Tuesday, October 16, 2012

After the final 32km I'm Almost There.

And I don't mean that negatively at all. I read somewhere that if you get to this stage of your training just wanting it to be over then the race will probably not got well. The marathon is evidently a tough enough event on it's own, with the unknown factor of the last 10km, even despite months of preparation, that a weary mind is a recipe for distaster. I've gone through my fair share of hardship, I have contemplated throwing in the towel and accepting the progress I have made this and tackling the marathon fresh in 2013. But I set myself this goal all the way back in February, I have dedicated the last 23 weeks of training exclusively tp the upcoming race and I'll be damned if I don't at least give it a shot.

This past week was the big push. With all of my racing done, it was time to push on and clock that final big week before the taper. The two key sessions were a continuous long marathon pace tempo and a 32km long run. On Wednesday I did a 16km run with 14km of it at marathon pace effort. I ran up to 10km on grass to hone into the correct effort. While the run started off in decent weather, the sun made an unwelcome appearance just as I was heading off the grass. My goal was to shift off the grass and run through WITS main campus to add some real world running on tar and more importantly uneven terrain. I have tamed the hills at WITS but doing the 4km Lenn Smith after 10km at marathon pace in warming conditions still presented a challenge. On the level fields I was running at 4:18/km, roughly the pace predicted by pretty much every calculator on line, and once out on the road my paced shifted down to ~4:30/km, which is the ballpark target I have set for my self.

All in all it was a good exercise. Of course I have to keep in mind that on race day I will have tapered, I do 15km in total in the week leading up to the race and just 45km the week before, almost 50% my peak mileage so my legs will be fresher and this pace that my body hopefuly now knows 4:18-4:30/km will feel more natural compared to now...until I enter the post-32km unknown zone of course.

On Sunday I did my long run. I have long seized to be religious or even remotely spiritual as I age, but my experience on this run was bordeline that level. This marathon training business has been hard first on my body, and then  my mind has wavered, which in turn has beaten my body more. But after the euphoria of City2City I genuinely felt like I was regaining control of my body and mind. The post City2City week was difficult as I was on holiday and didn't enough training and added to that Grahamstown is very hilly and humid and I didn't make the necessary adjustments. I then did a 25km long run after driving back for 13 hours with the mercury hitting 25°C. Added to that I experimented with jelly babies for carb on the fly and that ended badly, as I battled waves of nausea for the last 5km. It was a humbling experience, the success of
the weekend before long forgotten.

This week I was more prepared. I had my gels ready, GU Mandarin flavour with caffeine. Orange and caffeine, two of my favourites. I had enough water ready, four 150ml sachets. I'm not a big drinker so this was more than enough. And the run would be completed in full race gear, my Run/Walk for Life vest, poly shorts, Falke socks, and my Nike Zoom Elite's. I had the route planned. My pacing to was prepared. I have been doing my long runs bar one at around 10% of my 4:30 target pace, 4:57-5:02. I'm very much sold on the theory of preparing your body for the challenge ahead by aligning your training to your race goal. So I haven't done any high intensity intervals at 5-10km pace since mid August, focussing instead on introducing short intervals at marathon pace ~2k and building up the lengths until I was running a continous distance within a 16km run. Likewise, I haven't done long slow run at greater than 1 min slower than my goal pace, instead hovering around that 8-12% time band.

The 32km was blissful. Listening to Marathon Talk, Tom Williams, said in one the episodes that sometimes this run could often be the toughest. I guess it comes after a build up in volume and with the taper coming the body is just looking for some rest. I had quite the opposite experience, as I worked my way through the miles I got stronger and stronger. And as you can see in the course profile below, my route gets progressively more challenging as progress. I hit my goal pace, running the 32.1km in 2:42, and a negative split, having gone through 16km in 1:22 and doing the more challenging second half in 1:20 without having to increase my effort much. The 32km run also brought my weekly total to 82km.

The final 32km run
So less than three weeks to go then, 19 days to be specific and the hard training is basically done. All my runs will now decrease in volume but the intensity will stay more or less the same. It has been a long journey, it is by no means but instead of longing for the end I am itching to get to the start line. I'm already looking forward to the next challenge in 2013 what may come on 4 November. I appreciate the challenge that awaits, that even with the months of preparation anything can happen over the course of 42.2km and this my first attempt so it might no go according to plan. But equally I have enjoying it, the good times and working through the bad times, the success in racing, and the feeling of achievement. Whatever happens I aim to learn from Soweto and take that into 2013 where I plan to do the class Autumn/Spring two marathon plan.

Here's hoping I don't explode from all this excitement before the big day!

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