Thursday, 28 April 2011

In the words of Emil Zatopek...

"Why should I practice how to run slow? I already know how to run slow."

That's a little bit like I feel at the moment. Not that I'm not enjoying the slow runs but just that it's beginning to feel normal to run at 9.00/9.20 pace and I wonder how I'll adapt to 10k running again.

On Tuesday evening I did feel a bit like a coiled spring as I reigned myself back, whereas yesterday my body seemed worryingly content to just plod along! Still, tomorrow's run is back to base pace with a few strides thrown in and from next week recovery runs will only be 2/5 per week. That's more like it. I've nothing against running at recovery pace - and its been a useful lesson to learn - but I'd like the variety back.

Surprisingly I still have some DOMS in triceps and a tiny bit in upper pecs. Will be going to the gym later and will do the weights again. I figure that it won't be as bad second time around, plus I'll drop the tricep dips for this session as the chest and shoulder press may well each give them a bit of work and that will be enough for today. Beyond that it's core and stretch time, and a jog there and back. Hoping that the glute mede plays ball a bit more today (though typing that has reminded me that I'd intended to dig out the resistance band to help me give a daily work out for them. Ah well, its the thought that counts.

My diet was good yesterday. Nothing more to say about that.

Off camping tomorrow, back Monday so will be absent for a few days but will get some walking in as well as the running.

Mercifully we'll be nowhere near a TV so we can successfully avoid the BBC's sycophantic coverage of the (to me) non-event that is the Royal Wedding. We managed to do the same last year for Inger-Land's predictable exit from the World Cup. I'm either a miserable sod or simply non-conformist when it comes to events that apparently we're all meant to get really excited about. Mind you, I have to confess I do think the villages bedecked with Union Flags do look very good - far classier than the St George's crosses (often with 'England' printed across them in case their knuckle dragging owners get confused) that greeted the world cup (or now identify households/pubs with BNP leanings).

I digress considerably, so will leave it there.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

I think I better plan a modest meal for this evening

Another recovery run with the club chalked off with a nice low heart rate to boot. Looking to do something similar today, which will mark more or less the end of the first stage of post marathon recovery - where pace is limited. Then I have 2.5 weeks where I do strides once a week and do more mileage at base pace.

Triceps got progressively more sore yesterdy, and now into today, after Monday's weights. Only DOMS but definitely a 'welcome back' I could do without - will do next session tomorrow which otherwise will be a rest day. Well, apart from a little jog there and back.

Diet wise the good news is that yesterday was 90% there. That is I ate sensibly until just after 9pm when I got back from the running club and then entered a world of toast, butter, hot cross buns, 4 packets of crisps and lots of ice cream. Oops.

Onwards and upwards, onwards and upwards...

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Back Again

Six days between blog entries. Standards are slipping post-marathon!

That probably leaves a good deal that I could cover off so I'll try to keep each bit brief and give some semblance of order. Main theme is that I'm getting some sort of post marathon plan in place.

Let's get this one out of the way first. Started off extremely well last week but then all bets were off for the Easter weekend. Two barbecues, a meal out, chocolate, hot cross buns (as someone who sits between atheism and being agnostic perhaps I should just have had tea cakes?)etc. Doubtless that will have undone much of the good work but it will go pretty quickly too.

Plan is to lose weight for early/mid June and then (hopefully) weight will stay steady but body composition might alter.

I've still only been doing recovery paced runs but I've enjoyed what I've done. Ran again on Wednesday evening, doing 5 miles round the reservoir, then 7.5 on Friday, 12.5 on Sunday and 1.5 yesterday (to the gym and back). That left me on about 30 miles for the week, which is pretty good for the second week post marathon. Some of these runs were a bit warm though - especially the Sunday 12.5 which was done at 3pm when it was a little over 20c and relentlessly sunny; plus it was done on a very hilly route.

Plan running wise is to increase the mileage to 45 miles a week over the next 3 weeks, in part by adding in a 5th day of running a week. Much will still be at recovery pace but I'm doing one session with 8 x 100m strides included per week. after that I'll throw in a couple of 10k pace tempo runs to tune me up for a 10k race on the 4th June.

Heart Rate
I got a HR monitor with my 405 but haven't previously used it. As I was a devil for not doing recovery runs at recovery pace I've now been using it to keep me in check. I'm fairly confused by it though, in particular as the old 220 - age seems to be very prone to inaccuracy for individuals and I'm not sure how to factor in the effects of heat and hills. I have a guru working on these quandaries for me but anyone else have any experience?

Took advantage of the good weather and did two walks over the weekend. Went up Whernside on Saturday - Yorkshire's highest peak, though right on the Cumbrian border. From the top the views are spectacular except on Saturday just as we got within a mile off the top the cloud came down and we couldn't see more than 30m! Then, yesterday, we did a walk in upper Nidderdale that had everything: sheep, goats, horses, cows, pigs, hens, rabbits, becks, old lead mines, heather clad moorland, lots of hills and sunshine.

Walks will continue next weekend as we're off camping.

I left starting the weights at the gym until yesterday when I did what will largely be my routine session 2-3 times a week (though not sure quite which days yet). Session comprised 3 elements: the core and lower body resistance training I was doing pre-marathon, the stretches I was doing pre-marathon and some very basic upper body weights.

I quite enjoyed it though I could tell I hadn't been doing the exercises for over 3 weeks. In particular the exercises for my glute mede had that particular muscle screaming with fatigue very early on - despite my doing the exercises a few weeks ago and not even feeling I was doing anything. Upper body weights were rudimentary dumbell/barbell based: chest press, shoulder press, bent over row, bicep curl, tricep dip, and I can feel their effects in pecs and triceps today despite the modest weights used. That'll pass though.

I think that brings everything up to date?

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Numbers down, Numbers up

Yesterday started with a nominal bonus - a first 'diet' weigh in on the scales.

Prior to carb loading I'd weighed 11st 9.6lb but after the loading for 3 days, several days of gluttony in Paris, followed by the same in Leeds and all accompanied by very little running I knew I'd have gained. I could see and feel it too. When I weighed on Monday I was 12st 4.0lb. After a day of dieting yesterday's number was 11st 12.8lb. Over 4lb in a day. Just goes to show the effects of a big meal the night before. That was pleasing mainly because it puts me on target to hit 11st by the start of Chester training. Another day on and another pound gone - again it will be false weight loss from water etc but happy that the numbers go that way.

This is mainly for Jess but, my theory on weight loss stems from an article that estimates a 1% change in body weight leads to a 1% change in speed. On that basis, with the weight loss I'd be 6% faster or 3:26 pace. I don't think its as cut and dried as that but it must help.

Last night I ran with the club for the first time in 6 months, running with the 'steady' group. That forced me to run at an easy pace but with lots of stops too in a just over 4.5 mile loop.

It was a run of contrasts. Beforehand my legs felt springy for the first time since Paris and during the run I felt easy but there was still a little calf tightness and looking at the Garmin afterwards tells me I was running slower than it felt. In the very last half a mile or so I let myself off the leash with a steep hill and then a slight long incline before 100m flat to the finish. Looking at the stats that was only just under 8 minute mile pace yet felt fairly tough - I'd have guessed at faster. Confirms the need for steady recovery I guess.

So, focus remains on gradual mileage increases but at recovery and then base pace. Though next week I do get to start running strides once a week. Happy days.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

What have I learned?

Overall I'm fairly happy with what happened in Paris. The weather affected me but having seen the second half times of many peoples' runs in Larnden (where it was warm but not as warm as Paris) I feel I did pretty well in the circumstances.

However, there are always things to learn and always things that could have gone better so I'd like to capture them here. I'm not thinking so much of tactics/responses during the race but of practical measures: training, event, clothing, fuelling etc.

Here goes.

Spring vs Autumn
Having only ever run in Paris I can't really compare spring vs autumn but I can assume there are some benefits to the latter. OK, the training must be done in warmer weather but its likely that the marathon will be completed in cooler weather whereas the inverse is so often true in the spring. Training should also be easier in the sense that there will be no disruption from ice/snow and less impact from wind or rain. It will also be lighter giving greater flexibility of when to run. Finally it will mean that 1/3 of the training will be done in the school holidays (even more flexibility) and 2 weeks while I'm off in the summer (complete freedom).

Big vs Small
With 40,000 runners Paris is undeniably a big event. Chester isn't really small, at 6,500 but I'd hope there's a bit more space at drinks stations and less chance of bunching. The lack of flying and relatively simple travelling should also help.

Training Plan
Arguably I didn't really follow the Brain Training plan. The longer it went on the more confident I felt in changing things round and added to my long runs almost every week. After 8 weeks though I pretty much ditched the drills and the recovery runs - not sure if that was wise. At 24 weeks it was a long plan and to follow that again would mean starting virtually immediately - and I'm not ready for that.

The Pfitzinger & Douglas plan is higher mileage, starting at 55 miles (the peak week for Brain Training) and peaking at 70 miles a week. I have no huge fears of that, though it does include weeks where there might be runs of 22, 15, 15, 12, 6. Big aim in coming weeks is to get up to near 50 and then hope I adapt OK to increases beyond there. I'm confident with the former but the latter is more of an unknown.

A few days before the marathon I weighed 11st 9.6lb, whereas I'd initially hoped to be down at 11st. That weight would undoubtedly have made a big difference - easily enough to take me under 3:30 - but I found it hard to have much of an impact when training. As previously blogged, I'm now looking to lose most/all of the weight down to 11st by early June.

Carb Loading
I found this tough. The volume and nature of the food gave some gastric issues. Only change I can think of though is to get hold of some carb loading 'cake mix' I got from Overstims in 2009. I'll need to order that though.

In race fuelling
This was imperfect. I took 8 gels with me but only used 6 due to stomach problems later on - which may have been gel related or may have been dehydration. The Shot Bloks seemed to cause less stomach issues in training but were difficult to consume at race pace hence the late change to gels. I think I'll go with the SBs again but will have to practice how to take them.

In race hydration
In the race this was probably as good as it could be but I hadn't drank at all in the 2 hours before for fear of needing the loo several times in the race. That may have been a mistake - especially on a warm day. Next time I may opt to carry a drink in the first few miles, with electrolyte mixed, and top this up at the second station. Again, will need practice in long runs.

No complaints here, aside from losing a nipple guard when being hosed! That caused a bit of discomfort later but nothing too bad.

Slightly disappointed. I'd worn the Nikes through all my long runs with no problem but in Paris they felt big, clunky and too cushioned. They also gave me severe black toe nails and huge black blood blister on one toe. Not sure what I'll change to for next time but for now am running mainly in my Newtons.

Used the old SiS belt which was fine for the gels. I also had two 'pockets' I could thread on but didn't use these and (stupidly) threw them away in Paris. I'll need something similar to carry Shot Bloks though. New belt may be needed.

Anything I've missed?

Monday, 18 April 2011

Recovery, a blood-fest & facing the music

Week one of recovery completed. Initial plan for last week was to take the full week off and not run until Tuesday of this week, but by midweek I knew I wanted to do something at the weekend. After the 7 on Saturday I decided I would so another 4-5 yesterday. Not quite on a typical week one recovery schedule, to do 2 days consecutively, but felt it would be OK. On a hilly off road route my calf started to feel tight after a couple of miles and I opted to cut it short to 3.45.

Plan for this week is 5 tomorrow, 5 Wednesday, 6 Friday, 8 Sunday. All to be done at recovery pace. Plan then goes to 31, 36, 41 over the following 3 weeks; generally base pace but with a few strides thrown in once a week. Its the Pfitzinger & Douglas recovery schedule. One thing to learn early is to run at recovery pace. In the last 6 months I had a tendency to run recovery runs too fast so need to address that for higher mileage.

Also watched the Larnden Marathon in the morning, planted some radishes, chard and spring onions in the garden and then headed to the dales to do a short but pleasant walk of about 4/4.5 miles. That was enough for the girls for a first walk back.

At the end of that we went to the pub for a treat tea and a last hurrah for me pre diet!


We've been to this pub a number of times before and they do good homely/traditional food. For someone who doesn't eat a whole lot of meat and who can be very squeamish over gristle or bone, I do have a strange liking for offal, and opted for liver and mash. when I was nearly finished, and very full, I thought to myself how I'd describe it and the first word I thought of was 'perfect'.

That was about to change with the final piece of liver.

With hindsight the last piece looked slightly rounded and swollen but I hardly registered that as my knife pierced it, and at that point blood shot out across the table, the condiments, the side order of chips Bethan had insisted upon, even onto the seat next to Charlotte. It was like slicing an artery. From that moment my stomach was churning round like a nauseous washing machine.

Fortunately I recovered enough to do my damnedest to eat all the remaining fudge I'd made the day before when I got in.


Might get a chance to go to the gym later today and do some weights, but not sure if that's in the spirit of recovery, so may leave that until Thursday's scheduled 'cross training'.

In a few minutes I'll brave the scales and see what damage carb loading, a week of post marathon excess and a big meal out have done. I suspect it won't be pretty but I also believe it'll come off pretty quickly.

It wasn't pretty. Not as high as I'd feared, not as low as I'd hoped, but at least now a known quantity.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

What's next?

The obvious answer to that is Chester Marathon on October the 9th, and for that one I'll start training on 6th June, following Pfitzinger & Douglas's 18 week '55 - 70 miles per week' schedule. I'm going to pull together my thoughts on what went well/not so well with Paris in the next few days and that will include why I'm switching from 'Brain Training' schedule.

That leaves me 8 weeks, so what am I doing with that period? Overall, I'm looking to increase my volume and breadth of training.

In terms of running I'm following a 5 week recovery programme that will get me to 41 miles a week and then I'll look to do 45 - 50 a week in the last 3 weeks. There won't be much in terms of speedwork or tempo runs, just strides once a week, and long runs will only peak at 15 miles. Idea is just to give me a nice base before the hard work starts in June. In that period I'm also looking to get runs completed back with the club and off road - to help break the monotony of the canal.

I've booked one race so far, that's a 10k in Bridlington on 4th June, and the idea is that that will help me gauge my training pace and objective in the marathon training. I'm also considering a 10 mile on 22nd May and may do another if I spot anything interesting.

As well as running I'm also looking to incorporate walking in the Dales every weekend (maybe more over the next few weeks with the bank holidays and opportunities for camping). Plus, I'm looking to take advantage of the lower training intensity to squeeze in some weight training 2-3 times a week and cross training once. Nothing strenuous and mainly vanity prompted.

The increase in volume will hopefully help with the other target for the next 2 months...drum roll...

...losing weight! Yes, I know, that hoary old chestnut again. I do tend to lose weight easily this time of year so am looking to take advantage of that and the extra activity to lower the weight ahead of the marathon training. During the Paris training I did drop my weight but not by the amount I'd hoped to so would like to get it out of the way as far as possible so that all I need worry about is the training from June.

The cold finally began to recede yesterday and I did my first run: 7 mile trail run. The cold made it feel hard work in terms of lungs but the legs felt good. Only exception to that was the right calf which was still sore, but the physio said that was still feeling 'full' so no surprise and no concern.

Off for a quickie now (fnaar, fnaar) in the new trail shoes: Saucony ProGrid Peregrines.

Friday, 15 April 2011


Overall I'd say my post marathon recovery has been good.

Immediately after I could feel rigamortis kicking in so had a really good stretch and by the evening was happily able to run up/down steps in the Metro stations. Strutting easily round Paris on a warm evening in my finisher t-shirt felt very, very good.

Next day I was hit by a touch of DOMS so that I needed to keep up with the ibuprofen and stairs were far less easy. That said I probably walked 8 miles or more: Montmartre (including the steps to Sacre Couer); the beautiful and moving Pere Lachaise cemetry to see Oscar wilde and Edith Piath's tombs; a good walk round the left bank including the Eiffel tower, over the Seine and walking back to Place de la Concorde; over to the Marais for lunch; back to the Eiffel tower and Trocadero; around Denfert Rochereau and back to my bonsai hostel room.

Tuesday was similar and by the evening I had the post marathon sniffle. That's quite common as the immune system is shot through. A good number of Paris runners I know have the same symptoms: headache, sore throat, runny nose. Still got it now.

Had a massage yesterday and physio believes I've recovered well. Some tightness in the calves and left quad but that's all. Been given a clean bill to run again but headache means I won't do so until at least tomorrow. That'll aslo test whether my two black toe nails will be falling off!

Entered 2 races so far and looking for a couple of others. Any suggestions for 10k - half marathons?

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Part Two: The Race

First 14 miles
Despite the pre-run nerves I felt nicely in control in the first half of the race.

I'd been due to do 4 miles on Thursday but had skipped the run, promising myself I'd do 2 on Saturday morning, then skipped that too. Despite that I managed to find my rhythm fairly quickly for an opening mile just slightly over target at 8:04 then increased the second and third to target with 7:53 and 7:56.

Mile 4 included the first food/drink station but I only lost a few seconds as that came in at 8:00 - bang on pace. The drinks stations generally were a bit chaotic so I was pleased to get through that one but did have to abandon one plan there. Knowing the weather forecast I took a couple of nuuns tablets with me to drop into water bottles so I got some electrolytes, but the only way to carry them was in a little plastic bag in my hand. This got sweaty and the act of undoing a bottle top, opening the bag, dropping in the tablet, doing up the bag and then bottle all while trying to run at race pace proved too difficult. I managed that first one but ditched the second tablet. Hindsight says I shouldn't have. Anyway, despite the minor distraction I managed to get back on track, clocking 7:56 for the next and 8:02 mile for mile 6, despite a quick pee stop, before entering the Bois de Vincennes.

Until then there had been plenty of shade as I ran along Champs Elysses, Place de la Concorde, Rue de Rivoli, Place de la Bastille etc. In the park the shade was a bit more patchy but a slight downhill for mile 7 meant a fastest mile to date of 7:49, followed by 7:58 and 7:57 in the park.

Next two miles had the park on the right but we were running on a round with houses to the left. One notable bit was where a little boy and his mother had bought big bags of chocolate bars and were handing them out to runners. As I approached everyone seemed to be ignoring him (in fairness a bar of chocolate isn't top of the list of requirements in a marathon) so I felt obliged to take one and then obliged to eat half before dropping the remainder. First mile along there was 8:01 and the second, mile 11, proved my fastest of the day at 7:41. Not sure what happened there. Might have been some downhill but I suspect it was just that I was feeling good and got a little carried away with the atmosphere. Either way, as the park was left behind I deliberately slowed myself to clock 8:05 for mile 12 and mile 13 and then 7:58 for mile 14. That was to prove my final under target mile.

Miles 15 - 18 Here's where things started to change. At first all was well. I reached Bastille again - where the crowd were incredible - but also where the streets narrowed. That forced the pace down. Prior to then there had been occasional runners who clearly were not running at the pace their starting position suggested but generally there were no hold ups and the wide boulevards allowed any slower runners to be passed fairly easily. Not so easy here and despite still feeling good I just missed target pace in miles 15 and 16: 8:03 and 8:01.

By this time I was running along the Seine and the heat was far more noticeable. not just in how it made me feel but also in what I saw. In mile 15 there is an airless tunnel of just over a kilometre to run through and at one point a female runner just in front of me stepped to the side, threw up, shouted 'Papa', threw up again, before her dad (who she had been running with) spotted she wasn't with him. End of run for both of them. Vomiting runners wasn't that infrequent a site from here. A mix of the sun and dehydration.

By miles 17 and 18 I was certainly feeling the heat and my pace was imperceptibly dropping. At this point I was more or less running with the the 3:30 pacemakers. I say more or less as at the start of the Seine section they were just behind me and by 18 miles they were passed. This caused a bit of a problem as it makes for a moving bottleneck of runners. In the mass of runners behind the 'hares' it won't be so bad the runners in front create a path for you, but to the edge of them its tough as there's little room to get past slowing runners without jumping up/down kerbs, slowing down behind then going for a gap with sudden spurts of speed.

Times for those miles were 8:07 and 8:12. Not massively over target and I still had time left 'in the bank' but at the end of that bit I accepted that I wasn't going to make 3:30. I'm not sure if I accepted that too easily as there was no regret, just a happy thought that I could carry on at that sort of pace, or even drop quite a bit more, and still hit 3:35. Thinking about it, my PB was 4:26 so I knew then that I'd smash that anyway so maybe that made 3:29:59 less meaningful? Or maybe I just realised it wasn't going to be getting any cooler or easier!

Miles 19 - 25
The beginning of mile 19 was marked by the Trocadero feed station and here I took the decision to walk through. These were hectic places with plenty of bumping into other runners and I felt I needed to walk through, drink and recover, and then set off in the low eights again afterwards.

Not sure it was my best idea though. Firstly it cost me a lump of time, as the mile was 9:10, but also it dented my confidence as near the end one of the volunteers called and asked if I was OK. Now, there were plenty of others having a quick walk and plenty of runners began dropping out from here but the fact that he asked me made me fear that I looked worse than I felt - that perhaps I wasn't allowing myself to realise quite what a state I was in. Unfounded fears but by that stage you want to hear how good you look not the opposite!

From here my legs were aching (calves, hips and quads), and I felt hot but maybe the biggest problem was my stomach, where I was getting cramping pains. This caused me to walk through two more drink stations and to stop once for the best part of a minute in the Bois de Boulogne. I'm fairly sure it was dehydration related but tended to get worse the faster I tried to run.

I knew I was shedding time at an alarming rate but I'm fairly happy with the mental resolve. At one point I said to myself (as runners were passing me)"You can either pass or be passed - its up to you" and I upped the pace in response but within a couple of minutes that had caused the cramping pains to return.

Mile 20 was 8:36 and 21 was 8:20 but 22 had a walk through 2 drinks stations (one water, one Powerade) and dropped right down to 10:13; then 23, 24 and 25 were 8:51, 9:49 and 8:53. You can probably see where I had to stop but also that the overall pace was down anyway.

Last mile and a half
In the last mile I opted to speed up again only this time I ignored the pain (or was able to ignore it as I knew the end was close?) and kept saying to myself that "I won't be beaten now". Quite what that meant eludes me now and probably then too, but it was just a sort of mantra to keep me going. I knew my face was screwed up and I was hurting but mile 26 was 8:24 (probably 9 and under 8 for the two half miles) then the last 0.36 mile was done at 7:08 pace as I pushed to the finish.

I'm pleased with that response but it just leaves a slight nag that perhaps that's what I needed to do at 18 miles - that running like that for an hour not for 10 minutes - is what it takes to fulfil the potential on the day.

I don't know though.

Equally I wonder that if I'd tried I would have been one of the many who didn't make it to the finish. That meant I crossed the line in 3:38:48 garmin time and 3:38:50 chip time.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Part One: Pre-Event

The trip to Paris was relatively uneventful; bar a 'heavy' landing at CDG and a mix up with pick ups from the train station south of Paris; and the hostel proved fairly simple to find.

The hostel itself was fine overall. The room was a little on the small side and with only French tv stations to watch a couple of hours alone in there had me feeling not unlike Martin Sheen in the opening scenes of Apocalypse Now. So, after doing a bit of Tai Chi in my US Army issue Y-fronts (while listening to The Doors) I dressed and went for a brief stroll around the neighbourhood.

I later found that the area wasn't too bad but in the direction I walked it was fairly ropey - not unlike the West Baltimore of The Wire, complete with drug gangs and even a settee in the street (not unlike D'Angelo's). I wasn't out long.

My room also contained it's en suite bathroom - a beige plastic box with shower, toilet and basin. It was not unlike an anti-TARDIS. For those unfamiliar with Dr Who, his police box spaceship famously appears small on the outside but is huge on the inside. My bathroom, on the other hand, looked small from the outside but seemed even smaller when inside. If I sat normally on the toilet my feet were in the shower and when I used the latter the whole floor of the en suite flooded. The water was warm though and the shower powerful.

Food in the hostel was OK. Not unlike a French motorway services.

On Saturday I went to the expo, registered, and met a few runners from Runners World, then from 1pm onwards tried to relax as best I could but I was a bundle of nerves and felt queasy and bloated from all the carbs.

I got to sleep for just after 9 and the alarm woke me at 5.15 Sunday morning. At 6.30, just as I was leaving, I met another couple of Runners World forumites but decided not to have breakfast with them. Partly this was because I couldn't face food, but mainly as I was nervy to the point of hysteria. Sarf, one of the runners, described me as 'really in the zone' which, I think, was a kind way of saying I really was sh*tting bricks!

Got to the start early enough but had to walk about 4km all told as the hostel Metro was some way away and the bag store was a very long walk from the start. Met a few forumites again and headed into the pens, with nerves now slightly more steady.

Metro ou Ambulance?

That was the headline in Monday's Paper in Paris - referring to the individual runner's mode of transport whenever their race ended. I know of a couple of people that took the latter and saw plenty of others. Apparently the temperature peaked at 27c but I don't think it will have got over 25c while I was running.

I'll pop back on and do a more full report later but short story is that I missed my target. Sort of. That's to say I missed hitting the numbers I'd aimed for but I gave it my best shot and in better conditions would have got there. Finished in 3:38:50 after struggling with the heat (and resultant stomach cramps - caused by dehydration I think) after 18 miles. So, missed the numbers but ran 99% the best race I could have run on that day and in those conditions so in that sense I've no reason to feel down.

First thing I did when I got back was enter the Chester marathon on 9th October...

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Loving & Loathing the Atkins diet

No, I haven't really started on the Atkins diet, but my 'carb depletion' diet yesterday can't have been far off!

The theory is that if you go for a couple of days with very low carb intake your body will use up much of its supply, so that when you then carb load for the last 3 days your body (in a sort of physiological panic mode) clings onto more carbs than it would normally do. That meant a diet yesterday something like:

  • 2 slices wholemeal toast & spread (before I remembered what I was meant to be doing)

  • Promax protein shake

  • A pack of ham

  • A 4 egg omelette

  • A couple of 'portions' of cheese

  • A couple of good handfuls of hazelnuts/Brazils/almonds

  • 2 Quorn burgers

  • 4 Quorn nuggets

  • 2 chicken 'fingers'

  • A tbsp salad cream

  • A lightly dressed bag of salad

  • 200ml skimmed milk in roibos teas

With the exercise from a 6 mile run taken into account that left me about 800kcals under maintenance; and that's where the loving and loathing comes in.

Assuming my rudimentary knowledge of Atkins is correct, and my intake yesterday was Atkins-esque I can certainly understand how people would lose weight on it. Just think of all the carb rich foods you can't touch - bread, pasta, rice, cake, biscuits, potatoes, sweets, sugar, chocolate, oats, cereals, crisps, even milk must be limited. That makes it very, very difficult to eat up to maintenance levels and i suppose that's the real reason Atkins seemed to give sudden short term results. So, I love the fact that I might even lose a 1/4lb without trying but loathe the less than exciting diet.

Yesterday's run was actually a little under 6 miles and was far, far hillier than I'd have liked. The pace naturally dropped by best part of a minute a mile so I hope that made up for it. Intervals today but not sure whether I'll run them as per the plan or whether I'll just throw in a few strides, or do a sort of contrived intervals/fartlek session. In either event it won't be more than 3 - 3.5 miles.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Bit More Chilled

Stress is generally being replaced by a sense of excitement now.

Still not sleeping absolutely perfectly but I seem able to get to sleep easily enough and if/when I wake I can get back off in 20 minutes rather than an hour. Thanks for the ideas on that but I'm hoping it'll settle down fine now. I never struggle to sleep in hotels so not expecting any problems there.

Yesterday I confess I over ate. To be honest I just felt that I wanted to switch off, and that any last minute 'dieting' was an unnecessary distraction. Today its the first of two days of carb depletion, so omelette's, quorn and meat it will be. It won't be easy to overeat when carbs are pretty much excluded!

Had my massage last night, with no major problems found, just a bit of a knot on the outside of the left calf. Also had my back and shoulders done in case I was tense - apparently not - just some tightness in my lats on R/H side, now largely sorted.

Six miles to do later today and by then end of the evening I'd also like to have completed my packing.

Latest forecast for Paris is for it to be completely still and 23c. I'd rather that than the gales but would have preferred 10c, bright and with a slight breeze!

Monday, 4 April 2011

Into the Last Week

Sadly Saturday's diet confidence proved to be misplaced. The challenges of a rest day (hence low calories), being alone, picking at foods (and using up my quota) through the day, a persistent headache and touch of stress meant I went overboard - large bag of peanut M&Ms, box of Poppets, crisps, biscuits, cheese on toast...

The headache was hangover style and was due to caffeine withdrawal. In the first half of last year I was getting 'patchy' sleep and switched my hot drinks to Roibos from tea and coffee. I then slept much better. As we got into autumn I started having the occasional latte from Costa if out, and by Christmas I was replacing a cup or so of Roibos with normal tea. In the last month or so I've been drinking normal tea almost exclusively and during this period my sleep has got progressively worse. I'm sure stress is a big factor there but caffeine will certainly be playing its part.

Unfortunately the headache is still present now as Saturday evening's chocolate will have given me a caffeine fix. Hopefully another 24 hours will see it through.

Saturday's food didn't help yesterday's run either. I felt bloated, jaded and unenthusiastic but I completed it OK, doing 12 miles with the last 2 at marathon pace.

I got a bit of packing done - just throwing various things into a suitcase - but today I should get chance to tidy that up, particularly as much will go in my hand luggage.

With the youngest daughter being ill a week ago today, Sue feeling ropey on Friday and now the eldest getting back yesterday with a temperature and sore throat I'm trying desperately to avoid getting this bug. The forecast for Paris is now settling down and, mercifully, the forecast high winds appear to be coming over sooner so that the marathon looks like it will be completely still, albeit at the cost of 22c temperatures. Gulp.

By popular demand, here's my 'menu' for Thursday:

Large bowl of porridge made with skimmed milk

2 slices wholemeal toast & baked beans
2 slices wholemeal toast with jam
(No spread on either)

2 baked sweet potatoes
50g Dried prunes
Rice salad

Snacks & drinks
1 litre PSP2 carb loading drink
Roibos teas with sugar
200ml orange juice
6 boxes raisins
1 box jelly beans

I know there's precious little in the way of veg so I'll be popping a multivitamin and mineral. Rationale is:

  • Minimise calories while maximising carbs

  • Limit the amount of wheat as it causes bloating (etc!) for me

  • Limit the reliance on 'sweets'

I'll be taking carb loading drink, dried fruits and jelly beans with me so they'll all feature Friday & Saturday, and I'll manage another bowl of porridge before the 6.20 taxi on Friday morning. Beyond that I'll have to wing it a bit with the cafeteria food and the supermarket that's about half a mile away.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Getting There

Two days on and things are starting to come together a bit more. Granted, I did struggle to get to sleep last night and was awake for 40 minutes or so from just after 3am but generally it's going OK.

Two more good days of food control and I'm weighing in this morning at 2.5lb lighter than Tuesday. A couple more days of this and it'll be ok.

After that we get into carb depletion and carb load territory. For the latter I've worked out a slightly bizzare 'menu' for Thursday as well as some themes for Friday and Saturday. Only themes for the last 2 days as my foods will be less in my control as I'll be relying on the cafeteria in the hostel. Idea behind these is to:

1. Allow me to hit 600g of carbs a day but...
2. ...not go too far over maintenance calories (so carb dense foods)
3. Limit the number of junky carbs from sweets
4. Limit the amount of wheat (to minimise bloating)

That means I need to rely a fair bit on carb loading drinks, but also things like rice, sweet potato, pulses etc.

Running wise I still feel a bit like I'm just going through the motions, but I think that's only to be expected. The sesions now are not really challenging and I know they won't make me any fitter, only slow the rate of fitness loss in the taper.

That being the case I wasn't really 'up' for yesterday's tempo run. The plan said 9 miles with 7 at half marathon pace but I opted to cut that to 7 miles with 4.5 at that pace.

First two miles were mainly into the wind and it felt a struggle to get under 7:40, but the next 2 were just on target and the final half mile a little faster still. That meant that by the end I wasn't too far off. Happy enough in the circumstances.

Sue is taking the kids to see her mother this morning, back late afternoon tomorrow. That leaves me with a carefree wild agenda including such hedonistic pursuits as:

Going to the library
Making a casserole for tomorrow evening
Planting a few seeds
Starting to pack my stuff
Watching Super Leeds United on TV
Taking a walk to the gym to do a few stretches
Eating a Cauldron vegetable jalfrezi

Oh, and to get with the whole Paris vibe I'll watch Amelie at some point.

Final point today is to say a big thank you for the fantastic comments over the last week - I really do appreciate them!