Friday, February 26, 2010

The Ultra Before Breakfast

I just realised that I can receive the wireless Internet signal here in the doghouse where I have been sleeping ever since Niamh read my previous entry. Just kidding of course, one of the many benefits of being married to the best wife of all is that I can get away with stuff like that. Unless she’s really clever about it and tries to lull me into a false sense of security…

Anyway, unlike last time I have actually done some running that is worth mentioning. On Wednesday morning I was awake at 2:30, listening to the rain outside, having visions of a truly miserable slog through the forbidden darkness in the freezing rain for several hours. Luck was on my side, it stopped raining at about 3 o’clock, and at 3:14 I got up, a minute before the alarm would have sounded, and in the process broke my first record of the day, namely that for the earliest rise for the sake of a run.

When I wrote the outline of my training several weeks ago, I concentrated mostly on the long runs. When I pencilled in 30 for this week, I definitely thought I might move that to the weekend, because nobody in their right mind would get up in time for a run like this during the week before a normal 8-hour workday. As it turns out, a right mind doesn’t come into it when I’m around and just after 3:30 I opened the door and off I went.

I did not fear the distance, but I was definitely worried about my quads, which had not stopped sending signals since the Bantry race, 10 days ago. As a result, I started out very slowly. I first checked my Garmin when I reached the streetlights in Killorglin, over 4 miles later, and saw the average pace at 8:27. That would do nicely. I had expected to find a totally quiet town and was rather surprised when two cars slowly passed me on the main road. They then turned into the (empty) petrol station, and one of the drivers got out and started shouting and hollering after me. That wasn’t particularly pleasant, the fella sure did not sound particularly sober, and I was relieved when I turned off the main road on my way back to Caragh Lake and a minute later heard the cars continue straight on that junction, bringing peace and quite back into my little bubble once more.

Just before the 10 mile mark I was back home, took a gel and some water and headed out again on the same loop for a second time. It was still completely dark, and still before 5 o’clock. I increased the pace by a notch, and a check in Killorglin, now at the halfway point of both my run and that loop, revealed that the pace for that loop had gone down to 8:16. Again, I encountered a car on the main road, but thankfully without incident this time. There were also one or two cars on the Caragh Lake road on the way home. I took a muesli bar at mile 15 and another gel just as I got back home (gels during a long being explicitly allowed during my otherwise no-sugar pledge).

Almost 20 miles down I took stock. I felt ok, the quads were definitely behaving and my energy levels were good. The balls of my right foot sent out a few pain messages, but nothing severe. I was good to go out again.

The original plan was to do a third loop into Killorglin, but I changed my mind. A short loop meant I could return home sooner if I got into trouble. And today I really treasured being out there on my own; I knew I would encounter a few cars on the road to Killorglin if I ran that way again and I chose a different loop that would be quieter. Plus, the 3 miles out-and-back section was easier to handle mentally as the next turnaround point was never far away. As I was nearing 23 miles I realised that my pace had deteriorated again, I was merely trudging along at 8:30 pace and since I did not have to safe myself for anything and had found some confidence in my quads I increased the pace, dipping below 8:00 for the first time today. That loop went very well, and I did not hesitate in heading out for one final time. I passed the imaginary marathon distance marker in about 3:38, still feeling good, but over the next mile or two I did notice some fatigue; the sub-8 pace was definitely a lot tougher than jogging at 30 seconds per mile slower, but I kept it going until the end. The energy levels were still good and I decided not to eat the second bar that I had carried around me for several hours.

With a quarter mile to go, the balls of my right foot started burning like hell. It was really painful and I was very grateful to be almost done. My theory is that the pain signals had been there all along but my brain had filtered them out until it knew I was almost done.

I reached our driveway after 4 hours and 8 minutes, having completed my longest training run ever, feeling rather proud of myself, to be honest. Each loop had been faster than the previous one, which was very good. If it had not been for the pain in my foot, I would have felt perfectly ready to do 9 more miles, which is excellent news for Connemara.

Cycling to work was fine for the first 4.5 miles, but I had to stop for traffic before crossing the main road and when I stepped back onto the bike, my left calf started cramping. Not too severe, but it served as a reminder that you can’t run for 30 miles and think you can get away without repercussions.

After that excursion, Thursday was always going to be a rest day, which I used to visit the pool again for a 45 minutes swim session. For obvious reasons I chose not to do any kicking drills. Sorry, coach.

I was back out on the road again today, Friday, for 6 very easy miles. The legs are definitely stiff and tired, even though they had felt perfectly fine since the long run, apart form that one cramp. Unsurprisingly I don’t have high expectations for tomorrow’s race. Maybe the rational thing would be to skip it, but it’s the final race of the series and I need one more result to make it into the final standings. I have no intentions of missing out on that one. If I have to, I’ll jog around the course.
24 Feb
30 miles, 4:08:24, 8:17 pace, HR 138
(9.7 miles @ 8:30, 9.7 miles @ 8:17,
6 miles @ 8:12, 4.6 miles @7:56)
25 Feb
45 minutes swimming
26 Feb
6.1 miles, 51:35, 8:27 pace, HR 137


  1. It's not the 30 miles before breakfast that convinces me you're nuts it's the fact that you cycled to work afterwards! Here's a challenge for you...... "An ironman before lunch"!!!
    Well done though. B

  2. I'm nearly flabbergasted! Your sugar depletion has totally deranged your mind. Up at 3am for a run? And racing this weekend too? If it doesn't break...

  3. Wow! Yes running 30 miles is impressive but getting up at to do it is ' insane in the membrane'
    You show all the qualities needed to be a world champion at ultra racing, no really very impressive training.
    i look forward to reading about your epic adventures in the future, have you thought about the 3,000 mile race across America :]Hope the 5 K goes well and you get a 17 something!

  4. Epic run Thomas. 10 miles before 5 am is is......i'm lost for words. I'm surprised Niamh had no choice comments. Then again it's lent.

    Occupattional hazard bumping into drunks in the early morning.

  5. Excellent run Thomas. Running at 3.30am is getting you ready for the whw race which starts at 1am.

    When I was training for the Hardmoors last year I did a 60mile training run from 3pm Sunday afternoon to 6am Monday morning and then went to work!!

    It's amazing what you can do when you want to.


  6. It would have been a better story if you'd left out the "just kidding" bit ;)

    Nice 30 miler (I'd love a 3:38 marathon), but you failed to mention how many times you nodded off at work that day.

    I'll take a guess at 18:22 for the 5k.

  7. Extremely impressive Thomas! And it is always nice to quote to my wife people who do much more mileage than me! It helps disavow her of the impression that I am a complete lunatic.

  8. Fair play Thomas. You are a lunatic.....but your dedication is inspiring.