Monday, October 29, 2012

Follow me during the New York Marathon!

Just in case you have got nothing better to do, here is a suggestion for how to spend your Sunday afternoon. Thanks to Twitter (whose raison d'être I have had trouble appreciating until now) you will be able to follow my progress along the New York Marathon course in real time! Forget the London Olympics, this will be the media event of your Sunday afternoon.

I've set things up so that my race splits should be posted to my Twitter account - all you have to do is "follow me". I might add that I stand to benefit in no way from you "following me" and you might want to "unfollow me" afterwards as my Twitter account must rank as one of the most boring and inactive in the Twitterverse. Alternatively, if you are a "friend" (or even a friend without the quotes) on Facebook, then you should receive updates there, whether you want them or not. All you have to do is click on this link:

 Follow @teticio

(I just figured out that you don't need a Twitter account yourself, you can see my "twits" by just clicking here.)

My wave will be setting out at 9:40 am New York time and, as I am in the last "corral" (makes us sound like sheep), the race organizers estimate a further 10 minutes will pass before I actually cross the start line... That works out as 2:40-2:50 pm Madrid time or 1:40-1:50 London time, so get yourself a beer, sit yourself down in front of your Twitter account and wait for the excitement to begin. Let's see if I can get my number of Twitter followers into double digits!

If you are actually in the United States (or have a VPN account that is), then you can actually watch live. Better yet, if you live in New York or its environs, come down and shout for me. I'll be wearing bib number 10195 so you'll easily be able to pick me out. To help you a little, I can tell you I'll be wearing an orange sleeveless vest, black shorts, long black socks and white shoes - purely for fashion reasons, obviously.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

NY Marathon Week 8/9

Week 8. Objective ECOs 400, actual ECOs 459

Here you can see how my training intensity has been over the weeks
As usual, the tapering weeks I start to get nervous or to "eat my coconut" as they say in Spanish (comerse el coco). I dreamt last night (I won't call it a nightmare exactly) that I got lost somewhere in the middle of the Marathon and eventually just gave up and went home as everyone else had already finished. It's not the first time I have had this dream and I find it striking that, of all the things that can go wrong in a Marathon, I should be subconsciously worried about getting lost - something not even the first place runner has to think about as he just follows the motorbike nor something that the stragglers at the back have to worry about as they are being chased by the car that marks the cut off time.

I also have to be a bit more careful about what I eat, at least up until the final few days when I will stock up on carbohydrates as Marathon tradition dictates.

Instead of commuting into work on the bike I thought I would get back on the triathlon bike and give it a spin on the turbo trainer. I always like to have a new objective in mind (in this case, Lisbon International Triathlon in May next year) before my current one is completed so that I avoid being "aimless" and the anticlimax that comes with it. I've been reading a book by Graeme Obree on cycling training lately. While it has some pretty original ideas as you would expect from the man who invented not just one but two different cycling positions in order to break the hour record, it also gets across quite how obsessive and attentive to details one must be to break the hour record. It is written in a very conversational style and I can't help feeling a little like friends of mine must feel when I start banging on to them about the benefits of running with minimalist shoes. You know that you are at best overloading them with information and at worst boring them to tears but you find you can't stop - it isn't acceptable for others to only know half the story, they must know all the details. So the chapter on how to set up your turbo trainer in such a way that the results are repeatable and your micro improvements from training are measurable is detailed to say the least. Sorry to disappoint you Graeme, but I took away the just the bit that I can be bothered with and that is to buy a bike computer that can be attached to the back wheel (as opposed to the front) and to make sure that I always use the same resistance on the trainer and pump up my tires to the same PSI. The bike computer has to be a wired one rather than a wireless one, otherwise the signal isn't strong enough to get from the back fork to the handlebars so unless you want to have to look under your crotch to see how fast you are going... In fact, the wire is only just long enough if I don't force it to follow the frame of the bike. I found it quite tiring as usual to maintain the triathlon position but, after my disappointing struggle with a piece of carbon to raise the handlebars, I'm determined to adapt to it through training. I'm not even sure that raising the handlebars would help very much. Another option worth thinking about is shortening my cranks. If you shorten the crank by 5 mm, for example, you would have to raise your seat by the same amount (because your foot is further off the ground at the bottom of the stroke) but your knee would come up a total of 10 mm less close to your body (because your foot is 5 mm further away at the top of the stroke). In short, there is a "double whammy" effect which means that you have a more open hip angle which is more effective. As this article points out, it is not a question of optimising just the lever of the cranks which are only a part of the whole system, but the leverage of the whole system - and this includes your knees as well as your gears. It is certainly true that my thighs come right up to my stomach (when I am breathing in) so I could perhaps benefit from a more open hip angle but, to be honest, the cost and hassle of experimenting with the crank length make me feel very lazy to do so...

Where was I? See how bikes and an obsessive nature are a dangerous combination? That's another trait that I tend to have in the tapering weeks: obsession.

So I did my last series on Wednesday evening - 10 lots of 1 km at 17.5 kph (this time while watching Hunger, which turned out to be a bit slow paced to take my mind off my own pain). To achieve this speed I have to set my treadmill to the maximum speed of 18 kph. I'm not sure whether it is because it is running at its limit and has some kind of safety valve or whether my profuse sweating causes a short circuit (as happened a couple of weeks ago) but, a couple of times during my workout, all the numbers on the LED panel turned into flickering 8s and the machine stopped abruptly. When you are running at these kind of speeds while watching a film, this can be quite dangerous!!

I decided to run a Half Marathon on Sunday at Marathon pace as a rehearsal for next Sunday, partly to get a feel for running with that rhythm and partly to see what kind of form I am in. Of course, it is a little hard to say what "Marathon pace" means if you don't intend to maintain it for the marathon distance. I run to the heart rate which I know I can maintain during a Marathon or, to be more precise, the heart rate that corresponds to a rhythm which I know I can maintain during a Marathon (because the heart rate inevitably goes up in the last third). For me, this is 163 bpm.

I chose Fuenlabrada Half Marathon mainly because it was the only Half Marathon near Madrid. So it wasn't too surprising to see several people I knew from work, some from the Universidad de Europa (where I used to train) as well as the guys (Santi and Jaime) who accompanied me in my quest in Seville to break 3 hours in the Marathon earlier this year. I also met a friend of theirs - Jesús - who is also running the New York Marathon and seems to be about the same speed as me (although one thing is that we ran neck and neck most of the way in a race with 1,000 participants, another will be to try to find him amongst 47,000 runners!). Just as well that my Blackberry automatically adjusted for the clocks going back otherwise I would have arrived an hour too early and been quite fed up by the time the race actually started at 9:30.

It was a perfect day for running - the temperatures had dropped some 7-8 degrees from the night before but it was bright and sunny. I didn't know what to wear so I took a vest, a short sleeved t-shirt as well as a long sleeved Goretex top: in the end I ran in the vest and didn't feel the cold at all. I tried to keep as close to my magic 163 bpm the whole way which meant that, on the uphill sections, Santi and Jesus would extend their lead on me and, on the downhill sections, I would creep past them. On the race organizer's website it looked like quite a flat course; in reality it was fairly hilly which served to break up the boredom but it also broke up the rhythm. Hopefully the profile of the course was not too dissimilar to the New York one in this respect and the temperature will be, I imagine, about the same. I didn't really look at my watch at all other than to read my heart rate so I had no idea at what pace we were running, but I could tell it was fairly brisk, especially when I passed the 10k mark in a smidgeon over 40 minutes. From a cardiovascular point of view, it didn't feel particularly taxing and my heart rate didn't drift upwards at all which seems to confirm that it was an appropriate rhythm, but it did feel quite tiring on the legs. I don't think it would be wise to run at this speed in New York, especially as my goal is to run well and enjoy the route and the atmosphere, but not to beat my best time. The last 400m or so were around the running track so I couldn't resist sprinting at the end. The overall time? 1:23:48 and I was 21st in my category! This doesn't mean I can or should try to run the Marathon in 2:48 but it does confirm that my training has gone very well and that all that is left now is to put it into practice.

To give some idea, this is a comparison with the Half Marathon I ran almost exactly a year ago, also at Marathon pace (only that time the Marathon I did in Valencia was somewhat disappointing, as I was harbouring a virus past to me by my eldest son - this time my youngest has a virus so fingers crossed that I don't get that one!):

As far as the Marathon itself goes, I've been reading reports that the worst storm to hit the northeast coast of the US - potentially stronger than Irene that left New Orleans devastated - is heading towards New York as I write this. There is a possibility that 400,000 people living there will be evacuated and that the subway will be closed (for the second time in history).

The Marathon course takes us through a lot of those red areas...
Sometimes these reports are overblown because a bit of drama is what makes people read newspapers that, lately, have been all doom and gloom. It looks like "Sandy" - as they are calling it - will have moved on by the time the Marathon hits the streets of New York next Sunday but it might cause some disruption and delays in flights I suppose, if there is a backlog of people who were unable to fly earlier in the week. I can't help thinking of the time I got stuck in London because of the ash spewing out of a volcano in Iceland, when I very nearly missed the Lisbon Half Ironman I had been preparing (my first). Just before the full Ironman in Brazil last year there was a similar warning.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Happy Feet Too

My wife has been singing the praises of shea butter (beurre de karité) since she first started bringing it back from Mali years ago. As it smells pretty rancid, I didn't really pay her much attention at first, but she suggested that I try it on my feet which are unlikely to smell any worse than they actually do.

I don't know whether to attribute this to the shea butter or just to having given my feet time to adjust to the travails of marathon training but, one thing is for sure, my feet are in better shape than ever with not even a single blister in sight. On Sunday I ran 35 km in my Run Amocs with no socks and not a single blister to show for it. For some reason, I always seem to get far more blisters on my left foot and on my right - usually on the skin of the first and fifth metatarsals - but the new skin has finally come through with a nice leathery thickness that should hopefully last me to the finish line of New York in a couple of weeks' time. Bear in mind that the biggest threat to my breaking 3 hours in the Marathon in Seville earlier this year was, in fact, a piece of very hard skin which was causing the neighbouring skin to ruck up and become irritated which I had to remove days before the race. Blisters are no laughing matter!

Fiesta de la Bici en Pozuelo de Alarcón

Yesterday was the 34th edition of the Fiesta de la Bici (bike festival) in the town where I live on the oustskirts of Madrid. It was what started off as a fairly grey day and so it was impressive to see 600 people on their bikes lining up behind the police escort. I found it particularly amazing because I never would have guessed that there were even that many bikes in Pozuelo, judging by the frequency with which I have seen other (urban) cyclists around here. There were people on tandems, on two bikes welded side-by-side (like a "buddy bike" but with four wheels), a guy on a penny farthing or similar, people on single-speeds, BMXs, retro racers (before they were renamed "road bikes") and, of course, lots of mountain bikes. I was accompanied by my two kids (aged 8 and 10) who demonstrated a bike handling agility that made me feel proud, managing to navigate the see of riders trundling along at an almost dangerously slow speed.

It was a lot of fun to be part of such a huge pelotón and have the whole road to ourselves for once. The only problem was that, had I known we were going to be moving so slowly, I would have put on something warmer.

We finished up in Húmera, near the Casa de Campo in the Parque Forestal de Somosaguas where we were all given a free drink as well as the chance to win one of two mountain bikes. I decided that we would head back ahead of the crowds and, by the time we got home, the kids were quite tired from all the riding around. I can't help wondering whether one of our numbers was called out in the raffle but I'd rather not know if it was...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

NY Marathon Week 7/9

Week 7. Objective ECOs 600, actual ECOs 602

So much for this being the first week of the taper before the Marathon, it certainly hasn't felt like it. Mainly this has been because, as my wife is away in Mali, I have had less flexibility in when I can train and have had to compress my workouts. Also, I went to London for the day on Tuesday so there was no opportunity to train that day. To give you some idea, after doing 8 series of 5 minutes at 17 kph late on Wednesday evening, I got up early the next day to run 13 kilometres to work and, that evening, did two sets of 20 minutes at medium high intensity as part of my run back home. (Just as well I managed to get an electrician in to fix the short circuit that was preventing the treadmill in the basement from working.) By the end of it all my legs were feeling quite tired but, as that is part of the point of doing all this training - to get used to running on tired legs - I think that I have probably ended up doing a more effective workout without risking not being fresh for the day of the Marathon.

I also did my last weights session this week. It was 2 sets of only 4 lifts but at 85% of the maximum weight I could lift just once before failure. As you can see from the photos below, this is quite a lot of weight (300 kg leg press, 100 kg ankle raise, 110 kg leg extension and 75 kg leg curl)!!

This week I had to do the long run on Saturday because this was the day when the kids' uncle and aunt would take them out in the morning, giving me just the opportunity I needed. This is the last long run I will do before the Marathon and is the longest one I have done in training, at 35 km. Only a few kilometres into the run I realized with such a start that I inhaled sharply, as if I had seen a ghost, that I had not sorted out my visa waiver for going to the United States!! Imagine if, after all this meticulous preparation, not to mention exorbitant costs, that I was not allowed to get on the plane...! The funny thing is that I actually read a blog recently, written by a Spanish athlete who had recently competed in the New York Marathon, who mentioned the process of obtaining a visa and I thought it was a bit of a detail... So used to travelling to New York with work am I (although I haven't been for business or pleasure in over three years) that I completely forgot all about it.

I found the run much tougher this week, perhaps as a result of the accumulated training over the last few weeks. I found I had to run more slowly to maintain the same heart rate and that my heart rate started to creep up much sooner. It was pretty cold and drizzling which didn't help my motivation much - although I often say I prefer this weather for running, unfortunately few other people do, so there were very few other runners about to keep me company and spur me on. There was one, however, who tagged on to me. It's not very often that a find a girl who can keep up with me, in this case, a small Latin American girl who took almost two steps to every one of mine. At one point she started talking on a mobile to a friend and I heard her say that she was very thirsty. I had been saving my water - I run with two small bottles in a Fuel Belt which I find last me the final 12 kilometres if I take a sip every kilometre - but I thought she must be a fairy serious runner, even if I myself was not running particularly fast on that day, so I offered her my water which she greedily gulped down (I don'r mean this in a bad way). It must have done something for my karma because, at that very moment, my sunglasses fell to the floor without me realizing but for an honest mountain biker who was kind enough to scoop them up and return them to me. To be honest, I thought about binning the run at about the 14 km mark because it felt so bad that I wasn't even sure that I wasn't sickening for something. But then I noticed I was running up a hill and this was contributing to the feeling of lethargy. I made it to the end but I suffered much more than in all the long runs I have done up until now - even at the point in the run that I had easily run past in previous weeks. I told myself that the last three kilometres were the "glory kilometres" which were exactly those which would provide the training effect of extending beyond the distances I have run in training beforehand. It was slow and tedious but I made it and the overall split time was a not too shoddy 4:45 per kilometre all things considered. This is something I have noticed in the less successful and more stressful Marathons that I have run: while you are in those low kilometres, time seems to telescope and you think that you are running so slowly that it's not even worth continuing. It's (almost) always surprising how little impact these last few slow kilometres have on the overall time. The 35 km run I did just before my personal best of 2:54 in the Seville Marathon was at an average pace of 4.53 and that included a section run at near Marathon pace - I remember feeling utterly destroyed after that one. Anyway, I should know by now that the speed of the training runs is not the important factor (in fact, half way through this one I turned off the automatic lap counter which was spitting out my kilometre splits).

So, this has been a useful reminder that a Marathon is never easy and a sense that I have done a good workout that will stand me in good stead for the race itself, as long as I manage to recharge my batteries effectively over the next two weeks.

The other thing that happened of note this week was that on Thursday, during the 30 minutes I take to shower, change and have breakfast at the work gym after running in from home, I found this little note

attached to my bike.

Translated it says: "It is terminally forbidden to park outside the spaces designated for this use. Anyone found breaking this rule will be punished. Many thanks." Most Spanish people I have shown the sign to have found the word "teminantemente" to be very antiquated - it looks almost as if an English person wrote it and translated it into Spanish. Wouldn't surprise me.

Now I am not sure whether they expect me to lay the bike down in the middle of a car parking space, or to use the bike racks that were set up  as a result of my campaigning for permission to cycle around the work campus to be reinstated*. I'm also curious to know (but no so much as to want to find out) what the punishment would be. Would I receive ten lashes of my bike chain? Would I have my bike clamped and towed away? (They'd be doing me a favour as this one is the crappy one I bought some time ago for €100 from Toy'r'Us and I only use for getting around campus on the days that I run in to work.) Or would I receive the worst punishment of all, the one thing that makes all employees bow down in supplication - would they revoke my car parking space? This is, after all, a standard punishment for repeat offenders and I have been short term parking my bike in this spot on a regular basis for over three years now. As there is a waiting list of several years this would mean I would have to use my bike even more! I could just try to hide behind the anonymity of riding a vehicle with no license plate but given that I am one of about 3 employees out of 6,500 that ride a bike around campus, I suspect that this anonymity would be short-lived.

Unfortunately, in the 6 months or so that it took last year for a end to the stalemate on the cycling prohibition to be reached, at no point were any of the potential users of the scheme consulted, so the racks are (a) very far away from anywhere useful, (b) almost all exposed to the elements and (c) too wide for road bike wheels and too narrow for mountain bike wheels if they are properly pumped up. I do like the little logos that they have put up beside them, though. They look like a triathlete was involved in the design.

It might be time to try to have a pow-wow with those responsible for the scheme but it seems more prudent to avoid stirring up the hornet's nest. What if they are not willing to bend at all? Then all I will have achieved will be revealing my identity thereby making any future transgressions impossible. In any case, I feel rather like "K" in Kafka's The Castle, not having any idea of who these mysterious lawmakers are or where to find them.

The irony of all this is that, all the while my bike was being "ticketed", a flashy car was parked outside the gym in front of a "no parking" sign. The trick here is that the car belongs to a very senior guy and his chauffeur kept the motor running the whole time that he was doing his workout, so perhaps that doesn't count as "parking" but rather as driving very slowly indeed. Perhaps, then, all I need to do is to employ somebody to pedal my bike round and round the parking while I am getting showered. That way they would also get the benefit of a workout without even having to pay the gym fees, so everybody wins.

Talking of bikes, here is a photo of the wheel of my "good" bike, the one I use to commute to work. It had a slow puncture the whole week that I was too lazy to fix, as pumping up the tire was enough to keep it going for a few days. As tomorrow is the "festival of the bike" in the suburban town in which I live, I thought I'd better fix it, just in case. Just as well, because this is what I found - it goes to show the importance of checking the tire for protruding objects before fitting a new inner tube!

POSTDATA: I just applied for my "visa waiver" to be able to travel to the United States and it turned out that my waiver from last year (when I went to Seattle and San Francisco) is still valid. So everything would have been OK even if I had forgotten to apply for it!

* Strictly speaking, before November last year bikes were never allowed but this rule was never actually enforced until May last year. The usual question of "do it and then apologize" rather than "ask permission to do it".

Sunday, October 14, 2012

NY Marathon Week 6/9

Week 6. Objective ECOs 800, actual ECOs 872

This was the big week, so it's not too surprising that I spent most of it hobbling around as if I were twice my age. For various reasons, it's been one of those weeks that an English person would call "hard", a Spanish person "complicated" and a Chinese person "interesting".

The car was still being repaired so I commuted to work most of the week either by bike or running and, on Wednesday, I was told that the car was ready to be picked up a bit late in the day so I had to ride as fast as I could to get to the garage in time. All this added to the load on my poor tired legs which, by Thursday, were really feeling very heavy.

I was astonished to weigh myself at 81.5 kilos - almost 10 kilos less than I was in August when I returned from Vietnam! This is probably a slight exaggeration as I weighed myself straight after a particularly sweaty run but I've certainly lost at least 5 kilos and I wasn't exactly overweight before. It has been very humid all week but, as it has not been terribly hot by Madrid standards, it wasn't apparent until my body temperature rose and I started sweating buckets. The scales reckon I have only 6.8% body fat but then they are paid to flatter - even so, they are a good for making relative comparisons and they were showing more like 10-11% in the summer.

I wasn't sure how I would feel for my hard workout on Friday of 3 lots of 20 minutes at just below my anaerobic threshold but at this point in the week I seemed to get a second wind. Even so, as it was a bank holiday and I had all day, I decided to do the first two sets in the morning and the third in the evening. One of my friends at work always asks me what horror film I am going to watch this week during my hard workouts - this time it was "Piranha", which I only realised halfway through the first set, that I had already seen. After the second set, I stumbled out into the garden and had an irresistible urge to pee. One of the great things about having your own garden is that you can pee in it without any qualms. Just as I was finishing, I saw the elderly next door neighbour shaking out her carpet - oops. That evening, as soon as I stepped on the running machine and pressed the "start button" for the final set, all the power went off in the basement. I can only guess that my excessive sweating had got into the circuits of the treadmill and I hadn't allowed it time to dry off. You may think that this sounds unlikely but in the gym at work, I found that if I spent more than an hour on a particular machine, it would short out all the machines in the same bank - something that didn't add much to my popularity in the gym. One of my minor gripes about living in Spain is that every single house I have lived in has had a terrible electrical installation. I notice this especially as I tend to walk around in bare feet, so I get a tingling feeling every time I open the dishwasher, for example (which, to be honest, is less often than it should be). As a British citizen, I'm convinced that the UK 3 pronged plug with its separate earth is superior to those in the rest of the world. Whenever I get on the running machine, in spite of running in rubber soled shoes, I get a mild electric shock in my ears from wearing my headphones - don't ask me what circuit I am making there, I can't figure it out, all I can say is that it is uncomfortable and annoying.

There is another reason why I am quite anxious to get an electrician in to fix the circuits. In the basement the humidity collects in a little well underneath a trapdoor, with a little pump which is activated in much the same way as the water filling a cistern only that, if there is no electrical current, there is nothing to stop the water rising... and it has been raining a lot recently.

Once again, I thought I'd take my long run a little more slowly, taking care to keep my pulse rate below my aerobic threshold. Once again, I ended up doing the run at a pace of 4:29 per kilometre and, this time, the 29th kilometre felt easy, as did the 30th and 31st and the last kilometre I ran in less than 4 minutes. I did more or less the same route as last week, with some extra bits tacked on. There was even a triathlon in the Casa de Campo just as there had been last week. As I described last time, Madrid Río is basically a path alongside the river where Madrileños go to walk, skate, cycle and run - priority is given to pedestrians while the cyclists are not supposed to cycle faster than 6 kph(!!!). So you'll understand my confusion when a recreational path vigilante running towards me on her left (my right) told me that "for my own safety, I should run on the left". Now, you may not be aware that traffic in Madrid goes on the right hand side of the road. If we were running on the hard shoulder of a major road, this would be good advice, as the oncoming traffic would be approaching at a relative speed of 100 kph, say, while the traffic coming from behind would still be overtaking at a relative speed of 80 kph, say, so it would be a lot safer to face the oncoming traffic. Running at around 13-14 kph along Madrid Río, however, the bikes overtaking me (while breaking the absurd speed limit...) are only going a few kilometres per hour faster than me, so they have plenty of time to go around me, while I don't add to the general confusion and chaos by running on the wrong side of the path towards another runner at a relative speed of 25 kph! I can't help wondering how she managed to keep running while presumably telling those rows of people walking 5 or 6 abreast in the middle of the path to keep to one side or the other, not to mention the tiny tots wobbling about on their little bikes with stabilizers.

Until next week, I leave you with this video. In the same way that Armstrong proved that it's not about the bike (but it is about the EPO), this guy (Martyn Ashton) shows that you don't need a special bike like Danny McAskil in order to perform death defying stunts. Instead, he rides a 10,000 pound Pinarello bike, like the one Wiggins used to win the Tour de France.

Monday, October 8, 2012

NY Marathon Week 5/9

Week 5. Objective ECOs 700, actual ECOs 715

Only one more hard week and two long runs to go!

If you remember, my wife's car was broken into last week so this meant that I had to commute into work either by foot or by bike almost every day. The slightly more complicated truth of the matter is that she in fact had the use of her boss' car that spent the week sitting idly in our street. I had noticed a car that hadn't been moved all week and in which someone had inadvertently left the light on. I thought "poor bugger" without realizing that it had been my kids who had left the light on. Now the car is well and truly dead - it wouldn't even turn on with jump leads attached - so that's another car off to the menders. The irony is, had I not commuted in every day the car would have got some use and not have ended up deaded.

I like stopping here to watch people zoom / crawl by inside their metal containers
Other than swapping an hour run for a there-and-back commute by bike (which I'm not sure is a fair trade), the week went by without any incident. There were, however, several festivals whose path I crossed. The first was the "bull festival" in Boadilla del Monte which involved bulls running through the street chasing (almost exclusively) young men through the streets. It's not just limited to Pamplona, you know! It did mean that there was a fence erected that cut right across my daily commute

The fence to keep the bulls in and me out
There were other, non-bull related activities as well, including a fun fair which we went to with the kids on Saturday evening.

This was too obviously "pink" for the boys to want to ride on
The other festivals included a "day of the bicycle" which, of course, I didn't find out about until the last minute and just by pure chance. This involved closing half of Madrid (again) so that thousands of people could take to the streets on their bike. Although I would have enjoyed participating with the kids, it would have meant an early start on Sunday as well as having to do my long run in the heat of the day. To be honest, I am all for bikes but I don't think this is the way to do it. These roads are not suitable for bikes when there is traffic and, rather than getting motorists' backs up by cordoning off large parts of the centre, we should be demonstrating that it is possible to share the roads with car users. In fact, there was an unofficial plan to cover the same route on the Saturday while the roads were in normal use. The centre of Madrid is closed almost every weekend for one reason or another, be it a "marathon" (a term popularly used to refer to any foot race regardless of distance) or a demonstration (of which there are understandably rather a lot lately). Madrid has some fantastic places to ride a bike like the Casa de Campo, Madrid Río or the Anillo Verde, but cycling is still thought of as a leisure activity rather than a serious mode of transport. Instead of another two-wheeled invasion of the centre, why not have a "cycle to work day" instead with appropriate concessions made to make this feasible or at least a bit easier?

The final event of the weekend was a triathlon in the Casa de Campo. I ran past as part of my long run on Sunday before continuing on to Madrid Río. I love running along Madrid Río - even though in hindsight it was probably not a very sensible thing to build from a financial point of view, it has significantly improved the city. Previously, one of the major ring roads - the M30 - was the only thing to benefit from the river but this has now been submerged underground so that runners, cyclists, skaters and hikers can all enjoy the route. There are lots of parks along the way where kids can stop off and play, as well as lots of bars where adults can stop off and have a "caña" with tapas. I felt like I had been swept up in a human current meandering along the length of the river. I decided that I'd rather just keep going and catch a train than run back home along the same route I had come. I covered 30 km in just under 2:15 (a pace of 4:30 per kilometre). Again, slightly above my aerobic threshold but pretty easy except for the last kilometre which started to drag on indefinitely.

Monday, October 1, 2012

NY Marathon Training Plan Weeks 5-9

Now that I am about halfway through my training for the New York Marathon, I thought I'd better work back from the date of the race on the 4th of November, to make sure that I can fit in the key workouts I want to get in before then, in particular, the long runs.

The big picture is to build up over this week and next week to a peak of 800 ECOs (which measure volume x intensity) before tapering over three weeks all the while keeping the intensity up and extending the long runs to a maximum of 35 kilometres. Although it is not ideal that it should be the weekend immediately before, I'm planning to run the Half Marathon in Fuenlabrada at Marathon pace: this should give me a good idea as to what to expect on the day.

For each week I have decided how long the long run is (the first column), what "hard workouts" or series to run (the second column), what kind of weights session to do if any (the third column) and what "fillers" are necessary to make up the required number of ECOs for that week. There is more room for manoeuvre when it comes to the the fillers although I would like to try to maintain the same mix between running and cycling if possible.

In case it is of interest or use to you, here is the translation of my hand scribbled note:

Week #5 (Build) Target ECOs 700. Long run of 30 km (140-150 minutes). One session of 8 series of 5 minutes at AnT (Anareobic Threshold). Another session of 3 lots of 15 minutes progressing from over Aerobic Threshold (AT) to AnT. Weights: 3 sets of 8 lifts at 70% of maximum weight (100% being what I would be able to lift just once before failure, so even only 70% = 243 kg on the leg press for example!) lifting explosively and setting down in one second. One commute there and back to work on the bike, another running (although, as one of our cars has to be repaired this week, I suspect I may have to commute in every day). One 60 minute run.

Week #6 (Peak) Target ECOs 800. Long run of 32 km (150-160 minutes). One session of 2 lots of series of 8 minutes, 7 minutes and 5 minutes at AnT. Another session of 3 lots of 20 minutes at a few heart beats below AnT. Weights: 3 sets of 8 lifts at 75%, lifting explosively and setting down in one second. One commute there and back to work on the bike, another running. One 60 minute run.

Week #7 (Taper) Target ECOs 600. Long run of 35 km (165-175 minutes). One session of 8 series of 5 minutes at AnT. Another session of 2 lots of 20 minutes at medium intensity (halfway between AT and AnT). Weights: 2 sets of 4 lifts at 85% of maximum weight (this is a lot!) lifting in one second and setting down in one second. One commute there and back to work on the bike. One 60 minute run.

Week #8 (Taper) Target ECOs 400. Half Marathon at Marathon pace. One session of 10 series of 1 kilometre above AnT. No weights (not sure whether to or not). One commute there and back to work on the bike. One 30 minute run.

Week #9 (Taper and race) One session of 2 series of 10 minutes at Marathon pace followed by 2 series of 1 kilometre above AnT. No weights. One 40 minute run, one 30 minute run and one 20 minute run (probably the day before the Marathon).

NY Marathon Week 4/9

Week 4. Objective ECOs 500, actual ECOs 518

As often happens in the "easy" weeks - necessary to recoup the training benefits of the hard weeks that have gone before - I start to get nervous. That excess energy has to go somewhere. I didn't get nervous about running the Marathon itself but more about the logistics of getting to the start with 44,999 other runners. I realized that I had neglected to select my "transportation option" (which I had to decide a full 3 months before the start) and would therefore have to leave it to the last moment to see what options were available at the Expo the day before... I could just imagine myself having to run to the start or getting a taxi that would charge me more than my airfare to get there. I wondered whether I had a friend who I could stay with who happened to live near the start. In the end I spoke to someone on the helpline who put my fears at rest and advised me to simply "focus on my training" which, I suspect, she has been saying to more than just me.

Tuesday was the day of the hard workout this week so I did 9 lots of 4 minute series at 17.5 kph (OK, the last two I did at 17 kph). In fact my treadmill can't go any faster than that. It was pretty tough but I really notice the difference between running series of 4 minutes and series of 5 minutes so, even though I ran these faster, it felt like an easier workout than the one I did last week. If the total workout time is much longer than 40 minutes I find I have to change shoes because they get so sweaty! The best thing about running series is when they are over. These days I tend to sleep really well afterwards and feel "nicely tired" the next day.

I actually managed to forget my sports kit on Wednesday so I had to do my planned hour long run at home, also on the treadmill. It's been a very long time since I forgot my kit and that was when I was training for a Half Ironman - I remember I got so stressed about it because one little unforeseen event had the potential to throw my whole training plan off track. Or at least that is what I thought at the time. This time I was pretty calm about it and, if I am honest, I welcomed the chance to go for lunch with a colleague and the extra few hours of recovery from the previous night's workout that it afforded me.

Finally, I got my bike back from Mr Schmit in Pozuelo, near where I live. They had to completely disassemble my rear disc brake, lubricate it and put it back together. Now it works just fine. I was dreading how much such a fiddly operation might cost but, in the end, they only charged me 20 euros (which included the usual very thorough bike wash which, these days, is the only one it seems to get). Every time I manage to walk out of a bike shop without buying anything, I feel good about myself. I got it back just in time to be able to commute to work on Thursday. I also did my weekly weights session on Thursday in what is becoming a fairly typical pattern: 45 minute commute to work, 30 minute warm-up run at lunchtime followed by weights and 45 minute commute home. It serves as a "recovery day" even though it includes about 2 and a half hours of exercise.

I took the wrong shoes to work on Friday given that it was raining so I again had to do my run on the treadmill at home. That left only the long run on Sunday. We spent the weekend with a large group of friends and their kids in a little village in Segovia, where we have been going once a year for the last 5 years. Last year coincided with the Half Marathon in Valladolid which was relatively nearby but this year I decided to trace out a 27 km run on Garmin Connect beforehand. It was on the cold side when I set out at 9 am - I'd had to cut short the festivities the night before that went on for the others until about 4 am - but this encouraged me to run faster so as not to feel it. I finished the course at a pace of 4:29 per km in just under 2 hours and 2 minutes (actually, it was supposed to be a 2 hour 10 minute run but I decided to let myself off). This compares pretty favourably with the long runs I was doing around Christmas time in the run up to the Seville Marathon, so I am quite pleased about that, although I did notice that my average heart rate was around 5-6 bpm higher this time. This could be due to the fact that this course is about 900m above sea level... (To be honest, I think one of the reasons I seem to run so fast in London is that the buildings lead to a greater GPS error and a more "wobbly" path.)