Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Photo from Seville Marathon

Corre 1km+

As I mentioned in my race report from Seville Marathon, my bank is supporting a Red Cross charity called "corre un kilometro más" (run one more kilometer). In particular, a group of employees together with the Head of Human Resources, José Luis Gómez Alciturri, and Martín Fiz (former World Champion Marathoner) are preparing to run the Marathon des Sables, a self-sufficient 6 day Ultramarathon of 251 kilometres across the Sahara desert. As part of their preparation, as well as to raise money for corre1km+ by clocking up kilometres, they have completed various races including the "Desert Run" and the Seville Marathon and are participating this weekend in the Santander (city) Half Marathon.

I think that the causes they have chosen to support are very well thought out and, of course, make sense for a bank to be backing. Giving to charity is a very personal thing and everyone has different reasons for supporting the causes they do. When I give to charity, I try to use my money to help people to help themselves; sometimes giving to charity can be an easy substitute for responsibility and is borne more out of guilt than actual solidarity.

Corre1km+ supports three specific projects:

- Helping children and adolescents from families affected by the crisis or living below the poverty line to have academic success
- Opportunities of work experience, training and full-time employment for long-term unemployed people
- Training and assessment for people who opt to start up their own businesses as a result of the crisis

Although the charity has a Spanish focus, remember that Spain is in Europe and we all have to pull together if Europe is ever going to get it's head above water. The high Spanish unemployment and lack of competitiveness of Spanish workers is a European problem.

One way that you can help is by buying the t-shirt from the online shop or by making a donation.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The aftermath

One thing that is very surprising about recovering from a Marathon is that, in my experience, the faster I run the Marathon, the more quickly I recover. The explanation I have for this is that, if the Marathon doesn't go to plan, it goes very wrong and you end up suffering for much longer at the end (both in terms of distance and time). It is this final stretch, I believe, that contributes to the DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) over the next few days. The other thing that I have found surprising is that I usually have some kind of minor complaint going into a Marathon, like a slightly inflamed tendon or a tight muscle from the training, and yet afterwards it is as if the Marathon has "cured" me of that pain. This time I have been having problems with my big toe after tripping over and the bursa has been inflamed and very sensitive to the touch, until now! I suppose you tend to worry more about these little niggles in the run up to the race itself but I can only think that the body must produce so much of whatever it is that causes itself to repair damage that you come out even better off than you were before. Perhaps it is not so "unhealthy" to run a Marathon as people keep telling me..

Check out this video...

I apologize to the organizers of the race and to the runners who had their finishers photos compromised by my act of vandalism at the end of the race. The idea to "high five" the sign came to me just as I was crossing the line but the effort I was making at the end of the race turned an innocent gesture into a violent one.

The girl being interviewed is momentarily distracted 
I was completely unaware of having dislocated the sign until one of the race officials said to me, very elegantly, that the sign was swinging to one side and had nearly hit the head of the guy behind me. He said it in such a way that I did not feel any reproach and it reminded me of the time my wife and I got thrown in the swimming pool at god-knows-what time in the morning, fully dressed, the night of our wedding in Seville. As I snuck up to our room, dripping conspicuously, to get changed into some dry clothes, I was casually informed that "the reason we don't allow guests to use the swimming pool at night is that a glass might fall into the pool and break, requiring the pool to be completely drained". Again, no accusation, just information.

A team effort is required to fix the damage done

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Seville - here I go!!

After being fairly careful about my diet for the last couple of months, I decided to go freestyle on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (a euphemism for eating whatever the hell I felt like). I took the day off on Friday to spend some time with my family as I would be going away for the weekend and we had lunch at a place I hadn’t been to in over ten years – probably the best arrocería I know, in the centre of Madrid called “La Bahia” (don’t be put off by the severely understated and outdated decoration). Other than that, it was a chance to eat chocolate bars, drink fizzy drinks and, of course, stock up on pasta.

After all this, I was feeling really bloated by Saturday. In fact, I woke up very early still in the process of digesting the feast from the day before. I weighed myself at over five kilos more than I had been earlier in the week and started to wonder if, perhaps, I had gone too far with my “carbo loading”. I still had a day to clear my system…

I felt pretty bad about going to a Marathon on the day of my wife’s 45th birthday, especially it being in Seville where we got married, but I did check it with her first and the offer was open for her and the kids to join me. I did, however, choose a very late departing Ave high speed train so that we would be able to have lunch (albeit of pasta) together as a family. Unfortunately, my wife had to go (with the kids) to Valencia anyway, so I spent the day alone watching videos (and eating pasta).

As I boarded the train bound for Seville, I remembered that the year before I had had seat 7a in coach 7, departing from platform 7. This is not as much of an autistic feat as it might sound: I had recently re-read my own blog to remind myself of the experience of running this Marathon a year ago. This year the only difference was that the coach was number 6 instead of number 7.

I got chatting with the taxi driver on the way to the disused Olympic stadium where both my hotel and the finish of the Marathon were. I asked him if he was working on the Sunday, in case he would run into problems with the traffic in the whole city being diverted.  He told me that no, he wasn’t working and that tonight he was going to a hotel with his girlfriend for some “fooky fooky” (as he pronounced it).

I got to the expo just as most of the stands were packing up which was just as well because I really didn’t need to buy anything and this removed the temptation. I got the last room in the conveniently located Eurostars Isla Cartuja hotel. I know this because I first sent an email inquiring about a room and then, when I initially received no answer, I rang and they said they would investigate and contact me via email. I then received two replies: one saying that they had reserved me a room (that turned out to be room 101) and a second one saying that they were very sorry but the hotel was fully booked.

On the day of the Marathon itself, I got up to have breakfast at 6:30 with the guys from my bank running for corrre 1km+. Everyone has their own particular pre-Marathon routine and mine involves drinking a can of Red Bull at breakfast before going back to my room to watch TV or read a book. Unfortunately I had forgotten to buy one in Madrid and the hotel didn’t have any; we were in the middle of nowhere and I would have to do without. Would my performance be negatively affected as a result? Instead I drank the equivalent of about three cups of expresso. After all, caffeine is the only drug that has both been demonstrated beyond any doubt to enhance performance as well as being competition legal (below some obscenely high dosage that even I didn’t reach).

It was as if the organizers of the Marathon had read my blog from last year and made an effort to rectify my only two complaints. Firstly, there were corrals (cajones, not to be confused with cojones) for runners of different speeds to help reduce the congestion at the start and secondly, they ensured that we were given the exact same t-shirt size we had specified on our entry forms (which, believe it or not, was the first time I had ever seen this implemented so strictly in any race). The course had also been modified slightly and was even more picturesque this year – definitely the nicest route I have ever run in competition. If that wasn’t enough, the weather managed somehow to be very sunny and also perfectly cold for running. Just in case the organizers do in fact take heed of my comments, I will say that the cloakroom was pretty badly organized being too far from the start and having massive queues. I rolled up there with a full 30 minutes to go, thinking that I would be cold if I gave up so soon my raincoat (I lied: I did buy something in the expo but it only cost 10€) and realized that I would risk a good starting spot if I waited in line. As I had my hotel just around the corner, I left my newly cherished raincoat there.

The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plane
I didn't see anyone I knew amongst the more than 7,000 runners (I had bib number 7122, one of the highest). I did my warm-up and squeezed into the sub 3 hour corral. Other than the usual contingent of extraordinary African runners, we had three of the most well known Spanish Marathon runners of all time: Chema Martínez, Abel Antón (not Antón Abel as I keep calling him) and Martín Fíz who was also supporting the corre 1km+ charity. In fact, if you had been aiming for a sub 3 and a half hour time, you would have had the luxury of running with Abel Antón as pacemaker.

I set off at a sub 4 minute per mile pace and quickly realized that my heart rate was not going to hit the levels that I had written on the back of my hand to pace myself. Perhaps it was because of the extra few degrees of cold or perhaps it was because I was fitter. Or maybe it’s just because I am getting older and eventually my maximum heart rate will drop.  Whatever the case, I decided to keep on at that pace as long as I could: either I would “blow up” in which case I would have no real idea why, or possibly I would run slower than my optimal pace which, if that was faster than 4 min/km, I could live with that.

As I was running, I thought of something that a friend, Emilio, had said to me at breakfast about some other guy dissociating himself from his pain. I played this game of staring into the middle distance and pretending that I was watching the Marathon unfold on television. It worked very well and I think that one of the reasons it worked so well is that I didn't allow myself to be distracted by things in my peripheral vision (on TV, you can’t control the camera) and I didn't waste precious mental energy on watching where I was stepping or worrying if I was going to knock into someone. Which did mean that I stepped badly (only once) and briefly hurt the big toe that had been giving me problems since I tripped a month or so ago. It also meant that I did bump into other runners sometimes – on one occasion I very nearly lost my Garmin watch which got knocked out of its quick release strap.

Another thing that I thought about was using my arms to run with rather than waiting until the end of the Marathon when it would be too late. I think that a more punchy movement adds maybe, a fraction of a centimetre to every stride which, over 40,000 steps adds up to what? 400 meters or a couple of minutes. Also, some of that glycogen I had been storing up over the previous days would have been in my arms, surely.

As I passed the 10k mark in less than 40 minutes I thought that it wasn't all that long ago that breaking the 40 minute mark in a 10k race was for me a goal in itself and, here I was, about to do that four times in a row – at least in theory.

Along the way I was struck (not literally) by a blind man from Portugal running with a guide. It wasn't so much the fact he was blind but that he was groaning with anguish at every step he took, and we had still got half the course to run. Imagining being locked up in his dark world with his personal suffering while being pulled along if not physically but mentally by his guide choked me up emotionally and made me gasp for breath. I suppose you had to be there really, and to have heard it.

The kilometres kept on ticking by without much difficulty but I couldn't help wondering what this Marathon would have in store for me. I just never know what to expect after my random experiences in the other 6 Marathons I have run to date. My heart rate stubbornly refused to rise and stayed around the 161 bpm mark, even lower than it was by the second or third kilometre of the same race last year, run somewhat more slowly. Between the 34th and 35th kilometre markers I had my answer and it wasn't too bad. I figured my body must be switching over to using those rapid twitch muscle fibres that are less efficient and thus poorly suited to distance running but I also knew that, this time, I had specifically trained these fibres in my long runs.

I perhaps shouldn't write what came into my head as motivation as my fellow colleagues will no doubt rip the piss out of me as a result, but I will. That morning I had spoken to José Luis Gómez Alciturri who was also running the Marathon as part of his preparation for the Maraton des Sables and he had asked me whether I thought I would manage to get my target time of 2 hours and 50 minutes. I thought that I couldn't possibly say to the Head of Human Resources of my entire bank (which has something like 200,000 employees so he’s a pretty big cheese there) that I had failed. So I dug deep and got on with what would only amount to just under half an hour of discomfort all told – not very much really when you consider what it means to run a Marathon.

These last kilometres required total focus and determination so, when a boy suddenly shot out of the crowd on his bike right in front of me, I just threw my arms out in front of me instinctively and shoved the poor sod to the ground and jumped over him without even looking back to see if he was OK. There were lots of people around to help and I didn't hear anyone shouting after me but, even so, I didn't feel too proud about what I had just done. And also, I had stubbed my bastard toe again in the process.

With now only just over a kilometre to go I had a surprising sight: what was Santi doing by the side of the road dressed in civilian clothing? He would have had to won the thing to be able to change and get back here in time. It turned out that he had been sick most of the week and had had to pull out. That is about the only downside of this Marathon: that it is held at a time when everyone around seems to have some kind of virus or another. He did take this picture of me as I ran past though:

Only one to go...
Literally in the last few hundred meters, a guy just in front of me collapsed spectacularly. I didn't stop to help him either (there were other people around). I could feel my Karma account getting overdrawn by the minute but what could go wrong now to even up the scores?

One lap of the impressive stadium and I roared (this time literally) across the finish line. I was so exuberant that I jumped up and high fived the sign bearing the words “29th Seville Marathon” hanging under the clock. I had done it – not only had I broken 2 hours and 50 minutes but I had done it convincingly (I still have to keep checking the time because I think that I must have remembered it wrong*): 2:47:53. Just as I was catching my breath someone said to me – very amicably (the Sevillians are a very amiable people) – that I had left the sign hanging down dangerously to one side and had nearly knocked the head off the guy behind me! Now my Karma account was about to be repossessed and perhaps I would have to think twice about returning to Seville… Still, I hope they managed to get a good photo and video of it! (By the way, I just checked out the results and, for some reason, the guy behind me must have started right at the back because he actually beat me by about 6 minutes, so he must have been catching right up with me, only to be clobbered over the head by a sign - if you read this then "sorry!")

A number of people asked me if I had “really” run in my Vibram Five Fingers – something which I found funny, especially as several people ran in Tarahumara style sandals or even completely barefoot. What strikes me is that no one ever really remarked on my running a Marathon in Vivobarefoot Ultras which are lighter and I think even less protective. Perhaps it was more of a question of style – You ran in those? The experience was very positive. I had been wondering whether to race the Marathon in the VFFs or the Ultras and had even thought that I could try running with one of each to see whether I veered off to the left or to the right (ho ho). I'm fairly convinced that the harder sole on the VFFs is both better for ground feel and energy return. Also, I didn't get a single blister – not one!

I did, however, get lots of rubbing from my clothes, especially my fuel belt which slipped down as I ran and cut the back of my legs. As far as fueling goes, the 7 High Five Isogels which I carried in the little bottles of my fuel belt were enough and I didn't need to stop once for water on the whole course. In fact, I didn't even feel like drinking anything until well after the race (and that was a beer). I did make use of all the sponge stations, though, and, in one case, I poured a whole bottle of water over my head to the surprise of the person who handed it to me.

Finally, looking at my splits, I noticed that I ran the second half of the Marathon faster than the first half and, not only that, but those last 7 kilometres were the fastest of the whole race. Room for improvement for next year maybe?

My apparently random progression in Marathon times (excluding Ironman Brazil Marathon)
* Thanks to Pablo for pointing out that I did in fact write the wrong time (2:57)!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Seville - here I come!

For some reason I seem to always do something slightly unwise and risky just before a Marathon - this time is no exception as I decided to try out my new Vibram Spyridons without wearing any socks. I'm not sure why I am so set on trying to run without socks, perhaps it's because I generally have little time for anything I consider to be superfluous. Only that the socks wouldn't have been superfluous - after the run I had a few "hot spots" on the sides and tops of my feet and a tiny patch of raw skin. Luckily, nothing to worry about! Other than not being able to run in them sockless, so far I am liking them a lot and I feel much more confident running on stony trails with them (I'm unlikely to trip over in these).

My training has gone exactly to plan and I have hit all the pace targets I set myself, based on a Marathon pace of 4 minutes per kilometre, which would be a sub 2:50 time. That doesn't of course mean I will necessarily manage to run a sub 2 hour 50 Marathon but I certainly believe that I can do it. I believe that I have addressed what I think was my limiting factor in the last Marathon I ran (apart from the non-ideal preparation due to interruption by the Sandy Super Storm) namely "training the last kilometres of a Marathon". I've also done very well in managing my weight since Christmas and I am a fairly skinny 82 kilos at the moment! That will change over the next few days in which I plan to eat pasta and a few energy rich snacks. Even the weather looks as though it will be on my side with the forecast a sunny day with lower temperatures on the Sunday than the rest of the week (a maximum of 14 degrees, apparently, when last year I remember seeing temperatures of 18 degrees).

The good thing about having broken the 3 hour barrier is that I now feel that I haven't got anything to lose. I'm going to risk ending up running a crap Marathon by pushing the envelope just a little bit further to see if I can knock off 5 minutes from my time last year. If everything goes to plan then it is perfectly doable; if I have neglected one of the many "limiters" then at least I will find out what it is and be able to work on it for next time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Marathoner's New Shoes

My current line-up: Vibram Spyridon LS, Vibram SeeYa, Vivobarefoot Ultra
After tripping over twice in the last month with my up-to-now trusty Soft Star Run Amocs, I found that I had lost confidence in them. I feel a bit sad about it because Soft Star has the best costumer service of any company that I have experienced recently, especially one that is prepared to deal with overseas customers and I have been using their shoes for almost a year and a half (getting through quite a few pairs). I felt that they were wearing down too quickly and tried out a slightly wider sole but perhaps that has made my already oversized feet that much more clumsy.

I bought my first Vibram Five Fingers in April 2009 after attending a POSE Method running class in Denmark which convinced me of the benefits of running with minimalist footwear. Certainly it made the pain in my knees go away but I tried to make the transition while training for a Marathon and ended up seriously injuring myself, ultimately getting a stress fracture in my foot the summer of that year. In spite of the fact that my wife would probably have killed me if I had repeated the same mistake, over the next two years I found myself buying ever more minimalist shoes every time a pair wore out until I found the balance that was right for me: training with Soft Star Run Amocs and competing (even in Marathons) in the Vivobarefoot Ultras.

So I have finally come full circle. I started to use the Vibram SeeYas for speed training in competitions towards the end of last year and last night I bought myself some Vibram Spyridons for trail running so that I'll now be using Vibram Five Fingers for practically all my running. I'll still use the Vivobarefoot Ultras but probably only for triathlons where I don't want to lose time trying to fit each toe in a separate toe pocket!

Once I have had some quality time with my Spyridons I'll post a review...

Monday, February 18, 2013

Seville Marathon Week 7/8

This was the first week of a two week taper. In terms of quality workouts, I ran an hour at Marathon pace (4:00 min/km or 15 kph) with an easy kilometre in the middle and I did the same "ladder" that I did last week except that, instead of running it so fast, I increased the incline on my treadmill (mainly because my treadmill only goes up to 18 kph). I used this chart over at hillrunner to work out what incline would make one speed equivalent to another. On my treadmill which runs a little slower than it says on the tin

17 kph = 17.5 kph with 1% incline
18 kph = 18 kph with 2.5% incline
19 kph = 18 kph with 4.5% incline

The ladder consisted of running 2 lots of 1 minute - 2 - 3 - 2  - 1 - 2 - 3 at the equivalent to 19 kph - 18 - 17 - 18 - 19 - 18 - 17. I thought that it was probably more beneficial at this point in my cycle to train strength by running hills than to train pure speed and I certainly noticed the difference the next day as my legs were stiff, something that only tends to happen after a race. Just as running 3 minutes at 17 kph felt easy the week before after a shorter effort at a higher speed, the effect of reducing the incline made it feel like I was running effortlessly down hill. (By the way, I have been very bad about strength training: I had planned to swap my weights sessions for uphill sprints and in the end have done neither one nor the other, mainly because I stubbed my toe and it was painful to run up hills but partly out of sheer laziness...)

I was thinking the other day that there are lots of blogs like this one where people like myself pour out their discoveries on the path to self-betterment (in my case because my family and most of my friends are not interested) but I'll bet that there are no blogs which fill the niche of training combined with reviews of horror movies. As any regular reader of this blog will know, the best method I have found for putting up with the boredom and suffering of treadmill running is to be distracted by someone else's pain: namely the characters in some gorefest. This week, it was "Harpoon" - an Icelandic version of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre on a whaling boat - that helped me through the tougher workouts and another film about Zombies that was so bad I can't even remember what it was called. I realize that I will have to make a bit more of an effort if I want to attract horror movie fans to this blog.

The long run this week was not so long, "only" a Half Marathon run at an easy pace but over a reasonably hilly course. The rest of my outings were with work colleagues at lunchtime and were all the more enjoyable for the company - just what is needed after months of fairly hard slog.

This week there is only one quality workout - half an hour at a Marathon over-pace of about 15.5 kph (3:50 min/km) with a 3 km warm up and a 3 km cool down either side. Other than that I will probably do 3 easy runs of 40, 30 and 20 minutes - the shortest of which I will do the morning of the day before to keep sharp. Now to charge up my batteries and psyche myself up mentally: this time I am going to set off with the intention of beating my time from last year of 2:54 and hold on to the best of my ability!

Monday, February 11, 2013


I often go running at lunchtime around this large, fairly nondescript empty land that you can see below

It might surprise you to know that there are plans afoot (still to be approved but that is looking like a formality now) to build this where "A" marks the spot

You probably think I am joking but here is proof that I am not winding you up. This is Eurovegas, Europe's answer to the naffest place on Earth, where laws will be tastefully flaunted such as being allowed to smoke or erecting Spain's tallest skyscrapers on land classified for agricultural use. The area is perhaps appropriately called "Venta de la Rubia" or "Sale of the Blond". But of course, I am missing the point. This development will create tens of thousands of new jobs even if they are of limited use to the economy at large.

Tri before you buy

I rather foolishly dropped 200 euros on the entry fee for the Barcelona Maresme Half Challenge based on nothing more than the fact a lot of my friends were doing it and that in previous years the bike course had been pancake flat:

But, just as happened with the last minute change to the bike course in the ICAN Marbella Half Ironman I signed up to do last year, the course for Maresma has been modified to include several important puertos (bastard hills):

The Challenge organizers at least had the sense not to publish the route until it was officially approved, so I have no-one to blame but myself and, as a result, will probably only get half my money back (if I am lucky).

Are there not enough races with hills in Spain already? I still don't understand why there is so little interest in Time Trials and flat, non-drafting Triathlons (or Duathlons, for that matter). One thing that clearly makes this difficult is bureaucracy: in the case of Time Trials, the governing body only organizes them at elite level and, in the case of Triathlons, it seems as though they are at the mercy of those who govern the use of the roads and motorways.

Looks like I'll be doing Lisbon after all...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Seville Marathon Week 6/8

When I drew up my training plan I decided that week 6 would be my "peak week" without realising that I would be in London for the whole of that week. It is always slightly harder to fit in training when you don't have the convenience of a gym membership or a treadmill at home not to mention the extra time lost in travel (especially in London...).

Specifically, I had decided to repeat my aerobic test of 7 km at a pulse rate of 172 bpm (my Half Marathon intensity) but, of course, it would have been much more useful to have done it on the same running track I did it the first time. Instead, I found a 400m track near where I was staying, in Battersea Park that only cost 3 pounds 90 to use. My 18 month old nephew made sure that I got up nice and early every day, so it wasn't difficult squeeze in the session before work (actually, a conference). I was expecting to do a faster time given that London is at sea level compared to the 650m altitude of Madrid but it wasn't to be: I ran the 7km in 26:38 versus 26:14 the previous time. I was actually a bit surprised to see the final time because on a 400m track a pace of 3:45 per kilometre translates into exactly 1 and a half minutes per circuit. Of course, the objective was not to run at a specific pace but a particular heart rate but I wasn't aware of slowing down. In any case, I think I was probably still a little tired from the 35km run a day and a half before.

My conference was in Canary Wharf which took me just under an hour door-to-door from Stockwell. About the only good thing about public transport in London is that it is generally possible to run the same distance even more quickly thereby saving even more than the time you would otherwise be wasting jammed in a sweaty train carriage. In fact, I took a slightly longer and more interesting route back although the wind and the rain made the idea of the sweaty train carriage seem more attractive than usual.

Finally, on my last evening in London, I treated myself to a day pass at the Reebok Sports Club in Canary Wharf (which, at 20 pounds wasn't too bad considering the astronomical monthly fees and the exquisite facilities). The workout was two "ladders" of 1-2-3-2-1-2-3 minutes at 19-18-17-18-19-18-17 kph with an active recovery of 1 to 1 and a half minutes. I probably should have done more of a warmup as it had been three weeks since I had run at those kind of speeds. Perhaps as a result, my left hamstring "twinged" towards the end of the first set and I had to evaluate whether it was worth taking the risk of finishing the workout. I decided to press on but I suppose due to running a bit more conservatively I bent my right big toe painfully (still sore from tripping over weeks ago) by running too close to the back edge of the belt.

Back home I did my Marathon pace run of 50 minutes at 4:00 per km (15 kph) on Saturday evening while watching a film with the family. We had to have the volume so loud to drown out the noise of the treadmill and the cooling fans that the kids got a bit scared by what would have otherwise been a fairly innocuous film.

By Sunday I was quite tired from two previous days of fairly hard training and, in particular, less than a day's recovery since my last workout. I was a little nervous to face what was the toughest long run of my entire training plan: 32 kms including a section of 24 kms at 10-20 seconds per kilometre slower than Marathon pace (4:10). The idea was to feel very tired by the end so I told myself not to worry about whether I was making the pace but rather to hit the right effort. The route I choose was reasonably hilly (it's practically impossible to find any route of that length that is not where I live, unless you are content to go round in circles). It was very tough but not as tough as one of the long runs I did this time last year, in preparation for the same Marathon. Still, I think that it did the job of simulating the last kilometres of a Marathon, just the last kilometres of one of my better Marathons, not one of my worst. My average pace was 4:13 for the 24 km section and it was relatively "easy" to maintain a pace of 4:10 or less on the flat sections: with hills you never recoup on the downhills all that you lose on the uphills, so I think that the average pace was on target. Overall, my average pace for the 32 km run was 4:20. I'm pleased to be able to say that there are no more long runs of anything like that length or intensity before the Marathon itself in two weeks from now.

With that, it's time to start my two week taper. I've still got one more speed session like the "ladders" I did this week but, other than that, it's all easy or Marathon pace. I think my training has gone pretty well all things considered and I hope that I have addressed the gaps in my plan for New York Marathon - specifically, doing all my long runs on fresh legs - only time will tell...

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Seville Marathon Week 5/8

After my unfortunate trip and subsequent visit to the hospital, the anti-inflammatories (and ice) seemed to do the trick and I was back running again without (much) pain. Other than my usual easy runs, I did a 40 minute Marathon pace run (at 4:00 per kilometer or 15 kph) on the treadmill – this time watching Wrong Turn 3 – which felt very un-taxing.

To make things a little more complicated, I had a work offsite on Saturday morning and, in an effort not to spend too much time away from the family (especially as I was going to be in London for the whole of the following week), I got up early and ran an hour on the treadmill at an easy pace while watching Wrong Turn 4. In the end, I was quite tired after my offsite and had a two-hour siesta so my efforts were in vain!

For the same family reasons, I decided to move my long run to the Monday, which I was taking off as holiday. To be truthful, it was also because I much prefer to do my long runs in London as I am getting quite bored of my local routes in Madrid. So to prepare for this, the idea was to do a fairly hard workout the day before on Sunday, so that I would be running on “tired legs”. This was a 45 minute progression run – again on the treadmill – 15 minutes at Marathon pace (4:00  mins/km or 15 kph), 15 minutes at Half Marathon pace (3:45 mins/km or 16 kph) and 15 minutes at 10K  pace (3:40 mins/km or 16.5 kph). To complete my horror-fest trilogy, I watched Urban Legends (I’d already seen Wrong Turn 5).

Ideally, I would have liked to do my long run in the morning on an empty stomach, but I had an appointment followed by lunch (fish ‘n‘ chips). I did a similar kind of run to the one I did a few weeks ago only longer – 35 kms this time. After the two times I’ve tripped over recently, I’ve started to wonder whether it has something to do with my large sized running shoes (Soft Star Run Amocs). I’ve been running with this model for well over a year now but I’d recently ordered a slightly wider model to try to stave off the wear and tear. This time I decided to run with my Vibram SeeYas in what would be the longest run I had ever done in a pair of Five Fingers. Now that shouldn’t be a big deal because they are no more “minimalist” than the Vivobarefoot Ultras that I have used in various Marathons by now but, psychologically, having fractured a bone in my foot while running in them, I am slightly more wary. I wanted to see whether they would be suitable for running the Marathon in as I am starting to favour them over my Ultras.

The run felt very easy indeed. I especially enjoyed the section that passed through Richmond Park, which was just as the sun was setting. Around the 30 kilometer mark a small boy decided to race me for about 200 meters or so but I didn’t take the bait. The run felt too good – I had wanted to try to feel like I would towards the end of a Marathon but it wasn’t happening so I decided to crank up the pace. By the end I was sprinting. It was the first time I had done a run of that length and genuinely felt that I could have carried on the last 7 kilometers to make up the full Marathon distance.

I was very pleased with how it went, especially for not feeling noticeably tired afterwards. The overall pace was 4:22 per kilometer which meant that I covered the 35 kms in just over 2 and a half hours: the first 30 at a speed of 13.5 kph (my usual “easy” pace) and the last 5 each one faster than the previous, with an average of 15 kph (my Marathon pace – hopefully!).