Monday, September 28, 2015

New York City Marathon 2015 Week 6/11

One of my work colleagues asked me the other day if I was ahorrando or cutting costs. And, of course, the whole weekend with my suegros (in-laws) I was pestered about not eating enough, being too thin etc! It's only a few more weeks but I'm definitely at a good Marathon weight: at this rate I might even get an outy bellybutton. It was a challenge to resist overeating and overdrinking at the annual migas festival in Cuidad Real, where crumbs or migas of bread are cooked over camp fires in lashings of olive oil and bacon fat. Very good comfort food.

I followed almost to the letter the same training plan I did two years ago, even doing the two hard sessions back-to-back even if this time it wasn't necessary (this week in 2013 I had a last minute business trip to London which scuppered my plans somewhat). As a result, by Thursday I was already feeling as physically tired as I usually feel at the weekend and the route I choose that day was a particularly hilly one (240 metres of climbing in an hour) as well as it being reasonably hot. It never fails to surprise me how it is possible to feel less tired after doing more exercise, but this was the case on Friday, and just as well because I had a tough weekend lined up.

The main event event was to do what I call a "split Marathon": an hour run late in the evening followed by a 30 km long run early in the morning - with dinner, a night's sleep and breakfast in between. The best thing about it was that I avoided the heat of the day - and in Ciudad Real it is hotter than Madrid at this time of year. The only problem was that it was very dark when I set out and there were a number of merry drivers returning from the migas festival along the same country lanes I was running along. Still, I found it very exhilarating running at night - there was a pleasant breeze and the moon lit up the way (just as well it was a full moon and not during the eclipse of the moon the following night!). I tend to expend a fair amount of mental energy in looking out for stones in the path, as they can be quite annoying to step on in minimalist footwear but, as it was very difficult to make anything out clearly, I just relaxed and ran like a Jedi. In particular, I remember running through a tunnel in which I literally could not see anything and just "using the force": it felt like the best of running on a treadmill and running outdoors. I ran it fairly quickly because it seemed easy, but I couldn't help wondering how well I would recover before part II.

I got up so early that my father in law - who is a very early riser - assumed that I'd slept in and was surprised to see me when I got back after the run all sweaty. I'd dreamed that night that I had already completed the run, so it was a bit disappointing to wake up with it still ahead of me. I had my usual breakfast plus a Clif Bar to be sure that I wouldn't run out of energy on the run. The jury is still out as far as I am concerned regarding running on empty or depleting glycogen stores. For the sake of my family (both immediate and political) I thought it was more prudent not to experiment this weekend, as being low on energy tends to put me in a very bad mood indeed. The route I had chosen was a surprisingly flat one - only 105 metres of altitude gain in 30 km! In spite of it still being dark, I set off with my sunglasses on my head at the ready. After about ten minutes I started to get those funny signs in my eyes - or scintillating scotoma - which I can only describe as being similar to staring at the sun. I think it is due to a lack of oxygenation which I put down to a combination of low bloodd pressure and not being warmed up. I've definitely noticed that one of the side effects of getting fitter is that I almost faint when I stand up too quickly. So you can imagine what it would be like if you could somehow stare at the sun and then run at night time. I had to stop for a minute with my head between my legs because I couldn't even see the path. But after that little pit stop I was fine and it felt very easy, too easy in fact. I started to doubt the reliability of my GPS watch - it has been known to draw a squiggly line and overstate my speed - but the little map it was sketching out looked pretty straight. In any case, I had plotted a 30 km course beforehand so it didn't really matter what the GPS had to say about it, what counted was just how long it took to complete, assuming I didn't get lost

The route was very similar to one I had done with a friend of my father-in-law on a mountain bike (not much more slowly than I was running it). About half way was a large reservoir with a damn where a few people were trying their luck at fishing. On the way back the sunglasses came in handy and I started to see the odd group of runners or cyclists coming in the opposite direction. The final 5 kilometres took me through the town and gave me the moral boost I needed as I was starting to feel a little tired by then. Even so, my heart rate was nice and low - an average of 151 bpm and never getting above 160 - and I felt that I could have carried on if I had to. I realized that, at this pace, I would have completed a Marathon in less than 3 hours - especially if I had rested the night before and taken some gels along. I ran it faster than the 30 km in London two weeks ago, which was supposed to be more intense with 22 km at Marathon pace + 20'. For reference, the equivalent long run from 2 years ago - admittedly with more hills (235 m versus 105 m) - I ran at a pace of 4:27 compared to 4:11 this time around. It's just a shame I wasn't wearing a heart rate monitor at the time to make a more detailed comparison.

Something else that was surprisingly easy and made me think that it must be broken, was using my PowerBreathe inspiratory trainer. I've been improving bit by bit and getting up to 5/10 lately, but I found myself able to use it on settings up to 7/10 on Saturday evening. Maybe I have mastered the technique or maybe it is broken after all.

That makes 3 weeks now of training that I am happy with. I am starting to get quietly confident about New York... This week I have another important test - a Half Marathon in Alcázar de San Juan (Ciudad Real province).

Monday: 3 x 8 x 70% weights + core
Tuesday: 4 x 2 km @ 3:25
Wednesday: 3 x 15' @ 3:45 w/ 3' active recovery
Thursday: 60' @ 4:18
Friday: 40' @ 4:00
Saturday (evening): 60' @ 4:09
Sunday (morning): 30 km @ 4:11

Total kilometres: 88

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