Peaks and Troughs: Marathon Training Week 12

Much like most of my standard training routes, preparation for a marathon is full of highs and lows. Having been riding high for the last two or three weeks, I was brought back down to earth with a bump this week when it became apparent on Monday that I had cultivated a rather ouchy knot deep in my left calf. My training programme for the week was hastily changed in order to treat it and get me back out for my weekend runs, so this week’s training really bears little resemblance to the original plan!

Planned training this week:
Monday – Recovery Run
Tuesday – Club Run
Wednesday – Gym
Thursday – Rest
Friday – Rest/Swim
Saturday – 8 miles
Sunday – 18 miles (aka The Big One)

As I said, I realised on Monday that my left leg had been cursed with a knot. I could feel it as I walked about and spent large portions of the day prodding at my calf trying to work out where it was. The recovery run was ditched in favour of 20 minutes on the cross trainer and some stretching. I also got Steve to do some (very painful) sports massage on it to start breaking down the knot. It was deep so that added to the discomfort as a lot of pressure was needed in order to make any difference.

Tuesday’s run also had to be ditched and it was 45 minutes on the cross trainer instead. My calf was starting to come up in a bruise and I knew that losing one 5-6 mile run was no big deal if it meant I could complete my weekend mileage. I find the cross trainer dull, however I focused on the promise of a sauna at the end of it in order to pass the time!

By Wednesday, my calf had gone from ” a bit bruised” to “potential abuse victim” which in this case I took to be a good sign that the knot had broken down and the muscle was repairing itself. There no longer seemed to be any knot there and any discomfort I was feeling was likely because the muscle itself was bruised as well. I had my usual TRX session with Steve, focusing on all over strength training. Things were looking good for my weekend runs and I knew I had two rest days ahead of me to allow for a bit more recovery.

After a couple of days off, everything was feeling good. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a touch of The Fear on Saturday morning though. Any enforced lay-off will always lead to some trepidation when heading out again, but my 8 miles went well. My calf didn’t bother me while I was running and in the immediate aftermath continued to feel fine. By evening, however, it was just starting to feel “wrong”. I couldn’t really describe properly what the problem was, but I knew something just didn’t feel right. Steve looked for knots and stretched me out but couldn’t find anything obviously amiss. Nevertheless, something just didn’t feel right and I once more began to worry about my long run on Sunday.

Things were better on Sunday morning, but still not 100%. By the time I’d stretched, had breakfast and stretched some more, everything felt ok and Steve suggested that maybe I needed my long run to help shift the problem. I had my doubts, however there seemed no reason to cancel the run so I decided just to set out at a slightly slower pace and see what happened. I adjusted my route so I wouldn’t be quite so far from home (and would have “cut off” points if needed to bail out and head home) and set out.

It was a reasonably cool morning to start with, but I knew it would warm up significantly and opted for shorts and a short-sleeved top. I was glad of this as it definitely began to heat up as time went on. I was running a hilly route but as I meandered my way around the countryside I felt nothing untoward from my calf. I was aware of it, in the same way you become aware of a bruise if you press your finger on it, but nothing significant. By the time I was into the last third of the run, I was feeling it a bit more, however it was not enough to slow me down and I actually ended up finishing my run in roughly the time my pace band says I will need to complete 18 miles if I’m aiming for a 4 hour finish. Given the heat, the hills and the fact that my leg just wasn’t 100%, I’m happy with that.

Now, as the post-run fatigue sets in, my leg is definitely throbbing and I can feel that things are tightening up again. On the plus side, I’ve completed The Big One in a good time even with this setback so that gives me confidence ahead of race day. I know I can run well even with a bit of discomfort and I know that I’m stubborn enough to press on and finish regardless of what happens on the day. I now have a 3 week taper and will be spending it making sure I get this problem fixed so I can toe the line on the 15th of April free of worries about how long my calf will hold out.

Fingers are well and truly crossed!


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