Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I Feel Good

For once I actually managed to go to bed at the planned time. By 9 o’clock I had put the last of the kids to bed, by 9:15 I was in bed myself, and by 9:30 I was asleep. I woke once or twice, but each time managed to fall asleep again quickly, and when the alarm rang at 4:30 in the morning I felt totally refreshed after 7 hours of sleep. I looked out of the window and was stunned by the brilliant sky. There was no moonlight whatsoever, and the stars looked even brighter than usual. There was even a satellite going over (at least I presume it was a satellite – it was way too fast for a plane, and it wasn’t a meteorite).

I had a big breakfast, namely my usual wheat cereal, a slice of Niamh’s delicious dates-and-walnut bread, and a small banana, all washed down with lots of water. After that I felt ready for my 20-miler.

I had originally put on just a long-sleeved top, but thinking about the cold weather forecast I overruled my instinct and put on a singlet underneath. As a result I was uncomfortably hot once I had warmed up. At mile 4 I had enough and took off the singlet. Cue me trying to put the jumper back on and then the reflective sash I wear to ensure I’m being seen by any passing motorist. I don’t know why, but I really struggled putting the sash back on correctly – I must have fumbled in the dark for at least two minutes, and would have looked like a complete idiot, had anyone been awake to witness the spectacle. Of course, 5 mile is a turn-around point, and all of a sudden I realised I would be running into the wind for the next few miles, and started to feel cold. I put on the singlet again (a dark singlet over all my reflective gear – not very safety conscious) and made my way back towards our driveway. At mile 9.5 I could see the light of a lorry coming down the road, and quickly ripped off the singlet again, to ensure I’m being seen – no panic, by the time I had it off, the lorry was still half a mile away.

I left the singlet at our driveway, because the second half of the run consisted of two loops to Ard-na-Sidhe, and that’s in the wood and therefore sheltered from the wind. I also had a gel at mile 10, and another one at mile 15. By the way, can I sue Powerbar for false advertising? Their strawberry-and-banana gel tastes nothing like either strawberries or bananas.

Anyway, I couldn’t believe how well I felt. My legs started to feel a bit tired at mile 17, which is the distance of each of my last three long runs, so maybe I was starting to get used to that distance, but I still felt strong, and towards the end took the last climb to our house at good pace. I finished the 20 miles in 2:50, and could have run faster (and had at least 4 minutes break, for my clothes change and the two refuelling stops), which means my actual running pace was faster than 8:30. This gives me hope that an average pace of 8:20 might really be possible 26 days from now. I’m actually really looking forward to the marathon now, I feel ready.

27 Feb: 5 recovery miles, 47:45, 9:33 pace
28 Feb: 20 miles, 2:50, 8:30 pace if you include the breaks in the overall time

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Sleeping, Running and another Photo

Thanks for all your helpful comments. I’m actually well aware of how you train your children to sleep, and we’ve been through the “bring them back into their own bed again and again and again and again” phase. That’s how we got them to sleep in their own beds in the first place. It’s just that the boys have recently developed a tendency of coming into our bed at some stage. Shea is usually better, he tends to stay in his bed once I bring him back, but Cian isn’t quite there yet. I'll take your comments onboard and try to be more stringent again. But would you believe it, last night they all slept in their own beds, and we weren’t woken until 7:20 am. Anyone who doesn’t have kids will be horrified by the fact that I call sleeping until 7:20 on a Sunday morning a rare luxury, but parents will know exactly how rare that is.

Enough of sleep, or lack of it, this is still supposed to be a running blog. I did my 10-mile tempo run this morning. Well, when I say morning, I mean I left at about 10:30. It is so much easier during the week. The alarm goes, I get up, eat something and head out of the door without thinking. On Sundays, I stay in bed, and “just 10 minutes more” become 30 minutes, then an hour, then 2, and if I don’t get up then I might miss my run completely.

Once I managed to get out, I felt really good though. The last few weeks have been very consistent between 51 and 49 miles each, and I’m probably fitter than ever before in my life. I felt very strong all the way. At some stage I overtook a couple who were gently jogging along. They wore thick hats, gloves, long pants, and several layers on top, including a fleece. Imagine the contrast to me in shorts and t-shirts. When I told Niamh she said they must have been more sensible, but I don’t think so. I wasn’t cold, and I would have felt uncomfortably hot in their attire.

The miles just flew along, and I was back home in 1:15, which is probably as fast as I have ever managed 10 miles. It also gives me just about 50 miles for the week. The marathon is four weeks from today. There is just one more week of proper training, and then the taper begins. My, hasn’t time flown.

26 Feb: 10 miles, 1:15, 7:30 pace

Friday, February 24, 2006

The one Thing missing from my training

is adequate sleep. I’d sure like to get some more, but it’s not really forthcoming for the time being. I went to bed at 10.30, which would have given me 7.5 hours of sleep. My next mistake was to open a book to “read for 5 minutes”. Of course, 5 minutes turned into 10, then 15 and by the time I finally put it down, it was 11pm. That still would have been a decent amount of sleep, but at 3am I woke up to find myself sandwiched by Cian on my left and Shea on my right. Well, if you’ve ever had the misfortune of sharing your bed with one or two little boys, you know that they don’t just sleep. They twitch, and turn, and cough and kick, non-stop. Every time I was on the verge of falling asleep, I got another kick/prod/elbow. This went on until about 4am, when Shea woke up and demanded some breakfast. Now, we have been through this dozens of time. He says he’s hungry and I tell him he can’t have any food because it’s still the middle of the night. 30 seconds later the cycle starts again, until eventually I give up, get out of bed and fix him some breakfast. He’s more insistent than I am. I have yet to win such an argument.

I made him promise to get back into his own bed once he’s finished the cereal, which he did to be fair, and I was therefore able to get another, well, 1.5 hours of sleep until the alarm clock went off. All in all that’s probably between 5.5 and 6 hours of sleep, and I can’t remember the last night when I've had significantly more than that.

Yes, I know. I have written very similar entries before. It’s just that these events are re-occurring far too regularly, and Niamh has the ability to sleep through those things and I don’t. Plus, Niamh is not a morning person while I am, and the kids know that.

I still ran 11 miles. The weather forecast had been wrong, and it was much warmer than expected. I had originally chosen long pants, but changed into shorts before I left the house. I still wore a singlet under a long sleeve shirt, and was uncomfortably hot for the first half of the run. There was a big black cloud in the sky, which I expected to drop its load onto me for most of the run, but apart from a few isolated raindrops, that never happened. At the return leg the wind picked up significantly, but I made it home before the weather took a bad turn. During the day the announced bad weather came indeed (well, sleet rather than snow), and I was glad that I had just about managed to avoid it during my run.

I’m planning to do another 10 mile tempo run on Sunday to round up the week.

24 Feb: 11 miles, 1:31, 8:16 pace

Thursday, February 23, 2006

What, Yet Again?

Is it really only a week since my last interval workout? I can’t believe it, it seems like only two days ago.

The kids have been a bit more reasonable the last two nights, though there is still a lot of room for improvement. I’ve written so much about my sleepless nights, that the Google ads now advertise insomnia remedies on top of my blog. Thanks for the hint, Google, but I won’t drug my kids, tempting as it may be at 2:30 am.

I forgot to set the alarm today, but woke up anyway. It’s a bit warmer today (the cars’ wind screens were not frozen over) and the schedule called for 5x600 intervals with 90 seconds of recovery. Trackless as I am, I translated that into my by now familiar pattern of 2 minutes of hard running between the recovery intervals. I started out a little bit easier than on my previous 600s two weeks ago, because I didn’t want to run myself to the ground again during the first interval. I do notice the major drawback of my lack of a track, namely that I haven’t got any real feedback on how fast I am actually running, and I can’t gauge if I’m really doing 600s, or if it’s more or less.

Anyway, I did my 5 reps and true to recent form decided to add another one at the end. Intervals are a pain (sometimes literally), but they are over quickly, and I do get a feeling of achievement out of them.

The weather forecast predicts a “morning rain or snow shower” for tomorrow. Please, Oh Dear Weather God, let them be wrong!

23 Feb: 6.7 miles, 55:17, 8:15 pace, with 6x600 intervals

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

What happened when?

I’ll try and remember the sequence of last night. I went to bed at 10, but took about half an hour to fall asleep, and woke a few times between then and midnight. Then I slept soundly until 2:30am. Then it starts to get confusing. Shea came to our bed and crept in. Then Lola came, and stayed there as well. Then I carried Shea back into his bed. Then Lola started to crawl all over me and I gave out to her. Then I had to console Lola who was crying because I had given out to her. I carried her into her bed, and I made her a hot water bottle, and we made up. Then Shea came back, saying he was too cold. I carried him back again and made him a bottle as well (or were the two water bottles the other way round? Not sure). Then Cian came into our bed. Then Cian wanted some breakfast. After I had prepared some cereal, I managed to fall asleep again, at about 3:15 or so.
At 4:55 the alarm went and I got up. To my immense surprise Cian had quietly gone back to bed again after eating a bowl of cereal – that’s a first, even if he went into our bed rather then his.

Oh, yes, running. I did 17 miles again, this time at a more conservative pace than last week’s supposed marathon pace effort. My legs felt quite heavy. The lack of sleep didn’t help, I guess, and neither did the fact that I had been playing football on Monday evening. I managed all right, though I would have preferred to run a bit faster. Interestingly, two weeks ago I did exactly the same run at exactly the same pace, but then my average heart rate was 5 beats higher than today.

The weather is fine at the moment, just a little chilly in the morning (I guess it was about 26F/-3C at 5am). Still, that’s preferable to rain, and Caragh Lake mirroring the moon did look splendid, I have to say. And the kids slept right until I came back home, allowing Niamh to get some rest herself. What more can you ask for?

20 Feb: 5 recovery miles, 47:19, 9:27 pace
21 Feb: 17 miles, 2:29, 8:45 pace

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Running on Empty

I had two rather contrasting runs of late. On Thursday evening, Niamh and me were admiring the incredibly clear night sky with a million stars and not a cloud in sight. When I left for my run just a few hours later, it was raining extremely heavily. So, out I got my trusty rain jacket and we headed off for a 12 miler, which went very well despite the miserable conditions. I even ran a bit longer than planned, to make it more like 12.5 miles.

Today, Sunday, was the total opposite. The weather could not have been nicer, but the run was dreadful. It was my own mistake. We had gone out to the Cinema last night, and I hadn't eaten properly. I had a slice of pizza and a packet of crisps for “dinner”, and when we got home I wolfed down a protein bar because I was ravenous. I paid for that during my run, because I felt absolutely miserable, and thought I was running on empty. I was very tempted to cut the 8 miles a bit short, but I saw it as penance for not looking after myself properly. I presume I’ve learned that lesson now, and won’t repeat the same mistake again.

It has been a good week, despite today’s run, and I covered 49 miles. I was half tempted to head out for a quick mile to make it a round 50, but decided that this would be just silly. 50 is just as random a number as 49, and a one mile run will not make me a better runner.

17 Feb: 12.5 miles, 1:40, 8:00 pace
19 Feb: 8 miles, 1:06, 8:15 pace

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Intervals Again

It was that time of the week again. Intervals. I felt really stiff when I left home in the morning, and dreaded the time when the fast stuff would be starting. The weather didn’t help – very windy, and with gusts of rain from time to time. The schedule called for 3x1000 intervals with 2 minutes of jogging for recovery. As usual, I had to improvise, and ran 4:15 minutes hard with 2 minutes jogging. During the first interval I thought I was going to throw up, and the 2 minutes between the first and the second run were the shortest 2 minutes of my life. During the second run I was so concentrated that I didn’t even notice that the rain had started again – I noticed it only after I slowed down for the recovery. But strangely, I started to feel a lot better at that point. I ran the third interval, and then, on my way home, I thought what the hell, turned around, and added a fourth interval because I didn’t feel tired enough.
All in all the workout lasted about 55 minutes, and I feel fine, if a little stiff. Tomorrow I’ll do 12 miles, and an 8 miler either on Saturday or Sunday.

I also found a new picture of Caragh Lake. I liked it, and decided to turn it into my header. It’s taken from the top of the Devil’s Elbow, and you can see most of the lake. The HTML needs a little more tweaking, I’ll do it when I find a spare hour. Our house isn’t in the frame; it’s a bit further to the right. Still, it’s a nice scenery, isn’t it?

15 Feb: 5 recovery miles, 46:37, 9:19 pace
16 Feb: 6.5 miles, 56:18, 8:39 pace, with 4x1000 intervals

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Fine Run

Last night we had a really bad storm on the Irish west coast. I was quite worried about today’s long run, and, to add to my troubles, I didn’t go to bed until after 10 o’clock, and then spent another 25 minutes reading. That was stupid, but in my defence, it was Lydiard’s book “Running with Lydiard”, and I found it really difficult to put down.

Anyway, I set the alarm for 5am, but woke up on my own accord at 4:59. How is that for timing? I had a quick look out of the window, and there was a beautiful scenery with the Full Moon and a few scattered clouds. Fantastic! Unfortunately by the time I was ready to get out, a massive black cloud covered the moon and promised a wet start to the run. It caught me by mile 1, but half a mile later the moon came out again and it soon stopped raining. That set the pattern for the run, the moon was brilliant, and when it disappeared behind a cloud I knew that I was going to get wet again 10 minutes later. It never rained heavily though, and it was still an enjoyable run. The plan was to do 17 miles, 14 of which at marathon pace. As I’m still undecided on what pace I can sustain for 26 miles, I just ran a strong effort, without getting too close to my lactate threshold pace.

As it turned out, I managed an average of 8:10 for the whole duration, but I think I might have slowed down towards the end. If I try to hold an 8:20 pace for the marathon, this would give me a finishing time of 3:38, which is nearly 20 minutes off my present PR, and that sounds a bit over-optimistic. I guess I will have to decide on the day, depending on how well I feel, what time I shall be aiming for. (Having said that, I will probably start too fast and pay for it later on – as always).

14 Feb: 17 miles, 2:19, 8:10 pace

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Bad Start

The kids were an absolute nightmare in the morning. Lola woke at 5:30 and demanded a hot water bottle, because she was cold. Once that was delivered, Cian woke up, and demanded a bottle. He doesn’t usually get one in the morning, but I was in no mood to argue. When he finished it off, Shea wanted breakfast. Then Cian wanted breakfast. Then they wanted to watch telly. Then they argued about what to watch. Then Lola wanted breakfast. Then they argued some more. Then they broke a lamp. Then …. I can’t remember what else, but I was up and about until 9 am, when Niamh got up, and I went back to bed for some more much needed sleep, and dozed for another 2 hours.

After such a bad start to the day, I was tempted to call it an off day, but eventually gathered enough resolve to head out of the door. I had planned a 10 miles tempo run. Initially I felt really slow, and then tried to gradually up the pace until I was at or about 8 minutes per mile. After 5 miles I felt much better, but at 6 miles I felt a sharp pain just above my left knee. I decided to keep going, but turn back home if it re-occurred, but it didn’t trouble me any further. I finished the run at some good pace, and was quite happy with it. I’m a bit sore now, which I presume is because I have been running on 4 consecutive days, which I’m no longer used to after my cut-back due to injury. I’m sure I will recover sufficiently tomorrow to have a good go at Tuesday’s 17 miles, 14 of which should be at marathon pace. I’m still unsure about what pace I might be able to sustain for a whole marathon, but I guess Tuesday’s run will give some clues.

I did 49 miles this week, which means I’m back on schedule.

12 Feb: 10 miles, 1:18, 7:48 pace

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Back to Schedule

It’s only six weeks until the marathon, and, with the taper, it means there are only three more weeks of full training. I’ve decided that I’m finally fully mended – the achilles hasn’t troubled me unduly lately (it hurt towards the end of Tuesday’s long run, but not too badly) and the pain in my left quad is better as well, so I’ve decided to return to the full schedule of five runs a week rather than the four I’ve been doing for the last 4 or 5 weeks.

I did 11 miles on Friday, which went pretty well, apart from the fact that it was quite windy. I wanted to run along Caragh Lake because that route is much hillier than the alternative ones, and as the marathon will be on a very hilly road, I don’t want to lose my strength on those climbs. I didn’t have to worry, I felt very well on all sections, and completed the run without feeling tired.

Today was supposed to be a relaxed 5-mile recovery run. I ran a bit too fast for it to be a recovery run, but it was still easy pace. But despite the fact that I ran shorter, slower and over flatter course than the day before, my average heart rate was higher – go figure!

I’ve got a 10 mile tempo run planned for tomorrow, and Monday will a day off – let’s not overdo it.

10 Feb: 11 miles, 1:34, 8:32 pace
11 Feb: 5 easy miles, 44:23, 8:52 pace

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Up and Running Again

I seem to have gotten over the crash - I seem to be sleeping very soundly again. So much so, that it is getting difficult to get up in the morning for the run.
Yesterday, I decided that I wouldn’t set the alarm, but if I woke up in time I’d head out for an easy recovery run, otherwise I wouldn’t have missed much. Well, I did indeed wake up at 6:30, but felt too tired to get up and just turned around to get some more sleep (which wasn’t really happening, as the kids started to wake up around the same time, too). So much for my resolve. Today, I did set the alarm, and when it went off, I got up and headed out of the door, tempted as I was to sleep in again. It just goes to show that I really have to have my mind firmly set on running; otherwise I don’t have the discipline to get up.

I did another set of 5x600 intervals, again somewhat improvised and irregular, namely running 2:30 hard (trying to get the heart rate up between 176 and 184), and 90 seconds of easy jogging in-between. I ran too hard on the first interval. The heart rate didn’t seem to get up quickly enough, so I kept pushing more and more. I paid for that in the later intervals, which were definitely slower, despite the fact that the heart rate was at least as high as on the first hard run. I guess you learn from your mistakes, and I’ll take it a bit easier at the beginning in my future workouts.

I certainly worked hard: after the last interval I felt nauseous, but managed to keep my breakfast in. The good thing about intervals is that they don’t last very long. It’s the only key workout that’s over in less than an hour, which means I can do them in the morning, and still get enough sleep without having to go to bed ridiculously early.

There is a 5-mile race near Cork, about 2 hours drive from here, on the 18th of February. Unfortunately, it looks like my car won’t be back from the mechanic by then, which means I won’t be able to make it. Damn, it would have fitted in well with my build-up.

9 Feb: 6 miles, 53:31, 8:55 avg. pace, including 5x600 (approx) intervals

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


I’ve re-read my last post, and I thought it sounded a bit negative towards the comments I have received. Let me assure you that I value every single comment (well, except spam of course), and even if I might disagree with someone else’s opinion, I still want to hear about it.

I’ve just found the worst possible way to start the week, namely crashing the car on the way to work on Monday morning. I was coming down a ramp towards the N70, when another car was there just around a blind corner. The road is ridiculously narrow (it is impossible for two cars to pass each other), and I hit the brakes. Unfortunately the road was also covered in gravel, and my car just seemed to slide and slither along, rather than slowing down, and I hit the other car. It wasn’t too bad an impact (my airbags didn’t inflate), and, most importantly, nobody got hurt. It was my fault, and I had no hesitation admitting it. The road is in a really bad condition, but I should have taken that into account and taken the corner that bit more slowly. My insurance is in good order, and we’ll see how much the damage is.

Oh yes, this is still a running blog. I went to bed early last night, but couldn’t sleep. I was awake at 10, at 11, at 12, at 1, and still at 2. I slept for a bit after that, though not very well, and at 5am the alarm went and I got up for this week’s long run. I was so glad to get out of the door I can’t describe it. That was the most I’ve ever needed to run, just to clear my head and try and get the scene of the crash out of my head. I can only hope I will never be involved in a serious crash, if a small one without injuries is shaking me up so badly. Anyway, the run went fine, 17 miles, 3 loops along the Devil’s Elbow and towards Ard-na-Sidhe, and my head feels all the better for it. My achilles disagrees and started hurting again after 14 miles, but not too badly, and certainly less than in the past few weeks. I might do a recovery run tomorrow, and then definitely a few intervals on Thursday.

17 miles, 2:29, 8:45 pace

Sunday, February 05, 2006

I have to answer this

I think I’ll respond to some of the comments I have been getting recently. Stefano, why would I give away the address of a referee who is obviously a keen Ireland supporter ;-), though I agree, from a neutral viewpoint he made some truly atrocious decisions – all in Ireland’s favour, of course.
Secondly, Yvonne, thank you very much, but I’m definitely not some kind of super human. On the opposite, getting up early and heading straight out of the door is by far the best way to ensure I do get my run in. Every weekend it is a struggle to get out of the door, because there is always an excuse to do some other task first. Looking after three children is something you get used to (it’s not as if you have a choice, once they’re born, is it?), and as for doing a full day of work after the run: well, again, what choice do I have? That mortgage needs to be paid, and the new car is expensive, and the supermarkets expect to be paid at the checkout, too.
Lastly, what is all that about me doing ultras? Are you guys and gals trying to kill me? Half a year ago I did indeed have plans to do an ultra at some stage. The one thing that cured me was my last marathon. I was totally and utterly spent after 26 miles, and the mere idea of doing another 5, 10 or even 20 miles after that was completely out of the question. In fact, when I was at mile 18, I felt really crap, but the knowledge that it was only 8 more miles to the end kept me going. If that had been an ultra with another, say, 20 miles to go, I would have DNF’ed there and then.

Maybe I should also mention my running since the last entry. I did some slow 6 miles on Friday. I had played football on Thursday, and got a nasty kick to the inside of my right knee – which, by the way, is still painful three days later, and for which the perpetrator didn’t even apologise. Friday was therefore a rather pathetic stumble on two hurting legs – the left quad and the right knee being rather painful. It got better after two miles, but kept hurting all the way.

Today I did a 12-mile tempo run, that is 3 miles warm-up, 7 miles tempo, and 2 miles cool-down. I surprised myself on how well it went. I should have started more conservatively, taking into account the heart-rate drift, but instead did the first 3 miles a bit too fast and slowed down slightly over the last two, but I was still pleased on how well the legs felt all the way. This has been a tough week, with the 20-miler on Tuesday and two 12-milers, and I’m now moving onto the speed phase. As mentioned before, I haven’t got access to a track, so I usually calculate the amount of time I should be running hard in advance, and then do those intervals on a reasonably flat piece of road – usually the road alongside the Devil’s Elbow. This is probably not the ideal way of doing things, because I can’t really tell the pace I’m running at, but I believe the pure effort is more important than any numbers on time or pace.

3 Feb: 6 easy miles, 56:07. 9:21 pace
5 Feb: 12 miles, 1:33, 7:45 pace, 7 of those at 7:08 pace

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Rest? What Rest?

I had initially toyed with the idea of doing a short recovery run yesterday to get rid of the stiffness in my legs after Tuesday’s 20 miler, but decided to sleep in instead. Considering the fact that I had only gotten about 5 hours of sleep before that long run, it was almost certainly the best way to recover.

Today, on the other hand, I was due another early morning rise, to get in 12 miles (hey, I’m just following the schedule which was written by a guy who knows a lot more about running than I do). I set the alarm for 5:45, but of course it wasn’t needed, thanks to Shea being a right pain from about 5:15 on. I eventually got up and fixed him some breakfast as well as getting ready myself. I put him back to bed before I left, but Niamh told me afterwards that he was up again the second I was out of the door, and kept her from sleeping instead.

The run went very well. The temperatures have risen significantly over the last two days; unfortunately this was accompanied by a lot of clouds bringing rain. I got lucky and it didn’t rain during my run though. It was so warm that I didn’t even notice that I had left my gloves behind until after I had arrived back home. I wore my new shoes for the second time, and this time they already felt a lot more comfortable. Maybe they will turn out to be a good choice after all.

We drove to Limerick today to have a look at a car, a 7 seater, which should make those journeys to visit Nana and Gaga in Dublin a lot more agreeable. We did indeed buy it (well, I haven’t picked it up yet), but driving there and back again meant 4 hours in the car, and my legs are stiff again. No, it’s not the 12 miles that I’m suffering from, it’s definitely the car journey!

2 Feb: 12 miles, 1:42, 8:30 pace