A Week in Review (19 Mar – 25 Mar 2012)

Well, that’s the hard training over…

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: 39.54 miles | Time on my feet: 5:58:16 | Races: 0 | PBs: 0


So, that’s the hard training over. Today’s 22-mile run marks the end of my “mad month” – the period of longest mileage – and the beginning of my 3-week taper towards the race.

Now’s a good time to reflect on how everything has gone over the weeks and months previous, and I guess this week’s performance is as good a way of summing it up as any. Breaking the back of the long runs is a good feeling. I’ve become accustomed to 18+ mile distances now and have really noticed an incremental improvement in my ability over the last month. Physically, I’m in the best shape I have ever been. Apart from the baseline fatigue which will now abate with the gradual reduction in effort, I have great confidence that I can get to 22 miles feeling strong enough to finish and my legs have what it takes to carry me to the finish line.

Friday’s massage was key to my final long-run performance today. I entered the room with several aches and pains and left feeling the most relaxed I ever have done in my entire life. So much so is the benefit of the three massages I’ve had to date that I wonder how I would have faired without them – in fact I’ve got one the Wednesday before my race and I’ve booked another one for the Friday afterwards as a recovery treat 😉 In the three weeks or so since my last massage, my hamstrings, glutes and back had tightened again but after a painful and intensive hour of manipulation they had gone and I was left with an overwhelming feeling of calm and renewed confidence. What’s more is the pain in my left knee, which had been growing in intensity over the last week or so, appears to have been linked in as I completed today without so much as a twitch. Sure it’s a little sore (but then the pounding downhill sections of today’s run saw to make sure my joints would know about them) but absolutely nothing for me to worry about. With so many of my running colleagues out of action with various complaints and injuries I count myself very fortunate to reach this stage feeling as good as I do.

So, here comes the taper. With my race being exactly 3 weeks today, my focus now needs to shift towards recovery. What’s going to be hardest for me is to have the restraint I need to avoid running the mid-week runs to the same intensity as I have been doing for the last 13 weeks, and whereas I’ve warmly welcomed hills as part of my route I now need to be mindful to not exert myself too much as I gradually work down to race day. I’ve purposefully put this part of the training out of my mind until now, as I wanted to concentrate on my long-run section without thinking ahead to this part, but now I need to refocus and get my head around what I need to do now.

I’m getting daily emails from the marathon organisers now, and there are some really useful and reassuring words in them. One thing I have thought, (and this might seem like a strange thing to say after mentioning previously how tired I have been) is that whilst the training is an effort, it hasn’t been as intensive or as tiring as I thought it would’ve been. My fatigue has been mental exhaustion much of the time, and I still retain the ability to sleep on a galloping hedgehog should one happen to stray towards me at the wrong time. I’m tired when I wake up, whilst I’m at work…in fact the only times I don’t feel tired are when I’m running and just before bedtime, when suddenly my head wakes up and wants to watch a film or otherwise busy itself instead of going to bed. As my taper begins, so does a more disciplined regime of drinking water and hitting the sack at a consistent time to train myself into a regular sleep pattern.

Here is some of the more helpful advice from our Parisian cousins (the translation is a bit interesting sometimes!)…

Hydration: The Priorities

Water is offered every 5 km, allowing you to rehydrate. During the Marathon de Paris, you will be offered bottles and not cups of water. In consequence, it’s easy to drink small sips without splashing water all over yourself.

Please empty the bottles before throwing them into the containers that will be available for them. When bottles contain liquid, they can’t be recycled.

A few priorities regarding hydration:

    • Start your race correctly hydrated. Drink regularly, but in small quantities 24 hours before the start.

Test the energy drinks that will be offered by the Marathon de Paris beforehand to be sure that your stomach tolerates them.

    • Stretch out your water intake throughout the entire marathon. Drink a little bit at each water stand without waiting to be thirsty, which is a first sign of dehydration.
    • At the end of the race, check your urine. Clearness of urine is proof of a good hydration.
    • Signs of dehydration: less sweating, muscle pain, higher heart rate, and increase of body temperature.
How to Fix Your Goal

It’s a real riddle! Finding the right rhythm from the first few miles that can be held throughout the marathon calls for wisdom and a certain amount of experience. 

Advice for beginning marathon runners: Don’t run by the clock. Follow your feelings. Your priority should be to avoid the red zone, always stay in a real comfort zone on the cardiovascular level. Your unique goal should be to make it to the finish at avenue Foch. 
Absolute priority: make it to the end of the 42.195km. Nothing should stop you from reaching your goal!
Runners that have already participated in marathons should set their goals according to past performances. A number of parameters can help them choose a possible time: training quality during the previous months, body weight, global state of energy, possible injury, and previous results before the Marathon de Paris. 

It is generally considered that one should take away 1km/h between a 10k and a half-marathon, as well as between a half-marathon and a marathon.Concretely, if you have recently run a 10k in 50 min (average of 12km/h), you should count on a time of around 1:55 for a half-marathon (11km/h), and 4:15 for a marathon (10km/h).

Digestive Trouble and Marathon Running

Almost 50% of marathon runners complain of digestive problems such as bloating, diarrhea, or vomiting. In the more severe cases, the problems can cause abandon. The causes are diverse…

It’s difficult to totally eliminate all digestive troubles that may arrive during a long effort. The importance of the physical activity in question forces the organism to give priority to vital areas, and the stomach is not considered vital in this case.

Muscles receive most of the attention. In consequence, blood flow to the digestive tract is divided by 2 in comparison to when the body is at rest, and the acidity which is normally drained remains in the stomach.

Other factors can cause gastric problems during a marathon:

Stress: Runners are often victim of emotional diarrhea, resulting from stress accumulated before the competition and un-evacuated during the effort.

An unhealthy diet: Eating fat or heavy foods that are difficult to digest can be the cause of digestive trouble during an endurance effort. It’s recommended to finish your last meal at least three hours before the race so that digestion can occur normally.

Vibrations: Shock received by the feet when they hit the ground provokes vibrations in the rest of the body (and notably in the digestive system). This can cause nausea or vomiting.

Marathon de Paris

Mmmm…”emotional diarrhea”. That’s a new one on me! And on that joyous note, on to the week’s performance…

Schedule vs. Actual

Schedule Actual
Monday Rest Rest
Tuesday 7 miles with strides 10.08 miles (89 mins)
Wednesday 5 miles recovery Rest
Thursday 10 miles (inc. 6 miles @ 08:00) 7.45 miles (68 mins)
Friday Rest Rest
Saturday 20 miles Rest
Sunday 5 miles recovery 22.01 miles (3h21m)
TOTAL 47 miles 39.54 miles

Main points of note:

On the strength and success of last week’s rescheduling, we maintained the same format this week. Longer run on Tuesday, followed by a shorter run on Thursday in readiness for the weekend’s long run. It worked.

Tuesday’s 10-miler went well. I found my legs carrying me at a good pace from the outset and apart from the growing knee grumble any ache from the weekend’s run had long gone. It’s amazing how quickly my body can recover now from such a run. Still, the knee pain has been a cause of concern for me, if I’m honest, and it periodically reminded me of its presence despite my best efforts to ignore it. I have been hopeful that my looming massage would put pay to its antics and so acknowledged it and I carried on regardless.

The now shorter run on Thursday was also a strong run from the outset. I can really tell the effect of all this marathon training in my short run performances now and the miles clicked by almost effortlessly. I got my pace down to 06:51 as well, without really pushing for it which again is a measure of how much I have improved.

And so to Sunday’s long run. 22 miles which would mark the end of the long runs and the start of the tapering. So far my long runs have been an interesting experience. From the wobble at 19 miles or so two weeks ago to last week’s stronger ‘short’ run, I woke this morning with the knowledge that this was the last big push before the big day. Having learned well from my aforementioned ‘wall experience’, I started the day with a large bowl of porridge and a pint of water as I rehearsed the run in my head. I wanted to use this last opportunity to have a dress-rehearsal of the big day itself as close as I possibly could including drinks, gels, clothing and a slightly faster pace than in previous weeks. I had planned our route in the week to allow Mandy and I to do 7 miles before meeting up with Cheryl, Scott and Helen for their 15 miler and took the opportunity to vary our route to add an extra element of interest. Oh, and a rather large, angry hill at around the 12 mile mark for good measure!

My Last Pre-Marathon Long Run Route - Click to Enlarge

Full course details

Once again, the miles flew by (helped no end by the conversation along the way – we’ve both said how much harder all this would’ve been had we to undertake the training on our own) and before we knew it we were 7 miles in and back at the start to meet the others. Heading off again, the miles kept tumbling and the 09:00/mile pace we were setting felt effortless. As we approached the 8 mile mark, a large group of cyclists passed us with a cheery “good morning!” as they approached our first hill of the day. Shortly into the incline I noticed that we were gaining ground on them, and it wasn’t long before we had caught them up, much to the surprise of the ‘group leader’ who looked at us incredulously as we overtook him! Later, as the hill eased off and they caught us back up, he wished us a good remaining run and said with a smile “I’ve never been overtaken by a runner before!”.

The funny thing is that the hill didn’t seem like a hill at all. My legs just did what they’ve been trained to do and made short work of conquering it.

At the 12-mile mark we took a right turn where we normally turn left and were immediately in uncharted waters (well, all except Scott who had suggested this detour last week). It made a really nice change to vary the route and the change of scenery helped the miles to click by all that much easier. At around mile 13 another turn took us immediately to the base of a long, ominous looking hill and the ascent began. Again, my legs and calves (under the cover of my £30 socks – I’ve finally come to terms with their purchase price as they’re worth every single penny) managed the climb without any complaints and a knee-pounding descent sharply followed. I was glad to reach the bottom and to find the road levelling out again.

By the time we had reached 18 miles I had mentally prepared myself for another 4 miles (in fact I was telling myself ‘just another 8 to go’) and I have to say the miles kept coming right until the point where our final left turn took us to our home-straight. With a mile and a half to go we picked up the pace and finished off feeling fantastic. No ache in my calves whatsoever; only minor ache in my hips, legs and abdomen. Piece of cake! There’s no doubt in my mind at all I could’ve added another 3 miles right there and then – a real confidence booster.

Marathon de Paris

Calmer waters, now. I’m really looking forward to catching up on some sleep, resting my legs and preparing for battle!

20 days, 12 hours and 44 minutes to go…


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