Archive for March, 2009

31
Mar
09

reality czech

City Of A Thousand Spires And A Million Cobbles – PW Not PB – I’ll Be Back

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What started as a throw-away comment after last years Royal Parks Half had now become a reality. Initially, Hauling My Carcass had vowed to hang up his running shoes as soon as he crossed the finish line of the Royal Parks but, no more than 2 minutes after finishing that race, and with a big (sweaty) grin on his face, he’d asked me “What next then?”. “I fancy the Prague Half” I replied – Prague is one of my favourite cities and the Half Marathon was supposed to be a very good event…

6 months later… we arrive at Prague Airport at 4.30pm on Friday and decide to head straight to the Half Marathon Expo to collect our race packs containing our numbers, timing chips and a very nice Adidas Prague Half Marathon branded running shirt. Once the registration is complete, we’re off to the hotel to get settled before we head out to eat. Talk all night and into the early hours is of the race the next day, of personal bests, of planned finishing times.

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The day itself was very well organised, easy to navigate, quick to drop bags, plenty of toilets. We made our way to the start and after enduring Survivors “Eye Of The Tiger” at mind-shearing volume through the PA, we’re off – exactly on time. There are cheering crowds and a group of drummers and Czech TV cameras. The atmosphere is great and the first few kilometres are quick and effortless. I’d agreed to keep up with Hauling My Carcass for the first 10km and his timing strip and my Garmin had us exactly where we should be for the first part of the race – perhaps even a little ahead. All things being well, I’d planned to finish in 1h 58m. The route was mostly flat but the surface alternated between cobblestones, tramlines and uneven tarmac and was proving difficult to traverse – each foot strike took a little additional effort as you tried to correct yourself on the crooked surface. Around about 8km, Hauling My Carcass began to increase his pace a little and I decided to stick where I was – I was 140 metres ahead compared to my Virtual Partner on the Garmin so thought I’d conserve my energy for later in the race.

Just before 10km, I very quickly felt my legs tire and begin tingling with pins and needles. I was back on the cobblestones and had underestimated how much harder it is to run on an irregular surface, I tried to push through it but, although my torso felt fine, my legs had nothing extra to give. I looked at my Garmin and watched my 140m lead shrink to 90m, then 50m, then I was behind schedule. I’d completed the first 10k in 57.20 but now I was slowing, unable to push any harder and unsteady as the numbness in my feet and legs combined with the cobbles to make each step a calculated risk. I carried on but could see my plan of a sub 2 hr finish slowly dwindling.

I needed to make a decision quickly about how I wanted to continue. I could push on and try for a reasonable time but the legs were heavy and I did not want to fall on the cobbles or slip on a tramline and risk not finishing. By this point, the Garmin said I was almost 500 metres behind schedule so took the decision to switch off the virtual partner and just aim to finish. The next 8km were a combination of a couple of kms running, a couple of hundred metres walking to get some feeling back in the legs and then back to the running.

The last 5kms were just me grinding it out, I was struggling but mentally broke the distance down into 1km chunks, if I could just do one more, then another I would be OK. The last km was a left turn at the end of a bridge and then a long slow, cobbly incline to the finish. It was a killer but about 150 metres from the finish, I could see Hauling My Carcass, already finished and screaming at me, willing me on. I pushed hard and hurtled across the finish line, swearing loudly. Hauling My Carcass, grabbed me in our now customary post-race-hug which was sorely needed as he was all that was holding me up at that point.

I finished in 2:09:53 – a personal worst but strangely, did not feel unhappy about it. I’d underestimated how difficult the surface was and the 6 weeks of training that I had managed to grab since my injury had enabled me to go the distance but I was just not physically strong enough to deal with both the distance and the cobbles. I finished knowing that I’d done as well as I could.

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The next 2 days were spent eating, relaxing and walking around. There was fantastic architecture, great food, apple shisha, belly dancers… Prague really is an amazing place, both beautiful and bizarre. Whether I return to run the Half Marathon again, I don’t know but I will definitely return.

Soundtrack To This Post: Cabaret Voltaire – Sensoria

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24
Mar
09

inconsistent forecasts and unusual incentives

Intermittent Internet – Information Overload – And Now The Weather

This post is a day or so later than I’d have liked due to the Internet Goblins tampering with the connectivity – one minute it’s there and I’m happily browsing, the next I’m swearing, turning off the modem, turning it back on again, trying the phone line to see if I can at least make calls… when suddenly it is back on! So, for now, we’re working so I’d better get this done…

Sunday’s run was the first with the new Garmin Forerunner 205 and it was very successful. I got a satellite signal in about 30 seconds and was off and running with no problems. It seems to have worked well throughout my run, even along a tree lined bridle path and (briefly) under a railway bridge. I set the distance to kilometres and have to admit I did find it a little strange. I run the same route frequently and know roughly where all the mile markers are, to suddenly do it in kms was odd but nothing I can’t get used to. The data that I have was interesting (?) too, I need to do the run a few more times but some of the splits are wildly different – some are obviously where I am running up / down hills but I need to investigate further on subsequent runs to see if I slow in the same places. I ran an average of 9.36 per mile but this seems to fluctuate by almost a minute in some cases… curious. So I should be able to get some good info from it to help my training – I haven’t tried the virtual partner yet but am sure that it will prove useful – and it tells me all sorts of things that have never even crossed my mind. Apparently, I burned 1375 calories during my 10 mile run!

And so we reach the final few days before setting of for Prague. I had planned to do a short run today with Hauling My Carcass but he has a nagging pain in his foot that he is trying to treat and I seem to be nurturing quite a sore throat. As the rest of my family have systematically come down with a cold over the last few weeks, it only seem right I too should catch it… I may try a little run tomorrow if things aren’t any worse but don’t want to train and aggravate it so for now, I’m staying indoors.

This is the first time I have entered a race overseas so have been busy preparing for the big day. Obviously, knowing what the weather will be like in Prague for the race is important so I checked a few weather forecasts for the Czech capital for 28th March. And the good news is it’s going to be 12 degrees and sunny.

Or 14 degrees and raining.

Or 8 degrees with a wind chill factor of minus 2 and the chance of some snow showers.

Depending on which forecast I believe, I shall either be running in buff, gloves, wooly hat and tights or vest, shorts and sunglasses. Looks like I’ll be taking every possible combination of running attire just in case… Still, the pre-race dinner the night before is sorted and booked ( pasta – and I wouldn’t normally book but as there is going to be a swarm of runners descending on Prague and 90% will want pasta the night before, I thought it may be a good idea). Post race relaxation is planned to be at one of my favourite places in Prague – the lovely Dahab – eating North African food, smoking shisha and playing backgammon. And hopefully, that’ll be the incentive that I need to get myself in under 2 hours for the first time this year.

Soundtrack to this post: Come To Daddy – Aphex Twin

19
Mar
09

we have the technology

70’s Cliches – No More 60 Times Tables – 2 Wheels Good, 4 Wheels Bad

The title of this post, for those of you not old enough to remember, is from the beginning of The Six Million Dollar Man. It was a bad American TV series from the late 70’s about an astronaut injured in a crash and who was subsequently rebuilt to make him better, faster and stronger than before. It really bears no resemblance to me as I do not think for a second that I will be better or stronger although I hope to get a little faster with the arrival of the technology fairy at my house…

I now have my replacement mp3 player which, ironically, arrived the day after the Fleet Half Marathon. Damn… surely I could have shaved a few vital seconds off of my time had I had the newer, smaller player with me. Oh well…

Secondly, today I received my Garmin 205. Thanks to everyone who offered me their opinion on the relative merits of the 205 / 305 / 405. In the end, I went for the 205 as I really don’t need a heart rate monitor or the ability to add a cadence monitor for when I am on the mountain bike – both would have been nice – but unnecessary. And would have encouraged me to start monitoring all manner of activities that should remain unmonitored. The 205 appears to do plenty enough for me at the moment and should signal the end of me having to do bad maths to work out my average running speed. In fact it’ll tell me my actual splits per mile. Or per kilometre…

Which brings me on to the Prague Half Marathon. The Czech Republic, being much more forward thinking than this little island, will be measuring their Half Marathon in kilometres. And rightly so. Now I have the Garmin, I shall be able to train in kilometres too, which may sound like an odd little revelation but bear with me…

Over the course of a regular Half Marathon, I would ordinarily have 13.1 indicators of my progress. If I am down by 30 seconds on one of my miles, I need to wait another mile until I can work out if I have corrected my pace. If I measure the same distance in kilometres, I have 21.1 indicators – which allows me to try to rectify pace issues earlier and also see if they have been rectified over a shorter distance. Which probably isn’t news to many people but is, like in a cartoon, a tiny, tiny lightbulb appearing above my head for me… Or I could just race against the Garmin’s little “virtual” training partner and I’d need neither miles nor kms…

My 6.54 miles yesterday was completed in 60mins 17secs – an average of 9:13 a mile which still leaves me outside of my goal for Prague of sub 2 hrs – arse!

So I have 2 more training runs before Prague. Sundays is planned to be approximately 10 miles (16.1kms) and then another on Tuesday with Hauling My Carcass of little over 6 miles (10kms). It has been almost 6 months since HMC and I were able to train together owing mostly to me

a) stopping travelling to London for work each day and

b) having my motorbike break down and be in the garage FOR 6 WHOLE MONTHS!!!

Fortunately, last Saturday, I received the call to tell me that the bike was fixed so now I am mobile again. Able to move around without relying on using the car (boo!) or public transport (boo!). So now, I can come and go as I please and get to beautiful South London to do some training along the banks of the Thames. And to quote another cheesy American TV series… “I love it when a plan comes together!”

Soundtrack to this post: Weapons of Mad Distortion – Crystal Method

16
Mar
09

a grand day out: fleet half 15.03.09

The Best Laid Plans – Fleet Not Flat – Staring At The Sun

Getting my family anywhere is like a military operation. It involves precise planning and determined execution.

So it was we set off for Fleet (me, Mrs eatingtrees, son 1 and son 2) 10 minutes later than planned and then, after an unscheduled stop at the local shops to “get breakfast” for the family, we were happily on our way 15 minutes later than anticipated. Fortunately, the roads were clear and it was a beautiful day so we arrived in Fleet a little after 10am, parked the car and found Hauling My Carcass.

I was feeling a little edgy as the last time I had run a Half Marathon was in October. Then I had been training for about 5 months and was completely focussed on what I had to do. This time I was wary of pushing too hard and missing Prague and have had, at best, 6 weeks of rushed training. I’d taped the splits for a 2 hour finish to my wrist as a guide but was aiming realistically for around 2hrs 5 mins.

We made our way to the start and loitered around the sign for 2 hr finishers (worryingly, there was not a sign for 2hrs+), noticing how warmly the sun had begun to shine. Once the horn sounded for the race to start, we shuffled and trotted our way to the start line and we were off. We tried to start slowly but set off a little slower than anticipated, so after 2 miles, we were already a minute adrift of where we wanted to be. The first 2 miles is also a starting loop so it is a little weird to have found yourself back where you started after 19 minutes of running. I was feeling fairly comfortable as we went into the 3rd mile, and the 4th. It certainly wasn’t a flat course and it was now after midday and the sun had really begun to shine. Leaving Fleet town and entering the surrounding country lanes, I began to realise how hot the sun had become. The course had started to undulate and was also starting to feel that we perhaps had tackled more inclines than declines. Hauling My Carcass and I stayed together until the 7 mile mark, where we both then clamped on our respective earphones and agreed to run our own races.

Around about the 8 and half mile mark, I noticed my iliotibial band starting to tighten, so began to ease off a bit. Inclines have always aggravated it and pushing myself on the slopes was beginning to take it’s toll. Once I eased off, it was OK as I headed towards my psychological barrier of between 10 and 11 miles.

Between 10 and 11 was where I had my big humbling moment at the Royal Parks Half. Looking back, the final few days before that race were about as far as one can get from good race preparation. I had finished my old job on the Friday and then had a big night out that saw me get in about an hours sleep. I then rushed around on the Saturday, believing that coffee would get me through before another (mostly sleepless) night before the race. A friend of mine had described me at that point as being “ripped to the tits on caffeine and adrenaline” and they weren’t far off the mark. Suffice to say that at the Royal Parks, I was off like a whippet from the start and at around the 10 and a half mile mark, begun to feel “a bit distant” and the whole world looked like I was viewing it through tracing paper. I knew I had to slow down or fall down so allowed myself 1 minutes walking and a good long drink at the water station. I didn’t want to do that again…

By the last water stop in Fleet, I had finished my drinks so took a little time to stop and refill my bottle with water from the plastic cups being handed out as I knew that I still had approximately 2 miles left and needed fluids to keep me going. The last 2 miles were good and the Jelly Babies and water seemed to be working. The end seemed elusive but once I turned right back into the park and could see the finish line, I got a new lease of life and still had enough in the tank to attempt a stagger sprint finish. Time was 2:06:47 but crucially, I didn’t have to stop and finished without injury. Now I have to work on my time for Prague – I wanted a pb but I will need to run the distance 11 mins faster for that so may settle for sub 2 hours in the Czech capital.

When I got back to the car, the temperature was showing as 22c – so it was a warm day, but a good one too. As a final note, it should be said that the organisation and marshalling of the event was great and the crowds who turned out to cheer everyone on were fantastic. Thanks.
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Soundtrack to this post: Rag and Bone – The White Stripes

12
Mar
09

bring on the cake

Testosterone Poisoning – Let The Punishment Fit The Crime – Happy Birthday To Me – Like Father Like Son

No matter how much I think of Fleet as a warm up for Prague at the end of the month, I still can’t help feeling competitive about it. It must be what a female friend of mine refers to as “Testosterone Poisoning” – becoming unnecessarily competitive about something that really doesn’t matter much. But it does matter, to me at least, because 6 weeks ago I was still struggling with running more than a couple of miles without my Iliotibial Band giving me problems and making any training and using stairs a very tricky proposition indeed. I know that I’ve pushed the training a bit faster than I should have and there was a time when I thought I was going to have to call off taking part in Fleet entirely… But I’ve completed my “taper”, the last pre-race run has been done (6.54 miles) and all that remains is to carb up (it’s my birthday on Saturday so I should be full to the brim with cake come Sunday morning) and try not to injure myself in some ridiculous domestic accident.

My pre-race prep is almost complete except for one thing – music. I may have to run with my older, larger mp3 player. The beautiful new player that I ordered a few weeks back and have been so eagerly awaiting has been “lost in the post”. Now, there are some countries where hunting down the culprit and chopping off their hand would be legal, and in this case, I believe it would be acceptable as I now face having to do the Half Marathon on Sunday with an mp3 player the size and weight of the Oxford English Dictionary strapped to my arm. And think how much faster and more graceful I’d be with a brand new player filled with music chosen especially for the occasion. So I shall have to get creative with a new playlist instead… unless the replacement gets here double quick. Fingers crossed, eh…

For a while, my eldest son (aged 7) has been very curious about my running habit, why I do it, how far I run, do I win any races (bless!). He has even gone so far as to ask if he can race with me. And, as much as I’d love to cross a finishing line side by side with him, I’ve not been able to find a suitable race.

Until now… for tonight we filled out the application form for a 2k race taking place locally in May. It ticks all the boxes in that there is a 2k in which my eldest and I can run together. Then there is a fete with bouncy castle etc. for Mrs eatingtrees and both kids to enjoy whilst Dad runs the subsequent 10k. My son is very excited by the prospect of “racing with Dad” and has already asked if we can go out training for the 2k together.

Soundtrack to this post: Plug Me In – Add N to X

09
Mar
09

…and the blustery day

Too Windy Too Warm – Sports Slime And The 9 Minute Barrier – Advice Please

There’s something brilliant about waking up on a Sunday morning and seeing the sun through the curtains…

Once I’d dragged myself from the bed, looked out and noticed the trees moving in the wind, I’d decided the pre-run weather check was required so… opened the window, stuck out my hand…Hmmm – sunny, windy… and a bit nippy in the wind – could be a Buff and gloves day. Fortunately, by the time the family was all sorted and I’d got out for my run, I’d decided against the “Buff n Gloves” and set off as usual, long sleeve base layer, running T-Shirt, shorts…

The first thing I noticed was the wind – running into it was like constantly running uphill, which considering the first part of my run is actually slightly uphill took some of the fun out of running on such a bright, fresh morning. The next bit of my route takes me down a long slow descent and through a sheltered village where there was no wind. At this point, I realise that the sun (without the wind) is actually very warm, and begin to question if the long sleeve base layer was a good idea and then begin to sweat… So the entire run was spent either running against the wind or feeling too hot once the wind had dropped. Never happy…!

But aside from the temperature and wind resistance, it was a good run. At the 4 mile mark, I experimented with the energy gel recommended by Hauling My Carcass and the jury is still out on that… I find it hard to eat anything when I run, let alone a slimy, blackcurranty, slightly salty gloop that instantly absorbs all the liquid in your mouth. So maybe I’ll stick to my tried and tested “weak Ribena with a pinch of salt” in my water bottle which has served me well up to this point. Oh, and Jelly Babies…

Still the added caffeine in the Energy Gloop may have had an effect, because although I felt like I was slowing, I still managed…

8.68 miles in 77mins 53 secs, giving me an average of 8mins 58secs per mile.

Although the first few miles were probably 8 mins and the last few 12 mins, I am very happy with the average and have broken, what has for me become, the elusive 9 min mile average which I am very, very pleased with. It also highlights that I really do need to get myself a Garmin so I can see my splits and find out whether I am running consistently or starting quick and finishing slow. The plan is to invest in one later this month but am confused which one to go for. I’ve read reviews and there seems to be very little between the Forerunner 305 and the 405 but I currently favour the 305 as it seems to do all the things I want (GPS, virtual partner, mile splits, upload and analyse etc.) and is 50 quid cheaper. If any of you have any advice or opinions about which one to go for, I’d love to hear them – it’d be a real help and you can reply to this post or send me a mail privately using the “e-mail me” link at the bottom of the sidebar on the right hand side.

So, one (maybe two) more short runs and then Fleet Half Marathon on Sunday… and now I am actually quite looking forward to it. Hurrah!

Soundtrack to this post: Honey Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars) – Grinderman

06
Mar
09

acupunctured

Stick Pins In Me, Why Don’t You! – The Taper Starts Here – One Day I Will Learn How To Use WordPress Properly

Last week, I visited my osteopath as I had a “mystery” pain in my shoulder which appeared over a couple of days and then seemed to decide that it wanted to stay. After a few sleepless nights, I realised that it wasn’t going to disappear by itself so made the appointment to get it sorted. Afterwards, it was unbelievably sore and stayed that way for the best part of a week. When I went back to see her today, I explained how sore it had been. She immediately got to work and massaged and cracked me to within an inch of my life. She then decided that to finish it all off, I needed needles stuck in me. Now… osteopathy with an acupuncture chaser seems to have done the trick (at least I’m not close to tears like I was this time last week) but it got me thinking how someone would even contemplate curing you by sticking pins in. It’s almost like deciding the cure for sore eyes would be to rinse them with lemon juice. Anyway, a little “off topic” but it has been rattling around my head so thought I’d share it…

Yesterday was another psychological hurdle for me as I ‘d decided that I needed to run a 10 miler before the Fleet Half Marathon in 9 days time. Once again, the aim was not speed or grace (and believe me there was neither) but to do the distance, without stops and without injury. I was a little hesitant about it before I set off and the first 5 miles were a grind but something happened around the 6 mile mark and I seemed to hit my stride. As I ran back along the towpath and towards the sunset I actually had one of those moments where I realised why I enjoyed running so much. The last few weeks has seen such an increase in the amount of miles covered that it has felt more like a chore than anything enjoyable but now I feel that Fleet is acheivable, suddenly the training has begun to be enjoyable again. The plan is for a shorter run on Sunday (8ish miles) and anorther shorter still (min 4 miles) mid week and then I should be set for Fleet on the 15th.

10 miles – 95mins 40 secs – average of 9m 34s per mile

Like I said, not speedy, but I can work on that now I know I am back up to completing the distance. So, 10 miler done, shoulder kind of fixed and I also learnt what a “pingback” is (thanks JogBlog).

Soundtrack to this post: Special Cases – Massive Attack




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