Greater Manchester Marathon 2016 – The Plan

It’s been a while since I posted last. Tom asked if the blog was officially retired when we were having a post-parkrun coffee the other day, and my reply was that I didn’t really have much to write about. Nothing really interesting anyway, as the following paragraphs will prove…

Catching Up

Training has been going OK, I’m injury free and I seem to be back on the improvement curve. I ran the Great Birmingham Run (Half Marathon) in 1:34:35 which is about 4 and a bit minutes slower than Reading in March, but I was happy with the time as summer (running wise) was less than stellar. Coming back from injury, illness and a mojo deficiency meant my times had suffered so to post that time was quite pleasing.

I followed this up with the Great South Run a week later. 1:09:32 was the finishing time, a minute quicker than last year, but the conditions were perfect compared to last years atrocious wind. I took heart from it though, it seemed to indicate I was in slightly better shape than the same time last year. And looking at my training logs since then, it does seem to be the case.

I’m still frustrated with my 5k PB. I feel I should be able to set a faster time, and this time next week I’ll be about to race and hope to finally break the sub-20 goal I set around this time last year. Slow progress maybe, but I feel fitter and more confident than this time last year, and I am running well despite carrying some extra bulk at the moment.

I always intended to run a spring marathon in 2016, and with London unceremoniously rejecting me again, I plumped for Manchester again as the timing works out quite well for me. I have a score to settle there. Despite finishing in a time I am immensely proud of (3:20:32) I missed out on my goal by 33 seconds. Up until 20 miles I was on for sub 3:15 and fell apart in the last 10k.

My mission this year, is to run sub 3:15 (And actually as close to 3:10 as I can) as a stepping stone to an Autumn marathon in Bournemouth (As Berlin also rejected me in their poxy ballot!) and try and get as close to 3:05 as I can.

You see, 3:05 is the “Good for Age” time for London. If I run a sub 3:05 I can apply for that and don’t need to go into the ballot! Unfortunately next Autumn is too late to get a qualifying time for London 2017, but it will be within the qualifying period for London 2018. And if I don’t make it next autumn, I have another chance in Spring 2017.

Yes its long term, and yes relies on a lot of factors, but its always good to have a goal. Step 1 is Manchester 2016.

So, time to get training for it. Unfortunately though, one of the best motivational tools around, Jantastic, is not running this year. I’m a bit gutted. It was great to participate in and made for good banter amongst our local team. It also helped me retain focus and consistency. Thankfully I still have SOME self discipline though! As long as I have a plan, I have a chance.

I’ve spent the last month or so building up my base mileage in my legs and I’m comfortably doing around 50m a week now, which I am confident will help me with this years plan of attack. Once again, I am using Pfitzinger and Douglas Up to 55m training plan. I have made some modifications to it in order to address some of the lessons I learned during last years campaign. Many of them are answers to the following question:

Why did I fall apart at the 20 mile mark? 

  • Bad pacing. During sections of the race I was exceeding the Marathon Pace I trained at as I had “Goal Creep” during the weeks before the race where I thought I could go faster than I targetted at the start. This time around I have a fixed 5 minute window I am going for and sticking at.
  • My longest long runs I built around races, usually half marathons, where I’d run 7 miles first, then run a half race (At long run pace). Some of them I had long (30 minute plus) breaks between them though, which I think meant my legs were not doing enough continued endurance. I am not going to be doing this again.
  • Not enough endurance. I want to do more 20 milers. Last year I did 4, and this year I want to do 6 (3 x 20m, 3 x 22m). One of the reasons for building my base mileage now is so I can get my long runs up to 20 miles sooner. When you see the schedule you’ll see how they fit with the cycles and I’ll be doign my first 20 miler before the new year.

What else would help me improve?

  • Weight loss. I’ve not been strict enough to lose weight. My intention is before the race to drop well below the 14st mark, which will mean I’m at least 7lbs lighter than I was for the 2015 race (I’m about 7lbs HEAVIER at the moment than I was for the race)
  • Better preparation. I had a once in a lifetime opportunity for an expenses paid trip to Dubai in the week before the race. I landed on the Saturday before the race after taking a night flight with no sleep after spending the week indulging in fine food and drinking beer. I won’t get the opportunity again and this time around I will make sure that week is stress free and restful.
  • Tempo runs weren’t fast enough. I tended to opt for “downhill” routes for my tempo sections which means I wasn’t training efficiently enough. I am going to run all my tempo runs on flat terrain to make sure my body adapts properly to the training as the plan expects.

What did I do right last time?

  • The tweaks to the plan were well researched and calculated. I have followed the same principles this time around.
  • I stuck to the plan. Simply put, the plan worked. So i figure if I stick to it with my adjustments and lessons learned, I should come close. I have calculated my training paces using the faithful McMillan Calculator and all my workouts are on my Garmin to tell me how fast and how far to run.
  • I wrote the blog regularly keeping my accountable. And this is why I’m back writing it again. Even if no one reads it, it helped me to be accountable for my actions. Writing about my experiences also helps put bad ones to bed and work identify what went well and why.

The Plan: 2016 Edition

Based upon P&D, here is the plan I’ve put together. This isn;t quite as is prescribed in the book, I will highlight the changes I have made so no-one misinterprets it.

I have thought very carefully about the changesd made to this, in line with the teachings of the book. If you just pull the training schedule from here or even the book without reading and understand the key principles then it won;t do you any good. Go buy it, read it, follow the plan, and bag yourself a PB.

Mesocycle 1: Endurance

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  • You will see I have a 5k race on Wednesday of Week 1. The original schedule calls for a rest day here, but I have been training for a 5k PB and this is the target race for it. I am happy to include it here as I have already built good endurance and I don’t feel missing this rest day would hurt as it is still a low mileage week compared to what I’ve been doing. I may need to adjust my training paces after this race.
  • The long runs jump up right from the start. The first one is 18 miles, because I’ve been consistently running 16 milers on Sundays for the last 5 weeks so its not that big a step.
  • There are extra parkruns on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. I’ve added them to the schedule but I’ll be running them as recovery runs and not running the extra mile or two the schedule says I should the day after (Saturday/normal parkrunday)

Mesocycle 2: Lactate Threshold + Endurance

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  • As per mesocycle 1, the long runs here are different to the main plan.
  • During the “cutback week” I have schedule a race. This will either be a 10 mile race or a 10k race. This is primarily to see if there is a training improvement and if I need to adjust my training paces. But also, because the Saturday tuneup races in the next mesocycle are all 5ks and think I would benefit from something a bit longer.

Mesocycle 3: Race Preparation

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  • Longer long runs
  • I have changed the way I am going to do the Interval sessions. last year I did the intervals in the middle of a longer run. This year, I am going to do them at the start of a longer run. This is because my legs will be fresher and will (hopefully) maximise the quality of the session.
  • Much like last year, my “tune up races” will be parkruns. There are no local races on Saturdays here. I should be able to set a 5k PB here if all is going well.

Mesocycle 4: Taper and Race

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  • The only difference here is the presence of the Cardiff Half Marathon. This is the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships and there is a mass participation race I’ve entered. Ideally, my warm up half would have been 2 weeks previous, but it is where it is. On the schedule, its supposed to be an 8-12k race on Saturday, and 16 miles on Sunday. I think I have compromised nicely, I just hope that my legs recover enough!