Hang on a minute, how can it be that time of the week already? Well, the fact is that my work is done now and there really are no more interesting (read "hard") workouts between now and the Seville Marathon a week on Sunday. It's a bit like organizing a wedding: on the day there is nothing you can do except cross your fingers, everything has already been set in motion. (As you may remember, I got married in Seville.)
I have to say that I rarely get DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) or "stiff muscles" these days but this week has been an exception. I think that the point of having the long run on Sunday following the hard series on Saturday was to make sure I ran on fatigued legs. In a Marathon, as your legs get tired, certain muscle fibers fatigue and you end up recruiting more and more muscle fibers to replace them. Normally we recruit only a fraction of all the available muscle fibers. So I think the idea is to make sure that I train these "fibers of last resort" before taking them out for a spin for the first time at the 35 km marker in the Marathon. It is also for this reason that it is important to do weights.
My weights sessions are carefully calculated not to make me bulk up but rather to increase my resistance. The number of sets, repetitions, the amount of weight and even the speed at which I lift and lower the weight are all meticulously prescribed. On Tuesday I did a session of 6 sets of 8 repetitions at 75% of my maximum - the maximum being what I could lift once and once only. To give you some idea, 75% is about as high as it goes (I seem to remember having done a session of 85% x 4 reps). In my case, this equates to a leg press of 260 kg, calf lifts of 87 kg, leg curl of 65 kg and leg extension of 98 kg. To work out these numbers it wasn't necessary to actually try to lift my maximum weight - instead a mathematical formula was used which relates weight to the maximum number of times it can be lifted to failure. It's only a formula, but my perception is that it is pretty spot on.
After my mega weights session I was even stiffer on Wednesday (particularly in the glutes which makes sitting down a bit of a pain, literally). Wednesday was The Last Hard Training Session Before The Marathon: two lots of 30 minutes at just below anaerobic threshold. As I had a work call at 9pm (a conference call with NY and Sydney!) I started the session quite late. When I train hard and late, I tend to go to sleep quite easily but then I wake up at around 2am with my mind buzzing with activity. Last night was no exception. I was very pleased with how the session went: Jonathan had said to "enjoy it" which might seem hard for anyone but a hardened runner to understand how anyone could "enjoy" running at 16 kph (16.5 kph according to the treadmill) for a total of an hour on the treadmill, but enjoy it I did. My pulse for the first half only got up to 165 bpm which is only a smidgeon above the pulse rate which I plan to maintain for the entire Marathon; in the second half, it crept up to 172 bpm by the end, still some way off my anaerobic threshold (178 bpm). It felt easy. Maybe it was helped by the fact that the heating is broken in the house so it was nice and cold. I've recently got hooked on The Wire so I watched an episode from the first series to take my mind off the discomfort. Although I am pleased to have found a solution to doing these series that, previously, I found very difficult to complete (too hot, too boring, too easy to stop), I have come to realize that there is an aspect I am not training by running them on the treadmill and that is the mental aspect. The treadmill forces you to keep up the pace and, as you get tired, you find yourself having to make a correspondingly greater effort. If you run outside, you have to concentrate on maintaining the same pace by being aware of how you are naturally slowing down over time. I noticed this last week in the third set of my three series of 20 minutes hard running: the sun had gone down and I was not aware that I was running significantly slower than the first two (and at too low a heart rate).
Without wanting to tempt fate, I have to say that the preparation for this Marathon has gone perfectly. The only "hiccough" (hiccup for American readers) was getting stressed out about having too much work work and too much training work. Here you can see how the training load has been over the last 9 weeks (bearing in mind that we are still halfway through the 9th week). The top bar chart represents the "objective load" or TRIMPs (TRaining IMPusles) equivalent, the middle bar chart is my "subjective load" based on my perception of each session and bottom chart shows how much time was spent in each zone (I = below aerobic threshold, III = above anaerobic threshold and II = in between).