Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Be Careful What You Wish For

Nana arrived on Sunday, bringing Maia with her for a long-awaited family reunion. The only one not to make a fuss was her little Ladyship herself, she almost blanked Niamh but had some hugs for me. But if we thought our adventures were now over, we could not have been more wrong.

On Sunday evening Shea started complaining about pains in his feet, ankles and wrists, and he was unable to walk because putting weight on his feet was too painful. We rang the doctor who advised us to go straight to hospital. It was pure luck that Nana was in Kerry to look after the other children. Unlike every other time I had been to A&E we were seen almost immediately, and after two very thorough (and painful) examinations, Shea got a room in the children’s ward. Niamh stayed overnight, while I drove home.

For some reason I felt guilty about running next morning while my boy was in hospital, but of course staying home would not have made the slightest difference. As promised, I cut the 20 miles down to 15. The first half went pretty well but on the homeward stretch I got more and more tired, and after 12 miles I was really dragging. Having said that, the pace was decent enough. I think I was dehydrated, when I weighed myself back home I was 4 pounds lighter than the morning before. The humid air does not agree with me, I have sweat pouring off me at an alarming rate without much cooling effect. The thought that this might be responsible for me recent sub-par performances did cross my mind.

On Sunday I had not relished the thought of going back to work. With my boy in hospital, I ended up getting my wish, not that I would have wanted it. I spent all day there keeping him company, which for some reason completely wore me out. Niamh arrived in the evening to swap; I was so tired I conked out in bed. Unfortunately, Maia had a nightmare and woke screaming for Nana, but was perfectly content with her Dada instead. She spent the rest of the night in my bed, and if you’ve ever had a thrashing toddler beside you all night you know that it’s not the best way to get some sleep.

I had been wishing for the temperatures to drop, and when I awoke today to heavy rain I had gotten my wish – again not the way I would have wanted it. But wet as it was, the run was much better than any other I’d done recently. Keeping to a slightly toned-down schedule I did 10 miles with 2x3 mile repeats. The first one, with a net elevation drop was at 6:39 pace, much faster than any others in this training cycle so far, the second one, with a net elevation gain, was at 6:48, still not too bad, though with a significantly higher heart rate. In any case, I felt refreshed and energised after that run. With both London and the humid weather behind me, things are moving in the right direction again all of a sudden. Maybe I’m not overtrained after all, which would be a great relief.

Talking about great relief, Shea was released from hospital after two days in the ward. He still has to take some antihistamines that seem to make him slightly drowsy, but otherwise he’s pretty much restored. They still don’t quite know what exactly the problem was. They’re calling it vasculitis (inflamed blood vessels) and seem to think that it was a reaction to a previous infection, but his symptoms were atypical. But he’s much better. Since he had gotten use of a Playstation for much of yesterday, I think he rather enjoyed his stay in hospital.

With all of us on the up I’m now actually looking forward to Friday’s race. I have to decide how much I want to rest up beforehand, but I’m rather sure I’ll do better than last week in Dulwich.
29 Jun
15 miles, 1:59:17, 7:57 pace, HR 151
30 Jun
10 miles, 1:11:30, 7:09 pace, HR 153
incl 2x3 miles at 6:39 (-67 ft, HR 155), 6:48 (+81 ft, HR 164)

June Mileage: 388.5

Sunday, June 28, 2009

London Redux

Everyone agreed that it had been a very successful holiday, but everyone was glad to be home. After a stressful week full of action it was nice to sleep in our own beds again. I was so worn out that I slept for 9 hours, went for a run this morning and went back to bed for another hour or two of sleep, which was thoroughly needed.

Saturday was my last run in London. Usually I do a fairly long marathon pace run on Saturday but I really didn’t feel up to it, so I just ran for about an hour at a much easier pace. I still felt worn out. Something's not right, but after the week I’ve just had, that probably explainable.

We arrived back in Caragh Lake at 9 o’clock in the evening and nobody had troubles falling asleep. The kids have the advantage of being on their school holidays. Poor Daddy on the other hand has to be back in the office on Monday; I really could do with another few days off, just to relax. That feeling of being worn out was reflected in today’s run. I did the workout I had skipped yesterday, and at first it went well. I might have started a bit too fast, but was soon back on pace. But after 7 or 8 miles I was wiped out. I could hardly keep 7:30 pace, and even that was a struggle. The end could not come soon enough, and when I finally got back home after slightly over 11 miles I showered, ate something and collapsed back to bed.

Lola has been complaining about a pain in her stomach as well as a headache. My head is fine, but the stomach feels slightly off, and I’m utterly knackered. Of course there is more than one theory for the way I’m feeling: we could have picked up a bug in London, we’re worn out after a stressful week, I could be overtrained or just tired from the travelling.

My original plan was to go straight back to my 100 week mileage, but with the present level of fatigue that might be madness. Tomorrow’s run will be reduced from 20 miles to something more manageable, and then I’ll wing it for the rest of the week. There’s a 5k in Killarney on Friday, and I intend to run it on rested legs, which might give me some feedback in comparison to last week’s race in London. Then I’ll have to make a decision on my further training load.

In the meantime, here are some photos from London. We’ve seen the following things: Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Science Museum, Legoland, London Dungeons, Westminster with Big Ben, London Eye, Greenwich Park, Greenwich Observatory and the Greenwich Meridian, the Planetarium, the Monument for the Great Fire of London (as well as the sign on Pudding Lane where the fire had actually started), King’s Cross and Platform 9¾, Coram’s Fields, the Lion’s King Musical, the Natural History Museum, the IMAX, and probably something I’ve forgotten. And half a dozen friends from old times. The packed program was only possible because Niamh and me knew the place very well.

27 Jun
8.5 miles, 1:06:54, 7:52 pace, HR 144
incl. 9x100 strides
28 Jun
11.25 miles, 1:20:18, 7:08 pace, HR 157

Weekly Mileage: 76 miles

Friday, June 26, 2009

Homeward Bound

We're almost at the end of our London week – thank God, I'm worn out. I may have reduced the mileage, but all the time spent walking around the place meant there was a significant extra stress load to be dealt with. After Wednesday's race I went out Thursday morning to explore a few areas of South East London. I went towards Beckenham Place Park, and then followed the signs for the Green Chain Walk, which is linking dozens of London's many green places. A great idea that really should be copied elsewhere. I went all the way to Crystal Palace Park, where I rounded the athletic stadium. The place may have seen better times, but a stadium purely for the purpose of athletics still appeals to me. When I arrived back home, just over 12 miles had passed.

The day brought us to the Monument (climbing all of its 311 steps), Kings Cross Station and platform 9¾, and a spectacular children's playground, Coram's Fields. Niamh, Lola and Shea went to a musical performance of the Lion's King, which was a massive success, while Cian and me went home to watch a few fire engines passing by.

It was really hot and humid today, and I caught a few rain drops during the run, though without receiving any cooling benefit. I did a scaled-down version of the hill repeats workout, first a 2-mile tempo run (6:46 pace), and then a recovery jog towards Mountsfield Park. The gate was still closed when I got there, but I went around it and the second one was open. There is a climb right at that second gate, but it wasn't as steep as I remembered it from years gone by. I used to let go of the pram when the twins were still tiny and then charge after the quickly accelerating vehicle, much to Niamh's horror and the babies' delight. Today's purpose was a lot less fun, 8 charges up that hill at full tilt. One sprint took about 40 seconds, a bit less than it takes me on my normal hill training ground in Caragh Lake. Either I'm getting stronger, or the hill was much easier, or I didn't put enough effort in to it, but I wasn't as worn out as I usually am after hill repeats. I was back home after only 7.5 miles.

We spent most of the day in the Natural History Museum, which pretty much took the kids' breath away, despite their original reluctance. I can very much recommend that place.

Tomorrow we're on our way back home. Home Sweet Home.
25 Jun
12+ miles, 1:36:59, 8:01 pace, HR 137
26 Jun
7.5 miles, 1:00:54, 8:07 pace, HR 145
incl. 2 miles @ 6:46, 8x40 secs hill sprints

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Midsummer Nightmare

“You might go surprisingly well (as long as it's not an afternoon run after a day of walking)”, Ewen had said. Right he was too, especially about the second part. We'd been to Westminster, the London Eye, Greenwich Park, Greenwich Observatory, the Planetarium (where I very nearly fell asleep), and then at some friends' house again. It's not the ideal preparation for a race, I guess. I also had a humongous lunch, but that was 6 or 7 hours before the race, and I though I'd be ok by the time the race started.

I got the 185 to Dulwich, a bus I had taken countless times in years gone by. I signed up for the race, did a warm-up with some strides, a few minutes of strong running and stretching, and then – highly unusual for a runner from Ireland – the race started on time.

Oh yes, and I was not wearing my Garmin. When I got ready for the race I was about to put on the HR strap, and then changed my mind and decided to run “freely”. I'd had a few experiences during shorter races recently where I thought that reading the information about pace and/or heart rate was counter-productive, and today a simple stopwatch would have to do.

The race was marked in kilometers, and I reached the first marker in 3:40. I wasn't able to tell my pace in minutes/mile but I knew it was pretty fast (5:54 pace, btw). The field had more or less settled, but I was able to gain a few places every now and then. Somewhere around that marker a runner from Orpington passed me. His vest was so yellow that at first I thought it was a race steward, but he would serve as a pace bunny for the next part of the race.

The course was in Dulwich Park, and at first we did 1.5 laps around the park. I reached km 2 at 7:21, still on the same pace, which was good. At that point I managed to work out that 5 times 3:40 is 18:20. I would have been very happy with that time, but maybe the mere fact that I was able to work that out at that time was a sign that I was not pushing with all I had. I still went past a few runners, but my yellow pace bunny kept slowly pulling away from me. At that stage we left the park and did half a loop on the outside. It included running past a pub, but I managed to resist temptation to stop for a pint. I had lost contact to the Orpington runner, but the sound of footsteps and breathing told me that I was at the head of a small group, and they were obviously pacing off me. I reached km3 in 11:30. How on earth had I managed to lose 30 seconds in one km? I guessed the markers were off, but without my Garmin I could not tell with absolute certainty.

Then we went back into the park, but this time running the other way. We actually passed a few stragglers still on their initial loop in the park. It was slightly uphill and against the wind, and I had the feeling of standing still, a bit like in those nightmares you sometimes have when you're running and running without getting anywhere. I lost no less than 3 places, as all those guys that had been pacing off me went past. The Orpington runner apparently struggled even more because I managed to close the gap, but he was still a bit ahead of me. I did not check my split at the last marker, at that stage I was merely pushing with all I had, breathing heavily and hurting a lot. The course went downhill again, only slightly, but enough to make running much, much easier. I managed to regain my 3 places, and then I pushed even harder, pulled up to my yellow clad friend and went past. There was a big gap to a group ahead, and I visualized a bungy rope pulling me ever closer to those guys. Remarkably, I gained another 2 or 3 places, but as the finish came closer I heard some footsteps approaching from behind. Determined as I was to hold off that guy he went past me like I was standing still, and then I lost another place to someone following in that guy's slip stream.

I only saw the seconds on the clock, and when I passed the line in :24 I thought I had done 18:24 and was very pleased. Then I checked my watch again, and to my horror saw a 19 at the minutes field. Good God, how slow have I become? To be more than a minute slower than my PR, and almost 50 seconds slower than less than 3 months ago on a much hillier course, is almost inconceivable. Should I give up running and start collecting stamps instead?

Lydiard said you can't train hard and race well at the same time, and since I have undoubtedly trained very hard recently, racing well is not on the cards. Still, this was slow, and it is in line with the disappointing result from the 10k in Killarney last month, as race result I had hoped would be a once-off. But I am committed to my training and will see it through until the end. If the marathon will be as disappointing I will know what not to do next time. Until then I'll try to keep in mind the fact that I'm training for a marathon in September, not a 5k in June.
24 Jun
13 miles, including:
Dulwich Midsummer 5k, 19:24, 6:14 pace

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Not That Easy

Running isn't the problem, it's the fact that I'm on my feet literally all day. As someone who has a desk job I'm not used to spending hours walking around, and I can clearly tell the difference.

Monday is normally my long run day, and at home 20 miles would have been on the program. Last week I did those without batting an eyelid, but yesterday I was silently groaning after even half a mile. The fact that I'd just done 100+ miles had left me tired, and add to that the traveling and the walking around then we're on a new level of stress.

I went towards Greenwich via Blackheath, an area that would be familiar to anyone who has done the London marathon. Several laps around Greenwich Park followed; I was very surprised how hilly it was. I used to live not far from there and had been there plenty of times in my pre-running days, but either never picked up on the hills or forgot all about them. After about 10 miles I turned towards Catford again, and after a couple of laps in Ladywell I ended the day on 15 miles. It wasn't a lot for a Monday, but it was definitely enough for me at that point.

We then spent a spectacularly successful day in Legoland; we went on nearly all of the rides, the weather was great, and I can hardly remember any arguments. Anyone with kids in London should have this as a compulsory day (no, I'm not being paid by them). The only problem was the egregiously long journey on public transport, but I can't blame that on the park. We didn't get back home until 9 o'clock, at which time everyone, including the adults, just collapsed into bed.

I felt stiff and tired today and doubted I would be able to do a decent workout. Since this is an easy week I didn't even dream of repeating last week's 3-mile repeats. One lap in Ladywell Fields is just under 0.7 miles, so 2-and-a-bit laps would be 1.5 miles, and half a mile of recovery would get me back to the start. I did 3 repeats, and despite feeling like wading through molasses at the start I managed a surprisingly fast set of pace, all of them under 6:50. It might not be great, but it's all I'm looking for.

Another busy day at the London Dungeons awaited us, which was very imaginative and well done, though I think Cian might be traumatized for life. He really was scared out of his wits. Lola had had enough as well towards the end; Shea on the other hand could have stayed for another round. We rounded off the day with meeting some old friends. Catching up after all those years is great, and there's yet more of that to come.

There's a 5k race tomorrow. It's not exactly high on my priorities list, and I'm worn out from the stress of the holidays, but I'll try and do my best anyway.

22 Jun
15 miles, 2:02:17, 8:09 pace, HR 135
23 Jun
8.5 miles, 1:04:18, 7:33 pace, HR 148
incl. 3x1.5 miles @ 6:46, 6:44, 6:49

Sunday, June 21, 2009

London Calling

It's been a busy two days already here and I'm exhausted, but that's more down to the obnoxious eight-year old we've brought along with us rather than the running. But that's a different story that won't be told on this blog.

I managed to drag myself out of bed early on Friday. 5 o'clock alarm calls are awfully early, but in summer it's much easier to handle. It's already bright outside, and with the better weather we've generally had over the last few weeks it's not too bad. 18 miles are still a long way, but as long as I don't wear myself out on the climbs, I can manage pretty easily. Somehow the legs felt a lot better than for Wednesday's 15-miler; the hill repeats always seem to leave my legs in pretty decent shape, maybe because the Thursday mileage is the lowest of the week. Anyway, the run went fairly well, and left me on 75.5 miles for the week so far, which meant 24.5 miles over the weekend would give me a 100 mile week. Even with the traveling, that was definitely achievable.

I had thought about getting up early on Saturday, but with our flight leaving at 8:40 we had to be up before 6 o'clock as it was, and I decided against running beforehand. The journey went by without a hitch, we were in our apartment at 1 o'clock, met some friends from our old London days, and by 4 o'clock I got some leave to go out running. Since I had a tempo session in mind I decided against exploring the London roads and went to Ladywell Fields instead. One entire loop was 0.7 miles according to my Garmin; I did 12 of those and with the stretch from and to our house added I came to 11.5 miles. The first 7 or 8 miles went pretty well, I was doing about 6:49 pace and it felt definitely do-able. After that I started to wilt in the hotter temperatures and I felt rather dehydrated. By the time I was back home the pace had dropped to 6:54, which is still a decent enough session. I was a bit disappointed that I had not been able to stay on the first-half pace, though.

With only 13 miles left for a century week I took off early this morning. I did a tour around Southeast London, running past all the 3 houses we had been living in during our 8 years here. For the middle part I went to Dulwich Park, where the race will be held on Wednesday. The course is very flat, there will be no excuse for a slow time. On the way back home I found a trail that I hadn't been on for several years and could not resisting running on it. This left me with a detour that turned out to be much longer than anticipated, and I ended up doing over 2 miles more than planned. After 13 miles my legs were getting increasingly tired, as if they were saying “we've done 100 miles already, what else do you want from us?”. However, I made it home, having completed the biggest week of my running career so far. This week will be easier, like it or not.
19 Jun
18 miles, 2:23:02, 7:57 pace, HR 142
20 Jun
11.5 miles, 1:19:26, 6:54 pace, HR 162
21 Jun
15.25 miles, 2:02:55, 8:04 pace, HR 143
incl. several strides

Weekly Mileage: 102 ¼

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Missing You Already

I don't know Niamh managed to persuade me, but in two days we'll be going to London for one week, leaving Maia behind to be looked after by her grandparents. Oh yes, that's right - she didn't ask me, merely informed me of her decision. The main problem with that bright idea - apart from separating me from my baby for an entire week - is that she's picked up whatever Cian had been suffering from the last week and is now rather poorly. Which meant I didn't sleep much last night (again!). On the plus side, at least as far as her Nana is concerned, she should be better by tomorrow. Still, leaving my baby behind for a week! How did Niamh manage to persuade me? Oh right, she didn't! She merely ... ok, I'll shut up.

It was either former world record holder Steve Jones or Brendan Foster who said that in order to become a good marathon runner you have to be prepared to wake up in the morning feeling tired and go to bed feeling very tired, for 10 years in a row. Now, I'll never reach a level that either of them would have even remotely considered as good, but the rest of the statement rings rather true at the moment. Having a sick toddler in the house doesn't exactly help, of course. But sore legs are quickly becoming a chronic feature.

Actually, I thought of yesterday's 15 miler as an easy recovery run. I guess it shows that my mental adjustment to the high mileage training is coming along nicely. Unfortunately the physical adaptation is lagging a bit because the toughness of said run caught me slightly by surprise. With the legs feeling like they had ankle weights attached I was happy enough to plod along for 10 miles when I suddenly got ambitious and decided to push the effort in order to get the average pace under 8:00. A few faster miles at 7:20-7:30 pace brought me closer, but it still needed a 6:53 (uphill) final mile. Ok, so I overshot the target by 24 seconds. At least I know I am still able to run at goal marathon pace for the last bit of a hilly 15 miler that started out on tired legs in the first place.

There was no respite today and the ankle weights seemed to have multiplied overnight, which made me an originally highly unwilling participant of today's workout - hill sprints! As always, they were preceded by a 3 mile tempo run. A few strides during the warm-up injected sufficient life into the legs to start moving. At the turnaround point I realised how strong the wind was - and now I was running straight into it. I didn't have much hope for a decent pace, but somehow inexplicably managed to pull out a 6:44 average pace for those 3 miles. That was 16 seconds per mile faster than last week. Admittedly, I was wearing my racing shoes today instead of last week's trainers. The drawback was that I arrived at the foot of the hill with already tired legs. However, my brain seemed to have switched off and I managed a few repeats pretty much on autopilot. By the time I realised how much I was hurting the workout was almost over. All in all a good, if rather painful, run.

Previous weeks have shown that I tend to be very sore for the rest of the day after hill repeats, but the soreness seem to disappear overnight, leaving me in good shape for Friday's second long run of the week. With 18 miles on the program, that would be nice.

Still, I have decided to cut back next week's mileage. Running 100 miles in an unknown location, while on holiday, was always pushing my luck and probably never going to happen anyway. As it is, an easier week should be attainable and leave the legs in better shape for the training yet to come. As an aside, after seeing the improvements I made in today's 3 mile tempo segment compared to last week I decided to bring my racers along with me to London. Which means 3 runners in my suitcase. Plus all my other running gear for a week. Which leaves no room for "normal" clothes, probably. Niamh's gonna go nuts if/when she finds out. Ah well. You gotta get your priorities right. Right?
17 Jun
15 miles, 1:59:36, 7:58 pace, HR 144
18 Jun
10.5 miles, 1:25:38, 8:09 pace, HR 147
incl. 3 miles @ 6:44, 9x45 secs hill sprints

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

No Sleep, Just Run

This may end up as a 100 mile week, but with the flight to London on Saturday morning I'll have to wait and see. From a training point of view, the best bit about London will be the fact that I may be able to sleep a bit longer than usual. But with 3 of our 4 children sharing the flat, this will not be assured by any means.

Sunday night turned out to be the worst night for a very, very long time. With the alarm set at 4:45 I went to bed at a reasonable hour, but ended up staring at the ceiling for many hours to come. I also felt really unwell with a few hot and cold flushes and a persistent cough; at one stage I had the sweat dripping off me like a leaky tap. Sometime around 1 am I had 3 scenarios in my head. One, get up at 4:45 and run 20 miles. Two, get up after 6 and run 10 miles. Three don't run at all, and even stay home from work. I really was feeling lousy. I did eventually manage to get some sleep, though I kept waking every few minutes throughout. I didn't need the alarm; I got up without. I really wondered if running was a good idea, especially with the rain coming down heavily at the time. But my HR was in the normal range, and since the bed was a lot less inviting than usual I headed out of the door a minute before 5am.

I felt awful for the first mile, but things improved. I was still unsure if I should congratulate myself for being hard-core or berate myself for being by far the biggest idiot around when the rain stopped and the sun rose above the horizon just as I was passing the 2-mile mark. The rest of the run was pretty much on autopilot. That usually happens when I run in very tired state (tired from lack of sleep, that is). I can go for miles without a conscious thought, and by the time I had the last of the big hills behind me I had already covered 12 miles. I did speed up for the next mile to about 7:07 pace with the intention of running one mile fast/one mile slow for the rest of the workout, but completely forgot about it after the first one and just kept on plodding along. I had a gel in my pocket but never even contemplated taking it. Before I really knew it, I was done. I had a few minutes and considered adding one more mile, but decided to err on the side of caution for once. While this was not my fastest 20-mile run by a long shot, it must have been the easiest. I told Niamh that I felt like I could easily have run a marathon today - before breakfast! There's nothing wrong with my endurance, that's for sure.

It was around mile 16 when I finally had a brain wave: coffee! That's why I could not sleep last night. Niamh and me had both drunk 2 big cups of coffee each on Sunday, and Niamh said that they each contained the equivalent of 2 espressos. As someone who isn't used to caffeine, this was bound to have repercussions. What a relieve: I'm not sick, just plain stupid. Another lesson learned, for the third or fourth time, I think. Maybe this time it will stick for a change.

Despite feeling so good after the run I was surprised by the sore legs later during the day. Apparently I'm not quite at the stage where I can run 20 miles without thinking twice just yet. Nevertheless, I decided to add a bit to today's tempo session. Last week's 2x3 miles had gone well, but after reading Jack Daniel's masterpiece got the nagging feeling that a few more miles at a higher effort wouldn't go amiss. I therefore added 2 miles to my usual Tuesday routine, and with the warm-up and cool-down a bit shorter I could squeeze 3x3 miles into the run. The road to Killorglin is reasonably flat but a few ups and downs are always part of the course, which is why it's difficult to compare the three segments to each other. I slowed down slightly on each of them but like to think that it was more a result of the terrain rather than me not being able to keep going. Anyway, I was happy enough that they were all at sub-7 pace, even with my tired legs from the day before. I can only imagine what I would be able to run on rested legs. That will have to wait.
15 Jun
20 miles, 2:37:19. 7:52 pace, HR 143
16 Jun
12 miles, 1:27:54, HR 150
incl. 3x3 miles @ 6:54, 6:56, 6:59

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Training has been a bit hot/cold the last few weeks, and I’m not talking about the outside temperatures for a change. I tend to have a very good workout every now and then and invariably end up paying for it over the following few days, resulting in a few disappointing training runs. However, I can definitely feel progress being made. On average I’m getting faster while my heart rate keeps dropping, and with three months to go before the Dingle marathon there is still plenty of scope for further improvements.

Friday is the day of my second long run and I did close to 17 miles. For a change I ran the Caragh Lake loop counter-clockwise rather that my customary clockwise direction, but it mostly served a reminder why I prefer it the other way. Some of the downhill stretches were so steep that I could not run them properly, and I definitely prefer to come the other way on those. Running a clockwise loop ensures I can always stride out on the downhills, which is much preferable. That’s not to say I had a bad run, not the least. I felt very good all the way, and put the hammer down over the last few miles because I still had plenty of fuel left in the tank.

The weather can’t make up its mind at the moment. If you don’t like it just wait 5 minutes and it will all have changed, but it works the other way as well. It’s nigh on impossible to find a sunny period long enough to ensure that you don’t end up running in the rain. Sure enough, I got wet on both days of the weekend.

It didn’t distract me from my run yesterday, though. I’m presently reading the Jack Daniels book and he recommends marathon pace runs of up to 15 miles. Because of that I increased the length of the Cromane loop back to 11+ miles again. Two weeks ago I had felt this was over-ambitious and scaled back, but apparently my fitness has increased since then, because I had absolutely no trouble finishing at a good pace yesterday. I could have gone on further – in fact, I felt like I could have gone on much further, which is always a great sign. I was really pleased with that effort. Running regularly at that effort level might have been a missing piece in my training jigsaw up to now; if that’s the case then I should be able to feel the difference in Dingle. To be able to run like that towards the end of a 95+ mile week is pretty good, though of course there’s always someone else who’s doing better.

Sunday is basically my easy day, and I ended up doing a 13.5 mile recovery run with a few strides thrown in there. As I said, the weather could have been better. The first few miles I enjoyed the blue skies above me, then I got drenched for an hour wondering where the sun had gone, and for the last 4 miles it was a beautiful sunny day again, with not a cloud to be seen. Weird. The run itself wasn’t particularly remarkable, I spooled down the miles until I was back home again, not forgetting about the strides.

Next week I’d like to reach 100 miles, but since we’re flying to London on Saturday I’m not sure how many miles I’ll be able to actually do. There’s no excuse until Friday, and from then on I’ll just have to see. To spice up the holidays I’ve signed up for a 5k in London, but since we have a busy schedule for most of that week I may end up feeling rather tired anyway. I won’t commit to anything apart from enjoying the time off work.

My mom has gone back home, the kids have prevented us from sleeping much all weekend, and things are basically back to what passes as normal in our slightly manic household.
12 Jun
16.8 miles, 2:12:01, 7:50 pace, HR 147
13 Jun
11.25 miles, 1:17:39, 6:54 pace, HR 161
14 Jun
13.5 miles, 1:45:51, 7:50 pace, HR 145
incl. 13x100 strides

Weekly Mileage: 95 ¼

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bed Time

I still haven't mastered the art of going to bed when I ought to, and if you're running as many miles as I do this is a serious problem. I have felt rather tired over the last few days. The fact that I'm still fighting off some infection (which is getting better) doesn't help, but less than 7 hours of sleep per night is just not adequate. It caught up with me last night when I could not keep my eyes open during the telly news. Eventually I relented and was off to bed just after 9:30. I managed about 8 hours of sleep, regrettably with a few interruptions, but I'm still on a deficit. It's something I have to address. Sleep is a vital part of training.

Running over the last two days was a bit of a struggle. It's a dance of one step forward, one step back at the moment. Tuesday's workout was very good but yesterday and today I paid the price. Wednesday was what is basically an easy day in my schedule, 15 miles around Caragh Lake. I kept telling myself that getting up at 5:30 was a lie-in compared to Monday's 5 o'clock start, and I almost believed it. The first few miles were very slow. I felt a twinge in my left hamstring at first, which had me a bit worried. Luckily that subsided after a while, and I just had to fight the general fatigue in the legs. The last 5 miles were a tad faster again, as is becoming customary, and went by at 7:35 pace without pushing the effort. At least that went well. But I could definitely feel the fatigue building up in my legs during the last 2 miles. I think 13 miles is a bit of a threshold at the moment, I always seem to have a low at that stage. Still, it's progress. Last month this used to happen at mile 8.

Any hopes of feeling better today were dashed immediately. The legs were even stiffer than yesterday, and I struggled through some strides at the warm-up. I already knew that the tempo part of today's workout wouldn't go particularly well, and was proven right. 7:00 pace was all I could do, and I even had to strain over the last mile to achieve this, or it would have been even slower. It's a bit of a setback compared to last week, not that I'm racing my previous times. But a nice progression would be preferable, obviously.

The second part of the workout consisted of hill repeats. I had no idea how many I would do as I started on my first one. Last week I had done 8, but I was happy to go along with however I felt. The second repeat was rather unusual because a car appeared behind me, and since there was no way to overtake me on that narrow road (and I wasn't going to stop in the middle of a hill sprint) I felt like being chased up a mountain, which apparently made me squeeze a few extra ounces of effort out of somewhere. The bad news was that I felt totally shattered after that one, rather early. I kept plugging away, but after the sixth repeat decided that I'd had enough. I somehow found some bravado on the way down the hill though, and went up again for a seventh time. And since there was only one remaining to match last week's number I did that one, too.

Theoretically those hill repeats are supposed to be run at maximum effort, but as the one with the car clearly demonstrated, in practice I don't manage to do that. I guess that's a drawback of training on my own all the time. Shared misery would help to push harder at times like that. Anyone willing to get up at 6 am and repeatedly run up the first 200-or-so meters of a mountain with me? Hmm. Not all at once, please.

To say the legs were sore for the rest of the days would be an understatement. I really struggled on my cycling commute. I keep telling myself that I'm bound to feel better once I get used to the training load. Sore legs are part of marathon training.
10 Jun
15 miles, 1:59:27, 7:58 pace, HR 146
last 5 @ 7:35
11 Jun
10.5 miles, 1:27:03, 8:17 pace, HR 146
incl. 2.75 miles @ 7:00, 8x45 secs hill sprints

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Mind Over Mattress

It was a busy weekend. My mom arrived on Saturday, and on Sunday we went to see Lola’s ballet performance in Tralee. It’s her third time on stage; Niamh had originally suggested I could skip it this year, but changed her mind and we all went. 2 hours of ballet (and not of the highest quality, let’s face it) isn’t exactly my idea of great entertainment, but Lola was thrilled, we saw her twice on stage, and the show was over before I had lost the will to live (Cian just about managed that, too). Duty fulfilled.

On Sunday night my mom asked what time we would get up the next morning. She immediately dismissed my answer of 5 am and kept talking to Niamh. See how we runners are getting sidelined?

Anyway, 5 am it was and while I didn’t need the alarm I was highly tempted to stay in bed. As mentioned, I’m fighting off some bug at the moment. My throat was sore and I felt a slight constriction of the chest. Not only would that provide a perfectly valid excuse to sleep in, plenty of people call it a lack of common sense to go running in that state. However, running I did and it went surprisingly well. The long run has slowly been building up over the last few weeks and it’s now in bona fide long run territory with 18+ miles. I was surprised to feel better than last week. The chest opened up after a mile, the climbs up those hills seemed to pass reasonably well, and I got some stretches of good pace in-between. Just after mile 13 I could feel my strength wavering, which it could have been a sign of the coming struggle, but then I remembered the gel I carried in my pocket for emergencies. It must have been purely psychological because I felt a boost within seconds and the last 5 miles went much better than expected. I didn’t push the effort, but I managed 7:36 pace on that final stretch all the same, a decent enough result. I slightly misjudged the distance and ended up doing a bit extra, but the legs were in good shape and could have gone further.

Long runs are one thing, tempo efforts are a different kettle, and I did wonder if my slightly compromised state would allow me to finish today’s run. Last week I had done 3x2 miles, today I swapped it round for 2x3 miles, which obviously amounts to the same distance covered at effort. There’s not much to say, it went by reasonably well. After the first warm-up mile I could breathe freely, a few strides added some zip to the legs, and then I was off at roughly marathon pace, but probably with an effort that was a bit higher than what I could sustain for 26 miles, in all honesty. What pleases me this year is that I seem to be able to run the later parts of these runs at pretty much the same speed as the start. Last year I was constantly moaning about the fact that I always finished slower than I had begun. I’m not quite there yet, but the terrain over the second part was net uphill, even if the wind, for once coming the other way, did do its part to even out the effort required. A few strides during the cool down mile rounded up the run. I was quite pleased with the way it had gone. Running 3 miles fast in one go can sound a bit daunting at first, but I held on without undue stress.

I had one more small victory when I stepped on the scales afterwards. For the first time since April my weight has dipped under 150 pounds. Things in that department are moving rather slowly, mostly because I regard restricting calories while doing high mileage training as madness, but they are moving in the right direction for once. And all I had to do was to run over 90 miles a week. Who’d have thought! Let’s have some chocolate cake to celebrate!
8 Jun
18.2 miles, 2:23:54, 7:54 pace, HR 146
last 5 miles @ 7:36
9 Jun
10 miles, 1:12:33. 7:15 pace, HR 155
incl. 2x3 miles @ 6:53, 6:56; strides

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Weary Miles

I have felt really achy over the last few days; not just the leg muscles, everything feels not quite alright. I also awoke today with quite a sore throat, so I’m guessing I’m fighting off some bug at the moment. Since I don’t have any symptoms that would stop me from running, this isn’t much of a problem. My guess is that it’s the same that Maia’s having at the moment; she’s not quite herself, and quite cranky most of the time.

I got up early on Friday to run around the lake for the third time this week. I intend to keep doing that for many, many weeks from now. If that doesn’t build up my leg muscles, nothing will. I felt rather weary on the climbs, but put in a few surges towards the end of the run. This not only brought down the average pace a bit, it actually made my legs feel better. It’s funny how that works.

On Friday evening I realised that I was way ahead of last week’s mileage, which had suffered because of Niamh’s absence. Because of that, this week saw a massive jump, much more than originally intended. However, I seem to be able to handle it. Theoretically I should reach 100 miles in a fortnight, but since we will be on holidays for that week this is rather unlikely to say the least.

I was really reluctant to go out yesterday. The legs didn’t feel right, and I knew that a ¾ effort would be uncomfortable. When I finally opened the door, things went much better than anticipated. Last weeks 11+ miles had been a bit over ambitious, so I cut the loop short and was back home in 10.5 miles. This went a lot better. I was slower than 2 weeks ago but faster than last week, and felt a lot better. I can feel an improvement, but there is still along way to go yet. The effort is higher than marathon pace and the pace is lower. It’s a good thing Dingle is still plenty of weeks away.

My mum arrived yesterday for a week (just as the weather turned bad). Maia has taken a real shine to her “new gaga”; she’s clearly making eyes at him. It’s funny how young kids just take in some people while blanking out others. The object of her desire seems a bit bemused by it all.

Today was as close as I get to an easy run. I ran 12.5 miles towards, and past, Killorglin. The course chosen was a bit hillier than intended, but nothing in comparison to the Caragh Lake loop. I was stiff and tired early on, but after a set of 11x100 strides towards the second half felt a lot better, and once again the average pace dropped by quite a bit when the effort didn’t. I have to remember doing those strides. It can be a real chore at first, but the legs will thank you every time.
5 Jun
15 miles, 1:59:41, 7:58 pace, HR 146
6 Jun
10.5 miles, 1:13:42, 7:01 pace, HR 160
7 Jun
12.5 miles, 1:37:17, 7:47 pace, HR 145
incl. 11x100 strides

Weekly Mileage: 90

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Lydiard Base Training

Last night, as I set the alarm for today, it struck me that there really are no easy days in this program. On Monday it's "oh no, a long run". On Tuesday "Oh no, a tempo run". On Wednesday "Oh no, a long run". On Thursday "Oh no, hill repeats". You get the picture. It can be tough to get used to this kind of constant pressure, but I know from previous training cycles that eventually you get used to it, both mentally and physically.

Strictly speaking, yesterday's run of 15 miles was not a long run, but until Monday this had been my longest run of the training cycle so far, and any loop across the hills surrounding Caragh Lake is tough. I felt especially tired early on and noticed that I started about 20 seconds per mile slower. I did get more into it as the run went on, and, after I had crossed the invisible 10 mile line, decided to push for a stronger finish. I always liked to finish my long runs faster, but up to now never had the legs to actually speed up; yesterday I wasn't exactly flying, but running the last 5 miles at an average pace of 7:26 was quite satisfying nevertheless. On the one hand, I don't want to overdo it, and running faster while you're still building mileage is a dangerous game; on the other hand I feel that a bit more pushing on my normal runs could give a few improvements in my racing times. Looking at the MacMillan calculator, I'm doing most of my training at too slow a pace compared to my racing times. However, I'm pretty sure MacMillan didn't have the elevation chart of the Caragh Lake loop in mind when he came up with the pace formulas.

And so for the hill repeats today. As usual, I did a few miles at tempo effort first, though the actual pace was closer to marathon pace. The legs have felt really tired the last few days since the weekend, and running faster than that doesn't seem to be on the cards. On Tuesday I had noticed a big drop in my HR. This has continued and I did wonder if that would still be the case on the hill repeats. Today I did 8x45 seconds, and interestingly enough the HR shot up to the usual 170+ at the top of the hill. Today I concentrated more on good form, especially lifting the knees and pumping the arms, but during the last one or two repeats I wasn't able to bring them up as high as before. At that stage it was definitely time to call it a day, which I did.

So, on to tomorrow - oh no, it's another long run!

The weather has been absolutely stunning for the last week. 28C/82F constitutes a formidable heat wave on these shores, but the general consensus is that anyone who moans about the heat should be summarily executed after the last 2 years of miserable rainy summers. Unfortunately, if the meteorologists are correct, today is the last one of the nice days. Maybe it's all for the better, nobody wants a drought, but boy was it nice to be running in the sunshine every single morning. Yesterday the sun rose just as I was leaving the house, and I felt rather privileged to witness it. I could have gotten used to this.
3 Jun
15 miles, 1:58:49, 7:55 pace, HR 147
last 5 miles @ 7:26
4 Jun
10.5 miles, 1:23:52, 7:59 pace, HR 150
incl. 3 miles @ 6:53, 8x45 secs hill sprints

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

An Actual Irish Summer

With Niamh back home, life has returned to the state of manic chaos that that defines life with four young children. What's new are the cloudless blue skies that we've had above our heads for the last few days, something that's even supposed to last for a bit longer. Yesterday was warmer than any day in 2008, and I'm pretty sure 2007 would fall into this category as well. Everyone loved it - except the runners of the Cork City marathon. How the organisers managed to have their marathon on one of the hottest days of the year for the third time in a row is a mystery to me. Last year was hot but I found it manageable. Yesterday seems to have been on another level though, and the runners I know personally ended up with a DNF. Talks of carnage have reached me, but that's to be expected if temperatures are jumping stratospheric all of a sudden. This is Ireland - nobody in Cork would have been heat acclimatised.

From a selfish point of view I loved the fact that yesterday was a bank holiday, which enabled me to sleep in and still get a long run under the belt. First thing in the morning I managed to pull the boys apart who were about to tear lumps out of each other (again!) and was out of the house just before 8 o'clock. By some miracle Niamh managed to sleep for another hour after that, by which time I was almost halfway around the lake. It was around that time that the temperatures started to become noticeable, but thankfully I was able to get back home before it became unbearable. I did spare a thought for all the marathon runners who were well on their way at that stage. Personally, I was more than happy to leave it at 16.5 miles. Another 10 would have been a challenge.

As it turned out, this was just about the easiest part of the day, because for the next 6 hours I was busy in the garden, something that has dominated my weekend. Saturday ended dramatically when a cloud of midges descended onto me - I ran into the house, and counted no less than 50 inspect bites on my left arm alone. All in all I must have had close to 200. I took an antihistamine because I was worried about getting a reaction. Sunday and Monday were not quite as spectacular, but parts of my skin look like an inverted cratered moon surface. Add to that the fact that my hay fever is at its worst presently and you get a picture of my present state.

Today is a normal office day, which meant getting up early just after 6 o'clock. The training program had a tempo day on the schedule, but with my aching legs (as well as shoulders and back) I was less than sure that this would be a good idea. I set out anyway, and did a set of strides during the warm-up to get the legs working. I decided to go ahead with the planned 3x2 miles; I doubted that I would be able to get under 7:00 pace, but surprised myself. What was most noticeable was the fact that I could not get my HR up to the usual rate. It seemed to be stuck in the 150s, only when the road was climbing did I reach 160 and I never went past that mark. On a normal day I would expect it to be 10 beats higher. Assuming that the HRM was working correctly, this was quite extraordinary. A low HR is not necessarily a good sign. It can be a signal that you're overtrained - there simply are not enough muscle fibres available for work. This may well have been the case today, but since the main reason for my exhaustion was the gardening work I'm pretty sure this will right itself soon enough. As it was, I was quite happy with all three 2-mile segments. The second one was a tad faster than the first (a rarity for me), and the third was just a bit slower because it was over the most challenging terrain. All in all a good workout taking the state of my legs into account.
1 Jun
16.5 miles, 2:11:13, 7:57 pace, HR 152
2 Jun
10 miles, 1:16:18, 7:38 pace, HR 145
incl. 5x100 strides, 3x2 miles@ 6:56, 6:55, 6:59