Barcelona Marathon Training: Stop! Taper Time!

With just 3 weeks to go until Barcelona Marathon, I had one more big challenge to conquer before I could settle in to the lovely taper: my last and longest training run.

As I peaked at 18 miles for my last 2 marathons, and I’ve been struggling with a niggly tendon through a lot of my training this year,  I hesitantly aimed for 18-20 miles. The route itself was 20, but I wasn’t at all confident that I could finish it.

20 Mile Run Route

I like seeing this route on the map – it looks super far and makes me feel a bit awesome. The splodge at Weybridge was where I got lost and ran around in circles for a while. That was a little less awesome.

Despite the doubts, I was up at 6h00 on Saturday morning and on a train to Hampton Court by 7am. My logic was that if I stranded myself 20 miles away, I would have no choice but to run home. Also, I figured I could treat it like a day out, and that the navigation would take my mind off the miles.

It actually kind of worked!

Without further ado, here’s my 20 (!!) mile run summed up in 20 thoughts that popped into my head along the way 😉

1 This is going to be SO MUCH FUN. I totally don’t want to get back on the train and go home. Though there iiis one leaving in about 6 minutes. NO. Bad Lucy.

2 Wow, that’s a strong headwind. And I’ve really cleverly picked a route that has me running in the exact same direction for 20 miles. The wind has got to change at some point, right? It’ll totally change direction.

3 Oooh, 2 people have said good morning now! People are so friendly around here! I’m going to see how many more I can get!

4 Ok, 2 people have ignored me now. That game was fun while it lasted.

5 It’s actually quite muddy along here. Maybe I should have worn my trail shoes. The river is preeetty close. I’ll just make sure I slip left. I do NOT want to fall in.

6 Yes! I found my way off the Thames path! I am a navigational genius! Now it’s just a quick detour through Weybridge to the Wey river path…

7 Ok, I’m not a navigational genius. In fact, I’m lost. How hard can it be to find a flipping big blue RIVER?

8 Phew! I found it! I’ll be in Woking before I know it!

9 Ok, the Wey path is longer than I remember. I’m pretty sure I was meant to come off and into Woking around 13 miles. Did I miss the turning?

10 Ah. I seem to have added 1.5 miles somewhere. I should probably let my friend know I’ll be late. Scratch that, I’m already late. I wonder how long it’ll take to get to Woking station now? Where am I?

11 Woking station! And company! And a banana I just remembered I had in my bag! I’m going to be completely spontaneous and eat this now. Training is all about trial and error, and besides, I only have 6 miles left to go. What could possibly go wrong?

12 I bet my friend’s legs are feeling way fresher than mine right now. But I’m not jealous. My legs are STEEL. I can do this! I am a machine!

13 Ouch, ok, note to self: you can’t sprint across roads after 16 miles. Slow-motion hobble-sprinting only. Turns out, that’s a thing.

14 I’m going to walk this big hill. It’ll be a nice treat. Pft, yeah – heading up a hill, in the rain and wind, after 18 miles of running. Some treat, Lucy! Plus, the hill is taking too long. I’m going to run up the rest of it.

15 I could totally stop right now. I’ve already passed 18 miles, so it’s officially my longest training run. But my house is still miles away. I should probably keep going. It’s too cold to walk that far. And why is there still a headwind!? I hate you, England.

16 Traffic lights, DON’T YOU DARE TURN RED! If you stay green, I can stop and stretch and I can pretend I’m just waiting for the lights. NO! YOU TRAITORS! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME!?

17 Whatever. I didn’t want to stretch anyway…

18 .2 miles to go. I’ve got this. No more walking. Hm, I think my Garmin is broken. Maybe I’m actually at 20 miles now, and it just hasn’t updated?

19 Nope, that now says .1. Maybe it’s delayed. Is that a thing? Then again, that fence over there doesn’t seem to be getting any closer. Am I moving? I’m definitely still moving forwards, right?

20 IT SAYS 20 MILES! Take THAT, legs! I WIN! But wait a second… I’m still 1.5 miles from home. Looks like I’m going to be getting a warm-down walk. I can totally just tell people I planned this…

End of 20 Mile Run

The lovely @Pandy_Cakes met me at 13 14.5 miles and whooped and cheered me through the rain and the wind to the finish. When she would totally have rather had a lie in. She’s an absolute legend. Thanks Amanda!

In summary, I surprised myself. My energy levels were pretty constant, I was cheery for almost the entire thing, and I felt like I had something left in the tank at the end. My legs ached, but I felt good. Yay!

And to make things even more awesome, according to my Garmin stats, I’m still on track for my sub-5!

Garmin Stats for 20 Mile Run

… Which makes my face do this:

After 20 Mile Run

20 miles DONE, and 7 minutes faster than my 3h45 target!

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How was your weekend? 🙂

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Are built-in HRMs really a match for chest straps?

I was lucky enough to be picked as an Epson Runner, which means that over the past month or so I’ve been testing out the Epson Runsense SF-810 against my trusty Garmin Forerunner 910XT.

Garmin and Epson Heart Rate Monitors

Phew, why do sports watches have such flipping long names!?

One of the selling points of the Epson watch is the built-in HRM, which uses an integrated optical sensor to monitor your HR from your wrist. Epson claim that this is just as accurate as a chest strap. Needless to say, I was a wee bit dubious – as were the friends I mentioned it to.

The question is, can a built-in sensor really give you the same accuracy as a chest strap?

Or on the flip-side, is a chest strap really the only way to get an accurate reading?

In the name of science, I risked looking like a complete numpty with my 2 watches and tested the Epson alongside my Garmin on this week’s long run:

Garmin and Epson HRM Comparison

#techwanker alert…

By about 40 minutes into my 10 miler (i.e., the top of the first nasty hill!), the watches were around 2-3 bpm apart. There was a bit of a glitch at the beginning as the Epson decided to split the first mile into 3 laps of 0.08, 0.00 and 0.91 (no idea how that happened!)

But besides the squiffy first mile, the readings seemed fairly close between the 2 watches:

Garmin and Epson HRM Breakdown

As my handy little diagram above shows (lol…) the overall average for the Garmin measured as 159bpm, whilst the Epson showed 168bpm.

In a slightly more readable format, the HR splits were:

M2: Garmin 139, Epson 162

M3: Garmin 170, Epson 167

M4: Garmin 168, Epson 170

M5: Garmin 167, Epson 171

M6: Garmin 167, Epson 171

M7: Garmin 169, Epson 165

M8: Garmin 169, Epson 171

M9: Garmin 168, Epson 170

M10: Garmin 173, Epson 168

Whilst I found this experiment quite interesting, I’m not an expert when it comes to training by heart rate. According to various places – including Runners World – my LSRs should be in the 60-70% zone (117-136) and hills should peak at 85% (165), which means that I was way out of the target heart rate zone if either of those watches were correct.

How can I have run 10 miles in a zone that Runners World reserves for 5-10k race efforts!?

Do you use a heart rate monitor, or train to heart rate zones? Any tips?

Do I reeeally have to slow down as much as I think I do!?

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Disclaimer: Whilst this isn’t a sponsored post, in exchange for leaving 5 video reviews I am allowed to keep the Runsense, which I tested without charge.

Barcelona Marathon Training: 4 weeks to go!

Dude, how did this happen? How are there only 4 weeks left? How is there just 1 long run between me and the taper? (This week is a cut-back week, with Bramley 10 tomorrow).

I’m suddenly feeling super under prepared. I swear I had more miles under my belt at this point before Paris and Brighton. I’m probably just paranoid, right!?

However, despite last week’s minor freak-out, I did in fact manage my long run last weekend – 16 miles along the Downs Link and Wey Navigations river path. It was long, it was fairly flat, it was out-and-back and the scenery, whilst quite nice, was pretty repetitive. I thought it would be fairly easy going, but mentally it was quite difficult as there wasn’t much to break up the miles!

I felt like a bit of a wally when I set off, as I was wearing 2 watches to test out the Epson against my Garmin. It didn’t half make the Garmin look like a brick!

Garmin and Epson Watches for 16 Miler

The things I do for science.

I could probably have picked a better time of year to run this route. It was absolutely stunning on my cycle to Brighton last year!

But on a cold, grey morning in February, it was ever so slightly uninspiring. Peaceful, quiet, and more pleasant than main roads, but it all began to look the same after a while:

Downs Link and Wey Navigations Long Run

Trust me, it’s a dream in the summer. And I’ll definitely be back to run it again after the marathon!

To prove that I did enjoy it just a little bit, I took my first ever run selfie:

16 Mile Run Selfie

A bit blurred, but you get the gist. I also took a photo of my poor shoes, which saw more mud that day than in the 2 months beforehand! (Though I didn’t actually get a picture of the muddy bits. I was too busy trying not to faceplant and/or stumble into the river…)

Whilst I did still take quite a few breaks (the river path was quite hard going, it was muddy, it was early, I found it hard to zone out…) my average moving pace was 33 seconds/mile faster than the Kingston Breakfast Run last year, and only 3s/mile off the pace I did my last 16 miler. Result!

16 Mile Run Splits

Now I just need to man up and cut out some of the walking breaks. Oh, and add on another 10 miles.

Ah, marathons. I do love you really.

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Have you run/got a long run planned this weekend? What sort of route have you picked?

Struggling with nerves before a long run

You’d think that after 2 marathons, my brain would have gotten over the whole ‘ok, you need to run quite a long way now’ thing.

Erm, or not.

I recently mapped out an A-to-B route for one of my long runs, which I’ll be doing the weekend after next. (I was originally going to do it this weekend, but decided to give the 16 miler another go instead, and use this one as my last long run before the taper). Mapped out like that, it looks like a flipping long way:

Long Run Route

It’s actually Hampton Court to Worplesdon/Guildford, so not the whole thing! About 18-20 miles if all goes well. So still pretty far. (It takes 30 mins by train, and having also cycled the route I know it’s not something to be taken lightly!)

But I’ve done 18 milers before. I’ve done 16 milers, 17 milers, and 2 full marathons. And I did alright.

So why am I freaking out about running that distance this time round?

This seems to happen every year. I sign up for a marathon, I get to the 16-mile point, and suddenly I start to get so many doubts and insecurities when faced with the distance.

Last year, I did my 16 miler at the Kingston Breakfast Run, and crossed the finish line with a big grin, feeling strong and capable:

Kingston Breakfast Run 16m Finish Line

I think this year’s tendon injury has really set me back; not just physically, but mentally, too. My training started so well, with 5k and 10k PBs, and sub-10:00 miles for my 12 miler (unheard of for me!)

But each time I run, I worry about the niggle. I’m hyper aware of every ache and twinge, and I’m convinced it’s going to flare up again. I’m conscious of my bad running form, of my weak core and wobbly ankles and overpronation. And I’m starting to convince myself that I’m not strong enough to run long distance.

In previous years, I’ve hit tough patches in a long run and been able to power through them. This time round, I’m finding it harder and harder to stop myself from taking a walking break when it gets tough. I’m more sporadic, and feel like the mental side of things is letting me down.

My leg IS holding up ok, and I know that my body is capable of the distance. I’m faster than before, doing more cross training, and I’m progressing well. But I’m worried that I’ve psyched myself out – that I’ve lost the mental strength which has got me through those tough final miles in the past.

And without the mental strength, it almost doesn’t matter how much training I put in – I end up walking or stopping when I’ve still got energy in the tank and miles in my legs, and I could kick myself for wasting the long runs the way I’ve been doing.

Please tell me I’m not the only one!?

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Have you ever faced this problem? How did you snap yourself out of it?

… Anyone fancy running 18 miles through Surrey or London with me in a couple of weeks!?