VLM2017 – Thorpe Park Half Marathon PB: 1.26.05

3 weeks since my last update and I’ve reached a peak weekly mileage of 55 miles, ran a 15 mile long run on a stag weekend in Vegas and have a shiny new PB at the Thorpe Park Half Marathon.

Let’s start with the peak weekly mileage. Despite the achievement, the 55 miles were largely uneventful. It started with a poor Lactate Threshold (LT) session (which I blamed on tired legs from the Watford Half Marathon), a couple of recovery runs and a medium long run of 12 miles. The final run on Sunday of 20 miles was also of relative importance. Ok, yes a 20 mile run is still a very long run and I hit the paces I wanted to despite the ongoing niggles in my left knee but it’s not a session that I’m likely to highlight as a key run during my post marathon analysis.

Moving on the Stag weekend in Vegas! When I initially started planning my marathon training plan I contemplated starting a week early and sacking off running altogether during this week. So far the plan has taken me to Wales, Belgium, Switzerland, France and the US – so the Vegas trip wasn’t going to be the only disruption; however it was the only trip that would involve copious amounts of drinking over a 5 day period. The week did coincide with a taper week so I manned up, kept this week in my plan and packed my running gear.

I’ve had a bit of practice running whilst hangover / still drunk from the night before. My first ever 10K took place after an 8 pint drinking session and I also ran a half marathon a couple of years back after a drinking session that had only finished about 5 hours previously. I had 3 runs planned whilst I was in Vegas, a couple of short recovery runs and a 15 mile long run. The recoveries were fine, although required significant weaving in and out of the early risers and Vegas insomniacs! I was trying to think of a polite way of describing some of the individuals that I experienced when running around Vegas early in the morning. I came up with a few other adjectives, but think I’ll stick with insomniacs for now.

The 15 mile run was a different experience altogether. I’d done some research on running in Vegas prior to going to out there and pretty much every review said that the best place to run in Vegas, was outside of Vegas. I was therefore left with the option of getting a return taxi for around $100 to an area called Red Rock Canyon or braving the monotony of the Las Vegas suburbia. Having left most of my money on the Blackjack and Crabs table the night before, I decided to go with the later. And yes, it was horrendous. It felt like I was running past the same house, same road and crossing the same traffic lights time and time again. On top of that, we were experiencing the fringes of one of the worse storms to hit the region in decades and a years’ worth of rainfall was falling in Vegas in just a few days. Wasn’t quite what I expected for a run in the desert! I actually felt quite good once the run had finished and it had the added benefit of keeping me out of the casinos, bars and diners for a few hours at least.

Finally my PB. So back from Vegas and feeling a little bit worse for wear, the focus for this week shifted purely to the Thorpe Park Half Marathon at the end of the week. I’ve always used the half marathon in my marathon training plan as a key indicator for my progress and having not race for the first 10 weeks of this plan, this was going to be a key race for me to predict and ultimately set my final goal for London. Despite Vegas I was feeling pretty confident going into the half. The start of the previous week ‘prior to travelling out the US’ I had my best LT session of the plan so far. I did 10 miles with 7 @ LT, averaging 6.29 minute miles (mm) for each of the LT miles. I took this week relatively easy, although I didn’t want to taper to much as I was concerned about losing fitness, especially as the mileage the week before was also slightly cut back. I squeezed in a Vo2max session at the track and also an 8 mile GA run with strides, either side of the usual recovery runs and still felt sufficiently fresh come the start of the race on Sunday.

Thorpe Park Half Marathon was a new race and therefore a bit of a gamble for my key warm up race for London. I picked it for a couple of reasons – mainly because it fitted in perfectly with my marathon plan, but also because it claimed to be a flat and fast course, although experience has taught me that unless a course is very hilly it will always claim to be flat and fast. I think they are justified in calling this course flat though and it definitely has PB potential – as I was fortunate to find out. A few other runners commented post-race about the hills that they failed to advertise – yes there were 3 tricky inclines to navigate but it’s almost impossible to find 13.1 miles of completely flat roads and the overall elevation was less than 200 feet, which is comparable to other ‘flat’ half marathons that I’ve done in the past. The race organisation overall was very good, they could have had a few more toilets but volunteers were plentiful, the route well thought out and there were sufficient water stops on the course. We were also rewarded with a technical t-shirt at the finish and a good selection of drinks and snacks for the post-race recovery. The only negative was the medal that had a section cut off, which it later transpired was because they had failed to secure Thorpe Park branding permission from the Merlin group. In all honesty, I hadn’t even noticed it until it had been pointed out on social media.

I’ve almost forgot to mention my time. Well, the plan was to run at 6.35mm to achieve something around 1 hour 26 minutes and 30 seconds. I had a stretch goal of sub-1.26 but didn’t want to push it too much, with the risk of blowing up later on in the race. And despite the 3 hills and occasional periods of running directly into the remains of Storm Doris, my pace stayed bang on target for the majority of the race. I think my average pace overall was either 6.36 or 6.37mm from mile 2 onwards until mile 11. With 2 miles to go in a half marathon I usually pick up the pace if my legs are feeling good and yesterday was no different. My legs didn’t feel completely fresh (I had just ran 11 miles quicker then I’d ever run before!), but I did have enough to run a 6.31mm and 6.24mm, with a strong finish bringing me in for a 1.26.05. I was ecstatic; this was easily inside my target time and very close to my stretch goal. On top of this, I came 95th out of a field of almost 4,000. The reality of running progress over the past few years hit me when around mile 10, one of the spectators shouted ‘well done front runners’.

The question now is what does this mean for my goal time? This is probably the strongest evidence yet that sub-3 hours for London could be possible and I believe that it’s doable. I still need to get through 8 weeks injury free and considering I have five, 50 + mile weeks back to back now, that it definitely not a fore gone conclusion. I then need to decide whether I’m prepared to risk not achieving a Good For Age time. Experts say that for every minute that someone runs the first half of a marathon faster than what is achievable, they lose 2 minutes in the 2nd half. The fine line between success and failure!

Either way, I’m 10 weeks in and I’m in a good place – just not taking anything for granted.

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VLM 2017 – a few niggles!

My first hard session post Farnborough half marathon was another tough lactate threshold (LT) session on the track, only this time I needed to do 5 @ LT (6.30mm). The challenges of fitting in marathon training around work and personal commitments, coupled with my self-inflicted deviation from the plan, meant that this session was coming just two days after Farnborough and therefore on pretty tired legs. In truth, whilst marathon training, my legs always tend to be tired but I needed an excuse from having marginally slower splits than during those on my previous LT. I was actually quite happy with the run overall but the toll of the back to back hard sessions started to impact the rest of that week’s run. The legs were feeling very tired and I was starting to feel some niggles around my right knee. Then on a long run in Sunday with a few fellow Eagles to and from Richmond Park, I began to feel some aching in my left leg. It was dull throbbing feeling and therefore I wasn’t too worried about it, however it flared up post run and has been painful on and off for most of the past week. I feel like I’m just about managing it but if it doesn’t get any better I may need to take a few days off to make sure it fully recovers.

Despite the pain, the runs this week added a nice variety to plods around Ealing as I was in Paris for work taking in the sites of the Eiffel Tower, Arc De Triomphe, Champs-Élysées and River Seine. I just had to watch out for the crazy French drivers who collectively conspired to try and knock me down – we got our revenge in the Rugby though!

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So today was Watford Half Marathon – another training run, similar to Farnborough. Having done more than the 10 at planned marathon pace (PMP) that was on the plan for Farnborough I decided that I was just do 10 at Watford instead of the 12 scheduled for my run today. This decision was partly enforced my research into the elevation profile of the course – it didn’t look good. After 3 miles warm up, I lined up with the rest of the senior men on the right hand side of the starting pen. I’m going to be very negative about this race (not the organisers fault) so I should start with some positives. It was very well organised with quick race number collection, changing areas and a slick baggage process. The starting funnels were also very well thought out with half the runners in one funnel and the others in an adjacent funnel 50m away, with the funnels only converging until half a mile in. They also place time markers at various points in the funnels and the pacers arrive early which means that most of the runners position themselves in the correct place for their pace.

And there the positivity ends. The course is described as undulating/hilly – depending on which site is reviewing the race – but it can only be described as hilly hilly hilly! With the exception of the Box Hill fell run that I did back in 2015, I haven’t done anything that comes even close to these elevations. I don’t do hills! In fact, I avoid them at all costs – training runs and races. Give me flat and fast any day of the week. thumbnail_FullSizeRender

So safe to say I didn’t enjoy it. Every single mile had at least one hill to contend with, now although that meant that each mile also included a downhill section, my legs were generally spent from the uphill efforts that I couldn’t give the downhill sections the push they deserved. Marathon pace was tough to achieve and I couldn’t get any rhythm with the lack of flat sections. Having said that, my pace wasn’t actually too bad. The 10 miles @ PMP averaged 7.03mm which is bang on target for 3.05 for London and the Strava GAP analysis (takes effort required for the hills and converts this to a relative pace on a flat run) for the 10 miles came in at 6.59mm, with the whole half marathon at 7.02mm – a definite silver lining!

A few stats to finish this entry:

  • 7 weeks training
  • 313 miles
  • 5 countries
  • 2 half marathon races (training runs)
  • 20 miles, longest run
  • 4 LT runs
  • 6 minutes 26 seconds, quickest mile
  • 4 niggles
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