Monday, August 31, 2015

New York City Marathon 2015 Week 2/11

This week it was back to Madrid and back to work. Luckily things were still very quiet in the office so I was able to catch up on a few things as well as be very flexible with my training (for example, to avoid peak time a the gym, the two times I managed to go).

It was nice to get back on the treadmill and to a new series - Ray Donovan season 3. I've decided to stop agonizing over whether it is easier or not - I think this is a bit like selectively searching for evidence that drinking wine is good for you. The 8 lots of 1 km were noticeably easier than the same ones I ran in Cambridge the week before and I can't put it down to the training effect or even the temperature. My watch agrees: supposedly it has been calibrating the in built accelerometer based cadence sensor to my outdoor runs and it thinks I am running 10% more slowly than the treadmill claims on average. Now this is no doubt an exaggeration, but one thing is true, and that is that my cadence is lower for the same speed on the treadmill compared to running outside. I think that this is due to the lack of wind resistance and the more springy running surface - both of which mean it is optimal to "bounce" more. When I finally get my hands on the runScribe sensor I helped kickstart, it will be interesting to see what it has to say about the matter. I'm also tempted to ask Santa Claus for the Garmin Heart Rate Monitor with additional running metrics such as vertical oscillation. You can never have too many running metrics (whether they are useful or not is another matter).

My first run on the treadmill, however, was on Tuesday and consisted of 15 minutes at 15 kph followed by 15 minutes at 16 kph (no rest in between). I'd just had dinner with lashings of my favourite hot sauce

which is basically fresh chili preserved in soya oil. I've become quite addicted to spicy food over the last year or so (although I've always liked it having been brought up on it by my dad) and this packs the best punch without overwhelming the flavour that I have found so far. Anyway, the reason I mention this is because I noticed during my run that I was actually sweating chili! I had to be careful not to rub my eyes...

On Wednesday I went for a run outside at around 12 pm (avoiding the hottest part of the day, but it was still pretty warm - 27 degrees or so). I enjoyed running in random directions in the fields round the back of my work and then using my GPS to retrace my footsteps. I can't have noticed how much I was climbing because I was surprised to get back to the start 4 minutes quicker, so I did an extra little loop to make the time up to an hour. All in all, quite a spritely pace of 4:16 (14 kph). Even though it was hotter than those early morning runs I did in the UK, I sweated less because at least it is a dry heat in Madrid. How did I measure this? By the fact that there was still a small dry patch on my shorts at the end of the run!

I managed to squeeze in a weights session on Friday although I was slightly nervous about it screwing up my weekend training: last time I had taken almost a week to recover from the DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). Whether it was because I was a little more trained or because I did a run that evening that served as a kind of "cool down" I don't know, but it did little to interfere (except, curiously, making it hard to sit down on the toilet). I've also been using my PowerBreathe "inspiratory breathing resistance apparatus" a couple of times a day - 30 breaths until "failure" - as I think that this helps. Certainly, I felt that same feeling of literally gasping for breath on the 30th breath as I did during my 1K repeats at 3:25 (17.5 kph) in Cambridge.

My hour run on Saturday went well although my watch seemed to think that I was overdoing things. It has a "recovery advisor" which is based on how much time you spend over 70% of your maximum heart rate. It tells you how long you should wait before training (hard) again. You have to take these things with a pinch of salt, of course, but it at least has the effect of making you ask yourself whether you should take a day off or not. For some reason, it tends to severely underestimate how tired I feel after doing intervals, but after aerobic runs it has been correlating reasonably well. Normally it will say that I should wait between 24 hours (normal) and 36 (maybe take a day off). This time, it surprised me by telling me to wait 3 days! I didn't want to do this as the longish run the next day was the culmination of the weeks' training. I had once made the mistake of preparing a Marathon taking my weekly break the day before the long run and I am convinced that this explains my lackluster performance that time. As a result of the "warning" I took my recovery quite seriously on Saturday and made sure I ate well and treated myself to a very hot bath (followed by a very cold shower) as well as a session with my Compex electrostimulator.

The long(ish) run on Sunday was fine in the end. I made sure to get up early, had a light breakfast (although I am of the mind to do my "easy" long runs on an empty stomach from now on) and was out of the door by 8:30. I'm following the same training plan I did two years ago for the New York Marathon in 2013. The problem is that I cannot help comparing myself to myself, training session by training session (I ran this in 1:34, three minutes faster than two years ago). It is probably not a very wise approach as my watch again warned me to take 3 days off. The "training effect" it also calculated came out as 5 / 5 which sounds good until you realize that 5 equates to "overtraining". Whatever the case, my heart rate was on the high side. After my recent VO2 Max test I am a little confused over what to make of this. On the one hand, my maximum heart rate seems to have dropped significantly from 191 to 185 but on the other hand, my aerobic threshold seems to have climbed from 155 to 160 - or, as a percentage of maximum heart rate, from 81% to 86%. Is that good? Should I allow my heart rate on the so called easy runs to climb higher as a result of my higher aerobic threshold? Or lower, as a result of my lower maximum heart rate? As I didn't wear my heart rate monitor for my training (but only for the race) two years ago, I don't really have a reference. Maybe I should just go by feel.

Monday: -
Tuesday: 15' @ 4:00, 15' @ 3:45
Wednesday: 60' @ 4:16
Thursday: 8 x 1 km @ 3:25
Friday: 3 x 12 x 60% (weights), 40' @ 4:00
Saturday: 60' @ 4:19
Sunday: 21.1 km in 1:34 (4:28)

Total kilometers: 75

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

On Course Swimming Goggles

You know that I love gadgets, especially ones that help me improve my performance (or, at least, make me think that they help me improve my performance). If only these had been invented in 2011 when I did the Ironman in Florianopolis, Brazil. This is the swim I actually did compared to the course I should have taken:

I put my Garmin 310XT GPS watch in my swim cap to get a fairly accurate track and I set it to beep every kilometer, so that I would have some idea of how much longer the torture was going to last. According to my watch, I swam 4.52 kilometers (instead of the 3.8 of the Ironman distance) thanks to taking a slightly roundabout route - at one point I even crashed into someone coming in the opposite direction (no prizes for spotting where). In the middle of the "M" we were allowed back on land, briefly, only to submerge ourselves once more. To put this in perspective, had I taken the perfect route, I would have saved 12 minutes!

Someone (disclosure: a friend of a friend) has invented a pair of swimming goggles that warn you if you veer off course. You simply look at the buoy you are heading for, press a button on the goggles (apparently they are planning for the goggles to recognize a signature head movement instead of a button press) and then the goggles indicate using a simple system of blinking LED lights whether you should go off slightly more to the left or to the right. It doesn't use cumbersome GPS technology, just the good old fashioned magnetic field of the Earth to guide you. I expect that all the clever bits are in the algorithm that works out your general heading while (at least in my case) you are writhing and thrashing your way through the water.

The designers clearly have triathlons and open water swimming competitions in mind and have already obtained confirmation from official bodies such as USA Triathlon that they will be permitted and not considered "cheating". They have also already filed patents so, if a giant like Garmin decides to snap them up (Sight 'n' Go Goggles?), it will be done the right way.

The Kickstarter campaign is underway RIGHT NOW, so if you have similar navigational skills as myself and are thinking of taking part in a triathlon - or even if you just want to support a great idea - head on over to their Kickstarter page. Remember, you saw it here first!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

New York City Marathon 2015 Week 1/11

Yes, the countdown starts once more! I've just come back from my summer holidays which, this year, have been more a case of escaping the summer as we went to the UK instead of the usual hot and humid destinations we normally go to. As a result, I was able to get back into the enjoyment of running outside in the real world. Not only have I been having motivational problems lately but I think I have been abusing the treadmill too much, to the point that I have become good at running on the treadmill and not so good at running outside.

My new Garmin Fenix 2 watch has also helped regain some motivation as I was much more easily able to design routes along which to run while I was on holiday and "sync" them to the device via my phone (although, annoyingly, the button to "create a course" on the web page doesn't fit on my phone's browser). It has a feature which estimates your VO2Max based on your heart rate and your speed which is probably not terribly reliable, but it is somehow encouraging seeing it improve from 59 to 63 (and, at one point, 65) as I have felt myself improving. The recovery feature - which tells you how long you should wait before training hard again - is probably less useful as it failed to notice how tired I was after interval training.

The first two weeks we spent in London, Wales and Scotland. My brother had moved house so I got to explore a whole new area of London that I did not know before, and that was surprisingly green and amenable to running. Amazingly, I managed to get up between 7 and 7:30 am every single day of the holiday and was back from my run before the rest of my family had finished breakfast.

In Wales we had a complete disaster with a rental car which meant we were stranded for a couple of days in Gilwern - there are worse places to get stuck - so my first "rural" runs were around there. The most enjoyable ones, however, were in Scotland along country lanes around the Loch Lomond area which is just simply breathtaking. I ended up buying a new book by Richard Askwith (Running Free) which talks a lot about the benefits of running outdoors versus in gyms, as well as dealing with growing old gracefully and binning the stopwatch.

The last week was back in England where we spent a couple of days in Cambridge - where I was born - and Oxford - where I went to university. The cycling we did in Cambridge doesn't really count toward my fitness goals as it was at a very leisurely pace to have afternoon tea in Grantchester, to where I used to go running with my friend, his bothers and his dad when I first started. But I did also do my interval training in Cambridge, just in front of the City of Cambridge boathouse where I learned to row. I was pleased to see that the oar that I won in Oxford was still hanging up in the Cambridge Blue pub, in pride of place.

In Oxford, we punted (did punting?) and visited the track where Roger Banister broke the 4 minute mile and where I used to go almost every morning in my first year at university, to lift weights with the rowing crew. Roger Banister was the Master of my college and I got to meet him when I was struggling to keep up my academic and athletic work: he told me that they never had to train so many hours back in his day. We walked along the towpath to the City of Oxford boathouse where there still hangs a photo of me rowing at Henley in 1991, but unfortunately the clubhouse was closed so we were unable to see it. I rounded off the week with a long run (now back in London) to Tower Bridge and back and then ceremoniously threw my trainers away which had only just managed to last until the end of the holdays.

Another running related casualty of the holidays was my beloved iPod Shuffle. I got through several of the first generation Shuffles, killing them softly with my sweat, but the newer ones seem much more resilient. London may be cooler than Madrid but it is also more humid and, during a particularly sweaty run, the Shuffle spluttered and gasped its last breath. I tried the old trick of leaving it to dry out in a glass of rice - which it did - but I think I managed to fry some of the components when I prematurely tried to charge it. I decided to buy a new, waterproofed one, from Underwater Audio although sweat is more pernicious even than water so I'll also try to clip it on the part of my clothing that least tends to get soaked.

I realized that the blisters I was getting on my hands by the end of the holidays were actually from running. I should clarify this. We packed so lightly that the four of us were able to take 4 planes and visit 3 countries during 3 weeks with only hand luggage! If I had taken enough kit to cover the 19 runs I did during those 3 weeks then not only would we have had to put bags in the hold but we would probably have been charged excess baggage! So I took only 3 pairs of running socks, three shorts, two vests and a jacket just in case (which I only wore once): every time I went for a run I would hand wash my kit in the shower. I realized that the blisters on my hands were from wringing dry my running kit!

So, all in all, it was a great holiday, quite nostalgic and a good chance to recharge my batteries, get back into shape and get motivated.

Week 1/11 (17th August)

Monday: core
Tuesday (London): 30' @ 4:00 (not sure what my actual pace was as GPS was very off @ 3:26!!)
Wednesday (Cambridge): 8 x 1K @ 3:27-3.32
Thursday (London): 16.4 km @ 4:38
Friday (Oxford): 13.7 km @ 4:20
Saturday (London): 15´+20´+5´@ 4:00 (felt very tired from travelling and not eating enough)
Sunday (London): 18.2 km @ 4:24

Total kilometers: 77

Monday, July 27, 2015

VO2 Max

The other day a colleague came up to me and asked me what my VO2 Max was. I couldn't remember whether it was just under 60 or just under 70 - but 70 sounded too high to me. It turned out to be 69 - although I've always felt that this was unrealistic - and he immediately responded by sending me back an excerpt from a Wikipedia article which put me on a par with Ron Hill, the second man to ever break 2:10 in the Marathon. But he reminded me that I last did that test 2 years ago, when I considered myself to be in such good shape that I wanted to take a "photo" of how I was for later comparison. How opportune because that was the same year I last ran the New York Marathon, so it seemed like a good idea to do another one to see how much of my perceived decline lately was in my head, and how much was in my lungs.

Strictly speaking, the lungs are only one part of what goes to determine your VO2 Max. Specifically, it measures how much oxygen (O2) per kilo of body mass you use to metabolize (burn) carbohydrates and fat when exercising, and this in turn depends on how much muscle mass with aerobic fibers you have, how many capillaries you have to transport the oxygen there and, of course, your lung capacity. It seems that these things are largely determined genetically - or at least your max VO2Max might be - and that training can only bring you closer to your max max. Having said that, only 6 months after giving up smoking and taking up running instead, I also recorded a VO2 Max of 68 (slightly less only because I weighed a bit more then) which was a factor in encouraging me to take it a bit more seriously.

Having said that, when I did start to take it more seriously, training with a coach, whenever I did VO2 Max tests with him, the number came out much lower - the best I got was 61 if I remember right. Of course, I find it hard to remember because I prefer to keep the 69 number in my head.

This time I expected to get a lower score but I specifically wanted to go back to the Reebok Sports Club where it might be exaggeratedly high but it would at least be a good reference relative to the score I got two years ago. It's true that I am not at the same point in a training cycle nor am I training as intensively right now, but I didn't expect to get 59 - 20% lower than last time. To make it even worse, I was about 3 kilos lighter so my VO2 Max would have been 3% bigger, all other considerations being equal. Maybe they have re-calibrated the machine or bought a new one? Or maybe its just not a very reliable test.

Another thing to look at is the maximum heart rate. This tends to drift downwards with age (I suppose in part because you tend to lose muscle mass and therefore have less to "feed" with oxygen) but as much as the commonly reported 1 bpm per year I have not experienced. Its true that I tend to avoid situations that take my heart to its limit as much as possible but I had it in my head that it must be around 190 bpm. In the test (which was supposed to take me to my maximum everything) I only got to 180 bpm! To be fair, this needs to be verified by looking at the electrocardiogram in detail - as usual, my profuse sweating through the machines off and the assistant had to keep adjusting the electrodes while I was running. At 21 kph!

That was the other surprising thing about the test. If my VO2 Max has gone down by 20%, how come I was running faster on less oxygen? The maximal velocity is called vVO2 Max and some people think it is more interesting that VO2 Max. Last year I did an experiment of hardcore interval training at my then vVO2 Max of 20 kph. Maybe that helped because it doesn't seem to have helped with anything else: I ended up breaking the board of my brand new treadmill in less than 5 months and I suspect that it has something to do with the appearance of my Morton's Neuromas, although the doctor in the Reebok Sports Club told me that it didn't necessarily have anything to do with it. So it would seem as though my running economy has improved by a factor of 120% * 105% (20% less oxygen/kilo for 5% more speed) - sounds good, right? What makes more sense is that my VO2 Max is right now and was significantly overstated before.

Well, I think it is important to look beyond the numbers, to what they are trying to tell you. Nobody ever won a race on their VO2 Max. (By the way, my new Fenix 2 watch has estimated based on a few easy runs that my VO2 Max is  - wait for it - 59 ml/kg/min! According to the watch, this corresponds to a Half Marathon in 1:21 and a Marathon in 2:49, times I would be happy to see again.). My conclusions are:

My maximum heart rate is not what it used to be. I will wait for the final report from Reebok but I may repeat the test (without the VO2 measurement) to see whether I can get up to 190 again (don't worry, I will stop before I literally kill myself). I should adjust the heart rate at which I plan to run my races - particularly the New York Marathon in November - accordingly. It might help explain why I have been going off way too fast (both in terms of pace and heart rate) and finishing disappointingly lately.

I should do more strength training. I stopped doing weight training a couple of years ago, thinking that it was better to do specific strength building exercises such as plyometrics, hill sprints and the like. It reminds me a bit of when, years ago, I decided it made much more sense to stop paying for Spanish lessons to instead practice Spanish with my then girlfriend (now wife) - of course, we never did... Now I don't do anything in the way of strength training. One thing about getting older that seems inevitable is that there is a tendency to lose muscle mass which you have to fight against. I guess the body needs more and more proof that you really need to carry around and feed all that bulk (shame it doesn't need the same amount of convincing when it comes to fat). (Actually, the doctor told me that I should consider increasing my fat as my level of 11% was considered to be on the low side, and that fat helped protect against illness among other things.) As New York is a relatively hilly Marathon, I will certainly do some hilly runs and hill sprints etc, but I think it is a good idea to do some work in the gym always being careful not to "bulk up" too much of course.

Apparently Red Bull is not good for you. It makes sense, I suppose, as it seems to good to be true. I had always thought that just as sex is not as bad for you as drugs or indeed rock 'n' roll, Red Bull didn't have to be bad for you. I remember once a friend forwarding an article from the British Journal of Medicine which  proved scientifically that Red Bull was bade for you - the only hitch being that it was faked. The doctor at the Reebok Sports Club wasn't worried about my one-glass-of-red-wine-a-day regime or for that matter the 4 espressos I have everyday, but she did balk when I confessed about taking one Red Bull every other day. Apparently Red Bull is not good for you, so I will stick to my promise and cut down drastically.

UPDATE: It turns out that they made a mistake and forgot to divide my VO2 Max by my weight, so it is in fact very similar to the last values: 68.63 ml/kg/min. My maximum heart rate turned out to be 185 bpm, significantly less than the 190 of two years ago but the weird thing is that - while my anaerobic threshold is more or less where it has always been (180 bpm) - my aerobic threshold is much higher (168 versus 160 two years ago, versus 155 bpm 7 years ago) and, of course, even higher in percentage of maximum heart rate terms. It certainly looks as though my heart has adapted to the training. However, one of the comments I received on the final report said that I was slightly detrained as the rate at which my heart returned to beating normally was much lower, but that is not surprising or indeed worrying, it is just a question of putting the work in.

I had started to get a bit paranoid about my VO2 Max being so much lower than last time, so I went to the gym for a weights session, which is probably a good idea anyway. I looked up the weights I was lifting last time I went - in 2012 (gulp!) - and allowed myself to slack off a little. But when I set the machine to 78 kgs, I found that I could barely lift it once, let alone 15 times! I put it down to 60 kgs in the end, and struggled through the set. Feeling really demoralized, I went to the next machine where I set the dial to 52 kgs and found that it was ridiculously easy! Hang on a minute, could it be that I got them the wrong way round? Doh! So 60 kgs was 16% higher than I had intended to lift! Writing this on my brother's computer in London, I am still feeling the pain on Sunday, 4 days after... In spite of having trouble sitting down or doing my shoelaces, I am at least able to run reasonably well. I've been enjoying exploring the area round his new house which is particularly conducive to running, not to mention the cool but sunny weather that has been accompanying me so far. Two more weeks of relaxed running before I start the countdown to New York... 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Retail therapy

There's nothing quite like buying a new sporting gadget to inject a bit of enthusiasm back into your training. The other day I was hovering on the Amazon website when I spotted an offer for the Fenix 2 GPS watch that was about to expire as soon as they had enough takers. I couldn't see any harm in just putting it in my shopping basket before someone else snatched the offer away from me: I could still decide not to buy it. I now had 15 minutes to decide whether I "needed" it, in which time I broke out into a guilty sweat and rang my wife, hoping she would absolve me by saying something like "you deserve it" or simply just talk me out of it. She just said she didn't know whether I needed it or not - neither did I but I soon came up with a convoluted set of reasons why I couldn't live without one.
Just as well I only had 15 minutes to decide because, after committing to buy (yes, I did buy it in the end, surprise, surprise), I read a whole load of complaints about it crashing, resetting during workouts and suffering from "GPS drift". I hope that these have been ironed out in the year since its launch as there is now a Fenix 3 available.

The reasons I came up with were that my trusty 310 XT was not so trusty any more, it often corrupted the workout data and was very touch and go when it came to downloading courses or uploading workouts; also having Bluetooth connectivity would make all this so much easier. The discount price was 240€ (without Heart Rate Monitor) which put it in close contention with the 910 XT (also recently superseded by a newer model: the 920 XT) but this does not have Bluetooth, nor does it have some of the fancy new analytics that are probably a load of nonsense but are irresistibly attractive to us running geeks. Like VO2Max which tells you how fast it reckons you would run a 5K, 10K, Half Marathon or Marathon: in just three days I have reduced my predicted Marathon time from 3:03 to 2:49! All without having run further than 10K or faster than 13.5 kph! If I later decide to buy a new HRM, then I can have it also calculate vertical oscillation and ground contact time - whoohoo! For those kind of geek-stats, I'm still waiting on the runScribe device I backed on Kickstarter last year. Another thing I like about the new watch is that it has a built in accelerometer which means that (a) it incorporates all the functionality of the Garmin Swim watch and (b) it makes a reasonable attempt to guess how fast I am running on the treadmill based on a surprisingly accurate cadence measurement, which helps me keep track of all the kilometerage I am doing both on and off-road. Lastly, I appreciate the temperature sensor that it has built in which works quite well considering that it is biased by my skin temperature. It seems to start of way too high, come down to a realistic temperature as it is cooled by the wind and then starts to creep back up again as I get hotter and sweatier.

The downside of the Fenix series compared to the triathlon watches is that there is no quick release kit to allow you to transfer it to your bike easily. However, I've come up with a rubber band solution to attach it to my aero water bottle which appears to work well. The upside is that it is not fugly, and can be worn as a normal watch. The inverted screen looks cool but is difficult to read; Garmin appears to have realized that this was too much of a case of form over functionality and has incorporated a colour screen into the Fenix 3. I don't plan to wear it as a daytime watch as I already have my Casio Rangeman G-Shock which makes even the Fenix 2 look diminutive. This is what I call my "Zombie Apocalypse" watch in that it will probably still keep on working long after mankind has destroyed itself (although the automatic timesetting by radio will stop working I guess). I noticed that the large buttons with the little spikes are the same on both watches so I'm guessing that Garmin took some design cues from Casio here.

The only other features a triathlete or serious runner might miss from the 310 XT that I have noticed are that there is no ability to set heart rate zones per sport - the zones are very different between cycling and running, but not everybody cares about that. The other slight niggle is a bit specific and it comes about due to how the menus are organized: if you want to follow a prerecorded track you choose the "navigate" activity which, as it doesn't know whether you are running or cycling, does not record your running cadence if you have previously linked a bike cadence sensor. What I do miss when following a track, is that it doesn't alert you when you go off course; the 310 XT was a bit of a mixed blessing in this regard because the alert used to mean that the map would stop updating just when you needed it most (I think they fixed this in a firmware update eventually). Anyway, so far I'm happy in spite of it already locking up once on me. You kinda get used to the odd glitch with Garmin watches (I think they must have pretty poor programmers working there) but you sort of grow to forgive them as the watches are so cool when they actually work. On the other end of the spectrum, when an Apple product fails you tend to have zero tolerance because you get accustomed to such a high standard. Like when we tried to get an old iPhone working this weekend, we were greeted with this message

iPhone is blocked, try again in 23,758,096 minutes
My guess is that on the 4th of March 2015 at around 4:11 PM, we typed in the wrong PIN too many times and blocked the phone until 5 minutes later at 4:16 PM. We then took so long to get around to buying a new SIM card (the phone was given too us so we had to buy another line) that it ran out of batteries and went into such a profound sleep that it forgot the date and thought it was the 1st of January 1970 again: 23,758,096 minutes before 4:16 PM on the 4th of March 2015...

Monday, June 22, 2015

Spiritually, emotionally and physically...

..exhausting! I was going to write "satisfying", which the weekend was, on all accounts but the last one. I guess it was a bit too ambitious to expect to do a good time in the 10K on Sunday, when I had to get up at the same time as I had gone to bed the night (morning) before. That was because on Friday I briefly came out of retirement as a DJ, blew the dust off my favourite vinyl records and got behind the decks once more.

The crowd at Marula were great and, once I had warmed them up with some slow burning funk I was able to take them to more challenging territory like this trio of tunes I played around 3am:

So that was the spiritual part of the weekend (some physical, too, having to lug my box of records up several flights of stairs).

Then we drove down to Ciudad Real for my father in law's 80th birthday where my wife did a "This is your life..." on him, complete with book and presentation. That, of course, was very emotional not just for her father but for everyone.

The race on Sunday promised to be a fast one as it was more or less downhill all the way. My objective was to get back a bit of confidence after what has been a patchy season. Had it been the weekend before, it might have worked out differently, but the summer had decided to turn up in a big way and it meant business. I can't really blame anyone but myself for turning out a time that I might have been happy with 4 years ago, but was far from anything I had done since. It wasn't much faster than a typical training run and maybe that is part of the problem. I'm starting to think that I need to go back to the polarized training Jonathan used to bang on about, which I have never fully accepted. If I keep training at moderate paces of 15 kph (4:00 /km) for 40 minutes then I suppose I will become good at running at a moderate pace of 15 kph for 40 minutes. I have, of course, been doing interval training but probably not pushing myself enough on the high intensities. My main quibble with the whole 80/20 training idea (80 easy, 20 hard) is that the arguments for it seem to fall flat if your main constraint is time and not energy. I can appreciate that it is better to substitute moderately hard training for easy training if you then employ that liberated energy in high intensity training, but if you are already doing 20% at a very high intensity, surely it is better to do the 80% as hard as you reasonably can? I've bought Matt Fitzgerald's latest book "80/20 Run Stronger and Race Faster" in an attempt to convince myself. The other thing that Jonathan used to say was that I shouldn't abuse the treadmill too often. For sure, if I were to do more runs at an easier pace, it would by correspondingly easier to run outside and perhaps for longer. But there is a simpler explanation for the disappointment on Sunday: as I have been doing lately, I set off far too fast for my current level of fitness and the particular conditions, even considering the downhill advantage (I ran the first kilometer in 3:19 and the second in 3:29). Then the rest of the race was the usual revising downwards of projected finish times, which is always a motivation killer. At one point I thought I might just conceivably be able to break 35 minutes; at another, the balloon marking the 38 minute pace overtook me and I was unable to respond. Note to self: next race, start off slow and get faster.

If all that wasn't enough to fill a weekend, we also brought back a litter of 5 puppies from Ciudad Real, of which my wife managed to place all but one. Unfortunately our boxer, Ema, is extremely jealous and antisocial when it comes to members of her own race, so we had to be careful to keep them apart. It remains to be seen whether we can awaken her motherly instincts and keep the puppy... otherwise a home for her will have to be found.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Let's try that again...

After my failed attempt to run a 10K race ("run" being the operative word) a few weeks ago, I decided to enter another one this coming weekend. It is quite a popular one as it is run from point to point, over a course which has a negative gradient and yet has been "homologated" by the relevant authorities and thus serves as a fast qualifying race for the San Silvestre 10K on New Year's Eve.

It's not the best weekend for it though. On Friday I am deejaying again for the first time in about 8 years, since I started this whole running lark, and that will be from 1am to 6am!

That's me, Rob Smith (a.k.a Heavy Üsker)
Then, on Saturday, it is my father-in-law's 80th birthday - which I wouldn't miss for anything - and then, on Sunday, the race itself. If only the cool weather we have right now holds out! We were in Asturias over the weekend and it hailed!

The previous weekend, we were in Tétouan in Morocco and I found it to be surprisingly runner-friendly (outside of the medina, of course). As well as it being cool for this time of year, I found a long flat stretch with wide pavements (in better condition than those in London) to run along.