This has been the biggest week of training of this marathon cycle, and as I sit here writing with my legs still buzzing and head a little fuzzy in that post really long run haze, my body is telling me so. It has been another mixed week of running, some good runs, some average runs and a bit of a quad niggle thrown in the mix. This still remains one of the most testing marathon training blocks I have completed - the last few weeks in particular have challenged me at times - but in amongst the tough runs, are still those moments when running gives me joy, and that is worth keeping going for.
MONDAY: Body Pump class
TUESDAY: my quads were still tender today from last week's efforts at the track and running Newton's Fraction Half Marathon. I delayed intervals to allow some more recovery and completed a 5 mile tempo run instead. It was steady, the tempo miles just under 8 min/mile pace, and running emphasised that my quads were still rather sore!
WEDNESDAY: I tried intervals today, and whilst my legs were better, my quads were definitely still not perfect. My quads are my weakness - if I were to look back at this blog across all my entries and see how any times I have struggled with this muscle group I think I would be shocked! I therefore had to rein back the speed a little on the interval reps, as I quickly learnt that real maximal extension was not comfortable. I ran 8 miles with 15 x 400m reps, with a mixture of paces ranging from just over 7 min/mile to closer to 7.40 min/mile. I still managed some speed work at least.
THURSDAY: with an easy 10 miles on the plan I was pleased to give my legs some gentle running. I kept the pace nice and comfortable, which meant instead it just felt like I was out running for an extra long time! In the evening we did some trail running techniques at Run Club. My trail experience is very limited compared to my road running, so I took things slowly and safely, but also really enjoyed running in new parts of Lincoln and learning. I was so engrossed in running I kept forgetting to actually turn my watch on - but think I logged around 3 further miles.
FRIDAY: Rest Day
SATURDAY: the start of a mixed weekend of running. Heading to Lincoln parkrun I had no expectations on my performance, in fact my hopes probably extended no further than being able to have my weekly chat with a few friends and leave with the happy warmth parkrun always gives me. I was therefore shocked by how well I ran, especially as my left quad was still not right when being asked to extend further than a steady running action. I could feel I was running strongly, I did not need to look at my watch, and I love runs like this which just feel so naturally good. I was also smiling and feeling happy as I ran; the comfort in my strength pleased me. I finished in 20:48 and in my best time for a number of weeks (see image).
SUNDAY: in contrast to yesterday where my run left me feeling slightly more confident in my body, today's long run was another in my recent series of challenging longer runs. I had 22 miles to log - a test in itself - and really just wanted it to feel as good as possible. Over the first 10 miles I was hopeful; miles were passing quickly, I was focused on running but not so much it consumed my thoughts, and I just seemed to be ticking along, not super speedily, but better than I have been. I held my own up until around 15 miles, but those final 7 miles I just lost it. My legs started to hurt and I could not take my mind away from the pain. I also could not escape thinking about how many miles I had left. I needed to distract myself, but I couldn't. It was a challenge to keep going, and every time I was forced to stop to cross a road etc. it took an almighty effort to make myself go again. Hitting 22 miles I was a little disheartened by my average pace - 8.45 min/mile - but moreover by the fact that it was another Sunday where I was left feeling knackered from a long run, but at the same time not great for it.
The words to this blog have been whirring around in my head all week, and one of the reasons why I maintain this log of my running is sometimes just to help me get those thoughts written down. In the end I have finished with a part personal reflection/part log of my week of training.
The start of this week marked the beginning of my next cycle of marathon training – sixteen weeks until I take on another 26.2 miles, which will hopefully be my 10th marathon event. I will be very honest; at the onset of the week I sat contemplating another training block and I was not really sure how I felt about it. The past few weeks since completing the Brighton Marathon I have surprised myself. Despite a little wobble the week after the race, I have coped fine without a structured training plan in place, whereas in the past I have been lost, and this has often led to me feeling quite down.
The truth is, I have not needed marathon training to make me feel happy. This is massive progress for me and perhaps why I was not feeling that desperate longing to begin another training cycle, as I have been in the past. A few things have helped, and one of these in particular has been embracing the other non-running aspects of my life and finding a healthy way to balance still being a running mad individual with being able to celebrate friends’ birthdays, go to a concert, eat that massive ice cream sundae with my sister etc.
It is not just the past few weeks however where the change in me can be seen. Those who have been following my running adventures for a while now will probably not be surprised to read that last year was tough for me personally, and there were times I really was not in a good place mentally. I was pretty much relying on running to keep me going. I am pleased to say I feel a long way from that person right now - I still love my running! - but it feels somewhat like I am also free to feel and be truly me.
Unsurprisingly, I therefore have hopes for this block of training as well as goals for the marathon itself. My hope is to try keep a happy medium between enjoying my training and enjoying my life outside running. I believe it is possible – in fact, I know it is – I just need to learn to let it be possible. My goal for the race itself remains the same as with Brighton Marathon earlier this year – I will be PB hunting and aiming to edge closer to the 3.30 marker. This is a goal that still scares me, but one I will keep trying to strive towards, and my efforts at Brighton have not done anything to dampen my belief it might be possible one day. The journey begins…
MONDAY: a muggy double strength session with Strength and Conditioning followed by Body Pump.
TUESDAY: the lingering muggy air was eased slightly this morning with the welcoming feel of some light rain – much preferred for my first interval session in a few weeks. I ran 5 miles with 4 x 800m reps; I pushed hard and was happy to set benchmark rep splits of all under 7.20 min/mile.
WEDNESDAY: I found myself in the small, somewhat tucked away place of Yarnfield today for a conference with work. I had stayed here before, so had a rough running route in mind, but was still pleased I only had 4 miles on my plan to try map out. The run became a tempo session as my slight nervousness at running on unknown rural roads and then into a bit of an industrial estate meant I pushed the pace!
THURSDAY: a double run day with an easy 4 miles in the morning followed by 3 hilly miles at Run Club in the evening. I was Run Leader for this session and had set quite a tough hill challenge involving repeated figure of eight loops. I enjoyed seeing others draw on their determination to test themselves and realise what they could achieve and also got a good few hill reps in myself.
FRIDAY: Rest Day
SATURDAY: with possibly my favourite running event ahead on Sunday – Round Sheffield Run – I opted to volunteer at Lincoln parkrun today in the glorious sunshine. The sun tempted me out for an easy 3 miles of my own at lunchtime, and in the 25 degree heat I was pleased it was just a few miles!
SUNDAY: Round Sheffield Run – this is such a unique event I don’t think I can ever do it justice in writing (although I will try in a full blog soon!) A multi staged trail challenge, equating to nearly 12 miles of distance and featuring lot of hills along the way; it is not my regular thing, but maybe this is why I love it so much. The best part is being able to compete in the event as a pair and this was the 4th year I had ran with my friend at my side. This year’s event was possibly my favourite in terms of the simple fact we just had a great time running together and wonderful day out in all. Sat next to my friend in a deckchair whilst sipping a post run beer at the race village, it felt like I was setting a benchmark I needed for the weeks ahead – run hard, challenge myself and see what I can achieve, but take opportunities to relax, enjoy life and embrace those within it too.
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...