Finding the flow…..

As anyone who reads this blog will know, competitive sports has been a big part of my life. After 10 years of cycle racing, I transitioned to running in 2017, but the way we approach training for both sports is similar.

Most people will follow what’s called a periodised training programme. At a macro level, this typically involves training ‘hard’ for 3 weeks, followed by a lighter ‘recovery’ week. It’s a rhythm that you fall into; it becomes the natural flow of your life.

At a micro level, those training weeks are also a mix of ‘on’ and ‘off’ time, which allows the body to recover from hard sessions. Here’s how my typical training week looks:

  • Monday – Rest day. This allows me to recover from the weekend’s efforts
  • Tuesday – Intervals. This will be a hard session that stresses the body. The specific content will depend upon what ‘period’ of training we’re in. My coach will lay down what the session entails and what physiological system we’re training.
  • Wednesday – Easy run, usually around 30-40 minutes followed by 15-30 minutes strength & conditioning gym work
  • Thursday – Intervals (as Tuesday)
  • Friday – Easy 30 minute shakeout. I used to quite often skip this day, but I’ve found that doing a really easy shakeout helps my body recover from the efforts on Tuesday & Thursday
  • Saturday – Easy run plus strength & conditioning work (as Wednesday)
  • Sunday – Long run or race. The Long Run is a staple of the runner’s programme, and will typically be anywhere from 90 minutes up to 3 hours depending on the events you’re training for. The long run is usually done at an easy pace, however there may be sections where you’ll do a specific training effort. For instance, this morning I ran 45 mins at an easy pace (around 8:50/mile), then the next 45 at 30 seconds faster.

By Monday I need my rest day! Also, because my weekday training is typically done before work, which means getting up around 5am, Monday is a chance for a lie in – well, if 6.30am counts as a lie in! It’s also the day where I try to avoid carbs and eat mainly fats & protein, so it’s a chance to eat something different for breakfast other than porridge….

This is the rhythm that my life follows, week after week; month after month; season after season. It stops being a thing you do, and just becomes you.

Do you follow any kind of training plan? At a macro & micro level? What does your training look like? Let me know!

Getting on with it

As some of you know, I’m a member of the McMillan Run Team, which means I get my training plans from them and have access to coach Greg McMillan. Greg’s one of the best know running coaches in the world, and I’ve learned a huge amount from him in the past few months.

It’s now 7 weeks since I became a marathoner. I’ve been pretty quiet on here since. There’s only so much you can write about the recovery process, however I’ve been following Greg’s advice and slowly allowing my body to recover from the stress of the marathon.

For the first four weeks I followed Greg’s Marathon Recovery Plan. That was a great way to help me ease back into running and by the end of the plan I was feeling recovered and ready to move on.

Next, Greg suggested I do a base training plan – an 8 week program made up mainly of easy runs & long runs that will build a strong aerobic base for the training that follows. As Greg says, we need to do the training to do the training to do the training. Alongside the base work, I’m also doing core strength work three times a week and already I can feel the benefit.

Week two of the plan coincided with us jetting off to Lanzarote for a late autumn week in the sun. Rebecca flew in from London to join us, and as she’s training for a half marathon in March, we agreed to get some runs in. What a difference it made to run in 20c and sunshine!

Bex ran four days, I ended up running every day. The toughest run was my long run last Saturday, 11 miles in the morning sunshine. By the time I reached mile 10 the temperature was well into the 20s and I was struggling with the heat – we’re not used to that in Scotland!

Sunday was supposed to be a rest day, but having looked at the forecast for when we got home I decided to do an easy 5 miles on the Sunday morning – it’s going to be a long, cold & dark winter, so I was keen for one last run in the sun.

This week coming is a recovery week, then we start to add some steady state & leg speed workouts. I’m looking forward to increasing the pace and testing myself a little.

Back in 2015 I did a full season of running but then got back on the bike at Christmas, so I’ve never had the benefit of a winter of training to take into a race season. I’m really excited to do that properly this time around.

Getting back into the rhythm…

It’s now 3 weeks since the marathon. Where did the time go?!? Running this week has felt more normal, indeed my last couple of runs have been at a decent pace with no after effects. I guess my body is pretty much recovered now.

Tuesday was my first head-torch run in a couple of years. It was also pretty windy out there, with some light rain and I can’t say I really enjoyed the experience. The 3 miles from Castle Huntly back to Inchture, into a block headwind and unable to see more than 10m in front of me, weren’t a lot of fun. So on Thursday I re-joined the gym at the University – one of the perks of my part-time teaching role! Me & the treadmill are going to reacquainted this winter.

I have one more week left of Greg McMillan’s marathon recovery plan, then I move onto base training as we start to look ahead to next year. I’m excited about this, as although I ran for a full season in 2015, I got back on the bike mid-December that year and the running pretty much stopped, so I never got to see the benefit of taking a full season’s training into the next year.

We fly out to Lanzarote two weeks today and I’m looking forward to getting some good miles in. I love running in warmer weather – something we don’t get in Scotland too often – and it’s currently averaging around 28C in Peurto del Carmen where we’re staying.

Bex is flying out from London too, so I’ll have a running buddy for some of my morning runs. I’m excited to run with my girl.

I’ve spent a week in Lanzarote before, but that was at a training camp back in 2014, when I was still racing my bike. I’d come off a winter of cyclocross racing, so was a bit behind some of the others. It was a week of hard training, the most professional camp I’d ever been on (thanks to coaches Gary Hand & Davie Lines) and on the back of that I went on to have my best season ever, so I’m hoping the Lanza magic will work again.

Recovery & reflection

It’s been a week now since the marathon last Sunday. A time for rest and reflection.

I knew that my body would be sore on Monday, the day after the race, but I hadn’t been prepared for quite how sore I would be! I had set the alarm for 6am as I was due to have a meeting in Perth at 8am. I tried to get up and see how I felt – the answer was quickly revealed! So I sent an email, cancelled that meeting, and went back to bed.

As the week went on the soreness eased. I had a massage on Tuesday evening, which helped ease the pain. By Wednesday morning I was heading back out for a short run – just 15 minutes, part of Greg McMillan’s marathon recovery plan. I hobbled around the village, but I was delighted to get out for a run!

By Friday much of the soreness had gone and I did another 15 minute run, this time after work – a great way to end the working week. There was still a bit of soreness in my ITBs, but other than that I felt fine and the pace was pretty decent.

It’s Sunday today and I’ve just done an easy 30 minute run, 2 laps of the village. No ITB pain this time. It’s good to get back out running, even these short easy runs, they’re part of who I am.

With a lot less volume this week, I’ve had time to reflect on the race and on the training I did beforehand. I only started running seriously again in late March, so taking on a marathon 6 months later was always going to be a big ask. I had the endurance for around 18 miles, but beyond that I was always going to struggle.

Thinking back to my training, and now knowing what the last 10k of a marathon feels like, I realise that I didn’t fully commit on those long training runs (beyond 18 Miles). Those were the runs where I found myself having to stop, to rest, to take a picture of ‘that great view’. What I really needed to be doing at that point, in hindsight, was gritting my teeth and pushing on. But I guess you only realise that after you experience the marathon for the first time…..

I also need to train more on hills. We live in a valley, and most of my long runs had been on the flat valley roads. That’s fine if you’re going to be doing a marathon in Berlin, but Loch Ness was anything but flat. So more hill work will be on the agenda this winter.

Finally, I’ve had a chance to chat with Coach Greg McMillan after the race and look ahead to 2018. He’s keen for me to focus on shorter races next year, to work on my speed, which we can then take into a Spring 2019 Marathon. So it looks like I’ll be focusing on 5k & 10k races in Spring 2018, and then moving onto half marathons next Autumn.

I’m excited about this, as I like the variety of training for different distances, and the one thing I’ve missed this year has been running fast. I then know that I’ll be going into the 2019 marathon properly prepared, and a PB will be on the cards.

For now though, the next few weeks are about continuing the slow recovery, then we’ll move onto building a solid base. Joanna, Rebecca & I are in Lanzarote for a week early November, so it will be good to get some longer runs in the heat and sunshine.

For those of you that have raced a marathon, what were the biggest learnings you took from your first race?

New shoes arrived on Friday!

2 weeks to go

This has been a good training week. Not spectacular, just solid, grinding out the workouts.

Hard to believe this is the end of week 14 of my marathon training. It struck me yesterday that today’s long run would be the last time I’d do this kind of volume for a while – I’m going to focus on 10k / 10 mile races in the Spring, so the distances of my long runs won’t be like anything I’ve done for the marathon.

It’s also weird looking at my training plan (which I keep on Final Surge) and seeing an empty calendar beyond Sunday 24th September. Running’s a big part of my life, and whilst I know that I’ll need a week or two off after the race, it’s going to be strange not getting up at 5am to run. Just for a couple of weeks though.

I’m already looking ahead and starting to think about races to focus my training on for 2018. Some might think that I should be focusing on the race and not thinking about anything beyond that, but for me it helps to think about what the next targets might be.

I’ve been feeling more upbeat this week. I’d caught myself starting get a little negative in my thinking as the day of the marathon has got closer. My running friends have noticed it too, so big shout-outs to them for helping to pick me up, particularly to online chums Tony Green, Amanda Moore & Cat Bradley.

I’d also like to say thanks to Dave Nicholson, who’s a runner based here in Dundee. I met with Dave during the week at my office, and about 75 minutes of our 90 minute ‘business’ meeting were devoted to running. Dave had picked up on my mindset when he read the last couple of blog posts, so we spoke about what was making me feel concerned.

He even brought me a book – the story of Sharon Gayter, one of the UK’s best ultra runners. Dave had supported Sharon back in 2007 when she’d broken the world record for running from Lands End to John o’Groats, 837 miles over 13 days. There was a whole chapter of the book dedicated to that herculean effort and Dave suggested I read that, which I have.

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The marathon is going to challenge me both physically and mentally, and after this week I feel more prepared for what’s to come.

So bring it on Loch Ness, let’s see what you’ve got!

This week in numbers:

  • Distance run – 43.3
  • Time on my feet – 6:34:44
  • Books given to me – 1

Believe

When I decided to enter the Loch Ness Marathon back in May, it seemed such a long way away. I had almost 20 weeks, so much time. Then it was 16 weeks and I was starting the training plan. Now the race is just 3 weeks away.

Back in June when I started the plan, I’d never run farther than 15 miles. I’d raced a couple of half marathons, but nothing could prepare me for what would lie ahead.

Mostly the training has been fine. I’ve enjoyed it, and the midweek sessions have been fun and challenging. The long runs at the weekend though – they’ve been my nemesis. The first time I did 16 miles felt huge, I couldn’t imagine running 18. But I did, then 20, and finally 22, which I’ve now done a couple of times.

My training plan has been based on a goal time of 3:45, which is about 5 mins slower than the McMillan calculator estimates as my race time based on those half marathons back in 2015. That equates to a pace of roughly 8:42/mile, which should be more than doable…..in a half marathon.

However I’m really struggling to imagine how I can hold this pace over 26.2 miles. At this stage in the game the challenge is more mental than physical. My body will be able to run for 26.2 miles, that’s not in doubt. But can it do it at 8:42/mile? That’s what I just don’t know.

I’m afraid of setting off at this pace and blowing up. Of hitting ‘the wall’. I realise this isn’t a fast pace, and that I’ve comfortably run half marathons well below 8:00/mile, but the magnitude of the marathon makes me doubt myself.

I know that I’ve done the training, haven’t missed a session. I’ve been diligent with my nutrition, I’ve rested, stretched and looked after my body. I’ve given myself every chance to be able to run at my goal pace. And yet I still have doubts. I’ve never raced this distance before – it’s a step into the unknown.

I’m going to have to believe. To suck it up, set off at my goal pace and see what happens.

Have you run a marathon before? Did you have doubts before your first one? How did you approach pacing it? I’d love to know.

This week in numbers:

 

Miles run – 44.8

Time on my feet – 6:49:59

The perils of pacing….

It’s been another solid training week.

We decided to go to Edinburgh today to take in the Festival, so I switched my weekend sessions and did my long run yesterday, and the easy run today.

The plan for my long run was 18-22 miles, and with the marathon only five weeks away now I decided to push for the full 22 miles. If I could get that under my belt, then it’s only another 4.2 on race day. Easy!

I’ve been getting bored doing variations of the same route for my long runs, so I decided to go into Dundee with Joanna when she went to work and run home from there. A good plan: new sights, different roads, but just one problem – yesterday it was almost all into a 20mph headwind!

I’ll be honest, after 18 miles I was burst. I’d somehow managed to lose a gel (I still have no idea how that happened), so I had to make do with 2 rather than 3. It wasn’t lactic acid in my legs that stopped me, it was sheer exhaustion. A wee sit on the side of the road did the trick, and I soldiered on to complete the 22 miles.

As race day gets closer, I’ve been thinking about pacing. My goal was originally to aim for a time of 3:45, which was based on my half marathon PB doubled plus 15 mins. From everything I’ve read online that seemed reasonable. That equates to a pace of 8:23/mile – should be do-able based on my race performances from 2015.

However I’ve had this nagging thought at the back of my mind, based on my experiences as a bike racer. In those days, my training and race pacing was based on power. I had a power meter on my bike, which measured the amount of watts I generated. It’s a more scientific way of training.

The problem I have with racing to a power, or pace target, is that it could be a limiting factor. What do I mean by that? Let me explain.

I ‘retired’ from bike racing at the end of 2012, but got my mojo back towards the end of 2013 and did one more season. I was training to power, but didn’t have a power meter on my time trial bike for the first half of the year.

What happened when I raced? I set new PBs at both 10 & 25 miles! I’ve always wondered what would have happened on those days if I’d had a power meter on the bike – would it have slowed me down?

As I embark on my first marathon I find myself questioning the pacing strategy. I’ve raced 2 half marathons back in 2015, both in around 1:45, which is under 8:00/mile. Is 8:23/mile the pace I should run at? Will I be leaving some time on the table? Or will it be bang on based on my training?

I guess it won’t be long until we find out…..

How do you manage or think about pacing when you race? Do you agree that running to a target pace could be limiting your potential?

This week in numbers:

Miles run: 45.1

Time on my feet: 6:46:34

Currie’s consumed: 1