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!

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 cafĂ© with friends. A nice ending to the week (and well-timed, as there was an unexpected torrential downpour this afternoon).

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.