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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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!

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!

Trainers

Inov-8 trainers
The Fleet

A few Christmases ago my better half bought me New Balance trainers. I fancied running to get me out of the house on nice days when the surf is flat / I don’t fancy swimming. A paranoia haunts me: working in IT and sitting behind a desk for long periods means that’s all I’ll be good for. Having tried a large number of trainers on, and with zero research, I ended up with New Balances because they fitted well and off I went.

First run out I arrived home near death. Too fast too soon and after 2 miles, tail firmly between legs, I took a shortcut home and died on my throne (every house has at least one throne, I’ll say no more but it wasn’t pretty). After this failed attempted I started off slower, running 3-6 miles around the Beacon and Swansea sea front in a bid to do a half marathon. Things were going a lot better (no more running prompted throne sitting) but I kept getting knee pains. Sometimes this pain lingered and I’d spend 3-4 days after runs hobbling. Several friends suggested the trainers weren’t right for me, and one suggested Barefoot running. Said friend lent me a copy of Born to Run and Google lead me to some options to try for my knees.  ITD bands, heel striking and the advantages of barefoot running all became things to focus on. The answer seemed to be run without shoes! Thankfully a little more digging turned up inov-8 and saved me a lot of pain.

It was love at first sight / run. For me Barefoot / Natural running is about the amount of heel lift/drop relative to the ball of the foot and not heel striking as a result. Inov-8’s guide to barefoot running suggested starting with a larger drop and working down. I pushed this advice slightly and went for a more intermediate road trainer with 6mm drop Red Road-X 233 Inov-8s.

After completing my first half, and all the training that went with it, I was still knee pain free! This brought on a new temptation, to progress to 3mm drop Yellow Road-XLite 155 Inov-8s.

Yellow Inov-8s
Road-X Lite 155

These arrived last month and our first three runs have put a lot more strain on my calves. Invo-8 recommend mixing running with them in your normal routine and not going too far to start with. To date I’ve run a hassle free 5 miler in them but still felt it two days later. Not convinced I’ll run the Marathon in these purely because I’m worried about swapping from 6mm to 3mm this close to the event. However, I’ll continue to use them as part of my training routine for recovery runs and speed work (short stuff). The Marathon will be my Red inov-8’s swan song and from then on I’ll stick to running in the Yellows and consider the grail of zero drop.

While the Red and Yellow inov-8s are great road shoes they don’t work on loose or muddy ground. The clue is in their name. Sunday long runs are spent on trails and for this the old New Balances were being used. Off road / not on tarmac I didn’t seem to get any knee issues. In a bid to not spend even more on trainers I foolishly hoped they’d be fine. After last weekend’s 14 miler all was sadly not right. My right knee hurt like times of old and the left felt weakened, ready to complain. After a crazy notion to buy something capable of running on rocks and ice, stopped by a friend/advisor, I settled into the idea of getting trail shoes…. Seems so obvious with hind sight!

Inov-8 Trailroc 245s
“Let’s offroad!” – Trailroc 245s

Today I’ve just run my furthest distance yet, 14.5 miles, and can happily report pain / niggle free knees. After a trial run on Friday I aimed for 10 miles today and ended up running over and enjoying every minute of it despite the rain. I can also report that SIS energy gels thankfully don’t have the same consequences as Spatone on my stomach :D.

I guess the old adage ‘Shoes maketh the man’ (or breaketh in this case) carries some weight.

Outgoing New Balances
So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish

It appears I’m not alone in starting a running blog……..

The Guardian are copying me, and doing a better job:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/the-running-blog/2013/feb/05/why-we-love-to-run

Not 100% I agree with the ‘pure joy’ factor. The costal path on a glorious sunny day, maybe! The road in this bloody wind with freezing rain/hail is a pretty joyless experience.  Even when finished it’s purely a necessary evil to complete my plan of training outdoors and avoiding the treadmill.

A Sunny CP break from January 2013's trail running

The quest for fitness and being fit to run is definitely there and my arbitrary 4 hours with no real context outside of my own head. But I definitely don’t share the friend of the writer’s approach to missing his sub 3 hour target by 2 minutes. If I go 2 minutes over 4 hours I won’t be pleased and won’t be looking forward to doing it all over again.

Marathon Training: January

Jan Training from Runkeeper

December I trained when I could and prepared myself for a big step up in January. ‘Proper’ training started here. The above figures exclude another 6.2 mile run were run keeper crashed and 5 Tuesday night swim club sessions. 71 miles is further than I ever dreamed of running in a month, and most of it has been surprisingly enjoyable. Determined to do all my running outdoors and to avoid the treadmill. This has required some kit purchasing and a fair bit of will power. If only one thing continues after the Marathon I hope it’s the amount of time I’m spending outdoors.

January saw me join, and be made very welcome at, Truro running club. Talking to a lot of Veteran Marathon Runners has been a great help. A lot has been learnt! Number 1 seems to be my training plan is good but to ensure a sub 4 hour success I need to run more.

Former plan:

  • Sunday (9:15 to match the London Marathon time): Long run, slowly building to 20ish miles
  • Monday: Chill, recovery day
  • Tuesday: Swim club, lots of drills (painful but great)
  • Wednesday: Club run, a mix of hill climbs, distance and fartleks
  • Thursday: Chill, recovery day
  • Friday: Do my own thing to compensate for Wednesday. Eg: If Wednesday is distance then 3-5 miles ‘fast’ or if Wednesday is speed training then 7-9 miles at race pace.
  • Saturday: Chill, recovery day

New Plan: erk…..

  • Sunday 9:15 – Long run – Slowly building to 20ish miles
  • Monday: 3-5 mile recovery run
  • Tuesday: Swim club
  • Wednesday: Club run, joining the more advance group
  • Thursday: Chill, recovery day / Surf
  • Friday: 7-9 miles min, off road trail running
  • Saturday: Walk with Family & Friends

January has also been a good month for the fight against Meningitis: http://www.meningitis-trust.org/meni…accine-update/

Main Highlights this month have been discovering how nice the Bissoe trail is and that it’s good fun & motivation joining a running club.

For February I need to up the distance, keep up the training and work out an eating and drinking strategy. Last Sunday’s run proved Spatone energy sachets and I are NOT friends!

Meningitis and the 2013 London Marathon

My Dad had a close scare with Meningitis. Minutes made the difference: quick thinking Mum, Paramedics and A&E Doctor saved my Dad’s life. Please take a small time out from your day to watch the video and learn the symtoms:

http://www.meningitis-trust.org/meningitis-info/signs-and-symptoms/dont-wait-for-a-rash/?mUseFull=1

As a small token of thanks to all the people that helped Dad and to raise money for the Trust I applied to run the 2013 London Marathon.

Image

Sadly, in September the Trust gently let me down. They’d had a record 450 applications, inspired by the Olympics, for a mere 60 places. I made the call this was fate but foolishly said I’d like to be considered as a reserve. Half-marathon fit and it ‘wouldn’t take much’ additional training to be 26 miles ready. At the end of November I got the call to action :D. December I sent in my entry fee and started to up my running & research. In blog posts to follow I hope to document my training, findings and progress. Fingers crossed for progress and that it will help / be of interests to others to.

Track my training here: http://runkeeper.com/user/iOlly/profile

Sponsor me here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/OllyBrand

To help with motivation and the longer runs I’ve signed up to Truro Running club and running with them Sunday Morning and Wednesday evenings.

At the moment I feel I could run 26.2 miles but my goal is sub 4 hours and to raise over £1600 for the trust. Those two things are causing me the sleepless nights / pressure!