Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Have I Made the Active.com 11 Major Marathon Mistakes?

I'm signed up to run the Loch Ness Marathon in aid of CLAN.  I'd be stoked if you made a donation (here) but realise that you probably barely know me and so are unlikely to feel sufficiently connected to me to warrant financial outlay, even though it is for a very good cause.  In other words, don't sweat it, I hate asking for money.

I'm really excited to run another marathon after doing my first one at Edinburgh in May.  That was a great occasion and I would really recommend it, although it was as hot as hell on the day and I really struggled with the heat.  I've never been to Loch Ness so I'm excited about that too.  The only problem is that my marathon training has, I think, gone completely down the drain.  I say 'I think' because I really don't know.  I started building up my distances and was at about 12 miles for my long runs (although that was a struggle).  Then I suddenly had the Birdathlon idea and was able to run nearly 24 miles in one go on a fairly tough course.  So, if I could run 24, I'm sure I could have managed 26.2 (especially if I had some water for the last 6 miles).  At the moment, I still think I'm recovering from this 24 mile run and may or may not have a slight knee injury, it's one of those funny niggles which might just need a rest.  This has not been helped by me changing my trainers and doing loads more cycling.  My plan is to try a few more long runs, of a distance to be determined by how I am feeling, with the logic being that I am better to rest and recover properly than to push myself.

It really would be good to have a better idea of how my training is going, the 24 mile run gave me a lot of confidence but then the struggle I've had running since has somewhat cancelled that out.  Active.com have published an article titled '11 Major Marathon Mistakes' and I thought it would be a fun exercise to see how my current training, or lack thereof, compares.  Thanks to the Two Gomers for the inspiration.

1. Not Having the Right Time Goal:
This is about aiming for a fast, unrealistic time.  At Edinburgh, which was my first marathon, my time was:

I said that I was aiming for about 4 hours without putting pressure on myself to go under 4 hours.  If I am completely honest, I was a little bit disappointed not to beat 4 hours but was happy to have done the distance and stoked to get my first marathon under my belt.  For my first marathon, although the common advice is to aim to get around, I believe 4 hours was a realistic goal.  Under normal circumstances, I'd be aiming to beat 4 hours at Loch Ness, but, and this is where I have hopefully avoided Major Marathon Mistake number 1, I realise that I have not been training properly and my true and honest aim is to get round and enjoy myself.

0/1 Major Marathon Mistakes.

2. Failing to Include Goal Pace in Long Runs.
A bit difficult to fail this one given that I don't really have a goal pace.  The Birdathlon had an average pace of 9.38 per mile and I'd be very happy with this.  Realistically, I am looking to run between 9 and 10 minute miles which I do very comfortable on all of my runs.  I usually have to slow down, my natural running pace being around 8.30 per mile.

The Active.com article claims that many runners just focus on distance, expecting to run a minute or so per mile faster during the actual race.  No, this is not me, I will be aiming for 9 to 10 minute miles, probably having to slow myself down at the start rather than run at a faster pace than I am used to.

0/2 Major Marathon Mistakes.

3. Trying to Do a Long Run Every Weekend.
Ha Ha, definitely not.  I do think I was guilty of this for my first marathon and often ran when I really was not up for it.  I've definitely been more laid back about my training this time around.  Feeling more positive about my 'training' already.

0/3 Major Marathon Mistakes.

4. Failing to Use Sports Drinks Effectively During the Race.
Ok, I'll be honest, my understanding of nutrition is pretty basic.  I knew after the Birdathlon run that I needed a can of coke or I would pass out (I nearly keeled over waiting to draw money out of the post office).  For the Edinburgh Marathon, I think I took a sports drink after about 8 miles and sipped it for the next mile or so.

Active.com says that 8-10 ounces of sports drink should be consumed 10 minutes before the race and then 5-6 ounces every two miles during the race.  An ounce is approximately one mouthful/swallow so the sips that I take are probably half an ounce.  I definitely have not been doing this.  I usually take cordial to drink on my long runs.  This is something that I should practice because I think it really affected me during the Birdathlon and the Edinburgh Marathon.

1/4 Major Marathon Mistakes (but time to rectify this one).

5. Mixing Sports Drinks with Other Things During the Race.
Not sure about this one.  It says that you shouldn't have gels with sports drinks, that you should not mix water with sports drinks and that you should consume nothing but a sports drink.  I think I would really struggle with this.  The lucozade drinks at the Edinburgh Marathon were really sweet and sickly and I couldn't just drink them could I?  Not sure whether to disregard this one or to count it as a fail?  I guess that, as with number 4, there is still some time to experiment.

2/5 Major Marathon Mistakes (but time to experiment with this one).

6.  Failing to Standardise Pre-Race Meal.
Bah, another nutrition one!  Well I am certainly cautious in this area, the words 'code brown' fill me with fear. On the other hand, I recently ran 5k fuelled by a pint of Stella Artios.  Active recommends that you practice the pre-race meal, giving yourself the same amount of lead in time before your long runs as for your race.  It's a good idea and something that I have not been organised enough/cared enough to do.

3/6 Major Marathon Mistakes (time to practice here too).

7.  Trying Something New on Race Day.
No, not guilty and not planning to.  Next!

3/7 Major Marathon Mistakes.

8.  Not Tapering Properly.
Active.com recommend that no long runs in the month before the race.  The plans I have been following (from Runner's World) leave about a 2 week taper.  I think that this is long enough and plan to try a few more long runs before my taper.  I'm much more able to listen to my body and actually feel more of an accomplishment when I have appropriately cut a long run short, rather than slog out the distance when the last however many miles really hurt.  I think I'm all right here.

3/8 Major Marathon Mistakes.

9.  Emphasising Volume Over Quality in Training.
Err, I think at the moment, I'm successfully not emphasising either!  See above, I think I am better at making sure I get what I want from my training rather than just blindly following the training plan.

3/9 Major Marathon Mistakes.

10. Forgetting that Fitness in the Most Important Predictor of Marathon Success.
Hopefully good news here.  As I have struggled a bit with a knee niggle, I've ramped up my cycling to try to keep my fitness up.  I've noticed real gains in my cycling fitness so hopefully this will transfer to my running.

3/10 Major Marathon Mistakes.

11. Thinking that Walking During the Race will Improve Your Marathon Time.
No, I don't think this.  Weird one this, maybe Active.com should have stopped at 10.

3/11 Major Marathon Mistakes.

Well I obviously need to consider my nutrition strategy a bit more and include it in any long runs that I manage to do.  There is time for me to do this, I could also probably do it on some bike rides as well.  This exercise has been really useful for me.  Writing about it has made me think about each point rather than, as would usually be the case, skimming over the article and not paying it much attention.  Hope you find it interesting and/or useful.  If not, I offer no refunds for the time you will never get back.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Helvellyn Pictorial

About a year ago, just as my fitness was improving, I felt confident to tackle the mighty striding edge on Helvellyn.  It was a beautiful day.  Here are the pics.

"I don't think this is the right way!" - He was right.  Early wrong turn,
guided by my reluctance to head straight up a hill.

back on track and the view back towards Ullswater

close up

recognise this from anywhere?

first view of Swirral Edge

Oscar catching some rays - he's currently living it up in Melbourne, Australia
so this was good practice for him

the hole in the wall

looking back...

and forward.  Red Tarn visible and Striding Edge on the left

ok, here goes, Striding Edge straight ahead

someone beat me across

not a good time to find out your dog has vertigo!

looking back over Striding Edge.  There is a path to the side that
I was able to guide Oscar along but he did find it very traumatic.

but worth it! A very happy Oscar at the top.

the flat top of Helvellyn

sorry Oscar, but that's the way down.  Swirral Edge.

where we're going and where we've been.  Swirral Edge on the
left, Striding Edge on the right.  Red Tarn in the middle (where
Oscar wants to go for a swim).

looking back over to the start of Striding Edge.  Heavy traffic now.

finally able to cool off

route with elevation profile

Quite near the end of the walk, when I was completely worn out, an American guy ran up to me, "excuse me, is this the way to Striding Edge?"

I pointed him in the right direction and thought, "what a complete idiot!"

A year later, and much fitter, I could, almost, imagine running up there.

Walking England's third highest mountain not tough enough for you?  How about having a go at the Helvellyn Triathlon?  Just a week left for the 2010 race.  I think I might go and watch for this year.

You Tube Video

Trihard Website

Helvellyn Website

One of the best blogs for photos and walks in the Lake District Striding Edge

How about doing this walk in these conditions?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Birdathlon

This year was the big 38.  Not quite 40 but certainly not 21.  This year was also the first year in a long time that I haven't wanted to celebrate my birthday by eating a lot and then getting blind drunk.  You see, I've ditched the beer belly and become fit.  I'm sure there will be other posts about that so I wont dwell on it here.  Let's just say that the thought of stuffing myself with food until I feel/am sick and then washing it down with beer no longer excites me.

Last year, on my 37th birthday, I was in the middle of a pretty full on diet.  I really wanted to have the usual blow out, but I knew that it would end up with me hating myself afterwards.  So I was good, and I felt good about being good, but it was a bit of an anticlimax.

So how could I celebrate being 38 without feeling bloated and depressed, or let down by the lack of excess?  The birdathlon was the obvious answer.  I would run 38k (38 miles is way too far to run), swim 38 lengths of the local pool (it's a really short pool but I am a really bad swimmer) and then cycle 38 miles (seems appropriate).  The idea for the birdathlon came to me a few days before my birthday.  My training involved not exercising too much for the remaining two days until my birthday.  I didn't tell anyone of my plans.  My wife had asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday and I replied with a cool, "I might go for a longish run."

Birdathlon Leg 1:
run route on Garmin Connect:

Well I woke up early on my birthday and set off to Keswick.  At this stage, I wasn't sure if I could run the 38k or 23.6 miles.  I was loosely training for the Loch Ness Marathon but had fallen a bit behind with the training, my longest run for a while being 12 miles.  I'd decided to run around Derwent Water.  This is a beautiful place to run, the route around Derwent Water is about 9 miles so I thought I would do one lap and then see how I felt.  I parked at the Kettlewell National Trust Car Park and headed off turning right from the car park.

At the start of the route there is the choice to run on the trail or the road.  As it was still early, meaning no traffic, and also because I was planning on a long run, I thought I would run on the road.  It's not too far to the right turn across the board walk towards Manesty Woods but on the way I decided that I really couldn't face running two laps of Derwent Water and so carried on towards Seatoller.

Here's a quick shot from the road:

This is a really nice, slightly hilly run.  The Borrowdale Fell Race had been two days before, and then the imaginatively titled Day After Borrowdale Cycle Challenge had been the day before.  There were a lot of, what were almost certainly, endurance athletes waking up from their tents as I ran by.  I gave them the knowing nod of the fellow athlete.  I was in the, what I find to be quite pleasant, mode of not quite knowing where I was going.  I was thinking that if I could run for 7 miles in one direction, I could run for another 7 back, making 14 and then a lap of Derwent Water of 9ish could take me close to my goal of 23.6.  At about 4 miles I got to Seatoller.  Beyond Seatoller is the Honister Pass, the hellish route that the Day After Borrowdalers had cycled the day before.  So I turned around.  I'd covered 8 miles at a slow and comfortable pace by the time I got to the boardwalk around Derwent Water:

This board walk is made from recycled tyres.  It's just a bit springy and really lovely to run on (mental note for later).  The 8 mile mark is when I start to get my runner's high so this was the ideal place to have that confidence because, once you set off around a lake, it's pretty hard to take a short cut.  It was still early which means few people and lots of wild life including this little fella:

Just stood there staring at me.  I carried on around the lake.  There are a few small hills and a bit of rough track but it's a quite nice run.  Beautiful scenery on the way around that I don't have the skills to capture but I tried:

A nice cool day, fine rain, almost perfect for a run.  Heading back towards my car which was at about the 18 mile mark, I foolishly decided to just carry on rather than stop to get the water that I had in the car.  My logic?  Well I can easily run a slow 6 miles without water, why should I stop?

The last six or so miles were spent running backwards and forwards, as much as possible over that springy board walk.

I thought that I might struggle to stop at 23.6 miles.  I thought that I would want to carry on to do the full marathon distance.  Absolutely not!  I really don't think I could have ran/shuffled another yard.  At the end I could tell I was dehydrated.  I stopped at the public toilets to fill my water bottle up before walking back to the car.  There was only a hot water tap so I filled the bottle with the water that was lingering in the pipes before it started to get hot.  Anything would do at this point.  I sat on a wall, checked my Garmin.  I'd done it, ran the 38k.  The Birdathlon was on!

One of the advantages of burning 2846 calories is that, well, you can allow yourself a little indulgence.  I mean, it was my birthday.  I just happened to know that my favourite place to eat, The Lakeland Peddlar, served breakfasts up until 11.30am.  It was a rush but I made it in time for, what else, the Power Breakfast:

Ok, this isn't the Power Breakfast, this is the Boneshaker Salad that I had the day before when we also happened to go to my favourite cafe.  I told you that I made my birthday last.  The Power Breakfast is yoghurt, banana, honey and granola.  Accompanied by a Soy Latte.  Yum!

Then it was home to open my cards and have some birthday cake:

This is a chocolate coffee meringue layer cake (my daughter and I like to bake).

Birdathlon leg 2:
Leg 2 was the swim.  No photos to show but my plan to swim 38 lengths saw me struggling at about 16.  I'm not a very good swimmer at all.  I have worked hard on my technique and think that I do swim properly now, even if it is with goggles and a noseclip, but don't have any stamina.  A quick trip to my locker and my conversion app told me that 21 lengths was about 380 metres.  That'll do, time for T2.

Well I do like my coffee so off to Costa to refuel:

and, as it's my birthday, I think I deserve some cake:

Carrot cake and a Soy Latte and I'm good to go.  Back home to the family, call my parents, hang out with my wife and daughter and then, and by this time I was comfortable telling my wife what I was doing, onto leg 3.

Birdathlon Leg 3:
Bike Route on Garmin Connect:

The weather had improved by this point.  My plan was pretty simple, ride for about 17 miles, turn around and make up the last few miles by going around the local streets, ending at my house at 38 miles.  A ride along the coast towards Silloth was in order:

Maryport Harbour

from the golf course towards the harbour.  There's a path along the promenade, a 
bit rough in places but with stunning views over to Scotland and the Isle of Man.

that's Scotland over there.

After about 14 miles I arrived at the village of Allonby.  Allonby is popular with kite surfers (I'd like to learn to do that one day) but is also home of Twentyman's Ice Cream.  Time for a fuel stop:

Another few miles and then turn around.  Oh, crikey, it's windy going this way!

looks like it's going to be a pretty sunset

Got to head inland a bit now though.  Heading home, still some gorgeous views just around the corner from my house:

bike leg

then home.  Birdathlon complete!  Bath, one or two beers and sleep.  What a great day.