I finished my last marathon training blog a month ago by hoping the various ache and pain niggles would have sorted themselves out when it came to the time to write the next installment. So has it? Well, in a word "yes and no".
The plan I follow is made up of a number of three week phases, each with two weeks with increasingly long weekend runs followed by a "recovery week" where the weekend run is reduced by 3-5 miles. However, during this month I've had three 10k runs on the weekends, so rather than long-long-short it has has been short-long-short-long-short. At first I thought this was a lovely way to make things a little easier on myself, as there wouldn't be two long weeks in a row, but it didn't quite work out that way. Because I don't want to go on a longer run Saturday when there's a race on Sunday (feel free to call me a wimp), and I don't want to change my long runs from Saturdays to Sundays (it just happen to suit my normal weekend plans better to run on Saturday). So as well as being short-long-short-long-short, the weeks have also had alternating number of days, with the race-weeks being 8 days (Sunday to Sunday) and the long-weeks being only 6 days (Monday to Saturday).
I changed the "weekend long run" to a "mid week sorta long run", 10 miles along the canal, and made a note in my journal about legs hurting and aching and it not being fun at all. But when it came to Sunday and the Hull 10k things were good again. It was great, not least because I met up with Miles Yonder and we ran the race together and chatted as we ran, great experience!
By now the insoles the podiatrist had sold me were starting to take effect. I commented in my journal how much more pleasant it was on the Achilles. However, after a few runs with the new soles, I became aware that my knee on the non-achilles-pain leg was beginning to ache more and more after each run. Quite badly, actually. So I mentioned this to my physio when I saw her on the Friday, only to be told that she would have been more concerned if the insoles had NOT caused new aches. As she explained, over the last 18 months my body has been trying to cover up a gait problem, and whilst it has been doing a substandard job of it, it has gotten used to certain muscles being used for certain things. The insoles suddenly forces the "right" muscles to work "the right" way, and as they're not used to that, it hurts.
So she massaged my quads to loosen them up and asked if my glutes were also aching. No, I said, not that I'd noticed. Then she massaged them anyway, and now they certainly did hurt. I think I have a love/hate relationship to phyio therapist provided massage!
The weekend's long run was 24 glorious km along the river Ouse. We went camping, and I got Her Ladyship to drop me off on the other side of York and then ran along the river, through the city and continued along the river out to our camp site. It was beautiful for the first 18 km or so, but then I hit a couple of km of chin-high wet grass where the path had completely disappeared. That was hard work, and I didn't recover when the path reappared. It took its toll, so whilst still smiling, I arrived home aching and hurting and totally knackered.
Another race week which means it was also another 8-day week. The mid-week runs were 8 km, a gorgeous long-ish 18 km along the canal and through the woods and another 8 km, and on the weekend is was the Lancashire Pennine 10k (aka Burnley).
Someone should have told me that "Pennine" indicates there might be a hill or two involved. I mean, c'mon, it's not like I could guess this on my own, is it? Anyway, there were hills. Not mighty mountain-type ones, but enough to make the race a bit more challenging. But on the flip side, most of it was through parks on the circumference of the city, and the landscape was truly beautiful. Definitely a race to recommend!
A bit of a bummer of a week this one. My legs were aching from the weekend's race, and work was busy, so I gave myself Monday and Tuesday off. That's two days off out of a 6 day week.
On Wednesday I set out to do a sorta-fast 12 km, but was soon overpowered by the hot weather and ended up cutting it short to 7 km, limping home with my tail between my legs and huffing and puffing. Thursday I had learnt the lesson, and while I again planned on it being 12 km, I slowed right down to a gentle jog, and thus made the distance.
For the Saturday long run I had planned a glorious route through the North Yorkshire moors a little inland from Scarborough. It looks beautiful on the the map, and it was absolutely stunning. Only problem was that it was very hilly, and I'm not really used to hills. And it was warm. While I did complete the 26 km, it was far from fun. Legs aching, back aching, all joints aching. Towards the end of the run I couldn't run at all, never mind whether it was uphill or downhill. I was empty, and I hurt and I promised myself never to do anything that stupid again.
Of course, as so often is the case, plenty of stretches, a nice meal, a good night's sleep, and Sunday morning I was already dreaming of doing a similar route in week 11 (we shall see!)
With the long runs in week 6 and 8 being too much like hard work, I was very aware that I needed a bit of a motivational boost. I'm getting tired of aching, and when it also feels like it was constantly hurting, then I was getting to the point where I was questioning myself what the whole point of it was.
Monday I went to my first pilates class. It was enjoyable, and although gentle, I could still feel that I'd been using some core muscles I don't normally exercise. I'm hoping stronger core muscles will reduce the back ache I tend to get when I get tired.
It was a race week again, so the long run was a "shorter" version, although I'm not sure I agree with the plan-writer anymore when he talks about "shorter" runs. By now there are long runs and even longer ones. Anyway, the "shorter" long run was to be 12 miles. Wednesday it was overcast after work, and neither hot nor muggy. A gentle drizzle had been forecasted. So pretty perfect running weather, really.
What can boost motivation for a runner when it feels like it's all work and no results? Well, a result to be proud of, of course, and with this being my home turf where I have run many hundreds of (flat!) miles, I know which routes makes for pleasant running. So I turned the 12 miles into 13.1 and set off very carefully monitoring my heart rate, and cruised through my best HM distance ever, with a reduction in time of nearly 10 minutes compared to previous PB.
Yes! That motivates! It still hurt and ached, but at least it now felt like I was getting results in exchange for the pain. And sometimes we need drastical measures. So the aches and pains were cast aside (at least temporarily) with painkillers and stretches and more painkillers.
The weekend's race was Leeds 10k. A brilliantly well organised race where everything just happened exactly as it should. And I had the joy of meeting up with Miles Yonder again after the race. We should also have met Poppypug, but alas that was not to be.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but if I had to do it again, I don't think I would have planned all these races in. It's to disruptive, but on the flip side, racing is fun, and I use the word "racing" carefully - as my main objective is to learn to run 42.2 km, I take care not to race too fast.
I've got a week's holiday in August where I shall be driving back to see my parents in Denmark. Of course the main criteria when looking for places to break up the journey was the satelitte imagery on Google maps - has to be somewhere where I can go out and enjoy a few hours of long weekend runs! And with only one 10k race lef (York, on 2nd of August), I'm hoping to settle into the long-long-short rhythm my plan was intended to be made up of, so over the next five weeks I should be able to get three longer long runs in, bringing me up to 19 miles.