Hmmmm, I think I calculated the number of weeks to the Marathon incorrectly - either that, or I missed out a weekly update somewhere along the line - never mind. There are only two weeks of training left before the big day.
The most important training session this week other than the obligatory series on Wednesday was a Half Marathon at Marathon pace on Sunday. As anyone who has been following this blog for a while will know, I pace myself in races according to my pulse rate. I have been using a guide that my trainer, Jonathan Esteve, has prepared, empirically based on results from hundreds of runners. So far, it has not failed me yet. I can't know whether I could have run a race even faster by going over the prescribed pulse rate but I can say that I have never "blown up" by running to that guide and I have achieved personal best times on many an occasion. So I had to decide whether to run the race according to my pulse rate or at the pace for a sub 3 hour Marathon (minimum 4:15 per kilometer). This would have been a hard choice to make had my pulse rate at that pace been too high; as it turned out, I was able to run significantly faster and still be within my pulse rate limit.
It was a cold (12 degrees) but very humid (86%) and windy day. The conditions were very similar to what I can expect in Valencia in two week's time. I quickly found a group that was going along at a nice rhythm and would shield me from the wind. The pace was a bit too fast for a 1:30 Half Marathon but my pulse never went over 163 bpm (except when I lost contact with my group going into a headwind and decided to try sprinting to catch them up as an experiment) and my breathing was nice and steady. It felt really quite easy - so much easier than a training run at that pace would have been - and it was encouraging in a schadenfreude kind of way to hear people around me coughing and spluttering to keep up. I also really enjoyed the race and the crowd much more than I would have had I been suffering more. My family was in the stadium (I love stadium finishes, especially when you don't have to do a full circuit, as in this case) and I beamed a huge smile at them as I crossed the line in a time of 1:24 and something. The course was about half a kilometer short according to the Garmin - perhaps there should have been a full lap of the stadium after all - so the time is not as good as it looks (my best time in the Half Marathon is 1:22, only two minutes less). The average pace I ran at was about 4:05, some ten seconds per kilometer faster than the minimum pace required to break the magical 3 hour barrier in the Marathon. This was a great way to practice my pacing, get used to the feel and mechanics of running at this pace and all without the fatigue associated with a competition. The other advantage is that, during the so-called tapering period, when the workload is reduced in order to charge the batteries, it is easy to get nervous and think that you are "detraining" - having done a "race" so close to the Marathon means I can hang on to the confidence that it has given me.
The only problem I had was landing directly with the ball of my foot on top of a large stone. Rather than pain it is more a sensation of fear in my case, after getting a stress fracture 2 years ago from running on similar trails in similar shoes; I do believe, though, that my feet and bones have been conditioned sufficiently since then.