Monday, October 21, 2013

New York City Marathon Week 9 / 11

Monday: core
Tuesday: 3 x (1'-2'-3'-2'-1'-2'-3') @ 3:25 w/ 4.5%-2.5%-1% incline
Wednesday: 60' @ 4:27
Thursday: 7k aerobic test in 26:02 (average HR 170)
Friday: 60' @ 4:27
Saturday: 50' @ 4:00
Sunday: 32km @ 4:27
Total kilometres: 91

This was the peak week, the mother of all weeks, up to which I have been building for the last two months. From now on in, while it won't exactly be a case of plain sailing, the work load starts to taper off for the last two weeks.

I recovered pretty well from my 35 km run the Sunday before, so the "ladders" I did on Tuesday were not too stressful as these things go. Work was, though, so beating up on the treadmill helped to relieve some of that.

In fact, I did virtually all of my training on the treadmill this week, all except for the long run at the weekend (that would have been madness!) and the aerobic test I did on Thursday morning before work. It's always hard to convince myself to make much of an effort that early in the morning but I enjoy the feeling of having already done my work for the day much more than, for example, the days off when I start to get a bit restless (and am often in a bit of a slump from the day before). I didn't expect to get my best time (25:29) but I was surprised to see my heart rate shoot up so quickly to near the target level of 172 bpm - lately it has taken nearly half the time to get up there. It might have been due to the accumulated fatigue of the last few weeks or, more likely, to the fact I did my previous run last thing the night before. Whatever the case, I found myself having to ease off the gas pedal to keep my heart rate below 172. Even so, I did one of my best times - 26:02 - which equates to a pace of 3:43 per kilometre.

On Friday after an easy run on the treadmill, I went out with some friends from my old deejaying days who I haven't seen for ages. We were out until about half past four which is probably the latest I've stayed up for years. I still woke up at 9:30, unable to sleep any longer, and the prospect of 50 minutes at Marathon Pace - let alone the daunting long run I had programmed for the next day - weighed heavily on my mind. The Marathon Pace run wasn't very taxing at all, but I did feel tired all afternoon: thank god for the invention of the siesta.

All my training has been geared towards the run I planned for Sunday: 5 km easy + 24 km at 10 seconds per kilometre slower than Marathon Pace + 3 km easy. I took the train down to Madrid Rio, where I had designed a flat course alongside the river and where seeing other runners would help motivate me. In fact, I saw a couple of people I knew in the first few kilometres and may well have passed by some others later on, but I was so tired by then that I was practically running with my eyes closed. The quality section started off well - perhaps too well - because I was hitting splits that were even faster than Marathon Pace. At about halfway through the 24 kms, I started to feel the energy slide out of my body and my breathing become more and more laboured. The whole point of this run was to simulate the end of a Marathon without suffering the after effects. But psychologically it is a very difficult session because it comes at a point in the training cycle when you could really do with some encouraging indication of your Marathon performance. The thought that you are planning to run 10 kilometres further 10 seconds per kilometre faster in just two weeks is enough to make you want to stop. I knew it was vitally important to keep going and I told myself that I had gauged it just right: the next kilometres were really going to feel like the end of a Marathon.

As you can see, I got slower and slower and it felt like a excruciating  private torture. Had it been a real Marathon, I have no doubt that I could have forced the pace, but then I would have ended up needing days to recover: exactly not the right thing to do at this moment. I did, however, have to make a huge effort to keep up a semblance of a reasonable pace while fighting off the desire to vomit or faint. I allowed myself to flop onto the grass after the 24 kms were up - the final 3 kms are just there as a warm down. I felt absolutely and utterly drained. In spite of taking a generous 5 minute break and starting off again at a trot, the last 3 kilometres weren't any easier. At the very end was a gentle hill which had me literally gasping for air as there just wasn't enough to go around. As I lay on a wall with my sweat soaking into the pores of the stone, a seƱor came up to me and asked if I was alright - I must have looked quite a sight. It took until dinner time before I felt more or less normal again.

The long run wasn't quite as impressive as the same one I did back in February, while preparing the Seville Marathon, but it wasn't too shabby either and, as I say, I think I accomplished my mission of simulating the end of a Marathon without paying any long term consequences. It's certainly shaken out any complacency with respect to the distance I might have had from my last Marathon performance  The average pace for the 24 kms was 4:19 versus 4:13 last time; the overall pace was 4:27 versus 4:20. That week back in February I also did an aerobic test, but that was in 26:38, more than 30 seconds slower.

Now the taper starts and I have decided to try another little trick I picked up from Matt Fitzgerald's "The New Rules of Marathon Nutrition" book. I'm going on a caffeine fast so that, presumably, the caffeine I take on race day will be that more productive. Considering I drink an inordinate amount of caffeine (on a good day, 3 Coke Zeros, 1 Red Bull Sugar Free, 5 expressos) this might well turn out to be the biggest challenge of them all...

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