Thursday, 11 October 2012

Rajalta Rajalle-hiihto and Mezza Maratona Ticino

Rajalta Rajalle-hiihto

What on earth is Rajalta Rajalle-hiihto I hear most of you asking.  That is exactly what I was asking my friend too, when she suggested I google Rajalta Rajalle-hiihto 2013, and see if I fancied signing up for it with her.

In English it is known as the Border to Border skiing event, or Rajalta Rajalle-hiihto in Finnish.  It is a 440km cross country skiing event that goes right across Lapland, from Kuusamo (near the Finnish border with Russia) to Tornio (on the Finnish border with Sweden).  There are 7 skiing days in total, with each day ranging from 44 up to 78km.

Up to four groups can take part in the event, and each group can contain a maximum of 100 skiers.  The first group leaves on the 7th March, the second group on the 8th March, the third group on the 9th March and the final group on the 10th March.

People of all ages and nationalities take part in the event, but it is a fun activity as opposed to a competition.  It used to be known as the world's longest organised ski tour, until the Finns went and created an even longer 6 week event that traverses the length of the country.

Each day a single piste is cut into the snow.  The piste is designed for classic cross country skiing as opposed to skating style, but from time to time people have been known to cheat and start skating some sections of it.

I am now signed up for the RR1 group, which departs from Kuusamo on the 7th March.  It is going to be an awful lot of fun and another story to tell my grandchildren one day.  I will obviously have to maintain a high level of fitness from now until March, but other than that the main issue I have been told I will face is blister management.  That reminds me of another little event that I took part in recently called the mighty Marathon des Sables.

Mezza Maratona Ticino

In addition to the Border to Border event I also signed myself up for the Ticino half marathon today.  It takes place on November 11th, and Anny will be running it too.  Not only that but one of my colleagues has already signed up for it, and another two are considering it.

I ran the Ticino half marathon back in 2008 and completed it in 1 hour 40 minutes and 39 seconds.  This time I shall be hoping for a good 10 minutes quicker than that, if not more.  We shall have to see if I manage it.

The time that I get in the Ticino half marathon will be a good indicator of what time I can expect to do in the Pisa marathon in December.  If I cannot do the Ticino half marathon in under 1 hour 30 minutes then I can be almost guaranteed I will not manage to pull off a sub 3 marathon in December.  Even as it is a sub 3 by December looks to be pushing it.  If it does not come this year then I will have to attempt it again next year, possibly in the Zurich marathon in April.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Pisa it is. The countdown begins...

With my base fitness extremely high, having followed Jeff Grant's tailor made coaching plan since the beginning of September, it was time to look for a competitive event to train towards.

My current aim is to run a sub 3 hour marathon.  I know I cannot do that at present, so I needed to find a marathon that would take place several months from now, giving me sufficient training time to improve and get closer to my 3 hour target.  If I had to make a rough guess now as to what I am capable of, I would estimate between 3:10 and 3:15.

The problem with looking for marathons in December is that there are hardly any of them.  Most people don't want to run races in the middle of winter, and there is the danger of slipping and falling on ice.  Luckily though I found the Pisa City Marathon, which takes place on the 16th December.  I checked the timing with Jeff and he thought that it gave us sufficient time to train beforehand. So I put my pen to paper and signed on the dotted line.

The Pisa City Marathon is meant to be a flat, fast course, so it should be a good one for setting a new PB.  Whether I really am capable of a sub 3 marathon by December, I am not sure yet, but I should definitely be able to set a new PB.  When I ran the Zurich marathon in 2011 I completed it in just under 3.5 hours.  That was after only 2 months of solid injury free training and carrying a few kilos more than I am now.  So the odds are certainly in my favour.

Jeff's coaching plan has me doing a lot of speed endurance work plus a weekly long run.  A typical week consists of 2 to 3 cross training/ strength sessions (either Crossfit or Pilates or both), a hills session, a long run, an intervals session and/or a tempo run.  I usually get one full rest day per week.

In the first few weeks following the plan was quite tough.  I was aching most days, especially after the CrossFit classes, which were very new for me.  In CrossFit we do a mix of short runs, rows, bodyweight exercises and free weights, and it was the free weights that I was not accustomed to.  But now a month later my body is starting to get used to the free weights again, and I am usually aching very little the next day.  I have noticed a small amount of weight gain since I started the strength training, due to additional muscle growth, but I feel faster when running too.

I plan to book another lactate test in the next few weeks to get an accurate marathon prediction.  But the other day I did a 3k time trial at lunchtime and covered the distance in 11:31.  Using a tool I found online, this gives a marathon prediction of 3 hours 14 minutes and 42 seconds.  That means there is still some way to go, but I still have several months of training left.  And on that note I need to prise my fingers off this keyboard, put on my trainers and do the hills session that Jeff has put in his plan for me today.

Adios amigos...