Tag Archives: 2017

Race Report: Virgin Money London Marathon 2017

It’s been 3 months since I ran the Virgin Money London Marathon. I didn’t want to blog it straight away, as I wanted some time to reflect on it and write objectively about my experience as a whole and only now do I feel recovered and refreshed enough to do it. I did want to do it sooner than this though, I blame my expert procrastination skills!

It’s been a dream of mine to run London ever since I started running. My “Mission GFA” was designed to enable me to run a qualifying time, after many unsuccessful ballot entries. When I was drawn at our club ballot to be awarded our “club place” it was a dream come true! And I spent the next 6 months furiously planning my visit and of course training to ensure I had the best possible experience.

I documented my training extensively right up until race weekend. So lets pick up where I left off.

Saturday

The most important part of the London Marathon experience is attending the expo. Primarily because this is where you register and pick up your number and timing chip – so without attending you can’t run! But for the first timer the expo is a chance to experience an overwhelming buzz of nervous anticipation mixed with commercial advertising.

The Expo was held at London’s Excel arena as it is every year – a popular exhibition centre just off the DLR. Our hotel literally looked over the Excel which was very handy, though as we were travelling from Mile End parkrun we needed to take the DLR to get there anyway.

I’d been to the expo before when Jodie ran London in 2015, but returning to collect my own registration was an exciting and slightly emotional experience. For so long I’d worked towards running London, and when I finally picked up that race packet I could finally relax – I knew I was going to make it to the start line.

After getting my number I went through to get my timing chip – which you get to keep, unusually. But it’s a nice memento of your run as its London Marathon 2017 branded.

After collecting my number, I was into the expo proper – the arena was filled with rows and rows of stands of mainly retailers, but also other races trying to recruit you to attend their events. There were plenty of opportunities to grab freebies, leaflets and “tat”, as well as photo/video opportunities. I made the most and got fully into the swing of things. After all, we had all day!

Some of the highlights for me were the New Balance video, the official London Marathon photo spots and also meeting the guys at Fitness Rewards including Jenna, who sold us our life insurance policy. I had a go on their agility game – I was pretty woeful though!

We left the expo at about lunchtime and headed back to our hotel where our room wasn’t quite ready. So we had lunch in the lobby, chilling out until check in time. It seems the hotel were understaffed, as no-ones rooms were ready for when it was advertised. We eventually got in at about 4 and spent the time chatting to a nice lady from Edinburgh who was also doing her first London Marathon.

When we eventually got to our room I made my final kit check and obligatory kit photo before chilling out in our room.

In the evening we procured some hearty Italian fare (I ate a lot more than I needed) which arrived stupidly early – we were expecting it at 7 as we requested on Just Eat, and it arrived at 6! Then we met Marcus and Pippa for a drink in the evening – once we worked out they WEREN’T in the same hotel as us like we thought!

We headed to bed to watch some rubbish on TV and I set my alarm, drifting off to sleep at about 10. Not too bad considering how nervously excited I was.

Pre Race

I woke up, naturally very excited about the day that lay ahead. My prior preparation meant that I had plenty of time to get ready, as my kit was all laid out nicely. I put the hot water in my porridge pots (I had 3 of them…) and got in the shower to freshen up. I was awake, raring to go.

We loaded up our bags and checked I could get it in my official kit bag – success! But then a rather lovely spanner was thrown in the works – we won the hotel’s marathon prize draw! We were awarded a hamper of goodies, which contained energy bars, Lucozade, a fit ball, a pedometer, sweets and all sorts of other bits and bobs. It was brilliant – if only we didn’t have to try and fit it in with all of our existing stuff and have Jodie carry it around London! We had to remove all the packaging from everything, but we eventually managed to make it fit.

We went to meet Marcus and Pip and headed to the DLR station. Marcus said his goodbyes as he was meeting the club later to go to the cheering spots they’d organised, so Pip was in our capable hands.

We were nervously chatting on the DLR journey to Cutty Sark station, on a carriage with a few other runners and supporters. What surprised me was how quiet it was – I was expenting a lot more activity, but then again I guess it was quite early still. As we left the station we walked past the Cutty Sark ship – they were getting it ready for the swarms of people that would be cheering here – it’s one of the most popular points on the course. It was a bit quieter when we got this snap than it would be later! I was already picturing how it would feel running past this after 10k. My nervous anticipation was already building.

We walked towards Greenwich Park. I made a slight cock up with the directions, but we got there in the end, heading up the hill toward the start zones. There isn’t a race like it with start zones like London. So many people all gathering to fulfil their ambitions after months of long hard training – there was such an amazing buzz.

We had arranged a meeting point to get a club photo at the start and almost everyone made it! It was fantastic to share the experience with my club mates, all of whom had gone through their own journeys to get here. We were all raring to go!

Then, I had another great surprise. Race day was also the day of our nephews birthday party.  So there weren’t any plans for the in-laws to come and watch. But just as we were about to head to the start area, my father in law Robin came strolling across the field! He’d gotten the early train and come all across London, just to see me and wish me luck. It was a really touching thing for him to do and I can’t express how much that meant to me. It really gave me an amazing boost and I am so thankful that he came.

Then after a few “good luck” and “all the best” to everyone, we went our separate ways! At London, there are 3 start zones. Green, Red which is mainly charity runners (and that’s where most of the club had to start) and Blue was for Ballot and Club Places ran from, so I headed to Blue with Steve Vellacott. It was Steve’s first ever marathon, but you wouldn’t have thought it – he was as cool and calm as you like. I remember on my first in Paris – I was a nervous wreck in the start pen! We had a wander around, and I grabbed a coffee to get a caffeine boost (It was free which I didn’t realize!)

The start areas were so well organised and with so much space it was a really nice place to make final preparations. The weather was lovely and bright with little breeze, and listening to the theme tune and other announcements over the tannoy, I really felt part of it now – I was finally experiencing the London Marathon! Before long we were making last toilet visits and depositing our bags.

Speaking of bags, mine almost didn’t get checked in…. Bulging with swag from the raffle, I tried squeezing it in the provided polythene bag and ended up splitting it slightly! Luckily I was able to tie it up and get it on the truck.

I then cracked open my banana, said goodbye to Steve, and we headed to the start pens. It was starting to get very real.

I was fortunate enough to be in zone 3, so very close to the front. I was quite surprised how small the pens were. They did a great job of getting the right paced runners into small enough groups. I had a short warm up and then stood near the front of the pen. People were talking about their sub-3 ambitions and I felt a bit out of place but I thought, sod it. I’ve worked hard and I’m going to stand where I bloody well like!

Before long we were ushered forwards, slowly came around a roundabout, and there I was – I could see the start gantry about 40 meters in front of me. I was literally ON the start line – I felt so fortunate. The emotion really started to set in now, and I gulped. Despite not being religious I looked to the sky.

How was the heat going to affect me?

Have I trained enough?

Is my race plan was suicidal?

But it was a bit late now. They called the elites names. Then the gun went. We were off!

The Race

In the short walk to cross the start line, I gulped down a gel and reviewed my plan. 7 minute miling. Simple. Don’t get carried away through the first downhill 5k, get to Tower Bridge and review.

I quashed my nerves, and by the time I crossed the line I had my game face on – a smile! Finally a lifelong ambition was being realized. Time to enjoy it!

The first 3 miles were an absolute whirlwind. Despite being in a “faster” group near the front, the amount of congestion was still crazy. I found myself having to tread very carefully, especially in the first mile. Looking back I can see that my biggest mistake came after the 1st mile. I ran it in 7.08, which was a little slower than target (Only 4 seconds… but in my head I thought that was too much) and I ended up trying to claw it back over the next 2 miles – especially as the course was due to get MORE congested once the red start joined our course. This resulted in a 6.55, which was EXACTLY what I wanted, but then came the damage… Mile 3 in 6.34. It was downhill granted, but just the same that was too quick.

I hadn’t really taken much in at this point, but somewhere along here I could see the back of Rob Deering – host of the “Running Commentary” podcast which I listen to religiously. I’d heard what his race plans were on the show, and given that I’d just banged in a 6.34 mile I knew that was not in his plan! So I said “Bit quick? Love the show!”. He said thanks and I continued on my merry way. At this stage I felt comfortable and strong – but of course, you are supposed to – there was still 23.2 miles to go!

At mile 4 or so we ran through Charlton and saw the R4T cheer squad. I gave them a big wave – it was great to see them there, so many had come to experience marathon day as a spectator – and even spectating is a special experience. Thank you to all you guys who came to cheer us on.

Around here my gel strategy commenced. I planned to take a Gu every 4 miles (It’s my tried and tested fuelling method) so took one on just in time to see Jodie, my mum, stepdad and brother! That was another nice lift.

It was around here that I really noticed it was getting warmer. The sun was forecast to be sunny spells but mostly cloudy. I’d not seen any clouds yet, it was very sunny and I could feel myself sweating more than I’d have liked.

Before long we were rounding the 10k point and the cheers became deafening – Cutty Sark really is everything they say it is! A real spectator hotspot and an amazing experience.

After Cutty Sark I did a quick time check. I was definitely up on pace by about a minute thanks to a 6.43, a 6.48, a 6.57. Definitely too fast. I knew I was ahead and I just wanted to sustain my pace now. I thought if I could get to half way with a minute in the bank I would be OK, so I tried to be a bit more conservative, and spent the next 6 miles hovering around 7s. 6.51, 6.51, 7.00, 7.01, 6.52, 6.56. I seem to recall seeing Lucy and Stephen around this section, but I can;t be sure now looking back.

I wasn’t familiar with Rotherhithe at all, and knew there wasn’t to much to see. I’d pretty much zoned out focussing on trying to stay relaxed, thinking about my cadence and form.

I also remember Jimbob catching me up. Jim is a multiple sub-3 marathoner, so when he passed me I had an inkling I was going too fast. We had a brief chat, and he said just to run it out til you get to 20 and see what I had left. I then let him go ahead of me. Its amazing to think when you have 40,000 runners in the same race  of runners with different abilities from 3 different starts that you end up running with someone you know!

After 12 miles you start thinking about Tower Bridge. It’s an iconic part of the marathon and running over it was really special. I heard my name halfway across and saw James Parrot cheering me on. How I heard him I don’t know, there was so much noise! I didn’t realize until I was headed toward the bridge, that the drag towards it is ever so slightly uphill. That was a bit of a warning sign that my legs were tiring, as I felt the slope a lot more than I should have done. I thought I was prepared for it though, and I went through halfway in 1.31.05. That was a minute and a half too fast. Again, I convinced myself that this was “time in the bank” whilst still acutely aware that my legs were starting to diminish.

Running towards the Isle of Dogs I tried to get things back under control by staying closer to my target pace of 7.04. Miles 13-16 were 6.54, 6.53, 6.54, 6.55 – the model of consistency – but too bloody quick! Looking back now I wonder what the hell was going on in my head… Why didn’t I slow down?!

It was around here I saw Jodie and my family again. Great timing! I still felt OK but knew it was on a knifed edge now. Big smiles again for them as I trotted around the Isle.   By the time I saw them again at around mile 19-20, my smile had dropped and it was my real game face.

Liam still found time to expertly time a boomerang though!

I was just about hanging on to my target pace. Before long I came across 20 mile marker. That’s supposed to be a big boost as there is only 10k to go – but it didn’t feel that way to me.

At this stage I was telling myself “One mile at a time”, and that worked until I passed the corner around the 21 mile mark. The R4T cheer squad was around about here and I was grimacing – Dave shouted “It’s all mental from here” and I felt like shouting “That’s not what my fu*king legs are thinking!!” but I just mumbled “I can’t do it!”.

By the time 22 came along, I couldn’t hold on any more, and I had to walk. Just as I started walking, I saw Fred Fox. He tried his best to get me going, but I was suffering. I managed to start running again, butthe next couple of miles I was run walking. Everything below the waist hurt and I was just so hot.

At around 24 miles or so, I came to an absolutely standstill and had to lean against the railings. I felt broken. The supporters were amazing and offered me jelly babies and water which I gladly took. The encouraged me to keep going, and I did.

The embankment is supposed to be one of the biggest highlights of the marathon, and I was looking forward to running along it feeling comfortable and soaking up the atmposhere pushing on for glory  but it wasn’t like that for me. For me it was a painful, humbling experience and I was crying for small parts of it. Partly due to the pain, but mostly because the “good for age” time I had trained so hard for was disappearing before my very eyes, and I just didn’t have it in me to claw it back.

I had to have a good word with myself and tell myself to “man up”. I had less than 2 miles to go and I just needed to put one foot in front of the other and enjoy the rest of it. And that’s what I did.

Running towards Big Ben I stopped worrying about my pace and just waved to the crowds and took in the atmosphere. It was magnificent. I heard an almighty “Come on Matt” from the Grandstand and there was James Gibbons – wow what a pair of lungs he has!! It was EXACTLY what I needed.

Video of that can be found here. Thanks for getting it on film, Holly, and thanks for lifting my spirits James.

Birdcage Walk was a tough slog but I knew the end was in sight. Those infernal “800m to go!” signs weren’t coming quick enough, but I dug deep and rounded the corner under the “385m to go!” gantry. It was the Mall. I could see the finish, so I gave it all I had left, looking around, clapping to the supporters and put in the best “sprint” I could muster and just before the finish line a shot of cramp ran up my leg! I stumbled but crossed the line in an official time of 3.08.43.

There is a video of me finishing here.

As I turned around and looked back down the mall and saw everyone behind me crossing the line. I had done it, I had completed the London Marathon!

It was a strange mix of emotions. I fulfilled a lifetime ambition, setting a 5 minute PB, running a time I should have been really proud of. Most of the people in the race would have been pleased with a 3.08. But my target had been 3.05 so I could run this wonderful event again.

It took many weeks for me to reconcile those two things in my head, but I reached that sense of pride eventually. I collected my medal, a wry smile on my face and got my bag before calling Jodie.

We met, and with my mum, step dad and brother had a celebratory drink in Green Park. They were so proud of me and did a brilliant job of lifting my spirits.

It was the best race of my life… But I have unfinished business and I’m not giving up on Good for Age just yet.

Analysis

It’s only now I can look back objectively and try and understand what went “wrong”. As you can tell, going out too fast and sustaining a face faster than target was a big factor. It was only a few seconds per mile, but I guess when you are running on the very edge of your capabilities, this can have a massive effect.

It was pleasing that despite a detonation in the last 10k the slowest mile I ran was only 8.17.

The heat though transpired to be the biggest factor. I underestimated how much of an effect it would have.  I found out after the race was that Neil and Jason – both sub-3 marathoners – also struggled on the day.  So when I put my run into context, it wasn’t so bad after all.

Looking at my heart rate, it was very much under control – all in the right heart rate zone.

Its when I consider all of this, I really don’t think i could have prepared any better. This was the best I could do on that course, on that day, in those conditions. If the conditions were slightly more favourable…. who knows.

According to the results, I finished in the top 7% of the field and in the top 11% of men. In spite of my detonation, over the last 7.2k I still overtook more people than I was passed by.

Looking back, I am now very proud of my performance.

Strava Activity.

Summary

The London Marathon really is the greatest race in the world and I am so proud to have completed it. I need to thank the following people.

  • Mum and John, who came to support on the day. They looked after Ivy when we were in Yeovil and both Jodie and I needed to train. It really was invaluable.
  • Liam, for coming to support and enjoying some support beers
  • Trish, for looking after Ivy when we needed to train and taking care of here on race day
  • Mac, for coming to see me at the start of the race despite how busy your day would be. You supported me throughout my training too.
  • Dave Purchase, for motivation and being a sound pair of ears for me
  • Running for Time, for being the best club, and to everyone from the club who came to support and run.
  • Jodie – for literally EVERYTHING.
  • And of course little Ivy.

Race Report: Silverstone Half Marathon 2017

Silverstone  Half Marathon has been a race on our list for a couple of years now. It’s ideally placed as a warm up for many spring marathons, though it tends to clash with other major half’s. This year, given that we lived an hour closer than we used to, we thought it was the best time to do it.

Organised by the London Marathon company, It really is excellently priced compared to other events of a similar scale. Signing up was hassle free and our race packs arrived in the post with plenty of time, along with a very detailed “Final Instructions” magazine. it was all very similar to the London Marathon process, and I wonder if they use this as THEIR warm up prior to the big event from an administration point of view!

Pre Race

Unusually the start time of the race is 12.00 noon. one of the advantages of running on a race track is that along with a traffic free course there is no time pressure to reopen roads so they can start it at a sensible time! I wasn’t sure how I would feel running at Noon. Usually I’m a morning racer and this meant I had to change-up my usual pre-race routine, particularly on the breakfast front!

We woke up at the same time we always do (thanks to having a 7 month old baby!) which was quite nice, not too early a start, and drove Ivy to her grandparents where she would stay for the day, before we made our 90 minute drive to Silverstone. The conditions when we set off were horrendous, it was a difficult drive. It started to clear but it remained drizzly right up until the start of the race.

I’ve never been to Silverstone, but as a former F1 fan the thought of running on the race track was really quite exciting! We were forewarned about parking and that it was a bit of a walk to the race village in the far end of the circuit from the car park. There was a special car park for sub 1.35 runners, though I’m not really sure if there was any benefit to parking there. Though the traffic was congested it kept moving and the parking marshals were excellent.

The walk to the village itself was definitely less than a mile, but the problem was the foot traffic had to go across a couple of bridges with some tight bottle necks. This slowed everything right down, so a 10 minute walk ended up being about 20. But we were there in plenty of time and there was actually quite a lot of hanging around.

There were more toilets than I’ve ever seen with the shortest queues I’ve seen as such a big event, really well maintained too and they were proper toilets, in portakabins! It was positively luxurious! The bag drop was instant and easy with so many volunteers on hand there really was no hanging around. This was organisation at its finest.

The other thing I noticed was the number of “official photographers”. They were absolutely everywhere, I’ve never seen so many. Not that I ever buy them as they are horrendously overpriced, but for those that like that sort of thing or wanted a decent memento from their first half, then you’d be guaranteed at least one good snap.

We headed to the start pens in plenty of time and they were enormous – lots of room for a proper warm up, particularly down near the front where there was even extra toilets! I took care of business one last time whilst there, just because I could!

The drizzle started easing off just in time for the start and before long we were off – the official starters were apparently the band “Scouting for Girls”, not that I knew that at the time, who then jumped into the pack and ran the race themselves.

The Race

The start of the race was on the F1 circuit.  The wet surface made it very squeaky, but it was a great wide track and meant for little congestion. The first few miles were all on smooth race track, and I found myself trying to hit the apexes like I was an F1 driver taking the shortest possible route. Though i have to say, even running the tangents, by the end of the race I’d run 0.25 miles farther than advertised distance. I didn’t weave  around THAT much and being near to the front there wasn’t a huge amount of traffic to get around.

Seeing the sights that the drivers pass at considerably faster than we were running was quite a thrill. It was a lot of fun running through and around the F1 pit lane though, past the F1 podium and rounding famous turns like Maggotts and Stowe. Looking at the map from Strava below, you’ll see just how confusing it is. If it wasn’t marked out, you’d never be able to go and do it as a “freedom run”!

Sadly the race also spent a lot of time on support roads and other minor race tracks where people weren’t easily able to get to support. So crowds were sparse in places and it got quite lonely sometimes, but where there were crowds it was quite dense and had some good cheers.

The number of marshals were plentiful and I have to say they were outstanding in terms of encouragement and support. First rate!

The course itself is reasonably flat, the climbs though are long and gradual and it’s not till you crest them, blowing out of your arse that you realise you’ve run uphill. Additionally there were two bridges to cross that were quite steep – and you definitely knew about them, they really take the wind from your sails.

The last couple of miles seemed mainly uphill, and seeing the finish gantry in the distance was torture! The support on the final stretch was great.

Post Race

Crossing the finish line was a relief. The funnel was well-managed , with the ramps and volunteers cutting off the timing chips, and I was able to quickly move through to get a pretty decent goody bag – lots of food, drinks and a nice medal. The only thing that could have topped it would have been a technical tee instead of a cotton one. I don’t understand why the event is sponsored by adidas and there is no tech tee, whereas events like the London 10,000 are not sponsored by adidas but you DO get a tech tee!

After I finished I stood waiting for Jodie watching the masses come in, the event really does have a great vibe and a wide range of abilities.

After Jodie crossed the line we started heading back and got a selfie on the way through.

Getting out was a bit more of a problem than it was to get in. The walk back was much slower as there were more people and the same pinch points. Traffic on the way out was busy, but in line with the scale of the event.

All in all a good event which I am glad we have done. It was fantastic value for money and would recommend it – though don’t think we’ll be hurrying back, as I preferred other events in the same time of year like Reading, and I also want to do Bath next year which is usually on the same day.

My Race Analysis

I was using the race as a tune up for London, like many others. I was a bit unsure how I would perform for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s the first half I’ve run with a decent block of training for over a year. Secondly, because when I ran Cardiff last spring I blew up after about 10 miles. I still PBed, but I felt I was in shape to run a bit quicker. Thirdly, when I tried my last threshold run which was 7 miles with 11 at lactate threshold, it all fell apart.

The numbers however, looked good. If I was targeting a half rather than using it as part of a marathon build up, I would have tapered a bit more than I did. As it was, I just reduced volume and intensity for the last couple of runs before the race, and my Fitness Trend looked like I had a mini-peak (I was at + 11 “Freshness”), so I felt I could give it a good go.

To be on target for my sub 3.05 in London, using McMillan I knew I’d need to run under 1.28. That was quite a scary prospect as it was a good minute quicker than I’d gone last year, it was totally uncharted territory. That’s about 6.40 a mile, so that’s what I had in my head when I set off.

Almost immediately, my watch was short of the first mile marker, and I was 8 seconds over my target. I felt pretty comfortable though, so stepped it up a gear for the next couple and was probably a little too fast. Up until 7-8 miles I felt pretty good, but there was a long drag uphill there. I managed to claw some back up until 10, and my watch said that if I kept going I might sneak under 1.27! However I knew pretty quickly that was optimistic, and instead I focused on trying to hang on for dear life for that sub 1.28. With 2 to go I was really struggling, and the last mile really was a case of sheer bloody mindedness.

I crossed the line delighted, but as I had been manually lapping I didn’t stop my watch, I just pressed lap again! I did stop it and I knew I had comfortably beaten my target. Later that evening my time was officially recorded as 1.27.24 – a PB by over 2 minutes! I finished in P160 of 6690, beaten by only 6 ladies and 117th in my age group. Not bad for a (former) fay lad!

Looking at the Strava analysis, I can see it wasn’t the best executed of races, with the second half definitely being slower, but the course profile naturally causes this with most of the climbing in the second half.

From an effort point of view, I really couldn’t have given a lot more. Strava recorded it as “Epic” and rightly so. Looking at the line graph you can see a progressive increase, peaking just toward the finish. I really was spent.

Walking away with such a PB I can be nothing but delighted, and I am perfectly on target for London. Now, I just need to stay in one piece!

Strava Activityhttps://www.strava.com/activities/897381889

Virgin Money London Marathon 2017: Week 3 of 18

Winter really kicked in this week. Most of my runs have been in the bitter cold and a few a little bit slippy. I’ve started to feel the training load a little bit, particularly early on in the week but that seems to have subsided a bit toward the end of the week. Running my long run on a Saturday again doesn’t help I don’t think, but I think this is the last time I’ll need to do that.

Saying that I’m still feeling like its all manageable and I am going into my sessions feeling fresh which is very positive. No doubt thanks to this very well controlled gradual mileage progression I’ve carefully worked towards over the last few months!

I’m trying to maintain this steady increase until the next mesocycle when the MP runs and recovery weeks jolt the mileage around a bit, but by then I’m hoping the gradual conditioning I’ve done will mean I can take that all in my stride!

Day Book Plan My Plan Actual Notes
Monday Rest Rest 10m General Aerobic Moved as work meant I wouldn’t have time on Tuesday.
Tuesday 10m General Aerobic 10m General Aerobic Rest
Wednesday 4m Recovery 5m Recovery 5m Recovery
Thursday 8m (4m Lactate Threshold) 8m (4m Lactate Threshold) 8m (4m Lactate Threshold)
Friday Rest Rest Rest
Saturday 4m Recovery 5m Recovery 16m Medium-long Wouldn’t have time on Sunday so switched it to Saturday. Incorporated Andover parkrun.
Sunday 14m Medium-long 16m Medium-long 5m Recovery
Total Mileage 40m 44m

Due to work schedules meaning I wouldn’t have time to run on Tuesday, I moved my General Aerobic run to Monday, and boy was it tough. I still had Saturday’s MP long run in my legs, then on Sunday the parkrun double – I really felt the burn! Despite some good elevation I managed to retain the pace zone I needed to be in – but man oh man Tuesday’s rest day was bliss!

The key session of the week was the Lactate Threshold run and it was a bit of a beast. it was FREEZING cold but I still went out in a vest (I knew/thought I’d warm up – I didn’t). I reached about 2.5 miles into the threshold section when my brain started telling me to stop or rest or take a break. it took quite a lot for me to ignore it! I’m glad I did though, but the thought of extending the threshold section to 5 miles in 2 weeks time worries me as I was blowing out of my ass after the 4! Still, there’s 2 weeks to go before I need to worry about that!

The long run had to be moved to Saturday due to some scheduling issues with Family coming over, so I ended up doing 12 and a bit miles, to parkrun then parkrun with the buggy! I managed to time the first 12 pretty well to get there a little ahead of the run brief (I didn’t want to be hanging around standing still) – and managed to sneak in a bit more too so by the end of parkrun I was at 15.9 so just topped it up before scanning!

It took a while to get going thanks to the early start – 7.20am! Not often I head out that early, but it was worth it to get home at 10am knowing 16 miles were in the bank. After 4 miles or so I thought I was going to struggle all the way around but after 6 I feel like I found my flow. It helped that by then it wasn’t very dark and I was a bit more awake! So the pace increased a bit.

I tested my gels for the first time this campaign and am sticking with 1 every 4 miles as its worked for me before. From a hydration point of view, I felt I didn’t have enough – but thats challenging for me on a long run. I don’t like carrying bottles. I slowly drank from a 500ml bottle for the first 10m. I then stopped in the shop and needed to down another 500ml to rehydrate (I got another one too to take with me). So maybe I need about 100ml per mile?

The parkrun course was muddy as anything – and pushing the buggy around it in my road shoes made it really tough going with some slower miles. But the average pace for the whole run was 7.58 per mile – right where I wanted it! So thats a good confidence booster. Need to try and sustain it for 2 more miles next week. 18 at that sort of pace would make me very happy!

Weight

So one of the key parts of my strategy for running a Good for Age time is losing weight. Unfortunately, I’ve been woefully inept up until this point in making a start on it. In my defence, it has been Christmas!

Jodie and I, since Monday, have been making a dedicated effort at shedding the excess timber. We’re both back to obsessively entering every morsel into MyFitnessPal and will be weighing in every week on a Friday.

As an added motivator, I sent an email round at work this week to set up a “new year weight loss challenge” with an entry fee, with whoever loses the most weight (As a percentage of their starting weight) wins half the money (The other half goes to charity). Had a few bites, so will use that as a motivating tool as well.

Here’s my starting stats – the only ones I’m really interested in tracking at least:

Weight: 14st 12lbs
Body Fat %: 24.9%

Its not as bad as I feared, but still have around 21lbs to lose if I want to reach 17% body fat (Rough calculation). That’s a shade under 1.5lbs a week and very acheiveable. It also means I’ll be around a stone lighter than I was for Manchester – that’s got to have an impact on my finish time right?!

Summary

Another solid weeks training. I’m still feeling very strong and all my metrics are pointing in the right direction. Looking at how this week has affected my Fitness Trend I can see a sensible amount of overload that isn’t forcing my “form” score below 20.

If I can keep this solid and sensible training increase I’m confident good things come come – hand in hand with a sensible week’s diet improvements should be forthcoming.

Onwards and upwards into week 4!

Day Book Plan My Plan Notes
Monday Rest Rest
Tuesday 8m General Aerobic (10 x 100m Strides) 8m General Aerobic (10 x 100m Strides)
Wednesday 5m Recovery 5m Recovery
Thursday 10m General Aerobic 10m General Aerobic
Friday Rest Rest
Saturday 4m Recovery 5m Recovery Extra mile to continue weekly mileage increase
Sunday 15m Medium-long 18m Long Build up my long runs faster as already running this distance pre-plan
Total Mileage 42m 46m 2m more than previous week

Virgin Money London Marathon 2017: Prologue

It doesn’t seem long ago that I received the fantastic news that I’d been awarded the sole London Marathon “Club Place” we get at Running for Time. And yet here we are, Christmas Week, running the first week of my usual 18 week training schedule –  an adapted version of the “Pfitzinger and Douglas Advanced Marathoning 18 week/Up to 55mile per week” schedule.

Despite the grand plans to “pre-train” I made in my previous post, this didn’t quite go according to plan. I ended up participating in our local cross-country league for 3 of the 4 fixtures, which I performed well in – certainly better than I expected to!

bryanstonme

I also ran the “Full Monty“, a local, brutal 10m XC race with massive un-runnable hills which I again did better at than I thought I would

monty

So this, along with a  couple of speedy attempts at parkrun, meant most of my quality mileage was in Races, though I was able to put in some great track sessions which has clearly helped my speed my speed a lot.

races

My ultimate pre-training target was for a Sub-19:30 parkrun and to lose some weight. I had hoped for sub-20 at Swindon parkrun in mid-November as a “stepping stone” but only managed 20:21. Then at Newbury last week I ran a 19:47 in spite of the fact I’ve actually gained a bit of weight.

newburyWhat this shows me is that the training is working and if I had lost the weight I’d probably have hit that arbitrary goal – 30 seconds off my 5k time shows I am moving in the right direction. Given we’ve had birthdays and Christmas its unsurprising I’ve not been able to lose weight really. I’m still confident of my marathon goal of sub 3:05 though, as its usually in the new year when my mileage climbs that I am able to really focus on calorie control.

What the Newbury time trial has enabled me to do is reset my training paces to something more recent and relevant. Cracking out the trusty McMillan Calculator I plugged the numbers in and came back with these.

vLT (Lactate Threshold): 6:49 – So this is the sort of pace I’ll be running my Tempo runs at – hopefully, just under.

Long Runs: 7:30 – 8:46 – I’ve been trying to keep my long runs at s sub-8 pace in the build up, which falls in line with this range. The reason being is that I seem to run more economically at that pace and feel it will better prepare me come race day. So my target pace is 7:59

Easy Runs: 7:26 – 8:27 – I roughly translate this as my “General Aerobic” pace in the book. Again, in pre-training I’ve been trying to run at 7:30-7:45 so that will be my target range.

Recovery Runs: 8:32 – 9:13 – Yep, hopefully the slower end of this pace to give myself optimum chace to repair any damage I do!

 

So, I’m injury-free, my training plan is ready, I have my training paces. I’m ready to go! So here’s week 1’s planned schedule.

Day Book Plan My Plan Notes
Monday Rest Rest
Tuesday 8m (4m Threshold) 8m (4m Threshold)
Wednesday Rest 4m Recovery I like to run 5 times a week
Thursday 9m General Aerobic 9m General Aerobic
Friday Rest 14m Medium-Long Christmas day on Sunday! Not doing a 14 miler then!
Saturday 4m Recovery 3m Recovery Standard parkrun day
Sunday 12m Medium-Long 3m Recovery Bonus Christmas Day parkrun

So this is 8 miles more than the book would have me run, however the overall weekly mileage is within 10% of an increase over the previous week, and my long runs are already ahead of plan so I should finish this week reasonably comfortably.

Time to get training!

Virgin Money London Marathon 2017: The Masterplan

It still hasn’t quite sunken in that I’m actually going to be running the London Marathon! It’s a long held dream of mine to be able to run that 26.2 miles between Blackheath and Buckingham Palace and to think i am actually going to do it makes me giddy with excitement! So much so I’ve been meticulously planning every detail of just how I’m going to get to the start line. After all, “Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance”.

As such I’ve been frantically applying for my place officially (Which is confirmed – I will be number 21162) and finding a hotel that’s nearby the expo and with decent transport links to the start. We’ve gotten a room at the Ibis next to the Excel, perfect for the expo, but a (potentially very busy) DLR trip with 1 change to the start.

Phew. That was the admin sorted nice and early.

My thoughts then turned to “How am I going to get myself in shape to run a Good-for-Age” time. And the method is as simple as it was for Manchester. Train hard, lose weight. A bit like this snazzy diagram I’ve put together.

plan

Training

No good marathon was ever run without good training behind it. I needed a good training plan to get me in the right sort of shape – and why change what has worked before? I used the Pfitzinger and Douglas up to 55 miles, 18 week plan for 2 successful Greater Manchester Marathons. The third, Bournemouth, I tinkered with the method to use heart rate zones rather than pace zones with less than stellar results. So I’m going back to the tried and tested and use the old faithful McMillan Running Calculator to tell me my pace zones.

There are some things I know based upon my last Manchester experience. Firstly, they all need to be a bit faster than I did in Manchester, to get my body used to running at faster paces. This will of course be carefully built up and I must not forget, I am in significantly better shape now than I was this time last year. Secondly, the marathon paced runs are crucial. For Bournemouth I missed all of them, and boy did I suffer.

So I’ve carefully plugged all of my sessions into Garmin Connect calendar so my watch will tell me when to run, how far, and how fast.

I also learned at Manchester to trust the training. It really did deliver and it’s only on reflection I can recognise that.

I’m also going to make a conscious effort to work on my Core and upper body. So I have bolstered my training with a series of “30 day challenges” which I’m hoping will earn me some marginal gains.

Racing

The P&D training has some slots for “tune up” races later in the schedule. These were really helpful confidence boosters to me last year. o get faster at the marathon you need to get faster at the shorter distances. Before Manchester I ran an 18.54 so I figure to get GFA I’ll need to run a sub 18:30.  In the build up to Christmas (When P&D starts) I have a mini plan I’ve put together with some targets to get me at least sub 19:30 by then. With any luck a solid training block will see me break that a bit lower even, especially with the other “strand” of my training in play.

Moving into next year, along with some tune up 5ks I’ve scheduled in some bigger, longer races. The first one is Bramley 20. According to my schedule, this should be 18 miles with 12 at MP. So its a slight break from the plan, but its a good race thats relatively flat and a good distance to test myself with. My thinking is that I want to try and race this at target Marathon Pace, so 7.03 per mile (Sub 2.21). It will give me a good measure of “where I am”. If I can run that at MP or close to it with 8 weeks to go, I’d hope the remainder of my training can deliver me that extra 6 miles come race day.

The next big race is one Jodie and I have wanted to for a while, the Silverstone Half Marathon. A flat fast course around the famous racetrack, this is organised by London Marathon Events and PB friendly. According to McMillan I’ll need to run around 1.27.30 to be “on track”. Before I ran Cardiff in the build up to Manchester I thought this was in reach, but come race day I wasn’t feeling great, the weather was poor and it was actually during the Taper, so badly timed. Silverstone is much better positioned in my calendar this year and I’m hoping that if training goes well I’ll get somewhere near this.

Weight

No getting around it, the lighter I am the easier it will be to run. Its a lifelong battle but with the London Marathon on the horizon this is “game time”!

Using some fairly ropey calculations and information identified on Wikipedia, the body fat % for an “athlete” is < 18% which for me will likely equate to 13st 5lbs.

I’m going to start using MyFitnessPal again, but to be honest I know exactly what I need to do and I know I just need some willpower. Now London is in sight its the biggest motivator ever.

Time to execute the plan!