Training log, w/e 27/10/2019

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Here is what I did last week (total distance 55 km / 34 miles):

Week of Oct 21st to 27th 2019

I began on Tuesday with a really easy 4-mile run to recover from the race-pace half-marathon run I did on 20th Oct. Then after a rest day, I reeled off 4 days of running in a row.

On Thursday I did a threshold run that began with a 10-minute warmup (easy run pace), followed by 3 repeats of 8 minutes at 7:00 to 7:30 mile pace with 2 minutes of rest (jogging pace) in between. I did this on the CIT track wearing my NB FuelCell Rebels. These are excellent for that 5K to 10K range when running at speed. However, on a wet track, I felt them slip a little, which dented my confidence in pushing off them. In future, I will stick to the NB Beacon V2 on wet days on the track.

On Friday I had another easy run of nearly 4 miles.

Then I made a snap decision based on how I felt and my plans for the following week. Rather than run my long run on the Sunday, I decided I would do it on the Saturday, giving me 8 days to recover for my final long run, the 20-miler.

For the 19-mile long run, I set my virtual pace runner to 5:45 per km (slightly slower than 4-hour marathon pace), but ended up at 5:39/km (9:05/mile), inside 4-hour marathon pace (about 3:58:00). I felt good and got stronger (and faster) from the 13th to 17th miles, with no real dip for the last 2 miles as I got back into the city and had to cross roads, etc.

What was really confidence-boosting was at 13.1 miles when I looked at the watch and saw I was only about a minute off the time I set for the half-marathon run I did 6 days prior and I still felt I had plenty left in the tank (obviously I had almost 6 miles left to run!).

One difference was nutrition. Up to this run I had used no gels, no electrolyte replacement drink, no nothing (I had even run for 2 hours 40 minutes with no water). I knew it was time to get my ass in gear to test my stomach and see if gels and electrolyte drink would help my endurance. I bought a number of High5 gels from wiggle.co.uk – variety packs with loads of flavours and types of gel. I decided to use caffeine gels at the beginning of the run and standard gels thereafter. I was worried my stomach wouldn’t like the caffeine, but I had no problems taking a caffeine gel every 20 minutes (4 of them in total), then another 3 non-caffeine gels after that. I also had a caffeine gel a few minutes before I started running, so that was 5 caffeine gels back to back, with no issues like stomach cramping or diarrhea. I did discover that I can tolerate the High5 Energy Gel Aqua (previously known as IsoGels) more than the thicker standard High5 Energy Gel. There is a 26g difference in weight per gel, and they are obviously bulkier. However, there is no doubt that I can tolerate the aqua gels more than the non-aqua gels, so it’s a trade-off I will gladly pay.

I used 2 High5 zero cal electrolyte tablets in 800ml of water and poured 600ml into the 3 bottles I carried with me (on my water belt). I was also carrying an Asics marathon bumbag/pouch thingy (it actually goes to the front) with all my gels in it – I prefer this to the gel belts with loops than can be very uncomfortable with the larger energy gel aquas.

For the race itself, I will be carrying 10 gels (660g weight to begin with) with me in my pouch to be consumed every 20 minutes. 7 will be caffeine aqua gels (these will probably be all citrus flavour), which I will use up first, then 3 standard aqua gels (probably orange flavour) in the front pocket for the final hour or thereabouts. I’ll also take a few electrolyte/magnesium tablet halves to drop into the 250ml bottles handed out on course. After the 19-mile run when I consumed 7 gels at 20-minute intervals (and hopefully to be confirmed by my upcoming 20-mile run), I am confident this will give me the best nutritional strategy. I will return to my race-day strategy in a later post.

Finally last week, I did a really slow 2.3-mile recovery run the day after the long run.

Plan for next week is to begin introducing more hilly runs. Clon is a very hilly marathon and I have run very little on hills so far. Then on Sunday will be that crucial 20-miler. Hopefully… I seem to have a slight head cold, but as long as it stays above the neck, I should still be good to go on Sunday.

Bringing things up to date

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Let’s bring everything up to date so that I can just blog about a week’s training at a time from next week.

Firstly, it’s been over 7 years since my last serious race. There were a couple of fun runs and a marathon relay leg in the meantime, but these were as an overweight, untrained person. On 23 Sept 2012, I ran the Charleville half-marathon in 1:42:43, over 3 minutes off my half-marathon best. The story thereafter was one of failed attempts to get back into training and losing weight… until now.

To bring things right up to date, last March I began a series of free personal training sessions over 7 weeks. I didn’t lose weight, but I reckon my body composition changed and upped my metabolism. I lost 7 lbs over the next few weeks without any training, down to about 227 lbs.

Then, July 1st the switch flipped. I was going to do that intense 8-week blood sugar diet (with a bit more than 800 calories to allow for my training). I did with no problem and I lost 29 lbs. Since then, on a more modestly restricted diet, I lost a further 16 lbs. Add in the first 7 lbs and that’s about 52 lbs total since some time in May (I’m now just a shade over 180 lbs).

My training also started on July 1st. In a 1-mile treadmill test back in March, I struggled to do it in 10:30, gassed by going out too fast. Now I can run a mile in probably 6:30 and last weekend completed a 19-mile run at just over 9 minutes/mile. I plan to do 20 miles at the weekend at about 8:45 a mile.

Since July 1st, my plan was always to run a marathon, whenever. A few weeks later and I had made my mind up to run the Clonakilty marathon on Nov 30th. This is way ahead of my original plan to return to marathon running with the Cork City marathon on May 31st 2020. I just felt with my previous marathon experience (and previous weight loss experience) that I would be up for the challenge.

So what is my goal for the Clonakilty marathon? My Garmin 245 watch is telling me I’m in sub-4 hour shape. It analyses a lot of data over several weeks to make that call, and based on the 19-mile run, I think I would be certain to finish a fairly flat marathon (like Cork, which is only moderately hilly) in under 4 hours. However, the Clonakilty marathon is very hilly with nearly 500m of elevation gain. I could do it in under 4 hours, but it would be tough. I’m going to leave my final pacing decisions until closer to the race.

My mileage this training cycle isn’t at the level of what I did 7 years ago. That’s deliberate: I view this next marathon just as a return to what I belong doing. The time isn’t hugely important. It is a stepping stone to getting in even better shape for future marathons to set a new PB time.