Frenzy? Well not only are the big miles a-coming, but I’ve also had a pretty busy week at work. Part of that week involved helping a pupil get started on a piece of writing by thinking about some alliteration to set the appropriate tone. All that wordplay seems to have gone to my head and spilled over into my title today, but then who doesn’t love a bit of alliteration!
Outside of work, training has continued to go well this week. Last Sunday’s 18 miler took me into the “serious miles” bracket of my training programme – in fact, last time I did a marathon my longest single training run was 18 miles – and given the (needless) worry I had last week over a tight muscle, I’ve been paying close attention to how my body has recovered. One thing I did observe was that in previous marathon training cycles, once my Sunday mileage got to 16+ I would notice an ache around my hips and pelvis towards the end of the run as a result of the repetitive motion of running and I know my training partners have experienced this too, yet this year there has been no sign of that ache. I asked Steve for his insights on this and his immediate response was that it’s all to do with my core. Runners are constantly advised to strengthen their core in order to run well and it would seem that all those planks, tuck jumps and other core exercises in Metafit have done just that. Stronger core = no more ache. Result!
So the pattern of my training has continued much the same as for the rest of this month, but with the removal of my Monday Metafit class from now on so that my legs have a chance to recover. This week was:
Monday – Recovery swim/sauna
Tuesday – 6 miles
Wednesday – Rest
Thursday – Coaching running club
Friday – Metafit
Saturday – 40 mins easy
Sunday – 18 miles
Monday is my busiest day of the week so having a swim and sauna to look forward to at the end of the day was just the ticket. I swam some gentle lengths of the pool, relaxed in the jacuzzi and had a sauna. I remember reading somewhere that a regular sauna can actually improve a runner’s endurance, so I like to imagine that while I’m sitting in the heat trying to pretend I’m in sunnier climes, I’m actually helping my running to improve. Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
I was a bit later than usual getting home and organised on Tuesday so my run was still in the dark (and, as is becoming the norm, in the rain which came on when I was a couple of miles from home!) but as I was driving home from work I noticed that if I had been just a bit sharper I might actually have set out for my run in the last of the daylight. Perhaps the longer days are nearer than I think! My legs felt well recovered from Sunday and despite the weather, I quite enjoyed my run as I took a different route to my recent Tuesdays and saw one or two other runners out, including a couple from the Thursday night group out doing their “homework”!
That homework has obviously been paying off as the Thursday night session went very well. I again worked with the group progressing to 10k and took them for a slightly longer run than last week, with a slightly steeper hill. They all handled the incline really well, tapped into their pace and ran strongly, with enough energy left for some short hill sprints when we rejoined Steve and the Zero to 5k runners afterwards. Hills hurt, but they’re worth it.
A Monday Metafit class may not be in my programme anymore, but I’m still there on a Friday night. Perversely, I rather enjoy this class as I know that afterwards the weekend can really begin. This week there was a new workout called KAYO (say it aloud, it sounds like K.O. as in “knocked out”, which is pretty much the effect it is having on people!). I wasn’t sure what to expect, but in the end it wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated, although still a really tough workout. After the class we had dinner with some friends and stayed up as late as I can remember being for months, just chatting and laughing. Dinner was curry and a couple of beers which was tasty, but perhaps not the best fuel for my Saturday morning run as my dinner combined with less sleep than usual resulted in me feeling a bit sluggish. It was, of course, an easy run so pace didn’t actually matter. As the run went on I felt better and better and by the time I was finished I was refreshed and ready to face the day.
An important part of the remainder of Saturday was working out a route for my 18 mile long run on Sunday. I had been checking the weather forecast and knew it was likely to be another wet and windy one. With this in mind, I decided to consider the lessons I’ve learned in my recent Sunday runs, namely that heading out onto the country roads is ultimately rather miserable as they are exposed to the wind, have flooded sections and I get soaked by unforgiving passing cars. It can also be a rather lonely experience as there are far fewer runners and cyclists out in poor conditions. Having successfully completed 18 miles largely within Perth last weekend, I decided to do something similar and mapped out a suitable route which would finish with a mainly downhill/flat final 3 miles.
As I awoke on Sunday morning, I could hear the wind whistling around the rooftops and banging against the windows of our flat. The rain was on and I knew this was going to be a tough one. I knew I would need a fully zipped up mansuit to get me out the door!
Learning from my last rainy Sunday run, I did my best to choose kit that would keep me reasonably dry (the overall temperature was warmer this time so I wasn’t too worried about getting cold). I wore the waterproof running jacket I bought after the last time as it has a great hood which stays up even in strong winds (and trust me, that was thoroughly tested today!) and in preparation for potentially cold hands, packed a spare pair of gloves in a plastic bag and stuck them in my pocket so I would have a change if I needed them. As it turned out, I removed my first pair of gloves after 5 miles as I was feeling warm and didn’t need gloves again after that, but it’s always good to be prepared – just ask the scouts and guides!
My route involved a long loop of about 11 miles around Perth, followed by a shorter loop out to nearby Scone. This second loop is one of my staple routes for 6-8 mile runs and I was hoping the familiarity would make the last part of my run easier. I also thought that it would be a good mental trick in the last 10k of the marathon to think of running that route, and so doing it at the end of a long run might make it easier to use this as a mental boost than running it on fresh legs.
I realised very quickly that keeping up my pace was going to be hard work this time. Not only was there a strong wind, but it was the kind of wind which somehow manages to come from all directions at once so I was constantly running into a headwind. I actually felt myself getting blown sideways a number of times and had to really dig in to keep moving forward. I figured that it would be “character building” and great training for the final miles of the marathon when you really have to dig deep into a body devoid of energy in order to reach the finish line. I also accepted that I would likely be slower than last week, not only because of the weather but because my route included all of the steepest hills in Perth! Even that final 3 miles which should have been reasonably easy was on a really exposed section and the headwind was brutal – so brutal that I couldn’t actually hear the music I had been listening to over the sound of the wind! In the end, I was pleased to find that overall I was only about a minute or so slower than last week and just within my target pace. If I can do that on that particular route, in that apocalyptic weather, then on a nice day on a flat route I should be in relatively good shape.
Sometimes we just have to accept that there are things we have no control over when it comes to running. I could control my route, my effort level and my nutrition, but there was nothing I could do about the conditions other than dressing in suitable kit. I reset my goals in terms of pace and concentrated on effort level instead. I had no idea of my overall time until I was finished and was surprised with the result, having expected to be much slower. The most important thing, though, is that I did it.
Have you ever surprised yourself with your running performance?
What’s your staple running route?