This week’s running – 6th to 13th of August 2017

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Warm-weather training and recovery for me!

Week 14 of the 22 week marathon plan saw some recovery on the Greek island of Crete.

A week in Elounda

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What a backdrop for running!

Long-time readers will probably have gathered that I have a problem with sitting still and I usually struggle to find time to simply sit back and relax, preferring to be in the driving seat of life. Whilst I was initially reluctant about going away this summer, the timing actually worked quite well to see me pushing my way to the front of the queue for a week in the Greek sun.

Of course, there was running, though distance was pared back to coincide with the plan’s recovery quota. Fortunately, Elounda on the eastern side the of the island peaked in the low 30°s, with the odd breeze and low humidity making warm weather training that bit more tolerable and productive.

Recovery was also high on the agenda, with much time spent not doing very much at all. I also took advantage of the on-site health spa for several massages, focusing on my legs. Meals at the hotel were protein-heavy, again taking advantage of the opportunity to really treat my body to some quality recovery time.

Also, does anybody else try and identify who’s likely to be a runner whilst away? On the flight, I spotted a guy with a Fenix 5X who also wore Hokas. In the hotel, I saw a guy with a Suunto GPS watch and a Boston Marathon finisher’s t-shirt. No? Just me, then…

4 miles – to Elounda and back

I hadn’t even been in Greece for 12 hours and already bagged a reccy run into the main town to get my bearings. The place reminded me a lot of some of the medium sized coastal towns that can frequently be found in Spain and Italy. Awkwardly, the paths, whilst paved, were made up of random pieces of slate or similar at different heights; I had to ensure I had decent foot clearance to avoid tripping over at times!

At 4pm, the temperature was bearable, aided by the gentle pace and flat terrain. Naturally, I did get a few strange looks; tourists from China haven’t really made it to Crete yet, so I naturally stuck out like a double-whammy sore thumb.

Whilst Elounda is incredibly flat, our hotel happened to be situated atop a hillside. It’s a blessing that we were stationed in one of the lowest rows of rooms to street level, with other guests frequently relying on the hotel’s golf buggy taxis for collection and drop-off. All of my runs ended with a steep 20% gradient climb, lasting some 150m, though I was at least able to quickly peel down to my shorts and jump in the pool to cool-off!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

3 x 800m

The schedule said I needed 8 miles in total with 5 x 800m reps at 5k pace. Completing such a session outdoors would have required running before dawn, and even then, the mercury was still around 26 to 28 degrees for not much difference to day time temperatures. I was left with the hotel gym as my last resort…

I hadn’t run on a treadmill since March, which was just an easy 5k jog. The last session I completed on a treadmill was years ago. Like running again after injury, running indoors on a moving belt took some getting used to again.

I’m always dubious of the reported distance on treadmills if they’ve not been calibrated. I’m also dubious of the reported distance of Garmins when reliant on the built in accelerometer or a companion foot pod. In this instance, I took my chances with the Garmin, as it would at least have had time to calibrate to me for outdoor runs.

3 x 800m reps at pace was all I could manage. The lack of visual feedback from the speed was off putting and the air conditioning was inadequate for the job, due to simply not being powerful enough to cover the small room. I quickly decided running outdoors, even in the heat, was more productive and less mentally jarring.

Here’s the Strava data for the session.

4 miles – to Plaka and back

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The view of Spinalonga whilst running to Plaka

Upon checking-in, various hotel staff and the travel rep all said not to walk to Plaka – the next town over from Elounda. “It’s 40 minutes in the heat!” and “There’s no pavement!” were typical warnings. We took them on board, but after a taxi ride there, any fears over safety were quickly dispelled – running to Plaka turned out to be just like the country lanes I’m used to in Wales, except with gorgeous weather and the visually impressive Spinalonga as a backdrop.

I kept my wits about, as a few bends commanded I switch sides of the road to give me and drivers a better view of each other. Graciously of the Greek terrain, the route was pancake flat and I actually found the roads far smoother to run on compared to Elounda’s pavements. Other runners must have felt the same, because, despite the slightly higher risk involved, I always spotted more runners heading to and from Plaka. To boot, all drivers slowed down as they approached, also giving me a wide berth which is more than I can say I receive at home!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

4 mile fartlek – to Elounda and back

Rather than suffer the treadmill again, I turned my route to Elounda into a fartlek run. I’d not completed a fartlek in months either, so committing to one in the heat would be quite a test.

Things started off easily enough, but then several minutes into the fartlek, it was as if somebody whacked the thermostat right up! It really was bizarre, with the low and benign sun suddenly scorching my skin and leaving me withered. Clearly, I hadn’t adapted to the heat yet…

All said and done, this was still preferable to suffering on a treadmill and not physically go anywhere!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

4 miles – to Plaka and back

Early on into this run, I was reminded not to lose concentration, because on the side of the road was a car that had somehow collided with a crash barrier to then end up as a complete wreck on its side.

I witnessed even more runners on this route than before, all of us giving each other a nod or a smile in acknowledgement of our collective fitness pursuits, even whilst on holiday.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10k – to Kalydon and back

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The Kalydon peninsula

A tour guide recommended I set out to the Kalydon peninsula, connected to Elounda via a bridge, so that I did to break up this final run of the trip. Shortly after crossing the bridge, the terrain quickly turned to loose gravel and trails; I was perfectly fine in a pair of road shoes, though I required a good dusting off upon finishing! With more time, I’d have loved to explore the entire peninsula, though would forever be wary of getting lost with my lack of a sense of direction…

This was my longest run whilst in Crete and I was finally reaping the reward of six straight days of training in the heat. I was barely sweating, despite being well hydrated, and what little sweat I did produce was virtually devoid of any salt.

Nearing the hotel entrance, I noticed a coach pulling in to drop off some new guests. Not wanting to disappoint the makeshift audience, I raced up the hill to audibly hear gasps as I pulled away. Air conditioning at full blast came to my rescue upon finishing…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

14 miles – to Brueton Park and back

Eugh. Lis and I were picked up at 22:45 on Saturday evening, arriving at the airport for 00:45, before departing Greece at 02:30. I managed to get perhaps two hours of disturbed sleep during the flight, before finally arriving back at home for 05:30. Three hours of sleep was all I could manage before naturally waking again. As you can imagine, a medium-long run of 16 miles was low on my priorities for the day… Delaying the run until the late afternoon and trimming it down to 14 miles at least gave me a fighting chance!

In the pursuit of more marginal gains for my coveted sub-3 hour marathon, I splurged on a pair of Nike’s racing split shorts, akin to what many of the male Team GB members have been sporting at the World Athletics Championships over the last 10 days. Debuting them on this run, they’re certainly short with just a 2 inch inseam… Thankfully having spent most of an entire week wearing nothing but swimming shorts, I’d at least acclimatised mentally to the skimpiness! The benefits? Less weight from less material, less restrictive with a wider range of motion, and more ventilation for better airflow and temperature regulation – the last point was key, as I grew incredibly warm during the final 3 miles of last October’s marathon.

The run itself felt fantastic. Conditions were perceivably spot on for running; whilst the reported temperature was 20°C, the heat adaptations of the past week had me feeling much cooler, again barely breaking a sweat. My legs also felt incredibly fresh, no doubt helped by the several deep tissue massages I treated them to. Late afternoon/early evening on a Sunday meant roads were mostly clear of cars and pavements were mostly clear of other pedestrians, making for a largely unimpeded run.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

The road to the Yorkshire Marathon II

The week’s break from the norm looks to have done just the trick to get my mind and body ready for final third of the marathon campaign.

I have the first of two 22 mile runs coming up shortly, along with several half marathons to be tackled as glorified marathon pace training runs. I’m confident the training will get me to the start line in October, though I’m conscious that I’ll need to prioritise recovery, too. More and better sleep is what I’m lacking, though with daylight hours rapidly diminishing, I’m hopeful that me being a light sleeper will naturally resolve itself.

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