It’s a mere 10 days to go until the big and scary plans become big and scary actually happenings. I’m in taper now although given the last few weeks, nobody would spot much difference.
I’m already wondering if this post will be a way of getting my excuses in early.
My training, for the most part, has been okay, if a little lacking in structure. I’ve run lots – more than I did for my Lakeland 100 attempt – but this time around I’ve neglected gym work, done nothing in the way of interval training and added the odd tempo run in here and there. So mileage has (for me) been good while running with purpose, less so. That being said, most of my runs have been recces on the route itself.
Just don’t ask about the injury!
I mentioned previously that I had signed up for the Jantastic challenge. Jantastic was set up last year by former international runner Martin Yelling (husband of Olympian marathoner, Liz Yelling) and Tom Williams, MD of parkrun, who co present the MarathonTalk podcast. In Martin’s own words
Jantastic is a New Year fitness challenge and it grew out of our desire to offer motivation and encouragement to runners as they strive for consistency towards their spring running goals.
The challenge runs for 3 months and the set up is simple: in the first month, set a target number of workouts you will aim to complete each week. In the second month, you still set a target number of workouts but also add a distance target for a single run each week. In March, the final month, you add a time target for a single run – something to aim for after hopefully completing 3 months of training, inspired and motivated by taking part in the challenge.
2014 was one of those years that I’m happy to draw a line underneath. My running never really took off after the marathon – if anything, it nose-dived into oblivion as I ended up being plagued by a piriformis related injury (the piriformis is a muscle involved in external rotation of the hip). It came to a head in a 5 mile club trail race at the beginning of July; the run started out well but after 3 miles, I was in such pain that I had to pull out and was left with nothing but the ignominious walk back to the start. After that, it never really came together. I did run more but mostly running felt difficult and painful and by October, I’d more or less given up.
The end of last year saw me stop running for two months. This in itself isn’t unusual – my running career has never been what you might call consistent – but for the the last 10 or so weeks of 2014, just even thinking about running made me cross. I stopped going to the gym, didn’t do any training or exercise, lost my fitness, put on weight and got into a spiral of decline. I was frustrated and unhappy and had got to the point where I was ready to give up on running altogether.
Running and I were finished.
The London Marathon (2014 edition) is now only three days away, or two days and three nights if you prefer pedantry, and I will be at the lining up at the start.
I’d be lying if I said I felt ready for it. Since the Berkhamsted Half, my running has been hit and miss and aside from 15 miles across two runs in one day, I spectacularly failed to manage a long run of any distance at all. Between work and personal life building up, training has fallen by the way side. Mentally my focus has been elsewhere and even as recently as Monday, after an otherwise enjoyable run left me in copious amounts of pain, I was considering deferring until next year.
Week 5: the one that everyone talks about. This is the first of two weeks where each workout is different, gradually ramping up the effort until the w5d3 continuous 20 minute run. For me it was going to be about concentrating on pace. Once again I took to the treadmill for day 1, 3 intervals of 5 minutes with 3 minutes RI. I went back to my planned pace on this and, for the most part, stuck to it. The only time I didn’t was briefly during the last interval when I hopped off the treadmill for a couple of seconds, nominally to catch my breath. I got straight back on and then stepped the pace up as penance – a way of making up for the lapse in focus.
I still struggle with this habit – of giving up and easing off when the end is so very nearly in sight. It’s like my brain screams “No more!” and I have to take a brief respite by hopping off the treadmill or walking during a race. Yes, I will admit again that I have yet to finish any race without walking at some point! Ultras, obviously, are forgivable but even in 5k/10k/HM I’ve stopped and walked. But it seems providence was waiting for me when I got back from the gym as I found a link to a Runner’s World article about “building mental muscle”. The article referenced Tim Noakes’ “Lore of Running” which, coincidentally, I’d been reading the night before.
The article made me reassess my approach to the next two sessions.
Week 4 of the C25K is where it starts to ramp up with quite a sharp progression to 16 minutes total running in two sets of 3 min run, 90 sec walk, 5 min run with a 2.5 minute run between sets. Excluding the cool down, it’s the first time that the program demands more time running than walking. The step up is also quite considerable; if you recall, C25K week 3 only has 9 minutes of running so week 4 nearly doubles the time. An alternative way of breaking down the challenge is to focus on the time running in one go is only increased from 3 minutes to 5. That shouldn’t be too bad right? Right?
For me, it turned out that the real challenge was the 90 second
walk recovery between the 3 minute and 5 minute runs. Having worked out a more structure pacing plan based on the FIRST plan and sticking to it through week 3, I knew what I was aiming to do: 3 minutes at 6:30 min/mi and 5 minutes at 6:45 min/mi. Best Laid Plans and all that (soon to become a subtitle of this blog, I’m sure – in fact, I might even get it inscribed on my gravestone!)
W4D1 was hard!
This week, I explored the effect of what happens to the body after an overabundance of food, alcohol coupled with sleep deprivation and general fatigue.
This microcycle involves another set of intervals: 90s run, 90s walk, 3 min run, 3 min walk and repeat. Again I felt that this was a little too short – it’s only 9 minutes of actual running – so I tacked another 90s interval at the end to bring the time including warm-up to 25 minutes total (well, 24m30s) and then have a walking cool-down. Following on from last week, I set the pace for the 90s intervals at 6:15 min/mi and the 3 min run at 6:30 min/mi. That definitely made it challenging. I trained on Wednesday and Friday and in the Thursday, I cycled to work (11.5 miles either way) with a mind to introducing some cross training into my program. However, thanks to my competitive nature and Strava suggesting I could do an uphill section a little faster than before, I already had tired legs for w3d2 so I made up for it by pushing the final 90s interval at 10mph making (in theory) for 400m in 90s. Hard, but I felt great afterwards.
It all went downhill after that.
I had a dream last night that I was at the start line of the 2013 Lakeland 100 and that I hadn’t trained and wasn’t prepared. I set off anyway and went quite quickly, reasoning that I had nothing to lose and it might be the only time I’d get ahead of Terry Conway. I couldn’t remember the course (an account of being asleep) and then remembered that I hadn’t sorted my PF or ITB issues out and had forgotten my rucksack. I’m honestly surprised I didn’t have one of those “and then I realised I was naked moments too”.
The oddest thing about the dream is that I haven’t entered the race next year. I’m not even doing the 50.
I started writing this post back in August but never got around to posting it, so it’s a bit late. It’s probably for the best as I’ve now got a bit more distance from the race and some more perspective. I’ve moved on from the race – I’ve “done” the Lakeland 100, beaten it, got the medal and the t-shirt and went from a DNF in 2011 to race finisher in 2012 – and I’m focussing on new challenges, new goals. So why write this now? Because I learned a lot about myself and my training and I feel I should share that in case it helps someone else.
Sarah Wilde wrote a very honest post about her experience this weekend running the EnduranceLife UTSW60 that ran this weekend. It’s a shame to hear that she felt the overall experience of the race was lacking owing to poor communication, organisation and lacklustre checkpoints. Which is a shame. She also highlighted an apparent discrepancy in the advertised total ascent of the course against what her Garmin showed (14000ft vs 6900ft). Which figure should she trust?
Via the wonderful medium of Twitter, I gave her a link to Andy Cole’s blog post about the issues with Garmin’s elevation calculations and, Andy being a gent with an engineering background (and the ability to make some very pretty graphs), it’s a useful and insightful post.
Last night, after a running a few laps of a local field (complete with hills) and a subsequent conversation with Sarah on Twitter, I thought I’d do some analysis of the run and some data comparisons of my own. Ready for this? Don’t worry, there are some pretty pictures. Well, graphs.
Another low mileage week wasn’t exactly in the plan given that there’s now a mere five weeks left but sometimes, that’s how it pans out. This week was busy and mostly revolved around my (6yo and 4yo) kids. Instead of the weekly club run, I spent Wednesday evening marshalling at my club’s annual Midsummer Fun Run – a great family event that has races for all ages from Nursery/Pre-school upwards. My kids took part in their first competitive race ever over 400m (-ish) around the local cricket pitch and got a medal for their efforts. Then the weekend found me running around in woods at my son’s Beaver family camp which was fun and exhausting at the same time while the highlight of Sunday was my daughter performing her first ballet recital at a local theatre which was an absolute delight.
So running took a bit of a back seat. If I’d planned it better, I would have pushed up the miles last week knowing that I had this week to recuperate but I really didn’t think it through. Hey ho – you live and learn! So, the runs: