Tag Archives: marathon

Dublin marathon (2018)

Last Sunday, October 28th, together with my brother Jaime (see here his post about it), I took part for a second time in the Dublin marathon, the “Friendly marathon” according to one of their lines, the 4th largest marathon in Europe with about 18,000 people registered, above 16,000 finishers.

Dublin_0

Jaime and I subscribed to the marathon after the good experience I had in Dublin two years ago (see here my post about it), when I ran it with Serna. After the bad experience in Vienna last spring (see here) I wanted to have better prepared this marathon, but I did not. I arrived to Dublin with just above 470 km in the legs (in the previous 16 weeks), some 70 km more than for Vienna but between 200 and 300 km less than when I have closely followed the training plans in the past years. As you can see below, I found myself at the end of August or the beginning of the 8th week of the plan without having trained much and with 9 weeks to go and about 10-12 kg overweight, and then I put myself to the business.

Dublin_2018_mileage

In the 8 weeks prior to the marathon week I averaged 50 km per week, but I missed many long runs on weekends and wasn’t able to complete good series sessions until the last 3-4 weeks. In any case, I could complete some trails, lose some 6 kg and arrive with the confidence of being able to finish it even if the final time was uncertain.

Weight_loss_Dublin

The circuit of the marathon was the same as in previous years.

dublin-route

From experience, I knew that the profile was not flat with a few climbs but that the crowd, with plenty of Dubliners cheering at the runners, and the cold weather (5 degrees Celsius at the departure time) would help in keeping us running at pace. My strategy was to start with Jaime from his box and run together with the 4-hour pacers until I could not keep up with them, hoping to come with them until the km 30 and then see.

Due to the big crowd of runners at the start of the race, it took me some 3 kilometres to get to the pacers, with whom I lost contact after the km 6 due to a short technical stop, but I quickly recovered the gap. I skipped taking a bottle of water at the supply station around km 10, and got to some distance ahead of the pacers. I then doubted what to do, whether to wait for them (to actually run between them) or keep going ahead pacing myself. As in 2016, I took the second option and I went ahead, running consistently a bit faster than the target pace for a 4-hour marathon (5’41” per km) until the km 33, and only then, at km 34, I felt that it was a bit harder to sustain that pace so I softened a bit, not much, and I kept some strength to run a faster last 1.5 km to enjoy the last crowded streets.

Dublin_2018_pace

In the end, I clocked a net time of 3h55’15”, better than expected and with great feelings while running all along the race, as it was the case in 2016. It was my 19th marathon completed, easy to say today but not so on April 30th 2000 when I completed my first one in Madrid.

Dublin_2

With the 3h55’15”, I was again below the 4-hour mark, and finished in the 7181st place of 16236 finishers (see the diploma below), that is in the top 44%, just in the upper half. That time makes it my 10th best marathon, just in the median of the 19 I have completed.

Dublin_2018_certificate

Times_comparison

At the finish line, I changed clothes and waited for Jaime to take a picture with him and share the experiences of each other before going to our hotel. It may not have been the last time to run in Dublin.

Dublin_3

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Vienna City marathon 2018

On Sunday April 22th, together with my friend Juan and brother Jaime, I took part in the Vienna City Marathon.

Riesenrad

At the Wiener Riesenrad in the Prater amusement park.

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 beinning of January. However, I got the flu at the end of January and that got me for a week in bed. It continued with an otitis and then skiing holidays at the end of February. It was not until the beginning of March that I managed to clock some serious training for some weeks in a row. By then the objective had come to get a level of fitness to finish comfortably the race, no more. In the two half marathons I did in the month and half before the race I could already see that my fitness level was the worst in years…

Vienna_mileage

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

  • 447 km of running, thanks to a streak of 5 weeks from March in which I averaged 58 km per week.
  • 13 series / intervals training sessions, out of the 28 included in the plan, and many of those I did were not the ones included in the plan but softer sessions trying to catch up.
  • 4 long runs of over 20 km, 2 half marathons and one session of 28 km plus one of 31 km.

The circuit of the marathon would take us from the International Centre to the Prater, the parks by the Danube river, and then to the city centre to make another excursion through the outskirts of the city, this time to the Schönbrunn Palace and back to centre, then back to the park by the river and back again to the centre to finish by the Rathaus. The organization wanted to show off a bit of the centre and mix it with classical music being played at some points, to match their motto Theatre of emotions.

Circuit

The circuit was flat. The only inconvenient of the race was the heat of the day. That Sunday several marathons took place in Europe (Madrid, London…). In all of them the main issue was the heat. We had almost 19° C when I started, it went up to 27° C or more by the end. The organization did not spare the provision of water but when the heat hits like that you need to focus on not getting suffocated and run at a softer pace.

Vienna_3

My race strategy was clear: to complete the marathon comfortably at a pace slightly slower than the one I am used to; for that purpose I would try to run a 3h45′ marathon for while to fall back at the second half of the race targeting a 3h55′ or 4h marathon. I quickly found that it would be hard to be under 4 hours. Just before the half marathon point I had to make technical stop which cost me a few minutes. Since then I ran at about 5’45” per km for a few more kilometres.

Pace_Vienna

In my mind I started figuring that I could encounter my brother Jaime, since he had started about 15 minutes before from a different block and was shorter of training. And so it happened. At about the km 30 I saw him at a cross road and I caught him about 5 minutes later. He told me to continue ahead as he was suffering and struggling with the pace (see here his post about the race). I told him that by then I would no longer be under 4 hours but rather 4h06′, 4h16′ or 4h26′, so I’d rather stay with him and finish another marathon together as we had done in Madrid in 2015 or in Millau the same year.

Vienna_5

From then on we ran at about 7’15” per km till the end. They were about 11 kilometres of keeping a soft but steady pace under the sun, drinking at every supplies post, chasing the few shades along the circuit and getting prepared for the finish line.

Vienna_4

In the end, I clocked a net time of 4h23’08”. It was my 18th marathon completed. It is  great feeling of accomplishment to finish a race in such conditions even if with a discrete time, and always happy to still be able to complete them, even more together with my brother and friends.

Finish

With the 4h23’08”, my worst marathon since 2001, I finished in the 3236th place, out of 5434 finishers, in 40% percentile, down in the lower half.

At the finish line we took some pictures with Jaime and with our friend Juan and Balint, a Hungarian fellow that Juan had met in a previous marathon in Madrid.

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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.

diploma-dorsal-6973

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.

IMG_20170219_133349026

 

(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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