Hello “The Wall”…
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: 41.21 miles | Time on my feet: 6:21:22 | Races: 0 | PBs: 0
Well, that was a mixed week.
Another one down, another one nearer to the big day. I’ve seen it all this week. Feeling full of energy and as though I could take on the world through to being empty and resisting the urge to stop. Running faster than I ever have through to feeling as though my legs were made of concrete. Having spent some time analysing what’s happening, I’ve come to acknowledge a few things:
Firstly, I’m now running harder than ever and the effort is definitely showing itself in the form of an almost constant baseline fatigue. At any given time I could quite easily close my eyes and go to sleep. I don’t want to give the wrong impression here; it’s not as though I’m absolutely shattered and fighting to keep my eyes open. It’s a funny feeling of being the fittest I ever have been in my life and at the same time riding a wave of fatigue which at times could capsize me at any moment if I let it. I’m also cold most of the time. Spring is well and truly springing and with it comes its warmer climes, but at times I find myself layering up to maintain some body warmth. A mixture, I think, of lower body fat and the demands I’m placing on my body. I’ve lost 5lb since weighing myself last and I can’t expect to run 40+ miles a week and not to feel fatigued at some level, so I regard it as a positive indicator that I’m working hard. I also know that after I taper down, and come race day, I’ll feel so much more energised and raring to go.
Secondly, the line of balance with nutrition for me is now finer than ever. My experimentation into the possible causes of Runner’s Trots has paid dividends but it has impacted on my eating plan. I’m finding it quite difficult to eat what I need throughout the day to fuel a hard run on an evening without it being too much and opening the door to RT woes. It’s quite an interesting place to be. Before starting this training I could eat pretty much whatever I wanted. I didn’t have to give it much thought and it didn’t make much difference. Now, though, I’m pushing my body nearer to its limits and what I eat and drink is making a massive difference. For example, if I eat anything ‘junky’ at all I can feel its effects – I can tell it’s nutritionally empty. How weird is that?! This has made it quite easy for me to say no to a lot of temptations and eat properly knowing it’s doing me good. Sometimes I can’t dictate or control what I can eat or when I eat it and that too is making a big difference. The good thing about dropping my tea intake is I am now drinking much more water than usual and this again is noticeable. I’ve found a rather useful guide to hydration which is helping me to maintain focus on my intake.
Last but not least I know that I am at the peak of my schedule, and if there’s ever a time to be feeling its effects it’s now. It’s normal. It’s a good sign. OK, I might have lost some of my ninja agility on a long run but on a short one I’m sharper than ever. Long runs are about endurance and stamina, not agility and speed. It’s OK to feel like this. It’s all part of the fun and games of marathon training!
And so to the week’s summary.
Schedule vs. Actual
|Monday||Rest||7.01 (peak stride pace 05:53/mile)|
|Tuesday||7 miles with strides||3.1 miles (Clee AC 5k Prom race)|
|Wednesday||5 miles recovery||Rest|
|Thursday||10 miles||10.08 miles (average 08:42/mile)|
|Saturday||5 miles recovery||21.02 miles (3h22m43s)|
|TOTAL||47 miles||41.21 miles|
Main points of note:
Tuesday marked the last race in my club’s 5k Winter Race series and after some deliberation, despite the recognition that a sharper, faster run would be beneficial in some ways, racing it hard just didn’t feel like the right thing to do at this stage in my training. This was OK as it allowed me to run with my wife who was entering it as her first ‘proper’ 5k race and so instead of Tuesday, I decided to do a speed session on Monday (accompanied last-minute by fellow club-runner Mike – cheers, buddy) and use the 5k as a recovery run. The immediate thing on Monday’s session I noticed was how easy it felt to open up in the stride sections. Over the 7 miles that were to follow, we did 6 x strides, all of which were no more than 0.5 miles in length, starting with 06:50/mile pace and getting down to 05:53/mile. I’ve been told marathon training improves short-distance speed and it certainly seems to be the case! The 7 miles absolutely flew by we both thoroughly enjoyed the run. What a great way to start the week!
Having used Wednesday to fully recover, Mandy, Jayne, Steve and I used the club run on Thursday to get in 10 miles, most of which were at or below my marathon target pace. I’m finding my legs wanting to go harder and faster and I’m constantly holding them back for 7 or 8 miles which, again, is a great feeling. I had to make an ‘unauthorised stop’ as we passed my house but that meant I could open up my pace to rejoin the others and again this was both comfortable and well within my limits, despite it being 8-miles into the run.
Saturday morning means long run. 20.5 miles planned this week, with more than an off-chance of making it up to 21 if everything was holding out. Only Mandy and I had this in our sights; we met early and did 6 miles before meeting up with Cheryl, Scott and Jayne to do another 15. This week we wanted to bring down last week’s intentionally steady 10:00/mile pace to around the 09:30/mile mark if possible and as the miles ticked by we were comfortably able to maintain this despite the rolling countryside roads. There is nothing of note to mention for the first 16 miles but as we approached this point I just became aware of the usual ache in my lower abdomen – I presume I must have a muscle weakness there as this is the first place I usually start to feel the effects of a long run. Getting to 16 miles without any noticeable fatigue is a really motivating feeling. Things were generally OK up until the 19 mile mark and suddenly I felt my pace slowing and my general energy levels falling. This had not gone un-noticed and Mandy commented on how pale I’d suddenly gone. I felt cold all over my body and could almost feel goose-pimples on my legs, despite it being a warm 18degC. 3 or 4 mouthfuls of drink later and with colour returning I picked up a bit and all of a sudden the cars just over a mile away seemed like a tall order to reach. At that point, I was mentally resigned to just getting back. The prospect of doing an additional 0.5 miles was too much; in fact I would’ve gladly stopped right there and then and called it a day at 19.5 miles. “No”, I told myself. “Keep going”. The fatigue in my abs was now spreading to my hips, buttocks and upper thighs and keeping the legs moving was an effort. As we neared the car park I announced my intention to stop when we got there and tried to convince myself that it was OK by explaining to the others that 0.5 a mile after the distance we’d covered was not going to make a difference. Distance check – 20.4 miles. Damn. We couldn’t stop now. We agreed to circle around the block to take our total over the 20.5 mile mark and it was then I checked into myself and had a serious word. It was one of those “moments of truth”. As we’d been talking on the way round, Scott had told me that some people consider the halfway mark of a marathon not to be at the 13.1 mile mark that you would expect but at the 20 mile point. This was where the race really started. As we emerged from our little loop this jumped right to front of my mind and I realised that in a few weeks time chances are I was going to reach this point again, where my body was saying ‘stop’ and where I had a choice to make if I was going to continue. This was a crucial moment. I looked at Mandy and asked her whether she wanted to go on to 21 miles. She politely replied that she was running with me and she was happy to do whatever I wanted to do and so, with the car park a hundred yards and in our sights, I announced I wanted to continue and we turned right to head out to add on the o.5 miles we needed to take us over our 21 mile total. And then it happened. Accepting of the fact that I wasn’t going to stop, my body was suddenly renewed. My legs were stronger; my faitgued abated. I sped up. It felt good to speed up. As we approached the car park I could’ve sprinted! I wanted to sprint! I’d broken through something significant and it was quite an experience.
What a strange thing…wow!
Looking back now I realise a few things:
I’d eaten my usual breakfast of porridge before we began but I had cut short the amount in the hope of preventing RTs. In hindsight, half a bowl of porridge was not enough fuel by far (it seems ridiculous now to even say it!)
I have been getting used to using gels and drinking on the run in readiness for the race. What I’m finding difficult is not taking them in but remembering to do it over evenly spread distances. The miles tick by without me noticing too much now and I can find myself planning to take a gel at the next mile mark only to realise I’ve passed it 3/4 of a mile ago. Similarly, I carry 2 x 500ml bottles of sports drink (Powerade) but then promptly forget to drink at regular intervals resulting in me sometimes finishing off with some remaining. The point of taking them and practising using them is to ensure I get it right on the big day so I’m learning all the time. On Saturday, I clearly hadn’t got it right and I hadn’t factored in the raised ambient temperature. It was a warm morning. OK, it’s not blazing summer but 18degC is much warmer than we’ve been used to running in for some time. It will have had an effect on us whether we realised it or not.
When we stopped a thought occured to me…
Hey, was this the infamous “Wall” I’ve just climbed over?
OK, it might’ve just been a few bricks high but it was a barrier to me nonetheless. It took a degree of mental toughness to overcome it and when I did I realised it wasn’t my body that needed to stop, it was all in my head.
Reaching this point is a massive learning point for me. I’m really pleased I’ve experienced it now so that I know it is something I can overcome.
21.02 warm, undulating miles completed at a 09:41/mile average pace.
Another week down, another week nearer.
34 days, 21 hours and 33 minutes to go…