Back when I was training for my first half marathon, I found it useful to write a summary every week, or every couple of weeks. It served both to hold myself accountable, and to help me organise my thoughts and analyse what worked well, and what didn’t work so well. With a few big races coming up, I thought it might be useful to do it again. So first off, let’s have a look at the raw figures from the last couple of weeks:
Very much a tale of two weeks! Last week was meant to be a recovery week, so the mileage was meant to be low. But, well, not that low. I didn’t have a solid schedule, but the aim was to hit around 15 miles across four runs, all at pretty easy pace. We were going away over the weekend, so the plan was to do some parkrun tourism. The week started pretty well; I finished work pretty early on Tuesday, and drove up to the Quantocks to get some miles in. I live right in the middle of Taunton, so while there is plenty of countryside around, I have to clock up a few extra miles getting out of town, and even then things are pretty flat and dull. So having time to jump in the car and drive 20 minutes up the road to run on some pretty stunning trails is great. I had only been planning to run four miles, but enjoyed it so much that it ended up being five, and I could have happily kept going for more.
The rest of the week ended up being quite stressful and tiring, both at work and home, and I just kept putting running off. Because the weather was looking pretty awful for the weekend, we cancelled our hotel for the Friday night and therefore didn’t engage in any further parkrun tourism, which was a bit of a shame. We had still been planning to go to our local parkrun, but in the end we didn’t really wake up early enough (which with a 22-month-old, is a rare achievement!) Saturday afternoon, evening and Sunday were spent travelling to, socialising at, and driving back from a family BBQ, which just left time for a pretty lacklustre four miles on Sunday afternoon. That run was one of my least enjoyable for a while, but I did see a shrew, which was a first!
I was keen to put a line under that week and begin this one strongly, and an interval session at the track with my running club was the ideal way to start. I’ve been trying to push myself quicker over the last couple of months, now that I trust my knee again, so rather than play it safe and run with group 2, I opted to run with group 1, even though I knew it was probably too fast for me. We were scheduled to be running one kilometre repeats, and group 1 were aiming for about 3:40 per km. I managed my first two at 3:46, but then trailed off during the next two, also taking longer rests than scheduled, hitting 3:50 then 3:55. For the fifth repeat, I’d completely gone, physically and mentally, and I “trotted” around to complete 800 metres at a much slower pace than I was meant to be hitting. Nevertheless, I knew that was a risk with running with a faster group, and I’m happy enough with the result: I ran three good intervals and one pretty decent one.
On Wednesday, I joined up with my running club’s group 1 runners again as they skipped the normal one hour club run from the middle of town to go do 12 miles along the Herepath. The Herepath is a circular route in the Blackdown Hills on which our club run an annual half marathon (plug). I’ve never done much running down there as I don’t really know my way around, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity. Well, almost perfect: I just had to keep up with group 1! As you can see from the graphic, the route is pretty hilly, and it was by far the toughest run I’ve ever done. The pace was quicker than I could find comfortable, and once the climbing and the terrain was added in, my legs were certainly feeling the strain. But all that said, it was probably also one of the most enjoyable runs of my life, and it’s given me some confidence ahead of the Exmoor Stagger in a couple of months.
The next day, I trotted around for a couple of miles just to keep my legs loose; not much to say about this run really, other than the fact that my legs felt awful!! I took Friday off (I very, very rarely run on Fridays) before a buggy parkrun on Saturday.
I told myself that I’d take it easy. That for once, I’d be content to trot around near the back, rest my legs and not push too hard. After a nine-minute first mile, I then ran around 7:40 for the next two, and was running 6:30 pace for the last 0.11. It was not easy. The problem is… because I start at the back for safety reasons, I then start to gently pass people. Passing people then gets a bit addictive, and rather than just settle in at a comfortable pace, I just keep trying to pass people. My legs feel pretty good, and even though my heart and lungs are screaming that it’s hard-damned-work pushing a buggy around that quickly, my legs don’t seem to understand. Or something like that. Anyway, it was a good enjoyable run, even if I did go a little bit fast.
On Sunday I wasn’t really sure exactly what I was going to do. With my 12 mile run earlier in the week, I didn’t need to do a long run, but I did need to get out for something. In the end, I settled for a tempo run, which ended up being three laps of our parkrun course to total five miles, with an extra couple of miles to get there and back, acting as a warm-up and cool-down. I’m a bit split on tempo runs: I can see the obvious value, but on the other hand, they are mentally tough. Obviously, that’s sort of the point: if I can’t maintain a steady pace for five miles, what hope have I got for a half-marathon? On the other hand, I found today’s five miles at half-marathon pace pretty tough, and it just sets me thinking: “If I struggle doing five miles at half-marathon pace, how can I do 6.22 miles at 10k pace next weekend, and 13.1 miles at half-marathon pace in a month?” Of course, for those I won’t have had quite such hard weeks in preparation, and the race adrenaline will carry me through too. That aside, I was pretty happy; I ran five miles with the quickest mile being 7:30 and the slowest 7:35, which is consistency that I’m proud of.
Next week I’ve got the Battle of Sedgemoor 10k, so I’m hoping to do a medium-long distance run early in the week, and then complete one or two gentle runs to keep my legs fresh, before kicking on with distance again the week after.