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Paris Marathon Training : and some new recovery snacks

It’s three weeks until Paris and yesterday I completed my longest run of this build up, a 27km TLT (Threshold-Long-Threashold) session. The session went like this:
– Dynamic warmup: squats, walking lunges, leg swings, sideways leg swings, hip-openers, glute-activators followed by 1km slow run.
Threshold : Three repeats of 3.2km run to HR at Zone 4.5-5.0 pace, followed by 3 minute walk break.
Long : 13km ‘LSD’ run to HR at Zone 3.8-4.2 pace, followed by 3 minute walk break.
Threshold : 3.2km run to HR at Zone 4.5-5.0 pace.
– Cool-down : 0.5km slow jog, 800m walk.

Read the rest of this entry


Marathon Palma de Mallorca 2013 : Race Recap

Only 600 metres!“, “Only 500 metres!“, “Only 400 metres. Come on! You can do this!!!“. You get the idea. There was A LOT of positive self-motivation required in the last stages of the Marathon Palma de Mallorca on Sunday. A lot. More than I’ve ever needed to finish any race.

Pre race:

Jumping back to the beginning – my pre-race was not optimum. Both myself and my running buddy Mark had colds. Sunday morning’s pre-race routine had to be amended to include a very hot shower with lots of coughing to loosen the phlegm off my chest and (gross-out alert) blow out some serious amounts of sticky yellow/green snot, along with adding a double dose of both Ibuprofen and Sudafed to my usual pre-race meal of oatmeal bars, Gatorade and two energy gels.

Our accommodation was 3km from the race start, giving us a perfect opportunity to warm up with some walking and jogging (plus more coughing and snot). Mark and I noticed it felt really warm – a temperature display en route was showing 22 C (72 F), and that it was pretty humid as well.

At the race centre we were able to swiftly complete bag check, have our last toilet break, complete our warmup and make our way to the corral, arriving with about 8 minutes to spare. I turned on my Garmin and this also showed me my heart rate was high. Just standing around it was already higher than my recovery run HR. Hoping it was just nerves and caffeine on top of the cold I yelled out the ten-second countdown with everyone and cheered as the gun sounded and the music started.

First 10km:

The race was crowded but the first wave thinned quickly enough that we were able to hit our pace with very little zig-zagging. The race took us south-west out of the city centre and along the marina. Very nice but the port turned to ‘industrial’ about the 4km mark and the view wasn’t great until about 7km when we returned to the yacht moorings on the way into the old city. Seeing our girlfriends twice along the route was however a big bonus and we pushed to the 10km point in high spirits, and with a target to run 5’32″/km the first 10km were covered at perfect pace coming in at 5’31” average.

Still feeling good at the 11km mark, with the La Seu Cathedral in the background

Still feeling good just after the 10km mark, with the La Seu Cathedral in the background

10km – 21.095km

Feeling good after the first 10km we pushed into the hilly portion of the race with a plan to maintain that same pace. This part of the race was the most scenic as we climbed from the port into the old town, past designer shops, great restaurants and fantastic buildings. There was the odd 180 degree turn which felt like the course organisers were having to make up the distance, but overall it was very enjoyable. Especially at around the 18km mark when you pop out from a very tight cobbled street onto the piazza in front of the cathedral. The girls had also made their way here so that was a highlight point of the race.

Back past the La Seu Cathedral, feeling 'two thumbs up' at the 19km mark

Back past the La Seu Cathedral, feeling ‘two thumbs up’ at the 19km mark

Pacing wise, we both have Garmins but the buildings and narrow streets of the old town were affecting our satellite link and the watches went crazy. One time my watch was reporting that we were busting along at 4’45” pace, while Mark’s was saying 6’05”. There was a bit of confusion so we figured we’d just average our watches and see what happened. Overall we came out of the old town section in 5’25” average, a little fast, but feeling strong.

21.095km – 30km

Into the third section of the race and at about 23km Mark started to tighten up and our pace dropped. We stuck together however I acted as the pacer and pushed out a bit (keeping about 30m in front) so Mark had a ‘chasing’ target to keep up with. We had a quick catch up at the aid stations and push out again. This was also the most boring part of the marathon. Running out of the city, with the sun in your face and into a 19kph headwind at times, we spent most of the time on a major road which was open to (slow moving) traffic in the other lane. In terms of scenery there wasn’t really any of note, though the people in cars were blasting out music, honking horns and being really supportive which helped.

When we passed the 30km timing check there was only a 15 second split between us and although our pace for the last section had dropped to 5’54″/km, as we made the turn-around back towards Palma we were still on pace for a 3:53 finish.

30km – 42.2km

We were both flagging as we pressed on into the last section of the race, and while a sub-4:00 marathon still looked possible, it was certainly looking very hard. At our little powwow at the 31km point Mark told me to go ahead as he was bonking badly and needed to walk.

Feeling OK at this point I pushed on and increased my pace to 5’45″/km to see if I could go for a 3:51 and sneak a few seconds off my PB. And that was the singular worst decision I made all day…

Up to this point my heart rate had been high, sitting close to my threshold. While I had been strong up to 30k and pushed through the 20mile barrier without issues, as I turned into the dunes at 34km, with the hot sun on my back and strangely no wind to cool me, the going got tough. Quickly. Out the window went the PB, with a reset to a 4:00 target.

I don't seem to be having much fun in this photo! Hard yakka running at this point!

I don’t seem to be having much fun in this photo! Hard yakka running at this point!

I kept pushing on but at 36km I learned a valuable lesson – what I thought was ‘the wall’ in my previous marathons was merely a bonk and a corresponding drop in pace. At 36km I suffered a spectacular blowout complete with dizziness, goosebumps, inability to focus, numb hands, tingling arms and a slow down to a staggering walk. At this point I got seriously worried about a DNF but I ‘got my shit together’ and decided to just walk to the next aid station and regroup there. Once there I drank sports drink, took another energy gel, as well as some sport beans and half a banana from the refreshment table. After downing this lot I grabbed two water bottles and started walking, slowly but steadily trying to get the water into me. I had a look at my situation and figured out that if I walked all the way to the end I would still be able to beat 4:30, and revised my goal again.

On a downhill section around 37km I was able to start running again, but walked up the next hill. Run, walk, try and sort myself out mentally (easier this time thanks to tips I learnt from Grateful Running), run, walk. Doing this I figured I actually had a shot at 4:15 if I kept it up, so revised my goal again.

And that was basically how it went until Mark managed to catch up with me at the 38km point and we (he) decided we would finish together. From then it was a ‘run to the next km marker‘ plan, from where we walked for about 200 or 300m before running on to the next km marker.

42km point. Mark looks fresh. Me not so much...

42km point. Mark looks fresh. Me not so much…

As we entered the final stages of the race the crowds picked up again which provided a boost and as we ran past the 41km marker we saw the girls cheering us again. Much as I would have liked a hug and a kiss, I couldn’t stop. If I stopped I wouldn’t start again and I wasn’t past the finish line yet. It was nice to hear the yell from my girlfriend “Don’t stop! Keep going, you’re almost there!” and this kept me going, with me counting down each 100 metres as we went, crossing the line in 4:09:30.

751/1488 overall : 142/190 age group

751/1488 overall : 142/190 age group

Mile 26.3

After the race I needed a couple of minutes to take stock and re-group, but I quickly recovered and found my energy returning. By the time the girlfriends met up with us Mark and I were (half-heartedly) doing our post-race stretch session so we called it a day and walked through to the race entertainment area, got some free Gatorade, Coke, beer (alcohol free – yuk!) and more fruit. Bags retrieved, showers had, it was time to head into the city and begin the recovery, but more on that in another post…

Later that day I had a look at the weather report. Turned out that at race start the humidity was 94%, staying really high for the first half of the race, until the temperature began rising to the max of 26 C (79 F) and 74% humidity at the end of the race. No wonder we couldn’t get cool out on the course and certainly part of the reason I so spectacularly ‘lost it’ near the end!


Going forwards

Overall not my fastest race, however given the fact I had a cold and was popping Sudafed throughout the race (shhh – don’t tell my doctor), I’m really happy that I managed to pull it together to complete after hitting ‘the wall’ big time. In fact, having had a few days recuperation I would say it was my best marathon of three, despite being 18 minutes off my PB – in this race I was able to pace well, follow a plan, and do all this while ill. And the most important part, when the wheels fell off I was able to regroup physically and mentally, revise my goal and keep going.

The race itself is also a good one, held in a beautiful city. I will put up a race review soon for anyone thinking of taking a race-cation to Spain next year.

In the meantime,

Happy running everyone!


Get Going, Get Running!

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Marathon training week 16 : The Two-Times Taper

No, I’m not doing some form of double taper. In fact, I don’t even know what that would be (the semantics of increasing something that is decreasing always escapes me), I’m referring to starting my taper period as well as having to tape up my toes because of my annoying niggle.

Taper x 1: The toe taping: 

If you saw Saturday’s post I’m suffering from an ‘injury’ which is causing a lot of pain in my two smallest toes in my right foot. The pain was significant enough after my Thursday 10miler that on Friday I wore trainers to work. A great look. Not.

At least they weren’t my Adidas Adios trainers with the hypercolour laces. No, wait… Read the rest of this entry

Marathon Training : One bad workout doesn’t mean a bad race!

Saturday was the third of my TLT long runs, and should have been a great run. The weather was perfect, the route also good, allowing me to run an errand (the assistant displayed a great sense of humour as I stood there in running gear, sweating like crazy), as well as taking in a route around Regents Park and the Regents Canal in London, all while allowing the ‘mechanics’ of a TLT run to be completed. Despite all this in my favour, the run sucked. Like ‘worst run I can remember’ sucked. Like one of those runs where the language to describe it is suitable only for blogs like AngryJogger

So what went wrong? I don’t really know. I just know that is was going well until around the 14km mark where I saw my pace dropping off and my fatigue rising quickly. The next 2kms were a real slog, as the fatigue and pain started to set in. At the 16km mark I resorted to that great trick – mind games – telling myself “it’s only 10km left, a doddle! Just keep running” and employing another trick I learnt from Hal Higdon – “if the pace hurts, change it”. Slower was worse, so I went faster, figuring at least I’d get home faster. This seemed to work. The pain and fatigue didn’t get worse and I was at least on pace, until I hit the 20km mark and the wheels really started to wobble….


I stopped in a Tesco (another obliging assistant dealing with a sweaty man in running gear), got myself a drink, had a gel, gritted my teeth and ran on. Getting back up to pace just wasn’t happening so I contented myself with a bit of mental positivity – “you’re still running, and that’s enough”. The 22km mark came and it was time for a 2km threshold to finish the run. You guessed it! This is where the wheels fell of and the engine blew up as well! I got through about 600m, saw it was all falling apart and just forced myself to get to the 1km mark, where I just simply stopped running. My body had called it quits, spat the toys out of the pram and given me the finger. I felt like this…


Walking was even a slog. It took me about 10 minutes of walking before I could face the Sainsbury’s near my house (the third obliging assistant dealing with a sweaty runner, this time a sweaty runner with a pale face and wearing a scowl) to pick up some bananas and a chocolate milk for some recovery.

What a bonk! A completely bonked run. Needless to say at the time I was shattered and pretty disappointed, however after some stretching (and some chocolate milk) I recalled a Running Competitor article about rebounding from a tough marathon workout and I decided to review my run to find the positive lessons and any areas where I could benefit from improvement. Here are the things I’ve learnt:

1)        Shit happens. A bad run will happen from time to time, often without any real reason; just sometimes a lot of inconsequential (and even unknown) factors line up to make a run go badly. Get over it!

2)        A bad run is NOT indicative of a bad race. It’s one run in dozens of runs that culminate in a race. Multiple bad runs are a sign which requires further investigation. One bad run is a statistical blip which should be reviewed, but not over analysed and NOT used as a predictor of failure.

3)        The feeling of pain, exhaustion and needing to find the willpower to continue reminded me what the closing stages of a marathon feel like. Maybe the run wasn’t particularly good for race preparation, but it was bloody useful mental preparation.

4)        Hal Higdon was right. Going faster can make you feel better, even if it is only temporary, and at least you’re getting to the finish line faster!

5)        I need to work on my fueling and hydration while running. I was more dehydrated than I expected after the run. Even though it was cool, the sun was up and I had obviously not been taking in enough fluid. I should have drunk to my thirst and got replacement fluid earlier.

6)        I probably need the cutback week that I have in my schedule this week more than I think. I will NOT be tempted to re-run the same work-out to try and do it better. I’ll just stick to my schedule and trust in the training. It was designed by someone who has completed a lot more races than me and has coached many more people to success.

So, where now from here? Onwards and upwards of course! It’s a new week, a new month, and the forecast looks like more running!

Positive running everyone!


Get Going, Get Running!

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Marathon training : the first official run

Today was the first official run of my marathon training!

It was a 5km out-and-back run along the Thames during my lunch break.

As I havent been running much lately I was wondering what the run would be like.  Being ‘official’ – I.e. not jut general fitness – would I feel extra pressure on this run over others? Or would it be fine and I’d just cruise along?

Overall – the run landed somewhere in the middle. It wasn’t too hard, or fast, nor too hot, but it wasn’t  a cruise either. The pace averaged about 5:30/km, which is just over my marathon pace. However, the interesting thing is when looking at my best pace was how fast these were against the average. This means that my speed was yo-yoing a lot, more than could be explained by little rises up and down in elevation or the fact the route was partly tree-lined, leading to GPS errors. I need to get this under control so that I can run at a more even pace, which is more efficient.

Splits average about 5.30/km, however note the 'fastest pace' speeds

Splits average about 5.30/km, however note the ‘fastest pace’ speeds

And I had some arch pain after about 4km, in the right foot. This I found weird, as my recent plantar fasciitis bout has been in my left foot. It could be a leftover from my ankle sprain, however it felt like pressure or tightness in the arch. One thing that is different is I had some new insoles in my shoes. I’m worried they might be pressing up on my arch too much, causing strain. I’ll drop in the standard soles for tomorrow and see how that goes.

Anyway, most of that is dross…

The really interesting thing to see will be whether I can string 3 days of running together in a row. I don’t think I’ve done 3 consecutive days of running since my last marathon in 2011, so it will be a shock to the system. I will certainly need that rest day on Saturday (no AFL game this weekend)! There is of course the complication of Friday runs. Friday is beer day and beer equals no running… Lets see how that pans out. I make no promises!

My training schedule is a 4×1 schedule (Garmin plan tweaked with Hal Higdon Novice) – 4 runs per week, 1 cross training day and 2 rest days. I will do some strength training on the Tuesday rest day, with the Saturday being a true rest day before the long run.

However, I’m still playing AFL and riding, so my schedule will be a bit messed up until August when the AFL season finishes. Until then I’ll be counting AFL training as ‘medium runs’ as it involves training and cycling to and from. Game day counts as a ‘long run’ as its 100 minutes of Fartlek type running, usually covering 10-12k plus. I know this doesn’t quite work as games are on Saturday and I should be doing long runs on Sunday. The current plan is to play on Saturday, and then ‘back-to-back’ with a jog on Sunday. But I’ll have to see what my bruised and battered body thinks of that plan come Sunday mornings!

So, I’m now officially on the path to Palma. Lets see what the next 16 weeks brings!

P.s. Can anyone suggest a UK based half-marathon around August 11th?

All the best for your running everyone!


Get Going, Get Running!

Positive Running : Goals are flexible


That was my reaction when I was greeted this morning by a calendar reminder “M minus 18 weeks” on my phone.

‘M’ is for ‘Marathon’…

I’m not feeling like my recent plantar fasciitis and reduced running has allowed me to develop a good base to embark on a marathon training schedule in just 2 weeks time. I experienced a short period of negative thoughts. Not exactly the way to wake up on a Sunday!

As I was mulling over the various possibilities and ways I could fail, I decided to instead look at the situation positively – “What can I do?”, “Where am I now with my running?”

I realised that with the time on the bike, football training and football games my cardio base is still pretty good. I’m just missing actual running time and a solid base of weekly mileage. It’s not like I’m trying to get from the couch to a marathon in 18 weeks!

As I said in a previous post about positive running – goals are flexible – so instead of fretting about it, I have instead reassessed my goal. Sure, I’ve had to accept that a PB on this next marathon is no longer the goal, but by ‘letting go’ I have been able to drop the anxiety and instead focus on what I can control – my own training and subsequent performance.

I spent this afternoon looking for a training schedule which suits my current running and fitness level, and have now settled on a training plan from Garmin. It is a ‘3×2’ plan (3 runs, 2 cross training per week) which suits my busy schedule, as well as adding in pilates/yoga for core strength and flexibility. I’m not likely to do be able to do pilates or yoga frequently, so instead I’ll swap in strength/stability training and specific stretching sessions instead.

Voila! I’m now feeling positive about the marathon again, and am pretty confident that I have found a training schedule which is realistic and can therefore follow without failure. Fingers crossed!

Happy Running everyone!


Get Going, Get Running!

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