This has been a notable week for me in my Dublin Marathon training. I completed 55 miles as part of the Pfitzinger and Douglas plan.
It’s notable because 55 miles is my greatest ever weekly total. I’ve usually peaked at only 42 miles, apart from the 2011 Dublin Marathon when I got up to 52 miles during a summer of overtraining that left me exhausted in race week.
This summer’s extra mileage has been built up incrementally – and sensibly too. That overtraining in 2011 had too much mindless fartlekking where I thought a hard, fast pace always had to be an eyeballs-out dash; no wonder I wore myself out. This time around, the hard sessions have been at a controlled pace defined by my personal best times from short races, and so the progression has been smooth and constant.
Aside from the increased mileage it’s been a hard week of training.
It started off okay, though. Monday’s 11-miler with six 100-metre strides (or light sprints) was fine, and Pilates on Tuesday felt easier on my legs and abdomen than previous classes.
But then on Wednesday I had a tough 11-mile run which included 7 miles at my lactate threshold pace. This was the last lactate threshold run of the Pfitzinger and Douglas plan, and the longest.
And I found it tough. After four miles I was exhausted, and I toyed with the idea of cutting the threshold run short – to keep myself fresh and avoid overtraining and injury, you understand. I said to myself that I’d just throw in one more mile, around the smaller loop of the Tymon parkrun route, and then lightly trot the warm-down home.
Then something strange happened. Coming up to the end of that fifth mile, the feeling of relief at nearing an escape from such a hard workout sent a surge of energy into my legs – leaving me no choice but to hang in for the sixth threshold mile. And the seventh.
So I finished that threshold run exactly as prescribed, and just under my target threshold time too. Maybe in the Dublin Marathon I should try this too; at halfway I’ll decide to drop out at mile 20, and then just as I reach mile 20 the sense of relief will supercharge my tired legs and help me blast through the wall, over the hills and through the finish in a new personal best time. A risky strategy but it’s worth a try, don’t you think?
Delighted as I was with that rock-hard threshold run, I hadn’t time to rest on my laurels. The following night, Thursday, to use my time efficiently and get some extra recovery, I ran the 12 miles home from work. Even though I went at a manageable pace, I was still heavy in my legs from the previous night – and that 12-mile route home included two long, hard uphill drags.
But at least I was running on the quieter side of the road, against the flow of traffic – and I didn’t have a bag on my back, like some running commuters.
I was worn out on Friday, which thankfully was a rest day ahead of my Saturday morning long run… of 22 miles. Now, Pf. and D. only call for a 20-mile long run and a 5-mile recovery run this weekend. But I wanted to get the psychological and physiological benefit of going past 20 miles. If the marathon starts at 20 miles, as we say, then why stop at the start? So, I borrowed two miles from what would now be only a 3-mile recovery run, and tacked them onto my long run.
It was the best long run I had in ages. After a good night’s sleep the night before, plus some marathon-day preparation including my race-day breakfast, I set out at an easy pace in the unseasonable September sunshine. The first half of my long run route includes miles 18 to 23 of the Dublin Marathon course, including the hills at Milltown and Roebuck – I scaled these obstacles at a comfortable pace and tried to bottle some of the good vibes for when I’ll need them on race day.
Around halfway, as I was about to descend beneath the dual carriageway by means of the underpass beside Stillorgan public library, an old man shuffling along with a walking stick saw me and remarked in jovial spirits to his young companion: “Aha! They’re all out preparing for the Dublin Marathon now!” Maybe marathon training season is like a springtime for him in his closing years, a reminiscence of his athletic youth – or perhaps he was thinking with glee of all the runners he could now trip up with his stick.
In any case, just like my quitting boost in my threshold run the previous Wednesday, this comment gave me an unexpected surge of energy. It could have been the man’s confirmation that the marathon is imminent, and also the thrill I felt in shaking the passers-by out of their marathon ignorance. In your face, daddy-o!
Anyway, I travelled well in the second half of the long run, though without ever haring off too madly, and even through mile 20 I still felt strong. As I finished I was convinced I could have carried on for another four miles, which would have given me a sub-3:45 marathon time.
Today’s 3-mile recovery run, a light shuffle around the neighbourhood, passed off peacefully, with no ill effects after yesterday’s 22 miles – a pleasant and sedate end to a great week of training.
The hard training seems to be paying off. I just hope I haven’t overtrained already or peaked too soon, otherwise on race day I’ll be emulating that old man in shuffling around with a walking stick – or he might even pass me by at mile 20.