Spring has come at last and I am grateful for the warmer and lighter days. It is certainly good to put the long sleeved running tops away for hopefully the last time in a while. But it hasn't improved the training experience quite like I was expecting it to. The running has continued and I have been mostly hitting the required sessions and paces, but I haven't been feeling too well in more ways than one. I've been really getting to know what plantar fasciitis is and it hasn't been pleasant. It's not just the physical problems, though. It seems to be taking its toll on me psychologically as well. I seem fairly disengaged with the aspects of my life that aren't to do with running, and it's easy to think that there's not much there to be happy about. But I'm just out of sorts because I'm tired. I've been tired for so long now I've forgotten what it was like before.
Week 9 - 74 miles
It may be lighter and warmer with the coming of spring but it's easy to forget that it is not generally any drier. On Monday, I found Wormwood Scrubs to be more of a swamp than ever and I managed to do what I had narrowly avoided the day before, which was to slip over and take a dive into a muddy puddle. As I final touch, my glasses slowly slipped off my face and landed in the yucky stuff. Running usually makes me feel better but it takes more of it now for me to get enough endorphins. When I run twice in a day, I usually enjoy the second one more.
This week I passed the 500 mile mark for the training. I was still a bit emotional and I found that the frustrations gave me a bit of a boost. I generally find that I run better when I've got something to worry about. Tuesday, I had more energy than ever to fly round the track and Wednesday's mid-paced run along the canal felt easy. On Thursday I took advantage of the extra sunlight to run a longer route home. This one goes along the canal and under the Hangar Lane junction, then through Pitshanger Park and past Perivale track before following the River Brent through the golf course and Bunny Park back to the canal. It makes a nice change from the backstreets of Acton and Ealing. I took the nine miles on as a progression run, but it was a bit of a challenge with subways and other things throwing my GPS out. The pacing wasn't as neat as my previous effort and I missed the negative split on the last mile, but I was happy with my speed overall, which was certainly the fastest I've gone with a backpack on.
I neglected to have my usual rest day on Friday because I've begun to find running to work to be less hassle than other ways of getting there. This was probably a mistake, because, not only was I even more tired than usual at this time, my foot pain that had been building up throughout the week was now at an uncomfortable level. The injury worry seemed to amplify my overall feeling of being completely burnt out, so I wasn't in a good place right then. I needed to get my mojo back and getting some new running shoes seemed like a good place to start. I'm way too ashamed to say how much time or how many miles my previous ones had done, but suffice to say it was rather longer than is recommended, and this may have contributed to my foot problem. We took a worthwhile trip to Up and Running in East Sheen, and I felt better already just testing out some of what they had. I went for some cheaper Brooks ones that seemed good but I had to also get a new pair of my usual Asics Gel Nimbus despite the hefty price because they felt obscenely comfortable.
Sunday's run was the one that had been bothering me. I was to do 10 miles slow then another 10 at marathon pace, which looked to me to be the toughest run of the whole training. I didn't want to try this on my own because the muddy paths and Sunday crowds of my usual haunts didn't lend themselves to the faster paces, and I'd got a bit bored of them anyway. The organised run on this day happened to be the Finchley 20, which was my first 20-miler two years ago. This got a bad rap from a lot of the Eagles that did it last year, but I didn't mind it before as I thought the four laps broke the distance down quite nicely. The route was a bit on the boring side and it was drizzling most of the time but the miles somehow flew by. My slow ten felt like a struggle because of my left foot and right shin but these eased off in time just like I hoped they would. The second half’s speed up felt surprisingly OK. I think I managed about 6:50 miles on average after losing a few seconds on the last couple of miles, and I finished in exactly the time I was supposed to. I'm not sure that is quite three hour marathon pace if I allow for the over measuring but it is fairly close and it made me feel a bit more confident about my prospects. It gave me some indication of how I would feel after the marathon as well, for I was sore and not very mobile for some time afterwards. A sports massage in the evening confirmed what I had suspected about my left calf being at the centre of my problems. It has started feeling more like some kind of root vegetable than a muscle.
Week 10 - 57 miles
With six weeks to go, I did what I said I was going to do at this point and quit drinking. I decided that I was going to take it seriously enough to put my indulgences on hold for a while. Having the Fleet Half Marathon at the end of the week, which I intended to run as fast as I could for the Welsh Castles Relay qualification, gave me a bit of extra incentive. I knew it wouldn’t be easy but it would make the first beer after the marathon all the nicer. I now no longer had any doubt that I did have plantar fasciitis and not just a sore foot. I carried on in the hope that the taper time would allow things to heal. I was optimistic that the change of shoes would improve things. The pain tended to go away a short time into my runs so I could still get my sessions done and enjoy them too. It came back with a vengeance afterwards though. I held off running on Monday until the journey home, and I foolishly went the long way. My sole didn’t thank me for it afterwards and that forced me to have a rest day. I tried to make up for it on Wednesday by running to work, doing a lunchtime training session and then running home again. It didn’t seem to make things any worse. Lunchtime’s run was my first attempt at a fartlek, where I did what I thought I was supposed to do and changed speed at irregular intervals. It made the usual Little Venice canal run a bit more interesting by breaking it up into a serious of points and my overall pace wasn’t bad. I suffered for it on Thursday though. I still ran to work and had a slow one at lunchtime out of a sense of duty, despite being tired and hurting. After that, I was glad to be resting until Sunday. I kept up with the stretches and the ice and tried to will the collagen in my foot to bind itself back together.
It seemed like resting for more than one day in a row was doing some good because I started to be able to walk normally again. I wasn't feeling in great mental shape, though. So much for the theory that quitting the booze would make me less emotional. In fact, I found going out without drinking alcohol to be a real bummer. I think I was feeling a bit of trepidation about the half marathon on Sunday. The Fleet Half started at ideal time of 10:30 so it meant I didn't have to get up so early. I realised when I was in the car that I had forgotten my race number for the first time ever and that wasn't the ideal start to the day. Thankfully, when we got there, I managed to get a new number within seconds of asking. Fleet seemed like a nice place but not as flat as we were all hoping. I had no idea how fast I would be able to run but I thought I may as well go for it. What could possibly go wrong? My mile warmup didn't feel great because my left foot didn't appreciate me trying to run on it again, but I shot off at the start anyway. I could tell early on that my shins weren't happy but I still managed the first couple of miles pretty fast. It went downhill from there as the pain began to affect my stride and my pace steadily fell away. At three miles or so we looped back through Fleet and that was my opportunity to stop. I felt uncomfortable but all I could think of was how upset I would be if I pulled out then. I ran round the rest of the course, through pleasant country lanes still with the gentle but annoyingly constant undulations. The pain in my plantar overtook the one in my shins and that was the first time it really hampered me during a run. I slowed down to my easy training pace and thankfully managed to keep at that, and I finished in 1:37, a total disappointment after all that expectation. I went for the £10 massage afterwards and had a girl twang my poor shins repeatedly. After that, my right foot hurt as well as my left and I had one moment when I literally couldn't walk. I managed to make it back to the car but I knew I was going to be damaged for a while this time.
That run, the last of a fair few that I shouldn't have done, has hobbled me but it is nothing compared to the mental anguish. I decided I wasn't too bothered about Welsh Castles anymore. I might still scrape in with my 1:32 from Vicky Park and I might not. What is awful is the thought that all this training might have been for nothing if I can't even run the marathon at the end of it. I know I won't be able to run at all for most of the next week at least. I am seeing a physio on Tuesday and hopefully that will help. I know my hopes of getting three hours or anything close to it are all but dashed now. I need to just run it now and that's the only thing that matters, even if I don't do anything at all for the next five weeks then go round at only my slow training pace. If I can still fulfil my ambition to run the London Marathon then I shouldn't be so despondent.