15 February 2012

Marathon Training

I was thinking I would struggle to follow a marathon training schedule and make time for it, but I haven't missed a run in 7 and half weeks10 more to go, more or less. Someone one at school asked me how I was finding the time, and really, it's been quite simple: run instead of dawdle. Usually, my day consists of getting up at 6 or 6:30, going to work, coming home, helping get the kids in bed, and then dawdling from 8:30 to 11ish. I do some work sometimes, particularly if I have marking to do, but usually this is very quiet, albeit unproductive, time. Which is fine, we need quiet, unproductive time. I've just tried to cut it to 9:30, go to bed, get up at 5:30 and run. I was always nervous about running this early in the morning, before the sun comes up, but as the street/pathlights are on at this time and I'm not running with headphones any more, it's really great. Perfectly quiet. The hooligans have gone to bed by this point, and you've hit the tipping point from one day to the next. Nobody out (particularly if you get out before 5) and no cars to contend with. Just your body, with your consciousness filling it up like a balloon.

When I first started running in 2005, it was all about how far I could go. I couldn't believe it—run continuously for... a hour? Two hours? Three hours? When I ran my first home-made marathon in 2009, it was really about the ultimate achievement, of getting to some goal, fuelled by my reading of Nietzsche's Human, All Too Human. Last year, it was about getting healthy again. This year... It's been about two thingsthe first is staying healthy, and not just in the sense that I've thought about it in the past. I've been really careful not to injure myself and keep my eating healthy and balanced. The second will be about getting a good time, something significantly better than my Personal Best, which should be easy enough as I think it's like 4:08:00 on the home-made marathons.

I've changed my shoes to the minimalist trainers: the Vibram Five fingers and have run on them for about a week and a half at this point. They feel really good and help you think about and adjust your gait and foot strike. With regular shoes, you don't think that much about how your foot is hitting the ground because you don't really feel it. With the Vibrams (and barefoot running more generally) you are very aware of how your foot is striking the ground and whenever you have any pain anywhere in your leg, you can adjust the strike to avoid it. Your body as a complex system, not a running machine: imagine that. So this morning, I started off with some pain in my ankle, but quickly reworked my strike and gait to land on it more lightly, and take a shorter gait. The pain went away and I was back to my normal gait in about 10–12 minutes. Perfect. Without listening to music and spending the first five to ten minutes of the run doing a kind of diagnostic test on my body has really made the runs more enjoyable. And now, two hours after the run, different muscles are sore than were sore yesterday. Perfect.

The pace though... I'm running a sub-8 min/mi pace consistently on all of my short runs during the week and ran an 8:20 min/mi pace for my long run in the cold last week (just above a half marathon), but I would like to get to closer to an 8 min/mi pace on the long runs, and closer to a 7 min/mi pace (sub 7, even better) for my shorter runs during the week.

The speed goals, though, are all subservient to feeling good and not getting injured. And I'm happy about that so far. I have the eating figured out at this point and am starting to creep up in my caloric intake, although I realised that when you make changes to eating (except when you're trying to make a quick weight drop), it's best to deal with it incrementally and keep a very careful eye on what it is you're eating. Don't, if you need to add another 100 kCals to your diet, do it by eating 350 kCals of microwave popcorn. If you need more protein and fat (which I do), eat 15 peanuts. And yes, if you need to eat 15 peanuts, count out 15 peanuts, don't just eat some peanuts. Eat 15.

The sun is out in Milton Keynes today: the winter, after the storm last week, is done. Last year I made my first ride to work without gloves the day before the earthquake in Japan. I wrote about it. I wonder when that will be possible this year. My thesis, my new thesis, is now cannibalising writing that I've done in preparation for it. First the framework for analysis I did the last couple of months and then the writing from the first draft last year where much of the presentation of data, once re-oriented to the new findings (which aren't that new, just matured) can be used with some reworking.