A new year a new focus

Alosha at night in Plovdiv

Alosha at night in Plovdiv

Well it is a new year and just like everyone I am busy making myself promises that I am sure I will have a hard time keeping. In fact one of the last times I wrote here I made a number of promises like, specifically to update this blog more often. Before I get to my new years goals , here’s a quick update on the last 3 months:

Bought an apartment, renovated said apartment (partially me and two other guys), moved in, did more renovation, meanwhile continued running roughly 50km a week up until the 2nd week of December. Traveled traveled to the netherlands (multiple times), Italy and the UK for work, got sick, got better and…….

here we are in January.

2018 was a challenging year for me, I spent the first half of the year getting back into shape after an injury and then real life caught up with my running life so my running plans had to come second. Heading into 2019 I hope to get a bit more time to focus on some goals and spend more time in the mountains. At the moment though my plans for 2019 are still rather in flux.

2019 Goals:

Sunrise in Rila during Adventure Sky Run 2018

Sunrise in Rila during Adventure Sky Run 2018

  1. New Marathon PR- Current time 3:20 - Goal time sub 3:05. Target race Thessaloniki Marathon April 14th

  2. New Half Marathon PR- Current time: 1:28.28 Goal time: 1:26.30 Target Race: Something in the autumn TBD

  3. New best time in Adventure Sky Run (55km 3609m D+): Current time: 11:57.08 Goal Time: Sub 10:45

That is all for now but I will be updating this soon with more about my training plan for 2019 and some special features I want to bring to the website in 2019.

Sofia Marathon - Another Race Report

Start/Finish Line

Start/Finish Line

This past Sunday I took part in the 35th Annual Wizz Air Sofia Marathon. Before I begin talking about the race I want to say I wanted to do my best to try to look at this race from a neutral perspective even though I know many of my friends have very strong opinions about the race and organisers. I have organise this post and three sections in an effort to separate things adequately.

The Course

2018 Sofia Marathon Course

Sofia Marathon’s course is in the heart of the city and it is a designed loop. The loop distance is 10.550 km allowing a full marathon is 4 laps. The course starts in front of Vasil Levski Stadium it makes nearly a complete loop around NDK then continues onto Bulgaria bulevard. After 4.5 km the route doubles back and heads toward south park for a short climb. From there there is a gradual downhill section as you pass Park City Center turn back towards Vasil Levski Stadium. Shortly before the stadium there is a short up hill and down hill added by the metro station obviously in order to reach the require distance. Over all the course has about 60m of vertical per lap which does put a strain on the legs. One other note of interest about the course, is that not the whole thing is closed to traffic about 2.2 km are separated from traffic by a few barriers and plastic tape.

The Race

The author(right) passing marathoners  Photo Credit:  Skisharki

The author(right) passing marathoners
Photo Credit: Skisharki

Sofia Marathon runs 3 races simultaneously on the same course. They have a single lap race, a two lap race (half marathon) and 4 lap race (classic marathon). The start time were staggered with the marathon starting first followed by the half 10 minutes later and finishing with the single lap race. This set up adds interesting challenges throughout the race. The most obvious is that you have runners of different speeds constantly interacting. It requires a much more focused approach compared to courses that are single loop or point to point. This issue shows itself particularly at aid stations as often it was hard to get water without significantly slowing down. I found that I had similar problems when I ran Plovdiv Marathon back in 2017. Although it is only single loop course they simultaneously run a half marathon on a similar course with start at the same time. I spent about 10km weaving through people in that race but more on that race and the new course in a future post.

Overall Thoughts

I came away from Sofia Marathon very happy with my performance. I was on zero rest and was using it as a testing ground for my fitness level. I finished with a time of 1:28:28 which is a PR by around 5 minutes. I was aiming to run a negative split but to be honest the third 5k was bit of a killer on my legs and I ended up running 43:55 the first lap and 44:33 the second lap. Outside of my performance I was bit disappointed with the race organizers. It seems they did the bare minimum effort to organise this race. In addition there were definitely aspects to the race that were not handled in a very professional manner. Will I be back? Probably its a local race and the most competitive of the road races in Bulgaria. However I definitely don’t recommend this race to foreigners, there are many other races to choose from in Bulgaria that would be worth the trip.

Slowly Switching Gears

The Sweaty Author

The Sweaty Author

Its that time of year, the leaves are falling and winter is coming.....wait thats not right. Its mid August in Bulgaria, its hot and I am suffering greatly. But anyway for me its the time to slowly switch my focus from from mountain running back to road running. However due to my poor planning skills I have managed pack my schedule full until December.  Here is a quick overview of what my plans are for the rest of the year:

Vitosha Run Profile

Vitosha Run: Sunday 26 August  
18 km 1734m D+
This will be my 3rd purely climbing even of the season and to be honest is still a question mark in the back of my mind if I really want to do this to myself again. However I have been unable to participate the last few years due to injury and other plans. The big draw of this race is that it leaves from the center of Sofia, about a 10 minute walk from my apartment and finishes at Cherni Vrah (Black Peak; 2290m) Vitosha's highest peak. After all the site is named Urban Trail Runner, and its harder to get more urban trail then this.

ASR Profile

Adventure Sky Run: Saturday 1 September
55km 3599m D+
For better or worse 6 days after Vitosha Run I am participating in the 3rd edition of ASR, this will be my second appearance and my first on the extended 55km route. I have been looking forward to this run since I completed the first edition back in 2016. 

Wizz Air Sofia Marathon: Sunday 14 October
21.1 km 70m D+
This will be my first appearance at Sofia Marathon and I am using it as a pure training run. Although it is a 2 lap race of a 10.550 km course, which I have a number of thoughts on which I will save for another day, I figured after three years living in Sofia, its about time to run this race.

A visual representation of "the wall"

Maratón Valencia Trinidad Alfonso Sunday 2 December
42.2km maybe 30m D+ (rated as very flat)
So this is really my goal race for 2018 as I would really really really really really like to qualify for Boston 2020. Luckily ill be qualifying for a new time limit 3:10 but I would still like to assure myself of qualification by running as close to 3:00 as possible. So far my best time was in my only other street marathon in Plovdiv 2017, which was officially 3:20.08.

So that ended up being a lot longer than I originally intended it to be. However the take away should be I will have 12 weeks to recover from Adventure Sky Run and train for Valencia Marathon, which should be interesting. I have a pretty decent base built at this point, never exactly where I would like it to be, but alas it will have to do. Right now my plan is to take a few days off post ASR then switch right in my marathon training mode. Has anyone else had experience with this kind of switch over? I am open to bright ideas!  

Rough few days

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The last week has been difficult. I haven’t been able to get out running due to the triple threat of sickness, work and some personal emergencies. On top of this I have been working through some lingering issues with my knee injury which has put me a bit on the back foot. It is always hard for me to stay positive at times like these, especially when I depend on running as an opportunity to clear my mind. These challenges have been compounded by the news that a member of my Bulgarian family has being re-diagnosed with cancer. Over the past eighteen months it has been an up and down ride which we first believed he had conquered almost a year ago. However after a recent seizure we received surprising news that the original diagnosis was flawed. His and his family's battle is a constant reminder to me what is the most important in life and that we should try to live everyday to the fullest, even the hard days. I am not a particularly spiritual person,  but I do believe life's meaning is in the simple pleasures. In my case that is being surrounded by family, friends, food and the occasional run in the mountains.  So when things get tough, remember live simply....