Saturday, November 29, 2008

Over the Hill and Far Away

The weather forecast for today’s race was pretty much the same as for the last 2 days, cold, clear skies with the occasional wintery shower. There were 2 rather heavy showers in the morning which didn’t bode too well, but luckily it remained dry for the actual race.

Niamh had done a pub quiz the night before, and came home well past midnight; coupled with Maia’s sickness it meant a very busy evening for me, especially as she refused to sleep in her bed – she slept soundly in my arms though. It could have been worse I guess, and somehow I still got plenty of sleep. As it turns out, Niamh’s team won the quiz and she came home with a very nice looking hamper (cheese, wine, chocolate, …) and gained my perpetual permission to go on pub quizzes. I told her that unfortunately I would be unlikely to continue the family's winning streak today.

I had a rather unconventional warm-up; I ran the 4.5 miles from our house into town. It sure guaranteed me being warm enough for the race, and I don’t think I had done myself any harm. There were a lot of runners at the start, the turn-out was about 130 which delighted the organisers. I pushed myself towards the front of the field, and when we set off I went out with the front-runners. One guy in a green singlet took off at the front like a rocket, and the rest of us settled into place. I was in about 6th position, and it felt comfortably hard, but a glance at the Garmin told me that I unfortunately was running way ahead of my abilities at 5:30. By the time we left town I was at a more realistic pace, just a tad slower than 6:00, and in 10th position.

I have mentioned it before, I always lose time on the ups and regain it on the downs; it wasn’t even a hill, just a bridge with a big hump, but it was enough to send me back into 13th position, and – male ego being stung – behind the first female runner. I was tempted to ease up, let them go and keep my place in the field but eventually managed to kick myself into action. About 2 miles into the race I was over 20 steps behind a group of 3 runners, but when the course dropped a bit I managed to pull level, and just before the halfway mark I had overtaken them all, including the eventual female winner (who afterwards told me she tried to stay with me but could not).

I even managed to get a gap between us, but a look at the elevation profile shows you that we were about to climb 200 feet in less than a mile. This ensured two things; one, a personal best was out of the question today, and two, I lost one place. Actually I was pleased that only one runner managed to get past me, and that it took him half of that climb. Up on top we had a breathtaking view over Dingle Bay, or maybe I was merely out of breath from the brutal climb. I was about 20 steps behind 10th place, and I knew that I would have a chance to regain that position on the eventual downhill. We remained like that while running along Sunhill; I might have managed to pull a little bit closer, but not much.

With a mile to go the course finally dropped again, very steeply back into the centre of Killorglin. The descent went very well, the distance between myself and the runner in front melted like ice in the sun, I flew past, and despite being barely in control (one false step would have sent me into hospital) I arrived at the foot in one piece and with a commanding lead on 10th place. The rest was flat along the main road to the other end of town. I managed not to look back, because what good would that have done anyway? All I could do was to run to the finish as fast as possible, no matter how close or far away I was. Gaining another place was not on, the runner was way ahead of me, and I crossed the line in 10th place, 39:28 according to my own watch, or 39:30 official time. I was pleased with that, after all I haven’t done any fast running since the marathon 5 weeks ago. Who knows, on a flat course I might even have threatened my PR, but with that massive hill this was out of question today.

Racing felt great today!
29 Nov
13.2 miles, including:
Killorglin Puck Warriors Jingle Bells 10k, 39:30, 6:23 pace, HR 177, 10th place

Friday, November 28, 2008

Someone said:

Hi Thomas,
I'm hoping that you or somebody on your blog will be able to give me some advise. The week after completing the Dublin marathon I developed a pain just below my ankle. It is at its worst first thing in the morning when I get out of bed. The strange thing is that it seems fine when I run on it. I have replaced running with an hour on the bike in the gym each night for the past two weeks but the problem remains. Do you think I should go back running, stay on the bike or give it complete rest. (I hate rest!!)

My answer: I have a rather more casual view on injuries than most runners, something that backfired rather spectacularly on me at the beginning of the year. I can’t speculate on the nature of the problem, but if it seems fine when you run on it, it would do just that – run on it (I hate rest just as much). Other people would be much more cautious, and the decision is yours only. I’ve had a pain in my left foot since April, and I’m still running. Massaging the foot regularly has helped a lot.

Enviably fast runner Eric recently spent 21 miles on a treadmill, something I cannot even begin to contemplate. His answer to my comment also reveals a difference in our winter outlook. He prefers running in –20F and snow rather than 40F and rain. I disagree, which probably means we should never swap locations.

Incidentally, 40F and rain was pretty much what I have been dealing with over the last few mornings. On days like that the most difficult part of the workout is opening the front door. Once you have mastered that obstacle, the run itself will be fine. As a result of the slowly increasing mileage, Wednesday went into double digits, but 10 miles at an easy effort doesn’t particularly tax me. I was more worried about Thursday. After Tuesday’s scare I had real doubts if doing the same set of exercises was a good idea, but eventually decided to go ahead with them anyway because I didn’t think it was the exercises that brought on the episode. I made sure to pause long enough between each drill to bring the heart rate down, and guess what? I felt fine. The only reason why I cut it short by a minute or two was the next freezing cold rain shower.

Because there is a race on tomorrow I limited myself to 6 miles this morning. I added a few strides on the way home, to remind the legs what faster running feels like. If that helps for tomorrow or not I don’t know, but it sure was fun the stretch them out once more. Obviously I turned off the HR alarm for that, which felt strangely satisfying. I have vowed to turn it on again after the race, though.

26 Nov
10 miles, 1:20:38, 8:04 pace, HR 146
27 Nov
9 miles, 1:11:34, 7:57 pace, HR 147
28 Nov
6 miles, 47:08, 7:51 pace, HR 148
including about 8 x 20-30 secs sprints

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Good News and Bad News

Look what arrived in Monday’s post. On the back side it says that I am accepted into the 113th Boston marathon, and to confirm this, a search on their website has me listened as one of the entrants. I guess it’s time to book a flight; and to check the Visa requirements.

I’m slowly cranking up my mileage and I can already feel an improvement in my fitness. Those runs of 2 hours seem to have a magic effect on me, I can feel a drop in the HR even one day later. Surely I’m not imagining the figures on the Garmin, especially now that the new battery seems to have fixed the problems. I noticed a lower heart rate last Tuesday, and the same happened again today.

Monday’s run was not without difficulties. The forecast frosty temperatures never arrived, but the wind and rain did. I had fallen asleep listening to the storm outside, and when the alarm sounded at 5:25 am it still didn’t sound any better. As I was getting ready I could not help looking out of the kitchen window into the darkness and thinking that it felt less than inviting. Of course I went out anyway, and it wasn’t as bad as it had sounded. This was my first lap around the lake since the marathon, and beforehand I had been wondering if I would be able to run all those hills and still remain under the HR threshold. I needn’t have worried. The HR alarm did beep at times, but I was always able to get it back under control without problems. In fact I reached the high point in a time that I would have regarded as decent in the previous training cycle despite being careful not to exert myself; admittedly I may have been assisted by the strong wind pushing me from behind. Then I had the chance to test my downhill running skills, which will be sorely tested in Boston. I felt a bit awkward at times; I guess there is room for improvement. The second half of the run was a lot more challenging against the blustery wind (average wind speed 30mph, gusts of 40 mph), but I was surprised how well I felt, even on the last miles I was not the least bit tired. What did bother me was my left hamstring, which started tightening up badly with a few miles to go. When I reached home I felt like I could run a second lap without problems as long as someone took care of my left leg in the meantime. This area kept bothering me for the entire day. I’m not sure what to do. I can easily reach my toes without bending the knees, so tightness should not be a problem; I keep stretching it regularly, and that does provide some relief, but only for a short while.

As already mentioned, today’s reward for running 2 hours on Monday was an improved heart rate. I managed my first run under 8:00 pace since the marathon which pleased me no end, but then disaster struck. I was doing some exercises afterwards (bounding, skipping, high knees, …) and about 5 minutes into that my heart went mental. The HR on the Garmin went beyond 220, and when I felt my pulse it was extremely fast, shallow and irregular. It was a bit scary, but this has happened twice before and I wasn’t worried about dropping dead. Of course I stopped exercising immediately, but didn’t feel quite right for another couple of hours.

The whole episode could be caffeine related, but that is only a theory. After the last episode, two years ago, I completely cut my coffee intake and did not experience any more problems afterwards. In the last few weeks I have drunk between 1 and 2 cups each day, which isn’t exactly a lot, but it’s one or two cups more than I used to drink before the marathon, and eliminating coffee is the first thing on my list. Back then I had a health check which stated that I was completely healthy and that my heart was perfectly fine.

I have a sore throat at the moment (like Shea and Niamh, and Cian had been sick already), which might have something to do with it. I was also quite tired because Maia had woken at 4 am and kept torturing us for the next 90 minutes (most likely she’s got a sore throat as well), and the sleep deprivation did get to me. As far as running is concerned, I’m not too worried. The last time this happened was during the warm up for a half-marathon; for some reason I still decided to race, and subsequently had my best ever race up to then. If anything, regular exercise should be beneficial. Anyway, it’s definitely not a heart attack, it doesn’t fit any of the symptoms. I’d still like to know what it is, though, but the doctor didn’t come up with anything last time. I’m not a complete idiot (I said complete, right?), if I thought there was something seriously wrong I’d stop running immediately.

24 Nov
15 miles, 2:04:16, 8:17 pace, HR 146
25 Nov
8 miles, 1:03:32, 7:57 pace, HR 147
subsequent heart palpitations

Sunday, November 23, 2008

End of Week Report

I love running, and for as long as I can I will continue running. But that doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated from time to time.

The weather recently has been shite as we say around here, excuse my language. A few weeks ago that amount of wind would have sent me to the elves of the Ard-na-Sidhe road, but I decided to be less of a softy and face the conditions head-on on the Caragh Lake road. It’s never as bad as it sounds anyway. The road is still somewhat sheltered by two mountains, Seefin and Callahaniska, but there is one corner where the wind comes through the gap between the two of them and you get some kind of funnel effect. I’ve named that stretch “Windy Corner”, and twice on the last few days the wall of wind hit me so suddenly that it quite literally took my breath away. Today was particularly bad; I had seriously considered the Ard-na-Sidhe road, but running up and down the same stretch of road 3 times in each direction just doesn’t have that much of an appeal to me. I might have reconsidered had I known that by mile 1.5 I would be caught in a short but sharp rain shower. That happened a second time, around the 5-mile mark, when it rained so heavily that I was soaked right through within seconds.

The little bits of technology I keep carrying around are even more frustrating. The Garmin’s chest strap has finally given up completely, and I’ve been wearing the Polar HR as well as the Garmin on my recent runs. The biggest problem I have is remembering to press the start and stop buttons on both devices. That won't be a problem in the future because by now the Polar has finally given up the ghost as well. At least I have finally managed to purchase a replacement battery for the Garmin. Let’s hope this will solve the problem from tomorrow on.

I have noticed an improvement in my paces recently, but with the lack of a proper HR monitor this might have been the result of me inadvertently crossing my self-imposed threshold. But my runs are still all of the easy variety. I will keep building my mileage for the next two weeks, and then the proper aerobic base training phase will commence. I’m looking forward to a few faster runs already.

My legs will get a faster workout before that though, because there is a 10k race in Killorglin next Saturday. It does not fit into my training schedule and I certainly won’t be in my best 10k shape, but with a race so nearby I can’t possibly refuse participation.

The weekend has been stressful. Niamh had some work to do on Saturday and had to leave at 8:30, which meant I had to get up early for my run, and then I had to mind our entire unruly brood on my own. I still managed to bake my most complicated dinner ever, which went down extremely well. Unfortunately Niamh forgot to reset the alarm clock, and since it woke not only us but also the boys it meant yet another early morning. At least it enabled me to have time for some clandestine shopping; Cian’s birthday is in a fortnight, and I managed to track down the perfect present. I’m almost as excited as he is.
20 Nov
10 miles, 1:22:49, 8:17 pace, HR 148
21 Nov
9 miles, 1:13:54, 8:13 pace, HR 146
22 Nov
7 miles, 57:06, 8:10 pace, HR ???
23 Nov
9 miles, 1:12:26, 8:03 pace, HR ???

Weekly mileage: 63+

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Darkness Falls

We have now definitely entered the part of the year when a day without heavy rain and winds under the gale-force marker automatically qualifies as a nice day. Add to that the inevitable darkness, both in the morning when I’m running and in the evening when I’m cycling home from work and the conditions are generally getting more challenging.

At least I’m starting to get used to running slowly all the time. The mileage is still fairly low, at least compared to what I’m used to, but that will change soon enough. I recently studied my training plan and thought about adding a few miles here and there, but managed to reign myself in so far. I’ll see how I get on first before I make any drastic changes.

For real-life reasons, my long run day is going to be Monday this training cycle, and I ran 14 miles on Monday to get into the swing of things. That does not qualify as a long run yet, but that too will change soon enough. It was quite windy, which I noticed especially after the turnaround point, but at least the forecast rain held off until after I had gotten home – I did have to pay for that good fortune during my cycle commute, though. Tuesday and Wednesday were both easy 7 milers. The Garmin HR sensor started acting up again yesterday; it really is time to change the battery, but I haven’t yet managed to get a replacement. This morning I decided to wear my ancient Polar HR monitor as well as the Garmin. It meant strapping on not just one but two chest straps, and it felt like running in a corset; all too typically, the Garmin behaved impeccably and the data was the same on both. I was amazed that the Polar HR thing is still working. I got it almost 4 years ago, and never changed the battery that was only supposed to last for 2 years (and I’m sure I used it a lot more than the average user would have).

Anyway, yesterday I got soaking wet, but today was a nice day, at least according to the definition from the start of this entry. At least I don’t need a headlamp in the morning at the moment because the moon is so bright. Since that won’t be the case next week, I’ve ordered a new one. My trusty old Petzl is definitely on its way out. The case has developed a big crack, and the rainwater is killing the batteries. I remember talking to some runners in Cork a while ago who all called me a weirdo for running with a headlamp. It’s different for those pampered city guys; they can always find a lit street. The nearest street light from my house is at the kids’ school, 2 miles away (I could run around the school yard – hours of fun) or in Killorglin, 5 miles away (I could run up and down the main street – just as much fun). I think I’ll stay on my beloved Caragh Lake loop and risk being called a weirdo.

17 Nov
14+ miles, 1:56:47, 8:19 pace, HR 143
18 Nov
7 miles, 58:03, 8:18 pace, HR ???
19 Nov
7 miles, 56:43, 8:06 pace, HR 146

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Downhill Training

It’s a given fact, real life does interfere with running. You just have to work around it. Yesterday Niamh drove to Cork with the twins for an assessment. Since I had slept longer than expected I sacrificed a mile of my early morning run to ensure I’d be home in time and not delay her departure. It was a sacrifice in vain, she left half an hour late anyway, and it wasn’t down to me. I had to mind Cian and Maia on my own for basically the entire day, which was harder than predicted because Maia eschewed her lunchtime nap. I still responded negatively to Niamh’s question if I had found more respect for her daily task. I am a father of four children, and have looked after them plenty of times. I was already well aware how much work it is.

During the run itself I had managed not to look at the Garmin at all. Afterwards I was a bit surprised at how slow the pace had been, but all of my runs are more like gentle strolls through the Kerry countryside rather than hard training these days. 8:30 pace just happened to be my easy pace that day.

As Mike and Yvonne have commented and a lot of people have written countless times, training for the downhill sections is key for Boston. So, how DO you train for downhills?

My number one method is doing a lot of downhill running. The loop around Caragh Lake contains a 3-mile downhill section, from the highest point to Blackstones Bridge, and if I run this twice a week it should give my legs a good workout. In fact, I do believe that this training enabled me to run the last miles so fast in Cork, and who knows, maybe I would not have suffered as much in Dublin had I not preferred the flatter Cromane loop for my long runs in the most recent training cycles (I tried to go for speed rather than strength. It was worth a try).

The second, and less important method, is trying to improve the strength of my legs, and I started doing squats for that. When I say I started, I do mean that – I did the first such workout on Saturday. After a few sets of air squats and squats with dumbbells (I’ll add one-legged squats as well) I originally felt I had not done much because I wanted to ease into that kind of thing. But when my leg almost buckled under me on my way to a well-deserved cup of tea I figured that I probably had done more than enough already.

Guess what, I was sore today. I slept for 9 hours (with one interruption at 4 am for Maia’s bottle), and would have slept longer had Shea not demanded breakfast. With the legs begging for mercy I expected to be even slower than yesterday, but that was not the case. The weather was the opposite of yesterday, rather than a lot of wind and little rain it was little wind and lots of rain (those are the only options at the moment, apparently). I was passed by two cars whose drivers must have thought I was completely bonkers, running around in the rain on a Sunday morning.

Before going out I measured my resting heart rate. It had been as low as 38 before the marathon, but didn’t go under 43 today. I wonder how long it will take for that to drop again.

Running at such an easy effort day after day enables me to increase the mileage and still feel like I’m recovering from the marathon as well as the previous training cycle. I think I need this mentally more than physically. I had felt stale and chronically exhausted from the amount of speedwork during the summer, and a break from that is exactly what I’m yearning for. The miles themselves are all fun, it’s the speed that kills me.
15 Nov
9 miles, 1:16:34, 8:30 pace, HR 144
16 Nov
8+ miles, 1:06:55, 8:19 pace, HR 144

Weekly mileage: 56+

Friday, November 14, 2008

Small Steps

I got my hopes up a little bit too early. On Wednesday I thought I was making real progress, when I ran my 6 miles at 8:06 average pace, and without setting off the HR alarm. This was clearly a nice, decent improvement on earlier runs.

Then I did 12 miles on Thursday. Originally I planned to run the Cromane loop, but then changed my mind and ran the much hillier Caragh Lake road instead. The out-and-back route contains 6 proper climbs; since Boston is hilly, my training runs are going to be hilly as well.

It took a lot of slowing down on those climbs. The one leading to the turnaround point featured nearly 250 feet elevation gain in less than a mile, and at times I had to slow down to a virtual crawl to keep the heart rate down. It clearly showed that I still have plenty of work to do. This comes as no great surprise. The last marathon had been a mere 17 days ago, and I’m basically on week one of my Boston training. I just didn’t expect the run to be quite so slow.

I also suffered from a severe case of the stupids. “12 miles at 8:00 pace, that will take me 1:20, let’s say 1:25 to take into account my slower pace these days and set the alarm for 6:10 am.” I was a bit surprised at how bright it was when I set off, but so close to Full Moon that wasn’t particularly alarming. It wasn’t until I was back home and saw that the run had take 1:40 that I finally and belatedly realised that 1:20 at 8:00 pace will give you 10 miles rather than 12. Thomas, you idiot. I was late for work.

Today’s run reinforced just how much out of shape I am. I was stiff and tired and the legs were distinctly unhappy about having to move again. This did come as a real surprise. 12 miles aren’t exactly a long run anymore, and I can’t remember the last time I was so sore the day after a run at such leisurely pace. And of course I was slow again today. In all honesty, I do expect rapid improvements from here.

My mum has just left, the week has passed very quickly. She even had a few nice days, weather wise. She’ll be back in spring.

12 Nov
6 miles, 48:35, 8:06 pace, HR 144
13 Nov
12 miles, 1:40:54, 8:24 pace, HR 147
14 Nov
6+ miles, 50:53, 8:25 pace, HR 143

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Questionable Rewards

The marathon was over two weeks ago, but I’m still in the “I deserve a reward” state of mind. Even before the race I had firmly decided to let the discipline slide. I had been very restrained for a lot of weeks, eating raw food, going to bed early, cutting down on sweets (apart from Niamh’s desserts), no caffeine, and so on. But now is the time to relax, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. I discovered that drinking coffee black with 2 sugars gives me a massive buzz that rivals that of several illegal drugs, and that’s why I’ve got one beside my keyboard right now (NO! Not an illegal drug. Black coffee!). My sweet tooth is in paradise, and the chocolate bars in the kitchen cabinet are cowering in fear whenever I go anywhere near. Extra cream and sugar on the porridge? Ah go on, have another one! At some stage I’ll have to start reigning myself in again, especially since the weighing scales start whimpering whenever I step on them; I’ve gained 6 pounds since the marathon (well, since 3 days before the marathon, when I started carbo-loading). I hope they’ll melt off once the mileage goes up again.

The worst of the last storm left us on Monday morning, but not until after my run which left me rather frozen. 4C/40F feels cold, especially in the rain and gusty wind. I was thinking about digging out the long sleeves and the tights, but luckily the temperature has picked up again.

The Garmin seems to behave again, or at least the HR readings are believable. With my fitness picking up/my recovery going on it gets easier to stay under my self-imposed HR threshold, and yesterday was the first run that passed by without the HR alarm going off even once. Today I went out alongside Caragh Lake for the first time since the race and managed to repeat that feat, even though the road is much more undulating than the Ard-na-Sidhe road that I had been using up to now. I would have enjoyed it more if the wind hadn’t been quite as strong and quite as cold, but that too is supposed to improve tomorrow (if only for the rain to return on Thursday).

My mum is here this week, and with the improving weather she can hopefully enjoy the scenery if Niamh can drag her away from the housework she keeps insisting on doing (she broke our Hoover yesterday, which should make this easier). She was thrilled when Maia managed to say “Oma” (German for grandmother) last night, but it might have been a once-off. The kids all love having visitors, but if that is because they enjoy the company or the presents that these people invariably bring, I’m not quite sure.
10 Nov
8 miles, 1:06:20, 8:18 pace, HR 143
11 Nov
7 miles, 58:39, 8:22 pace, HR 144

Sunday, November 09, 2008


I have to be careful what I’m writing these days. Niamh occasionally reads this blog, some work colleagues have mentioned it, and now my kids started reading when they saw the Halloween pictures of themselves. Niamh asked me slightly worried if the content is suitable for them. I assured her it is. I think I swore once or twice, but apart from that it’s child friendly. Apart from the fact that it makes Daddy look like a nutcase, that is.

Case in point, I went running yesterday and today even though the weather was all but inviting. I somehow managed to time both runs to perfection; both Saturday and Sunday featured downpours of biblical proportion, and yet I managed to squeeze in a run into a nice window of opportunity. I hardly got wet, and the rain either held of or was down to a mere drizzle. I got lucky, because on both occasions it started raining very heavily within minutes of my return.

I was tempted to remove the whining last paragraph from Friday’s entry as soon as I posted it. In reality, running easy isn’t as bad as I made it sound, and most of the time I’m perfectly ok with it. I can relax, and enjoy my me-time. If the weather is nice I can also enjoy the surroundings because after all Caragh Lake does have some stunning scenery, and I never get tired of it. As I found out today, mentally I find it easier to run for 10 miles; 5 miles are so short that it hardly seems worthwhile.

My Garmin started acting up this morning. Initially it didn’t report any HR data at all. When I re-paired it, it picked up the signal again, but as soon as I started running I noticed that the HR was stuck around 100 bpm, which cannot be right. I suspected the battery in the chest strap might be empty, but after 4 miles it suddenly started behaving again, and the readings were fine afterwards. Because of these problems I didn’t get any initial feedback on my HR and it didn’t sound the alarm if I went over 152, so I might have run a little bit fast on the inclines. It was still an easy run, and I enjoyed it. Our garden is water-logged, some local roads are closed, parts of the country are bound to be flooded, but at least I managed to get my runs in.

I started working on my training plan for Boston. I will be following the training schedules outlined in Ron Daws’ book Running Your Best, which is basically Lydiard training. Starting tomorrow there will be 4 weeks of building the mileage, 6 weeks of aerobic base, 4 weeks of preliminary speed, 4 weeks of anaerobic training, 3 weeks of sharpening and 2 weeks of taper. I haven’t got the details worked out yet (and they’ll change as the weeks go on anyway), but I know what I’m going to do over the next few weeks at least.

8 Nov
7 miles, 57:56, 8:15 pace, HR 145
9 Nov
10+ miles, 1:22:12, 8:10 pace, HR 144

Friday, November 07, 2008

Taking Stock

With the marathon almost two weeks behind us, I have recovered from all the usual immediate ailments like stiff calves or quads, but some things have stayed with me. My left hamstring still hurts; that’s no surprise, it has been hurting since the Connemara Ultra in April, and I didn’t think that abusing it for 26 miles would be a cure. It’s rather annoying though; it doesn’t just hurt when I’m running, the pain is there all the time. Stretching does temporarily alleviate the discomfort somewhat, which at least forces me to stretch regularly. Maybe I should be more worried about the problem than I am, but the fact is that I have run on it at all speeds and distances, from 30 seconds all-out intervals to a 3:05 marathon, and it never got any worse. It’s just “something” I can’t get rid of. I’ll probably get some more massage in the next few weeks, but nobody in Killorglin offers a sports massage (not that I would expect it in a small place like that) and driving to Killarney after work has provided too many scheduling headaches to make it worthwhile, as I found out in spring.

The other area that has flared up is my right heel. I’ve had that pain in my left heel since April and finally managed to get on top of it after massaging it rigorously twice a day, but since the marathon the right heel started acting up in the same way. I’ve started massaging that as well, and I’m already experiencing some noticeable improvements. Unfortunately, massaging my hamstring doesn’t work in the same way. It might if I actually knew what I was doing, who knows. Maybe I should invest in a foam roller? It would certainly be cheaper than a regular trip to the massage centre (not as relaxing, though).

I’m still running nothing but slow 5-milers, and I’m already getting bored of them. I did set the alarm for 6 miles this morning, but Maia had a bad night, and when Maia has a bad night then Daddy has a bad night, and I opted for 10 more minutes of a warm bed. In fact I had woken at 5am with a fearsome storm howling outside and decided to skip the run. By 6:40 it seemed much better, and I went out anyway. It did cross my mind that I’m a nutcase to go running in those conditions when the next marathon is still half a year away, but I figured I’d better get used to running in the wind and rain again, because if this winter is anything like the last two, there will be plenty of that to come. As it turned out, the conditions were not half as bad as feared.

I was tempted to ignore the 80% HR training threshold. I know that my pace will come down eventually as I’m recovering from the marathon, but so far I’m only plodding along at 8:20 pace, and I’m already wondering if those slow and short runs are doing anything for me. In a rare moment of sanity I did figure out that I should give the low HR training a little more time. But if I'm already impatient after just one week, the next few weeks might become taxing.

6 Nov
5 miles, 42:05, 8:25 pace, HR 147
7 Nov
am: 5 miles, 41:35, 8:19 pace, HR 145
pm: 5 miles, 40:20, 8:04 pace, HR 149

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

More Photos

Since there is very little to tell about my running, I thought I might as well post some more Halloween photos. After all, they are worth posting.

Lola’s costume was the only one we bought, but we had to try half a dozen shops until we found a devil’s fork. She loved it, but when Mummy painted her face, she initially thought she looked stupid and wanted to hide her face. As you can see, she eventually changed her mind.

Cian made a vampire mask in school, which he demonstrated very proudly to me last week. But after Mummy put on his face paint, he refused to wear the mask because he decided that he already looked perfect. We didn’t argue, and in my opinion Mummy’s talent for face painting is stunning.

Shea recently got interested in Greek mythology (I bet you thought 7-year olds don’t do Greek mythology) and his favourite story is Theseus and the Minotaur. He decided to make his own mask, which he designed himself, and with Mummy’s help it took shape. I thought it was the scariest mask I saw all evening, but the most impressive thing is that it’s all his own work.

I guess it doesn’t hurt to sat a few things about my running. To answer Mike’s question, my max HR is about 190, and 152 is 80% of that, which is why I chose it as the upper threshold for the next few weeks of recovery running. It's easy to stay under that on the flat, but I have to slow down considerably on climbs. What struck me is that yesterday’s run was a good bit faster than Monday or today, at the same HR. Since the conditions were pretty much identical, I guess it must have been the lighter shoes (Nike Luna Trainers vs. Asics Stratus). I am really surprised to see such a difference.
4 Nov
5 miles, 41:02, 8:12 pace, HR 146
5 Nov
5 miles, 41:50, 8:22 pace, HR 147

Monday, November 03, 2008

Back to the Daily Grind

… as Niamh ruefully said last night. I’m not sure what’s grinding her down since I’m the one who had to go off to the office this morning when the holiday had ended much too soon, as holidays invariably do.

It was good to take a week off after the marathon. It definitely helped recharging my batteries, especially the mental ones. After the marathon I had felt like never running again, but within 4 days the old itch had returned, and I was back out, just like Niamh had predicted. She might know me better than I do myself.

The week in Dublin included Halloween, and all the three older ones unanimously decided that we should spend every Halloween in Dublin. There are a lot more houses in Dublin than in Caragh Lake, and trick-or-treating is much more rewarding. They came back with bags loaded with loot. I think they’re still on that sugar high, even though they’ve still not finished all their sweets. We also managed to carve the least scary pumpkin in history.

Even more importantly, at least for the parents, was Maia’s first birthday. Isn’t it amazing how quickly time passes? The birthday girl didn’t quite understand what was going on, of course, but she definitely liked the attention, and she loved the toys she got. We all enjoyed the birthday cake, and since I had just run a marathon, Niamh and Nana insisted that I would get two pieces. I didn’t complain. There’s a time for restraint, and this was not it.

Coincidentally, this also marks the anniversary of me getting rid of my car, something I remembered as I was cycling to work this morning. For once I had managed to be ahead of time, I had done that before the oil price had gone into orbit, and not just for financial reasons either. That’s not to say that it wasn’t worthwhile financially; the money used to run out well before the end of the month, these days I’ve actually still got something left by payday. With the recession amongst us, that’s definitely a plus.

I have cautiously returned to running. I have set the Garmin to beep whenever the HR goes over 152, which so far has happened at each run. As the recovery from the marathon goes on I should be able to increase the pace without crossing that threshold. At least I hope so. At the present rate I’d go nuts if I had to crawl around like that for 5 more weeks.
2 Nov
4.5 miles, 36:58, 8:14 pace, HR 146
3 Nov
5 miles, 42:15, 8:26 pace, HR 146

Saturday, November 01, 2008

On the Way to Boston

I didn’t know how long I would rest for. On Monday evening I felt like never running again, on Wednesday I still felt like taking two weeks off, and on Friday the old itch seemed to return. When I saw the weather forecast and got annoyed by the prediction of rain, I knew I was ready for a return.

My legs had already been fine, but mentally I needed the break more than physically. It’s a bit strange because the heart keeps thinking of Cork as a very successful run and Dublin as somewhat of a failure, and then the head points out that the Dublin time was 4 minutes faster.

Anyway, I managed to squeeze a run between the early morning rain showers. This proved that Niamh knows me better than I know myself, because she had predicted a return to running before the week is out. It was not long, and it probably was faster than I should have, but I guess after four days of idleness the legs were itching to burn some rubber. We’re still in Dublin, and will drive home tomorrow, and I will only run if I have time and if the weather is agreeable. Next week is still an easy recovery week of unstructured running before the next training cycle will commence, provided I feel ready. I will type out a proper training plan once I find the time, but I’ve already decided that the first 4-6 weeks will consist of only easy runs with a ceiling of 80% HR. I’ll set the alarm on the Garmin to make sure I’ll stay there (I didn’t today).

The official marathon photos are finally ready, after a long wait of 5 days. Needless to say, I won’t be spending my money on any of these shots. I think that all of them were taken during the last mile, and Niamh’s comments were not too flattering.

There are at least a dozen sets of photos from private photographers to be found on the Internet, but somehow I managed to squeeze past all of them without registering apart from one that shows me being chicked at mile 25. Not that I’m overly keen on being reminded how wrecked I looked.

The kids enjoyed Halloween, and I’ll post some photos next time. There’s no need to mix those lovely shots with the ugly ones of me in the same post.

1 Nov
4.5 miles, 35:27, 7:57 pace, HR 154

October mileage: 210