We’re now well into February, and that means that marathon training, and indeed the road to Manchester on April 19th, is getting hotter and harder. Not that I particularly mind, as like a well jazzed burger, I’m full of relish for this challenge, and having got past my injury problems I’m well into my stride as the sixth week of marathon training begins. That wasn’t to say I was going to make it easy for myself…
I completed a 40 minute run home on Monday evening, covering 5.07 miles which was certainly impressive by my own standards – it’s my most frequent route and I seemed to push it a little bit harder which wasn’t exactly intentional – but to get it under the average 8:00 mile pace – clocking 7:52/mi instead – left me feeling very positive at the end of the run and the sweet and sour Chinese chicken meal – OK, it was only a ready meal, but still – went down a treat. I was up early then for some interval training in the morning, which was due to be eight intervals of 60 seconds hard, 90 seconds easy, with 12 minutes easy running either side. I cut this down to 7 minutes easy either side and just six intervals because I overslept. But in any event, I had a decent workout, although I was struggling to work out where I was between hard and threshold pace – my watch seemed to say I was running at sub-6:00 mile pace – between 5:40-5:50 – and unlike that lung-busting session I did prior to duffing my achilles, I didn’t feel I was truly busting a gut. Could it be that I actually have got faster? According to this data, possibly – the dips are down to me trying to control my pace, as opposed to tiring – I didn’t feel tired at all in this session and I’m finding running sub-6 minutes reasonably easier now. That’s not to say it doesn’t require effort, but I genuinely didn’t strain myself this session to get those times.
A rest day followed on Wednesday which presented a good opportunity to recharge my Garmin. Only thing was, my watch wasn’t locking into the charging cradle. I held it down firmly and got a charge. Then I let it go again and the straps just sprung it back up. No matter what I did, the cradle would not lock around the watch. The charger didn’t appear damaged, and I’ve looked after it well. But what am I going to do, I thought? I’ve not even had the thing five months! I quickly got onto Garmin’s website to see if anyone else had the same problem as I did. Incredibly, there was nothing in the FAQs section. I put in a request to them to look into it and upon completing my message I was told I’d get a response within three business days. Until then, I thought, I was just going to have to sit tight. Much to my surprise, I got a response within minutes from the Garmin Europe team and they confirmed my watch was still under warranty. I just needed proof of purchase, address, telephone number and serial number. I managed to get an hour’s charge into it that night, simply by holding the charger against my watch in my left hand as my kids went to sleep.
In the meantime, I decided to do my tempo interval very early on Thursday morning to ensure I wouldn’t have faff visiting my Grandad that evening for his birthday. So I was out at 6am and along to Huddersfield the Leeds Road way. I felt a little bit sluggish halfway through but I rallied myself to ensure I kept up a reasonable pace, taking a detour onto the Broad Canal towpath at one point to ensure safe passage to the other side of the road, taking in the Turnbridge Lift Bridge along the way. I’ve seen this piece of Victorian architecture before and it still looks magnificent today, even if as this pic shows, some mark has daubed with it questionable graffiti. It’s been a while since I did a midweek morning run to work, and it felt pretty good to do so for a change.
Friday was supposed to be a rest day, but as I sat around plotting route maps, it dawned on me I’d made a terrible miscalculation. My wife was heading to a conference on Saturday. That meant I was home alone with the kids all day and that scheduled Saturday run wasn’t going to fly! So I had to think – when could I fit it in? I didn’t have my running gear with me at work so I had to consider either trying to squeeze it in during the evening, or even getting up very early hours with hopefully hardly anyone about. The kids had pushed through the whole day, however, meaning an early night for them and a window to run. I just decided to go one mile easy, then the next four steady and the remainder easy. I wore my thermal jumper and for the first time, some Choob neckwear which I’d just picked up dead cheap.
Opting this time to rock the ‘granny’ look, due to how cold it was outside, I set off and not for the first time this week, some gremlins were besetting my watch. I can only guess the tight sleeve over the top of the device caused the GPS to get a little lost and it measured my first mile at a leisurely 10:23. I know for certain I was on 8:30 pace for that mile, and it was only when my device autopaused while I ran that I realised what was up. I let it breathe after that and picked up the pace. The mile splits began to fall – 7:21…7:17…7:16…7:13. Wow, could it be? The easy last mile went out of the window. I kept a steady pace, but every now and again I would just push a little. I reached the end of the sixth and final mile…7:12! YES!!! A negative split! A hasty arrangement had turned out to be a glorious sojourn, a confirmation of a consistency I’ve long struggled to find as a runner in terms of controlled pace. My watch then tried to tell me I’d actually levelled the third and fourth mile at 7:17, but my data below confirms I smidged it by 7/10ths of a second, and then by 6/10ths for the final two mile splits.
The Sunday long run was 12 miles this week, and my last long one before the Liversedge Half Marathon on the 15th. The roads were thankfully dry and I kept a steady pace while admiring the early morning sky. I went through Roberttown, where the race starts and finishes, proceeding towards Liversedge and back towards Hartshead. I was through 6 miles in just over 46 minutes. Shortly after that, I got the ‘battery low’ warning off my watch. Oh crumbs. I’m not obsessive over my data, but heading into this marathon I want to be able to gauge my long run pace. I resisted the urge to sprint the remainder – because that would have been silly – and instead persisted at a reasonably steady pace. My occasional glance at the watch became more frequent as I neared completion. Crunching numbers like ‘8447, 10-8’, as a way of remembering where I was at in case it gasped its last bleep. Thankfully it held out and all that glancing turned out to be unnecessary. I got around in 1:31:43, and finishing overall faster than when I started.
Two things pleased me more than my overall times on those last two runs. First of all, consistency – an attribute I’ve long sought but struggled to find amidst my yearning for raw pace. Why it’s taken me this long I don’t know, but I’m so happy I can now hold a rhythm, which is proving a key to my next improving attribute – endurance. I took one gel and no water on that Sunday long run, and at 12 miles, when I stopped, I really could have kept going and going. Granted I wasn’t being reckless or pushing myself hard on this run, and it was close to freezing, which is better than the sweltering heat, but to feel as though I could have done more mileage is hugely pleasing – I seem to be fuelling and preparing right, and mentally I’m absolutely focused too, even with the technical gremlins of this week and my own slight oversight being a slight distraction. I’ll certainly be taking water on my longer training runs, because I’ll be entering uncharted territory soon, but I didn’t feel to be suffering one bit and I was actually really enjoying it.
The battery on my watch needed charging, and I had to come up with a solution. I thought about wearing the watch on top of the charger but that would mean sitting next to a plug socket for a couple of hours, impossible with children to chase after.
So as I prepare for a test of strategy in Liversedge, here, alone in the running world, I present to you my solution: