Sub-1:50 half marathon training: Week 5

I’ve been ticking off the days on my training plan. It’s quite a satisfying (if brief) act of celebration. Tick – I nailed you, threshold. Tick – I laugh at you, hill. Tick – 8kg? Pah!

After a few weeks the little biro ticks weren’t enough for me anymore. Puny pen stroke, be gone! My victories cannot be represented by such a feeble line. Athleticism such as mine can only be represented by the mighty marker pen. So I upgraded my ticks. They’re now nice and fat – symbolic of my mid-training ego. (We all get a bit cocky from time to time. Don’t judge me, I’m not this much of an arse in real life.)

The big fat ticks are pretty fun. My training plan is stuck to my wall opposite my bed and so it’s one of the first things I see it in the mornings when I stumble out of bed towards the door (via my running kit, which is laid out the night before in an attempt to make running at 7.30am a bit more palatable). Now I can see those big fat ticks from my bed. When my alarm goes off in the morning, I grumble and roll over until the the snooze goes off, at which point I blindly fumble for the lamp and consider getting out of bed. I pull down the duvet and peek through one eye towards the door – the door glares back at me. The coats hung up on the back of the door will surely weigh it down too much, I think, and I cannot muster the strength this early to prise open… But then a fat tick creeps into my sight, marching out of my training plan and into view from the corner of my eye. Good morning, Champ! the tick shouts over me, Roll your lazy butt out of bed and into the lycra mountain you’ve so carefully arranged over here by the door.

Ok, I begrudgingly reply, I’m a-coming for you lycra, and I’m a-coming for you Finsbury Park!

That’s right, I can now see my big fat ticks from the other side of the room, each one a tiny little victory and a bloody massive pat on the back. The only problem now is that I can see the ticks descending further and further down the page and they’re almost half way…

Training this week has gone well. I’ve ticked off my runs, teamed up with some friends for a refreshingly social long run, and attended a fantastic running workshop with Full Potential (more below). However I don’t feel like I’ve run fast for a long time and, seeing as my new found speed is just that – new – I can’t help getting nervous about whether or not I’m losing speed. I’m running far (25 miles a week at the moment) and my threshold reps are getting long (building from 6 to 10 minutes), but none of these are fast. As my fellow club runner and first-time marathon trainee, Kayleigh, said during an email convo last week, endurance training is like running in a different gear. We’re training to run long and steady, not short and fast anymore. But I must admit I would be sad to lose any leg speed. Am I worrying unnecessarily? Unfortunately the snow hampered my scheduled tempo parkrun a few weeks ago, which would have been a great chance to dispel any speed-related concerns. Looks like I’ll just have to get one in this weekend instead!

Anyway, this is how this week’s training went down:

Monday: Threshold reps
I’ve been running 3-4 minute reps since the summer with 1-2 minute recoveries, but a longer race requires longer efforts. That means a shift from 5 x 4 minute efforts with 2 minute jogging recoveries to 6 minute efforts with 2 minute recoveries. I survived and actually felt kind of OK. I ran on hilly ground and maintained some pretty even reps, which was a massive confidence boost.

Tuesday: Strength training
My weekly dose of DOMS has been wearing off during the last few weeks. I could have breathed a little sigh of relief when last Thursday rolled round without an ache or throb, but I reluctantly realised that this meant I needed to up my game a little. Rather than rejig my entire strength routine, I decided to perform them in a different order, doing exercises in groups of three and performing the different moves in succession. This reduced the recovery time and BAM!… DOMS on Thursday. Ouchy inner upper thighs…

Wednesday: Race pace run
I’ve scheduled some continuous race pace runs during this middle section of my training and after last week’s rather uneven attempt I decided to go back to basics this week. I turned the ‘pace’ view off my GPS watch and ran to ‘perceived effort’. Until I purchased the GPS watch in this year’s January sales I have always had to pace myself according to how I feel and, well, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it… I did a half mile warm up and crossed the busy road before setting off for 5 miles of thinking steady and hoping that would translate into 8:15 min/mile, my target half marathon pace. Thinking steady actually translated into a very consistent 8:00-8:04 min/mile. I’m still unsure how I feel about this. Maybe I’ll write about my race pace after next week’s race pace mile reps.

After cycling to work that afternoon I was confronted with a niggling knee pain was turning into a real pain though. It was all horribly similar to the knee pain I developed during last Spring’s half marathon training – unstable, crunchy, with hurty muscles just above the inside of my knee cap. Unfortunately the constant stop-start cycling through London traffic had exacerbated it, as had sitting at a desk at work with my legs bent. I went to the shops on my dinner break for emergency ibuprofen and iced my knee when I got home. I’ll be honest, I was doubtful that anti-inflammatories and some ice cubes wrapped in a tea towel would help, but my word it’s a miracle cure! Nightly icing and ibuprofen after every run/cycle ride seems to have eased the pain, though it still niggles a bit. Don’t worry, I’ve made an appointment with the physio…

Ice, wrapped in a tea towel and strapped round my leg. Plus a banana and chocolate Philadelphia pitta… Mmm…

Thursday: Rest
Getting up at 3:45am to travel to my lecturing job on the South coast isn’t exactly restful, but that is what my training plan states, so who am I to argue?…

Friday: Rest
Friday has been my regular long run day as it is my day off work. However this week I planned to run my long run with a couple of pals, which meant squeezing it into my Sunday morning. Oh well, if I must rest again…

Saturday: Full Potential workshop
I signed up to this free workshop before Christmas and it was rescheduled to this weekend after January’s snow made traveling to London impossible for some of the speakers and attendees. Having a marathon training day so close to the London marathon (which most of the attendees seemed to be training for) was less than ideal, as the organisers noted, but it was still an incredibly interesting and informative morning. The workshop took us through the science behind a good training plan, the secrets of a good taper, injury prevention, an intense Q&A (during which all marathon training concerns seemed to surface!) and we were even taken to the running track in Regent’s Park for a threshold interval session.

Learning all about injury prevention, particularly about knees. Lots of talk about knees.

The practical session was incredibly helpful. As I have been running on my own over the last few months I have had no guidance on my training paces, and so it was good to have a trained coach help me settle into a more appropriate pace than I am used to – a touch slower than I have been executing during my sessions and far more suitable for endurance training.

The workshop was obviously intended as a marketing tool as Full Potential provide a range of coaching services, as well as training and racing holidays. I signed up because I like free stuff, but if I’m completely honest I was actually quite won over by the team, their incredible running experience and their passion to help other runners achieve their goals. I may even invest in a coaching session if I bite the bullet and start training for my first marathon later this year.

Sunday: Long run
I buddied up with fellow Chaser Kayleigh and with Dee, both of whom I ran last year’s Berlin half with and both of whom are training for their first marathons, and logged a suitably paced 13.3 miles this morning before work. It was drizzly and cold and very early when we set off, but it was wonderful to have some company for a change. I logged the most modest mileage, while Kayleigh and Dee both ran either side of our London loop, logging 14.6 15 and 16 miles respectively. Incredible! My feet are very, very sore after the long, flat route, but I dread to think how theirs are feeling!

How has your week’s running been? Are any other Spring racers struggling with their endurance training ‘gear’?


3 thoughts on “Sub-1:50 half marathon training: Week 5

  1. Woah woah woah ….. I ran [over] 15 miles, thank you very much! You may have misinterpreted my text – I hit a hill at 14.6 miles .. I did not stop, I DESTROYED it! Please do not deny me 0.4miles for which I worked VERY hard. 😉
    PS … apart from a huge appetite and the ability to sleep on a washing line, I’m actually feeling good!


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