Sunday, 28 December 2014

December light

Christmas arrived all at once. My children had school through Tuesday, and that evening the in-laws arrived. The next day included a final trip to the grocery store and preparation for Christmas lunch the next day.

Activity-wise, my week has been as follows:

Mon.: no running
Tues.: swim 1600m
Weds.: 5 miles first thing in the morning (in the dark!) with two friends
Thurs. (X-mas): 4 easy miles around the loch in the evening, to get some fresh air after cooking and eating all day
Fri.: 8 mile trail race.
Sat.: no running
Sun.: 6.2 miles cross-country with a friend on a frosty morning

My knee was sore after last Sunday's run in the woods, so I was beginning to feel that I'd done too much last week (22 miles). Wednesday's and Thursday's runs were fine, though there was a little soreness. There's an annual handicap trail race nearby the next day (Boxing day -the day after Christmas), and I was keen to do it. It consists of two laps through the woods with some stiff hills. During the first lap, I thought I might be forced to pull out, as the knee was hurting, despite wearing a knee band. On the second lap, I picked it up, and perhaps because I was warm, the pain dissipated.


Walking to the store yesterday I was struck by the late December light on the sycamore trees that line our street.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

The shortest day of the year

Yesterday, as I walked home from the grocery store with my 9 year old son, the sun was setting. It was 3:30 in the afternoon! Just after 4:00 I took this photo from my back door. (It was actually darker than the photo suggests - I had a 2 second exposure.)

My running is picking up. I self-diagnosed "runners knee" (as I know it wasn't illiotibial band syndrome, a pain I know well), and backed off the running considerably. Last week I ran three miles in total, and took five consecutive days off of running. Perhaps the latter doesn't sound like much, but my habit is to never go two consecutive days without running.

I was trying to listen to my body. Every time I ran, my knee hurt. There's a simple solution to this, and eventually I acknowledged it.

But this week has been better:

Monday: 2 easy miles on the track, to test the knee. It was fine. Light upper-body weights after.
Tuesday: 5 easy miles with the running club. I cut off early as I didn't want to ramp up the miles too quickly.
Wednesday: nothing
Thursday: swim 1400 meters
Friday: 5 miles on the track, some slightly faster; light upper-body weights after
Saturday: 4 miles (3.1 of which were a parkrun race); knee fine
Sunday (today): planned 6-miler on trails


Today is the shortest day of the year. How can I make it count?

Sunday, 7 December 2014

December running

I've been nursing my right knee a bit over the past two weeks. I think I overdid it on a 10-mile run the week before last. It was hilly, on road, and I was tired. I thought I could push through - and I did - but since then my right knee has been stiff and swollen after runs or even after sitting in my office. I had a few knee twinges before this 10-miler, so I'm a little uncertain about the cause.

All this said, my consistency and fitness are coming back.

To that end, I was keen to get a few easy miles in on Saturday morning. A run through the soft ground of the woods beckoned.

The light was low, and the day was short.

In the woods there was the sound of the winds on the bare trees, the branches rubbings against one another, and the skittering of leaves under foot. I took it easy, but on flat stretches picked up the pace a bit. I did 16 minutes out, and 15 back.

I could feel my knee, but it was bearable. I'm not sure if activity or rest is the best bet now for it, but I really don't want to rest.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Running without a clear goal

Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth. Henry David Thoreau, Walden

The sun is lower in the sky here in Scotland, and the shadows are long. The temperatures have been mixed; we've had some cold nights, but during the day it has usually been mild.

November can be a slightly bleak month, but the light can also be wonderful. It seems like a time to take stock of the year, and plan for the next year.

Running-wise, I'm trying to get back to consistency. I'd like to be around 30 miles a week, with at least one swim in addition.

As the year winds down, I've started thinking of goals for next year.

I could do another marathon. I will do some hill races.

At the moment, the only clear goals are:

1) To break 1:30 in the half marathon.

2) To do the Isle of Jura hill race.

These could be enough, but I rather miss the structure of a marathon training cycle to get through the winter months. Also, the miles I put in for marathon training pay dividends for everything else. I'll do a half in March, so that could be a sufficient goal.


After some disruption from travelling, I am trying to get back to normal sleeping. The long dark nights are helping.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Running on Cape Cod

I'm in the U.S. for a few weeks this summer, combining a holiday with some teaching on a summer course at Woods Hole. This is a small, bustling town on the ocean, with ferry service to Martha's Vineyard.

My running in the past week has been sporadic, as I was visiting family in Cleveland and recovering from jet lag. Now, with two weeks in the Cape, I'm hoping to get back to more structure.

This morning I was up at 6, before any other members of the family. I wanted to squeeze in a 10-miler along the bike path from Woods Hole to the larger town Falmouth.

After coffee, toast, Facebook, and the New York Times, I dressed and headed out. I headed a bit up the road on which the Falmouth Road Race takes place, and then up onto the bike path. This path leads from Woods Hole to Falmouth (and perhaps more).

There were a surprising number of runners out! Young, older, and some very old. Lots of people were on bikes, too.

I followed the bike path through the woods, past salt marshes, and emerged at the beach. It was overcast, and there was a breeze. Parts of the beach were closed off for nesting birds.

The path took me into Falmouth, and here I peeled off to do a loop through town. I ran past the town green, and the many shops on the main street. I headed towards the beach, past trim, wood shingled houses.

It felt very much like summer in New England. I thought about how enjoyable it would be to relax with a thick Stephen King novel, or listen to the Red Sox on the radio in the evening.

As I headed back, the breeze gave me a boost, and my pace picked up.

And when I got back home, everyone was still in bed!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Swim, bike, run

This was my second sprint triathlon, and third triathlon overall.

I racked my bike early, and was impressed by the bikes of the other triathletes. My bike isn't anything special (aluminum frame, carbon forks), as I didn't want to spend a ton of money on a bike that would mostly hang in the garage.

I had a cup of coffee, and a bit of a pastry while waiting for the race to start. The swim was run in heats, so I watched the first swimmers. I checked out the transition areas to see where I'd be entering and leaving.

My heat assembled. There were five of us in my lane, and we did two lengths to warm up. The race started. I was second in line. Someone tapped my foot to signal that they wished to pass within a few lengths, and then we settled into our positions for the remaining laps.

In my first race, I'd gone out too fast, and was out of breath for much of the swim. This time, I relaxed, and tried to focus on taking big strokes. I'd been keeping up my swimming even while training for the London marathon this past winter, and had upped my training a bit in the six weeks betweem the marathon and this triathlon.

I finished in 16:37. This was one minute faster than my previous sprint.

The bike was fine. I tried to get up to speed right out of the start, and then settle into a steady pace. I was passed by some, and ultimately passed others. All in, the 20k bike took 45:39.

I had a good transition for the run (38 s.), and was off. The run was two laps, with a steepish hill at the start. It was sunny and warm. I passed more people here than passed me, and finished the 5k in 23:02.

All in, I was 1:27:56. This put me in the bottom half of the field, but I enjoyed the event.

And now my bike is back hanging in the garage.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

After the marathon - what next?

Since the London Marathon, I've been lacking a goal.

For the marathon I'd followed a relatively strict schedule, the Pfitzinger 55 mile plan, for four months. On the day, maybe because it was warm, maybe because I'd gone too hard in a 10k the weekend before, I didn't run as I felt that I could. That said, my fade at the end of the marathon probably only cost me about 5 minutes all in.

But I was disappointed. So, in the immediate aftermath of the race, it was tempting to just sign up for a fall marathon - like Loch Ness - and start a new training cycle.

But fall's a long way off. I am away a lot this summer with various teaching and family things, so my training might be difficult to fit in. But that's just and excuse: my real problem is that I could dedicate myself to marathon training for five more months, and maybe cut off five minutes from my London time, but so what?


Prior to the marathon I'd signed up for a nearby sprint triathlon. So, this has been my proximal focus.

My problem with triathlon isn't running (obviously), and not swimming (which I enjoy as a complement to running). It's biking.

And I like biking. I just don't have a social structure that reinforces it. I ride on my own, and it is fine. On warm spring evenings after work, with the light on the trees, it's actually fairly good. I like poking around on roads that I haven't explored, out in the countryside.

But I haven't quite committed to cycling. I dabble. And I think I need to do more if I'm going to do more in triathlon.


So this was my week:

Mon: swim 1500m
Tues: run 4 miles in evening
Weds: bike 47 mins on turbo trainer (wife out for the evening)
Thurs: swim 1100m, 750 of which were hard to get an indicative time for the race
Fri: bike 15 miles + run 3.5 miles after
Sat: run 5 miles (3.1 of which were an all out - PB! - parkrun)
Sun: run 9 miles

I wanted to get another ride in on Sunday, but was out all afternoon. Maybe I'll try to ride tomorrow.

Monday, 21 April 2014

The London Marathon

I drove down to London on the Friday before the race with my wife and two children. The British motorways are often congested, and on this Friday they were particularly slow. Once a wreck happens, the traffic can back up for miles, and because of earlier accidents, there were numerous delays. We got off the motorway twice to avoid the worst of these, a strategy that was partially successful. In the end, a 7 hour drive took over 10 hours.

We arrived in Barnes, a suburb of London, and stayed with my wife's brother and his wife. Barnes is leafy, pleasant place, and the next day we could see that the trees were in full bloom.

We took the tube to the convention centre to pick up my number.

The marathon expo was well organised, and I picked up my number without having to wait. We then passed through some artificial mist to enter the merchandise area. There was a graffiti wall where people could leave messages, and my children enjoyed leaving a message for dad. The marathon labelled stuff was slightly pricey, but I bought some tights for next winter. I also picked up a powerbar for the race.


The next morning I took an early bus, a crowded Tube train, and an overland train to the start. Runners streamed towards Greenwich park, and I settled in with a cup of coffee and a cinnamon danish. I'd eaten a bowl of cereal before I left Barnes, but I was still peckish.

I lined up between the 3:15 and the 3:30 crowd, and sat on the curb. The sun was bright, and I wore a cap and sunglasses. I could feel the heat of the sun as I waited.

Nearing start time, I stood and we were led towards the start area. Runners broke into a jog, we crossed the start line, and we were off.

Ahead, there was a sea of runners. I tried to stay near the three blue lines on the road, as these indicated the shortest route.

The first half was uneventful. My legs felt a little heavy in the early miles, but I thought that this would pass. My plan was to run 7:38 miles for the first 17 miles, and then 8:08 for the remainder. This plan took into account my likely slowing in the second half of the race. The crowds of runners were thick, but after the first mile I was able to run my pace. We passed Cutty Sark, where the crowds were huge. I ran into a friend at mile 9, and we chatted for a bit before I pulled ahead. I took a pee break at mile 13. Overall, I felt good.

I saw my family just past mile 13. The route entered the Isle of Dogs, and I was looking forward to getting to 20. Once there, I thought, I could try to shave some time off of the 8:08 mile pace I'd planned.


I'm not quite sure how things went wrong.

I was taking water or sports drink regularly, but just sips. I also ate my miniature dougnuts and brownie that I'd brought as fuel, and later started in on my vanilla PowerBar.

In mile 21 I started to flag. By mile 22 I stopped looking at my Garmin - it was too depressing. I was slowing.

The crowds, meanwhile were terrific. I was starting to withdraw into my own world however.

At 23 or 24 I made a deal with myself. Every time I reached a mile marker, I would be allowed to walk for 30 seconds. I needed to eek out my last reserves of energy. At 24, I tried to just focus on the feet of the runner in front of me.

In miles 25 and 26, my breathing was rapid and shallow. My left iliotibial band was starting to hurt, and my stomach felt cramped. I was moving, but most runners were passing me.

At the 800 meters remaining sign, I kept running. I could not increase my pace. It seemed like a long time until the 600 meter sign.

Then I made the turn past Buckingham palace, saw the finish, and sprinted towards it. On crossing it, I immediately leaned on a fence to get my breath back. One of the marshals urged me on. My time was 3:34:57.


I gathered my back from the baggage lorry, and sat under a tree. I sipped a coke that I'd brought, but it was too sweet. I tried to put on my running trousers, but when I stretched out my leg my calf locked into a vice-like cramp. I got to my feet, and eventually to the trousers out. Then, I headed out of the park, and met my family near the Thames.


On the positive side, I'd finished, and the crowds had been terrific. I'd been looking for a 3:24, and felt that I had the preparation to run that. So, my dramatic slowing in the last miles was discouraging - but this analysis can wait until another blog entry.

Monday, 7 April 2014

The week before the marathon...

6 days until the London Marathon.


Yesterday I ran the Grangemouth Round the Houses 10k.

I was hoping for a personal best at the distance. I achieved this last year in this race (after 10 years of not
beating my P.B. in other 10K races).

This year, because of my training for London, I had more miles in my legs.

But I was also one year older. Doubtless this doesn't matter too much in your 20s and 30s, but now I'm 48. I don't feel slower,
but the miles are perhaps a touch harder.


I set off fast. There was a strong wind at the back of the 700 some runners. Mile 1 was 6:28.

I turned the corner and headed into mile two. The route was comprised of a loop through the town of Grangemouth, and ended
on the track in the stadium.

Mile 2 was 6:41.

In mile 3 we turned into the wind. I was running hard, and just focusing on the road. I passed a runner who really breathing hard - had he set out at a pace that he couldn't sustain? 3 was 6:57.

In mile 4, D., a friend from the running club caught up. He's much faster than me, but offered to block the wind a bit as he was having an easy run before the marathon (which he is also doing). I was flagging a bit, and just watching his feet helped. I certainly would have slowed without him, and so I just stuck with him and counted down the kilometer signs. 4 was 6:54.

We made the turn back towards the start, and the wind pushed us along. Mile 5 was 6:34.

The final mile turned back into the wind before entering the stadium. D. surged on, and I just kept moving. At the back of the stadium, a runner was walking. He must have really went out hard to get this far in this quick, and then, with just 200 meters left, slow to a walk. Mile 6 was 6:55.

I entered the stadium and sprinted to the finish.


After the finish, I was slightly disappointed. I'd run as hard as I could, with a pacer even, and had missed my personal best by 1 second. However, when I got home I checked the results and found that I had indeed ran a P.B. - 41:30 - beating my previous time by 3 second.

At a stroke, I went from feeling slightly washed up, to still vibrant.


Last week was as follows:

Mon: swim 1250 meters
Tues: run 6.4 miles
Weds: run 8 miles with 3 x 1600 hard
Thurs: rest
Fri: run 1.8 miles on treadmill; upper body lifting
Sat: rest
Sun: run 6.2 mile race, with 1 mile warm up and 1 mile warm down.

Sunday, 30 March 2014


14 days until the London Marathon. This week I ran for 4:25 this week. (But this was a bit of recovery from last week, where I ran for 7:31).


Last week was a heavy one on the Pfitzinger schedule, and it culminated in a 25.5 mile run along the coast. I didn't intend to go quite so far, but my route took me to Edinburgh, and once in town, it made sense to just continue running until I reached the train station. Though I took it slow, and stopped to take photos of my route (as seen above), my last mile was 7:40 something. So, I could do 25 miles, and I still had something in the tank. This was a big confidence builder.


This week was as follows:

Mon.: rest
Tues.: swim 1600m
Weds.: run 8 miles, with 5 x 800 m intervals on the track
Thurs.: run 6 miles, with 2.5 miles club handicap race
Fri.: run 1.2 miles before lifting for 20 mins (core; upper body)
Sat.: rest (including 3 mile walk in woods with son and friend)
Sun.: run 16.5 miles


So, this is it. The last long run is done, and I am now tapering. I will do a 10k race next weekend. I probably wouldn't schedule this, but it's a local race that I like.

This training cycle has been good. For a long time I felt like I was struggling, and that the miles were all hard. But, regardless of how I perceived it, the fitness has come. One factor here perhaps is consistency: I've done 4-5 runs a week, including a long run, every week since probably mid-December. I'm hoping that the volume of training will push back the wall on race day.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

A half-marathon on my way to the full marathon

23 days until the London Marathon. I ran for 5:33 this week.


I had to pee with 10 minutes to go to the start of the Alloa half marathon.

I made my way through the crowd, back to the recreation centre that served as the headquarters for the race, and took care of business.

By the time I returned to the starting line, it was jammed with over 1500 runners. I tried to weave my way as far forward as possible, but eventually came to a standstill.

The gun went, and we started a slow jog to the start line.


Mile 1 was flat, and came in at 6:47. This was fast, and I wanted to dial it back a bit. My ambition was to break 1:30, which would be a personal best. I had the miles in my legs, but did I have the speed?

My timing chip came loose in mile 2. One of the plastic ties was undone, and the other was loose. There was nothing for it but to pull off onto the sidewalk and fix it. I tried to tighten the tie, but it didn't seem to bite. Then I tucked the chip into my shoelaces. Runners streamed past. Eventually I just started to run, and almost immediately the chip came out of the shoelaces. It flopped against my shoe with the one remaining tie. I thought I'd just keep an eye on it until it fell off, and then carry it the rest of the race. Mile 2, with the stop, was 7:46.

3 had a slight climb, and was 7:05.

4 had some descent, and was 6:51.

5, with a real descent, was 6:33. Though I was in shorts and a vest, when the sun was out I warmed quickly and sweated.

The middle miles of the race were into the teeth of a strong wind. For 6 and 7 I stuck with a guy who was picking people off, and they came in at 7:01 and 6:56, respectively. The guy pulled ahead a bit, and for 8 and 9 I faced the wind on my own mostly. These came in at 7:11 and 7:04.

Mile 10 came out of the wind, but featured a good climb. It came in at 7:15.

The end was nearing, and I caught G., a friend from the running club.

11 was 7:19, again with some climbing.

I knew that the rest of the race was largely downhill, and so I tried to pick up the pace.

12 was 6:52.

13 was 6:39!

In the final turn, I kicked, and caught another runner just before the finish line. And then I was done. 1:31:33 all in.


It wasn't a p.b., but I thought I'd run well, considering the wind and my stopping for my chip. My finishing time was only about 45 seconds off my p.b., and I'd finished strong.

Monday, 10 March 2014


33 days until the London Marathon. I ran for 6:48 this week.


The goal of this week's long run was to A) get in 20 miles or more, and B) spare my legs as much as possible for the half marathon race I'm doing next week.

How to do this?

5 mins running, 30 seconds walking. And repeat.

The purist may scoff. However, I wanted to administer that 20-mile+ stimulus to my legs, and to experience being on my feet for 3+ hours. But I wanted to recover quickly. I've tried the run-walk-run strategy on long runs in previous training cycles, and found that the strategy allows you to extend your miles, and to do so without the debilitating exhaustion that often accompanies big miles (at least for me). Also, surprisingly, it does not slow my pace dramatically .

I ran with my birthday present on - a Garmin from my wife. It provides distance and mile splits, and also heart rate. I don't know if this is a factor in keeping the fatigue at bay, but my heart rate dipped every five minutes. My suspicion, however, is that run-walk-run primarily lets your legs recover a touch, and thereby extends the distance you can travel without exhaustion.

And today, the day after my 21 miler, I feel good.


This was my week:

Mon: swim 1350m
Tues: run 7 miles
Weds: run 9 miles (with 5 x 1000m fast)
Thurs: weights ~ 20 mins.
Fri: run 11 miles
Sat: rest
Sun: 21 miles

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Starting to feel fitter

40 days until the London Marathon. I ran for 6:37 this week.


This week I turned one year older, and to mark this my wife and children gave me a Garmin.

I tried it out on my 17-mile long run with G., a friend from my local running club.

My legs felt tired at the start, and G. set a good pace. Eventually, I started to warm up, and the miles ticked by on the Garmin. My heart rate seemed to settle in at 153 or so. I felt a bit of a fade at 9, but whether it was because of the gel I'd taken at mile 6, or the Snickers at mile 12, or the mid-week medium length run, I felt not too bad at the end.

So this was my training week:

Mon: run 1 mile on treadmill, upper body weights
Tues: run 4 miles with some 200 m intervals at end (up and down my street while I waited for my son to come home)
Weds: run 12 miles (at 7 a.m.)
Thurs: swim 1100 m; run 5 miles (including 2.5 mile club handicap race)
Fri: nothing
Sat: run 6.5 miles
Sun: run 17 miles


Earlier in the week, the clouds and incessant rain broke for a bit, and we had clear skies. From my driveway, the stars were bright.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

A 20-miler

48 days until the London Marathon. I ran for 6:49 this week.


The 20-miler is a milestone in each training cycle. Once you reach 20, you are getting close to the end. For me, in this cycle, distances of 14 miles and beyond have been hard work. I've done these runs, but each has been a struggle. Is it my age?

In any event, I headed out this morning for my second attempt at a 20 mile run in this training cycle. My first attempt two weeks ago was a failure. This week, I'd trained with the thought of getting this long run done. I did 9 on Tuesday, 13 on Thursday, and a recovery 5 on Saturday. Lots of rest, some mid-week distance - I was all set.


I met S., a friend from the running club, at 9 a.m. It had been another stormy night, and the wind was still up, but at least it wasn't pouring yet.

I'd run a mile to reach our meeting place, and then together we started a 9 mile loop through the countryside and town. It was a hilly route, but because it was varied it seemed to pass quickly. S. is training for an Ironman, so I was interested in all the work he was doing. By comparison, a marathon seems small beer. I felt a little wave of tiredness at the end of the loop, but focussed on the Snickers bar I had stashed at the loop's start.

The plan was to run two of these 9-mile laps, and the first lap passed as we chatted. The wind was stronger now, and it was spitting out. S. was strong on the second loop, and I felt good as well at its start. We descended into town, and S. seemed to pick up the pace slightly - or I seemed to fade a bit. At 2 hours we'd done a bit more the 15 miles. As we ran through the woods nearing the end of the second loop, my legs were heavy, and I could not keep up with S. He was only a few meters ahead, and probably slowing so the gap wouldn't grow, but I couldn't close it. Now, the wind was howling, and seemed intent on keeping us from finishing the last meters of the loop.

But we finished it. I finished my Snickers, and we sheltered behind a tree as the heavens opened. Luckily, we each only had a downhill mile to do, though in different directions.

On my own, I jogged down the path back to town. Driven by the wind, the rain stung. My running trousers stuck to my legs. The water ran down them into my shoes, though these were already sodden. I slowed dramatically on the little climb near my house, and then strode out a touch for the last quarter mile.

And then it was done. 20 miles. I was soaked and cold, and my wife helped me peel off my gloves.


Later, after lunch and some time playing with the children, I took the inserts out of my running shoes, and stuffed the shoes with last week's newspaper.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Getting fit slowly

54 days until the London Marathon. I ran for 6:30 this week.


My Sunday long run this week was a struggle, yet encouraging.

My schedule - Pete Pftizinger's 55-mile plan - called for a 14 mile long run this week.

This wasn't too daunting. However, I'd run a tough hill race (the Carnethy 5)the day before. The race was only six miles, but included 5 hills, and lots of wind, snow, and mud. It's the first big race in the Scottish hill running calendar, and a piper leads the ~ 500 runners to the start.

After the race, in the evening, an unexpected opportunity to go to the pub arose. My children were both invited to a sleep over at their friends' house. We rarely have a night to ourselves, so were eager to go out. It was great to settle in the pub for a chat on a February night. But it was a later, more beery night than is usual for me.

So Sunday came, and I wasn't in any rush to run in the morning. I went to the grocery store, cooked a chicken, and played with the children (both were back).

And then it was time to run.


A canal runs through our town, and on its bank is a packed gravel tow-path. This runs for miles in both directions, and is a good, traffic-free place to get in some distance. Also, it's flat. After the hill race, I wanted some easy miles.

I measured and out-and-back distance on Google maps, and then headed out the door. On the canal, I listened to Steve Runner's Intervals podcast. When it finished, the battery in my shuffle finished as well. I was a half hour in.

Still, I felt good. I reached my turn around point at 1:04, and by now it was getting dark.

I picked up the pace a bit, as I was eager to get home. I was carrying water with me, and had a drink.

By mile 10, it was quite dark. Also, I was slowing. Why hadn't I brought a candy bar? I could really have gone for a banana Power Bar, something I'd been given in last year's triathlon. Was this what it feels like when your body switches from burning glucose to burning fat?

The puddles on the tow-path were annoying. They were getting difficult to see, and avoiding them was tiresome. It was a clear night, and the temperature had dropped. Even with gloves on my hands were cold.

I started thinking about the last two miles of the marathon. I'd be tired, just like I was at this point. Could I muster the strength to run strong?

I tried to run evenly, like I want to do at the end of the marathon. I reached mile 12 of the run. Just two miles to go - one mile of canal, and then one mile of road back to my house.

Then, I started to feel ok. At mile 13 I picked up the pace, and ran strong back to the house.

I was tired, but instead of crumbling when the fatigue hit, I was able to run through it. So, maybe, the fitness is slowly coming.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Time is flying

62 days until the London Marathon.


One thing I'd always heard about aging, is that time seems to speed up.

Unfortunately, it's true. I don't know what happened to last year. Now, whole months fly by. OK, I'm getting my runs in, but this month will be gone before I know, so I'm going to pack it full.


I had a good week of training. After last Sunday's tiring 18-miler, I took two rest days. The week was as follows:

Mon: rest
Tues: swim 1000m
Weds: 14 miles
Thurs: 4.5 miles (with a hill)
Fri: 6.5 miles (hill loop)
Sat: parkrun 5k (21:00) + 1.5 miles
Sun: 16 miles

So, for the first time, I was close to the Pftizinger's schedule. And I'm starting to feel the miles. Before the parkrun yesterday, I was brimming with running - I wanted a race. So, although it hasn't felt like I've been making progress, the fitness may be coming.

Today's 16-miler was hard, and I was sore about 10 miles in. Perhaps I'd gone too hard in the parkrun the day before? My total running time for the week was 6:41.


Though it's been raining a great deal for the past two months, the days are getting longer. And occasionally, there's an early bloom on a tree, or patches of snowdrops - like these in our garden. The winter is starting, slowly, to lift.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Hitting the wall on my attempted 20 mile run

69 days until the London marathon.


My plan for today's 20-miler, the first in this training cycle, was to run my "town" loop of 5.4 miles three times (16.2 miles), and then do a smaller 3.8 mile loop to get to 20.

The first loop was ok. Midway through, I bumped into a friend, J., who was out for a long run as well. I joined him on his loop, and then we completed mine. J. is fast, and his pace on the long run was a touch faster than mine. So, the first loop was ok, and with the additional bit, came in at around 7.5 miles.

On our second loop we met another friend, D., who was also out for a long run. He joined us. I was tiring on this loop, but it was great to run with others for a change.

There was a gusty wind for half the loop, and it started to sprinkle.

We completed the loop, and I took a sip of water from my stashed water bottle, and a bite from a snickers bar. 12.9 miles in the bag.

I began to flag on the third loop. J. pulled off, as he'd completed the time that he wanted, and D. pulled off a bit later to head home. I pushed on through town, but my pace dropped dramatically.

I took a 30 second walk break. I resumed running. The wind was gusting, and the rain was soaking through my gloves. My plan was to stop at the store at the end of the run to pick up a newspaper and butter (for mashed potatoes), but the store was near, and I was almost at a shuffle. I probably could have pushed on for 20 miles, but it would have cost me dearly. I didn't think there'd be a dramatic training benefit from running to exhaustion.

At 17 miles, I stopped at the store. My hands were stiff, and I couldn't get my gloves off. Finally, I tugged one off with my teeth. I gathered a newspaper, butter, and some chocolate chip cookies and headed to the check-out. The next challenge was to get out my cash, which was in my zippered back pocket. The colors in the store were brighter than usual. I couldn't get my hands to undo the zipper. I held my running trousers with one hand, and then pulled the zipper with the other. I got the wrinkled bill out and smoothed it out for the cashier.

I started running again, and shuffled the last mile to make it 18.


At home, I was spent. I drank a coke, and had a few chips. The house smelled of roasting chicken. I basted the chicken, had a hot shower, and then cooked the mash potatoes. My wife, daughter, and son arrived after a bit, and we had a welcome hot meal.


For the last two miles of the run today I was at the wall. Perhaps I'd gone a little too fast; perhaps I'd done too many miles this week. (Though my running time for the week, 6:40, was down on last week, all the miles were on the road and track). At the moment, I'm not too worried about one tired run - I always seem to have at least one or two of these every training cycle.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The runs are getting longer

73 days until the London marathon.


This past weekend I had a long-planned hill race on Saturday, and then a long run scheduled for Sunday. The hill race was a relay, and together with a colleague I slogged through the wind, up the hills, and across the saturated ground for our ~ 6 mile leg. Thankfully, there was split-pea and mint soup, rolls, and cake at the race headquarters afterwards.

I was tired, but not too beat up, and so I thought my scheduled 18-miler on Sunday would be doable.


On Sunday, I faffed. I wanted to rest in the morning and recover from the race. My 18-miler, the longest run of the training cycle thusfar, would take me close to three hours, so I couldn't do it in the morning, as I had to take my daughter someplace at 10 a.m. Prior to this, I popped a pot-roast and vegetables into the oven for Sunday lunch.

After lunch, I stretched out on the couch. It was raining and windy outside, again. There was the newspaper to read. And this interesting book that my wife gave me for Christmas - The Story of the Human Body. My son wanted me to continue reading a bit of The Two Towers to him.

My daughter then went off with her friends. My wife took my son to see a local castle. It was 3:00.


It started raining one mile into the run. I had used google maps to measure out a 9 mile loop, and planned on running it twice. The loop was hilly, but mostly on farm roads, so there wasn't much traffic. I was sore, so I took it slow on the hills. At one point, I had a view out to the Firth of Forth, and stopped for a photo.

After the first lap, I took a sip of water from a water bottle that I'd stashed in a tree near the start of the run. I also had a chocolate chip cookie. It became dark on the second lap, but I didn't really struggle until the last two miles. At that point, I took a few walk breaks so that I could recover more quickly from the run.

And then it was done! With 7:16 of running this week, it had been my biggest week so far.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

A brush with injury

84 days until the London marathon.


The past week I had a brush with a hamstring pull. I'd done a hard parkrun (5k race) the past Saturday, and then ran a tired 14.6 miles the next day.
I did 7 on the track on Tuesday, but by Weds. my body was hurting. I did an easy 5 miles, but my right upper hamstring felt sore. On Thursday, I was scheduled to do 10 miles, but after 2 I could barely run, and called it quits.

I swam on Friday, and felt good in the pool. My leg was still sore.

On Saturday, I really wanted to do a long run, but after one 5.4 mile loop through town I decided to stop because of the hamstring.

On Sunday evening, I tried again. The hamstring was sore, but it didn't feel like it was getting any worse, so I did my 16 miles.

Now, a few days later, it seems to have cleared up. In looking back, it was a good idea to pull back when I did, but I can also see that I have
tried to push through a potential injury. Rationally, stopping running for a few days does not matter, but I get into this trap of thinking I have to make up missed workouts.


The nights are still long here, but on occasion we get a good glimpse of the stars from our back garden.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

In which I pick a marathon training plan

95 days until the London marathon. Gulp.


In my past marathons, I've used the New York City Marathon Official training plan, available via an interactive tool at the New York Times. I've like having the structure of a plan, and the tool has been useful for marking my progress.

But this time around, I haven't really engaged with the tool. I punched in my dates, got my schedule, but just haven't been looking at it much.

I've also felt that something was lacking. Because of my previous epic fades, I was starting to think that I need more long runs. In particular, I wanted to do more mid-week long runs. These would pave the way for less traumatic weekend long runs.

And then I listened to this.


The Pete Pfitzinger plan, as described in his book Advanced Marathoning, is just what I've been looking for. Basically, it includes lots of longish mid-week runs, and a gradual increase in overall weekly mileage. I've adopted an 18-week, 55 mile (peak week) plan, and it has been a slight jump up as I've entered it in Week 3 of the plan. I'm hoping my body will adapt. In the meantime I've eased back a bit on the mileage if my legs are tired. Today, for example, the plan called for a 9 mile run, and I did 7.


So, my past week, which included the New Years holiday, looked like the following:

Mon: swim 1600m
Tues: nothing
Weds: 1:06 (6.5 miles?) in the countryside (New Years day; a touch hung-over)
Thurs: 1:05 (6 miles ish?) Hill reps x 10 with club
Fri: swim 800 m, some weights after
Sat: 2 mile warm up + park run race (3.1 miles hard)+ 1 mile cool down
Sun: 14.6 tiring miles

All in, about 5:13 of running.


The past month has been the wettest ever in Scotland, apparently. The river near the bottom of our garden was high for several days, but dropped recently so that the usual rocks are now visible.