Friday, 26 March 2010

Days 327 - 330 - pushed for time

Type - steady run

Distance - 8 miles

Time - 1 hour 7 minutes

Frustratingly busy at work, meaning that it was impossible to slot in any interval training in the mid-week part of this week. This is not something I want to repeat, but it seems that there is not actually much time left to go until the Marathon. I will just have to try and be good for the remaining time.

Thursday night I ran 8 miles from home. This was the last outing for my original Brooks trainers, which I need to replace.

Days 324 - 326 accidentally almost there

Type - steady run

Distance - 23 miles

Time - 3 hours 17 minutes 52 seconds

This week I was supposed to up last week's 19 miles by running 21 miles. The route would have been an extension to that run, just adding another mile along the Embankment and back. But a couple of events conspired to make me run an accidental 23miles. But it felt pretty darn good to have done this distance without too many complaints.

It almost didn't happen at all. I had woken up on Saturday feeling pretty awful - a deep and dreadful lethargy combined with a sore stomach. I decided to postpone the run until Sunday, and got ready to go out the next day with a touch of trepidation. If I had known I would come back 3 and a half hours later having run 23 miles in a decent enough time I would not have believed you.

But I set off in the normal fashion. This time I did an intentionally slower start - averaging nine minute miles for the first three miles. This is something I am going to integrate into future long runs, perhaps even taking longer for this first stage to emulate the frustratingly slow start as 30,000 other runners try to get out of the London Marathon course.

After the first few miles things picked up, and I was running at a steady and enjoyable pace for the first third of the run. And then came the first upset to my plans. Ironically, my training was interrupted by the Sports Relief events that were being staged in Central London, along the Embankment. The usual route for my 8 - 10 miles were blocked by thousands of people running their mile for charity. So I had to take a detour, heartbreakingly up hill to the Strand and then along to Trafalguar Square and then down Whitehall.

From this point the run along the Embankment went well - solid, paced and steady. So well, in fact, that I managed to forget quite where my turnaround point was. I was looking out for a specific street name that didn't ever turn up. I ended up turning around at Lots Road, knowing that I must have overshot, but not knowing quite how much.

Everything else was going well, and the sun had come out. The temperature was climbing, and I was getting a decent dose of vitimin D from the welcome exposure to the spring rays.

The final section was tougher, but, having already run 21 miles, it should have been. It was reassuringly not at the limit of my abilities, however, and even when I rounded the corner for 22 miles I felt I still had plenty inside. Which is good news, cos I need at least 4.2 miles left inside by this point!

The recovery from the run was quick and faultless. No mechanical problems, and a steady pace throughout and the combination has restored a lot of my shaken faith in the marathon to come.

Days 322 - 323 Mid-week blues

Type - steady run

Distance - 11 miles

Time - 1 hour 32 minutes 46 seconds

This could easily have been the first 'spring' time run. The day had been sunny, and the breeze much warmer than of late. But by the time nightfall had come and the work was done for the day the weather turned. The winds came, blowing fresh, cold gusts that reminded me of the winter only recently consigned to memory and dappled by rain varying in intensity from a decent shower to a fine drizzle throughout.

Did the run from work, down the Embankment and across to Pimlico and back. Pretty grueling for a Thursday night in the middle of a busy week, but adding more miles to the legs in this crucial period.

Days 320 - 321 Brum running

Type - Interval training

1 mile jog, 0.5 miles fast, 400 metre recovery x 6, 1 mile jog

Distance – 6.5 miles

Time - 51 minutes and 53 seconds

In Birmingham for a course, and staying at the Malmaison hotel in the city's Mailbox development. Fortunately the hotel had a gym, cos I didn't fancy hitting the streets of the unfamiliar city.

Did a decent interval training session.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Day 319 - a perfect nineteen

Type - steady run

Distance - 19 miles

Time - 2 hours 39 minutes 21 seconds

Once again back to the long runs, and the first of a series of five long runs which will see me peak my training (the next weekends will see this 19, followed by 21, 22, 24 and 21). I read that one marathon trainer thinks preparation is perfect if the longest 5 runs add up to over 100 miles. This quintet will add up to 107, so that seems pretty good (but not, at the same time, overdoing it).

It is getting harder to plot a route as you add on the miles. Today's endeavour would take me from home, a long way round to work, down to the river and along to Chelsea. And back. Never forget the 'and back' bit (map).

I had everything prepped, and had a few gels and a couple of sticks of Shot Bloks. These jelly cubes seem to be more palatable for me than the gels, so I thought I would see how they did on the longer run, and then integrate them into my longer run energy plans.

I set off at a very measured pace, ensuring that the first few miles were slightly over the 8.5 minute per mile pace that I wanted to end up with. Despite having been to the toilet before setting off I was struck with the need to go again, and struggled with the lack of viable locations to pee. It probably just takes a bit more creativity to secrete yourself away, and I did find somewhere in Canonbury. I didn't need to go again for the rest of the run, and felt considerably better for it, so that was perhaps a lesson learnt.

The run stretched out, and after notching up three miles or so there was still a ridiculous distance to cover. This is one of the worst aspects of the long runs - a gnawing doubt and dread of what is to come. This can't be 100% countered, but it can be lessened by sticking to a proper pace and ensuring that you are properly fed and watered and have therefore limited the chance of smashing into the wall.

I finished the first half almost smack on 8.5 minute miles (in just under 81 minutes). The next half would take me up the mild but noticeable ascent to Angel, and then home. This part of the run went really well. I had no biomechanical issues, no pains in the upper quads or Achilles Heel. I didn't suffer from the lack of energy that had bedevilled my last long run of 17 miles.

By the time I rounded Queen's Drive onto Green Lanes I had reached the finish, but felt I could easily have gone on. For the first time the prospect of adding the necessary 7.2 miles to get to a marathon distance did not seem impossible. It was a lesson in measured, paced and prepared running, and one that I need to repeat and learn in time for the marathon.

Day 319 - rest

Was supposed to go out for a four mile run tonight, but I just felt absolutely knackered after one of the busiest six week periods I have had. This is the first weekend in ages (probably since 2009) where I haven't had anything planned, so I just went home and enjoyed an early night.

Day 318 - long intervals

Type - Interval training

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

Distance – 7.5 miles

Time - 58 minutes and 53 seconds

To the gym for some interval training. The previous sessions have seen the intervals shorten, so running for a shorter distance, with a greater frequency and shorter recovery. Tonight's run called for the reverse - long intervals (of one and a half miles) with only three repetitions.

Still, a tough session as I put the speed of the sessions at the limit of what I could tolerate. Felt great to finish, a real sense of a job well done!

Day 317 - rest

Busy at work, so factored in a rest day today to let me carry on at the desk. Joy.

Day 316 - back to the routine

Type - steady run

Distance - 8 miles

Time - 1 hour 6 minutes 56 seconds

Once more into the cold for an eight mile paced run. The lessons from the Malta Half Marathon have been learnt, and I'm putting much more emphasis on being able to control my pace, and running at the eight and a half minute miles that I am hoping will be my final marathon pace.

Did a run from work, down the Embankment and across to Pimlico and back. Nothing spectacular, but a decent solid hour's work, and adding more miles to the legs in this crucial period.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Day 315 - Back to normal

Hopefully today marks the start of a more normal period, both at work and play. It has been a ridiculously busy time, with no free weekends and rushing around at work.

I'm hoping that I will now be able to knuckle down and focus on training in the run up to the marathon. Not running today, but I've brought my stuff in to go on a long run tomorrow evening.

Days 310 - 314 - scottish spectacular

Played 85 minutes of football on Wednesday, as the next side failed to turn up, allowing us to extend our normal 40 minutes. Decent work out, and I'll take that as a decent interval training session!

And then off to the Isle of Bute for Vic's wedding. I took my running stuff, but time was not on my side and didn't get to go out.

Last break before the Marathon, and double down to it next week.

Day 309 - going gets tough

Type - steady run

Distance - 7 miles

Time - 58 minutes 31 seconds

As the Malta Half-Marathon had shaken me into training harder, there was no way of avoiding getting back into the training regime. The 'short' runs are not so short anymore, and the prospect of heading out into the still frozen London night for a seven mile run didn't thrill.

But it had to be done.

I returned to running around Highbury for the first time in ages. I did a variation on the Highbury Loop, heading east through Stoke Newington, down around Clissold Park and down through Canonbury before heading back through Highbury and around the Emirates Stadium to home.

It was a decent enough run, properly paced and not too strenuous. The only annoyance was in not knowing it was a match night at the stadium, and trying to get through the crowds streaming out of Arsenal tube station along Gillespie Road.

Days 305 - 308 Mad dogs and Englishmen

Type - race

Distance - 13.1 miles (half marathon)

Time - 1 hour 41 minutes 26 seconds

Malta is a small island in the middle of the Mediterranean, almost as close to Africa as it is to the southern tip of Sicily. Its location provided both serendipitous fortune and undesired foreign attention through a long and tumultuous history. Invaders still come from across the water, but these days they have the peaceful intent of tourists, and eschew maritime approaches to arrive by plane. A group of us had come to the land of honey in search of sweet personal victories in the Malta Marathon and Half-Marathon.

Jarlath was running to beat a personal best he had set in his first marathon in Paris two years ago (of 3 hours, 19 minutes and 46 seconds). Mark was running to get a sub-three hour marathon. I was running the half-marathon because my training plan called for a half-marathon in race conditions, and it seemed a good idea to join in and run in the sun.

There were two elements to the run that would be surprisingly tough. The first was the temperature, and the second the topography.

The average high temperature for the island at the end of February is 16.7oC, with a mean temperature of 13.4oC. This would have been a perfect temperature to run, perhaps, if anything, touching on the high side of comfortable. The reports from the Met Office were that temperatures were first touching and then exceeding 20oC. Whilst not a scorcher, the warm African winds threatened a distinctly uncomfortable and sapping temperature.

And then the topography. This should have helped, as the run descended 250 metres from the Mdina starting line down to the Sliema waterfront. I was imagining a gentle descent, pretty flat and entirely conducive to a good time. It didn't turn out to be quite as benign as this tantalising promise. There were hills - several long inclines, a couple of sharper ascents and a selection of annoyingly avoidable overpasses as we passed near Valetta. Some of the descents were too sharp and short to make up for the sapping ascents, and overall it seemed like more of a slog than I had imagined.

We had Saturday to ourselves, having a wander around Sliema and buying some race-day food and ensuring we were properly hydrated and carb-loaded. Everyone was a touch on edge, lost in their own thoughts of tomorrow's race and going through their own mental motions to get ready. After much water, pasta and sleep, it was Sunday, and an early start for the marathon runners. I headed over later, the half marathon starting at 10am, two hours after the marathon runners.

So, to the start line. This was my first competitive run, and all of the starting line activity was unfamiliar. A big chunk of the activity was located on a row of constantly engaged portaloos. The rest was stretching, and waiting. Waiting and waiting.

And then we were off. A quick start. Too quick, in retrospect, but it felt alright. I was averaging just under 4 minutes 45 seconds per kilometre for the first half (coming in at the halfway point in about 48 minutes. If I could manage to maintain this pace then I would easily get under 1 hour 40 minutes, and smash my previous personal best of 1 hour 43 minutes. Then I slipped on a slick of Gatorade, and smashed down on my left hand and right knee. Scraped, and bleeding, I picked myself up and carried on, cursing the race organiser's decision to hand out the drink in spillable cups.

But by this point the sun had risen high above us, and was beating down merciless rays. The temperature headed over 20 degrees, peaking at 22oC and feeling hotter on the exposed black tarmac. There was no cover, as the race snaked over the treeless Mediterranean scrub. And then the hills started to have an impact, grinding down the energy and making the last half of the race more of a battle. By the last five kilometres I felt my energy slipping away, and my time slipping to over 5 minutes for each kilometre. By the end I had just about enough to get across the line, but finished in 1 hour 41 minutes as my pace slipped away.

So that was it. I had a medal. I had a personal best time. But I didn't slip below 1 hour 40 minutes. But, in the circumstances, it was a decent run. Everyone had suffered, even though Jarlath and Mark managed to hit their targets. When the official times came out it was clear that this year was a slower race, so I was pretty relaxed about the performance. Training is, after all, as much about experience and learning.

The race shook me out of the complacency around training for the marathon (in fact it did more than that - made me quite nervous about the big day!). It drummed in the importance of pacing, and the need to set off at a slower, manageable speed. It was useful preparation for the actual race conditions, even if London will be on a much bigger scale.

Had a tremendous time outside of the race in Malta. The clear blue skies and bright sun, cursed and reviled a few hours before, returned as a blessing when dipping sore legs in a cool rooftop pool overlooking the sea. A wander around Valetta, some good food and great company made this long weekend an excellent break.

Now time to knuckle down again and train for the main event.

Days 302 - 304 Stuff and bother

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

Managed to do some interval training in the week leading up to the Malta Marathon. Things have been ridiculously hectic at work, so have not been able to put in the hours I would have liked, but today's training went alright.