Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Trainer review - Adidas Adistar Boost

Pros: lightweight, snug fitting upper, soft midfoot and heel ride, comfortable over long distance, seem responsive to speed

Cons: less support than some neutral shoes, expensive, thin outer sole, not much grip

Like a lot of runners, I was quite intrigued by the claims made by Adidas about their new Boost technology. There was certainly a lot of hype surrounding the benefits of the Boost technology used in their mid-sole.

Although all of the marketing hype centred on the Boost technology, the thing that first struck me about the Adistar Boost was their uppers. They are largely made up of a neoprene material which results in a more snug fit. Initially I thought it might be a bit too snug and may cause blisters but after 300+ miles (including long training runs and the Berlin Marathon), I can report that I have been completely blister free. If you have wide feet (as I do) you may need to opt of half a size bigger but I tend to find that with Adidas trainers anyway.

I wanted to reserve judgement on the Adistar Boost until I had covered a significant amount of miles in them. New trainers always feel good to me but the Adistar Boost felt especially cushioned, particularly in the fore/mid-foot. Even though the sole is thinner here, the cushioning is still really good. I am a moderate heel striker but tend to run in neutral shoes. I find the heel response on the Boost very good but they are definitely softer than any neutral shoe I have run in before. There may be some that prefer more structure around the heel.

One of the other things that struck me about this shoe was the outer sole. It is quite thin and doesn't offer much tread depth. I know they are not trail shoes but the grip off road is not great. I also wonder whether Adidas fear that their claims about never ending energy return might cause owners to hold onto the trainers longer than they might ordinarily and that the thin sole is a way of ensuring we still change our trainers regularly. Perhaps that's just me being cynical.

I have enjoyed running in the Adistar Boost and expect I'll be buying another pair of trainers with the Boost technology once these ones finally reach their mileage limit/get worn out.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

White Rose Ultra 2013 - Race Review

Before I start this blog post. I just want to say.....I AM AN ULTRA MARATHONER!!!

Right, now I've got that out of my system. I can tell you about the race. As you might be able to tell from my subtle comments above, this was my first ultra marathon. I entered it on a bit of a whim, following a suggestion from +Mike Wells. He had been suggesting I run an ultra for a while and thought it would be a good one for my first. After all, it was only a 'baby ultra' at 30 miles!

As soon as I had entered and started receiving the race communications, I knew I had chosen the right race for my first ultra. The emails from (race organiser) Kerry, were informative, fun and friendly. I just knew this was going to be a great event.

I must admit to not taking my preparations for this race too seriously. Other than the Worksop Half one week before, none of my runs following the Berlin Marathon had been much above 6 miles. I was assured, again by Mike, that I would be fine and that the ultra would be 'easier' than the marathon. Certainly the promise of a feed station every 5 miles with cake and tea suggested a more leisurely pace!

On the lead up to the race, I was fairly relaxed about the challenge. However, as race day neared and I spoke to more people about it (mostly non-runners), I started to grow a bit more apprehensive and not so blasé about the challenge ahead. I also didn't realise how early ultra's started. I would need to get up at 4am to give myself enough time to drive to Huddersfield and get registered in time for the 8am start. This was sounding like a tough day already!

Tracy, Mike, Andrew and Catherine at race HQ
I arrived on race day at about 6:40 am. Having parked in the Walkers Arms pub, the landlady was good enough to let us in to use her loo. She then directed me to race HQ (a portacabin at the bottom of the field!). Andrew (@mrafletch) was already there and looked every part the experienced ultra marathoner. As expected, the welcome from Kerry and her crew was warm, if a little chaotic. We were all registered in good time and there was plenty of time for bacon rolls and tea. I was liking this already. Before long Mike (@mikew30), Catherine (@mrsbedders) and Tracy (@temott10) had all arrived. I see Mike fairly regularly but it was good to finally meet the other three outside of Twitter!

                                                          The sun's not even up yet!

Just before 8am Kerry gave the race briefing and were then led into the village for the race start. A final few words from Kerry and the horn sounded and we were off. Prior to the race I'd been promised that we would be walking the hills. Well, the race started up a fairly steep incline which everyone shot up like a rocket! I think it was the 'Pavlovic' response us runners have to the sound of a bell/horn/gun and the pent-up enthusiasm associated with the start of a race. Before long though everyone had settled into their own groups and natural pace. The early part of the race was bright if blustery and it felt great to be moving at last. The views, even really early on in the race, were spectacular and, I hoped, a sign of what was to come.

Any thoughts that this might have been easy had been dispelled quite early on in the race (quite how I thought running 30 miles was going to be easy, I am now not quite sure!). It was evident that this race was going to be 'Yorkshire Tough'. The weather can play a huge part in any race and certainly during an ultra, where you are out for longer and often in a more exposed landscape. In the early part of the race we saw a bit of rain but it always moved over quite quickly, largely down to the fairly strong winds. The upside was that we dried out quickly and were treated to lots of rainbows!

I must say a huge thank you to all of the marshals out on course on Sunday. As tough as the conditions were for us runners, the real hero's were those who gave up their time to stand out at the feed/aid stations along the route.
                                 Catherine & Tracy re-invigorated by a stop at the feed station!
I am renowned for having a small bladder. Not a great claim to fame I know but there it is. I don't know why but I did seem to need a lot of 'comfort breaks' during the race. I wasn't the only one though. It was during one of these breaks that Mike lost his famous bunny ears and had to make short diversion to go and retrieve them from behind the wall of a farm!
                                          Mike is delighted to be reunited with his bunny ears!
I mentioned earlier in the blog that the views were stunning and they only got better as the race went on. One of the things I enjoyed most about running an ultra was being out in such an interesting environment, at times, seemingly miles from civilisation.
                                       There's nothing like a neon tutu to enhance a beautiful view!
Up to this point everything had gone to plan. The weather was a bit iffy but it was bearable. I guess it wouldn't really have been a proper ultra had everything gone to without a hitch and sure enough, we got lost, twice. Luckily Mike had pre-programmed the route into his Garmin and that, along with some local knowledge, saved us from straying too far off course as some other runners did.
                                                     Yeah, we are definitely lost......
                                          ....................but the views are good!
As with getting lost, it seems adverse weather is part and parcel of any good ultra and the weather in North Yorkshire certainly did not let us down. About 18 miles in it started to rain, then as we climbed toward the top of the moor it REALLY started to rain. By 20 miles (and the 4th feed station) we were in a full-blown hail storm!
This was the point that Twitter friend and fellow runner Martin Bown (@MartinBown) had chosen to meet us. It was really good to see him but I don't think he could have chosen a worse spectator point if he tried! Fair play to him for coming out and braving the elements to run with us for a bit.
Through the storm we could just make out a poor, lonely marshal who was directing us to the camper van. I really felt for her stuck out there with no shelter from the elements. We stopped for a quick cuppa and a butterfly cake before pressing on. The hail continued to batter our faces and legs and by this stage we were soaked through. Thankfully we were descending and before long we were below the storm. I cannot tell you how good it felt to be able to put on a dry pair of gloves and beanie hat. Bliss!
                                                    Andrew heads into the hail storm.....
It's amazing how the weather can change the complexion of a race. 20 miles in, cowering behind a camper van in a hail storm was definitely a low point but a few miles on, some new dry kit and a bit of sun peeking through the clouds and I felt much better. My legs were really feeling it at this point though. The descents in particular had really taken their toll but I knew (as long as I didn't pick up a serious injury) that I was going to be able to finish the race.
                                            Cross a waterfall. You don't get that in a marathon!
By the time we reached the final feed station (at 25 miles) I was feeling good. The weather had improved significantly and the marshals gave us a real boost, no doubt the chocolate and jelly babies also helped!
Coming back into civilisation also helped after the bleakness of the moor. My legs were screaming but inside of 5 miles and now on roads, I could now begin to think of the finish, cake and a hot bath! Inevitably there was a final sting in the tail. One final hill just to test our mettle. We must have been doing ok though because we passed a couple of runners in the final miles.
                                                  One final hill and one more great view
Andrew, Mike and I came around the corner and finished to cheers from the race organisers and other runners. Our finish time 6 hours 23 minutes. We waited for Catherine and Tracy who came in a short time afterwards to even bigger cheers. They had also completed their first ultra marathons and the sense of achievement was palpable.
All that was left was to put on my race tee and medal, say my goodbyes and head home for a much needed bath and a beer!
I can honestly say that this was one of the best events I have ever participated in. The pre and post race communications were excellent, the team on the day were superb, friendly and even to a first timer like me were very inclusive. An ultra is certainly not easy but anyone with a good level of fitness can do one and more to the point really should do one. The White Rose Ultra was an excellent choice for my first ultra and it could be for you too.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

BMW Berlin Marathon 2013 race review

When I entered the 40th anniversary edition of the Berlin Marathon, I had high hopes that it was going to be a special event and it did not disappoint. Entering the race was easy and communication from the organisers prior to the race was very good.


No ballot to enter, Super-fast, flat course, scenic route with fantastic support, great city to combine with a weekend break


Chaotic start area, busy field leading to a slow start, water and energy drinks in plastic cups

The Expo:

Love them or loathe them, the expo is part of any big city marathon experience. I wouldn't say that I loathe them but I go to the expo principally to get my race number.

When I ran VLM, I remember being a bit underwhelmed by the London expo experience. Not so at Berlin. I could not help but be impressed by the scale of the expo. It was held at a disused airport and spanned over 6 hangers! The large retailers had stores to rival those on Oxford Street and you could have bought literally anything even remotely related to running. There were also games and plenty of stalls selling food and drinks. Pre-race pretzel and beer anyone?!

At the Expo. I managed to catch a glimpse of the great man Haile

One of the good things about the VLM expo, is that you can just go and collect your race number. This is particularly useful if you are pushed for time or if you just want to save your legs for race day. At Berlin you had to walk the full length of the 6 hangers, through huge crowds just to get to the race collection point. The queues for race numbers were rather lengthy too.

The start area:

I will preface what I am about to write by saying that I have read different blogs about the race which would suggest that not everyone had the same experience as me. Nick  (@nick_runs) had suggested that we meet prior to getting to the race area. My hotel was only about a 30 mins walk from the start and Nick was a short underground trip away. As it happened, we bumped into each other on the way to the monument we were due to meet at. Perfect timing! Nick's idea to meet outside proved to be a good one because the race start area was very chaotic. We arrived with an hour to spare, which should have been plenty.

                         In the shadow of the Reichstag. Not a bad place for a race start

When to arrive at the VLM start, it is very open. You can see the baggage trucks, the toilets, drinks and the route to the start pens. The start area at Berlin wasn't as open and, due to the sheer number of people, was a very difficult place to navigate. The baggage tents were in different parts of the start area and difficult to find amongst the throngs of people. By the time I had dropped off my bag and we had made the obligatory loo stop, we had less than 15 mins to get to our start pen (F). We were not alone, there were thousands of runners all trying to get to the start and we just hit a wall of people.

                                       Clearly Nick is more used to a selfie than me!

When the gun sounded for the start of the elite race, we were standing in some woods, still trying to edge our way to the start pen. When we emerged from the woods, it was apparent that it had turned into a free-for-all. Runners were jumping the barriers to get into the start pens and there was no control over who was going where. In the end, we had to wait for the runners already in the pen to move up to the start before there was enough room for us to climb the barrier and get into our pen. Not the model of German efficiency I was expecting!

                                      Finally! We are in the start pen and about to set off!

The Race:

Having been stood around for a while, both Nick and I commented that our legs felt heavy as we got into our rhythm. The start was very bunched and we were not able to run at our target pace of 8:00m/m. This is not uncommon at the start of major city marathons and I kept saying "don't panic, it will open up soon".

Both Nick and I had been dealing with niggles on the lead up to the race, so we were both encouraged by how good we were feeling in those early miles and how much we were enjoying the fantastic support and the sights the city had to offer. The weather was perfect and the running felt easy. We made a mental note to enjoy the experience, knowing we would probably not be feeling this good in the latter stages of the race!

                                              A wall of runners as far as you can see!

One of the reasons the pace felt easy, is because it was easy. Miles 1 - 9 were run at an average of 8:17m/m, with only miles 7 and 8 run anywhere close to our goal marathon pace. I was expecting the field to open out after a few miles but it just didn't. I don't know if this was because by the time we got to our pen we were surrounded by runners that had moved forward from a slower pen. That said, I also passed lot's of runners from pen E. It wasn't until about mile 9 that the road opened up a bit. By this time, we were 4 mins down on our target time. I calculated that if we could run consistent 7:45 m/m's then our sub 3:30 target was still a possibility. We both made a concerted effort to push on. The middle section of the race was our fastest, with miles 9 - 21 run at average 7:43m/m.

One of my minor gripes about the race (and another reason we took longer to cross the line), was the use of plastic cups to hold water, Powerbar drinks and tea (yes, really!) on the course. Not only does this make consuming the drink on the run nigh on impossible, it also meant that some runners were coming to a halt just so they could take a drink. On a couple of occasions I nearly ended up on the floor when a runner cut in from of me to get a drink or just stopped so they could drink without tipping it down their fronts! I know the use of cups in races is not uncommon but I expected bottled drinks for a race of this scale.

One of the downsides to pushing the pace so much was that both Nick and I were tiring by mile 21. Nicks legs were getting heavier and I could feel the dreaded calf cramps (the bane of some many of my marathon's!) coming on. I really wanted to finish the race with Nick but it was clear I had a bit more in my legs at this stage. Very graciously, Nick suggested that I should push on and with sub 3:30 a distant memory, try and hit our plan B time of sub 3:35. Now, I was definitely tiring by this stage but I was surprised by how (relatively) good my legs felt and also by my energy levels. I wanted to push on more but every time I tried to push the pace, the calf cramps started again. In the end, I settled for being able to finish strong and keep the cramps at bay. Those last 6 miles were run at an average of 8:04m/m and I finished in a time of 3:34.06 and had run (according to my Garmin) 26.7 miles. It was a PB by over 10 mins and it was fair to say, I was over the moon!

Proudly displaying my medal in the shadow of the Brandenburg gate


Looking at my stats after the race, I ran the first half in 1:49.04 and the second half in 1:45.02, almost bang on target pace. I was placed 7794 out of 36,544 finishers and 1496 in my age group (M35). Despite the busy start area and bunched/slow early part if the race, I was still incredibly pleased with my time and performance. 

                       5k splits for the statto's

I am conscious that I have made some negative comments above. I wanted to give an honest appraisal of my whole experience. This doesn't detract from the fact that Berlin Marathon is an excellent race. It is the only race that, for me, has rivalled VLM for size, scale and support. I would recommend it to anyone wanting a fast, flat and well supported big marathon experience in a fantastic city. Finishing under the Brandenburg Gate in the bight Berlin sunshine is an experience that will live with me forever!

                 This will be one medal that I cherish for years to come!

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Review: BEET IT Sport shots

A few weeks ago Sport Pursuit were good enough to send be a couple of shots of BEET IT Sport. I had already heard about this product and the potential benefits of taking beetroot juice as a supplement for people participating in sports and had seen runners and sports teams promoting the benefits of this natural supplement. Now, I enjoy beetroot on salads but I was a bit sceptical about whether I could stomach it as a drink!

Maybe you should just BEET IT?!
As I am currently training for the Berlin Marathon, I have been increasing my weekly mileage and a lot of my mid-week runs (which I tend to run before work) have been in excess of 10 miles. When you are pushed for time in the morning, it does present you with a bit of a challenge in terms of ensuring your nutrition is right and you have enough energy for a longer session. I wouldn't usually eat anything prior to an early morning run, sometimes opting for a banana if I feel in need of a bit of energy or have a longer session to run.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the BEET IT Sport shots. The smell was sweet and the taste was better than I expected, no doubt in part to the natural lemon juice. The consistency was slightly thicker than I expected but nowhere near as thick as say a protein shake. The fact they come in 7cl shots means you can down them in one or two gulps even if you don't think you'll enjoy the taste! I can't comment as to the scientific benefits of beetroot juice but I have read enough to know that the high nitrate content in beetroot is good for you and I did feel good on those longer early morning sessions when I'd had a shot of BEET IT Sport.

If you would like to find out more about BEET IT Sport. You can read about it here:

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Stepping outside my comfort zone.....

....a review of my Berlin Marathon training, so far.

Following the disappointment at the Milton Keynes Marathon in May I concluded that, among other things, I needed to step outside my comfort zone. MK was my 4th marathon and although I had improved over those 4 marathons, it was clear that I had reached a plateau and needed to alter my approach if I was going to achieve my goal of running sub 3:30 at Berlin.

I first looked at the Daniels running formula after a recommendation from Twitter pal Dave (@dav3c) but I found the workouts too complex and also didn't feel it would offer me enough recovery time. In the end, I settled on the sub 3:30 marathon plan on the Runkeeper app, which is devised by a trainer called Jeff Gaudette. It looked to have the right combination of intervals, tempo and marathon paced running and uses a run on Saturday to tire your legs out for the Sunday run (sounds great, eh?!). The theory being, that you don't have to run quite so far on your Sunday long runs. Including a 2 week taper, the training plan would be a total of 16 weeks.

The first couple of weeks were fairly comfortable with midweek runs of 4 or 5 miles and the longest run being 10 miles. I then had 2 weeks in the US, ate a lot, drank a fair bit and only ran twice. The net outcome being I had a fantastic holiday but put on the best part of half a stone!

One of my rare runs in the US along Santa Monica / Venice Beach...
The combination of over indulgence and missing the progression of those 2 weeks of training meant that on return from my holiday, I was really struggling with the training plan. By now some of the midweek runs were close to 10 miles and aside from one slower run per week, every session was at, or faster than marathon pace. The long runs had crept up to 13 or 14 miles and these were run at MP with a 3 or 4 mile section at the end that is run at slightly faster than MP (circa 7:45m/m). I'd been used to doing most of my long runs (and some of my midweek runs) much slower than this. It was fair to say that this training plan was taking me out of my comfort zone. In fact, it was kicking my ass!

                                        ......and one of the reasons I put on so much weight
                                                                      in the US!

I took some encouragement that although I was finding it hard, I was managing to stick with the planned sessions*. I was really pleased when Nick (@nick_runs) suggested we run together for our planned Sunday run of 14 miles (@8:00m/m). He ran strongly and was clearly in better shape than me and on nearing home at about 12.5 miles, he encouraged me to push on for the full 14 miles, when I probably would have wimped out had I been on my own!

During this period of training I have also run 2 races. The Notts 5 mile Road Race (36:39) and the Jagermeister 10k this past Friday, which is a hilly race (44:40). The 5 miler was a bit of a social tempo run with Mike (@mikew30) and his son James but the Jagermeister in particular was good for sharpness.

On Sunday I completed 4 really solid weeks of training (week 9 of 16), with a 16 miler at MP. Although it was tough, I started to feel that I was running into some form and that the benefit of that 4 week training block was finally paying off. Don't get me wrong, the sessions are still really tough but I feel like I am getting some fitness back. I never felt like this at any point during my MK Marathon training, so I hope it is a good sign.

                                           Summer running through the woods & trails

Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, I have got a week in Spain coming up in a week or so. I am determined to take my diet a bit more seriously in the hope that I can keep my weight down and although I won't be sticking to my training plan (it's too hilly where we are going) I do plan to run every other day (as a minimum), and swim lots.

I am particularly keen to hear from other runners training for the Berlin Marathon and those that have any tips for balancing holidays with training.

(*I did have to have a little lay down at about 11 miles on my first post-holiday long run!)

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Gear Review: Yurbuds Inspire Pro

Ok, I'm going to get this out the way early. I have big ears. There, I said it.

Anyone who has met me will already be aware of this fact but most of you reading this won't. Unlike being tall (or short, for that matter), there aren't really any upsides to having big ears, not that I've found in my 38 years on this planet. Improved hearing you might say? My wife would disagree!

There are some downsides to having big ears though. They are prone to getting sun-burnt, they fill up with all manner of detritus on windy days and worst of all, they aren't very good for holding earphones!

I enjoy running with music or listening to podcasts, particularly on my longer runs. I have tried all sorts of earphones over the years, from cheap to expensive, regular ones and dedicated sports ones. None stay in my mahoosive ears (even with the bigger rubber bits) and after a time, usually not very long in most cases, they break. The cables will often get damaged from the repeated movements or they will suffer from the moisture due to rain and dare I say it, sweat. Yes, I've got big ears and I'm sweaty. What a catch!

I had heard about Yurbuds even before they launched in the UK. Their claims regarding 'Never falling out' were immediately appealing to someone 'blessed' with larger than average lug-holes. Combine this with their resistance to moisture and my interest was peaked!

The social team at Yurbuds (@yurbudsUK) were doing a lot of promotion for their products around the London Marathon. I contacted them in the hope they would allow me to trial and review some of their fancy bud's. The team were great and after some communications, my brand new shiny Inspire Pro's arrived in the post.

My initial impressions were really positive. The buds were well packaged and came with a carry-case, cable clip and two sets of rubber ear pieces. The buds themselves included in an in-line mic and full iPod/iPhone controls. I particularly liked the slightly shorter cord, which would mean less chance of it getting tangled when wearing my iPhone in an arm band. Perfect for those long runs and run-commutes. Although the design of the 'inner ear' part looks slightly unusual, the instructions were really clear and the buds slipped in nicely. They were a good fit for my ears, felt very secure and didn't hurt, like some have done in the past. The real test though, was going to be out on the road.

I should that Yurbuds come in all sizes, from small to large. They also come in a variety of colours. Check out the link to their website (above). Uk readers can also check them out on the Sweatshop website.

I decided to use my buds on a run home from work. This would be the perfect test, allowing me to test the sound quality against the ability to still hear other commuters and car noise. Plus the first half a mile is downhill, so it would really test their ability to remain in my ears, as I pounded down the road at full tilt. Throw in a bit of rain and we've got the perfect test conditions!


I have to say that despite the claims that they don't fall out, decades of wearing in-ear earphones has conditioned me to expect them to fall out........ but they didn't. Once in, they didn't need adjusting or replacing. They just stayed put. Amazing! The sound quality was a huge improvement on the standard iPhone earphones, allowing me to pick up more detail on podcasts and delivering a clearer, fuller and more bassy sound when listening to music.

The Inspire Pro's are great for general use but they really come into their own for use whilst exercising. With a lifetime guarantee and at a competitive price point, these buds come highly recommended.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Race review - Milton Keynes Marathon 2013

Pros: Good start area and stadium finish, well marshalled and supported, good hydration points, nice medal, good timing information

Cons: Poor info on parking and road closures, undulating and twisty route, poor goody bag

It is probably fair to say the one's opinion of a particular race is likely to be influenced by how well (or poorly!) they performed on the day. So, in the interests of fairness, I should declare that I had a shocker on Monday. If you haven't read about my marathon build up, you can do so here.

I mentioned the lack of info relating to places to park (and road closures) on the day. Even those who had pre-booked the VIP parking ran into road closures. For those (like me) who hadn't booked the VIP parking, some information in the pre-race pack on places to park in the vicinity (something like we received prior to the MK Half) would have been useful. An hour from the race start, you don't really want to be in gridlocked traffic, then find your planned route involved (un-advertised) road closures, then have to dump your car in an industrial estate and hope you don't get clamped!

Once parked up, the stadium was easy to find. There was plenty of space for runners and their supporters to congregate and I am sure the shelter would have been very welcome had the weather not been so good. I wasn't sure why the organisers had done away with portaloos. There seemed to be plenty of room for them in the car park and they would have helped with the (seemingly inevitable) toilet queues!

I had arranged to meet Rodrigo Freeman (@BrazilianGunner) who had popped down to offer some support to me and some of his team mates. Rod has been very supportive and has offered me some great advice through Twitter, so it was a real pleasure to finally meet him.

Rodrigo and I in Stadium MK, before the start
The race start was very close to the stadium and easy to find. The race announcers could have done with a better PA system. I was just over halfway back and couldn't hear a word of what was being said. I felt that having only 2 categories of start pens would lead to a slow start to the race and this, along with quite a narrow first few hundred metres did mean a slow start for most. Having more incremental pens (based on predicted times) might have helped.

The atmosphere at the start was very positive and the support in the early stages of the race was also good. The course was billed as being scenic and to be honest, I am struggling to come to a conclusion about it. There were some relatively pretty parts, such as the section around Willen Lake. Some parts were a bit soulless, like the early sections round the near deserted commercial centre. A lot of it went though housing estates or were run on the Red Routes and a lot of it was just a bit anonymous. This is not meant to be a criticism of the route (or Milton Keynes as a whole!) it's simply just my observation. There were some benefits to the route. Such as the fairly consistent support and the guy on about 7 miles misting us with his hose pipe!

I had seen Dwight Williams (@dwighty_boy) earlier in the race and I caught him on about 10 miles (I think). Again, I hadn't met Dwight before, so it was good to meet him and run with him for a bit. He was in the middle of about 4 back to back marathons, so was taking it a bit easier on the day.

Everyone knew it was going to be hot on the day. I had decided beforehand to stick to my plan of running a sub 3:30 marathon. With the benefit of hindsight, I should have probably adjusted my race goals to factor in the heat. Even early on, runners were aiming for the shade offered by the trees and office buildings. I had lost a minute or so in the first few miles, due to the slow start (and an early loo stop!) I wasn't particularly concerned about this and expected to be able to 'chip away' at this deficit over the course of the race, as I had done in Brighton last year. The undulating nature of the course, combined with some tight turns meant was I was struggling to keep the pace consistent. I managed to hold the pace and went through half way on 1:46, just one minute down on my plan. By this stage, I knew that sub 3:30 wasn't going to happen though. I had stuck to my pacing plan but it had taken far too much out of me. I should have still been feeling relatively fresh as this stage but the heat, along with the issues I referred to in my previous blog were starting to tell.

The undulations and tight turns increased in the second half of the race and included more underpasses and quite a few steep bridges going over the canal. There were also quite a few longer pulls, which were not steep but some of them were quite long. When you hear from the support that "it's all flat from here" the last thing you want to see is more hills! The timing of these, so late in the race made it feel particularly tough. I managed to hold pace until about 15 miles but I had started to slow. I thought, if I can just hold onto 8:30 m/m pace, then I would still be on for a huge PB. By 18 miles though I was struggling to hold onto 8:30 pace and it was all I could do to hold onto 9:00m/m.

I had some experience of running in such hot conditions. My first marathon (VLM in 2011) was similarly hot. On that day, leg cramps had started at about 17 miles and completely consumed my legs, to the point where I could barely control them (think John Cleese in the Ministry of Silly Walks!) I had since learnt a lot about hydration but the cramps I feared eventually hit at 20 miles. They were not as severe as London but I knew a run/walk strategy was all I could do to stop them getting worse. It is amazing how quickly things can change during a marathon. In the space of a few miles I'd had to revise my target from sub 3:30, to getting a PB (3:44:49), to just finishing the race and not getting a DNF!

I was starting to see runners drop out, collapsed in the shade or weaving around in various states of delirium. This is probably a good time to praise the marshalls and first aiders. Everyone that I saw that had got into trouble was quickly seen to. It did serve to put my own 'bad race' into perspective though.

The run/walk strategy allowed my legs to recover a bit. I managed to muster some energy and control over the cramps that allowed me to run the final section, which took you into the stadium. Seeing my Sister, her family and my Nan and Granddad gave me a huge boost and looking at the picture (above) I look a lot better than I felt at that stage. It was probably just the pure, unadulterated relief of having finished!

I enjoyed the stadium finish and it provided a positive end to a fairly torrid day. The race organisers processed us through the finish area efficiently, we were presented with a very nice medal and the stadium provided us with some welcome shelter from the sun. A quick note on the goody bag. I thought it was pretty poor, given the entry fee. A Mars Bar and a banana were welcome, as was the water. Given Gatorade were the official drink, it would have been nice (and good for recovery) to have a bottle at the end. As for the t-shirt, I defy anyone to tell me that they use cotton race t-shirts for anything other than gardening or lounging around the house in! Even much cheaper races (of £10 or £15) give you a technical tee. At least they can be used for running in and what's more, it's a way for the organisers to promote their event at other races etc.

In the end, I came in just a shade over 3:56 and having reflected on things I'm not too disappointed.  It is also interesting how different your perception of the race can differ from the reality. For instance, on 32k I was 508th male. Given that it was in the last 10k where I really struggled, I would have expected to have lost a lot of places. It certainly felt like a lot of people were coming past me! In fact, I only lost 13 (male) places, finishing as 521st male. Given I was in 585th position at 10k, I actually made up ground on other runners over the course of the race. It is perhaps an indication of how most people struggled on the day.

You learn something from every marathon and, for me, the big lesson I take away from this experience is to have a proper taper and revise my race plan if it is a hot day. As someone mentioned yesterday, no marathon is a waste and just to finish is an achievement that less than 1% of the population will experience.

I am interested to hear how you got on and whether my impressions of the race match your own. Please feel free to leave your comments below.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Milton Keynes Marathon 2013 - An honest appraisal of my training

I will be writing a separate blog to review the Milton Keynes Marathon and my experience on the day. First though, I wanted to look back on how I prepared and trained for the race.

One of the reasons for choosing the Milton Keynes Marathon, was the timing. Because it is one of the later Spring marathons, I thought that starting my training at the end of January would make things a bit easier. Little did I know.....

Everyone in the UK knows what a long winter we've had and the combination of the cold and the snow/ice but primarily for me, the strong winds, have made it particularly tough going. I can honestly say that training for this marathon has been, by far, the toughest training block I have completed for any race.

One of the elements I wanted to build into this training block was the inclusion of more 'race paced' efforts, both as a part of my shorter runs and during my longer runs. I also wanted to add one more run per week (taking me from 4 to 5) with a view to adding more miles. I had trained on a '2 week hard, 1 week easy' cycle, which served me well for Brighton (in 2012), so I decided to stick to this.

I had already built a good base, largely thanks to the Strava #basemileblast challenge. I started well, adding a 4 mile recovery run on a Monday morning as my 5th session. I also built my long runs well from 12 to 18 miles, over the course of the first 5 weeks and was coping well with the marathon paced sections. During this phase, I also ran the Belvoir Challenge, which although not fast was good for endurance and provided some good hill training.

I had planned to run the MK Half Marathon but managed to get the date wrong, so had to drop a 20 miler which I had planned for the same day. I decided (at the last minute) to run the MK Half hard and despite strong winds and blizzards, managed to get a PB (1:35:56). Looking back, this was probably my best session of the whole 14 week training block.

Around this time, the wind really started picking up, making any faster sessions or long runs really quite unpleasant. One of my key sessions during training is a long tempo run of 2 x 6 miles (inc 5 min recovery). In the past, this has been a good barometer of my fitness. I remember running this session at the end of quite a tough training week and tired legs, combined by the wind, meant that I wasn't able to hold the pace in the second half. It was a big dent to my confidence. As my Sunday long runs increased in length, I was finding it increasingly difficult to get up on a Monday morning for my recovery run. I decided that the rest was of more benefit that a slow 4 miler, so I dropped the session.

About 4 weeks out from race day, I realised that I had made another mistake with dates (I really must learn to read a calendar!). Because the MK Marathon was on a Monday, I thought I had one more week of training than I did. If I stuck to the plan, it would mean me having to run a 24 mile run (inc last 5 at MP) just 2 weeks out from the race. I had no choice but to drop the session. My last long run would now be 3 weeks out, a 23 miler (with a planned last 5 at MP). Other than the tempo session I mentioned above, this was the other real low point of my training. Again the wind took its toll on me, so much so, I even had to walk parts of the last few miles. Again, I felt it was another key session that I hadn't 'nailed' and I was really beginning to feel that I hadn't done enough.

Having felt really sluggish during my last taper, I had already decided I would reduce the volume but try to keep a bit more intensity (through some MP efforts and some easier intervals). I also decided (at the last minute) to run my last long-ish run at race pace. This was no doubt a last ditch attempt to try and squeeze a bit more out of the last few weeks of training. I managed to hold the pace (8:00m/m) for those 12 miles but it felt tougher than it should have done. Although I felt better than during previous tapers, it was clear that, one week out from race day, my legs didn't feel a fresh as they should. The final nail in the coffin, was running a faster than tempo paced parkrun just 2 days before race day (I know!).

Setting the conditions aside for a moment, I think missing 2 long runs (of 20 and 24 miles), combined with a taper that was too intense meant that I was not set up as well as I could be for race day. I always tend to get to a stage in training where 'I just want to get the training done' but this seemed to happen much earlier in this training cycle. I became very frustrated, particularly with my longer runs and quite bored of some of the sessions and routes. This tells me, it is time to freshen things up.

Listening to Marathon Talk recently, Tom and Martin spoke about assessing your training and making a list of 5 things that went well and 5 things that you could improve upon. Here are mine:

5 things that went well:

1) I was able to up my training volume and stay injury free
2) I stuck to my stretching/physio exercises and improved my flexibility and strength
3) I got a half marathon PB
4) It got me through my 4th marathon (3rd under 4hrs)
5) I met some great people along the way

5 things to improve on:

1) I need to pay more attention to dates!
2) I perhaps need to reassess my race day goals if training doesn't go to plan
3) I need to trust in the taper!
4) I need to freshen up my training
5) I need to take nutrition more seriously

Monday, 15 April 2013

Taper Madness!

Today is officially the start of my taper for the Milton Keynes Marathon (on 6th May).

Having run 23.5 miles yesterday, all of my longs runs are now done and I will be gradually reducing my training volume as I approach race day. Albeit, I am going to include a few more faster sessions this year, with a view to keeping some sharpness and tuning my legs into race pace (target 8:00 m/m).

The trouble with this stage of your training is that you know there is nothing you can do to improve your chances of achieving your marathon goal and that any attempts to squeeze in 'one last long run', will probably do more harm than good.

It is also inevitable that you will look back on the runs or sessions that you might have missed. For me, I missed out on a 20 miler due to getting the date for the MK Half wrong and I also miscalculated my total weeks when devising my training plan, so I won't be doing the 24 miler I had scheduled for next Sunday. Now, they are two fairly key sessions right there and I am currently in panic mode, thinking, have I done enough? So much so, I have been comparing my training with the latter stages of my Brighton Marathon training in 2011!

The fact is, marathon training very rarely goes 100% to plan. Home life, work, social occasions, injuries and in my case, the inability to use a calender(!) can all cause us to deviate from our marathon training plans. In looking back at my Brighton Marathon training from last year, I noticed that I had to skip a couple of key sessions/long runs late on, due to shin splints. I had completely forgotten about this injury and the minor lay off it caused. Clearly, it didn't affect my preparation too much because I PB'd at Brighton by over 15 mins (3:44:49).

So, I am writhing this post just to remind me to look at the key sessions I DID complete and not to panic during the 'Taper Madness', which will no doubt increase as I edge closer to race day. Instead, I should enjoy the fact that my Sunday runs are not going to consume the whole day and that I am giving my body a chance to recover before race day!

How are you/have you coped with 'Taper Madness'?

Monday, 18 March 2013

10 things I wish I knew prior to running the Virgin London Marathon

I ran the Virgin London Marathon in 2011 (4hrs 16mins and 57secs, if you are interested). It was my first marathon and like a lot of people running their first marathon, I learnt a lot during training but also during the race itself.

Here are 10 pieces of information I would have found useful prior to running this iconic race:

1. It may be significantly hotter on race day than during your training runs. If you live in the UK, you will have done the majority of your training during the winter months. When I ran the VLM in 2011 it was quite a hot day (in the early 20's). I had adjusted my clothing according to the forecast but I hadn't accounted for the difference it would make to my hydration strategy (which consisted of water and gels during training and on race day). Cue: calf cramps at 19 miles due to a lack of electrolytes.

Smile! You might be on TV!

2. If you are staying in London for the race, pick a hotel closer to the finish (on the Mall), rather than the start. Trust me, you will be more willing to travel in the morning than after the race has finished! Public transport is free for runners on the day, so travel to Greenwich Park in the morning is easy.

3. The start of the race (for about the first 4 miles) can be a bit slow, due to the sheer volume of runners. You should be aware of your pacing strategy anyway but you should also be prepared to adjust this to account for any slow miles (or loo breaks!). This adjustment should be carried over the remainder of the race rather than made up in the next few miles.

4. Anyone who has raced before knows that it is easy to get swept up in the excitement early into a race and end up going off too quickly. Well, at VLM, this can happen at almost any part of the race because of the volume of runners and the fantastic levels of support. So, keep an eye on your pacing. Use a Garmin (or similar) and/or a pacing band (available at the expo).

At the VLM Expo
5. The VLM is sponsored by Lucozade, so you will find their gels and drinks at the drinks stations on the course. If you are planning to use these products during the race (as opposed to your own drinks, gels etc), then it is a good idea to use them on your longer training runs. Otherwise, you run the risk of an upset stomach. Not something you want as part of your VLM experience!

6. If you are bringing a support crew with you on the day, it is a good idea to pick out a landmark for them to support from. The crowds are huge and whilst they might see you, it will be difficult for you to pick them out of the crowds. If you are running for a charity (and assuming they have a stand on the course) then this is a good place for them to stand. Seeing my wife at about 22 miles was very emotional and gave me a huge lift!

7. You should also pick a landmark close to the finish to meet friends/family. Mobile networks may well be down.

8. In addition to the photographers on the course, there are also race photographers in the finish area. I neglected to have my photo taken but looking back would have liked an official photo in front of the sponsors hording, sporting my medal. So, be prepared to wipe the sweat from your face and give your hair a quick comb through! There is no obligation to buy the photo's but it might be nice to have the option.

                                                    You might opt for an official finish photo!

9. You may well have a long wait at the start at Greenwich Park, so make sure you have adequate clothing to keep out the elements. You may also have to wait for a while before you are reunited with your friends/family at the end of the race. I would recommend including a fresh top to change into and any recovery drinks/food within your kit bag (rather than leaving it with friends/family). Note: you have to use the plastic kit bags provided. You can't just stick your number on your own rucksack, for example.

10. Finally, VLM is a unique racing experience that will live with you forever. Enjoy the day and remember to smile, cheer the marshalls and support and take it all in.

Good luck!

Monday, 11 March 2013

Race Review - Milton Keynes Half Marathon 2013

Pros: Relatively quick course, good organisation, plenty of toilets at start/finish, plenty of parking, the ability to shelter in the Xscape centre.

Cons: Not particularly scenic, some traffic on course, killer hill in the last mile, no goody-bag.

This was my first time running the Milton Half Marathon. It is part of the Milton Keynes Festival of running, which also includes a 5k and 10k race (which started slightly earlier).

We were able to get parked very close to the start/finish area at the Xscape centre and lucked upon a multi-storey which happened to be free. It was absolutely freezing when we arrived at 9:30am. The car was showing 1c but I reckon it was about -7c with the wind chill! We were able to shelter in the Xscape centre and even managed to get a seat in the Costa Coffee there. With about 20 mins to go, we headed out to use the loos and head to the start line. I think this was the first race I have attended, where there were no queues for the toilets (perhaps everyone was just sheltering inside and using the facilities inside!) The start was well signposted and we got away on time.

Runners huddling in the Xscape Centre pre-race

I read that they had introduced a wave start (splitting sub 2 hours and over 2 hours, I believe) and this seemed to work well. In fact the first 2 miles were very quick. This is where I need to apologise to #TeamColwick. I had planned to run this race as a pacing exercise for the Milton Keynes Marathon (on 6th May). I had put down 1:44:45 for my #Marchvellous prediction and was planning to tap out metronomic 8 minute miles throughout. A combination of those first couple of miles being downhill and the fact I was keen to keep warm and just get the race done, made me change my race plan and try for a PB. This did mean that my Marchvellous score was going to get blown out of the water though (sorry Helen et al!) My current PB was 1:37:04, gained at the Worksop Half last October. I didn't particularly feel in PB shape going into the race but felt pretty good on day and just wanted to get back into the warm!

The race is run on roads and cycleways. Following the first couple of miles, there were some small undulations as you passed under the many underpasses but otherwise it was pretty flat. We passed through some bland housing estates but also through some nice parks and around Willen Lake. Support was sparse, which is unsurprising, given the conditions. In fact, the only real surprise was that people were out to cheer us on at all! Thanks to all those supporting and to the marshalls on the day, who were in good voice and very supportive.

Asked afterwards what I thought of the route, I struggled to describe it and a day on, I am still struggling for words. Some bits were quite interesting but some were pretty uninspiring. I suspect it could look very different without the blizzards though!

The early parts of the route were shared with those runners (and walkers) doing the 5k and 10k races. There was some passing required, some of which was a bit tight on some of the cycleways but overall the integration of the 3 races worked well. The race was well signposted and there were plenty of water stations. The race did cover some side roads which were not closed to traffic. There were marshalls at some points controlling the traffic but not at others, where cars were idling and waiting for the runners to pass. I didn't see any problems as a result but I thought there was potential if a driver became frustrated at waiting.

I had felt good for the majority of the race but in the final couple of miles I started to tire and the cold started to get to me. I had been warned about the killer hill at the end and I really had to steel myself to try to stay on target for a PB. Looking at my mile splits today, I didn't actually slow as much as I thought. My actual mile pace for mile 13 was 7:37 but my GAP (Gradient Adjusted Pace) was 6:58, the quickest mile of the race. No wonder my glutes are hurting today!

Although I started out planning to run at 8 m/m my 'goal creep' had led me to believe that sub 1:35 might have been on the cards but that final hill put paid to that. Still, I finished in 1:35:56, which was an unexpected PB in tough conditions.

The organisation on finishing was good. The finish funnel worked well. I was passed a medal and grabbed a sports drink and a foil blanket, which was most welcome as I had finished 10 mins earlier than I told my wife and had to pace around shivering until she arrived with my change of clothes! The lack of a goody bag was slightly disappointing and I could have done with a Mars bar (or similar) at that point.

Reflecting on the race, I think the decision to run it hard was more beneficial than my original plan. I still had to watch my pace closely and holding it was a real challenge towards the end. It also showed me that I have built a good level of endurance on my longer runs and a bit more speed than I realised. I am also hoping that it will make the 8 minute miles feel a bit slower now!

Now, I've just got to apologise to my Team Colwick chums for screwing up my Marchvellous predictions!


Friday, 1 March 2013

When is the first day of Spring?

I don't know about you but the winter in the UK seems to have dragged on forever!

I saw someone tweet this morning that it was the first day of Spring today. I don't know about you but it doesn't feel very Spring-like to me. I did some Googling and saw conflicting dates, which included 1st March, 20th March and 21st of March. So, I am still none the wiser!

It got me thinking about what signifies the first day of Spring for me. For some, it will be seeing their first lamb or the sprouting of some daffodils.

For me, it is when I take my early morning run and see the sun rise. After running for months in the pitch black, the days start to get gradually lighter, until you actually see the sun rise and are able to do all of your run in (almost) full daylight. This happened to me yesterday. I am declaring 28th February 2013 as (my) first day of spring.

What signifies the first day of spring for you?

Monday, 25 February 2013

Race review: Belvoir Challenge 23rd February 2013

Do you like running? Do you like cake? Then read on.........

The Belvoir Challenge is unlike any race I have participated in. If you are looking to try and get a new PB, this is probably not the race for you but if you are looking for a well organised, fun and friendly race, which offers a challenging an picturesque route and lot's of yummy home-made cake, the Belvoir Challenge is well worth a look.

The Belvoir Challenge starts and finishes in the village of Harby, in the Vale of Belvoir, Leicestershire. It offers two routes of 15 and 26 miles, both of which are mainly off-road and involve a fair bit of elevation. Hence why it's not really a PB course.

A great day out
 I opted for the 15 mile race, as I was using it as one of my training runs for the Milton Keynes Marathon. I had also planned to 'race' at a fairly easy pace and hopefully in a group including +Mike Wells (@mike30), @ainsia and @Beastipuss, among others and I was looking forward to a social run, which I was told, would feature home-made cake at the 2 check points.

On arrival to the village hall in Harby, I knew this was going to be a special race. They had a full BBQ on the go and this was at 8am! Everyone was very friendly and sign in was easy as they had plenty of volunteers and separate queues for different groups of surnames. There was no chip timing or race number to pin on, just a small laminated tag (which I tied on to my gel belt) and a map of the route. There were the inevitable queues for the loo but I can't really see how they could have crammed more portaloos in to the start area.

The race got off on time but (having queued for the loo) I don't think I have been so cold before the start of a race. The start of the race was slow but this was down to the tight nature of the village streets and, to be fair, we were toward the back with those walking the course. The first 4 miles were uphill and we settled into a good group, having fun negotiating the styles (well, apart from Mike and Kieron who decided to leap over one of the iron fences into a load of mud!). I had been promised that this race would deliver plenty of mud, plenty of hills and plenty of cake and it did not disappoint!

At about 5 miles we came across a sheep that was lying on it's side and appeared to be heavily pregnant. Despite one member of our group suggesting he could go "all creatures great and small", we decided that alerting a marshall was probably the best course of action.

At about 6.5 miles we came into the pretty village of Eaton, and our first checkpoint. They had set up the village hall and there were loads of volunteers on-hand to serve hot tea and coffee, as well as fruit cordials, Mars bars and all manner of home-made cake! We spent about 10 mins at the rest stop and allowed some of the other member of our group to catch up. Well it was an excuse to eat a bit more cake!

                                                    Is there such a thing as too much cake?!

Getting going and leaving the relative warmth of the village hall was quite tough but once we were moving again it was fine. The section between 8 and 10 miles involved another ascent to the highest point on the course (about 560ft) but thankfully there was another checkpoint on about 10 miles. Although this one was outside, it offered even more cake than the one before! If I had a rucksack with me, I think the temptation to stuff it full of cake and chocolate might have been too much!

The final section involved a really enjoyable descent and took in some more pretty villages, including Stathern. Although, in my view, taking the route so close to the Red Lion was a mistake. I was extremely tempted to pop in and have a quick half by the fire!

By this stage, I was in a small group with Ains and James and we were able to pick up our pace in the final few miles. James was having to dig deep and given he is not yet 16, did really well to keep the pace. Ains seemed to have got stronger following our rapid descent (maybe it was the pigeon feet?!) . We were passing a lot of other runners at this point and only really had to slow down to negotiate a huge muddy puddle in a farmers field. Well, when I say negotiate, we actually just ran straight through the middle of it! In fact, given all the mud we encountered, it was a miracle I got to about 13 miles before my feet got wet.

We were all feeling the miles by the end and we had helped to get each other through to this point but hey, this was still a race. We all managed to find some extra energy and had a good sprint for the line. I think on another day, James would have definitely taken me down.
                                                                                                            Now, that's just showing off!

At the end of the race you get to retire to the warmth of the village hall, where there are more volunteers on hand to serve you hot food and, yes you guessed it, even more cake! There was also a rather nice personalised certificate.

So, if you want a fun, friendly and well organised off road race, I can whole-heartedly recommend the Belvoir challenge. Oh, did I mention they had cake?

Monday, 18 February 2013

Marathon Training: How to avoid hitting the wall

"Hitting the wall", "crashing", "bonking, or the "the bonk" are words or terms that are used to describe when you run out of energy during a marathon, or during a long run, as happened to me on Sunday!

I was 14 miles into a 16 mile run when it really hit me. It had known it was coming for a few miles but still miles from home and having consumed my only gel, there was nothing I could do about it. Almost immediately, I went from feeling quite good, to having absolutely no energy. My legs turned to jelly and I was finding it hard just to put one foot in front of the other. It also effected my mental state, so much so that I nearly ran out in front of a car! I had it the wall, in a big way...

Anyone who has experienced this will know how horrible it feels. I ate like a horse when I got in in the hope of restoring my energy levels and tried to rest but I still feel rubbish today. It did however, make me think that this was a good topic to write about.
Hitting the wall can hurt!

Most people who are about to embark upon training for a marathon will have heard of the dreaded wall. In fact, even non-runners know about it and will ask, "did you hit the wall?" when you are talking about your marathon experience. But despite it being quite a well known term, most people don't actually know what hitting the wall is, or how you can avoid it. Often, people think it is just about running far enough in training, so your legs are accustomed to running 26.2 miles.

In fact, it has little to do with how fit you are or how well you have trained. You may have had perfect training and completed all of your training sessions and long runs but if you get your nutrition strategy wrong, you will run out of energy and hit the wall at some point during your marathon.

Here is a very simple explanation of what happens to your body when you hit the wall. Your body uses something called glycogen as it's primary fuel when you are running (during long, slow duration exercise, fat can help fuel activity, but glycogen is still needed to help breakdown the fat into something the muscles can use). When you have used up all of your glycogen stores, you hit the wall.

The trick is to keep your levels of glycogen topped up. Glycogen is what your body metabolises from carbohydrates, which is why you will hear people saying that they are 'carb loading' on the lead up to running a marathon. This is to try and ensure that they have as much glycogen stored in their liver and muscles. Now, before you think about eating 5 pasta meals and 10 chocolate bars the day before your marathon, your body can only store a certain amount of carbs as glycogen. The rest is stored as fat, so beware!

Everyone is different but, on average, your body can store enough glycogen for about one and a half hours of strenuous exercise. The more strenuous, the exercise, the more quickly you will use the energy (glycogen) and once this has completely gone, you will hit the wall.

Most first time marathoners will be running for 4 or 5 hours, or more. In fact many of your training runs may be in excess of 3 hours. So, it doesn't matter how well you have fuelled beforehand, you will run out of energy at some point. This is where fuelling during your run comes in. This food/fuel normally consists of energy drinks / gels / jelly beans or a combination of the above. We use this type of fuel because it is easy to consume on the run and easier for your body to digest during exercise. After all, would you feel like eating a plate of spaghetti 15 miles into a marathon?!

The only way to ensure that you don't run out of fuel and hit the wall during your marathon is to practise your fuelling and re-fuelling strategy during your long training runs. As I mentioned before, peoples metabolisms are different and their fuelling needs may vary greatly. You will also find that, over time, your body becomes more accustomed to endurance exercise and therefore more efficient at using it's fuel stores. I used to start run out of energy after about an hour to an hour and half of exercise. Now I can often go for 2 hours before I start to feel my energy levels dropping.

So, it will require some trial and error. If in doubt, it is better to take more gels with you on your training runs (unlike me on Sunday!) and if you do feel your energy levels dropping, do react to this because if you do hit the wall, it is very difficult to restore your energy levels and recover to the point where you can carry on running.

One final warning. Once you have found a fuelling strategy (both pre-race and during the race) make sure you stick to it on race day. Do this and you can avoid hitting the dreaded wall.

Good luck!

Friday, 15 February 2013

Training talk: Putting Yasso 800's to the test

I am using Yasso 800's as one of my key speed sessions as I train for the Milton Keynes Marathon.

For those not familiar with this session, you run 800 metre reps and use the same amount of time it takes you to run the sprint rep for your recovery (e.g 3:30 mins / 3:30 mins). You start (as I did this morning) by running 4 times 800m and build up to running 10 times 800m. The key to this session (as with all intervals) is to try to hit the same times for all of your 10 reps, although by the time you reach 8, 9 and 10 they are going to be pretty tough!

This session was developed the the legendary runner Bart Yasso. The reason this session is popular with marathon runners is that Bart claims that the time that you can hold for 10 x 800m reps, should indicate what you are capable of running for the marathon. This is a theory that has been put in to practice for many years, with many accomplished marathon runners.

I am going to put the Yasso 800s to the test during my marathon training. At the moment, I am running about 3 mins 30 secs for my 800m reps. My splits this morning were: 3:30 (6:57/m), 3:26(6:55/m), 3:27(6:52/m), 3:28(6:48/m).

Now, given that I am hoping to run sub 3 hrs 30 mins at Milton Keynes. I am hoping to put Bart's session to the test and see if it can help me beg a 15 min marathon PB.

Wow! I feel like Bart Yasso....Wait, that is Bart Yasso!

If you are interested in learning more about Bart Yasso and the Yasso 800s, you can read about them here.

I will keep you updated as my training plan unfolds but in the meantime, I would be interested in your experience of the Yasso 800s. Are you doing/have you done this session? Have you found it to be a good indicator of your marathon time?


Bart took the time to read my blog entry and sent me a reply on Twitter!:

@runrforlife Congrats , love the pic.The reward is living the lifestyle and embracing the journey.
1:01pm · 15 Feb 13 · web

UPDATE (19/4/2013):

I have now completed my full session of Yasso 800s and built up to running 10 reps, all of which I completed in under 3 mins 30 secs. In fact my average pace for the 10 reps today was 6:54m/m, which I was really please with.

So, if Bart's theory is correct, I should be in good shape to hit my target time of sub 3 hrs 30 mins at the Milton Keynes marathon. I will report back after race day on 6th May!