Tag Archives: Marathon

Marathon training starts here! My strategy

Time Every man needs a plan, and this is mine.Well, in spite of unceremoniously uttering “never again…” after completing the Paris Marathon in April, the bug caught me again. After many months seeing my running improve, I want to better my time. Its amazing how ego comes into play to overrule any thoughts of historic pain and agony!

I signed up a few months back, along with Simon and a few others. Jodie managed to make it into London so it means we’ll be training together. Well, we’ll be training at the same time at least.

I’ve spent the last month or two researching different training plans. I had a great deal of success following the Bupa training plans in the past – they’ve delivered many PBs in the last year, and I certainly need the discipline and structure of a training plan to keep my running balanced and focused. But following Bristol’s half marathon PB, I’ve set my sights quote high. After much deliberation I settled on the Advanced Marathoning 18 week up to 55 miles per week training plan, by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas.

As that’s not a particularly snappy name, it often goes by the name “P&D 18/55”, which is much shorter to write!

It has been tried and tested, and comes highly recommended on the Runners World forums. Not to mention, its from the same book Steve Way used to run his first marathon! Though he did the “Up To 70 miles” version.

I could of course have just mindlessly followed the training plan, but I would have: a) Not learned anything. And b) Not understood how to effectively alter the plan when things go off track. Which would have inevitably resulted in c) Abject failure.

On the surface, it seems pretty complicated. There are some difficult terms to get your head around and aside from my “Lactate Threshold” and “Marathon Paced” runs, I’m still not QUITE sure what my pace zones will be – but I’m going to use common sense (As well as the trusty McMillan Calculator). Overall, I must make sure my easy runs are easy.

Unlike a lot of training plans, P&D promote marathon paced running during the long runs, something which excites and scares me in equal measure. Whilst I know compared to my recent half times this is well within my comfort zone, sandwiching it in as part of an 18 miler is a bit scary!

Although I want to follow a structured well designed training plan, I have made some tweaks. For example, I wanted to get more 20 milers in after reading that around 5 is the optimum number, so I have modified the long run routines a bit to reflect this, as well as included some “races” which i’ll run at training paces – Its nicer to run with others than it is on your own!

Also, the plan has several “Tune Up Races” on Saturdays. parkrun isn’t really long enough for this purpose, so I have added some tempo type running in the mix there instead to simulate a hardish race effort. Instead, I have incorporated the Reading Half as my “Test Race”. My target is to run this in under 90 minutes. If I can achieve this, then I will be on track to hit my end goal.

Another element that ought to help me with my overall training strategy – weight loss. My target weight to hit for the race is 12st13lbs, which should be 1 stone less than my weight at the end of the year. This equates to losing less than 1lb per week, a very sensible weight loss. However, If I can lose it a bit quicker, I can focus on proper nutrition and energy in the month or so pre-race.

Finally – my greatest improvements and focus seemed to come when I was accounting for my running and diet on a weekly basis in this blog, before I got lazy and reported monthly. So I am determined to write a weekly report, every Monday (In place of a run – its a rest day after all!) of how things have been going.

So with all that that said, here is my masterplan.

Endurance Mesocycle (17 to 12 weeks to go)

Also referred to as “Base building”  this starts preparing the body to endure the rigours of a tough training program, building the miles and mixing in some threshold training.

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December is a tricky month. I’ve made several tweaks here but you can see the focus is largely on General Aerobic type of runs. Christmas week is a bit special and I’m going “parkrun mad”. I’m hoping for some final end of year PBs, and they are short enough for recovering from the tough efforts quickly so not to affect the longer runs – at least thats the plan!

Lactate Threshold + Endurance Mesocycle (11 to 7 weeks t go)

This phase builds on the endurance phase and introduces more work at the Lactate Threshold (LT). Many sources believe training at or around your LT is the best way to improve your race performance. You can get properly tested to identify your LT, but I tend to use the approximate value that McMillan Running’s paces calculator tells me.

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You can see there is either an LT run or an MP (Marathon Paced) run on a weekly basis here. It also introduces a VO2 Max workout, basically hard intervals in the middle of a longer run. But more on that later!

Race Preparation (6-3 weeks to go)

The portion focuses on speed. There is a VO2 max interval workout each week to increase raw speed performance. This is also where I have my practise race to check my pace is where it needs to be, and I’ll also use it to check my hydraton and nutrition – the gels I use in Reading will be the gels I use in Manchester.

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Taper and Race (3 to 0 weeks to go)

The plan follows a pretty standard 3 week taper. Reducing the training volume whilst maintaining intensity. I’m a bit concerned about running the day before the race, but in for a penny in for a pound! Its been tried by millions so might work out OK!

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Recovery

P&D have a 5 week recovery phase. I’m not sure how patient I’ll be with this, but I can promise to follow this for 2 weeks minimum. Plenty of recovery runs and light on intensity. If anything, I may try and bank a speedy 5k in here, after building my fitness so much I’m sure I’ll be able to give it a blast!

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Jantastic is back!

Jantastic was relaunched this week. Its been heavily hyped on Marathon Talk almost since the end of last years, and I for one am very excited about it.

Its a very simple honesty based motivation challenge. You sign up and tell the website how often you are going to run each week in January. In February, you need to tell it distance of your longest targeted long run, and in March you try and predict a race time and see how close you get to it in order to see how in tune you are with your fitness.

Yes, it sounds simple, because it is. Its incredibly cheatable. But much like cutting a corner on your local parkrun, the only person you’d be cheating is yourself. But now if you use Strava, you’ll be able to link your profiles and, I imagine, it will automatically add your Jantastic runs as they get logged through Strava.

The key as I see it is about making yourself accountable. By telling Jantastic you are going to run 5 times a week, the idea is that you want to meet those targets to achieve the cool badges they award, and to try and maintain an elusive 100% record. Because you set your own targets, you are far more likely to want to go out and hit them than if someone else told you to go and run 3 times a week!

Last year I was relatively new to running, and when I heard about it I used it to maintain my motivation throughout my Marathon training. It worked spectacularly, not least because of the concept of “Teams”. By joining a team you are also contributing to the success of your team – you miss a run, your team score gets affected. So not only would you be letting yourself down, you’d be letting your team down too!

And this is what drove me to keep running through the cold, wet, miserable winter months.

Its cleverly designed to finish right in the middle of “Spring Marathon Season”, but you could just as easily want to use Jantastic just to get out and run  more often. Maybe you just want to improve your parkrun PB. Its great for helping you set and keep the dreaded “New years resolution”, and really is suitable for anyone.

I can’t say that without it I wouldn’t have completed my marathon – I probably would have – but by remaining accountable with Jantastic I was able to run more consistently which is the key to improvement in any activity. This in turn had a tremendous effect on my weightloss and a year on I am a completely different person – In a positive way, obviously!

I still have a stone and a bit to lose to reach my perceived “optimum” race weight for Manchester Marathon, but I know after Christmas I’ll have Jantastic to watch my back, shift the pounds and help drive me on to that 3h20.

So sign up and join a team. No team to join? Hop in with the Yeovil Montacute parkrun team, we’d love to have you!

Marathon Fever!

Knowing it was “London Marathon Ballot Allocation Week”, as soon as I received this text message I knew exactly what it meant.

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Ignoring the number of kisses we exchange which is a whole other story, I knew this meant that she’d been granted a London Marathon place.

For those that don;t know, the London Marathon allocates its entries for home runners at random. The week after the race, you have to declare your intent for the following year. Then, the first week in October, they pick at random the lucky entrants. They then send a magazine out to everyone. If you are lucky, you get one of these.

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If you aren’t lucky, you get one which just says “Sorry” on the cover. I elected not to take a photo of that as I proceeded to “file” it in the bin.

Jodie has entered the ballot for the last 5 years, and finally got lucky. I am hugely jealous of her as I would LOVE to run London, but more than that I am SO EXCITED! When I read the message, I was in the car and I let out a little girly squeal of excitement!

We had both entered the ballot, but I also signed up for a place in the Manchester Marathon, which takes place the week before London. The idea was, if we both got in I would “Race” Manchester, and run it with her as she is a little slower than me. If I got in and not her, I would defer til next year hoping she’d get in then.

But her getting in on her own is almost the perfect scenario. She gets to run the greatest marathon in the world as her first (And hopefully want to run more!) with all the support, the atmosphere and furore that goes along with it. I get to support her, which is something she has been so good at for me and I am delighted to be able to do the same for her. And, i still get to experience the event without worrying about running back to back marathons.

Words can’t describe how excited I am! I’ve already committed to my training plan for Manchester and I can’t wait to write her a plan so i can fit it in with my own running so we can run together as much as possible. And I just know, when she crosses the finish line, I’ll be prouder of her than I have ever been of my own achievements.

McMillanRunning.com – Predictor extraordinaire!

If I ever need a reason to trust in the race time estimates and training paces at McMillan Running, I just need to look at this.

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My half marathon PB I set on Sunday is almost perfectly in line with the 5k PB I set on the previous Wednesday! (Ok so it’s 3 seconds out – more than forgivable!).

But this trust thing is a double edged sword. It also suggests that I could improve my 10k time (which means a serious fast long effort), and scarily, a 3.21 marathon!

One thing is for sure – using the calculated training paces the site has given me has delivered success. Countless PBs this year now, every race it seems. So if I stick to the paces they say, maybe 3.21 isn’t so scary after all…

… And if that’s not scary, how about sub 3.15?

Paris Marathon 2014: The Video

After the marathon, I bought the official photos and videos from the event and edited them down to produce my own personal memory. I posted it on Facebook originally, but thought it would be good here too. I hope you enjoy it.

Make sure you watch it in HD!

Paris Marathon 2014: The Build Up

With many of the big marathon’s you have to go to an Expo to pick up your race packet, and Paris was no different. It was only complicated by the fact that we had to go there directly from the airport, complete with our massive suitcase of luggage (We only took 1 big one in order to save EasyJet charging us for two smaller ones!) to the back end of Paris on the metro, complete with all the stairs said Metro had to offer! Not perfect marathon prep admittedly. The missus offered to do the suitcase lugging and I eventually agreed – But I looked like a proper insensitive idiot, walking around scot free while she lugged the case!

There was a bit of a queue to get in – there were some 36,000 runners to get through, but it was all outside in glorious sunshine.

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Once inside everything ran like clockwork. I had to take my medical certificate to the first desk to be stamped along with my “Convocation” and ID. This is the source of much confusion. To run a race in France you must be cleared as fit to run by a doctor. I managed to talk my doctor into giving me the all clear for a mere £15, but some expect you to take up a private hour session with them for a full medical! others happily sign it for free. So it’s hit and miss. The convocation is basically your order form/receipt saying who you are and that you paid for the entry. Once this is all stamped I headed over to the desk to get my packet! Very exciting. Walked straight up and came away with it.

The next part was trickier. I wanted to change my starting pen time to Sub 4. It’s all very well me thinking that I MAY be able to get sub 4, but if I start in the 4h15 pen, I’d be slowed up massively by the traffic. I had mentally prepared a story as to why I wanted to switch, in case there was some resistance. Aside from the terrible queuing system for enquiries, I needn’t have bothered. I said I wanted to switch to sub 4 and they just gave me a sticker! And that was that!

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We wondered through the expo and picked up my goody bag – and what a bag it was! A lovely green branded drawstring bag containing nuts, a sponge for some reason (Which I’d find out later!) the usual leaflets and rather nicely, a head torch!

The Expo was a runners paradise, anything you could think of was there. In hindsight I wish I picked up a paris marathon tee shirt or two. We didn’t spend too long there, but did manage to get a couple of nice snaps at the “Finish line”

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And there was a giant wall you could sign. I can’t remember what I wrote, but I doubt it was anything too profound.

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And on the way out I got a photo of my official (Ha!) pace car!

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From there we bimbled back to the hotel. Lugging that stupid suitcase! It was blessed relief when we made it, though the hotel was small, it was clean and tidy and good value. The staff were lovely and helpful too. I’d recommend Hotel Boissiere, its close to the metro and very good value.

We spent the afternoon in Paris seeing the sights. I want to keep this to a running blog so will spare you the details, but we had a good walk along the river, put a lock on the bridge and walked through the grounds of the louvre, before heading back to the hotel, stopping for a good pasta feed on the way.

It wasn’t until we were back in the hotel room that I really got nervous. Lying in bed trying to sleep in a strange bed wasn’t the best way to get into marathon mode, but I eventually drifted off for a precious few hours before that 6.00am alarm call.

I woke up and went downstairs. I had some instant porridge pots I’d brought with me where I could just add hot water to, and the hotel were kind enough for me to use their kettle for me to smash in 2 of them. It was just what I needed. I was a curious mix of nerves and excitement and the missus was probably driven nuts by my behaviour. I got into my race gear. I looked good! She took the piss out of my union jack vest, but as far as I was concerned I was competing on international territory! It was my duty!

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We left the hotel and I was noting the temperature – it was cool but not cold, and more importantly dry. The forecast had been predicting rain all week but it looked like we got lucky. She was carrying the bag with all my stuff – saving my legs for me. I had brought a bin bag and had a cheap Primark long sleeve tee shirt on to keep warm, but it wasn’t necessary that day. We got onto the metro and the majority of those there were runners. We were a reasonable way out on a minor line but there were still a few dozen.

We had to change lines to get on the right train to the Champs Elysses where the start was – and it was like nothing I’ve ever seen. The train and station was rammed with runners, as we got off we shuffled our way out into the sunlight in time for a quick snap.

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We were a bit early. We headed toward the finish to show the missus where it was and I had a pee on the Champs Elysses – a very weird experience! I loaded up my gel belt and we headed for the start pen. The marshals were very good at getting people in. It took time, but they made sure no-one got in that shouldn’t have. She got a quick photo of me and then I started shuffling into the start pen.

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This was it.

Paris Marathon 2014: The Preparation

I regularly look back on everything that led to the Paris Marathon in retrospect. It many ways it was the greatest journey I had ever undertaken and looking back on it now its still hard to argue against.

Every year for the past 3 years I’ve entered the ballot for the London Marathon. Usually I receive my rejection and forget about it, but in the autumn of 2013 I’d been running consistently for 9 months and had my 2nd half marathon in a couple of weeks. After a few moments deliberation, I decided “Sod it, I’ll do another one!”. The halves had been great challenges for me, but I am always looking for the next one. For no other reason than to maintain the focus and determination I had already developed and ensure I had a target to follow up on.

Within an hour I had discussed it with the missus and we’d settled on going on a long weekend in Paris, taking in all the sights and after the marathon spend a couple of days in Disney. Everyone wins! Within a few moments I’d booked the flights, the hotel, and was signing up for the marathon. It asked me for my “Predicted finish time”. I didn’t know what to put. So I went to www.mcmillanrunning.com and entered in my predicted finish time for the upcoming Cardiff Half (An ambitious 1:57:59) and that fell in line with around the 4:15 – 4:30 mark. In the end I only ran 1:59:xx in Cardiff but I figured it was close enough.

I know the date, and I knew the goal. But how was I going to get there? I needed a plan. I spent ages looking for a training plan that was right for me. I know I wanted to run 5 times a week (Compared to the 4 I was running presently – I felt I needed to step up the game!) and I wanted to run 5 x 20 mile long runs. The closest I managed to find was the Bupa Intermediate Marathon Plan, which I modified a bit to do more 20 mile runs.

Some of the terminology was a bit mystifying. I didn’t really know what Intervals were, or what my training paces were meant to be. I found the training paces calculator on McMillan Running and was faced with the realisation that I had no idea how to monitor my paces! I’d been using Endomondo on my iPhone, but looking at that all the time would have been a pain in the backside. So I made the executive decision that I needed a Garmin. Yet more research and money later (So far this marathon had reached the £700 mark…) I had the brilliant Garmin Forerunner 220, which I’ll review some time.

The great thing about the Forerunner 220 was that I could program my “Workouts” into the calendar and sync them to the watch! So I could go for a run and the watch would tell me how fast to run, for how far, or for how long! It would beep at me when I was under or overdoing it, and I could analyse the data in minute detail afterwards. Great for a stat addict like me.

So the building blocks were coming together. I took the Marathon date and worked backwards. My training plan started before Christmas! Well, if I needed to stop being indulgent over Christmas then the prospect of dragging myself 26.2 miles round the streets of Paris was a big enough incentive.

Then I came across a post on the Runners World forum. People were saying how a 1lb weight loss could make you faster by as much as 2 seconds a mile. In my head I figured that meant if I lost a stone or more I would be faster. (Looking back now I can think… well durr! Of course you’ll be faster there will be less of you to carry around). This gave me some added resolve to renew my weight loss efforts.

Training wise, i stuck to the plan meticulously. Despite Somerset having the wettest, most miserable winter on record, I pounded the pavements when the plan told me to religiously. I hit all my target times, paces etc except for a handful of sessions, and only had to drop one run from the whole plan. I experimented successfully with gels so I knew what to take on race day, I ran long and I ran far. I worked harder than I ever have before.

At the same time, I was logging everything that crossed my lips into MyFitnessPal. The combination of the two was working and I was losing weight like never before. I felt good. I researched race day nutrition and bought supplies to take with me to Paris. I tested. I OBSESSED with every detail.

Oh, and I bought an engagement ring. Shhh!

Part of my training plan was to run a half marathon warmup race a few weeks before. I signed up a long way in advance to the Fleet Half Marathon. This event deserves its own review, which I may well do when I run it again this year! What a great event. My target, to be on track with my 4:15:00 marathon plan was to run 1:54:xx. But I felt amazing. I went out at around 8:10 a mile and felt comfortable. After the first smaller lap I was still comfortable. It wasn’t until around mile 11 until I struggled, but by that point I knew I could hold on! Quick mental arithmetic meant I could go under 1:50!! I gave it absolutely everything! There was a horrible hill before the final 300 yards and I reached the summit spent. Just the downhill section to go for less than a regulation track lap. From somewhere I managed a kick and sprinted to the end. I stopped the watch. 1:48:35! I was absolutely ecstatic!

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Unfortunately, I had no-one there at the finish line. The missus was unavailable and I’d driven myself. But I’d never felt anything like it.

I only had one week left before the taper.

All the training had been done.

I was fit.

I had just set a massive Half Marathon PB.

Could it be possible to go around Paris in Sub 4?