Monday, 31 March 2008

Half Marathon PB in Switzerland

What a difference a week makes. 5 days after running 31.50 for 10km I was able to string together back to back 10kms at the same speed to win the Rhylauf Half Marathon in a personal best time of 1hr 07min 12 secs. Ok, so my previous half marathon best was pretty poor but its good to have something better than a marathon halfway split as a PB.

Yet again the Swiss put on a terrific event, this time in the Rhine valley town of Oberriet, close to Lichtenstein. A flat 2 lap course with good running surface and an abundance of water stops played host to the Swiss Championships so this seemed like a perfect race to step into in search of a testing run. Starting mid afternoon on the warmest day of the year so far threw in an extra dimension. The hot early pace (2.57 through the km mark) barely dented the lead group and at 5km a group of 10 had gathered. Being a championship race the pace was erratic with surges, counter-surges and brief periods of respite all mixed together. Initially I had my work cut out just staying on the back on the group.

Once things settled down the group was gradually reduced to 5 then 3 as I tried to explain in my rubbish German that I was British and so not in the Swiss Championship race. It was a strange sensation because I felt obliged to keep out of the way and not try and affect the outcome of the race. I know what it is like with guests in my home championship races and they can change the outcome unwittingly. By 15km the Swiss medals seemed to have been decided and I was able to come alongside Patrick Wieser and start racing. Patrick had done the hard work to get rid of his countryman only to find a foreign invader with fresh legs come to the front ! We raced side by side back towards Oberriet for a few kilometres until I was able to pull away in the closing stages to take the win. The Swiss guys seemed happy with how things turned out as they were there for the medals.


1 Marriott Adrian Yeovil 1972 Senioren M35 / 1 1:07:12.2 Diplom
2 Wieser Patrick Aadorf 1979 Männer Hauptklasse / 1 1:07:30.7 Diplom
3 Tschopp Marcel Winterthur 1974 Männer Hauptklasse / 2 1:07:50.1 Diplom
4 Menzi Christoph Forch ZH 1984 Männer Hauptklasse / 3 1:08:21.1 Diplom
5 Ançay Tarcis Ayer VS 1970 Senioren M35 / 2 1:08:30.5 Diplom

In the news:
Swiss Athletics

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Low key win in Easter road race

The chinese have a proverb that says a march of a 1000 miles starts with a single step and running a local 10k road race over easter felt like the single step on the journey towards my next marathon. 2008 has not been great so far so it was a relief to lace up the racers and get back into competition on a cold windy day at the Yeovilton air station.

A small group started steadily and went through 4k in around 13 minutes at which point I decided to pick up the pace up into the wind and opened up a lead. The long back stretch to 8k was almost all into the wind and so it felt good to reel off 5 minute miles in relative comfort and finish in one piece.

The legs feel fine this morning apart from slightly tight calf muscles as a result of wearing skinny racers for the first time in ages. Bigger battles lie ahead so its head down for a month of solid training now.

In the news:
Western Daily Press

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Marathon Taper checklist

3 weeks until London and I should have been settling into my taper routine now. Instead I have to sit on the sidelines and watch my team mates go through the strange sensation that is backing off your training in the last few weeks before a marathon. Those aches and pains that start to emerge when you reduce training rather than increase it. The fatigue that really kicks in with 2 weeks to go and then race week when you are like a caged lion, prowling round the house ready to go and agonising over whether you are losing fitness with every extra day you taper !

So why do we do it ? The months of hard training for a marathon leave us with microscopic damage in our muscles. Small tears which take more than a few easy days to repair. And while racing with this level of damage might not compromise a 10k it bites you in the later stages of the marathon. So 3 weeks of reduced training allows you body to repair itself.

This principle also applies to getting the full effect of your training too. Remember, training breaks the body down, recovery is what actually makes you fitter. And generally it takes 10 days to 2 weeks to get the full benefit of a training session so hammering a set of intervals in the last week before a big race is only going to tire you out, not make you fitter !

And finally after all the hard training the body will be depleted of carbohydrates and probably a little bit dehydrated too. So easing back allows you to re-stock the stores. You can even measure this by seeing a small increase in your weight during race week. I usually add a couple of pounds as my muscles load up with carbs and water. Thats a good sign !

Tapering principles:

  1. 3 weeks out run 75% of your usual volume
  2. 2 weeks out run 50%
  3. race week run 25%
  4. maintain the quality of your running as you reduce the volume
  5. decide what pace you are going to run at in the race
  6. rehearse your race pace - short repeats of say 1km are good for getting used to the rythmn
  7. eat/drink as normal, the decreased training will mean you are topping up your carb stores
  8. practice drinking on the run and if you are going to use the official sports drink then buy some and practice with that as well. The same goes for energy bars
  9. focus on hydrating on thr/fri of race week. (guzzling gallons of water on saturday night will just make you feel bloated)
  10. practice your race day routine at least once (wake up time, eating race day breakfast, warm up, running at 9.45 wearing race day kit and plasters/vaseline to stop chaffing)
A couple of things to think about for race day:
  1. What is your transport route from where you are staying to the start ? What is plan B and plan C ? Write them down on a piece of paper - tube/train/bus routes and times. Then its all there is you need it.
  2. What is your race day routine ? You have practiced it once during the taper so write it out on paper with timings and follow it. Its one less thing to worry about. The elites do it so why not you ?
  3. The warm up needs to be kept to a minimum to conserve energy. Unless you are on the elite start the first few km will be slow anyway as you get going.
  4. Race pace. A faster second half is the way to go. Too many runners get anxious about hitting precise splits early on. Often this means they start too fast or they try to 'make up time' between Cutty Sark and halfway. Relax into the race, enjoy the sights and spectators early on and find a nice rythmn - its a marathon ! This is as true for a 2.15 runner as a 4.15 runner.
  5. At half way the chances are you will feel good ! Coming off Tower Bridge the crowds are awesome and the downhill gives a nice momentum. Its easy to run the next few miles too fast. So use Tower Bridge as a signal to relax and hold yourself back. Save the speed for coming past the Tower at 22 miles. Thats when it counts.
And a final word on the taper. It is weird, it feels unnatural, all your senses tell you to keep training, do more. You have to really discipline yourself to focus on easing right off, feeling twitchy and adding a few pounds of fuel. Get this right and you are all set to achieve your goals on race day. Good Luck !

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

5 weeks to London - what to do now ?

Last week I had coffee with one of my team mates who is aiming to break 2.40 for the first time and we talked about his plan for the last hard block of training. While we made a complete plan at the start of his build up we were able to review his progress after 7 weeks and make a couple of small adjustments for the next couple of weeks which should benefit him come race day.

So what do you need to do before now and the taper which starts after the easter weekend ? Clearly it depends on how your training has gone and your race plans so here are some things to think about.

If you are doing a half marathon this weekend then make sure you have a strategy for the race. Are you going into the race tired and running it at target marathon pace ? Or are you having a couple of easy days before hand and really going for it ? There is no ‘right’ answer to these questions. Just keep in mind that you are tired from the marathon training and running a big PB is probably unrealistic. So just be honest with yourself about your goal for the half marathon and stick to the plan. Remember that 13th April is what really matters !

After the half you need to make sure that you have a couple of very easy afterwards to recover. Your glycogen levels will be low and your immune system vulnerable so eat well, drink plenty of fluids and grab some extra sleep. You will then be in great shape to put in your last long run over the easter weekend.

If you are not racing and feeling that you would benefit from some extra stamina in this last period of hard training then you can sensibly do a long run this weekend and next paying special attention to refuel in that vital first hour after the end of your long run.

On the other hand if you are confident in your stamina because you have done the long runs and a good overall volume of training then you can use these last two weeks to stretch the length of runs you are doing at marathon pace. The key here is extending the distance at MP. The temptation to run faster than marathon pace is powerful and you need to resist. If you are feeling good then just go further at marathon speed. Remember that the marathon is a game of fuel efficiency rather than speed !

Good luck with these two weeks and at easter I will post some thoughts on the taper and a race week checklist.

Marathon plans on hold

The marathon is a tough mistress at the best of times as anyone who has prepared for one can testify. The last couple of months preparation has been far from ideal with disrupted training in Kenya in January then some illness in January causing me to re-evaluate my goals for a spring marathon race. As recently as a couple of weeks ago I was still confident of being in shape to run a PB but another bit of ill health kept me away from Silverstone at the weekend and has been the final nail in the coffin so I’ve decided to abandon plans for a spring marathon this year.

Not surprisingly I’m very frustrated not to be able to build on my 2.18 last autumn but the marathon is such a big undertaking that racing it when less than fully prepared is asking for trouble. Ultimately I wasn’t prepared to sacrifice the couple of months recovery time just to perform at the same level I have before. After thinking about it long and hard I would rather get myself fully healthy and have a good summer racing season before making another step forward in the autumn.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Toronto Waterfront Marathon awarded IAAF Silver Label

So i've got some bias on this one having run my marathon PB in Toronto last autumn but it was great to see this race get the recognition for its arrival in the big time with the IAAF Silver Label status

For brits looking for a autumn marathon this is a good option on 28th Sept 2008. Toronto is a fantastic destination, getting and staying there is very cost effective (check out the website for packages with Canadian Affair or organise your own transport) and the race is well organised.