Training for training

Call back in 3 weeks' time (Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Sagar Joshi)

Call back in 3 weeks’ time (Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Sagar Joshi)

Three weeks to go until I start my 18-week Pfitzinger and Douglas training plan for this year’s Dublin Marathon, and I’m slightly concerned; I feel a little unfit for purpose.

Last Saturday I set out for an 8-mile morning run, with the intention of doing the 4 middle miles at around my 10-kilometre race pace. After a couple of good fartleks in recent weeks, this was to see how sharp and fresh my legs felt, and how ready I was for the rigours of summer marathon training.

Answer: not completely ready just yet.

After two miles of a warm-up on a pleasant sunny morning with a gentle breeze to cool me, I moved up gradually through the gears and slipped into my fast pace. However, by the end of the first mile I was already working harder than expected, and I was a few seconds slower than my target.

And then at halfway in the second mile I felt my body ease down gradually to a stop, like a car running out of fuel on a motorway. I had no control over this, and in fact I almost started laughing at how funny it felt. This was a new experience for me – the slowing to a halt, I mean; I have been known to start laughing at strange or inappropriate moments (usually at the doctor’s).

Once my moment of slight madness had passed, there was nothing for me to do except trot home sheepishly (if sheep can be said to trot) for the rest of my run. I still enjoyed it, though – the weather and scenery was great around my ancestral homeland of Tralee, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

On reflection, I was a bit tired before I set out for my run, so perhaps I was being overambitious in trying to put in some hard miles. In the previous few days I’d travelled a lot and had been fairly busy, so that had surely drained me a little.

Also, in an effort to dissolve a couple of the kilograms I picked up on my recent holidays in Italy, I had cut back on carbs for the last couple of weeks – no potatoes at lunchtime, less bread in the evening. The carb-unloading did its job, but it’s not sustainable during hard training – carbs are fuel for runners, and in moderation they’re essential.

So, with three weeks to go until I start my marathon training, where do I stand?

Well, maybe it’s no bad thing to feel a little off-form right now. After all, the plan is to peak in 20 weeks’ time – there are no prizes for tearing around today. Perhaps the body is imposing its own holidays on me before it starts into a new season of work.

I’ll spend the next 3 weeks getting a balance of stamina and speed – some strides and hills, and a few race-pace miles sprinkled in too. With the occasional bursts of summer weather drying out the parks, I’ll get in some grass miles too – good for the legs and great for the mind.

And just as importantly, I’ll need some good periods of recovery time too, so that I can rest up and get excited about the non-running world. Now, if only there was a major football tournament coming up on TV in the next few weeks…

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9 Responses to Training for training

  1. P&D is a tough plan, but done properly produces really good results. I was going to jump on it for DCM13 before I got injured. Looking forward to seeing how you get on, best of luck with it!

    • Run and Jump says:

      Cheers! I’m looking forward to trying P&D – it gets tough quite early, so I’m a little curious about that, but overall it’s just a step on from similar training I did last year.

  2. Waiting for the Worldcup around here too!
    Bad runs happen, many times they mean nothing.. you can have the best run tomorrow. I’ve never reduced my carb intake so I have no idea how it would affect me, although it seems that could be the reason for your lack of energy to run fast.

    • Run and Jump says:

      The carb-free diet seems quite fashionable among many runners, although that wouldn’t be my thing. No doubt by this time next year the fashion will have changed and Runner’s World will be full of ‘Try the new all-carb diet’ articles!

  3. Aidan says:

    Recent chat with school friend post doc Muscle Physiologist, carbs are essential for Marathon running. Fat/Protein diets are an inefficient energy source. The energy cost is part of why they are popular in fitness circles, the visual muscle tone is desirable in that Men’s Health cover kind of fashion but its not good for running. The has been shown in several studies and the best ditance runners in the world, the East africans enjoy carb rich, grain based diets. A cup of tea in Iten will be black with a lot of sugar! The flip side is that if you are anyway short of calories the danger is you break your own aminos down. The body fails to distinguish between cardiac muscle and any other muscle in this process.
    You should check out Gary O’Hanlon for some marathon advice. Ireland’s cult marathon hero has just run 3 marathons in 15 days, 2 wins and a 2nd. I think he’s done 5 so far this year with remarkable consistency. He’s also a really decent fella. But what struck me was how he recently took a novice from 1.40 something to 1.20 something for a half and well under 3h for 26.2.
    If you want to peak in late october you do not need to be working out much now unless you have equal summer goals too and certainly don’t need to be solo running 2/3rds of your high end 10k performance as a training run! Get your virtual hands on a book called Running with the Buffaloes. Its a running classic because ut details an NCAA cross country team from day one of training to NCAA race day in late November. Their first work out? Late August, efforts of 300m at 10km pace, the champ distance. All summer they just ran milage.

    • Run and Jump says:

      I’m definitely pro-carbs! Thanks for the book tip – as a fan of ‘Once A Runner’, the Daily Track Pic blog and the House of Run podcast I’m sure I’ll like it!

      I have some summer targets as well as the Dublin Marathon in October – and using Jack Daniels last spring I saw real benefits from regular hard sessions. Just mileage would leave me bored and sluggish. (Plus, I love those sessions, and enjoyment is number one for my running.) I see that Gary O’Hanlon does a hard 8 x 1 mile session!

      • Aidan says:

        Of course you need to factor in the best running months in Ireland have only just kicked in and make the most of them and the college athletes had run hard and fast all spring. Manys a holudaying scholarship athlete appears to have gone backwards if they race in summer in Ireland, they are in an off season for them.
        I always preferred a simple rule of thumb, working on increasing time/distance covered per effort/session first. I even had a coach here who would always pull an athlete from a session if their pace significantly dropped, you’re not ready/ too tired and we wont get the benefit. Must admit I can never get my head round stuff like 8×1 mile but that!s one of the great things of the Buffs book, you get the detail on how each session is adapted pace/distance wise to suit all the athletes based on where they are.
        I would say with the right tinkering to a schedule you have a sub 3 hour in you this year. You are clearly fit but probably lack that bit if muscle memory from over the years. I’d suggest use the summer to get your 5k time down to build up that pace. Have you considered any Dublin graded league track stuff? A lof of road stalwarts will use a mile, 3k or 5k as speed work. It’d be a fun way of raising your thresholds before the real marathon work kicks in.

  4. Aidan says:

    Do you follow Gary’s posts on facebook? You might have seen that novice 3hr athlete of his ran 2.35 in Cork this week!

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