Two Half Marathons In Two Days

 

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Windswept hair?

It seemed like a good challenge and a good idea, when I first thought of it six months ago. Inspired by a podcast, MTA, where Angie was running two full marathons over two days and discussing the mental problem of getting up on the second day to “Do it all again.”

 

Because I have made the decision to not run any more full marathons and only do half marathons for the rest of my running life, I figured the challenge of two halves in two days would be physically like running a full marathon but mentally tougher and, of course, everything would depend on recovery between halves, both recovery time and recovery meals and drinks. Add to this a training regime and you have the recipe for an interesting six month experiment. It would also get me into “Half Fanatics”.

 

The first job, of course, was to find two halves in two days, not an easy job in the UK where the vast majority of races fall on a Sunday. When the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships advertised their race in Cardiff, Wales, on a Saturday, it seemed the challenge was on. I scoured the web for a local half on the Sunday (local to cut down the travelling mileage) and picked the Pendine sands races. Pendine is a long beach in West Wales where land speed records have been attempted and was obviously going to be very flat. A bonus for my second day. I knew that one race would be high key and one low key but hadn’t quite realised how difference the gap would be.

 

My grandson ha a sleepover on Friday nights and I look after him all Saturday so double header training has to be on a Sunday morning and then Monday morning before going to work.

Training went well. I took the mileage up to 13.1 plus 10 the next day to get used to the psychology of getting out of bed tired and running. I didn’t go as far as 13.1 plus 13.1 as this would be kept for the special weekend.

Three things happened to change my recovery plans. What started out in my mind as two morning races starting around 9am with 21 hours recovery between, changed somewhat. An e mail from the IAAF announced that the World Half in Cardiff would be an afternoon race starting at 2pm so recovery would be cut down to 16 hours. Then someone asked me when the clocks in the UK went forward an hour for British Summer Time and I looked it up to find it was on my weekend so recovery was down to 15 hours. Luckily an e mail from Pendine announced that because of an exceptionally high tide on the Sunday the race could not start until 11am when there would be some beach to run on, so recovery was back up to 17 hours.

 

I guess the lesson there is that you can plan but things change. It wasn’t announced at the time but was on the day (as an apology) that the World Half had to be in the afternoon because of TV times in the US and Japan.

 

To the races, or should I say plods as both were slow. Cardiff was organised excellently with registration queues at a minimum as the expo and number pick up was over Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning. A very good idea for the 16,000 competitors. I chose Good Friday and enjoyed walking through all the trade stands. I wondered why half the attendees were in tracksuit and trainers. Some sort of uniform? The disappointment for me at the expo was the Adidas official kit stand. I wanted an after race warm hoodie and this seemed to be a good opportunity. Before arriving at the expo I envisaged a black hoodie with small writing on the front saying something about the World half marathon championships. What I found was almost the exact opposite. A hoodie of nondescript colour with a very large red dragon’s head on the front (red dragon, symbol of Wales) looking like a chess piece, with, in very large letters below it, the word “Cardiff”. I searched for a mention of the upcoming race and found it on the back, under the hood! That’s right, if the hood was down the writing was obscured. Come on Adidas, you are a rich company; surely you can afford an outside design company? I eventually came away with a Spongebob Squarepants running vest.

 

I thought the race itself would have no surprises as it was the same course as the Cardiff Half, run a number of times in the past. Those that watched the televised race will know that a world record was possible up to the point where the leaders were a mile or two from the end and the heavens opened and soaked them. This was from Storm Kate. At the time I was less than half way around, about to cross the Cardiff Bay Barrage and hanging on to my peaked cap, protecting me from stinging rain. Managing to dry out a bit by the end a good looking medal was handed out along with a tee shirt replicating the hoodie mentioned above, a few bananas and water.

 

Up the next morning and a one and a half hour short drive down to Pendine. For three day expo read, for this lower key race, pick up your number from the back of a Landrover. There was a bit of confusion over the state of the tide, Storm Kate pushing the waves up the beach and delaying the start for half an hour due to there being no sand to run on! Because of this delay, some transferred from the half to the 10k and some, unfortunately, went home. In the end 23 ran the 10k and 24 ran the half marathon, the winner finishing in 1hr 33mins. Nine also ran an ultra of two laps.

 

Running the first half of the out and back course I found difficult. It was difficult to find my right pace among the 10k runners and difficult also to find hard sand to run on. The guy in front of me had a run, walk, run, system going and, frustratingly, started running just before I caught him up each time.

 

Getting past my run, walk, run, man just before the turn around I started the run back in front of him and as I raised my legs to run, the wind stopped me moving forward and my competitor walked slowly past me. I persisted with attempted running until he was 30m ahead and finally decided on my own run, walk, run, philosophy – it was quicker.

 

Getting back to the start was my hardest run ever and amounted to 15 minute miling – yes 4mph a walking pace gained by run, walk, running. Sand in the face and completely exhausted we then had to do a further challenge, just as we were informed at the briefing “It’s not quite 13.1 at the finish line so run to the rocks and back to the Landrover, three times.”

 

A surprisingly large, colourful medal was presented along with a question as to whether I was in the 60-69 years category. On answering yes, I was handed a “Champion” certificate for first in age group. My first ever race win done from the back of the pack!!

 

I have joked that, taking both races into consideration, this was the weekend where a) I raced Mo Farrah and b) I won.

 

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Building Mental Toughness – Run Long And Taper

Run long and taper – with apologies to Trekkies. I kept hearing this phrase on a brilliant podcast that I found by Steve Runner (real name Walker but you can see why the change occurred) called Phedippidations. Back issues can still be found but he slowly lost interest in his wonderful running community after the bomb incident in his home town and the podcasts seem to have dried up. COME BACK STEVE!! We are missing your wit, your philosophy and your choice of inspirational music.

I was supposed to run long last weekend and taper down to a slow 13 miler on the flat today with no long run next weekend and then the huge, in numbers, Cardiff Half Marathon on the following weekend. These things never go to plan. Two days before the twenty miler I spent a long time in a new car, stop-start driving in London. My foot was constantly on the clutch pedal which was higher than in my old car so was bending my foot on every use. Add to this lace up boots and I ended up with a bruised upper left foot that took four days to simmer down to the point where I could walk properly again.

The idea of tapering is a bit alien to me as I am a runner that is either working or looking after grandchildren. I cannot seem to keep to any plan, run when I can (usually 5am) and constantly have that guilt feeling of any weekly mileage not being nearly enough.

So, today’s easy 13 turned out to be a faster (relatively faster for me) 13.1 mile run that ended up being only three minutes slower that my time in the recent Severn Bridge Half. So today was about mental toughness. It was a four lap course (so passing the temptation to get back into the car three times) taking in three miles of the actual, upcoming, half marathon.

For me the mental toughness thing comes at the point, at the bottom of the Roath Park rose gardens (for those that know the course) where, on race day, you observe all the runners, faster than you, going in the opposite direction with only one mile to go to the finish line whereas you have only reached the ten mile mark and have to run away from the finish line, up one side of the lake and down the other side, with faster runners always in view, a mile or so ahead of you but over the other side of the lake. This could be a moment of despair. My plan, that worked last year, is to chant a little mantra something like “How many times have I run around this lake? I could do it with my eyes closed.” Hence the four lap run around the lake today.

Other runners had the mental toughness idea also. I saw lots of Cardiff Half T shirts from past years, both black ones and red ones, their owners silently proclaiming “I am not a beginner you know, I have done this before.”  And lots of older runners, which reminds me of an earlier (an earlier press) finding that more and more older runners are returning to the second running boom after the experience of the first one (UK 1980s USA 1970s). If you remember I came 99th in age group at the Cardiff Half, took ten minutes off my time the following year and came 126th – You do the math(s).

It strikes me that with all these oldies getting fitter, the fear that the Youff (sic) have that they will be working to pay taxes to look after the oldies, may be unfounded. The oldies, may well be fitter, work longer, pay taxes to look after the unfit youngsters who sit around all day either gaming or telling everyone on Facebook / Twitter that they have been gaming.

I wrote in my paper journal back in August – “A week of extremes. Sat outside the gym where seven year old Mali does her rhythmic gymnastics and I had to sit in the car for an hour as we had turned up early.  At the end of the road was an imposing building “The Games Centre”. Watching people come and go from the games centre I would guess that about 90 to 95% were obese rather than just overweight. Mali finished her 6 hours of gym and was offered a McDonald’s as a treat. She asked if she could have just 6 chicken nuggets rather than a meal and went on to explain that her coach had been talking about nutrition, had said that McDonald’s was a once a month treat and that chicken was better than a burger – but leave off the chips at all costs.

I will be back after the Cardiff Half for a race report. Some fast runners expected (not that this should overly concern me) as the course will be repeated next March 26th 2016 as the “World Half Marathon Championships” I am already practicing my line to grandchildren that, yes, Mo Farrah and a host of Kenyans / Ethiopians did beat me. I guess I won’t have to tell them by how many hours they beat me!

First Run Back, First Run In Sunshine, First Run In New Reebok Jacket.

Since my last post on “too scared to run”, due to a race heartrate of 210, my general practitioner (Doc) and me decided together that I would run on a treadmill, in the gym, for a while, with lots of people around me and the ability to stop running if I wanted. She organised blood tests and an ECG and away we went.

The following day I was in the gym testing my max. heart rate on the treadmill (same as normal) and the day after that I had my tests.

Returning to Doc for the results we found all the blood tests normal and the ECG better than normal for my 61 years – so, back to normal for the running? Well not quite.

Pat is still concerned about me running off into the Brecon Beacon mountain range on a 42 miler with the possibility of my pulse reaching 210 again so we ( she, the boss) have decided to leave that one a while and concentrate on half marathons. If you think half marathons are not that much of a challenge for someone who has completed ten full marathons then I should say that the IAAF World Half Marathon Championship is coming to Cardiff, Wales in March 2016 and I am already entered. There is also an opportunity in September /October 2015 for me to complete four halves in four weeks and join the Half Fanatics Running Club.

To get back to my results Doc worked out my exercise zones using the old fashioned 220 minus your age and I told him that at that heart rate I would have to stop jogging and walk every now and again. He asked me what maximum I used and then he worked it back to tell me my heart was nineteen years younger than the rest of me, which, of course, is only possible in a philosophical argument. Doc insisted that my running and cross training were doing a lot more good than harm, to keep it going and, surprisingly we then discussed up-coming planned races, including the recently entered Swansea Half, in June, in the warm.

He said he couldn’t be sure but if he had to make a guess he would say that because of the extreme cold, I had some sort of peripheral shutdown making it harder for the heart to pump. With my pulse then sky rocketing it may have gone outside the normal parameters for my Garmin and chest strap and the 210 may not have been real.

So today was my first run outside for two and a half weeks, (7.26 miles in Zone 2) my first run in bright sunshine since last Autumn and my first run wearing my new Reebok running jacket. I had picked up a cheap replacement running jacket at the beginning of Winter which turned out to be a cycling jacket with a huge pocket in the lower back for sandwiches, maps, spare wheels etc., but which I used for phone and keys. It was waterproof but not breathable, so running vests were soaking wet at the end of a run. I saw this Reebok jacket in the window of Reebok shop in a discount Mal in Sarn, South Wales and the lightness of it really impressed me. It was discounted from £55 to £35 so it was mine.

It is called, I think, Reebok Playice or is from the Playice range. I assume the Playice refers to a cracked ice pattern, which I related to Spiderman webbing due to having a four year old grandson. It is extremely light to wear and only has one tiny pocket for a key, in the upper left arm, so not designed to carry food, phones etc. it is with my other running gear labelled “probably not waterproof but ideal to keep you warmer on one of those crisp spring mornings when the sun has only just come up.” My particular likes are;

Zip covers so that the zip tab is not bouncing about (main zip and pocket zip also.

Rear split vent across shoulder blades with webbing inside for ventilation.

Thumb holds at the bottom of each sleeve, use them and the sleeve wraps around your knuckles keeping your hands warm

A means of pulling in the bottom seam (cord and toggle) so that it is tight in case the wind gets up.

Note;- I am not sponsored by Reebok in any way, this is a completely unbiased assessment.

Two things learnt over the last couple of weeks, both of which have surprised me.

I have always been of the belief, with cross training in the gym with weights, that smaller weights, higher reps and higher sets would increase power without increasing muscle bulk – ideal for running. To this end my eight exercises have all been 20 reps in 8 sets. I listened to a podcast recently where the guy interviewed said that this was a myth and the only way to increase strength was to up the weights and do maximum 5 reps in 5 sets. I am willing to give it a go and have done only one session of 5 and 5 as yet but will let you know on progress.

The other learning was a bit of a surprise. I have posted before about my love of coffee, first thing in the morning, containing butter made from cows that are grass fed. For me that meant either Kerrygold from Ireland (increasingly difficult to get as all being bought up by the Americans) or Anchor Butter from New Zealand where cows are also grass fed.

My surprise came when I found a sticker on my Anchor stating “Supporting British Farmers” I have researched this and found that in 2012, production of Anchor was switched from New Zealand to Wiltshire in England using English cream. This means all the anti-oxidants found in butter from grass fed cows are not there! Ah well, back to Kerrygold if I can find it.

Reebok Playice