Monday, October 29, 2012

Easy Does It

October bank holiday Monday can only mean one thing, the marathon is back in town. Like the last two years I was donning my pacing gear in the morning, rather than prepare to run it all-out. Unlike the last two year, I had gotten bumped up into the 3:15 pace group.

I wasn't worried about the pace, I have paced 3:15 before and during a couple of test runs last week the effort had felt remarkably easy.

For once I was glad that the marathon was on the Monday because Sunday had been a miserable wet and windy day. The conditions on Monday, on the other hand, were absolutely perfect. Cool, no rain and very little wind made for a slightly chilly time waiting for the start but it was perfect once we started moving.

What was slightly less than perfect was me not pushing the start button of the Garmin as we crossed the line. I can't remember if I forgot to press it or if it just did not register, fact is that I ended up starting my timer several seconds late (I guessed about 15), and since I was supposed to keep a very close eye on the clock, this wasn't ideal. Right after the start there was plenty of congestion, partially because of the usual idiots starting right at the front and then jogging at snails pace, but also because of a very tight right corner where we almost came to a stop. However, this proved to be the last time of the day where things didn't quite work out as planned.

There were three pacers for 3:15, apart from myself there was Greg who had paced 3:30 with us last year and Ray who I ran with in Connemara for the first 30 miles and who had just come second in the Dingle Ultra. The 3:15 pacees were in good hands.

Greg took off a bit too fast for my liking; maybe he tried to quickly make up the time we had lost at the slow start. Ray and myself were starting in a more measured way; we would make up the time gradually over the next few miles.

The course climbs slightly on its way to Phoenix Park, but you don't even notice it because your legs are so fresh. There was the usual mad scramble for water at the first water stop, something I stayed well clear of, even if it meant I would have to wait another three miles for my first drink. Because of the cool temperatures it wasn't critical.

We had almost caught up with Greg when there was trouble at the second aid station. I think someone slipped and fell and with all those runners heading for the same table it almost caused a pile-up. Greg escaped unscathed, but seemed to take it as a sign to take off again and within half a mile he was once more a good bit ahead of us. One or two runners made a comment about his uneven pacing, but they were being unfair, overall he kept a very steady pace. I heard that he kept his pacees entertained with plenty of jokes, which went down very well - something I'm not comfortable doing when I'm pacing. I just run. (It gives the runners a choice of which type of pacer they want to run with, I suppose).

I was well into my stride by now but kept having troubles with my backpack. They tried a new system, instead of balloons we were carrying backpacks with big, coloured flags sticking out. The were very light, but no matter what I tried the pack kept bouncing on my shoulders and the straps were rubbing against my neck. I was having visions of two bright red marks either side, as if I had been attacked by Dracula, which would have been fitting for Halloween, I suppose. Every time I tried to fasten the straps a bit more it was better for a short time, but within a quarter mile I was invariably feeling uncomfortable again.

The downhill mile from Phoenix Park ensured we got a few seconds ahead of 3:15 pace, and we kept a little cushion over the next few miles. I thought a few extra seconds would be handy for Crumlin Road. Last year that had been a real trouble spot with very bad congestion, verging on being dangerous and we had lost some time there. I was quite surprised to see that they had changed the layout this year, we had the entire road to ourselves instead of having cars whisk by on the other side of the line of cones, and it made a massive difference, a problematic spot had instantly transformed into a much more comfortable mile or two. Of course there was still the usual headwind to contend with. That seems to be a law of nature on that stretch of road.

We reached the halfway point in good time, with about half a minute of cushion, which I felt very comfortable with. The pacees around us seemed happy enough as well.

The next few miles just seemed to fly by. I felt very comfortable with the effort, staying on pace happened entirely on autopilot and we were cruising along. Admittedly, not everyone felt quite as happy, it was at this point that we gradually started overtaking people as they started getting into trouble, but for most of it I kept recognising the runners around me.

There are no big hills in Dublin and all the climbs are very gradual, but I know from experience that even the small climbs can feel a lot tougher with more and more miles in the legs. The last climb of the day leads up to Fosters Avenue and was marked with a big "Heartbreak Hill" poster (though Boston's famous hill is a lot worse). A few years ago I was indeed heart broken when my dream of a sub-3 marathon fell apart here, but that's old history now. Today I hardly noticed it and reached the top almost before I knew it. There really is a massive difference between racing a marathon and pacing it. The distance might be the same, but that's it.

The legs might have felt fine but my neck was anything but comfortable and by now the straps were proving distinctly painful. I was ever so slightly tempted to take off the contraption and throw it into a ditch, but having carried it all day, I might as well finish the job.

The last 5 miles in Dublin are actually very runner-friendly. There are a couple of miles with a very nice downhill grade that ensure that you can keep on pace with less effort than before, and the last three miles are packed with spectators that provide an at times almost Boston-like experience (ok, maybe not quite). That's if you're feeling good, that is. If you're struggling, the final miles of any marathon can be rather painful, something I know only too well.

Today was not a day for struggles, though. I think the great weather conditions ensured that a far greater percentage of runners had a good day. Usually pacing groups fall apart on these miles; sometimes you hoover up runners that had been ahead of you and some of them manage to hang on, which can mean that you cross the finish line with an entirely new set of pacees than the one you had shared most of the race with, but today I kept seeing many of the same faces right until the end.

I really enjoyed those final miles, and I told my runners to do the same as this was the glory stretch with the fantastic support from the sidelines, even if not all of their faces spoke of enjoyment. We cruised to the end, soaking up the atmosphere and closing in on the finish. Somehow all three of us pacers ended up in very close proximity as we entered the final stretch. Our pacees broke into a sprint finish as we tried to entice others, who were struggling a bit, to come to the line with us.

Because of my early mishap with the Garmin I wasn't entirely sure what my exact time was as I crossed the line but reckoned it must be close to 3:14. Indeed the (unofficial) time I got was 3:14:13. As our brief had been to come home between half and one minute ahead of target, I call this a success.

There was a big number of runners coming up to us afterwards and thanking us for our efforts, which is always great and quite possibly the most rewarding part of pacing a marathon. People are genuinely grateful and it makes for a very satisfying end of a long day.

This was great fun! Can't wait to do it again
29 Oct
2012 Dublin City Marathon, 3:15 pacer
   3:14:13, 7:24 pace, HR 156

Thursday, October 25, 2012


I know I said in my last post that my 20 mile run had put me in an indefatigable state, but unfortunately that was not going to last. A few hours later, after the endorphins had worn off and I had come down from my apparent runner's high, I was feeling the effort, alright.

It was enough to convince me and turn Monday's run into a very easy and relaxed 8-miler, which seems to be my go-to fall back option these days whenever I feel the need for a bit of active recovery. That run went very well and I was fine for the rest of the day, so on Tuesday I felt well enough to do a few more hill repeats. It was pretty much the same workout as the previous week, 60 seconds of fairly hard effort up a hill and a very slow jog down back the hill. Again, I didn't count them, just left it when I started feeling tired.

Actually, that's not quite right. The first few were a struggle, then I got into it, but when I started to feel the effort again, I called it a day. When I counted the spikes on the HR graph afterwards there were 13 of them - one less than last week, and last week the last one had probably been one too many, so I call this a success and a lesson learned.

With the marathon coming up on Monday I will be taking it easy towards the end of this week; the flip side was that I did a bit of cramming at the beginning of the week. I ran 12 miles on Wednesday at 7:20 pace, practising the pace I need to run in Dublin as one of the 3:15 pacers. In case you're wondering why 7:20 when a 3:15 marathon would be 7:26 pace, 1) we want to run about 30 seconds faster than the target time and 2) Garmin miles tend to be about 4 or 5 second off official miles in races, so to be running 7:26 officially you really want the Garmin to display 7:20. The same holds true for all other paces as well or course, for a 3:30 marathon you want to see no slower than 7:55 on your Garmin and when I ran my sub-3 marathon in Vienna last year I knew I had to keep the Garmin at 6:48 pace and not a second slower.

Anyway, the run went well, even with yesterday's hill repeats making their presence known the pace felt relaxed enough to be confident that Monday will go off without a hitch and I won't let my pacees down.

Usually I would be doing my evaluation workouts every second Tuesday, but that would mean doing the next one the day after the marathon, which is not going to happen. I therefore moved it forward to today instead. With the legs feeling a bit heavy I wasn't sure if the numbers would live up to last week's figures, and after a series of very calm mornings today had to be wet and windy, typical. Thankfully the numbers are fine, similar enough to last week when I thought I could see the impact of the sharpening effect from the XC race.
        Mile 1    6:37   HR 161
        Mile 2    6:39   HR 161
        Mile 3    6:43   HR 161
        Mile 4    6:45   HR 161
        Recovery to HR 130: 41 seconds

That's a tad slower than last week and the recovery took a bit longer, but nothing to worry about, I think that can all be explained by the legs still feeling the hill repeats and yesterday's miles. I'm happy enough. It's the next evaluation I'm worried about, because it will show the impact of the Dublin marathon. There's bound to be some (hopefully temporary) regression.

But right now I'm really looking forward to pacing Dublin again. The buzz there is always great. If you happen to be reading this and planning on going with the 3:15 pacers on Monday, make sure to say hello.

22 Oct
8 miles, 1:03:09, 7:54 pace, HR 136
23 Oct
7.7 miles, 1:09:35, 9:02 pace, HR 143
   13 x 60 sec hill repeats
24 Oct
11.3 miles, 1:22:56, 7:20 pace, HR 151
25 Oct
11.8 miles, 1:25:21, 7:14 pace, HR 148
   4 mile eval: 6:37, 6:39, 6:43, 6:45

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Recovery Lessons

The last thing I said in my previous post was that I would assess on Friday morning if I should do an easy or a faster effort that day, depending on how the legs felt. The problem with that approach is that you need to be absolutely honest with yourself; once you start arguing with yourself "ah sure it's not THAT bad, I'll be fine" it should set the alarm bells ringing straight away. Well, I didn't heed my own advice, stubbornly went ahead with a faster effort and knew pretty much straight away that I had been stupid.

The most important lesson Mystery Coach had hammered into me was that the base phase is all about recovery, both long term from your previous race as well as day-to-day recovery from training session to training session. Just one look at Friday's numbers shows what happens when you ignore that. The pace was slower than last week, though I can swear that the effort was at least the same. What's quite revealing is the low heart rate: I just was not able to raise the HR, it was about 5 bpm lower than last week, though, as I said, the perceived effort was the same. It would have been better to take it easy on Friday and leave the faster stuff for another morning. The way I did it I ended up with some mediocre pace and a lot of fatigue.

I was late for Saturday's group run. My thinking was that someone who gets up at 6 am every morning during the week won't need an alarm to get up at 8 on Saturday. That has been true every week up to now, but yesterday I overslept. Thankfully it wasn't too bad, I only missed the start by a minute and quickly caught up with the group.

For whatever reason, the pace for the group run was much sharper than usual, but that suited me just fine. Maybe it was because we had the ladies that had come 3th and 4th in the recent Valentia half marathon amongst us, or maybe they are all getting much fitter already. As always I added the runs to and from the meeting point, which gives me a decent mileage for the day, but towards the end I was definitely feeling the miles, another sign that I was behind in my recovery.

I wasn't exactly looking forward to today's long run, but felt that I had to do it. I was prepared to take it really easy, no matter how slow, and just get it done. The 20 miles were made tougher by the hills and the rather windy conditions, and with my legs feeling so fatigued the day before this had the potential to get very ugly.

Instead I was moving well from the word go, cruised over the hills on autopilot, pushed the effort a bit more on the flats and was back home in about 2 hours 30, feeling pretty damn good. I felt I could have done the same loop a second time, though I wasn't THAT tempted to test that theory. So, all of a sudden and without knowing why, I went from feeling like toast the one day to indefatigable the next. There clearly are still a few things about running that I have not figured out yet.

And to finish the post with something completely different, Shea spent the weekend creating a trailer to a movie and editing the pieces together. I don't think there are any actual plans to film the whole thing, but what he did already looks rather awesome, though I freely admit to being biased.

19 Oct
10 miles, 1:09:25, 6:57 pace, HR 153
20 Oct
16 miles, 2:02:47, 7:40 pace, HR 145
21 Oct
20 miles, 2:30:45, 7:32 pace, HR 151
Weekly Mileage: 84.8

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Evaluating Again

I already knew from Friday's faster run that my shape has gone up a notch or two, so I was quite looking forward to Tuesday's evaluation workout. I knew the numbers would look good - at least the pace numbers. I wasn't quite sure what to make of the excruciatingly long recovery time two weeks ago and was curious what it would look like this time round.

I always do the evaluations the same way. The warm up is 4 miles long. The first 2 miles are easy and relaxed. During the third mile I pick up the pace a few times to get the legs spinning and to raise the heart rate. During the fourth mile I steadily increase the effort until the heart rate reaches the 161 target. Ideally I want to be running the last quarter mile of the warm up at HR 161 to ensure it is well established by the time the evaluation proper starts.

It was windy again, but not quite as strong as it had been two weeks ago. I can try and keep all the other variables as constant as possible. I run the same course in the same shoes at the same time after the same warm/up. The weather is the one major variable I cannot influence, and the wind especially can cause problems, but it wasn't too bad.

I always run the same half mile back-and forwards 4 times, which ensures that all 4 miles are done on the same course, and running that way also lessens the wind effect as you end up with half a mile of tail- and half a mile of headwind each time. A track would be better, and a treadmill might work very well for that kind of test, but I have access to neither. My flat stretch of road will have to do.

I end up using the Garmin's display a lot during the workout because of the need to keep the HR constant. I always avoid looking at the pace, though. It might wreck my head if I did.

Anyway, the numbers were as follows: (The number in brackets is adjusted pace, 7 seconds for every 2 heart beats off the 161 target):
        Mile 1    6:36   HR 161    (6:36)
        Mile 2    6:37   HR 161    (6:37)
        Mile 3    6:36   HR 162    (6:39)
        Mile 4    6:41   HR 162    (6:44)
        Recovery to HR 130: 36 seconds

That's remarkably stable, especially after such an improvement in pace compared to last time, and the recovery time is worlds better. I got these kind of numbers towards the end of my Vienna training two years ago. Seeing them now is either a sign that I am running at a higher level or that I am getting into shape too early. I'm not entirely sure which, but I definitely prefer these figures to the ones from two weeks ago.

I took it easy the day after the evaluation and did a hill workout this morning. I changed from hill sprints to 60-second-repeats, jogging back slowly each time, doing 14 repeats (I didn't count them, but checked the Garmin file later on). Next time I'll take a headlamp because I could barely make out the road going up the woods and got surprised by low-hanging twigs on more than once occasion. I did one repeat too many because I got very nauseous at the to of the last one (there's definitely a benefit to doing these sessions on an empty stomach. It would not have been pretty). The reason why I changed the workout is that Canova says you stop getting much benefit after doing the same session three times and should always vary training. On the other hand, I would probably have been better off doing those hill repeats on Wednesday because right now my legs are sore and I might not be able to do a faster run tomorrow, Friday. I'll see how I feel in the morning, but might have to substitute the session for an easy run.

16 Oct
12 miles, 1:25:42, 7:09 pace, HR 154
   4 mile eval: 6:36, 6:37, 6:39, 6:44 (adjusted figures)
   36 seconds recovery to 130
17 Oct
10 miles, 1:16:50, 7:41 pace, HR 142
18 Oct
7.8 miles, 1:09:57, 7:09 pace, HR 145
   14 x 60 sec hill repeats

Monday, October 15, 2012

It's All In The Head

If my former coach reads my previous post he will probably say straight away that my 14-seconds-per-mile improvement last week was down to a sharpening effect from the XC race rather than a continued development of my aerobic system. As far as I know he would be right. That said, I'm happy to finally being able to run sub-3 marathon pace again without straining. Physically it might not be the best thing for my development at this stage, but psychologically this is invaluable. Up to now I felt I was chasing shadows, all of a sudden I am much more confident for Tralee. That alone makes training a lot easier.

My previous long run had been on Tuesday because because of the race, but I have now returned to my normal schedule and ran an 18-miler around the lake on Sunday. The average pace was decent enough, but that's only half the story. I ran the very hilly first half at about 7:50 pace, give or take a few, and got pretty much down to 7:00 pace for the final 7-or-so miles without straining at all and feeling very good. I know Tralee is still many months away and the pace I'm running right now isn't all that relevant, but it makes training fun and it's definitely good for my confidence. I find the longer the race distance the more important your head becomes. Marathon running is definitely not just done with your legs.

My dad had just been here for a short visit and he flew back this morning, Monday. It required an early trip to the airport. I considered binning today's run because it really would have required getting up at stupid o'clock - for about a second, and then I set my alarm. So I got up, ran 8 miles, brought my dad to the airport and got back home still early enough to doze for 30 another minutes before getting up for work. And yet, that's still not the earliest I have ever gone out for a run. Sure, binning one single run would not have had a real impact on my training and given me an extra hour or two of sleep, but once you start skipping runs you are are on a slippery slope and I don't want to go there.

Call it OCD if you want, but I intend on running every single day. Missing a day would most likely mess with my head again.

14 Oct
18 miles, 2:16:32, 7:35 pace, HR 146
15 Oct
8 miles, 1:01:54, 7:44 pace, HR 142

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Doing at least one similar workout every week makes it possible to check your progress as the weeks of training are ticking by. It doesn't even have to be every week - the evaluations are every two weeks and they provide plenty of feedback that way. My one stronger run of the week, though, happens every Friday and if progress continued like it did over the last few weeks I would be a very happy man indeed.

For the first time in ages I managed to keep the pace below sub-3 marathon pace. Don't get me wrong - I could have done so on previous occasions, but I did not want to lift the effort above a certain level. Yesterday I definitely stayed below that, just cruising along at a comfortably hard effort (whatever that means) and in the end I was very happy to see that I had been 14 seconds per mile faster than the week before.

I won't get carried away with this. You don't get medals for training efforts. In all likelihood I won't be progressing 14 seconds per miles again in this training cycle. But it's nice to see that pace on the Garmin's display all the same.

The day before that I had done another set of hill sprints. I found out by accident that yawning on the walk back down is a very effective way to clear out the lungs, and by the end I was yawning on purpose after each effort. For whatever reason, I did not feel any nausea this time and ended it after a set number of repeats.

Running my strong 10-mile effort the day after hill sprints was possibly not ideal, but I ran out of days of the week. Having said that, the legs always seem to recover from hill sprints very quickly. I tend to be slightly sore for the rest of the day but the next morning there is no trace of it left.

Saturday was another group run. I fell into the by now usual pattern of running to the meeting point at a decent clip (7:24 pace), the  group run itself is very relaxed (8:35) and the run home is done at a decent clip again (7:07). I'm sure you won't find a workout like that in any coaching manual, but it's nice to be sharing the road with other runners for a change. I have run thousands of miles entirely on my own.

Unfortunately there is a bit of bad news as well, I had to cancel my run in Clonakilty in December. I was supposed to be a pacer; I really hope they manage to find a replacement. I find it exasperating the way the  pacer list for Dublin changes virtually every week as people drop out and the organisers have to find a replacement, so I feel really bad to be doing just that to the Clonakilty people. Luckily they don't seem to mind and were very understanding. I'd love to make up for it next year - if they'll have me, that is.
11 Oct
8.5 miles, 1:14:10, 8:43 pace, HR 137
   10 hill sprints
12 Oct
10 miles, 1:08:04, 6:48 pace, HR 158
13 Oct
14+ miles, 1:48:46, 7:42 pace, HR 140
   group run

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


I got a bit of a surprise when I looked at the HR graph from Sunday's XC race. Ignore the first 4 minutes, that was clearly the HRM not picking up the signal correctly.

If I had been happy with my race I would take this graph as proof that I had run the perfect race, with it's very smooth HR data. However, since I was less than happy with my performance, we are talking a different scenario. It looks like I ran the entire race with the throttle set to max but the engine not responding properly.

Since I have not run any fast miles for a long time, I guess that's pretty much what happened. Advocates of the Central Governor theory might claim that it was the CG preventing any higher output from the leg muscles, but I'm not getting into that discussion. My guess is that if I got a few faster miles into the legs, the performance would improve fairly quickly week on week as my legs (or CG) get used to the higher level. However, I want to be ready for a marathon in March, not next month, so I won't start a new regime of gruelling interval workouts (though, to be honest, the day after the race I was genuinely tempted to do just that).

One noticeable thing on Monday morning was the complete absence of any soreness. No pains and aches at all. XC definitely has its advantages.

Mind, I did find one problem after all, but not until after the run, when I checked the Garmin. During the run I could have sworn I was doing some decent pace, it was only after the run that I looked at the watch and realised that I had basically just run 20 seconds per mile slower than anticipated.

Since I had missed out on my long run on Sunday because of the race I caught up on Tuesday. It required a very early wake-up call, just like in the good old times when I always used to do my long run during the week.

The run was perfectly fine, the hills around the lake haven't shrunk since the last time I had visited them but I was moving at a good pace, I thought. Until I checked the watch with 3 miles to go, that is, and to my astonishment realised that I was not even going at 8:00 pace. My internal gauge was obviously completely off after the race, because when I upped the effort for the final 3 miles the legs had no problem whatsoever with the new pace.

I cheated slightly this morning because I checked the Garmin after a mile to ensure I wasn't plodding along again. Normally I don't look at the watch at all during easy runs and much prefer to go by feel alone, but after the last two days I thought the better of that tactic. For whatever reason, I was running a good bit faster than on Monday for the same distance, but could have sworn I was moving at the same effort level.

By now the race should have gone from my legs. I'll see if my gauge has normalised.

8 Oct
8 miles, 1:01:53, 7:44 pace, HR 141
9 Oct
16.6 miles, 2:11:44, 7:56 pace, HR 144
10 Oct
8 miles, 59:16, 7:24 pace, HR 152

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Well, That Was Humbling!

For the last few years Michael from the club had tried me to get into cross country running. However, every time there was something else on on the weekend of the local XC race and I always made my excuses. However, this year no distractions arrived and for once I actaully ended up on the start line in Killarney.

Before that, there were still some workouts to do. After Tuesday's evaluation I did 10 easy miles on Wednesday and then more hill sprints on Thursday. Following feedback from last week I shortened the sprints to about 12 seconds each, and when I felt a litle bit queasy after 7 I left it at that. It certainly wasn't as bad as last week's wave of nausea.

Friday is quickly becoming the day where I try to run a bit faster. Last week's workout had been affected by the strong wind but there were no excuses this time round. I took it easy over the first two miles, sped up to a pace that felt sustainable and left it at that for the next 8 miles. In the end I was slightly annoyed that I had missed sub-7 pace only by a few seconds, but it reflects my present state. I never looked at the watch, and sprinting the last mile might have resulted in a sub-7 average pace but would have falsified my present condition. Since I still remember running the same workouts 30-40 seconds per mile faster only half a year ago, it showed just how far away I am from getting my pace back. A year of ultra running will do that to you, apparently.

And so it came that after a few easy miles with the club on Saturday I found myself right in the middle of Kerry's cross country runners on Sunday. The presence of George, Simon and Rob (jnr), amongst others, ensured that I never had to worry about a top finish, so at least there was no need to worry about that. The novice and under-18 races were held together, and there were loads of kids taking off like a bat out of hell. I was going off at a much faster pace than anticipated myself, but I was basically left standing by half the field.

I was sure that a few of the kids would come back to me during the next 6 laps, but no such luck. I overtook one over-optimistic runner towards the end of the first lap (or was it the second?) but was caught by one gentleman shortly before half time, and for the rest of the race I was basically running on my own, which at least saved the rest of the field from having to listen to my laboured breathing.

The only somewhat noticable event was the marshall telling me “3 laps to go” after 4, with me desperately hoping that he had miscounted rather than I, which luckily turned out to be correct. I was clinging to the hope that I would not be lapped, which thankfully came true, but I think I wasn't too far off that either and another lap might have done for me.

Just before Bangor I had done a 10K and George had finished about 2 minutes ahead of me, so he certainly should not have been so far ahead after 6k of XC. My avg. HR had been 177, close to what I would expect to see, so it definitely wasn't for lack of effort, just lack of ability of the road runner with the additional inability to move the legs somewhat fast. I suppose it would have had to go on for 100 laps rather than 6 for me to become competitive!

And so, suitably humbled, I'm heading back onto the road.

3 Oct
10 miles, 1:14:03, 7:24 pace, HR 152
4 Oct
8+ miles, 1:05:23, 7:55 pace, HR 146
   7 x hill sprints
5 Oct
10 miles, 1:10:22, 7:02 pace, HR 158
6 Oct
14+ miles, 1:49:35, 7:44 pace, HR 143
7 Oct
am: 5 miles, 38:42, 7:44 pace, HR 135
pm: 6 miles, incl. Kerry Novice XC race
Weekly Mileage: 75+

Wednesday, October 03, 2012


I know the last few blog posts have been a little bit on the technical (ok, ok, geeky) side. Niamh usually tells me how she always skips these - she just wants to read the bits where she finds out what her husband is up to, generally. She won't like this one either, I'm afraid, but it won't go on like that forever. It's just that I'm basically trying to figure out what I'm doing at the moment.

My former coach always had me do some "Evaluation Workouts" to get feedback on the training and/or my conditioning. It consisted of running 4 miles at a constant heart rate, in my case 161, about 30 bpm below my max, recording the time for each mile and then coming to a full stop and measuring how long it took for the HR to recover down to 130. I tend to look at the overall pace first but in actual fact that's the least important bit of information. How well you can keep your pace constant at that steady HR level is more important, as well as the recovery time.

So I did one on Tuesday. It wasn't ideal because of the blustery wind, but the forecast was basically the same for the entire week, which meant postponing it by a day or two would have been pointless. The windy conditions mean I can’t read too much into the figures, especially the pace numbers, but it does provide a base line. The number in brackets is adjusted pace, 7 seconds for every 2 heart beats off the 161 target, though it looks like a slight overcompensation to me.
        Mile 1    6:51   HR 162    (6:54)
        Mile 2    7:01   HR 162    (7:04)
        Mile 3    6:57   HR 163    (7:03)
        Mile 4    7:02   HR 161    (7:02)
        Recovery to HR 130: 50 seconds

The pace is actually very stable, especially after the initial first mile. I have certainly seen me drop off significantly more than that. But the 50 seconds recovery time is quite shocking, my highest reading ever. I definitely need to keep an eye on that. I hope it's because I have done very little running at that effort level during my year of ultra-running and my legs simply have to get used to it again, rather than a sign of overtraining.

I certainly do not feel overtrained. I have none of the typical symptoms, I sleep soundly (except when our 4-year old sleeps in our bed), am no more irritable than usual (no smart comments!!), and my appetite is sound (hell, yeah!).

This morning (Wednesday) I could finally tell for sure that the training is going ok so far. The legs felt very well, I got that elusive effortlessly-gliding-over-the-road feeling and the miles just flew by. To add to the positivity, I somehow managed to time the run right between two major downpours. It is a very nice day at the moment, if you manage to look out of the window at the right time, right between those heavy shower that keep on coming.

1 Oct
10 miles, 1:15:48, 7:35 pace, HR 146
2 Oct
12 miles, 1:27:53, 7:19 pace, HR 155
   4 mile eval: 6:54, 7:04, 7:03, 7:02 (adjusted figures)
   50 seconds recovery to 130
3 Oct
10 miles, 1:14:04, 7:24 pace, HR 152