Monday, 17 January 2011

Fine tuning or a knee jerk response?

I may be having my first pre-marathon panic of the year.

Those who have ran a marathon before, especially one that had a long build up or big target, will know what I mean. Periods where you have sudden and severe worries about your training, condition, health etc and how prepared you are to run the race you want to. Typically its doubts about whether you've made a right choice (to follow a certain plan, run a certain race, skip a session and so on) and what impact these choices might have. Typically its an over reaction.

In the autumn I pondered which marathon plan to follow, before eventually opting for Matt Fitzgerald's Brain Training plan.

I was attracted to the plan by it's variety, emphasis on speed training and it's inherent flexibility but had some concerns over total mileage (amongst the lowest of the contenders) and the limited number of very long training runs it included.

To a great extent that all holds true now but I've taken the view of trusting the plan and have only tinkered with it very slightly by adding a mile to each long run and will keep that up as far as the 20 mile run.

Whilst yesterday morning I typed out my concerns over my pace in the previous intervals session, around a week earlier I'd blogged my concerns about over zealous training pace contributing to injury. Rather at odds with one another, no?

Then, after typing the blog entry, I read a section of this month's Runners World that suggested a 3:30 marathon had a series of indicators based on mileage, times and previous marathons. I fell short in every category.

These thoughts were going through my mind as I set off for yesterday's run. The plan had said to run a 5k 'tune up race' but I opted for replacing that with a base pace run of about 8 miles. As a change, and in recognition of the milder weather, I put on shorts and trail shoes and headed out for one of my summer routes around the Leeds Country Way and Eccup reservoir. A little more rural than the normal canal side run, certainly hillier and a whole lot more muddy. The other change was that I ran without the Garmin, not through design, but from finding the battery was low the moment I switched it on (the extension the charger was plugged into had been taken out of the mains and not put back in).

I ran what I believe was about 8 miles and at what I think was base pace but I can't be sure on either count. It was an enjoyable run though, despite the mud, blustery wind and light rain showers.

Interestingly, on the back of the morning's worries I found the first steep hill tougher than I expected (relative to memories of how it felt running up it with the running club). I don't know if that is a bad sign in itself, an indicator of poor 'hill form' (but nothing more), a reflection of the boost running with others can provide or whether I just ran up it a little harder. Probably a bit of each.

It got me thinking though. Maybe I should modify the plan to address current fears (even when they might appear contradictory). By the end of the run I'd come up with a few options:

  1. Just trust the plan. From this week onwards tempo runs at 10k pace start to be introduced and many endurance runs start to become structured with marathon pace (or faster) elements.
  2. Push the pace in Tuesday's runs. By running with the club again. Its the speed endurance bit I feel I (might) be lacking and running at the club again would force me to run variable inclines at about 7.40 pace.
  3. Drop Saturday's '2-6 miles at recovery pace'. Replacing it with easy paced cross training.
  4. All of the above. Sort of.

Guess which I'm opting for?

Yes, Option 4 it is.

On reflection, my pace worries are based on one day's experiences alone and with nearly 12 weeks to go its too early to feel that current performance is any indicator of marathon performance so there's no reason for wholesale changes. Matt Fitzgerald does encourage flexibility though so making small changes to tailor the plan to me and my responses might be a good idea.

Rationale goes something like this:

The changes in the plan in coming weeks address the area I feel I might currently be under prepared in...but now the length of Tuesday's scheduled run has increased I could start running that faster...partly to offset that and partly to give me a little more rest from running impact I could replace the recovery run on Saturday with the cross trainer.

Does that sound sensible?

The plan changes anyway from this week, the Saturday run I'll also change from this week and the Tuesday club run I'll introduce in a couple of weeks if I still feel it would be beneficial.

My calves feel pretty good after yesterday's run too. That may, in part, be due to wearing 2xu calf guards for a few hours after or to my elevating my legs for much of that time but might also be a sign that they're slowly improving anyway. While pondering during yesterday's run I came up with a theory on why I started getting calf soreness. I started testing that theory from mid way through and will test again during this week. If I feel I'm onto something all will be revealed later!


~Jessica~ said...

I think your rationale sounds great ~ I am incapable of such logic but pretty good at recognising it in other people ;)

I would say though, that perhaps you're overthinking things and causing yourself unnecessary anxiety. You are driven, want to meet your goals and that's great/admirable, but don't get SO concerned with the minutiae (can never spell that word *slaps own wrist) of pacing that your training ceases to have any element of pleasure or enjoyment. And have a little self belief while you're at it!

Laura said...

I think your plan sounds sensible. I'm laughing at Jessica's first sentance aswell as that's what I'm like!

Maria said...

I think the plan sounds good. I have already had some marathon panic, mainly in dreams, or during a 3 mile run where I find it hard work and those thoughts creep into my head. But I am banishing them, and only looking at each week at a time as the massive jump from now to the end is what is panicking me, whereas the step ups each week are manageble. :)

tam said...

Yeah I'm with the other ladies the plan sounds good, best thing to do is enjoy it : )

The coconut water you tried may be the right stuff but I'd say try the cartons from holland and barrett they sell the good stuff! Its great for hydrating after exercise even better than water!

Alison said...

I definitely don't think there's much to be lost replacing recovery runs with the XTer. And particularly if you are starting to run parts of your LSR @ MP. That's a tough session -- and one, incidentally, that I have read time and time again mentioned as an indicator in sub 4 times, so it should be a good confidence booster.

Like Jess said though, and like I do myself, I also agree that you're in an overthinking phase. This has been brought on by a bad run, and you're doubting your entire plan on the basis of that. I think that qualifies as an exaggerated response.. I think focus on the tempo runs and marathon pacing, and see how you go over the next 4 weeks?

Running Rob said...

Thanks all - advice duly noted, and a trip to Holland & Barret booked in!

rose said...

Sorry for the late comment but wanted to add that I think your approach sounds emminently sensible!

I'm also very interested to hear about your theory for calf soreness as this is something I've recently started suffering with...