I allowed myself one quick reflection on the future after the half-marathon (let me share it below) but after that it was all eyes on Snowdon. I will have one good mountain performance this year and there’s no better place or date this summer than the race I have planned for so far. The presence of my club-mates Jason, Rob and Rich (the two first in Irish colours, well done lads, a proud achievement for the club!) will help spur me on and so will the overall event.
It is true that a big event brings out big performances. It’s a mental thing and one to take advantage off. I intend to do three litmus tests that are very race specific: Lugnacoille, Mt. Leinster, and an uphill time trial on Camaderry (by myself or anyone willing to keep me company) on the 17/07. Running a very hard uphill will be the priority for all three, with a good decent being a bonus but I’ll race as if the top was the finish.
I’ve noticed that I generally take two days to fully repair damage done, so when I only have one day before a race it’s almost invariably pretty poor. Lately I’ve experimented with the alternative to doing hard-easy-hard-easy which is hard-hard (double-hard!) and easy-easy.
If the half-marathon stands as an indication then this is a viable strategy long-term for weekend races. It allows for recovery on the Monday (the best day for me to recover) then for hard sessions Tue and Wed before two easy days (Thu and Fri) after which a race can follow. If the race is on Sunday, I throw in a slightly less easy day after the two hard (a base run say) and then start the mini-taper with two easier runs.
My take on it is that it works if your sessions are not too similar. I have fused the last parts of my anaerobic phase with the first part of my peaking phase because of time constraints so I do the track session (harder) on the first day and the windsprints (easier but still hard) on the second.
This has worked and revealed several interesting facts. First of all, that I can run pretty hard for 100m with a very brief recovery (another 100m) even on legs weary after the track session. Secondly, that the speed of improvement once you start track work is quite startling and so is the increased pain tolerance that follows within just a few weeks.
My week so far has offered 12x400m with 200m float at 5k pace. Despite having a very tight right calf and not feeling up for it my average pace was 3:26min/km well above target (I kept a floating target of 3:34 for 5k pace and 3:30 if I felt like 3k pace, but beat both). On two occasions I was down around 3:17min/km without feeling I was extending myself into the mile pace realm, so that’s a good sign and great to see how quickly track work puts the icing on a well-baked aerobic cake.
If there were any ill effects of “two-in-a-row” it was that my 100m times were a tad slow with quite a few being at 19 and 20 seconds. This may have been from the rolling gravel road I ran on, however, as I did manage to crunch out one 15.8 second 100m (my second best). No doubt with such speed, Arthur Lydiard would have dismissed me from the middle-distance and send me straight with Magee to the marathon.
I only have space for two more quality anaerobic sessions before all work has to shift to peaking (e.g. windsprints, strides and the hill races): Another 12x400m and one more track race (either 800m or 3000m). I may actually do both the 800m and the 3000m if the mood takes me.
The final Tuesday before Snowdon, I’ll be doing a 1 mile time trial on my own which will hopefully show a good time to confirm with myself the extent to which aerobic capacity, strength, anaerobic capacity, and fine speed has been developed.
After that there’s nothing I can do but relax and get ready.
As mentioned, every time I prove that I run better on the half-marathon and marathon distances than anywhere else, it’s tempting to think of making the jump to the full marathon. The speed of my half-marathon suggests now that I can crunch out a marathon in around 2:53 if I subjected myself to the proper training.
I would be less cocky about this than I was about the previous time predicted by my 1:24 half (as I was so comfortable doing this for the majority of the race) but on the other hand a pace of 4:07 min/km really doesn’t seem that daunting for a long-distance man like me.
But why settle? I firmly believe I’ll gain more from training and racing more in the 5000/1000m distances over the coming years. When I eventually turn to the marathon, the extra speed gained from this should make me so much the better and I also still believe any able-bodied man with the right attitude and a correct patient approach to aerobic development can break 2:30 for the marathon.
I hope I will not have to take this belief with me to the grave!