Archives for posts with tag: Marathon

In May of 2010, not long after I’d limped over the finish line of my first ever marathon in a time of 4:18, a friend looked up what time I’d need to run to achieve a BQ (Boston Qualifying) time and told me “well, that’s never going to happen.” Winding the clock forward seven years, I’m pleased (actually bloody ecstatic!) to say that in fact, last Sunday at The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Marathon, it just did. Read the rest of this entry »

golf
Find this image at gettyimages.com

“Act your age and take up golf”. This was the advice given to me by a passing neighbor as I struggled to the end of one of my runs this week.

I’m sure I looked pretty tired, (I was totally knackered truth be told) having just finished a tempo run with a cooldown mile straight up a hill, but swapping running for golf – well, that’s just not going to happen is it? I mean, I don’t have anything against golf (other than I’m comically bad at playing the damn game), but as I wrote in my post ‘old enough to run better‘, I most definitely do have something against acting my age. One of the primary reasons I run is to try and stay ahead of the march of time, and comments like that, even made in jest, only serve to spur me on. I have to admit I did allow myself a small pat on the back the other day when my heart rate app told me I had the resting heart rate of a ‘trained athlete’, and I’m not sure that would be the case if the sum total of my exercise was pushing the go pedal on a golf cart.

As far as the actual business of running goes, this cycle is going pretty well. I’ve completed 4 of 13 weeks of training for the ‘Light at The End of The Tunnel’ marathon in June, and notwithstanding a few little injury niggles and the staggeringly awful spring weather in Seattle, I feel quite good about things. I’ve been here before only to have things blow up on me pretty quickly, so I’m a long way from counting my chickens, but still, it’s nice to feel I’ve made it nearly a third of the way through my training plan feeling strong and ready for more.

One of my goals this year is to run faster. I’d like to see if I can break the age group PR I set for myself last year (3:35), and maybe if the stars align, beat my all-time PR of 3:30. To this end, I’ve been hitting the track over the past 4 Tuesdays running 400, 600, 800 and last week 1,000-meter repeats, as well as tempo runs on Thursdays.

‘Fast’ is a somewhat relative concept in my case, and I am quite sure I look a right old state waddling around the track at something less than warp speed. That said, whatever the optics, I really do enjoy pushing myself in this way, and seeing if I can get just a little bit quicker. It’s about as far away from ‘jogging’ as I can get, and it’s definitely a different kind of challenge from just running long. Of course, I won’t know the impact of the speedwork until I actually get out and race, but I’m absolutely sure I stand a better chance of running faster by training for it than by merely using hope as a strategy (and I’m speaking from experience here!).

The next 4 weeks will see me transition off the track to run longer strength repeats (1 mile and up), longer tempo runs, and a month from now I’ll hit my first of two 20 mile long runs, so no rest for those of us running to stay ahead of Father Time.

I’ll sign off with a short postscript for those of you struggling for the motivation to make it out of the door and run by asking you to spare a thought for my good friend John, a keen runner who is trying to come back after injury. He broke down less than a mile into one of his come-back runs this weekend and is facing some more time on the sidelines. So if you’re fortunate enough to be able to run (or swim, bike, walk, hop, skip or jump), you really should just do it while you can!

Here are my numbers for the past 4 weeks:

Marathon training

The first 4 weeks

Keep moving my friends.

 

Day 1 image

In 13 weeks I’ll run The Light At The End of the Tunnel Marathon. This will be my 14th marathon. Between now and then I have approximately 75 days of training. Today was day one.

I love day one because today is the day things kick-off. Just me, a goal, and a plan to get it done. No bells, no whistles, no fanfare. Just me, the open road, and my desire to test myself against the distance, the elements, and the physical and mental obstacles that will contrive on a daily basis to get in the way of my wish to run yet more marathons in 2017.

I love day one because it’s the day when I transition from the important but somehow more  mindless work of pouring the foundations, the easy-paced, base-building runs that establish an aerobic platform, to the more technical, more precise activities where time, distance, pace, heart rate and type of run all arrive on the schedule in a fairly remorseless and unforgiving manner. Six days a week of speed runs and strength runs, tempo runs and long runs – you can’t get your time if you don’t put in the time.

I love day one because I know that 75 days of training later, I’ll be stronger, fitter, and leaner (please God yes, leaner), than I am today.

More than anything, I love day one because I’m one day closer to one of my favorite places on earth – the start line.

I hope you can keep me company along the way.

Keep moving.

Rob

16 weeks down and 2 to go on the road to DC.

Whenever I talk to non-runners about marathon running, one of the comments I almost invariably hear (other than “you’re crazy”), is “I could never run 26 miles”. Of course this palpably isn’t true Read the rest of this entry »

8 weeks to DC.

Last week was a good great week. The kind of week that makes you think you’ve cracked this running thing, that all the bleeding nipples, sweat and tears have been worth it, and that maybe things are clicking into place. A week to stop, smell the roses, and then get on with the remaining 8 weeks of training.

So what does a good week look like to me? Well, it goes something like this:

Monday | Easy Run | 6.25 Miles

This is the easiest, hardest, most important run of the week. Easy, because it’s only 6 miles and at an intentionally slow pace. My training plan says I should be running these at about a 9:27 pace, which is pretty slow for me, but I’m bringing them in around the 9:05 pace, which is comfortable. Hard, because it’s actually tough to slow down and run at a slow pace. Hard because it’s usually the day after my long run, when my legs are still sore from a 16 or 18 miler on Sunday, and when even dragging my ass round a 6 mile loop in the neighborhood can really seem like a chore. Most important, because you just have to get your week off to a good start. Miss Monday and you are playing catch up all week. Miss Monday and everything is off balance. You can’t hit the ground running if you miss Monday.

Tuesday | Strength Run | 6 x 1 Mile Repeats (+400m jog intervals + 1 mile warm up / cool down)

Speed and strength training are key (according to the books I read!) to improving race pace, and running faster for longer. This type of training is brand new to me in 2015, and something that has added some interesting and really challenging variety to my training. Earlier in my plan I was doing speed workouts at the track, and now I’m back out on the road and trails with longer distance repeats. Last week I went around Greenlake under some mean and moody skies, dodging the debris of the prior weekend’s windstorm, and hoping I got finished before the heavens opened. It’s also the kind of run that tests your self motivation – it’s just you vs. your stopwatch with target paces that are designed to be challenging, and specifically faster than your goal marathon pace. If you’re not tired at the end of these runs you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.

Wednesday | Rest Day

I don’t think you can underestimate the value of a rest day. This isn’t just about doing nothing, it’s about letting your body and mind soak up the exertions of previous days and take profit from the work you have been putting in. I believe they are key to reducing the risk of injury, and key to helping to keep your spirits up when things are becoming a bit of a slog, which inevitably they can, even with something you are passionate about. All running and no rest make Rob a sore boy. I love me some Wednesday.

Thursday | Tempo Run | 8 Miles (+1 mile warm up and cool down)

The purpose of a tempo run is to practice running ever increasing distances at your target race pace, and for me, this is one of the best barometers of how my training is going. I mean, if I’m completely knackered running 8 miles at my target pace (8:23 for the record), then good luck to me getting through 26.2 at a similar pace.  Last week I blew the doors off it. I don’t know why, but I just felt really good, and I let it go, running sub 8’s on all but one mile. I usually wouldn’t do this – the purpose is to practice running at a specific pace – but last week I felt good and just decided to open up and let go.

Friday | Easy Run | 8 Miles

It was relaxed, it was 8 miles, it was fun. I ran it too quickly (and I really need to watch that).

Saturday | Long Run | 16 Miles

View from Fremont Bridge

Towards Lake Union from Fremont Bridge. Just one of great views I enjoy running around Seattle

Typically I’ve been running long on Sundays, but this week my schedule had me move the long run to Saturday. The weather was perfect; sunny, but about 10 degrees cooler than it has been of late, and I had a real determination to follow up the prior weekend’s 18 miler with a strong 16.

Generally I love long runs. They can be a real test of will (especially when it’s blowing a gale or hammering down with rain), and, unlike say a 6 mile easy run which you can just lace up and go on, they are something you need to prepare for. You need to watch what you eat and drink the night before and the morning of, you need to consider clothing, and you need to think about how you will hydrate and feed yourself on the 2 – 3 hours you’ll be on your feet, not to mention thinking about the route. I’m always aware of route planning for long runs, and I take care to think about where I’ll be at my furthest point from ‘home’, be that my actual home or where I parked my car. Measuring distance is a refined art, because the online mapping tools don’t always get it spot on and there is nothing more frustrating than reaching your intended finish point after a grueling 16 miler only to find you still have another 3/4 miles to go according to your GPS. Ultimately the long training run is pretty much like preparing for an actual marathon, which I guess is the point!

Over the years I’ve had good long runs and bad ones. I’ve finished dead on my feet, and finished with energy to burn. Whisper it, but a couple of times I’ve had to call in a ride home because I’ve miscalculated something and ran out of juice before getting home.

In keeping with this particularly awesome week, all I can say is I really enjoyed this run. I decided to repeat the same course as two weeks prior when I’d had such a bad time of it, figuring that it would be a good measure of progress. I’m pleased to say it went very well. Although my overall pace was similar across the two runs, I ran negative splits this time (which I was delighted with), and at the end, despite tripping and falling (embarrassing and not a little painful) at around mile 14, I finished the run feeling like I had a lot more gas in the tank, as opposed to the totally beat feeling I had running the same course two weeks ago. A real confidence booster.

Sunday | Easy Run | 6.4 Miles

Rob & Yoko

Can’t beat running with old friends

The best thing about what otherwise would have been a perfunctory two laps of Greenlake was that it was the first time in literally months that I was able to run with my longtime training partner and dear friend Yoko. This year, for a multitude of reasons, our schedules, fitness levels, training goals and even desire to run have not been in synch, so it was an absolute treat to get out and catch up. Yoko is also running in DC, so hopefully we’ll get a couple more runs in together before the main event.

So why was this week such a good week? I mean it was the 10th week of 18, nothing special from that point of view, and not a point in previous training cycles where I’d had any kind of breakthrough.

I attribute it to a combination of factors:

  • The training is beginning to work
  • The weather has cooled off a bit
  • I took one (the first!) unscheduled rest day the previous week
  • The stars just happened to align

Whatever the reason, It’s important to recognize those moments along the way when everything just goes right, as opposed to always lamenting and accenting the negatives. I think a positive frame of mind can go a long way, and if nothing else, hopefully helps to put a smile on other peoples faces. Long may it continue, and even if the next week, or the one after that don’t quite go as planned, I’ll be looking forward and expecting that the next great week is just around the corner.

My numbers for the week and my training to date are below. Keep moving, and keep smiling my friends.

Last week’s awesome numbers looked like this:

week10

And for my training to date:

week 10 cumulative

So here we go again. 18 weeks between now and the Brighton Marathon start line. 18 weeks of uphills and downhills, of good runs and bad runs, of aches, pains and soreness. 18 weeks of rain, wind, cold and snow. 18 weeks of the excitement of progress and the frustration of not going far enough, fast enough. 18 weeks of late nights and early mornings, of swearing at inconsiderate drivers (and cyclists, yes, especially the cyclists) and 18 weeks of losing myself in my thoughts and dreams while I run myself around Seattle and wherever else my travels take me, these coming months.

18 weeks of learning about myself, getting stronger, lighter (about 10lbs would do nicely), tighter, sharper, more active and more alive. 18 weeks of tempo runs and long runs, of cross training and yoga, of perfect tiredness and hot milky coffee after a long, cold weekend run.

More than anything, it’s 18 weeks of perfect joy, happiness and fun. 18 weeks until my most important start line ever.

Coming?

At the end of a marathon, I always find it helpful to take a moment to reflect on the run, to think about the lessons or insights that I gained from the exercise, and share them so that a) I personally remember them for next time, b) maybe help someone else who might benefit from running a path previously trodden.

So here they are, and in no special order:

1. St George is a fantastic marathon. You should run it.

To date this was the most beautiful course I’ve run – truly amazing, awe-inspiring scenery – a real treat to be out there running. The course is challenging in a different way to others I’ve run, insofar as the downhill components (of which there are many) require a different running technique and a little strategy in terms of saving energy for the second half.

Organizationally this was a great race – everything was well catered for, and well thought through, with a phenomenal reception through the last couple of miles, making up for the fact that the isolation of the upper portions of the course mean that there is little crowd support until about mile 16.

A top tip is that you should wrap up warm before the start. It was absolutely bloody freezing pre-race, and took me a good few miles to warm up once the race had begun. Definitely a race for extra layers to shed en route.

20131012-163957.jpg

One tiny gripe – the race shirts were terrible. Cheap quality, and the sizing was way off- with arms long enough for a chimpanzee.

Anyway. I highly recommend it, and intend (lottery willing) to run it again next year.

2. Good pace runners are a God-send.

Thank you to the Cliff 3:45 Pace Runner. He (and I’m sorry that I never caught his name) kept the group going at a good clip, doled out salient advice at key moments (like good ways to run downhill) and just seemed like an all round nice guy. I’ll bet everyone who ran with him came in on time, and for me, his pacing got me to about mile 18 after which I had the confidence to kick on and achieve negative splits for the first time ever.

3. It can help to run without music.

I know 26.2 miles is a long way and a long time to be in the company of nothing but your own thoughts, but I have to say it was a revelation to me in terms of helping me actually focus on my running. I’ve heard it said that great running takes concentration, and my experience at St George kind of bears that out. With nothing distracting me, I was more in tune with how my body was feeling at different stages of the race, and also more connected with the race and the overall environment, which as I’ve already said, was pretty bloody amazing.

I’m certainly one for who music makes the training world go round for sure, but I think next time out I’ll be leaving the headphones off for the race itself.

4. Turn off the auto-pause on your watch.

I nearly blew my sub 3:40 finish because of what my watch was telling me. The reason it was wrong was a simple one; I stopped at about the 3 mile mark to take a leak (something I’ve never had to do in a marathon before) and because of auto-pause, my watch stopped too.

I didn’t think about this until after the race when my watch time (3:38:56) told me something different from the official time (3:39:46). My first reaction was one of extreme dismay (Goddammit I earned those 50 seconds!!) and a frantic search for the ‘where do I complain bitterly about the timing chip’ button on the website. Fortunately the lightbulb went off and all became clear. Moral of the story – turn off your auto-pause (and don’t stop to pee).

5. Running is bloody awesome.

OK – I didn’t just learn this in St George…but the journey back to fitness from my stress fracture was a tough one, and would not have been possible if I didn’t find the whole routine just so much fun. I love the challenge, the camaraderie with my fellow runners, the chance to go see some interesting places, and the opportunity to push myself to go places I didn’t think I could. I think I have a good few miles left in the tank yet…what about you?

Until the next time…

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