96 Days to VLM – Week One Training Summary

Last week I decided it would be a good time to start my London Marathon training. For last year’s marathon I created a plan – albeit a rather rudimentary one. This year I’ve decided not to. This isn’t to say I haven’t got a good idea of what I hope to be doing and when, it’s more that I’ve looked back at all my distance PBs broken in the past year or so and all bar one was set when I was training on a how I feel at the time policy. The marathon was the only PB set to a plan, but that plan unravelled six weeks out anyway through injury and I, through necessity, reverted to type and trained on a micro level rather than macro.

Week one is all about building mileage, as I’m not yet at a level I’d do on a normal weekly basis, let alone for marathon training. Monday night saw me join the beginners at Grantham Running Club, a rather amusing misnomer as between myself and a few other of the runners there, I estimate there was around 100 years of running experience. It was a gentle paced run with more time spent putting the world to rights. Before I knew it eight and a half miles had been covered, slightly surpassing the sum of my longest run, split into three parts two days earlier at parkrun.

Tuesday was my only true hard session planned for the week. It’s intervals night at the club, but I intend to do marathon heart rate runs until at least March as I think they are more beneficial and something I think I lacked last year come race day. With an eight mile run planned and five miles at marathon HR, I was curious, and a little nervous, at what pace I would find myself running at, bearing in mind my first marathon HR run of 2014 saw me average 6:16.

The first two miles were a warm up and the legs were stiff, the calves remaining fearsomely tight from when they first tightened early the week previous. The transition to marathon pace felt laboured and forced, but after a mile or two I settled into an almost familiar rhythm. The first marathon HR mile was 6:27, then a pleasing 6:09, 6;15, 6:28 and closing with a 6:16. It wasn’t entirely comfortable (especially with a dodgy tummy) and I couldn’t do many more miles at that effort but I was happy to see that the pace wasn’t too many seconds slower than last year, albeit with a HR that was far harder to keep under my 165bpm limit.

Wednesday saw me training once again with GRC, partly because I fancied the company and also because a severe frost that morning had left the roads and pavements treacherously icy, ice that only cleared an hour or so before we set off at 7pm. This was not a run I’ll treasure. Twenty five minutes out and back, the calves were so tight they felt like they’d snap, the pelvis ached and the strong, cold head wind on the way back made the seven miles covered feel laboured and unnecessarily tough.

I was thankful that Thursday (15th Janurary) was a rest day, planned some time ago. It was the first day of rest since January 2nd. Friday was a beautiful sunny, crisp morning and I had it to myself so I opted to make it my long run day – which this week was 10 1/2 miles (The half mile more than ten a historic legacy of one of my favourite runs around Warwick University back when I lived in Coventry – which I always used to commence and conclude my marathon training long runs and measured 10.52 miles). For some unfathomable reason I fancied tackling the most fearsome hill (For runners at least) in the Grantham area, the relatively undiscovered Minnett’s Hill. It was as tough as ever, especially with some ice to add to the equation, but I made it to the top without even considering walking which I was pleased with. I was generally pleased with most of the run, although the pace was a touch slower than I’d liked (Average 7:06 per mile) and the last couple of miles were a tough affair. At least the calves were much improved – thanks to the hanging off the step calf stretch.

Saturday I’d left free to run to feel – be it short, another long run, some tempo or maybe even intervals. In the end it became a seven mile progressive run of sorts. After a gentle opening mile the pace gradually increased despite running up a hill and then facing a head wind. The right hip abductor, glute and groin were not that happy for much of the run. When they eased up in the final couple of miles the pace quickened accordingly, coming down to 6:26, then concluding with a 6:06 mile.

Sunday saw me enter the Clumber Park Duathlon in March – my tentative toe in the water towards hopefully taking part in Triathlons later in the year and beyond. This is why I was once again at the local cycle club, taking part in Witham Wheelers Reliability Ride #3. This weekly bike ride is a big diversion from my training of previous years. It’s a risk admittedly, but I’m hopeful that one ride a week won’t hinder the running – it may even help it – and a ride a week is the bare minimum required to be respectable at the Duathlon.

The overnight frost left conditions on the limit in terms of safety for the ride, which took in several of the hills found in the Vale of Belvoir. The start was amended but essentially it was the route as planned and it was more or less safe, save for some ice on the ascent of the final climb, which forced me to stay in the saddle, not an easy task when the ramp is around 14% and you’ve run out of gears. I was happier with this ride than last week’s – I prefer the hills to the flat and rolling roads and the pace was a little gentler too thanks to a merging of groups and the slightly iffy weather conditions.

After a quick sit down for tea, flapjack and some chit chat, I cycled home and quickly put on the trainers and headed out for the 5km (Plus a little bit) run I’ve done for the past couple of weeks as my attempt at training for the demands of transitioning from one discipline to another in Duathlon. The pavements were icy and the running felt ponderous and laboured at times but it was clear from the splits on the Garmin that progress is being made since the beginning of the year. 6:36 for the opening mile, I followed this up with 6;16, then 6 minutes dead, running 5:57 pace for the final quarter mile. I ran 19:25 for the 5k covered, which is a big improvement on previous weeks and left me pleased and encouraged.

For a first week it was generally positive. I’m not at the level I was this time last year but there are signs that the form I had back in September last year is not a million miles away. I also keep telling myself that I most likely peaked at the end of February last year and hopefully this slightly slower build up will see me peak at the right time near the end of April.

This coming week is hopefully a similar tale to last week, albeit with the mileage being upped a little here and there. The weather may have a little say on things but I’m optimistic I’ll have another good week.