Saturday, 29 September 2007

Brisk 5 miles

I found an unexpected spare bit of time to fit in a quick 5 miles... 35:36. That's actually the quickest I've run my 5 mile circuit, but I wasn't trying to beat my best time until the last mile or so - I'd just been going at a comfortable though brisk pace until then. It's just the general improvement in fitness in the six weeks since I ran my 5 mile record which allowed me to do this. And the fact that I've run less miles this week than any of the last 7 weeks, so I was fresher and there was plenty left in the legs for the last mile and a half.

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Friday, 28 September 2007

5 miles before breakfast

I ran 5 miles before breakfast today - all I'll have time for today I think. 39 minutes. That makes 27 miles so far this week - about 10-15 short. Hmmm. Still, it could be worse. I've been remarkably blessed to be so injury free since beginning training.


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Thursday, 27 September 2007

7 miles whilst there's time!

I didn't make time to run yesterday, which means that with the rest of what I need to do this week, it'll be tricky to make up the miles. I think I'm meant to be pushing myself quite hard at the moment as once you get to 3 weeks beforehand you're meant to slow down so that the body isn't tired on race day. Ah well - there's still next week.

As I hadn't run yesterday, this was my first run after the fast half-marathon - so I just needed to give my legs the opportunity to stretch out again; nothing too fast. I chugged round in 55 minutes, and everything felt OK - not too tired. That's not surprising, given that I've only had two significant runs (more than 4 miles) in the last week. I think this run will have done me good.

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Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Half-marathon time trial

I haven't blogged since last Wednesday... after that I did a 4 miler on Friday to stop my legs from freezing up, and then a 2 hour run on Saturday which must have been 14 miles or so. That was the first time I've run that far before breakfast! Yesterday I ran a couple of miles in a few spare moments, keeping my legs fresh for today...

I had planned on running a half marathon (13.1 miles) this week to help me work out what kind of pace to aim for in the full marathon (most runners using the Internet will have come across the McMillan running calculator). I've not run an exact half marathon before. I was just running against myself and the clock, but tried to put myself under some mental pressure - as if it were a real race. I ran 3 miles up the A6, and then back down, then around my 5.0 mile circuit, then the 2.1 miles down to the next village and back.

At the outset my goal was to break 1:40, and I thought that 1:36 would be about the best I could realistically manage. In the event, I just about did that, finishing in 1:36:40. The last 10 miles were done in 73:45, slightly faster than my best 10 mile run of 74:11 from 17 days ago.

It felt very good. I was definitely feeling the pain; I don't know if I could have done it much faster - maybe in a real race a little boost of adreneline would have shaved another half minute off, or an earlier start (I ran at 4 p.m.). The conditions though were very good - not humid at all, a bit damp but not raining. My legs testified that this wasn't a pace they could have really kept up for any longer, so I think it was a fair trial. If I trained for a marathon again (I have no plans to), I think I would get a heart rate monitor so that I could get a more objective evaluation on how hard I'd pushed myself.

Based on this time, I think it is realistic to aim to go under 3:30 in the marathon, if all goes well. There are just 4 weeks and 6 days to go!

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Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Quick quick!

I have almost no time to say this... did 10 miles yesterday, 7 miles today. All OK - recovered from last week's 21 miler now I think; today's 7 miles was 5 minutes quicker than the same 7 miles on Monday.

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Monday, 17 September 2007

Getting back into it

I didn't have time for a real run on Saturday (well, I ran a mile!), but I was back to it this morning, running 7 miles. I was a bit stiff in the first half, but after that it felt good - I ran the second half a couple of minutes faster than the first even though there was a good-sized descent from the first half to climb back up.

I was just running at a comfortable pace to recover after last week's 21 miler, and took an hour. I dropped off for a few minutes this afternoon - it's been very busy the last week or two (which is why I only got in three runs last week).

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Friday, 14 September 2007

How to really enjoy a bath

How to really enjoy a bath - just run 21 miles before getting into it. A simple theory... the side effect is that you may have difficulty getting out, or walking downstairs afterwards.

This was my second completed 20 mile run (the previous one was 20.1 miles). I made a deliberate decision to try to not care about how long it took me - just to make sure I finished the distance. I know the rough rate I'd like to attempt the marathon at, but today the aim was just to give my legs experience of the distance.

I ran 5 miles of the hilly circuit, then 5 miles up the A6 and then back down, then 5 miles of the hilly circuit again. Once you've run 15 miles, just the mildest slopes feel pretty painful! Then I ran half a mile down the A6 and back again at a fraction quicker just to assure myself that I had completed the run and not just survived it!

The first 5 miles took me about 41 minutes, then the next 3 sections took about 42 each. My total time was 2:56:47 - an average of 8:25 per mile.

At about 12 miles I felt like I was struggling, but I came through it. What I found most difficult to cope with was boredom. The websites I read advise someone who's aiming for the kind of marathon time I am to run these long runs about a minute per mile slower - but I'm too impatient for that! For the same reason I find myself running up hills faster than seems wise - just so that I can get them over with!

Between about 7 and 14 miles just felt very boring; I felt tempted to stop just so that I could do something else instead of running! However I've noticed that gloomy thoughts normally coincide with inclines - once you're coming down the other side, things look a bit better. Hopefully on race day the adrenaline will mitigate this a bit and compensate for the extra 5 miles on the end!

Last time I ran 20 miles I thought at the end "I don't want to attempt that again until I've forgotten what it's like - I'm glad I didn't have to do another 6 today". Today I felt like I'd made progress since then; I ran at the same pace but felt like I had more in me when I finished. 6 and a bit weeks to go!


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Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Running in central London

I ran for about 45 minutes today in London to maintain fitness during a busy few days. Quite crowded... through Picadilly Circus and a few laps of St. James' park.

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Monday, 10 September 2007

Warm-up jog

As last week, I did a 7 mile jog after getting out of bed this morning, which took me almost exactly an hour. It was quite windy, but I wasn't running directly into it until the last mile. The first couple of miles involve a lot of continuous climbing, so this run is a good work out for those muscles! There was a beautiful rainbow visible at the top, though there wasn't a drop of rain whilst I was out. I also paused to read the plaque by the natural spring today - apparently it's never known to have failed since the pipe to allow collection was put in in 1897, and was the main water supply for the houses up there until 1952.

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Saturday, 8 September 2007

That was better

I set out for a 10-miler today, which I managed in 74:11 - 37:55 for the first half and 36:16 for the second. On reflection now I think my mistake in my aborted 20-miler on Wednesday was to not allow for the humidity by running a bit slower. It's just common sense; when it's hotter outside, your heart has to work harder to go the same speed. Trying to reproduce the speed I would have tried in cool weather wasn't very clever.

I felt pretty good all the way round. Not so good that I could have maintained that pace for more than another couple of miles mind you, but good enough to enjoy most of it. I ran in the new running shoes; they still make my left foot feel squeezed, but a bit less than the old pair. They're a whole size bigger than my everyday shoes, so I still don't really understand why my foot feels like that.

I now understand why the websites I've seen advise that you train for a year before a marathon - I'm still getting fitter each week. Because I was a desk potato until April, I'll just have to be left wondering how much fitter I could have been if I'd taken that advice!

Here's the evolution of my 10-mile time since the first time I ran it:

22nd May: 94 minutes 44
29th May: 84 minutes 29
14th July: 83 minutes 03 (start of a 12.1 mile run)
23rd July: 79 minutes 38
18th August: 75 minutes 50
8th September: 74 minutes 11

The gap from May to July is when I had a very heavy cold followed by gastroenteritis.

I was really pleased when I knocked 10 minutes off my first time (a minute per mile)... it's taken three and a half months to do it again! Just 7 weeks training to go. Next week I have a very busy schedule, so I'll just aim to get a couple of jogs in before trying the 20 miles on Friday, all being well.

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Thursday, 6 September 2007

Little recovery jog

I went for a 5 mile jog today. The only aim was to complete the 5 miles - which I managed! My legs felt like they were made of lead most of the way. It is unusually humid, which makes me feel quite lethargic.

The new running shoes seemed fine. They're half a size bigger than the previous pair - that pair make my left foot feel like it was being squeezed once I've gone a few miles. We'll find out in due time whether the problem was with the shoes or the foot! (The old pair were already half a size bigger than my normal shoes).

I've now passed 400 miles since I started training! But there are only 26 which will count in the end...

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Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Further thoughts...

Having reviewed some of the suggested training schedules and advice offered from various sources on the Internet, the verdict on what went wrong with me not finishing my 20-mile run this morning seems to be...
  • Don't do 3 runs of over 10 miles at near your intended marathon pace within 8 days.

  • A training run that is both very long and near marathon pace isn't something you should do. Save it for race day.
I think that with only 4 or 5 weeks to go until I'm meant to ease off, I was trying to fit too much training into that time. The 12 and 15 mile runs last week were confidence boosting because they showed me I can run those distances at around the pace I aim to do the marathon at; I ought to have left it there instead of trying to push that same pace up to 20 miles - because failing to do so ruins the confidence boosting effect! The general guidance seems to be that runs of 12 miles or more should only be attempted once a fortnight and you should spend the rest of the time working on other things. My problem is that as this is my first marathon I don't have the confidence to trust the advice knowing that I won't be under-trained when the big day comes... but today I'm learning why I ought to!

Lovely Liz (the wifey) has bought be some new running shoes, having done about 300 miles in the existing pair, so I'll try those out on the next run.

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That didn't go too well

Today I set out for my 20-mile run. Having done a 15-mile run last week with the second half faster than the first, I thought I'd set out at the same pace I set out at then.

It all felt fine... for about 4 miles. After that, my legs started feeling like they'd done 4 miles or so more than they had. By 7 miles instead of feeling relaxed and in control I was really feeling it and running with a one-speed gearbox. I was passing my front door after 15 miles and decided that was enough.

The first 5 miles was about 40 minutes and so was the second; the third was 43 minutes. 2:03:04 in all. If I'd had to stagger through the last 5 miles (i.e. it was race day itself) I could probably have done so, but not today. Hmmm.

So what went wrong? Last week I did the same course in 4 minutes less, only 2 days after running 12 miles. Maybe I'm still recovering from that. It was quite humid in the first hour today; maybe I should have slowed a little to allow for that. I've not had great sleep the last 3 nights, and eaten too much fatty food. Maybe I shouldn't be trying to do 20 mile runs at this pace anyway during training - the main aim of a 20 mile run is just to build up endurance. I think overall I was just a bit too ambitious, and hopefully will learn to be a bit more cautious. Ah well. Press on!

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Tuesday, 4 September 2007

A little more about Pokot

Since I wrote the last little bit about Pokot, the women's marathon took place at the world athletics championship. The winner... a Kenyan, Catherine Ndereba, who lives in the Rift Valley region.

The picture below is a typical sight in Pokot. It's a traditional Pokot mud hut.

This hut is made of mud, and thatched. They prefer to use metals for their roofs, but that is more expensive. (And sweltering - but they don't mind!). The door on this hut is made of wood and has a padlock on it. The number of people living in such a hut will vary depending on the relative wealth of the owner. It is not uncommon for a whole family to share one; the hut will be divided into a sleeping and a living area, and mum, dad and all the kids will share a bed.

To the left side of the hut you can see some goats. Most Pokot people are animal herders. You can see from the background to the photo that Pokot is not a desert; there is sufficient rainfall for much greenery. This rain does tend to fall all at once though, with long periods without in between.

Animal herding leads to a nomadic lifestyle which can be difficult to integrate with school. For this reason many Pokot people are keen to have boarding schools.

Many Pokot men, once their children are old enough to herd the animals themselves, will "retire" and leave it to the next generation - spending their time chatting about politics and playing Pokot games with their peers. Some of the older generation don't see the value of education - how much do you need to learn to herd animals? Denied an education, of course, their isn't then much choice to do anything else but herd animals.

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Monday, 3 September 2007

Chug chug chug

I went for a 7-mile trot after getting up this morning, in just under an hour. This is just a little trot to keep my legs in shape. There's not much to say about it, really. It's on a single loop which involves about 1.5 miles of near-continuous climbing - a rude start to the week! I normally feel lethargic for a bit after getting up; maybe I should run at this time more often so that I don't!

The plan is to go for a 20-miler later this week... shudder shudder...

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Saturday, 1 September 2007

Where did that come from?

My 3 runs so far this week had been a warm-up jog and 2 longer runs at a steady rate. So that meant that today I ought to try a faster one. I chose 7.1 miles (one lap of the hilly bit and then to the next village and back), for which my best time was 53:54. I was aiming to take a minute off that.

I looked at my watch after the first mile and it told me I was going far too fast. But, I felt relaxed; and just kept going. Somehow I managed to take 3 minutes off, finishing in 50:49. I felt in control all the way round. At the 5-mile mark I was only 10 seconds off my best 5 mile time from last Saturday - when I felt like I was going flat out (relative to the distance), and finished with a sprint. The last 2.1 miles today was also faster than I've ever covered that distance at the end of a run (14:42).

This seems like an odd business. My records don't show me as having eased off in the last couple of weeks so that I could record a fast time more easily. Sometimes running seems hard work and sometimes it feels easy. Sometimes the reasons for that are easy to work out - trying to do too much, or having had a break. Sometimes though, I don't know why. I hope I'll work it out before the race day! Maybe really pushing myself on the shorter run last Saturday was what did it. Or maybe its the extra strength from last week's 20-miler. I really don't know; I hope I'm not peaking prematurely! I do know that on days like this it's easy to admire God's world - the colours, the hills, the sky, the quietness - as you slide by.

I think this has probably been my best week of training yet. I ran the same distance as last week (39.2 miles), which is the most I've run, and I've felt great. Admittedly the effort of the 27 miles on Tuesday and Thursday (combined) really tired me out - I've cat-napped during the day 3 times since then!

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