Why am I doing this again?
Week 16 of the 22 week marathon schedule. Yes, just 6 weeks remain until race day!
5k – aborted 10 miles
After the previous Sunday’s 22 miles that were cut short to 19, I wanted a little bit of redemption and confirmation that it was just a fluke occurrence. Over 48 hours later, I felt a little more with it and concluded I was at least on the mend… Or so I thought!
Setting off from work, everything felt fine as anticipated. 2 miles in, the effort ramped upwards and I began sweating profusely for what should have been an easy pace to hit. Reaching 5k at Brindley Place, I knew the game was up and called it quits before walking through the city centre to commute back home. More recovery needed to shift the bug!
Here’s the Strava data for this run.
So, my suspicions were proven correct when my symptoms manifested into a full on bout of nasal infection. Runny nose, congestion, sneezing fits, fatigue and headaches – reads like the back of a box of cold medication!
The congestion and snot I could deal with, but it was the fatigue and feeling of being packed out with cotton wool that prevented me from even running at an easy pace. I’ve tried many times over the years to run whilst still viral and I’ve concluded I’m actually better off just waiting it out.
Originally as part of my marathon plan, I had the Severn Bridge Half Marathon down as a glorified marathon pace session. That all went up in smoke when I missed out on the previous week’s 22 miles, so I opted to skip the race in favour of another bash at 22 miles. Lis and I were in Wales anyway to visit family, so a bit of parkrun tourism was in order.
Also, originally as part of my plan, was a visit to the recently launched Caldicot parkrun. Flat and very straight over 2 laps, it was to be my 21st different location – sod’s law, then, that it was cancelled! Lis wanted to get a parkrun in as some race prep ahead of her own 10k debut, so we swapped Caldicot out with the similarly flat Riverfront parkrun, which I’d already recce’d several months ago.
The effort was always meant to be just under 20 minutes, but with numbers down due to the half marathon the following day, the opportunity to place highly was on offer.
From the line, a group of four shot off and forged a sizable gap ahead of the chase group and me. Their pace was far too tasty, so I hung back with everybody else, seemingly pacing for around 20 minutes. The first km rolled in at 4:03, which I concluded was too slow and felt too easy, especially as my legs felt incredibly fresh after several days without and also confirmed I was pretty much healthy again.
I pressed on alone and surprised myself with how effortless it felt. Conditions were damn near-perfect for swift times, with low wind and marginally cooler temperatures. Before too long, a member of the group ahead came into view and I moved from fifth to fourth with ease. 2km ticked by with 3:53, which was more like it!
Nearing the halfway switchback, I could see second and third place had been concluded with the two now running solo; third place continued to slow and it was almost certain I would podium that morning. Reaching halfway, I was caught off-guard when the marshal asked me to cut out a bridge that formerly made up part of the course (later revealed due to instability!) 3km came in for 3:51.
The time came to strike. A short surge allowed me to overtake, remaining on the throttle until completely clear; I heard his cadence increase momentarily in an attempt to tuck into my slipstream, though it dropped back down again after a few seconds as I pushed on.
Second place continued to drift in and out of sight on the horizon, but with a sizable gap between us, it was tricky to gauge whether I was closing on him or not. 4km remained steady with 3:50.
As the remaining distance ticked by, it remained dicey whether I would catch the guy ahead, or not. He looked back at me a few times and I knew he was hurting, simply based on how fast he’d gone out and how long he spent running alone. With perhaps 400m remaining, I was within touching distance and with 300m to go, I kicked with purpose and dared not look back. Passing by some windows, I could see there was nobody on the edge of my reflection; nonetheless, I continued kicking all the way for the line, just in case he had a little something in reserve for the final drag ahead of the finish.
Bridesmaid once again…
Turned out I was quite comfortably in second place by some 9 seconds!
Here’s the Strava data for this run.
Lis’ fourth different parkrun venue
After obligatory handshakes and congratulations to the third and fourth place guys (the winner had disappeared, finishing some 90 seconds earlier!), I gathered my things and cheered Lis in as she made her way for the finish.
Interestingly, the volunteer co-ordinator for the event stopped us for a chat and asked if we were keen to volunteer on occasion; we had to rain on his parade and break it to him that we weren’t from the area, but did our part regularly at Cannon Hill. I know Riverfront has difficulty gathering volunteers like many events, but I am curious to see if the casual enquiry approach yields much uptake or not.
22 miles – to Little Mill and back
Ill or not, the enormity of 22 miles in rural south Wales seemed far more palatable than it did in Birmingham a week prior. There was something to the route that made it, mentally, more manageable, having run it once before in its entirety a year ago.
Anticipating a warm one, I loaded up with two flasks of Coca-Cola and stowed two gels away into my ultra vest – I didn’t want to take any chances and needed to ensure the run was a success, identifying that there’s little-to-no margin for error left in my plan.
Expectedly, the first couple of miles were slow, what with my impromptu race at Riverfront parkrun only 24 hours earlier. Gradually, the pace came and I found myself quite happily hovering at 8:00 to 8:10 miles for much of the second half – by pure coincidence, there was even a pub I passed at 10.5 miles, called “The Halfway House”!
The effort markedly increased at around 15 or 16 miles, notably due to the sun reaching its midday peak overhead. A cold garden hose would have worked wonders!
The final 2 miles were a very good simulator for the closing stages of my marathon. Whereas miles flew by earlier, I found myself counting down to trees only 100m ahead to get me through the grind. Thankfully, I’d also rationed my supplies well, leaving just a few sips to keep me company when things felt at their worst.
Standing between me and the end was the vicious Saint Andrews Walk Climb Strava segment, coming in at 800m long and peaking with a 14% gradient. Funnily enough, this particular setup mimics the closing 800m of the Yorkshire Marathon, albeit with less intensity – at least I’ll be well prepared!
Upon finishing, I was spent as the accompanying photo at the top of this post will attest to. I poured 3 or 4 pints of water over myself to cool down, whilst necking a further 3 or 4 pints to rehydrate. Intriguingly, my quads were also smashed – something I don’t recall happening a year ago on exactly the same route. My only explanation is the steep descent at 19 miles must have done a number on them, whereas I may have simply negotiated the downhill section better in 2016. That and my legs had probably lost a bit of resilience from being away on holiday and a further unplanned lower mileage week.
Here’s the Strava data for this run.
The road to the Yorkshire Marathon II
A week of two halves, with the second half being completely unrecognisable from the first!
I have just one 20-21 mile run and a 22 mile run remaining in the plan. I’ve always applied the basic goal within a marathon plan of my five longest runs equating to 100 miles or more; all being well from here on out, I should total some 105 miles.
It’s strangely all becoming very real again, with race day creeping and lurking closer and closer!