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Running to Berlin, Week 6: Tightening the Diet

The 2022 Berlin Marathon is inching closer. Find out all the details about my preparations last week.

As I finished up this week of training, Berlin Marathon 2022 is a mere 12 weeks away. It’s time to turn on the heat. And that’s what I do this week, but upping the volume and tightening the diet.

Weekly Summary — Week 6

  • Total Distance Run: 130 km (80 miles)
  • Long Run: 36 km (22 miles) @ 4:27/km (7:09/mile)
  • Workout 1: 20 x 400m @ 86-80 seconds with 30 sec standing rest and 2 minute set break after 10 reps
  • Workout 2: 4 x 10 minute with 1 min jog recovery

After a few weeks of comparatively lower volume, this week saw me back up at a new weekly high for the current training block. Backloading last week’s mileage meant that the rolling seven day total was significant throughout this week, and I certainly felt it.

I also decided to have an attempt at tightening the diet. During a marathon build, it is easy to make excuses for bad dietary habits.

“I’m running all these miles, I need to get in whatever I can” is my go to—and it has seen me slide into absolute sugar addiction. Again! As Dr. Howard J. Luks points out in his recent book, Longevity…Simplified, the challenge for endurance athletes is fuelling the burn without getting hooked on sugar.

For me, the sugar addiction ends up lowering my ability to eat actually nutritious food. Because of this, I think that staying away from everything that contains refined and added sugars will help me better absorb a high training load, and improve recovery.

Monday

As per my customary routine, I kicked off the week with two easy jogs. The first one with the one year old in the stroller, and the second one enjoying some quiet time on the local trails.

We got absolutely drenched on the first run. No worries though, the little girl was dry and safe under the rain covers inside the little microclimate of her stroller cabin!) And, naturally, I managed to time my second run to the second big rain fall of the day. That said, I’m not really complaining about some cooling rain in this heat!

Tuesday

After an easy jog pushing the stroller in the morning, it was time for another club workout in the evening. It was a hot day. My legs were still heavy from Sunday’s hard long run. Everything was lined up for this to be a challenging one—and it was.

My plan going in was to run 25 reps. The first 10 I wanted to hit 86-84 seconds, which is slightly faster than half marathon pace. Then I wanted to increase to 84-82 seconds the next 10, before closing out with 5 at faster than 80.

That didn’t happen. Already during the first set of reps, I felt like I was working too hard. Although I did end up averaging 85 seconds per rep (3:32/km — 5:42/mile) it cost me too much. 

I knew from the start of the second set of reps that I would have to call it at 20 this day—if not sooner.

In the end, I ended up running the full second set of 10 reps, averaging 81 seconds (3:22/km — 5:26/mile) but it cost me too much. Between the heat and the tired legs, I was working my heart rate up into high zone 4, even touching zone 5 towards the end. 

This is not sustainable during a marathon training block. Finishing the second set at the same paces as I hit during the first ten reps would’ve been appropriate on the day. But it’s easy to get carried away on club nights. ((Those exact same words would’ve had an entirely different meaning to me ten years back 😅))

Wednesday

Hot, hot, hot, and my legs were toast from the past few days’ runs. It wasn’t enjoyable, but I got it done.

When cutting down on sugar, days two and three are usually the most challenging for me. I experience real withdrawals, such as headaches and mood swings. But, more importantly, I find it challenging to eat enough food, as my appetite is still really only tuned towards sugar.

This time around, though, it went better than expected. And by Wednesday afternoon, I was already starting to feel more stable.

Thursday

After an easy morning jog, the plan was to get out for my medium long run at night. Unfortunately, our one year old is currently going through what’s apparently called the 12 month sleep regression.

You can ask me anything when it comes to that, but for the purpose of this report all that’s interesting is that it meant I wouldn’t be able to get out until very late evening.

So when I got the chance to instead put in a compressed run early in the afternoon, I grabbed it with both hands. With temperatures in excess of 30 Celsius / 90 Fahrenheit, however, I had to stay out of the scorching sun. Treadmill to the rescue once more!

To make up for shortening the run slightly, I switched it around to a second workout of the week—4 x 10 minutes, which is one of my favourite treadmill workouts. It was very hot, and very hard. Which is not the least surprising when you look at my rolling seven day mileage at that point:

As you can see, I ran 150 kilometres (93 miles) the past seven days. Which is well above my targeted peak weekly mileage for this training block.

It is a reminder that when you shuffle things around, you should be mindful of how it affects the bigger picture. While it’s easy to get caught up in thinking only in calendar weeks, our bodies don’t adhere to these arbitrary start and stop points. What matters is the rolling training load, and you should always keep your eyes on that number.

Friday

Another hot day, but this one was particularly humid as well. It made for a slow and laborious run, and one that I was glad to be done with.

To add to that, I was particularly thankful for the upcoming rest day at this point.

Saturday

Rest day!

Sunday

My legs usually feel good after a rest day, and this Sunday was no exception. The only prescription for this run was to get in the miles at a comfortable clip—whatever that ended up being.

Although the conditions were less than ideal—it was absolutely pouring down for large parts of the run—I held a decent pace without working too hard for it. My heart rate was about evenly split between zones 1 and 2, which is just where you want to be for an easy long run.

After the run, I enjoyed a huge breakfast, topped off with an ice cream that tasted better than ever. When making changes, it is important to do it in a sustainable fashion. As it pertains to diet, for me that means allowing myself some treats on the weekend.

All in all, I managed to stay true to my new regimen this week. One challenge when cutting sugar, however, as I alluded to above, is to get enough fuel overall. I already lost a little weight this week, and will need to keep a close eye on how that progresses in the coming weeks. As I’m already around what I consider my ideal race weight, I don’t want to lose anything going forward.

Next week is another big mileage week. Make sure you don’t miss out on the report by subscribing to the newsletter. Leave your email below if you’re not already on the list!

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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.