2016 English National Marathon (London) Championships Training – Pre-Base Base Training

Quite often come the beginning of December and with a Spring Marathon planned I put in a period of heavy base training – lots of long runs at a comfortable pace and not an awful lot else. This year though was going to be similar, if slightly different. I went into the start of the month with a niggling calf injury sustained at the Chester Marathon in October and a dodgy left hip / groin / hamstring issue which was making fast running in particular very uncomfortable.

I endured what was probably the most painful massage I’ve ever had at the start of the month, which did a fantastic job on clearing down scar tissue in the calf, but the hip / groin issue was still a concern. I began the month with the Nene Valley 10 (Race report elsewhere) which concluded my 2015 racing campaign in pleasing manner, albeit tinged with the unavoidable fact that I was barely able to walk at the end of the race.

In desperation I turned to a little star purchase I made at the start of the year from, of all places, Aldi. They were selling sports and fitness related books – yoga, pilates, weights etc. at a low price. I bought all six of them and flicked through them all. The one that saw the most attention was a book on stretching. It was interesting as it was written by a ballet dancer and had stretches for the entire body, many of them not your typical running themed stretches. Many were frankly impossible to carry out properly for a body rendered totally unsupple with tens of thousands of running miles, but some I found particularly effective. So, for three weeks in December I set about religiously going through the 30 minute or so stretching routine and at the end of the year there was definitely improvement, to the point that I could extend my run home from Belton House parkrun mostly pain free rather than hobbling pathetically home.

Apart from the two parkruns there was not much in the way of quick running and a fair amount of moderate distance runs at an easy pace. The most satisfying run of the month was probably a 10k brick effort following the only long bike ride of the month (60 miles) which saw me average 6:36 pace and felt effortless. The best run of the month was definitely the GRC Christmas Lights run, which was a festival of all that is good and wrong with light displays and a visit too from none other than Father Christmas! I got the opportunity to dress up as the man himself on the club’s Christmas Eve run, which earned a fair few toots of the horn as I ran briefly beside the A1 on the way to Ponton. A heart-warming social run was made more challenging by some pretty terrible weather but it was a cheery way to begin the Christmas holidays.

2015 saw all my remaining running goals broken – a cycling goal I created mid year was on the gym’s spin bike. Having not used a bike that read your watts before, I was intrigued on my first session to hit 2.7 watts per k/g. That quickly rose to 3.1 and thereafter set myself a target of hitting 4.0 w/kg – a figure I vaguely recalled meant you were an okay cyclist.  Come the beginning of December I was tantalisingly close with a brace of 3.9 w/kg rides. The 14th December session saw an extra determined effort which saw me clock, by a watt or two, 4.0 w/kg. The jubilant scenes were almost as great as when I broke 2:45! I backed this up with an hour ride on 23rd December, where I clocked 3.9 w/kg. Not sure how much higher I can go but it will be fun trying. What is worth noting is that the efforts are having a great showing on my road cycling – I am much stronger than I was at the start of the year, and hopefully I can carry this forward into 2016.

Training over Christmas is a political and logistical minefield and I set no goals or targets and opted for an eat and drink loads strategy to help with the fat burning training in January…. The pre Xmas weekend with the in-laws saw a welcome innovation with the introduction of Boston parkrun – I felt dreadful and somehow mustered second. I felt better the next day and ran 17 windy miles with a sub six minute final mile to finish, followed by 14 even windier miles the following day. There was no Christmas Day run – that has been lost to the children – but I did get to run parkrun on Boxing Day. Travelling to Minehead on the Sunday, there was a couple of ten mile runs on the Monday and Tuesday, the hills coming as something of a shock to the body but otherwise not too bad considering the levels of food and drink consumed.

The spanner in the works came courtesy of a fiery sore throat which meant that my last run of the year on New Year’s Eve was looking  very unlikely before I decided to risk it and put in 7 very slow miles, thankfully with no ill effect. New Year’s Day was a hungover 5 mile run with my brother who now lives in Canada and was finding the 6C so warm he saw it fit to run it in a vest – which made my full thermal attire look a little weedy.

The last two days of pre-base base training came in the form of a ten mile run on the Saturday which was a little uncomfortable with the sore throat and a little concerning with how tubby the body felt. I could have done though with a little more body fat on the Sunday morning when I took part in the first Witham Wheelers ride of the year. It began overcast but shortly before the coffee stop it began to rain and I struggled to stay warm. The ride was cut short by around 20 miles because of some fairly atrocious weather, I cycled in with the quick boys simply to try and keep some warmth in the body. It took me until well into the evening before I felt like I had warmed up.

With that and with no plan about what marathon training for 2016 should actually consist of, I ended pre-base base training and went straight into marathon training – which will begin with a period of more base. It’s all about the base.