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!

Richmond Park Half Marathon

It was time to put my speed training to the test. After the NDW50 I stopped doing 100k+ weeks and concentrated on speed work. To check if it all worked out I was going to run the Richmond Park Half Marathon organised by RunThrough. They are the same cool guys that organised the Wimbledon Common Half I’ve ran last summer and really enjoyed. So I was sure it was going to be a small event like I prefer, but well organised. By the way, I will run the Wimbledon one again next month.

In the week leading to the race I took it easy:

Tuesday I ran 12km at 4:48/km on very tired legs.
Thursday I felt a lot better after a day rest and ran 15km at 4:28/km and on Friday I did an easy 10km at 4:44/km. On Saturday I rested and ate a lot of pasta.

So race day arrived. I was quite thrilled, I had not run an half marathon since last November and I was really looking forward to it especially as it was taking place basically in my backyard. I have run in Richmond Park so much that I was quite curious to see how it would feel to actually race in it.

The day started very sunny and hot and I cycled to the race start. When I got there there were already quite a lot of runners basking in the sun lying in the grass waiting for the start.

The race was made up of 4 laps. I do not usually like races with laps, but I found out it has its advantages.

The sun was shining and the day was hot when we started. The first part of each lap was uphill, gently, but still uphill, on a large gravel path for a couple of km, then at the top of the hill near Richmond Gate it turned left on pavement going mostly downhill and then the final bit was on a grassy, very uneven path.

The plan was to run around 4:00/4:10 m/km for the first 3 laps and then accelerate in the last one. As usual the plan was forgotten straight away.

The first lap I kept a pace just below 4:00 except for the final grassy/sandy last km that I found super hard on the legs. In the second lap I really found it hard going uphill again. It was also very hot. Every lap I would take a small bottle of water and by the end of the lap I would have drunk half of it and splashed the other half on my head. I have become too used to British weather, when I’ll run in Italy this summer I will melt.

The cool thing about it being a laps race was that I could adapt my pace to what was coming and my strategy became: do what you can uphill and then bomb it downhill. So I alternated slower kms at 4:21 going up with well below 4:00 m/km in the downhill bits.

I really enjoyed it as it became a real race between me and a couple of other people. I ran a lot of km with a guy and we were pushing each other quite a bit. I had to run faster than 3:40 for a couple of km to be sure he would not catch up with me. I am sure he could feel we were fighting too, and I enjoy that, especially as I finished faster then him. After the first lap I also learnt where it was better to run on the grassy final bit (avoid the central sandy part!) and it became much easier.

After the second lap we started lapping a lot of people so I could not really guess in which position I was. I started the race hoping I would finish in the top 15 so I was pretty happy when I crossed the finish line and heard the speaker say I was 10th. Even happier when the official results showed I was 9th! It is always good to finish in the top 10, I love it. richmondhalf

I was not expecting to do a PB as it was not a flat race so I was not too surprised by not even finishing with an average below 4:00 m/km, but I am very happy with the final result and the “racing” feeling I felt. You know when the legs go faster than you expect and they feel like they know what they are doing, you feel good. I could have pushed a bit more uphill in the second and third lap. Easy to say now!

Overall a very good fun race, very well organised and as always Richmond Park was amazing.

If you are interested you can see my Strava of the race here.

I cycled back home and had a massive barbecue with friends. Unfortunately all the sun that made me sweat the first 2 laps was gone and it was actually raining. Not ideal for cooking sausages, but I really enjoyed the company and the cold beer.

See you on the trails!

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.

zealotrun

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?

week

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!

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.

medals2014

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.

Before the festivities

It has been another good running week. The weather has been relatively good and I felt good the whole week. It was the last week of serious running before the rest and all the crazy eating for Christmas.

I started easy on Monday with a recovery 11km run. It was the first winter day cold enough to wear the full thick winter gear.

On Tuesday I did some interval training. The usual warm up and then five 2′ run at around 3:30 with 2′ rest. Quite tiring. Strangely it was around 10 degrees at 5am. I ran with no gloves and hat with my medium gear and was still sweating like crazy.

On Wednesday for the easy recovery run went on a new route on the other side of the river on the Kingston bank and then up to the Teddington lock on the road instead of the usual towpath which was too dark. It’s nice to change once in a while. I was very happy after 11km. Again super warm for December.

Thursday was cold again and it was time for interval training again. Warm up and then four 6′ run with the heart at 155/158bmp and 3′ rest. A lot of fun but at the fourth I was ready to go home.

Friday unfortunately the alarm clock did not wake me up and I slept until the second alarm, the one that says it is time to go to work.

This meant that Saturday I was full of energy and very keen to go out. I did 30 minutes to Richmond Park and then 5 one minute repeats on the hill going uphill as fast as I could. Then when I was tired enough I went all around the park and then back home for a total of 25km.

hilly

It was a good run. The hill repeats were a killer and until I had a gel I could not really get some speed back in the legs. I tried a new flavour, banana. I loved it. I have a big stash now and I am trying different flavours. So far I have to say that my former favourite, green apple, has been beaten by the banana ones.

IMG_5153

Overall it was a good week. I ran a total of 70.5km and now it is time for some rest. I will run a bit during the holidays next week but not much. The last week of the year I will start seriously again.

Have fun and have a nice Christmas!

Steady diet of running

Another solid week.

Monday was an easy recovery day. I did 10Km at 4:33 min/km. Nothing special but I felt really good. Running long distances during the week end (38km was a lot for me) really adds to my confidence and going out for a short run where I do not have to worry makes it really fun. Also running more kms per week has definitely made me a lot stronger and I can feel it in my legs. I am not as tired as I used to be the first month of waking up at 5am every day. Now it is a routine and the body is ready. Whether it is ready for a trail marathon in a month time we’ll have to wait and see.

Tuesday was again an easy run day. I decided to do more kms than I usually do in the week days. I’ve read somewhere (I think in this old Roberto Albanesi’s book) that a training session needs to be at least one hour long. Most of mine are 10/12km during the week so they last less than 50 minutes. On Tuesday I did 15km. For an exact total of an hour. It was a good run but it was extremely cold, below zero. I could hear the crick crick that the shoes did on the ice on the road. I challenge my friends @unknowndest and @manuontrail to run in shorts in those conditions! (We have an ongoing discussion about long tights and pants).

Wednesday was the interval training day so after the usual 20 minutes warm up I did 4 x 4′ at 3:40 min/km with 4 minutes rest. 4×4+4. The day of the 4s. I ran a total of 14km in exactly an hour (Albanesi would approve).

Thursday I again went out for an easy recovery run. It was a bit of a suffering due to cramps. I went really slow, accelerating only at the end to go to the toilet as quickly as possible. 10km in total, but not much fun. Wind and ice did not help either.

Friday I woke up, saw that there was a storm outside with horizontal rain and decided to be lazy and went back to sleep. Obviously regretted it as soon as I woke up 2 hours later.

Saturday I was supposed to do around 60% of my longest run of the previous The Cool Impossible training plan part one, but as I skipped the day before I decided to do a bit more. I left home as the sun was coming out: beautiful clear sky, frozen ground, very few people around, a light fog on the river, perfect. Having rested the day before I felt really good and did a relatively fast 30km run (my new 30k PB) through Bushy Park, the Hampton Court’s river side, around the whole of Richmond Park, Kingston to Teddinton Lock and then home. When I stopped I still had a lot of energy. I am really proud of myself. In less than 5 months I went from running 21k to 30k with the same effort. Running 30k now seems really easy.

A good week then, 79.2k in total. One more normal training week and then I will rest a bit during the Chirstmas week. The first marathon is approaching!

Go outside and have fun!

Ciao