London Marathon 2013, run. Thanks for all the support!

A delay in writing this as it’s taken a long time to sink in that the 2013 London Marathon has been run. After 3 months of focus to have the event done is a very strange feeling. A real mix of emotions, from joy that it’s run to feeling a little sad and, at times, lost. The training structure did me a lot of good and the motivational benefits of working towards a goal are a lesson I will carry into other aspects of my life. It’s also highlighted how many things I’ve deferred until after the Marathon was run. These things are now piled very high. Some of the list is good: Cycling/MTBing (SC has a new bike), Surfing, Cars, Skating, catching up with friends & family and Alcohol. Some not so good: D.I.Y and chores.

3:32:12 - London Marathon 2013 Finishers Photo
3:32:12 Finished

So.. how did it go…..? I managed a 3:32:12, a time am pleased with. It’s not sub 3:30 but it’s miles under the original aim of sub 4. Such an amazing day and experience, no description of the crowd would do them justice. To every person who shouted “Olly, Olly, Olly Oi, Oi, Oi”, “keep going Olly” and in the later stages “Headup Olly” a massive thanks. You all propelled me and kept me going. Special thanks to my Wife(SC) and Sister who cheered with the Meningitis Trust at Tower Bridge and then, as additional bonus when thinking of jogging, at mile 22 as well.

I’d love to say the race went well but it wasn’t without its challenges and learning points…. I failed to negotiate my way into a faster pen and started with runners aiming to do a 4:30. This put a lot of additional strain on my body as I ignored all advice to not zig zag round people and spent most of my time on the outside of corners taking longer lines to get past. Until mile 18 I was stuck in traffic and literally the moment I broke free my left knee started to give me grief. The muscle above my knee decided it’d had enough and cramped / swelled. Despite being uncomfortable this thankfully didn’t stop me running. After 4 miles it was wearing thin and evil thoughts of jogging the remainder started to creep in. At this point two familiar voices started shouting and screaming. My wife and sister surprised me at mile 22 and evil jogging thoughts were banished. Unbeknown to me from around mile 20 onwards my head was starting to dip. The crowd pushed me with lots of people telling me to keep my head up, and keep going.

In addition to the above I managed to stick my Lucozade mile band on upside down making it harder to read whilst running and at 5km(ish) my iphone crashed. Due to the close proximity of other runners and pace I couldn’t attempt to fix it and resorted to using the clocks at mile markers to estimate my pace. Thanks to advice from Jez of Motiv8me.com I was prepared for a tech failure and maths while you run has been a significant part of training. Slightly gutted to not have made sub 3:30 but overall pleased with my time and London Marathon experience. If you’ve ever had any thoughts of running it, do it! It’s been such a life affirming experience, I’ve made some great friends, learnt a lot and even entered next years ballot.

The legendary ‘wall’ never came. Unlike on my first Marathon where at mile 20 it arrived in full force, for London it never appeared. I attribute this to the crowd, the wrong starting pen, training going well and potentially not pushing as hard as I could have (blaming iPhone failure). I’m sure it will catch up with me in the future.

At the After party with SC
At the after party with SC

Tom Bedford’s blog has been very useful throughout training and his post marathon blogs are excellent and well worth a read for any runner: http://www.realbuzz.com/blogs/u/Tom_Bedford/running-expert/posts/how-to-bounce-back-after-a-marathon/

To answer his questions / Marathon bounce back blog.

1. Why stop now? & 2. Lose your belly, not your fitness!

I’m eating a lot but I always did as many friends will testify of my hollow legs. My marathon diet has been very healthy and I will keep that up (lots of lentils, root veg, spinach and nuts). Very much enjoying this level of fitness and keen this is the start of something rather than the end. I’ve ended up liking running a lot more than I thought I would but need to devote time to other things and goals. I’ll continue to run but hope to balance it by cycling swimming, cross training at circuits and surfing.

3. Challenge yourself!

I’ve entered the ballot for London 2014 and I’d like to think a 3:20 is possible, if I build on this level of fitness. But, I’m also convinced half marathons are a lot easier to fit around other things and can be just as much fun to train for. Therefore I’ve two new running goals for the next 12 months.

1. Run a Sub 1:30 Half Marathon. My PB current stands at 1:39 from my first and only half marathon, Bath in 2012

2. Log 1000 miles in RunKeeper for 2013

In addition to the above I want to work on my posture. Working in IT means sitting for long periods and I’ve always had a pretty hunched posture. With pyshio and additional training I hope to improve this over the next year. Posture and core are key to so many things that an improvement here will help many aspects of my life, health and fitness.

4. Take a pew and let’s review!

“You have just completed your full marathon cycle and now is the perfect time to review what went right or what went wrong. Review your training and make notes. Here are some prompters:”

Racing

Did you achieve your target? Why not? 

Nearly, see above :D.

How much better do you think you can do?

I’d like to think 10 minutes better but certainly sub 3:30.

How was your race day diet (pre, during, post)?

Pre: Good – I’ll stick with 2 (or 3) poached eggs on toast, a banana and 1 litre of SiS electrolyte mix.  Next time I’ll buy a SiS sachet rather than carry a premixed litre around London with my luggage.

During: Just right – 4 (one spare) SiS orange energy gels taken at miles 6,12,18 & 22/23ish, at least a bottle of Lucozade, and a minimum of four bottles of water.

Post: Fun – First beer tasted good and I ate like a pig for 3 days. With hindsight a protein shake directly after would have been good and more protein required over the first two weeks than I ate / drank.

Training

Did your training go to plan? Why not?

95% of it did, very pleased with my training and all the advice, coaching and experience I received form Truro Running Club (TRC) and Jez (Motiv8me.com).

Did your training fit in with your work schedule?

Yes, but looking at my todo stack a lot of things didn’t fit with running and training over 3 months. If I run another Marathon more work needs to be done to accomodate having a life as well.

If you were starting this again tomorrow what would you change?

I’d start earlier and not run a marathon ‘by mistake’ in training. This was ambitious and with hind sight cost me two weeks of training during a key period. I’d also look to do a lot more core work and cross training. May be one less run a week to be replaced by circuits.

I’d book onto more half marathon / 20 mile official races to get more race practise. A lot of the apprehension from London came from the alien environment of race day. With hindsight I could have done with more dealing with other runners, overtaking and pre-race prep (mental and logistics).

Would you seek more experience/ personalised advice?

No, very pleased with the advice, coaching and experiences I’ve had. I’d encourage anyone remotely interested in running to join a running club. TRC is a fantastic club that have been very welcoming and shared a lot of experience and coaching.

What sessions did you feel really prepared you for race day?

Without a doubt running a long run every Sunday (without fail, since the start of January) has been my best training. Forcing me to to get up as if it were race day, practise my race breakfast/fueling and head out in almost every conceivable condition.

All the advice I’ve received / read says the same thing: don’t ignore the long runs! Each run has taught me a lot, helped my confidence and prepared me for the 26.2 miles of London. To contradict my reply about my accidental marathon being a mistake it did help with my confidence levels and pushed me to aim for 3:30 from Sub 4. Still wouldn’t advice it but it helped in its own way.

What races worked in your schedule? I.e. Half marathons, 16/20 mile race?

Not enough races: next time I will enter half marathons and more 16/20 mile races

How could you improve your diet next time?

Being a healthy eating junky this was an easier challenge. I’d definitely eat more beetroot, spinach and sweet potato earlier on in training. In fact, I hope to continue eating the same levels as my later training stages now. Even if the benefits are placebo I felt great and that counts for a lot.

Injuries

What injuries did you pick up? How can you avoid them in the future? (i.e. More regular massage?)

After the race I struggled with my ITB / Knees. Mainly my left knee and a minor ligament issue with my left foot. After 26.2 miles at 8 mins a mile I’m relatively happy with that. However, over the next few months I’m hoping to focus on improving both. Working on core, posture and flexibility with yoga, cycling, circuits, swimming and surfing. I’m even tempted by my wife’s Davina Fitness DVDs, if it will help and SC fancies dusting them off too.

Would you include more stretching or core stability in your training?

Yes, definitely room for improvement here. Weekly yoga and circuits are a must for next time.

That’s all folks! Still not sunken in it’s complete. I’ll keep running and some running posts coming but I’m hoping to keep a roughly weekly blog publishing with more articles on other interests to keep me motivated and practising writing. Thanks for reading this far and the comments / support.

Massive thanks again to all donators, supporters, readers, Truro Running Club Members and to my wife SC for putting up with me the last 4 months. I hope SC feels I did her proud 😀 and it was worth it.

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2 Days to go: London time!

Nice weather at last
Spring is in the air!

Excitement reigns supreme! Sitting in a seat has becoming a challenge and I want it to be race day now. Today saw my last 3 mile tapered run before the main event. Almost hope it’s not as nice a day on Sunday as I’ve only trained in what feels like the longest winter of my life.

Bumbag fully stocked
Fully stocked

Advise is swimming through my head, battling with PMA, what to pack, what I need and my wife tripple checking logistics. It’s hard to describe the feeling of excitement but suffice to say it’s big, 26.2 miles of big and a fair distraction. My kit is nearly packed and ready to go. For the main event I will be running in my Meningitis Trust Vest, Ron-hill Shorts, Inov8 socks and Reds with my bum bag packed and containing:

  • 5 SIS energy gels – tried and tested on the Bissoe Trail: 4 for the event and 1 spare
  • Driving Licence – incase of emergencies
  • Oyster Card, £20 and a credit card – to cover other emergencies and get me back to the hotel
  • Toilet paper – to cover pit stop emergencies)
  • Headphones – to call on the Boss, Bruce Springsteen, if motivation starts to fail me
  • Soft Glasses case – running in my glasses and this may be needed to safely store them
Cleaned Trainers
Cleaned and ready to go

A final sponsorship plea: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/OllyBrand

Thanks to all those that have generously given. My total now stands at over £2000 and I’ve over the moon with this! Exceeding the target was a great day and has done wonders for my stress levels. For those of us on a charity place hitting the minimum amount is a requirement of entry into the event.

Meningitis Trust Vest
Front and back

Thanks all for the support, advice, sponsorship and training partners, with special thanks to Truro Running Club and Jez Mancer of motive8me.com. I blame the last two for the revised goal of 3:30.

9 Days to go & tapering!

9 days to go and I’m 60% excited vs. 40% fearful of injury and the unknown. In a state of just wanting it to arrive and be done whilst really looking forward to it. 100% sure tapering feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeels good!

Tapering: To diminish or reduce, to gradually lessen
Feels good!

In the context of my running tapering is backing off the last 3-2 weeks of training in a bid to get legs and body in optimal condition for the main event. The Sunday before last I ran 15 miles (instead of my usual 18-20) and this Sunday was a steady 10 miles on the Sunny Pembrokeshire Costal Path.

Saundersfoot, Pembrokshire
Sunny South Wales
Map last Sunday's run from RunKeeper
Now considered a ‘short’ run – Check out the elevation changes!

Jez has been updating my training plan as we go, the final week will only see me run 6-9 miles with lots of rest prescribed. I’m taking lots of advice and having a sports massage on the Monday to ease out any potential niggles. Cannot wait for my first beer and surf after it’s done. 9 days seems both a short and long time.

Over the last two weeks I’ve been reading a lot of marathon blogs and the provided magazines. All are packed with information / information overload. Linked below are two really useful blog posts. Lots of great advice for tapering and first time London Marathon runners like me!

http://www.realbuzz.com/blogs/u/Tom_Bedford/running-expert/posts/entering-the-marathon-taper/

http://www.realbuzz.com/blogs/u/Simon_Doyle/simon-s-sports-time-out/

£1589.99 raised so far
Nearly there!

Fund raising is going well! Thanks again to all those that have donated! Now is a great time to donate as I’m less than £12 from my target 😀

Please sponsor me here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/OllyBrand

The BBC have an excellent new section on Meningitis. Please take the time to have a read and know the symptoms http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/physical_health/conditions/meningitis2.shtml

The final long training run, run.

£1,309.99 raised so far!
Going well

With 4 weeks to go tapering now starts. Sunday’s 15 miles slow and 5 ‘fast’ sees me reach the final long run milestone. Focus is now on staying in good shape, with quality over quantity. Today I had a sports massage and much needed day off to relax. However, instead of relaxing I used the time to do a lot of odd jobs. These jobs had been hanging around as a result of training. Clearing the decks(ish) has helped me focus and will hopefully help with relaxing longer term. Despite the cold weather most of the todo’s were done and I’m looking forward to London more as a result.

Sunday’s run provided a much needed confidence boost. I ran in my Meningitis Trust Vest with no issues, ran a negative split and, after 20 miles, my legs/body felt ok. The last 6 miles are hard to explain and I’m not underestimating them, but at mile 20 all still felt good.

The weekend before last I struggled with fuelling and didn’t eat enough for breakfast. Only taking one energy gel and not eating enough was a big mistake. I was a little down / not very pleased with my performance. Keen not to repeat that mistake I ate more for breakfast and practised taking on more gels. I can now drink and run which is an added bonus, and a lot harder than it sounds.

New pre-race breakfast: 2 Poached eggs on toast, a banana, large mug of green tea and a pint of SIS electrolyte (blackcurrant).

Sponsorship is going well. March 22nd’s £1300 cut off passed thanks to Lucio and the Massignani clan. Please don’t let that stop you being generous: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/OllyBrand 

A lot has been put on hold to run the London Marathon and I had no idea the time sponge it would become. I’m hanging for a surf, beer and a track day (maybe not all at the same time). My brother-in-law (featured in my GoPro rant) is fed up of me declining to surf with him. If the surf gods are listening and feeling generous: from Tuesday 23rd April I could really use 2 weeks of sunshine and head high surf, please.

As well as massaging my legs Jez http://www.motive8me.com/ provided more coaching and planned my next two weeks. His help and advice are adding to my confidence. He’s left me with a new mantra for the next four weeks…. “DON’T RUN TOO FAST AT THE START!”, and ‘Now the mental game begins’. Jez also let slip he and his wife are Marathon Guinness World Record Holders. They hold the record for the fastest Husband and Wife aggregated time!

If only I could run it this fast, or as fast as Jez or his wife would be nice. 3:30 is looking a little tame now!

The Accidental Marathon, Part II

Sponsorship
This happy accident yields new questions and some ‘positive’ issues. My legs have just about forgiven me, thanks to Jez Mancer of motive8me.com. More on Jez to follow. The concept of being a ‘marathon runner’ and the confidence from knowing 26 miles can be run stands me in good stead for London. Sponsorship is also getting closer to my £1600 minimum.

How did it go? It went well, really well, averaging 8 minute miles, chatting and having a good time. Then mile 20 hit and the pace dropped to a jog. Putting one foot infront of the other and facing the big hill for a second time loaded me with fear and loathing. Some how we made it to mile 24 and the wall properly arrived. My brain tried to make me lie down and stop. These mind games lasted the final 2.2 miles apart from seeing my Dad, who patiently waited to snap a photo, and a marshall saying “300m to go, you can do it”. The finish line and hallowed post race pasty were very welcome sights, after explaining despite the pink number I’d run the Marathon. The additional £5 entry fee made the admin team a little happier.

Trainer wise: Chickened out of running in the 3mm drop yellows and depended on my trusty 6mm drop reds. This was partly for confidence and also down to knee issues. Knees are still undecided on fully forgiving me. Not helped by driving 500 miles this week. Knees are something I need to focus on and strengthen. When London is done the Reds will be to. The 0mm drop barefoot dream is still the plan, eventually.

What next? My arbitrary sub 4 hour goal has been met, I’ve run my first marathon and I’m kind of hooked. It wasn’t supposed to be like this! The new plan / goal is sub 3:30 for London. I can’t say I care about this one as much as sub 4. Nor do I think it’s as feasible but I will give it 100%. This means running sub 8 minute miles for 26.2 miles. As a charity place it is going to take some juggling to get a start pen that doesn’t get caught up with the masses and cost me too much time over the first few miles. Their pace will be crucial: Too fast and past 20 miles isn’t going to be fun and too slow there isn’t room to make the lost time up. The new target also means a shift in training and Jez Mancer of motive8me.com has really helped with that.

Booked Jez for a sports massage and general checkup, figuring I would be pretty destroyed after 20 miles at ‘race’ pace. Jez massaged my legs and offered to review my training plan. It would be unfair to Jez to detail my new plan but I’d encourage anyone running / training for something to book a session with Jez. It has helped me focus a lot. His help, sports massage and advice is well worth it!

Jez Mancer - motive8me.com
Jez Mancer – motive8me.com

43 days left to go! EEEEEEK

The Accidental Marathon, Part I

Sunday I arrived at the Penventon Hotel, paid £10, badly pinned a pink number to my running top and realised how shambolic my pre-race prep is. The pink number & £10 signified a late entry into the Duchy 20. A 20 mile road race and ideal training for London. The plan: get some race exp, try eating more than one gel, practise my pre-race/race craft and get used to running under race conditions.

Duchy Marathon 2013 Route
Marathon Route

Very glad I did this as it proves a need to sort kit better, take more carrier bags and pack spare glasses. Struggled to keep stuff together and dividing it between the car, located a fair distance from the hotel, and the hotel was not a smart move……. However, with an almighty bang it was show time and off we went.

Mark, from previous blog posts and Truro Running Club, had decided to run the full Marathon and we set off together pacing out the first few miles around 8 min per mile. We gassed about cars, wood burning stoves, scenery, living in cornwall, Skoda Yetis and towing. Mark kept me going and nicely distracted. Everything felt good and as we continued the devil on my shoulder started demanding a medal…. Why run 20 miles when for another 6 you can get a medal…….

Mark and I running
Mark & I at Mile 10 or 11ish – We passed 172 voming in a bush later :D.

The Duchy 20 has a cut on the 2nd lap. At Mile 11 or 12 I mistook a housing estate entrance for the Duchy20 fork. On shaking Mark’s hand and wishing him good luck the Devil on my shoulder took over: “Sod it” and “Let’s do this”. Many thanks to Mark for dragging me round!

Duchy Marathon 2013 Medal
Medal no.2

The product of 3 Hours 48 minutes of running, no walking, 2 massive hills, 2 big hills and a lot of jelly babies.

More to follow in Part II :D.

Running with a cold

This week saw my first blip since training became serious. I swam Tuesday but skipped a recovery run Monday because I didn’t feel 100%. Swimming wasn’t a wise move and from Wednesday onwards I was full of cold. Poor timing with a long weekend in Bristol and Bath planned. Thankfully Wednesday was the lowest point and despite not running since last Sunday I’ve walked a fair few miles. Including a lovely ‘dual’ loop 5 miler of the Cotswolds that ended up being 10 miles and, very nearly, 2 divorces.

A bit like this, only greyer and colder

Not feeling anywhere near 100% I approached today’s run from the angle of ‘just do something‘. All Marathon running advice I’ve read/received agrees that missing the long run is a bad idea. While other training runs contribute to speed, technique and efficiency it’s the long runs that prepare for completing a Marathon the most. Getting lost in the Cotswolds, eating a massive steak meal, driving home late from Bath and not feeling great aren’t motivators to wake up and run Sunday morning……

Another simple plan was formed: 6 miles out easy, 6 miles back ‘fast’. Another simple plan ruined by Mark. We set off at a slightly faster pace than last week and as we approached 4-5 miles I asked Mark where he was running to and signed myself up for another 18 miler.

Splits from Sunday Run
Splits from 18 mile run

Last Sunday we ran 9:00 min miles on average factoring in road crossings, toilet breaks, warm up and cool down. Even with a cold I was keen to go faster and Mark pushed me to an honest 8:30 pace, including the route’s road crossings. Happy with this as even suffering a cold it points to progress being made.

The only snag appeared to be my average heart rate at 159 bpm. Last week it was an easy 150. Hoping this is partly down to the cold and with more training / work I can get to around 8 min mile pace at 150 bpm.

This week I changed from cereal to poached eggs on toast and a banana. This seemed to work well, no emergency toilet stops required. I’ll trial porridge again for my next 18 miler. Keen to get my Sunday breakfast nailed down and fully tested before the big day.

Mark and I kept each other going discussing “runners’ maths” and “on the fly goals”. I was pleased to hear it’s not just me that create these, e.g:

  • I’ll get to the bridge and eat an energy gel
  • I’m looking forward to that random post, only 4.75 miles after that
  • If I run at this pace it will take me 40 minutes to get home
  • This pace means I would run a XX hour Marathon

Calculating these while running is a great distraction and a lot harder than it should be.

Thanks to all those that have donated so far! If you’d like to donate click here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/OllyBrand

This weeks decisions / actions:

  • Beat cold and resume running in the week
  • Buy new shorts and a running belt (more on kit to follow shortly)
  • Do I run the Duchy 20? If I do what do I run it in
3mm or 6mm drop
Safe 6mm or risky 3

18 Miles Run!

Two Milestones reached this weekend:

  • Over halfway to my fund raising target. Reached thanks to incredible generosity from a Cognos friend!

    Virgin Giving Page
    Fund Raising Page
  • 18 Miles plodded!

Thanks to all who have contributed so far. £800 to go seems a lot more achievable than the original target.  I have to raise £1600 to be eligible to race and £1300 of it by March 22nd. Clicking on the thermometer pic links to my fund raising page. All donations gratefully received.

The training plan suggested running 16 miles, having run 14 miles the last two Sundays. Both 14s were great for my confidence. Before them my furthest distance was the Bath Half last year. On a gorgeous sunny morning the plan was simple: Run 7 miles out, 7 miles back then 1 mile into Devoran and back to the car. The plan gave me a lot of options and backup as I stashed water, gels and food in the car.

However, this was not the plan of Mark, Mark and Nigel from Truro Running Club. All 3 veteran Marathon Runners. Somehow they persuaded me to do 8 miles out and 8 miles back. This then became 9 miles. Given the sun was shining and spirits were high we went for it.

Joining a running club has been great for my motivation. It has also provided running partners to push me and glean lots of good advice from. Thanks to all for the tips and additional motivation so far. Without these guys today’s run would have been a lot harder and 2 miles less.

I failed to get Runkeeper started before we left and missed the first few hundred metres denying me the full bragging rights. This happened largely because I fell on the costal path the Friday before last and scratched my iPhone holder. The scratches stop it responding to the Runkeeper app and start activity button. At least it wasn’t my screen and the arm band case only cost £5, delivered!

No prizes for guessing when we stopped to turn around, or when ‘nature’ called.

18 Mile Runkeeper Log

The best laid plans of mice and men – My legs are not my friends

Running Mind Games

At least it’s not just me that battles my inner chimp to go for a run. Over lunch Friday at 12pm was run time. Except it was windy, grey and cold out. My chimp sabotaged me with pieces of work and catching up on email. The battle between brain, body and will raged for an hour and thirty minutes. It was more exhausting than the costal path when, at 1:30pm, I finally forced myself out the door.

Fully subscribed to the theory Willpower is like a muscle and as a result it has a finite capacity and needs exercising.

Willpower: A Finite Resource

In addition to the TR/Bundy image, it is also helpful to think of your willpower like a muscle. All of these qualities of your muscles also apply to your willpower:

  • Your muscles become weak and flabby through disuse and a lack of exercise.
  • In order to build the strength of your muscles in the long-term, you must exhaust them in the short-term.
  • While you can build the strength of your muscles over time, on any given day when you walk into the gym, your muscles have a finite amount of strength–there’s an absolute max weight you can lift before your muscles reach failure.
  • If you exhaust your muscles with one exercise, you’ll have less strength and endurance on the next exercise because your muscles will be fatigued. Your muscles need time to recover before they can be fresh again for your next workout.

Exert from the art-of-manliness blog

Will Power Meter
It really is finite!