Sunday, 25 October 2009

Day 183 - half way point

So it has been half a year since I started this blog, started training, and took up running in a more serious way. Since then I have:
  • Run 216.5 miles;
  • Ran for 1779 minutes (29 hours, 39 minutes)
  • Finished a half marathon;
  • Sustained two injuries (shin splints and a twisted ankle);
  • Ran six miles in seven minute miles;
  • Lost 2.5 stones in weight; and
  • Got a place in the London Marathon for 2010.
I'm pretty pleased with progress so far, but there is still a long way to go. And now, with the clocks going back, we are firmly into the winter training schedule. I just need to keep at it through the winter, and I should emerge into 2010, spring and the London Marathon in good shape.

Today I went for a bike ride out to north London and then back to the gym to do a resistance and cross training session.

Day 182 - running with the gays

Type - Steady run

Distance - 4 miles

Time - 30 minutes 42 seconds

I had been meaning to join London's gay and lesbian running club, Front Runners, for a while. I had never quite got round to it. The Saturday run starts at 9.30am, so a late night on a Friday puts the kibosh on that. Monday's never fill me with enthusiasm to go for a first run with a new group, and I play football on Wednesdays. Last week I was going to go on the Saturday, but a late night round at Mark and Kate's meant there was no chance I was going in. But this week I had nothing on the Friday, had had an early night and was up and ready to go.

I was a bit nervous about heading down for the first run. I've never run with a group, and had no idea what to expect. Fortunately everyone was really friendly, and it seems like a great bunch - social but committed to running. There are people of different levels, with some really great runners who stormed ahead from the outset.

We get changed over at St. Mary's Hospital before congregating at the Italian Gardens near Lancaster Gate. People then do a 2, 4 or 6 mile run, and head off round Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Still feeling a bit sore after Thursday's run I decided just to do 4 miles (map). I started running at my own pace, which fell behind the faster runners but in front of a big chunk of people. I was finding it difficult to get in to a stride - perhaps being unfamiliar with the route and not knowing the mile markers fed into this. It wasn't a comfortable run for some reason, one of those sessions that doesn't quite come together. I did finish in just over half an hour, so still well under eight minute miles. But for a four mile run should have been able to do a bit better than that.

After the run the group heads off for breakfast, which feels like a very civilised way to spend a Saturday morning! Quite pleased, all in all, and I will be back.

Day 181 - In the Marathon!

Work away day in Birmingham today, up early and back late and absolutely knackered so no training. I had a missed call yesterday, and a voice message from Rachel in the fundraising team at Mind. I hadn't yet heard from the team about a place in the London Marathon, and Rachel's message wasn't clear as to whether she was phoning to offer me a place or commiserating on not being able to offer one.

So I called back today. Fortunately Rachel had called to offer me a place! So I've got my London Marathon place tied down. Very exciting! I now have to think about a training programme for the big day - with just a over half a year to go.

Day 180 - tempo fate

Type - Tempo run

Distance - 6 miles

Time - 42 minutes 0 seconds

I didn't have as much time as usual for the Thursday evening training run, so we decided to do a six mile run, and ended up doing an inadvertent tempo run. The run was over the usual riverside track, just finishing a bit earlier than last week to get in the round six miles (map). The first mile seemed a touch slow, but we picked it up to finish the first three miles in 22 minutes and 20 seconds.

But then we picked up the pace for the next three miles, finishing with a strong final mile and a dash up the hill to the Aldwych.

This was a good negative split, with a fantastic final three miles running at under 6.5 minute miles. We finished at 42 minutes dead - exactly seven minute miles for the whole six miles. It felt quick and, once complete, felt good. Whilst it is important to be increasing the distance I am running, I am pleased to be attacking the intensity of the training. It might get me a decent time for the next half marathon and any marathon to come.

Day 179 - football fun

Wednesday night and so an evening at the Bishopsgate 5-a-side pitches. A combination of increasing fitness and getting a bit more used to the wax and flow of the game meant that I felt more comfortable on the pitch than I have for ages. Whilst I am never going to be a good player, I am hoping that in time I will be a competent defender with a burst of speed and some vague skills. Perhaps more importantly it is fun again.

Days 177 - 178 - lazy days

I was planning to go on a run, but it just didn't happen. I would label it as recovery days, but, in reality, I just festered. Bad Ian.

Day 176 - back to the gym II

After yesterday's treadmill workout I went back to the gym for a spot of resistance training and a decent session on the cross-trainer.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Day 175 - to the gym

Type - Gradient treadmill run

Distance - 3 miles

Time - 28 minutes 45 seconds

Back to the gym for a decent cross training and running session. I spent the first half an hour on a variety of bicep, upper back and pec resistance machines before heading on the cross trainer for a half an hour session at a decent level of resistance. Suitably warmed up I decided to do a hill programme on the treadmill.

I had forgotten how difficult some of the settings could be, and thought that programme level 10 (out of 12) would be easy enough. It wasn't. Whilst it wasn't difficult to finish it, I was a big sweaty mess by the end. Still, that is the point of these training sessions - to vary from the usual steady runs and improve the overall stamina and fitness.

Day 174 - recovery Friday

Nothing special today, just cycling into work, over to Borough for Kate and Mark's drinks, and back again. Still, that is about 1 hour 20 minutes of cycling, which is better than nothing.

Day 173 - training with the stars

Type - Steady run

Distance - 8.62 miles

Time - 1 hour 4 minutes 20 seconds

A welcome return to training with Jarlath today. The man has been busy of late, running round like a blue-arsed fly trying to keep on top of the vast demands of freshers' fortnight at two institutions. On top of this he has been battling the man flu. He hadn't trained for a while, and so what he really needed was a good long run to sort him out.

Jarlath looked tired and a bit paler than last time I saw him. I'm used to him being the shiny, chirpy and good-natured encourager and facilitator of great training. Today, before going out on the road, he had lost some of this lustre. And that was before I heard him hacking and coughing, hulking great gobs of flem onto the street in an impressive display of mind over body.

The route was the standard river run, heading from LSE down to Chelsea's Albert Bridge and back. We completed the first half in just over 34 minutes, putting us on course for a 1 hour 9 minute run, at 8 minute miles. But this was to be a negative split training run, and we picked up the pace for the return leg.

This was my first run in a pair of Skins compression shorts. Combined with my Skins compression socks it leaves about an inch around my knee that is not compressed and encased in silky black lycra. Alright, so they are expensive, and a touch tarty, but they do the job and they also have the added advantage of tackling the chafage around the tackle. And did I mention they were silky? And tight?

Back to the run, and by the last few miles my upper legs were burning. I was having no problems with my breathing, with my chest or any stitches. But my legs felt as though they had burnt through their energy supplies and were starting to run on empty. Perhaps next time I will have to have a more substantial pre-run energy boost, or take some gels on the route.
We got to the last half mile at a significantly faster pace than the first half, pushing under 7 minute miles for the last three miles. The last half mile, from Waterloo Bridge to the Aldwych, took in the hill from Embankment. There was only one thing to do - hunker down and power up. I raced up, and then almost threw up. But it was a glorious finish to a great run.

By the end of the run the old Jarlath was back - a living example of the power of decent exercise and rising to the challenge. Hopefully it also sorted out the last vestiges of his cold.

And, when I computed the route through Gmap again it seemed that the run was actually 8.62 miles, an additional slither which reduced down our time per mile to 7.46. A cracking run, at a blistering pace. It will be interesting to see to what extent this can be sustained into double digits.

Day 172 - the dread grip of the icy night

Football tonight - and boy have the seasons shuddered and shifted since I last played. The last vestiges of an Indian summer, that sublime September, have faded long passed memory and have been replaced by dark nights, floodlit pitches and a biting wind that whips around the exposed parts and induces the desire to run around just to warm up.

It was a close, tight match and I was unfortunately on the losing side. Not by much, and we could have come back from defeat when the time was up. Good fun, though.

Day 166 - 171 - ain't nothing going on but the rent

It took a few days to recover from what had been an amazing run. One thing that didn't recover was my iPod shuffle which, after being soaked in the storm, succombed to water damage and gave up the ghost. I tried the online Apple recovery programmes and playing around with it but, ultimately, there is a limit to how much I am going to worry about a £30 MP3 player.

It did get me wondering how I would protect any replacement in the future. With winter round the corner and training runs getting longer the chance of keeping equipment rain free seems minimal. So I bought a waterproof MP3 holder, a rather nifty piece of kit which promises to enable swimming with the MP3 player safely encased in a protective plastic membrane, a headphone jack sealed into the design. We shall see. I also got a replacement Shuffle, in the same metalic blue. Its all as though nothing happened.

Spent the weekend and the surrounding days doing a variety of fitness related activities - the gym, cycling, but decided to have a little rest from the running.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Day 165 - let it rain on me

Type - Steady run

Distance - 8 miles

Time - 59 minutes 53 seconds

I was geared up and prepared for tonight's run. I had remembered my inhaler, had eaten properly during the day and was properly hydrated. And then it rained. Not a refreshing autumnal shower, but a wintery, wind-blasted deluge that did not ease up for the entire run. It was dark by the time I got out of the office, and the umbrella festooned streets, bent, hurrying commuters and flurescant orange glow from street lamps finished off any lingering summery memories prolonged by the warm September.

I had planned a run (map) that would finish up between 7.5 and 8 miles, with the option to take it to 8 miles if I felt up to it. I would warm up heading down Fetter Lane towards Fleet Street, down to the Embankment and then a simple river run to Chelsea railway bridge and then back. Despite the wind and rain I was running well - a measured, steady pace that brought me into a 7.5 minute mile pace and into the halfway point at a few seconds past 30 minutes.

Turning around and the rain finally finished off my exposed and delicate iPod Shuffle. It spluttered in the first chorus of Rihanna's Don't Stop the Music and wouldn't restart. The last three miles would be done without the encouraging beat of high energy music, and only the drumming rain on my forehead, the wind screaming past my ears and the constant roar of traffic would interupt the quiet. I will have to investigate a waterproof case for the winter. This is just the start of a new round of equipment purchases that the change in season will require.

The last mile finished up along the embankment, before a half mile ascent to the end of Fetter Lane. I was bang on target for a sub-hour finish, but needed to maintain the pace with burning legs and deep, heavy breaths.

And I did. With literally seconds to spare I made a last, flailing and undignified sprint for the finish. I looked stupid, I was soaked and aching, but it was worth it. Back on track, back on form and hopefully back for good.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

164 - a return

Type - Tempo run

Distance - 4 miles

Time - 29 minutes 19 seconds

I felt absolutely awful this morning. I looked out at the heavy, slaten sky - dull clouds pregnant with heavy rain and watched as the water splashed off roof tops and windows. I entertained the notion of donning waterproofs and braving the elements, and then decided that just getting back to work after being ill was enough and the bus would do fine.

I felt distinctly worse when I got to my desk, a creeping, insidious tiredness that drooped heavy eyelids. I felt exhausted to the core, unable to concentrate and about to go home early. And then. And then. Thank god for the and then. By 3pm I felt considerably better - picked up in under an hour. I had entertained the idea of going home at 4pm after a meeting, but surged with renewed enthusiasm in to the evening. I would finsih my work, and then go home for a run.

So that was the evening yang to the morning's yin. I got home and put on my running kit. I decided to go for a tempo run tonight and then try for a longer run tomorrow evening. I sped off, feeling surprisingly limber and nimble. And then I remembered - I had forgotten (once again, damn you) to take my inhaler. At this pace it wasn't long before my breathing became restricted and I was wheezing through desperate, pained intakes of air. But it was only a four mile run. I would be alright. By the middle it didn't feel so good, so I just adopted a race pace. But, as a mirror to the day, by the end I surged, striding the last mile and sprinting the last few yards to get in under half an hour.

I ended up with seven minute twenty second miles, which felt pretty good considering the stupid initial mistake. Which I hope not to repeat.

Day 159 - 163 - under the weather

I was feeling under the weather at yesterday's football. By Thursday it had developed into a full blown cold and by Friday I was feeling slightly delirious. I had all kinds of plans for fitness at the weekend - but sleeping in until 3pm on Saturday put the kibosh on most of them. By Sunday I was feeling like death, and had to take Monday off work.

Day 158 - the drubbing

Football tonight. Unfortunately. My body, heart and soul were just not in it today. I would have given up if we weren't already short a player. I was starting to feel run down - a cold around the corner? I had just recovered from a crippling bout of post-alcohol, post-medication anxiety, the first time I've had such an attack in ages. I just couldn't be bothered.

Still, I tried to buck up and play my best. Whether my foul mood was in some way a contributory factor to our side's complete and utter drubbing I don't know. I stopped counting when they were five, six and then seven ahead.