“Woah, we’re half way there. Woah, livin’ on a prayer!”
Week 11 of the 22 week marathon schedule saw me hit the halfway point.
4x 1600m at 10k pace
[This was originally 10 miles with 6 at marathon pace on the schedule, which will take place the following week instead.]
400m running tracks in the UK aren’t all that common anymore, with many being scrapped and not replaced (Birmingham Uni’s a prime example). Whilst I was in France on business, imagine my surprise when I identified a free communal 400m synthetic track, only a stone’s throw from the hotel I stayed at. I love running on the track; there’s something about the accurate 400m measurement that plays to my OCD side for precision.
My French colleagues thought I was mad for heading out during what was the warmest day of the year. Even in the evening, the sun was still at a considerable angle in the sky and the very nature of running tracks makes them exposed with little to no shade. I, too, had my reservations, but it was either MTFU to get 4x 1600m out of the way, or hit the hotel gym, which reportedly wasn’t that well air-conditioned, for some mind-numbing time on the dreadmill. The lure of the track was too good to miss, so out I went in the 34 degree French summer’s evening…
Whilst it was certainly warm outside, there was a distinct lack of humidity in the air to help take some of the edge off the heat. My legs felt incredibly fresh, and my Garmin monitoring my heart rate indicated I was good to go to hit the session. Once there, after a short detour to actually find the entrance, another mad local also ventured on to the track, staying in lane 2 at a gentle pace. The open-air pool next door blared out some French rap music with a not too shabby beat to serve as my soundtrack for the session.
Unexpectedly, I was able to hit the first 1600m rep at the target 10k pace of 3:48 per km without much difficulty. On and on this went for three further reps to produce the following:
- 6:04/3:48 per km
- 5:59/3:44 per km
- 6:01/3:45 per km
- 5:52/3:40 per km (approximated, due to hitting the lap button accidentally)
I probably could have squeezed out a fifth rep, but the caretaker had arrived just as I ended my fourth rep to call time and close up.
All very pleasing and the march of improvement continued.
Here’s the Strava data for this session.
12 miles from work
Another week and another medium-long run; this time, upping the ante to 12 miles for my longest mid-week medium-long run so far.
The electrifying energy from my French track visit had greatly diminished. I was pretty tired from the longer than normal work days I endured whilst away and had a mountain of stuff to catch-up on whilst back at my desk. My feet had also swelled up a touch, with the toenail on my right big toe becoming bruised and banged up. I really wasn’t in the mood to cover 12 miles from the office.
I took things easy and ran largely by feel. With so many fair-weather canal users out and about, I was thankful that I didn’t have any pace targets to hit. As it so happened, my pace naturally gravitated to around 8 minutes per mile, with roughly 10 seconds variance either way.
My form was a mess. I felt sloppy and my coordination was way off, with each step feeling like I was mere moments away from tripping over my own feet. I could only put this down to the 4x 1600m form still lingering and clashing with the slower pace.
Things felt immensely better in the remaining few miles, with the final mile feeling especially easy compared to the final mile of last week’s 19 mile run.
Here’s the Strava data for this run.
Kingsbury Water Parkrun
Somewhere during the second half of the route – photo by Megan Prince
Cannon Hill was closed for the final week of three, so Nigel, Lis and I headed to Kingsbury Water Parkrun for our extended tour of events around the West Midlands. Bad timing on our part, but we also managed to pick the first week of enforced car parking charges at Kingsbury Water Parkrun. For reference, parking is discounted from £4.50 to £2 on production of a Parkrun barcode between 8am and 9am.
The course is a single lap, moving in a clock-wise fashion around one of the lakes. I like single lap courses because it firmly keeps different paced groups apart from each other, whereas the more laps you introduce, the more the frontrunners come into contact with the backmarkers. Due to the size of the lake, Nigel and I weren’t able to cover the course in detail beforehand as part of our warm-up; this would later come back to bite me.
The start line was quite narrow and congested. I jostled my way to the second row and had a largely unimpeded getaway from the line, whereas Nigel a few rows back struggled to gain much traction early on. And gaining traction was a regular theme, because there rarely was any on the gravel or dirt paths that comprised over 90% of the course!
I felt fine for the first 2km and then began to slip off the pace in the middle due to a lack of people around me to work with. Unfamiliarity with the course also had me on edge, straining my concentration to focus on the guy ahead; trying to keep this up was mentally fatiguing and then began my want for the finish line to appear. I eventually crossed the line in 19:04 for an eighth place finish out of some 350 or so runners; seventh was within reach but I didn’t have any bounce in my legs to chase the guy down.
Here’s the Strava data for this run.
There were a lot of agitated dogs at the event and whilst we didn’t witness it ourselves, we later learned another runner’s dog had bitten a couple of runners. This in itself was not a unique event, where a different runner’s dog in the last few months also did the same. There’s a pretty heated thread about the whole situation on Kingsbury Water Parkrun’s community page for those that want to read about it in more depth.
Whilst it’s always a pleasant novelty to run on a different course for the first time, I didn’t gel with Kingsbury Water Parkrun’s course as much as I had hoped or when compared to recent visits at Cwmbran, Arrow Valley and Walsall Arboretum.
I had 20 miles to cover as per the training schedule and after last week’s sufferfest, I proactively headed out much earlier than usual to get the distance in – I was up at 6:15am, which is even earlier than when I have to go to work!
Conditions were much more pleasant than last week, thanks to overcast skies and a breeze. Crowds on the canal towpaths were also minimal, mainly consisting of fellow runners, cyclists and dog walkers.
I’d overloaded my ultra vest with electrolyted water, so I started my run much heavier than usual, and given the mild conditions, I didn’t really have a chance to drink it all either; I ended up pouring some of it away to jettison some of the additional weight.
I changed the last few miles up for some mental stimulation. I was tired and my legs were tight, especially in my quads from the regular up-down motion of the second half of the run; my glutes also received a workout on the climbs.
Finishing back at home, I was in a much better state than last week’s 19 miles that were under much harsher conditions. I get a bit of a break from distance for a while, with the Magor Marsh 10k next week as a PB attack, followed by 16 miles with 12 at marathon pace the week after, before dropping down to 15 miles.
Here’s the Strava data for this run.
The road to the Yorkshire Marathon
Slowly but surely, it’s coming together. The last time I ran 20 miles, I was almost a minute slower per mile and that was through necessity rather than choice.
The second half of my training schedule continues to see an uplift in distance, topping out at 22/23 miles, along with a gradual shift towards speeds faster than marathon pace. I’m in two minds about inserting a couple of marathon paced miles into my medium-long runs as a security blanket, where currently there are some weeks where there’s no specified pace work at all.