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Shaking things up a little

Although I understand the literature that suggests that a low heartrate run is good for fat burning and general improvement (while I'll be slow now, as I become accustomed to it, it'll get faster and faster at the same low heartrate, is the principle), I still remember the maxim 'if you train slow, you'll run slow'. So I felt it was time to shake off the cobwebs after quite a few low HR runs recently.

Today I went for the Hammersmith - Putney bridge loop, running a slow 1km warmup run, then going into a 5x1000m cruise interval run, with 1 min running recovery in between each. It felt great - most of the time I felt like I was in control of my breathing, in fact I was going faster than my running calculator suggested (was supposed to be around 5:00/km rather than 4:50/km). Looking at my heart rate it seems I recovered into a lower zone in time for the next interval, and I felt I maintained a fairly consistent pace and exertion, without dropping off too much towards the end.

Would be interested to do a bigger interval set in future, and also to try the tempo intervals (e.g. 3x3000m, with 5 min rest, but that's almost a long run for me at the moment - won't be in six months time, of course!).

Anyway, good to know the trainers are broken in, although should note a small amount of stiffness on the top of my right knee - worth keeping an eye on.

Running in the rain

Lovely 10 km run tonight, Hammersmith to Chiswick Bridge circuit, rained most of the way around. The cooling rain certainly allowed my pace to be faster while maintaining a low heart rate. Lots of splashy puddles to avoid, made my new shoes a bit muddier but it was nevertheless very fun. Luckily I'd thought to take my run cap today in case of rain - but if I'd known how bad it was going to be, I might have taken my trisuit, my clothes got so wet (luckily the run top behaved very well in the wet - it just stuck to me rather than rubbed).

I thought the rain had slowed after I showered and changed, but then it got heavier and heavier and I probably got more soaked on the way home than on the run.

Ready for London

Had a couple of great training sessions recently - a fun fartlek session after forgetting to charge my watch, anti-clockwise loop to Barnes Bridge and back. Varying the pace really made me feel like I was getting a proper workout.

Yesterday headed to Richmond Park for a last long brick session - about 25km on the bike (mostly aero once in the park) and then the 11km run loop, and then cycled home. All felt pretty good.

I feel like I'm actually ready for a race for a change, this one hasn't crept up on me. I won't be as fast as I could possibly be, my training regime hasn't been sufficiently consistent what with wedding and honeymoon etc, but at least the last three weeks have been good.

After yesterday, I think my realistic bike split is more like 1hr40 (i.e. 2:30/km) - to get my goal of 3hrs total probably requires it to be nearer 1hr20 (2:00/km).

0:40 + 0:07 + 1:40 + 0:03 + 0:55 = 3hr25, but with some time shaved off those, hopefully I'll get down to 3hr10. Dream would be 3hr00 though!

Running plans

I have finally sat down and worked out my running schedule, so that I know at exactly what pace I should be running at during which sessions.

My plan is to have two Stamina runs and two Endurance runs per week. The endurance runs will be one easy run and one long run, the stamina runs will be one steady state run and either a tempo run or tempo intervals.

I'm currently running too fast during the tempo intervals - this means that either I need to slow down, or that my target pace is too slow - I'm calculating all of my paces from my October half marathon, nearly six months ago, so I will do another race to see if I've gained any speed. I plan to do next Saturday's parkrun in Richmond Park.

I acknowledge that I'm unlikely to achieve 4 runs every week - however, I'd rather aim to do four and achieve three, than aim to do three and achieve two, which is what I'm currently managing. It's time to get those weekly miles up ready for race season.

Hellrunner 2008

I booked Hellrunner months ago now, having seen pictures of friends do it previously and it sounding like an event where you need a bit of fitness but most of all a sense of humour. And I fancied doing something muddy and offroad as a bit of a winter change.

I got up at 7:30, for coffee, muesli and toast, leisurely taking my time with breakfast, finally leaving the house at 8:15. Which wasn't too much of a concern, I was supposed to be at Longmoor Camp by 10am, and the AA reckoned on a 1:15 journey time.

I picked up the Mini I'd hired from Zipcar from around the corner, and made very good headway, until late in the journey, where I hit roadworks. Not only did the roadworks go down to one lane, it then had only one lane open at all, so we had to wait our turn with those coming from the other direction.

Once I'd got through the Headmine Tunnel Roadworks, it was all pretty smooth going, heading into Hampshire ("Jane Austen Country", not sure how much of what I've seen today she'd recognise). The track into Longmoor Camp itself was potted and slow, but I found a space easily enough.

I put on the remainder of my running gear (I was already wearing top, trousers, watch and socks, so it was just shoes and HRM), and headed to the start. I had a quick warmup jog and stretch, and then awaited the slightly delayed start (apparently there was an accident on the M3). I decided to start at the middle of the back of the field, so that I wouldn't start off too fast.

Once the fireworks went off (yes, fireworks, in the middle of the day, a bit silly, but just visible) to announce the start, we trudged past the start line and then we were off, running along a decent trail, pretty wide and solid. From here on in the terrain was either: decent trail (probably a reasonable proportion of distance, but not time, was spent on these), muddy trail (lots of people avoiding puddles, lots of other people splashing through them and booing anyone who wasn't getting wet. I figured I'd stay as comfortable as possible for as long as possible, which wasn't long, and then once my feet were wet, I tended not to care too much), sandy hills, or bogs.

Because this was a reasonable size race (approx 2400 supposed to start, not sure how many did), and the hills tended to be cuttings, wide enough for two or three people to go up, they were effectively bottlenecks throughout the course. I didn't mind too much, as I was unable to run up many of them anyway, but the faster runners must have found it frustrating! I had a really enjoyable run, I kept up a good pace on the flat and on the downhills where not too crazily steep, and overtook loads of people en route - I really must think about starting nearer the front in future races, it's getting a bit silly.

After lots of ups and downs (there really were enough hills), and the first bog (only about knee deep to one side, which most people kept to), and then a bit more running, I saw the car park again. At this point we were only about 11km in, and I felt quite disappointed, as I knew the Bog of Doom was coming up. It wasn't that that disappointed me, I thought the BoD was near the end, so thought I might be being shortchanged distance wise! I knew I must be having a good time if that was a concern!

On to the Bog of Doom, a chest deep wade through muddy water (apparently it was clear when the first runner got to it, and he just swam front crawl through, I don't think many others could!). Here I had the bizarre experience of bumping into a friend. 'Oh hi Mike, how are you, fancy seeing you here!'. I didn't even know he was running, so we had a quick chat, apparently it was quite surreal to see from a distance, to see two people meet there! Chest deep water is pretty unpleasant, but when you leave the water, it seems to get even worse as it drains. The effects of cold on the male anatomy are interesting when combined with running, it was pretty grim!

There was, thankfully (?), plenty more that Hellrunner had to throw at us. More hills, and then down to what might be described as a lake, muddy, again chest deep, cold water. So another unpleasant experience on the way back out, but then it was another reasonable bit of trail before the Hills of Hell. Now I wasn't sure before I got there that I hadn't already done enough hills that I considered to be sufficiently hellish, but sandy hills really aren't the easiest of things, and there were about six or so in quick succession, so it was run (well, walk really) up, then run down, then short flat and then the next. Pretty tiring by the end, but once through the sand, it was a short run to a manure smelling knee deep bog, then decent trail again. Knowing that we must be close to the end there, I decided to pick up the pace, and finish strong, and I crossed the line head held high, smiling for the photographer, after 1hr50 mins, for a 15.5km run, a very pleasing result.

After collecting the race tshirt and goodie bag, and not collecting my Goodness Shakes milkshake (they'd ran out of every flavour but banana, and I saw them give out the last vanilla, which doesn't surprise me, as strawberry and chocolate milkshakes are always going to win that popularity contest), and headed back to the car, with Mike and one of his travelling companions, Tess. We went our separate ways after deciding on a pub for lunch. At this point I discovered I'd forgotten a change of trousers! Disaster! Unfortunately my initial attempts to get hold of Mike to see if anyone in his car had a spare pair were unsuccessful, so I trudged the 15 min walk back to the event to see if the Puma stall selling clothes was still there, but it had packed up. Frustrated, it was back to the car park, and I did get a hold of Mike, who did have a spare pair.

The queue to get out of the car park was long, and dull, but I suspect I missed a bit with my journey back to the event, and eventually did manage to catch up with Mike, and Tess and John, in the pub for a pretty decent, and deserved, roast sunday lunch. Again, I think this rest to our journey probably meant that the queues in the roadworks had died down by the time I was going through - while there were queues, it was never too bad.

After showering my kit in the bath, and showering me afterwards, I felt human, tired, but accomplished. A great day out (although next time I'll remember trousers!)

Bike run bike

My plan today was to do a shorter run this week after my half-marathon last weekend - this is supposed to be a recovery week, although I've been ensuring I've kept up with swim training!

So I figured the easiest thing to do was get the bike out for a proper spin. I'd taken it as far as the gym before (my GPS reckoned I'd done 5km total), and even that caused my knee to ache. Looking at the cleats, the left one did look a bit wonky, so I straightened it out before today's ride.

I was hoping for a sub 3 hour trip, on the basis that my route planning made it approx 10km there, a 10km run, then a 10km ride home. As I can do 10km run in less than an hour, I hoped my bike speeds would certainly beat that.

It took a while to get into the groove of cycling to Richmond Park, especially as I wanted to avoid the main roads, so took the backstreets of Barnes, which were pleasant enough, once you know where to turn off. The journey to the park was pretty quick after Barnes, after a trip up Priory Lane I was in at Roehampton Gate, and took the southern loop, passing Robin Hood Gate, Ladderstile Gate, Kingston Gate and Ham Gate, cycling up some monstrous hills (for me), before enjoying the downhill!

At Pembroke Lodge I took a really slow transition into my running gear. This involved removing lock and running shoes from my bag, and replacing it with cycling top, cycling gloves, cycling shoes, cycle computer and saddle bag (I didn't want to leave anything on the bike for obvious reasons, but I did lock my helmet up with the bike!). I had a quick stretch, and then set off northbound along the Tamsin Trail, before stopping after 90m to take a SIS-Go Gel. It was a bit slimy, but I managed to take it down!

My first couple of kms on the Tamsin Trail, passing Richmond, Cambrian and Bog Gates in the process, were damn quick (5.00/km) for me, which should perhaps have been a warning sign to slow down. I have no idea how, after cycling 12km, when your legs are supposed to be jelly, how I managed to go so quick, but I was pleasantly surprised! After crossing the road again at Sheen Gate, I was quickly back at where I entered the park, at Roehampton Gate. From there on in, things started to slow down a little, I stopped for a quick drink break, and again later for a small hill, then for some more drink, it quickly became a run/walk. However, I was still doing 6.00/km, even with the stops, so it wasn't too terminal. However, the walk up Broomfield Hill really slowed me down, but for some reason, once I got to the top, things started to pick up again, and there were few pauses after that. I really made the most of the downhills for a change (apparently there is little training benefit in downhills, but I still need to know how to use them to my advantage!), and they took me down to Kingston Gate, from there it was flat to Ham Gate, then uphill to Pembroke Lodge.

At Pembroke Lodge I again made the most of an untimed transition - I desperately wanted some water as I'd made my SIS energy drink a bit too concentrated, but the queue for refreshments was long. In the end I decided to change back ready to bike home, by which time the queue was much reduced, I poured most of the water into the energy drink bottle, and then headed home.

There were a few small uphills from Pembroke Lodge, and then from Richmond Gate, but I really enjoyed the downhills on the cycle ride home. Some of my speeds might not necessarily have been quite within the 20mph speed limit of Richmond Park. It was pretty much downhill all the way home from Roehampton Gate, and I was home in just 30mins from leaving Pembroke Lodge, a 10km ride.

After Swim n Spin on Friday, I guess this was my second brick. I can tell I did it, my elbows were aching the most from hanging on, but I'll look to get my position correct and maybe put in a few more strength exercises to help that out!

My first race report - Royal Parks Half Marathon, 12 October 2008

I got up this morning at 7.30am, an early start for me on any day, but particularly early for a Sunday! I'd been pretty good last night, mostly avoiding alcohol, although did succumb to a couple of very small glasses of wine as I figured I wasn't in it to win it, and it probably wouldn't do my time to much damage. I started the day with a coffee, a bowl of muesli and a couple of slices of peanut butter wholemeal toast.

I got Peta up at 8.30am, and we left the house shortly after 9am, to head to Knightsbridge, for a short walk to the start. I'd missed the warm up by this point, but had recently read (in the Competitive Runners Handbook) that in mass starts, you can get away with treating the first couple of miles as a warm up, so I just put it behind me. The mass start was pretty busy, and after the cannon announced the start, we pretty much walked in a throng towards the start line. As this was a chip timed race, this aspect really didn't concern me.

When I signed up for the half marathon, they may well have asked me my expected finish time. At that point I was in the earliest stages of starting to run, so had no idea what time I could expect. I knew novices had done 4 hour marathons, with quite a bit of training, so figured I'd just aim for half of that and added a bit of slack (I think I suggested 2h10). I don't know whether that affected my position in the start funnel, and whether I'd have had to overtake fewer people if I'd given a better estimate. However, I probably benefitted from starting slow, so it's swings and roundabouts really!

I saw Peta in the crowd just before the start line, which gave me a boost as I started the run proper. From this point on, for the next few miles, it was really a matter of maintaning a comfortable pace, and overtaking where I could. The run itself was gorgeous, passing under Admiralty Arch, past Buckingham Palace, then Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, over Westminster Bridge and back, along the Embankment as far as Temple, before coming back along the Embankment as far as Northumberland Avenue, into Trafalgar Square, then along the Mall back towards Buckingham Palace, before heading into Hyde Park again.

Shortly after reentering Hyde Park, I passed Peta again, giving her a wave, and smiling as I passed. From then on it was really a lot of winding around Hyde Park. I tried to maintain a reasonable pace, and most of my kilometre splits were consistenly around the 5m30 mark. I saw Peta one more time in the middle of the run, and blew her a kiss and gave her a high five. There was a lot of support from Unicef folk around the course - towards the end, I even spotted Charley Boorman with a big group of Unicef supporters, so I acknowledged their support (as I tried to do with anyone who was cheering Unicef on).

I was hoping at the 10 mile point it was going to get easier (forgive the constant switching between metric and imperial - I keep my watch in metric, but the mile markers were, well, in miles), because the Competitive Runners' Handbook makes the point 'now you just have to do a 5K run'. I was flagging at this point, but just wanted to keep going - breaking into a walk wouldn't be a failure in itself, but breaking into a walk without actually needing to would have felt like slacking. Anyway, I just kept going, it was hard work, but somehow I did it. I'd hoped the last mile would feel easy too, but no, it was uphill, and the last few hundred metres were a nightmare. Peta was waving here too, which helped a little but really I just had to dig in and just concentrate on keeping going - I really did feel that collapsing before the finish in a dramatic manner and having to crawl over the line would not be totally out of the question.

However, I did get over that line, and my watch said somewhere around 1:55 (I forgot to stop it!), the chip time isn't yet available but it was definitely sub 2 hour, so I totally made my goal, which rocked! I sat down just after the finish line to avoid falling down, had a little water, but not too much. The weather was a real factor today - the forecast said it would be 18C, but it may have been more - for an Autumn's day, it was gorgeous - unless you have to run 21.1km. Because of the heat, and resulting sweat, and desire to avoid hyponatremia, I wanted to make sure I wasn't diluting my body's water too much, so poured water over my head to reduce the need to sweat, and looked for the nearest energy drink over the finish line.

After a bit more sitting down, I gave Peta a call, and we met up to head for the Unicef tent. After a sit down and bit [sic] to eat, we headed home, although there was a minor diversion as I did the Superchicks' very useful cooldown routine while Peta enjoyed the Deckchair Dreams deckchairs!

I'm now elevating my legs while enjoying the breeze on my toes as I enjoy the recliners in our lounge, making the most of the unusual Autumn weather in shorts and sandals. All in all I'm very happy with today's race, especially given the temperature.

What a run!

My goal today was to run a half marathon, to check that I could do one, and see in what time. I also wanted to try a nutrition idea, as well as try the Royal Parks Half energy drink (Orange Powerade).

I had a quick look before the run with Google Maps Pedometer to plot a 21km run, and was pretty happy with the result - I've basically found a new expandable route that I'll be able to do again and again.

My route today started in the usual place for me - the south side of Hammersmith Bridge. It even headed in a fairly usual direction, towards Barnes Bridge. Carrying on, as with previous runs, I passed Chiswick Bridge and then Kew rail bridge, before reaching Kew road bridge. This was my turnaround point last week for what turned out to be a 14km run but today I carried on, as planned, along the path that skirts the outside of Kew Gardens.

It was at this point that I tried my nutrition, jelly beans. Big mistake - jelly beans appear to need a lot of moisture to eat, something in short supply when running! It didn't stop me, just annoying really - it's possible that I might get away with them in the race if I treat them like Gels, and have them just before a water stop, but I won't bother. I carried on, past the Old Deer Park, then past Richmond Lock, Twickenham rail bridge and Twickenham road bridge. At Richmond bridge, I left the river to head up Richmond Hill, stopping at the start of the hill to buy some Powerade Orange. The theory here was that I'd be walking most of the hill anyway, so it was a good time to get some liquid down. However, Richmond Hill seems to have become a lot flatter in the last few years (or perhaps somehow I got fitter by stopping smoking and starting running, one of the two), and I was able to run up most of the hill, breaking in to a walk when I wanted some more drink. It was only later that I remembered the handy nipple-type thing on the top of the bottle to allow me to run and drink! So, at the top of the Hill, along the Terrace, passing the gorgeous view of the river below, and then into the Park

I basically ran along Sawyer's Hill, the road that runs across the top side of the Park. One of my favourite things about this road is that it's not at all rare to see deer - today I saw a gorgeous lone stag standing across the road to my right, and later to my left, large numbers of deers lying in the sun, looking magnificent. The cyclists going down Sawyers Hill looked like they were having a great time, those going up, not so much. I was mostly heading downwards now, past the junction that leads to Sheen Gate, towards Roehampton Gate. From there, it was follow the cyclepath, past The Priory, then to Barnes Station. From there, I decided I couldn't quite take the quickest route home and make it 21km, so I headed towards Barnes Bridge Station, across Barnes Bridge, and then along my by now well known run haunts of Dukes Meadow, Corney Reach, past the Fuller's Brewery along Chiswick Mall, passing the Eyot to the right. It's then pub central as I pass the Black Lion followed by the Old Ship, into Lower Mall and then the Dove, Furnivall Gardens where the Rutland and Blue Anchor are in easy reach. Today, I made my target of 22.1km (I wasn't counting my 1km warm up run) in Furnivall Gardens themselves, which I was pleased with!

All in all, a spectacular run, helped by today's gorgeous weather, and the timing where I had the sun low over the river at Kew, but still enough light to just get me home in daylight!

Half marathon goal. In writing!

I've been a bit unsure about how fast I'd be able to do the half marathon, but recent runs suggest that a 2 hour goal is not impossible for me.

I was planning on just wanting to finish, but in my heart, I know that I do want to do it in under 2 hours, so I'm declaring that as my goal for the race. I'm not going to be devastated if I don't achieve it, but I will be really pleased if I do!

It's a conspiracy

Someone somewhere just doesn't want to me to be prepared for this half marathon.

After two hot weeks in Australia, I returned to a week of oncall. After that week, I'm spending 4 days this week at Wembley training. Days promise to be long (probably 8.30 - 6.30 at the earliest), so fitting in runs and swims this week will be tricky alongside social events.

So that's the excuses out of the way. I ran 18.5km total yesterday (usual 1km warm up), did a half hour swim session today. I'll do a Sunday run and see if I can motivate myself for a swim on Friday morning.
As for other runs, I'm busy Tuesday through Saturday evenings, so it'll either have to be before work or at lunch somehow!

Met most of my goals last week, except only did 2 runs, and still haven't come up with a new training schedule. My latest excuse is that the FIRST training plans rely on a race time of some kind. Good one, eh.

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