Two Marathons, one month. Catch up with with Simon's Marathon training.
January is finally over, and the green shoots of spring have started to show. I liken the weather to how fitness and form shape up with the Marathon training block, some pathetic fallacy if you will. January is a dark month of hard miles and base building. We don’t get those big sexy workouts that look great and feel great. Instead, it’s a month of just showing up, getting the time on the feet and largely trusting that the shape will start to show as the early signs of spring arrive. Trust the process.
THE PERFECT MARATHON TRAINING MONTH (NEARLY)
Simon, this month had had nearly the perfect month of Marathon training. All four weeks have been fully green on TrainingPeaks, with his mileage sitting between the mid-30s to low 40 miles per week. This has been in line with the plan’s core principle: to build the foundations in the first six weeks to grow from in the next six-week block.
During this last four-week period, we have also navigated a work trip to Hong Kong and Australia which had the potential to cause disruption. However, Simon used the opportunity to kick on and keep progressing, which was brilliant from a Coach’s perspective.
MARATHON TRAINING AND TRAVELLING
It’s really tough to plan around work trips as a Coach. They bring so many external factors into play, which can disrupt momentum. My message to anyone heading away for work is to make training sustainable, especially when flying! Aeroplanes are a hotbed for illness and disease which can only threaten to disrupt training as soon as you step off the plane.
A RECIPE FOR DISASTER
A breeding ground for illness and a tired or beat-up athlete is a recipe for disaster! After we train hard, our immune system is suppressed for a few hours post-training. This is known as the open window for infection. The harder we train, the longer this window is open. This is why after tough sessions, recovery is so crucial as we limit that time in the ‘open window’, which allows us to get back to training without disruption. With this in mind, I ensured we kept the volume controlled over the two weeks when Simon was away and tried not to push things too hard.
With flights over three successive weekends at the start of the month, we adjusted how the long runs were structured. Volume was dropped back slightly, and intensity was pulled back to make the workouts a little easier to recover from. The rationale was that we wanted to get through the 2-3 week block with no disruptions and keep laying those foundations, and once Simon returned home, we could push forward again.
PLANNING AND SUSTAINABILITY
Disruption to training is the biggest thing as a Coach I want to avoid with my athletes. I believe building confidence through lots of consistent training weeks is the best thing my athletes can do. Therefore, in the planning process, I ensure that we train sustainably, allowing us to advance fitness while ensuring momentum is carried forward. This is why the longest run within our Marathon training plans sits at 2hrs 30mins in volume.
THE SPORT PRINCIPLE
You may remember in the summer, I wrote about how Coaches use the SPORT principle to plan a training block. We have to use the overload element to elevate athletes’ fitness. However, this needs to be a sustainable overload training element. Beyond the 2hr 30min point, you start to get to the non-functional overreaching stage of training where the advances in fitness don’t necessarily stack up well with the massive levels of fatigue it causes. Furthermore, going past the 2hr 30min mark, for me, has a negative impact on the rest of the training week. Essentially week to week, you are just surviving long run to long run rather than thriving!
MOMENTUM IS BUILDING
Simon is building up some brilliant momentum with his training currently. Now he’s back in the UK, we can get to a more regular schedule, and the volume will start to creep up week after week (advanced apologies Simon!) As I mentioned, Simon has built some brilliant foundations, allowing us to advance things through the next 4-5 weeks. We will aim to hit two and a half hours on the long run front by the end of the month. In addition, we will be adding a little more focused speed work to get Simon used to running faster than Marathon Pace. Ultimately this will reduce the energy cost of running at Marathon Pace and improve Simon’s efficiency.
SIMON'S GOT A RACE COMING UP
Finally, we will head to a brilliant race in the Wokingham Half-Marathon for the first fitness test of the block. The Half-Marathon race on the 26th of February will serve as a fitness marker for what kind of pace we should be looking at for the Marathon. Generally, I consider doubling a runner’s half time and then adding 10-15mins depending on fitness and experience. In addition to testing fitness, racing is essential in a Marathon block as it helps us practise all the small things like bag drop, warm up, race day breakfast, race day mindset, race day logistics etc. Nailing those parts are as crucial for executing the race as a pacing strategy!
Overall, seeing Simon’s progress over the last few weeks has been really encouraging. He is doing all the right things, and I feel he is in a brilliant position as we advance. Keep up the great work, Simon!
AN UPDATE FROM SIMON
January brought a whole host of challenges, both mentally and physically. With Hong Kong opening back up at the start of the month, I was straight out to see the SKINS HQ team for the first time in person in almost three years. A week later, I was in Australia, weaving my way across states catching up with the AU team and customers.
In parallel, we had some events in the US and staff shortages that put the whole team under the pump. Balancing an increase in training, disrupted sleep and time zone changes, and long-haul flights with all of the work commitments definitely tested my resolve. But, I always keep one quote close to mind: ‘You always regret skipping a run. But, you never regret going for one’…and so I trained.
A training highlight for the month was catching up with Mel, a fellow PGC1 team member, in Brisbane for our PGC1WorkoutWednesday session. Even though I was completely schooled by a superior athlete, the benefit of a little competitive team spirit lifted the session and a good pace was set. The benefits of which stayed with me for subsequent sessions. Also, loops of The Tan in Melbourne is always a favourite run.
As for the rest of the month, at times, it has felt like running in mud (humidity) and keeping hydrated efficiently has been an ongoing challenge (38c heat at the time), but now I’m back to colder climes, I can reflect and feel the improvements made. I’m most definitely a cold-weather runner! Right now, I’m looking forward to the first race of the year at the end of February and seeing the results of these last few months in action.
For the London Marathon, I’ll be running for Ability Bow. Working with exceptional athletes, at all levels, on a daily basis through the SKINS brand really focuses the importance of the work that Ability Bow does. As the legend Bill Bowerman said, ‘If you have a body, you are an athlete!’ By providing access to resources and exercise programs to people of all abilities, Ability Bow really is changing people’s lives in a positive way. I’m really happy that I can support such an important local charity on my first Marathon on home soil. If you’d like to donate to this incredible cause, you can do so here.