Aaannd…relax :)

Well, I’ve just had my final pre-race massage. I’m so glad I found massages when I did; God only knows how my legs would’ve been if I hadn’t!

Nothing too major tonight, although some work was required on a few knotty areas in both legs. Last night was my last club run before the race – 5 miles with some bursts of 100m or so @ around 06:30/mile pace – and for the first time in as far back as I can remember I finished with no ache whatsoever. A great sign that my legs are ready.

So tomorrow is my last 5-miler; a nice gentle run ’round the block’. I might put in a cheeky couple of miles (2 max) on Saturday when we get there but then again fear of last-minute injury might deter me from that…

My club is organising a 5 mile race tomorrow, a regular annual event. For me I’m resisting the temptation and offering my services as a marshal instead. It’ll be nice to help out instead of running.

3 days 13hrs and 48mins to go..!

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Today’s Paris Countdown Newsletter

It’s possible that you might be a little agitated the night preceding the race in thinking about what is waiting for you at waking time!
The first thing you should do is to finish your breakfast three hours before the marathon, allowing complete digestion.

A few priorities:
> Firstly, don’t change the breakfast routine that you established during your many weeks of training. Your stomach, already bothered by the pre-race stress, will face a difficult challenge during the last hour of the marathon. Don’t fill it up with something to which it isn’t accustomed.
> Then, make sure that your breakfast is balanced, so that you rebuild your energy reserves that were used during sleep. If you have already focused on slow release carbohydrates for the last couple of days, your glycogen stocks are at their maximum.
> Finally, don’t eat too much! Eat according to your hunger, slowly, without trying to take in as many calories as possible. Don’t forget, gastric problems are frequent during marathons. Bad management of your breakfast could cause digestive trouble

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Today’s Paris Countdown Newsletter

It has taken you months of training to reach this point! Just a few days before the start of the Marathon de Paris, you are, without a doubt, in the best condition of your life. Bravo for the courage and the tenacity it took to prepare so well.

You are ready now. You don’t need to run just to accumulate unnecessary miles, but you can do so in a very measured way, or simply to relieve some of the climbing tension before the marathon.
The priority of the days leading up to April 15 should be to rest and to offer your body long stretches of relaxation. Be watchful for the quality of your sleep, but be careful not to stay in bed too late. Remember that you will have to wake up early the day of the race!

The best way to relax, especially if you’re not Parisian, is to do nothing, besides enjoying the city. Don’t walk too much though. It’s better to enjoy the cafés and the public gardens. April in Paris is a real treat, and you have earned it…

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Taper Week #2 Review

Week 2 of my 3 weeks of tapering done and my countdown is into single figures! This week was all about dropping some mileage off whilst maintaining the intensity levels I’ve become accustomed to.

Before I go on to the runs, here’s a quick summary of my state of mind and body this week:

Legs and general running tackle. For reasons I do not understand, I arrived at the club on Tuesday with what were quite painful calves. They were sore to the touch but most of all it was as if they had a deep ache, more so than after even my longest of runs. Such was the pain, I compared it to how my left calf felt last year just before it tore and set me out of action for 6 weeks. They were still tender on Thursday, albeit not as much, but by Saturday they were almost completely fine. The pain was only when I got up on my toes and I didn’t feel any discomfort during my training runs. What’s going on?! The best theory I have been able to come up with is that it is simply fatigue and/or the training that is somehow ‘coming out’ now that I’m tapering. I don’t know if muscles can do that or if it’s normal, but it’s the best theory I can manage! The other niggles and pains I’ve had have miraculously gone too. I was getting concerned about my knee pain but it’s now as if it never existed. How strange!

Blisters. If you’ve been following my blog over the last 15 weeks you’ll know that bilsters are something that have plagued me ever since I started running. As my training increased towards the beginning of my schedule, so did my blisters to the point where I’d get them after 2 or 3 miles. For a while I was convinced that they were to be my Achilles Heel but I can now safely and thankfully say they are not going to be an issue. They’ve not completely gone, but amazingly they are no longer a concern. The only thing I can attribute the change to is the 3 massage sessions I’ve had leading up to this point – money well spent without a shadow of a doubt. I would recommend having a good massage to anyone with any form of tightness, aches, pains or other running-induced ailment. I am well and truly a convert and once the marathon is over I plan to keep them up every couple of months at least. Fantastic.

Weight. I got weighed this morning. 11st6lb. Over my training I’ve only lost 6lb, most of which have been over the last 2 or 3 weeks. I’ve lost fat and I actually look like a runner now. I noticed only this morning how my legs have become packed with muscle and I can see the fibres beneath my skin function as I move. For an ex-16st fatbody that is quite something!! I feel fit and more so than any other time in my entire life I look fit. It’s crept up on me somehow but boom – there it is! I look like I can do this!

Head. I have come to realise something significant this week which has influenced my attitude towards the race:

The only person who is putting pressure on me…is me!

I massively value competence and it drives me to be a perfectionist in everything I do (not a surprise to anyone who even half knows me!). I want to do so well and turn in a performance to be proud of but that means more than just getting round. Don’t get me wrong – just getting round will be a massive achievement but in my world this is just not enough!! This underlying drive for perfection means a huge amount of self-generated pressure as I know even if I finish in 3:40 there’ll be a part of me disappointed that I didn’t go faster. It’s a bit of a curse, if I’m honest! The good news is that I know myself well enough to recognise this and as an antidote I’m willing to suppress my characteristically high standards and instead trust my training, let my legs, not my head, do the running and enjoy the experience! It’s going to be a memory that stays with me for the rest of my life so I’m gonna make sure it’s a bloody happy one and not beat myself up for any reason. It will be what it will be. And it will be great! 😉

That’s enough of that. Now on to the week that was:

Tuesday’s session was a shorter but faster run of 5.5 miles at at sub-07:30 pace (the exact time/pace I can’t say as it was one of those rare runs where I had not got my GPS watch with me due to its battery being flat but it felt fast and sustained compared to our familiar 08:00/mile sessions). It was great to clear out the cobwebs and get the legs and lungs moving. It also felt very odd to only do a “short” run – we seemed to be back at the club in no time. I remember when 6 miles felt like running to the moon…

Thursday was a case of shortening the usual 10 mile session to 7 miles averaging 08:40/mile which is just over my marathon race pace. Strangely, two of us both said that we felt a noticeable change in how we felt at the 5 mile mark; indicating to us that we were just settling into the pace. The run felt comfortable and again very short compared to what I have been used to. As we finished off and entered the club grounds my thoughts were on setting off to go round again. And again. And 5 miles on top of that to finish off…

So on to today (Saturday) and the last double-digit run before the big day joined by fellow club-runner Jayne. I wanted to make sure that in my final week of tapering I had as much chance to recover as fully as possible, so I settled for a 10.5 mile route on Saturday rather than Sunday at an average pace of 09:00/mile. The difference between this run and those of other weekends is that we had to constantly hold back and prevent my speed from increasing. We weren’t successful all the time, mind, and even after 10 miles we found ourselves trotting along at 08:15 pace quite comfortably. I think that is a really good sign.

———-

Things down at the club have been rather disrupted over the last month or so. Several of my clubmates are running Hull Marathon tomorrow and so have been a week in front of me and my schedule. Similarly there are others running in the London Marathon a week after mine, including Mandy – my running partner for the best part of the last 16 weeks. As my final week arrives she is entering week#2 of her taper, so our paths must temporarily part from now on. That alone is quite odd. In Paris I’ll be joined by club members Keith and his wife Linda, marathon veterans who will once again be running Paris and then London the week after. Now that’s hardcore. For some the wait is over – for others, including me, it’s almost over. It all comes down to this as I enter my final week of tapering this is where it gets very real.

The week ahead:

Tuesday: 5 miles with some short speed bursts.

Wednesday: My final, pre-race massage. I cannot wait for this! I’ll be as loose as a loose thing when I emerge from the treatment room and ready for action! Physically it’s effects are like gold dust. Mentally it’s even more valuable! I’m so glad I booked in for this session just before the race.

Thursday: 5 miles steady. The club organises a 5-mile race every year which happens to fall on the same day this time round. A huge part of me wants to enter but I’m resisting the temptation (I know I’ll get drawn into running it too fast) and instead offering my services marshalling. It’ll be a good opportunity for me to take some photos too – something I don’t usually get the chance to do as I normally compete.

…And that’s it!! I may do a couple of miles once we find our bearings in Paris on Saturday but it’ll be nothing strenuous.

Sunday’s long-run is looming and it’s massive. We fly out to Paris on Saturday morning so from now on I’ll go mobile on my blogging so that I can post on the fly, as it were. Look out for posts through the week and a regular stream once the weekend arrives.

My focus this week is drinking plenty of water and getting plenty of sleep. Those are the two most pro-active measures I can take now.

Here it comes…MY FINAL WEEK!!!

WOOOOOOOOHOOOOO!!!!!!!

9 Days to Go!!

Single figures. Nearly a week to go. Wow, that feels odd.

Here’s today’s Paris Email so you too can share in the pre-race excitement!:

The big day is almost here. Without a doubt, you have already imagined the race that you will try to run. Be ambitious but realistic, particularly if you are a novice to the 42.195km. The most important thing is always, ALWAYS to make it to the finish on Avenue Foch.

We recommend meticulous planning for the hours preceding the start on the Champs-Elysées. Choose your racing attire the day before. Before going to sleep, pin your number on your t-shirt or tank, and prepare the items that you will bring to the start: energetic gels, water bottle, anti-rubbing cream…
If you are not Parisian, verify the amount of time it will take you to get from where you are staying to the start area. Take the Line 1 metro. Get off at the George V or Charles de Gaulle-Etoile metro stations.
If you wish to leave a bag at the baggage check, count on 30 minutes to reach your starting area.

The Marathon de Paris has one of the most majestic starts of races on the international calendar. During the first hectometers, you will run on a course that measures 28 meters in length.

Taper Week #1 Review

What do you mean it's not THIS kind of taper..?!

At the end of my first week of tapering, I find myself having to constantly remind myself of the fact that the work’s not over yet and that before long I’ll be putting everything together for the main event.

It’s right what they say; I know I’ve done everything to prepare my body physically and I have massive confidence on getting round but mentally the games continue. The ever-present references to Paris all around me help to make sure I don’t forget what I’m about to do and they also serve to make me question what the hell I think I am doing. It’s a mind game now. I think because my physical effort is reducing that I’ve finished. Even knowing that this would happen does nothing to prevent its arrival. My remedy is to maintain the level of effort regardless of any reduction in mileage.

My first week of tapering was pretty much the same as any other week except for the shorter long-run on Sunday. This week, after various bits of advice, not least from the various emails I get from Runner’s World, London Marathon and the Paris organisers, I decided to set my long-run at 15 miles in the knowledge that physically it wasn’t going to be too demanding but just about the point where I have been feeling the onset of fatigue in recent weeks and therefore enough to maintain some fitness. Tuesday’s 7-miler and Thursday’s 10-miler were as normal, resulting in a weekly mileage of around 32 miles – a 24% reduction as general advice suggests.

The long-run went well enough, although my legs did feel a little heavy towards the end. I maintained my routine of gels and drink, although clearly I only less than on my longer runs. I think I can now also categorically state how fatigue begins to manifest itself physically! I’m almost constantly cold, despite the warming ambient temperatures of spring, and need to make sure my sleep is solid and regular from now on in order to catch up. I have also obtained another niggling pain, this time behind my right knee. My left knee pain appears to have retreated after my last massage and for some reason, another one has arrived on the other leg as though I’ve bruised a ligament (I don’t even think that is possible!).

Other things are happening around me too which are taking a significant amount of my energy to deal with, but with faith in the plan, trust in the miles of training I have done, a strong mental state of mind and the love and support of my family and friends I’m sure I’ll survive.

So things are getting pretty real for me now. It’s next weekend after all! All the training, all the discipline in eating and drinking properly, all of the last 4 months comes down to this. As I write this the weather in the UK has taking a turn for the worse and the 20+degC sunny days of last week have given way to 4degC days with blustery wind and rain. In many ways that would be good for next weekend (except for the wind, you can keep that) but ultimately I can’t control the weather – it’ll be what it’ll be. So will the effects of being amongst 39,999 other runners. in fact, lots of things are outside my control. The positive thing I need to do is to focus on what I can control:

Drinking. I am trying to maintain a regular intake of water throughout the day. No other drinks and caffeine strictly limited to 1 cup of tea per day max. Time to flush out any toxins or other nasties.

Food. This week begins my carb-loading and glycogen storing efforts. From Thursday I will be aiming to eat carbohydrate-heavy meals including potatoes, pasta and rice. It’s a balance of not eating too much (after all I’m not heavy training any more) vs. making sure I’m giving my muscles and liver chance to stock up in good time. Quality of food intake is important, and something I can influence.

Sleep. Gone are the nights of stopping up to watch the end of a film or a late-evening program. I need to get some regular sleep and that means regular bedtimes and as far as possible an uninterrupted night of sleep-induced recovery.

Stretching. Without risking injury by being over-enthusiastic, I need to make sure I stay loose. I have my final, pre-race massage booked for Wednesday next week but that will only be a final once-over to make sure there’s nothing lurking anywhere ready to jump out on the day. This niggling pain at the base of my right hamstring will either disappear or be massaged away, I’m fairly confident of that. It doesn’t hurt when I run hard so I’m not overly concerned.

Mental preparedness. The positive self-talk has begun. I know that physiologically there is little difference (if any at all) between the feelings of anxiety and those of excitement, (the chemical balance in your body is the same) and that how telling yourself that you’re not nervous you are in fact excited can have a quite profound positive effect on performance. Instead of negatively thinking “I’ve got to do this marathon next weekend”, for example, I can positively think “I get to do this marathon”, content in the knowledge that I’m able-bodied, fit and well and have a long and enjoyable running career ahead of me whilst also reminding myself that the training has gone pretty well and I’ve not fallen victim to injury along the way like so many people unfortunately do. And as simple or as minor as these changes appear, it really does have a massive difference on your attitude.

To be honest I don’t really know if I’m getting this part of the training right, but it feels like the right things to be doing and although I am aware of the potential for backing down too much too soon, I also am aware of the importance of standing on the start line feeling zero fatigue and full of anticipation, hope, expectation and confidence for the 42.195km of tarmac ahead.

One thing I know for certain, it’s gonna be emotional!

countdown Paris Marathon

Almost into single figures!!!