Comeback kid

Posted on: 25 Mar 2019

I accept that my credentials as a ‘kid’ are somewhat flimsy, however there’s no denying the change in my performance – and mindset – from one week to the next does constitute a very satisfying return to form.

Before we get into the detail, firstly I want to thank everyone who has been posting tips, suggestions and words of encouragement on my blog entries of late.

Marathon training this year has been a bumpy ride for a multitude of reasons, down there in my legs and feet, but often up here in my head too (and not just because I managed to accidentally whack it on the front door recently!).

But every time I’ve hit a low, fellow Buzzers have stepped forward and pulled me back to a more positive position.  I’ve done my best to provoke you.  Not being happy with my finishing times, nervous about every muscular twinge, over-analysing and over-thinking things.  If I was following this blog, I’d probably be muttering under my breath something like ‘lighten up, for goodness sake’.

Yet that never happens within this community.  Everyone is treated with respect and everyone understands what’s involved in committing yourself to a challenge like distance running, cycling, triathlons and endurance walking.  It’s why I stayed after London 2015; it’s why I keep coming back.

So what’s changed?  The only obvious thing is my footwear and I tell you what, if this is all down to boots then my experience is one hell of a case study on the importance of finding trainers to match your running style!

Maybe I just got unlucky before; maybe the Kayano 25s I bought in the New Year were a one-off dodgy pair and the cushioning was defective; maybe the sizing was wrong.  Anyway, they are now put away and reserved for casual wear and short runs only. 

I switched to an unused pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS, but an old model (17s) that I know fit me perfectly.  I’ve worn them in three out of my last four marathons with no complaints whatsoever.  It’s just a shame these days that Brooks are onto model 19 and getting the old editions in the right size is difficult.  I shall continue scouring eBay and Amazon marketplace…

My first run of the week was five miles on Monday evening.  I was ready for the dreaded new-shoe-burn, but fortunately it never came.  The Adrenalines were like slippers from the get-go.  A slow, steady run, but deliberately so as I was only 24 hours on from my experience at the Stafford half.

Wednesday was earmarked as long run day because I had already booked time off work.  My plan said to do 20 miles for my final distance run before the Brighton marathon; I had reservations though given my rather battered state.

Instead I set out to do three hours’ running and not worry about the distance involved.  I was conscious of the need to practice my fuelling strategy for Brighton too, so mirrored it with water (plus electrolyte tabs) or flat coke every three miles, and a mix of energy bars and gels every five.

This mobile picnic sits in a Camelbak hydration vest, which I used last year during the Chester and Snowdonia marathons and find perfectly comfortable and easy to access.   

The weather on Wednesday was ideal – quite chilly for my 7am start, but only a light breeze and plenty of blue sky.  By the time I finished, it was warming up nicely and the temperature had reached around 12 degrees.

All the ingredients were there for a great run.  Did I manage to deliver one?  Oh yes!

In the end, time on my feet and target mileage combined perfectly.  Twenty miles in a fraction over three hours and I haven’t done a 20-miler at that pace for years.  It was pretty consistent too; mostly in the high 8s and then some slower high nine minute miles as fatigue set in towards the end (and the route got a bit hilly, I promise I’m not just saying that!).

I even managed a sprint finish after looking at my watch to see 30 seconds to go before my self-imposed three hour cut-off.  The sense of relief was enormous, shortly followed by an equally satisfying sense of achievement.

The following day was core and weights after work; then eight miles on Friday morning which passed without any drama.  More core on Saturday before a double run on Sunday.

I say double, however that is something of an exaggeration.  The first was another junior parkrun at Bloxwich with Izzy.  She’s got her time down to 14:47, which is 12 minute mile pace – not bad for an eight year old.  Each time she PBs she claims a celebratory Costa on the way home, so if you were contemplating taking shares out in the company, well…...

 Then on the evening I had my final run of the week.  Sunday had been a good running day all-round – Izzy’s PB, my brother PB’d at the Coventry Half Marathon, a few friends ran well at the Ironbridge half and news of Buzzer exploits across the country were appearing on social media.

As such, there was a definite spring in my step when I hit the roads for a fast five mile blast.  My legs felt light and energised and my feet cushioned and pain-free.  I sang along to every song that came onto my iPod, probably out loud on more than one occasion.  I averaged 7:38 minute miles on that run, back to the sort of pace I was showing in early February before the Leicestershire half.

Just three weeks to go then and now it’s time to start tapering.  I’m glad, easing off will do me good because, as I said earlier, this has been a pretty full-on and eventful training programme.

All that will, of course, be worthwhile in exchange for a decent performance on the 14th.  At least now I can look forward to it knowing I’ve found some form just at the right time.  Game on.

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