The night before the day after!

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I was hoping that I’d have some time today to put a few words together about the emotions before the race… the Expo (which was great by the way!) or the amazing support from friends and relatives near or far…

But the day was surprisingly full, and I make no excuse for getting as much rest as I could. .. so just a brief “have a good’n!” to everyone one else running in Athens tomorrow¬† (5, 10 or 42.2k) and you’ll hear more of me from the other side!

PS: I had said in my first post that the main reason for running Athens again was because I wanted to be part of the party. Mission accomplished, and I’m not yet at the starting line! ūüôā

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No one ever said it was going to be easy!

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Sunday’s long run (35km) was another painful and disappointing experience. I started well, in a relaxed pace, purposely keeping it a bit slower than previous LRs. I was chugging along nicely till about the 20th km when I felt my hamstrings tighten till, a few kilometres later, they had seized up completely and I had to take a walking break. When I felt the tightening easing, I tried to get back up to an easy jog, but it soon returned, so I had to run-walk the last 9 km, walking in total something like 2-2.5 km of that.

The detail behind this is that for my hydration / electrolyte replacement I was trying out using SaltSticks with water instead of the High5 Zero solubles I am more used to, on the basis that the tangy taste of the latter make them harder to use to wash down sweet energy gels. It is my third outing with Salt Sticks and I don’t think they really work for me‚Ķ in two of the three occasions I’ve tried them out (inc this last time), they’ve given me stomach cramps and they haven’t really been successful in preventing my muscles cramping, either. This is not me knocking the product by the way, I know¬†everyone who uses them swears by them, but they didn’t seem to do it for me…

I suppose that from a glass half full perspective, this is what training runs are for, to see what works for you and what not and to prepare yourself for the race proper. But they are also meant to improve your fitness, condition your body to running long distances and give you the confidence to know you can run 42.195km on the day. And run-walking from the 26th km isn’t the way to do this! And even this optimistic view of things assumes that what caused my hamstrings to cease up was my choise of electrolyte supplement and not my body not being up to the distance (remember those missed LRs in September? And what do they say about workmen and their tools?)

This coming Sunday I’ve a 2h progression run and the week after that my final 3h long run‚Ķ So hopefully I will have it all sorted by then, arrange a massage during my tapering period and be all fresh for Athens. But I have to say that am not in a happy place right now, the extreme disappointment and frustration that I felt whenever I had to slow to a walk on¬†Sunday still lingering in the form of doubts‚Ķ Will I be really ready for the marathon, or will it be another painfest like the latter stages of Rome? And speaking of previous marathons, what’s my record like exactly? My first (Athens 2011) went much better than I could have hoped (even as my harshest critic I was pleased with 3:52:11 for a first marathon on a tough course), but then I sprained an ankle in the opening stages of my second (Lakeland trail marathon 2012) and basically limped around the course; and then was Rome where despite a (relatively small) PB, I came up with a whole host of excuses for walking close to the end. And even for Ashby 20 (miles) earlier in the year I think I blamed not doing as well as I had hoped on the lack of endurance training. There is always an excuse (runners’ excuses are as notorious as fishermen’s tales), but judging purely by outcomes, perhaps I’m not really cut out for these sorts of distances.

Or perhaps it’s just the frustration speaking. Hopefully. At any rate it was never supposed to be easy, so I shouldn’t be disheartened to find out it isn’t. At times like this I think of Chris and his “that’s why only 1% of us ever run a marathon” mantra. In the meantime I’ve got strides after work tonight, intervals on Friday, an easy run on Saturday and a progression past race pace on Sunday. Let’s concentrate on these. And a lot of conditioning and strengthening exercises daily. Oh, and I need to stop whineing!

Back in training!

 

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Last week was the first of the 19 weeks of ‘proper’¬†marathon training after three weeks of sloth, and boy was it a shock!

Fortunately the first workout my programme had in store was sprint reps¬†and they give you a nice feeling of speed and power, even if you’ve put on some extra weight – you don’t really notice it in the half-minute burst! Maintaining the same effort for¬†all the reps (15 in my schedule)¬†was a bit harder, but I just focused on technique, pushing¬†through the elbows and lifting my¬†heels toward my glutes to generate knee-lift (is that even a term?) By contrast, it was during the shorter (1′) recovery periods between sprints that I felt the worst, out of breath from the effort and¬†fatigued from the number of repetitions; but win that mental battle, start the next sprint strong and it’s over in a flash!

The tempo run that followed a couple of days later was a much harder affair though – my lack of fitness really showed, and I wasn’t able to maintain the target pace on the undulating route through Huncote, Thurlastone and Narborough… In the end I ended up 5” per km off target¬†pace and seriously out of breath, but for the first tempo run back I’m not complaining… my only concern is that the tempo section of this run was 25′, while it will be 35′ in the next one! Gulp!

I cross-trained on the Saturday (longish bike ride), and did Sunday’s progression run on the gym treadmill, sacrificing the road’s realistic training conditions (mainly in terms of pushing yourself to run at a certain pace, as opposed to having the conveyor belt coming at you) for the ability to structure the workout exactly as per the plan (being able to set the precise pace I wanted to run at at each stage of the progression). While I¬†don’t want to rely on the treadmill to set the pace for me (there will be no such luxury in the race!), having just returned from a break I felt that completing the exercise was more important.

So, first week done and if it was a bit hard… well, it’s going to get much harder! Let’s hope I can get into shape fast enough to keep up with it!

And if this post was drier and more factual than usual, I apologise; but that too reflects the week’s training: it didn’t pay to concentrate on impressions, how I felt or what I was thinking of. It was all about overcoming the inertia,¬†getting out there when it was the last thing I felt like doing and putting one foot in front of the other, taking it one rep at a time and getting back into training.

 

Thinking of the hill…

I’ve only been out running once since the Leicester Big 10k, and concentrated instead on reigniting my strength training (and by the evidence of the first sessions, that was long overdue!) For that too I’m following one of the training plans from miCoach (as mentioned in a previous post) complimented by a core-specific day (perhaps unnecessarily so, as the miCoach programmes feel balanced enough in the first place).

On the one occasion I did run though, it was on the treadmill and I decided I’d try to simulate the long climb that awaits in the Athens marathon: 13km (from 19 to 32) at an average incline of 2%… I tried maintaining that with what I hope to be my race pace in November, and it just about killed me! To the extent that I had to take two short breathers at 0% incline… And that without the 19 (mostly flat) km that precede the climb or the final 10.2 km section into the centre of Athens (fortunately mostly downhill, but by that stage in the marathon you feel the downhill running on your hips and knees…)

So it looks like I have my work cut out for me when I come back in July and start my training proper! At least I know the route, I have the benefit of knowing that my pacing strategy of three years ago worked and with a little luck (and much training) I should be able to adapt it to my current pace… Or that’s the plan, anyway!

But thinking back¬†at all the things that went well in¬†2011, the elation that I felt on completing my first marathon in 3:52:19, I feel a bit sad at the thought that it will take something very,¬†very special to compare with that day…

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More special in fact that what I¬†believe I have in¬†me. So I’ve decided to settle. If I can’t expect a special race from myself, I at least want one with no regrets: regrets over missing key training sessions, or even whole weeks; neglecting my strength training & core conditioning; not practicing my race nutrition and hydration till I’m sure I’ve got it nailed; setting off too fast or too slow on the day, etc.

I think I’m saying that I want a race I can be really¬†proud of again!

Of shoes old…

It’s been a while since I first noticed signs of wear on my Kinvara 3s… The cuts on the upper, the midsole looking more and more compressed, the sole all worn… you know the signs. And it was little surprise, I have ran more than 850¬†km in them (~530 miles), including of course the Rome Marathon last year (and to think some people criticise their durability!)…

Kinvara 3 upper

Kinvara 3 sole

 

And thinking about it (as you do when you finally admit any new state of affairs), my calves had been feeling sorer these last few months… I wouldn’t be surprised if those compressed midsoles have something to do with it. Till now I had put it down to my concentrating my training almost exclusively on speedwork in November / December last year (aimed at shaving those seconds off my race times that would squeeze me into the next club standard) but my training has been more balanced of late, with a couple of easier weeks (recovering from the Ashby 20 and then from a cold), so there was no excuse really.

In any event, there is no arguing that my Kinvara 3s are¬†approaching the end of the road… They were the second¬†version¬†of that shoe¬†that I’ve owned, the original Kinvara being my first minimalist shoe, the one that saved me from the injuries and blisters the ‘bricks’ I used to wear till then gave me… I remember my first run in them, it was a true revelation!¬†The lightness, the speed, the comfort… and when I wore them for my first marathon, I didn’t even give them a thought in the entire 26.2 miles¬†‚Äď which is probably the greatest praise a marathon runner can give his shoes!

But I digress. I merely meant to illustrate that I had loved the first Kinvaras, had recommended them to anyone who would listen and made sure all my nearest and dearest got a pair (or two)! When the time came, I replaced those with the Kinvara 3s, which, as I’ve already implied, suited me just as well, so little surprise that this morning I once again made my way to the Saucony website to see what the lovely people in Lexington were designing for me (yes, I do take it that personally!)

The good news was that the Kinvara 5 was on its way. The bad news that it wasn’t likely to be launched till sometime in May. Hmm… Then in the ‘New Arrivals’ section, I noticed that a Kinvara 5 Special London Edition was due to be launched… on the 3 April… ok, that’s today… in one store and one store only and then at the London Marathon Exhibition (i.e. not available for online orders)! Or, as the site put it:

“This LONDON Limited Edition of the Kinvara 5 celebrates Saucony’s pop-up store in Covent Garden. Exclusively available at the store and at the London Marathon exhibition, there are only a very limited number of pairs of the LONDON version, so don’t miss out!”

The store in question was in London (understandably) and a quick search showed that it was no more than 100 yards off my way from Kings Pancras Railway Station to a customer meeting I was due to attend today (ok, if I spurned the tube and crossed half of central London on foot, but hey)! Talk of the stars aligning or what!?

As it happens, I’m pleased I did take the trouble to buy them in a real shop though (even if that meant turning up at the customer’s offices with my shopping), because it transpires that the sizing is slightly different in this version and I had to go for half a size smaller than previous Kinvaras, or all other Saucony shoes I’ve owned (so potential Kinvara 5 buyers be warned!)

So, here I am, on the train back home, sitting next to a bag with ‘Saucony’ written on it in big letters, typing this for your enjoyment and looking forward to getting home to add some photos and post!

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My first run in them will have to wait till tomorrow, but this is something to whet your appetite in the meantime:

 

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Vuelvo al Sur! (*)

Reading the About page, you can tell I am quite attached to the first marathon I ever ran Рand for a reason: In the space of a few months I had turned unfit me into a runner, I had suffered and recovered from many of injuries that go with that title, I had persisted with the training and finished my first marathon in under 4 hours collecting in the process a tidy sum for my chosen charity (WDCS, the Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society). I had never felt as proud as I did on that day, and completing that transformation in front of my friends, sister and girlfriend made it all the more special.

And the quality of the event, the organisation, its volunteers the public participation showed everything that is / can be great about Greece at a time (November 2011) when there were very few good news to come out of the motherland.

So… if I have so many fond memories of it, why risk it by doing it again? If there is no result that can make me feel any prouder than I felt in 2011?

Well… because it is ‘my’ marathon. It is home – even if I’ve only run it¬†once.

Because it is The Marathon. The same route (give or take a bit) that was run in 492 BC by the Athenian messenger and that was run in the first marathon race to be ever held (on the occasion of the first modern Olympics in 1896).

Because I want to run another marathon so I can put behind me the pain I felt in Rome.

Because I want an excuse to talk about running again…

…and because this year I want to be part of that party!

 


(*) “I return to the south”, also the title of a song by Astor Piazzola; ignore the upside-down sky in the lyrics, read bouzouki instead of bandoneon and you get the idea!