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Richmond Runfest Marathon 2017

If you have read any of my recent posts you will know I have been following the Hanson’s marathon method beginner plan for the last few months in order to have a crack at running a sub-4, my goal race was Richmond marathon yesterday and this is how it went.

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Getting to Kew for an 8am start meant leaving at 6.20am so it was early morning, but the journey was fairly pain free, I arrived about 20 minutes before the start, and there were no queues for the ladies toilets and I was straight into the start pen. I think around 800 people finished the full marathon so even at the start it never felt too crowded, especially as the paths in Kew were nice and wide, by the end of the race we were thinly spread out though started to mix in with some of the half marathon runners towards the end who started an hour after us.

The first 4 miles looped around Kew Gardens which was pretty cool, I had never been inside before, so it was nice to have a look while running around. I settled into a comfortable pace wanting to keep my miles around 8.58-9.00mm pace, it’s hard not to get sucked in to the enthusiasm at the start though so some of my miles were probably a bit quicker than they should have been. I felt good, the weather conditions were perfect and I was just trying to focus on each hour individually.

After 4 miles we were out onto the towpath, I forgot how uneven the surface is  so I really had to concentrate on where I was placing my feet. I had run quite a few parts of the race in previous races (Thames Meander marathon, Richmond half, London 2 Brighton ultra) so I was familiar with a lot of these sections as we wound round the towpath and towards Richmond bridge.

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After the first hour I had my first fuel- a 33shake chia gel- and I was trying to sip water every few miles from my hydration pack (clearly not enough though as when I got home I realised I had only drunk 500ml of fluid during the entire 4 hours- probably explains the fading later on).

I tried to focus on maintaining my pace during the second hour, I still felt comfortable and the miles were ticking by as we ran through Teddington and Kingston. After 12 miles we crossed a bridge over the river which I didn’t realise we were going to do, and we got onto probably the busiest section of the route, with a lot of bikes and people on the Thames Path as we headed towards the turn around point at Hampton Court Palace after 15 miles- this was another place I’ve never been so was cool to see. I had another 33shake gel and was still feeling good and the miles were still ticking by at just under 9.00mm pace. My hip was a little sore on this section which I think was due to the mixed terrain and unevenness of the towpath.

The next section was on a parallel part of the towpath to which we had headed out on, but it was really boggy and I spent most of the next few miles mud and puddle dodging, this is where my pace started to slow a bit but I was fine with it as I knew it was because of the conditions underfoot. I had a medjool date at this point for a little energy boost. After 18 miles we crossed back over the bridge into Kingston. For a race mostly along the towpath, it was definitely not flat- I think there was about 600ft+ of elevation which isn’t a crazy amount but I’ve certainly run flatter marathons.

In the next few miles there was a lot of little loopy parts and switch backs and by the end it was starting to do my head in as we kept looping past bits we had already done. From 19 miles on I really started to struggle, and though I was trying to maintain my pace, I was getting slower and slower, and I just had nothing in the tank. By mile 21 I had slowed to 9.26mm pace, and I couldn’t go any faster. I had a nakd bar through the next few miles, and tried to drink more as I was so thirsty, but I think it was too little too late.

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I could feel my sub-4 goal slipping through my fingers. My strava audio announcements had been pretty even with the mile markers the entire way, but by the time the mile 22 sign arrived, my strava was registering half a mile extra, meaning I had somehow run extra on the race course, and wasn’t likely to make my goal factoring in this extra distance. I started to feel a bit negative, which was then compounded as the sub-4 pacer came past me with 2.5 miles to go, and I had absolutely nothing left to be able to go with him.

I was really having to grit my teeth, and it took a lot not to stop and walk at this point. We wound through Ham towards the Old Deer Park, and when my Strava was on 26 miles before we had even got into the Old Deer Park I knew my goal was over. The last section was a horrible loopy bit on the fields, but near the finish straight I saw my other half and puppy Baxter and this killed any negativity, I took the dog and he ran me down the finish straight. Home to finish in 4.02.14. So close to my goal, but yet so far, though I did run 26.6m, so technically my 26.2 time was sub 4, but obviously I wouldn’t count it as such.

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The positives are that I ran a 13 minute PB, I had a great race up to about 20 miles, and considering I was so ill the week before I think it wasn’t a bad result. There are so many variables in marathon running, and a lot were on my side yesterday which I why I really felt like I had the sub-4 in me. Perhaps with better hydration, or on a flatter road course I would have nailed it, but it’s hard to say. Would the race have been different if I had gone out 5-10 seconds slower per mile in the first half, or drunk more fluid- who knows.

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The race was really well organised, there was a nice friendly atmosphere, a great medal/t-shirt and good finish zone area too. I’ll do a post on my final thought on Hanson’s plan, but now it’s time to recover, and eat all the food.

Hanson’s Marathon Method Month 4

It’s race evening, and the pre-race nerves and excitement are kicking in now. It’s been a somewhat interesting last 4 weeks of training, it was all going smoothly and to plan until I got struck down with one of the worst gastro bugs of my life last week, I managed to only miss 4 sessions and 5 days of training, but the after effects were tough, and it really was dreadful timing.
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Going into week 13 I was pretty tired as I was still recovering from the cold, this week was peak week though so I really wanted to nail it. The sessions were good, I did a strength workout of 3 x 2 miles with 800m recovery’s, and the tempo workout went up to 10 miles tempo so 12 miles for the session. This week was my final 16 mile run, and I did a Mile End parkrun sandwich, it was a good run, my pacing was a bit all over the place- a lot of miles were way too fast, but I felt good during it so that was the most important thing.

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Week 14 had a slight drop in mileage, but it was still a 50+ mile week, there has been a lot of them in a row! I was in Cardiff visiting my parents this week, and it was really nice to mix it up and do my sessions somewhere a bit different. It was really muggy this week- I feel like the temperature has dropped so suddenly from a couple of weeks ago. This weeks strength workout was 4 x 1.5 miles with 800m recovery, I wasn’t sure how the strength and tempo sessions would go as Cardiff is quite hilly, but actually they were fine, I hit my targets no problem.

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August was my highest ever mileage month at 238 miles and I felt really good for it. The biggest thing I’ve noticed about Hanson’s is that I’m not battered after sessions and tired for days after long runs like I would have been had I been doing much longer ones. My final long run was 10 miles and I did a Cardiff parkrun sandwich. I followed it up with 8 easy miles the next day, I loved this run despite having a hangover and trying to avoid period cramps coming on, it was just really chilled, and I felt really comfortable and strong.

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That is where it all went a bit wrong. I went to work on Monday of week 15 feeling like I had the flu, I had a headache all day, was lethargic, and my whole body ached. I woke up on the Tuesday still with a severe headache, and then had an upset stomach all day, I just ate plain food, but by Wednesday I was feeling even worse, had a temperature of 103F, I didn’t eat anything for nearly 2 whole days, and it’s taken the entire week for my stomach to start improving, and for me to be able to introduce bland foods and keep expanding my diet. There was no way I could run at all, the only running I was doing was to the bathroom. I lost over 6 pounds during the 4 really bad days of illness, and since then I’ve been trying to build myself back up and I have managed to regain some of the weight (hopefully in glycogen storage!). It wasn’t missing the four sessions and 34 miles this week, but how I felt after, just weak and drained, and inflamed. I was improving day by day, and on the weekend ran 7 miles on Saturday and 8 on Sunday, both easy paced- I couldn’t go any faster, but I felt very sore particularly on the right hand side while running- almost like running with a constant stitch.

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This week I’ve just been trying to recover, and build myself back up for race day while getting in the easy runs on the plan. I still had the soreness and constant side stitch in the first runs of the week, but this has improved on my last two runs, so hoping I will feel ok tomorrow.

I did my regular 3 gym sessions a week in week 13/14 but haven’t trained since then due to the illness in week 15 and the taper this week, I am missing the gym a lot! I have barely been to yoga all month again but managed it this week, for a little pre-race stretch out, my hips were so tight so it was definitely needed.

4 months of work is done, 638 miles, 85 out of 91 planned sessions complete. I guess it’s time to race- let’s see what happens.

Week 13: 58 Miles
Week 14: 51 Miles
Week 15: 15 Miles (Ill)
Week 16: 17 Miles + 26.2?

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.