Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Family prioritising, urban poverty and negative splitting

Sun: nowt, Mon: nowt, Tue: 16k
Thank goodness something got squeezed in! I really wanted a long run in each week as part of the build up to SaintElyon but that has t really happened. For the first two weeks I was definitely recovering, so no regrets there. But I really should have been out for a long 'un this weekend. Sometimes though, I just have to learn that circumstances sometimes just dictate differently to my plans, and remind me that as much as I love running, it isn't the most important thing in my life. My family and my faith come higher up the list. A last minute change in weather conditions and a last minute visits by a family of nine (yes, NINE!) meant a whole load of changes hit hard. But I can't tell you just how much release it gave me after initial feelings of stress just to say: there is nothing I can do about this, I have to accept this, this is life! Also, coming tons point of peace about this in the presence of my family is valuable and scores points because they know just how precious time running is to me. 

Regarding the 16k: a "utility run" to the train station and back to pick up a ticke (for the saintelyon race as it happens), applying the usual principle of slightly faster back than out. About and hour 20 mins in total.  I was so struck by the poverty in the northern district of the city I was running through, the filth, thé people rummaging through the bins. I had a bad dream last night about my disgust of the whole situation that poverty brings. I tried to pray for the areas but then just felt quite helpless in the face of such need. I'm glad I came back a different route. 

Back on the subject of the out and back pacing strategy for a training run: when I do this, I know that my pace can be increased. Although it might feel harder to do 4:30 or 4:40/km, I just know it's still well within my scope relative to my race pace, and I do it, and feel fairly positive about that. However, I have yet to negative split on a marathon (or go sub 3hr). And I realise now that my strategy virtually guarantees that I will fail in this endeavour. My strategy really is to positive split! I set off pretty quick in first km and then average around 5 seconds per km quicker than my goal marathon pace for the next 25. But even if I'd gone those five seconds slower: assuming accurate goal-setting, I am at best going to nail an absolutely even marathon. Surely I need to be running a couple of seconds slower than average goal pace to ensure a Healthy negative split. Now this is all a bit theoretical, I know. What do I do when confronted with the reality of a hilly course next time? When running in my last marathon, I kept telling myself when on the flat that I had to run slightly quicker than average goal pace because the speed of the hills is not (and should not be) compensated for by the acceleration of the downs. I course, battered by the third quarter hills, this was not an option for me in the latter stages of the race, but maybe it might have been. Could we not suggest then, as a rule of thumb and guide for a hilly course that flat sections in the first half are taken AT average goal pace, ie slightly slow?

Friday, 26 October 2012

Picking it up

Third week after marathon and my strength and endurance are definitely coming back. So reassuring! 8 and 10 km runs were leaving me panicking that I was going to never make the saintelyon challenge. 

Last night:

8.5 km mainly uphill average 5:00/km. stop 1hr 15. Return over technical hills in night 11km. Slightly crazy moment where I had almost got off the hills, which apparently are privately owned by Lafarge, although seems to depend on how you access the hills, when I discovered Lafarge had reinforced security at the exit, meaning I had to climb back almost to the top of the hill to find another route off. This was perhaps not entirely a bad thing. I simply had the reserves and strength, and it was encouraging to see my body literally take it in its stride. Just within the last few K, a bit of general fatigue and fragility in left knee saw the downhill pace drop. Sub-4 min pace/km aerobically felt otherwise pretty easy. 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

10km, with more ups and downs than a hilly hill!

As per yesterday's post, I am sounding out a return to training with the rather ominous 70 km only 7-or-so weeks away. 10 km felt hard today. Admittedly I went out making a school-boy error of not having drunk before I left, and by the time I reached my 6th K, although i was now heading back downhill on my usual 10 K out-and-back route past the plage de Corbière, I struggled to even match my uphill pace. Strangely, I started to feel considerably better as time wore on and felt pretty good by the time I got home, having stopped for a little water in the park en-route. Bit of a weird experience to be honest.

Later in the day felt quite a lot of stiffness around the ankles in particular, which was also a good reminder to not neglect stretching (which I did totally neglect). I am really looking forward to building up to the maximum long-run, which I will basically be measuring in time --> 4 hours, although I don't know exactly by when I shall be able to achieve this, with the 4 November race placed when it is. My guess is either the week before or the week after, certainly no later. Although it's more about time on the feet, which is in-line with my goal of just completing this distance, it would be good to aim for average 6 min/km pace I think, which should mean I can have a 40km route in mind, probably in the city, to give me a hopefully unnecessary bail-out fallback option in the form of public transport home.

In terms of faith, the main current news is that I am really having to rethink my reasons for running by with and for God in a time when I may be joining with a Christian sports group. I suppose it's good that we all have our own complementary approaches.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Picking it up

It's a wee bit tricky when you have two "A-races" isn't it? My Autumn goals have centred around the Luberon marathon on 7 October and the SaintElyon on 1 December, two very different challenges. The first one is now obviously over, and so is my first week of recovery from that: Tuesday = 3 mile jog, Friday = 3 mile run, Saturday = 1h50 min off-road gentle and some clambering over rocks. And I feel tired still, not that recent just run hard tired, but a deeper, still-needing-to-recover from 3h04 of grilling myself! And in some ways I should be glad. If the recovery had been really quick (last year's was quicker than this), then maybe I hadn't run as hard as I needed, and proper recovery does take time. In fact, most of us, and I am well and truly in the "most-of-us" category, need to be thinking about a very low number of very-long (marathon and above) events in the year.

But having these two races together, 1 in October and 1 on 1 December, seemed like a really decent gap. The idea was to allow my body to recover from the marathon and then use that training to benefit my first dabble in the Ultra world. I think it will work out, but what I realise now is that actually I have given virtually no thought to how I will build up to Dec 1. My thinking now is to keep it gentle until my body feels able to clock it up a bit, and keep in view a few training programmes for marathon (I use MarathonTalk ("competent") and Runner's World (sub-3) downloads and tweak as needed. The only thing is that even if I were to jump on that band wagon now, I would already be more than half way through! That is quite scary. The key change to those programmes that I will be looking at is extending the easy stuff. I really need to build up to some outings. I estimate the SaintElyon to take me in the region of 7 hours, which is I hope taking into account my lack of experience and forcing a slow 6 min/km-ish pace for the first 50 km. This expectation is of course likely to be tweaked also as I factor in the experience from my remaining long runs.

Incidentally, there is also a long trail event with 1000m of vertical assent of 28.5 km planned for 4 november. This will obviously be one of my long runs that I will be running faster than long-run pace but not flat out either as I will need to be not recovering for the next two weeks, which basically precede my taper period. This planning stuff is quite tough!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Luberon Marathon 2012

42.195 km in 3:04:15

Or at least that's what I hope happened! But more about that in a minute...

So on the morning of the race I woke up a lot earlier than my alarm, I think I was too pre-occupied with what was to come, and yet, paradoxically, the worry that my body had no idea and wasn't ready for what was about to come.

The planning had been fairly extensive (and some previous posts to this blog will attest to this!), but as ever, not quite perfect, but then I suppose they never will be. Things that got forgotten this time were:
- remembering that pinning my race number to my teeshirt the night before is of little help when you are going to be wearing a running pack over the top of it!
- an hour early before a race is a minimum when you are going with other people.
- checking the condition of my socks, and having a back-up solution here, see below.

Loads of stuff went great:
   - again the rice (and rice-pudding at lunch time) did me just fine for avoiding ginger bread man isssues and being a good energy source.
   - Energy gels - much to my surprise, I got through four of these, and could probably have done with a fifth. There impact on my general feeling of getting tired and just beginning to slow down was undeniable. I took them according to need, which is possibly not the way to go, and given that I still haven't managed the negative split (I do not think that on this course that this would be achieved in any successful way by anybody) is something I am more than willing to reconsider. Incidentally I dropped one and almost stopped to pick it up, and then remembered a good environment pact idea based on the Zacheus ratio. So I will pick up at least 4 times what I littered from somewhere that is of no advantage for me to be clean!
   - hydration: while it is good to be challenged by people such as Noakes on overhydrating, and I am looking forward to reading his latest book called "Waterlogged", it is also true that a de-hydrated runner will start to just slow down, and I think that some of my flagging in the latter stages (particularly the section immediately after Ansouis, goodness that section is hideous!) could be associated with this. BUT the conditions were at least five degrees cooler than last year and I had been taking on more liquid from the feed-stations than last year too, so I think the carrying some liquids and strongly reinforcing that was actually a good combination.

   - stopping to pray with close ones for the tough challenge ahead was a tremendous sourc of strength to me.
   - chatting a little with some runners on the course reminds me that although competitors, we are primarily pitched in together against the formidable course set before us. I like that word, "us", "us runners".
   - family and friend support. Good not to rely too heavily though if not trained together for that purpose. Really liked getting the sweatband off them in the first quarter. The elastic tube I had planned to wear for the duration was just much too warm.
   - being willing to let people go. One of the questions I ask myself is: did I stick to the plan? There were times when I was almost saying out loud to myself - let those people go, they are going faster than my race plan, and I allowed my pace to drop. In the end I achieved my 3:05 goal very precisely. The unresolvable question is, if I had gone slower in the first 3/5 of the race would i have gone any quicker in the last 2/5? And if I had would that have meant for an overall faster time? It's unanswerable, especially as with my query about race distance, my future with this race is a bit uncertain right now.
   - running pack. I think I would consider running with just a belt now, but the pack didn't really slow me down. It may be a slight false-economy to only half fill the water pouch though, as I found I had to suck hard toward the end, which is really not what you want to be doing in the latter stages of an endurance event. There are some lines of clothing that have external pockets...
   - socks, was really surprised and a little dissappointed to see that my little-used injinji toe socks had already generated a sizable hole the morning of the race! Normal coton ones got me through with a fairly big blister to the left foot. I won't be doing that injinji brand again any time soon.
   - shoes, my Adidas road shoes just about hacked it, partly thanks to a slightly-improved route, but my trail shoes would have been just as suitable really. But then I just love my trail shoes!
   - sweatband, as mentioned above, switching to a regular tennis-player sweatband was a saviour after just a few kilometres yesteday, keeping me cooler and absorbing lots of sweat, not even requiring me to reposition it as I'm sure it had done on other prior long training runs.
   - Garmin, I put a lot of effort into getting this set up as I wanted it, and it was of huge help to me in the race, for all three pages, along with all the other settings. For example, having the Distance Alert option up-and-running for every 10.55 km was a big boost at the 3/4 distance point because although I was slowing and feeling quite miserable at points, it showed me that actually I was bang-on target, 2:18, for a 3:04 marathon, which I went ahead and did. And that leads me to a completely separate point about race distance.
  - Shirt, still happy with a techncal tee or vest, although today's race was the first time my nipples felt tender after the race. I had always assumed that my hairy chest was a good protection against chaffing, but I need to have a second think about this before my next marathon, and also check that particular vest for wear (cheap Decathlon model).

Question: How are marathons measured? I have tried to google this with quite little success. All I have managed to fathom is that for bends, the course measurer will go for the shortest route around a bend while allowing 1 metre from the curb. But that's not what I want to know. What I want to know is what discrepancy can we expect from a race course measurement relative to a GPS reading when there is significant elevation gain and loss? My GPS measured 41.2 km yesterday, a whole kilometre under the publicised difference, that the race organisers were keen to stress was precisely 42.195.

At the end of the race I was initially quite chatty and just glad to have got there and in the time that I achieved, without even focussing on the distance issue. I then made the mistake of lying down. Don't do this! I actually started to pass out, and got moved to the first-aid tent, where I simply repeated the process, and of course when they finally decided I was probably ready to head off in my rather sexy golden reflective heat reflective sheet, I had intolerable cramps from having just lain there for ages! The saline solution worked pretty well there though.

After cold showers (brrr!) was brilliant to then hang out with family and extended family and await what I discovered was to be a podium appearance, and take up my son onto the stage! It did make me think though that we in the senior class really do need to get our act together. I think the first 3 or maybe even 4 were all from Veteran 1 category, the top guy in 2:44.

A very very good day. Blessed :)

Monday, 1 October 2012

Easy 5 km (6 days to go)

5 km in 28 mins

What's the difference between an "easy" pace and a "jog"? My definition is that the easy pace maintains cadence with a short stride length; a jog is slower cadence and short stride length.

Enjoyed today, although I hope it doesn't point to me being a fair weather runner (the weather is very fair relative to yesterday!)