Cobblestones and Crowds

It was a very crowded race and there were way more cobblestones than I thought there would be but I enjoyed the whole event and finished with a big smile.  My official time was a fairly comfortable 2:01:08, not my fastest for sure but a nice pace and one that allowed me to have a good time.  Lots more info later, until then a few pictures:

Look in the centre and you will see me in the red shirt and pink hat.

Look in the centre and you will see me in the red shirt and pink hat.

Running to the finish feeling good!

Running to the finish feeling good!

How is that for a skyline at the end of a race?

How is that for a skyline at the end of a race?

A post race "Trdlo" filled with Nutella.  MMMM

A post race “Trdlo” filled with Nutella. MMMM

 

T’was the Night Before the Prague Half Marathon

Despite the fact that the whole reason we came to Europe was because I wanted to run the Prague Half Marathon, the race itself has become somewhat secondary. We have had an amazing and unforgettable family vacation and all of us have recognized daily how lucky we are to experience such a trip.  I will admit that the fact we were on two Germanwing flights less than 48 hours before the devastating crash has certainly driven that fact home.  This has been a wonderful experience for all of us and I am thankful.

To get in some relaxing time without walking, we spent this evening at a lovely classical music string ensemble concert in the grand staircase hall of the National Museum. For a five year period, the only way to see inside this building is if you attend small evening concerts.  The building is closed as renovations continue to repair damage from WWII and from Soviet machine gun fire in 1968, much of which had been poorly “patched up” in the past.

The very grande central staircase of "Narodni Muzem" or the National Museum.

The very grand central staircase of “Narodni Muzem” or the National Museum.

After the concert, an outdoor meal of chicken shishkabob in a baguette and alcohol free beer.

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Not so sure how great a meal that is for the night before a race but the view was spectacular…

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I will give a full report on race expo at a later time but for now a few pics to share. Also one note: this race allowed you to choose a long sleeve or short sleeve race shirt.  How awesome is that?  There are races out there that can’t even manage to hand out women’s style shirts but RunCzech and Addidas gives you a choice of long or short sleeve – each with different coloured stripes. And if that wasn’t enough you then got to choose from five colours for a sports bag!

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There was also race souvenir clothing, and of course I couldn’t resist…

 

My "Praha"shirt, with well known buildings and a measuring tape underneath showing 21.1

My “Praha” shirt, with well known buildings and a measuring tape underneath showing 21.1

A comfy (and very bright) Adidas Prague Half Marathon hoodie.

A comfy (and very bright) Adidas Prague Half Marathon hoodie.

That’s all for now.  Time to organize and sleep, though with a noon start and being only a 15 minute walk to the start line, it won’t quite feel like a regular race morning. My only goal tomorrow, to have fun!  PB’s can wait.  Wish me luck!

How Not To Taper

IMG_4144 (Shrunk)We have spent the last two days exploring Prague’s never ending maze of cobblestone streets and still feel like we have barely scratched the surface of this historical city.   The only thing I haven’t really managed to do?  Run.

That’s not entirely true. On our first morning I did do a mini run of 4k.  But I stopped so many times either for traffic, pedestrians or simply to look at things that I’m not convinced I can officially call it a run.  I can tell you that running on cobblestones is much more difficult than you might think.

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So if you want to taper in all the wrong ways, just do as I do and try the following:

  • Don’t bother running the final week of training
  • do walk at least 15 km daily for two weeks prior to your race (today we were closer to 20)
  • do lots of hills and stairs, in fact make sure wherever you are staying has a minimum of 80 stairs to climb (we have 88 here at our place in Prague – completely worth it though as the apartment is gorgeous with an amazing location).
  • Just in case you haven’t done enough stairs, go up a bell tower with just more than 200 stairs coiled so tightly you are dizzy by step 10.
  • Follow a very special diet, including
  1. Bratwurst and giant pretzels (Germany)
  2. crepes, cheese, socca (traditional Nice chickpea bread), chocolate croissants, and Lays olive flavoured potato chips (France)
  3. pizza and gelato (Italy)
  4. dumplings, apple strudel, trdelnik  (a traditional grilled – yes grilled – pastry), hot mulled wine and beer (Czech Republic)

In my defence, the beer in Prague costs the same as a bottle of water.  This is the land of the $2 beer!  The beer and wine are also sold at stands on every corner.  Once you buy it you can walk freely with it.  Quite a change from Ontario where we can’t even buy beer or wine in the grocery store.

All of this should add up to a fast half marathon in a couple of days, right?

Oh well, there is always the Ottawa half in May to aim for another sub two hour race :)

Some more photos:

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- most of my run will be following the river you see above

Running in Nice, France

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If I’m honest, the half marathon I am running one week from tomorrow has virtually been forgotten this week.  I am in vacation mode and the thought of racing has been pushed to the back of my mind. In the past five days we have been in four countries: Canada, Germany, France and today a day trip by train to Italy. It doesn’t get any better than this!

By the seaside in Italy.

By the seaside in Italy.  This picture was taken after having Italian pizza in a restaurant on the beach.

I’m sure in the last three days we have walked more than 45 km. At least half of that has been up hills, often up stairs. Our apartment is situated high up in the Old Town.  Looking at the picture below, you can see how we have to go up to get to a door on the left.  There are 27 stairs, outside, another 28 inside to get to where we are staying.  Behind where I took this picture are another 50 or more stairs.  Our legs are getting a workout every time we head “home”!

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Morning in Nice.

Morning in Nice.

Despite this though, three runs have been squeezed in.  The first was a morning run on Thursday. Because we are renting an apartment rather than staying in a hotel, we are in residential area of the Old Town in Nice. As I headed out it was school time for the local kids, so up and down these narrow alleys the children were coming out of huge, ancient doors, chattering with parents and friends as they headed off to school. I’m not sure why, but I think this may remain one of my favourite memories of this trip. For a brief moment I felt like I lived here and was part of the weekday routine.

As the kids continued to the school at the end of the road, I turned to follow the maze of streets, through the morning market and on to the sea.  I ran 11 km, following the Promenade des Anglais.  At 16 degrees and sunny, I was heating up quickly but when I turned to come back I was running into the sea breeze and it was nothing short of perfect.  I finished up with three hill repeats and then, what better way to finish a run than dipping your feet into the Mediterranean?

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That evening the four of us headed to the same path to do a family 2k run. The evening run was even nicer than the morning run with a perfect temperature and lots of activity, from other runners, to walkers, and bike riders making good use of the wide Promenade.

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This evening I was out there again on a solo run. The Promenade feels very safe. It is well lit, there is a heavily used road running alongside it and there are lots of other runners taking advantage of the pleasant evening weather. I was perfectly comfortable throughout my run.  It was a “bit of everything” type of run with 2k at a 5:43 min/km pace, followed by 2k at an easy pace, then speed intervals at 400m, 800m and 1 km all below a 5 minute pace. Finally I finished up with a 1.8 km slow, easy cool down and then a wonderful walk  through the Old Town, where the patio restaurants were vying for Friday night customers.

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And so this half marathon is not a constant presence in my mind as another race might be.  I’m too busy enjoying the here and now to think a week ahead. Can you blame me?

A view from our walk from the apartment to the lower part of the Old Town.

A view from our walk from the apartment to the lower part of the Old Town.

 

It Took a While….

…but we finally made it to Nice Tuesday night, about 8 hours later than planned. What should have been an hour in Munich before getting a connecting flight to Nice turned into most of the day thanks to Air Canada and a plane “computer glitch” back when we were trying to leave Toronto. That made for an hour of sitting on the tarmac at Pearson airport and no chance of making a connecting flight.  So, making lemonade out of lemons, once in Germany we hoped on the S Bahn, travelled into the centre of Munich and spent a few hours wandering the city. It was an added bonus for the boys, who now get to tick off another city and country they have visited and it was fun for both my husband and I, as it has been many years since either of has been there.  To be honest, I think I was in a bit of an Oktoberfest haze when I last saw the city over twenty years ago.  This time round I refrained from any beer, not sure how well I would deal with it in my sleep deprived state. I had been sure I would sleep on an overnight flight, ends up I was wrong. Mind you, I thought the kids would too, and that didn’t really happen either.

Spring in Munich.

Spring in Munich.

Finally, about 25 hours after we left our house, we arrived at our rented apartment and saw this view from our window:

 

Looking out our apartment Window!

Looking out our apartment Window!

Completely worth the wait!  By this point we had been up well over 30 hours and were all anxious to get to bed.  When we awoke, the daytime view was just as spectacular:

 

Day time view from our apartment

Day time view from our apartment

I’ve not forgotten that this is a running blog, not a travel blog. But on our first full day in Nice, I suppose it is not surprising that a training run has not happened yet. The plan was for all of us to head out for an evening run together along the walkway that follows the coastline. But by the time we spent the day exploring this unbelievably beautiful ancient city, the evening brought only the desire to eat and rest. By Mike’s watch we walked more than 16km, much of it up hills and stairs. I’m just going to call it cross training :)

Our walking route.

Our walking route.

In the meantime, I have fallen in love with this city. It may end up rivaling Prague in my affections. Within the first hour I was asking if we could retire here.

Some more pics of this beautiful city:

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Update: 

Just finished an 11k run along the sea this morning.  Photos to come.  For now, lets just say there was no frostbite warning like there currently is in Ottawa (couldn’t help but look at the Ottawa weather!)

Last Long Run Done

It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t enjoyable, but the last long run before Prague is done.  It probably should have been longer but I was exhausted and decided 17 slow kms were enough.  It was cold, damp, slushy and windy but it is done.  My next run will be in Nice, France, where we will spend a few days before moving on to Prague.  This is where that next run will be:

photo from Wiki

That kind of scenery has to make for a better run!

 

Prague Half Marathon Training Recap

Logo RunCzech

Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon 2015

This weekend I will do my last long run for the Prague Half Marathon.  I have been training for this race since January, right through consistently frigid temperatures.  I’m not sure how to measure this training session.  In 2014 I completed a little more mileage by this time of year but I feel like I increased the quality of my runs this time around.  Most notably I saw significant improvement in my hill work and speed intervals.  Well, to be honest, i have never really tried speed intervals before, but I am doing them better than I thought I would.  I once again, however, managed to almost completely avoid tempo runs :(

A very brief look at my training tells me this:

  • five hill repeat sessions, where I learned I can do 480m hill repeats below a 5:30 min/km pace.
  • three speed interval sessions, (one more to go) where I discovered that I can comfortably run 800 and even 1200m  intervals below a 5 min/km pace (and in fact on the shorter intervals was finding myself below a 4:30 pace)
  • two 19k runs (one more to go) and three 16k runs – hopefully enough longer runs?
  • January total – 143 km
  • February total – 133 km (I’m sure if it hadn’t been a short month I would have matched January’s total)
  • March total as of the 13th – 74 km

I admit I had hoped my monthly totals would be more but somehow it just didn’t happen.  In April and May I would like to work my way back up to 160 or 170 km each month.

While all my speed, hill and LSR work has gone quite well, I am still not feeling confident that I can run 21 km at a sub 2 hour pace like I did last year (three times…still excited about that accomplishment).  It is definitely possible but I think I will need a perfect day.  Certainly the elevation of the course is ideal.  Check it out:

elevation map

It is hard to see but the vertical scale is only from 184m to 209m.  That is not much of an elevation change!

The temperature might work to my advantage as well.  Forecasts have ranged anywhere from 7C to 14C in Prague on the 28th.  Of course with two weeks to go anything could happen.  If it gets hotter than 14 degrees I simply won’t have adapted yet to that kind of temperature.  One big weather consideration will be wind.  Virtually all of the course runs along the Vltava River.  That should make for a scenic run, but the potential of having to fight wind in an open area is a significant possibility.

So what is my plan for this race?  First priority – ENJOY IT!  Realistically, I won’t run this race again.  Who knows if I will ever even get to Prague again?  I have to make sure I soak in the day.  That is a promise I have made to myself each time I have run in a new city.  It is not that there have been that many, but I have been fortunate enough to have raced in NYC, Vancouver and Philadelphia.  All three of those races have given me lasting memories.  Of course I have also run in Toronto and Hamilton, but they don’t really count.  I’ve been to Toronto more times than I can count, so nothing new to see there and as for Hamilton… well, they put on a great race but you don’t really go to Hamilton for the scenery.

As for my goal times, I very much hope to be between 1:58 and 2:02.  Short of injury, not feeling well, or wicked weather, this should not be an unrealistic goal.  If I could come in under 1:58, I would be thrilled.  I did it in Vancouver, but that race offered some great downhill in the first half of the course, not to mention no wind or humidity.  It was truly a perfect day.  I also did it in last fall’s Mission Possible race, but it was not a certified course and my Garmin showed under the 21.1 km.  As a result, I don’t count that 1:56 time as a personal best, though I was damn proud of it given the difficulty of the course and the fact that my previous best time at that race was 2:06.

Taking in the scenery of a city I once lived in for 5 months will truly be the highlight of the race.  How can I not enjoy a city that looks like this:

 

Photo montage from http://www.hotels-in-czech.com/news/Hervis-Prague-1-2Marathon.html

If you are interested in some of the other views to be seen during the Prague Half Marathon, check out the following helicopter video:

http://www.hotels-in-czech.com/news/Hervis-Prague-1-2Marathon.html

Prague, here I come!