I have split my marathon training into several phases (https://healthunlocked.com/marathon-running/posts/134783004/copenhagen-2017-plan-and-status), and on Saturday I finished the nine week phase I had named the “hard slog”. Called so because it was scheduled to be 5 runs per week with a recovery week every 3 weeks. As it happened, it was too much of a hard slog, and after the first three weeks of the phase I had missed one of the weekly runs twice. I suffered from not recovering sufficiently, and spent quite a bit of time aching, both on the runs and when just sitting still in the sofa.
Surprisingly (to me), it wasn’t the fact that I had to do a short 5 km on Sundays following the Saturday long run that did me in. It was the 3 consecutive days on Tues-Wed-Thur that left me exhausted and unable to recover in time for Saturday.
Something had to change. It’s ok when the plan calls for extra will power, but it’s not ok when it becomes a burden and the joy disappears. So from the fourth week of the phase onwards I dropped one of the short runs and reduced my weekly volume by 5 km. This meant I was back to running Mon-Wed-Thur-Sat, and with 3 recovery days per week it got me through the second part of the phase. But after another three weeks I decided to drop the remaining short 5 km on the recovery weeks. So at the end I was doing 4 runs including one long on the normal weeks, and on recovery weeks I was doing only 3 runs and the long run was reduced in length.
The adjustments seem to have worked. On my first marathon training 18 months ago there was a 30 km route around where I lived that wrecked my mojo and motivation. I remember cutting it short and, despite that, limping home hurting and aching. I never fully recovered, and my training suffered for a month after that. So this time around I ran the same route for the two last long runs, and both times finished as planned and with a smile on my face. It was hard work, particularly last Saturday, but I think long distance running is as much of a mental exercise as it is physical, and it was important to prove to myself that this time I am strong enough to do it, and that I’m not at risk of burning out again. Objective accomplished.
As always there are some runs that stand out when you think back over a period of time. For this phase the highlights were definitely when we had a week’s break on sunny Madeira (it was raining and snowing back home, yehaw!) and I got to run along small mountain roads and next to the ocean, before coming back to the hotel and recovering with a beer by the pool. Hills, scenery, sun. Can’t beat that for a motivational boost!
Back home in Blighty I’ve managed to turn several of the long runs into a bit of an adventure. I’ve explored the Yorkshire Wolds, run alongside rivers, and even managed to jog on top of the York city walls. A couple of times my partner has dropped me off at a suitable starting point for a run and then met me 3-4 hours later in a gym with nice hot showers.
The attached (somewhat crowded) graph shows the weekly longest run against target (green bars / line), the total weekly distance against target (orange bars / line) and the cumulative total distance (red).
The next phase is 6 weeks, and the long runs are beginning to get longer. They are planned to be 32, 34 and 36 km, and the mid-week “sorta kinda long” run is up to half marathon distance by now. I am conscious that I’m at risk of over extending myself, so if the going gets too tough I’m ready to reduce the level of ambition slightly. In exchange for the very long runs, I get a recovery week every 2nd week, so I’m hoping this will keep the injury risk at a manageable level. Still haven’t decided whether the recovery weeks will be 3 or 4 runs per week; I’ll judge that by how I feel week by week.
Race day is exactly 2 months away today. I feel positive and optimistic that as long as I can stick to the plan, it will be an enjoyable day and a great race.