Sunday, May 31, 2009

Single Parent

With Niamh gone, my weekend was dominated by fatherly duties rather than running, and went very different as a result. I managed to squeeze in 5 miles on Friday at lunch time, but because we don’t have a shower at work, this has some drawbacks (more for my colleagues rather than myself). I did my best to wipe myself down with baby wipes – hey, there is an advantage to having a baby in the house after all! My main problem with the run was that it was way too fast. When I checked the Garmin after about a mile I was doing about 7:30; by the time I had finished my loop I had lowered the average down to 7:16! Oops. That’s fine for a tempo run, but not for what should have been an easy day. Thomas you plonker.

Just before she left, Niamh had arranged for a friend to come over to our house on Saturday morning so I would be able to run that day. Am I a lucky guy or what! So, while the boys were being minded (they were glued to the telly anyway), I did a loop towards Cromane. I tried to tune into a ¾ effort again, and for the first 7 or 8 miles that worked well. Then I had to fight a headwind, and the road was climbing, and I got progressively slower. I retrospect I have to admit that I had gotten over-ambitious. Last week’s equivalent run of 8 miles had me hanging on towards the end. In light of that it is no big surprise that 11 miles were way too much. The average pace, which had been about 6:50 after mile 7 gradually slowed down to 7:05, though to be fair the last few miles are net uphill, and the wind didn’t do me any favours on that stretch either. But this will be the loop I intend to do most of my ¾ runs on, and I expect to be able to do it a bit faster in the coming weeks.

After that it was me and the boys. We did loads of things we would not be allowed to do with mummy around (staying up late, not having a bath before bed time, eating chocolate and so on). We even had a pirate party, including a treasure hunt, singing, dancing, and games. All that would have been great were it not for their tendency to start a fight every 5 minutes, and eventually it wore me down. I really don’t know how Niamh can cope. I guess it’s pretty normal behaviour for boys of their age, but it was rather weary. So we were all looking forward to the girls coming back to Kerry, and we collected them Sunday afternoon from the airport (yes, there’s an airport in Kerry). This even enabled me to get a run in for today after all, which I did in 20+ degrees. The temperatures have increased by 10 degrees Celsius this week, and finally we might be able to have something resembling a summer.

Which is great news for everyone except the runners of tomorrow’s Cork City marathon. While I did prove last year that it is possible to run a decent marathon there on one of the hottest days of the year, I’m sure every single participant would prefer a few degrees less. All the best lads! And Grellan, I’d give you my calves if that helped, but they’re a bit wonky themselves.
29 May
5.1 miles, 37:04, 7:16 pace, HR 154
30 May
11.2 miles, 1:19:22, 7:05 pace, HR 164
31 May
7.2 miles, 55:53, 7:45 pace, HR 148

Weekly mileage: 73
Monthly Mileage: 265.5

Thursday, May 28, 2009


It's funny how things are developing. Monday's run was truly awful, on more than one level, and left me with the distinct impression that I had lost a serious amount of endurance in the last 5 weeks. Those fears have been slightly put to rest on Wednesday.

Because Niamh is galavanting off to Dublin, leaving me behind without a supervising adult, my training for the rest of the week will be very curtailed at best, completely impossible at worst. I therefore tried to cram more than the usual mileage towards the start of the week, something that's generally frowned upon by people who know something about training (i.e. not me). As a result I retraced Monday's run on Wednesday and ran around the lake again. The weather was truly awful with gale force winds and lashing rain. I was soaked right through within a minute of leaving the house but was very surprised about the fact that I felt much better than on Monday. The climb up to the highest point of the course felt a little bit flatter, though once I reached the top the rain came at me horizontally at such force that I had to shield my face with my hands because it actually stung my cheeks. After a truly awful mile I reached the next woodland, and the conditions became a lot more agreeable. In marked contrast to Monday I finished the run still feeling ok. The pace was slightly slower, but I put that down to the weather conditions. I take encouragement from the fact that two 15 mile runs within 3 days are very much doable, even at this early point of the training cycle.

There was a downside though, running 2 hours in the rain gave me some shocking chafing on my thighs. I was quite literally rubbed raw. I was red enough to be able to work as a traffic light. I had to grind my teeth for the rest of the day to avoid walking like a toddler. It would not have left a good impression in the office. I actually tried putting nappy cream on the affected area, on the assumption that it was a similar affliction to the original use, but it didn't help. Damn. I thought there might be at least one advantage at having a baby in the house as far as running is concerned.

This morning saw my last run while I still could, and the hill repeats were back on. First I had to go through a few miles of a tempo run, which incidentally went much faster than last week. The conditions had improved a lot in the previous 24 hours, but it was still windy; in fact it was very similar to last week's equivalent run. Why the tempo pace improved from 6:53 to 6:45 I'm not entirely sure, not that I'm complaining. It's still not exactly flying. It would be nice if that dropped down to 6:30 this year, which after all is my half-marathon race pace; but I won't whine about my inability to run fast in training again, promised. After an easy mile I reached the foot of the hill, still unsure how many repeats I would do and for how long. Well, I did 45 seconds, which is halfway between last week's duration and where it's supposed to end up eventually. I still had not decided on the number of repeats, but after what I thought was the 4th I was completely knackered and thought it best to leave it at that. It was time to get to work anyway. It was only when I checked the charts on the computer that I realised that I had in fact done 5 hill repeats. Counting and running at the same time is too much for me, apparently.

For the next 3 days this is a pure boys' house. I might not be able to run, but finally we can do all those messy fun things that mummy frowns upon.
27 May
15 miles, 1:59:05, 7:56 pace, HR 153
28 May
9.5 miles, 1:16:36, 8:02 pace, HR 152
incl. 2.5 miles @ 6:45, 5x45 secs hill sprints

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Not so Fast!

One day I'll learn how to train for a marathon, I'm sure. But until then I stumble along with my trial-and-error method, reading everything about distance running I can get my hands upon, in the hope that some of the wisdom might rub onto me without me having to do the trials myself. But there's still a long way to go.

On Sunday I thought I was getting into a reasonably good shape already. By Monday morning I changed my mind. The lack of sleep didn't help, probably. Maia is getting yet another tooth, and the sleepless night keep piling up. I shouldn't complain - it's the poor baby who's in pain, not me; I'm merely the bleary eyed guy who's trying to sing her back to sleep. But when the alarm clock rang at 5:30 it felt like I hadn't slept at all.

I managed to get myself ready, but within a minute I knew I was in for a rough time. It was my first visit back to the Caragh Lake loop since March, almost exactly 2 months ago. They seem to sneakily have made the road steeper and the hills higher since the last time. At least I can't remember suffering so badly on the climbs before. I kept thinking "I can't believe I used to do this for fun", because fun it wasn't on this occasion. It was quite warm, and very humid. The sweat seemed to run off me without providing a cooling effect. When I felt some headwind up on the hills I was almost glad, because the temperatures became more agreeable. During the second half it started raining a bit - again, I actually welcomed this because of the cooling effect. By mile 10 I had left the worst of the hills behind me, and, knackered as I was, I managed to lower the average pace by a few seconds for the rest of the journey. I reached home with the newly acquired realisation that my endurance is nowhere near as good as I had thought and that there is still a lot of work to be done. Well, doing a lot of work is exactly what I have in mind anyway.

For once I managed to get an early night last night. This is something I have to work on - getting to bed early is a necessary habit if you intend to run long miles every morning. Anyway I went to bed by 10:12, and by 10:13 I was already fast asleep. The 8 hours of almost uninterrupted sleep were very much appreciated. It also helped that the temperature had dropped from yesterday's 13C/55F to 10C/50F. It clearly made a difference. I know that 13C/55F is not exactly roasting, even at 6am, but it had been enough to have me suffer yesterday. Today's run consisted of 2 miles warm/up, 2 miles tempo, one mile recovery, another 2 miles tempo, and a few strides on the way home. The initial tempo spell went reasonably well. I managed to avoid looking at the Garmin and pretty much tuned into the correct pace, but was assisted by a slight elevation drop as well as the wind. Of course I had to pay for that on the second fast section which was almost 20 seconds per mile slower, most of which can be attributed to the wind, I think. I felt a lot better than the day before, even if the pace wasn't exactly brilliant. A number of strides rounded up the run. The sun even managed to come out towards the end, which I appreciated. We're sun-starved here in Kerry. But just how today's average heart rate was so much lower than yesterdays remains a mystery to me.

One of the items I had brought home from Boston was The Stick. It's one of those things that can be hard to get on this side of the Atlantic, and when I saw it at the expo my credit card came out. I have been using it on and off to work on my calves. This used to be really painful at first, now I can roll it over the muscles with just a bit of discomfort. I hope it will make a difference as far as the cramping issues are concerned. My calves have started cramping at one point or another at nearly all of my marathons (and ultras!). Incidentally, Niamh likes the stick, too. As long as she never finds out just how much I paid for a glorified piece of plastic rolling pin, I'm ok.
25 May
15 miles, 1:58:09, 7:53 pace, HR 153
26 May
10 miles, 1:15:37, 7:34 pace, HR 151
2x2 miles @ 6:45, 7:04; 9x100 strides

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Weekend Meanderings

It's now 5 weeks since the Boston marathon and I can definitely feel the effects of that race wearing off. I can back that up with numbers as well. I tested my resting HR yesterday and it came up as 40, much lower that I would have expected. To see if that was a fluke I repeated the procedure this morning and came up with the same number; I think I can start trusting it now. Immediately before Boston it was as low as 37, the lowest number I had ever measured. I'm pretty sure it will return to that level again as the training for Dingle starts showing.

I did a fast run on Saturday, certainly the fastest since Boston. I tried to tune into a level that would hopefully equate to a ¾ effort according to Lydiard. The HR was in the low 160s in the first half and the high ones towards the end. It was definitely higher than marathon effort, I certainly would not have been able to keep going at that pace for much longer. Incidentally I did a similar run about three weeks before Boston which was 5 seconds per mile faster at a lower heart rate. That's to be expected, of course, I was in pretty good shape then (pity it didn't really show in my Boston time).

Today, with slightly weary legs, was much slower but I surprised myself nonetheless. I would have expected that effort to yield about 8:00 pace, but it was significantly faster than that. Of course, paces don't mean much so far out from the race, but nevertheless I'm pretty happy with the figures. I'd rather run fast than slow, no matter how far away from the target race I am.

It's a shame that me feeling well did not reflect in last week's race. There was a 10k today in Youghal that I had initially intended to go to, but that plan was dropped when the race in Killarney appeared on the calendar all of a sudden. I'm glad I didn't drive 2 hours each way for a performance like last week. Because of the Cork City marathon there won't be a lot of races on for a while (race directors seem to have realised that you wouldn't get a lot of runners) and my next race will have to wait. I guess it's not a bad thing at this stage of my build-up. Let's build a foundation first.

I'll have to be creative with my training this week. Niamh is flying to Dublin on Thursday and I'm left with the boys to mind, which means that I might not be able to run at all. I will have to see. I'd rather she would have stayed at home, but her argument was something like “you went to Boston, and it's only fair if I get some time in Dublin”, to which I didn't have a comeback. The planned 80 miles for this week are very unlikely to happen; maybe an easy (half) week will be good for me anyway.
23 May
8 miles, 55:20, 6:55 pace, HR 163
24 May
11 miles, 1:24:59, 7:43 pace, HR 150

Weekly Mileage: 71+

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hill Sprints

Despite Tuesday's conclusion that I might not be too old for running just yet it pretty much felt like that the last few days. I could still feel the effects of Sunday's race in my legs on Thursday, especially in the hamstrings. I cannot remember being sore for so long after any short race in the past.

That's not to say that I didn't get any decent training in. I had to cut Wednesday's run from 11 miles to 10 because Maia woke just as I was getting up, and I had to change and entertain her for a while before I could get out. Lucky Niamh managed to sleep through most of it. Since my alarm time is always geared to getting me out of the door just in time for the planned mileage, any delay means a lost mile or two. But at least the 10 miles that I did eventually manage to run went by reasonably well, despite the protesting hamstrings. I find that if the legs are tired it's a good idea to push the effort down to tempo pace for a quarter mile or so. It really makes the subsequent miles at easy pace feel much better.

I got a bit of a lie-in on Thursday because the first hill repeats were on the program and I didn't want to overdo it. This meant I'd do a shorter run than I would have done otherwise, which in turn meant more time in bed. After two miles of gradually warming up I ran 2 miles at tempo effort. This was as slow as expected, 6:54 pace, which gives me a lot of room for improvement. One easy mile later I arrived at the foot of my hill and did 4 hill sprints of pretty much maximum effort, but only for 30 seconds each. At least this stopped the hamstrings from being the most sore part of my body, because the quads took over that particular mantle. Even though the total amount of time spent on those hill repeats came to only 2 minutes, they were sore for the entire rest of the day. I expected to be stiff on Friday, but against all odd I felt just fine.

The weather was quickly becoming a recurrent theme; the forecast predicts rain, I get beautifully blue skies in the morning, and by the time the rain eventually arrives hours later I am save and dry in the office. My luck finally went out today, Friday, as it was raining at the start of my run. But it wasn't too bad, more of a drizzle really, and even that stopped eventually. It was the first day since the race that my legs felt fresh, and after a couple of slow miles at the start the pace kept dropping without me even noticing. I completed 12 miles, feeling very good for once. I think the marathon is slowly loosening its grip, and I can start running properly again.

20 May
10 miles, 1:15:00, 7:30 pace, HR 157
21 May
8.25 miles, 1:04:16, 7:47 pace, HR 152
incl. 2 miles @ 6:54, 4x30 secs hill sprints
22 May
12 miles, 1:29:43, 7:29 pace, HR 155

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Same Old Race Analysis

The first thing that came into my mind after Sunday's race (ok, the first printable thing) was that my sense of pacing had been way off. I usually pride myself in being able to start at a realistic pace and therefore get the benefit of always reeling in a few runners in the second half, but on that occasion I was barely hanging on. At dinner afterwards (btw, in case you're wondering [which you're not, I know, I know], I can recommend the local Milano pizza franchise as very child friendly) I felt I hardly deserved my beer after that performance, but, you know, it was my carbohydrate recovery drink. Anyway, I was wondering what would have happened if I hadn't looked at the Garmin after half a mile. In all likelihood I would have finished even slower, but who can tell for sure.

Rick said as much in his comment
"Sometimes I think looking at your Garmin can be a big mistake, in a short race your always going to think s*** that's too fast"

I'm too much of a numbers geek to run without my fancy toy, but there's a resolution you can hold me to: in my next race I'll set it to only display time, and maybe distance, but not HR or pace data. It will force me to run by feel, and I think that's good for me.

The chart shows that my memory had been slightly hazy. It was well before the half-mile mark when I slowed down, the only time I ran 5:30 was at the very beginning. But the average HR of 178 proves that I definitely didn't take it easy. The pace really suffered on those steep climbs. All of them were very short - I'd hesitate to call it a hilly course, but they definitely cost some time. Btw., I'm convinced the Garmin's elevation chart left out a few of those bumps - there seemed to be a lot more than show up on the graph.

There is one more thing, then I'll finally shut up about that race, I promise. When I set my 10k PR in July last year, I weighed about 143 pounds. On Sunday, I was 10 pounds heavier. While the exact impact of weight on running times is disputed, I refer to this article, pointed out to me by Rick a while ago. If we assume for ease of calculation (never mind correctness) that each pound costs you a second per mile, I would have been 60 seconds faster had Sunday's race been done with my 2008 weight. I would have set a new PR! There you go, I'm not old, merely fat. What a relief.

Having said that, I felt rather old on Monday. After a bad night's sleep I even reduced the mileage from 14 down to 13 in a futile attempt to get a few extra minutes of sleep, but the alarm still went off way too early. I managed to drag myself out of bed, but got a pleasant surprise that I was presented with a gap between the stormy rain showers. The wind was pretty bad throughout, but the rain held off until after my return. What was slightly less pleasant was the stiffness in my hamstrings, as well as the general fatigue. I struggled through the Cromane loop, and had to pass a test of character when I went past our driveway after 11 miles. The temptation to stop there was strong, but I plodded on until 13 miles were completed.

Today's run was very similar. Maia seems to share Dick Cheney's views on the acceptability of torture and proceeded to deprive her parents of sleep for most of the night. I don't know where she gets her stamina from, by the time she settled down it was bright outside and the alarm went off much too soon once more. The weather forecast had predicted warm temperatures and rain, but in the real world we had a cool morning with beautiful sunny skies. At least one thing was working in my favour. The hamstrings, on the other hand, were even less prepared to do the job than they had been on Monday, and the whole run was more a survival shuffle than anything else. I do hope to be better recovered from the race by tomorrow, though. I felt slightly better after a set of strides; maybe I should have done them in the first half of the run rather than towards the end. At least I'm starting to get used to them; maybe this time I'll manage to stick to them for a significant amount of my training.
18 May
13 miles, 1:42:04, 7:51 pace, HR 154
19 May
9 miles, 1:10:51, 7:52 pace, HR 152
incl. 9x100 strides

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Killarney at the Races

The weekend's weather forecast had been rather frightening, with loads of wind and rain. In reality it turned out a lot better than it had sounded initially, not that we were spared either. The run on Saturday was a case in point. I went out for 8 miles, and from mile two on I was running in rain, which got me rather cold. Maybe that's why I ran a bit faster than planned, or maybe that's just an excuse. I did add a few strides to the second half and was happy enough to be back home after just over an hour.

No matter you much planning you put into things, they tend to work out differently. A few weeks ago I stated that I wanted to race often this summer to race myself into shape. The first race on my calendar was a 10k in Youghal, East Cork, next week, over two hours drive from here. Niamh stated that I was completely bonkers to even consider driving so far for a race, but that's the sacrifice I thought I had to make because local races seem to be rather thin on the ground. Imagine my surprise when I checked out my usual running websites on Saturday afternoon and found out that there would be a 10k in Killarney the very next day.

It wasn't exactly an ideal scenario. If I had known I would be racing on Sunday I would have run a lot shorter and slower on Saturday. Plus, my legs definitely had not fully recovered from Boston, at least that's what they felt like. And with the complete absence of speed work I wasn't going to set any records.

Race preparations didn't exactly go without a hitch. I had to re-pack the bag twice, first after Maia had emptied it (she thought it was a great game), and again after Cian had done the same (he resented the fact that I used his personal travelling bag). However, against all odds I managed to get to Killarney with a full set of gear.

One lady recognised me from my blog, which I found funny. That's as close to being a celebrity as I'll ever get (not that I would want to be one). The weather held up much better than predicted, and a few drops before the race didn't put off anyone. In fact, when the sun came out around mile 2 I felt uncomfortably hot. But I'm getting ahead of myself here, but in a way that's what I did in the race as well.

There was the usual set of fast guys, and even Niamh started to recognise a few of them. I managed to chat to my “Star of the Laune” club mate, Anthony, for the first time, and the we assembled at the start line just a couple of minutes late. The cheetahs quickly disappeared into the distance from the start, and I settled into a pace that seemed comfortably hard but sustainable. However, when I checked the Garmin half a mile later I saw that I was doing 5:30 pace. Crikey! As much as I'd love to be able to run that fast, I can't, and I slowed down to a more realistic pace. Two guys passed me and when I scanned ahead I saw 10 runners, which obviously put me into 11th place. I lost two more places over the next few minutes, but then managed to pass two different runners who apparently had started in an even more suicidal way then me, including the leading lady.

The course goes through Killarney National Park and is absolutely beautiful. I recognised the first (and last) mile or two, because the annual 5k follows the same route. The middle part saw us pass Ross Castle twice but I was so engrossed in the race that I didn't even register. I think it was around the 4k mark when I lost another place to a guy in a white t-shirt with blue sleeves. That didn't sit very well with me, but he steamed past me at such a pace that I couldn't respond.

As early as 2 km into the run I was wishing this to be over, which was a seriously bad sign. While that feeling tends to come in every race, 20% into it is way too early. I kind of managed to get into “the zone” for a while after that, but the pace suffered a bit and the average pace, which had been close to 6:00 after the first mile, was steadily moving backwards.

The middle section also had a few very short but steep climbs, followed by dips of the same kind. It didn't allow me to stay in any sort of rhythm, and paired with my ever increasing fatigue it meant that I kept slowing down. I passed the halfway mark in 19:36, but I was knackered and knew the second half would be slower. In fact, I slowed down so much over the next mile that I feared I might miss out on a sub-40 finish.

Eventually, somewhere between km 6 and 7, I realised that the white t-shirt guy came back to me, and with me in 12th position and struggling for pace, I decided to up the ante. I closed the gap, and twice he pulled away again when I drew level. The third time I drew level I passed him, but he sat on my shoulder for a bit, and my strength was faltering. We then passed each other several times; he was faster on the uphills and I had the better pace on the downhills, and neither of us was prepared to give up without a fight. At one stage we were running side by side when the blustery became very noticeable. I was tempted to fall behind my adversary and use him as a wind shield, but then thought that tactical running wasn't a good idea if you're aiming for time, and I pushed on.

I seemed to gain a few feet advantage around the 8km mark (or maybe a bit before that - the memory is failing me), but he pulled back and passed me once again. With the finish getting closer he put in a surge, and running on fumes as I was, wheezing for air, I had nothing left to respond with. With about one km left I tried to dig deep and pushed on some more. I managed to get closer once more, from about 10 steps behind to maybe half that, but on the final, torturous climb to the finish my legs gave out and all I could do was barely hang on, and I don't think I had ever been so glad at crossing the line as I was at that moment.

The final time was 39:51, 12th place I think, and I was not happy. Barely creeping under 40 minutes was not much of a consolation. I clearly was not ready to run a 10k today, but I'm glad I had not driven all the way to Youghal for such a rubbish performance. I can only hope there will be some improvement over the summer. Surely old age hasn't started to catch up with me already!

16 May
8 miles, 1:00:56, 7:37 pace, HR 158
incl. 7X100 strides
17 May
11 miles, incl:
Killarney Lions Club 10k, 39:51, 6:24 pace, 12th place, HR 178

Weekly Mileage: 62

Friday, May 15, 2009

I’m On My Way

Training is going well so far, but of course I’m still only at the very start of my journey to Dingle. Nevertheless, progress is being made as I keep recovering from Boston (including my mental scars), and training is definitely fun again. I’m very much enjoying myself out there on the roads.

Since Sunday is generally going to be my fast day (especially when there is a race on), I decided that Monday should be my long run day. This week is an exception as my schedule starts taking shape; the 12 miles on Wednesday are going to be the longest run of the week, but from next week onwards I should be set. I also want to start doing the hill repeats. I’m curious how that will work out. I have only ever done those in short “hill phases” of my training, and at least 2 guys are promising great returns from doing them on a weekly basis instead. I’ll give it a try and see.

As mentioned, I did 12 miles on Wednesday. I felt pretty good for most of the run, but suffered from a bit of a low around the 7.5 mile mark. However, I had just finished running up a fairly long incline, so maybe I was merely recovering from that, because I got back into the groove within a mile. The distance didn’t cause a problem, I was still fairly fresh when I got home.

By Thursday we had reached the end of the lovely sunny weather and the usual grey clouds hung low over Ireland again. At least the wind had died down, and I got lucky on my run as it happened to fall in between two rain showers. I almost forgot, but I did eventually remember to include a few strides, which raised the average pace of the run even though I made sure to jog slowly in-between. The legs just feel lighter after a set of strides.

I did notice, however, that I had run basically the same pace (~7:45) for the last 3 days, and for the majority of days before that as well, so for today I decided to change that. I could have slowed down, of course, but decided to go for a stronger effort. In the end it wasn’t a tempo run, but I tried to keep the legs turning over at a good rate while keeping as relaxed as possible. The undulating terrain added a few extra challenges, but I was happy with the way the run went. The HR was a bit high (in fact I’ve had tempo runs with lower heart rates), but that will come down as the recovery from Boston continues and my fitness gets rebuilt. I felt good, I finished the run knowing that I could have run further and faster, and I’m already looking forward to the next workout. As I’ve said, training is fun.
13 May
12 miles, 1:33:24, 7:47 pace, HR 157
14 May
7 miles, 54:09, 7:44 pace, HR 155
incl. 6x100 strides
15 May
10 miles, 1:14:28, 7:27 pace, HR 162

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Have I mentioned how much I hate hayfever? It’s the bane of my life, and I get it twice every year. I’m currently in the middle of my first annual stint, and I’m sneezing my way through the day. Last year I only felt it when I was outside, not in the office building itself. Either the airconditioning has changed or the pollen situation is worse this year, because the symptoms are clear for everyone in the vicinity to see and hear. Even Niamh is affected, and she let me know that “every time my nose tickles, I think of you” (how romantic). For reasons unbeknown to me I am ok when I’m running. I don’t understand the physiological background for this but I am grateful; otherwise my training would be severely hampered.

I managed 46 miles last week. This week I’m aiming for about 60, and then, if everything is ok, I’ll try and add about 10 miles per week until I’m at 100 towards the middle of June. If I feel too tried, I’ll scale back. I know I’m not following the 10% rule, but since this is not the first time I’ve been building up to this mileage level (and not the second time either) I think I can be a bit more aggressive. In fact, I’ve followed a similar protocol before, and haven’t got into troubles.

Right now things are still pretty easy going. I ran 6 miles yesterday, and I’m pretty sure the stiffness in my legs was from the hours of gardening work and not from the comparatively tame weekend mileage. I added a few strides, something that I think is very useful, but also something I simply tend to forget. I hope I’ll be able to keep those up. The one thing I noticed was that the heart rate was very low, but since today’s HR was markedly higher, it may have been a false reading from the HRM. I’ll see. Today’s run was a joy. Not a cloud in sight and Caragh Lake was stunning in the early morning hours. Not even the blustery wind could dampen my spirits. Sadly, the nice weather is not supposed to last.

Maia kept torturing us last night. She is a pretty good sleeper for a baby, but there are nights when she prefers to keep herself and us awake, and last night was definitely one of those. Judging form the whoops and giggles she seemed to have a lot of fun and didn’t seem to register that her bleary-eyed parents weren’t quite as enthusiastic.

Oh, and this race was brought to my attention. I have ranted and raved about the lack of ultras in Ireland before. Things are clearly changing. For a while I was really tempted to forget about Dingle and head further northwards, but in the end the head won out over the heart. I don’t think I’m ready for that kind of race, there isn’t enough time to prepare properly, and they might not accept me for lack of experience anyway. But next year, or the year after … let’s put that thought aside for now.
11 May
6 miles, 47:51, 7:58 pace, HR 145
incl. 7x100 strides
12 May
8 miles, 1:01:59, 7:45 pace, HR 153

Sunday, May 10, 2009


If you're driving towards Dingle you'll find that some vandals keep deleting the English version of that town from road sign, leaving only the Gaelic “An Daingean” and some helpful souls keep re-adding it in bright big letters. What might surprise you is that it's the Government that keeps deleting the sign, but only if you don't know much about politics on our strange little island. In any case, if you know that Dingle and An Daingean are the same place, you're ok.

Twice last year I drove from Dingle to Ballydavid. To get there, you can either take the scenic route via Slea Head, or cross a fairly big mountain. I thought that running that mountain would be six tough miles, but fun. Incidentally, if you do the entire loop via Slea Head and then cross the mountain on the way back, you'll be doing about 26 miles. No points for guessing where the marathon will be held.

One look at the elevation profile will tell you that I won't be breaking 3 hours. I guess that's one reason why I'm drawn to it. I won't feel under pressure to perform. That, and the fact that it's basically my home marathon. I think the organisers tried to out-do Connemara. In one way they have certainly achieved that. Their “big final hill” is higher, meaner and steeper.

I had the most exhausting weekend in a long time. Apart from doing 6 loads of laundry, I put up a set of swings for the kids (a late birthday present for the twins), picked them off the swings about a dozen times following various fights, and mowed enough grass to feed a herd of cows. Oh, and I ran.

Yesterday I finally felt great again. It was only a six-mile run, and I probably would have been better off slowing down a bit, but it was great to let the legs work and feel the miles melt away.

Today, in contrast, I was rather sore; more from the gardening work than from yesterday's run, I'm sure, but sore nevertheless. I kept the pace close to 8-minute miles for most of it, but with 1.5 miles to go I ran out of patience, so to speak, and raced it home. I've got too much energy left at the end of my runs. It's time to increase the mileage again.
8 May
8.2 miles, 1:03:00, 7:40 pace, HR 158
9 May
6 miles, 45:06, 7:31 pace, HR 160
10 May
10 miles, 1:17:12, 7:43 pace, HR 155

Weekly Mileage: 46+

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Way to Dingle

As my legs slowly regain their running ability, I’m already looking forward to training properly again. Recovery from a marathon is very much a mental thing. Eventually I reach the point where I really want to run again, and can’t wait to get out. This is exactly where I am now.

The last 3 runs have all been short but too fast. I have to learn to run slowly and relaxed again. I remember the same happening after Dublin. I set out easily, and within half a mile the legs are at 7:30 pace. I reign them in, but as soon as my mind starts drifting, they’re accelerating again. And all the while they still feel heavy and awkward, and after 5 miles the quads are tired as if I’d just done a long one. I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it again soon enough.

The weather has been abysmal. On Tuesday, it was very windy. On Wednesday, it was even windier and raining. Today, the wind and the rain were heavier still, and at the moment it is hail stoning and I am so glad I'm not out there. It can only get better.

I have another experiment planned for this marathon training. 2 years ago, when training for Loch Ness, I managed the highest mileage I have done to date, especially in a three weeks spell of 100 miles each. Ever since I have wondered what would happen if I did this for much longer, 10 weeks or even more. The idea now is to check this out for real.

I might not reach 100 miles per week because I don’t want to slow down too much just to reach a mileage target. I want to incorporate a tempo run and a hill workout each week as well, and might have to sacrifice a few miles for that. As for faster training, I won’t be doing any 30/30 or 60/60 workouts this time round. They were fun, and they gave me a decent finishing kick, as witnessed in Ballycotton, but I don’t think they did much for me as a marathon runner. My plan for now is to race often, ideally every 14 days or so, and get my speed workouts that way. Since I can only manage to run fast enough with a number on my chest, this should be at least as effective as struggling to attempt some repeats on the roads around here. At least that’s the idea.

At work, my team has gained 2 more members, and wouldn’t you believe it, both have run the Dublin marathon last year, and both have caught the bug. One just ran Belfast as his second marathon, and the other one has targeted Dingle as her second. She managed a very decent time in Dublin, 4:07 on not a lot of training (which, incidentally, is almost exactly the same time I did on my first marathon, on little training as well). I think she could become really good and I have given her some suggestions, but I don’t want to give the impression that I'm telling her how to run. I certainly don't want to give too many details about my own training - it might scare her off.
5 May
5 miles, 38:50, 7:46 pace, HR 158
6 May
7 miles, 53:02, 7:34 pace, HR 161
7 May
5 miles, 39:03, 7:48 pace, HR 157

Monday, May 04, 2009

Too Much, Too Soon

Taking it easy is harder than it sounds, especially when you get ripped out of your usual environment and have to make do with unfamiliar roads.

After driving up to Dublin on Friday evening, not running at all on Saturday was probably a good idea. We (well, actually the parents, really) were lucky with the weather for the christening, and there were plenty of people in Nana and Gaga’s garden, including plenty of cousins at the right age for each of our children, and they all had a great time. The cakes and snacks were delicious, I don’t know how much weight I put on that day; I don’t really want to know. Sure, it’ll all come off when I start training again in earnest, won’t it? Won’t it?

I’ve had my eye on that mountain for a long time, every time we had been visiting Dublin. And because I’m not really training yet, I thought it would be a good idea to scout out the route. I told Niamh that I would be gone for about an hour, and that I was headed towards Three Rock. Afterwards she told me she knew that this would not be enough time, but for reasons best known to herself she didn’t mention that in time.

I thought the only problem would be crossing the M50 motorway, but that was easy. The problem was finding my way to the foot of the mountain, even though it seemed so close. In Kerry, when they build residential estates, they make sure to leave an opening in the wall to enable walkers and cyclists to pass through. Not so in Dublin, where they seal off the area. Maybe they are worried about poor people on the other side. Anyway, after wasting a lot of time trying to find my way I ended up climbing over one of those damn fences. I found a road up the mountain, but after climbing to an elevation of about 850 feet (starting from about 200) I realised that 40 minutes had already passed and I turned back. In all honesty, I was rather exhausted by then. The heart rate on the climb had gone over 180 at times, which really surprised me. At the last 5k race 4 weeks ago I had just about managed to reach that level, and I had to run extremely hard for that. On Sunday I got there just by running uphill, and certainly not at race effort.

I was really surprised how sore my quads were today. I guess doing a major hill wasn’t the best option, less than 2 weeks after Boston. I did 4 miles on a reasonably flat route to Deer park, which is a nice area with a great kids’ playground. Then it was time to drive back home. We stopped for a break at the Rock of Cashel, a rather spectacular feature. I’m surprised it isn’t better known, but if you ever find yourself near that area (e.g. on the new motorway, like ourselves today) I can highly recommend it.

I haven’t made any concrete plans for my next training cycle, but I know which way I want to go. I’ll talk about it in one of my next posts.

Oh, and thanks to Grellan for pointing out this video from last year’s Cork City marathon. I like the shot 6:57 into it. Don’t I look pleased?
3 May
9 miles, 1:10:18, 7:48 pace, HR 163
4 May
4 miles, 32:57, 8:14 pace, HR 154

Saturday, May 02, 2009

No Rest to be had

I spent one weekend in Boston, the following one in Trabolgan, and this one in Dublin. At that rate, I'll never get any sleep. The next weekend is scheduled to be at home, but if the weather is somewhat nice I'll have to cut the grass in the garden, which is slowly turning into a jungle. I'm half tempted to pray for rain.

The soreness in my quads has finally disappeared, but I won't get carried away just yet and try to run a race. I'll also try not to think about the fact that I'm missing the Bay Run on Sunday, for the first time since its inception. Boston has a lot to answer for. As it is, my training runs are much too fast and with too high a heart rate at the moment. I have yet to really get back into it. My movements feel awkward and uncoordinated, as if I have to learn to run again. That's pretty normal after a marathon, and will go away soon enough.

I'm more or less following the post-marathon recovery program I mentioned in my last entry, which is why I didn't run at all on Wednesday. Thursday saw me doing 5 miles, and the same again on Friday. Despite being tempted, I didn't run this morning, and instead went for an hour long walk at 7 am with Maia, mainly to give Niamh some extra undisturbed time in bed. She did thank me for it.

The reason why we're here in Dublin is our new niece's christening. It's Nana's first grandchild that's not ours, but hopefully there will be a few more in the next few years. The weather is beautiful, as if on order for a grand day. And at the rate the day is going I will be completely knackered at the end from playing ball games with Cian.

30 Apr
5 miles, 39:59, 8:00 pace, HR 152
1 May
5 miless, 39:47, 7:56 pace, HR 157