Sunday, 13 April 2014

Oh dear, oh dear… but on reflection not so bad

So I'm home with a bit of sunburn and some sore, twitching muscles.

The day started with the 0641 train into London Bridge, travelling with a fantastic bunch of friends all geared up for the looming challenge.

I was travelling with my neighbour Tom who was aiming for around 3hrs 10mins. My own target was around 3hrs 25mins.

On arrival at Greenwich Park we relaxed near the bandstand and watched the lovely Helen Skelton doing some interviews.

The sun was very warm and the conditions were looking like they were going to be tough. We were downing the drinks and making sure we were properly hydrated.

After my warm up it was off to the starting pen. It was very congested and after cheering for the elite men it took us nearly 3 mins to make it to the start.

From the off I was managing to stick to my plan of keeping the pace and heart rate steady. I knew mile 3 & 4 were downhill and would give me some time without any effort. My first 4 miles were on plan.

From then I was trying to keep to a steady pace of between 7:50 and 8:00 min/miles. They felt very comfortable and I got to mile 9 feeling good and feeling like I was running within myself.

However, I'd made my first and probably most crucial mistake by now. Although I didn't feel thirsty I took my first drink and gel at mile 7. Halfway through mile 9 I felt a spasm in my right quad muscle. Every time I raised my knee too high, or on the slight downhills it would spasm. I had to ease off and alter my running gait so as not to get the twitches!

By mile 14 the spasms had progressed to cramping in the quad. I had to stop and stretch which gave me some respite but before too long it was back. In the last 12 miles I stopped 6 times.

To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I stopped looking at my watch and so had no idea what my time or distance was.

I knew up ahead I had family & friends who were waiting for me so had to keep going at least until I saw them. At mile 17 it was great to see my mate Andy with Ruth and her two nephews. They were so encouraging but mentally I was thinking this is terrible and is only going to get worse.

It was then onto mile 22 where Susan and the family were waiting. I was really thinking this is the pits as I approached them but they gave me a couple of sweeties, a hug and enough encouragement not to give up. At that point I honestly wanted to chuck it in. I had no idea what the time was but I knew my pace was grim and I was stopping ever couple of miles when the cramps became unbearable.

On the way up Embankment I knew I had to just dig in an keep it going. I started thinking about family, friends, sponsors, why I was running and anything to detach me from the feelings of disappointment.

Getting through to the final few hundred yards was a relief. All of a sudden the finish is in front of you and it's a short run from Buckingham Palace to the finish.

On finishing it was off to the Phab meeting area. One of the perks of running for Phab was the provision of physios and a massage. I limped in and was ushered to a massage table where a big South African got to work on me. After 5 mins he calls over the team leader and then the two of them are on me. My quad is shot but the worry is my calf which is twitching away and cramping up. I'm given electrolytes to chew and the lads, now with 2 students getting a lesson on whatever the medical condition affecting my calf was.

Seems that my attempts to protect my quads had me overworking my calf which is still going into cramps as I sit here.

Cramp isn't something I've ever struggled with so I think it was down to my hydration and leaving it to mile 7 for my first drink was the issue. I'm gutted that a schoolboy error led to a torrid second half of the race.

On reflection I am amazed that I only ended up losing 20mins on my target. I genuinely felt that I was crawling and giving up significant time when I stopped.

So tonight I'm here with a twitching leg but apart from that I don't feel too bad. I might need to get another marathon in the diary quick so that I can put a few things right.

Tom, on the other hand, had a storming first marathon, finishing with 3hrs 12mins. Awesome.

Saturday, 12 April 2014


I can't quite believe it's the day before the London Marathon. For weeks it seemed a distant target and now all of a sudden it's here.

The nerves are jangling. Have I done enough? What should I pace at? Is that a cold coming on? Is my ankle sore?

I'm glad I blogged all those runs and hard sessions. They are a good record of the hard work and steady improvement over the weeks.

The big question is what do I aim for in the race. My best is 3:32 and I want to come in under 3:30. A 3:15 time would give me a qualifying time but I think that's beyond me. So I'm thinking I'll pace for 3:25 which is an average pace of 7min 49secs per mile.

Whatever the pace finally is I absolutely intend to warm up properly and to keep my heart rate under 160 for the first 4 miles. My downfall in 2010 was doing neither of those and I suffered badly from mile 19 until the end. Tomorrow will be different.

The weather looks good. Bright, dry, little wind and not too hot. I'm not sure it gets any better.

This has been a very easy running week. I've rehearsed my warm up and first mile umpteen times  so I'd better not muck it up!

Tomorrow is as much a mental battle as a physical one. When it starts to hurt I'll be thinking of the 70 or so individuals and families who have sponsored me.

I'll also be thinking of my relatives who relied and benefited so much from PHAB. This marathon is for Iain, Grace & Helen MacLeod who gave so much to our family when I was growing up. The memories of them will be driving me on over the last few miles when I'll really need it.

I've broken the race into 4 segments.

Mile 1-4 - keeping it very steady and the heart rate low
Mile 5-16 - relaxing, keeping an even pace and not using up my mental reserves
Mile 16-21 - 5 miles of absolute focus Through the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf. I'll be reminding myself of the 5 mile loops I've been running and keeping the pace on target.
Mile 21- the end - digging in and using all the mental images, memories and mantras to keep me from slipping up.

Whatever happens I'm so thankful for the generosity of friends and family. I've exceeded my target by nearly £1000. I've got back to my 2010 fitness levels and can't wait to dream up the next challenge.

See you on the other side.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

A couple of easy ones

I've been in Bristol for the last couple of days.  My trips are normally fraught with late night dinners and eating lots of rubbish but so far I've been disciplined and sticking to the salads.

I've also managed a couple of short 3 mile runs both starting with practising my marathon warm-up routine.

Monday was a recovery run at a slow pace. I felt tired from the weekend and was glad to finish and have a good stretch.

This evening I was feeling sharper and after the warm-up started with a mile at marathon pace to see where my heart rate went. It was a tad fast but I was pleased to see the heart sticking around 160.

On Sunday I'll be content to see a 7:45-8:00min first mile and keep the heart around 155.

I've nothing planned for the next two days and only intend to cover 2-3 miles on Friday and Saturday.

I'm itching to get going now. The weather forecast for Sunday is looking perfect. No wind, dry and warming nicely through the day. Bring it on.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

7 days out and it's time to ease off

7 days to go and everything that can be done is done and now it's about getting the legs and body ready for a pounding!

This last week I've been doing less running but  trying to keep myself sharp.

On Thursday I did a 4x800 session just to keep the legs spinning and keep the feel for running fast. That was a good session although it was done in the worst of the pollution.

Friday evening I did a 2 x 2mile session at marathon pace. That's somewhere around 7:45 pace. It was fine and apart from getting chased by a couple of dogs a pleasant run in St Albans.

After a rest day on Saturday it was time for the last long run. I ran with David for about 11 miles at around 8:30 pace with a couple of faster miles added in.

Now it's all about easy, recovery runs, no longer than 4 miles with the odd marathon pace effort. My plan is to run 3-4 miles Monday & Tuesday, rest on wednesday & thursday, a short 2-3 miles in Friday and 1-2miles on Saturday.

I've hit my target weight of 80kg and should hold that until race day as long as I stay off the cakes.

I won't be doing anything different with my diet this week and no special carb loading on Saturday. I've been pleased with my energy levels on long runs so no need for any drastic changes.

I will be taking a few gels with me on the run though. I know the places I'll need a boost and will take on a gel as I approach the Isle of Dogs and come out of Canary Wharf. I've been off caffeine since early January and at least one of the gels will be full of caffeine so I should fly!!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Taper goes EuroDisney

I've had a really easy week, relaxing and running very little so that the little niggles heal and the legs get a chance to recover.

The weekend was spent at EuroDisney with the family. A well deserved break for Susan and the kids who have been patient and supportive over the last few months.

I did manage a few shorter less intense runs over the week. Including a rep session in Bristol and then a kind of tempo session in Paris.

Now that I'm back it's time to build slowly again so that I'm ready to peak on marathon day.

As well as getting some sharpness back into my running it means practicing and rehearsing a few bits and pieces for race day. I've started with my warm-up. That's important for me as I have a tendency to get a high heart rate at the start of races which can stay high and cause me performance issues.

My warm-up starts with a very slow jog for 5 mins with one acceleration to race pace. That's followed by a stretching routine and then another 5 min jog and another acceleration to race pace.

I've followed the warm-up with a mile or two at race pace to see what happens to the heart. So far so good, with the heart is staying under 160 at a 7:45 pace.

Over the next few days the plan is to get 3 quality runs in - a 12 miler, some reps and a tempo.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

So that's it! It's all about getting ready now….

3 weeks today and the London Marathon will be behind me! It's been a long process of building up fitness and endurance over the last 4-5 months.

It's been pretty solid apart from the bump in the road when I got ill in January. That knocked me back a good few weeks and it's been a tightrope ever since - trying to push on without ending up on the sickbed again. It was pretty bad for a week or two. Dramatic weight loss, off for a scan or 2 to make sure nothing sinister was going on and a warning to look after myself better.

On that note it forced me to reflect on what type of training and intensity I can tolerate and for how long before I tip over the edge and get ill.  I figured I could cope with about 4 weeks of the hard stuff, any more and I'd do myself no good.

So the programme I've followed has peaked over the last 3-4 weeks. It started at the Berko Half Marathon and was followed by a 70-60-60 mile week's with my rep and tempo sessions included. That's got me to a position where I'm probably as strong as I can be for a guy my age.

Now the programme is all about easing off the volume and keeping a couple of short intense sessions. That way the legs keep spinning but also recover from the pounding they've taken.

Today was my last long run. I aimed to do 20 miles and hoped to keep it under 2:45. Preparation wasn't ideal with a very late Saturday and not a lot of sleep. I got up at around 5:30 but was really struggling to get my mojo. I pottered about not sure what to wear and not sure where to run. I eventualy went out at around 6:10 feeling extremely sluggish. In fact the first 7 miles were lethargic. I was on the Herts10k loop and even though the sky was blue and the sun shining I wasn't in the zone.

I came back to the house to change out of my running jacket to dorn my Running Fource vest, take on a gel and get my drink bottle.

I forced my effort levels up for the second section. 13 miles down towards Luton on the Lea Valley path, up past Sommeries Castle, Peters Green etc etc. I've done this loop over the last few weeks and really enjoy the different gradients and challenges.

The weather was cool. The sun was out but the wind was chilling and my hands felt like they might drop off. Opening a gel at mile 12 was next to impossible as my fingers didn't work and I struggled to get the thing open.

On the way home I was pushing hard and was pleased to put in a 7:45 mile at mile 20. I felt strong as I'd been running well within my threshold pace.

It was a good run. Quite hilly with a few challenging ups and downs. That made it tough to meet my target and in the end it was just under 2:48. Still, given how I felt for the first 7 miles and how many climbs there were I'm quite pleased. 

It didn't really help me figure out what pace to push in the marathon. It's clear that if I run by heart rate I'll have no issues if I stick in the 150's. The 160's should be fine as I've seen myself put in sustained efforts at that level and not had any lactic issues post race. That'll take me to a sub 8 min pace. What that pace will be depends on so many variables - how am I feeling on the day, the weather, my hydration, how I've slept over the previous few nights….

So the hard work is done. This week will be a relatively easy 35-40 miles. I'll still run 5-6 days but cut the volume right down and my long run next week will be around 12 miles.

Thanks again for all the support. I'm a smidgeon away from my fundraising target.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Busy week, tired reps

It's been an intense week at work and I've not had time or energy for running over the last few days.

I did manage a pre-work 4 mile leg stretch yesterday morning which was good.

This evening at the end of a long day I forced myself outside for an interval session. I decided to ease off the volume and cut it to 6 x 800s with a 2 and a half minute recovery..

I wasn't in the zone at all and had to force myself round. The first 3 were difficult but all fairly consistent at around 3:07. The remaining three were a bit easier mentally but the lungs were burning by the end of each rep.

In the end they ranged from 3:09-3:02. Not too shabby in the end.

An easy day tomorrow then the last long one on Sunday.