2016 London Marathon Training – Weeks 15-16 (11-23 April)

Taper time! For me the worst period of marathon training. Nervously completing each session hoping not to get injured. Reducing volume when the body wants to keep on pushing. Two weeks to get through before the big day.

Monday 11th saw a pair of hour sessions on the elliptical trainer. I wasn’t really planning on beginning the taper until Thursday, which would be a natural time to begin it as I was working on the Chinese GP, which was another four days of early mornings and long days. The first hour I felt really strong, the second hour a little tired, but still feeling a lot of power in the legs.

That evening I took part in another spin session. Feeling strong again I went for a measured performance, which saw an average of 254 watts.

Tuesday morning and I was out for an eight mile easy paced run, which was unremarkable other than it being quite humid for an April morning. That lunchtime I got an unexpected email from the British Triathlon Federation informing me that I had, after all, qualified for the World Duathlon Championships in June! To be honest I’d totally forgotten I’d got a qualifying time and was on standby in the event of any drop outs. I’d even gone and booked a half term holiday the night before, which I was thankfully able to cancel without penalty.

With this new event on the horizon in mind, my planned debut on my new TT bike at the Witham Wheelers time trial took on a new importance, as I now had just six weeks or so to get used to the bike, adapt to the time trial position, and get up to speed.

The 10 mile TT was more an exercise in getting used to the bike. It clearly has potential for speed but I found it hard to maintain the aero tuck position for more than a minute at a time before the upper arms screamed enough! I’m not blessed with any upper body strength, it’s no disadvantage when running, but clearly i have to do some urgent work to address this. It’s planks and push ups for me for the foreseeable future!

The time 26:30 was not too bad considering the time spent in the upright position and the cadence being far higher than I found to be my optimum when time trialing last summer. It was fifty seconds outside my course best when I gave it full gas, almost collapsing at the end from the exertion. Today I was as fresh as a daisy and cycled home without duress.

Wednesday saw a ten and a half mile marathon paced run in the morning – six miles at marathon pace with the final mile at marathon heart rate. The legs took a while to warm up, but the pace wasn’t bad when they did, peppering six minutes per mile, with the marathon heart rate mile at 5:37. That afternoon I ran to the school to pick up my daughter; she paced me home on her scooter, hitting close to ten mph at times. That was cool!

Thursday I was working through the night. I had to take my daughter to school so again literally did the school run. I did that again in the afternoon, albeit with a diversion to the bike shop which made the run a ten km effort.

Friday was, as planned, a rest day with a 2 am wake up call and 11 hours of being sat behind the desk – with more hours later on in the afternoon.

I was hoping Saturday’s final long run would be an easy effort. It turned out to be something of a near disaster. I’d planned to run eleven miles, then changed at the last minute to make it 13. I set off okay, the pace dropping down to 6:40 or so by the third mile. I then began to feel an odd ache in the upper right hamstring, followed by some glute discomfort. Then that spread to the left quad and the left glute in the form of cramp. It receded a little after some stretching so I continued, hoping to run around 11 miles. At eight miles however the cramp in the left quad became a searing affair, and I was left virtually unable to walk. Still two miles from home, I, in desperation, began jogging backwards. This seemed to help the issue somewhat and I was able to jog slowly home.

It seems this issue of cramping is tiredness related and probably due to dehydration. As with the previous bouts of cramp the pain receded over the course of the day and was feeling good enough to consider running on the Sunday. However I decided discretion be the better part of valour and so, in gap in work, put 90 minutes on the elliptical trainer. I was tired, and the left quad still had some aches, but it was a strong session.

Monday morning and I decided to risk a 10k run. As it turned out things were fine save for the pretty high heart rate, which I am hoping was just down to tiredness. That evening I put in a very easy effort in the spin session, reducing the FTW so that periods in the red zone were actually fairly comfortable.

Tuesday was my last run in anger before the marathon. Three miles warm up, then 5k at marathon HR, then a mile at sub 2:40 pace and a final mile at sub 2:45 pace. The marathon HR 5k was covered in 18:02 which equates to 2:32 for the marathon. That I don’t think is sustainable, sub 2:40 pace felt very comfortable.

I had another crack at the TT in the evening with Witham Wheelers. The week of planks and push ups had a good effect as I was able to stay in the aero tuck position for the majority of the ride. I lowered the cadence but was mindful to avoid pushing the legs beyond any period of discomfort. I clocked 26:00, ninth on the night and just 20 seconds now outside my PB.

Wednesday morning saw an hour on the elliptical trainer, then a final four miles of running that saw me naturally progress down to 6:10 for the final mile as I warmed up and felt more comfortable. The last session before London was an hour on the trainer. As with Wednesday’s effort I didn’t push hard but the legs felt a little heavier than I would have liked. I’m hoping it’s of no concern and just still the effects of working the weekend on Chinese time. I do though have what is either a slight cold or hay fever (the pollen count is high), which may be effecting me slightly. I have no concern over that.

So – no more can be done other than some pre-race stretching. My main concern is definitely cramping, but if that can be avoided, I am hopeful of a strong run, hopefully another sub-2:45, maybe a PB, maybe something a little more special. Time will tell.

Day 114 – Nothing More To Do

Tuesday’s run was prescribed as eight miles mostly easy with a couple of quick bits thrown in. Ultimately that’s more or less what happened. A club run with a mix of runners who’d just run a marathon, those who were competing at the weekend and so were tapering and a few who were just there for the ride.

Most of the run was very casual, the left thigh nagged and ached but it wasn’t unbearable. We spent some time in the middle of the run deciding exactly what route to take. In the end we decided to just turn and retrace our steps back along the canal path. This suited me fine as I’m finding downhill sections the hardest to handle at the moment.

Easy paced all the way back along the canal path I allowed myself around 1km  of fast paced running once back on the main path. It felt easy and pretty quick, albeit with continued nagging ache in the thigh. Once home I stretched extensively and again the following morning, putting in some minute long stretches. These seemed to be doing something to the left thigh, at times I thought my phone was vibrating in my pocket; instead it was my  leg in a weird spasm.

I’d debated whether to run on the Wednesday; at the last moment I headed out and did just over four miles. The outward leg was mostly uphill to Gonerby, then coming down, once past the steep downhill, I ran around a mile and a third at marathon HR, which was coming in at near dead on six minutes per mile.

So aerobically I am ready to race on Sunday. The leg – well I am relying on three days rest, a productive massage this morning, and more stretching and massage building up to Sunday. I don’t really like this position of not knowing if I’m going to even make it on Sunday. I think I will; I think it will be painful; whether it will be quick – that I just don’t know.

Day 103–Room For Optimism?

As soon as my day was done working on the Malaysian Grand Prix, I changed out of my work clothes and into my summer running gear for a make or break long run. With the temperature in the high teens and the weak sun trying to shine, I was determined to test the body to see if it is even worth persisting with the dream of making it to Rotterdam two weeks from now.

The opening miles were not promising. For better or worse I decided to abandon the prescribed two minutes walking, two minutes jogging, two minutes running for fear of going delusional if I were to keep that up for the best part of two hours. Whilst the actual pace was not that bad the effort to try and ignore the nagging, consistent pain in the thigh was starting to get the better of me.

At four miles I was actually ready to call it a day and head home. I stopped and, in desperation, did a deep hip flexor stretch for thirty seconds on the left leg. I resumed running and, to my surprise, found that much of the pain in the thigh had disappeared. Were tight hip flexors to blame for all the discomfort?

I decided to revert to plan A and go for it. The long run was back on. I headed to the canal and ran the four and a half miles out to Woolsthorpe. Every ten minutes or so I would stop and repeat the 30 second hip flexor stretch. The pain continued to stay at bay and the legs were running freely, shown in the pace which, before long, was coming down reasonably close to marathon pace. I was beginning to enjoy running again, relishing the pleasantly warm conditions and scenic surroundings on a tranquil Mother’s Day.

At Woolsthorpe, I returned and even though there was the merest headwind the pace, if anything, picked up Any discomfort was coming in the side of the hips and was of the sort that was easily bearable. Only in the final couple of miles did things begin to ache, but I think I was rapidly tiring, being short on sleep and low on energy reserves.

The run over the legs soon stiffened over the course of the evening, but I was at least happy to see that it was possible to run. A lot can happen in two weeks, but I was a lot more optimistic than I was a few days ago. There is now the prospect of taper hell to endure. In some ways being injured makes it easier as I don’t feel as guilty about reducing the mileage. The body is enjoying the rest, for once.