So here we are in March. In the past I’ve not made a habit of meticulously reviewing each month’s training; primarily due to reasoning that if I find it boring to write about, then you’ll find it even more boring to read about. However, after a spectacular January, there came a somewhat different February, so I’ve got more to write about than just a report on another month of targets being smashed. I’m also three weeks into my London Marathon coaching plan, which has really shaken up the way I train. Mileage is down, but so are my splits; a combination which is something I would have never expected to be saying this early in the year!
It’s been a funny month; in its inimitable fashion, life has thrown me some curve balls which have challenged my ability to train like the athlete I wish I was, but it is then that I remember that I’m not an athlete; this is not my job, and sometimes other aspects of life have to come first. I’ve just been doing my best to control what I can control and let the passing of time take care of the rest. Here are some thoughts on running from this past month.
Fetteresso Trail Marathon
February started off with a stinking cold which saw me lose my voice and much of my aerobic capacity for a week. Thankfully by the time the Fetteresso Trail Marathon came around on the 12th, I was largely free of the plague. The Fetteresso Trail Marathon was a trial event, run by Stonehaven Running Club, with the aim of launching a fully licensed race next year. There were about 40 runners from various running clubs around the North East who gathered to take part, and the event took place on the trails in Fetteresso Forest, oddly enough.
For the trail and ultra runners of Stonehaven Running Club, this is our back yard and we know it like the back of our hands. There are endless miles of trails in the forest and I’ve spent more wintery weekend mornings bashing through snow around up there than I care to remember. This Sunday morning was no different, and we were faced with quite a reasonable amount of snow underfoot which made conditions challenging at times. I had set myself a target of 4h 45m or quicker, as I wanted to get finished and back down the road to the pub to watch the rugby which started at 5 hours race time.
Happily, I had a really great day and sailed through the miles with no bother at all. I finished in 4h 46m and as 5th female which although somewhat of a vanity statistic (there were only 11 ladies), being near the top was a well earned reward. I put in a hard effort pushing up and down the relentless forest hills on the snow and felt satisfyingly gubbed afterwards. I ate an entire jam swiss roll straight out of the packet like a burrito to celebrate.
Speedwork – Intervals and Tempo Sessions
My coach, Shaun Dixon, has delivered me a training plan which is based on a loose goal of 3hr 45m at the London Marathon. He has me scheduled for 5 runs a week with extra conditioning sessions as well; I’d be lying if I said I’ve been able to complete every single session, but once we’ve figured out how to clone a second me to take over some of my current commitments, that shouldn’t be a problem.
At first, the pace brackets set for the intervals terrified me. If marathon pace is 8:35 per mile, then everything else is a lot faster! As a certified ultra plodder who also likes the fact that 10:00 per mile makes the running time mathematics really easy, seeing pace brackets that started with a seven was initially quite intimidating. However, I’ve found that whilst I might struggle to hit the correct pace during the first or second interval of a session, by the third and beyond I’ve found my groove and it comes a lot more easily than expected.
Notable sessions I’ve completed so far include: 7 x 3 minutes at 7:45m/m (first three) and 7:20m/m (last four), 3 x 9 minutes at 8:10m/m, and 3 x (5min / 3min / 1min) at 7:45/7:20/sub 7, with 90 seconds rest between intervals, and 45 seconds rest between sets. The last session mentioned there was called a ‘Blood Buffering’ session where the key factor is completing a 5 minute interval only 45 seconds after finishing a minute’s hard push; resulting in legs full of lactic acid and RedWineRunner being sick in a hedge.
I’m really enjoying the sessions though; it’s fun to have some structure to push myself to achieve and I feel like I’m really working hard in my lunchtime runs. Unfortunately, some days this has meant returning to my desk looking a bit I’ve been dragged through a hedge, but as long as I’m not seeing any clients it’s fine…
Long Runs – Marathon Pace Runs
The big change to my training has been a dramatic cut in weekend mileage; in my first week of ‘coached’ training, the total training hours for the week were supposed to be 5 hours and 10 minutes. Normally at this time of year I would be going out and running for that amount of time and longer in one day, and then going out again the next day. It’s been hard to decide what to do, because whilst London is important to me and I have an incredible resource on hand in this coaching for the race…I also have a 33 mile race in 6 days time, a 50k race in 4 weeks, and a 55 miler three weeks after London.
I haven’t run for more than 5 hours since my day out on the West Highland Way at the end of January, and I can’t say that this doesn’t bother me somewhat. I need to be ready for 12 hours of moorland trails and hills on the 13th of May and being a Pavement Princess right now is not going to have me in the best of shape for that. However, if I was to get a smashing PB at London, perhaps that might make up for the death march that the Cateran 55 could potentially turn into…
However, today’s ‘Long’ run was very positive, and makes me think that something pretty special for me might be attainable at the London Marathon. My run was technically supposed to be a 1hour 50m marathon-paced fartlek with two chunks of time at goal pace, but I got a bit excited and ran the whole damn thing at marathon pace and completed 12 miles at an average of 8:37m/m. It was just one of those days when both your legs and your head show up and the miles just fly by with zero effort. The difference is, that that was the fasted paced long run I have ever ran, ever. My half marathon PB is 1h 53m 58s (Fraserburgh 2014, hard effort, pishing rain and snow) and today I ran 12 miles in 1 hour 43 minutes, and it didn’t even feel like an effort.
For me, that is pretty damn significant and I’m not sure I feel about it. I know I’ve been working hard on my speed sessions, but realistically – it’s been three weeks. I’ve not lost any more weight and realistically I’m still drinking far too much booze to be a good athlete. Could it be that I’ve been blocking speed from my legs for years by constantly being exhausted from running hundreds of slow miles a month? Did I need 2016 ‘off’ from hard training and racing to finally give my body a rest, in order to come back stronger than ever in 2017?
Who knows. I’m just going to keep slowly building the fire, and at just the right moment; I’ll light the match.