Marathon training stops for nothing. Even though I am away at a festival, which means I am eating too much crap whilst not getting enough sleep or drinking enough water, I still had a marathon paced effort to do. The weather was not my friend. I have a highly efficient cooling system (aka I sweat a lot) so hot and sunny weather is pretty much my worst nightmare and why I spent the last three miles of my first marathon feeling like I was going to throw up every step I took.
I usually make sure I take on water every 10 minutes on my long run, but today under a cloudless blue sky I drank every time my brain thought ‘water’ which was closer to every 5 minutes. Having plotted my route on google maps there were a couple of wrong turns as I made my way to and then round Wollaton Park, but I managed to maintain my marathon pace for the full 90 minutes and was grateful for the many trees along the route offering shade. I can only hope it’s not as hot in London.
A spot of parkrun tourism at the BJC, though we very nearly didn’t make it as the gate that was supposed to allow 24-hour access was locked and we luckily found an alternate route out to make it just in the nick of time. If there was any important information in the briefing we didn’t hear it, not because we were late, but because the megaphone was feeble. A lovely little two lap course that went around a series of football pitches then up into a wooded area. I spent the time chatting to Polly with a little sprint at the end.
Back on site I squirelled myself away in a squash court with my yoga mat to get some core work done. At one point the staff came in to make the court bigger, but they didn’t seem to mind me so I just let them get on with it without interrupting my workout. Long run tomorrow, I think I have my route planned out.
I was woken early by the kittens who wanted to play fetch, but as I intended to use the railway path for my Thursday threshold intervals I bimbled around a bit at home before heading out so that most of the commuters will already have moved through. This meant I had time to read my coach’s email reassuring me that I shouldn’t worry about missing my marathon pace towards the end of my long run on Sunday as I ‘hit it for the most part on a hilly route and on a warm day off the back of some hard training weeks’. It amuses me that he thinks the route I have been using for my long runs is hilly as it’s the flattest bit of Bristol I could find without doing lots of little loops (I found a message in my Garmin Connect notifications this morning suggesting I find a flatter route after the previous week’s long run, but honestly, that’s the flattest one I can find, the elevation gain was only 132m which is nothing in Bristol).
Anyway, back to the railway path for some threshold intervals under glorious blue skies. It was almost the same session as last week, except the recovery was 60s rather than 90s. Last week my 4 reps of 8 minutes at threshold pace (aka heart rate zone 4) came out at 4:44, 4:44, 4:46 and 4:41 min/km. This week, off a shorter recovery (but not having raced a 5k two days previously), they were 4:36, 4:29, 4:29 and 4:19 min/km. Much better and I am much happier with the difference between that and my marathon pace (4:55 min/km). It gives me much more confidence with 17 days to go.
Today was the final long long run before starting the taper for London, and was another 2 hours 45 split into 65 minutes easy (heart rate zone 2), 90 minutes at marathon pace (7:55 min/mile or 4:55 min/km), with a 10 minute cool down at the end.
I started fine, and the first hour or so of the marathon pace felt good, but the final 30 minutes was a struggle to keep anywhere close to that marathon pace (though I didn’t slip out far enough to get the dreaded ‘slow’ warnings). I even walked the majority of my cooldown as my body just didn’t see the point of battering itself with a slow jog. Hopefully the session was designed to replicate the final 90 minutes of the marathon rather than the first 90 minutes, otherwise I’m in trouble. With a good taper (which starts now) and the crowd on my side I should be OK, I certainly feel in much better shape (those final 30 minute notwithstanding) than I did when I ran my first marathon 18 months ago (though not right now, right now I feel pretty much like I did when I finished that first marathon).
Today was my last Ashton Court parkrun for a while what with holidays and RD duties and the small matter of a little race in the capital coming up this month. It was sunny and showery to make sure that I experienced all of the weather in one run.
As usual it was supposed to be a nice easy recovery run, but I got a little carried away coming back downhill and went a bit fast (but I promise it didn’t feel fast!). I’m going to try and get to Forest Rec parkrun next week, but no promises. No core work this week as I have my toughest long run tomorrow. But before that I have to do battle with England Athletics and renew all of the club members’ registrations.
The rain had just started to fall when I left the house for my threshold interval session, but I couldn’t wait for it to stop as I knew the cats’ new climbing tree was due for delivery soon and I had to fit in the session and get back before it arrived.
It was only light rain anyway, and it came and went throughout the session which was 4 reps of 8 minutes at threshold effort. It felt like quite a relaxed set of efforts, even though I was bumping up against the upper edge of the heart rate zone, and the reps were pretty consistent too. I had accidentally left auto-lap on after Aztec, set to 1km splits, which confused the watch as it also had each 8 minute rep and 90s recovery down as laps as well.
A little bit of maths and my average pace for each rep came out at 4:44, 4:44, 4:46 and 4:41 min/km. I’ll take that kind of consistency, and the fact that it’s a little bit faster than my marathon pace (which is 4:55 min/km) but it felt comfortable, even in the rain.
Back to the Aztec West fast 5k again tonight. My plan was to aim for around 21 minutes, but if I really pushed I thought I might be able to get to 20:30. Pete was also going for 21 as he’s tapering for Rome and so was Harriet at her first Aztec race. We went off a little fast and I was surprised to see the first km at 4:01. It felt pretty manageable, but I was aware that I didn’t want to push flat out for the race, not wanting to risk overdoing it when London is less than 4 weeks away (there will be plenty of time to try for a pb at the May and June races). I eased it back a bit and focused instead of getting Harriet around to the end, and she had more in her legs and lungs than I did in those final few hundred metres, coming over the line a couple of seconds ahead of me.
Importantly for me for the series, my main competition was not here, which means two missed races for them and they are out of contention for the series prizes. This means I can calculate how slowly I can run in the April race (which will be two days after London) without losing the lead I have built up. I currently have a lead of around 27 minutes over the next person, which should hopefully be enough with 3 races in the series left and one time able to be dropped.
Today could have been a very tough long run. It was scheduled to be the longest I have attempted in training to date, lasting 2 hours and 45 minutes. It was going to have the longest amount of marathon pace in it (75 minutes). It was also taking place on Mother’s Day (my mother died in 2008) and on what would have been my father’s birthday (the 7th anniversary of his death is next Friday).
As it turned out it was one of my more enjoyable long runs. It felt better than last week’s long run, which was shorter with less marathon pace in it. My full marathon playlist hadn’t copied over to my ipod, but the tunes that were repeating were good ones. It was lovely and sunny, but not too windy for a change. Best of all I kept seeing people I knew along the way. First it was Robbie and Mark just after the Staple Hill tunnel, then a regular parkrunner (sans his ubiquitous German Shepherd) as we waited on opposite sides of the road for the lights at Warmley. On the way back I crossed paths with Helen just before I tackled a cattle grid and a nasty hill, then just before I hit the Fishponds fish there were Martha and Daryl (Daryl riding the support bike while Martha ran).
It was great to see so many familiar faces whilst out on another solitary long run. Not too long now until I can see them more regularly back at my usual training sessions. Only two more proper long runs to go.
Another Saturday and another parkrun. This one was wonderfully Springlike, beautifully sunny if a little chilly and I was grateful for my new lightweight Asics jacket. Another nice and easy one (is there any other kind these days?). Alas I couldn’t stay for cake to celebrate Cecilia’s 100th parkrun as I had some errands to run before my midday core class.
They hadn’t moved the bikes out of the room from spin class, but luckily it was only me for this virtual 30 minute core class (though the disco lights mean that there are always people looking in through the windows in the doors). Boom, another 30 minutes of core work done, all working towards being strong for London.
A big run tomorrow. 2 and three-quarter hours with 75 minutes at marathon pace.
I’m going to rationalise my slow speed in my first two efforts today by putting it down to the cold I have been fighting off from developing over the past few days. You know that tickly feeling you get at the back of your mouth when you’re getting a cold? I’ve had that and have been fighting it off with all of the vitamins I can throw at it. I did feel better this morning, as if I might be on the winning side against it, but just couldn’t get any speed into my legs on those first two efforts.
The second (and slightly downhill) efforts were considerably better (4:03 and 3:58 min/km pace compared to 4:17 and 4:11), so maybe this is a sign that the pendulum has swung over to stamina from speed (which is probably a good thing with 30 days to go).