On Sunday I headed out for a 20-miler, the second of my Windermere training and the penultimate serious run before the big day. It was warm and sunny, but as I was unsure where I wanted to go exactly I decided to take my backpack again, with an extra warm layer and a waterproof in case I decided to take a route which would require the train home. I ended up in part of the Royal National City Park (which I think might be one of the most amazing things about this city), and did a loop of the Brunnsviken waters with a circuit of the fabulous Hagaparken, which skirts the Western side of the water. I highly recommend this area for visitors wanting to experience some amazing Stockholm running trails! Though it was warm there was still ankle-deep snow in the shade of the trees, so going was tough and a little unsteady in places, but for the most part I was on a high pretty much the whole time. I had some energy gels with me for practise, and took one at 9 miles and another at 15 miles (or at least I thought it was 15 but it turned out to be 14, which was rather demoralising!), but didn't really feel any benefit; I'm still wondering what might be the best approach to fuelling during the marathon as I have never liked gels that much and they don't seem to help hardly at all.
Come 16 miles I decided to run home again, as the route skirts quite close to the community where I live, so I buckled down and hit the hill rising up to Danderyd, which is a cycle track and so perfectly good to run along. My aim was to get in at under 3.5 hours, and when my Garmin beeped the 20-mile signal I had been running for 3 hours and 28 minutes - perfect! This meant that I was just about at a pace of 10-minute miles, which as my target pace for the race was a little fast for a long training run, but since it was a surprisingly comfortable 3 hours and 28 I could think about upping the speed a bit for race day - we'll see. I had another mile to go until I was home, which meant I'd covered a little more distance than I'd have liked, but since I had to get straight to work when I got back I was happy to mosey along in the sun for an extra 10 minutes! I got back covered in mud from the trails around Brunnsviken and crusted with sweat from the lovely sunshine, so I gulped down a heavenly chocolate recovery shake and had a ridiculously long shower as a treat to myself!
The rest of the week was good, but hard. I stuck to mainly evening runs as a way to wind down after tiring days, and this worked in my favour energy-wise. A slow 4-miler helped my legs get going again on Monday (though I wasn't particularly sore - maybe I'm getting used to these big distances now), and a painful start early on Tuesday morning became a rather successful interval session - I'm always so pleased to cross these off my training plan, but they are quite fun once I get going. I had a rest day on Wednesday which was enjoyed with a couple of glasses of wine after I gave a talk in the department - marathon training plus low alcohol exposure meant that I was sloshing my words after only a couple of sips, but it was lovely to enjoy a nice glass of wine after so much time without any alcohol. I maximised my rest period by not running again until Thursday evening, which meant I'd had almost 36 hours off running, and since there was such an amazing spring feeling in the air I ran into central Stockholm to soak in the evening - there was a celebratory vibe rising through the city, and I enjoyed the run so much that I took the train home rather than run back and cut my time in the city short, and so I didn't get back until quite late.
Friday evening came with a killer hill session - the people living on the mountain of a street that I used for this must have thought I was crazy, running up and down and up and down on a Friday night while they were enjoying the start of the weekend, but actually it's a brilliant way to finish the week! Finally, I took a slow 4-miler on Saturday just to uncurl my back from the hours I spent at my desk working (two weekends of working in a row - give me a day off!!), and stopped 3 miles in to sit for a while and watch the ice melt on the waters near my house - it was stunning in the afternoon sunlight, and I'm a great believer in stopping to enjoy the views!
So, training is going well, but I'm glad that race day is almost here so I can have a bit more time to myself again soon! I'm at the point now where I'm always hungry, which is annoying and can leave me feeling quite down. I'm starting to adapt my eating to match the training that I'm doing, with bigger lunches and larger portions of carbs with every meal, as well as a more liberal approach to snacking. Until now I haven't felt the need to change my eating patterns, but after 5 years of running (has it really been 5 years?!) I'm finally learning to read the signs. I often find myself feeling low the day after a hard run, but with a good injection of sugar and copious wholegrains and proteins after a big training session it is possible to avoid these dips before they start. It all takes practise, though, and I'm still learning!
Chocolate recovery shake? Yes please!