On the first day of Juneathon, I cycled up Mount Doom

I think it’s fair to say that Juneathon has got off to a fairly extreme start.  As this was originally a festival of running, and given the glorious weather outside today, I couldn’t help wondering whether heading to the basement gym for a spin class was perhaps a bit of a cop out.  It wasn’t.

Raj, the usual Wednesday instructor, is away on holiday and was replaced today by Sauro.  I can only assume that this is short for Sauron, because he was at about the same level on the evil scale as Tolkein’s Dark Lord.  After a brutal warm up he informed us that the session was going to involve “two hills” – each of 13 minutes – and then some intervals.  Those insanely long hills basically went: up, sprint, up, sprint, up some more, sprint some more, forever and ever and ever and ever… I was certainly in as much pain and sweating as much as if I really was on the fiery slopes of Mount Doom.  The intervals were even worse – he kept screaming at us that we weren’t in enough pain and I started to feel quite a sympathetic affinity with the orcs of Mordor.

Fortunately, he let us go after 45 minutes without anyone losing a finger or having to be rescued by an enormous eagle.  It was undoubtedly an effective workout, but I think I’ll be paying for it tomorrow which doesn’t bode well for the 29 days still to come.  I have a feeling that Juneathon is going to hurt more than the marathon.

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48 hours to go!

The countdown is in hours, not days, now, and many of the pre-race preparations are being ticked off.  On Wednesday evening Sue Bell and I escaped the office early to go and register at the Expo.  Glad we went then – it was nice and quiet and registration was super-fast and slick.  We called into the Oxfam stand, picked up a few free goodies (although skipped the London Pride!) and then got out of there – it’s quite a trek back to West London from the Excel centre. 

The last couple of days have been the start of carb-loading, and to my surprise I’m not enjoying it as much as I expected!  Being a big fan of pasta and bread and rice and potatoes I didn’t really see this stage of the training as a problem at all, but actually it is a bit of an effort to make myself each such a high proportion of starchy food.  I feel heavy and bloaty. A bit of a change tonight as I’m going to a friend’s for an evening of cheese – but even then, since I’m not drinking, I will be bringing my own baguette in lieu of a bottle of Bordeaux’s finest!

This is what remains on the last minute preparations list:
1.  Register at Expo.
2. Attach timing chip to shoes and race number to T-shirt.
3. Iron my name onto my shirt (I think I’ll save that one for my far more talented mother who arrives tomorrow)
4. Arrange logistics for getting to the start with Gemma and Adam (depart Brook Green at 7am to catch 7.54 train from Charing Cross to Greenwich).
5. Finalise my iPod playlist – not enough tunes on there yet.  I think I’ll add a few miles of Belle and Sebastian at the beginning to help me keep a gentle pace through that first section.
6. Keep eating carbs.
7. Go to my last spin and pilates classes to keep me ticking over and give everything a nice stretch (very gentle exercise only though).
8. Replenish post-spin with some more carbs. 
9. Pack my race-day bag.  I’ve got everything I need now – just need to bring it all together in one place.
10.  Confirm where all my supporters are going to be along the race route so I can keep an eye out.

I’m sure there’s plenty more I’ll be adding to that list over the next 2 days.

On Wednesday I did my very last run before the big one – 30 minutes on the treadmill, doing intervals of 4 minutes gentle, 1 minute fast.  It felt good. Whatever was wrong with my right quad has fixed itself during this long taper period, and my legs feel strong, despite my right knee being black and blue and yellow from Monday’s fall.  All I have to do now is take care of myself for just two more days…

Stats
Distance:  5.25km
Time:  30 minutes (6 x intervals of 4 mins gentle, 1 min fast)
Terrain:  treadmill
Time of day: 12.30pm
Notable features:  last one!!

Taper (or running out of steam)

I fear that I may have peaked too soon.  Since the 20 mile run the other week, I have been feeling far less motivated about running, and even training more generally.  The taper period has started now, so I deliberately took it easy last week in an attempt to help my poorly quad recover from whatever it is that is ailing it.  It did appear to help – my first-thing-in-the-morning limp is less pronounced – but the general apathy that has come with the tail-off has taken me by surprise.

Admittedly, work has been busy, but since my last post ten days ago I have only managed the following in terms of training:

Wednesday evening: short gym session on the rower, cross-trainer and free weights;
Thursday morning: Spin and Tone session (unfortunately the toning session focused on the same upper body muscles as my own workout the night before, so it was a struggle);
Friday:  30 minute yoga/pilates class;
Sunday late afternoon:  ten mile run/walk; and
Tuesday evening: a 5k interval session on the treadmill. 

All of which is OK for what it’s worth but is much less than I had intended.  The plan was for the long run on Sunday (a whole week after my last run) to be 16 miles rather than 10, but my heart just wasn’t in it.  I dithered all day and am pretty sure that if it hadn’t been such a glorious day outside I wouldn’t have gone at all.  I decided to do a river loop between Barnes and Putney, and had it not been warm and sunny I would have turned towards home when I got back to Hammersmith Bridge at 5.5 miles rather than continuing on along the south bank.  But even though I resolved to keep going, it was with the promise to myself that provided I covered the 10 miles one way or another, I could just walk it and enjoy being outside in the lovely spring weather instead of pushing on through.  I did run bits of it but got a nasty stitch two and a half miles from home and just meandered my way back from there.  Hardly gritted determination to succeed at all costs.

Yesterday’s treadmill session was more of the same.  My schedule suggested 7 x 800m intervals, which I thought was optimistic even before I started and so I resolved to do six.  I did three reasonably happily, but without my iPod and with the gym hot and sticky I was tired of it after just three.  In the end I did manage to push on for a fourth and made a point of making it faster (flat out sprinting the last 200m), but it was really just a lame attempt to justify quitting before I was done.  Rubbish really.

I’ve also deliberately slept through 2 morning spin classes so far this week, which isn’t great.  I’m hoping it’ll be third time lucky tomorrow.

Lots of people are asking me now whether I’m excited or nervous and how the training is going – all I can tell them is that I just want to get it over and done with now.  I know its common to feel strange and frustrated during a taper period but I don’t feel like I want to get out and run, I just feel apathetic and want it to be over.  Anyone else felt like this?

The plan for the weekend is to go home to Warwickshire tomorrow night for a brief Mother’s Day visit, and head out Saturday morning for the same 15.25 miler that I did back in February.  The good thing about that is that really there’s no turning back once you’re committed to that run, and I’ll have my parents to kick me out of the door in the morning, so I’m hoping to get my mojo back that way.  Fingers crossed anyway.

PS.  I’ve been invited to a Cheesefest the Friday night before the marathon, which is exactly as it sounds – a bunch of friends and lots and lots of lovely cheese.  A wonderful idea as far as I’m concerned, but I’m not sure whether the timing is so great.  Any thoughts on the possible implications of cheese overdose 36 hours before a marathon greatly appreciated!

Stats (2 runs)
Distance:  10 miles; 5k
Time: not sure; 00:29:26
Terrain:  river path; treadmill
Time of day:  late afternoon; evening
Weather:  wall to wall sunshine;  just walls, no windows
Notable features:  lethargy, grumpiness and not finishing the job

Civil unrest is a perfectly good excuse for not running

I had planned to do my tempo run at lunchtime today.  4 miles, said the schedule, and 4 miles on a weekday lunchtime normally means a pleasant trip down the Embankment and round St James’ Park, via Parliament Square.  Today though, Parliament Square and the surrounding streets looked like this:

On second thoughts, perhaps not. 

Of course, there are other routes I could have run from my office (although, as we are so close, all of them would have suffered to some extent from hordes of students making their way down to Westminster), and there is also always the treadmill.  But as it was I woke up this morning with a sore throat and the beginnings of the traditional pre-Christmas cold, and the students provided a perfect excuse to stay behind my desk and try to beat the cold off with the liberal application of lemsip and biscuits.  Hopefully I’ll get an early night and will be right as rain again tomorrow morning.  (I’d better be, because sore throats and Christmas carols do not mix well, and I like nothing better at this time of year than a good old carol service.  Fortunately, my firm does a rather good one at St Bride’s, and I’d be very annoyed to be in less than fine voice for it tomorrow.)

I do at least have some running to report, though there’s not much to say about it. Yesterday’s interval session on the treadmill was perfectly satisfactory, thank you.  It was 3 x 1200m at 11.2kph, which felt much much better than last time I did that session.  Really very straightforward, in fact.  I did some weights afterwards too.

Stats
Distance: 5.6km (3.5 miles), inc 3 x 1200m @ 11.2kph
Time: 31:34
Terrain: treadmill
Time of day: 6pm
Notable features: none, unless you count there only being one run in this post instead of two

Snow

The snow arrived properly in London a couple of days ago, and I have been glad that I haven’t had to go out running in it.  Compared to other parts of the country the snowfall in town is paltry, but as of this morning enough had fallen and frozen over in West London to make the roads and pavements far too dangerous to run on without specialist gear.  Luckily, having sneaked in my tempo run on Monday morning and thus avoided the worst of the weather, the rest of my sessions until the weekend (a treadmill speed session and some gym and spin classes) are all capable of being done whilst safe and warm tucked up in the basement. 

I don’t normally bother blogging about my spin classes, but yesterday’s lunchtime class with Raj really tested my legs – so much so that I wondered how my quads would hold up with the tough speed session this evening.  Unlike my other spin instructors, Raj doesn’t go in for hill climbs and sprints much, and certainly not choreographing them to music.  He is more keen on brutal isolation work and jumps, which are a lot less fun (and maybe not such a great cardio workout) but probably more effective for building strength and muscle tone.  Today my thighs feel pretty sore, but gratifyingly rock solid too.  (I realise that’s just lactic acid, but every girl wants firm thighs, right?) 

What with the already-sore legs, and the session ahead involving 400m intervals at the fastest pace I will have to hit in this training programme, I was expecting today’s run to be tough.  And it is true that during my warm-up my poor quads did grumble loudly.  But once I had done the obligatory 800m warm up jog and hit the “increase speed” button to ramp it up to 12kph, suddenly it didn’t seem quite so hard.  The pace was tough, but 400m seemed to fly by much faster than last time I did a 400’s session (yes, I know that by definition it wasn’t really faster, but perception is everything!) and I found myself recovering between intervals very easily.  I had expected this week’s step-up from four to six intervals to hurt, but in fact I felt comfortable enough to really push on the last one and take the speed up to 13kph for the last 200m.  It’s interesting to see how much fitter I appear to have got over four weeks following this plan.  Very encouraging.

The weather forecast indicates that temperatures will start to get back above freezing over the weekend, so fingers crossed I’ll be able to get back outside for my eight-miler at some point during Saturday or Sunday.  I don’t think I could handle almost an hour and a half on a treadmill without going stir crazy.  Although, it’s good to know that at least I do have that nuclear option.  Over Christmas, with no handy treadmill, if I can’t get outside I won’t be able to go running at all.  That would be a disaster, especially since I have my first ten-miler planned for Christmas morning (post-presents, obviously).  This must be the first year I have ever sincerely hoped that it won’t be a White Christmas.  Bah, humbug!

Stats
Distance:  5.5km (3.44 miles), inc 6 x 400m at 12kph (or faster) off 300m @ 10kph recoveries
Time:  30.54
Terrain:  treadmill
Time of day:  5.30pm
Notable features:  quads that grumbled but did the job

A right royal run around

Back in the gym today for more intervals.  I forgot my iPod again, but since it was late afternoon rather than late at night I had counted on at least having MTV tunes on in the background.  But no, some bright spark had taken advantage of the gym being quiet to switch the TV to unrelenting “live” coverage of Prince William’s engagement to Kate Middleton.  (Quite how streaming endless reels of two to four-year old footage of Kate at various events constitutes “live” coverage I don’t know.  Especially since they’ve actually been engaged for the best part of a month already.)   Obviously I’m very pleased for them and all that, but really I’d have been much happier with a bit of Rihanna to run to.  

Apparently the royal pair will tie the knot in “spring or summer 2011”.  I think we can safely assume it won’t be the weekend of 16-17 April: tens of thousands of exhausted sweaty runners streaming past the palace might get a bit in the way of the wedding cars.

As for the running itself, today’s session was 3 x 800m at 11.4 kph.  Short, so not too bad (although my pasta lunch caused some stitches towards the end) but I am slightly dreading the point at which the number of intervals starts ramping up.  The schedule currently has me down for 8 of these 800m reps on my 30th birthday itself, which does not seem to me like a very happy way to mark the start of a new decade.  But then I suppose I’ve only myself to blame.

Stats
Distance:  4.4 km/2.75 miles, including 800m warm up, then 3 x 800m at 11.4 kph with 400m recovery between and 400m cool down
Time: 27:16
Terrain: treadmill
Time of day: 4pm
Notable features: Kate Middleton (lots)