Tag Archives: running

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.

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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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San Silvestre 2016

solohayunaLast December 31st again, we bid our farewell to the year 2016 by running with friends the San Silvestre Vallecana. This is a tradition that is spreading throughout several cities and villages and that seems to be the origin of last year’s race’s motto: “Vallecana solo hay una” (from Vallecas there is only one).

Between injuries, illnesses, holidays away, etc., of the members that have been part of our group in the past, this year has been among the ones in which the group was less packed; we ran 4 of us together: Jaime, Nacho, Pablo (who became father of his second child just a few weeks before!) and me. In addition, we saw Juan at the departure (though he ran with other two colleagues) and we failed to meet Manuel.

As in 2012, when Nacho could not run, the fact that Sara could not join us running meant that she could came to the departure to take a few pictures (thanks!), much better than the ones we normally take with our mobile phones… see below.

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This year I subscribed again, after more than a decade of not doing so. And as usual, we ran from behind the pack and did not put a special effort in running at a moderate pace, thus we ended up the jog in 1h09’07”. See here the official time plus my Garmin recording.

This was the 18th San Silvestre in a row for Jaime, a remarkable achievement. I do not follow the count for Nacho or Pablo, but they both must have run between 8-10. From my side, this was the 16th one, after I ran it in 1998 for the first time.

On top of that, Nacho and I ran with a GoPro camera in order to film different scenes from the race. See below the video compiled by Nacho.

It was a pleasure to run through the centre of Madrid with friends again.

finish

Note: see the difference of this last selfie at the end with the pictures at the beginning…

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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.

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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.

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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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Musings on objectives setting

A few days ago, I had a short Twitter exchange with a couple of friends on  objectives. Sara mentioned that she was not setting objectives for the New Year. Nacho made a point of my objective tracking approach, which I detailed in a post in the blog back in 2011 (Personal mid-year review). Unfortunately (or fortunately) I do not follow such a thorough approach anymore (1), though I do set myself some personal yearly objectives, have them noted down, track them, etc.

In that post from 2011, I made reference to a previous post in which I commented on a HBR study and a post post by Sid Savara. The main takeaways from those readings were: have the goals in written, have plans towards achieving them and share the objectives with someone (at least with someone you have confidence with, not necessarily with everyone!).

In this post I quickly wanted to share some examples of the objectives I set to myself (2):

  • Reading: as I mentioned in a previous post in which I shared a summary of (my) 2015, I set myself a minimum objective of reading 10 books a year. I do not read any book for the sake of meeting the objective. It is rather that I have dozens of very much dear books in the shelves waiting to be read and I keep buying (and grabbing from my parents’ home) books that I think would teach me something or add some value. Ideally, I would like to read about 2 books a month. That would make over 20 books in a year, however, during some periods along a year I read less often, I found that I am not that fast reader (in English and French and neither in Spanish!) nor all the books that I pick are that easy or short, so I linger every year around the 10 books. Do I share the objective? Up to now, not explicitly, though I force myself to write at least a yearly post commenting the books I have read… thus, I do have to read them! Follow up: it is not very structured, though I know at any moment the books I have read along the year (I keep a record) and every now and then make some numbers of pages to be read per day, per week, in order to complete this or that book at a given point in time.
  • Writing: here I always remember a tip from Conor Neill, a professor at IESE, who says that we should strive to write something everyday, at least 500 words (see the blog post where he explains the benefits of doing so, Writing to reflect. Mindful leadership). In my case, apart from job emails, files, presentations…, I do not write (and reflect on) for this blog (or any other format) on personal interests everyday. Ever since I started the blog, back in February 2010, I intended to write regularly. What does that mean? Initially I aimed at publishing 8 posts per month, I lowered this target lately to about 6 posts per month. That would make about 70 a year. In 2015 I just met that target. Previously I had always been above 80 posts. See below the monthly production.

Blog post per month

Blog post per year

  • Speaking: on this front I was very consistent when I joined Toastmasters in December 2007, trying to give a public speech every two months. I kept being quite engaged until more or less mid 2012. I then dropped Toastmasters until I re-engaged myself in mid 2014 at the corporate club of Airbus in Toulouse. I am now trying to figure out the pace at which the club attendance allows and I am able to prepare myself to speak often (by speaking I refer to giving prepared speeches, as every two weeks in the club almost everyone gets to speak either with a role of evaluator, in table topics, etc). Thus, a vague objective (speaking regularly), not quantified, not yet in written, though shared.
  • Flying: for this objective scheduling is key. As I mentioned in the post where I shared my path to the private pilot license (PPL), it took me 4 years to obtain it mainly due to the difficulty in finding slots. From March 2015 (once I had passed the theoretical exam) I was more rigorous, always trying to have at least two slots scheduled with the instructor and airplanes booked at any point in time. This enabled that, even if many slots had to be cancelled due to weather conditions (or any other issue), I was more regular with the flying, I managed to obtain the license and fly over 19 hours. For the 2016, the goal is clear: to fulfil the requirements to maintain the license, that is 12 flight hours with 6 take offs and landings in the last 6 months prior to the license expiry date. On top of that, in order to carry passengers it is required to have completed 3 take offs and landings in the previous 90 days. Thus, the requirements by law help you in aiming at flying often. On the other hand, I was trained to fly on Robin DR 400 airplanes and another objective I have is to learn to fly another model, Diamond DA20 in order to have more flexibility with the scheduling of airplanes and be able to fly oftenhow often is often? At least a flight per month (ideally 2), about 2 flight hours a month… this objective, then, is well followed up with the aeroclub scheduling tools, navigation logs, etc.
  • Running: with the running I have many and varied objectives. From running (e.g.) 2,000 km in a year, to completing at least 2 marathons a year, to beating personal best times (PBs) in different distances (10k, half marathon and marathon), to other miscellanea objectives (e.g. running x days in a given week, y kilometres in a given week or month, running some special race, running a number of days while on holidays…). For the completion of marathons and aiming at PBs I do schedule training plans at the online tool provided by Garmin (the provider of the GPS watch I use). Thus, the objectives are clearly defined, shared (with Luca, colleagues, in social media) and well followed up.

And it is here that I wanted to stress on the definition of the goal, its writing and its sharing. I will take the objective “running 2,000 km”. In 2014 I started to publish online in Twitter regularly both the goal and how I was progressing.

With the online tool I have the objective clearly written down and tracked, I know whether I am ahead or behind, the weekly or monthly mileage needed to attain the goal, etc. The sharing of the goal in my inner circles helps with the finding slots to run. The sharing of the goal more widely encourages and pushes oneself. See below how I reached the objective in 2015. You can see that while the training towards Seville (February) and Madrid (April) marathons lasted I was well ahead the reference. After those marathons took place I fell behind, even if I only fully stopped for a week after Madrid marathon. I kept running below the reference weekly mileage until the end of June, when I was 70km behind… I then subscribed for Millau (September) and started building up mileage for it, then extended the training up to Toulouse marathon (October), stopped only 3 days after it and, since then, I always was around or over the reference to attain the goal (even if I had to stop for over a week at the end of November due to a cold that got me down with severe throat ache).

Running mileage 2015 progression

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It is clear that each one has a different approach and there is not a single one that fits us all. Many will not want to be constrained by fixed goals, nor be reminded of them by having them written, even less sharing some goal they are unsure to meet, not to talk about publishing it on social media! This is just how I go about trying to meet some personal objectives.

(1) At least not for every objective and plotting a global indicator.

(2) These goals are easy to share others are kept in the inner circles.

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San Silvestre 2015

Fifteenth participation (1) in the popular San Silvestre Vallecana on New Year’s Eve.

The team this time was composed by some 8 friends (Nacho, me, Pablo, Maicol, Carlos, Sara, Jaime and Alicia):

This year, we finished the race with a sprint over the last 200 meters, after having been joking about it all along the race. Even with that last rush, we added some more seconds to our record: this year it took us 1h12’17” to complete the 10km.

The time in this race is the less important aspect of it. As always, it is a pleasure to share a run through the centre of our home town with friends to give a healthy, funny and colorful farewell to the year. Be sure that next year we’ll be there to laugh, jog and beat our time!

(1) I took part in it for the first time in 1998, when less than 5,000 raced in it, and have always participated (not always inscribed though) except for 3 years (twice I spent New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands and other time I was injured).

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