Friday, November 29, 2013

Morituri Te Salutant

Ah sweet Jesus, what is it about the Irish and not taking "no" for an answer. I ran the cross country last year and not only did I not particularly enjoy it, I also ran really badly. It was akin to one of those dreams when you run and run and run and you're barely moving. I told the club secretary in no uncertain terms that for next year he'd have to find another victim.

He must have forgotten because he started badgering me again and of course I refused. And then some other club mate got into the act, and then we might not get a team together if I don't run and wouldn't you know it, now I'm signed up, not entirely sure how that happened. Last year, when I got handed my backside to me in such a big way it was Kerry only and the novices at that. On Sunday I'll be competing against the cream of Munster's masters, though I'm using the word "competing" in a rather loose way, as in I'll try not to get lapped twice.

Ah Ferchristsakes. This is going to suck. And it's messing up my training. And why on Earth am I whining so much?

Running, road running that is, has been going very well the last few days. I'm definitely feeling a lot better than a few weeks ago and I'm starting to get that "effortlessly floating over the tarmac" kind of feeling again. I ran 10 miles on Wednesday, just do do something different than the usual 8 miles, and was actually quite excited by that fact. Yes, I need to get out more. The pace has dropped remarkably since Sixmilebridge at the same easy effort. The weather has been unusually nice, normally I'm running through 4 degrees and wind and rain at this time of the year; this morning I seriously wondered if I should wear a t-shirt again, though I wasn't quite brave enough for that at the end. In short, it's all really good. And then there comes Sunday ...

27 Nov
10 miles, 1:16:53, 7:41 pace, HR 142
28 Nov
8 miles, 1:00:47, 7:35 pace, HR 142
29 Nov
8 miles, 1:01:21, 7:40 pace, HR 143
   including a few strides

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


I don’t know what the difference is, but I am feeling so much better than after the Dublin marathon, it is unreal. It doesn’t make sense to me, I ran both at a similar pace and I would expect a 30 mile race to leave me worse off than a marathon 3 weeks later, but that’s not the case. I’m wondering if the backpack we had to carry for the flag might have caused some subtle change in my stride pattern, but that’s a complete guess and quite probably wrong.

Obviously I’m not complaining about feeling good – I’d just like to know what made the difference so I’ll know for next time. Maybe it was just the fact that an additional 3 weeks had passed since Connemara and my legs are finally more or less recovered from that effort. Incidentally, that was just over 100 days ago and with the old adage of a day recovery for each mile race that could even be true, who knows. Last year it took pretty much a day per mile to recover from the 24 hrs, so maybe that is indeed the case.

Anyway, I’m feeling really good at the moment. The weather helped, while most of the rest of the country are moaning about the cold, I just love running on crisp bright mornings. Compared to the usual lousy weather this time of year, this is just pure bliss and I’m loving every minute of it. Even my Achilles is behaving, while I can still feel the odd stiffness every now and then it is 99% better. I’m still scared of running the mountain trails again for fear of undoing all the healing that happened over the last few months, but maybe I’ll change my mind if thing keep going well. Mind, running those trails when it’s pitch dark isn’t something that I would recommend, so it would be a weekend exercise only, when I run slightly later in the day.

I haven’t done any workouts since Sixmilebridge but will probably do a rather mellow tempo run later this week, just like I did 3 weeks ago. I noticed yesterday in particular that the legs were itching to run faster and I kept putting the brakes on again and again. I take that as a very good sign.

23 Nov
8 miles, 1:02:20, 7:48 pace, HR 137
24 Nov
10 miles, 1:16:38, 7:40 pace, HR 143
25 Nov
8 miles, 1:03:10, 7:54 pace, HR 137
26 Nov
8 miles, 1:03:41, 7:58 pace, HR 136

Friday, November 22, 2013

Post Race Recovery

Oh my, it is Friday already? Apologies for the lack of updates, it is mostly related to the lack of any report worthy running.

Not a pretty picture, but happy to be done. Photo by Sean Power
I felt surprisingly good after running 30 miles, much better than after running 26 miles 3 weeks earlier at a similar pace, go figure. I wasn’t sore at all the next day, just a little bit stiff. I did not run on Monday to be on the safe side but did 5 miles every day since and increased that to 8 miles this morning, all of which went by without anything worthwhile happening.

Note: even current national record holders do the heel strike. Photo by Sean Power

With that I’m finally ready to leave Sixmilebridge behind; I had a nice long training run there on Sunday and enjoyed it very much. I was never going to win there with the calibre of runners on display and would not change anything I did there.

It has been getting rather cold this week, at least by Irish standards. The temperature is below freezing but I’ll take -1C and dry over 4C and wet any time, thank you very much. With the moon just past full it is really bright in the morning right now, though I did have my one sleepless night like I do virtually every month. I have no idea why this keeps happening. We have perfectly good blinds and curtains and the bedroom is pitch dark yet I’m left staring at the ceiling for hours on end once every Full Moon. There must be some werewolf in my ancestry that I don’t know about.

Too bad I don’t have time on Saturday because I’m going to miss the 10k in Killorglin yet again, but family time comes first and Saturday is when the kids have swimming/coding/music/whatever on the agenda and Daddy can’t go racing. Not that I’m complaining – racing a 10k this weekend would be a bad idea anyway.

19 Nov
5 miles, 42:43, 8:33 pace, HR 140
20 Nov
5 miles, 41:44, 8:21 pace, HR 134
21 Nov
5+ miles, 40:51, 8:05 pace, HR 140
22 Nov
8+ miles, 1:03:40, 7:55 pace, HR 135

Sunday, November 17, 2013

How Not To Pace

Middle of November is the time of the quickly becoming famous Sixmilebridge loop race. Like last year they offered four distance choices, namely half marathon, full marathon, 30 miles and double marathon. I was tempted by the double but had a few demons to wipe out of the system first, so the 30 miler it was once again.

The weather forecast had been pretty good but as I drove towards county Clare I got the distinct impression that we might be in for a repeat of last year's atrocious conditions. As a result, I picked my outfit with the intention of keeping warm rather than looking stylish. I ended up sporting an orange t-shirt, blue girly arm warmers, black shorts with black compression short peeping out, grey compression socks and dark grey shoes of the ugliest colour scheme I've ever come across. It was definitely a question of function over anything else.

As soon as Mark saw me his face went "oh f*ck, I won't win today". I'm very familiar with that expression because a minute earlier it had come across my own face when I spotted first Keith Whyte and then Mike "Curly" Cunningham in quick succession. I would not have to worry about losing a sprint finish today, that much was immediately clear. Keith actually told me he had only just started running again after an injury and was going to pull out after 20 miles, though in all honesty I was not entirely convinced.

I started at the front just behind Mike and Keith. Mike immediately meant business and stormed ahead; for a couple of seconds I actually wondered if I should go with him but that would have been exceptionally stupid, so I didn't. Instead I fell into step right behind Keith who was clearly taking it very easy today. Very easy for him that is - he was doing 7 minute miles. At first that felt very comfortable and I was happy to tag along. I remembered that I had kept that pace in Portuma for the entire 50k and felt very comfortable, so it certainly did not seem out of order. First doubts started creeping in after mile 3 when I realised that we were now doing sub-7 miles, and on loop 5 I glanced my HR from the Garmin as we were going up the hill and it was in the high 160s. Again, that's not outrageous, I have run at least one marathon at a higher average HR, but it just felt a little bit too quick and soon later I let Keith go. He inched away from me very slowly but steadily, and a few laps later he was out of sight.

I was still feeling okay for a while, but somewhere around mile 8 or so I had a bit of a low, which is rather early. I did try and pull myself out of it by taking a gel or a few sips of coke when I passed the aid station. It seemed to work for a bit but soon returned, and by mile 12 or 13 I was already knackered and supposed that I was going to pay the price for the early pace. I guess I'm not in the same kind of shape as in Portumna and the Dublin marathon is still in my legs as evidenced by the evaluation earlier this week. Oh, and the fact that we had to climb a hill on every loop did not exactly make things easier.

Most people who have never run that race think I'm completely bonkers running a 30 mile race on a 1 mile loop, but anyone who has tried it can understand how that very fact makes it a very social event as you're constantly meeting lots of other runners and the atmosphere is unique. The enthusiastic marshalling just adds to that; I love that race and I'm not alone in that.

Anyway, I was feeling knackered and still had about 17 or 18 miles to run. I resolved that the best way to deal with the situation was to cruise to the finish, or at least for as long as I was still able to cruise. Basically I tried to expend as little energy as possible while still doing some half-decent pace. I wasn't going to win the race no matter what and there was no pressure from behind either (one other runner had started at the same pace as me a Keith but had long since fallen back), so my race position seemed set and taking the foot off the gas seemed perfectly logical, so that's exactly what I did.

I did go through another few lows over the coming miles and kept fuelling in the hope that that would pull me through. A bottle of Lucozade that I had stashed earlier came in very handy and I had 4 gels with me, all of which I consumed (I think that was the first time ever that I took all my gels), in addition to plenty of coke from the aid station. I wonder if all those carbs messed up my fat burning, but it did seem to work. I kept getting plenty of compliments that I was flying and looking good, but you get that kind of talk anyway no matter what you look like, so that's not a reliable gauge.

Looking at the mile splits now I ran the first 10 miles at about 7:00 pace, the next 9 at about 7:30 and the next 10 at about 7:40. I did manage to hold things together reasonably enough but it was never going to be an outstanding performance. Somewhere around mile 23 I did wish I had signed up for the marathon rather than the 30, but those thoughts vanished soon enough. Mind, I'm glad I didn't go for the double.

For a while I answered all questions how I was feeling with "f*ing knackered" but it did eventually dawn on me that negative talk isn't a good thing and switched to "getting there". Switching my mindset from negative to positive had a definite and real impact. My pace might still have been the same but the enjoyment returned and I felt much better. That's definitely a lesson I can take away from it.

I went through the marathon in 3:12 or 3:13, definitely not one of my better performances but no disgrace either, especially since I still managed to add 4 miles on top of that. Towards the end of the second-last mile Ruthann went past me, but once I started the final lap I put a bit more effort into it, which made it look like I was chasing her. I caught up with her right at the top of the hill, said "final lap" as a way of explanation and stormed towards the finish. I ran into traffic right at the end, so the finish line photo won't be a classic if there is one but I was happy to be done.

Keith had indeed pulled out, so I finished in second place, again! I congratulated Curly on his victory and a very impressive performance. Shane James Whitty had won the marathon but seemed more concerned with me coming second once more. The second place finisher in the marathon was Thomas Klimas, who I had run together with for 30 or 35k in Portumna, and we had a chat as well.

It sure was not the best paced race I've ever run, but since I will most likely never ever get the chance to run shoulder-to-shoulder with the present Irish National 100k record holder again I am actually glad that I did run with Keith for a few miles. I did manage to salvage a race when things threatened to fall apart and since I managed to finish with a 7-minute mile I guess I would have been able to race faster had the situation required it, but since I finished 20 minutes behind and 8 ahead of places 1 and 3 respectively, cruising to the finish without killing myself seemed like the best option.

I had said beforehand that I would be perfectly happy to be beaten by a better runner, and what's more, I actually meant it. Unlike last year I did not have to drive home in the knowledge that I had thrown away a rare possible victory, and that alone is enough to make me happy.

The Eddie Murphy memorial one-mile loop race in Sixmilebridge is an absolute classic. I already can't wait to do it again.

17 Nov
Sixmilebridge 30 mile race, 3:40:54, 7:21 pace, HR 159
   Second place

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Six Miles From Nowhere

I'm not sure if it's just psychological after Wednesday's evaluation figures showed that I'm not recovered from Dublin yet, but I'm definitely not feeling as good as I did last week. The legs were distinctly heavy on Thursday and the entire run was a bit of a struggle. Friday went better, and Saturday was just a very short and very easy run to shake out the legs before tomorrow's race in Sixmilebridge.

More than one person has mentioned that they thought I'd seen enough of Sixmilebridge by now, which incidentally includes me as well. But in actual fact I have been looking forward to this race ever since crossing the finishing line last year one second too late after being outsprinted at the end of a 30 mile race. I still can't quite believe that a 30 mile race came down to a mad sprint over the last quarter mile, but that's exactly what happened on that occasion. However, I was always painfully aware that I had not lost the race on that quarter mile stretch but instead over the first 25 miles when I clearly had not taken it seriously and deciding only by the time I was almost at the marathon distance that I should actually try and win this.

I don't have to win this tomorrow. I'm perfectly aware that there are plenty of runners who can beat me easily over that distance and if only a single one of them shows up tomorrow, so be it. That's fine by me, I'm totally cool with that. I just do not want to go home again in the knowledge that I have thrown away a win. I don't exactly win a lot of races. That very same race two years ago was my last outright win. So to lose a winnable race due to my own idiocy was bad. Tomorrow is all about about getting rid of that f***ing demon.

14 Nov
8 miles, 1:02:51, 7:51 pace, HR 143
15 Nov
8 miles, 1:02:59, 7:51 pace, HR 138
16 Nov
5 miles, 40:12, 8:02 pace, HR 136

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


My youngest daughter is now 6 years old and she is showing worrying signs of following in the footsteps of one of her parents as far as her behavioural patterns go. 3 days ago she wrote a letter to the Tooth Fairy telling her about her wobbly tooth that will be up for collection soon. The next day, thrilled by receiving a reply from Fairy Land by her Magic Highness herself, she wrote no less than 6 (six!!!) letters, all saying pretty much the same thing. This was followed by yet another letter (this time with a drawing) yet another day later. If I were the Tooth Fairy I'd be thinking about getting a restraining order. We also might need to have a talk about obsessive behaviour.

Myself, on the other hand, carefree as I am, did a little bit of running in the meantime. I lost 10 minutes on Monday morning trying to get a Garmin working that steadfastly refused to even look at the satellite signals coming from the sky. Eventually I left sans GPS device on my wrist, that should teach it a lesson. I probably ran a bit faster than I should have due to being a) late and b) frustrated, but since I had neither watch nor HRM I can't tell. Things were restored back to normal on Tuesday (an IT background does have its advantages), though the legs felt a bit off, which was either a hangover from Sunday's longer run (even if it was far from being an actual long run) or a result of having run too fast the day before, with the former sounding more likely to me.

I took the unusual step of checking the weather forecast for Wednesday and Thursday to set my schedule, and with a windy morning predicted for Thursday I fixed my next evaluation workout for Wednesday. It was a little bit breezy, a bit more than I would have liked. Wind is the enemy of the evaluation because it can really mess up the numbers to the point of making them utterly irrelevant. It was mostly fine but I did notice it picking up for miles 3 and 4, though it was never particularly strong and unlikely to have a significant impact on the actual pace.

        Mile 1    6:49   HR 161
        Mile 2    6:52   HR 161
        Mile 3    6:59   HR 161
        Mile 4    6:57   HR 161
        Recovery to HR 130: 49 seconds

The pace is roughly comparable to the beginning of October but the recovery time is rather excessive, which shows that while I might feel good at the moment I clearly have not yet recovered from the Dublin marathon, which should not come as a great surprise, seeing as it was only 16 days ago. Somehow I was hoping for a better result but that's exactly what the evaluations are for, to take hope and guesswork out of the equation and replace them with cold hard factual numbers.
I won't obsess over them, I think.

11 Nov
8 miles, 1:01:00 (estimated)
12 Nov
8 miles, 1:03:38, 7:57 pace, HR 139
13 Nov
11.8 miles, 1:26:41, 7:20 pace, HR 151
   incl. 4 mile eval: 6:49, 6:52, 6:59, 6:57, 49 sec recovery

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Autumn Blues

It is 6:40 am Friday morning, it is cold, dark, windy and raining heavily. My left Achilles is feeling rather stiff, as is my right knee. I can only move slowly and everything feels awkward. I am feeling distinctly uncomfortable and would definitely prefer a warm cosy bed to this. Heck, even a cold, hard bed would be better than this.

Half a mile later I am warmed up, feeling much better and running smoothly now. Another half mile later and the rain has stopped. Perfect. Just keep running. The next 7 miles pass by mostly on autopilot.

Saturday was a bit nicer. There was a shower while I got ready but I could see the blue skies in the west and did not dally. The last drop fell just after I had started my run and half an hour later even the sun came out to join me. Lovely. What surprised me even more was the pace on the Garmin when I gave it a quick peek. I'm not sure if I should be annoyed with myself for running a bit too fast on an easy day or if I should be delighted that 7:34 pace felt so remarkably easy.

It was downright miserable again on Sunday and this time I could see no break in the clouds, so out in the rain I went. And come to think of it, Met Eireann had promised us a dry morning; shows what they know. Anyway, it was a rather lousy day for being outside and somewhere around mile 7 or 8 I wished to be anywhere else, but felt better again after a while.

There is no such thing as bad weather. Just bad excuses. And it did occur to me that training in those kind of conditions was exactly what made me come second last year in Bangor amongst a group of amazing runners that I would not have a business competing against in normal circumstances.

The other thing I remembered was that last year it was at the middle of November that I finally started to feel good again after several months of recovery from running 126 miles. This year I "only" ran 100 miles five weeks later in the year, but I seem to be coming round exactly the same time again. Things are definitely looking good on the running front.
8 Nov
8 miles, 1:01:54, 7:44 pace, HR 139
9 Nov
8 miles, 1:00:34, 7:34 pace, HR 144
10 Nov
13 miles, 1:41:13, 7:47 pace, HR 139

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Revving Up Just A Little

The next event in Sixmilebridge is only 10 days away, so I do not have much of a window to do some "proper" training. I'm not entirely sure how much damage the Dublin marathon has done to my legs, but I keep checking my heart rate / pace ratio and for the last 3 days I had been in the "neutral" zone, neither too high nor too low, so I thought it safe enough to run just a little bit faster today (Thursday) morning after a long series of easy recovery runs.

The last faster run before Dublin had been 8 miles at roughly 3:10 marathon pace (which had served as a neat test for Dublin), though the heart rate (154) had been a little bit higher than I would have liked. Today's plan was to run at about HR 150 and see where that leaves me.

It was raining heavily when I left but it stopped after only half a mile, though by then I was already soaked right through. Ah well. I felt pretty good during the first two warm up miles and then accelerated to the effort that felt appropriate. At first I had troubles getting my HR up, but I was also running with the wind on my back and I knew it would feel much tougher on the way back home. This turned out to be absolutely correct. I found it really hard to keep the HR at one level and the blustery wind sure did not help. In the end I averaged 151 over those 8 miles, which was surprisingly close to target (I had expected the number to be higher) but in reality it had been 8 miles with the HR fluctuating between 145 and 155 and the effort being rather uneven as well. On the plus side, the legs felt very well and I could have kept going for much, much longer while the pace was actually faster than at that run before Dublin.

The rule that I set last month, namely that every workout, even a rather modest one like today's, will always be followed by two recovery days and which has served me very well, helping me to get out of my overtraining hole, will of course still apply.

5 Nov
8 miles, 1:02:32, 7:48 pace, HR 144
6 Nov
8 miles, 1:03:03, 7:52 pace, HR 139
7 Nov
10 miles, 1:12:53, 7:17 pace, HR 149
   incl. 8 miles @ 7:07 pace (HR 151)

Monday, November 04, 2013

Really Big Girl

Apparently the villager should not be so far away from his village
(yes, tough critic, that one)
Real life just keeps happening, I can hardly keep up. As of Saturday, the erstwhile baby of the family has reached the ripe old age of six, which obviously elevates her from Big Girl to Really Big Girl. Just to underline her growing maturity she decided at fairly short notice to change the design for her birthday cake from Princess to Mindcraft, which is quite a radical change in direction. Yes, she does have older siblings, how did you know? I don't think there are many girls who not only want a Minecraft cake for their sixth birthday but also have a mother able to pull it off, which might indeed make her as unique as she already knows she is - and well done to Niamh, colour me impressed. And by the way darling, I do know they are all mine, so can I please move out of the shed again? It's getting cold at night.

Temperatures have indeed plunged, it was down to a mere 3 degrees C this morning (36F in old money). For once I managed to adapt in advance and brought my gloves to my run, which is a minor miracle in itself. Running is still very much defined by recovery from Dublin. I did a series of 5 mile runs (skilfully dodging two major rain showers on Saturday) and moved to 8 mile runs. On Sunday the HR was all the way up to 150, for reasons entirely unclear to me. I ran at the same easy effort as every other run. I noticed the high HR and tried to relax, even though I was already taking it easy. Nothing would change the HR, and yes, I'm pretty sure my HRM is working just fine. Things had changed on Monday morning when I was running just a tad faster at the same subjective easy effort but with a HR over 10 beats lower. I have no idea what's going on here, but as long as I keep taking it easy I don't think I can do much wrong.

2 Nov
5 miles, 40:22, 8:04 pace, HR 145
3 Nov
8 miles, 1:03:36, 7:57 pace, HR 150
4 Nov
8 miles, 1:02:52, 7:51 pace, HR 139

Friday, November 01, 2013

Trick Or Treat

I only realised it afterwards, but Dublin on Monday was my 10th marathon as a pacer. It really is amazing how quickly those things add up.

Despite feeling really good during the marathon I was quite sore on Tuesday, certainly more than expected. I still managed to walk down the staircase in the in-laws' house without wincing, which is a good thing as I had to do it several times when loading the car, but I was definitely feeling uncomfortable doing so. I was still a bit sore on Wednesday but by Thursday that was gone and that's when I re-started running, though I have only done very short and very easy runs so far.

puffle, halloween, creeper and friendly pumpkin

Zombie, Enderman, Vampire and Witch on the hunt for sweets
Thursday was obviously Halloween, which has been rather Americanised in the last 10 years or so, not that I particularly care - it's a day for the kids. The four kids that Niamh keeps insisting are all mine could not agree on a pumpkin design and in the end I got 4 pumpkins from the shop to put an end to the bickering. Well worth the little bit of piece and quiet we gained that way. Trick or Treating went very well, there had been some grumbling from the troops when they learned that we would be in Kerry, not Dublin, for that night but they have learned since that Kerry people are far more generous than those stingy bastards from the smoke and they all returned with as much sweets as they could carry, or maybe even a bit more. God knows what their sugar levels are right now, but maybe for once they have a valid reason for misbehaving. Cian got so much loot that he even has been off-loading stuff to his dad. Well, obviously I'm prepared to sacrifice myself for the good of my child. No need to have him overdose on sugar any more than he already does.

As for training, right now I need to get Dublin out of my legs and that will take a while, and once that is done I'll destroy them all over again in Sixmilebridge, which may or may not be a good idea but which I cannot possibly miss. I need to get some demons out of my system that have been lingering there since last year.

31 Oct
5 miles, 41:57, 8:23 pace, HR 143
1 Nov
5 miles, 40:19, 8:03 pace, HR 145