Monday, 27 December 2010

A cold run in the English countryside

112 days until the Boston Marathon.


The day after Christmas, a holiday called "Boxing Day" in Britain, dawned bitterly cold.

I didn't particularly want to get out of bed and go for a run, but we were staying at wife's parents' house in southern England, and I wanted to fit in my runs when they'd be least disruptive.

I donned my hat, two long-sleeve shirts, two pairs of lightweight gloves, boxers, running trousers, wool sox, and my running shoes. I put them on the radiator a bit before putting them on, so they were warm.

Outside, the air was dry and cold. There was still about six inches of snow on the ground from a snow-fall earlier in the week. The thermometer on the shed read -14 degrees Celcius (6.8 degrees Fareheit).

My wife's parents' house is at the end of a small village, near farms and pastures. I trotted down the road, and turned onto a public footpath that lead through the fields.

The snow underfoot was somewhat packed by previous walkers, and the path led through a corridor of trees between two fields. I saw a white-tail deer ahead on the trail, and it ambled off as I drew closer. I could see that it had been the remains of apples from a nearby tree.

The path then led along the edge of a field. The sun was rising slowly, but it didn't give off any warmth.

The path led to a small village. I emerged onto a road, and across it was a former schoolhouse, with a stone that read "Primitive Methodist School 1854". There were a few gravestones in the yard, and the former schoolhouse now seemed to be someone's home.

I headed down the road. My finger tips were getting numb, so I tucked my hands into my underarms.

The road descended a bit, and after a traffic-free mile or so through the countryside, I turned and headed back.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Training for the Boston Marathon

124 days until the Boston Marathon


I started training this week.

I'm following the New York City Official Marathon Program, which worked well for me in the Loch Ness Marathon, and which I think I also followed when I did the New York Marathon 12 years ago.

For those of you who might be interested, this is what it looks like (sorry, the formatting is a bit of a mess):

.............................................Mon Tues Weds Thur Fri Sat Sun
Week 1 Dec. 13 - Dec. 19..6 mi. Rest 5 mi. 5 mi. Rest 13 mi. 3 mi.
Week 2 Dec. 20 - Dec. 26..Rest 5 mi. 4 mi. 5 mi. 3 mi. 13 mi. 3 mi.
Week 3 Dec. 27 - Jan. 2...Rest 5 mi. 5 mi. 4 mi. 4 mi. 15 mi. 3 mi.
Week 4 Jan. 3 - Jan. 9....Rest 5 mi. 6 mi. 5 mi. 4 mi. 13 mi. 5 mi.
Week 5 Jan. 10 - Jan. 16..5 mi.5 mi. 6 mi. 5 mi. Rest 15 mi. 4 mi.
Week 6 Jan. 17 - Jan. 23..6 mi.6 mi. 6 mi. 6 mi. Rest 13 mi. 6 mi.
Week 7 Jan. 24 - Jan. 30..Rest 6 mi. 6 mi. 6 mi. 6 mi. 18 mi. 5 mi.
Week 8 Jan. 31 - Feb. 6...6 mi.6 mi. 6 mi. 6 mi. Rest 15 mi. 4 mi.
Week 9 Feb. 7 - Feb. 13...Rest 6 mi. 6 mi. 8 mi. 5 mi. 20 mi. 5 mi.
Week 10 Feb. 14 - Feb. 20.Rest 6 mi. 6 mi. 8 mi. 6 mi. 15 mi. 5 mi.
Week 11 Feb. 21 - Feb. 27.Rest 6 mi. 6 mi. 8 mi. 6 mi. 20 mi. 4 mi.
Week 12 Feb. 28 - Mar. 6.Rest 6 mi. 6 mi. 8 mi. 6 mi. 13 mi. 6 mi.
Week 13 Mar. 7. - Mar. 13..Rest 6 mi. 6 mi. 8 mi. 4 mi. 22 mi. 4 mi.
Week 14 Mar. 14 - Mar. 20.Rest 6 mi. 6 mi. 8 mi. 6 mi. 15 mi. 4 mi.
Week 15 Mar. 21 - Mar. 27.Rest 5 mi. 6 mi. 5 mi. Rest 22 mi. 4 mi.
Week 16 Mar. 28 - Apr. 3.Rest 5 mi. 5 mi. 6 mi. 5 mi. 15 mi. 4 mi.
Week 17 Apr. 4. - Apr. 10.Rest 5 mi. 5 mi. 4 mi. 4 mi. 8 mi. 4 mi.
Week 18 Apr. 11 - Apr. 17.Rest 4 mi. 4 mi. 3 mi. Rest 3 mi. 26.2 mi.

So, it's 18 weeks all told. I use the RunWell tool in the New York Times to log my runs, and also to edit this schedule. I'll often move around runs, and sometimes I run on rest days, and sometimes, of course, I miss runs. Often, I do my long run on Sunday instead of Saturday.

What I like about the plan is the consistency. You get out 6 consecutive days on most weeks. For me, this seems to be key in preparing for the weekend long runs - I feel stronger if I've been out 5 times during the week.

Something I read in one of George Sheehan's books (How to feel great 24 hours a day) also informs my training. He argued that when you train, you are really training your legs. Your heart, of course, also gets stronger, but really only up until a point; the key is your other muscles - and by that I'm assuming leg muscles.

So, I'm just trying to strengthen my legs, and there's nothing for it but running lots.


My first workout was a Yasso session on the track. The snow is still on the ground here, but someone had semi-plowed the track where I work. There were still a few inches of snow on it, but the snow was packed fairly hard.

It was a clear, cold night. Probably in the low 20s F (-5 or so C). The moon, and Mars, were bright. No one else was out. I wore two long-sleeve shirts, running trousers, socks, my Sauconys, a warm hat, and two pairs of gloves.

I did a mile warm up, and then Yassos: 7 x 800 meters, with a 400 meter recovery walk/jog between each interval.

My 800m times were as follows:


I was feeling tired at the end, so I think if I'd done 10 800s, my times would have slowed for the remaining 3.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Trying to stay motivated to run

134 days until the Boston Marathon.


I fell off the wagon, motivation-wise, this past week.

Surprisingly, this is rarely occurs. Somehow, I'm almost alway up for a run. OK, we had heavy snow this week, and I did a lot of shovelling, but I struggled to get out for runs.

This was my week:

Mon: no running
Tues: no running
Weds: no running
Thurs: 5.4 miles - town loop (53 mins)
Fri: x-country skiing
Sat: 8 hilly miles (1:23)
Sun: 8 hilly miles, some walking in deep snow. (2 hrs)

Because of the snow, the running was a lot harder and slower. But the troubling thing was that I didn't really want to do it. It was dark out, cold, and snowy. Somehow this wasn't inviting.

My hope is that once things get back to normal next week - my children had five consecutive snow days last week - I can get back into a routine. I really should start training for the marathon in the next week or so.

The bottom line may be that I need a goal. Previously, I had a concrete one: running a sub 3:30 to qualify for Boston. Now I'm in. What's next? The obvious goal would be a personal best at the marathon, and I think that's what I might shoot for. Maybe a 3:20? I'm not sure - I don't want to set myself up for a bad race by going out too hard - particularly as Boston doesn't sound like it's that easy a course.