Monday, March 31, 2008

Banking hours

Wahey! The day light saving hour has finally come to make dark London brighter. I for one am happy. No longer will there be posts informing you of what time my park is open until! In case anyone is wondering, it's 7.30 now but that should definitely go further forward in coming weeks.

Running in the dark is coming to an end... the dark running tops of last summer can come out of the closet... Soon the cold gear can be stashed away for a few months. Happy days. In fact today I had to jump out for my run at lunch time as I'm flying back to London this evening and it was warm on the run. Proper warm. It could easily have been a June day in disguise! Now we're back to a March day but for today's run a short sleeved t-shirt was the order of the day.

I'm probably getting carried away with the fact that the days are brighter and now looking forward to warm weather... but do you know what? I don't care.. summer is on it's way!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The month ahead

So far this week it's been a pretty steady flow of easy runs of 8 miles. The pace is to be just that, easy. The nicest thing about it is that as I haven't had a hard session the day before any of these runs they're getting easier and easier. It's always a bonus. Tomorrows interval session will be a kick up the arse though.

The next few weeks are looking like they're busier than I'd imagined they be. Socially, training and racing wise.

Socially. I've booked a hell of a lot of tickets to gigs which I'm over the moon about. I've also a trip home this weekend so there'll be plenty of catching up to be done.
Training. Is it ever anything other than busy?? The middle of April sees the return of training sessions on the track. Bright evenings will also mean some of the "easy" runs during the week will become a mile or two longer.
Racing. I haven't committed to anything yet but it looks like I could well have a 10km in a few weeks time.

That sounds like enough to keep me occupied for the next while... and of course there's work too!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Uneventful week ahead

Thanks to the race the last day my coach has decided that we'll not be doing any hard training sessions until Friday. To avoid any chance of injury after a tough race at the weekend the usual Tuesday session has been replaced by a jog around the park. That means that until Friday my training schedule will be the same every day - 8 mile at an easy pace.

That means with no tough training and with no races penciled in anywhere my mind has been wandering to music today...

When I moved to London everyone (myself included) thought my running would suffer as there was going to be so much going on. I couldn't wait to start going to gigs again as that was something that was missed during my time in France and now here we are, 5 months into my time in London and I've been to ONE measly gig. The long, cold, dark winter really kept me away from wanting to roam the streets on days off.

This morning that's changed and I've bought tickets for 4 gigs in the coming months, so expect plenty of updates shortly on various live bands I've been to. That's four I've got tickets to now and there's plenty whose tickets haven't been made available yet. Starting next week the clocks go forward, the days get longer and I'm going to start really getting into the London vibe. There'll be no more moaning about how dark London is and at what time the park closes at (incidentally it now closes at 6.30pm!). Oh, and I got tickets to my first Premiership match. It's not going to be the best game in the world but should be a real relegation dog fight and that's in two weeks time.

Oddly enough I'm excited about it summer coming, apparently next week, when it snowed on me on my run yesterday.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Race Report #4 - 5 miles on home turf (28m 28s)

The conditions for the race weren't ideal for getting a PB - 29 mph winds, sleet, rain, sun, a bit of all seasons really - but I gave it my best shot. Before going into this race my coach told me I wouldn't be fast but I'd be strong at the end and that is exactly how I felt. Finishing the race I couldn't have gone any faster but there was definitely another mile or so that I could of pushed out at that pace. At the moment I'm running on strength and pretty soon the track sessions start so faster times aren't too far away.

The course was two laps of my local park. It was nice to have a shot at racing around this park considering I train there most days of the week. It's a totally flat route which meant that a fast time was up for grabs if there wasn't a head wind for the most part of it. With the park being so close I got to leave my house about 45 minutes before it started and still had plenty of time to drop my bags and get my warm up in before the race started. If only every race could start so close to home!

The first lap of the race went by quick enough. I was in the middle of a large group which took some of the impact of the wind away. At the half way mark there was a marshal shouting out times - I reached there at 14m 02s. That had me well on course to go under my best time for a 5 mile race. Keeping the pace for another 2 plus miles was going to be difficult though, especially as the group had thinned out and I was pretty much on my own chasing 2 guys ahead of me (there were a lot more people in front of them - I was in my own little race at this time!) meaning I wouldn't have any wind breakers in front of me.

Disappointingly I didn't catch the two guys ahead of me but at the same stage no one passed me either in the second lap. I tried to kick with a mile to go but the body told me I was going as fast as I could so I just continued on at that pace. I reached the line in 28 minutes 28 seconds which is a good 20 seconds faster than my old 5 mile PB. I was a bit annoyed at running the second half 26 seconds slower but I got over that very quickly.

As I said to my coach last night, it's nice to know that my running on strength this year is faster than my running on speed last year. I've no races scheduled in April so far but I'll talk to my coach about what the plan is for the next month during the week.

All in all, it's a happy Private signing out.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The waiting game

Not only am I waiting for this race tomorrow but also for Lent to end! I'm not the most religious person in the world but giving up sweets for Lent has been something I've done pretty much every year so I've kind of got in the habit of it. I don't think I did last year though, mainly because I wasn't really eating that much crap that there was really no point in giving up something I didn't eat. I also had a spring marathon and I didn't want to not eat something sugary if I wanted it.

This year however has been a whole different kettle of fish. Since moving to London my sweet tooth has kicked in, probably because bars of chocolate and what not have been more readily available here than in France. For the past 6 weeks I've been off absolutely everything I'd consider a treat, so as not to replace one thing with another, and its been quite successful. Probably the most shocking thing is that my steady weight over the past 18 months has gone down by 2 kilos... I really didn't think I had 2 kilos to lose. As much as I want this Lenten lark to end, I am quite enjoying the discipline of it and I reckon once it's over I'll be trying to keep my diet as close to the last few weeks as possible.

Training wise, the last few days have been fairly casual because of the race. Generally on a race week I'll do the exact same training as is normal at the start of the week and then have two easy days before the race. That meant that this week I only had to do an easy 4 miles yesterday and another easy 3 miles today at lunch. Fingers crossed my legs should be in great shape in the morning.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Looking Ahead

There's only a few more weeks of this speed endurance training left before the real speed work starts on the track and I can't wait. For some reason I'm looking forward to getting back into doing reps of 10 x 400m and so on. I can't say I enjoyed them that much at the time last year, I'm probably just looking to use them as a gauge to compare to where I was this time last year. At the moment I feel like I'm going really fast with all these Tuesday night intervals but according to my coach I'm not! All the speed training takes place in bursts of around a minute on the track which all begins in the middle of April.

Apparently this speed endurance training has made me stronger rather than faster and the times should drop down once the track work starts. Exciting stuff! I have to agree with feeling stronger though. That's how I'd have described my effort to keep up with the lads in training over the last few weeks - I was digging deep, when they picked up the pace on the 800s I couldn't go with them but I had the strength to stay there on the longer distances.

Another thing I'm dying to jump in on again is a half marathon or even a ten miler. With the majority of the lads I'm training with running the London marathon in a few weeks I've been seeing their times in the halfs and have been quite jealous of them. It'll be a few months before I race them distances again but looking at the times they're all running at the moment I certainly have the feeling of "I can do that too". My PB of 1h 21mins for the half looks like it could be in for a proper beating when the time comes around.

But less of that now... I've a race this Saturday. The half marathon times can wait for another day. First things first and that's for a strong (not fast) 5 miler this weekend.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Private vs The Nemesis

No, it's not the deaf french lad from last year. Nor have I found someone in London to take his place for the coming months. I've had a look at the forecast for the race this weekend it appears the nemesis is the damn wind! What is it with this country and the ridiculously strong winds? This weekend on a totally flat 5 mile course that I've been looking forward to for ages I'm allegedly taking on 29mph winds!

Ah well nothing I can do about it I know, it's just a pain in the arse.

On a further downer, I missed my long run over the weekend due to not getting up early to meet the other runners passing by the locality and then having already made plans with people for the rest of the day.

But every cloud and all that... I went out for an easy ten miler yesterday and I was bouncing around effortlessly. Now to see how the interval training goes down at the club tonight. Hopefully I can pull off something like last week and manage to stay up front with the top lads for the middle intervals and then struggle through the last ones on my todd!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Like little cars

The room I rent in London is by all accounts quite a small room. The chair at my desk has to be pushed out of the room to allow me to do my stretches before training commences. That being said, the amount of runners in the room is becoming a joke. Size 13 runners everywhere you look in such a small space. Since starting this blog a few months back this is now the fourth pair of new runners I'm talking about. Two pairs were bought at the same time but still... 4 pairs in about 3 months!! It's almost like a fetish but they're all needed...

Now my room comprises of one pair of XC spikes, one pair of shiny green race shoes and two pairs of training runners. One of the pairs of training runners are coming to the end of their life so I decided to grab a new pair for once before I started feeling the road on my shins.

As I was back home I decided to go by my local running store and get a gait analysis done as for the last ages I've been putting up with just a bit of uncomfort in my right leg. Nothing major, not an injury, just something that's been there for a year plus. And finally I thought "maybe it's the shoes" so instead of just buying a new pair of Kayanos I'd go and see what the experts have to say about it.

I brought my current runners in with me so they could check how I was running in them.
"These ones have about 400 miles in them" I uttered at one point before laughing, realising I was talking about my shoes as if they were cars. I ran up and down their little run way and all seemed fine. So fine that he decided that I'd get away with wearing a neutral shoe instead of a stability shoe. The bonus with this I think is that there's more cushioning with a neutral shoe. The down side is that I'm always freaked about going over on my ankle and less stability means that I could easily do that again.

I was given a few pairs to try out. The testing them out was kind of like Goldilocks and the three bears except it was Private and the three shoes. The Brooks seemed too hard, seriously more cushioning my ass, it felt like I was in a heavy race shoe. The New Balance were pushing the final pair all the way but in the end my allegiance to Asics won and I went with their Nimbus shoe.

The fact that in the five days thus this week far I've been training in 3 different shoes has probably no small part in why there are shoes thrown all over my room, rather than neatly hidden away.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Upping the tempo

This weekend when talking with my coach I got informed that my attitude to the Tuesday night running now has to change. I've been working hard at them up until now, properly busting a gut and trying to hang on to the guys faster than me. I've certainly improved as a runner over the past 2 months from going about my training in this manner but now it's time to change.

Now, instead of just trying to hang on, I have to challenge the top lads. I don't mean be ahead of them at every interval but really just be there or there abouts, on their shoulder, letting them know I'm there and pushing them (not literally, obviously... althooouugh!!), pretty much not giving them an inch. For the moment I don't have to do this in every interval but in at least 3 or 4 of them, be they in the beginning, middle or end of the session. I wouldn't be able to do this in every interval, there's a reason why these guys are running faster than me and that's because uhm... well, they're faster than me!

Last nights session I put it into practice. We were doing a session that comprised of 8 x 1km. I decided at the start that every second one I'd be right there on the shoulder of the front runners. Maybe the wind played it's part last night, every second one was against the wind, slowing them down, and that wind was 30mph last night so it was really slowing us down! Kilometres 1, 3, 5 and 7 though, into a head wind, I held my own and I'm well chuffed about it. Mile repeats next Tuesday, should be fun.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

POWERprivate

Last year I started using this little gadget. It promises all sorts of great results, a couple of percent increase in performance in as little as 4 weeks, strengthening breathing muscles, increased recovery times, improved stamina and endurance and probably a whole lot of other things too. In short, by breathing with this twice a day you should go faster than if you were wearing shiny green shoes!

It's one of them things that I find impossible to say if it was any use or is it a complete gimmick. The problem is that I was training that much harder than ever before while using it, so was it the training or the POWERbreathe that helped things? I've no idea, maybe it was both or maybe it was just the training. I never did use it twice a day, mainly once a day whenever I remembered it. It only takes a few minutes to do but it's one of those things easily forgotten about in your daily routine.

I haven't so much as looked at it since last September, until today. I'm thinking now that all this speed work is coming back into play again maybe I'll start using it again. I've dusted it down, set an alarm on my mobile to remind me, daily breathing exercises are about to recommence. Mind you the same scenario is about to come into play again, my times are going to start to improve but they should improve anyway breathing device or not. Ah well, at least my little breathey thing can just make me think I'm doing something when I'm not actually training...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Same training, different week

Last week was a fairly hectic week, three countries in seven days, but somehow I still managed to get my full weeks training in. However it all caught up with me yesterday as I was absolutely shattered finishing my long run... I actually cut it a mile short as my energy levels were sapped, the fact that my hands and legs were absolutely freezing from the icey rain didn't help matters by any stretch of the imagination... and I suppose having got home from my last flight at 12.30am and then having a long run within 12 hours probably played its part too!

That being said I'm still fairly happy with how the week as a whole went. The 4 x 1 mile session with the club on Tuesday and the fartlek session around Tymon Park in Dublin on Friday were probably my best speed sessions to date. Even with the long run ending up being tougher than usual yesterday I'm still content with how it went. Throw in a few easy runs in the middle of all that means that I can't complain at all with it - pretty much a text book week!

An added bonus to my week was getting a call from my uncle on Saturday morning to tell me he had a free ticket to the Ireland v Wales game that afternoon. Happy days! Pity the performance or result didn't go our way but I was still chuffed to be there.

This weeks schedule pretty much follows last week's, as will next weeks and so on. With no flights for the next 3 weeks I should be able to get into some sort of routine again.

Curses!!!

This week in London has been forecast as storm central. The only way to describe this morning was horrible but somehow it cleared up perfectly (there was even a blue sky!) but now, now 6 minutes before I'm meant to go out, the lashings of rain has started back again....

With winds meant to be above 30 miles an hour this week it's going to take all my will to get outside and run about like a mad eejit!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

There's always someone faster than you

On the morning of my first marathon a friend of mine who was running his second marathon told me that no matter how fast you do the marathon you'll always have a non-running friend who knows someone who's done one faster... and they'll love to tell you that!

He wasn't wrong. So whether you run a 4 hour marathon or a 2 hour 30 minute marathon someone is going to tell you of someone they met who got a better time.

I'm quite modest when it comes to my running times. If someone asks I'll tell, if not I'm not going to bring it up. I suppose it comes from the fact that I train with people who are a fair bit faster than me so until I get the same times as them I don't really see anything to shout about. Obviously I'm well chuffed with my times but inside I know I can go faster so no need to make a song or dance about it.

However, when someone tells you that they met someone who ran a faster marathon than you it almost feels as if they're saying "..and he got x time, and he doesn't run or train as much as you do". More than likely they are trying to talk to you on a subject that they know you love but for whatever reason it comes across as a dig. Maybe I'm being overly sensitive here.

Recently when someone was asking me about my time. I told them it was 2.46. His girlfriend immediately piped in with "My boss ran his in 2 hours 42 minutes". Cheers for that! Today I got told by my flatmate that one of his clients' pb is 2 hours 20. For the last 4 years I've been hearing of people that have run marathons faster than me.... is it just me?!? Surely these people also know someone who has ran it slower than me... how come I never hear about them?

*Overly sensitive post over*

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Running to the beat

Last night when I got down to the training rendez-vous spot it was, for want of a better description, fricken cold. Not so much the temperature, but the icey wind that was blowing around. I generally arrive on a Tuesday about half an hour before everyone else so I can get a few miles warm up in before we start. I've no idea why we just start into a session without a warm up - there is a 4 minute jog but that doesn't really count - so I like to run around for a bit, do some strides, before everyone else turns up. Anyway, as I said, it was cold. With that in mind I left my jacket for the start of the warm up, at least until I actually was warm enough to take it off. It's a light enough jacket, mainly just a wind breaker, so it was ideal for last night. But that isn't the revelation of last night...

...As I had my jacket on and my mp3 player was still in pocket I decided to do the warm up with it on and all. Music, brilliant, it got me right out of the miserable Tuesday evening, freezing cold, stupid speed work, mood I was in. Why haven't I been doing this before? Should I buy some new cheap headphones for my easy runs? I can't go and destroy my casual "to and from coffee shop" headphones with sweat now can I?!?

Today as I jogged around free of headphones I was thinking of whether or not I should go with them again. I think I'm swaying towards the no camp. Nothing exciting ever happens when I'm running - OK one time someone did jump off a bridge and land about 200m in front of where I was jogging, not pretty, but I think that's an exception - but what with kids on bikes in the parks, loads of other people walking, running about, cars, dogs and even the damn pigeons that always take off straight at me as I pass. I think I prefer being 100% aware of my surroundings.

One benefit I can think of straight away is that if I did listen to music it'd put an end to the question I can never answer that I get asked by everyone
"How often do you run?"
Pretty much six or seven
"Do you listen to music when you run?"
Nope
"No?? What do you think about then?"
....

Monday, March 3, 2008

Race Report #3 - 5km - Hyde Park, London (17m 05s)

Before setting out for my first road race of the year, my first 5km ever, I naturally had a few target times floating about my head. How realistic they were was anyone's guess. I had no idea how fast I was to set out, how long I'd be able to maintain the speed I started out so there was a fair chance this was a trial by error approach.

One of the lads I do my interval training with on the Tuesday nights was in the race as well. He'd be a fair whack faster than me in training, on the last interval where I struggle to finish without throwing up he always seems to glide on home. I decided to use him as my marker, I'd set out at the same pace as him, maybe 10 to 20 yards behind and just try to hang on.

The conditions weren't perfect but could have been worse so no complaints from me there. There was a strong wind which was going to affect us for the first half but would probably help us home. It was also fairly damn cold but you forget about things like that quick enough.

From the off I could feel the pace as uncomfortably fast; in the back of my head I was just telling my body that it'd be over soon so just to go with it. I'm not too sure what any of the splits were, in fact I had no idea what time I finished in until that evening when the club texted my result to me, as I run watch free. As I said the opening pace was fast, more than likely faster than I should have set off at but that's pretty much my style! I probably hung on at that pace until the 3km mark. At that point 2 people passed me and I then decided to hang onto them for as long as I could. The last 2km I ran in fairly steady but I wouldn't imagine they were as fast as the opening few. In the last kilometre another group of 3 passed our new group of 3.

In the end I crossed the line in 17.05. I'm content with it for a first outing at the distance and I'm well sure I can take a nice chunk off that this year, especially as in a six and a half kilometre race last year my average pace worked out as being faster than my pace here. Once I start getting to the track and knocking out the 400s I reckon I'll be much sharper and instead of hanging on for 3km next time out I'll hang on past 4... and hopefully struggle to the finishing line at that pace.

Next stop is a 5 mile in 3 weeks.