It’s such a relief to type those words. At last, a training week passes by without any drama. No muscle strains, no sprained limbs, no pesky blisters, no trips or falls. I didn’t even have to get the ice pack out of the freezer.
Yes, I survived my longest running week – the most miles I’ve ever racked up in seven days (x43) – and I’m also really satisfied with my overall pace and performance.
It started with more of a mental test than a physical one. Ten and a bit miles on a grey Tuesday morning before work. Light rain was forecast, but it was humid, so I risked running in a t-shirt. Three miles in there was nothing ‘light’ about what came out of the sky – it was torrential!
I was so tempted to cut the run short, but knuckled down and got the job done. First hurdle overcome. Thank goodness we have hot showers back at the office.
My next two outings were six and five miles respectively. Both ankle and thigh were behaving, so I kicked up a gear and carded a sub-50 minute 10k for the first time in ages. I went quicker again on the five miler, averaging 7:44 minute miles which felt great.
Finally there was a spring back in my stride, aided perhaps by a brand new pair of trainers which I’m bedding in for marathon day. Brooks Adrenaline GTS 17s – absolutely loving them, highly recommended if you over-pronate as I do.
In between runs, I made sure I completed two cross training sessions at home. Core work and weights while watching the telly – who needs gyms anyway?
And then it was time for the big one. The longest long run of the programme at 20 miles. As with previous marathon efforts, I use these runs to practice my fuelling strategy as much as my running technique.
Readers of my previous posts might remember the stomach problems I invariably get from gels, so in race mode I use Shot Blox chews instead. Yet in all these years, I’ve done that typical bloke thing and never bothered to read the instructions (or in this case, label containing recommended dosage). I’ve just assumed one Blox equals one gel – substitute one for the other.
Except manufacturer Clif says you should be eating one to two PACKETS per hour. That’s packets, each with six individual Bloxs inside. Oh dear… And I wonder why I keep hitting the wall!
I honestly don’t think I could consume (or manage to carry) that many during a run, but after reading some user-reviews I found a lot of people saying two Bloxs deliver about the same energy boost as one regular gel. I decided to try one full Blox chew every four miles.
Fuelling strategy agreed, I kitted up and set my alarm for a very early wake-up call. Parental duties meant I needed to be home for 9am on Sunday, and therefore on the road by a bleary-eyed half 5 to give me some contingency time in case of a slow run.
Fortunately, it wasn’t required. Everything went super-smooth. I was disciplined in the first few miles (keeping it steady), ramped up the pace mid run (presumably the Shot Blox were kicking in) and finished tired but with some strength still in my legs.
On the clock? 3 hours 10 minutes and in that I’d covered 21 miles. Average pace was 9:03 minute miles, which is in line with my four hour marathon target. And get this….for the first time probably ever when it comes to my history of distance running, I did negative splits!
The second ten miles were two minutes quicker than the first. That’s something Mr Going-Off-Too-Fast here never manages to do. Maybe I should read the dosage instructions more often…
Any injury concerns? Well, the ankle was sore and hurt on impact for the first hour or so – then I think I just got used to it. The point is, no restriction in movement which leaves me hopeful it will hold out on race day.
As for the thigh, pretty good considering the total weekly distance it had to contend with. It twinged around mile 10, so I stopped for a minute and stretched it. At mile 19 the pain was starting to build but never impeded me. Again, a good stretch when I got home and all was forgiven. I’m cautiously optimistic and won’t be putting any excess stress on it during my taper.
And tapering is what comes next. Five weeks to go, four training blocks completed and much lower mileage ahead in the final one. Just as well because I’m definitely ready for some rest and recharging time.
I settled down on Sunday night with a cold beer as a little reward for getting to this point and the Great North Run TV highlights for company. It was exciting to think my own big race isn’t that far away now.
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