Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Year That Was

As it happens, today is New Year’s Eve, and since I must be the last blogger not to have written an analysis of 2008, I’d better do one right now.

At the start of the year I set 3 targets: run 4000 miles, drop the weight to 140 pounds and sleep 8 hours a day. Within a fortnight something happened that made the first target unachievable and delivered the second one in one go, but not as I had planned it. I had already been ill in December 2007, but things really went downhill fast, and within a few days of January I was lying in bed with pneumonia, seemingly coughing my lungs out in a very painful manner. This cost me virtually the whole of the month, and training was still hampered in February when I slowly started to recover. Looking back now I was always going to have a hard time at the Connemara Ultra; I could count the number of good training weeks on the fingers of one hand. I made up for it 2 months later in Cork were I ran my best marathon ever, dropping under 3:10 for the first time.

I changed things during the summer, completely foregoing the mileage target in order to do more speedwork, according to the Brain Training book. After an avalanche of personal bests over the lower distances I managed to PR in Dublin but missed the 3 hours target after hitting the wall and crawling towards the finish. After the marathon I needed a few days to recharge my batteries, especially my mental ones, but now I am really looking forward to Boston.

I didn’t quite reach the sleep target either, which was in no small part due to Maia. That girl cost me a fair number of hours of sleep along the year; however, that was always going to be the case. Babies do that to you. But I did establish a regular bedtime of 10 o’clock, which is good, and if I can stick to that I’ll get plenty of sleep in future.

As far as the ankle is concerned, I still haven’t quite decided on the best course of action. Boston is still in the far distance, and if I were to take 2 weeks off, now would be the time to do it. However, I’m still hopeful that I can avoid rest, grit my teeth for a while and still recover in time. Most of my problems respond to that.

The 10k is on tomorrow, and I had visions of me being the only sober one amongst a group of badly hungover runners. However, since you all recommend the magic Irish potion for treatment, I might be in as bad a state as everyone else. I have run with a hangover before, but never raced. That would be an interesting new experience.

The drive back from Dublin was uneventful, and we’re all safely back home. The house was absolutely freezing as we entered, but has slowly thawed out by now. I ran 11 farewell miles yesterday before our trip, and since I won’t have access to a track anymore I ran 10 loops of straights and curves on it (sprint the straights, jog the curves). Today, back on ye Olde Faithful Caragh Lake road, I was surprised by the strong wind. I didn’t have to deal with that in Dublin. It made me work a lot harder than planned, and for some reason I kept the same effort up on the way home with the wind on my back. It’s probably not the best preparation for tomorrow’s race, but tomorrow’s race is not what I’m training for.

I don’t want to set specific targets for next year. I especially want to avoid setting a mileage goal because then I’d be in danger of running miles simply for the miles’ sake. My sidebar shows that I had a very successful year of running, the ultra PR being the only one to survive from 12 months ago (and it will last 2009 as well because I’m not doing Connemara this year). My big goal for 2009 is to drop 5 minutes and 38 seconds from my present marathon PR. I’m getting old, and I don’t know how much time I have got before the inevitable slowdown sets in. Once that is achieved I can look at knocking off a few targets from my to-do list.

30 Dec
11.1 miles, 1:28:15, 7:57 pace, HR 149
incl. 10 laps of straights and curves
31 Dec
8.1 miles, 1:03:22, 7:49 pace, HR 150

December Mileage: 336.8
2008 Mileage: 3143

Monday, December 29, 2008


I’ve failed to mention something in my few recent posts. About 10 days ago I started to develop a pain near the outside ankle of my right leg, about an inch above and towards the front of the leg. Even though I can feel it pretty much all the time, it doesn’t bother me during the day. However, it can become rather painful at times when running, especially downhill. From looking at pictures of the foot on the web it could be the anterior inferior tibiofibular ligament, but that’s just my own wild guess. And anyway, knowing the name of the part in itself doesn’t really help in treatment. My ice pack is in Kerry, and I don’t believe in painkillers, so at the moment I’m not doing much at all about it. It has gone past the stage where I can just ignore it, but has not quite reached the bit where I admit defeat and start resting yet. When Niamh asked the other day how my run was, my answer of “my foot hurts like hell but the rest of me feels great” I was only half-joking.

So far I’ve been able to keep pretty much to the schedule, even though I’ve muddled up the days of the workout a bit. It’s great to be able to sleep in until 6:30, run 18 miles and still be home for breakfast before the other adults are awake. Well, it didn’t quite work out like that this morning, Maia must have woken as I was leaving, and Niamh wasn’t too impressed by the early start. I ran from Stillorgan to Killiney, up the hill and down the other side. Since that didn’t deliver the required mileage I ran to Cabinteely Park on my way home and started churning out 4 loops on that. With my sore foot I was getting slower and slower until I spotted another runner ahead of me on the third loop. My competitive juices got stirred and I dropped the pace from 8:50 to 7:20 until I caught up. Unfortunately I went back into jogging mode on the way back home.

It was rather cold this morning, the fields were covered in a thick layer of frost which made it easy to imagine running through a winter wonderland. Unfortunately at times the path was covered in ice as well, which made for very uneasy footing and was partially responsible for the pedestrian pace today. At one stage I actually slipped but somehow managed to execute a perfect rolling landing and didn’t get hurt. That could have ended a lot worse.

There is not much else to say at the moment. We’re going to head for home tomorrow and I’ll take it easy for two days, running wise; not just because of my hurt foot (I refuse to call it an injury) but also because there is a 10k on New Year’s Day, and I’ll give that a go. I don’t know if I will be able to run properly with that ankle, but I’ll find out. If it’s too bad I’m going to miss the 10-mile race in Mallow for the fourth year in a row.
28 Dec
10 miles, 1:19:23, 7:56 pace, HR 152
29 Dec
18 miles, 2:34:41, 8:35 pace, HR 144

Weekly mileage: 89+ miles

Saturday, December 27, 2008


A few days ago, TeddS left a comment:
I am interested in how you were able to go from "Connemara 26 Mar 2006 4:11:45" to "Dublin 30 Oct 2006 3:28:42."

And a bit later, Mick said:
I commend your commitment but wonder if the mileage is excessive? I say that as someone who does well to average 70k a week never mind 90+ miles :-)

Mick’s comment inadvertently answers Tedd’s question. When training for Connemara I ran a maximum of 55 miles per week in 5 days. For Dublin, 6 months later, I trained 6 days a week for a max of 70 miles per week. As you all know, I have since increased my mileage further, am running every day, and managed to knock another 23 minutes off my marathon PR.
I am well aware that others train less and that there are those who run faster race times on fewer miles. But my personal experience has been that the more miles I run the better I race. My take on that is that I have to run more miles to make up for a certain lack of talent. Then again, the fact that I’m able to run day in, day out no matter the circumstances is a talent as well. I tested the waters last summer with fewer miles and more speedwork, and I can honestly say that 90 miles at mostly steady pace is easier than 75 miles with 2 or 3 speed sessions. For someone who never ran that much, 90 miles a week might seem excessive, but I’m used to it and it feels easy enough. Honestly.

There is an Irish message board about running that I started visiting regularly recently. They had a thread about running over Christmas, and most runners seemed to say they would take one or two weeks off running. I can’t get my head around that. Over the holidays I can finally run close to 90 miles per week without having to get up at 5:30 all the time. I am not going to pass up on the chance of being both able to sleep and run.

After all that rambling I might as well mention my runs since the last post. I had gotten an early start on Christmas Day; last year the kids were up at some utterly ridiculous hour like 1 or 2 am and started opening presents. This year we made sure they would not be in place until 5 am. Luckily there is one adult in the family who thinks nothing of waking at that time. The timing was good, by 5:30 the boys were awake, and by 6 am the hall was covered three layers deep in toys, boxes and wrapping paper. Eventually we tried to get more sleep, but sleep was not forthcoming and eventually I set off on my run. I had planned no more than 10 miles and ran in the general direction of the city centre. After a mile I found myself on the marathon course and followed that for a while, but going the other way. I just kept going straight, and by the time I was supposed to turn around I was almost at Grafton Street so I kept going until I had passed through that.
Of course I got lost on the way home, but eventually found myself back on the marathon course, right at the point where things had started falling apart 2 months ago. I followed the course from Milltown to Fosters Avenue, and the hill that just about killed me at the race seemed hardly noticeable this time. I guess that’s the difference between hitting it after 11 steady miles rather than 20 fast ones. I got home after 13.5 miles and realised that I had inadvertently run tomorrow’s workout, 15 miles at steady pace, so I added a bit extra to complete it.

Subsequently I took it easier on Friday. I ran towards Cabinteely Park which contains an almost ideal hilly loop of about 1.2 miles. I ran 4 loops of that, and together with the way to and from the park it was 11 miles.

With a dirt track available, something I don’t have in Kerry, I opted for quarters today. The track is over 4 miles from here so I drove half the way, parked the car, and set off. I think this was the first time ever that I had driven to a training run rather than just leave from wherever I was staying. It is a clear but cold day today, the thermometer read –1C/30F at the start, colder than anything we’ve had in Kerry all year. At the track I shed the extra layers and ran 16 quarter repeats at 10k pace. I was surprised that the pace was almost exactly the same as last week; on a smooth and flat track I expected it to be a bit faster. However, I was happy enough with the workout. For a while I managed to pretty much tune out and just run the repeats without a thought in my mind. Eventually I returned to the Real World, ran back towards the car, and drove home. Family time was beckoning.

We had some wonderful days. I hope you enjoyed Christmas as much as we did.
25 Dec
15.1 miles, 1:57:05, 7:45 pace, HR 150
26 Dec
11 miles, 1:29:48, 8:09 pace, HR 148
27 Dec
10 miles, 1:17:07, 7:42 pace, HR 162
16x400(100) at 6:22 avg

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Twas Three Nights Before Christmas

When all through the house
Not a creature was stirring,

...except for the idiot runner who insisted on getting in his long run. 20 miles were on the program, and 20 miles it was going to be, no matter what. I was slightly apprehensive because I was so exhausted after last week's 18 miles, but somehow my endurance must have returned in the meantime. I ran the 15 miles loop around Caragh Lake feeling good, and after a few sips of water set off on a 5 mile out-and-back run towards Ard-na-Sidhe. I am a stubborn creature and I like running under the moon and the stars. The moon is getting small and half the time it was hidden beneath the clouds so that I could hardly make out the road. Bringing some light would have been the more logical choice, but I managed to survive without running off the road. I was surprised how fresh I felt afterwards. Sure, it wasn't very fast, but it was just about the same pace as last week, and there was a world of difference in my legs. Can endurance really return so quickly?

I expected to be sore on Tuesday, but I felt really good. In fact, I had to hold myself back, because this was an easy run. I'm not sure where that good feeling came from; after 15 quarters on Sunday and 20 miles on Monday I should have been knackered. Not that I'm complaining, I'll take a good day over a bad one any time.

As soon as I came back we got ready to leave for Dublin. There was so much stuff to be loaded into the car that I thought we might have to choose to bring either the presents or the clothes, but somehow I managed to squeeze it all in. Actually I felt a little bit guilty for making sure that my runners would be the first thing in the car, but you know where my priorities lie. Since they opened a new stretch of motorway just a fortnight ago we drove a different route to Dublin than usual, and got there a bit faster than we used to. After 10 years of a booming economy a few half-built motorways might be all we have to show for it, but at least we have these, and once the recession is over, you never know, they might even start filling the gaps, 50+ years later than anywhere else in Europe. Ah well.

This morning I had my first run in Dublin. I went over 12 miles with 9 mile repeats at roughly marathon effort, the same workout as last week. You can never entirely compare workouts, especially over completely different roads, but I felt a lot better than last week. Some 4 miles behind Stillorgan there is a dirt-track, and I could not resist running a few of my mile repeats on that one. It was good to get the feet off the tarmac for a bit, and running in circles took less energy because I didn't have to dodge cyclists, walkers or dogs in Santa costumes (I kid you not) and I didn't have to cross any major roads either. Like I said, I felt a lot better than last week. It's great to feel an improvement in such a short time. Still, I can't quite comprehend how I managed to run 19 consecutive miles faster than that in Dublin, and how I am supposed to stretch that to the entire 26 miles is beyond me at the moment. Race day adrenaline really must be some powerful stuff!

Anyway, today is the one day of the year when the kids actually listen when you tell them to be good for Santa; we might be in for an easier day. It doesn't quite work with Maia yet, though; she's keeping us all on our toes.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!

22 Dec
20 miles, 2:43:57, 8:12 pace, HR 146
23 Dec
11 miles, 1:27:49, 7:59 pace, HR 146
24 Dec
12.1 miles, 1:29:49, 7:25 pace, HR 156
9 x 1 mile @ 7:06 pace avg.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Racing News

No, I haven’t run a race recently, but there are positive developments regarding two races next year.

The first is the Ballycotton 10 miler in March. This is one of the biggest dates in the Irish racing calendar, and it’s getting increasingly difficult to get in. The application forms went out on Monday 1 Dec, and early Tuesday morning mine was in the post with a cheque. From then on I had to rely on the Kerry postal service, and that’s increasingly getting lousy. The race was sold out within 2 days, and from then on I was getting increasingly anxious about my application. There aren’t any entry lists published yet, but 3 days ago my cheque was cashed, and that’s the sign that I’m in. Good! There are not many other races around at this time of year, and I really felt I needed that race in my preparation for Boston.

And Boston is the other race with news. A few weeks ago I checked out the flight dates and prices, and the cheapest I could come up with was a bit over 600 Euros, but leaving on Monday evening, which would have seen me rushing from the finish line to the airport. I didn’t book it then because I speculated that the falling oil might yield cheaper tickets. Yesterday I checked the airlines again and came up trumps. My flights are booked, cost about 450 Euros and will depart Boston on Tuesday, leaving me plenty of time to celebrate/drown my sorrows (delete as applicable). Great! I’m getting really excited about that trip now.

Saturday is my easiest day of the week, with only 8 easy miles on the program. That is needed in preparation for two harder days, a fast run on Sunday and a long one on Monday. I went out for quarter mile repeats today. The idea with those early in the season is to run them not too fast but with short recoveries, just 100 meters in my case. That’s very short, believe me, and running the repeats too fast will soon teach you a lesson. It was very windy with the occasional shower, which hopefully didn’t have much of an effect. I planned to run them at about 6:30 pace (i.e. in 97.5 seconds), but got worried that the first one at 6:25 might have been too fast and badly affected the entire workout. I needn’t have worried, I was fine for all 15 of them. When I got markedly slower on the 10th I suspected that I was reaching the end of was good for me and should cut it short, but a fast 11th convinced me to finish the workout as planned. In fact, the last 3 were the fastest ones and I felt I still might have had one or two more in me. What was noticeable was that every time I remembered to concentrate on my form I ran markedly faster without increased effort. I wish I could learn that lesson without having to re-discover it again and again. Having said that, I was more than happy with the run.
20 Dec
8 miles, 1:04:26, 8:03 pace, HR 148
21 Dec
9 miles, 1:08:28, 7:37 pace, HR 159
15x400(100 rest) at 6:22 avg.

Weekly mileage: 87

Friday, December 19, 2008


What a difference a day makes!

Running 15 miles on Tuesday, albeit on 2 runs, was a mistake. This was supposed to be my easy day, much needed after a tempo run on Sunday and a long run on Monday, and with all those miles I didn’t recover sufficiently for a decent workout on Wednesday.

I had my doubts about the workout from the first step, but decided to give it a try anyway. I was doing mile repeats at MP effort again. Last Tuesday I had left 2 minutes between each mile, which had been too long so I cut the recovery down to one minute. The run was 12 miles, and I did 9 mile repeats altogether. The break between the miles did not really seem necessary from a physical point of few, the pace was not fast enough to warrant a recovery, but it helped a lot from a psychological point of view because it meant a break from the harder effort was always near. The first few miles were ok, but I got slower towards the end. That in itself is not too surprising because on that loop the first half is net downhill and the second half accordingly net uphill. But I felt a lot more tired than I should have, and was utterly knackered by the end. I had originally intended to add a few minutes of additional exercises to the end of the run (skipping, bouncing, and so on), but I gave up soon, my legs were toast.

I did not need anyone to tell me to take it easy on Thursday. I could not have it taken differently any other way. I can’t remember the last time my legs had felt so sore, certainly not for quite some time. To add to the woe the wind was absolutely brutal. Normally I would have gone on the Ard-na-Sidhe road in those conditions, but for some reason I cannot remember I chose to brave the Caragh Lake road instead. It was tough, and I toyed with the idea of turning around after 2.5 miles and do the second half on a more sheltered loop. But with my tired legs I didn’t trust myself to pass our driveway without calling it a day. I’m usually very disciplined when it comes to running consistently, but there was no need to tempt me unnecessarily, and I continued on the Caragh Lake road, weary as I was. Of course, cutting the run short on an easy day would not have been that big a deal. However, I don't want to get into the habit of cutting runs short. Next time, it might be a more important workout.

However, I did notice that I felt ok for the rest of the day. By contrast, on Monday, after my first 18 mile run in a while, I had felt sore all day. I was therefore reasonably optimistic that I would have a decent run today. My main worry was the weather. We had a major storm coming, and I wondered if I would be able to run at all. However, when I woke at 5:30 I was pleasantly surprised by the calm outside. I headed off on my loop around the lake, hoping that the weather would hold at least for a few miles. It was very windy up in the hills where the area is completely exposed to the elements, but otherwise it was fine; in fact it was a lot better than the day before. As far as my legs went, the difference to Thursday was simply amazing. I felt good, and ran the last 5 miles faster again. I managed an average pace of 7:27 on those last miles, which is a lot faster than last week’s 7:35 but a lot slower than what I used to do before the Dublin marathon. Initially those figures worried me a bit, but when I checked my logs from the summer I came across two 15 miles runs in July at almost exactly the same pace. This was reassuring; at the very least I’m in no worse shape now than I was 3 months before Dublin. With all of the marathon specific training yet to come, that will do me.

17 Dec
12 miles, 1:32:12, 7:41 pace, HR 159
incl. 9 x 1 mile @ 7:12 avg
18 Dec
10 miles, 1:24:01, 8:24 pace, HR 148
19 Dec
15 miles, 1:59:21, 7:57 pace, HR 153
last 5 @ 7:27

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Oh me Legs!

Running your long run on Monday has the big advantage that it will be over as soon as the training week starts. You don’t have it hanging above your head all week. I only started worrying about running long on Sunday evening, but I told myself that 18 miles were just my usual 15 miles around Caragh Lake with a short 3 mile run attached to the end of it.

That’s how I approached it, and that’s how it went, but when the legs grew wearier and wearier after passing the 13 miles mark I knew that it wasn’t quite so easy. This was the longest run since the marathon, and the legs were definitely not used to being out there for so long. I was knackered by the time I got home, and I kept moaning all day that the legs were killing me. Niamh took it as a sign that I had overdone it; I took it as a sign that I had been in desperate need of a long run.

One thing I noticed is that I run slower when I can’t see the figures on the Garmin. I turned off the backlight, and despite the moon being nearly full it is not possible to read the display. If I had peeked I would have seen a pace slower than 8:00 which would have urged me to up the effort a bit – I know, because that’s what happened on so many runs in the summer. But with me being ignorant of the exact pace I was content to just keep going at the same easy effort. The pace I tuned into is about 80 percent of my goal marathon pace; some experts recommend exactly that pace for your long run, but of course you can find plenty others with different opinions.

My legs were very heavy this morning, and I struggled through 10 miles. Maybe I should stop paying attention to the weather forecast. That just scared me unnecessarily last night. The predicted heavy gale force winds never quite materialised, and the rain wasn’t anywhere near as bad as imagined either. I’m used to wind and rain by now, and can handle it. I did cut the morning run from 11 to 10 miles though, because it was a bit too windy to cycle into work and whenever I get a lift from Niamh into town it means I’ll be running the 5 miles home in the evening. Even so it’s still an awful lot of miles for an easy day.

At least the pain in the legs can be attributed to proper marathon training. It beats the hangover from binge drinking, even though that opinion isn’t widely shared here in Ireland, especially not around Christmas time.

15 Dec
18 miles, 2:27:20, 8:11 pace, HR 149
16 Dec
am: 10 miles, 1:22:24, 8:14 pace, HR 144
pm: 5 miles, 39:56, 7:59 pace, HR 143

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Oh me 'ead!

With the recession upon us it is time to remember the true meaning of Christmas. It’s not to spend ridiculous amounts of money, but to get raucously drunk during the office party. At least that’s the impression I got on Friday, and, trying not to be a scrooge, I joined in the spirit. But having gotten up at 5:30 am I didn’t last the distance and did a Cinderella; I stumbled home just before midnight.

Thankfully Maia chose this night to start sleeping through again, but unsurprisingly I wasn’t feeling my very best on Saturday. After heaving myself out of bed and fixing breakfast for the boys (they did not care much for my headache), I got ready for 8 miles on the road. I was grateful that the shortest run of the week was in order. It was rather cold, but I didn’t quite register that in my state. After an hour in the cold crisp air my head was in much better shape, if not entirely recovered. I did a double take when I stepped on the weighing scales. I know I spent the time from 5 pm to 11 pm eating and drinking non-stop, and I’m perfectly aware that Guinness contains a lot of calories, but to put on 6 pounds in 24 hours seemed rather excessive. Six pounds! At least half of them were gone a day later, but looking at it the other way I could argue that half of them are still on me somewhere. Maybe it was that extra layer of fat that prevented me from freezing during my redemption run because a couple of hours later it started snowing heavily, much to the kids’ excitement. It didn’t stay though.

Luckily my head was fully recovered today as another fartlek workout was on the menu, and I don’t think I could have pulled that off with a hangover. Today I opted for half mile repeats with one minute in-between. That way I would be able to run a bit faster than on Wednesday, and there was less opportunity for the mind to start drifting and me slowing down due to loss of focus. My timing was not the best, within 2 minutes of the start it started hail stoning, and I got a painful beaning for the next 10 minutes. It cleared up afterwards, and apart from a short and quick rain shower, it stayed dry. After Friday’s massive storm the road was still flooded on two occasions, but it wasn’t too deep and my feet seemed to dry pretty quickly both times.

I was quite happy with the workout. I did 13 half-miles at an average pace of 6:45, and even though I tried to run them all at the same effort level, the last one was the fastest. That was quiet a bit faster than on Wednesday; let’s see how I fare next week.
13 Dec
8 miles, 1:05:18, 8:09 pace, HR 146
badly hungover
14 Dec
10.3 miles, 1:16:46, 7:27 pace, HR 159
13x800, avg. pace 6:45

Weekly Mileage: 84+

Friday, December 12, 2008


After her illness two weeks ago (which she managed to pass on to me), Maia had still not fully recovered before she caught the next one. She is in decent form during the day, but she is definitely keeping us awake at night. I would have gotten adequate sleep over the last two nights but lost 90 minutes to the screaming baby on each occasion, and I can definitely feel the effects. Sleep deprivation is a kind of torture, and at the moment Maia the Merciless could qualify for a job in Guantanamo. At least she seems to be over the worst, and we have hopes of eventually being able to sleep again.

I felt really guilty this morning because when I got up at 5:30, I could still hear her cry. Luckily she fell asleep even before I was ready to leave for my run, which went some way to alleviate my shame.

Just to clarify Tuesday’s workout, the miles were never meant to be faster than MP effort and 7:10 is probably my present marathon pace, though I was working on perceived exertion, not pace. In that light, 7 mile repeats are not a hard workout. There will be a lot more of that to come, and hopefully my pace will improve. After all, that’s what I’m doing the training for.

Yesterday’s run was an easy 10 miler. I used to run loads of them last year; 10 miles were my bread-and-butter workout and the base for the higher mileage. After experimenting with a different training philosophy for the Dublin marathon, I’m back on the high mileage bandwagon. I hope this will enable me to avoid hitting the wall like I did in Dublin; time will tell. I felt good on Thursday, and I was surprised that the pace was so much faster than on Tuesday, when I had done the same run on the same stretch of road; the effort had felt pretty much the same.

Today was a bit tougher again, especially in my sleep-deprived state. All higher mileage plans include a mid-week medium long run, and today it was time for one of those (my weeks are a bit skewed because I do my long runs on Monday). I ran around Caragh Lake, and because Ron Daws’ schedule called for a medium effort rather than an easy one I ran a bit faster than on Monday. I also tried to up the effort over the last 5 miles. I like ending long runs with a good strong effort over the last few miles, and 7:30 pace would have satisfied me. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of work to be done. 7:35 was all I had in my legs this morning, which does not compare favourably with workouts from my previous training cycles. There is a lot of room for improvement here. The base phase will last for 6 weeks, and I really hope to be able to get those times down significantly. Maybe I’m a bit hard on myself, I have noticeably increased my mileage, and the legs are bound to feel sluggish at the moment. At least I managed to avoid the worst of the weather; the next storm front hit us today, but that early in the morning I was merely dealing with light rain and gale force winds rather than the full brunt of what was in store for later. Be grateful for small mercies!
11 Dec
10 miles, 1:21:15, 8:07 pace, HR 147
12 Dec
15 miles, 2:00:02, 8:00 pace, HR 152

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

End of Recovery

I can’t believe how dark it is! I really needed my headlamp today, and as much as I dislike running with that thing on top of my head (and I tend to turn it off as soon as I can make out the side of the road), it is an absolute necessity at the moment. It is still dark even when I get home, though the moon should be out in a day or two, which will help. Up to then I’m stuck with the artificial light.

The mileage has really taken off now. Because of last week’s break there will be a big jump, but it’s only up to levels that I have reached on numerous occasions in the past, which is why I don’t think I have to stick too closely to the 10-percent rule.

So far, I can tell the effect of the miles on my legs – they are quite heavy at times. This was particularly noticeable on Tuesday. Because I ran home from work on Monday, I had accumulated 20 miles that day, and my quads would not let me forget it for the entire 10 miles on Tuesday. It sure is a lot easier to remain under my heart rate threshold on a day like that! I ran with the backlight of the Garmin turned off, which gives me the beast of both worlds – I run totally by feel but still get the numbers to put into the log afterwards. However, I was quite surprised when I saw just how slow the run had been. I guess I was in dire need of recovery pace.

Today was markedly different. I’m following Ron Daws’ schedule, and today called for the first aerobic fartlek run. His idea of fartleks doesn’t quite match mine, he seems to prefer a structured run with faster bits of between 800 and 2000 meters, so I settled on mile repeats. Because this was my first fast training run since the marathon I wanted to ease into it and set an expected pace of about 7:00, but resolved not to get too hung up on the actual pace. The heart rate should be somewhere in the 160s, and that’s pretty much how it turned out. The route I chose was reasonably flat, but a few ups and downs are always included around here, and the mile splits pretty much reflect the topography. I did jog easily for 2 minutes between each mile, but that probably was a bit too long. Since the pace was not particularly fast, I didn’t need much recovery in-between. I originally planned 6 repeats but realised that I could do a seventh and still have a few minutes of cool-down. The first 6 repeats felt all a bit awkward, but on that seventh I finally managed to relax, and promptly delivered the fastest pace of the morning despite it being slightly uphill. I think the fact that this was run on the familiar Caragh Lake Road helped, because on the other ones I always had to pay attention to the footing rather than just concentrate on running. I still felt fresh at the end; future runs will be a bit faster, this was more a gentle introduction rather than a tough workout.
9 Dec
10 miles, 1:24:59, 8:30 pace, HR 142
10 Dec
11 miles, 1:23:37. 7:36 pace, HR 157
7x1 miles @ 7:13, 7:08, 7:02, 7:26, 7:24, 7:10, 6:57

Monday, December 08, 2008

Happy Birthday, Cian

When is a child’s birthday present the perfect one? You could argue it should be educational as well as entertaining; something you make yourself is better than something bought in a shop; it should not be connected to some overhyped cartoon character; it shouldn’t be made from plastic.

I tell you what, forget all that snobbish highbrow crap. If the child’s eyes light up like candles, you’ve hit bulls eye. It doesn’t matter that you overpaid for what is essentially a cheap piece of plastic; that it’s a mass-produced bit of crap with several thousand identical items sitting on store shelves around the world, and the cynical advertising doesn’t matter to a 5-year old. Cian loves his Ben10 watch. He’s not taken it off his wrist, and I’m pretty sure it will stay there for a long time.

I slept in on Sunday until 8 o’clock and went for an easy 12 mile run. The world around me was frozen over and the footing was treacherous at times, but I made it through without incident. The long sleeves and the running tights both got a first airing of the season, and I was glad for both; I would have become frozen solid otherwise. In the afternoon we went to see Santa, an annual event that has been long awaited by three members of our household. Now they better be good for the rest of the month, or the Christmas list might get cut down.

We stayed up late on Sunday making a Rocket Birthday cake (2 actually), though I cannot take any artistic credit whatsoever, that belongs entirely to Niamh and her sister. I had taken Monday morning off work, so I got yet another lie in, until 6:45 am (I have a different concept of a lie in compared to the average adult). After two clear, if cold, days I could not believe my ears when the first thing I registered was the rain against our window. Why does it always have to rain on my long run day? Because of last week’s four off days, I cut today’s run from 18 miles down to 15, in an effort to somewhat ease back into running. I had luck of some kind, it stopped raining while I got ready, and I had 2 dry miles; the 13 following miles were divided between light and heavy rain, and the wind wasn’t particularly pleasant either.

Whatever, I made it through, and the legs held up fine. However, I was about to start writing hate mail to all those scientists and coaches that tell you that you don’t lose any fitness after 4 days of not running. I knew how my legs had felt before my enforced break and how they felt this morning, and a loss in fitness seemed more than noticeable. However, I ran home from work tonight, and all of a sudden it was like everything clicked again. I was running easy at a decent pace and seemed to effortlessly float above the pavement. More of that, please.

Now that the mileage buildup is over, I will gradually add a few faster runs; the first of which will be on Wednesday. Somehow I’m both looking forward to it and dreading it.
7 Dec
12.1 miles, 1:38:31, 8:09 pace, HR 150
8 Dec
am: 15 miles, 2:05:55, 8:24 pace, HR 150
pm: 5 miles, 37:55, 7:35 pace, HR 147

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Little Geniuses (Genii?)

I felt fully recovered on Thursday. I did not have any headache or other signs of flu, and I definitely did not have a fever. I was well enough to be back in the office, and I managed to cycle home (though I got soaking wet when it started raining heavily on the way home). But I still had a cough, and with a rather heavy heart I stayed in bed on Friday morning. The feelings of frustration were somewhat alleviated by listening to the storm outside (“wind speeds between gale force and heavy gale force”), but that had subsided by the morning.

My patience was wearing a bit thin by then, and there was no stopping me on Saturday morning, especially as the sky was clear and it promised to be a nice day. I wore two layers on top, and even though I originally thought of this as being overly cautious it turned out to be a good move because it was freezing cold outside, with frost on the ground until well after I had come back home. I ran a loop towards Cromane which turned out to be a little bit further than I thought, and the quads were starting to get surprisingly heavy towards the end. Apparently four days off are enough to lose some fitness. I still got home in good shape, and will jump more or less straight back at the schedule, but will cut down Monday’s long run by a few miles.

A few weeks ago, after reading this article, Niamh took the twins to Cork for an assessment by the Centre for Talented Youth of Ireland. I didn’t realise this, but the threshold they apply is extremely high. The child has to be better than 95% of its age groups students in either verbal or abstract ability to qualify. And guess what? They both passed! We are now confirmed parents of two little Einsteins (Zweisteins?), though the two of them seem to just shrug it off. Which is great, I'd much rather have happy kids with normal interests than a pair of sociopathic recluses. Anyway, we’ll have to take turns in spring to drive them to Cork for some extra classes. I know they will love those; the only fly in the ointment is that none of these days are coinciding with a road race in Cork. You can’t have everything I guess.
5 Dec
6 Dec
10.5 miles, 1:24:57, 8:06 pace, HR 148

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Leave of absence

I found a picture of myself from Saturday's race. Well, sort of.

Mike keeps berating me for my lack of common sense. Honestly, mate, I would have thought that when dealing with someone who runs marathons and ultras for fun, the complete absence of common sense should be a given!

But, believe it or not, I have actually stopped running for now. I felt bad enough on Monday to leave work early. A colleague gave me a lift home so that I did not have to cycle, and I went straight to bed. My temperature went up over 39C/102F, confirming that I was indeed sick. I staid home Tuesday and Wednesday, but today I’m back in the office – after all, I don’t get that much of a rest at home with four hyperactive children around. Still, after sleeping for 10 hours straight on Tuesday and enjoying an additional 2 hours nap before lunchtime, I felt almost human again. I was much better on Wednesday, and today I would feel recovered if that chesty cough was not lingering deep inside me. It is definitely the same bug that had bothered Maia last week; my symptoms are exactly the same as hers and arrived in the same order. Since she seems to be fully recovered by now, I expect the same for me within a day or two.

Because of said cough I’m still off running, and as long as it does not clear up it will remain that way. While it is almost painful for me to see all those blank entries in the log, I really really really don’t want to get as sick as last year again. A few missed days now are much preferable to a few missed weeks in January, and remembering how painful pneumonia can be is a potent reminder to be cautious.

At least the weather made it easy to stay at home. I was warm and secure snuggled up in bed while the gale force wind threw the rain against our bedroom windows, making me almost grateful for the fact that I wasn’t well and had a very good excuse to stay home. Niamh seems to be worried about me getting as sick as last year again, she mentioned that she would buy me a treadmill for Christmas if only she could afford it (which makes me almost grateful that she can’t – I hate those things).

The weather is supposed to improve over the weekend, which might coincide with my return to running form. Of course I’m looking forward to it. This was supposed to be my last week of the mileage build-up before the proper training starts, and instead it became more or less a wash-out. Better now than in April, I suppose.
2 Dec
3 Dec
4 Dec

Monday, December 01, 2008


I had a quick look at my mile splits on Saturday. As it turns out, my first 3 miles went by in 6:04, 6:11 and 6:17 respectively, meaning that I was well on the way to a new PR (which would have been 6:18 average pace) until I hit that hill. I guess it means that I really have to be satisfied with the way I raced, especially considering the fact that I had come into it with exactly zero speedwork under the belt.

I did have to pay a price though. The legs were not about to let me get away with running 2 minutes per mile faster all of a sudden. My quads were really sore all day on Saturday, and even more so on Sunday, when I went out for a 9 mile recovery run. I suspect the kamikaze style descent from Sunhill towards the end of the race is responsible for most of the discomfort but that’s ok, I gained 10th place that way.

Worse was to come though. As you know, I have spent quite a few miles running through icy cold wind and rain recently, and coupled with the fact that Maia had been sick for several days it does not come as a big surprise that I don’t feel well myself now. I was really cold on Sunday evening, and when I was shivering after going to bed I was all set and ready to cancel today’s run. Last year I started getting sick exactly at that time of the year, and because I didn’t take it seriously enough it developed into full-blown pneumonia that completely knocked me out for several weeks in January. I have sworn never to be so stupid again, and I’m rather keen to avoid that mistake this year.

However, I seemed to improve during the night, even though I did not sleep particularly well. I got up at 5:15 and decided that despite the fact that I definitely was not well I did pass the neck test (i.e. no symptoms beyond the neck), and was therefore ok to run. Maybe doing my long run wasn’t such a good idea, and I decided that I would bail out after 5 miles if I didn’t feel too good. I got another sign that things were not right when I strapped on the HR monitor. Usually my HR is about 65 when I put the thing on; today it was just over 100. That’s a significant difference, and I really wondered if I was about to do something monumentally stupid.

As I set off on the run, I felt ok though. The most recent rain shower had just passed and I was lucky enough to be dry. The first 3 miles were flat, and I noticed a distinctly raised HR level, but I was still able to remain under my self-imposed threshold. Then the climb started, and I was surprised how well I felt, even though the next rain shower caught up with me at that stage. When I passed the bailout junction I did not even consider taking the short cut home. But once you’re past that point it’s all the way around the lake without any further opportunity to bail out. With the quads still rather sore and the fact that I was not entirely healthy heavy on my mind I ran at a very easy level, almost Andrew-esque in its slow pace. On the plus side I did not bother the HR alarm, not even on the climbs, which convinced me that things could not be that bad after all. But I didn’t particularly welcome the next icy cold rain shower, about 5 miles from home.

I reached our driveway after 16.5 miles of an extended Caragh Lake loop feeling fine. But the second I stopped running I felt dizzy and staggered towards our front door like a drunk. I was quite shocked about how bad I felt, but luckily recovered within a minute.

Maia is much better by now, and I expect to feel better soon myself, but maybe running for almost 2.5 hours in the freezing cold today wasn’t such a good idea after all.
30 Nov
9 miles, 1:13:08, 8:08 pace, HR 146
1 Dec
16.5 miles, 2:25:17, 8:48 pace, HR 144
Probably not the smartest thing I’ve ever done

Weekly mileage: 70+
Monthly mileage: 245+