Thursday, October 25, 2012

Three things Thursday

So here we go...

1) Shredding - yeap, I have begun leaping around my house under the instruction of a loud American woman on a DVD. I think some might recognise the DVD and indeed the presenter in question. This time around I am toying around with doing the whole 30-days of that there 30 day shred. Why? Well I am having a month break from the run mileage I was doing (I know, not that I was doing huge mileage) and addressing all around fitness, aka mixing things up a bit. All of this before launching my marathon training for next spring.

2) Marathoning - today I began the process of trying to register for the 2013 Berlin Marathon. Not having run outside the UK (in a race) I am slightly nervous about the undertaking, but I know Germany and I know Berlin pretty well so I am very motivated to try and get there. It is there 40th edition and I will be in my 39th year, we both began in 1974 so I am taking that as a nice resonance - that and the fact I was living there as a toddler in '74 also.

3) Noise - I am struggling a little at the moment with noise... I know odd thing to say, and perhaps it intimates to some that I am in deed getting older. Suffice it to say that with a busy household, a busy work place and a loud world I am treasuring moments of calm and silence a lot at the moment. Probably part of the reason I get a bit grumpy if I don't get out for my run sessions.

Diary - Weather very very Autumn with a threat of Winter. Grateful for being productive, not so grateful for the changing clocks this coming weekend here in the UK (half the daily commute is thrown into darkness).

Monday, October 22, 2012

Motivation Monday - Running advice and cook books

The other day my wife proudly told me that this month we had tried 3 recipes from her recent copy of a food magazine, apparently this represented an unusually high number. Each copy that arrives in our post box gets diligently read cover to cover and during the process little sticky tabs or bits of paper sprout from the top edge of various pages. Eventually at a meal time a while later I find myself 'testing' a new meal.

Pondering this for a while it dawned on me that this is entirely the way I use running magazines and books, I don't as it happens use sticky tabs like my wife does with her magazines. I read whole magazines and often cover-to-cover but will often times only keep a small part of each that over time build up to a pile of knowledge that fits my running, my training or my ambitions. Then perhaps with hindsight if I was as organized as my wife cook books I would get a little more value out of the columns I read?!?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A PB does not a smart runner make!

It turns out that a great PB can mess with your thinking a little, I went out for my post-half recovery run and well it ended badly. I went off like a cheap firework rocket - I shot off at speed, peaked, made a lame noise, failed to burst into light and then sank back to earth charred and spent! The run started with my head full (and I mean really full) of ambitions for a next PB and I tried to open out at that kind of pace. Of course my legs soon said "Woo-ah! You forget we're tired!" and let me know in no uncertain terms.

The initial splurge was followed by an attempt to settle into a rhythm which my legs again complained at "Woo-ah! You forget we're tired!". So I slowed again and figured I'd get home round the Winter run loop no problem (yes, it's dark in the evenings and I feel I have to run the street-lit roads now). Once again just passed halfway my legs refrained "Woo-ah! You forget we're tired!", followed by "Seriously mate! We are screwed!"... I slowed to a walk because both calves were in full out rebellion.

By the time I arrived back home my head had had a good lesson in the consequences of over-ambition from the rest of me and we had resolved to be sensible about things. I am still keen on working towards a good PB progression for the half-marathon distance just not all in one training session (duh!). I think I had a serious case of the post-PB sillies, so the next training will be a proper recovery run before we get into the next plan :-)

Diary - bright blustery day, autumnal temperatures and damp ground. Grateful for the support of my family allowing me to go run, run, run, and for the fact that I am able to run, run, run. Miffed by... well nothing today really :-)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cardiff Half-marathon - how it went for me

No real mystery as to how the race turned out seeing as I couldn't help but post my time yesterday - plot not so much spoilt as blown, but here is a little of the detail of how it all came about that I set my personal best over 13.1miles.
Apologies for the lack of pictures but I ran without a support team armed with cameras.

Pre-race / start line
As it happened this year we weren't in Cardiff before the race, we were at a big family celebration an hour and a half drive away from town. We had a great time at the birthday celebration and the kids especially were having brilliant fun. I learned that being well meaning can result in doors being slammed in your face, but is not a story for this blog (just one of those little life lessons). I set off for the race at about 4:30am having decided that I would be best served getting back early and chilling at home over breakfast before heading to the course.

I got home in time for a good slow breakfast, a chance to sort out my kit thoroughly, and mentally disengage by watching the first half of the Korean Formula1 Grand Prix (which was pretty eventful). About an hour and a half before the race start I set off on my bike for work, where I could leave my keys, phone, dry clothes and so on without having to queue at the baggage drop off. The race this year had grown to take in 18,000 runners and an estimated 30,000+ spectators, so I wanted to get myself there and set in good time and good order.

On the way out of the office I met a bunch of fellow runners from the department all of whom were in great humour and fun to chat with on the short walk towards the start line and start pens. The start was set up outside the castle and was fantastically busy with a bustling atmosphere. I arrived in my start zone with a bottle of water, an empty bladder and a head full of happy thoughts.

Miles 1 & 2
The first two miles I had already determined were one of two key elements to my effort for a sub-2hour half marathon. I had to make sure I ran loose, ran easy and ran controlled - yes, I have that classic propensity to go out and blow it in the first phase of a race. Despite the usual ebb and flow of slower and faster runners trying to find their way within the mix of abilities I managed to run to my schedule of 9min/mile to 9.25min/mile - though admittedly on the high side of my target range. In the start pen I had spotted the sub-2hour pacer was about 100yards ahead of me so I had resolved not to chase him immediately but perhaps to be near him at halfway and thus be 100yards under his sub-hour pace.

Miles 3 & 4
The main hill in the course came early on and I was happy that I accommodated it without puffing like a train. At this point already I was having a good feeling about my potential time, especially as I recovered quickly from the effort of the hill. I looked to keep the pace as I'd set it and to keep the pacer in line of sight. I was holding the gap and if anything edging towards him slowly.

As I hit mile three I opened up my energy jelly beans and began popping them one at a time every couple of minutes.

Miles 5 & 6
Heading back towards the middle of the city from the bay and the barrage I was still working to keep myself flowing and rolling without over cooking things. I had gained on the pacer and was level through the sixth mile (a little early but it felt okay). The only problem with getting close to the pacer was the throng of runners stuck to him like flies round a jam jar, it was a little dicey as the route twisted and narrowed at times through the barrage area.

Miles 7 & 8
I knew this was where I had to start grafting while keeping my plan together knowing the the second big test of my plan lay three more miles away. I had taken my drink of water and decided on a caffeine energy gel at the same time. At this point I put away the remaining jelly beans and resolved that the gel was the last fuel that my system needed (and frankly would take - I have the growing feeling that some issues in last years near miss were from over using gels and upsetting my stomach).

Into the eighth mile I had a mini surge according to my GPS watch, but I don't remember trying to push and think perhaps it was just the distraction of the huge crowds while musing my fuelling plan change. I didn't do anything drastic but I recognised it and reigned it in before I went over the top.

Miles 9 & 10
At this point I sensed I was in shape to do the thing, although I noticed that the pacer was closing on me a little. I worked to keep concentration and keep my form.

Mile 11
The second big test - I have had issues around 11.5 miles in half-marathon runs and during my marathon at this distance out. I knew if I'd gotten the pacing right that I should ride it out, and in fact though I knew it was getting tougher to keep my pace (the GPS was giving me subtle hints!) I was managing it well.

Miles 12 & 13
There were two more rises through the closing section which I like to think took away my chances of pushing my pace on at all (ahem, wishing thinking probably). I worked hard on the inclines to keep the pace on target and keep my gap ahead of the pacer. Through these miles I began to really see that a PB was on the cards. The crowds through this section were even bigger, and as it was the student area very vocal.

The final dash and the line
As it happened the last bit was past my work on roads I know so very well. In the closing half a mile I knew that only an accident could take a sub-2 hour run from me, and happily I didn't fall foul of any mishap. It was a strange feeling knowing that I didn't have any need to have to sprint madly for a specific time - I was neatly under the 2 hour target.

My final time was 1hr 57min and 53seconds - and yes I think (I know) I pumped my fist with joy as I crossed the line. After the line the organisation was fantastic and though my legs were rapidly turning to jelly there was a good flow of runners so I didn't have to stop (where I would have probably stiffened up badly). I was not in ruins but I knew I had run hard and run well. Could I have gone faster? Perhaps, but I had trained with my final pace in mind and the target of sub-2hours as my primary goal so I executed my plan perfectly.

The weather was perfect, I marshaled my energies well, I listened to my stomach regarding gels, and I held to my plan - so all in all a good days running and a day to store away to remember during the tough road to my second marathon next year in Milton Keynes.

Monday, October 15, 2012

New PB - finally a sub-2hr half marathon!!

I am so pleased to report that on Sunday I indeed managed a sub-2hr half marathon after last year coming with 20seconds and having not finishing my last attempt at the distance. It feels great, and the buzz was a good one - I officially ran the Cardiff Half in 1hr 57min and 53seconds !!! :-D

More on my race and the event when I have more spare moments to put it all down on the keyboard.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wittering on Wednesday - pre-race wobbles

Pre-race wobbles
So it is indeed race week, and grand though I try and make that sound all it really means is me and 17,999 other souls will run around the streets of Cardiff this Sunday. I am not 'in a race' - I have entered an event sure - but really I am not convinced I am racing anything other than perhaps the clock. Sure there are elite runners coming to race the Cardiff Half-marathon, but most of us are just doing it because we can and not to race the next guy or gal.

Why then do I find myself so charged the week of this thing? It is all about the culmination of a block of training, a set of efforts, to do this one distance at this one time as well as I can... and indeed that provides enough 'pressure' to quicken the nerves quite a bit.

Other Witterings
Ummm, well I don't have any... sorry, I blame the pre-race wobbles!!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Oh come on!

I was walking down the high street of my local city centre this lunchtime and low what did I behold but workmen installing Christmas lights - now fair enough these won't be officially turned on for some time yet, but yikes already?

In other "Oh come on!" news I run the Cardiff Half on Sunday, I have only one goal (two goals) which is to run the thing in under 2 hours (and to chill out as much as possible before and during). The prospects are not looking so great as I am getting over a pulled stomach muscle (gardening! don't ask!), and I have started a new job (so very tired from playing catch up / new guy last week and this). If I run the thing smart and with a cool head I have every chance of my primary goal... I just have that sneaking suspicion that my tired head might not make for the coolest come Sunday... I will of course blog all about it.

For the time being I am in prep mode, washing the kit I want to run in, buying the energy gels I plan to consume, putting my race number and pins in plain sight (!!!).

Diary - weather variable and autumn is here, windy, cool, shattered showers. I am currently grateful that I am again busy, and pleased that my little girl likes school. I am intrigued that we now have a ergometer in the house temporarily and yet I haven't gotten on the thing yet?!?! :-)

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Wittering on Wednesday

Direction of travel
I have been reading a lot of posts on some great blogs of late admiring their clear senses of purpose, not simply with their running, but with their blogs themselves. There are those that diarise their activities so neatly they are compelling, some that give useful advice in amongst simple 'selling', and then there are those that are just down right entertaining. The direction of this collection of posts has always been somewhat eclectic, between rowing and running, between diary and advice, between reviews and new challenges, between weight loss log and training log. Why does this even bother me really? It is hard to put my finger on it, but I am coming to the opinion that I need to be a little firmer in what this thing actually is... maybe?!?!?

Driving tracks
As the Winter heads this way I am looking at some more time with my friend the elliptical trainer in the gym... even at this thought my brain said a loud "arrghh, must have distractions" and so I am on the hunt for new workout driving power tracks. Initial thoughts ranged around old favourites but a change up would be good so I went down the more current road towards Jay-Z, Tinie Tempah, Labrinth, David Guetta, Swedish House Mafia, et al... when I get to a new play list I will be sure to share. Any dance / pop / house / rap or other upbeat workout tune suggestions?

Monday, October 01, 2012

Motivation Monday - positively

Monday, Monday, such a day after the weekend that most mutter it twice. I decided to tackle it on the positive vibe, because I realised I have been colouring my year so far with the gloomy tones of having been ill in the middle of it. If I stripe that period out then I am actually left with a pretty healthy year of running progress, personal high water marks and new experiences tackled. Funny how short periods can mar the perception of a much longer one, us humans really do log negative experiences too well for our own good at times (of course Mr. and Mrs. Stone-age needed these risk avoiding memories of bad times way back in the day).

So for motivation today I am, as they say in various psychology circles, 're-framing' my experiences of the year to take out the glowing shiny positives :-)

For more sage, and frankly utterly intuitive, advice about positivity see this article published by the Guardian newspaper - Self help: forget positive thinking, try positive action *

* reference link in full -