They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and expecting different results and it’s probably a good thing to keep in mind when planning your training for a race. I’m marathon PB chasing again with Milton Keynes marathon on 2nd May 8 weeks away now and a pretty aggressive time goal in mind. Currently my PB is 3 hours 26 minutes which I set at the 2014 Yorkshire marathon. I was on track to beat it last year again at the Yorkshire marathon but the fact that I’d spent the year triathlon training became very apparent at 20 miles as I hit the wall pretty hard.
But I know I’m capable of faster if I can get a solid block of training in and stay healthy. However there is no point just blindly following the same plan as for the other marathons I’ve done and expecting to be somehow in better shape. Training has to be an evolution where you learn race by race what works for you and what doesn’t, but also what you can learn from how others approach their training. Make a small change each time and review the impact it has, what is the result in the race and how do you feel.
It’s been an odd experience training for a marathon that I’m still not sure if I’m going to be running or not; our 3rd baby is due on the 16th so in theory could come any day now. So for the past 10 weeks of my training I’ve had to stay committed to the plan all the while knowing that it may have been essentially a waste. Although to be honest I quite enjoy the focus of a training plan and my mileage didn’t increase much beyond normal so it wasn’t a great hardship.
Now just 4 days before the Yorkshire marathon starts I’m feeling ready and relaxed. Assuming I do make it to the start line I feel confident in attempting my target time of 3.15, training went really well with almost zero missed sessions and good quality throughout. However I’ve definitely reached that point at the end of a training block where I’m really quite ready to stop the long runs and just get on with the race.
I tried out some great speed sessions which brought a nice variety to my normal runs and hopefully helped me get a little speed back after all that ultra training. I also managed to get 2 long runs in longer than 20 miles which I haven’t done before, I’m hoping this helps when I go through the rough patch I’ve had in my last 2 marathons around the dreaded 21 mile mark. This time I’ll most likely also have my little brother on my shoulder though which is a great motivator to push on when things get tough.
I’m going to be bold and say that Yasso 800’s really aren’t a great predictor of marathon times, in fact I’m not even sure they’re a great speed session for marathon training. I’m making this statement based on my extensive research of a grand total of 3 sessions and just the one athlete, me.
If you’ve never heard of Yasso 800’s then let me explain; the idea came from Bart Yasso who was an editor for Runners World and back in 2001 suggested that a test to know if you were in shape for your target marathon time was to run 10x800m at a pace fitting your target. So if you’re aiming for a 3 hour marathon you would do each rep in 3 minutes and then have an equal amount of rest in between.
In my quest to get some speed back for my autumn marathon this sounded like a perfect session so I headed out for the first time. I thought I’d be sensible and just try 5 first and see how I got on. That felt pretty easy but I stayed disciplined and didn’t do more. The following week I did 7 which also felt easy so in the 3rd week I did the full 10.
I was expecting a lot of things from following a training plan for this marathon; leaner and fitter for sure, confident maybe, but what I was expecting was for it to challenge me to reconsider my diet. I’ve always been generally a healthy eater, I don’t eat junk food or fast food, takeaway is once a month at most and we prepare all our own food using fresh ingredients.
However I do have a sweet tooth, if there is no cake or chocolate in the house then I’m fine. But if there is some then I find myself taking ‘just a little bit’ until it’s all gone in less than 24 hours. I also know that when hungry and looking for a snack I will inevitably grab for bread or carbs. There are few things I won’t eat but in those moments peanut butter on bread or houmous and cheese biscuits is likely to win. The quick carb fix is oh so satisfying.
As I’ve gone through this 16 weeks of marathon training though I’ve found myself craving green vegetables and brown rice and grilled fish. I could probably eat my own body weight in purple sprouting broccoli and I’ve been making salads for lunch with boiled eggs, ham and cheese on top and interestingly have almost zero interest in sugary foods. Clearly no bad thing but unexpected nonetheless.
Maybe it’s a seasonal thing with all those amazing fresh vegetables that come with spring and are part of our weekly veg box? Or is this just the logical result of spending so much time focused on getting your body ready for such a challenge? It naturally starts craving for the nutrients needed to repair the muscles from your training?
Clean eating is always a good thing and is the reason we have a weekly veg box delivered and don’t mind spending money on good quality food which we can cook into feats. But now I’ve started thinking about taking it one step further. If I became a vegetarian or vegan even would I feel different physically? Would it help me be a better runner? I’ve always wondered about the impact of dairy on us, we eat organic dairy which I think is essential, but could no dairy be even better? Plenty of theories on that one if not real scientific evidence to prove it.
What’s added to this is I’ve just read Eat and Run by Scott Jurek where he describes the journey of becoming an ultra runner and the focus that put on his diet which ultimately resulted in him becoming a vegan. It’s a fascinating read if you ignore some of the arrogance of his opinions and gives one perspective on what an athletes diet should be. He also includes recipes in the chapters, some of which are aimed to be eaten during the race and sound like interesting alternatives to the normal gels and bars.
I’m quite tempted to try being a vegan for a month and see how it feels. If nothing else it’s likely to expand my cooking and diet with lots of new dishes which we can continue to make even if I do start eating dairy again. Anyone else been through this experience as a result of training for a race? Are any of you already following specific diets to help with your running?
Today’s run should have been a 2 hour easy pace run on the road as a final longish run before Taunton marathon, instead I did 90 minutes on my favourite trails with the hound for company. I just couldn’t face another plod along the tarmac when the sun was shining and the Ridgeway was calling me. After a bit of a write off week of running where the best that could be said was that I ran, today’s run helped restore a little bit of running karma.
I think if I’ve learned anything in training for this marathon it’s that my enjoyment of running is directly correlated to the amount of time I spend on the road. As much as I love running if I spend too much time on tarmac the excitement of tying up my laces soon begins to wane. Escapism is a big part of the reason I run and so naturally getting on a trail where it’s just me and the wildlife is always going to win.
Thankfully after Taunton marathon is done I start training purely for trail races again and so no need to step foot on tarmac at all! Then the challenge will be getting myself ready to run an ultra but I’m trying not to think about that just yet, especially given how hard my long runs have felt for the last couple of weeks.
Not many photos this week because running has been, well, a little shit and I really don’t need a reminder of those runs.
Parenthood is the perfect training for ultra running