Yes, taper time once more. It’s funny, but I never really mind the first week of the taper, in fact I’m usually pretty keen to have the cut back in my long run, but with the rest of my training throughout the week not particularly changing, I don’t really notice the taper until the second/third week. Given that this first taper week has coincided with the second half of my spring break, it’s been great to have the chance to continue with my relaxing routine. As a result I not only feel rested, but feel a bit mentally sharper and like my creative juices are flowing a bit more (which means I have loads of ideas for posts but probably not enough time to write them all while they’re still relevant. Oh well, c’est la vie!).
Monday – rest
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – hills
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 16 miles
I decided I quite liked last week’s strategy of starting the day with a cup of the and my book in bed. This week’s reading material proved to be absolutely fascinating and I highly recommend everyone reads this book.
Once I was organised on Monday I took a walk to the gym to sit in the hot tub for a bit. My legs definitely needed the movement after running 20 miles on Sunday, so walking for a bit and having the time to relax in the warm water definitely made them feel much better. By the time I got home I was feeling pretty good – in no hurry to run for a day or two, but good!
Then on Tuesday I had to coerce my legs into a bit more activity. I walked to the gym once more, but this time to conquer another set of intervals on the bike. I was a little worried that I was going to struggle this time with the cumulative fatigue setting in, but actually I was able to get it done and that gave me a real sense of accomplishment. Yes, my legs were a bit weary, but the real battle was a mental one to convince myself to do it and I did. Job done!
My Wednesday run this week was hills. Goody! The thing about hills is that the efforts are short, but oh so tough. I don’t know if it was the different time of day, being better rested or further improvements in my fitness, but I felt like I was performing better and a comparison of the stats from the 2 activities shows that I was quicker over the harder (i.e. longer) intervals, so that’s more good news.
In the afternoon I had an appointment in town so headed in a bit early so I could potter about the shops for a while. And then I got hungry and ended up with the most middle class snack ever! Thank goodness for M&S 😂
By Thursday I was looking forward to another Ashtanga yoga class. The hardest sessions of the week were done and it was time to do something a bit more relaxing. I felt like I was really strong in “wheel” this week, but not quite so amazing in my headstand work. I did manage a supported headstand though, and I know I’ll not get it every time so I’ll just go with what happens week on week.
On Friday I headed down to the studio for a personal training session. This time a bit of mobility work using my old friend the Core Momentum Trainer. Some of the exercises were a bit tricky as they involved both movement AND balance (not my strong suit!) but once I figured out the best way to fix my gaze point I found I was able to do them much more easily.
That night on the way home from dinner I decided to work on my balance a bit more. There’s this strange brick thing in our development that I just can’t understand. It almost looks like a plinth for something, but it’s been left like this for ages so who knows! Our running joke is that there should be a statue on it, so I thought I would demonstrate what that would look like. Can’t take me anywhere haha!
And then Saturday came around. Earlier in the week I had ordered some new leggings and was keen to debut them at parkrun.
Having been a little frustrated a couple of weeks ago when I narrowly missed out on a sub-24 minute time, I wanted to have another go. Being in that kind of shape gives me confidence as I approach a marathon and I realised that this would likely be my last chance as I’ll be using the run slightly differently for the next couple of weeks.
We were running anti-clockwise this time. The grass still isn’t recovered enough for us to run over it en masse, or at least it would be for one run but then we’d be right back where we started! There was a poll on social media to decide on the direction and it was a draw so anti-clockwise was chosen for a variety of reasons. Having learned my lesson I made sure I was fairly near the front so I could get a bit of space and shot off and soon as the RD said go! The pace felt hard, but achievable, and I got a bit of a shock when the first mile clocked in at 7:33 – a bit spicy for me!
Somehow I held on and mile 2 came in at 7:28. Still going! By this time I was doing the sums and realised I could be well within my goal time, it was just a case of hanging on. My legs, which I was expecting to turn to jelly at any moment, felt strong so I knew this was going to be all about keeping my head in it and pushing on.
A slight dip in mile 3 at 7:40, then a burst of speed in to the finish line to clock a time of 23:26!! Having thought I might manage just inside 24, that was a big surprise and, for stats fans, my 3rd fastest parkrun EVER! A very pleasing place to be at this stage in my preparations for Stirling and probably the confidence boost I needed that all the parts of my training are coming together.
The rest of the day was pretty chilled, and when Steve headed off to spend the afternoon with some friends I spent some quality time with my good friend Adriene.
Sunday was “just” 16 miles (you know you’re at the end of a marathon training cycle when you add “just” to ridiculous mileage that’s beyond many people’s commute!). While I have no specific time goal for this marathon, preferring to remove the pressure and simply perform my best under whatever circumstances there are on the day, I do still want to formulate a plan for how I’m going to approach the race. Do I want to aim for a specific “feel” or pace? Or do I want to do something like I’ve done in my longer training runs with a mixture of faster miles and recovery miles?
To help me decide, Steve suggested that I try running my 16 miles at a steady pace, somewhere around my dream finish time of 4 hours. That’s 9:09 per mile. I knew I would have some hills in my route, but thought I could maybe balance it out a bit as there would be both uphill and downhill sections.
It was a beautiful morning with the sun out once more so my shorts got another airing. I wore a super-light long sleeved top but soon wished I had gone for something else as the sleeves were quickly rolled up and I was quite sure it was much warmer than the forecast had suggested. While I was trying to focus on how I felt rather than hitting a specific pace, I was checking my watch for a bit of feedback as each mile ticked by and it was looking good. Hitting 10 miles on 1:30:XX meant I had averaged a 9 minute mile thus far and the biggest hill was out the way.
The longer I went on, the harder it felt as I was getting warm, there was a strong wind in places and I had a long, steady incline in the last mile or so home. To be honest, I thought I had lost it by then, but pushed on to give myself another “win” in the mental battle. I was therefore thrilled to see when I stopped my watch that I was bang on the average pace I wanted to see. I don’t think I’ll be running the marathon quite like that, but it is valuable information in helping me formulate a race plan (and backup plans – always have a backup!).
So now there are just 2 weeks to go. Next weekend I’m going to rearrange my running a bit so I can get my miles in but still work around some other commitments. This means I’ve managed to give myself a rare day “off” on Sunday, so if you want me I’ll be in front of the TV, still in my pyjamas and clutching a cup of tea while I watch coverage of the London marathon. I can’t wait!
If you’re running London, then I wish you all the very best. It’s an amazing race and a fantastic experience.