Failure usually results in me sinking to the depths of despair – a few weeks ago I hit upon a few tough times; I had a week curtailed by sickness, then a week where I couldn’t fit much running in as I had a little princess to look after for a few days, and then the following week I bailed out of my long run and just felt awful for doing so. Each week had positives, but to my mind the negatives outweighed those significantly. I picked myself up eventually and finally got a solid week of training in after that, but quitting mid-run always sits in the back of my mind for a very long time.
This past week however, I was back to losing the mental battle.
As with any week, I started with a simple four mile recovery jog to ease out the tension in my legs from upping my mileage over the weekend. It felt good to be out in the cool, crisp lunchtime air around Holmbury Hill.
Some confusion existed on Tuesday as it was a toss-up between whether we were doing the Benchmark or the Cooper Test at the track. Having not done the Benchmark for quite a while I was hoping we’d get that – and all my praying must have worked because I was rewarded with a solid Benchmark effort. I have updated the table on the page, but suffice it to say that I am pretty pleased with the incremental improvements that come along each time alongside the consistency that I see between reps. The bonus couple of miles passed without issue, and it was nice to be joined by Al, not that either of us were up to much chatting at that pace.
Wednesday’s rest day passed without incident, but I was already beginning to get a bit nervous about the Thursday morning session. During half term I had absolutely nailed the tempo session that had me run nine miles at 7:15. I felt confident and excited about that pace. Things were different this week as the commute to work runs uphill almost all the way (generally at a relatively gentle incline, but there are some nasty bits in there) and so the pace was always going to be a challenge. I had an unsettled night, whether that was being nervous about the run I do not know, and I removed myself from my bed at 6am. I ate some cereal quickly and spent the next 45 minutes or so sipping from a large bottle of energy drink; a few minutes before setting off I necked a gel for good measure.
The warmup mile went well. Legs were working, everything felt good. Knowing that I was going to struggle to maintain the pace on my own I had decided to load my phone with some pop-punk / metal songs to put on shuffle. When I started with Dragonforce I knew I was onto a winner.
The first mile at target pace went well, in spite of the hills trying to slow my progress, before something very odd happened: my phone started to play a John Williams song. I have no idea where it dragged it from, and I was lucky that the pace was a decent tempo, but it was pretty surreal. In fact, I got sucked into imagining which bit of a film about my life would be playing whilst whatever song it was, was playing in my ears. Finally the tempo got back in line with what I was hoping for as the punk replaced the orchestra.
Through to four miles I was feeling OK; singing along to myself whilst also keeping in mind the pace that I was trying to achieve. I couldn’t believe I still had six miles to go though. By halfway my goose was cooked. I was ready to give in, and once I had decided I could take a bit of a shortcut there was probably no getting away from it. The pace had dropped slightly in miles four and five, picked up slightly for mile six, but in mile seven I saw it creep away again and I knew I was really on the ropes by now.
So much so that despite being on a relatively flat section of the route at Ewhurst Green I just gave up halfway through the eighth mile. I stopped my watch, I stopped my legs, and I stopped believing that it was all possible. I knew Lyndsey wouldn’t be driving this way to work, so I still had to make it to the hill on my own so despite slowing considerably (and walking up some of the minor raises) I made it to the final road and just hoped that she would come past and sweep me up eventually. I stumbled ever onward up the hill, looking behind me to see my beautiful black Qashqai coming up the hill; it never came. I made it to work before she did – I had to climb that hill all on my own.
Despite being at work in plenty of time, I was on a huge go-slow and almost got to my desk late! I was pretty fed up with the whole experience, but the shivering had not gone away, and the feeling had not yet returned to my finger tips, so I knew it was more than just my mojo that was missing – it was clear that I was pretty heavily dehydrated.
In spite of that knowledge, it took me fully until some time on Friday to finally start shedding the negative thoughts going round and round in my head. I had suggested to Marc that my target pace for the Palace Half coming up would be about 7:15 – this experience cast serious doubt on that goal.
By Saturday I was pretty much over it, thank goodness, and I set out for a steady 8 miles. It was a pleasant and unexpected surprise to bump into friends I hadn’t seen in a while, but in the time I stopped to talk to them the snow started to fall. In March! What is the world coming to? It was also great to meet up with a few folks from the running club at Pizza Express in Guildford to celebrate the end of the XC season.
Sunday dawned, and with it Delilah woke up. Quite why she felt she didn’t need a lie-in, who knows?! We gave Lyndsey kisses and cuddles to celebrate mummies day, and I ventured out into the world in order to be back in time for our lunch date. I had a long run planned – 18 miles – and I knew that I had to pick up the pace for the last five. I had eaten well beforehand, carried water with me, and stocked up with a few GU gels. I took one gel at six miles, and I was pleased that it seemed to settle pretty well. I kept motoring on and, having ingested another gel at 12 miles, I upped the pace at mile 13 and tried to reach 7:15. I never quite made it there, but I certainly wasn’t disappointed by this. The route home from Alfold (the direction I was heading from) is uphill to say the least, so keeping my pace below 7:30 for those final miles was more than adequate for me.
Lunch was at Pizza Express (I know, more pizza), can I count it as carb-loading this far out from race day?
I am definitely ready for a recovery week this week which, as ever, means reduced effort rather than reduced mileage.
I am running the marathon in aid of the NSPCC. Please do help me support this wonderful cause by donating anything you can by clicking on the image here:
Finally, I am also running a ‘Guess My Time’ competition for the London Marathon. Enter by filling in this short questionnaire (and making a donation, no minimum – just whatever you can afford) and if you win, then you will be the lucky recipient of £20.
Oh, and one more thing, if you have a spare 20 minutes then use it wisely and watch this beautiful film: