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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Thus Spoke Zarathustra through Phedippidations

the spiral of life.
the spiral of life.

My first run out-doors since missing the Cardiff Half. Rhinovirus  it was called, a posh name for coughing, spluttering and having a headache for two weeks also known as the common cold (and manflu). Deciding a few days before the race to DNS I wanted, for some reason, to reinforce my disappointment so went into Cardiff, shopping, straight after the race, to watch everyone walking about in their tech shirts with medals around their necks. Grrrrr.

Getting back into running slowly I did my five ten-minute runs on the treadmill in the gym (with a different leg then arm exercise between each one) but still needed inspiration from somewhere.

Inspiration came in the form of a notification on my iPhone that a podcast I subscribe to had downloaded an episode. Past Runwelshman press items have referred to Phedippidations, and how on 5th July 2015 episode 329 of this podcast had come out but nothing since. I had enjoyed Steve Runner’s podcasts so much I had left his podcast app on my phone “just in case”. I was rewarded with episode 330 on 16th October 2015 and it provided the inspiration I needed to get outside for a run but not in the way you would think.

Episode 330 was very personal and showed Steve as a different person after a bit of a life change. It may have been a farewell podcast, it may be another three month wait, we shall see (your podcast app is still open on my phone Mr. Walker). 330 was mainly about a book Steve had read a number times called “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” by Friedrich Nietzsche and how it had shaped his life. The show was punctuated with the usual tasteful music and was excellently presented and produced as usual. I am not going to go too heavily into the content of the podcast but would suggest you download this and past episodes.

Talk of Thus Spoke Zarathustra sparked my interest enough for me to download a copy onto my Kindle and to start reading. Among the first pages, in fact in the introduction, was a reference that hit home “Like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Henry David Thoreau before him, Nietzsche did his best thinking while walking in the open air, so that place was of the utmost importance to him as a philosopher.” This brought home to me how I was missing my me-time, my running while letting my mind run free, my break from concentration and the reason I have never run with music.

So today it was important to run a slow but hilly 7.35 training run and to contemplate Steve’s podcast, his state of mind and my entry into his suggested book. Love the way this book came to me as Nietzsche himself said “Then the life that is saved in the book is immortal since it survives its author’s death with a strange autonomy: It seeks out readers for itself, ignites new life, delights, terrifies, engenders new works, becomes the soul of plans and actions.”

Another book I have read recently, or half read (more on that later) was called “Runner’s World Running On Air” which was previewed on another podcast I listen to (either Marathon Training Academy or The Conscious Runner Podcast) which interested me so I downloaded it onto my Kindle but only read half, if that. I mention it because part of Steve Runners podcast is recorded while he is running and it stood out to me that he breathes in two strides then out for two strides (again more on that later).

The basis for the book is that your body is at its weakest, while running, when you start to exhale. So, if you breath in for three strides and out for two strides then you will start to exhale on a different foot each time thus balancing your body and avoiding injury. If going faster then you can change this to two in and one out. Guess how many pages of the book it takes to get that message over – not many. Interested to find out what the rest of the book had to offer I was horrified to find I had spent money on a beginners running guide – beginner runners go out too fast, it’s ok to walk when you first start etc. No I wouldn’t recommend this book unless you are a complete beginner somewhere between walking and running.

So on my first run outside I tried out the 3/2 breathing pattern and hated it with a vengeance. It messed with my running, it messed with my breathing, I hated it. The only redeeming feature was that it made me think about my breathing pattern, which is two in and two out (see above) and, at the crest of a hill I could slow down my panting and heart rate by employing a 3/2 rate.

What about this for a thought to mull over. Next Easter on March 26th is the World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff. It is on the Saturday and I am already entered. On the following day Easter Sunday is the Pendine Sands Half Marathon (and ultra run but forget that) held on the beach where Donald Campbell used to race Bluebird on land speed record attempts. What about running Cardiff, jumping in the car, bed and breakfast somewhere down west and then running the Pendine Half as a back to back over two days.

Not only would this be a challenge to work towards but it might even get me into The Half Fanatics running club. What is going through my mind at the moment, and would have to be run out of my mind, is a note from Angie on the MTA podcast that running back to back marathons is mentally harder than a fifty miler (so assume back to back halves harder than running a marathon) because, she said, in a fifty miler you are running with a goal of finishing the run, with back to back marathons you are running with a goal of finishing the first marathon knowing you have to get up and do it all again tomorrow.

I wonder.

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