"The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry..."
The last few days have seen Team Heathcote all laid up with a dose of gastroenteritis, which is somewhat less than ideal at the best of times, never mind when one is due to race a marathon...! After 24hrs of nil-by-mouth, never mind the actual illness, I was never going to be competitive in the race (if I even completed it!) and so I've taken the never-easy decision to DNS the Robin Hood Marathon.
Despite the fact that it was my goal race, I'm not as disappointed as I expected to be, actually. Over the last couple of months I've had my best season ever, both in terms of placing in races and setting a PB over 13.1, and so it would be wrong to discount all of that and just focus on the negative of dropping from the marathon. I've also learned a lot from this training block, which I'm confident is going to make me a better runner.
I need speedwork
When I started this block of training, it's fair to say that the prospect of running intervals at the local oval didn't exactly fill me with joy. Over time though, I've actually come to, if not enjoy it, at least respect it. This has been helped by seeing very real effects in my running; the increased leg turnover is, I'm sure, more than a little responsible for my placing in the road races I've done. As such, even when back to focusing on trail ultramarathons I'll be including track workouts on a semi-regular basis.
I need easy runs
This training block was a bit of a weird one. It was all quality sessions, very low mileage, and no easy running. This was intentional, as a concession to family life off the back of high-ish mileage ultra training, and an interesting experiment. I've made it through the training, but I've definitely noticed the lower mileage and, if it hadn't been for having a pretty decent aerobic base from training earlier in the year, I'm not convinced I would have been successful with it. I've also noticed that I've needed far more carbs in my diet over the last few months, and I suspect that means I'm not as fat-adapted as I used to be.
I need hills
Because Robin Hood was a flat course, and because all of the training sessions in this plan focused on hitting target paces, I made a conscious decision to run flat routes as much as possible. This was fine, until I came to race, at which point I suffered on inclines immensely. I still believe, given the specifics of this plan, that it was the right approach; trying to run those paces on hills would have been sure to result in an injury, from past experience, and I wouldn't have developed the sense of consistent pacing if I had just focused on hitting an average pace. However, hillwork is something that I feel is vital to effective training.
So what now?
Between now and C*******s I'm racing nearly every weekend and, as a counter to that, much of my running during the week will be easy mileage. As my birthday treat to myself a couple of weeks ago I entered the Kielder 80k in April and the Ultimate Trails 110k in July, so a big focus will be on building a monster aerobic engine for those and working on becoming more fat-adapted again. As I said earlier, I'll be heading to the track on a semi-regular basis still, particularly in the sharpening phase before goal races, and I plan on adding hillwork back into my routine in a big way. More on that in a future post...
Onwards and upwards!