2016 London Marathon Training – Week 14 (4-10 April)

I was fully expecting to be too exhausted to train much on the Monday following the 32 miles of running over the weekend. It was a pleasant surprise then that the obligatory early morning hour on the elliptical trainer passed without much difficulty, save for feeling rather tired.

I was booked on to spinning that evening and again I was expecting it to be a difficult affair. Even more surprisingly than the hour on the trainer in the morning, I felt fresh and strong from the off and I set a new PB for average watts over the 40 minute session – 264, three up on my previous best. If I could only have my time trials held on stationary bikes with disco lights and music I would be laughing…

Tuesday saw the debut trip in the recently acquired family caravan. Before we set off I put in an early morning hour on the elliptical trainer and felt strong again from the off, setting, I believe a new best in terms of ‘distance covered’. I had hoped to be able to possibly run later on in the day but the setting up of the caravan proved to take rather longer than anticipated (6 1/2 hours…) and with the kids only just in bed at 11pm, thoughts of a run had been firmly postponed.

Wednesday though was a different matter and with the family getting used to, and enjoying, caravan life, I set off for an exploratory ten mile run. It happened that where we were staying, a few miles south of Sheffield, was on the Penine Way trail and I enjoyed an out and back run on what very much looked like a former railway line, complete with tunnel shaped tree branches and very gentle gradients. What wasn’t gentle was the hailstorm that battered me as I concluded the run around a nearby lake. I could barely see as the hail lashed relentlessly against my face and stung my legs and hands. Almost worse still was that the showers were closed for cleaning when I returned to the caravan site, which meant I had to wait 30 minutes before I could properly warm up.

The caravan trip was just a couple of days long, meant more as a systems check than a full blown holiday. We returned Thursday lunchtime, successfully reversing the caravan into its rather tight home after an hour or so of trying. We arrived home in an even more biblical hailstorm that literally blocked my gutters with ice! I was thankful I wasn’t out running in that.

I was though meant to be running that evening, another marathon paced effort with Grantham Running Club. There were a couple of familiar faces and a new runner Ben, who showed enormous promise for a runner with just a couple of months of training behind him. His club debut was something of a baptism when we were struck by another hailstorm minutes into the run. Thankfully we found shelter in the form of a bus shelter, where we huddled like drowned rats for a couple of minutes before the hail turned to merely heavy rain and we set off again. Thankfully the rain eased and it became a pleasant ten mile run, made thirteen miles long by the time I’d run back home.

Friday saw 90 minutes on the elliptical trainer that was straightforward enough; it saw me enjoying the conclusion of the 1996 London Marathon and Liz McColgan’s victory. It must be that time of year when the cycling videos make way for marathon re-runs. It’s always fascinating to watch the old races and see how the city of London has changed, how running fashions have evolved, yet the suffering remains the same.

On Saturday I had planned to do a similar marathon pace and parkrun that I’d done last week, but Belton House parkrun was cancelled on the Friday as preparations for the Belton Cup have made the course a bit of an obstacle course. I delayed my run until nearly midday and set out for a run that had no real intent. I felt a little lethargic and didn’t really fancy pushing myself at marathon pace. Instead I thought I’d tackle some hills and so began with Princess Drive. As happens with many of my runs, a good hill seems to kick start me into action and I soon found myself running low six minute miles – to all sense and purpose a marathon paced run. This it was except I was also pushing on the hills. I headed out to Gonerby Hill Foot, through the village and down towards Downtown and the A1. I was feeling good in the sunshine, although the final 12% ramp of the Gonerby Hil really numbed the legs.

The reason I don’t often run Newark Hill is that it’s not easy to make a loop out of it without either running on the A1 (foolhardy in the extreme) or making a very long run of it on a road that is a bit of a high speed cut through for those who are coming from or heading to Nottingham and don’t fancy getting snarled up in Grantham. Therefore it was the first time I’d run up it in anger. It is a cracking climb – just shy of two thirds of a mile at a near constant 6% gradient. With ten miles in the legs it wasn’t easy going but I made it up before the lactate got the better of me and I pushed on and over the top –  6:16 the mile clocked at (5:40 with Strava GAP applied).

I decided that I would make it a half marathon distanced run and ran the last three miles fairly hard, bagging my fourth Strava segment on the dash down to Living Health (the other three being Goodliffe Road and the two hills – Newark and Gonerby). The 13.5 miles took 1:23 – averaging 6:11 – a good lunchtime run!

Ideally I would have cycled on Sunday morning but wife’s work meant that I couldn’t be out all morning so a run would have to suffice. I was worried my legs would be really stiff after a hard lunchtime run, pleasingly they were very fresh feeling. I quickly devised an 18 mile run on the computer taking in Woodland Water, where my parents had stayed in their motorhome recently and had recommended a lap of the lakes. The weather was perfect for running, a little brisk first thing but soon warming up in the spring sunshine. The route was most enjoyable – I had to chance it a little with some road running on the A607 where the footpath gives up the ghost, but thankfully at 9am on a Sunday morning the roads are very quiet.

Woodland water was lovely, the quiet roads to Hough on the Hill tranquil, save for the groups of cyclists making their way out of town on their Sunday rides. I had a bit of a headwind for the final miles home, but I was able to keep the pace constant for the entirety of the 19.2 mile run – averaging a pleasing 6:45.

A pleasing final week of full training before taper time begins. Again a little light early on in the week but with a highly satisfying big mileage weekend to hopefully give me the speed and strength required come race day. Now for the section of marathon training I hate most – taper!

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