A Week in Review (6 Feb – 12 Feb 2012)


Tighter than a photo finish…

7 days. 168 hours. 10,080 minutes. This is a summary of my running week. Ups and downs. Aches and pains. Feelings and emotions.

Distance: 37.19 miles | Time on my feet: 5:31:44 | Races: 0 | PBs: 0

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Bottom E, I reckon. Maybe D flat. That’s what note I reckon you’d hear if you gave my hamstrings a twang!

It’s been a hard week which, if I’m honest, was a difficult balance of getting the distance, frequency and speed of my runs right. For the first time,  mentally and physically, I began to feel the significance of the target I’ve set myself. And I can feel the effort in my legs. I always knew training for a marathon is a major physical demand and the progressively tightening of my running tackle reflects that, culminating in a tough last few miles on Saturday’s long run. Tough enough for me to turn to a pro and book a sports massage mid-week. As the week draws to a close, my thoughts are towards the week ahead and the half-marathon race which serves as its bookend. A sub-1h45m performance here is a key milestone goal and would serve as proof that I am on course for my target marathon performance. Seeds of doubt are there, though…

Physical

Calves. My calves are hammered. They have a permanent soreness to them now and I’m eagerly awaiting the delivery of my £30 socks (£30 for socks?!!) to see if they make a difference to their recovery. A misplaced stretch at any time could result in the mother of all cramps and I’m riding a constant knife-edge on the limit of the Cramping Zone. Morning’s are most interesting. That first, bear-out-of-hibernation, loud-yawn stretch when you’re not fully conscious. It is only as I reach the most eye-curling, growl-inducing apex (the sweet spot of stretches) that I am abruptly halted, contorted in a statuesque pose with an accompanying look of corresponding and muted panic as I realise my legs are about to uncontrollably spasm into a modern art sculpture. I reckon if I was training for a cramping competition, I’d be up for a podium finish no problem.

Ankles. To accompany my battered calves, my ankles are in a semi-permanent state of ache. As I circle my feet, my left foot encounters a sore point at the 3 o’clock position and my right foot at 7 o’clock. Routine circling does little to relieve the pain but, thankfully, the soreness wears off after a few minutes of walking. I am mindful that what I once thought was the effect of increased exercise (the ache being the manifestation of a previously unknown weakness) is a little more sinister issue laying dormant.

Hamstrings. Under normal circumstances, i.e. anything greater than 24hrs after a run, my hamstrings feel OK. During a run, particularly as my mileage exceeds 10 miles, things start to tighten and I usually finish a run waddling as though someone has pulled a draw-string in my butt. Trouble is I need those long runs now. Even as I sit typing this, over 48hrs since my long run, I can feel a dull ache in my butt and base of my spine which every now and then shoots down my legs into my ankles.

Feet. Blisters persist, although the liberal application of Vaseline ensures they are kept to a minimum. A surprise awaited me after my Sunday run which actually turned out to be far less of an issue than it first appeared…

Maybe that's just the dye coming out of my shoe...in one place...from my blue shoe...mmm

I’ll save you the trauma of the unwrapped close-up shot.

My left Achilles tendon pain has returned after a couple of weeks of absence. Catching it with my other foot resulted in an instant gurn and me almost hitting the ceiling, although it abated after the planned rest. Something else to keep an eye on.

All in all, I think my whole drive-train is in need of some TLC. I think the root cause of most of my woes is a tightness extending the full length of my legs, right round my butt to the base of my spine. My left leg is tighter than the right, but they both need some attention. I also think this is the root cause of my blisters. Last week’s snow revealed a tell-tale sign – footsteps that pointed out as if was running like a duck! I think what is happening is that tightness in my legs is pulling my feet outwards, which in turn is causing me to heel-strike on the outside of my foot and roll into the inside of  my feet. Makes perfect sense.

I’m hoping I’ll find remedy as I offer myself for a sports massage this week. Fellow club-runner and training-buddy Mandy has put me on to a sports physiotherapist she recently visited after a spell of foot and calf pain frustratingly halted her marathon training in its tracks. Her examination soon revealed her persistent ‘injury’ to be caused by muscle-knotting in her glutes and a well-placed massage and 48hrs rest later she was not only back on her feet running but feeling better than ever. I really hope there’s a similarly straightforward fix waiting for me on Wednesday.

If all else fails I could always tour the clubs doing my acoustic session…

Psychological

Doubt. Yup, it’s starting to creep in. I think it’s mainly driven by my physiological state but it’s there nonetheless. All the signs are good – despite my aches I have in the main been able to follow the schedule and turn out the required performance so far – so what’s going on? Maybe it’s normal.

Motivation. I’m beginning to question the reasons for running this marathon. I think my conscious is looking for a reason to halt the training in a bid to recover physically and this week it’s doing so by bringing my motivation to the front of my mind.

I owe it to myself to set some time aside to understand my psychological state so I can cement my purpose as I continue on with my training. I’ll post the findings of my contemplations as I reach them…

Schedule vs. Actual

Schedule Actual
Monday Rest Rest
Tuesday 7 miles with strides 7.01 miles (peak stride pace 06:49/mile)
Wednesday 5 miles recovery 5.03 miles (46:10)
Thursday 10 miles (inc. 6 miles @ 08:00) 10.08 miles (average 08:18/mile)
Friday Rest Rest
Saturday 15 miles 15.07 miles (2h16m58s)
Sunday 5 miles recovery Rest
TOTAL 42 miles 37 miles

Main points of note:

Wednesday’s recovery run was far too fast. Yet again I found my pace creeping up when I should’ve forced myself to run slower. I was away on business again and out into the welsh countryside with my trusty headlamp as I snaked round the hedgerow-lined back-roads under the watch of a lightly shielded full moon. It’s amazing how dark things get once you leave civilisation and how things get even darker when the batteries in your trusty headlamp run out after a mile. Call me a wuss but when things start scurrying off left, right and centre as you approach them puffing and panting in the dark it does quicken your stride somewhat! What felt initially like a comfortably paced run finished with unusually tired legs.

Thursday meant adding on an extension to my now familiar 7.5 mile circuit and after referring to Google maps I soon found a suitable addition which got me up to my required mileage. Note to Google: Please add elevation profile to your maps! I just so happened to pick one of the hilliest routes in the area to act as my extension and my 10-miler with 6 miles at 08:00/mile pace subsequently ended up as also being a challenging hill training session too.

As I approach this junction in the light of my headlamp I turn left knowing I have at least a 2 mile section ahead... It can't be that bad, surely...

It was during the latter half of this run where I started to wonder if I’m aiming too high. Already regretting my quickened ‘recovery run’ the night before, I began to think “if 10 miles can feel as tough as this what’s 26 going to feel like?”. Looking back now I was pushing the pace and those hills were angry at times but back then I felt as though I was losing my edge.

Saturday’s long run started on calves that hadn’t recovered from Thursday’s run. The temperature as we set off was -9degC and for the first 3 miles or so it was hard to get going. Ankles were stiff, legs heavy – it was an unusual effort to get moving. The cold air closed down the lungs too and more hills to contend with meant for a tough run after a tiring week. All was relatively well until the 11 mile mark passed and then my legs began to tighten. Up until then the pace was faster than it ought to have been, but it felt OK. At mile 13 things were starting to really nip – were it not for the fact that Mandy and Cheryl were keeping me going I think I would’ve succumbed to my inner protests and given in to a walk. Mile 14 and pace management was in order.

And so it is with Sunday’s recovery run knocked on the head in favour of extra rest day, and a week of reduced mileage leading up to my all-important half-marathon test race, that I look forward with a mixture of uncertainty and hope that I will finish the week with a smile on my face and a renewed spring in my step.

Things are getting too serious now to start to falter.

61 days, 9 hours and 21 minutes to go…

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