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+


  1. If you find a secret to doing downhill training without getting sore, let me know!

    Try single leg squats as well... and "walking lunges" - they're a killer!

  2. I see your "easy days" about the same pace as my speed work :-)

    Aren't squats fun, I had a good workout yesterday with squats, followed by some rowing and time on the stationary bike - today I am walking a little slower up the stairs.

    ...single leg squats, lunges...sick!

  3. Single leg squats are easy compared to the single leg squat jumps Mr Fitzgerald has us doing.

  4. Damn you and your downhill running, now you've got me thinking...

    People I know who have run Boston mention they learn a lot during their first attempt. I don't know what to make of it just yet but I'd listen to people like Love2Run. I'll be watching to see what you do.