Sunday, 6 April 2008

Seven days to go...

With only seven days left until the London Marathon, added to me being a little bored of race reports, I thought I'd write a short piece with my thoughts on how best to prepare for a successful 26.2 miles...

The key thing to be aware of at this late stage is that you are now as fit as you will be and no amount of training will make you any faster in time for the big day. If you don't run a single step over this final week you'll still get to the start line in optimal physical condition... rest, recovery and relaxation must therefore be prioritised. However, having conditioned your mind and body into the habit of regular exercise a complete lack of activity is likely to leave you feeling lethargic and sluggish, as usual a balance is required... enough training to keep you feeling sharp, prepared and focused but a low enough volume/intensity to allow complete physical and mental recovery. As training volume reduces significantly over the coming week you will experience a significant increase in 'free' time (not that a single second of our time is actually 'free', but that's for another day) which can lead to a loss of structure in your daily routine and the possibility of an increase in behaviours which may be detrimental to your performance on race day i.e. over-eating, late nights, increased alcohol consumption or too much time at work. It may seem like a great opportunity to catch up on aspects of your job that have been put on hold during your marathon training but a 60 hour week leaves little time for rest and recovery, increases the likelihood of stress and can surely wait just one more week... for the next seven days PRIORITISE YOURSELF.

So how would my ideal marathon race-week look?

Every Day
Adequate water intake to optimise hydration... perhaps 2 litres per day but not too much, the key to hydration is little and often. Dehydration will limit your performance but over hydration can kill you (HERE) so don't over do it! Plenty of sleep, set yourself a target based on what you think is optimum for you... I'll be going for 8 hours per night. Good food all day every day in order to arrive at the start line full of energy so plenty of natural, REAL, wholesome food is required for breakfast, snack, lunch, snack and dinner from Monday morning right through to Sunday. Minimise stress... feel free to act like an ostrich this week and bury your head in the proverbial sand, if something looks like causing you a headache then stick it on hold until after the race. Finally, take time every day to visualise your ideal first (relaxed and controlled) and final (strong and focused) marathon miles ;)

No running today but set the mood for the week with some low impact, low intensity exercise such as a technique based swim session on leisurely bike ride. This will keep you active but allow your legs to recover. It's also time to start thinking about your race day strategy, perhaps by drawing up a list of all the things you will need on race morning e.g. heart rate monitor, race number, race kit, Vaseline, safety pins, sunglasses, warm disposable clothing for the start line, hat and gloves for the race (could be snowing this year!), pace band, trainers & socks (sounds obvious but you'd be surprised how many people forget their shoes!). If you have the luxury of a second pair of running shoes it's a nice touch to put your race shoes to one side (perhaps somewhere that you will see them several times a day which helps you to maintain focus on the race) this will allow them to regain a little 'spring' and will make you feel great on the day.

A nice easy 40-60 minute run. If you've been doing Tuesday speed sessions then repeat the same session but at a lower intensity, include some above marathon pace efforts. I do a 40 minute tempo run every Tuesday and will be doing the same session this week but 2kph slower, finishing at 16 rather than 18, which is faster than my target race pace (14.55 kph) but not fast enough to significantly limit my recovery. Although this shouldn't be a particularly demanding session it will require a certain amount of effort, it is vital therefore to refuel effectively within 30-60 minutes of the session by consuming a balanced meal of carbohydrates, protein and essential fats.

A day of complete rest :) Maybe an extra hour in bed? Possibly a sports massage? Do not have your first ever sports massage or massage with a particular masseur during race week - you never quite know how you'll react. A good day to clip your toenails, a common cause of foot injuries during running (particularly marathons) is overgrown toenails... I should know, remember the cross-country race earlier in the year when I lost both my biguns? Trim them too short the day of the marathon could lead to discomfort during the race so do it now! Maybe spend some precious time on friends or family who will no doubt be returning the favour over the next few days as you slip in to marathon mode and it becomes all about you!

Possibly your final run prior to the race? I'll be doing about 45-60 minutes at a pretty easy tempo with something like 10 x 1 minute sub-maximal efforts at around half marathon / 10k pace. A good last minute sharpener to freshen both mind and body. This is my massage day as I tend to feel best on the third day post-massage (i.e. Sunday). As with Tuesday adequate refueling is essential so try and get this run in order to allow time to eat, digest and be tucked up
early... something like run @ 6, eat @ 7 then bed @ 10. Ideally you should be carb loading from today so increase the percentage of complex carbohydrates in your diet... note I didn't say eat more food, you're less active than normal and by eating too much you'll feel heavy and bloated come race day, just swap some of your regular protein and fat for things like brown rice, brown past or wholemeal couscous.

Another day of rest from exercise but likely to be pretty active. Do as much as you can today in order to free up tomorrow to kick back fully. H and I will travel down to London in the morning, check in to our hotel, visit the expo, register and do any last minute organising. It can be pretty hectic but worth it in order to have a stress free day tomorrow. Friday evening is probably the most important regards eating and sleeping so pay particular attention to a fantastic healthy evening meal and a nice early night.

Although I like to throw in an easy 45 minute jog around the race area just to get me in the mood, most people will take a second successive day of rest. Kicking back in your hotel room with a nice book is great, maybe meet up with friends or family for lunch (strictly on your terms - eat what you want when you want it - don't compromise your race just because someone else doesn't like your choice of restaurant) . You will have already thought about your race strategy but run through it again in your head, know your mile splits and your target time for half-way. People tend to be overambitious with this and ruin months of hard training by going off too hard and consequently blowing up at about 18 miles. If you're going for your best possible time and have run a good half marathon in the build up then double your half time plus 10%, divide your answer by 26.2 and you have your mile splits... for example I ran 80 minutes (plus a second!) in January but am in significantly better shape now than then, I would expect therefore to be able to run at least 79 minutes for a flat half marathon at the moment... doubled = 158... plus 10% = 173.8 minutes which is 2:53:48... divided by 26.2 = 6:38 per mile. At Tower Bridge (half way) I will aim to be within 30 seconds of that, and then hang on for the ride;)

Sunday (Race day)
Again this is just me, but I'll nip out for an easy mile to set myself up for breakfast and say hello to what is going to be an amazing day. Breakfast will have been practised in training and you should avoid foods that you know may cause digestive issues later in the day... trying to break three hours for the first time in London 2005 I got a sudden attack of the runs at mile 22 and following an emergency pit stop sprinted the final four miles to finish in 3:00:20... I haven't had raisins and full-cream milk on a marathon morning since! For me... something simple, maybe Weetabix with semi-skimmed milk and a banana. Ideally breakfast will be (for me) about three hours before the gun and I'll sip on a bottle of water or weak energy drink from now to the start line (maybe 500ml in total... not too much, see above). Make sure you leave plenty of time to get to the start area, you cannot be too early but you can definitely be too late as my friends James and Dave would no doubt agree ;)


Once the gun goes, people will go off like lunatics, they are almost all pacing it terribly and writing cheques their legs can't cash! Stick to your plan and let them go... the first third of the race should be like the tide going out (regardless of your speed) and you should be being constantly overtaken, the middle third should be like low tide with little or no change in position... stick to that and the final third will be like the tide rushing in as all around you people start blowing up, just as you throw in your fastest miles for a negative split, a pb and eternal bragging rights!

That's about it I think? If you're running London this weekend then GOOD LUCK, I hope this helps and I'll see you on the start line ;)

Nearly forgot... today's race report. H and I did the Circuit of the Dales super hilly 50.7 mile time trial today... considering my preparation (Andrea KJ's birthday party till 12:30 last night, bed for 1am but up at 3.30 to watch Alistair racing in New Zealand, which finished at 5.30am just in time to change my flat tub from last week, pack the car and head off in to the Dales to do a race that until we got there we thought would be called off due to the weather, forgot my Garmin GPS so had no idea of speed, distance or heart rate, put my overshoes on the wrong feet which seriously messed with my OCD and generally couldn't take my mind of the London marathon) went well with 2:32:55 for a slightly better performance than last year (even though I was 2 minutes slower I finished @ 53% in the field compared to 66%... don't forget, cyclists are super fast). What H forgot to say in her report was that not only was she 8 minutes quicker than last year... the course was two miles longer... well done that girl (she also won a tenner for second lady, although there were only three and one didn't finish).

Right then, I'm off to bed... see you post London when hopefully I'll be telling you all about my 1.27/1.26 negative split for a shiny new pb and a significant step along the road to Kona ;)



Debra said...

As posted on Helen's entry best of luck for Sunday, you've been flying on the runs recently and can't have a third bad race on the trot so it's going to be a good'un

Let it be cloudy or drizzly and looking forward to next week's report.....

Brian said...

You have both set yourselves up well. It should be an amazing day (if it doesn't snow). Useless facts number 1: did you know that Davy Crockett seems to have invented the word blizzard? Have a great run and we will be with you in spirit every step of the way! Pops.

Clare said...

Good luck to you both and all the rest of the teams thats making the journey down to the big smoke! i'll be watch as usual

Love the bloggs i sign on every week - just to envy you both

keep it up x x Clare

Clare said...

Good luck guys for the weekend .. i'd be stuck to the telly just incase i get lucky and spot you in the crowd

thanks for the weekly bloggs too i alway logs on just the envy you both

keep it up - love clare