Tag Archives: pace

Maratona do Porto 2019

Last Sunday, November 3rd, together with my friends Juan, Manuel and my brother Jaime, I took part in the Porto marathon, with nearly 4,000 runners registered.

Porto_Expo

The four of us subscribed to the marathon following our series of marathons abroad (to combine tourism with long distance running) that has taken us to run together in RomaAthens, RotterdamSevillaMadrid, Millau, LisboaViennaKrakow and now Porto.

As with the previous marathons in the past two years, I arrived to Porto short of training, with just 427 km in the legs (in the previous 16 weeks), a new minimum and some 30 km less than for Krakow and 20 less than for Vienna, a solid 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 6 weeks before the race without having consistently trained for two weeks in a row and about 10-12 kg overweight, and then I put myself to the business of mitigating the damage. The same story than for the previous two marathons.

Weekly_mileage_Porto

In the those last weeks of the plan I averaged 50 km per week, but I only did a couple of long runs while running some trail races (of 24 and 26 km) and did only complete 2 series sessions the week before the marathon. Meanwhile, I lost some 4 kg (but still at 89 kg) and arrived with the confidence of being able to finish it even if the final time was uncertain.

Recorrido

The profile was nearly flat with a few short climbs. The race started at a park close to Matosinhos village and then goes towards Porto by the road following the coast with great views of the waves breaking at the shore. Once in Porto the marathon goes back and forth on both sides of the river, to later come back to the same park. Before the race I thought I would not like the passing many times over the same places but it helped to mentally break the race into pieces.

Pre_race

The temperature was fresh, the sky was mostly covered and it could rain but did it only for a few minutes. My strategy was to start with the 4h15′ pacers until I could not keep up with them, hoping to come with them until the km 30 and then see.

With just 4,000 runners taking part in the race, we could easily run after the first kilometre and I quickly caught the pacers. Then, I started running a few metres in front of them and a few seconds faster than the target pace until around the km 25. I continued at about the target pace until the km 32, when the pacers overtook me. I then continued to follow a softer pace but found myself quite comfortable till the end, with a couple of kilometres taking longer due to stopping some seconds at the water and food supply posts.

 

Pace_Porto_2019

In the end, I clocked a net time of 4h17’57”, a time around of what I expected (~3′ worse than 4h15′) in view of the lack of training and overweight. It was my 21st marathon completed, easy to say today but not so on April 30th 2000 when I completed my first one in Madrid.

Porto_Medal

With the 4h17’57”, I was again above the 4-hour mark, and finished in the 2442nd place of the 3804 finishers, that is in the percentile 36% (bottom half). That time makes it my 4th worst marathon, after 2 of the first 3 that I did almost 20 years ago and that of Vienna a year ago.

Times_comparison_Porto

This marathon left me some memorable moments:

  • as the circuit has runners going in different directions in both sides of the road for most of the time, I could see the winner, my brother a couple of times, my friends Juan and Manuel, the former world champion Marti Fiz.
  • just after the km 32 the race enters into the tunnel “da Ribeira” for around 150m in which the organization had placed several screens and speakers playing the theme from Vangelis for the film “Chariots of fire”. That was overwhelming.

After crossing the finish line, I stayed in the park cheering fellow runners as they approached the last metres of their race while I waited for Juan and my brother.

Post_race

Medals

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Krakow marathon (2019)

Last Sunday, April 28th, together with my friend Juan and my brother Jaime, I took part in the Krakow marathon, with above 6,300 runners registered.

Krakow_running_bib

The three of us subscribed to the marathon following our series of marathons abroad (to combine tourism with long distance running) that has taken us to run together in Athens, Sevilla, Madrid, LisboaVienna and now Krakow.

As with the previous two marathons in 2018, in Vienna and Dublin, I arrived to Krakow short of training, with just above 458 km in the legs (in the previous 16 weeks), some 15 km less than for Dublin and 10 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 the 8th week of the plan (beginning of March, just after the skiing break) without having trained much and with 8 weeks to go and about 10-12 kg overweight, and then I put myself to the business. The same story than for the previous two marathons.

Krakow_2019_mileage

In the 8 weeks prior to the marathon week I averaged 49 km per week, but I only did a couple of long runs (of 25 and 27 km) and didn’t complete series sessions as after the increase of volume in the 10th week I started having pain in the hip, so I kept up the volume, softened the pace and forgot about the series. In the last 3 weeks, however, I did not keep up with the good volume of the previous ones. Meanwhile, I lost some 6 kg and arrived with the confidence of being able to finish it even if the final time was uncertain.

Weight_loss_Krakow

The profile was nearly flat with a few short climbs. The temperature was fresh (10 degrees Celsius at the departure time), the sky was covered and it rained from the beginning to the end. My strategy was to start 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. Juan started the race with me and we ran together for about 14 km ahead of the pacers.

Krakow_6

With less than 6,000 runners taking part in the race (a few hundreds of those registered didn’t start), we could easily run from the beginning and in fact we did the first couple of kilometres a bit faster than intended so we softened the pace. Since then we ran more or less at the target pace (5’41” per km), at the km 14 Juan dropped a bit backwards as he had announced much earlier, and at the km 26 I was caught by the first of the 4-hour pacers, the last of which overtook me at the km 29. I tried not to lose much distance with them but after the km 32 I was feeling the legs much stiffer and I started to soften the pace with only 10 km to go and the only mental objective of finishing the race.

Krakow_2019_pace

In the end, I clocked a net time of 4h11’17”, a time around of what I expected (5-10′ worse than 4 hours) in view of the lack of training and the rain; it was a tough day of running (a bit better than the feelings in Vienna though). It was my 20th marathon completed, easy to say today but not so on April 30th 2000 when I completed my first one in Madrid.

Krakow_2019_Garmin

Krakow_medal

With the 4h11’17”, I was again above the 4-hour mark, and finished in the 3204th place of the 5184 finishers (see the diploma below), that is in the percentile 38% (bottom half). That time makes it my 4th worst marathon, after 2 of the first 3 that I did almost 20 years ago and that of Vienna a year ago.

Krakow_2019_percentile

Krakow_diploma.PNG

Times_comparison_krakow

After crossing the finish line, I crossed the market square of Krakow, entered the hotel, took a picture with the finisher medal (above), took a shower and waited for Jaime and Juan to share the experiences of each other and start thinking of the next marathon.

 

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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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Why do bad things happen to good companies?

Last week, I attended a Finance conference were one of the speakers (a coach and keynote speaker by the name Martin Carper) delivered a talk titled “Why do bad things happen to good companies?” (1).

Martin opened the speech with the fall of the Medici bank collapse at the end of the XV century, followed by the more recent sound cases of  Enron scandal (fraud accounting), the BP oil spill (in the Gulf of Mexico), Volkswagen emissions scandal (rigged tests on diesel cars). Why all those companies which seemed so good found themselves immersed in such crises. Were they so good? Those companies were filled up with outstanding individuals, following well thought, proven processes, yet they found themselves caught in fire. As it turns out, those companies were not so good after the fact. Investigations revealed major frauds, wrong incentives schemes, bad attitudes.

The reason according to Martin: the key to keep being good is about mindset.

He proposed the audience a couple of quick exercises:

  • triangles“Rate yourself as driver in relation to the rest of the group”. Studies show that 80% of the individuals to whom this question is asked, rate themselves above average. The key: Illusionary superiority.
  • How many triangles do you see here?” “Does anyone see more than 4, 6… 8 triangles?

I was one of those in the audience seeing plenty of triangles. One new triangle after each couple of seconds. But there are none. “A triangle is a polygon with three edges and three vertices“. There are no three edges in any of those figures you may think you see.

This trick helped him to introduce what is commonly known as System 1 thinking, the kind of short-term memory, quick way of thinking, as opposed to System 2 thinking; the more rational way, responsible of the complex thought process used to solve difficult problems. The difference between multiplying mentally 3×3 or 17×23. The difference between driving home or finding your route in an unknown place with the only help of a chart (without a GPS navigator). This terminology of System 1 and 2 was introduced in the book “Thinking, fast and slow” by the 2002 Economics Nobel prize laureate Daniel Kahneman (1).

The speaker then recommended to pause, and, in order to have the correct mindset to avoid those bad things from happening, he invited us to adopt what he called the 3 Ps:

  • Pace. He stressed the need to combine the different ways of thinking, systems 1 and 2, with their respective speeds. Not to be driven always by automatic processes into a purely system 1 way of thinking. He used the classical adage “Festina lente“, meaning “More haste, less speed”.
  • Position. He called for taking a step back to see the overall picture before taking action. To analyze the situation, see all possible options before chosing one. He showed the difference in the layout of a captain’s deck vs. an admiral one in a major British navy ship.
  • Perspective. Here he mentioned an anecdote from Jan Carlzon, the CEO of the SAS airline during the 80s and beginning of the 90s, and credited with the transformation of the company. To stress that small things mattered, Jan would check on and insist that coffee stains be cleaned in the lavatories, as it served as an indicator to the everyone (including the customers) of how seriously SAS took all maintenance procedures. Otherwise, if a coffee stain had slipped through the processes, what other faults could have done so as well.

(1) His speech shares almost squarely the title with but has no relation to the Harvard Business School case study published in the 90s by the authors Benson P. Shapiro, Richard S. Tedlow and Adrian J. Slywotzky, in which they introduced the concept of value migration.

(2) This a fabulous book, published in 2011, on the mental process and the biases of our mind, which references plenty of psychology studies made by different researches along decades. I read it back in 2013 and I strongly recommend it.

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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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Athletic World Records vs. my times (speed vs. distance in log plot)

Two weeks ago I published a post where I showed a graphic of the different world records in athletics with the speeds and paces.

I received a comment from Uwe, a reader of the blog, suggesting to plot it using a logarithmic scale. At first, I wanted to show how the long distance runners could almost keep a speed (between 20.5 and 23.8 km/h) for distances from 5 kilometres to 42, a marathon. However, Uwe convinced me to make the plot and here it is:

Athletics World Records vs. my times (speed) - logarithmic scale for the distances

Athletics World Records vs. my times (speed) – logarithmic scale for the distances.

In this view, what it is interesting is to appreciate the different slops of the lines connecting the different records. There you can see how:

  • 100m and 200m races are fully anaerobic where Usain Bolt is capable of maintaining an average speed of above 37.5 km/h. You can see in the explanation in the Wikipedia how these two races (both lasting below ~30 seconds) use as energy source high energy phosphates.
  • races from 400m to 1 km are still a high intensity activity, with some anaerobic component, though another energy source enters into play: anaerobic glycolisis. And as we have heard often in descriptions about 400m races, the consequence of rapid glucose breakdown is the formation of lactic acid.
  • from then (1.5 or 2km) on (up to 42km) professional runners are able to keep a high speed out of aerobic metabolism (using adenosine triphosphate, ATP). Of course, speed decreases with distance, but from the 26.2 km/h of a 1,500m to the 20.5 km/h of a marathon the speed decrease is of -22% for a race 28 times longer!
  • for ultramarathons (over 42k) speed starts decreasing at a higher pace, though Wikipedia only offered the 100k time. Probably more data can be found in the web to try to find with more accuracy up to which distance the long distance stable pace could be maintained.

Uwe, you were certainly right. This view offers another very interesting perspective to the game :-).

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Athletic World Records vs. my times (pace & speed)

I have many times commented with friends and acquaintances how impressive professional athletes are, what does it mean running a marathon in barely over 2 hours…

Many amateurs (not to mention sedentary people) would not keep up pace much longer than 100 metres. Each time I have made this comment to someone I had to verbally make some numbers for my interlocutor. I am sure these verbal calculations were not always well understood and digested. Following the adage “an image is worth more than a thousand words”:

Athletics World Records vs. my times

Athletics World Records vs. my times

Red lines show speed (in km/h; decreasing as race distances get longer). Blue lines show pace (in mm:ss / km; increasing as race distances get longer). I have included a table so you can compare the numbers.

I took athletics world records from the Wikipedia. You can find my times in the page “Races” of this blog. I only added a tag to the records that most of you will recognise, as they were achieved by well-known super stars.

There are many catches in the graphic. Two impress me the most:

  • I could have kept up the pace of Patrick Makau in his marathon world-record-beating performance for 100 metres… but not for 400m! (see black dotted lines).
  • How once we enter into aerobic exercise, we’re able to almost keep up speed despite distance increases. The difference in speeds between Bekele’s 5k (23.77 km/h) and Makau’s marathon (20.48 km/h) is only 3.25 km/h!

***

NOTE: I am not a particularly fast runner, thus don’t take the times and paces and interpret them as if no amateur runner could keep up pace for more than 100m… some will keep it up somewhat longer. I just wanted to share the idea.

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