Sunday, March 30, 2014


Many years ago in 1978, Alberto Salazar suffered so badly from heat stroke after the Falmouth Road Race that he had his last rites read to him. He recovered and said afterwards that from that day on he knew exactly how hard he could push himself. I had an experience 6 years ago that was nowhere near as dramatic when I contracted pneumonia but similar to some extend as I learned when it was okay to go running and when not.

I still felt very good on Thursday morning during my run but things started going south during the day when I started feeling worse and worse. It was not just me, Lola was affected as well and Maia was feeling very rough, bad enough for Niamh to take her to the doctor on Friday. I had a sore throat, a headache and was generally feeling unwell but it did pass the neck test and I went running on Friday, though I did cut the distance down to 8. I was actually quite surprised to see the HR completely unaffected; sometimes you are fighting an infection while feeling ok and the HR can jump by 10 beats or more. At other times, like Friday, you can clearly feel some effects but the HR is at the same level you expect when perfectly healthy. I was still feeling rather rough for most of Friday but got better towards the evening and by Saturday morning was basically recovered, though I can still feel some weight on my chest when lying down, but that will go away soon.

With just one week to go to Connemara I decided to give the local duathlon a miss, though I do feel a bit guilty for not supporting a race in Killorglin. Instead I went for a 10 mile run at the planned Connemara pace of 7:10, which might be a bit optimistic but not completely unrealistic I like to think. I started easily with the first mile in 7:30, had caught up by mile 5 and then ran the rest entirely on autopilot and very relaxed. I was thrilled with the result, it felt like I could keep that pace going until forever.

I repeated the same workout on Sunday. The first mile was a bit slower in about 7:45 and it took a little bit longer to catch up and the last few miles required slightly more effort than the day before but it was still very relaxed and I certainly could have run a lot faster had I wanted to. It's hard to say if the pace is appropriate for Connemara but I think if I run like this for the first 26 miles I'll get to Leenane in good shape and can then re-assess on the long climb that follows. Despite not training specifically for Connemara I'm quite optimistic about the prospects of a new PB.
27 Mar
10 miles, 1:18:18, 7:49 pace, HR 136
28 Mar
8 miles, 1:02:12, 7:46 pace, HR 135
29 Mar
10 miles, 1:11:24, 7:08 pace, HR 145
30 Mar
10 miles, 1:11:11, 7:07 pace, HR 148

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Good To be Alive

I had a strange feeling in my legs on Tuesday as the quads felt a bit sore when sitting in the office chair (they had done the same on Monday), but when I was running  8 miles that day they felt great, the best I've felt for weeks! I'm not sure how to reconcile these conflicting sensations but decided not to worry about them.

One thing I felt a bit strange about was my reaction to winning that 5k. The last time I was lucky enough to win a race I was on a total high for days, it gave me a massive rush that lasted for ages. This time I'm still happy and pleased to have won, but that's it, no high, no real emotions. I think we can rule out the possibility that I may have gotten used to that winning feeling, so that's definitely not it.

I think the universe twigged that it had been unreasonably cruel to place me 101st in Ballycotton and gave me the county championship and that 5k to tell me how sorry it was. Fine, but don't do that again. Btw, my original application arrived in Ballycotton the other day - 3 months after the post date! That one can be explained by incompetence rather than malice, though.

I have raced over the last 3 weekends and that's after running a 50k in February. There is a duathlon in Killorglin this Saturday but I'm afraid I will have to give it a miss. I have already overdone it as it is, my battered old bike is in no condition to race and racing Saturdays doesn't suit the family schedule at the moment (and I've used my free pass in Donadea last month). I need to at least pretend that I am tapering for Connemara. I've decided a few months ago that a race in July was too far away to be the sole focus of my entire training and picked Connemara as an intermediate goal. I'd like to do well there but I still was not going to train specifically for it. It's my "B" race for the year and ultimately still only a training run for Belfast, but it is one of my favourite events ever and I am very much looking forward to it.

On Wednesday morning I ventured up into the hillside for the first time in absolute ages. I have been meaning to go up there but first had to wait until my Achilles was fully healed, then the weather played havoc and then I felt it was too close to those recent races. I did a lot of good hill runs last year which made by legs really strong and benefited me immensely but unfortunately they also hurt my Achilles, so this is very much a delicate balancing act. I am easing into it by climbing up the Windy Gap only once, which felt easier than expected but also took a few minutes longer than I thought it would. I have recently purchased some trail runners that are also suitable for roads, which are just perfect for that type of running as it is about 2.5 miles from my house to the start of the trail. It was a glorious morning with views to die for as the sun rose behind the misty Reeks and got reflected in Caragh Lake - wow, just wow! I didn't have a camera with me but the pictures would not have it done justice anyway. You simply had to be there.

My Achilles does not have any issues but my hip feels funny. Not painful, not even a discomfort, just ... different. I'll keep an eye on that.

24 Mar
7 miles, 56:50, 8:07 pace, HR 133
25 Mar
8 miles, 1:03:04, 7:53 pace, HR 132
26 Mar
10+ miles, 1:29:54, 8:22 pace, HR 143
   Kerry Way to Windy Gap

Sunday, March 23, 2014


Tralee finishing "sprint." Photo by Kieran Connolly
This week was obviously marked by recovery from the Tralee marathon. I had gone into that race with legs still not entirely recovered from Ballycotton and adding 26.2 miles on top of that leads to extra fatigue. While the soreness had gone within a day or two, I could clearly feel the marathon all week. Not that I'm complaining, that was always going to be the case. I had run the marathon a couple of minutes faster than planned and those extra minutes did some extra damage that I am now paying for. No regrets, of course - a county championship medal is well worth a some extra recovery time!

Kerry County Championship, M40 age group podium.
Photo by John O'Leary
I played it all by ear, just like I had done after Donadea. Back then I had ramped the miles up a little bit faster than planned because the legs had felt so good. This week it was the other way round, I ran a few miles less than originally anticipated, just because it felt the right thing to do on tired legs. The pace was okay, I was surprised to see sub-8 pace as early as Wednesday, but the effort was always exceedingly easy.

Until Sunday, that is. Our local primary school held their second annual local fun run fundraiser. Last year I had given it a miss because it was only a week after the Tralee marathon and I have a hard rule of 2 weeks recovery after a target race, only guided Maia round the kids' run. This year I was okay with it, and while the Tralee marathon was obviously still very much with me I felt up for a little 5k jaunt, though I did give the 10k a miss.

A very rare victory.
Photo by Niamh Swan
It was a really nice day, sunny and almost windstill, just perfect for a little runaround and I'm sure it boosted the numbers. The kids did their 1k run (Maia once more being very proud of her medal, though she kept wondering what place she had come in) and then it was time for the longer races. At the startline I could not help but notice that the Kerry Kenyans had all opted for the 10k, leaving me and Maria McCarthy to fight it out for the 5k. We set off and I was immediately at the front but kept hearing Maria's footsteps right behind me. We passed the school again after 1k where I did my best to smile and not let the effort show and then it was off for 2k down the road, around a cone and back towards home. I caught a glimpse of Maria at the turnaround and she was just a couple of seconds behind me, just as expected. I kept the pace honest on the homeward journey, not racing all out but still putting in plenty of effort. The finish is almost Ballycotton-like with an uphill drag that feels longer than it really is and some little downhill stretch to the finish. I was still in first place at the tape, Maria finishing just a few seconds behind me. We gave each other a hug (no worries, her husband was still doing the 10k at the time), received our trophies (chocolate!) and had some photos taken, and then I headed back out on the course, partially for a cool down but mostly to find Lola who was doing the 5k this year. I ended up doing most of the race course for a second time, but obviously at a much more relaxed pace.

I surprised myself by running 18:14 (on my own watch, actual time might even have been a second or two quicker), which is much faster than expected on heavy legs and not racing all-out, so I'm more than happy with my time. I don't exactly win a lot of races, so this is something to treasure.

20 Mar
5 miles, 39:51, 7:58 pace, HR 133
21 Mar
8 miles, 1:03:03, 7:53 pace, HR 136
22 Mar
8 miles, 1:03:04, 7:53 pace, HR 140
23 Mar
am: 5+ miles, 41:22, 7:52 pace, HR 138
pm: 6+ miles, including:
 Glounaguillagh 5K, 18:14, 5:52 pace, HR 174
   1st place :)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Utterly Random

Things I did over the long weekend, in sequence:

  • I ran a marathon
  • I built a bookshelf for Cian
  • I went to the Glenbeigh St. Patrick's Day parade
  • I watched the final Breaking Bad episode

Things I have in common with Mo Farah:
  • we both have twins
  • we both like running
  • we both were born elsewhere, lived in London for several years and have moved away again
  • we both have fainted after a race
  • we both brushed fainting off as "no big deal"
  • he is a twin and my name means twin (ok, tentative connection here)

Things I need to do over the next few days:
  • recover from the marathon
  • get a new wristband for the Garmin as the old one broke the day after Tralee
  • book accommodation for Connemara. No idea why I keep putting that off.

I was fairly sore on Monday and the 5 miles were a bit of a struggle. However, I already felt worlds better on Tuesday and was very surprised to see sub-8 pace already on the Garmin this morning. Recovery seems to be swift, helped by the fact that I did not race this all-out and because you do tend to recover quicker from your 52nd marathon than you did from your first.

There is actually a fun-run on Sunday in aid of the National School in Caragh Lake. Last year I guided Maia round the 1k kids run, and very proud of herself and her medal she was indeed. This year I'm tempted to tackle one of the adult distances as well. Last year I was in the middle of my customary 2-week break after a goal race, but this year this does not apply. I still need to be careful and will certainly not race all-out, but a fun run sounds like ... fun. I don't have to decide now, I can wait until minutes before the start if I want to run or not.

17 Mar
5 miles, 44:14, 8:51 pace, HR 130
18 Mar
5+ miles, 43:43, 8:35 pace, HR 126
19 Mar
5 miles, 39:40, 7:56 pace, HR 135

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Title Defense

The original plan had been to train reasonably hard this week and run the marathon as a long run at the end of it. The sore legs following Ballycotton caught me completely by surprise and enforced a change of plan. All of a sudden I was doing nothing but short and slow recovery runs, which incidentally means I was basically tapering for Tralee. Funny how this works sometimes.

The plan had been to run at a fast but reasonable pace, which I figured out to be 3:10 because that's what I paced in Dublin last October and felt pretty good afterwards. Of course Tralee is a harder marathon course than Dublin, but I figured it would not make much of a difference. It had been with a heavy heart that I decided not to race this one. I had won the M40 age group last year and defending my title was definitely very tempting but in the end I just could not fit it into my program this year. I have bigger fish to fry.

I got rather upset on Saturday evening when I realised that I had been supposed to sign up separately for the Kerry county marathon championship at the Expo, which I only realised back home. Luckily the race director came through and signed me up before the start. It's great to have an RD that helps even with these minute details. I did not think I would be a factor in this year's championship but you never know. I really appreciate Marcus' help with this - I definitely owe him one, bigtime.

It had been a nice morning in Killorglin but as soon as we crossed the mountain into Tralee it became cold and drizzly and felt a bit miserable, to be honest. I wondered if I should ditch the singlet but in the end was too lazy to re-attach the number. I was a bit cold at the start but luckily we started on time and as soon as we were moving I was just fine.

Early days
I made sure to stay well behind the 3-hour pace group, which made finding the right pace a bit easier. I remembered that last year I had run the entire marathon completely on my own and tried to avoid a repeat scenario, so when I fell in step behind two other guys I decided to stick with them. It was a good move.

The course is very exposed to the moods of the Atlantic weather system and one year we are going to have to battle a major storm in this race I am sure, but this year was not that year. It was still challenging enough and the first 10 miles were all pretty much into the wind. The other lads did mentione that I was using them as a windshield, but then again they always pulled ahead quickly whenever I tried to put in a shift at the front. Mind, we all have the build of marathon runners so are generally pretty useless as windshields and we all had to battle the wind ourselves.

The climb to the golf course at mile 10 was just as brutal as I remembered it, but in fact I think the real damage is done on the downhill section when it really hammers your quads. I, for one, could certainly feel the strain and my legs weren't entirely happy for a couple of miles afterwards. I did wonder if I was already paying the price for those 10 hard miles in Ballycotton, I knew I had not entirely recovered from that effort, it takes longer than 7 days, but I was feeling reasonably comfortable.

We passed the halfway mark in about 1:34, just a little bit ahead of schedule but I was feeling relaxed and the pace was still easy and the series of rolling hills did not unduly bother me. For a rural course there was a decent amount of support, the public definitely seems to like the event and we passed a lot of cheering groups. We got into Fenit still in good shape but I didn't really like running on the concrete of the pier itself.

On the climb out of Fenit I once more took over the lead of our little group and after a while I twigged that I was on my own all of a sudden. I never meant to drop the lads but that's what happened and of course I wasn't going to wait, so I eventually decided to press the pace.

The main reason for that was a slight miscalculation on my point. I could see the next runner maybe a minute ahead of me and knew it was Fozzy Forristal, who I thought was in the M40 age group as well as a Kerryman so he would have been a direct rival for in the county championship. It was only after the finish that Seamus told me that Fozzy is still at a younger age level, but I was not to know that and went on the hunt instead. We had a few miles into Tralee with the wind on our backs and I dropped the pace below 7-minute miles for the first time today.

I wasn't sure at first if it was working but I did draw closer, if slowly. It took until mile 20 to pass him, and at that point the course joined in with the half marathon runners and we had to make our way through the tail end of that race, though unlike last year it did not bother me.

Last year I really suffered on the hill up to mile 22, which just seemed to drag on forever. This year I got the benefit of much fresher legs at that point (due to the slower pace, obviously) and it felt so much easier. One thing I definitely had not expected was to pass Vasiliy, he must have taken it exceptionally easy today.

Mile 24.5. Photo by Proinsias Ó Foghlú
Once we got into Tralee there was a sting in the tail: while the half marathoners headed straight to the finish, we had to go back out on the Ardfert road again. What had felt so easy on the first mile was now a much tougher task uphill and into the wind. I kept hearing people shouting for Fozzy (he's a local, and a popular one by the sounds of it) and was basically running scared. I caught two more runners but was passed by a runner myself - of course I thought it was Fozzy but it was different guy. I tried to stay with him but he eventually got away from me.

The last mile and a half was downhill again and with the wind on our back and from here on it was cruising time. I eventually twigged that there was nobody behind me and could relax, though I did keep a fairly good pace going. The legs hurt, but to be honest they didn't hurt all that badly. Considering that I had gone into this marathon with pre-fatigued legs, things had gone exceptionally well. I pushed the pace to the finish and was done in 3:07:17, a little bit faster than planned, but I was always going to be happy to sacrifice my legs for a county championship medal. I had run the second half a minute faster than the first half, which isn't bad.

The organisers were very switched on, within seconds of crossing the line I was told that I had won the Kerry county marathon championship in my age group, which absolutely made my day and called for celebrations! I had not expected it, but I had managed to defend one of my titles from last year. It won't happen again next year - I'll be in a new age group.

Happy lads. Photo by Jackie Murphy (I think)

13 Mar
8 miles, 1:02:23, 7:47 pace, HR 136
14 Mar
8 miles, 1:02:30, 7:48 pace, HR 134
15 Mar
5 miles, 38:00, 7:35 pace, HR 138
16 Mar
Tralee marathon, 3:07:17, 7:08 pace, HR 155
   15th place overall, 2nd M40, Winner M40 Kerry county championship

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Unexpected Need For Recovery

I had a bizarre start to the week; my very first thought upon waking up on Monday morning was "what a weird nightmare coming 101st in Ballycotton" before realising a split-second later that it hadn't been a dream at all! Despite this, I am actually not obsessing about it. My second thought was "my quads are really sore", which took me completely by surprise because they were in significantly worse state than after racing more than 3 times as far in Donadea 3 weeks earlier. I take those really sore legs as proof that I really raced as hard as I could in Ballycotton and have nothing to be sorry about. Had I taken it easy and missed out on a t-shirt by a couple of seconds I would have been seriously annoyed with myself but that way I can tell myself I did what I could (and I'll just ignore the fact that I should not have run that fartlek workout on Thursday).

I also figured it's a very good thing that I never intended to race in Tralee anyway - Ballycotton really would have messed this up royally. This week is all about recovering and getting some legs back, jogging 26 miles should actually be comparatively easy compared to Sunday's last mile. I am now really looking forward to Tralee, which is as close to a hometown marathon as I have at the moment (and almost certainly for as long as I keep living in Caragh Lake). Any pressure is off, and after destroying my quads in Ballycotton it should be easier to resist any attempts to race this even with race-day adrenaline coursing through my veins, an old weakness of mine.

I have been doing nothing but easy 5 mile runs every morning, nursing my sore quads along but very much enjoying the sunshine as well as the crispy cold mornings, absolutely beautiful conditions. Winter has been absolutely brutal, the worst I can remember, but if spring remains like this I'll have no complaints.

Three days after teh race my right leg feel fine but my left is still having some residue of soreness, which is a bit weird as I'm pretty sure I ran equally hard on both legs. What caught my eye was today's rock-bottom heart rate measurement, which would probably be my highest ever VDOT reading. On the other hand my weight is almost 3 pounds up since Sunday, which I guess is mostly water retention because I don't remember pigging out post race (one extra Mars bar excepted) and should be gone away soon.

I'm actually considering focusing on Ballycotton next year. If I want a t-shirt I should do it before I get too old and if I focused on it I should definitely be able to run under an hour. There are plenty of people who keep telling me that my longer race times would benefit from focusing on shorter distances for a while as well, though I'm not 100% sold. I'll see how I feel in a few months.

10 Mar
5+ miles, 41:23, 8:12 pace, HR 131
11 Mar
5 miles, 40:57, 8:11 pace, HR 135
12 Mar
5 miles, 39:12, 7:50 pace, HR 129

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Life is Cruel

You might remember that a few weeks ago I had written a short paragraph that I would not be running in Ballycotton this year because my application form must have gotten lost in the post. Luckily for me, the race director is a reader of this humble blog and offered me an elite number, saying that my time was good enough for a 45-year to qualify as an elite, and he even let me keep it after I pointed out that I was still at the crisp young age of 44. (There is no need to lament how the status of elite has crumbled in this country, I have already done that myself the second I received that email). Thus my sequence of 6 consecutive Ballycottons would remain intact.

One sequence I definitely expected to fall as that I always managed to improve my finishing position year on year after finishing in 103rd last year, agonisingly missing out on a top-100 t-shirt by 5 seconds. I just am not in the same shape as the same time last year, my training is aimed to have me peak for a later race than in 2013.

Anyway, I made my annual trip to Ballycotton, probably the only 10 mile race I am prepared to drive so far to, but the buzz on the day and the immaculate organisation is always worth it. I lined out closely to Angela McCann - last year I had followed her group for as long as I could, desperately hanging on to the end of it for most of the race and running much faster than I ever thought possible. A repeat would have been nice, even though I feared I would be in way over my head.

However, there are over 2500 runners in one tiny cul-de-sac and it's hard enough to get away unimpeded, so for the first mile I just minded my own business and when I scanned around I could not see her, but I did happen to run right beside an equally fast female runner, Ann-Marie Holland. She was flanked by a couple of her Eagle AC club mates. I guessed this would have to do.

Mostly I tried to run in a relaxed manner rather than pushing the effort too hard, because I know from experience that a 10-mile race can feel much longer than that if you get it wrong early on. They called out the time at each of the first 3 mile points and we were doing 6-minute pace pretty much spot on, though I was pretty sure that would not last. Indeed, our group seemed to slow down and when a couple of runner sped past I clung on to their backs instead. In fact, from that point on I gradually started to make my way up the field, catching a fair number of runners on the way - though I was being passed myself on a few occasions as well.

I reached the halfway point in about 30:10, half a minute slower than last year but still faster than I would have expected. However, we were now turning into the wind and while it was not strong at all, it sure did make running at that pace harder on already tired legs. I had passed an entire group just before halfway but was now fighting the wind on my own, which felt like tough work.

Mile 7 waterstop. Photo by Kieran Minihane. I feel as old as I look.
I still caught a couple of runners, as well as wheelchair athlete Jerry Forde, not just an extremely well known athlete but also a fellow 10in10 survivor. I found the going pretty damn hard, but that's what you expect during the second half of a race. I still managed to keep a good rhythm going and my breathing was surprisingly relaxed, I could tell that my breathing was calmer than others' every time I was passing runners. Usually I would expect to have been wheezing for miles already at that point.

At mile 8 a runner in a red t-shirt passed me and I tried to hang on to his back, which required a significant increase in effort, and from that moment on I was basically redlining. The climb back into Ballycotton started with about 1.5 miles left and I first tried not to kill myself on the first, steeper climb and to keep the rhythm reasonably relaxed but the effort high when it flattened out a bit.

One guy called the time as 55:30 as I passed the 9-mile marker and I figured I should come under 62, which I would have been quite happy with. It was well over a minute slower than last year but what can you do. I dug deep during the last mile and went way back into the pain cave, and if there are any photos of me during that stretch they are probably even worse than usual, I really was giving it all I had. There was massive gap to the runner in front, and even though it might have shrunk a bit I was never going to make up that distance but at least I was not going to get passed either.

When the agony was finally over and I crossed the line I was absolutely shattered and told myself that I could not have run a single second faster. Just then I saw the runner in front of me receiving something yellow from a lady marshall and then she turned over the cardboard box, now empty. At that moment it hit me, the guy in front of me had just received the very last top-100 finisher t-shirt and I had missed out by one, one, just one single blasted damn place. I was dumbfounded; I had not expected to come anywhere near the top-100 but to miss out by one place was just unbelievable. I received my mug and was highly tempted to smash it to smithereens but just about managed to contain myself.

Actually the initial shock wore off quickly. I had never expected to be in the running for a top-100 shirt which made it easier to accept. I didn't blame myself, I really thought I had given it all when I had crossed the line and I was never going to make up the 11 seconds I had been behind the 100th runner. I had managed to run the last, uphill mile in 6 minutes flat; ironically, had I done that last year I would have gotten a t-shirt back then. Instead I have to console myself that my sequence of finishing in increasingly better position has remained intact and if I manage that one more time, that t-shirt will invariably be mine.

I'm not sure why the standard for a top-100 place was lower than last year, the conditions were pretty damn good today, probably better than last year with less wind. At least I managed to find out why I never managed to spot Angela - she had always been behind me. That's pretty much a first!

Update: Mile 9.5 See what I was talking about:
Photo by Kealan O'Connor.

8 Mar
5 miles, 39:59, 8:00 pace, HR 130
9 Mar
Ballycotton 10, 1:01:31, 6:09 pace, HR 172
   101st place, 20th M40

Friday, March 07, 2014


I had a look through my most recent log entries and immediately noticed a sudden clustering of "slightly heavy legs" notes. Marathon training is always a fine balancing act, trying to train hard but not too hard and it's easy to cross that line, especially if you introduce new stressors like I did recently with some speed workouts.

I did react by cutting Wednesday's run from 10 miles down to 8. While I was sure that my diagnosis was correct I wasn't quite so sure if I had the right cure, but it meant a reduction of 20% for that day and an easier day than what I am used to, so surely it would have some positive effect?

Well, it may have had, but looking back now I most likely wiped that out by doing another session on Thursday. I thought of an easy speed workout option and figured that fartleks should do the trick, so I did 8 miles again, with 6 miles of alternating one minute hard and one minute easy. I call them Kenyan fartleks because they are described in that book. I did not set any targets and certainly did not monitor speed or HR, just had the watch beep every 60 seconds and switched effort levels accordingly each time. While I felt pretty good on the run, I was rather tired afterwards.

It wasn't until Friday morning that I realised that yes, I really must have overdone things. For the first time the legs were not slightly heavy but definitely heavy, and if I had the chance I'd go back a day and not do the workout, but time is a one-way straight and I'll have to settle for learning the lesson instead.

Until last week I have always been careful to build in sufficient recovery into my training program and I always had 2 easy days between workouts (apart from back-to-back runs, obviously). But since then I did volume repeats on Friday, a 20 miler on Sunday, quarters on Tuesday and a fartlek on Thursday, basically 4 sessions in a row with only one easy day inbetween each, which wasn't such a great idea after all. For the first time this training cycle I'm behind in my recovery, and of course that had to happen with a race approaching on Sunday.

I'll still run Ballycotton but will make sure to take it easy the following week, which I probably would have done anyway because the Tralee marathon is just a week away (though I'm using that as a training run rather than a race). The Connemara Ultra follows only 3 weeks later, and while that is not my goal race I still want to do well, so call it my "B" target  for 2014. I guess it means that Ballycotton and Tralee will be the only big training days for a while while I try to re-gain the balance in the never-ending battle between training and over-training.

5 Mar
8 miles, 1:02:39, 7:49 pace, HR 139
6 Mar
8 miles, 58:46, 7:20 pace, HR 150
   incl. 6 miles 60 sec hard/60 sec easy
7 Mar
8 miles, 1:04:54, 8:07 pace, HR 132

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Weighty Matters

As I have mentioned on a couple of occasions, I'm presently trying to shed a few extra pounds. It's not that I'm particularly fat - my BMI is somewhere between 21 and 22, my body fat percentage close to 10% and my waist about 29.5 inches (much to Niamh's disgust). There doesn't seem to be much fat to lose, but I know from past experience that I race faster whenever I'm below 145 pounds. I started the New Year at about 152 pounds, and by cutting out chocolate and sugar (the occasional treat excepted) I'm right now losing about a pound per week, maybe a tad less, which is just about perfect and should get me to my desired weight in time. Things are all good on that front - certainly good enough to give myself a free pass for Pancake Tuesday tonight!

I can't complain fitness-wise either. Sunday's 20 mile long run passed by in no time at all, very much thanks to Sean for the company during the middle 10 miles. I did the same as for all other club runs, ran 5 miles on my own into town, joined the club for a comfortable 10 mile jog and then ran home again. The pace is a bit slower than what I would do on my own, but considering that I'm doing a couple of quality session per week that's probably a good thing anyway.

I must be in really good shape. I always used to notice the HR creeping up noticeably in the second half of a long run, something called heart rate drift (triathlon coach Joe Friel calls it decoupling). This is no longer the case, the HR remains steady even in the later stages of a 20 mile run, unless I up the pace. I had to be very patient in this training cycle and did a lot of aerobic running, waiting for a long time for improvements to show up. It has taken quite some time, but it seems to be paying off.

The cherry on top of the training cake is provided by speed work, which I tend to use sparingly, but right now I'm doing just that. I wanted to get a few faster miles into the legs (definitely with half an eye on Ballycotton, admittedly) and opted for quarter mile repeats. My 5k pace is about 5:45, which translates into 86 seconds, so that was the target rather than a balls-out effort that would leave me in a heap on the roadside. I used the first few to get myself into the proper rhythm and spooled them off one by one.  Quarter miles are mercifully short and I managed to recovery surprisingly well in the 60 seconds recovery breaks. I also got gradually faster as the session went on, which is definitely preferable to slowing down.

87, 87, 88, 84, 86, 86, 86, 85, 84, 82

More important than the pace is the fact that I managed to run in a reasonably relaxed and controlled manner. The breathing threatened to switch into hyperventilation on a few occasions, so I mostly focused on keeping that under control. Once more, I'm pretty happy with the workout. On the whole this is going well - I need to mind the legs though, they are definitely starting to feel heavy.

2 Mar
20 miles, 2:41:48, 8:04 pace, HR 134
3 Mar
10 miles, 1:18:59, 7:54 pace, HR 133
4 Mar
7.5 miles, 56:22, 7:31 pace, HR 150
   10 x quarters in 87, 87, 88, 84, 86, 86, 86, 85, 84, 82; 60 sec recovery

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Volume Repeats

I do have a set of speed workouts that I learned when I was coached 3 years ago, and I do dig them up whenever I am in a build phase. One feature of MC's workouts were the tempo runs where you alternated a few pretty damn fast segments with recover parts that were still reasonably fast. Recovery is a relative concept in those runs, but I find those kind of workouts do work exceedingly well for me.

Traditionally runners do their speed workouts on Tuesday and Thursday in any given week, but I preferred to have 2 recovery days after Tuesday, and I generally don't care much for tradition in any shape or form anyway, so I did my second fast workout of the week on Friday instead.

To be honest I didn't even expect to be able to do it. I just programmed the Garmin the night before with the workout and resolved to see how far I would make it.

I wasn't actually dreading the workout, but I was a bit apprehensive all the same. The idea was to run a few 2-mile segments at 6:30, 6:20 and 6:10 pace, with 1 mile at 7:15 pace as recovery. In the unlikely case that I felt ready for more I would do another 2 mile segment at 6:10 pace.

It was a bit windy on Friday morning and I resolved not to kill myself by trying to hit the exact pace and rather run in a controlled and relaxed manner rather than concentrate on pace. The 6:30 segment felt easy enough, except that it ended in a hill where I lost some speed, which resulted in a slightly slower average pace than planned. I found it quite hard to tune into 7:15 because the change in pace had disrupted my rhythm. The 6:20 segment was much more challenging and I had to work fairly hard. I knew I would be able to do it but couldn't see myself running even faster on even further fatigued legs later on. Again, 7:15 pace in the recovery interval felt a bit strange.

I did not expect to get anywhere near the target pace for the third segment, especially so as it was net uphill and into the wind. I just started running pretty damn hard and initially didn't take any notice of the watch. It was only in the later part that I realised that actually I was pretty much on pace, but it sure was hard work and felt more like a race effort. The relief when I was finally able to relax and fall back to 7:15 pace was palpable, but by this point 7:15 felt like slow crawling. I recovered surprisingly quickly and resolved to indeed add a fourth segment. I started running pretty hard again but when I eventually checked the watch realised that I was doing 6:00 pace rather than 6:10 and resolved to leave it after one mile in order not to overdo it.

I was pretty chuffed with the workout. I think the main benefit is psychologically, though. I am able to run faster than I thought, and now I know it myself.

26 Feb
10 miles, 1:16:20, 7:38 pace, HR 145
27 Feb
10 miles, 1:15:49, 7:35 pace, HR 144
28 Feb
12+ miles, 1:21:31, 6:45 pace, HR 158
   1 mile w/u, 2 miles @ 6:33 (HR 153), 1 mile @ 7:16 (144), 2 miles @ 6:21 (160), 1 mile @ 7:15 (150), 2 miles @ 6:08 (166), 1 mile @ 7:12 (156), 1 mile @ 6:00 (165), 1 mile c/d
28 Feb
10 miles, 1:15:58, 6:36 pace, HR 143