Friday, 29 May 2009

Crash and Buuuuurn

As a pre-teen I supported Liverpool football team, even to the extent that I forgave Kenny Dalglish for his appalling attitude when signing my overpriced lampshade in the local co-op. Nowadays I have seen the light, refusing to take an interest in the tediously spoilt and intellectually retarded "professional" footballers.

However, one thing has always stuck in mind - partly because of its irony given their childish histrionics. In the tunnel leading out to the pitch was a quote from the Kipling poem 'If' which reads: "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same". I had cause to think of that as today’s 5k race was a bit of a disaster in contrast to last month’s triumph at the same venue.

Incidentally I can only assume Kipling liked his beers because the only instance I can think of where you can treat triumph and disaster the same is to respond to them by getting plastered in the pub. As I no longer drink I’ll go ahead and treat them differently and moan like a bitch rather than the usual gloat.

Conditions were hardly ideal as it was breezy and felt very hot, but nothing extreme and as I wasn’t factoring them in too strongly beforehand it would be unfair to blame them in hindsight. What is true is that I never really felt comfortable and even at the 1km marker had the feeling that it was going to be a very long day. Everything seemed a little harder than it should including clearing my nostrils - but with the resulting output not quite clearing my shirt.

The race splits tell the story far better than graphic language could: 3:15, 3:19, 3:23, 3:32 and 3:39 to finish in 17:10. I must admit on the final incline I felt as though I was laying a railroad over the River Kwai.

It’s a shame for my performance to soil my debut in my Riverside Runners (local club) vest, although in some ways the run matched the shirt. I don’t know who designed the damn thing but it looks like a dress – or the perfect shape to fit over a beer belly. I look ridiculous in most clothes but this one fits around the chest and then turns into a maternity shirt around the middle. Fortunately the wind wasn’t too strong today as I had enough sail around my middle for a Mary Poppins impression.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

A Man’s Reach Should Exceed His Grasp

This may well be tempting fate in advance of the Serpentine 5k on Friday but it’s time to put my season targets up for public consumption. After all, no one appreciates someone gloating over their vanquished targets at the end of the year when their existence cannot be verified. For the British readers in particular it’s also better to know how far short someone fell so the levels of piss-taking and general scorn can be adjusted appropriately.

Although I am training primarily for the 5k this year I will be competing over a number of shorter distances also, partly because it’s good training and partly because my philosophy is, as some ex girlfriends would attest, the quicker and sooner finished the better. The season will end in September.

So, without further ado and with accompanying drum roll:
400m: 51.0
800m: 2:00
1500: 4:06
3k: 9:00
5k: 15:50
10k: 34:30

Those of you paying attention will notice that, in relative terms, the target times get worse the further I go, despite the fact my training is orientated towards the longer distances. The main reason for this is, whether I like it or not, physiology plays a pretty major part in race times. I am predominantly a “fast twitch” runner, which essentially means that my muscle fibres are more suited towards speed than endurance. I suspect my ancestors had a postal round in high density housing rather than having to cover a large expansive estate!

The net effect being that my expectations must be higher (and goals more challenging) the shorter the distance. Having said that, I am old man now and it will be interesting to see whether I retain any speed. If not, I will be in the ridiculous situation of being a fast-twitch runner with no speed. All hail the Eunuch porn star.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Squeeze The Lactate

When you're employed and squeezing in workouts before breakfast or after you've commuted home you're less likely to notice their varying quality, or at least you are more inclined to blame the boss for your shitty workout. I don't have that excuse and although I continue to blame the wind there is more to it than that.

I've noticed that every few weeks I have a week of sub par training. Nothing too terrible but a week where the effort seems too great and the reward too little (see also: housework, work, dealing with government agencies and life in general). The good thing is that this is usually followed by a period of increased fitness. Last week was the former, running 62 miles but ending with a jaw-droppingly poor long run at pensioner pace. This week I'm experiencing the latter with a 5 mile tempo at 6:00 pace (hilly, windy) on tuesday and an encouraging 10k pace session today. This, no doubt, is the train, recover, compensate cycle that often goes unnoticed.

The 10k pace session is a new (to me) form of lactate threshold (this has nothing to do with pregnant women!) training recommended by the coach Antonio Cabral. Fast twitch runners (of which I am most certainly one) often struggle with long continuous tempo runs. His recommendation is to split it into 10k pace 400m repeats followed by 100m recoveries jogged in 45 seconds - to be run continuously. Must admit it worked pretty well today as I comfortably managed 5 miles of 10k pace running hitting all the paces for repeats and recovery.

Unfortunately my chronic stitch has decided to make an unwelcome reappearance. Any quality run further than 3 miles seems to bring it on and it can be totally crippling. I've tried everything to shift it including strange aural and visual solutions - all of which seem pointless as well as embarrassing. So, for the time being I will continue to ignore it and hope it will disappear - it seems to work with beggars, politicians and double glazing salesman.

Friday, 15 May 2009

As Wind Goes, So Do Workouts

I'm experiencing a bizarre phenomenon at the moment. It seems my mood fluctuates with almost direct correlation to wind strength, by which I mean that influenced by the coriolis force rather than my own digestive system.

The emergence of the British summer has, typically, coincided with extremely windy weather which has a deleterious effect on running times. I always took it for granted that the effect was relatively negligible, but eureka! I am finding that on a circular route it's adding at least 20 seconds a mile to my running pace. Not hitting my running paces with the correct perceived effort has long been a source of frayed nerves and prior to my moment of obvious enlightenment the neighbour's cat was being kicked regularly.

However, "through knowledge comes understanding" and I've discovered some research on the effect of wind on workouts (I already know the effect of wind on girlfriends, explained in my published paper "The Effect Of the Dutch Oven on Long Term Relationships"). According to coach and physiologist Jack Daniels in wind of 15 mph the energy demand is 17% greater than calm, whereas a tail wind reduces energy cost by just 9%. Another of life's natural "kick you in the nuts" formulae.

None of which will be any consolation to the Hasidic jew out on his bike (replete with black suit and side curls) who tried to interrupt my wind-affected tempo workout around Grafham water. Don't be surprised if you ask a bad tempered, red faced runner in oxygen debt not hitting his times what the noise is (referring to the bird scarer guns in the nearby fields) and get the answer "the Palestinians are coming".

Not in the best of taste, but good taste isn't my thing as many will attest.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Cambs County 5k Track Championships

In running terms I've always felt road races the equivalent of drawn out pitched battles and track races as a gladiatorial contest. I much prefer the latter, as I'm not much interested in scenery, I like it flat and have always preferred the "short, intense yank" rather than the long toothache.

All this of course, before I tried running a 5k on the track which I must say, on a windy day, rates as one of the most unpleasant racing experiences I've had. I was extremely close to reacquainting myself with my beans on toast at the end - although I'm not sure if that was due to the intensity of effort or the fact that a hairy back and shoulders was my scenery for the entire race.

To top it all off I ran exactly the same time as my last road 5k 2 weeks ago! The race itself split into 2 groups, with me in the second. There is a time for going with the lead pack and trying to hang on like an unpopular schoolboy - but that time is late season when you have completed all your VO2 max training and when there is a chance you'll somehow cling on like a fierce winnet until the end. All that would have got me, this being relatively early in my season, was the same result as a Beyonce marriage proposal - a horrific crash and burn. So I did the sensible thing and went out at my own pace in a group of 3.

I'm perfectly satisfied with the way I raced and the effort put in and don't feel I could have done much more than I actually did. That's the state of my fitness at the moment and I'm looking forward to another step forward at the end of the month - not on the track this time!

Friday, 8 May 2009

Better The Devil You Know

Rather than hit you immediately with scandal-filled features I'll do the sensible thing and familiarise yourselves with my running background. Although they say familiarity breeds contempt (and no doubt this will ultimately prove correct) it is useful to contextualise my running expolits.

As a youngster (this refers to anything or anybody under the age of 21) I dabbled in high jump, long jump and sprinting. I represented my county at both high jump and cross country - the former because I was probably the one boy who had tried it and the latter because I was the only one who had tried in it. I didn't particularly train for the events, more "did them" occasionally amongst other sports.

At university I squeezed in some sprinting and long jump amongst my principal sport which was drinking (an interesting combination which resulted in lots of farting during hyperextensions). I can't say for sure but my best for the 100m was about 11.2 and long jump just north of 7 metres.

While working in the US I took up running more seriously between 2000 and 2002 which ended prematurely due to respiratory problems and culminated in a painful slog round the Richmond marathon (never again..........perhaps).

Tomorrow I am competing in the Cambs County Track Championships at 5k where I desperately hope I will not be lapped. I have never run a 5k on the track before and there is something depressing about running round in circles for 12.5 laps. Nevertheless, I am hoping to run a PB (PR for the yanks) of 16:29 or better and I am going to shoot for even pacing.

So, there we have it, the stage is set and the game is afoot.....

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

One Chapter Ends, Another Begins

Back in January 2008 I introduced (or perhaps plagiarized) a concept that I coined Reverse Retirement. The basic premise questioned the accepted modus operandi - that we spend our prime years slaving behind a desk and then retire when we are too fat, old and decrepit to properly enjoy it. Surely it would be better to retire now and stick on a few extra, and admittedly, unpleasant years on at the end?

One of life's enduring tragedies is hearing of those who met their premature end on the way home from their retirement party - whether it be the postal worker from Norwich being knocked off his bike or the great conqueror returning from campaign accidentally impaling himself on a sharp carrot. With the reverse retirement you "cheat death" to a certain degree as all that is snatched from you are painful years at the office!

I suspect I'm not going to convince you of the wisdom of this here and I'm even more unlikely to endow you with sufficient ammunition to persuade the wife over your evening meal. Nevertheless, I am a man of my word and have spent the last year and a half playing tennis full time - finally achieving a world tennis ranking of 35 in the over 35's age group and this past weekend representing England. These exploits were recorded in all their gory, and sometimes depressingly mundane, detail at

I don't feel like jumping on the 07:45 to Kings Cross quite yet (or rather I don't feel ready to feel like jumping under it) so now turn my attention to a few running goals that have been festering in the recesses of my mind for a good few years. So, if you have an interest in running, training theory, racing, a bit of personal philosophy and the general abuse of fools read on. At the very least you may find that instead of wasting time at work on the toilet you might waste it reading this at your desk without the background smell of other peoples half flushed lunch in your nostrils.