A Week in Review (27 Feb – 04 Mar 2012)


My “Mad Month” has officially begun!

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: 42.07 miles | Time on my feet: 6:50:02 | Races: 0 | PBs: 0

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The weeks are flying by.

My life is being punctuated by runs now. It feels like I’m either running, sleeping or working – there’s not room for much else it seems. This week, as in previous weeks, I’ve found myself checking the clock on an evening only to find it’s gone 9pm and the night’s almost over. Rest days are something of a novelty now, too. In fact it’s quite weird for a day to not include a run of some kind.

My running’s becoming almost automatic. I can quite easily disappear inside my head and let the miles pass underneath my feet – maybe I’m lucky like that. Some people call that “The Zone” (sounds a bit mystical to me) – to me it’s an opportunity to go inside and sort things out. As the miles increase, the shorter runs are beginning to feel like a trot round the block. I’ve reached that magical point where I think “tonight’s only 10 miles” and it genuinely feel like it’s a short run. That’s a good feeling.

My legs are feeling much better also. The combination of massage and stretching (and getting a real stretch on to the point of it being uncomfortable) has worked wonders and the knots in my hamstrings and butt are much less of an issue. The blistering on my feet I have suffered with for so long has also been alleviated to the degree that I hardly notice them now. What a massive difference from a few weeks ago.

Mentally, I’m growing in confidence. I appreciate I still have a considerable amount of miles and effort ahead of me but I’m getting all the positive signs that this is indeed going to be something well within my reach – the distance isn’t scary at all.

I’m still finding the right balance with my eating. It’s easier said than done, though. Too little and I’m not getting the fuel in I need and boy do I feel it when I run out. Too much and I risk the onset of Runner’s Trots (and I’ve probably said enough about that to last most people a lifetime). I’m pushing my body hard now and it needs the right balance of nutrients in the right quantities along with the right amount of water – When I’m not running or working or sleeping I’m always thinking about what I’m eating and drinking.

There are a lot of fellow runners around me now that are similarly preparing for a marathon at some destination and increasing their mileages accordingly and, through reading my experiences and talking with them, are going through a similar journey. It’s good to share experiences, it actually gives you something positive and gratifying back.

This week was the first of a serious month ahead. Yesterday’s 20-mile run marked the end of the first week of my “mad month” – the part of the schedule where the most gains are made and where the long runs count. I’m getting used to running with my drinks and gels and taking them as I run, too. I’m still learning to get it right – there was one occasion yesterday where I took in some drink as I breathed in which made me cough and bark a bit. There’s nothing like some mild choking whilst running to find out which bits really ache! My weekly mileage won’t go below 45 for another month now. 2 more 20-milers and a 21 marks the end of my weeks ahead before tapering down over a fortnight and the big day itself. It seems so close now…

Schedule vs. Actual

Schedule Actual
Monday Rest Rest
Tuesday 7 miles with strides 7.53 miles (peak stride pace 06:08/mile)
Wednesday 5 miles recovery 4.45 miles (55:11)
Thursday 10 miles 10.00 miles (average 08:47/mile)
Friday Rest Rest
Saturday 5 miles recovery 20.09 Miles (3h21m)
Sunday 20 Miles Rest
TOTAL 47 miles 42.07 miles

Main points of note:

Tuesday’s run was blighted by another unauthorised stop (those darn Trots) but otherwise went well. I’m shaving time off my stride sections all the while and the added incentive to catch the rest of the group up meant I had to run really hard for about a mile, which really got my lungs working but strangely didn’t sap too much out of me. Having to stop kick-started me into action with looking for solutions, and the rest of the week’s runs were much better as a result. “Every cloud”, and all that. Thursday’s run saw me getting to 9 miles before the familiar feelings came, a vast improvement and one I attribute to my significantly reduced daily fruit and tea intake. Even the long run on Saturday was almost blighted for a spell (around mile 14) but it thankfully came and went within a couple of miles.

Wednesday’s recovery run unexpectedly meant that I started both runs on Thursday and Saturday with some remnants of the week’s training left in my legs. I’ve had this before – missing out the recovery runs definitely means fresher legs for the harder sessions; adding a recovery run, however slow, is adding fatigue rather than taking it away. It seems to go against the grain. I’m letting nature take its course today and will reconsider in the week but only when it feels right to run. I’m not about to do a ‘recovery’ run that might actually set me back – that’s madness.

Despite the residual ache, Thursday’s run proved I could hold my target marathon pace for the majority of the 10 miles; the average pace only hampered by obligatory stops for road crossings and traffic. I take a lot of comfort knowing that come race day I’ll have had two weeks of tapering down and if all goes to plan I’ll leave the Arc de Triomphe behind with fully recovered, strong and fresh legs. That’ll be a nice feeling.

Saturday saw the first of the 20 mile long runs. We intentionally kept the pace slow on the advice that the session was more about time on our feet rather than the pace. Running slower than normal felt good (I’m not going to say easy) and the miles seemed to tick by quite quickly. As we reached the 13 mile mark, I just started to feel the familiar ache in my lower abdomen and calves begin to creep in. The ache didn’t develop into anything worth commenting on until around the 16 mile mark, and as we turned to head back to the start there was a definite switch in my mental state. We were heading in. We were ‘nearly done’. Somehow this woke up something in my head and the aches suddenly were much more pronounced. I know how this works by now, though. The last 30% of a race is usually when I get the same sensation. There’s something about being conscious of nearing the end that triggers a subconscious change physiologically and releases heightened feelings of fatigue. What my subconscious didn’t realise, however, was that we needed to put in a 2-mile loop somewhere to make the mileage up but it was OK – Mandy had a plan! About half a mile from the end is a track which runs perpendicular to the main road which, she assured us, would allow us to take in a loop of the required length and bring us right out at the cars. Perfect. And so, at the 18.3 mile mark, we took a right turn and started down a cinder track at right-angles to our final destination. All was well for a few hundred yards (despite having to limbo underneath a barrier which blocked the way to vehicles – that was not what our aching bits needed) but then said cinder track fizzled out and we were left with quite possibly the lumpiest fieldside path in Lincolnshire to continue on. What was worse than the constant, ankle-destroying cockling over on the lumps and bumps was the fact that as we progressed we were gathering a significant amount of the field underneath our shoes, to the point where it became difficult to lift out feet! Shortly later, it was clear that we didn’t really know where we were going. They say “two wrongs don’t make a right”, well “two lefts do make for heading back the way you came” and after a bit more field-bashing we were back on the same cinder track and heading to the main road exactly where we left it. Oh, and the barrier, which we again had to limbo under despite the protests of our now more numerous achy bits.

19 miles. My God that was a long 0.7 miles!

Tarmac all the way to the end now and a few loops round the houses at the end to make sure we nailed 20 miles on the clock – there was no way we were rounding up – and we finished feeling better overall than the previous week’s 18.6 session. In spite of the ad hoc cross-country work. Thanks, Mandy 😉

20 miles in the bag, as they say. We were happy with our overall time of 3h21m and it gives us a solid base and a boost for what lies ahead. Now is make or break time. Now is when the training matters. Mad Month … 25% done!!

41 days, 18 hours and 3 minutes to go… (or 6 weeks today…oof!!)

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