Hey y'all, I'm back.
Managed one run up and down a mountain in New Hampshire, but no stats as my (sporadically useless) GPS couldn't be arsed to pick up a satellite lock.
Didn't see any bears, but some frightening creature almost attacked me. It was bigger than most houses, and resembled a giant camel with two large trees growing out of the sides of its head. I suspect it was a gruffalo.
It blocked the trail ahead, staring at me for a few seconds that seemed like weeks, evidently contemplating whether or not I would be edible. Then it decided not, and wandered off into the trees. So I legged it. A hotel man later had the temerity to suggest it was "just a moose, you sissy".
In the meantime, this comment came in.
"Hi Mr. C, I'm loving your work, both on the training and the blog.Can't fault the theory, though I reckon you're a bit hard on your parents; I suspect your genetics are a little better than you give them credit for...
If you're aiming for 8.7 miles an hour or thereabouts and your rate of improvement is tailing off, are you still confident that it will get you to where you want to be before next spring? Does weightloss become more significant? Are you planning on running your target marathon at a higher heartrate than your training HR and if so, what? Will you be adding runs nearer your lactate threshold (a la Hadd)? Speedwork?
I'm embarking on a similar plan for my Spring jaunt, so I am literally and metaphorically behind you.
Finally, if I complete 67% of my chosen event, will people still be in awe?"
Nice questions! Thanks! I'll arbitrary number, and answer them...
1 no, they are rubbish!
2 yes, still confident.
3 weight loss will be pretty key! If I get to my "race weight" of 11 stone, then using the broad average of 1.8 seconds per mile per pound at marathon effort... then that will give me around a 3:10 marathon already. So then would just need to shave an additional 15 minutes off by next May using that overrated method known as "training"...
4 yes, higher heart rate for race day - around 160 bpm for a "full effort" marathon. Allowing for a bit of heart rate drift, and assuming 2.5 secs/mile/extra bpm... I'm banking on 20 secs/mile pace improvement
5 yes, some faster runs. eg 20 miles @ 145, then 8 miles @160, then 4 miles warm down
6 what's your spring jaunt? Come to Mumbai! I'll race you!
7 You would be awe inspiring for even contemplating entering it! But then a c**t for failing so hopelessly.
Hope that makes sense?!
Do mail in any more questions. I'm always happy to enlighten the world by showering it with my immense wisdom.
Run #13?? On a Friday?? An ill omen, perhaps?! Should we have expected it to go horribly wrong?
Well... it didn't!
It was boringly mundane, in fact. Felt strong and the legs held out well (such a difference from when I started running 6 weeks ago!). 25 miles, the first 20 at 9:02 pace at 145 heart rate. A fraction slower than what I was hoping for, pace-wise, but getting there.
Saw an over-excited dog knock its owner over. Got annoyed by some tourists shambling randomly over the pavement. Accidentally cleared my sinuses on a cyclist's leg. The usual, really.
Haven't developed any mosquito superpowers yet, from yesterday's bites.
The curve has definitely flattened out, but that was only to be expected. Up to 2 weeks ago, we would have extrapolated a 2:30 marathon by January(!).
Tonight's planned run had to be ditched, because I had some work to do. Boo! Only ever doing 4+ hour runs is clearly THE BEST way to train in most respects, but it sure ain't conducive to 8:30pm conference calls. Never mind. It's a marathon not a sprint, apparently. So I'll do it tomorrow night instead.
More work interference next week, as I'm in the US on business in one of those annoyingly unflat New England states like New Hampshire or Massachussets or some such (obviously I haven't got into the details yet). Never fear, dear reader. I shall haul my wobbly carcass out for a 25-miler Stateside, and report back.
...and no doubt record a devastatingly terrible run. Mountains are, of course, even worse than nice sunny weather for the more generously proportioned chubster. Any errant black bears looking for a quick meal before hibernation will probably be scared of me though. They will almost certainly assume I'm a lost, bald Grizzly, and leg it in the opposite direction. Swings and roundabouts.
The "aaargh! it's a giant bear! run for it!" effect sadly doesn't always have the same effect in my home borough of Vauxhall though.
On the subject of fearsome predators, I woke up this morning covered from head to toe in quite angry looking bites. Well, covered from back to toe, anyway. And there were only 9 of them at latest count. So I suppose saying "lightly sprinkled from back to toe in angry looking bites" might be more accurate, if somewhat less dramatic.
I did make the startling leap of logic that it must be because I slept with the window open last night, and my bedroom overlooks the river. Bloody mosquitoes. However, on further reflection, the Thames is (a) brackish, (b) horribly polluted and toxic, (c) very tidal [the water level rises and falls 10 metres twice a day here], and (d) very fast moving.
Although (d) might be a consequence of (c), I guess. I dunno, I have no idea about rivers, leave me alone.
Oh, and... (e) I live on the fifth floor!
Soooo... the only logical conclusion is, that these were radioactive, mutated SUPER MOSQUITOES! If the story of Peter Parker is in any way an accurate and reliable precedent, which I'm pretty sure it is, then by next Tuesday I would expect to have developed some pretty spectacular super powers.
So maybe those black bears aren't so stupid after all. Maybe they have very good reasons to leg it into the forest when they hear me trundling towards them.
OK, that probably counts as having gone off on a bit of a tangent. So, tomorrow's run. Predictions? Hmmm... I would be happy with 9 minute miles pace, at 145 heart rate. Let's see what happens!
...went Ok. Not brilliant, not awful. 9:07 pace at 145 heart rate. The curve is flattening, but we're still on target!
Actually I expected it to "flatten" much sooner, progress so far has been amazing.
Now I really need to focus on SHIFTING (as opposed to shiting) the lard. (Thanks for pointing out the typo, Bailey!) Getting a new battery for those damned scales might be a start. No improvement without measurement, and all that.
Carrying extra blubber around really whacks your pace. Something like 25 seconds per mile per stone, at marathon effort - so just shifting four of those by January will get me pretty close to the sub-3:10 target for Mumbai. Let's have it!
It had to happen eventually... I broke my streak, and had a really bad run. The one-run-in-five terrible one has, so far, been one-run-in-eleven, so I can't really complain!
The first two miles went well, then I stopped for a loo break and noticed that I was POURING with sweat. Much more than usual. And it all went downhill from there. Very quickly.
Dialed down the effort to the bottom of my training range, 139 heart rate, because I thought I was going to explode. It wasn't pretty. The pace came in at 9:28 for the 20 miles. 3 hours 10 minutes of not being very happy at all. After adjusting for heart rate, that's slightly worse than Monday's run. Booo!
Actually the graph would still look OK, if Monday's run could be erased from history. But that would be cheating!
Pub tonight with Coach Barlos for a recovery red wine session, then back at it Monday. How will it go? If we aren't on 9 minute miles at 145 pace, I'll be slightly annoyed. The blip has made it interesting, at least..!
Doesn't the time just fly by?! One month training completed already!
So let's take stock of how things are going.
Ten runs done, five (I think) of 20 miles, and the other five of 25 miles. Or it might be six and four. I can't be bothered to look back through the blog. It makes little difference. Five miles out of ~225 is hardly going to break the bank.
So. Targets. When I started training, after ten months of zero exercise and carrying 75 pounds of sexy excess lard, I set three loose ones for the first 5-6 weeks:
1) get down to 9:30 pace over 20 miles, at an easy 145 heart rate;
2) shed a stone and a half of blubber;
3) build up to doing 3 x 30mile runs a week.
With 1 or 2 weeks still to go before that first target date, how are we doing?
1) 9:12 pace already. Waaaay better than even I expected. The way things are going, by the end of the 6 weeks I'll be going quicker than 8:45 pace. That's a jaw dropping improvement from my first run, where I struggled to finish the 20 miles, and limped home at 11:51 pace. And 8:45 vs 9:30 is HUGE. Ridiculously huge. Smashes the (already ambitious) target completely.
2) 12 pounds lost so far, so I guess we'll be at around a stone or so total in a week or two. Short of the original target, but no biggie. The speed increase is more important, and I've eaten a lot of jelly babies and steaks in order to keep my strength up. See 1) above. There's plenty of time to get below 11 stone by the main challenge, in May. Perfectly happy with this.
3) Right now I'm on something like two and a half x 25 mile runs per week, leaving plenty of recovery time in between. Can't see that this will change much in the next couple of weeks! Again, I'm perfectly happy with that though. The pace results are way better than expected, so there's no point pushing the mileage any harder quite just yet. Again, see 1)! More than happy with this - it gives me more to go far when the improvements start to plateau from the 25 milers. Although they aint showing much sign of doing that, yet!
All in all... 10 out or 10. Just because I completely blasted the target on pace improvement. The other two targets are just "support" - SPEED IS KING!!
I'm more confident than ever on going from fat lazy blob to sub-2:55 marathon by next May. And more convinced than ever that the training programmes followed by 99.9% of marathon runners (yes, you!) are just plain stupid.
And just because it looks so cool... once again, here's the first month summarised in geeky graph format! Read it and weep, "Amby Burfoot"! Put that in your pipe and smoke it, "Hal Higdon"! Err, they are the only two I can think of.
Targets for the next month..?
1) 8:30 pace over the first 20 miles of the run, at easy 145 heart rate.
2) another stone of liposuction.
3) let's get at least ONE thirty mile run in the bag.
Does that work for you, or what?
Run #10 already. Woo hoo! I'm slightly concerned about having run out of fingers, but I'm sure I can improvise.
So, I'm sure you're dying to know: how did it go??
I set off, and the alarm bells started ringing pretty much immediately. Couldn't breathe, couldn't get into a rhythm, felt pants. Uh-oh. This is looking like that one-run-in-five that you should expect to ruin the progress graph. Damnation.
After half a mile I stopped to stretch. As I bent over, trying in vain to get my fingertips somewhere close to the vague vicinity of my toes, somebody evidently snuck up behind me and lit the touch paper. Whoosh! Felt great, kicked arse.
The first 20 miles rolled by, with a nice result for the graph. Then I did lap 5 of the park a bit faster, then I ran out of jelly babies, so romped back home after a particularly pleasant 25 miles total.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So here's two thousand for you. If this is a fair representation of training properly:
Then this is a Hal Higdon/Runners World/your running club training plan:
Except the clown looks far too intelligent to be following a loser schedule.
So... the numbers. Scores on the doors for the standard 20 mile route - 9:12 pace at 145 heart rate. After only one month's training, from a near-death experience in doing 20 miles at 11:51 pace with my first run, nobody could call that anything less than amazing.
Above the trend line, too!
Training properly rocks. It's official.
I've received some interesting comments through the "contact" page.
We should probably caveat this straight away with the obvious fact that I'm a moderate geek... so you might be well advised to take the word interesting
with several large handfuls of salt.
Why only a "moderate" geek? Why not "complete and utter"? Well, I use a GPS to track my runs. Mildly geeky. Then, I whine like a scouser being forced to eat salad when it doesn't get a signal. Moderately geeky. But I don't then sink to the distant, uber-geek depths of syncing it to my laptop when I get home, to download the results. (My girlfriend does that with hers! Ha ha! Geek!)
comments. No hate mail, disappointingly. There were, however, three separate questions, which i shall elegantly spin together into an illuminating masterpiece of complete brilliance. You might want to take notes.
A couple of people asked about what supplements I take to help me cover the distances I run (and "glucosamine" was mentioned in particular). Somebody else made the rather accusatory suggestion that running more than 60 miles a week will almost certainly lead to "overtraining, breakdown and injury". The final question was on what I eat and drink.
Well, he actually said "nutrition and hydration", so he's clearly either a dalek, or a bit of a tit. Speak English, man!
Sheesh. How do these people ask to see the wine list in a restaurant?? "Excuse me, would you facilitate my ocular perusal of your classified schedule representing the viniculturally derived, ethanol-based hydration options available for purchase in this establishment?" Eat. Drink. Piss it up the wall. Got it? Good.
OK. That's my reader sufficiently alienated, so I shall now answer the questions. We can head off the points about running more than 60 miles a week, and injury. I've already discussed these, and don't need to repeat myself. See here http://www.andy-collier.com/1/post/2011/08/avoid-the-average.html
and here http://www.andy-collier.com/1/post/2011/08/run-further-run-faster-dont-get-injured.html
if you have a particularly low boredom threshold. Basically, a pile of old crap only subscribed to by underachieving losers.
So... the more interesting questions. First, supplements. Which do I take? Basically, none. Despite what the shysters trying to sell them to you would have you believe, 99.99% of supplements are a complete load of old bollocks. They have zero effect. Eating a healthy diet will give you all the nutrients you need, and (other than stimulants such as caffeine, and hormones/steroids etc on the banned lists which do work but completely f*ck you up in return) nothing else you can put inside your body makes any difference.
Or, if you are particularly, mind-blowingly stupid... nothing you can put on your wrist!
Case in point, and the one which was specifically mentioned in the contact form, glucosamine. So many people swear by this - based on nothing but faked science and their own confirmation bias. An ergo propter hoc logical fallacy, if you will. "I took glucosamine, and my achilles tendinitis got better - so it definitely works for me". Crikey, _I_ took glucosamine and then, halfway across the world, the Ganges flooded - so it's definitely a complete f*cking menace "for me"!
The fake science? Ten years ago when glucosamine first started to be sold to the gullible masses, the manufacturers claimed great things for it, based upon scientific tests that they had sponsored and which were full of flaws. Lots of people were taken in. Me included. Then real tests were carried out, independent and rigorous ones (eg the GAIT test in the US), and it was found to be no better than placebo. Or in plainer English, a load of old bollocks.
The exception to the rule: protein. Specifically, glutamine and branched chain amino acids. But that's a food group rather than a supplement, so probably doesn't count anyway. I put a big heaped teaspoon of glutamine, and a gram or so (a bit on the end of a spoon!) of BCAAs, in each bottle of sport drink. These have been shown to help recovery - in particular to help protect against overtraining syndrome. Without wishing to turn into a dalek myself, they have an anti-catabolic effect in the muscles, and also help minimise post-exercise immuno-suppression.
Which brings us on to overtaining syndrome. Wikipedia gives a good summary:
"Overtraining occurs more readily if the individual is simultaneously exposed to other physical and psychological stressors, such as jet lag, ongoing illness, overwork, menstruation, poor nutrition etc. It is a particular problem for bodybuilders and other dieters who engage in intense exercise while limiting their food intake.
A number of possible mechanisms for overtraining have been proposed:
Microtrauma to the muscles are created faster than the body can heal them.
Amino acids are used up faster than they are supplied in the diet. This is sometimes called "protein deficiency".
The body becomes calorie-deficient and the rate of break down of muscle tissue increases.
Levels of cortisol (the "stress" hormone) are elevated for long periods of time.
The body spends more time in a catabolic state than an anabolic state (perhaps as a result of elevated cortisol levels).
Excessive strain to the nervous system during training."
My training plan is as effective in preventing over training as it is injury. First of all, the 1 or 2 rest days after every run, allow complete recovery to normal cortisol levels. Frequency of training, as well as intensity and duration, affects cortisol build up. One of the worst things for it is repeating sessions before it's cleared (between 5 and 7 hours, typically). Do you train morning/lunchtime, or lunchtime/evening? You're asking for it!
Secondly, eat, eat, eat. People who try to do long sessions with as little fuel as possible are idiots. You're asking to go catabolic. Glutamine and BCAAs do help to counterract some of the effects above (eg glutamine combats the effects of cortisol build up, and BCAAs are a rate limiter in amino acid uptake), but most of all: SUGAR!
I currently scoff down 6 jelly babies at the start of each lap, and the end of the last lap. 20 calories per baby. That's 720 calories for a 25 mile run. And straight after, a pint of chocolate milkshake and then a good carb/protein meal - another 1000 calories wolfed down within 30 minutes of finishing. The intention is to keep glycogen levels topped up at all times, and protein too. Fuel for recovery.
Drink. I get sick of sports drink, so I just carry two 750ml bottles of water, with glutamine/BCAAs added, and a dioralyte (rehydration salts) sachet in each. Nice and simple, and only mildly flavoured. Two of those usually does for a 25 mile run, but I take two more doses of the mixed powder in case it's hot. Conveniently there are a few drinking fountains in the park, but otherwise I take a bit of cash to buy water.
I also make sure I drink at least a litre of the salt/protein/water mix within the first hour of finishing... as again water is one of the key ingredients for recovery.
The other key element is keeping tabs on your rest pulse. If it's still unusually high after training, take the day off. The simplest way of doing this is pulse rate - if it's 10% higher than usual, rest. The more sophisticated way is to take it resting (laying in bed) then stand up and take it again. It will always go up - but if the difference in laying-standing is more than 10%, take the day off. I do it the simple way - this errs on the side of caution. Probably makes you take more days off than you might need. Never mind. Caution is good.
For example, when I'm fit my waking pulse rarely goes below 50. I know, that's rubbish. A crap heart is one of the reasons why I'm so sh*t at sport. Without actually being disabled, I've got the worst genetics possible. Stupid parents. So around 55 waking pulse is my "day off" red alert limit. Currently, the morning after a long run my pulse is around low-60s. Definite rest day. The second day it's around 55. Safer to rest, so I do. The third day, all clear at around 50. Go go go!
Please keep the questions coming. Preferably in English if you can manage it.
Missing you already
After a particularly unhealthy week off training, I commented yesterday that I'd be happy to see only a small improvement in tonight's run. Progress is progress, but I wasn't so stupid as to expect much after THAT week...
9:45 pace at 145 heart rate was the marker I set for myself.
Bad news, I'm afraid. Bad, bad news. Terrible, in fact.
I completely underestimated just how effective proper training is!! I was setting myself complete loser targets. I BLASTED it! 9:28 pace at 145 heart rate! BOOM!
That was over the first 20 miles of course - my regular, measured route. The graph looks sweeeeeeeet! Just look at that huge jump tonight:
As ever, the blue line shows the increase in performance since I started training again, and the red line takes out the gains I got from weight loss. So the blue line is how much quicker I am after 4 weeks running, an the red, how much quicker I would be now if I was still hauling the same amount of sexy lard around with me.
I also said last night that I'd hope to add an extra lap of the park, to make the run 29 miles total. No dice on that. It pays to be prudent; I don't like to build up pace AND distance at the same time.
Compared to my previous run, my heart might have been convinced i was going easier, but my legs and feet are sadly but inextricably bound by the laws of physics. Assuming my 25-year memory of A-level physics is in any way reliable, those laws dictate that my muscles were working 16% harder tonight. 16%! That's a lot.
So despite feeling fine, my head overruled my heart and I kept the run down to 25 miles total. I didn't want to push it, and risk injury.
Besides, I'm WAY ahead of schedule, so there's no need to take any risks. Next run: 9:20 at 145?
I had a few queries about avoiding overtraining, and one about what I eat on runs, and "supplements". These are all kinda linked, I think... so i'll write a blog to pontificate on this tomorrow, when i'm slightly less zonked. I bet you can't wait?!
Ciao for now.
Apologies for the minor disruption to service, we were away filming the final bits of my epic action horror movie for the past week.
Twenty hour days. For me, at least. The lazy arse cast and crew only did 12 hour shifts. Slackers. So very short on sleep and zero time for running. The Sunday morning-Monday afternoon stint was actually a 33 hour day - major endurance effort! Especially the 200 mile drive home at the end.
Scored a massive victory for common sense, by flouting every crackpot health and safety rule in the book. The best one (amongst many) was having an actor standing on a wobbly home made 20-foot high platform, waving and lobbing distress flare around and showering burning embers onto the camera person (and me!) stood below him.
It looks pretty cool though! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqgQrQGcuEY
Yesterday was spent holed up in the amazing greenscreen studio in Camberwell. Fantastic day. If you ever direct a movie in London and you need some VFX shots or pickups, go here. http://www.camberwellstudios.co.uk/
They didn't even get cross when I dropped a step ladder on a cup and broke the handle off. Happy days.
Location catering was provided exclusively by Dominoes Pizza and the local petrol station mini market, so I suspect a bit of weight loss reversal...
Back on the horse tomorrow. Hopefully I won't be WORSE than last Thursday, despite the most unhealthy and least recovery-friendly week imaginable. Even more hopefully, I could actually have improved ever so slightly.
So, let's say 9:45 pace at 145 heart rate over the first 20 miles, and push the run out to 29 miles total, and we'll count that as a massive, MASSIVE win.