Marathon Fatigue

In the 8 weeks since I completed the Reykjavik Marathon I’ve run 5 times. Rewind through the years and it’s a familiar story; after completing the London Marathon (4 times), in the months after Glencoe, the autumn after Orkney. Seven times now I’ve started and finished a marathon yet after each marathon I’ve hit the wall with my own training in the immediate months that follow.

 

As running has become more important in my life I’ve ensured that I maintain contact with the community by coaching, spectating or volunteering in the months following a marathon but it’s taken a long time to return to a regular routine with my own training. So what’s going on?

 

Before I get going on to the main thrust of this blog it’s worth pointing out I’ve loved every one of the marathons I’ve done. The distance made me a runner, it introduced me to running clubs and therefore lots of my current friends. 26.2 miles gives me a sense of personal achievement which completing other distances can’t come close to. I enjoy the adulation from non-runners which only seems to be afforded to marathon runners. I love the history of the distance. I love training consistently, motivated by a looming goal. I enjoy listening to podcasts on long runs, something I rarely make time for otherwise. I enjoy having an easy go-to topic of conversation with other runners. I’ve loved the intimacy of events like Orkney and Glencoe, the unique atmosphere of London and running through phenomenal backdrops such as Reykjavik. I wouldn’t change those memories for anything.

 

Some of you will already be thinking; ‘It’s ok’, ‘ You should take a break’. It’s true, a break is well earned and necessary post-Marathon to allow the body to recover. Depending on the rule you go by this usually involves somewhere around 3 to 4 weeks of inactivity. One day per mile raced seemed to be to be the most fashionable recovery mantra around the time of my first marathon (although does this apply to all distances? If so why does nobody stick to it?). Why though do I fall out of good habits so easily and for so long after a marathon? This is not an anti-marathon blog. However after each one completed I’ve totally fallen off the rails running wise and it’s taken a marathon effort to get back into the routine of running regularly.

 

I’ve spent a long time pondering this and still can’t quite put my finger on it;

 

Being brutally honest I just couldn’t really be bothered running over the past 8 weeks. This can go on for several months (6 after my first marathon). I know I have gotten frustrated that my times over other distances have tailed off and it can seem like a long road back (the irony being the road back gets longer with each passing week).  As a result I get more and more frustrated with myself as well as losing the positive wellbeing and mental health benefits of running.

 

Is it the frustration of not quite hitting a target in an event where you invest so much time but only get one chance to perform? Unlike other distances where you can pencil in another effort in a matter of days whilst allowing your body a good amount of recovery. Certainly in my last two marathons this isn’t the case as I’ve dropped my time significantly.

 

Is it physical fatigue? I’m not so sure on this one as I see people running ultras and long runs on a much more regular basis than I do with no ill effects. I’ve run decent times soon after a marathon where I’ve signed up to races and gone along just to see how I feel.

 

Is it sour grapes that I haven’t quite reached a level of performance which I have in other distances? My 5k, 10k, 10 Mile and Half Marathon times should put me on course for a time just outside the 3 hour mark but I’ve never even come close.

 

I’m not sure what the answer is. I do know running is great for me in so many ways though and I don’t like it when I am not in that regular routine. Hard to break, difficult to pick up.

 

What do others think? For every amateur runner churning out brilliant personal bests over the marathon distance, for every runner ticking the distance off their bucket list…… there’s a more silent minority steering well clear of the distance. Not everyone reckons you should complete a marathon to be classed a runner despite what you might think. There are several vocal proponents of complete abstinence. There are coaches who tell you not to bother. Yet the lure of the distance, the kudos lavished on marathon completers by non-runners, the prestige of participating in the majors keeps drawing us in. This is despite the marathon often being an anti-climax for those, like myself, who become time obsessed.

 

It’s a split decision amongst amateur runners.

 

In summary this blog is not so much about what is the right recovery but about the growing feeling that marathon running might be having a negative impact on my running performance. It’s hopefully something that will spark some thought and debate. It’s aimed at anyone thinking about or who has recently completed a marathon. Seven marathons in I find myself contemplating retirement from the big distance – the perceived holy grail of running. At least for the time being.

 

With so much pressure (from myself) to perform it’s quite literally all your eggs in one basket hoping everything (weather, course, guts, fuelling and health) aligns perfectly on one day of the year. The reality is everything is not going to align unless you spread the risk and enter a lot of events. The trade off is not worth it for me – you’re going to be training a lot more on your own and your performance in more club friendly and social events is likely going to suffer. That’s not to say I’ve not hit great 5k and 10k times during my training blocks but these have tended to come around the middle third of a training block when runs of around 12-14 miles are common.

 

So one week back in to training what’s next? Well I’d like to replicate the same consistency and commitment I’ve proven I can over several marathon training blocks to other distances for the 2019 season. I hope to get back close to my 5k and 10k pb times in the near future and work hard over the x-country season. I have the endurance in my legs from a marathon training block that will undoubtedly help. I have arranged some middle distance runs with a group of guys from the Harriers on a Sunday as this is a type of training I’ve only really focused on when completing a marathon block.

 

Could it be that the marathon just isn’t my distance? Maybe I should focus on the 5k through Half Marathon range where I am happy with my performance level. Perhaps as runners we don’t often think about what discipline is our strongest and work on that. We simply see running as running when some of us are built for speed and others for endurance.

 

As I develop my coaching skill set and look in from the outside I guess I am looking at year on year progress as I move from one training block to the next. This was sacrificed in the second half of 2018 as I concentrated my efforts on the marathon which was never part of my grand plan and this is perhaps behind my current frustrations.

 

Non-runners might not be as impressed if I drop below 18 minutes for the 5k or get closer to 1 hour 20 for the half but I know these will be greater achievements than running another marathon. That can wait for now. I’m just glad to be back running.

 

Hopefully this doesn’t put anyone off the marathon. Just take your time though and consider if it is right for you – do you want to get faster over shorter distances first? If you go for it remember completing it really is the goal and the achievement. Times are for seasoned marathon runners. Tell people that when they ask how it went / or if you have a goal time in mind. (Remember our previous blog on First Time Marathon Running). Look after yourself. Increase incrementally and build in easier weeks to allow your body to adapt and recover.

 

On a side note. I actually fatigued during training prior to Reykjavik. I only did about 60% of my planned long runs and dropped out of regular hard sessions in the crucial 12 weeks leading up to race day. Despite this I ran well (11 seconds inside my pb although the course was later measured as 200 metres short). Maybe something for a future blog but I actually think I could run the same time tomorrow as I think it’s much more a mental test than a physical one.

 

 

 

 

London Marathon 2018 – A race like no other!

What a crazy week it has been! As I stood nervously on the start line of the London Marathon, eyes gazing beyond the bouncing shoulders of the elites ahead of me and down the welcoming slope of Shooters Hill, I had a plan in my head of how I would like the race to pan out: I knew what pace I would be aiming to settle into once the Queen had signalled the start of the race; I knew that every fifth mile I would be squeezing a slightly warmed, but very welcome, carb gel down my throat and I knew that various groups of family and friends would be poised at a number of well thought out stations along the route, ready to yell messages of support (or friendly abuse) as required. I hadn’t, however, put much thought into what might happen after the race. I am sure that if I had, I would not have imagined that I’d be standing 24 hours later with a BBC Camera perched at the back of my classroom and with an e-mail flashing at me from my computer asking me to phone the local newspaper back ASAP. This was not necessarily going to be the race that I had planned, but it was certainly one which I will never forget.

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Training had been fantastic. Since crossing the finish line in Berlin seven months earlier, London had been the focus. I had put in the hours in training through a tough cross-country season, gruelling solo runs along the Clyde Walkway and even ploughing through snow courtesy of the ‘Beast from the East’. Smashing several of my PBs along the way, this was one of the most consistent training blocks that I have ever managed. The goal had always been to break 2:30:0 and I was feeling confident that this was definitely on the cards…

Then I thought about the weather. As my taper drew to a close and the carb-loading commenced, I began to think about possible race-day conditions. Most forecasts were indicating that this was going to be a warm one and to be honest my initial thoughts were relief that it wouldn’t be as cold as the training that I had suffered through in our typical Scottish Winter. It was when I started hearing whisperings of ‘the hottest London Marathon ever’ that I was forced to take things a little more seriously. At Berlin, on a cool, wet September morning, I had not consumed any water for the duration of the marathon. I knew however that in a hot London race, this would not be a sensible tactic.

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I lined up on the start line with a bottle filled with ice having taken on the advice I heard on Marathon Talk about ‘pre-cooling’. I had spent the previous hour sitting in the shade with the iced placed periodically across my shoulders and the back of my neck in order to lower my core temperature. I ditched the ice and found myself squashed in amongst the other excited athletes in the Championship Start. Having had difficulties with congestion in the past, I managed to make my way to the front and found myself tucked in just a few rows behind the pros. Seeing the likes of Kipchoge just ahead of me was phenomenal and it is moments like that which make running in a big city marathon that little bit special. Before I had a chance to get too star struck, the Queen appeared on the screen to press her button and start the race.

We were off!

People talk about the fast start at London but nothing quite prepares you for it. The long slope of Shooters Hill falls away before you and it can be very difficult to stick to a planned pace. I went through the first 5km in 17:16 – a little quicker than intended. I managed to hold myself back a little over the next 5km and settled into a pace that I felt I could sustain. Just before the half way mark I passed over Tower Bridge and felt a huge rush as the crowds roar filled the road – there is nothing quite like this moment and it never fails to take my breath away. I had found that my comfort levels were fluctuating through the first half – I had moments where I felt fantastic and others where I felt lethargic. This seemed to be a turning point however and the next 5 miles were great. I started to really enjoy the run and found I could work the crowd a little for an extra boost.

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Then I reached mile 18. This is where I first experienced the sensation that everyone who has run a marathon will know well. This was the moment that I realised I was slowing down. It is a strange feeling. I didn’t feel particularly ‘tired’, I simply realised that I was putting in the same amount of effort and yet not travelling at quite the same pace. This is where marathons are made or broken. It is a fine line that needs to be walked (or jogged!) when you still have 8 miles to complete of the race. A voice in your head is telling you to slow down to ensure that you reach the finish (this was accompanied by images of the incredible Callum Hawkins collapsing in the final stages of his marathon only weeks earlier) and yet a voice in your heart is whispering that you just need to grit your teeth and see how deep the well goes.

I saw the pace drop a little but reasoned I was still on target for my goal and that I could afford to be a little careful for a few miles. As I reached mile 22 however I realised that things were slowing more than I could afford and that the initial target was falling out of reach. I battled on in the heat and felt positive as I continued to pass other runners who were also struggling in the midday sun. I was forced to accept that the 2:30 target was not going to happen today but realised that a PB was still on the cards. I knuckled down, focused on the positive and fought my way onto the Mall.

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Crossing the line in 2:31:04, I felt a strange cocktail of emotions. As relief at finishing and the pride of having a medal draped over my shoulders mixed in with the tinge of disappointment at not hitting my target I felt strangely conflicted. This was a PB (my previous being 2:31:31) but it wasn’t the PB I wanted – I was still a 2:31 marathoner, no one really cares about the seconds! It was moments later however that I felt my first taste of overwhelming satisfaction (and slight incredulity!) as I glanced at my phone to see a message from a friend declaring me the 33rd finisher. Thirty-third?!? I thought this must be a mistake but soon had it confirmed and I was ecstatic – I had not even considered my position in the race as I had been too busy thinking about my time.

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I enjoyed a very quick celebration with my fellow runners, my brother, friends who had travelled down to watch and, of course, my wife Vicki before we needed to rush away for our flight back to Glasgow! A quick shower, a few slices of pizza in a plastic bag for the journey (thanks to my awesome sister-in-law Laura!) and a short train journey took Vicki and I to Stanstead for the final leg of our journey. A short delay to our flight meant that we were back in our flat just after 11pm and finally my head hit the pillow for a few hours kip before work on Monday morning and I enjoyed dreams of a nice, quiet day in the classroom…

“Jack, you’re needed in the headmaster’s office now – apparently it is urgent!”

My colleague had just burst in during my second period of the day with no idea what I was wanted for – but it sounded important! I was a little scared (and more than a little confused) as I entered his office but was greeted with a handshake and invited to take a seat.

“The BBC are on the phone. They want to come in for an interview – and they want to film you teaching your S3 class”

Despite my fear that I would make a fool of myself on camera, and after a stern/desperate chat with my pupils, things actually worked out OK and the footage on Reporting Scotland didn’t make me look like a complete idiot! I was overwhelmed with the messages of congratulations that I received after this and I even got a free Greggs in the morning from the staff who had seen my interview! What a bonus!

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The week since has been fantastic. I may not have achieved the initial target but I am incredibly proud of the result. I am now left planning for the future – I know that I have more to offer in the marathon, but for now it is time to reflect and recover. In the meantime I need to thank a few people who helped in the long road to London:

  • Bellahouston Harriers – for providing a huge level of support to all of us who were running.
  • Matt – who put up with almost daily questions and who provided an unparalleled level of advice and guidance throughout the training block.
  • The Locker Room – for that extra touch of motivation when needed.

And most importantly to Vicki who put up with months of my obsession, anxiety, bragging and distraction, all the while struggling with her own injury. I couldn’t have done it without her support.

Bring on the next one…

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Renfrewshire AAA Road Race Champs

With the first phase of my training towards this year’s London Marathon being focused on consolidating speed over shorter distances, this morning’s 5Mile Renfrewshire Champs has been a target in my diary from the outset. Recent sessions have been going well and the consistency of my training since January meant that I felt pretty confident lacing up my flats this morning.

We were greeted by exceptional conditions upon arrival in Greenock and the smell of coffee and home baking at race registration provided ample motivation to get round the course at lightning pace. The Harriers were missing a few notable faces due to the previous days’ Master’s XC, however there were still plenty of saltires huddled around the start line and we knew that there were potential team prizes up for grabs.

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As the starter pistol fired, the athletes burst into life and the narrow start created a fantastic atmosphere as people jostled for position in the early stages. I knew that I wanted to get tucked into a group early on in the race – the exposed middle section along the esplanade was in the back of my mind – and so I found myself in the middle of the chasing pack and ticking along at a pace that felt pretty comfortable.

As we left the park and made our way onto the promenade we had formed a clear group of half a dozen runners and were chasing a lead group of similar size. I was feeling great but decided that patience was the key and so stuck in behind the leaders of the group rather than trying to catch the leaders. On the approach to the half way point we closed the gap on a couple of runners who had dropped off the back of the lead group and, as we turned to head back to the park, we started to catch a few more.

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I had no idea of my position as we re-entered the park but I was feeling great and realised that we were into the final mile. I knew that a few rivals were close behind me and didn’t fancy leaving things too late so I put my foot down and decided to kick for home. It was half way through the mile that I realised I was catching a couple of runners whom I recognised as being fantastic athletes. As I closed the gap, a small collection of Bella Supporters gave me a cheer and indicated that the guys in front were in 3rd and 4th position. These were runners who I have never been able to compete with in the past and as I saw them getting closer I realised that I would not necessarily get many chances to finish ahead of them. I gritted my teeth and slipped past the pair of them with about 500metres to go. Terrified to look behind me, I realised that it was all or nothing and so worked into a sprint (or as close to it as I could muster!). I crossed the finish line in 3rd place and was over the moon at the prospect of my first individual medal in a championship event. I was then informed that the race winner was not from a Renfrewshire club and so was not eligible for a prize in the championship – meaning that I would be awarded a silver medal! On top of this, Bella took the team silver prize in the men’s race and several medals in the ladies race also!

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This was a massive result for me and is a medal that I am incredibly proud of. I can’t wait to see what the next few months bring!

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A very late summary of my final preparations for the Berlin Marathon.

Since running the Berlin Marathon, several people have approached me to ask about the sudden halting of my training updates on here. I managed to write up my training reflections for the first few weeks of the block however these soon fizzled out when things got a little hectic at work. For now, the details will remain on the pages of my training diary but here is a quick summary of the final few weeks…

Training

Ticking off several key long runs containing chunky sections at Marathon Pace did wonders for my confidence and I found myself entering the taper period with my eyes fixed firmly on a PB. A particularly gruelling session took place three weeks prior to race day and is definitely one which I will repeat in future marathon endeavours. The session covered 24M and included 5 sets of 3M at Marathon Pace with 1M between each set at a pace roughly 45secs/mile slower. This was a tough workout but it never felt like I was out of control and this gave me a huge boost. We drove out to Paisley for this run and made use of the cycle path down to Lochwinnoch and back. This was ideal as we did not have to worry about traffic, hills or road crossings.

Taper

I took a fairly short taper and maintained a slightly higher mileage than in previous Marathon build-ups. This definitely helped me psychologically as I was running well and it was nice to be running comfortably on a regular basis in the lead up to the race. I also followed a similar eating plan to my Amsterdam Marathon effort of 2016 – if it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it!  This meant that I spent three days doing a ‘carb-depletion’ phase at the start of the week and then followed this up with four days of ‘carb-loading’. On the day prior to the race I settled back into a regular (although still fairly carby) diet in order to avoid feeling bloated on race day. I know that there is a lot of debate regarding the effectiveness of ‘carb-depletion’ but it seems to have worked for me in the past so I’ll continue to do it.

Race Day

On the morning of the race, I woke up very early for breakfast. I have struggled in the past with stitches when eating late and have since found that eating 4hours before my marathon does the job and works for me. I went for my standard pre-marathon breakfast of porridge, banana and a coffee and then sipped an isotonic drink throughout the morning. I also had a small flapjack a couple of hours later just to keep hunger at bay.

The Result

I was over the moon with my results of 2:31:31 – a shade faster than I had been hoping for and a shiny new PB. I loved the route and will follow this brief summary up soon with a full review of the race itself.

The Road to Berlin: Week Seven

Week Seven: 21/08/17 – 27/08/17

Total Mileage: 73.3M

Monday:         Rest

Tuesday:         13M (10 Progression)

Wednesday:   7.3M Recovery

Thursday:       8x600m reps off 90sec jog recovery

Friday:             AM: 4.5 M Recovery

PM: 7.25M Easy

Saturday:        8M Easy + Strides

Sunday:           24M (20 Moderate)

 

Reflections:

This was a tough week and a bit of a mix to be honest! Things started fantastically and I felt great on the progression run. I managed to work down to a couple of reps at 5:25/mile and felt strong. This was a similar session to one which I completed before my Marathon in Amsterdam last year however this attempt ended up being significantly faster than that effort – a nice little confidence booster!

On Wednesday however I had to stop my run half a mile early due to really bad stomach cramps. I had further stomach issues on Thursday too, though thankfully I was still able to complete the session.

On Friday and Saturday I was made it through all of the runs with no further issues which was a relief and I felt great. I am really starting to feel fit just now and these runs felt fantastic.

Sunday was a big one. 24Miles with the middle 20 at 6:20/mile (approximately 30seconds ahead of Marathon Pace). I made my way round Pollok Park before heading up along the cycle route towards Paisley and along the canal before turning and heading back on myself. It was really useful to have company on the first section of this run and Darren and Stuart ran with my to the half way point. It was also a nice boost to see Cris and Craig when I was heading back as we used the same route for our similar sessions. I felt great on this run and the pace felt comfortable – again it was a huge confidence boost as I enter the final month of preparation. I did get a bit of a fright when I stopped however as I attempted to stretch my calves (which had been very tight) and I got a sharp pain up my Achilles and left calf. After a couple of minutes the pain disappeared  and things seemed to clear up. I decided to take a day off tomorrow and to focus on a stretching/icing/foam rolling strategy to get through it! Fingers crossed…

 

 

The Road to Berlin: Week Six

Week Six: 14/08/2017 – 20/08/17

Total Mileage: 82.3M

Monday:          8M Easy

Tuesday:          12M (10 Moderate)

Wednesday:    8M Easy

Thursday:        8x 1km reps

Friday:              AM:  5M Recovery

PM: 6M Easy

Saturday:          8M Easy + Strides

Sunday:             22M (13.1 Steady)

Reflections:

This has been the heaviest, in terms of volume, that I have done in a very long time (possibly ever!) and I was a little concerned coming into it about how my body would cope. I am delighted to have got through it unscathed and have actually really enjoyed the sessions.

Monday’s easy run was a gentle start to the week – which was nice as this would also be my last day off before work started up again! It was nice to get back into the ‘run commute’ habit on Tuesday with a longer Moderate run along the Clyde which felt very comfortable. It’s always reassuring to have these sessions as at the start of the program I know that this run would have felt far more laboured. Another easy run on Wednesday took me to 28 Miles and it was nice to feel like the legs were simply ticking over.

On Thursday I had to plan for an 8x1km interval session as part of my run home from work. The goal was to get a couple of miles of warmup in at a nice easy pace (which would also take me conveniently down to the Clyde Walkway) and then bust out the kilometre reps along the Walkway towards Glasgow. I needed to get two mins of jogging recovery in between each rep too which meant that the total distance covered would be significantly further than just the 8km. I hit the reps at ~10km pace and felt great. There is something very reassuring about beginning a rep and seeing that it I only 0.62miles to go when you’re used to counting down in full miles! I had to do a little doubling back on myself when I got to Glasgow Green in order to fit all of the reps in but this was not a problem and I enjoyed a nice easy few miles back up to the flat once they were done.

Friday and Saturday were reserved for more easy running. I made sure to hit my strides on Saturday as I had missed this from my session earlier in the week. For Saturday’s run I enjoyed a nice few miles down to Pollok parkrun where I ran round with Paul Houston (and had a good chat!) before knocking out a few easy miles home again.

Sunday was the big one. This was a session which has been staring out of my plan at me for a few weeks and which I have been fairly intimidated by. Not only was the idea of running 22M with 13 of them at target race pace terrifying, I was scared of the implications if it proved too big a task – if I could not manage half a marathon at my goal pace, what chance would I have over the full thing! I set off with Walshy nice and early to get the first 5M in at an Easy pace. This was great and it was really helpful to share the session with someone. We were both nervous but definitely took confidence from having the other there. As we hit 5M, Walshy and I parted ways to complete the faster section at our own target paces. My goal was to keep the mile splits in the 5:51-5:53 area for the first half and then see how I felt. As the clock ticked along I soon realised, to my absolute joy, that the pace felt comfortable! I hit the half way mark pretty much on track (except for one poor split which I am blaming on tree coverage messing with my GPS) and decided to pick things up for the next 7M. I picked up the pace to 5:45/mile and felt great. With a mile or two to go it did start to feel like a little effort to maintain the faster splits but I still felt strong and my HR suggested I wasn’t working too hard. I hit the final mile and threw in a 5:41 to see how the legs would cope. This was a bit more of an effort but I felt great and was delighted to get through this section of the run. As I hit the 13.1 mark, I reached Walshy and we exchanged a few words about the run – we had both had similar experiences with the pace and were buzzing with adrenaline. Together we climbed back towards the Southside to complete the 22Miles. My final mile felt tough – the legs were completely empty. At first I was a little concerned about this but I figure it was to be expected as we had made the decision to hit the run without gels or water. After a decent feed, I was able to look back on it as a very positive session and a real confidence boost as we come into the last 5 weeks.

This has been a pretty full-on week but it has been great. The volume and quality of the progressive sessions seems to be paying off and I am feeling very strong. I have had some tightness in my calf (left) but daily stretching and rolling seems to be working. I will monitor this closely and continue with the additional exercises I am doing.

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The Road to Berlin: Week Five

Week Five: 07/08/17 – 13/08/17

Total Mileage: 70.8

Monday:        6M Recovery

Tuesday:        12M (8 Steady)

Wednesday:  6M Recovery

Thursday:      2M Time Trial (Race)

Friday:            AM:  5M Recovery

                          PM:  6M Easy

Saturday:       AM: 8M Easy + Strides

                          PM: Conditioning Circuit (Light)

Sunday:          20M Easy

Reflections
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Delighted with the way this week has gone. This is the final week of my school holidays and it has been great to get out and get some quality sessions under my belt. 

Tuesday’s run was a great confidence boost as I ticked along the 8 Steady miles at ~ 5:51/mile pace and felt comfortable. I will look to build on this in the coming weeks as I attempt to tune into Marathon Pace.

Thursday was another huge confidence boost as I ran a PB at the Bella Harriers Time Trial with 9mins 58secs. I enjoyed a nice 2M warmup and cool down with my brother Oli who was up visiting and felt brilliant toeing the line. I made an effort to hold back a little in the first mile of the race andlooking at my Garmin data after the race revealed that I actually ran the first mile 7secs slower than when I ran my previous PB. Nevertheless, I felt really strong because of this and hit the ascent with confidence. This was the first time that I have really felt in control running up the hill on this course and it seemed to fly by. I hit the peak and wretched things out with a fast finish. I managed a slightly negative split despite the climb and this definitely contributed to the PB. I was also lucky to get a fancy photo taken after the race by award winning professional photographer Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert who was taking portrait style photos of club members for his latest project.

Friday and Saturday were both geared towards recovering from the hard start to the week and I felt good getting through the slower miles. On Saturday I also managed a very light circuit of conditioning in the gym followed with a brief, easy swim and a sauna.  I finished the day feeling refreshed and spent a lot of time on the foam roller in front of the athletics.

Sunday was a big one and I headed out with the lads for a 20M Easy paced run over the moors. This is a very hilly route with over 1000ft of ascent, mostly in the first half. We manage to tick the miles off however and stuck to the planned pace effectively. This really is a stunning route and the views make the hills worth climbing! I tested out race strategy with gels today and had success with taking two Science in Sport gels during the run. I had one at 10M and one at 15M and had no issues with them. The run concluded with coffee and croissants courtesy of Craig before I popped home for some more foam rolling and stretching.

This was a fantastic week or me. It was my biggest week in terms of volume so far and included some nice confidence boosting short runs too. I’ve got a few more ‘big’ weeks to go before hitting my taper and am feeling very strong. I’ll be focusing on hitting the sessions as planned in the coming weeks and also ensuring my nutrition and recovery is effective to support this. 


Thanks to Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert for the photograph!  

The Road to Berlin: Week Four

Week Four: 31/07/17 – 06/08/17

Total Mileage: 53.7

Monday:         10x 1min on/1min off

Tuesday:         6M Recovery

Wednesday:  18M (10 Moderate)

Thursday:       6M Recovery

Friday:             8M Easy

Saturday:        REST

Sunday:           11M (7 Tempo) 

Reflections.

This week was spent pretty much entirely in Cyprus (I flew back to London on Saturday evening) which meant a slight shuffle of the sessions. I was worried about trying the do the Tempo run whilst away as I felt the heat would make it very difficult to hit the speed that I was aiming for. I therefore swapped this session with the long run which had been planned for the weekend. I also switched out Monday’s planned Hill Session as there were no hills available and so did a fast,flat interval session instead.

Monday was an a tough session in the morning heat and I definitely underestimated it. I got the session done but realised I would definitely need earlier starts from this point on. I also realised that I would need to ensure I had water for all of my runs. 

Tuesday was much more enjoyable as I was able to drop the pace and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Salt Lake.  This also gave me a chance to scout out the first section of a route for tomorrow’s longer run. Felt good and had to make a real effort to hold the pace back towards the end of the run.

Wednesday was a session which I had been dreading. It would mean being out in the heat for a long time and there was also the very real possibility of me getting lost! I decided to get up before the sunrise and head out at 5:30am.  I also decided to break the run into sections which would enable me to re-fill my water bottle. I set off for the first 5M section at an easy pace and made sure that I consumed a full bottle of Gatorade during this loop. I then re-filled my bottle with cold water during a quick pit stop and headed back out the door. I gave myself one more mile of easy running to get back into a rhythm before hitting the 10M at Moderate pace (6:30/mile). I felt great and succeeded in holding this pace for the duration as I completed a full loop of Larnaca’s Salt Lake and headed back along the seafront. This faster section was followed with a couple of easy miles to bring the total distance to 18M.

Thursday and Friday were a nice dip back down to gentler paces and I was able to soak up the sun with a little less pressure. I felt good although I had a little tightness in the left calf, leading to a slight ache in the shin, after the 8M Easy run on Friday. I’ve been slacking on the stretching/foam rolling while away so will make an effort to get back on with this!

After a rest day on Saturday and a flight back to London, I headed out for a Tempo run on Sunday. I got a lift up to Kenley  Aerodrome for the session as I figured this would be nice and flat and traffic-free. Unfortunately I didn’t consider how windy it would be and this made it very tough to hit my target splits. I missed the goal pace by a few seconds per mile but this still felt like a decent session. It was a relief to get through the run with no aches in the shin or calf.

This was a good week of training and it was nice to get everything done without it eating into the holiday too much. The change of scenery was fantastic and it was great to be running in the heat before cooling off in the sea and enjoying my ‘recovery’ wth a book on the beach.

The Road to Berlin: Week Three

Week Three: 24/07/17 – 30/07/17

Total Mileage: 62.6

Monday:          PM: 6M Recovery

Tuesday:         AM: 8M Easy + Strides

Wednesday:   PM: Kilmaurs 5k Race

Thursday:       PM: 6M Recovery

Friday:             AM: 18M (10 Steady)

Saturday:        AM: 8M Recovery

Sunday:           AM: 8M Easy + Strides
Reflections.

This felt like another solid week. There was a slight shuffle around of my original plan due to a holiday in the Cypriot sun which would make fast running very difficult! With my flight to Larnaca departing on Saturday, I was advised to bring the long steady run forward to Friday. This meant that I could at least settle in to my first day of holiday with an ‘Easy’ run and not an 18 miler! The shuffle would mean fewer days recovery between race day and my long run but sometimes things just need to get done!

Monday and Tuesday were fine and  just ticked along feeling comfortable at the designated pace. I have been making an effort to do my strides properly during this marathon attempt as this is something that I have found easy to neglect in the past. I have found a decent stretch between two sets of lampposts on Tantallon Road which serve as reasonable markers of distance and these have worked effectively.

Coming into Wednesday’s race I was feeling confident. I had not been satisfied with my 5k time at Springburn parkrun a week and a half earlier and was keen to give myself a boost with a fast time. Secretly, I was hoping to challenge the 16minute barrier but, all things considered, I was happy enough to finish in 16:09. I felt much more comfortable than I had done previously and this gave me another indicator that things are moving in the right direction.

Thursday was all about recovery so it was a nice and simple recovery run into town to pick up some clothes for holiday (nothing like leaving things to the last minute!).

The long run on Friday was hard going and completely due to poor planning on my part. I had flown down to London to see family before my Cyprus flight an had planned on doing this run while there. The idea was to get 6 Easy miles under my belt before hitting 10 sub6 miles and then finishing up with a final 2 Easy.  In my memory ‘The Woldingham Run’ is a flat, traffic free loop which I could double up to get my 10 faster miles. I discovered mid-run however that, while it is indeed traffic-free, it is definitely not flat!! I had a quick re-shuffle of my route (which for someone with my sense of direction is always dangerous!) and managed to get things sorted. The run ended up being fine and I was glad to get it done.

Saturday morning was a straightforward recovery run before my lunchtime flight to Larnaca.

Sunday was my first run in Cyprus of the holiday and was pencilled in as 8M Easy + Strides. I found a map which suggested a that a footpath would take me all the way around the Salt Lake which is not far from where I am staying and which looked to have a fair few miles to it. I had no idea how suitable this ‘footpath’ would be for running, all I knew was that it would be hot. And so it was that at 7am the alarm went and I headed out the door with a (too big) bottle of water and a sense of adventure. Vicki was a also heading out for a few miles along the seafront – which as handy as I am sure a lot of partners would be less than impressed with a 7am alarm on the first morning of a holiday! The footpath was ideal but the heat was rising and was close to 30degrees even at this time. I will need an earlier start before my long run next week! For my strides I ran along a section of the newly pedestrianised seafront which was absolutely fantastic. The sun was rising over the ocean and I could smell the strong Greek Coffee from the roadside cafes. Post-run it was straight to the beach for a dip in the sea and a few hours of reading my new book (Stephen King – Dark Tower 1: The Gunslinger).

All in all this was a good week. I was pleased with my 5k performance and glad to get the long steady run done – besides, it is difficult to complain when your day consists of running in the sun, sipping Iced Coffee and eating Souvlaki. Magic.