Friday, June 29, 2007

That’s my boy!

Tuesday, 26 Jun:
Me: Cian, what do you want to be when you grow up?
Cian: A fire-fighter. Daddy, what do you want to be when you grow up?
Me: A marathon runner.

Wednesday, 27 Jun:
Me: Cian, what do you want to be when you grow up?
Cian: A fire-fighter. Daddy, what do you want to be when you grow up?
Me: A marathon runner.

Thursday, 28 Jun:
Me: Cian, what do you want to be when you grow up?
Cian: I’ve changed my mind, Daddy. When I grow up I want to be a marathon runner like you!

I took it relatively easy on Thursday after the double header, and just ran 8 miles at some reasonable pace. I discovered that, like on the day before, my daydreaming pace is about 8:10. If I want to run faster than that I have to put my mind to it. I ran about half of the workout at daydreaming pace, and half of it at about 7:50 pace, and combined with a slow warm-up it produced 8:05 pace overall. I had yet another run-in with the pack of dogs that lives about 2 miles away from us and has attacked me before. I don’t know the owner personally, but apparently she’s an eccentric German lady who picks up stray dogs and keeps them. Unfortunately she make no attempt at controlling them, with the result that all her neighbours are basically barred from walking on the road, and a lone runner like myself gets attacked regularly. I know from personal experience that the fucking useless police are doing fuck all about it, even when you get bitten. I avoided a bite this time, mainly thanks to a stone I managed to pick up and hurl at the pests, but I’m so pissed off about the situation, I haven’t got the words for it.

When I checked my online running log yesterday the sentence “longest run in the last 13 weeks: 17 miles” struck me as unacceptable and I decided there and then to pump up today’s mileage to 18. It won’t make any difference to my endurance in October if I run 17 or 18 miles now, but it made me feel better, because in my world long runs start at 18 miles. For this I had to get up at 5am, which is why I didn’t particularly appreciate Cian’s refusal to fall asleep until way past 11pm. The alarm subsequently ripped me from very deep sleep, and it took a bit longer than usual to get out of the door. I faced the problem of how to run 18 miles. A trip around Caragh Lake is out of the question because of the long downhill sections, and I really didn’t fancy 3 out-and back trips on my usual 6-mile loop, because that would take me past the crazy dog lady’s house no less than 6 times, and I had no intentions of chancing my luck. I eventually decided to run part of the Caragh Lake loop, 4 miles out-and-back, and to add 2 loops on the Ard-na-Sidhe road. In fact that’s pretty much the same route I used to run for most of my long runs last year, before I started doing the whole Caragh Lake loop regularly instead.

The run went fine, especially considering that it was just 2 days after my double header, which, a fortnight ago, took me 5 days to recover from. I felt pretty good today, and after covering the first 3 miles at about 8:30 I managed to speed up sufficiently to get the average pace down to 8:00 at the end. My heart rate was also pretty low, which is always an encouraging sign. Running 18 miles didn’t particularly tax me; I think I’ll pump my longest run up to 20 next week. The knee held up fine again. It did hurt on every downhill stretch, but was fine otherwise. But sitting in my office chair at work once again left me in agony. I can’t find a sitting position that doesn’t cause a lot of pain. I still hope to heal soon, but I am relieved that at least my training doesn’t seem to be affected.

28 Jun: 8 miles, 1:04:47, 8:05 pace, avg. HR 151
29 Jun: 18 miles, 2:24:02, 8:00 pace, avg. HR 148

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Doubled Up

One double header later I’m convinced that I will be able to train through the knee pain without too much trouble. I know some people out there think I’m overdoing things, but I seem to be getting injured exactly once in every training cycle I’ve ever undertaken, and that included plans that didn’t go past 55 miles. It just seems to happen every time. On the plus side, I always recover quickly, and without making any drastic changes to my training. So far this injury is following the same pattern.

On Monday I found out that running 8:40 pace hurts just as much as running 8:00 pace. On Tuesday I tried to find out what 7:15 would feel like. The plan called for 10 miles, with 2 miles warm-up and 8 miles at marathon pace, which for some reason I still think of as 7:15, because that’s my target MP, but apparently not my “present” MP. After a slow and steady first two miles I cranked up the volume, but never got going properly. The run was basically cut into 4 segments of 2.5 miles each. I was reasonably happy with the first tempo segment, but not with the following ones. At least twice I caught myself day-dreaming instead of concentrating on the effort, and of course each time I had already slowed down by quite some bit. The problem wasn’t physical, I could have run faster, it was purely mental; I seemed to be unable to keep the mind set on the effort. The paces for each segment were 8:30, 7:20, 7:28 and 7:26, which gives an average pace of 7:25 for the main part of the run. When I got home I was less than happy about the paces, but I have since played with the idea that those might have been the “correct” paces anyway, i.e. my present MP rather than my planned one. Oh, and the knee felt pretty good. In fact, about 5 miles into the run I remember thinking “funny, my knee doesn’t hurt at all”. Of course as soon as that thought had entered my head the pain returned, because I got conscious of the issue again. Even so, it was definitely manageable.

A double header also has a second part of course, and today called for a 17 miles run, with 10 miles at 8:00 pace and 3 miles at 7:15 (plus warm-up and cool-down). I was a bit apprehensive about my knee, but again it felt better once I hit the faster paces. Why that’s the case, I can’t be sure. Either the different biomechanics of 7:15 pace put less stress on the injured part, or the concentration required to hit 7:15 is sufficient to take my mind off that knee. Either way I was happy with the way I felt. I even allowed myself to hope that I’m already getting better, but at lunchtime I was hurting quite badly again. Running for several hours seems to be fine. Sitting in an office chair leaves me in agony.

The run was a bit of a mixed bag. As much as I tried to tune into 8:00 pace, I never quite managed it. I kept checking my times at each turn-around point (every 2.5 miles), and the pace was always between 8:05 and 8:10. It’s not too far off the planned pace, but I was annoyed about the fact that I kept missing the target. It also didn’t bode too well for the speedier section. When that part of the run arrived I accelerated and hoped for the best. To cover 3 miles at 7:15 pace takes 21:45, and when I checked my watch at that point it showed 21:46. Pretty good going. In marked contrast to my last effort from 2 weeks ago I felt good enough to continue the faster pace for another half mile before I eased off. Even then I still felt fine, but thought that a proper cool-down might be better, especially keeping in mind that I was injured already. As far as the course went, the out-and-back loops of the Ard-na-Sidhe road make a lot more sense for that kind of workout than the loop around Caragh Lake. Not only do I not have to cross two mountain ranges in the first 12 miles (slight poetic license here), the road for the faster part is also reasonably flat. Maybe that’s why I felt so much better than last time; or maybe it’s because I took it so easy on Monday; or maybe it’s because those runs do get easier, just like Mike had promised; or maybe I’m generally a little bit fitter than 12 days ago. Whatever the cause, I’m satisfied with today’s work.

26 Jun: 10 miles, 1:16:56, 7:41 pace, avg. HR 157 (incl. 8 miles at 7:25 pace)
27 Jun: 17 miles, 2:16:08, 8:00 pace, avg. HR 150 (incl. 10 miles at 8:05-8:10 and 3.5 miles at 7:15)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Tentative Steps

Well, the pain issue remains unchanged. I’m resigned to the fact that it will be a constant companion for some time to come. I can live with that. As long as it doesn’t get any worse, I can train through it. I know, I know, just because I can train through it, doesn’t necessarily mean that I should, but so far, so good. Since it flared up last Wednesday, I have covered over 60 miles, and it definitely hasn’t got worse. I’m not entirely sure if it really is ITBS – but then again, it doesn’t really matter to me what exactly the cause is. I just want to be able to continue running.

As to what caused the injury, that’s anybody’s guess, of course. Running on cambered roads is supposed to be a factor, but we’re talking about rural Ireland here. The choice is between running on cambered roads or to stay at home. I tend to run along the crown of the road. Yes, that’s bang in the middle. At the times when I do my running that’s not really an issue, the roads tend to be deserted at 6 or even 7 am. What could be a contributor is the fact that I only brought one pair of running shoes on my holidays, and obviously wasn’t able to rotate pairs as I usually do. Plus, that pair got rather worn out, by the time I came back home they had accumulated just over 500 miles. They still felt ok (I usually get a few twinges when wearing a worn-out pair), and were retired immediately as soon as I got back home, well before the knee problem materialised. However, that’s the only thing I can think of, really. Mike might be on to something in his comment when he blamed my higher paces this time round, even for the easier runs. Possibly. Who knows.

I did indeed run 9 miles on Sunday, as per the revised plan, in order to finish to week at 80 miles. I’m slowly squeezing into the kind of mileage that I produced while training for my ultra, but it’s way short of the 100 miles that I unwisely stated as my training goal a few weeks back. Of course, the knee issue casts a bit of a shadow on my plans. I’m not even thinking about raising the mileage this week, and maybe this time next week I’ll have found more confidence to put some pressure on my system again. Or maybe I’ll have found out that I can’t train through the pain after all. We’ll see.

The one thing I’m planning for this week is another stamina-building double-header. Following the advice from some people who have been through that kind of training themselves I took it really easy today. It was a slow run, much slower than anything in the last 2 months. I don’t want to be tired going into the double header to start with, and basically ran as slowly as I could. I left myself an extra 5 minutes in the morning to ensure that I wouldn’t feel pressured to speed up during the run, but that bright idea was scuppered by the fact that Shea got up at the same time, and I had to prepare some breakfast for him, made worse by the fact that I was starving myself at the same time. It was really windy this morning, which would have driven me onto the Ard-na-Sidhe road anyway, even if I hadn’t planned to do so already. It’s basically the flattest piece of road I’ve got available, and since running downhill hurts like hell it’s the most logical choice for a running route. The Caragh Lake loop with its 3-mile downhill section will be out of bounds for quite some time, I guess.

Anyway, I ran as slowly as 8:40 pace today, which should leave me well rested for tomorrow and Wednesday. I haven’t yet dared to run tempo pace on my hurting knee, but I guess I’ll find out tomorrow if it’s possible or not. Since today I know for sure that running slower doesn’t make a difference. The knee felt exactly the same at 8:40 pace today as it did at 7:36 pace a few days ago, which makes me hopeful that 7:15 pace won’t be any different either. There’s only one way to find out, I guess.

24 Jun: 9 miles, 1:10:15, 7:48 pace, avg. HR 157
25 Jun: 12 miles, 1:43:53, 8:39 pace, avg. HR 140

Weekly mileage: 80

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Knee’s Up

The pain in my left knee that I alluded to in my last entry remained rather persistent. And it looks like it will be a companion for a few weeks to come. After being in quite some pain after the end of Wednesday’s 17 mile run, I googled for the likely explanation, and the one that sprang out immediately was Iliotibial Band Syndrome, or ITBS. That’s, of course, an injury that’s all too common in runners, and it would make perfect sense to add it to my list; after all, I’ve had most other common ailments in the last 2 or 3 years, and that one was still missing in my collection. I’m not 100% sure if that’s really my injury, though. The knee first started hurting when running uphill, while ITBS is supposed to hurt when running downhill, and on Thursday I was in serious pain after the run, when that injury is supposed to stop hurting immediately after your run.

Whatever the exact cause, after a few miles into Thursday’s planned 8 mile run, the knee got worse with every step, and eventually I had to cut the run short and slowly make my way back home. I was already at the 3.5 mile point of an out-and-back run, which meant I only lost 1 mile of my planned mileage, and towards the end of the run I actually seemed to feel better again. However, as mentioned, I was in quite some pain afterwards, and very reluctantly came to the conclusion that I was injured and most likely would have to rest. ITBS can easily take 6 weeks to heal, and in the dark clouds forming in my head I could see the marathon drifting away.

However, I started doing the stretches mentioned here, and I also came up with some strengthening exercises from that site (which, btw, I find excellent). I’m a great believer in strengthening exercises, I prefer them to ice, drugs, rest or any other treatment (plus, of course they can be combined with any of them). In the past few years I’ve overcome achilles tendinitis, shin splints, plantar fasciitis and a few more twinges, and strengthening exercises always seemed to help very quickly.

The stretches had one immediate effect, namely they immediately alleviated any discomfort in my knee, at least for some time. This ensured that a) I did them frequently and b) I got more optimistic as the day wore on. By the evening I had formed some kind of plan. The originally planned 20-mile run was out of the window. Instead I would set the alarm in time for 15 miles, and I would run a series of 5-mile loops to Ard-na-Sidhe, giving me the chance to bail out at any time. I also promised myself to go straight to back if the predicted heavy rain would materialise.

Come next morning both the weather and the knee cooperated and I set out. The knee started hurting after a few miles, but it was more a discomfort rather than pain. It definitely was worse on the downhill stretches; the uphills were mostly pain free. After 5 miles I did not hesitate to turn around for a second loop, and after the end of that the knee still had not gotten any worse; the discomfort just stayed at a manageable level, so I set out for a third loop. I was happy to just be able to run, maybe that’s why I got slightly taken away as far as the effort level went. The times for each 5-mile loop were roughly 41:00, 38:30 and 38:00. While that isn’t exactly flying, it was faster than what I had planned.

Again, the knee held out for the rest of the day, and I decided I would be able to slightly increase my miles for the weekend. There’s no rational explanation to this. I had lost 6 miles of my planned weekly mileage of 83, so if I added 3 miles to the weekend runs, I’d still be able to reach 80. Of course 80 is just as arbitrary a number as any other, but psychologically it will make me feel better about my training. Of course, that’s under the provision that my knee will hold up.

Anyway, following that reformed plan I ran 12 miles today (Saturday). The knee was similar to Friday, it remained at a certain level of discomfort; bad enough to be conscious of it at any time, but not so bad as to cause me to bail. I guess I get injured easily, but I also heal quickly. I’ve had plenty of twinges and tweaks in the recent past, but they always got better even without too many compromises in my training, and mostly without the use of drugs. The packet of ibuprofen that I bought a long time ago is still in my cupboard. It’s nearing its expiry date – a sign that I’m rather restrained when it comes to using it. I know, most people wouldn’t hesitate in popping those pills far more regularly than I do. I just happen to believe in the natural healing capacity of your own body, and drugs are very much a last resort, when I’m getting desperate.

21 Jun: 7 miles, 56:09, 8:01 pace, avg. HR 143
22 Jun: 15 miles, 1:58:23, 7:49 pace, avg. HR 154 (split paces 8:12, 7:42, 7:36)
23 Jun: 12 miles, 1:34:17, 7:51 pace, avg. HR 153

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Clouds on the Horizon

I really did not feel my best over the last few days. I don’t know if it was a cold I was fighting off, the shock of being back from my holidays or the fatigue from the double header workout, but every day the alarm went off much too early and I had to heave an unwilling body out of the bed, and started each run with an audible groan. The first two miles were always a drag and I constantly contemplated returning home and going back to bed. Of course I never did, and after two, or maybe three, miles I always felt better and managed to finish the workout.

Monday was pretty bad, actually. Even after the first 2 miles I somehow felt like I was dragging my feet along the road, and the 12 miles just couldn’t pass soon enough. After 9 miles I really had more than enough, but at that stage all that was left was to return home. The numbers in the logbook may make it sound like an easy run with 8:06 pace and an average HR of 142, but take my word for it, it felt much tougher than that. After that workout I seriously doubted my ability to run a marathon at anywhere near my target time.

I did feel better on Tuesday, though. Not on the first two miles, granted, they just dragged as badly as any other miles for the past few days. But when I upped the pace and started concentrating on a bit of tempo, the shackles seemed to fall off and I managed a decent run. From my stopwatch I could tell that I was moving along at roughly 7:15 pace. This is my planned marathon pace, but that fact is merely coincidental. I didn’t plan a marathon pace run, I just ran along at a reasonably strong pace that felt manageable easy enough. I checked my HR monitor a few times, and even on the inclines it stayed around 157-160. This definitely felt manageable for marathon pace, and all of a sudden I felt a lot more optimistic.

At the beginning of the week I had decided to follow Eric’s advice to not do a double header this week. Instead I’ll pump up the mileage a bit, and when I scribbled down a few figures that seemed reasonable they added up to 83 miles, so that’s the plan for this week. It meant a 17 mile run today, and after last night’s weather forecast I really didn’t look forward to it. The weather has been rather dreary ever since I’ve been back (and no, this isn’t just my perception), but for this morning they predicted heavy rainfall. Luckily they were out by a bit. The conditions were fine, it didn’t rain at all when I set off, and a few drizzly showers along the way didn’t dampen my mood. The best bit was that all of a sudden I felt much better again. Maybe the cold that had threatened to pay me a visit has moved on, or maybe it really took five days to recover from the double header, but all of a sudden running was a joy again. The by now very familiar loop around Caragh Lake always seems to lift my mood, and even when I got to mile 8.5 and faced 3 miles of climbing I didn’t mind. Those ascends are never as bad when you actually have to do them then what they seem like from afar.

Anyway, even though I started out slowly (3 miles at 8:30 pace) and even though I didn’t pay any attention to my pace at all, by the end of the run I had the average pace down to 8:02, which again pleased me. I might have missed the magical 8:00 by over half a minute, but I didn’t care, it was more important to me to run easily and to know that I could have run faster, if that makes sense.

Oh, and I nearly forgot, last night I attended my first yoga class in nearly a year. I was a bit self-conscious, being the only male member of a group of about a dozen people, but the teacher seems nice enough. Afterwards she asked me if I run a lot. How did she know? She lives a couple of miles away from our house and has seen me on the road on a few occasions when she was out cycling.

There has to be a downside to everything, and in my case it’s a pain in my left knee. I felt it on every climb today, but it wasn’t too bad, it didn’t stop me from running and it didn’t stop me from feeling good overall, but it’s a worry nonetheless. I did google a bit, and immediately came across a description of an injury that most runners are only too familiar with, but I don’t even want to spell it out for fear of jinxing myself. So far I’m still in hope that it’s something else and might go away.

18 Jun: 12 miles, 1:37:17, 8:06 pace, avg. HR 142
19 Jun: 8 miles, 59:45, 7:28 pace, avg. HR 152
20 Jun: 17 miles, 2:16:44, 8:02 pace, avg. HR 149

Sunday, June 17, 2007

As promised

The journey from Kerry to Bled was rather arduous, to say the least. A five hour drive from Kerry to Dublin was followed by a 5am rising, a taxi to the airport, one flight to London, a second flight to Klagenfurt, two trains and another taxi ride until we got to our destination. The taxi driver got quite excited, when he heard our destination, though. “Villa Istra! Are you famous? Villa Istra is really special!” Apparently only the rich and famous stay there – and us, of course. I had to admit, it was rather splendid.

The wedding day started out cloudy, but luckily brightened up soon. After getting ready (especially the most beautiful flower girl in the world), the proceedings got underway. The ceremony itself took place in the church on the island, which is as romantic a setting as it gets, really.

Afterwards, Lola and Shea got some rest on a bench, only to be turned into an impromptu attraction for Japanese tourists. Suddenly there were more … and more!

The wedding dinner was held in the fantastic surroundings of Bled castle. Considering half the guests were Italian, and half Irish (plus some from Canada, New Zealand, Nepal, Slovenia, and, as Gaga pointed out in his speech, the Kingdom of Kerry), I expected the Italians to be civilised and the Irish to be the drunken rowdy crowd. Imagine my surprise, as it was the other way round, at least initially. By 1 am or so both parties had found a common level. A great time was had by all, and the kids stayed up until late. Cian eventually fell asleep, and missed the wedding cake, much to his chagrin.

We stayed in Bled for 4 days, before we took the bus to Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital. It’s a small city for a capital, but then again, Slovenia is a small country. Shea’s favourite place was the dragon bridge. He insisted on crossing it as often as we could. We also had time for a day tour into the Podojna caves in the south of the country. The photo doesn’t really give a proper impression of the place. Take it from me, it’s breathtakingly beautiful and well worth a visit, should you ever find yourself in the vicinity.

After only two days we moved on again and crossed the border into Austria. Our next destination was Graz, not because we were terribly keen on visiting it, but because it was a convenient stop, half-way between Ljubljana and Vienna, our next destination, but with a flight for the children and grandparents to return home directly. As it so happens, many years ago I was born just 50 miles away from Graz. But my family moved away when I was only 2, and never returned. Nevertheless, I was expected to be the tourist guide for the rest of the troupe; Nana seemed to think that the bare fact that I was born not too far away from there automatically made me an expert on the local sights. I didn’t know the place at all, but used a run on the first morning as a scouting mission. I was very pleasantly surprised. Not only do they have a very beautiful old town, but the setting around the central hill is spectacular. And not to be outdone by the old buildings, some very imaginative modern architecture can be found as well. The Friendly Alien was Shea’s favourite – though it might not be to everyone’s taste.

Really, I don’t know how Niamh had managed it, but somehow she had persuaded her mother to take the children back to Dublin with her while the two of us spent four days in Vienna, where we had met 14 years ago. Everyone who had heard the plan had predicted that Niamh would return pregnant. That was true – but not quite in the way they had anticipated. The biggest surprise in Vienna was our old student’s residence. What used to be a rather run-down building is now a stunningly posh designer hotel, including a spanky restaurant. We didn’t eat there though, our budget didn’t allow it. Vienna is a stunningly beautiful city. The inner part is so full of palaces (or palais, as they call them) that you walk past less impressive building that in most other settings would be an attraction themselves. Even the museums are stunning. Well, after 4 days of that, we took out leave and returned home (via yet another country, Slovakia, because our flight went direct from Bratislava to Dublin).


Running: I did 10 miles yesterday, on very heavy legs. That double header really knocked the stuffing out of me. Most people wouldn’t realise just how tough a workout it is, until you try one yourself. I followed it up with 8 miles today, and the legs were still stiff and heavy, at least initially. On the way back, as I was running along the shore of Caragh Lake, I noticed a guy in a boat ahead of me, slow enough to make it catchable but fast enough to be challenging. I chased it for the next 2 miles, until I got ahead. And just as it looked like I would have to return home on my own, I spotted a runner ahead of me on the road. Road kill! How exciting! This guy ran a lot faster than most people I see on these roads. In fact, I really had to strain to chase him, and got down to about 7:00 pace. I know, I know, that’s childish, and the other guy probably didn’t even realise that I was there, so it wasn’t even a race, but I had fun anyway. I slowly drew closer, but on the last climb towards home, he stopped running and walked, I was almost disappointed, and of course I caught him in no time. Nevertheless it was a fun way to end the run.

16 Jun: 10 miles, 1:19:57, 7:59 pace, avg. HR 151
17 Jun: 8 miles, 59:28, 7:26 pace, avg. HR 157 (splits pace 7:38 and 7:13)

Weekly mileage: 66 (due to Tuesday’s 0)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Double Header

After all the excitement of being on holiday and exploring foreign cities and running on completely new roads, I’m back home on my familiar roads around Caragh Lake. While it was great to run in so many new places, I do appreciate being back home again. And I certainly prefer the cooler temperatures in Ireland – it makes a big difference, much bigger than I thought it would.

I headed out yesterday morning with the intention of running one hour at a decent pace. After warming up for the first two miles I sharply increased the pace, and held what seemed like reasonably comfortable tempo pace, though I didn’t really know how fast I was; I didn’t check my watch and my internal tachometer seems to be a bit off these days, and was quite surprised when I calculated my pace afterwards, because I had covered the second half of the run in 7:13 pace. Since I had kept the pace pretty much constant for the two preceding miles, this meant 6 miles at or around 7:15 pace, which is of course my planned marathon pace in October. It certainly felt tougher than marathon pace, but with over 16 weeks of training left I’m not too worried yet. I was really pleased with that effort, and it led me to the conclusion that my mileage estimations during the holidays were most likely a bit conservative – the actual distances were probably slightly higher than the ones I wrote down in my previous entry.

Then another thought struck me. At one point I should start doing those double headers I keep reading about in Mystery Coach’s posts. From some formula that he left somewhere I calculated that a double header for me should consist of 7 miles at 7:15 pace on the first day, and 10 miles at 8:00 pace plus 3 miles at 7:15 pace the following day, and don’t forget to add a few miles of warm-up and cool-down to each run. I had inadvertently covered 6 miles at the required pace, and decided to finish the job on Friday for my first ever double header of that kind. It meant that the first day was one mile short, put I can live with that.

I got up at 5:30 this morning, and immediately started to doubt my ability to run the required pace. I felt really tired, and wasn’t sure if I should even attempt such a tough workout. However, after hanging around the kitchen for ages I eventually gave myself a metaphorical kick up the arse and went out. The first few miles were uneventful apart from a dog nearly attacking me, but luckily he turned the other way when I shouted at him. I chose the same route I always do for a 17 mile run, namely the loop around Caragh Lake plus a second loop around the Devil’s Elbow. This is a rather hilly run, after 3 flat miles it’s a series of up- and downhill for the next 3 miles with a net elevation gain of over 550 feet. Then the road drops back all the way only to go over another hill of about 300 feet. By the time I reached the 12-mile point, I was definitely tired, and unsure if I would be able to do 3 fast miles on those weary legs. The topology of the course presented an additional problem, namely the fact that there aren’t 3 flat continuous miles. I had the choice of doing the fast bit between miles 12 and 15, which would mean a very hilly first mile, or between miles 13 and 16, with a hilly last mile. I chose the first option, and decided to go more by even effort rather than even pacing. Of course there aren’t any mile markers, I just have to go by my own imaginary mile markers, but they should be reasonably accurate; I’ve covered that stretch of road often enough by now. The first mile went by in 7:38, which I put down to the hill. The second mile wasn’t as bad, but it was very slightly uphill, and to make matters worse I had to fight against a headwind, though it wasn’t particularly strong. However, I definitely got the effort wrong and covered it in 7:04, way too fast. I tried to ease up just a little bit for the final mile, but the fact that it was slightly downhill and out of the headwind meant I got it even more wrong and covered it in only 6:54. After that I was seriously knackered and struggled for the remaining 2 miles until I got home.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so exhausted after a workout. Maybe my first 20 miler was as tough, but that was too long ago to remember clearly. My right hip flexor had gotten very tight towards the end, and my left calf didn’t feel good either (I’ve been having problems with that for a few weeks now). But the overwhelming feeling was one of complete exhaustion. I definitely overdid it on the fast 3 miles, and will have to work on better pacing in future. In fact I suspect that the first of those miles was actually a bit long, and that I ran faster than 7:38, which compounds my overall pacing error. There is definitely room for improvement here. But I’m glad to have this workout behind me. I hope to make those double headers a weekly part of my training.

14 Jun: 8 miles, 58:36, 7:19 pace, avg. HR 155 (6 miles at ~7:13 pace)
15 Jun: 17 miles, 2:18:16, 8:08 pace, avg. HR 155 (3 miles in 7:38. 7:04, 6:54)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


After an absence of 2 weeks, I’m back in my own house. It’s unusually quiet here, because Niamh and the kids are still with the grandparents in Dublin for 3 more days and will come to Kerry on Saturday. I think I’ll very much appreciate the peace and quiet for a while, because at the moment I’m so knackered that all I can think of is sleep.

The holidays were a complete success in just about any area you can think of, maybe apart from relaxation (and maybe from a financial point of view). We had 6 great days in Slovenia and 6 great days in Austria, the wedding was a blast, and I even went running every day, apart from yesterday, when I was too tired after the journey back to Ireland. I think I’ll write a holiday report, but Niamh still has the camera, and what is a holiday report without photos?

I’ve come back home to over 200 unread entries in bloglines and 250 unread emails, even if most of those are bound to be spam. It will take a bit to catch up, so don’t expect too much commenting from me soon. I’ve probably lost most of my readers during my 2 weeks absence, such is the fickle nature of the internet crowd, but hey!

I guess this is still a running blog, so I’ll just sum up all the runs I did while I was away. I still don’t own a GPS device (and most likely never will), so all runs were by time. The mileage is just a rough guess.

May 31: Bled, Slovenia. 34:30, ~4.2 miles.
One loop around the lake, plus an extra loop around a hill. I couldn’t resist going out for quick run after arriving.

Jun 1: Bled, Slovenia. 1:55:20, ~14.8 miles
4 loops around the lake, 29:03, 28:13, 28:58, 29:03. Very hot and humid. Got tired towards the end.

Jun 2: Bled, Slovenia. 58:14, ~7.4 miles
2 loops around the lake (before the wedding, had to hurry). Even hotter and more humid. The temperature really started to get to me. It was 15 degrees Celsius hotter than what I was used to.

Jun 3: Bled, Slovenia. 1:08:42, ~8 miles
Up and down some hills near Bled Camping. I randomly followed some trails in the woods, and ended up on some incredibly steep (unrunnable) sections. At one point I looked down and realised that I was practically looking down a vertical 100 meters high rock face towards the camping ground below me. Yikes!

Mileage that week: 72

Jun 4: Bled, Slovenia. 59:49, ~7.4 miles
My worst day as far as running was concerned. The heat and humidity really got to me and I cut the run short after half of the planned run. At that stage I was wondering if I should just stop running and rest.

Jun 5: Ljubljana, Slovenia. 1:23, ~10 miles
Three hills in Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital. Felt much better. Either it was less humid, or I got used to the higher temperatures, or both.

Jun 6: Ljubljana, Slovenia. 45:28, ~5.5 miles
I randomly criss-crossed the woods around Ljubljana Castle. I now know those trails better than most locals, I bet. Had to cut the run short because of lack of time.

Jun 7: Graz, Austria. 1:30:58, ~11 miles
I had great fun running up to the top of Graz’s Schlossberg (castle mountain), through the Altstadt (old town) and then doing it again. I also used the run as a scouting mission, because later that day I had to show the in-laws around the place.

Jun 8: Graz, Austria. 1:09:00, ~8.5 miles
I ran from Graz to the basilica of Mariatrost. When I got there I realised that it was on top of a hill. 5 hill repeats followed. Great run!

Jun 9: Vienna, Austria. 1:34:03, ~12 miles
Ran from our B&B through the city centre to take in the sights, and then towards the Prater, Vienna’s biggest park. The inner city is spectacular!

Jun 10: Vienna, Austria. 1:28:39, ~11 miles
2 trips around the entire inner city on the breathtaking Ringstrasse. This was supposed to be shorter, because I ran while Niamh went to a mass that included the famous Vienna’s Boys’ Choir (what can I say, I’m a cultural barbarian). The service took longer than expected, and the run was longer than planned.

Mileage that week: 65

Jun 11: Vienna, Austria. 1:16:22, ~9.5 miles
Similar to Friday’s run, but ran towards the Prater on a more direct route. Expected this to be longer.

Jun 12: 0
I thought about running after arriving in Dublin, mainly to keep my sequence going, but was much too tired. I went to bed at 9pm and was asleep within 10 seconds! Slept for 10 hours.

Jun 13: Dublin, Ireland. 1:51:55, ~14 miles
Within one mile I realised that running felt much easier again. The lower temperatures here are truly telling.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Lake Bled

We're in paradise! The journey from Kerry to Bled was arduous to say the least, it took a 5 hour drive on Wednesday to get to Dublin, and after getting up before 5am on Thursday, it took 3 taxi rides, 2 planes and 2 trains to get us to our destination, but here we are. The place is stunning, and the weather is good, much nicer than was forecast.

The wedding will be tomorrow (Saturday), and everyone is really looking forward to it. The kids are getting more excited by the minute. After getting a gondola to cross the lake to the island and back, they were invited by the bride to come up to the castle in their horse-drawn carriage. How could you top that?

The place is absolute perfect for running. The loop around the lake is half on asphalt and half on dirt road, shaded by trees, and almost completely flat. I couldn't resist yesterday and did one loop after arriving, and did 4 loops this morning before breakfast. And if you want hill repeats, you have a 360 degree choice of freedom, because the whole place is surrounded by hills and/or mountains. Wow!

I told Niamh I want to stay here. She's not entirey convinced.

30 May: 17 miles, 2:17:44, 8:06 pace, avg. HR 149
31 May: 4.2 miles, ~34:30 (1 loop and a bit more)
1 Jun: 14.8 miles, 1:55:20 (4 loops)