With five weeks to go to the Chester Marathon the week had been a good one once I’d fully shifted the cold I’d picked up and suffered over the weekend. Monday saw three hours plus in the gym: A virtual spinning session followed by 45 minutes on the elliptical trainer, ten km of progressive running on the treadmill and a group spinning session to finish me off, all played out whilst outside torrential rain the like of which I’ve not seen in many years flooded parts of Grantham and the surrounding area.
Tuesday was an hour on the elliptical trainer in the morning then a run in the evening which I described euphemistically on Strava as Clearing the pipes, a term the legend David Duffield had coined earlier in the day watching You Tube videos of the 1992 Tour de France. The nasal passages were certainly cleaner once the run had ended, the run feeling very easy despite beginning on jelly legs, knocking out ten and a third miles in sixty four minutes.
Wednesday was a recovery day of sorts, a double spinning session at the gym. The air-con wasn’t working for the first session, which meant Malaysia-esque conditions were replicated for 45 minutes of hard cycling. Luckily the second session was cooler and easier, I pushed on the final rep to see how many watts I could generate. 568 was the result and a slightly tweaked right hamstring the reward.
Thursday saw a fairly painful massage in the morning, an hour on the elliptical trainer in the afternoon and a 13.2 mile GRC run in the evening. IT was good to have a fair few out of there out running what is likely to be the last over the fields run of this summer before the nights start prohibiting where we can safely run. The run was leisurely but good in many ways to knock out some slower miles.
Friday could have been a rest day but I wanted to do something so I spent 75 minutes on the elliptical trainer. Saturday morning was a straight out of bed run, and for that reason was a bit harder than I’d hoped. There were plans of marathon paced efforts, but the first six miles just weren’t that comfortable, languishing at around 6:45 pace. Then something seemed to click and the last four minutes were closer to six minute miles, complete with a cheeky Strava segment steal I’d just missed out on a few days earlier. The section was only 90 seconds or so long, but the pace (5:01) indicated that the legs were in good shape. That evening I put in another easy hour on the elliptical trainer, lamenting the fact that the last 10 minutes were done in darkness out in the shed. Autumn is coming…
Sunday’s run was going to be a bike ride but the conclusion of the World Athletics Championships put pay to that. I woke at 6:30am to watch the Women’s marathon I’d recorded overnight. I was changed and ready to go for 9 o’clock but my wife was still sleeping, having put in a 17 hour stint working and not finishing until 3am. Plans were changed with the athletics due back on at 11am, I decided instead to run once the athletics had concluded in the afternoon.
By 2:30pm it was raining and not feeling particularly inspired I headed out on a 20 mile route I’d hastily put together and uploaded to my watch. Luckily the rain was fairly light and with the temperature around 18C, it was really rather pleasant to run in with barely a breath of wind. The first mile was comfortable at 7:05; the second mile through the town centre was a 6:28 and felt effortless. I stopped for a semi-planned pit stop at local conveniences and headed back on my run – Somerby Hill the first and main challenge of the day.
This four fifths of a mile climb only averages 4% because it has a long fairly flat section in the middle. The opening and final ramps though are relatively hard, certainly enough to usually fill the legs with lactate. Today though I was feeling fresh and fast, and although the heart rate climbed to near 170bpm, there was no sense of fatigue at all as I completed the climb in 5:45, beating the previous segment record on Strava by one whole second (Very pleasing as I’ve failed many times before to beat it). The third mile was 6:38. Strava GAP reckons it was worth 5:32 with the hill taken into account. I was concerned that that exertion could come to be costly later in the run, but for now it all felt very easy, the fourth mile an effortless 6:08.
Miles 5 – 12 took me on a loop around Ropsley, mostly on roads I’ve run on before, albeit not often enough for me to run without the guide of the breadcrumb trail on the Garmin. Therefore, short of splits, I had no guide to pace and HR. Still it all felt pretty comfortable, the quickest mile 6:09, the slowest, 6:24 on a long drag out of Ropsley towards the A52.
Thankfully only 100 meters or so was on the busy A road, I turned right on the quiet road to Welby. I found myself picking up the pace as I came to complete a half marathon in around 83 minutes, the 13th mile 6:08; the 14th into Welby itself in 5:57. Still it felt very comfortable, the form as good as when I’d started the run. The fifteenth mile was mostly uphill and not particularly pleasant as the rain intensified and High Dyke was busy, but when a slow mile was 6:18 you know you are running well.
Miles 16, 17 and 18 went through Londonthorpe and past Belton House. I allowed the heart rate to rise slightly but still 5-10 beats below my marathon heart rate. The mile splits were 6:02, 5:56, and 6:08. I beat my own Strava segment on five gates, one I’d clocked recently on an eight mile run. The nineteenth and twentieth miles were slightly uphill, that they were run in 6:08 and 6:05 had me almost disbelieving what I was seeing. This was an easy effort long run and I reckoned I’d just run twenty miles faster than I’d ever run them before!
I clocked 20.24 miles in 2:06:28, which is 6:15 pace. 2:45 pace for the marathon is 6:17 per mile. When I went through 20 miles at Rotterdam last year (on my Garmin) it was in 2:06:17. On this training run I went through 20 miles in 2:05:32. I’ve run quicker over 30km (Stamford 2014), by around 5 minutes, but there my average HR was 12 or so beats higher, so I was working much harder.
It was comfortably the best long training run I’ve ever done and arguably one of the best runs ever. I just now have to hope I can maintain fitness for another five weeks. I know too well that fortunes can change in a moment, so I’m not going to take anything for granted. But I’m very excited about what I could do over 26.2 miles in a few weeks time.