Saturday, 28 March 2015

Saying Bye to the old and Hi to the new gear

-= The old =-
In October 2014, I began to consider replacing my Garmin Forerunner 205. I bought this watch in June 2008 and it was an old model at the time. After almost seven years of medium-hard use and wear, it was time to replace my old companion of approximate 5500K's worth of runs. At first I felt guilty about replacing something that was still good and functional enough. Over the last couple of months, I noticed that the rubber buttons on the sides had become so worn that they were no longer water-proofing the watch. In addition, - and I am not too certain if this is a defect of the Forerunner or a different issue - I found that in the last couple of weeks, several runs did not fully upload to Garmin Connect and Garmin Training Center (only partial tracks were uploaded, though the data was present on the Forerunner). I got used to the idea of replacing my trusted Garmin with a newer model.

-= The New =-
I am not one to spend money lightly or to buy things on a whim. Having many chats with many runners about many sports-watches and reading all the relevant reviews on the excellent DCRainmaker blog, I found several options. One of these was the Polar M400 watch that was to be released later in October 2014.

In January 2015, I got the opportunity to test the Polar M400 for about a month and thoroughly enjoyed using it. However, I could not get used to the completely different logic of the watch, as opposed to the way my Garmin worked. What was more pressing was the fact that at that time I could not train the way I was used to: using pace-zones. The Polar Flow webapp did not allow pace-zones to have less than 1K between them. This resulted in a huge differences between my slow pace zone and my fast pace zone. After I had decided to again go for a Garmin, rather than a Polar, this issue was fixed in the Polar Flow web app.

After another extensive search on various manufacturer's websites and the DCRainmaker Blog, I decided to go for the Garmin Fenix 3 watch. This was yet to be released, but the specs, robustness, features and the fact that it is a Garmin, made me decide to order it as soon as it would be available. The price is much higher than the Polar watch I had earlier identified as serious contender. In fact, I could get approximately 4 M400 watches for one Fenix 3. Still, it ticked many of the boxes on my wish-list.

Today, after a long wait, I went and collected my Fenix 3. It is a very sleek watch that is very easy to configure, pair and adjust. Because I had already had my run today, I could not go straight outside and do a test-run. However, though the weather promises to be blustery, I will do my first run with it tomorrow.

-= Plans =-
On one of my long runs, not too many weeks ago, I got to talking with a fellow runner. It was obvious from his pace, gait, the location where we were both running and the gear he was carrying that - like me - he had been running for a while and was not nearly finished with his training. He told me that he was training for a half Ironman in Australia this May. This got me inspired and thinking about this type of event. Should I ever feel the itch to do something similar - way out of my comfort zone as I am not a very strong swimmer - I will at least have the multi-sports watch to help me train for it :-D.

However, should I ever get around to doing that, it will be years from now. My plans for 2015 and 2016 are slowly becoming clearer still. As I discussed earlier, I will be doing the Amsterdam Half in October. Possibly I will sign up for the Haarlem Half in September. This will have resulted in two to three halves in 2015. The Amsterdam Half will hopefully mark the start of my marathon training - I will try to get into the 2016 London marathon or else the 2016 Shakespeare marathon in Stratford. In addition to these races, several runner-colleagues and I are getting enthusiastic about forming a team to participate in the 600+k relay RoParun 2016, going from Paris to Rotterdam in three days. This will be a major project and we are not sure about the feasibility of it, Still, it will be good to see how far we will get preparing for it.

Should my body still function by that time, and should I then not be reduced to tears every time I think of running, I might want to sign up for the Amsterdam whole in 2016. If I am fortunate enough to finish the 2015 half in October, I will have done this race three times. It might be fun to make it whole by adding the 21K to the AMS half, that - on the map and in the stories and blogposts - look mind-numbingly boring.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Don't Panic

-= 42 =-
Coming June will mark the 9 years anniversary of my running habit. It will also have marked the 42nd year of my life. This year also marks the time when I become part of the elite group whose age represents the answer to life, the universe and everything. This combination of factors has made me decide to go and try a race that incorporates this answer - to which there is no question yet - in 2016.

-= Which race? =-
One of the first things someone will tell you on this topic is that you will need to just sign up for a race and work towards it. There are only two races that I could possibly choose between for a first marathon.
The problem is that I will need to choose between the two as they are held at the same time,  approximately 108 miles apart. The one is the London marathon. The other one is the Shakespeare marathon - though this sadly appears to have no link with the person who gave the run its name. Both have obvious advantages and disadvantages - availability of starting positions being one of them.

-= Work to be done =-
With the training I had so far and the races I have done and planned for this year, I feel that at least one of the aspects - the running bit - is covered. I will be taking about six months to build up to the distance. There are three additional areas that require serious work before I am ready to do the required 42K.

- Food
With the number of K's I have been doing in the previous months, I have lost more weight than I should have. Though my BMI is still well on the healthy side, the fact that I will increase the number of K's will require attention. Besides the fact that I don't want to end up looking like an emaciated junkie, I will need to train my body to do some stuff - burn fat while running, digest particular types of food during a run and retaining energy and using it over a distance of 42K.

I look forward to trying all sorts of foods - as long as it's more than I am taking in now.

- Core strengt
The emaciated junkie look is not too far away off at the moment. All around I keep reading that core strength is extremely important when running ridiculous distances. Additionally, the Missus will not mind a slightly more chiseled body on her husband :D. There are plenty so-called short-cuts to a stronger core, so I will just pick a couple of exercises and work them into my schedule.

- Sleep
I love sleep. I need my sleep. That is why I have no clue as to why I end up with 5 hours of sleep per night. Preparing for a half with the short nights I have had so far is not a problem. I am guessing that building up from 40 K's per week will require me to sleep more than I do now.

The last three topics will take me longer to change than the distance. In all, I will take a year to prepare. Assuming that the race I will be doing is at the end of April 2016, I will start serious preparations around that time this year. It goes without saying that I will bore the readers of these ramblings to tears with my preparations. Like the ancient mariner, it will help me in my journey.

Friday, 13 March 2015

New Plans

-= 1600K =-
Having done 1600+ K's in my old VFF's (that is 500 more than I did in my old VFF Speeds some time ago), they became weary old things. With the sole of my little toe worn through - and the rest wearing dangerously thin, I decided to send them off to the eternal running grounds. Two years ago, they were shiny and new (and rather over-sized for the young padawan in the pic to the left). Now, they at least have the memory of having done a (and unfortunately only one) half marathon.

-= KCALS =-
I noticed two extremely open doors, that I will need to beware of during future running plans. Firstly, I will need to keep listening to my body very closely. Any sign of pain, stubborn tiredness or decreased motivation, signals the need for attention.
The second topic is the need for more food than I am currently taking. During the preparations for my The Hague half, I noticed an ever-present hunger. I also noticed the scales indicating a decreased weight - though a still resulting in a very healthy BMI.

In order to steer clear of the obvious ways of gaining weight (my colleagues love buying people all sorts of cake with empty kcals in them), I will be using the weekend to dabble with a Runners World recipe for oatmeal energy bars. That should help me fueling during the daytime and during long runs.

The recipe (source) contains all sorts of usual suspects, such as
* bananas,
* rolled oats,
* chopped walnuts,
* dried cranberries

More on this later.

-= Increasing distance =-
On Wednesday, I did my first run in the pair of blue Bikila's I had bought a considerable time ago. The run was a relaxed 10K recovery run from the half on Sunday. Though it was a cold and misty morning, there was no wind and the avg. 6 min/K pace helped to make the run a good start of the day. The only challenge I faced, was keeping my pace low. This is something I will need to work on, especially with my goal to steadily increase the number of K's I run per week.

Having finished my half marathon plan last week, the distances and types of my runs this week felt strangely arbitrary. I have grown fond of following a plan that allows me to complete my goal of running the K's without having to check the weekly increase in K's. Re-doing the half schedule is not an option, so I decided to look up a plan for doing a whole. It is a 12-week 4 runs per week plan. To take things nice and slow, I will do each of the weeks in the plan twice before moving on to the next week. This should prep me royally for my next run in October (the Amsterdam half).

Who knows... It might lead to running the 42K somewhere in the future.

Monday, 9 March 2015

A run through The Hague

-= CPC =-
On Sunday, 8 March, the City-Pier-City drew approximately 11000 runners to run the 13.1 M in the half marathon race. The race ran through the lovely town of The Hague, going over to the history-filled town with the unpronounceable name of Scheveningen - running along the North Sea - and returned past the miniature version of the Netherlands in Madurodam.

The run in itself was good and my time was what I hoped and expected. Having prepared doing a 12-week half marathon schedule left me a bit anxious, as I had not run the full 13.1 M anywhere this year. Still the distance was not a problem.

What was a problem, though, is the number of people running the half with the limited capacity of the roads that were selected for the course. It was very difficult to maintain your own pace or even get in the flow during the first 5K. Too many people were taking their time warming up, talking to their neighbours and not feeling the need to complete the race before being mopped up by the broom wagon. In order not to step on any heels or toes - and not to make people angry while cutting in front of them - the runner is always slowing down when required and speeding up when an opening between two runners occurs.

The run went well. My calves did not bother me at all - this had been a weak spot during training - and only the blisters on the soles of my feet caused some minor inconvenience. This will be remedied by removing the calluses under my feet before long runs.

Speed10,727 k/hour
5 kilometers: 29:35 (29:35)
10 kilometers: 57:13 (27:38)
15 kilometers: 1:24:46 (27:33)
20 kilometers: 1:52:09 (27:23)

As to pace, there is a consistent negative trend to my splits and that is a positive thing. My official time turned out to be 1:58:00.

-= And now =-
 The next race I will be preparing for, is the Amsterdam half in October. I will not be starting the half marathon schedule afresh. Instead, I will alternate some speedwork during the week and long runs in the weekends. My goal is to slowly increase the number of K's I do per week to somewhere 50 or 60 - hoping that I can manage this.

The main change in the coming week is that I will throw out my grey/yellow Bikila VFF's, as the soles have now seriously worn down. I will be using the pair of spiffy, brand-new pair of grey/blue VFF Bikila's, that I still had unused. The old ones have seen their share of runs and after approximately 1600K's it is time to ship them off to the eternal running grounds.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

The one that looked toughest

-= Tough one =-
Currently, I am in week 12 of my half marathon schedule. The schedule works with a set of three pace-zones. I defined the zones completely arbitrarily at the first time I started using the schedule in 2009. With no clue about paces during longer runs over longer periods of training, I selected - and maintained - the following paces over the last seven years:

Pace zone 1: 6:22 min/k - 6:00 min/k
Pace zone 2: 5:45 min/k - 5:27 min/k
Pace zone 3: 5:15 min/k - 5:00 min/k

Each time I did the HM schedule, I have been slightly apprehensive of training 2 in week 11 (W11 T2). The week before the half, is a 50 minute run in my fastest pace. Because I am very stubborn and foolishly confident to know better than the experts that have devised the system, I have until my previous run never run W11 T2. Because I listen to my body every now and again, I had not done this training as it is meant until last Wednesday night.

After having had the day off from work to be with the young padawan - and consequently had no time to rest in preparation for my run. Still, the run went remarkably well (looking back on it, it felt different during the run). I made all the splits and survived to write about it. The avg pace was 4:54, resulting in my very first 48:58 10k. Needless to say, I am quite pleased with the results.

-= Missed a training =-
This Friday, the young padawan went to his grandparents for the weekend. The Missus and I went to London, where we did all sorts of cool stuff, such as shop for books, visit a museum (this took most of the Saturday), had some nice lunches and our caterer-chef landlady (we picked an EXCELLENT Airbnb) had brought some leftovers from her job earlier on Saturday. On Sunday, we did the Old Hampstead Village walk by David. We love London walks so much, that we almost missed our flight home because of it.

All this London stuff is nice and well, and it needs to be done - believe me, it needs to be done to satisfy our family's appetite for that lovely city - but it does cut into my training schedule. My perfect 3-runs-per-week streak that started in week 52 of last year wats broken on Friday 27 February. Though I feel confident for the half that is just under a week away - and that I have just received the bib for - It feels like having dropped the ball after having thrown it for hours on end.