Preparation for the 2019 Greater Manchester Marathon

The 2019 Manchester marathon training plan was a continuation of the key principals I have used in 2017 and 2018 with a few tweaks here and there based on what I thought worked well (and vice versa) in 2018 especially. These key components were:

•  The marathon paced effort, in most instances run to a maximum HR (165) which is at the upper limit of my Zone 3. This has been at the core of my marathon training for well over ten years now. I build these up over the course of the weeks before the marathon, beginning with three miles (within a longer run) and building up a mile per session until I reach eight miles at marathon HR (MHR). After 2018 when I inadvertently ran around 13 miles at MHR on a twenty mile run when the Newton’s Fraction HM was cancelled, I used the Leicestershire Half Marathon in February to do much the same. This came when I was up to six miles at MHR, so in March I ran the seven and eight miles at MHR on March 5th and March 20th respectively.

Normally I would leave it there except run three miles at MHR a few days before the marathon. This time though I decided to do a reverse pyramid of sorts, running 7 miles at MHR on Saturday 23rd March then 6 miles on Tuesday 26th,  5 on Thursday 28th, 4 on Saturday 30th and the conventional 3 miles at MHR in a 10 mile run on Tuesday 2nd April. This was something of a high risk strategy as the MHR runs are quite demanding sessions. I think they were of some benefit, they certainly got me used to running at MHR and as they were diminishing in length certainly gave an impression of tapering.

As in previous years the majority of MHR runs were run a fair bit quicker than I anticipated running in the marathon itself – coming in anywhere between 5:45-6:10 minutes a mile. I usually see marathon pace on the day around 10 seconds a mile slower than I averaged during the build up, which tends to make the effort on race day seem less. I guess adrenaline accounts for the reduced pace at the same HR.

Training breakdown 90 days out from the race.

•   The long run (with parkrun thrown in) and the back to back long run. The long run is a staple of any marathon training plan. Mine is no exception except for the past couple of years I’ve tried to incorporate a parkrun somewhere during the run. I kicked off on January 5 with a twenty miler, with the Belton House parkrun (17:35) coming after twelve miles.  On January 19th I ran 22 miles with parkrun (18:16) at 14 miles. The other two Saturdays both had parkruns, one was shorter though at 10 miles due to the Oundle 10K on the Sunday, the other a mere 13.3 miles as I was feeling a bit rubbish.

February saw much of the same. The second saw a twist in that I ran just 2.5 miles before doing parkrun and then 13.5 miles to make it 19 in total. This wasn’t planned, it just happened that it snowed overnight and the paths were mostly too treacherous until it warmed up later in the morning.  I then ran 17 miles the next day. The following weekend I was unwell so did nothing at all. The week was the Leicestershire Half so I didn’t run on the Saturday.

The following weekend (23rd-24th) I ran 21 miles (15 then parkrun (17:23) 3 to end) on the Saturday then ran a further 21 miles on the Sunday at 6:45 pace average. This back to back long run was something I inadvertently did once in 2018 due to bad weather preventing me from cycling and thought it offered significant training benefits so opted in 2019 to repeat the process with a little more regularity and intensity. This meant that the Reliability Rides with Witham Wheelers, which I’ve done for the past four years were sacrificed entirely.

Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd March saw the peak of long run mileage in the 14 week training plan. Saturday was the 24 miler which I’ve done since 2000 as my longest training run, except for the past two miles I’ve done a couple of extra to make it slightly over marathon distance. As in 2018 I ran the Newton’s Fraction HM course, running 21 miles before running Belton House parkrun in 17:51 then heading home to complete 26.4 miles in 2:55:46.

I’ve often used the time it’s taken to run 24 miles in this training run as a very good barometer of what I will clock at the marathon – it’s nearly always been accurate to a minute or two barring bad weather or a hitting of the dreaded wall. In 2018 I went through 24 miles in 2:39:10 (my quickest ever) this time around it was 2:40:10, which was a fair reflection of where I thought my fitness was – which was very good but not quite at 2018 levels, when I think I was in my best shape ever. The following day I ran a training half marathon in 1:29:58 or something like that, pleased that I could run such a distance in a reasonable lick a day after a 26 mile effort.

Thereafter the long run diminished quite rapidly. The following weekend was the Retford Half, the following weekend I opted out of running entirely as I was exhausted working crazy hours for the Australian GP. Two weeks out saw my last long run on the Sunday at 19 miles. That came the day after running seven miles at marathon pace and was so quite fatigued. It also saw some weird back spasm in the upper back in the final miles that didn’t materalise again. The following week, a week out, I ran my conventional final long run of eleven miles.

The stats state that for the ninety days preceding the marathon, I ran nine times over 15.72 miles totaling 182.74 miles in an overall total of 748.34 miles.

•   The vast majority of the other runs were easy paced i.e. Zone 2, most of which ten or so miles in length, many of which on my familiar town loop – clockwise or anticlockwise. The average pace of these was around 7:10 a mile although the ones solo were more likely to be under 7 minutes a mile average and the runs with Grantham Running Club closer to eight minutes per mile, on average.

•   I ran two intervals sessions, which is 200% more than 2018 and double what I ran in 2017. They were both 10×3 minutes with 90 seconds recovery, done on the road outside my house. I don’t really know if they had any benefit. It’s something I may look into doing more of over the summer as there must be some point in doing them?!

•   As in previous years I cross-trained – cycling this time being used almost exclusively – the elliptical trainer saw just one outing when I had a sore calf after the Retford HM. This year was different from recent ones in that I didn’t venture outside once, doing all my cycling on Zwift. The main reason, other than wanting to do more back to back long runs over the weekend, being that I really did suffer far too much in the cold in 2018 especially and indoors on Zwift in the winter is so much more comfortable!

I spent a total of 65 hours 47 minutes on Zwift from January 1st through to the Manchester Marathon. I ran for 92 hours 38 minutes and spent just 2 hours on the elliptical trainer. The volume is similar to what I rode in 2018, the main difference being a lack of long Sunday rides. The majority of the rides were an hour or so in length, most of them relatively easy in effort, although I did push it on the Tour of Watopia and did ride 110 miles over the course of a very long day between F1 testing duties. As well as enjoying the cycling I think it compliments my running very well, especially the low effort rides which are the rough equivalent of recovery runs. Interestingly early indications suggest that the winter of Zwift has left my outdoor cycling legs in very similar, if not slightly better, shape to what they were at the same stage twelve months ago.

My weekly running mileage was similar to 2018. Coincidentally the biggest mileage of any week (82 miles) was the same, albeit in 2019 this was three weeks out from Manchester, in 2018, it came six weeks out from London. Interestingly though in 2018 there was only one other week where I ran over 70 miles (a 79 mile week). In 2019, I ran four other weeks over 70 miles and a further week where I ran 69. In January I ran 309 miles which is only five miles off my record, set in January 2014.

There was though one fallow week with very little mileage. This was due to to a spot of injury after Retford and opting to use Zwift rather than run during the Australian GP weekend. This was a conscious choice I made before the event looking back on previous years where I attempted to work through the Aussie GP weekend and have broken down at some point afterwards.

I don’t think this did me any harm at all.

Training Calendar in the build up to Manchester

All in all I think it was a very successful marathon training preparation, up there with the past couple of years as being the best ever. From an injury point of view it was very good, with just a couple of days lost after Retford with sciatica and an ongoing issue with a sore big left toe that hasn’t hindered my ability to run.

Is there anything I will do differently next time? In an ideal world I would probably want to add some more interval sessions in – something like some mile reps or two mile reps. But I seem to loathe interval sessions and as I run because I enjoy it I am reluctant to do them when I can be doing something that produces a similar benefit and I don’t mind doing (I’m reluctant to say like, as I dread the thought of marathon paced runs beforehand, but once I’m a mile or two in to them I really enjoy them!)

An important thing to note is that, aside from a minimum 24 mile run 4-5 weeks out and the marathon paced efforts over the course of the training, very little of what I do is planned weeks and months in advance. I have a rough idea of what I will do but take things very much on a week by week and day by day basis. I know some will question this but I’m comfortable with it. I much prefer to train according to how I feel right here right now rather than how I think I might or should feel months in advance then get frustrated when reality doesn’t quite pan out that way. Perhaps I may do better sticking to a plan, but things seem to have gone quite well for me in the years when I’ve been a bit more free form!

If you are wondering where I get all this data from. It comes from the very wonderful

I’ve been using this site since 2006 and all my exercise is recorded there. It has proven invaluable as a source of reference since then, I probably still use it more than Strava as the go to when I am looking back on my training history. Highly recommended!

2016 London Marathon Training – Week 13 (28 March – 3 April)

The Monday following the long 100 mile plus bike ride was just an hour on the elliptical trainer in the morning as family occupied the rest of the day. I was out early on the Tuesday for a recovery style ten mile run. Feeling very tired there was to be no heroics, although the legs felt better during the end of the run and I was able to put in a 6:30 final mile. The legs were stiff, the left thigh buzzing like I had a phone vibrating near the bottom of my thigh. It felt weird, a couple of days later though the buzzing stopped and nothing more came of it.

It was just another hour on the elliptical trainer on the Wednesday as Easter holidays restricted the volume of training I could do with a big family bowling trip taking up the remainder of the day. I was meant to run later in the evening but when push came to shove I was just so tired I talked myself out of it. I wasn’t particularly proud of this moment of weakness and vowed to make it up later in the week.

Thursday morning saw another hour on the elliptical trainer and was still feeling really pretty tired. Clearly the efforts of the weekend were still in the body. That evening I headed to the last GRC marathon paced run for those taking part in the Manchester and Rotterdam marathons. The right glute and calf ached a bit but otherwise I saw no issues on a good confidence boosting run for the guys hoping to run 3:20 or thereabouts, with most of the ten miles miles comfortably under 7:30 as we headed out to the canal path and quiet country lanes for the first time since the clocks went forward for the summer.

Friday I had expected to be an enforced rest day working on the Bahrain GP but with the timetable and the small time difference (just two hours) I was able to put in a bonus 90 minute session on the elliptical trainer, which saw no issues other than a headache hindering my efforts a touch.

Saturday I had planned on running the marathon paced run I bottled out of on the Wednesday. As a bonus with the later than planned start of work, I was able to combine some marathon paced miles with an appearance at Belton House parkrun. It was a bit of an effort getting up to marathon pace after two miles run at 8am but after a couple of six something miles, I was able to run the next seven miles at sub six minute miling. The parkrun itself was a steady effort compared to some of my parkrun efforts. I reckon I was outside the top ten after the opening couple of hundred meters and was definitely in fifth after the opening lap, run at marathon heart rate. I allowed the heart rate to rise to half marathon HR for the second lap and as a result I was able to pick off a few more places, winding up second in 18:19 on a course made longer by the Belton Horse Trials preparations.

After a chat with some club mates and a very slow couple of miles back into town with a couple more of them, I ran the last couple of miles at an easy pace as I headed round town trying to find a bike shop that could repair the bottom bracket that was creaking during the last bike ride. The run ended up being 16 miles at an average of 6:27 per mile. A solid effort.

Sunday and I had a late start before working on the Bahrain GP but not quite late enough to get a bike ride in. So instead I headed out for another run. I had no real idea of what I was going to do on the run but after four miles or so I felt reasonably okay and so headed out up South Parade Hill and onto Gorse Lane, before coming back down Swine Hill. The sun had come out and it felt spring like as the pace came naturally down to around 6:30 per mile. At the mid point of the Drift and with 29 miles covered over the weekend I decided to take on a Strava segment I’d not attempted before and emptied the tank over that one mile up hill segment and continued on into town with a marathon paced effort. The reward was a segment in the bag and the second 16 mile run of the weekend covered at an average of 6:43 per mile.

As weeks go, it ended very well but the opening days of the week were definitely a little light on quantity and quality, but sometimes life gets in the way and I was very tired, so the reduced training load was probably a wise move. Just three weeks now until marathon day, hopefully, I can stay injury and illness free over the coming weeks.


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!

2016 London Marathon Training – Week 12 (21-27 March)

The week began much as exhausted and tired as it ended on the Sunday following a monster week of work covering the Australian GP. I headed out on Monday for an easy paced run. The pace was okay, unspectacular. Around two and a half miles into the run I began to feel little cramp in the right quad, similar to what I experienced on the Saturday previous. I stopped at a bike shop for a couple of minutes to discuss a little business before recommencing the run. At around four miles the cramp feelings dispersed and I felt okay to try and commit to my normal ten mile loop rather than cutting it short.

At around six and a half miles, from out of the blue, severe cramp hit both legs in the upper quads. I hadn’t experienced cramp like this since I won the Maverick trail race back in the Summer – where again an inexplicable bout of early cramp hindered me severely. Several miles away from home I battled on but the cramp got worse, not better, and around a mile away from home, coming down a hill, I had to stop and admit defeat. I did under a tunnel arch for a couple of minutes to recompose myself before hobbling slowly home.

I’m not entirely sure what caused the cramp but I reckon it is a combination of tiredness, dehydration, and possibly the consumption of an Indian takeaway the night before. I may be wrong, but I reckon that is now the third or fourth occasion I’ve had this attack of severe cramp following a takeaway the night before. It may be totally coincidental, but there has to be a reason for these early onset cramps.

Anyway, initially I thought that was it for the day, but at around 6pm I remembered I had booked onto a spinning class which I couldn’t cancel, so I hobbled there and sat myself on the stationary bike. I was expecting to be barely able to turn a pedal, such had been the discomfort earlier in the day, but actually the spinning wasn’t too bad. Indeed I reckon it did a good job of helping to shift the excess lactate in the quads.

Tuesday morning saw an early hour on the elliptical trainer, which was a tired affair, especially with the after effects of the cramp still felt in the legs. A few hours later I ventured out on a crap clearing run to try and help loosen the legs. I think it worked, the miles getting progressively quicker to the quicker side of my easy run zone. I was still very tired though – at one point I nearly got lost and disorientated running a route I’ve done near constantly for the past three months!

Wednesday was a busy day outside of training, which meant I had an early wake up and depart for my ten mile run with eight miles at marathon pace. The body and legs didn’t really want to know for the two mile warm up; the first mile at MP was a real struggle, 6:16. Thereafter things got significantly better, averaging around 5:58 for the final seven miles, but I never felt that fantastic, and indeed tired a lot in the final mile or two. The cramp had more or less gone from the quads, the right calf though ached a bit, as did the hip.

Thursday morning saw a routine hour on the elliptical trainer – no issues other than feeling tired. That evening was a ten mile run with Grantham Running Club, with the unexpected guest runner in the form of my brother, who had come over with his family from Germany. He has just begun his training for an autumn marathon and this was comfortably his longest run in several years, but he ran well – as did the entire group, to average comfortably under 7:30 for the eight miles at the marathon pace. I felt fairly comfortable and all in all it was a most pleasing run.

Friday was a day of rest and a day with my brother and his family at a very busy day as we celebrated Food Friday. I felt distinctly sub-par for the most part, feeling like I was fighting a cold – so much so I took a couple of flu and cold capsules mid-way through the day.

Saturday morning and I had to push aside any thoughts of feeling unwell as I had my last realistic opportunity of putting in the long one before London. The 24 mile run is a staple of pretty much all my marathon campaigns, the time spent on feet usually the same or a little bit longer than the actual time spent running in the marathon. I could have done loops of town, but with the calf pain feeling much diminished since the work done on the hip (with more done during another massage on the Thursday) I decided to map out a run which took me out of town and up and down some hills – which I’ve been a little lacking of during training in late.

I was out at 8 am – the weather was cloudy and the wind strong. The first few miles were lethargic and not that quick – over seven minutes per mile as I felt the effects of cold fighting on the body. I had a pit stop at five miles and thereafter felt a bit better, especially once I’d tackled the big climb of the day on the A52 pass the barracks. A spanner in the route plan came as the road I’d intended to run down was closed due to the initial Grantham bypass construction. This meant I had to run a section down the slightly dodgy High Dyke before taking a right hand turning which took me back on to my intended tracks. I had to then make some calculations as to how much extra I had run and how best to revise the route so as to get back to 24 miles.

The following three or four miles through to fifteen were tough as they were mostly slightly uphill and into a head / cross wind which, at times had me near dead stopping in my tracks. However once I came to the peak of the hill and turned direction I had the wind at my back and the pace picked up significantly to around 6:30 per mile. I made it down a steep hill without the feared bout of cramp in my quads. My calf felt good and I worked on clicking down the miles as efficiently as possible as I took to the canal path and back towards Grantham.

The heavens opened a few miles before home but that didn’t disturb me as I reveled in feeling fresh at 23 miles despite having taken on the run with no water, no gels, no breakfast and just a cup of coffee to see me through. I ended up running a bit over 24 miles – 25 and a quarter to be precise – in 2:54. I felt pretty good, certainly no worse than when I was doing the long 20 mile runs with a parkrun in the middle. With that in mind I headed to the Belvoir Sportive website to enter for the following day’s ride. Alas, they closed the entries at 10am!

Undeterred I headed out on Sunday morning to see if I could fit in a 160km ride that may have had similarities to the Belvoir Sportive without actually taking part in that event itself. As it happened I chanced upon meeting up with several members of Witham Wheelers, who were taking part in the shorter 100 km ride. I rode with them for around thirty miles before going my own way and riding the vast majority of the remainder of the ride solo. It was hard going with plenty of tough hills around Rutland and the Vale of Belvoir and a nasty headwind to contend with for the opening half of the ride and for all of the final hills. Despite this I felt relatively strong, taking it fairly easy on the flat stuff and pushing as best I could on the hills.

I rode a few extra miles at the end to confirm that I had ridden over 100 miles and came home tired, but content that another week’s training was in the bag – 67 miles of running, 105 miles of proper riding, around 25 miles of spinning, and a couple of hours on the elliptical trainer. This will likely be the biggest training week of the marathon campaign – hopefully it will see me in good stead come race day.



2016 London Marathon Training – Week 11 (14-20 March)

Week 11 of training had long one been down as a week that could either see some of the highest volume in the training plan or some of the lowest. It turned out to be the latter.

Monday morning I woke really stiff and sore from the exploits of the Fraction the day before. I got myself on the elliptical trainer first thing for a very gentle hour of pushing the legs back and forth. I headed to the gym that evening for a spin session, which was treated very much as a recovery ride, keeping the FTW low at 230 and averaging just 3.4 w/kg.

Tuesday and I was busy preparing for the Australian Grand Prix weekend, having already woken at 1:40 for an hour or so prologue effort as the first images from the event began to head my way. That meant I just had the evening to train. I had an unexpected opportunity to visit the gym and managed to grab the last place for the spin class. First I headed to the treadmill for a very easy paced recovery 5k, beginning at just over 6 mph and peaking at around 8 mph. Everything was pretty stiff, especially the calves, but I was thankful to be even able to run.

The spin session was much easier than the day previous, I increased the FTW to 240 (my normal figure is 260-265) and put in a solid but deliberately not too taxing effort, averaging 3.7 w/kg. I then put in 30 minutes on one of the gym elliptical trainers, the effort quite high compared to the home machine thanks to the ramp feature mine does not have.

Wednesday and I was up at 2 am to begin work proper on the Australian GP. I only got to sleep at around 11pm so was pretty shattered when I finished work at around 11 am and headed to bed for a few hours fairly dreadful sleep. I dragged my sorry body out at 4 pm for a really tough easy ten mile run. Both calves continued to ache and generally I just felt really lethargic, both from not enough sleep and the efforts of Sunday. It says something for my form at the moment, that I averaged a fairly respectable 7:20 per mile pace.

In recent years this week of covering the Australian GP has offered the opportunity to put in a surprising amount of running – two years ago I put in my first, and probably only ever, one hundred mile week. The reason I could fit this into a busy working schedule was the GP was held at twilight, which meant I could go to bed at 10 or so, wake at 3 or 4 am, work for six or seven hours, get a couple of hours nap, then have the late afternoon and early evening to run.

Following the tragic accident of Jules Bianchi they have largely dispensed with races ending in poor light and so the practice sessions, coupled with an eleven hour time difference, were beginning as early as 1:30 am, with my work beginning an hour or so before that. This transpired to make things very difficult.

I got around three hours sleep Wednesday night before waking at 2 am on Thursday evening for ten hours continuous effort behind the desk, finishing at 11:30 or so and retiring to bed. I am a dreadful daytime sleeper and managed just a couple of hours sleep before giving up and pottering around the house for a bit. I’d agreed to take Grantham Running Club’s Thursday night marathon paced session, so I was out at 6:30 to meet up with the other guys. The legs were tired, the hip a bit bothersome. I threatened repeatedly to drop out when we passed my house at six miles, but there was some kind of team spirit going on as I found myself continuing and completing the ten mile group run and putting in another mile or so to make it 13.1 for the day.

I headed to bed at around 9:30 but found it impossible to get to sleep, knowing I had 12:30 am alarm set. So I finally drifted off to sleep at around 11:45, giving myself just 45 minutes sleep to ready myself for a break free 12 hours stint as the opening practice sessions of the 2016 F1 season took place. Shattered I headed straight to bed, but by now my body was virtually jet lagged and woke less than two hours after getting to sleep.

I took Friday as a rest day, as I often do. I went to bed at 10:15pm and was able to get around 3 1/2 hours sleep before waking at 2 am for qualifying day. This was not quite as long a day as Friday and I was done by 11:30 am. I got a couple of hours sleep before waking again prematurely. I had plans to run 16 miles or so. I set out at 4 pm. I was tired but actually running quite well, the first mile 7:20, the fourth mile 6:39. Then, out of the blue I found the very top of the right thigh, near the hip flexor giving off alarming pains, very much like an attack of cramp.

I stopped at a bus shelter, sat for a minute or so then began to stretch the hip. I set off again and was able to run with a moderate amount of discomfort. I was in a strange situation where I felt I couldn’t possibly run 16 miles but didn’t feel bad enough that I had to take the very shortest route home. So I ended up meandering a little, finally drifting home having covered nine miles at an average of 6:56 per mile. I assumed it was a cramp as the pain was quite intense having finished, but by the time I retired to bed had mostly dissipated. I was though quite clearly exhausted, so I gave up any ideas of supplementing the missing miles with an hour on the elliptical trainer and settled down to watch the World Indoor Athletics Championships.

I managed to get nearly four undisturbed hours sleep on Saturday night before waking at 2 am for the final day of work covering the Australian Grand Prix. The race itself was quite eventful, I began work at 2 am. I was hopeful perhaps of finishing early enough so I could ride solo the 13 Hills ride Witham Wheelers were taking part in on Sunday morning. Any hopes of an early finish were dashed with the sheer volume of work coming in, we reckoned it was our busiest race ever!

I kind of finished at 1pm and crashed on the sofa, hoping to get an hour or so nap before maybe going on a bike ride. By 3 pm I still hadn’t got to sleep, but I was too shattered to contemplate leaving the sofa. Finally I got to sleep and before I knew it it was 5 pm. With more work still to be done I abandoned any notion of exercise and resigned myself to a very easy week of training, but a really hard week physically in terms of sleep deprivation – hoping that a quiter week before Easter may see more opportunities to put in a full week of training.