Day 7 + 8 – First week complete, 25 weeks to go.


Saturday 17.03.2017 – 10.2 km moderate in 47.53 (4:38 pace)

Sunday 18.03.2017 – 2.9 km jokingly slow in 17.06  (5:59 pace)

175d | 1h | 28m | 03s to go until the European Championships in Wroclaw, Poland.


My first week is history now, only single day running, not too fast, the main emphasis was just getting back into it again. I totalled 45.7 km for the week resulting from 7 runs in 7 days. Generally my legs and body took it well, only the normal general soreness which got subsided from day to day which I owe basically to post-run stretching and my evening recovery shakes. 25 more weeks to go until D-Day, show time in Wroclaw. My last marathon was in 1998, and that was at the end of an Ironman. I can’t even remember when my last stand alone marathon was, but it was definitely over 25 years ago. All I can remember is that running marathons hurts.

Saturday’s run was not so easy. It was a hilly run, it was very windy and rainy to boot. Spring seemed to have only stayed here for about 3 days last week meaning my joy of running in shorts and t-shirt was very short lived.. My coach told me to run a little faster than the day before, which I did by about 7 minutes per kilometer. But my body didn’t like it at all, my pulse was way up in the clouds again, so high in fact that I feel too ashamed to write my average pulse down here. I still have my coughing fits after the run, it is taking a long time to get my lungs cleared out again after the bronchitis 😦 —–> too slow!

Sunday is usually a day of rest. It is the Kenyan way. Sunday is church day and there is no running on church day. My coach told me it is the day where the body is spiritually and physically recharged. Well I myself am not a church goer and my coach told me if I really need to go out and run then just jog very slowly for 15 to 20 minutes, which is exactly what I did. I went to our track in Billerbeck and ran easily around the track for 17 minutes. I took Rudisha (my Rhodesian Ridgeback) with me so that he can slowly learn to run beside me. Generally it worked out okay, he will slowly learn, he is almost 6 months old now, so he is not really allowed to run too much as his bones are still growing, and apparently if they run too much in their early life, especially the first year, they run the risk of getting arthritis later on in life. After the run I took a long hot bath with Epsom salts and then used the Black Roll on my legs afterwards.


Our sports stadium in Billerbeck:

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Instead of writing a daily report I will probably write once or twice a week from now on, or it will get too boring.

 

 

Day 6 – 177d | 1h | 26m | 40s to go – Billerbeck / Berkel Creek Circuit

Friday 16.03.2017 – 9.1 km steady in 43.21 (4:45 pace)

I live in Billerbeck in Germany, a small sleepy town where not too much happens. It lays at the foot of the Baumberge (Tree Mountains), which are not really mountains, but a small range of hills about 200 meters high and 15 kilometers in length. But seeing everything else is flat for a radius of 60 kilometers around here, they are considered mountains 🙂 Billerbeck is a beautiful town, the people are very friendly and the atmosphere is always relaxed. Even though the population is a mere 15000 people, Billerbeck is the proud owner of a cathedral.


Billerbeck Cathedral:

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Today I ran my usual Berkel Creek circuit. It is about 700m from where I live which is a good warm up jog. The circuit itself is a 1.3 km dirt track loop. It is very peaceful and enjoyable to run. It is a wooded area where you meet the occasional jogger. Again it was a sunny spring day today and I pushed a little faster, as my coach instructed. I averaged out at a 4:45 per kilometer pace, a fairly steady pace for me. It is the pace I would usually train at, but somehow it felt a little harder today, I was working a bit more than usual, but then again I’ll put that down to my bronchitis again. My coach reckons that once I get fitter and follow his plan that my training pace should be about 4 minutes per kilometer. I find that a bit far fetched at this stage, but if my coach says that, then I would like to believe him 🙂 I guess if I want to achieve the goals I have set myself for this year than it is what I need to do. After my run I did a good 10 minutes of stretching and a few core exercises.


Pics of my Berkel Creek running loop:

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Day 5 – 178d | 1h | 46m | 05s to go – Spring High

Thursday 16.03.2017 – 8.1 km slowish in 41.33 (5:09 pace)

You have to love spring, especially after a long and cold winter. I can see why rabbits go crazy at the first signs of spring. For runners something also changes. There is a special kind of high one gets when the sun is out, the evenings are longer and finally you can run in shorts and t-shirt. Yesterday evening I ran my 40 minutes easy, as my coach ordered, and I swear I was running at the same intensity as the day before, but my pace was 30 seconds per kilometer faster. My HR was the same, albeit still far too high (Av. HR=159), everything was the same as the previous days, so why the sudden pace increase? I will put it down to my “spring high”. My legs were good and I feel fitter from day to day. My calf issue seems to have disappeared. However I was still coughing and spluttering at the end of the run, I guess I have to expect that for the next few days until the bronchitis is fully out of me. Today my coach says I should run 40 to 45 minutes but at a bit faster pace, meaning my “jokingly slow” days are behind me now.


Polar Flow data:

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Recovery: My marginal gain number 3 – I have a kind of ritual after heavy training days, well after all training days really. Every evening, except on my rest days, I make myself a recovery shake. I have been experimenting with recovery shakes and powders for quite a few months now and have developed a mixture which works for me. It helps me recover overnight so I am fresh for training the next day, no matter how trashed my legs are from hard training sessions. I have tried shakes with water, ordinary milk, low-fat milk, rice milk, almond milk and soya milk. Soya milk seemed to work best for me. So I pour a glass of soya milk into the mixer, 3 heaped teaspoons of Whey Protein Powder, 10 grams of L-Glutamine, 3 teaspoons of gelatine powder, 1 teaspoon of Beta Alanine powder, 1 teaspoon of L-Citrulline powder (not too heaped or the shake gets a bitter taste to it), and one ripe banana. It tastes fantastic too, and the next day all soreness and fatigue is gone. The L-Glutamine contributes the most to the recovery, the whey protein to help muscles repair, the Beta Alinine is an amino acid that helps against acidity and fatigue in the muscles, the gelatine helps muscle and joint pain, the L-Citrulline (especially when used together with Beta Alinine) fights against muscle fatigue and also improves muscular endurance. Perfect! Like I have said already, I experimented with many powders of a long period of time. A lot of supplements just didn’t work for me, I felt no effect at all so I discarded them. This shake mix works for me, and I swear by it.


My Recovery Shake Mix:

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Day 4 – 179d | 1h | 33m | 38s to go – A hobby or not a hobby?

Wednesday 15.03.2017 – 6.4 km slowly in 36.10 (5:39 pace)

Third run: Wednesdays is club day. I am the coach of a group of middle distance kids in the town I live in and we train every Monday and Wednesday.  I call them my Wildlings. I will write about them in more detail at a future date, they are a great bunch of kids. We met at the track today, it is the first time we are outside this year, spring is here and the weather is warm enough. It was good to train outside with them after a long winter of training in indoors in the school hall. I ran easily with Missy and Bounty for 36 minutes just running laps around the track and yacking away. I stayed on the grassy area on the inside of the track. Our track here in Billerbeck is old and hard, as hard as concrete and it pounds up the legs a lot. It is on the cards that we get a brand new tartan covering this year. It was supposed to happen last year but our council didn’t have enough money, and promised to have it renewed this year. I hope it happens, we’ll just have to wait and see. Once again my pulse was far too high (Av. HR=156), I was coughing a bit more after the run, which apparently is a good sign the doc said to me, as it loosens up the phlegm and stuff in the bronchi. I hope this is true, I just wanna get rid of this.


My Wildlings

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Hobby or not a hobby? Yesterday I wrote that I do not run as a hobby. But after a thinking about that for a long time yesterday, I have decided to change that statement. I think I would consider my running more as an extended hobby. I mean I do not earn money by doing it, it is not my job, I do it out of my own free will because I like it. No one is forcing me to do it, so it has to be my hobby. If I didn’t run I would be doing something else, like collecting stamps or beer coasters (yeah right!). So I hereby retract that statement from yesterday. Running is my hobby!


Polar Flow data:

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Day 3 – 180d | 1h | 31m | 27s to go – Rudisha

Tuesday 14.03.2017 – 5.4 km slowly in 30.40 (5:36 pace)

The second run on my 2017 marathon mission is behind me. My bronchitis is dying a slow death, it is in its final stages, and I only have very minimal coughing fits after my run. My neighbours are almost unaware of me returning from my run now. The last couple of weeks all my neighbors knew of my exact whereabouts 24/7 due to my extreme coughing fits.  My HR is still way up in the clouds during my run though (Av HR = 158), which still indicates a slight infection. Again I ran around Berkel Creek track keeping away from the hard roads. My left calf muscle was sore, probably from the sets of eccentric calf raises I did yesterday and this morning. I feel it when I walk, especially down stairs, but once I started running and it warmed up I didn’t feel it. So not a pulled muscle thank goodness, something I am always terrified of. I ran again as my coach prescribed, “jokingly slow” which suits me just fine at this stage. Spring is here which makes running a lot more enjoyable. I am a warm weather runner, and winter is just not me, I hate the cold and I hate having to wear layers of clothing to go running. I am a shorts and tee shirt runner. Today is supposed to be warmer than yesterday, 16°C they reckon, so I might don my shorts for the first time this year on my run this evening. Oh, and I forgot to stretch after my run! This will not happen again I promise.

Rusdisha: Another of my marginal gains is Rudisha. My problem here is that there are no other runners, well there are runners but no one wants to run with me. There is a group that meets every Tuesday and Thursday evening, but they run so slowly that I just can’t do it. I cannot run slowly, not that slowly. And usually on Tuesdays and Thursdays I have something completely different on my plan, either fartlek or track work. No one here does that. In the running group it is just running the same course every time, the same pace (slower than jokingly slow) and, although I did run with them a few times, I just can’t bring myself to do it. I need a training partner who will run with me, do my training and run my pace every time, without question. I know that is very selfish of me, but I am not running as a hobby, I want to reach my goals. This is where Rudisha came into the picture. Rudisha is our new dog. He is a Rhodesian Ridgeback, a hunter of lions. A dog which when fully grown can run next to a horse for 50 kilometers. Rudisha is my new training partner. At the moment he is still young, not even 6 months old, but soon, in another couple of months I will teach him to run with me. Rhodesian Ridgebacks need a lot of exercise and must run at least two hours a day. Perfect!! Let me introduce you to Rudisha:

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Day 2 – 181d | 1h | 37m | 5s to go – marginal gains

Monday 13.03.2017 – 3.6 km slow in 20.34 (5:39 pace)

The first run: After 3 weeks without taking a step I stumbled out 20 mins on the dirt tracks around Berkel Creek for my first run. I was a little worried beforehand about how my bronchitis would hinder me, but there was absolutely no problem in that department. My pulse was somewhat high though (Av HR = 155) indicating there is still a little infection in there fighting to get itself out of my body. I reckon a few days easy and it will be gone. My coach (more about that later) said I should run 20 mins today at a jokingly slow pace, he really did say a “jokingly slow pace”. The second day should be 20-30 minutes and the third day 30-40 minutes and then we reassess how things are and take it from there. The pace was slow (although I was surprised at the 5:39 pace average, it felt like over 6 minute pace). My legs were tight, especially the calves and I was a little worried the last 10 minutes I might pull a calf muscle. I weighed in this morning at 76.9 kilos and I did feel the extra weight adding to the gravitational pull downwards. I’ll slowly drop the excess to get down to about 69 kilos by September, no rush there 🙂 After the run I did 10 minutes of stretching, some sit ups and 20 press ups. A good start. Bring on tomorrow!

Marginal gains: I am taking a page out of the book of Dave Brailsford who trained Chris Froome to win the Tour de France and the 2012 British Olympic Cycling Team. Brailsford believed in a concept that he referred to as the “aggregation of marginal gains.” He explained it as “the 1 percent margin for improvement in everything you do.” His belief was that if you improved every area related to your sport by just 1 percent, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement.

I will apply this to my training and preparation for the European Championships in September. I will describe each marginal gain as this blog goes on. The first marginal gain I am applying is the services of a good coach.

My Coach: Often in the past I tried to design my own training but it never really worked out. I tended to plan far too much, too soon, too fast, too many races, etc. etc. The outcome was always either overtraining or injury. For this journey I decided to get myself a coach. A good coach. It had to be a good coach, a very good coach. I did not want to have to pay for an online coach who is only interested in money and has 100 athletes all doing the same program. Locally there are no good coaches either, in fact in Germany there are not really any good coaches at all. And I find the training principles in Germany too soft and old fashioned. This is the reason there are no top international German athletes at the moment.

I thought about this for a very long time. My conclusion was that the best runners in the world come from Africa. Ethiopia and Kenya. Over the last few months I have been meeting many Kenyan athletes on Facebook and discussing training and racing with them. I got to meet a Kenyan coach named Edward from Kitale in the Rift Valley (where most of the top Kenya runners come from) and became friends with him. We talked about my goals and I asked him if he would like to help me on my journey to the European Championships and to my surprise he agreed. He is a school teacher and trains a group of athletes including a sub 1 hour half marathoner. I said I want to train like the Kenyans, I said I did not want to train to a “soft” program, and that I am a very hard worker. I told him of my goals and he almost guaranteed me that we can do it. Thus our partnership of coach and athlete began. This is my first marginal gain.

 

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Day 1 – 182d | 50m | 19s to go

Showtime! I am not a blog writer. I hate blogs. I can count on one hand the amount of blog articles I have ever read in my life. To tell the truth I do not even know why I am starting this, I have better things to do with my time. I think I am not so much writing this for other people to read, rather for myself so I can read about the ordeal I am about to put myself through once I have finished my journey.

I was a runner in my youth, not a world class runner but an above average runner. I do not have much natural talent though. I was able to achieve good results in running through sheer hard work. I would train very hard and long, in any weather, at any time of the day, usually twice a day. It was, and still is, the way I do most things. Either 100% or nothing. Unfortunately, when I didn’t run because of injury or illness, I would also dedicate that 100% to being unhealthy, and I really did push the extremes there, partymania speaking! I was a yoyo. My weight yoyo-ed between 65 kilos to 95 kilos, and pretty quickly too sometimes.

In September 2015 I was at the top end of the yoyo again, 95 kilos. I decided, once again, to drop the weight and take up some kind of sport. It had been over 5 years since I had done anything, in 2010 I had dabbled at some running and triathlon again, albeit unseriously, but my weight had been down to the mid 70’s. The older one gets, the longer it takes to drop any weight. I was 53 years old and pretty unhealthy and slobbish. I could not stand looking in the mirror anymore, so from one day to the next I changed my life style. Healthy eating and running. Well what I started out doing could not exactly be classed as running. Movement would be the more suitable word.

Long story short: One year later I was down to 70 kilos and I entered a 10km road race in Germany close to where I live. I was very surprised to win my age group M50 in a time of 38:07. I was pretty ecstatic about this, even though I had pulled a calf muscle at kilometer 8 and hobbled in to the finish.

Thoughts and ideas began to form in my head that if I trained properly I might be able to do well in my age group at a national level. In 2017 I would be in a new age group M55, so I would be a “youngster” with a little advantage, being at the sharp end of the age group. And I decided to give it a shot.

However, the pulled muscle put me off running for the best part of 6 weeks. I managed to dabble a bit at running in January and part of February 2017 but was continually hit by illness. In February I got a stomach flu which put me off running for over a week, then I had to have a tooth removed which cost me more time off running. The last 3 weeks I have not run a step because of bronchitis.

Today will be my first run. The bronchitis is not completely gone, but slow jogging is apparently good to help remove and mucus in the bronchi. Moving quick air around the bronchi is supposed to knock off the mucus, or so I read in the internet. So today is, as the title says, Day 1 of my training for European Masters Marathon Championships in Wroclaw Poland on 10 September 2017.