Berlin Marathon

The trip to Berlin began with a tweak to the travel arrangements from last year. Rather than trek to Liverpool, Manchester or East Midlands we were able to take advantage of the new Fly Be flight from Doncaster to Berlin, this gave us a full day on Friday to get to the expo and chill out before the race. It was so much easier going to an airport so close and dramatically reduced journey times at both ends, the bags were ready before we got off the plane! Perfect.

We headed to the newly re-located expo and fought our way through the crazy souvenir buyers who were frantically creating a scene more like the Boxing Day sales at Macy’s! The rest of Friday and Saturday involved eating, resting and analysing my niggles. We did squeeze in a bit of sight-seeing, leaving me wanting to go back to Berlin to “do it” properly. Such an amazing place.

 

Here’s how things panned out:

Saturday 24th September, 12.06

I’m sat in the beautiful Berlin sunshine with one hell of a view, I couldn’t be in a more pleasant environment the day before a big race. Internally I’m struggling with quite a dilemma; last Monday I woke up the day after my last session with an acute achilles pain. My immediate reaction was to text Bud, who very kindly rang me and confirmed what I suspected, I had to withdraw from the marathon, it just wasn’t worth it.

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Photo: A view from the afternoon

Some niggles and injuries you can get away with, but an achilles problem could stick around for a very long time and it certainly wouldn’t survive a marathon. I’ve written and re-written this blog no less than 4 times in recent days; I don’t wish to rain negativity on anyone’s day. On the flip-side, when I set out to write a blog I hoped in the long run to tackle many of the difficult aspects of running- I’ve experienced and overcome numerous long term illnesses and injuries and I’d like to share my experiences in the hope that they may help others. That said, no-one needs to hear me moan…

Running means the world to me, it offered a way out of a slippery slope 10 years ago where I was dealing with a challenging time in my life. I need it in my life or the worry is that things could slip, this was the main motivation for me to decide immediately that I was not running the marathon. I need to be running over the winter and our club enters the XC season with the very exciting prospect of competing at a national level.

But, talking to many people there was a consensus that with my best ever training block in the bank…I should try! So I booked in for an emergency massage (during which my calf was butchered-in a good way), Hatti also provided her healing hands and I managed a pain free run on Thursday after 3 days off. During this time I also caught a cold from our little one, a sign that the odds were stacked against me!

With the trip already paid, I left for Berlin with the last men standing in our group after a pretty disastrous marathon campaign for team Hallamshire! Tom Jenkins who was my best man would now be completing his final competitive race, sadly only aiming to finish after lady luck struck him down very early in his training. Mike Sprot joined us who has survived his training and hopes to run his pb close. Next year he will complete 10 marathons in 10 days to fundraise for Brathay Trust and Neurocare, charities close to his heart (read more here).

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Photo: Beautiful Berlin weather all weekend (Left Mike, middle me, Right Tom)

I did a run on the Friday and the calf held up, albeit feeling a little tight- but I felt shite from the head cold and generally very sluggish…not feeling like a man who had run 35 miles in 7 days!! I then ran easy the following morning for a few miles, again feeling sluggish and wondering how I could get up to marathon pace for even three miles!

After much deliberation, I decided to give it a whirl. I would dearly love to know what that training was worth and as many people have pointed out there are few opportunities to run a fast marathon. I’m not going to put my calf on the line though…I’ve got some really exciting plans for the coming season and I’d love to see them through…lets see what happens…

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Photo: A powerful sculpture symbolic of German history, I’d love the opportunity to run through the marathon wall tomorrow…

Sunday 25th September, 12.06

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Photo: A view from the next afternoon

I find myself writing the entry I hoped I wouldn’t have to write, although I’ve just seen the result of fellow blogger Stuart Spencer; who has seen the fruits of his considerable labour to a fine new pb and I’m chuffed to bits for him! It seems most other people who we would be later meeting had also had great runs, so plenty of positivity to enjoy later…

My race went a little differently. After waking up feeling very under the weather and feeling pretty tired and lousy yesterday, I woke up this morning feeling AMAZING. My calf felt good, I felt energetic and really excited, the only slight concern was that my pre-race poo (s) wasn’t nearly as fruitful as one would hope.

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Photo: A beautiful morning to run a marathon

This year I made a point of starting the race on the right hand side of the dual carriageway, it seems to lead to a better line around the round-a-bout and sets you for the first right hand corner. I was amazed how many slower runners were ahead of me but quickly negotiated past them and settled into a rhythm. This rhythm saw me at 5.21 pace and continued for the first 3 miles, it felt like a jog.

“This is it!!” I thought, “its gonna happen for me today! This was all fate allowing a taper I wouldn’t dare to write into the training plan.” My silent target (I said I didn’t have one, but we all do) was 2.22 for this race. Although 5.20 pace would be a dream come true, I decided to back off to target pace.

This saw me settle into a nice group who I shared leading with an American/ Canadian guy. The group contained people of many nationalities including a lead Kenyan woman (for a short time, but she dropped off after a few surges), a Canadian and a couple of Germans. I love pack running at these races and it was a real pleasure. It wasn’t as organised as the group we were in last year and I had a go at orchestrating some co-ordination of efforts which was short-lived; spoiled by every water station which was chaotic, but essential as it was a warm morning.

Things were going smoothly save for a few dropped seconds at the odd water station, I felt completely injury free and into my stride until mile 10, where I felt my calf for the first time. In fact my glut and hamstring also contracted a little (I’ve felt this issue to be neural all along), I backed off to around 5.29/30 pace to give it a chance and at half way I re-assessed my situation and felt it was best to step off the course. There was no way things would survive another half marathon. I felt ok doing this until a guy from the pack (the American/Canadian) shouted “Dave, NOOO!!” I almost guiltily jumped back in at this point, but I’m happy with my call.

I hate dropping out of races, I hate it. But I’m also not afraid to do it. The only time I would ever put my body on the line would be in a Yorkshire/Northern/England or GB vest (not that I’ve earned such an honour), or the Hallamshire vest in one of our big team races. Sitting here now, I’m pleased with my decision, my calf/achilles is sore but it will heal. Had I continued it would be a definite and probably significant injury, and my time probably would have been slower than my pb.

As I said earlier, keeping some consistency in my running is more important than any one race, I’ve got some exciting stuff planned and I’d love to see it through. I feel pretty philosophical now, but I was totally gutted when I first realised an injury was in the midst. What really made me relax was my skype last night to my daughter who normally just pokes the screen and walks off disinterested (normally to wee on the floor somewhere), this time we had a proper conversation. A magical moment that helped me to rationalise that there is more to life than running; which brings me to my final points.

What have I learned?

This block has taught me a lot about myself running-wise. I always felt, being injury prone that 100 mile weeks were out of my reach, I’ve done the odd one or two, albeit with caution. To string 6 together back to back has been a real eye opener. Although I got injured at the end of it, I can’t really blame the training; I genuinely think it was just bad luck with a number of potential contributing factors.

The key has been in good planning and although I sailed close to the wind a few times I’m happy with what I did. I need to now put this into a XC and mountain running context to try and achieve my goals in these areas of the sport.

To be honest, the biggest thing I’ve learned is that maybe my goals are too lofty, I haven’t really achieved many of them. I often get frustrated at not being an “evergreen” runner, I can have some stinking races or I can run out of my skin, often following no rhyme or reason. This drives me bonkers. I do put a lot of pressure on myself at times, yet this year I haven’t (I didn’t feel pressured in this build up- I loved it) and it has led to some real positives.

My first Yorkshire vest ranks as my all time favourite as I tried for 20 years to earn the bloody thing, but to run for England was a complete honour. It didn’t go well, but I will always cherish it. What I need to now do is to continue daring to dream, but trust the process without pushing too hard and that’s the plan, after a few more beers and some time off…

The rest of the day was spent enjoying some german beer and food with a large group of people; all of whom experienced personal triumph. We had guys out with us who had enjoyed breaking 3 hours for the first time, running 2hrs 31 from a 5 week build-up, finishing 3rd V45 overall, running close to pbs and running great times from ZERO running in the last 4 weeks. A very enjoyable day in a great city!

Thanks for reading my blog; I’m sorry it wasn’t a fruitful training block that would be of use to people in the future! I have to say though, if you are considering Berlin marathon jump in with both feet, it is an amazing city and the weather is always conducive to great marathon racing and good city exploring! Also, don’t be afraid to challenge your limits in training, but be smart!

I don’t know if I’ll blog again as you tend to feel a bit of a dickhead when you go on about your training and subsequently drop out of the race! But I did have a few things I’d love to write about, so you never know!

Berlin Marathon training summary week 7 (aka Operation: “Legs like fluffy pillows”) inc. Vale of York Half Marathon

Sunday

I set off on the drive to Sherburn-in-Elmet in trepidation. Will this be my last run? Will the hammy tear again? Which race plan shall I go with (I had 3)? How the hell is Hatti doing over in Bulgaria?! Also playing on my mind was the fact that Andy had to scratch the race after succumbing to a glut problem which had been niggling in recent weeks. I was looking forward to us working out our pacing strategy together in this race and generally have enjoyed both marathon build-ups with him, so it was sad news.

As I parked up the car I turned to the left and next to me was no other than Jason Cherriman. We’ve got to know each other pretty well over the past year after sharing a very positive experience at Berlin 2015. He was keen for a pb at the VoYHM and was jokingly trying to coax me into racing it out with him. We had a relaxed mooch about to get numbers sorted and warmed up together. Conditions were perfect, the race was well organised and the course looked pretty darn flat.

My race options were :

  1. Run entirely to feel at “marathon effort” as I have done all along and see where the time came out at.
  2. Run with a group (if one formed in the first mile) at around marathon effort, but roll with the punches a little if required.
  3. Run to a target pace to see how it felt at half way, hopefully giving a rough indication of what might be and which group to try to target in Berlin.

People often talk about Berlin as the fastest marathon in the world and rightly so, as it is. From my experience, what made it so great was the timing of it (the conditions are often conducive to a fair reflection of form). It also lends itself well to maintaining a good rhythm due to the wide, sweeping nature of the roads; there are no convoluted sections and the road surface is second to none, you almost glide along it.

What I found to be so brilliant though (having not experienced another marathon when being under 15 stone) was the fact that there are a number of large running packs which form, covering a wide range of paces. I was fortunate to jump onto one of these last year and although sharing a lot of the work and paying in the latter stages, it really helped as we effortlessly clicked off 5.25 miles consistantly for 2/3s of the race.

So my race strategy dilemma in VoYHM was related to the best way to maximise these benefits in this year’s assault. Do I run to feel and jump on a group that suits? Do I run to feel and not bother with a group if there isn’t one going at my pace? Or, do I speculate a target time and try to find a group working at this pace…?

As the days leading up to VoYM progressed, having almost survived my biggest ever block of training (almost) and having gone into this block with a solid marathon behind me, I rationalised that I haven’t done all this to run 2.25 again. I did it as I want to improve, so it would be good to get a gauge of where I truly am, away from the flattering paces churned out at Holmebrook.

I had an idea of a pace that was making a regular appearance on my Garmin in long sessions and decided to target that pace for the whole race, so option 3 it was. Furthermore, my goal throughout this race was to try and get 13 splits which were identical, mainly to keep me interested and concentrating, but also to avoid any potential racing as the prize money here was generous. The pace I targeted was 5.23 or (gulp) 2.21.08 pace.

The race started 15mins late due to a little issue with parking, Jason set off on his own agenda and I set off in second. I could hear one or two around me but there was to be no lead pack forming today. The first 1/2 mile was looking like 5.30 pace so I upped the effort a little then found my stride.

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Photo: Laughing at the failed starting horn! Credit: @alcphotosleeds
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Photo: It’s Jason Cherriman!!! Credit: @alcphotosleeds

Other than churning out the miles, there was little to report as I was alone for much of the race just working to times and watching Jason’s race unfold. I was wondering if he might pop (as I had a few silly ideas of what I might do if I went past him!) He didn’t and he went on to run a fine pb. Unfortunately my little game was thwarted in mile 1 as I hit 5.22! I took gels at mile 4 and 9 just to get used to taking them at race pace.

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Photo: Enjoying the great roads Credit: @alcphotosleeds

I crossed the line in 70mins 50 seconds, averaging 5.22 miling. I was pretty pleased with the consistency of my splits with the majority being there or thereabouts. I felt great in doing it, CV -wise really strong, although my legs were achey throughout (and much of the preceding week). My glut is paying for it now, I think generally my legs are as fatigued as they are going to allow and its certainly time for a taper. I do feel I could have continued on  at this pace from a CV perspective and I was pleased to see my HR was consistently in my roughly calculated “marathon training zone” (Between 149 and 164 depending on session duration).

Strava activity here

  1 5:22 148 bpm
  2 5:22 158 bpm
  3 5:23 158 bpm
  4 5:27 158 bpm
  5 5:21 158 bpm
  6 5:20 159 bpm
  7 5:20 160 bpm
  8 5:21 159 bpm
  9 5:26 160 bpm
 10 5:21 160 bpm
 11 5:22 160 bpm
 12 5:23 159 bpm
 13 5:18 162 bpm
 .1 57s 162 bpm

As lovely as that is I can’t allow myself to get over-excited. To complete a marathon at that pace would be a dream come true. But to do it for another 13 miles is a tall order, I’m not so sure I’m there yet. But it was a really encouraging session and I can’t wait for race weekend, it was SO good last year. I’ll be happy with an improvement and really I need to just get the body recovered and see what happens on the day.

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Photo: That troublesome glut
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Photo: “So Dave, whats your secret to running 620 miles in 6 weeks and gaining weight..?”
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Photo: Two proud Yorkshiremen Shoes: Inov-8 Trail Talon 250

A word about the race.

As with Newark, no one has asked me to say anything positive, but I would like to, it was brilliant! The timing of it is perfect as an end of season half. The course is as flat as I have ever seen, the road surface has a very forgiving surface dressing (I’d hate that as a cyclist) and there are no convoluted sections. The setting is great for families with aeroplanes and a play area, whilst the water stations were perfectly placed and well manned. A really great experience.

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Photo: The Force was strong in this one Credit: sizzlerfotos660

In fact, it is a race deserving of a major champs to swell participation at the front end, as with a few good guys out there times could be super fast. So anyone plotting an autumn marathon should look no further than Newark and VoYHM as training races, perfectly placed time-wise and very similar to many aspects of Berlin! I got back to the car to find out that Hatti had smashed her race in Bulgaria and would be on the plane home as the 10th best mountain runner in the world, pretty awesome. I hope it is just the start for her, she deserves some luck!

Following VoYHM I woke the next day feeling pretty good energy and leg wise but my troublesome gluts were indeed more troublesome. Although I got away with doing the race without an injury its clear I’m on the brink. The next few days of running were super easy, within the niggles. This is probably a good thing as I was feeling pretty flat from cutting back on my diet quite significantly (again, but sensibly). I then received the sad news that Andy had to withdraw from Berlin.

I’m gutted about this for a number of reasons, mainly because I know how much we have both put into this and I’m sad for him. Selfishly I’m sad as I really have enjoyed the process of our two marathon training blocks together and the feeling last year when we ran pretty much the entire race together was something I will never forget. Worse still my plan was to never do the same marathons twice, but all of our club mates were very keen to sample what we experienced last year. This led to a great Hallamshire group entering this year’s race and doing it with them was too good an opportunity to miss…sadly quite a few guys have now succumbed to injuries and it has taken a little bit of shine away from it all. But…got to stay positive.

Thursday

Thursday was the first day I felt I could tackle a session and with me working the weekend (and with the structure of the taper) it was a case of do the session today or don’t do it at all. So I headed to Holmebrook with the attitude of “drop out at any point”. Things didn’t feel fantastic initially, but the warm up solved many of the problems and I felt happy to at least dip my feet into a few reps. The niggles continue to be a question of “if the marathon wasn’t next week, would you just get this done?”

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a bit disappointed when I rocked up to the car park and Andy’s car wasn’t there (I’m aware that makes us sound like a pair of doggers). The session was 3 x mile/2mins, 3 x 1k/90secs. I like this as a taper session and deliberately did it 10 days out from the big dance to begin to sharpen.

It was super warm but stunning  down at the park and I was treated to a cracking sunset over the lake (which I found to be symbolic as the final proper session drew to a close), I was gutted I didn’t have my camera for it! As for the session itself, I simply got strapped in and went comfortably hard, running below the niggle threshold and was pleasantly surprised with how that turned out!

Miles 4.49, 4.51, 4.50

Ks 2.57, 2.57, 2.57

Strava link here

So thats it! All main sessions done, just a sharpening session of 15 x 1min/1min on Sunday and 3 x 1 mile at marathon pace on Wednesday. I’m fully expecting the Wednesday session to feel lousy as it will be my last day of backing off the food and taper sessions always lead to an over-analysis of how you feel!

  Am PM
Sunday VoYHM 18.5
Monday Rest
Tuesday Rest 9
Wednesday 5 5
Thursday Rest 3 x mile, 3 x 1k (10)
Friday Rest 8
Saturday 5 5
Total 66

And finally…

I’ve really enjoyed this training block and I’ve quite enjoyed blogging about it. I don’t know what will happen in the race, but I do know that running-wise the last 12 months have been the best I’ve ever had, consistent training with some special moments. Since May I have done every session I have wanted, pretty much on my terms. Over the years I’ve had more than my share of bad luck with injury and illness, I actually though I’d never run again in 2012-2014.

I’ve never experienced a training block almost entirely on my terms and it is something I have always wanted the opportunity to say I have done; to eradicate the potential”what-ifs” when I reflect on my running “career” once it ends. So much can go wrong with marathons, but save for illness or injury I can travel to Berlin and say this is probably the best shape I will ever get myself in. Hopefully the taper will allow me to recover fully from, without a doubt, my hardest ever 6 weeks of training. There is a feeling of “was it too much?” creeping in at the moment…but I’m so glad I’ve tried.

The next blog will come post marathon weekend…until then, everything is crossed! Thanks for reading!

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Berlin Marathon week 6 summary…the business end!

Sunday

Wow! That was an interesting start to the final week of training proper. Both Andy and I feeling it a bit and this run was a slog from start to finish. Expecting a bit of a grind I asked if we could do our add-ons at the start before completing 2 laps of Derwent/Howden reservoirs (a roughly 11 mile loop). Good job we did as I was ready to jack it in after lap one where we picked up club-mate Zak for his 16 mile long run. Zak’s arrival was a major boost giving us respite from the endless updates on each others aches, niggles and the tedious discussion about what to pack for Berlin!

That said, good to have some uncomfortable running again as the last few miles of the marathon won’t be pretty! A solid 24 miler to kick-off the final full week of training. Up until now I have focussed on fuelling the big training weeks, but this week I cut back the portions (sensibly) to try and get closer to racing weight. This may partly have contributed to feeling a bit crap and certainly didn’t feel exactly full of it going into Tuesday’s session..

Tuesday

In my morning run I encountered a familiar “phantom pain” in my hamstring. Not painful, no tightness, just a very occasional twinge. I’ve been here before in the few days leading up to Sheffield Half Marathon 2016, a race I trained through. At mile 9 whilst recording a 5.30 mile split my hamstring randomly tore in spectacular fashion. So, this time around the phantom symptom left me with a bit of a dilemma.

Its difficult (when the warning signs may well just be psychosomatic) to back off, as we all encounter numerous issues in any given training week! I opted to start the session and stop immediately if there was any sign of hamstring distress. Andy was in a similar boat with his glut so we were on the same page and both expected a DNF. The session was 20mins M /2mins, 4 x mile hard/2mins, 20mins M.

We started off in our usual routine of alternately leading the laps of the lake, but on lap 3 I was obviously holding Andy back as he came past early. I couldn’t help as I really wanted to see the session through without a setback, so I let him go (feeling guilty for not helping out.). My giddy garmin was giving decent splits out anyway, but we weren’t going as quick as it suggested.

We completed the first long rep and I was happy with how things felt, but opted to consolidate rather than hit the session hard. We jumped into the mile reps and I was surprised to see some impressive splits regardless of silly gamins. Unfortunately Andy had to throw the towel in after mile rep 1, but it was a smart decision and possibly one that will see him rewarded with a stonking marathon time.

I kept on going on my own, actually enjoying the session as the pressure was off, with the only goal being survival. I was pleased with the splits and entered the final M pace block feeling I could maintain the pace. I left the final sandwich session very happy- but again paces must be taken with more than a pinch of salt. If I had to guess I’d say paces were more like 5.26 and 4.53 as a guide.

M pace 1: 5.20 (149)

Miles: 4.45 (161), 4.46 (162), 4.41 (163), 4.43 (164)

M pace 2: 5.20 (158)

Strava link here

I did a little reflecting on recent sessions and again could be accused of cramming with a session on Friday, LR Sunday and session Tues…however(!).. I have to say this is one of those moments were I hold my hands up and say “life got in the way” and it HAD to be those days or nothing. Work is busy, home is busy and Hatti has just flown out to the World Mountain Running Champs, so fitting training around work and looking after the little one was always going to be tricky this week. This is the block where I say sod it and go for it and ultimately if it doesn’t work out…thats life! I tried.

Its such an amazing feeling to see Hatti finally jetting off in a GB tracksuit again, she’s understandably bloody excited!

The following day my legs felt ok running to work but the phantom sensation still loomed, with the occasional twinge. I made the decision on the run into work that the rest of this week would be easy. I’m pretty surprised to be honest that I’ve managed to string 5 1/2 weeks of c.100 miles together and any hard running in the next few days isn’t going to make a massive difference.

  Am Pm
Sunday 24
Monday Rest
Tuesday 4 Session 20mins/4xmile/ 20miles (16
Wednesday 6 10
Thursday Rest 13
Friday 6 10
Saturday 9 Rest
Total 99

I really want to go ahead with the planned “marathon paced” hit-out at Vale of York Half Marathon on Sunday, so I hoped that super-easy runs and lots of stretching/ general TLC would see me through! As I write this I still feel a little niggly, so my plan is to start at the planned pace/effort and if theres any doubt jump out and either complete an easy run or stop altogether.

Its been a fun block, I’ve really enjoyed training for this marathon despite missing the mountain training. It’s been a great excuse to eat plenty of Meridian products to help fuel and recover…but now its time to start thinking about racing weight, so I can’t eat as much as I’d like!

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Photo: All gone!

My biggest concern at present is whether I’m going to get a run in Berlin! I’m on the start list, with no number allocated (everyone else has one) and I haven’t received the “start-card” e-mail that everyone else has received…fingers crossed I can get it sorted! When I originally entered the race my computer crashed, resulting in me accidentally entering twice. I rang to rectify this and spent much of the year wondering if the guy who I spoke to quite understood my request. Looks like possibly he didn’t and may have cancelled both entries! I’m not going to lie its quite stressful!

In other news, I’m pretty excited to have put a bit of a race plan together for next years fell and mountain running season. Its tough finding the balance, as there are so many great  races and I want to do them all! Its going to be one hell of a challenge as I have so many weak areas in relation to fell and mountain racing, but I just cannot wait to have some fun and enjoy the thrill of racing without thinking about times.

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Berlin Marathon Week 5 Summary (and why I’m dressed like this)

Week 5 began with 2 plods to recover from the previous day’s hard session. It also began with the weekly tentative posting of my blog, where I cringe a little for putting it all out into the social media ether. One or two people commented that week 4 looked a bit too hard, including a coach whose opinion I really respect.

This blog is by no means a “how to” guide as no-one knows how this marathon campaign will end, not least myself. It’s just an open invitation to join me in the process of trying to make sense of the marathon. That said, I would really love to become a coach one day and I have to ask myself the question, would I set one of my athletes the week I just completed? The answer is a resounding “definitely not”.

In truth, there are a few reasons why the week panned out the way it did and it’s probably worth spending a little time reflecting on it:

  1. I am fully committed to training within myself each day and running to perceived effort rather than forcing a HR or pace. I hope this will be my get out of jail free card and it’s why I allowed myself to plan the week the way I did. I felt ok on session days and in control during the sessions themselves. In the past I have been a slave to mileage, paces, HR and the performances of my peers in training. I’m happy that I’ve broken free from that now as I have been prone to severely overtraining numerous times.
  2. I am conscious that a shorter build-up makes it difficult to effectively introduce every training stimulus you might wish to use, as a consequence, maybe I was a little guilty of cramming.
  3. My last marathon build-up was very cautious in mileage and structure, it went well and I wanted to knowingly take a few risks in this build-up. Week 4 essentially being THE risk.
  4. I had the privilege of being coached by Bud Baldaro for a couple of years, I would struggle to be coached by anyone else now, such was his brilliance. I try very hard to think “what would Bud do” when planning training blocks or reacting to any problems such as tiredness or injury. Perhaps last week I was guilty of being caught in my own bubble and not being able to see the overall picture. I certainly didn’t apply the common sense and objectivity that Bud would encourage.

That said, I seem to have got through the week relatively unscathed and I certainly don’t want to press the panic button. I’m fairly happy that my training has been well thought through in its prescription and I have been prepared to be flexible.

But the appreciated “word in my ear” following my blog post did make me take another look at the structure of this week and shuffle things around a bit. It now looks more like a training week from last year’s build-up. Despite this build-up being “a quickie” and only just feeling like I’ve got going, now is the time to start winding things down and allowing myself to get fresh.

So…Tuesday’s tough session stays, but Saturday’s session is now moved to Friday in order to allow a bit of respite before the final long easy run on Sunday. My planned midweek long run (with efforts) has been replaced by a shorter, easier run to allow recovery from Tuesday’s session. Much like when planning week 4, I was aware that I was pushing my luck a little in week 5, but perhaps I should be thankful I’ve got this far into the season and be smart from now. I’m not a great recovery artist and I have to respect that.

Tuesday

As this session approached I took a big gulp..is this session too big for me? Am I going to leave everything in training ? I’d made a pact with myself pre-Berlin 2016 campaign that this was to be THE marathon build-up where I take some risks and ask a few questions of myself. An opportunity to do the miles and sessions, so I can always say I tried. The two standout sessions that were always in the back of my mind as this training block approached were this one and the full distance run of last week.

I decided to stick to the plan-but (as always) run to feel and try to survive the session with equal splits. It was back to Holmebrook for more laps, I think I’ve run over 60 miles on this 0.5 mile loop in the past 10 days, but I love it!

Andy was off work and I didn’t fancy doing this session after work and finishing at 8pm before attempting to get up at 6 and run again, so I took the afternoon off. It was scorchio but fresh with a nice breeze. The session was 30 mins at M effort/2mins, 5 x 1k hard/90secs, 30mins at M effort. Frustratingly for future over-analysis (but liberating at the time) I forgot my HR monitor; I almost cancelled the session!

We set off and soon got on pace, it felt v. comfortable, but I’m pleased we didn’t force it. I counted down the lake laps, Andy and I took it in turns at leading them (12 in total). After the first 30 mins I took on a quick gel (purely to get used to tolerating them), before jumping into the hard reps of which we took turns in leading and split the final rep half each. We then got straight back on marathon effort for the final 30mins. All the way up until the last 15 minutes it felt very comfortable and controlled but I certainly felt the pinch in the final section (mainly due to slightly achey legs). CV wise I felt strong.

We were both pleased with that! We are now over the hump of our longest run, biggest week and toughest session. Still plenty of training to come but nothing to fear now, the aim is to consolidate and stay healthy.

Strava link here (excluding warm up/down)

30 mins  1) 5.17 pace 2) 5.17 pace

k reps 3.00, 2.58, 2.56, 2.58, 2.55

NB Take paces with a pinch of salt…this is a rocket fast loop and my Garmin is a little giddy. But the consistency was there!

Friday

After two days of recovery running my legs still felt a bit flat. I still didn’t feel too bad in myself energy levels-wise but the working week was making me feel a little jaded (bank holiday weeks always feel worse!) I met Andy and Zak Mellard, a Hallamshire club mate, at Rother Valley where we headed out and back on the trans-pennine trail for a warm-up and rep one before completing laps of the 3 mile lake- a perfect marathon training venue! The session was 4 x 15mins @ M effort/2mins with 3 mile warm up/down.

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Photo: Rother Valley, a cracking marathon training venue

We all felt shit and it was a case of getting it done! I was off the pace on rep one behind Andy who looked strong and I had all manner of negative thoughts entering my head, “am I over-reached? Am I soft? Is Holmebrook really THAT fast that this is my actual pace?!” After a little word with myself I rationalised that this is marathon training for goodness sake! I’m fine in myself but my legs are dull and a bit achey, so what a great opportunity to replicate the final hour of the marathon.

From this point I felt quite positive and attacked the session more, without overdoing it. It’s worth noting that I cut out all treats this week and was a little more regimented in my portion control. This may also have played a part in feeling a little crap and at the end of the day, Tuesday’s session was the biggest training session I’ve ever completed. Paces were decent considering how I felt but HR suggests I worked for it!

Paces (HR): Rep1: 5.30 (151),Rep 2: 5.23 (156),Rep 3: 5.24 (160),Rep 4: 5.28 (160)

Strava link here

So in all a pleasing week! One more decent week of mileage to come, culminating with the Vale of York half marathon…then its taper time!

  AM PM
Sunday 10.25 5
Monday Rest
Tuesday Rest 30mins, 5x1k, 30mins

(20 miles)

Wednesday 6 10
Thursday 5 10.5
Friday Rest 4 x 15 mins

(18miles)

Saturday 10.25 4
Total 99

Bud’s Run

I mentioned briefly Bud Baldaro. Someone very important to myself, Hatti and hundreds if not thousands of others. Someone who in 2 years probably did more for me than anyone else. (I mean that with no disrespect to anyone who has ever done anything for me!) I plan to do a blog about coaching and coaches when I’ve finished the weekly marathon summaries.

But in the mean time, just a quick plug for an annual event which is special to us all, as it is in aid of Parkinson’s UK. Bud was diagnosed with Parkinson’s a few years ago and very selflessly kept it to himself for a while. Now he has shared it with us all he wants to put a positive spin on it. He continues to make dreams for many runners, giving up endless amounts of time and energy all year round, all round the clock.

We now all enjoy attending a fantastic annual fundraising 5k event (this year on October 9th) in Birmingham called “Bud’s Run.” A great opportunity to run in a fantastic race (or fun run) for a very good cause. More details Here.

Thanks for reading! If you find the blog interesting, please share and like on Facebook/Twitter, it would be greatly appreciated..(or give me feedback on how I can improve-that’s just as appreciated!)

Inov-8          Meridian foods

Week 3 Summary: Including Newark Half Marathon race report. Week beginning 14th August 2016

 

This week has been a really enjoyable week of training. Beginning with a bang on Sunday with a 22mile session incorporating Newark Half marathon…

Sunday:

Newark Half Marathon:

Session of 3 mile warm up

13 miles @marathon “effort”

1 mile easy 2 miles @marathon “effort”

1 mile easy, 1 mile @marathon “effort”,

1 mile easy

Total: 22.1 miles.

I headed to Newark with my mate Charlie who sadly had to withdraw from the race through injury. He still came along to check out the event with a view to competing next year. He was a huge help with the logistics of getting my session done! My calf had been bothering me for a few days prior to the race, so I was anxious that the race may just about finish it off.

Recently I’ve being trying to get the lengthy sessions done in my race day racing flats, as last year in Berlin my calves were in bits for the final 3 miles…I think in part due to racing in flats for such a long way for the first time. This approach has begun to take its toll, so I decided to be cautious in Newark and warmed up in trainers, jumping into flats for the the race at least and make a call afterwards whether or not to jump into trainers for the rest of the session.

I really didn’t want to get sucked into racing as I wanted to complete the session properly, so to avoid it feeling too much like race day I allowed myself a couple of beers the night before and opted for a regular running vest vs. my Hallamshire vest, to try and avoid the “juices flowing” too much! On the startline were some familiar faces including the ever improving Aidan Johnson from Rotherham Harriers, on the comeback trail from injury. There were also many familiar vests travelling from far and wide including Stockport and Gateshead.

The gun went and immediately a pack of 7 formed. We quickly got organised and I settled in at the back. As I’ve mentioned before I don’t really want to spend this training block being a slave to pace, but I did use the watch a few times to make sure the pace wasn’t too tasty. It was perfect c. 5.25-30. It was great to practice pack running, trying my best not to clip or be clipped!

I tried to remain relaxed and headed back to towards the race finish area, it finished with a lap of a large field and I crossed the line for a surprising 1st place in a time of 70.46 (5.23pace). I quickly garbled a load of rubbish to the local papers (I always feel a bit daft when they ask questions as I don’t want look like a billy-big-bollocks), then gave Charlie a thumbs up that my calf was good and I’d continue in my flats. Quick vest change (I was dripping) and out onto the course for the rest of the session.

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Photo: Trying not to get giddy and get the pace right Credit: PS Pix

Initially the roads were wide enough to accommodate me running against the grain of the race, but I soon found myself on a narrower road running against the field- so if anyone reads this who was there I’m really sorry if I got in your way ( I tried my best not to)! I was disappointed not to quite get back on pace- the remaining efforts were c.5.32 pace, but overall I was really pleased with a mornings work.

Half 70.46
2 mile 5.27, 5.37
1 mile 5.33

“Marathon effort” is all well and good but for 13 miles its not realistically going to reflect what a target time should be for me. My aim was to feel like I could turn around and do it again. Although I did feel I’d achieved this as I crossed the line, the slowing of the subsequent efforts suggests otherwise. So I’ll have to have another crack at truly gauging the effort when I run the Vale of York half. Conditions were perfect for a flattering time, although I was pretty dehydrated from the humidity towards the end of my session.

I took gels at miles 7 and 14 of my overall run. I think I’ll shoot for a 3 gel strategy at Berlin. Alarmingly my guts were in bits afterwards, similar to after Berlin last year, so it must be the gels (the same as last year- but the best of all I tried in last year’s build-up). I need to work on tolerating these if I don’t want it to hamper my performance at the post race night out…

A quick word about Newark Half. I have not been put up to this by any race organisers etc… But I would like to say it was a fab event that I can really recommend. A great fast course, really well organised. An amazing “race village” with all sorts of bouncy castles etc.. so perfect for making a family day out of the race. I really enjoyed it, it is a perfect race to pop in the training plan in the build up to an Autumn marathon.

race village
Photo: The fab race village (before everyone arrived!) 

Strava activity for Newark HM here

Newark Half Marathon link here

Wednesday:

After a rest day and easy day it was time for another big session. Pleasingly Andy C was able to join me. We embarked on a session at our favourite marathon training venue; Holmebrook Valley Park  for a session of 2(25 mins marathon (M) effort/2mins/ 6 x .25mile/60s). A whopper. Again a little anxious as to how my calf would fare with the faster efforts.

Holmbrook
Photo: The amazing Holmebrook park Meridian Foods

We got stuck in to M effort pretty quickly sharing laps and working well, both relaxed and controlled. In 25 minutes we had 3 encounters with dogs. The first, a horse sized beast off its lead (it’s a nature reserve where signs request dogs are on a lead-hence it being an ideal training venue), bounded towards us. Cue a quick “discussion” with its owner about the use of dog leads.

We cracked on. 3 laps later another dog on an extendable lead (who, along with his owners appeared very friendly) charged at me with that “I’m gonna bite you, you bastard” growl. I sped up, meanwhile Andy met the dog at full pelt knee to eye socket, cue the awful yelp of a dog in pain. Hopefully it’s ok, Andy was genuinely concerned! In our final lap, we then almost put our foot through a dog the size of a squirrel. A nightmare. Sometimes its better doing sessions in beautiful places when the weather is crap!

Onto the 400s- we went hard but the pace wasn’t our best, roughly 72 secs per effort. Last year we were putting down 68 secs, but then I’d entered the marathon block off the back of a brief track season. So no biggy. With shocked legs, we jumped back onto M effort, which was a little harder, but I was pleased that it felt controlled. The final 6 x .25 mile was a total slog! So it was a “get through” set. Overall, another decent session. Frustratingly I forgot to upload the session to the garmin before-hand so the strava files are all separate.

25mins 5.23 pace HR 149
400s 71, 69, 72, 72, 72, 71
25mins 5.21 158
400s 74, 70, 70, 73, 73, 73

Strava activities for this session: 25min M pace (1) 6(.25/60s) set 1 25min M pace (2) 6(.25/60s) set 2

The rest of the week was easy running. Mainly flat, but I couldn’t resist an undulating trail run around the local reservoirs to try out my new trail shoes. I had no problems getting up at 5.45 to squeeze the run in before nursery as I love that new shoe feeling! They were great too, can’t wait to get some muddy miles in them over winter. If I’m honest, I’m really excited about Berlin and enjoying my training, but I’m really missing the off-road and hill training of earlier this summer.

Check out the Inov-8 Trail Talons here

Summary:

Day Am Pm
Sunday Newark Half marathon session (3 w/up, 13@ M-effort,1 easy, 2 @M-effort, 1 easy, 1 easy, 1 easy)  22.1 miles
Monday Rest
Tuesday 5.75 10.25
Wednesday 4 Marathon/speed sandwich

2(25mins,6x.25mile) 17.6miles

Thursday 5.75 10
Friday 4.6 10
Saturday 10 Rest
Total 100.4 miles

I’ve been pleased with how things have gone so far, I feel like its coming together. I’ve got one or two niggles that have almost gone by the time I get to the next session, but then the session exacerbates them. So I’ve dropped the intensity but kept the volume high until next Tuesday, in the hope that I will shake them off and my body will adapt to the training so far…to be fair I’m still running the marathon distance for only the third time ever this Sunday..!

Thanks for reading, if you find the blog interesting, please share and like on Facebook/Twitter, it would be greatly appreciated..(or give me feedback on how I can improve-that’s just as appreciated!)

 

 

Weekly summary: Week beginning 7th August 2016 (Berlin Marathon Week 2 of 8)

Total: 100.6 miles

Sunday   AM 10 PM 5

Monday Rest

Tuesday

AM 4

PM 18. Incl. 25 min M effort/ 2mins, 4(1 mile/2min), 25 min M effort

Paces/HR: 5.23/148. 5.03/154, 5.04,/155, 5.05/156, 5.04/154, 5.18/155

Wednesday AM 10 PM 6

Thursday

AM 14 incl 3(2mile M effort/ 1 mile easy)

5.30/144 , 5.28/149 ,5.27/151

PM 4.4 Easy

Friday AM 5 PM 9.6

Saturday Am 9.7 Pm 4

This week started tamely with an easy double day after the “Dambuster” session on Saturday:

Tuesday

A big session and the last day of my long stretch at work, so I was surprised to feel quite good on it! I was slightly disappointed by the splits of my mile reps, but I’m putting it down to the lack of speed work and possible residual “mountain legs”. Its tempting to get some speed work done to improve my efficiency and get some quicker times laid down.

But, I’ve scheduled a few 400 rep sessions later in the plan, the idea being that all aspects of my training program will come out in the wash on the big day. I don’t really want to do 400s now just to make my future reps look better on paper. Whether it even works this way I’m not so sure, but that’s my logic and I’m sticking to it!

Wednesday

A recovery day, but notable as Hatts and Sophie joined me on the bike on the Monsal trail, It was nice to have company and have a conversation with Hatti! I noted to her that my legs felt pretty decent after yesterday’s session…

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A nice family run with the A-team!

Thursday

…but oh how the legs laughed on Thursday morning for my mid-week long run. This included 3 x 2 miles off 1 mile easy. I felt strong CV wise, but the legs felt heavy, so I just rolled with it. Times and HR were decent for how I felt to be fair!

The rest of the week was easy running in prep for a big session at Newark HM. Left calf a little niggly, so had to nurse it a little each night

Nice to get the long week out of the way, next time I have to work a weekend is the week before the marathon, which allows me to use my lieu days to travel…ideal!

Worth noting that on Saturday evening in my pre session/race shakeout I felt shattered- HR was sky high initially (so I panicked that I was fighting something again). Fortunately, I gave the HR sensors a little “lick” and it soon came down. Just tired then, phew! Thats allowed!

 

That tricky second blog about that tricky second marathon…

Last summer when people learned I was training for my first marathon their initial question was always “what time are you aiming for?” My boring response was always, I just want to finish. That was the truth. There were times I would like to achieve, but having spent the last 2-3 years injured I just wanted to train for a marathon, rock up on race day, get the best out of myself and have a few well earned German steins.

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Photo: It is essential to plan a comprehensive post race recovery strategy

This year as I enter the marathon-training block, the same question has already begun to poke its head. So for the next eight weeks I will continue to recite my boring mantra. Basically I have too much respect for the marathon (and those who have run well at it) to start waltzing around telling people what time I’m planning or hoping to run, because I just don’t know! I mean if I’m honest, I want to run 2.16, but it ain’t gonna happen!

Last year the goal was to train properly but smartly. I was rewarded with a time of 2.25.40. A solid debut. I’d love to run quicker and there’s a lot I can try in order to achieve this. The trick is to find out what worked in the last build up and what I can do differently this time.

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Photo: Crossing the line at Berlin 2015

Some other time I’d like to write a blog about how I’ve learned to so far get the best out of myself (mainly through error). I’m hoping there is a lot more to learn as I have a lot of goals that I haven’t yet realised. But when plotting my marathon training plan, I tried to consider my strengths and weaknesses.

I struggled to find any particular physical strengths; I don’t have any basic speed, I’m not what I like to call a “training sponge”*, I’ve had my fair share of injuries and illness and I’m not a particularly confident runner. I do seem to be able to judge my pace well in sessions and races, I always hope that this might lend itself to a good marathon.

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Photo: Leading the group in Berlin Credit: Fredel Van Fresch

My main strength is probably the fact that; in spite of all this I just adore running, I can’t get enough! So the plan was to ensure I maintained consistency, listened to my body early (to ensure I didn’t lose out on any running), perform sessions/ runs in places I enjoy running and hopefully gain some confidence by seeing my fitness improve. A significant boost was that club-mate Andy Challenger (who is the same level as me) was keen on pairing up as much as possible for sessions.

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Photo: A special day, running every step with my training partner!

The plan developed into a “safety first” 3-month approach with 2 full easy days between any sessions or long runs. It kept me fresh (ish) throughout. The mileage was relatively modest c.85/90mpw with one 100 miler during which I only ran easy/threshold runs. What I would say is that I think 3 months was too long for me. I felt at my best around 6 weeks in and after this the wheels fell of a bit, with a multitude of niggles and an illness occurring quite close to race day.

This time I think it’s time to take a few risks.

I’ve had a decent year with some personal success, so I might as well have a pop at “proper” marathon training.

The build up will only be 8 weeks (off the back of a good 3 month mountain running training block), including a taper fortnight. But for 6 weeks I aim to average c.100 miles, topping out at 110. Still not at the dizzy heights of many marathon “achievers”, but I don’t think I could combine anymore with work/family (and demonstrate any level of libido!)

Sessions will be bigger and instead of two recovery days I’m now planning a midweek long run (something I made a conscious decision to omit last time), with some marathon efforts. The biggy for me is to place a full distance long run in the middle of the block. This again is something I considered last time. I know it has worked for many successful marathon runners, not least Lornah Kiplagat, who told us in Kenya that her best marathon came after she went for a long run to her mum’s house and got lost, running for over 3 hours… If it worked for her..!

Unknown
Some times we find out what works by accident!

I’ve also considered the 20-mile tempo run, but looking at those who have employed it, many have ended up running a fantastic tempo only to come up short on race day. Similarly, I’ve seen loads of marathon guys flying in training and put down some stonking half-marathon pbs between 4 and 6 weeks out from marathon day. But again, many have then fallen short on race day. It’s almost as though the big performance comes out here and then it’s difficult to recover in time.

Don’t get me wrong…when these things have paid off, they’ve paid off spectacularly, but I’m not the greatest at recovering and I’m not so sure they’d work for me. They’re the kind of thing I’d like to try once I’ve got a time I’m happy with…(or if I can’t get near that time after a few attempts!)

My biggest fear is over training.

I’ve done it too many times, once or twice with spectacularly bad consequences (but that’s another blog). On the flip side, I want to get the best out of myself. Hopefully I’m getting better at listening to my body and with this in mind, the deal I’ve made with myself in this block is to back off either the volume or intensity (or both) and not chase a magical mileage number (should I feel crap for any prolonged period of time).

The running gods don’t give a shit about the mathematics of your weekly mileage; it’s sometimes hard to remember that! Proof will be in the pudding! I do feel it’s those times when we risk crossing the threshold into overtraining that having an objective coach becomes worth its weight in gold… and that is another, another blog!

One accidental change to my training came through having a kid. Monday had to be my shift for the nursery run, so it also had to be my rest day (previously Friday). I think this is a major reason why I’ve found consistency over the last couple of years, as it has stopped me running after most of my long runs and allowed me enter the Tuesday sessions more fresh. Historically I would often develop a niggle during the long run and make it worse in a Tuesday session!

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Photo: Keeping me happy and helping prevent injury since 2014!

I’m not going to race for the next 6 weeks, but in order to practice fuelling/pacing and to get the race day buzz I’ll be doing sessions at Newark and Vale of York Half marathons. Rather than trying to guess a target pace, as with last year’s sessions, I plan to “feel” marathon effort in each session. I’ll then look at the ave HR and paces post sessions to see a) if I’m working too hard b) if things are progressing at all.

Will it work? Who knows?!

I’ll enjoy trying it all though! Below is a link to my weekly training summary:

Week one of 8: Berlin Marathon 2016

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Photo: A pair of giddy pillocks

*Training sponge: They smash hard mile after hard mile and seem to recover well, not get injured and respond with amazing performances! Sure, they sometimes come unstuck, but someone like me wouldn’t last a week with their approach!