Tag Archives: marathon

Maratona de Lisboa 2017

On Sunday October 15th, together with my friend Juan and brother Jaime, I took part in the Maratona de Lisboa.

marathon_expo

Retrieving the bibs at the marathon expo.

Since some years ago, I always follow the same 16-week training plan to prepare for the marathons. That lead to a start of the plan at the end of June 2017. However, I suffered an otitis in July which took over a month to recover from and forced me more or less to stop. I took again the training plan in mid-August, when there were only 10 weeks left. I then had a clear objective: to get a level of fitness to finish comfortably the race, no more.

Lisboa_weekly_mileage

During the 16 weeks of the nominal training plan, I completed:

  • 520 km of running, thanks to a streak of 7 weeks between mid-August and end September in which I averaged 56 km per week.
  • 14 series / intervals training sessions, out of the 28 included in the plan, a mere 50% and not with the fastest paces of the last years.
  • 8 long runs of over 20 km, with 2 of them of 31 and 32 km, and another two days of 28 km split in morning and afternoon double session trainings.

Another good thing of the training season is sharing the progress of it with my brother Jaime and Juan, which helped in overcoming the inertia to stay quiet and to go out to train. See how Jaime explained his own experience in his blog here.

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At the departure area before the race.

The circuit of the marathon would take us from Cascais to the West for about 6 km and then back to Lisboa passing again through Cascais and Estoril, along the road that follows the coast line running through the Forte de São Bruno de Caxias or along the Torre de Belém to finish at the Praça do Comércio.

Circuit_profile

The circuit was rather flat except some ups and downs in the first half. The main inconvenient of the race would be the heat. Even if the organization advanced the race departure time in a good last minute decision, at 8 am the temperature was already above 17° C, which at the end must have been around 30° C.

Cascais_2

My race strategy was clear: to complete the marathon comfortably at a pace I was used to; for that purpose I would try to run a 3h45′ marathon, a time around which I had already finished 6 marathons. At the beginning I tried to catch the 3h45′ pacers but I found it impossible after having departed a bit behind them. I kept clocking kilometres at a higher pace than I should till km. 15 and still I passed the half marathon mark in 1’30” faster than the pace for 3h45′, however the pacers were running still faster, much faster than required for a 3h45′ though.

Pace_Lisboa

From the km 30 I felt that I was not able to run at the target pace (5’20” per km), and decided to soften the pace to a more comfortable one, around 5’40” which from 37 to 41 became more of a 6’00” with some more time lost in the water stations.

Lisboa_2

During the last kilometres I wondered whether I would still make a time below 3h50′, which I did not for a matter of seconds. But I still ran at a comfortable pace. This one was a marathon to run for the pleasure of running, now that I can. I had not particular objective. I crossed the finish line at the Praça do Comércio with a great feeling of accomplishment in 3h50’12”, my 17th marathon.

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With the 3h50’12”, I finished in the 1,289th place, that is about the upper 28% of the 4,670 finishers. See the diploma from the race below.

Diploma

I then waited for my brother Jaime and Juan to see them finishing and to cheer them for one last effort.

Finisher_duo

Finisher_trio

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Marathon Sevilla 2017

On Sunday February 19th, together with my brother Jaime, I took part again in the marathon of Seville. This was the second time that I was in the departure line of that race, after a failed attempt in 2015 when I fell sick the day before the race (see a related post here). Ever since, I had the idea of coming back to get that one done.

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Picking the running bibs on the Friday before the race.

Early November 2016, right after the good finishing experience at the marathon in Dublin, I decided to rest for only 3 days and continue with a good training schedule, trying to get a shape to target a new personal best (PB) time at the marathon in Seville.

Mileage_Sevilla_2017

During the 16 weeks previous to the race (the standard training plan that I follow to prepare marathons since 2013 (1)), I completed:

  • 724 km of running, which is the second highest training volume I had done ever for a marathon (behind the 780 km I did prior to Athens marathon),
  • 21 series / intervals training sessions, out of the 28 included in the plan, a 75% (the second highest completion only behind the 25 sessions I did for Athens marathon). Most of those sessions (18) were completed at the best or second best pace I ever managed in those particular training sessions. Thus, I was going relatively fast.
  • however, I did not complete any long run of 3 hours. I did complete some of 2h30′, once in a split training session going up to 30 km, but that was not up to what is required by the plan. In previous seasons, I had completed more and longer long runs. This was the weakest point of my training this time towards achieving a PB.

Another good thing of the training season is that sharing the progress of it with my brother Jaime, I managed to convince him to join me in running the marathon, which he did, even if the difference in training volume made us decide that we would run on our own during the race itself. See a post with his experience in his blog here.

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Before the race at the stadium.

The circuit of the marathon was the same than in 2015. It started from the stadium at La Cartuja, it then went to Triana and Los Remedios, crossed the river and went the bulk of it around the historic centre of the city, passing by Parque Maria Luisa, Plaza de España, the Cathedral, La Alameda, etc., from km. 33 to 38.

Recorrido_2017

The race strategy was rather clear: I would try to run from the beginning at a pace slightly below 5 minutes per kilometre in order to finish below 3h30′. There was a pacer for that time, but I feared that I wouldn’t be able to make contact with him at the departure, as it had been the case in 2015 and was the case this year.

I felt rather well from the beginning, thus, if anything I had to pace myself a bit slower. It was a cloudy and fresh day, conditions which I prefer for long races. However, being a bit cold obliged me to make a technical stop after the 15th km to go to the restroom. There, I lost almost 2 minutes, and passed from being about 40-50 seconds below the target pace to being about 1’20” above. I ran the numbers in my head, stayed cool and decided not to rush but to recover those seconds slowly. I thus continued with the target pace well enough until km. 27.

0006 (2)I then felt that it was becoming difficult to keep below 5 min per km. I opted for relaxing the pace just a few seconds for a couple of kilometres to see how the body was responding. From km 27 to 33 I was then shifting from 5 to about 5’05”-15″. Since I was not recovering the 2 minutes lost at km 15, I then considered shifting from plan A (below 3h30′) to plan B, a new PB (running below 3h34’50”).

A few minutes later, running at Avenida de la Palmera, I felt a bit stiffer, and saw that I would need to soften a bit more the pace, towards 5’30” per km and slower. I then ran the numbers again and forgot about plan B and thought of a plan C, i.e., achieving a new second best time in the distance: anything better than the 3h42’25” clocked in Dublin. I saw that this plan C would be quite doable as I had at that point a buffer of about 7-8 minutes to be consumed in the following 9 kilometres, so I let myself go.

Pace_Sevilla_2017

 

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My running during the last 3-4 kilometres was a disaster. Alternating some stretches of walking with sprinting, for average paces between 5’40” and 6’05”. At every kilometre that my watch was marking I ran the numbers again and saw that I would just make it, that new second best time, so I kept being relaxed. In the end I finished in 3h41’39”, about 40 seconds better than my previous 2nd best.

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Last sprint.

In the table below you can see a comparison of partial times of some of the last marathons I ran in the last years.

Marathon_comparison

You can see how in Seville I started rather fast, and was able to keep that pace until km 25. At the 30th I was slower than in Rotterdam, if only due to the stop at the km 15. If in Dublin I managed a comfortable negative split by running a slow first half, this time the pacing was the contrary: I ended with a much worse feeling even if clocking a slightly better time. But I had to try it, to see if a achieved a new PB. I have no regrets with having started fast and not having been able to keep the pace. I will keep trying it whenever I have completed a moderately good training plan and the race is rather flat and fast.

With the 3h41’39”, I finished in the 4,475th place, that is about the upper 44% of the 10,144 finishers. See the diploma from the race below.

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I then waited for my brother Jaime to see him finishing and enjoy together the feeling of accomplishment. Two years before I had to quit. This time, both of us were meeting at the finish line.

This was my 16th marathon completed. Possibly not the last one.

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(1) I have been using this plan to prepare for 9 marathons already. As all training sessions are recorded and loaded into an online tool of Garmin, this allows the comparison of the volume between different training seasons, or the comparison of specific training sessions in a given day / week from training periods for different marathons.

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Dublin marathon (2016)

Last Sunday October 30th, at the time that this post is being published, together with my friend Serna, I was in the departure line of the Dublin marathon, the “Friendly marathon” according to one of their lines, the 4th largest marathon in Europe with about 19,000 people registered, almost 17,000 finishers.

I subscribed to the marathon last July but I had it in mind sometime before, right after having completed the marathon in Albi, which didn’t go very well. This time I tried to follow more closely the training plan and I did it. If I arrived to Albi with just 530 km of training in the legs, I arrived to Dublin with above 660 km (in the previous 16 weeks), still a bit short but somewhat better. I had also managed more long runs and intervals sessions, even if I wasn’t doing them as fast as in previous years.

weekly-mileage

But not everything in the training period of 16 weeks had been rosy. Since late 2011 I use some insoles to compensate for a slight difference in the length of the legs, which normally doesn’t bother me, but when you’re clocking nearly 2,000 km a year hitting the streets you start to notice it. I hadn’t got new insoles since 4 years ago and the ones I used were rather worn out. I knew I had to change them but I kept postponing it, until I ran the Toulouse half marathon on September 18th, after which I simply couldn’t walk for two days. Visits to the doctor, podiatrist (x2), the physiotherapist (x6), plenty of pain killers, medicines, etc., and I managed to continue the training after a 10-day break (week 11-12 of the plan).

Having gone through that I was rather happy with just being able to be at the departure line of the marathon and running it without major problems, knowing that, despite of the injure, I had trained well enough.

dublin-route

At first sight, the route of the race didn’t seem very appealing. It gave the impression that instead of taking the runners through the city centre, we were taken far away around the outskirts. Despite that, the atmosphere during most of the race was great, overwhelming. There were plenty of Dubliners almost in every street, crowds cheering at the runners, “Keep going!”.

The organization of the race was superb. From the management of the departure, with minimum waiting time, plenty of facilities, good spacing between starting waves so running was possible from the beginning, to supplies during the race, and a nice round medal at the end, or goodies that included a finisher t’shirt, a frontal lamp or a reflective running vest.

There were plenty of pacers. We decided to start with those of 3h50′ and see for how long we could keep up with them. The truth is that after about 7 km we took some metres of advantage and we kept running comfortably a bit faster for many kilometres. Some time after the half marathon my friend, who hadn’t managed to complete a moderate weekly mileage along the training season, dropped and I kept going forward. I was telling to myself to go on one more kilometre at pace (“run the kilometre you’re in“) until the moment when I would face the wall and then see how I could manage it. The fact is that I never faced it (“trust the training“).

dublin-pace

This marathon has been the first one in which I have managed to complete what is called a “negative split”, that is running the second half marathon faster than the first one. In my case, I completed the 1st half in 1h53’34” (not very fast, doubling for a 3h47 marathon) and the second half in 1h48’50” (doubling for a 3h37′). Every segment of 10k I did it faster than the previous one. This is something that you’re not fully aware while running, but you notice it. You push forward and the legs respond well. You say, let’s go for the 33rd km and see, for the 34th, 35th, 36th, 37th… at some point you think I am there, I’m not going to slow down at all.

marathon-comparison

It has not been the fastest marathon I have completed (that was in Rotterdam 2014, this one in Dublin has been my second fastest), as I started more conservatively, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (book review)

MurakamiHaruki Murakami is Japanese writer of World fame. Murakami happens to be a consistent runner since the early 1980s, about the same time as he went full-time with the process of becoming a professional writer. “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” (2007) is an autobiographical book in which the author not only explains what running means to him but also how he turned from running a bar to becoming a writer, from being a rather sedentary person to training about 60 km weekly, running at least a marathon a year for over 25 years, etc.

Murakami draws some parallels between running and writing:

  • Stop right at the point when you feel you can do more, both when writing and running. As he says to keep going you have to keep the rhythm, the most difficult part being starting and setting the pace.
  • The most important qualities for a novelist after talent: focus (“the ability to concentrate all your limited talents on whatever’s critical at the moment”) and endurance. These two can be applicable to practically every profession (e.g. “The Focused Leader” by Daniel Goleman at HBR).

There are some other passages that drew my attention while reading the book that I want to share:

Nobody remembers what stupid things I might have said back then, so they’re not about to quote them back at me”. (Think now about today’s social media)

“I’m struck by how, except when you’re young, you really need to prioritize in life, figuring out in what order you should divide up your time and energy. If you don’t get that sort of system by a certain age, you’ll lack focus and your life will be out of balance.”

“Have you ever run sixty-two miles in a single day? […] I doubt I’ll try again, but who knows what the future may hold. Maybe someday, having forgotten my lesson, I’ll take up the challenge of an ultramarathon again” (No need to tell me that)

“[…] Thus the seasons come and go, and the years pass by. I’ll age one more year, and probably finish another novel. One by one. I’ll face the tasks before me and complete them the best I can. Focusing on each stride forward, but at the same time taking a long-range view scanning the scenery as far ahead as I can. I am, after all, a long-distance runner.”

If you are a frequent runner it is quite easy to relate to the author in several passages (1). In my case, it has been from the races he has taken part in (New York or Athens marathons), to the experiences lived in a 100 km ultra marathon, the thoughts or lack of them while running, the balance found in training, etc.

The book is rather light (about 180 pages in the version I have) and makes for a good reading, however, if he ever wins the literature Nobel prize it won’t be for this book. 🙂

(1) I guess that for a professional writer there may be several parts easy to relate to as well.

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Marathon d’Albi (2016)

Last Sunday April 24th, at the time that this post is being published I was in the departing line of the marathon of Albi, a French town in the South West of France, famous for its cathedral and the museum dedicated to the painter Toulouse-Lautrec.

My brother Jaime came with me to the marathon as support team, but this time I would race alone. I had subscribed to the race a few months earlier in order to force myself to keep up with the training.

And it did force me, but not that much. The typical training plan that I use to train for marathons consists of 16 weeks, with series sessions during the week and a long run each weekend. This time, I lacked the motivation to start head on with the planning and it took me about a month to start with the series training. From then on I more or less tried to keep up with those sessions.

On the other hand, the long runs went even worse. I didn’t manage to complete single run of over 30 kilometres or even 2 hours. The longest ones I did were of 21.1 km, half marathons, one training and one in competition (Blagnac semi marathon on March 13, training calendar week number 11, in 1h40′, a moderately good time).

Apart from that, on April 3rd, David, our second child was born. And just before and after that (training calendar weeks 12 and 14) I fell heavily sick, having to drop running alltogether for 9 and 10 days each time. All in all, I arrived to the race with just 530 km of training in the legs. About 200 km less than if I would have met the plan at about 80% (a moderately good completion that I have managed previous times). I knew I would pay for it. The question was how much I would pay and since when.

Albi_training

The marathon of Albi departs and finishes in the athletics stadium of the city. It makes an initial detour through the city center and then goes along the river Tarn for about 18 kilometres and back. Part of this route goes through small villages, part of it at the side of the river with wonderful views and part of it through 2 tunnels of 900 m and 400 m, both ways, a strange experience. Along the route there are some groups of villagers cheering the runners but the atmosphere is rather silent. There aren’t many runners neither: 362 at the departing line, a handful less at the finish line. This running event is mostly about you running by yourself along a small road by the river.

Albi The organization of the race had several pacers. I decided to start with the 3h45′ one, knowing that I would not be able to keep up with him until the end, but knowing as well that that pace (5’19” per km) was a comfortable one to start with for me (having finished several marathons in around 3h45′). And so I did. However, the pacer in question started running consistently below the target pace, despite of some remarks made to him by other runners in the pack. We went the first 12-13 kilometres at a pace of about 5’05” – 5’10” which is not much faster but enough to take its toll on you when you’re short of training. I therefore decided to let them go and soften my pace from the km 13. I still arrived at the half marathon at below 1h52’20”, the target pace for 3h45′. However, as you can see below from the kilometre 24 and especially the 29 I started to notice the lack of training, of long runs. The hill was coming.

Albi_pace

After having completed several marathons and a couple of ultra marathons, the difficulty in keeping a pace or seeing the pace deteriorating did not bother me especially. I knew I would finish. I just didn’t know whether I would make 3h55′, 4h, 4h05’… I especially softened the pace between the km 34 and 39, where we encountered a couple of small climbs and supply posts and in the end I clocked 4h10’14” of net time, which is the worst time I have managed in the last 15 years, about a minute worse than what I did in Toulouse in 2011. It didn’t matter. I already knew at the departing line that it would not be the best marathon nor the second best or… I came in order to complete another one, to keep up with the running and to collect the prize of having pushed myself to keep training for the last four months, even if I didn’t quite manage it as I wished I had.

The best part of the race were the last 3 km, already back in Albi, when I stepped up the pace, thinking about the children and the last lap at the stadium that was about to come, where I met my brother again, who took some nice pictures, one of them I share below, indicating that this was the 14th marathon that I have completed so far.

Albi

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Toulouse marathon (2015)

Last October 25th, I ran the Toulouse marathon. It was the second time I completed this race; the first one being in 2011, then the first marathon I had run since 2001.

This year, like in 2011, I ran the Toulouse marathon after having run the 100 km of Millau one month before. In fact, I only decided to take part in it 2 months before the race. The main driver: within the programme I am working on in Airbus since July (A330neo), the marathon of Toulouse had been taken as a big collective well-being activity. Over 80 people from different teams ran the race; which can be completed in relays (teams of 4 runners where each one runs about 10km) (1) and individually.

At the end of August, running about 50 kilometres per week as training for Millau, even if not doing tempo and series training sessions, I decided that I could fairly run the Toulouse marathon after Millau, if I sustained no major injuries and did not care much about the time. So I subscribed.

The day before the marathon we had a photo session, distribution of A330neo t-shirts especially made for the occasion and the traditional pasta party on the eve of marathons. This one was a somewhat elegant dinner, consisting of buffet with different salad, pasta and desert options, organized at the top floor of the Mediatheque in Toulouse, with live performance of a flamenco group.

The race itself went rather well. In the weeks beforehand, I had been considering the starting pace: whether to go for a 5’20” per km or faster. The first pace leads to a marathon of about 3h45′ (a time around which I had already completed some and was comfortable with). After some testing training sessions I decided to be conservative and go with the 3h45′ pacers as long as I could keep up with them.

… and so I did until the kilometre 35. It was therefore a rather pleasant race. Always keeping myself to the rhythm set by the pacers, enjoying the route along the far North neighbourhoods of Toulouse, the music bands, etc. Entering back to the centre of the city, at about the km 33 I started to feel that the pace took more effort to keep and at the km 35 I decided to let go, and run the last 7 km, through the centre (the boulevards, the Jardin de plants, Alsace – Lorraine…) at a more comfortable pace. I estimated that in those last 7 kilometres I would not lose much more than a couple of minutes, that would not make any difference (it wouldn’t anyway be my best time nor the second in the distance).

Pace followed during the race.

Pace followed during the race.

In the end I completed the marathon in 3h47’13”, my fifth best time, the 4th time I finished in the time bracket between 3h44’30” and 3h47’13”. Thirteenth marathon completed (2).

Finisher diplome.

Finisher diploma.

Find below pictures of myself and of the A330neo team:
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(1) I took that option of running the marathon in relay in the year 2013 as a preparation towards Athens marathon.

(2) See all the others in the section Races from the blog.

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Madrid Marathon (MAPOMA) 2015

“Happiness only real when shared”, Christopher McCandless (1)

On April 26 (2015) I completed my 12th marathon (2) by running the Marathon of Madrid, 15 years after having completed the first in the same place. My friend Jose and my brother Jaime completed there their 1oth marathon.

We have run together several marathons: Paris, Berlin, Rome, Athens, Rotterdam, New York, Sevilla… the fact is that we have not run any of those together from the start to the end (3). For these reasons we had decided in the previous days that this time, we would run it together from the beginning to the end, no matter what happened.

After the bad experience in Sevilla, I had found it difficult to find the motivation to train. However, a couple of weeks after Sevilla, I beat my personal best in half marathon and managed to complete a good mileage prior to Madrid. I thus felt that I arrived to Madrid in a good shape. On the other hand, Madrid hasn’t got the best profile to attempt a personal best.

Madrid marathon profile.

Madrid marathon profile.

Thus, we decided to take it rather easy. Our quick strategy was something like: run at about 5’20″/km the first climb (7km) then run 5′ till the half marathon, close to that pace till the entrance of the Casa de Campo (~26km), take it easy there, exit it and do the final 6km climb as we can… thinking we could finish in about 3h45′ doing that.

Madrid marathon route.

Madrid marathon route.

… and that is what we did. Give or take some seconds to the paces, and softening a bit more in the second half. Our final net time was about 4h02′, but you would have to discount about 9′ to have the time we were actually running as we had a rather long pit stop at km. 13. Discount those minutes and we would have been at some 3h53′, just a few minutes above the target.

Time splits.

Time splits.

My brother Jaime wrote a very detailed post here about how the race developed. I suggest you to read it.

The marathon in Madrid normally is rather hard. It was a pleasant experience this time. Running together with friends. Not being mentally pressured by the time. Running at home; knowing what would be after almost every turn, how long and how hard the climbs would be, where one could relax the legs… The rain, heavy rain at several moments, made it only better. More epic in a way. Helping each other in the last kilometres, cheering my fellow runners. And finally crossing the finish line, sprinting in the Retiro park where I have trained so often with Jaime. As he said to end his blog post,

It was an honour to run with you

(1) In a previous post, “Running in the Incles’ valley“, I described the joy of running alone in the mountains. I then compared it with what the experiences of Christopher McCandless, the man about whom the story of the movie “Into the wild” is based. I quote here one of his latest sentences.

(2) Not counting Millau in 2011 (100km) nor Sevilla 2015 (not completed).

(3) I completed Millau together with Jose in 2011, and I have completed several San Silvestre with Jaime.

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