They do say there's no such thing as a free lunch, and in my case I certainly had to pay in order to earn this feast! Not in the monetary sense, but by enduring my longest ever run to date – 21.3 miles to be precise for what is the final long run of my marathon training programme.
The plan was as follows: my Dad has kindly invited us to lunch on Easter Sunday. But Sundays are long run days, and my wife works on Saturdays so I can't switch it because I'm looking after my daughter. However, it's about 15 miles to his house, so if I work out a route and extend that to my planned 20ish distance, throw a change of clothes in the boot of my wife's car and tell her to meet me there...sorted, training AND a nosh up. This is looking good!
And so it proved to be, a decent run in perfect weather conditions (makes a change for unlucky me) and a not too shabby time of 3hr10 – averaging 8:57 minute miles. I'm very happy with that, especially as my total mileage for the week was 40, and 36 for the week before so that's a lot of strain on those legs and feet.
Yet the story doesn't quite end there. This is me and if you've learned anything about me through these blog updates you'll know there's always a bit of drama along the way! Well, life would be boring if I just went out, did a run, got showered and changed and carried on with my day...
The drama started the night before. We took our daughter to watch Disney on Ice, which she absolutely loved...well, she's four, obsessed with princesses and Frozen and the show had it all, even an ice-skating reindeer!
In amongst all the rushing around, getting jobs done, trying to beat the traffic and bag a half decent parking space at the venue we skipped dinner. No carb loading for me, unless you count a bottle of water and a packet of Malteasers (which, presumably, you can't). It was 10.30pm by the time we got home, so I ate a couple of pieces of toast and headed for bed. Well, I might as well get one thing right and have an early night!
My alarm went off at 6am to allow me to get some breakfast in before running at 8.30am so I wouldn't be late for lunch. But let's be honest, I was hardly race-fuelled and I'm a bit annoyed at myself because this was my last chance on a long run to try and simulate marathon day conditions and finalise my approach to nutrition.
That said, pace and energy levels were good through 15 miles. Then I managed to repeat my mistake from last weekend...I went off-road! Canal tow paths – I swear I am never running along one again. The last time I ran this particular path it was fine – solid, relatively smooth, dry and comfortable. But on Sunday it was a mess. A muddy and uneven mess.
I backed off to save risking any slips or twists but even so my feet were taking a bashing and this carried on for three long miles. Suddenly from nowhere I started getting an occasional stabbing pain in my toes when I struck the deck with my left foot. I've suffered with plantar fasciitis before – it's the reason I now use the most cushioned shoe that Asics makes, the Kayano.
This was the same sensation, except before I'd only felt it after a run and not during one. I certainly got some funny looks from passers by with my grunts, moans and sharp intakes of breath when I hit a stone or bump in the path and had an unwelcome shot of pain.
Was it another bout of plantar fasciitis? I'm not sure. It wasn't in my heel as you'd normally expect and it stopped when I stopped running. There is still a dull ache on the ball of my foot this morning, but I'll put it down to breaking in a new pair of shoes and swapping flat, smooth tarmac for a dodgy path. Thank goodness London is 100% on-road!
What else did I experience out there? I think I might have had a taster of the wall... Mile 21, as soon as that mile started I wanted to stop. I was physically very tired but moreover mentally just not in the zone at all. I walked for a bit, grabbed some sweets and snacks from my belt and finished off the last of my drink.
I did manage to get going again but the pace was woeful, in fact I went from nine minute miles to nearly a 12! Luckily there wasn't far to go, but it was a slightly sad way to finish my longest run. Worse though was how I felt for the next hour – dizzy in the head and sick to my stomach. I can only assume this was a result of being under-fuelled, a truly miserable experience!
And you remember the reason I had ran to my Dad's in the first place? Dinner is served! I just sat there looking at my plate, my tummy doing cartwheels and my body aching all over. Somebody take me away!
You know how it is the more people ask you if you're OK, the worse you actually feel? Apparently I was an unhealthy shade of grey and the colour had drained from my lips. Nice! But gradually everything settled down and I did end up eating – and enjoying – my dinner about half an hour later.
More lessons learned then. The importance of fuelling and nutrition being the most important one. I'm still looking forward to London and take some comfort in the fact that I'll be tapering in the build up, instead of at maximum mileage which has been, frankly, exhausting.
And going by my time today there's a chance, just a chance, that I can get close to the four hour mark, which considering my initial goal was a 4hr30 is something to be very excited about indeed.
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