8 days a week

IN WHICH THE TRAINING PROGRAMME GRINDS EVER ONWARDS AND WE STRUGGLE MANFULLY TO HIT OUR TARGETS, WHICH WE DO, MORE OR LESS. SORT OF. MOSTLY. IT’S A RUN OF TWO HALVES…


Why did I pick a running programme with so much running? I suppose the simple answer is fear. Fear and pride… well, fear, pride and… oh wait, that reminds me…

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I’m no different to any other human being on the planet. I respond well when I’m told what to do. This is part of the social animal that we are. The group psychology that drives us on. An anthropologist might pitch it better (and if my dear daughter takes that subject in college this year, maybe she’ll do me a favour and explain it me, in simple terms).

In this case, I am responding well to being told what to do, by myself. This is in the form of a programme. This is a simple trick, and hardly falls into the realms of cognitive dissonance. It’s the ‘gym theory’. I could choose to stay at home and do all sorts of wonderful ‘weight thingies’ with, em, stuff, and then run around the neighbourhood on my own, in order to get fit, or, I could pay someone a lot of money to essentially tell me to do the same thing. With the cachet of a shower cubicle in which there is piped music, and a reception area with at least one half-dead rubber plant, I can convince myself that this is the way, and the only way, that I am going to get fit.

And this does work for some. Not for all, of course. But your fees are usually annual, and if you stop going by February, it’s a safe bet your monthly transfer has more stamina. But how’n’ever. I didn’t set out to bash gyms. I was just saying that, for me, without an A4 sheet of paper pinned to the kitchen door with each and every run itemised, all hope is lost. The power of the printed word, and all that.

So, yes, running, and plenty of it. According to the Garmin stats, which are reasonably accurate (despite my watch’s occasional attempts to relocate somewhere sunny like Hawaii), in the last four weeks, I have clocked up 312.7 kilometres. Or 194 odd miles, in old money. This week alone was nearly 87k. It’s not outrageuous be any stretch. Plenty of half-decent athletes will be doing a lot more. But it’s at the upper end of the ‘average’ suggested for marathon training. So, it had better pay off, that’s all I’m sayin’!

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Monday: recovery run of 10k, which is the only run that never changes in distance.

Tuesday: speed work – just over an hour of alternate fast and not-so fast, which was something of a landmark for two reasons. I didn’t get out in to the park ’til relatively late (we had changed drill this week, and so I was delayed getting started). The weather was ropey; plenty of tail-ends of Atlantic depressions, with lots of wind and rain. ‘Intermittent’, as the forecasters are fond of saying. So I put the head torch on, for the first time this Summer. About halfway through the loops, the rain came down and I took to the woods and the speed work morphed into a fartlek run. This, coupled with the fading light, spotting rain, and narrow beam from the torch all conspired to make for a run with a bit of a difference; a run that felt enjoyable, free from the constraints of a beeping watch or set tempo. Yes indeed, it is the little things…

Wednesday: recovery run with Mark, and I was glad I had a few gels in the pouch, as I hadn’t eaten enough during the day, and the run nearly went off the rails. 10k in all.

Thursday: the weather is still a bit iffy, but this run is one of the more important runs of the week. After a couple of k to warm up, you need to keep a nice, steady tempo of, in this case, 5:35 min/km for 10k. Most of the splits were below this, with a k to warm down after. So, 13k in all.

Friday: recovery run, and a messed up plan. The watch was playing silly buggers again, though this time it saved me a soaking as I had returned home to try and get it going again (note to Garmin: you have issues with power on some of your models, but you know this, as there are whole website dedicated to this very problem). And then the heavens opened. The lightning cracked and the thunder roared. Okay, so we had a small thunderstorm. Nothing like the crazy weather systems in the Caribbean right now. But for Irish folk, any displays of electrical discharge from the clouds is always exciting, in a slightly atavistic way. I did resurrect the watch and get back out for just under 10k, but as I was aware of crew levels, I ran around in circles in the top section of the park, and fell short of the target 13k, partly due to boredom, and largely down to fatigue.

Saturday: and this is long run day. The day started badly. We had a call-out around 5.30am which always throws the body clock out. Sleep afterwards is always fitful. It’s less like sleep and more like exhaustion. When I finally bargained the body into getting all the gear on for the run and got about 4k along the canal towpath, the beeper went off again. Now, I was off-call, so didn’t have to respond, but I had an exit strategy, as I was near a bridge, and one of my colleagues lives nearby. A hasty phone call and within a few minutes, he had picked me up and we whizzed down to the station.

This threw the rhythm out again, not least as I had had to hare it down the canal to hook up with my lift. So I had some light lunch and finally kicked my arse out the door again around half one. Was I feeling the love? I was barely feeling my legs. I had to have a few quiet words and make a few deals on the way around the park. You can’t do a long run in the park without overlapping routes in several places. In all, the clock ticked towards 3 hours, and I finally decided that, with the additional 5k I had done this morning, that 28k was enough. The pace was off too: should have been 6.05 but all I managed was 6:15.

So the long run of 32k was made up of 5k and 28k, with an enforced break in between.

Noe of which has anything to do with the Beatles, per se. But you get my drift.

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My only tiny, niggly question I have about the programme (ssshhh! we’re whispering here!) is the thing about the long runs. As most running sites will tell you, working at race pace has benefits. Here’s an excerpt from Runner’s World:

Some miles count more than others (part two)
The farther away your miles are from race pace, the less they will help your racing performance. The principle of specificity means that you become good at what you practice. If you mostly run long, slow miles, you will become proficient at running long, slow miles…

There are mitigating factors here, but as I train through this programme, the question does pop up sometimes. Let’s face it, you have time on your hands! This is a programme specifically designed to try and get you over the line in 4 hours. That’s 5:41 pace, and change. And yet none of the runs are done at this pace. The closest to it is the tempo run, which is working on getting your lactate thresh-hold ready for the big day. The long run is a good bit slower.

So it’s a waiting game. And a training game. And if the day itself is anything like today’s weather, I shall weep, for it is mighty frisky out there. And the rain is at a 45 degree angle. Soft, in other words…

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4 thoughts on “8 days a week

  1. Well yes, anyone setting off on a marathon without a reasonable fueling strategy is bonkers. Given that we burn around 100 calories per mile and generally hold about 1800 calories, it explains why we hit the wall at the 18 mile mark. So we have to supplement the intake, usually with gels, which is a mix of fructose and glucose, and sometimes maltodextrin, and a whole load of other stuff that makes my eyes glaze over. And not forgetting electrolytes. You’re unlikely to dehydrate in this fair and pleasant land of ours, but not taking in some carbs and salt is asking for trouble…

    Liked by 1 person

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