The “Help! I ate my mojo!” half marathon challenge: Week 2

I’ve been feeling rather smug with myself this week after completing week 1 of training. My 10K time trial was hugely motivating and I’m determined to give this half marathon a proper bash!

One of my biggest worries about the half marathon is that since training for the New Forest Marathon last year my steady running has dropped from a nippy half marathon pace to a marathon plod. This week I did a few ‘race pace’ miles to try and get back in that rhythm and it feels like the speed work is helping – my legs are turning over less reluctantly!

After my Thursday night track session I had a chat with our club’s coach, the ever-approachable and helpful Tom Craggs. He suggested that I tack my race pace miles onto the end of long Sunday runs, building towards 14 miles 2 weeks out from the race with 4 miles at race pace… Yikes!! I see his point – half marathon pace will feel quite comfortable for the first 5 or 6 miles, but it’s the last few that are the killer – but voluntary leg-battering has not been a hobby of mine recently and I fear I may take some persuading to run that session! Coach Tom also suggested that I continue attending the summer speed session on the track (great news because I’m loving them), and get a threshold session in too. Somewhere between those structured sessions and the Sunday morning plods hopefully lies the key to a half marathon comeback!

Monday: 100K cycle
Bank holidays come six times a year. If Blur were to be believed, they were designed for a six-pack and a BBQ, these days I’m more likely to spend them on two wheels.

A cycling buddy of mine, Beth, had arranged a 100K route from Look Mum No Hands on Old Street (good coffee and a good breakfast) into Epping Forest, through Theydon Bois, looping around Loughton, via a pub for lunch and a pint of coke, and back to Look Mum No Hand’s other café on Mare Street, Hackney (more coffee, extra cake, well deserved beer). Beth is a bit of a demon on the bike, and our companion Garo is an unassuming speedster too (he rode the Dunwich Dynamo on his singlespeed last year), so their gentle pace was at times a bit of a push for me, but I loved it! It’s nice to be taken out of your comfort zone from time to time. And I couldn’t have chosen a prettier place to feel like crap.








Tuesday: Strength training and race pace miles
3 sets of 12 reps
1 set of 45kg deadlifts x 8, and then 2 sets of 20kg x 12
20kg Romanian deadlifts
20kg lunges (12 on each leg)
15kg overhead clean and presses
6kg dumbbell fly press (from bosu ball bridge)
9kg tricep dip things (is it called a tricep dip when you do it overhead, rather than on a bench like a badass?)
5kg Russian twists
A funny thing happened in the gym this week. I decided that I should try to lift heavier than 20kg for my deadlifts. I wasn’t even breaking a sweat with 20, so I thought 30kg would be a good weight to try.

However there aren’t any 30kg barbells.

Instead I had to get one of the big ol’ bars and load it up with plates. My weight room intimidation was being tested as I scoured the corners of the room for a bar and collars, and then tried to look like I knew what I was doing sliding the two 15kg plates onto the ends.

So far so good.

A particularly good looking girl spotted what I was doing in the mirror. She looked impressed. Her guns only intimidated me further.

The bar felt heavier than I’d anticipated. After a few reps I began to wonder if I would make it to 12. After half a dozen my hands really hurts and I knew that I wouldn’t. I stopped at 8 and, embarrassed, grabbed the 20kg barbell again…

I was very taken aback the following day when I told this tale to a colleague. He burst out laughing. “You know those bars are like, 20kg or something, don’t you?” Er… no, I didn’t know that.

But further research proves that he is correct. Those bars are weights in themselves! I don’t think that particular bar was quite 20kg, but I could definitely believe that it was at least 10kg! With this new information in mind I will make a better estimate next week… And try again!

I returned to the gym that evening to do some race pace miles.
2 x mile @ 8:00/mile
8:00/mile: Ambitious? Yes. Impossible? I hope not… I knocked these out on the treadmill because I suck at pacing myself at the moment. It was a good way to make my legs pay attention to what they should be doing. My legs were more tired than I had realised though and I was keen to get it over with. I probably should have done 3 reps, but I went home for a long bath instead.

Wednesday: Rest day
I was working in a school on the Wednesday, teaching kids to ride bikes safely on the roads, and then spent the evening teaching little kids how to cycle and helping to run the Harrow Women’s Bike Club. Not as restful as a rest day should be, but I do love my job.

Thursday: Track
A horrid mixture of 800s, 400s and 200s, with tiny recoveries and lots of sweating. It felt brilliant. Even if I’m not breaking any records, I’m taking pride in my even reps and the fact I stuck the whole session out.

Friday: Rest day
I accidentally got really drunk on Friday night. I turned down a night out because I wanted to get an early night and instead took up an offer of a quiet pint in the (sort of) local. Big mistake. They sell excellent ale and I went home steaming. No surprise that Saturday was hard work…

Saturday: Parkrun and yoga
Half marathon pace
I had arranged to meet a clubmate at my local parkrun and so I reluctantly hauled myself out of bed after a sketchy night’s sleep, necked 2 cups of coffee and a few pints of water, went to the toilet several times, and walked to Finsbury Park for our agreed ‘race pace’ parkrun.

She didn’t show up.

I later discovered that I had missed her email the night before telling me she couldn’t make it, but I’m quite glad I missed it. It would have been too easy to stay in bed and miss out on a good run. I didn’t quite nail that 8:00/mile pace, instead hitting 8:15/mile, but practice will hopefully make perfect.

Yoga in the park was a struggle with the hangover. My balances were even less balanced than usual and every forward bend made me spin out. But by the end the hangover had been more or less shaken on off and I got on with my chores and errands.

I’d like to say I’ve learned my lesson, but regular readers will know I never do.

Sunday: Long run
11 miles with last mile at race pace
I recently trained as a Leader in Running Fitness and have been helping out a local running group in Finsbury Park – the wonderful Alison Harrow’s ‘Run with me in Finsbury Park‘ group. Alison was away training this weekend (a coach has got to fit her training in sometime!), so I took her group on a jog along the New River, a man-made river that flows through Tottenham. I’ve never actually run along the New River before – it’s always looked a bit too muddy and dangerous – but it was really beautiful! We looped around reservoirs, ran through flower gardens, saw a coot cuddling her 4 baby chicks atop a nest of sewage and empty Special Brew cans (thank you, Tottenham)…


Following the advice of Coach Tom, I decided to throw a ‘half marathon’ pace mile in at the end. I jogged to Clissold Park for this – a flat park where I knew I would be able to hold a pace away from crowded streets and road crossings. I aimed to hit that ‘steady pace’ that I had almost nailed at Saturday morning’s Parkrun, but it was so hard! Obviously this does not make me any more enthusiastic about Tom’s suggestion to build towards 4 race pace miles at the end of a long run, but the fact it was so hard actually just makes me realise how important it is that I try… Don’t you just hate it when the coach is right?



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