Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I Feel Good!

I’ve just finished three hard (-ish) days in a row, and I’m feeling fantastic. Monday’s 10 miles went very well. The sky was slightly overcast and the wind was blustery, but it still made for very decent running conditions. I was a bit wary of today, because instead of the scheduled recovery run I decided to do double-figures again because I can’t run on Wednesday. To make things worse, I had to drive Niamh's parents to the airport in the morning for a 6:10 am departure, which meant getting up at 4:35! I dropped them off, and when I got home decided that I had enough time for 11 miles, so that’s what I went for. I couldn’t believe how well it went. Despite the fact that I had slept less than 5 hours, and despite running 10 on Monday and 8 on Sunday, the whole run seemed utterly effortless. When I got home I was pleased how well I felt, but when I checked the time and realised that I had done the run at 8:00 pace, I couldn’t believe it. Running has never felt so easy, and I feel in great shape already. The marathon is still some 22 weeks away, and I’m already looking forward to it – if I don’t demolish my present PR by a significant margin, I shall be very disappointed.

Maybe I shouldn’t look too far into the future just yet, there are still an awful lot of miles ahead of me, and who knows how long the high will last.

Nana was only here for two nights, but Cian managed to demolish a DVD of hers. We were all sitting at dinner, suddenly he took off, and by the time we realised what he was up to, the damage had been done. Despite being rather embarrassed, I couldn’t help feeling just a tiny bit pleased underneath – finally Nana knows that we're not exaggerating when we tell her of his destructive streak.

On a totally different note, it’s now exactly one year since I’ve started this blog. I had finished my second marathon a few weeks earlier, in Belfast, where I had an absolute nightmare of a run. Afterwards I decided that a) I’m not done with that marathon thingy yet and b) I have to learn how to properly prepare for such a distance. This lead me to buy Pfitzinger’s book, as well as starting this blog to keep a diary and to ensure that I would remain focused. I didn’t even know that there was a whole community of running blogs out there – it took me a few months to discover those. I haven’t looked back since.

29 May: 10 miles, 1:26, 8:36 pace
30 May: 11 miles, 1:28, 8:00 pace

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Honestly, I’m fine

The weather had threatened to become bearable again, but of course on Friday the rain came back one more time with a vengeance – and since Friday is my long run day, it meant 14 soggy miles. But, I have decided that, actually, I like running in the rain. I don’t get blisters from wet feet, and the rain ensures I never get too hot. So, all in all, I had 14 untroubled miles. Of course there was nobody else out running on a day like this, which is maybe why that one car felt the need to hoot at me as he/she was passing me. Maybe the driver was so amazed to see a figure running out there at 5:50am in the rain – I admit, it’s not what most other people would have chosen to do.

Saturday was my rest day, and today’s 8 miles finished off the week on 52 miles. I felt pretty good, but anyone running beside me would have thought I was on the verge of collapse. Due to my hay fever, my chest seems to be a bit blocked, so every breath is accompanied by a rasping noise. I probably sound like an asthmatic, but to be honest it doesn’t hinder my running effort. I still get enough oxygen to keep going at my pace, and it really is not a problem. It was only when I did a few quick strides that I noticed I was quickly reaching the limit of my air supply, but a normal aerobic running effort was ever sustainable, and I felt really strong towards the end.

Niamh has to go to Dublin on Tuesday evening (and won’t be back until Wednesday night) to attend some one-day course for her work, which means I won’t be able to run on Wednesday. I’ll swap next Saturday’s rest day, but that means I’ll be running 9 days in a row after that. It’s not ideal to say the least, and I’ll most likely put in 2 10 milers on Monday and Tuesday respectively to ensure that the following days are easier with plenty of recovery days. I could do without obstacles like this, but family life does come with its own challenges.

Oh, yeah, family challenges. What has Cian been up to? Let me think. He took the figs that mummy was soaking in order to make a cake and battered them in a big bowl of flour (I thought that was really funny, Niamh didn’t), he smeared some Savlon cream all over himself and a mirror, he smashed a few more eggs, and the washing machine is working all out to deal with the after-effects of a not-yet completely mastered toilet training program. Basically, business as usual.

26 May: 14 miles, 1:56, 8:17 pace.
28 May: 8 miles, 1:03, 7:52 pace

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Shock to the System

My 10 miler yesterday started just like any other 10 miler I’ve run recently: get up at 6, get some breakfast for me and Shea, pacify Shea with telly to prevent him from waking the rest of the house, and leave. It looked like it was going to be a nice day, with the sun peeking through the clouds. The run went well until about 7 miles when I started to get all kinds of aches and pains. Not just in the legs, e.g. my right shoulder was really sore. As I continued, my eyes started to get more and more sore, and when they started itching, I realised that I was suffering from an allergic reaction. I’m very familiar with allergies, having suffered from hay fever since the age of 12. I got home and had a shower, but my eyes were so swollen that Niamh wanted to send me to the doctor straight away. I started to feel better after 30 minutes or so, and decided to skip the doctor and buy some anti-histamine in the pharmacy instead. I felt like crap until lunchtime (and the tablets made me drowsy), but felt better and better in the afternoon, and was fine by the time I left work around 6pm. I’m not sure about the cause, but suspect that it was fairly severe hay fever from some pollen. This could cause a real problem with my running schedule if it happens again, but for the time being I’ll carry on as usual.

On the plus side, I’m feeling much better than a few days ago. The head cold is mostly gone, and the achilles/calf issue (I am back to thinking that it was the achilles) seems to have disappeared as well. I’ve started to do some specific strengthening exercises, mostly to get the feeling that I’m doing something about this.

Today’s recovery run went very well, I really got into the “slow running” mode. At one stage I felt like I was gliding just above the ground with very little effort. When running the Connemara marathon, after about 11 miles or so, one of the ultra runners overtook me (it was mile 24 for him) and I noticed his peculiar running style, his feet hardly left the ground – he still went past me like a rocket of course. In some ways I got that feeling today, I hardly seemed to lift the feet, and the heart rate was very low despite the fact that I was running uphill at the time. Maybe I’m finally getting a handle on that running economy thingy.

There was one more very unusual occurrence: another runner! Yes, it’s unbelievable, I know. I was rounding a corner, and all of a sudden I saw another figure trotting along about 100 meters ahead of me. I tamed my competitive instinct to catch the guy and kept to my recovery effort, and we ran about a mile at the same pace, him maybe half a minute ahead of me. Then he turned around and headed towards me. My cheerful “Good Morning” was completely ignored though; I didn’t even get a nod in reply. Ah well – must have been from Dublin, I suppose.

24 May: 10 miles, 1:23, 8:18 pace
25 May: 5 miles, 47:05, 9:25 pace

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Various Pains

Weather-wise we were wondering whether we would witness wonderfully wintry wemperatures. Sorry about that. It actually stopped raining, and I hardly got wet this morning, but the temperatures have dropped so much that I was running in long sleeves the last two days. Normally I’m always out in short sleeves/shorts until the temperatures reach about 0C/32F, but running in Sunday’s rain had the unwelcome side-effect that I caught a bit of a head-cold. It’s nothing serious, and it passes the neck-test; but I really wished the headaches and the blocked nose would stop. Yesterday’s 10 miles were maybe a bit too fast, but for today’s recovery run I really kept the effort at the easy, easy, easy level, to avoid another scolding from Coach Mike. In fact, I felt a bit light-headed and woozy when I got up this morning and told myself to bag the workout if the heart rate was elevated, but once I was out running I immediately felt better, and the heart rate was always in the proper range when I checked.

The other thing bothering me is my right calf. I’m not sure what the issue is at the moment. At first I though it was an achilles strain, started off from the sprained ankle on Thursday, but the area of the pain is about two inches above the area where I last suffered from tendonitis, and slightly to the inside of my leg. I tried to search the web about this, but didn’t come up with anything. It didn’t bother me while out running, but it was quite sore today, as well as last night. As long as it doesn’t get more painful than that, it won’t stop me from running, but I’m a bit paranoid at the moment. I’m well aware that I’m already running close to the highest weekly mileage I’ve ever done, and it’s only the second week of training. I guess the chances of getting injured are always there, and I’m a bit nervous about this.

Curtai’s last comment made me go and check the average yearly rainfall in Kerry. Well, apparently it’s a whopping 1770 mm per year. No wonder I’m getting wet regularly.

Since you’re all desperate to know, Cian’s training is going as expected, apart from the fact that he utterly, totally and completely refuses to sit on the potty. It has to be the proper toilet or nothing. Suits me.

22 May: 10 miles, 1:22, 8:12 pace
23 May: 5 miles, 46:28, 9:17 pace

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Various Ramblings

Saturday was a historic day in the Irish province of Munster. For the first time, the rugby team won the Heineken Cup (the top European rugby trophy), and the whole province is going bonkers. We happened to be in Limerick yesterday, the hotbed of rugby, and not only was the town half empty (there were tens of thousands in Cardiff for the final), but most of the remaining few people were congregated in O’Connell Street where a huge screen was erected to screen the game live. The whole place went nuts at the final whistle. Today the roads are dead quiet, even more so than usual, as everyone seems to have to biggest hangover since, well, last Paddy’s Day.

Unfortunately, the weather God isn’t celebrating with us. Friday and Saturday gave us a break from the relentless rain. Alas, reprieve was short-lived, and today the heavens have opened again. I got up at 8am, but waited until 10.30 in the hope that the conditions would improve. Eventually I gave up waiting and just headed out into the rain. I might be completely mad, but I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t very windy, which made the rain much more bearable, and somehow running in the lashing rain gives you a feeling of “I’m hardcore!”. Maybe that’s why I ran too fast yet again, or more likely it was attempt to keep warm. My ankle had been painful for most of yesterday and even this morning, but I didn’t feel it at all while out running. Thanks go to Hilda for reminding me about icing it. Oh, and guess what – it stopped raining half an hour after I came home.

I haven’t reported much about Cian’s misbehaviour recently. Well, he did scratch yet another DVD this morning (which infuriated me, but I’ve calmed down by now). The real mess was when he discovered a 5 kg bag of lentils in one of the kitchen cabinets. It was maybe half full, but you can still cause an awful mess with 2.5kg of lentils. To be fair, he didn’t actually pour it out, he just seemed to be fascinated by the texture, and kept running the lentils through his hands. Even so, the chaos caused was considerable. And he’s just started toilet training. I promise I won’t give you the details, and I still remember that time when we trained the twins, with me once saying that this was my least favourite part of parenthood. As I said, I’ll spare you the details, but at least we haven’t had any major accidents so far.

21 May: 7 miles, 54:31, 7:47 pace

Friday, May 19, 2006

Rain, Rain Go Away!

To say the weather has been nasty recently would be a massive understatement. It’s like the running gods wanted to test my resolve early on, and challenged me to get wet day after day after day. I’m glad I do all my runs in the morning; somehow it never seems so bad then. Up to yesterday it was the same every day. I would run in the rain after getting up, go to work, and as I’m driving home in the evening rain and wind I think to myself “Am I glad I don’t have to go running now in those conditions”.

Anyway, I’ve again managed 6 days in a row, but it’s not really grounds for celebration. I feel quite tired, and I think the lack of an extra rest day is telling. I hope I get used to that sooner rather than later, because the training is only going to get more challenging as the weeks go by. I ran Wednesday’s 10 miler too fast, time and again I caught myself speeding up, consciously slowed down to a more manageable pace, but as soon as my mind started wandering again, the legs increased the pace again. Even yesterday’s recovery run was too fast, sub-9 pace is not really recovery pace for me, even if the HR was only slightly out of the recommended zone. (By the way, I’m not really a slave to my HRM. I hardly ever check the HR during the run, only afterwards, when I log the time and average HR). I played a good hour of football last night, and at one stage slightly twisted my ankle. It wasn’t too bad, the pain stopped after a minute, and I didn’t think much about it. When I started today’s 13 miler, I felt really stiff and tired, which I put down to the football. After about 2 miles I started to get a numb kind of pain in my left calf/knee - it’s hard to describe, and I couldn’t even tell which bit was actually hurting, the top of my calf or the outside of my knee. That pain subsided soon, and until mile 10 the run was ok, even if the effort was slightly laboured. But all of a sudden my ankle let me know that it wasn’t happy, the same one I had twisted the night before. I was nearly at the turn-around point of my final 5-mile loop, so I continued on, hoping that it would get better. It didn’t, and the last 3 miles were agony. Boy, was I glad when I got back home. I don’t think I aggravated anything, and tomorrow is my rest day anyway, but I’ll keep an eye on it over the next few days.

17 May: 10 miles, 1:21, 8:06 pace
18 May: 5 miles, 44:37, 8:55 pace
19 May: 13 miles, 1:51, 8:32 pace

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Marathon Training

The weather forecast had been pretty gruesome for the last couple of days, with wind and rain, and storm warnings for tomorrow. So far that hasn’t quite happened; while it was raining heavily each night, by the time of my runs it had calmed down to a mere drizzle on both occasions. Let’s hope tomorrow’s forecast will be equally exaggerated, because as much as I want to go running every day, running in a storm is too dangerous. I can’t run in the wood because there are heavy branches falling off trees each time there is a storm, and I can’t run along Caragh Lake because I would not feel safe from the cars on the road.

Monday was the beginning of my marathon training program, not that the runs have been markedly different. Sunday’s 8 miles were not part of the training, but Monday’s 10 miles were, but to be honest, they felt pretty much the same. My legs felt quite heavy on both runs, but manageable on each account. And on today’s recovery run, I had the lowest heart rate during a run I can remember. All of last year I ran with a pace that felt ok, but according to most of the training books around, my heart rate was consistently too high. Now, all of a sudden, I am still running at roughly the same pace, but the heart rate is in the correct zone. I certainly won’t attempt to speed up again, not with me cranking up the mileage to new levels.

For all (ok, both) of you enquiring about the pronunciation of Celtic names, Cian is pronounced “Key-ann”, Niamh is pronounced a bit like “Nee-uhv”, and (before you ask) Shea is pronounced “Shay”. I’ve heard some mispronunciations, especially from Americans (sorry, no offence), that made my ears hurt.

15 May: 10 miles, 1:24, 8:24 pace
16 May: 5 miles, 46:18, 9:15 pace

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Cross-training of some sort

Thankfully the weather forecast for the weekend had been wrong. Saturday was a very nice day with plenty of sunshine, which I used to work in the garden like a galley slave. After 8 hours of cutting grass, planting blueberry bushes, strimming rushes and cutting down yet more gorse, I was as tired as after a marathon.

Cian has found some new ways of causing havoc. Yesterday he took off his nappy when nobody was watching and of course ended up weeing on the floor. Thankfully he missed the carpet, and it was easy to clean from the wooden floorboards. Today he insisted on helping making brunch, which unfortunately ended with the eggs poured all over the oven and the cooker, and both Mummy and Cian in tears. I had to drive to the shop and get some more eggs to pacify all parties in question, and eventually peace of some sort was restored in Caragh Lake.

I finished the week with a run of a bit more than 8 miles. I don’t know if it was down to the miles during the week, or the gardening work yesterday, but my legs felt like lead, and I really had to work on it. The weather has belatedly followed the forecast, it was raining heavily all night, but it had quietened down to a mere drizzle by the time of my run.

I measured my resting heart rate this morning; it was 46, down from 48 when I measured it last about a year ago. The significance of that? Not sure, but I found it interesting in a geeky way anyway.

14 Mar: 8.1 miles, 1:09, 8:31 pace

Friday, May 12, 2006

Postman Pat, Postman Pat, Postman Pat

and his black and white cat … early in the morning … just as day is dawning ... Pat thinks he’s a very lucky man. Why am I typing this? Because that little jingle has been going round and round in my head for a combined 20 miles over the last two days. You see, I got up at 6:40 yesterday (well, Shea woke me), served some breakfast for the boys and turned on the telly for them. I know, I know, TV isn’t a parent replacement, but I wanted to go running and Niamh doesn’t exactly fancy entertaining two boys before 7am, so cbeebies (that’s a kids TV channel. Great, because no ads) it was. And as I turned on the box, Postman Pat started. Which is good in one way because it is one of their favourite programs. The bad thing was that now I had the tune in my head as I went out for my 7 miles. It went round and round in my head. And round. And round. And round. For 7 miles solid. When I got home I thought “at least it’s not Friday, then it would have been in my head for 13 miles”.
So what happened today? I left just before 6am, and for whatever reason, after two steps my brain was at it again. “Postman Pat, Postman Pat ….”. Relentless. When I got back home nearly 2 hours later I was ready to check into an asylum (which is where I belong anyway, according to Niamh. Someone who gets up at 5:35am to go out for a 13 miles run more than 25 weeks before the next marathon should be kept in a padded cell, apparently).

From a physical point of view, the run was great. No pain, which doesn’t happen too often. I deliberately started very slowly, 9:30 pace or so, and gradually increased my pace as the run went on. I eventually finished in 1:55, which is 5 minutes slower than last week, but today’s run was over some major hills, including a wicked 1 mile climb with about 90 meters elevation gain (nearly 300 feet) between mile 5.5 and 6.5. I’ve also been running for 6 days straight, something I have never done before. Now my legs have got that slightly sore feeling that you get after a proper workout, and it feels good. The weather has been great for the last couple of days, only to turn bad just in time for the weekend. Bummer. Tomorrow is my rest day, and Sunday’s 8 miles will finish the week on 46 miles, as planned. And Monday will be the first day of the 24 weeks/70 miles marathon training program.

10 May: 5 miles, 45:52, 9:10 pace
11 May: 7 miles, 58:52, 8:24 pace
12 May: 13 miles, 1:55, 8:50 pace

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Nothing exciting to report

I’m in the last week before the marathon training starts in earnest. I’m slowly increasing my mileage. I did 41 miles last week, and I’m planning 46 for this week, which will lead nicely to the 50 miles planned for next week. This week I’m also switching to running 6 times a week, something that’s new to me. Of course this means that this week’s run are no longer than last week.

I did 5 easy miles on Monday, and 8 today. I felt a bit dead on my legs today, but managed to get round ok. One thing I’ve been thinking about is nutrition before and while running. I always used to eat a cereal before my run, and if the run was 15 miles or more, I’d take a gel at 10 miles. Now Mike has at least twice talked about not using gels during the training to get the body used to running low on carbs, and I had been thinking about that anyway. The next stage would be not to eat breakfast before the run. I’m all set to try and run without gels – I’m confident that I should manage that reasonably well. But I’m definitely balking at the idea of running on an empty stomach. I’ll have to think about that more. There’s only so much suffering I’m prepared to take.

I had a look through my running diary and found a run of 8 miles in 1:06 for Dec 7th, about 2 or 3 weeks into my marathon training for Connemara. My average HR had been 163. Today I covered the same distance, on the same road, at the same pace with a HR of 150. Good.

8 May: 5 miles, 46:59, 9:23 pace
9 May: 8 miles, 1:06, 8:15 pace

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Ongoing Saga of Cian B.

Angie inspired me to scan this picture of Cian. Doesn’t he just look like an angel that can do no wrong? He had us quite fooled over the last few days. He hardly misbehaved at all, but of course it was just part of his cunning plan to lure us into a false sense of security. Once our backs were turned for 2 minutes, he broke into the video cabinet, and of all the tapes in there he took out the cleaning tape. He managed to rip the top of the container with the cleaning fluid (no idea how he managed that. The last time I used it, it took me 5 minutes to take the bloody thing off) and spilt the toxic content all around him on the floor. I cleaned it as best as I could, but the chemical smell was lingering for quite some time. To top it off, he managed to scratch yet another DVD - I’ve lost count on how many he’s ruined so far. He takes them out of the player, and I haven’t yet managed to train Shea to put them back into the case after he’s finished watching them.

Oh, and I managed to go out for my 9 miles run as well. I just about managed to squeeze it right between two of the many rain showers we’ve had over the last couple of days. The weather has been mad. One minute there’s glorious sunshine with hardly a cloud in sight, and 5 minutes later you’re in a deluge that you think the place will be flooded any moment now. The run went very well, apart from the same pain in my calf that I had felt on Friday. I started to feel it after about 10 minutes, but it gradually subsided and I didn’t feel it at all on the way back. I also threw in a few strides – Pfitzinger recommends them highly, but I didn’t really bother last time round. But they are also very highly recommended in Kevin Beck’s book, and I decided to be good and start doing them again. I finished the 9 miles in 1:13. I thought the pace would have been around 8:30, but when I calculated it, it was 8:06. I couldn’t believe it. In fact, I dug out my HRM again to check if I had read the time wrongly. But no, I hadn’t. Maybe I’m getting faster after all. I think the half last week really gave me a boost, but can it really have an effect already, just a few days later?

7 May: 9 miles, 1:13, 8:06 pace

Friday, May 05, 2006

Another Rainy Day

Last night I was deliberating if I should do a 13-mile run on Friday and 9 miles on the weekend, or the other way round. As I’m planning to do my long runs during the marathon training on Fridays, I decided to get into that routine early on, and set my alarm for 5:35am. When I got up at that ungodly hour, it was raining and a storm was blowing. Rather than going back to bed like a sane person would have done, I got up, ate my cereal and got ready to go out. The first 3 miles were a brutal fight against the elements, then all of a sudden the rain stopped, the wind eased up gradually and running became a pleasure again. Of course, by that time I was soaked, and had to run the 10 following miles with soggy feet. Had I opted for 9 miles, I would have had a pleasant run in nice weather all the way. I guess that’s life.

My right calf didn’t feel right, it had some kind of numb pain (I can’t describe it any better), and even now, several hours later, it’s still not ok. Maybe running 13 miles on that wasn’t the cleverest thing I’ve ever done, but if I only went out when I feel 100%, I’d miss the majority of my workouts. Despite all that, the run went very well. When I checked the HRM at the end, the avg. heart rate was just 150. I don’t think I’ve ever run such a long run at a decent pace at such a low heart rate. I guess I’m still in good shape from all the training I did for Connemara. With some strenuous training yet to come, I hope to be in the form of my life by the time of the Dublin marathon.

I’ve scanned a few pictures from last week’s birthday party. Lola is the blond one in pink dress and necklace in the centre of one photo, Shea is the one blowing out the candles of the dinosaur cake. Cian can also be seen in that photo, he’s the one crying in the background (he very much enjoyed the rest of the party though). And the dinosaur cake went down a treat, especially with the boys.

4 May: 6 miles, 56:48, 9:28 pace
5 May: 13 miles, 1:50, 8:27 pace

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

It's Raining Again

After a week or two of sunshine the weather turned nasty on Tuesday. I was glad that I had gone out on Monday for my 5 miles recovery after the half, because Tuesday’s storm front didn’t look too inviting. It was still bad enough this morning when I got up, but after I had eaten my breakfast the wind stopped and the sun nearly started shining. Well, at least it stopped raining. I did 8 comfortable miles, the first 3 while wearing a wind jacket, which I ditched and continued in a t-shirt. Of course that meant that I got wet when the rain returned – I just can’t win. Apart from that, I felt fine. My quads were a bit sore yesterday from the downhill sections in Sunday’s race, but have pretty much recovered by now.

On a side note, I need to learn to count again. It is 26 weeks until Dublin, not 25, and I’ve got one extra week to increase my mileage before the training starts. I’ll do about 40 this week, 45 next, and the first week of the marathon training will be 50 miles. Perfect! I decided to go against Mike’s advice to do the 18 weeks training plan, mainly because the increase in mileage from 50 to 70 is much more gradual in the 24 weeks plan, and I definitely prefer to approach that level slowly. I guess I’ll find out it that was a good idea or not.

1 May: 5 miles, 45:49, 9:09 pace
3 May: 8 miles, 1:07, 8:22 pace