A year ago I was busying myself with event photography, seeking out races and spending a lot of time on my 'new hobby', sometimes at the expense of training. I wouldn't say I missed training sessions but I often allowed photography to take precedence on a weekend and fitted in my run to suit.
This year I have deliberately ignored all opportunities to photograph events, ensuring the long run training gets done one day, and the other day either a short race or an hours easy run.
I think this resurgence of form can be attributed in the main to now having a good year or two of largely injury free running in the bag. Along with improved form comes a belief that I can use that fitness/speed/stamina to train yet harder and hopefully become even stronger and faster still. One handy thing about being fitter is that it takes less time to run any given distance, so running for example a one mile rep might only take 5 mins15 seconds compared to a few years ago when it would take me 5:45. The quicker time is just as hard to achieve but the same number of reps and rest seems like less of a session, so doing more mileage isnt actually that much harder on the body.
After the Buttermere race I took Monday off - my legs were pretty sore from the steep downhills and I was very tired generally. Tuesday was going to be a tentative return to the roads with 5 miles easy, but after walking Scamp I had to go back to work and didn't get home again until nearly 9 o'clock so no training.
Wednesday I ensured I got out, and ran 90 minutes easy offroad straight from work. Then on Thursday I joined Plucky for the now routine 75 minute blast. John Hoar joined us again which meant it was a very pacey run. Despite a reasonable wind I didn't allow myself any shelter and front ran with John until about 50 minutes elapsed. At this point I was dropped - my legs still just too jaded from the race four days earlier.
However as soon as I was dropped I found that running without any pace dictation was totally different and after falling back to about 30 metres and actually began to reel the lads back in. John had said he might stop early when he neared his home he stepped off the road leaving Plucky running alone. Knowing Plucky would have been trying as hard as he was able to keep up with John I figured he would slow down now alone. Indeed I quickly caught him up and we ran hard to the finish. Our time was 3 seconds outside the fastest recorded to date - very good result considering how much I had suffered to be dropped then regain, and to have front ran the entire route.
It was while sitting in Pluckys kitchen post run that 'we' decided my 15 miler at marathon pace, planned for Saturday morning, would be much too soon and Sunday would be sensible. A fine idea that turned out to be - Saturday was windy and featured frequent hail showers that damn well hurt as they pelted my face during a steady 30 minute run along the Caldew footpath.
Sunday was frosty and clear sky. I didn't get out until noon, having had another call to work. My plan was 15 miles inside 6:20 pace. I began a little adventurously with a 6:05 mile then settled down to 6:10/6/15 pace. The final mile before turning for home included the sapping climb up Warwick bank and took me just over 6:30 to give an average pace of 6:16 for 8 miles.
It wasn't until the 11 mile point that I began to feel like I was working hard. A cold wind in my face for a straight mile and I had to raise my effort somewhat to record 6:15. Without half mile markers to run to, I was due to stop one mile before where I started to make the total of 15. But as I was still running inside 6:15 pace and knew that the 16th mile featured zero uphill, I continued.
A 6:02 last mile gave me 6:14 average and a negative split by 30 seconds. An excellent marathon pace session (and with one mile each way to/from my start point, was 18 miles covered in total - only 3 less than my longest run this year).
There is no way I could have gone much further at that pace. The marathon is 10 miles further!! Hopefully come marathon day the extra training done and the ease down I will have enjoyed will let me run at least that fast to give a sub 2:45 result.