Week two of marathon training began with a longer than usual Monday run as it was with Grantham Running Club on their Monday Night session. This week there were only two others there. For the first four miles or so I went off more or less at my own pace, knocking off miles between seven and seven and a half minutes. For the second half I was to guide a relative newcomer to the club – Liam – around Grantham and back to the club and the pace slowed somewhat outside eight minutes per mile, which felt a great deal harder than when I was running at a comfortable pace.
Tuesday was my solo marathon paced run – the intention again to run it to a maximum heart rate. Mileage was up a touch on last week – from eight miles to eight and a quarter and the bulk of the run was in the opposite direction. Cold – temperatures hovering at around zero Celsius – and a touch icy in places, I progressed smoothly from a 7:20 first mile to 6:23 for the transitional second mile, then 6:28 for the third mile which included one of the three climbs en route. From there the run was comfortably hard – as it should be, knocking out mile splits of 6:19; 6:13; 6:23; 6:23; and 6:00. The HR though did drift a fair amount over the maximum of 165 bpm, showing that I am 1. not quite as fit as I want to be and 2. my body isn’t yet intuitively sticking to what it knows should be marathon HR. That said, I was happy to complete the 8.25 miles at 6:26 per mile average.
With the HR creep in mind, Wednesday’s run saw me trial the hitherto unused HR Max alert on my Garmin. I’ve not used them previously as I’ve found the constant beeping of previous (not necessarily Garmin models) annoying when you stray into a red zone. I wondered if this Garmin would be a little more intelligent. It was an easy paced run, taking me up a hill I’ve not run up before (And if you believe Strava, nor has any runner) and through Belton House’s grounds. I set the watch to alert me if it went over 150 bpm which it did ion the first hill. I was pleased to see that it did just one beep, a buzz vibration and a message warning on the watch, which it repeated every 15 seconds or so I was over my limit.
This was fine – I’d prefer it if I could press a button after the first instance of triggering an alert so that it wouldn’t beep again for the while you are over the prescribed limit. This for instance could be useful if you are climbing a big long hill and you want to temporarily abandon HR limits, or, as I practice in marathons, run the final section of the race at above the HR I’d set myself for the first section of the race. To the best of my knowledge the watch doesn’t have this function. Despite this slight annoyance I will set it up for the next few marathon HR training sessions to alert me if I creep over 165bpm, as I found myself on Tuesday’s run almost looking more at the watch then I was on the road in front.
More pressing on the run was an incident where I came very close to losing my MP3 player – a fence had to be climbed to retrieve it when it pinged free from my shorts after snagging the headphones cable…. Thankfully I was able to retrieve the player and the clip and the run continued – 7.25 miles at an average of 7:23 per mile.
Thursday saw me reacquaint myself with Grantham Running Club’s Thursday night group. I planned it to be a 13 mile or so run, so it would double up as my long run for the week. Jogging to the meeting place I felt comfortable. At the club were some familiar faces and a couple of new ones – one being a Latvian runner called Janis, who I’d heard great things of – a 2:33 marathon runner and with a half marathon best of 1:09.
We began the run steadily enough but on the first drag up out of town I found myself instinctively picking up the pace, seeing who was willing and able to go with me. Knowing what the answer would be, within half a mile it was just me and Janis running together. Into the dark, and, in places, icy, country lanes, we ran together, sharing the light from my head torch. It was the first time since I’d left Kenilworth Runners’ training nights that I’d been able to run a sustained threshold pace run with a training partner – and it felt great! On undulating terrain, we knocked out seven and a bit quality quality miles: 6:25; 5:51; 6:05; 6:15; 6:20; 5:52; and 6:11.
Realising that I was pushing my luck in terms of exceeding my current training abilities, I insisted, in pretty basic English, that we eased up for the final couple of miles back into town, concluding with a 6:50 and a 7:09. It was then we got to chat a little bit for the first time since the run had begun. Janis’ English is not great and my Latvian is non-existent, but it was obvious we both shared a passion for running, for athletics, and for sport. Back at base we chatted for a while longer waiting for the others to arrive. After ten minutes and just three of the seven returned, I had to call it a day for I was getting cold and stiff. I jogged the mile and a bit back home which made it jut slightly over half marathon distance – covered in a fairly sprightly 1:27 – all the more pleasing because I’d had a mightily painful massage in the morning which tends to leave the legs sub-par for a day or so.
Suddenly after Thursday night club runs being, for the most part, a slow long run, the arrival of Janis – who is keen to train for us to train together – means the dynamic of my training looks set to change. I imagine it will revert to something closer to how it was at Kenilworth, with Tuesday and Thursday nights being faster, harder runs. It may mean that the long weekend run will need to be run a little slower. It may be that I can cope with this increased demand and it will improve my running. Time will tell, but for now I am very happy to have someone comparable, someone quicker than me, who I can run intervals and tempo based sessions with.
Time constraints on the Friday meant that the recovery run was a rushed affair combined with dropping my daughter off at school. Stiff and feeling the cold air (minus five Celsius) I managed four and a bit miles at a fairly slow pace. Worryingly the left inner shin, which had ached on occasion for each of the past three runs, had moaned during the run and continued to ache whilst walking during the day. I’ve not had shin pain for many years, but the area around which it hurts has been a major cause of problems many moons ago – a place I definitely don’t want to visit again. For the meantime I remembered the long forgotten practice of writing the alphabet with your feet and some balance exercises to hopefully combat the discomfort.
For Saturday I’d originally intended to combine a long run with a parkrun. With the shin being a bit iffy and the weather outside looking decidedly icy, I decided to play it fairly safe and put myself on the elliptical trainer for an hour before testing the shin with an easy paced ten km. Thankfully, aside from a brief ache early in the run, the shin was pain free – as it was for the remainder of the day.
Sunday was Witham Wheelers Reliability Ride #4. 45 or so miles on an undulating course. I stuck myself in group 4 – 18 to 19 mph). The opening 25 miles was very comfortable. I sat in the pack, took a share of the pacing, and even pulled the pack back in when I lost some time trying to replace thick winter gloves for thinner ones.
On the only major climb of the day the group splintered. Having been strong on the hills a week earlier, I was disappointed not to stay with the quicker riders – feeling it a bit in the quads and also disrupted by one cyclist’s misfortune of having his chain fall off just in front of me and him then toppling off as he failed to unclip in time. I spent the remainder of the ride solo as I tried my best to stay within sight of the lead group – picking off three or four riders along the way. Although I never quite reeled them all back in – I was happy to only finish a minute or so behind them and that I’d ridden the last 16 miles or so at above 20mph average. I completed the ride at an average speed of 18.97 mph, which was pretty spot on for an 18-19 mph reliability ride.
I’d chatted a while back at the clubhouse, then cycled home and quickly changed into my running gear to run the same 3 1/2 mile loop I’ve done each Sunday since Christmas. Despite the extra miles and effort of the ride just gone and the legs subsequently feeling really tired, the run went very well, coming in with a 6:01 average and 5k passed in 18:46. It wasn’t lost on me that this was nearly a minute quicker than the previous Sunday and nine seconds quicker than the parkrun at Melton earlier in the year.
All in all it was a good week – 51 miles covered on the road and the bike and an hour on the elliptical trainer. I got three quality runs in and the pace generally is heading in the right direction. This week will hopefully be more of the same with a gradual increase of distance. The first day though began with a scheduled rest day, albeit with seven miles of brisk walking with a double school run. It should hopefully leave me well rested for a good marathon pace session tomorrow and a good remainder of the week.