Sunday, 31 January 2010

Day 279 - a new personal best

Type - Tempo run

Distance - 6.25 miles (10km) plus 2.5 miles warm up and warm down jog

Time - 41 minutes 19 seconds (10km)

My training schedule called for a 10km run to be done under 'race conditions', which I took to mean at speed and looking for a decent time. Perhaps better than a decent time, a personal best time for the ten k.

I would do a mile warm up (which I did around the back of St Pauls, finishing up on Cheapside), then a 10km 'race' (6.25 miles) which would take me down to the river, along to Westminster, out to the Embankment and then up Vauxhall Bridge Road (map), turn back round and finish the 'race' section at Whitehall Place. This would see me 1.5 miles from base, to be jogged.

The first few miles went well, picking up a decent time and getting to the half way point at about 20.5 minutes. This would see me get a 41 minute overall time, and, if I could manage negative splits, would see me get a sub-41 minute time.

But I couldn't. I put everything I had into the last half, but could not get the time down to that level. This run was the nearest I have come to throwing up after training, and I paused on Whitehall Place hacking deeply and holding off from decorating the street with the unfortunate outcome of my running.

Still, it was a decent enough time - and, with proper preparation, will be a personal best that I look forward to beating.

Day 278 - unintentional rest

I was going to do some training today, but just felt completely out of it. Sometimes it is best to listen to your body and rest. So I did.

Day 277 - Friday night and I'm alright

Type - Steady run

Distance - 5 miles

Time - 39 minutes 14 seconds

It had been a long and tiring week, at and outside of work. This was to be a test of (a) whether I wanted to train come what may and (b) whether running was the best way to shake off the stresses and strains of everyday life.

Fortunately it was yes to both. Ultimately I did want to run, even thought it might squeezing in five miles after finishing work and before going on to a birthday party. And yes after a couple of miles, the crisp winter air and pounding, uplifting house on the iPod I felt my cares wash away, float down the river and out of sight.

For some reason I had a strong urge to vary my usual river run. Perhaps doing the same loops repeatedly is not as good for the soul as trying different runs. The only difficulty with different runs is that in central London his can mean toying with traffic. This time I incorporated a two mile loop around St Pauls and down to Ludgate Circus which varied the run and meant I only had to get to Westminster and back.

It was a decent five miles, solid training and mentally rewarding.

Day 275 - 6 - rest

Stupidly busy at work - rest on the feet.

Day 274 - pre-work running

Type - Steady run

Distance - 5 miles

Time - 41 minutes 32 seconds

A very, very busy week this week, which meant that the only chance I would have to cram in the running I wanted and needed to do was to do Tuesday's run before work. Hardly ideal - it required a decent amount of preparation to ensure that I had all my things in the right place. In the end I failed, and ended up having to run with a small bag on my back.

It took a while longer to get in to the pace, and I was still groggy and tired from having just woken up. Running straight into work from bed isn't ideal, and I should have had half an hour awake, but the lure of the warm bed in the wintery morning ensured that was not the case.

The run was alright, nothing spectacular but some more miles on my feet. For some reason it didn't put me in the most positive frame of mind. Perhaps carrying the annoying kit bag was part of the reason - if I have to do it again I will make sure that I do it properly and am prepared. Properly prepared. And that means no bag carrying.

Day 273 - rest


Day 272 - a swift half

Type - Steady run

Distance - 13.1 miles (half marathon)

Time - 1 hour 41 minutes and 57 seconds

It was a little daunting to set out on this morning's run to know that you were going to finish a half-marathon. I suppose it shouldn't be too daunting - in a few weeks time I will be facing a distance twice as long. But still, 13.1 miles is a fair distance to run. And, unlike the later longer runs, I wanted to do this in a decent time.

I set off at a decent starting pace, building up to run just over 8 minute miles. This was considerably faster than I should be doing, for either long run training or, ultimately, for the marathon itself. But, as I said above, today was partially (soon to be totally) about getting a good time.

I started to get a sharp soreness develop once again in my lower groin, upper quads. Always in the same position on the left leg, this was becoming something of an annoyance along with the perennial pain on my right Achilles Heel. I ran on for a few more miles, belting along down the hill towards Finsbury and down Rosebery Avenue. The enjoyment of going down the steep hill tempered only by the knowledge that I would be grinding back up it some five miles later.

The pain was not going away, so, when stopped at Mount Pleasant for the traffic, I stretched out my quads. Nothing amazing, just grabbing my left foot and stretching long and hard. Instantly the pain dissapated. I wasn't too optimistic, thinking it would return as soon as I set off again. It didn't after a few steps, a few hundred yards and ultimately mile after mile. It might be that this one problem has a simple, stretchy solution.

The long run took me past work, down to the river and along the usual river run. It is quite odd to start a run at mile 5, and for familiar mile markers to be far more advanced than usual (mile six at Waterloo Bridge). I did a small loop around Westminster, running back along the Embankment and then up Farringdon Road. It was going well, and I was running at a decent pace.

By mile eleven, and well in to Islington, I was feeling surprisingly fresh. The time was looking alright - on course for a sub 1:45 half marathon. I decided to go for it, and belted the last two miles in under 14 minutes. Well under 14 minutes - I finished the last mile in a little over six minutes as I sprinted the last 500 metres.

It isn't exactly textbook technique to finish in this way, but it felt bloody good to have done it. The only bad thing about setting a decent personal best is that the desire to beat it burns and gnaws at you. A sub 1:40 half-marathon in Malta? Down hill all the way.

Day 271 - post pissed post

Type - Steady run

Distance - 4 miles

Time - 33 minutes and 32 seconds

The problem with a Saturday morning run is when the Friday night before involves drinking. But, then again, maybe the beauty of a short Saturday morning run is that it wastes away the worst of the night before.

Set out to do a double loop of the Stoke Newington / Clissold Park circuit, and added a starting few hundred metres at the beginning around Queens Road and Brownswood Road to make sure it filled the full four miles.

Not a bad run, and got out the worst of the alcohol.

Day 270 - rest


Thursday, 21 January 2010

Day 269 - a treadmill is a dreadmill no more

Type - Interval training

1 mile jog, 1 mile fast, 400 metre recovery x 4, 1 mile jog

Distance - 7 miles

Time - 54 minutes and 53 seconds

It was with a touch of apprehension that I locked my bike at the Clissold Leisure Centre, took my entry ticket and wrist band and climbed the stairs to the gym. My last interval training session at the LSE gym had been really difficult, and I that was at pretty 'relaxed' speeds. I wasn't sure why I wasn't able to translate the speeds I could outside to what I could do on the treadmill.

There were two differences with today's run. Firstly it was only one mile bursts, rather than the 1.5 miles of last weeks (albeit four of them rather than three, and with half the recovery time), and I was doing it at Clissold Leisure Centre rather than LSE on brand spanking new equipment. I wondered whether any of this would make a difference.

It seemed to. Whereas last week I struggled with an initial 13 km/h for the fast run before sinking this down to 12.5 km/h, this time I dug in for 13.8 - 14.0 km/h for the mile runs, with sprint finishes for the last 500 metres of up to 16 km/h (on the last one).

This gave me an average speed of 14.22 km/h for the fast sections, which was pretty darn good all things considered. It was tough going, and by the end felt like I had done a ridiculous work out, but it was totally worth it.

This felt like one of my stronger training sessions, and I was very pleased with the results. Jarlath and Runner's World are both clearly right in pointing out that these sessions will make all the difference.

Day 268 - easy four

Type - Steady run

Distance - 4 miles

Time - 32 minutes and 52 seconds

A pretty easy four mile run today. I cycle home from work and don't even bother changing out of my jogging pants and hoodie. If it is going to be an easy jog, I might as well wear easy jogging clothes, especially as it has turned quite chilly again!

All easy enough, and completed in a decent enough time.

Day 267 - sick

Off work today with a very strange and sudden vomitting bug. Nasty.

Day 266 - a well deserved rest

After three days of pretty intense training, a deserved rest day!

Day 265 - Twelve in the sun

Type - Steady run

Distance - 12 miles

Time - 1 hour 38 minutes and 14 seconds

The Sunday long run element to my training is starting to stretch back to distances I haven't properly run since I injured myself completing a too soon half marathon back in June. This week it was twelve miles, which means next week will be back into half marathon territory and the week after into untried realm of mid then high teen mileage per week.

I decided to run from home, using a slightly modified route from last week's eleven mile run which would add an additional mile loop by taking in St Paul's Cathedral (map). After weeks of running in the dark, over ice, through snow and blistering frozen winds today was an almost spring-like delight. The sun was shining, the temperature nudged double figures and and all snow and ice had long since melted away. It was perfect running weather.

The first few miles were fairly standard, heading at a steady pace through Stoke Newington down to Highbury and down to Islington. The strange thing about the early miles is just thinking about how much further you have to go - when you've done one or two miles, it still means you have eleven or ten miles left to go. This is obviously something to get use to as it will be significantly more daunting in the marathon.

I came strong down into Holborn, running past Holborn Bars and my office before heading down to Fleet Street and along to St Paul's. The sight of the glistening white cathedral shining in the mid-winter sun was heartening at mile six, but even such an arresting sight doesn't occupy too much of your mind when you are running. It is almost a perfect way to clear your mind as everything else just falls out other than putting one foot in front of the other and getting round the allotted route in a decent time.

As I finished the loop and headed north along Leather Lane a more difficult section was about to begin. The problem (and, ultimately, training advantage) with running from home is that it starts to incorporate longer hills - in this case the unavoidable 'summit' of the Angel. At the beginning there is a slight climb from home to this Islington high point, and then a steeper decline into Finsbury and Holborn. But that is easily overcome on fresher legs. By mile 8, just past Mount Pleasant, you still have a bit of a climb to the Angel, and then more of a climb along Liverpool Road. Depending on the route there can then be more climbing up Highbury Hill.

I was starting to feel the burn in the usual places - the lower groin / top quads on my left leg and my Achille's Heel on my right foot. Any more grumbles from these two trouble spots and I'll have to revisit my physio, but for now it wasn't too bad. I think I suffered from having compressed my training in to Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
By the end of the run my upper left leg was hurting a touch, but, reassuringly, this faded almost instantly on finished and had disappeared within minutes. It should be something that I can stretch away and should overcome with further training.

Onwards and upwards.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Day 264 - twice round the block

Type - Steady run

Distance - 4 miles

Time - 34 minutes and 45 seconds

Just a slow, gentle four miles today, which, after yesterday's exertions and in mind of tomorrow's long run, is not a bad thing. It was absolutely pouring it down for most of the morning, but I managed to get a half an hour break when I could jog two miles counter-clock wise around Clissold Park's longer perimeter through Stoke Newington, and then another two miles clockwise.

Nothing spectacular, but still worked up a sweat.

Day 263 - interval training to the brink

Type - Interval training

1 mile jog, 1.5 mile fast, 800 metre recovery x 3, 1 mile jog

Distance - 7.5 miles

Time - 1 hour 5 minutes and 12 seconds

Jarlath has told me that the interval training sessions plotted on my sixteen week marathon training plan are the most important sessions other than (and, in some cases, rivalling even) the weekly long runs. Whilst some people go out and train every day, they work the same muscles at the same speeds over similar distances, and the body is very well designed to get used to even gruelling but routine training.

The interval training is designed to shake it up a little bit by adding speed or an incline, or both, to make the run harder and more difficult. Today's run called for a warm up jog, and then 1.5 miles at a fast speed (which I initially took to be 13 km/h) and then an 800 metre recovery, finished by a 1 mile jog. It seemed doable on paper, but I was slightly wary of the difficulties I have had on running on treadmills which seem to be more difficult for me than running outside.

Obviously I had no problem with the initial jog, but the first 1.5 miles at 13 km/h was really tough, and, even with the 5 minute recovery covering 800 metres at a slower pace, I didn't think it would be possible for me to sustain another two sets of 1.5 miles at that pace. I slipped it down to 12.6 km/h, and even this was difficult. By the end of the second interval I was shaking in my arms and absolutely soaked in sweat. By the last half mile of the final interval I had a stitch so vicious that I couldn't shift it by deep breathing, and had to slow down and then speed up again to finish off the interval. Not strictly speaking in the rules, but an indication that I had trained to my capacity.

I stepped off the treadmill after the jog feeling punch drunk and a little woozy. It wasn't the hardest run I had done, but it was certainly a challenging training session. Maybe in time I will get more used to the treadmill again. But, for the moment, I still dread the tread.

Days 261 - 262 - snow game

No football this week, once again snowed off, or, at the very least, too icy to play safely.

Ill with a vicious migraine on Thursday, and not moving out of my bed let along training.

Day 260 - slick seven

Type - Steady run

Distance - 7 miles

Time - 57 minutes and 18 seconds

Just a short and steady seven tonight, back in the training company of Jarlath who returned from a eastern European new year holiday to get back into training for the Malta Marathon. His aim is to beat a personal best time in the full marathon at the end of February. As I will only be doing to the half-marathon in Malta, our training needs are slightly different. But Jarlath was keen to join in tonight's run.

Pacing is one of my biggest weaknesses. I have a marathon training programme which tells me in clear terms what I should be running. For this run I should have been aiming for about 63 minutes, or 9 minute miles. We set off at a relaxed pace, and didn't seem to be picking up the speed too much as we went round a familiar river-side run. But even at this slower pace we were averaging 8.5 minute miles. We picked up the pace a little bit towards the end and ended up on 57 minutes, averaging a little over 8 minute miles. It was an enjoyable run, not too difficult, but I need to try and stay within the pace a bit better. The alternative is to set off too fast in the marathon, which would not be useful.

Day 259 - rest

Rest day.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Day 258 - cold to the core

Type - Steady run

Distance - 11 miles

Time - 1 hour 32 minutes and 14 seconds

Sunday. A day of rest? Not for the next sixteen weeks as I devote Sunday mornings to my long run. It makes sense to concentrate these on a Sunday - at least then the body will be used to being put through its paces on the seventh day, and will not complain as much when it is forced around a 26.2 mile course of central London three months hence.

I headed into central London for today's run (map). My neck of the woods is still completely snow and, more dangerously, ice bound, and I was pretty certain that the river run would be free of the worst of the snow. I was right. Apart from the distinctly Siberian wind chill from a stiff easterly wind you would not be able to tell that the UK was in the grip of its worst winter for decades from the clear pavements of Holborn. But it is still cold. Very cold. Literally freezing, and, as I put on my winter clothing I think that this just isn't enough. I have two tops, a shortsleeve base layer and a long sleeved top over that. I have my compression shorts and socks which pretty much cover my legs but for an inch gap on the knee, with a pair of normal shorts over that. Gloves and a forehead warmer finish off the look, and that is about the extent of my winter clothing.

And for the most part it seemed that this was exactly the right balance of clothing. But by the end of the run my legs felt frozen solid and my private parts had become very private indeed by receding almost completely inside my body. It did seem to adversely affect my performance for the last four miles of the run - my legs were a dull, leaden heaviness different from the normal tired or pained feeling.

Other than that the run went well. I was running at a slower pace than the pre-training training, averaging between 8.5 and 9 minutes per mile. I did feel like I could have gone on after the end of the run.

Day 257 - dread the tread

Type - Treadmill run

Distance - 4 miles

Time - 37 minutes and 47 seconds

With the snow continuing to lie deep and crisp and even across all of north London, the prospect of a four mile slip and slide on the ice-clad pavements of Stoke Newington was hardly appealing. The fact I even considered doing it in favour of going to the gym gives some indication of my growing dislike of treadmill running. I used to be a confirmed gym runner, finding running outside next to impossible. This has now completely reversed, and even doing four miles inside is distasteful.

But it was the most sensible option. As well as doing a run I was able to push some weights and do 20 minutes on the cross trainer. The marathon plan suggested doing a slow four miles in 40 minutes, and I was minded to oblige by setting the average pace at somewhere around 10.2 km/h. Even at this slow pace it seemed hard going. It wasn't helped by my new running headphones singularly failing to cope with the copious amounts of sweat the inside running produced. Even so, I managed a decent enough time for a slow run, and did enough other cardio to make the trip feel worthwhile.

Day 256 - rest

Rest day.

Day 255 - A ruddy cold four miles

Type - Steady run

Distance - 4 miles

Time - 34 minutes and 20 seconds

Gosh, its cold. Really, suck your breath in and watch the vapour form as you blow out cold. Step outside the warm building and instantly feel the deep chill attack your body cold. Cold enough to make you really wonder why you have to go out and run four miles.

But I did. The marathon plan called for this to be done in around 36 minutes, and I tried to keep to a very slow pace but found that pacing at this speed is almost as difficult as running the quicker speeds. It will be one of the challenges for 2010 to manage to keep to the slower paces, but this will be essential to getting used to running at these speeds over the course of the marathon.

Day 252 - 254 Iced in

Not much doing over the past couple of days as London falls to the grip of its most severe winter in decades. Of course this means little more than a flurry of snow and repeated nights of moderately sub-zero temperatures, but this is enough to put the kaibosh on cycling for a bit.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Day 251 - The Start (or an unintentional eleven)

Type - Steady run

Distance - 11 miles

Time - 1 hour 33 minutes and 7 seconds

It might seem strange to have the beginning on Day 251 of this blog, but this is the start. The start of official training, the first day in the 16 week build up to the London Marathon. From this point I will be following a detailed training programme which proscribes the distances, frequency and times of runs. The intention is to follow a programme that will get me a 3 hour 45 marathon and thus provide a bit of lee-way to ensure I do get a sub-4 hour marathon.

The key for this first month of proper training is to regulate pace and slow things down. As nice as 7.5 minute mile averages were, it is not sustainable over a marathon distance. I will be aiming for 8.75 minute miles in the marathon to bring me in at 3 hours 50 minutes (or so). Today's run was supposed to be for ten miles, so I would aim to get in at about 1 hour 27 - 28 minutes.

I set off fully decked in winter training gear, and sporting my new running headphones. My usual inner-ear buds have an annoying tendency to get sweaty and stop working, leaving me with either mono or no sound for the last few miles. My new headphones loop round the ear and should be sweatproof.

It is still bitterly cold in London, with day time temperatures struggling to top into positive figures. Today had a stiff wind that dropped the real temperature even further. But it was sunny, and running in the sunshine, no matter how weak or low in the sky, is a pleasure after nights of rain chilled running.

I set off on a route that would see me take in a two mile loop of Stoke Newington before heading down Petherton Road to eventually head down my route to work (across in to Barnsbury, down to Rosebury Avenue). This would have been fine but for getting slightly lost in Stoke Newington and adding another mile to my distance. I therefore did an unintentional 11 mile run, but it was an easier pace so hopefully no harm done.

The run was noticeably easier at the slower pace. I didn't get the loss of energy in the second half and it didn't feel at all like a battle. I finished the 11 miles confident that I could have carried on for quite a bit further.

Day 250 - multi-discipline

Type - Treadmill run

Distance - 5 miles

Time - 44 minutes and 30 seconds

Having left yesterday's hangover behind me I wanted to have a decent day of fitness. I started with a two hour cycle into central London and through the Royal Parks. Back to north London and to Clissold Leisure Centre for a 15 minute session on the cross-trainer and then a long run on the treadmill.

It wasn't too long ago that I found running outside next to impossible, but could easily do a few miles on the treadmill. That seems to have completely reversed now - I find the treadmill very difficult, especially at higher speeds or over longer distances.

I thought today's would be alright because I was going to be running at my target running speed for longer distances of 10.9 km/h. But it was still hard going, even over 5 miles. Still, pushed through and made up the distance. Felt like a decent hours cardio work out, and then out to Dalston for a Turkish meal of a plate of meat - a decent protein fix!

Day 249 - New Year, New Training

Welcome in 2010 with a vicious hangover, pounding headache and a desire to go out on a bike ride. A couple of paracetamol and a couple of pints of water kinda sort out the first two problems, and I head out for a three hour cycle before meeting some mates in the pub. Not a bad start to the year!

Day 248 - New Year's Eve

Nothing much doing on the fitness front on New Year's Eve - cycled in to and from work and did a little dancing in the evening. I don't think the latter will count for very much, though!