Thursday, 30 July 2015

Berlin Marathon: Cambria Speed Run

Up at 7am for a 40-minute tempo run along the boardwalk at Moonstone Beach in Cambria with Big Joe. We were staying at the Fogcatcher Inn and its name is no misnomer. It was foggy when we arrived yesterday after a misty odyssey south down Highway 1,  foggy when we had dinner with a delicious bottle of Californian red in the lovely outdoor diner and slightly less foggy when we did our dynamic stretching on the wonderfully cosy seafront this morning. 

I pushed hard and stayed in the peak heart rate zone for most of the run. Exhilarating surroundings - salt in the air and a great Pacific Coast atmosphere even if the run was a bit back and forth.  
We ran west to the end of the boardwalk, east to the other end, back west again, back east again and finished with some planks outside the Fogcatcher. Great way to start the day before a four-hour drive to LA via a nice Mexican lunch stop in nondescript Santa Barbara with its pier and building sites. 

We ended the day with a top notch Joe's Pizza on the beach at Santa Monica after rehydrating with a trio of IPAs at the marvellously ramshackle Ale House on Main Street. 

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Berlin Marathon: San Francisco Half Marathon

didn't want this one to end. A fabulous run in glorious sunshine and a refreshing breeze over the wonderful Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. It was made even better by Big Joe riding the route with me on a hired bicycle handing out gels and rehydrating fluids on request. 
It ended a two-day running drought. I sneaked in a treadmill interval run on Friday after work and then it was up early on Saturday for the 11.50am flight from Heathrow to SFO. We feasted on clam chowder in our jet lag then spent Sunday walking for miles through this beautiful city. We took the cable car downtown from the Wharf, walked miles back for a couple at Jack's Bar then headed out and onto the bridge before retracing our steps in the sunshine for a well earned burrito. 
We rounded off Sunday with an an unforgettable evening trip to Alcatraz. 
The next morning Joseph and I started with some dynamic stretching on the seafront at Fisherman's Wharf then headed west, up and over the steep hill at Mason's Park then along through the majestic wildlife of Crissy Field to the bridge. It's a steep climb to get there but the miles raced by with such stunning scenery to enjoy. Crossing the bridge itself was exhilarating. I felt full of energy for the run home and was pleased to make it a negative split quite comfortably. I'm not ready to double the distance just yet but this felt like a breakthrough run somehow; an almost routine half marathon. 

I rehydrated with a SIS Rego before we bundled into the holiday hire car (a Dodge Journey SUV) and headed down Highway 1 to Carmel. We stopped on the way for a lengthy hike to see the hilariously bad tempered elephant seals at Ana Nuevo State park then made it to the Carmel Mission Inn in time for a big fat steak dinner at the Rio Grill. I don't think I've ever walked so many steps in a single day. And I enjoyed every one of them. 

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Berlin Marathon: Week Seven Update

Wow, that long weekend off flew by. I took Friday off to go Kingston with Geoff to celebrate his 64th birthday but he got a ticket for the Ashes at Lord's and moved the drinks to Monday. So I booked Monday off and kept Friday as well for the sheer bonus joy of it.

I warmed up for the trip to Kingston with a 12-mile long run on Sunday morning, starting at the gym then heading over Putney Bridge, back along the Surrey side of the Thames to Chiswick Bridge and back to the gym. It was tough, which suggests I'm on course but by no means ready for Berlin yet. Good job there's still plenty of training miles to bank.

A welcome sauna and jacuzzi helped the muscles and I spent the afternoon in the garden rehydrating on Brewers Union German beers from the Askew Road off licence.

A drizzly Monday morning heralded my last session with Yasmine before California. This was my introduction to the TRX rope system. I'd been to one group class in the past and used it for upper body strength but Yasmine's focus was on the glutes and core as usual. It was a fun and challenging workout out. One of the great things about these PT sessions is learning all these new exercises which I can build on up to and beyond the marathon.

After the session I got the Overground to Clapham Junction then the train to Kingston, picking up Geoff on the platform at Earlsfield on the way. The plan was to try Stein's, the German bratwurst and beer parlour with branches on the riverbank at both Kingston and Richmond. The only problem was that the Kingston branch doesn't open until 5.30pm on Mondays, neither of us had checked and it was only 12.15pm.

Plan B involved a quick al fresco pint at the riverside The Ram under the clouds surrounded by graduating students and their families, another at the town centre Wetherspoon's, The Kings Tun, while we waited for the next train to Richmond, a quick one at The Cricketers on Richmond Green and another at The White Cross on the riverfront to break up the journey to our final destination, Stein's.

Wasn't really worth the effort. The beer was fine, served in two-pint glasses by a young Romanian barmaid, but the food was average, dished up on plastic plates on a grubby outdoor table featuring a sign warning against singing or talking too loudly for fear of offending the millionaire neighbours.

We escaped to the District Line via a return to The White Cross before enjoying a nightcap in The Tabard at Turnham Green then home for a well-earned snooze before bedtime.

All in all, perfect preparation for today's steady, post-work, 50-minute run in the lovely evening sunshine to Barnes Bridge and back, complete with negative splits and jasmine blowing through my mind. I think I'll take tomorrow as a rest day.

Berlin Marathon: Saturday Strava Segment

Hammersmith Bridge
One of the signature features of Strava is the segment. Every time you upload a run, Strava compares it to all the other routes on its database and reveals segments of your route that have been run by other users. It then tells you how your effort compared with the others who have run it that day, week, month or even all time. It's intriguing.

One of the segments I run a lot is along the Thames path between Hammersmith Bridge and Black Lion Lane, so I decided to push myself for that half-mile on an otherwise easy 45-minute outing on a bright, sunny, Saturday morning. It's also a good way to shock the body from its regular routine, which is something Yasmine the PT keeps recommending.

It was definitely a shock. I was unusually out of puff and glad to see the Black Lion pub looming into site after a quickish dash. Back at home, Strava confirmed it was personal best time for that segment of 4'07. That put me 352nd on the all-time list and 166th this year. So plenty of room for improvement and another mini-motivational tool.

I rehydrated by hopping on the bus back to Hammersmith with Joe and sampling a trio of beers in the sunshine at The Blue Boat.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Berlin Marathon: Week Six Update

Yasmine introduced me to a new piece of kit at our 8am session - the ViPR. It's a hollow tube with holding points cut into it at different places along its length. Their website defines it like this:

"ViPR bridges the gap between movement and strength training. It combines full-body movement with load, enhancing the vitality, performance and reconditioning goals of clients and athletes. ViPR introduces a new concept in fitness and sports conditioning – Loaded Movement Training."

It's fun to use: lunging with it, chopping it through my legs, making a circle with it front of my chest before hoisting it overhead, jumping jacks with it and doing shuttle runs where the ViPR is placed on the ground to the side, in front and the other side. It's a good cardio workout and I'm sure it must be doing wonders for my all-round conditioning.

We finished with some gruelling side plank raises. I hate those. They left my sides feeling stiff for the next three days. And my neck muscles are still tender today (Friday) after doing some slow leg raises to work on my weak-as-a-kitten abs. It's amazing how quickly these hour-long sessions fly by.

I finished with a sauna and jacuzzi soak and felt good right through to the 9pm end of The World Right Now and a glass of white wine at home.

Up at 6.30am for a 40-minute routine run down the Thames under the clouds. I felt quite sluggish over the first mile but soon loosened up to maintain 8:09 per/mi and an average heart rate of 140bpm.


I headed to the gym after work to try one of Yasmine's recommended interval sessions. The aim is to warm up for five mins before running at 95% (161 bpm) of maximum heart rate for 1'30 then dropping to 70% (120 bpm) for three minutes. Repeat five times then cool down for five minutes.
Fine, but the problem was getting my heart rate up to 161. I was running at 14kph at a pace of 4'20 p/km which was as quick as I felt I could go safely but my rate was only up to 140-ish by the end of the first quick 90 seconds.
I raised the incline for the subsequent quick bit but it wasn't until the last of the five intervals that I felt my heart was up to the right level. I was sweating like a pig but not reaching the sort of rate that I routinely reach on my outdoor runs.
It was a frustrating half-hour and I left feeling I hadn't had a proper session. It's probably a case of practising more on the treadmill. I'll have another go next week.
No booze today; the moderation push is working.

One of those rare, beautiful things - a random day off on a summer Friday. The sun has refused to come out for the second day of the Lord's Ashes Test but the buddleias and tall daises  are in full flower, the leaves are rustling and the kids have finished school. Summer 2015 is officially under way.
I took yesterday as a rest day and celebrated by having a decent session of Longhorn IPAs and a liver dinner in the Princess Victoria with Deborah, Grace and Kevin.
This morning it was a 50-minute steady run to Barnes Bridge and back. Nice and breezy, overcast with the house martins feeding their young under the eaves of the mighty homes opposite Chiswick Eyot.
September is beginning to creep up on me. The training is going ok so far, I'm enjoying the runs and I'm feeling confident enough to plan running routes around the various stops on our imminent Californian odyssey. If I can keep fit, I'm sure I can get round Berlin.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Berlin Marathon: British 10k London Run

The marathon training schedule had me down for an 11-miler today but when Turner offered me a free place in the British 10k London Run it was too good to turn down.
So at 9.30am I found myself queuing under the clouds at the start line in Piccadilly with 24,000 others, many of them wearing the official corporate t-shirt and many others sporting charity vests. The race set off in a series of waves, each wave full of widely varying running abilities with lots of straggling groups of matching fund-raisers.
And that was the problem with this event: the vast number of fun runners and fun walkers of all shapes and sizes made if very difficult to gain any running momentum. It was a case of weaving and dodging all the way round, sometimes putting the brakes on sharpish when the gap between a wobbly fund-raising bottom and a group of women in personalised cancer research shirts suddenly closed.
I was also surprised to see a few people gasping with their hands on their knees as early as the 3k mark, as though the distance had taken them by surprise already. I really don't mean to sound harsh - anyone who puts on their trainers and gets out there to raise cash for a cause is doing a Good Thing - but it made overtaking very difficult on the narrow, single-carriageway, central London roads.
It would have been much better to separate the waves into expected finish times, as they do for the half marathons I've run in, but I guess that would be an organisational nightmare for an event of this size.

Anyway, I trotted round in a reasonable time of 48'23 and rehydrated with a protein shake on the steps near the Duke of York statue on The Mall. The finisher's medal is handsome and I like the New Balance shirt - but I wouldn't rush to do that race again.

Berlin Marathon: Five-Mile Hyde Park Saturday Circuit

For a change of route, I hopped on the Central Line to Queensway with Grace. She turned left for the ice rink and I turned right for Hyde Park.
Another lovely summer's morning; the lime trees in full flower, the grass baked almost brown and Saturday morning strollers out in full force.
I'd meant to go for a run last night after work but ended up with a three-pinter in the Shaston Arms with Tommy and Gill. I'd done the early Oratory training drop-off in the morning so that was another training day written off.

But a steady circuit of the park in a Manchester City training top is a nice way to start the weekend. I hugged the circumference anti-clockwise past Kensington Palace, left past the Royal Albert Hall, onwards past the barracks and left again parallel with Park Lane to Marble Arch. There were a couple of sets of parkrun pilgrims warming up en route. The final straight through Kensington Gardens makes the loop just over four miles so I completed a dash around the boating lake to make it a five-miler.

I then had the bonus of popping into the ice rink to watch Grace do some Salko jumps before heading home for fry up and a snooze in the garden then out to the LOSBC summer bbq at the Thames Tradesmen's Club at Barnes.
Hundreds of burgers and sausages were smoked and a handful of London Prides ensured I was fully hydrated for tomorrow's British 10k London Run.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Berlin Marathon: DOMS and Tube Strikes

Kensington Gardens: Thursday's commute

Wednesday: DOMS
Up at 6.30am for a pre-work six-miler down the Thames. Oof, this was classic Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness 23 hours after yesterday's conditioning session. I felt heavy-legged and sluggish from the minute I started running - calves complaining, glutes grumbling and thighs skiving. I just couldn't get going.
Lovely morning for a trot, though; light cloud and a cool breeze as I headed east beyond Hammersmith Bridge. I was pleasantly surprised that I'd averaged 8'10/mi by the time I headed to the kitchen for a protein shake.

Thursday: Tube Strike
Up at 6.30am again for a five-mile walk to work. The £50k-a-year tube drivers want more money for staffing the all-night service which is due in September so today was a network shutdown.
I enjoyed the 90-minute walk in the sunshine with a nice, cooling breeze. Up Bayswater Road to Notting Hall, into Kensington Gardens and straight on through Hyde Park to Marble Arch before ducking behind Oxford Street to reach the office via North Row.
I left just after 5pm for the return walk home in the lovely, warm, evening sunshine, stopping off at the Co-Op on Uxbridge Road for a rehydrating four-pack of London Pride.
I wouldn't want to do it every day but as a one-off, a ten-mile on-foot commute is highly recommended. Did nothing for my training, though: I only got into the cardio zone for nine minutes on the way home. Must ramp it up tomorrow.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Berlin Marathon: Running Conditioning PT

My fourth personal training session with Yasmine at 8am and as she put in her post-class email, it's amazing how the simplest exercises can sometimes be the hardest.
Walking lunges warmed up the glutes nicely and the lunges with an 8kg kettlebell lift made them burn like billyo straight afterwards. It's the combination of lifts, lunges and balancing that I find really testing.
My calfs were raised and my soleus muscles were teased before my introduction to the tippy-toe steps of ankling, all rounded off with some hop jumps - three times then holding on the tip toes on the third landing. I was teetering around like a doomed tightrope walker by the end of another enjoyable session.
Then there was a bonus: Yasmine had prepared a week-by-week long run schedule between now and the marathon on September 27. It looks great, similar to the Bupa one I've been using but with added value of target pace and negative splits.
If I can keep to a steady pace of nine minutes per mile I can get round Berlin in under four hours. Yasmine says that is very much achievable and I've got to start believing that too. Mind games.
The trick now is to figure out how I'm going to fit them all in to a summer of travelling and festival-going. This Sunday's 11-miler has already been replaced by my company-sponsored entry into the Great British 10k.
The 12-miler the following weekend should be fine but then I'm off to California for a fortnight. Jet lag and weather permitting I would love to do the half-marathon on July 26 around San Francisco, the 14-miler the following week around the rim of the Grand Canyon and the 15-miler in Yosemite before the flight home but that may be ambitious. I don't want to get eaten by a bear in Yosemite Valley.
I've found a decent-looking San Francisco route which traces part of their November half-marathon which I've downloaded to MapMyRun and a Google search suggests plenty of people have enjoyed the scenery of the Canyon and Yosemite with their trainers on and lived to tell the tale.
The fact that the Canyon is at high altitude fills me with trepidation but as Yasmine says, even if I simply power walk around the rim it will be a testing workout.
The 18/19 miler coincides with the Victorious Festival in Portsmouth so something will have to give. Like The Flaming Lips' Yoshimi, I'll simply have to discipline my body.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Berlin Marathon: Norfolk Ten-Miler

Swallows shocked at my relentless ten-miler

Up at 7am after a sticky and fitful Saturday night's sleep for a long run from North Creake to Holkham Hall and back. It was so hot and sunny as I set off full of banana and SIS electrolyte that I seriously worried I might end up sunburnt even at that time in the morning. 
This was a straight and steady run with the skylarks and yellowhammers for company. The first mile was steeper than anyone has a right to expect in Norfolk before undulating into the Holkham estate, over the cattle grids, under the Triumphal Arch and arrow-straight past the obelisk to the lovely lake of intimidating Greylag and Canada geese parading their goslings. 

The route passed in front of the handsome house and out towards Lady Anne's Drive to the halfway point. Then it was back up the long climb to the obelisk and steadily, relentlessly under the arch, the swathes of lush greenery in either side barely shading me from the strong sunshine. 
I took it fairly easy. It was too hot and rolling to push it too hard and I was enjoying the air and the swifts screaming overhead. 

I took the belt with me and finished both mini bottles of electrolyte en route then enjoyed a good old sweat-drenched stretch on the North Creake village green. I necked a protein shake before feasting on a no-holds-barred brunch prepared by Uncle Andy. 
I topped that up on the way back to London with a carvery lunch at The Swan in Hilborough. The Adnam's East Coast IPA was as refreshingly lively as ever. 

This was also a reasonably fond farewell to the orange Asics gel-cumulus 15 trainers. Both left and right had split just over the sole on both sides. I paid £65 for them in a sale in November and I'm surprised they've haven't lasted a bit longer. I reckon I've got around 150 miles out of them. I never really warmed to them, either; they always felt a bit big and garish. 
But we'll always have Hackney. 

Berlin Marathon: Week Four Training Summary

Dark Green Fritillary, Norfolk
Tuesday: a hearty 10k
 After yesterday's rest day I managed to squeeze in an easy six-miler along the Thames after work. This was the first time I'd specifically focused on keeping my heart rate within the cardio zone, instead of the peak zone, for most of the run. It inevitably meant I ran slower but that's ok when the air is filled with jasmine scent and the breeze is keeping me cool on a lovely summer's evening. 
My peak heart rate should be 171 bpm using the classic calculation of 220 minus my age but a check of my peak rate during last Saturday's ParkRun 5k suggests it's more like 181 bpm. Yasmine the PT calculates as follows:
 Max 171
70% is 120
95% is 162
Based on that my usual average bpm of around 146bpm is probably on the high side. Today it was 137bpm which felt fine; I think I'll keep it like that for a few runs and and see what happens.

Wednesday: Henley Royal Regatta

No running today, not much walking either, but plenty of gorgeous sunshine, real ales and wine as guests in the Stewards' Enclosure. It was a special day to see Joseph row at such a prestigious occasion for the first time. It was so hot that us gents were allowed to take off our jackets by mid-afternoon - rare indeed. LOSBC came second to the Germans of Osnabruck in their Princess Elizabeth Cup heat. But just qualifying for the first time in the school's history was a major achievement. 
We celebrated so much over fish and chips in The Baskerville in Shiplake afterwards that I left my credit card in the pub and had to phone up the next morning to ask the barman to destroy it. Happy days. 

Thursday: third personal training session
An 8am body conditioning session with Yasmine. I found the techniques and the balancing tricky - wobbly on the single leg squats and unimpressive with the single leg deadlifts. The Viper twists were easier and the Plyo box bear crawls were fun. I need more practice time on all of them. 
The highlight of the session was a cardio rowing challenge: row 1km in one-minute bursts with 30 secs of rest inbetween. I just dipped on the 4min mark but it was fun. 
Recovered with a sauna and a jacuzzi followed by a walk to The Blue Boat in Hammersmith for a vigorous rehydration session. It was so magnificently hot the real ales were all off so it was down to Yakima Red and Sierra Nevada topped off with a few German favourites in the sun-dappled garden. 

Friday: Easy 40 Minutes
Up at 6.30am for a routine five-miler down the Thames before work. A lovely sunny morning for it and again I was keeping an eye an the heart rate: averaged 145bpm. 

Saturday: Norfolk Hiking

Swallows at Titchwell in Norfolk

We drove up on Friday night to stay with Cath and Andy in North Creake. No running but a steady six-mile walk in the high summer sunshine along the dunes from Burnham Overy Staithe to Wells. 
Butterfly highlights included Dark Green Fritillaries, White Admirals, Ringlets, Red Admirals, Speckled Woods and flocks of Meadow Browns. After a pork pie and pate lunch we headed to Titchwell for a first sighting of Red Veined Darter dragonfly with the bonus of a flock of young Swallows to enjoy. 
We celebrated with fish and chips at The Jolly Sailors in Brancaster and a selection of quality items from the Norfolk Real Ale Shop.