Sub-1:50 half marathon: Week 9

Last week’s post about been wolf whistled while running caused a bit of a stir among friends, readers, clubmates, and people I’ve never met before. I’d like to say thanks to everyone that responded to the post, either via the comments on this blog, via Facebook and Twitter or in person. It was both reassuring and terrifying to know that I am far from the only person to be shouted at while running and cycling and as I have received such a variety of responses and suggestions I think I’ll need to write a proper follow up to that post later in the week.

For now though, it’s time for a weekly round up of my training for that (now more daunting than ever) sub-1:50 half marathon.

I don’t really feel like I’m training right now. Not because I’m not bothering – I am, I’m bothering a lot – but because this training feels like it’s been going on for ages! My training plan is 13 weeks long, which is pretty standard, but my attention span is wavering and having already gone through the routine peaks and troughs of enthusiasm/fear/hunger/nerves/excitement etc. I now just want to get on with it!

There are now only 4 weeks left until the big race and so I’m going to spend these next few weeks not only preparing to run 13.1 miles, but also preparing to race 13.1 miles. The two are quite different. After all, I already know that I can cover the distance. Preparing to race this half marathon means holding onto my race pace until the bitter end.

These final few weeks of training have loads of race pace focused sessions to help me tune into that dream pace on the big day and to hold my race pace even when I’m really tired. This means more race pace mile reps and for the first time ever I am going to run the final miles of my weekly long run at race pace.

Different runners and coaches suggest different race pace distances during long runs – some say the final third, some say the middle third, some say the last 2-3 miles. I’m going to try them all. Well, as many as I can in the next few weeks anyway. I’m not particularly bothered about the fitness aspect of this training addition. Instead I am focusing on tuning into my race pace, concentrating on it, and maintaining it when I’m already tired. This week I held race pace for the last 2 miles of my long run. Next week I’m going to try and hold it for 3 miles in the middle…

Monday: 6 miles continuous race pace
This was a disaster! The GF accompanied me on this run and despite me telling her that we were running ‘steady’, not fast, it felt like she was pulling me ahead. In reality she wasn’t, but running alongside someone makes me speed up a bit. I think I’ve become too competitive. My mile splits all came in around 8:00/mile and though I held it well and could have done another couple, I am highly doubtful I could hold that pace for a whole half marathon!

There is a valuable lesson to be learned here: focusing on your own pace is really hard when you’re surrounded by other runners. This crappy session was a big warning for me to reign it in during the first few miles of the race, when I will inevitably be surrounded by runners at all kinds of different speeds. Maybe I should ask her to run with me again this week, and this time I’ll let her win…

Tuesday: Strength training
I dusted off the kettle bell this week after a two week hiatus and it was hard. My poor upper inner thighs ached until Thursday, despite having a good old stretch while cooking my porridge.

Wednesday: Threshold training
4 x (6 mins @ threshold pace; 2 mins active recovery)
I really, really enjoyed this session this week! This kind of speedwork session has become one of my favourites (I think I like the repetition and not needing to concentrate on remembering bizarre timings), but as my job has become marginally less stressful this week I found myself drifting off into a happy place as I ran along at that comfortably hard effort… Honestly I wanted to do a fifth rep, but I had work to be getting on with and had to head home promptly for breakfast.

Thursday: Rest
Rest day, AKA
long day at work, AKA
most tiring day of the week.

Friday: Long run
14 miles flat, last 2 miles at race pace
This run was so awesome! It totally made up for Monday’s session. I finally got round to downloading the Marathon Talk podcast and decided to stick it on my MP3 player for the run. I thought it would make a change from my usual playlists and I wondered what it would be like listening to talking rather than music.

As it turns out it was better than music! I smiled all the way to the River Thames and back, laughing at running-themed jokes, listening to a great interview with Matt Fitzgerald about nutrition during tapering weeks, and generally enjoying the feeling of running with other people rather than on your own. I’m considering listening to it while running the race, but have had bad experiences of racing while listening to music as it tends to distract me. Have any of you ever listened to podcasts or audio books while running a race?

I wasn’t entirely convinced I was going to run the last 2 miles at race pace until I actually started doing it. I thought it would be really awful and painful, and so disastrous I would pull out of the race. But it was pretty OK. I was definitely tired, but I started thinking ‘steady’ and tried to tune into that pace. I sang my pacing song in my head, listened to my foot fall (the podcast had finished), tried to stay upright, and refused to look at the pace on my GPS watch until the distance ticked over 14 miles. 8:18 for both of those final miles. That is a little bit good, isn’t it? I finished outside Sainsbury’s to get some lunch and was decidedly tired out.

I tried a new recovery technique after this week’s run: ice cream in the bath. The benefits are as yet unconfirmed, but it is definitely good for the soul.


Saturday: Training day with Liz Yelling
I’m not kidding, I met Liz Yelling. Well, I stood near her and ran when she told me to anyway.

Spatone, a fairly new iron supplement, hosted a marketing event aimed at active women and invited the Olympic marathoner and Commonwealth champion to help out, along with fellow coaches Sarah Russell and Elle Phillips. The day was aimed at marathon and half marathon runners (perfect) and we all took part in some race pace-focused threshold work, a running posture workshop and a lesson in dynamic warm ups and stretching.

During the posture workshop Elle noticed that I run a bit funny (she said something about a narrow gait and feet flicking out) and asked if I had any tightness in my inner abductors. Funny you should mention that, I said. A physio did once point that out. You should probably stretch them out better, she suggested, and placed me on a regime of 4 x 30 second inner-upper-thigh stretches a day. Crumbs…

We all got a pretty good goody bag from Spatone afterwards, which I was particularly chuffed with as I already use the supplements and was running low! The product is a natural source of iron taken from a spring somewhere in Wales that produces iron rich water. The clear liquid comes in sachets, each filling a shot glass with a drink that tastes like you’re licking a penny. I’ve mixed mine with OJ before, which is better. I’ve also tried chasing it with coffee, which masks the taste, but (as I learned on Saturday) inhibits the body’s ability to absorb the iron (no more coffee with my Spatone then…).

I soon undid all of the good done on the track though, as I grabbed a coffee and panini on the way to a debate about the ethics involved in running the London Underground, hosted by Philosophy For All at the Bishopsgate Institute before going to the London Bike Kitchen’s 1st birthday party in the evening.


Bike bingo

Sunday: Rest
Rest day, AKA
back to work, AKA
a bit tiring.

How was your week’s training?



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