Adventuring (part 2)

At the beginning of the week I was not feeling too well so I took it quite easy. Rested on Monday, ran 13k on Tuesday (with no energy at all) and then rested again on Wednesday.

On Thursday I was feeling myself again and went to do some uphill repeats in Richmond Park. I first did a 3k warmup and then five 400mt uphill and then rested 400mt downhill. Quite intense. On the way back home I also did some sprints instead of just doing a cool down.

In the evening I went to another Like The Wind event where The Montane Spine Race movie was shown. I liked it a lot. See the trailer below and if you get a chance to see it do not miss it. The film makers were there to answer questions, one of the runner was there too to tell us about his experience. All in all a very nice evening.

On Friday I took it easy. I ran 11.5k at 4:48 in Bushy Park. Very strange morning, very foggy. At one point a white stag ran out of the mist and into the bushes, quite spectacular.

Saturday I finally managed to go for a run with Craig. We have meant to go for a run together since last year, preparing for the NDW50. We never managed to until this week. We ended up doing 32km from Kingston to Mortlake and back. We did not go too fast but I was very tired at the end, maybe it’s because I am not used to talk so much while running. We then went for a cold beer on a river pub, in the sun, it went down really well (I had a killer hiccup in the evening, but that’s nothing new). Craig: nice one, let’s do it again.

Then on Sunday I went to explore new trails. I have never run on the South Downs Way. I have walked part of it, but had not seen enough. So I woke up very early, 5 am, drove down to Eastbourne, left the car there and then took a train (2 actually) to Falmer and then looked for the SDW. The plan was to run the second half of the SDW50 which I will race next year. Falmer is perfectly halfway and the train station is close to where the SDW meets the A27.

I started running straight outside the train station but after less than 2k I stopped as my watch had all the settings reset from the previous firmware update and it was in miles and showing me data I did not want to see etc. I did not want to run 40k+ without the right settings so I stopped, fixed the issue and started again. What I did not notice was that where I stopped I should have crossed the A27 and go into the SDW, instead I kept running on the side of the road until I arrive to Kingston Near Lewis where I asked a friendly lady how to find the SDW. I was not too far, I only had to climb a hill and I would cross it.

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The sun was shining and it was quite hot. I knew it was going to be a long run and I was still a bit tired from the day before so I forced myself to take it easy. I also knew I was not going to cross much civilisation and there was no point in going back or taking shortcuts. The car was at the end of the trail, I had to run it all. It was quite a good exercise in pacing and I am very happy I managed to be consistent. I never felt like I was going to crawl. I ran well on flat and downhill and run most of the climbs.

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The view from the top of the various hills was amazing. I have to say, I like the North Downs Way, but on a day like Sunday, the SDW is ten times better.

I steadily kept on going. I did not force myself to eat too many gels and my stomach was happy. I might try not too eat gels every half hour during races like I always try to do. 45 minutes, an hour is probably good for me.

It started getting cloudy and windy and at times it felt quite chilly. I had a jacket with me in case I needed it, but I did not use it. I felt that if I kept on moving I was not going to get cold. Another reason to keep going. At times I felt very far away from everything. I met people walking around but it felt very lonely at times, me versus nature. I listened to some music and loved the whole feeling.

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At the 24th km I arrived at Alfriston. Looking at the map the days before I had planned to stop here to refill the water bottle and maybe get some quick food. The village centre is really nice and tiny. I went into the only little shop I saw and bought 1 litre of water, a packet of crisps and a box of jaffa cakes. I had run out of water half an hour earlier so I was quite thirsty and drank half a litre straight away and ate the crisps in two seconds and then started running again. I think I stopped for 5 minutes but it was enough to give me strength. I knew I was over the halfway mark. While running I ate some jaffa cakes. They work really well for me. I carried the packet almost until the end and I ended up having an orange hand at the end.

After 4 more kms and a couple of tough climbs/step I arrived at Exceat. A place I know well as I walked there a couple of times. It is very touristic and was packed with people.IMG_6725

Knowing the area made me fell like I was almost at the end, but the toughest 10 miles were waiting for me. Running up and down the Seven Sisters is really hard. I walked 2 climbs but ran all the others. Very tough after 35k, I cannot imagine how it will be at the end of the SDW50.

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The view from there, even without the sun, is amazing and it makes you forget how tired you are. I finally ran into Eastbourne. Did a couple more kms in town and then stopped. I had run 43.5k in total and I had enough. I wanted food. Unfortunately the town was over crowded due to an airplanes show or something. I was hoping to get a shower on the beach and then go for some fish and chips, but you could hardly walk around. Too many people. I bought a massive cappuccino (proteins!), had a banana and some snacks and drove back home. Happy.

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Overall a very good week. Two nice long runs in the week end, one in good company and one in beautiful settings. I ran a total of 105km. Next week I will rest a bit and then start the build up for the next race in September: the High Weald Challenge 50k.

See you!

100k+ week again!

After the weeks dedicated to getting a bit faster and running a half marathon it was time to prepare for the next race, the North Downs Way Marathon. Yes, I am going to back to the trails of the NDW, I cannot wait. So I had to think less about speed and go back to running for longer.

On Tuesday I did a recovery run of 12.5km at 4:45 m/km. I bought a new pair of shoes. As I fell in love with the Saucony Zealot and their 4mm drop I bought the Saucony Peregrine. To test them I went criss crossing Bushy Park, looking for the most “wild” trails there. It was a wonderful morning and the shoes are awesome too.

On Wednesday I did the same again. Trail shoes and search for interesting new trails, but this time in Richmond Park. I found a hill I never explored. It has a lot of single tracks going up at various angles. I will go there more often. It was also a very hot day, probably the hottest of the year. It was above 24 degrees at 5am! I did 15k at 4:35.

On Thursday I went out for a tempo run. I fist did a 5k warm up and then 5k at 3:55. I finished the session with a 1.7k cool down.

Friday I took it easy as I wanted to have enough energy for long runs during the week end. I did 10k at 4:36.

On Saturday I went for a long run. I probably left too late and it was very hot. I wanted to run 40k but the heat had the best of me. I ran out of water at the 20th km and had to stop in Richmond Park to refill and then fell running down a hill and slid on my back head first. I got home with rocks in my pants. In total I ran 36km at 4:59. Not too bad, but less than planned.

On Sunday the weather was completely different. It rained a bit and it was fresh. I looked for new trails in the Wimbledon Common, via Richmond Park. Always an adventure. I got lost and ended up running a bit more than planned which was good as it was compensating for the day before. I ran
23.5km at 4:54/km.

Overall it was a good week. I managed to run longer distances, test new shoes, see new paths I will explore more in the future, had a lot of fun. Week total: 109km.

One of the highlight of the week was going to see an evening of trail running short movies organised by Like the Wind magazine. They brought Trails in motion to London and shown the movies in the basement of a pub near Liverpool Street to a bunch of like minded people. I did not get the chance to chat with many people as I arrived late and left early, but the vibe was good.

Here is (without saying too much) what I think about the various movies:

From the Trails
Nice images of wild woods and hills in Japan, boring video, I did not get the message.
Score: 4/10

Just keep running
A short movie about personal life and problems faced by Ruby Muir. She knows how to run! Nice to see someone go so fast on spiky rocks wearing Five Fingers.
Score: 6/10

La Triple Corona
The movie is about three sky running races taking place in Mexico. I like the way it showed how wild and hard those races are and the guts the runners have to run them. It looked very “real” and did not try to be poetic or philosophical like too many running movies do.
Score: 7/10

Around Patagonia
I really liked the locations and the idea of two friends going for a nice adventure together. I did not like the bit where, in the moment of difficulty during the run, the movie showed the family of one of the runners as if he went to war and was looking for strength thinking of home. You are on holiday in one of the most beautiful part of the world doing what you like!
Score: 7/10

An idea
Too short, I would have loved to have seen more of the adventures and achievements of the runner. Nice images and montages, but not much more.
Score: 5/10

Why we run
This was one of the best movies. I had already seen the shorter version on YouTube. You should definitely check it out.
Score: 8/10

For the Love
I don’t remember much about this movie apart from seeing some famous faces in there.
Score: 4/10

Before he wakes
This is basically what I do every day, run while everybody in the house sleeps and then come back before they wake up. I did go back to bed once like the runner in this movie, but I had a shower first.
Score: 5/10

Finding Traction
This was the main piece of the event, the longest movie too. I really liked it. I think movies need a story and this one had a strong one. It narrates Nikki Kimball attempt to beat the male FKT on the 273 mile Long Trail. I will not tell you how it ends, but it does not matter actually. Seeing the struggle of the runner, the support of the crew is all that matters. Worth watching twice.
Score: 9/10

If you can, try and see these movies. I am not much of a reviewer so don’t listen to me, see them for yourself. I also suggest you subscribe to Like the Wind, because it is a special magazine, crafted with love.

See you around!

The speed is back

Here is a quick report of the last two weeks. Again I concentrated on speed works.

The first week I ran a total of 90km.

I did 10 easy km on Monday and 15k on Tuesday at 4:34 min/km (which is good considering all the beer I drank the day before).

Wednesday way interval training day: 3k WU + 5x(1000@3:50 + 2’r) + 1.5k CD. Painful but good.15 more km on Thursday (at 4:29, notice how I am trying to keep a decent pace every day now).

Friday was the painful day. After 3.5km of warm up I ran 10k at a pace faster than 4:00 min/km. I managed to do it. I ran the second half faster too.Good training for my next half marathon. I also purchased a second pair of Saucony Zealot. I love those shoes, but the first pair had given it all after 900+ km.

For the week-end we went to the Isle of Wight and ran on the country roads on Saturday (11k) and on the coast trails on Sunday (12k). Beautiful place. It is worth going back to explore the trails and maybe see some sunshine!

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After a day of rest I went out for a quick run on Tuesday (11k at 4:18). Legs felt good. On Wednesday I ran my usual 15k, finishing with some sprints. I added to that another 15k run on Thursday and took it easy with 10k on Friday.

On Saturday I ran the Bushy Park Parkrun to test whether the latest sessions of speed training had helped.

You can see a video here.I am the one with the black t-shirt and dark blue hat at around the 12th position. And in 12th position is where finished. In 18:10 which is exactly my PB from last year. Which only means one thing: my speed is back, I am as fast as last year even after all those long long runs. I am very happy.

On Sunday I ran 22k at 4:24 to feel cool and complete another 90km week.

Next week I will take it easy as I taper for the Richmond Park Half Marathon on Sunday.

But the most important and thrilling piece of news is that I found my next big challenge. I was looking for something as big as the NDW50 for the second part of the year and decided to enter The Druids Challenge. It will be the first time I take part in a multistage event. Running 3 ultras in 3 days (84 miles in total) will need some serious training. I cannot wait!

Have fun!

In search of speed

As promised I have not been very active on this blog for a while after the NDW50 climax. It is in a way a reflection of my state. After months of trepidation and preparation, after finishing the 50 miles I did not have anything “big” to look forward. I felt a bit empty. I am running 2 half and a full marathon in the next 2 months, but they are not the same as preparing for an ultra. I missed a bit having that event to look forward to.

That did not stop me from enjoying running and I kept training at least 6 times a week. I ran less, but faster. I have worked on trying to get some speed back in my legs. I slowed down quite a lot in the final months before the NDW50. I have been looking at my Strava from last year and I was at least 15 sec/km faster in all my training sessions. So I made sure to have at least one interval session a week and if possible a tempo run.

The first week I did an easy 10k run on Tuesday, a speed session on Wednesday (3k WU + 5x(500m at<3:40 + 1:30r) + 4k CD. Then on Thursday I did 15k but I was really tired. I did a sort of progressive run.

On Friday I did a 5k warm up and then 5k going at 3:50 min/km. I was quite tired by the end of the week but I decided to test my speed by taking part in the Bushy Park Parkrun that I had not done in ages. They had to change the course so I was curious to try it. It is still a very nice run except for a bit at the start where if you do not run at 3:30 min/km you might find yourself stuck with a lot of people going through a small grassy area.
I enjoyed it a lot. I did not do my PB but I was close. I finished 14th overall in 18:20. I was first in my age category which is a nice thing. I ran most of the race with a 13 year old kid that was very impressive. I overtook him the first km and thought I would never see him again and instead he steadily caught up with me and finished 2 positions ahead. Nice one!

The day after I had a little accident. I wanted to go for a long run but I was really tired. So much so that I was not careful enough and kicked a rock and tumbled on the ground, in the mud. I got up and washed my bloody hands and knees in the river Thames and started running again as if nothing had happened, but I was not feeling too good. I only run 15 more km and went home. My left toe was not in a good shape and when I removed my socks I was scared of what I would find. It was not too bad but it affected the next week.

Overall it was an 85k week, shame for the Sunday fall.

The second week of my speed training started badly. On Tuesday  I did 10k in the rain and wind to see if my toe was ok. It was not too bad but I ran with a different form and ended up making my ankle hurt a lot. I could not walk by the end of the day. So I rested for one day and ran again on Thursday and did 15k to get rid of all the thai food and beer I had the day before with my wife.
On Friday I did 12 more km, at a relatively quick pace. Saturday I went for a longer run. I had not run more than 15k for quite a bit, so it was good to go out for longer. I did 31k at 4:44 . Wonderful sunny day on the river. Loved it. I completed the week with 15k at 4:27. I was definitely feeling better and getting over the toe issue.

And so I completed another 85k week. I was quite happy with the average weekly pace increase.

Next week I will keep on working on speed and see if I can get some nice results.

Have fun!

Shiny new shoes

After a week of relative rest after the last marathon I started running again with more intensity and it has been a good week.

On Monday I could not run, but it was fin. I’ve decided that from now on Monday will be my rest day (maybe my swimming day) so that I will be able to do two long runs back to back on Saturday and Sunday.

On Tuesday I went out for a relatively easy start of the week. 12k at 4:26 min/km. Nothing special to report, apart from the fact that running on the river is now possible. Bring on the spring!

Wednesday I went out for a short 10k run with the idea of trying the new Zealot and taking it easy. I was so excited about running with new shoes that the “taking it easy” part was soon forgotten. Even the first warm up kms were done faster than 4:25. I ended up going faster and faster (I ended up doing 10k with a 4:04 average). The shoes felt good, almost like not wearing them. Very light but still very cushioning. They are definitely shoes that want you to go fast but hold your form. The only thing I don’t really like is the colour scheme. A bit too garish for me. So much so that when I left them in the garden after this first run a magpie came straight to peck them.

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On Thursday I took a relatively new route via Richmond. The hill in the middle was fun and the big full red moon I saw when at the top, with the river below, was breath-taking. I did a total of 14k at 4:26 for just over one hour of running.

In the next couple of months I need to be careful and prepare a nice training schedule. Otherwise I will end up running every day at this sort of speed. I need more variety, slow days, fast days etc. Otherwise I will not improve if I keep on running at this pace every day of the week. To remedy this issue straight away I did some speed work on Friday.

To feel like a marathon runner I did three 2km intervals at 3:45 with two minutes rest. I was aiming for 3:40, but I was a bit tired. Not too bad anyway.

On Saturday, armed with just one gel, I went out for a long run (not too long as I have to keep some energy for next week’s race). I tried to keep the heart as close to 140 bpm as possible. It was not easy as I went to Richmond park which is a bit hilly. It was a wonderful day. Running in shorts with no hat/buff, no gloves etc, feels so much better. I did 26.5km in 2:02 (4:39 average pace).

And then on Sunday I went out again! It was even sunnier. I went around Bushy Park and then explored a new part of the river for me, the one that goes away from Hampton Court but in the other direction, towards Molesey. I think it goes on for a bit, but I had to come back after a while as I was feeling a bit tired and I had no water and no gels. I also did not want to overdo it. I ended up doing a precise 21.1km at 4:30 average. I will definitely go that way again as it is also another very nice soft trail with nice views of the Thames.

Overall it was a very good week. Went out running 6 times for a total of 96.5km. I am also very excited for having discovered a new pair of shoes. I feel this will not be the first pair of Zealot I will own. I don’t want to be too optimistic, but I have run 80+ km in 5 days in the Zealot and I never felt the usual right foot plantar issues once. Could they be the solution to my little niggles?

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Now it is time to take it easy for a week and then run my third marathon in 3 months. This one is flat and while it is not on the road I would not consider it a trail marathon. I will try and do it in less than 3:30. I have done 40k of that route and I know that in a good day I could do the whole 42k in 3:20/3:25 so we’ll see. I hope I will not overdo it in the first half as usual.

Keep running!

Snow?

This week I decided to stop following The Cool Impossible training schedule. I have basically done the whole of it, only 2 weeks left, but they were not the right training runs just before the next trail marathon. So now I am going with my own schedule like in the old days, but with a lot more knowledge.
I used to run just as fast as I could and once in a while do some interval training and run a bit longer the week end. Now after almost 1 year and a half following well organised schedules I think I know what I am supposed to do. I know the importance of recovery runs, frequent interval days and tempo runs. So now I am going on my own!
Last week I did a lot of speed work and the 38k on Sunday left me really tired so the plan was to keep it relaxed this week, do more next week and than taper for the Rail To Trail Wendover marathon.

Monday I rested after the long run on Sunday.
Tuesday I woke up and it was snowing! Beautiful! I went out super excited as it does not happen very often. The beauty was that the roads were I live are not that travelled at 5am so the snow was fresh and untouched. As light reflects on the snow it was easier to see where I was going and so I decided to take a route tat is usually too dark at this time of year, from the Teddington Lock to Hampton Court Palace on the river path. Fantastic soft snow. I wanted to do only 10k, but I was enjoying it so much I had to do more. I ended up doing a sort of fartlek for 13.5km. It’s a shame that it rained later on and no snow was left anywhere.

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Wednesday, to prepare for the next trail marathon, I went for a run on Kingston Hill to do some hill repeats. I did five 500mt climbs and used the downhill to rest. then on the way home I did 5 fast sprints. It was incredibly cold, but I felt very good and strong.
Unfortunately by the time I was on the train to work I started feeling a bit strange: super headache and nausea. So much so that by 11am I left work and went back home. I spent most of the day sleeping and the day after I decided not to run.

Friday I went out for a 13k run where I tried to go a bit faster than a recovery run, but not too much. Ended up with a 4:18 min/km average. I felt good.

Saturday I did not want to do a long run as this was the rest week so I went out armed with just one gel and the handheld bottle (this time with salts in it) and went for a run around Richmond Park via Richmond Bridge. I tried to keep a steady pace under 4:30 and did it without any particular effort. Nothing special to report apart from the fact I enjoyed it very much. Saturday mornings are the best of my running week.

On Sunday it was sunny and I could not resist and decided to do the run I skipped on Thursday, so I went out for a relaxed 12k run in Bushy Park. Beautiful as always.
Talking about Bushy Park, have a look at this wonderful video by @juliableasdale.

Overall it was a good week, especially the run in the snow. As planned, I did less km, 75k in total. Next week I will do more kms and then taper. I cannot wait for the next marathon! Then I will have a third marathon in March. After that 7 weeks to do the final preparations for the NDW50. The plan is to increase the weekly km by doing two long runs during the week end and rest on Monday instead of Sunday. I will need to work more on time spent running more than on the speed which I tend to do too much.

See you!

End of 2014

This week has been great (apart from the never ending cold and light flue). Being on holiday meant I could go running whenever I wanted and not in the dark. I wanted to put some kms in my legs before the tapering week before the marathon (on the 10th Jan) and I ended up running a total of 103km in 5 runs, which is my weekly record.

Monday I did 20km going around Bushy Park and then to Kingston via Hampton Court. Beautiful frozen sunny morning. The park was at its best. White grass, a little fog, the yellow sun coming up behind the trees and lots of deer. Very poetic. I did the first 15km at an easy 4:20/4:30 pace and then did the last 5k at around 4:00. Very nice. The heart rate monitor did not work. I spent an hour trying old ones and different straps with no luck. I need to get a replacement.

On Tuesday I did another easy run. This time 15km long. Again in freezing conditions, around zero degrees. When I entered Bushy Park it felt more like -5, running through a wall of freezing fog.

On Thursday, being the last day of the year, I decided to go for a long run and maybe aim for the marathon distance. I did not manage to. I did 40km, but I could not do more. I have to respect the distance a bit more and start running slower at the beginning. It was a good lesson for next week. I ran with an average pace of 4:53 min/km which I think is a fine pace to aim for, but I should not do the first part at 4:30 and then end up doing the last kms at 5:30. Anyway it was a good run. I went through all the nearby parks, Bushy, Richmond and for the first time in ages Wimbledon Common. This last one is a lot of fun, I randomly took paths to see where they took me. There is quite a lot of up and downs there, it is a good training ground, I should go there more often.
I used this run as a test for next week and went out with the Ultimate Direction AK race vest carrying one bottle of water, 3 gels and all the required kit for the next marathon (jacket, first aid kit, thermal blanket etc). I had no problem at all. Apart from the socks which ended up with a hole in them I am now 100% sure of what I am going to wear next week, including which pants!

Thursday I rested and then on Friday did a slow recovery run (17km at 4:40 min/km). After the long run earlier in the week this one felt too short and when I got to 12km and was supposed to turn for home I decided to run a bit more to the Teddington Lock.

On Friday even if it was raining and cold and I was still a bit ill I had to go out and run. I was too close to the 100km week not to go. So I went out for an easy 11km run but then I decided to push a bit on the last kms. As I have not done any speed work for the last 2 weeks I decided to run a bit faster and did the last 4 kms the way I like it (4:02, 4:00, 3:46, 3:39). I felt good. Actually I have never been in such a good shape, even doing warm ups and stretching I feel strangely athletic, different. I could not be more ready for next week’s trail marathon!

So this ends my week, but also marks the end of the year. I wanted to do a post to close 2014 with some goals for 2015, but I was too lazy, so here is just a quick recap of last year:

To sum it up, it has been the best running year ever. I started with the plan to run more during the week (from 3 to 4 times a week) and to run more half marathons. I ended up running 6 times a week and preparing for an ultra. I wanted to do PBs on 5k, 10k and 21.1 km and did them multiple times and I wanted to aim for a marathon. In 6 days I will have achieved that too, hopefully.

I have run a total of 2765 km in 2014 and ran the following races:

Half Marathons:

  • Hampton Court Half Marathon
  • Bracknell Half Marathon
  • Richmond Half Marathon
  • Wimbledon Common Half Marathon
  • Burnham Beeches Half Marathon
  • The Dirt Half Challenge

Others:

  • Whole Foods Market Breakfast Run (16 miles)
  • Harry Hawkes (10 miles)
  • Garmin Kingston Run Challenge (16 miles)

And 3 Bushy Park Runs.

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But the best part is the new found love for trail running and setting crazy new goals like doing 3 marathons in the next 3 months and my first 50 miles ultra in May. This has basically changed my life and I cannot wait to see where this leads me. I still have to decide what to do the rest of the year after the NDW50.

For all the fun and “successes” of 2014 I have to thank the support of my family that has not got bored of hearing me talking about running every second (yet) and my running friends Marco R., Davide G. and Manu. I am looking forward to running with you guys in 2015.

Have a wonderful 2015 and I hope you can all reach your goals, whatever they are.