The runs are getting longer and faster, it's getting warmer and windier, and my trousers are getting looser: it must be April.
While the first week of May is peek training before tapering, for annual participants in the Calgary Marathon it is April that sees the hardest work.
Gearing up for a 50k, my extreme endurance ability needs work. Last year I trained using Hanson's method. 6 runs per week left little space for core work, or any other work. It also puts the longest long run at 26k. The point is more about accumulated fatigue.
This year it's the First/ run less run faster program. The 3 easy runs (out of the total of 6) are replaced with 2 cross training workouts (rowing machine and exercise bike in my case) and a core workout. Each of the 3 runs in the program is a challenge - a truly long run, a tempo, and punishing speed work. The thinking is to work harder on the runs and include one that's closer to race conditions, all while promoting fuller recovery between them (though still working hard on non-run days).
In each of the 4 marathons I've done, my right hamstring (or both) has seized up. I PB'd last year by 5 minutes due to managing that problem smartly, even though it did still happen. Still, this time around on my way to my first 50k ultra, sundays feature more 30k+ runs than ever before (5 to be exact, along with 2x 29k, 2x 26k, a 27 and 2x tempo half marathons).
My legs tend to feel toasted by about 27/ 28k. Changing to a more shuffling style to protect the hamstrings, I've found I can keep going at target race pace. It's at about my fat-burning pace I have found: legs feel awful, but I can keep going. It has often produced a mental image of a steam train fireman shovelling coal as fast as he can. Or buckets of fat.
Speed runs have me running, or for the first month of the plan flailing and gasping, at higher speeds than ever before. Despite using a gps watch, it's hard to get the right speed. Frequently, I start off too fast. For example, a recent 6x 800m: I'd do the first 500m 20 seconds per km too fast, then cling on. Misjudgments like that make the final intervals hard to complete, but if it's difficult, it's doing you good.