Friday, January 19, 2018

That Time Of The Year

I've reached the point where I wish winter would just pack it in and fuck off. It's been freezing for way too bloody long and constantly running in the dark is getting old as well. We've had one storm after the other, and I'm actually perfectly aware that I'm getting away lightly here in Dublin; those weather systems are a lot worse on the Atlantic coast.

This is definitely the coldest winter since the two Big Freezes in a row several years ago. I don't think I even used my running tights last year at all, this year they are the only thing I would even consider wearing. And I did see that picture of a lot of my mates in shorts in the snow up the mountains on facebook the other day - though I merely regard it as proof, if ever one was needed, that machismo is fucking stupid.

Enough of the swearing.

My mileage, which I deliberately reduced when I introduced faster weekly workouts, is starting to creep up again but that's mostly down to the fact that I re-started running twice a day on occasions (ok, only one occasion so far, but there will be more to come). I am slowly coming to the conclusion that I seem to increase fitness much better on higher mileage than by doing a few workouts. However, I'll still try and get some faster miles into the legs and that parkrun idea for the weekend is still valid.

I did one workout so far this week, which was a new kind of workout in this training cycle, namely long hill repeats. There is that tasty little road towards Puck's Castle, about 1 km long, with the additional evil feature of getting steeper the higher you get. Running there from my apartment and doing 4 repeats would add up to exactly 10 miles, which seems far too round a number to pass up the opportunity.

Wednesday morning actually was the worst day of the week I could have picked due to the snow on Tuesday evening and the freezing temperatures the following night which made for tricky road conditions the next morning, especially on higher grounds. However, the frozen snow provided just enough traction to keep the workout a possibility and I got through it without slipping once, so I got away with that one.

The workout itself was interesting enough. I was sure the first repeat would be the slowest because for me that is usually still part of the warm up. Running the repeats I could have sworn the second and third ones were the fastest while I started to feel the effort during the fourth one and was tempted to pull the plug, but got a surprise when looking at the numbers afterwards and the fourth had actually been the fastest and the third the slowest! I'll probably do that workout again in the coming weeks, I like what hill repeats do to my legs.
15 Jan
10.65 miles, 1:25:39, 8:02 pace, HR 134
16 Jan
9.7 miles, 1:17:11, 7:57 pace, HR 136
17 Jan
10 miles, 1:23:20, 8:19 pace, HR 141
   4 x 1k hill repeat
18 Jan
am: 9.7 miles, 1:17:31, 7:59 pace, HR 139
pm: 9.75 miles, 1:17:07, 7:54 pace, HR 141
19 Jan
10.3 miles, 1:23:47, 8:08 pace, HR 135

Sunday, January 14, 2018


I'm trying to do 2 workouts a week at the moment, covering 2 different aspects of speed. One workout is hill sprints, the other one is a more sustained effort. The second kind of workout seems to take quite some toll on my body; a few years ago I could recover relatively quickly; these days even 2 easy days seem to be insufficient at times. I do wonder if I should make changes - I don't ever want to dig myself into an overtraining hole again, and doing speed workouts that I could not recover from is exactly what caused me to fall into that hole 2/3 years ago.

For this week I decided to do another evaluation workout. This serves 2 purposes: it is a reasonably moderate workout that I should recover quickly from, better than from a set of quarter-mile repeats, and it also provides great feedback to where my form is right now (that's why it's called an evaluation workout, obviously).

It was still pitch black on Thursday morning, and I decided against the track but did it on a loop in Kilbogget Park that happens to be almost exactly 1 mile long and very flat. A few dog walkers were about but nothing that would have caused a problem with the workout. The recent rain had left a few puddles behind but again, nothing that would have interfered with the workout, apart from slightly wet feet.

Anyway, every time I run at HR 160 I find it much harder work than I can remember, and every time I feel like I will be struggling to even complete the workout, never mind trying to hold an even effort. However, every time it turns out that it's completely manageable and in fact, doesn't leave me anywhere near as tired as other speed workouts. The same happened again on Thursday morning, but I do wonder if it does indeed start getting a bit harder.

The paces for each mile were 6:36, 6:44, 6:49, 6:51, and the recovery to HR 130 took about 35 seconds. Those numbers are a bit worse than last month, for which I have 2 possible explanations. First, after some technical difficulties there is a slight questionmark over last month's numbers, though I still do believe them to be correct. Second, I am not entirely recovered from that infection I was fighting off after New Year. Also, it took me quite some time to feel recovered after last week's speed workout, so maybe recovery really is taking longer than expected, even though I'm trying hard not to overdo it.

Anyway, the numbers aren't bad, certainly better than a lot of times in the past, so I'll keep trying for a little bit longer before I make drastic changes,

I was back in Kerry for the weekend, which meant 2 more runs along/around the lake. There is just something about that route that never fails to provide a little extra spring to my legs, the lovely scenery apparently helping me along; I didn't even mind the rain and the wind, and the fact that the road was still waterlogged on Saturday and I had to run through ankle-deep puddles of almost frozen water. On Sunday the hamstrings were complaining of being overworked on every climb for the first 10 miles, until they finally gave up moaning and settled nicely in the second half of my run, I'm not sure how climbing hills can feel easier during the second half of a long run than during the first but that's exactly what happened.

Anyway, I'm back in Dublin now, and I will be here next weekend as well. I might brave another parkrun, hoping that it will work out better than my last attempt (I spent the night in hospital with chest pains). Let's see.
11 Jan
7.5 miles, 56:18, 7:27 pace, HR 148
   4 miles eval 6:36, 6:44, 6:49, 6:51, 35 sec recovery
12 Jan
10 miles, 1:20:44, 8:04 pace, HR 138
13 Jan
12 miles, 1:34:24, 7:52 pace, HR 140
14 Jan
18 miles, 2:23:45, 7:59 pace, HR 140

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


It's 10 days into January already? Did I blink and miss half of it?

They say if time flies you're obviously having fun. They also say it's a sign of getting old, and since both apply to me I should not be surprised, I guess.

My HR had been elevated for a few days after New Year's Day. My running HR was slightly elevated but my resting HR was far more affected, at least 10 beats higher than normal. I blame that on my brother-in-law who dragged himself and his family to the big family gathering at New Year's Day despite them all complaining about being sick, with the result that half the clan subsequently suffered from some nasty virus. Thanks, Michael! I strongly suspect the higher HR readings were from the time when my body was fighting off the same infection but it seems to have succeeded, I never got sick and by Sunday I noticed the resting HR gradually starting to come down again. By Wednesday morning it was back to 38, which is just about as low as it gets (I won't say "good" because a low HR isn't necessarily a sign of top fitness).

Anyway, introducing some speedwork hasn't borne fruit just yet. My normal runs have gotten significantly slower, which makes sense as the legs are bound to be tired after workouts and I automatically respond by running slower. My legs aren't used to running fast, so I'll definitely need to give them a bit of time.

I ran 20 miles on Sunday, which I expected to be just another long run but the legs had other ideas. They never felt great but were somewhat okay for the first 15 miles. However, the route I chose had some tailwind for the first half, which I didn't even notice, which meant a 10 mile fight against the wind to get back home. After 15 miles it started telling and the last few miles were a bit of a struggle. After that run I was pretty much wiped out and just vegged away on the sofa for the rest of the day. Ah the luxuries of the rest of the family being on the other end of the country!

Having to fit running into real life is bound to lead to compromises at times, and the only time I could squeeze my next workout into my schedule was on Monday, which is not ideal the day after a tiring long run. I did a few hill sprints, which doesn't tire me out as much as other workouts. The body seems to be handling those better as well, though if that translates into better running performance in general is yet to be revealed.
6 Jan
10.6 miles, 1:23:44, 7:53 pace, HR 145
7 Jan
20 miles, 2:43:46, 8:11 pace, HR 140
8 Jan
7.5 miles, 1:08:52, 9:10 pace, HR 130
   incl 9 x 10 sec hill sprints, 2 mins walk/jog recovery
9 Jan
10 miles, 1:23:19, 8:19 pace, HR 138
10 Jan
9.75 miles, 1:19:33, 8:09 pace, HR 138

Friday, January 05, 2018

Running Fast, Slowly

The new year got off to a reasonably solid if entirely unspectacular start. I've re-started the run commute, but only one way at a time. The mileage will be slightly lower the next few weeks because speed work and long miles don't mix very well, and I want to get some speed into my legs now. There won't be the opportunity to do so later in the training cycle.

I need to be careful. After years and years of injury-free running I then acquired 2 injuries, both related to workouts. Plus, too much speedwork got me into an overtrained state that took a long time to get out of, and I sure don't want to repeat the same mistakes again.

Therefore, my speed workouts will not be spectacular, neither in length nor in pace. I'll try to run faster but not go to the well, and when I feel that the workout should be over, it will be over.

Case in point, I went to our local dirt track this morning. Since a track is 400 meters long, 400s were on the cards as it just makes things simple. There's no light available but it's an almost Full Moon and the night was clear, so a moonlit workout it was. Neither the early time nor the low temperatures were in my favour but you just get on with things. Since it was so dark that I couldn't see the numbers on the watch it was a workout entirely by feel. I also lost count early on and had no idea how many repeats I had done, but at some point realised I was tired because I had inadvertently jogged past the point where the next repeat should have started without realising, and a frazzled brain seemed to indicate that the workout should end soon. I finished with one last effort, a bit faster than the other ones, and went home.

To be honest I was a bit shocked to see such slow numbers. The first and second one don't mean much as I was taking my time to ease into the effort but then I still only ran at about 6:15-6:25 pace. Come to think about it, that is probably reasonably close to my present 5k race pace, which sounds like the right effort for 400s, but I used to run them closer to 5:30 pace, so that was a bit sad to see. But let me repeat what I said earlier, I'd much rather do an easier workout than dig myself into a hole again or get injured, and I think and feel I got the effort level right.

I just need to get used to being older, that's all.

1 Jan
10 miles, 1:18:02, 7:48 pace
2 Jan
7.5 miles, 1:06:10, 8:46 pace, HR 131
   hill sprints
3 Jan
9.7 miles, 1:15:21, 7:46 pace, HR 145
4 Jan
9.75 miles, 1:19:01, 8:06 pace, HR 141
5 Jan
6.7 miles, 57:14, 8:25 pace, HR 136
   9 x 400s, 200 rest

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year!

Dear Wind! You have been here since Christmas, making your presence felt continuously, at times in a rather forceful manner. Please fuck off. You've more than outstayed your welcome. I just want to have one single run without having to work like a trooper just to keep moving at times. Take that Storm Dylan with you as well on your way out and tell it to go elsewhere.

This might me our last Christmas in Kerry, which feels like the end of an era. We've been here since 2003, so I guess in some ways it is. To add to the feeling of moving on, our youngest daughter informed us that she no longer believes in Santa, which means that after all those years our house has now turned into a magic-free zone once more.

I used to hate Christmas for the shallow consumerism it promotes, but seeing little eyes light up at the mere thought of Santa is special and a much treasured memory. I'd like to hold onto that rather than concentrate on the superficial side of it.

On the running front, things are progressing nicely, a few hiccups notwithstanding. I always leave 2 relatively easy days after each speed session, including hill sprints, which is a nod to my ageing body and its reduced capacity for recovery, so Wednesday and Thursday were reasonably easy. The next session was on for Friday. My initial plans were another evaluation workout but the strong winds put me off, the numbers just don't make sense in those conditions, so I changed it to half-mile repeats, and since it was so windy I did them on the Ard-na-Sidhe road where it is a little bit sheltered. The plan was to run them at 6:30 - 6:20 - 6:10 pace and if I was still up for more at that point then do more at 6:10 pace. The odd numbered intervals were into the wind but net downhill (but with a nasty little steep climb) and the even numbered ones with the wind but net uphill, though the elevation change was not significant.

The first was fine, so was the second, though both could have done with a better sense of pace instead of starting out at 5:00 pace. The third was much more challenging, and it didn't help that the watch displayed slower numbers than later appeared on the web page after importing the data, which meant I inadvertently ran each repeat a few seconds faster than planned. Whether it was the pace or the wind or the asthma but I then spent the next 80 seconds trying to breath as if through a thin straw and knew that was the end of the speed session and made my way home. I also noticed afterwards that the second repeat was at a lower HR than the first despite being faster - the wind direction clearly being more significant than the modest elevation change.

Halfway through the way home I suddenly seemed to black out for a split second; I felt light headed and found myself stumbling into the middle of the road rather than running at its edge, feeling a little unsteady. However, it was over as soon as it began, and since I was on my way home anyway I  just continued on. I used to faint a few times when I was a teenager, which felt somewhat similar, and it was always related to low blood sugar, so maybe there's something in there as well. However, I sure was glad I had not attempted a fourth interval.

I was fine afterwards. I then made use of my last day in Kerry on Sunday to head for the local hills, in the freezing cold rain and the remnants of Storm Dylan still noticeable. It made for 2 character building hours.

And so ends another year. Race-wise it was disappointing with my one A-race a complete disaster, but things have picked up significantly since with an unexpectedly good performance in Dublin and some much coveted silverware in Monaghan and Sixmilebridge, and also coming first in the B2B in Howth. It leaves me with plenty of optimism for 2018.

2017 Yearly Mileage: 3062

27 Dec
10 miles, 1:17:31, 7:45 pace, HR 140
28 Dec
10 miles, 1:15:42, 7:34 pace, HR 143
29 Dec
6.7 miles, 53:28, 7:58 pace, HR 144
   3 x 800 @ 6:24 (163), 6:16 (161), 6:06 (167)
30 Dec
10 miles, 1:18:12, 7:49 pace, HR 146
31 Dec
16 miles, 2:08:59, 8:04 pace, HR 141

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Ho Ho Ho

The weather Gods aren't entirely in the Christmas Spirit this year. The temperatures dropped close to 0 again but were accompanied by icy cold rain and some biting wind, which are just about the least favourite running conditions I can think of. Of course it didn't stop me from running. It might feel a bit uncomfortable for a few minutes but once you're warmed up you're fine. And if you feel warm at the start of your run, you're overdressed.

I stayed in Dublin until Saturday, which saved me from the usual traffic jam on Friday evening that turns the trip towards Naas into a 2.5 hours stop-start session. We left Saturday lunchtime and just breezed past those sections. Now I have a week in Kerry, which means I finally have a bit of a break. I hardly had any holidays this year as I had them pay me off both times I changed jobs and immediately started new employment on both occasions.

I'm getting into damn good shape now, at least damn good aerobic shape. I think the back-to-back marathons are really paying off. I didn't do a long run or a speed session the week after Howth in order to ensure I can recover fully, but now it's systems go again.

I did another session of hill sprints this morning, on the usual dirt road to the Caragh Lake Coillte area. It was freezing cold so I did a few miles just to warm up (7:50 pace, HR 135) before launching  myself up the hill, 8-10 seconds for each repeat, full tilt as fast as you can accelerate, with a long recovery of about 2 minutes, including walking back down the hill. A few things I noticed were that the HR dropped down to 110-120 during the recovery and was still in the 120s at the end of each sprint and only went into the 140s with delayed reaction. The pressure I always feel in my chest started appearing after 3 or 4 repeats but much less bothersome that usual. At the 7th sprint I felt I could no longer produce full power output and called it a day.

I can feel it and the numbers do tell the same story. I'm starting to get into damn good shape.
22 Dec
10.15 miles, 1:23:40, 8:14 pace, HR 139
23 Dec
10 miles, 1:18:58, 7:53 pace, HR 139
24 Dec
11 miles, 1:28:01, 8:00 pace, HR 142
25 Dec
10 miles, 1:16:06, 7:36 pace, HR 144
26 Dec
8.75 miles, 1:14:48, 8:32 pace, HR 133
   incl. 7 x 8 sec hill sprints

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Happy Solstice

From tomorrow morning on it will get brighter again. Good thing too. As much as I like Winter (it's an Austrian thing), the lack of daylight does make things tricky, from SAD to the fact that running in the dark through Dublin City isn't entirely without risks. At the moment it's invariably pitch dark every time I run and cycling home from work can be a bit scary at times as well, mostly due to the appalling state of the cycle paths, especially around UCD.

Anyway, my running is entirely focused on recovery this week. For once this is going really well. It is quite astounding that running two exceptionally hilly marathons in around 3:40 is so much easier on the body than one single flattish marathon in 3:10; at least I find it rather surprising.

I never had any muscle pain, walking down the 3 flights in our apartment was never an issue (I didn't even remember that I was supposed to be sore) and running 5 miles a day, as I always do immediately after a marathon/short ultra, felt actually a bit too short. By Tuesday I was already tempted to run a bit more but didn't. Instead, I re-started my cycle commute (me being redundant sure didn't last long!), and the 20 miles of cycling seemed to tire the legs more than the back-to-back marathons had done.

Wednesday was the one day where the legs felt a bit heavy during the first mile, which I attribute entirely to the cycling, but even then they started to feel better very quickly and by the end of the run I felt so good I was sorry to be done.

My HR values have been staggeringly low. It's been a while since I last saw values in the 120s. The HRV measurements are giving me very good readings as well, the last few days have always shown a solid green light, indicating excellent recovery (still not 100% sure about the validity of the those numbers, though).

I'll take a bit of break from marathon-length training runs now, hoping to focus a little bit more on running faster rather than going through an endless cycle of marathon/recovery/marathon. I already started that the week before Howth with a set of hill sprints and one evaluation workout, as a kind of transition. However, I'll wait for at least one week after Howth before even thinking about another fast run. That phase will last until Donadea in February, at least if things go to plan, and I hope that a slightly different stimulus will help to push things up a bit more.
18 Dec
5+ miles, 43:16, 8:29 pace, HR 125
19 Dec
5+ miles, 42:01, 8:19 pace, HR 128
20 Dec
8+ miles, 1:05:03, 7:59 pace, HR 136
21 Dec
9.7 miles, 1:16:03, 7:50 pace, HR 138