Monday, April 26, 2010

There's no sign of the morning coming - thoughts on a marathon debut

Rainbow in the dark was a song frequently on my ipod in the run-up to London training in the dark totally on my own throughout the dark of the winter and the above pretty much encapsulates how I was feeling from mile 17/18 of London to the finish.

The first half was fine- at halfway I was honestly wondering if I could negative split a 2:27:high - I kept on that pace despite falling slightly off the group till mile 18 then in one fell swoop I went from running consistent 5:40s down to 6 minute miles. How I managed to keep it going until the end is beyond me. Normally I'm not too amazed by my racing performances as I know what gets me there- the training - I've been dead in races before but with maybe 2 miles to run? This time I was dead and hung out to dry at 18 with 8 miles to go and it took all I could do to get to 20 and then somehow grit out 6 minute miles to the end - I'm fairly proud of that.

So- how did I go from looking at 2:28:xx at half way to running 2:31:16 which I fully appreciate by most peoples standards is an excellent run and very strong debut at 22. But this will almost by definition be fairly negative in tone as I'm not the sort to sit on laurels but always want to look to improve.

Well a few things to look at... firstly what caused the slow down. The simple answer is my legs just weren't strong enough - almost similar to how they are in XC races but in this case it was just the distance that tired the muscles out. The quads on the inside of my leg/next to my knee got very tired and sore. I just couldn't lift my legs very high without pain. As I got towards the end I was actually able to lift my effort level somewhat and push through the pain with an end in sight and knowledge that if I damaged the legs somewhat now I could still finish (which at mile 18/19 I really wasn't sure would happen).

In terms of the usual factors - aerobically I was barely working - there's the potential for a lot faster marathon based upon my aerobic system. In terms of energy I never felt faint - I don't think this was a huge issue for me - the lucozade seemed to help a lot though I wonder if trying to get so much down from each bottle might have slightly harmed me by upsetting my stomach which really wasn't happy from around mile 15. In terms of hydration apart from lucozade I didn't drink much until the crash when I started getting regular sips of water on at every water station. I don't think this was an issue really though as tbh I was like a leaky bucket the rest of the afternoon when it's meant to take several hours...

So- something fairly simple then and not something I was really expecting to struggle with or had thought about - leg strength. I think this bodes well for the future as whilst there are limits on aerobic ability, clearing lactate, energy levels and just general suitability for the marathon, leg strength should be one of those things I can quite easily work on. And as a 22 year old debut marathon runner who until last September thought 90 minutes was a long run and ran 60 miles a week leg strength is something that'll hopefully easily come through age, more miles in the leg and I'm sure next time with at least 12-18 months of regular 80+ mile weeks and 2 hours + long runs it'll be a very different picture.

Now to why it was going so well until my legs failed. Well I think (and perhaps unsurprisingly) that with my mix of relatively low mileage, various paced reps and whilst long, fairly slow long runs and 12-16 miles @ MP runs I wasn't perhaps training quite optimally for a marathon (at least given my body type) but more for the half marathon. There's not a huge difference but as someone pointed out on eightlane- the half is much closer related to the 10k (where I also had a very strong performance). I think given my racing aims (I finish this campaign overjoyed at my intermediate 10k and HM times) it made a lot more sense for me to do this.

So - what would I change for next time, what would I add, what would I keep and what would I remove?

Pace of my long runs - I was honestly just dawdling for lots of my long runs and think I need to run faster than 7:30 pace for most of them to develop adequate fuel burning and this was actually pointed out by David early on but stupidly (or weakly?) I hoped just getting the distance in would do it ignoring pace. Part of this was coming into the schedule having literally just gotten used to a 2 hour run let alone running it at 6:30-40 pace. Adding some variation will be necessary as well.
Build-Up Racing - This is a mixed bag for me. Objectively - I was ecstatic at my 10k and half marathon PBs and running 31:37 probably meant more to me than if I had gone sub 2:30 as 10k is undeniably right now "my" race distance that I understand and can race as close to the line as I can. Strong legs at Teddy Hall Relays and the National 12 stage over 5-6k also went well. In the long-term to achieve my best marathon shape I probably wouldn't want to be in PB 10k shape. Realistically though- until I run much bigger miles the sheer aerobic gains will mean I'm in 10k PB shape in a marathon build up which I should take advantage of - realistically I think that for the next few build-ups I'll be sticking to something like I did this time but when I really want to "pop" that big time in 6-7 years time I probably won't do as many short races but by then I'll have much stronger shorter PBs and wouldn't be able to run them whilst in marathon training as by then I'll have done a season focused on 10k at my peak mileage optimally configured for 10k performance.

Marathon-Paced Runs- These actually went very well- next time around though I perhaps need to ease off the pace just a fraction and try and incorporate them more consistently through the build-up rather than shorter racing goals. Also a second per week short of 5-6 miles either during the long run or mid-week might be a good idea.
Very slow recovery runs- Something I definitely don't regret - they worked well.

More Mileage- nothing drastic but I'm not quite there yet. Any more for this campaign would have been stupid and counter-productive but as I get older and run more miles this will develop naturally. Realistically
20 mile race- Though oddly I'm in less need of one now than I was before London! London was the first time I stepped up to a race to run consistently at a fast hard pace for more than a half marathon.  Like I say- I think I was in more of a half marathon (run hard then hang in) than marathon mentality and a 20 miler might have brought me back to earth. Perhaps at the very start of the build-up than in the middle because as Dave very rightly points out- lots seem to run much better at the 20 than they do at London and that'll be because of the recovery aspects - veteran racers like Andy Weir recover very quickly whilst it would have taken a lot out of me. Suffice to say that with 4 half marathons in the last 5 years being my longest races I was perhaps a touch mentally unprepared for 26.2 and did rush very quickly from 10ks to half marathons to marathon without really taking the time at that intermediate distance learning to race. Next year I'm quite tempted to do a hard 20 instead of London - currently Autumn 2011 is plan for next full marathon.
Leg strengthening- This was what let me down and whilst I think faster paced long runs will help a great deal also some general leg strengthening through either more hill running or simple body-weight exercises will be invaluable.

I think on the whole the schedule was very solid and most things went pretty well- I certainly don't think I'd have changed how I went out yesterday despite the fact a more conservative race might have got me closer to 2:30. Most of the things were inevitable given my age and the already fairly rapid step up in mileage and long run. Certainly I think the first 16-17 miles showed I have the potential to run a fast marathon and the last 8 showed mentally I'm strong enough even when in pain. If next time I can strengthen my legs enough to get through to over 20 I think I'll be okay. Certainly there's nothing to suggest I can't run a fast marathon one day and as I said at the start- by most standards fastest U23 and 2:31:16 for a debut is fairly handy - but I'm in this for the long haul. It certainly was a lot harder than I expected and I really didn't think I'd be in trouble at mile 18 but there's a lot of positives to take.

Huge thanks once again to everyone who supported me out there or mentally who couldn't get there- especially my lovely girlfriend Hayley with her "Go Bryn" sign, my parents for coming down and supporting me and not saying a word when I had to move back in with them from July until my job started early this year giving me time to train, Anupam for keeping me company on long runs and generally in good spirits as a constant touch-stone of insanity - I don't think either of us would have run as well as we did without the other, the Sub 3 thread in general who were there at the good times and the bad with advice, knowledge and kind words, Lee for constantly keeping me down to earth and providing a strong training partner when I needed someone to push me on, the Saffron Striders and Herts Phoenix for helping me from 15 to current day and BSRC for helping me out over the winter, Bob and the Beagles team for having faith in me to run on the 12 stage team and support on the day, and of course my coach David Chalfen who has managed to cope with my constant neuroticism and emails and guided me through an interesting transition period keeping me injury free and progressing sustainably.

Right- that's about it - hopefully I haven't forgotten anyone! Time to put my feet up for a while but I'll be back soon- don't you worry!

P.S. For reference... Splits!
5k 17:13
10k 17:38
15k 17:39
20k 17:40
25k 17:26
30k 17:47
35k 18:41
40k 19:09
Last 2.2k - 18:20 / 5km pace

Rough Marathon Report

Sorry to have this rushed off but just what I put on the RW site last night...

Many thanks to everyone who came and cheered me on- it was definitely appreciated.

eal game of two halves. Set off in a slightly manic fashion from front of pen one to catch up with the guys I was planning on running with - many thanks to the anonymous RW lurker who was marshalling at the start of pen 1! (Brilliant to be greeted by "oh- so you're hobbling harrier!" before getting head marshall and saying "this guys legit- he won a gold medal last week!" - many thanks for your help!).

Manic start anyways but after about 800 got settled into a very comfortable rhythm and kept moving forward through the field with an absolutely huge group forming together with Coro, MikeB and Christchurch Jon - just clicking through 5:40s. At this point I was incredibly comfortable, my calves were sore almost from the get go but holding up well (despite Coro kicking me). Aerobically I wasn't in any discomfort and legs turning over smoothly. This carried me through pretty much to half-way where I was running strongly as we went through in just over 74 minutes. At this point I was feeling pretty good despite the sore calves and was thinking if I could negative split to get 2:27:xx - sadly that wasn't the case! A few miles later and I was in trouble and couldn't really work out why. Suffice to say the lead few disappeared off and I was struggling to move my legs at all. No real pain just dull through the whole of my legs (GI playing up a bit as well) - it probably wasn't hydration judging by the amount of times I had to go to the bathroom afterwards! Very odd feeling with both inside sides of quads in pain. At mile 17/18 I honestly didn't think I was going to finish but had to just convince myself mentally to get to mile 20. Managed to somehow do that and despite the pain I'd managed to stabilise at just about 6mm. Very hard work both mentally and physically - I was looking for any excuse I could find to drop out but apart from sore legs which weren't moving very fast didn't really have any! I worked out that if I could just keep at 6mm I would still run something okay though sub 2:30 was out the window!

As I got closer got a bit more confident- mile 23 and mile 24 were huge landmarks mentally! I knew I was going to finish at mile 23 and started pushing a bit at mile 24 and finished fairly strongly - especially over last 400m or so as I unfortunately went past a thread hero who was having a monumentally bad day at the office but still managed to finish. Sorry I didn't realise it was you at the time or I'd have cheered you on!

Anyways 2:31:16 - not the time I was aiming for but a fairly solid debut. First British U23 and possibly first U23 in whole race (Kebede is 23 but apparently qualifies...) as well as somehow winning the Varsity Marathon Match (you qualify for a year after you leave) so some very pleasant silver linings.

Training Week Commencing 18th April 2010

The final taper week!

AM: 66 recovery @ 8:01mm - enjoyable relaxed run with Martin around Battersea Park

AM: 59 steady @ 6:49mm w. Clapham Chasers having a good natter with James Ellis going around.

PM: 21 recovery jogging to/from massage.


PM: 18wu, 10:25, 2 x ~450, 10:25, 20wd -10:25s run at about MP+15 seconds

PM: Rest- went to expo and moderately late by time got back.

PM: Rest- just didn't want to risk going over on an ankle- think probably should have run on one of this or Thursday- spent all afternoon cramming food into self.

AM: rest- not going to do anything day before- considering ten minute jog but coach reckoned best to save energy.

Time: 255 Minutes ~34
Miles: 30
Pace: 7:03mm

Summary: Just a relaxed week leading up to marathon. Ideally would have done Wednesday's run on Tuesday and run 20-30 on one of Thursday/Friday but hardly likely to have done any damage. Generally felt good.

Training Week Commencing 11th April 2010

First week of the taper!

AM: 2:25 long run @ 7:31 - very enjoyable long run with Herne Hill Harriers albeit slightly longer than I wanted hence I walked a fair bit of the way home.

AM: Rest day!


PM: 11wu, 8 x 1650 off 60, 9wd  Final track session w. David's group. Running relaxed but breathing slightly off. Target was ~5:28/1650 (~5:18 per mile)- 5:25,24,26,27,26,27,24,21


PM: 41:38 recovery @ 8:47mm around common


PM: 19 wu, 4 miles @ MP w. fast finish, 22 wd - didn't feel good at all here.

AM: Rest

AM: ERRA 12 stage road relays, leg 2 - gold medal for Newham! Still shocked I ended up running in the A team. Ran 15:18 (whch represents a 5k PB of roughly 33 seconds) after going a touch too fast on the hill. Think something around 8 seconds faster might have been doable with better pacing but still a reasonable run and great to contribute a very small part to an awesome team performance. 14 early morning wake up run. 23wu, 15:18 race, 16wd

Time: 390 Minutes (~52)
Miles: 53
Pace: 7:38 (without 12 stage leg though...)

Summary: Fairly strong track session on Tuesday followed by a disappointing run on Thursday but nice to run relatively well on Saturday and especially take a gold. Hopefully the start of what should be a very long Beagles career.

Training Week Commencing 4th April 2010

AM: 2:49:20 @ 8:27mm - headed to a trail race to be handed a set of very confusing acronyms! Managed to get around but very slowly!

PM: 36:05 easy @ 7:08mm

PM: Track session w. Urban's group. Ran fairly slowly but picked up at end. 3 x 1000, 3 x 800, 3 x 400, 3 x 200. 200s were fairly decent off ~30 secs was hitting 31s.

PM: 60 recovery @ 8:22mm inc. 8 x strides at Newham track.

AM: 68 easy @ 7:53mm

PM: 17wu, 88:38 AeT @ 5:36mm, 20wd - 9 laps Battersea Park solo - really pleased to have managed to got round this feeling pretty strong.

AM: 68 recovery @ 8:40mm - just jogging around Common.

Time: 604 Minutes (~81)

Summary: Long run was slow but not surprising given circs. Tuesday track session was quite fun with me shifting well on the second half on the 400s and 200s after having done the ks and 800s at close to half marathon pace. Friday was really the focus for this week and it went really well though athough the pace felt relaxed maybe just a touch too fast. Still a great run though.

Week Commencing 28th March 2010

AM: 17 wu, 31:37 Eastleigh 10k, 7:20 wd - huge PB and had a great meal afterwards with Lee, Matt and Oz.

PM: 62 easy @ 7:31mm

AM: 65 easy @ 7:50mm to Office
PM: 61 easy @ 7:20mm home from Office

AM: 37 easy-steady  lunchtime run around Isle of Dogs with Harold Wyber
PM: 62 easy @ 7:30mm home from office

AM: 60 easy @ 7:15mm to Office (dull week)

PM: 14 wu, 79:11 AeT @ 5:37mm, 16 wd - 8 laps of Battersea Park good to have Hywel and Fernando there for a few laps and James Ellis for the whole way!

AM: 61 easy @7:49mm through city to London Liverpool Street
PM: 31 recovery @ 8:50mm

Time: 615 Minutes / ~82 miles
Miles: 85
Pace: 7:12mm

Summary: Very dull week with lots of running to/from the office as was busy. On plus side great PB at Eastleigh, recovered quickly and a solid marathon pace long run on Friday.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Pre-London Carbs

In addition to pasta, pizza and cereal also large quantities of maltloaf, bread, croissants and lucozade.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Recent Photos...

Photo from Eastleigh 10k - moving fairly well towards the end! Nice to have a Welsh and South of England runner in the background.

And one of me chatting with James Ellis and the start of the Thames Riverside 20...

and finally one from the Wimbledon Park Run...

Friday, April 02, 2010

4 Week Review - 28th February - 13th March 2010

Week 1: 627 Minutes / ~ 84 miles

Run-In XC League at Newport (1st)
64 Aerobic Threshold @ 5:38mm
17:04 5k Tempo @ WC
21.4 Long Run @ 7:21mm

The XC I was pleased with as it was a ridiculously cold and wet day and I wasn't sure how my legs would cope with running XCs on consecutive days. The answer is not particularly well but I was still able to get away. The middle of the week was a stark contrast as the long run was an absolute disaster with me really struggling for energy even running 7 and 8 minute miles. The next day after heading to Oxford, eating junk food and getting uproariously drunk I managed to nail a very solid marathon pace session with Hawcroft, Oz, Anupam and Harper. The WC run was just standard apart from missing the start!

Week 2: 623 minutes, 83 Miles

24 mile long run - 4 miles @ 7:30, 20 miles @ 6:18 - won Thames Riverside 20
Teddy Hall Relays- 3rd on leg 1 / 4th fastest leg - 18:01
69:36 Aerobic Threshold @ 5:40mm
WC Park Run - 17:05 - 1st

A very solid week's work. Tough stuff at times but 3 very solid runs. 18:01 at Teddy Hall was a great run narrowly behind Chris Busaileh and Chris McGurk who both ran stunningly at the Southern and Midland Road Relays respectively. The MP run around BP I was pretty worried about but actually went pretty well- especially solo and late at night. My legs felt very heavy the next day at WC ParkRun but tbh that was expected and nice to sneak the win on very heavy legs. Finally- Thursday evening- definitely a sign of a better attitude - in recent years being tired I'd have just said sod it and stayed in- actually drove to the nearby town and ran in the dark.

 Week 3: 632 minutes, 84 Miles

 23 mile Long-Run @ 7:28mm
4 sets of x 400,800,400 [200 jog,400 jog]
29:55 / 3 laps BP at AeT @ 5:40

This was always going to be a difficult week what with starting work so I was very grateful to get my long run done on Sunday and also slightly further than I was intending. Tuesday was a great session - I was running 70s and 2:22 and I wasn't even working- lactic set on fairly quickly after the 2:18 though and the final 67 was a struggle. Thursday I just felt poor and could tell my legs needed a quick rest despite pulling the MP session back in. In the past I'd have done 3 x 5 x 300 at the track before a race but David reckoned a half hour @ MP would be more beneficial before Reading.

Week 4: 452 minutes, 60 Miles 

Reading Half Marathon 14th Place 69:52 - huge PB!
Clapham Chasers Kenyan Hill session 12 x ascents - 19:21 @ 5:45mm

Great start to the week with the stunning HM PB. Monday was in some ways a bad day (how stupid can you get?) but in other ways I like that I'm able to call a run if I'm having a bad one and make the minutes up either later in the week or not at all (in this case I pretty much traded what would have been 30 awful minutes running very slowly in pain with 30 very enjoyable minutes on Thursday evening!). Thursday's run is still carrying me on right now - meant to be 60 but ended up 90 - just couldn't stop. Actually recovered!

4 Week Period Total: 2334 minutes , 311 miles (627,623,632,452)
Long Runs: 21.5, 24 , 23
Races:4 (6 inc. WC ParkRuns)

Well a very interesting 4 weeks. Obviously the highlight being the huge half marathon PB of over a minute on a PB set about a month ago which was a 3 minute PB in itself! In all honest at the time of Stevenage I felt I was in 71-72 minute shape at the very least (hard to believe when you're running close to 74) given the conditions- it's nice to have now proved that and then some. The first week was a mix with the confidence boosting AeT session following my disastrous long run where for the first time this campaign I was seriously worried. The second week I was glad with how easy running 20 miles @ 6:18 pace felt and then running so well at THR - just annoying McGurk got away! I knew then that I was in at least 15:30 5k shape and probably more like 15:15...  Week 3 pretty much backed that up as I felt easy running some of the fastest rep times of my life. Remembering last winter how I struggled running 69s indoors to now when I was floating around it hardly seems the same thing.

The session I'm probably proudest of is nailing 70 minutes around BP in the dark late at night solo. It was tough but well worth it!

Very pleased that a rest week for me now can be 60 miles - the last week was intentionally very easy with no stress on the pace as I know after a HM I usually spend Monday and Tuesday doing little, recover quickly, spank a session on Thursday and then am in doldrums by Sunday/Monday. I also know that to run a decent 10k I seem to do much better off a week long taper of doing fairly little (in contrast to HM where mileage is fine from what I can tell in week preceding). Worked out very nicely that I did a "half" session on Wednesday where I ran fast but not hard (half sessions - either 3/4 usual volume or being done at one race pace down - are increasingly becoming favourites of mine as opposed to destroying myself in workouts) and was fresh, recovered and ready for Sunday- well- all but the calves! 

Now into the last month before London- fingers crossed!

Bryn Running

Training diary and musings on running in general.