We’re now five weeks away from my first half marathon of 2018, and my first big PB effort of the year, at Coventry. I’ve been in training now since Christmas Eve, so around 6-7 weeks and, in the main, it’s been going well.
This past couple of weeks has felt a bit up and down though. After the day in the Peak District, I took almost a week out with a groin issue. Last week’s scheduled parkrun never took place. The person I was due to run with pulled out due to illness and I decided to also give it a miss so as not to aggravate the groin. So it was a full six days that I took out before heading out for an easy few miles. It’s certainly not ideal to miss almost an entire week from your training plan, particularly as the trail run was also off-plan. That being said, it’s always better to avoid further injury when you feel a niggle as opposed to trying to run through it and aggravating it further.
So, having felt like I had made some good progress over the previous weeks, including a terrain friendly six miles at half marathon pace, some confidence was lost during my week out. This however, was reinstated during this week’s club session. My training plan suggested a progressive 8.5 miles whereas, conveniently, the club schedule said a progressive 6 miles. Before the session I did over 2 miles at easy pace to try and make up for the lost miles in the preceding week and to ensure that I met the suggested 8.5.
In the past few weeks I have made the conscious decision to chase the fastest person in our group during sessions, which just happens to be the coach. He’s currently running races in the times that I want to be running races, and it gives me a target to head for. It also ensures that I maintain the correct paces, as if anyone is going to get it right, it’s going to be the coach.
The first 2 miles were scheduled as easy, and they were super easy, as instructed. Being the coach, and the nice guy that he is, he stopped early on to hold a gate for the rest of the group to pass through. Myself and a couple of others then lost him for a while as we continued on. Miles 3 and 4 were due to be slightly faster and, without any guidance, the three of us semi-agreed on around 8:00 /mile (the first 2 miles were slower than 9:00 /mile). About a quarter of the way through mile 3 and coach came breezing past. We picked up the pace, closer to 7:30 /mile and followed. At the end of mile 4, including the warm up, I had ran more than 6 miles, with the last 2 at around HMP and we were due to pick up the pace again.
Sure enough the coach took off, again dragging us with him. At the time I felt a bit disillusioned as I struggled to keep up and dropped off during the last mile. I maintained around 50 metres behind though and checks of the watch showed that I was running at quicker than my usual 5km pace. I finished the run feeling a lot more positive than I had in the previous week.
Roll on to Friday’s run, which again the training plan suggested should be a progressive 8.5 miles. I planned out a 9 mile route and settled on 3 miles at the faster end of easy, 3 miles at a steady pace and then 3 miles at HMP. I set out and quickly found that any section of the route heading West would be into a strong headwind. I hate to make excuses, but the wind was so strong that midway through the run, my trailing leg, after leaving the floor, was being blown into my standing leg, almost tripping myself over.
I also had trouble with maintaining pace. The instant pace shown from my footpod seemed consistent, but my lap pace, which still uses GPS, was up and down. It felt like some sections I was running with less effort but a lot faster than other sections where I was pushing hard. This could also have been down to the wind of course.
Anyway, 6 miles in and it was time to kick on and aim for HMP, 7:29 /mile. I struggled, and this reset my confidence somewhat. However, given the wind, and the fact that I climbed 56 metres during those final 3 miles alone, I probably shouldn’t beat myself up too much. If we’re referring to power as opposed to pace, as I can now, then a recent 6 miles at exactly 7:29 /mile provided an average power of 389 W. The last 2 miles of Tuesday’s session, where I was running at 5km pace, provided an average power of 427 W. The final 3 miles of today’s run, where I didn’t quite match HMP, provided an average power of 410 W. I’m looking for facts and figures to almost justify the run, but based on these figures I look to be there or thereabouts still, with 3 weeks of proper training left before the taper.
As for the race itself, I did the Coventry Half last year and so knew what to expect and when to expect it. I also did a recce with a friend recently to remind myself of the course and its features. Fully prepared. Then, this week, the organisers of the race announced that they are changing the route for this year. Now not so prepared. This is a good thing though. I don’t tend to do the same race twice, particularly half marathons as I don’t do many and so like to experience different surroundings and courses. I only signed up to Coventry again this year as it is conveniently close and my old friend had also signed up, although it now looks like he may be pulling out anyway due to injury. So a change in course is a good thing, from my point of view anyway. I lived in Coventry for the first 26 years of my life, so I’ll be fairly familiar with the course regardless, but it would still be good if I could get another recce in before the big day. Just as soon as they announce it…