Monday, October 27, 2014

La Behobia Week 6 / 8

My 2,000 € treadmill seems to be even less resistant than my minimalist running shoes: after less than 400 kilometres and 5 months, I have already broken the board. As a friend pointed out, maybe I should wear more cushiony shoes not to protect my feet, but to protect my treadmill! I didn't have high expectations of my previous treadmill that was a third of the price but this is a bit too much: at least it is still under guarantee...

I also had a case of toothache which turned out to be due to a wisdom tooth that had decided it was time to push the other teeth around a bit (typically during the night). The verdict is that I will have to have it pulled but I narrowly escaped having it done today as I had an important meeting right afterwards. In the end, I didn't manage to get a word in edgeways, so it probably wouldn't have mattered anyway... Something to look forward to next week.

Saturday was a good opportunity to get some more fun out of my octopus costume - the one I ran San Silvestre in last New Year's Eve. As it was Halloween in the local American School - where they take these things very seriously - I thought I should try to make it a little bit more scary.

It was my youngest son's 10th birthday on Sunday, so I went for my long run in the early evening (while he was doing his homework) so as not to miss any of it. I really enjoyed the run - even though we are practically in November, it has been quite hot during the day, so it was nice and cool in the Casa del Campo with breathtaking views of Madrid as I ran past the cable cars down the long hill which I would have to run back up on the way back.

Monday: 40' @ 4:27
Tuesday: 1K + 3K + 2K + 3K + 1K @ 3:25 w/ 1' rest
Wednesday: 3 x 12 x 65% + 40' @ 4:27
Thursday: 40' @ 4:27
Friday: La Behobia part I @ 4:27
Saturday: 3 x (800 - 400 - 200 - 1,000) @ 4:00 w/ 3%, 6%, 9%, 3% gradient, 1' rest
Sunday: 100' w/ bigger hills @ 4:33

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Survival Zombie Poblete

In the end I just couldn't resist the opportunity to see the faces of the local manchegos as more than 1,000 people (and zombies) descended on the otherwise sleepy little village of Poblete, possibly the very same village whose name Don Quixote could not recall. It was going to be at least a two Red Bull effort as it didn't start until 11 pm and went on (supposing you survived that long) until 7 am the next morning.

The "survivors" in our group (myself, my wife, Cristina, Josema, Angel, Patricia and Omar) gathered at the town hall while my sister-in-law and her husband were preparing to join the hoards of zombies from whom we would be trying to escape. We were told that a kind of vaccine had been found - it didn't stop you dying if you came into contact with a zombie, but at least you didn't become one of them - and that we had to help ensure its safe passage to Madrid, where it could be produced in large quantities. The vaccine was in a safe and it was our mission to discover the 8 numbers in the combination to the safe by talking to people at various locations around the village. But, just at that moment there was a scuffle and the spokesperson was thrown off the balcony. Then, a "Z" - the zombies who can run - jumped into the crowd and everyone scattered. In the ensuing chaos I managed to knock my wife's glasses off and give her a black eye (see video)!

The next hour or so we wandered pretty aimlessly around the village trying to find the first clue. I remember this bit being quite slow and boring at the time but it is also what I most remember looking back on it now. It was a strange and liberating experience to be wandering all around a village at night, finding obscure cross country paths and passing through gaps in fences in order to avoid being detected. It later turned out that the game didn't really start until some hours later, by which time everyone had had a chance to scout out the village. Having run through the village more times than I can remember (as it is only 5 km away from where my parents-in-law live) I knew how to get to the ancient church on the hill, which I was convinced would form part of the story. We got to the right place alright, but just not at the right moment: this would be the scene of the grand finale, once all the clues had been found and the safe unlocked. (Apparently it involved dipping your head in a bath of "blood" so as to be inoculated against the zombies, but most of us didn't get that far.)

All the bars were open all night long and played the role of being safe houses with one important caveat: if you entered one while being chased by a zombie, everyone was then at risk (I guess that this would make you very unpopular). The rules also said that anyone drunk or on drugs would be disqualified from the game and, while it was OK to have the odd drink, it was true that everyone behaved themselves pretty well. Of course it was also against the rules to attack zombies - if they touched you or you found yourself sealed off by a hoard of them, then you had to consider yourself undead. Perhaps partly due to the late opening of the bars but also out of curiosity I suppose, the whole of Poblete seemed to be out on the street to watch. We overheard one little girl say "The one time they organize an event in the village and we aren't taking part".

It wasn't too difficult to find out where to go to find the clues as there were either signs of activity or groups of people standing around trying to figure out how to get in. Frustration is definitely one of the elements the organizers deliberately play around with. It might be that you had to come back at a different time or after having obtained a piece of information first from somewhere else; or it might just be that there just wasn't room for more than one person in each group to enter. I got to go into one building with 3 people from our group, where we had to search a "dead" body lying on a table before he jumped up and "unkilled" us. Josema got such a start that he frantically grabbed something from his pocket - it turned out to be the bag with all the little pieces of paper with the clue on (which we duly handed back to give the others a chance). There was, of course, a secondary market in trading clues so it wasn't long before some people had all 8 numbers. Little did they know that you had to actually be in possession of all the corresponding bits of paper to have a chance of winning.

The modus operandi of the zombies was as follows: Z's would round up survivors like sheep and herd them into alleyways that were cut off by the hoards. This was the fate that befell Cristina, when she ran into - of all "people" - my brother-in-law. As he had never met Cristina but she had seen a photo of him with his zombie makeup, he was surprised when she exclaimed, "You're Rob's brother-in-law!". I think he had a great time puteando a la gente.

At about the same time as Cristina was being rounded up, another Z started chasing after me and my wife. I heard her shout out and yet the Z was still some way behind her. She was limping and said that she had felt as though something had hit her leg. It turned out that she had torn a muscle, so in the end, between the black eye and the limp, she looked more like a zombie than some of the zombies themselves.

It was clear that the evening was over for both of us, but in spite of the injuries sustained we both thoroughly enjoyed it (easy for me to say). Before calling it a night, we decided to gather by the town hall where we had been told that there would be an announcement at 3:30 am. We were ordered into lines by the military who arrived in a (real) tank. Then a Z came running towards us and was shot down several times by the soldier's machine guns, but each time he would get up again. Finally, he jumped to his feet and ran after an unsuspecting survivor (not for long). It was our cue to limp slowly back to the headquarters in the local sports hall where we had parked the car. We moved so slowly that a hoard of zombies heading back with their fresh kills to be made-up actually overtook us, but they were not very hungry so I managed to conserve my status as a survivor, evidenced by the green bandana I had wrapped around my arm. We caught up with my sister-in-law and her husband, who had had a thoroughly good time and were just getting ready to go out on the prowl again. They told us that several survivors had cheated either by concealing their bandana or by simply running off before the green bandana could be exchanged for the red one, signifying zombie status. They also told us of one guy who had got very angry when he was caught, as he had been very close to obtaining all the clues.

I would love to have been one of the Z's and I think that I have the speed and stamina necessary, as well as being able to roar at the top of my lungs as I have sometimes been known to do in the closing meters of a race. It also helps to be fairly tall and imposing. I emailed the organization offering my services and they said that all the Z's were members of the organization and had a lot of experience, but that I could always send in my CV. I'm not sure whether they would find anything particularly relevant on my CV or, indeed, what kind of thing they are expecting to find (avid Real Dungeons & Dragons player?). Who knows, if things don't work out in the bank maybe I have a calling there... The next event is a full 48 hour affair in Murcia...

I nearly forgot to mention: next time we must remember that eating fabada is not a good a good idea. We were even more rotten inside than the zombies.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

La Behobia Week 5 / 8

On the one hand it was a bit of a slack week between my parents being in town and having to escape from hoards of zombies at the weekend (more on this later). On the other hand, I was pleased with the result of my aerobic test - the usual 20 laps round the football pitch at a controlled heart rate of 172 bpm. It wasn't my best ever time but it was one of the best, and certainly the best this year. The original idea was that it was an indication of my Half Marathon pace although I believe this less and less and it is now just a good benchmark to gauge my fitness and training by. The race I am training for is anything but like running round a nice flat tartan track so the question will be whether the investment in hill and weight sessions pays off.

Monday: 40' easy
Tuesday: 7K aerobic test in 25:54 (3:40, 171 bpm average, 174 maximum)
Wednesday: 30' @ 4:27 + 10' stairs
Thursday: 40' @ 4:27
Friday: -
Saturday: Survival Zombie Poblete
Sunday: -

Monday, October 13, 2014

La Behobia Week 4 / 8

I went back to another of my classic workouts of recent times: the split 10K which is broken down into 1, 2 and 3 km sections with a short rest in between. I like this workout because it is psychologically tolerable but not that much less than running a 10K at race pace - in the end I cover 10K in 39 minutes including the 4 one minute rests. The fourth season of Homeland has just started, and not a moment too soon.

On Saturday we took the kids again to swimming classes at my work so I took advantage of the time to do my hill based interval workout on the treadmill in my work gym (as opposed to at home). I found that the gradient was indeed steeper than on my home treadmill (10% = 6 degrees versus 5 degrees at home versus correct value of 5.5 degrees). Taking this into account I adjusted the grades I ran the 800m, 400m, 200m and 1 km sections at to 3%, 6%, 9% and 3% respectively (instead of 4%, 7%, 10% and 4% as I would have set my home treadmill).

I was a bit off my food on Saturday afternoon - maybe I had a touch of what kept my eldest son away from School for the whole week - so I didn't have any dinner. The next morning I had to practically run straight of bed if I was going to get in my 90 minutes before the family commitments kicked in. After just 15 minutes I felt listless and without any energy and had to lie down. Also, if truth be told, I felt very unmotivated. Lately things at work have been pretty stressful and running usually helps unplug the brain for much needed self-maintenance, but sometimes the stress is too much and negative thoughts spill over into my runs. It's just like with any muscle - overtax it and it starts to fail, undertax it and it becomes soft. I knew that I would be in a stinking bad mood for the rest of the day if I didn't finish - whether I decided to bin the workout or had it hanging over me as a "to do" for the rest of the day. I wouldn't be fair to put my family through that, so I decided to push on. It felt slow and sluggish but - I suppose as I digested my breakfast - I got a second wind with about 30 minutes to go. In the end my average pace was 4:27 - my current "easy" pace - so it wasn't too shabby after all. I felt very tired afterwards though! I couldn't help thinking that, this time last year, I would have felt like that after a 35 km run, not a 20 km run.

Monday: -
Tuesday: 1K + 3K + 2K + 3K + 1K @ 3:30 w/ 1' rest
Wednesday: 4 x 10 x 70%
Thursday: 40' easy
Friday: 40' @ 4:15
Saturday: 2 x (800 - 400 - 200 - 1,00) @ 4:00 w/ 3%, 6%, 9%, 3% gradient
Sunday: 90' w/ hills @ 4:27

Thursday, October 9, 2014

La Behobia Week 3 / 8

After the summer break it was time to go back to the podiatrist to take stock oh how my foot problems had evolved. The neuroma is still there but I only notice it if I squeeze in the right spot or if I happen to land right on top of a stone. I admitted that I had gone back to running in my Vibrams on roads and indoors but that I would go back to a more cushioned shoe at the first sign of any pain. He said that I had managed the situation very well and that it must have been quite difficult for me - he understands perfectly the symbiosis between a runner and his running shoes... The next step is to try some more supportive work shoes and to go back in a month: if there has been no improvement or indeed a regression, then he'll look at getting me some orthotics made - at this point only for walking around in. He said he preferred not to mess with how someone ran unless it was absolutely necessary, referring to the recent Marathon World Record being held by someone who (allegedly) heel strikes against the current popular wisdom. (I explained that I thought the angle of the shin to the ground was more significant than the angle of the foot.) So I bought some normal dress shoes for the first time in years but decided to size up (12 UK) to leave ample room for my bunion - it feels so great to have my toes free to move even if I have to put up with a heel counter (which tends to hurt my knees and contribute to my bad posture). They also happen to be Clarks (remember I live in Spain) - I think the last pair I wore were actually bought for me by my mum! I also felt more inclined to Clarks as the founder of Vivobarefoot shoes is none other than Galahad Clark, grandson of the original Clark (it sort of feels like there should be a "Sir" in their somewhere).

Anyway, after all these months I was at last able to do my intervals at the same intensity that I was doing them before my relative break: six lots of 1 mile (1.6 km) in 5:28. There are few things I find more satisfying in training than lying in bed after a session like this and feeling tiny popping sensations all over my legs as the muscles shake themselves down and prepare to rebuild themselves, only this time to be more resilient. I tend to sleep very well afterwards although I often wake up much earlier than usual.

Of course, I ran those intervals on the flat (1% incline) but I am training for a hilly race, so my second quality workout substituted speed for hills. Another of the advantages of the treadmill is that you can precisely control the length and grade of the hills you run up although, arguably, running downhill has it's own demands and should also be trained for. This week we took the kids to some new swimming classes at the work gym, which now opens at the weekend. While they were swimming (they actually enjoyed the class for the first time; they are always complaining about going) I did my workout which consisted of 6 sets of 200 and 400 meters at 15 kph and 12% and 10% respectively. I'd come up with this by using Jack Daniel's table to equate the effort to running at 20 and 19 kph on the level. I suppose that this depends quite a lot on how much the runner weighs - readers of this blog will know how much I complain about hills, something that is no doubt connected to my 85 kgs. In spite of managing this workout on my home treadmill, it was too much for me on the work one. My wife, who was running on the neighbouring treadmill, asked me if I was OK and the fact that it took me about a minute to even be able to answer her, so out of breath was I, did nothing to reassure her. I decided to do the rest of the workout at 8%. When I got home, I used my Kindle Fire to check the gradient of my treadmill and, in spite of having calibrated it, a 10% grade appeared to be more like 8.75%; I'm curious to see whether what my Kindle Fire has to say about the work treadmill.

That just leaves the long(ish) run on Sunday. I chose the same route that two weeks ago had proved challenging for just 60 minutes (I think I was coming down with something) and tacked on an extra 10 minutes each way. It felt much much better than last time and I kept a pretty constant speed (hills permitting). What was not very constant though, was my heart rate. I decided to wear a heart rate monitor - something I had got out of the habit of doing because I felt that I was gauging my efforts better by feel - as I wanted to see how my fitness was progressing. My heart rate started off nice and low (140-150 bpm) and held at 150 for quite a while, but then started to creep up to even Marathon levels. I think that this just reflects the need to keep on working on these long runs and extending the time for which I can comfortably maintain a reasonable pace. I'm clearly not in the same shape I was in this time last year but it's only been three weeks and things have been getting better quite quickly, so I am at least confident I will be able to feel pleased with my performance even if it is not on par with a personal best.

Monday: 30' @ 39 kph on tri bike
Tuesday: 6 x 1,600 @ 3:25 w/ 1' rest
Wednesday: 2 x 8 x 60% explosive + 20' @ 4:27
Thursday: 40' @ 4:27
Friday: -
Saturday: 6 x (200 - 400) @ 4:00 w/ 8%-10% gradient
Sunday: 80' w/ hills (18.12 km @ 4:24)