Monthly Archives: May 2012

Copenhagen Marathon

The day before Copenhagen Marathon, when I still couldn’t walk without pain, I finally accepted that I wasn’t going to run it. A bitter pill to swallow.

I’m beginning to believe that what I initially classified as shin splints might be a sprained ankle. I still don’t know exactly what caused it. Today I’ve seen the first signs that it gets better – yay! I’ll probably have to start from scratch with slow, short walks and work my way up to running. I predict that a professional running test, new shoes and compression socks will be part of my future.

To get the best of a sad situation, I followed my travelling plans and went to Copenhagen anyway. As I wouldn’t need any running clothes or equipment, and I knew I would end up with some hours to kill Sunday afternoon, I packed my backpack for a trip to Fitness World. My membership allows me to use all Fitness World gyms in Denmark, even though I usually only use the ones in Aalborg.

Having arrived at Copenhagen Airport, I travelled with train and bus to Sparta Hallen near Parken Stadium to pick up my starting number and chip. It was a bit strange to attend the Marathon Expo with a useless leg. I didn’t feel like browsing or trying clothes or shoes, as I didn’t know when I would be able to run again. Needless to say, I quite quickly walked outside. Copenhagen sure has a lot of nice parks, or green areas, where I would love to run. The vicinity of the stadium is no exception. A lot of runners were enjoying the nice weather, and I envied every one I passed.

I stayed at Zleep Hotel Astoria near Copenhagen Central Station. The hotel was certainly good value for money (only 299 DKK/night for a single room), but note that the downtown of Copenhagen is very noisy on a weekend night – all night long. I’m glad that I wasn’t in desperate need of quality sleep, and I will certainly book a more quiet place, if I decide to attend Copenhagen Marathon in 2013.

Sunday morning I limped to Islands Brygge and experienced the marathon kickoff. I was surprised how many people is 12,000. Approx 16 minutes passed before all runners had passed the starting line. It was outright impossible to stay depressed due to the awesome atmosphere and the glorious weather. Afterwards I enjoyed a cup of coffee and a bagel on a lawn in the sun. Ohh, and I also returned my chip to the marathon officials and sent a greeting to the marathon’s big screen to wish some of my friends a good trip.

An hour to an hour and a half later, I watched the 16-17/23-24 km spot near Langebro on the Copenhagen side. The elite runners were passing 23-24 km one or two at a time, while the masses passed 16-17 km in one endless, packed stream. Later, while in Studiestræde, I watched the 13-14/38 km spot, where the leading runners passed me. My reason for limping all the way to Studiestræde was to get a cup of AeroPress‘ed coffee at Risteriet, but unfortunately they are closed on Sundays. It would have been nice to have something “authoritative” to compare my own AeroPress’ed coffee to. After having had it “my way” (whole-grain double Whopper without mayo, a bag of carrots and a sidesalad) at Burgerking at RĂĄdhuspladsen, I had a double espresso and an americano – both very recommendable – at CaffĂ© Ritazza at Copenhagen Central Station.

During the afternoon, I limped through the well-known Istedgade to the Fitness World at Gasværksvej, where I executed a weight training program for abs, chest, triceps and shoulders. When travelling, I find it sort of funny to blend in with the locals and go about my usual business. Try it.

Two pretty decent days after all.

Shin splints

No, I haven’t had the diagnosis made by a doctor (yet, at least). Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure that I suffer from shin splints in my left shin.

I feel that I ought to report on my status here, as I’ve written so much lately about my participation in Copenhagen Marathon. I fear I might end up being a spectator this year.

Having rested my legs for two days, I went for a 3-4 km walk this evening. The only purpose was to check the status of the sore shin. I couldn’t even walk at my usual pace. Walking downhill was seriously unpleasant. *sigh*

From Wikipedia’s shin splints article:

Pain associated with MTSS is usually a recurring dull ache over the distal one-third posteromedial cortex of the tibia. In early diagnosis, individuals may experience pain at the beginning of a workout, which may go away by continued activity and then occur again at the end of the activity. As the syndrome progresses pain may stay throughout the whole training or during low intensity activity and may continue at rest. Range of motion in the ankle and foot should not cause pain.

From what I can dig up with Google, the “distal one-third posteromedial cortex of the tibia” is the lower third of the front of the shin. That’s exactly the spot where it hurts on my left leg. Furthermore, three days ago the pain would fade away after 1-2 km of running – tonight the pain was present immediately when I started walking and increased slightly during the walk.

Wholegrain experiment

So… It was a windy Thursday, a holiday, and I was hanging out at home, as I had to take care of my sore shin. A perfect day for coding, washing clothes and baking bread. This post is about the bread – the code doesn’t compile at the moment.

For a while I had been wondering whether it is possible to make a decent no-bread bread, where all of the usual white wheat flour is replaced with whole wheat flour. I usually try to make the traditional recipe a bit healthier by replacing a quarter of the white wheat flour with oatmeal, but it would be nice to “go all the way”. Finally, I had remembered to buy a bag of whole wheat flour and some yeast on a shopping trip, and that Thursday I came across it in one of my kitchen cabinets.

I decided to make a rather small bread, as it was an experiment and because – in my experience – a no-knead bread doesn’t stay fresh for very long. I don’t know whether it is because they aren’t based on sourdough or because they don’t contain dairy products, e.g. yoghurt or milk, but it certainly is one of the many baking questions I ponder upon…

I used 313 grams of whole wheat flour, 250 grams of water, one teaspoon of salt and a 1/3 teaspoon of dry yeast. The dough was allowed to raise twice. Initially eight to nine hours, then an hour and a half. White wheat flour was used to avoid having the wet dough stick to my bowl and kitchen table. I have written about no-knead bread before, but you can just google “no-knead bread” if you need instructions. I should have used a bit more water – apparently the bran and germ of a whole wheat grain absorb more water than the endosperm (what a tremendously freaky word, by the way). It would also be better to let the initial rising take 12 hours.

The resulting bread was really good. Of course, it wasn’t as light and fluffy as the white alternative, but it was still very enjoyable. I cut some slices and ate some of them alone, some with honey and some with neutral cream cheese. Yummy!

Excited but frustrated

My initial confusion with regard to attending Copenhagen Marathon has pretty much disappeared, as I now have a final plan – where to be at certain times, how to get there, what to eat, what to drink, what to bring, where to store stuff, where to take a bath, etc. I am very excited.

I have decided to start out without music in my ears, as I want to experience the marathon in the way the organizers seem to want the attendees to experience it. There is no reason for all the shouts from spectators and all the entertainment along the route, if all runners are only present in their own, closed worlds. I will bring my music player and earphones in my pocket, just in case. Maybe the psychological effect of having the opportunity to use them will be enough. It was the documentary Spirit of the Marathon that gave me the final push to make the decision. It was a very touching and enlightening documentary to watch. It might not offer a lot to runners who have already run a marathon, but it sure does to first timers like me.

I have also decided not to bring my own “sugar”. In order to get 40-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour during the marathon, I originally planned to bring glucose tablets and gels and to drink water at the refreshment stands along the route. Since, however, the stands offer Powerade energy beverages with a reasonable quantity of carbohydrates, I have to decided to drink that. It is easier than running with tablets and gels, and the marathon organizers have confirmed that it is either Powerade ION4, which has 3.9 grams of carbohydrates per 100 mL, or some other kind of Powerade with the same carbohydrate quantity. That quantity is reasonable, as it is small enough not to slow down the stomach’s absorption of water. In addition, drinking Powerade might be better than drinking water and eating glucose, as Powerade also contains some salts. Well, it sounds good, but I don’t know if it will make a noticeable difference.

Unfortunately, my left shin is sore at the moment, which is why I’m frustrated. I have probably overloaded it during the final long, training runs. I also pushed myself a bit too hard on a 10 km run on Saturday, and I shouldn’t have played around with jump squat pushup burpees. It is actually difficult to reduce your training volume after a high-volume period – to accept just slacking at home an entire evening. You want to get out there to make sure your legs still work and your fitness hasn’t been lost. I’ve just been out on a rainy 3 km run, where I had to run as slow as approx 5:20 min/km (11.25 km/h) to avoid pain in the shin. It doesn’t look good for my goal of 5:12.5 min/km (11.52 km/h) for the marathon on Sunday. No matter what, I have to listen to the shin – if I just ignore pain on Sunday, it might make me unable to run for several weeks or months. That would be worse than not finishing the marathon or not finishing it with a good time. How frustrating…

Ready to race

I did it! I ran 80% of a marathon without hitting the wall or experiencing any serious pain. It was my final long run before Copenhagen Marathon, which takes place in only 13 days – on Sunday the 20th of May at 9:30 CEST.

Specifically, I ran 34 km in 2h:57m:11s, which comes down to an average pace of 5:13 min/km. I have realized that a goal of 3h:40m for the entire marathon is more realistic than my previous goal of 3h:30m. I definitely should have begun my endurance training earlier and, in general, have trained a lot more. Mid-december, when I – in a moment of true madness – signed up for the marathon, I envisioned running approx 800 km during the upcoming 20 weeks of training. I have run 631 km to this day and will probably end at 657 km two days before the marathon. I have found it hard to motivate myself for the 22+ km runs, and too often they have been split into a number of shorter runs. Two tangible reasons come to mind:

  1. You have to eat right the three-fours hours leading up to a long run to avoid abdominal cramps.
  2. Afterwards you are busted and will not get anything done the rest of the day.

Of course, you can get accustomed to the former. The latter will probably vanish with more training.

My plan for the final two weeks is to do only relatively short runs, reduce or almost pause my weight training, continue not to drink alcohol, decrease my caffeine intake slightly, make sure that I get enough sleep, do carbo-loading the final two days, eat a large, whole-grain meal approx four hours before the marathon, eat two bananas and some glucose approx two hours before the marathon, and ingest 0.5-0.75 L/hour of water and 50-60 g/hour of glucose during the marathon.

I have ordered some glucose tablets and gels for the marathon. I ran the 34 km as four laps of approx 8.5 km, thereby passing my apartment three times, every time drinking 0.5 L of water with 6% glucose. That gave me an energy boost of approx 3 x 500 g x 0.06 x 4 kcal/g = 360 kcal, which isn’t much, but it probably helped me avoid hitting the wall. Actually, it’s less energy than packed in a 100 g bag of wine gums. Leading up to the 34 km run, I ate three small bananas and a pack of Dextro glucose tablets (47 g). I also carbo-loaded to some degree the two days before. The reason for my choice of glucose is that this simple carbohydrate is directly usable by the body – the brain wants glucose and the hardworking leg muscles want glycogen. The time from ingestion to impact is therefore as short as possible. Other simple carbohydrates, such as fructose, which is the main component of fruits, will have to be converted into glucose by the liver. Complex (or at least “non-simple”) carbohydrates are even slower to be absorbed, as they must first be degraded  into simple carbohydrates in the intestines. I can recommend this page about carbohydrates. Running a marathon sure isn’t the same as running a half marathon…

Besides giving this whole endeavour a dramatic touch by trimming the hair on my head to 6 mm (3 mm on the sides and back of the neck), I have trimmed my chest in order to make patches stick better and to improve the electrical impedance measurements done by my heart rate monitor. Before, patches would fall off, and the heart rate monitor would often be unreliable for the first ten minutes (until enough sweat had been built up). The reason for the kinky patches is to avoid fissure of the nipples – a typical problem for male runners on longer distances. Women have the advantage of bras. I found a package of transparent Compeed patches in a kitchen drawer and they seem to work very well. I never get blisters, so I will not need them for my feet.

I have also spent some time on compiling a rather awesome marathon playlist. It is not final yet, but after having listened to it on my 34 km run, I feel good about it. I know that I ought to run the marathon without music in my ears and enjoy the atmosphere in full, but I have always listened to music while running. It keeps me going. It drowns my annoying breath. Nevertheless, it is too late to gamble with new ideas at this stage. When weight training, metal music usually gives me the mental resources to push or pull an additional 5% – something similar is probably true for running.

After this successful, final long run, I actually feel confident about completing Copenhagen Marathon. Sure, I will be physically wasted the following days, but that was also the case for my first half marathon. Everything has a beginning.

mmm oatmeal

My recipe for a fantastic bowl of oatmeal – the breakfast of champions:

  1. Pour 600-700 mL of water into an electric kettle and turn it on.
  2. Put 100 g of finely rolled oatmeal and a 1/3 teaspoon of salt onto a relatively large deep plate.
  3. Put a trivet under the plate and have a water- and heat-proof cover ready.
  4. Pour 550-650 mL of the boiling water over the oats and place the cover on the plate, such that steam doesn’t escape.
  5. Wait for 20 minutes. Take a shower or make some coffee.
  6. Remove the cover and stir gently for two minutes.

I usually enjoy it with cottage cheese, yoghurt or milk (all of which next to, not added to). If you’re out of dairy products, a can of tuna can do the trick…

You can put cinnamon or nuts on the top.

Hitting the wall

For the first time ever, I have experienced hitting the wall. It was gruesome.

It happened during the above marathon training run. My goal was to run a hilly 10 km route three times, but I hit the wall at 25-26 km and finally “gave up” at 28.32 km – 120 meter longer than my previous distance record. I had to walk the 2 km home – with a cold, sweaty shirt and sore legs.

A couple of excuses and a couple of what-to-do-different’s are appropriate 🙂

The two days prior to the run I had been cycling (for transport) approx 24 km, weight training two times two hours and (restitution-)running 3 km. In addition, I had been following my typical high-protein, no-fast-carbohydrates, no-more-energy-in-than-out diet.

For the next training run, I will choose a non-hilly route, do carbohydrate loading and remember to rest properly.

I have newfound respect for the marathon distance.

Silence!

I have been really happy with my Sennheiser CX-380 earphones, since I bought them approx one year and a half ago. They have been great for running, weight training and commuting with bus, train and airplane. It was therefore a sad moment when I recently discovered a loose connection in their jack. As is evident from the above picture, there are only a few copper wires for each of the four inner cables in their wiring. I am not saying that it is impossible to attach a new jack, but it requires a very steady hand and probably a magnifying glass.

As Copenhagen Marathon is approaching, and I really need good earphones for my long training runs, I have temporarily given up on fixing my broken ones and have ordered a new pair. They actually arrived today. I chose the relatively cheap Sennheiser CX-300 II Precision – approx 300 DKK including postage. Well, as long as they do a decent job of eliminating noise and staying in my ears… I hope so 🙂

Oh, and what else is new?

Saturday, April 28, I set a new record with regard to how far I have ever run (running distance PR?). Unfortunately, I’m behind on my marathon training, so don’t expect anything close to the 42,195 meters. I ran 28.2 km. I was completely fried the rest of the day. Originally, I aimed at finishing the marathon in 3h 30m, requiring a pace of 4m 59s per km, but I might have to accept 3h 45m. My worst fear is cramp in my legs and other pains that cannot be ignored. My fitness will probably not let me down. A couple of excuses:

  1. It will be my first marathon, and
  2. I ran the 28.2 km without water and other supplies.

I really hope for relatively cold weather on the big day. Enough about running for this post…

At work I constantly learn new cool things. I have started to regularly perform tasks on our Cisco network infrastructure, and I have learnt about (and started to use) Splunk, which is a great tool for log analysis and reporting. I know it will provoke hatred in some of my geeky friends, when I say this, but together with the Riverbed Stingray Traffic Manager, Splunk is a member of the (though very small) set of closed source software that I feel good about. Both products work very well, they have active communities, and I haven’t yet seen open source replacements.

Last but not least, I have received OpenBSD 5.1 today. Thanks to the developers for yet another release of my favorite operating system. After a MacBook-only period of four months, I have once again started using OpenBSD -current on a daily basis on my Thinkpad X60 laptop. It just works[tm].

Update at 22:25 CEST: I have just used the new earphones in the gym, together with my new music player armband and sweatband. The earphones lacked a “clothespin” to secure their wires to my shirt, but I just used the one that came with my old ones. Sennheiser should consider supplying one with the CX-300’s too – or with all models where the lengths of the wire for each channel differ, i.e. the models where you probably will have the wire for the right channel behind your neck. The earphones fit nicely in my ears, deliver good music quality, eliminate noise from the surroundings and don’t fall out during exercises. Compared to the crappy Apple earphones, I used for a while, it is very clear that I don’t have to turn up the volume as much. That equals less stress on my ears and longer battery life for my player. All in all I am quite happy with the purchase.