I am now over the half way mark of my training for this cycle and I’m finding my mind is starting to comprehend the enormity of what I have taken on for this year even more so as I am now less than 9 weeks away from my first marathon of the year. As the miles are increasing I feel I am running stronger than I ever was in my last cycle of training which gives me great encouragement especially with me two weeks away from my first competitive race for a long time. I am really looking forward to it as the course is set up for me to beat my half marathon PB of 1:38:02. I feel I can push my PB close for this race and for that I need to be averaging under 7:30 minutes per mile which won’t be easy but my current form coupled with a flat course I am confident I can at least get close, fingers crossed. Blackpool will also give me more of an idea of where I am with regards race readiness because as we know running alone is completely different as to competing in race conditions when all kinds of different elements come into play. Now don’t get me wrong I am not going to beat all the competition in races and I may not technically win the race however every time I put that number on, lace my shoes and cross the start line of a race I am competing against no one but myself, a onetime fat lad who decided to make a change, every run/race completed is a triumph for me. Having said that I do have goals for every race I compete in and I will talk about them to an extent however for the longer races (Marathons) my goals stay private purely due to the fact running 26.2 miles is pressure enough. For my one and only marathon to date, Liverpool Rock and Roll Marathon, I set myself two targets both sub 4 hours with one at 3:59:59 and the other at 3:45:00 these I felt were realistic but challenging . My pride at crossing the finishing line closer to the quicker of those two times at 3:50:24 was something I’d never expected to feel and I will admit I shed a tear which seems a common occurrence at race finishing lines for me, I’m a fella and we don’t cry however when my wife, my parents and close family are stood at the finishing tape believing in my journey I can’t help but shed a happy tear.
It’s all too easy to make excuses for not hitting the road and it’s time of year when the new year, new me crowd start to wane and the pavements and gyms become less full of people however the weather recently has tested my mental strength. Here in the North West of England the weather has been changeable and that is putting it kindly however I’ve had to keep telling myself if I can get out and run in the current conditions it will be easier when the weather breaks and spring moves on, difficult but builds character. Having said that I did spend Sunday cocooned on the couch at home only moving when necessary to get supplies which meant I missed a planned 40 minute Fartlek run. The reason behind this was me and the wife had headed for a night away in a hotel spending the night eating fine foods and drinking copious amounts of alcohol on a last date night for a considerable period of time due to circumstance but I’d ran 16 miles before breakfast on Saturday so I felt I’d earnt some down time. This last week has also seen me fighting off some sort of virus which has been trying its best to floor me and put me off my training this has left me with the dilemma of heading out and hopefully banishing the bug or risk making the flu more deep seated and in turn suffering a mental and physical set back due to a bad run. This is a very thin line to walk bit it has been a risk worth taking this week as I can’t afford to let up on the training now .
Tuesday – 10 minutes easy, 15 minutes steady, 10 minutes easy
Again the weather had been threatening and we were in the grip of our 6th named storm of the last few months, Henry! An easy enough run was planned and I felt this had come at the right time due to the fact I wasn’t feeling 100% however as I headed out from work I found the pace I felt I was running at was easy however Strava informed me I was running at 7:35 minutes per mile. This surprised me and over the last few weeks I’ve felt as if I’d been plodding at an easy pace but when I’d finished runs my pacing had been around the 7:40-7:45 min miles, an indication the training I am doing is working for me and I have found a comfortable pace, two things that make me very happy. As I headed out on my first mile I passed Bolton Hospice which is a place close to my heart and somewhere I care a lot about due to the support they showed my family during the final days of my grandads life. The work the hospice does is invaluable it’s for this reason I will be supporting the hospice by raising much needed funds to help other families like mine. I could speak at length about the hospice, and I will in future blogs, but they and my grandad are the driving force for my 2016 journey and I am proud to wear their badge on my training T-Shirts and race vests. The ladies behind the counter are always welcoming and have a smile for you and when I turned up unannounced to take a quick selfie for my twitter feed they were happy to oblige and wish me well on the rest of my run. After this I felt energised and headed off up the road happy eventually completing a reasonably scenic 35 minutes of running covering 4.5 miles. A decent days work however I was aware that 20 minutes of this run should have been ‘Easy’ I noted more discipline is needed in my runs but thought if I can do it why not push that little bit harder?? A plan is to follow and adapt to your needs…exactly what I did today.
Thursday – 60 Minutes Steady
Thursday was time to talk, mental health awareness day which I found quite appropriate for me to be heading out on a run at dinner time. For me personally these two things are intrinsically linked due to the fact I’ve used, and continue to use, one to combat the other. When I started this journey of fat to fit I did it as I wasn’t happy in my own skin, I was suffering mentally due to a number of personal issues and I wasn’t happy in my work. I’m pleased to say I am no longer fat, I no longer have the personal issues I had and I am on more of an even keel that I was 3-4 years ago however work still is the cause at times of some issues. This is one of the main reasons I head out in my dinner break to mentally fly tip the rubbish I have heard, gathered, experienced in the morning and it also takes me to a place where I’m comfortable. Today was a good run and an enjoyable mix of inclines and descents but it was also a source of slight frustration for me as I look back on the previous weeks running as it was the only run where I ran a mile over 8 minutes!! Of 29 miles ran this last week one was 8:04 minutes…this does my OCD no favours and drives me mad ! I was on reflection glad over all that I headed out for my run today as it helped settle my mind of a few niggles and doubts but that 8 minute + mile has left a nasty taste in my mouth 😉 I am however still running strong and hitting the hills of Bolton has left me excited and quietly confident for my loner run at the weekend around the flatter roads of Merseyside. Bring it on.
Saturday – 16 Miles Long Run (Practise Hydration and nutrition)
As the weeks creep by I am become increasing more nervous as weekends roll around as I know this is when my runs need to be long. I am not a athlete by a long stretch but I can label myself a runner I’m extremely comfortable running 10k distance and thrive at half marathon distance however even after completing a marathon previously along with all its training I still have a certain amount of apprehension when going over 13.1 miles. I certainly felt this as I sat eating my breakfast at 6:30 am on Saturday mentally preparing myself to go the furthest distance I have been since June 2015. Will I last the distance? Will I be able to sustain a reasonable pace? Will my refuel plan work? Will my water bottle still be there after I placed them at 3.5 mile intervals the night before? I planned my nutrition and hydration as follows
Every 2 miles A jelly baby and a Dextro tablet
Every 3.5 miles a water stop ( 3.5 miles, 7 miles, 10.5 miles and 14 miles)
Carbohydrate gel before the run and at 7 miles
As I headed out in to the dark morning the sun had not started to get its hat on so I headed out with my head torch on this was essential due to the fact the first 3 miles of the run were to be on dimly lit country roads. The road was peaceful and as I passed from Merseyside into Lancashire heading towards Ormskirk I passed or was passed by very few souls, I was enjoying the tranquillity and I found my pace quite quickly. I was comfortable and as I reached my first water drop I was pacing well and feeling strong however some kind hearted white van driver tried to derail this by driving his van at me as I ran through Aughton towards Ormskirk. This annoyed me as it was now light and there was no one else on the road. Unfortunately I was too slow to take my phone out of my pocket to take a photo but needless to say he wasn’t man enough to stop his van when I voiced my obvious disgust. As I reached the 10k mark I was looking at around 45 minutes gone and still feeling good however I also knew that the biggest mental test was to come as I reached 7.5 miles. At this point I turned the corner onto St Helens road to head out of Ormskirk past Edge Hill College. This road is roughly 2.5 miles to my next turning and exposed to the elements (In my previous training cycle I’d tweaked my knee falling off a kerb due to being caught by a cross wind) It was a constant steady climb and I hate it!!! It was at this point I thought my pace had dropped and I was pleasantly surprised when Strava told me that although I had lost a few seconds I still hadn’t gone over 8 minutes for a mile. This spurred me on and as I turned left off the road I resent a wave of confidence washed over me. Last week’s 14 mile run was a good run however the 5th mile had been run in 8:03, this again niggled at me, and I thought today I’m pushing for none over 8 minutes. I got my head down and vocalised my thoughts “The back of its broken now Matt” “ Keep pushing, you know the route, enjoy it” and my favourite as I began to feel a bit of pain “ Stop being soft!”
As 13.1 miles came and went I knew I wasn’t far from home and also a few little quirky things helped me dig deep. As I head out of Skelmersdale onto the Rainford By Pass there is a farm and when I have passed on previous runs there’s been one Pot Bellied Pig in the field. He seemed happy and was snout deep in a pile of potatoes but when I told my wife about this and she seemed concerned that ‘Mr Pig’ was lonely. Today as I passed the field I was pleased to see that ‘Mr Pig’ had many friends and he wasn’t lonely!!! Jenni will be pleased I thought.
The final few miles of the run were easy and all the questions I had posed in my head before the run had been answered with positive outcomes, today had been a great day! Onwards and upwards and here’s to another small triumph in my ever evolving journey.
My mind now moves onto week 10 of my training plan and a longer run of 20 miles to come next weekend. I have had to shuffle my longer runs forward due to my race schedule over the next few months however I am hoping if I can get 2 x 20 miles and 1 x 22 miles in as training runs before Vienna then I will be confident. Vienna is slowly creeping up and I want to be as prepared as I can be to do myself justice. This year promises to be a defining one in my fledgling running career!!