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


  1. I'll never tell what the pin cost! I suffer from calve cramps, too in the final leg of the marathon. Keep training, I'm learning from you!! Hope the clouds break up and you get some sun nourishment!

  2. Thomas, would it be worthwhile to get an experienced running coach to look at the program you are doing to get an independent view?

    I don't know very much myself but it looks so tough! I don't see any easy days in it and recovery runs appear to be done at a much faster pace then is the norm. From what I am told, the improvement as a runner comes as you recover from training rather than during the exercise itself. I know I would break down injured if I tried anything like this but the results I get on lower mileage are comparable.

  3. The Stick has made a big difference for me, that for sure.

  4. Mithril, I train so much because my personal experience is that the more miles I run in training the faster I run in races. That's how I developed from a 4:06 into a 3:05 marathoner. I'm perfectly aware of the fact that others run faster on less training. Call it a lack of natural talent on my side, if you want.

    I have done high mileage before and didn't get injured, so I take my chances again. I tried lower mileage before Dublin and Boston, and while the times were good I suffered badly in the final miles. My hope is that I can still run the same pace, but for the entire distance on my high mileage training.

  5. Keep going with what works for you Thomas - I'm sure it won't take another 10 years of trial and error to come up with the perfect program.

    You're right - 13C is not roasting - it's perfect running weather :) Try 36C for roasting ;)