Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Guilty Pleasures

I know some people will find it hard to heat their homes and I know that some people will invariably get injured slipping on ice, but I simply cannot help it. I am just loving these conditions!

Maybe I'm completely deluded, but I feel perfectly balanced running on the road, including the icy bits. I tried to look into things like YakTrax, but found they are not suitable. The roads are not really covered, for most of it they are dry but with some icy patches that you have to take care on, and that’s not what those devices are developed for. So I just put on my shoes and head out. So far I’ve had no problems.

“Oh Dear, this is cold” was what came to my mind as I opened the door on Monday, though the actually words were slightly different, but let’s keep this blog clean for a change. -7C/20F is without a shadow of a doubt the coldest I have ever been running in, and you know what? It was just great! Maybe it’s subliminal memories from my childhood, but I could stay out in the cold all day. Give me that over the icy cold rain we normally get in November any time. Despite having to slow down on a few occasions to mind my footing, I was flying along the road, almost effortlessly. The temperatures must suit me; assuming that the HRM is correct I recorded yet another best on the HR/pace spreadsheet. In fact, on a couple of occasions I caught myself inadvertently doing sub-7 pace and put on the brakes to keep the effort nice and easy. Despite relaxing as much as I could I ended up with an average pace of 7:37.

The coach keeps reminding me that there is a lot of time left until the marathon and keeps urging me to stay on the relaxed side. Honestly, I keep doing that. An average HR of 140 is very much on the lower end of the scale and the perceived effort level was easy.

Of course, heart rate is not everything and that’s where the evaluation runs come in. Monday’s run doubled as a scouting session to find an ice-free flat half-mile stretch of road, because the road where I had done the last evaluation on was completely covered in ice. I found a good one, but rather far away from home. It meant 3.5 miles of warm-up, but it was the only stretch I could come up with. Apart from the distance from home it was perfect and I ended up going back-and forwards 4 times each way. The Garmin was set on alarm to help me keep the HR close to 161, which for some reason I needed a lot more often than last time round. I managed not to look at the pace numbers at all during the run, but I already knew that the change from last week was significant when I measured the recovery time to HR 130 – 32 seconds, compared to 38 a fortnight ago and 42 before that! Back home I finally looked up the pace figures and my jaw hit the floor. Check this out:

Here are the numbers from the last 3 evaluations:

Mile 1 6:40 6:44 6:44
Mile 2 6:55 7:07 6:57
Mile 3 7:14 7:26 6:59
Mile 4 7:16 7:36 7:02

Time to 130 42 42 38

And this is what I got today. Get your heads around this!

Mile 1 6:32 (HR 160)
Mile 2 6:38 (HR 162)
Mile 3 6:31 (HR 162)
Mile 4 6:41 (HR 161)

Time to 130 32

I’ll leave the interpretation of these figures to the coach and hope he won’t come back with “your Garmin must be faulty”. Just looking at this, I like what I see. By the way, the coach thinks my recent improvements might be down to me reaping the rewards from my ultra training this year rather than his own input. I think he is being overly modest.

I was quite surprised to see that I had run my highest monthly mileage of the year this November with 326. I had not aimed at setting a high mileage, nor has this month felt particularly tiring. Amazing!
29 Nov
10 miles, 1:16:08, 7:37 pace, HR 140
30 Nov
12 miles, 1:26:30, 7:13 pace, HR 147
incl. 4 miles evaluation:
   6:32, 6:38, 6:31, 6:41; 32 seconds to HR 130

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Winter Wonderland

A few weeks ago the coach told me he wanted to see a faster Friday, a long Saturday and a medium long Sunday. The last 2 weeks there was a race that got in the way (so I raced on Saturday and ran long on Sunday instead) and this week was the first time I implemented this. I'm still building the mileage and the long runs are a bit shorter than they will be eventually, but I'm getting close.

To ensure I would enter this 3-day spell rested I took it easy on Thursday with only 8 miles on the book. It was a beautiful clear morning, but I was a bit worried about that very dark cloud I could make out in the moonlight. Luckily it seemed to move elsewhere and I did not get rained on. I still had a sore throat and during the day I did not feel 100%, but nowhere near as bad as Niamh had been. My heart rate was slightly elevated, which I mainly attribute to the body fighting off the infection.

I was looking forward to Friday and the opportunity to run a bit faster. There is no denying, running fast is more fun than running slowly. However, I did learn that there can be a drawback to running purely by feel. Since it was dark I didn't look a the Garmin at all (thanks for your comment, Rick!) and ran purely by feel, but as soon as I looked at the numbers back home I immediately knew I had goofed up. Running fast is relative and I was still to remain within certain parameters, with the heart rate not exceeding about 155 and the pace a bit slower than 7-minute pace. What I had done instead was 6:51 average pace and 161 average heart rate. While it is cool to run sub-3 marathon pace at this time of training already, this is exactly the type of effort that kept undermining my conditioning in previous training circles. The main thing about base training is not to run impressive workouts. It is to run consistently, day after day, and for that you need to recover from run to run. I was really annoyed with myself.

Most people (read everyone but me) use the weekend to catch up on sleep and have a rest. We, on the other hand, had to leave shortly after 9 o'clock to get the twins to their course in Tralee in time, so I ended up setting the alarm clock for 5:30. I was still in denial about my own madness by the time I hit the road.

I opened the door to a scene of Winter Wonderland, lit up by the moon. It was absolutely beautiful. Snow in Kerry in November? Now that is a new one! For the first time this winter I had to wear my tights, the temperatures were well under 0C. I encountered one car, right at the start, and then was entirely on my own for the next 2+ hours, not a soul to be seen or heard. The roads were fine, there was a sprinkling of snow when I hit the higher grounds and only Blackstone Bridge itself was icy, the rest was fine. Running 18 miles was easy, but I made doubly sure to run slowly, especially after Friday's cock-up.

The rest of the day was just mad busy, with the twins at their CTY course and Niamh at her own training course I first had the 2 younger ones and later all four of them to entertain on my own. Running 18 miles had been the easier part of the day by far.

We had even more snow overnight and by Sunday morning the roads were indeed icy. I ran the Cromane loop, and the two people that saw me while in their driveways did make a comment about me running in these conditions. I had to be careful on a couple of occasions when the ice covered the entire road surface, but made it home fine and without any incidents. I was not the slightest bit surprised to find that not even the main road had been treated by 10 o'clock. That's the kind of service we got used to last winter. After all, they are using our taxes to cover the billions of losses the fucking bankers have pissed away over the last few years. We can't expect them to spend any money on keeping the roads safe.

Whatever bugs had been threatening me seem to have been defeated and my resting heart rate this morning was a staggering 37. Only once have I seen a lower number, and that was shortly before a marathon. It's the lowest number I have ever seen in base training by far and another sign that the coach definitely has me on the right track.

25 Nov
8 miles, 1:00:54, 7:36 pace, HR 145
26 Nov
10 miles, 1:08:36, 6:51 pace, HR 161
27 Nov
18 miles, 2:23:15, 7:57 pace, HR 142
28 Nov
13 miles, 1:39:22, 7:38 pace, HR 144

Weekly Mileage: 81

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A New Level

One problem with having a whole gang of kids at primary school level is the number of bugs they bring back home. Shea started coughing last week but was never too bad. This week it seemed to have caught all the females in the family as they were all complaining of a cold yesterday. I have been fine so far but I did wake this morning with a sore throat, so I might not escaped the general malaise. I’ll see how I feel in the coming days.

Getting sick would be a real shame because right now I’m feeling in absolutely incredible shape. Since it is dark in the mornings I can’t read the display on my Garmin while I'm running, so I’m “forced” to run be feel. On Monday I did not check the Garmin until after the run – and had a real WTF! moment, looking at the average heart rate (141) and pace (7:39). I went back through my running logs if I had ever run so fast at such a low heart rate and came up with one single workout, shortly before the 2008 Dublin marathon where I set my still-standing PB, but that was very much an isolated figure. The last few days have brought an entire set of these readings, absolutely unprecedented. The VDOT spreadsheet has me at level 57-58 (I would normally see myself at level 55), and all I had to do to get into this shape was to run easily! And it’s still only November! The funny thing is, the coach hasn’t even said all that much as far as direct training advice is concerned, most emails could be condensed into “run more and run slower”. The man is a genius! Things will get more complicated once I move into the next training phase, but looking at my running log is enough to get me seriously excited already. I am slowly starting to believe MC when he says I might be selling myself short aiming for a mere 2:59:59, though I would still be ecstatic if I ran exactly that.

Monday was a clear but freezing morning, the conditions I love most. My quads had been slightly sore after Sunday’s hilly long run so I took it very easy over 9 miles and was just flabbergasted when I saw the pace afterwards. I even suspected the HR of being wrong, but since the figure is not out of line with subsequent ones I have come round to believing them to be true. Since HR 141 is right at the lower end of the suggested effort level, I upped the pace for Tuesday, but not by much. I took one lesson from Monday; from now on I’m running in long sleeves rather than t-shirts, though I’m still in shorts until the temperatures drop below 0C. The effort was still on the easy side, so I was once more genuinely surprised by the numbers, having run 7:22 pace without once pressing the pace. I have run that fast numerous times before, but always classed that as a tempo run because of the effort required. It really feels like I have moved up a level. But I did discover that a low HR does not automatically equal low effort when my legs felt a bit stiff later on. My cardio system might be improving fast but my leg muscles are lagging behind. It is a clear reminder to be careful. The lesson so far, loud and clear, is that it is far better to err on the side of caution.

Not watching the news (far too depressing!) means I have missed the weather forecast, so I was completely taken by surprise by the miserable morning today. It was raining when I left, started again after 3 miles and then really started pouring after 10, just as I was passing our driveway on my way to a short second loop, tempting me to cut the run short but not succeeding. I got drenched and running in rain in those cold temperatures (about 4C/40F) is really uncomfortable. The HR/pace combination, still better than basically ever before, wasn’t quite as sweet as on the previous 2 days, maybe due to the less than perfect conditions or maybe the longer miles. I have noticed that my VDOT levels are lower on long run days, but since my long runs tend to be over much hillier roads than the shorter ones, I don’t take too much notice.
22 Nov
9 miles, 1:08:54, 7:39 pace, HR 142
23 Nov
10 miles, 1:13:56, 7:22 pace, HR 146
24 Nov
13 miles, 1:39:01, 7:37 pace, HR 144

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Kind Of Magic

After two weeks of at times atrocious weather, Saturday was much better than the weather forecast had predicted. Nobody was complaining, least of all the over 250 runners of the third race of Killarney's 5K race series. After once more dropping the twins off in Tralee I left for Killarney in time, arrived there with plenty to spare and, in contrast to last week, had time for a proper warm-up rather than a frantic sprint to the start.

I started a line or two further back than usual and made damn sure not to start as fast as normal, which of course meant I was way behind the people I usually run with. But within half a mile I was already overtaking people who had been overly optimistic at the start. One fella said afterwards "you started slowly and accelerated after half a kilometre, didn't you", but I don't think this was accurate, I merely tried to keep as even a pace as possible, which meant to increase the effort gradually all the way through. At times I was stuck behind a line of people spread across the road, but I always got by reasonably quickly. The mile splits were 6:15, 6:01, 6:14 and 5:34 pace for the (uphill!) finishing sprint, which pretty much tells you the entire story of the race. I'm surprised the second mile was as fast as that, otherwise I have no issues. The Garmin showed 3.12 miles at the end, slightly longer than last week's 3.10 at the exactly same course, and I'm pretty sure this is now an accurately measured 5K. In a few months I hope to be able to race properly again over the distance rather than having to keep the brakes on at all times (well, apart from the finish).

The Garmin said 6:08 average pace, when I uploaded the data into SportTracks it said 6:09 pace, and if you calculate 19:08 5K pace you get 6:10, so I claim to be within the confines the coach has set me, if only just. Just to show that I am definitely holding back, the average HR was again 175 (though I pushed it all the way to 188 at the sprint finish). When I raced the same course in February it was 179 and 180.

I woke on Sunday to a beautiful blue sky, but it was freezing cold. I got ready before anyone else in the house stirred and was out of the door at 8 o'clock. The roads were just as quiet, the conditions were absolutely perfect for running and I enjoyed it very much. I thought I was plodding along at a rather slow pace, but when I checked the Garmin upon arrival at the highest point of the course, just over 6 miles in, I realised that in actual fact I was going at a fairly decent pace. I didn't push the effort, just kept gliding along on autopilot, enjoying the peace and quiet of the remote Kerry countryside. There are not a lot of places any more where you can claim to be a mile or two miles from the nearest dwelling, but there are still some left around here and I enjoyed the solitude. I also enjoyed how good I felt and how easy running at 7:45 pace was. I was back home before I got tired, the emergency gel in my pocket went back into the cupboard unopened, and I was ready for the rest of the day. This involved the weekly shopping as well as taking the kids to the new Harry Potter movie (they could not possibly wait another day), and was basically just as hectic as a day in the office. Thank God for the 2 hours of relaxing peace and quiet and had gotten on the roads in the morning.
20 Nov
11.5 miles, including:
Killarney 5k, race 3. 19:08, 6:10 pace, HR 175, 29th place
21 Nov
16.5 miles, 2:07:52, 7:43 pace, HR 146

Weekly Mileage: 80+

Friday, November 19, 2010


The good news is that the coach thinks the latest numbers from the evaluation were very good (“Your conditioning is improving at a steady rate at this level of effort”). The bad news is that as a result I'm confined to keep running slowly (“add more but not faster”). I exaggerate, of course. Running is always fun and I'm not exactly crawling along; all runs are under 8:00 pace. But the instructions are clear enough.

Actually, there is still my one opportunity for cheating on the slow running, namely the 5k race series in Killarney, the third race being tomorrow. Just as with the previous two races I have to run with the handbrake engaged, no faster than 6:10-6:15 pace. I'll try and NOT start out at 5:30 pace this time, which probably means I should start from further back and try not to get sucked into other people's suicidal starting pace.

I'm feeling very good at the moment, running always feels easy, which is at least partly related to the fact that under MC's tutelage so far I'm running easier than I would have done otherwise. The time for workouts will come (and I may well wish myself back to the easy phase when that happens). The one thing I need to change is the amount of sleep. I get up around 6 o'clock every morning and I rarely get 7 hours of sleep. That's unlikely to be sufficient in the long term and needs to change. The waking hours are fixed and I need to go to bed earlier.

Cycling to work has been well and truly challenging this week, and not just because it has been raining every day bar today. On Tuesday the wind was almost as strong as last Thursday, but the real problem was that it came from the side and each gust of wind literally blew me into the middle of the road. This was highly dangerous and I had to stop each time a car approached in order to ensure my safe arrival home. Luckily I am cycling on very quiet roads. The wind had died down by Wednesday morning but my good mood was shattered when I punctured a tire, still 1.5 miles away from the office. I dragged the bike to work and got a lift home from Niamh. That tube had only been there for a week, and when I tried to patch it in the evening I found a big hole, probably a nail. I put in a brand new tube, my last one. Imagine my surprise when that lasted not even 3 miles on Thursday morning. I was completely stunned, standing there by the road side, staring at my fourth flat tire in one week! As a result I have now switched back to my old bike, a cheap, crappy city bike with much wider rims, which should hopefully be more puncture resistant to all the grit that's over the road at this time of year. It's much less fun to cycle, takes longer and causes my back to hurt from the different, upright posture, but at least it got me in and out of work today without problems, which is more than can be said of the other bike.

I'm glad I'm a runner, not as cyclist. Seriously!
17 Nov
10 miles, 1:18:09, 7:48 pace, HR 144
18 Nov
12+ miles, 1:35:23, 7:55 pace, HR 143
19 Nov
10 miles, 1:18:49, 7:53 pace, HR 141

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Evaluation Time

Is it really 2 weeks since my last evaluation? Time flies! At that rate, my next marathon will be around the corner before I can say “lactate threshold”.

I was surprisingly sore on Monday. I thought the double stress of a race (albeit at sub-max effort) on Saturday and 15 hilly miles on Sunday were to blame, but the coach attributes it mainly to not being recovered from Dublin yet. Obviously I took it easy on Monday; having said that, I felt much better once I was moving, the run went rather well and my heart rate continues to drop for comparable paces.

There might have been a small residue of soreness noticeable on Tuesday morning but I went ahead with the evaluation anyway. After all the grief you guys gave me last time I decided to change the venue and ran back-and forwards on a reasonably flat half-mile stretch of road. The flat part turned out to be a tad less than half a mile, so the 4-mile evaluation needed 8 u-turns rather than the planned 7, but that was hardly much of an issue. The point was, all 4 miles had the same conditions. The bar numbers are much better than on the previous 2 occasions, with the last mile “only” 18 seconds slower than the first one rather than almost a minute like 12 days ago. The recovery time to 130 was also significantly reduced, though I changed my method of measuring it: rather than frantically pressing buttons on my Garmin I used a second stopwatch, brought along specifically to measure the recovery time, so maybe the there’s a second difference due to the different measurement method. Anyway, I’m much happier with these figures:

6:44 (HR 161)
6:57 (HR 161)
6:59 (HR 161)
7:02 (HR 160); 38 seconds to HR 130

After finishing the evaluation I did another 5.5 miles at what seemed like fairly leisurely pace. I didn’t check my Garmin again until I was almost back home, by which time I realised that I had run just under 7:30 pace for that section without even knowing. After 4 miles of evaluation, 7:30 felt like jogging slowly.

Those evaluation workouts are fun. It’s the only time in training that I’m allowed to stretch the legs a bit and I’m actually looking forward to them each time. As far as workouts go, they are fairly easy. I could keep that effort for much, much longer; they are not stressful, just fun.

On a completely unrelated note, I let my inner geek run riot and just finished this after one week of work. The ground and tower took one evening. The sky took 6. It’s another form of endurance workout. And once it was done, I broke it up and put it back into the box. Just like marathons, the journey is the destination. And just like marathons, you can only do so many 1000 piece jigsaws in a year.

15 Nov
8 miles, 1:03:44, 7:58 pace, HR 140
16 Nov
12 miles, 1:27:54, 7:18 pace, HR 152
incl. 4 miles evaluation:
    6:44, 6:57, 6:59, 7:02; 38 seconds to HR 130

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Remarkably Accurate Song Title

T: “Niamh, you know the song by the Beautiful South? [starts singing (badly)] It could be Rotterdam or anywhere, Liverpool or Rome?”
N: “Yes ….”
T: “Well, which one would you choose?” [she’s gonna love this]
N: “…”
T: “except for Liverpool, say Barcelona” [she’s gonna melt any second now]
N: [rolls eyes] “I can see a marathon coming on …”
T: *sigh* [I guess she knows me by now]

The reason for this scene was a talk I had with Catriona from Feet First in Killarney about the local marathon that I had been hearing about, but not for quite a while. She said she would not do it unless it can be done really well, and due to lack of support it looks like it won’t be held until 2012. It’s a view I totally agree with, and in a way I’m relieved because it really sounds like the potential marathon is in very capable hands, and once it comes round it will be well worth participating.

The non-event for 2011 had not come entirely unexpected, and I had already scouted out some suitable replacements, hence my list for Niamh. For a minute I considered just giving her a destination rather than letting her choose, because I figured given the alternative options Rotterdam might not make the cut, and that’s supposed to be the fastest course. Then the family instincts won out. Apparently she's already checked flights for Barcelona, but she’s also mentioned Rome more than once. I’ll give her a week to decide. Rome is on the same weekend Killarney would have been, 20 March, while Barcelona is a fortnight earlier, which means the next training phases would have to be pushed forward by the same amount. For the time being base training is unaffected.

The reason I had the opportunity to talk to Catriona was the second race of the Killarney 5k series. I had cut it extremely fine. After dropping off the twins in Tralee for their course, Niamh and the two younger ones went to a play centre. This would have been fine, but Niamh insisted on getting a newspaper, which for some unfathomable reason took 15 minutes, which meant I left for Killarney 15 minutes later than I should have. I parked the car at the first reasonably suitable spot, ran to the race HQ to pick up the number (I’m pretty sure I was the last person to get a number), ran back to the car to get dressed and then ran to the start, all at a rather frantic pace, to arrive there at 10:59 for a 11:00 start, but it wasn’t quite as close as it sounds because this is Kerry and the race started the obligatory 5 minutes late.

The start was a bit confusing because cars kept coming down the road where we were supposed to be running. Normally a Garda car stops these from coming, but while there was indeed a Garda car there, it was stationed behind us rather than in front, which did not make much sense to me. Never mind, we went off, even if half of us seemed to be taken by surprise by the start.

My orders from the coach are to race no faster than 6:10 – 6:15 pace (or slower), which will allow my peak to be higher during the peaking phase, when it actually counts. Therefore I took it easy right from the start, and when I thought I was still going a little bit fast I relaxed even more. So what did I see on the Garmin when I checked it after the first quarter mile? 5:30. Oops! Time to relax a lot more.

A few people did go past me, but before the first mile was up I had started overtaking people myself, and that would continue all the way to the end as I kept my pace while everyone else slowed down. I could not resist a bit of trash talk when I caught up to Seamus (“come on you lazy b*st*rd, this is supposed to be a race”), for which he would have been entitled to give me a good kick up the arse, but either he managed to resist or he missed. Three weeks ago, at the first race of the series I had slowed down far too much in the second mile, this time I managed to hold my pace very well as I ran past runner after runner. I even had the strength for a good finishing kick, which isn’t easy on that wicked uphill finish. Normally I am already toast by the time I get there, this time I managed to tune into a whole new gear as I started hearing steps coming up from behind and instead of losing a place I gained one as I seemed to be flying up the hill.

My Garmin always used to show a slightly short course, but we were always told that it had been measured plenty of times. I (and a few others) noticed that for this race series the start had been moved back a bit. John Walshe told me that Catriona had re-measured the course, and the results speak for themselves. This means that my true 5k PB is probably about 15 seconds slower than what it says on the right-hand side of my web site, but since it’s been there for 2 years already I’m not going to change it. Instead I’ll just have to try and beat it one day.

Doing 15 miles today felt really good. I was a bit apprehensive beforehand, but as soon as I was on my way I felt great. Long runs are a great form of meditation. I can literally run for hours with hardly a conscious thought. It felt good to be back in that groove again, and the loop around Caragh Lake is just as scenic as ever.

13 Nov
10 miles, including:
Killarney 5k, race 2. 19:13, 6:11 pace, HR 175, 25th place
14 Nov
15 miles, 1:58:10, 7:52 pace, HR 148

Weekly Mileage: 75+

Friday, November 12, 2010

There Was A Storm After All

Wouldn’t you believe it, while the announced storm didn’t really happen at the weekend the weather made up for it yesterday, hitting us with winds of over 100km/h and if you don’t believe me, here’s proof. Cycling in those conditions is obviously not ideal, but I didn’t quite appreciate just how bad it was until I came out of a corner and that massive tractor on that narrow road seemed to fill my entire field of vision and for a second I thought that was it. Luckily he was stationary and I survived after all. Niamh was all set to collect me from work but conditions improved sufficiently for me to make my own way home, but cycling for 5 miles straight into a 60 km/h (38 mph) wind was, well, interesting.

Following the coach’s orders, the last two days were a bit slower than previously.

After feeling incredibly good on Wednesday it was back to earth on Thursday, but the atrocious conditions may well have played their part. Since I did not want to run back-and forwards on the same stretch of road for 12 miles I chose to avoid the Ard-na-Sidhe road but got reminded that there was a good reason why I tend to run there when the weather is bad, because running straight into a strong wind that belts heavy rain straight into your face really is as uncomfortable as it sounds. Still, you get a kick when you finish 12 miles in those conditions, knowing that everyone else was bunkering down. At least I do.

It was a bit calmer this morning, but I wasn’t too pleased to find it still raining when I stepped out of the house. I had been feeling great for quite a while, but today the legs were rather heavy and I took it easy. The wind was still a factor, but in contrast to yesterday running along Caragh Lake was tolerable. The legs might not have felt the most comfortable, but when I put the numbers into my newest toy, the VDOT spreadsheet, the resulting number was back to over 54, thanks to the low HR. Considering how tired I had felt early on, I had expected a lower number. What that means, or if it actually means anything, I don’t really know. There’s still a lot to be learnt.

There’s another 5k tomorrow in Killarney and while I’ll be there to run it I won’t be racing it. I’m still in my base training and not allowed to run all out. I’ll just try and have fun instead.

I eventually remembered that the Javelina Jundred 100-mile race had been held in Arizona on the same weekend as the Dublin marathon. The reason why I was interested in it was Ken Zamach, the guy I had shared much of the early miles with in Dingle back in September. Well, wouldn’t you know it, he had an absolute stormer of a race, finishing in fourth place, 3rd man. It did make me wonder, briefly, what I could do over such a distance. Running sub-20 should be well within my capabilities, but that’s where I stopped thinking. 2011 will be a marathon year and if I yearn too much after an Ultra I merely have to bear in mind what Dingle did to my Achilles. But it does answer Mike’s question if I got those Ultras out of my system for good, I suppose.
11 Nov
12+ miles, 1:34:55, 7:51 pace, HR 150
12 Nov
10 miles, 1:18:50, 7:53 pace, HR 144

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Early Mornings

Well, the storm turned out to be a bit of a damp squib. I got a bit wet on Monday and there was a bit of wind, but I have run through much, much worse. I did let the weather forecast psyche me out and ran on the Ard-na-Sidhe road, which is my usual fall-back whenever the wind reaches gale force (or higher), but I could have run on the Caragh Lake road without problems.

The rain did cause an unexpected problem later on, though. I know the many pot holes on the road by heart and can do the slalom around them even in the dark (literally, when cycling home from work), but the rain must have opened up a nasty new one, big and deep, and the first I knew of it was last night when I felt a big bump on the bike, followed by some crunching metallic sound and then a hiss from both directions as both of my tyres gave up the ghost simultaneously. That was a major annoyance, still 1.5 miles away from home, but I made it home in one piece, if a bit delayed and I managed to fix the damage. I'm half tempted to bill the council for 2 inner tubes, though. The road has been in absolutely desperate condition since January's Big Freeze and nobody has ever bothered to fix it.

There was one problem with Monday's run, namely the fact that it took me longer than expected to get ready in the morning and by the time I was finally out of the door I only had time for 7 miles. For some reason I seem to have gotten really slow getting ready. It used to take no more than 15 minutes, now it is closer to 20. Maybe the rain outside wasn't particularly motivating, but I'm equally slow on clear mornings.

The wind actually picked up for Tuesday, which meant I was back on the Ard-na-Sidhe road. I tend to get rather familiar with that one-mile stretch of road during the winter. Doing 11 miles meant going back and forwards 4 times each. It got rather embarrassing at one stage when I passed the same person for the third time. He must have been wondering what that idiot was doing, running in the dark on the same stretch of road again and again.

Conditions had changed dramatically by this morning. Yesterday it had been 7C/45F degrees with 20mph wind and rain. This morning was crystal clear, -1C/30F degrees and absolutely no wind. I ran 10 miles via Killorglin, marvelling how well I was feeling. I got a major shock afterwards when looking at the average heart rate. I don't remember ever running 7:30 pace at a heart rate in the 140s and I cannot rule out some technical glitch with the heart rate monitor. But I did feel very good and the crisp conditions didn't do any harm either. But I am a bit sceptical about these figures. When I put them into a Jack-Daniels inspired spreadsheet, the VDOT value was almost 55 rather than around 52 for every other run over the last 7 days. You don't just jump 3 levels overnight, do you?

Anyway, according to the coach's instructions I've got to slow down a little bit and bump up the mileage: "One or two days at the upper end (7:30 pace), the rest of the week work on longer at an easier pace." It means getting up earlier, I guess.
8 Nov
7+ miles, 53:53, 7:38 pace, HR 152
9 Nov
11+ miles, 1:25:26, 7:42 pace, HR 150
10 Nov
10 miles, 1:14:57, 7:30 pace, HR 149

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Calm Before The Storm

The met office spent most of the last 2 days warning us about the impending “first major storm” of the winter. Lying in my bed last night it sure felt like it had arrived a day early, but listening to the wind howling outside right now I guess they were right after all, last night did not sound half as bad and the storm proper is yet to arrive. At least it gave us plenty of time to bring all the outside furniture into the shed for the winter months. As far as running is concerned, I guess it's time to suck it up.

After almost a week of agony I finally did something about my back. No, not going to to the doctor as Niamh had been nagging me to do, but googling for a cure. The one about keeping the affected area warm appealed to me the most and after judicious use of the hot water bottle (much to Niamh's disapproval), I can only call this a miracle cure. All of a sudden I feel much, much better.

Last week had been really stressful at work, something I can deal with very well normally but it really started to get to me towards the end. Having mostly finished the item that had been taking most of my time, things should hopefully improve next week.

I took it reasonably easy on Friday, running 9 miles along Caragh Lake. I can't even remember it now, so it can't have been particularly interesting. Saturday was a day for sleeping in for everyone but me; I had to get up at 6:45 to be able to run because I had to leave early to get the twins to Tralee for their CTY course. At least they chose the one course that was offered in Tralee or else we'd be driving to Cork every week, four times as far. By now this has become routine: I run in the morning, drive to Tralee, do the weekly shopping while they're there and drive them back home. This works fine but it feels like sacrificing half of my weekend. And the next two weekends will be different because instead of going shopping I will drive to Killarney to run a 5K instead. I did that in February and the timing works out beautifully as long as I don't hang around at either place.

Saturday's run was quite quick without really noticing until I was back home, which I take as a good sign. I added about 6 strides towards the end of it, which also brought the average pace down by about 5 seconds (and obviously increased the HR). Today was an easier version of last week's run through Cromane. A week ago this had been too much and too soon after the Dublin marathon, today I cut it by one mile, but felt much better anyway. I had a bit of a rough patch around mile 8 but managed to recover. 7:30 pace is starting to feel fairly comfortable. But I do remember that in summer of 2009 I used to run this loop at sub-7 pace on several occasions and I'm pretty far away from that shape right now. Then again I think the coach would say that's actually a good thing, so far out from the next race.

5 Nov
9 miles, 1:10:21, 7:49 pace, HR 146
6 Nov
10 miles, 1:14:30, 7:27 pace, HR 156
incl. 6 strides
7 Nov
12 miles, 1:30:19, 7:31 pace, HR 154

Weekly Mileage: 67.5

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Evaluating Recovery

With the Dublin marathon out of the way I finally feel free to start “proper” base training, with no goal race for several months. I think recovery from Dublin has been going quite well. I felt better virtually every day and the figures do back me up on that: on Monday and Wednesday I ran the same course but was significantly faster (8:00 / 7:45 pace) 48 hours later even with a lower heart rate.

Of course, one single such data point is rather useless, and this morning I followed the coach’s orders and did another 4-mile evaluation. If you remember back, I first did this a fortnight ago a few days before the Dublin marathon. After listening to the wind howling outside for much of the night I was a bit apprehensive, but as always the actual conditions were much better than they seemed.

I did the evaluation on almost the same course as last time, but with a slightly different start point in an attempt to iron out some of the elevation figures. Of course, running being an outdoor sport, conditions will never be the same for two runs. While the wind was not as bad as it had seemed, I still had it on my back for the first 2 miles and as a head wind for the final 2. I again used the Garmin to beep whenever the heart rate would deviate, which worked quite well but I did notice a tendency to run at a higher effort when running against the wind and had to ease up on several occasions. In the end, each mile was run at exactly the same average heart rate, but all of them one single beat higher than what I aimed for rolls eyes. The bare figures come up as follows:

6:44 (HR 162, -30 ft, with wind)
7:04 (HR 162, -1 ft, with wind)
7:26 (HR 162, +1 ft, against wind)
7:36 (HR 162, +30 ft, against wind); 42 seconds to HR 130

The pace is about 10 seconds per mile slower than last time and the recovery time to 130 identical. I sure wished the pace would not slow so much over the 4 miles, but it's hard to say how much of that is down to fatigue (I certainly don't feel fatigued after those 4 miles) and how much to the road elevation and wind.

On more important matters, Maia celebrated her third birthday on Tuesday. She broke into floods of tears in the morning, did not want to be there, wanted to refuse all presents and told us in no uncertain terms to cancel the party, but eventually agreed to a compromise. She would accept presents and party but still be 2. Thankfully she eventually managed to overcome her reluctance to accept her new age, with all the burden of responsibility that come with it.

2 Nov
10 miles, 1:18:00, 7:48 pace, HR 154
3 Nov
8 miles, 1:02:01, 7:45 pace, HR 147
4 Nov
10.5 miles, 1:18:32, 7:29 pace, HR 155
incl. 4 miles evaluation:
    6:44, 7:04, 7:26, 7:36; 42 seconds to HR 130

Monday, November 01, 2010

Trick Or Treat

First the kids turned our house into a spooky mansion, then they set off to relieve the neighbours off their sweets. Even though this was made slightly awkward by the fact that little Maia was utterly terrified of Shea's mask, even though she knew it was him ("when he takes off his mask he will be my Shea again"), they succeeded on both counts and came home laden with treasure. Cian announced that Halloween is his second most favourite holiday, after Christmas but ahead of Summer and Easter. Naturally the evening turned into a "eat as many sweets as you can" party and they all refused dinner. Later that night Maia woke up crying and demanded another sweet party. Apart from the fact that it was pitch dark outside, she'd already had a pre-birthday party in Nana's house on Thursday and will have a birthday party on Tuesday, so we found this demand slightly unreasonable and eventually managed to get her back to bed. Oh the joys!

Turning back the clocks gives me one extra hour of light in the morning which means I don't need a headlamp but I pretty much forgot to take the opposite effect in the evenings into account and left for work without reflective clothing and a light source, which made the commute home far more dangerous than it should have been. Since this is my fourth winter of cycling to work you might have thought I would have caught on by now, but obviously not. I made it home in one piece and my first trip was to dig out the required gear. That should make things a lot better from now on, but the fact that a lot of drivers don't bother dipping their headlights for a mere cyclist remains an unsolved problem. They obviously have no clue just how much they are blinding me. I have a decent health insurance package but don't actually want to test it out.

The post-marathon soreness in the quads had disappeared by Friday but on Sunday I made a mistake and ran much too hard and probably too long as well. I set off feeling pretty good and did not check my Garmin until well after 3 miles when I saw a pace figure of 7:20 and immediately eased the effort, but probably not enough. By mile 11 I was pretty knackered and had enough but was still 2 miles away from home. I've just run a marathon, there really is no need to overdo it right now. Consequently I took it much easier this morning, running only 8 miles and at a much more sedate pace. It felt a lot easier, despite the windy conditions.

Talking about the marathon, apparently there are 30 seconds of footage of me in the extended highlights package. One of our pace team ran with a head camera and from what I've heard my attempts at whipping up crowd support on Nassau Street made it into the coverage. Unfortunately I don't think I'll be able to see it for myself. It will be repeated on Wednesday, but Niamh might not be too impressed if I subscribed to Setanta Ireland for an entire month just for an ego trip.

Running a marathon seems to miraculously have healed my achilles, I have not felt a beep from it since Tuesday. Unfortunately my back is more than making up for it, sitting in the office chair for several hours is pure agony. At least it's not a running injury!

31 Oct
13.1 miles, 1:39:10, 7:34 pace, HR 163
1 Nov
8 miles, 1:04:01, 8:00 pace, HR 147

Weekly Mileage: 70+