Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fitting Quote

Just the other day I came across this by Bill Bowerman:

there is no such thing as bad weather only soft people

So I decided to stop whining about the weather, HTFU and get on with it. Training in Irish winters means running a lot in the rain when its dark, as opposed to training in Irish summers when you do a lot of running in the rain when it’s bright instead.

So I dug into my wardrobe until I found a long sleeved technical shirt, put the headlamp on top of my head and out I went into early Thursday’s dark rain shower. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, it even stopped raining at one stage, and I happily ran the 5 miles along Caragh Lake to the turnaround point. I was halfway back when a bright flash from my left caught my interest, and the growling thunder 30 seconds later spurned me into action. Running in the wind and rain is fine, but the one thing I do not want to happen is to be caught out in a thunderstorm, and I accelerated homewards. One mile later another lightning flash, this time straight ahead, almost made me jump. But the sound of thunder again took about half a minute to reach me, and I knew I would in all likelihood have enough time to get home in time. Well, I escaped the lightning but not the hail which started when I was still half a mile from home. By the time I reached our door the worst was already over. At least the conditions ensured the last 2.5 miles were covered at a good clip.

It was a bit friendlier on Friday, but again I didn’t quite escape the rain. I did 8 miles, and in the second half I added a few accelerations for about 30 seconds each, to get the legs spinning a bit more. The rest of the run was at a sedate effort as I felt the effects of Thursday’s run in my hamstrings.

Today, Saturday, it was my turn to drive the kids to Cork once more. Cian did not want to come and stayed home with Niamh, so it was just me and the twins. We delivered Lola to her classes and went to a swimming pool. Last time we went there Shea just swam up and down the whole time, and I hoped I would get some decent swimming time under my belt. But after a lap or two he decided he did not really want to swim and preferred to play around in the water for an hour. That put paid to my plans of a workout, but as Niamh pointed out, it provided some additional father-son-bonding. We stayed in there for ages, until it was time to get home again. I thought about going for a run, but laziness won out in the end.

Because of that trip to Cork I missed my hometown race today. There was a 10k in Killorglin which I had enjoyed a lot last year and which I would definitely have run had it not been on a Saturday. What can you do, family comes first. I’ll make up for it in March.

I’m planning on increasing my mileage next week, which won’t be difficult as my running frequency has dropped like a stone, and then the training for Connemara begins at last. By now I’m finally looking forward to running again. This has taken a long time, Dublin was 5 weeks ago, and that’s how long it took me to recover mentally. With that episode behind me, I’m finally feeling on the up again.
26 Nov
10 miles, 1:17:36, 7:46 pace, HR 159
27 Nov
8 miles, 1:05:09, 8:09 pace, HR 155
4x30 seconds accelerations
28 Nov
0 miles, 60+ minutes splashing in the pool

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Run Cycle Swim

If the weather keeps doing this I’ll turn into a triathlete without even wanting to!

The floods have subsided somewhat, which surprised me because it has been raining every single day. But apparently the system started to cope with the influx of water once the conditions turned from appalling to merely bad.

I managed to catch a window between two storm fronts on Monday morning. The wind was still blowing at gale force level, but I can cope with that. It’s when the strength goes up to storm force that I have to stay at home. With the absence of rain it was definitely tolerable, but my legs are undeniably not at their best. I had planned on doing 10 miles, but when I checked the Garmin about 4 miles down the road I realised that I was significantly slower than anticipated. I decided to turn around after 4.5 miles in order not to be late for work. I was a bit miffed by that, it certainly felt like sub-8 pace, but it wasn’t. On the other hand, a look at the heart rate might give the impression that I was really pushing things, but that was not the case either. I still think that once I manage to string a few decent runs together both the pace and the lower heart rate will return in next to no time. Since the next target race is not until April there is no need to panic just yet. After all, I’m still in my off-season, even if I had not planned on one.

Since the weather forecast on Tuesday was swinging towards the appalling side of things again I hooked up my bike to the indoor trainer instead of heading outside. Initially I wondered if I had chickened out of a run unnecessarily because it was only windy, not raining. But within 10 minutes the heavens opened and I was more than happy to be inside my own 4 walls. I managed 60 minutes on the bike on this occasion and I can tell that it’s getting easier. A fortnight ago I would have been knackered after half an hour. Cian joined me for the last 10 minutes, watching telly and commenting on my cycling at the same time. He also told me that he wants to run a race with me, as soon as he has practised running for a bit.

Wednesday saw yet another early morning (what’s new?) and I drove to Killarney for a swim. Because of roadworks on the Killorglin bridge I was a few minutes late and there was no swimming instructor to be seen. I headed inside. No coach. I went into the pool and did a few lengths. Still no coach. I ended up with somewhere between 45 and 50 minutes of swimming, easily the most I have ever done without breaks (apart from catching my breath for a few seconds at times). I kept concentrating on what I had learnt last week, and eventually it all started to make sense. I still need a lot more confidence before I can breath easily and the less said about my kick the better, but since my first lesson was only a week ago I’m pretty happy with the way this is going so far.

At one stage a guy came along in a wheelchair, got himself into the water and started swimming at amazing speeds, by far the fastest swimmer in the pool. That was very impressive, an amazing sight and not something I’ll forget in a hurry.

23 Nov
9 miles, 1:13:24, 8:09 pace, HR 153
24 Nov
60 mins bike, HR 151
25 Nov
45+ mins swim

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Blame It On The Rain

This was certainly an interesting week. We had the cheating Frenchmen with plenty of fallout that is only just starting to subside, my office has moved yet again, for the third time in 6 years, and of course we've had the rain.

This time the weather Gods really mean business. When I had been whining about wind and rain in the past I had no idea what a week of sustained stormy weather is really like. We don't get hurricanes in these parts but this is the next best thing. Half the country is flooded (the western half, to be precise), half of Cork City is without running water for at least one week, and for once all that is not an exaggeration. When I drove to Killarney this morning the river Laune was so high you could only tell its original course by the trees lining it. The shore line itself has been totally washed out and everything close to it is under water.

I guess I was sorta lucky yesterday when I managed to get out early in the morning for 5 miles. It was raining buckets but there seemed to be a lull in the wind when I took the opportunity. Of course, had I waiting for 2 hours I would have enjoyed running in the unexpected sunshine. On the other hand, had I left it 2 further hours the thunderstorm would have surprised (and scared) me right in the middle.

Even so, I didn't feel great. The hamstrings were as tight as piano strings, and I cannot really explain why my heart rate was higher than on Friday, despite running only half the distance and a good bit slower. I cannot blame the Dublin marathon forever.

When I wrote last weeks race report, making out how I did not race, I had no idea that this would be followed by a far more literal non-race. I was already in Killarney this morning, doing a swim to practice for my next lesson when I got a text message that today's race was cancelled. Apparently all three possible race courses were under water, which didn't come as much of a surprise. At least I did not have to worry about racing after tiring myself out in the pool. There is something very unnatural about swimming for someone who is used to running: the fact that you basically have to hold your breath for half the workout doesn't come easily.

It was not a wasted trip as I had to go shopping anyway, but any hopes I had of sneaking in a run after my return were thwarted by the storm outside our window. Eventually I hooked up my bike onto the indoor trainer and spun for 45 minutes. That was my longest “bike ride” yet, and it's still nowhere near proper training. But it bet twiddling my thumps hands down.

They just promised some improvement for tomorrow morning. Great! Let's hope they are right. I might not be in training right now, but the low mileage is starting to worry me a bit. 26 miles this week, that's next to nothing. The last time I was was doing so few miles I was bed-ridden with pneumonia.

21 Nov
5 miles, 40:17, 8:03 pace, HR 156
22 Nov
0 miles. 25 min swim, 45 min bike, HR 155

If you add my weekend activities together it's almost a triathlon.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Washed Out

I know I have been complaining about the weather rather frequently, but this is getting ridiculous. Wednesday’s and Thursday’s storms have already resulted in the worst floods in 20 years/living memory (depending on who you believe) and with more rain on the way things are only going to get worse. They had 60 mm rain over the last 24 hours in Cahersiveen, and since that’s only 20 miles from Caragh Lake you can imagine the conditions here. Compared to what some people are going through (flooded houses, evacuations and sadly at least one fatal accident), the fact that my training is getting inconvenienced is utterly trivial and doesn’t register in comparison, of course.

I had to change my plans on Thursday because heading out into the raging storm seemed just too foolish, even for me. Instead I hooked my bike up on my relatively new indoors trainer and spun away for 40 minutes while watching telly. My eye was still sore from Wednesday and when I woke at 4 o’clock this and the raging storm outside prevented me from falling back asleep, so shortly after 5 I got sick of staring into the darkness and got up. I went back to bed after my workout, and even managed to doze for a bit. Niamh had to drive me to work because cycling was completely out of the question, but had major troubles reaching Killorglin through flooded roads when she came to collect me in the evening. At least she made it through; some others weren’t quite so lucky.

Today was in complete contrast, but sadly this is just a short break in the storm which will start again tonight. I took the opportunity to finally get in another run, 10 miles in the crisp clear air. Since I expected the Caragh Lake road to be flooded in places I opted for two loops to Ard-na-Sidhe instead, where it should be more tolerable. There was a new miniature waterfall at one corner that had not been there last week and which spilt over onto the road, but apart from that the conditions were very good. I quickly noticed the very tight hamstrings, especially in my right leg, but it didn’t really hamper me. After two days of not running the pace was a bit faster than it would have been otherwise and the heart rate was very high, but that will sort itself out once I resume proper training.

At the moment I’m still pretty much in my off-season. I’ve never really had that before, but I feel the need for some downtime after 2 marathons this autumn. There is a 5K on Sunday in Killarney that I intend to run as a fun run (assuming that it doesn’t get cancelled in the weather) and another one a fortnight later, and after that I want to start training again. By then 6 weeks will have passed since Dublin and my physical and mental batteries should be ready for another training cycle. At the moment I simply don’t feel up to it. I guess Canute was right after all, I might have overstepped the mark this time. I’ll try and correct that next time round.

19 Nov
0 miles, 40 minutes on the bike
20 Nov
10 miles, 1:18:45, 7:52 pace, HR 155

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Recovery Redux

Sunday’s race can basically be described as 500 feet up, 700 feet down, 700 feet up, 600 feet down. Such a course profile guarantees sore legs and I was not exactly surprised to wake Monday morning with a distinct feeling of discomfort.

I wasn’t only recovering from that race but also from the Dublin marathon, and anything but a very short and easy stroll was never on the cards. In the end I even cut the planned 5 miles down to 4, partially because I was running so slowly that I might have ended up being late for work, but mostly because it wasn’t all that much fun. Cycling to work felt surprisingly good though and I felt right as rain afterwards. Sitting in the office chair, however, brought on the pain again, enough to go for another quick spin on the bike at lunchtime. Moving around was doing me good, but as soon as I sat down again the sore legs made themselves known.

Unfortunately Maia suffered considerably more that day than her daddy. By lunchtime she was still a bright toddler happily destroying the house, by the time I came home she had a temperature and a foul mood and was desperately clinging on to mummy; luckily she accepted daddy as a replacement, which allowed dinner to be served. The wonders of modern medicine provided a reasonably quiet night, but she required some extra attention in the morning, cutting my available running time from 8 miles to 7 in the process. A better day was followed by a worse night, which included a violent rejection of her medicine (that went all over me instead) and plenty of interruptions (Niamh missed most of those). But we made it through.

The alarm went off at 6:20, but for once the foul weather outside wasn’t an issue for me. Instead I hopped into the car and drove to Killarney where at 7 o’clock I found myself standing in a dark hotel car park in the drizzly rain, waiting for a guy I had never met before. Niamh had organised a swimming instructor for me and dryly responded to my question of how I would recognise him with “you’ll be the only two eejits hanging around”, which proved to be entirely correct. His first words to me were “you’re the guy from Killorglin with that blog”, which caught me entirely off-guard. I’m pretty sure this was the first time I have been recognised outside a race setting.

So, I had my first swimming lesson today. Actually, I can swim already, just not particularly fast, and I want to add this to my cross training repertoire. I think it’s rather obvious by now that I do intend to add the odd triathlon to my list of events, and for that I need to significantly brush up on my swimming skills. For the time being it is all great, new and exciting, but I paid for the fun by having an irritated left eye for the rest of the day, which is rather … irritating. The next item on my shopping list is a decent pair of goggles.

My hamstrings are still surprisingly tight, but I still think that tomorrow I can finally do a decent run again. Otherwise my legs are going to atrophy.

16 Nov
4 miles, 35:22, 8:50 pace, HR 147
17 Nov
7 miles, 59:23, 8:29 pace, HR 149
18 Nov
0 miles, 45 minutes of splashing around

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Not-A-Race Report

A few weeks ago I stumbled across the website of an interesting run through the Gap of Dunloe, which immediately caught my interest. I had been planning on running this immensely scenic road for ages, but never seemed to get round to it. One look at the outrageous entry fee put doubts into my mind, but then I figured since I wouldn't have to drive far as it's practically on the way to my weekly shopping trip I would save enough on petrol to justify me taking part.

That's just an excuse, of course. Fact is I really wanted to run there. I didn't care much for the website's claim of this being a heroic feat nor the silly name (Run The Gauntlet), but neither this nor the fact that it was not even three weeks since systematically destroying my legs in Dublin was enough to make me reconsider, and at 9 am this morning I joined well over 100 others shivering at the start line half a mile up from Kate Kearney's Cottage, the tourist trap at the start of the Gap.

Because I was still very much recovering from my mad double marathon autumn I decided not to race this but to treat it as a fun run. To make absolutely sure that I would not be tempted to put everything on the line I took my camera with me, intending to take a few good snaps along the way. Unfortunately the thing died on me even before the start. I could take only one single picture looking towards the first flat bit of road, then I deposited the useless piece of junk back in the car. Since I didn't need my fanny pack without the camera, I left that behind, too. Thus I was kitted out like a normal runner, despite all the best intentions.

The weather forecast had been pretty good for today but unfortunately it was also wrong, and we were soon fighting the wind and rain as much as the relentless climb. I saw two runners in singlets, a good few more, including myself, in t-shirts, and the vast majority in long sleeves. But even taking it easy, the effort of climbing the mountain meant I was never cold. The Gap acts like a funnel, and the headwind was strong enough to have me tuck behind someone's back, feeling slightly guilty. Twice I eventually broke free to offer shelter to my pacer, but both times he could not keep up with me as I closed the gap to the next man in front. Since I was not running full out, I never had any trouble moving up to the next man whenever I wanted more company.

About two miles into the race I saw this stunning view, but with maybe 20 runners on it. This marked the start of the really tough section. Despite thinking I was taking it easy, the one time I checked my Garmin my heart rate was 180, and I decided to avoid looking at it from now on. I was glad I wasn't racing it, though. Just running was tough enough. I even worried about coming down again on the slippery steep road, but that problem was still way ahead in the future.

After close to two miles of that steep climb up the winding road we made it to the top and the first water station. Since there were no bins and I didn't want to litter the area by throwing my cup onto the ground I took a slight detour to stick it up a fence post. This cost me two places, but I made them up again very quickly.

Despite all my hills in training I'm not the strongest of uphill runners but I always make up ground on the downhill sections and I was really coming into my own over the next few miles. Despite still not going all-out I flew past a sizable part of the field. The weather was wild with the wind and the rain getting heavier and I thought that while this were not the worst conditions I had ever run in, they were the worst I had ever raced in. Never mind, the scenery was at least as stunning as on the other side as we descended into Black Valley. Eventually we even came across a few signs of civilization, a church and a couple of farms dotted along the way. Then the road flattened out a bit and we headed towards another tourist trap, Lord Brandon's cottage, where we would turn around.

Since this was an out-and-back course I wondered at what stage I would see the leaders, but it took surprisingly long. I think I was somewhere around the 6 mile mark when the first guy came along, shortly followed by two more. Then there was quite a gap, and then the numbers turned into a small trickle. Despite not racing I started counting, and by the time I was turning around myself I had counted 14 runners, including the leading lady. Here I took another sip of water and rounded the traffic cone that supposedly marked the turnaround point. All that was left was doing it all again.

I took a (probably unnecessary) gel to help me on the way home, but had to carry the empty wrapper in my hand for a couple of miles until I found some place to deposit it without littering. I wished they had provided a few bins. The scenery was still captivating me, it was absolutely stunning, only spoilt by the road we were on. Of course I also saw all the runners behind me making their way and I greeted a few whose faces I recognised and gave short words of encouragement to some who seemed to have a hard time. I also saw a couple of girls whose shirts said that they were from New England and running their first half marathon. What a race to choose as your first, but I was relieved to see them in good shape.

Even without attempting to push my pace I quickly closed the gap to the runner in front of me. This worried me because I still did not want to race, and I certainly did not want to expend all my energy before we even got to the big climb again. But even with my relaxed attitude I caught up and went past, exchanging a few words on the way. I could also see the leading lady not far ahead. She'd had a good gap at the turnaround point, but now appeared tantalisingly close. As much as my male ego stung, I managed to keep the testosterone in check and just kept to my normal effort levels.

The real climb started soon enough, but at least by now the rain had stopped and the wind died down, and the conditions were downright pleasant. The heart rate went through the roof again, but this time I was oblivious to it as I managed to ignore the presence of that little screen on my wrist. I soon heard footsteps behind me, and eventually, just after a big hairpin bend a runner went past me. We exchanged pleasantries; to my statement that he was looking good he praised the virtues of AC/DC coming from his ipod, for which I accused him of “almost cheating”. All jokes exhausted he went past me and disappeared into the distance.

I just kept concentrating on the one meter ahead of me, taking it one step at a time, and after many many steps I finally sensed the summit ahead. I managed another few sips of water as I crested the road and, as one guy cheerily remarked, it was all downhill from now. I wondered if I still had the legs for a decent few miles, but all there was to do was to get on with it. I concentrated on leaning slightly forward and tried to keep a very quick turnover, which was getting difficult with all the fatigue building up in my legs. Soon enough I got to the really steep bit that had worried me during the initial ascend, and again I just tried to keep the turnover as quick as possible and not to break by leaning backwards. This ended in a slightly mad dash down the mountainside, but I managed to keep upright and even better, by the time the road levelled out somewhat I was right behind the leading lady. She kept looking behind her, and I assured her that her gap to the second lady was huge and her position was assured. “That wasn't as bad as I thought” she remarked about the mountain; “easy to say afterwards” was my reply, but since we still had over 2 miles to go we were both a little bit premature, though we both clearly felt that the real work was done. She told me she had run a 10k the day before, but didn't really appreciate my joke that she must be well warmed-up then. At the next steep drop she fell behind, and all I could see was the runner that had caught me on the uphill in front of me. If I had been racing I would definitely have tried to catch up (that doesn't mean I would have managed it), but as it was I was content to keep the effort level as it was. The one time I checked the Garmin I was surprised to see the HR well above 170 and the pace around 6:50. With my still half-destroyed legs I don't think I could have gone much faster anyway, but I just didn't give it that last push that would have brought the effort up to race levels, leaving it at the “comfortably hard” setting.

I wasn't hallucinating when I heard a horse's hoofs behind me; when I looked around I saw a trap very close to the leading lady, but even though I felt them closing in on me, at some stage he must have turned off the road. The final two miles dragged a bit, but the last half mile included a few spectators and their cheers were very welcome after the lonely road behind us. Soon enough the finish was there, and I went across with a final time of 1:39:09 according to my Garmin.

I did raise an eyebrow or two when I checked my average heart rate, because 173 is rather high for a race I didn't, er, race. In retrospect my easy attitude might have helped me; had I pushed the effort too much during the first few miles I would probably have fallen apart on the return leg, quite possible posting a slower time. As it was, I had an absolute blast and enjoyed every single step of the way. Even with the rip-off entry fee I might consider coming back next year if they do it again. But next time I make sure to check the camera's batteries before I leave.

  “Run The Gauntlet” Half Marathon, Gap of Dunloe
   1:39:09, 7:34 pace, HR 173, 14th (I think)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tentative Steps

Coming back from a marathon is always a bit of a struggle and this time it seems to be more of a struggle than usual. I’m pretty sure that whatever struck me after Dublin is still in my system and I’m feeling rather blah most of the time. Running is fine, however. I’m not doing anything but easy effort, and short ones at that, and that’s going ok. But sitting in my chair in the office I can tell something's not quite right. So far I haven’t got any plan of action apart from hoping that it will go away by itself eventually.

The 5 miles on Tuesday were fine, apart from the weather. The weather forecast had been pretty good, but I ended up getting soaked on my way home. It was bad timing more than anything else. When cycling to work an hour later, the weather was perfectly fine.

On Wednesday I had set the alarm for 6:30, in time for 7 miles. When I woke at 6:15 I decided I was much too tired and reset the alarm for 6:45 and 5 miles. This action must have stirred me sufficiently because by 6:30 I was wide awake and decided to go ahead with 7 miles after all. In marked contrast to Tuesday the forecast had been diabolical but I managed to stay dry – shows what they know. The hamstrings felt very tired after only 5 miles, which wasn’t particularly welcome but I got over that.

It’s all rather pedestrian at the moment and yet another 5 mile run was on the cards this morning. The cat showed more sense than me when she refused to walk through the door out into the rain, but once I got going it didn’t bother me at all. All in all I can see some development on the heart rate which went down very quickly after Sunday’s ridiculously high reading, but as long as I feel like crap for the rest of the day it’s difficult to speak of progress.

I’m still undecided about the race on Sunday, apart from the fact that I will definitely not race it. Running it might still be on the cards though, depending how I feel on Sunday morning and what the weather will be like. I even thought about bringing my camera with me, Mike style, which would definitely force me to slow down. With the weather forecast I’d be worried about ruining the camera in the rain, though. I’ll wait and see.
10 Nov
5 miles, 41:05, 8:13 pace, HR 150
11 Nov
7 miles, 56:40, 8:06 pace, HR 156
12 Nov
5 miles, 40:30, 8:06 pace, HR 155

Monday, November 09, 2009

On the Road Again

After what seems like an age without running I hit the road on Sunday morning for the first time, two weeks after the Dublin marathon. And since I hardly ran at all the week before the marathon it’s been a very long absence from my usual haunts.

Having said that, the weather last week had been truly appalling and being tucked into my bed was definitely more appealing. The break saved myself from a thorough soaking each morning, and since I’m still recovering from a cold there is no doubt that the break was required.

I could not wait to lace up the shoes and was as excited as I would have been for Christmas 30 years ago, but after the first quarter mile it became apparent that the effortless gliding over the tarmac that had been playing out in my head would not be happening for some considerable time. The heart rate was sky high despite my best efforts to take it easy, but at least the slight discomfort in my atrophied legs didn’t match the alleged output from my heart.

I have 5 months to get ready for the Ultra. The cardio-vascular fitness will return in no time, but the muscular endurance to run for over 30 miles is something I never had in the first place and will take a tad longer.

In the meantime I have to decide if I should give Sunday’s stroll through the Gap a miss. After willingly parting with a significant amount of money for the outrageously overpriced entry fee I would pay for my absence from said race with a bleeding heart, but the money is gone no matter if I take part or not. I guess it could serve as a test if I am able to swallow my pride and not run all out in a race.

Slightly longer term I have to make a decision what my training should look like. I still have a few weeks to make up my mind. For the time being a few easy miles will suffice, until the legs and the mind are able for some real training.

Running on Sunday was all fine and well, but getting up at 6:45 am this morning came as a bit of a shock to the system. Running through the woods near Ard-na-Sidhe I came across a lady jogging with her three dogs. “You’re up early” she chirpily responded to my “Good Morning”, and even though I was feeling the same, it wasn’t really accurate. It’s just the dark November morning that made it feel like an ungodly hour. A few weeks ago 7:20 am would have appeared much more bright and friendly. I better get used to running through the darkness soon.
8 Nov
4 miles, 33:05, 8:16 pace, HR 165
9 Nov
5 miles, 42:33, 8:30 pace, HR 159

Friday, November 06, 2009


The last entry certainly kept the comments page busy, which is great because otherwise I wouldn’t have anything to say as my training is still non-existent. I got a kick out of Mr Anonymous’ assertion that his advice was “constructive criticism”, but of all things written I liked Scott’s words of “not once have they ever used a confrontational tone to give me the message that I'm not living up to my potential” the most. But thanks to all my fair weather friends out there (which is funny seeing as the weather outside has been nothing short of appalling this week), it’s nice to feel supported.

I never had a problem with most of the actual message; some of you have stated our friend has a point and I’m perfectly happy to agree. I’m not exactly satisfied with my race results this year, I had certainly hoped for more at the start, and I know fully well that others get better results with fewer training miles. What irked me was the tone of the message and the anonymous delivery – oh, and the assertion that I can’t take the pain but like to showboat at the end. That still pisses me off, please excuse the language.

Seeing as I have nothing better to say, I might as well take the opportunity to directly respond to a few things thrown up in all those comments.

Philip, don’t worry, you never called yourself “my number one fan”, but congratulations on your time in Dublin (3:19:14 that's you, isn't it). You certainly left me far in the dust, but the two miles that I managed to hang on to your coat tails were my last decent ones, and they got me two miles closer to the finish.

While I’m still not entirely convinced that I was overtrained rather than simply sick for Dublin, it is definitely a possibility, and the likes of Canute and by7 may be right when they think that I trained too much and couldn’t quite absorb it all. Back in 2007 a friend asked me if I was searching to find my tipping point or was I simply addicted to running. Well, what about a bit of both? I have upped my training basically every year, and my results have improved from year to year as well. This could be attributed to the fact that you always get better for the first few years of running, but my rate of improvement has been fast enough to suggest that the increased training load was having a positive effect – until this year, that is. Had I accepted fours years ago, as a 3:55 marathon runner, that 50 miles per week was my optimum amount I would not have chalked up a 3:05 marathon on the way, not even close. 70, 80, 90, 100 miles have followed, and this year I may finally have gone over the top and reached the point of negative returns, but unless you reach your tipping point you never know where it is. I went into this summer’s training with my eye open and have no regrets. With my lack of injuries I can be reasonably sure that even if I overtrained, then not by much.

Diarmid, I had my iron levels tested last year when I was recovering from pneumonia. They were only just above 13, the lower level for males. My doctor was unconcerned, but my own alarm bells started ringing because I’m of the understanding that endurance athletes have higher iron requirements than your average couch potato. For a while I took some Floradix, which had originally been recommended to Niamh during her pregnancies, and which I can take without side effects. But even though I intended to have my iron levels tested again, for various reasons I didn’t. Having said that, when I feel good running I’m pretty sure my iron levels are fine. Let’s see what happens once I recover from my cold.

With the racing season basically finished (the next races are part of the next build, really) I have to decide how to train next. My main goal is to have a more enjoyable time between miles 30 and 39 in Connemara than in 2007 and 2008, and should that succeed then a better time on the clock will follow automatically. The death march miles in Dublin were a warning of what can happen, except that during an Ultra the pain gets multiplied. I haven’t made any plans yet, but have some vague ideas going through my head. On the one hand I want to run at least a couple of 30-milers in training to get the legs used to some serious mileage, on the other hand I don’t want to overdo things. I’m thinking about using my *ahem* bike for some cross training, and maybe will take some *ahem* swimming lessons during the winter, only for cross training purposes of course, you understand. And before someone starts accusing me of training for a triathlon but running an ultra, I swear I won’t tip my toe into water nor put myself onto a set of wheels competitively before Connemara.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Change of Plan

Since Sunday my cough has gotten progressively worse, I feel rotten every morning, (just not rotten enough to stay home from work) and running is definitely not on the cards. Interestingly, I don’t even miss it at the moment (crikes – I must be seriously ill!), and in the interest of full recovery I took the bike off the trainer and am basically in complete couch potato mode. How long this will last I have no idea, but as long as I keep coughing I’m out of business. At that stage even the half-marathon next week might not happen, not even as a fun run, but I’ll reserve judgement on that for the time being.

The weekend was filled with Halloween and Maia’s Birthday Party, and she is immensely proud of her shiny new trike. Nobody else is even allowed to come close, never mind actually riding it, and the howls of protest can be heard for miles whenever Cian tries to do so.

Canute has mentioned the possibility of me being overtrained. While I’m not entirely convinced, I won’t rule it out. Mark once posted a list of possible symptoms, which I shamelessly lifted off his blog:
  • Slower running times – well, yes, in the marathon
  • Insomnia - somewhat
  • Fatigue - yes
  • Achy joints - yes
  • Lack of motivation - yes
  • Frequent cold or flu – well, twice
  • lack of energy - yes
  • Poor recovery after workouts – can’t tell without workouts
  • Poor concentration - no
  • Headaches - yes
  • General lethargy - yes
  • Chronic injuries that won't heal – no

While that’s a lot of yeses, most of them can be directly attributed to the cold alone. As I’ve said, I’m not entirely convinced, but I will try and err on the side of caution. Any sort of training is ruled out for the time being.

And now for something completely different.

You might know that I’m no great fan of the standard “well done, fantastic” type of comments that are widely dished out on the blogosphere even after really bad races. Even so, I did a double take when reading this comment to my Dublin report:

Its good to hear you are giving up marathon running for a while as you were really living up to your name. This year was your chance to break 3 hours and you failed miserably despite some great training and some good pbs at shorter distances. The way you are able to showboat at the end of your marathons suggests that you are incapable of hurting where it counts - from 13miles onwards-.

I think I would have been ok with this had it been said straight to my face. Leaving an anonymous comment like that really pisses me off, though. I give you a hint, man. Next time you leave a spiteful comment filled with bitchy remarks, keep in mind that anonymous comments can still be traced. All the way back to Cork, in your case.

You know what? I think I prefer the backslapping comments after all.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A Different Spin

I did not intend to spend any more time reflecting on the Dublin marathon but things did not quite work out as planned. We drove home to Kerry on Friday, and it was during that journey that I noticed a chill and a headache creeping up on me. Yesterday we drove to Cork yet again for some more of the smart kids classes and I felt worse, and today, Sunday, I'm feeling a bit worse still. It is an established fact that your immune system is compromised immediately after a marathon, and this autumn it caught me not once but twice.

Looking at the figures I find it quite astounding that my heart rate in Dublin (167) had been higher than in Dingle (165), Boston (164) or Dublin 08 (163), all of which had been significantly faster. Looking through my training log I also had to reconsider my explanation that I simply had not recovered from Dingle. On 4 Oct, only 3 weeks after Dingle, I ran 11.25 miles in training at 6:55 pace with a heart rate of 162. In Dublin, after 3 more weeks of supposed recovery, I averaged 170 bpm at 7:14 pace over the first 11.25 miles, and that course was no more undulating. I'm well aware that race day adrenaline raises the HR, but that difference looks too way too big to me. I hold the cold that I had gotten between those 2 runs responsible for all of this, and maybe I could have run a good race after all had I remained healthy throughout.

I know for a fact that I can run big races in relatively close proximity, because in 2008 I ran the Connemara Ultra in April and the Cork marathon in June, and while the Ultra didn't quite go to plan after pneumonia, the Cork marathon was top notch and remains my second fastest time to date.

Whatever went wrong this time there is more than one factor involved, which makes it difficult to draw any firm conclusions. However, I'd like to draw a line under the whole marathoning thingy for the time being. I hopefully won't feel the pressure to run at speed during Ultras; maybe I can relax a bit more. I might still throw the odd marathon into the schedule if it suits me, but I won't be chasing a sub-3 hours time.

Since recovery from Dublin is by far and away the most pressing thing I have ruled out running for the time being. Instead I hooked my bike on my new indoors trainer an started spinning away for half an hour last evening, and again this morning. I already learned one lesson, namely don't do that less than one hour after dinner. It should have been obvious, but some people need to learn this the hard way, it seems. The kids were really taken by the fact that someone could cycle away without moving from the spot – the idea alone seemed fascinating. And Maia got highly excited by seeing her Daddy on the bike.

I'm supposed to run a race in a fortnight. It's a half marathon through the immensely scenic Gap of Dunloe, and when I saw that on the calendar a few weeks ago I just had to sign up. The timing is not great, coming just three weeks after the marathon, but running in those surroundings is something I cannot possibly resists, just like running around Slea Head or across Connor Pass will always be a major draw. As things stand, I may even do this event without any running in my legs at all. Obviously I won't be looking for a personal best – the elevation profile would not stand for that anyway, but if I can drag my aching carcass through the valley in one piece I'd be happy enough.

But the most important thing at the moment is Maia's impending second birthday. I cannot believe it is already two years ago since we welcomed her to the World. We're having a little part tonight, which she is very much looking forward to. Hopefully I can stay off the sweets.