It is Sunday, and this week was the last of the “Race Preparation” mesocycle of the training programme I am following. The final three weeks leading up to the race involve a staggered reduction in training volume as race day approaches. This means that my peak period of training is over, and the majority of the work is done. All told, I did eight and a half hours of running this week, which resulted in 104 km (64 miles) and 634 meters (2 080 ft) of climbing.
Going into this week, I had my sights on the weekend. I knew it was going to close out the peak period of training with a bit of a challenge. It came down to either a 10-mile race on Saturday followed by a long run on Sunday or my biggest and fastest long run yet on Saturday. In the end, I landed on the former on account of the weather and heat, as the race was too late in the day for my liking.
But, before reviewing my big session, let’s go through the rest of my week. Monday I only did a short, 8k recovery run. Tuesday it was time for another hard VO2Max session, with 5 x 1200 meters @ 5k pace on the plan. Coming home from work I was already tired, and the weather was brutal with close to 30 degrees Celsius and the sun scorching. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hit my 5k pace (around 3:30 min/km) at the planned session, and I instead decided to aim for 10k pace (around 3:40 min/km). Hindsight proves this was a smart move because I was absolutely exhausted after averaging about 3:37 min/km for the five intervals.
Wednesday I ran the 13k into work, and I felt absolutely dead on my feet the whole way, despite the very leisurely pace. On Thursday afternoon I actually ran a 10k race, but rather than racing I tried to pace a friend. It was an interesting experience, and I will be publishing a report of my experience in the coming week. Overall it took very little out of me, despite being another day with very hot and sunny conditions. Still, the day after I settled for another short and easy recovery run, eying the big session coming up on Saturday morning.
The plan going into the session was to start out with 25 kilometres at around marathon pace (or rather, a bit faster,) and then keep on going up to at most 35k if I was capable of keeping up the pace. The main idea behind this workout was to give my legs a final proper beating and hopefully gain some confidence that would help keep me sane as the taper crazies take hold.
It was yet another hot day, and the temperature was at around 25 degrees Celsius as we started the run at around 9 AM. I had planned the run with a friend who would be helping me along for the full run, and a couple of other people joined us at the start and ran with us for a good chunk of the workout. Doing an up-tempo long run in a group setting was a new experience for me, and definitely something I would like to do again. The miles just seem to fly by that much quicker when you’re running and relaxing with a bunch of other guys and girls.
Up until 20k, I felt relaxed and comfortable, but at that point, it definitely started to cost a bit more to keep the pace up. Still, I decided to go on as we passed 25k, fully intending to at least one more “out and back” before slowing down, which would take me to about 33k. Of course, all good plans come undone, as this one did in every possible way when I was hit with some really bad stomach cramps at around 28k. I managed to keep up the pace for a bit, but at 29k I was struggling to catch my breath on account of the pain, and all I could do was hobble my way to 30k.
Having evaluated the run, I believe it was a combination of the heat and very poor fuelling that gave me trouble. I took my first gel at 17k and drank very little before desperately belching down around half a litre after taking another gel at 25k. This was probably too much, too soon for my stomach to handle, and thus I ended up having to cut the run a bit shorter than what I thought my legs would be able to handle on the day.
In a way, I guess I should be thankful for the stark reminder of how important it is to not scamp on my fuelling during the race. It is definitely an aspect of marathoning that I could well forget the importance of as the occasion takes me. I also got through 30 kilometres at 4 min/km, a pace significantly faster than the pace required to realise my goal of going below three hours in three weeks. Yet, I can’t help but feel a little annoyed that I was brought down by something like that, and was unable to complete the run as I had planned yesterday.
Either way, I took it easy today with a very slow recovery run at 10k. And with that, the focus now shifts. Instead of trying to improve fitness, the goal is now to get to the starting line feeling fresh and ready to go. I will be deviating very little from the Pfitzinger plan I’ve been following in these final three weeks, which means that I am doing a final 10k tune-up race next weekend. Other than that, it is primarily comfortable running until I toe the line in three weeks time.