Sunday, February 27, 2011

Torture Sessions

There seems to be an impression that I don't like following advice. Not sure where that comes from, maybe from my irrational hatred against anything resembling authority, perchance? Anyway, when MC offered to coach me, it was far too good an opportunity to miss and I have been careful to follow his advice as closely as I could.

With one exception.

When he mentioned ice baths a while ago, I tried to silently ignore his advice, hoping it would go away. This worked for a while, but he was always going to come back to it. Time to HTFU and suck it up.

Saturday's MP effort had a twist. I was ordered to cover up the Garmin during the pace effort and run purely by feel. Instead of covering it up I switched the display. Never having aimed for a certain pace without my little toy, I felt completely at sea. Two miles into the effort I was highly tempted to peek but managed to resist. The MP segment was longer this time, 10 miles, and I did start to get tired towards the end. My impression during the last few miles was that I was running a bit too hard; it just did not feel likely to keep up the effort for an entire marathon. When I did look at the numbers after finishing the run I was both pleased that I had kept the pace pretty much on target (6:44 pace, HR 161), and slightly disappointed that an effort that had felt a tad too hard was “only” 6:44, after thinking of 6:40 as my marathon pace prior to the run.

The real torture came after the run in form of the aforementioned ice bath. The coach called it “cool bath” because there is no actual ice in the tub but who is he kidding! Niamh came to inquire what the tortured high-pitched screaming was all about and left with the immortal words “you f***ing eejit, Thomas!”. No sympathy from that source then.

It did, however, help the legs because they felt surprisingly good the next morning. Just too bad that the rest of me felt like crap. I think that bug that I have been fighting for the last week is trying to gain the upper hand. The heart rate was elevated (resting HR 44 compared to 40 last week) and I felt completely flat at first and like death at the end. The hilly road around Caragh Lake did not help either. The coach had told me to run easily for at least 2 hours but no more than 2:30 and use my own judgment. I'm not sure why I added another 1.5 miles after finishing the loop because that was definitely against the coach's advice. I also can't quite explain why I started hammering along during the second half. The HR was way above the low 140s where it should have been but at that stage I had decided that the germs in my body had raised the HR to new levels, meaning it did not reflect the real running effort. I also figured that if I can run 7:30 pace over a very hilly road while feeling lousy, I must be in good shape. When Niamh asked how the run had been I replied “I'm surprised you can feel so bad and still live”, but had no comeback to her “I learned that during child birth”. Given that contrast, I suppose I was not feeling that bad.

After a week with a sore throat, I have finally decided to take some medication but now I'm wondering if it was the medicine that made me feel so bad. I actually started feeling perfectly fine again as soon as I stopped running (apart from yet another ice bath. This time even the kids came to check why daddy was screaming), so it's hard to know if I'm getting worse or improving but right now I think I'll be fine again soon.
26 Feb
13.1 miles, 1:30:26, 6:54 pace, HR 157
   incl. 10 miles @ 6:44 pace, HR 161
27 Feb
18 miles, 2:14:54, 7:29 pace, HR 153

Weekly Mileage: 77+

Friday, February 25, 2011


Everything is going to be different from today on. Ireland is voting for radical change. According to the media this is the most important day since independence. Everything will be different from now on. Out goes the cronyism, corruption, self interest and outright incompetence of the government. And to get the whole process going, we are going to replace the conservative centre-right party presently in power with the conservative centre-right party presently in opposition.

Big Fucking Change my arse.

Let’s get back to running.

While the legs felt fine, the HR has been a bit elevated since Tuesday. The coach reckons this could be a sign that I’m not entirely recovered from the weekend’s double header, so we’re taking it easy. I basically did a bunch of easy runs all week and Thursday's run had the added spice of a few easy speed sessions. The run consisted of 4 x ( 4 x 30 seconds), separated by 2 minutes of recovery with about 15 minutes between each set. It was a very windy day, which meant running the 2.5 distance from our driveway to Ard-na-Sidhe, back home, and then once again. I did the speed sessions towards the end of each segment which saved me from checking the watch but in reality it meant slightly less than 15 minutes between sets. With so much recovery I did not expect the legs to be affected but was surprised by a feeling of heavy legs from the third set onwards. I cut the last session short by one sprint, partially because I was out of time and partially because I did not want to overdo it.

It was still windy today but I decided to brave the elements on the Caragh Lake road. I was rewarded with some great scenery, lit up by half a Moon, very cool. I love being out there on my own with seemingly the entire world still asleep. I did notice, however, that having a Guns N' Roses tune going round and round in your head is not conductive to easy running pace. I did not even wear an mp3 player, I just could not get rid of that song (didn’t want to; beats the Postman Pat jingle any day). If I can tune into that next Sunday it might help, though.

Spring is definitely here, it is bright when I get back home and I don’t even need my headlight any more when cycling home from work in the evening. No more being blinded by ignorant drivers refusing to dip their head lights – always major bonus.

As alluded to in my last post, the secret to successful marathon training seems to be to run easily in your base phase and then train harder than you ever thought you could on the few workouts closer to the marathon that count. With only 7 weeks to go to Vienna, there seem to be quite a few hard session on the horizon.
24 Feb
10 miles, 1:16:52, 7:41 pace, HR 148
   incl. 4 x (4 x 30sec) [well, almost]
25 Feb
8 miles, 1:01:08, 7:39 pace, HR 147

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


There is not much to report because all I have been doing since the weekend were a few recovery runs, not because I overdid things but because that’s what the schedule said. According to the coach the second back-to-back always seems to feel brutal and I’m not the first runner to experience this. He only told me that AFTER the weekend, of course.

The legs seem to have recovered nicely by now but the HR has been elevated for the last 2 days. This could be a sign that I am still recovering, or it could be down to the sore throat I have felt since Saturday. Lola has it too. I have been ignoring it in the hope that it will eventually go away, which seems to work; today I'm definitely feeling better. The other problem is a lack of sleep, thanks to Maia. She got up at 6 o’clock in the morning 3 days in a row from Saturday to Monday (why do they always do that on the weekend ?) and on Tuesday she woke the whole house by screaming at the top of her voice at 2 am, claiming that there was a mouse in her bed. She totally refused to get even near her bed again and spent the rest of the night wedged in between mummy and daddy, but took 90 minutes to fall back asleep, in which time I was repeatedly being hugged and kicked in the kidneys in quick succession. Niamh also thinks she (Maia that is, not Niamh) is suffering from a urinary track infection, which may or may not be the case (initial tests from the doctor are blank, more are being done), but the laundry pile she is creating at an alarming rate is rather impressive.

Anyway, I had plenty of time to think about my recent training. With every back-to-back run I'm getting more confident that I’m indeed set to break 3 hours; in fact, I think I can go a good bit under that time, but I don’t want to get cocky. I will run as fast as I can in Vienna but any time starting with a 2 will make me a happy camper.

It’s patently obvious that my recent improvement is down to the coach. In the past I have trained faster, slower, more, less, but never managed to hit the spot. During the base phase, things seemed to come round without even trying, which made me conclude that I used to run too hard in previous training cycles. On the other hand, the back-to-back runs have been really tough. In previous years I was happy to run close to 7:00 pace for my “marathon pace” workouts, hoping that the pace would have improved by the time of the marathon, which never happened. The 6:40 pace I have been doing recently would previously have been regarded as a HMP workout. It took the coach to tell me that this is my present marathon pace. Sometimes it takes someone you trust to tell you what you can achieve in order for you to trust yourself. Maybe that’s the real benefit of a coach. That, and the fact that I apparently need someone to stop me from ruining my own training.

21 Feb
8 miles, 1:02:15, 7:47 pace, HR 142
22 Feb
10 miles, 1:19:05, 7:54 pace, HR 145
23 Feb
10 miles, 1:16:49, 7:41 pace, HR 147

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Great Day To Be Out!

So said Kathryn as our paths crossed on Sunday in the pouring rain. I was just past the 12 mile point and working too hard to give much of a reply, but I found solace in the thought that I was not the only one out running in those conditions.

It's been 4 days again since the last update, mostly because there was not much to report by Friday. Thursday's run was yet another very easy 8-miler along Caragh Lake, pretty much unremarkable but with fairly heavy legs after Wednesday's evaluation. Friday brought the last hill workout. I can't quite believe that the hill phase is already coming to an end - I haven't had the chance to start hating the hill workouts yet. This has happened on every past occasion when I tried to come up with my own training strategy; I really learned to loath the hills and I expected the same to happen again. I suppose the varied nature of the coach's hill drills has prevented this. There sure is a lesson in there.

The real training had to wait for the weekend, though. I got up reasonably early on Saturday (something to do with a certain 3-year old) and was out of the house just after 8 o'clock. The weather forecast had not been too kind and I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a nice sunny sky, very little wind and 7 degrees temperature. Perfect.

I set off towards Killorglin, on the same reasonably flat 10-mile loop that I always use for that kind of workout. I posted the chart of the run so you can check if I'm talking porkies. The first 2 miles are the warm-up where I steadily increased the effort. The workout part (marked by the 2 yellow vertical lines) starts with a gentle downhill section that makes judging your effort a bit tricky because you can't go by the Garmin's pace, it will always be a bit too fast. On the way home I also realised that this was wind-assisted, but at the time I was oblivious to this and there was not much of a breeze anyway. The orders from the coach had been to run 10 seconds faster than marathon pace. Present MP is estimated at 6:42, so the goal was 6:32 with a window of 5 seconds either side, 6:27-6:37. I should also imagine this being miles 15-22 of the marathon, the 10 seconds pace increase helping to make the effort feel tougher than last week's simulation of miles 8-15.

I was a bit ahead after the first couple of miles, but the climb into Killorglin pretty much brought me back into the zone. I kept at that pace for the next few miles, but looking at the chart now show that I definitely ran a but too hard. The brief was to stay between 163-168 and I was pretty much at the top of that window most of the time, even going above it on a couple of (gentle) climbs. I had made the same mistake 2 weeks ago and thought I had learned that lesson, but apparently not. As you can see, I relaxed a lot for the cool down. Initially the pace was still around 7:00 (what can I say, after running 6:30, 7:00 feels really slow) but the thought of tomorrow's long run put the Fear Of GodCoach into me and I slowed down a lot more. One thing I noted was that I found it much harder to imagine myself on a marathon course than last week. Last week I ran marathon effort, which helped. Today I was definitely running harder than that and I felt it almost impossible to translate this to being on the course.

I did admit to myself afterwards that I had focused far too much on pace rather than run at a controlled effort. I was not really looking forward to Sunday.

Sunday came anyway, a bit earlier than anticipated thanks to the same 3-year old again. There was no sunshine to be had and as much as I delayed going out, hoping for an improvement in the conditions, I eventually admitted defeat and headed out into the rain. The first 10 miles at relaxed effort went by quickly enough. I felt surprisingly good, my main concern being slowing down enough because on several occasions I found myself going much closer to 7:00 pace than planned. In the end I average 7:35 pace at HR 144 for just over 10 miles.

That's where the real work started and I was soon left in no doubt that I was in for some tough few miles. The plan was to do 6-7 miles at MP, about 6:42 pace, but of course always with an eye on the effort. After only 2 miles I started wondering when I could bail out of this without completely losing face. I did not even think I would make it to mile 4, never mind anything beyond that. I hung on but when I was going up a small hill just before the 4 mile point I felt like running almost all-out, certainly not at marathon effort. At the top of the hill my brain started functioning again and I figured that I was nowhere near the prescribed effort and had to ease up considerably. To my big surprise, relaxing a lot meant the HR dropped back by 5 beats but the pace remained more or less the same! There sure is another lesson on there, it felt like an epiphany at the time. All of a sudden completing the workout seemed not just possible but likely. I managed to add 3 more miles and came home feeling much better than after the equivalent run a fortnight ago, feeling pretty happy with the way things had turned out eventually. Just looking at the cold, hard numbers shows that I ran a longer distance at a lower HR and faster pace than 14 days ago. That's progress, especially considering that at mile 13 I thought I was in for a complete disaster.
17 Feb
8 miles, 1:01:59, 7:44 pace, HR 141
18 Feb
8.4 miles, 1:11:52, 8:33 pace, HR 144
   4x30 secs; thighs; ankles
19 Feb
10 miles, 1:06:49, 6:41 pace, HR 162
   incl. 7 miles at 6:29, HR 166
20 Feb
17+ miles, 2:03:31, 7:13 pace, HR 151
   incl. 7 miles at 6:40, HR 163

Weekly Mileage: 72

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Chip Off The Old Block

Shea had gotten up early and subsequently had half an hour spare after breakfast. He asked me what to do and did not fancy reading, writing, drawing, or any of that thing. Then, not sure how, we figured that 18 laps around our house adds up to a mile. “Why don’t you do that?” “Great, thanks Dad”. Off he went for his mile-long run, adding 2 extra laps to be sure. I think I know where he got that from.

My own training is not going too badly either. After some very heavy legs on Monday, entirely predictable after a tough 20 mile run on Sunday, I felt better already on Tuesday and up for another hill session. Even the high knees drill feels better by now. I managed 2 minutes in one go before a break and then added another 90 seconds. I can’t swear that I’m able to lift the knees as high as at the start, but I’m doing my best. The last drill was thigh drive again, which is the one drill that drives the HR up the highest.

Today was the last of the evaluation workouts. It was a bit windy again, but nowhere near as bad as a fortnight ago and I felt this time the conditions would not interfere. I was a bit apprehensive, not sure if I was worried about a bad score or the fast running. But I felt pretty good during the warm up, and got started.

Mile 1 6:40 (HR 162)
Mile 2 6:48 (HR 162)
Mile 3 6:49 (HR 161)
Mile 4 6:37 (HR 163)

Time to 130: 32 seconds
As you can see I goofed up a bit on the last one, running 2 bpm too hard, but for all I can see these numbers look excellent. I think there is definitely a sharpening effect in there from the faster running during the transition phase, but I’m pretty happy. If you compare the figures to previous ones (look at MC’s post here or a collection of my evaluation posts here), you can easily see an improvement.

Actually, I made one potentially massive error this morning, which I only noticed halfway through the run: I forgot to put on my reflective vest. Thankfully I only encountered about 6 cars all morning and they all managed to see me despite my idiocy. The mornings are definitely lighter now than they used to be only a couple of weeks ago. I don’t even want to think about how easily a driver could have hit me.

I made another mistake, once again I caught myself running sub-7 pace during the cool down, just like on Saturday. I think I'd better stop that. There are times to run at strong pace and the cool down is not one of them.
14 Feb
8 miles, 1:03:40, 7:57 pace, HR 136
15 Feb
8.6 miles, 1:13:45, 8:34 pace, HR 143
    4x30 sec; high knees; thigh drive;
16 Feb
11.75 miles, 1:23:32, 7:07 pace, HR 152
incl. 4 miles evaluation:
    6:40, 6:48, 6:49, 6:37; 32 seconds to HR 130

Sunday, February 13, 2011

You Never Told Me This Was Not Waterproof!!

Shea just learnt a lesson about electronic equipment and water the hard way, but somehow he seems determined to blame it on his mum. A bit like his dad who had to learn several lessons about marathon training the hard way but has not found anyone to blame it on yet.

After the very tough back-to-back workouts last weekend, it took quite some time for the legs to feel recovered again, which probably was not helped by the hill workouts on Tuesday and Wednesday. I did 10 relaxed miles on Thursday and could finally feel some bounce returning, something that carried into yet another hill workout on Friday. Luckily there was no major storm to battle against this time and the downhill strides actually felt like downhill strides.

This set me up for another weekend, but thankfully not one featuring another back-to-back workout. This shows the value of introducing things gradually; another such training would have most likely pushed me over the edge. Instead, I managed to keep hanging on.

Saturday was actually very similar to last week, 7 miles at present marathon pace and the coach gave me 3 major points to keep in mind at all times: 1) run relaxed, 2) run relaxed and 3) run relaxed. There were also 2 minor points about HR and pace but the point was made, these were not to be my priorities. He also advised me to imagine those miles to be the ones from mile 8 to 15. Since I don’t know the Vienna course, I imagined myself running in Dublin.

As I started, I visualised myself leaving Phoenix Park, later on Dolphin’s Barn and then Crumlin Road, which was easy to imagine because I was running slightly uphill and against a headwind, exactly the conditions you experience year for year on that blasted stretch of road just before half way. Using those visualisations made it easier to run at a much more relaxed effort than last week, and in fact after a couple of miles I started running on autopilot but still keeping on pace. After going a little bit fast in the early miles, the headwind during the second half made sure the pace stayed realistic and I finished just over 7 miles in 47:09, 6:43 pace with an average HR of 162. While that’s slower than last week at the same average HR I can vouch for the fact that I stuck to the task like glue and ran relaxed at all times. The HR once again was under the threshold the coach had set (162-166) while the pace was inside the set parameters of 6:35-6:45, a bit on the slow side, but as he had stated that was the minor target. On my last miles, on the cool down, I still averaged a pace of 6:50. After 7 faster miles, this felt like jogging along slowly. I did not notice I was going that fast or I would have slowed down a lot more.

The weather forecast for Sunday made timing the run a bit tricky, trying to hit a window after the storm but before the next rain shower. It turned out to be a stunningly beautiful morning when I left at 8 o’clock, blue sky and hardly a breeze. Since there was no back-to-back this week, it was all about time on feet for 2-and-a-half hours. I ran my usual loop around the lake, across the hills, over Blackstones Bridge and back home, and then another out-and-back section past the school to make up the miles. I was flying early on and had to put the brakes on at times. I felt great until about 16 miles when things started dragging a bit, but I made it back home still feeling good, if happy to be done. Looking at the average HR of 150 I think I ran a bit harder than I should have, but, again, I found this pace very relaxing. I also managed to time it right - less than a hour after coming home, it was hail stoning I was glad to be snuck inside.

10 Feb
10 miles, 1:17:77, 7:47 pace, HR 141
11 Feb
9 miles, 1:13:07, 8:07 pace, HR 146
   4x30 sec; high knees; downhill strides
12 Feb
10 miles, 1:08:00, 6:48 pace, HR 159
   incl. 7+ miles @ 6:43, HR 162
13 Feb
20 miles, 2:31:13, 7:34 pace, HR 150

Weekly Mileage: 74

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


I can sleep easily again. The coach’s verdict was not as damning as feared. Since this was my first back-to-back workout under his guidance it was always part of the learning curve. I’ll try and answer a few question from the comments section.

I don’t think 6:35 is my present marathon pace, that would be a 2:52 marathon, and I'm not entirely convinced about 6:42 (2:55 marathon) either, but it sounds more realistic. But keep in mind that the weekend’s pace numbers are straight from the Garmin and experience has taught me that you have to add 3-4 seconds per mile for your real marathon time, taking into account that few of us manage the perfect race line. That means adding up to 2 minutes and Garmin’s 6:48 pace is the slowest you will want to go to break 3 hours, and that pace no longer feels scary.

The HR figures MC gave me are mostly used to avoid going too hard. Had I run 6:55 pace with a HR of 170 it would have been a sign that I'm running too fast. As it happened I had the opposite problem where the HR seemed too low – in that case you have to listen to your own body. I did that to some extend by slowing down a bit after the first mile or two on day 1, but possibly not by enough, which is why day 2 was 7 seconds per mile slower. But I now have a better understanding of what’s involved and will hopefully be able to judge future back-to-back workouts better.

I'm not the first runner to go through all this and as Eric’s comment shows other have gone through similar experiences. Unfortunately that still doesn’t mean that I will be able to run at his pace.

I felt surprising well during Monday’s 8 easy miles but there was a delayed reaction and on Tuesday my legs felt a lot heavier. I could have skipped the hills but didn’t feel quite bad enough for that and decided to go ahead but only do 2 hill circuits. I got a nice surprise when I checked out the dirt road that had been blocked 2 weeks ago by fallen trees. They have finally managed to make it passable again, which means I can return to my usual hill road. For hill training I prefer this to any of the asphalt roads, except maybe for downhill strides.

I have kind of settled into doing high knees every time I'm on the hill because they keep being tough, which I take as a sign that I’ll get the most out that particular drill as long as I don’t overdo it. This time I managed to keep that going for a full minute each and with a little bit of rest I managed 3 of them, with thigh drives as my last drill.

Wednesday morning was almost a carbon copy, except that I replaced the last workout with working the ankles.

On both days the legs felt a bit stiff on the initial set of 4x30 second strides, but according to the Garmin these are getting a little bit quicker almost every time, even though it does not feel like it. The coach thinks I tend to sharpen quickly (which is why Saturday’s pace was faster than expected), which presumably will be taken into account for the peaking phase.

7 Feb
8 miles, 1:03:31, 7:56 pace, HR 138
8 Feb
8.7 miles, 1:14:17, 8:32 pace, HR 142
   4x30 sec; high knees; thigh drive
9 Feb
8.3 miles, 1:12:59, 8:48 pace, HR 147
  4x30 sec; high knees; ankles

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Like The 63 From Peckham

It’s Sunday afternoon, I'm knackered and I am left in no doubt that, yes, I am training for a marathon. For the first time since starting my training under the coach’s guidance I was doing marathon pace runs, and under MC’s training they are like the London buses I used to take into work, many years ago: you are left waiting forever and then they turn up in pairs.

The storm had stopped blowing around 5 am, to be replaced by the predicted heavy rain. I decided that was fine by me, I prefer rain to wind, even heavy rain.

The instructions for Saturday were clear enough, do whatever you need for warm/up and cool/down and run 7 miles at your present marathon pace, not goal pace, which the coach estimated at 6:57-6:43, basically 6:50 with 7 seconds up or down (6:50 being the estimated present marathon pace). That would be a little bit faster than the evaluations at a HR of about 163-164. Since it was the first one, I could expect it to be tough and I was told not to take too much notice of the numbers.

All that sounded fine and well, but less than half a mile into the supposed MP effort I was left with a dilemma, should I follow the pace or the HR recommendations, because they did not match. I was going a bit faster than 6:20 pace (!!!) with a HR in the high 150s, but it was slightly downhill so I did not take too much notice of the pace. It eventually became clear that I had gone out a bit too hard as the pace did not feel sustainable for 26 miles. I slowed down, only a little bit, which soon started feeling much more comfortable but of course still below the HR the coach had set me. I did not check the HR monitor too often, but every time I looked it seemed to be in the high 150s, only going over 160 on a few climbs. When looking at the chart afterwards I saw that it was a bit higher than I thought. Still, I did the prescribed 7 miles at 6:35 pace, at least 10 seconds per mile faster than would I would have thought of as best-case scenario and with a HR that was lower than the one set by the coach.

But I knew perfectly well that I might have set myself up for a complete disaster on Sunday. That second brief was to start with 10 miles at relaxed pace, 7:30-7:45 (I like that sort of pace being called relaxed, it makes me feel like a half-decent runner), and then 4-5 miles at the same pace as yesterday, with the HR not too much above 167. Considering he does not like to give out numbers, this was a precise as the coach was ever going to be.

The rain wasn’t as heavy as on Saturday but the wind had picked up once more. I decided to run 3 out-and-back loops to Ard-na-Sidhe of 5 miles each. It’s not the most exciting way to get the miles done but it’s my standard route when the wind is too strong. As soon as I set off I knew this would not be easy, yesterday’s fast miles had left their mark. I had my doubts if I would get even close to yesterday’s pace. Despite the sore legs I kept frustrating myself by running too fast, around 7:00 pace, every time I lost concentration. Time and time again I had to put on the brakes and slow down. This only stopped during the second loop when fatigue must have started to creep in. In the end I did the first 10 miles at an average pace of 7:25.

When I passed our driveway for the second time, things got serious and I increased the effort. For three miles, this was tough but do-able. I reckon this was more like the last 5 miles of a marathon than any training I have ever done, and once I passed the 4-mile mark, I was toast. I probably should have left it at that, instead I went on to torture myself for one more mile, almost certainly violating the golden “train, don’t strain” rule, but at the time I wasn’t thinking straight and only thinking about getting this done, no matter what. I averaged a HR of 168 over each of the last 2 miles; if you’re generous you could argue that I did not get “too much above 167”. Looking at the 5 mile segment in one block I ran 6:42 pace with an average HR of 165.

I would have bitten your hand off had you offered me that kind of pace beforehand. Now I’m a bit worried the coach will give me hell for running too hard, but to be honest, I’m feeling rather good about this. Sub-3 in Vienna looks very much achievable all of a sudden.

One thing I forgot to mention is that I woke at 6 am on both mornings and since I had nothing better to do, ate some porridge so that I would have energy for the training runs later on. Normally I run on an empty stomach and it may explain why I ran faster than expected. Maybe.

And if you haven't done so yet, I still highly recommend catching up on the coach's explanation of the evaluation runs, here and here.
5 Feb
10 miles, 1:07:39, 6:46 pace, HR 158
   incl. 7+ miles @ 6:35 pace, HR 162
6 Feb
15 miles, 1:47:37, 7:10 pace, HR 155
   incl. 5 miles @ 6:42 pace, HR 165

Weekly Mileage: 73

Friday, February 04, 2011

Early In The Morning

Just a couple of minutes after setting off I noticed a car slowly approaching from behind. As I'm running on public roads, that’s nothing out of the usual. What surprised me was the car pulling up beside me and the driver greeting me with a friendly “hello Thomas, I thought I might see you out here!”. Michael was out early, too. As nice as it was to see him, I hope he’s ok (he was out looking for the doctor, at 6 o’clock in the morning).

I proceeded with my hill workout. As always, I started with 4x30 seconds strides. The first hill circuit consisted of high knees, which is the toughest of the lot. However, I think I can feel an improvement compared to last week already. I hope it’s not just in my head. The second circuit was thigh drive, for which I had gotten clarification for the coach:
Try to imagine that you are stepping on to a box then straighten the knee and then extending the ankle, much like a whip where the energy starts with the handle and accelerates to the tip, the drive starts with the upper thigh travels through the straightening knee the finishes with a flick of the ankle extending.

As soon as I started doing that, it felt “right”, certainly better than the bounding that I had done before the clarification.

The last workout was downhill strides, which would have been fine, were it not for one tiny detail: it was against the wind, which was blowing at 50 kph with gusts of 70kph. Worse than Wednesday! Actually, it was quite cool to run down a hill that normally is too steep to run down properly and just lean forward, relying on the wind to keep you upright. But as far as the downhill strides were concerned, it probably was not ideal.

Maia caught a cold a few days ago, which once more has caused a few rough nights (except for Niamh who is able to sleep peacefully through her child’s screams), and now Shea has started coughing as well. As always, I’m hoping it will pass me by.

At least the weather is going to change slightly for tomorrow, heavy rain replacing the wind. I’ve got a very tough weekend ahead of me. The training is clearly hotting up now. I’ll let you know.

Update: Several of you have asked about the evaluations. MC has just written 2 posts explaining them in detail here and here. The second post also features a real-life example (yes, you guessed it, me).
3 Feb
8 miles, 1:01:33, 7:42 pace, HR 143
4 Feb
10.5 miles, 1:27:10, 8:18 pace, HR 147
   4x30 sec; high knees; thigh drive; downhill strides

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Blowing In The Wind

I was a bit apprehensive before Tuesday’s hill workout because I did not know how much effect Sunday’s long run would have on my legs. There seems to be a pattern emerging, my legs feel fine first thing in the morning and rather trashed in the evening. Every night I go to sleep hoping that a few hours of recovery will give some respite and so far it’s working.

I did 3 hill sessions after the customary 4x30 seconds (where I felt a bit sluggish), namely high knees (very tough again), thigh drive (ok) and ankles (easy). The average pace on these runs is completely meaningless, of course. At one stage during one of the workouts I was moving so slowly up the hill that the pace display on the Garmin went ---. The quads felt trashed as I got home, but I survived.

As the schedule has changed a bit since moving into the transition phase, there was a 3-week gap between the last and today’s evaluation. The coach had warned me in advance not to be disappointed, 10 days into a new phase the body is trying to adapt to the new stresses and the evaluation numbers are bound to suffer a bit.

The weather conditions were by far the bigger problem. The wind kept howling outside all night, which did not help my sleep (neither did Maia getting out of bed at 4:30 and 5:30). Luckily I woke up right on time because the first thing I noticed was that I had forgotten to set the alarm. The second thing I noticed was the wind still going outside and when I left the house I realised it was raining as well. Just lovely.

I made my way to the stretch of road that I had been using for the last few evaluations and started to go back- and forwards 4 times each. Apparently the wind was blowing at 50kph/31mph at times and I’m inclined to believe it. Normally I don’t look at the Garmin when doing the evaluation to keep my concentration entirely on the workout, but curiosity got the better of me and I sneaked a few glances. Going with the wind the pace was close to 6:00, coming back it was slower than 8:00 at times. This must have had an effect on the numbers, I have no doubt, but running is an outdoors sport, what can you do.

Mile 1 7:05 (HR 162)
Mile 2 6:56 (HR 161)
Mile 3 7:02 (HR 161)
Mile 4 7:11 (HR 161)

Time to 130: 39 seconds

Given the conditions I’m not even disappointed with those numbers, but I’m not sure how much information can be gleaned from them. I have no idea how the second and third mile can be faster than the first one, that never happened before.

The weather is going to get even worse over the next few days, I hope the moaners who complained about the cold temperatures are happy now. You got what you asked for.
1 Feb
9.6 miles, 1:23:34, 8:42 pace, HR 142
   4x30 sec; high knees; thigh drive; ankles
2 Feb
11.8 miles, 1:26:00, 7:17 pace, HR 153