As I mentioned in an earlier article, our marathon training programme was designed to take us on a path of incremental steps from week 1 towards a fitness peak for race day at the end of week 22.
There are five weeks left, which are broken down into three weeks of final marathon building plus two weeks of tapering.
The steps are now feeling steeper than they have done previously, and the body is feeling constantly tired. If I stop moving for any length of time, I could probably fall asleep – anywhere!
But the bonus is that we are now in October, and the countdown of those tough quality sessions is heading for zero.
Two nights away in the UK on business disrupted the training plan during the week (18 of 22), but I still managed to get most of the sessions completed. This had a peak overall target of 125k.
The first quality session was pulled forward to Monday to avoid a clash with travelling. I found it difficult to hit the targets, primarily because the half-marathon was still in the legs.
The task was to complete five sets of 2k at slightly slower than tempo pace with a 1k recovery in between. The complete session totalled more than 18k.
My physio Lee advised me during an appointment last week that I needed to do some of my recovery sessions on a bike if possible, as I am putting a lot of pressure on my legs, and in particular getting a lot of knotted muscles in the thigh area.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, I had the opportunity to use the bike in the hotel gym, and naïvely thought this would be easy after all of the running. I discovered that cycling uses a different set of muscles, and nobody is immune from being saddle sore!
I have pre-booked a session of physio every two weeks in the lead up to the marathon, and needed last week's session to relieve the pain in a very tender calf muscle after the Dublin Half.
It was back to terra firma on Thursday to complete 17k, which included a 65-minute run at marathon pace, and then a 60-minute recovery run on Friday.
It suited better to do the long run on Saturday this week, so I met up with Pat and Colin in Bettystown for our 7.30am start. The route took us along the sea and Boyne River, before returning to the start point following a small detour around Drogheda.
The plan was to do 8k at easy pace, then a pick-up for 10k (to 10 seconds slower than marathon pace), then another pick-up by 10 seconds for the next 8k, with a final pick-up by 10 seconds for 5k, finishing with an easy-pace 2k.
My legs were hurting at the end of the first pick-up, and although I managed to stick with the lads for the next one, I watched in vain as they strode away for the last. This was the first time that I couldn't complete a pick-up on a long run, but wasn't too disappointed with an overall time of 2:37 for the 33k.
On Sunday, I completed an am and pm run for the first time. This is supposed to train the body to run when tired. I joined the club run in Oldbridge Estate on Sunday morning. This is designed to encourage people from different groups to mix.
It was nice to enjoy the company of Mary and Veronica for a 70-minute recovery run.
The second leg was a 35-minute easy-pace run that evening. I was feeling very tired and sore on Monday.
On Tuesday, there was another hard session of speed work, consisting mainly of 3x3k repeats at tempo pace, and totalling 16k.
That now leaves just four more quality sessions before we start to taper.