Friday, October 30, 2015

Cardiff10k 2015 - 30th Anniversary edition - my race review

Another back log post today, this is a race report from the start of September that I didn't get around to completing and posting. I am still catching up on my blogging and I am not teaser trailing my recent marathon reports, really I am not...

Cardiff 10K 2015 
September 3rd 2015

The out of tens:
Course: 9/10 - super flat course
Marshalling: 9/10 - looked to be a really happy bunch as usual, though happily I had no need to make use of any directly.
Facilities: 7/10 - penned in by the building of the city centre the port-a-loo provision is always a small issue. The athletes village was a busy place that was jumping with a live band.
Organisation: 9/10 - Cardiff 10k do run a good simple no fuss event. As last year a single point deducted for the disposable timing chips.
Fellow runners: 10/10 - a happy and jolly bunch bubbling around the course.
Crowd: 8/10 - fabulous support in the start / finish area, crowds were patchy in the middle of the race.
My performance: 9/10 - I had a plan and I stuck to it - almost - see below.
My time: 58:10

From the Cardiff10k flickr feed - (Photo by Matthew Horwood)

My Race
For me this was not so much a race as it was all about preparation, preparation for the two marathons to come. So what this meant was steady running, containing my enthusiasm and perhaps feeling about what marathon pace will be. I intended to set off at around 6 minutes per kilometre and then perhaps let my pace sneak upwards in the last couple of kilometres. On race day I planned to walk to the start and so be nice and loose before doing my training plan prescription long run after the race. In my enthusiasm (and fear of being late for the start) I pretty much ran all the way to the race adding a bit more distance. Arriving in the start village I made a rush for the port-a-loo and joined a huge queue of other nervous runners. Watching my clock I knew it was going to be tight, but as I was planning to set out slow I realised I didn't much care if I missed the start remembering that I was wearing a timing chip.

By the time I got finished in the loo the starter's horn had gone off and I joined the back of the pack to get going. The start area was buzzing with positive energy and I enjoyed the obligatory shuffle to the start line. My main goal at that point being to just go enjoy it. The weather claimed a top temp of 18 degrees Celsius but it felt much warmer as there was not a cloud in the sky. I was so chuffed with the pace that I found and that it was somewhere near what I thought might be that elusive marathon pace. Through to halfway I was having a ball.

The second half of the race I let the brakes off as soon as I hit the 5k marker I just couldn't hold back for the last 2k. That said I didn't go crazy I slowly ramped up the speed so that my watch was consistently reporting a dropping average pace. Into the last 1k I pushed along a bit and then in the height of a sense of fun 'raced' some random guy across the finish line in a 50m dash. I smiled and laughed at myself then remembered I had the long run to do, oops!

I met with my family took a drink and then set off for my long run with what I discovered were leaden legs. The heat of the day and the sprint finish of the race meant that the long run was hard, but it was the kind of day where I didn't mind too much considering it all good 26.2 mile preparation. My route for that long run was winding and rambling, and even doubled back along part of the 10k race course. The only plan I had for the route in the end was to revisit the water station and see if they had any left overs... and they did! They were tidying up and had part of a pallet of bottles left, so I helped myself and again considered it great marathon training as I would have to negotiate multiple water pickups through the race.

All in all I had a really great day, the organisation is fabulously friendly (the route green, fast and flat), and it was easy to see how they have successfully made it through to their 30th edition. Long may the race continue.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Oops, the one I didn't post - "Hills? What hills? There are hills?"

Oh dear, I didn't click 'post' on this in the build up to the marathon I did on Sunday. So to get your appetite going for my race report in a day or two here you go.... it was written around the 12th of October...

So far in the build up to the second marathon of my two marathons in a month challenge (for DiabetesUK) has gone really well, but I see a potential bump in the road ahead - hills!! I didn't notice the size of the hills, there are two that are four times larger than anything I regularly run which is something of a training oversight to say the least. In fact I saw the hilly profile but didn't look at the y-axis on the graph and consider what the numbers truly meant for running, falsely assuming they were gentle rolling slopes. So with under two weeks to go until the Bristol-to-Bath run that is not a great deal I can do about it, it is a little late to start cranking out hill repeats or hilly long runs.

Happily last night I ran 25.25 km with the biggest and steepest hill I could think of in the middle, and it wasn't too bad but I clearly noticed I have no clue how to run down hill (running uphill was almost more comfortable). I can't run pan flat Berlin type marathons all the time so it is something that I have to address living in the UK and do more of in future training blocks. Quite what I do about my pacing for the Bristol-to-Bath marathon I am not entirely sure, indeed my current best guess is to go out super conservatively and save energy for the hills (all of which are deep into the second half of the race).

Thursday, October 08, 2015

How I made better use of a calorie tracker app

The run up to my marathons this autumn has had many ups and downs, and I thought I would share one of my better 'discoveries'. I have been using a calorie tracker app MyFitnessPal for a long time now (I first blogged about it in 2011 - "Calorie counting no really") - it is as far as I know one of the most popular. Every now and then I find more people I know are using it.

You might be wondering... "So what? People use it to keep their calorie intake in check?" Yes, of course this is its primary function, and one that I have made much use of in the last few years. I have set it up to loss weight slower or faster (once even to maintain weight) and I discovered that if I set it to lose relatively steeply that over the course of several weeks I got increasingly tired, with feelings of zero energy. Granted this could have been any number of things, but what I discovered lately is the most likely cause - hidden activity!

What is it that I am labelling hidden activity? Well the tracker does a great job of logging your training, your food intake, your body metrics, and your baseline activity levels. It is in the last one that I found I had issues. The baseline activity asks for your job type / daily activity levels. Upon discovering that my smartphone was tracking my steps (yup, some phones have pedometers in them that you would struggle greatly to switch off apparently - some suggested you can't turn them off!), reasoning if it was there I might as use it I linked this pedometer to the myfitnesspal app.

Bingo! I now have a day to day gauge of how active I have been and thus a better feel of my calorie 'needs' - some days I have had to pack a bit of extra food down so that I am not in crazy sized deficits. What was happening before the tracker was that when I started a training plan I would also start walking to work when I could, taking the stairs, walking the dog a bit further each day, etc. and making no allowance for it over and above the baseline option I had ticked in the app. So when I was hitting my targets I was more often than not in big deficits leading to the tiredness, grumpiness and increasing energy deficit.

The moral of this story is thus - if you track calories for restriction make 110% sure you have a good handle on just how much activity (including and on top of training) you really are doing.

Over 9 weeks before the marathon I dropped 10 lbs, and unlike in the past have not seen any of the niggles, grumps, and fatigue in the process by linking in my pedometer. Yup I dislike technology's ever increasingly pervasive intrusion into day-to-day lives, but if you are going to utilise things like lifestyle apps make sure you view them 'in the round' and use them intelligently (if only so that way they work so much better at the job you have tasked them with).

Sunday, October 04, 2015

BMW Berlin marathon 2015 - my race review - part 1 the travel log

This is part one of a couple of blog posts about my experiences at the Berlin marathon last weekend. Part 1 is something of a travel journal, part 2 will be all about how the race panned out for me...

Berlin marathon 2015 
The fine city of Berlin  - September 27th 2015 - website

My overall impressions from the day:

Course: 10/10 - flat, quick, great start area.
Marshalling: 10/10 - supremely friendly and always helpful.
Facilities: 8/10 - the race the facilities are simply really good.
Organisation: 10/10 - you couldn't fault the event organisation, or the energy they that generate around the event.
Fellow runners: 10/10 - as a World Marathon Major this has everything you would expect including the vibrant knowledgeable field of runners.
Crowd: 10/10 - vocal, enthusiastic, encouraging and all around the course.
My performance: 9/10 - so so pleased to have completed gave the struggles that impeded my preparation this year.
My time: 4:44.24

We opted for an early departure on the Friday before the race from Cardiff International airport (the oddly small trying to be big airport) on KLM to Amsterdam. We got up before dawn and arrived in the departure lounge in time for a very early breakfast, well what looked like breakfast - mostly on offer were pale imitations of pastries and strong chain store coffee. The flight itself was fine except for the an odd offering of an in-flight cheese sandwich - a step up from nuts? Sure! But breakfast?
So, so early - even the sun hadn't woken up
Amsterdam airport was alive and rammed with busy busy people rushing between gates with smartly suited aircrew sliding in between the masses. Once we got across to our boarding gate we found the flight packed with marathoners in expensive shoes, race finisher t-shirts from around the world, carrying triathlon bags, et al. Which made for a nice ambience, and added to my already growing excitement about the event long long before the expo!

It was during this second flight that I discovered I had a blown headphone (one of those expensive Apple ones!), also I discovered that the back of the plane is very very noisy, that 'chips' (nachos) are little better than sandwiches, that it is possible to develop a dad crush on stewardesses at my ripe old age, and that there is no such thing as 'knee room'! Oh, but at least the back of the plane gets food first :-)

Through out our travels we went hand luggage only rather than checking a bag, it was brilliant and made the airport experiences that bit less painful (though conversely of course initial bag packing a bit more of a challenge).

Berlin - a great kind of town
Arriving on the Friday afternoon we had time to do a classic sightseeing tour bus ride around the centre. This is not something I have ever felt the need to do in Berlin before as I used to live there, but it was a good use of time and allowed Mrs. H. the opportunity to get a much better feel of the city. She after all is the one who has to kill several hours whilst I try to get around a 42.2 km course marked out with blue lines. To say that I spent some of the tour looking out for the blue course markers was a bit of a understatement. Happily all kinds of spotting were aided by the great clear weather - an omen I hoped for race day.
Views from the tour bus montage
That night we met up with a school friend who I hadn't seen in far far too long, and went for pizza (I have always assumed pizza = pasta = carb loading??). Meeting up with my friend who was also set to run the race was fabulous, it kind of put the whole weekend into another (quite unique) framing as an event.

Saturday morning we all set off to hunt down race packs and race numbers with the promise not to spend a fortune in the many many stalls we were sure to face. On the way we rehearsed the route to the start, took selfies at the Brandenburg Tor, and had a goodly walk across to the Expo at flughafen Templehof. The expo itself was huge, though gratefully the queues were well managed, and it didn't seem to take any time at all to get sorted out with number, security band, bag and all the necessary bits and pieces.
I don't take many pics inside expo halls - but the queues were pretty good
Feeling happy and fresh (and not just a little déjà vu) in this expo essential photo
The rest of the day before was spent trying and failing (because of time) to visit the area of the city I used to live in, catching up some more with my school friend, enjoying the hotel marathon inspired pasta buffet, and staying up a little too late to watch Wales play England in the IRB Rugby World Cup (thank you Eurosport for saving us, we thought we wouldn't see it in Germany). That only left sleep to be had before race day - well I tried but my brain absolutely had other ideas...