Wednesday, January 31, 2007


It was all going so well, training, work, life, everything was perfect. Too perfect. I was already waiting for the setback and hoped it wouldn’t be too severe.

I arrived on Monday evening. That’s my football night. I know, I know, some guy repeatedly warned me about football (soccer, that is) and marathon training being incompatible, but I did make sacrifices: I cut the football down from two nights a week to one night. Anyway, we were halfway through our game when I challenged for a ball. The other guy said afterwards he never saw me. I did see him, all right, but somehow it all turned out differently than anticipated. He came from one side, I from the other. He impacted me somewhere around my left shoulder. We were both running pretty much at full speed, and the force of the impact was enough to lift me straight off my feet. I did half a backflip and landed on the back of my head. Ouch. It was a wooden floor, and I felt it bouncing. My glasses flew off my head and shattered on impact (my spare glasses, thankfully). I was literally writhing in agony and the guys gathered around me, fearing a serious injury. Eventually I managed to sit up (with some help). I was dizzy, I had black spots in front of my eyes and a splitting headache. After a minute or two I even tried to continue playing on (in goal), but very soon had to pull out of it. I couldn’t even stand upright, never mind follow the game, and a second impact might have been serious. I was in no state to drive and got a lift home (from the same guy who I had collided with, no less). Niamh’s initial concern was for the broken glasses, until I told her what had happened.

I initially refused to go to the hospital. “They will let me wait for 4 hours in their hellhole of a waiting room, then talk to me for a bit and eventually tell me to get some rest”. Niamh didn’t relent. I went to work the next day (despite still suffering from headache), and she rang me about a dozen times. In my absence she phoned a nurse and then a doctor, and they advised her to get me to hospital. Eventually I relented and we drove to Tralee after work, not because I was worried, but to get her to shut up. “I bet you, they won’t give me an x-ray”. “Yes they will”. “No they won’t”. My initial prediction turned out to be nearly entirely accurate, with the one exception that I had to wait for 5 hours, not 4. After I said no to a dozen or so questions: Did you lose consciousness? Nausea? Headache getting worse? Dizzy? and so on he told me to get some rest. And he gave me some paracetamol. I did ask when I would be able to run again, and he said as soon as I felt ready. “But no stupidly long runs, like 10 kilometres”. I could have argued that 10k is not a long run by any stretch of the imagination, and that I could hardly remember the last time I ran less than 8 miles, but thought the better of it.

I have to confess that my main thought after leaving the hospital (at 1 am in the morning) was “65 Euros, 5 hours and a missed dinner, only to get the f***ing bitch to shut up”. I even started an argument in the car. Hmm. I blame the missed dinner. I tend to become an arsehole after going without food for 12 hours.

So, no running. Nada. Zilch. Null. Nichts. Just a few days ago Mike and Rob had argued for a cut-down week. I declined, but now I’m cutting down after all. 48 hours after the accident I’ve still got a bad headache. I won’t run a single step until I’ve gone a whole day without pain. I have no idea how long this will take, but definitely a few more days. Damn. It was all going so well!

30 Jan: 0 miles
31 Jan: 0 miles

Mileage for January: 333.4 miles. Yes, that’s a new record. By over 40 miles. Despite missing the last 2 days. Big Deal.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Mysterious Encounter

My birthday presents included various running-related items, amongst them a new stopwatch, which – wonder of technology – can display the seconds even if I’ve been out for more than an hour. Oh the progress. That should take care of Mike’s, Andrew’s and Phil’s concerns about my time keeping.

The weekend was mainly taken over by various birthday activities (usually instigated by the kids), but I did manage to sneak out Sunday morning for my main tempo run. As I’ve mentioned before, Sunday is the one day of the week where I seem to be able to get my legs going better than any other day. So it proved once more; I run by time, and the turnaround-point keeps being pushed out further and further. I’m always conscious of the second half and try to run even splits as much as possible, and usually I get it right. It went very well again, and I managed 9 miles in just under an hour. This keeps getting better and better. I even feel better during this run. Two weeks ago I was clearly hanging on towards the end, yesterday I was still going strong at the end, and yet another best-pace-ever tempo run was delivered.

I came home to a veritable feast, including fruit salad, birthday cake and blueberry-orange-muffins (I’m a lucky guy!), but had to promise to come swimming later that day. I usually try to wriggle out of that, because keeping tabs on 3 young kids in the swimming pool is hard work, I can never relax, and if I manage to actually swim more than 5 minutes out of the hour we’re in the pool then I’m doing well. Still, with all my fitness I expected to breeze through the water, but was surprised how much I was out of breath after each length. Apparently there’s more to swimming than aerobic fitness.
Anyway, the kids loved it, and I guess we’ll be doing it again soon enough (or even on a weekly basis).

Today called for another recovery effort, and as usual the legs felt completely dead early on, but had no choice but to wake up along the long climb up to the devil’s elbow. Most people wouldn’t run the steepest climb on a recovery day, but it seems to work very well for me. On the second, flat, part of the course I felt I managed a good pace despite the low heart rate. I was a bit surprised when I worked out the average pace towards the end of the run; I expected it to be faster. Not that it matters, these runs are supposed to be slower, and I certainly don’t want to overdo it. I had one strange encounter. I was running along the mountain road when all of a sudden I was surrounded from all sides by some very bright light. It looked like an alien encounter in one of those Hollywood films. For a second or two I was completely disorientated and had no clue what was going on, until I realised that a car was coming down the hill behind me and the light fog caused some strange lighting effects. Well, I never. It really had me spooked for a moment.

28 Jan: 9 miles, 59:59, 6:39 pace, avg. HR 165
29 Jan: 11 miles, 1:32, 8:21 pace, avg. HR 143

Weekly mileage: 83.5

Saturday, January 27, 2007

It’s That Day of the Year again

I’m 37 today. We’re about to tuck into the cake, especially prepared by the master chef, Niamh. I love the party with the family, though the kids are more excited than I am. From a running perspective I do ask myself how long I can continue to improve. I’ve probably hit the age where most people start slowing down, but since I’ve only been running for three years or so I’m confident I’ve still got a few years to go until I hit my personal ceiling.

The promotion at work came as a bit of a surprise. In terms of priorities, work comes behind the family and running presently, and I sometimes felt last year that I wasn’t pulling my full weight. When you get up at 4:30 in the morning to run 20+ miles, your concentration does suffer after several hours in front of the computer. I was never worried about losing my job, but I didn’t think I was at my best there. My boss obviously seemed to disagree. Not that I’m complaining. Hell, we can really use the money. Maybe we can even start to afford the kind of life we’re living here.

Running. Yes. Friday was the second part of my sandwich, the first ever. The first thing that worried me was the early waking time. Thursday’s 5:20 am was still somewhat civilised, but there was nothing civilised about Friday’s 4:40. And to do so on consecutive days invariably meant a sleep deficit. However, as it turns out, I managed just fine. The other thing I was worried about was my right hamstring. It had started hurting over the last 5 miles on Thursday, and I could feel it again before going to bed. Miraculously, it seemed to heal overnight, I didn’t feel a thing wrong on Friday. The weather forecast had been pretty good so you can imagine my dismay when I opened the door to be greeted by rain. On the plus side, it meant a rise in temperature and I didn’t have to worry about the icy patches on the road. I started my long loop around Caragh Lake, counter-clockwise today for a change. I did time myself again after 3 miles, and 8:20 was a pretty good starting pace. I usually start slower than that. The legs felt better than expected, and it went easy enough until mile 8. At that point the road starts climbing, and the thought of 3 miles of continuous uphill can be pretty daunting. However, I managed just fine, and I did enjoy a bit of rest on the downward stretch. By mile 14 I had left the mountains behind me, and the rest of the journey was reasonably flat. I passed our driveway after about 17 miles, and was slightly tempted to leave it at that (as I knew I would be). I felt ok though, and went for a final short 3-mile out-and back section. The whole run went much much better than expected. I had expected to be begging for mercy over the last few miles, instead I felt pretty good all the way. I did time myself for the last 6 miles, and I hit about 7:40 pace, which is quite amazing considering the amount of running from the last few days. I was very pleased with that double header. Next week I’ll increase Thursday’s mileage to 17 miles and leave Friday at 20, and we’ll see how that goes.

What better way to celebrate your birthday than going out for a 90 minutes recovery run? The last few “recovery” runs had all been too fast at sub-8 pace, and I was determined to take it easier today. I still went for the hilly option, and halfway through my climb up the devil’s elbow I thought I should have chosen a flat course instead. But I think that hill was exactly what my legs needed to wake up again, and the turnover increased markedly once I reached the flat section again. I just about managed to avoid sub-8 pace, but to be honest I should have slowed down more. Not because I think it will injure me, but because I think too much effort on those runs might have a negative effect on tomorrow’s tempo run. Having said all that, running does feel nearly effortless at the moment, and since the pace is dropping without any increase in effort, I couldn’t be happier with the way things are going.

26 Jan: 20 miles, 2:06, 8:12 pace, avg. HR 143
27 Jan: 11.5 miles, 1:32, 8:00 pace, avg. HR 149

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Title change? Ultra binning?

That devil Marc is trying to tempt me into dangerous territory. First he asked when I was going to change the title of my blog. Well, when I started this exercise I was a 4:06 marathoner who struggled to run the whole distance without succumbing to cramp. I think it's fair to say that I have improved quite a bit since then, but I've grown rather fond of the title. If it turns off a few snobs who don't read past the header, I couldn't care less.

Then he suggested binning the ultra in favour of a 3:0x marathon attempt. There are two major problems with that: firstly, I've told so many people that I'm going to run that ultra that I couldn't possibly change my plans without completely losing face. Secondly, if I tried to run such a time, I might find out that I'm not as fast as hoped for. Neither is particularly pleasant, and my plans are set in stone. There is still time for my next marathon once the ultra is out of the way. I haven't forgotten about marathons. In fact, just about every aspect of my training for this ultra (apart from the long run doubles maybe) is geared towards improving me as a marathon runner.

With that out of the way I can get to the last two training days. As promised by the meteorologists, the weather has been much nicer recently, with a clear sky and little wind. On the downside the temperature has dropped by some margin, this morning it was about -5C/23F, noticeable colder than before. Still, I definitely prefer this to what I've had to put up with the two or three months previously.

Wednesday was as close as I've come to a recovery day for quite some time, just 8 miles at easy pace. At least that was the plan. Despite choosing a rather hilly route for this, I ended up running a lot faster that intended, and came home with a sub-8 pace. I've said it before, sub-8 is not recovery pace for me. It felt easy enough though, and the heart rate wasn't outrageously high.

Today constituted the first part of my sandwich. I went for the Caragh Lake loop, 15.5 miles, and a fair few hills on the way. I averaged about 8:33 for the first 2.5 miles, then the hills started. The cold temperatures once more caused some very slippery icy patches and I had to be really careful in places. If I fell awkwardly somewhere on the mountain road and broke my leg at 6 am in the morning I might have to wait 2 hours in the freezing cold until someone could come to my rescue. Bringing a mobile phone to call for help is rather pointless, there's no coverage in that area. Hmm. Better not think about that. Anyway, the run went better and better as it went on. At around the half way point my hands started to get numb. I should have worn the warmer gloves, but I think it must have gotten a bit warmer over the next 30 minutes or so, because the numbness eventually disappeared. As usual I got faster the longer the run went on. I did time myself for the last 5 miles, and they went by in about 37:40, which is 7:32 pace. I'm definitely happy with that, but I hope I didn't overdo things. After all, I've got 20 miles ahead of me tomorrow.

Oh, and I got a promotion at work (together with a pay rise). You're now reading the blog of the software development team leader in our company. I'm happy with the new job, Niamh is happy with the new salary, and the kids are happy anyway. Life's good.

24 Jan: 8 miles, 1:03, 7:52, avg. HR 146, including 8x100 strides
25 Jan: 15.5 miles, 2:06, 8:07 pace, avg. HR 146

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Training continues to be good, my paces are still dropping, the achilles seems to improve and I'm feeling great. It's probably time something would knock me back a rung or two, but until then I'll continue to feel great.

Monday was a fairly unremarkable 11 mile run. Last week this was an extremely slow run, I still had Sunday's pace effort in the legs and needed a solid recovery effort. In comparison, yesterday was great, I managed some decent pace without straining and it still felt like a recovery run. The weather has improved by several magnitudes, there is no more rain and the wind is definitely manageable. The sky is clear, but that has also brought a drop in temperature, though compared to anything they have to put up in Canada, it's nothing, The temperatures in the morning are just below freezing, nothing I can't handle.

Actually, those temperatures did cause a problem today. There are several sections of the Caragh Lake road that are usually covered by a small trickle of water. Normally you hardly notice it, but today they were frozen solid, and the ice was extremely slippery (as well as hard to see). Twice I started slipping and sliding and very nearly fell, then I wised up a bit and brought the tempo down a notch whenever I encountered one of these patches. On a different day I probably would have been more careful to start with, but on my tempo days I usually try to focus on my pace and forget everything else.

I will make one change to my training starting this week. As Mike pointed out several weeks ago, ultra training usually involves running two long runs back-to-back, something apparently called a sandwich. Up to now I have been doing standard marathon training, but from this week I'll switch Wednesday and Thursday around, which will mean two 60-minute runs on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by two long runs Thursday and Friday. As a side effect this will cut down the number of tempo efforts from three to two, because Wednesday's effort will be slow. I don't think it would be too clever to run two back-to-back tempo runs immediately followed by two back-to-back long runs. This week I'll keep my mileage at the same level as in the standard training plan, meaning 15 miles on Thursday and 20 miles on Friday, but I hope to gradually increase Thursday's mileage until I end up with two 20 milers back-to-back. I will see how that goes. I had initially planned on doing that sandwich last week, but decided to wait one more week because I wanted to get a solid 22-miler under my belt first. I expect Friday's long run to be tough, but that's the whole point of it, isn't it?

On a completely different note, Andrew had mentioned something he called parrot predictor a few weeks back. It's something I've heard several times before. Some people say your true marathon time is the fastest 26.2 miles you run in your normal training week. For a lot of runners this is an amazingly accurate predictor. Well, I calculated my times based on my recent training; two weeks ago the predictor came up with 3:08:55, and last week that dropped down to 3:05:05. Wow. Unfortunately, I don't think I would be able to run a 3:05 marathon at the moment. Why? Because I haven't done any long MP pace runs, and I think those are vital to develop your stamina to the level required to sustain your pace for the whole distance. Of course I'm not even training for a marathon at the moment, so it's a rather pointless exercise. I still like those figures though.

For the first time this winter the weather forecast is benign. The next few days are all supposed to be dry, if a bit cold (that's relatively speaking. Don't laugh there in Maine, Canada, Minnesota, North Dakota, ... and even Tucson). I might even have a few moonlit runs under the stars. That would be really nice.

22 Jan: 11 miles, 1:31, 8:16 pace, avg. HR 144
23 Jan: 8.5 miles, 59:11, 6:57 pace, avg. HR 157

Sunday, January 21, 2007


I wasn’t quite sure if I would really be up for this weekend’s training after Friday’s very long and rather fast long run, but I wasn’t unduly worried either. After all, Saturday’s 90 minutes run is for recovery purposes; I can just jog along at easy pace and enjoy the scenery, right? Well, wrong, as it turned out. To start with, the weather was rather changeable. I woke every hour or so because yet another big rain shower kept hammering at the window, and the wind never stopped. It looked a bit friendlier than expected at 8:30 in the morning, and the devil’s elbow loop, with its sheltered parts, seemed to be perfect for a day like this.

I got going, but for some reason didn’t really get into recovery mode. I kept pushing the pace, just a little, but noticeable. Maybe it had something to do with the discussion on Andrew’s blog a few days ago, where Mike pointed out that his Mystery Coach is very much against “too-easy” recovery runs. Hmm. This might have got stuck in my head, and maybe that’s why I kept pushing. Anyway, after completing one loop I had plenty of time left and headed towards Ard-na-Sidhe rather than home. I had heard a few “thundery” noises before but since thunderstorms are very rare around here I didn’t really believe that a storm was brewing. I changed my mind when I saw a flash of lightning in the not-too-far distance, followed by a massive thunder. All of a sudden I was worried, running in a thunderstorm is definitely something I don’t want to experience. I turned around immediately and tried to get home as fast as I could, but in the 20 minutes it took to reach our driveway the wind had already blown the storm clouds away and the sky was blue again. Since it was safe again I added two more miles to the run before I got home.

As it turned out, I had run at sub-8:00 pace, which under no circumstances whatsoever can be described as a recovery run for me. I thought I would find out the next day how much that would affect my legs.

Sunday is the day of my fast tempo run. On the Lydiard schedule that I used to come up with my own training plan, this should be on Thursday. However, I have never managed to get the legs moving fast enough on Thursday, but never had particular problems on a Sunday. I think the reason for this is that Sunday’s run is a full three days after the previous tempo effort, while the other two tempo runs are just two days after the previous one. I seem to recover quicker from long runs than tempo runs, which would explain why Sunday is the day when my legs feel at their best. Well, I put on the DS-trainers again for the pace effort, waited 10 minutes to let the next rain cloud pass by, and headed out. It was quite windy, but I think I’ve written that for just about every run this winter. It was definitely manageable, so I headed for the Caragh Lake route. The quads complained a bit after three or four miles, but came round again eventually. Last week I did push my limits on that run. Today I felt better, it certainly didn’t hurt as much on the return leg, and I felt a lot stronger. I added a bit more distance, but I’m not quite sure how much. The pace definitely felt easier than 7 days ago, but might have been just a tad slower (depending on how accurate my guesses for the distance are). I was rather pleased with this effort; today sub-7 pace felt definitely manageable, and unlike last week I felt I could have continued on for a good bit longer.

The other Mike suggested it might be time for a recovery week. Maybe I’m gung-ho at the moment, maybe I’m foolish, but for the time being I’d rather continue with my consistently high mileage. The achilles troubles of the previous weeks seem to be receding (though I won’t be counting my chickens just yet on that score), and I just don’t feel like I need to cut back. Of course, should injury strike I won’t have anyone but myself to blame.

20 Jan: 12 miles, 1:34, 7:50 pace, avg. HR 148
21 Jan: 8.8 miles, 59:43, 6:47 pace, avg. HR 164

Weekly mileage: ~84.5 miles

Friday, January 19, 2007


They told us the storm was coming on Wednesday, and they were right. Tuesday was indeed only a taster of what was about to hit us, and when it did hit, it hit hard. Having said that, looking at the news and seeing the trail of death and destruction that that particular storm has caused all over Europe I think we have gotten away lightly. I mean, it was pretty bad with the usual stuff, fallen tree, local flooding and electricity cuts, but considering that many parts of Europe had to withstand hurricane levels of wind speed I think we escaped the worst.

I still got a lot of funny looks every time I confirmed that I had indeed been out running Thursday morning. In order to avoid any danger from falling trees and branches I had decided to run on the western side of Caragh Lake which is out in the open. Of course it meant running straight into the wind on the outward leg. I did manage ok during the first 2.5 miles, the water witch provides some shelter, and while I clearly struggled to get into tempo-run territory, it went ok. Then the road takes a turn, and from then on it’s 2 miles straight against the wind. To make things worse, the rain had re-started by then, and it came down nearly horizontally, and straight into my face. That hurt, and I tried to shield my face with my gloved hands, but it’s impossible to run that way. When I reached the 3-mile point I could no longer remember why I kept torturing myself that way and turned around. It felt a lot easier on the way back, but I kind of forgot that this was supposed to be a tempo run. I did remember again about a mile from home, and upped the pace once more. To make up for the shortfall I added an extra section in the woods, and it was a lot better there, and I didn’t notice any real wind damage. Running there would have been the better option, I guess. The faster 2.5 or 3 miles towards the end of the run constituted a proper tempo run, but all in all I felt this was a wasted effort.

I was a bit apprehensive about today’s long run, not because of the planned 22 miles (I’ve gotten used to long runs by now) but because I was afraid of similarly bad conditions. I resolved to run 3 loops around the devil’s elbow (plus 2.5 extra miles somewhere) if the wind was too strong, but I was very pleasantly surprised at 4:15 in the morning when I woke up and couldn’t even hear the wind. I had set the alarm for 4:30, but woke from the sound of Cian crying. I managed to get him back to sleep, and despite better judgement went back to bed for 10 more minutes of sleep (which felt like about 10 seconds). Mindful of yesterday’s atrocious conditions I wore two layers on top as well as extra warm gloves, but that proved to be a mistake. Since the wind was nowhere near as bas as feared I did my extended Caragh Lake loop (17+ miles) and added an out-and-back section to Ard-na-Sidhe at the end. I usually check my time after the first 3 miles; it is always a good indicator of how I’m doing. Well, my pace continues to drop, I had averaged 8:33, and it was a sign of things to come. The road was deserted (well, duh, at this time of night) and I ran mostly with my light turned off. Despite it being New Moon I was still able to make out the road, and what more do you need to see? Well, I did have three moments when I wished I had it turned on, once when I somehow managed to step off the road (no harm done), once when I stepped right into a big, deep puddle, and once when all of a sudden several big white shapes appeared right in front of me and nearly tripped me up (a flock of sheep on the middle of the road, but they were more startled than I was). Between miles 11 and 16 I felt truly fantastic and ran at a very good clip, and I had the feeling I could keep this pace forever. This turned out to be not the case; after climbing a hill of maybe half a mile the legs felt a lot heavier, and I slowed down again. I passed our driveway to go for the out-and-back section, and I soon felt a lot worse. Around the 18.5 miles point I was truly knackered and wasn’t exactly looking forward to the rest of the run, but that was the low point and I somehow started to feel better again after that. The next crisis came at around 20.5 miles when I got rather hungry (remember, I don’t eat a thing before running), but by then I was close enough to home to ignore the pangs. I finished the run in less than 3 hours, which surprised me. I’m pretty sure that I had indeed covered 22 miles, but 8:05 pace sounds very fast. Even if I somewhere missed half a mile and only covered 21.5 miles, that would still make it around 8:15 pace, which isn’t bad either. Having said that, I do think my original calculation is accurate, and that’s what I put into the log.

There’s another bit of good news, I’ve now lost all of the extra Christmas weight and I’m back on my pre-marathon weight of 149 pounds. I didn’t diet or even watch my food intake, but I guess the high mileage took care of that automatically. Great!

And I think I did work out one thing that had been puzzling me for a few weeks. If you remember back a few weeks ago, I got completely wasted on a 15.5 miles run in Dublin just before the New Year. I couldn’t quite explain why I felt so bad, and thought I was running right at my limit. I’ve come to the conclusion that the change in diet was responsible. Niamh is a vegetarian, and subsequently a vegetarian diet is what sustains me for most of the year. Whenever I come to Dublin my mother-in-law insists on stuffing me with meat like a goose in the mistaken belief that I must be craving things like pork, beef, mutton and, over Christmas, turkey. I guess next time I just have to tell her that I prefer Niamh’s vegetarian options. I hope she can take the shock.

18 Jan: 8.25 miles, 1:00:50, 7:22 pace, avg. HR 156
19 Jan: 22 miles, 2:58, 8:05 pace, avg. HR 148

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Stars Shining Bright Above You

I was still on a high on Monday night after Sunday’s success (that’s the part about my run, not the one about Cian), but when the alarm went off Tuesday morning I was a bit apprehensive about yet another tempo run. I knew that it was a bit silly; I shouldn’t feel under pressure to repeat great workouts again and again. In fact, racing myself to run ever faster times from tempo run to tempo run would be a one-way ticket to injury and breakdown.

But as soon as I was out on the road I knew immediately that I couldn’t even try and repeat Sunday’s workout. It takes more than two days for my legs to recover from that kind of run, and I felt sluggish and found it difficult to get the legs moving at any semblance of speed. I did as best as I could, and for once I really can’t blame the weather. It was a cloudless night with very little wind and a spectacular starry sky, at least for the first half of the run, until dawn broke. On the downside it was a lot colder than on previous days (I guess somewhere around –1C/30F) and I wasn’t entirely prepared for that. I did wear gloves, but very thin ones, and my fingers got very cold and stiff. Anyway, when I got closer to the usual turnaround point I noticed that despite not feeling up to it I was still moving faster than usual, and I added some extra distance before turning back. I just about managed negative splits on the way back (despite the cold starting to bite), and hit an average pace of 7:00. The heart rate was very low for a tempo effort, but it still felt like hard work, honestly. To feel slightly sluggish and still be able run the second fastest tempo run ever will do me.

Amongst the two least favourite things to happen the night before a run are feeling some pain in your legs, and not being able to sleep until about 1 am, and I managed to experience both last night. To top it all off, the next storm front is supposed to hit tomorrow, but we got a good taste of it today. When I got ready for today’s run I couldn’t help but listen to the wind and rain outside. While I didn’t contemplate going back to bed, I did question my own sanity, and not for the first time either. But as it turns out I was actually quite lucky; I left at about 5:50am when it was still raining, but that stopped about 5 minutes later. Then the stars came out in force again, and I even saw two shooting stars over the next 2 hours. The wind kept blowing with quite some force though, and the next big dark cloud got closer and closer as I was on my home stretch. It started raining heavily with about 1 minute left, but that didn’t bother me, for once I had managed almost perfect timing.

The achilles has started hurting again, and today I definitely felt it for most of the run. If it gets any worse I’ll have to cut back for a bit, but for the time being I’m still hopeful of being able to train through it. It’s not really painful (yet), just bothersome. I’ve started doing some exercises that have helped in the past. I wish I had the discipline to keep doing those when I’m not hurting; it might have prevented the present problems entirely.

Cian had his first accident-free day yesterday. Hurray. Sadly he didn’t manage to repeat that feat today.

16 Jan: 8.5 miles, 59:30, 7:00 pace, avg. HR 154
17 Jan: 14.5 miles, 2:01, 8:20 pace, avg. HR 146

Monday, January 15, 2007

Smashing the Barrier

After spending Saturday afternoon with the boys (and having to deal with Cian’s, err, potty issues), I couldn’t wait for Sunday’s run. I was really looking forward to smelling fresh air rather than s**t again. (As always, I just knew you really wanted to know that).

The real reason why I was so keen to go out was the following: I just knew that this would be my first ever run under 7:00 pace. I had come close to that the week before, and since I seem to improve from week to week at the moment, I was certain that this was to be the day. I even wore my DS-trainers for the effort, which are usually reserved for races. I set off at a decent but measured pace, and when the first mile went by in just over 7:30 I knew I was in for a good ride. The weather wasn’t exactly cooperating, It was quite windy and one of the predicted scattered showers came by as well, but it didn’t really bother me. I can’t say for sure if it was the lighter shoes or the fact that I was really up for it, but for once I never lost my concentration and kept going at a higher heart rate than on any recent tempo efforts. I did start to tire by the time I reached the turnaround point, but I figured since the second half would be wind-assisted I would do ok. That wasn’t entirely true, and between miles 5 and 6 I kept thinking “f***, this hurts”. I managed to keep it going though, and over the last two or three miles I felt better again. I got home just before the hour mark, and knew that I had achieved my target. In hindsight I probably set off a bit too fast; I managed very even splits, but if you take into account that the first half was against the wind and the second one was wind-assisted, it’s a slightly different picture. Anyway, when I calculated the pace I found that I had done even better than that. At first I thought I had miscalculated, then I thought I had gotten the distance wrong, but no, I couldn’t find a fault in either. 6:43 pace it was, and I’m damned pleased about it. Outside a 5k race I’ve never run anywhere close to that pace before. I’ve improved so much in the last 6 months it’s starting to scare me.

After that run, Monday was always going to be a much slower recovery effort. The weather was still windy, despite promises to the opposite from the meteorologists. I ran the by now customary devil’s elbow loop with its steep ascent, and then added a dozen strides into the mix. Despite the strides and the climb my heart rate was the lowest in months, but my pace was also the slowest in months. It’s been some time since I’ve run slower than 9:00 pace, but after Sunday’s run a good old pedestrian recovery run was exactly what I needed.

I had some bad news as well, well, not bad, just annoying. There’s a big 10-mile race in Ballycotton every year, and it would have been perfect this year, 4 weeks before the Connemara Ultra. It’s one of the biggest events on the Irish running calendar, and as a result they get more applications than they can handle. I got my rejection letter a few days ago, which really annoyed me. I was very much looking forward to it, and the timing would have been great this year. There is a 10k in Adare, about 90 minutes drive from here, the week after that, which I might do instead. I have to think about it. I don’t know how clever it is to run a 10k just 3 weeks before an ultra.

Oh, and I did over 80 miles last week. That’s way above any previous levels, and of course it was all in singles. I’m getting there.

14 Jan: 8.75 miles, 58:53, 6:43 pace, avg. HR 165
15 Jan: 10.5 miles, 1:35, 9:08 pace, avg. HR 141

Weekly mileage: 80.5 miles


I tried to ignore the latest game of tag when Eric tagged me (sorry, Eric), but now Waddler has tagged me too and I can’t snub two people at once, can I? I would feel too much of a spoil sport.

This is how it goes:1. Find the nearest book.2. Name the book & the author.3. Turn to page 123.4. Go to the fifth sentence on the page. Copy out the next three sentences and post to your blog.5. Tag three more folks.

  1. I’m at work, and the nearest book is technical. Does it still count?
  2. “Mastering Oracle SQL” by Sanjay Mishra and Alan Beaulieu
  3. ok
  4. Obviously, you can’t use simple date arithmetic, because simple date subtraction doesn’t exclude weekend days. What you can do is use the DATE_OF_YEAR table. For Example:
    (yes, that's what I do for a living)
  5. Three victims? Ok, I really won’t be offended if you ignore this, honestly, but I tag Pat, Hilda and Bapp.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

It's Raining, it's Pouring

For once the weather didn’t change – it stayed as bad as it was for two more mornings. Now, Saturday afternoon, it has brightened up, and tomorrow is supposed to be a nice day - with scattered showers; they obviously don’t want us to be spoilt. The next storm front is predicted for Wednesday. Is there no end to it? Michelle asked if I think the weather is related to global warming. Yes, I definitely do. I don’t buy that bullshit about cyclical weather developments, there’s nothing cyclical about the amount of greenhouse gases we’re pumping into the atmosphere.

But this is a running blog, and I’ll refrain from voicing political views. As planned, I did my 20-mile run on Friday. I initially set my alarm for 4:30, and just as I was about to fall asleep I decided it wouldn’t take me that long to run 20 miles, so I reset it to 4:40. The weather was just as bad as on Thursday, or maybe just a tick less so if you believe the weathermen. Nevertheless I felt good as I set off. Last time I ran this route I started the first 3 miles in a very pedestrian 9:20 pace, this time I still wasn’t exactly flying out of the blocks, but 8:45 was a good bit faster. But it was at that point that the road turned into the wind, and up the major climbs. I struggled against the forces of nature, and it was hard work. For the next 45 or so minutes I followed the road up and down, but with a net elevation gain of about 200 meters, and all of it right against the storm. I was mightily relieved when I finally reached the woods of Ahane, the previous 5 miles had been pure evil, but from there on it was much easier. For the next 5 miles the road was reasonably sheltered, and when I got out into the open again the wind was mainly at my back. At about the 10 miles point I suddenly started to feel rather weak, my legs turned into jelly and my stomach complained about the lack of food. I had been a bit nervous about running 20 miles on an empty stomach, but cranking up the music to maximum level distracted me sufficiently for the hunger to go away. The rest of the run went very well indeed. I’m not entirely sure about my pace for the last 8 miles, but it was definitely sub-8 pace, and I felt very good all the way home. Andrew and Mike have reported similar pace increases on their long runs, but they usually accuse each other of cranking up the effort. I have but myself to blame; but I felt really good. My achilles did start hurting after about 18.5 miles; that’s the first time it started hurting while out on the road, which is a bit worrying, but funnily enough by the time I got back home the pain had gone away, and I haven’t felt anything since.

I was mightily pleased with that effort, and surprised how easy it felt. I had expected a struggle over the last 2 or 3 miles, but the fatigue never struck. For my next long run I’ll probably go for something like 22 miles, which would take me about 3 hours. I’ll decide later in the week.

It was still wet and stormy outside this morning, which made me change my plans for today’s “recovery”. I had planned an out-and-back run along Caragh Lake, but after fighting 5 miles against the wind on Friday I didn’t fancy a repeat effort and headed for the devil’s elbow loop instead. When running counter-clockwise the trees will shelter you against the headwind on the first part, and when you leave the forest behind you the wind will be mostly at your back. The drawback of that route was that it included the steepest climb of all my usual running routes, but I was willing to accept that if it meant not having to run against the storm. For a recovery effort I probably ran a bit too fast, and my heart rate was a bit higher than I would have planned, but I blame the elements on that. On a nice day a stroll along the side of Caragh Lake would have been more of a recovery run. I also encountered the pack of dogs that had attacked me twice before, but I did notice that the biggest one wore a muzzle – that’s already better than back in August. Back then D had commented that she loudly shouts “no” when a dog charges towards her. I did follow the advice and guess what? It worked. Thanks D, you most likely saved me from another bite.

Shortly after coming back home Niamh plundered my wallet and set off towards Killarney with Lola for a girls’ day out in the shops, leaving Daddy behind to look after the boys. Which would be easier if that didn’t include a toddler who hasn’t quite got the hang of the toilet yet. I guess the challenges aren’t just confined to the road.

12 Jan: 20 miles, 2:45, 8:15 pace, avg. HR 149
13 Jan: 11 miles, 1:31, 8:16 pace, avg. HR 147

Thursday, January 11, 2007


It’s business as usual, the weather changes from day to day, and every good day has to be paid off with a bad one. The contrast was never so stark as in Wednesday and Thursday.

I went to bed with some trepidation on Tuesday night because the storm outside was getting worse and worse. But when the alarm went off at 5:30 on Wednesday morning and I looked out of the window, I could not have been more surprised. A perfect night sky with a brilliant moon awaited me. It was like once of those runs under the moon light I enjoyed so much last year, and which I really treasure in my memory. I definitely missed those this winter, and I very much enjoyed it. Even the running effort seemed easier. I repeated the same workout I had done 7 days earlier with 2 loops around the devil’s elbow, which should be around 14 miles. I checked the map website and it came up with 14.2, but let’s not be too nerdy about the distance. I ran at an easy effort, but upped the pace a bit over the last 3 miles. It was a really enjoyable run.

But boy did I have to pay for it today. The weather had turned once more, and the weather warnings of “gale force winds and severe gale force winds” were certainly no exaggeration. Apart from severely hampering my ability to run a good workout the storms also knocked out electricity all over the country, caused plenty of local flooding and sunk a fishing boat off the Wexford coast, tragically killing all 5 crew members (those fishing accidents seem to be happening at an alarming frequency in the last 2 years. Or is that just my perception). Anyway, I tried to have a 3/4 effort tempo run, but once more didn’t quite succeed. Running against the wind and rain was as hard as running up a steep hill, and it completely killed my pace. After fighting the elements for what had seemed a very long time I turned around to have the storms blow me home, but I didn’t quite succeed in getting the effort up to the desired level. These tempo efforts are a bit hit-and-miss from me, but I do usually get one good tempo run per week, just not always on the day I had planned. When I got home I was thoroughly frustrated, not only because the weather had interfered with my running, the wind had kept blowing the earphone from my ears. This really pissed my off so much that not even swearing loudly helped to vent my frustration.

The weather forecast for tomorrow isn’t exactly great, but at least the worst of the storm is behind us. It will still be very gusty, but I’m planning to do 20 miles no matter what, and I’m looking forward to a proper long run. I haven’t run more than about 17.5 miles since the marathon, and it is high time to get into the 20s. After all, that’s just half the distance of the ultra in April. Blimey, that’s only 11-and-a-half weeks away. Better get going!

10 Jan: 14 miles, 2:02, 8:42 pace, avg. HR 144
11 Jan: 8.25 miles, 1:01, 7:23 pace, avg. HR 159

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Despite all my moaning about the storms I have to run through, I have generally been fairly lucky with the weather. Maybe it’s just my perception, but it always seems worse in the evening than in the mornings. I usually drive home from work, notice the rain pouring down and the wind howling and think to myself “no way I would be running in this weather”.

My luck ran out temporarily on Monday. It didn’t seem too bad as I got ready to go out; I did hear the wind and the rain, all right, but it sounded ok. Once I was out on the roads, and especially once I left the woods behind me it became apparent that the wind was a lot stronger than anticipated. I struggled for a good 2.5 miles, then I turned a corner and had the full blast into my face, and after a minute or two I decided that I really didn’t want to fight the elements this way for another 3 miles to the turnaround point. I turned around there and then, and added my trusty loop to Ard-na-Sidhe (plus a bit extra) to make up the shortfall. In the wood the wind wasn’t nearly as bad, but once or twice I heard a tree creaking, and it was a bit scary, but I escaped unharmed. I even added a dozen strides to the run. I try to do them once a week, and Monday’s 90-minute run seems the most logical one. I can’t do them in a tempo run, and I certainly don’t want to do them during a long run. Despite all the capers with the weather and the strides my heart rate keeps getting lower. That’s definitely a good sign.

Tuesday made up for Monday’s appalling conditions, the wind was still there but much more restrained and the rain had ceased at some stage during the night. The road was still full of puddles and I had to be careful and try to run around them rather than straight through them, but it was pleasant and the moon was out bright enough to cast a shadow. My problem this time was the heart rate; I once again struggled to get it up to 160. I worked and worked and worked, checked the HRM and got dismayed by the display. The legs felt very heavy, which is probably a residue from Monday night’s hour of football, but I finally managed to get them going, and the second, wind-assisted, half of the run seemed much more manageable than the first one. This was definitely a 1/2 effort rather than a 3/4 one like Sunday’s run, but in the end I was pleased to find that I can run 7:25 pace even with heavy legs. A year ago this would have been more or less my pace for a hard tempo run, and for no more than 4 or 5 miles at that (and with a HR 10 beats higher). Now I can keep it for twice that distance on tired legs.

Less than an hour after my run the heavens opened for the worst rain yet. Believe it or not, I really was lucky this time.

My right achilles is acting up once more. As ever I don’t feel any pain while running, but it has been sore ever since, and I’m starting to get worried. Several months ago I had similar problems with my left achilles, and at one stage it developed into tendonitis and I had to cut back for a few weeks. I don’t want that to happen again. I’ve already changed into a new pair of shoes, which is my usual remedy for that kind of problem. If it gets worse, I might indeed have to cut down for a while.

Niamh forced me to throw out all my old runners. I do admit that they took up a lot of room in the shoe cabinet, but it was still heartbreaking. She just doesn’t understand the emotional bond between runner and shoe. To chuck them into the dump just like a …, well, old pair of shoes felt like a betrayal on my part. Ok, I’m exaggerating. Still. I’ll miss them.

8 Jan: 10.5 miles, 1:31, 8:40 pace, avg. HR 143
9 Jan: 8 miles, 59:23, 7:25 pace, avg. HR 155

Sunday, January 07, 2007


If there is one thing that’s good about the present weather then it’s the fact that no conditions I will ever encounter during a race will be new to me (apart from bright hot sunshine, maybe). Connemara in April is not exactly know for its benign and sunny spells, but I think I will be well prepared for whatever is in store.

Saturday was the closest I get to a recovery run in my schedule, but I messed that up slightly by choosing another hilly route, the loop around the water witch. I originally planned to do two loops, but my right achilles let me know that it wasn’t hundred percent ok with that, and I changed the course, and rather than running up the hill for a second time I chose a much flatter section of the road. That loop was a bit shorter, and I added a good mile out-and-back on the Caragh Lake road. In the end I called it 10.5 miles, which should be reasonably accurate. The heart rate was satisfyingly low, despite the hills early on. I felt surprisingly tired for the rest of the day, but any signs of fatigue were gone the following morning.

Despite being woken at 8 am I didn’t leave straight away. I felt too lazy to hit the road and spent some time working on the computer. The windy weather wasn’t too inviting either. I got the deserved reward for my slacking, because when I finally decided to head out, it had started raining. I delayed for another 15 minutes, but it became obvious that the rain wasn’t going to ease up, and out I went. As always, the rain wasn’t as bad as it seemed, but the wind was stronger than I would wish for. After not quite hitting the desired heart rate on Thursday I tried another tempo run, and for whatever reason today went better. It was still hard work, especially in the first half against the wind, but I was pleased to see the heart rate consistently in the 160s, and I managed to keep the effort going during the second half, despite being wind-assisted. The last half-mile was a bit of a struggle; I was definitely coming towards the end of my strength and the hamstrings made themselves known, but I got home still in decent shape, and was quite pleased with the results. I didn’t try to race and better Thursday’s time, I just tried to keep the effort at the high end of the aerobic scale. I guess the fact that I managed to keep the pace going for nearly an hour shows that I didn’t overdo it, but I was surprised to see that I had ran the same course 90 seconds faster than 3 days ago. There is definitely some progress being made, and it feels good to see the pace dropping so quickly. I probably should extend the loop for my 60 minutes runs, because recently I’ve started to come home too soon.

Talking about progress, Cian is being toilet trained again (we had to abort our last attempt, a few months back) and in the last few days the washing machine was begging for mercy. Now he finally seems to be getting the hang of it, to the relief of everyone in the house. I bet you all really wanted to know this.

6 Jan: 10.5 miles, 1:29, 8:28 pace, avg. HR 144
7 Jan: 8.25 miles, 58:23, 7:04 pace, avg. HR 163

Weekly mileage: 74

Friday, January 05, 2007

Wrong Readings

I used to be pretty well tuned into the effort my body was producing. Even without checking the heart rate monitor I could tell quite accurately at any pace what my heart would be at any given moment. This has changed. What used to be a HR 160 effort now produces a heart rate somewhere in the low 150, and getting the heart rate up to 160 or 170 requires more and more effort. It’s just like Andrew predicted. The cardiovascular system has adapted, but the legs take a lot longer to follow suit. Tempo runs seem to becoming harder and harder.

Last week I felt completely wiped out after my long run. For whatever reason, today I feel much better than 7 days ago – not that I’m complaining. It would just be nice to know what’s causing the difference. I certainly didn’t hold back on Thursday for the tempo run. In fact I was afraid I might have overdone it a bit, but those fear proved to be unfounded. Before the run I was wondering what’s the best option for this run: option 1 consists of a 2 mile warm-up, 4 miles tempo and 2 miles cool-down, which is probably what most people would recommend. The second option was a one-mile warm-up and then a gradual acceleration over the next mile, and the tempo effort for the rest of the run. I opted for the second option because 4 miles didn’t feel sufficiently long for the tempo part. In fact I probably ran the warm-up mile too fast, I was already thinking ahead of the speed bits and the legs kind of took over from there. I intended to keep the heart rate over 160, but it took about 2 miles to reach that level, and then it was really hard work to keep it at there. Once or twice I slightly switched off for a few minutes and had to jolt myself back into tempo mode. In the end I didn’t quite reach the planned average heart rate, but on the other hand I’ve never run 8 miles at that pace before, so I was satisfied with that.

As mentioned in my previous entry I ran the 17miles (plus change) loop around Caragh Lake again this morning for my long run, the same workout as two weeks ago, except that I ran it counter-clockwise today rather than the other way round. There is one big difference in doing it that way, because today the big climb with an elevation gain of 200 m (650 ft) was from mile 9 to 11, rather than from mile 3 to 5. Two years ago I twice tried to do this run but never managed to actually run the entire climb, I had to walk significant bits of it. Today the running was no problem, I was well within my limits and the HR never got higher than 155 or so (no, I didn’t keep checking). I was slightly worried that I might be tempted to cut off 2 miles towards the end, but that fear was unfounded, I felt pretty good as I passed the junction in question and cutting the run short was never an option. I had a bit of a crisis around mile 8 when I got hit by hunger pangs (no food before running) but luckily they went away eventually and didn’t bother me again. Apart from that I felt good until the last two miles when I started to feel tired and my feet hurt, but by then I was already on the home stretch. The effort was in the easy category, but I did notice that I tend to get faster the longer the run goes on. The first two or three miles were run at around 8:45 pace, and towards the end I guess I was at around 8:15, but without a particular increase in effort.

The weighing scales have also relented, half of the holiday pounds have melted away allegedly, and I’m on 153 now. You know what? I think the scales are lying.

4 Jan: 8.25 miles, 59:47, 7:14 pace, avg. HR 159
5 Jan: 17.25 miles, 2:29, 8:38 pace, avg. HR 144

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Home, Sweet Home

RTE have a short report of the New Year’s Day race on their website. They describe the conditions as gale force. Listen up, you soft Dubs: I’ve run in gale force winds, and what we had two days ago was just a bit windy, not gale force. That's truly pathetic.

Anyway, I had my last run in Dublin on Tuesday. The race has slightly upset my schedule. Because Niamh and the kids were there I never managed to make up a few extra miles, which meant I only ran 40 minutes on a day that was scheduled to be 90. Since running fast two days in a row was out of the question I decided to do those 90 minutes on Tuesday instead, and regard Monday’s race as a substitute for Tuesday’s originally planned 60 minutes tempo run. While this sounds logically enough it also meant two long-and-slow days in a row for Tuesday and Wednesday, but I really didn’t want to switch any more days and just returned to my normal schedule.

I felt absolutely fine on Tuesday, there was no residue of the race in my legs, and I finally managed to take it easier on an easy day, something I haven’t been particularly good at over the holiday season. I ran the same route as on any other days in Dublin; all the alternative runs I have tried have loads of concrete, and I really want to avoid that as much as possible. I felt really good after my run, and was happy that the race hadn’t left any marks on me.

The drive home to Kerry was long and the kids got worse by the minute. I was tempted to leave Shea by the roadside and drive off because he was driving us mad. (Note to social services: I wasn’t really. It’s an exaggeration.) We came home late in the evening, and with unpacking, ironing shirts for the rest of the working week and just doing lots of bits and pieces around the house it was nearly midnight by the time I got to bed. Less than 6 hours later the alarm went and I had to get up for my midweek run. The weather is noticeably warmer in Kerry. In Dublin the temperatures were generally about 5C/40F, here it is about 10C/50F, which is positively balmy for this time of the year. The big drawback is the wind, it is much worse than on the Irish East coast, and if Monday was gale force winds, then today would have been classified as a hurricane I guess. I originally planned to run around the lake again, but that would have taken well over 2 hours at my current easy pace, so I decided to run two loops around the devil’s elbow instead. On the first loop my legs, especially my right calves, did question the wisdom of running the steepest climb in the neighbourhood, but once that obstacle was mastered it went a lot better, and on the second loop it went a lot smoother. I even managed to drop my average heart rate, despite this being the hilliest run I could find.

The one thing missing in my training is a proper long run, despite me giving out to Marc on occasions for exactly those failings. Since I had to cut last week’s long run short, I don’t want to jump straight into a 20-miler. I’ll do my extended Caragh lake loop on Friday (a bit over 17 miles), and the following week I’ll attempt 19 or 20 miles, which would finally get me into proper long-run territory. I’ll see how that leaves me regarding fatigue. At the moment I’m definitely tired, but I put that down to lack of sleep rather than running too much. I’ll work on that problem as well.

I weighed myself for the first time since Christmas. To my utter shock and horror I've gained 6 pounds, and am now on 156. I'm not sure where those pounds are hiding, I still look as scrawny as ever. I accused the weighing scales of lying, but that that's a girly thing to do, so I stopped ranting and accepted the verdict with just a few hysterical sobs instead.

According to the results on the race website, I came 6th in my age group (hurray!), but they have my official time as 19:54. Hrmpf! Don't you dare! It clearly said 19:52, and, as I've already said, that was gun time.

2 Jan: 1:32, 10.5 miles, 8:45 pace, avg. HR 149
3 Jan: 2:02, 14 miles, 8:42 pace, avg. HR 147

Monday, January 01, 2007

Tom Brennan Memorial New Year’s Day 5k

It’s only 4 weeks ago since my last 5k, and since that had been just 5 weeks after the Dublin marathon I was confident that a new PR was in store today. There’s just no better way to start the New Year than with a PR, isn’t it? Since it’s out of the question to get a childminder at New Year’s Eve it meant Niamh and I took it easy on the booze the night before, and unlike the rest of the country we awoke without a hangover.

I had done the race last year and was therefore familiar with the location and the race course. The one change from last year was the later start; it didn’t start until 1pm, which I guess was due to the organisers bowing to the demands of the New Year’s Day sufferers. It also enables me to bring the whole family for a change, Niamh and all 3 kids were there to admire Daddy. Unfortunately the weather turned nasty just 10 minutes before the start with rain and sleet coming down, and the wind picking up. It stopped soon enough, before the starting gun, but it meant my personal fans were frozen and miserable even before the race had started. In the morning I had said to Niamh how I don’t like 5ks, because they hurt a lot for the whole duration of the race, and now I was going to test that. My previous best had been 20:47, and I was hoping for 20:30. Despite this I started at a measured pace, it felt slower and more controlled than on previous 5k races. I still managed some decent pace early on, which I could tell by the fact that ever since the first few hundred meters nobody overtook me, but I kept going past other runners throughout. I got to the first mile marker in 6:18, which is a lot faster than my usual 5k pace, but I felt good enough and confident. The course is over two laps, and soon enough I passed the spot where Niamh and the kids were screaming and waving. Unfortunately this was also where the lactic acid in the lags started to be truly noticeable. I tried to push on as hard as I felt prudent, but the second mile marker did not appear until the watch said 13:51, which would make this a 6:33 mile. That is still faster than my previous PR pace, but quite a bit slower than the first mile. Having said that, a good bit of that mile had been into the wind, which explains at least some of the difference. I pressed on and kept overtaking a few more guys. I kept being afraid of anyone passing me (not sure why), and each time I heard someone behind me I just pushed harder. We soon turned the last corner, from where it is about half a mile to the finish. There was a guy about 10 meters ahead of me. I kept thinking if I started my sprint now I might catch him, no wait, maybe now, no wait, no wait, no wait, .... damn, now he’s accelerated himself. I tried to push as hard as I could, but try as you might I couldn’t close the gap. I was just about to be really annoyed with myself for delaying my final burst when I managed to glimpse the official timer as I crossed the line. Wait for it: 19:52. What? I couldn’t believe it and had to check my own watch. There it was, 19:52, and that was gun time, my net time was probably more like 19:50 or even 19:49. Wow! Even Niamh realised that this was a lot faster than I had anticipated and asked “was that really your time on that clock?”. She and the kids were frozen throughout, and while the four of them were cold and miserable despite being wrapped in scarves, gloves and hats, I was happy, ecstatic and feeling the inner warmth despite being in shorts and t-shirt. It meant I really could not ask them to wait a bit longer so that I could cool down properly; we had to march straight to the car, pack everyone in and leave. Never mind, I don’t want to put them off the experience. Lola said she wants to race with Daddy in future, but she might have to wait a few more years.

As far as I know the race distance was accurate, and it certainly was the same distance as last year. If anyone thinks it was short, don’t tell me. I really want to keep my sub-20 5k time.

Just yesterday I was thinking about (running) goals for 2007, and the thought of a sub-20 5k did cross my mind. But you only better your 5k time by a few seconds each time, so I decided it was too ambitious a target for this year, and 2008 was more realistic. Gracious me, was I wrong. What next? At the moment I don’t care, the glow is still there. Happy New Year!

1 Jan: 5 or 6 miles including 5k in 19:52 (gun time), 6:23 pace, avg. HR 179