Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Manchester Marathon Training - Weeks 4 to 11

Manchester Marathon Training - Weeks 4 to 11

So yes, I'm cramming a lot of weeks into one post. Truthfully, I've been finding the training tough this time around and the last thing I've felt like doing is writing about it. But I was reading back over my Brighton training today and found it so helpful to remind myself that I wasn't finding it easy then either! I was struggling in exactly the same way - lacking motivation, finding track sessions hard and being nervous about getting in the miles on my long runs. So even if no one else is reading, I've decided to try and get back on track with writing about my training so I've got something to look back on at the end of it all.

XC Runner Wormwood Scrubs
Middlesex XC Wormwood Scrubs

Week 4: 30th December to 5th January
Finally some time off work after powering through Christmas night shifts! I began with the classic Monday rest day, followed by a Tuesday track session. My usual track group weren't meeting over the festive period, so it was a solo effort of 3x(3x1 min hard effort, 60 sec recovery). I then began the new year with a parkrun double, same as last year with Canon's Park and Harrow. I managed fairly consistent runs with 23:40 and 23:45 - steady paced, relaxed-ish effort. I should have done another interval session the next day but was feeling tired and had a bit of ankle pain so decided to rest instead. Friday I did a yoga session, a good stretch out ready for the weekend. Saturday was Middlesex XC Champs at Wormwood Scrubs. Muddy but flat, this isn't one of my favourite courses! Luckily the cross country didn't drain me too much and I was able to get out for 14 miles on Sunday. However it was an uncomfortable long run, the motivation having almost vanished and I walked frequently, just wanting it to be over.

Week 5: 6th to 12th January 
My week's training began with a Tuesday track session, back with the club for a 20 x 400m workout. I like 400m reps and this was a really solid session, getting way under target pace on every single rep. I followed it with another yoga session on Wednesday. Something I've found hard this cycle is maintaining consistency and confidence through the week. For some reason I just don't seem to be able to manage two good quality speed sessions! Thursday should have been a tempo run with 4 miles at 10K pace, but I just wasn't in the zone. After my warm up I tried the first mile at target pace and just couldn't hit it which was frustrating. At the next attempt I only managed 0.5 of a mile before stopping, almost ready to give in there and then. I pushed myself for one last mile, accepting that it might not be at target pace but that any effort was better than none. Disappointing, but at least it was a partial session banked. Saturday I ran an easyish parkrun at Eastbourne and then a challenging 12 mile long run on Sunday in windy conditions.

Runner selfie on Eastbourne beach

Week 6: 13th to 19th January
I fitted in a yoga class on Monday, followed by short easy runs on Tuesday and Wednesday. I can't remember why we decided to swap out a track session on Tuesday, but it might have been due to slight niggles again, or possibly due to the weather! Marathon training is tough enough, but getting out and doing it in rain and wind is really soul destroying some times. There have been a few instances this cycle where I've swapped sessions according to the weather forecast, knowing that I'll give more in session where I'm not battling the elements.  I was ready to run the intervals session on Thursday, with 12x500m all around target pace but requiring a lot of self-motivation to get it done.  I was working Friday-Sunday night shifts, so managed a 9 mile medium-long run on Friday morning before 'resting' the rest of the weekend.

Week 7: 20th to 26th January
Monday yoga again, then 13x600m reps on Tuesday night. It was freezing cold. Literally as parts of the track were starting to ice up during the session. I had some goal paces to hit and I was pretty much achieving them, but decided to call the session quits at 12 reps due to some left sided hip pain. A rest day helped things to settle down and Thursday I had another speed session planned with 6x1km reps. I was not feeling the love for running as I headed out on this one, but such is the way sometimes. My first rep was pretty much on target though, with the second one being only 9 seconds out. But then on the 3rd rep I was wondering why my watch had suddenly gone silent - there was no way I was maintaining perfect pace. Sure enough, I'd set the workout up wrong on Garmin. I was so annoyed and was very close to stopping the session there and walking two miles home. But after a short period of sulking, I got myself going again. It was harder having to do the laps manually, and I wasn't quite hitting target pace but I was pleased to have at least finished the session. Luckily Friday was much simpler with an easy 5 miles. Saturday I went to Parliament Hill for the SEAA XC Championships. It was muddy, as expected, but I do like this course despite its tough hills. Annoyingly I got a stitch again and couldn't go all out, but with two or three hundred metres to go I decided to just embrace the pain and sprint in to the finish line, overtaking around seven people in the process! XC really does bring out the craziness.

Runner at Parliament Hill XC
Running up Parliament Hill

Week 8: 27th January to 2nd February
The great thing about a bespoke plan is being able to fit it in around life and work. Sometimes things get a bit hectic for me, so the focus becomes just getting the miles in where I can. Monday was a medium-long run home from work of about 7.5 miles. It's a hilly route but good strength work... I was back at the track on Tuesday for 11x700m reps, this time with an upper speed limit rather than a target to hit or get under! I've been trying to balance pushing myself, but also not tiring myself out too much, or losing confidence with fast paces that are hard to achieve. According to the plan, Thursday should have been a hill sprints day but I didn't run that session. I think I must have been tired and in need of a bit more rest. So after two rest days I was feeling a bit fresher ready for a Runspire meet-up at Banbury parkrun. This was the first place I ever ran a parkrun and it was great to be back seeing lots of familiar faces. I ran at a reasonably hard effort for the technical, part-tarmac-part-trail course, but skipped out on the warm up and cool down because I was busy chatting... sorry coach! I was in the Cotswolds for a few days break for my birthday which gave me the opportunity to run somewhere new for my long run. The countryside scenery was beautiful and I did enjoy the peaceful setting, but the run itself was really, really tough. There were some serious hills and my left glute and right IT band were not at all happy. I think had I been at home, I'd probably have called it day very early on, but I was determined to get this run done and not waste the opportunity. It left me with pretty sore legs for the next couple of days so may not have been my most sensible day, but things have seemed to recovered since.

Team Runspire
A few of team Runspire at Banbury parkrun

Countryside road
Hilly, but scenic long run

Week 9: 3rd-9th February
Due to the pain in my legs after the previous week, this was a much reduced week in terms of training. I just did 30 minutes easy on Wednesday and used my day off on Thursday to do 10 miles at a nice, gentle pace, followed immediately by a yoga class.

Week 10: 10th-16th February
Despite really not feeling like running again, I got myself down to the track on Tuesday night ready for 9x900m. Even before I started though, I'd texted Dylan asking if I could do away with any target paces or even any other expectations beyond just running something. Then as I completed my warm up, all the floodlights went out. It was almost like the perfect opportunity not to run this session! Having done only a mile warm up, I drove home mulling over what to do next. I decided I'd at least try and get the miles done even if I didn't run it as a session. But stubborn determination took over and I decided that I was going to run those intervals after all. I ran them as loops around my house, dealing with the inclines I wouldn't have had at the track, and the fact I passed my front door multiple times. They were tough and the pace wasn't quite where I'd wanted it, but it was another speed session completed, and another win for me against every bit of my brain saying not to run. I had a couple of rest days, before running at Harrow Parkrun on Saturday. I ran harder than usual, and was just over 22 minutes which is encouraging because I'd been finding that 22 minutes mark a hard goal lately. Sunday's long run was 16 miles and I had been dreading it. Long runs have been my nemesis lately, draining my confidence as I find myself wanting to stop after just a few miles, and to add to this it was yet another stormy weekend. But I zipped up a new waterproof running jacket and headed out in the direction of Harrow-on-the-Hill in order to go and see the 10K being run there. Having a specific place in mind was enough of a distraction for me to not notice the first four miles disappear, and then as I ran laps of the 10K route backwards, cheering on the other runners (many of them friends from parkrun and Harrow AC) it barely even mattered that it was pouring with rain, gusty with wind and almost continuously up or downhill! That's been one of my favourite runs so far this training cycle.

Garmin running watch showing long run

Harrow parkrun 250th sign
Harrow parkrun's 250th event

Week 11: 17th to 23rd February
The typical Monday rest day, followed by Track Tuesday. On the menu this week was 8x1000m. A nice, round numbered session and although I was tiring towards the end, I felt like it was a worthwhile one. Thursday was a tempo run session, and a familiar theme here - I didn't want to run it! But I'd had a tough day at work and decided that a fast run might be just the thing, plus that determination not to give up kicked in again. I ended up having a pretty good run, feeling confident as I pushed myself to keep going mile after mile, and clocking up 6 miles at tempo pace. I took parkrun on Saturday nice and steady, genuinely really enjoying myself. Then Sunday was the Hillingdon Half Marathon. I've run the 10K twice in previous years, but this time I'd decided to step up the distance. I was a bit nervous as I don't exactly love the course and it's a lapped route for the HM, but it went surprisingly well. I tried to stick with some other runners over the first few miles, hoping for a bit of help holding a steady pace (as well as some shelter from the ever-present wind), but eventually dropped back and ran a lot on my own. The miles did pass  by surprisingly quickly though, even when I went back out on the second lap. There were a few times I felt myself slowing down, and I did try to run conservatively given that this was technically a training run with no taper in or out of it. Even so, I managed 1:41:32 which is a reasonable time for me and I think I'm starting to enjoy this distance again!

Runners at Harrow parkrun

Female runner at Hillingdon Half Marathon
Hillingdon Half Marathon final mile


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