Saturday, October 30, 2010

Child Prodigy #4

It was supposed to be bed time last night, but Maia has her own ideas and her parents have long learned that she is better at negotiating than them. When she instead demanded a marker for drawing, she got one. 5 minutes later she had produced this masterpiece (and no, Ewen, Rick and Grellan, the writing at the top is not hers). Keep in mind that she is still a few days shy of her third birthday. Her big sister used to produce a string of outstanding drawings for her age (well ... I think they were outstanding) but has since taken to reading and writing instead. It looks like her mother's artistic talent has made it into yet another offspring. And by the looks of it we're a very happy family. Not entirely sure about the head count though.

This week is all about recovering from the marathon. The legs still felt a bit sore on Thursday, which is why running from Stillorgan to Belfield probably wasn't the best route choice due to the downhills on the way there. Mea culpa; I still don't know South Dublin that well but I get reminded of how hilly it is on every visit there. The pace would have been a bit slower and the HR a bit lower had I not given in over the last mile and let the legs turn over a bit faster. I can't help it, running faster is more fun that running slowly, even 3 days after a marathon.

I had to get up reasonably early on Friday to run because we would be driving back home later that day. The clouds looked rather dark, but they had been doing that on the previous days as well. I had just reached the turnaround point when the heavens opened and I got thoroughly soaked. It was the first time in ages since I had to run in such heavy rain - probably since the Cork marathon in June. It was fun.

Unfortunately I hurt my back when loading the car. I should probably say I re-hurt it, because this is the third time in a year that this area is hurting. Sitting in the car for several hours didn't exactly help either and I'm still in pain today. Running doesn't seem to have any influence on the pain level; it doesn't aggravate it and it doesn't make it better either.

I did grumble having to get up at 6:30 this morning for my run. Niamh pointed out that strictly speaking I did not have to get up, but ask any runner and you will get a different opinion. It was very windy and I had to fight a nasty headwind all the way to the turnaround point, but got paid back handsomely on the way back home, which is why the pace was a good bit quicker than on previous days. It still felt reasonably easy. The rest of the day was spent in Tralee where the older 3 kids spent the entire day in various Halloween-related workshops, which went down very well indeed. On the way home I managed to track down seemingly the last pumpkin in Kerry for carving. Now if only the kids could agree on a design without fighting ...

28 Oct
7 miles, 57:57, 8:18 pace, HR 150
29 Oct
9.2 miles, 1:14:06, 8:03 pace, HR 153
30 Oct
10 miles, 1:18:03, 7:48 pace, HR 154

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pacer Times

To answer your question, Grellan and Rick, yes, I did carry that sign over the entire marathon distance. Since the handle was rather short, the sign itself was usually at head height, which was probably not the most visible place. I did hold it up high at times, but obviously not for long. My one feedback to the organisers was to get a bigger stick next year. It did come in handy for whipping up some support from the spectators over the last few miles though.

I'm not sure how I managed to misread the time on my watch at the halfway point, but I did. The official timer has me at 1:44:31, just like the two balloon-carrying pacing team mates had said. From a pacing point of view, that's bang on time.

For the record, my mile splits (originally from my Garmin but adjusted for the difference between 26.2 official and 26.49 Garmin miles), together with the average HR over 5 miles are:

8:26, 7:57, 7:53, 7:48, 7:59 (155)
8:07, 7:55, 7:51, 7:53, 7:48 (155)
7:49, 8:03, 7:48, 7:54, 7:51 (154)
8:06, 7:47, 7:48, 8:03, 8:08 (156)
8:05, 7:57, 8:04, 8:05, 7:56 (161)
8:05, change (168)

I thinks that's very consistent, but I definitely can't claim for it all to be my work, it was very much a team effort between the three of us. I found the rise in HR over the last 6 miles interesting. I think that's what triathlon coach Joe Friel calls decoupling.

The quads were surprisingly sore on Tuesday, at least I was surprised, Niamh was not. It was enough to convince me not to go running, which is the one thing that DID surprise Niamh. I'm better today, though. I did 4.5 very easy miles in the morning, and while the quads were still sore over the first mile, they loosened up quickly. Later in the day I managed to climb the 96 steps up (and down!) the tower from the Dublinia exhibition without wincing, which I felt was quite an achievement, albeit an unheralded one.

We were really lucky with the weather, the conditions on Monday were absolutely perfect for marathon running, cool and no wind. Tuesday would have been a lot worse with wind and rain and we had some of that today as well, but on Monday we were seriously spoiled.

I managed to find myself in the “official” videos (same site as the timing results), but only because I managed to spot the 3:30 sign. Good luck to anyone else! Another video was kindly posted on youtube, taken at the same spot as the photos in my race pace report (and by the same guy no less). The one thing that surprised me was the sheer size of our group; especially at the finish there are 10 times more runners than I remember. It shows just how many people were depending on us to get them home in time. Maybe it's a good thing that I was not aware of the real number – the pressure I felt to remain on pace at all times was big enough as it was. But having succeeded in our task, I think I can speak for every pacer out there on Monday, it was a great and very worthwhile experience and one I can highly recommend to other experienced runners. Running gets a bad rap from some people as a selfish form of entertainment (something I do not agree with at all – solitary does not mean selfish), and helping a sizable number of runners achieve their target is a good way to share.

26 Oct
27 Oct
4.5 miles, 38:55, 8:39 pace, HR 143

Monday, October 25, 2010

Almost Like A Pro

The ideal scenario would of course be to be a professional marathon runner, get put up in a swanky hotel for free, expenses paid, and get bussed right to the start. The next best thing is not to be a professional runner but still get put up in a swanky hotel with the same expenses and the same bus. The latter scenario has the added bonus of being able to bring your wife into the same swanky hotel along with you, which makes for a very happy wife. That second scenario came through for me today.

It also included 2 hours of work at the pace group stand on Sunday at the marathon Expo, which was just mad busy but great fun. As others have pointed out, there were maybe 1 or 2 people at the other stands, while at ours they were queuing three deep and more at times.

I was slightly worried if all that time on my feet would have a negative effect on Monday, added to the fact that I had not run over 15 miles since Dingle and run a 5k on Saturday. However, I was confident I would be ok. 4 years ago I had to pull out all the stops and dig deep to get me my first sub 3:30 marathon at this very course. Today I was looking forward to a relaxing run at the same pace.

The hotel was fine, though I struggle to understand what you get for 500 Euro a night; the room looked just like any other hotel room I have ever been in. I wasn't too impressed when 4 of us turned up at 7 o'clock for breakfast only to be told to wait 30 minutes for a table to be free. The only woman amongst us got rather annoyed and pointed out the many empty tables and that we'd rather share a table with someone else rather than having to wait for a pre-marathon breakfast, and within a minute we were all seated. I shared the table with one of the 4:00 pacers and had a great chat – much better than sitting on your own anyway.

Niamh was still asleep when I left. We gathered at the reception and got whisked away in a bus together with the elites, right into the elite pen. I saw one runner warming up, I'm pretty sure it was Aleksey Sokolov, the man who put Dublin on the map with the first sub 2:10 performance here 4 years ago. There were 3 of us for the 3:30 pace group, and 2 balloons and one sign. To the relief of the others I volunteered for the sign. I'm a sucker for punishment, obviously.

It was freezing cold, but I had brought some girly arm warmers (Ewen will love this) and a pair of fingerless gloves. Neither of which will ever make the height of fashion and neither will the compression socks and the compression shorts, but function comes before fashion over 26 miles and each item worked to perfection just as planned. I'd wear the same outfit again, even though I might have looked like I had just escaped from the gimp room.

We had a good group around us at the start, wished each other good luck and were off. The first mile was as congested as expected and we were about 20 seconds behind target, but there was no way around that. With the other 2 guys carrying massive balloons I felt like the fifth wheel with my much less obvious little sign as far as pacing was concerned, but there was a good vibe going on. One of us took over as cheer leader and each cry of “Come on the 3:30s!!!” got a great response.

By mile 4 we were back on time and I got told to watch my pace, so I dropped slightly behind the leading balloon. One woman runner attached herself to me and stuck very closely. She seemed determined to hang on for the rest of the 22 miles. When I asked her how she felt she said it still felt very easy, which was good, of course. A work colleague started chatting to me as well; I was surprised to find him at our pace, but he was doing perfectly fine.

The two balloon guys were running just a tad faster than I would have on my own and at one stage I started falling behind slightly, not much but maybe 10 seconds or so. Our orders were to run even pace throughout, so when the first real climb came after 9 miles it meant an increase in effort to keep the pace the same, and I caught up again with the others but seemed to have lost my shadow. I did not see her again after that; I hope she made it through without too many troubles. The balloons were reasonably close together most of the time but at one stage the front one seemed to pull away; I took it upon myself to catch up and shout a warning to watch the pace, which explains the spike in the pace graph at mile 10.

Normally when running a marathon you focus entirely on running and not much else. Today was completely different, I was constantly look around, scanning for the other guys, always checking the watch to keep on pace, at times encouraging the ones around me; the running itself was almost incidental, which is why they give you a pace band that is much easier than your normal race pace, I guess.

Apart from carrying my Garmin I used a cheap stopwatch as a backup, but that supposedly more reliable instrument died on me after about 10 miles. I think it must have pushed against the Garmin and the stop button got pressed inadvertently. From that moment on I was reliant on the Garmin alone – and my own feeling, of course.

I was pretty sure the time was about 1:44:10 when we passed the halfway mark which would be a little bit quick, but the two balloonists said it was closer to 1:44:25 (and they were slightly ahead of me at the time), which would be pretty much on time, but there was not much difference, to be honest. The next few miles ticked along nicely. The course is a bit undulating here but the people around us seemed to remain very constant, nobody was struggling. We added another task to our list of duties, namely to share around drinks of water; with the group being rather big there were always a few people who missed out at the drinks station and were very happy to share a bottle rather than go thirsty.

I started to notice my legs, especially the quads were getting uncomfortable, but as we were heading home I knew I would be able to stay on pace reasonably comfortable. Going under the viaduct at Milltown always reminds me of my first marathon, now already 6 years ago, when I blew up here and had to run/walk the final 8 miles under ever increasing pain. This time that climb was more a molehill than mountain. The last climb, up to Fosters Avenue, has seen many a runner falter, including myself. It was here where my sub-3 dream went off the rails 2 years ago, as I told my pacing colleague, only to remember that I had felt like sh*t last year as well. This time I was cruising along, still seemingly in second gear with loads to spare.

After cresting that hill, close to the 21 mile mark, is the road where I usually have my family waiting for me. Niamh was still in town but Nana had said she might be there, but as much as I scanned the sides, I could not spot them. Eventually I figured that Nana had decided not to drag them down here.

We were now on the way home. One fella, slightly struggling, asked me how far we had run yet and my Garmin said 22 miles which is what I told him. However, 2 minutes later we passed the actual 22 mile marker and I felt really bad for having misled him, however inadvertently. But it served as a very good reminder to keep the difference between the Garmin's miles and the official mile markers in mind.

For the first 22 or 23 miles, the people around us hardly changed. I was able to recognise the majority of runners in our group and there was little movement. But at that point it really changed. I realised that we had put in a rather slow mile, about 8:20 pace. Thing is, even as a pacer you still pace yourself off the people around you, and as they were slowing down, so were we. It was clear that we had to increase the effort just to keep the pace even from here, and as a result all of a sudden we were streaming past people, even though we were doing the same pace as before. I pretty much took over the pacing effort from here on. The balloon man told me afterwards that he really started to struggle here, to the point that he thought about pulling out completely, but he certainly betrayed no sign of that at the time. Instead he followed me about 10 seconds behind, with the other balloon a few seconds behind that. The kind of work required from us also changed and we turned more into cheer leaders, encouraging and cajouling everyone around us to increase the effort for the final push home in order to beat the 3:30 mark.

One guy later told me that he had been a good bit ahead of us and then could not believe how quickly we were catching up. It's in that stretch that the pacing job is at its most important, I guess. I don't know how many runners achieved a sub-3:30 because of us, but I'm sure it's a number in the dozens. We also got a few filthy looks and muttered curses from runners as we passed them. That's understandable, of course. They had been trying to stay ahead of us all the time and did not wish to be fall behind target.

My pacer sign came in handy here with the spectators who at that stage were standing several people deep. I waved it around to get people shouting, which worked a treat every time and I'm sure it was a massive boost to our charges. With half a mile to go it was time to urge everyone who still could to sprint ahead to the finish to get the best time they could. One guy in particular was struggling badly, hobbling almost on one leg as the other one was giving out and there he was having two pacers shouting at him from both sides to keep going. All credit to him! And then we passed the finish line, my Garmin displaying 3:29:11, the two balloons approximately 10 and 20 seconds behind me. Our brief was to run just under 3:30, so I declare this a success.

The best part was yet to come in the form of at least 30 runners coming up to us, thanking us for our efforts, sounding really grateful and emotional at times. Most of them had set a new PB, many had achieved a dream by running under 3:30 and it felt really good to have played a part in so many people's special day.

Eventually I got out, met up with Niamh and went to the hotel to have a shower and a chat with the other pacers. Then it was time to head back home. My achilles, which had been perfectly fine throughout the race, started hurting as we were walking to the bus, but calmed down as soon as I got off my feet again. I'll see how the recovery is going, but at this stage I think I did get away with it. I don't even feel sore – from one point of view it was just an extended training run, but from another it was a great day. I don't think it was my last day as a pacer.

Photos by Dave Bradshaw.
25 Oct
Dublin City Marathon, 3:29:11, 7:59 pace, HR 157

Sunday, October 24, 2010

My Kind Of Taper

There was an interesting discussion in the comments section following the last entry. Keep it up, but remember: as MC said, this phase is all about recovery (just ignore the fact that I'm about to run another marathon).

While the vast majority of Monday's runners are hopefully taking it very easy, things weren't working out quite that way in our slightly manic household. Since Friday was the last day of school before break, there were no less than four separate Halloween school parties to attend, with the last 3 all overlapping, which required careful planning and precise execution for our one-car family, but we pulled it off. Maia went as a ballerina, Cian and Lola were both vampires and Shea, with his fable for unusual things, went as Skullduggery Pleasant (very cool!).

On Saturday we went to Dublin – with a few diversions. If you remember back to last year, there was a race series in Killarney National Park, which is being repeated this year. The first date was rather unfortunate, 2 days before the Dublin marathon, which would normally have ruled me out, but since I'm not racing in Dublin I got permission from both the wife and the coach to go ahead, as long as I took it easy. I was not to run faster than 6:10 – 6:15 pace, which I pretty much adhered to, apart from the very start where I had to put the breaks on rather sharpish. Unfortunately the Garmin went bonkers, showing paces from 2:30 to 11:00, neither of which sounded too convincing, so I was rather left to my own. I think I got it pretty much right on the first and last mile but the middle one was too slow as the runners around me slowed down and I inadvertently slowed down with them. In the end I crossed the line in a rather pedestrian 19:48 (results here), at least a minute slower than I would normally but hopefully with enough left in the tank to run a 3:30 marathon 48 hours later and not having jeopardised my base training.

We didn't exactly take the direct road to Dublin from there either because they just happened to have a Harry Potter workshop in Blackrock Castle in Cork and the kids were rather excited about the prospect, so we took a detour. They all graduated receiving their OWL certificates (no explanation needed for Harry Potter fans), and then we were finally on our way, arriving at about half past seven. Niamh's family found it hilarious that I had just run another race and that a marathon is apparently not enough for one weekend.

I have to spend two hours at the “Meet the Pacers” stand at the Expo today, then it's off to our hotel. There's a treat for everyone this weekend. The kids had Harry Potter, I'll have the marathon, Niamh will have a 5-star hotel. I don't expect any complaints.
22 Oct
5+ miles, 39:57, 7:58 pace, HR 145
23 Oct
5 miles, incl:
Killarney 5k, race 1, 19:48, 6:20 pace, HR 174

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Since I do not have access to a running track, I had been racking my brain where I should run my 4 mile evaluation. 2 miles along the road to Killorglin seemed suitable; while there are a few very gentle ups and downs, it’s just about the flattest piece of road I could think of, apart from the main road where running is definitely not recommended. The strong wind on Tuesday made me reconsider because I figured it would invalidate the results if one half was with the wind and the other against it. The only alternative I could think of was the Ard-na-Sidhe road, but that’s quite twisty and features a hill in the middle, plus I would have to turn around ever mile. However, when it was almost perfectly wind still this morning I reverted back to my original route. After a warm-up of 2 miles I ran a further 2 miles towards town, then turned around and did the same in reverse. The target HR was 161 all the way through and I set the Garmin to beep whenever the number went below 159 or over 163. This worked reasonably well, it did not beep as often as I thought it would and I mostly managed to avoid looking at the pace reading (I did not want that to influence my effort).

The miles went off in 6:40 (HR 161, -51 ft), 6:55 (HR 162, -21 ft), 7:14 (HR 162, +21 ft), 7:16 (HR 162, +51 ft)

That's a lot more elevation change than I expected. I thought the first/last mile would have a difference of maybe 10 feet and the other one was very even. But this might not do, it makes it difficult to compare the individual miles and, you know, use them for fitness evaluation.

Then I came to a standstill to check how long it would take for my heart rate to return to 130. This would have been easier had I not mistaken the elevation figure for my heart rate, wondering why it did not come down. Thomas, you idiot! But the answer is 42 seconds. Anyway, after 15 minutes of easy running I launched into a set of 3 half-mile repeats, to be run between 3:10 and 3:20 but under strict instructions not to strain, and to start a new repeat every 5 minutes, which meant recovery between 1:40 and 1:50, accordingly. This went ok, 3:16, 3:12, 3:11, feeling reasonably comfortable all the way.

For some reason I had been really slow to get out of the house in the morning, taking almost half an hour compared to the usual 15-20 minutes, which left me short on time and I had to cut the cool-down rather short, less than a mile. Until I win the lottery or successfully rob a bank, I have to get to work on time, unfortunately.

Some scumbag (and for once I’m not using that term to describe a Man Un*ted supporter) seems to have gotten his hands on my (brand new!) credit card number. I just got a phone call, it had been used half a dozen times yesterday and only one of those transactions was genuine. They will send me a replacement card and I don’t think I will suffer financially, but it means I won’t have a credit card next week in Dublin, which really sucks. I hope they catch that swine, but I doubt it.

20 Oct
8 miles, 1:01:24, 7:41 pace, HR 148
21 Oct
10.2 miles, 1:16:22, 7:29 pace, HR 153
  4 miles evaluation:
    6:40 (HR 161, -51 ft)
    6:55 (HR 162, -21 ft)
    7:14 (HR 162, +21 ft)
    7:16 (HR 162, +51 ft); 42 seconds to HR 130
  15 mins easy

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I was just about to turn off the computer last night when I got an email from MC, telling me to postpone the evaluation until Thursday and turn it into a preparation run for Dublin. In the meantime I should just try and get more consistent from day to day.

There are many things about Lydiard’s training, one of them was his rating of ¼, ½ and ¾ efforts. In MC’s terms, a ¼ workout could be repeated the same day, a ½ workout could be done again the next day and a ¾ workout 2 days later. Lydiard also prescribed only one ¾ workout per week, and I think that’s what the coach was telling me to take into account. My faster runs (~7:15 pace) were at least ¾ effort, maybe more, considering how I felt on Friday, or maybe just right as per Sunday, but definitely too often. So I dialled the effort back to 7:45 this morning, which felt very easy and very enjoyable, even in today’s rather windy conditions. When training for Dingle my easy pace kept slowing from week to week, which may have been a sign of overtraining, but I still did not dare to deviate from the plan and cut the mileage of the long runs. Now I can feel this coming back to where I was before. Today felt easy and the HR confirmed that.

On Sunday I started feeling a weird pain on the outside of my left shin. It didn’t bother me while running but it did for the rest of the day. I felt the same on Monday and today. Normally I would put this down as a taper-induced phantom pain, but I’m not even tapering for Dublin. I still think this will go away again.

Probably my least favourite part of parenting is toilet training. After initially making good progress, Maia is steadfastly refusing to do her number twos into the potty. We tried a few things, but she seems to be most interested in the offer of a Peppa Pig toy once she’s done the business. However, there’s still no progress. Lately she managed to get Niamh to agree to 2 toys. And when she tried to bargain for 3 toys with me the other day, I started to suspect that she is not having a problem but merely driving a very hard bargain. She’s definitely better at haggling than either of her hapless parents, that much is clear already.

On the bright side, my gear for Dublin arrived today. I feel almost like a professional runner with the sponsored outfit.
18 Oct
6.2 miles, 50:21, 8:07 pace, HR 140
incl 4x100 strides
19 Oct
10 miles, 1:17:10, 7:43 pace, HR 149

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Steady Progress

One thing that occurred to me yesterday is that following the coach's advice will require more brain power than simply following a printed training schedule. His program does not say things like Monday 10 miles, Tuesday 6 miles, and so on. Instead I have to fill in quite a few blanks myself, under guidance of course. Make no mistake, that is a good thing, enabling us to adapt the training depending on how it is going. But this is still very new to me and will require some time until I get used to it.

Friday's run did not go quite as well as expected. The two previous steady runs on Monday and Wednesday had seemingly been going very well, but it seemed to catch up with me on Friday and at the halfway point I realised that the same pace that had been fine on the previous two runs was too fast this time and I had to ease the effort on the way home. Even so I still ended up with a higher average HR.

That very evening I just happened to receive an email from MC, stating amongst other things, that “the base phase is more about recovery than hammering yourself into shape“, which hit home because there was definitely a lack of recovery (even at that comparatively low mileage I'm doing). Another factor might have been that this run was on the undulating road alongside Caragh Lake. I had been avoiding that road because the hills (especially the downhills) tended to aggravate my achilles. While I did not feel any twinges during the run or immediately afterwards, the area did become sore later that day.

In view of all that, a very relaxed 5-mile run was the most that seemed advisable on Saturday. Luckily, there was no further reaction from my achilles and my legs seemed to thank me for it, because on Sunday things felt much, much better. I was aiming for the same pace as on Monday or Wednesday again (around 7:13), but when I checked the Garmin after the first miles I was already doing 7:11, so I dialled back the effort a bit. Or so I thought – when I looked again after 3 miles the average pace was down to 7:04 and I was doing 6:30 right there and then. Time to really scale back the effort! What followed was a rather relaxed run through Killorglin, feeling very good in absolutely perfect running conditions (autumn can be fantastic that way), and eventually coming back home, the average pace having eased back to 7:12. One week ago I would have had to strain to run that pace, today it felt positively easy and the HR confirmed that, though I think that the main reason for the progress I'm seeing is the continuing recovery from the Dingle Ultra rather than anything I'm doing in training - which brings me back to MC's point about the base phase being more about recovery.

15 Oct
9 miles, 1:06:42, 7:24 pace, HR 159
16 Oct
5 miles, 39:24, 7:52 pace, HR 147
17 Oct
10 miles, 1:12:01, 7:12 pace, HR 155

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Imagine Appropriate Headline Here

It looks like replacing the battery in my HR strap has sent the gremlins on their way again, at least the recent HR data looks believable. That’s good because I’ve got my first training plan from MC and it includes quite a few evaluation runs where I’m supposed to run at a specific heart rate for 4 miles and measure my pace at each mile. An accurate HR monitor is rather vital in that respect. The coach’s training program starts next week, with the first evaluation planned for Tuesday.

Maia is much better, thanks everyone for your sympathies. She informed me on Monday evening that she found her smile at the bottom of an ice cream tub, and several more bowls of ice cream have followed since. Any more and she’ll bite her tongue deliberately next time. She was absolutely ravenous on Monday, but has returned to her usual state by now. Little kids are amazingly resilient.

On a completely different note, the Chilean miners seem to have caught the world’s attention big time now that they have gone mainstream after being underground for so long [groan]. Niamh seems to pay particular attention to the one guy who had both his wife and his mistress waiting for him. She reckons he would have been better off staying where he was. There is an implied threat in that, of course. She’s clearly telling me that if I should ever be found having a mistress, I better pray for 2000 feet of solid rock between her and myself. But since I have no plans for taking up mining or a mistress, this has no practical application at the moment. (Actually, the cheating bastard seemed rather happy not to see his wife swinging a meat cleaver as he stepped out of the rescue capsule.)

Anyway, with my achilles improving on a daily basis I got a bit more daring on Tuesday and added a (very short) set of strides at the end of my run. That’s a much gentler introduction of fast paces than on my last attempt which ended so badly. I thought I could feel my achilles afterwards, but I’m not entirely sure if that was real or psychological.

Another steady run followed on Wednesday, which felt easier than a similar run on Monday, despite running virtually the same pace. I returned back to the Caragh Lake road for that one. Up to now I stayed away from that undulating road in order to protect my achilles, but I felt no twinge yesterday and thus will be back there again.

Today was easy again, still following the pattern of alternating easy and steady runs. Not much to say about that, but I picked up the pace on the last half mile; finally running 6:30 pace again put a massive smile on my face. I think I’m on my way back.

12 Oct
5 miles, 41:53, 8:23 pace, HR 134
incl. 4x100 strides
13 Oct
8 miles, 57:46, 7:13 pace, HR 158
14 Oct
6.1 miles, 48:09, 7:54 pace, HR 146
incl. 4x100 strides and a faster final half mile

Monday, October 11, 2010


Jean Byrne, the RTE weather lady, might be good looking and is wearing, erm, “interesting” outfits at times, but she really made it into my bad books yesterday. After her promising a weekend full of sunshine I fully expected an apology after 48 hours of miserable drizzly conditions, but she instead muttered something about “a dry weekend in most places.” Not in my place, darling, I’m seriously offended by your lack of care.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the weekend. I got up reasonably early on Saturday but delayed my run for a full 2 hours, waiting for the rain to dissipate and the promised sunshine to appear before it became clear that I’d been had and went out into the drizzle. Since I had not covered more than 12 miles since Dingle and could feel the Dublin marathon looming ahead I went for a slightly longer run, 15+ miles. I fully intended to stick to the upcoming pacing effort of 8-minute-miles but lost patience early on and just let the legs do their own thing. I was quite surprised to see the pace come down by quite some amount; considering that I was taking it fairly easy, 7:40 pace seems pretty fast. Luckily the legs had absolutely no issue with running for 2 hours and the achilles seemed perfect as well, but at one stage a woman came walking the other way with her dog running towards me and jumping up on me (the dog, not the woman!). As I swerved to avoid the creature (the dog, not the woman!), the achilles gave me one of those quick, sharp pains that serve as a reminder that things are not quite there yet, no matter how it might feel 99.9% of the time.

5 easy miles followed on Sunday in the same dreary conditions and this time I took things really easy. Again I was very surprised as I looked up the numbers on my Garmin after the run, it was almost at 8:00 pace. I see that as a sign that the legs are finally bouncing back from Dingle, 5 weeks after the race. I remember something similar happening after Connemara; it takes time to recover. The legs are just slower for a few weeks after an ultra, even if you only notice it on the stop watch.

6 o’clock felt very early today for reasons I’ll get into shortly, but I managed to heave myself out of bed and out of the door. I opted for another steady run, this time into Killorglin on a fairly flat loop. I used to do this a lot before Boston last year, the hilly runs around Caragh Lake for leg strength and the flat loop through town for speed. Unfortunately the gremlins seem to have gotten into my HR strap overnight. For the first half of the loop the HR reading hung around the 60 mark (not 160), then rose steadily towards the 150s, which still seemed rather low. My guess is that the strap requires a new battery. Anyway, I had to rely entirely on feel for today’s run and was once more surprised (for the third time in a row. There’s a pattern here) to see the pace figures, this time well below 7:15. Maybe it’s time to carefully add a few faster efforts, but with Dublin only 2 weeks away I’ll get that one out of the way first, and then I should hopefully have MC’s guidance for help.

If that battery change does not work out, I might have to rely on my luck from here. I don't think the odds are great.

The reason why last night wasn’t particularly restful was little Maia’s accident yesterday. She was having a shower and when we heard a bump followed by screaming. We rushed to her, only to find her bleeding heavily from her mouth. She must have slipped in the shower and then bit a massive hole out of her tongue as she fell. It looked horrendous, as even a small amount of blood in a big amount of water looks like a massive amount of blood. Niamh held her, and she was still bleeding 20 minutes later and Niamh’s shirt was soaked in blood. Luckily the doctor reassured us that it would be okay and will heal all by itself in about 10 days. A rather disrupted and worrisome night later she still could not swallow; Niamh already had visions of getting her to hospital for an infusion when she finally managed some ice cream later today, almost 18 hours after the incident. This was quickly followed by a second bowl of ice cream and a third one, so I guess we’re over that particular hurdle. Poor thing, but with all that ice cream she might eventually start to think it was all worthwhile.
9 Oct
15.15 miles, 1:56:31, 7:41 pace, HR 155
10 Oct
5 miles, 40:23, 8:05 pace, HR 138
11 Oct
10 miles, 1:12:07, 7:13 pace, HR ???

Friday, October 08, 2010

Local Wildlife

The dark time of the year has definitely started. It’s almost pitch dark when I leave the house in the morning and this means an increased number of encounters with the local fauna. The bats are my favourite, even though Niamh keeps freaking out at the mere thought of bats in our neighbourhood. I also startled a few horses yesterday morning, they seemed to gallop away in a panic from my approach. And a couple of minutes later I almost ran into a deer.

For my training I pretty much alternate steady runs with short, easy ones, but go very much by feel rather than let anything else dictate the effort. 8-minute mile pace is starting to feel comfortably slow, which is good news as far as pacing for Dublin is concerned. The weather could be better, I got drenched on a couple of occasions and the gale force winds are doing their best to keep things interesting, but there have not been any winter storms yet. On the few occasions where the sky was reasonably clear the stars are very bright and I love seeing Orion up in the sky as soon as I open our front door. That’s a privilege that only early risers can experience, and only as winter approaches.

My achilles has been improving steadily. On Thursday I thought I could not even feel a twinge, but when the aforementioned deer pretty much stepped out of the wood right in front of me I must have come to an abrupt halt, because I got a sharp short pain shooting through my lower leg, almost as bad as last Tuesday. Luckily it went away again immediately and has not bothered me since. However, it served as a very useful reminder that the injury is still there and has to be respected. I am still keeping up the icing, eccentric calf raises and compression, and I am still not daring to run faster than 7:00 pace.

Niamh had to be in Cork at 9 o’clock this morning which meant an early rise for her and a busy morning for me, trying to get 4 not particularly cooperative children ready for school/pre-school. As I did not fancy getting up ridiculously early for a mere short run I only had half an hour which I spent off-road in a nearby field. Running on uneven grass in the dark wasn’t ideal and I took things easy. I had thought that the much more forgiving grass surface would make things easier for my achilles but the opposite seemed to be the case, I felt it more than on previous days. However, there is definitely progress being made.

Some of you guys seem to be very keen on MC's program. Fear not, I won’t keep any secrets. In fact, keeping a record in my blog and giving a full and honest assessment of the workouts is part of the deal, so you can expect a very detailed description of the training program, which should keep everyone happy (except Ewen. Ewen hates details). The first task he set me is to recover from my injury and that's what I'm trying to do now. Luckily there is still a lot of time to my target race in March. I expect the training program to begin in November, but we shall see.
6 Oct
5 miles, 38:56, 7:47 pace, HR 148
7 Oct
9 miles, 1:06:22, 7:22 pace, HR 156
8 Oct
3.43 miles, 30:31, 8:56 pace, HR 143

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Good And Bad

There are always good things and bad things. Take today’s cycle commute into work, for example. There was blue sky to my left, blue sky to my right, blue sky to the front and blue sky to the back, and just one small f***ing rain cloud right on top of me.

On the other hand, my achilles felt really good this morning. Well, at least it did in comparison to previous days. I hardly felt a niggle as I set off on my run and even after 10 miles I was not sure if it hurt or if that was just the normal tiredness after 10 miles of fairly steady pace. Anyway, I don’t want to endanger the recent progress by doing something stupid, so Sunday’s cross country race is off, much to my chagrin, but it can’t be helped. The Dublin marathon, on the other hand, looks to be on again. I’m not entirely sure how I’ll handle 26 miles after not running more than 12 since Dingle, over 4 weeks ago, but I think I’ll be okay.

The fly in the ointment is the heart rate. It has been elevated every morning for the past few days. I’m not sure if there is some effect from the (very mild) cold that has been afflicting me recently or if it’s a sign of my deteriorating fitness.

By the way, according to Cian I am the much better parent than his mummy. This may be related to the fact that I tend to let them stay up later in the evening, or the fact that he got a second dessert, but he made sure to let mummy know, too. She was not entirely pleased, but blamed me rather than the kid.

Last week in school Cian’s class had to answer some questions, including their favourite athlete. Most kids opted for one of the Kerry football players or a player of the Premier League. Cian nominated his dad, and he really meant it. I was proud as punch, I can tell you.

Either my weighing scales are broken or my weight is fluctuating more than usual. I was shocked on Saturday to see the numbers top out at 155 pounds (that’s 11 stone 1, or 70.3 kg), the heaviest I’ve been in 2 years at least. But it was back down to the more normal 151 pounds (10 stone 11, 68.5 kg), which is what I seem to settle into every time. When I cut out all sugar for several weeks in spring it dropped down to 145, only to come back up again. Having said that, I could not tell the difference, neither in the mirror nor my racing times, so I don’t particularly care.
3 Oct
8 miles, 59:24, 7:25 pace, HR 162
4 Oct
5 miles, 38:50, 7:46 pace, HR 152
5 Oct
10 miles, 1:18:24, 7:50 pace, HR 155

Saturday, October 02, 2010


Did I keep you in enough suspense? I know you have all been holding your collective breaths (well, maybe), and I can finally post the news the world has been waiting for. To say that I have been unsure on the training for my next marathon is an understatement, so I was thrilled when I got an email last week from someone offering to coach me.

If you have been around the blogging and running scene for several years you will remember the blog of one brilliant runner (and excellent writer) from Arizona, Mike, who kept churning out a string of sub-2:40 marathons following the Lydiard training schedule, first on his own and later under the guidance of an unnamed coach who kept his true identity under wraps.

Said Mystery Coach has now agreed to work with me, a development that has me seriously excited. It's not only the fact that he thinks I might be selling myself short by aiming for “only” 2:59:59, the mere fact that I'm going to work with someone with a vast knowledge of running and training is even better. Just think what I may learn!

The first priority is getting my achilles right. I have ditched my most worn-out shoes, the ones that I was wearing on Tuesday when it all went haywire, and also ordered a new pair to replace the next in line, which are also coming towards the end of their useful life. Personally, I think the main factor in my injury was running 50 miles for a hilly road race and since I'm not planning on repeating that in the next few weeks I'm reasonably optimistic that this will clear up without causing any further calamities.

I was back on the road on Thursday for 5 miles, trying to run 8-minute miles in order to get used to that pace for Dublin, which I'm still hopeful for. A very slow first mile meant I didn't quite make it, but the heel was fine. I did 8 miles on Friday, the first 4 of which against a nearly gale-force wind, the return leg under far easier conditions. However, there seemed to be some discomfort after about 6 miles, so I eased up considerably for the last 2. Today's 5 miles were ok again. The heart rate was rather high, most likely caused by a lingering cold that is otherwise hardly noticeable, but that has been improving as of today.

That's not really training, just barely enough running to get my daily fix to stop me from going bananas. I have been running through achilles pain in the past, including 20 mile long runs, and it always got better after a few weeks. In the meantime I'm trying to help things along with ice bags, ankle wraps and enough eccentric calf raises to turn my lower right leg into a complete oddball.

Family life meant a trip to the Dingle to revisit the sight of my greatest triumphs food and wine festival today. The food trail was great, but the value for money very uneven, ranging from a very reasonable bowl of mussels to some rather less attractively priced skewers that went for a Euro per prawn! But since a trip to Dingle inevitably includes a trip to Murphy's, we all left happy, even with a much lighter wallet.
30 Sep
5 miles, 40:22, 8:04 pace, HR 153
1 Oct
8 miles, 1:03:26, 7:56 pace HR 157
2 Oct
5 miles, 39:40, 7:56 pace, HR 150