Monday, January 31, 2011

Pushing On

I made it through the first week of the Transition phase without injury and with 2 intact, if slightly sore, legs. Doing this for the first time makes it difficult to judge if I’m doing enough, too much or too little, though I trust the coach to help me out if I’m straying too far off the path.

Since keeping your aerobic conditioning intact is absolutely crucial, the weekly long run remains a critical element of training. It was a bit fresh on Sunday morning; every other year I would have called -4C bitterly cold, but after the winter we’ve just had nobody is batting an eyelid at those temperatures. I did not expect to come across as many icy patches as I did, though. The roads we’re driving on are all fine and I did not think the back roads I use for running would be any different, but there were a few hairy bits. At least it confirmed that I had been right to stay away from the loop around the lake during the worst of the cold spell.

The legs were not exactly fresh; the hamstrings especially had plenty of residue from the hill drills in them, but I knew I would manage. In fact, the big climb early on was significantly easier than only two weeks ago. When I’m in reasonable shape I can just switch off at the bottom of the hill and proceed to the top on autopilot, which is exactly what happened. I made a mistake during the second half of the run, though. For some reason I started pushing harder than normal and ran the last 8 miles, over undulating terrain and with a slight net uphill at 7:24 pace, much faster than normal and definitely faster than I should have. It left me with rather sore legs for the rest of the day and I can still feel the effects today, Monday.

I hoped to make up for some of my mistake by taking it especially easy this morning. With the cold spell ending and the warmer air bringing loads of rain and wind it may have been the last run in nice conditions for a while. Once more I undershot the 140 HR, but in this case I’m pretty sure it was warranted. It still did not stop me from having sore quads today but right now I’m still hoping another good night’s sleep will do wonders.
30 Jan
19 miles, 2:26:16, 7:42 pace, HR 148
   last 8 @ 7:24 pace, HR 153
31 Jan
8 miles, 1:03:34, 7:56 pace, HR 138

Weekly Mileage: 73
January Mileage: 341.5

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Another Year Older, None The Wiser

Maia might be right, I’m really old. At least I feel it now. There is a picture on my desk, showing me with the twins just a few months old. I look about 18 in that photo. People always used to comment on my youthful appearance. Right when that picture was taken, those comments stopped; looking after baby twins ages you 10 years in 6 months. I never managed to get younger again and I found myself celebrating my 41st birthday on Thursday.

I celebrated this by going out for an easy 10 mile run in the morning. I was jogging along slowly, or so I thought, and was mightily surprised when I saw the average pace in the high 7:30s at the end. I point to the low heart rate to attest that I had kept the effort on the easy side, though.

Inseparable from old age are your constant aches and pains, and par for the course my right shin was quite sore in the evening. I was a bit alarmed because shin splints are just about the last thing I want to experience again, but I treated this niggle the same way I treat all the others: I completely ignored it. It still hurt on Friday morning, but after the first mile it was gone and has not come back since; my treatment must have been successful.

I was back on the hills again on Friday and after Thursday’s relative rest day I added one extra drill. The 4x30 second drills were followed by a set of high knees up a steep road. I can only do about 40 seconds of those at a time before my legs give up, so I jogged down the hill and did another one and a third one for a total of about 2 minutes. For the next drill I selected pushing off using just the ankles, which again felt easy, even after 4 minutes. I have done some gentle bouncing for one minute in the morning before each run for several weeks and my guess is that this has already strengthened my ankles sufficiently for this exercise to feel easy. Either that or I’m doing it wrong. The final drill consisted of driving the thighs again - this is the one drill I’m the least sure about. Unfortunately the coach is not here to show me.

The schedule changes for this phase mean that Saturday is another day for the hills. My legs were sore to start with and I decided to cut back to only two drills. I reasoned that since the high knees feel the worst, I should do more of them as I obviously need it. On the other hand I must be careful not to overdo it - I do not want to get injured and I do not want to dig myself too deep into the hole of fatigue. Anyway, after the customary set of 4x30 sec I did another set of high knees, again 3x40 seconds each, and then I slowly went to the top of that hill, did a few more minutes of easy running and followed it up with just under half a mile of downhill strides. All these drills were separated by about 15 minutes of easy running, as always.

Twice today on the warm-up as well as the cool-down I caught myself running 7:15 pace when I should have gone much slower. I really need to concentrate on running slowly or else the legs will just do their own thing.

I measured a lower heart rate of 41 this morning. That’s not exactly amazingly low but still the lowest reading for a couple of months. I’m wondering if theses drills are already producing a sharpening effect. Then again, it might be nothing.
27 Jan
10 miles, 1:16:07, 7:37 pace, HR 143
28 Jan
10 miles, 1:27:12, 8:43 pace, HR 142
   4x30 sec; high knees; ankles; thigh drive
29 Jan
9.15 miles, 1:11:06. 7:47 pace, HR 147
   4x30 secs; high knees; downhill strides

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Run To The Hills

And to think I was looking forward to that ...

After weeks and weeks of base training that consisted of mainly running well within myself at all times, the next phase is not yet intended to do all the hard work needed to reach peak fitness, but to get me ready to do so. Mystery Coach has explained the concept in great detail in Mike’s old blog and if you’re interested in the training I strongly suggest you go and have a look.

The very first thing I noticed on Tuesday morning as soon as I left the house was the significantly increased temperatures, they had gone up from 1C on Monday to 8C today. I felt seriously overdressed in my long sleeves and tights but did not fancy going back and change. The first “workout” after 15 minutes of warm-up were a set of 4x30 seconds strides with 2 minutes recovery in-between, where I concentrated to run as fast as I could while still being relaxed and in full control. After 15 further easy minutes I was at the base of the hill that I have used for hill repeats many times before. A few seconds later I came across a curtain of dark, which turned out to be a fallen tree across the entire road, probably from the storm that had blown over 2 weeks ago. I scrambled beneath the trunk and then did about 2 minutes of a hill drill, namely using just the ankles to push myself off the ground. This felt remarkably easy, too easy, so I decided to use the ankle action to push myself higher into the air, springing up the hill very slowly. As I was told not to overdo it I left it at that, worked my way back down past two trees that were blocking half the road and underneath the one that had fallen entirely across it.

I figured that crawling underneath a fallen tree in the darkness was not without its dangers and decided to use a different hill for the next drill, half a mile further down the road past Ard-na-Sidhe, leading steeply up to the Devil’s Elbow. The drawback of that second hill, apart from being further away from home, was its asphalt surface but it’s the best I could think of. My third drill, after another 15 minutes of easy running, were high knee lifts going up the very steep road. This was a much tougher exercise as I tried (but mostly failed) to get the knees all the way up to waist level. I did about a minute of that until I reached a flatter piece of road for a bit of recovery and followed it up with about 40 seconds of more high knees. That was enough.

Wednesday morning went similar, but at least I was in shorts and t-shirt. Again the work consisted of 3 different drills separated by about 15 minutes of easy running. The first drill was the same as yesterday, 4x30 seconds. The second one was striding out on a gradual half-mile downhill section, taking longish strides working on pulling the legs through and stretching them out behind me. This felt tougher than anticipated and with the warning in my ear to be careful with that exercise due to its stresses on the legs I pulled out a little bit earlier than planned. The third exercise was uphill again, driving with the thighs, but looking back at the instructions now I think I got that wrong because I turned it more into a bounding exercise when the brief was to initiate the drive from the quads while going up slowly.

Anyway, I can feel the effort in my legs, and that’s after doing only the minimum number of sessions. Tomorrow is a recovery day before 2 further days of drills. Actually it was not too bad, the fact that each exercise was different kept things interesting; in the past when trying to make sense of the Lydiard hill drills I usually did e.g. 4 repeats of bounding in one single session and eventually ended up hating it. I think I will be better able to cope with the coach’s way of doing things.
25 Jan
8.75 miles, 1:12:49 8:19 pace, HR 147
   4x30sec, ankles, high knee
26 Jan
9 miles, 1:10:20, 7:49 pace, HR 148
  4x30sec, downhill strides, driving thighs

Monday, January 24, 2011


You might not know that, but Niamh is as obsessed about baking as I am about running. She produces mountains of the stuff and it is all just ridiculously tasty. If I ever stop burning 10000 calories per week on the road I’ll turn into Jabba the Hut in no time whatsoever. Anyway, on Friday evening our (overworked) oven gave up and died. Niamh is still in shock and she keeps telling me it’s the equivalent of someone throwing out all my shoes. I don’t know how long it will take to get fixed, but probably not long enough to make a difference to my weight, which seems to be stuck at 150 pounds (10 stone 10, 68 kg).

I got up reasonably early on Saturday and after spending some time with Shea and Maia managed to sneak out for my long run. The fog was so thick you could have cut it with a knife, but climbing 500 feet on the first hill brought the reward on an absolutely magical scene. The valley to my left was completely hidden in fog, the sky was entirely clear with not a single cloud, just one lonely vapour trail. The Moon was hovering above the horizon, which itself was covered in pink, about 45 minutes before sunrise. Immensely beautiful and pretty much indescribable! It helped that climbing the hill already felt easier than last week, despite the fact that the hamstrings exhibited some leftover fatigue from yesterday’s run. The fog eventually lifted and I was running in glorious sunshine along the lake, until about 2 miles from home when I turned a corner and all of a sudden was right back in the thick fog.

Recovery consisted of 2 hours in the Kerry County Museum. I don’t think there are too many 9-year olds who beg to be brought to the museum, but Lola is one of them and the others did not complain, so that was our afternoon’s entertainment sorted.

I ended the week and base training with a short 8-mile run on Sunday that was supposed to be very easy, but I did raise an eyebrow when I got back and saw the 7:35 average pave on the Garmin. I never checked it during the run and thought I was doing about 8:00 pace. I’ll learn some day, I'm sure.

Maia has turned into an early riser all of a sudden, much to the disgust of her mother who does not particularly appreciate being woken at 6 o’clock in the morning. Preparing first breakfast and then a DVD for the miniature tyrant meant a shortened run for Daddy but thankfully a quiet Monday morning after all for Mummy. Hence the first run of the Transition Phase was nothing but a short, slow 7-mile run on the Caragh Lake Road. The first workout will be tomorrow; I still have to take it easy and gradually work my way up. The efforts will basically consist of short repetitions, usually involving a hill, done every 15 minutes during a medium distance run of 8-12 miles. I’ll let you know how it goes, of course.
22 Jan
18+ miles, 2:20:33, 7:48 pace, HR 146
23 Jan
8 miles, 1:00:43, 7:35 pace, HR 145
24 Jan
7 miles, 55:19, 7:54 pace, HR 139

Weekly Mileage: 74+

Friday, January 21, 2011

No Offense Intended

There is one thing I did not mention about Tuesday’s school evening, though it was very much on my mind. Niamh noticed it as well, and that’s when I realised just how big a deal it is: the number of overweight children is just staggering. All of the children on stage were between 6 and 12 years old and thinking back to my own school years, there were maybe one or two overweight kids in my class, and none of them would have been what I call obese. How things have changed! My own impression was that the majority of heavy kids were girls, but I'm not sure if that’s generally the case. I found it pretty shocking, especially as this was a school in rural Kerry where outdoor pursuits and sport are still valued highly. If we could get those children to exercise more it would make such a difference to their lives. Instead the politicians are talking about getting rid of PE altogether.

Anyway, my own training is continuing nicely. Another nice and easy run on Thursday once more got close to 7:30 pace. I’m getting used to this. Today I did another “Fast Friday” but with the preliminary speed phase just around the corner I was very careful not to overdo it. As a result I ran it at a slightly lower average HR than last week; in fact, most of the time I did not even get out of the 140s. Despite that constraint it was still faster than last week. For a while the average pace was a tad faster than 7:00, only to drop back on a couple of uphill miles after the halfway point. I was tempted to put in a stronger effort over the last 2 miles to get back under 7:00 again but thought the better of it to avoid the wrath of The Coach. At all times I was relaxed and comfortable and felt like I could have run at that effort for much, much longer.

The weather is cold and clear at the moment, with temperatures a little below freezing point in the morning and lovely and sunny during the day. I love it. Maybe I get reminded of the Alpine winters of my youth, sans the skiing of course. It did cross my mind that the faster running pace might be related to the lower outside temperatures because the last time I ran that fast was back in November when we had equally cold mornings, but that may well be complete coincidence.

Right now I'm looking forward to being allowed to run fast again a bit more often, but I have the sneaking suspicion that I may come to regret these words.
20 Jan
8+ miles, 1:01:08, 7:36 pace, HR 144
21 Jan
10 miles, 1:10:25, 7:03 pace, HR 151

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Aerobic Endurance

For most of my base training phase I have been feeling very, very good. Even though my fitness clearly improved it felt like I was not really training. On every run (ok, almost every run) I was running well within myself and day-to-day recovery was never in question. This disappeared over Christmas when I managed to overdo it over one weekend; it took several days to shake off the worst of the fatigue, but the feeling of effortlessly gliding over the pavement did not return.

Until a few days ago. All of a sudden I’m back and I'm loving it. The coach told me last week to relax a bit; I followed his advice and all of a sudden the legs are floating again. The effort level is as low as before but the easy pace is knocking at 7:30 again. It was there at the end of November, but that was due to a sharpening effect after the Killarney race series. By now I have not been racing for over 8 weeks, any sharpening should long have gone and I’m left with just me aerobic conditioning. I skipped a lot of races in the mean time and racing would have been fun, but with my eyes firmly set on an April marathon, it sure feels like a sacrifice worth doing.

It suddenly got cold again, but nowhere near as cold as in December. The temperature is close to freezing point in the morning, cold enough to dig out the long sleeved shirts once more. On Monday morning the legs were still suffering a bit from Sunday’s long hills, so I kept the effort very, very easy and was really surprised to see me averaging well below 8-minute pace anyway. I'm supposed to keep the HR between 140 and 155 beats, so an average of 137 is actually too easy but I’m pretty sure the coach prefers me to undershoot the target by 3 beats rather than overshoot it by even one.

Still, I pushed a little bit more on Tuesday and was once more genuinely surprised by the pace, in the 7:30s on average. I'm definitely not used to that being my easy pace. The moon was still out as I left home which made for my favourite conditions, cold and clear and no need for an artificial light source. Just perfect.

Since the boys’ school had closed a week early before Christmas due to the severe weather, their Christmas play had been postponed, but I did not escape for long. Niamh claims to be looking forward to that each year; personally I cling to the hope that the evening will be over before I lose the will to live (and if that makes me a bad parent, so be it). In the end it was the uncomfortable seat that provided the biggest problem, being squished into a chair designed for a primary school kid for several hours is just not my thing, but I do wonder how some others with higher BMI than me coped. Anyway, the plays were actually funny at times, the standard of acting, while uneven, wasn’t too bad and I survived after all. The boys did just fine and stage fright is not something they suffer from.

I even felt inspired enough to run past the same school building this morning, doing a loop through Cromane. The stormy weather on Saturday managed to produce an astounding array of entirely new potholes that I’m not familiar with, none of which I could not see in the morning. There was one I must have hit twice, on the way out as well as the way back, but I managed not to twist my ankle and I'm gradually learning to slalom around them even in the dark. I reckon I could run most of my routes with my eyes closed by now.
17 Jan
8 miles, 1:03:10, 7:54 pace, HR 137
18 Jan
10 miles, 1:16:03, 7:36 pace, HR 142
19 Jan
12+ miles, 1:30:55, 7:33 pace, HR 145

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Taking It Easy

The coach sent me a quick email, telling me not to be too hard on myself as the last evaluation had been very good. He also told me to relax a bit for the rest of base training to be ready for the next phase. The last bit was very timely advice. My legs had been a bit sore every evening this week and I had already decided to cut the long run from 20 to 18 miles. After getting the coach's advice I cut down a lot more - I binned the faster run on Friday and cut the long run down further, to just one lap around Caragh Lake.

Conditions on Friday were not too bad but the wind must have been close to gale force. That's not really an issue, I have run in those conditions dozens of times and 8 miles at relaxed pace just seemed to float by. I was quite surprised to see 7:45 average pace at the end, the effort had felt easier than that, which can be seen by the low HR. Not that I'm complaining.

Saturday's weather was a different kettle of fish altogether. The twins had yet another CTY day on Cork which required an early enough rise for my run. Since I really did not fancy yet another 6 o'clock alarm call I had already decided to move the long run to Sunday before I had even seen the weather forecast. They always seem to wheel out Jean Byrne for the most severe forecast these days (and yes, Ewen, she really is our weather girl). A massive storm front was promising some, er, interesting conditions, and so it proved.

There was a second storm to handle when Maia's stomach revolted yet again. We thought she had recovered but were proven wrong and a rather rough night followed. I'll spare you the details, but it was not pretty.

I always use the Ard-na-Sidhe road when the wind speed goes past a certain point and the storm shaking the trees sounded quite scary at times, but my hour of running seemed to pass in no time at all and once safely back home I figured I had run in much worse conditions.

Since Maia needed recuperation and Cian did not fancy a long car drive, Niamh brought the twins to Cork and I stayed home with the other two. Good call. I was wrecked for the rest of the day and my stomach felt rather queasy at times. I was a bit worried but a good night's sleep got me over the worst.

On Sunday I was finally back on the long, steep Caragh Lake hills and was surprised to find the running rather tougher than expected. I made it up to the top in good time but it required more work than anticipated and my hip muscles kept hurting for the rest of the run. After 30 hours of storm weather the conditions were much nicer, pretty ideal for running in fact. Still, with my hurting legs I was looking forward to being done and pressed the effort a bit over the last 5 miles, averaging about 7:30 pace over some undulating terrain with a net uphill. It was fast enough to get the legs going without wearing me out. I was reasonably happy with my run, but I could clearly tell that my long absence from these hills has left the legs significantly weaker than I'd like them to be. A few more runs over that road will sort that out. After a few weeks I will be able to run up the hills without a bother again.

P.S. You can win a free Garmin310XT at Ray's blog.
14 Jan
8 miles, 1:02:02, 7:45 pace, HR 141
15 Jan
8.5+ miles, 1:06:17, 7:45 pace, HR 145
16 Jan
16.6 miles, 2:09:20, 7:47 pace, HR 145

Weekly Mileage: 73+

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Someone in the office got the idea to get a group of us running the Cork marathon as a fundraiser for Cancer Research, in honour of a colleague that passed away last year. It's a great idea, but when XX asked me to run I tried to explain that it's only 7 weeks after my Vienna marathon. She cut me off, pointing out that YY is going to do 3 triathlons in 4 weeks in June. I tried to get a word in, pointing out that 3 sprint triathlons still only amounted to 15k of running, but didn't get very far. Normally that sort of thing would not bother me, I am perfectly aware that the majority of people can not tell the difference between a 2 hour sprint triathlon and a 3 hour marathon, and would not give two hoots anyway. But she must have caught me on a bad day and I was really pissed off. After 75 minutes of battling wind and rain during my run and 20 more minutes of the same conditions cycling into work, the last thing I needed was someone giving me grief for not running enough marathons.

It's a good cause and in memory of a colleague and I might try to snag one of the pacer slots which I could still run for charity, I presume. Next time I'd really prefer to be asked nicely, though.

I just chucked out a pair of runners after close to 700 miles. The wear pattern was quite interesting, I thought, and I've noticed this on the last few pairs as well. On the right shoe the pattern on the back of the shoe's sole is still in good condition, considering the mileage. But on the left it is worn down completely and the difference is a few millimetres. I must have an asymmetric gait. This is a fairly new development, until about a year ago both of my shoes always wore most at the heel. Did I really switch to land more on the forefoot, not deliberately, and only on one foot? I also just realised that all of my recent injuries were on my right leg, but that may well be just coincidence.

12 Jan
9.25 miles, 1:13:43, 7:58 pace, HR 139
13 Jan
11 miles, 1:26:26, 7:51 pace, HR 142

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Evaluating Recovery

From what I’ve gathered so far, base training is all about recovery and ensuring that you get enough of it. Accordingly I made doubly sure to run very easily on Monday. The rather demanding set of runs over the weekend had left some soreness behind and the legs felt rather heavy at first. My mood was not exactly helped by the fact that it was raining as I left home. I almost wished for the ice to come back instead, but sadly the weather is not up to me. What is up to me, though, is the effort of my run and this time I produced the lowest HR of my training cycle yet. I’m actually supposed to keep the HR between 140 and 155, with far more time spent at the lower end, and this time I undershot the band by a good bit. Never mind, I felt the legs would thank me for it at Tuesday’s evaluation.

Before it came to that, there was another problem to be tackled. When first Cian and then Niamh got a nasty stomach bug we kept saying it would be ok as long as Maia did not contract it. Those hopes were dashed on Monday evening when she started to throw up. To make matter worse, Niamh was in Killarney for the evening and I had to clean up the mess and console the girl on my own, as was well as keeping an eye on the rest of the brood. Luckily she is a very resilient little girl and between her spells of throwing up violently she was remarkably cheerful. By the time Niamh was home, the worst was actually over. We braced ourselves for a tough night, but she slept through – until 4:30 that is, from when on she demanded to be entertained, but hey, that's better than the state she had been in 10 hours earlier. Shortly after 6 o’clock I managed to get out of the house, her big sister taking over the entertainment duties (they both fell asleep again soon anyway).

Finally out of the door and free of worries for the little one, I embarked on yet another evaluation workout. During the warm-up I was quite confident that this would go well, as I was jogging along easily at about 7:40 pace with a HR in the mid 130s, something I had not seen in a while. After close to 4 miles I started the evaluation proper. It took a while to get into the rhythm, I seemed to have to work harder than usual to get the HR up to 161 and I needed the Garmin’s alarm more than usual to stay at the target HR. When I felt like running uphill towards the end of the third mile, even though I knew the road was flat, I realised that I was getting tired, but at that stage I also noticed the wind for the first time. If it had just picked up or if I was just getting overly sensitive, I’m not sure.

Mile 1 6:44 (HR 161)
Mile 2 6:47 (HR 161)
Mile 3 6:49 (HR 162)
Mile 4 6:52 (HR 162)

Time to 130: 39

Once I finished the evaluation I came to a complete stop and was surprised that it took 39 seconds for the HR to come back down to 130. It seemed to take an age to get to 150, but once it finally started dropping I came down reasonably quickly. The overall pace compares favourably to previous evaluations but kept fading a bit more that I'd like to see, really. I guess the slower last mile together with the long recovery afterwards is a sign that I have not recovered from the weekend yet. Maybe I should have waited a few days with the evaluation, but what’s done is done.
10 Jan
8 miles, 1:04:19, 8:02 pace, HR 136
11 Jan
11.75 miles, 1:26:47, 7:23 pace, HR 151
incl. 4 miles evaluation:
    6:44, 6:47, 6:49, 6:52; 39 seconds to HR 130

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Base Training

Back in October, at the start of training, the coach sent me an email containing a slightly cryptic message:
“This is good: 10 at 7:13 pace, 20 at 7:54 pace, 15 at 7:54 pace. It shows you recover and increased work capacity which will be needed in the peaking phase.”

I couldn't quite figure out what he meant at the time, but just got on with my training. The weekend runs are quite demanding and for various reasons there was always a reason why one run had to be curtailed or another ended up slower than planned. It's only recently that I have reached a level of consistency that I am happy with and the plan for Friday/Saturday/Sunday was 10 miles at faster effort (with a max HR of 155, I used the Garmin's HR alarm feature), then 20 and 15 at easy pace.

Friday's basic temperature was right around freezing point, just like the previous mornings, but a strong and biting cold wind added a significant windchill to the conditions. I felt fairly cold, even with the long sleeves, especially when it started raining on two separate occasions. Anyway, after a slightly slower first mile I got into the effort. While faster than the other days it was still very manageable, slower than marathon effort, I like to think. I settled into an effort slightly below the allowed max, in the low 150s, but I noticed that the pace increased only by a miniscule amount when I tried to push a bit harder, so I eventually left it at that. Usually the first half of these runs is a bit faster as I tend to slow down on the return leg as fatigue and a few gentle climbs take their toll, but this time the wind had me slower during the early miles but pushed me along on the way home and I ended up with an average pace of 7:06, a bit slower than a fortnight ago, but with the knowledge that I had left enough in the tank for the next two days.

Three days after Cian's very rough night, it was Niamh's turn. She must have run half a marathon between bed and the toilet bowl, and eventually I retreated from the scene, trying to get a few hours of sleep in Shea's room, which didn't entirely work either but I'm sure Niamh's second part of the night was still a lot worse than mine. I subsequently felt rather guilty as I closed the door behind me at the beginning of Saturday's run. I usually scoff at people who call running a selfish pursuit. It is a stupid thing to say, solitary does not equate selfish, but on this occasion I admit it, leaving Niamh behind with 4 children was a selfish thing to do; I really wanted to get my run in and was prepared to put my own needs first.

Anyway, selfish pursuit or not, I was soon absorbed in the effort. The next cold snap had arrived, there was snow in the fields and ice on the road and I had to be really careful, there were some seriously icy stretches and I decided that the Caragh Lake loop was out and the road to Killorglin the only sensible option. It was still borderline (read: I should not have run, really). I did three loops of the Killorglin/Rangue road, 5 miles each, and during the second loop the sun finally rose and conditions improved markedly, apart from one or two shady spots but by the third loop I had figured out the best line through the ice. Very much unlike the previous 20-mile run on St. Stephen's Day, I felt very good throughout and was still in fine form when I got home to find a surprisingly peaceful home; the children were all playing nicely with each other and Niamh was getting her much-needed rest after all. The rest of the day was a bit hectic, having to take on Niamh's duties in addition to my own, but I was glad to be able to make up for my earlier absence. Cian even had the cheek to say that Mummy should be sick more often, it's fun to be around Daddy all day.

I was a bit worried about the third part of the weekend program. Two weeks ago the first two days had gone well but the third knocked me out for the rest of the week and I did not fancy a repeat. The quads felt a bit heavy as soon as I got up, but at least Niamh felt much, much better again after sleeping significant amounts of the previous 24 hours, avoiding another guilt trip. It had been raining overnight and subsequently the road was covered in black ice, very dodgy, keeping me away from the Caragh Lake hills once more, or maybe that's just an excuse. I ran the Cromane Loop instead, adding a few miles at the end to make up 15 miles. During the first half I caught myself again and again running far too fast, doing close to 7:00 pace at times but each time I slowed down I soon found myself speeding up again as soon as the mind started wandering. This only stopped when I started getting tired during the last few miles. After countless miles on icy surfaces over the last few weeks today I finally slipped and fell as I was going through a junction turning right. I did bang my right knee, the dodgy one and it was a bit painful over the next few miles but I don't think there was any harm done. The right calf felt a bit tight at times and the quads finally became heavy during the final miles but all in all this went very well.

As mentioned earlier on, the coach's prediction months ago had been 10 @ 7:13, 20 @ 7:54, 15 @ 7:54, and keep in mind that these are training paces, to be run without straining yourself and ensuring good recovery from day to day. Just as I am nearing the end of the base training phase I feel I have finally reached this level.
7 Jan
10 miles, 1:11:03, 7:06 pace, HR 152
8 Jan
20 miles, 2:38:26, 7:55 pace, HR 145
9 Jan
15+ miles, 1:57:17, 7:47 pace, HR 143

Weekly Mileage: 86

Thursday, January 06, 2011

A Night To Remember

The first sign of trouble was at 00:30 when Cian threw up for the first time and Niamh and me spent the next 30 minutes cleaning up the mess (me, mostly) and consoling the poor child (Niamh, mostly). These things happen, but the main problem was that they happened again, namely at 2:30 and again at 4 o'clock and once more at 5 o’clock, with the one difference that Niamh slept through all the other incidents and it was left to me to handle them. When the alarm went at 6 I used the snooze button for the first time in a very, very long time as I could not even open my eyes. I managed to get up at the second call, but another throwing-up episode meant that by the time I made it out of the house the midweek longish run was curtailed to 10 miles. It’s all part of parenting, I suppose.

The main thing is that Cian has recovered and nobody else was afflicted, unless there is a delayed reaction yet to come. It meant that I ran virtually the same distance over the same course three times in a row, something I usually try to avoid but then again it’s one way of being consistent, I suppose. I have been feeling much better this week but I keep making doubly sure to run easily and stay ahead of the recovery curve. I’m probably overcautious, but that’s a lot better than erring the other way.

I made some use of the Sales in Dublin to purchase a new pair of trousers and had serious trouble finding a pair that actually fits. I know I'm slimmer than your average person but I'm not exactly anorexic and I’ve never had quite such a hard time before. Niamh could not resist calling me too thin, but that’s pure jealousy, obviously. Eventually I managed to track down the only decent looking pair of trousers with a 30 inch waist and 32 inch length. It may well be true that the average person keeps getting fatter and fatter and the shops are merely following demand.

It was markedly colder this morning and there is snowfall predicted for the next few days in the South and West (or so I'm told. for some reason I had troubles concentrating on the weather during the forecast). People have started moaning already; is it really too much to ask for the complaining to wait until the conditions you are complaining about are actually here? Anyway, it’s not going to be anywhere near as cold as during December and the temperatures are predicted to climb again after the weekend, together with heavy rainfall. Now THAT is something I’d find worthy of moaning about!
4 Jan
10 miles, 1:19:31, 7:57 pace, HR 139
5 Jan
10+ miles, 1:18:20, 7:48 pace, HR 145
6 Jan
10 miles, 1:19:41, 7:58 pace, HR 140

Monday, January 03, 2011

A New Beginning

There is no need for New Year's resolutions, I am perfectly happy with how my life is going, so all I'm trying to do is more of the same. I just about made it through midnight on New Year's Eve – it was way past my usual bedtime but I managed to keep awake long enough. Trouble is, when I finally made it to bed I was unable to fall asleep. It was a very tired Thomas who got up on New Year's Day after barely 5 hours of sleep, but in marked contrast to the majority of the western world at least I did not have a hangover.

After not being overly fond of the available running options I decided to try something different and headed towards the Dublin Mountains. I had a quick look on Google how to get there from Stillorgan but no real idea what I was heading for. When the climbing started I kept going up and up, eventually topping out at just over 1100 feet. I had a vague idea of where I was when I eventually passed Johnny Fox's, one of the three pubs in Ireland claiming to be the highest one. Btw, how on Earth can there be a dispute? It's not exactly difficult to establish the elevation of each point. For the record, my Garmin had Johnny Fox's at 930 feet elevation. Anyway, while it must have been heaving a few hours earlier, the place was dead quiet and I carried on for another 2 miles towards Glencree before turning around. I did wonder if I could go on and circle the mountain rather than do an out-and-back, but without a map that wasn't really a good idea – I can leave that for next time. The miles home just flew by, obviously helped by the fact that there were almost 1000 feet of downhill and for once I did not wilt on the second half of a run. I was back in Stillorgan after just over 17 miles. Ideally I would have added at least one or two more, but I was already late for a family function and any further delays would have had me in serious trouble with Niamh.

This was the most fun I've had during a run in Dublin ever and I was tempted to head back into the mountains again on Sunday but decided against it to protect my quads. I had been feeling well throughout an entire run for almost the first time in a week and I did not want to destroy that feeling again by overzealously gobbling up vertical gains. Accordingly I opted for a much easier course, namely several loops of Deer Park near UCD. I've heard it said that one lap around the perimeter of the park is exactly once mile and my Garmin had that almost right, 6 loops were 5.90 miles. Getting there and back via a scenic route added some extra miles for just over 10, leaving me at 76 for the week. That's a bit less than during previous weeks, but I needed to step back a bit, I was clearly in danger of digging myself deeper and deeper into a hole.

The real discovery, though, was that running slowly made all the difference between feeling dead on my feet after a few miles and being able to get through 10 miles perfectly fine. The previous 2 days had seen the slowest runs in weeks, but unlike the others I was not wearing myself out.

I hope I did not undo the good work this morning by running a bit faster again, but I think it was just the revitalised legs that had an extra spring in their step, the HR was just as low. I did Deer Park again, 6 loops were 5.97 miles today, which tells you a bit about the accuracy of the Garmin. I added a seventh loop, just because I was feeling so good and running finally was fun again.

Then we hopped into the car and drove back home to Kerry. The journey has gotten much easier now the motorway between Dublin and Limerick is finally complete (they took HOW many years to build the damn thing? Oh, never mind), and in Adare almost literally ran into him and him (how impressive is that for celebrity spotting?); it doesn't take much imagination to work out that they were staying in the exceedingly swanky Adare Manor, but I do wonder if the rest of the Fellowship is there as well. However, the two of them scampered pretty damn quickly when they saw me looking at them. I guess that's what Hobbits do when humans are around.
1 Jan
17+ miles, 2:20:41, 8:11 pace, HR 141
2 Jan
10+ miles, 1:21:28, 7:59 pace, HR 139
3 Jan
11 miles, 1:25:32, 7:46 pace, HR 141

Weekly Mileage: 76