Saturday, 12 May 2018

Two Weeks To Go Till M Day....


Crab Spider

Large Red Damsel eclosing from the pond

But who is this?



It's two weeks until the marathon. I have finished all the long runs; all the significant training is behind me now. There is literally nothing more I can do now to make any difference to my fitness on race day, apart from reduce the miles right down, get plenty of rest and eat the kinds of foods that will restock my liver and muscles with glycogen. 

Sounds appealing? Not for a runner. The two-week pre-race taper is the time when most marathon runners go slowly crazy. I've been steadily building up fitness and adding on the miles over the last four and a half months to the point where I now need to run plenty of miles every week in order to feel remotely human, and now I'm staring down the barrel of relative inactivity coupled with eating what I would if I were clocking 35-40 miles a week. I'm not looking forward to it. In fact, I am hanging on to the one ten-mile run I'm allowed to do this coming week as a sort-of saviour amid a sea of not running very much at all. All the other runs I'm allowed are 5-6 milers at a slower pace than normal. And it gets even worse the following week with only two 4.5 miles and a measly 1-2 miler the day before the marathon. Expect me to be grumpy.

It's gone well though, on the whole. Considering I couldn't walk at the start of January without significant knee pain it's gone amazingly well. I've done one 18 mile run and three 20 mile runs in the past 6-8 weeks, as well as a handful of half marathons, several ten milers and a couple of 14-16 milers, which my husband tells me is very good prep. I've eradicated the knee pain which started to disappear once I hit the 18 mile runs. I've kept up the daily stretching and strengthening exercises throughout. I've varied my pace between steady, tempo and intervals. I've done plenty of hill work. I've run in boiling sun, in frosts and snow and ice, in wind and pouring rain. I've done the odd off-road race to vary the impact on my joints and muscles. I've more or less had a perfect build-up, with the odd hiccup along the way, which I have overcome (the latest being only a fortnight ago which I worried would derail the whole thing, but it hasn't). 

I did my last 13 mile run on Thursday this week and it was hard work from about mile three in. I had very little energy and finished dead on my feet. I spent some time feeling worried that 13 miles should be that tough at this stage of training and what did that mean for the marathon, then I totted up my mileage and realised I've run just shy of 50 miles in the past eight days. Reason enough to be feeling it.

I've noted shifting baseline syndrome before with running. When I started running a few years ago, half a mile was a massive achievement, then running 3 miles without stopping seemed a big deal. My first 10k felt like a long way for someone to run. The first time I did 10 miles I was ecstatic at how far it was. Learning how to run half marathons last year was a big achievement and I felt like a proper endurance athlete afterwards. 

The problem (if you can call it that) with training for a marathon is that, when you're regularly running 18-20 miles, 13 starts to look easy, a low-mileage training run, and even the 20 milers no longer feel a big deal in the way they did. You get used to whatever distance it is you're doing. Added to this, because I am surrounded by people who run marathons at the good for age/ getting on for elite end of the sport, in 2.5 - 3 hours, and ultra-marathon friends for whom a marathon is a warm-up, distance running quickly becomes normalised in a way that makes it seem no biggy. I don't, for example, now find the thought of a 50 mile run as impossible to conceive as I did five years ago. Because I know people who do it several times a year. What you do, and what the people you mix with do, becomes your new normal.

I have to remind myself that any run over 10 miles is classed as a long run and an endurance run, and takes it out of your body. I have to remind myself to respect those distances and not expect them to always be easy. Thursday's run was a reminder of that, as was M's response when he got home later and I was whingeing about how hard it had been: thirteen miles is a long run, wife. A bit of learning there for me.

I am confident about the marathon. The only thing I'm worried about is the final six miles, because that is unknown territory, I've never run more than just over 20 miles in one go before. Luckily for me, I am surrounded by experienced marathon and ultra runners and they have all told me the same thing: that the final six miles of any marathon is psychological, not physical (as long as you don't cramp up or fall over etc). Keep the pace steady, eat all the way round, drink enough fluids, take the electrolytes and trust the training and you'll do it fine, they've all said. Anything else is out of your hands so don't worry/ think about it. keep the goal simple for your first one: don't think about time, just focus on finishing.

It's good advice and I shall be drawing on it all the way round.

Hope you're all well?

CT.

ps- if anyone can ID the bee in the last two photos I would be very grateful. Melecta spp? Not sure.


29 comments:

  1. Yikes, not long now, it's exciting stuff. I've been fascinated at all the science behind it, in reading your posts. I hope you have a good weekend, lots of rest and yummy things to eat. CJ xx

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    1. I think, once I've built up some experience over this distance, I'll be in a better position to assess the accuracy of all the advice and will probably ending up doing my own thing! Gotta start somewhere though xx

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  2. I think you're pretty amazing CT.
    To accomplish what you have this far considering your knee problem is an achievement in itself.
    Try to embrace this pre-marathon 'rest' although I expect you'll be feeling like a coiled spring for the next couple of weeks. X

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    1. I'm already cheesed off with it! Not sure quite how thoroughly I'm going to follow this taper business :o) x

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  3. I know the feeling in quiet days before a long race - a mild depression and no energy - but 'they' say when you feel like this it's generally a good sign! I'm sure you'll do it. I'm down for short race in a couple of weeks. Could be some good M70's so a chance to see how I compare in the new age category. My first race of this year if I'm not mistaken.

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    1. Beware of the dreaded blister! I picked one up yesterday - thankfully it was only a training run. The first blister in a long time. They are waiting to pounce :-) Don't forget the Compeeds.

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    2. Good luck with your race. I was getting blisters a few weeks back on the back of the long mile runs, changed my shoes to Brooks Ghost and no more problems. Our first aider who runs ultras said zinc oxide tape is better than compeeds. Worth a try.

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  4. I’m intrigued with your slow down in the last two weeks. After all the massive preparation. Thinking about it, it all makes sense. You have the stamina now and the muscle power and it’s all about building up your reserves. It must feel like being in limbo land.
    I’ve just arrived in my welsh cottage and have already eyed up a suitable route for a 10k. I’m going to check it out tomorrow before a run mid week. Plus I hope to climb Snowden, weather permitting. That should be a good workout.
    Make sure you feed yourself up and try not to go stir crazy :) B x

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    1. It's not very nice. I run because I love the rhythm it gives to my week, so not running my normal runs is odd. I suspect after this one I will have more confidence to experiment and change the taper to suit me.

      Have a fab time in Wales, we're doing a race in Snowden this year xx

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  5. Oh My Goodness. . . You are so Interesting !
    All the science or running from nutrition and what times to run.
    Is that all the Red Damsel or is it two bugs ?
    As always great post today.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. The red damsel is emerging from its nymph casing :o)

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  6. This might be the time to start a crafty project. I love the discipline you bring to your running. My younger brother (the Olympic squad sailor married to an Olympic squad triathlete - now both endurance athletes in their 50s) trained me and when I read your posts I am reminded of those days from the late 70s to the early 90s when I pushed myself hard almost every day. I did my first off-road hillly cycle since moving today and feel ... great! I have been missing my pond and the damselflies but in the new garden the other day I saw a beautiful red damselffly on the red stem of a Viburnum. Cannot wait for the Marathon report - you are going to be superb.

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    1. Such a lovely time of year to be exploring a new garden and planning how to enhance it.

      Have really enjoyed training for this marathon. Once I've run the race I think I'll adapt the taper to suit me. It's all learning.

      So pleased the cycling's going well x

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  7. I would've commented sooner, but I've trying to ID bees and hovers today too. Without much success, despite finally being able to deploy the ID guides I received at Christmas. The Large Red Damselfly looks as though it hasn't properly emerged from the exuvia (shed larval skin) which is stuck on the end of its abdomen. It may be able to shake it free or knock it off. As it is, it should be able to fly, hunt and eat, but mating wouldn't be possible. Now, time to work on those bees...

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    1. I think he/ she was still in mid-transition. The dragons hang half out of their exuvia for 3-6 hours when eclosing from the pond here.

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  8. Hmmm, maybe not a bee at all, could be a hoverfly, Microdon analis? Those antennae in the first shot are quite distinctive. They're out and about in May and my ID guide states that there's a population on the heaths of Central southern England.

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    1. I think you're right- fab! Not sure why they are here though, no heaths nearby. Presuming its the connection with ants that is the key. Thank so much. I was stumped :o)

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  9. I never knew that marathon training is such an exact science - fascinating stuff. You've done so well to overcome your knee injury, and I have every confidence that you will complete the marathon. I can't wait to read all about it. xx

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    1. I'm wondering if it gets overcomplicated unnecessarily to be honest. At the end of the day it is just running, and training yourself to get fitter to be able to do the longer distances. I'm a big fan of keeping things simple and not stressing too much, so once this one is done I think I'll trust my experience and go with my instinct a bit more. xx

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  10. I'm as fascinated as everyone else by not only the science/psychology behind marathon running but also by the disciplined passion you take with you when you run. Cannot wait to hear about the next two weeks and of course the big M day itself!! Hope all are very well in the CT household.xxx

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    1. Thanks, chick. I've been reflecting since writing the post on just how much of the belts and braces one actually needs in order to run a marathon. I read an interesting article yesterday by a guy who doesn't taper, runs the full marathon distance in training (a big no-no in training plans) and more or less eats as he pleases. He runs his marathons with no problems. It's individual I guess, and about personal experience.

      Thanks for the good wishes. We're all good here- how about you guys? And how is your running going? XX

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  11. It is so exciting! It is so true what you say about the goalposts and expectations moving. I like the advice about the tide going out in the first part of the race (everyone around you will be faster) and then the tide comes in later, as you overtake people who set off too fast. It's easy to be swept along and go a bit too fast, which is OK over a short distance but not good for a long race. Hope the taper goes well!

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    1. That's a nice analogy. The knee problem turns out to have been a blessing in disguise in terms of pacing discipline. I've had to learn how to stay steady and not get swept up in racing pace otherwise it would hurt and I couldn't run.

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  12. You have done your best so whatever happens in the last six miles, you couldn't have been better prepared. x

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  13. Hey CT,
    I can just imagine you getting twitchy. You seem such a busy and focused individual. As I used to tell my clients; trust the process....
    I've just showed Olly your crab spider. I've promised him that one day we'll find one too. He thinks that they are all in your garden lol
    Leanne xx

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    1. I hate being idle 😠. Ended up running with the club last night and running a bit faster than I meant to...

      Dear Olly. I’ve just checked my spider book (brave of me) and noted there are crab spiders in some parts of Cornwall, so fingers crossed. Check flowers at this time of the year for them- lilac and ox eye daisies are favourites here.

      Any more news on your running? I have been hoping you’re back at it xx

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  14. Beautiful flowers. Have a happy week.

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    1. Many thanks, Sandra. And the same to you.

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x