Thursday, October 29, 2015

New York City Marathon 2015 Week 11/11

Woohoo! I'm on a carbohydrate fueled high! I feel the whisky-like warmth of those carbs being burned. And I'm so happy that the shop at work has started to stock CLIF Bars which are my favourite cereal bars that have, up until now, been very difficult to find in Spain (I've already eaten two of them this morning!).
I weighed in at 76.9 kilos this morning - some 3 kilos less than I was at this point before the last NYC Marathon I ran in 2013. But I'll quickly put those 3 kilos (and some) on, as stored glycogen from the carbo loading and the water that gets stored alongside it. I'm used to feeling a bit "bloated" on the day, but I sweat it off quickly and it saves me from having to drink much along the course (only about 400 ml in isotonic gels).

On Monday evening we celebrated my youngest son's 11th birthday with cake, crisps, ceviche and sushi (surprisingly, the kids love sushi and Adrian even likes ceviche). Not the best diet for the week before a Marathon, especially on my day off from training. My uncle-in-law kept digging me in the ribs (figuratively) about how thin I was and how running Marathons couldn't be healthy - "The first person to ever run a Marathon died from it" (yawn). Even people at work have been commenting a lot on how thin I have got and my wife complains that I am all sharp bony edges. I was quite slim at the beginning of the year and I've lost about 8 kilos since then, so it's not really surprising that people make comments. Next week I am going to try to muscle up a bit, especially in my back which has been giving me problems lately (I have a stiff neck again as I write this). Talking of diets, I just discovered (late - don't know how I missed this) an extraordinary new wearable device: the Healbe GoBe.
It purports to calculate not only calories burned but also calorie intake. It does this by measuring pressure differences due to glucose being released into the bloodstream after eating. Sounds at best like science fiction or, at worst, like it will be disastrously inaccurate but the tests out in the field are very positive on its calorie counting ability. It even (semi-)automatically tracks how much water you imbibe (I'd be interested to know if it could measure sweat rates and take this into account in the calculation of how much you need to drink to keep hydrated). Then it has a lot of the more standard features of activity trackers, such as step counting, heart rate measurement, sleep quality measurement but it does claim to be able to measure your blood pressure and - perhaps more dubiously - your stress levels. The downside is that it is bulky, buggy and the battery lasts for only one day. I think I will let the early adopters finance this one until they are bought up by FitBit / Withings / Polar / Garmin and the device is a bit more polished. Even so, I am tempted by pure scientific curiosity to take the plunge. However, knowing how much "gadget-rage" I can suffer when my devices break, fail to synchronize or lose my data, I can do without that grief adding to the stress gauge. Anyway, one to watch (no pun intended)!

As usual, I am a bit nervous and excited. I'm worried about:

My weight. Will I balloon in these last few days now that I am relaxing?
Fitness. Am I running too hard during my taper?
Sleep. I am not sleeping as well because I am nervous about not sleeping well (amongst other things). Will I suffer from jet lag and not be able to manage my sleep well the nights before?
Energy. Will I still be tired on Sunday from the training and travelling?
Injury. Should I get yet another massage for my back? Will I get an even stiffer neck on the plane?
Health. Half of my colleagues are coughing and some have had 'flu. My kids are ambulatory incubators for germs. How long can I hold my breath?
Weather. Will it rain? Will it be too hot? Too windy?
Logistics. Will I miss the planes, trains and automobiles (and boats) I have to take to get to the start?

There, writing it all down helps because I can go through the worries one by one and dismiss them, either because they are easy to dismiss or because I can't do anything about them, so worrying is not going to do achieve anything other than wearing myself out mentally...

...and BREATHE...

The trick that I learned before the Ironman is to just rise up above all these worries and let them slide off me, like water off a duck's back. The worries still come into my head but I don't let myself react to them, as if I were listening to someone else recounting me their worries. I suppose this is a form of Mindfulness.

Checking back over my training log from two years ago, I saw that I did my tempo run of 3 km easy + 30 minutes at 3:45 (16 kph) + 3 km easy outside. That was the day that my treadmill broke. I must have been pretty furious about that, or maybe I managed to rise above it. This time my treadmill did not break, so I was able to do it inside. I agonized over whether I should run outside because it is undoubtedly more effective (as I will be running the Marathon outside) but, given the twinge in my left calf (excuses, excuses), I decided to run indoors while finishing off watching a film (The Harvest). To compensate, I decided I would at least do all the other runs outside, as I have been this time around.

Thinking back to when I started to prepare for this race, I was not very confident about my performance. People would ask me what time I was aiming for and I would cagily answer that it would depend on how my training went as to whether I went for a Personal Best (PB) or ran more for "fun" with a GoPro camera strapped to my head. I had had a couple of abortive attempts at racing earlier in the year, had been suffering on and off from Morton's Neuromas (Neuromae?) and had not obtained any PBs in over a year and a half. With hindsight, I think my experiment to do less but much more intense training and - crucially - almost entirely on the treadmill, was my undoing. Not the fact that I am 43 and a half years old. Especially armed now with all these fancy metrics such as stride length, cadence and vertical oscillation, it is blatantly obvious that I run quite differently on the treadmill to outside. Having said that, I think it is still an excellent surrogate workout and very highly correlated to my performance outside but if it forms the majority of the training, I think I start to run outside as if I were running on a treadmill. I definitely feel as though my running has improved significantly over the last 3 months and I believe it is down to this. I think that I have kept myself cardiovascularly fit which has meant that it has not been to much of a struggle, but my technique and muscles have had to adapt.

Looking back, I can say that the training has gone much better than I could have expected. The long runs (with a few minor exceptions) were very fast and consistent as have been the "junk miles" from a relative point of view. The interval sessions have been demanding but doable and the races - well, I was 20 seconds faster in the 10K compared to this time two years ago but 30 seconds slower in the Half Marathon. The aerobic tests I did were a little bit inconclusive but OK nonetheless. Injury-wise (touch wood), just the usual niggles that have not crystalized into anything more serious: left Achilles, left calf, lower back and neck.

As with any Marathon, anything can happen on the day, but I think I have every reason to go for a PB or at least to equal it. This is what I will call my "ambitious goal". My realistic goal would be to run sub 2:50. My minimum goal to be happy would be to get a qualifying time for next year: sub 2:58. So if I have a tough time out there but see that I can still scrape under 2:58 then I will pull out all the stops. Also, I am running this Marathon in honour and memory of my friend Nat, who suffered more than I can imagine and more than I hope I will every have to experience. So a bit of suffering out there on the course will be going to a good cause.

The advice my friend Andy gave me is probably the best: "Enjoy it!... but not too much...". This reminded me of how my coach - when I had a coach - used to say to enjoy the training runs in the weeks of the taper because, for once, you have enough energy to be able to run fast and effortlessly, as fruits of your hard work. That's exactly what I did on Wednesday night when I went for a 40 minute run after work along my usual trails. It was quite dark by the time I got to the turnaround point so I had to be careful not to step badly and twist my ankle (can you imagine?!) but exhilarating none the less. Today (Thursday) I did a shorter, 30 minute, version of the same run and set off thinking I should probably run it a little more calmly than the 4:06 pace from the night before. I ended up running it at a pace of 3:55, probably as a result of the two CLIF bars, the banana and the packet of M&Ms I had consumed beforehand!

If you are going to be out there on the course supporting (or indeed running), my bib number is 2634 and I will look something like this (but with more "normal" shoes):

I'm aiming as I say for a time of 2:47:42 ( :-) ) which, if I am on track, means that I will pass the following points along the course at approximately these times:

If you can't actually be there in New York but still are curious to see how I am doing, you can track me in the TCS NYC Marathon app on your iPhone / Android device or, indeed, on the web. I'm starting at 2:50 UK time (GMT) or 3:50 pm Spanish time (CET). Wish me luck and see you on the other side!

Monday: -
Tuesday: 3 km @ 4:27 + 30' @ 3:45 + 3 km @ 4;27
Wednesday: 40' @ 4:06
Thursday: 30' @ 3:55
Friday: -
Saturday: 20'
Sunday: THE RACE!

Total kilometres: 36 + 42.1


  1. Tiene bastante buena pinta. Mañana vemos como sale. Espero que bien. Suerte ... No, suerte no, está trabajo así podemos decir que justicia.

    1. Muchas gracias Santi! He visto que estas sustancias te está quedando chica. Hablamos! Un abrazo