Abingdon Marathon training, week 12

Week 12 was the first week in my training in which I actually stuck to the plan. I mean, I’ve had weeks where I’ve pretty much done everything on the plan, but with runs swapped around, or slightly different distances or paces, etc. But in week 12, I did every run just as I was supposed to. *polishes halo*

The plan only has four runs in week 12 (most weeks have five runs). Weirdly, I felt like I was having too much rest, even though I knew that the reduced overall load was sensible, seeing as I had to do my second 20-miler on Sunday. Anyway, here’s what I did.

Monday, Thursday, Saturday – rest days (a.k.a. pacing around like a caged animal)

Tuesday – the plan said 3-5 miles easy. I got out for an easy 3.2 miles at lunchtime.

Wednesday – the plan called for 5 miles with 3 at marathon pace. I’m still not entirely sure what my marathon pace is – I seem to veer wildly from day to day as to what I think I’m capable of. In this run, I went for the slower end – about 9:15-9:30 pace.

Friday – plan: 4-5 miles easy. Me: 4.2 lunchtime miles. Average pace 9:56, picking it up by 30 seconds or so for the middle mile.

Sunday – the run I had been dreading all week: my second 20-miler. I did my first one two weeks before, and while I got the mileage done, it was a miserable slog in hot weather. This run wasn’t much different. It was humid. I’d thought it was going to be wet, as well; but there were only a few brief showers.

I took myself around Richmond Park. With hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have done, as whenever I run in Richmond Park I pick up hip and knee problems from the hills. Sure enough, at the end of my run I had knee pain; and, the day after, hip pain. I’m okay now, though.

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Autumnal in look but not in feel

I was relieved to get the miles done, and to know that all my runs now will be shorter (apart from, ahem, the marathon itself). I’m also hoping for cooler weather. Although it’s starting to look autumnal, it’s still too humid for running. I’m hoping that when the temperature drops, my pace will get faster without me even trying, and it’ll all feel a whole lot easier. Here’s hoping.

Weekly mileage: 32.4

4 weeks to go!

 

Abingdon Marathon training, week 11

Although I ran five times last week and stuck to the training plan quite closely, it felt like a tough week.

On Monday I was travelling back from France all day. Our flight was cancelled. We ended up getting the Eurostar. The journey was fine; but it took all day and we didn’t get home till midnight.

I took the day off work on Tuesday. In the afternoon, I ran 4 miles easy with some 10-second bursts.

Wednesday was another very long day. I was up at 5am to travel to Manchester for an all-day work meeting. That finished at 4pm; but then I met up with an old friend who now lives in Manchester. I didn’t get home until around 11pm.

On Thursday evening, tired and with very sore and achy leg muscles (as they had been all week), I set out to try and do a 10k tempo run with a warm up and cool down. I knew as soon as I started running that I didn’t have it in me. I managed 3.6 miles, mostly at an easy pace. I did feel better as the run went on, so maybe I could have got it done; but hey. I felt relieved as soon as I’d decided to cut it short, so it was probably a good decision.

On Friday I did another short, easy run – a lunchtime 3.5 miles into the park and back.

On Saturday, my legs were still feeling tired and achy, but I got a good workout in the bag. I ran 4 miles before parkrun. A friend who was also doing a warm up caught up with me on the way, providing some company and much-needed motivation (especially as he is a faster runner than me). I did 7.2 miles altogether, finishing with parkrun at a consistent tempo pace. I was pleased with that.

On Sunday, I did a long run of 12 miles, at a fairly slow pace. Although this was a shorter long run than usual, it felt long. It was a lot warmer than I’d thought it would be.

This week my motivation has dropped even lower. Although my legs feel okay now, I have a niggle in my ankle/calf that I seem to be fixating on. I feel cranky and am doubting if I will be able to complete all of this week’s sessions. But I’ve just read an article that says even elite athletes start having doubts from about week 12 of marathon training – so it seems this is just normal. And if I go back and read my posts from Hannover Marathon training, perhaps I’ll see the same pattern. So, in conclusion: I should just suck it up and keep on going. (But also try to be nice to myself and remember rest is very important too.)

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I forgot to take any photos last week. Here’s one from my holiday in Nice the week before.

Total mileage: 30.3

5 weeks to go!!

Abingdon Marathon training, week 8

The weeks are running away and I’m already halfway through my marathon training. Here’s what I did last week.

Monday, Thursday and Sunday – rest days

Tuesday – I ran in the evening, just an easy three miles around the block at recovery pace. I wore new trainers and still had a tight/ankle calf. This doesn’t seem to stop me wearing them, though. I am convinced that if I wear them for a few more miles, they’ll be broken in and I won’t have any more niggles.

Wednesday – A lunchtime run: 5.6 miles with 6 x 90 seconds fast up a slope in the park. This was instead of doing hill repeats. My training plan does call for hill repeats, but I haven’t managed to make it to a proper hill yet. It was very warm and this was a tough run.

Friday – An easy four miles at lunchtime, wearing my other new pair of trainers. I still had a stiff ankle/calf (although I’d worn the same trainers on Wednesday and don’t think I had any issues then). It was still hot. I’d intended to run a bit longer and a bit faster, but I felt sapped of energy, as always in the heat.

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Saturday – Long run day – 18 miles. It was an early start, but a beautiful one. I was worried that my ankle/calf might give out and I’d have to cut the run short; but although it hurt at first, it was okay after a while. I stuck to the park and the towpath, and finished with parkrun. I managed to run the second half faster than the first, and finished well, although not quite as strongly as I’d hoped (it was hot again).

Total mileage for the week: 30.8

8 weeks to go!

Abingdon Marathon training, week 7

Week 7 was a good week of training. Resting last Sunday was a good idea, as I seemed to handle the increased amount of running well.

Monday and Thursday – these were rest days.

Tuesday –  I ran 3.8 miles in the park at lunchtime. I did some fast bursts in the middle, which is always fun. I wore my new trainers again, and they seemed fine. Phew.

Wednesday – This was a tough run: 7.5 miles including 4 x 1 mile at tempo pace. The weather wasn’t great: warm, but wet and windy. I also realised afterwards that I had misread the training plan and made my recoveries after the tempo sections longer than they were supposed to be. Oops.

Friday – An easy run: 4.2 miles in the park at lunchtime again. Once again, it was warm but wet and windy.

Saturday – I cycled to parkrun with S. We were both volunteering: he as Volunteer Coordinator, and me as a marshal. I supervised a spot at a crossroads near the beginning where runners have to veer off to the right and not carry on straight ahead where they would be joining the end of the course (it’s tempting to take a shortcut at that point). I then joined the marshal on the other side of the crossroads to cheer the runners to the end.

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Deer in the park. It was nice to dawdle and appreciate the scenery for once.

After that, we cycled home. I (reluctantly) went out again and ran an easy 5k around the block. I wore my other new trainers. Unfortunately, although they felt better than last time, I still felt discomfort in my calf/ankle. And it rained again! It’s been a wet week.

Sunday – I did my long run – 17 miles. I followed a similar route to the 16-miler I did two weeks ago: an out-and-back along the Thames path. I felt apprehensive, again, as I seem to do before all my long runs. I checked the weather forecast. It said sunny and dry. It was sunny and dry for about half of the run – but then there was a torrential downpour which only got heavier. I wasn’t prepared at all for rain, let alone that much. I was cold and absolutely soaked – and I still had over an hour’s worth of running left.

I briefly took shelter under a tree about three miles from the end to phone S and ask if he could bring dry socks, trainers and extra clothes for me as I was supposed to be meeting him for brunch. I got to the brunch place looking like a miserable drowned rat. After changing and thawing out, I had a pot of tea and a cooked breakfast and felt better. I’m not sure I could class this as my worst training run ever in terms of weather conditions, but it’s probably in the top ten.

Total mileage: 35.8 (my highest ever weekly mileage!)

9 weeks to go!

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 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!

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 13: My only friend

When I last wrote, the main issue seemed to be the wind. And it’s still extremely windy. I have come to believe that wind is my least favourite weather condition to run in (although any sort of extreme – biting cold; searing heat – is obviously not pleasant).

Wind, however, makes it so much harder. I’m reminded of that scene from The Mighty Boosh in which Howard claims that the wind is his only friend, to which the wind replies, “I hate yoooou.” (I’ve just realised that episode is now 15 years old. Perhaps we’ll gloss over that.)

I took two days’ rest at the beginning of this week, although I wish I’d braved the weather and done a recovery run on Tuesday, as my legs have felt stiff since Sunday’s challenging long run (it was really windy – did I mention that?) I did run yesterday – a one-mile jog to the park, then two miles at slightly slower than ideal marathon pace, then a jog home. It is nice that the evenings are getting lighter. This means I can run in the park after work instead of sticking to the local streets.

I also ran yesterday evening. I jogged to the park again, then pushed myself by running for 3.5 miles at tempo pace, with some faster sections. I had planned to do 3 x 1 mile with recoveries in between, but messed up the interval setting on my watch. I think it turned out for the best, though, as I enjoyed doing a more random, run-by-feel workout. I also had to slow down several times for herds of deer crossing the path (not an unusual event in Bushy Park).

I am worried about continuing discomfort in my right hip, and calf issues in my left leg. I am also not really following a training plan any more, except as a rough guide, so I feel that I’m making it up as I go along at the moment. This is a little unsettling, but I think, with only three weeks to go, that it is probably okay. I need to listen to my body rather than pushing on regardless simply because a workout is ‘in the plan’.

23 days to go!

Week 8, run 2: February is the cruellest month

Yesterday, after the longest day ever, I went back out into the dark and cold to run. I wore too many layers and got too hot (I seem to have trouble wearing the right amount of clothes for my winter runs – I either end up boiling hot or numb with cold).

I didn’t really know what type of run I was going to do, as I feel like I am still gradually getting back into training after taking almost a week off. I ran a mile easy, and felt okay, so sped up a little to do two miles at a steady pace (which is around my ideal marathon pace, or maybe a bit quicker). I then cooled down for another mile or so.

My ankle/calf was okay until 3.5 miles in, when it started playing up again. I stopped to stretch a few times, and, just like on Tuesday’s run, the pain would ease off and then return.

I’m glad that this time I was able to run for longer before the pain started; but I really need to step up my stretching and strength exercises if I want to have a chance of getting through the rest of this training without hobbling all the way.

On another note, I have always found that February is one of the worst months of the year for me (and probably many people) mood-wise. Some days, or most days, can be a real struggle. When I reduced the amount I exercised last week, I noticed a huge drop in my mood. Yesterday, after several days of only clocking up around 7,000 steps, I managed to do 18,000 (including my run and a long walk at lunchtime), and I noticed a phenomenal improvement in my mood last night and today. I also slept like a baby for the first time in a while.

I know exercise is not a magic pill and to say it cures everything is naive and oversimplifying, but sometimes I forget how much difference it can make, even if it’s just making myself go for a quick walk.

Miles run yesterday: 4.4 / Type of run: Steady / Average pace: 9:30 minute-miles, with steady section at 8:56-9:08 / Miles run this week: 7.7