Monday, October 19, 2015

New York City Marathon 2015 Week 9/11

Monday was a bank holiday so we spent a leisurely day in Asturias, had a great lunch (as usual), a siesta and then the 5 hour car journey back home. Zero exercise.

Tuesday's intervals were easier than I had expected, especially as I found 2 sets challenging a couple of weeks ago and, this time, I had to do 3. I probably say this every time I do a "ladder" type workout but I think they are excellent from a psychological point of view: you can trick yourself into thinking that each interval is going to be easier than the one before it because it will either be slower (less incline) or shorter.

I was on the treadmill again on Wednesday evening because I didn't get an opportunity to do my run at lunchtime (I had to take my son for a checkup at the doctors). I'm pleased I've managed to largely kick the habit of running too much on the treadmill (and not enough outside) but it was nice, for a change, to do an easy treadmill run with a good TV series (Longmire) to keep me company.

I got up early the next morning to do my final 7 km aerobic test at a controlled heart rate of 172 bpm. It was nice and cold and it felt relatively easy to keep up a pace of around 3:45 per kilometre. But my watch let me down by (a) giving me a wacky HR readout which kinda made it hard to control and (b) giving me a wacky GPS readout. In the end, my average HR turned out to be quite a bit lower than the 172 level, so I could have run it a bit faster. Now, I'm not sure what that really means - whether I am fitter than the test would seem to indicate (26:13 versus 26:02 two years ago)  or that it was just quite cold, so my heart rate was lower than it would otherwise have been. I think I will go back to my Garmin 310 XT for the next aerobic test I do, as it has the useful feature of automatically detecting the laps based on the GPS position. This is subject to the same GPS error, of course, but it doesn't end up summing up quite so much as having the lap counter set to one kilometre by its reckoning, for example. I'm not sure whether the GPS of the Fenix 2 is less accurate or reliable than the 310 XT, or whether I am just more obsessed with comparing my performance to that of two years ago, and so I am much more attentive to those occasions when it loses accuracy.

I've been getting these "spiky" readouts from my heart rate monitor on a regular basis for thhe last few weeks now. I've tried replacing the batteries but I think that it is coming to the end of its useful life. The last thing I want to happen in NY is to be thrown off in the first few kilometres. At least, this is the excuse for me to buy myself what I had intended to ask Santa for: the new Garmin Run HRM. This not only measures your heart rate, but also your vertical oscillation, cadence and (supposedly) your ground contact time. More stats to geek out on.

Talking of which, my RunScribe finally arrived last week - the little gadget I help kickstart last year - just in time to use during my 7k test. I'll post a more comprehensive review once I have had time to play around with it some more and digest the vast amount of running metrics it generates, but I'll leave you with a taster below in the meantime.

My wife had wanted to do another Zombie Survival event, like the one we did last year, but I was worried about how it would effect my 32 km run the next day. I employed the tactic of not mentioning the subject and making non-committal noises such as "OK, if you want to... I don't mind" as well as reminding her that she wasn't currently able to run much due to an injury "so perhaps it would be better some other time?". Whatever the case, it worked and we ended up staying in Madrid for the first weekend in a while. Nevertheless, I was nervous about the run - as I have been approaching every long run - particularly because I suffered a lot in the last 7 kilometres of the long run the previous weekend. And this one entailed running a significant proportion - 24 km - at close to Marathon Pace. Furthermore, the same run two years ago turned into my own version of a personal hell and I remember being grouchy the rest of the day. I was also nervous that it would rain as it had done on Saturday evening and make the whole thing a miserable experience. I don't normally mind running in the rain, but 32 kilometres with sodden shoes could lead to serious blisters.

I needn't have worried. Not only did it not rain but the run went very well (apart from a false start where I got a bit lost and ended up running an extra kilometre which I decided would not count towards the 32). After the 5 "warm up" kilometres at an easy pace, I hit the sub-Marathon pace and started to count down the kilometres to the 29 km mark, where I promised myself a short rest to get my breath back before running the final "cool down" kilometres. I started to  suspect the GPS was again being generous but it was surprisingly consistent, so I decided to believe it. As I was running along Madrid Río, I was able to check it against the markers laid down every 50m and it seemed to be true. I got to the end very satisfied and lay down on the wall for a minute, being careful not to roll into the river. It was then that I realized that I had short changed myself out of a kilometre with all my mental maths to pass the time, and I still had one more at sub-MP to go. Not a problem. What was a problem, oddly enough, was the final stretch of 3 supposedly easy kilometres. I don't know whether it was because, mentally, I had switched off or whether I had used up all my glycogen stores, but these last 3 kilometres were horrible and I ran them with my eyes half closed, feeling nauseous and nearly fainting at one point. My wife always asks me how my runs have gone and I realized that I only have two answers: "good" or "hard". In other words, a run can't go "badly", it is just one of those hard runs that doesn't kill you but makes you stronger. The overall verdict was "good" but those last three kilometres were hard. I'm curious to know whether I would have been able to keep up the pace for longer had I not stopped or if I had planned to.

During the long run I did notice a very slight twinge in my left Achilles. My Achilles is my Achilles, if you see what I mean. It went away after a while but I remembered to "palpate" the area and it was a little tender, so I have decided to do the preventative exercises I did last time, over the final two weeks.

So now starts the taper!!! Yippee! I'm going to be a bit monkish and ingest no caffeine or alcohol for the next two weeks: on race day I'll stuff myself with caffeine before and alcohol after. I've been following a fairly strict diet of just drinking one glass of red wine a day. I think it is a much more reasonable (and possibly healthy) approach than total teetotal. My weight is better than ever (although this morning's reading is not really representative after the "paliza" yesterday).

So I promised to say something about my RunScribe. So far, I have been very impressed by it: it just works. I'm so used to having to faff about with Garmin watches to make sure that they sync properly and that the data doesn't get corrupted, I've become paranoid. I think the folks over at Garmin could learn a thing or two from RunScribe about Bluetooth synchronization as well as about how to display graphs. It always drives me nuts that you can't change the vertical scale on the pace graph on Garmin Connect, for example, so all you ever see is a practically straight line (when compared to a 16:00 /km pace). The only issue it might have is of battery life, but it is too early to say and I'm sure that they can find a way around this. The device turns on whenever it detects movement but allegedly has very low power consumption until it recognizes that the user has broken into a run (i.e., that the cadence is above 70). It turns off automatically after 250 seconds of inactivity. So it recorded my long run perfectly but it also included my false start and some of the walk back to the car.

Below you can see a segment taken from the sub-Marathon Pace section of the run. It agrees very closely with the GPS reading (and, by the way, it was in very good agreement with the treadmill - but more on that in a subsequent post). More than tracking pace, it is the other metrics that are interesting. You can see that, as I started to get tired, my contact time increased (from about 250 ms to about 275 ms). Also, my "braking Gs" - or the horizontal component of the ground reaction force - tends to increase over time, presumably because I am running more sloppily. Then there are the "advanced metrics" which are to do with things like pronation angle and pronation velocity, etc.

There are so many things to compare that the mind boggles. How does the terrain or my shoes affect my contact time, or the foot strike (forefoot or midfoot)? How does running on a treadmill compare with running outside? What differences are there between my left and right foot? When I get my Garmin Run HRM I will have so many metrics I won't know what to do with them!

Monday: -
Tuesday: 3 x 1'-2'-3'-2'-1'-2'-3' @ 3:25 w/ 4.5%-2.5%-1% gradient
Wednesday: 60' @ 4:17
Thursday: 7k aerobic test in 26:13 (average HR 167)
Friday: 60' @ 4:10
Saturday: 50' @ 4:00
Sunday: 32 km @ 4:14 (5k easy + 24 @ 4:04 + 3k easy)

Total kilometres: 92

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