Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Training Update: Amsterdam (it's flat, tha knooes!)

Nah then… what did I promise you?
OK, let’s start with training. It’s going alreight, thanks. I did find myself doing something very scary last week, mind… on Tuesday I flew out to Amsterdam for work, see, and I…

…packed my running shoes! Then, when I got to Bristol Airport, I bought “Running Fitness”! Well, it was only £2.99… rumours that I am thinking about subscribing somewhat exaggerated. Besides, I did buy “FourFourTwo” an’all!

You think those two things are bad? Well, get this: on both Wednesday and Thursday morning I got up at 6:30am and went for a 5.5k run in Amsterdam. We were staying in the Crowne Plaza in the centre, so it was easy enough to get out and run along the harbour canal. But the mere fact that I got up to run… well, that’s now what someone who can’t stand running does, right?

You know, I’ve probably been to Amsterdam for work some 30-40 times in my lifetime/career. I used to work for a Dutch company and fly over twice a month and I’ve attended more conferences in what is a highly convenient location for all European travellers than I care to remember. So one reason I got out of bed was to see, to smell a city that so often has passed me by, since so many of those trips have been Schiphol-Meeting/Conference-Hotel and back. It was very pleasant to see the centre and the harbour just as the city started to come to life, an experience enhanced by a couple of canal cruises: one work-related on the Wednesday evening, one with a colleague on the Thursday. A rare pleasure indeed to appreciate one of my work destinations.

Running in Amsterdam was a marked change from my usual routes around Portishead. The next line won’t surprise you: it’s flat. So RunKeeper duly informs me that, over the 5.5k, I climbed all of 40m. On my 5.2k route back home, the climb is 343m. Just saying, like.

For the unbelievers (heck, I’d be one), here’s the note that accompanied a cereal bar and a smoothie upon my return to the hotel, all sweaty, on Wednesday morning. It was a genuine surprise which, sadly, set an unmet expectation for the Thursday. Thursdays are typically busy in business hotels as many international travellers head back, just as I was doing, so I will excuse the staff for being overwhelmed and unable to feed me. Just about, anyway.

So I got home late on Thursday… and hit the road again on Friday. This time for pleasure, mind: up to Manchester to see Bruce Springsteen, then across to the right side of the Pennines for the weekend. More about all that another time. From a pure training perspective, I wrote those three days off, although I did walk around 20km on Saturday: you decide whether that counts or not! What it did mean was that, by the time I headed out last night, I’d not run for three days…

…and I tackled my short 5k course but looking to up my pace. I succeeded, even though it did mean I did something I’d not done for quite some time: I stopped, mid-run! Three times, I think: nevertheless, I recorded a PB of 30’05”, around three minutes under the previous, or 9% on what is a short distance. Obviously I need to cut out the stops, maybe at the cost of finding a slightly slower pace: but it’s encouraging. See, what I want to avoid here is what happened with my Swimathons

…on both occasions, I started training not having set foot in a pool for years. On both occasions, first off I managed a hundred lengths. I subsequently trained for months, in the pool and on my bike, but never actually got any faster. I felt better, I lost weight, I listened to many a tip from the helpful folk at BadTri with whom I trained for the Swimathon… but hardly shaved anything off my time. So, whilst I feel I’m already in decent shape to run 10k, I want to ensure that a) I’m fit enough for the 101010 and b) I do myself justice in terms of time. The latter is not just about fitness: it’s about how my body was designed, whereby I always seem to cope better with stamina than speed. In a sporting environment, I hasten to add – before anyone’s mind starts going down inappropriate routes!

As if by magic, “Running Fitness” had some tips about improving speed this month. These were seasonal in so much that most regular runners, apparently, should practice shorter/sharper bursts at this time of the year, allowing as much recuperation time during sprints as they actually sprint for. Interesting enough, but I feel I can’t focus on that entirely as I still need to sort out stamina. But it has made me conscious of the need and opportunity to work on the speed side of things – hence my plan to run my 5k route at least once a week, complementing the stamina work on my 8.5k route (which I hope to upgrade to 10k shortly…). At some point I need to fit in some uphill work, too: not only for the fitness, but because Cousin Nats (who’s run the 101010 twice already and signed up for 2012 inspired by me) told me that the route is hardly ever flat. So… just like my 5k route, or indeed my 8.5k one, with its 531m of climb… heck, living on top of a hill has some benefits!

One last thing: If ever in Amsterdam, make sure you hit the Oporto bar. The landlord’s from Belfast and loves his classic rock. Top bloke, top bar, enough said.

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