Got a grip, Simon? Good!

Having finished last week with a hard, tiring off-road run, my thoughts were towards the coming weeks and my ability to maintain the training regime I had sustained until then.

Running the marathon is no walk in the park (unless that’s the race you’ve entered) and as I recovered from the weekend run I looked back on the previous weeks to understand just how I’d reached that point…

It was only a matter of time...

The first thing I realised is that I hadn’t been following my schedule. It’s not that I’ve not been putting the miles in – it was quite the opposite. In almost all instances I’d been running further than the plan required but, more significantly, I’d been running much faster than the plan dictated. Where on my plan did it say “do a 5:30/mile stride”?!! Crazy. Such was my effort in the week that when it came to my longer run on a Saturdays I hadn’t fully recovered and so I was starting out on increasingly tired legs until, last weekend, things caught up with me. Despite all the warning signs I was falling into the classic over-training trap. As with anything in my life, it is important to me to complete this marathon to the absolute best of my ability and whilst I’ve made no secret about my target time of 3h45m throughout, I’ve secretly been tempted by the possibility of an even quicker result and that has translated in a “just a bit further…just a bit faster” mentality in my training sessions which brought the serious risk of burn-out.

Despite all the warning signs I was falling into the classic over-training trap.

By brother – also training for the same marathon and concerned for my recent difficulties after reading my blog – called me on Sunday and a well-grounded conversation later (much appreciated – cheers Our Kid) led me to buy the Kindle version of a book he had read which he thought was particularly good; Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger. The thing is there is nothing new in the book that I hadn’t either read before or had been told countless times by friends and marathon aficionados at the club, but I needed to have that conversation with my brother, take time out, sit down with the book and read it again to fully realise the errors of my ways. Without wanting to sound over-dramatic, the book has been the best £8 I think I have spent in a very long time and at just the right time in my training before it was too late.

The book covers all the elements of marathon running, from marathon physiology to nutrition and hydration. For me, the part that made most impact was the section on balancing training with recovery – something which I was clearly overlooking. Rather than adopting the “hard/easy” principle I had been putting in a “hard/harder” one, with minimal rest between. The reminder of this basic concept made me revisit my schedule and look back on my sessions and it left me a little annoyed that I’d allowed myself to drift and disregard this basic principle in the pursuit of a better performance (a performance that may never have come had I not caught myself before I blew a gasket)

When I announced my intention to run Paris I was offered a training schedule created by our running club chairman which had been followed to the letter by a fellow runner last year for the London Marathon with great success and so had a high degree of credibility when it came to its effectiveness. This schedule, in addition to the wise words and schedules offered in the book helped me tweak my schedule to fit my circumstances better, whilst including the ability to partake in some timely local races on the way.

And so the weeks ahead take a slightly different shape:

My revised schedule - Click to Enlarge

The other change I am making is to drop my off-road run on a Saturday in favour of a road-run on a Sunday. The off-road runs I have been doing have undoubtedly made me a stronger, faster runner but now that the mileage is getting serious I cannot run the risk of being caught up with the sub-08:00/mile pace on a Saturday with the guys who aren’t training for a marathon. My initial plan of running off-road on the basis that subsequent on-road runs would be easier carries too great a risk now, so I think it is the right thing to do. After all, the marathon will be run on the streets of Paris, not across its countryside.

The other notable sections in the book, and areas I will be re-focussing on over the coming weeks include:

  • Weight management
  • Sleep (both in terms of Number of Hours and Quality)
  • Body Clock
  • Routine
  • Diet Quality
  • Hydration levels
  • Muscle soreness
  • Energy Levels

I have also been reminded of the importance of stretching and cooldown – two things that I still don’t do anywhere near enough of which are going to require some conscious focus.

Tomorrow is the Ferriby 10 mile race. I ran this race for the first time last year with a time of 84m16s. This year I hope to put in a sub-80min performance. I’m nearing the end of the first revised week and already I feel so much better. I did 9.6 miles on Tuesday and a reduced run of 6.5 at tempo pace on Thursday in preparation for tomorrow’s race with a slow 3.5 last night as a recovery run. Next week the stakes are raised and the serious business starts. With renewed focus and a refreshed understanding of the basics I’m now very much looking forward to getting some consistent, quality miles under my belt.

**FOOTNOTE**

At this point I wan’t to acknowledge all my friends at the club and people who, over the last few weeks, have been subtly trying to point out where I was going wrong and to thank you for your patience while I unconsciously ignored you and continued to make the same mistakes! I would also like to point out that if you EVER see me drifting off-course again you hereby have my permission to kick my backside and let me know! Don’t faff about – sometimes I need the blunt facts, so don’t be scared to swear at me, call me names, shout and otherwise do what is necessary to make we wake up and smell the coffee. Thanks folks, this would be a much lonelier journey without you and I value your friendship, advice and support more than you realise. I couldn’t feel any stronger about that.

Here we go…let’s have it!!

77 days 22 hrs to go…

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