Abingdon Marathon training, week 6

Once again I’m late with my training update. I think I need to bite the bullet and accept that I’m going to be late with it every week.

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I failed to take any photos last week. Here’s one from last summer instead.

Week 6 was a cutback week, but I ended up cutting back more than intended. I’m hoping that this has had a good effect, but it’s probably too soon to tell. Here’s the full recap, anyway.

Monday, Wednesday, Sunday – these were all rest days. I was only meant to have two rest days, but I missed my long run on Sunday because I was too tired. I did plan on doing a shorter run – but ended up doing nothing at all.

Tuesday – an easy 4 miles at lunchtime. I remember very little about this run, so I assume it was fine and uneventful.

Thursday – another lunchtime run, this time 6 miles with the mid 4 miles at marathon pace. I recently bought two new pairs of trainers, as my current ones are on the point of wearing out. I wore one of the new pairs for this run. I had tightness in my calf and ankle, but this eased off after a while. My feet also hurt a little. I’ve since worn the trainers again with no issues, so I think they just needed to be broken in.

Friday – another run at lunchtime. This was meant to be 5 miles, but I was so tired that I only ended up doing 2 miles easy. I wore my other new pair of trainers, and, once again, had a tight and painful ankle/calf. I haven’t worn these again since, so I need to test them out one more time to see if they are a problem or not.

Saturday – I did a 5.5k warm up with friends, and then ran parkrun with them, for 6.9 miles in total. It was an enjoyable run. I felt surprisingly good, especially considering how crap I’d felt on Friday. I wore my old trainers and had no niggles at all.

Total miles: 18.9

10 weeks to go!

Abingdon Marathon training, week 5

Once again, the week has zoomed by and it’s already Thursday of week 6 of my training. Never fear, though, because here’s a recap of my week 5 training. Better late than never, eh.

Monday and Tuesday – Just like in week 4, I took these both as rest days and can’t remember why. I have noticed, though, that when I take a rest day at the moment, I feel awful. So sluggish, both mentally and physically. I know rest days are much needed, and essential for my body to recover, but I’m not handling them well. I am probably not doing enough activity besides running. Perhaps I’ll go for some gentle walks and do yoga and stretching to help combat the sluggishness (but not too much).

Wednesday – A lunchtime 3.2 miles into the park and back, with 8 x 10 second bursts of speed in the middle. I enjoy running at that super-fast pace for a short time. Even though it has no effect on my fitness, it breaks up the grind and tedium of slow-paced training runs.

Thursday – I had a long, busy day, but went back out for a run in the evening. It was meant to be a tempo run – 5 miles, with the mid 3 miles at tempo pace. I managed the distance, but it was a struggle. I ran the mid 3 miles quicker than usual, but fell well short of tempo pace. I was hot, tired and hungry. Swarms of flies kept flying into my mouth and splatting themselves all over me. Not the greatest run ever. With hindsight, I probably should have bailed out early or postponed it.

Friday – Not willing to be beaten, I ventured out again for a run. This time it was an easy 5 miles at lunchtime. Although it was still hot, I was grateful for the easy pace and felt better than I did on Thursday.

Saturday – I had a lie-in! It was great. This meant that I missed parkrun, but I made up for this by going out later for an easy 5k run around the block.

Sunday – Long run day. I was apprehensive about this, although I’m not sure why. Part of the reason could have been that I had decided to try a new route. Most of my long runs for the last marathon were in or near Bushy Park, mainly because I was paranoid about my ankle and didn’t want to run too far from home so I could get back easily if needed.

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This run was good, anyway. The route worked out well. It was an out-and-back: I ran to Petersham where I joined the Thames towpath to Kew for 8 miles in total; and then 8 miles back to get to 16 miles. Breaking the run into two halves made the distance feel more manageable. It wasn’t too hot, which was definitely a bonus (and made a very welcome change). I kept the pace slow and enjoyed the views. 

Total mileage for the week: 32.4

11 weeks to go!

 

Abingdon Marathon training, week 4

It’s almost the end of week 5 of marathon training, and I haven’t recapped week 4’s training yet. It’s also already August, somehow.

I had two rest days at the beginning of week 4. I can’t remember why this was; but it meant I ended up running five days in a row. Here’s what I did, summarised in a bullet point list for your convenience.

  • Wednesday – 4 miles at an easy pace. I’ve found it tough to get up early lately because I’ve not been sleeping that well (because of the heat?), but I managed to get out for a run before starting work.

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  • Thursday – This was a hot day, with temperatures reaching a ridiculous 38 degrees in London. I managed to get out for a run at 8am, when it was already very warm, but not unbearably so. My training plan called for hill repeats, but I wasn’t organised or motivated enough to get to a hill. Instead, I did intervals on the flat – 4 x 800m with long recoveries and a warm up and cool down, for a total of 6.4 miles. On paper this wasn’t that taxing a workout, but it felt hard enough.
  • Friday – I did a race in the evening, the Wedding Day 7k (so called because the first event took place in 1981, on the bank holiday to commemorate the wedding of Charles and Diana). I’ve done it twice before and it’s always hot, humid, and tough, and a weird distance (the tactic is usually to run at 5k pace and try to hold on). My time this year was 36:23 – my fastest by almost two minutes. We also had a relaxed picnic afterwards, even though it was spotting with rain.
  • Saturday – I did parkrun at an easy, steady pace. It felt quite hard, though, because my legs were tired.
  • Sunday – Long run day. I did 14 miles – two loops of Bushy Park. I was tired and found this hard; but I’m pleased I managed the distance (and ran the second half faster than the first, which is always nice).
  • Total mileage: 32.2
  • 12 weeks to go!

Abingdon Marathon training, week 3

Last week’s training was – well, it was fine. Nothing spectacular, but nothing too awful, so I suppose I’m happy with it.

On Tuesday I did an early evening run – 4 miles into the park and back. The training plan said to do some short intervals at the end – only 10-second bursts, just to remind my legs what it’s like to run fast. I did the bursts in the middle rather than at the end. This worked out well logistically, as I had a nice long, wide path to do the speedy bits on. I actually enjoyed this change from grinding out the long, slow miles, even with the humid weather.

Wednesday was a tempo run, in the early evening again – 2 miles, with a mile warm up and 2 miles cool down. I ran this on feel and was slower than I wanted to be. I forgave myself because it was really warm and there was a headwind most of the way.

After a rest day on Thursday, I should have been feeling refreshed and sprightly on Friday. I felt far from that, for some reason. It was a wet, warm day. I forced myself to go out for a run at lunchtime, once the rain had eased off. I did the planned easy 4 miles, but found it hard-going. I had to stop and walk for a short time in the second mile.

Saturday was parkrun day. I reminded myself that I was supposed to be running it at an easy pace, but I don’t think I could have done a quick one anyway. It was still humid, and my legs felt heavy. Still, I ran a consistent 9-minute mile pace and felt okay by the end.

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On Sunday I substituted my long run for a shorter race – the Elmbridge 10k. I ran this with my other half, S., and a few other running friends. The race start is on a running track which is part of a fairly new sports centre complex. I did a one-mile warm up on the track. I could quite happily have run round and round it for a while. The race itself, though, went out of the sports centre and along roads, down a towpath, and back again.

I took part in this race last year and found it tough then. This year was no different. I started too fast – again. This is easy to do as it’s slightly downhill at the start, down a nice, smooth path. I faded very quickly. The next 5.2 miles were a relentless slog. The weather seemed to become more and more humid. The gravelly towpath felt like a difficult surface to run on. Any sort of mental strength seemed to desert me.

I finished with a time of 52:34. I had hoped for better. But it was two minutes faster than my time last year. It was my second fastest ever official 10k race time. So it wasn’t all that bad, really.

This week the temperature is supposed to get up to 35 degrees. I will need to plan my training strategically – which means early morning running. Ugh. I often feel like morning running is great while I’m doing it – but it’s getting up and getting out there that’s usually the problem. Wish me luck.

13 weeks to go!

Abingdon Marathon training, weeks 1 & 2

So, after feeling like I still had ages to go until I started training for Abingdon Marathon, suddenly I’m in the thick of it. I’ve been following this training plan. I’ve completed all the sessions in weeks one and two – and have already learnt some lessons.

In week one, I did two easy runs and one hard run in the week – an easy three miles, a five-mile tempo, and then four miles easy. Although this is more volume in mid-week than I’m used to, I did cope okay. I think it helps that there is only one difficult mid-week run in this plan, whereas in the plan I used for Hannover Marathon there were two, which was too much.

For the week one weekend runs, I was meant to do an easy three miles and then 10 miles with a strong finish. I did parkrun on the Saturday – but not at an easy pace. I did the 10 miles okay, though, and managed to make my last mile the fastest. So, a pretty good start to the training.

Week two (which would be last week) followed the same format – short, easy run on Tuesday; harder run on Wednesday (5 miles with 3 miles at marathon pace); easy run on Friday; easy three miles on Saturday; then a long run on Sunday. I got all the runs in the bag, but, once again, ran too hard at parkrun on Saturday.

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A nice morning for a parkrun

I think this had a detrimental effect on Sunday’s long run. It was meant to be 12 miles, with the mid 4 miles at marathon pace. I managed the distance, but found the run really, really hard (especially the marathon pace section). I had been thinking of my marathon pace as 9-minute miles – but it’s clear now that this is not what I should be aiming for. I guess it’s good to learn these lessons early on.

So, to summarise:

  1. I like the fact that there is only one difficult mid-week run in this plan.
  2. My marathon pace is about 30-40 seconds slower per mile than I had thought it was (or wanted it to be). This is a relief. I’m still going to follow the plan I’m using, but will adjust my pacing.
  3. If I do a parkrun on a Saturday, I should not get carried away. I need to run it at an easy pace.
  4. I am not sure if I can handle five runs a week, every week. I should look at how I’m feeling from week to week and adjust mileage if necessary.

14 weeks to go!

Running report, 25 June-2 July

After my recovery run last Monday, I took a couple of rest days because I was feeling under the weather and not sleeping well. I slept better on Wednesday night, and did an easy 4-miler through the park on Thursday lunchtime. It was sunny and warm, but also really windy.

I took another rest day on Friday. Saturday was parkrun day. S. and I cycled there and back, which is our new way of getting to parkrun since I got my bike. I prefer it to driving there because it’s less stressful – there’s no getting stuck in traffic or worrying about not being able to park; and, of course, it’s better for the environment. Bushy parkrun is a popular event, attracting over 1,000 runners each week, often from far afield. While this is a great thing, it also means that on Saturday mornings there are lots of cars coming into the park and vying for parking spaces. It feels good to be able to lessen that impact a little.

I did a decent run, anyway, although I slowed after the first mile. It was a hot day – already around 22 degrees at 9am.

On Sunday it was slightly cooler and cloudier. I ran down through the park and along the the towpath; then back through the park. I finished at a nice new brunch place for California-style eggs benedict and a latte (and much-needed ice-cold water).  It was still warm, and nice enough to sit outside. I ran 9.86 miles before brunch; and then 1.53 miles home with S., so a total of 11.39 miles for the day.

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This was taken in Bushy Park last summer. Definitely need to snap some new photos!

Yesterday I took another rest day. This morning I did an easy 5k – the first run in my training plan for Abingdon Marathon. I wasn’t feeling great so kept the pace really slow. It was already warm; but thankfully not unbearably so (Saturday was definitely too warm).

I’m still feeling under the weather, and currently not super-motivated to get stuck into marathon training. I think it’s important to take each day as it comes, and not push myself if I don’t feel up to it. I know that running can often help me feel better, so I’ll keep that in mind too; but I also need to be aware that it is a fine balance.

Running report, 10-24 June

Although I have two weeks of running to recap, it probably won’t take that long. Last week was especially light on running as I was away on holiday (although it was still a rather active holiday). Anyway, here’s what I did.

Tuesday 11th June – a short, slow lunchtime run into Bushy Park and back. I recently started a new job where I can work from home a lot. Lunchtime running from home, or running slightly later in the morning before sitting at my desk, is working well for me. Definitely beats having to try to squeeze runs into the early or late hours of the day.

I wanted to do another run before we went on holiday on 13th June, but on the 12th June I ended up not having time because of having lots of work to finish/having no water all day at home because of a burst pipe/having to pack for the holiday.

We arrived in Luxembourg on Thursday 13th June (after driving through Belgium and France). Friday 14th was spent sorting out registration for the Ironman event that we were taking part in.

On Saturday 15th, a group of us drove from Luxembourg to the nearest parkrun – Leinpfad, which was 45 minutes away, and happened to be in Merzig, Germany. We received a friendly welcome. The course was twisty for the first half (and went through a zoo, which featured llamas); then it was out and back along the towpath (hence the name of the parkrun – Leinpfad means towpath). It was rather warm and I didn’t do the greatest run ever; but it rained near the end which provided some welcome relief from the humidity.

Sunday 16th was the day of the Ironman 70.3 triathlon. My other half, S., and six of the friends we’d come with were all doing the full event. I was in a relay team, doing the run part of the course (a half marathon). I watched the swim start at around 9am; then waited around and spectated before running at 1.45pm.

It was a tough run: it was very warm; I had knee pain from around five miles in and had to slow down; and it was a mentally gruelling three-lap course up and down a long, straight road. I squeezed in at under two hours – my official time was 1:59:07. I was pleased with that, seeing as I’d wanted to quit during the second lap; but I know I could have done better. Still, it was good to get a decent result for the team; and everyone else did really well on the full event (there were several PBs).

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Our home for the week

On Monday 17th, we packed up and drove to Fourdrain, France, where we were spending a week in a château, with the aim of relaxing, eating, and drinking. A lot of eating and drinking was definitely done; but I didn’t get much chance to relax.

On Tuesday I went on two bike rides – a 5-mile round trip to a bakery and back, and then a 40-mile ride to the town of Marle and back. I think I can safely say that I’ve well and truly christened the new bike. I coped well with the hefty mileage, although my knee was aggravated again towards the end.

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Laon

Wednesday was a rest day, with just a gentle stroll around the old and pretty town of Laon. On Thursday I went for what I thought was going to be a 5k easy road run with a couple of the others; but it turned into a cross-country adventure through long, wet grass; a steep uphill section through a wood; a slippery, muddy downhill slope; and a stretch of uneven terrain alongside a busy road. Fun, but also mildly panic-inducing. I was glad to get back to the house in one piece.

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Woodland running

Friday was another cycling day – a shorter ride this time, 14 miles to Tergnier. I bailed out there and got a lift back home as my knee was playing up again. Saturday was travelling-home day.

Yesterday, back at home, I ran to the park with the intention of doing 10k at an easy pace. I did the distance; but was feeling surprisingly good, despite the humidity, so I picked up the pace in the second half. I must have looked like I was really going for it, as an elderly man called out, ‘You go girl!’ I was pleased to get to the café, and once I’d finally stopped sweating buckets, rewarded myself with tea and a cookie.

Today I ran again – an easy 4 miles at lunchtime. It felt good to be running at a relaxed pace, and it seemed to loosen some stiffness in my legs. It was still very humid – when I got home I cooled myself down with an orange ice lolly.

This week is my final ‘rest’ week before diving into marathon training again. It is now less than three months until Abingdon Marathon. I am feeling apprehensive about training for another marathon after doing my first one not very long ago. I think I’m going to take a one-day-at-a-time approach and see how that goes.

Weekly running report, 3-9 June 2019

Since finishing Hannover Marathon two months ago, I’ve fallen out of the habit of blogging. I think this is partly because I haven’t been training for anything; but also because when I’ve tried to build my running back up again, I’ve been sidelined by pain in my IT band.

Thankfully, that seems to have settled down now. I’ve been able to get back into more consistent running – which has also been great for my mood. (Although I managed to just write and delete a whole post and so I’m having to type it again from scratch – not the best start to my blogging comeback.)

At the beginning of this week, I took a couple of days off after a relatively heavy weekend of running (6.7 miles fast-ish on the Saturday; 8 miles very slow on the Sunday). On Wednesday I did a slow 3.4 miles into Bushy Park and back; and then an easy 4-miler on Friday morning.

Saturday was parkrun day. I wasn’t feeling great, but I managed a reasonable run. I squeezed in at just under 26 minutes. This felt hard. It baffled me that I ran it at the same pace at which I’d run the Vitality London 10,000 at the end of May; and the pace at which I’d like to run next week’s half marathon. That seems impossible at the moment. (Yes, I’m running a half marathon next week. I’m feeling vastly undertrained for it. So we’ll see how that goes.)

Today I went for a long, slow run in the morning. The weather was perfect for running: sunny, cool, and with a light wind. I did 11 miles – firstly through Bushy, then I ventured down to the towpath for some lovely views along the river (I took no photos, sadly). I then toddled around Hampton Court Palace, and back into Bushy again before heading home. I noted, once again, how very lucky I am to live where I do.

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Me on my new bike

In other exciting news, I bought a bike this week. I haven’t had a bike for – I don’t actually know. Many years. I took it on its first proper outing today, after my run. I cycled into Bushy with S, who was doing a brick run (running after a bike ride). We then sat in the sun at a new café with friends. A nice ending to the week (and well-timed, as there was an unexpected torrential downpour this afternoon).

Green Belt Relay 2019: a race report

Since I last wrote, I managed to run fairly consistently, but kept to shorter distances and slower paces because I didn’t want to aggravate the pain in my right knee (or, more specifically, the IT band). This seemed to work well. I got up to eight miles as my longest run the Sunday before last with no problems. Last week I did a couple of mid-week three-milers and felt pretty good. I was able to run a bit quicker with no pain at all.

But this weekend, I took part in the Green Belt Relay. I’ve done it a few times before. It’s a crazy event but always so much fun that I can’t say no to being involved. The course is about 220 miles around the Green Belt of London, made up of 22 stages. Each team has 11 runners who do one stage each on each day. 52 teams took part this time.

I was due to run stage 11 on day 1 (7.5 miles, fairly flat but with some complex navigation involved, and the last leg of the day) and then stage 17 on day 2 (10.5 miles, also tricky to navigate, and quite hilly).

Because I was doing the last leg on day 1, I spent all day sitting in a car, mainly chilling out, drinking, and eating. So that was good. All teams also have to take part in marshalling the event. On Saturday, I and a few others from my team had to direct runners across a busy road near the beginning of a stage (I can’t remember which one now!)

My day 1 run went okay. It was a late start – 6.50pm. After having been dry all day, it also started raining just as I was about to run. Runners are supposed to carry printed maps with them. I had had my maps in a plastic wallet, but for some reason I had taken them out of the wallet and left the wallet in the car, so when I came to run, the maps got soaked, stuck together, and were useless to me. Thankfully, I ran with another runner for a while who knew where she was going; and then when I slowed, I managed to keep her in my sights so I could see where the turns were ahead.

I started off quickly, feeling good, and ran downhill with a load of other runners. The smooth road turned into a field with very uneven ground underfoot. And then another field. And a kissing gate. And a farm. And another field, another gate, another farm, another field, and so on. At some point my knee decided it was not happy with all this uneven ground, and the pain kicked in. I slowed down. Thankfully the pain didn’t get worse, so I didn’t have to stop; but my leg felt weak and it was tough to keep running on that terrain.

I finished, though, and in a decent time. Not the time I had hoped for; but decent nonetheless. And then we bundled ourselves into various cars and went for dinner at Pizza Express in Basildon.

I was worried about doing my day 2 stage. One of my lovely team members offered to swap with me, so that she would do my difficult 10.5 miles, and I’d do an easier 6-mile stage. I was so tired and grateful that I accepted straight away; but then spent the rest of the weekend feeling guilty about this, especially as she had never taken part in the event before.

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After a much-needed sleep at a Travelodge, I felt better for day 2 (although still guilty, and still worried about whether I’d be able to run at all). I was involved in marshalling another point – one that our team had done before, where runners emerge from a hedge and we direct them up the road. It is a crazy start to a stage (as several runners of that leg remarked to me). We had fun marshalling that bit, anyway.

I was really pleased that my teammate, K, finished the stage I was supposed to do. She did a great time, and clubbed together with other runners en route so that they shared navigation problems together. K assured me that she really enjoyed it, and I hope she meant it!

My stage was quite late again – about 3.45pm. I spent a while before I ran lying on a picnic blanket and rolling on a ball. This definitely helped. I did a short practice jog and felt no pain. I also took some ibuprofen.

I’d actually run the same stage before, three years ago – and I had IT band pain then, but in the other leg. There was a big hill near the beginning that I didn’t remember from last time. I walked most of it. My knee started hurting a lot on the downhill so I walked a bit there as well. After that, although the pain was still there, the road became flatter. I was able to keep up a steady if fairly slow pace, and made sure to keep my stride short. I made it to the end, and beat my last time by about six minutes. Whoop.

I am now feeling rather broken, not just in my knee, but I also had a burning thigh pain which hasn’t gone away yet. I am so stiff and achy, and the mileage I did this weekend isn’t anywhere near as much as I was doing in marathon training!

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But I still enjoyed the weekend. I possibly enjoyed the marshalling parts more than anything else. The rest of my team did brilliantly. I think it was also a record-breaking year overall, with a mixed team winning for the first time, and many course records smashed. I’m already looking forward to next year, when hopefully I’ll have had time to get in some trail running and hills as training so that my body is actually ready for it.

Post M-word limbo

It’s now just over three weeks since Hannover Marathon. I’m still in a post-race limbo. I’ve done several short, easy runs since then. I’ve had some knee pains which oddly seem to turn up on every other run and feel like faint echoes of the last few miles of the marathon.

Today, I ran six miles, which felt hard, even though the pace was easy. It is baffling that three weeks ago, I ran (okay, ran-walked-hobbled) that same distance after already having run 20 miles. I also watched some of the London Marathon on TV. For the first time, I felt like I knew how the runners’ legs were feeling when they crossed the finish line. A noble club to be a new member of.

Right now, I feel like my fitness has disappeared. I am trying not to think about this too much. I am hoping that if I keep plugging away, gradually bringing back some faster and longer runs, the fitness will return without me realising. One day, it’ll just be there again, and I’ll greet it like an old friend (“Oh! Hi, Fitness! Great to see you again”).

In other news, I have ‘given back to the community’ in the last few weeks. Instead of running the usual 5k parkrun on Saturday mornings, I volunteered. In the last few years, I have run parkrun so much that I accidentally forgot to volunteer. Last Saturday and the one before, I was a marshal.

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A ‘giving back to the community’ selfie

Last week was a cushy assignment. The weather was beautifully sunny. I bagged the first marshalling point where all the runners/walkers charge/stroll up the path and are all gone in the space of about five minutes, signalling the end of the marshalling duty.

The second one, yesterday, was less cushy but arguably more rewarding. It was windy and cold. After a short while, I could no longer feel my toes. I was stationed at a turn around 1.5k from the end of the run, where the field thins out considerably so there is a long gap between the first and last participants. The first speedy runners came through at about 9.10am; the last ones at around 9.50am. My fellow marshal and I clapped and offered words of encouragement. We received many ‘Thank you marshals’, waves, high-fives, and a selfie with an Australian parkrun tourist. I felt tired but thoroughly cheered by the end of it. It was refreshing to experience the weekly run from a different angle.

This week coming, I am, in theory, getting back into training again for the few shorter races (two relays and a 10k) I have coming up in May and June. I’m not feeling massively geared up for it at the moment, but, as I told myself on today’s run: just focus on the steps you’re doing and don’t worry about anything else. Sorted.