinion on several aspects and how it might be difficult for a person coming from West or East Coast in USA to go and live in an area like Michigan with much different set of community values...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

Wk 34 & elastic bands

Just another ordinary week trying a turn around of my injuries...

MON: easy run with M. around 14km. Incredibly enough, the left foot is not painful at all after racing in flats (w/o orthotics). I may start to believe that the rigidity of the combo "trainers + orthotics" might be a reason of the sesamoiditis...
(anyway not conclusive becuase I took 3 pills of Voltaren 25mg before the race... so it might have affected the pain)

TUE: also with M. Just following her program of 30' w/u, than 2x3km @ 10K pace effort.
There is a kind of language barrier between a Metric System-born and bred engineer and a person coming straight from US and Imperial System, so we might have messed up a bit with the paces (6'10"/mile... is slower than the actual 3'45"/k which we run at).
Anyway in short, she kicked my ass and I was struggling like hell just to avoid a larger gap in the 2nd rep.
I wondered how I gave her 3' in the 10k race 2 days earlier...
Right leg muscles quite tight. Total 18km

PM: The orthopedic gave me a big disappointment: he did not think a cortisone shot was suitable because I did one already in April in the same spot, so a second shot might weaken the tendon.
No running and a Voltaren course was the prescribed cure...  :-((
Since he is also a Triathlete, I might tend to believe he is right on this (I loved to see that on his desk there was a copy of Friel's "Triathlon Training Bible").

WED:  I will do rest from running, but from next week, so today easy run with M. 22km.

THU: rest. Ok, doc ??

FRI: cycling 90 minutes... the doc should be happy

SAT: 21km easy, but the pace come out better than expected.

SUN: stationary bike and X-training, weight, core stability, etc

total: 75Km in 4 runs, plus getting serious about core training

This week I eventually got all what I needed to start strength training with elastic bands.

They do not take space at home, they are cheap (50US$ is enough for 3 bands of different strength + accessories to make the workout easier) and versatile and you can workout the muscles using the same range or motion and working angle of running.
Plenty of videos online (I am not particularly a fan of Pose method, but this video shows a good exercise...)
Now I try to work on my glutes and hamstrings... let's see....

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Week 33 - at least not crippled

I should say that returning to Hong Kong has been a good cure for my hamstring: having my massage therapist on hand and being able to also do some bike rides really did help.
Now I am back to running, albeit much slower than my usual pace.

the right hamstring and buttock are really tight and I can not really extend the stride.
Especially the pain in the buttock is very tricky to treat because is really very deep inside and even rolling on a softball ball does not really go that deep (only the elbow of G. seems to do the job).

I thanks everybody for the comments and I try to elaborate a self-analysis:

- for some unknown reason, all my right leg is MUCH weaker and with much less range of mobility than the left one. Even when I walk, I noticed that sometime I do barely lift my right foot off the ground.
This is probably due to a relative weakness of the hip flexors, hip rotators, gluetus, etc (do not know caused by what, maybe the road accident I had in February 2010) .

- this unbalance generates a running pattern where I all the "pushing" is done by the left leg, while the left one is only trailing... when I hit the ground with the right leg, I am only stomping on the ground without any real push-off.

- because of the weakness of the gluteus, etc, the right hamstring is loaded beyond normal because it must work as a the sole propeller of the right leg (so I am not actually pushing forward my body at each right step, but kind of pulling back the road with my hamstring only...).

- the force unbalance is also the reason of the different ailments on the left foot/ankle. Probably the left foot is doing most of the propulsion and taking most of the load.

(thank you for the comments about running minimalist, etc...: I am personally already totally bought about running in lighter shoes, now I am also figuring out if to get rid of orthotics too)

based on this, the course of action should be:
- single leg strengthening exercises  for glutes, calves, hamstring, hip flexors, etc: squat, lunges, etc
- stretching and dynamic mobility for the right leg
- re-education of the motorial pattern of the right leg (concept on which I must still find suitable exercises)

Now the issue is to commit myself to at least 30 minutes daily of extra-boring exercises, but seems that I have no way out if I want to be healthy and train properly...

Let's go for the weekly summary:

MON: met with M.L. a new comer in HK. She is targeting the USA O.T. Standard of 2h45' for a Fall Marathon, so her level is really good. Good for me that she is also probably a "earlier bird" than myself, so taking an appointment for running at 5.45am seems normal...
run around 14k easy, I felt terribly tired at the end

TUE: off

WED: medium run with M. A good 22km for me @4'30" pace. The sky was cloudy, so it felt less horrible than usual. But after 18k the hamstring felt really tight and I had to slow down considerably.
Evening: PT treatment... extremely painful deep-tissue massage. G. is really the best therapist I met and she could continue for hours to dig deep where needed...

THU: rest becuase muscles really sore after massage

FRI: nice bike ride... 75 minutes with a very steep hill. I saw my HR climbing over 185bpm, which is extra-rare on the bike for me. Cycling is definetely very a good cross-training for my case

SAT:  around 1hr run at easy pace. Hamstring felt better after massage and cycling

SUN : Chung Hing Cup 10K race. Was a bit insane to think about racing, but I did not want to drop my team mates in the team competition.
Popped down a couple of Voltaren pills to avoid pain and  proceeded to a long warm-up of mobility exercises. Well.. warm-up is kind of misleading word because the weather was 30C/80%rH, so after 5min jog I was already extremely warm...
950 runners at the start for this summer classic.
To avoid digressing on every single KM split. I could say that I went way better than my expectations.
I was basically with the 2nd pack until 7k, where my buttock start to feel like a sting, so I had to drop off the pace. I was not feeling my normal stride, but strangely enough a pace of 3'35"/km felt not too bad...
After a tight sprint for the 10th place (lost..) I finish 11th overall (3rd Master) in 36'04".
That is 50" slower than my time on the same course on July, but due to what happened in the past 30 days, I am more than satisfied....
Thumbs up to Colin F for winning the race in convincing way and anyway we are able to win the team competition too... so it was a good Sunday on all aspects
(also thumbs up to M.L. because she won the women's race in her first HK event... not a bad way to acclimatize to Asian heat!)
After 2km with my team mate C.

Last km...

Colin smoothly sailing to victory

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

it is a long way....

I have been away from blogging for long and has been a long way also for me since the last post, a long way also both mentally and physically.

to avoid typing three page of training summary, race reports and various consideration, I try to make a bullet-style summary

  • June to July 19th: I really enter into a good groove of training. Albeit a torrid summer, I keep a good weekly mileage of around 100km and my form is coming up. Polar Running Index getting close to 80 and CTL in SportTrack getting closer to 100 (these data for data maniac runners like myself)
  • July 10th: 10K race. I arrive 2nd overall in a time of 35'15". On that course and during the summer, my PB was 35'04" in 2008, so I really get the feeling that I am getting closer to the same peaks touched in 2008. Just a small concerns about my left foot which is getting painful again around the sesamoidis like in April 
  • July 14th: board the plane for a nice family holiday in Poland. I am salivating to the idea of daily runs in the polish forests during a chilly morning...
  • July 19th: I go for a long run and it happens the unpredictable: after 15km of easy running, my right hamstring completely seizes and become like a piece of wood. No any alert, no any understandable causes (apart from weakness of the glutes, core, etc). Stranded in the middle of the polish countryside, I have also to walk (yes... walk home, I could not even jog) for 8-10km...
  • end July: I am down to jog 6km daily at 5'30" pace. My hamstring loosening up very slowly
  • now: back in HK I can go under the hands of my PT and feel much better, but it is like starting over again...
Current status:
- right hamstring and glutes: not get back yet full range of motion. I feel tired even after running 10k at much more modest pace than before the injury. Work with PT and foam roller/ball/stick, whatever. I hope that in 15 days I could be running again normally
- form is seriously down... my Polar Running Index dropped to around 70...
- left foot: painful like hell after every run despite the forced rest. Already booked an appointment with the ortho doctor (cortisone shot seems unavoidable...). This is just a short term fix, I am still wondering what could be a real solution (note: I wear not send me to a podiatrist, I have 4 pairs of orthotics from 4 different podiatrist). Maybe is a pelvis alignment problem or maybe the hamstring problems on the right side are putting too much strain on the left side...
- Berlin Marathon: well.. maybe another year. I doubt I can celebrate my 42nd birthday, running 42km... 
- mental side: I really want to give running a final serious effort for a couple of years, but it seems a bit pointless. After 40, my body is simply losing the wheels...
Now I will seriously try to work on core, glutes strength, etc, but if it does not work, it is probably time to give myself to lawn bowl... anyway the morale is underwater...

Positive thought: give a read to Lauren Fleshman's blog and her amazing turnaround from injury to DL win (my cynical side reminds me that I am several years older and I do not have Nike to support the rehab..)

Question to the readers:
- does anybody know a serious place where they can perform a running assessment (using treadmill and foot lead measurement, etc) ?
I am going to South England soon for work, also Veneto region in Italy is ok or, closer to home, Hong Kong or Singapore...
(in HK, most places that I know are really poorly equipped)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

High inventory

SportTracks has an excellent function that keeps track of the usage of an unlimited number of equipments (even multiple equipments for the same workout).
In comparison, the SW Polar Trainer just can track 2 pair of shoes..
I use the function to keep track of the mileage of all my Running shoes spread among my 2 "homes" (Hong Kong and Dongguan).
Trainers, lightweight trainees, racing flats, etc.... All under tracking (currently I am rotating 6 pairs of shoes....).
To cut it short, both my main training shoes (the lightweight trainers Mizuno Elixir 5 and 6) reached 700km and I deem a good idea to replace them.
Considering my history of injuries, my heavy stride and the fact that with high humidity the shoes are always wet, 700km seems a good number to me. Better replace them a bit more often, but avoid to run on worn out shoes...

Digging out in the cabinet in Dongguan, I realised that I have 12 pairs of new shoes waiting (3 pairs are in HK not pictured below):
Mizuno Wave Ascend - trail running shoes
Mizuno Wave Aero 8 and 9 x3 pairs - marathon shoes
Mizuno Wave Musha 2 - racing flats
Mizuno Wave Spacer RS3 - racing flats
Mizuno Wave Nirvana 7 - support trainers
Mizuno LD track spikes
Adidas Supernova 10 - support trainers
Asics GT2150 - trainers
Asics Lyteracer DS
Asics Lyteracer DS2

Total insanity !!!
The good point is that I did not have to pay for any of them, because all won at the races.... At least my wife can not complain that I squander the money on shoes....

The bad point is that I realised that I had never used any of those models before, so I really do not know where to start from .
Any recommendation or good/bad experience ??

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tropical Heat and influence on the training of the runner

"I can understand a little of what you're going through there Roberto. The humidity and heat creaping up here in Osaka but thankfully not to the levels you have to put up with. Interested to hear what you do to keep running in those conditions, hydration etc etc"

I got this comment from Scott which in a sense touched an issue of common interest... to train under a tropical-style heat ?

honestly speaking, most of the suggestions you can find in running magazines are pretty much obvious: run early in the morning, drink a lot, etc...

on the other extreme of the spectrum, there are all the dissertation about the role of the Central Governor in avoid overheating, etc, which are sometimes beyond my grasp...

now the question is how to do, when the minimum temperature in the day is at least 27-28C, high humidity and a long long summer ?

I personally found that running in heat poses 3 challenges:

1) Alteration of gait caused by running "slower"
Let's say that crawling around at 30"/km slower than the usual pace is anyway having an effect on the stride. The muscles get into their memory a shorter and less reactive stride.
I think that several months of that and then it can become difficult to regain the right muscolar-activation pattern 

2) Heart Rate Drift caused by heat
Once the body can not lose enough heat fast, the HR begins to rise even if the runner keeps a steady pace and the duration of the run is within his normal training.
Personally I found that with temperature around 28-29C and 80%rH, I can keep around 25-30' at easy pace or 15' at faster pace before my HR begins to rise (and rise a lot).
It is not uncommon that even if I am just running "easy", after 90 minutes my HR is in MP or HMP territory.
Even worse, while doing "faster" workout, the HR can go easily over 90% HRmax even the pace is kind of "moderate"

3) Day-by-day recovery
It is quite common in tropical weather to lose 2.0-2.5L of water per hour.
Run 2 hours and even if you drink 2-3 bottles during the run, you will end up losing 3Kg of sweat.
That means that rehydratation involves drinking at least 4 liters of fluids before the next workout. This also goes together with the loss of minerals, etc
Honestly after a long run I feel really bloated by all the water which I know I MUST drink...

Anyway first a piece of good news:
Heat acclimation gives big cycling performance improvements in cool conditions, study finds
"A recent study by human physiology researchers at the University of Oregon found that huge physiological gains could be achieved in trained cyclists by doing 90-minute easy rides in high heat for 10 days.
Before the testing, the researchers expected to find improvements in the hot-weather performance of Cat. 1 and 2 cyclists after a heat-acclimation program. But what surprised them was that the physiological improvement translated to cool-weather performance as well."
This is something that I always suspected ... because whenever I leave HK in Summer and step out from the plane in a cooler country, my running takes another dimension, almost feeling effortless...

So there is a good reason to grind through the summer, but how to make it easier:

These are only my personal thoughts and experiences:

1) try to run in "doubles".
I know is very difficult to do for an amateur runner, but running in doubles during summer could be hugely beneficial:
- it is much easier to reintegrate 2 times 1-1.5 Liter of water, than 3 Liters...
- because it is unavoidable to slow down after 30'-45', the runner can base the training on 2times x30'-40', keep an higher pace and maintain a more correct stride.

- even for a long run, probably a split into 1h+1h at decent speed is much better than crawling around for 2hours.
I know runners who pride themselves to keep going also during heat waves, even if they have to slow down a lot. But honestly I do not see the benefit to run at 5'30"/km for a runner whose "cold weather" easy speed is 1 minute/km faster..
For keeping a good stride and also mantain certain neuromuscolar patters,  I personally feel much better to run almost at my "normal" speed (let's say that 10"-15"/km slower is unavoidable), but stop when I can not keep the pace anymore...
I also do not feel anymore any issue with running 30' at good pace, stopping 5' for drinks and cool down and then start again..

2) fractional workouts
the concept is nothing different from point 1), but inside the single workout. 
No point to make "tempo runs" where the speed is too far from the target one or where you suffer a dramatic drop of pace after 20'...
much better to run at the "real" target speed, but in intervals.
So better 6-7x2km, than a 10k tempo run. The rest gives the time to drink properly and cool down the body a bit, so that every active interval is performed at the real target speed.
I am also applying this to longer runs: even for long runs, I split into many short intervals (maybe 10-15x2km) with time for drink and cool-down, or longer interval with longer rests (20' followed by 2' drink/cool-down), all performed at my "cold weather" speed or whereabouts.

3) day-by-day recovery
this is an area where I am really still in search for a better way.
- what to drink, what to eat ?
- how to recover quicker ?

for example, drinking only water makes difficult to reintegrate also the minerals, etc... but if you switch to sports drinks or fruit juices, then there is the problem of the too large caloric intake (a glass of juice is over 100-150Kcal).

Also the drinking pattern: drink a lot immediately after the workout  (not keeping into account anyway the limit of the effective absorption rate by the body), or drink a little but all over the day...

on top of that, I think that all the runners from S.E. Asia and similar climates suffer from the same situation where the fatigues increase day by day, and the heat is a kind of chronic illness which really affects the level of energy, even if in theory he/she drinks, eat and sleep enough.
There is a kind of cumulative effect on recovery of training in the heat, where it becomes impossible to fully restore from the day before.
I personally felt almost "on my knees" at the end of each summer, only waiting for the weather to get cooler and eventually recover.

What do you think?? Any practical experience to share?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Week 23 - over 100

104Km for the week... with this weather is quite an achievement to be proud of

Monday: even if it was a public holiday, I headed out for a long run at 5.30am to avoid the heat. I would say that until 6.30 I was running, then once the sun was high in the sky, it become a sort of crawl... (in figures, first hour @4'20"pace, then dropped to 4'36"...). I was stopping every now and then to take a walk, but honestly it felt harder than running the last km in a marathon. Total: 25k
Afterwards I felt so tired that I went back to sleep for an hour... seriously considered to give up running, if training must be so painful

Tuesday: 11km...  "recovery run"

Wednesday: an approaching tropical storm from the Philippines was pushing warm hot air from south to South China. I had the same feeling as when you use a hair dryer in a steamy bathroom...
w/u , then 2km mini-tempo run @ 3'25" pace (feeling much better than expected), 1km jog, then hill spring 8x15".. Total 13k

Thursday: awfully hot... it should have been a recovery run, but at the end my HR was at MP effort even if I was crawling... total 9k

Friday: I did not even try to run outside...11km on treadmill

Saturday: the tropical storm was now near HK and outside was too awful... so long run on treamill (a first time for me). Watching a TV channel in cantonese is not exactly the best way to fight the "boremill", but I felt really committed to go long...
I can not swear about the reliability of the pace, but I did 13km easy, then cranked up  the pace to 4'00" feeling very good (also because the thermometer of the gym club showed 21C/55rH..). Total 25K

Sunday: rain, rain, rain.. !! the storm eventually brought heavy rain and it was like another planet.
It was raining so hard that I had to keep a hand in front of my eyes (yes... a bit bizarre to rain like that), but I felt effortless...  11km @ 4'05" pace, with average HR of only 147bpm... totally a different story !

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

summer survival

A scene that repeats itself everyday, around 5am...
after crawling away from the bedroom, I check the weather. I am really in disbelief that it could be already 29C/83%Rh at 5am, but this is the tough reality. That is something like an heat index of 35C at 5am... and it can only be worse after sunrise...

So every time I try to run between 10 and 15Km, keeping a easy pace for 30' and than going always slower and slower... I try to control the HR below 75% but inevitably drifts higher and higher, so that at the end of the workout I find myself in a combination: jogging pace @ marathon effort...

With a sweat rate of 2kg water/hr... I am usually wasted after every medium-long run.

Trying to keep the things going, last week I totaled anyway 75km.

end of survival report

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

HK Runner Magazine

I ended up in the Summer issue of local magazine "HK Runner" for a brief profile.
For once, something not only in Chinese, so suits also my overseas readers.

Monday, May 30, 2011

oppss... am I supposed to race today !?

Friday 27th I got up very early and crawled to the PC to see some news before heading for the usual run...
Some running God made me click on to check if I was successfully enrolled in the track meeting due on June 4-5...
to my sleepy eyes, it took a while to realize that I was not only enrolled, but also scheduled to race on that same day 27th due to a change of calendar...

Being after a couple of hard session, I was not really sharp for a 5000m track race, but nonetheless I had to run in order to mark a presence in the series and eventually be able to race the finals in November...

Fast forward 14 hours later, I am eventually able to leave the office at 19.15 and show up at the Stadium in suit and tie with a sport bag in tow...

Being 26C/80%rh the warm-up did not take long and I find myself on the start line, together with other 30 runner whose average age was half mine... (I do not know why, but these track meeting looks like taboo to over 23...).
Honestly I felt dreadful, and my race plan was to stick to 3'20" pace until I could keep it and maybe increase a bit on the finale...

Until 3k I was more or less there and incredibly I was also near the race leader (yes... this meeting was really low level...). Then I felt my total lack of specific training... I was not really hurting, but simply my pace was slipping from 1'20"/lap to 1'22" or more...
Better said... I was NOT able to engine had a kind of rpm limiter...

For the last 3 laps I tagged a boy (whom I know is 15yo...) and then just unleashed a kick to outsprint him for the 4th place overall in 17'00"...

Regardless of the time and placement, I was quite satisfied that I did not have any tightness or soreness in hamstrings, calves, abductors, whatever...
last season usually after every track session I was tight everywhere... so is a sign that all the stretching and ancillary exercises  are working...

MORALE: if you enroll in race, check the calendar
The race venue... appreciate the typical HK-downtown landscape... high-rises

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Track workout breakthrough...

No, I did not run 10x1000m in 2'50"...(well... let's say not yet..., maybe)
But I DID RUN in this track, which is actually the track of 清溪第一中学..

The usage by "commoners" of sports grounds in China is completely a mistery to me... those who should be for common use are usually locked all day long unless a major sports event, but it is more likely that you can sneak in into some school sports ground before their lessons.
Despite moving to this town already 3 years ago, I always had a taboo to try my luck into entering this track. But this morning I did not feel too much to make some intervals around a a factory, I felt the need to some rubber...
All said, brief chat with the security guys at the entrance and at 6.00am sharp I was starting a modest 3x1000m to get back into interval training...
times were 3'13"-3'12'-3'11", it was nice to feel the pain of the lactic acid in my arms...
Qingxi tonw school (from Panoramio)
Apart from this, I did not follow too much the rule of "10% mileage increase"
Week 18: 0Km
Week 19: 35Km
Week 20: 72Km
all complemented by strong doses of core exercises, stretching, etc
No mistery that by sunday evening I felt like being passed over by a track....

Note: there is a strong debate about the real estate craze in China.  The pic above was taken in 2008 and by now there are at least other 3-4 mega-residential complexes (like the one which was in construction in the pic) in this small town where 90% of the population are factory workers at 200USD/mt salary...
All the apartments are snapped by eager buyers even before completion and then they lay empty or half empty for years, because the rental or purchase are beyond reach for the masses...
The brick is just a way to park the money of wealthy locals, in absence of other investment alternatives.
This said... will the bubble burst or not ?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

from Xinxing to Berlin

what the hell am I saying ??

after a 3 weeks stops to repair all my aches, I was getting a bit lazy about resuming training...
it was good to wake up late (6.30am) and avoid the heat outside.
So I took profit from a business trip to Xinxing (place in the middle of nowhere in Guangdong) to force myself to run and kick-off the campaign to run the Berlin Marathon...
I was already mentally ready to run on some city walkway, when I spotted a sign for "Yunfu City Greenway Bike Path"...
Incredibly enough, the path was actually a real bike path, on traffic free paths along the fields and river... so a real surprise... running 10K was extremely painful but I am getting back better and better by the day

View Larger Map

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I step into the lift of the Nishinetsu Hotel and found an african runner talking to a guy who had a heavy italian accent. By the time the lift arrived at the ground floor, we already introduced each other and got to know that the runner wearing jeans and a rapper jacket was Samuel Wanjiru, ready to debut the day after in a Marathon.

In the friendly atmosphere of the Fukuoka Marathon, I got the occasion to meet more times the man and have a long chat with his manager too...
4 years were long enough to make him touch the sky and then go into a dangerous downhill.
Anyway this is my personal farewell to this great athlete.

Friday, May 6, 2011

this is a nice one

nice pic from polish website  
One meter after the finish line I felt like my ankle was exploding and I could not stand anymore...
(Note: nice to have a pretty blonde taking care of you... but I did not notice at the time)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thumbs Up / Down

Now back in Hong Kong, I appreciated in full the "weather gap" between the 15C dry in Europe and the 27C/haze/90%rh here...

In the past 2 weeks I did not run at all, just eat, eat and eat...
It was the right time to let all my niggling injuries heal and get some down time from running to charge the batteries in view of the next season.
Said that, from the marathon I good some really good learnings, which I try to summarize here


1) Cracovia Marathon: is itself a very nice race, well organized and very much runner friendly.
With 3000 at the start, it is still something where you can focus on the pleasure of the race without too many cumbersome logistic problems (like waiting for 3 hours in freezing cold like in NY..).
The course was not actually pancake flat, but there were some slight inclines which are undetectable on the course profile, but not on a couple of tired legs...
Plenty of water points, with also energy drinks and food, etc... Even a post-race massage was available.
For me it was even easier thanks to the kindness of the organizer who granted me a Elite bib.
The course is quite spectacular with nice vierws of the old town, even if the section between 18 and 26K around the suburb of Nowa Huta  (dull socialist style industrial town) was rather disappointing (not many spectators and the marathon was taking only one lane of the large boulevards, so we shared our run with passing-by cars...)
Entry fee is a reasonable 30 Euro and for additional 12 Euro I could get a digital version of all the 59 pictures taken by the race photographs (!!). Considering also the modest cost for lodging and food and the range of low-cost flights from all over Europe, it is sure a good choice for a Spring marathon. Good race and good sightseeing for a long weekend.
I do not bother anybody with all the 59 shots, but here some of the most spectacular:

2) ASICS Tarther Blitz 2: I must really do an unconditional endorsement for these shoes...

  • Light but supportive (around 220 grams)
  • cushioned but let your feel the road
  • really wrap around the feet
  • good grip

I really felt totally sold-out on them... they are the "perfect shoes" for a marathon (at least for a pronator like myself).
The only draw-back is that at 950 HKD RRP (around 120 USD), they are not on the cheap side (at least for HK standard...). Since I won them at a race, I could not complain on this. But probably they are well worthy the extra money

3) Our club uniform: a real hit also in Poland... everybody was shouting "Bravo" and "Vai Italia" !!

4) My overall training plan: no doubts that it works.
Long hard workouts at or near race pace every 3-4 days + many easy runs...
I think I slacked a bit on the strides, hill sprints, etc and therefore lacked a bit of speed and neuromuscolar coordination.
for good inspiration, give a look at the training of Moses Mosop for the Boston Marathon. We are obviously an another planet in terms of speed and overall workload, but the structure of the training plan is clear. 


1) Traveling long-haul with small Kids: honestly I think it was it was a "2 minutes loss" factor.
- jet-lag: the kids were up and awake at 4am
- the baby with a cold, kicking me all night long (he was sleeping in our bed)
- walking and driving here and there for all the 3 days before the race...
So I took the start line probably really low on sleep and energies...
I got a lesson, an intercontinental trip is already a big stress, with the kids then became unsustainable. In short, next time...leave the kids at home

2) Injury Management: I was way too slow to react to the different injuries:
- hamstring: I waited too  long to go for a series of deep-tissue massages
- foot: dragged around for 4 weeks with a painful foot, popping pills and putting ice... it would have been better to head straight to the doctor and do the cortisone shot which was a solver in 2 days!
- tendon inflammation: also too slow to react... (well the time was not much anyway, but). It come out of nowhere, but I should have headed straight to the doctor. The shot on saturday afternoon did not have enough time to make effect and was too late.
So I really did poorly on treating my injuries...
The big lesson is that is always better to skip running immediately for 2-3 days at every small pain and deploy all the most powerful "weapons", rather than trying to cure with only RICE and easy runs...

3) Running a race with a Garmin (or any GPS): I did the experiment and it was really a total failure:
I had set-up the screen to disply the average total pace and the average pace of the current lap.
I was taking splits at each Km marker in order to avoid the usual GPS errors.
But still... my watch was maybe giving me an average lap pace of 3'40" and then I was maybe splitting in 3'45" or 3'50"... So I did not really know what to trust and how to adjust the pace.
Overall I think that the approach of using a HR monitor and checking the split at every Km is more reliable and let the runner make a better distribution of the effort...

Friday, April 22, 2011

When does a Marathon start ?

The usual say is that a Marathon starts at 20 Mile mark...
...But while sitting in the waiting room of the hospital of Rybnik, I
could not avoid thinking that a marathon could begin much ahead, with
overcoming all the difficulties which can happen in the training, etc.

So I had the time to think that:
- 5 weeks before, I was in terrific shape and was easily crunching
miles and hard workouts. My dream of running a marathon in 2:35' was
getting close...
- then I woke up one day with inflammation to the sesamoidis which
afflicted me for weeks until I eventually cured it with a cortisone
- my hamstring went out of control, with the tragi-comic even of
getting cramps on a 10k race and even tripping on the finish line
because the leg could not bend anymore. Now I had done some physical
therapy session and deep tissue massage but basically I could not
perform any "faster" workout for weeks and I could not predict how it
could behave on 42km.
- my baby son got a cold and did not let us sleep in the past 4
nights, so I felt really tired

...And I was there, waiting for a doctor to perform a
Cortison+lydocain shot on my ankle which got inflamed 3 days before
(for no apparent reason)... It was a last resort measure.

So all together I thought that I already did have a long way to go
before even maybe able to take the start the day after.

Despite this, I said to myself that I would have anyway tried to run
on 2h35'-36' pace. I must give it anyway a try because of all the
effort done to be there.

So, the day after, I left the HR monitor in the closet , did the usual
pre-race preparation, enjoy the benefit of my "Elite" start bib, and
then go...

Maybe is too tedious to write all the race details (and I am also
typing from a smartphone..), so I just say that I hit half marathon in
1h18'30" and then kept 3'42"/k pace (my target) until 30k.
The ankle was like a stinging needle at every step but I could bear it.

Then..I felt tired, I felt I did not have those energy in the tank to
increase my internal effort and keep the target pace.
The ankle was by than bloody painful, with the medicine numbing effect
completely gone.
So, in short, I had to slow down.
I did not bonk, I did not hit any wall, but I was simply slowing down.
I was no more racing, but only running to the finish line
I was strangely still overtaking other runners who were bonking hard.
Eventually after 2h40'03" I reached the finish line in 23rd place, but
the finish time does not really mattered much.
I could not even walk properly anymore and I felt kind of somehow
disappointed but proud to do it anyway...a Marathon is always a

In the next days, once I have a proper PC, I elaborate more, but for
now that's all...

Friday, April 15, 2011

landed and ready for take-off

after surviving a intercontinental flight with 3 small kids, running the marathon on sunday will feel like a rest day... only 2h40' of effort "solo" (vs 20 hours of HKG-KRK with 3 kids) and there are even people handing you water every 20 minutes...
apart the jokes, we landed eventually in Poland

weather is promising, with forecast of 8 to 14C for Sunday.

I got up yesterday with pain in the left ankle, for no real reason (after a rest day !). Now I am in search of some analgesic spray or similar to numb the pain for the race.

Lastly, before leaving HK, I eventually subjected myself to the torture of deep-tissue massage to the hamstring to release the tight spots.

So, Sunday the verdict
If all these last-minute repairs work, it can be a good one... otherwise I might not even arrive to the first drink station.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Marathon Pacing Strategy

taking lead from a comment from Rick to my previous post, I would to list some personal guidelines of mine:

- after many observations, I think that negative split is possible and definitely the best strategy for a marathon in the 2h20'-3h00' hrs range (for people targeting 4hrs of so, the situation might be different because it is a much longer time on your feet so also peripheral fatigue might be of stronger influence).
If you target to reach the 25k mark with something in the tank, then it is "only" 1 hours of effort left (more or less).
All the stories about glycogen exhaustion and so on really give solid base to run a first half in more moderate effort and then give it all...

- my personal preference is to run always with HRM so that I can start the marathon with the first 5k at 80% HRmax and then gradually build up to 85% after 15k to keep until when you must forget about the HR and just push harder to keep the pace.
Usually the recommended average HR for a marathon is around 85% HRmax. But if you start straight at 85%, then it become unsustainable after 25-30k and eventually you will lose speed and also the HR will drop (for exhaustion of glycogen reserves).
If starting at a more moderate pace/effort (85%) the HR can gradually rise and keep on rising for all the race even reaching 10K effort level (90-92% of the max).

Better than whatever I could say, I found this GREAT pace calculator for the marathon

It is 99% the same principle as I would follow and gives you both the progression of pace and HR to follow... amazing online resource

- 5 ... let's hope I can last 42k...

In the past 2 weeks, I was not really "training" but more managing injuries and trying to arrive to the start line of the marathon in an acceptable condition.
I am in excellent shape and I do not think that 2 weeks of light training make a big impact at the end of a long season. I am not like those guy coming out from cold winters in north hemisphere who start a 16 weeks training from scratch... I started to train for this marathon last July so I am definitely confident I can run 42k at 3'40" pace, BUT

- foot pain: after losing too much time on this, I eventually headed to the Orthopedic and he confirmed my self-diagnosis of "inflammation to the sesamoids". He was then pretty straightforward: either I had to swallow pain-killers, put ice, etc and still have the inflammation for weeks, either we went for the "heavy weapons" and do a cortisone shot and cure it in 2 days. Decision easily taken at this stage also because I was already mentally prepared that it was the necessary cure.
A cortisone shot on the ball of the foot is terribly painful and let my foot swollen for a couple of days (when I could barely walk... forget about running). Going out from the doctor's building, I had to take a tram for 2 stops (300m) to reach the car parking because I could not even walk...
but 2 days later the pain was gone and the inflammation too... now the foot is 100% Ok

- hamstring: this is a real mess. Whenever I push the pace and if I do not pay attention to run with a light stride, the hamstring seizes...
I am doing some physio and self-massage to release the muscle and I also changed my marathon shoes into a brand new pair of Asics Tharther Blitz + new orthotics

The shoes are a model available only in Asia and they are a kind of "supportive marathon shoes", not super light, decent support and cushier feeling.

Also I got a new pair of orthotics more flexible, with a softer built and a flexible insert.

I think it can be a good move because the Mizuno+my previous orthotics made for a quite "stiff" and "responsive" stride.

So I had the feeling that the Mizuno really needed me to run with a very light stride and avoid heel striding. While this set-up feels a bit more forgiving.

All together, obviously the shoes are not a solution, but just a patch. Once the marathon is done, I will need to work on my hip/hamstring flexibility + gluteus strength during all summer.

Now, basically I have no idea if the hamstring can hold for 42k. In the last HK Marathon, I had 2-3 bouts of cramps/tightness which disappeared by altering the stride.
I will try to run light and focus in the stride, but 42k is a long way............

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Instruments of torture

Sunday's race left painful wounds... first a bruised hand and left hip from the fall..., second... a very painful and tight hamstring, third... a fatal blow to my morale...

After taking 2 days off from running to regain motivation and nurse all the physical and mental wounds, this morning I run 17km... It is amazing how my aerobic condition is good: I was running at 4'00"/pace with HR in recovery zone.
Also amazing is how I could still finish the race in 34'15" while crawling on 1 leg for 3km...and I was not at all tired.

Anyway now the only remedy is to work on releasing the hamstring as much as I can before the marathon, avoid racing flats and avoid running "too fast". It seems there is a kind of barrier for which I can not run faster than 3'35"/km without problems.

I want to thank everybody for all the suggestion about different treatments (foam roller, trigger points, etc...).
My arsenal for self-inflicted torture is well equipped:

TOP: foam roller 6"... very good for general muscle release
BOTTOM: massage works well on some hard spots but I will rate him below the foam roller
RIGHT: tennis ball... very useful to take care of any small sign of Plantar fascitis and also to work on some trigger point release technique, but I found that tennis ball is slightly too small to work on some bigger muscles.
so.. here the final weapon:
LEFT: Softball Ball (Mizuno)... works amazingly well for hamstring and quadriceps. It is big enough that you can sit on the floor with the ball under the hamstring and let the pressure of the leg do the job.
It can really dig deep inside large muscles...