Saturday, 24 March 2012

Running in the sand dunes of Erg Chebbi

Hi everyone.  I am now in Merzouga, Morocco.  I arrived here yesterday afternoon after one and a half days of driving through the desert on MDS like terrain.  The hotel is just a few hundred metres from the Erg Chebbi sand dunes, and I had my first taste of them yesterday afternoon.

After kitting up I set off in the direction of the highest sand dune I could see on the immediate horizon.  Running on the smaller sand dunes was not that tough, but as the sand dunes got higher so did the intensity of my effort.  The first kilometre took me 7 minutes but the second took me much longer.  As the slope increased it was one step forward and half a step back.  Finally on the highest sand dune I had to use both my hands and feet to scramble to the top.  I dug both hands into the sand and then moved each foot in turn.

Once at the top it was very easy to get back to the village.  Running down the sand dunes was no problem.  You just have to let your momentum carry you down and try not to fall over.  Even running on the flat was not that difficult as the sand was fairly compact.  In total I covered 4.9km in around 45 minutes.  It would have been much faster had I not tackled the highest sand dune in sight.

In terms of heat acclimatisation I am not getting the chance to do that at the moment.  Yesterday the weather was overcast with occasional showers, and today it is much the same.  The temperature is not much above 20C at a rough guess.  I really want the mercury to increase so I can experience running in the extreme heat.  If the MDS experiences weather like we are experiencing here at the moment, heat exhaustion will not be an issue.  Saying that I am sure it is going to get much hotter in the next 2 weeks.  The ideal situation for me would be crazily high temperatures before the race and lower temperatures during the race. That way my body would be able to handle the heat with ease.  So please please Lord give me some extreme heat in these coming days before the race.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Morocco here I come

Hi everyone.  Tomorrow morning I am off to Morocco.  I am taking the TGV to Paris and then from Paris  I am flying to Ouarzazate via Casablanca.  I will arrive there late evening and stay in Ouarzazate overnight.  The following day the tour agent will show me the type of terrain that will be covered in the MDS.  We will stop overnight somewhere along the way, en route to Merzouga.  After that I will be based 2 weeks in Merzouga by myself, training on the Erg Chebbi sand dunes.

I just googled the temperature in Merzouga and apparently today it is 20C.  It should be getting hotter as the week goes on.  For my own benefit I hope it gets hotter while I am there than it does during the MDS itself.

I am currently packing everything that I will need for the race and for the 2 weeks of training beforehand.  I really hope I don't forget anything, as some things would be really difficult to get once I am out there.  Probably the best idea is that I lay it all out on the bed and then go through it all again later and see if I can remember anything else I may need.

I am very excited that it is now so close, having been preparing for this for over a year now in one way or another.  In fact I have been preparing for it ever since I created this blog.  There is no going back now - Morocco here I come.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Third lactate test - improvements in every aspect

Good afternoon everyone.  This morning I had a lactate test at the SportsClinic in Zurich, my third one to date.  I didn't go into it with high expectations, because the training I have been doing has been almost exclusively long, slow runs rather than speed work and tempo runs that tend to improve your lactate threshold the most.  I was also concerned that my 71km run on Friday would affect the results somewhat.

However, despite my concerns it seems I have improved on all fronts.  My body fat % has gone down from 14.8% on the 11/08/2011 to 10.9% today.  My heart rate at the beginning of the test last time was 60bpm and this time it was 48bpm (as I mentioned previously I think my true resting heart rate is 40 or below).  My anaerobic threshold is now at 14.72km/h compared to 14.25km/h last time.  My VO2 max has increased from 53.8ml/min/kg to 58ml/min/kg, and last but not least my predicted marathon time has gone from 3h 16m 39s to 3h 4m 8s.

I really think that once the MDS is over I should be capable of a sub 3 hour marathon if I follow an advanced training program and incorporate plenty of speed work and tempo running.  This will probably be my next challenge.

In terms of where I lie within my age group, my results are better than 97% of all people within my age group and better than 51% of all middle and long distance runners within my age group (including also professionals).

Here are the test results from today in a little bit more detail (along with the results from the 11/08/2011 in red):

Speed (km/h)   Heart rate (bpm)    Lactate (mmol/L)   Perceived effort (scale of 6 to 20)

Rest                 48      60                2.30    0.86             -      -
7                      99      89                2.10    1.20             7     7
9                      110    114              1.90    1.21             8     9
11                    124    125              1.40    1.28            11    12
13                    139    140              2.20    1.71            13    14
15                    150    154              3.30    3.34            15    17
17                    155    162              6.00    4.66            17    18
18.3                 160                        7.90                       19

You will notice that on the last line there are no test results from the 11/08/2011.  That is because the maximum speed I ran on the treadmill last time was 17km/h for the full 3 minutes.  This time I managed to run at 19km/h for 2 of the expected 3 minutes (each level is meant to be run for 3 minutes), which is interpreted as having ran at 18.3km/h for the full 3 minutes.  I did not even attempt this speed last time.

My current race predictions are as follows:

Marathon (42.195km)            3:04:08h
Half marathon (21.1km)        1:25:22h
10km                                      37:00min
5km                                        17:26min
1.5km                                     4:36min

When I did my first lactate test on the 16/03/2011 (which was one month before I ran the Zurich marathon), my marathon prediction was 3:21:22h and I went on to do it in 3 hours 29 minutes and 51 seconds with very bad pacing (I went off way too fast and then completely bonked in the last 10km).  Even if we assume that the predicted times from the test are a little ambitious I am still looking at a time of around 3 hours 10 minutes now.  Ten minutes of improvement and I would be sub 3 hour.  That would be great to do my second ever marathon in sub 3 hours.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

100 miles (160km) run this week

When I woke up today I knew that I only had to run 18km to achieve my goal, which was to run 100 miles (160km) this week.  I could have tried this weeks ago, but I wanted to get my base fitness as high as possible to minimise the risk of injuring myself.  In fact I did try it some time back if you recall, but towards the end of the week I was struggling and felt it was not a good idea to continue to pursue it.  I have never felt stronger than I do now though, and achieving it this week was not really a problem at all.

I ran slowly, using it as a recovery jog from my 71km run on Friday.  If anything I will feel better tomorrow rather than worse for having gone out, as it was good to get the blood flowing around and to loosen up the muscles again.  The first 10km Anny was running with me.  It is the longest she has run so far and she did very well.  Negrita was also with us, but not enjoying the run due to the fact that it started raining.  After Anny had completed her 10km, she took the bus back to the apartment with Negrita.  I then ran back to complete my 18km target.  As I was reaching the apartment I realised I would be ever so slightly short of 18km so I just did a quick loop around the nearby streets to bring the total to exactly 18km.

Anny was wearing my Suunto t3d heart rate monitor and my Suunto Food Pod Mini, whilst I was wearing my Garmin GPS watch, as I wanted to see how accurately the food pod measures the distance.  I haven't yet calibrated the device so Suunto claim that in this state it is 95% accurate.  When my Garmin GPS watch read 10km the Suunto watch was reading 10.43km so it seems that Suunto are correct in their claim.  By the time I have calibrated it, it will serve its purpose well in the MDS.

Now that I have achieved all my targets this week in terms of my longest run and my highest mileage week, I can start to taper for the race.