As a youngster, I would get home from School, get changed and go out to play with my pals.
Now I'm older, I get home from work, get changed and go out to play with my pals, but now I call it training.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The weather has continued to be lovely and warm and sunny. Long sleeved tops have been notable by their absence from the laundry and vests have began to appear with regularity. Although not exactly so hot that running becomes uncomfortable - training in this decent weather should help when I get to London and have to race in warmer conditions than we usually get in Cumbria.

After my day off on Monday I was aware that even Tuesday was still quite soon after my heavy weekend to be doing  a tough session. Thing is, if I wait until Wednesday to run a session then I'm not going to do another one on Thursday, and Friday is my day off, and anyway Sauturday this week is a race again. So Tuesday it was to be.

I met up with Darren to do some reps but instead of the usual 2 milers with stationary recovery we ran the Crosby 10 mile loop in 4 sets of 4mins easy jog 11mins hard effort. As I've said many times before, this is my favourite session, possibly even my favourite run. 10 miles is a great distance to run. Its short enough to be done hard without needing a drink. But its also long enough to be regarded as a decent mileage for the day. Possibly the best thing about running 10 miles is seeing how close to one hour you can complete it. Or how much faster than one hour if its a race.

Whilst this session is more or less  the same as doing 4 by 2 mile reps its a bit tougher than that as between the start and finish there is no time when you stop running. Perhaps due to this and I expect also with the weekends exertions in our legs (Darren raced a 10 mile event last Sunday), we were only achieving just inside 6 minute miling for the 11 minute efforts. We finished the route in 63mins 45secs. Not an astounding time but OK for the first time of asking this year. I might do this again next week.

Next evening was again superb in terms of settled warm weather. I collected Penrith Stu from the factory of dreams that is Reeds Printshop and travelled the long lake road South through Pooley Bridge, Glenridding and Patterdale to eventually arrive at Middle Earth soon after 5 oclock. At a relaxed jogging pace we climbed to a little known spot called Priest Hole Cave on the Eastern flank of Dove Crag. Interesting place with nice views.

Today (Thursday) was nice weather again, though not quite as good  as it has been. Finishing work for 4 whole days I drove out to Gelt Woods to let Scamp enjoy a splash in the river. Then we continued out to Talkin where he was possibly less thrilled to accompany me for one very slow lap of the hilly 6.5 mile loop. I'm sure he would have preferred to be on grass or trail but we can't always choose to do the things we would prefer. Its such a backwater that he can run off the lead for the majority of the lap anyway. Back at the van Scamp jumped in hte front seat and I changed into a vest to be more comfortable on my 'fast lap'. I ran it at a controlled pace. Reasonably hard, but also relaxed, certainly not straining or striving to beat the clock. The clock stopped at 43:37 which is about 4 mins slower than I

Latest thoughts on London marathon - Start out at 6:15 per mile (2:44 pace). In theory that should feel within my capabilities so at 13 miles I could hopefully increase the pace to give me a result in the region of 2:42.

This is the trouble with a marathon - I could certainly run the first 10 miles at 6:00 pace and it would feel within my ability. But that would be 2:37 pace and I know I am not capable of that time. So its all about putting into practice the art of a steady, even slow, start.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The shortest day.

The shortest day of the year saw me race 10k and run 26 miles. The 10k finished by 1137 Saturday and the 26 miles was completed by 1215 Sunday, which, with the clock change is less than 24 hours between.    Needless to say I will not be running on Monday.

Running marathon paced, then slower but longer runs on alternate weekends meant this 26 miler was to be a slower one.  With the theft of the drink Gareth had placed out for me during my 24 miler two weeks ago, I drove out to the hilly Talkin/Foresthead circuit (6.5 miles) so as to allow me to grab drinks and food placed safe from the Warwick Bridge thieves, on my van windscreen. Had this run been on the flat roads nearer Carlisle I would have aimed to run sub 7 pace as always. The hills meant the pace would be slower, but how much slower? Difficult to say, so I decided to call it an endurance training run and complete it all at an easy pace to avoid the muscle damage often accumulated over such a distance.

Historically I would run laps inside 45 minutes, with 39 being my fastest ever single lap and 43 per lap being my best average for the full 26 miles. I remember running to a total of 2hrs 59minutes in 2007 but that was a measured effort as hard as I could manage (I didnt do marathon paced efforts in those days, just long hard runs week after week).

Lap 1 I set off deliberately slowly, recording 49:15.
Lap 2 saw no greater effort input but clearly better warmed up by then and with breakfast longer behind me I recorded about 2mins faster.
Lap 3 saw Mikey Scott join me. I felt good by this point, not yet tired at all so I suggested trying a wee bit harder with the aim of going inside 45. We didnt quite get inside but were only a handful of seconds over. That lap saw the emergence of legtiredness on the biggest climb, more of which was felt throughout lap 4.
Lap 4 was began at the same effort as I had been going around lap 3 but as soon as the hills came I knew I was going much slower up them. The 23 mile point was where I began to really feel tired but time checks showed I was ahead of my lap 1 time so I pushed on. I could actually have ran a tad harder over those last 3 miles but deliberately tempered my effort as I knew the chances of getting an injury, especially with such big downhills, would be at their greatest at this stage of marathon training in general and this very arduous day in particular.

3:08 for 26 miles, with the second 13 completed faster than the first half

Lets say it isnt quite 6.5miles per lap (when I had a Garmin I measured it at 6.45) and lets add the 0.2 (marathon is 26.2 miles). Thats still definitely inside  3:15 for a marathon, in training, including over 2000ft climbing, on a warm day, the day after a tough 10k. I'll take it.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

not the droids I was looking for

Striving for a 34 minute 10k again has been on my to-do list for the last couple of years. It was never likely to happen today if I'm honest - I'm in the thick of training to run 20 miles more than that distance - but that didnt stop me glancing at my watch every 1k to see how close to 3:30 (35 minute result) I was running them. Bloody loads slower was the answer!
The day was warm. I'd say hot, but it never really gets hot in Cumbria. Often very warm but never proper hot. The race parking was in a field of damp grass where a shady corner in the lee of a hedge provided a perfect spot for Scamp to relax
The race started, and 50 metres later Ricky Lightfoot had a 10 metre lead. His winning time was 3 minutes clear of 2nd place. What a talent.
Ricky Lightfoot (talent). Chris Lewis (Photography)

I was front running the rest of the field briefly but by about 2k things began to thin out a bit. At 5k I hoped most of the hills were behind us but the biggest one of the course needed tackled at about 5.5. I was spent and unable to regain any lost time on the mainly downhill last few 'ks. Realising a 35 wasnt going to happen I was gutted to not even get a 36 as I crossed the line with 37:19.
Photo by Chris Lewis - very good
Later, when I saw the results I took a bit of heart from the fact that I was only 2 minutes behind Steve Hebblethwaite. I was 5 minutes behind him at the Northern XC champs earlier this year in a slightly longer race. I also got the first vet 40 prize and the mighty Border Harriers were first team with me in 8th, John Mason in 3rd his dad Graeme Mason in 5th. I'm gonna approach those to lads to see if they will change their names to Angus.
Tastiest race medal I have ever been given

After the event I popped along the A66 to stop in a great wee spot where Scamp can safely swim in the Lake (one of only one in the district) and pose in boats.
Photo by Steve Angus - bloody brilliant

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Penrith Stu - normo.

It's easy to go a bit daft in the final few weeks before the marathon. Worries about not having done enough can see some people go overboard with last minute super hard sessions and extra mileage. Over the last 8 years I have experienced enough marathon build ups to know better, and to know the importance of listening to my body and sticking to the schedule. (Although there is no actual schedule of course - since Christmas I have trained according to a rough plan in my head based on basic principals). So when I decided I would enter a local 10k this coming Saturday it seemed sensible to miss out the time trial session from my weekday training. In January I often raced Saturday and ran long the next day but back then it was usually a cross country and a sub 20 miler. A flat out road 10k and 26 miles hilly is not something to be tackled without a bit of planning and certainly not on already tired limbs.

With this in mind and by completing my reps session as early as Monday it meant I had the rest of the week suddenly freed up somewhat....

Tuesday was a pleasant day weatherwise so after work me and Penrith Stu popped up ol'e Blencathra to take photos of mydogScamp on the summit.

MydogScamp and normal Stu  on the summit of Blencathra

Poor Stu hasn't been able to run for 7 weeks due to some kind of genital disorder, and after 10 or 15 minutes jogging up the lower slopes he requested we continue at walking pace. I was happy to oblige as it had seemed quite a speedy pace we were setting on what was supposedly my 'easy run day'. Indeed we must have been going well because despite walking, the summit was reached inside 40 minutes. I may have a been a bit unkind to describe Stu as a normo, I suspect the majority of people would still take a bit longer than him to climb Englands 8th highest peak after work.

Next night I set out for 13 miles on the roads. This was instead of the long offroad run I have been doing for several weeks. I figure that 2 hours even at a sedate pace was making me too tired as I close in on race day and that the extra day/mileage on road would prepare me better. Also, it is only this week been light enough to do the 13 mile loop starting as early as possible, (about 5 oclock). I guessed that 6:30 per mile would be about right for this run and set off at what felt like that pace. Turned out I was doing 6:40-6:45 pace in fact, but rather than speed up I continued at the pace that just 'felt right' even if it was slower than I'd anticipated.

Tonight I combined dog walking and running in one handy package. Me and Scamp ran the 8 mile bypass loop, stopping occasionally to swim in the river (Scamp) and to chat to people (me).

If tomorrow is as lovely warm sunny day as today was, I may have a job  NOT going for a little 6 mile offroad with Scamp.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Refreshed, and onto the final push

An easy week was definitely needed if I was to avoid breaking down with injury, illness, fatigue, or all three. I decided to run less distance and slower pace but with the same number of runs. To kick things off, on Monday I ran eight miles with six at effort. Only a mild effort though - 6:29 pace felt a nice conversational speed.

Tuesday was long-easy-offroad. Having been getting close to two hours recently I figured one hour would be enough. I spent a while longer than anticipated checking out some new routes through the fields towards Durdar and ended up at 75 mins. But very easy pace though.

ISO 100. f/20. 30 secs.
Wednesday I took a stroll up into the valleys of the low fells near Caldbeck with Scamp. We got as far as Roughten Gill where I wanted to take photos, but it was very cold and the light was poor. Shame we didn't have time to scramble up the side of the falls but time and daylight was our enemy.

By Thursday I felt much too tired to train so I went on Friday instead. Doing mile reps, even half hearted ones  the day before a hard long run seemed unwise so Friday was just 6 miles easy jogging.

The long hard run on Saturday was also cut back, to 12 miles. I reckoned I could run at about 6:05-6:10 per mile but from the outset I was only on 6:15 pace. At the finish I'd averaged 6:14 and felt a bit disappointed to be honest. Sunday I jogged again - 8 miles offorad.

So that was my easy week. I felt quite tired most of the week but I reckon I did get plenty of rest as tonights reps session went very well....

With Darren for company I ran three, two mile efforts. Each one was significantly quicker than I managed last time over this same session. Next time will be 4 by 2 miles  - gulp!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Six days later...

Six days after the 20 mile race  and I put myself on the line again with a 24 mile 'easy pace' run. As always the plan was to beat 7 minute miles, and hopefully run a negative split and be strong right to the end.

Plans to run 16 miles of the 24 with Wes Weston fell through when he got himself stuck in some quick setting cement. I didnt call round to see if he was OK but feel sure he will struggle free before London.

The first mile was bang on target at 6:56, the next, 6:55 and so on and so on with metronomic regularity to reach the turnaround point in an average of 6:53. Only a mile from home when I turned to run back out of the city with a nice tailwind which provided plenty of sub 6:45s. At the arc of the horseshoe of this circuit I had a stiff wind in my face again but with only 5 miles to complete I felt able to push on. This rewarded me with another 6:44 mile and I knew the negative split would happen.

In the final 3 miles there was a 7:00 recorded on a particularly long windy straight section, but the final mile, including a nice ramp down from an M6 bridge was again a 6:45.

The final average was 6:49.8 so i'll call it 6:50. The second half was about a minute faster than the first.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Six of the best and seventy two more besides

Some might say doing a hard run within 2 days of completing a 20 mile race is unwise. But , with the clock ticking to marathon day, how long do you not train hard for? I decided that in deference to the race obviously being still  in my legs I would reduce my now customary time trial effort to just 4 miles this Tuesday. Much further and I would probably have found myself running at a very similar pace to the race, and one thing I learned a long time ago is that you shouldn't train consecutively at the same pace.

I met up with Darren and we ran 5:52 pace with a negative split despite a gusty headwind to contend with in the second half. Darren ran strongly, taking his fair share of the wind as we changed lead often. (He actually finished one second ahead of me but then he ONLY raced 13.1 hilly miles on Sunday compared to my 20 flat).

My midweek long run offroad was as muddy as ever. Once I got to Dalston I ran around a couple of fields until one hour had elapsed, then took the slightly easier route back to Carlisle on the opposite side of the river. Handily, this gives me a chance to encourage Scamp into the water a few times - much needed considering the state he gets in paddling through the muddy side - no way I could let him in the house like that! I was finished in just under two hours but with a couple of Scamp stops etc I'm claiming a 110 minute run.

Horrible weather just prior to Tonights nights reps meant I wasn't looking forward to these 3 by 2 mile efforts. Luckily the rain stopped and the wind seemed to ease back a little while we (me and Darren) completed the efforts in 11:37, 11:40 and 11:37. I'd imagined I could do these at 5:45 per mile but the result of 5:49 perhaps was as good as it was ever likely to get considering how much hard running I have done in the previous 4 days.

Presuming I run my intended 23 miles this coming Saturday I will have done a total mileage of 78 in 6 runs. Bit of a cheat in that the two longest runs are Sunday then the next Saturday, but however its calculated its still my biggest ever weekly total. Bearing this in mind I will probably take next week as a real kickback week before then embarking on a final 3 week push, taking me up to the final fortnight which will gently ramp me down into the London Marathon.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Trimpell 20 road race. 2hrs 05 mins 23 secs

Well, what can I say? Performance didn't live up to expectation. Maybe expectation was too high?

Having ran 6:13 per mile just two weeks ago, alone in training on a hillier course than this flat race, I fully expected to beat 6:10 pace despite the extra 4 miles. The result is approx 6:16 per mile, which would give me a sub 2:45 marathon, but I was so totally knackered after this race theres no way I could've ran 6 miles further.

The race went something like this;

Mile one -  6:07. A fella was chatting to me about previously having run this race - he'd done 2:09 at his best so when I advised him I was looking for 5 mins quicker than that, and when he saw the 6:07 mile split he said cheerio and dropped back to a more suitable pace.
What looked like 15-20 lads already had a considerable lead - I figured that was about right as I'd looked at last years result and reckoned top 20 was a realistic target. I settled into a group of 5 and ticked off the next 2 miles inside 6:15 pace.
At 3 miles I decided I didnt want have the pace dictated to me so went to the front of my group for what turned out to be a 10 mile spell (followed by another 7 mile spell once there was no group left to lead)
The next 8 miles seemed to be going well - recording a few seconds either side of 6:10 pace for most splits.
At the 10 mile marker my time was 1:01:55 (6:12 pace). At this stage I was feeling good and was looking forward to ramping up what had to now felt like a very steady effort.
The 11 mile marker was obvioulsy in the wrong place, because it had me on a 6:28. My head went a bit there - I still felt good and couldnt see or feel any reason to have slowed down. Luckily the 12 mile marker was correctly placed and  revealed I was still on about 6:15 pace after  all.
Around this time the only fella from my group to have stayed with me was chatting intermittently. Mainly he was saying how tough he was finding it.
At 14 miles is the furthest point of the course where we U-turned to run directly back to the finish. I was alone now and starting to feel pretty knackered. On the one hand I wanted to run as hard as I could to salvage a decent time, but on the other hand I kept thinking of what Plucky had said about running this race just for marathon training and being fresh enough to carry on after the finish. A couple of miles further and I no longer had a choice of how hard or easy to run - it was just a case of getting to the finish without falling apart and being caught by my erstwhile companions. Actually, one lad did pass me at about 15 miles - he never got out of sight but he certainly ran a better race than I did - probably managed a negative split.
The last few miles were ticked off at an ever slower pace - 6:20, 6:25, 6:30. Even the final mile I couldnt raise my game and recorded a 6:32.

Such a disapointment to run so badly in the second half. Particularly when I consider how well I ran the latter stages of the Buttermere  race and how I'd managed a negative split in my 16 mile marathon pace training run. Clearly I cannot have lost fitness, so what went wrong?

  • Did I start too fast? - I dont think so - 6:12 for 10 miles was spot on for my pre-race plan and felt no more than a steady effort, at least until halfway.
  • Did I err in front running when I could have sat in the group? Possibly, but it wasn't windy. I beat all but one of those lads so letting them dictate the pace would have been marginally slower, and, if I'd still ended up struggling then my time would  have been slower overall.
  • Did I train too hard in the week prior to racing? I certainly trained hard all week, but I was finished training by Thursday night and did nothing on Friday and 7 miles easy jogging on Saturday - besides, this was always a training race so to ease down for it would be to waste the previous week. I don't think I did anything different training-wise compared to say, the Buttermere race.
  • Did I fail to prepare in some other way that affected my performance? Ah well now perhaps there is something to be investigated here....

....Historically I was never very good at long endurance stuff. A bike race of 50-60 miles was perfect for me but 75 miles and longer would be a problem, I just wouldnt have the energy to keep working hard for long enough. Same on the long winter rides - even with a cafe stop I would be serioulsy blowing up by the time I got home. Now with a long run being say 2 hours and a long race being inside 3, this isn't such a big issue in running compared to cycling. But to ensure I am fully fuelled up prior to running a long way I like to have plenty of rice and pasta the night before. Every London marathon I have done since 2006 has seen me eat in the same restaurant the night before, where  I know the curry will a) not give me any tummy trouble, and b) be a massive portion.
When I have any distance to train above, say 15 miles, I will ensure I eat similarly the night before. I have often found that I have enjoyed a good training run after such a meal, and conversely I have often had a bad day if I've had something like  a roast dinner or buffet. Unfortunately last Saturdays tea was roast pork and roast potatoes. I didnt want to appear ungrateful by suggesting I wanted something different so I just hoped for the best.
Thinking about things now I suppose that with me also abstaining from junk food for the three days before the race, my liver and muscle glycogen levels were probably below their usual, and the optimal level. For breakfast I had my usaul banana on toast but I couldnt be bothered to have cereal too - I was worried the extra fluid level with the milk might give me a stitch in the race.
My in-race-eating-plan for the marathon is to have a gel after 11 miles (about 70 mins) then another at 19 miles, with one extra in reserve. At Trimpell I had one at 10 miles and would have had another at about 16. I didnt boher with the second one though as by then I was getting a mild stitch anyway and didnt feel like eating would help me.

So  - not conclusive, but I think I can blame poor advance fuelling in part for not having the race I wanted.
Maybe I did start too fast - perhaps, instead of 6:10 I should be aiming for  6:16 pace for the marathon - it would give me a sub 2:45 and therefore a championship entry option for the following 2 years.

A good test will be next Saturdays run. I'm putting myself down for 24 miles at my slowest pace (7min miles). However, because Im joining my young pal Wes Weston on his 16 miles at 6:45 pace, I will either run 8 miles beforehand, or 4 miles before and after. If I can increase the pace as required then I will again feel a little more confident for London.

Handily, theres  a month or more and still a lot of training to be done before the big day - I dont think getting fitter is the biggest hurdle - refining my pre-race and in-race plan will be key

Early miles

(Photo by Charlie Satterly - many thanks)

Friday, March 2, 2012

A long weight for a pudding

I'm a skinny bloke, I know that. When I was a late teenager and starting to get into bike racing I was just under 10 and a half stones. When I quit biking and got into running I tended to hover at just over the 10.5. A few years ago I noted my weight begin to creep upwards and then it passed 11 stones. When it got to be always AT LEAST 11st 3lb I decided I needed to do something to arrest this trend. I gave up eating junk for a couple of months and soon returned to 10.5 stones.

Last year I again gave up the cakes and sweets etc whilst training for London - resuming about 3 weeks prior to race day to ensure I didnt go into the race too light.

Of late I have noted I am approaching 11st again and so in a bid to ensure I dont reach that target, and to live a bit more healthily, I have put myself on a diet for all of March. I suppose its not really a diet in the proper sense because I still eat as much as I want  - sometimes as much as I can - waistbands are often loosened post Sunday roast!

Its the chocolate, sweets, cakes, puddings and lager that I am giving up. The lager wont be difficult, I only average about one can per week, but I do tend to pig out on the other things on a daily basis. Yesterday was the first day and by nine oclock at night I had the serious munchies - a bowl of cereal filled the gap where a large bar of chocolate, some christmas cake and a slice of gateaux would previously have been called upon.

In other news - I have broken in a new pair of New Balance for the marathon. I'll use them for this weekends 20 mile race and also my longest run a couple of weeks later, just to ensure they throw up no problems. I have also chosen which shorts to wear on the day. A favourite pair of socks will be chosen soon then kept aside to ensure they do not get threadbare before the race. I also think I have sorted my in-race gel consumption. So, another month of flogging myself round the ever lighter streets of sunny Carlisle and I will be set. Following the race in two days time I should know what kind of time might be a realistic target.