Monday, August 26, 2013

New York City Marathon Week 1 / 11

Monday: -
Tuesday: 30' @ 4:00 min/km
Wednesday: 8 x 1K @ 3:25
Thursday: 60' easy
Friday: 60' easy
Saturday: 40' @ 4:00
Sunday: 80' @ 4:30
Total: 70 km

It's nice to have an objective once more and to again be ticking off the training sessions as I do them. This first week has been just the right balance of challenging versus daunting. It doesn't look like much compared to what I was doing just before I went on holiday but that was some time ago already. In fact, the so-called "easy" runs were the ones that felt hardest after being used to not running more than 40 minutes at a time and considering that it is still hot in Madrid even if it has cooled down somewhat (about 33 degrees at lunchtime). I realized that I have only carried water on a run once the entire year (not counting taking gels in the Marathon) - that is definitely some sort of record.

My stomach is still not quite back to normal, neither are those of the rest of my family. It has made running a bit uncomfortable at times but has not actually interfered with my training as yet. On the other hand, I suppose it has helped shed some of the excess weight I had accumulated over the holidays...

I'm happy to be back running on my treadmill, although I think I will have to get it serviced professionally after all: it has a disconcerting tendency to stop, suddenly and without warning, after about 30 minutes of activity. Considering that most of human evolution took place before treadmills were invented, I find it surprising how instinctively I react to what feels like the carpet being pulled out from underneath my feet: before I even realize what has happened, my body has made all the apropriate adjustments to stop me from falling over. More than anything, it is just annoying and breaks up my workout.

If I do any more early morning workouts on the treadmill, such as the 40 minute Marathon Pace run on Saturday before heading off to Ciudad Real, I must remember to warm up. After about ten minutes, patterns started to appear in the center of my vision - like those I used to get preceding a migraine when I was a teenager, or those you get from staring too long at the sun - and, apart from making it rather difficult to follow the episode of  Under the Dome that I was watching, it was distracting enough to put me off running. After all, I really didn't want to end up fainting: can you imagine the "carpet burn" you'd get if you face-planted a moving treadmill? I had to stop and put my head between my legs until the blood was flowing properly. This is something that happens to me now and again but it seems to be influenced by (a) the time of day (mornings are worse), (b) being in a dark basement watching a projection and (c) the intensity of the workout (neither too easy nor too hard). A bit of digging around on the internet has thrown up the intriguingly named "Scintillating Scotoma" as a possible label for what I experienced. One article I read suggested it was an "exercise induced migraine" without the headache. The migraines I used to get were ferocious and seemed only to go away once I had thrown up. One time I got the "signs" just before an exam and was able to postpone sitting it until later that afternoon (all the while being kept in solitary confinement in case I was tempted to cheat by talking to one of my classmates who had already sat the exam). I became quite paranoid whenever I saw those signs that I would immediately stop whatever I was doing and put my head between my knees. Whether it was as a result of that or simply that I grew out of them, I had my last migraine (with headache) when I was about 17, during a rowing training camp.

The rest of the weekend was spent with my in-laws in Ciudad Real. Glad for any opportunity to do my "long run" (not really very long just yet, although it did feel long) anywhere but near home, where I am quite bored by the usual routes, I set off along the Ruta de Don Quijote, leaving the house relatively early (9 am) to avoid the heat. The Ruta de Don Quijote seems to be a bit like the Camino de Santiago in that it is less of a specific route than a bunch of different paths you can take: for example, it is almost impossible to go anywhere near our place in Asturias that does not claim to be on the Camino de Santiago. Some of the paths are quite stoney - in fact, I'm fairly sure that it was on one of these that an unfortunate stepping on a stone in Vibram Five Fingers initiated what eventually turned out to be a metatarsal stress freacture - enough for me to decide to retire my VFF Spyridons, in which a hole in the sole has appeared.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Back to work in more ways than one

I've been extremely lazy lately and haven't even been updating this blog. But I think a holiday in the 21st century has to include not only a break from telephones and emails but also a complete unplugging from the internet.

The rest of my holidays in Asturias was very enjoyable. I finally caved in and bought a longer (and garishly red) seatpost for my bike:

I now have my seat about 2 cm higher than before - what a difference!
which made an enormous difference, especially on the hills. I found I could climb the usual hill to the house in 3rd gear instead of 1st gear, and with a higher cadence. Bolstered by this new source of power, I decided to cycle to Gijón the next day, assuming that the route would be no more difficult than following the N-632 in the other direction to Llanes (along which it's actually possible to go from Pis to Poo)

From Pis to Poo
I was wrong.

It also turned out to be a very rainy day, or rather one of those typical Asturian days which exibit a selection of all the types of weather you are likely to experience in one day. My idea had been to cycle back after a lunch with the family but I was too tired and fed up (and I had used up most of my wife's patience too) so I put the bike in the back of the car instead. I later discovered that there was another route which practically avoided that second puerto (mountain pass) at the cost of only a few kilometres more. I often find that the actual difficulty of a route has little to do with how it looks on paper but, suffice to say, next time I will try this one.

The second part of the holiday was another trip to Morroco, this time to Marrakesh and Essouira - a place I hadn't been to in 23 years and one which had obviously changed quite a lot in that time.

Marrakech was bastard-hot, reaching 49 degrees in some parts, but the mornings were fairly cool and, surprisingly, not so full of people bumbling about as I expected (and at least it was a dry heat!). Essouira benefitted from being by the sea, so it was much much cooler, but it was also extremely windy: running back along its infinitely long beach I struggled to even simply move forward. The other problem was that it was high tourist season - not only foreigners but in fact mainly nationals - this meant that there was a shortage of water which no doubt contributed to the chances of diarrhea, something from which almost all of us suffered at some point or other. I took this week very easy and only ran every other day: the important thing was to be fresh both mentally and physically to start...

My training plan for New York City Marathon

So it's time to start training "properly" again and that means I need a plan. I thought I would do something along the same lines as my plan for Seville Marathon although I cannot ignore the fact that I had prepared another Marathon only a few months before that one and so I had a more appropriate base on which to build. This time I hope that some of my speed from the shorter races before the summer carries over, as well as a general freshness (which, I have to say, I don't feel particularly today, on my first day back to work and with a dodgy tummy). The tweaks I have made are to add a few extra ingredients into the mix as well as to converge more on the idea of inverse periodization.

- Hill sprints. My intention has been to incorporate these into my training plan for Seville but I ended up skipping them for one reason or another.
- Plyometrics. I believe that these jumping / bounding exercises are very effective both for development of speed as well as helping prevent injury (provided they are done properly, which is far from trivial).
- Achilles. My left Achilles tendon has been nagging me for the last few months, in spite of a significant reduction in volume (but perhaps aggravated by an increase in speed work). I had hoped that the holidays would give me a chance for it to clear up completely but I still notice it slightly sore after running (if I pinch it hard). My idea is to start doing eccentric heel lowering exercises.
- Core. Here I refer not to doing abdominal crunches which supposedly help you develop an impressive "six pack" (supposing you can eliminate that subcutaneous fat) but rather to "plank" type isometric exercises which help develop stability in the core muscles.
- Powerbreathe. I started religiously doing breathing exercises every day and did indeed notice an impressive improvement in my ability to do those exercises but little else. It's not to say that it has no effect on anything else ansdd, as it is fairly time effecient, I thought I would give this another go.

In fact, all of these "extras" are relatively time effecient but need a bit of discpline to make sure that they don't just get put off indefinitely. Just as it is often your friends who live closest who you see less often because you can "always" see them, I find that the easiest exercises often get put off until late in the evening becaue you can "always" do them watching TV etc, by which time you can't be bothered to do them any more.

As before, rather than working back from the Marathon itself, I started from the peak week (9) with the training load I would like to be challening but acheivable. The rest of the plan is really just building up to this moment. I've also included a 10K "tune up" race (Mapoma "Corre por Madrid" on the 22nd of September) as well as a Half Marathon (Alcázar de San Juan on the 6th of October) which I will run at race pace (that's to say, not at Marathon Pace as I have done in the past). I've also added a few 7K "aerobic tests" which have been a useful benchmark to gauge my fitness (20 laps of the 350m track at work at a heart rate of 172 bpm): based on these I may have to revise up or down my training paces.

Lastly, I'm going to try a little experiment based on Matt Fitzgerald's latest book "The New Rules of Marathon and Half Marathon Nutrition" namely a "Fat loading" stage prior to the classic "Carbohydrate loading" (which, seen another way is a kind of carbohydrate depletion) as well as a "Caffeine fast" which, according to the author, will make caffeine that much more effective during the race. I'm also going to cut my alchohol consumption down to virtually zero, more than anything else, to keep my weight down (which has inevitably crept up over the last few weeks).

This first week of training is just to ease back into following a plan. Next week is when it all starts good and proper.

Monday, August 5, 2013

We're all going on a summer holiday...

At last, I'm on holiday and, and such, I'm going to keep this post short because one of the things I enjoy about being in Asturias is being away from computers. I also enjoy being away from the searing heat of Madrid although next week, we are going once more to Morocco, so I'll have to make the most of it while it lasts.

The week before we left for Asturias, I continued my experiment of short, sharp training: rarely slower than 15 kph (4:00 per km) and rarely longer than 40 minutes. I managed to build my intervals up to 4 lots of 2 kilometres at 17.5 kph (3:25 per km) which I was quite proud of, considering that I had started with 8 lots of one kilometre just a few weeks ago. Despite my constant paranoia that the treadmill is getting slower rather than me getting faster, it certainly sets a new high water mark in my training.

Monday: -
Tuesday: 4 x 2,000m @ 3:25
Wednesday: 40' @ 4:00
Thursday: 2 x 20' @ 4:00
Friday: 20' @ 4:00, plyometrics, 20' @ 4:00
Saturday: - (Asturias)
Sunday: 60' run with hills, 30 km MTB with hills

Perhaps as a result of my intense training lately, I've noticed my left Achilles tendon a bit tender after running, particularly if I pinch it hard. The last thing I want to do is start my specific training for the New York City Marathon with a latent injury so I've decided to back off a bit on the running and make use of my mountain bike while I can (in Morocco I'll have little option but to run).

The first couple of days with the bike didn't start off too well as I made the same mistake both days of leaving the bike out in the sun with the tyres pumped up to the max: the heat was enough to burst the inner tube thanks to - is it Boyle's law? But it was thanks to Sod's law that my bike pump on both days broke, the second time after investing in one of the best pumps money could buy (in the local bike shop). Unfortunately, this made me so mad that I snapped the damn thing in two; had I not done this it's quite possible I would have been given a refund. Instead, I bought another pump, this time even more expensive and robust (looking).

Another gripe with the bike I have in Asturias is that the seat post is infuriatingly just short of the ideal length, so that my legs get uncharacteristically tired, especially when climbing sitting down (during one of these such stretches, I was passed by a car coming in the opposite direction and received an ovation from the driver - ironic or congratulatory, of which I am not sure). I asked in the shop whether they had any longer seat posts to which they made a suggestion that perhaps the frame was a bit on the small side. "Erm, considering you sold me the bike in the first place, what solution can you recommend, other than buying a completely new bike?".

On Tuesday I tried to repeat my feat from the previous week of 4 lots of 2 km at 17.5 kph at the local gym in Villaviciosa. After having to wait a fair while for a suitable treadmill to become free (one was out of order and another was restricted to walking pace only), I started to pound away at the machine, making an impressive racket that I could hear even above the drum 'n' bass music I was listening to. Perhaps because I was tired from the hills from the previous days, perhaps because I started to overheat or perhaps simply because I was on holiday and therefore less in the mood to "macharcarme" as they say in Spanish, I had to break the third and forth set into two pieces.

Normally, that workout would have easily covered the work quota for the day but later on an emergency meant that I had to run for an important cause: my lunch. We went to a beach which had an access via a long gravel path of about a kilometre, where there was no shade and only a small chiringuito which served food and drinks but, crucially, did not accept a credit card. Having only 15 euros between us to feed the whole family, I realised that I would have to run to the nearest cashpoint, some 6 (hilly) kilometres away in the merciless glare of the midday sun. Still, with it being a matter of eating or going hungry, I had enough motivation - so much, in fact, that I was unaware of the huge blister forming on my "bunion" from running without socks.

The rest of the week included a longish cycle ride that culminated in me running out of gas during the torturously long ascent up to the house - obliging me to down a couple of (non-diet) cokes in a bar half-way up - and a 40 minute run (with hills). By Saturday, I was getting tired of hills - one of the problems of "living high" is that what goes down, must go up and I generally prefer to have my cake and then eat it, rather than eating it first and then having to earn it. So I decided to "cheat" and started my run from the bottom of the hill along a fairly flat stretch by Asturian standards. Later that day we went to Ribadesella to watch the tail end of the "international descent of the Sella river" - the famous canoe race which attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators to the event. One year I want to take part, even if canoeing has little in common with rowing, the sport I was fairly good at in my youth.

Monday: 35 km MTB with hills
Tuesday: 2 x 2,000m + 1 x 500m + 1 x 1,500m + 2 x 1,000m @ 17.5; 12km run with hills
Wednesday: 55 km MTB with hills
Thursday: -
Friday: 40' run with hills
Saturday: 60' brisk easy run
Sunday: 30 km MTB with hills