The Countdown Begins: Marathon Training Week 11

With just 4 weeks to go, I’m now really getting to the business end of this training programme and banking the big mileage of Monster Month March (94 miles so far and counting…). Next weekend will see me completing my longest run of the programme (aka The Big One) before the tapering madness begins.

But all that is next week and the purpose of this post is an update on my training over the past 7 days. I’ve been very aware that this final couple of weeks before the taper begins is really my last opportunity to make any real difference to my performance, therefore I’ve been keeping up the intensity of my training and working hard to capitalise on my gains so far.

Planned training this week:
Monday – Recovery Run
Tuesday – Club Run
Wednesday – Gym
Thursday – Mile Repeats
Friday – Rest
Saturday – 8 miles
Sunday – 14 miles

After a 16+ mile run last Sunday, a recovery run on Monday was important in order to loosen my legs off and set me up for another hard week of training. I’ve never been very good at recovery runs as once I’m past the first 10 minutes or so and my legs are starting to feel better, I tend to get a bit carried away and run too fast. For this reason, I stick to the treadmill as I can keep to a constant pace. I don’t allow myself to increase the pace, I just enjoy the short jog, listen to some music and mull over my day. I ran for 25 minutes then had a really good stretch and used the foam roller to check for any tender spots. My legs have been standing up well to my programme this year and the regular use of the foam roller means I can deal with any tight or tender muscles before they become a problem.

Tuesday was a beautiful day and I found myself questioning why I would want to wait until it was (just) dark to head out for my club run when I could head home from work a little earlier and manage the bulk of my run in the daylight. In the end, this was what I decided to do and had a lovely 5.7 mile run. This meant I was getting home and stretching round about when the others from the club were heading out so I also had a bit of extra time to myself in the evening. I wasn’t sure how this run would go after Sunday, but the recovery run the previous day obviously helped a great deal. My legs, although a bit weary, were certainly able to stand up to the pace I wanted to run at (a little faster than my goal marathon pace) and I was pleased with the splits I saw when I checked my Garmin afterwards.

Before heading to the gym on Wednesday I had a very important appointment – my monthly leg massage! Last month my calves were very tight and needed a bit of work, but there didn’t seem to be any such issue this time. Along with the stretching and foam roller, the regular massage has also been a key part of my recovery and maintenance this year. Last year I tended to go for a massage once there was a problem; this year I’m using massage to prevent the problem occurring in the first place. My next massage will be in the week immediately prior to the marathon to ease out any tapering niggles and make sure my legs are fresh for the big day. I’ll also have a massage a couple of days after the marathon to shift the tightness and built up lactic acid, thus aiding my recovery.

Once this was done, it was into the gym for a PT session with Steve. This week, we were using the ViPR. This workout involved performing sideways and rotational movements to strengthen all the leg muscles, improve mobility and reduce the risk of common running injuries such as a tight IT band or piriformis syndrome. I suspect I looked rather daft working through some of the exercises, but the benefits definitely outweigh a few minutes of looking like a bit of a loony!

Thursday once more brought with it my nemesis workout of the year: mile repeats. After feeling strong doing 6 reps a fortnight ago, I was determined that this week I would finally manage 8. As it turned out, I was still feeling strong and completed the reps without too much difficulty. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was easy, but it was reasonably comfortable and physically I could have managed a bit more (mentally I was done. An hour and a half of looking at the building opposite is not that inspiring!). My 8x 1 mile reps at 7.5mph with 0.2 mile walking recovery brought me to a completed workout of 9.8 miles and 1171 calories burned! I was hot, sweaty and, frankly, a bit of a mess by the end, but given that last month I was struggling with 4 reps, this showed me just how much my fitness has continued to improve. My programme calls for one more session of mile repeats before the marathon. In order to push myself, there will be fewer reps but at a faster pace. I expect to have to dig deep for that one!

Friday, of course, was my rest day and I, of course, took the opportunity for a sauna. Steve does laugh at me a bit for my insistence on regular saunas, however I keep pointing out that my running has improved a lot on my current training plan, therefore I can’t make any changes now in case I eliminate a key session. This is as true for rest day activities as it is for speed sessions as far as I’m concerned, so a sauna it was. Besides, this is my Friday treat and helps set me up for a weekend of running!

This week, my planned weekend running was designed to give me equal mileage to last week, but the balance was different: more miles on Saturday, fewer on Sunday. This kept up the conditioning work on my legs but was also designed to prepare me for the longer mileage next weekend. So on a beautiful Saturday morning I headed off for an 8 mile run. These Saturday runs really have been a highlight of my training as I’ve enjoyed the chance to run on fresher legs but at a slightly slower pace. This means I can simply relax and enjoy the scenery and listen to some music without really thinking about the running, which largely takes care of itself. I could happily keep going at that pace, especially in such perfect running weather, but it goes without saying that I need to think of my Sunday longer run and be sensible, so it was 8 miles and 8 miles only.

After a colder night, Sunday also brought with it a lovely day and I plotted out a 14ish mile route. I had a sneaking suspicion it might be slightly longer, but that didn’t really bother me. I decided to try and average my goal marathon day pace and fuelling strategy. I had a lovely couple of hours running about the countryside enjoying the sunshine and the feeling that I could just run on and on and on… As it turned out, my route was 14.6 miles and I really enjoyed it, arriving home happy with the knowledge that I could have kept going. Encouraging stuff as next Sunday I’ll be running 18 miles on top of an 8 mile run on Saturday!

So that’s it. A little over half way through the monster month, and at 94 miles I’d say so far I’m doing a pretty good job of showing this particular monster just how tenacious I can be. Bring on The Big One…!

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