Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Madrid Marathon Week 7/18

As I arrived to the gym the other day, there was an announcement over the Tannoy welcoming me to the changing rooms! Actually, the announcement in Spanish was "Bienvenido, a los vestuarios" and the comma was key: Bienvenido ("Welcome") is the name of one of the cleaners, believe it or not. And don't imagine the son of a pop star with a penchant for quirky names: Bienvenido is one of the classic Spanish names, like Modesto, Justo, Dolores ("Pains")...

As usual, I ran all my easy runs much faster than I should have and, although it seemed to have no negative bearing on Tuesday's speed session, which went pretty much to plan even if it was a bit of a struggle to keep the pace up for the longest interval of one mile.

I think I paid the price instead on Sunday. I was careful to fuel up the night before, so the run itself went well, but it was a toughie (rather like the Madrid Marathon course) in that it was downhill until halfway and then all uphill, with a total climb of 284 metres. My watch seemed to agree - it told me that I had "overtrained" and that I should wait at least 72 hours before my next hard run (planned just 48 hours later). I may have eaten well beforehand, but I neglected to eat well after, eating only a small bowl of fabada (Asturian bean soup) and a couple of slices of toast with olive oil all day. Perhaps as a result, I felt quite listless and even slightly down, to the point that I pulled out of the tango class that I have been going to with my wife (initially slightly reluctantly, but then with growing enthusiasm).

Interestingly (at least I find it so), this was reflected quite clearly in my resting heart rate which has been quite consistently around 38 bpm for the last few weeks. On Sunday night it was 45, which was about the highest it got after a month or so of detraining following the New York Marathon. Otherwise my VO2Max continues to climb steadily (touching 64 only to come back down a notch after Sunday's strain) and my % fat is starting to plummet again.

I'm off to London tomorrow and then a week of skiing next week. Long time readers of the blog will know that skiing and I don't really mix and generally try to avoid each other whenever possible, but I didn't want to go for too long without seeing the family. I think I will try my hand at Nordic skiing and hopefully manage to keep up my running training in the gym. I haven't run on a treadmill for a (record) number of months, so it will be odd at first no doubt.

Monday: 10 km @ 4:15 (track)
Tuesday: (speed) 400 - 800 - 1,200 - 1,600 - 1,200 - 800 - 400 w/ 400m recovery @ 3:04, 3:20, 3:27, 3:34, 3:29, 3:27, 3:22
Wednesday: -
Thursday: (tempo) 11.3 km @ 3:53
Friday: 11.3 km @ 4:12
Saturday: 13 km @ 4:17
Sunday: 22.5 km @ 4:11
Total kilometres: 81

VO2 Max (Garmin): 63 ml/kg/min
Resting pulse (average): 39 ppm
Fat (average): 7.2%

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Madrid Marathon Week 6/18

I must be doing something right because, when I went to pick my wife up from the airport, the waiter who served me my beer while I was waiting asked me if I ran marathons. I asked him how he knew to ask and he said that I looked as though I did. I think he was quite keen to tell me about the ultramarathons and mountain marathons he has run, but I've got no problem with that - I understand the pride one feels for having accomplished something.

My treadmill is still kaput, so I am doing all my running in the real world, even my interval training. I think it's a blessing in disguise but it does put a lot of pressure on my lunchtimes as this is really the only time I can train until the days get a bit longer. I got the new plywood board for the treadmill and, as you can see, it has nothing to do with that MDF piece of crap that came with my (2,000 €!) treadmill as standard.

But it turns out that the board was not the only thing that was broken; somehow I had managed to break some of the springs that form the suspension - this explains why the board suddenly snapped horizontally this time, rather than gradually splitting down the middle as it usually does. I think it's a bit of a chicken and egg situation - the springs probably failed because the board was too flimsy. Whatever the case, the new board should last much longer and I've ordered a full set of (6) springs for 130 € in case any more of them fail.

This also sheared off somehow.
As far as training goes, it was a pretty good week. I did my speed work within the 3:25 - 3:30 range I had set myself but the 7 mile tempo run was a little bit too enthusiastic at a pace of 3:48 per kilometre (versus 3:55). As usual, the "easy" runs were generally on the fast side, especially on Monday, but this was on the track so I allowed for it to be faster due to the relative lack of hills. Finally, on Sunday I was able to repent for my lamentable performance the week before and pull out of the bag a solid 20K long run at a pace of 4:15, just as the Hanson's ordered.

The main difference I am finding with the Hanson's method is the fact that the paces at which I am supposed to run are set at the beginning of the training period and remain constant throughout; what varies is the volume run. This, with the exception that the speed sessions will soon morph into "strength training" which will comprise longer intervals at a slower pace (3:50 /km). The point is that, at this point in my training when I am still in the process of getting to normal form, the long runs at 4:17 /km feel long and moderately difficult, and the intervals at 3:25 feel fast and demanding. Even though I had thought I had previously been following a "reverse periodization" plan - where you train at fast paces for increasing distances, rather than increasing the pace at which you run a given distance - the Hanson's plan seems to follow that philosophy even more closely. I  have tended to get used to the longer distances before pushing the pace so it has felt a bit like the pace has come naturally, as I have got fitter; this way feels more "forced" because I am obliging myself to increase the distance but without an accompanying slow down in pace.

Normally I spend about 10-12 weeks preparing for a Marathon; this time I started 14 weeks before (remember, I jumped in to week 4 of the Hanson's 18 week plan). To compare with my build up to New York, I am at the point in time when I started my program, having spent two weeks previously running an hour a day at a comfortable pace, 6 times a week.

Monday: 10 km @ 4:16 (track)
Tuesday: (speed) 4 x 1,200m w/ 400m recovery @ 3:23, 3;30, 3:30, 3:28
Wednesday: -
Thursday: (tempo) 11.3 km @ 3:48
Friday: 10 km @ 4:23
Saturday: 10 km @ 4:22
Sunday: 20 km @ 4:15
Total kilometres: 71.9

VO2 Max (Garmin): 62 ml/kg/min
Resting pulse (average): 38 ppm
Fat (average): 7.4%

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Madrid Marathon Week 5/18

The good news is that I seem to be getting fitter - my resting pulse continues to come back down and my % fat has leveled off and will hopefully follow. After last week's debacle, I ran very conservatively on Monday and my speed session on Tuesday went according to plan (5 x 1,000m @ 3:25 - 3:30 /km). But I fell back into my old habits on Friday and Saturday, running at a pace oof 4:15 - anything slower just feels inefficient and boring.

I don't know whether it was as a result of this or something else, but my supposed long run on Sunday was a complete disaster. I think that I didn't eat properly the day before because it started off OK, but I felt drained after just 8 kilometres!! It was also an unusually hot day (20 degrees in January!) and I was a bit down in the mouth as my wife was going to Mali - not the safest place in the world right now - and my upper back and neck had locked up on me. My back usually gets better with running, but I cannot deny that my back problems are linked to increases in training volume. This time it locked up on me suddenly and surprisingly, during me run on Friday, as I turned to spit. Maybe it was a punishment for unhygienic behaviour.

I reminded myself that this training period and Marathon were a kind of "dry run" for the Chicago Marathon and that it was important to learn from the mistake and move on. As the plan I am following has a "long run" (referring more to the pace at which it should be run than the distance) every other week, I decided to do a switcheroo and run it instead the following Sunday. It might make more sense as I did jump straight into week 4 of the plan without much of a warm-up.

Monday: 10 km @ 4:51
Tuesday: (speed) 5 x 1,000m w/ 500m recovery @ 3:23, 3;29, 3:24, 3:26(?), 3:28
Wednesday: -
Thursday: (tempo) 10 km @ 3:54
Friday: 11.3 km @ 4:16
Saturday: 10 km @ 4:14
Sunday: supposed to be 20 km @ 4:17, instead was 10.5 km @ 4:27
Total kilometres: 63.4

VO2 Max (Garmin): 62 ml/kg/min
Resting pulse (average): 39 ppm
Fat (average): 7.6%

Monday, January 18, 2016

Madrid Marathon Week 4/18

As usual, I "ran" the San Silvestre 10K on New Year's Eve accompanied by my kids up to the 4 km point (a new record for them) and by my wife to the finish line. A few people recognized me as "the banker from hell"

...and yes, I ran all the way carrying that bloody suitcase (which contained warm clothes for my wife) and wearing that damn mask. The sweat built up so much in the mask that my tie was sopping wet by the end, not to mention my suit (in fact, the metro ticket in my pocket was rendered unusable). I enjoyed the "race" and at the same time suffered just enough to feel I deserved to stuff myself with food and drink afterwards. Something that I continued to do for the next 10 days in Asturias, arriving back to Madrid with a few extra kilos "excess baggage". Surprisingly, my legs were quite sore for several days afterwards - especially my left hip - probably due to running the 10K with a strange gait from having to carry the briefcase.

This week it was back to work both in the office and in terms of getting my fitness back. It's amazing how quickly you lose it - I found running really quite hard work even at a pace I would have considered quite pedestrian only a few months ago. But that is all part of the bargain and it makes it all the more satisfying to be starting the hard graft again.

For my preparations for the Madrid Marathon, I've decided to try out the Hanson's Method which is supposedly "renegade" due to its relatively short long run of only 16 miles (in case you are wondering if you have missed something, I had to jump in at week 4 to make it in time for the Marathon which is on the 24th of April). In terms of weekly mileage, though, it requires more than I put in for New York, although the peak is roughly the same. Most of the miles are run at an easy pace which, for me, translates to between 4:28 and 4:48 /km (but with the long runs at a more snappy 4:17 /km). I still struggle to fully believe this and often end up running faster than I should (apparently the Hanson's dish out press-ups as a punishment for anyone caught running too fast). Every argument for easy running seems to hinge on avoiding injury or jeopardizing quality workouts. My feeling is that I am limited by the time I can dedicate to training, so I can afford to do that training at a higher intensity. On the other hand, I almost must recognize that it is not the same running on the treadmill as it is outside and, as my treadmill is currently broken, I have no choice at the moment. My treadmill may be dead, but at least my new running shoes arrived with perfect timing to my desk just before lunchtime on my first day back at work.

I soon had a good reason to believe in easy running because I found my speed session way too difficult (planned: 6 x 800m @ 3:20 /km). This was no doubt largely due to the fact that I hadn't run faster than 4:00 /km since the Marathon, over two months ago (not to mention those extra kilos I mentioned earlier). Even my gadgets concur with my assessment: my resting heart rate has been around 45 bpm for the last few weeks (compared to 38 for the weeks after the Marathon); my estimated VO2Max has gone from the lofty 67(!) on the day of the Marathon down to as low as 53, and my percentage fat is around 7.4% (up from 4.8%). I think I will keep track of these metrics over the weeks leading up to the Marathon to see how they respond to my training and how good a guide they are to my state of fitness and recovery. I also have to adjust the pace at which I run my intervals because it was clearly way too ambitious (I'm fairly sure I could have run them at that pace on the treadmill, though!).

My resting heart rate seems to be coming back down again...
...while my V02 Max seems to be going back up.
The other quality (or "Something Of Substance") workout this week was a tempo run at Marathon Pace of 6 miles (or approximately 10 kilometres) which I did on the track around the football pitch at work. Had the Hanson's been around, they would surely have dished out press-ups, as I ran this at a pace of 3:48 /km (target: 3:55 /km for a flat course). Nevertheless, it had the effect of restoring the confidence that I lost during the speed session. I think it will be very interesting to see how my heart rate responds during these controlled tempo runs, especially as they get longer. It's not too surprising that I have some difficulties in pacing myself as I have relied for too long on the treadmill to do that for me. I'm going to try to do as much running as I possibly can outside.

By Sunday, I was already starting to feel fitter. In fact, I enjoyed running for pretty much the first time since (before) the Marathon and didn't mind the fact that getting lost in the Casa de Campo turned my 13 km run into a 15.5 km one.

Monday: 10 km @ 4:29
Tuesday: (speed) 6 x 800m w/ 400m recovery @ 3:22, 3;23, 3:31, 3:35, 3:36, 3:41...
Wednesday: -
Thursday: (tempo) 10 km @ 3:46
Friday: 10 km @ 4:20
Saturday: 12.9 km @ 4:24
Sunday: 15.5 km @ 4:24
Total kilometres: 68.4

VO2 Max (Garmin): 62 ml/kg/min
Resting pulse (average): 43 ppm
Fat (average): 7.7%

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

I've gone and put my foot in it...

I've broken the board (or "deck") of my treadmill again, this time it has lasted for slightly more than a year. The first time it broke after only 5 months, but I was using the treadmill much more heavily and running at higher speeds. According to the iFit website, I have run 1,093 kilometres in the last year on the treadmill, at an average pace of 4:05 /km. It's quite possible that some of those workouts didn't get logged properly for whatever reason but, if it is a reasonably accurate measure, then the board is about as robust as a pair of trainers (and minimalist ones at that)!

I suppose that the professional treadmills must have a much more resistant block of wood because otherwise gyms would be forever replacing them. Now, I wonder if there is a way to have one made to fit my treadmill? Perhaps I could have one made that is also less "bouncy" and more akin to running on asphalt. So far I have turned up a couple of possibilities by digging around on the internet, so I'll let you know if I manage.

In the meantime, I went for a run at lunchtime - outside - for the first time since the Marathon. It was also the first time I had been running with someone else I think this year. It was very enjoyable, especially with this great weather we are still having in December (sunny, about 15 degrees). I had been in a pretty foul mood all morning, but a bit of fresh air was all I needed to dispel the clouds.

UPDATE: I managed to find someone in Spain (www.restoretronic.com) who could make me a custom deck out of plywood - which is what they use in the upmarket treadmills instead of that MDF crap. As the deck is quite large (65.5 cm x 143 cm), they recommended reinforcing it with some bars - something I am getting an "expert" to do for me. All in, the cost is around 185€ for the deck plus about 60€ for the reinforcement and installation. If it lasts at least two years, it will be worth it.

By the way, just in case you are wondering, it isn't as straightforward a matter as simply having a piece of plywood cut to the right size: it has to be coated in a special "slick" surface to avoid it overheating as the belt runs over it. These days, most treadmills are supposed to be used without any additional lubrication.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Bouncing back

Just to show that the body fat analysis on bathroom scales has some value, you can clearly see on this graph how I have been steadily burning the fat all year, at a faster rate since I started preparing specifically for the Marathon in September, and after the Marathon (on the 1st of November) has started to come back.

There is a similar trend in my weight, but it is less pronounced (but a bit less volatile from one day to the next). This is where it is handy having the scales syncing the data automatically, because you really only see the trends after a few days of measurements.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Well I never...

I was in a fairly routine meeting just now when I saw someone - or, more precisely, the feet of someone (as the rest of them was obscured) - pass by, wearing Vibram Five Fingers! In the office! I've seen it all now. This isn't New York you know...