Friday, February 26, 2016

Madrid Marathon Week 9/18

Last week was a bit of an odd one, as I had planned to go on holiday - somewhat reluctantly, as I don't enjoy skiing much - with my family. But, as the little one was ill, they only went on Wednesday and I decided to stay at home (in case you are wondering, my wife did have help). As I had cleared my agenda of all meetings, work felt a bit like a holiday-not-holiday, and I enjoyed working on things that required a lack of interruptions with a more relaxed and calmer attitude than usual.

As you can see from the splits, it was much easier to nail the 400m intervals than the 1,600m intervals the week before. I always warm up and cool down about 2 kilometres before and after doing intervals (when I say "always", I mean since starting this plan) - if you have bothered to tot up my kilometre totals, this might explain the anomalies - but I hadn't realized that the Hanson's had intended me to do the same for the tempo runs. This changes things as a 13 km tempo run becomes a 17 km run with 13 km run at Marathon Pace. When I get to the 16 km tempo run, this becomes a 20 km run, which is getting on for being a long run - so the warm up / cool down is more than just a recommendation.

I have to say that I struggled a lot during my long run on Sunday. It may be due to walking around for hours the day before (in search of a birthday present for my wife) but, in any case, the idea of the long run is to simulate the closing miles of the Marathon, not the first few. I have to admit that I stopped 3 times during the run for about 5 minutes each time. I don't know if it was just mental or if I wasn't feeling tip top - but, one thing is for sure, I felt pretty shattered the rest of the day and my resting heart rate during the night was 44 bpm, about 5-6 beats higher than normal. My VO2Max (as estimated by my Garmin watch) took a dive from the 64 it has been showing consistently, to 62, a sure indication that something was up. I tend to blame those "annoying hills" because I think I am usual OK running at a steady pace on the flat - but I can't ignore them as they are an integral part of the Madrid Marathon course and, crucially, rear their ugly head in the critical closing stages of the race. Psychologically I find it tougher to start the long run at a reasonably challenging pace right from the get-go, as opposed to running some easy kilometres first.

Monday: 10 km @ 4:33 (track)
Tuesday: (speed) 6 x 800m w/ 400m recovery @ 3:16, 3:22, 3:26, 3:24, 3:25, 3:26
Wednesday(tempo) 13 km @ 3:52
Friday: 11.3 km @ 4:18
Saturday: 13 km @ 4:16
Sunday: 24.5 km @ 4:15 (with a few short breaks...)
Total kilometres: 88

VO2 Max (Garmin): 62 ml/kg/min
Resting pulse (average): 43 ppm
Fat (average): 6.8%

Friday, February 19, 2016

Madrid Marathon Week 8/18

I'm running so late with my update this week that I'm almost into next week. Better late than never, I suppose.

This week the intervals on the track reached their pinnacle in terms of length of each interval (1 mile). I found it quite challenging to run 3 of these at a faster pace than 3:30 per kilometer - I must be getting old. Still, it was more or less what could be expected based on my recent performances over shorter distances.

The following day I went to London for a conference that I have been speaking at for the last few years. As I was staying with my brother and had "uncle duties" including babysitting my 5 year old nephew on the Thursday evening, I had to jiggle my training schedule around a little, and ended up with two hard(ish) workouts back-to-back. For my "tempo run" (which, in the Hanson's Method is really a Marathon Pace run, i.e., somewhat slower than most people's idea of a tempo run) I ran round and round Regent's Park. I had to fork out 15 pounds to be able to use the showers at a nearby gym but they were very nice and let me check that my suitcase would fit in the locker before parting with my cash. I'd forgotten that there is surprisingly little street lighting around Regent's Park - I think the park itself was closed (although I didn't bother to check) - but I always run on the pavement around the outside, which is roughly a 5 kilometre loop. As it was so dark, it was pretty hair raising having to avoid people with dogs or even running towards me. Some of the more savvy runners (not me) at least ran with hi-vis clothing or even lights. Stepping out into the road at the last minute was not an option because, while cars tend not to hug the curb and make a fair amount of noise, there were the usual cyclists zooming round and getting in their way would not have been fun.

One good thing about London public transport is that it is so slow to get anywhere, that you can almost always run their faster and thereby kill two birds with one stone. So, on Friday, I ran back from the conference in Canary Wharf to my brother's house 12 kilometres away in Forest Hill. As he works in Canary Wharf, I was able to hand him off my work clothes in a plastic bag and then try to beat him home: had I not had to wait for ages to get a GPS signal among all the skyscrapers and not got lost as a result of the map on my watch getting stuck, I would almost certainly have managed.

I'd arranged to stay the weekend - partly because it was my brother's birthday - but due to a bit of a misunderstanding, he'd booked a trip to Cornwall so I was left to my own devices. I went for my run in the morning and then headed up to North London (via one of my favourite restaurants - Ceviche) to stay with another friend and catch some good music. On the Sunday I went for another 16 kilomtere run from Hackney along the Regent's Canal and in to the City and back. It was actually a sunny day by London's standards.

My resting heart rate has spiked a bit this week - maybe I have been fighting off the virus my youngest son has been suffering from. As I mentioned last week, I possibly overdid things the previous Sunday. Also, if I forget to charge my Vivosmart HR and as a result don't wear it during the night, it doesn't pick up my "true" resting heart rate, which is normally achieved around 4 am and is usually quite consistent. My % fat is now back to where it was at the beginning of the year. At this rate (even if it is slower to shed than to put on), I'll easily get down to whippet like levels before the Madrid Marathon on the 24th April. I'm also finding my VO2Max as estimated by my Garmin Fenix 2 to be quite a steady and reliable measurement - maybe I'm just saying that because it is trending upwards. The watch itself is cute but is a step backwards in some ways from my trusty Garmin 310 XT - which I still use in parallel when I am running on the track: it is harder to read and paradoxically, considering it is aimed at the orienteering crowd, I find its navigation features to be worse (less accurate GPS, no warning when running off track, no ability to set automatic laps based on position). However, the very much improved Heart Rate Monitor and the HRV (Heart Rate Variability) associated metrics like recovery time as well as the VO2Max make it worth switching in my opinion. Also, when I am travelling or on holiday, the ability to be able to upload workouts or download routes via Bluetooth is fantastic, even if it is a bit fiddly to get it to talk to my phone. One thing I have learned is to add the GPS accuracy field to the default screen - it rather optimistically claims to have a satellite fix when the error can be in the range of 40m. If you keep still until this drops to around 10m, it usually behaves well after that; if I ever see a surprisingly fast split, I check that the GPS accuracy is good before believing it.

Lastly, I finally got my new plywood board installed in my treadmill but we were unable to adjust the belt so that it didn't veer off to one side. There is a little bold you can adjust with an Allen key, which inclines the rollers one way or another. We got to the point where a movement of one millimeter of the Allen key in either direction would send the belt off one way or t'other. The treadmill is still under guarantee so hopefully someone will be able to fix it for free.

Monday: 10 km @ 4:28 (track)
Tuesday: (speed) 3 x 1,600m w/ 400m recovery @ 3:28, 3:34, 3:32
Wednesday(tempo) 11.3 km @ 3:49 (Regent's Park)
Friday: 12.2 km @ 4:26
Saturday: 16 km @ 4:16
Sunday: 16 km @ 4:18
Total kilometres: 78

VO2 Max (Garmin): 64 ml/kg/min
Resting pulse (average): 43 ppm
Fat (average): 7.0%

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Madrid Marathon Week 7/18

As I arrived to the gym the other day, there was an announcement over the Tannoy welcoming me to the changing rooms! Actually, the announcement in Spanish was "Bienvenido, a los vestuarios" and the comma was key: Bienvenido ("Welcome") is the name of one of the cleaners, believe it or not. And don't imagine the son of a pop star with a penchant for quirky names: Bienvenido is one of the classic Spanish names, like Modesto, Justo, Dolores ("Pains")...

As usual, I ran all my easy runs much faster than I should have and, although it seemed to have no negative bearing on Tuesday's speed session, which went pretty much to plan even if it was a bit of a struggle to keep the pace up for the longest interval of one mile.

I think I paid the price instead on Sunday. I was careful to fuel up the night before, so the run itself went well, but it was a toughie (rather like the Madrid Marathon course) in that it was downhill until halfway and then all uphill, with a total climb of 284 metres. My watch seemed to agree - it told me that I had "overtrained" and that I should wait at least 72 hours before my next hard run (planned just 48 hours later). I may have eaten well beforehand, but I neglected to eat well after, eating only a small bowl of fabada (Asturian bean soup) and a couple of slices of toast with olive oil all day. Perhaps as a result, I felt quite listless and even slightly down, to the point that I pulled out of the tango class that I have been going to with my wife (initially slightly reluctantly, but then with growing enthusiasm).

Interestingly (at least I find it so), this was reflected quite clearly in my resting heart rate which has been quite consistently around 38 bpm for the last few weeks. On Sunday night it was 45, which was about the highest it got after a month or so of detraining following the New York Marathon. Otherwise my VO2Max continues to climb steadily (touching 64 only to come back down a notch after Sunday's strain) and my % fat is starting to plummet again.

I'm off to London tomorrow and then a week of skiing next week. Long time readers of the blog will know that skiing and I don't really mix and generally try to avoid each other whenever possible, but I didn't want to go for too long without seeing the family. I think I will try my hand at Nordic skiing and hopefully manage to keep up my running training in the gym. I haven't run on a treadmill for a (record) number of months, so it will be odd at first no doubt.

Monday: 10 km @ 4:15 (track)
Tuesday: (speed) 400 - 800 - 1,200 - 1,600 - 1,200 - 800 - 400 w/ 400m recovery @ 3:04, 3:20, 3:27, 3:34, 3:29, 3:27, 3:22
Wednesday: -
Thursday: (tempo) 11.3 km @ 3:53
Friday: 11.3 km @ 4:12
Saturday: 13 km @ 4:17
Sunday: 22.5 km @ 4:11
Total kilometres: 81

VO2 Max (Garmin): 63 ml/kg/min
Resting pulse (average): 39 ppm
Fat (average): 7.2%

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Madrid Marathon Week 6/18

I must be doing something right because, when I went to pick my wife up from the airport, the waiter who served me my beer while I was waiting asked me if I ran marathons. I asked him how he knew to ask and he said that I looked as though I did. I think he was quite keen to tell me about the ultramarathons and mountain marathons he has run, but I've got no problem with that - I understand the pride one feels for having accomplished something.

My treadmill is still kaput, so I am doing all my running in the real world, even my interval training. I think it's a blessing in disguise but it does put a lot of pressure on my lunchtimes as this is really the only time I can train until the days get a bit longer. I got the new plywood board for the treadmill and, as you can see, it has nothing to do with that MDF piece of crap that came with my (2,000 €!) treadmill as standard.

But it turns out that the board was not the only thing that was broken; somehow I had managed to break some of the springs that form the suspension - this explains why the board suddenly snapped horizontally this time, rather than gradually splitting down the middle as it usually does. I think it's a bit of a chicken and egg situation - the springs probably failed because the board was too flimsy. Whatever the case, the new board should last much longer and I've ordered a full set of (6) springs for 130 € in case any more of them fail.

This also sheared off somehow.
As far as training goes, it was a pretty good week. I did my speed work within the 3:25 - 3:30 range I had set myself but the 7 mile tempo run was a little bit too enthusiastic at a pace of 3:48 per kilometre (versus 3:55). As usual, the "easy" runs were generally on the fast side, especially on Monday, but this was on the track so I allowed for it to be faster due to the relative lack of hills. Finally, on Sunday I was able to repent for my lamentable performance the week before and pull out of the bag a solid 20K long run at a pace of 4:15, just as the Hanson's ordered.

The main difference I am finding with the Hanson's method is the fact that the paces at which I am supposed to run are set at the beginning of the training period and remain constant throughout; what varies is the volume run. This, with the exception that the speed sessions will soon morph into "strength training" which will comprise longer intervals at a slower pace (3:50 /km). The point is that, at this point in my training when I am still in the process of getting to normal form, the long runs at 4:17 /km feel long and moderately difficult, and the intervals at 3:25 feel fast and demanding. Even though I had thought I had previously been following a "reverse periodization" plan - where you train at fast paces for increasing distances, rather than increasing the pace at which you run a given distance - the Hanson's plan seems to follow that philosophy even more closely. I  have tended to get used to the longer distances before pushing the pace so it has felt a bit like the pace has come naturally, as I have got fitter; this way feels more "forced" because I am obliging myself to increase the distance but without an accompanying slow down in pace.

Normally I spend about 10-12 weeks preparing for a Marathon; this time I started 14 weeks before (remember, I jumped in to week 4 of the Hanson's 18 week plan). To compare with my build up to New York, I am at the point in time when I started my program, having spent two weeks previously running an hour a day at a comfortable pace, 6 times a week.

Monday: 10 km @ 4:16 (track)
Tuesday: (speed) 4 x 1,200m w/ 400m recovery @ 3:23, 3;30, 3:30, 3:28
Wednesday: -
Thursday: (tempo) 11.3 km @ 3:48
Friday: 10 km @ 4:23
Saturday: 10 km @ 4:22
Sunday: 20 km @ 4:15
Total kilometres: 71.9

VO2 Max (Garmin): 62 ml/kg/min
Resting pulse (average): 38 ppm
Fat (average): 7.4%