Sunday, September 29, 2013

More Of The Same, Part 361

I'm going to run out of things to say very soon; running short and easy runs day in day out isn't quite as exciting as watching paint dry in the long term, but that's what I'm doing at the moment and that's what I will be doing for a few more weeks at least.

It took until Wednesday or Thursday to lift that extra weight from the leg muscles, until then I felt like I was carrying something round with me. That 17 mile long run from last Sunday will stay in my memory for quite some time to come, that's for sure; it knocked me right out of my stride. By now I'm definitely feeling better and running is starting to feel like fun again, but I'm trying to keep the pace to the same easy effort.

The one exception (there's always one, I know) was this morning. I'm not sure if it happened because I went out a bit later than usual or because I had been watching the Berlin marathon beforehand and some of Wilson Kipsang's magic had gotten to me, but even though I could have sworn I was still running at the same effort level I was going 15 seconds per mile faster. Saturday's very short run might have had something to do with it as well, I only had time for 5 miles because Niamh was once more galavanting at the other side of Ireland leaving me home alone with a gaggle of kids to mind and babysitters were hard to come by (and I'm definitely the only person I know who gets babysitters to go running rather than drinking eating), but general consensus amongst the brood is that Mummy should go away more often because it's more fun with Daddy (Daddy disagrees btw, I can't cope with them on my own, plus those babysitters are getting expensive).

This was a very easy week, with more of the same to come, and yet this is exactly what I need to get ready for a much longer race. Running is a funny thing.

27 Sep
8 miles, 1:03:52, 7:59 pace, HR 135
28 Sep
5+ miles, 40:21, 8:01 pace, HR 133
29 Sep
10 miles, 1:17:32, 7:45 pace, HR 146

Weekly Mileage: 57

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Post Crash Recovery

My legs haven't felt great ever since Sunday's disaster of a long run. And to think that I thought I was taking it particularly easy that day by running slowly and staying off the hills!

All I have done since then was running slowly and not very far. At first I was very annoyed with myself for letting myself get into this state, but I compared my paces and heart rates to 3 years ago, when I was training for Vienna, as well as last year, and the numbers are actually looking pretty good in comparison, so I'm probably not in as bad a state as I might feel right now. Not that it's all that great - my quads are hurting even after an 8 mile run, and when I tried running a tad longer on Wednesday I could tell the added strain straight away, even though the effort had been very easy all along.

Luckily my real goal race is still almost 10 months away, so I'm not exactly in a rush. When he coached me for Vienna, I do remember getting a bit frustrated with MC's training after 2 or 3 months of basically nothing but easy running, it started to become rather boring, but I don't think I'll forget the way I'm feeling right now any time soon and this will serve as a warning for quite some time.

I'm not sure what to do about the Valentia half in 2 weeks time, if I feel recovered I might run it as a tempo run, or I might skip it (and if I run it as a tempo run, I know perfectly well that I might be unable to resist racing it), but I'd definitely hate missing it. I love Valentia and it always feels like a second home to me. Ah well, I guess it's a bit early to fret about it right now.

23 Sep
8 miles, 1:06:19, 8:17 pace, HR 132
24 Sep
8 miles, 1:04:47, 8:06 pace, HR 134
25 Sep
10 miles, 1:20:43, 8:04 pace, HR 134
26 Sep
8 miles, 1:04:52, 8:07 pace, HR 133

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Emergency Brakes

I got my knuckles rapped virtually by Mystery Coach, who obviously still keeps an eye on my blog. He has dropped the odd pearl of wisdom my way, whenever he thinks I'm messing up too much to ignore; this time it took less than 4 weeks for him to ring the alarm bells - blimey.

At the root of the problem is what he thinks is a miscalculation of mine. I assumed that after doing no speed work all summer this had served as my base training and I was ready to move to the next phase. Not so, apparently. Running very long distances has a very similar exhausting effect on your muscle fibres as big speed workouts and I need to step back.

After a routine 10 mile run on Thursday I did another faster run on Friday (that was prior to the aforementioned intervention). I felt reasonably good, the pace was 10 seconds per mile faster that 2 weeks ago, but at the same time it was 20 seconds per mile slower than during the 10k pacing job. Back then 6:20-ish pace had felt reasonably comfortable, on Friday I was straining to run 6:40 pace. Maybe 5 seconds difference can be explained by the racing shoes, the rest is all in the head, I figured.

But, as I said, at that point MC pulled the emergency cord. I thought I was being good by splitting Saturday into 2 runs, on the assumption that 2 5-mile runs are less strenuous than one 10 miler. The effort was easy on both counts, though I was really surprised to see sub 7:30 pace in the evening. It's not all that unusual, I have seen faster paces for similar efforts before on the rare occasions when I run in the evening.

After such an apparently easy Saturday I expected an easy ride on Sunday, especially as I decided to move away from the hilly Caragh Lake road in order to protect my Achilles. I ran very easily and felt very good until the wheels started coming off somewhere around 9 or 10 miles. My guess was that I was running out of glycogen; I had not eaten before running (I never do) and it was slightly later than usual, so that seemed to make sense. I tried to convince myself that running in a depleted state was excellent ultra training, but in the end cut the run short by a mile and was back home after 17 miles, only barely faster than 8-minute pace (and it had felt a lot tougher than that!). MC seems to disagree with the low glycogen theory, but whatever the cause for today's crash, I guess I'll have to take it a bit easier for a bit.

19 Sep
10 miles, 1:19:04, 7:54 pace, HR 139
20 Sep
10 miles, 1:10:34, 7:03 pace, HR 154
   incl. 8 miles @ 6:42 pace (HR 160)
21 Sep
am: 5 miles, 38:43, 7:44 pace, HR 138
pm: 5 miles, 37:15, 7:27 pace, HR 141
22 Sep
17 miles, 2:15:15, 7:57 pace, HR 140
Weekly Mileage: 82+

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


There was no soreness on Sunday after Saturday’s swift 9.75 km, but the legs had definitely lost their spring. I did not feel bad as I started out on my long run, but I had absolutely no zip in my legs and was content to slog along at a rather sedate pace. Admittedly, the fact that I was running straight into the gale force wind had something to do with it as well, it just was not the day for breaking records. I did speed up for the last 5 or 6 miles, because that’s what I always do, and also because the wind was finally at my back.

There still is not much zip in the old legs, but I think that’s still mostly down to Connemara rather than that faster pace on Saturday. I keep reminding myself that I ran 100 miles only 5 weeks ago. However, the HRM gave a couple of nice surprises on Monday and Tuesday. It has been a while since I have seen figures in the 130s, so progress is being made even if I'm not really able to tell from subjective feelings alone.

I had a sore throat on Tuesday first thing in the morning. I wasn’t sure if it was the same bug that had caused a few minor issues last week, but since the HR was unaffected that day I guess it’s a new one. It’s the time of the year for colds of course, half the office is coughing and it’s no surprise when I do pick up the odd sniffle.

Wednesday morning saw the return of a rare beast, namely a midweek long-ish run. It required an early rise and it was pitch dark outside when I left home, so I brought the reflective clothing as well as a headlamp along, for the first time this year. A couple of days later I would have had the moon for company but today it meant a dark run in the rain. I better get used to that, I suppose.

The legs were rather sluggish again, but more worryingly I felt my left Achilles again. This has never gone away completely over the summer, but it had gone down to “barely noticeable”, or 1/10. Today the last couple of miles felt rather uncomfortable. It was back to basically unnoticeable for the rest of the day, though. I'm pretty sure it’s the climbing that causes the Achilles to act up, and I have just run the very hilly loop around Caragh Lake three times in 10 days and twice in 4 days. That’s a bit of a problem because I firmly believe in strengthening the legs by running uphill. For now I have restarted my usual strengthening routine, namely eccentric calf raises, which has worked very well in the past, and hope for the best.
15 Sep
18+ miles, 2:24:00, 7:57 pace, HR 143
16 Sep
10 miles, 1:19:00, 7:54 pace, HR 136
17 Sep
10 miles, 1:16:39, 7:39 pace, HR 139
18 Sep
15+ miles, 1:58:55, 7:53 pace, HR 141

Last week’s mileage: 80+

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Run Like A Girl

Let me confess straight away, I am not a great fan of the Women's Mini marathons. Road running has always been a very inclusive sport for everyone, helped by its accessibility, so to exclude half the population for gender reasons does not sit all that well with me. I get it that some women don't feel comfortable running with men, I still don't like the exclusion.

As I was standing at the start line today at noon, I was feeling slightly uncomfortable for 2 reasons. One, because a male in this environment just didn't fit, two, because pacing 40 minutes seemed a fairly tough task. When Catriona had asked me 3 weeks ago if I would pace it, my first question had been if she really wanted a male pacer, which she insisted on (in fact, all pacers today were male), and my second was for her to wait a couple of weeks until I could confirm (or not) if I would be able to run fast enough, still only 5 weeks after destroying my legs over 100 miles in Connemara. I did a test earlier this week, expecting to fail, but I came through so I confirmed my participation and as a result found myself surrounded by femininity as the gun went off.

I had checked last year's result when 3 women had run faster than 40 minutes and knew perfectly well that I might be in for a lonely run. Three ladies took off faster than me but I caught 2 of them on the first hill, still within the first kilometre, but at least the leading lady looked fast and comfortable enough to ensure that I would not be the first across the line, thank goodness.

Some of the km markers might have been slightly off, which did not help the pacing job. According to my Garmin I should have had a couple of seconds cushion at the first km but was 10 seconds behind and I was still 4 seconds slow at km 2. We went up Knockreer hill (hey, nobody mentioned I would have to run a hill!) and by km 4 I passed the markers a couple of seconds ahead of time. Unfortunately I was pretty much running in nowhere land with the first lady a minute ahead of me and the second a minute behind, so I don't think anyone really benefited from my pacing today. I could not slow down to assist the runner behind me, that's not how it works if you're pacing a certain time.

I felt surprisingly comfortable at that pace and always knew that running under 40 minutes was never in question. I was able to admire the beautiful surroundings (coming over the hill and looking at Loch Leane was particularly stunning) and enjoy the beautifully sunny day, which I could not have done had I been racing all out.

I passed all markers between km 6 and 9 about 20 seconds ahead of time, just where I would want to be, so I was confident I'd be just a few seconds under 40, but when the finish line drew close I realised that there was a slight problem, namely a short course. Even the announcer noticed ("you better slow down mate") but I wasn't going to wait in front of the line for a minute just for time's sake so jogged home and finished in about 38:40. I think the course was about 250 meters short, and Catriona confirmed that they had not been allowed to put the finish gantry where they had planned (at least I think that's what she said). The other pacers came home about a minute too early as well, and my Garmin said 6.1 miles, Chris's said 6.07 and Sean's even less, so yes, it was not an accurate course.

Ah well. I still enjoyed running a bit faster today and all the ladies I saw seemed to really enjoy themselves and treasure the achievement.

Oh, and thanks to Anne for giving her medal to Maia. She was thrilled!
12 Sep
10 miles, 1:18:16, 7:50 pace, HR 149
13 Sep
10 miles, 1:18:19, 7:50 pace, HR 144
14 Sep
am: 5 miles, 41:26, 8:16 pace, HR 132
pm: 7+ miles, including Killarney women's mini marathon in 38:40, HR 173

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Don't Guess it, Test It

Monday was rather mundane, just another 10 mile run. The legs felt heavy after Sunday’s long run, but I was pleasantly surprised by the low HR; If I go by pace for HR, it was my best training run since Connemara.

On Tuesday morning I did a test run; I wanted to find out if I would be able to pace a 40 minutes 10k on Saturday. To be honest, I fully expected the answer to be “no”, but gave it a try anyway. The original idea was to run 2 miles at a good pace and see what the result was, but when it was windy on Monday evening I decided to run 2 separate sections, one in each direction, to make sure the wind would not have much influence on the test.  I just made that sound much more complicated than it was, basically I ran one fast mile in one direction and 2 in the other, separated by one easy mile, with the usual warm up and cool down on either end. The result was a mile at 6:23 pace and 2 miles at 6:20 pace, so I guess the answer is that I should indeed be able to pace a 40 minutes 10k on Saturday.

I felt surprisingly good on Wednesday morning, so I pushed a little bit harder and the pace was a little bit quicker than usual, though it was all very controlled.

Despite being able to run quicker than expected, I'm actually not feeling 100% at the moment, I had a sore throat on Tuesday and just did not feel all that great throughout the day. I don’t know if it was a misbehaving A/C at work (it was absolutely freezing all day in the office) or if I got a touch of whatever Shea had last week (he missed school on Friday), but as long as it doesn't get any worse than it is right now I’ll just ignore it.

9 Sep
10 miles, 1:18:10, 7:49 pace, HR 139
10 Sep
8 miles, 58:43, 7:20 pace, HR 151
     incl. 1 mile @ 6:23 (HR 163), 2 miles @ 6:20 (HR 170)
11 Sep
12 miles, 1:29:17, 7:26 pace, HR 150

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Over The Hills And Far Away

The second week of my training has gone well, though my heart bled at the weekend because I was missing out on the Dingle marathon/ultra for the first time since its inception. Congratulations to Sean Brosnan, who happens to be the only man to overtake me on the ultra course last year, for winning it this year. Maybe I can give him a run for his money next year.

There is a lot of running to be done before I get back into race shape, but at least I can feel the improvements, and of course they also show up in the numbers. If I apply the old rule of thumb of one day of recovery time for each mile raced I will feel back in shape by the time Sixmilebridge comes around, just like last year then.

I did another fast run on Friday and it went much, much better than the previous week. The effort was the same but the pace was over 20 seconds per mile faster. If I manage to cut another 30 or so seconds off that I'll be happy, but let's be patient.

The legs felt surprisingly sprightly on Saturday which is why I was back home within the hour for my 8 mile run, but I did have to pay the price eventually on Sunday's long run, when the legs had that sluggish, heavy feeling from the very first step. I did not make things easier by taking a wrong turn and running 1.5 extra miles for my usual route around Caragh Lake when I had planned on taking the shorter option. I only noticed over on hour later when the Garmin said 9 miles at Blackstone Bridge, which initially confused the hell out of me and it took a while to figure it out. Ah well, I have only done this run a few hundred times, I can't possibly be expected to know all the turns already.

The long climbs up into the hills on the eastern side of the lake went surprisingly well, considering it was my first visit back in some time, but the last few miles definitely started to drag and the pace was always slower than I would have hoped for. There is still plenty of room for improvement.
5 Sep
8 miles, 1:02:09, 7:46 pace, HR 145
6 Sep
10 miles, 1:10:59, 7:06 pace, HR 155
   incl 8 miles @ 6:52 pace (HR 160)
7 Sep
8 miles, 59:29, 7:26 pace, HR 149
8 Sep
16.6 miles, 2:08:45, 7:45 pace, HR 148
Weekly Mileage: 69.6

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Till The Cows Come Home

After feeling like standing still for the first week, progress is now definitely being made. I can see it on the Garmin as the pace is quicker and the HR is down, but much more importantly I can feel it in the legs, they seem to be much bouncier after feeling downright awkward a week ago and I'm already back to running 10 miles in the morning without batting an eyelid.

The only incident of note happened on Tuesday. On the outward bound there was a cow on the road, but it scampered quickly as I approached. However, on the way back home she must have gathered the entire gang as there were at least a dozen heifers basically blocking my way. Some of them moved as I approached but at least 3 of them stood their ground and eyed me rather suspiciously, with a rather disapproving look on their faces. I decided the best approach was to slow right down and slowly jog past on the other side of the road. There was a nervy moment when one of them snorted loudly, but then I was safely past. And if you think I'm being silly, have a look here or here or here or here or here. (And if anyone is surprised by any of this it just shows their ignorance. I grew up in the country side and won't ever forget the warnings about cows they hammered into us, though they were usually warning us off bulls).

Monday morning looked rather miserable with the drizzly rain hanging in the air like a curtain but it has been really nice since, which is of course the traditional nice spell of weather as school begins. It is definitely getting darker, at the moment the sun only just about rises above the hills on the last couple of miles. Winter will be here soon enough, though here in Ireland that usually just means that the rain is going to be a little bit colder than during summer.

The upload from the Garmin is back as of today. After trying a lot of things in the end I had to do a hard reset, which wipes all data off the Garmin, and reconfigure it from scratch. Today's run uploaded just fine. Ah well. It's still better than the damn thing giving up its ghost entirely.

2 Sep
8 miles, 1:03:25, 7:56 pace, HR 142
3 Sep
9 miles, 1:10:03, 7:47 pace, HR 141
4 Sep
10 miles, 1:16:49, 7:41 pace, HR 142

Sunday, September 01, 2013


I admit I was starting to lose patience, but things are definitely improving already, still only one week into training. While I should not get carried away just yet, it's nice to see a 7 for the pace rather than an 8.

My main source of troubles is that damn Garmin at the moment. I does work fine when on my wrist but utterly refuses to upload the data into the computer, which can be rather frustrating as I do hope to get some pointers regarding training from analysing the run. I've tried a few things and will see if it starts behaving again tomorrow.

I have often used Friday as a faster day in base training, though at a restrained effort. I was not entirely sure if running faster only one week into training was such a good idea, but frankly I wanted to move faster for a change and was very much looking forward to it. The run itself was rather frustrating, though. I could of course claim that I held back because after all I was only at the start of training, but in reality I ran pretty much as fast as I could, it just happened to be rather slowly. It's rather telling that the average HR was rather low at 156; the body (or maybe it was the brain) just refused to give any more.

However, I did notice the very next morning that the legs seemed ready to move again and I just felt a bit bouncier than before. Most of the run was just another 8 miler bit I did add a few strides towards the end. Now if only I remembered to do that more often ...

12 miles on Sunday doesn't really qualify for a long run, but it just did not look like a great idea to run longer. I managed to move at a decent clip at a reasonable heart rate (for that stage of training that is, obviously) but my legs felt rather tired and sore afterwards, much more so than I thought they would; doing gardening work might have contributed as well, though.

All in all I'm happy enough. This is early days, very very early in fact and things will improve a lot over teh next few weeks and months.

30 Aug
10 miles, 1:14:16, 7:25 pace, HR 156
   incl. 8 miles @ 7:13 pace (HR 160)
31 Aug
8 miles, 1:02:10, 7:46 pace, HR 146
1 Sep
12 miles, 1:30:53, 7:34 pace, HR 147
Weekly Mileage: 62