Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Easter or Connemara

Whenever someone asked where and when my next marathon would be I answered with “Connemara, the week after Easter”, even though in my mind it was the other way round and Easter happened to fall the week before Connemara. Well, the week after Easter has arrived and Connemara is looming right in front of me like the Hell of the West looms in front of the unfortunate runner after 35 unforgiving miles. When I was still awake at midnight last night I asked out loud “why can’t I sleep”, to which Niamh responded “because you’re scared of the Ultra”, which may or may not be true.

The weekend brought some truly wild weather at times, but here in Kerry most mornings tended to be reasonably bright until the next storm front arrived, usually around lunchtime, to keep us indoors for the rest of the day. That’s good enough for me, it enabled me to run in the mornings in reasonable conditions and then wait out the storm sitting snugly on the sofa.

Saturday was easy enough; I headed out towards Ard-na-Sidhe on my standard 5-mile route but kept going a little bit longer until I reached the foot of the steep climb towards the Devil’s Elbow. Here I proceeded to run up for 10-12 seconds at full effort, then turn around and very gently jog down for another go. This was repeated 10 times, though for some reason I cut the last repeat a bit short as my legs seemed about to buckle under the strain. I have been experimenting with several ways of doing hill repeats over the last year, from 10 second sprints to 2 minute efforts, the shorter workouts having the distinct advantage of leaving your legs in decent shape for the next day while apparently still providing a good stimulus on the neuromuscular level, though I have to take their word for that.

On Sunday I inadvertently proved correct the theory that you can run a good effort the day after a set of hill sprints. The weekends have generally seen a fast effort throughout this training cycle, mostly because of the races I did but also a few tempo runs on race-free weekends. I’ve had some very good tempo runs recently (which sadly did not transfer into a good time in Ballycotton – ok, ok, I’ll stop whining about it now), and this one was my last one. Because I’m tapering I did the short version with 2x2 miles at HMP effort. It was quite windy, and when I hit 6:25 pace fighting the headwind I did wonder what I would be able to do on the return. Normally my second effort is slower than the first one but with generous help from Aeolus I was astounded to find myself cruising at an average pace of 6:16, which I would normally think of as my 10K pace, but the HR as well as the effort level were definitely on the aerobic side of things.

I really must be in good shape. All of a sudden I’m running 10-20 seconds per mile faster than ever before. I kind of wonder what time I would be able to run in a marathon right now. Actually, what am I talking about! Truth is, I truly believe that I am in sub-3 shape right here and now, but I’m not going to cancel Connemara. The marathon will have to wait, but it was the ultra training for Connemara that got me to this point. If I have one regret then it is that the race was not on that very Sunday – I felt incredibly good and as race ready as I’m ever going to be.

Since I know that I’m only jeopardising my race performance by running much this week I did an hour on the cycle trainer yesterday instead. The weather was wild with very heavy rain and 60 kph wind, which made the indoor option look much more attractive. And this morning I drove to the pool in Killarney. It might not be what the coaches would recommend, but I did 750 meters without rest to see if I’m able to manage that distance without drowning. I’m more than happy to report that I survived and covered the 30 laps in 17 minutes, a time I am more than happy with. It’s much faster that I thought I would do, and since this was not a race effort there’s still some improvement left for Valentia, though obviously I am aware that comparisons between a swim in the pool and the open water will always be fraught. But I now know that I’ll be fine in that race, and that was the entire point of the exercise.

But let’s get that Ultra out of the way first!
3 Apr
6 miles, 49:14, 8:12 pace, HR 144
incl. 10x10-12 hill sprints
4 Apr
8 miles, 54:23, 6:47 pace, HR 159
incl. 2x2 miles @ 6:25 (HR 163), 6:19 (167)
5 Apr
60+ minutes indoor cycling
6 Apr
50 minutes swimming


  1. It sounds as if you are in great shape. I do not think Niamh’s answer to your midnight question was quite correct. It is more likely to be excitement coloured by a tinge of uncertainty, rather than fear. I think that is a good mental state to be in at this stage – provided you do relax well enough to get some sleep. Good luck.

  2. Looking forward to Connemara myself, for me a great unknown - maybe that's why my sleep isn't interrupted, like a lamb to the slaughter.

    Not bad swimming for a so called novice - 17 minutes in the pool will give you 15 in the sea & even less at race pace. Looking good for your first dip. I haven't timed my swims since last year but 30 minutes for 1,500m was pretty standard for me in the pool - yet I managed 23/24 minutes in races.

  3. You're in great shape Thomas. I'm wishing now I hadn't put that $10 on Grellan for the "win". You could always try and split the first 26 miles in 3 hours ;)

  4. I'm always amazed at how perceptive our better half's can be. Nothing like a little fear to keep you on your toes and off your feet. Good luck this weekend!