Thursday, September 28, 2006


I’ve run in worse conditions. Once. When it was hail stoning. While it wasn’t as bad as that, Wednesday’s weather was still rather appalling. Hurricane Gordon has come and gone, and in his wake, Hurricane Helene brought some more wind and rain – lots of it. Of course they aren’t hurricanes any more by the time they’ve crossed the Atlantic, but they are still powerful enough to root out trees – and, more importantly, to interfere with my training. I woke up several times during the night from Tuesday to Wednesday and kept listening to the storms outside. As much as I hoped they would abate by 6 am in the morning, that didn’t happen. So, out I went to fight the elements. After all, I can’t postpone a speed workout, can I? I can’t even think what the few drivers who saw me must have been thinking, but I don’t think it was very flattering.

The workout was challenging enough as it was; 6x1200 are hard work. After the fourth repeat I wasn’t sure if I would be able to finish, but somewhere I found some extra energy, and actually managed to run the last two at higher intensity (though if they were actually faster, I don’t know). This time I didn’t wonder if I had done enough. I knew for certain. Actually, this was the first time ever I was really satisfied with my work rate at a speed session. I knew I couldn’t have run any harder, and I definitely couldn’t have run any further. My quads were sore all day. But it was a good kind of sore, the one that tells you that you’re still stressing your body, and ensures that you will improve as a result. All in all I got a great feeling of “yeah! hardcore!” out of this workout.

Today was a much more civilised affair, both from the weather and the running point of view. I did 8 fairly easy miles, in my new shoes. There is just one thing troubling me now. I never used to get blisters. Now I’ve gotten blisters on each of the last three occasions when I started a new pair of shoes. The blisters on my left instep are neither big nor particularly painful. They won’t stop me from doing 21 miles tomorrow. But they’re quite annoying.

27 Sep: 11 miles, 1:26, 7:49 pace, including 6x1200 and an ex-hurricane
28 Sep: 8.2 miles, 1:11, 8:39 pace

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

One Last Push

The marathon is getting closer and closer. There are less than 2 weeks of full training before the taper, and I’m already dreading it. I guess it makes a difference from dreading my long run. However, there is still some intense training going on before I have to rein myself in. This week is yet another 70-mile week, and while I’m more used to that kind of mileage by now, it’s still a lot of running.

I forgot to mention one thing in my last post. My team in the office usually go out for lunch every Friday, and while I was sitting in the restaurant waiting for the food, a man came towards our table and apologized to me for nearly running me over one morning “a few weeks ago”. I was totally taken aback, and instead of saying how much I appreciated this, I stupidly made a lame joke about it. In my defence, I don’t even remember any near misses. There were one or two occasions when a car went closer and faster by me than necessary, but no really hairy incidents.

I started the week with a 15 miler on Monday, which went ok, though I did feel the effect from Sunday’s time-trial in my quads. However, I’ve done so many 15 milers by now that they don’t stick out as a special effort any more. It was pitch-dark when I started out, but I could soon make out some very dark clouds, and expected to get rained on once more. By some miracle that never happened; the conditions for running are excellent at the moment. Niamh freaked out when I came home though – I had blood on my shirt from my nipples again (actually, just the right one. I must be asymmetrical). That was weird though, because I hadn’t even noticed it. It just didn’t hurt.

I’ve bought another pair of runners, this time it’s the pair I’m planning to run the marathon in; a shiny funky orange pair of Asics DS-Trainer. Niamh did question why I needed yet another pair of runners, seeing as it’s the 4th “active” pair in the cupboard now (plus a few retired ones). She kind of accepted my explanation of needing a pair especially for races, and that owning 4 pairs costs the same as 1 pair in the long term, because they last 4 times as long. She didn’t argue, just went away with a resigned kind of look on her face. I guess she’s not a runner, then. Anyway, I wore them for the first time today on my 5-mile recovery run. I did notice that they have less heel support over the first mile, but got used to it pretty quickly. I will take them out for a few more and longer runs before I make my final decision if they will become my marathon runners.

25 Sep: 15 miles, 2:01, 8:04 pace
26 Sep: 5 miles, 45:56, 9:11 pace

Sunday, September 24, 2006

One Long, One Fast

The best effect from my 23-miler from 3 weeks ago is that I’m no longer nervous before a 20 mile run. Never mind the boost it gave to my fitness and my endocrine system, the most pronounced effect was to my confidence. If you candle that distance without problems in training, a 20 mile run becomes just another long run, and a marathon is just a 5k added.

Kerry got off lightly on the night from Thursday to Friday. While the rest of the country had to deal with wind speeds of up to 120 kph, we just had a bit of a breeze, and by the time I left for my run just before 5 am, even that had subsided. What hadn’t subsided was the rain, and I was completely drenched within 10 steps. For the first few miles I was cursing the Irish weather and thinking how miserable it has been all week, when all of a sudden it stopped, before I even had reached the 4-mile point. Of course it didn’t make a difference to the fact that I was completely drenched; my feet were especially wet, one section of the road had been flooded up to 2 inches high. That’s not a problem if you’re in a car, but if you’re running, you’ll have to put up with wet feet for the rest of the run. My other problem was my stomach, which felt quite queasy. When I came back to our driveway after the first 10 mile loop, I ran past the water bottle. I didn’t feel thirsty at all, and the mere thought of drinking water nearly made me throw up. I ran a 5-mile loop to Ard-na-Sidhe and back, and then forced myself to drink maybe half of the 0.5-litre water bottle. I managed to keep it all in, and made it through the last 5 mile loop as well. The legs felt rather tired by then, but then again they had covered 30 miles within the last 24 (ok, 26) hours. At least I had followed Mike’s advice and ran slower than on previous long runs; the first 5 miles had taken 44:30, and all the following ones were about 42:30. The legs thanked me for that towards the end. I weighed myself after the run, because I was worried about the amount of water I had taken in; but I had only lost 2 pounds. I did have one painful reminder for the rest of the day though: bloody nipples. Ouch.

Saturday was a rest day once again. I felt fine about that, but on Sunday morning Niamh urged me to do “something” on future Saturdays, either go for a walk, or cycling, or swimming. She thinks I get Cabin Fever if I stay in the house for 24 hours. Hmm.

The schedule for Sunday called for a “8k-15k” tune-up race, but I don’t have a race anywhere nearby, and decided to do a time trial instead. If I did 2.4 miles warm-up, 6.2 miles at race effort and 2.4 miles cool-down, that would make 11 miles, and a good speed workout to boot. I followed the plan, and even though the legs were very stiff and unresponsive during the warm-up, I felt ok as soon as the time-trial effort started. I didn’t measure the distance, but I think it’s reasonably accurate. It wasn’t the easiest of course, with three hills (well, 2 hills with one of them covered twice, once in each direction), and I was definitely hanging on during the last 2 miles, but I managed to cover the 10k in just under 42 minutes, which I was pleased about. I did notice the difference between a race and a time-trial though, my average HR was less than during the half-marathon two weeks ago. It’s just not the same without the race-day adrenaline, and without the prey to chase in your sights. Oh, and my manager at work did overtake me about 2.5 miles into the speed part. But don’t worry, he was on a bike.

Weekly mileage: 70 miles

22 Sep: 20 miles, 2:52, 8:36 pace
24 Sep: 11 miles, 1:25, 7:43 pace, with 10k in 41:57, 6:45 pace (assuming the distance was accurate, that is)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Gordon is Here

It looks like the present weather of rain, rain, and then some more rain is supposed to last for a few days longer. The reason for all that is what used to be Hurricane Gordon, who has by now crossed the Atlantic. It’s no longer a hurricane or a tropical storm, just miserable weather with gale force winds and lots of water. At least the wind seems to have subsided by now, but the rain is here to stay for a few days longer. Anyone interested in the Ryder Cup can see Gordon’s effect on that competition him/herself.

At least I’ve overcome my cold, despite running in the rain every single morning. I did do the planned speed work on Wednesday, 9 miles with 5x600. That didn’t seem a lot of ground covered whilst speeding, especially compared with Sunday’s 5x1000, so I added a sixth repeat, but then I definitely got the old feeling of enough is enough. As always, I’m unsure if I’m doing them at the correct intensity, but I estimate I’m doing them at roughly my 5k race pace, just as described.

Wednesday afternoon brought an unwelcome surprise; I had to fly to Dublin today for a work meeting, and then fly back to Kerry in the afternoon. I really didn’t want to, but wasn’t exactly offered a choice. It meant getting up at 5:40 to cover 6 miles before jumping into the car and driving to Kerry airport. The flights were a bit bumpy (thanks, Gordon), and the meeting was as pointless as I had predicted, making this a completely unnecessary trip. At least it meant coming home at 4:30, 90 minutes sooner than on a normal workday. I felt really stiff from sitting in airplanes and meeting rooms all day, so I decided to head out for another 4 mile recovery run, just to loosen up, and ignoring the fact that it was absolutely bucketing it down. As a matter of fact, Pfitz called for a double recovery workout anyway, so I was just following the schedule.

The second I came home I had to leave again to collect Lola from the next-door neighbour. I was still in my running clothes, and completely drenched. God know what he must have though of my appearance.

I’ve just heard that the calm winds at the moment are just the eye of the ex-hurricane. The weather forecast for tonight is pretty grim. I hope, I can still do tomorrow’s 20 miler.

20 Sep: 9 miles, 1:11, 7:54 pace, with 6x600 repeats
21 Sep am: 6 miles, 55:14, 9:12 pace
21 Sep pm: 4 miles, 33:49, 8:27 pace

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Are we nearly tapering yet?

On each of my last three marathons, I have faced pretty much the same problem during my taper: I got sick. Before Belfast it was a stomach bug, before the 3-country marathon I had a cold, and before Connemara I caught whatever bug was going round the kids’ playgroup at that time. Why am I mentioning this? Firstly, because I’m already dreading getting sick during the taper again, and secondly because I’ve got a cold. It’s just a head cold, and I managed to drag myself out of the bed and onto the road every morning, but it was a struggle. I’m taking Vitamin C and Echinacea, and I tend to feel ok in the mornings (which is why I can still go out and run) and worse in the evenings (which is why I feel like crap right now). It passes the neck test, i.e. all the symptoms are at or above the neck (sore throat, stuffy nose, headache), but I really wished it went away. Or should I be glad to get it now, rather than 2 days before the marathon?

As I’ve said, my training hasn’t been affected yet. I managed 14 miles at a decent pace on Monday. In fact, I didn’t even try to run sub 8:00, especially considering that I had Sunday’s speed workout in my legs, but felt pretty good after a mile or two, when I forgot about my cold. The weather was fine for the first 12 miles, and then the heavens opened, leaving me soaked to the bones. Which isn’t the best thing to happen when you’ve got a cold already, but at least I was close to home at that point. The weather got worse during the day, and last night we had gale force winds and very heavy rain, which kept me from sleeping half the night. I kept thinking that I wouldn’t be able to run in that weather. It would have been far too dangerous. Whenever the wind blows like that, I find a few broken branched scattered on the road, and twice last year whole tree fell over. You just couldn’t risk running in those conditions. Luckily the storm abated at some stage in the middle of the night, and by 7am it was surprisingly calm, with no wind whatsoever. I went out for 6 recovery miles, which were definitely needed, because the legs were exceptionally stiff. I guess it’s a belated reminder from Sunday.

I was planning on another speed session tomorrow, but will have to wait and see how I feel.

18 Sep: 14 miles, 1:51, 7:55 pace
19 Sep: 6 miles, 55:17, 9:12 pace

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Another Great Win

Not that it means anything to anyone outside Ireland, but Kerry have today won the All-Ireland Football Final, for the 34th time. The match itself was so one-sided it was embarrassing, and one couldn’t help but feel sorry for poor hapless Mayo (that’s what you get for playing with the Big Boys). From a sprting point of view, this was a good year. Munster won the Heineken Cup, Kerry won the All-Ireland, and if I manage a good time in the Dublin marathon, I won’t have any grounds for complaint.

I did my 17-mile marathon-pace run on Friday, as planned. I warmed up for the first 2 miles, and then pushed the effort into what felt like marathon pace. The moon was bright enough to make out the road, but not bright enough to read the numbers on my HRM/timer, so I had to rely on my own judgment. I got it spot on, when I got back home after 17 miles, 2:13 had passed, 7:49 average pace. Perfect. I felt really good at that point and could have gone on for much longer, I thought. It looks like I have already fully recovered from Sunday’s race, which amazed me.

Saturday was my usual rest day, and the miserable weather ensured that I didn’t exhaust myself by working in the garden. On the one hand I was glad to make sure that I would get some recovery, on the other hand I couldn’t help but think of all the things I still have to do in that garden. All that gorse won’t leave on its own accord, unfortunately.

Since I felt fully recovered, I went ahead with a speed session on Sunday. After warming up for the first 3 miles, I pushed the effort to what should be roughly my 5k race pace, and held it for 4:10 minutes. I don’t get feedback on my actual pace, but judging from the distance covered, I’m sure it was pretty close to the 1000 meters per interval, as intended. I did 5 of those repeats, and then I had enough. Afterwards I had a few doubts if I had run them fast enough, but comparing that effort with what I put into my 5k races, it’s probably ok. Then again, who knows. And then again, Arthur Lydiard didn’t think exact paces or distances were important. Run those efforts until you’ve had enough, he said. I guess that’s good enough for me, then.

One or two people have commented that I might be peaking. I don’t know about that. I always thought that peaking comes from a few weeks of anaerobic work, and since I’ve not done much of that, I don’t expect to “peak”. I’m certainly in better shape than ever before, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ve already reached a kind of high point. I guess I’ll find out soon enough. The marathon is still 6 weeks away; that means another 3 weeks of hard training and then the taper. I’m not looking forward to tapering, but I can hardly wait until I’m finally on that starting line in Dublin. I’m really looking forward to it.

Weekly mileage: 64 miles

15 Sep: 17 miles, 2:13, 7:49 pace
17 Sep: 10 miles, 1:17, 7:42 pace, including 5x1000 repeats

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Just One More Note

That’s the last entry about Sunday’s race, I promise. I’ve been thinking about the run, and how it had been my best race so far. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder where I could have improved. I don’t mean things like more specific training during the preceding weeks, or tapering for the race. I’m unlikely ever to focus on a half-marathon, therefore my preparation for this distance will always be compromised. I just happen to think that I could have improved a few small things during the race itself.

I started the race with a 7:20 mile. At the time I thought that was too fast and slowed down just a little bit. It’s difficult to say now if it was too fast or not. My average pace for the entire distance was actually faster than that opening mile, but the course had been climbing over the first mile. I think I pretty much went out at the correct pace, and slowing down might not have been necessary.

The one thing I definitely did wrong was at mile 7. I felt pretty good at that point, but decided against accelerating because I was worried about running out of steam somewhere on the next 6 miles. That was basically a lack of self-belief from my side. In hindsight I would have easily been able to withstand the higher pace from that point onwards.

The other thing that I could have done better is that I should have started my finishing kick a lot earlier than I did. I didn’t kick until I saw the 13-mile sign ahead of me. To be honest, I kind of forgot to kick earlier on. I had intended to kick with half a mile left, and when I saw the 13-mile mark I was like “Oops, forgot to sprint”.

I don’t want to sound overly critical. I am more than happy with my race. If I had done the above things better I might have finished in 1:34:xx. No big deal. I take all the positives, and will learn from those mistakes.

That’s it. I won’t bother you any more with this.

I did another 11 miler on Wednesday. It was supposed to be another easy run, and I duly covered the first half at about 8:20 pace. On the return leg I kind of zenned out once more and ran with my head in Lala-land, while the legs did their own thing. When I came back home, the time read 1:28, 8:00 pace overall. Oops.

I definitely took it easier today, but included 8x100 strides into my run. I ran the 7 mile-loop that I had avoided since my encounter with that herd of cows about two months ago. I figured they would have gone by now and the run should be safe enough. I was correct, and I suppose I can safely add this loop to my usual staple of routes again.

13 Sep: 11 miles, 1:28, 8:00 pace
14 Sep: 7 miles, 1:02, 8:51 pace, with 8x100 strides

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Bad Dad, Thomas, Bad Dad!

I’m ashamed. I didn’t tell you that Cian is showing absolutely no signs of distress after Friday’s ordeal, that he’s right as rain, and that he doesn’t even seem to remember what happened. In fact, he was perfectly fine when I got back home after work on Friday. You sometimes think of your children as small and vulnerable, but they are amazingly resilient. I should have told you all that on Sunday. In the excitement of the race, I forgot.

Anyway. I’m still basking in the glow of Sunday’s performance, and long may it last. It feels great when a lot of hard work gets rewarded, and I’m also relieved that I’m really in as good a shape as I’d hoped (I’ve had moments of doubt).

I expected to be sore by Tuesday because of the long downhill stretch, and ran 11 miles on Monday, to get in some training miles before the legs got too sore. I didn’t run hard, just did the miles and cruised home again.

When I got up this morning I realised that my fears had been unfounded. The legs were still a bit tired from Sunday’s race, but not sore at all. I was quite stiff over the first half mile, but that improved, and I proceeded for an easy 8 miler. There’s not much to tell, except that the HR was very low. Could it be that Sunday’s race already has some effect on my system? I noticed the same thing after my last half marathon in May; within 2 days my HR was lower than previously for a given pace, and both times I was surprised that an effect would come through so quickly after the race.

Well, whatever. The original schedule called for an interval workout early this week, but I will be conservative instead and keep to an easy pace for the next two days. Then I’ll attempt a marathon pace 17-miler on Friday, but if I don’t feel recovered by then I’ll just make that a normal 17 miler. Up to Sunday I had assumed my marathon pace would be 8:00, which would just about get me under 3:30. After putting my time into a race predictor (yes, yes, I know. Don’t believe them!), and even more so after reading Mike’s and Mike’s comments, I think I might slightly revise that and declare 7:50 as my new marathon pace, which would be a 3:25 finish. Let’s hope I can pull it off, 7 weeks from now.

11 Sep: 11 miles, 1:33, 8:27 pace
12 Sep: 8.2 miles, 1:12, 8:46 pace

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Blarney Half Marathon 2006

When I checked the weather forecast on Friday, it promised a very sunny Sunday and 21C temperatures. I guess everyone in Ireland was looking forward to a nice weekend. By Saturday, the meteorological services had changed their mind; Sunday would be overcast and drizzly. The whole of Ireland was gutted – except me, I was more than happy. Runners are of a different mindset than the rest of the population.

We set off at 8 o’clock in the morning, Niamh driving, me rather nervous on the passenger seat, and the kids in the back of the 7-seater. Within 10 seconds they had started a fight. It basically lasted for 2 hours, until we arrived in Blarney. It certainly served the purpose of taking my mind off the race, but, gracious me, they were relentless. I picked up my number, and Niamh set off with the kids for breakfast. She wanted to see me finishing the race, and asked when I would be there. “Start is at 11 am, I’ll finish at 12:38, I hope”. Off she went, and I got ready to race. There was one person I recognised, Derval O’Rourke. She’s from Cork, just down the road, but I doubt she was here to run the race. Her distances are 60m and 100m hurdles.

I didn’t do much of a warm-up, less than I had intended, really, and the call to the starting line came quicker than expected. I lined up somewhere in the middle. As soon as the gun went, I knew that I should have lined up a bit further ahead, because everyone around me was a good bit slower than me. I have to stop making that same mistake again and again. But it’s a small race, and within half a mile I was surrounded by runners who seemed to race at my preferred pace. I checked my time at the 1-mile mark. 7:20. “Too fast”. I actually said that out loud, because the guy running beside me gave me a funny look. I went just a tad easier until mile 2, 7:28 split. Still too fast, especially as we’ve been going uphill. Shortly afterwards I passed a runner who was breathing really hard, looked really tense and his cadence was extremely fast. “Relax!” I said. He looked at me. “Relax, you’re way too tense”. “I know, I’m going too fast”. I didn’t really have an answer to that. If he knew he was too fast, why didn’t he slow down, with 11 still miles to go? Unsurprisingly, he fell back soon afterwards. I hope he managed to finish. Mile 3, 22:10, I’m now on 7:40 pace. Well, it’s still uphill. Mile 4, 30:00 to the second, a 7:50 mile. Now I’m on 7:30 average, and slowing down, that’s not good. Then again, the course has constantly been climbing. There was no real hill, just a very gentle but noticeable and relentless climb. I can’t quite remember the next splits, but I’m definitely slowing down, the miles are closer to 8:00 pace than 7:00, even though the course seems to have levelled out, or at least the climb is less noticeable. By mile 6 we’re definitely climbing again, that’s the only real hill, but it’s a rather long climb, and we’ve already been climbing since the start. Well, I guess that means the second part of the course is downhill all the way, doesn’t it? By mile 7 we’re indeed heading down that hill again. I think about push the effort more, but it’s still 6 miles to the finish, and I don’t want to run out of steam. When I come across the 8-mile marker, one hour has passed and I’m still on 7:30 average, but I’m feeling pretty good now. From here on my cheapo HRM only shows the hour and minutes, so I can’t tell my exact splits, not that it has any influence on my running pace. I decide to finally accelerate and push past several runners. By mile 9 the time is 1:07, that’s good. By mile 10, it’s 1:13. Bloody hell, did I really just run a sub-7:00 mile? It was downhill, but I’m not even panting, though I’m pretty much at the edge. Mile 11, 1:20. Suddenly I realise that if I keep churning out 7:00 miles, I’ll finish in 1:35. That seems impossible, but I keep pushing. I forgot to mention that, but there were 3 runners early in the race that I had in my sights; a male runner in a red top, a girl in a blue one, and one fella in a fancy grey with bright yellow stripes one. They all pulled away, but for some reason they keep stuck in my mind. At mile 9, the red tank top is passed. Between mile 10 and 11 the guy in grey is caught. And what do I see there ahead of me? It’s the sky-blue yank top. One mile later and I’m past, but unfortunately now I’m out of prey. There are plenty of other runners, and I keep overtaking a few of them until the end, but not someone I recognise from earlier. Anyway, I forget to check my time at mile 12, but I’m still pushing it well. I finally give it a kick when I see the 13-mile marker ahead of me, and also start looking out for Niamh and the kids. They are nowhere to be seen, and before I really know it I’m across the line. I don’t see the official time, but my watch says 1:35, and I’m immensely pleased. I honestly thought 1:38 was ambitious, and I did not think I could run much faster than that. I won’t know the exact time until they publish the official results, but the average pace was around 7:20, which I’m more than happy with. 6 month ago that was my pace at those 4-mile tempo runs, and now I can hold it for a half marathon. Good Stuff. For the record, my average HR was 175, about 90% of my max HR.

I spot Niamh about 30 seconds after I finish the race, she’s trying to get to the finishing line. I call over and she’s a) very surprised to see me 3 minutes before I told her I’d finish the race if all goes well, and b) disappointed that she missed me. But it won’t be my last race, and she accepts that she’s got plenty more chances to see me.

We spend the rest of the afternoon looking around the rather famous Blarney Castle, which goes down very well with the kids, and which is a good cool-down for me. After a few hours of that, we head back home, mission accomplished.

There’s one more funny detail to bore you with. I don’t run with an mp3 player any more, but I always have a tune stuck in my head (Postman Pat, if I’m unlucky). Well, today at first I didn’t even recognise the one going round and round. Eventually it struck me, it’s Anyone But Me, from that guy. I knew he’s an inspirational runner, but I had no idea he’s now even providing the background to my best race so far. I’m not making this up. Honestly.

Weekly mileage: ~68 miles

9 Sep: 5 miles, 44:45, 8:57 pace
10 Sep: 14-15 miles, 13.1 mile race at 1:35:40, 7:18 pace. Yes!


Update: That was quick, official results are here. I finished in 1:35:40, 139 out of 446.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Family Drama

I’m taking it easy for the last few days before the half, or at least I’m trying to, because the legs are not always following the head. One thing that’s not quite working according to plan is a certain lack of sleep, which may or may not be related to the Full Moon, which has caused problems in that department before.

I did 5 miles on Thursday, with 8x100 strides thrown in. Now that is something I never quite managed to get my head around. How can running strides be compatible with a recovery run? However, Pfitzinger seems to really like this combination, all of his plans have that kind of workout towards the end of the training, and who am I to argue?

For today I had planned 11 miles, and accordingly set my alarm clock for 5:55. When I woke at 6:07 I realised that something had gone wrong. I couldn’t quite figure out what, but the realisation hit me half an hour later, during the run. I had inadvertently set the alarm for 5:55 pm rather than am. Damn those fancy modern digital radio clocks! However, I only had to cut the run short by one mile, so no damage done. What could have caused damage was my pace on the return leg. I had done the first 5 miles in about 41:30, but only took 37:30 on the way home, which is a bit faster than I should have done 2 days before a race. Ah well.

It’s not really relevant to this blog, but at 5 am I spent 20 minutes with Lola looking at the moon and the stars. She couldn’t sleep and was scared, so we just sat there for a while, and enjoyed the scenery outside the window. It was lovely from a father-daughter kind of view, even if the timing was a bit odd.

Niamh called me an hour ago; Cian had been attacked by wasps in the neighbours’ garden. She heard the kids screaming, and by the time she got to Cian he had at least 8 wasps on one leg, 5 or so on the other, and plenty more swarming all over him. He got stung about 10 times, and was screaming in panic. Niamh herself got stung 2 or 3 times while rescuing him. It must have been rather dramatic, but she went to the Doctor, and he was already calm and collected. Niamh says he’s already in good form, but she herself is traumatised. Goodness!

Anyway, the race is on Sunday. I’m aiming for sub 1:38. I’ll let you know how it went.

7 Sep: 5 miles, 46:30, 9:18 pace, with 8x100 strides
8 Sep: 10 miles, 1:19, 7:54 pace

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

All's Well

Thanks for all your concern, folks, I can assure you I’m feeling absolutely fine again. I googled the web for some background information on dizzy spells, and the most likely explanation is low blood sugar. I definitely wasn’t dehydrated, but I hadn’t eaten since lunchtime, and since the football was basically the second speed session of the day, I probably ran low. I’ll learn from this. I won’t be playing this Thursday (though for a different reason), and I’ll reconsider doing speed work on Mondays if I’m playing later that evening. I’m not yet prepared to give it up. In fact I think that it might be a useful workout, at least during the anaerobic phase of your marathon preparation.

After all my cockiness about how my easy pace just keeps dropping and dropping, Tuesday’s run was rather pedestrian, and back at the “old” recovery pace. Fine, the legs definitely needed some easy going after Monday. I wore the Nike’s for the first time. Reviews often mention that the toebox in Nike shoes are often smaller than other manufacturers’. I can vouch for that now, my toes felt somewhat squashed. However, the first run in a new pair of shoes is usually less than pleasant, and I’m hopeful I’ll grow into them. Case in point, when I wore my present pair of Asics Nimbus for the first few times, they made a mess out of my feet. Now they are snug like a rug, and are totally comfortable on long runs.

I’m racing a half-marathon on Sunday, and decided to make a few adjustments to this week’s training. I switched my long run from Friday to Wednesday, and shortened it from 20 to 18 miles. Thus, it meant getting up at 5 am this morning, which was more difficult than anticipated. I had gone to bed at 10 o’clock, but wasn’t able to fall asleep until nearly midnight, and then I woke twice during the night. When I finally made it out of bed I felt ok, but the lack of sleep will hit me later today. Leaving the house was delayed when I saw Niamh’s notice asking me to put some bread mix into the bread machine and turn it on – but since that meant wonderfully self-baked fresh bread for lunch, I was only too happy to oblige.

The run was rather unremarkable. The legs felt rather tired initially, and I thought I might be in trouble during the later miles, but I still felt strong towards the end. The first 2 miles were slower, about 9:00 pace, an the rest of the run was pretty much at 8:00 pace, maybe even a tad faster in places. As I’ve said, I still felt good at the end, but when I stopped, the quads immediately felt quite sore. I think I just about went to the edge of what I could do while still feeling good. Any more, and it could have gotten ugly.

I’ll take it easy for the rest of the week, probably something like 5-11-5 and then the race on Sunday, and it will still get me close to 70 miles for the week.

5 Sep: 6 miles, 56:11, 9:21 pace
6 Sep: 18.2 miles, 2:27, 8:04 pace

Monday, September 04, 2006

Of Recovery and Scary Events

After Friday’s epic run, I felt I deserved to stay in bed all of Saturday, just to recover. Of course, what you get isn’t what you deserve. I did manage somewhere between 8 and 9 hours of sleep, but woke at 3:30 am and couldn’t fall asleep for an hour; for some reason, I kept thinking “insomnia is a sign of over training”. But eventually, I managed to go back to sleep again.
I spent 4 hours on Saturday in Killarney doing a very big shop. I think from a recovery point of view that was a good move, though my bank manager would probably disagree. I managed to sneak into the Nike factory store, where I managed to find a new pair of runners. Just the day before I had read a glowing review of the Nike 360 shoes, and when they had a pair for the price of 95 Euros (reduced from 180 Euros), I couldn’t resist. I haven’t worn them for a run yet, and I am aware that the reviews are mixed, but for that price I was definitely prepared to give them a go.

I went back out on the road on Sunday for a nice and relaxing 6 miler, or so I thought, but when I came back I realised that the pace had been a bit fast. The HR was way down though, and I don’t want to run slower just for the sake of it, when the effort is very easy anyway. It’s a sign of how intense the week has been when a mere 6 miles over the entire weekend was enough to give me a weekly mileage of 70. We also went for a long family walk through the woods towards Glencar. The scenery there is absolutely stunning, and even the kids were so thrilled about walking in a magic wood that they didn’t complain once about being tired.

Monday morning was a return of the speed session, but the schedule called for only 5x600 repeats. I originally intended to run more than that, but after the fifth fast section it was HOK* time and I really had enough. I’ve obviously still got the 23 miles in my legs, and the fact that 2 of the repeats were up a hill didn’t help either. When I came back home, Cian demanded paper and a crayon. What he eventually produced was this portrait of me – not bad for an artist of 2 years, 8 months and 26 days, is it? In the evening I agreed to play an hour of football (that’s soccer for those of you on the wrong side of the Atlantic). I know that Mike had warned me that football and marathon training are incompatible, but I didn’t want to miss the first game after the summer break. I probably should have heeded the advice though. After about 45 minutes I suddenly felt very dizzy. I had to lie down there and then, or I would have fainted. I felt my heart, and it beat extremely fast, and very shallow. Putting my feet up helped immediately, and I felt much better within a few seconds, but it was still a scary experience. Anyone with half a brain would have stopped there and then, but for some reason I went back for more after a short break, and for the rest of the game I was ok. I’m not sure what caused it, but I’ll think twice about playing football after a speed session again.

* HOK = Hands on Knees

Weekly mileage: 70 miles

3 Sep: 6 miles, 52:45, 8:45 pace
4 Sep: 9 miles, 1:15, 8:20 pace, with 5x600

Friday, September 01, 2006

23 Miles!

Have you ever watched Disney’s version of Aladdin? When he frees the Genie for the first time, he shouts “10000 years! It gives you such a crick in the neck!”. Well, when I finished today’s long run, I felt like shouting “23 miles! It gives you such a pain in the hamstring!”

Let’s start with yesterday, though. The schedule called for 8 miles with 10x100 strides thrown in for good measure. As soon as I left the house, I wished I had run the 15 miles from the day before a bit slower, because my legs felt rather dead. I was immediately worried about my long run, but was hopeful that I would have fully recovered by Friday. The first stride outs felt rather awkward; it’s very difficult to get a fast turnover if you’re feeling stiff. But after the second or third, the legs started responding in a positive way, and I ended the run feeling much better than at the beginning.

This left me with today’s 23 miles. As you all know by now, I was rather nervous about this. I’ve never run 23 miles in training before, and even though I was confident that I would be able to handle it, I still felt apprehensive.
I went to bed at around 10 o’clock – I had been busy until then and couldn’t get finished any earlier. Luckily, I fell asleep very quickly, which meant I got a bit over 6 hours of sleep before the alarm went off at 4:15 am. When I ate my breakfast cereal, all of a sudden it started raining heavily. Oh please, no. I don’t want 23 miles on soggy feet! It was like Mother Nature telling me “what you’re about to do is stupid. Go back to bed.” I didn’t heed the advice, and went out of the door. I left 2 water bottles, one singlet wrapped in a plastic bag and one gel at the driveway and headed off. The rain had nearly stopped already, and the running conditions were ok – I could have done without the blustery wind, though. The first 9-mile loop went ok, the weather was fine apart from one or two showers along the way. On the way out I used my headlamp (for the first time since the winter), and that took some time to get used to. I turned it off after 5 miles, because it was getting bright enough to make out the road without help. When I neared our driveway, my intestines woke up, and I had to do an unscheduled pit stop back home. I desperately hoped the kids wouldn’t wake up, because then I would have to give them breakfast, and the break would be much longer. Luckily, nobody stirred.
I set out for a second 9-mile loop, still feeling ok. I grabbed a water bottle and carried it around with me for about 1.5 miles, where I left it at the roadside to pick it up on my way back. When I came close to the turn-around point of that loop, I started to feel tired. After all, I was already past the half-marathon distance at that stage. It did rain more on this loop than on the first one, and the wind was stronger as well. I just concentrated on running, one step at the time. With one mile of the loop left, I realised that I had run past my water bottle, and completely forgotten to pick it up. Damn. I wondered briefly if I should head back and pick it up, but decided against it. It’s still there for all I know, I’ll pick it up this evening.

The end of the second 9-mile loop was a kind of test. I knew that I might be tempted to bag the rest of the workout if I was tired, but actually I felt very well. I changed my shirt, picked up the second water bottle, and triumphantly looked at the gel. “I don’t need you!”. The third loop was only 5 miles, my old trusty route to Ard-na-Sidhe, which I must have run about 100 times in the last 12 months. I knew I would make it. It’s just 2.5 miles out, 2.5 miles back, and then I’m done. I enjoyed the first 5 minutes running in a dry top, and then the heavens opened, and I was drenched again. The downpour lasted for over 2 miles, so much for a dry top. I did wait for fatigue to strike, but it never really came. Andrew said we do those long runs for the last mile, and eventually I got that far. At that stage my left hamstring, which had sent out the odd twinge, started hurting a lot more, and I sure was glad to be close to home. I’m confident that I would have been able to continue on for 3 more miles, had this been a marathon, but might have aggravated something in the process. As it was, I reached our driveway still in decent shape, in a time of 3:12.

The first 9 mile loop had taken 1:16, 8:26 pace. The second loop 1:15, 8:20 pace, and the third loop, 5 miles, 41 minutes, 8:12 pace. Wow, I actually managed to accelerate all the way to the end. That’s encouraging. And while you should never predict your race time from one training run, those 23 miles would most likely have set me up for a sub 3:40 finish in a marathon. I’ll certainly take plenty of encouragement from that.

Monthly mileage for August: 284 miles. That’s one lousy mile less than for July. Damn.

31 Aug: 8 miles, 1:08, 8:30 pace, with 10x100 strides
1 Sep: 23 miles, 3:12, 8:20 pace