Friday, 26 October 2012

Rome here we come!

So the pieces of the plan are slowly falling into place!!!

We have booked our tickets to Rome (an easyjet job I’m afraid, but hey-ho!), followed a friend’s recommendation and found a quiet hotel with easy access to the centre and even bought a guide book to start planning the details of our trip! And in a rare manifestation of sibling co-ordination, my sister and her boyfriend (let’s call him Niko, that’s his name after all) ALSO booked their tickets, for roughly the same period and even staying in the same hotel! Wow, we may actually manage to meet up during the week sometime!

And as if to add to the excitement, Maratona di Roma revealed the Race Packet and to my surprise they will also give us a proper backpack to use on the day (and keep afterwards of course). I don’t know how common this is in marathons (in Athens we were given one of those corded plastic bags, the kind you get when you shop at Gap) but I thought it was a nice touch! Needless to say it will become my new official gym bag! J

There are also two T-shirts: The standard cotton one all finishers will receive and a ‘proper’ tech tee, available for €10 extra! Only 4,000 of those will be available and you need to pay when you book your place, so I’m pleased to have booked my place nice and early!

It's not all been plain sailing though... Just as Niko had returned to running after an injury and was happily ramping up the miles, he discovered his knee is slowly coming apart and may need surgery before he can take on a marathon (and the many, many miles that he would have to run before he could even stand at the start line). Full diagnosis etc still to follow, but he is no longer certain he will run in Rome this year... Not the end of the world, there is Athens in November '13 and a number of other marathons in between and we will still all have a nice holiday in Rome whether he (or I for that matter) run or not... but he is understandably frustrated...

But whatever the outcome, I suppose this acts as a reminder that deciding to run a marathon (be it one's first or not) is a longish term undertaking (at least for us non-professional athletes) and there are no guarantees that one will start the race, let alone finish it... Which is the point of this blog in a way, to document all the build-up and eventual conclusion. Let's hope there will be a happy ending for everyone involved in this story!

Next week I'd like to talk a bit about shoes (my trusty Kinvaras are fast turning into slicks) and no doubt I'll have something to say about the changing of the clocks... But in the mean time I've opened all comments (sorry guys, I hadn't realised you had to sign in to comment) 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

When in doubt... go for a run!

It was a tiring week at work this week, but one of those that drain you and fill you with useless tension rather than a productive-tiring one, if you know what I mean... It all culminated in a very irritating email exchange just around the 5pm mark on Friday afternoon... Fortunately I was working from home, so rather than responding on the heat of the moment I decided to go for my run instead and deal with it when I came back. It was a fast finish run, and during the steady section I was still thinking of all the work-related bullshit (are you allowed to say ‘bullshit’ online? I’m sure Blogger will tell me if not...) You know the thoughts, the whys, the wherefores, how to respond etc... And then I hit the fast 20’ and none of that was important any more...

There is an Asics ad about running releasing more than just sweat and I definitely take their point, even if I don’t run in their shoes any more:

I don’t remember what – if anything – I was thinking of during that fast section, but it certainly had nothing to do with work! I remember taking in the countryside (I reversed the long version of the ‘fisheries’ run, Harriers will know what I’m talking about) but without formulating any thoughts about what I was running through... just a silent appreciation for the beauty of the late light; I remember also making a passing note on the large number of pheasants scattering through the fields as I was running towards them... Other than that nothing, I was just trying to keep my pace up to the target while observing my breathing gradually turning into panting!

Then home, a quick shake while my Garmin sent the data to my laptop and then 5’ just standing under a hot shower, rinsing the remains of the working week well off me, before settling back with a drink to watch Greece play Bosnia for the World Cup qualifiers.

Needless to say I didn't bother going back to the irritating emails after that, the matter hardly even crossed my mind all weekend: And come Monday, a clear head meant I could ignore that particular discussion and instead do some more digging and get to where I wanted to be all along. I was so pleased with myself I could go for a little run then and there!


Harrier memberships are up for renewal this month and it looks like there will be two from our household! Demi had her first taste of a run with the group last week (will she make it two in a row?) and saw it through a very hard long intervals session – that girl has taken her running very seriously these past few months and the progress really shows! And as she has also increased the distances she runs, we can now come up with more picturesque routes and make running even more interesting!

Unfortunately, the way the week unfolded, we didn't get the opportunity to do too much running together, so I missed out on the slightly gentler runs I like to mix my intervals with... And with a lot of work travel this week as well - and the nights drawing in a bit more - I doubt we'll manage to run together much this week either... 

But it's a long way to Rome and many runs await -  alone, with Demi and with the Harriers.

Monday, 8 October 2012

The dictator, the cake model and the geek

Hello there!

Apologies that I am a few days late with this week’s post, the amazing thing is that some of you actually noticed! Could it be that there are real readers out there??? Google says there are some of you around the globe – from Russia to the US no less – but can that actually be true?

One of the most distinguished members of the readership is El Presidente himself! No, not Hugo, the newly re-elected president of Venezuela, but the president of the Huncote Harriers, who rules his club with an iron fist reminiscent of the good old fashioned South American dictators!

El Presidente even deigned to offer some constructive feedback to my blog “it’s boring!” he proclaimed gruffly. “It should have more mentions of the Harriers. And videos. And pictures of naked women!” (As I said – an old fashioned dictator interested mostly in propaganda and totty!)

Wanting to be on good terms with authority, I immediately set about conducting my research of, erm..., potential internet sources of shapely female runners, until my girlfriend kindly explained to me that it would be quite impossible for me to run a marathon in Rome with two broken legs and a punctured lung, and that the single easiest way to avoid these particular injuries would be to desist looking at naked girls on the internet... And as I said, it always pays to be on good terms with Authority!

So sorry Harriers, but the only leg you are going to see on this blog is this (and more's the pity!):

Sticking with the Harriers theme for a bit longer though, we held our 30-year anniversary dance at the end of the week (and no, the festivities had nothing to do with my lateness in composing a new post!) and apart from the obvious good time had by all (it was funny seeing so many legs trained for years for repetitive, steady forward motion to try to add flourishes in their dance!) the two most noteworthy things were the delicious cake prepared by Harrier Donna Berry (photos below) and the interest in the Athens marathon!

Starting with the cake, I had read many enthusiastic comments about Donna's baking, but this was the first time I tasted it for myself... And believe me, it tasted even better than it looked!

Cake: Donna Berry; photo: Paul Nealon
Cake & model: Donna Berry; photo: Paul Nealon.

As for Athens, while not strictly speaking the subject of this blog, it is a marathon obviously very close to my heart as I have many fond memories of Marathon and, let's face it, it was my first!

Emma is attempting it this year with a group of friends (so to all my Greek friends: remember to cheer any fluorescent yellow running tops you see!) and Trudi and Chris, flush from their success in the Loch Ness marathon suggested they would like to do Athens sometime in the next few years... But we need to get Rome out of the way first... 

So, how is that going? If you remember I've split my programme in two, working on pace over 10-12 km from now till Xmas (what I've identified as my weakest point), then focusing primarily on increasing the distance after that... Well, I'm in that strange point that exists in the implementation of any plan, where on the one hand I feel I'm struggling, I'm hopeless and I will never make it, but a more careful analysis of the numbers (yes, I am a geek, get over it) can even be interpreted as stating otherwise... I won't bore you with all the details, but essentially comparing my pace in 2011 / 2012 (over a range of distances) and looking at what I can do now (when e.g. a workout says "run this interval at your 1km race pace" or "this tempo should be run at your 10k pace"), I am roughly 40% of the way to bridge the gap between my 2011 / 2012 actual and my 2012 / 2013 target... This in itself doesn't say much, so I thought I'd try to introduce some 'benchmark' runs in my programme... say the same mile or 5k once a month, just to see if there is any real progress...

So we thought we'd start going to the Braunstone Parkrun again with Demi - it was good fun when she did it (once you get over the early morning) and as they are on every Saturday, there is no reason why we couldn't make one every month...

The only other noteworthy point of the last week really was that the pace of the workouts was beginning to take its toll on my legs... I was feeling them much stiffer than when I was running longer distances (but slower) and more prone to develop little pains and aches... I tried stretching a bit better before and after each workout, but in itself it didn't really make a difference. So I decided to also cram a yoga session in my weekly programme, a good, deep, whole-body stretch after Sunday's run (which is my hardest day). It seemed to do the trick this week, I certainly feel better allover, the stiffness seems to have gone and it was another way to engage my core rather than just gym-work...

So there you go! And all that while keeping up with all my running, starting on a new account (or three!) at work and dealing with all the other little distractions daily life brings us... The one casualty of this week was the gym though, so I need to make sure I go in the week that dawns...

As ever,

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

It was a quiet week this week, getting on with my training and finding that the programme I've come up with is pushing me hard, especially with regards to the pace on the tempo runs and the 5' intervals... I'm just off the pace I should be... It's still the beginning thought (three weeks in now), so I'll keep up with it and hope for a gradual improvement over the next month or so...

But the main news of the week, as far as the Rome Marathon goes, is that I've now booked a place, so I'm formally committed! And as if it was my entry they were expecting, the organising committee have now unveiled the design of the finishers' medals for 2013:

We now have a few months to sort flights and hotels out and plan our trip - we would like to stay for as long as a week, giving us time to do some decent sight-seeing after the race (assuming I will still be able to walk, that is!) without worrying about precise nutrition and hydration (and what's wrong with a small barrel of Barbera as pre-race hydration, I hear you ask?)

Other than that a quiet week as I said before, the highlight being running between the tree-covered banks of the disused railway at Narborough - it was a sunny crisp evening, the overhanging branches were playing havoc with our GPS, but the fallen leaves had began to cover the path, the fields were bright green between the trees and the 1' sprints really got the pulse racing... An image to hold on to, when the icy sideways rain begins to cut through the darkness...

Next time I'll remember to snap a quick photo during recoveries... sorry guys!