Excitement (and disappointment) on the road to the VLM marathon

More thoughts from the coach’s viewpoint on the marathon journey for three club athletes. Since the original blog post, an exciting marathon journey, there have been two months of great training, interspersed with weather disruptions and some injury and recovery issues to address. The three athletes (who retain their anonymity* for these blog posts, for the moment) have handled the build-up well, considering their differing degrees of disruptive incidents.

StravaTP has had the clearest run of training weeks, clocking the eight weeks of January and February at a steady build.

The Strava graphic shows that build since serious training started. It pretty much exactly matched the plan I had set, with easier weeks included at regular intervals. On a low-ish mileage plan agreed with me it has been interesting to hear TP looking with wonder (and possibly envy, I suspect) at the mileages two of the club’s top runner’s are putting down (up to 100 miles per week just now). The last week of Feb for TP was 48.5 miles.

The great thing about the build has been the long run progression (in miles): which has gone 11.6, 15, 16, 17, 15, 18.5, 20, 18, 19.5. All have been handled with increasing confidence, and parallel increases in leg weariness. The 15 mile week was a mini taper to do a half marathon, picking up a PB on the way, for another confidence boost.

Reading back through TP’s online diary, which is virtually always the first to be completed for me to review, shows only very minor disruptions. A bit of a cold in January didn’t hold things back too much, and the comment after the 18.5 miles (longest run at time) was:

Painfull toenail, but if that is the worst then I am OK with that.

SP had some foot issues in December that necessitated some days off, and two very low mileage weeks in the steady comeback. Insoles that were supposed to ease the foot issues in fact produced massive blisters, which were a problem for quite a while, which SP seemed to gutsily ignore (I will spare you a photo of the damage!). The positive attitude is shown by this diary entry, after a 16 mile run in January:

Really tough run today, legs felt heavy and tired. [TP] pulled me round most of the way but got it done, that’s the main thing. Blisters heeling well, think the 2 days off helped. Onwards and upwards!

Despite this issue, the build-up went pretty well, going from 35 miles in the first week of the year to 43.8 by the end of February. There were long runs of: 12.2, 15.2, 16, 17, 14, 18.5, 20, 18, 19.4. The 14 mile week was for a new PB in a half marathon, part of my standard marathon preparation planning. Talking of which, SP is monikered from having added a neat ‘Planning’ tab to the diary that indicates exactly how each week was planned to happen, giving coach great information and encouragement on the commitment that was going into the training.

So, despite hiccups the long runs have been great, and the weekly mileage good, though sometimes less than the plan. SP is very sensitive to this shortfall, and gets (unnecessarily in the bigger scheme of things) stressed about it, which usually involves a WhatsApp discussion between us, with me just trying to keep things in perspective.

On a week with 5.5 miles shortfall (from a plan remember, so all relative) SP Whatsapped me:

My foot is really sore and decided an extra 6 miles wouldn’t be productive. Unfortunately it does leave me 5.5 miles short which I am not happy about.

thumbsupOne week later the longest week’s training (including a first 20 miler) had been done, and another week on, and with a solo 18 mile run in the bag, I was sent this photo to show things were back on track.

Two of the greatest pleasures of working closely with athletes are seeing them overcome setbacks, and the joy with which they let you know that they have.

HT had got up to 15 miles on the long run by mid-January, but then holidays took priority and three very quiet week’s ensued (in terms of both HT’s mileage and in the banter level at the track!). Since then the mileage has been erratic, but the long runs have been fitted in diligently, with 14, 17 and 18.2 completed strongly to the end of February. Circumstances have to be taken into account in any coach-athlete relationship, and I was well aware of HT being in a difficult place in some aspects of life at the moment. We had a short heart-to-heart at one point, agreeing that in the circumstances a lowering of the expectation that we should both have regarding a potential finish time for the VLM would be best. After the discussion I received a positive message, looking forward:

Thanks for caring. It’s just hard to get motivated sometimes, I’m just up and down! See you tomorrow at track!

So in a positive mood all three athletes were due to run in the Rhayader Round the Lakes 20 mile event on the first weekend in March. A trip away, a change of training scenery, and a bunch of fun was anticipated. Unfortunately this was when the ridiculously named ‘Beast from the East’ hit the UK. The snow conditions meant that travel was risky and the trip was off. rhyadercancelled

All got out together at home and managed 19.5 miles training in ‘slushy and slippery’ conditions, prompting a WhatsApp photo and message: ‘Tough conditions but all done, Stevo!’

Seven more weeks of training. All three need to take that attitude forward.

* The identifiers are not their initials, but are respectively: TP = Teacher’s Pet; SP = Spreadsheet Planner; and HT = Holiday Time; for reason’s best known to me, but which might have become obvious as we progress.

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