Andy says: I totally stormed it! I beat my stretch target by 40 seconds – not bad for a sugar-fuelled crazy Mini-Me lookalike! I can barely walk now and I'm sunburnt but none of that matters - I'm a marathon runner! I've been a total sicknote, and the final setback in the last fortnight was shinsplints. By Friday I felt OK, completed the two miler and decided to give it a go.I had a very painful massage at the expo, and got to the start feeling great – not a niggle in sight!
I found myself in a group all going for 8:30 pace, and the first mile was bang on. This set the tone. The miles ticked by and the crowds got deeper. It really has to be experienced to be believed – I felt like I was in the Olympics! I was on target for 3:45 throughout, and from Mile 15 I was passing people left right and centre. I hit Buckingham Palace, realised it was in the bag and went absolutely mental screaming towards the finish. Medal round neck, job done!
So where do I go from here? Well, it’s clear I've got some biomechanical stuff to sort out - I can't pick up an injury every two weeks! It’s been an unbelievable prize. I’d never done a marathon and I didn’t have a clue. It’s really set me up – I’m already thinking about 3:30 for next year.
Steve says: As soon as I saw Andy run for the first time, I thought he was capable of a sub-4:00, and he duly delivered with some ease. Andy had the necessary basic speed that meant 3:45 was possible but in his first marathon and with little training background, it was never going to be an easy journey. After a great start, Andy had injury problems that meant little training in the latter weeks and put his race in doubt.
Luckily Andy is a very able runner and a great listener, and he raced and prepared intelligently. He held a sub-3:45 pace well through the first half and even ran a negative split to finish in a splendid 3:44:22. This was a brilliant first marathon off such interrupted preparation. I have no doubt with another year of training behind him and as long as he stays injury-free, Andy will break 3:30. He has been a great host to the sub-4 thread and was an excellent person to coach - with the exception of the injuries!
Gareth says: Andy openly admitted he was a nutritional novice when he started back in January but he was willing to give anything and everything a go. He soon found his perfect nutrition and hydration strategy which he attributes to his success. Other runners can learn a great deal from Andy’s open mind and willingness to learn.
Weeks 14 - 15
Andy says: I managed to clock up a great last couple of long runs. A new AndyV Distance Record of 20.2miles (three hours of which were in sideways rain!) and then a 15 mile long run in glorious conditions. I also experienced my first ever ice bath - total freezing nightmare! But it was worth every freezing second as I could walk properly afterwards, instead of the Quasimodo act I’d been doing. Not for the faint hearted!
My left shin is still grumbling. Hell, every other part of my body has given me grief over the last two months so it was about its turn. I don't think its serious but all my previous injury problems stem from the week after my longest ever run so I need to be careful. Number one priority is to get to the start line. The rest I can handle… I think! I would love 3:45 in London, but perhaps more realistically would happily settle for sub-4 considering how much of a ‘sicknote’ I've been.
Steve says: Everything went so well for Andy initially that he was looking like a potential sub 3:30 runner than a sub-4. But injuries have held him back, as they do for so many prospective marathoners. Two bouts of knee problems have slowed his progress and just when that appears to have cleared, he now has a shin problem. This has curtailed the last week’s training and meant the taper has been even more of a taper than planned. However, it may not be a serious problem and shouldn't affect his marathon.
Andy has done the bulk of the work now and luckily has talent such that even with reduced training sub-4 remains achievable. It will be harder with the missed training but at least Andy will be fresh and rested!
Gareth says: The taper has been the main aspect of everyone’s training the last couple of weeks. The nutritional debate has mainly focused on water vs sport drinks. The differences between sports drinks and water have been discussed with many different points of view. Most are in agreement that sports drinks are important as long as they are taken in the right context.
Weeks 12 - 13
Andy says: Talk about a bloomin’ rollercoaster! No-one said this marathon lark was going to be easy, but this fortnight has seen a repeat of the knee pain, brand new ITB troubles – and great racing too. My knee was causing trouble, so I had to return to my old recovery strategies. But I refused to get down about it, saw my recovery period as another PB to break, and break it I did - I narrowed it down from two weeks to a week! I was planning to race at Reading Half-Marathon, but I had to make the tough decision not to race. It just wasn't meant to be this year. But then the following week at Dorney, my race went really well! I ran at the right pace, it was very comfortable and I only felt the knee at mile seven.
I may not get to the start line in the shape or form desired, but get there I will. It takes more than a dodgy knee and a smidgen of ITB to get to AndyV. Bring on VLM!
Steve says: Andy hasn't had the best luck in the last few weeks, with a recurrence of his knee problem and also an ITB niggle. The knee prevented him from running the Reading Half-Marathon, which was a shame as Andy seemed certain to PB and he wanted to revisit his major race of 2009. But it was the right and sensible decision to err on the side of caution. Andy eased back to faster running with a solid run at Dorney, which indicated that while he may have lost a little bit of fitness the sub-4 dream lives on.
As long as he has a solid last few weeks and stays on top of the niggles, Andy is sure to run a great marathon debut. He has more than sub-4 potential and even though he has missed training, race day should still find him within his target time.
Gareth says: A successful run at the Lucozade Sport Pace Your Race event has boosted Andy’s confidence that he can achieve his sub-4 goal. Andy’s main worry was his knee but it held up and he finished the race feeling fresh and ready for another 13 miles! His nutritional preparation was again successful - one less thing to worry about on race day.
There have been plenty of nutritional questions on the thread - hydration status and worrying about going to the toilet seem to be on everyone’s mind. All the runners need to be prepared for anything that the elements throw at them on the day of the VLM; quite a few are now realizing they are sweating lots more running in hotter conditions.
Weeks 10 - 11
Andy says: This week, I set a new AndyV distance world record – 20 miles in 3.08:18. I even managed one of those ‘negative split’ things I keep hearing about! Overall the run felt good - I basically just ran out into the countryside and went where I pleased. My legs were a little sore afterwards, but hell - it was 20 miles! I iced my legs and then had a long bath and it seems to have worked.
I think time on feet is now critical if I’m to do well at VLM. I feel pretty relaxed about only running four times a week, on my physio’s advice. I've just got to make each remaining LSR count. I’m also running without knee supports for the first time in a month. I don’t want to jinx anything but… Happy days!
Steve says: Andy seems to have recovered well from his injury. He followed up his very long run in week 9 with a good marathon pace run at the weekend and a solid interval session. His longest run to date has been a 20 miler, which went very well. He completed it in 3:08, ran slightly quicker in the second half and finished it feeling strong -stamina is not a problem for Andy! Andy followed that up with some good midweek runs including a solid fartlek session.
He still needs to nurse his knee problem but all being well, Andy will aim to put all his good work to use with a half-marathon PB at Reading.
Gareth says: Andy has had a really promising week and seems to be back on track since his injury – he’s in pursuit of a personal best at the Reading Half-Marathon on Sunday. He has been practicing different nutritional strategies on his long runs in order to find the perfect plan for the VLM, and has currently settled on a strategy of 300ml Lucozade Fuel and a gel every hour, plus water. This strategy fuels his performance and also maintains his hydration.
Hydration has been discussed in greater detail on this thread, including the tricky question of how quickly to consume fluids. I advised that drinking slowly is a more effective method of hydration. Other forum users have discussed how they can take the complex science of sports nutrition and apply it to their races, the benefits of sports drinks over water and how runners of different weights have to prepare differently for races and long runs.
Weeks 8 - 9
Andy says: Happy days – I'm back running! I was a bit tired at the end of my first run back, so I've clearly lost a bit of fitness but even when the heavens opened and I got absolutely soaked I still had a smile on my face. Running really does improve the mood doesn't it?! I'm not 100% (more like 80-ish) but I can run as long as I follow a few ground rules: three to four runs a week maximum (on alternate days), with light cross-training as an alternative. Physio Phil suggested 75% of max effort for a while, so the speed and hill sessions might be off the agenda in the short-term. The knee problem has been my first ever running-related injury and on reflection, in some ways I'm glad it's happened - and happened at this stage of the process.
Steve says: Andy's injury cost him training and fitness and he started Week 8 gently. He gradually resumed training with a six-mile run, a faster two-mile session, the Training Day track session and a long run. The injury held up well so in Week 9 he has stepped up a level with some speedwork and his longest run to date.
Andy has potentially lost a little endurance but such is his ability, the effect should be minimal. His pacing for his long run was superb and his speed was fine. He was very patient and sensible when dealing with his injury and his measured return to training and attention to detail (in terms of nutrition and preparation) have been remarkable. Now he has to be careful not to try and make up for lost time by squeezing in too many harder sessions in the time remaining. If he stays healthy and maintains his drive and enthusiasm, then a sub-4:00 finish should be a certainty.
Gareth says: Andy has his pre-race routine pretty much perfected. He has a large bowl of porridge three hours before running and then drinks a Caffeine Boost an hour before he sets off. There was some great debate on his training thread this week about the perfect bowl of porridge - the fine art of how long to "nuke" it in the microwave, various toppings and portion sizes.
On-the-go fuelling strategies are now a priority and a particularly hot topic is how to use a combination of Body Fuel, carbo gels and water. All are available on course at the Virgin London Marathon but different runners have different preferences on how best to use them. Andy is currently practising a strategy that involves him taking on 350ml Lucozade Body Fuel and a gel every hour, as well as sipping water.
Weeks 6 - 7
Andy says: This week, I've been unlucky enough to join the others on the injury bench. I've got Supra Patella Bursitis – aka Housemaid's Knee. Trust me to get a real "manly" injury! This is the first setback in my running career (a whopping 18 months) and I just feel cross. I'm the fittest I've ever been, yet here I am debating whether I can do a snail-paced jog or two.
I like to deal with problems head on, but I've got to wait and see the doctor and physio. So, frustratingly it's out of my hands. My general philosophy on things when things are bad is "have a bag of Minstrels, deal with the problem, move on". I can do the first bit, but I'm having trouble waiting for the next part…
Steve says: Everything was going so well for Andy, He did a great long run two weeks ago and then followed that up with a superb 400m session (where he ran faster for each rep) and a solid six-miler. However, the next day he felt something wrong in his knee and his marathon training came to a halt. Andy was quick to ice the injury initially and saw a physio who diagnosed Supra Patella Bursitus. Andy has been remarkably patient, has carried out his strengthening exercises and is hopeful of now testing out his injury.
It's almost inevitable that anyone preparing for a marathon will pick up some sort of niggle during their training. Experienced runners can sometimes run through niggles (or ease back slightly) unless they feel something is particularly bad. But beginners (or those with little marathon background) need to be more careful until they know their body (and its limits) better. It is more important to reach the startline having missed some training than not get there at all. As Andy has been sensible, I am confident that he will be back on track soon and as he was in such good shape prior to this injury, he should still be ahead of where he needs to be at this stage.
Gareth says: An injury to Andy's knee has prevented any further progress over the last week or so. He has therefore had to alter his nutrition as he is exercising less. Andy had provided me with a week-long food diary - from this, I was able to split Andy's diet into the three most important food categories: carbohydrate, protein and fat. I then compared Andy's diet to the recommendations of an athlete at his level of activity. On the whole, his diet was good and well-balanced and his post-run recovery strategy was excellent. Porridge with raisins, together with a recovery product, contain the carbs and protein your body needs to help recovery. Also, by having five small meals throughout the day, Andy has been able to eat enough calories while avoiding that bloated feeling you can often get with three large meals. Andy runs early in the morning so consuming a large amount of carbs in the evening will help fuel these sessions - by doing this, he won't have to get up earlier to eat. Andy has also been consuming around two litres of fluid per day to ensure he is adequately hydrated.
Weeks 4 - 5
Andy says: My 10K build-up race this fortnight turned out to be more dramatic than expected. I wanted the day to go like clockwork - I even had a nutrition plan – but a family emergency struck on the morning of race day. Thankfully everything turned out fine, but I wasn't exactly in the best frame of mind when I hared off to the race. Despite this, and Lord knows why, I got to the start line and felt totally calm. I then went and beat my 10K PB by 1 minute and 45 seconds!
It's taught me that I'm mentally tougher than I thought, that I really want this and that nutrition (timing and quality) can turn a mediocre performance into an excellent one. Lesson well and truly learned - now I'm hoping to take it easy and avoid any more drama!
Steve says: Andy started the fortnight in style with a fantastic 10K PB despite a family crisis. The time confirmed that Andy has more than enough speed to break four hours, and his sub-7-minute-mile effort probably suggests he could easily break 3:30 and even possibly 3:15! However, while the speed is there, his stamina and endurance are still an unknown at this early stage. He has coped well with everything so far but the real long runs are still some way ahead.
Andy's pacing has improved though he still occasionally runs too quick - he ran a suggested marathon-pace session at a level more akin to a sub-3:15 runner. One area where Andy is improving greatly is his nutritional knowledge and this should keep him strong for his coming long runs. He certainly thought it helped in his 10K. At the moment Andy remains on target for a substantial sub-4:00 performance but he must stay healthy, build his endurance and keep his pacing in check.
Gareth says: I am currently in the process of analysing Andy's weekly food diary - lots of the athletes on his thread are looking forward to the results! He recently ran a 10K PB and though he said he would usually never choose to race at that time (1.30pm) as he tends to feel lethagic, he's sure the timing and quality of his fluid and fuel intake played a signficant role.
Andy seems to have found his performance partner with our Caffeine Boost - normally when he runs, his concentration can wane (followed by a deterioration in pace) but having tried Caffeine Boost, he felt focused and "in the zone".
Weeks 2 - 3
Andy says: Committing to five runs a week isn't easy. The bad weather and snow hasn't helped but clearly I need to adapt and have Plan Bs and Cs to juggle family, work and running commitments. I'm still running far too fast – I blame it on having to rush back to work after lunch! I know I'm terrible at pacing as well as a self-confessed treaddie demon (my times outdoors are nowhere near that good). But I'm anticipating that as the mileage really starts to jump up my excess speed will melt away…
Now I'm finding that even though I'm only mid-way through week 3, I'm always hungry. My late night bowl of Shreddies is starting to resemble the leaning tower of Pisa! Is anyone else getting the munchies? That aside, I'm feeling fresh, healthy and more informed. Happy days!
Steve says: Andy has done everything and more so far, fitting it all the training with ease over the first three weeks as well as work and family commitments. His one fault in the early weeks has probably been his habit of doing everything a little too quickly. Andy's speed is much more developed than either his endurance or pace judgement - but he's learning fast. Now that Andy's far more comfortable with his Garmin he has adjusted to a much better pace. He is still slightly faster than the advised paces, but within reasonable bounds considering his 10K speed, and this speeding is unlikely to adversely affect his longer runs.
His body may take a while to adjust to the heavier training weeks ahead and the longer races but he is very strong - his weight training should stand him in good stead. However, the success of his marathon campaign will only become apparent when he starts on the longer runs and races.
Gareth says: So far, Andy has mainly focused on how to ensure he is adequately hydrated, both before a run and throughout the day. His hydration status is definitely a work in progress but he is quickly gaining an understanding of various solutions to help determine your level of hydration, whether that's checking the colour of your urine, running with a hydration backpack or stashing drinks on his regular running loop.Andy and I have agreed that he will keep a food diary for a week - I will then analyse this and report back in the forums. I'll be looking at what he is eating for his main meals and also what he is eating in and around his training sessions. That way, I'll be able to provide some information for the "Average Joe" runner. Andy summed up his progress last week by saying that he now has a better understanding of hydration but just needs to put it into practice!
Andy says: As a novice marathon runner, I've got three aims for VLM 2010: finish, go sub-4:00, and learn how to train effectively for years to come. I've got a lot to learn, and pace management is my biggest issue. I'm fast over short distances, and I know I have potential but there's no way I'll be going off quickly in London - I've no idea how my body will react at the dreaded 20 mile point.
Because of the wintry weather, I'm stuck on a treadmill – a necessary evil but it's starting to bug me now. The main lesson I've learned so far is that with a family, work and this weather you need to be flexible, think ahead and have a plan B, C and maybe D. Now, I wonder if I can incorporate nappy-changing into my dynamic stretching routine...
Steve says: With just a year's running behind him, Andy faces a huge challenge, largely into the unknown. There is no way of knowing yet how Andy will cope with the significant increase in mileage and the grind of a four-month build-up but he is extremely keen and has good, natural speed.That said, he does need to slow down some of his training runs as he has a tendency to run more like sub-3:00 than sub-4:00 marathoner, and with the extra miles required for a marathon, it's important he paces himself correctly so he doesn't burn out or get injured before April.
Andy doesn't really have a history of following a schedule or doing organised speedwork so this too will be a big learning curve and he will need to be discliplined. The key to him reaching his target will be doing the long runs at the right pace and staying fit and healthy through the winter - I have every confidence that if he manages this, he will sail under the four-hour barrier.
Gareth says: Andy has been very active on his training thread, posting information about his latest runs and how he has felt while completing them. Although his nutritional knowledge isn't very advanced - something he is happy to admit - he is always keen to ask questions in order to learn more. Most recently, he has been asking how the consumption of caffeine might affect his performance and was interested to learn that the average cup of coffee has less caffeine than a bottle of Lucozade Sport Caffeine Boost.
In addition, Andy's hydration has affected one or two of his runs so far. As many runners are aware, the colour of your urine can indicate how hydrated you are but ensuring you are fully hydrated before a run isn't always easy.
Andy says: I remember the exact date I started running – it was Christmas Eve last year. I realised I'd got fat and couldn't carry on as I was. I signed up for the Reading Half-Marathon there and then, even though I used to hate running.
Now running means a lot of things to me – it makes me feel good about myself, and helps keep the weight off. I've got two children and a busy work life, so running is my time. I go out at the crack of dawn (partly to avoid changing nappies) and just leave it all behind. Usually I run with no science or strategy, but I want to do my first marathonproperly. I'm hoping to use all the support and advice I get over the next few months as a springboard, and apply what I learn to my running for the next five, ten, even twenty years. Steve has a no-nonsense, straight talking approach that I really like – he's already told me off for going too fast!
I'm looking forward to getting involved with the forums more, and sharing what I learn too. I love the fact that no matter what I ask on there, within a couple of hours I'll have advice from least four different forumites!
Steve says: Andy has no marathon experience and hasn't much running background. However he has bags of talent and more than sufficient speed to comfortably break four hours. That said, at this stage there is no way of knowing how he will cope with the increased mileage required in marathon training or how he will cope when he gets past 20 miles.
Andy is clearly going to have to step his training up significantly, which will increase his risk of injury. He seems to have plenty of motivation and enthusiasm but admits he can get carried away and not listen to his body. This will be crucial over the months ahead - even when you are following a schedule, you need to know when to ease back and when the best option is actually rest.
His half-marathon time of 1:42 shows he already has the basic speed and as he achieved this so early in his running career, I suspect that he can take many minutes off this time, especially when his endurance improves with the marathon training.
Gareth says: Andy is very keen to learn how he can improve his performance through nutrition. He started running originally to lose weight but is now looking to beat his PBs through maintaining a healthy diet and drinking the right products.
One of the key areas we need to work on is how he can take on fluid when training - a common problem for a lot of runners. Proper hydration before, during and after your runs is crucial for a successful performance and can really make a difference when competing.