Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Taking Stock

4 days to go. Less than 4 days to go, actually. It’s getting close.

I’m in the third week of my taper. After finishing the training with two 90-mile weeks, I ran under 50 miles during my first taper week and under 40 during the next one. This week will see hardly any mileage before the race. In theory, I should be well rested, recovered and fresh by now. Am I?

Am I f***! My right achilles, which has been acting up at times, is sending a few dodgy signals. However, my right knee feels worse. I can’t put any weight on it when kneeling down, and when I flex and straighten it, it responds with a very noticeable and ever so slightly disconcerting plop. I seem to have overcome the worst of the allergy attack from 2 weeks ago, but I still have some scars from that incident and now the skin on my hands has started peeling, which may or may not be related to that incident. I have measured my resting HR 3 times over the last 10 days. Before my allergy, it had been 41. Last week it was 46, at the beginning of this week it was 46 again and this morning it was 49!

This isn’t quite the standard taper-induced phantom pain, but I’m still hopeful it won’t impact on my race. My knee, which stared acting up Saturday evening, seems to be on the mend and kneeling down is not required during a 50 miler anyway. My heart rate is a bit more worrying, but since I expect the most limiting factor to be muscle breakdown rather than cardiovascular limitations, it may not be factor. When running, the knee is mostly fine but the achilles feels slightly worse, but I’m still hopeful this will all just magically disappear between now and then.

Monday was another rest day and today called for merely 6 miles, albeit with 3 at half-marathon effort. This seems a bit aggressive, 4 days before an ultra, but I’m working under the assumption that whoever created the schedule knows more about ultra running than I do and I followed it to the letter. Apparently the taper seems to have had some positive effect as I ran the 3 miles at 6:22 pace, but the last mile was slightly downhill and gave me a few seconds that way. To be honest I was not bothered about the pace at all, a tempo run at this stage does not seem to have much in common with Saturday’s race.

Only two days ago the various weather forecast websites could not have been more different in the prediction, but they seem to have converged. The met office is predicting widespread rain for Saturday and both wunderground and metcheck are not far off that forecast, at least for the morning. In marked contrast to last year it looks like we won’t have to worry about unseasonably high temperatures this time round, to put a positive spin on that. Then again, experience shows that with 4 days to go, these things are still very much open to change.

31 Aug
6+ miles, 42:48, 7:04 pace, HR 157
incl. 3+ miles @ 6:22 pace

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Final Week

I think this is the worst part of training. With only 6 days to go, I’m bouncing off the walls, having too much time and energy on my hands without knowing what to do with it. Sitting around and waiting for time to pass is not in my nature. Somehow I have to manage to get through this week without going nuts, and without driving Niamh mad.

Since I’m well into my taper, there was not much running going on. 5 slow and easy miles on Wednesday were followed by 7 miles on Thursday, which included 3 miles at marathon effort. That felt remarkably easy. I fell into a pace that felt right, but 7:05 pace is almost certainly a bit faster than my true present marathon pace. It’s the pace I set during my PB almost 2 years ago and I’m definitely not in the same kind of marathon shape, with the lack of speed work.

Friday was yet another rest day but brought a major boost to my spirits when Niamh and the family returned from Valentia, ending my lonely existence here in Caragh Lake. I don’t think I have ever been so happy to see them.

Over the past few weeks I did most of my training during the weekend, but with only one week to go not even that is the case any more. The schedule called for 90 minutes on Saturday, which I used for a last run on the Kerry Way. One of my targets for this training was to get as much climbing into my legs as possible and since the trails have a lot more climbs in them than the roads, that’s where I ended up for much of the miles. I ran a decent effort and reached the top of Windy Gap in 47 minutes, a good bit faster than usual. I turned around there, but the return leg only took slightly over 42 minutes, leaving me just short of the 90 minutes.

Since it was a nice weekend I spent the rest of the day gardening. Maybe complete rest would have been more beneficial for Dingle, but I really don’t think Niamh would have accepted that excuse. There was much to do, and I’m hardly going to do it next week.

Today was even easier with an easy 60-minutes jog, which I extended by a small margin, running 8 miles along Caragh Lake. The sun was shining when I left, but the strong wind brought up some dark rain clouds out of nowhere, leaving me soaked. It was bright and sunny again by the time I got back home. More gardening followed, and thankfully I more or less managed to finish it all.

The blackberries are spectacular this year, both in quantity as well as quality. We have enough for a big amount of jam, we have been eating them for desert most days as well as stuffing them into our mouths whenever we felt like it, and I’m presently experimenting making blackberry sorbet. With a little bit of luck it will come out as good as it sounds. As much as I hate those thorny plants for the rest of the year, around this time all is forgiven. But I guess I better not stop my race in Dingle for picking berries along the way, tempting as it may be.

25 Aug
5 miles, 43:33, 8:42 pace, HR 138
26 Aug
7 miles, 52:38, 7:31 pace, HR 153
incl. 3 miles @ 7:05
28 Aug
10.7 miles, 1:29:23, 8:21 pace, HR 159
much of it off-road up to Windy Gap
29 Aug
8 miles, 1:04:36, 8:04 pace, HR 146

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Niamh Was Right

Moving back to Caragh Lake was definitely the right thing to do. Within 24 hours of leaving Valentia I noticed that the angry red markings on my body were receding quickly. I stopped looking like a lobster in boiling water and slowly started to take on a more human touch. The nights are still rough; while the worst of the itch has gone, it is still there. I had troubles falling asleep on Sunday because every time I was about to drift off I was jerking awake with yet another itch somewhere on my body. When I finally managed to sleep, I kept waking again and again. Last night was similar, but slightly better. But things are clearly improving.

I didn’t even think of running on Monday, but this morning I went out for 7 quick miles in the morning. With 11 days to go, this was my last strenuous training run. I knew that the long runs for the ultra would destroy my leg speed, but just how much that happened has left me slightly shell shocked. I really struggled to keep the pace below 7-minute miles. Not so long ago, that was my planned marathon pace, even though I never quite managed to keep it going for the entire 26 miles. Now this is basically a half-marathon effort.

For Connemara, I had to hold myself back to run 8-minute miles at the start and I managed to average that for the entire 39 miles. Now this feels unreasonably fast. After crossing the line in Connemara in 5:15, I thought that I could easily have managed another 11 miles in 2 hours, which would have given me a 50-mile time of 7:15. Right now, on the other hand, I would be delighted with a time of 7:30 for Dingle.

Should I have fewer really long runs for Dingle, and done more of a marathon-style training cycle like I did for Connemara? Or are these just the usual taper-induced doubts?

Of course it’s too late to change anything now. All I can do is get rid of the remnants of the allergy, stay healthy for another 10 days, and show up at the start line well rested. I should be able to do that.
24 Aug
7 miles, 48:08, 6:53 pace, HR 167

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Still Itching

Good God! I do not wish an allergy like this on my worst enemy! I’ve been itching like mad since Tuesday, and 5 days later it’s still almost unbearable. By Thursday I felt a bit better but looked worse as the rash had now spread literally all over my body, including a few angry looking marks on my face, which did get me some attention at the office. Those marks have died down somewhat, but the itch remains, and the antihistamines seem to have stopped working.

I still don’t know what caused it; Niamh’s mum said she sprayed some starch over the bedclothes while ironing them, which could be the problem, but there’s no way of telling for sure if that’s the case. I have slept in a different bedroom the last few nights, but in order to recover I reluctantly took Niamh’s advice and returned home to Caragh Lake today (Sunday), where I’ll spend a lonely week on my own while the rest of the family are on their holidays. When I went back into the offending room to pack my suitcase, I could sense my entire body starting to tingle. That may or may not be a purely psychological reaction, but it shows that I really had to get out of that place.

I have slept almost 10 hours per day over the last 3 days. On Thursday and Friday I went to bed immediately after returning from work and was asleep within seconds, staying like that for a couple of hours. Normally that would mean I would be unable to sleep at night, but not so this time; I slept solidly until 7:30 on both occasions.

That meant no running on Friday, but in all honesty I was not feeling up to it anyway. My feet are also slightly but noticeably swollen, which had me a bit worried about my weekend runs. It might be taper time, but there’s still a bit of running to do.

For Saturday I decided to drive the car to the little car park at the foot of Bray Head and run up to the tower and back again. That way I would never be more than 10 minutes away from the car in case my foot, or anything else, got me into trouble. The road featured climbing a bit over 400 feet on a bit more than a mile on a dirt road, and then the same in return. The first out-and-back took a couple minutes more than 20 minutes, and I figured I would end up doing 5. However, I managed to speed up with every loop, and by the end of the fifth I was still well under 2 hours, so I did a sixth one. Since my singlet felt really uncomfortable rubbing against my raw skin, I took it off. It may have looked horrid and God knows what the few other people thought, seeing a topless runner (bar a HR strap), covered in red bruises running up and down that mountain, but that’s not my problem. The main thing for me was that the run went well and I felt good. I still slept for 3 more hours immediately after coming home.

Emboldened by that good run I did the Valentia loop on Sunday, basically following the cycling section of the Valentia Triathlon, but going the other way round and from a slightly offset starting point. Again I took off my top after a couple of miles because it was really uncomfortable, but running under the warm sun without water made that a good choice anyway, apart from the way I looked. I had forgotten about the relentless 400 feet climb towards Gheogean, but I survived. The loop was only a tad longer than 11 miles, just over 18 km, confirming that the triathlon's cycle leg had been a bit short, and I added a good bit at the end, again to get over 2 hours. Since all my long runs had been at such a slow pace, I ran a bit faster today, but was surprised just how tough sub-8 pace felt. This used to be my cruising pace not so long ago, today I had to work hard for it, albeit on rather tired legs and not feeling particularly well.

With the ultra less than 2 weeks away, the mileage is declining rapidly. I’d love to feel good about recovering from the heavy mileage of the last few weeks, but feeling good is not on the agenda at the moment. But safely back home in Caragh Lake, I’m optimistic I’ll be back to normal in a short while.
21 Aug
14.22 miles, 2:08:18, 9:01 pace, HR 152
22 Aug
15.54 miles, 2:00:14, 7:44 pace, HR 160

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Incredible Itch

Wow. That was quick. Three days ago I was a highly trained ultra runner in the best shape of his life, eagerly anticipating the next challenge. Today I’m a pathetically moaning shivering wreck.

Niamh moved to Valentia on Monday and I followed suit on Tuesday. Having a holiday house just 45 minutes drive from home is certainly an unusual setup, but that’s the way things are with us. It means that everyone else is in holiday mood while I have to commute from Valentia to Killorglin on a daily basis, but I can live with that.

However, just a couple of hours into the first night I woke up with incredibly itchy neck and shoulders. It got worse and worse as the night progressed, and the next morning I detected a few red blotches on my skin. I suspected an allergic reaction to the washing powder, so I brought our usual stuff back down in the evening and immediately washed all the bedclothes. Since I regularly suffer from hay fever, I always have some anti-histamines handy, but after a couple of hours it became clear that the Claritin had no effect whatsoever, but luckily Piriton does provide some relief from the itching. However, it also makes me drowsy and feeling cold.

Soon into the second night it became abundantly clear that washing the bedclothes had not done anything for me, and for the rest of the night I slept in little Maia’s bed, where there was just about enough room for me and where I could get a few hours of sleep. At least it proved that the problem was related to the bed in the front room.

However, today I’m covered in red spots, on my hands, face, neck, back, shoulder, … and I can even feel a few bumps on the inside of my mouth. However, only the neck, shoulders and hands are really itchy, the rest is just looking really bad but not bothering me otherwise. I’ll bring my own pillow and duvet from Caragh Lake tonight, and if that does not solve the problem I will have to stay at home on my own next week. Oh, and if I’m still as itchy as now (it is unbelievable, honestly, you have no idea!), I’ll get a doctor’s appointment.

The running is almost coincidental that way. I still felt pretty good yesterday morning and did a set of 3x2 miles at half marathon effort, on the totally flat Valentia shore road, which went pretty well. Today, however, my legs felt swollen (they probably are) and the thighs were rubbing together, not a particularly pleasant feeling. I had hoped the running would release the body’s endorphins and take away the pain for a while, but that was only partially true. My neck and shoulders felt indeed better temporarily, but the uncomfortable feeling in the legs made up for that.

After running to the point of exhaustion on a couple occasions the last few weeks, I thought I would be able to take a fair amount of pain. Apparently I was wrong. This really is unbearable!
17 Aug
5 miles, 42:26, 8:29 pace, HR 133
18 Aug
9 miles, 1:04:37, 7:10 pace, HR 153
  incl. 3x2 miles @ 6:37, 6:41, 6:41
19 Aug
5.7 miles, 49:16, 8:39 pace, HR 139

Monday, August 16, 2010

Another Tasty Sandwich

Even though I had to switch my long runs to the weekend, I still try to minimize the impact on family life. It might mean getting up at 6 am on a Saturday like last week, or it might meant getting creative when it comes to a workout.

Niamh wanted to go to Valentia on Saturday to spend the day with her parents and sister (and baby niece!) but was worried about me running all day when she would have to mind the kids. My suggested solution was for me to run to Valentia as my workout, which was accepted, though I had to promise not to arrive in Valentia before 2 o’clock. This one was easy. One lie-in later, I left Caragh Lake at 9:30 in the morning, the unloved back-bag strapped on to my back because the next 5 hours would have to be self-supported.

I estimated it would take a bit less than 5 hours to get there, so I took the scenic route with an extra mountain pass crossing at Windy Gap. That’s the same route I ran 4 weeks ago on another long run, but then I had turned around to get back home; this time I would just carry on. The weather left room for improvement, it was a dull, drizzly day with low clouds and low visibility, but considering I had to carry all my water with me, a hot day would have been a problem, so I guess I had no reason to complain.

Having gotten comfortable with the slow Ultra runners’ shuffle over the last few weeks, I noticed straight away that I was much slower than 4 weeks ago, from the very start. Back then I had started with an 8-minute mile, this time I was already 90 seconds slower at that early point and that pattern would continue. Still, I was astounded to check my watch when I reached last month’s turnaround point. Back then it had taken me 2 hours 18 to get there, today I was a whopping 24 minutes slower, over a distance of less than 15 miles (most of it off-road with 2 mountain passes along the way). I continued on; that part happened to be the worst as far as footing was concerned. The muddy, boggy section made running impossible for about a mile, and of course my feet got thoroughly wet. Eventually the surface improved again, and I was sorry to come out of the woods and back on the road, which felt incredibly hard and unforgiving after all those miles on dirt roads.

At that point I made a major cock-up; I had neglected to study the map in detail beforehand, even though I knew how badly the Kerry Way is signposted at times. They basically assume that either you know the way already or that you have a map handy at all times, neither of which applied to me, and I promptly missed the next turn. I could see Caherciveen a few miles in the distance but became concerned when the road headed back into the mountains. Eventually it dawned on me that I had not seen a signpost for at least 2 miles and decided to find my own way. A right turn down a tiny boreen was a sign of desperation because they tend to end in the middle of nowhere and I was quite likely to get stuck. I came across a herd of cows and almost caused a stampede (how on earth can those massive creatures be afraid of one single puny human?), managed to cross a river by wading through the water and was more than relieved to stumble across a road that led into exactly the right direction. Following that road, I must have crossed the Kerry Way twice, once the main section and once more the Caherciveen spur, but I did not see one single signpost for the entire way. Eventually I ended up on the N70, the main Ring of Kerry road, which luckily was not too busy at the time. A massive bonus came along half an hour later in the form of Niamh and the kids, making their own way to Valentia. This enabled me to get rid of my now empty bag. As the water bladder had gotten emptier and emptier, the bag had started bouncing more and more and the shoulder strap was rubbing against my neck, which was getting rather sore. Now, well over 4 hours into the run, I was more than glad to continue with just a handheld water bottle.

I made my way into Caherciveen and on towards Reenard, where I caught the ferry to the island. After covering so much distance on foot it felt weird to use a mechanical vehicle for the passage, but as far a swimming to the island is concerned, for me that’s very much a case of been there, done that, no need to do it again.

I was still 15 minutes short of 5 hours (not counting the 5 minutes on the ferry of course) so I did an extra lap through Knightstown before making my way home. The kids intercepted me and raced me to the finish, where I came last of course. I was happy to be done, but when I took off my Garmin I realised that I had covered 29.9 miles, so I put my shoes back on again and did an extra minute (the in-laws were about to have me certified at that point), just to come up with a round number.

Believe it or not, I felt great with no soreness, neither in the muscles nor the previously troublesome achilles.

We were back in Caragh Lake for Sunday and the contrast to Saturday was extreme, with a very warm, sunny day. Niamh thought the universe was playing a trick on me with those conditions for my last long run, but I was glad to be running in sunshine for a change. I started with a loop around Caragh Lake and after topping up my water bottle added an out-and-back section, along the Kerry Way again. I got very tired after about 13 miles and was highly tempted to call it a day after the first loop, but really did not want to chicken out of my very last long run. That first loop had been considerably faster then yesterday, about 8:40 pace; not exactly lightning fast but considerably faster than most of the really long runs. I paid for this pace with very tired legs, but decided that a climb up to the Kerry Way would provide the best training effect. After all, running on tired legs is the entire point of these weekend runs.

At one stage on the trail I passed a group of 4 horse riders, and the lady at the end of the group shouted a warning to the rest of her friends “watch out, jogger coming through!” This made me laugh out loud, after running 50 miles in the last 24 hours I did not classify myself as a jogger at that point, but I don’t think arguing that point with the lady would have led anywhere.

I seemed to revive on that stretch and I came home after running slightly more than a marathon, 4 sunny hours later with a topped-up tan but quite dehydrated and gasping for water. Nevertheless, the main training for Dingle had been completed successfully, and now it’s tapering time. Monday was a rest day (now that’s tapering!), and the race is only 19 days away!

Saturday: 3 gels, 1 granola bar, 1 Amino: ~530 calories
Sunday: 2 gels, 1 bar, 1 Amino: ~450 calories

Weekend Mileage: 56+
Weekly Mileage: ~85
14 Aug
30 miles, 5:01:27, 10:03 pace, HR 138
15 Aug
26.83 miles, 4:00:06, 8:57 pace, HR 141

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Puck Fair

Considering how much I ran over the weekend, I felt amazingly good this week. There was no muscle soreness to speak of; even the quads seemed in perfect condition. My one problem was my right achilles, which was really sore Monday evening. When I started moaning about it, Niamh cut me short, stating that she would be surprised if I had no troubles after all those miles. Maybe she knows more about running than me, because I was indeed surprised. Of course, this is the same achilles that had acted up a few weeks ago, but I thought I was over that as there had been no beep from it since.

Anyway, I iced it on Monday and resolved not to go running if it was still as sore Tuesday morning. Immediately after getting up it felt perfectly fine so I put on my gear, including an ankle wrap just to be on the safe side, and went out for a very easy 5-miler. The soreness was almost completely gone for the rest of the day and I thought I’d cracked it.

Imagine my surprise when it felt worse again on Wednesday, after another easy run, this time over 8 miles, but it was still nowhere near as bad as on Monday. Stubborn (read stupid) as I am, it didn’t stop me from doing my one faster session this week on Thursday, 10 miles with 2x3.5 miles at HMP. This went reasonably well. If I were training for a marathon I would be a bit unhappy about paces of 6:44 and 6:47, but I’m training for an ultra instead and I’m fine with that.

That tempo run brought me into Killorglin, which even at 7 o’clock was much busier than usual. There were several traders already putting up their stands for the last day of Puck Fair and I passed King Puck the 467th, looking very content and relaxed 3 stories up. We have already done our thing there, bringing the kids to the Fun Fair on Tuesday evening. With 4 children, each ride costing a minimum of 2 Euro each and lasting for maybe 2 minutes, the money was flying out of our wallets, unbelievable. There is always a great buzz in town when Puck is on and it puts Killorglin on the map, but the downside can be seen as well with people lying in the gutter passed out from drink on a regular basis. Allegedly it is the festival in Ireland where the most Guinness per head is consumed, though I cannot vouch for the accuracy of that statement (looking around, it sounds believable, alright). Obviously that kind of stuff isn’t compatible with training and I tend to stay away as the evening progresses.

There is just one more big weekend in store, then it’s already tapering time. I can’t believe Dingle is only 3 weeks away! I’m confident I’m in shape and I have trust in my training; bring it on.
10 Aug
5 miles, 44:06, 8:47 pace, HR 128
11 Aug
8 miles, 1:06:36, 8:20 pace, HR 133
12 Aug
10 miles, 1:11:29, 7:09 pace, HR 154
incl. 2x3.5 miles @ 6:44, 6:47

Monday, August 09, 2010

Eating Up The Miles

I had been nervously anticipating this weekend ever since I pinned the training schedule onto my wardrobe. 9 hours of running over 2 days – now that, finally, is Ultra training!

It was that training session that made me switch my long runs from early mornings (very early mornings!) to the weekend. It’s just not feasible to run that much before work and still expect to function; the sleep deprivation alone would knock me out, never mind the miles.

Still, since my presence was required in the house from lunchtime, I got up as soon as I woke at 6 am, had some breakfast, waited a bit to let it settle and was out of the house by 7 o’clock. It was a miserable drizzly grey morning but by concentrating purely on running I managed to tune out the drab conditions.

I started by doing an extended 16.5 miles loop around Caragh Lake, which would enable me to resupply at that point. I don’t like running with a rucksack and a handheld bottle was all I needed. Tucked into my fancy new ultra runner shorts were a granola bar, 2 gels and a flask of water mixed with a teaspoon of chia seeds. The idea for those were obviously gleaned from that one ubiquitous book about ultra running that everybody seems to have read, though I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to resist the temptation of barefoot running. I have used those seeds before, but only pre-run to stock up on carbs before a long run, never on the run itself. As it turned out over the next couple of hours, not only are those seeds pretty awful to swallow (it’s what I expect swallowing a handful of tadpoles would be like), my stomach revolted and let me know how unhappy he was. That’s why you try out things during training runs, of course - one more thing I can chalk off the list for Dingle. Say, anyone want to take an unwanted bag of seeds off my hands?

The stomach eventually settled when I ate my bar; during my marathon days I would never even have contemplated eating solid food on the run, but the right food at the right time works very well at the slower ultra paces. After completing the first loop I did a smaller loop around the Devils’ Elbow, going the opposite direction of my first loop for a few miles and including a wickedly steep climb up to the ridge, where I was pleased to find that my legs were in very good shape. They had started sending worrisome signals between miles 13 and 16, but once my stomach had settled the legs seemed to follow suit and I recovered very well. At one stage the pace had dropped to about 9:15 or so, but I recovered and by the time 4 hours were up I had covered just over 26.5 miles, and the gels came back home, untouched.

I slept a bit longer on Sunday, but apart from that my morning started in the same fashion and I was out of the house at 7:40. In marked contrast to the day before the sun was shining and it looked like a marvellous day, which helped the spirit. I guessed I could do with every bit of support, because today would not be easy. The legs felt not exactly sprightly, but considering I had run more than a marathon the day before, they were in excellent condition.

I started with the same loop as on Saturday, but running a bit slower. As recently as four weeks ago it would have been unthinkable to run as slow as 9-minute miles but I got into that habit very quickly; you don’t have a choice once the back-to-back runs start in earnest. After crossing Blackstones Bridge about halfway through the loop and making my way along the lake shore towards home I started getting tired; especially the hips seemed to suffer, but at that point I concentrated purely on finishing that loop and didn’t think about even one step beyond that point. I had originally planned to just refill my water bottle, but I ended up going back home, changing my top, using the toilet and eating a banana. I thought it was a very short break but according to the Garmin it took almost 10 minutes, which surprised me. It shows how quickly time can pass and in a race situation you would not want to spend that much time idling around.

Anyway, as soon as I was ready I was out of the door again. The banana was another thing to try in training. I’ve heard that they will be offered at aid stations in Dingle and had to test it out in training. Thankfully it turned out to be much more agreeable than the seeds from yesterday.

I had planned to do a double loop around the lake for a long time, basically from the moment I signed up for the ultra. Since then I have done countless single loops, and each time I had shivered at the thought of doing it again on tired legs. Now it was time to do it for real. Since the first 16.5 miles had taken me 2:35, I ran a shorter version for my second go, only 15 miles but it included the wicked climb from yesterday. Then again, while exhaustion was slowly creeping into all systems, I knew I would be able to finish without much hassle. On the long downhill from the highest point both of my shins started to hurt quite badly and I was grimacing as I went along. A flatter loop would have been easier; on the uphills I was hurting from sheer exhaustion, on the downhills I was hurting from the shins, but on the flat parts I was moving along steadily, fairly slow but constantly making progress. I passed the marathon mark a few minutes after 4 hours and rewarded myself with a celebratory carbohydrate gel. Oh the joy!

I was exhausted, but as I ran along the lake I remembered that I had felt tired at the same location yesterday, then more so at the same point on my first loop, so of course I was knackered now. It was hard work to keep going on tired legs, but I was perfectly aware that this was pretty much the point of the entire weekend.

Actually, much of the run was done on autopilot as my conscious self switched off completely and the final miles passed almost by default. I made my way home fro a second time, did one loop around the house to make up the full 5 hoursin celebration, and stopped after well over 31 miles, about 51 km. My first ever back-to-back marathons (plus bonus miles) were done.

Surprisingly I was alive enough to do 90 minutes of gardening work later on, but called it a day before collapsing. I didn’t do any running on Monday morning and the legs, while stiff, are in reasonable condition. Cycling the 5 miles to work was surprisingly easy but after sitting at my desk for an hour or two my right achilles started acting up and was very sore for the rest of the day. I’ll have to see how this develops. Apart from that one twinge I feel perfectly fine, but somehow I don’t think the speed workouts are going to happen this week.

By the way, if you think of ultra running as a means to control your weight, think again. Both on Saturday and Sunday, for the rest of the day I kept eating anything in sight, and I was not picky. Carbs, proteins, fat, they all ended in my stomach. The only edible thing I managed to resist were the remains of Maia’s half-eaten apple from a few hours earlier, but only just.

Weekly Mileage: 92.3
Weekend Mileage: 58.27

Saturday: 1 tsp chia seeds, 1 bar, 1 Amino: ~ 275 calories
Sunday: 2 gels, 1 banana, 2 Amino: ~ 550 calories

7 Aug
26.59 miles, 4:01:19, 9:05 pace, HR 136
8 Aug
31.68 miles, 5:00:04, 9:28 pace, HR 133

Friday, August 06, 2010

Midweek Training

On Tuesday I woke up feeling really tired and highly tempted to bin the workout but got up anyway, after which I finally bothered to actually check the time. It was 4:20 am - time to get back. History repeated itself exactly one hour later, with the one difference that this time I checked the time before getting up. When it was finally time to get up for real at 6:15 I felt really happy about having had 2 lie-ins already this morning.

Last weekend had been an easy one with “only” 5.5 hours of running so I was fresh enough for a bit of speedwork during the week. I started with 6 mile repeats at about 10-mile race pace, which according to some calculators out there is now as slow as 6:35, so that was my target. It seemed achievable enough but when I struggled to get even to 8-minute pace during the 2 warm-up miles, doubts started creeping in. Anyway, I run these by feel rather than the watch, which is easily achievable because I start wheezing as soon as I go over the threshold and immediately know to hold back. The first 3 repeats were a tad on the slow side with 6:39, 6:43 and 6:43 again, and I noticed my right quads hurting towards the end of the third one, the exactly same spot that had been really sore the day after last week’s 400s. At the start of the fourth repeat I noticed a runner far ahead of me, and – funny how this works – this turned out to be the fastest repeat without even trying at 6:26. I caught up with him right at the end of the mile, at which case we started chatting. He was an American tourist on holidays, about to drive off to Dingle and up North later that day and very much enjoying his Irish holidays (that, or he was being polite). We had a nice enough chat for me to ignore the beeping of the Garmin for my next repeat and we ran together for three quarters of a mile before parting ways, me going right towards home, him left to finish his loop. I did the last 2 repeats at that stage, which meant I did not lose any of my workout; the average pace of the repeats was 6:38, a wee bit slower than planned but close enough.

The five miles on Wednesday would have been entirely unremarkable had they not yielded my lowest ever heart rate for a run. I checked back through my logs and this was indeed the lowest value since records began. I take it as a sign that my aerobic engine is in great shape, even if last week’s race showed up deficiencies in my anaerobic one, just the way you would want it for an Ultra, of course.

I felt recovered enough on Thursday for a few miles at marathon pace, even though I don’t really know what my marathon pace should be like. Then again, as I’m running purely by feel, that doesn’t really matter. The original plan was 5 miles at that effort, but as I felt perfectly fresh at the end of that I decided to keep it going until back home, and the 7:06 pace felt easy enough. If this were the pace I could hold for an entire marathon it would be reasonably close to a PR, though I won’t be able to test this out.

I didn’t set the alarm this morning but resolved to go running if I woke up in time and felt like running, both of which happened and 5 more miles were duly added. The schedule might be calling for a rest day but I think if I feel as good as now a recovery run is better - as long as I’m able to keep the pace slow enough, which is not a problem. It’s astounding how quickly I have managed to fall into the slow Ultra shuffle as soon as the serious Ultra training started last month.

3 Aug
10 miles, 1:12:43, 7:16 pace, HR 154
incl. 6x1 mile @ 6:39, 6:43, 6:43, 6:26, 6:46, 6:35 (avg 6:38)
4 Aug
5 miles, 44:39, 8:56 pace, HR 126
5 Aug
9 miles, 1:05:31, 7:17 pace, HR 153
incl. 7+ mile @ 7:06
6 Aug
5 miles, 32:31, 8:42 pace, HR 131

Monday, August 02, 2010

The Mountain And Me

According to the schedule, Friday was a rest day. I had changed things just a bit by running a race in the evening, so I was a bit nervous how my legs would hold up during the weekend. On the other hand, this was an easy weekend and I was reasonably sure I'd survive, even without a rest day.

The legs were not exactly springy when I left the house Saturday morning, but they were not too bad either, especially considering that they had been so sore 24 hours earlier. The run was only for 2.5 hours, so I ran it the old-fashioned way sans water, which saved me from carrying a bottle around with me for hours; instead I drank as much as I could stomach beforehand. I did bring a gel with me for emergencies, but brought that home untouched. I started out slowly enough to ensure that the run was always going to be easily manageable, but caught myself speeding up to 7:30 pace towards the end without even noticing. One extended lap around Caragh Lake later I was back on our driveway after 140 minute and did another short out-and-back segment to reach the time quota, which also brought up the mileage to 17.5.

Sunday started in very similar fashion, except that this time I carried a bottle of Amino drink with me and had a gel as well as a Granola bar in my short pockets. This was the first time I wore my new LD-shorts, designed for ultra runners, and testing out the gear was as much on the agenda as training my legs. The first thing I learned was that putting both the gel and the bar into the same back pocket didn't work very well, but separating them into smaller pockets was fine and within a couple of steps I had gotten used to them.

My original plan was to head over Windy Gap into Glenbeigh and turn around after 90 minutes, but as soon as I got to the first climb I saw a dirt road heading up towards Seefin mountain that I had never been on before, and curiosity won out. Two weeks ago the mountain part run of the Cappanalea Adventure Race must have gone along that route, so I figured it should be safe enough for me, even though I was not equipped for mountains, had no map and the visibility was sketchy at times. The road ended at some stage and I was left following a vague trail through boggy area. Because of the low clouds I was not able to see the mountain itself and ended going up towards my left, heading upwards. This was fine early on, but all of a sudden I realised that the territory had changed and the drop was almost vertical. Then whatever was left of the trail turned straight upwards and I decided to leave it at that, at an elevation of about 1200 feet. With my lack of equipment and my lack of knowledge of the terrain this was dangerous and I turned back before I would become a statistic. Later on, when I uploaded my data into Google Earth, I found that I had been going the wrong way anyway. On the bog, Seefin had been towards my right, not the left, and I was on the slopes of a secondary peak.

After eventually coming down the mountain, I saw that my average pace was slower than 13-minute miles. I guess crawling around a mountain side isn't the same as running on a road.

I followed my initial route and ran on the Kerry Way towards Windy Gap, depositing my bottle along the way so that I would not have to carry it all day. Pondering the fact that I was training for a 50-mile road race I decided that for the rest of my training I would stick to runnable terrain. It's one thing to get as much vertical into the training to steel the quads, it's a different matter if the footing does not allow running. While these training runs were all about time on feet, at least I wanted to spend that time running, not crawling on all fours at times.

Anyway, when I reached the pass between the mountains at Windy Gap, I saw another trail on my right, leading onto the ridge towards Seefin again and in spite of what I had decided 20 minutes earlier went up there, exploring again. The territory here was much easier, as witnessed by plenty of sheep eying me nervously, and almost runnable. Eventually, at about 1400 feet, I came across a fence blocking my way, though I could have gone across had a look at the watch not convinced me to turn back. I got one more lesson, namely that it's easy to find your way uphill but much more difficult to track back downhill, but the navigational functions of the Garmin, rudimentary as they might be, turned out be be a great help.

I picked up my bottle on the way back, only to be stopped in my tracks as I looked at the empty container, stunned. It was tightly closed and could not possibly have leaked, so someone must have taken it, either drunk the content or simply spilled it, then closed it again and put it back. Whoever the malicious wanker was, I hope next time on the trail you break your leg, arsehole. Luckily I wasn't particularly thirsty and made it back home without problems. I found it quite funny that I had covered fewer miles than the day before, despite being out there for an extra half an hour. I'll stay off the mountain for the rest of my long runs, but me and Seefin aren't finished yet with each other.

As you are probably aware, I don't get a lot of lie-ins, and I was really looking forward to one on Bank Holiday Monday. How Niamh managed not to get strangled by me after accidentally setting her alarm clock for 7:30 I'll never know, she would have deserved it no doubt. I did not manage to fall back asleep and I can't cope with staring at the ceiling for long, so I went out into the rain for a 5-mile recovery run instead. The decent feeling in my legs and the low HR told me that I didn't really need a full rest day anyway.

That was an easy weekend. The next two won't be. I'm a bit apprehensive, truth to be told.

Congratulations to Gerry and Ken for completing the 32-marathon challenge today. There are no words to do justice to their achievement.
31 Jul
17.5 miles, 2:30:40, 8:36 pace, HR 142
1 Aug
16.7 miles, 3:02:04, 10:54 pace, HR 134
2 Aug
5 miles, 43:43, 8:44 pace, HR 129