Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Fun fun fun in the sun sun sun

Well - kind of :)

My heart sank when I saw the bright sunshine yesterday morning, not because I'm some kind of vampire with an aversion to sunlight but because it was the day of my 20 mile long run, and I had to do it then because I'd booked time off work specially, and I really don't like running when it's hot. But I'm telling myself that it's all good training for Edinburgh Marathon which will no doubt once again have tropical temperatures.

Got myself all togged up in all my fab gear: new Balmoral 10k t-shirt, Camelbak bottle belt (containing Nuun-enhanced water), sunglasses, dodgy HRM, sellotaped-together Garmin, MP3 player with latest episode of Marathon Talk on it for entertainment purposes, etc. My plan was to do the same 3 mile loop as last week and then head off along the Deeside Way (mainly off-road). Basically the same as last week's 18 miles but going a bit further before turning back. I am a creature of habit. (An added incentive was the prospect of seizing some Conquercise zones.) I took with me a packet of Shot Bloks and, rather warily, an out of date Lucozade gel (Best Before End Dec 2010). I can't really imagine them going off, but they taste crap enough when in date so heaven knows what horrors an out of date one might unleash.

Legs felt heavy for the first couple of miles, and although I know it usually takes me this long to get properly warmed up, I was thinking oh no, this isn't going to be good. But I did get a bit more into my stride and the first few miles were shady enough not to be too uncomfortable. Then emerged into the rockier and less shady section of the run, thankfully there was a cooling breeze.

HRM was all over the place, particularly in the first few miles, going way up high, even though I didn't feel I was exerting myself unduly. I don't think it's working properly. I kind of hope it isn't, because if my heart rate is really like that it's a bit alarming. It suddenly shot up to around 200-220 at mile 4 and stayed like that for about a mile, for no apparent reason, then went down again. It wasn't uphill and I wasn't running faster.

I got to the point where I had turned back last week and had to push myself a bit to keep on going, especially since this involved going uphill a bit before emerging on to the main road at Drumoak and running along that for a short while. Not my favourite part. Marathon Talk was evidently an extra long episode, because Tom and Martin were still talking in my ear (interviewing Louise Damen at this point). I was feeling quite tired and hot, had been taking the occasional Shot Blok and regular water, considered the gel but couldn't face the sugary gloop and was a bit concerned about it upsetting my stomach, so I gave it a miss. I maybe should have had it, though, because after turning at 11.5 miles I started to feel I was struggling a bit and "adopted a run-walk strategy" (ha!) for some of the remaining 8.5 miles, but split times were still reasonable albeit a bit slower than in the first half.

Felt completely knackered by the last mile, though, and wondered how I am ever going to manage 6 more miles in Edinburgh, especially if it's hot. I will, though.

On the positive side I managed 20.03 miles at an easy pace in 3:32:22, knee was OK, and legs actually feel fine today. Though the dreaded DOMS yet be lurking ready to pounce! Oh, and I gained 2 Conquercise zones, the Deeside Way WILL one day be mine :)

Mile splits:

11:03 10:13 10:20 10:50 10:14 10:13 10:37 10:38 9:43 10:00 11:02 10:05 10:47 10:52 10:49 10:38 11:11 10:58 10:29 11:27

Monday, 25 April 2011

Training/panicking update...

So, my Edinburgh marathon training, having got off to a good start following Dave Kuehls' programme (not that I'm aiming for 4 hours, I don't think that's realistic for me at the moment), then faltered a bit due to dodgy knee problems. I'm still not 100% confident about knee (it isn't twinge-free yet), but running doesn't seem to aggravate it unduly and physio says I'm OK to run, so I'm kind of back on track (as opposed to back on "the" track, where I haven't been for ages).

I managed an 18 mile run last week with relatively little problem, and an 8 mile tempo run at 9-minute mile pace last Tuesday, which is the fastest 8 miles I've ever done by loads, but I'm a bit anxious, for some reason, about tomorrow's planned 20 miler. It's been quite warm today - hopefully tomorrow will be cooler. I'm going to have to do it anyway as I've booked the day off work and it's the only long-run opportunity I'll have this week. Assuming I survive it, I'll hopefully do another 20 or thereabouts the following week and then start tapering...

Not feeling as well prepared as I could be, or had hoped to be, but fingers crossed by marathon time I will have done enough to get me round in a reasonable time. I know I'll be disappointed if I don't get a PB, and I think a PB is very doable given my current one, but I know some factors (the weather, mainly) will be out of my control.

Haven't even started thinking about the logistics of the whole thing yet - B&B is booked, but travelling there, travelling home, seeing people before/during/after the race, etc etc is all still in the realms of mystery at the moment.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Balmoral 10k: The good, the bad and The Hill

Mixed day out at Balmoral 10k yesterday...

Bad Things:

* Arrived late, stuck in traffic at 1.40pm when race was due to start at 2 and I knew there was a long walk from the car park (field) to the start. Hopped out of the car as soon as we turned into the car park (field) and ran to the start (along with many others, I should add), arriving a couple of minutes before 2, then immediately had to stand in the queue for the Portaloo as I was desperate. Heard the announcer starting the race while I was in the Portaloo and tagged on to the end of the luckily slow-moving crowd. I fully accept that this was all entirely avoidable and My Own Silly Fault for not setting off earlier.

* Spent the first couple of miles really struggling to settle into any kind of pace as it was SO crowded. Was weaving in and out of runners, up on the grass verge, etc. First mile was 9:41 and second 9:33 so it could have been worse, but I know I can run faster than this in a 10k.

* THE HILL. Not a Bad Thing as such as I knew it was coming. I saw two Fetch tops ahead of me near the beginning and caught up with TQ and Nywanda (who was looking very splendid in kilt, socks and face paint). I walked up most of THE HILL, but fast(ish) and managed to overtake a number of slower walkers. The few people who were running weren't doing so significantly faster than I was walking, so walking seemed the sensible option. Managed this mile in 12:38.

* Not being able to find husband and daughter for ages at the end of the race. Mobile networks not working for ages. Gah!

* The long long walk back to the car park in the rain with a tetchy four year old.

Good Things:

* Managing to pick up the pace in the last three miles (once the crowds had thinned out). Did miles 4-6 in 8:35, 8:39 and 8:37, and overtook loads of people, which was quite satisfying. I was relieved to finish under the hour in 59:21, having thought at the halfway point that I would have come in well over the hour!

* Took more than 6 minutes off my Balmoral time from last year, and confirmed that I am MUCH fitter now than I was then, as (hill excepted) it all felt much easier this time.

* Gave the skort its first public airing (see pic), and no-one laughed. Or if they did, I didn't hear them. It was v comfy to run in.

* Wore my Fetch top and was encouraged by a few shouts of "Go Fetchie!".

* Lots of support towards the end, high-5s from kids, friendly marshals.

* Saw various people at the end, sorry I was a bit distracted due to husband and daughter being AWOL! I promise I will be better organised for Dunecht in two weeks.

* Got a nice new t-shirt (see pic).

Having done this race two years in succession I'm not sure if I will do it again. It's a nice run but it's just too crowded (there were more people this year than last) and the last-minute panicked dash from the far-distant car park (field), not to mention the long walk back at the end, stressed me out. Admittedly some of this is entirely avoidable if we were only more organised, but we never are when travelling en famille.

Well done everyone :-)

Comparison of 2010 and 2011 split times:

2010: 2011:
# 9:55 9:41
# 10:17 9:33
# 13:32 12:38
# 9:27 8:35
# 9:53 8:39
# 10:26 8:37
# 2:12 1:45

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Long run, and other people's long runs

I had a busy schedule of VLM-watching and Scottish cup semi-final watching on Sunday (not that I managed to see much of either in the event, just as well in the latter case) so I did my long run - 18 miles - on Saturday. I was a bit worried about this since last week's hot and bothered 14 had been such a struggle. As it turned out, though, Saturday was a good day for it as it was much cooler, Sunday turned out to be hot, as people who were racing that day may possibly have noticed. I did a short 3 mile loop from near my house and then headed off along the Deeside Way towards Banchory, turning back towards home at the 10.5 mile point to make it up to 18. Felt a lot better than last week, tried to take it really slowly, stopping to walk for a minute or so every 2 miles and drink a little water/eat a Shot Blok. The "walk breaks" did increase a bit over the last few miles, but I managed to run most of it, certainly a lot better than last week and was happy enough with splits of

* 11:03
* 10:14
* 10:26
* 10:30
* 10:20
* 10:20
* 10:16
* 11:09
* 9:57
* 10:36
* 10:32
* 10:28
* 9:58
* 10:19
* 10:32
* 10:32
* 10:34
* 10:13

18.01 miles in 3:08:03, average pace of 10:26. Knee fine. I think it twinged twice later on in the run, but it never came to anything.

Actually really enjoyed this run, lots to see, deer, horses, loads of rabbits scampering around the place, some Jemima Puddleduck-lookalikes round a pond, oh and about a zillion cyclists, and a few other runners too.

I did manage to watch a fair bit of the women's race and again pondered the eternal question of why (some of) the elite women run marathons in their knickers. I was so impressed by the winner, Mary Keitany (wearing shorts, incidentally) who looked so comfortable the whole way round and made it look easy! Jo Pavey did really well too. An awful shame for Liz Yelling though who didn't have the race she must have hoped for at all, but well done to her for seeing it through. Unfortunately I didn't get to see much of "the masses", had been hoping to spot a few people I know but unless they were dressed as a giant nurse, camel or Puff the Magic Dragon there was no chance. I did glimpse a couple of people in Fetch shirts though.

Well done to everyone who ran :-)

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Book review: Running Through The Wall

Running Through the Wall: Personal Encounters with the Ultramarathon - Neal Jamison (ed)
(Breakaway Books, 2003)

I’ve never run an ultra – I’m not sure if I ever will. To be honest, the idea of running that far fascinates and alarms me in equal measure. 26.2 miles remains the furthest I’ve ever run, and I’ve only done that once (soon, hopefully, to be twice). I’m very intrigued however by the idea of what it’s actually like to do an ultramarathon, so this book, consisting of 39 first-person accounts of running various ultra distances, immediately appealed to me.

A huge variety of people have contributed their experiences – from the Type 1 diabetic (Tim Morgan) to the guitarist in a rock band (Michael Dimkich); from the people who win races (Ann Trason, Tim Twietmeyer) to the ones who plod along at the back, hoping only to finish within the cut-off time. Some are veterans of dozens of ultras, others have only run one, some DNF. All are included here. Ultrarunning often seems to be a family affair, with husband/wife pairings and a father/daughter combo (Ed and Lisa Demoney) sharing their experiences and many runners paying tribute to their support crews of family and friends..

I hadn’t originally heard of most of the races, which range from 50k upwards, although by the end of the book I felt quite familiar with many of them. A number of races, such as the popular Western States 100, the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 and Hardrock 100, among others, make several appearances, and Blake Wood and David Horton recount their experiences of the ridiculously impossible-sounding (and eccentric) 100-mile Barkley Marathons, an event which very few have ever completed, and if you read the description of it in the book it’s perfectly obvious why. (It also incorporates a 60 mile “Fun Run” (!) which sounds like anything but.) One event which didn’t feature, but which I would have been interested to read about, is the Badwater ultra – I guess I’ll have to go elsewhere for that.

There's also an account of a 24-hour event which Kevin Setnes describes how a run-walk strategy helped him to win, running over 160 miles and setting a US record in the process.

I was interested to learn that a number of the races described seem to follow a lap format – typically around 4-5 laps, but in one case (the Umstead 100, recounted here by Tim Morgan) as many as 10. My immediate reaction to this was quite negative but on reflection I suppose it could have its advantages in long and difficult races, particularly with regard to the frequency of support crew/aid stations. Familiarity of terrain after the first lap could be a good or bad thing. I still think 10 laps of 10 miles sounds a bit deadly boring, though. Having said that, there are of course 24 hour track races (and Kevin Setnes in this book ran multiple 1.1 mile laps of a small lake to set his 24 hour record) so I guess it’s not necessarily an issue.

Most of the races covered are American, but we also get to hear about a women’s team taking on – and hoping to win - the Hong Kong Trailwalker 100k, and Jurgen Ankenbrand’s account of his experience at the Marathon des Sables.

Some of the stories are quite emotional and I was particularly struck by Catra Corbett-McNeely’s account of running and racing after the death of her mother, and Tracy Baldyga’s experience of how running ultras helped her deal with severe and enduring mental illness. There’s also an honest and affectionate tribute to Joel Zucker, who tragically collapsed and died in 1998 after completing his third Hardrock 100.

Most of the stories are well written and very interesting to read. Admittedly there’s only so many times you really want to read “I got up at 4.30am and ate my cereal before heading off to the start”, but on the other hand the logistics of such things are an important component and it is good to know how people go about their preparation.

By the end of the book I found I’d lost most of my perspective on how far 100 miles, for instance, actually was. After reading so many accounts of running scary distances, they had started to seem normal. 50 miles sounded quite short, really. A mere marathon sounded like the equivalent of a gentle stroll to the post box and back. I needed to go on a long training run to bring me back to reality…. There are some amazing achievements described herein, from Stan Jensen’s completion of the “Last Great Race” of six 100-milers in 4 months, to the people who overcame incredible odds to run at all.

All in all I found this a very interesting read. As each story is short and self-contained, it’s easy to dip in and out of, and there is lots of interesting and inspiring stuff. Great when you are needing a bit of extra motivation.

So will I ever run an ultra?… well, maybe…

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Upping the tempo

I’d fallen behind a bit with my marathon training programme due to the old knee issues *yawn*, but although its royal knee-ness is not back to 100%, running doesn’t seem to be aggravating it and the physio said I was good to go so I’m trying to get back on track. Sunday’s hot and bothered 14 miles wasn’t a great start (although I did manage it at a reasonable pace considering the heat of the day) and I wasn’t feeling very confident about yesterday’s scheduled 6 mile tempo run.

I’ve kind of given up on the 4 hour schedule (that was never more than a pipe dream anyway) but thought I’d have a go at doing my tempo run at the pace dictated by the 4:15 schedule i.e. 9:20 to 9:25 pace. (I think the 8:45 tempo pace of the 4 hour schedule is a bit beyond me – I can manage that OK for 3 miles, maybe 4, but I didn’t think I could keep it up for 6 miles.)

I’m still lousy at pacing however and the first mile was too quick in 9:05, the second even more too quick in 8:54, oops. I was afraid I would slow down a lot in the second part of the run, particularly as that has a few more (slightly) uphill parts and the weather was still quite warm. Third mile was 9:09 and the fourth, which included a shortish but steepish hill where I was running at over 10 minute pace, was not surprisingly a slower 9:27. Back on the flat however my pace picked up to 8:57 in the fifth mile and a rather surprising to me 8:30 for the sixth – an overall average pace of 8:58. This is well speedy by my non-exacting standards and in fact gave me my fastest 10k time ever: 55:47, over a minute off my current PB! The pace felt OK, not overly difficult for me, although my heart rate was an average 169bpm which might tell a different story! (And up to 221bpm at one point, although I think that may have been a blip as it was just once, went straight back down again and was at a random not particularly demanding point of the run.)

Obviously I’m not going to be running anywhere near that pace in the marathon, though I’m still, as ever, befuddled about pacing and what time to aim for – maybe a few more long runs will give me a better idea – I know it’s the long runs I really need to be getting under my belt (what a weird phrase!) at this stage, and I’m behind where I should be in that regard. I still have at least 3 weekends before thinking about tapering, though, so I’m planning on a 17/18 and a couple of 19/20s. Hopefully that should be enough to set me up not too badly for 22 May.

Distance: 6.29 miles
Time: 56:27
Average pace: 8:58

2:25 (0.29 miles)

Monday, 11 April 2011

Hot and bothered on the Deeside Way

After a couple of light-ish knee-related weeks I wanted to do a long run today, and accordingly got the other half to drive me out to Banchory so I could run back along the Deeside Way (the first time I've ever done the whole thing). I'd figured out that Banchory to my house would be about 14.5 miles, so had formulated a half-baked plan to extend the run a bit and make it up to around 17, given that the longest run of my marathon training so far has been 15. This didn't happen.

I'd been listening to Jeff Galloway extolling the magical virtues of walk breaks on Marathon Talk (he made them sound like the best thing ever in the history of the world, bar nothing), and although I wasn't entirely convinced, given the weather today (HOT) I thought it might be a good opportunity to give it a try, so decided that from the start I'd try walking for one minute in every mile. I suspect this may be less than Mr Galloway recommends, but it seemed worth a try. I kept this up for the first few miles (using the walk breaks to drink some water and scoff a couple of jelly beans) but from about mile 6 I started to struggle with the heat and the lack of shade (though to be fair, there was at least a slightly cooling breeze much of the time) and found myself wanting to walk more often I also probably set off too quick for a long run and suffered for it later (though on a cooler day that pace would have been more maintainable).

This route is most of the return leg of the D33 ultra which I was entertaining romantic notions about running next year, and I still might, but after running a bit less than half of it today I'm certainly under no illusions about the difficulty. Not that it's a difficult route - it's largely flat, with a nice bit of variety of terrain - but 33 miles out and back.... well, hats off to those who've done it

There were LOADS of people out along the path today, mainly cyclists (including a group of elderly people who were cycling barely faster than I was running) and several points where I had to dodge cyclists/walkers/dogs all converging on me. First time this year I have seen lots of people out in shorts/t-shirts/strappy tops (female)/no tops (male). Hardly any other runners, though. (Although I did see a shirtless one [male] at one point.) Was slightly annoyed by the people who walk three or four abreast on a not-that-wide path and show no signs of moving over just a little bit to allow me through. Not that I think I have right of way or anything, but it seems a bit rude to not even bother to acknowledge the approaching person.

I did get lots of smiles and nods from other cyclists/pedestrians though, probably amused by my bright red face and general air of knackeredness.

By the time I got to the familiar territory of "within a few miles of my house" I was feeling pretty wrecked, running out of water and finding it hard to get going again after the walk breaks (my knee seemed to stiffen up slightly while walking) and basically there was no way I was going to keep going for another 3 miles or so, so 14-and-a-bit it had to be. Will definitely do the 17 next week, though, as Edinburgh is starting to feel perilously close...

Distance: 14.19 miles
Time: 2:32:38


# 10:07
# 10:09
# 10:14
# 10:05
# 10:25
# 10:41
# 11:08
# 10:36
# 11:50
# 10:23
# 11:23
# 11:47
# 10:51
# 10:48

Average pace: 10:45

*mops brow*

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Keep on keeping on

I was quite taken yesterday by this clip of 91-year-old Canadian athlete Olga Kotelko. I love the way expectations are challenged by seeing white-haired old ladies doing things you don’t really expect white-haired old ladies to be doing – running, jumping, throwing hammers, hugging each other in a celebratory fashion. Why does society assume sport is only for the young, or at least, the not-old? Olga is clearly remarkable in her achievements, but there are plenty of older people out there being far more active than the commonly-held beliefs might lead you to think, when we are largely inclined to view “the ageing population” en masse as a burden, unable to contribute to or participate in society. Admittedly, old age tends to be accompanied by physical and/or mental decline to a greater or lesser extent, but nonetheless many people do remain remarkably healthy mentally, physically or both.

I also like the way Olga says people keep asking her what her secret is and she says she doesn’t really have one, she just carries on from day to day. It seems to me that whenever someone over a certain age achieves, well, anything really, including continuing to exist after a certain point on the calendar, people always want – understandably I suppose – to know what their “secret” is. You see it in the paper, when there is an amazed piece about someone becoming a centenarian or running a marathon in their 80s or whatever, and usually it’s obvious that the person in question doesn’t really know how to answer. Because there probably isn’t one, really. Good genes tend to help, as may particular lifestyle choices, and avoiding being run over by a bus is generally a good tactic to employ, but none of those things are exactly well-kept secrets.

My lovely nana, Elsie, who died in 2009, two weeks short of her 102nd birthday, used to get quite embarrassed when people asked her what her secret was, because she never knew what to say. She wasn’t exactly an athlete, given that pie-making (she spent many years working in a bakery), tea-drinking and telly-watching never became Olympic sports, though she did pride herself on her ability to touch her toes when many people 20 years her junior could barely get out of a chair. Admittedly her toes weren’t very far down, as she was well under 5 feet tall in her later years. But anyway, she herself didn’t know what the secret of her long and mainly very healthy life was. Rather like Olga Kotelko, although less dramatically, the only thing she knew how to do was keep on keepin’ on*. It took her strong heart three days to finally give up on life after suffering a heart attack, and she died the way she’d always said she wanted – during the night in her own bed, her family (my mum and I) around her.

Age is a number, it doesn't have to define you.

*with apologies to Zimmerman, R.