Tuesday, 13 November 2012

My unexplored back yard

In November in Scotland, the days are short. It's just light now, at 8 a.m and it will start to get dark by 4. A month from now it will a lot worse.

So, on the weekend, you have to get out shortly after lunch if you want to see some daylight. With limited time, it's easier to go nearby, rather than driving someplace.

Our house backs onto a river, and beyond that there are farms and a path that follows the river. Though it is so close, we rarely explore this opposite bank because it's about a 1/2 mile to the bridge over the river.

This weekend, though, I wanted to check it out. With my son, we rode our mountain bikes across the bridge, and then up the path. It became muddy, so we left our bikes among some trees, and continued on foot.

As we crested a hill, you could see rain clouds in the distance. The low November sun gave long shadows, but a rainbow could be seen in the nearby hills.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Late fall

Late fall has a good feel to it. It gets dark early. There are some leaves left, but they are in the minority. It's colder. It feels good to be inside some.

My running is ticking over, and I am starting to think about my plans for next year. At the moment I haven't been terribly focussed - I want to start many things - read several of the books in my bedside stack, build a shed, fly-fish - but just don't have the time. Or, I don't make the time.

I was drawn out to my deck this morning by the colours of the trees. The larch tree was a golden yellow, and a sycamore towards the back of the yard was in the sun.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Edinburgh Marathon - an experiment with run-walk-run

I was closer to the front than I'd expected, and I jogged across the start line of the Edinburgh marathon with the 3-3:30 "white bib" group.

I was wearing a light cap, a singlet, shorts, sox and running shoes. I carried three gels and a half of a chocolate cookie, all together in a small plastic bag. In the morning I'd put on sun-screen, and it was needed. The sun blazed overhead, and the temperature was quickly rising.

Mile 1 was 7:35. My watch went off 5 mins into the mile to indicate that it was time for my first walk break, but the crowd was too dense to start walking. My strategy was to take 30 second walk break every 5 mins, in accordance with Galloway's run-walk-run plan. The idea of sprinkling in the walk breaks is to preserve your pace later in the marathon. This was my first time trying this in a race - and so it was an experiment.

My family were waitin just beyond mile 1 in the park. I waved as I ran past.

Mile 2 was 7:44, but this included my first walk break. When my alarm went, I popped onto the pavement, and walked for 30 seconds. When my alarm beeped again, I started running.

3 was 7:50.

4 was 7:43. I took water. I was warm, and starting to sweat, but not hot.

5 was 7:25.

6 was 7:52. I ate my first gel after the 6 mile marker.

7 was 7:55.

8 was 7:41. I was running comfortably, looking for double-digits soon.

9 was 7:20.

10 was 7:22.

11 was 8:18. This included a pit-stop for a wee at the port-a-loo.

12 was 7:30. Another gel. Now the load in my hand was getting light. I was taking water at every stop now. I'd have a few swallows, then pour some down my back, on my head, and on my arms.

13 was 7:41.

My split of the first half of the marathon was 1:40:48.

14 was 7:31. I was feeling good.

15 was 7:30.

16 was 7:40.

17 was 7:41.

18 was 7:30. Last gel.

19 was 8:14. I was starting to tire afte the turn-around back to the finish. My run segments were getting slower. Not again!

20 was 8:08. Yep, I was bonking.

21 was 8:30. I thought the mile 21 marker would never come. I was craving my walk breaks now.

22 was 8:31. Switching to survival mode. Boston qualifying out the window.

23 was 8:58. I wanted to just walk. I was slowing, and I couldn't keep up with anyone. But just a 5k left.

24 was 9:46. I was really running slowly.

25 was 9:37. They say that it gets bad, but it doesn't get any worse. I was starting to run through the wall. It didn't matter if I ran faster or slow, I was still just as beat. I thought I might as well pick it up a bit.

26 was 9:31. No walk breaks for this mile.

When I rounded the corner toward the finish line, I sprinted, as best I could. I finished in 3:31:16.


So, I failed to run a Boston Qualifying time. But I rather knew this was out the window when I saw the forecast for the day: sunny and hot.

I think the run-walk-run did help, despite my fade. I was still more than 14 minutes faster than my last Edinburgh marathon disaster (where I ran the whole way), and only 1.5 minutes off of my personal best for the marathon.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Marathon training: Yassos

78 days until the Edinburgh Marathon.


Friday, after a full day of teaching, I headed down to the track to do some Yassos (800 meter intervals).

It was a breezy March early evening, and still light out. I felt a touch cold as I started a warm-up mile.

After the mile, I stopped and stretched for a bit. I then started my chronometer on my watch and took off into my first of two hard laps around the track.

Yassos are a form of speed training, named after Bart Yasso. His book, My Life on the Run is an interesting account of the different places he's run throughout the world, and includes some training schedule. The Yasso 800 workout, if I recall correctly, consists of 10 x 800m runs, with a recovery in between each 800. It's said that your average time for the 800m runs, in minutes and seconds, predicts your marathon time in hours and minutes.

My first Yasso came in at 3:02.

I walked for a bit of the next lap, catching my breath, and then began a slow jog. There was one other guy on the track, but he left after a few laps.

When I returned to my start point, I stretched a little, felt my heart settling down, and then took off again.

My seconnd Yasso was 3:04. On this time, if maintained across the 10 repeats, I would be predicted to run a 3:04 marathon. However, I know that I'm not of that standard. My hope, though, is to run a 3:24 time at Edinburgh, to re-qualify for Boston.

After another recovery lap, I ran a 3:03 800. Again another recovery lap, and again another Yasso.

I don't know that I thought about much as I did these. I've been tossing around ideas for a book, and was wondering if something might be done on the psychology of running. However, it's possible that not much research has been done on this, and and also that some of the motivations for running are the same as for any other mass-participation event, and reflect social norms.

My remaining 800s were as follows:

4: 3:05
5: 3:04
6: 3:03
7: 3:01
8: 3:03
9: 3:04
10: 3:06? (my watch memory was full, so this is an estimate)

Interestingly, after my 5th 800, I started to feel pretty good. My heart didn't fully recover during my recovery lap, and I settled into allowing 3:00 for this lap. I wondered if my leg muscles were warm, and thus more effective, even though I'd expended energy on the preceding laps.

This was the first time I'd ever done 10 800s, and I was pleased to get through them, and run them relatively strongly.


Lately, on the train-ride into work in the morning, I've been day-dreaming about a doing a hiking trip on the John Muir Trail. I pore over my maps of California and Yosemite (where the John Muir Trail starts), thinking about the logistics of doing a stretch of the trail. It's on my bucket-list of life ambitions, like the Appalachian Trail, but at some time - and I'm now 46 - you need to start knocking dipping into this bucket.


Saturday, 25 February 2012

The second hour of a long run is the hardest

91 days until the Edinburgh marathon


I jogged down my street, and placed my water bottle and a gel in a tree on the corner. I sometimes wonder whether someone will take it, but so far it has been o.k.

From the corner I began my first "town loop", a 5.4 mile circular route that brings me back to this corner. For the past two weeks I have not been doing my long runs, as I had a hill race one weekend - which took everything out of me, and left my whole body sore for two days - and a longish cross country race the next.

These races are fine for helping with speed, but I now need to focus on building endurance.

My wife had taken the children out for the afternoon, so there were no excuses. My plan was for two town loops, and then a third, shorter loop, to get to 14.6 miles all in.

There was a feel of spring in the air, and some flowers were beginning to come up. I had the wind at my back for the first part of the loop, and then ran against it on the second half.

My first loop came in at 43:35. It didn't feel good - my legs had no spring - and it felt like a lot of effort in the second half. I stopped at the tree, had a drink of water, and grabbed my gel. As I began the second loop, I squeezed the gel into my mouth. It was orange flavour, sweet, and sticky. The gels are experiment for this marathon training programme.

Perhaps it was the gel, or maybe I had shaken off my tiredness, but in the second loop I began to feel better. I looked at my watch, and noted that I'd been running for 58 mins. Just a bit more to get to the second hour.


Today, for whatever reason, I was focussed on this second hour. The next time I looked at my watch it read 1:02. Only 58 more mins to go to get this second hour in the books. I wanted to run strongly in this second hour, and see what I could get out of it. Most of my runs are 40-50 mins, and some are a bit over an hour. I need more time getting to this second hour, and embracing. Eventually, of course, I need to get into the third hour.

I didn't feel bad on the second half of my second loop, and it came in at 43:37. Again I had a swig of water at my tree. I was now at 1:28 in total, and so I was halfway through this second hour. Another short loop, and it should be full.

My hamstrings felt tight, and I was by no means fresh, but I felt o.k. I did my partial loop, and returned to my house at 2:00:16. I was pleased with a reasonable second hour of running. There is of course much more to be done.


Last weekend - instead of running - I hiked to the top of a nearby mountain with my wife and children. From the top, a loch (Loch Katrine) was visible, and the sun caught some of the snow capped mountains to the north.