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Running to Berlin, Week 15: It’s Crunch Time

Three weeks to go until the 2022 Berlin Marathon. Read on to find all the details of my training as we’re getting closer to the race.

This morning the Berlin Marathon sent me my start card. That makes it official that this training block is nearing completion. It’s crunch time.

The big day is so close I’m starting to become hyper aware of every signal my body is sending. Does that cough mean I’m getting sick? That ache in the quad doesn’t feel good, I’m totally about to get injured. If you’ve trained for a marathon, you know that this anxiety is the most surefire sign that the race is close.

But there’s still some training to get done. And last week, I got it done. Let’s get to the details, but first a quick summary.

Weekly Summary — Week 6

  • Total Distance Run: 120 km (75 miles)
  • Long Run: 33.4 km (20.7 miles) @ 4:14/km (6:48/mile)
  • Workout: 4 x 3 km @ 3:54/km (6:15/mile) + 3 x 1000 m @ 3:39/km (5:52/mile) 

After having four prime training weeks derailed by covid, I am well and truly back to full training again. And, as I was hoping, fitness is coming back quickly. I’m almost improving from workout to workout at this point, and that’s a good feeling.

At this point in training, I’m veering from my original structure a bit. Because of the untimely covid break, my most significant weakness at the moment is conditioning to race pace. Either in the form of sustained race pace efforts, or race pace on tired legs.

As a result, that’s my number one priority in these last weeks of training. That means simplifying my structure down to two key sessions: A longer workout with efforts around race pace, and a hard long run with bouts at race pace. All remaining mileage is easy running.

Monday

Last week’s long run took a lot out of me. And, as you would expect, I did not feel great come Monday morning, to the extent that I decided to forgo my usual double recovery. Instead, I went out on Monday evening for a slightly longer recovery run.

I’ll be honest, it was hard at first. Overall, I loosened up a bit during the run. But both legs were shot, and I knew it would be a few days before I was in shape to do another workout.

Tuesday

As the DOMS set in on Tuesday, my calves, hamstrings, and quads were all achy. The quads were particularly sore, even to the touch, and I was slightly worried that I’d done some serious damage. But moving generally relieved the pain, and that put me somewhat at ease. Either way, just two very easy runs this Tuesday, as opposed to the ordinary workout.

Wednesday

Even by the time Wednesday rolled around, my quads still hadn’t fully recovered. But I was feeling better than the day before, so I braced myself for a workout the following day.

Thursday

I arrived at the track on Thursday morning only to find it occupied by a bunch of high schoolers. Adjusting on the fly, I decided to modify the workout to four reps of a slightly undulating road loop. Then, if the track was free towards the end of my session, I wanted to tack on a few extra shorter and faster reps.

At this point in training, I’ve essentially abandoned all types of fancy intensity controls during workouts. It’s all about getting out there and going by feel, in preparation for race day. I think this transition from more controlled training, to a more unhinged approach is what lets me race at a significantly higher intensity than I train at for most of the year.

Of course, my workouts end up looking monstrous when studying the data afterwards. Just like at the heart rate data from this session.

See all the data from the session on Strava.

Almost 50 minutes in zone 4 and 5 combined. Usually, I try to avoid going into zone 4 until the second half of a workout. Zone 5 is a no-go zone. But, as you get closer to race day, you need these workouts to get race ready. To simulate, and prepare for what awaits you at the back half of a marathon.

Of course, the fact that my workouts are much harder than normal is also the reason why I run everything except the one workout and the long run at recovery pace in this phase of training. And, when it comes to those recovery runs, I am diligent about keeping the intensity appropriately low.

All in all though, it was a good workout. I averaged 3:54/km (6:15/mile) for the long road reps, and 3:39/km (5:52/mile) for the k-reps on the track. Based on this workout, my current marathon pace should be near the slow end of that range.

Friday

After spending five months at home with my now one year old daughter, it was back to work on Friday. My plan going forward is to run commute both ways, most days. I’ll write more about that experience after Berlin.

Saturday

Full rest day from running.

Sunday

With a mere three weeks to go until race day, the window for hard long runs is just about to close. And those runs are the ones I’m missing the most because of my covid setback. So I knew that on this Sunday, it was important to combine both distance and intensity.

My plan was 25 kilometres. The idea was to get through those in a progressive manner, increase the pace underway, end with a significant portion around goal marathon pace, and end up with a decent overall average pace.

I went back to the same loop where I did my Thursday session. Only this time, I did six laps instead of four, and had no rest–the 26 km tempo block was just one continuous effort. Again, I dropped all tech assisted metrics, and ran strictly by feel.

Surprisingly, I was able to average around the same pace for those six 3 km laps as I did on Thursday–despite the two extra laps, and a few water and gel stops along the way (where I did not stop the watch). And, transitioning to the track after those laps on the road–again, without any break–I was able to increase the pace to what equates to the average for my current marathon personal best, which sits at 2:39:34.

Check Strava for the full details of the long run.

Overall, my average pace for the 26 kilometres (16 miles) ended up being around 3:55/km (6:20/mile). The best part, I still felt I had a bit to go on towards the end, after logging 7 kilometres (4.3 miles) at 3:46/km (6:02/mile) pace. A positive experience that gave me some hope for the big day in three weeks time!

My breathing and overall feel of the intensity was good. The key takeaway from this session is that my legs will be the limiting factor. They are simply not strong enough at this sort of pace to go the full distance, and that was quite clear towards the end of the long run.

But, who knows what will happen over the course of the next three weeks. I know that, going into the marathon, I will be well rested. More than that, I fully expect my fitness levels to go up another notch or two in that time.

Will it be enough to start the race with a chance of setting a new personal best? Probably not. At this point, I give myself a 10% chance. But that doesn’t mean I won’t go for it. But I will make the final decision on my race plan after running a 10k all out eight days before the race. Whatever happens there, I’ll use it as a true yardstick of my fitness.

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By Lars-Christian Simonsen

Lars-Christian is the founder of Run161. He characterises himself as a student of the sport who is always looking to learn more.