Monthly Archives: March 2019

Marathon training 19/20: Run, walk, run, run, run. Well into the taper and neurosis sets in.

The Thames, not looking its best on a cool and dull Sunday morning, from the Thames Path near Craven Cottage (the home of Fulham Football Club). Hammersmith Bridge in the background. By the light blue bibs they were wearing, I’m wondering if the rowing 8 were one of the Cambridge ladies’ crews practising for next week’s boat race.

My marathon entry confirmation has arrived and will get me my bib. Eerily, I entered from here in Oxfordshire, my son signed up from London – and our start numbers are within 5 of each other.

On Monday I did the long slow run from week 18 that I couldn’t get myself motivated for the previous day. I did 13.22m (21.3km). That’s the last training run over 10 miles. It was OK and felt quicker but it wasn’t much faster and was still too slow to suggest that I can go sub-4 hours.

The week 19 runs ware 3×3 miles and an 8 miler. It all seemed quite appealing and easy but I woke on Tuesday with painful Achilles tendons and some tightness in the calf muscles (I wonder if that’s a cause of the Achilles issue or a result of it?).

Does that mean I should stop now to avoid making it worse for the marathon itself? Based on previous experience I don’t need to do that but I’ll keep it up my sleeve as a last resort if they don’t get better. Yet more stretching needed, I guess.

I spent the morning hobbling around at a local infant school helping to run a ‘balanceability’ session. That’s starting to ride on bikes with no pedals, which is the new method of learning to ride properly – steady wheels are very outdated, apparently. The children were 3 year-olds, and it was good fun as they enjoyed it so much and put such effort into it. My wife and I walked for an hour in the afternoon in very pleasant early spring sunshine.

I did the final long run on Wednesday afternoon – my normal 8 miler. To my surprise, I managed my best time (just one sec/km inside sub 4hour pace) which is encouraging – but I had to push pretty hard to do it and it was just less than one third marathon distance.

I read that a key difference in running as you get older is a shortening stride length – I guess that’s down to the strength and spring in pushing off the ground. Any spring I might have ever had has certainly sprung.

Thursday I did 3.3miles (5.3km) at a very similar pace – wearing lycra shorts and no compression top beneath the running shirt … for the first time in the whole of the training! I did the same run on Friday, 11 sec/km faster (although the Garmin recorded it as being further so that might account for some of the apparent speed).

The main problem now is neurosis about even the slightest twinge while running. I’m sure that I’m not alone in having a broad range of pains (knees, feet, ankles, quads, thighs, calves, hips, etc) that come and go whenever I run. Normally I ignore them but now I find myself wondering which of them will develop into something serious that stops me running in the marathon.

Time to get a grip.

We went up to London on Friday afternoon for three social meals over the weekend. I ran along the Thames Path Sunday morning which was delightful – 6.7km (4 miles) @5.27 per km. It had turned cool again after a warmer end to the week but I ran with a short sleeved top for the first time in all the marathon training over the last 6 months.

A bit more food discipline this week and I managed to get down from a post New York high of 68.5kg. Weight isn’t the most important factor now but every little helps. The week ended with me around 67kg (about 148 pounds).

I’ve rejigged the mileage chart from the previous post to put Monday’s run into week 18, where it should have been – it’s only one day’s difference but looks more sensible in relation to the taper.

At the start of the week I (foolishly) looked at weather forecasts for Rotterdam for the marathon. It did not look very good: fairly cold and quite possibly wet, with a stiff breeze. One forecast even mentioned snow. By the end of the week the consensus was for slightly milder weather and a reduced possibility of rain. Oh well, plenty of time for that to change again (for better or worse).

Looking on the bright side, at least my lack of warm weather training isn’t going to be an issue.

Week Run Cycle X-train
1 16m  (26km) 10m  (16 km) 2:00
2 19m  (30km) 13m  (22km) 2:00
3 21m  (33.km) 66m (106km) 1:00
4 22m (36km) 14m (22km) 1:00
5 24m (39km) 13m  (21km) 1:00
6 (Christmas) 13m (21km)    
7 26m (41km) 63m (101km) 3:00
8 14m (24km) 13m (21km) 7:00
9 (Skiing) 16m (25km)   12:00
10 (Skiing)     12:00
11 (Skiing) 7m (11km)   6:00
12 34m  (55km) 35m (56km) 1:00
13 38m (60km) 14m (22km) 1:00
14 38m (60km) 30m (48km) 1:00
15 39m (63km) 14m (22.km)  
16 42m (67km) 10m (16km) 1:00
17 33m (53km) 9m (15km)  
18 (New York) 20m (31.2km)   4:00
19 19m (30km)   1:00
‘Running’ totals 440m (707km)   290m (466km)   56:00
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Marathon training week 18/20: Run, lots of walking. New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town.

I love Central Park – I always wanted to run in it so that’s another bucket list entry ticked off

After last week’s training we went to London on Sunday where our younger son ran a half marathon in 1h 48m. I’m sure he’ll break 4 hours in Rotterdam, and show me a clean pair of heels.

On the Monday my wife and I did exactly what every training plan (almost) recommends – we went to New York for a few days.

I think it’s a glorious city – right up there with San Francisco, Barcelona, Rome, Paris, Berlin and London in my eyes. I’ve been a couple of times before and both our sons have been …. apparently that is grounds for my wife to insist that she also went for a visit. We walked a lot (I think that’s always the best way to see a city) and managed to take in a lot of stuff, including a Circle Line trip, the High Line, an off-Broadway play, the Empire State building, Ground Zero and the 9/11 museum, Central Park, Chinatown and MoMA.

Although we had a bit of rain on a couple of days it didn’t stop us doing anything and we had a great time in a city I love for its incredible variety and the feeling of general mayhem – not that I think I could live there. I particularly like the people, especially people in positions of any authority – so confident with, often, such little reason for that confidence … but charming with it.

It was a rare occasion when I was extremely pleased not to be driving – the grid layout with continual traffic lights is great for navigation but must be a real pain in terms of making forward progress (I guess mass stationary traffic is not called ‘gridlock’ for nothing). The city might be a happier place if NY drivers could be reminded that the motor horn is for use in cases of emergency, not cases of annoyance and frustration.

I really like Central Park but it struck me this trip that New York has rather put nearly all its green eggs in the one big basket as there are relatively few other green areas in the central part of the city – another drawback of the grid structure that doesn’t lend itself well to little squares with gardens like you get all across London. I guess it might be just a bit too expensive to flatten some entire blocks to create a few more Bryant Parks!

With luck, the walking will have counted for something in training terms but I did get out for a really enjoyable run on Wednesday: W40th, up 10th Ave, across at 58th, into Central Park, two loops round the ring up to the Lake and back via 9th Ave. Assuming it is permitted to run in kilometres in New York, in all it was about 10.5km (6.5m) in 58 mins. I even overtook more runners than overtook me (just).

Back to the UK on Saturday but (after 12 hours sleep) I decided not to run on Sunday. I’ll do the week’s long run (12 miles) on Monday, together with the week 19 runs.

The timing of the trip was designed to fit into the marathon taper period to miss the least amount of valuable training. That seems to have worked quite well (allowing for a one day shift in the long run) and I even managed to put on only about 1 pound (0.5kg).

Week Run Cycle X-train
1 16m  (26km) 10m  (16 km) 2:00
2 19m  (30km) 13m  (22km) 2:00
3 21m  (33.km) 66m (106km) 1:00
4 22m  (36km) 14m (22km) 1:00
5 24m (39km) 13m  (21km) 1:00
6 (Christmas) 13m (21km)    
7 26m (41km) 63m (101km) 3:00
8 14m (24km) 13m (21km) 7:00
9 (Skiing) 16m (25km)   12:00
10 (Skiing)     12:00
11 (Skiing) 7m (11km)   6:00
12 34m  (55km) 35m (56km) 1:00
13 38m (60km) 14m (22km) 1:00
14 38m (60km) 30m (48km) 1:00
15 39m (63km) 14m (22.km)  
16 42m (67km) 10m (16km) 1:00
17 33m (53km) 9m (15km)  
18 (New York) 6m (10km)    
‘Running’ totals 407m  (656km)   290m (466km)     50:00

A post-marathon challenge on the way

With eyes on post-marathon possibilities, I have heard that I got a place (for the first time) in the ballot for the Prudential Ride London-Surrey 100 Sportive in August this year. It’s a sportive held in conjunction with a top level professional race on much the same course.

It’s a ride I’ve wanted to do since even before it was started in 2013.

Its predecessor, the London-Surrey Cycle Classic, was held in 2011 as the test event for the London Olympics Road Race. I was a Games Maker for the Olympics and marshalled at the test event and the real thing a year later.

It’s a 100 miler starting and finishing in London and heading through the Surrey hills – including the famous (in the UK) Box Hill (and the slightly bigger Leith Hill). I’m looking forward to riding it to find out why Box Hill is quite so famous – the climb is 2.25km (1.4miles) at 5% – not exactly a rival for Ventoux.

The big attraction of the sportive is the chance to ride through London on closed roads. It starts at the Olympic Park and finishes in The Mall (in front of Buckingham Palace). I guess it’s close to the London Marathon finish and I remember how good that was in 1998 and 1999.

I’ve only done two closed road rides (the L’Étape du Tour in 2013 and the first Velothon Wales in 2015) and I loved them, so London on closed roads will be a real treat.

Start times range from 5.45 to 10.00 am so it’s a night up in London and a 12 mile ride from the flat to the start and a 4 mile ride back from the finish.

Interestingly, I think I’ve only ridden 100 miles 5 times – and three of those have actually been over 150 miles (my ‘everest’, and the first two days going to the alps last summer). It will be good to have a real purpose for getting back on the bike in April.

It’s even prompted me to send off for a new rear mech hanger to replace the current one that I bent during the trip to the alps. It’s strange that the bent one works perfectly with my winter wheels but is all over the place with the best wheels.

Marathon training 17/20: run, run, turbo, run. Blown away (sadly, by the wind and not the quality of the running).

Some signs of spring but it’s still fairly chilly and very windy

Week 17 of the 20 week training plan started cool and windy – a bit of a theme developing here over the last week or so.

Happily, I’m into the taper after last week’s 21 mile run, the longest long run of the training plan. The three runs this week (excluding the speed work session) are 15, and 2×5. Based on an almost complete lack of knowledge, it feels a bit too early to taper quite so much so I’ll do more than that this week and taper afterwards. The upshot was that, on Monday, I went for the required 15 miler.

The recent training theme has been that my endurance is not too bad (for an old bloke) but the speed is a problem. I started this process thinking that a sensible paced run/jog would get me round in 4 hours and the training would be all about maintaining that speed – but my sensible run/jog speed is nowhere near as fast as it was 20 years ago when I ran my only two marathons.

The result is that I plan to dedicate the last four weeks of training to trying to get faster. That means I tried to push on for Monday’s run – even though it was a ‘long slow run’ I hoped not to make it quite as slow as most i’ve done in the programme to date. It felt very hard but turned out to be 16.3 miles at just over 6 min/km which is faster than recent long runs (but still not fast enough!).

Being a wimp, I’m still running in a long sleeved top over a compression top and running tights. As yet, no tried and tested plan for kit to wear if it’s hot for the marathon itself – and long runs to test it out on are now in short supply.

On Tuesday I drove down to Bournemouth to re-erect a fence panel that had blown down in the weekend’s gales. More of a bodge than a repair as I discovered two rotted fence posts that will need some concrete breaking up to be replaced. Oh the joys of property ownership!

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Wednesday was cool and very windy. I forced myself out for another in the recent string of ‘I don’t really want to do this’ runs. I managed the normal 8 miler a little slower than recently but I’m hoping that the real benefit was getting the running shoes on and getting out of the door.

After a hard 15.4km (9.5miles) in 30 minutes on the turbo on Thursday it was back out for the 8 miler on Friday.

It was another reluctant run, owing more to obligation than enthusiasm in the now regular high wind but with a bit of drizzle to liven things up. Much to my surprise, I did my best recorded pace for the route – just 4 seconds per km outside 4 hour marathon pace – even though I’ve once done the identical run slightly faster when the Garmin recorded it as being 0.1 mile shorter.

That leaves me generally confused – the auspices were not good today and I’ve done slower runs that felt faster. I’ll just accept it for what it is – 33 miles (53km) in the week against a plan requirement of 25. I’ve also clicked through the 400 mile mark since the start of the plan back in November.

It’s going in the right direction but there’s a very long way to go for me to have any hope of a 4 hour run in Rotterdam. I’ve read that a good taper can take 5-10 minutes off the run itself – I fear that I need four or five good tapers.

That’s it for the week except for a long walk tomorrow.

Week Run Cycle X-train
1 16m  (26km) 10m  (16 km) 2:00
2 19m  (30km) 13m  (22km) 2:00
3 21m  (33.km) 66m (106km) 1:00
4 22m  (36km) 14m (22km) 1:00
5 24m (39km) 13m  (21km) 1:00
6 (Christmas) 13m (21km)    
7 26m (41km) 63m (101km) 3:00
8 14m (24km) 13m (21km) 7:00
9 (Skiing) 16m (25km)   12:00
10 (Skiing)     12:00
11 (Skiing) 7m (11km)   6:00
12 34m  (55km) 35m (56km) 1:00
13 38m (60km) 14m (22km) 1:00
14 38m (60km) 30m (48km) 1:00
15 39m (63km) 14m (22.km)  
16 42m (67km) 10m (16km) 1:00
17 33m (53km) 9m (15km)  
‘Running’ totals 402m  (646km)   290m (466km)   50:00

Marathon training 16/20: run, run, gym/run, turbo, run. The training, my friend, is blowing in the wind.

Another four times along here this week, watering the verge with my sweat

At 21 miles, this week’s long slow run was the longest in the training plan. After a rest day on Sunday I couldn’t resist tackling it on Monday, just for the relief of getting it out of the way early.

Unfortunately, it was pretty chilly and windy (around 30mph) – and the road I’d chosen to drive out to was fairly straight and almost perfectly aligned with the wind.

I thought about calling a halt to the whole thing the first time I turned into the wind and almost came to a shuddering stop. I carried on in the hope it would improve. It didn’t. I remember thinking that the only way it was going to get worse would be if it rained. Five minutes later the wind strengthened, the temperature dropped and it began to rain.

If I’d been near the car I might have abandoned the run but (of course) I was at the furthest possible point from it. By the time I got to the car the rain had stopped – so I continued and made the best of it.

As Stephen Stills might say, ‘if you can’t be with the run you love, love the run you’re with’.

In the end I ran for 22.1 miles (35.5 km). Certainly not fast, but quicker than either of my 20 milers over the recent weeks. That was despite that fact that the 11 miles with the wind at my back were no compensation for the 11 miles of headwind.

Perhaps I should have carried on for another 4.1 miles and put a tick in the 2019 marathon box.

After feeling fairly stiff for the rest of Monday, I made Tuesday a rest day to be on the safe side. The plan was to run the regular 8 miler on Wednesday with the intention of seeing if I could increase my speed to get closer to 4 hour marathon pace.

It was chilly, the wind was still strong and rain was forecast but I got out anyway – and the rain started a minute later. In spite of everything, the run went quite well – the fastest of the five times I’ve run it, but still a little outside 4 hour pace.

Thursday marked exactly a month until the marathon. To celebrate, I decided to go to the gym for leg and core exercises and to run just 3 miles on the treadmill at a bit faster than 4 hour pace to see if muscle memory might kick in and ‘recalibrate’ the speed of my outdoor running. As usual, I don’t really know what I’m doing – but that’s not going to stop me doing it.

I ran for 5km (3.1m) in 27m 27sec – 11 seconds per km inside the target, but only for a short distance. I do not remember having to run that fast to get around sub 4 hours in the 1990’s.

It was half an hour on the turbo on Friday @31kph (19.3mph) – my first time over 30kph average with this turbo.

Saturday was windy again with gusts up to 40mph and I thought of postponing the last run of the week until the following day – but that was forecast to be worse. I like having Sunday as a rest day so I have the chance of doing the week’s long run on Monday to get it out of the way early – so it was out into the wind for the 8 miler.

I had hopes of running all the remaining runs at a faster pace – and despite the wind I did manage to shave another 2 seconds per km off Wednesday’s time.

So, that’s 4/5 of the way through the training plan. On one level I’m pleased that it’s coming to and end as (skiing and Christmas aside) I’ve trained 5 days a week now since mid November and I’m a bit weary – but on the other hand I’ll soon know how worthwhile it has all been.

Week Run Cycle X-train
1 16m  (26km) 10m  (16 km) 2:00
2 19m  (30km) 13m  (22km) 2:00
3 21m  (33.km) 66m (106km) 1:00
4 22m  (36km) 14m (22km) 1:00
5 24m (39km) 13m  (21km) 1:00
6 (Christmas) 13m (21km)    
7 26m (41km) 63m (101km) 3:00
8 14m (24km) 13m (21km) 7:00
9 (Skiing) 16m (25km)   12:00
10 (Skiing)     12:00
11 (Skiing) 7m (11km)   6:00
12 34m  (55km) 35m (56km) 1:00
13 38m (60km) 14m (22km) 1:00
14 38m (60km) 30m (48km) 1:00
15 39m (63km) 14m (22km)  
16 42m (67km) 10m (16km) 1:00
‘Running’ totals 369m  (593km)   281m (451km)   50:00

Daring to look beyond the end of the training?

A small selection of the running kit

As the marathon gets closer, I’ve started to think about more than just training and wondering what to do on the day itself (apart from the obvious: run, sweat, gasp, agonise, hurt, etc).

Established wisdom says that the key to marathon day is to do nothing that you haven’t tried and tested in the lead up to it – no new routines, shoes, clothing, nutrition, warm-up etc.

That’s not entirely easy when the run is in another country and you will be staying in a hotel. I have no idea what breakfast will be available and I understand that the energy drink available at feed stations is not sold in the UK. We won’t be the only ones facing these issues so it will simply be a case of controlling what can be controlled and not worrying too much about the rest.

I’ve tried different approaches to the pre-run breakfast (none, porridge, toast, oat bars, fruit) and in-run nutrition (none, water, electrolyte, isotonic gels, jelly babies, oat bars, energy gels, cereal bars, dextrose tablets etc).

I’ve run in a variety of kit so I’ll have a tried and tested range of options on the day itself. So far I’ve tried out:

  • four pairs of running shoes
  • four long sleeved running shirts
  • a gilet
  • two pairs of running tights and three shorts for underneath
  • a wide range of socks (running socks, warm woolly socks, long compression socks, sports socks, double layer marathon socks)
  • many compression and thermal tops, long and short sleeved
  • a headband and several different hats and gloves
  • a running belt and an arm pouch.

Almost everything has performed well (apart from one pair of shoes that come up higher in the heel and rub my Achilles tendons), but almost all combinations used so far are more suitable for cold or cool weather. I need to try out short sleeves and a running vest (I still have the one I used in 1998 and 1999), lycra shorts without the tights and ‘normal’ running shorts – if only it would get warm enough for a wimp like me to bare some skin.

Learning so far:

  • Zips on the running shirts are good when zipped up but the neck flaps annoyingly when the zip is lowered
  • I hate carrying water, even in my running belt’s bottle holder
  • Whatever I eat when running, some of it goes down my airways
  • If I start out at a slow plod, that’s the way it carries on
  • The first mile is always horrid until my breathing stabilises
  • Every run from home starts off up a small hill – I hate that hill
  • I hate running into the wind
  • If it’s cool, I don’t need to worry about drink up to about 15 miles
  • I don’t need to worry about food up to about 15 miles
  • I’ve had no blisters but the compression socks rubbed once
  • I like running – but marathon training requires rather a lot of it
  • I love a compression top as a base layer – if it’s warm, could I run in one, without a running shirt, or is a looser fit better in the heat?

A big unknown is the time I should aim for. When I ran my two marathons in the 1990’s, each time I did only four runs over 10 miles in training – 1x20miles, 1×16, 2×13. I’ve done many more runs over 10 miles this time – 1×22 (yesterday!), 2×20, 1×17, 1×15, 1×14, 1×13, 1×12, 1×11 (and two more still to come) – but I’m 20 years older, and 20 years slower.

I suppose I’ll know more in 4 weeks time at the end of the training, but I fear that I will kid myself that I can break 4 hours, go out too fast and blow up spectacularly.

I read that losing one pound of weight means running 2 seconds per mile faster. If I could get down to 84 pounds (6 stone – 38kg) I’d be OK ……

Marathon training week 15/20: run, turbo, run, run, run. Endurance OK. Speed a bit of a j(OK)e?

Not sure if this ’11’ is impressive or a bit sad and inadequate. Either way, this is not from the soles of my trainers (and I’m pleased they are not my tyres)

The week’s long run was supposed to be a half marathon race, with a target time of 1 hour 50. I couldn’t find a convenient race to enter and was sure I couldn’t run it that fast, even if I had.

I decided to do the run on Monday and drove out to a nearby back road that gives a fairly flat 5km. The aim was to do it out and back twice, plus a bit, leaving it to Strava to work out my best half marathon time.

As it was, I ran a little over the half marathon distance at 9m 40 sec/mile (6 min per km). I ran a slight negative split and had a best half marathon time of 2h 06m. I ran consistently, but consistently not fast enough. I didn’t do a single km at 4 hour marathon pace.

So, here is the question – is it just that I cannot judge speed, is it that I cannot motivate myself to push the pace when running alone – or am I simply unable to run fast enough? Would I have been able to go faster if I’d been following someone with a ‘4 hour pacer’ sign on their back? Hmmm …

I’ve missed out on speed training to protect the dodgy Achilles tendons – is it too late to introduce some (carefully) into the last 5 weeks of the programme?

I used the turbo for 45 minutes on Tuesday (13.9m – 22.31km) before we went to London and saw friends in the evening. I had a really enjoyable run on Wednesday morning, through Kensington Gardens, into Hyde Park and around the Serpentine lake, trying hard to run faster.

I did 11.85km (7.4m) at a whole 3 seconds per km faster than 4 hour marathon pace – quite pleasing, given the number of junctions and pedestrians to navigate on the way to and from the Parks.

After that, we took a trip to St Paul’s Cathedral to (successfully) track down the memorial to one of my wife’s ancestors (a personal physician to King George III). We also climbed the 528 steps to the highest publicly accessible part of the Cathedral – that must be worth something for the marathon training.

I ran with a friend on Friday morning and did a route of his. There is a danger that I end up running the same routes so the variety was welcome but this was along some slightly muddy and hilly tracks – 8.14miles (13.1km) at just over 6 min/km.

Alex came back for the weekend and we ran together on Saturday morning – by his phone app we did 17km at just under 6 minutes/km. Sadly, my Garmin recorded it as 16.25km (10.1miles). How can the two systems be different by nearly 5%? At least we agreed that it we ran a negative split.

Four runs in the week and nothing hurts too much. That’s it for the week – three quarters of the way through the training, gulp.

Week Run Cycle X-train
1 16m  (26km) 10m  (16 km) 2:00
2 19m  (30km) 13m  (22km) 2:00
3 21m  (33.km) 66m (106km) 1:00
4 22m (36km) 14m (22km) 1:00
5 24m (39km) 13m  (21km) 1:00
6 (Christmas) 13m (21km)    
7 26m (41km) 63m (101km) 3:00
8 14m (24km) 13m (21km) 7:00
9 (Skiing) 16m (25km)   12:00
10 (Skiing)     12:00
11 (Skiing) 7m (11km)   6:00
12 34m  (55km) 35m (56km) 1:00
13 38m (60km) 14m (22km) 1:00
14 38m (60km) 30m (48km) 1:00
15 39m (63km) 13.9m (22.31km)  
‘Running’ totals 327m (526km)   271m (435km)   49:00