Saturday, July 30, 2011

Unlucky Third Time

After two storming performances in a row I was hoping to complete the treble on Friday with a third personal best in a row. My preparation was pretty much the same as last week before the 5K, and as I was warming up while at the same time scouting out the finish of the course, I felt optimistic.

The Kilgobnet 4 mile race has a fairly small field but the quality on show is fierce. There were about 50 or 60 runners (plus a number of walkers), and someone pointed out “that” guy from Dublin who was going to be really fast. He wasn’t wrong.

Right at the start 2 guys took off, a group of 5 formed behind them, another group of 4 followed and then there was me. I thought I was already running hard and it seemed imprudent to accelerate further to catch up, but I ended up trailing those 4 runners by about 10 meters, running the same pace but not being able to close the gap.

Last week in Killarney I had run the first mile very hard and then clung on for dear life towards the end. I wasn’t running quite as hard this time but a first mile of 5:51 wasn’t exactly slow. However, every mile split thereon was slower than the previous, so I probably did not choose the perfect pacing strategy.

Not that I was the only guilty party. The group ahead of me contained 3 young guy, two of whom were constantly chatting to each other. I really felt like telling them to shut up and concentrate on running; the only other old guy in the group told me afterwards that he was highly tempted to do the same. Anyway, they eventually paid the price, before the halfway mark I left both of them behind and Seamus later told me that one of them started walking soon after and the other one eventually followed suit.

There was only the guy in a red top and another youngster in a blue top within reach. Both seemed a bit stronger than me, but the youngster eventually started walking as well, first towards the top of each little climb, and more later, until I finally passed him. He finished quite a few seconds behind me. I kept the other runner within striking distance but the last mile was uphill, the legs failed me and I lost contact. There was never a danger of me losing my position and I finished 9th overall, which would not have been bad but I was hoping for a personal best and missed out by a few seconds.

I was a bit disappointed with that, especially after my stormer last week. I had hoped with this race in the legs I would be sharper today but the opposite was the case. I don’t think I can blame my stomach troubles from Tuesday, that felt all fine. In the end it comes down to the fact that I did not run hard enough. Last week I collapsed at the end, gasping for air for a minute, this time I stayed up chatting with others, so obviously I did not leave everything on the course.

The winner was indeed the runner from Dublin who set a new course record of 20 minutes flat. 5-minute miles. Wow!

There won’t be another race for a few weeks, which is definitely a good thing; undoubtedly the coach would tell me that I have fallen behind of the recovery curve. There are two races in three weeks, a 5K in Killarney or the IMRA Mangerton race. I will have to make a decision.
29 Jul
7 miles, including:
   Kilgobnet 4 mile race, 24:20, 6:05 pace, HR 177
   9th overall, 2nd M40

Thursday, July 28, 2011


I should have caught on when a set of only seven very short hill sprints left me in a state of near collapse on Tuesday but did not think too much of it, just reasoned that I had underestimated the severity of the workout.

When my stomach started doing somersaults a few hours later, I initially blamed it on the lousy coffee in the office (a reasonable enough thought) but it didn’t get any better, in fact it got a lot worse. The only reason why I did not leave work early was the fact that I could not face the drive home – something I had to do anyway once work was finished. Honestly, I felt seriously bad.

Since several members of Niamh’s extended family had gotten sick last week while staying in Valentia, it made sense to blame the water. The once clean water supply had been broken a couple of years ago when a cowboy builder dug through our water pipe and then “repaired” the damage, putting a slab of concrete on top of the pipe before anyone could inspect it. We’re now paying the price for that, because Niamh’s parents had the water tested 2 days ago and the result came back today with a level 2 e.coli contamination (whatever that means) and the label “not drinkable” (I know what that means, alright). Suing the bastard who caused all this is pointless, apparently, because he is a local and locals don’t get sued successfully in South Kerry.

Anyway, I didn’t know all that yesterday morning, but I woke at 6 o’clock, my usual time, feeling a lot better and decided a short 5 mile run wouldn’t do any harm and would serve as a test on my recovery. Well. Within half a mile I knew I wasn’t quite recovered yet, but the idiot that I am reasoned that since I'm out on the road anyway I might as well continue. There’s no logic in that, no need to point that out, just me being compulsive once again. At least I had enough sense to slow down. I managed to drag my sorry arse home after 5 miles, feeling not exactly on top of the world.

However, while I wasn’t entirely recovered yet, I felt much better than the day before, enough to take Niamh out in the evening, celebrating our 14th anniversary while the kids were under the grandparents’ supervision (or was it the other way round?), which at least made Niamh happy. Can you imagine anyone living with the likes of me for 14 years? Me neither. (Actually, she says it became a lot easier the day I started running, seven years ago).

Considering how serious an e.coli infection can be, I got away extremely lightly. Today’s run was perfectly fine again, even the weather was better and all of a sudden tomorrow’s race seems a real possibility again. I will only do it if I feel fully recovered as there is no point in racing if you’re still sick, as I found out once the hard way, but the way I have recovered I am actually quite optimistic.
27 Jul
5 miles, 41:47, 8:21 pace, HR 146
28 Jul
5 miles, 39:43, 7:57 pace, HR 141

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Island Life

As is customary, we are spending a week on Valentia Island. Which is great for the rest of the family as they can enjoy their holidays. The three older kids are taking part in a water sports camp, leaving Niamh with the comparably easy task of having only one of the offspring to mind. It’s a right old pain for me though as I'm still at work, commuting from Valentia to Killorglin and back on a daily basis. The additional 90 minutes of driving are eating into my day.

On the other hand, Valentia is great for running, the coast road is totally flat and the hill road the polar opposite, there are a plenty of options for hill running and the low level of traffic is another plus. The wind van be a problem at times, but not so this week.

They called me Doubting Thomas when I said I’d believe the 25 degrees weather forecast when I see it. Turns out, I was right. Drizzly rain yesterday, 13 degrees and cloudy this morning, this is not what we were promised. The odd sunny hour does not make up for the misery of the rest of the day.

I'm sounding like a broken record, I know. I’ll leave it at that.

Running felt pretty easy on Sunday, despite running barely 14 hours after Saturday’s race, but there was definitely some effect because by Monday the legs were decidedly lethargic and did not feel much like running at all. I thought I’d mix things up this morning and headed for the hills, first running up to the slate quarry on the route that’s being used in the Valentia triathlon as well as the inaugural half-marathon that will be held later this year, and then a set of short, maximal effort uphill sprints on a very steep road. Because of the long breaks between the sprints I thought this would be an easy workout. It wasn’t. After seven repeats I was close to collapse, had to sit down beside the road and was decidedly grateful that my stomach was empty, otherwise I would have been re-acquainted with its contents. Having said that, there seems to have been a stomach bug doing the rounds prior to our arrival here, and I may have caught the tail-end of it; the next day or two will tell.

There is a race on Friday in Kilgobnet that I really do not want to miss as it’s organised by my own club. It would also be really cool to set a third PB on the third weekend in a row, but let’s not be greedy. I’ll settle for having some craic.
24 Jul
5 miles, 38:47, 7:45 pace, HR 145
25 Jul
6 miles, 47:09, 7:52 pace, HR 141
26 Jul
6.5 miles, 57:33, 8:51 pace, HR 141
   incl. 7x10 seconds all-out hill sprints

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Imagine There Is A Race

... and nobody turns up.

Nobody from the organisation, that is.

Unbelievable as it may sounds, that's what happened to us on Saturday. Despite posting information on their web site as well as papers and radio, the organiser totally forgot about the race and eventually had to be dragged there, 90 minutes after she was supposed to open registration. About 150 - 200 bemused and increasingly irate runners could not believe what was going on, but eventually the overall organiser of the Killarney summerfest took matters into his own hands and decided there would be no registration but we were welcome to run anyway, without payment, and with 45 minutes delay a significantly reduced field set off from the usual start line. Luckily enough, since they always use the same route for the Killarney 5Ks we know the route well enough to be able to do it without much help.

Despite all the shambles, once I ran the first step all that funny business was out of my mind and I only concentrated on running as fast as I could. With some of the usual fast local runners being absent (maybe they knew something), I was in fifth position early on, but dropped a place before the half mile marker. I decided the best tactic for a fast time in a 5K is to start out fast and hang on for dear life. I knew I was going well when I left Pat O'Shea behind me, someone I have never managed to beat; I was hoping for a first. Silly me. Pat is close to being a world class master runner (I won't mention his age) and beating him is not something a washed up never-has-been should even think about. At the halfway mark I heard his footsteps closing in and he went past me to take up his customary position ahead of me, always seemingly within reach but always just that little bit too fast.

Somewhere around the first mile I started wheezing, which is something I always do when the effort gets so high. I must be louder than a steam engine towards the end, and I do get the odd idiotic comment but I prefer running fast to silently.

Pat caught up to the runner ahead of him, a guy in a white shirt, and much to my surprise I drew closer to him as well. We met plenty of other runners who were now treating this as a pure fun run in the park and had not waited for the semi-official "start", but they always heard me coming and moved out of the way. With less than a mile to go I was fewer than 10 steps behind the white t-shirt, but at that point he started accelerating, trying to hold me off and catch Pat. He succeeded in the first but not the second objective.

The uphill finish is the cruellest part of an otherwise perfect race course. I rued the fact that there was nobody within reach that would have pulled me to a faster time, but at the same time was aware that I had let the white t-shirt pull away, so this was entirely my own fault. I hit the stop button on the Garmin at what turned out to be a very exact 5K mark and collapsed in the grass for a minute, trying to regain my breath. Eventually I actually looked at the time, to get a very pleasant surprise: 18:05, a new PB by 2 seconds!

I had a very quick chat with the other guys, who voiced their amazement that I was able to run a time like that without doing any speedwork at all. I have always been a miles guy rather than an intervals one.

I could not hang around because I had been supposed to meet Niamh at the time when the race had only started. Luckily it turned out she was just as late as me, the kids' rides in the fairground had all taken longer than planned and we were all equally late. Looking at the photos I think they all had a great time.

I still can't quite believe the disgraceful shambles of the organisation. Has anyone ever heard of the organiser forgetting to turn up? Even so, why was there only one person supposed to sign up 200 runners, it would have been chaos even if she had been there in time! This used to be a very competitive race, before my time. They then decided to move more and more towards the fun run spectrum. A few years ago they did away with numbers, then the finishing line, no longer published results and a couple of years ago one organisers even voiced her amazement that some fast runners were still turning up.

That's their own decision, of course, and if they want to do it that way it's up to them. But this has now gone way beyond any reasonable point. This time they hurt the fun runners much more than the fast ones. There was a race last week, there are two more next weekend, and I will shrug that off and move on. But some runners at the back of the pack had been training especially for this, and to be treated with such contempt ... I fear we lost some people to the sport yesterday.

23 Jul
Killarney Summerfest 5K, 18:05, 5:50 pace, avg. HR 180
   Mile splits: 5:39, 5:48, 6:05, (0:31 rest)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mr. Sun

Why am I even writing this? I have nothing to report, it must be down to habit. The most exciting thing to happen was my Garmin’s HR values going haywire; a new battery seems to have solved the problem. Hey, I told you I have nothing to write about.

There are still no photos from Saturday’s race. My face is just too ugly for pictures.

Actually, come to think of it, the most exciting thing to happen this week was the arrival of summer in Kerry, on the 21st the sun came out and the temperature went up all the way to 17C, woohoo, and will allegedly reach the 20s next week. That’s a heat wave compared to what we’ve had since ... well, ever. Yes I already know about the 38 degrees in Toronto, go away!

After being told off by MC about training too hard during the racing season, I have been very careful to keep the effort low on each and every run this week, but after 5 days of easy running I could feel the legs getting impatient. As there are a couple of short races around the corner, they will get their wish soon enough. I'm running these without the benefit of speedwork, which seems to be my way of doing things. On the plus side, I’m starting to look forward to real training again in the autumn. After feeling a bit burned out after Vienna, my mojo for the longer distances is coming back. I haven’t entirely made up my mind on next year’s ‘A’ races but I have a pretty good idea. Niamh has already been warned.

Tomorrow is a family fun day in Killorglin, followed by a 5k fun run in Killarney. The last time I tried racing in the evening after being on my feet all day was a disaster. Just saying.
20 Jul
5 miles, 38:31, 7:42 pace, HR ???
21 Jul
6+ miles, 46:09, 7:38 pace, HR 149
22 Jul
6+ miles, 46:39, 7:39 pace, HR 146

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Running 15 miles downhill might be fast, it plays havoc with your quads and in the days immediately following the race I was as sore as I expected to be. Interestingly, the calves are perfectly fine, which may well be the result of the, err, “robust” massage I received after the race (or maybe the calf muscles simply gave up and died during that torture).

The “training” since has consisted of nothing but slow 5 mile runs to Ard-na-Sidhe. The first mile was generally sore and awkward but once the endorphins started kicking in I enjoyed the rest in peace and quiet. The short runs also mean I get plenty of sleep which is good because we had no less than 20 people in our house on Saturday afternoon and again on Sunday, Niamh’s family are all gathered here for Nana’s birthday and the clan now consists of 12 adults and 8 children. The accompanying dinners meant that my weight has shot up again, but it always does that immediately after a race. Since I am of the opinion that a) refuelling is important and b) rewarding yourself after a race is even more important, this is not going to change in future either.

My agreement for free coaching with Mystery Coach came to an end in April, but he has kept an eye on me since, acting as a Guardian Angel. For the second time in a few weeks I got my knuckles rapped for training too hard, this time with a view of the approaching race season. Expect my mileage to take a nosedive for a while, and if you see it creeping up you have my permission to send a sternly worded reminder.

I used to use John D. as my yard stick for a good race, I always knew that I had a good race if I was ahead of him, since I always argued that I had no real business beating a sub-3 marathon runner. This particular line of reasoning is no longer valid since 17 April, but on Saturday it would not have counted anyway because instead of racing he ran with a camera in hand and the pictures give you a glimpse of the stunning scenery.

I took one more look at Saturday’s results, they had a timing mat at the half-marathon mark and my “official” time for that is 1:23:14, 2 minutes ahead of my previous best. I won’t count that as a personal best because just about everyone who ran this with a Garmin agreed that it had been placed too early, never mind the 650 feet elevation drop that had come beforehand. I decided to keep the 15 mile PB, probably more as a reminder of my placing than anything else. Inconsistent? Sure, but it’s my blog and I do what I want. Strangely enough, the official results have added about 20 seconds to everyone’s time, and I know those posted time are wrong. This really is getting weird, but I think I’ll leave it at that.
17 Jul
5 miles, 40:01, 8:00 pace, HR ???
18 Jul
5 miles, 40:04, 8:00 pace, HR 138
19 Jul
5 miles, 39:43, 7:55 pace, HR 132

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Nothing Short Of Spectacular!

Even though my runner’s heart belongs to the marathon (and beyond), I have been aware for a few years that I consistently get my best results in shorter races, 10 miles or half marathons, which is why I had high hopes for today’s 15 mile race. As an added bonus, the scenery is absolutely stunning. The race t-shirt talks about the world’s most beautiful road race and while this is of course entirely subjective, I am inclined to agree. This almost makes up for the stupid name of the race and the unreasonably high entrance fee, though I did have a plan for the latter problem.

I have read somewhere that 1000 people had signed up, but that can’t be right, my estimate would be about half that, but that’s still a fairly big race. Nevertheless, looking at last year’s result I could not fail but notice that the M40 category had been won in 1:41, a time I would beat easily, but I was fully aware that I would not be the only one to spot this. It was bound to be more competitive this year.

The time was basically guaranteed to be fast because the course features a net elevation drop of 650 feet, we had tailwind practically all the way and the temperatures were ideal 10-12C, with the showers mostly staying away. No excuses whatsoever.

A group of 5 stormed off right at the start, never to be seen again. I was in the second “group”, though it was more a line of runners that stretched more and more as the first mile went on and soon splintered apart for good. Pat, Grellan’s neighbour and a runner with very similar times to mine, was a bit ahead and I followed the first lady, Angela McCann, for a while until I pulled past. I also caught Pat as well as a few other runners and I knew I was in the top 10, almost too good to be true. I know I was playing a dangerous game, running fairly fast at the start of what is still a long distance, but I was prepared to gamble for a prize.

Mile 1, 6:36, +136 feet, avg. HR ???

For an uphill first mile of a 15-mile race, this was blazing fast.

Mile 2, 6:27, -29 feet, avg. HR 169
Mile 3, 5:51, -233 feet, avg. HR 171

We passed Moll’s Gap after mile 2 and then it was fairly steep downhill. I kept trading places with Angela, but the steep downhill played to my strengths and I flew past her. I totally avoided looking at the Garmin, though. I thought seeing the pace numbers would just scare me.

Mile 4, 6:21, -21 feet, avg. HR 172
Mile 5, 6:28, +38 feet, avg. HR 173

Angela’s high cadence footsteps drew closer very quickly when we reached the flatter bits and I started suffering on the short uphill in mile 5, but I knew I was going well. The quads still felt fine, despite the hammering they were getting from running the slopes so hard.

Mile 6, 5:44, -194 feet, avg. HR 169
Mile 7, 5:47, -261 feet, avg. HR 168

Pat later told me how cool it felt to be rattling off a couple of sub-6 miles at that stage, but I wasn’t quite aware of the pace because I still avoided looking at the Garmin. One thing I noticed was that I was aggressively running the race line, looking ahead and cutting all the tangents as much as I could while the other 3 runners in my view were basically running in the middle of the road. Despite this, I lost touch once we reached the flat parts, Angela and two male runners drew slowly but steadily away from me.

Mile 8, 6:14, -71 feet, avg. HR 170
Mile 9, 6:35, -31 feet, avg. HR 170

Somewhere here a runner in a black top shot past me at absolutely awesome pace. I’m sure he had not been going like that for long and had only put on the afterburners to leave me in the dust, but it worked. I could not respond. This was all the more worrying because I suspected he was older than 40 and therefore a direct rival – but looks can be deceiving of course.

I really starter suffering and wondered how long I would be able to keep going at that rate. Slowing down seemed a real possibility. All of a sudden Angela took a break, enabling me to re-gain a place, but I would have preferred to catch up with the runner in black instead. Angela was not going to be a rival for the M40 prize.

All the downhill miles of the first half made these miles feel much worse than they were. The road was undulating and every uphill part seemed to suck the strength from my legs. I really wondered for how much longer I would be able to keep up the intensity and worried about blowing up after the fast start. But I tried hard to keep a positive mental attitude, which eventually got me out of the low.

Mile 10, 6:45, +46 feet, avg. HR 170
Mile 11, 6:41, -7 feet, avg. HR 170

Deep down I was aware that I was slowing down, but I still avoided the Garmin’s screen like the plague.

At 10.5 miles we turned off the main Killarney road and into the walkways of the National Park. I had been aware of that, but had not realised what it meant. For the last 4.5 miles, the course constantly went up and down like a roller coaster, with a lot of short, sharp hills followed by drops of the same kind. It was also very twisty and the road surface wasn’t great. While the first 7.5 miles make this a very fast course, no doubt about it, the second half makes it a tough one. Every runner I spoke to afterwards said the same.

Mile 12 6:46 –12 feet, avg. HR 172
Mile 13 6:51, +34 feet, avg. HR 172

Very much on the plus side, I caught up to one runner and eventually went past. He tried to hang on for a bit but half a mile later his footsteps had faded. Therefore I was very surprised to hear steps approaching from behind again, but they turned out to belong to Angela, who chicked me in style. She then stopped to tie her laces, enabling me to catch her once more, but somehow she caught me again! Worse, more footsteps soon followed, and when the runner caught up with me I realised it was Pat. That was bad news: I knew Pat was another M40 runner.

Mile 14 6:36, -26 feet, avg. HR 172

As much I was suffering, I quickly decided I would not give up my age group spot without a good fight and stuck to his shoulder. Over the next mile or two he repeatedly tried to drop me, but for every step I fell behind on the uphills I made one good on the downhill and we were pretty much inseparable, so much so that us two old geezers caught up with Angela. The three of us ran towards the finish in one group.

I have never been in a position where I would have to fight for a podium place, so this was new territory. I am painfully aware that I do not have much natural speed and am consistently outpaced in a finishing sprint, so sitting on Pat’s shoulder was no good. On the other hand, just hanging on to him took all my strength; I was hanging on for dear life as it was. “Pat is the stronger runner today”. “Pat will beat me”. “Pat’s still looking good”. “I am totally f****ed as it is, no way can I increase the pace”. “I can’t go, I am toast already”. “SHUT UP AND GO!!!”

With half a mile to go, I went for it. As I went past, Pat muttered something like “hat off to you”, which was great from a mate’s point of view but a serious error on his part as far as race rivalry is concerned. It may have been just the boost my fragile mindset needed. Within 10 seconds I was deep in the red, the anaerobic mist engulfing me, the legs screaming in agony but I would not yield. I could not hear them behind me, so I guessed I must have created a decent gap. I’m not looking forward to seeing photos of me finishing. They will be able to use them to scare young children, my face contorted by the effort and the agony, but on a sharp right turn just before the finish I caught a glimpse of my pursuers and knew they would not be able to catch up. The final 100 meters were the glory stretch and I finished 15 miles in 1:35:28, according to my Garmin as well as the gantry clock.

Mile 15 6:11 pace, -5 feet, avg. HR 176

There was some confusion about the M40 podium, but eventually it turned out that the age group winner was the runner in black who had caught me at mile 8 or 9, just like I had feared. I had indeed outsprinted Pat for second place, which put me into the money. Pat lost out, because even though the web site clearly states cash prizes for the top 3, they only went 2 deep, and I am sure he was disappointed. I know I would have been.

After a very painful massage (I think my screams as she dug her thumbs mercilessly into my calves caused plenty of entertainment in the tent) I found Grellan and Seamus and had a good chat. The course might have been a shade short of 15 miles; my Garmin showed 14.93 miles, Grellan’s 14.91, and while this is within the Garmin’s accuracy, it would be rather unusual for a correctly measured course (it WAS measured with a Jones counter though, and it was AAI approved). Everyone agreed that the last 4 miles were very tough, but I was extremely pleased with the result, the prize money and the way I had run the last half mile in exactly 3 minutes, even though my legs had been in agony to start with.

Coming 8th in such a big field was by far and away the best result I have ever been able to produce, by quite some margin. I will be able to feed off that haze of glory engulfing me right now for some time to come.

16 Jul
Killarney 15 mile race, 1:35:28, 6:23 pace, HR 172
   8th overall, 2nd M40, in the money!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Ah well, constant improvement was fun while it lasted. I’d have preferred for it to keep going until AFTER the race though; I mean, who wants to have his confidence knocked 3 days before a race?

I knew I needed a bit of recovery after the weekend so I only ran 8 miles on Monday, as has become the norm, and I made absolutely sure I kept the effort down. What I did not expect was to end up with a heart rate of well below 140 and yet a pace of faster than 8:00. At that point I thought I’d finally cracked this endurance training thingamajig.
As I’ve been doing an evaluation workout every second Tuesday, this would have been the time again. But for some reason I thought it would be better to add one more recovery day, do the evaluation on Wednesday and then take it easy for 2 days before the race. It seemed to make sense at one point.

I was being good for 9.75 miles of Tuesday’s run and then I decided to be naughty and sprinted home just for the fun of it. A quarter mile of sprinting can’t do any harm. Can it?

I’m inclined not to blame that quarter mile for today’s figures, but don’t know what to blame instead. Working too hard over the weekend? Maybe, but then why did I not feel tired at any point? Anyway, it’s fair to say that I expected a certain set of numbers from today’s evaluation and ended up with an entirely different one. I suppose that’s why I run these evaluations; they take away the guessing and replace it with cold, hard numbers. Compare them with last time:
Date         28 Jun   13 Jul
Mile 1 6:55 7:11
Mile 2 7:03 7:11
Mile 3 7:06 7:17
Mile 4 6:57 7:20
Time to 130 32 50

The 50 seconds recovery time is especially shocking. Maybe it’s all down to the fact that it was a very humid morning? I noticed my soaking wet top sticking to me on the way home, clearly displaying the contours of my upper body for all my excited female fans out there to see (of which there are zero, sadly).

Whatever. I’ll do what I would have done anyway and take it easy for 2 days and on Saturday I’ll race 15 miles, totally cheating because the course drops by over 200 meters over the first half. Grellan will be there to provide some friendly competition, but if I can’t beat a guy who is still recovering from a 100k I’ll stop running and start collecting stamps instead.

11 Jul
8 miles, 1:03:11, 7:54 pace, HR 135
12 Jul
10 miles, 1:16:49, 7:41 pace, HR 144
13 Jul
11.8 miles, 1:26:47, 7:21 pace, HR 156
    incl. 4 miles evaluation (rec. 00:50)

Sunday, July 10, 2011


I was a bit worried after Too-Fast Friday's run, knowing that I had a long weekend ahead of me. It was one of MC's favourite tricks, if you overdid it one day you would suffer the next or the day after, and hopefully learn the lesson for the future. I feared I was in for another such tough lesson.

I didn't feel the love in the early Saturday miles, but long runs are always a matter of tuning out the rest of the world, including your own legs, and just get on with it. In some way it helps that the route is so tough - it makes you concentrate on just the next step and never think too far ahead. Well, I managed to run on autopilot again, the legs have gotten used to the hills already and I found it easy enough to decide halfway through to extend the run to 20 miles. Time flew by, before I knew it I had passed our driveway after the first loop, and after an out-and-back section I was back home, still feeling surprisingly good.

I prepared myself an ice bath, much to Niamh's disbelief; she thinks I am punishing myself for some unknown reason. But it did help the legs, I could feel the difference.

Lola is in Valentia at the moment, getting spoiled rotten by her aunties and grandparents, and for some reason looking after only three children is so much easier than four, we both felt like we're finally getting a handle on that parenting thingy. As a result I wasn't as stressed out as I tend to be.

Whether it was for the ice bath, the reduced stress level or simply my fitness, I still felt okay on Sunday. I had expected the pace from Friday to catch up with me by now, and even though the legs were a bit heavy early on again they came round and I was happy enough doing 13 miles through Cromane, including a sojourn along the Spit which brings you almost within touching distance of the Dingle peninsula.

I was particularly pleased with the low heart rate. Even though I made plenty of goofs during this training cycle, I am getting into shape. This training works, I can tell you.

Now, there is a race on Saturday, 15 miles from Moll's Gap to Killarney. I didn't run it last year because it really did not fit into my training for the Dingle Ultra, and I was put off by the high price as well as the stupid name. But there is no denying that the route is absolutely spectacular, and this time I signed up.

Lydiard said that racing during base phase is like ripping out a young plant to see if the roots had been growing. Racing on Saturday may well be a silly thing to do, but since I'm not training for a specific race and just want to run for fun, I'm ok with that I suppose. I need to find out these things for myself anyway and now is a good time to do so.
9 Jul
20 miles, 2:35:07,7:45 pace, HR 148
10 Jul
13 miles, 1:41:35, 7:48 pace, HR 142

Weekly Mileage: 79

Friday, July 08, 2011

Lost in La La Land

I am trying, I really am. Last year I went through Mystery Coach’s training cycle, trying to learn as much as I can, getting an understanding of the method so that I would be able to do it again on my own. The next step now is to actually do it in contrast to knowing in theory what I should be doing and then do something different altogether (umm, I’ve said that before, haven’t I?).

He drilled it into me time and time again, recovery, recovery, recovery, that’s what the base phase is all about. Run easy at all times, let the pace come down naturally, never push the effort, fill up your energy reserves for the peak phase when you DO work hard.

I had been good on Monday and Tuesday (not that I had much of a choice on tired legs), and I continued being good on Wednesday and Thursday, when I did 10 slow miles each, along Caragh Lake in absolutely lousy conditions with enough wind and rain that you wouldn’t keep a dog outside (actually, people still do).

I had just reached that point where I was really pleased about myself, running at the right effort level, holding back every day, not digging myself into yet another hole when Friday came along and I had to bring the whole house of cards crashing down again. Friday is the one day where I can put in a little more effort; I see it as reward for holding back six days a week. The most important word in the previous sentence, however, was “little”. That’s where I went wrong.

Of course the legs felt good after four easy days in a row. I never looked at the Garmin, never even contemplated looking at it as I was cruising along on autopilot, the mind somewhere in La La Land, just automatically tuning into the correct effort. Or so I thought. The first time I actually looked at the Garmin was when I pressed the “Stop” button back home, immediately realising that I had run much too fast, again. Oops. I thought I’d stopped doing that.

Sure, it’s cool to be hitting sub-3 marathon pace over 10 miles while cruising on autopilot, but now’s not the time to do so. As I’ve said before, this time round I'm learning how not to do MC’s training plan. I’m still hopeful this will be a sufficiently powerful lesson for the winter, when I actually want to train for real.

6 Jul
10 miles, 1:18:00, 7:48 pace, HR 142
7 Jul
10 miles, 1:17:50, 7:47 pace, HR 143
8 Jul
10 miles, 1:08:42, 6:52 pace, HR 159

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Strawberry-Flavoured Chocolate-Coated Fudge

It very much sounds like my beloveds have re-started their assault on my waist line with a vengeance since their return from Dublin. On Sunday Niamh made a Pavlova (“I had some egg whites left over”), and after listening to too much Roal Dahl, Shea got it into his head that he absolutely had to create his own magic recipe. And when Shea gets something in his head, there is no stopping him. I wonder where he got that from.

With all those extra calories maybe I should add a few miles to every run to burn them off, but unfortunately my legs beg to differ. For some reason the pace just went bananas on Sunday, even with a low PRE and heart rate, so I could not even berate myself for running too fast as it was all genuinely easy, which was all the more surprising considering how much I had suffered after last week’s long run. One week later and all seemed to be so different.

It did all catch up with me though, and as soon as I woke on Monday morning I knew a few genuinely easy days were in store to dig me out of yet another hole. What followed was the slowest run in several weeks on Monday and another, not much faster one, on Tuesday, both limited to 8 miles.

People keep asking me what I'm training for, and nobody seems to believe me when I'm saying “nothing”. There is no goal race for the rest of the year. I just came across a list of road races in Kerry and I could be out there every fortnight if I wanted to. I might. I will decide as I go along. I won’t be at my very best because I won’t be able to peak for an ‘A’ race, but that’s fine. Doing it this way will hopefully let me re-charge my mental batteries and come autumn I’m hoping to start another, proper, build-up to a race early next year that will mean something to me.

Trying to follow the guidelines that I have learned from Mystery Coach is helpful, though. Right now I'm mostly learning what not to do, as I keep digging myself into a hole due to lack of recovery. The hope is that the lessons I'm learning right now the hard way will still be etched in my memory once I start training in earnest. I look at this summer mainly as preparation for the next training cycle.

By the way, I have been selected as a pacer for the 3:30 group in Dublin again this year. Grellan will be there as well. That should be great fun and it means I’ll still get another marathon done, even if I'm not training specifically for it. If you’re aiming for that time, see you there.
3 Jul
12 miles, 1:30:37, 7:33 pace, HR 147
4 Jul
8 miles, 1:04:50, 8:06 pace, HR 142
5 Jul
8 miles, 1:02:58, 7:52 pace, HR 146

Weekly Mileage: 77

Saturday, July 02, 2011


Well, last week I managed to dig myself into a hole by running too many miles too fast over too hilly a territory, in short I did not take recovery into account at all. This week I tried to take it easier, especially on the "easy" runs, which seems to have worked well enough. I also thought I had dialled back the mileage a little bit, but adding it all up now I can see that by Sunday I'll be pretty much back to where I was last week.

Thursday was a tad faster than the previous easy runs but still very much within myself and was happy enough with the effort level. I remembered that at some stage during the Vienna base phase I sent off an email or two to the coach, telling him how easy everything was and that I hardly felt like training at all, to which he basically replied that that's what it's supposed to feel like. It's fair to say that last week was not like that at all, but this week I got a lot closer.

I felt sufficiently recovered to attempt another "Fast Friday", where I try to run at a higher effort level than the rest of the week, but still very much within limits and the HR under 155. I managed that a lot better than last week (last week's long run serving as a dire warning not to be so stupid again), though still a bit too fast. One thing I managed to do was not looking at the pace fields of the Garmin at all during the run, which meant I was never tempted to speed up just to hit some random target.

I was pretty happy with that run but the test was to come on Saturday. I made several changes to last week. I made sure I started out very well hydrated, I ran slower and started an hour earlier, all of which helped but the major change was that I ran on legs that had not been trashed the previous days. The big climb felt much easier than last week, but to be fair it always feels much easier when I have done it already the week before. The first run after a break is always the toughest, once I get over the hills once my climbing legs tend to come back quickly,

Anyway, while I did get a bit tired later on it was nothing like last week's death trot and I arrived home still feeling good despite running a mile more. As long as I can keep last week's lesson in mind it will have served its purpose.

Just to confirm Niamh's suspicion that I'm a bit weird, I ran a mile around the house later that evening, just to confirm to Shea that 20 laps do indeed add up to one mile. According to the Garmin, that's surprisingly accurate. I hoped to add a few drills and sprints at the end of that, but Maia and Lola put an end to that. That's ok of course, some quality time with my girls tops everything else any time.
30 Jun
8 miles, 1:02:25, 7:48 pace, HR 146
1 Jul
10 miles, 1:10:44, 7:04 pace, HR 154
2 Jul
am:18 miles, 2:23:17, 7:57 pace, HR 149
pm: 1 mile, 7:55