Tag Archives: The Other 90%

Just another brick in the wall

I need to talk about this graph because it’s troubling me. It is, as they say, problematic. The graph is my pacing from the MK Marathon and you can see where I hit the wall. That’s the metaphorical wall, by the way, and not, as I used to think when I was younger watching Peter Duncan talk about his London Marathon experience on Blue Peter, a real wall. I’ve been trying to work out what happened.

Maybe I didn’t do enough training? Sure I ran more than I’ve ever run before this year but I only did half as much mileage in the last month as I intended to and I didn’t do quite as many long runs as I had planned. I didn’t even run over 3 hours once and maybe I should have done, for mental reasons if not physical. Something paid off though because Half Marathon PB.

Did I go off too fast? I averaged something like 7:45 mins per mile for the first 16 miles – 10-15 seconds quicker than I wanted to be and found it tricky keeping my pace in check. (This was not helped by setting off with the Half Marathon runners). I don’t know if that took too much out of me because I don’t have enough datasets to plot pretty points in a line but I can’t help wondering whether I could have pushed on for longer if I had. Or maybe I need to re-read some of Stuart Mills theories about positive splits.

Course profile
Despite there being only about 180 ft between the lowest part of the course and the highest part, the MK course was deceptively hilly. It’s all those underpasses and those sharp, 15ft decents and ascents that sap the strength from your quads. Sure, from a distance they look flat but when you’re up close, they make their presence felt. Sure they start off feeling like a cute little undulation but after a while, they feel more like K2.

Mental approach
I had a target but I mostly kept it to myself. I was going for 3:30 but when people asked me, I was reluctant to tell them and gave an apologetic caveat – something about being happy with 3:45. Guess even before the race, I’d given myself permission to not have to push hard. Made it easier to accept not being able to hold the pace so I could ease up and still hit a target time. Not the time I wanted but the time I deserved or something. And yes, it was a realistic-ish target. Jack Daniels (not the drink) said so.

I either took too many gels and made myself feel sick or not enough and didn’t have enough energy. Or I got it right. I don’t know – it was the first time I’d run with them. More data needed. Didn’t feel like I lacked in energy though as it was my muscles that hurt. That sick feeling at the end needs to be sorted out though.

In conclusion
I don’t really know what went wrong – it was probably a combination of all those factors or maybe something else entirely. Enough to tweak and practice for the next time. Let’s face it, effectively this was the first marathon I’ve run with intent. I’ve read a lot of the theory but I don’t have the experience to know which bits I need to apply and which to ignore. I’m still pleased with the result – I just know there’s room for improvement.

Winging it

The London Marathon (2014 edition) is now only three days away, or two days and three nights if you prefer pedantry, and I will be at the lining up at the start.

I’d be lying if I said I felt ready for it. Since the Berkhamsted Half, my running has been hit and miss and aside from 15 miles across two runs in one day, I spectacularly failed to manage a long run of any distance at all. Between work and personal life building up, training has fallen by the way side. Mentally my focus has been elsewhere and even as recently as Monday, after an otherwise enjoyable run left me in copious amounts of pain, I was considering deferring until next year.
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Berkhamsted Half Marathon – March 2nd 2014

I’m a bit out of kilter with race reports. As I mentioned in the last post, I have raced a couple of times since last year but have yet to write about them but I’m starting with the most recent because it’s so fresh in my mind. Well, fresh in the same way that a pack of supermarket chicken bought from the discount counter and is a few days past its Best Before date is fresh. But before I talk about that race, I want to share some feelings about a race of sorts I did back in November – of sorts only in that it was a club only race and counted towards the club Off-Road championships but there were numbers and times and places and everything so it counts.

The race, which takes place on the route of the popular Ridgeway Race which our club holds annually, is a trail run through the beautiful National Trust woodland and is just shy of 10 miles long and takes in about 775ft of elevation (according to Strava). I was excited about the event because a) I’d never done it before b) it was my first real challenge after injury and c) I love the course. It’s a handicap race with all runners setting off at different times – slow to fast – with the aim of having everyone finishing at about the same time (although this hasn’t yet happened in the events history to my knowledge). The winner is the first one home, irrespective of the time it took them.

All told, the race went well for me. I set out too fast and paid for it later and still don’t manage ascents that well even though they’re relatively benign compared to anywhere outside the Home Counties. But I pushed myself as hard as I felt comfortable, maintained focus and managed to run my fastest time on that course (even allowing for the fact that, technically, a route change made it 0.1 mile shorter), finishing as I did in 1:18 on the nose (so an average of 8:17 mins/mile). It would have been faster too if not for the extra challenge of getting caught behind a couple of ladies riding horses down a narrow path – this slowed the group of runners I was with down to a walk for a couple of minutes. Perhaps the enforced rest did me good and enabled me to push the last couple of miles a little harder than I would have done otherwise. Any which way, I got a time I was pleased with on a steep and muddy course and, more importantly, I really, really enjoyed the run.

So what does this have to do with last weekends half marathon?
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#C25K Week 5: Brain Training

Week 5: the one that everyone talks about. This is the first of two weeks where each workout is different, gradually ramping up the effort until the w5d3 continuous 20 minute run. For me it was going to be about concentrating on pace. Once again I took to the treadmill for day 1, 3 intervals of 5 minutes with 3 minutes RI. I went back to my planned pace on this and, for the most part, stuck to it. The only time I didn’t was briefly during the last interval when I hopped off the treadmill for a couple of seconds, nominally to catch my breath. I got straight back on and then stepped the pace up as penance – a way of making up for the lapse in focus.

I still struggle with this habit – of giving up and easing off when the end is so very nearly in sight. It’s like my brain screams “No more!” and I have to take a brief respite by hopping off the treadmill or walking during a race. Yes, I will admit again that I have yet to finish any race without walking at some point! Ultras, obviously, are forgivable but even in 5k/10k/HM I’ve stopped and walked. But it seems providence was waiting for me when I got back from the gym as I found a link to a Runner’s World article about “building mental muscle”. The article referenced Tim Noakes’ “Lore of Running” which, coincidentally, I’d been reading the night before.

The article made me reassess my approach to the next two sessions.
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The Other 90%: Of Perception And Exertion

The Other 90%: a reference to the common saying that running is 10% physical and 90% mental.

My foot continues to be a pain, both figuratively and literally, and I have been advised to still not go running for the forseeable future (which, I hope, will be around September). This shattered my dreams that I might possibly have a mutant healing factor like Wolverine but hey ho.

After my last post in May, Karen left a comment about the first long run of the C25K program on Week 5 Day 3. The run in question is a 5 minute walking warm-up (standard for all the C25K sessions) followed by a 20 minute run. I emailed her as I was curious as to what it was particularly about that run that she found challenging. Her response was interesting.
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Lakeland Reflections 2012

I had a dream last night that I was at the start line of the 2013 Lakeland 100 and that I hadn’t trained and wasn’t prepared. I set off anyway and went quite quickly, reasoning that I had nothing to lose and it might be the only time I’d get ahead of Terry Conway. I couldn’t remember the course (an account of being asleep) and then remembered that I hadn’t sorted my PF or ITB issues out and had forgotten my rucksack. I’m honestly surprised I didn’t have one of those “and then I realised I was naked moments too”.

The oddest thing about the dream is that I haven’t entered the race next year. I’m not even doing the 50.

I started writing this post back in August but never got around to posting it, so it’s a bit late. It’s probably for the best as I’ve now got a bit more distance from the race and some more perspective. I’ve moved on from the race – I’ve “done” the Lakeland 100, beaten it, got the medal and the t-shirt and went from a DNF in 2011 to race finisher in 2012 – and I’m focussing on new challenges, new goals. So why write this now? Because I learned a lot about myself and my training and I feel I should share that in case it helps someone else.
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The Other 90%: The Eleventh Hour

The Other 90% is a series of posts referring to the common saying that exercise is 10% physical and 90% mental.

It’s been a while since my last Other 90% post, which prompted Sam to ask “What’s your usual way of dealing with the mental aspect of ultrarunning?”. Sam then went and ran a storming race at the South Downs Way 100, finishing in 2nd place with a time of 17hours and 23 minutes so I think he’s in a far better position to be talking about this than I am. Not only that but I can’t claim to have a “usual” way of dealing with ultrarunning as, while I have some experience with endurance events, I’m relatively inexperienced when it comes to ultramarathons.

Now I find myself with two days to go and I’ve been spending most of the last two weeks with an eye on the goal and what it will take to acheive it. This post is (the last) part of that mental training and may seem a little random but it’s a snapshot of where I’m at right now.
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The Other 90%: Lakeland 100 DNFs

This post marks the first of a new series I’ll be calling The Other 90% in reference to the common saying that exercise is 10% physical and 90% mental.

With the clock ticking away the hours and minutes and there only being five and a half weeks left until the UTLD100, I’ve decided to revisit last years performance and start some mental preparation. After reading my blogpost about what went wrong, I decided to look at the results and my timings. I noticed that the section from Howtown (CP9) to Mardale Head (CP10), where I pulled out, took me 4h17m to complete. The section is a toughie, no doubt about it; at 9.4 miles it’s the second longest section and it’s got the highest ascent with 765m – all on the big climb up Wether Hill. It took me 4 hours and 17 minutes to complete. Ouch!

Out of curiosity, I checked how long it took the 100th place finisher to complete that section (I chose 100th because I arrived at Mardale Head in 101st place). He did it in 3h28m. The chap who I arrived at Dockray with, Philip, completed it in 3h29m, Andy Cole (who I bumped into at Dalemain) did it in 3h35m and Mick Wren completed it in 3h31m. Compared to all these finishers, I took 45-50 minutes longer on the Mardale section. That got me thinking.
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