2016 London Marathon Training – Week 7 (15-21February)

Week seven of London Marathon training began with the now customary early morning hour on the elliptical trainer. There was a bit of stiffness in the legs, otherwise all felt good. That evening there was another gym session planned where I would do a progressive run on the treadmill followed by a spin session.

The best laid plans were nearly scuppered by Grantham’s infamous traffic woes made worse by no less than three sets of roadworks taking place in the town on the same day. I got to the gym late so had to condense the 50 minute run into something less than 30 minutes. This meant it was a short, sharp, intense session, where I ramped the pace up to 7 mph to a lung busting 12 mph by the end. I didn’t take a note of the splits at the time, but when I got home I noted I ran the third mile in 5:41, then the fourth mile in 5:04, which is pretty much as quick as I’ve ever run a mile (I did run 4:52 at a mile race way back in 2000, I have a timed 5:08 or so on the track from three years ago).

Unaware that I’d pushed the body pretty hard I went into the spinning session expecting another strong session. I noticed straight away during the warm up that the going was harder than usual and so it was that the 40 minute session was a toil from beginning to end,  sweating loads, dehydrated, and unable to generate any real lasting power in the legs. It was only the finale track of The Killers Mr Brightside that spurred me on to a semi respectable 3.9 w/kg average.

Week 7 coincided with school half term so there were to be compromises with the usual training schedule. Tuesday saw no elliptical trainer session, instead a single ten mile run in the evening with eight miles at marathon heart rate. For the opening warm up miles it looked impossible to follow a heart rate as the belt was playing up and giving wholly fictitious readings. Thankfully a liberal coating of saliva appeared to cure the problem.

The tired legs didn’t want to know for the first couple of miles as I forced them to a 6:02 then 5:59 mile. Thankfully they began to wake up and the remainder of the run was a more pleasant affair, with the quickest mile the last at 5:47 and the slowest 6:03. I contemplated running some extra miles but having completed 10 miles next to my house the temptation to stop was too great and I called it a day as planned.

Wednesday was a day out with the family and so was a welcome day’s rest from exercise. Thursday morning saw an easy hour on the elliptical trainer where the calves were tired but otherwise I felt fine. The evening run was with GRC and it was a ten mile circuit with eight miles at around 7:30 pace. We had a couple of new runners to join the ranks and it was a highly satisfying group run in crisp cold, conditions. At it’s conclusion I put in a couple of extra miles to make it 13.5 for the day.

Friday was just an hour on the elliptical trainer and it was a good hour, feeling stronger than I’ve done on the new trainer with more ‘km’ covered as a result. Saturday morning saw a break from parkrun as I wanted to recce the Newton’s Fraction half marathon course in preparation for the forthcoming race. The opening five miles were just to take me to the Meres where the race begins. I felt sluggish but the pace wasn’t bad considering.

Once on the course proper I began to settle into a better rhythm. The stretch on the canal may have looked unimpressive at 6:40 pace but I was running into a fierce headwind. Once I reached the half way point the wind swung in my favour and the run was transformed into something far quicker. I was just one second off the Strava record for Casthorpe Hill (If only I had known…) and then on the run into town I flew down the Low Road taking two Strava segments in due course as I ran 5:54, 5:25, 5:27 and 5:56 for the final four miles of the run. It was a good effort, the left hamstring a little sore at the end from the exertion but otherwise i felt fine.

I wondered how this would leave me for Sunday morning’s Witham Wheelers Reliability Ride – a longer route at 62 miles. There was a strong wind blowing from the west and inexplicably at the last minute the route was reversed, presumably to make the ride easier. In reality it made it tougher, firstly as those who relied on their Garmin routes for navigation couldn’t and those who knew the route from memory of it the right way round found it hard to get it exactly right.

Group 4 flew for a fair amount of the ride helped by the favourable wind. We then lost our pro rider Karl to a mechanical (who we all had secretly hoped would ride at the front for the last part of the ride!) and then for the final 15-20 miles we were subjected to a relentless gale force headwind. It was tortuous and entering the outskirts of Grantham I finally cracked and rode in slowly with another rider. At the club house I looked and felt a broken man… It was a whole hot cross bun and a flapjack required to give me the energy to ride back home.

Once home the food must have done some good because the idea of a brick run, scrapped somewhere in a headwind after 55 miles of riding, was suddenly back on the agenda. I headed out and after a mile or so the legs began to feel not so bad, I even summoned a sub 6:30 mile to conclude the 5k run. Sadly my Garmin got a bit confused and the run was a bit corrupted by the time it hit Strava, but the mile splits remained intact (I think an elevation issue caused the issue).

That was the last week of training for a while wear a weekend race of some sorts isn’t in the agenda, kicking off with this Saturday’s National Cross Country Championships. It coincides with a busy spell of work with F1 Testing, so who knows how the body will be in three weeks or so time!


2016 London Marathon Training – Week 6 (8-14 February)

The sixth week of marathon training began on the Monday with an early morning hour on the elliptical trainer. Was feeling tired and the right leg was feeling a bit tight at times, but otherwise there were no issues.

The evening session has more than a nod to the forthcoming Dambuster Duathlon in mind, as I warmed up for the normal gym spin session with a progressive run on the treadmill. I don’t run much on the treadmill; when I do I tend to run a progressive paced run as I find them arguably more beneficial than interval sessions and easier to perform on a treadmill where pace is modulated more accurately than on the open road with undulations and junctions to tackle.

This progressive run was an easy reintroduction to the session: beginning at a leisurely 6mph, I increased the pace by 0.2 mph every minute until I reached 7 mph then by 0.1 mph every minute until I reached 10.5 mph. The legs felt good and I felt comfortable as I stepped off the treadmill and literally straight on to a spin bike.

I then got off the first spin bike as it was broken and moved onto another. Embarrassingly for the gym it transpired almost half of them had defects of some form or another and I was lucky to remount on one of the good ones. The good feeling from the run continued on the bike as I ploughed through the session with the legs remaining strong throughout. I was rewarded by a PB equaling 4.0 w/kg average and a couple of watts short of 260 for the average.

The Tuesday morning elliptical trainer session was a little tiring but I found myself pushing instinctively quite hard – still some energy in the legs. The lunchtime 10 mile easy paced run was a familiar tale of being a little weary in the opening miles before loosening off and running the final five miles or so comfortable at around 6:40 per mile pace.

Alarm bells rang on the elliptical trainer early on Wednesday morning, as the hour long session felt like an eternity and really hard work, if only to try and keep the eyes open with excessive tiredness. One of my daughters had been looking a little woozy for a couple of days and had complained of feeling really tired, so I concluded I had what she had.

I contemplated long and hard about not running at lunchtime but guilt got the better of me and before I had time to stop myself I was out and running. The first few miles felt truly rubbish, as if my mind was in a haze. The heart rate was really low, suspiciously low. I had 7 miles at marathon heart rate planned, as I forced my legs to pick up the pace at mile 4 it was obvious that running to heart rate was going to be impossible, averaging 14 beats below what I would normally aim to be running. Instead I was running to pace. It felt like an ugly run, the legs not really wanting to know and the form feeling pretty poor. That I averaged around 6:00 for the seven miles was relatively pleasing considering.

A good night’s sleep on Wednesday and I felt a million times better on the elliptical trainer on Thursday morning – the hour whistling by with no ill effects from the problems of Wednesday. The evening was the Grantham Running Club 7:30 paced run aimed at those targeting a spring marathon. As with my own run on Wednesday, we had 7 miles at pace planned. It was chilly, just above freezing, but with no wind and feeling fresh the run felt effortless – the only difficulty trying to keep the pace down. Once the main run was done I ran three extra miles to make it a thirteen and a quarter mile run in total – a decent midweek long run total.

Friday morning saw an easy hour on the elliptical trainer coupled with a a strength and conditioning session – almost as good as a day off really. Saturday morning’s run was an ambitious one and I wanted to be in good shape for it.

As with the previous week I had a long run planned with a parkrun stuck in the middle of it. Last week I ran twenty miles; this week I had twenty two miles planned. This meant waking early and being out of the house at 7:20 am, which the body didn’t much care for.  The first three of four miles were fairly sluggish. I stopped at the Meres for a semi-planned pit stop and thereafter felt much better. The pace increased from just under seven minute miles to six thirty miles by the time I reached Belton House with a half marathon under the belt.

I had to use the facilities again just before the start of parkrun – something is bothering my stomach at the moment – and made it to the start line literally seconds before the off. I had the dubious honour of battling Barry the Beaver and a bunch of CaniX dogs for the opening hundred yards or so before the run settled down. Barry quickly lost enthusiasm, the dogs were keener but slowed after a mile or so. In the mix of runners with human power only, I found myself third behind a guy I didn’t recognise who would go on to come first by thirty seconds or so and Adam Madge, clearly representing Belvoir Tri Club for the morning.

Adam pulled out a five to ten second gap by the end of the first lap. I didn’t know exactly what pace we were running but could sense it wasn’t bad as the first mile was 5:41 and the second mile was quicker again at 5:33. I was feeling surprisingly fresh and on the bumpy back stretch into the cold headwind slowly brought Adam back to within spitting distance.

On the closing stretch back to the finish we began lapping back markers and I was able to catch Adam. Not thinking twice over whether to sit in his tow, I passed and made a surge to the finish. I didn’t look at the third mile split until I got home but it was 5:28. I had no idea of my final finishing time and contented myself with a strong second place finish.

I still had six miles to run so I ran another lap of the parkrun course before meeting a fellow GRC runner. We shared a mile or so back towards Grantham before I parted company and picked up the pace for the final three miles, back down to sub 6:40 miles. I finished the 22 mile run averaging 6:41 and feeling fairly comfortable. A good long steady run, all things considered.

Sunday morning was another Witham Wheelers Reliability Ride. The wind coming from the north made for a quick run to the club house. I knew that it would make for a tough final section of the ride proper as we would face a bracing head wind. The efforts of the Saturday run appeared to tell early on as I felt distinctly average, feeling the need to take my emergency gel well before half distance.

The gel helped and the middle section of the ride saw me helping near the front with a good section of shared pace making. I got a bit carried away on the hill at Wymondham. That over enthusiasm probably accounted for being dropped from the main pack a couple of miles short of the finish when the pace was stepped up a notch and I found my legs bereft of any remaining power.

The ride complete I headed home and straight out for a 10 km brick run. It felt very similar to the previous week – legs quite stiff and unresponsive for the first couple of miles but not lacking pace, thereafter feeling quite positive and able to maintain and slightly increase the pace in the closing miles.

Another week done, and another positive week of training. Week 7 coincides with half term so the workload will likely be reduced a little as opportunities to train will be restricted. That said, the following two weeks see plenty of work with F1 testing and a succession of races at the weekend, so there is the desire to put in another solid week of training before an enforced cutback.

2016 London Marathon Training – Week Five (1-7 February)

The week began conveniently enough with the start of a new month too. One thing that remained consistent with January moving into February was that the wind, which has been seeming ever present since November, was blowing as hard as ever. The first session of the week was an easy paced ten mile run, the legs felt tired but otherwise I was okay – the wind though made it nearly impossible to keep moving at times.

The evening was spent at the gym. Thirty minutes on the elliptical trainer was followed by a spin session. I increased my FTW slightly (from 260 to 265), the difference that makes is to hit certain colours or percentage of max FTW requires a little more effort. This was shown in the end result  an increase to 3.9 w/kg from  3.8 w/kg for the previous few weeks. I found the low cadence high resistance hill efforts easier than the high rpm sprint sections – those bits I struggled to maintain power.

Tuesday saw an early morning hour long session on the elliptical trainer, time spent with no issues other than the legs feeling fatigued. I headed out a couple of hours later for a ten mile run which was planned on being a marathon heart rate run. However with the legs feeling really tired and the wind blowing so fiercely pacing was nigh on impossible, the session was quietly shelved and became a mere easy paced ten mile run. A sign of the strength of wind is that the last two miles were 6:00 and 5:50 run with no more effort than the middle miles where seven minute miles was an effort.

It was just the one session on the Wednesday – the marathon heart rate session postponed from Tuesday. Again a ten mile run the schedule was six miles at marathon HR which became 10k to make it end at a convenient stopping point. The opening miles were tired and sluggish, therefore it was very pleasing that the 10k at marathon heart rate felt pretty comfortable and was relatively swift – running 36:40 for the 10k. The legs generally felt fine but the left IT band needed attention as the knee was beginning to ache.

Thankfully Thursday saw a planned massage session following another uneventful hour on the elliptical trainer, which helped ease some of the discomfort in the IT band. Thursday evening saw a GRC marathon paced session with six miles at the supposed pace of 7:30 per mile. The session was a success despite some of the miles being a touch on the quick side, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to maintain steady pace with others in front of me pulling away and then coming closer. I had a bit of a dodgy tummy during the run, following an emergency pit stop I was able to put in a couple more miles with a club mate on the way home.

Friday morning was virtually a day off, just an hour on the elliptical trainer following a strength and conditioning session. The legs felt a touch tired, I felt tired. I also felt myself fighting a cold and a slight cough was brewing.

The hardest part of Saturday’s run was making it out of bed having set the alarm for 6:30. As the alarm went I heard the rain smashing against the window. If ever there was a day to stay under the duvet it was today. It took ten minutes to drag myself from under the covers, hardly full of enthusiasm, but by 7:20, a cup of coffee and half a banana consumed I set out on my long run. The plan was similar to a couple of weeks ago – run some miles around town, take part in Belton House parkrun, then run some more miles before heading home.

As this run was planned to be twenty miles I wanted to get plenty of miles in before the parkrun. Things were looking fine with eight miles under the belt, despite the heavy rain falling, when my tummy once again struck trouble. The usual public conveniences were still closed thanks to it being a touch early, so I had to make an impromptu diversion back home to just about make it back in time.

Pit stop done I was out the door and picking up the pace to make it to parkrun in time. I made it with four minutes to spare, thankfully the pre-run briefing was kept brief as the rain lashed into our faces. With exactly twelve miles run I set off with Will Parkin and another young runner at my heels. I let them take the pace for the opening quarter mile as we battled with the wind, once we headed onto the grass I took the lead and, metaphorically speaking, never looked back. I was running with headphones and music, and it therefore felt exactly like a training run rather than a race, which parkrun can often feel like. I hadn’t reset my watch so I didn’t know my time, but I knew I was running sub 6 miles relatively comfortably. I finished first, 18:12 was called by the timekeeper, which was very pleasing considering that is just four seconds outside my course best. The next runner was over a minute behind so it was a fairly emphatic run.

I didn’t hang around too long, I didn’t want the legs to stiffen. I headed to the gated exit to find it was locked with strong winds due later in the day. I tracked back and ran another lap of the parkrun course before heading back home in a distance that couldn’t have been better judged – 20.1 miles (a bit extra to stop just past my home). I averaged 6:39 for the run and was delighted with how fresh I felt at the end. It was as though I’d just run the parkrun and come back again, forgetting the twelve miles run beforehand.

Sunday morning was Witham Wheelers Reliability Ride #4 – 48 miles planned on a route described as undulating. Group 5 (the fastest) merged with group 4 so it was a mixed bunch of riders setting off. I literally lost my bottle heading down the hill at South Parade, the lack of liquid for the ride was not a huge issue as it was only a few degrees above freezing, but it didn’t help.

The opening miles were brisk as we enjoyed a tailwind. I felt strong up the first climb at Londonthorpe and felt good enough to spend the first 30 or so miles at or near the front, spending plenty of time taking on the brisk headwind. It was a bit of a frustrating ride, we stopped three times for punctures, each time we stopped I got cold and struggled a bit to get going again.

On the run in the pace picked up as the group began to fracture. I managed to stay with the lead group as we approached the final climb at Skillington, but I was dropped on the hill as I was stuck at the back of the group on the approaching descent and missed the split as the front of the group put the hammer down. The exact same thing happened when we raced there last summer.

Dropped from the group I had to ride alone on a long drag into a stiff wind. I struggled and was caught by an older rider who had battled up the hill and was now riding better than I was. I stuck on his wheel and rode back to the club room, taking turns at the front which clearly weren’t that fast as he kept pushing on past me. It was pretty much my first bad patch of the year on the bike – looking back, it was hardly surprising given Saturday’s run. 18.4 mph was the final average speed, I seem to be getting slower week by week!

Riding home I kept an eye out for my dropped bottle as it is one of my favourites. Luckily I spotted it in the gutter, missing the liquid it contained but otherwise in the same condition as when it was dropped. Back in the cage I headed home and straight out for a ten km brick run. Like last week the first couple of miles were a bit of an effort but improved in the closing stages so I ended up running as though the ride hadn’t happened. It was though aided by a tailwind for the closing stages. Still 6:45 average and feeling comfortable was a pleasing end to the week.

69 miles of running for the week, three and a half hours on the elliptical trainer, 55 miles on the bike and an hour of spinning. All in all a good week, ending strongly after feeling tired during the week. Tiredness is to be expected, I just need to be careful not to overdo it and to be aware that there are loads of colds and viruses doing the rounds at the moment. I just hope I don’t catch any of them!

2016 London Marathon Training – Week Four (25-31 January)

Following the hard Witham Wheelers ride and brick run last Sunday I rewarded myself with a strong espresso at lunchtime. With no rest for the wicked I had the pleasure of entertaining the kids for the afternoon. Come 4pm I was barely able to keep my eyes open so I took the drastic measure of a third espresso for the day. By 5pm I was wide awake, scarily alert and resigned to the inevitable consequence that sleeping that night was not going to be easy. Lo and behold despite my best efforts to send myself into a coma – the port made an appearance at 11pm, by 2am I was still struggling to get to sleep.

Mercifully I managed to finally drift off, five hours or so later and I was up again. Monday morning session was an hour on the elliptical trainer, completed with no issues other than weariness. The evening’s spin session was in doubt right until the last minute as my wife was working in Cardiff and made it back just in time for me to make it to the gym. I’d every intention of taking the session easy but once Sam, our instructor, eased us into it, I found myself working away and feeling surprisingly comfortable.

It was all good until after a hard sprint effort Sam instructed us to hit the emergency brake button. I did as told, still putting plenty of power through the pedals my right calf cramped up dramatically and very painfully! Looking for a moment like I had been shot, the wave of pain soon past and I was back pedaling, putting in some very high cadence efforts to try and wash away the lactate.

I finished the session, averaging 245 watts. Predictably enough walking was pretty tough with the cramp, but I’ve suffered plenty of night cramps to know that, all things well, the effects are not too long lasting. Tuesady morning saw an hour on the elliptical trainer which had the calf feeling a touch tender but otherwise fine. A couple of hours later and I headed out for the first run of the week. It was meant to be 10 miles with 5 miles at marathon HR, but it didn’t quite materialise. The cramped calf felt fine after a minute or so, but the wind was strong which made pacing hard and, probably due to tiredness, I was finding it hard to get the heart rate up to marathon HR levels. The average pace was 6:21 with a pair of sub 6 minute miles to conclude (albeit wind assisted). Not a bad session considering but not quite what was intended.

Wednesday morning and in balmy conditions (touching 14C first thing) I put in the perfunctory hour on the elliptical trainer. A couple of hours later and I was out for another easy paced 10 mile run, again run in windy conditions. The right calf just ached a touch but generally felt as good as it was before I had the tightening 10 or so days earlier.

That was meant to be it for the day but after I completed the run the wife declared herself unable to go out in the evening, which meant I was free to head out if I wanted. GRC has a Wednesday night session which a fair few had declared an interest in attending, and I thought that an easy paced six or so miles would be a pleasant run and the opportunity to get in some extra miles, especially as I had no long run planned for the weekend.

It was indeed a most pleasant run – around 25 in attendance – as we headed on a 25 minutes out and back course in windy conditions. The pace was comfortable – just under eight minute miles – but the opportunity for a natter was most welcome.

Thursday morning was cold after in comparison to a couple of very warm days, the hour on the elliptical trainer passed without issue. The evening saw GRC’s marathon paced run around town, with five of the eight miles run at or around 7:30 pace. The run itself was easy enough, pacing in the wind proved very difficult, but I was most pleased with the efforts of those running.

Friday morning and once again I kicked off the day with an hour on the elliptical trainer and again there was no issues. The lunchtime run was merely scheduled to be around ten miles with no plans on its structure. It turned out to be a mixed bag in terms of the weather and the run itself. The first few miles were into a strong wind, a little less intense than earlier in the morning but still averaging around 25 mph. Conditions were blustery when I set out, but sunny and quite warm.

I had to stop at the Meres Leisure Center for an emergency pit stop. Feeling rejuvenated on my exit I headed to the A607 where I was aware that on a Belvoir Tri Club Pyramid session on Thursday evening, a runner had taken a segment of mine during one of their efforts, aided by a strong wind blowing behind him. I opted to take advantage of a similar wind and put in a hard two minute effort which I felt sure was quick enough to have taken the segment (It was, by twelve seconds and breaking 5 minutes per mile average!) Rather than make it a blatant steal a segment then take it easy effort, I decided to keep the pace high, running at approximately marathon to tempo heart rate for the final four miles. There was the healthy tail wind for the majority, but the mile splits of 5:34; 5:53; 5:51 and 5:47 were pleasing, especially as in the closing stages of the run the heavens opened and I was soaked to the bone with icy cold rain hitting my body almost vertically thanks to the wind.

Saturday was always going to be a day off as I was off to Doncaster to enjoy part two of my 40th Birthday present – Britain’s Strongest Man. I’ve enjoyed watching the Strongman tournaments since I was a young kid, raised on a diet of Geoff Capes and Bill Kazmaier. I now live just a few miles away from Geoff, although I’ve never met him. I had my chance on Saturday to meet Bill, enjoying my moment of being a fan as we stood together for a photo.

Me with Big Bill
Me with Big Bill

As for the competition itself. Awesome! I’ve seen quite a lot of high profile sporting events and I think think this was definitely one of the best in terms of sporting prowess and the crowd totally getting behind each and every competitor. It will be months before anything is seen on television but I thoroughly recommend it!

Saturday evening and I was at the cinema watching Creed. Another franchise I’ve been a fan of since I was a young lad, this was a brilliant watch, cleverly written – full of references and homage to previous Rocky episodes with a story distinctive enough in its own right to be totally absorbing. With as much testosterone driving the film as I’d witnessed at the strongman tournament I felt inspired that evening to totally smash the ride in the morning and every other session I’d ever do.

Saturday night bravado doesn’t always equate to Sunday morning reality however. The Witham Wheelers Reliability Ride wasn’t quite as satisfying as seven days earlier. The weather was poor with rain falling at times and a wind that always appeared to be a headwind until the final few miles. The numbers were down and I thought I’d try my hand in the quickest group – group five. As there were just four of use we did ten minute efforts on the front for the first hour or so. I assumed my heart rate monitor wasn’t working properly (I’d had to use an old one as the battery had failed on my soft strap and I’m awaiting a replacement) as it was very high from the off, but after an hour I had to conclude I was working hard for little in the way of return.

I struggled on the main climb of the day but stuck in with the other three. I kept with them but could no longer take turns at the front. Ten miles or so from the end pro Karl eased off the front of the group and disappeared into the distance. The other two sat up, I pushed on to the end, cold wet, and a touch miserable. 19.3 mph was the average, disappointed at the time in reflection it wasn’t that bad.

Once home I changed out of my sodden kit and put an excessive amount of running gear on. A mile into my 10k brick run and I was very warm, save for my feet which were still numb. The first 5k was quite hard work feeling dehydrated and tired, but the final 5k was much easier, probably as a result of the post ride slice of flapjack kicking in.

Another week down and some solid work done. Fifty five miles of running, a few more riding, and five or so hours on the elliptical trainer. The legs are feeling strong, but quite fatigued. This is to be expected though given the phase of training so I am not concerned. Next week is probably more of the same, albeit with hopefully the first 20 mile run of the year over the weekend.