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.

Week whatever

Seriously, I don’t know where I am right now. Two weeks post marathon & two weeks pre marathon. Tired, mostly. This week started off meh & ended much better – the nice weather has had an awesome effect on my mood, for sure. I almost forgot about the double marathon thing.

Monday: ‘rest day’, if rest is a 12 hour work day. Bank holidays are great unless you work for an essential service, retail, or in comms for critical infrastructure.

Realised I missed going to pole, so went for a lesson to make sure I could reliably hang upside down without failure. It turns out I have retained a bit of strength, but have lost some skill. Will keep practising.

Haven’t missed the palm callouses

Tuesday: back on the speed work. After running on an achy Achilles’ tendon, I realised I am not particularly capable of knowing my limits. This session felt difficult, & I kept thinking I was incapable before realising that I was only a few days post marathon. The intention was 3 fast km sandwiched between a warm up and cool down at a slower pace – by the end of the second fast km I was unhappy, so kept the rest of it steady. Had a good stretch & a good dinner though.

Wednesday: the plan was an easy six miles. As is usual for working-at-Parliament days, though, I didn’t have time for lunch & ended up going home straight from Edinburgh and having an early dinner. I’d read this great post from Jordan earlier in the day & having had similar feelings during my own speed work the evening before (as well as a similar, if much slower, London Marathon experience) I decided to give running a miss. It was miserable weather & I had stuff to bring home from work, so it all worked out well really.

Thursday: gym time tonight: it’s still super busy at peak times but it was good to just lift & not think about running. 3 miles was on the training plan, but cleans, deadlifts, split squats & planks substituted.

Indoors is better

Friday: didn’t fancy resting, so Cyclebox it was. 45 minutes of hardcore spinning, working my legs without too much impact. Still incredibly tough though – early class means no breakfast, & it’s difficult to last the distance on the sprints. Need more coffee next time, or the 0930 rather than the 0730.

I get to keep an eye on the trains when I’m here too

Saturday: went for a faster parkrun, & happy to see gains on this distance; 26:06 felt quite relaxed. 7 miles in total.

Sunday: a longer but steadier run around Glasgow: 5 miles on my own with podcasts, 6 miles with Frontrunners, and a final couple of miles with the Cyclebox inaugural run club.

lovely colours

Cyclebox’s promise of “just a bit of HIIT” turned out to be repeats of the Kelvingrove steps & some Monument Hill sprints. I will not do this at the end of a long run ever again, but I have ideas for my Tuesday coaching sessions.

After today, I disagree

Total miles: 25. Lowest weekly mileage for some time, but I think the rest & change did me good. Serious shoulder & back DOMS from cleans & deadlifts means it’s been too long away from that sort of workout.

Nutrition: good, apart from a couple of busy days. Plenty of protein, good lunches, less coffee, frequently vegetarian. I am trying to eat less meat & dairy & it’s a challenge.

Feeling: OK. Mood up & down, and despite lots of good sessions I have fallen out of love with running. Work has been very busy & I get stuck in a cycle of getting stressed about being too busy, then annoyed when the run does not go well or eating nonsense. Usually managed to keep off that, & the week ended much more positively than it began. The nice weather definitely helped.

I am not really feeling positive about Edinburgh though, & I cannot be bothered at all with the Great North Run which suddenly seems a lot closer. The dawning realisation, not helped by blog post archives, that I have spent all of 2019 either running, thinking about running, or doing laundry loads made up of sweaty gym clothes, is not good. I am bad at responding to texts & emails. I have forgotten to send birthday cards or even birthday messages & I spent a good chunk of a nice holiday thinking about running, or how I wasn’t running enough or eating too much. I am in a fairly good place, & it’s been a good exercise in discipline & dedication, but marathon training is tough on life. I miss my other hobbies, & sleeping.

But with only two weeks to go, I might as well run the thing. I hope the excitement returns soon. Speedwork will need to be up to standard next week; hopefully I am fully recovered now & can get the most out of the next few sessions.

Week 14

I should now be counting in days, I think.

This week has not been a particularly photogenic one – it’s either been sweaty gym time or raining outside. The weather has been sunny & mild occasionally but I have mostly missed the good stuff, always running in the worst of it instead.

This made me smile on Wednesday, though. I like Star Wars & I am in awe of anyone who can run in any fancy dress, let alone in kit like this.

Maybe one day

It’s not been the best week for the most part. Bad, sad news & associated difficulties around that, alongside general work and life stress. But: keep on keeping on, etc. Running has been the light in the darkness, as it often is.

Monday: the drive to go to the gym was low after an 11 hour work day and ALL THE STRESS, but it was worth it in the end and actually a good way to wind down. Nice strength session, everything felt comfortable & I made time for proper stretching.

Tuesday: early gym for a threshold sesh: 5x1km, aiming for a consistent 4:50min/km & a gentle jog of a few minutes in between. 8km later, I began another 11-hour work day & I was glad to get this out of the way.

It was difficult by the last km, as it always seems to be at this stage. The best tip I’ve read about speed training says not to worry about getting out of breath – you’re supposed to breathe quickly to get enough oxygen – but the last repeat was tough & I had to do two 500m stints with 30 seconds off in between. Did it, though, & spent the evening in Edinburgh feeling smug.

still loving the light evenings even if I have to work

Wednesday: 8 miles easy to work: it rained, but the pace was excellent for an easy run & I was really pleased with how easy it felt.

Didn’t make it to the gym in the evening, despite intentions. I am really neglecting gym sessions the past couple of weeks & it is annoying. I miss it so much but running has to be prioritised & I can’t do everything.

Thursday: Had a sports massage at lunchtime so gave the planned 5 miles a miss & went for a light evening gym session instead. Good times, & I felt better than I would have done trying to cram this session into Wednesday evening.

This gym is still super busy all the time but no one likes the 10kg bars except me – I find snatch/clean reps easier with the thinner bar, but it messes up my weight plate calculations. Also it is slightly too short for the platform unless you’re dead centre, so I am usually that person dropping the bar onto the ground from height and making all the noise.

Massage was great. I am not a fan of heavy pressure sports massage but I have trained with / been massaged by Paul McArdle for several years now and I trust him to listen to me when I ask for less pressure; in return I listen when he tells me not to run after a massage.

This is my first sports massage of this training cycle due to lack of time, & it has hopefully made a difference. I’ve booked another one for a few days before the race just to freshen the legs up a bit.

Friday: 8x400m, 1.5km warm up and cool down, average 2 mins between reps but occasionally longer. It felt challenging but the sense of achievement was worth it.

Also: race number & final instructions came through! So now it is time to start a family/supporters WhatsApp group so they can all figure out where they need to be.

all quite real now

Saturday: 5 miles at a steady pace; back to Victoria parkrun & its wonderful lack of inclines. I was feeling a bit of Thursday gym DOMS but once I’d loosened up on the jog there, the actual parkrun was good & I was pleased with how easy it felt to run at that pace. Averaging 5:33/km but there were some faster kms within that.

Only 5 miles on the plan today though, so coffee & the bus home afterwards.

Sunday: third of the 20 miles! The actual 26 miles is gonna be a joy after these. Great company, as ever, and a good route round the southside/deep south suburbs that are definitely not Glasgow. I do enjoy crossing a few county boundaries for a real sense of achievement.

Never heard of it

Went for a toilet break in McDonalds about half way in, & thought about chicken McNuggets for the rest of the run. Guess what I am having tonight it was very tempting to stop for a coffee, but I managed to hang on until the end.

Thinking about pals running Manchester kept me going, too. Good results all round from what I can see but will need a full report later. Holly’s running it again, & I sent all the good vibes.

IT WON’T BE THE SAME WITHOUT ME BESIDE YOU

Total miles: 43. Not sure where I lost out on two miles, but meh.

Nutrition: OK. Less snacking this week, but some days have not been nutritious enough & I am obsessed with trying to fuel properly for the longer runs. 8 miles to work, arriving at breakfast time, remains a bit unpleasant & I absolutely demolished a Pret brioche sausage & egg roll & several coffees as soon as I had finished. On other days, I wondered why I was so grumpy & tired at 3pm before realising I’d only had 3 cups of coffee, a slice of toast and a tangerine since 6am. This may well have been the problem with Friday’s sprints, alongside not enough sleep.

Mostly good when I’ve made the effort though.

Feeling: good. Some stressful and busy work days again, & a couple of insomnia/busy work day/not enough food/straight to bed days, but it keeps me out of trouble. The end is in sight, and I can’t wait: I miss my life. Marathon training is tough. Edinburgh is barely even a focus right now – the maintenance plan looks reasonable from this side of marathon #1, but I’m sure I’ll feel differently when I’m in the thick of it.

Midweek shit news was not great, but long runs are good for thinking & remembering, & there was a lot of that.

Next week is going to be a bit different for training: I hope I can stick to the plan.

Week six: training stage 2

T-12 to London. This week’s been… OK.

Monday: a nice enough strength day. Not great, as the gym is still far too busy & I was stepping over people trying to get set up in a corner with my barbell. But the moves were all fine & I finished up with a gentle 30 mins on the bike. Nice for the legs but indoor cycling is still boring unless it’s Cyclebox.

Boxing boots, giving the running shoes a rest

Tuesday: 4 miles of speed work. I had talked myself into making the step outside for this – there is a 400m Strava segment near my house that I have been keeping an eye on my time over for a while now. The heavy rain was off-putting, but I warmed up for 10 minutes before finally using my Garmin to nearer its full capability by running the segment hill 5 times & jogging back the long way, about 700m & flat/downhill.

I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, despite the rain & forgetting to lap one of the repeats & messing up the stats. I took my head torch, which came in handy, but my reps got slower, which is something to work on in the future. Outdoor speed work is now definitely something I’ll make time for, as I only need 15 seconds off the time for the segment QOM. Currently 4th fastest.

Forgot to split lap 3 like a twat

Wednesday: strength session, finished with an easy 7 miles. Strength training is still working well for me at the moment, but I will be cutting the weight soon as the weekly mileage increases more and focusing on volume & leg strength.

The run was meh. It felt easy, but was dull. The books / blogs say you should finish an easy run raring to go again, and I wasn’t quite there, but that was probably more mental than physical.

Thursday: 4 miles tempo. Planned my usual lunchtime route, but work was busy & I didn’t feel like pushing myself after a not-so-good night’s sleep, so I left it to the treadmill to set the pace properly but even that worked less well than I thought. Too hot, tired, and still sore from Wednesday’s strength session meant I was not able to push past the can’t-be-bothered feeling and ended up resenting most of the 4 miles. Even had a couple of walk breaks.

Friday: rest, praise be. Made some pretty epic beef rendang & had a glass of wine. I don’t drink much, but spicy food does call for a good wine or beer. Stretched and foam rolled everything & watched a lot of Netflix.

Curry, cat, & Brooklyn 99

Saturday: parkrun, with a 6km slow warm up. Feeling a bit better this week and managed a decent enough parkrun effort of just over 27 minutes, after keeping the rest of the run super easy. Blaming the relative slowness on the harsh winds of Storm Erik, as running in the headwind was unpleasant.

Sunday: 15 miles easy. Hooked up with Frontrunners for some of it; it’s great to be able to attend club runs even though my pace & distance doesn’t match the club runs very well at the moment.

Gorgeous day for it

I didn’t really feel into it at the beginning, but had a new podcast on & the first 8 miles flew by with that. Middle five miles with GFR, then was chatting about distance & route at the end with someone who said I might as well run home. So I did.

The best part is I felt like I could have kept going. Really trying hard to keep the easy runs to an easy effort, & did well with that.

Total miles: 38 – slightly more than intended. I really have to get better at sticking to the planned distance… an extra half mile on almost every session is adding up.

Nutrition: very good, mostly. Felt like I needed a bit of a soft reset so have been on the fruit & veg constantly, but also went out for a lovely meal with a friend midweek and had pad Thai, cheesecake and a beer. Everything in moderation, even though I could cheerfully eat pad Thai every day.

Some comments this week at work about how much I eat for lunch/is that healthy?/I can’t believe how much oil you put on your food/how long does that take to make?

img_9243
Chicken, aubergine, courgette, peppers, broccoli
  • It’s not that much (rice not pictured, but it’s still not that much)
  • Yes, it’s healthy
  • Olive oil is good for your brain
  • Leftovers are your friend

Honestly, this is from people who don’t eat breakfast, eat a Cup-A-Soup or a crappy supermarket sandwich for lunch & wonder why they’re in the biscuits at 3pm. Eat some protein, I beg you. I know that people have busy lives, different priorities, varying finances etc but really.

Feeling: pretty good. Committed to training consistently this week & it has helped my sleep & my mental health a lot, even though the actual training hasn’t always been great. I don’t need to work 8-6 every day & I should not feel guilty about taking an hour to run or go to the gym, especially on the days when work is stressful. Working in a busy communications/press office is not good for work-life balance, but it’s always necessary to have some time & head space away, despite everything seeming to kick off as soon as I step away from my desk.

A switch up in my strength training midweek gave me some quite long lasting lower back DOMS, and I have a bit of calf strain which isn’t great but I am stretching all the time. Also foam rolling & using this slightly suspect looking massage ball:

torture device

Week 7 sees more of the same, with just one more mile on the long run. I’ll try not to wimp out of a threshold run this week: 4 miles shouldn’t be such a trial. I’m mixing up the days too due to other commitments at the weekend.

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.

Intervals

In order to run faster you have to practice running faster. Logic. I’ve done a couple of marathons and many more half marathons, so I’m pretty confident about overcoming fatigue. Long runs train you to get past that fatigue, but speed work helps you with a lot more – particularly form.

tenor.gif
mood

In the past I have found intervals and sprints much easier to do on a treadmill, although there is a lot of chat about how it makes it more difficult to find your ideal pace when running outside, the need to set the incline to 1-2% to recreate wind resistance, generally how it’s a bit of a cop-out, etc. The treadmill does have to be set up well for me to enjoy this kind of training – my current gym has the cardio machines all lined up facing a mirror, which isn’t ideal. Previous gyms where you could see out of the window, or at least face towards other people, is more entertaining.

I got obsessed with this specific treadmill last year when I trained at Sweat Union, because you could see all around the gym

I have developed a few intervals and hill sprint sessions to use with Frontrunners, so I need to make use of them myself. For this training cycle I am making an effort to do more outdoor interval training. I do feel a bit stupid doing these on my own but I see a lot of people posting their plans and splits on Instagram, & there are a selection of decent inclines & straight bits of road near my house that I could certainly make use of. I have run on an actual athletics track precisely once, when I was doing my coaching assessment last year, & whilst I can see the benefit of having a measured distance and a nice springy track, the one nearest to me is always really busy. My Garmin has a lap function & can have training plans loaded onto it, so that will be a help with outdoor intervals.

I will aim for my Tuesday runs to be intervals/hills and my Thursday or Saturday runs to be tempo runs, depending on how I’m feeling. This Tuesday’s 3 miler should have been repeats of a 400m steady incline near my house, but I had to treadmill it this week. 6x400m was enough for a tired day, and I’ll work up to more repeats of that distance. I’ve also seen some interesting pyramid-style interval sessions being done by marathon runners, which I’ve saved for reference…

As the evenings get lighter, there are a lot more options, of course, & I can explore further afield. Kelvingrove Park is always a favourite, as it has a good selection of different gradients.

Yes, even this one. Pic courtesy of Manchester Frontrunners

For now, I’ll work up to more treadmill repeats & probably dig out some stats from a few years back to see if I can beat them now. I hope I can.