Friday, May 25, 2012

Diary of a Sub 40 minute 10K #1

The idea to revisit the 4 minute per kilometre (and faster) territory hit me this year, when I turned 40 on the 19th of January. There's an irony in the goal - turning 40 years old, effectively reaching the halfway mark through a lifetime - and then trying to run a time I last ran when I was half my age.

Going under 40. That's the goal.

You know, if I hadn't already run faster than 40 minutes in what sometimes seems like a former life - and if I didn't have it on record - it's possible I'd consider it a bridge too far. Because let's face it, in the good old days as a triathlete speedster I weighed 20 kilograms less than I do now. Literally.
To be honest, I've still had my doubts, that it was a bridge too far in spite of successful earlier efforts several decades -  okay, let's not exaggerate - two decades earlier.  Let's just say that I respect the difficulty of the goal.  And this is why, although I had my heart set on the sub 40 goal as early as January, I've only just started communicating that desire to others over the last few days.

Why now? Because recently I've broken through the 50 minute barrier. It's taken 5 months to go from 58 minutes to 48 minutes, but the real work starts now.

My strategy is threefold.
1. Train consistently.
2. Lose weight (to get to sub 45 minutes I need to be under 80kg, to get to sub 40 minutes, I'll need to drop another 5kg, probably more.)
3. Run barefoot, or at least, strengthen the feet and legs by using increasingly minimalist footwear.

As I begin this diary, I've balanced those three goals quite nicely, which is why I've seen fairly rapid improvements.

Here's a summary of my training, copied from an email I sent to a friend last week:

 I haven't been injured in a long time.  One thing someone noticed not long ago was that my left foot was sort of collapsing inward at the heel. You couldn't see it from the front. He said it was painful to look at.  When I got home I checked in the mirror and so waar, it was pronating inwards badly. It's because those shoes have a very high and soft heel. So I tossed away my Nike Pegasus and bought a pair of Nike Frees (5.0) which has a much lower heel (3.0 are even lower).  Now I do all my running in fairly minimalist shoes, the Frees and Puma Faas.  Once I've adapted a little better I'll do occasional runs in my Vibrams.  

You have to transition slowly to less cushioned shoes.  You feel quite stiff initially, so you have to be patient.  It doesn't feel right running in 2-3 different pairs of shoes a week, but I think it teaches your feet and legs to adapt.

But beyond everything I've mentioned here, what's helped my running the most is running often, but quite slow. I run about 4-5 times a week, mileage is around 40km a week, and starting to add a bit to that now again.  I started with quite a few very easy 5km runs, and then occasionally added a 10-14km run once a week, and then one hardish fast/uphill run.  My easy runs are now each 7km.
Because I've been quite heavy it's been tough to run fast right off the bat, which has also helped gradually, slowly strengthen the muscles.

It's interesting that in the old days it was verboten to mix shoes; it was considered a prerequisite for injury. Now the opposite appears to be true. Incidentally, the above image is the best evidence I have of my fastest 10km, which was at a triathlon on the West Coast, Mykonos.  If memory serves me I've run 37-38 minutes 3 times.  During those years I was aiming for 35 minutes but never got there.
If that race seems like a flash in the pan, I remember this race (in Plett) below, like it was yesterday.  I remember it well because I seemed to get stronger and faster as the 5km run went on, which for me was the exception, rather than the rule.  I also remember the Plett race because by girlfriend at the time was there, and a friend from school, Garth, and both said that I actually finished 3rd, not 4th.  It's one of my long time regrets that I never went to the organisers to make certain.  I remember waiting for Rassie Smit in the parking lot to ask him what he thought, except I couldn't find him.  In any event, it's stuff like this that leaves one with unfinished business.  Something to prove.
The above race, a standard triathlon shows a near 40 minute 10km.  Given my cycling and transition time (1:03:18) it's a fairly decent time. And below is another low 40's 10km run.
My fastest standard triathlon ever was a 2:00:00 in Richard's Bay, a SA TRI CHAMPS event.  I got off the bike joint first with Francois Vorster and then lost 5 places on the run.  But that was almost certainly another 37 minute 10km.

But that was then.  My weight has gone from a skinny 66-68kg (and 7% body fat) to 94kg.  Over the past 5 months I've lost 8kg, but even 86kg is heavy.  My fastest 10km was 2-3 weeks ago, a 48:55 in the first 10km of the Glen half marathon.
My fastest 6km was just last Sunday, when I ran 28:52, more than a minute better than my previous effort (29:59).  My average heart rate on the last run was 159, 1 lower than on my previous record attempt.

Next Thursday (I'll be blogging on this each Thursday) I'll write more about what I'm eating, and how that has significantly changed my energy levels and weight.
Wishing you well for your road.

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