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 One (4-10 January)

The annual Christmas and New Year tradition of eating way too much and drinking even more left my body feeling a veritable mess come the first day proper of marathon training. I felt like I’d put on a stone or more; I can’t tell you how much exactly I did put on – I was too scared to weigh myself…

Feeling like I was five foot ten and a hundred tons, Monday came and even if I hadn’t quite got the full urge back to put my heart and soul into another marathon campaign, I was utterly determined to lose the weight I’d put on over Christmas. Thankfully the sore throat and general malaise I’d suffered over New Year was somewhat cleared and I could start training relatively refreshed.

If I had pretenses of being a coach in the waiting or some kind of running guru, I could pretend I spent hours and hours devising an in-depth training plan for the forthcoming weeks. The reality is somewhat different. Following on from the successful summer 2015 training campaign for Chester (four personal bests from 5k up to marathon) I have opted for the same very simple plan. Aim for around two hours of cardiovascular activity each day, plenty of easy paced runs with marathon heart rate runs thrown in, the odd interval session, spin sessions on the bike and, as it is the start of the year, an attempt to take part in as many Witham Wheelers’ Reliability Rides as possible. I’ll prefer to operate on a train as you feel basis, hopefully avoiding some of the injury issues that have plagued training plans where I’ve religiously tried to stick to a plan ambitiously mapped out when feeling fresh and injury free.

For the first week (and probably the remainder of January) the theme was very much about building base mileage – plenty of easy paced, relatively long, runs. I liked the idea of running ten miles a day on those base building days purely on its simplicity, so that is pretty much what I did.

Feeling like I needed to start the week with a bit of a blast to help start shifting the flab I set out on my favourite ten mile loop of Grantham and soon found myself running at a steady pace just a few beats lower than my prescribed marathon heart rate. In many ways it was a good session to begin with as it gave me a good indicator of current form. The conclusion was that I was in reasonable shape, certainly better running wise than twelve months earlier, averaging 6:21 per mile and concluding the run with a 6:00 mile.

I was still suffering the effects of the cold, so I kept it at one session for the day. Come Tuesday, feeling much better and with the eldest kid back at school – I began the twice a day regime. First up the easy paced ten miles in the morning which felt surprisingly easy; later in the day a comfortable hour on the elliptical trainer, which I remembered after a few moments on it had all but fallen apart just before Christmas. Two days of research later and a new one was on order.

Wednesday was more of the same, albeit with the hour on the elliptical trainer first, and the ten mile run a little later in the morning. Thursday I rocked it like I did on the Tuesday – ten in the morning  (a little harder going than in previous days) and an hour on the elliptical trainer in the afternoon.

Friday was logistically a difficult day to exercise so it was just an hour on the elliptical trainer, which was probably no bad thing after 40 miles covered in four days. That evening saw a rare night on the tiles. Mixing cider and cocktails was never going to be a good idea and Saturday’s long run / parkrun combo idea was quietly put to bed as I overslept and woke with a slightly sore head.

Dehydrated and head still pounding, I headed out at around 11 am for long run #1 of the training campaign. I opted for an out and back 15 mile effort to a relatively unused (for running) lump in the earth called Hough-on-the-Hill. Despite my best attempts to handicap myself the run was surprisingly good – a healthy tailwind on the outward leg meant I was running comfortably under 6:40 per mile; the return was tough at times into the wind but it was not too hard to maintain miles at around 6:40 – finally averaging 6:39.

Feeling really thirsty I thought it was a good time to weigh myself, so as to potentially lessen the depressing scenario. The rather surprising news was that I was half a pound less than a week before Christmas, which was certainly a good morale booster, even if it was probably a false dawn caused by serious dehydration.

Sunday and it was time to test the liver once again by heading to Lakeside, Frimley Green, to watch the final of the World Darts Championship. It was a fairly early start but I managed to get out for another ten mile run on what is now a very familiar route. I was really happy with the run – low heart rate and a 6:45 average. The darts was brilliant; the benefit of it being a one-sided affair meant I didn’t get to drink my body weight in cider, although I had tried pretty hard in the three hours we were there.

Week one’s training went far better than I could have envisaged and has given me great optimism for the weeks ahead. Spurred on by this wave of enthusiasm, I finally got around to joining Belvoir Triathlon Club and entered the Dambuster Duathlon in March. I had entered the Clumber Park Duathlon last year but a sacrum fracture put pay to that; hopefully I’ll make it to the start line this year.

I want to try and put in an honest effort so the training in the next few weeks will tailor itself a little to that – spin classes, bike rides, brick runs and, not forgetting my secret weapon, the elliptical trainer. On the way down to Lakeside I popped into Leekes in Coventry to pick up my new ride. Coming in at 69kg it certainly was a challenge to get into the car (Luckily I had some help). The proof will be in the using but at £400 after a hefty reduction and a double cashback I think I may have grabbed myself a bit of a bargain – if I can work out how to put it together…

Keeping The Dream Alive

A  couple of weeks or more has past since I last posted. As expected there has been no miracle recovery from the left hip / glute pain I was suffering. I had the MRI scan the day after I last posted. The staff there recognised me from the last time I had my MRI scan and remembered the injury I’d suffered on the other leg. I was less fidgety than the last time I was scanned but it was distinctly uncomfortable – I’d hobbled the kilometre or so to the hospital and now the area around the problem was throbbing.

The scanner wished me all the best as I left, informing me the results would take 7-10 days for the GP to have them. That she wished me all the best made me think straight away she may had seen something amiss. I hobbled home, began work on the final F1 test, putting in two hours on the elliptical trainer when time allowed.

That weekend saw two hours on the Saturday and another three hour effort on the Sunday, broken up into segments as I kept an eye on incoming work from the Barcelona test. Monday saw an hour on the trainer in the morning before another attempt at swimming in the evening. I was a little quicker than the week before, but still not exactly swift.

The past two weeks have been more or less more of the same since. Regular sessions of two hours on the home elliptical trainer, a couple of attempts at rowing at the gym (Really hard work, but still able to get to around or just below 2:00 per 500m) – a couple of intense marathon HR style sessions on the gym elliptical trainer – the first of which saw the sad demise of my much loved Sansa Clip MP3 player, which died mid song, and despite numerous attempts to resuscitate it proved fruitless. A Sansa Clip Sport was swiftly purchased, which is a little larger but has better battery life and, with a 32GB micro SD card inserted, has enough capacity to keep me listening for weeks on end.

I went to the GP on Friday 6th March to discuss the results of my MRI. To no-one’s surprise the results showed ‘a near mirror image’ of the sacrum stress fracture that had occurred on the right side in October. What the doctor couldn’t determine was why they were happening – so he has ordered some blood tests for certain things to rule more things in or out.

That Sunday I joined Witham Wheelers for my last Reliability Ride with them this year. The 18-19 mpg group went out at nearly 21 mph for the first 15 miles, a pace I’d maybe be able to just about keep up with when fully fit, but had little chance with one leg that was a struggle to put full power through and a heavy cold that has left me distinctly fatigued. I was lucky to have two other riders to work with into the headwind down to Rutland Water. Oddly I was able to ride pain free on the steeper hills so I broke clear on one climb, then lost them, meaning I had to ride the last 25 miles solo. I had a bit of a tailwind to help but was pleased to raise my average from 17.4 mph to 18.2 mph by end of the ride.

This last week has seen my ability to walk improve again dramatically over the course of the week. I’ve not actually been out to test it properly, but walking around the house is now limp and pain free. I’ve been covering the Australian Grand Prix since Tuesday so I’ve been in a bit of a strange sleeping spell – 2-3 hours in the evening before waking around 1 am, then working  to around 11 am before trying to grab a couple of hours sleep in the afternoon. As I write this on Monday morning, I still feel as if I am totally jet-lagged without having actually left my house.

It has had a bit of an affect on my training – Monday saw a good session at the gym, the cold meant that I avoided swimming, but put in a good hour twenty on the elliptical trainer at marathon HR and perceived effort. Then on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I put in two hours on the home elliptical trainer. Friday I was really tired so I had a day off. Saturday afternoon I managed two hours on the elliptical trainer, but it was a struggle and my HR was around 10 bpm higher than it should be – presumably through tiredness.

Sleep deprivation took its toll on Australian GP Sunday, the afternoon saw me barely able to leave the sofa after a twelve hour stint at the computer which began at 2 am. This morning I managed an hour on the home elliptical trainer, but the active HR was 15-20 bpm higher than it was a week ago. Hopefully a couple of good nights sleep will see me right again.

Four weeks from the fracture occurring and I felt strong enough to begin my strength and conditioning routine, which began with the glutes and hips. Most were fairly easy except for one particular leg raise that worked abductors, which was way too painful to perform. Whether this is because the fracture is still not totally healed (I have another 2-4 weeks to wait yet) or it’s a clue as to what may have caused the fracture, I’m not sure. but it’s worth noting for future reference.

Whether I run London is now going to depend on how well I get back into running – which I’m hoping to do two weeks from today. I have no expectations now, I’m hoping I can just get to the start line and enjoy the experience. If I don’t make it then it is a case of looking forward to hopefully a good Summer.

Keeping Those Fitness Level Up

Short of being given the green light to commence running again – which may or may not happen when I see the NHS Physio in a couple of weeks time – the final stage of my recovery from the sacral ala fracture occurred yesterday when I was able to, unaided by a wall to prop me up, put my trousers on whilst standing up. This had either been physically impossible or too painful from the moment of the breakdown seven weeks ago. so I’d always needed a chair handy when putting on clothes or shoes – a fairly tedious state of affairs.

This simple act completed the rehabilitation that saw me six weeks ago wondering if I’d ever walk properly again without intense pain, to being able to cycle, to being able to use the elliptical trainer, to being able to walk fairly pain free, to being able to walk normally and forget that I’ve still an ailment that prevents me from running. From what I’ve read I believe it takes 6-8 weeks for the fracture to heal, so in theory, eight weeks is next Monday – six days away. I’m not going to push it though and will seek advice from the Physio first. Ideally I’d like X-Rays to prove the bone is 100% back to how it should be, but I’m pessimistic the NHS will allow me this luxury.

November has, in terms of days when I’ve exercised, been highly productive, with just two days where I’ve neither been on the elliptical trainer nor out on the bike. Those two days rest came just after I last posted on here and were thanks to working on the last F1 race of 2014 at Abu Dhabi. The day after that finale I was out on the bike, finally tackling the Witham Wheelers inspired ’13 Hills of Belvoir’ ride that I’d intended to ride on at least two earlier occasions. With an extra hill to take me out of Grantham in the opening miles, it was a challenging but enjoyable ride of 65 miles, tackled, without a stop (Despite what the erroneous Garmin Edge 810 data may imply), in a whisper over 17 mph average. The hardest part of the ride was getting some feeling into my fingers for it was a cold morning – the feet remained numb for most of the day. I wasn’t feeling in fantastic shape but enjoyed the challenge of the hills, one of which at least – Terrace Hill – appears in the 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs bible of hills to climb in the British Isles. It’s not a hugely difficult climb, but as a resident of Lincolnshire, I am very grateful for any vertical challenges in the vicinity of where I live.

The next five days were spent on the elliptical trainer: just an hour on the Tuesday when I was covering the final F1 test of the year (Again in Abu Dhabi); Wednesday I doubled up and fitted in two 45 minute sessions around the demands of work and family. Thursday saw an old favourite from the early years of the 21st Century – the high resistance pyramids session, which reminded the quads that they are still fairly weak. Two hours on the machine on Friday was followed by a late evening hour on the Saturday – the whole week’s effort brought to me courtesy of the 1998 Tour de France and the torrid tale of EPO abuse and rider strikes that afflicted the Festina Tour.

Sunday morning saw me ride for the first time as a paid up member of Witham Wheelers (At least I assume I am – the application was put in the post some days earlier). I’d planned to go out in the same group as last time but a mis-reading of the rides going out on their website meant I found myself in the slightly slower Intermediate group. I wasn’t too upset at this as they were planning a longer ride of around 65 miles, the group was fairly small, which meant I was better able to get to know each of the riders, and I was rapidly going downhill with a cold, so a fairly sedate pace (Save for the couple of hills where I couldn’t resist pushing on the pedals) was just what the doctor ordered (Well (s)he’d probably suggest rest, but (s)he isn’t living in the real world of an exercise addict…) A thoroughly pleasant ride was made all the better by some unseasonably warm, sunny, weather for the last day of Autumn.

The first day of Winter saw an unplanned day off thanks to the cold which rendered me largely useless. Bringing this up to date, today I ignored the streaming nose, aching legs, and tight chest, to put 90 more minutes on the elliptical trainer. It probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do, but I felt no worse after than I did beforehand, so hopefully no damage done.

Weather depending it will be more of the same for the next couple of weeks – mostly elliptical trainer with the odd bike ride thrown in. Hopefully the Physio will give me that green light to commence running. If they do, it’s going to be a slow, drawn out affair, but I’d love to be running before Christmas, even if it is just for a handful of minutes.