A happy new year to you all. I know I haven't been blogging here lately. The reason is that I have decided to retire this blog. This means that no further entries will be posted here, and no further comments can be made by readers.
However, this blog will remain on Blogger so that readers can be directed to my personal blog, which I have recently revamped to include my running as well. Throughout the 2010 year, I've been maintaining two blogs, and felt that one blog is definitely enough.
Throughout the revamping process, my blog has a new URL, a fresh new look, and all the previous posts and comments from Breaking Three Hours have been imported into this blog. You can access it via http://runningwithaaron.blogspot.com/
It doesn't mean that the dream of Breaking Three Hours is dead, it just means that the dream of Breaking Three Hours can be shown from my other blog.
This is an exciting time, and I can't wait to continue posting about things related to running on my other blog!
Signing out from this blog,
Monday, 3 January 2011
Thursday, 4 November 2010
If there is anyone who takes the marathon recovery phase very seriously, I would be near the top of the list.
Normally for us marathon runners, we'd give our bodies around a week or so to get back into any sort of slow running before we undertake another serious marathon training programme.
For me, as I said in my race report, I was going to take an extended break from running. Literally. Not even a 20 minute jog around the park. The days of 7-8 training runs a week, 6 days a week were over. The tweets on running had dried up, the blog updates were no more.
It's been 5 weeks since my assault on Berlin, and during that time I did what any other young guy would do. I went travelling. I played video games. I stayed up far too late, ate loads of fatty foods and drank too much alcohol for my liking.
But in that time of "reflection" I also came up with new dreams, new goals and new plans, and also a renewed vigour to get back into running again. After all 5 weeks is a long time, and as I recently learned it's more than enough time to eat away your fitness levels.
The overriding dream hasn't changed - after all the blog title says it all. However, when training as hard and as smart as any marathon runner could do I still came up short. Afterwards I learned how far off I was, and how much I had to go to realise that dream.
I've looked at my past races (both halves and marathons) and it's obvious that my running profile fits that of an Endurance Monster instead of a Speed Demon. So I created a new dream and that is to get faster - to become a Speed Demon. Simple as that. Running a 1:34 half marathon isn't going to lead to a sub-3 hour marathon. However, by getting faster at shorter distances I will be many steps closer to chasing that sub-3 hour marathon dream.
At the moment I don't have a goal marathon race lined up. I think it will be a while before I decide on a marathon to race. But I do have a goal half marathon race and that is the Reading Half Marathon, which I will run for the 3rd time in a row. For me it's an event I hold very dearly, being the first half marathon that I ran in the UK, setting personal bests at Reading, and even appearing in the local newspaper in the days precluding the race! These lasting impressions have always made me come back for more.
In the last Reading Half Marathon, I failed to reach my goal of a sub-1:30 time by 4 minutes. It was a bitter pill to swallow, having strongly believed that I could achieve that target. This time I have another chance to set the record straight and if I can do this and a little more, then I know that I am well on my way to breaking 3 hours.
And then there's the plan to ensure success. It starts with putting together a training schedule that includes all the components needed to run a fast half marathon, and then joining these components together and figuring out how deep I can go without getting burnt out or injured along the way.
There are under 20 weeks to go to the Reading Half Marathon. To get myself ready to go for my best half marathon time I will need to increase leg turnover and overall speed. The plan is to split up half marathon training into 3 different phases. Phase 1 will focus on getting to my best 5k/10k fitness. This will bring in shorter intervals with plenty of recovery in between. The volume will be low, but the intensity will be high. Phase 2 will then take that speed and start to add in some longer training. There will be plenty of fast intervals but now they will be longer and with less rest.
Finally in Phase 3, over the last 8 weeks I will get into the specific work necessary for the half marathon, where I will bring my best track running speed to the roads of Reading. At Reading I will look to run at an average speed of 4:15 per kilometre. By doing plenty of speed workouts early on, running in the 4:15 mins/km range won't feel so demanding. The intention is to make half marathon pace feel like running in 3rd or 4th gear. If I can do this, then it will be a big step in getting closer to that sub-3 hour marathon dream.
It starts with a dream, then a goal, and finally a plan. And it all starts right now!
Saturday, 2 October 2010
So, going into the Berlin Marathon, I'm going to be trying something I've never done before, trying to run faster than I've ever run before in a marathon, and hopefully break 3 hours in the process.
The good news is that I did run faster than I've ever run before in a marathon, setting a new personal best of 3:21:25. The bad news is that personal best was obviously not under 3 hours.
My main aim was for my running this year was to qualify for Boston 2011 (run 3:10:59 or under in the under M35 age group). Then for some reason I upped the stakes a lot higher by setting a goal to break 3 hours in a marathon.
I admit, I did feel a little bummed when I fell so far short of this target. Actually, the writing was on the wall when I couldn't hit my target times consistently in training and in racing. But since I went into the race without putting any pressure or expectation to run as fast as I could, I was able to produce my best performance on that day, running a personal best. 80 seconds is a modest improvement from 3:22:45 from last year's Berlin Marathon, but put simply, if I had put pressure on myself to run faster than I've ever run before, there was no way that I would've set that PB on race day. So, from that perspective, I think there's hardly any reason to be disappointed. Looking back, my target was so optimistic, but as they say, if you shoot for the moon and miss, at least you'll land among the stars.
It's not my turn yet to break 3 hours, but I will get there even if it takes one minute at a time.
On to the race itself. Unlike last year, the conditions were much cooler, but there was heavy rain beforehand which caused a few large puddles on the course. Waiting in the starting pen in Tiergarten on Straße des 17. Juni with nearly 48000+ runners while it rained wasn't a nice experience, but at least it wasn't 20 something degrees like last year. The music, This is The Moment, from the musical, Jekyll & Hyde, was playing from the loudspeakers, coupled with the release of hundreds of green balloons slowly rising high in the air. When you're out there on the biggest stage trying to prove something and reaching an unlikely target, it felt like The Moment before I even took my first stride! But I reined in the emotions and tried not to go out on the course in a blaze of glory.
And when I got out there in the wet, I was running somewhere around 4.7 min/km pace in the early kms, much slower than the required 4.25 min/km pace to break 3 hours. There were crowds of runners all around me to contend with early on, but I don't think I made an effort to avoid them. For some reason I didn't want to speed up in the first 20 kms; all I kept telling myself was to relax and enjoy The Moment. The Boston qualifying time was probably still realistic, but I had to make something happen in the second half of the course to do this. With the cooler temperatures this year, I had a decent chance.
I hit the half way point half a minute slower than last year, but still felt quite strong and was hoping that I could just cruise to the 20 mile mark and make it happen in the last 6 miles. Unfortunately I couldn't stay strong throughout. At 23 km, I developed some discomfort in my right hamstring, and stopped briefly to stretch it. I did try to take my mind off the pain, and it did go away. However the pain continued to return, subside, and return again as the race progressed further, and I ended up slowing down to around 4.8 mins/km pace by the 30 km mark.
Of course I got even more tired and my pace between 30 - 40 km went from 4.8 min/km pace to a shade over 5 min/km pace. Knowing that getting into Boston was going to be unrealistic, I said to myself that there's no way I'm leaving Berlin without a new PB, especially with all the hard work I've put into training. Then I thought about that video, about the guy who broke 3 hours in his 11th Boston Marathon and how he must've worked and how he was feeling in those final miles. If he could finish with a new personal best, then I can too!
So around 38 km, and the stage where the runners enter Potsdamer Platz, I made up my mind to go faster. I kept surging, surging on Potsdamer Straße, Leipziger Straße, Jerusalemer Straße, Charlottenstraße, and finally Unter den Linden, wanting that PB, bleeding, clawing and scraping for it to happen. Every time I surged I had to slow down, but once I recovered I surged again, and again, and again. I kept doing this, visualising that I was breaking down a brick wall with a mighty sledgehammer (not that I was really hitting the dreaded wall myself!). It was a battle, not only with my legs but with my mind, a battle I can safely say I won.
When I got to the Brandenburg Gate, just shy of the 42 km mark, I knew that I had a personal best in the bag. Like last year, I consciously ran through the middle column of the structure, experiencing the same thrill when I first ran Berlin. So it was there that I poured it out on the final stretch until I crossed the finish line feeling like I had nothing left in the tank.
I was shattered both physically and emotionally. I honestly gave it my best that day. Trying my best to ignore the pain that was starting to kick in from sudden inactivity, I reflected on the entire journey leading up to Berlin. It has been such a long season by non-elite athlete standards, I felt like I've been running forever and needed a well-deserved break from it all!
A few days after the race, I've had a chance to reflect on my performance, my year of running and my goals. I can honestly say that I ran my best race, but thinking that I could do it in 3 hours or less was very optimistic of me. I've learned the hard way that it takes a lot of time and effort and, for me, much more than a year's worth of running to reach it. Having said that there's absolutely nothing wrong with setting lofty goals, so if you don't meet your goal in the first place, don't let that discourage you from trying again. Failure is not falling down but refusing to give up. There will always be other marathons, and other fast courses for me to go out and break 3 hours. Now is not the time.
With regards to my training, I think that by joining the FP Run Club I was able to get some new and fresh ideas for training for a marathon. The sub-3 hour programme was tough but I managed to stick to it, even though I wasn't on track for a sub-3 hour performance. Being asked to run a sub 1:30 half marathon by week 6 of the programme was not realistic for me, so that was when I knew it was going to be an improbability to meet my target. The good thing is that the training programme can be reapplied for future marathons.
Looking to the future, I'm still intent on breaking 3 hours, but to have a decent chance of meeting my target, I will need to switch focus from being a marathon runner to running shorter distances. Don't get me wrong - long distance running is still my focus and my passion, but if I want to get faster in a marathon I need to learn how to run faster over these shorter distances, e.g. mile, 3k, 5k distances. My times over these distances aren't that fast, I think my best 5k time is a shade under 21 mins, which isn't too shabby but could do with lots of improvement. Once I learn how to run faster over these distances, then this will go a long way to running a marathon at the pace required to break 3 hours.
So what's next for me? Well, I registered for the Athens Marathon, but at the moment I haven't recovered fully from Berlin and it will take some time to do so. My right hamstring hasn't really responded well to rest, and I managed to catch a nasty cold a couple of days after the race, so regrettably I am going to withdraw from Athens and take a break from running for an extended period of time. The break will allow me to reassess my running goals both over shorter distances and marathon distance. For shorter distances, I would really like to run a sub-19 min 5k, a sub-40 min 10k, and also have another shot at a sub-1:30 at the Reading Half Marathon, which I've entered for the 3rd time! A chance for me to really get faster and have a much more realistic chance of breaking 3 hours next year! But for now, rest, recovery and doing the things I couldn't do so easily while I was in training. There are a lot!
There have been a fair amount of people that have been instrumental thus far who deserve special mention. In no particular order:
- The Oslo project team, or Team Oslo, or Team Åwesome, for always keeping me in check with my training, especially Andrew and Mohannad for giving up some of their time to help me in training
- My various Twitter and blog followers, and also like-minded marathon runners in joining me for the ride and providing their support. Special thanks to AndrewENZ, shafk, si_brim and others for sharing their experiences and feedback along the way. Much appreciated!
- George Anderson and the FP Run Club for giving me a new approach to training, and something for me to build on in the future.
- My Oslo masseuse, Aina, for working her magic and being generous with her rates, time and knowledge.
- My good friends and the two S's - Shaun and Shanta. Shaun, for helping me in training with his sometimes tortoise-like pacing, and being a good sport and great company while I was training in the UK despite a couple of horror stories which will make great roasting material about him! Shanta, for imparting her infinite wisdom on things not related to running, but relevant to life itself. Because there is more to life than just running, even though it never felt like that over the past year!
- The rest of the gang, too numerous to mention by name, back in UK, NZ and, last but not least, Palma for their humour, support and other contributions to keep me entertained and motivated.
- And my family for being supportive of my running, even though I don't come from a family of runners. This will definitely change from now on.
This blog is a journey and so far it's still an ongoing one. In the meantime, I'm going to take a break from running so that I can reassess my goals and set new ones along the way. This means I won't be updating my blog for a while. I have to say that training and maintaining a blog at the same time is very hard work (believe me, there have been times where I don't want to do either!). Hopefully I won't be out of action for too long and hopefully you'll be around when I resume the journey of breaking 3 hours!
Signing off for now,
P.S. Me with Berlino the Bear at the Berlin Marathon expo. Yeah, me and Berlino are good mates! After the race we exchanged phone numbers.
Friday, 24 September 2010
So, going into the Berlin Marathon, I'm going to be trying something I've never done before, trying to run faster than I've ever run before in a marathon, and hopefully break 3 hours in the process.
And almost every race I've completed, it's always been my aim to try and set a new personal best. When I reach the start line, I cannot help getting pumped up and thinking that this is the race that I go out and hit a six (for those cricket fans) or a home run (for those baseball fans).
But what if I don't hit a big one on the big day? It may happen that even though I'm fully psyched up, I just couldn't deliver the goods that I thought I could.
Over the past few days I've reflected on those races where I did well, and those not so well, and tried to figure out the different mental approaches going into each race. After all, running the marathon is all about being mentally strong as well as getting your body physically strong and healthy when you approach the start line.
There seems to be a trend in my relatively short racing career that the second time doesn't seem to go as well as the first. I can only say that in the second time I develop a natural expectation to do A LOT better than the previous time. So I work myself up, knowing that I can do a lot better, only to not meet expectations in the first place. There may be progress, but perhaps not in the grand quantities that I perceived earlier.
When I raced Reading earlier in the year, I was aiming to go under 1:30 and knock over 6 minutes off my personal best. Because I was trying to break 3 hours in a marathon I put huge pressure and expectation on myself to perform that day, and even though I set a new PB in the half marathon the mentality of I'm going to run harder than I've ever run before that I carried into that race made me force the pace and effort very early in the run, which meant I blew up far too early and didn't have enough in the back half to sustain that pace.
On the opposite end, I ran Copenhagen for the first time and I wasn't feeling mentally pumped up going into the race. I had a pretty bad travel experience getting into Copenhagen that I just didn't feel like showing up at all. I didn't have any expectation other than to have some fun and enjoyment in Copenhagen and finish in 4 hours. I finished in 3:43, including a negative split. It certainly wasn't a PB, but it felt like one. I ran faster than I thought I would do on that given day.
So what does that tell me about how I will race at Berlin on Sunday? I think it tells me that I need to take the pressure off by going into Berlin with an open mind. The weather will play a big part and I could hit the halfway point slower than anticipated. Rather than go into Berlin with the mentality of I'm going to run harder than I've ever run before, I'm going to approach it like I did when I ran Copenhagen. This means I'm going to relax and let the effort flow more naturally out of me. I'm not expecting it to be easy, it's certainly going to be a battle that I will enjoy fighting. But above all I'm going to have fun in Berlin and if I approach it with that fun and relaxed mentality then the body will perform better compared to when it's tensed up.
To summarise, going into Berlin on Sunday, which also is my second time, I won't make the same mistake that I did at Reading. I won't be thinking that this is my one shot to hit the big one and that I will be going harder than I've ever run before.
Instead I'm going into Berlin thinking that this is going to be fun and it's going to be a big challenge for me. It certainly won't be easy, but I've prepared for this for many months and know that I'm at the top of my game. So rather than force the pace on race day, I'm just going to let the effort flow naturally as the race goes on, especially in the first few miles where it's so easy for me to go too fast. Above all, it all boils down to having fun and enjoyment on the day.
So, going into Berlin on Sunday, I'm going to let the race flow out of me, and I hope to reach the finish line feeling very proud of my performance.
Sunday, 19 September 2010
There's only 1 more week to go, and this is the stage where nothing more can be done, where I need to let the body recover in order to be strong on race day. This is the stage where I need to believe in my fitness and the training I have done over the past few months, and beyond that! It is finally coming to an end and right now I should be excited, organised and looking forward to race day. Here's how the week went.
Time and Distance: 40 mins 19 secs, 5.8 km.
Time and Distance: 35 mins 52 secs, 5.3 km.
Time and Distance: 45 mins 49 secs, 7.7 km.
Type: Mixed pace
Time and Distance: 91 mins, 18 km.
Detail: Warm up for 15 mins (approx 2.4 km), then 10 x 3 mins at threshold pace (approx 700m) then 10 mins at steady pace (approx 600m). Cool down for 16 mins (approx 2.6 km).
Time and Distance: 39 mins 38 secs, 7.5 km.
Detail: Warm up for 5 mins (approx 750m), then 5 x 5 mins at threshold pace (approx 1200m) with 60 secs recovery. Cool down for 5 mins (approx 750 km).
Time and Distance: 44 mins 47 secs, 7 km.
Total Weekly Distance: 51.3 km
Comments: Another relatively easy week. No long runs, which is great! The final key session on Thursday I managed to get through totally unscathed, and it amounted to 13 km in 60 minutes. This did bump up the mileage slightly from last week, but nothing to worry about.
Improvements: It's marathon week! The final week is going to focus less on running, and more on recovery and staying strong. Being in Oslo on secondment means that I'm eating out a lot for free, but this time I need to be really selective on the food I eat this week, so I'm going to be cooking a lot of carb-rich meals in the apartment. I'm getting a bit more sleep nowadays, but it is difficult getting to sleep on time especially with so much other things going on as well. Finally, I'm a notoriously bad stretcher, so I'll have to maintain the flexibility without tearing a muscle. Now that would really suck!
This week is also going to be an exercise in juggling marathon prep, work deadlines and other obligations and if it wasn't for work deadlines looming I think I would be in a better position. There is a significant work deadline coming up at the end of the week I return from Berlin, and a lot of my tasks are still pending, which means I may have to put in a couple of extra hours in the 3 working days I have this coming week. I leave for Berlin on Thursday afternoon where I'll spend a couple of days relaxing in this great city, before finally letting it out on the course on Sunday. I return back to Oslo on Monday afternoon, and if it wasn't for this significant work deadline in that week I would gladly spend a lot longer in Germany. Work deadlines have to be met of course, but that shouldn't go as far as compromising my preparations for this important race. After all, this race came up first.
I will also need to believe in my fitness and training, and surround myself with positive people. I found a moving video on YouTube featuring American 50k record holder Josh Cox and the magic of the marathon. It featured a runner called Jeff trying to break 3 hours at Boston this year, with Josh acting as his pacesetter and providing encouragement to him along the way. Indeed he broke 3 hours in the end, and I hope that I, too, can replicate that special marathon magic that got Jeff home in under 3 hours. We will see next week!
Starting to believe,
Sunday, 12 September 2010
The long hard road is finally coming to an end! Tapering has started right now, and it's been great to reduce the mileage and looking forward to even more decreases! In terms of keeping myself healthy during this phase, I definitely haven't been doing this well at all, with too many late nights for my liking and getting not enough sleep. With only two weeks left to go to the marathon this has got to change right now!
I also finally managed to get myself a long overdue sports massage in Oslo and I'm really happy with how it went and what the masseuse had to say about the state of my body. I will definitely book another appointment to see her. You can check out Aina Jensen, my masseuse, on YouTube.
Here's how the week went.
Time and Distance: 35 mins 32 secs, 5.5 km.
Time and Distance: 30 mins, 4.7 km.
Type: Mixed pace
Time and Distance: 62 mins, 11.2 km.
Detail: Warmed up for 15 mins (2.4 km). Did 5 mins at threshold pace (1.2 km), with 60 secs recovery. Did 5 x 1 mins at 5k pace, with 60 secs recovery (approx 260m). Did this set twice. Cool down for approx 15 mins (2.4 km).
Time and Distance: 41 mins 24 secs, 6.8 km.
Time and Distance: 31 mins 25 secs, 6.04 km.
Detail: Warmed up for 11 mins (1.6 km). Did 10 mins at steady pace (2 km), then 10 mins at threshold pace (approx 2.45 km).
Time and Distance: 35 mins 29 secs, 5.6 km.
Type: 10 km time trial
Time and Distance: 43 mins 40 secs, 10 km.
Detail: Started too fast, and faded in the middle. Km splits were 4:04, 4:02, 4:14, 4:20, 4:24, 4:25, 4:32, 4:33, 4:34, 4:27. Really tired in the end, but also definitely not at my very best for this run.
Total Weekly Distance: 49.84 km
Comments: A lot more shorter stuff, but keeping the intensity at around the same level as the previous weeks. I'm a bit disappointed with the time trial. I was expecting to come in under 42 mins, which would keep me at around my goal marathon pace, but since I started too fast I kind of blew up in the middle stages. It was also a really sunny day in Oslo so I also wilted in the heat. Bislett Stadion only opens from 12 - 6 p.m. on Sundays so I really had to do my time trial in not-so-ideal conditions. Unfortunately these things are outside of my control, so let's hope for the best ideal running conditions in two weeks!
Improvements: Still continuing on the taper theme. There will be two threshold runs coming up, mixed in with some easier running. It doesn't look like the mileage is going to decrease in the coming week as the intensity provided by the threshold runs coupled with the easier runs will result in some significant mileage (hopefully nothing more than 50 km like this week).
The taper period is progressing nicely, but there are a few things I really need to address to ensure that I get the most out of this crucial stage. Proper rest and recovery, adequate sleep, good nutrition and stretching are just a few of the things I need to pay attention to. Unfortunately the Men's Singles final of the US Open is on tonight, and play is scheduled to start at 10:30 p.m CEST. If it wasn't Rafael Nadal playing tonight's final, I would give it a miss, but he's on the verge of completing a career grand slam in tennis, with only 6 other men achieving this. It looks like I won't be getting much sleep tonight, so I'm hoping Nadal will make it a quick final tonight. Vamos! After that, I will promise myself to get an extra hour of sleep every day!
Talking about career grand slams, I'm hoping that I could complete my own career grand slam of marathons, the top 5 being Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London and New York. So far I've only done Berlin, and if I do very well in two weeks time I could be in the running for a place in Boston, London or New York in 2011. But first, let's just concentrate on Berlin in two weeks time!
Sunday, 5 September 2010
At long last the taper session has come! This week was supposed to be one of my hardest weeks, but with work commitments coming up I had to skip a couple of runs. Fortunately they were easy recovery runs, so I treated myself to a couple of days of complete running abstinence. While this week didn't get up to the high mileages of previous weeks the intensity was always there, so here's how it went.
Time and Distance: 60 mins 49 secs, 12.5 km.
Type: Mixed pace
Time and Distance: 68 mins, 13.6 km.
Detail: Warmed up for 20 mins (3.2 km). Did 10 mins at threshold pace (2.4 km), with 90 secs recovery. Did 6 x 3 mins at 5k pace, with 90 secs recovery (approx 800m). Cool down for approx 20 mins (3.2 km).
Time and Distance: 48 mins, 6.9 km.
Time and Distance: 52 mins 29 secs, 8.1 km.
Type: Long run + marathon pace
Time and Distance: 120 mins, 25.5 km.
Detail: First 75 mins at steady pace (approx 15.3 km), followed by the 45 mins at marathon pace (approx 10.2 km).
Total Weekly Distance: 66.6 km
Comments: A solid week despite the missed runs. The 5k intervals were very hard, and I was struggling to hold the effort for 3 mins at a time, scraping nearly 800m for each effort. This is also known as Yasso 800s, which is a predictor of marathon performance where the runner can predict their marathon time by running 800m intervals, e.g. 800m in 3 minutes roughly equates to a 3 hour marathon time. Whether this is accurate remains to be seen.
Improvements: Not really an improvement, but the taper period is finally here. Mileage will be reduced next week, the intensity will also be reduced but not too much, in order to keep the legs fresh and energetic. I may do a time-trial over 10,000 metres in the next week, so it will be interesting to see if I can set a huge PB there.
Well the taper period is finally here, and the days of doing long runs, continuous hills and threshold runs have finally come to an end. The hard work is finally over! While there's still 3 weeks to go to Berlin, there will be plenty of running ahead, but not of the type that was done in the previous weeks.
I think it's now time to pat myself on the back for all the hard work that I've done, not just over the last 13 weeks when I officially started FP Run Club's sub-3 hour training programme, but from the very start in January when I came up with the dream of running a marathon in under 3 hours. Sticking to it from the very start is something that I can be very proud of as it's pretty easy to lose focus and quit altogether. While I did lose my focus on some occasions I certainly didn't quit! There have been highs and many many lows along the way, but I think these things have made me a stronger and smarter runner along the way. I guess that's something I can be pretty proud of.
Putting the feet up,