Week 9 – Not again!

Well, week 9 ended with a bit of an incident, much like last week’s did, but not as such running related! So if you happen to have read my blog last week ( see here https://aquavista.me/2019/09/09/well-you-couldnt-make-this-up/ ) as regards ‘keygate’ then you won’t (or maybe you will!) believe what happened to me this weekend!!! More further down……..:O.

Meantime, back to the running…..

When I looked originally at the 16 week training programme for the New York Marathon – see post here https://aquavista.me/2019/07/15/and-so-it-begins/ I remember immediately thinking “shit, September is going to be horrible”. Specifically focussing on weeks 9 – 13, there was looming five consecutive weeks of around 45 miles per week, with long runs at the weekend of 20 miles plus. Well here we are, it has arrived!

This week was 44 miles, and had a 20 miler at the end of it too. But it isn’t just the big runs, the midweek ones are getting longer and harder too. Earlier in the schedule the three consecutive midweek runs were all four or five miles each, and now this week they were 6, 8 and 6. Next week it is 7, 9 and 7, so just from a time commitment alone point of view this is getting very serious indeed.

I started this week on tired legs too, and with a very tired mind and body full stop, after last week’s exertions at the Great North Run, which culminated in a 1,300 mile drive due to the above mentioned ‘keygate’ where I lost my car and house keys, presumably (as I suppose I will never actually know) somewhere in the North Sea.

Tuesday’s run was a fartlek of 6 miles, and after a 5:30 wake up call (I have to do these things before getting ready for work, just compounding the tiredness) it became my first long sleeves outing of the campaign. The weather this week has certainly seen autumn begin to land (and then disappear again!), and me actually consider putting the heating on in my house too! The fartlek was fairly uneventful in the end, and by its very nature fairly unstructured, so that enabled me to ease back in gently. I did however have a bit of a twinge in my right calf, which was a bit worrying. It had niggled me at about mile 4 of the GNR on Sunday, but had gone away again. I managed to run it off, but it reminded me of at least the need to stretch diligently before and after every run.

On Wednesday there was a progression run. I love progression runs! Maybe that makes me weird, I don’t know! It was 8 miles, and for me that meant starting at around 9:55 pace, and upping the pace each mile by 15 seconds or so, I ended up finishing my last mile at around 7:45 or so, and felt really good, helped admittedly by a bit of a tailwind at the end :).

Thursday was a 6 miler including 10 x 400m fast (7:30 pace or so, or that was what the programme said!), and it was definitely hard, particularly in the middle section. Friday’s rest day was a very welcome part of the week, and I rewarded myself with a beer or three on Thursday night – well you have to try to live a little in the midst of all of this don’t you :).

At the weekend (home for the first weekend in a month, and very grateful therefore that Melanie came to mine this weekend), Saturday’s prelude to Sunday was a nice gentle four mile run in glorious sunshine. It was so easy and relaxed, and it went so well that it made me think that all runs should be this way. We also chatted on the way round about possibly getting into trail running at some point when this marathon is done and dusted, but that’s all for another day……

So onto Sunday’s 20 miler. Melanie was sporting a new knee support after some (bad) chafing issues with her old set, and that seemed to work fine overall. The day was hot, and we got in a lovely route in and around the River Thames in Abingdon. Everything was fine overall, although I struggled for the second half (and the last few miles in particular). We had a (ahem..) toilet break courtesy of a timely/well placed Waitrose store at about the 10 mile point, and after that my legs felt heavy and breathing was harder, and I could feel my pulse rising commensurately. By mile 20 I was pretty much just surviving and couldn’t wait to get to the finish, and then it happened……

Abingdon affords some lovely riverfront to run by (like Cambridge does too), although running past the pubs is always hard!!

Upon getting back home I went straight to my secret place in the garden to retrieve my house key. I always leave it in the same place when I’m out for a run in case it falls out of my pocket when retrieving a gel or the like. And it wasn’t there! After some scrabbling around and pulling said flowerpot apart it still couldn’t be found, and so Melanie (assuming naturally that I was having a ‘man look’) took over to try to retrieve it too. Sure enough, it wasn’t there! I looked then everywhere wondering if I’d put it somewhere else, but to no avail. I also realised that I had no spare key available to me in my other secret place, as I hadn’t returned it after losing my other set of keys the week before!!

Not the way I wanted to end my run it has to be said…….

After considering bricks and sledgehammers for a while (neither of which I had to hand either it has to be said, or otherwise they may have got a look in) I realised that the bedroom window upstairs was open. I didn’t have any ladders, but after a visit to my kindly neighbours and borrowing a set, I managed to climb up into the window and get inside and unlock the door from within. Where on earth I left the key is and will perhaps remain a mystery for all time. I made the statement to Melanie (because it is true) that I have never lost a set of keys before in my life, and here I am having lost a set in consecutive weeks. So as the headline above reads, you couldn’t make this up!! I really felt so stupid, and still can’t even fathom what I did with the key. Maybe it will turn up one day in the unlikeliest of places when I am doing the garden – who knows.

So, onto Week 10! Week 10 is a mere 42 miles, with just a 15 miler this weekend (although 5 of those at race pace), but we have 23 miles to do over the next three days which is going to be a real test. I have a bit of an achy foot too to boot, but hopefully that will ease. The next 3 weeks after this are harder still, but am not getting ahead of myself yet – one week, or one day, at a time! The exciting reality though is that at the end of the next four weeks we start to taper, and the marathon is less than 7 weeks away now. The time will no doubt fly by, and if it wasn’t very real already, then it gets even more real by the minute.

Hopefully I will have no more lost keys to report next week, but as Melanie reminded me afterwards, things often happen in threes! Until then………..:)

Fantastic, or what!

I ended last week’s blog post with the line “it’s getting serious now” (probably, and if not I meant it) and it has definitely come home to roost this week. The simple figures alone show that to be true, in that until a week or so ago, I had never ran 25 miles in a week before. This week I ran 39. I’d also never run more than a half marathon before (ever), and the final run of the week called for 15 miles, 5 of it at race pace. I thought I was ready for it, and it ended up being a lot tougher than I thought….

The week was also made more difficult by two other factors. One, I’m back home, and running on my ‘same old same old’ well trodden paths was always going to be a comedown after last week’s wonderful holiday in Chamonix (see last week’s blog here…….https://aquavista.me/2019/08/09/week-3-bye-bye-chamonix-its-been-a-blast/ . Secondly I’m back to work, and the midweek runs are now a minimum of six miles long (they get longer from here too).

I used to be able to do the four mile midweek runs in my lunchbreak, especially helped by the fact there are quite a few other keen runners at my place of work, but not any more – I just don’t have the time to justify it. A seven mile run takes over an hour, and by the time I’ve dressed, showered, stretched and eaten, that would be just taking the mickey to do it on anyone’s time but my own.

So therefore, three times this week I’ve been out pounding the pavements of Abingdon on Thames at 6am in the morning to get those midweek interval runs in. This just takes its toll, as I find myself needing to go to bed earlier (but actually not!), and also needing to lay off the alcohol midweek (but actually not!), so this all has both an instant and also cumulative effect upon you. I absolutely know that I will have to make some proper and serious adjustments to my lifestyle soon, including eating more healthily, or something will give, and it’ll be me, and that is not something I obviously want to happen.

The midweek runs themselves however went well, with 8 minute mile runs dispatched with less effort than I thought they’d take, and a tempo run in between was ok too. With the weekend approaching though, and the 15 mile run on the Sunday, one other thing hit me that was going to be something I’d never actually dealt with before on training runs, and that is hydration. With my previously longest ever run being a half marathon, and that an organised event, the drinks are laid on at feed stations. This time it’s just me (or actually me and Melanie, as I was over in Cambridge with her for this weekend’s runs), so somehow I figured with the weather being warm I need to somehow provide for myself.

I have tried a few times before to carry a water bottle on runs, but I just don’t like it. Worse, I find it actually expends energy, something that is quite precious to me!! I thus (after asking a few running friends’ advice) took the plunge and bought one of those trail running vests with squidgy drinks bottles, like they wear on ultra marathons. I got it from Decathlon, for what I thought was the pretty reasonable price of £20 (some online I saw were well over £100, a price I thought very steep for something I wasn’t sure how often I would use).

Decathlon’s finest water carrier thingymajig, modelled to an amused office by yours truly.

The weekend in Cambridge (and pretty much everywhere in the UK) turned out to be very windy, and I was also concerned about how that would affect things. In fact 65mph per hour winds were forecast, and that could have been just downright horrible at best.

Saturday’s five mile run (no vest needed for that) actually went well, despite the winds. Although it was gusty, we stayed out of the worst of it, and it felt good. Sunday however was a different kettle of fish. The 15 mile run was not a success overall, although I suppose not a failure either…

So firstly (this is a bit TMI here, but am recording this for posterity and my own benefit as much as anything so bear with me, or skip this bit!) I had toilet issues! I always manage to ‘go’ before a run of almost any kind, but this time I just couldn’t. Blame it on the wrong coffee, or whatever, but nothing was happening! Knowing that we had about two and a half hours of running ahead of us didn’t augur well, but when you can’t go, you can’t go!! Thus unfortunately about an hour into the run, things had worked their way through (as it were!) and so a hastily arranged visit to a public convenience in a park in Cambridge took place. This might have worked, were it not for someone to come banging on the cubicle door (trying to get in!!) within 10 seconds of me sitting down, which put me off somewhat! I thus spent most of the run waddling like a duck, not a good look! I have resolved to take my favourite coffee with me wherever I am from now on, and so far it hasn’t let me down. There’s also a good book I have called ‘How to Make Yourself Poop’, which I clearly need to read more carefully…….:) https://www.amazon.co.uk/Runners-World-Make-Yourself-Poop/dp/1635651832

The title says it all……………..compulsive reading 🙂

Secondly the aforementioned water carrier device did not exactly get the outcome I desired! Firstly it wasn’t comfortable, by which I probably mean that I had it on too tight, as I was worried about it all sloshing around (I was carrying a litre of water). Secondly it basically restricted my breathing (due I suppose to me having it on too tight!) to the extent that I got a bad stitch at about mile nine which I just couldn’t shift. Whenever I ever get a stitch I can normally get rid of it pretty quickly by deep breathing and extending my arms to open my diaphragm, but this just didn’t work this time. The stitch was painful and didn’t shift for about five miles,even after taking the vest off altogether. And thirdly I didn’t even drink the vast majority of the water I carried! I threw most of it away in the toilet I visited, and probably squirted the rest over myself without ingesting it.

When I took it off at mile 10 I actually wanted to throw it in the river, but I am so grateful to Melanie for carrying it the rest of the way for me. My takeaway from the whole vest experience is (at the very least) that I was pretty stupid to attempt the longest run of my life wearing a litre of water sloshing around on my chest without trying it out first on a shorter run. Lessons learned and all that….but either way I need to find a solution for longer training runs, as when it gets to 20 miles I can’t not have access to some sort of fluids at some point. I may try it again of course, but don’t want that restrictive/tight chest feeling when I run – I said afterwards that it felt like I was being hugged by a demented gibbon! All alternative suggestions welcome………..:)

By the end of the 15 mile run (5 at easy pace, then 5 at tempo/race pace, then 5 at easy pace again) I was definitely finished. I don’t think I could have run another 20 paces. It was interesting (and not a little daunting) to reflect that earlier in the week I thought everything was going so well. The positives (some of them…..) are of course that so far I’m injury free (oh dear, should I have said that?!!!!) and that also I’ve completed every run on the programme so far. But, I’m/we’re only 25% of the way through, and the runs get longer and harder from here again, even if Week 5 itself doesn’t look as bad as Week 4.

The main positive for me though is my partner in crime Melanie. She’s the reason I’m doing this programme (culminating of course in the New York Marathon in November) in the first place, but most importantly we’ve committed to doing all of the long runs (and more where we can) together. There is however a massive difference from just doing runs together, to getting help, encouragement, motivation, inspiration and a voice of calm, which was shown yesterday. If I’d been out on my own yesterday I’m not at all sure I’d have got to complete 15 miles, or even half of it. So thank you Melanie, for getting me to this point, and of course for so much more than that. It’s an incredible feeling to have such encouragement and inspiration, something I’ve never had before. We are in this together, and it’s a really wonderful and amazing journey so far.

So, at the end of the week, 39 miles have been run. That’s now 131 miles in four weeks, of the total 599 training miles in the 16 week programme. There are a mere 38 miles this week, which sounds like almost respite at this point, but then next week it will be 43! Help!

I can’t leave this post without also mentioning/recording an incredible and otherwise unrelated thing, which happened literally a half mile into Sunday’s run. Melanie and I had just started out on our way into Cambridge, running along a pavement in a suburb called Trumpington, which I’d never even heard of let alone been to before, when a car pulls past us and stops about 50 yards away. A youngish man gets out of the passenger seat and looks towards us, and I exclaim immediately “oh my God” (or words to that effect). Can you believe it was my son? I couldn’t!! For context, my son lives in Nottingham (about 80 miles away) and I see him much less these days than I would love to, but it turns out that he and his girlfriend were on their way to touch rugby training, also in Cambridge! I had no idea of that fact, and neither did he know that I was there doing my run. And even if we had both known of each other’s whereabouts, the chances of us being on the same street in Trumpington at 8am on a Sunday morning, and then bumping into each other, are more than ridiculous!! It was as happy as it was unexpected too, and after a quick hello (sorry Dan and Sadi for the sweaty hug :)) we both had to get on to where we were headed. Fantastic or what!