Sub-1:50 half marathon training: Week 2

Running summary for w/c 14/1/13:
Miles run: 22.1
Cross training: Cycling

Wow, what an amazing week it has been! It has been snowing in the UK since Tuesday and it has been settling beautifully here in North London since Thursday night. It’s not exactly deep – maybe just a few inches – but it is proper snow: thick, fluffy and white. Well, when you move away from the sludgy main roads it is at least!

I have stuck to my training plan, in spite of the snow, and as yet have had no slip or falls, or other typical snow related problems. I have completed hill reps on ice, run long runs in blizzardy snowfall, and nailed my race pace at parkrun. I did say I haven’t had any typical snow-related problems though… I’ve rather unexpectedly had snowballs thrown at me by drunks in my local pub’s smoking garden and have suddenly started getting dozens of white van drivers beeping at me (is it the lycra that gets them off?). I have also come home after each run to discover that my nipples have gotten so cold they are rock hard, turning blue and rubbing themselves sore against my sports bra – despite wearing 4 top layers – and, having worn my rather rigid trail shoes all weekend in the snow, I now have very sore toes too.

Oh, well, swings and roundabouts I guess, huh?

Here’s the rundown of my week’s half marathon training,, complete with obligatory snow photos:

Monday: Hillwork
5 x (4 minutes continuous hill running at threshold pace; 2 minutes recovery)
Kudos to my girlfriend who has continued to accompany me on my early morning runs, including Monday’s precarious hill reps up and down an icy hill in the semi-dark park. Another runner passed us as we finished one of our reps and walked to the bottom of the hill to recover. “Crikey,” he panted at us. “You’re a bit keen, aren’t you?” Yes we are, thank you. We’ve got a half marathon to run.

Tuesday: Strength training
Kettlebell workout
Last week’s core session left me with screaming DOMS in my tummy muscles and this week’s session left me walking like a sum wrestler until Friday. If this is my punishment for not bothering with the weights for 6 weeks, then please believe me, oh running-gods, I have learned my lesson. I wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary – just my old kettlebell routine of snatch, clean and presses, squats, weighted lunges, single legwork, and some arm and shoulder exercises. I try to focus on lateral movements that will strengthen my abductor muscles and help improve my balance, as well as strengthening my hamstrings and glutes, but all of these wiggly movements meant that my inner upper thighs and arse muscles were killing me the next few days. Every time a stood up at work they took me surprise again and I would limp off… No doubt this week’s strength session will leave me with some discomfort again, so I think I’m need to find a way to reduce the aches. If you have any tips, or indeed any miracle cures, please do let me know.

Wednesday: Race pace training
6
x (5 minutes at HM pace; 2 minute jog)
I am determined to ‘learn’ my HM pace. Hopefully all of these race pace sessions will help me to dial into that pace on race day and run my target time. This interval session lets me practice finding that magical 8:15 pace. 5 times.

I found myself thinking about this session a lot on Tuesday evening, trying to think of ways to help me memorise HM pace, when suddenly I remembered singing to myself during my last 10K race. I had been muttering to myself to try and encourage my legs up an incline on the last lap – keep it up, keep it up, keep it up… I was muttering and, in the aftermath of Christmas, I found myself singing Winter Wonderland in my head. You know the bit… “Keep it up, keep it up, keep it up, let’s go… Let’s ride in the snow…” Soon I was trying to sing in time with my foot fall, but unfortunately my cadence was faster than a comfortable singing tempo. In the end kept up my tempo by making sure a ran faster than the song. Everytime I slowed, I sang again in my head and forced my legs to push faster. It may sound weird, but it worked. That was a 7:45-ish pace, so I decided that an 8:15 pace should result in a cadence that allows me to just about sing Winter Wonderland to its ryhthmin my head though, obviously.

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I ran my HM pace reps around the pond in Finsbury Park, past all the poor ducks and geese whose swimming pool had frozen to half its usual size…

My pace is still a bit wobbly because the automatic ‘steady’ pace that my legs find is closer to 8:30, and my ‘push it a little bit more pace’ is under 8:00, but considering that the conditions were pretty icy, that the path I was following wasn’t entirely flat (and I was concentrating on Christmas song lyrics) I’m quite pleased that my reps averaged 8:20. More importantly I found my pace much quicker with each rep.

Thursday: Rest day
Thursdays are my designated rest day because I work away from London and quite simply don’t have the time to run. Luckily I was not lecturing this week, but giving students tutorials from my office instead, because I was still walking like a sumo wrestler following Tuesday’s strength training.

Friday: Long, slow run
11.7 miles
After last week’s disastrously hungover long run I knew that I couldn’t skimp on miles this week. Every runner I know preaches the importance of the weekly long run in any training schedule and I have experienced the fallout of too many missed long runs during too many ill-fated half marathons. So when I schedule a 12 mile long run this week, I was going to run as close to 12 miles as I damn well could. I mapped a route from Haringey to my friend’s house in Leytonstone via Mile End Road and instructed her to meet me at 3pm. She promised me chilli upon arrival.

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Snowy Clissold Park as I ran toward Hackney…
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…and the edge of Epping Forest as I approached Leytonstone.

When Friday rolled around the world outside my bedroom window was almost entirely white, and by the time it was 1pm the snow was still coming down thick and fast. Screw it, I thought, if I I can run in this, I can run in anything. And so off into the blizzard I went. My route Eastwards was really flat and so my pace was much swifter than my usual long runs around hilly North London. Half of my mile splits came in around the 9:00min/mile mark – far too fast. My legs however felt really strong and I loved every second of that sludgy, snowy, windy jog, so much so that I threw in 1/2 a mile at HM pace towards the end just for fun.

Oh, and the chilli was delicious.

Before setting off down my snowy Haringey street...
Setting off from snowy Haringey…
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…and upon arrival in Leytonstone.

Saturday: Finsbury Park parkrun
HM pace
I was impressed by the turnout this week, given the weather – 55 runners, a third of the usual turnout. I had originally hoped to run at tempo pace and try to squeeze under 24 minutes, but as the snow was still thick in the park I decided to play it safe and run steady. I don’t think the other runners were as cautious though, as they puffed past me and magically clawed up the snowy hills in regular road shoes! Last week I found it hard to maintain HM pace because the Finsbury Park route is constantly up and down hills. I had even considered travelling to a flatter parkrun. But then I remembered that the Waltham Forest Half Marathon isn’t exactly flat and so it is probably good to practice pacing on bumpy ground, holding a pace up the hills and holding back to recover on the downhills. Wednesday’s HM pace session seems to have helped because I held a fairly even 8:20 pace the whole way round this week. Woohoo! Waltham Forest, here I come!

How was your week? How did you choose to enjoy the snowy weather?

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