The thing about training for a spring marathon is that the bulk of the training is done over the winter months. Don’t get me wrong, I actually really enjoy training in the cooler weather, but sometimes Mother Nature is less than sympathetic to my plans and does her best to make things as tricky as possible. Take this week for example: Scotland, like much of the rest of the UK, has experienced snow, high winds and plummeting temperatures. But with the twin motivators of marathon training and a Jantastic target to meet, there was nothing for it but to keep going.
But keeping going doesn’t mean taking risks. The important thing about a marathon training plan, as I’ve said before, is to be flexible with it and make adaptations when necessary. If this means changing around some workouts due to adverse conditions, then make a change. Time on your feet and building endurance are the most important things, not carrying on regardless and putting yourself at risk of illness or injury.
So this week I had to make some changes. My plan was as follows:
Monday – swim/sauna
Tuesday – 6 miles hilly
Wednesday – conditioning
Thursday – cadence drills
Friday – Metafit
Saturday – 5k
Sunday – 10 miles
The week started well with some time in the pool doing some slow lengths to work on getting my breathing right in the front crawl. I’m using this session as “active rest” and keeping a little bit of swimming ticking over so that I can pick this up later in the year. I take it easy and after a longer run on a Sunday it’s really nice to ease off my legs in the pool and relax in the sauna afterwards.
However on Tuesday things became a bit more tricky. There had been a forecast for overnight snow, but waking up on Tuesday morning there wasn’t a flake in sight. Then about half an hour before I had to leave for work we were suddenly hit with a blizzard which seemed to come out of nowhere and immediately turned EVERYTHING white! My journey to work became quite tricky as it took me around 40 minutes to travel the first 8 miles or so (and for a few minutes it looked like I might be spending some quality time sitting on the motorway slip road after a vehicle in front of me got stuck!). Not the best start to my day, but just a few miles outside of Perth the conditions were completely different and there was next to no snow at my work. I was hopeful of still being able to go for my planned run, but getting back home at the end of the day it was quite clear that this would be a risky manoeuvre. The last thing I want to do right now is slip in the ice/snow and pick up an injury, so I reluctantly decided to head for the treadmill instead. I covered the same distance – 6 miles – but rather than the hilly route I had planned, I went for a progression workout and increased the pace of the treadmill steadily throughout the session to keep from getting bored. I’m not a massive treadmill fan (I’d much rather be running outside) but I got my run done and stayed safe.
The weather didn’t improve much on Wednesday and I had another slow commute, but this time it didn’t affect my training as I had another conditioning session scheduled. I noticed last week that this session really helped to stretch out my muscles and made my legs feel refreshed (even though immediately afterwards they were a bit wobbly from the exercises I was doing!) and this seemed to hold true again. Hopefully this will both give me stronger leg muscles to support my running and help with my mid-week recovery.
Fortunately some overnight rain took care of the snow in time for my Thursday session. It was a busy night for me as I completed my own workout (a set of cadence drills) then had a really quick change of kit before heading out to help Steve coach his Zero to 5k running group. This was week two and having found himself once more with a fairly sizeable group, Steve needed my help. I enjoy getting to know more people, helping them along the way on their running journey and sharing some of my experiences with them, but by the end of the session I was keen to get home after a total of about 2 hours out in the cold! I ran with the group in their drills and afterwards wished I’d used my Garmin to record the session just to see what distance we actually covered. There were a few quite speedy people in the group and I could see the makings of some decent runners there. I was also pleased at how enthusiastic they were and keen to improve their fitness so I’m looking forward to seeing their 5k times at the end of the block.
Perversely, one of my favourite (non-running) workouts of the week is my Friday night Metafit class. It’s a hard session but experience has taught me that it makes a massive difference to my running so I work as hard as I can. This week there was a new workout to try which included a couple of new exercises. I like how each one is a bit different and how frequently new workouts are released to mix things up.
On Saturday I returned to Parkrun after enjoying it so much a couple of weeks ago. We had been advised the night before to take an extra top for afterwards as it was going to be cold, so I asked about where I could leave my top since I would be by myself. Turns out there is a very handy “hanging tree” right by the start/finish line:
It was certainly a chilly morning and we were warned that there were some slippy patches, but I found that unlike last time the paths were much easier to run on as although white, they were “crunchy” rather than slick so I was able to go a bit faster. The grass section, however, was a different story as the ground was frozen solid (no mud!) and the puddles from two weeks ago were best described as miniature ice rinks! Still, I kept a steady pace and was able to get gradually quicker in the last half mile or so with a sprint finish to score a new Parkrun PB of 25:59. I’m pleased with my performance and am certain I can still take some more time off that result in the coming weeks, particularly as conditions improve.
One of the things I really like about Parkrun, in my limited experience of it, is the social aspect of the run. Increasingly, I train alone or with Steve so it’s really nice to turn up at an event like this where there tend to be several people I know and yesterday was able to catch up with someone I haven’t seen in a really long time. It will be good as the weeks go by to keep going along to run, support others and chat to people I wouldn’t see otherwise. I’m really starting to see why so many people are addicted to Parkrun!
Finally there was my Sunday long run. I admit to some concerns about the conditions as there was a light dusting of snow overnight and temperatures were low, but thankfully the paths had been well gritted so there was nothing stopping me from heading out. I planned a route that would keep me in Perth rather than out in the surrounding country (which is often much more slippy) and made sure to choose kit that would keep me warm. Since I had missed out on my hilly run on Tuesday, I included a couple of tough hills in this route and was pleased to find that I finished my run feeling like I could have gone on. Although a chilly morning, it was absolutely beautiful and I stopped to take a photo early on in the run:
For me, 10 miles is often a tipping point in my training. It’s the first of the “double digit” distances, it’s the point at which I need to start carrying additional fuel with me, and it’s the point at which I need to think more about my food intake to ensure I don’t suffer from “runger”.
For me, this means making sure I have plenty of nutritious food throughout the remainder of Sunday to replace what I have burned and help my muscles to recover. Last year, I found that my recovery strategy worked really well, so that’s one of the things I want to maintain in my training this year. Ok, so I had an injury last year, but that injury occurred a few weeks AFTER the marathon and was due, I think, to mistakes made in my post-race recovery (mainly the fact that I got overexcited and started running again too soon). My training and recovery in the weeks before the marathon went brilliantly and I ran a good race, so it’s important to make sure I still incorporate the successful elements into my plan this year. I know what pre- and post- run nutrition works for me, I know what fuelling strategy works for me and I know that both compression kit and a Sunday night bath are instrumental in helping my legs to recover. Yes, it may very well be all in my head, but an article I read in one of my many running magazines suggested that believing a strategy works is just as important in making it successful as any scientifically proven results. So as soon as I post this, I’ll be off to run my bath 🙂
And so my second week of marathon training comes to a close. I completed all my planned sessions (albeit with a weather-induced adjustment) and have a 100% record in Jantastic so far. I’m pleased with how I am performing and how my body is adapting to the training load. Looking ahead, I feel in good shape for the next week, although I have a sneaky suspicion Mother Nature may try to throw another spanner in the works as the forecast suggests some seriously low temperatures to come. I’ll just have to see what happens and adjust my plan if I need to.
How has your training gone this week?
Has the winter weather caused you any difficulties?