Tag Archives: Marathon

Bournemouth Marathon 2016: Week 3 of 18

Week 3 of training and following Sunday’s tougher than it should be effort, I came into this week wanting things to go a bit smoother! Schedule wise I knew that I could actually do the runs on the days they were meant to be run, which is good for me – I’m a bit of a stickler for routine – so I hoped it would be a better training week. here was the plan.

Day Book Plan My Plan
Monday
Tuesday 10m General Aerobic 10m General Aerobic
Wednesday 4m Recovery 4m Recovery
Thursday 8m (4m Lactate Threshold) 8m (4m Lactate Threshold)
Friday
Saturday 4m Recovery 4m Recovery
Sunday 14m Medium-Long 16m Medium-Long

The only difference being the length of the long run on Sunday, as I like to accelerate my long run progression to fit more 20 milers in during the schedule. This is in line with what i did in the last training cycle though.

Midweek

The first run was Tuesday and 10 miles at General Aerobic pace started fantastically. I felt really strong and like I was in a good groove. That was until my guts started playing up and had to do an absolute stop and try and find my way to the nearest conveniences. it came from nowhere! it unsettled me a bit so the second half was a bit trickier but on the whole a positive experience compared to Sunday. Average HR: 144 Average GAP: 8:00.

Next up was a 4 mile recovery run. With these shorter midweeks runs I try and fit them in at lunchtimes where I can. As I left the office the heavens opened and thunder and lightning was abound – it was actually pretty scary! Still, marathon training takes dedication so I just manned up and got on with it.  Average HR 131 Average GAP 08:31.

Thursday was my first Lactate Threshold run. 8 miles with 4 at LT. I made a crucial error here, by relying on the optical heart rate monitor on my Garmin. And, frankly, it produced a whole load of rubbish. As such I had to try and run on feel and think I totally overcooked the first mile which made the next 3 a very difficult affair and had to pause a few times. I shan’t be doing this session again unless I’ve got the HR strap with me. As such, no useful data to report. Feel wise, I felt I struggled, but I haven’t done much hard running recently at all, aside form the London 10,000, so I had to expect this to be a challenge.

parkrunday – Eastleigh parkrun

We took the relatively short jaunt down the M3 to Eastleigh and found a lovely little event. Having not seen the post on Facebook about not parkring in the car park… we parked in the car park. We were good and early and immediately felt like this was a good community parkrun. Lots of people were chatting together and I just got a good sense of community around the place. I was in my brand new Tribesports vest, advertising my home run of course! Note to others – its actually a little big – I’d recommend sizing down when ordering!

vest

The area near the start/finish had all the usual things you need – cafe and toilets – and the courtyard in front of the cafe was full of parkrunners. The first timers briefing was very thorough as was the main run brief covering all the main topics, and before long we were off.

The course is predominantly grass on parkland converted from an old golf course. The route itself was really pretty, and we were warned of a hill we’d have to run up 3 times… but that was not a somerset hill! It barely registers as an incline! I think it would actually be a pretty fast course, if I’d have given it a good go.

One thing I thought was there was plenty of other land around the park they could have used, and could have come up with a 2 lap course rather than a 3 lap – I’m not a fan of laps! The advantage of the course though is there is only 1 marshal point required. I’m sure he got bored of me saying “thank you” 8 times!

There was also a good section of support as you go through the start/finish where there were additional volunteers in good vocal form!

Not only were the volunteers friendly, but the runners were too. Jodie has been struggling to run now so she has been mostly walking rather than running – which is still impressive given she is now 8 months pregnant! So she was run-walking with her Dad. As word got around the course, she received a wealth of supportive cheering from people. It was really lovely for her.

We couldn’t stick around for coffee afterwards, but I would have loved to and I would say we’ll definitely be back. Thanks Eastleigh!

eastleigh

My 4 mile recovery run included Eastleigh parkrun, and my heart rate was kept under control even though I got progressively slower. As long as it recovered my legs I really didn’t mind! Average HR: 137, Average GAP: 8:43.

Sunday

As per the plan, Sunday was 16 miles. The long run effort zone is quite wide, but I wanted to stay somewhere in the middle of it. I also wanted to try and run the second half quicker than the first, as the book says you should try and run these runs progressively. But that harder than you think when running to heart rate! With that in mind I tried to run the first between 140-145bpm, with the second between 145-150bpm. I overdid it on a few occasions, mainly going up hills but on the whole it was pretty evenly efforted. Looking at the splits in a chart it actually looks pretty even!

lrsplits

I was pleased with the result here. Last weeks 14 miler was incredibly difficult so it was good to put that one behind me. 18 next week! Average HR: 146, Average GAP: 7:53.

Summary

Looking through the data, I am certainly seeing that I am getting faster whilst running for the same effort level. This is very encouraging! I did find though that I am suffering when running at that comfortably-hard level. I don;t do enough Tempo running(Or I haven’t done enough) and it showed! This is partially because my HRM played up but I don’t want to lumber all the responsibility there.

I think I need to start running at the harder end of my “General Aerobic” training zone to increase my tolerance for slightly quicker running.

All in all I feel like I am on track and still confident in achieving my target, but the first real test will be the Marathon Pace run in 2 weeks time. That’ll be 6 weeks into training and the perfect “sighter” as to my form.

Bournemouth Marathon 2016: Week 2 of 18

Following week 1’s relative success, I came into this week feeling reasonably fresh. I wanted to carry through 2 key principles I learned last week.

  1. By not looking at my pace during a run, I feel like I am running slower than I actually am. This has a psychological benefit to me.
  2. When tired, use the lower end of the zone. When fresh, use the higher end.

This week’s training was exactly as is prescribed in the book, though I couldn’t run on Thursday due to travel, so ran Friday instead.

Day Book Plan My Plan
Monday
Tuesday 8m General Aerobic (8 x 100m Strides)  8m General Aerobic (8 x 100m Strides)
Wednesday 4m Recovery 4m Recovery
Thursday 10m General Aerobic 10m General Aerobic
Friday
Saturday 4m Recovery 4m Recovery
Sunday 14m Medium-long (8 @ Marathon pace) 14m Medium-long (8 @ Marathon pace)

This is a nice small mileage increment week on week. The key session of the week being the Marathon pace run. I am trying to identify 1 or 2 target sessions per week to make sure I am fully ready for them, by dialling back the effort on other runs (Whilst staying in the right effort zones) and it’ll be interesting to see if this strategy pays off.

Midweek

On Tuesday I had an 8 mile general aerobic run with a set of strides. For whatever reason, I got less than an hours sleep before I had to get up ridiculously early for my Birmingham commute, so I elected to keep this as the lower end of the zone, targeting 140-145 bpm. At this pace i seemed to find a natural rhythm and “groove” i feel like I’ve been lacking in recently. perhaps this is my “Sweet spot”. I felt like my form had sharpened a bit and I found myself mid-foot striking as I was able to keep my stride more balanced and felt more nible – I suspect this is because my legs feel fresher and more trained. This is a good thing! During the strides I had a case of the gingerbread man, so they were a bit broken during the recoveries, but the Average HR of 141 for an Average GAP of 8:15 (First six miles) is a much lower pace-for-HR than last week! Though last weeks route was hillier, by using Strava’s GAP as a performance indicator, this mitigates the effect of elevation for effort. This is clear evidence that something is working.

Wednesday’s 5 mile recovery was a bit of a late one. I had to travel to Manchester for a meeting in the morning so didn’t end up heading out til nearly 8. But it was a really lovely evening for a jog around the Salford Quays. I also took in Old Trafford football ground and cricket ground. Handily I’d walked the area a lot during my 2 marathon trips here which meant I didn’t need to follow a map! Average HR of 131 for an Average GAP of 8:57.

quays

Thursdays run was rescheduled due to travel arrangements, but the 10 mile general aerobic run was actually a bit of a struggle – the second half in particular. I think my travelling may have caught up. It was a relatively hilly route though, as I like to throw some elevation into my GA runs to increase the net gains from the effort. Average HR of 142 for an Average GAP of 8:28.

parkrunday

As Jodie was away I couldn’t in good conscience go and visit a new parkrun, so stayed “home” at Yeovil Montacute. It was great to see everyone again and had a good chat with Jan and Edri talking babies and marathon training! Meanwhile I extended the usual parkrun distance to make it the 5 mile recovery run the plan said I needed to do.

parkrun

Sunday

Sunday didn’t start well. After the disappointment of the football, and with a mild hangover I was up early to help at the Yeovil Marathon, where the club were manning a water station. It was the hangover and early start that were what made the morning start badly though, as I had a brilliant time at the water station! Very rewarding morning and we had some great feedback from the runners. Great for the club!

water

Meanwhile I was struggling to move my legs a bit as I had done some garden maintenance on Saturday morning and I think I’d worked some muscles in ways I hadn’t before, because they were stiff as a board! I only got 1 mile into my 14 miler with 8 at Marathon Pace that I worked out Marathon Pace wasn’t going to happen, so I went for a standard 14 mile “miles in the bank” run. My heart rate was really good, but my pace was dictated my the state of my glutes and hips which were in a world of pain. I did decide to make it a hillier route though to add a bit of spice which I paid for in the last few miles! Average HR was 136 and Average GAP was 08:47.

Summary

Its all heading in the right direction. I’ve started a spreadsheet to record my HR and GAP to see how it tracks over time and it does look to be improving, but theres still too little data to draw any early conclusions to state that its working or not working, but I’m encouraged.

I’m not going to try and “catch up” the marathon paced section I missed, I think I’m better off sticking to the plan and seeing how I get on with the next MP session.

Next week’s is another step up in distance and has a lactate Threshold run chucked in for good measure, so should be an interesting week!

 

Bournemouth Marathon 2016: Week 1 of 18

If I’m honest, I am extremely glad that the time has finally come to start Marathon training again. With my long term goal being a London GFA time, running between plans has felt a little aimless and demotivating. I hope that the next 18 weeks reinvigorates my spark for running.

As I already posted about, this training regime will me primarily heart-rate based. A step away from my usual “pace zone” based training.

The weeks training was scheduled to look like this.

Day Book Plan My Plan
Monday Vitality London 10,000 (Race)
Tuesday 8m general Aerobic (4m Lactate Threshold)
Wednesday 4m Recovery
Thursday 9m General Aerobic 9m General Aerobic
Friday
Saturday 4m Recovery 4m Recovery
Sunday 12m Medium-long 12m Medium-long

I’d already signed up for the Vitality London 10,000 before I knew my training plan would clash with the race, however it fit in quite nicely. As my 10k pace would (roughly) be around threshold heart rate zone I did a simple swap, and as the race was in on the Monday I added a short recovery run in there too, just to make up some miles.

Midweek

Monday’s race went pretty well – better than I thought. I had a couple of days rest before which really helped and I felt reasonably fresh because of this. I have written a race report for it which contains all the details, but from a training point of view, this was classed as Lactate Threshold. Average HR: 167, Average Pace: 6:37 which is actually a pretty decent indicator of current form. An excellent starting point. If I compare this to the first tempo run I did last year, the Average HR was 169 for an average pace of 6:47 – So I am in better shape than pre-Manchester – encouraging!

10kanalysis

Wednesday saw a 4 mile recovery run with Jodie on a common route in Basingstoke we use a lot. She is doing so well considering she is nearly 8 months pregnant, very proud of her! Nice easy pace, just what the legs needed after racing on Monday. Average HR: 125, Average Pace: 10:43

Due to having to coach the club interval session on Thursday, I had to run my 9 mile General Aerobic run on Friday. Really lovely weather and a pleasure to go for a run. My legs really do feel better, but I’m not quite sure how much of that is psychological. Ran a similar route to that I ran the equivalent session last cycle. What I noticed was I felt that I was going very fast early on and then slowed up as the miles ticked over. This makes sense – you’ll always feel fresher early in a  run. What made this run interesting is that I didn’t look at my pace once on my watch, I had it on my HR screen all the way round. It had a noticeable effect on my perceived pace – I thought I was running much slower than I actually was – a very interesting finding. Average HR: 148 bpm, Average Pace: 8:16 compared to last cycles (153 bpm/7:37). This is noticeably slower, and ultimately the whole purpose of using this method. I would hope my pace increases for the same HR as time progresses.

parkrunday

No parkrun! We were meant to have antenatal class all day but when we arrived they cancelled! Very disappointing, not only as we missed the class but because we missed parkrun too!

Anyway, I headed out for an early 4m recovery run. Again, I didn’t look at the pace once and when I came back and looked at my lap times the pace/HR ratio was about where I thought it should be. Once more, by not knowing my pace I just felt like I was running slower than I actually was. Average HR: 133bpm, Average GAP: 9:10.

Sunday

A nice short long run for Sunday, comparatively speaking. Just 12 miles. I used this as a bit of an experiment as according to the book, the Long Run effort zone is pretty wide ranging. Additionally, it recommends finishing faster, progressing up through the zone. So I broke it up into thirds and ran the first 4 at 140-145bpm, then the 5-8 at 145-150bpm, and ran the final third at 150-155bpm (The top end of my zone is 158).

When I look at the GAP chart you can see this progression resulted in relatively even splits that increased in line with the effort I put in.

sundaygap

And when you compare that with the actual pace, its amazing what a range of mile paces the same effort equated to.

sundaypace

It was quite a useful experiment. My General Aerobic zone tops out at 152bpm, and the book says my Long Runs should be slower/less effort than my GA runs. So I think, at least in the short-term, any progression I make will top out at 150, just to stop myself overexerting on the longer distances. Average HR: 148, Average GAP: 8:05.

Summary

So far, I am encouraged with the results. My general aerobic runs have been forced to be slower, as have my recovery runs.

I am noticing that my runs “feel” slower for the efforts, like I’m not working hard enough – again, this is a good thing, save myself for the sessions that matter.

I have found that my pace drops off as the run goes along compared to the effort. So the same effort in the last mile is always slower than the same effort in the first mile. This is naturally because the body is fresher at the start than the end, so this emphasises the importance of progression through the effort zones to ensure there is a strong finish,

Generally speaking I am feeling fresher and more “up for it” before heading out than I have been for the last couple of months.

Next week sees a marathon-paced effort, this will be a real test of current fitness and a good comparison to the last cycle to see if my target marathon time is achievable.

 

Bournemouth Marathon 2016: An Experiment In Heart Rate Training

Introduction

My target marathon for this autumn is Bournemouth. It’s an event that I’ve had my eye on for quite a while. It’s relatively local to me and some club mates ran some of the races last year (it is a full festival of running with 5k, 10k and a Half Marathon all over the same weekend). I’ve heard nothing but good feedback about it. This will be my fourth marathon, and the first time I’ve run one in the autumn.

As I have previously blogged about, this is my next step towards my long term goal of achieving a London “Good For Age” time. I’ve never run London before, and I’ve been rejected by the ballot 5 times already. This seems to be the only way to get a place unless I wanted to raise an inordinate amount of money!

Those familiar with my journey will know I’ve lost a significant amount of weight over the years, bringing it down from 22 stone to 14 stone and it’s only really been running which has helped keep the weight off. My marathon times have come down with it, going from 3.59 in Paris 2014, to 3.20 in Manchester 2015 (Albeit a short course!) and this spring I ran Manchester again, this time in 3.13.

My target for Bournemouth is 3.09 as a springboard to a 3.04 in April, and the intention is to run the same Pfitzinger & Douglas Advanced Marathoning 18 week, up to 55 miles schedule, which I have slightly modified, as I used in my previous 2 marathon campaigns.

But this time, with a twist.

Previously I’ve always trained to Pace Zones. I use the McMillan Calculator to work out what paces to run at and roughly translated them to the P&D prescribed training intensities based upon target marathon pace. This time I am going to use the technique they actually prescribe in the book – training to effort and heart rate.

Why train to Heart Rate?

Heart rate training is always something I’ve wanted to experiment with.

The theory behind it is simple- by running at a given heart rate over a period of time, your body should adapt to running at that level of effort for the pace you are running and therefore as time goes on you will be able to run faster whilst maintaining the same heart rate.

hrchart

Obviously, it is a bit more complex than that. Mix in to that basic principle a balanced training plan over a range of scientifically established intensities int he way that P&D have put together, and in theory I should find that as time goes on I get progressively faster for the same reward. More bang for my buck.

But why now?

I’ve been hearing a lot of good things and listening to sound advice from a wide range of sources that may explain some of my recent and previous training troubles.

One of the topics I heard on a recent Marathon Talk episode was about how when the Brownlees are training “Easy” they really do train easy. Tom recalled an anecdote from when he went out for an easy cycle with the world champion triathletes and came back feeling reasonably fresh, whereas if he went out for a cycle with a local club they’d be forever pushing the pace. I am certainly a victim of this trap. I am always trying to run faster and faster and end up feeling totally fatigued.

One of our club members, local legend Fred Fox, told me recently how he has been trying to run to heart rate for the last few months, trying to stay in the aerobic zone. He found on recent marathons that he was finding it easy to negative split, and he even ended up running too fast now as his body has increased in base fitness!

From my personal experience and reflecting on my previous training, I can see that in some sessions I just didn’t have enough juice in the tank to do them justice. Interval training is a good example. I can’t remember ever reaching anywhere near the VO2 Max that the book recommends – I was always too tired.

Last Summer I ended up injured, jaded, and chronically over-trained for trying to push the envelope too far. This year, it has taken a good 5 weeks post-Manchester to feel back to “normal” and return to a level of fitness near where I was just before the race. It’s not been quite as bad but for a while I did worry I would push myself over the line again.

All of this suggests, to me, that I’m trying too hard. By slowing down and training to effort levels more suitable to the programme as it is designed, I should be able to execute it with a better degree of focus on the quality, and reap the rewarded improvements. As I get progressively fitter, my training pace should naturally increase, rather than my old methodology of training at a stale pace until I run another race to adjust my pace zones.

Fears

This switch in training is quite a scary step for me. I’m changing my entire training paradigm for 18 weeks. That’s a long time to commit to anything, so it’s scary to think that the potential rewards are complete unknowns, if rewards at all! Especially as I am so desperate to get that GFA time. It’s really quite daunting.

What if after 18 weeks its a disaster and I end up actually running slower? That would be very tough to take, as that next step to GFA in spring will be too far away – which means it would be another year before any potential GFA time would count. It would be a total waste of 18 weeks training.

I’ve tried allaying these fears a bit by reviewing the last campaign and reviewing some key stats. For example, in Manchester 2016 I can see that my heart rate was within the zone that the book advocates as “Marathon Pace”. If anything it tells me that actually, I could have a little bit more in me. My “Marathon Pace” zone is 149-165bpm.

mphr

Yes, all my eggs are in the one basket, but if I am going to do this I am going to do it to the letter. Train easy, race hard.

Desired Outcomes

It’s all very well trying this experiment but what would constitute it being a success?

  • Completing all (or at least, more) sessions – On previous campaigns I’ve had to abort LT sessions, cut long runs short and haven’t performed well in the intervals – the 3 x 1mi session always beats me. being able to complete all sessions would be a big indicator of success as it means I will be recovering better.
  • A Marathon PB – I’m in significantly better shape as I write this today than I was the week before I started training last time around. If training this way results in a slower performance it can only be deemed a failure.
  • Faster Post-Marathon Recovery – Last time round it took a long time to recovery. I felt absolutely battered. Whilst this is much less measurable, I will know if I feel better in the weeks after the race.

It would be impossible to accurately quantify if this method would be MORE successful than training to pace zones. However, the increase  in finish time for Manchester 2015 to 2016, with an injury plagued second half of the year between races, was 10 minutes (Adjusted to compensate for the short course). So in 2016 I was 5% faster. 5% faster again would be a 3.03 marathon!

Just writing that makes me question my maths. The law of diminishing returns does dictate that it won’t be that simple, but still – you never know how the training will go. Ultimately, a 4 minute improvement (Which is what I’m actually targeting) is a mere 2% improvement in performance! I’m all for “marginal gains” but I’d like to think that if this were to be a success I could take more time out of the race than that.

Time will tell!

Training Plan

The plan itself is taken from the Advanced Marathoning book.

Its the “Up to 55 miles per week/18 week” plan, with my  own added modifications, however it is essentially the same (A couple of tune up races aside) as the one I used for Manchester 2016. This should provide a good metric of comparison and make my final result a bit more of a trustworthy and robust answer to the question “was it worth it?”.

As I tend to respond better to volume (thanks to my yo-yo dieting) I usually accelerate the ramp up in my long runs, and I like to do 6 x 20 + milers. Whilst this doesn’t fit with the book, it does fit with what I did previously, so would still make my experiments results valid.

First up, my training zones, for clarity. My Resting Heart Rate (RHR) is 38, and my Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) is about 188.

MHR% (Book) My Equivilent BPM
Long/Medium-Long 74-84 139-158
Marathon Pace 79-88 149-165
General Aerobic 70-81 132-152
Recovery < 76 < 143
Lactate Threshold 82-91 154-171
VO2 Max 93-95 175-179

The book explains that less experienced marathoners should go for the lower end of the range, and elites should go for the higher end of the range. As my pace/effort control is so abysmal, I’ll just try and stay somewhere between the two!

The hardest part of training to heart rate would normally be having to keep an eye on an HR monitor whilst running, which is especially difficult when the sessions are a bit more complex. However, with most modern Garmin’s you can pre-program all workouts in a training calendar and sync it to your watch. That way, the watch will tell you when you are training too heard or too easy.

So yes, I painstakingly put all my sessions into Garmin Connect. it will be worth it in the long run!

Mesocycle 1 – Endurance

This is all about building endurance, increasing training volume and building a solid base to start from. Its during this phase that historically I have been most prone to overdoing it – which is stupid when you think about it. What happens to a building if you mess up the foundations? Hopefully training to heart rate will prevent this.

mesocycle1

There is a 5k race I may participate in here, and if I do I will adjust the training plan accordingly. In the purposes of integrity for the experiment I will likely not run this race. The same is true of the club track session that is planned. I may assist instead of participating.

Mesocycle 2

This phase focuses on “Lactate Threshold” running. This is the stage I always struggle with. Running “comfortably hard” is something I don’t enjoy too much. I’m hoping by having the previous phase a little easier, and running my LT sessions to heart rate it will make these a bit more beneficial and I won’t have the same dread going into them.

mesocycle2

Again, I will likely not participate in the track session or race but have them in my calendar so I can support the club either way!

Mesocycle 3 – Race Preparation

Usually by this point I am feeling pretty good, and actually feel that I peak at the end of this phase – about 3 weeks too early! Hopefully the new training intensities will prevent this. Also, as I previously mentioned, I always struggle to get my heart rate up in my VO2 Max sessions, so it will be interesting to see if I manage it this time round with “easier” training.

mesocycle3

This is also where the Tune Up races mess up the plans a bit. The books asks for tune up races on alternating Saturdays ranging from 8-15k. No chance of finding anything around here! I like to run a tune up Half though, so I balance this by running a hard parkrun and a hard half marathon instead. Again, this is inline with previous campaigns.

Mesocycle 4 – Taper and Race

Last time by the point I reached the taper I really was feeling pretty exhausted – as I probably should have to some degree. but I also ran my “tune up” half 3 weeks pre-marathon. That can’t have helped. I shan’t make the same mistake this year. I already mentioned that I feel like I “Peak” during phase 3 – hopefully I can time that right and hit the race well.

mesocycle4

Mesocycle 5 – Recovery

Having learned my lesson Post-Manchester, all I’m planning here is 2 complete weeks off, followed by 3 weeks of nothing more than running at a “recovery” effort.

Meanwhile I’ll either be licking my wounds from a failed experiment or anxiously planning the final phase of my “Mission: GFA”.

And as this falls in the first week of October, you never know, I might actually get in through the ballot! (Ha! Fat chance!)

Execution

With all that said, its nearly time to execute the plan. My mind is back in the game and I’m feeling pretty focussed. I’ll post my usual weekly updates and of course you can folow my progress on Strava.

Wish me luck!

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.

a

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!

b

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!

c

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.

d

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!

marathonmap

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 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.

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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!