This week’s running – 11th to 17th of July 2016

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On pacing duty at Arrow Valley Parkrun – photo by Nick Haynes

Almost halfway there! Week 10 of the 22 week marathon schedule saw me return to chasing volume.

10 miles with 5 at marathon pace

This was possibly my most comfortable marathon paced session yet – everything clicked into place and that was despite running into a strong headwind for 3 out of 5 miles.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

6 miles recovery

An off-site meeting meant I was able to be wrapped up and be home for before 4pm, meaning I didn’t have to carry any bags or Flipbelts etc for a welcome change. A gentle 6 miles via Highbury Park and Cannon Hill Park did just the trick to loosen my legs up.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

11 miles from work

I remember a number of years ago listening to Pete Pfitzinger, one half of Advanced Marathoning’s Pfitzinger and Douglas, give an interview for the Marathon Talk Podcast; when asked what he felt was the differentiating key concept of their strategy, “mid-week medium-long runs” was his reply, so it’s no surprise that there’s plenty of them appearing in my schedule. Week 15 features an 11 mile (with 7 at marathon pace) medium-long run that takes place on a Tuesday and a 12 mile medium-long run that takes place on a Thursday; non-paced medium-long runs top out at 14 miles.

I’m a firm believer in the potency of the mid-week medium-long run, where I introduced them into last autumn and winter’s weekly training in spite of not following any prescribed plan or schedule. I found they gave me that much more aerobic oomph and provided the perfect lead in to each week’s Sunday long run, where it no longer became such a stretch to hit 14 or 15 miles because I’d already experienced 10 miles only days prior whilst less than fresh due to being at work all day.

Warm conditions and a headwind that pervaded whichever direction I faced marred this medium-long run that I had otherwise looked forward to. My legs had no snap, crackle or pop to them, however my cardiovascular system wasn’t stressed at all. Upon finishing, I was pretty wiped out but re-focused my thoughts on the end game that loomed ever closer.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Arrow Valley Parkrun

With the knowledge that Cannon Hill was closed once more, Darryll Thomas and I began planning his next 5k PB attack that would finally get him under 19 minutes. The venue was to be Arrow Valley, which also coincided with their fourth anniversary celebrations for runners aplenty in costume (we declined to join in) and the normal course being run in reverse.

I was reasonably confident I could get Darryll back in with a sub-19 finish, though there were a couple of unknown quantities, such as how fit I was and also any anomalies the reversed course could potentially introduce. Regular runners at the event cited the reverse course being faster, where it swapped the short, but sharp climb in the middle of each lap into a descent, though in exchange were several undulations that then appeared towards the end of each lap. Running one lap in reverse as my warm-up also highlighted the less than stable terrain underfoot for the final 400m or so, making it tricky to ramp up the pace during the closing stages.

Despite the two of us being physically stood at the front of the starting grid, the swell of runners sprinting off all around us was astounding and called for the need to tread cautiously for the first few hundred metres as the course narrowed. There were some runners that were already breathing incredibly heavily during the first 800m, clearly having overcooked it early on and then going through lactic acid hell as we nimbly overtook them.

We continued to reel runners in as we also reeled off steady split after steady split with little variation. My strategy for pacing has and always will be to run as smooth as possible, only slowing if the person I’m pacing shows signs of struggling. There’s no point in me continuing at the set pace in the hope that my follower can close the gap on their own – if they could manage it on their own, then there would be no need for me as a pacer!

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Sub-19? Will they? Won’t they? Photo by Nick Haynes

During the final km, I began shouting out time information to Darryll as the new performance metric to take note of. As we got closer and closer to the finish, I began to grow more and more anxious with the knowledge that it would be tight, with a couple of seconds either way as a very real outcome. Firmly on the finishing straight, I urged Darryll to kick and slowed slightly to allow him to pass into the funnel before me.

We both registered 18:58s on our Garmins and were confident we’d set them off accurately on the start line, so mission accomplished! Officially, we were both rounded up to 18:59 but that mattered not as Darryll had officially joined the sub-19 5k club, whereas a 19:00 finish would have been utter defeat.

It’s only speculation for the moment, but we discussed the likelihood of a big boost to our respective runbritain handicaps, thanks to many of the swift regulars running in costume and taking it easy that morning.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

19 miles – to Brueton Park and back

I’d dodged several bullets already during this summer marathon campaign, but I knew my luck would run out sooner or later regarding the seasonal heat. Temperatures had risen and there were few clouds in the sky to hide from the sun’s rays. Welcome to sufferfest!

I loaded my ultra vest up with some iPro Sport to become better acquainted with what the Yorkshire Marathon will be serving on the course in the autumn. The flavour and consistency were rather refreshing; much thinner than Lucozade and exhibiting a noticeable tang that I anticipated to not become sickly upon frequent consumption.

It took me a couple of miles to get up to my normal long run pace, with the warmth and the additional weight of carrying my own drinks as contributing factors.

Upon reaching Brueton Park, it was not only heaving with sun worshipers, but also Pokémon GO players! Children, teenagers and grown adults were playing the gaming phenomenon that’s taken the world by storm.

The return miles proved to be a challenge, especially with a fierce headwind to contend with whilst already fatigued. Reaching the usual point on the route where I would normally be no more than 800m from home, I then had to turn right instead of going straight on to cover an additional 3 miles with some notable climbs! For future long runs, I’ll bulk the distance out in the middle for an easier ride, mentally.

Once back at home, I was a mess. I was doubled over from how tired I was and rapidly necked a chilled bottle of Lucozade to get some liquid back down me. Within minutes of finishing off the bottle, I began sweating profusely once more. Due to having to ration my liquid consumption out there, I was basically playing catch up trying to shift all the accumulated heat from my body, whilst also quenching my thirst.

I’m glad I toughed it out and even when things felt at their worst, I was still able to maintain the pace, which you can see from the Strava data here.

The road to the Yorkshire Marathon

It’s amazing how adaptable the human body is to regular and repeated training. Only several weeks ago, 16 or 17 miles had me at my limits whereas today, I would have still felt quite decent at those points during the long run.

I’m away in France for a few days next week with work. I’ve purposely singled out a hotel with a nearby 400m tartan track I can take advantage of, though I may end up resigned to the hotel gym if the reported 35 degree heatwave actually hits Paris…

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