Monday, 22 February 2010

Day 301 – Wind, rain, cold and pain

Type - steady run

Distance - 17 miles

Time - 2 hours 18 minutes 3 seconds

I had spent the weekend in the far north-east and couldn’t fit in any training runs, let alone the weekend long run. So I booked a half-day today, and had to spend the afternoon doing a 17 mile run. So from work, along the river through Chelsea and all the way to Fulham. It is getting a long way to fit in a run, to remember the mile markers and to memorise the route. And, as noted last week, each mile takes me a little further into the unknown.

It was far from perfect conditions for the run – the temperatures had plunged as the UK once again succumbed to Siberian winds and piles of snow mounted outside of London. In the capital we just had rain, heavy splashes of rain that fortunately didn’t become an outright downpour. Along with the damp came stiff, brazen winds along the Thames and the wet, cold and windy city were a poor backdrop for a long run.

I took the usual route, but the furthest I had done on this route from work was twelve miles. Adding another five miles took me from Chelsea Harbour through to Putney Bridge and Fulham High Street, along the boundary of Hurlingham Park and Bishops Park (map).

Physically everything went really well. For the most part I was properly hydrated and had enough running gels to keep me in flow. But there were a couple of serious flies in the ointment. The first is an increasing difficulty – there are hardly any frickin’ public loos. I did seventeen miles in central London and came across a single public toilet. And because it is broad daylight in central London there are limited alternative locations for a quick pee.

I had managed a toilet break at six miles, but needed to go again at mile eleven. I had to hold it in until mile 13, when I managed to go. It was deeply unpleasant, running with a deep cramp at the bottom of my stomach. And then when I did manage to go I very nearly had a Paula Radcliffe moment, and had to limp on to a pub to go to the toilet properly. I need to think properly about how to deal with this (if, that is, there is anything one can do to deal with it).

Getting restarted, even with just a few minutes out, was really tough. The daylight had faded to evening, and the temperature lurched closer to freezing. The next three miles were pretty difficult, but that might be expected. Then I had another vital learning experience – I hit the wall. Only a gentle push into the brickwork, but hitting the wall nonetheless. I had taken on carbs, but just a bit too late. So I ran the last mile running on empty. It was really tough, but useful to experience. And then to avoid at all costs.

So, some takeaway learning points from today, combined with last week’s post-race hydration and nutrition, and all this will be very helpful come the marathon. And, if nothing else, at least I didn’t follow through.

Days 298 – 300 – In the north east, pet!

Off to Alnwick for the marriage of Ms Kelly Chapman and Mr Richard Thompson! An amazing, snow clad, Harry Potter castle set perfect day.

Day 297 – Intervals

Type - Interval training

1 mile jog, 0.25 mile fast, 200 metre recovery x 10, 1 mile jog

Distance – 5.75 miles

Time - 47 minutes and 24 seconds
Back to Clissold Leisure Centre, where it is all change. Since its reopening the leisure centre has been really popular – the facilities (aside from slightly cramped and too warm changing rooms) are top notch. It has become a victim of its own success as the gym area becomes crowded at peak times such as after work, and there are frequently queues for treadmills. Management have tackled this by bringing in extra equipment and having a general move around. Eight new treadmills now stand next to the existing twenty. I started to use one of the new ones, but they are the paired down version of the originals and don’t have a distance measure. So I quickly got off to use one of the original machines. Still, an improvement – it will mean less time spent in queues.

Days 294 – 296 – football fun

I had to miss a training run on Tuesday due to work commitments. And, to be honest, I was still feeling the burn from Sunday’s training run. It turns out that my spiel on preparation was more pertinent than I could have imagined, but that it applied as much to post-running procedure as it does to the pre-planning and during the race.

I was absolutely shattered. And wasn’t feeling too perky on Tuesday. This is not how training is supposed to go – I was looking forward to feeling healthy and energised. Feeling only just on the barely living side was not in this plan!

Still, back in the game by Wednesday for football. It was a great game, and I am starting to find my feet in defence. It is a decent work out, fast speed interval training that, although lacking the form of the gym sessions, is probably more effective because the pace of the game requires giving everything you have.

Day 293 - Eight minute wonder

Type - steady run

Distance - 16 miles

Time - 2 hours 06 minutes 53 seconds

Each of the long runs that I take on in the run up to the marathon will push new boundaries in my running. The furthest I have ever run is only eclipsed by the next run, which will take me even further until we get to the final 26.2 miles. The runs up to the half marathon can be done without too much advance thought. Sure, proper planning may let you push out a much better run, but I think it is a distance that you can manage without too much difficulty regardless of how you have prepared before hand and planned during the run.

Sixteen miles is not a distance that you do with a similarly lackadaisical attitude. It is just too hard, you need fuel, water. You need to be properly hydrated and ready.

The last three miles are more difficult, the muscles in my legs burning and the pains in my upper quads spreading from left to right leg. But by this stage is doesn’t matter. I am two minutes below the target for an average of eight minute miles for the entire distance, a whole eighteen minutes below the upper limit for doing it in nine minute miles.

I still have just enough to pick up the pace for the last half a mile. Not much left, but enough to push out a couple of bursts of speed and a final sprint down Digby Crescent to finish. And what a finish. By the time I am done I have completed 16 miles in 2 hours 6 minutes, averaging under 8 minute miles for the whole distance.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Days 291 - 292 - Prestonia

Off to Preston, and no running for a couple of days. A leisurly walk with the parents instead. All ready for Sunday's 16 km.

Day 290 - stretching

Type - Interval training

1 mile jog, 0.5 mile fast, 200 metre recovery x 8, 1 mile jog

Distance - 7 miles

Time - 52 minutes and 24 seconds

Finally back to the gym this evening after an illness and busyness gap that has seen me away from Clissold Leisure Centre for too long. I did a fifteen minute session on the cross trainer for a warmup and then onto the treadmill.

In some respects this evening's training should have been as difficult as the one I had done a few weeks before. It covered the same total distance (7 miles), had the same distance of fast sections, and the same number of recovery periods. But for some reason 8 half mile bursts, with just 200 metres of recovery was much tougher. Maybe it was just mentally - turning the treadmill up from the 9.5 km/h recovery to 14 km/h for the fifth, sixth, seventh and eigth was increasingly difficult.

But by the seventh I knew I was going to be able to do the distance and the time, and so ran the last quarter mile at a faster speed. Up through 15 km/h to 16 km/h. And faster. Faster still to finish up at 17.5 km/h on the seventh interval. To be beaten by even faster on the eigth, when I got the treadmill up to a floor shaking, leg thundering 20 km/h for the two minutes. It wasn't impossible to keep up, but it did make me slightly concerned that I would slip or trip and go smacking face first onto the spinning black belt.

But I didn't. And finished. In a time that was a couple of minutes faster than the previous interval. And considering this involved twice as much speeding up and slowing down it shows that the average speed in the fast sections was a decent notch on last time (averaging at about 14.5 km/h).

Days 287 - 289 - just the football

Unfortunately had to miss Tuesday's training - going to have to be more disciplined to fit everything in. Did get back into football on Wednesday - the first outing for my new Preston North End kit.

Day 286 - fifteen miles

Type - Steady run

Distance - 15 miles

Time - 2 hours 5 minutes and 57 seconds

Most of the long runs that I go on for the next couple of months will have the slightly daunting quality of being the longest I have ever run. I had previously run a half marathon during my first training effort - one that left me crippled with shin splints. But it meant that the half marathon a fortnight ago was not entering into virgin territory. Not so this week.

Fifteen miles is a long way however you look at it. In fact the only way it doesn't appear to be a long distance is when stacked against the total mileage for the marathon. And then, at a little over half-way, it seems shrivellingly meagre.

So I planned out the fifteen miles - using a similar route to last fortnight's half-marathon but tacking on a couple of miles to take me past the Tate Britain and up Vauxhall Bridge Road. All the way into central London, a signficant way down the Embankment and then back. And it only gets longer from herein.

You can do a half-marathon with limited preparation. A bottle of water or an isotonic drink, a pre-run flapjack or some other energy bar and head off. Anything more and you need to think about in-run fuel and water. This is easier on a race where water and gels are provided, but on self supported runs stocking up requires pockets or shops, or both. For today's run I crammed a couple of gels and jellys into my arm pack and set off.

The first few miles were fine from a physical point of view, but it was mentally tough to think that you were ticking off a few miles of a double digit amount. Into Islington, down into Finsbury and still only four miles in. Not even a third.

Straight home and into a cold bath, followed ten minutes later by a warm bath. The first was a necessary evil to help with post-run muscle fatigue.

The recovery wasn't too long, and the next day I wasn't cramped.

Day 285 - work positively

Type - Steady run

Distance - 5 miles

Time - 38 minutes 14 seconds

I had to go into work today on a Saturday. I had enjoyed an unexpectedly late Friday night at a friend's birthday, and so had an unexpectedly late start to the day. So straight into the office to tackle a gnarly and expansive piece of work. After three hours I thought I would go for a run to break up the work.

I did the varied loop around St Pauls, to Westminster and back round. A solid run, and it did the trick of blowing out the cobwebs and aiding concentration when back at the desk.

Days 280 - 284 - winter sniffles

Very busy at work and down with a bad winter cold meant I didn't do any training this week.