Category Archives: Manchester 2015

Reflections on my Manchester Training

Back in December I outlined my plan of attack for Manchester. After a good deal of research I went for the Pfitzinger and Douglas 18 week, up to 55 mile training plan from the book “Advanced Marathoning”.

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How did I find the structure?

I was very pleased with the structure of the plan. The 4 mesocycles leading up to the race were really well designed and I found they made logical sense and flowed into each other nicely.

On a week by week basis, the balance was excellent. Mixing basic principles to do with hard days and easy days, and the balance of mileage was really excellent. Reading the book to understand this I feel was essential. It explained the principles behind the training, the reasons why there are a certain amount of days between sessions of different types, why threshold running is important. it really helped me to trust the plan, and would highly recommend to anyone following a schedule, to read the book alongside it.

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Reading the book also helped me to understand how to restructure the plan in case of unforeseen circumstances, such as my travel arrangements, and not to worry if I had to move things around a bit. Which leads me on to my next section…

Did I stick to the plan?

I tried, by and large, to follow the plan as close to the prescribed schedule as possible, but there were some areas I couldn’t make fit.

I had to get a bit creative with Tune Up Races. Around the UK, Sunday is race day, but with P&D they want them on Saturdays, and usually prescribed 8-10km. The closest I could come to reconciling this in my training, was running parkrun on a saturday morning at a “Race Effort”. Obviously these are a bit shorter than prescribed, but I also ran the Reading Half Marathon, which in my head was a bit longer so made up for the other tune up races being short. Essentially, I ran the prescribed number of race pace mileage, just in a slightly different distribution. It’s hard to tell if this had any effect on my final 26.2 result, but I suspect not.

Credit to Aime and Neil Biss
Credit to Aime and Neil Biss

In general, my Saturday runs were probably the sessions I deviated most. This was in order to keep parkrunning (The plan is for Jodie and I to run our 50th together the week before our wedding) so i tried to fit parkruns in with them, either as part of the session or a total replacement. I DID still try and do them at the prescribed intensity though. Most of these were at General Aerobic pace with some strides though, so little “quality” and don’t think they affected the result too much either.

The other area I strayed from a bit, specifically in the early days were the long runs. I already had a high mileage tolerance, so I expedited the ramp up in mileage. This affected me quite a lot, I found the early phases of training very physically demanding, and I probably wouldn’t do the same thing again. This may have left me fresher for the remaining 3 phases of the plan which means I could have performed my sessions better and netted a better finishing time.

Speaking of long runs, there were quite a few of them that were in 2 parts, as I tried to use races as training runs at training paces. Specifically, half marathons. This often meant a break between the two sessions. My final 20 miler for example saw a 7 mile warm up, an hour and a half break, and then the Yeovil Half Marathon. I think this affected the quality of the long run, and again, could have had an impact on my final result. I still like using Half Marathons as part of training runs, as it means aid staions are provided, but in future I would do the half, jog through the funnel, direct to the car to deposit any goody bag/treats and just keep going, leaving as little “rest” as possible.

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What did I like about the plan?

I liked the structure. Following a regimented plan which i understood the theory behind gave me trust and confidence to follow it in the same way I would follow advice from a coach.
I like the marathon paced long runs, they really helped build confidence that I could run at my target race pace, and I feel my legs really benefited from these too.
I liked the progressive phases concentrating on specific areas, like ramping up mileage, then threshold, then speed followed by the taper. It meant you concentrated on one straining stimulus type at a time so I wasn’t too worried about overtraining injuries.
I liked that through all the training, I remained uninjured. It means the plan is well balanced, provided you stick within their guided pace zones.
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I liked being introduced to strides these were great bursts of speed which, though I wasn’t training for 5k made me feel like I wasn’t losing any short distance speed. I think ti also helped my technique as I felt my legs were stretching longer and hopefully will aid my efficiency long term.

What didn’t I like?

The structure was brilliant, but it meant missing out on a lot of social runs with the club and the training group I run with. This meant some of my runs were pretty lonely. Its hard finding someone doing the same plan, for the same race, at the same pace to run with. Next time, I’d treat the General Aerobic runs a bit more liberally. I’d try and switch some of those to run with other people swap it out for a club run now and then.
I wasn’t a big fan of the Lactate Threshold runs.I just don’t think I liked the structure of them very well. I would have preferred doing them as cruise intervals or something similar, rather than at one stage running 7 miles at threshold. It knackered me out for days and I think I could have gotten the same benefit from 3 x 15 minutes at LT pace with jog recoveries, provided I did the same volume at LT, then I’m sure I’d receive the same benefit.

Was it successful?

I’d have to say yes.
OK, so I missed my race day target of sub-3:20 by 33 seconds. But over the course of 26.2 miles that is only just over a second per mile. Its pretty darned close. And I shouldn;t forget, at the start of the training plan, my target was sub-3:25, which I actually did achieve.
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So it delivered me a 39 minute Marathon PB.
But I also ran Reading Half in 1:30:08 – a 6 minute PB, and I set a 5k PB too (though that sub-20 still eludes me!)
I didn’t get anywhere near my weight loss target for the race, but I now have another year and a half to bring that down. Not to mention, that should make me even faster!

Would I follow the same plan again?

100% yes. I’ll almost certainly use exactly the same schedule. I really enjoyed and would definitely recommend it – as long as you read the book with it and don’t just follow it blindly!
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Race Report: Greater Manchester Marathon

So race weekend had finally arrived. 18 weeks of training had been completed successfully and all that left was the 26.2 painful miles that lay ahead of me and the 9000 other competitors, all of whom had followed similar journeys.

Here is my Race Report – its a bit of a beast, so apologies for the mammoth essay but I didn’t want to do multiple posts!

The Night Before

I’d arrived in Manchester on Saturday, having flown in from Dubai at 7.30am (Not an ideal preparation I must admit) and checked myself into the Travelodge, a short walk from the start. I’d arranged an early check in, and after a short jog around the beautiful Salford Quays (the stunning sunny weather helped) went to the hotel lobby to hydrate and eat whilst I waited for Simon to join me. My hydration strategy pre race mainly consisted of drinking 15 free cups of tea in that lobby!

The hotel already had a bit of a marathon buzz about it, and one of the staff estimated 75% of the residents were here for the race.

Once Simon arrived we went to get some food. My night before meal was a pasta arrabiata and dough balls from Pizza Express, which was very nice. That and of course a bottle of Peroni! Can’t have a race without a beer the night before…

On the way back to the hotel we went via the race village. It was empty and locked up, but was good to take some of it in before all the hustle and bustle that lay ahead in the morning.WP_20150418_004 There was an ENORMOUS poster near the start that we’d end up running past in the race, and it was great to see the local area had gotten behind the event. We of course took the opportunity to strike a pose!

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Then we headed back to the hotel for some more carb loading…

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… and an early night. I was in bed by 8.30, my night flight from Dubai had left me good and tired. It was actually a blessing in disguise, as it meant I fell fast asleep and snoozed right through to morning. I was still able to do perhaps the 2 most important things in my pre-race ritual. Number one, the obligatory kit prep photo…

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And number 2… a number 2! This was quite a relief, what with the majority of my long runs being plagued by runners tum.

Race Morning

I managed to wake up naturally without the alarm, which to me indicated that  I had slept enough, and most importantly, I hadn’t OVERslept! I boiled the kettle and had my pre race breakfast. 2 x Oat So Simple porridge pots and a glass of Orange Juice. All good, reliable carbs I knew my stomach could handle. Last thing I wanted to do was try anything new.

We left for the start at about 7.45 am and joined the streams of runners heading toward Old Trafford.

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Speaking of Old Trafford, despite being an Arsenal fan and a Liverpool fan, we were both hugely impressed with the venue. Its a magnificent stadium and a great place to host a race.

The village was seemingly well organised, not that we did much here. All we did pre-race was make use of the baggage drops, which were seamlessly handled by a troop of army cadets. And with that, we were ready!

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After a quick number 1, we headed to the start pens. Not quite as strictly regimented as other races I’ve been to, largely due to there not being a great need for it. There were “only” 9000 or so runners. We had fast access to the pen, despite only getting there 10 minutes before the start! We shook hands, wished each other luck, then we waited patiently for the gun.

The Race

The race was started by British marathon legend, Ron Hill – not that I got to see him (until after the race) and the gun caught me a bit by surprise as everyone cautiously surged (If that’s even possible…) toward the start line. Very quickly – less than a minute later – I pressed the start button on my Garmin as I crossed the mat and registered my start of the race with the live tracking service…

… which didn’t actually work for me. It didn’t register any of my splits, or even give me a finishing result. Turns out there was a glitch in the system. As I was running with a replacement number, I don’t think it was hooked into the system probably. I knew I’d get a result in the end, but all my family and friends were frantically trying to track me, and were worried that I hadn’t even started! Less than ideal, but not much I could do about it!

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My strategy was to run consistent 7:30 miling, expecting to fade over the last few miles. 7:30s would have been about 3:17 and my target was 3:20, so I figured that was plenty of slack. not to mention, this was the marathon pace I was training with. I very quickly settled into my pace and cadence of around 176, and found it to be quite comfortable.

The first section was a short out and back away from Old Trafford. I was a bit shocked to see the 1 mile marker when my Garmin had only registered 0.7m! I know GPS isn’t accurate, but surely this was a bit extreme? As we turned and came back, it was obvious that the mile marker was around the wrong way as my watch beeped almost exactly as I passed it again.

I found myself a bit crowded, and I realised it was because I was quite near the 3:15 pacer. This was too fast for me, so I held back a bit to give a bit of a cushion and found some clearer space. We soon reached the start again and took a right, passed the huge poster we’d seen earlier and headed out for another out and back, this time taking us right past the Coronation Street studios! There was another misplaced mile marker here (Maybe mile 4?) that was the wrong way round, and as I was contemplating this, a guy not far in front of me ran into a cone and hit the deck, hard. He was knocked out cold. Some people attended to him and called for a marshal. I felt bad as I thought maybe I should have helped, but he received plenty of attention and in reality I probably wouldn’t have been of much benefit. I just remember thinking to myself “Steer clear of any cones you see”!

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After about 4-5 miles we came back around Old Trafford before heading the long road out to Altrincham along a main road. In total we passed Old Trafford 4 times, and each time the crowd support was magnificent! This section I just remember focussing on my pace, clocking through the miles and staying focussed. There was a few inclines as we crossed bridges, but it was largely flat as described. There were messages of support scrawled on the floor, and there was some amazing support on the way out, much of it for Ealing Eagles!

The next few miles were progressing nicely, with pockets of great support, and then we reached Altrincham which was AMAZING! A great woman shouted “Welcome to Altrincham, we have great entertainment for you!” and the crowds were great! We looped around the town center with tremendous applause and cheering before veering down a slope and through the halfway mark. I was bang on track at this point, and I still had the 3.15 pacer in my sights, which i couldn’t tell if it was a good or a bad thing. As we reached 14 miles I found myself accidentally right in the 3.15 pace group and saw Zoe from Maiden Newton Runners who i said hello too. Then I realised it was definitely a bad thing, and my pace was a bit too quick, so I eased off. We ran back along the way we came toward Sale before turning left toward Carrington.

manmarStill feeling reasonably strong, I maintained my target pace. it started getting a little quieter support wise here, especially as we progressed through miles 18-20. Having taken my gel on at mile 20, things started to get a bit tougher. Nothing to do with the gels, which worked well, but my legs just started tiring. Mile markers seemed to be a bit all over the place and I couldn’t really work out what was more inaccurate, my Garmin or the mile markers. probably a bit of both. As we turned right through Urmston it was getting tougher and tougher. I passed a guy with a sign”If your Garmin says 26.1, will you do another lap?” and I actually said to him “No!” because mine was measuring short!

The drag back towards Old Trafford was hard and at around mile 22 I had to have a walk break. The wheels had fallen off. From 22 – 26 my mile splits got worse and worse as more breaks were needed. This is graphically demonstrated by Strava below.

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I know with the pace I went out at, I had some slack to make my sub 3:20 goal, but I didn’t anticipate just how battered my legs would be. It wasn’t a total obliteration, but it was bad enough to need to walk for 10 meter sections at regular intervals. I was disappointed. My brain had gone to mush. Still the distances on my Garmin and the mile markers weren’t reconciling and I thought the opportunity to make target had gone. It turns out my Garmin was quite a long way short (0.2 miles) and I eventually saw the turn for the finish, and somehow I managed to pick up some speed. Conscious I’d still be able to finish in 3:20.xx, I turned the corner and I had a minute to cross the line. I mustered all I could. The look on my face tells the story.

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If I had realised I had less distance to run, I might have been able to kick on earlier and still make goal.

If I had adjusted my pace by 5s per mile, I may have had enough energy to finish strong.

If I hadn’t had a late flight in Dubai…

If I had lost a bit more weight…

If, then, but… None of it really mattered. As I crossed the line, I started crying. I couldn’t really work out why. I was grateful to be finished. I was disappointed to have blown a 3 minute cushion on my goal time, but I was delighted to be a 3:20 marathoner. Not to mention, it was a 40 minute PB, whats not to be pleased about?!

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And looking pragmatically back in the cold light of day, that was the most important thing of all.

I am a 3:20 marathoner. And I am VERY proud of it.

I immediately went to get my back so I could call Jodie. I had a text from her that she wanted me to call her urgently… I was worried.

Turns out that they were even more worried because of the chip issue. Jodie had been fielding messages from all over the place, people not able to see my progress. It was lovely to know that people were so interested, and I’m sorry they couldn’t track me. The organizers eventually sorted out my final result.

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I have learned some lessons for the next marathon(Yep, no “Never again” here this time) and will utilise the ones I have learned at Brighton next year. I certainly won’t fade like that again, and I won’t go out as aggressively either. I’ll also have another stone in weight off and a years worth of further training – so the only way is up.

Post Race

After getting off the phone with Jodie, and being very emotional, I saw Simon. he had had a blinding race, coming in 7 minutes ahead of schedule in 3:23! We congratulated each other and he built on Jodie’s work of trying to lift the little disappointment I had. We got the obligatory selfie with our medals, which were mighty impressive!

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The goody bag was pretty decent too! Chocolate oat milk shake (Which I thought was going to be minging but was actually very nice), Dairy Milk chocolate, sports drink, water, cereal bar, jointace, pain relief gel and an absolutely lovely finishers tee shirt. A good haul really!

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My legs were stiff as boards, and even now, 2 days later, my quads are suffering with a major case of DOMS. But we took in some of the surroundings, including this great photo opportunity board…

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… Watching the presentation of prizes, awarded by the legend that is Ron Hill…

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… and then pretending we’d made it to the podium.

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We then retired to the hotel for some beers.

It was nice to remain in the hotel afterwards too. Despite leaving to get some food, there were still many other finishers also staying for the extra night to recover, and it was a lovely experience chatting to runners of all speeds and abilities as to how their races went. it puts my mild disappointment into a lot of perspective.

Summary

Its easy to summarise the Greater Manchester Marathon. Brilliant, if a little flawed. If the mile markers were right and i could have trusted them I may have been able to make target. it was also disappointing for my results to have been bodged and not have my family track me.

But on the whole, the race village was excellent, the crowd were superb, the course was flat, the medal was stunning and the goody bag was full of actual goodies. I would recommend this race to anyone as an alternative to London and once I’ve finished my bucket list of marathons, its certainly on my “to return to” list.

Manchester Marathon Training: Week 18 of 18 – Race Day Tomorrow!

This week has been probably one of the more unusual weeks of my life, which just happens to have coincided with the last taper week before the race.

I was asked to attend a conference for work, in Dubai. I know I’d been training for Manchester for 18 weeks, and I really was torn about whether I should accept it or not,as I have put my heart and soul into this race. But how many times do you get to go to Dubai on expenses?

Apologies for the blurriness, taken whilst on the run!
Apologies for the blurriness, taken whilst on the run!

I saw some amazing things, stayed 5 star and had dinner at the worlds tallest building. An unforgettable trip of a lifetime! It made training a bit trickier, squeezing in runs when I could, when travel allowed it, and when it wasn’t too hot! You can see this be quite apparent when looking at my calendar.

week18Tuesday had to be cancelled as I didn’t get to the Hotel til 11pm. I vowed to get up early though and go for a run – the problem was, I didn’t know where to go yet so ended up on the dreadmill for my Marathon paced session, which probably wasn;t the best quality or most accurate in the world. Despite having the footpod on, the treadmill and my Garmin showed totally different distances!

The temperature in the gym, even at 6am was INTENSE. I was still tired from the night before and it made for a tough run. I thought as I missed the Tuesday run, I’d do a short recovery 5k (ish – dpeneding on if you believe the footpod or the treadmill!) at an easy jog to recover the legs through. This worked a treat!

After this though, I had arranged with my boss to go on the running route he’d found at the stunning Dubai marina. We did a five mile out and back and an easy jog. it was 6pm but still very warm, and humid. But wow – how the other half live!

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The Marina, aside from being filled with luxury yachts, its a brand spanking new flat walkway lined with restaurants and shops. popular with tourists, it made the run a bit of an obstacle course, but an amazing experience.

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Friday was a travel day, but unfortunately the travel was overnight. It was a red-eye flight taking off at midnight UK time (3am Dubai time). I’ve had a few hours sleep on the plane but it was quite broken. Less than ideal, but I’m hoping it means I’ll be able to get a god early night tonight.

Anyway, back to the running, the original plan was to get to Wythenshawe parkrun, which is closeby to Manchester airport. But the plane was delayed which meant I was an hour late and couldn’t make it. I DID however go out for a nice 4 mile recovery jog around the Salford Quays. I saw the Lowry, MediaCity, the Coronation Street Studios and Old Trafford. What a week of tourism!

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Ran past the setup of the Race Village too, though it looks like they still have plenty to do by morning! I saw lots of runners in general, some running others in club hoodies all obviously in town waiting for the race. I think its going to be a great event.

So I’m sat here in the Travelodge Salford Quays drinking free tea listening to some great tunes. Its a good chill out which is what I need. The last 18 weeks have been a whirlwind, and whilst I wish this week was a LITTLE less intense, I am feeling strong and confident. Some more stretching through the day and I’ll be happy.

Challenge number 1 – make the start line is now complete. I’m injury free! Now just to get around it in a respectable time.

Good luck to everyone running Manchester tomorrow. See you on the flipside!

P.S. If you want to track me throughout the race, you can do it on this link. I’m number 11680!

Manchester Marathon Training: Week 17 of 18

“Well if the taper is meant to help your legs recover, so far, so NOT good.”

That was what I said last week. This week though, finally, with 2 miles left of my last Sunday run today, this turned around to finally feel like I am approaching match fitness. 17 weeks are in the bank, and its race week next week, with nothing but a few short sharp runs standing between me and my second piece of marathon bling.

Despite being a taper week, it wasn’t without my own brand of personal anguish I like to bring on myself though. But here’s what P&D prescribed…

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And this is what I actually ran. This screen and activity link below are from Strava today, as Garmin Connect was having yet another off day…

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All exactly according to plan (Friday’s failure the exception, though the intent was there…), even to the detriment of my parkrun “road to 50!”. It’s been a week of “lasts” too. Many events have led me to say “Last on of those before Manchester now”. With the exception of Saturday the weather this week has been GLORIOUS, perfect running conditions.

Monday was a bank holiday and I had no walk following last weeks “tougher than it should have been” 16 miler. But Tuesday allowed me to recovery with a 7 miler including a set of strides. Happy with the strides, some of them I even took uphill thanks to some poor route planning. It was my last run in Coleshill before Manchester and I finished feeling reasonaby fresh.

Wednesday, I was back in Basingstoke for the last tough session. 8 miles including 3 x 1mi Intervals. The warm up went fine and the first 2 intervals were good too, but the third – just like when I am racing over 5k – saw me fade. I know more speedwork will help with this, and my main focus post Manchester is 5k so hopefully I can correct that.

Thursday was a rest day in favour of a recovery run with strides on Friday. And thats when the wheels fell off! Poor planning meant I had a crap breakfast (4 treat sized flakes and a creme egg) following a poor nights sleep, and had to run at lunchtime which I’m not used to either. I also had to run in my glasses, which made me feel a bit strange from the start. But to cut a long story short, the run was a struggle and after 2 miles my body just had nothing left. I cut my losses and walked back.

Its easy to look back with hindsight and attribute the problems appropriately, but at the time all that was going through my head was “I can barely run 2 miles at a recovery pace, how am I going to run 26.2??”. It’s just a hint of taper madness though. You don’t become unfit or a bad runner overnight, its just one of those things. And its better happening now than race day!

On Saturday, as I am trying to stick to the plan, I did not run at parkrun, rather I did some voluncheer tourism at Basingstoke. And what a day I picked for it! After some glorious weather this week, some how I ended up at the far corner of the curse marshalling in the miserable wind and rain, and it was freezing! Good to give back though, and was a very different experience to volunteering “back home”. It was lovely for many of the runners to say “thank you”. It’s something I do when I parkrun (And even in races sometimes, when I have the breath) and implore all runners to do the same. Without volunteers we have no parkruns or races!

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Sunday saw my final long run. In the context of this training programme, 12 miles doesn’t seem that long! The first 8 miles were a real struggle. I continued to struggle with GI issues and had to stop twice. My biggest fear for next week is that I end up needing to stop to use the loo. I need to strategize to prevent that happening. Though the first 8 were a bit of a struggle, something then just clicked! The last 4 were an absolute pleasure and it had FINALLY felt like the taper had kicked in.

So there are now just 6 days to go, and 4 runs left until the Marathon. I’m off to Dubai for work on Tuesday, which means 3 of those runs will be in the warm climbs of the UAE on a dead flat beach path designed for running on. I can’t work out if this will be good preparation or not!

 

 

Manchester Marathon Training: Week 16 of 18

Well if the taper is meant to help your legs recover, so far, so NOT good. The past week has been tough, and today has seen the first hint of “taper madness” as my tired legs are telling me “You are so tired and you’re only doing 8 miles and slower than marathon pace you are never going to do the marathon”. I keep telling the taper gremlins to pipe down, and its working so far – but there is still 2 weeks to go! Lets see how the week went against the plan

pd16And it all went according to plan, except for my Saturday “tune up race” only being 5k at parkrun.

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Monday saw no evening walk for me, but I did manage 3 miles at lunchtime to help stretch the legs. But the quality of Sunday’s run was a little less intense than the week before so the legs didn’t feel so bad.

On Tuesday I had 8 miles with 5 sets of 600m Intervals. Going into the run I really wasn’t expecting much from the reps, but looking back on them I can see they were pretty solid – all around the 6m/m mark. Though the run home was less spectacular!

On Wednesday, I had a 6 mile recovery paced run, which was harder than it should have been but not unexpected given Tuesday’s fast intervals.

Thursday, unusually for me, was a rest day. But this worked quite well as I was travelling back home from Birmingham for the long Easter weekend, and this meant on Friday I went for a short 4m recovery run with some strides. This provided some good strides and the legs felt much better than Tuesday and Wednesday. It was nice to run with Jodie for the first time in a while too!

On Saturday I was scheduled for a tune up race which, as already mentioned, was a parkrun. This week we visited Reading, as detailed in this post. It was at full effort, though not the PB or sub-20 I had hoped for, mainly due to the course conditions I still hope to break that 20 minute mark soon – though now it won’t be til after Manchester.

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Sunday saw my first tapered long run, at a “paltry” 16 miles. My legs did NOT enjoy it. It was not helped by having to stop a couple of times due to toilet requirements. Nor did it help that this meant I diverted from route an got a bit lost. Finally, I fell over after about 5 miles and have a massive bruise on my hip! So all in all, not the biggest confidence boost!

2 weeks out, my legs are still flagging but I am going to do what I have done all along – trust in the plan. I keep looking at the sessions I have left and can’t help but feel I’m doing too much. But people much smarter than me wrote it, and its been used successfully by people around the world – so I’m going to keep trusting it, right til the end. Though I am going to take my remaining easy runs much easier.

With 2 weeks to go, perhaps the most important reflection to consider is that I am injury free! My “dodgy” knee feels much stronger and doesn’t twinge. All in all I think my legs are reasonably well conditioned, though I will reassess that at the end of this week as my mileage is around half of what I have been doing.

Time to put my head down and push through, ignore any hint of taper madness and believe in myself. I know I can do it, I just need to keep reminding myself!

Manchester Marathon Training: Week 15 of 18

I entered this week of training knowing two things. One, I was bloody shattered following the Reading Half. And Two, this was the final big week of training before the taper. And now it has finished, I have to say, its a relief.

Here is what P&D had me down for…

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…VS what I actually did. It was actually pretty close, except I failed my Interval session, I was still recovering from the race, my Saturday run was a bit quick, I had a bonus run for a Jantastic badge, and my 20 miler was split across 2 to take into account that I did the Yeovil Half Marathon.

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Waking up on Monday was bloody agony. I woke up still absolutely creamed from the day before, and my legs really didn’t want to work. I managed a 5 mile walk to stretch them a bit which may have helped in advanced of Tuesday’s 7 mile recovery run with strides, but I wasn’t convinced. Though the strides started strong, they weren’t exactly consistent and faded near the end of the set.

On Wednesday I was down for a 10 miler with 4 x 1200m Intervals. I knew from the beginning it wasn’t going to be a success as I still felt tired. But I gave it a go. The first rep was OK, but the 2nd rep I just had nothing left, so did an extended jog home. I’m not too concerned about it, I was asking a bit much to expect any sort of speed so soon after the race!

Thursday was a rest day, which was unusual for me as usually I’ve had to switch my Friday runs for Thursday as I was travelling. So when Friday came along, after a long stressful day at work, finishing late, the LAST thing I wanted to do was drag myself out for an 11 mile medium-long run. But I did, and it went well, I even managed a decent progression and a marathon paced last mile.

Saturday was parkrunday and I ran at “home” for the first time for ages! I was meant to run it at recovery pace but ended up a bit quicker than that. It was great catching up with everyone and chatting with people as I progressed through the field. Though everyone made fun of my (definitely not) amazing cakes!

16953002392_f016c6e301In the afternoon I needed to go to the shop, and I had this niggle that I still had one potential Jantastic badge to get. The badge award was for any run which had an average page of 6:30m/m or less. Unfortunately, on my only “legitimate” attempt, a rounding issue done me out of it! So I went for a brisk half mile effort to try and win the badge. Cheeky maybe, but hey – I’ll take it! And it’s only for a badge – I wouldn’t have classed it if I needed it to complete the challenge proper.

Sunday was the Yeovil Half Marathon which I was running as part of a 20 miler. So I got up ridiculously early and did a 7 miler to “warm up” (Though it was miserbale, cold and wet). Then prepped for the half with the Running for Time group and met Ryan who I was trying to pace round in 1:57.

Credit to Olly Ayles
Credit to Olly Ayles

Unfortunately due to injury related fatigue, we didn’t hit the pace target, but we did have a brilliant time, it was well supported and I chatted with so many friends. Despite the weather I had a really good time!

This week therefore, along with completing the “Race Preparation” mesocycle marked the end of Jantastic, with which I scored 100%! I’ll post tomorrow detailing my experiences, but I have to say I love the challenge and love what it did for my running.

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Now the hard work and high mileage is over, its time to cut back in volume and maintain intensity as I navigate the pitfalls of taper madness and let my legs recover. Its brilliant getting through the bulk of the programme unscathed and I’m now itching to get to the start line!

Manchester Marathon Training: Week 14 of 18

14 weeks into the 18 week journey, and I have finally reaped the rewards in the form of a spanking new half-marathon PB. This week in the plan was always intended to be a big week, but I wasn’t sure how it would pan out. After last weeks marathon paced effort, I was going into it, a relative cutback week, with Reading Half Marathon waiting for me at the other end. As such, I made a decision to alter the plan a bit in order to have a mini taper for the race. It would transpire that this would be a good move.

For what it’s worth, P&D would have had me doing this.

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As I’ve said before, training races of 8-15k around here on a Saturday are a rarity, but last year (And following popular opinion online) a practice half was a great confidence booster and allowed me to assess the shape I was in, wearing race gear, in order to set a sensible goal for the marathon and build confidence. So I elected to slot Reading into my plan in place of my long run, have a recovery parkrun on Saturday, and swap out the 11m MLR in favour of a shorter, recovery run with some Strides to keep me sharp. And this is what it looked like. All according to (My modified) plan!

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Monday I managed to have a nice walk as usual. My legs were understandably a bit stiff but it managed to loosen them off, and I think the stretch and bath helped afterwards too.

Tuesday saw another short Interval session, 5 x 600 meter efforts as part of an 8 miler. I didn’t think I’d do much with them to be honest, but surprised myself with a 5.57m/m average on the intervals! Though it was only 3km’s worth, would be interesting to see how I’d fare doing a full set of 8. Still it was an encouraging start to a race week.

Wednesday saw a 5 miler with some strides, and Thursday saw a 4 miler with some strides. Neither run had much to report, though Thursdays strides were more consistent and faster than Wednesdays, getting close to 5m/m.

Friday had a good solid rest day, and Saturday we wanted to get a parkrun in. We had to keep it local (Well, my away from home local) as we were busy that day so took the opportunity to go back to Basingstoke again. My tenth visit there!

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I treated it as a bit of a fartlek, which was quite lucky really as I ended up having to chase down a parent who had irresponsibly left his 8 year old son eating his dust, and the 8 year old fell over and got quite upset, so I sent him back to his child. Jodie, supposedly taking it easy, managed to crack in a PB! I managed to have a chat with Steve, Event Director and he seemed like a thoroughly nice chap!

And then it came to Sunday. I have extensively covered the Reading Half Marathon in this post, so I have little to add other than to Summarize that it was a brilliantly organised event which I went round in 90:08, smashing my 92 minute Jantastic target, but agonizingly close to sub-90! But I gave it everything and didn’t have anything left, so I really can’t complain at a 5+ minute PB!

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Speaking of Jantastic, as I managed to beat my “Timed Goal” this week, provided I run 5 times in the next 7 days, I’ll complete the challenge with 100%, which will be splendid! The only badges I feel I’ll miss out on that were in my reach (Sort of), are the Sub Zero badge – though the temperatures never actually dropped below zero – and the Speed Demon Badge – as I am still to nail my sub-20 5k (Though I am scheduled to have a crack at it the week after Jantastic, dammit!). Still it is clear that Jantastic has been massively beneficial when working hand in hand with my training plan.

It has delivered me a 90 minute half marathon, which as delighted as I am, puts me in a difficult position going into Manchester, in a reallygood way. It means I should be able to comfortably go for sub 3.20, which, if I’d have been offered at Christmas, I’d have taken in a heartbeat. But there is the outside possibility of a 3.15. The problem is, if I go out with that in mind I may just blow to smithereens after 20 miles.

Decisions decisions!

Either way, I’m going into week 15, the last week of the “Race Prep” mesocycle and the last week of “proper” training before tapering in high spirits, high in confidence, giving myself a high-5!

Manchester, bring it on!

Manchester Marathon Training: Week 13 of 18

I’m writing this safe in the knowledge that this time in 5 weeks it’ll all be over. Its quite a comforting feeling, as I have been thinking this week just how nice it will be to get back to shorter distances in time for summer, and hopefully some faster runs.

This week was, arguably, my toughest week. There was a a tough Interval session, a midweek MLR and the toughest (And in my view, most important) marathon paced session long run. It certainly felt like I have been peaking in my training.

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P&D had this, as you can see from the below, I pretty much achieved this. The only notable exception being I needed to switch my Friday run to Thursday as I would be away on Friday evening.

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Although I rested on Monday, I did have a nice 5 mile walk after work. I think this loosened up my legs following Sunday’s 22.

Tuesday saw a straightforward 8 mile general aerobic effort. I expected this to be tough, but I actually breezed through it. I think my GA pace zone has naturally increased, as even at the end of the run I felt very strong.

Wednesday was a bit of a beast. 3 mile warm up followed by a set of 5k Intervals at faster than 5k pace, and a 3 mile cool down. The warm up was good, solid and I think my legs appreciated it. The reps were good too, at a much faster pace than I’ve managed a similar workout before. The 3 mile warm down however was TOUGH. Very heavy legged, unsurprisingly given the beasting from the Intervals. Usually when I do an interval session I have a VERY short, light warmup jog. Sandwiching them in as part of a 9 mile run really changed the dynamic of the session, and hopefully was good for endurance as well as speed.

Thursday was supposed to be a rest day. But as I was travelling to Newport and attending a parkrun conference in the evening, I rescheduled this 12 mile medium long run. I knew this would make it tough, and I was not wrong. Legs just felt so tired, but not “overtired”. My body still felt willing, so it was quite literally a case of needing a rest day. Once I got into it, it became a little easier, but certainly wasn’t as comfortable as last weeks identical session. There was also a load of climbing on this route too. Due to doing the intervals the day before, rather than progressing through the pace zone, again I just ran on feel and found my comfort zone which was about right. Glad to finish it, but even more glad to have a rest on Friday!

Friday was good news weigh day, as I lost another 2 lbs. I’m now a mere 1lb away from that elusive 8th stone and 15lbs away from my overall goal.

14stoneexactlyUnfortunately I’m definitely going to miss my weight loss target in time for Manchester. I have though, still got time to make it to 13st5lbs, which would mean I was exactly 2 stone lighter for Manchester than I was in Paris. Which would still be an excellent result. But to be fair, any weight I can lose in the meantime would still be a bonus. I still have plenty of time to shift the remainder before my wedding in July!

On Friday night I went to a parkrun Event Directors conference and had a blast as you can find out here. Running wise, I was scheduled for 5 recovery miles, but I got the red mist of competition and ended up just doing a straight parkrun at a decent effort.

I was fully anticipating Sunday to be the toughest run so far, and it dd not disappoint. 18 miles, with the last 14 at Marathon Pace. Thankfully I wasn’t hungover, but I was suffering from a lack of motivation. Jodie managed to pep me up a bit though. “Whats the worst that could happen? You don’t run it as fast?” and when put in that context, it’s not so bad. As it goes, I needn’t have worried. Despite me mis-planning my route so my first MP mile was up Hendford Hill, I managed to keep all of my splits just about right. I tell you though, if the purpose of these marathon paced runs is to simulate the end of the marathon, they work. The last 2 miles really hurt! And I’m walking like John  Wayne today! But still, to have nailed this key session I’m feeling very chuffed and confident heading toward the race.

Still maintaining 100% for Jantastic, though that could all change next week as my Timed Run (Reading Half Marathon) takes center stage.

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To summarise week 13, I can only deem it a success. 5 weeks to go, and I’m feeling confident. If I can hit my Reading Half target I’ll be in prime position to take down my Marathon “A” goal of sub-3h20.

 

Manchester Marathon Training: Week 12 of 18

After a bit of a downer in week 11, things picked up again in week 12. I think my decision to abandon one of my sessions mid run was actually a contributing factor, as it meant rather than further punishing myself it gave me a bit of respite, and I hadn’t overcooked things.

It’s strange thinking that now there are just 6 weeks to go, and only 3 of those with meaningful training before tapering. It seems to have crept up on me a bit! Here’s what P&D prescribed for me this week.
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I knew I’d have to stray from the plan here early on. And in fact, what i designed to do this week changed right up until a few days before the week started. In this phase every 2 weeks I should be doing a “tune up race” of 8-15k on Saturday. The problem is, races around these parts are on Sundays! I certainly wasn’t about to race Sunday instead of doing a long run, so I settled on doing a parkrun at race effort. It’s obviously only 5k, but I elected to up the mileage into my long run to make it an equally productive week.week12

Tuesday was as per plans, and consisted of an 8 miler with some Intervals thrown in. 5 sets of 600m to be precise at faster than 5k pace. I felt quite tired when I started but the 3 mile warm up was at a decent steady pace which loosened me up, and I maaged a good set of intervals at an average of a little over 6 minute miling, which I was pleased with. The jog back was a little slower as I had a visit from the gingerbread man, which seemed to be a common occurance this week…

On Wednesday I did a 12 mile MLR, which after recent outings I decided to keep at a sensible slowish pace. My legs actually felt really good which meant I had to be extra careful not to push it too hard. I averaged about 8.30s, which is actually a little faster than I needed to be, but it was a consistent pace rather than a progressive pace, which meant at the end I still felt quite fresh.

On Thursday I went on a 5 mile recovery run with Jodie, and did a set of strides towards the end. I really enjoyed the strides too – My stride length was very long and I actually felt quite graceful when running them. My cadence was lower than usual though and felt a bit more “Stridey” rather than just doing some sprints. What was interesting was, when I was running at recovery pace my muscles hurt more than in my strides – I must be using different muscles, or in different ways. Perhaps it makes me more efficient? An interesting finding to explore further. This run was meant to be on Friday, but had to shift it due to travel arrangements.

Friday saw me weigh in – and I am still the same. I’ve not been really actively dieting or monitoring, but had felt a little “heavy” recently, so it was good to know I’m still on track. Need to revise my pre-marathon wight ambitions though.

Saturday was scheduled for an 8-15k practice race, but as already discussed I decided a parkrun at race effort would be the only way to test my body on Saturday. It saw us visit Alice Holt parkrun, one of the best I’ve been to. I’ve documented it more in this blog post. It was definitely a race effort, and an encouraging time to boot. Worth much more on the flat, and hoping to break that sub-20 on a flat course pre-Manchester. It was a good speedwork session.

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According to P&D, Sunday should have been 17 miles. With a shorter tune up race than prescribed, and because I wanted to do 5 x 20+ milers this year, and because I wanted to do a 22 as I felt it boosted my confidence last year, that’s what I opted for instead. The night before the run though, I went to a family party and had a few more drinks than I should have. So waking up, thick headed, I wasn’t keen on the run. But I got out and did it and felt fine after a mile or two. P&D say after a tune up race, to take the long runs easy, which is what I did again, rather than progressing through the gears. I rarely looked at my watch and ran mostly on feel. Unfortunately, thanks to the booze the night before, I had some excruciating stomach cramps which meant I needed to stop to use the loo 3 times, which broke things up a bit. This actually made the run harder, as the stop-start nature meant I didn’t get too much of a rhythm. Looking back though I was happy to complete thr un. The last 5 miles were tough, but on a 22 miler hey are always going to be. Writing this today my legs feel better than they did last year, so all being well I am on track.

In my Jantastic update, I’m still on 100% after 9 weeks, and I now have a brilliant 30 badges (though that’ll get updated tomorrow). I’ve decided that my timed workout will be the Reading Half, and my target is 1:32:30, which would be a 4 minute PB, and put me on track for a 3:15 marathon, according to McMillan. Not sure I have the bottle to go for the 3:15 yet but will reassess after Reading.

3 weeks of the mesocycle to go before I start tapering and things are feeling strong, and I’m building in confidence. My last big test is this weeks sunday run, 18 miles with 14 at marathon pace. I’m nervous about it, but convinced I can nail it. I’m just not sure at what “marathon pace” I’ll use!

 

 

Manchester Marathon Training: Week 11 of 18

Week 11! Well over the hump of the programme and this was the last week of the “Endurance + Lactate Threshold” mesocycle of the programme. it also happened to be the toughest, for a few reasons. Stresses at work gave me some sleepless nights, which meant I was tired, not recovering properly and didn’t have enough energy to complete some of my sessions.

Add to that the fact that I overate to try and compensate and get some energy on board, I’m not entirely happy with how it went. Not to mention that I totally overdid the intensity at the weekend compared with what I was meant to do, it totally serves me right.

Lets have a look with what I was scheduled for and what I actually did.

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My plan matched the P&D schedule, but in practise it just didn’t work out that way.

Tuesday started with an 11 miler with 7 at threshold, but it was a misery. The 7 miles at threshold were, for all intents and purposes, in the zone, but I stopped for a breather about 7 times. My body just had nothing left.

I followed this up on Wednesday with what was meant to be 7 with some strides, but after 3 miles I just had the feeling that I “Couldn’t be bothered” and gave up. It’s the first time that’s happened for a very long time, but it was such a struggle, I literally had had enough and walked back to the hotel. Being away for work I always seem to struggle, not sure if its because the routes are less familiar. I went home and had a good filling carvery and an early night, which definitely helped.

Thursday was meant to be a rest day, but as I was travelling on Friday I had to switch days around. I was naturally nervous about the 12 miles I was meant to do, but managed it. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but It wasn’t as bad as I thought, and I managed it without a struggle which was a bit of a relief. It was also the first evening I’ve gone out for a run in the sunlight – for the first 20 minutes! Spring is springing and its quite nice going out with some daylight.

Friday was a rest, but Saturday saw us head out on parkrun tour. This time to Frimley Green. I’ll write a separate post about this of course, but the intention was to do a mile warm up and down either side of a relaxed run. Due to both the fact that I made a boo boo on the motorway, causing us to arrive just in time for the briefing (But not for a mile warm up) and the weather being lousy, decided just to do the parkrun. I did it more as a fartlek, with some parts being faster than others and the finish being at a decent pace. My legs felt much better and running with some pace gave me a bit of confidence back.

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Sunday saw the return of the 20 miler! Being in Basingstoke for the weekend, I painstakingly planned a route that I thought I’d easily navigate myself around. It ALMOST worked, and only had to stop twice to check the map. I rarely looked at my watch. The pace alerts were on but I ran it mostly on feel, and looking back at the splits I was quite pleased. It was about where I needed it to be, and was delighted to make it round on one piece given how I felt earlier in the week. The last 2 miles were tough, but over that distance they always are!

Jantastic wise, I’m up to 25 badges! It looks like with the weather improving the opportunity to get the “Sub Zero” badge has gone. What an unseasonably mild winter we had! Despite a wobble this week, I’m heading into the March phase with a 100% record.

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As part of the challenge, I now have to set myself a target time to try and achieve over a distance of my choosing. It needs to be ambitious but achieveable. No sandbagging and no cheating! I’m not sure whether to go for a sub 20 5k or a sub 1:33 half marathon. I have a week to decide.

Next week is the start of the “Race Preparation” mesocycle. It introduces an interval session every week all the way through to the marathon, and also 3 “warm up” races. The first is next week, which will be a parkrun. I’ll be looking for another PB wherever we end up going. It’ll also see my only 22 miler of the campaign.

Its been a wobbly week, but I hope I’ve turned the corner. Work stresses have eased, although I do need to shift te schedule a bit to accommodate for travelling.

4 more weeks til the taper!