Hills, a comedy road sign and a mental battle 

8:30 am Sunday 14th February 2106 as I am sat writing this entry it is 8 weeks out from my first big test of this year, the city of Vienna marathon. On the weekend where I ran the furthest I have for 9 months I find myself in quite a buoyant mood however I know not to get to carried away, I’m keeping my feet firmly on the ground. 

In the next 7 months I will be taking part in 18 races, over varying distances, to get me up to speed for  3 main races which will push me to breaking point both physically and mentally. I am however giving myself the best chance at success by training well and reasonably disciplined. Success for me will be on various levels. Finishing the Vienna and Loch Ness marathon in a reasonable time close if not slightly better than the 3:50:24 I ran in my first ever marathon last year will do for me. Success in the biggest event I have pencilled in my diary, race to the King ultra marathon, will just be completion! Time isn’t an issue for me on that one. 

  
Running wise this week I’ve been receiving confirmation on races, reminders of impending race registration closures and a training plan for the ultra marathon. I’ve also bought a second pair of runners to help me through the next few months, something I’ve meant to do for a long time just never got round to it as my new pair from Christmas have done close to 200 miles already. All the previous aside this week has been quite a defining one running wise, I’ve felt strong recently however I knew that would be tested this week with my long run. Due to race commitments in the coming months I’ve had to shuffle the pack on how I do my long runs in my training as psychologically I want to know I have the miles in my legs. I’m 10 weeks into my plan and 7 weeks left of it but with the races coming up I’d struggle to get the 3 longer runs in 2 x 20 miles and 1 x 22miles. With my first race of the year coming next Sunday, the Great North Western Half Marathon in Blackpool, I had to adjust this weeks planned 18 mile long run to a 20 mile run. Even though this is only a 4 mile jump up at that distance it’s a reasonably big step mentally and physically and could have been problematic for me, needs must. 

Tuesday – 60 minutes interval run – 10min Easy run, 2 x (2min IR, 1min ER, 3min IR, 90sec ER, 4min IR, 2min ER, 5min IR, 2.5min ER), 10min Easy run.

As I’m running from home this week I decided to follow part of a route I know well from my longer runs however to keep things fresh I reversed the route. I left with the plan to head out 30 minutes in one direction turn round and head homeward on a slightly different route. This gave me a loop and that way I wasn’t re-seeing things even if I generally see the same things using similar routes today was a new day and a new route. I made the decision to do the stated easy 10 minutes as they should be, easy, and off I went.  The weather was threatening and the black cloud hanging over head didn’t take long to begin to shed its rain, hail and sleet which coupled with a biting wind made for a psychological battle. One which I’m glad to say I won showing decent form and secretly I thoroughly enjoyed the intervals which did surprise me. I was pleasently surprised I also stuck to actually running the first and last 10 minutes easy!! Is this me learning?? Probably not!!  But 8 miles covered in 1:01:56 will do for me and more miles in the tank. 

Thursday60 minutes steady

I like the less pressurised element of these runs. No need to keep an eye on the watch for interval time change. The weather for this run was lovely a crisp day with few clouds in the sky and a bright blue sky! ideal in my opinion to hit the road. 

  
Again I chose a route I know as I just wanted to run and more importantly enjoy it. The run was uneventful and not much to write about however I did throughly enjoy heading out on the road. 8 miles completed in 1:01:24 with my minutes per mile being consistent. A job well done which left me quietly confident for my 20 mile run on Saturday. 
  
Saturday – 20 miles Long Run

After dropping off my water bottles and some lucozade at 3.5 mile intervals across my route the night before I was ready for the inevitable pain the next days 20 miles would bring. With my wife out early for a weekend shift at work I made the decision to get up the same time as her and head out of the door early, this would mean the the run is done and dusted early and I have the rest of the day to do with what I wanted. After a normal breakfast of biscuits and bananas I also had an energy drink and a carbohydrate gel and I was on the road for 6:40 am. The route I’d chosen was a development on my previous weeks 16 miles however I had adapted it due to the fact part of that run I resented and it mentally was difficult for me to run it, the 2.5 mile long road  past edge hill university.From Rainford I was to head again through Bickerstaffe and into Aughton two very quiet and quaint places especially as the sun is rising. 

 
As I hit 10k(6 miles) I was feeling good and confident however I was continuously telling myself ‘run the mile you’re in!’ I couldn’t allow myself get ahead of where I was. The downhill into Ormskirk was a welcome break from the slight uphill terain I’d experienced for the first 6 miles however I knew this was to be a temporary respite as I knew from driving the route the night before when I hit 8 miles the next 5 miles would be a big test. This was to be a battle of wits with myself as the terain became undulating, long steady climbs with slight downhill parts every so often. There was only one solution for me head down, concentrate on the few feet in front of me and breathe. Although the route was scenic it became difficult at times due to how exposed the road was to the elements and there was a slight cross wind not helping my situation.   

 As the miles came and went I weaved my way down the country roads of west Lancashire and as I hit 11 miles I had to chuckle as I turned down here…

 
Now my sense of humour is as such that would make me laugh seeing this sign when driving so the fact I saw it after 11 miles of undulating terain on a 20 mile run helped me massively and enabled me to kick on up the mile long hill I’d forgotten was there. My hydration and nutrition plan was working with water stops well placed and the added lucozade bottles seemed to have an impact but I’m still wary of that. The jelly babies every two miles and dextro tablets when I feel I need them was working and although I was beginning to feel it I was still averaging miles under 8 minutes however this was becoming more difficult. As I hit 14/15 miles I found myself chasing the second half of each mile to keep it under 8 minutes, this isn’t  good I know but it’s my competitiveness coming out, however things started to change when I hit 16 miles. This is the furthest I’ve ran so far on this training cycle and I was now getting into the realms of pain. For some reason my shoe was hurting as if I’d tied my laces too tight, my clad was hurting and slight twinges in my knee but these were small things compounded by my mental state. The part of this point of the run which was the killer was running past my home road still with 4 miles to go! Psychologically this nearly broke me and something I need to address on my planning of my next long route. I also finally at 18 miles succumbed to a 8 minute plus mile (8:01) which prompted me to take my foot off the gas and as I plodded the last two miles home in over 8 minutes each I was hurting but it was a job well done, 20 miles in 2:37:12. 

  
This weeks long run has been a bench mark for me and I head into next weeks first race of the year confident I can do myself justice and get close to my PB of 1:38:05. I can also have some confidence In the fact that I have 8 weeks left till my first marathon and if I can continue the way I am going in my training my marathon PB could quite easily be broken in Vienna! That would be for me awesome and with my form and knowing the support I have in my close family and friends anything is possible!! 
 

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