Thursday, 22 July 2010

Chasing bikes

Training is continuing to go well since my last post, yesterday I ran my last significant track session and it went very well. It was the same session that I did two weeks (which at the time was my first on the track in Font Romeu) and in terms of my rep times yesterday they were significantly better this time around. My body has also started to adapt physiologically to the altitude, which a blood test a few days earlier has confirmed. One main factor that you hope to achieve is an increase in blood cells which are what carry the oxygen to the working muscles and an essential biological factor for endurance athletes.

I think taking the day of Monday helped also helped my session as I went into the session feeling quite fresh. I felt ok Monday morning but the following night I had disrupted sleep due to an upset stomach, so I decide to take the day off as a precaution. I went into the track session Tuesday morning very positive and felt before hand that it would be a good session; I did also have a little help in the form of a pacemaker leading me out on a push bike though. My pacemaker was Gary Lough, Gary will be the team manager for the GB Marathon Teams in Barcelona (he is husband to Paula Radcliffe). Gary was a very good athlete himself in the 1990’s, with a personal best of 3.34 for 1500m.

Talking of bikes last Sunday a few of us took advantage of the having the afternoon off training and went to watch stage 14 of the Tour de France which was passing through the nearby Village of Rouze in the Pyrenees, which was only 45mins drive away. I have never seen the Tour before and was suitably impressed with the whole thing. We arrived about 1pm (our time) and enjoyed a bit of prepared lunch on the roadside before getting into the spirit of the event with the parade of sponsor vehicles passing through ahead of the cyclists. I wasn’t sure what this would involve at first but essentially it’s like a fast moving carnival of bizarrely designed vehicles which throw out lots of free stuff, to be fair most of it isn’t much use afterwards but everyone gets into it! Despite my best efforts I didn’t manage to get hold of the better looking t-shirts that were being tossed out, where-as a certain Chris Thompson managed to have one land on his shoulder despite not even looking! Following the parade we didn’t have to wait too long before the peleton itself passed through. We were part of the way up a long climb up through the Pyrenees near the end of the stage but the speed they were moving at was impressive. One of the US athletes Ben, who I travelled down with was determined to run alongside the peleton, I believe he managed about 45secs before he had to drop off.

Being sterotypically french, watching the TdF eating a fresh baguette....

The carnival starts passing through.....

Here comes the peleton...

Anyway with only 11days to go until the men’s European Marathon, I’m feeling pretty good overall and starting to get that freshness and excitement that is often dampened by heavy training and subsequent tiredness. This feeling itself always gets me buzzing a bit more as it’s a sign that things are coming together at the right time. My taper into the race is underway now with only really one hard (although still fairly controlled) shorter tempo run left to do before easing right off into the last week of the race.

A tough race lies ahead with potentially very hot temperatures, as the race finishing at midday, but exciting times none the less.

Friday, 16 July 2010

The ups and downs of altitude

As ever I don't seem to get online to write blogs posts as regularly as I would have liked, although I have been online quite regularly between training sessions... I have been productive in that I have started putting together a new website which isn't finished but it's getting there.

Anyway training seems to have turned a corner this week, I got solid session in on the track on Tuesday despite a having a minor dizzy spell when I woke up that morning. I ran a controlled session, 3 sets of ( 2 x 1k + 5 x 400m) with my marathon roomies. I forgot to mention them in my last post...I'm rooming and training with Ben Moreau & Martin 'Tantastic' Williams, Martin runs for Tipton! (it's all about the tan there apparently:). Times for the track session were nothing spectacular but good enough to achieve the abjective, 1k reps were around 2.55 and 400m reps were from 68-66 mostly. We had some great weather than morning too which helped, although the weather has been strange at times...on Sunday we ran our long run in temp's in the high 20's, only for the weather to change to heavy rain all afternoon with hail stones, which were like golf balls at times!
The other key this session this week was a some marathon paced workout, with we did yesterday morning. Ben & Martin were doing 45mins at M/pace within a long run while i was doing 90mins at M/pace so we managed to worked it so were all together for 45mins at race effort. Also when I say M/pace, it is more marathon intensity, I have been tracking heart rates during these types of sessions as the altitude plays a big factor. I didnt quite get this right last week and subsequently struggle a little on my marathon workout but this week was much better. The lake route (which we used for the marathon paced work) is the fairly flat compared with the other trails we have been using but it is still has a few hills and of course it is at 1500m altitude so I was happy to average just over 5.20 min miling for my 90mins and feel quite controlled.

I've attached a few photo's below of our accommodation and some of the places we have been training...
Early stages of our track session this week. The track is approx 2000m above level.
The View from our accommodatio complex...
Looking across the Lake (approx 1500m altitude) were we have done our marathon pace sessions and long runs.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Calf Problems in Font Romeu

It’s not quite how it sounds, the evening before last we went for a group run on a trail called the Pyrennes 2000 and encounter a large heard of cattle blocking our path, taking a slight detour off track and thinking we had got round them we rejoined the path only to be met but two baby calfs. Unfortunately they got a bit twitchy and instead of letting us run around them they bolted and ran in front of us for about mile before we finally managed to overtake!

I’ve now been in Font Romeu for 5 days having driven up from Barcelona on Tuesday afternoon and I feel I’m settling well with the altitude up here. Our accommodation is at approx 1850m above sea level but we are doing much of our running down at the lake which is a little lower at 1500m. The Pyrennes 2000 trail is around 1600m, the track is close to the accommodation and another good running area on the plateau at around 2100m or so, although we are yet to run there. Below is a picture from our first harder workout since arriving which we did yesterday, we were wearing our GB kit that day as there was media filming being done for coverage on the Aviva training camp. This is on the bank of lake…

Incidentally it’s approx 5.5miles around, although there are tons great trails
The session went pretty well that day, I was doing 4 x 6minutes at marathon pace followed by 5 x 1minutes efforts a little faster, despite the altitude I was still able to hold the same paces I would have at sea level with my heart rates only a few beats above normal. This is to be expected but a few more days from now my body should start to feel acclimatised to the altitude. Other than my long run tomorrow my next key session is not until Tuesday when I will step on the track for the first time since arriving, so looking forward to that.

I am have really enjoyed my first few days here in Font Romeu and I am making the most of the opportunity, getting extra rest between twice daily training sessions as well as getting some regular treatment from the medical staff to help keep the body in one piece. I must admit though I am missing my family but at least I get to see and speak to Teresa and Thomas via video chat on skype fairly regularly.

Here’s what I’ve been doing training wise these past few days…

Monday am 6miles easy pm 6miles easy + core work, then flight to UK
Tuesday am 8miles in Gatwick pm travelling arrived Font Romeu 8pm.
Wednesday am 70mins easy (10miles) pm Strength work + 40mins easy (6.5miles)
Thursdays am 70mins easy (10miles) pm 50mins -hilly route (7miles)
Friday am 11miles total (session as mentioned) pm 50mins easy (7.3miles)
Saturday am 9miles easy pm 45mins (7miles)

Tomorrow will be a long run of 2hr 15mins, which will likely be around 22miles+ will also be using a new sodium based drinks mix which I tried this evening to see how I found it, settle ok but tastes like sea water!