Thursday, 19 December 2013

Here goes nothing....!

Well here we are - the start of my formal training plan!

In an ideal world this would be a simple marathon training plan; run almost entirely on roads and primarily on the flat. If I were only preparing for my first marathon (the Manchester Marathon on the 6 April 2014) then this would be ideal. However, as always with me I have to push the boundaries and make things more complicated and challenging for myself.

On the 10 May I will be running my first ultra-marathon (the Marlborough Downs Challenge - a 33 mile trail race) and on the 21 June my first trail marathon (Trail Marathon of Wales). 

All of a sudden my training becomes a little more complex and more thought is required. Gone are thoughts of running along beautiful flat asphalt-covered routes. No, instead, I have hills and trail runs over rough terrain. My training plan mixes up road running and trail running, to ensure I can sustain a reasonable pace on the road marathon and that I don't burn myself on the trail marathons.

Injury Update
My last blog referred to an injury in left knee caused by running tough trail runs. I'd taken 8 days off running then decided to go for a 5k run. The run wasn't about pace or heart rate - it was about testing the knee. 

I started slow and could feel the knee - but then continued. Eventually I felt no pain. Now when I say the knee, I'm sure it is the tendons going into the knee that are the issue, because my whole left leg from knee upwards is a little sore. The good news is that I don't seem to have made the injury worse...the bad news is that this is not the ideal position to be in, especially at the start of a 21 week, 5 day per week training plan! 

However I had to make a decision about whether I proceed or not. If I didn't then I'd run out of time to run the Manchester Marathon on the 6 April. I just won't get enough miles in or be physically fit enough to run that distance; and this will in turn have a knock-of affect with the Marlborough Downs Challenge a month later. So I made the decision to proceed (cautiously). I will eliminate all trail running out of the training until the left leg feels better. I will also look to try and rest the knee and leg as much as possible when not running - especially on rest days (there are 2 rest days per week).

If I need to stop running then so be it... I will then reassess the situation and my running goals at that point. So here am - throwing the coin in the air: heads I make things worse; tails I'm able to continue. Watch this space for which side the coin lands!

The Start of Training
I'm very much aware that it's going to take a lot of commitment, focus, perseverance, determination and consistency to train for these marathons; and I am under no illusion about the challenge that confronts me. Towards the end of the training I will be averaging 50+ miles per week with almost all my runs (with the exception of my Long Run on Sundays) having to take place before I go to work in the morning. At the start of the plan this isn't so much of an issue, but as I gradually work through the plan, then one of my mid-weeks runs (which is half the distance of the Long Run) will start getting longer; and running in Zone 2 means this will take me quite a while. Towards the end of the training I will be doing 21k before breakfast - and that thought scares the shit out of me!

So here we are, and the end of my first week of running (with Christmas only next week). I've hauled my arse out of bed early and covered 66.40 km over 5 sessions. Given my longest running week was 42k, I can already start to see the task ahead of me.

The week began with a 13k Progressive Run on Monday (usually this would be on a Tuesday, but I was away on business on Tuesday). This was a pace-based run based on the following:

Run 1 km at 7:00 min/km • Run 1 km at 6:20 min/km • Run 2 km at 6:00 min/km • Run 3 km at 5:45 min/km • Run 3 km at 5:30 min/km • Run 2 km at 5:20 min/km • Run 1 km at 5:10 min/km • Cool down

However the run wasn't as successful as I'd hoped for!

With the exception of the tester run I hadn't run for 9 days, and during that time consumed far too much wine and food. Big mistake as this seems to have had a small impact on my fitness levels. I also felt a few twinges in my knee around the 7k mark, so stopped a few times to massage the knee a little. I then ran back but more slowly (i.e., not progressive!). The knee felt fine at the slower pace and, by the end of the run it seemed to have sorted itself out. The weather was also crazy - it was very windy and yet warm (12 degrees!). Finally, I'd never run so early in the morning before (was running at 5:40am) - this will be rectified soon enough, but I think my body was still waking up! All-in-all not the ideal start to my formal training plan. That said I still managed the 13k I'd set out to run; so in that sense 13k before breakfast was a good thing. The Progressive Run is a weekly run, so I am hoping next week I'll have improved somewhat!

Wednesday was my first HR-based Easy Run of 13k (half the distance of my Sunday long run). This was in Zone 2, or in my case no more than 139 bpm. This was frustratingly slow and I was getting quite angry whilst running. As soon as I hit a hill the watch beeped and I kept on having to slow right down to walking pace to get the HR down. It took me 1hr 46 mins to run a measly 13km - it's the slowest I've ever run! However, the positive is that this should be a good baseline indicator for improvement. Hopefully, over time, my pace will increase whilst remaining within Zone 2. 

Kenyan Hills
Andover Road in the morning
Thursday brought my first hill training session - the dreaded Kenyan Hills. This was a HR-based training session where I ran up a 7 - 10% gradient hill for 45 minutes. Ran up the hill in Zone 5 and down in Zone 4. This was hard work and I hit my MHR a couple of times. Felt sick on one occasion. This is a really good workout...but also a killer!

Friday was a rest day with Saturday being a gentle Recovery Run at Zone 2 for a 45 minutes.

The final run of the week was the Long Run on Sunday. The fact that my Long Runs were already approaching 28k before I started the training plan makes it slightly easier for me to ramp up the mileage on the Long Run. I therefore decided to start my Long Run at 26k and will do this distance for 2 weeks before increasing by 10% (running that for 2 weeks and then increasing again by 10%).

Originally this weeks' Long Run was supposed to be on the Ridgeway (a trail route); however, due to my left knee (in fact, leg!) I thought it would be best to run on the roads for while so as not to make things even worse. I could have chosen a boring straight piece of road (perhaps from Newbury to Hungerford and back), but in the end I decided to a hilly 26k loop.

So I got up at 5.20am and headed out. It was actually a pleasant, if uneventful, run. I find running in the dark easier than running in the light... The miles just seem to fly by, even at a very slow pace. I just love starting a run in the dark and then ending it in the light. As I was finishing I ran past 3 or 4 runners who had obviously just started their run and were flying. I felt a little proud of myself because although I was running slow, I had churned through 26km before breakfast. I felt happy...

So there we have it, my first full week of marathon training. I've really enjoyed it thus far. I'm getting used to getting up early, and now actually prefer running early morning. Next week will be a test - running Christmas morning and Boxing Day morning..but I'm looking forward to it...

Happy Christmas everyone...and enjoy your festive running!

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