Saturday, 28 September 2013

7 week marathon training: week 6&7

So that's it, marathon training done. 

8 weeks ago the idea of completing the Loch Ness marathon was over. 7 weeks ago, I had a crazy idea I could still do this, and tomorrow I attempt to run the marathon on limited training.

Week 7 consisted only of 2 runs, I had run my longest 20 mile run on the previous Sunday so took 2 days off to recover and ran on the Wednesday at lunchtime. To vary the training I decided to push this 4 mile run and was happy with the average 7:41 min/miles.

Thursday another rest day before running into work on the Friday morning. This used to be a regular occurrence before damaging my ankle, so it was nice to be running the 13 miles along the canal again. This was my last long run before my week long taper up to to race day.

The aim for Week 8 was effectively just to turn the legs over and rest well. I only went for 2 lunchtime, 4 mile runs keeping at marathon pace.

I've tried to get some quality nights sleep in this week and been taking CherryActive tablets to aid recovery. The last 2 weeks has also meant no Alcohol!

Typically I've had a bad throat during the week before the race, but thankfully that seems to have eased now.

So do I feel confident to run 26.2 miles? Well if you asked a few weeks ago it would have been a resounding no! But having run 20 miles 2 weeks ago fairly comfortable, I'm now feeling a lot better about it.

Of course all marathoners know the race starts at mile 20 and the remaining 6 miles can be hell. But I was feeling that I still had something in the tank which was the confidence booster.

I kept my long runs to the weekends, the first week started at 8 miles followed by 12, 16, another 16, 17.5, 20 and then 12. Ideally it would have been nice to get another 20 miles in, but overall I'm really chuffed with myself for managing what I've done after 5 months of no running.

The midweek runs were all about getting some tempo and hills in. The 3 8 mile hill runs over the ranges that I done were really beneficial, and really got me back into some sort of shape. Also the faster runs helped too.
155 miles and around 22 hours of running certainly isn't enough to run a PB (3:58:50) but if I could come in around 4:30 and complete the course then that would be great but to be honest I'm just grateful to be running again and starting a race I never thought I would be running even if I can't finish it , it wouldn't be the end of the world.

My seven weeks of training is below:

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Polar FT80 heart rate monitor review

Heart rate training is probably the most sensible way to exercise not only are you listening to the most important muscle in your body but also you know that your training is totally specific to you!

The brand name most people associate to heart rate monitors would be Polar. The FT80 is marketed as 'A heart rate monitor for fitness enthusiasts who want to improve strength and cardio'.

The watch is GPS enabled, but the GPS unit needs to be purchased separate and paired to the watch. In the box the watch comes with a Polar H1 heart rate sensor and strap and the very clever Flowlink data transfer unit.

Before we get into the performance of the watch, the design deserves a mention. It's very sleek and stylish, very light, non intrusive on the wrist, and the buttons are nice and accessible and easy to press.

So it looks good, but does it work as well as it looks...that's a resounding yes!
The FT80's best bits are the Smart Coaching Features (Fitness Test, OwnZone, Smart Calories, STAR training program, strength training guidance, training load) and Polar Personal Trainer.

After setting up the watch with your, birth date, height, weight and sex, you're ready to go. The more you work out at different intensities the more the watch learns about your heart's capabilities and how to improve your personal performances.

Here's a bit about each of the standout features from the Polar website:

Fitness test: Improving your fitness and keeping up to date with how well you’re doing, the smart Fitness Test will tell you what you need to know in five minutes. By regularly comparing your test results, you can see what progress you are making and how your fitness is improving.

Ownzone: By using the OwnZone, you can be sure you're training on an intensity that improves your aerobic fitness as the feature adjusts your heart rate training zone to perfectly match your body’s current physiological condition.

Smart calories: OwnCal is the most accurate calorie counter on the market. It calculates the number of calories expended during a training session based on your weight, height, age, gender, your individual maximum heart rate (HRmax) and how hard you’re training.

STAR training program: Designed to keep you motivated, using a personal guidance program, STAR Training Programme shows you how hard and how much you need to train to reach your long-term goals.

Strength training guidance: When it comes to boosting your workouts, you should forget standardised recovery periods between sets and use more reliable guidance based on your heart rate. Strength Training Guidance determines the optimal recovery time between your sets, helping you to improve muscle tone.

Training load: Training Load helps you to find the perfect balance between rest and training. Find out your training load status at It shows you at a glance your cumulative training load for every day, advising if and when rest days are needed and when it’s best to train harder in order to maintain your performance improvement.

I've now done 7 of my last runs using the heart rate monitor and it's been interesting. It's clear I'm running most my runs probably too fast. That's not to say there's not a place for fast, but training should be varied.

I'm desperately trying to lose my middle aged tire round my mid drift, to do that I need to be running at a light intensity (60-70% of my maximum heart rate) this is Zone 1.

Zone 2, moderate (70-80% max HR) helps improve aerobic fitness and endurance.

Zone 3, hard (80-90% max HR) increases muscles to lactic acid. Training in this zone should be limited, a) It's working your heart to the max. b) hurts!

As you can see from some examples of my runs below, I've spent virtually no time in Zone 1, most in Zone 2 and probably too much in Zone 3.

Once you've done the hard work, all your information can be uploaded to the Polar Personal trainer website. You can view limited data from your workouts on the watch but here on the website you can get really nerdy and study all the vital statistics from your activities.

The Flowlink data transfer unit sits nicely on your desk plugged into the computer via a USB port. Simply lay your watch face down on the unit and within seconds the FT80 has synchronised and uploaded your information to view.

The training load feature is clever, letting you know how you should train daily.
Green: You're ready to train more.
Yellow: You're OK but don't push it
Red: Stay in bed!!!

This is the first time I've used my heart rate for training, it's been fun, taken the pressure off trying to run fast all the time, made me listen to my body more and is definitely the way forward for my training.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

In the spotlight

It was nice to get a bit of media attention for the blog over the last week.

I was featured in the Telegraph online and a 10 top running blogs article.

You can read the full article here:

And today I was interviewed on the Cision website, you can read the interview here:

Sunday, 15 September 2013

7 week marathon training: Week 5

Just 2 weeks to go till race day and a trip north of the border to Scotland.

This weeks training has been great and a little ruff (pun! See later in post)

As I had my longest run planned at the end of this week I kept the miles low during the week to just a couple of 4 mile lunchtime runs on the Tuesday and Thursday.

Tuesday was a solo effort and I wanted to push myself for a couple of reasons. One being to vary the pace in my training and secondly to experiment towards my maximum heart rate zones on my new heart rate monitor ( review of this will be posted during the week)

As I had the big milestone 20 mile training run planned on Sunday and because this is such a short training programme I took a couple of days off to rest up for the long run.

The last 2 weeks long runs of 16 and 17.5 miles had me close to hitting the wall, so I was dreading the 20 miles I had set myself this week.

On the positive side I had running bro, Brian with me, (he's not really my brother, but annoying like one!.....only joking Bri :-)

This made a massive difference, someone to talk to and lift the spirits when things get tough.

We ran part way along the Downs link path, 36 miles of pathway that link the North and South Downs. Brian was familiar with the route as he had rode the full length a few times in the past.

The plan was to run an out and back 10 miles. The weather was grim but business had to be done to get these miles in the bank. 

I ran with 500ml of water with an energy type tablet thingy in it....and 6 Jaffa cakes. I needed more fluid than this but there was a town halfway (Southwater) where I could refuel. Trouble was when we got there, nothing was open, apart from the Gastro pub. I went in stinking and dripping wet after a bottle of water. They only had glass bottles with no lids, but the very kind girl behind the bar, opened her personal Lucozade drink, poured it away, and filled it with water for me free of charge. A true act of kindness...or desperate to get a stinky bloke away from the customers!

Things were going well up to mile 13, when what looked like a playful dog came bounding up to us and decided to sink his teeth into the side of my knee! After a heavy exchange of words to the elderly owner we all went on our way. Brian and myself for a moment felt a bit guilty for the elderly owner, but hang on a second what if that was a child, it could have been serious. Maybe we should have done more but in the situation completing the run was priority.

I think the adrenaline must have been pumping because I got through the next few miles a lot easier than I normally would have.

Up to mile 16 we had kept a nice steady pace of around 9:30 min/miles (not bad considering the lack of training) but the last 4 miles the pace dropped but we made it to the end feeling reasonably comfortable.

I usually run long runs in the morning so whether it was because I ran this in the afternoon and had plenty of time to hydrate and fuel during the morning the run went a lot better than I expected.

One more 12.5 mile longish run to fit in before the marathon and then a week to chillax before the big day.

Hopefully there be no biting dogs along the Loch......maybe just Nessie to deal with!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

7 week marathon training: week 4

This week has been a tough one, I've done much the same routine as last week but increased my long run and I felt it physically and mentally.

Great trail running on the ranges
I ran 16 miles the previous Saturday and then didn't run again until the Wednesday just gone. I didn't plan a 3 day rest but due to work and personal commitments that's the way it turned out.


Wednesdays run was back on the ranges and some hill training on the trails. It was a beautiful evening and probably the last real hot day this year. I ran on my own this week and followed the same route out as last week including the double short but steep back to back hills (a killer but worth it). I took a wrong turn on the way back which was shorter so had to add a bit on to the run when I neared the car to get close to the planned 8 miles.

More trails
Thursday - Rest day.

Friday - I've been running really slowly since my comeback, so I tried to get a bit of speed back running at lunchtime along the canal. I was chuffed to run the 4 miles with 8:15 min/miles, anything in the 7 min/mile pace is fast for me, so it was good to get back close to that.

Saturday - Rest day.

Sunday - The long run. It was my intention to run the same route as last week, out and back to Brookwood along the canal, last week I was a bit short of 16 miles so had to run a bit extra around my estate to bump the miles up. This week I ran a diferent way out of my estate and added a bit extra on when I got to Brookwood.


New Gadget
I've got a new Polar heart rate monitor to review (review next post) and as I knew the distance so didn't take any GPS with me. After the run I measured the route on Google earth and was chuffed to learn I'd actually ended up running 17.5 miles.

But it was tough, the last few miles felt I was running through quicksand, I was mentally and physically shot. I slept for an hour and a half that afternoon and felt grouchy the rest of the day but I took some CherryActive and today (Monday) feel surprisingly recovered with no aches or pains.

I hate that feeling when you're close to hitting the wall on a run and I'm doubting whether I've got it in me to run the marathon in 3 weeks. Don't get me wrong, I will definitely run it, but I think I'll aim to run to 20 miles and run/walk the remainder. I'm not in this one for a PB, but just to enjoy the experience.


Training for 26.2 miles is just so exhausting, I want to get back to really enjoying my running, no pressure and back to my Friday 13 miles to work as my weekly long run. That's what I'll be doing to the end of the year.

Monday, 2 September 2013

7 week marathon programme: Week 3

Happy Days :-)

Well, both my ankle and me have made it to week 3, and time is really flying by. My ankle is definitely getting stronger and so is the running.

Week 3 was all about upping the game, during the week it was much the same as the previous weeks training but my Sunday run went up to 16 miles.

Monday was a bank holiday, which would have been ideal to get some extra miles in, but I was taking it easy as I had run 12 miles the previous day, so Monday's run was a steady 4.4 miles.

Tuesday was a rest day, followed by a tough 8 miler on Wednesday. 

Again, on this run like the previous week I went over the ranges with friend Brian. The run is an out and back one, a tough 4 miles out with plenty of up's, makes the return a little more relaxing with the downhills.

There is a couple of hills that come one after the other at about mile 2. Last week I couldn't quite manage the 2nd hill and had to walk the last few metres. This week I managed to get up it running all the way, so positive moves forward there.

We tweaked the run which meant more hills this week, which in total gave 900ft of climbing over 8 miles, a great and beneficial run.

With such a short programme the rest days are as important as the running days, so after a tough mid week run I took two days off before the important weekend long run.

This week's long run was fuelled by 500ml of water 
(needed more!) Half a packet of crunched up ready salted
 hula hoops (for salt) and a 9 bar.
Saturday, and the long run increased to 16 miles, the furthest I would run for 6 months and after only 2 weeks back was tough.

So not to over stress myself, I kept the run flat along the canal path. I ran 8 miles to Brookwood, turned round and came back. It all came back to me; the hard first few miles to get warmed up, the next 6 miles feeling I could run and run all day, and then once I got to around the 12 mile mark, tiredness began to settle in and the last few miles my pace slowed up. But I got there, but right now I'm not sure where I'm going to find the 10 more miles within me to complete the marathon. I reckon I could have run another couple of miles then maybe got to 20 miles with some mind games....beyond that??

However I've still got two big long runs planned in the next couple of weeks, so all is not lost yet.