Hanson’s Marathon Method Month 3

1 month to go! Just 4 weeks until marathon day. This third month has absolutely flown by- I feel like I say that on every update though. The weekly mileage has been bigger of late, and for the first time in the whole plan I’ve felt really tired (could also be something to do with training while I had a head cold…).

In Week 9 the Tuesday speed sessions turned into strength sessions. These are still interval based, but they are much longer repeats and done a bit slower than the speed sessions were. The first session was 6 x 1 mile with 400m recovery jogs. The Tuesday interval session now is 10-11 miles each week which was a big jump from the 6-8 mile speed sessions. I am still really enjoying these sessions though. I was starting to get a few niggles this week and had to invest in some new Adidas ultra boost trainers, as mine had a lot of mileage on them. This week was also the first 16 mile long run (I had done a 15 miler two weeks before) which is as far as the distance goes in this plan, I did a parkrun sandwich with a few miles either side of Southwark parkrun which finally was my 50th parkrun.

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Week 10 saw the tempo runs jump up to 9 miles of tempo from 8 the previous few weeks with a mile warm up and cool down, so this now means I’m doing three double figure runs each week, two of which are quality sessions. I had no problem hitting the required pace for this run, it was only an increase of 1 extra mile at tempo, and it stays at this distance for the next 3 weeks. I got my period this week which usually means I have to miss some training, but I actually managed my runs quite well around the pain so got all my sessions in. I’m trying to do the long runs on feel (ie. what I think 9.38 pace feels like) but I mostly find myself going way too fast so having to slow down, especially if I include a parkrun. I’ve been doing a lot of my easy paced runs with my other half, who has been doing a lot of running this summer, he’s been joining me on 5-8 mile runs which I am so impressed with, and he’s even gone on and run further without me up to 13 miles now, which is awesome, it’s really nice having a training buddy, especially on those days where my legs are tired.

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Week 11 was a big mileage week, its the second highest in the plan after peak week next week. My ITB started to really flare up this week, and I had a little bit of pain during my speed session (3 x 2 miles with 800m recovery) which reminded me I really needed to focus on my rolling and stretching routine (I had been slacking as I went to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and went to the athletics twice so my evening routine was out the window!). I started to come down with a sore throat on Thursday, but I managed to get my tempo 9 miles in, hoping it would go away. I just about managed to stay on top of the cold, and it didn’t develop into anything really, just a bit of a stuffed up head and blocked nose to add to the sore throat, it went very quickly too so I managed not to miss any training, I have been very tired during and after the illness though, probably my body fighting it off. This week was another 16 mile run, I didn’t do this as parkrun sandwich this week as I was out on Saturday so this was a Sunday run.

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Baxter after walking down and up Boxhill

On the Saturday we went to the NDW and walked down and back up Box Hill, so my legs were pretty fatigued and as I was still getting over the cold, I was really happy to hit the required pace and get the miles in on the Sunday long run. I felt absolutely shattered at the end of it though, I really had nothing left, which is not reassuring when you have to run an extra 10 miles on race day, but I think it was a combo of fatigue, illness and heat.

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Week 12 had a slight drop in mileage, but still some really tough sessions. The Tuesday strength session was 2 x 3 miles with 1 mile recovery, totaling up to another 11 miles in the bank, and I did another tough 11 miles with a tempo 9 miler on Thursday. I’ve still been feeling tired this week as I recover from the head cold, but hopefully I’ll be back to normal soon. It’s easy to underestimate the time it takes your body to recover from things, and what an impact it can have on your running while your body is busy fighting stuff off, so I’m trying to be kind to it (outside of doing loads of miles of course!).

I’ve managed to get to the gym for my usual 3 strength sessions a week, though I’ve been slacking on the yoga with only one class this month- oops! Next week is peak week, and then the countdown to race day really is on.

Week 9: 55 miles
Week 10: 50 miles
Week 11: 57 miles
Week 12: 51 miles

Training: Hanson’s Marathon Method

For the last three months my life has been taken over by the Hanson’s marathon method. I’ve blogged about a few of the months of training so far, but I thought I’d give a little insight into how the weeks are structured and what training my week consists of.

Monday: This is an easy day, which for me means the pace needs to be between 10-10.40 minute per mile pace. By Monday I have run for 4 days in a row, so my legs are usually fairly tired and I enjoy having an easier session. These runs tend to alternate between 5 and 7 miles depending on if it’s a higher mileage week or not. I will try and get one of my gym sessions in today too, usually Push which is chest/triceps/shoulders and a bit of core to finish. I don’t train legs or back on this day as I need my legs to be fresh for Tuesday’s session.

Tuesday: I head into Tuesday’s with a sense of dread, but I always really enjoy the sessions. The first 5 interval sessions were speed sessions made up of shorter faster intervals, but the last 7 weeks of training are strength sessions made up of longer intervals, but not done as fast as the speed sessions at 8.48mm pace. This week I did 3 x 2miles with 800m easy recovery, for a total of 10.5 miles. The Tuesday runs are pretty long now, between 10-11 miles, but I do feel really good after finishing them. I will try and get to the gym again on Tuesday, and usually train Pull (back/biceps) and core, or Legs and core. I’m pretty tired by the end of the day and ready for that Wednesday rest day.

Wednesday: Rest day. I’ve never appreciated a rest day as much as on this plan. I try to move as little as possible on this day and really embrace the rest, and time off my feet. Going for a dog walk, or walking to/from work is about as active as I get.

Thursday: This is another big session day as it’s tempo time. The tempo runs have been increasing over the weeks. Currently I am doing 9 miles of tempo at 8.58mm pace with a mile warm up and cool down. This is another session I sort of dread, just because of the length of it at pace, but it feels good hitting the paces and I know this session is really important to practice race pace. I am very reliant on my Garmin for pacing though, I find whenever I try to go without it I either run way too fast or slightly too slow- something I need to work on. If I haven’t been to the gym twice already this week then I will go today.

Friday: Easy run. This one is usually a tough one after the previous days tempo session, especially if I’ve done a gym session as well. This is usually around 5 miles and I tend to do it with the other half, it’s one of my easier sessions of the week as my legs are pretty tired. After this I will head straight to yoga for 1 hour, although I haven’t managed to make it the last two weeks as I haven’t had time. It’s not a particularly gentle class which I think would be more beneficial, but I do find it helps me to recover, and I feel good after the class too. This is another potential gym day, and I will either do the second session of the week or third depending on what I have had on that week.

Saturday: This is marked as an easy day, but I usually do my long run this day as I like to combine it with parkrun. The long runs vary between 10 and 16 miles each week, and are done at 9.38mm pace. I try to leave as late as possible from my house, turning up to parkrun just in time for the start as I don’t like to break up the session and stop. I’ll do parkrun and then continue on for the rest of the miles after quickly having my barcode scanned. I find mentally it makes the runs not seem as long, and I’m keeping my number of parkruns ticking over too. I’ve been doing the shorter long runs (10) at Hilly Fields, which is a really hilly route for me there and during the run, and the longer (16) ones at Southwark which is much flatter, and closer to what the race course will be like.

Sunday: This is usually an easy 8 mile run which I do with the other half. My legs usually feel OK after the day before, though I start to feel pretty tired at this point in the week. If I haven’t done my third and final gym session of the week, then I will do it on Sunday afternoon.

So that’s the current schedule. I tend to do either a series of stretches or foam rolling each evening, though I think it’s the strength sessions each week that keep me injury free. I am training for a sub-4 hour marathon, so these paces would go up or down depending on your goals. Running six times a week seems like a lot, but the mileage is so spread out that I feel as though the plan is quite well balanced, and I’ve never been crazy sore or tired compared to previous marathon/ultra training where long runs have dominated the week. I guess the verdict on the plan will have to wait until race day, but so far I am really enjoying it.

Top 10 Mid-Run Snacks

My marathon training runs are getting a little longer- though still not super long as I’m following the Hanson’s marathon method- and some of my runs are now requiring me to carry some extra emergency fuel, and to practice my nutrition for race day.

I do the majority of my training fasted, as I prefer to get up early and run first thing, and I don’t want to wait around for food to digest. I tend to listen to my body though so if I’m hungry I’ll have a small snack before. At the minute I’m doing my easier runs fasted, and sometimes I’ll head out for longer ones and just start eating on the run, rather than before. For my speed sessions I am having a small snack beforehand, especially now they are getting up over 10 miles. Our bodies use carbohydrates as fuel for higher intensity workouts, so I tend to have a little something to top up my supplies before interval workouts. On longer slower endurance runs are bodies prefer to use fat as a source of fuel, and we should have ample stores to run off, but it is a case of getting your body used to tapping into these stores.

I’ve never been a big fan of gels, and probably other than my first marathon training cycle and race, I’ve tended to avoid them. I’ve played around for years with different food/drink on the run, and found what I like, and what I don’t like. This is what personally works for me but it might not work for you, as it really is quite individual- find a race strategy that works and stick to it. These are my current favourite run snacks:

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1: Snack Bars/Balls: These can be homemade, or shop bought. Homemade are super cheap and you can control what goes in, though shop bought are easier to transport and convenient. I like Nakd bars, Beond bars, or any dried fruit and nut bar, for a quick sugar hit with a little bit of protein and fat. Recently I was sent a box of Go Bites to try out and I used these for quite a few of my training runs, either having a couple before, or during the run. They taste absolutely delicious- I love the Hazelnut chocolate one. The packet contains 3 small energy balls, perfectly bite-size, and great for snacking on during the run. The apricot and seed flavour are not Vegan as they contain honey, but the other two flavours are, they are all gluten free, and filled with natural ingredients.

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2: Dried Fruit: Dates, Apricots, Raisins, Strawberries or fruit leather. Again really easy to transport, quick digesting and cheap. I usually just get a small freezer baggy, or some cling film to wrap them in. Medjool dates are my favourite. I have been known to combine them with a squeezy nut butter pouch for the mid run snack of dreams.

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3: 33 Shake Chia Gels: These are the only “gels” I will use, as I think they are really high quality, and made up of easily recognizable ingredients and they work really well for me. 33 Shake use a simple blend of salts, sugar and chia which I have always found good for a boost before or during a run.

4: Nuts/Nut Butter Pouches: These are good to mix things up from all the sweeter stuff. I like getting salted or tamari roasted nuts, as they give that salty hit. Nut butter pouches are super convenient on the go, Mindful Bites even have one that has a little straw attachment which makes it easy to use.

5: Baby Food: I usually have a good look in the baby section, as they tend to have things based on simple ingredients, and high in easily digestible sugars. Dried fruit bars and squeezy fruit pouches are favorites, these are all cheap and easy to digest options on the run.

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6: Coconut Water/Electrolyte mixes: Sometimes on a longer run, I just like to take some coconut water, the taste of something sweet and a little sugar hit is often enough to keep me going. I do tend to use electrolytes additionally as though coconut water is rich in potassium, it isn’t that high in other vital electrolytes. Right now I’m using Big Tree Farms Coco Hydro Powder, which is dehydrated coconut water powder with added electrolytes, sugar and salt too. I just mix it in my soft flask before I go, or have it once I come back. I like Elete Water too, which are simple electrolyte drops you add to your water.

7: Tailwind: I first used Tailwind on the NDW50, at the time I thought it was just an electrolyte drink, but later realised it also had carbohydrates too which made sense as to why I was able to get round the race having eaten so little, and feeling relatively OK. Really gentle on the digestive tract, and the perfect blend of energy, electrolytes and hydration.

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8: Fruit: Not quite as easy to transport, but a banana is always a safe option in a race pack. Races that give out chopped up fruit are the absolute best- pineapple, watermelon, orange slices are all winners, especially on a hot humid day.

9: Trail Mix: Make up a homemade bag, with a mix of some of the above snacks. Dried fruit, salty nuts, even pretzels would be amazing too. It’s a perfect hit of salty, sweet and savoury.

10: Potatoes: White or Sweet. Roast up some slices/cubes of potato or sweet potato, make sure you salt them really good too. It sounds bizarre, but salty potatoes are one of my absolute favourite snacks, particularly on really long runs.

These are a few of my current favourite run snacks. If I am doing longer stuff and ultra training, I like to pack things like wraps and pittas with nut butter and jam, but I’ll tend to stay away from those for marathon training. I’ve been running for quite a few years and my body has adapted to need less and less food before and on the run, but if you are just starting out, you may need to eat quite a bit before and during runs. As I train fasted quite a bit, I make sure to put a big emphasis on my post-workout nutrition, to replenish my glycogen stores and support my recovery.

What are your favourite run snacks?

 

Disclaimer: I was sent Go Bites for review, all opinions are my own.

Hanson’s Marathon Method Month 2

I am already into the second half of the Hanson’s marathon method training for Richmond Marathon in September. The weeks seem to be flying by and the marathon is fast approaching. As I said previously I skipped the first 2 weeks of training of the beginner plan as they were just base building and I was recovering from an ultra, so I’ve shortened the plan to 16 weeks total.

This past month has really focused on solid base mileage, and the interval and tempo sessions have got kind of serious, and some longer runs have appeared too. I’m feeling really good right now, enjoying the training, and the sessions, although I wish I didn’t need to be so tied to my watch with sessions, but I’m still figuring out my internal pacing clock.

Week 5 I had a really good speed session of 8 x 600m. I’ve not been doing my intervals on a track which would probably be easier, but I think having a bit of incline and having to change direction now and again is probably a good challenge to throw into them anyway. The long run for this week was 10 miles which I incorporated a Hilly Fields parkrun into, to get some sort of incline training into my week and try and maintain the 9.38 target pace over tougher terrain- I was really knackered for the last few miles.

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On Week 6 I swapped out my interval session to Monday as I was going to Wimbledon on Tuesday (I went to queue at Wimbledon at 1.30am and had no sleep the entire night), this was tough as it was a day less recovery on the legs and I trained legs at the gym the day before. I did 6 x 800m and just about managed to get it done. My long run this week was supposed to be 10 miles, but I went and did the North Down’s Way half instead so I definitely didn’t hit my target long run pace but it was a bloody good training run over brutal terrain.

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I felt like I recovered from the race really well going into week 7, trail runs are so much gentler on the body. Having said that my legs did feel really tired during the speed session on Tuesday and I just felt like I couldn’t move them any faster. This week the tempo 5 miles (7 total) of the last few weeks turned into a tempo 8 (10 miles total), which was a pretty big jump, I would have preferred a gradual increase in weekly tempo mileage, but alas. I found it pretty tough going, but managed to stay right around the target 8.58 pace I am aiming to do tempo runs at. This week should have been my 49th parkrun, but I forgot my barcode, so my 50th run has to wait! I did my longest run in a while at 15 miles along the river and back, it was really humid, I saved myself from two horrendous trips, and I somehow got lost a few times, but I managed to stay under my 9.38 pace for long runs, and complete my longest run since early May.

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Week 8 has been another good training week. My mileage stayed stable-it really jumps up next week-I had a really good 4 x 1200m speed session, where I hit all my target paces or faster. I’m still relying too much on my watch for tempo and long run pace, so I tried to run without it on Saturday’s long run, which ended in me either being way too fast per mile, or slightly too slow. I hit my 49th parkrun on this hilly 10 miler including Hilly Fields, and I followed this up with an easy 8 miler which was the other half’s longest run ever. The Hanson’s plan doesn’t really do drop weeks/recovery weeks, which is something I’ve always done before every 3 weeks, though it does alternate long running weeks- so some weeks the long run is 10 miles and sometimes it’s 16, but the mileage stays fairly stable, so the other runs along the week increase or decrease.

I have continued with my three heavy lifting sessions a week, and I’m feeling really good in the gym right now, I’ve figured out a schedule so that my legs can recover pretty well from leg day and not affect any of my sessions. I feel stronger than ever in the gym and out on the road, and I know its the continued hard work in the gym that is keeping me injury free. I’ve also managed to get to yoga once a week, and I’ve been militant about my stretching, rolling and strength exercises at home. I’m heading to the half way point feeling really good about training, and really enjoying it most importantly. I’m hoping for another good 8 weeks ahead!

Week 5: 38 miles
Week 6: 44 miles
Week 7: 47.4 miles
Week 8: 46 miles

North Down’s Way Half 2017

Over the weekend I did my first race since the NDW50 in May and ironically I was returning back to the North Down’s Way. To be honest after the race I didn’t think I would want to see the NDW for a long time, but when I saw this race, I couldn’t resist signing up.

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The race started in Reigate, which involved an early start for me (I left at 6.10am for a 9.30 race) with a 10 min walk, bus, tube, 3 trains and a 27 minute walk up Reigate hill to get to race HQ! Next time I am joining zipcar and driving. The registration was quick and pain-free in a hotel alongside the very busy main road. After a short walk, we got to the start and after the race briefing headed off at 9.30am.

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The race was an out and back along the worst section of the NDW50 from Reigate to Boxhill- I think the 7 mile section including the Boxhill steps took me about 2 hours during NDW50. There was also a marathon race on the day, and they set off 30 minutes before us half runners and had to do two laps of the out and back. The race started from the top of Reigate hill so as we were already up the first few miles were mostly flat, with a few gentle inclines and that savage downhill down Colley Hill, I’ve never run down it only walked up it, and I didn’t realise quite how steep it was until I tried to run down it. I’m a pretty terrible descender, and as I had gone for road shoes, I didn’t have much grip so tip toed or walked down the steeper bits, being passed by those who were braver on the descent. I was already dreading having to come back up it later on.

The first few miles featured a lot of single track, and as it was busy-ish towards the start, we just sort of fell into line, and just went at the pace of the person in front. The route was incredibly overgrown, I couldn’t believe how much everything had grown since May- a machete would have been useful- and sections of the course involved running through nettles and other foliage that was across the route, or ducking into it when another runner was coming the opposite way.

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After about 4ish miles, the quicker marathon runners started coming back towards us, this was a little tricky on some of the single track, but I just stopped and moved off to the side if anyone was coming back towards me. Miles 4-6 involved a little climbing as we headed to the turn around point and the Box Hill lookout point. I wasn’t sure if we had to go down the steps at the other side of Box Hill and come back up but thankfully we didn’t.

There were aid stations around mile 3.5 and mile 6.6 at the turnaround point, I just stopped to refill my flasks on the way back which was probably around 9ish miles. I was very thirsty, it was much hotter than I expected it to be (26c) and even with the cover of the forest in places it was still hot, and on the short road section it was hotter than hell.

It was a little less congested once we started heading back, the first few miles were spent saying hi to the other half marathon runners heading to the turnaround point, there was a really nice atmosphere throughout the whole race, very chilled and friendly. As people were more spread out on the way back, it was a little easier to get into a rhythm. I enjoyed the few flatter miles before we got to Colley Hill, which was an absolute slog to get up, I was really struggling and walking incredibly slowly up the never ending hill. I knew it wasn’t too far once we got to the top, and I couldn’t wait to finish then, as I was hot, and my legs were knackered after the climbs.

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The final mile and a bit were flat and runnable, and as we headed across the lookout point in Reigate I knew we were nearly back to the finish. My plan had not been to race this, just to get miles and elevation in the legs, and I was happy with how the race went, and how my body coped as I have only run two eight milers and a 10 miler since early May.

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It was a really enjoyable race, and was nice to take in the scenery and views. I was glad I was only doing the half- the elevation across 13 miles was nearly half of what it was over the 50 so it was pretty tough going, the full marathon was over 5000ft elevation. I’ve done a few of the Hermes race events in the past, and they are always well organised, in nice surroundings and have a great atmosphere too. I really enjoyed my shorter jaunt on the NDW, and I’m going to try and get back out there frequently as it’s such a beautiful place to run, and for me in South East London pretty accessible too. The Hanson’s marathon plan doesn’t include races or recommend racing that often, but sometimes you’ve just got to go off plan and go with your heart.