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".