Debrief #2

Home race! Sleeping in my own bed! Club mates to run with!

Still not my race, though.

Everything felt fine. A bit chilly & rainy at the start, but I wore a disposable long sleeve top for the warm up miles (not really disposable but I only decided to put it on last minute & didn’t want to carry it for the rest of the race), bursts of sunshine, some strong coastal breezes, as to be expected for a race that travels along the North Sea coast. No aches & pains beyond general fatigue, the wind was a bit strong sometimes but I didn’t feel too slowed down by it, nutrition went well & I had a really good last mile & a fast finish. Clearly can’t judge my own pace, though, as I came in a few minutes slower than London. 4:20:55 on Strava for the actual 42.195 distance, 4:22:44 on chip (with a distance of 42.7km)

So… following a 5-runs-a-week intermediate training plan has made me get steadily worse & I am a bit gutted. I’ve worked so hard & I really thought I could at least pb, even if a sub-4 wasn’t possible. To not manage either, & to finish the UK’s fastest, flattest marathon slower than London, is rubbish.

can’t be good

Positives, of a sort:

  • I’ve run over 1000km in 2019 so far, & will aim for 1000 miles by the end of the year.
  • I finished really strong, & aside from a few aches & pains I felt mostly OK on Sunday evening. My body can clearly cope well with marathons as long as they’re slow.
  • It’s a good medal
  • I had less mental anguish during this race, probably linked to not feeling physically ruined at any point. Miles 17-19 were still a bit dark but this time it was easier to count down from the half way.
  • I have stayed injury-free – a few niggles here & there, but nothing that can’t be fixed with more & better stretching & less running
  • I must visit North Berwick more often, the east coast is really pretty.
  • Now it’s time for weightlifting again

I’m taking a week off to rest, & then changing my training to all strength, all the time. I want my definition back, & I do not want to run as much as I have been.

Other positives, as ever, were the marvellous team & their continuing dedication. Fun when I’ve been able to train with them, & there were some fantastic first-time marathon finishers in this gang. Hugs & chat from folk who know why I’m so gutted is also useful post-race.

Also calf stretch time

Despite the weather forecast of heavy rain (plenty of it) many of us are sunburned. I genuinely do not remember it being sunny for more than a few stretches of 2 minutes. I know you can burn through cloud but it was forecast for continuous cloud & rain. I am coated in aftersun lotion.

Recovery will be plenty of walking & eating properly, & some long-term Netflix commitments to follow up. Knitting, reading, & indoor hobbies in general. Looking forward to indoor workouts too, when I get back to it. New goals will be set when I figure out how to deal with failing.

Week before race week…

& it’s amazing how much better I feel mentally. Physically, I am needing a bit of a rest or a change, & I can’t wait until it’s all over…

Monday: rest day. Not difficult in the lovely sunshine. Did some yoga stretches in the garden, listening to the relaxing sounds of my cat’s enraged howling that another cat had dared to come within 5 metres of the house.

CONSTANT VIGILANCE

Tuesday: still sunny, but headed to the air-conditioned gym for a speed session. Kept the speed a bit more tempo-style & managed 12 reps of 250m, with 60 seconds recovery time & a short warmup and cooldown of about 1km each. Finished off with a bit of strength training, mostly back and arms to give the legs a break.

Wednesday: skipped the easy run again & went for a sports massage, which was niiiiiiice & found all the knots in my right calf that have been slowly improving since London. My calves have usually been fairly reliable so soreness & stiffness mid-race was unusual.

Thursday: 4 miles of speed work, outside when it got a bit cooler. The plan was to run at lunchtime but I was too hungry to only have a light lunch & running by the river can be tough when it’s hot.

It went well, with defined fast & slow kms.

Friday: strength session in the form of pole. Managed to get upside down for a bit, & more gracefully than last time I practiced, but my grip & core strength has deteriorated a bit & shoulder mounts just feel like pain. I’ll get there.

Saturday: was planning Drumchapel parkrun, but with the weather being a bit damp & drizzly, a flatter option seemed better to save my hamstrings. Good solid time on a moderate effort, & a nice steady run there & back covered almost 8 miles.

Sunday: A steady couple of miles with Cyclebox, later in the day than my usual Sunday run. Topped up the miles with another 3 miles on the treadmill, a good tempo pace all the way.

Kelvingrove steps fear

Total miles: 19.5. I hadn’t appreciated how much mileage the easy runs added. Skipping the midweek 6-8 milers, mostly due to time pressures, really brings the total distance down. I’ve replaced with strength sessions, sports massages or general rest, so that’s OK – I see the benefit of miles in the bank during the bulk of the training, but right now is about preventing fatigue.

Nutrition: interesting this week. I’ve been mostly vegetarian (mostly = not checking labels strictly, but all meals have been meat free). No particular reason, but I feel good for it anyway. Had a couple of alcoholic drinks midweek too, something I have been avoiding for the vast majority of the plan except that time at the end of March.

halloumi fries solve everything

Feeling: good. A bit of pain in the right hip, not sure if it’s linked to running as I first started feeling it when sleeping on my right side, but now it aches after running too. Stretching sort of helps but it’s in the soft tissue around the hip bone, not the hip flexor itself, so it does feel a bit weird. Sore to the touch.

Friday’s pole session is still being felt all over my shoulders & triceps, but there’s less core stiffness than last week, so I must be re-learning how to use my core properly rather than relying on momentum & luck.

no fear of heights though

I’m working away for the first half of next week, so rather than trying to squeeze exercise sessions in, I will concentrate on good nutrition & sleep. It’s a shame because I am working in one of my favourite parts of London that has some awesome running routes, but I can’t fit in everything. The kit will come with me, of course, but if it doesn’t happen then I won’t stress.

“Two marathons in a month?”

Yes. London was a bit of an anomaly in the plan.

Headed out this morning for my first ‘proper’ run since London, easing back into a training plan that had me taking a couple of rest days & a couple of recovery runs before hitting the proper miles again. Now LDN’s done & dusted, it’s all about EMF.

more like East Lothian marathon really but

Edinburgh is one of the nearest marathons to me, and despite it being a bit of a boring route and a bit late in the year for a spring marathon, it has a good medal, a good atmosphere & I can sleep in my own bed the night before, which is always a joy. I’ve done the half marathon twice, spectated & supported on a few more, & always had a decent race.

I noticed a few dual or triple marathoners last year on Instagram using the Hal Higdon maintenance plan, as well as getting good feedback from club mates who use these plans. This is why I went for a Higdon plan in the first place, starting from the point of view of more than one marathon and working backwards. There are a range of plans available; four weeks between seems a long time, especially after seeing folk on Instagram running Manchester & Paris/Brighton, or one of these and then London too, but it is not overly regimented & advises intermediate & advanced runners to keep the speedwork up but pay attention to how they feel.

Four weeks between has the speed work kept up twice a week, plus a couple of easy longer distances to remind your body of the long run feels. Set off this morning with the plan to do 10 miles minimum, & 12 if it felt OK.

Ended up as 15.5 because I joined the GFR group catching the train to Balloch, & that’s how long it takes to get back to my house from there. Not ideal as recovery, but the pace was very steady & I was fully prepared to stop earlier if I felt it was needed. The rest of the team are legends & did the full 23 miles back to the city.

It was nice to run the Balloch to Clydebank half marathon route in slightly better weather than last time, & running with company is nice. It struck me that during London I didn’t speak to anyone after the starting pen until the final corner, unlike any other marathon where I have always had company. It maybe had an effect I didn’t realise at the time.

Currently feeling pretty good, but slightly sore after today’s miles. Same quad ache that I had following the marathon, and calf pain has moved into the Achilles’ tendon on one side which is actually quite painful to walk on too, so I will be cautious. This is quite a lot to put my body through & still stay injury-free. Nutrition and sleep remain as important as getting the miles in – & it’s not ideal, as work has been chaotic & I have been skipping lunch, eating doughnuts & staying up too late since London. Getting back on track with a long Sunday run has helped me focus, although I’m typing this with a glass of wine in hand…

Weekly round-up:

Monday: rest, except for a brief saunter to Tower Bridge for a post-marathon medal photo & a slow walk to my London workplace which has SO MANY STAIRS I never noticed this before today. 4 hours on the train home was better than I thought it would be for soreness.

Tuesday: more rest. Some foam rolling, which was sore. A very slow jog as part of coaching GFR, which didn’t feel good at all: probably less than 500m covered in an hour long session but it was always very slow. Legs were achy.

Wednesday: a steady 3 miles before dinner. It felt a bit weird – breathing hard but my heart rate stayed low & Garmin called it ‘unproductive’. Slightly tender calves & quads were not great but this was loosened by running in a way that stretching hadn’t helped with, so that was a nice bonus.

Showcasing some of the ££££ I spent at the expo

Thursday: in the midst of a very busy work day, I managed a 4 mile jaunt up and down the Clyde, at a much improved recovery speed.

Friday: rest day. Went to see Avengers: Endgame, finally. Cried a bit.

Saturday: an easy 5 miles was the plan. Pace was all over the place, my Achilles hurt during & my hip hurt once I stopped. Recovery is weird.

Sunday: 15.5 miles down the River Leven & Forth and Clyde Canal. Point to point is fun for motivation, although on balance I prefer running out & then heading back with a coffee (unless it’s rainy). The chatty group on the train got quieter & quieter as we sped away from Glasgow towards Loch Lomond, realising just how far it is. But weather conditions were perfect & everyone did well.

Total miles: 27.7. Good, with so many rest days. No lifting or cross-training at all.

Nutrition: a few days off track this week. Wasn’t overly hungry on Monday morning, so just snacked all day & then got a takeaway when I arrived home. Didn’t get to the supermarket properly until Wednesday, so this week has been a bit off course & there have been too many poor choices. Back on it by Saturday with roast veg pasta.

Feeling: fine enough. Not too sore on Monday/Tuesday & kept stretching & walking as much as I could. Running fine by Thursday, mildly achy after the long run. Baths & stretching & kino tape required to keep me together.

My left foot is a bit damaged looking. Toenails are useful, I think – the toes without them are struggling. Otherwise all is good.

Higher mileage & higher intensity next week: hopefully I am properly recovered.

Game changer

As the early spring marathons start to come along and excited posts about race numbers and final instructions show up, I am getting nostalgic about this time last year. I remember the long runs and the post-training cupcakes and the stress of trying to fit all the running around work and life. It worked out in the end, though, and on 8 April 2018 I ran a brilliant marathon and knocked 26 minutes off my previous time.

so much cake

Things I have done in the past at the same time as training for a marathon:

  • Travelled to Florida, where I attempted to go for a run but managed about 400m because the air was like soup
  • Wrote a MSc dissertation
  • Went through a multi-stage application and interview process for a job
  • Tried to fit the long runs around party conferences, leading to terrible early morning running around random cities with politicians

This time,  I have got fewer distractions – work is good, life is good – and I am sticking to the plan very well and mostly hitting the mileage totals each week. I’m training with a slightly modified version of the Hal Higdon Intermediate 2 plan, adding in two speedwork sessions a week. As I’ve noted in the weekly round-ups, it is a big mileage increase from previous plans and a massive jump from the last few months of 2018, when I was averaging about 35 miles a month. I’ve basically quadrupled that & I’m pleased with how good I feel, but I still need more sleep. It’s going to catch up with me at some point.

eyebags for days

I don’t often feel tired, but I don’t go to bed early enough and I usually wake earlier than I need to so the actual sleep hours are pretty low. I get concerned when I read well-meaning articles and advice about getting 8 hours’ sleep a night and genuinely I don’t know where people find the time for that in regular life, let alone alongside heavy training schedules. I got a bit obsessed with sleep last time and it was probably for the best as the night before the marathon is usually a bit restless. I will try for the same this time round.

At the moment, most of my running buddies are doing a different spring marathon – Manchester, Brighton and London are spread throughout April & we’re all slightly out of sync with each other. Chat often turns to tapering, which is no good if you’re still to do your peak weeks. My training plan is strong on maintaining intensity whilst dropping mileage, so the taper weeks will still involve speed work and five running days a week but it will take less time, which is ace. I am very excited.

I did look at mileage totals in the pre-planning stages and it seemed like a lot, but the actual weekly totals are still surprising me. I am running so much more than in my last training plans & I really hope the mileage pays off into a race pb, when I’m properly rested & have the race day adrenaline going. Long runs are feeling easier than they used to, & recovery times are a little faster. Overall the volume of running is more manageable.

I didn’t go over 100 miles in a month in 2018

I do worry that I’m not doing enough speedwork – hopefully I am, and I’m just panicking needlessly because THAT’S WHAT WE DO AT THIS STAGE. Self-coaching sounded like a great idea until the realisation that a coach is meant to provide positivity and moral support, which I am rubbish at doing for myself.

I have not always managed to keep up with the strength sessions, which is rubbish. I miss the gym, but running has to be prioritised.

If in doubt, tea & plan & Broad City

I’m still not sure whether to stick with a pacer for London. It won’t take my mind off doing the mental mathematics, & I will get a bit stressed if I start to struggle at any point. But it will be good company. I’ve had some great chats during marathons & people who are aiming for the same goal will be good to stick with.

30 days to go…

Week four

Busy busy.

Monday: strength session with Allan, & a further light gym session in the evening because you don’t let gym buddies down even if your training plan no longer matches theirs. Worked on some Olympic lift drills, which was good for me as I have been doing some different strength work in December & January & neglecting the oly a bit, but it leaves interesting bruises and sore spots.

Tuesday: 3 miles intervals. It was very icy & sleeting at 6:30am which put me right off outdoor running, so I went to the gym for a treadmill 6×400 again & it felt way better than last week. Only felt like I was flagging on the last repeat, & I’d increased the speed for that anyway so it would be over faster. By the time I finished it was full-on snow so I’m glad I didn’t try to run outside. Mini strength session in the evening.

Wednesday: rest day. Rescheduled from Friday because of work nonsense, but I was glad for it because of lifting DOMS too.

I’d had a half serious thought to get up at 6am and do 6 miles before work, but no: still icy & unpleasant outside, & I didn’t get home from work until very late. An early 6 miles would possibly have finished me off. Some press-ups before bed were in place of a proper strength session, & that was bad enough.

Thursday: Wednesday’s easy 6 miles got shoved to today instead. Milder weather, which is better, & I went with Frontrunners, which is always better. It was still a bit icy in places, but running in a group is good for spotting & warning. I did get told to ‘fucking smile’ by a drunk woman in Govan, but them’s the breaks.

Never not posing

Friday: 3 miles easy; so easy it was basically still a rest day. Another strength session too. Then haggis & mash. I love Burns Night.

Saturday: 7 miles, 3 (the parkrun miles) at 10km race pace. Nice but muddy and sweaty. Stats show me getting slower during the parkrun, which isn’t ideal but meh.

Proud of this – an actual easy run/tempo run/easy run split

Sunday: 14 miles, & the first long run following a Saturday night out. It wasn’t a heavy night, but I have enjoyed my January hibernating too much. Running is way better with enough sleep and a quiet evening beforehand, not carb-loading on Staropramen & pizza. But it was a nice split of 4.5 miles with music, 4.5 miles with GFR, and 4.5 miles alone. The weather was absolutely beautiful and I tried to keep the pace as steady as possible.

Good company helps so much

I ended up running for 2 hours 15 minutes, which is fine as the long runs need to be super slow. The next few weeks, getting up to 17-18 miles, is a bit more of a psychological jump & always makes me feel more capable, but the thought of keeping it steady & being out for 2-3 hours is a bit grim, especially if the weather’s grim.

Total miles: 35. January’s total miles are already well over 100, more than December and November combined. I think I should probably be more tired?

Maybe I will sleep for days

Nutrition: good enough. Lots of prep because of being busy, & lots of work stress, which kills my appetite a bit. Not enough vegetables.

Feeling: OK. Work & life has been stressful, & running is mostly good for mental health but I occasionally get too caught up in negative thoughts & just go over the negatives repeatedly when I’m running and end up in a downwards spiral of doom. Lunchtime runs are good when I can fit them in & get away from work for a bit. All my longer runs have been with people, which helps that negative thought cycle a little.

My sleep could definitely be better, & I hope in a couple of weeks’ time I am just so shattered that the physical need to sleep overrides everything else going on in my brain.

Week 5 is, wonderfully, a bit of a deload. Mileage drops down a bit but the consistency of 5 runs a week remains. There will be an interval session and a tempo session if I’m feeling into it. Going to try and fit in all three strength sessions, giving me a good base for the increased distances that February will bring.

Preparation

I only run a couple of times a week at the moment, as I’ve been focusing more on strength training & enjoying a bit of fun with HIIT, spin and pole fitness too. That’s definitely what I’ll miss when the marathon training gets heavy, but I am committing to at least one strength session per week in this plan and will try and fit more in on easy running days too, depending how I feel. Probably not on the days following the 20 miles or hard intervals.

So I’ve just been maintaining running fitness since about October – it’s been nice. Concentrating on easy running & not really caring about pace has been good for me, but I’ve often chosen a gym session over a run and going back to five times a week might be a bit stressful at first. October and November were my lowest mileage months this year, according to Garmin:

But I’ve been able to pick that up in December, with 36 miles so far and hopefully a few more to go before the year closes out.

I do like the routine of T/W/T/S/S running, with Mondays and Fridays devoted to other stuff or rest, which is why I’ve chosen a Hal Higdon training plan for the spring. This programme of running fits in well with my club commitments, and Fridays are a good choice of rest day if you work regular office hours. Saturday parkrun can be very flexible – hills, speed or a longer run (it’s 11km if I run to and from my nearest parkrun) and last time I was marathon training, I quite looked forward to the easy run to or from work. I usually did this on Wednesdays and it could be anything between 5-10 miles depending on plan. It’s fairly similar this time round, except I work somewhere else now which adds about a mile onto the distance. Looking forward to less looping around Glasgow Green!