Until You Feel Better
In the marathon build up, easy weeks have planned to include a 400m time trial, a maximal aerobic function test (MAF) and an easy 2 hour run, plus easy recovery/aerobic conditioning runs. This is easier than my harder weeks. The problem has been that I need it to be even easier of late. Maybe I'm getting old, but it's probably because I am making such rapid improvement, something has to give at some point.
I ran the MAF test the day before the half marathon and came out with a 4:19/km pace. A big improvement, and under the 4:20 I have been hoping to achieve prior to the marathon. The 400m time trial had to be given the flick this time. My legs have just been too hammered, with very tight calves and hamstrings, it would have been an open invite too injury.
So since Sunday I have just run very, very easily, 30-60min at slow, slow paces. Thursday was even a complete day off. Friday another easy run and the were still feeling pretty smashed. Today, my legs just felt heavy, in the way they feel after I've taken a lot of recovery. No longer sore and unresponsive from hard racing and training. Looks like I had stuck with the recovery until I was feeling a bit better. With a 12km race tomorrow leading into the SPECIFIC phase of marathon training, I was thinking six days was enough of taking it easy. Better run myself into form. A friendly 17km was covered in a progressively faster pace. From about 6:15/km to around 4:30/km the pace was only at whatever felt comfortable. Luckily the comfort level got faster and faster.
Now refreshed, I believe I am ready for the next stage.
Avoiding an Early Peak
The recent rapid improvement, followed by a decent slump in ability to perform suggest I could be setting myself up for an early peak in training. This is based on my years of experience at racing and coaching, combined with a university degree on the topic. I do not want to be on the downward side of a peak on marathon day.
My method of maintain improvement, while preventing an early peak in form means a slightly different approach to the Specific training phase. The key sessions are still there, and will not change much from the original plan. The key difference, is over at least the first two cycles, the degree of difficulty/intensity in training won't be as wide originally planned. The hard days were originally planned to be very hard, with very easy/recovery style training in the day or two before the next very hard day. Since I am heading into a peak (if not already there), the variation will be less. The so-called easy days will be of a higher volume and intensity, towards the top end of my aerobic conditioning zone. The interval training won't be flat out and right to the edge of what I can handle. Instead I will call the sessions short at a level that should have me able to replicate the session the next day.
It will create an training stimulus that will have me in constant, but mild state of fatigue and adaptation, that may see a couple of slower race times. However, following the 4 cycles of specific training, I will use the 2-3 weeks of Peaking to bring out a true racing peak for the marathon.