Archive for August, 2009

29
Aug
09

personal trainer

Doing As I’m Told – MiniMotivator – Fast Enough?

I’ve been a bit more law-abiding regarding The Regime over the past few days. First came a Pyramid Interval session a couple of days ago… basically run for 3 mins, then 5 mins, then 7 mins, then 5 mins, then 3 mins with 90 second slow recovery between. The less said about these, the better. They sound fairly easy but the 7 minute session wiped me out and the last 2 sessions were difficult to complete.

Todays session, although 1 day late, was a 55 min run – 5 min warm up, 20 mins at race pace, 5 min slow, 20 mins at race pace and 5 min warm down. Once again, I took SonNumberOne with me on his bike and explained that I would start off slowly, then speed up for a bit, slow down briefly, speed up again and then slow down before finishing. Now, it would appear that my son has a hidden talent… as a cruel and vindictive Drill Sergeant. Once the pace had increased and I was pushing quite hard, the questions started, and not just ordinary questions…

SN1 – “Have you started the fast bit yet?”
ET – “(pant)Uh(pant)Huh!”
SN1 – “But you’re not running very fast”
ET – “(pant) I am going quite (pant) fast. It’s (pant) hard for me to talk (pant)”
SN1 – “This isn’t very fast… it isn’t… look…”
At which point he pedalled a bit faster and overtook me, triumphantly humming the theme from Raiders Of The Lost Ark and shattering my fragile ego.

Next on the agenda is a 90 min easy run with a 15 min push at the end – I am due to do this tomorrow but may shift it back to Monday, what with it being a Bank Holiday and all. It should be a good indicator of how I’ll fare in the Garden City 10 in a weeks time as I reckon I should be able to do 10 miles in 90 mins, which I know is not particularly fast for a lot of folk, but it’s pretty fast for me.

Incidentally, I was recently sent a link to the Adidas Running Hub. It appears to be pretty new as content is sparse at the moment but is an interesting idea as it has running related articles, links, the odd video and, perhaps most importantly, the chance for some to test Adidas trainers and give feedback. Which means that not only should some of you be able to get some free shoes to try but hopefully, the feedback submitted will help provide better designed shoes for the everyday runner and not just the elite athlete.

Soundtrack to this post: Police & Thieves – Junior Murvin

25
Aug
09

something to prove

Out Of Practice – Homecoming – How Much Will I Hurt Tomorrow

With Hard As Snails out of the way, the realisation that I am about to enter my busiest period of the year race wise has dawned on me. What else has dawned on me is that in 12 days time I shall be running the Garden City 10.

Apart from the obvious personal nostalgia value (it is the town I grew up in), it will also be the first time I have run 10 miles in a very long time. The Schedule is gearing me up for the Royal Parks Half in October but up until now, I have been doing intervals and shorter runs. This stood me in good stead for the 10k last weekend but I woke this morning a bit fearful that I may not actually be able to run 10 miles.

I decided that the only way to prove to myself that I could run 10 miles was to go out and run roughly 10 miles. So I did.

I had a fairly good idea of the route I should take and that I wasn’t intending to run it at race pace as my legs were still ruined from the weekends efforts. The first 10km passed fairly uneventfully but I was 30 seconds off my PB time so I think the intervals and speedwork must be making a difference. From about 12km onwards I noticed I started to tire fairly rapidly although I completed 9.25 miles in 1:25:22 which puts me about on track for a sub 2 hour Half Marathon – something I haven’t managed since the last Royal Parks Half thanks to a long spell of injury and recovery.

So, confidence restored and with no idea how much my already vandalised legs will ache tomorrow, I can sleep well tonight knowing that I may not do it very quickly but I should at least be able to complete my next race.

Soundtrack to this post: Amulet – Natacha Atlas

24
Aug
09

hard as snails 10k race report

Early Start – The Hills, The Horror – Not Last

After a magnificent vegetable curry and a fitful nights sleep ( a touch of “pre-match nerves” and sleeping in the unfamiliar surroundings of Hauling My Carcass‘s spare room) it was up and out by 7am to get to Hard As Snails. The website had said that the car park would open at 7.30 and we arrived promptly at 7.29. A bit of a loiter and then we decided to beat the rush and get registered early. Not a bad idea as once registered, we sat in the car and watched the field slowly fill with cars, and fretted that everyone else looked far fitter than us and that we may actually come in last.

During our discussions the previous evening over curry, we had decided the race was such a wild card that we couldn’t hope for a personal best and that we would instead run it together and give each other a bit of support and motivation. Hauling My Carcass has been plagued with niggly injuries since the end of May and I have had a very sore calf since I started interval training – we’d agreed that just finishing was what counted. And even if we were last, we would both be last so could share the humiliation.

About 8.45 we crossed the road and made our way to the start. After a quick speech through a megaphone, the start of the race was signalled by a quick “3…2…1…Go!” and we were off, shuffling through the start gate and breaking into a trot only to break back into a shuffle moments later as we all slowly trudged up the wood / mud steps that signalled the start of the first incline. About 100 metres later and we were on solid, steep ground and the running proper began. We twisted up the trail, not too steep but enough to take the air from your lungs and cause some people to start walking with the first 500 metres. Which psychologically made me feel better… In my minds eye, everyone else who had entered this race was a seasoned hill runner who demolished inclines like they were not even there. Seeing people walking up the first hill indicated that I might not actually be the last to cross the line. The trail flattened momentarilly, just long enough for you to think that perhaps it’s not going to be so bad after all before beginning to rise again. Indeed, the first 3k follows this pattern – climbing fairly steeply followed by a slight drop or levelling out before climbing again. My breathing and that of everyone around me was becoming heavier, the calves were beginning to ache, HMC wanted to stop and stretch his calves and I took the time to massage my left calf a little – I was still sore from intervals and a few practice inclines two days prior. Then we were off again back up the hill. The soil is very sandy. Very, very sandy in places and it absorbs a lot of the power in the stride, it feels like you are running on a beach and if you have ever run on a beach you will know how much extra effort is required just to maintain a reasonable pace. At 4km, I checked my Garmin and noted that I had taken the same time to do 4k as I had to run 5k in training!

Turning the corner of the field, this thought was soon wiped from my mind by the sight of the trail in front of us going up, up, up through a cornfield and disappearing into some woodland where you could just see glimpses of those in front making their way up. At this point hardly anyone was running. The incline was at least 45 degrees, probably more, so the preferred method was either a walk or a slow trudge. The brave few who attempted to run had my admiration as they passed me at a snails pace, teeth gritted, brows furrowed.

Once at the top, there were brilliant views to be had although I doubt many were able to fully appreciate them as another slightly less steep incline followed. Just as it looked as if it may be flattening out, you rounded a bend and glimpsed the path turning entirely to sand and rising sharply right in front of you. Like me, almost everyone around me chose to walk this. Once at the top, I realised that we were roughly halfway and a few encouraging words from the marshalls was all we needed to be back off and running again.

A water point at 5k and then, fortunately, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction so at this point the course started to become mostly downhill. I picked up the pace and careered recklessly down the track, skidding in the sandy soil and hopping and picking my way through tree roots, ducking and dodging branches. Parts of the course were familiar as we had run this on the outward leg and were now running back the opposite way. The running became easier as gravity was now on my side, but I was now having to completely focus on staying upright on the uneven surface and each foot strike was sending judders through my tired legs and up into my spine.

Strangely, I was beginning to enjoy this now, I knew I still had energy to run the remainder at a reasonable pace and once the ground became firmer, was eager to get to the finish. Past the 8km marker and I’m feeling good. The 9km marker appears soon after and I check my Garmin. The Garmin says 8.7km and the dilemma is… Is it the Garmin that’s wrong or the kilometre markings. I can pick up the speed for 1 km but don’t know if the remaining kilometre is actually 1.3kms. There are a few people at the sides of the trail now, some spectators and some runners who have already finished all shouting encouraging words. Hauling My Carcass misses his footing, goes over on his ankle, and grabs onto me for support, swearing loudly. Spectators who weren’t paying attention suddenly turn to see what has caused the outburst of expletives, realise it’s just two red faced blokes with no hair stumbling down the hill and go back to what they were doing. But we are close to the finish now so just grit our teeth and carry on. The finish line appears and it is a very sharp right turn to get over the line and back to the spot we started from.

And that was it. We’d done it. We hadn’t failed. And, importantly, we weren’t last. Once the realisation that it was over had worn off, the finish seemed a bit of an anticlimax. We helped ourselves to a free banana from a box on the floor and got a cup of water from the dispenser and then… turned and walked back to the car. I had predicted that I would complete it in about 1:10:00 but by our combined efforts at timing ourselves, we reckon we finished in 1:07:22 which I was happy with.

Overall, a great race. Very challenging and physically tougher than any of my previous races. The marshalling was good, good-natured and encouraging throughout the course, congratulatory at the tops of the climbs. The distance markers seemed a bit random, the timing slightly off (our times show on the website 20 seconds slower as the timing chip didn’t seem to allow for the time taken to get to the start line once the clock had started) and the activity at the finish line a bit of an anticlimax but these are small niggles. The course is unlike anything I have tackled before, the views amazing and the sense of achievement and relief at the end worth the effort.

Soundtrack to this post: Government Land – Horace Andy

20
Aug
09

prep

Last Chance – The 6 Commandments – 100% Curry Powered

Casting aside The Regime because of Saturdays Hard As Snails, I needed a little run today to give me a taster of what to expect. With that in mind, todays mission was this:

1) Find a point 2 and a half to 3 kilometres way.
2) Work out the most inhospitable route between the two points including hills, gravel paths, farmers fields and dirt tracks.
3) Run the route, then once arrived at the furthest point, turn round and run back.
4) Once route complete, walk for 100 metres, then sprint 100 metres.
5) Walk 100 metres then run 200 metres… fast… uphill.
6) Collapse in a heap.

Mission accomplished – 5.11km in 29mins 47secs + whatever it took me to do the sprint and uphill bit. So that’s it now… all that remains is to get myself to Hauling My Carcass‘s place tomorrow evening for Veggie Curry (still not sure if that’s a good idea the night before a gruelling off-road 10k!!??) then up at stupid o’clock on Saturday morning for HMC to drive us to the race.

Wish us luck… I’ve a feeling we’re going to need it!

Soundtrack to this post: Take Me To The Hospital – The Prodigy.

18
Aug
09

lost count, start again

Practice Makes Perfect – Going Up – 5, No 6, No 5

Sundays little venture was a “practice” 10km which came in at just under 2 minutes off my personal best, which I was pleased with. Unfortunately, I think Saturdays Hard As Snails will weigh in a good 10 minutes slower so, with that thought in mind, I embarked upon todays task… Hill Intervals.

I wish I had more to say but after the first couple of repeats, my memory went in to a total shutdown, each ascent being locked away in a secluded little corner of my mind reserved for traumatic experiences. So what with that and the sweat in my eyes blinding me, it was all I could do to check my watch to ensure that I had been running uphill for the correct amount of time. The schedule specified that I do 10 mins easy warm up, 2 mins uphill / 1 min down x 6, 10 mins easy warm down. Somewhere, I managed to lose count as I was resetting my stopwatch at the bottom of the hill each time. And when I realised that I thought I had done six, but that I may have only done five repeats, I did another… not wanting to cheat myself out of the opportunity to run up a hill one more time, blind with sweat and feeling like something in my chest cavity may explode.

So, having run 6 hill repeats (maybe 7) and set off on my way home, it slowly dawned on me that I had to conquer quite a steep incline to get to where I was to perform my repeats in the first place and was once again conquering it on my journey back. So, I may actually have done 8 repeats… or 9.

Soundtrack to this post: Stormy Weather – Elisabeth Welch

13
Aug
09

evil

Just Following Orders – A Little S&M – Where Were You When The Fun Stopped

I have tackled a couple of training runs since my last blog. The first, on Tuesday, was a little 45 minute out and back run where I was supposed to get 22 and a half minutes into the run, turn round and come back the way I came. The idea being that I would arrive back at my starting point on the 45 min mark, thus proving that I can keep a consistent speed. Although, this didn’t prove to be the case as the return leg took me 1 minute and 20 seconds longer. Which doesn’t sound like much but works out at about 30 secs per mile slower on the way back than on the way out. Still, I suppose the point of these training regimes is to make you look at each part of your run, do you start to fast, finish too slow, not push enough…I’ve never really analysed my performance before preferring just to go and see how long it takes me. Following a schedule highlights weaknesses very quickly… and that can be quite hard to take. Which brings me nicely to…

Todays run was really just a short interval session. The training schedule made it sound harmless… 10 mins easy warm up, 30 secs sprint, 30 secs recover x 8, 10 mins easy warm down. Also, allow me to quote the accompanying text “Throw in a few 30 second sprints for some serious speed and fun”. Sounds so casual, so carefree doesn’t it… “throw in”. And fun… ooh, goody. The first sprint was good and quite exhilerating, the second not too bad, the third quite difficult. By the 4th, someone seemed to have stolen all the oxygen from the atmosphere as I was gulping air but it didn’t seem to be helping. In fact I needed 1 minute recovery to get some air back in me before tackling the remaining sprints. I was running up and down the same stretch of path in the park, like a human Newtons Cradle, back and forth but each swing getting progressively smaller, with less and less power. Eight and a half minutes later, I was like a broken man, sweating, panting and not looking forward to my 10 “easy” minute warm down. And where was the fun… because I seem to have missed it? Unless you are the sort of person who enjoys being waterboarded or gets excited at the thought of tackling self – dentistry with the contents of a tool box, there didn’t seem to be a lot of fun to be had.
So, I think the “regime” is pushing me to try things that I wouldn’t normally do, showing me my weak spots, my achilles heel(s)… and there are plenty. I feel that I have deteriorated rather than improved but also think that is because I am out of my comfort zones and pushing and experimenting with each run. I have Hard As Snails in little over a week which will be a good indicator of my progress – it is going to be tough but, at 10k, is a nice distance and also a bareable amount of time just to grit my teeth and get on with it.

Also, having just read this Ironman review, I feel such a wimp…

Soundtrack to this post: Give It Up – Public Enemy

09
Aug
09

back to the regime

Round And Round – Lashing Down – The Ground Beneath Your Feet

Thursday was Interval Day and I was not looking forward to it.

The plan said 5 mins warm up run, 5 mins run at 80% with 90 secs recovery x 5 and then 5 mins warm down run. Easy… I am getting the hang of the percentages a bit better now so have a pretty good idea of what 80% is (I estimate between 7 and a half and 8 and a half min mile pace), still 5 mins seems like a long time and 90 secs seems like a short time but I gave it a go.

And it wasn’t too bad. My big dilemma was whether to run one of my regular routes and just speed up / slow down as and when required or to brave the local park with it’s makeshift running route around the perimeter – no distance guides just a meandering route marked out in white on the grass around the edge of the park with, get this, apparatus at random intervals to do pull-ups or leg presses should the running alone prove too easy!!! I’ve always preferred running away from something or towards something and running a big “out and back” route feels like you are actually travelling somewhere. I wasn’t sure about running around in a big circle where, at any given point, you can glance up and see exactly where you started but decided to try. I managed to keep roughly within my expected time and, although I slowed slightly with each interval, was feeling pretty happy with my performance. As I was about to start my last interval, it began to rain so I decided that the last 5 mins would be the first part of my journey back home. Within 30 seconds it was hammering down, people rushing for cover and gangs of children attempting to get drunk on cider during the school holidays were huddling under trees and I was squelching my way homeward through my last 5 minute interval, a 90 second recovery and then a 5 min warm down. In actual fact, I just kept running, my soaking running top hanging heavily off me like the flesh of someone who used to weigh 30 stone who has crash dieted down to 10 stone without time for their excess skin to catch up. It took 2 days for my running shoes to dry out, despite being stuffed with newspaper and left on the windowsill in the sun.

So, my next run was Sunday. And, once again the schedule said, run at 60% effort (so you can still talk) for 70 minutes. My eldest son had asked if he could come running with me again as we hadn’t run together since the Wheathampstead 2k and I presumed that if I were to mercilessly make him run for 70 minutes with me, I’d have Social Services knocking on the door. So, I suggested that he cycle along with me to keep me company, we could talk and I would be running at the correct pace.

I can honestly say, it was one of the most enjoyable runs I have ever done. It was round a fairly regular route of mine but was made a completely different experience by having SonNumberOne with me. Listening to him talk to me about what he was seeing and thinking whilst I ran (and he cycled) made me see the route through new eyes and the time passed in a flash. How often, when you’re out running does your running partner come up with existential musings such as “Why are big farms in the countryside and not in the city?” and “People who work Sundays in shops must never get a day off because shops are open every day”. My favourite quote of the day though is this gem spoken as we were running down a dirt track in the woods… “Dad, I bet you’re thinking what I’m thinking… I bet you’re thinking that because we are running on mud, underneath the mud there could be the bones of… Dinosaurs!!”

Soundtrack to this post: Okay Let’s Talk About Magic – F*ck Buttons




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