Project Sub 3 – Part 1

In my previous post I gave the background on my running up to Autumn 2018. After Newport I made the decision to have one last go at going sub 3 hours for the marathon. At 53 I knew I still had a few years when I could try and do it, but I really wanted to focus on Ultras. I wanted to put everything into the task knowing I’d done my best. If I failed it wouldn’t be because I hadn’t tried my best.

I’d used the same training plan a couple of times. I knew that a plan really helped but that this one wasn’t enough. I needed another plan but rather than just randomly pick one I decided I’d rather go the full hog and employ the services of a coach. Chippenham Harriers is very luck to have Michelle Maxwell as a head coach. She, with her husband Chris, run Maxwell Coaching. One of my weaknesses I’d identified was a lack of race speed so I decided to do some shorter off-road races through the winter. It was at the first of these, the Brinkworth Bash, that I nervously approached (see my previous post where I mentioned my social awkwardness!) Michelle and asked her about coaching. I followed this up with a call and email conversation and we arranged to meet up to discuss. In the meantime I did my usual over the top think by putting together a 4 page running CV (CVs should never be more than 2 pages!).

Early November I very nervously turned up to Michelle and Chris’s place CV in hand. Michelle went through what they do and I told her about my short term goals:-

1 ) Sub 3 hour marathon in 7 months time

2) Jurassic Coast 100 mile 7 weeks later

I think it was the JC100 that was the biggest shock. It’s a hard ultra (it’s a UTMB 6 pointer) and just 7 weeks after a tough (and very different) block of training made it a big challenge. Michelle’s first question was “How far ahead of JC100 can you pull out and defer your entry?”

One important aspect of how Maxwell Coaching works is the use of TrainingPeaks as a means for tracking and planning. I’ve been using SportTracks since 2008 and my training log includes every activity I’ve done since then. Knowing Maxwell Coaching used TrainingPeaks I imported all of my data from SportTracks.

Michelle agreed to take me on and an assessment session was booked for her to look at my running style and work out my overall physical condition.

The assessment was both a scary and an exciting thing. I’d been running for a few years and had soaked up a great load of info,so I knew loads but often didn’t understand how it related to me or how to pull it all together. To have someone who really knew what they were doing take a look at how I worked and what state I was in was quite daunting but I really didn’t need to be worried. The assessment started with me running backwards and forwards at various speeds with Michelle watching and videoing. I also did a few drills. These were something I knew about but had no experience of, these were something for runners who knew what they were doing! What this showed was that my legs crossed over and my hips were not stable. I also needed to work on my arm movement looking to bring my elbows back. Other pointers included holding my head up as if there was a balloon lifting it up. I don’t think I came out of this as bad as I thought I would.

The next part of the assessment was the conditioning side. I knew this was one of my weaknesses as I’ve always been hit and miss with strength and conditioning (S&C) work. Michelle put me through a range of exercises to check my general S&C as well as mobility. What I did demonstrate was my woeful coordination.

Michelle had provided with an initial physical prep plan ahead of the assessment. After the assessment this was updated to focus on the aspects I needed to work on. After the summer of 2018 I’d had an ankle issue so the plan included a big focus on ankle and foot conditioning.

Also after the assessment my TrainingPeaks started to be populated with my training plan. This was in two parts.

1)The overall plan for the next few months, the Annual Training Plan. This is the outline showing the training blocks

2) The Calendar – the day to training tasks.

Michelle gives a week or so ahead as well as a few key future training sessions. I initially struggled with this as I was only used to roughly knowing what I was going to be doing and what I did was much more basic. It took a few weeks to get going as I’d often misread or not properly understand what I was supposed to do. I had to get into the habit of properly reading through the plan to enable me to schedule things in but once I got the hang of things I loved it.

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