Saturday, 27 June 2009

Swiss Movement


I’m off to catch my flight to Geneva for a week’s mountaineering in the Swiss Alps. Talk to you when I get back.


Elmer Fudd


This week’s training schedule:

Monday, 29 June 2009 Climb the Strahlhorn (4,190 metres)
Tuesday, 30 June 2009 Climb the Allalinhorn (4,027 metres)
Wednesday, 1 July 2009 Ascend to the Almageler Hut
Thursday, 2 July 2009 Traverse to the Weissmies (4,023 metres)
Friday, 3 July 2009 Climb the Lagginhorn (4,010 metres)
Saturday, 4 July 2009 Rest
Sunday, 5 July 2009 Return to Liverpool

Christies is the charity which provides funds for, and supports, the work of the world renowned specialist cancer centre, The Christie, in Manchester (see www.christies.org). Macmillan provides practical, medical, financial and emotional support for people affected by cancer and campaigns for better cancer care (see www.macmillan.org.uk).

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonschristies

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonsmacmillan

Visit us at http://www.fivemarathons.com

Join the fivemarathons Facebook Group

Check out The Endurance Coach’s detailed training plan at http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=rAoVZM-fPWZYSSUSJwrmzWg. Join The Endurance Coach’s Facebook Group.

Monday, 22 June 2009

A Bridge Too Far


The Humber Bridge on race day, Sunday 15 June 2009

I’m pleased to report that last Sunday’s Humber Half Marathon went well. You may recall that my coach, Laith, had given me strict instructions to take it easy, so that my training for San Francisco would not be affected. As a result, I tried to take it easy, run steadily and efficiently. I felt strong and finished in 1:40:06, which was 7 minutes quicker than my PB (personal best). It was the first half marathon I’ve run since 2003 and it shows the difference that Laith’s help has made. Either that or I’m getting better with age. If it’s the latter, and with that rate of improvement, I should be running a world record time just before my 70th birthday. There’s something to look forward to.

I hadn't tapered down my training before the race, so I'm keen to see what I could do with a proper taper and permission from Laith to let rip. I’m tempted to book in a race for late November, once the fivemarathons are over. Preferably a flatter course than in Hull, which was surprisingly hilly, and perhaps on a day that isn't as viciously hot as last Sunday. Shouldn’t be too hard to arrange in late November.

Humber Half Marathon

The Humber Half is a really good race and very well organised. Unlike Barcelona, the distance markers were actually in the right place. The bridge itself has the curious characteristic of appearing to be uphill in both directions. Probably just my legs wishing the race were over. Roll on the Golden Gate and Verrazano Narrows bridges in San Francisco and New York respectively.


I spent last night high in the Lakeland Fells. My good friend, and fellow North Doodle guide, Tei (http://www.northdoodle.com/page.php/teifion_jones/fb63778e526a28d7abf7983454af32f0)was in Shap for the weekend and we took the opportunity to complete one of the high mountain camps which are required for our next mountaineering qualification, which specifies a UK overnight camp at over 700 metres. Having camped at over 21,000 feet, you’d think it should have been straightforward, but we managed to turn an otherwise easy task into our customary pantomime. Having chosen Rest Dodd for its relatively out of the way location, we pitched the tent, ate and congratulated ourselves on a job well done. Until we checked the map and realised that the summit is only 696 metres. Another fine mess. We discussed the options, not least a re-enactment of The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain to find the missing 4 metres (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Englishman_Who_Went_Up_a_Hill_But_Came_Down_a_Mountain).

I can assure you that our organisation will be flawless for The Lakeland 100 (www.lakeland100.com), when North Doodle will be one of the principal sponsors. The Lakeland 100 (UTLD – Ultra Tour of the Lake District) takes place on the weekend of July 31st-August 2nd and is the most spectacular long distance trail race which has ever taken place within the UK. The circular route encompasses the whole of the Lakeland Fells, includes in the region of 6300m of ascent, and consists entirely of public bridleways and footpaths. The route starts in Coniston and heads south before completing a clockwise loop which takes in the Dunnerdale Fells, Eskdale, Wasdale and Buttermere before arriving in Keswick. From here, the route heads to Matterdale and continues over to Haweswater before returning via Kentmere, Ambleside and Elterwater to the finish at Coniston. One hundred miles in 48 hours over the Lakeland Fells certainly puts fivemarathons into perspective.


North Doodle will man the Mardale Head checkpoint for the duration of the event. If you’re sufficiently brave and / or foolhardy to take part in the race, we look forward to seeing you there.

Barcelona, 1 March 2009
London, 26 April 2009
San Francisco, 26 July 2009
Berlin, 20 September 2009
New York, 1 November 2009


This week’s training schedule:

Monday, 22 June 2009 Rest
Tuesday, 23 June 2009 Speed work
Wednesday, 24 June 2009 3 miles easy
Thursday, 25 June 2009 10 miles steady
Friday, 26 June 2009 Rest
Saturday, 27 June 2009 Fly to Geneva and transfer to Saas Fee / 4 miles easy
Sunday, 28 June 2009 Climb to Britannia Hut (3,030 metres)

Christies is the charity which provides funds for, and supports, the work of the world renowned specialist cancer centre, The Christie, in Manchester (see www.christies.org). Macmillan provides practical, medical, financial and emotional support for people affected by cancer and campaigns for better cancer care (see www.macmillan.org.uk).

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonschristies

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonsmacmillan

Visit us at http://www.fivemarathons.com

Join the Facebook fivemarathons group

Check out The Endurance Coach’s detailed training plan at http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=rAoVZM-fPWZYSSUSJwrmzWg. Join The Endurance Coach’s Facebook Group.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

To Hull And Back

First thing in the morning (at 4am, to be precise), I’ll be leaving Shap for sunny Hull and the Humber Bridge Half Marathon. A seven hour round trip should be just the ticket; not to mention the 13.1 miles when I finally get there. TEAM fivemarathons' Martin contemplated making a late entry into the race, but sanity prevailed. It had better be a good bridge.


On the positive side, it’s five miles less than the run that Laith had planned for tomorrow so, in some ways, it’s a lazy Sunday. I’m under strict instructions from Laith to take it easy. I can’t afford to run flat out and upset my training for the next two weeks. The main priority has got to be San Francisco, which is an even longer journey and an even shorter bridge. Oh well, a nice measured pace tomorrow should give me an opportunity to soak up the local culture and make amends for my ungenerous comments about Hull in previous blogs (see “New York, New York” on 8 January 2009 and “Local Zero” on 10 May 2009).


During my university vacations, I worked at the Combined Court Centre in Bolton. While this was a fantastic opportunity for a law student, it benefited my running much more. I was assigned to the Enforcements Department, which meant issuing warrants to send out the bailiffs. To ensure that I understood the bailiffs’ job, my boss arranged for me to spend several weeks repossessing household items in some of Bolton’s more interesting neighbourhoods. I daren’t show my face in Little Lever again. I’ve often felt that I could finish a marathon in a fraction of the time if I had a repossessed VCR under my arm, several garden walls to jump over and an alsatian in hot pursuit.

There’s been some fantastic news this week regarding Christies’ campaign to secure the return of the investments which it lost in the Icelandic banking collapse. NHS North West, the strategic health authority for the region, has announced that it will be giving The Christie the £6.5 million that was lost when Kaupthing, Singer and Friedlander (KSF), a UK regulated bank, went into administration.


The strategic health authority has identified opportunities from across its building development schemes to find a solution for The Christie. This money does not compromise any other NHS services or plans and will enable The Christie to develop cancer services for patients in the region. Mike Farrar, chief executive of NHS North West said; “Our primary concern is to ensure the seven million people in our region receive the best possible health care services. Having such an important cancer centre potentially compromised in such an unprecedented event moved us to look at how we could help The Christie in these difficult times. The recent campaign by local people calling for the money to be returned to The Christie has been very powerful and very passionate. This was a unique situation which needed a unique solution, and I am pleased we have found a way to provide that for the people in this region.”


Caroline Shaw, chief executive of The Christie said; “We are delighted with the support of the North West strategic health authority. We’re pleased that this result finally brings the issue to such a positive conclusion for cancer patients. We were taking our case for the return of the money to judicial review and the legal opinion was that we had a very strong case. Last week our papers were filed in the High Court, but in view of this cash offer we have agreed to withdraw legal proceedings. We can now take forward important plans which will bring huge benefits to cancer patients. We have always been determined not to rest until this money was returned to us. I want to personally thank the 100,000 people who got behind the campaign for their fantastic support. As an organisation we rely heavily on people’s generosity to help fund our work, and with continued support we can go on to save more lives.”


Many thanks to everyone who signed Christies’ petition. Full details can be found at http://www.christies.org/news/2009/090609.aspx. You can now view the fivemarathons feature in Christies Successes Magazine online at: http://www.christies.org/newsletter/successes/pdf/spring09.pdf (scroll to the back page).


The alsatian was only seconds behind and it wanted its Playstation back


Martin and I have now organised the mountain guide for our forthcoming altitude training in the Swiss Alps. If all goes well, after arriving in Saas Fee on Saturday 27 June, the itinerary should look something like this:


Sunday 28 June – climb to the Britannia Hut
Monday 29 June – climb the Strahlhorn (4,190 metres)
Tuesday 30 June – climb the Allalinhorn (4,027 metres)
Wednesday 1 July – ascend to the Almageler Hut
Thursday 2 July – traverse to the Weissmies (4,023 metres)
Friday 3 July – climb the Lagginhorn (4,010 metres)
Saturday 4 July – sleep for 36 hours.


Finally, you can now join The Endurance Coach’s Facebook group. Go to www.facebook.com and search on “The Endurance Coach”.


Barcelona, 1 March 2009
London, 26 April 2009
San Francisco, 26 July 2009
Berlin, 20 September 2009
New York, 1 November 2009


This week’s training schedule:


Monday, 15 June 2009 Rest
Tuesday, 16 June 2009 Speed work
Wednesday, 17 June 2009 3 miles easy
Thursday, 18 June 2009 8 miles steady
Friday, 19 June 2009 Rest
Saturday, 20 June 2009 4 miles easy
Sunday, 21 June 2009 18 miles marathon pace


Christies is the charity which provides funds for, and supports, the work of the world renowned specialist cancer centre, The Christie, in Manchester (see www.christies.org). Macmillan provides practical, medical, financial and emotional support for people affected by cancer and campaigns for better cancer care (see www.macmillan.org.uk).


www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonschristies


www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonsmacmillan


Visit us at http://www.fivemarathons.com


Join the Facebook fivemarathons group


Check out The Endurance Coach’s detailed training plan at http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=rAoVZM-fPWZYSSUSJwrmzWg. Join The Endurance Coach’s Facebook Group.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Still Crazy


Yesterday, I had my second VO2 Max test at The Endurance Coach. Despite running on a higher intensity routine on the treadmill, it showed useful progress since my first test on 17 April. My actual VO2 Max result isn’t significantly higher; the real improvement is in my economy: the ability to run for longer (and, in this case, harder) before reaching my VO2 Max. A full explanation of the VO2 Max text, and what it shows, can be found in 18 April 2009’s blog: “Dr Ron Hill MBE”.

I’m sure that a lot of the improvement has come from the speed work that Laith and I have been doing on the Tuesday evening training sessions. Since marathons are low intensity, it would be easy to overlook the importance of speed training. Firstly, it gets your body used to working harder, so lower intensity marathon running becomes easier and uses less energy and effort, which in turn allows you to run more easily, quickly and enjoyably. It also helps to improve your running form and teaches you to run more smoothly. As an analogy, to illustrate the difference that a smooth running style makes, compare your car’s performance and fuel economy when the tyres are soft, and when they’re properly inflated – even at identical revs, your car is moving much more quickly and economically when the tyres are pumped up. A smooth running style can bring exactly the same benefits to your running. You’re looking to touch the ground lightly and smoothly, recycling that energy into the next stride, not losing the energy with hard landings. There’s a great scene in Chariots of Fire which illustrates this point – Harold Abrahams' coach, Sam Mussabini, instructs Abrahams to imagine that the ground is hot ashes: put your feet down gently, get the most possible forward motion from each contact.

This week, I received an invitation from Christies to their event on Friday, 3 July to thank the runners who have supported them in the last year. To my disappointment, I won’t be able to make it; TEAM fivemarathons’ Martin and I will be mountaineering in the Swiss Alps. While Martin and I are benefitting from some altitude training up several 4000-metre peaks, like the Strahlhorn, Allallinhorn, Weissmies and Lagginhorn, our ever-helpful support team will represent fivemarathons at Christies’ party. When we’re snowed-in at a mountain hut at 3,700 metres, I’m sure Martin and I will be wishing we could swap.

I’ll be interested to see if the altitude makes any difference on the next VO2 Max test. Certainly, when I’ve been over 6,000 metres before, I’ve felt like Superman when I’ve returned to sea level. The science is fairly straightforward: the body adapts to the relative lack of oxygen at high altitude by increasing the mass of red blood cells and haemoglobin, which means that the blood can carry more oxygen; upon your return to oxygen-rich sea level, you retain a higher concentration of red blood cells for 10-14 days, and this explains why you feel stronger: more red blood cells, coupled with higher oxygen density. Using another car analogy, it’s like adding nitrous oxide. Without the laughter.

In 1990, to raise funds for Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Laith ran the 300 miles of the Pennine Way, all of the way from Scotland to Edale in the Peak District. My friend Simon (see “Great Manchester Run”, 17 May 2009) and I worked as Laith’s support crew: dropping him off, meeting him en route to refresh his food and water, pitching the tent and cooking. Badly. Laith put in a monumental athletic effort: over 350 miles in all (a few navigational miscalculations provided the extra mileage) in just 11 stages, and only one rest day. Check out the newspaper article from when we got back. I’d like to explain the haircuts, but I can’t. Next year is the 20th anniversary, and the three of us have agreed to hit the road again, albeit that I won’t be able to avoid the running this time around. After two decades, it has the feel of an ageing rock band going out on tour again. We should know better, but apparently we don’t.



At least we should have a few more luxuries this time around. Last time, we had to squeeze into a Mini, which was almost older than we were, with an ironic sign in the back window announcing “No Sheep ‘Til Buxton”. This was a risqué reference to a then popular Beastie Boys album (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_sleep_'til_brooklyn), and we found it suitably hilarious. The humour has gone the same way as our hairstyles and disappeared without trace.


Barcelona, 1 March 2009
London, 26 April 2009
San Francisco, 26 July 2009
Berlin, 20 September 2009
New York, 1 November 2009


This week’s training schedule:

Monday, 8 June 2009 5 miles easy
Tuesday, 9 June 2009 Speed work
Wednesday, 10 June 2009 6 miles easy
Thursday, 11 June 2009 6 miles steady
Friday, 12 June 2009 Rest
Saturday, 13 June 2009 Warm-up, then 3 – 4 miles brisk
Sunday, 14 June 2009 Humber Half Marathon

Christies is the charity which provides funds for, and supports, the work of the world renowned specialist cancer centre, The Christie, in Manchester (see www.christies.org). Macmillan provides practical, medical, financial and emotional support for people affected by cancer and campaigns for better cancer care (see www.macmillan.org.uk).

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonschristies

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonsmacmillan

Visit us at http://www.fivemarathons.com

Join the Facebook fivemarathons group

Check out the detailed training plan at http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=rAoVZM-fPWZYSSUSJwrmzWg

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Oasis - Heaton Park tickets


On this Thursday, 4 June 2009, Manchester's very own Oasis play an open air concert in Heaton Park. Supported by Kasabian and The Enemy, the flagship event of Oasis' Dig Out Your Soul world tour gets underway at 4pm (gates open at 2pm). It promises to be an amazing event. Lead singer, Liam Gallagher, claims that the shows have the potential to be better even than Oasis’ 1996 gigs at Knebworth (http://www.nme.com/news/oasis/45001). 
The fans obviously agree – the concert has been sold out for months, with the 4 June date added in response to the massive demand for tickets. 

Fivemarathons has got a pair of tickets for the 4 June show to auction! Bidding couldn't be easier. Simply send your bid by email to natalie.molloy@pannone.co.uk. Natalie will email me you to confirm whether you’ve got the highest bid, and then again if you're outbid, to allow you to up your bid. Bidding closes at 4pm today, Wednesday 3 June 2009. The tickets have a face value of £45 each, but bidding starts at just £20! Happy bidding and good luck!

Many thanks to Waitrose (www.waitrose.com), who kindly donated the tickets for us to auction in aid of Christies.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Deliverance


Fivemarathons is featured in the latest edition of Christies’ “Successes” magazine. Rob’s article (reproduced below) reminds us all of the importance of Christies’ work and why they need our support. Commented Rob, "It was a privilege to be asked by Christies to write some words for their mag. Barbara had treatment there which undoubtedly extended her life and gave us precious time together we would otherwise have been denied.”



I’m writing this week’s blog from my garden in Shap, enjoying some long awaited sunshine. The thermometer on the wall is reading an implausible 33 degrees; a full 40 degrees warmer than several of my long training runs in December and January. While I’m certainly not going to complain about the better weather, it does bring issues of its own. To run 20 miles in minus 7, you don’t actually need to drink a great deal, but to run 20 miles in plus 33 degrees, you can easily get through two litres or more. Given that every litre weighs a kilo, carrying sufficient water, and carb gels, for the entire run isn’t realistic; not if you’re trying to run at a reasonable pace, anyway. I’ve tried various options. Driving the route first, and hiding bottles along the way, works but it’s incredibly time-consuming to drive the route twice (stashing bottles and retrieving empties) and run it as well. Alternatively, I’ll leave several bottles on my front wall and organise the run into 4 x 5 mile laps, grabbing a new bottle each time I pass the house. If I can arrange it, the easiest option is to get a friend to cycle the route with me, and dispense the carb gels and water as we go. What I’ve billed as a scenic cycle through the Lake District, no doubt soon loses its appeal when the reality of cycling up several steep hills sinks in. Simon, Roxana and Jon have all kindly taken on cycling duties to support my training. 



I’m just back from white water canoeing in the Scottish Highlands. The weather, scenery and rivers were fantastic, but three solid days of paddling has done nothing for my marathon training. Imagine going to the gym and your instructor suggesting that you get on a rowing machine for 7 – 8 solid hours every day for 3 days; getting out to run 18 miles the day afterwards was always going to be a big ask. I managed to grind out the distance, from Stirling to Dollar, on the hottest day of the year so far, but I certainly found it hard work. 

Speed training with Laith on Tuesday nights is going well, even if it’s the hardest part of my training regime. As an example, we run 5 x 5 minute intervals: flat out for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds recovery, 30 seconds flat out, followed by 30 seconds recovery, up to 5 minutes. Five of those, with three minute recoveries in between. 

Laith first offered his invaluable coaching advice as far back as 1984. Laith and I were in the same House at school, and he was keen to ensure that I had every chance of winning my 400 metre race at the annual sports day. He’d done his research and knew the background on the other runners. At least two were quicker than me, so he knew we’d have to get our tactics right if I was to have any chance of crossing the line first. As soon as he knew the draw for the lanes, he set about working out what to do. I would run in the second lane, the two quicker runners would be in lanes 3 and 4. Laith knew that I would need to get a good start, ready to be released by the gun. For the first hundred metres, I had to run steadily, but not flat out. I simply had to ensure that lane 1 stayed behind me. I needed to be on the heels of lane 3 by 200 metres, then past him around the bend and ready to go flat out in the last hundred metres. Having done his homework, Laith felt the chap in lane 4 would be tying up in the final straight and I’d get my chance. As it turned out, he’d got it absolutely right, and the race went like clockwork. I crossed the finish line and ran straight on to my Auntie Moll, who had come to watch. I was so proud; not because I’d won, but because she was so pleased. She died of cancer just over a year later, and I now remember those 400 metres every time I race.


Barcelona, 1 March 2009
London, 26 April 2009
San Francisco, 26 July 2009
Berlin, 20 September 2009
New York, 1 November 2009

This week’s training schedule:

Monday, 1 June 2009   Rest
Tuesday, 2 June 2009    6 miles easy
Wednesday, 3 June 2009   3 miles easy
Thursday, 4 June 2009 VO2 Max test
Friday, 5 June 2009 Rest
Saturday, 6 June 2009 4 miles easy
Sunday, 7 June 2009 16 miles steady

Christies is the charity which provides funds for, and supports, the work of the world renowned specialist cancer centre, The Christie, in Manchester (see www.christies.org). Macmillan provides practical, medical, financial and emotional support for people affected by cancer and campaigns for better cancer care (see www.macmillan.org.uk).

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonschristies 

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonsmacmillan 

Visit us at http://www.fivemarathons.com 

Join the Facebook fivemarathons group

Check out the detailed training plan at  http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=rAoVZM-fPWZYSSUSJwrmzWg

NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004