Category Archives: Manchester 2016

Race Report: Greater Manchester Marathon 2016

Saturday

With the training completed, myself, sister-in-law Lauren (Taking part in her FIRST marathon) and 9,000 others were anxiously preparing for the Greater Manchester Marathon on Saturday evening, many of us already in the area wondering if the pouring rain would let up in time for the race. Meanwhile I double checked I remembered everything –  which I did except for the hole punch I needed for my race number! I had to improvise with a biro.

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We tried carb loading in Frankie and Bennies on Salford Quays, but it seems like most of the runners had the same idea, so after waiting 45 minutes for a table we gave up,  and retired to the hotel and used Just Eat… Not for a Chicken Madras (Cue a mini fist pump…), but for a nice pasta takeaway we found which was just the job. I actually managed to be in bed by 10 and asleep by 10.30. Perfect!

Morning

Having miraculously slept through the whole night (That hasn’t happened for the last 2 marathons) I set the alarm for 6.30, and when I woke up I immediately wished I set it for 6.00! Pre race breakfast was 2 Oat So Simple porridge pots, and as the morning went on before the race I also had 2 Whitworth seed shots and a banana, which seemed to work perfectly for me. I was ready to go!

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Race Village

We walked from the hotel towards race village at the Emirates Old Trafford Cricket Ground. This is a change from last year at the football club and it was a bit of a further walk from the hotel. We had to walk past the start area which was absolutely deserted at 7.50 but the closer we got to the village the busier it became. The race buzz started kicking in as we passed the now-standard enormous queues for the toilets.

The village itself was absolutely packed – It seemed MUCH busier than the village last year. On our way in though, father in law caught sight of olympian and now TV presenter Katharine Merry who was filming for a highlights show they are going to put on TV in the near future!

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We spent some time at the ASICS stand where we entered a competition to win some trainers… I’m still waiting to hear if I won! Everything seemed so cramped in there though. I think they would have benefitted from spreading things out a bit more, around the stadium.

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I headed off to check my bag in. This is where things got a bit unusual. Usually there are big tents with rows of people taking bags in in blocks of numbers of 500 or so. Here, numbers 1-13,000 had one location which, I can only describe as being a desk, with 13,000+ (Which, thankfully I was in) had a different one. People gave their bags in and someone literally walked in a building with it. I have heard that just before the race it all got VERY frantic with people literally throwing bags at the volunteers which isn’t cool, but at the same time it should have been better organised ahead of time – but more on that later.  My bag drop was actually up some stairs which I thought was a bit cruel – wouldn’t be fun getting that with marathon legs!

Race Start

The race start was under the big archway on the A56, almost exactly the same as last year. Now I don’t remember how they were set up last year as we got there quite late, but the assembly areas were unguarded/gated and merely indicated by flags for runners to stand near.

The advantage to this was that the assembly areas were very VERY wide, so there was actually plenty of room to warm up, hang out with friends and family and there was just loads and loads of room. It was brilliant! There weren’t too many runners trying to jump zones that I could see and thought it was a very interesting change to the norm. Then a couple of minutes before the start everyone converged together ahead of the start.

I was totally unprepared, I hadn’t got my Garmin on to get a signal, and I hadn’t taken my pre-race gel so I frantically sorted that out and before long the gun went… and we were off!

The Race

The course itself was very flat – with only some small inclines – though you certainly know about them when you get to them!

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The first section of the race is 2 out and backs in Trafford. The first is pretty uneventful, but the second goes past the Imperial War Museum, Coronation Street and the Hovis factory, and of course you have the mammoth Manchester United Football Ground. I found my pace pretty early on and stuck to it and felt very comfortable, managing to see my support crew outside Old Trafford who were able to cheer me on twice in that first section.

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What I liked about this section was seeing the floods of runners in the opposite direction, occasionally you’d hear club mates and friends shouting at each other. I saw Lauren once along here and we managed to shout encouragement at each other. The support around this section was amazing, even so early on I was hearing “Come on Matty” with people reading the name off my vest.

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Next up was a pretty long drag towards Sale up the A56. This was a pretty dull section, though pockets of support did make it a bit more interesting, this part was good just to find a good rhythm and settle into the race after a buzzing start!

The next section was one of the best of the race. After going through Sale you start a long out and back going through Timperley and Altrincham. The support was AMAZING around here. I lost count of the people cheering for me, the bands that were playing, the bystanders with Jelly Babies… Just a phenomenal stretch of the race. The main climbs in the race are around Altrincham, one going over a bridge, then going through the Half Marathon split you rounded the back of Altrincham town center and dropped down back to town to go back and re-experience all the amazing support all over again! I saw Lauren at about 15 miles and my support crew at Brooklands at 17 miles. At this stage it had stopped being quite so easy, but I still felt pretty strong – even if I didn’t look it!

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The next stage of the race was definitely the quietest. Coming out from Brooklands you headed west towards Carrington. There was some residential areas along here where the supporters were most welcome but there were also long stretches where you saw no-one. This is where I struggled the most last year but mentally I was prepared for it this year and focussed on my pace, my fuel and my hydration. This is where you got through the tough 20 mile barrier – 10k left! I still felt pretty good, and knew I was feeling much better than last year. I was passing people and it felt good. If anything I was going a bit too fast.

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After the loneliest part of Carrington we turned right towards Urmston and we ran through the ASICS zone. There was a catchy name for it, but I’ve forgotten what it was now! The we turned the final right onto the long drag home. The support here was fantastic but now I started to struggle. My calves started twingeing with cramp and at this point I had to adjust my running. I had to put less emphasis on pushing off with my feet and more on driving forward with my quads, with a noticeable effect on pace. It was time to draw on all the guts I had to not walk and to keep going as fast as I could. I remember very little of this part, other than swearing a lot, squealing whenever I felt myself cramping, and frantically looking at my watch.

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My pre race “A” target was a 3.12 with 3.15 being my “B” goal. With 2 miles to go, I knew I would really struggle to hit the A, so focussed on trying to secure my B and just going as fast as my weary legs would allow.

We turned left onto the A56 for a short while before turning right onto the finish straight. It was cruelly deceptive – you could see the finish, 3/4 of a mile away… It just didn’t seem to get any closer. I just dug in. From a support point of view, the final straight was magnificent, the change in course really helping more crowd see more of the finish. A 3.13 was JUST ABOUT on and I drove forward, pumping my arms trying to get the crowd going… And they responded, roaring us all he way to the finish line. It was the best finish line I’ve ever run through. I pumped my fist as I crossed in a personal best time of 3.13 (and 47 seconds).

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Exhausted, random strangers were shaking hands, all of us delighted with our accomplishments of the day.

What an amazing race!

I staggered through the finish funnel and eagerly accepted my medal and headed to my goody bag. Helpfully, the volunteers giving out the goody bag had one for me to try on for size! So i took a medium, took a free SIS recovery protein gel and a free Erdinger alcohol free beer – and I have to say, it was VERY tasty! Emotional and proud I headed out through a chaotic exit. This was pretty badly mismanaged it was really tough for runners to get out as loved ones were just crowding the exit. There just wasn’t enough room.

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Baggage Collection

I headed to get my bag and I was pleased I was a high number… Given i finished 850th, I reckon the queue for then main bag drop was 600 people long. Now, I was a bit peeved that I got asked to remove my number to get my bag, but this was because I had to give it to a person who had to go in and look for my bag. I was in and out in a couple of minutes.

However that single desk I mentioned earlier were clearly massively struggling. There were just not enough people retrieving bags, and the single entry point was causing chaos. Some people had to queue for over 2 hours, and from what I read on twitter it really ruined some peoples days… and rightly so. Once you’ve finished a Marathon you want to go and celebrate, not wait for two hours for your bag. Not cool!

Fair play to the organisers though who have taken full responsibility and vowed to correct it for next year. Kudos for fronting up.

Goody Bags

I heard some complaints about the quality of the goody bags…But I thought they were great!

  • Medal
  • Tee shirt
  • Dolmio pasta and sauce (Seemingly in EVERY goody bag for every race nowadays!)
  • Dried fruit
  • Beef jerky (I don’t like it, but still)
  • Sweet and salty popcorn
  • Cereal bar
  • Squashie sweets
  • SIS Protein gel
  • Erdinger alcohol free beer

Seriously, whats to complain about!

Parking

I also heard some complaints about people having to wait to get out of the car park. I have limited sympathy but not a lot. You are going to be parked in the busiest carpark near to a closed road course. You’ve had months to prepare and plan and now how to get in and out. Come on people!

Mile Markers

I have a gripe about the mile markers. I had the same gripe last year – some of them were so far wrong it was ridiculous, even allowing for GPS inaccuracy.  1 came at 1k, 14 came at 14.3, 19 came at 19.5, and 22 came at 22.5. Really not cool for those not running with a GPS and relying on their pace band, and REALLY not good for psychological motivation, particularly in the last part of the race. Additionally some were completely missing. That needs to be sorted for next year!

Post Race

Lauren was still completing her Marathon so I had to opportunity to stand at the finish straight and cheer the runners on. Jodie had met Lauren with 7 miles to go to run the last stretch with her. Unfortunately Lauren had become injured and the last 10k was a real struggle, but Jodie did brilliantly to help gee her along and finish. Massive respect to her for gutting it out!

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I really enjoyed cheering folks on at the end of their marathon journey. I’ve not done it before but it was so inspirational watching people complete their own marathon journeys… all of them had their ow story which I’ll never know but I’m glad I could cheer them on their way.

My Race Analysis

I am very pleased with my result. I managed to keep my splits in line with where I wanted them, and as a result I still felt reasonable with 4 miles to go. If I hadn’t have cramped I’m certain I would have met my target.

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My fuelling strategy worked. Breakfast was on time, the gel before the race helped as did my 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 23 plan.

Considering the hot day my hydration worked too. I had about a litre pre race, and then took a few swigs at every water stop except the last – I had no time to spare!

Looking at my heart rate it looked under control with a steady climb in line with what I expected to see.

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So how do I prevent the cramps? I’m going to invest in some calf guards to reduce muscle vibration, and I am also going to use some form of electrolyte on course to add salts. I’m not sure what, but I’ll find something.

Summary

Quite simply put, a phenomenal race. Brilliant support, great course and aside from a few small (and one large) glitch very well organised.

For me, it was right where I want to be to target sub 3.10 in the autumn and GFA next spring.

Thank you to the people of Manchester for welcoming us so warmly. We’ll be back next year, but this time with Jodie running!

On Video

 

Greater Manchester Marathon 2016: Week 18 of 18

Its the last taper week and its been far from perfect preparation. I’ve been suffering from a cold, which, thankfully seems to have cleared up though it did have an affect on my running with my legs feeling fatigued. I’ve also been suffering from a wisdom tooth trying to sprout through, which has had an infection in its retaining sac. So I’m on antibiotics.

To top that off, on Monday I had a horrific stomach problem that felt like a cross between trapped wind and constipation. This made life very uncomfortable!

Now most antibiotics they say not to have with alcohol. I was told in no uncertain terms that I must NOT CONSUME ALCOHOL whilst taking these or I will be very sick. Thats not the worse news in the world,. I’ll take my last one on Sunday morning.

Tragically however, I am also not allowed to drink for 48 hours after the course has completed. That means I can’t have a celebratory pint! Still, the antibiotics have cleared up a very painful and irritating problem and I’m feeling much better for it.

I have been consuming mostly carby food this week in preparation for Sunday, and also trying to take on lots of fluid so I’m feeling pretty chunky, but its all for the greater good.

So, onto the training.

Midweek

Tuesday was a 5 mile recovery run. All my ailments seemed to be at their peak which made my run feel very leggy and heavy. I certainly didn’t feel like I was recovering but my Heart Rate looked OK, which makes me think my physical condition is actually OK. Sure physically i felt a wreck but at least i don’t have flu type symptoms.

Wednesday was the “Race Rehearsal“. This consisted of 3 miles progression to 2 miles at marathon pace, and 2 miles ramping back down. I felt better than I did on Monday, and the session itself went really well. Again, heart rate was right where I would expect it to be and I found myself clicking a bit which was a good confidence booster. I figure the training has made me more economical running at Marathon Pace, which is the point of the training I suspect! Pace wise I was probably a little quick, but my MP miles were net downhill so I wanted to make sure my body felt OK at the right effort level. Thankfully, it did. I really needed this run to go well, it was a great mental boost.

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On Thursday it was another 5 mile recovery run. heart rate well under control despite the net VERY uphill nature of the route I took. legs feeling better afterwards too.

parkrunday

Well given its the day before a big race it was a rather uneventful 3 miles at recovery pace in Basingstoke. Ran with Jodie, weather was glorious and the most important thing – my legs feel OK and I didn’t injure myself, so I should make the start line!

Summary

As I post this on Saturday afternoon, sat in the car as we drive up to Manchester, I’m quietly mulling over how the next 24 hours is going to progress. I’m not sure what I’ll eat for dinner but it’ll will either be the now traditional fish and chip supper, or it will be some pasta. I’d prefer pasta, but can’t forget that Lauren is also running her first marathon so we will probably go with whatever she wants. I’m not allowed a pre-race beer so that’s out of the window, all I can do is get an early night and look forward to my porridge and banana breakfast.

From a race strategy point of view, nothing has changed from what I posted last week.

  • 1-13 – Try and hover somewhere between 7:15 and 7:20 pace.
  • 13-22 – Try and hover between 7:10 and 7:15 pace
  • 22+ – I blew up by this point last year so it will be dependent on feel.I’m hoping I might be able to go a little quicker than 7.10 pace, but I may be back down in the 9s by then!

With this in mind I have my 3 goals.

  • “A” Goal – Sub 3.13 – This was my original target back pre race
  • “B” Goal – Sub 3.15 – This would be a Chicago marathon qualifying time
  • “C” Goal – Sub 3.20 – This would be a PB#

If I don’t PB I must admit right now I will be disappointed. I’ve trained very hard and have set various PBs at shorter distances along the way. Truth be told I’ll be disappointed not to hit my “B” goal but anything can happen come race day.

Time to see if all the training paid off! A.K.A. Squeaky bum time…

Greater Manchester Marathon 2016: Week 17 of 18

So the 2nd taper week and to be perfectly honest its not been the recovery week I would have liked. Struck down by a cold and my legs not recovered from Cardiff on Saturday, By Friday I was feeling particularly low on confidence…

Midweek

Tuesday was a 7 mile general aerobic run with some strides. This wasn’t actually too bad. The weather was absolutely horrendous as I left my hotel room, I ended up having to run through a knee deep flood, but by the time I got back to the hotel, glorious sunshine! The pace was OK considering the weekends exploits.

Wednesday was a day off! First Wednesday with no running for months and months. But this is when the cold struck. A small sniffle but I knew one was coming.

Thursday was 3 x 1 mile Intervals. It was a bit of a failure. The first mile was OK, but the 2nd rep was pretty broken up, I think I had to pause 3 times. The third rep I just tried to stay faster than MP. Looking back on last year, I did struggle a bit with this last session on the last rep, but not this bad. My legs just felt totally empty. Part cold, part no recovery, and partly probably a carb free Wednesday won’t have helped. All things that with hindsight make me think this session wasn’t too bad.

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On Friday though, the cold peaked. I had a roll of toilet roll on my desk and I was sniffing, sneezing and my eyes were watering all day. Not the best prep for next week…

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On Saturday I felt marginally better. We had to stay local (well, Basingstoke local) as we had some properties to view and a surprise party to organise/attend so we were time limited. I targetted an easy paced sub 8 minute miles for it as I wanted to check my heart rate to see how the cold was affecting me… It helps when you turn the HRM on though… So no data from that but still it felt OK.

Yep, this is the best photo of me from Saturday!
Yep, this is the best photo of me from Saturday!

Sunday

Sunday saw my final “long run”. I had been at an all day party on Saturday so I wasn’t exactly feeling fresh. I ate a lot of junk and drank several beers so I wasn’t fully up for this 12 miles. Legs felt very weary and I couldn’t work out of that was party fatigue, cold or general running fatigue. My heart rate was OK all the way around so thats a good thing and I kept a consistent pace. This was no time for heroics.

Summary

I think this Runners World photo sums up this week.

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Everything has felt laboured this week. As I write this on Monday, I’ve seen the worst of the cold but I’m getting phantom niggles in my ankle, my legs feel tired still and I feel like I’m the weight of a sperm whale. But I have to trust that the training will get me through and that things will come right come race day.

I have settled on a race strategy now. My current plan is to run 7.20s for the first half then if I feel better increase that to 7.15s and in the unlikely event that after 23 miles I still have some to give, go to 7.10s. My goal is 3.12.30 and I think this strategy will deliver that. I think going for 3.09 is too ambitious, and I think this strategy gives me ample margin of error for not taking the racing line, GPS inaccuracy etc.

B goal is 3.15 and C goal is 3.19.

Of course, I reserve the right to change these in the next 6 days!

Times to rest, recover, carb up and get hydrated. Its squeaky bum time!

Greater Manchester Marathon 2016: Week 16 of 18

After the bulk of training was completed last week, this week was the start of the taper, with the key sessions being a set of Intervals and a target Half Marathon race.

Midweek

The first run on Tuesday was 8 miles with 5 sets of 600m intervals. Last time, I nailed the session, and despite running 22 on Sunday, this time was the same. A little slower than last time out but they averaged at 5.30 miling, so I was delighted.

5x600

Wednesday I went for a nice recovery run with Jodie, trying to let the legs recover for the race on Saturday.

On Thursday we went to Cardiff for the weekend for the Cardiff World Half Marathon Championships. I needed to get a run in, 4 miles with a set of strides. Whilst out, I saw the Canadian team out on their own recovery run, cruising along barely breaking a sweat!

Saturday

Well as we had a race on Saturday afternoon, it was our first Saturday morning without a parkrun for a very long time! So that was a bit strange! But it was all because we competed in the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships. I’ve written a full report on the event here.

My race was a mixed bag. I was targetting 1.27.xx and went out at a pace to achieve that. But after about 7 miles I realised that the pace was too quick and my legs started screaming at me. The awful conditions hit and I was unable to maintain close to the pace I wanted. My heart rate showed I couldn’t go any quicker as my effort was right up there.

cardiffhr

I think a combination of the afternoon race which meant my fuelling was well off, plus the weather, plus 22 miles last week all contributed. I think if I had tapered properly and if it was a morning race, I’d have been able to hit that 1.27. As it was I came in at 1.29.27, which was still a 40s PB which I am obviously pleased with – I just wanted to go faster. With this slightly slower time, I’m not sure what goal to set for Manchester now.

Sunday

Given that I raced on Sunday, I only ran a 5 mile recovery run. The first mile was agony but it got progressively easier, and I certainly felt better at the end.

Summary

Well, I am obviously pleased with a new HM PB – I’ve wanted to go sub-90 for a very long time, but I can’t help feeling a little deflated that I didn’t go quicker. But given the stage of the training plan, I haven’t done any threshold/tempo work for 4 weeks – which could also have contributed. The race really didn’t sit well in the plan and if it was 2 weeks earlier it would have been perfect.

My training has been geared around the Marathon, and not a Half Marathon. I still think my original target of 3.12 is viable and achievable. I’m less sure of a 3.09.  One thing I was pleased about with Cardiff was that in spite of the state of my legs for the last 6 miles I still kept my pace above the 7.14 per mile that a 3.09 would require.

I think I need to give things a week to settle, let my legs recover (As I write this on Monday, they are still pretty sore) and will reassess next week.

To be honest, I probably won’t make a decision until 8.59 on the morning of the race!

 

Greater Manchester Marathon 2016: Week 15 of 18

It’s over, I’ve reached the peak week and its downhill into the taper from here! Aside from my knee taking a little while to warm up on cold days I am free of injury and niggles. The weeks training has been solid if unspectacular.

Midweek

Tuesday was 7 recovery miles with a set of strides. Given the exertions of the weekend I went for form rather than speed and tried to concentrate on high knees and a lengthier stride which I think I managed to crack by the last rep.

Wednesday was a session I wanted to do well in. It was 10 miles with 4 x 1200m Intervals. Last year, I bombed out of this session as it was 2 days after my big Reading Half Marathon PB. 2 weeks ago, I bombed out of my 5 x 1km session. So my relationship with the longer intervals is not good! Despite running a quick 5k time on Saturday, I really wanted to try and get this session right. And I just and just managed to get all my reps under current 5k pace – 6.05m/m. Rep paces were 5:56, 5:55, 5:55, 6:04 (Just!) for an average pace of 5:58 which would equate to an 18:32 5k. Good confidence booster though I feel like I have reached my maximum top end speed for this training cycle and can’t see myself getting any faster without another block of structured work, with some more tempo running.

4x1200

Thursday ended with me thanking my lucky stars that there would be no more midweek long runs! They are my least enjoyable runs due to the slower pace and increased distance meaning that I just seem to be out for ages, in the cold and dark. I decided given yesterdays tough session to keep this 12 miler at a sensible pace and not perform any heroics. Despite nearly tripping over a few times I managed a good consistent relaxed run, despite the hills – I just took it very easy on the way back down! Knees are starting to feel the fatigue. No injury, they are just knackered and need a rest.

parkrunday – Volunteering!

As it was the day before a big local race, as a new club we held a parkrun takeover where we provided a load of marshals. It was the first time we’d been back for AGES and it was nice not to run it. I took on co-Run Director duties training up Jason and it was a blast.

I did need to run 5 recovery miles of course, which I completed running to parkrun.

Sunday

As I already mentioned, this was the biggest local race of the year. As a club we had 19 members and another 19 members of our Facebook group take part – Not bad for a new club! We got a great photo of those who were able to make it in time to the modified photo location (though it required some liberal photoshopping thanks to a minor error by our passer-by-photographer who couldn’t squeeze us all in!

I have written a race report for the club and you can find it here.

For my run, as this was peak week I wanted to make sure my time on feet exceeded my target marathon time whilst also peaking mileage wise with 22 miles. This meant being out for 3 hours 15 minutes and would need to average 8:45 miling.

I decided to pace the Yeovil Half at that pace for anyone that wanted it – I wasn’t going to deviate on my plan! I managed to bring 3 people in in sub-1:55, even though I paced it to 1:54 by accident! Great work from Becs, Simon and Vanessa!

There was an absolute classic moment when I saw a videographer on the course. I ran up close and shouted “Running For Time, Woo!” which was captured in all its glory by the local press photographer!

Credit to @snapperlen on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BDL6nI7pRnF/
Credit to @snapperlen on Instagram
https://www.instagram.com/p/BDL6nI7pRnF/

When I got to the finish I hand my goody bag to Becs who passed it on and I had it for me at home as I motored straight on to do the extra 9 miles. I wanted to go straight away, as last year I felt my broken up long runs contributed to my detonation at 21 miles.

Recently I have been toying with the idea of 3:10 pace, so I ended up running the second half faster so I could stay on my feet for that long instead. I hope this negative split will train my legs a bit to run the second half of the marathon a bit faster.

What I was most pleased with was that at the end of the run my legs felt strong, like they were conditioned well and well trained. I hope I’ve peaked at the right time!

Summary

As I said in the Intro, the main work is now over. Any training I do now is simply to maintain and keep the legs ticking over, whilst remaining sane through the dreaded “taper madness” where I’ll undoubtedly go through numerous crises in confidence and worry I’m going to inexplicably fall over and hurt myself!

Most importantly I need to remember my mileage is dropping so I need to eat less food or I’ll pile the weight on. Not what I’ll need!

Like I said earlier, I’m toying with the idea of “manning up” and going for sub 3:10. Next week sees my last tune up race in the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff. My target for that race is 1:27:59. If I can run that, then it’s game on.

 

Greater Manchester Marathon 2016: Week 14 of 18

Really getting down to the business end now, and following last weeks marathon paced beasting I seem to be riding along on a crest of a wave…

Midweek

The first run of the week was another interval session. 8 miles with a set of 5 x 600m. Last week, my legs just couldn’t carry me through any sort of speed at all. Given Sunday’s performance I wasn’t massively confident going into this one. I didn’t feel up for it and felt pretty tired. But, the lengthy warm-up seemed to work, and blasted through the intervals like I’ve never been able to before…

intervals

Average of 5:19m/m per interval. Now I only did 5 not the full 8 for a 5k session, and I’m not sure if I could have continued with any more, but lets so I could, that would equate to a 5k average of 16:31! Still a long way off that level though, ha ha!

Wednesday was a strange one. We had my grandfathers funeral in the morning, and the wake at about lunchtime and I ate a lot of food and had several pints. I did get a one hour nap in before my 11 mile medium-long run, but I felt the effects of it. It had some pauses, I felt really ill (probably drunk) and I really shouldn’t have gone out. But still, it was miles in the legs.

Thursday was a recovery 4 miles with a set of strides. Strides were decent but my legs were a bit knackered!

parkrunday – Poole parkrun

Jodie was off on a hen weekend and I was due another tune up race. I was originally going to do Blandford, but Simon was off to Poole so I thought I’d join him.

I’d not run Poole parkrun other than the day after New Years Day, when the conditions were awful. This time though, conditions were perfect. It’s already regarded as one of the fastest parkrun courses around, so fresh off the back of my PB, I thought I’d have a crack at an even faster time today and optimistically set my watch to pace me to 18:59. I figured with 20s leeway I may at least get another PB even if I didn’t dip under.

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We got there early, parked up at the far end of the lake and jogged in as a warm up. It was pretty cold first thing, though it did warm towards the end of the run. Conditions were absolutely perfect, not a hint of wind, dry, cool… After a run brief which was barely audible we headed to the start. It was back on the “main course” compared to last time. We were quite near the front and aside from a dog runner right near the front (why oh why…) we got away pretty cleanly. I immediately found a stride and rhythm I felt comfortable with, though looking at the watch it was a tad fast.

The first mile ticked over in 6.01 – my new fastest mile PB if nothing else! I knew I was working hard but was still hopeful I could sustain. As we rounded the lake the the first time we were at halfway. One of the great things about a fast 5k is that they don’t take long, so you can hold on! Mile 2 came and went in 6.09 which meant I was jsut and just on pace. It started getting tough and the back end of the lake was a bit of a blur the second time round. I had to take the racing line when we reached the road and by now I was clinging on.

As we tantalisingly reached the pavilion we still had a 400m loop of the cricket pitch to round… I looked at my watch and I was 1 second behind target pace. I kicked on a bit but felt like I kicked to soon – with 300 to go I felt like I wanted to be sick, but I clung on and somehow found another gear. As my watch ticked over for mile 3 in 6:08 it was on – close, but on! I was worried that I’d end up with 19:00 flat, or that my watch was mis reporting something, or the official time would be a bit behind so I gave it absolutely everything I had for the last 100 meters and crossed the line, stopping my watch without looking at it…

I heard someone say “well run” to me as I heaved in the funnel, I was ushered forwards and then I looked at the watch… 18:54! I’d done it! A 26 second PB, and the official result confirmed the time. I was absolutely chuffed as nuts and can’t believe that after a year of trying to break 20, I bunny hopped in the 19s and into the 18s!

5kpb

Simon also run a brilliant 18:28 which he was delighted with, only 18s off his PB at Blandford last year. We are on fire! It made for a very happy drive home!

Sunday

On Sunday a few club mates were running the local Sherborne 10k. I had to do 16 miles so I decided to run the race at an easy pace and then run home which was about the right distance.

Though it was a small, local race it was a lot of fun thanks to my club mates and the fact that we paced 3 members to PBS! I wrote the club race report about it here.

The remaining 10 miles were a bit of a slog, we got a bit lost and my new short shorts started chafing but the pace was decent and brought the average down.

The biggest challenge with this run was the weather – it was so bright and sunny! I was too hot by the end – that’ll teach me to wear long sleeves instead of a vest!

Summary

Well with that week out of the way it’s the last tough week ahead before tapering. A set of long intervals, a midweek long run, and my longest long run as time on feet (3.15 hours) resulting in my peak mileage week.

Just one more week… Just one more week..

Greater Manchester Marathon: Week 13 of 18

Halfway through the “Race Preparation” mesocycle, my body has really started to feel like it has been well trained – in more ways than one. Following an amazing weekends running I came back down to earth with a bang!

Midweek

Tuesday was 8 easy miles – or “General Aerobic” as P&D call it. And they were in my easy pace zone, and it felt easy, I felt comfortable, I felt on top of the world! I ended up going too quick though….

…as Wednesday’s 5 x 1k interval session was MASSIVELY compromised. I went out knowing that I didn’t feel right. The 3 mile warm up was comfortable enough, but as I got towards Ninesprings I needed the loo. The cafe toilets were locked though, so I decided to use my first interval to run to Morrisons. The problem was, the legs weren’t interested! I managed about a 6.40m/m pace which was disappointing. 2nd rep was much better, where I needed to be, and then half way through the 3rd rep my legs just told me they’d had enough. Totally out of juice. Hardly surprising given a 5k PB, a tidily paced 22 and 8 miles faster than I should have done the day before. So I shan’t be too hard on myself about it.

Given Wednesdays performance I went into Thursdays 12 mile medium-long run with a very easy pace in mind, keeping it right at the low end of the zone. Despite some tough climbs, including the “bunford bugger” I came through it “OK”. It was definitely high time I had a rest day.

parkrunday

On Saturday we visited Guildford parkrun. It was about a 40 minute drive which is close enough, and near where Jodie’s sister Lauren goes to university. Despite some navigational difficulties finding the car park we eventually got there, though it was FREEZING. I needed to do 5 recovery miles so I trotted off on my own and met them at the start line, as they also met Lauren’s friend Imogen who was doing her 2nd parkrun, though her first with a barcode!

I tried to hear the first timers briefing but it was quite quiet and wasn’t helped by people disrespecting the RD and talking over her!

The park itself was right in the middle of open streets, and consisted of 3 out and back “legs” as this was the winter course. Each of them had their own undulations and it was much tougher than I thought it would be!

Volunteers were as fantastic as ever. I helped to pace Lauren who was trying to push her boundaries a bit and a great time and would be worth much, much more on a flat course – probably a PB at Newbury. Imogen ran a time quicker than she did last time and Jodie was pleased with her time too given her pregnant condition and the inclines!

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The only downer was the length of the scanning queues. They were mammoth and slow moving. They had 3 scanners but something just wasn’t working and the queue length never went down until the last runners came in. I’d never seen a queue that big – and that includes Bushy!

Sunday

The big session for this week was Sunday. The biggest marathon paced run in the plan, and from a confidence boosting point of view I really needed it. Last time out I tried to do 18 with 12 at MP, around Basingstoke and just didn’t have it in me at all. Usually I like to do my Marathon pace runs in Yeovil along a nice flat road to simulate the race conditions.

Unfortunately as scheduling goes this week we ended up in Basingstoke again, and I was filled with Trepidation. I really didn’t think I was going to be able to do it. I was mentally already lining up the excuses – “I drank too much yesterday”, “I’m not using my own Garmin” (I’d left my charger at home) and “It was too cold”.

I went out gloved up and just got on with it though. Progressed nicely up to Marathon Pace, and aside from one mile (which was ridiculously uphill) I managed to get all my splits on pace. The average pace for my MP section was 7:17 per mile (7:16 using Strava’s GAP…) which would put my just below 3:11 for the marathon.

This is well in line with my primary goal when I set out on this training plan of sub 3:15, and also in line with my adjusted goal of 3:12:30. It’s also tantalisingly close the 3:10 though…

Are these my Bronze, Silver and Gold targets? Are they too close together and I’m setting myself up for a fall? I can;t help but think that on tapered legs I won’t be far away…

Once again I need to remind myself that I will see how Cardiff goes and I’ll assess it from there.

Overview

Next week is a mini-cutback (Is not cut back by a lot!) and I have another 5k race pace effort which I’m going to Poole for with Simon. I’m hoping to PB as it is a fast course, but anything sub-20 I’ll be happy with for consistency purposes.

Only 5 weeks until the race and only 2 more weeks of hard training before the taper. Getting exciting now!

Greater Manchester Marathon: Week 12 of 18

I can’t believe it’s week 12 already! With only 3 weeks left until I start tapering (based upon the date of writing – 4 weeks as of the first session of the week discussed below) now is when the “Race Preparation” mesocycle of training kicks in, trying to sharpen my aerobic gains into speed through Interval workouts and tune-up races.

Midweek

On Tuesday I had an Interval session to do. I hate doing intervals on my own, but at least it was a short session. 8 miles with 5 x 600 meter reps in the middle and 2 minute recoveries. I was in Coleshill this week, and funnily enough I did the same session here last year, so a good comparison! When I finished the run, I felt the reps were excellent and thought I was in good shape compared to last year, but the reps weren’t a lot faster at all – I’m not sure whether to be concerned or not!

5x600

Rep 2015 2016 Difference
1 2:11 2:15 +4
2 2:12 2:12 0
3 2:14 2:12 -2
4 2:11 2:09 -2
5 2:11 2:11 0
Ave 0!

So looking at the data I’m in exactly the same shape I was in last year! A bit frustrating really, and it made me question if a sub-20 5k was possible this week, as I wasn’t able to do it last year – the PB which still stands. On the plus side, I know my new Garmin is a bit more accurate than the old one thanks to the addition of GLONASS so the data doesn’t quite tell the whole story.

Wednesday’s 12 mile medium-long run was suitably hard considering the day’s session previous. Couple this with the fact I was in Coleshill I also needed to find my way to a slightly new route, in the dark. Despite a couple of pauses and some very VERY dark alleys and crossing a couple of motorways (on bridges of course) I got around unscathed thanks to my handy printed map! What made it extra nice was progressing through to sustain sub 8s for the last half of the run including some nice segment PRs. I was on fire!

Thankfully, Thursday  saw me run 5 miles recovery (Which my legs were grateful for) with a set of strides. I ran with Jodie and my strides were of good form if the pace was a little slow. Nothing I was concerned about though.

parkrunday

On Saturday we went to the under threat Little Stoke parkrun. The full report can be read here.

To summarize, this was a tune up race according to my plan, so I went for it big style and delivered the goods! A 1 minute PB for 19:20!

Tactically it wasn’t quite perfect – my miles got progressively slower but I’m not sure how much of that was my fatigue versus having to weave around back markers in subsequent miles.

littlestoke race analysis

But sod it, I am bloody chuffed! I’m off to Blandford in 2 weeks which will be a bit less busy and no congestion, possibly a slightly faster course and single out and back. I wonder how close to 19 I can go?

Sunday

On Sunday I wanted to run 22 miles at a decent pace, somewhere around 8:15 pace which is target marathon pace + 15% ish. Thankfully Simon was doing similar. We met in the afternoon it was a lovely day and we just ate the miles up. After about half way I was starting to feel the pace and it got worse when we reached Ilchester Road for a long climb! Not nice to hit when you are 16 miles in!

We got to the top. Interestingly, despite us running it up together, Simon ran that segment 5 seconds faster than me! Its only a segment, but it got him 7th overall and me 10th overall! Hardly fair!!!

After about 17 miles, Si had to pause as he felt his knee twinge and wanted to take a short cut back. I carried on for another mile and then I felt my bum twinge. I needed the loo. Had to walk a bit for the cramp to pass then run towards the pub. After that my legs had seized a little making the last few miles a bit of a struggle, but that said, I managed to keep a pretty decent pace up. The last couple of miles I started cramping  little so needed to stretch out but otherwise a very successful long run.

22miler

I only have 1 more 22 miler to go, and that one will be slower so I spend 3:15 on my feet (8:45 pace).

Summary

A successful Interval session, a 5k PB and a successful 22 miler. What more could I ask for?

Next week will be a bit tougher with a marathon-pace long run, but that’s the last really tough one. 6 weeks til race day and I’m feeling good!

Greater Manchester Marathon 2016: Week 11 of 18

Fresh off the back of a stunning PB last week, I was eager to consolidate this in week 11. I was high on confidence and my legs felt pretty good. The only slight problem was I needed to do some shuffling around of sessions in order to accommodate the fact we went away for the weekend.

Midweek

Tuesday was 7 recovery miles with some strides. Legs felt good but thats probbaly due to the comparatively low mileage from the week before. Still, got some good speed in, certainly made the lungs work!

Wednesday was meant to be the peak threshold run of this mesocycle – 11 with 7 at lactate threshold. I made the executive decision that this would be a bad idea, given that I raced on Sunday, which was essentially run at threshold pace. So i shelved it and ran the 11 miles at easy/general aerobic pace, and ran a load of hills to make up for it. Was tougher than I anticipated!

Thursday was supposed to be a rest day, but I had to run Friday’s planned 12 mile medium-long run as we went to London on Friday. Definitely see why I needed a rest day, it was tough. Ran basically the same route as the day before, but in reverse so had plenty of hills. Avoided making it a progression and just kept it at a steady effort.

5000 Logged Miles!

Thusdays run saw me log 5000 lifetime miles on Strava! I have actually run a few more than that – I haven;t logged any of my Couch to 5k runs (I went through it twice) as it was before the days I recorded anything at all, however I have retrospectively added/logged all my activities since I started training for the Yeovil Half Marathon 2013, which is when I consider that I “started” running.

Yes I’m sad that I retrospectively added them all.

But anyway, it’s a nice milestone to hit!

parkrunday

This week we went to Bushy parkrun, home of parkrun globally! I wrote a separate post about it here.

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I ran 5 miles at recovery pace. Well, it was meant to be at recovery pace, but I progressed through the gears in the middle of the parkrun. We tagged on a mile either side of the run to and from the hotel which made it up to 5. Legs felt better compared to how they were after Thursday!

Sunday

It was back to the long mileage on Sunday, with 20 hilly miles around Yeovil.

Getting this run right was quite important to me. Last year of all the 20+ milers I ran, most were “split shifts” as in, I ran part, had a break, and then ran a chunk more. or, I ran a slower pace for part of the run with the group then motored on by myself.

The previous 20 milers from this campaign I ran with the group for the first half, which was great to get me up to mileage. This is the first of a block of 3 where I am trying to keep a fairly consistent steady pace.

The book says the long runs should be between 10 % and 20% slower than Marathon Pace, ideally progressed through the zone. I think I’ll do the progression side of things on my last long run. This block I want to just focus on staying within this pace range. Which I am pleased to say I managed.

20steady

More pleasing, is that despite the hills and pace my heart rate remained pretty much in control, only reaching the “tempo” zone for 35 minutes, which no doubt would have been times when I was going up hill!

20hr

So I’m very happy. Next week sees 22 miles which I’ll be trying with the same idea/principle in mind – keeping a steady effort/pace which I hope will also see the run exceed the amount of time I plan to spend on my feet during the race.

Summary

Well, that’s the end of the “Lactate Threshold” mesocycle. Bit of a damp squib on that front as I had no tempo run! But the results of the race last week show the training has worked.

The next mesocycle “Race Preparation” is all about the speedwork. Time to translate this aerobic performance into some fast times through Interval sessions and tune-up races. The first tune up for me being Little Stoke parkrun on Saturday where I hope to finally break that elusive sub-20 5k barrier.

There’s just 4 weeks hard training to go before it’s time to taper. There has been an absence of me weighing in recently so I need to get that back under control for a final push – I always tend to lose more weight on weeks were my mileage is high.

Still, everything is well on track, I’m still injury free and feeling reasonably strong.

Greater Manchester Marathon 2016: Week 10 of 18

Well, what an interesting week! The last 7 days has epitomized how running performance often works in “peaks and troughs” starting in pain and finishing in pride.

Midweek

The week started out with what was meant to be an 8m easy run. The pace felt MUCH tougher than it did last week, though this was off the back off a particularly difficult Sunday run as I wrote last week. At the time I shrugged it off and figured I’d be OK tomorrow.

That was until that next day… where I needed to do 8 miles with a set of (6 x 800m Intervals). To start with things were OK, but the 5th interval rep was absolute hell. I even had to have a brief pause midway through such was the agony. I managed to ‘Man Up’ for the last rep but the 4 mile recovery jog afterwards was just awful to the point I could have cried. It was just hideous, my legs were in pieces. Still the set of intervals were in the right ballpark pace range.

6x800

Thursday was a 5 mile recovery which was again, hard work, but I felt a lot better for doing it, and my legs felt fresher come the end.

Thankfully, Friday was a rest day, and I treated myself to a much needed sports massage for my legs. I wanted to stay local, and found Bow House Physiotherapy in Langport, not far from our office. The masseuse was Denise Rees and for the bargain price of £30 I had an hour and twenty minutes deep tissue massage, relatively pain free. I came away feeling so refreshed and relaxed – my legs fel warm for the rest of the day and it was an absolutely pleasure – I highly recommend them!

parkrunday

On saturday as always we went to parkrun, and our tour continued, this week at Maidenhead parkrun.

It was a lovely 2 lap course on gravelly trail and tarmac round a nature reserve. The start and finish were on a pretty muddy field but other than that, road shoes would have been absolutely fine. There was loads of parking (we parked close to the road but there is also a car park MUCH closer to the start), toilets in the Toby Carvery and also at the Athletics stadium.

Newcomers and tourists alike were made to feel most welcome, and the first timers briefing was all about inclusivity – superbly delivered with clarity.

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This really was an excellent parkrun and we will definitely be back! It was made even more interesting by the presence of Karen Weir – one of the original 13 “parkrun pioneers”! Always nice to have a brush with some parkrun royalty!

As for my run, I knew I was racing on Sunday, but wanted to check to see if I had any pace at all given my problems earlier in the week. So I ran it as a progression, right up to my target pace. Felt very comfortable! So either I had recovered fully, or the massage really did work wonders!

Sunday – Bramley 20/10

On Sunday we went to the Bramley 20/10 – a full report on the race can be found here that I wrote for the club.

Going into the race I really wasn’t sure how I would do. I know that sounds like sandbagging, but its totally honest. With how my legs felt on Tuesday and Wednesday I wasn’t hopeful. But I knew that if I wanted to be “on track” for Manchester I needed to run 1:07:59, which is about 6:47 a mile. This was ambitious, as my tempo runs had been just about slower than this, and only for 6 miles. Either way, I set my virtual pacer and went for it. And as you can see…

 

bramleysplits

… I smashed it! The first few mioes flew by pretty comfortably, and after a while i realised I was running at a similar pace to number 278 – he looked and sounded a bit like a short John Bishop!

Credit: Barry Cornelius (http://www.oxonraces.com)
Credit: Barry Cornelius (http://www.oxonraces.com)

I kept plugging along, naturally easing off for the slopes which were on the course, but somehow making the time back up as it rolled downhill.

Credit: Barry Cornelius (http://www.oxonraces.com)
Credit: Barry Cornelius (http://www.oxonraces.com)

With about 3 miles to go I knew that I’d make my goal, and if I could put in a quick last mile not only could I break 1:08, I could also break 1:07 – so I went for it and absolutely nailed it! Official chip time 1:06:44, a PB by 1m46 seconds!

Looking at the race analysis below I can see the consistency really paid off with the first 3 quarters (2.5 mile splits) all within a couple of seconds of each other, then a kick finish down the hill.

bramleyanalysis

To say I’m pleased is an understatement. Its a big sign that the training is working and I now have masses of confidence. Could a sub 3:10 be on the cards at Manchester?
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Time will tell. I’ll assess that after the Cardiff Half. If I can break 1:29 at Cardiff then I’ll seriously think about doing Manchester in 3:09:xx.

Summary

Well frankly I’m bloody delighted. Despite a tough early part of the week I’m on a total high! Now to come back down to earth, focus on the next few weeks training and set my sights on the next tune up race – a 5k parkrun. Surely sub-20 has to be on the cards now?

Extra Bramley Photos

All Credit: Barry Cornelius (http://www.oxonraces.com)

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