I got an email this morning from Marathon Boy. He asked if I was in the throws of marathon training yet. I clocked up 27 miles last week, so I guess I am.
Believe it or not though, I am now significantly more sedentary than I was a couple of months ago. It’s officially the summer vacation and so I am working from home – no more cycling to and from the university, no more chasing students around the library, no more performing at the front of a lecture theatre… Yes, I am training for a marathon, but I also feel very relaxed right now!
As well as enjoying a more relaxing pace of life I am also thoroughly enjoying making plans with my friends, who have been a bit neglected in recent months. This week’s training was therefore a very sociable one as well as an active one, and it looks like I will be spending my summer combining the two!
My legs recovered surprisingly quickly from my weekend at the Welsh Castles Relay. I tucked the trainers away on Monday and spent the day doing laundry from the weekend and going through our photos. By Tuesday I felt fighting fit again, and had clean running kit to celebrate in.
Tuesday: Strength training and marathon pace run (5.5 miles on hills)
I started Tuesday with an early morning weights session in the living room – the same routine as last week, but more organised this week and thus a little more fluid. By late afternoon I felt a flicker of DOMS in my abductors, but ignored them and went to training with my club. It was my first Tuesday evening off work since December and I wasn’t about to miss any more club runs!
Our Tuesday nights are pretty informal. Members volunteer to lead runs over familiar routes at various paces. You just pick a group and go! I’m planning on using these Tuesday evening runs to practice running at marathon pace. This will help me dial into MP on the big day, but also leave me with enough breath to gossip along the way. This week’s run was a bit of a disaster though. A few runners overestimated themselves/underestimated the hills and fell behind. Our group’s leader stayed with them, which is good Chaser practice, but without a pacer our group fell apart and without any decent GPS signal I was totally unable to pace myself! MP feels very slow to me after training for half marathons and 10Ks and I was really relying on the group to keep me in it, but we ended up running the last 2 miles 30-60 seconds per mile faster! Ah well, I’ll just have to try again this week. Practice makes perfect, right? If nothing else it was a lovely run with good company, and it was great to be back at the club.
Wednesday: Speedwork ( 5 x 6 minutes @ threshold pace; 2 minutes jog)
I bloody love speedwork. I have totally fallen in love with 10Ks and look forward to any opportunity to workout at 10K pace. Obviously for threshold sessions I don’t quite push to 10K pace – I stay a little shy of it, running a pace somewhere between 10K and half marathon pace – but still, I’m making the most of the chance to run fast when the rest of my training plan is about going looooooong and going steady. This session was awesome. I went home full of beans and started plotting the route for a weekend bike ride that I’d arranged with the GF and some friends.
Thursday: Long run (12.5 miles on hills)
This was my first proper long run of training, and oh lordy, it was tough! Maybe it was because it was the first, maybe it was because it was because it was my third day of training in a row, perhaps it was because I chose a route that went up four massive hills, or perhaps it’s because I was running with a hydration pack for the first time. Whatever the cause, it was my slowest long slow run in a long time. 12 miles is tough at the best of times, but it’s even tougher when it involves being on your feet for 10 minutes longer than expected!
I don’t take gels or sports drink out with me on any of my runs – heck, I didn’t take water either until I got this hydration pack for marathon training! – but I’m going to have to start trying them out in a few weeks time, especially if they carry on feeling that tough!
I felt like I’d been beaten up by the time I got home and sensed I only had a few minutes of staying upright left in my legs. I know I should have spent them stretching, but I chose to spend them making a budget recovery drink:
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground almond
Yup. Half a lucozade, a milkshake and an episode of Charmed. That’s how I unwind after a long run.
You’re not seriously surprised I took a day off, are you?
Saturday: Tempo run (parkrun)
This week was my 45th official parkrun. Unfortunately all of those parkruns that I’ve attended without my barcode are not counted. My 50 t-shirt is so close I can almost smell it! Oh, no that’s just the sweaty dude running ahead of me.
I was supposed to run this week’s parkrun at marathon pace – after all, I am buying into this whole practice makes perfect thing – but I just didn’t want to. I’ll try MP again in week 3, I promise. Instead I got stuck into a sweet tempo run, a little modest perhaps, but a thoroughly enjoyable pace.
Sunday: Bike ride (20 slow and bumpy miles)
It’s only a couple of weeks until Rapha’s Womens100 bike ride, for which I’m leading a ride from London to Whitstable. I’d been waiting until the summer vacation to scout out the route and the GF and some friends kindly agreed to come with me.
The plan was to cycle the first half of the route, from Greenwich to Gravesend, which would follow the National Cycle Network route 1. Although the National Cycle Network (NCN) is mapped out by Sustrans, these routes can be pretty bad in places, as they are looked after by the local councils and most often use already existing paths, rather than purpose built ones. This means that sometimes the route will follow a nice country road, sometimes a city ‘A’ road, sometimes it will worm through a residential estate, sometimes it will follow a footpath and sometimes it will follow a nature trail. Route 1 East out of London turned out to be really awful and ran along all of the above. At one point it looked like the paths were getting better, but they didn’t. Instead they did this.
Leaving Greenwich we travelled along the Thames path, passing sewage works, factories that smelled of boiled carrots, old land fill sites and abandoned relics of dockland industry. There were some interesting sights along the way though, like this yacht club/cycle café. Not sure I’ll be going back there though.
After eventually reaching the outskirts of London the path became a proper paved cycle path and the smell of sewage subsided. We hoped that the ride would improve.
But it didn’t. We weaved precariously through U-chicane barriers and rode on potholed, chunky gravelled footpaths along the River Darent into Dartford.
The path along the Darent was not only dangerous, it was also incredibly narrow and fell away on one side into a salt marsh (apparently only one of a few salt marshes still left in the country, but a marsh nonetheless). Add to that the very overgrown wildlife on each side that whipped your legs and hid the barriers until you were right up at them, and you can understand why my friends weren’t too pleased with me…
We stopped for lunch in Dartford and, after agreeing that the route was a no-go for the big ride, decided that there was no point in continuing to Gravesend. Instead we had a drizzly picnic in Dartford city centre, a pint in the pub and took the train back to London Bridge.
Not quite the 30 mile ride we’d hoped for, but it was still a fun afternoon with friends! We’ll just have to try again next weekend.
That seems to have become the lesson of this week’s training, doesn’t it? Try again next week. I think that it’s OK if things don’t always go to plan because you always gain something from having tried. For example, my MP run may have been a flop, but I still got a 5.5 mile run in the bag and had a good natter with some clubmates, and the bike ride may have been a bit of a disaster, but I’d rather have been on a crap ride with excellent company than have done a great ride alone. So yes, I’ll try again next week, but I do hope it’s as fun as this week.