Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Hotel Gyms

On the road can really suck when it comes to totally interfering with any semblance of a training schedule. In Istanbul Turkey covering the visit of Il Papa (aka the Pope). Which is a nice way of saying you are locked down in a hotel waiting for something to happen or not to happen. I cannot leave and go for a run because if something was to happen then I have to be there when it happens and not somewhere on the streets of istanbul and out of contact.
I have a traing program for the week which i am trying to stick to, but like all good hotel gyms the treadmills are more for show and peopel walking badly on them rather than Treadmills taht are for runners, every time you get the speed up beyond walking pace the belt slips and the danger of flying off backwards or losing your step terrifies me.
I have managed to get a couple of runs in of five kms at a good pace and the elipticals are reasonable. The weights well they are stacked nicely and the machines ... well they are nicely placed in the hotel gym.
Get the Picture
Looking forward to Saturday morning when I can get out of the bubble of the hotel and go for a run

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Ouch my rear hurts

Now I should point out that I have only just got a road bike and have never riden with a group, but I quickly learnt if you get pushed out the back of the pelaton you are in most cases "buggered" this drafting thing you hear and read about is real and the effort required to ride in the pack is about half of trying to push the wind yourself. So that wa sthe first lesson from my first group ride, as well as trying to decipher the hand signals from riders ahead.
It was a beautiful morning and turning up I had no idea whom I was to be riding with and set out with the head coach Ron and hiis group, they had hinted at our first meeting that i would be riding with the 3rd team out of four, not the beginners and not the real elite. Wrong as we pushed back after sixty five km's I found that I was in fact with the elite group, so my ego was really stoked and it also explained why I could not keep up with them on the hills.
70 km of road countless hills and a sore butt to boot, whilst I have been riding Mountain bikes for years it is going to take time to get to grips with the power of a road bike because comparing the two my road bike is like a F1 compared to the old cheap clunker of a MTB.
My first week of training now complete and I can already feel the benefits and improvements and by weeks end, man was I tired.
Off to Turkey now for the week covering the Pope, so training will be in the Hotel Gym ... Rock on ...

Friday, November 24, 2006

Group Long

I have always enjoyed Long Runs, they are a chance to simply enjoy running at an easy converstional pace, note the word converstional pace. Every book you read says "Conversational Pace". By the end of my first Long Run under a coach perhaps a "panting muttering of words" is a better description.

This morning was my first "long run" with the Triathlon training group and apart from having the nerves of running with people I did not know and the fear you have of being the lone loser out the back it was fun to meet new runners and triathletes.

We were heading out to the sand dunes area along the coast with the aim of attacking the uphills, it is a beautiful run out along the cliff tops and once I realised that was not the tail end charlie, I could relax and start working at a more than standard pace and I could still "converse" at this stage.

Little did I know that when we got to the Gas station and Coach Ron briefed the group what was instore. The briefing was in Hebrew of which I understand perhaps one word in a hundred that the group was to pick up pace. So blissfully unaware of what was ahead the group set off. I soon realised that we were moving fast and the lead runners were soon off in the distance. At this point a girl next to me panted what the translation was. I mentally decided to move into next gear and for the next 5 km's I motored along at nearly 13km/h which a week ago was my tempo pace not my long run pace.

It actually started to feel good to push through the envelope and find my legs.

Not a week into a coaching programme I am already starting to feel the effects and incrase in my own abilty to lifdt my heart rate and sustain it

The time and diatnce did not refect the workout, so next time I will stop my watch at stops and try and get a better reading of time and pace

Tomorrow morning in the dawn hours it is biking with a coach for the first time

Intervals & Thrashing about in Water

There is something magic about a stadium in the dawn as the sun comes up and still to this day I am always in awe spiritually as you enter the stadium, normally this is reserved for entering a stadium to watch your team pal and the first moment you see the hallowed turf my breath is always taken away.

This morning I could almost see my breath and the dew on the ground still coated the grass around the track, there were no stadiums filled with spectactors but just a group of us huddled around Chief Coach Ron who was briefing us on the Intervals workout that lay ahead. This was my first session with Ron and was his chance to assess my level of running so there was within me the desire to “hold form” and show him that I did have some talent “raw” but willing.

The session was brutal, perhaps brutal is the word I use, this being my only second session with a coach assessing me and coaching me.

We started with a warm up and the words of “faster Mal” by the third lap of the warm up and even faster on the Fourth lap, before the session briefing. A reverse 2000m down starting with 2000, 1600, 1200, 800, 800.This fellow runners is a workout designed to make your legs burn with only a minute interval between each set. As I set out on the 1200 my legs had that burn and from moment on my heart rate was never below 90% of max. The first 800 was hard and Ron said one more would do me he just wanted me to keep the same pace up and hear me breathe as I ran past him.

As you turned onto the final straight Ron would concentrate on you and it is comforting but unnerving to feel for the first time in my running life that I was constantly being assessed and there is no where to hide or allow yourself to ease down.

My splits were as follows

#1 2000m 9 min 11 secs Pace 4:28 min/km
#2 1600m 7 min 24 secs Pace 4:30 min/km
#3 1200m 5 min 35 secs Pace 4:28 min/km
#4 800m 3 min 37 secs Pace 4:22 min/km
#5 800m 3 min 34 secs Pace 4:20 min/km

Looking back I am happy with my ability to maintain pace and keep running at that level of threshold I believe in myself and my abilty to improve. As the adage goes to run faster, you need to train faster.

I learnt lessons this morning like a yoghurt is not enough to eat before training as I will really need carbs to run track, and in cold weather to use long skin pants to avoid injury. Also have food for immediately after because I was starving by the end of the session and was glad I had a banana in my bag as I climbed in the car.

Now for the second part of the day and the need to actually accept that if I want to complete a triathlon and really compete not just go through the motions and accept that result without actually racing or pushing myself. I am going to have to learn to swim freestyle.

You could take me out of the coast 5 km and tell me to swim in breaststroke and I would not be daunted, take me out 500 m and tell me to swim in freestyle and I would be trouble.

Here in lies the problem to be resolved I have to learn to swim freestyle, Coach gavin gave me a trial program to get me started. The ten laps to warm up felt like I had already done the a workout, BUT I was determined not to give up and pushed myself. Then kickboard a length, one arm a length then one lap freestyle, the lap freestyle actually felt good and positive with energy, the kickboard lengths felt like a bad way to drown myself in slow motion. Followed by 6 laps cool down and the seeing the end of the black line felt really good. So good in fact that I put on fins and did four more laps with fins and a kickboard, I like the fins reminds me of training for my SCUBA Divemaster level.

What felt good was that I did not give up or revert to breast stroke, I had actually completed a freestyle session, not hard by any standards BUT I had done it alone with no one around me, the session was mine. Is my stroke bad “yes” does my kick suck “yes” but it was my session and I had achieved a small goal within myself . A session of freestyle.

In years to come I will look back at this entry and laugh, but then again I remember the first time 8 years ago when I tried to run around the block and could not manage it without stopping and now I have run four marathons.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The next step - The Coach

I have come to realization that if I really do want to meet my true ambiyions in running and run a BQ (Boston Qualifier) and compete in Triahlons next year that as much as I believe in my own abilities that a professional coach is worth a try.

Contacting one of the biggest Tri teams here in Israel I made an appointment to meet the Head Coach and another Coach (who would be my coach "Gavin") it was intesting to hear there opinions on what I had achieved and how I had been training. I have known within myself that my training was to a degree becoming more and more unfocused and given the distractions of war during the summer, the wheels as to direction and focus have been wobbling. Through my own fault and lack of purpose in my training. The meaningless runs were honestly becoming junk miles and my fitness and times have not improved in relation to the effort I had been doing.

Both Ron and Gavin agreed that my training whilst being good had plateaued and that working with them they could help rach my goals. Not a surprising thing for a coach to say but at the same time was reassuring that working together I could start to better times and goals

I would have a program and work with different groups including track sessions, long runs and biking. My swim training would not begin till I come back from Iraq at the end of the year.

My first workout that Gavin wanted me to do was a tempo run, but rather than just cruise and think I was working hard I was to maintain a solid 12km/h pace which sounds simple but most of my training runs used to max out at maybe 11km.h so to push that little harder and make the run count.

The next morning I was to meet Gavin at the track at 6:30 for my first group session. It was almost daunting to arrive at the track in the dawn light and find almost fifty others there all about to do the same. It involved a warmup for ten minutes then 5 x 1200m repeats a distance I have never done before with expressions like we are going to aim these repeats at between 15km and half marathon pace. After three of these I could feel the lactic building in my legs and then Gavin said on the next two 1200 intervals he wanted my 1km splits as to ascertain my pace and push myself a bit harder.

Over the next two intervals my km splits were 4:40 and 4;44 which actually surprised and the new knowledge that I had base times to work on faster than I had contemplated in previous track sessions.

My next track session is tomorrow with head Coach Ron, I feel that it is going to be even harder and that whilst scary also has added a new impetus to my training.

Friday is a long group run and Saturday morning we hit the hills on the bike

Monday, November 20, 2006

New York Marathon 2006

There are great marathons in the world and as to which one is the greatest, that will only ever be decided by the person who has run everyone in the world and since the chances of meeting that runner is about the same as me breaking the world record, then as marathoners we will always have something to talk about on long runs.

Having said that only New York is magical, where else in the world can you effectively close down major parts of one of the largest cities in the world and have more than a million people cheer you and actually enjoy the sight of us mortals running badly.

First up lets get Lance out of the picture, yes I did see him at the start. We managed to get to the edge of the blue corral on the bridge and saw him warming up and then at the start. No matter what anyone says, he like me ran the marathon every step of it and for that we as runners should be proud of what he stands for in our running community. It was very cool to be standing there as a runner and yell “Go Lance” and then turn and begin the race just like him.

I was running with my great friend Chaim aka Captain Caveman from the local hash running group having seen him achieve his goal of completing his first half marathon earlier in the year at the Three Borders Half Marathon here in Israel, now we were towing the line at one of biggest running events in the world the NYC Marathon.

Having had such an interrupted year of training with war, I know war really changes your training program, hard to run long when people are going to kidnap or kill you, so in some sense I was glad at the starting line that I felt confident and ready and in all honesty knowing that I was going to do a good time as long as Chaim was going I would be there with him.

One of my favorite sights at the start of marathons is the endless urination that happens around you, women who would normally not even use a public toilet are happy to squat in front of thousands and pee. A funny story actually happened here, listening to a podcast about running a marathon I remembered a great idea and that is take a Gatorade bottle with you , as you get to the mass start drink the remains of the drink and you have in your hand a ready made toilet with wide mouth access if you know what I mean, then simply put the bottle down by the curb.

Anyway in the corral when we were getting our stuff together Judith just grabbed this bottle of Gatorade out of my hand and took a swig. Just as the bottle got to her mouth I mentioned its purpose , the look on her face was one of had I used it already, never grab anything out of my running bag without asking is the moral of this story.

I liked the feeling of knowing that the run was going to be fun and that I had no pressure on myself physically or mentally and the ability to suck up the atmosphere made a big difference.

One good thing about NYC is that with the majority of streets being wide and the race starting from three waves it is easy to get into a pace and not have many other runners blocking you. The start over the bridge is fantastic and I had time to look back and see the incredible mass of runners hurtling down and onto the streets.

One hard thing though is that I only know how to run metric, I honestly have no idea of how far a mile is and the pacing and timing is much harder as you try to calculate out splits, luckily they have 5km splits and 26 markers is less than 42 but further apart.

Last year I remember bonking as I crossed the 59th street bridge into Manhatten and feeling drained as I tried to keep up with my pacing team of 3:50, this time when I crossed the bridge I actually started sing out for everyone “ If your happy and you know it clap your hands” which got a great response from other runners around me. Chaim was starting to hurt at this point and I knew from past experience this pain sucks when you are only around 16 miles into the marathon. The big problem I was having at this stage was that I was getting very very cold the wind was so bitter and I had to take my running hat off all the time as it was freezing my head and giving me chills right to the end of the marathon it was on and off .

The run up 1st Avenue is an awesome experience it feels like the whole city is out cheering you and you feel like a champion. The Sponge Bob sponge stop is another souvenir to treasure from NYC, after taking it I stuck it down the back of my pants I wanted my Sponge Bob.

The next challenge was just up the road at Mile 19, this is where last year I made the stupid mistake of taking a Powerbar gel having never used then on any training run and it hit my stomach and I had started to feel the urge to be violently sick and rather than give me the boost it finished me off and I hit the wall then.

This year I had trained using these gels and for me too get thru this point in the race was critical I felt fine and as we crossed into the Bronx we slowed to walk for a few hundred yards as Chaim was carrying a 400lb gorilla at this point and suffering badly. I urged him on with the promise of another walk as we crossed back into Manhatten.

My legs were tiring as we pushed through those low twenty miles and whilst I did not hit any wall I was tiring. Luckily Chaim’s family were by the side of the road and this gave him a fantastic burst of energy and got the gorilla off his back.

That trek down 5th Avenue was a blur as I tired knowing that it was so close and yet so far as we still had the Central Park ahead of us, turning into the Park is hard as you know that is almost over and all the joys and anguish of 6 months of training is going to end, if I was not hurting so much you almost want the marathon to be longer so you can enjoy the experience.

Columbus Circle beckoned and I felt a complete re surge of energy as you turn and the finish line is just up that small hill and the crowds lift you as you give everything left. Lifting Chaims hand up we crossed the line in 4:27:27 like champions, friends and people whose lives will never be the same because we had run a marathon together.

The medal is draped around you and all of a sudden the cold hits you and the scramble to get the space blanket was imperative. Shuffling along in our tin foils Chaim went into a hypothermic shock and we actually ended up in the medical tent for fifteen minutes, with four space blankets on Chaim and a wool blanket to boot. Having never been in a Medical tent at the end of a marathon it was almost funny to see people in such pain, I know cruel but sadistic in my own way.

Chaim was shaking so badly that the cup of tea we were given almost shook out of his cup. Fifteen minutes later he was fine cold but ok and we walked out of the park laughing with our heads held up high we walked the streets proudly wearing our medals like champions we were. There is a magic to finishing a marathon that no drug in the world will ever duplicate, as you know that you a member of the point one of one percent of the worlds population that has run a marathon.

Ramat Hasharon 15km Race

Having never done a 15 km race it was a challenge to toe the line on Saturday just two weeks after running NYC Marathon, (and yes that race report is forthcoming) I had decided that i was going to run this race for myself and not worry about anyone else. Which was a nice way to prepare and even more importantly I ws determined not to be out psyched by another runner which destroyed me in my last 10km even though I had set a PB 48.08 in that event it was a disaster mentally and I did not want to repeat that again.
My aim was to control my heart rate and not let it getr out of control and maintain a pace that would allow me to push hard at the end. The thing I had not factored in was the bloody big hill that I realised as I was running down that it was from 12 - 13.5 km on the way back.
My splits were great and with 5 km at 24:30 and 10 km at 50:15 , by this stage I allowed my heart rate to push above 150 and maxing out at 161 on the hill back to finish in 1:17:40 my last km with a nice downhill was 4:33 and my best km was 4:30min/km.
In fact five of the km's had me running sub 5:00 min/km's which was pleasing , great to finish positive and strong and now the next stage as I am about to embark on a professional coaching program and that my fellow runners gives me that one quest, put simply a BQ time within 18 months

If you follow the link race picture from the run

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Mal is back

Sometimes you need a break from blogging and for that I apologise to those of you who come and read my running diatribe. But I hope that with everything coming back into karma, then I shall be back with a far better pace

Blogging is like commiting to training program, it must have focus and motivation and that is my new commitment for the coming future.

So once again apologies and thanks for dropping by again.

Run back on Monday for the Race Report from the New York Marathon and also my first visit to a Professional Coach on Sunday


New York Marathon 2006

Bib Number 18737
Time 4:27:27