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.

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