Monday, 5 May 2014

Taper, Taper, Taper...

No sooner had I recovered from Manchester and back in training than I'm back to tapering again! Unlike tapering for Manchester (which involved only 1 week of tapering), this time I'm allowing two weeks (partly to rest the legs and partly to rest my right foot).

NRs - Off Road - Snelsmore
My only run during my first week of tapering was an off-road run around Snelsmore Common with the Newbury Runners. The plan was to meet at the car park opposite the Castle pub in Donnington; however I wanted to use this run for a number of purposes:

  • To get my feet used to running in my off-road trainers again (not worn them since December 2013)
  • See how my tendon and wider foot would react to wearing off-road trainers, as they do not have a medial support and are purposely tight-fitting
  • See how much water I can comfortably carry whilst running (with one eye on the Marlborough Downs Challenge in a couple of weeks)

I therefore decided to run from my house to the Castle pub (approx. 5km) and was joined by Simon Adams, another Newbury Runner.

This was an enjoyable evening run, with lots of mud. I deliberately ran slow, but my foot became very painful very quickly. It was the twisting and turning through the woods that did it. Greg and Jason were funny in trying to navigate through the woods and there was certainly a lot of back-tracking; this made it even more fun. I was deliberately going at a slower pace than everyone else as I was testing the above items out. After the run my foot started to really hurt. On this run I discovered the following:

  • I now have major concerns about off-road running with a dodgy foot - this puts not only Marlborough but also the Trail Marathon Wales (in June) at risk
  • My off-road trainers are naff at gaining traction on the road (they are designed 100% for off-road; as soon as you run on a road they loose their grip!)
  • When my hydration vest is fully loaded with water (2 * 750ml bottles on the front and 2ltrs in the bladder) it becomes too heavy to run with over hilly terrain. I need to make a decision on race-day: uses bottles or use the bladder. May get away with both if I use my smaller 500ml bottles (one of which leaks slightly)

The total distance I covered on that run was 18km; 8km of which was off-road. I miss running off-road; I would do it more if it wasn't for the tendon.

Another Parkrun PB!!!
Having only run on Wednesday I was in theory more fresh for my next Parkrun PB attempt on Saturday; or so the theory was.

New Parkrun PB of 23:20
I set the Virtual Partner to pace me at 4:30 min/km. This was ambitious as it would have given me a 22:30 time; however I was hoping that should I not fully hit that pace then at least I'd still come under the elusive sub-23 mark. I met my race partner from last week (Brian) at the start, and we headed off.

We tried not to make the same mistake as last week and get stuck in the crowd for the first km; in fact we made completely opposite mistake and went out too quick. I clocked 4:17 min/km for the first km - this was too fast for a controlled run! As I reduced the pace a little Brian just kept on going - that was my motivational pacer gone; I was on my own with only my watch to motivate me.

I kept a fairly consistent pace for the next two km at 4:33 and 4:35 respectively; however I started to find it hard to breath and took a number of short stops to catch my breath. The 4th km was done in a terrible 5:06 min/km and I realised I was way behind target. The final km was just painful but I did it in 4:42 min/km for a total race time of 23:20 and a new personal best. I shaved 7 seconds off last weeks' time. Okay, not the sub-23 I was after, but certainly going in the right direction. In the end I stopped 5 times - last week I only stopped once! I need to get the pace right in that first km, as that is having a huge impact on the remaining race. I did however get a new maximum HR of 190 bpm. I've come to the conclusion that I'm now starting to enjoy Parkrun again and that perhaps I should come more often.

Free Run - Tendon Tester
Immediately after completing Parkrun I then set off on what would be my final mid-distance run before the Milton Keynes Marathon. My foot felt fine during Parkrun, but no sooner had I set off than it became sore again. This was what I like to call a "Free Run" - i.e., just running without the constraints of time, pace or HR. I can run as fast/slow as I want; stop when I want; and never look at the HR. They are certainly more enjoyable runs and the the kind of runs most people do when they are not in training. All my runs this year have felt like I have shackles on; mechanisms for controlling training. I'm looking forward to the days of not training....

Variation on the Tesco - Garden C
The route I took was a slight version on the Tesco - Garden Centre loop I did last week with a total distance of 17km. It was a pleasant enough run but I had to stop an awful lot of times due to my tendon. It was really sore and as I was running I was pondering whether I'd actually make it to the start line at Milton Keynes. This 17km was a struggle - a marathon is 42km! My running has been on borrowed time; I should have stopped running a long time ago (when I first got the injury) but through stubbornness on my part I've continued. Maybe this run (and the one earlier in the week) is a sign that perhaps my borrowed time is starting to run out.

I completed the 17km run in 1hr 44 mins but it felt like I'd been running a lot further and for a lot longer. So ends my first week of tapering. A huge reduction in mileage with some highs and lows. The final week of tapering (where I do very little running) is probably something that my body needs...and my confidence (which I have very little of at the time of writing). 

Zone 2 Taper Runs
Having taken a few days off to allow my foot to calm down I then went out for the first of three gentle 5km taper runs around Wash Common / Wash Water. These are pretty uneventful runs and they are gentle plods. They only really serve two purposes: firstly to get the legs moving as I'm stuck behind a desk most of the day; secondly it helps psychologically since doing no running at all for a week is pretty depressing, so getting out for 30 mins or so is a good thing for the mind. Fitness-wise they serve no benefit, since I will neither lose nor improve my fitness within a single week.

Despite what I just said above, the taper runs this week are also there to update me on the state of my foot. The first run was not good. I could feel the pain on the top right hand side of my foot. I have a feeling this is tendonitis - not good when you are just about to run a marathon! My second and third taper runs were also uneventful - so much so they are not worth writing about. The only thing I will say about them is that my HR monitor is playing silly buggers, and that my foot is still sore. Nuff said really.

So am I ready for my 2nd marathon?
The answer is no!

Despite pumping in some good mileage after Manchester, the past two weeks through tapering has meant I've felt sluggish. My foot is still sore and that is giving me a concern. Unlike Manchester when my foot was not sore before going into the race; this time it is sore and I also have the knowledge of knowing the pain this will play during a 26.2 mile slog. And that is what it's going to feel like on Monday: a slog and a painful one at that. I just hope I can complete it... I will be taking painkillers before, during and after the race...

So there I will be at the start line on Monday: not feeling healthy and also seriously injuried. I should pull out...but I can't. I need to run it...and follow it up 5 days later with my first ultra. Time is running out and I need to bag these races whilst I can...the realisation of the enormity of my stupidity is starting to dawn in me. In order to counter the physical pain of running these two races I need to be 100% focused and my mind and desire to finish needs to be strong.

I have just two runs next week - just two little runs. Please body and mind. Please get me through them...

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