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.

I ran a marathon. Now what?

Completing a marathon is a strange feeling. There is a sense of achievement, sure; and it’s nice to be congratulated and to bask in the glory for a while. But, also, you’ve been working towards something for four months; it’s taken up so much of your time and energy, both mental and physical: and then, suddenly – nothing. It’s all over. What do you do then?

The sensible answer, I suppose, is to rest and recover, and maybe return to the things you used to do before you spent all your spare time running/thinking about running, if you can remember what those things were. I have tried to do that this week. I have definitely rested a lot. I am surprised that my legs have now returned to a near-normal state.

I did my first post-marathon run today: a 5k parkrun, back at good old lovely Bushy Park. It was a chilly morning, and yet I overdressed and got boiling hot. I started at the back of the pack and eased into it, getting used to using my legs again (I did feel a bit wobbly at first) then sped up for a progressive run and a strong finish. I would not say I feel totally recovered yet; but I undoubtedly feel much better than I did in the couple of days after the marathon.

I have a few shorter races coming up in the next few months: a couple of 10ks and also a half marathon (as part of a triathlon relay team). This is good, because it means some shorter and faster runs in training, and just something a bit different.

2019-04-07 23.15.33And yet. I realised today that I need a bigger goal. I thought about trying a new marathon training plan just to test it out; then maybe doing another marathon next year. But I don’t think that would work: without the goal of an actual race at the end, I probably wouldn’t feel motivated enough to follow a plan.

And I also realised: I want to do another marathon. Shorter races are fine, but the marathon is the one I care about. I want to have another one to aim for. I want to see if I am capable of improving my time. And, so, I am now entered for the Abingdon Marathon in October 2019.

I had told myself: no more marathons until at least 2020. But I felt lost by the thought of waiting that long. And I do feel happier now that I’ve entered Abingdon. I also feel: what am I doing? Isn’t six months way too soon to do another one? Well, it’s done now. Here I go again! (Although not for a while yet; I will still be resting lots and doing short, easy runs for the next few weeks.)

Hannover Marathon 2019: a race report

It’s over! The big day has been and gone. I finished my first marathon and I am (pretty much) in one piece. I have had much to reflect on. I’ve divided my musings into three sections: Before, During, and After. Enjoy, lucky reader.

Before

I realise now that my 16 weeks of training was effective – but only for half marathon distance. I ran a really good half marathon six weeks ago. I didn’t do enough for the marathon distance.

For starters, I didn’t have enough of a base going into the training. I should not have tried to follow a sub 4-hour plan, as I discovered at Week 6 that it was too hard, and I scaled back. My weekly mileage then became too low for the marathon – let alone a sub 4-hour marathon.

But I didn’t think about what pace I actually wanted to run it at. I never sat back and calculated a 4:15 or 4:30 pace – I always planned to try and run at 9:09 and see what happened. So I set myself up for disappointment. I also had a stressful time in other areas of my life, which probably didn’t help much.

A week before the race, I had a nasty fall which meant I didn’t run all week. Even walking was hard. I couldn’t do any stretching or strength exercises. My morale took a massive hit as I didn’t know if I would be able to run the marathon at all. On the day of travelling to Hannover I was an anxious mess. But we arrived safely and it was nice to be with running friends, have fun, and do lots of eating and drinking. We did, however, accidentally end up doing loads of walking on Saturday (almost 27,000 steps!) which probably wasn’t ideal preparation. I did sleep well on Saturday night, though.

On marathon morning we were in a German hotel room so I didn’t have the facilities for my usual pre-race breakfast, which is something like crumpets with margarine and jam and a cup of tea, and maybe a banana. Instead, I had half a bread roll, orange juice, a few sips of Diet Coke, a banana (so one item was ticked off), and half a small Snickers bar. The bread roll was too chewy and I could barely swallow it. I had some stomach trouble (normal for me before a race) so I took two Imodium. I also took two paracetamol for my knee pain.

During

My knee hurt at first and I kept my pace slow – although, with hindsight, not slow enough. I then felt better and thought, hey, maybe I can get up to ideal marathon pace. However, I caught up the 4:15 pacer and overtook him, and then hung out not far ahead of him at around 9:15-9:30 pace for several miles, which felt steady and comfortable.

My pace started to drop at around mile 16. This was because of increasing pain and tingling in my left leg from a too-tight compression sock, and a lack of strength in my left knee and hip, as well as the bashed-knee pain. I also had painful cramp in a place that I’m not going to mention. I walked through a couple of the water stations. The 4:15 pacer sailed past me and I never saw him again.

And then it got worse. My left leg weakness and pain didn’t get so bad that I had to stop; but it did get so bad that I had to take more walk breaks. I also had pain in my right knee and IT band; and painful twinges in my left hip. My feet felt sore and it was hard to navigate any surface that wasn’t smooth pavement. This was around the time that I tripped on a drain cover and went flying – but landed on my feet. That gave me a shock, as you might imagine.

2019-04-08 16.53.19It became very difficult to start running again after taking walk breaks, but I managed it. I ran to the end and finished in 4:25:50. My quads were burning with pain. I cried when I finished. It was a bloody long walk to the medal, water, and other goodies at the end.

After

I was very glad to see my other half, S., at the end (he had just smashed out a 3:18 marathon – a 50-minute marathon PB for him). We had an alcohol-free beer and he came with me so I could collect my bag and get changed. We then joined our friends for lunch and revelled in our various running achievements. After feeling a little disappointed in my time and performance, I realised that it is no mean feat to finish a marathon and that I should feel proud of myself.

10 things I learned:

  1. I should build up a strong base of at least 20-30 miles of weekly running for several months before starting a marathon training plan.
  2. My training should not include both a tempo and speed run in mid-week. I should alternate them each week.
  3. If I have to scale back my training because I am finding it too much, I should make sure to also adjust my goal. Don’t assume I will just be able to ‘wing it’ in the marathon. Identify a new realistic marathon pace and train for that.
  4. If I am feeling tired or stressed because of running or because of other areas in my life, adjust the training plan accordingly.
  5. Taking two Imodium before a race is a good idea.
  6. If I need to take painkillers before the run, also take some with me to take mid-way into the run.
  7. My gels and hydration strategy worked well.
  8. Stretching and strength work is important. It is also important to try not to fall over a week before a race.
  9. If I feel before a race that my compression sock is too tight – don’t ignore it and leave it on. Put on some other socks!
  10. Everything you hear about that last 10k is true. It is absolutely a test of how well you have trained and fuelled; how appropriately you have paced the previous 20 miles; and how effectively you can push through discomfort, possible pain, and mental demons.

Week 15/16: Best laid plans

After I last wrote, I did my third run of Week 15: a parkrun. It was a beautifully sunny Saturday morning, with light winds and dry ground. I wasn’t sure what pace I was going to run at. I ended up running the first mile by feel. I looked at the mile split on my watch. It was an 8:05 pace, so I carried on with that. It felt fairly hard, but not as if I was going all-out; and I kept a steady pace until the end. My official time was 25:05.

I had a busy but good Saturday afternoon and evening. I met up with old friends, went to the theatre, wandered around Covent Garden in the sun, and ate and drank lots. I didn’t get home that late, but I felt rough on Sunday morning. However, I told myself I needed to get out and do a six-mile run.

The weather was much worse than on Saturday – cold, cloudy and windy, and I felt underdressed in a short-sleeved top. The prospect of six miles around the park felt like too much, even though it was only a fraction of the distance of my long runs. I jogged through a small local park on the way to Bushy Park. When I got out of the gate, I ran down the pavement leading to the main road, and then – BAM! Fell over. My knees and hands slammed into the ground. I lay there, stunned, for a bit; then picked myself up. I decided to walk back home rather than complete the run. I tried jogging but my knee hurt.

2019-03-31 10.47.35Back at home, I assessed the damage. The biggest casualty was my left knee. I ripped a hole in my running tights. There was blood and bruising. I had also knocked my right hand, right knee, elbows, and right hip.

I spent the rest of the day feeling annoyed and sorry for myself. I still don’t know why I tripped – I’m guessing it was uneven pavement that I wasn’t paying attention to because I was tired. I iced my knees and put a dressing on the knee wound. Today, I can walk, although stairs are painful, and my left knee feels very sore and stiff.

And there are only six days until Hannover Marathon. It is frustrating to have put in so much work, only to possibly ruin it all because of something silly. These things happen, though, and I can’t do anything about it now except rest as much as I can, and see how I feel on the day. Onwards and upwards.

Week 15: Emerging from the chrysalis (or something)

So, my first marathon is next weekend. Next weekend!! These past 15 weeks of training have gone by quickly – but also slowly. Not sure how that’s possible, but that’s how it feels.

This is my first real taper week (after not taking it as easy as I should have last week). I did a slow run home from work on Tuesday which was actually really nice. As it’s light again in the evenings now, I was able to run through Bushy Park rather than sticking to the streets. The weather has been sunny and spring-like for much of this week, which is an added bonus.

I feel like I’ve come full circle: park running in the light evenings in late autumn; getting through the grind of a cold, dark winter; and now, finally, emerging at the other end into the light again, as a fully-fledged newbie marathon hopeful. Or something like that.

I managed a morning run before work yesterday. I decided to do some intervals to mix the pace up a little. I aimed to do 10 x 200m, but I had to stop after six because I felt really sick. I guess I’m not used to speed work at the moment. And I probably went too fast. So much for taking it easy! It was a short run overall, though – only 2.5 miles – so hopefully I didn’t do too much damage.

I have a couple of short runs planned for this weekend, and then it’ll be race week. It’s so close…and yet so far away.

9 days to go!

 

Week 14: Hindsight is a wonderful thing

This week has been busy and stressful. I’ve fit in five runs, and most of them have felt rubbish. After last Saturday’s 20-miler (and then a busy weekend travelling to visit various different family members), I’ve felt tired and achy.

This week was meant to be the first week of tapering for the marathon, and although I have dropped my overall weekly mileage slightly, I don’t feel that it’s been a restful week. Some of this is due to decisions I made about my runs – I think I probably ran some of them too hard.

Tuesday’s run was an easy four miles into Bushy Park and back. For some reason I tried to run a little quicker than easy pace once I’d done a mile warm-up; but my legs wisely stopped me from persisting with that, and I dropped back to an easy pace again. It was a strange evening – lots of dark cloud and barely anyone around, even though there had been loads of runners in the park when I ran on the previous Tuesday evening.

On Thursday I was at home, although I had lots to do. I managed to get out for a 20-minute run around the block in the late morning. I remember feeling okay for this, and I picked up the pace in the second half.

On Friday I had a full-on morning and early afternoon. I was itching for all the various events to be over so that I could get out and run, and blow away the cobwebs. I was free to do this around mid-afternoon. I ran through Bushy again – a 7-mile loop. Once again, I felt tired, but still tried to push the pace. I managed to do marathon pace for one mile in the middle, but then dropped back again. I think, with hindsight, I should have done a shorter and easier run.

This was followed by parkrun on Saturday (my weekly 5k fix). Although I didn’t feel amazing for this run, it wasn’t too bad. I started off conservatively at a 9:10 pace, then did a progressive run, finishing around 8:30-8:10 pace. I felt like there was little power in my legs, but I had no aches or pains and felt reasonably comfortable. My official time was 27:26.

This morning was my final run of Week 14. It is a beautiful day today. It started off chilly, but is now cool and sunny – a perfect spring day and great running weather. Once again, though, even though I wasn’t feeling great, I tried to push myself. I did three miles at an easy pace (in a busy Bushy Park) and then picked it up to slightly faster than marathon pace for six miles. This felt so hard, much harder than it should have; but I forced myself to keep it up. When I finally hit the 9-mile mark, I eased off and jogged/walked two miles home. I felt broken: I had an aching back and hips, and my legs were not happy.

This week my aim was to get in some marathon-pace miles. My thinking was that because I wouldn’t be doing any very long runs, I could do the shorter runs at a quicker pace. And I got this done, but I think I should have listened to my body and kept it all easy. I should also have remembered that stress elsewhere in my life has an impact, and that the body doesn’t distinguish between running-stress and life-stress.

Well, what’s done is done. Next week I’m going to do a proper taper: mostly short, easy runs, and much less overall weekly mileage. I am in real need of some proper recovery now.

14 days to go!