Monday, September 30, 2013

Cholesterol - fact or fiction?

Since my doctor put me on a low cholesterol diet with the possibility (threat?) of prescribing statins if no positive results were seen, I've been doing quite a bit of reading on the subject. In my search for books on how to lower my cholesterol, I found just as many - if not more - with titles like "The Great Cholesterol Con" or "The Great Cholesterol Myth". I had read about fats in books on Sports Nutrition, on food and on diets, such as the Paleo Diet but I hadn't fully made the link with cholesterol as it wasn't something I had ever been particularly worried about. If you are interested, I suggest you read one of the books on the subject for yourselves as the closer you get to the proverbial horse's mouth, the better. I particularly recommend "The Great Cholesterol Myth".

It is very easy to get distracted by conspiracy theorists who leap too enthusiastically on hidden agendas. For example, just because a researcher has some financial connection with the pharmaceutical company that produces the drug he is investigating doesn't automatically mean that the opposite of his or her findings is true or, for that matter, that the research is invalid. It is cause for concern, however, and a sharp eye is required to spot the all too frequent abuses of statistics. Just as Keppler's discovery that the planets actually move in elliptical orbits is a refinement rather than an outright contradiction of the previously held beliefs, I think it is possible to pick out a coherent and convincing narrative amongst all the confusing stories currently being peddled. Part of the confusion seems to stem from the ever persistent (and commercial) debate between high fat and high carb diets. This is my take:

First of all, it's important to bear in mind that cholesterol is fundamental to human life and is found in every cell, with a particularly high concentration in the brain (this accounts for about 25% of all body cholesterol). In fact, the body is able to synthesize cholesterol so it is perhaps no wonder that it can be so notoriously difficult to modify our cholesterol levels through diet, as it may be that the body makes more when it ingests less and vice versa. Statins actually work by inhibiting the metabolic pathways that lead to the manufacture of cholesterol.

The current theory for the cause of cardiovascular disease is that (a) atherosclerotic plaques are caused by elevated levels of cholesterol, particularly transported by the "bad" Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL) in the blood and (b) it is the consumption of saturated fat that leads to these high levels of LDL in the first place. Lastly, (c) statins reduce the level of cholesterol and therefore help fight cardiovascular disease (CVD). It seems reasonable to blame cholesterol for the build up of plaques, as these plaques themselves can be seen to be made up of cholesterol, but is it a question of blaming the firemen for the fire and then firing them?

Surprisingly, while there are no well designed scientific studies supporting either of the hypotheses (a) or (b), a small but significant reduction in CVD mortality rates due to taking statins has been measured in a group of men who have a known history of CVD, appearing to validate (c). Interestingly, the overall mortality rate was unchanged so you are really just swapping one piece of bad news for another (in women, there was no significant difference in either mortality rate).

We've been lead to believe that LDL is "bad" while HDL is "good" because it hoovers up the cholesterol in the bloodstream. In what seems like a parallel of splitting the atom (I kind of lost inetrest when electrons, protons and neutrons turned out to be made up of "quarks" with very silly names) apparently there is a good type of LDL (LDL-A) and a less good type of HDL (HDL-3).

One theory that seems to fit the evidence, is that the arteries are first damaged by high blood pressure, toxins (e.g., from smoking) or free radicals leading to oxidation and inflammation; the cholesterol that is found at the scene of the crime may actually be doing what it is known to be good for - fighting toxins. There is some evidence to suggest that the real villain is in the form of oxidized LDL which sticks to the artery walls and then sets off the process of inflammation. This would mean that the build up of the plaques is actually caused by smoking, hypertension and stress, and not by cholesterol per se. We are all familiar with acute inflammation - when we cut a finger and it goes red around the edges - but chronic inflammtion is when the inflammation - or the cycle of cleaning out the dead cells and replacing them with new ones - simply does not stop.

For the very same reason that cholesterol is good at fighting toxins, having too low levels of cholesterol can actually be bad - for example, one study showed that, in a group of men, the chance of dying of AIDS was actually four times greater for those with low levels of cholesterol (< 160 mg/dL). I'm certainly no expert but treating CVD by lowering your cholesterol seems to me akin to treating an autoimmune disease by shutting down the immune system or "curing cancer" by inhibiting cell regeneration completely. In the case of statins, you are also shutting down the production of coenzyme Q10 which has some very important functions, among which, ironically, is to provide fuel to the muscles and particularly to the heart.

The "Great Cholesterol Myth" also claims that sugar rather than fat - via increased blood pressure and inflammation - is also culpable and the link between heart disease, obesity and daibetes. So now you really have to choose between fat and carbs (because a low fat diet implies a high carb diet and vice versa) and it may be that it is more a question of which fats and carbs you eat.

So what, then? I'm going to continue my experiment of one, to see whether I can reduce my cholesterol levels slightly by eating what I think is, after all, a healthy diet, with just enough carbs to fuel my training. I also plan to keep leading an active life (obviously!) and to try to keep my stress levels down. I might also start to take some anti-oxidants more than anything to help recover from training. Nothing too contraversial then.

New York City Marathon Week 6 / 11

Monday: core
Tuesday: 4 x 2 km @ 3:25
Wednesday: 3 x 15' @ 3:45 w/ 3' active recovery
Thursday: 60' @ 4:34
Friday: 40' @ 4:00
Saturday (10pm): 60' @ 4:27
Sunday (10am): 30 km @ 4:27
Total kilometres: 87

All in all its been a good week from a training point of view but work commitments meant that something had to give and I ended up skimping on all the "extra curricular activities" such as core, hill sprints, plyometrics and PowerBreathe. Actually, the PowerBreathe was complicated by the fact I had to go to work on the moped for the whole week (as the car was still in the menders): as I've said before, about the only place I find enough privacy to do my breathing exercises without looking like some kind of freak, is in the comfort of my car.

I had a shit day at work on Tuesday and came home in a dark mood. The last thing I felt like doing was training - in fact, I even thought that I couldn't face doing any of the training between now and the Marathon. Still, I dragged myself onto the treadmill and did my four lots of 2 kilometres at 17.5 kph without excessive difficulty and I felt a hell of a lot better for having done it. It's definitely better to do that kind of workout on a day like this.

The next day I had to go to London on a bit of a last minute trip. In fact, my flights were so close together that the girl on the check-in desk thought that I had a connecting flight back to Madrid! Even so, I got back with little time for training so I opted for a short, intense workout (3 x 15' @ 16 kph) that would mean two hard workouts in a row. It was a slight risk because, had I not managed to finish, I would have ended up being very pissed off but I seem to be adapting nicely to the training: what was difficult last week is slightly easier this week and so on.

Having said that, the so-called easy run on Thursday felt like one of the hardest workouts of the week. It was 30 degrees (which seems like a dream now that the weather has definitely taken a London style turn) and there was no real sense of accomplishment. I think it's a question of managing my own expectations and taking into account accumulated fatigue as well as environmental aspects, so that I can still feel as though I have achieved something, even if it is just recovering in time for the next session. I had a long cold shower and took my time getting changed but I carried on sweating profusely and had to eat my lunch so completely soaked that my shirt changed several shades of blue.

A "nice" way to round off the working week was a brisk 40' run at Marathon Pace (15 kph) on Friday evening. That just left the climax of the week's training: an hour long run late on Saturday evening followed by the long run (30 kms) just 12 hours later on Sunday morning.

I designed a loop going around "La Finca", Laguna, along Madrid Rio, around the lake in the Casa del Campo, up the Teleférico and back through the park in Aravaca. An out and back course has the advantage of motivating you when you get to the turnaround point; with a looped course, I find that I am more concerned with following the map than knowing how long or far I have to go. In fact, the first time I looked I had only 13 kilometres to go and I hadn't even been sure that I had passed the halfway mark.

As you can see, the route was relatively hilly but, as it turns out, a similar amount of climbing to the New York Marathon course. What is probably more significant than the total ascent, however, is the average grade of the climbs... What is amazing to think is that Wilson Kipsang ran 12 kilometres further than I did and just over 10 minutes faster as he claimed the World Record in the Berlin Marathon just a couple of hours earlier!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Madrid Corre Por Madrid 10K Race Report

For some reason I had it in my head that the race started at 9 am, so I got up my usual two hours before. It was probably just as well because, with the car in the menders, I had to make my way down to the start in the Retiro park on the moped. Thanks to all the cycling and running I have been doing over the last years, I know many routes but few of them are apt for a 50 cc moped. The sorts of roads I might be happy to ride a road bike - those with a decent hard shoulder - are not necessarily the sort of roads I want to be stopped on by the police, while pootling along at a maximum speed of 70 kph. And, of course, going off road is not an option either.

The start was organized by corrals according to your race number which, in turn, was assigned based on your projected finishing time. I was chuffed and amused to see that my race number corresponded to the "elite" box but this feeling was short lived. Looks can be deceiving but, in general, elite runners look like elite runners. I saw one guy in particular who really didn't look the part (he did a time of 52 minutes - yes, I am anal like that, I actually bothered to look up his time afterwards). I positioned myself in the second row and did a bit of on-the-spot bouncing and heavy breathing as a last minute warm up.

When the gun went off it actually caught us by surprise: there was no 10 second count down or anything like that. I remember a slight feeling of panic - not so much to do with the impending suffering - but the idea of being stampeded by the 8,000 runners behind me. Perhaps some of the others felt that too because we set off "follados" as they say in Spanish - I covered my first kilometer in 3:18 (over 18 kph). Some of the guys in the front would be able to sustain that and more but not everyone.

I had decided I would try to break 36 minutes - my best time is 36:35 - so it was an ambitious but not outrageous goal. I passed the 5 kilometer mark on schedule in a time of 17:53, which I realized was actually a Personal Best over that distance. It was a shame that I hadn't bothered to check the profile of the course, or indeed the splits from last year, because the halfway point was lower than the start and therefore the finish. Not that I should (or could) have run the first half any faster; only that it would have prepared me psychologically for what was to come.

At the water station, I grabbed a bottle and poured half of its contents over my head and took a sip of water to lubricate my throat which instead nearly made me choke. I lost ten meters on the group I was running with and the negative thoughts started invading my brain. Just then I heard someone who sounded like they were having an even worse time of it, huffing and puffing as if we were in the final straight. As he overtook me, I realized it was David Martínez - Chema Martínez's younger brother - who beat me both in the Santander 5K and the Liberty 10K just before the summer. (By the way, Chema is also running New York City Marathon this year, as one of the star international competitors). I overtook David back thinking that I would at least try to beat him even if it was now looking unlikely that I would break the 36 minute barrier.

Not sure who looks worse here: me or David Martínez (in yellow)
The next few kilometers were very hard and I could feel the weakness seeping into my legs and brain, like some kind of insipient posion. It's always demotivating when you find yourself revising downwards your objectives on the fly: that is why it is always a good idea to have several goals in your mind before you start - at least an ambitious one and one you would simply be happy with. I felt the chance of beating my best time also slip through my fingers just as David Martínez passed me again. I didn't feel motivated enough to pull out all the stops and half kill myself just to pass him back (not that I would necessarily have been able to). I did want the race to be over, though, so I kept on pushing until the line. That's not to say that I didn't consider stopping several times along the route, especially tempting was the cool fountain I saw on the way.

Not my best ever time: 37:17 but I was cheered up when I saw the final results. Almost everybody had a significant split difference between the first half and the second half and, while my fade was not the least amongst those who were running at my level, it was pretty much par for the course. I was very pleased to see that I was 38 out of 8,166 (first page of 195 pages of results!) and 7th in my category. Perhaps it would have been worth sacrificing myself a bit more, after all. I've learnt the lesson to look at the profile and the resutls from the previous year, even if it is a "B" race that I don't care too much about. One interesting little detail (at least to me) - my heart rate never went over 172 bpm! Considering that this is the "magic number" that I have been using for my aerobic tests and is supposed to correspond to Half Marathon intensity, it's pretty surprising. Hopefully this is a good sign for how well my 10K speed will translate into Marathon speed...

Friday, September 20, 2013

New York City Marathon Week 5 / 11

Monday: core
Tuesday: 6 x 1,600 m @ 3:25
Wednesday: 60' easy (4:55) + hill sprints + plyometrics + core
Thursday: 7 km aerobic test in 25:29 (average HR 167)
Friday: 40' @ 4:27 + hill sprints + plyometrics
Saturday: 20' @ 4:27
Sunday: 10 km race (Madrid Corre por Madrid)
+ PowerBreathe + achilles most days
Total kilometers: 50

The observant amongst you - or indeed those that obsessively check my blog every day to see whether there is a new post - will be wondering how I can write up my week's training log on a Friday. That's because the training is in the bag, all but the race on Sunday for which I will be posting a separate report as usual.

As a result of the race, this week has been very light on kilometers but that is made up for to some extent by intensity. On the other hand it did mean that, for once, I was able to fit in two - yes, two - sessions of plyometrics and hill sprints. I'm no longer feeling quite so stiff after doing them the next day.

Over the last few weeks I've been building up the length of my intervals in exchange for doing fewer of them. However, last week was the peak in terms of total time: 8 x 5 minutes. This week was noticeably easier as I only did 6 sets of 1 mile (6 x 5:20).

But by far the best workout of the week was the "aerobic test" I did early on Thursday morning. It was cooler (14 degrees) than the last time I did the same test of 20 laps (7 km) around the football pitch aiming for a heart rate of 172 bpm. It was also less windy. In fact, I only hit the magic 172 bpm during the last 4 laps and recorded not only a record low average heart rate (167) but also a best time (25:30). The point of this test is to be a "sub-maximal test" that doesn't require days to completely recover from (unlike the 10K race on Sunday, for example) as well as being a fairly consistent benchmark to which I can measure my progress. The weather as well as accumulated training fatigue are factors which can significantly effect the results but here is a table of the 6 tests I have done so far this year:

The particularly encouraging thing is that this is at a point when I am extending my endurance to cope with much longer runs than I was doing back in April, say. Let's see if it translates into results in maximal tests.

Monday, September 16, 2013

New York City Marathon Week 4 / 11

Monday: core
Tuesday: 2 x 15' @ 3:45 w/ 3' active recovery + core
Wednesday: 60' @ 4:18 w/ hills + hill sprints + plyometrics
Thursday: 8 x 5' @ 3:25
Friday: 60' @ 4:41
Saturday: (evening) 60' @ 4:29
Sunday: (morning) 3 km easy + 22 @ 4:17 + 3 km easy (average 4:25)
+ achilles + Powerbreathe (most) days
Total kilometers: 88

Wow, 4 weeks already under my belt and "only" 7 to go. I'm quite pleased with how things are going so far. The trick is to judge that fine line between not stressing your body enough for it to adapt to the stimulus and stressing it so much that it breaks. Maybe this is a sign of having reached a new level of maturity but I find that if I run really well on a particular day then, of course, I am happy and think that my training is going well; if I am very sluggish - like how I felt at lunchtime on Friday - then I think I am doing a good job in tiring myself out.

I was a bit nervous about my impending long run at the weekend because I ended up "having" to do my run on Saturday the evening before as a result of family commitments. In my preparation for the Seville Marathon, I decided to alternate between two types of long run: one aimed at ìncreasing my fat-burning abilities that I would run on an empty stomach and tired legs from the day before, and one aimed at activating the fast-twitch muscles that come into play at the end of a Marathon by including higher intensity efforts. Although I did at least have breakfast before going out of the door, Sunday's run ended up being a bit of both, so I couldn't be sure that I wouldn't end up running out of steam halfway. This would have had two serious consequences: I would have taken many more days to recover from the muscle damage (i.e., stiff legs) and I would have been late getting back to the casa rural where we were staying with a bunch of friends and made my family miss out on the canoeing. We go to this house every year around this time and I did a slightly longer version of the run I did last year, coincidentally in the same week (4) of training for the New York Marathon that never was. I was pretty pleased with my run as I was able to keep safely under the Marathon pace + 20' (4:20) target I had set myself for the middle 22 kilometers even in spite of the wind (there are hardly any trees in Segovia for some reason that I have forgotten) and the moderate altitude (900m).

Maybe some of the credit is due to the amino acids I have started to take that I picked up in London along my run from the office to my brother's house. Since the Ironman I did over 2 years ago I haven't taken any supplements of any kind (unless you count gels in a race) but I have recently noticed that I haven't been recovering from one workout before having to do the next as well as I would have liked. Of course, it's impossible to tell whether it is the training effect or indeed the placebo effect but - what the hell - I quite like the flavour so I am going to keep taking them for the time being. Something I have noticed these last few weeks is that I find the quality sessions psychologically less taxing than the "fillers". I find it easier to do something challenging as there is a reward for having managed it; there is little gratification in completing an hour long "easy" run (unless you can enjoy the company of other people). Also, I find that I am usually more tired before the easy runs from the previous day than I am afterwards.

Another aspect of my diet is that I've been told by the doctor to cut down on my cholesterol. If I don't manage to reduce it there is a chance that I get prescribed statins which have, amongst their side effects: muscle soreness and weakness. My diet has been going towards more fish and less fatty meat of its own accord but fried fish is out, of course, as well as most sea food, milk, cheese (no!) and chocolate (!!!). The internet is a wonderful place where you can find whatever you are looking for, including articles that actually claim that jamón serrano is in fact good for your cholesterol. I'm not sure whether I buy that but I will allow myself to eat a little - life in Spain wouldn't be the same without it. On the other hand, dark chocolate does seem to be widely recommended although the idea is not to pig out on this either. In the end, my diet is similar to the one my youngest son follows as he is either lactose intolerant or unable to process milk protein. It's also a pretty good diet to follow for keeping trim but I have to make sure that I get the right amount of carbohydrates to fuel my training. The weekend in the casa rural was torture as it turned out I could eat practically nothing of the huge spread of tortilla, cold meats, roast lamb, seafood paella, cheese, biscuits, etc. I positioned myself on the kids table - who were mostly eating pasta - to remove myself from temptation: I am quite disciplined when it comes to choosing what to eat but not if it is put on a plate in front of me.

I'm still not quite making my desired quota of plyometrics, hill sprints or core exercises. Especially with the former, I have to be very careful not to injure myself so I avoid doing them unless I am feeling in good condition. The same goes for the hill sprints and core exercises: I wait until I am no longer stiff from the last time. In practice, though, I find that I either don't have enough time or motivation to do them regularly. Still, I am seeing an improvement and, as they get to feel easier, the motivational aspect will improve.

Monday, September 9, 2013

New York City Marathon Week 3 / 11

Monday: -
Tuesday: 15' @ 4:00, 15' @ 3:45 + plyometrics + core
Wednesday: 30' @ 4:06 + 40' @ 4:27
Thursday: 8 x 4' @ 3:25
Friday: 14 km (London)
Saturday: 40' @ 4:00
Sunday: 25 km in 1:51 (4:27) + core
+ achilles, Powerbreathe (virtually) every day
Total kilometers: 82

The training week got off to an early start on Tuesday as I decided to beat the sun out of bed and get my workout done on the track before breakfast. In spite of my GPS being all over the place, I was able to hit the rhythm on the dot, completing circuits of the 350m in 1:24 (15 kph) and 1:18 (16 kph) respectively. At lunchtime, I was back on the track to do my plyometrics: 3 sets of all the exercises from this article except that I only had one "box" (actually a bench) and no hurdles so I did tuck jumps instead. I had hoped to at least get two sessions of plyometrics in this week but with the extra complications associated with having a trip to London, I only managed one.

Feeling encouraged by the relative ease of my workout the previous day, I rather ambitiously decided to run for an hour around the track at lunchtime at an easy pace. That easy pace turned out to be a bit too fast for the midday heat - I enjoy the feeling of running fast much more than plodding - so I ended up cutting it short to only half an hour. My treadmill with the broken board had already been fixed so I figured I would try it out that evening and make up the rest of the kilometers. Amazingly, after ringing up only the Friday previous, the new board arrived on Tuesday and a technician was able to install it the next day. Just in time for my interval training...

Here's where my foot has broken through the board that runs under the belt
I had to get up at the crack of dawn on Friday in order to catch a plane to London. Between the early start and meetings all day long, the only opportunity I had to train was in the evening which was just as well, because it rained most of the day before brightening up in the evening.

Spot the London Eye
I designed a route to take me a long way round from my office near Warren Street to Stockwell, where my brother lives, via Regent's Park and Hyde Park. I got a little lost a couple of times - my Garmin has this infuriating habit of not updating the map when you are off course which is precisely when you most need it to - and had to stop for traffic lights more than I would have liked, so I got to my brother's house after my nephew had already been put to bed. I still find it weird that English people tend to put their kids to bed so early, only to be woken up by them again at 5 am.

I got back to Madrid just in time for lunch and did my 40 minute run on the treadmill before going out to a friend's 20th wedding anniversary celebration. Just as one should try to avoid going shopping when hungry, it is not a good idea to go to an event with a free bar when one is very thirsty after working out. I paid for it the next day with a terrific hangover which resisted 3 paracetamols and meant that I had to postpone my long run until later that evening; I had planned to run it on tired legs in the morning. For the first time since my last Marathon, I managed to get into the groove and it didn't feel too long or boring - maybe not listening to music actually helped me zone out. I went along an old route that I hadn't been on for some time - the one I used to use to commute to work before the Oriols fenced most of the area off. Most of the fences have been removed and not as the result of vandalism so I am very happy about that. It is a beautiful area only a few minutes away from my house where you can really lose yourself. In fact, the first time I ran there (before I even knew that GPS watches existed) I did exactly that and arrived home to find the car that I had booked to take me to the airport for my flight to Mexico, already there waiting for me...

There is only one thing that I can say that I like about running in summer and that is that I can jump straight in the pool afterwards to cool off. I suppose it is a bit unhygenic to jump in still in my running kit but it's my swimming pool and I'll do what I want to! My youngest son loves seeing me do this for some reason so I always make sure to call him first.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

New York City Marathon Week 2 / 11

Monday: plyometrics + core + achilles
Tuesday: 7 km test 26:08 (169 bpm average)
Wednesday: 8 x 1 km @ 3:25 + achilles
Thursday: 60' @ 4:25 + achilles
Friday: 25' @ 4:00 + achilles
Saturday (evening): 60' @ 4:20
Sunday (morning): 21.1 km in 1:37 (4:36)
Total kilometres: 73

Monday was effectively a "day off" although the kind of day off that you feel stiff from the next day. All I did was an easy 10 minute warm-up run followed by some plyometrics (200 jumps in total), some core stability exercises ("planks" and so on) as well as some eccentric heel lowers in order to strengthen my Achilles tendons. But precisely because I'm not (yet) used to this routine, I felt it the next day when I had planned to do my aerobic test.

Every so often I run 7 km around the track (at work, if possible) keeping my heart rate as close to 172 bpm as possible. Any kind of sub-maximal test is going to be subjective and this is no exception: it takes about 8 of the 20 laps for my heart rate to get anywhere near 172 bpm so I really have to go by "feel" and hope that I don't have to slow down considerably over the remaining 12 laps. Having done the test several times before helps, of course, and it is useful information in itself if I find myself having to slack off to keep my heart rate down. To avoid the heat I got up early and started my run just before 8am, when it was "only" 17 degrees (compared to 7 or 8 degrees when I last did this test). The magic number of 172 is supposed to correspond to the pace at which I would run a Half Marathon, so a rough indication of my projected Half Marathon time is to multiply the time it takes me to run the 7 km by 3 (and a bit). I didn't do my fastest time - this was 25:39 just before the Lisbon Half Ironman - but it was, I think, my second fastest time of 26:08 which bodes well for the start of my training cycle and corresponds in theory to a projected Half Marathon time of 1:19:09 (my best time is 1:19:03). More than anything it is a useful benchmark against which to measure my progress over the following weeks leading up to the Marathon.

I must have done the plyometrics right this time because I was still stiff on Wednesday - otherwise known as "series day" (both in the sense of television and running). In fact, the last time I felt like this was after running a Marathon! There is something satisfying about "DOMS" (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) as it isn't usually all that painful but you feel like you are rebuilding your body and - if you care what other people think - you even get some sympathy and attention for the resulting limp. The downside is that you can't return to doing the same exercise safely until you have fully recovered so, in balance, the training is probably less effective than the "minimal effective dose".

Don't you f*cking look at me!
I've also started to use my PowerBreathe device again - 30 breaths until failure, twice a day. The image of Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet always comes to mind while I am sucking the air in. I find it quite embarrassing to use in public and yet I often forget to use it at home, so I have struck on the idea of using it in the car (not while driving, obviously!) as people tend not to look inside parked cars unless they themselves are up to no good. On the other hand, it is harder to do and probably less effective when sitting down rather than standing up. In spite of not having used it for 6 months, I'm already on level 3 (out of 10) - I started back in March on level 1.5 and managed to get up to level 4.

This summer has been the summer of things breaking: the treadmill, my moped (twice), a Kindle and a camera (this probably had something to do with my wife dropping it). It turns out that my treadmill has been "deaded" again. A month or so ago I replaced the console which gave up the ghost after being bathed in my sweat one time too often; now it is the board over which the belt runs that has split along the middle, so that it feels like I am running in a perpetual ditch. I hadn't realized that it was getting progressively worse until using it after the pounding I gave it this week, running at its maximum speed. By the end of my hour run on Friday, it was starting to bother my feet and I found myself swerving from side to side depending on exactly how I trod, something which is generally not recommended on a belt which isn't much wider than my hips. I'm getting this fixed, too, but I can't help wondering if I am throwing good money after bad and what will be the next thing to "go" - the motor, maybe?

I rather unwisely decided to try for a 40 minute run at a pace of 4:00 min/km on Friday, over and above what I had planned for the week. Had my treadmill not died this might not have been such a bad idea but, as it was, I had to choose between running outside in the heat or running inside in the heat. The first 20 minutes I ran on the track outside but it started to feel harder than it should. I could have finished it but it would have required such an effort that it would have turned into a different type of training altogether and put my workouts at the weekend in jeopardy, as well as creating a mental association between a high level of discomfort and running at what was, after all, the pace I ran my last Marathon at. I went back inside to try to complete the second half but I still found it too difficult. It turned into one of those demotivating conversations with myself where I alternate between beating myself up mentally and beating myself up physically. It really felt like the worst workout I've done in a long time and I ended up telling myself I would do such-and-such to compensate, then pulling out of that and then telling myself I would do this other thing and then not do that either. Very unsatisfying. The only good thing I can say is that it is worth being reminded every so often not to get complacent and I'd rather be reminded of this in a training session than in a race.

The kids spent the whole week with my in-laws, while my wife was in Kenya. I went to pick the kids up from Ciudad Real and spent the weekend there. Two consecutive weekends with the suegros is not the best way to keep my weight under control! Although it doesn't really have anything to do with my training plan or indeed anything to do with this blog, I can't resist including this video of a water rocket (thanks to Juan Alberto, its creator) that we launched in a nearby field:

As far as actual training went, I deliberately left my Saturday run until late on in the evening, partly to avoid the heat, partly to give myself a bit extra recovery from my aborted session in Friday and, more importantly, to make my long run on Sunday that much more challenging. That it was - I was really quite tired by the end. It wasn't the first time that I did the arithmetic wrong and divided 21.1 by 2 and got 10.05. This meant that I had to tack on a little bit at the end but it also tricked me into thinking I was running a lot faster than I really was - that I could have believed I was running at a 1:31 Half Marathon pace when it was more like 1:36 shows just how tired I must have been. One takeaway was to remember to start putting some vaseline "down there" - even if 21 kilometres doesn't register anymore as a "long run", after months of not running any further than 15 kilometres at a time, it's not all that surprising.