In an ongoing quest to challenge myself with longer races with ever-increasing elevation gain, I figured running a half marathon with “Inferno” in its name would be a good milestone. So in August, the wife and I set off for Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland, the location of this iconic half marathon that climbs from valley floor (795m) to Alpine mountain peak (2970m).
In the week leading up to this race, I had started to fall ill. But since I had taken the weekend off from my freelance job, paid for the hotel, and mentally committed to the race as an essential stepping-stone for the rest of my 2017 season, I drove down to the Alps anyway. It’s only 11km and 1462m of height gain, so no big deal, right?
Was it wise to run the 23km du Mont-Blanc race with 1600m of elevation gain less than a day after running the Vertical Kilometer (3.8km with 1000m elevation gain), especially after not doing stellar at the VK? I didn’t know, but once more it was a challenge that would get me out of my comfort zone. Continue reading
Third time’s the charm? Could the proverb be true, and was I sure to succeed at a task or event on the third try? After 2015 and 2016, I lined up at the Mont-Blanc Vertical KM in Chamonix again in 2017, intent on improving my ascent time for this race that goes up 1000m of elevation over just 3.5km of distance.
April was mostly a good month, but I might have wished for a better final week. I caught some kind of bug and ended up weak and tired, which meant I took six full days off running.
Track&field: Only 7 training sessions this month, a little over half of what I did in March. Clearly, even though I spent one week of April on a training camp with track athletes, my main focus this month was hill training. I recorded 36.5km during track activities, with quite a bit of mileage doubling as road kilometers (during warm-up).
Road and trail running: April continued the trend I set in March: it was a solid month. I clocked 149km on the trails and roads, and with the help of some hills in Lanzarote I managed to record my highest vertical ever in a month, at just over 6000m of elevation. Over half of the month’s total was achieved during a single week in Lanzarote, where I did a lot of repeats of Penas del Chache, the highpoint of the island.
Cycling: The month started off well, but then during the second half I didn’t touch any bike. Still, I clocked 6h17 in the saddle, and drove 159km during 5 separate outings (3 on the road bike, 2 on the mountain bike). I recorded 1375m of vertical. All these numbers are significantly lower than those in March, but I guess that’s indicative of where my priorities are right now.
Walking: Speaking of priorities, walking wasn’t either. 32km with 568m of elevation gain. A slight improvement from March, but nothing worth writing home about.
Weight training: The coach had us do one bodyweight session while in Lanzarote. But other than that, I didn’t touch any iron during all of April.
Total time outside: 41h10. Almost identical to March.
Body composition: I notice some improvement. 79.89kg average (down 0.8kg since March), body fat 14.12% (down 0.5%). This is the leanest I’ve been in April since I started tracking these numbers daily in 2011. My April average was 2kg lighter than the same time last year; and 1kg lighter than 2015. For whatever that’s worth.
March was a high-volume month, and I’m quite happy with the majority of the training efforts even though I wish I had had some more energy during a handful. I set a new personal record for calories burned within a month (a highly imprecise number, granted): 26,415.
Track&field: March was a solid month as far as the number of track training sessions was concerned: 12. Nine of these were with the club, and 3 were indoors at the national team training. The numbers seem quite solid, but there were a few sessions were I could clearly feel the fatigue in my legs.
Road and trail running: On the running front, March was similarly solid. I clocked 134km and 4500m of elevation. I did 7 lunch runs, 4 hill runs and 2 trail runs. I didn’t race at all in February. However, the increased volume and quality of my outings has brought a marked improvement. I did one lunch run with sub 5min/km pace and some restraint as to effort spent – that’s a pace that I barely reached the previous month while racing a 9.4km race.
Cycling: Finally, some decent weather. This allowed me to take the bikes out on 9 different days. One of them was a commute to and from work, for a cumulative 38.5km day. Most other outings were during my lunch break, where work requirements kinda dictate that the effort cannot be more than about an hour, or 20-30km. In total, I spent 10h20 in the saddle, for 238km of distance and 2800m of vertical.
Walking: Not a priority with all the other things going on. 25km with 423m of elevation.
Weight training: None. I know, I know.
Total time outside: 40h45. Easily beat the 1h/day average I set myself as a target last month.
Body composition: 80.68kg. Body fat 14.60%. Down about half a kg from February, but body fat remains almost unchanged (-0.15%). Definitely some improvement, but I’m still not eating as healthily as I could/should.
February started off with a few more days on vacation in Fuerteventura, which maybe served as a way to kickstart a renewed focus on endurance, with a little elevation gain thrown in.
Track&field: I decided to skip the last remaining indoor track competition in February. 2017 was pretty much a loss anyway, with times that were considerably slower than in 2016, so I didn’t see any point in running another 60m (with maybe a 50/50 probability to either run yet another mediocre time, or to injure myself). Throughout the month I still did 5 track training sessions, 4 of which were with the club and 1 indoors with the national team.
Road and trail running: With a lowered focus on track&field came an increased focus on road and trail running. I ended up with 122.59km on the month; which is twice as much as I did any single month in 2016. At the start of the month I told myself I’d aim for a cumulative elevation gain of 4000m (1000m per week), but I ended up slightly lower, at 3274m. Still, that’s twice as much as last February. The weather wasn’t always cooperative, so my total mileage includes more road km than I’d have liked; but if I go running in my work lunch break I’m not particularly keen to return to the office with muddy shoes. I did one race in February, on the 26th. The name implied it’d be a 10km in the forest, but in reality it was probably closer to 9.3 to 9.5km, with at least half of the distance on paved surfaces (and out in the fields).
Walking: I complained about the low amount of hiking in January, and that trend continued in February. At least this time I had a better excuse, since a lot of my lunch breaks were taken up by running. Still, only 29km with 558m of elevation is low.
Cycling: With the weather not cooperating, and winter logistics being more complicated than during summer (it’s easier to go out for a ride in the evening if it’s still light outside), I only did one alibi outing on the road bike. Since I hadn’t done much biking in the past month, I kept the outing fairly short and only did 23km. I was still rewarded with neck pain, from what my body now considers an unusual effort.
Weight training: None. Which is bad.
Total time outside: 25h05. Much better than January (by almost 11h). Getting closer to my 1h/day minimum.
Body composition: 81.27kg. Body fat 14.75%. Compared to January, my weight is up slightly (by half a kilo) but my body fat is down slightly (0.16%). I came back from the vacation (with buffet breakfasts and dinners) with slightly over 1kg of weight gain, and that number stayed mostly the same for the remainder of the month. I guess the increased training led to increased appetite. Not too worried about that as long as there’s no further increase. I’d rather over-eat a little than starve myself.
“Month in review” posts keep me accountable. At least that’s the theory.
January wasn’t a remarkable month. I had some health issues (a stomach bug that impacted me for the majority of a week) and the indoor track competitions I did turned out to be less than stellar as far as absolute performances are concerned.
Track running: Just like in December,there was a clear focus on track this month. I did 7 track sessions (3 indoors, 4 outdoors). Furthermore, I competed in 3 competitions, spread out over 4 days and with a total of 5 races (3x 60m, 2x 200m). My times were less than stellar – so far, my 2017 bests are 7″58 on the 60m and 24″06 on the 200m. That’s considerably slower than last year. The plan for the upcoming months is to still focus on sprints a couple of times a week, but to increase my time&effort in the longer distances.
Road and trail running: I got out 5 times in January for a total of 45.6km with 1562m of ascent. The highpoint of the month was during our vacation in Fuerteventura, when I ran and power-hiked to the top of Pico de la Zarza, the highest mountain of the island. The 14.8km round trip was a lot more volume than I’ve done in any individual session recently; and it was slower than most past attempts. But overall, it’s reassuring that I can still do a 1+ hour all-out effort with relative ease.
Walking: Walking and hiking stats were still disappointingly low. I walked a mere 26km in January, with a minimalist 304m of elevation gained. I could do a lot better here if I re-implemented a routine of longer lunch walks.
Cycling: None. With temperatures below freezing on a lot of days and track competitions to prepare, it’s easy to find excuses. I still hope to restart doing some lunch rides in February, and ultimately build up my form to support 50m round-trip work commutes as the days grow longer in spring.
Weight training: Once again, almost nothing. I tracked one session, on January 31st. It’s easy to read books that talk about creating fitness (weight training) habits, but it’s harder to implement all of that when most days you get home from work and your only thought is grabbing dinner and calling it a day.
Total time outside: 14h26. Or in other words, less than half an hour per day.
Average body weight: 80.81kg. Body fat 14.91%. At least something improved this month. Of course being ill (and not eating for a day and a half) had some immediate impact on body weight, but I also restarted some healthy habits (counting calories at least some of the time, eating less fast food and unhealthy snacks). The end result was an average weight that was 1.6kg below the December number, and a small improvement (-0.56%) in body fat as well.
On Monday evening preceding this weekend’s Meeting Régio #2, we trained starting blocks. I felt strong. Then I returned home, had dinner and about an hour later I suddenly felt ill. I’ll skip the details, but suffice to say that the next time I could stand the thought of having any kind of food was about 36 hours later, on Wednesday morning. I still stayed at home on sick leave until Thursday, then dragged myself to work on Friday even though I still wasn’t feeling 100%.
So of course when I drove to the Coque indoor track on Saturday, I knew I wouldn’t be able to perform at my best. But with the Luxembourgish indoor season being as short as it is, this would be my first and last chance to run a 200m before the national championships the next weekend.
I was seeded lane 4 in heat 5. The fastest local competitors were in preceding heats, so I didn’t know what to expect from the people I was running with.
Lane 4 is one of the best lanes for me right now because the bend is wide enough for my 6″2 (1.89m) frame, but doesn’t feature quite as much of a height difference on the turns as lanes 5 or 6 (which requires powerful legs, which I no longer have).
As usual, I tried to get out of the blocks and through the first bend as aggressively as possible – what you lose here cannot be made up later on. Throughout the straight, I had gained some ground on my competitors, but would need to do an efficient second turn.
Half-way into the second turn, I felt the effect of the week that I’d spent ill. I could no longer push hard, and as such I exited the second turn in third place. I still tried to maintain stride length and made a conscious effort not to force things too much, which usually ends up being counter-productive because while you feel like you’re working hard your running economy goes bad. I successfully held off the runner from CAB in the outside lane, but couldn’t gain ground on the two athletes ahead of me.
I crossed the line in 24″20. I had hoped to be faster, but given how the week had gone I suppose it’s still OK. From an age perspective, I was by far the oldest competitor at 39 years. The next-oldest runner was born in 1984, with everybody else born 1990 or later. Position-wise, I finished 31th out of 49.
I’m not happy to run slower than 24″ – everyone has these time limits of what they think is “slow”, and for me it was always 24″00 on the 200m and 12″00 on the 100m. (On the other hand, “fast” in my part of the world is under 11″00 and 22″00 respectively.) It’s been 19 years since I first ran 22″00 on an indoor 200m; and if I make the link between then and now there’s certainly nobody from that time frame who’s still competing today. So I guess I should be happy about that.
Going into 2017’s first race, I thought I had a good shot at being faster than the previous year. I’d done a much more thorough preparation phase over the previous several months, also because my achilles tendon had allowed me to get in more quality sprint workouts. I even had the privilege of joining the national team for some of the workouts.
Which was both a blessing and a curse, because while I had done quite a bit of quality work in the past weeks, I also had a stressful work week behind me and wasn’t too sure whether I had fully recovered from the last two hard training sessions on Monday (indoor sprints) and Tuesday (sled work at the club).
So I drove to the Coque indoor track with a few goals in my head. Realistically, I was aiming for anything between 7″40 and 7″50. Optimistically, I thought I might even dip below last year’s season best of 7″40. Pessimistically, I was hoping to at least be faster than 7″65.
After a pre-race chat with Martti, I set off to warm-up with Mart. We did our warm-up in the area behind the stands (obviously the Coque still lacks a serious warm-up area), and then headed downstairs for stretching and skips/strides.
Fifteen minutes before the race, the first heat was allowed out on the track. Or rather, not. Since a high jump competition was going on, everyone was prevented from setting foot on the outside track, which was otherwise unoccupied. So despite subsequent heats being called out and allowed out of the calling area, we were all kept in the small band between the outside lanes and stands. Doing serious warm-up sprints there was almost impossible and the minutes dragged on until finally the previous category’s 60m were over and the first heat was allowed to approach the starting blocks.
I was in the 3rd heat, in lane 4. Once more, I think that’s my historic times getting me a good lane, rather than my current capabilities. I was sandwiched between Lionel Evora Delgado (who would go on to run a remarkable 7″01 in the finals) and Tiago Delgado who I’d trained with several times over the past month or two; and who’d beaten me at every single start there.
The gun went off… and then went off again. False start.
The gun went off for attempt #2, and much to my surprise I was out of the starting block with the best. That feeling unfortunately didn’t last long. It seemed that within the blink of an eye, Tiago leapfrogged from being one meter behind me to being one meter ahead of me. Lionel was far gone by then too, so all I could do was hold on to Tiago and hope that he would go reasonably fast, because then that’d mean I wasn’t too far behind. As we crossed the line, I could see Steve Weiwert to the very right also ahead of me.
After the finish, Tiago mentioned he wasn’t happy with his start; and I immediately felt like I could have done a better race as well. While the start had been OK, I hadn’t pushed as aggressively as I should have during the rest of the race. Post-race analysis with the above photos also reveals that I pushed my upper body forwards over an imaginary finish line that was at least two or three in front of the actual finish line. That mistake alone might have cost a hundredth of a second or two.
The end result was disappointing: I was clocked in at 7″60, and I finished the heat in 4th place out of 5 (with one other runner marked DSQ because of his false start). Overall, considering all 6 heats, I finished in 25th place out of 41 people. Needless to say, I neither qualified for the A-final, nor for the B-final.