Friday, February 27, 2009

Stumbling Blocks

Unless you are lucky enough to be a professional athlete, you will have to fit training around the obstacles that Real Life keeps throwing your way. I’m in the middle of a right old obstacle course at the moment, but so far training has not been interrupted.

A 2-day training course at Cork required a stay in a hotel, and if you ever find yourself stranded at Cork airport I can honestly recommend the Airport Hotel to you, but admittedly I had the added bonus of the bill being taken care of by my employer. The pastries for breakfast get 11 stars out of 10, they are to die for, and an excellent way of re-stocking depleted glycogen stores after an early morning run. The major drawback is that Cork airport is situated on top of a hill, and no matter which direction you are heading, the return journey is going to be uphill.

On Wednesday morning I headed towards Cork City centre. The run started with 3 downhill miles and an elevation drop of about 500 feet, which is very similar to my big climb on the Caragh Lake loop. My intention was to head straight into Cork, but I took a wrong turn and found myself heading eastwards towards Douglas. Since the objective of the run was to get some miles into the legs rather than a reaching a certain destination I didn’t really care and just carried on. I turned around after 6 miles, and surprisingly managed to retrace my steps without any major detours. Obviously the last 3 miles featured the same 3 miles as the start, but this time uphill. The longer the run went on the more uncomfortable I felt, not because of the fatigue in my legs but because the roads were much busier than what I’m used to in our out-of-the-way corner of the island.

Since I didn’t have much to do in the evening I seized the opportunity to sneak in a second run of the day. Hoping for a quieter and flatter road I crossed the main airport road and headed out into the countryside. I achieved my first objective, though the roads were still a lot busier than the Caragh Lake ones, but the fact that the road was called “Elm Hill Road” gives a clue on how the search for a flatter course went. Still, I managed a good pace and at the brow of the hill got a fantastic view of the surrounding area, all the way down to Cork Harbour.

Grellan was kind enough to meet me for a couple of pints and a lot of running talk in the airport bar.

I took it easier on Thursday with just 8 miles on a loop that I had scouted via Google maps, but for one mile I found myself on the Carrigaline road, which again was much busier than I had expected (I know I sound like a broken record). Still, I survived both the traffic and the major climb back towards the airport, and the breakfast pastries made me forget all the problems.

With the course finished I was back home and sleeping in my own bed last night, which was nice. A few more hours of sleep would have been even nicer, but 18 mile runs call for early rises, and by 5:20 I was on the road again, back on my old familiar Caragh Lake loop. The weather forecast hadn’t been great and I was waiting for the rain to come, but apart from a few drops at the 3-mile point it remained dry. The most noticeable difference to Monday was in my legs. Back then I had felt increasingly weary from the 12-mile point onwards, today I was much stronger and managed to speed up towards the end. After 11 miles I pretty much inadvertently increased the pace to about 7:20, and after passing our driveway at mile 15 ran the final 3 miles at an average pace of 7:01. This would have been faster if I would have been able to keep my mind on the task, an old problem of mine. After a while I start daydreaming, and as soon as my mind starts drifting so does the pace. Luckily this isn’t an issue at races, but I wish I could drop that habit during training runs as well.

There will be more Real Life obstacles over the weekend, but I think I have come up with a schedule that allows me to meet all my obligations and still keep on training. Life should start getting easier from next week again.
25 Feb
am: 12.2 miles, 1:33:14, 7:39 pace, HR 154
pm: 5.1 miles, 37:34, 7:22 pace, HR 155
26 Feb
8 miles, 1:04:47, 8:06 pace, HR 145
27 Feb
18 miles, 2:20:46, 7:49 pace, HR 151
last 3 miles @ 7:01

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A New Life

The entire family were out hiking on Sunday afternoon when the long awaited news finally arrived: Niamh’s sister had given birth to a baby girl, and everyone was delighted, especially Lola. As a result Niamh is going to fly to Dublin on Friday with Cian and Maia, and I’m going to follow them on Saturday with the twins after their classes in Cork. This obviously means that I’m not going to run Sunday’s race in Adare, which is a shame. Racing myself into shape has worked very well in past training cycles, but this time pure training alone will have to do the trick, because I think Ballycotton might be the only race between now and Boston.

I re-checked the schedules, and to be fair Ron Daws is not calling the present phase anaerobic, but aerobic-anaerobic. The aerobic part is well taken care of by two long runs, and the anaerobic part consists of a fast day on the weekend and either a time trial or a hill workout in midweek. In short, this isn’t too different from the previous phase, but the hard days are getting a bit harder and the easy days a bit easier.

Monday’s 20 miler came as a shock to the system. Not only was it the longest run of the entire calendar year so far, I have only once run over 15 miles in 2009, and that was a mere 18 miles at the beginning of January. I thought about building the mileage gradually and only do 18 yesterday, but decided that since this wasn’t exactly the first time I have been training for a marathon I would jump straight into it and quit making excuses. It required a very early rise on Monday. When the hour of the alarm clock is still at 4 by the time I get up it drives home the message that, yes, this is early. Then, still very early in the run my headlamp started to fail, I think the batteries had run out. I had to negotiate the road into Ard-na-Sidhe in near darkness, I could barely make out the road, it was more sensing it rather than seeing it. It was only possible because I am so familiar with that stretch, but I managed to get through without bumping into anything, and once I got out of the wood things became a lot clearer.

Not only was Sunday’s 60/60 workout in my legs, the aforementioned hike must have left a mark as well, because by mile 12 I was getting increasingly weary. I took an emergency gel, but that seemed to vaporise in my stomach and didn’t give me the boost I was hoping for. I was tempted to call it a day when I passed our driveway at mile 15, but only stopped for a second to deposit the useless headlamp and headed off for an out-and-back stretch, again to Ard-na-Sidhe, but in brighter conditions this time. I kept telling myself that I can always run the meagre 2.5 miles to the turnaround point, no matter how tired. Any thoughts of a strong finish went out of the window, and I was glad to have enough fumes onboard to get me back home eventually. Hard work it was, but it was eminently satisfying to note down a big fat 20 into the training log.

With the easy days getting easier only 8 miles were on the program today, and they were always going to be slow. Keeping Saturday’s lesson in mind I kept checking the Garmin to ensure that I was going slow at all times, but this wasn’t really necessary. My weary legs never had the slightest inclination of speeding up, and the heart rate subsequently was the lowest since a run early September.

Things are going to be disrupted for a few days; apart from going to Dublin for the weekend, I’ll be in Cork for the next two days for a training course. However, they do have roads to run on in Cork as well, and my gear is packed. I just have to make sure to be on my guard if Grellan wants to prime me with Guinness.
23 Feb
20 miles, 2:42:15, 8:07 pace, HR 147
24 Feb
8 miles, 1:07:09, 8:24 pace, HR 133

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Longest Minute

My training had been going exceedingly well until I got sick 2 weeks ago. This cost me a few days of lost running, another few days of slowly re-building my mileage, and another week of slightly compromised running. However, since about Thursday or Friday I feel I’m finally heading somewhere again.

The legs were a bit sore yesterday, especially the hip flexors, which was definitely a reminder of the hill repeats. You really have to lift the knees during those sprints, and it showed. The other thing I had to contend with was the wind. While it wasn’t exactly storm force it was stronger than what I had been used to over the past couple of weeks, and it was a factor. So I headed out along Caragh Lake on my easy run, and since I had to fight the headwind straight on I ran a tiny little bit harder than on my usual long run, just a percent of extra effort – or so I thought. It wasn’t until the turnaround point that I realised I was doing 7:45 pace, a good bit faster than what I usually do on easy days, especially taking into account the wind and the heavy legs. Of course I now had the wind at my back and cruised home easily without having to slow down either. Some people (actually, a lot) say you should leave the watch at home for easy runs to make sure you don’t run too fast. Maybe the opposite is true for me – I should check the Garmin more often on easy runs to make sure I don’t go too hard. Having said that, I would be lying if I denied being quite chuffed about the fact that I could run faster than 7:45 pace without pushing the effort even once.

Later on it was my turn to drive the twins to Cork for their clever little people class. Maybe I’m driving faster than Niamh, but I got there half an hour early (ok, ok, I DO drive faster than Niamh), which left me time for the weekend shopping while they had their classes. I’m not very familiar with Cork, but I did recognise a few roads of the marathon course, and the start of the Cork-to-Cobh race. After picking up the twins and driving all the way home I was completely knackered – all that driving can be worse than running.

I wondered if Saturday’s faster pace and the hours in the car would have a negative effect on today’s workout. Following Matt Fitzgerald’s advice I replaced the 30/30s with 60/60s today, which is supposed to be considerably more demanding. I programmed the Garmin for 13 repeats, but had my doubts if I would be able to hit that number. I did feel more optimistic after the first mile of my warm-up, because usually I don’t run that in 7:30 when I’m not even trying. I was still slightly apprehensive when I eventually launched into the workout. The first repeat felt awkward (and it turned out to be the slowest one by quite some margin), but after that I quickly got into the groove. It was definitely hard work, the one uphill one was pure torture and the minute rest seemed to be getting shorter and shorter, but I somehow managed to run all 13 repeats at an average pace of 5:47, which was definitely faster than expected.

I forgot to mention, I checked my resting HR today and it came up with 41, the same value I’d measured before I had gotten sick. I’m definitely bouncing back by now.

Thus ends the hill phase of my training, and the anaerobic phase is starting. However, I had to check Ron Daws’ schedules about three times before I could believe that he is seriously recommending a 20 miler AND an 18 miler each week during that phase, quite a jump in the long runs, considering that there was only one "long" run of 15 miles during the hill phase! I’ll do 20 miles tomorrow morning (I think), but I’ll wait and see about the 18. I might run a 10k in Adare on Sunday, which would give me the perfect excuse to cut the second long run short, but I haven’t decided on that race yet. One race I’ll definitely do is Ballycotton, 2 weeks from now. Looking at Grellan’s recent training I might have a hard time keeping him behind me, but I’ll try anyway.
21 Feb
8 miles, 1:01:49, 7:44 pace, HR 148
22 Feb
8 miles, 59:38, 7:28 pace, HR 160
incl. 13x60/60 (5:47 avg)

Weekly mileage: 71

Friday, February 20, 2009

Acid Party

That heading should bring some interesting visitors via Google. They'll leave disappointed, though. The acid coursing through my legs this morning wasn't illegal, and probably a lot less fun.

After whining a lot about my sore legs on Wednesday I was pleasantly surprised on Thursday morning about the lack of pain. However, within 5 minutes this was replaced by a sense of impending doom, emanating from the inner depths of my digestive system. I'll spare you the details, but I bet you can imagine them anyway. This had two effects. First, I took longer than normal to get ready, and second, I was wondering if I would be able to return home "in time". I decided to check my Garmin after 4.5 miles. If I was running at or under 8-minute pace, I'd carry on to my usual 5-mile turnaround point, otherwise I'd cut the run short. When I got there, the average pace came up as 8:13, which meant an instant turnaround, and showed me that the hill sprints had obviously left a mark on my legs. However, the gut, which had never fully settled, started acting up at that time and I was left wondering how I would make it home. I experienced a few rather unpleasant stomach cramps, but the last mile was decidedly faster than the rest of the run, as I was getting a bit concerned that an otherwise unremarkable easy run would end up becoming very memorable for all the wrong reasons. Thankfully I made it home. I'll spare you the details again, but again I'm sure you get the picture anyway.

A few of you have voiced concern in the comments that I might be pushing too hard. While I can't rule out that possibility, I'm the only one who can feel the effects on my body, and I'm reasonably sure that in the longer term I'm recovering enough between the workouts, even if that wasn't true for the first half of this week. Running two hill session in one week doesn't seem excessive to me. Lydiard's schedules usually have three of them, and in the early days he had six! In comparison, my one week with two hill sessions is rather meek. Anyway, I set off today on a carbon copy of Wednesday's effort. I had hoped that the tempo part would be improved, but the 6:52 pace was only marginally better. I think it might have something to do with the early hours. Sometimes the legs just don't feel very responsive at faster paces at 6:30 in the morning, especially on a cold day like today. At least that's my excuse.

After the tempo run I did the same 8 hill sprints of 60 seconds each. After the second one I had serious doubts about my ability to finish the other 6, but somehow managed to go through the entire session. The legs were howling in pain at the top of each repeat, drenched in lactic acid as they were (or whatever physiological explanation goes these days). However, on the 2-mile run home I felt that the legs were less sore than on Wednesday. Maybe they're getting used to being abused.
19 Feb
9 miles, 1:13:04, 8:07 pace, HR 142
stomach cramps aren't fun
20 Feb
10.5 miles, 1:26:03, 8:12 pace, HR 152
2.75 miles @ 6:52 (HR 161) and 8x60 hill sprints
lactic acid isn't fun either

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Feeling Old

They, whoever they are, say that the one major thing about aging runners is the recovery times from tough workouts. Older runners just take longer to recover. According to my legs, I have been an older runner since Sunday.

The first things I felt as I got up at 5:30 on Monday morning were my very sore hamstrings. This is quite unusual; if my legs ache it's normally the quads, but not always. I briefly wondered if running 15 miles over very hilly terrain was a good idea, but, as always, pushed those thoughts aside and got ready. The run wasn't as bad as I feared. The first 11 miles, the hilly part, went reasonably well. Then I started on my "strong finish" stretch, where I had managed at average pace of 6:48 only a fortnight ago – just before getting sick. I knew that pace was well out of reach, and all I could tease out of my tired and very achy legs was 7:10 pace. Still, that's better than on the same run 3 weeks earlier, so things aren't all bad. It confirmed what I already knew, that the sickness had set me back a bit, but not by too much.

However, for the rest of the day I felt twice my age, moaning every time I had to get in or out of a chair, and it wasn't pretty. I particularly cursed the fact that we lived 5 miles out of town, because cycling that distance wasn't fun at all. I hoped that a good night's sleep would do wonders, but things weren't helped by the fact that I was on call for technical support from work and promptly got a call at 4 am, which lasted for about half an hour (Niamh wasn't overly pleased either). It took me a while to get back to sleep, and the alarm at 6 o'clock sounded far too early. I was still groggy by the time I hit the road, ran 10 miles easily, was surprised that I managed sub-8 pace with my tired legs, was equally surprised at the high HR, and subsequently had a hard time staying awake at all times during office hours. Somehow I made it through.

There were no emergency support requests last night and I slept reasonably well, but somehow the legs were still sore, but by now the quads had overtaken the hamstrings in that regard. I wasn't too sure how I would make it through today's hill workout, but decided to go ahead anyway. I was dreading the tempo run part all through my warm-up. Of course, if you don't expect to run well you never will, and I subsequently ran my slowest "tempo run" in a while, clocking the less-than-three-miles segment at 6:53 pace (slower than marathon pace!!) though the HR confirms that it wasn't down to me slacking off. As soon as that particular torture was over I started dreading the oncoming hill repeats in equals measure. I had done previous hill sprints in 45 seconds; this time I resolved to keep going for 60 seconds each. However, maximum effort they were not. I have no idea if it's better to run 45 seconds all out or 60 seconds at a slightly more measured effort. Interestingly, the HR at the top of the 60 seconds was the same as I had reached during previous 45 seconds efforts. In any case, I had thought the legs were heavy at the start, but it was nothing in comparison how they felt at the end of the workout. It's a different kind of sore today, though. If there is a difference between acute soreness from today's run and chronic soreness from a run several days ago then that's what I can feel right now. If that's good (cause I'm working hard) or bad (cause I'm working too hard) is anyone's guess. So far, I have another hill workout planned for Friday. I'm not exactly looking forward to it, but I just have to keep the faith that those torture sessions might enable me to run Boston in less than 3 hours.
16 Feb
15 miles, 1:58:12, 7:53 pace, HR 153
last 4 @ 7:10 pace
17 Feb
10 miles, 1:19:10, 7:55 pace, HR 148
18 Feb
10.5 miles, 1:28:20, 8:25 pace, HR 150
incl. 2.75 miles @ 6:53 (HR 163) and 8x60 secs hill sprints

Sunday, February 15, 2009


First things first, I'm glad to report that the knees are 98% back to normal. I still don't know what exactly had been wrong and most likely never will, but won't spend any time worrying about it.

I learned quite a bit about my present state on each of the last three runs. They were all very different, but the information I gleaned from each of them was quite revealing.

On Friday I inserted a long stretch at marathon effort into my run. I had done exactly the same workout 2 weeks earlier, before I had gotten sick, and it was a helpful comparator. In short, I managed to cover the 8.5 miles at an average pace of 7:09, six seconds per mile slower than a fortnight ago, and a very similar pace to a workout three weeks prior. It shows how much fitness I have lost in the meantime; and to be honest I’m happy enough with those figures. I can and will make that up again. What wasn’t quite so good was the feeling I had halfway through the run. I had just covered a short uphill segment at pace, and all of a sudden my legs turned to jelly, my HR jumped up and I felt pretty bad. I slowed down a little bit to get my HR and breathing back under control, but it took about half a mile to get back into the groove again. I’m not sure why I felt so bad pretty much out of the blue.

Saturday was an easy run. I had toyed with the idea of running a bit longer to boost my pathetically low mileage figure for this week, but sanity prevailed and I just ran an easy short effort. Mileage totals mean diddly squat on their own, and it’s not worth compromising your real workouts by running to exhaustion on what should be an easy day. Having said that, despite all the goodwill I could muster to run easily, my HR on that run was way too high. I was left scratching my head when I saw the figures on the Garmin. Sure, I had run a bit faster than I probably should have on an easy day, but I would not have expected the average HR to be in the 150s. I presume it means that I’m still not entirely over whatever illness had struck me last week. This actually ties in with the kids’ recovery from the same infection. Even after recovering from the worst they weren’t quite right for at least a week afterwards, and I’m apparently following the same pattern. On the plus side, they seem right as rain by now, and I expect to feel a lot better a week from now. If I don’t, I’ll seriously have to think about resting for a few days, like it or not.

After Saturday’s HR reading I wasn’t sure if I would be able to survive a 30/30 workout today. I programmed the Garmin for 25 repeats, but gave myself permission to bail out at any time. During the warm-up my fears seemed the get confirmed, as soon as I tried to increase the effort above a certain base level my HR would jump by a much higher margin than normal, even though my legs and lungs felt fine. After a bit of hesitation I started into the first 30 seconds sprint after all, taking it a bit easier for the first few repeats and hanging on for dear life from the halfway point. During the repeats it seems to help to count my breaths. This passes the time and it seems to ensure that I inhale deeply rather than hyperventilating my way through the workout. But there is no denying that it is a tough workout. I hung on towards the end, the 30 seconds rest breaks seemingly getting shorter and shorter; I was still gasping for air when the watch’s merciless beeps commenced for the next time. I survived to tell the tale and managed all 25 repeats at an average pace of 5:49. That’s marginally slower than a fortnight ago, but faster than expected in my compromised state. The average HR had gone over 180 on the last few intervals, and I couldn’t have done much more.

Looking at the training schedule, this should have been the last week of my hills phase. Since I have basically lost 2 weeks to illness I decided to extend that phase by a week before moving on to the anaerobic phase. Most of all, I hope to be over the after effects of that sickness by then. Ballycotton is in 3 weeks, and Grellan will humiliate me if I’m not in shape.
13 Feb
10.5 miles, 1:17:56, 7:25 pace, HR 159
incl. 8.5 miles @ 7:09 pace (HR 163)
14 Feb
8.3 miles, 1:05:31, 7:54 pace, HR 151
15 Feb
8.2 miles, 1:02:24, 7:36 pace, HR 162
incl 25x30/30 (5:49 avg)

Weekly Mileage: 55+

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Kneeling Punishment

After running four cautious miles on Monday I had a pretty normal day back in the office. I could tell I wasn’t 100% recovered yet, but I felt well enough. When it was time to go home, my knees felt strangely stiff, which I couldn’t quite explain, but it didn’t particularly bother me.

It only hit me later back home when I tried to kneel down to fold away the laundry. As soon as I put weight on my knees an excruciating pain shot through both my legs that quite literally took my breath away. I managed to get into a tolerable sitting position, but that was one of the most brutal pains I’ve ever had to endure. You might think I’d learned my lesson, but I had to go through the same thing once more. It’s not unusual for one of us to be crying when I’m changing Maia’s nappy, but normally it is her, not me.

I can’t explain where that came from. I checked both my knees for swelling, but since it happened to both to them simultaneously I could not compare them to what they usually looked line, and there was no obvious deformation. I felt rather stiff when walking, but it was only when kneeling down that it actually hurt – and then it really, really hurt!

Going out for a run on Tuesday morning seemed a bad idea, but I did it anyway, just to test the waters. I felt rather stiff and awkward for the first 10 steps, and then the legs just relaxed and I didn’t even notice anything wrong. How weird is that, not that I was complaining at the time. I thought I only had time for four miles again, but eventually realised that I had inadvertently gotten up at 6 o’clock rather than 7, because I’m so used to getting up at the earlier time. As a result I stayed out for 6 easy miles, and then had half an hour of cuddles with Maia who was awake and chirpy when I came back home to a still dark and otherwise quiet house. I might have lost some sleep, but it was a nice start to the day anyway.

On Tuesday evening I decided there was indeed some swelling just above the knee caps and did some icing. This brought on some improvement because on Wednesday morning the stiffness had more or less gone, and the running was definitely unaffected. I cautiously increased the mileage again to 8 and took it easy until the last 2 miles when I sped up a little bit. It was supposed to be a nice day, but it was raining and I felt rather cold.

Today, Thursday, after some more ice, I can actually kneel down again without screaming out loud, but there is still some discomfort. At least I manage to get in and out of a chair without groaning, which is a good thing in an office environment, really. I ran 10 miles, and felt rather hot at first with my running tights and long sleeves. But this attire proved to be a good choice after all when it started raining again at mile 4 and never stopped. The run was fine, and while it was still markedly slower than before my illness, my legs are improving by the day. If I feel adventurous, I might try some MP miles tomorrow.

My lungs aren’t entirely fine yet, which I can tell easily on any uphill. I’m a bit paranoid about that since my pneumonia last year, but as long as I’m improving from day to day I can’t see much wrong. The knee issue is just weird and I can’t explain where it came from. Both knees got equally affected at the same time, and the entire episode started without warning. Maybe the illness last week caused some fluid to gather somewhere, but if that’s true and if so why, I haven’t got a clue. But just like the lungs, as long as the situation keeps improving, I won’t be too worried.
10 Feb
6 miles, 52:12, 8:42 pace, HR 139
11 Feb
8 miles, 1:05:18, 8:10 pace, HR 144
12 Feb
10.1 miles, 1:22:03, 8:07 pace, HR 146

Monday, February 09, 2009

De-Training Update

I have felt different every day since my last post, and the progress has not been entirely straightforward.

On Saturday morning I awoke with the bedclothes drenched in sweat, but feeling a world better. I was almost ready to go running again, but not quite. The vast improvement was well timed, because it was the first day of the twins’ day in the gifted kids education program, which meant that Niamh would be in Cork for most of the day with them and I would be looking after Cian and Maia on my own. I managed reasonably well, but by 4 o’clock my energy levels were dropping fast and I was counting down the minutes until their return. I just about managed to gather enough energy to cook dinner, but that was it. After that I was out for the count.

Sunday was the other way round. I felt like crap in the morning, which disappointed me. After feeling so much better on Saturday morning I had hoped for some improvement on Sunday, maybe even enough to sneak a short run. That was completely out, and I just spent the day resting as much as I could. Somehow this seemed to do the trick, and by the evening I somehow felt completely recovered. By now I had missed 5 days of running, and I was beginning to worry about my training, but resolved to ignore those worries and only go running if I felt comfortable about it.

Another early night got me more long hours of sleep, and when I woke at 6 am on Monday I felt really good. Apart from lifting Maia out of her cot and giving her a bottle I stayed in bed for almost another hour, but then, pretty much at the spur of the moment, I put on some running clothes and headed out.

I took it very easy, but the quads felt like I was doing a hard tempo run. The HR itself was low, which had been my main worry. I started feeling fatigued after 2 miles and turned around, but recovered on the run and was fine for the rest of the way home. I can’t complain, I made it through 4+ miles without feeling I was overdoing it, but I wonder how long it will take to regain the level I’d reached a week ago just as the sickness started hitting.

I might keep on running over the next few days, depending on how I feel, but I won’t be training just yet. Anything more than a few miles at easy effort is out of the question presently.

There’s one more story I really feel I should mention. I generally keep a close eye on my weight, and weigh myself most days. For some unknown reason on Thursday I stepped on the scales twice, once in the morning and once in the evening. That day I had spent on a training course and got through it by taking the maximum recommended number of ibuprofen tablets (six) over 24 hours. Anyway, my weight in the morning was 147 pounds, and in the evening it had gone up to 153(!). After a night filled with one trip to the bathroom after another I was back down to 147 on Friday morning. It was only later on that I remembered that NSAIDs, including ibuprofen, have an effect on your kidneys, and that in fact renal failure is not unknown. I know you naturally weigh more in the evening, but 6 pounds is excessive. It scared me off those little white pills for good, I think. I know of several runners who pop them like candy at times. I think they should be a lot more careful.
7 Feb
8 Feb
9 Feb
4.1 miles, 36:16, 8:51 pace, HR 137

Friday, February 06, 2009

... and Now for the Downer

I guess it was only a matter of time. About a week ago I noticed that Maia and me were the only healthy members in the household. Over the weekend, Maia joined to other side and on Wednesday it was finally my turn. I did notice a sore throat on Tuesday evening, “uh-oh”, and the suspicions were realised during a rather bad night. Now I know why Maia was screaming hysterically, though I managed to keep my self in somewhat better control.

Niamh tried to talk me out of running in the morning which was a completely wasted effort because running was the last thing on my mind. I stayed home from work, and I fact slept almost the entire morning, and still rested some more in the afternoon. On Thursday I WOULD have stayed at home had this been a normal working day, but it was the second day of a 3 day-seminar (each day a week apart) which I really did not want to miss. I got through it by taking a couple of ibuprofen every few hours, something I usually abhor. It was the same every time, the pills would take about an hour to really kick in, then I would feel almost ok for 2 or three hours, and then the downfall came until the next dose kicked in.

Today I’m just staying home again, recuperating. So far I haven’t run for 3 days and I’m pretty sure my lay-off will be longer than that. The mere fact that I really do NOT want to go running at the moment speaks volumes about how I feel. I will see how long I’m out of commission for, and then re-evaluate the rest of my training.

On the plus side I much rather have this happen to me now than in April. A few days off now won’t have much effect, and maybe the enforced rest will be good for my legs. I’m a bit worried about the duration of this illness, because all the kids were still coughing for quite some time after the first outbreak. Out of curiosity, I measured my resting HR this morning. My lowest ever reading was 38, before the Dublin marathon. Around Christmas it was 41, and the last two weeks it was 43 (probably a sign that I was already fighting off some infection). Today it was 69 – quite some jump, don’t you think? Not that I needed the number to confirm my decision to rest, I was merely curious.

One more plus, I finally found the time to cobble together some bits of Maia videos that have been on my hard drive for a bit. Don’t expect a masterpiece, but I like it anyway.

4 Feb
5 Feb
6 Feb

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Things Are Getting Better

I really managed to surprise myself on Monday. I expected a reasonably slow run after Sunday’s tough 30/30 session, but as soon as I took my first step I felt surprisingly good. Even though I managed to avoid peeking at the Garmin I could tell that I was moving well, the big climbs felt flatter and shorter than in previous weeks, and by the time I took a first look at the Garmin (I had to, for pressing the “lap” button) at mile 11 I was already doing under 8:00 pace. That’s when I started to accelerate, like I usually do towards the end of my long runs. Last month I managed 7:24 pace for those last few miles, last week it was down to 7:11, but yesterday I blew my own times out of the water with a 6:48! That was definitely the best “strong finish” I have ever put at the end of a run, better than anything before the Dublin marathon when I felt in really good shape. I also think that it was my fastest time on the Caragh Lake loop ever, but to be honest I didn’t go back and check. Of course, with 11 weeks to go I’m still far away from the marathon and I do hope that I’m not peaking early. I will take notes from this training cycle in the hope to be better at timing my peak next time round; not that I’m complaining. Running fast beats running slowly hands down in the fun department.

The weather provided an unexpected bonus. While most of Western Europe, including the eastern half of this island, is disappearing under a blanket of snow, I got a beautiful clear sky with crisp fresh air, basically my favourite running conditions. I tried not to get too distracted by the millions of starts overhead, but at one stage I witnessed the brightest shooting star I have ever seen. It was up there for many seconds and seemed to explode into plenty of little ones at the end. I did make a wish to that spectacular celestial firework, but of course I can’t tell you.

I took it much easier today, especially after a very rough night with Maia. She was sick and miserable on Sunday and seemed to slowly perk up on Monday only to develop into the baby from hell towards the evening, with hysterical screaming and two parents slowly reaching the end of their tether. By the time she fell asleep, probably from exhaustion, I was more than ready to join her.

Anyway, the snow clouds have put out some tentative feelers towards Kerry, but we got no more than a sprinkling on the fields and driveways. The road was clear, and while I was out running the precipitation slowly turned from snow to sleet to rain, leaving behind a rather frozen runner who was only too glad to be home again. I cut it short by a mile, because the promise of a warm radiator turned out to be too tempting.

At work I probably got put into the “nutcase” category for cycling today, but I guess I was in there all along.
2 Feb
15 miles, 1:53:12, 7:32 pace, HR 152
incl. 4 miles @ 6:48
3 Feb
9 miles, 1:11:51, 7:59 pace, HR 142

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Don't Panic

Twice in the last week I got a jolt of fear. The first time was when I heard that the Boston Marathon registration had closed a few days ago. For a split second I panicked about having messed up royally until I realised that I had signed up months ago, and everything was fine. I just hope all of you who planned on running it have done the same – otherwise it’s too late and your plans will have to change.

The second time was this morning at 11 o’clock when I realised that Maia was still asleep. She had woken at 5:30, and I brought her into our bed where she fell back asleep again. She woke a second time at 8 o’clock, and I gave her a bottle and put her back down into her own cot. Three hours later she was still asleep, having already slept for 15 hours, which she has never done before. I had to check if she was still breathing, which thankfully she was. She is presently fighting off an infection, which makes her sleep so much. The entire rest of the family except myself are coughing and spluttering, though the worst seems to be behind us. I’m the only one who is unaffected. For all the talk about running suppressing your immune system, I don’t believe it. Having said that, I managed a lot of sleep over the weekend myself, over 8.5 hours both nights. That’s definitely more than usual.

Yesterday’s run was another uneventful easy one. I was a bit cold in my t-shirt, and maybe long sleeves would have been the better option, but it turned into a beautiful day later on, with plenty of sunshine and warmer temperatures. We have been starved of sunlight around here, and everyone really enjoyed the break.

Today’s workout was a different matter, Sunday is definitely developing into the most exhausting day of the week; the 30/30 workouts are somewhat strange. On one hand, 30 seconds of effort is short enough so that you always feel you can do at least one more. On the other hand, 30 seconds of rest are so short that you’re still gasping for air at the end of it. Anyway, I started struggling after barely half of the repeats but kept at it. The toughest part was at the same spot where I gave up last week, after 3 or 4 uphill repeats against a headwind. However, this time I managed to keep going and was surprised how much easier they became once I had left the gradient behind me. I managed all 25 repeats, albeit a tad slower than last week. There was always the little voice in my head that I could run them just a bit harder, the same one that had admonished me during Wednesday’s hill workout. As I said, in training you always find you can push a little bit harder, no matter how much you’re pushing it already. Then again, pushing as hard as you can isn’t the best way either. All in all I'm happy with my training, and I’m reasonably certain I’m still improving and Boston will see me in better shape than ever before.
31 Jan
10 miles, 1:21:02, 8:06 pace, HR 139
1 Feb
8 miles, 59:00, 7:23 pace, HR 157
incl. 25x30/30 (5:46 avg)

Weekly Mileage: 74
January Mileage: 359+