Monday, January 14, 2019

Mixed Signals

The training has been ramping up recently and I’m seeing finally seeing some results, though it’s not all rosy skies.

It’s not that I had been too lazy to train properly in recent months, it was always a question of my recovery abilities being significantly compromised ever since the 24 hours race in June, and it basically took half a year to get over most of that hump.

So, the training had been fairly low-key, at least by my usual standards, and as a result the numbers I kept churning out were rather unimpressive and I wasn’t very happy about it.

In retrospect it’s fairly clear that I didn’t help myself by agreeing to run a number of 5k races with work colleagues when running at race effort was the last thing I should have done, and it definitely had a bad impact on me. I THINK that I’ve learned that lesson but that doesn’t mean I’m over doing stupid things – more of that later.

Anyway, last week I finally saw some numbers that looked much better and it looks like I’m finally making the kind of progress I have been waiting for for months. The heart rate is lower for the same effort. The pace is faster for the same effort. In fact, I finally posted an easy run at sub-8 minutes pace, which was kind of a watershed moment because that hasn’t happened for a very long time.

However, not everything is great. I started an evaluation workout on Friday, at lunchtime. I didn’t have much time so warm up was only just over a mile, and then I got into the effort. The evaluation has always been a rather moderate workout; you certainly feel the effort but it’s never too hard and I never had any problems finishing it. This time, however, after 2.5 miles, I pulled the plug. I felt like toast and running further would have meant my form was completely falling apart and the pace/effort ratio was tanking, so pulling the plug was definitely the right call.

That’s a bit worrying, because I really should not have a problem finishing an evaluation. It clearly shows that my recovery is still not back to normal and I have to be really, really careful. That lesson was reinforced on Sunday. I really thought I was being sensible and cut the long run back from last week’s 20 miles to maybe 16 or 18, but it was over a hilly section over to Greystones and back via the Cliff Walk trail, but by the time I started on the Cliff Walk I was already pretty much toast and just tried to survive the homewards journey. I opted for the short way home but the last few miles particularly were really tough, uphill and against a fairly strong headwind and I was struggling to keep going.

I was utterly baffled when I uploaded said run into Strava and saw an entire string of new segment PRs. I’ve only run that course about 4 or 5 times, and never when even remotely on form, so my segment times are very soft but still, I was really tired and trying to take it easy and just survive, so apart from Strava messing up the data I’m not sure how to explain that.

As for the stupid stuff mentioned earlier? Months ago I signed up for the annual pilgrimage to Donadea for the 50k in February . I'm still planning to run that, though I have promised myself to take it really easy, and run at least 20 15 minutes slower than my previous slowest time, in order to keep the recovery requirements to a minimum. It will require a serious amount of willpower to keep the ego in check and I have a tendency of losing it whenever I pin a number onto my chest, but for once I really need to be sensible (as sensible as you can be while running a 50k, that is).
7 Jan
10.25 miles, 1:22:37, 8:03 pace, HR 139
8 Jan
10.18 miles, 1:27:25, 8:35 pace, HR 139
9 Jan
10.26 miles, 1:25:50, 8:21 pace, HR 139
10 Jan
10.26 miles, 1:25:14, 8:18 pace, HR 141
11 Jan
4.96 miles, 36:53, 7:26 pace, HR 151
   2.5 miles @ 6:49, HR 161
12 Jan
7.24 miles, 57:43, 7:58 pace, HR 143
13 Jan
14.54 miles, 2:03:26, 8:29 pace, HR 148

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Happy New Year

Can you believe it, the first week of 2019 is already behind us. At that  rate it will be 2020 if you blink - then again, that's probably more a reflection of my own increasingly advanced age, time didn't pass as quickly when I was younger.

Anyway, I had a decent enough week. Tuesday was the first day for many months when the pace was close to 8-minute miles on an easy run, which was nice to see, even if it still wasn't quite there yet - it probably would have been on a flatter course.

Then the watch crapped out on me on Wednesday when it refused to turn the GPS on, claiming "only" 23% of battery power, which would easily have been enough for the run, but it just would not cooperate. Maybe it's time for a new one - the charging cable is rather worn by now, after over 4 years of constant use, and I'd definitely prefer one that connects wirelessly. I'll think about it some more, unless I see a really good deal in the sales. One of my show-stopper requirements is a battery time of close to 24 hours, which immediately rules out the vast majority of watches, though.

Anyway, I also had one bad run, which wasn't a complete surprise as I tend to feel tired if I run in the morning following an evening run. 12 hours is just not enough for the legs to recover fully at the present rate, and that's what happens when I run home from work one evening and back into work the next morning.

My long run on Sunday went pretty well for most of it, until the long final climb home started, which is the last 2 miles. Until then the legs had worked very well over the hilly course via Kilternan, but then I seemed to hit a limit and the last 2 miles were a bit of a slog. Never mind, all in all still a very good week, and I can finally see some progress being made.
31 Dec
6.72 miles, 56:12, 8:21 pace, HR 143
1 Jan
10 miles, 1:20:59, 8:04 pace, HR 145
2 Jan
10.2 miles, 1:24:00, 8:14 pace, no watch
3 Jan
10.25 miles, 1:24:33, 8:14 pace, HR 141
4 Jan
10.25 miles, 1:29:54, 8:46 pace, HR 143
5 Jan
6.72 miles, 55:22, 8:14 pace, HR 142
6 Jan
20 miles, 2:47:59, 8:23 pace, HR 141

Sunday, December 30, 2018

A GOAL

Well, that was slow!

I had never run a race shorter than 5K, and while I'm perfectly aware that most people treat the GOAL miles as a walk or maybe an easy jog with the family, I reckoned there would be a few faster guys there as well, keen to get a good workout.

Obviously, opening the kids' presents took precedence. Wait a second, what did they do to get so much? Did the naughty list get lost or something? Anyway, once they had gone through their stacks I jogged the 3 miles to Shanganagh Park, where Dom had organised the event. It might have been better for a fast mile to drive there, but a flat tyre put a stop to that idea, and I probably would have jogged anyway.

They had 3 start times, 9:30/40/50, and while I got there a couple of minutes before the first start I decided to give that a miss and get a bit of a rest before my mile, so the 9:40 one it was. One guy took off at the start and kept inching away, one girl went off fast as well but couldn't keep the pace, so I was in second place for a while until 2 guys passed me about two thirds in, when my oxygen depth started to tell, one of them moving so smoothly that it looked like he was out for an easy morning jog. By that time we just started to catch up with the back end of the first start, and I belatedly realised that I had chosen the worst option because the rest of the mile was spent weaving through the crowds, which made a strong finish impossible, even if I'd had the legs and lungs to do so.

Still, I was in shock when I saw my time, barely under 6 minutes. I had expected maybe 5:30 or so but was worlds away from that, and the crowds had nothing to do with it. I could have sworn I had run as fast as I could, and my cadence of 208 seems to indicate that I definitely wasn't jogging, as does the way I was totally out of breath afterwards, so it comes back to tired old legs, I suppose.

The next day I intended to go out for an easy recovery run but my right glutes felt painfully tight and absolutely not right at all, so when it still had not loosened up after a mile I binned the run and went back home. For once it was the right call, because the next day it was virtually gone.

I don't want to spend much time recapping 2018 as a running year. It was the year when I finally had to admit that my international running career is over, something I might have done in 2017 already but hey. I'm okay with that, as I have stated in an earlier post, I have a lot to look back on with pride and satisfaction, and absolutely no regrets.

I'm not sure what's in store for 2019. My training isn't going great; I managed to rebuild my endurance to the extend that I can jog 20 miles without issue but my easy pace has suddenly slowed by 30-ish seconds a mile and the VDOT numbers in training are barely improving, so something isn't quite right. However, I still enjoy a 10 mile jog as much as I ever did, and that's the most important thing. I never set out to be great runner, 14 years ago I would have been happy just to be able to finish a marathon, and I still got that.

I hope you had a good Christmas, and Happy New Year!
25 Dec
6.63 miles, 56:46, 8:33 pace, HR 140
1 mile, 5:58, HR 166, GOAL mile
26 Dec
1.75 miles, 16:02, 9:10 pace, HR 133
27 Dec
10 miles, 1:23:36, 8:21 pace, HR 144
28 Dec
12 miles, 1:44:58, 8:43 pace, HR 143
29 Dec
10 miles, 1:22:23, 8:12 pace, HR 143
30 Dec
15 miles, 2:02:13, 8:12 pace, HR 145

Monday, December 24, 2018

Happy Solstice

Things are finally starting to show proper signs of improvement but there's still a long way to go. Some days are better than others, but that's already a massive improvement from most days being sh*tty. I am able to run a decent amount of mileage again without feeling banged up, but anything faster than easy pace and I need at least 2 days of recovery, sometimes more.

Most of my runs are easy commutes ones. I managed to run either in or out of work once each day, and then either cycle or take the bus when going the other way. I noticed that I run a lot faster in the evenings, though that comes with a higher HR, so it's not as if I suddenly turn into a more efficient runner in the evenings.

On Saturday I headed towards Shanganagh Park to run about 4 miles at evaluation effort (that's about 160 HR). I was well on my way towards it when I suddenly, and very belatedly, remembered that there would be a parkrun and I would be right in it. I couldn't think of a decent alternative venue (I reckoned the promenade would already be busy) so I kept going but once in the park stayed on the field closest to the road, and where I shared the road with the parkrun I ran right at the outside and stepped into the grass when there was a group approaching. I wouldn't have done that if it were a "proper" race, but a parkrun has to share the path with walkers, prams, dogs and all other folk anyway, so I reckoned one more park user won't make much of a difference.

While I was there a girl doing the parkrun collapsed and was tended to by a few people. One person seemed to take charge and really seemed to know what to do, and after a while they had her sitting up, so I think she will be ok. It took 15-20 minutes for the ambulance to arrive, which is very long considering the hospital is maybe 2 miles down the road, but that also meant most of the parkrun was finished by the time they arrived, which had its advantages.

It was a sobering experience, especially so close to Christmas, and my own running doesn't feel particularly important in comparison. Nevertheless, I was reasonably pleased that I could hold HR 160 without too much issue and the pace seemed to hold very steady (7:00, 7:01, 7:05, 6:58) but with stopping a couple of times due to the mentioned incident that's maybe not all that valid.

Fairycastle. Photo by Anto Lee
You should always mix things up a bit, especially when not training for a particular race and therefore without a specific training plan, so when Anto told me a group of them were headed into the local hills on Sunday I joined them, despite the rather awful weather. Not knowing where exactly we were headed I was distinctly underdressed, which worked ok at first but became a bit chilly on top of 2 Rock mountain, with the wind and rain and general wet conditions, so I was thankful for Anto to lend me a second layer, after which I was perfectly snug. He couldn't do much about my other problem, namely being half blind without my glasses (and they would have been utterly useless in the wind and rain) so all I could do was to take it slowly and carefully, especially on the downhill, and try not to trip over any of the thousands of stones. Still, it came as a surprise that it was Ollie who came home with bloodied knees and not me. All in all a lovely outing with a great group.
17 Dec
9.31 miles, 1:16:32, 8:13 pace, HR 147
18 Dec
10.23 miles, 1:28:46, 8:40 pace, HR 145
19 Dec
10.29 miles, 1:22:55, 8:03 pace, HR 147
20 Dec
10.22 miles, 1:31:02, 8:54 pace, HR 143
21 Dec
10.23 miles, 1:28:06, 8:36 pace, HR 142
22 Dec
10.18 miles, 1:21:31, 8:00 pace, HR 145
   incl 4 miles at evaluation effort (~160 HR, ~7-minute pace)
23 Dec
~6 miles, 1:22:00, 13:39 pace, HR 123
24 Dec
6.7 miles, 55:46, 8:19 pace, HR 140

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Weekend Weather

It was fairly miserable outside on Saturday. I had known that in advance but it just looked worse than anticipated. I sat there on the sofa, wasting time on the computer, trying to gather enough resolve to head out, but eventually I realised that I have grown old and soft and the treadmill right there beside me was beckoning instead.

Running on a treadmill is similar to banging yourself over the head with a hammer, except a lot less fun, I imagine. After about 2 minutes I was already staring at the clock, willing it to go forward. I managed to survive with the help of a podcast, but once that was over so was my run.

When I stepped off the treadmill I felt somewhat disorientated and almost dizzy, which was weird. I wouldn't think that running on a treadmill would affect your balance like that but thankfully I managed to get into the shower without keeling over. Because it had been such a short run I had vague ideas of doing a second one later in the day but then I felt really tired, not helped by the Christmas shopping, so I left it at that.

Sunday was much better. The storm had abated and it looked positively inviting. I suppose the easy Saturday helped to have the legs in a fresher state than usual, and I headed out for a long run. I had done a 19 miler before Dublin from Bray via Kilternan and gotten the idea of adding a loop around Leopardstown racecourse, which is exactly what I did today. Spookily it worked out as exactly 20 miles on the dot right at our gate, so I guess I now have a proper long run loop. It's rather hilly, which is exactly what a long run route should be, and of course there are still plenty of options to tweak it a bit if I ever feel the need to add some extra distance.

When the hamstrings started to feel tired after about 12 miles I expected a bit of a slog on the way home but in actual fact they held up really well and I was still in pretty good shape when I got back home, pleasantly tired as they would say. That's good, it looks like my endurance is starting to come back, even if the pace is still maybe 30 seconds per mile slower than what my mind still thinks it should be at.
12 Dec
10.23 miles, 1:27:16, 8:31 pace, HR 146
13 Dec
10.23 miles, 1:26:22, 8:26 pace, HR 144
14 Dec
7.22 miles, 1:02:00, 8:35 pace, HR 135
15 Dec
5.5 miles, 50:00, 9:05 pace, HR 131
   treadmill
16 Dec
20 miles, 2:51:40, 8:34 pace, HR 141

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Doubly Forgetful

I had completely forgotten about it, but when I had met Norbert last Saturday at the parkrun we had agreed to meet up on Thursday for a lunch run. Since it had completely slipped my mind, the reminder email on Thursday morning came as a bit of a surprise - I had already done a run that morning and didn't feel too fresh.

Still, not someone to go back on his word despite some heavy legs, I agreed to go out on the hilly loop he suggested. In actual fact, the legs felt surprisingly fine, which was nice, and the easy pace seemed to suit us both.

That had been the first double in a long time, and of course completely accidental. With that, and a reasonably long run on Sunday, my weekly mileage for the week went up to 75. I'm not chasing a mile goal, but I have increased my mileage a bit recently, and it really seems to suit me. The legs are feeling better, the pace is quickening a bit, and the VDOT numbers are finally pointing upwards after months in the doldrums. There is still a lot of room for improvement but it is great to see things finally going in the right directions. I don't know what exactly happened in Irding that made me a) have a really lousy race and b) knock me out for 6 months, but I'm confident that it is finally behind me.

I'm not entirely sure what I'm training for. There is the Donadea 50k in February but that won't be a goal race. I was thinking about doing Connemara again, after a few years of absence, but it just doesn't feel the same any more since my friend Ray is no longer associated with the race. I could try and target a late spring marathon, which has a certain draw because I do wonder what time I could still achieve in a marathon with some focused training. And of course there are a couple of longer ultra options as well. Decisions, decisions.

Oh, and on Monday morning I yet again forgot to press the "start" button the watch. Dementia must really be settling in now. 7 miles, lost in time and space, because obviously if it's not on Strava it didn't happen, or so I'm told.
5 Dec
10.22 miles, 1:29:36, 8:46 pace, HR 142
6 Dec
am: 6.33 miles, 56:55, 8:59 pace, HR 134
pm: 6.56 miles, 55:34, 8:19 pace
7 Dec
10.25 miles, 1:28:22, 8:37 pace, HR 140
8 Dec
7.27 miles, 59:56, 8:14 pace, HR 144
9 Dec
17.53 miles, 2:29:49, 8:32 pace, HR 145
10 Dec
7.22 miles, ~1:02:00
11 Dec
10.2 miles, 1:22:37, 8:05 pace, HR 149

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Parkrun Blues

I ran down to Shanganagh park again on Saturday to get the legs moving once more. I left a bit late and ran the 3.5 miles towards the park a bit quicker than what would have been ideal to classify as a warm-up, but if the parkrun had started on time I still would have missed it.As it was I had 3 minutes of a breather before we set off, which was enough time to say hello to Norbert and his better half, and then line up a bit nearer to the front.

I think I got the first k pretty much spot on because after the first lap the timer guy said "four" just as I passed him. However, things were not to last. Maybe it was because I had worn myself out on teh way to the parkrun. maybe the leftover noodles for breakfast were not the ideal pre-race breakfast. Maybe I was a bit tired after the 10 miles the day before, but none of those things explain why I completely, totally and utterly fell apart after the first mile. All the guys I had passed a minute ago went streaming past me over the next few miles and apparently I was barely doing 7-minuet miles. I sued to run marathons a good bit faster than that, not very long ago! It must have been in my head because I did manage to do 5:30 pace at the end when I saw the finish line, but whatever it was, I wasn't happy with the result (20:51).

You know what? I haven't recovered from DCM, that's what. So, after a bit of soul searching, I decided to bin the parkrun idea and get back to base training, which is what I should have done 5 weeks ago. I still think my initial assertion that I needed to get some speed into the legs because I had been running exclusively slowly for much too long still holds true, but the timing was completely wrong.

Let's re-build the legs and then see if I can some zip into them, preferably without tiring myself out for a change.

Ah well. At some stage I'll get the hang of this running stuff, hopefully before I retire.
27 Nov
4.57 miles, 38:22, 8:23 pace, HR 137
28 Nov
10.21 miles, 1:27:03, 8:31 pace, HR 147
29 Nov
6.33 miles, 55:13, 8:43 pace, HR 141
30 Nov
10.18 miles, 1:25:38, 8:24 pace, HR 146
1 Dec
7.22 miles, 1:01:41, 8:32 pace, HR 142
5k, 20:51, 6:42 pace, HR 162, Shanganagh parkrun
2 Dec
12.48 miles, 1:49:03, 8:44 pace, HR 141
   very hilly
3 Dec
7.23 miles, 1:02:36, 8:39 pace, HR 135
4 Dec
10.25 miles, 1:28:13, 8:36 pace, HR 140