Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Busy Week

A few things have happened recently that seem to have changed some people’s perception of my running. I got my cheque for winning the M35 age group in Liscarroll, which amazed my mother-in-law. “Why doesn’t he run more races like that, where he can win some money?” Maybe it’s not such a waste of time then, eh?

Secondly, on Monday I got a phone call from a reporter from the Irish Times, Ireland’s premier newspaper. She was writing an article about the weather, and had come across this blog. She rang me, and we did an interview. The article was printed on Friday, and also appeared in their online version (Not sure how long the link will last, because they tend to archive the articles. Stupid or what!). I got quite a few comments from friends and colleagues, and Niamh was particularly pleased that she got a mention as well. That’s one way to collect brownie points.

The run on Saturday was amazing. I had not read Mike’s comment about taking it easy yet and followed through with my schedule which called for 17 miles. 9 miles at steady pace, 7 miles at MP, 1 mile at HMP. I had run a similar run last week, with a shorter MP section. Despite, or maybe because of, a less than satisfying speedwork on Friday, I felt very good from the start. I had to hold myself back on the first section, because I felt like running faster. The breaks came off eventually, and I settled into what felt like marathon pace. Last week I had started that section too fast and slowed down all the way to 7:20. Today I felt much better, kept the pace and knew that I could have run faster, but felt that it would not have been an MP effort any more. I had plenty left in the tank for the HMP mile, and unlike last week I felt in full control. At the end I was tired of course, but I felt great. Pleasantly tired is probably the correct description. Once more I got reminded that I hate running 10k pace or faster, but love the long runs.

After reading Mike’s aforementioned comment I took it very easy today, and intend to do so again on Monday. I will have to decide if I’ll add a third easy day on Tuesday, or if I go ahead with the “mixed intervals” workout, which sounds intriguing. I think I should be ok for the rest of the training cycle. From now on there will only be one speed workout per week, the second fast workout consists of cruise intervals. I can’t say for sure yet, of course, but I think this will suit me much better than those two speed sessions per week that have been going on until now. I’ll probably see the program through to the end, but I don’t think I’ll use it again for the next training cycle. I’ll still take some points that I really like about it, from the fartleks to the strength training and the stretching exercises.

The most important event of the week was of course Kerry’s annual humiliation of our dear neighbours Cork in the Gaelic Football Championship today. They made us sweat more than once this year, but of course they came through in the end. When things are getting tough and everyone else is losing their heads, it’s always great to have the best player of the decade in the team, I guess. Now for Tyrone in the final, and this time it’s payback time.

Have you gotten over it yet, Grellan?
30 Aug
17 miles, 2:08:42, 7:34 pace, HR 151
miles 1-9 @ 7:59, miles 9 – 16 @ 7:09, mile 17 @ 6:38
31 Aug
8.5 miles, 1:13:24, 8:38 pace, HR 133

Weekly mileage: 75 miles
Monthly mileage: 361+ (by far the highest this year, but less than last year)

Friday, August 29, 2008


I’ve been whinging about this enough by now. Time and time again I have been unable to hit the prescribed pace for my workouts, and I should have faced reality long ago. My time from Killarney is not representative of my present level of running; all the other races have shown as much, and I should have altered my targets accordingly.

It became patently clear on Wednesday, when I tried to run 1k repeats once more. Last week’s session, in Valentia, had gone pretty well, and I was reasonably confident I would be able to do ok again. But the early signs were not very good. When the alarm clock went off my first thought was “Oh no! I’m still tired”. The second, a split-second later was “OH NO! SPEEDWORK!”. I warmed up for 1.5 miles on the road, and then got down to it. The road isn’t as flat as the Valentia Shore road was, but the majority of my repeats have been run on the same stretch. The first one was slow. Never mind; the same had happened last week. The second one felt already much harder than it should have – and it was just as slow. The third one was slightly better, but by then I was already knackered. I thought about bailing out – in fact, I had thought about bailing out early in the second repeat. I stuck to the task. The fourth repeat was the slowest yet. I bargained with myself – one more, then I’ll call it a day. I ran another slow one. And, for some reason I decided to add another one, to make it 6 after all. It was the slowest of all.

3:54, 3:53, 3:49, 4:01, 3:51, 4:02

That’s 11 seconds per repeat slower than last week. I’ve got plenty of excuses: I was tired from lack of sleep, I was tired from too much driving, I was not recovered from Sunday’s race, the road was not as flat as last week’s, yesterday's run had been in the evening, giving me half the normal recovery time; none of them are any good. Call it a bad day? There have been too many of those. Time to face the facts. I’m not as fast as I’d like to be.

I thought about it, and decided to take it a bit easier from now on. I feel stale. My racing times have held up ok through the training cycle, but they have not progressed either, and that’s not a very good sign. To be honest, I think there is too much speed training in this program. I feel stale and tired all the time, and have felt so for a number of weeks. The next workout was 5.5 miles at 10k race pace – a ridiculous suggestion if I’ve ever heard one. I can’t do that without a number on my chest, a runner in front of me, and Grellan chasing me.

I decided that anything below 6:50 pace would do me for that run. This would still be a progression from the last training cycle – back then I had found it impossible to go under 7:00 for tempo runs. Whether that means that I should do more of those runs or if there’s some attitude problem is up for discussion. In the end, I wasn’t able to run under 6:50 either. I managed it for the first half of the run, but got increasingly tired and slower an the return leg, and ended up with 6:55 pace. Not exactly brilliant, and not even the pace required for a sub-3 marathon. It’s time to adjust my targets, I guess. I’m reasonably confident of a new PR in Dublin, but it might not be by as much as originally hoped for. The next race is 2 weeks away, the half marathon in Blarney. This will give me a much clearer picture where I’m really standing.

27 Aug
8 miles, 1:03:25, 7:56 pace, HR155
6x1000 in 3:54, 3:53, 3:49, 4:01, 3:51, 4:02
28 Aug
8 miles, 1:04:08, 8:01 pace, HR 143
29 Aug
9.55 miles, 1:11:29, 7:29 pace, HR 157
incl. 5.5 miles in 38:02 (6:55 pace)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Meet the Bloggers

Ideally, after running a tough race, you take it easy for at least a day or two. Not just when running, but generally. However, when I got an email from Mike a couple of weeks ago telling me about his trip across the Atlantic, I had to follow his invitation and drive up to Galway on Monday. Meeting a fellow running blogger you have been in contact with for a couple of years? This was too good an opportunity to miss.

I didn't know if I would be able to run later that day, so I ran easily on Monday morning, just over 8 miles. I felt a bit stiff, which was to be expected after Sunday's race. I was perfectly content to plod along for an hour, but cut the originally planned distance of 9 miles short. I didn't want to be late for work, especially as I was only going in for half a day.

At lunchtime I set off heading northwards. Traffic was heavier than expected, and I didn't arrive in Galway until 5pm. I was sitting in the hotel lobby answering a phone call when a familiar face turned up. I didn't have to ask twice - I recognised Mike immediately.

After a bit of a chat we set off for a run. At one stage Mike was worried that the pace was too slow for me, but I felt fine. In fact, anything faster would have been uncomfortable, with the race and the long drive leaving some effect on the legs. This was the first time I ever did a few miles with a running buddy. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and Mike was excellent company. The hour flew by in no time at all. The only drawback was that I apparently make funny faces while trying to run and taking self-portraits at the same time.

After a meal and some Guinness it was already time to hit the hay. I left very early on Tuesday morning to be back in Kerry at 9 o'clock, but managed to say good-bye to Mike (sorry for waking you - I intended to write short note, but you woke up instead). It's amazing how quickly you can cover the distance on empty roads - it only took me about 2-and-a-half hours to reach Killorglin. The trip yesterday had taken almost 4 hours. I was so early that I had time to drive home, have a shower and cycle into work. Niamh was grateful to have use of the car, and the kids were excited to see their daddy earlier than anticipated (it's great when they're still young enough to idolise their dad!).

Since I did not run in the morning (even I have limits to the wake-up time), I ran when I came home from work. I was undecided if I should take it easy or attempt this week's speed workout, but my legs turned to jelly after cycling home, and easy it was. I'll adapt this week's schedule accordingly.

25 Aug
am: 8.5 miles, 1:11:49, 8:27 pace, HR 140
pm: 8.3 miles, 1:08:33, 8:17 pace, HR 144
26 Aug
7 miles, 55:28, 7:55 pace, HR 145

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Spot That Donkey

It wasn't hard to sell a drive to Liscarroll to Niamh and the kids. Two months ago (actually, the day of the Cork City marathon) we had driven to that very place and visited the Donkey Sanctuary. We adopted a donkey called Jacinta (well, it's sponsoring, but they call it adoption), and all the kids were very keen on the idea of visiting her again. That way I could justify driving over 90 minutes for a fairly low-key race, though when Niamh asked how long the race would be, she wasn't too impressed that we were driving so for for a mere 5-miler. She expected 10 miles at least. As it turned out, the race was billed as am 8k which is a tad short of 5 miles; I guess we're going metric these days.

The last 2 days were reasonably easy. I tried to keep a balance between keeping my marathon training on track and not sabotaging the race, so I ran measuredly on both days; just over 13 miles on Friday and 8 miles on Saturday.

My best race ever had been the Killarney 5k last month, and I had run 3 miles on that morning to test my sore back. Since then it has become part of my race preparation to run 3 miles in the morning; it had worked then, maybe it will work again on day. Therefore I ran 3 easy miles in the morning. If it made a difference, I can't tell.

We made it to Liscarroll in good time and without losing our way (a bit of a miracle with the lack of signposting). I saw Grellan before I had even left the car; as I was signing up the guy at the table (John Walsh from Ballycotton) already knew me from my blog, and a few minutes later, at the toilet, some other bloke recognised me as well (he even apologised for not even letting me have a pee in peace). If I ever get big headed then you know that's because I'm slowly turning into some sort of celebrity in the running scene.

The weather had changed between cloudy, sunny and rainy, not particularly unusual in our corner of the world. By the time of the start the sun was shining, and later it turned cloudy again. All in all, the conditions were pretty good. We lined up to the start to Grellan's words “let the pain begin”.

I immediately settled behind a runner well known to me, Mary Sweeney. I tend to have similar times to her; she was way ahead of me at Ballycotton, but I managed to beat her last year in Killarney and Blarney as well as this year in Bantry and Cork. But she seemed to slow down at the first climb, less than half a mile into the race and I went past. The other runner I had hoped to have around me was Grellan, but I could not see any sign of him initially. When I heard footsteps approaching from behind I was sure it was him, bit a quick glance told me I was wrong. That runner never managed to draw level and I kept my place. A quick scan ahead told me I was in 13th place, assuming that I had not missed anyone, of course. I managed to run past one more runner before the first km, and found myself a few seconds behind a group of 4 but could not close the gap. Around the first mile marker one of that group could not hold the pace any more and fell behind, which left me in 11th place. From then on I was pretty much on my own, which wasn't ideal. I had hoped for some other runner to give me a good fight; it's those kinds of fights that lead to good times. Running almost on my own, this felt more like a time trial.

During the entire first half the course was never even. Each climb was followed by a descent to be immediately followed by the next climb. As we were nearing the halfway point I reckoned that we must have gained a good bit of height, which of course meant a downhill second half of the race. Thank God for that, because my legs felt increasingly heavy. The biggest climb had been around the 2 miles point, with a gain of about 90 feet in half a mile. Not exactly Mont Ventoux but enough to make me feel like the lactic acid had started curdling in my legs.

As I was turning a corner, around the halfway mark, I took a quick look behind me. And who did I spot, but no other than Grellan chasing me. The race was on.

The second half was easier than the first half, it was mostly a gentle downhill. The drawback was the we ran along a busier road and had to take care – but, in fact, each driver we encountered was very careful, and it wasn't exactly a busy highway. In fact, I spent a good bit of time running in the middle of the road where there was no camber. That's what I'm used to, and that's where I felt most comfortable.

My main worry was to keep ahead of Grellan. I started to hear his footsteps behind me, and at one point I could not resist looking backwards, and there he was, probably half as close as he was the last time I had checked, the bastard! I tried to increase the effort, which had been slightly lacking during the last few minutes. The last thing I wanted was to lead all the way and then get overtaken right before the finish, but that was a realistic possibility at that point. With about 1km left to go, the road started climbing again. I tried hard not to look back and to concentrate on running faster instead. Having Grellan right behind me was most likely a good thing – I doubt I would have worked equally hard otherwise. We came back into Liscarroll and turned a sharp left corner. That's where I had a last quick peek behind me, and I knew that I would stay ahead unless he had an unbelievable sprint finish in him (which can't be ruled out, that's how I got beaten in Kilgobnet 3 weeks ago). Anyway, I flew down what was probably the High Street, and after on more left turn there was the finish line. I crossed it, still in 11th place if my counting at the start had been correct. Grellan was right behind me, and Niamh and the kids saw us crossing the line in quick succession.

We chatted for a few minutes; the other runner who had been talking to me earlier (sorry, I never even thought of asking your name – my bad) came over and mentioned how my blog is such an inspiration (to which Niamh later remarked “he reads all that, and he thinks you're inspirational rather than completely mad???”), and with all that we left for the Donkey Sanctuary to visit our 4-legged family member.

Before the race, Niamh had inquired how long it would take me and my answer had been between 31 and 32 minutes. This turned out to be correct, my final time according to my Garmin was 31:06, and the distance was pretty accurate, though Grellan's watch of the same design found it slightly short. The mile paces were 6:13, 6:21, 6:30, 6:19 and 6:08, which reflects the undulating course. My average HR was 178 with a high of 187; that's pretty high and a sign that I must have worked pretty hard even though I felt that on a really good day I could have squeezed out another ounce of effort. All in all I'm reasonably happy. I think the 5k in Killarney was a once-off. Efforts like today, Kilgobnet and Ballydavid are more representative of my level at the moment. MacMillan gives an equivalent marathon time of 3:03:57, and that's where I think I'm standing right now.

22 Aug
13.1 miles, 1:45:08, 8:01 pace, HR 143
23 Aug
8.2 miles, 1:06:19, 8:05 pace, HR 146
24 Aug
12 miles, including:
Liscarroll 8k, 31:06, 6:18 pace, HR 178, 11th place

Weekly mileage: 79+

Late update: Not only did I indeed come 11th, I also won the M35 category! Results are here. And the race report from Grellan's point of view is well worth reading!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Two more Workouts

The holidays have slightly messed up my schedule, but with a little bit of good will I can work around that. The biggest annoyance is the commute this week, it takes almost an hour each way to get from door to door, and obviously cycling to work is out of the question. I also found that I’m too tired to do my usual strengthening exercises in the evening – not a problem for a week or two, as long as I pick up the slack again next week.

Anyway, Niamh dropped me off to work on Monday morning, I ran home to Caragh Lake in the evening, cycled into work on Tuesday morning and got picked up by Niamh again in the evening. That way I could get some extra sleep on Tuesday, and Niamh had the car for those two days; otherwise she and the kids would have been more or less confined to the house (which they are now, for the rest of the week). I jiggled around my schedules and did my long run on Tuesday, which meant getting up at 5:20 (it would have been well before 5am had I slept in Valentia). The plan was to run 11 miles at steady pace, 6 miles at marathon pace and one last mile at half marathon pace. I noticed early on that the legs felt quite sluggish. Steady pace should be around 8:00 for me, but again and again I found myself slacking off and dropping down to 8:30. I did try and pick it up a bit and by mile 11 put the accelerator down. The next question was, what should marathon pace be? Following the book’s charts, it should be 6:40 according to my 5k time. The pace I need to beat 3 hours in Dublin is 6:52. I thought I would do well to run 7:00, and that’s what I initially aimed for. To my dismay, the legs would not follow. After about two miles the average pace was around 7:10, the legs seemed to work as hard as they could, but a look at the HRM told me that at 150 bpm I should be able to run a good bit faster. I also felt far too comfortable (apart from the legs, that is). I tried to pick it up a few times, which certainly increased the heart rate but did not do much for the pace. Worse was to come at the turnaround point, when I realised that I had been running with the wind on my back; the return leg would not only be slightly uphill but also against the wind. Of course the pace dropped after that. In the end I ended up with 7:12 pace for that segment. I put all I had into the last mile, and managed to squeeze out a 6:41 mile; then I was well and truly finished.

I did rationalise afterwards; I had run more than 20 miles on Friday and more than 15 on Sunday, both of them hilly. No wonder the legs felt dead on Tuesday. I’ll try and get some more rest for future workouts; as I’ve said the holidays have messed up my schedule. A return to my normal week might bring some sanity back to my training.

I made sure to take it really easy on Wednesday. I even cut a mile off the intended mileage, to ensure that I would have plenty of time and would not feel the need to speed up to get to work on time.

I started a new training phase this week, which replaces the 400s with 1000s and the mile repeats with tempo runs. I did 4x1000 today. According to the book the intended pace was my 5k pace, 5:55, which translates into about 3:41 for a km, but after the humbling experience of last week’s mile repeats I did not expect to hit that pace. The legs felt very sluggish initially; maybe this was because I had not run a fast workout for a week, but somehow I doubt it. Anyway, my times for the 4 repeats were 3:49, 3:46, 3:42 and 3:41. I’m pretty sure I have never done a repeat session where I managed to speed up with every interval, not that I’m complaining. In the end I even managed to hit the prescribed pace, which was rather pleasing. All in all I’m happy enough with that workout. I think the 3 minutes recovery interval helped a lot, compared to the 2 minutes I was given for the mile repeats. This made a massive difference. Maybe I would have been better off with the longer breaks for the mile repeats as well, but that’s something to think about for the next training cycle.

19 Aug
18 miles, 2:19:53, 7:46 pace, HR 144
miles 11-17 @ 7:12, mile 17-18 @ 6:41
20 Aug
7 miles, 1:00:18, 8:37 pace, HR 134
21 Aug
7 miles, 54:53, 7:50 pace, HR 151
4x1000 in 3:49, 3:46, 3:42, 3:41

Monday, August 18, 2008

Island Crossing

No, Mike, I don’t think Dublin will feature 700-feet climbs in less than 2 miles, but I happen to believe that running hills will provide benefits even if your chosen marathon course has a different elevation profile. Lydiard’s boys ran a very hilly long run every week, and I recently read an article by Nobby where he stated his believe that a slow hilly long run will provide more benefits than a fast flat one (personally I think that your training should include both types). Ok, admittedly I didn’t quite realise just how steep Friday’s hill was, and might have chosen a different route had I known. Still, I thought the elevation profile of that run looked rather cool. I’m starting to suspect that Jamie and me are the only runners out there who thoroughly appreciate big hills.

Yesterday I ran from our holiday house in Knightstown all the way across the island to Bray Head. There is an old tower up on the cliffs, from where the Brits watched out for Irish smugglers 100 years ago. The tower is still there (and the smugglers haven’t entirely gone away either, allegedly), and it’s a great landmark to run to. I paused for half a minute when I reached it, looking out at the rather wild sea. I was standing on one of Europe’s most westerly points and for nearly 2000 miles there was nothing but winds and water ahead of me. Unfortunately I had to deal with plenty of both on the run, the weather kept worsening by the minute, and by the time I was back home it was blowing at near gale force strength, with matching rain. I still added a loop through Knightstown, partially to bring the distance past the 15 miles point, but mostly so that I could claim to have run the entire length of the island of Valentia.

If I thought yesterday’s weather was bad, today was even worse. Because I’m back at work I had to get up at 5:45 am, which was tough. Then, within 2 minutes of leaving the house a massive downpour left me with that all-too-familiar drenched feeling for the rest of the run, and the fact that the wind never stopped didn’t help. It came from the side, which meant that it felt like battling against it for the entire run. Valentia can be great for running; it has all kinds of roads. The shore road is basically completely flat, most of the rest of the island is undulating, and if you want steeper and/or longer hills, they are there, too. But the geographical setting means that we get the full force of the Atlantic weather, and all that wind and rain is starting to get to me.

Things will be slightly different tomorrow. On Niamh’s suggestion I’m staying in Caragh Lake tonight to give me 30 minutes of extra sleep due to the reduced commute. I’ll do my long run tomorrow, and (Mike will be delighted to hear this, I guess) because I’m planning on including some miles at MP and one at HMP I will run over a flat(-ish) course, probably towards Cromane. Since I will have a race on Sunday, the hope is that doing my long run 5 days beforehand will leave them in a better state. Of course, there is still a set of 1000s to come, which might have an effect as well.

P.S.: Apparently, after the wettest June on record and a bad July, we've already passed the mark for the wettest August on record, with 2 weeks yet to go! Half the country is flooded. This summer has been ... interesting.
17 Aug
15.3 miles, 2:03:06, 8:03 pace, HR 143
18 Aug
am: 9 miles, 1:13:47, 8:12 pace, HR 137
pm: 5 miles, 39:14, 7:50 pace. HR 142

Weekly mileage: 85+

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Summer Holidays

One week of holidays is not a lot – time has flown, and I can't believe I'm basically at the end of my time off already. We will stay in Valentia for another week, so Niamh and the kids will have one more week of holidays, and I will commute from Valentia to Killorglin. I know, it's rather unusual to be able to commute from your holiday destination, but that's the way it worked out for us when we bought our house, just 25 miles from where Nana and Gaga had their holiday home. I got loads of sleep this week, and I did indulge myself with plenty of coffee, chocolate and other things – hey, this was my week off. In fact, I'm surprised I only gained 3 pounds. I feared a lot worse.

Running last week was a mixed bag. My set of 14 quarter repeats went very well; so well that I started to think I am getting the hang of this fast running business. I started a bit fast and slowed down slightly over the last few repeats, but I was rather pleased with the workout. However, Thursday's mile repeats brought me back to earth with a bump. The plan was to do 5 repeats, but unfortunately I was totally knackered after three. The fourth mile was against an increasingly strong wind, but how strong that wind really was and how much it was a mental block is up for debate. Anyway, I started that repeat at 6:30 pace but could not sustain it, and despite trying to push harder, I was running as slowly as 7:30 at the end. I managed to pull myself together for the last one, and only ever concentrated on running towards the next target – to the next pole, to the next driveway, around that bend ... until I was done.

I think my problem was lactic acid. I have the basic speed, and the quarters are going well because 3 minutes break between each is enough to recover. However, the program is less generous with the mile repeats, and 2 minutes break is obviously not enough. If there were more repeats on the schedule I might do them with 3 minutes break next time, but the workouts will change now, the quarters are going to be replaced by 1000s and the mile repeats are going to be replaced by continuous runs at 10k pace. My first thought was that I would not be able to run those workouts; if I can't do them with a break in the middle, how could I possibly do them in one go? Then I remembered that I have a 5 mile race on Sunday week, which will take place instead of that tempo run. Somehow I'm able to run fast enough if there is a number pinned to my shirt. Funny that.

The long run yesterday was much better; Niamh looked at me as if I were deranged when I told her I was going to run towards Finnian's Bay. There is a mountain inbetween, and Niamh's comment was that she doesn't even want to drive up there; as it turned out, I underestimated how steep the road was (up to 18% according to the Garmin???). I managed to drag myself up to the summit and started the descent on the other side, but when I saw that the other side was even steeper I turned around immediately because I didn't fancy two of those hills in quick succession. I didn't even get to relax on the downhill because it was too steep for that, I had to break all the time.

I started to make little deal with myself on the way home. Going straight home would have yielded 16 miles, not a lot. I thought that an extra 2 miles out and back each way would get me to 20 miles; then I lost heart and thought one mile each way would do. Then, while running that extra stretch, I did a similar game as on Thursday – just run to the next pole; then the one after that; then the next driveway; then past that tree. By pushing that way I managed to get myself past the 20 miles mark. Good enough!

11 Aug
8 miles, 1:03:56, 7:59 pace, HR 139
12 Aug
am: 10.8 miles, 1:24:57, 7:53 pace, HR 147
14x400 in 83, 84, 83, 85, 82, 85, 85, 86, 84, 87, 85, 90, 82, 86
pm: 6 miles, 46:07, 7:42 pace, HR 145
13 Aug
8 miles, 1:03:52, 7:59 pace, HR 139
14 Aug
9 miles, 1:08:39, 7:38 pace, HR 155
5x1 miles in 6:13, 6:38, 6:19, 7:04, 6:28
15 Aug
20.35 miles, 2:45:31, 8:08 pace, HR 146
16 Aug
8.06 miles, 1:03:40, 7:54 pace, HR 139

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Real life has a habit of interfering with our running training, doesn't it? Some things that happened on Thursday, and on which I won't elaborate, caused me to spend most of the night sitting on the sofa, stuffing myself with comfort food – which of course meant eating enormous amounts of sugar. The evening ended well after 3 am with Niamh and me feeding each other chocolate, but at least that improved our mood sufficiently to be able to go to bed afterwards. My alarm had been set for 4:50. It did cross my mind that binning the run would be the only sane option, but luckily sanity doesn't rule my training, and after something between 60 and 90 minutes of sleep I got up, got ready, and headed out into the darkness.

I had been a bit worried about it being too dark, because my last headlamp broke and I haven't got a replacement yet, but that proofed unfounded; it was still dark but light enough to run without artificial light. My next worry was the chocolate that must still have been in my stomach at that time, but I felt good. In fact, I took off like a rocket. I guess the sugar coursing through my veins must have acted as booster fuel, in marked contrast to my usual ascetic running preparations, because I usually run on an empty stomach.

Maybe it was the sugar, or maybe the lack of sleep had switched off my brain's rational centre, but I had a fantastic run. I crossed the hills over the first half faster than on any previous run; at the 10 mile point I accelerated to 7:30 pace, which I kept going until I passed our driveway, 15 miles into the run. At that point I had such a good rhythm going that I did not even stop to pick up the drink bottle that I had left there at the outset. I speeded up further, intending to run the final 5 miles at 7:00 pace. I made it, but it felt like I slightly cheated because until half a mile before the end I was at 7:03 pace, and only a very strong final half mile and basically an all-out sprint on the last hill brought the average pace under 7:00. Still, being able to kick it home isn't a bad sign, either.

Maybe stuffing yourself with copious amounts of chocolate is a good preparation for a long run. I wonder if this has been tried by a few ultra runners out there.

I ran much easier on Saturday, with the legs showing unsurprising amounts of soreness after Thursday's mile repeats and Friday's 20-miler. 8 easy miles did enough for me. In the evening we attended a Christening party for a baby boy who had been born only 8 days after Maia, and of course everyone kept calling the two babies boy- and girlfriend, despite the fact that they didn't take much notice of each other. The party was big, and I once again found that I can't resist lovely food, and ate much more than is advisable. Hey, if the food is delicious, it's meant to be eaten! But I did decide to add a few miles onto Sunday's run, to make up for the binge.

Therefore I extended my run today to include the entire loop around Caragh Lake. It's been a while since I had run that loop twice in one week. The legs felt great, but I had some stomach issues (the food? The beer? The ice cream?) that did cause me to slow down a bit over those hills, but I once again sped up a bit over the last 5 miles. I was surprised how easy they felt; that must have been the most comfortable 7:24 pace I have ever run.

We're off on our holidays now, we're spending next week on Valentia Island, and since I don't have an internet connection there I will most likely be incommunicado until after the following weekend. Until then.
8 Aug
20 miles, 2:33:17, 7:39 pace, HR 147
miles 10-15 @ 7:29, miles 15-20 @ 6:59
9 Aug
8 miles, 1:07:49, 8:28 pace, HR 136
10 Aug
15 miles, 2:00:06, 8:00 pace, HR 141
last 5 @ 7:24

Weekly mileage: 82+

Thursday, August 07, 2008


That’s what I feel like saying every time I get out of my chair, or any other supporting medium for that matter. I have known sore legs before, but today it’s really bad. I’m flip-flopping between thinking that I’m overdoing things and should reduce my mileage and/or intensity and thinking that all that soreness is merely a sign that I’m breaking out of my comfort zone, which is great news as far as marathon training is concerned. Last year I basically tried to run as many miles as possible. I did add a few weeks with faster running (one interval and one tempo workout per week) towards the end of the training cycle, but it was nothing like this time, with fast workouts from the very start.

There is no question that my race times for the shorter races have improved, and in the case of the 5k it has improved dramatically, but the one I’m aiming for is the marathon, and I will still have to wait almost 3 month until I see the result for that distance. Remember that I’m aiming to cut almost 10 minutes from my time, and that’s a tall order that will require a lot of hard work; sore legs are simply part of that.

Setting out for an easy run yesterday morning I was reminded of the quote “it doesn’t get easier, you merely get faster”. The legs were tired, especially around the hips, and lifting them required effort. From the moment I left the house I was looking forward to the first mile point, because that’s where I usually start to feel better, but this time I struggled all the way to the turnaround point, from where things finally started to improve. An interval workout and a double have definitely left their mark.

One day of easy running is not a lot ... ok, I’m just whining now, and will try to stop. Fact is, my legs were still sore this morning, and the prospect of 4 mile repeats was daunting, but I set out to do what was on the schedule. Because running back- and forwards on our road is boring (once a week is more than enough) I ran towards Cromane and incorporated the fast miles whenever the stopwatch dictated. Just like last week I was reminded that a mile can be very long, and 2 minutes of rest is not very much; I still find it interesting that I can run 4 miles at the prescribed pace in a race, but find it utterly impossible to repeat the same performance in a training run, when regular breaks after each mile should make things easier. Maybe the fact that I’m actually expecting to miss the correct pace has something to do with it, and a better mindset would improve things. On the other hand I’m hardly the only runner who can’t hit 10k pace in mile repeats, right?

Since the elevation changes had some influence on the actual pace, you can’t quite compare the efforts. The first one included a short but very nasty hill, and was against the wind. The second one was slightly uphill. The third one was slightly downhill, and the last one featured that blasted hill again, albeit from the other direction. I did ok for most of the workout, but when topping that last hill on the last repeat my HR was up to 180, I was wheezing, and the pace had slowed to 7:30. I needed the following downhill section just to recover, and even though that mile was the slowest I was surprised that I hadn’t run even slower. The times I hit were 6:22, 6:19, 6:11 and 6:25, with an average of just over 6:19 which is virtually the same average I managed during last week’s 3 mile repeats. How I am going to replicate that pace next week, when there are 5 repeats on the menu (I was totally and utterly cooked after 4 today) is not yet clear, but I’ll try to ignore that problem until I get to it.

Halfway through the workout I felt like pulling the plug. I was already exhausted, and felt like I couldn’t do it. What kept me going was the race report from Aisling’s Rotterdam marathon where she had scraped under 3 hours by two seconds, and her reminders how hard the training had been, especially the fast workouts. Sharing the same target helps, and I know I will kick myself for weeks if I start to take it easier now and then miss my target. Even if 3 hours will be elusive this time round (which is the likely outcome, let’s face it), I will find it much easier to accept if I can look back at my training thinking that I had given my best.

6 Aug
8 miles, 1:03:17, 7:55 pace, HR 143
7 Aug
8.7 miles, 1:05:12, 7:30 pace, HR 154
4x1 miles @ 6:22, 6:19, 6:11, 6:25

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A Dip

I hope I have not overdone it a little bit at the end of last week; mile repeats followed by a race followed by a long run followed by a quicker-than-planned 10 miler did not leave much room for recovery. I felt pretty much beat up on Sunday, and decided to make doubly sure to take it really easy on Monday's run.

Monday was a bank holiday, and after returning home late from Nana and Gaga's 40th anniversary celebrations, we slept in. I did not get up until after 8 o'clock, and then only because Maia cried and wanted her bottle. For the next hour I did nothing more than make breakfast for the boys and watch/play with Maia, while Niamh slept on. It was while sitting on the couch and keeping an eye on the baby that I strapped on my HRM and noticed a HR of 38. That's the lowest reading I've ever recorded, and I wasn't even lying down at the time. I guess my CV system is still developing.

After an easy run, slightly hampered by wind and rain, I continued to have an easy day; the original plan had been to drive to Valentia Island for the third day in a row, but nobody really fancied yet another trip in the car, so we stayed put and relaxed instead.

Despite this easy day the legs still grumbled when I set off this morning. I wasn't exactly looking forward to the workout, a set of quarter miles, but felt fresh enough to attempt them anyway. The target pace was the same as last week, but I had 12 repeats on the schedule rather than 10. It didn't sound like much more, but somehow I was ever so slightly apprehensive. Last week I did them while running towards Cromane, today I just ran back-and forwards on our road; it's reasonably flat, but has a bit of a hill in the middle. Not much of a hill, maybe 10 feet high, but even that is a formidable challenge while running as fast as you can, basically.


I was happy enough with the times. A slight loss of concentration caused a slow 4th repeat, and I obviously concentrated a bit too much on form and too little on effort on the second-last one. I had to work hard over the last 4 repeats, and was more than happy to be done with at the end, where I duly assumed HOK position.

In all honesty I'm neither looking forward to Thursday (more mile repeats), Friday (long run), nor next Tuesday (quarters again). I'm not sure if I've turned lazy all of a sudden, but the hard days just seem to be really hard at the moment.

A little dip in motivation is probably just a normal part of marathon training.

4 Aug
8 miles, 1:07:48, 8:28 pace, HR 134
5 Aug
am: 9.5 miles, 1:17:42, 8:11 pace, HR 145, incl. 12x400 @ 85.5 avg.
pm: 5 miles, 39:17, 7:49 pace, HR 137

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Ah Well!

Until Friday I had never raced in the evening, but there is a first time for everything. Because I wasn't entirely convinced if the 4-mile race would go ahead at all I had done my scheduled mile repeats on Thursday, and as a result I had rather heavy legs all day Friday, which made we wonder if I would be able to race at all. Following the pattern I discovered for the Killarney race, I ran 5 easy miles in the morning, but that didn't do much to shake out my legs. I did feel a bit better after cycling home from work, but I knew I would not be at my very best.

Kilgobnet is a very small townland near Killorglin, the roads there are like a labyrinth with a complete lack of signposting, but I managed to find the place, and there was indeed a race going on. I signed up, and checked out the opposition during the warm-up. Three or four guys with zero bodyfat left me in no doubt that I would not run for the prizes, but I figured I would not be far behind in terms of places.

At the start the RD explained the race course at length (“because there was some confusion last year”), and then we set off. I was surprised to see a rather big group steaming ahead, and I was basically leading the second group, in about 15th place. I thought about increasing the pace, but I was already running at 5:40, the same suicidal pace I had started out in Killarney, and that had been a shorter race. After half a mile I found myself just a few steps behind Ann-Marie Costello, the same position I had been for most of the first half of the Killarney race. This time she seemed to slow down earlier, and I went past. I immediately lost my one gained position though, as a guy in an Amsterdam marathon shirt edged ahead of me. Together we passed first one runner, and then, on a short sharp downhill section we steamed past another one. The pace difference between myself and that guy was so big that I almost bumped into the back of him, so quickly did I catch up. If I had accurately counted the runners ahead of me it meant that I was now in 13th place, about one mile into the race. For the next mile I followed about 10 steps behind the Amsterdam fellow, unable to catch up, but not losing any ground either. After the halfway mark I first wondered if the gap was closing, and eventually I knew it was, and around the 3-mile point I drew level and with a short burst of energy I managed to put some distance between us. The fourth mile was ever so slightly uphill, which I found extremely draining. My legs were very heavy at that stage, and I truly regretted every step I had taken during yesterday's mile repeats. My head wasn't entirely in its right place; instead of concentrating on pushing as hard as I could to follow the mantra “suffer as much as possible” I spent too much time feeling sorry for myself, and wondering about the effect of said mile repeats. Nevertheless I was determined to keep my hard-fought for place in the field. Catching up with the runner ahead was sadly out of question, the gap was way too big.

I'm painfully aware that I do not have a finishing kick. In fact, the race in Killarney two weeks ago was the first time that I had managed to catch a runner at the line, and that had been helped by the fact that it was a steep uphill finish which had worked in my favour. Therefore I try to run very strongly with half a mile to go, rather than rely on a non-existing gear right at the end. However, it is mentally very tough to put an extra effort into a race at a point where there is still quite some way to go on very tired and hurting legs. I did increase the pace, but not by quite as much as I could have. I was still confident that the Amsterdam guy was beaten, but with about a minute to go I could hear his footsteps getting closer. I pushed some more, and I could see the finish ahead, when all of a sudden he went passed me like I was standing still. I wasn't exactly running slowly at that point (5:06 according to the Garmin) but he steamed past me like a rocket and crossed the line a few seconds ahead of me, before collapsing in a heap. I congratulated him on an unbelievable finish, and had to be content with 13th place in 24:12, on a course that was possibly very slightly short.

Ah well. The race was much more competitive than I had expected; I had known from the start that I would not run for the podium, but I did expect to be in the top 10. On the other hand I was surprised I managed to run as fast as I did the day after a set of mile repeats, but I know I could have run a little bit faster over the last mile, which might have gained a few seconds, possibly one place, and definitely an extra ounce of suffering.

Following my normal routine of following fast runs with a long run I set out for 18 miles on Saturday morning. It was a gorgeous day with the sun shining but not too hot. Since I had two consecutive days of fast running in my legs I gave myself the option of bailing out after a loop around Caragh Lake (15 miles). On the other hand, if I felt well I would try to speed up to 7:30 pace at the 11 mile mark, and if I felt really good I would push the pace to 7:00 for the last 3 miles. All the way through I felt better than expected, and I duly increased the pace at both points. Both fast sections were similar in that I was slightly below pace for most of it but managed to finish with a strong last mile that pushed the average past the target mark.

I had very tired legs on Saturday, to nobody's big surprise. We spent most day on Valentia Island with Niamh's family. Her parents are celebrating their 40th anniversary today, and the entire extended family is gathered there. Since the house is rather crowded we're driving the 25 miles back and forwards, to spend the days on the island but sleep at home. The weather has been nice so far, and since they all get along well it's a good way to spend the long weekend.

I managed to sneak in 10 miles along Caragh Lake this morning. During the first half I followed a runner that, by pure chance, followed my normal running route, and he ran at just about my pace. I managed to catch up with him during the fourth mile, but turned around at my normal 5-mile point. The run was a good bit faster than planned as a result, but I took it easier on the return leg. It made me wonder if I would be able to become a faster runner if I had a group to run with at times, rather than churning out thousands of solitary miles each year instead.

1 Aug
am: 5 miles, 41:10, 8:14 pace, HR 137
pm: 7 miles, including:
4 miles race in Kilgobnet, 24:12, 13th place, HR 176
2 Aug
18 miles, 2:20:52, 7:49 pace, HR 147
miles 11-15 in 29:52 (7:28 pace)
miles 15-18 in 20:52 (6:57 pace)
3 Aug
10 miles, 1:16:57, 7:41 pace, HR 144

Weekly mileage: 78+