Another brick? (Brighton marathon training, week 12)


Week 12 of the ‘2016 improver plan’ that I am using as a template for my training. [Available via Virgin London Marathon plans, devised by Martin Yelling.]

Week twelve began, mentally, immediately after I completed my long run at the end of week eleven. Frustrated, disappointed and unsure what had bought my run to such an ignominious end, I messaged running friends and relations and scoured the internet to find an answer. I soon reached the conclusion that it was the infamous ‘wall’ that had brought me to a stop and reflected on the nutrition and hydration strategy I had used. ‘Strategy’ is something of an overstatement; I had simply eaten 4 ShotBloks over the course of the run and hadn’t modified, or even considered, my pre-run nutrition. With particular reference to a Runner’s World article, which could have been written for me, I had a detailed nutrition and hydration strategy for this week’s long run in place by the next morning.

My training plan prescribed an easier workload this week and I found myself willing the long run to come around so that I could test my newly formed strategy. The intervening runs went well and I was particularly aware on Friday that the easier week had revitalised me as I comfortably ran the easy run 10 to 15 seconds per kilometre faster than I have done for a few weeks.

And so, my long run came around. I implemented my nutrition and hydration strategy as described below. Contrasted with last week for effect 🙂

this week last week
pre-run nutrition carb loading (day before run)
porridge, half banana, milk (3 hrs before run)
normal cereal (3hrs before run)
pre-run hydration 1 litre water after breakfast, continue sipping until 1 hour before run
in run nutrition 15 ShotBloks (every 10 minutes) 4 ShotBloks (at intervals of approximately 25, 26, 27 and 35 minutes)
in run hydration CamelBak loaded with 1.5 litres water, sipping at will – 800ml drunk  300ml water drunk at 16k

As I set out I felt light on my feet and settled in to a pace around 5:00/km. I decided that this week, I would attempt marathon pace for the final 10k of my run. Once again I ran from home to the Cutty Sark and beyond. This time, requiring 2 hours 50 minutes in total, I continued past the Dome to a point just beyond the cable car crossing to Silvertown. As I turned around I felt comfortable both on my feet and internally; eating a ShotBlok every ten minutes hadn’t proved in any way difficult as I had anticipated it might when I first calculated how many to consume. At the same geographical point on my return journey as last week, I again took stock and found myself doubting that raising my pace to 4:30/km goal marathon pace would even be possible. Nonetheless, I resolved that I would try to do so simply to find out what would happen. I allowed myself to back off by 5 or 10 seconds per kilometre over the next two kilometres and, as my watched chimed the completion of the second of these, pushed forward. The next time I looked at my watch I was pleased to see that I was averaging 4:25/km and felt a surge of relief and renewed belief. I held a pace inside my goal pace for a couple of kilometres before subsequent kilometres slipped first into the low, and then high, 4:30’s. I told myself I could complete 8k at, or at least near, my target pace. It was good to run through the same locations where, last week, I had broken down. I recorded another kilometre at goal pace. However, during the eighth kilometre striving for marathon pace, I had to concede defeat. Even as I slowed a little, intentionally, my legs began to stiffen up and I slowed considerably more with no further decision. I averaged 4:33/km over the seven complete kilometres before recording 4:54 and 6:03 for the final two full kilometres of my run. I jogged for a few more seconds to complete the prescribed 2 hours and 50 minutes.

It is difficult to confidently interpret what is happening with my training and to know how to respond to it. Last week’s breakdown definitely felt more physically overwhelming than the slowdown at the end of this week’s and yet there is still something distinctly wrong with a kilometre of over 6 minutes. I am pretty sure that last week’s breakdown was the ‘wall’, but I’m not completely sure that this week’s still quite uncontrolled slowdown wasn’t …

Perhaps running 5 minute kilometres before attempting 10k at marathon pace was too aggressive for my level of experience; this being my first marathon training cycle and this sequence of long runs all generating new longest-run-ever milestones as I complete them. Yet I am still nagged by thoughts along the lines of, “If I can’t run 10k at marathon pace after 25k of easy running, how can I expect to run 10k at marathon pace after 32.2k at marathon pace?” To which my own, optimistic, answer is, “Because that is what training is for – to develop your ability such that you can run an entire marathon at goal pace. You can’t do it yet because you haven’t finished your training yet!”

I have contemplated revising my goal time from 3:10 to 3:15 in light of my experience of the last two weekends … And yet, I think 3:10 is fairly conservative. Running 1:27:58 for a half marathon, as I did two weeks ago – in Brighton, in windy conditions – projects to a marathon performance of 3:03:18 using age grading, 3:05:08 using the calculator at McMillan and 3:03:24 entering only the minimum information required in the Runner’s World race time predictor. Now, I know that caveats about being appropriately trained apply, but I am after all following a marathon training plan fairly rigorously. Also, I accept that no runner is equally able at all distances, I consider myself a middle distance runner and this, in part, informed my selection of a goal time. [Initially I didn’t commit to a specific time, but had settled on 3:10 by December 2014.]

Next week is the final, pre-taper, week of training. It ends in a final long run – the longest – scheduled for 3 hours and 25 minutes. I’m not sure that running for that long will benefit me. Even slowing down to say 5:24/km I would cover almost 38km which must be too far. My current thinking is that I will repeat this week’s run, but with the easy section significantly slower at 5:12/km before again attempting the final 10k at goal pace.

week 12 – ending Sunday 12 March

day training
Tue 53 mins easy (4:59/km average)
Wed 9 mins easy (warm up)
41 mins steady
8 mins easy (warm down)
(5:06/km average)
(4:29/km average)
(5:18/km average)
Fri 37 mins easy (4:46/km average)
Sun 126 mins easy
32 mins steady
12 mins easy / jog
(5:02/km average)
(4:33/km average)
(5:28/km average)
total 5 hrs 18 mins (+13 mins versus training plan)


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