Sunday, August 31, 2014


I think my training would be much easier if the week had 8 days; it would be so much easier to do all those decent workouts and still have plenty of time for recovery. But of course, that's kind of the point of my training: you keep a certain amount of pressure on the system, enough to get adaptations but mellow enough to allow recovery.

As I keep reminding myself, my 45th birthday is only a few months away. Us geriatrics don't recover as well as those whippersnappers. Mind, as it turns out, with a little bit of intelligence put into a training plan I'm still able to beat my younger self.

Following Wednesday's mountain run I took the customary two easy days. Both of them went very well, though it is rather telling that I ran a little bit faster on Friday but with a lower HR than on Thursday, on the same course under pretty much the same outside conditions.

I did some forward planning for next week, and that's when things got a little bit tricky with only 7 days available. I want to do a mountain run on Tuesday and then take it easy for 3 days before Dingle, which left no time for an evaluation workout that I wanted to do before the race, so I decided to squeeze one in on Saturday instead.
        Mile 1    6:42   HR 161
        Mile 2    6:47   HR 161
        Mile 3    6:50   HR 161
        Mile 4    6:52   HR 161
        Recovery to HR 130: 33 seconds

While these are clearly not the best numbers ever, I was quite pleasantly surprised. For a first evaluation at the start of a training cycle these numbers are excellent. The pace is faster than expected, 10 seconds slow-down not too bad and the recovery time is good. I'm quite pleased, I must have done more things right than wrong since Belfast - though I'm possibly about to chuck all those good things overboard by running Dingle, but I'm still firmly committed to that race.

My lesson from last week was that I shouldn't run too hard the day before a long run; I was clearly pushing my luck. Thankfully the evaluation is a rather mellow workout that doesn't require much downtime and my legs were just fine on Sunday. I ran more or less the same route around the lake as the week before and felt an awful lot better, even if the pace was almost identical. I think I took it a little bit easier at the beginning which had a positive effect on the later miles, but I just felt much better overall. That's good, a positive run before an ultra is definitely a plus.
28 Aug
10 miles, 1:19:05, 7:54 pace, HR 140
29 Aug
10 miles, 1:18:09, 7:50 pace, HR 138
30 Aug
11.8 miles, 1:28:39, 7:30 pace, HR 150
     incl. 4 mile eval: 6:42, 6:47, 6:50, 6:52, 33 sec recovery
31 Aug
17 miles, 2:14:54, 7:56 pace, HR 144
Weekly Mileage: 81+

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Up and Down

Is there anyone left who hasn't done the Ice Bucket Challenge yet? I know it's a gimmick and a very self-indulgent one at that but it has raised shedloads of money for a very good cause and raised awareness of the issue to new heights which makes it all worthwhile in my view. The one thing I dislike the most are the moaners who complain about it.

Anyway, back off my soap box and onto running. After Sunday's forgettable slog I was very surprised to be feeling much better on Monday. I kept the effort very easy as my legs were clearly in need of some recovery, but the miles flew by effortlessly.

The same easy effort delivered a faster pace Tuesday, though why the HR would have been about 5 beats higher than expected I can't quite say. Maybe it's a warning sign, maybe it was the humid conditions, or maybe it was due to those annoying clouds of gnats that I kept running through. I guess that's one of the drawbacks of running alongside a lake, on certain occasions you do share the road with a million of those tiny critters. It was bad enough for me to contemplate changing my usual running route for a while.

No such problems on Wednesday as I was heading up the mountains once more. It is getting much darker already in the mornings, dawn was only just breaking when I hit the road just before 6 am but it was bright enough to see clearly by the time I reached the trail. I ran across Windy Gap twice, for the first time in almost 2 months, and my legs clearly are no longer accustomed to that kind of work. By mile 10 I just about had enough, thankfully most of the remaining 2 miles were downhill. I was glad to get home, the legs were just about okay but I would not have fancied running any further. Mind, I found it strange that the HR for such a tiring run could be lower than for the previous day's effort that had felt so much easier!

I did measure 2 things over the last few days. One was my resting heart rate, which came out as 45. During most of the year, it tends to be in the lower 40s, so that figure is more or less in line with expectations, even if it had been as low as 38 just before Belfast. The other measurement was my waist circumference. To be honest, I only do that when I want to wind up Niamh - it worked a treat too, though I'm not sure how I managed to get to 72cm/28.5in. My weight is at the pretty usual 146 pounds (10st6, 66kg), I sure am not dieting and my mileage, while not exactly low, has seen significantly higher numbers in the past. Never mind.

The legs are fairly achy today, owing to the mountain run. I'll take it easy for a couple of days, do a long-ish run over the weekend and then see where I am. I won't be tapering for Dingle as such, but will be taking it easy for 2 or 3 days beforehand.

Oh, if you want to run Dingle, you have until Thursday to sign up. You know you want to. It's going to be the last time ever for the 50 miler - don't miss that!

25 Aug
10 miles, 1:18:49, 7:52 pace, HR 139
26 Aug
10 miles, 1:16:39, 7:39 pace, HR 148
27 Aug
12.26 miles, 1:52:06, 9:09 pace, HR 146
   Windy Gap x 2

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Fat And Unfit

Well, I've had a good run of, err, runs, and maybe I was just due a bad one. But since this was my first long-ish run since Belfast, it did knock my confidence before Dingle just a bit. We runners are a fickle bunch when it comes to confidence, one bad run and we start questioning everything we have done in the last few weeks and everything we will do in the next few weeks, and I'm no different.

Friday and Saturday had gone well, maybe a little too well in retrospect. The miles were just flying by and I could not resist letting them spin for a little bit towards the end. In retrospect I suspect it were those faster miles that threw me off for Sunday, or maybe it was that little gardening work on Saturday, or maybe I'm just fat (147 pounds!) and unfit (no long run for 5 weeks!).

Ah well. We've had a nice spell of weather with plenty of spectacular sunrises for an early riser to enjoy. On the downside it was pretty cold, I was almost tempted to bring some gloves along yesterday morning and only resisted because it just felt wrong to wear gloves in August. I particularly loved the view from up the mountain on the Kerry Way on Wednesday morning when the sunbeams had not quite reached the lake yet, and the steaming lake and the illuminated clouds and the Reeks in the background just combined to one scene of pure magic. I kind of regretted not bringing a camera, but every time I tried taking a photo in the past the results were never even remotely close to the real thing, which may well be a combination of a lousy camera and a lousy cameraman, so I guess you'll just have to heave your own backside up the mountain and judge it for yourselves.

Anyway, the less said about today's run the better. The conditions were decent enough; I was caught by one or two rain showers but for the most of it it was dry and at one stage the sun almost managed to peep through. But the legs had absolutely no pep and climbing up the hills on the roads around the lake just felt like hard work and the last few miles were just dragging along endlessly. I don't even want to contemplate how I'll get round Dingle, over three times as long and with a few climbs that make today's hills look like speedbumps in comparison.

Then again, I think I'm always like that before an ultra, and I'm not the only headcase either.

22 Aug
10 miles, 1:60:30, 7:39 pace, HR 144
23 Aug
10 miles, 1:60:56, 7:41 pace, HR 142
22 Aug
16.75 miles, 2:13:11, 7:57 pace, HR 144
Weekly Mileage: 77+

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Turned The Corner

I'm always a bit weary about proclaiming that I've turned the corner; it always reminds me of City's frequent announcements of the same in the mid-to-late 90s, when in fact the club was nosediving into disaster (2 Premier league titles, 1 FA Cup and 1 League Cup still haven't wiped my trauma, by the looks of it). Nevertheless, I can't help but feel I'm doing exactly that right now (turning the corner that is, not nosediving into disaster), just going by the feeling in the legs and the enjoyment of my running.

Funnily enough, my legs are actually slightly achy as I type this, but it feels different, no longer the deep-seated fatigue I've had since Belfast. With the Dingle Ultra only 2 weeks away that's definitely A Good Thing! In fact, I've gone from being nervous about that race to all of a sudden really looking forward to it.

I really noticed the difference on Wednesday's run up to Windy Gap; while running up the steep slope itself I could have sworn that it had grown since last week, but actually I ran it half a minute faster than last week without any conscious increase in effort, and in fact the entire run was a good bit faster than any other mountain run for several months.

My weekend DIY job on the HRM front seems to have done the trick, all of a sudden my HR data is usable again. This comes as a relief, I do keep an eye on my numbers, especially when still recovering from my last race. I'm also rather pleased with myself for a job well done for a change. ;)

Unfortunately I had to mess it all up on Wednesday by dropping my Garmin onto the floor as I took it off after the run. That's not exactly the first time I've dropped it, but this time it hit the edge of a metal box on the floor and the screen is badly cracked, as you can see. It still works but there is no way that thing is still waterproof and in the Irish climate that's not a good long-term prospect, so I'd say I'm very much on borrowed time with that gadget all of a sudden. It was on its way out already as the battery had clearly started deteriorating recently and I've had my eye on a Suunto Ambit 2 anyway, it just means I'll have to get my credit card out a little bit sooner than expected.

18 Aug
10 miles, 1:20:47, 8:05 pace, HR 137
19 Aug
10+ miles, 1:19:56, 7:57 pace, HR 139
20 Aug
10.8 miles, 1:32:18, 8:33 pace, HR 146
   Windy Gap
21 Aug
10 miles, 1:20:08, 8:01 pace, HR 137

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Silva Es Magico

City started the season as they finished the last one, with a win. As for United - I'm pretty confident the trophies Rory McIlroy displayed yesterday will remain the only silverware on view at the swamp this season once more. Looks like this season could be as funny as the previous one.

Oh sorry, wrong topic. This one is about the running side of my life.

I'm starting to get worried about my legs. I haven't forgotten last year when I ran myself into a hole after doing too much too soon when returning back to running following the Connemara 100 and I'd prefer not to repeat the same mistakes. The legs are somewhat unpredictable, sometimes feeling okay, sometimes feeling stiff and tired without an obvious explanation.

I checked the logs from last year and tried to gain some information. The one thing that's obvious is the 7-minute or faster paced tempo runs I started doing almost immediately. Okay, so I'm not doing that, but that's still no guarantee that I'm doing better right now. I do keep a number of spreadsheets that track various variables, mostly HR and pace related, and the numbers look okay to me. It's that achy feeling in the legs that never seems to go away completely that has me worried.

The typical training run right now is 10 miles along Caragh Lake. I've done that no less than 5 times this week. Luckily I don't get bored easily, at least not at 6:30 in the morning. The other 2 runs were on Wednesday when I ran up to Windy Gap and today, Sunday, when I did a loop with the first half on the road along Caragh Lake and the return trip on the Kerry Way trail, which includes a rather tough climb as you go from the lake halfway up the mountain. My original plan had been to run around the lake but I was worried how my legs would handle 15 miles. Mind, the 12+ miles I did with such a wicked climb probably weren't any easier. The views from up there are rather spectacular, though.

My HRM has been acting up badly the last couple of days, which rather sucks if you're trying to use those figures for some meaningful bio-feedback. I'm used to HR straps not picking up the signal properly for the first 1 or 2 miles before starting to work properly, but this one seemed to work the other way round, the numbers are fine for the first 5 miles and then the HR just goes stratospheric. I had initially bought my present Wahoo HR strap with the idea of just using the ANT+ transmitter and attaching it to my Polar HR strap, but the buttons that clip the strap and transmitter together turned out to be incompatible. This morning, after getting seriously annoyed once too often, I took a knife to the Wahoo transmitter and started cutting off bits and pieces. Normally me and knifes, and DIY in general, are a dangerous combination (there's a good reason why I'm a computer programmer, not a carpenter) but for once I seem to have come through and the job is done. Mind, my adaptation still has to pass the field test tomorrow, but at least I didn't injure myself in the process.
15 Aug
10 miles, 1:17:09, 7:42 pace, HR 145
16 Aug
10 miles, 1:18:04, 7:48 pace, HR ~145
17 Aug
12.2 miles, 1:36:04, 7:52 pace, HR ~145
   very hilly
Weekly Mileage: 73

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Slowly Gaining Momentum

As Belfast slowly fades into memory, my legs are starting to come round again. The first couple of weeks after a full break are always ever so slightly frustrating but I'm past the worst. However, going on past experience it will take until about November for my legs to feel fully recovered. Until then there are still plenty of slow, stiff miles yet to come.

However, it always helps to add a few workouts, even if the legs don't feel like it. Now, this has to be done carefully and it is very easy to get this wrong, as I learned last year. I started doing regular 7-minute miles when my legs were absolutely not ready for that kind of work until the whole thing came crashing down, I started feeling awful and was rescued by MC's timely intervention. A long period of only easy runs eventually pulled me round.

I'll try and avoid making the same mistakes this time round, but I did notice that following a few faster miles last week (though still very, very measured, there was nothing even remotely approaching 7-minute pace in there), my HR came down quickly the following days. I did a second workout this week in shape of a mountain run up to Windy Gap, which felt a bit like hard work even though I took it as easy as possible. Following that my legs felt surprisingly good, though I haven't entirely ruled out the possibility that I have merely gotten used to running on old, tired, stiff legs.

I have two areas of concern, I have a slight earache and I can feel a little bump that is sore to the touch on the right-hand side of my face, though I only noticed that one when shaving last night. It could be swollen lymph nodes, but I'm not sure. I'm probably fighting some minor infection but as long as the symptoms don't get any worse that they are now there is no reason to worry.

The other area is the tip of my second toe on my left foot. It is sore and the skin is slightly red. I have no idea what's going on, that one is a new one.

I'm reasonably sure neither is going to kill me, so I guess I'll just carry on. I have no idea how I'm going to survive Dingle but after reading Aoife O'Donnell's Badwater report followed by her Connemara 100 report (might only be available on facebook, not sure), two races that happened less than 3 weeks apart (lunatic!), I realised that any further complaints from my side are just pathetic, so I'll stop right here.

11 Aug
10 miles, 1:19:29, 7:55 pace, HR 150
12 Aug
10 miles, 1:19:33, 7:56 pace, HR 143
13 Aug
10+ miles, 1:18:23, 8:52 pace, HR 143
   Windy Gap
14 Aug
10 miles, 1:18:23, 7:50 pace, HR 145

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Missing Connemara

I was glued to Social Networks yesterday, getting (sparse) updates from the Connemara 100 race (that's 100 as in miles). The number of runners had doubled this year and I do wonder if my little race report from last year had at least some part in that (before you call me deluded, at least 4 guys kept telling me that it had played at least some part in the decision making process). I know a lot of the runners personally and it became clear soon enough that Don Hannon and Brian Ankers especially had very strong races. Nevertheless I was absolutely astonished when I heard of Brian's winning time of 15:48. That's almost an hour faster than my time last year, and that from a runner who has yet to break 3 hours in the marathon. I am obviously not the only one who is a lot better at long ultra distances, but Brian has taken that to a new level.

In case you're not aware of it, Brian has run around 85 marathons last year (not sure of the exact figure) and he has obviously gained the benefits of that this year. There is definitely a lesson in there, though I'm not sure how I could apply that to myself - I don't think I could run almost 2 marathons a week and remain married at the same time.

One more detail - Brian once told me his one ambition is to beat me in a marathon, after that he can retire happily. Somehow he seems to have forgotten that this has already happened, at marathon #9 in Sixmilebridge last year. Anyway, if he decided he wanted to run in an Ireland shirt one day, I'm pretty sure it's his.

I haven't got a lot to report about my own running. I am still only just returning to training and have been doing the same 8-mile run every morning as I'm slowly building back the mileage. The HR has been dropping, except for this morning when I ran a little bit faster instead - no real reason for doing so except that I felt like it. The legs are almost ridiculously stiff when I get up, a combination of the 24 hours race and getting old. I try to be careful and start every run at snails pace before picking it up a bit at some point during the first mile. I'll run a little bit further next week, maybe do a mountain run, and maybe run a little bit faster on one day. I'll see how it goes and adapt accordingly.

Oh, and once more, well done Brian!

7 Aug
8 miles, 1:03:57, 7:59 pace, HR 146
8 Aug
8 miles, 1:04:50, 8:06 pace, HR 143
9 Aug
8 miles, 1:02:54, 7:51 pace, HR 147
10 Aug
8 miles, 1:00:53, 7:36 pace, HR 151

Weekly Mileage: 53

Wednesday, August 06, 2014


I cannot help but notice that the Tralee 100k was won in a time that was slower than my time in Portumna. Now, obviously there are a few cavetas, like Portumna was the easier course, and nobody knows how my participation in the Tralee 100k would have affected the winner's time, but I can't help wondering what would have happened had I chosen Tralee as my "A" race this year ...

Nevertheless, I don't have any regrets, far from it. No matter how fast I would have run in Tralee, I would never have achieved the qualification limit for that particular world championship. It was definitely better to do something I am good at.

I have started running every morning again. To be honest, it's not all that much fun right now. The legs are heavy and stiff and the HR is sky-high for the rather pedestrian pace. I looked at my numbers from last year, when I returned to running after the Connemara 100, and they are very similar, both for pace as well as HR. It's a matter of being patient (I can do that) and not do anything stupid (well ...).

My weight has remained surprisingly low during my holidays; it's still at about 145 lbs (10st5, 66kg) which I can't quite explain. Usually (as in always, until now) I put on at least 5 pounds immediately after a target race, partially because I am no longer burning so many calories during training but mostly because post-race is the time to reward myself before I descend back into a more ascetic existence before the next race. Maybe Austrian chocolate doesn't make you fat? Now that is a theory that deserves to be examined in more detail. I shall use myself as the selfless test subject.

The next target race is still over 8 months away, which is too long out to start focusing on it yet. The idea is to have a bit of fun for the rest of the year and run a few races without any pressure, at the same time re-building my fitness. Following roughly the same pattern that delivered for Belfast I will introduce some limited speed work later on, probably around the New Year (there are a few 5k races around that time, which suits me very well) and then switch to working on long ultra endurance for the last 3-or-so months before the race. It worked once, it should hopefully work again.
3 Aug
5 miles, 40:02, 8:00 pace, HR 151
4 Aug
5 miles, 39:55, 7:59 pace, HR 153
5 Aug
8 miles, 1:03:48, 7:58 pace, HR 148
6 Aug
8 miles, 1:04:45, 8:06 pace, HR 146

Saturday, August 02, 2014


I'm finally back home, after what seems like an eternity. Since last stepping out of my house I have competed in the Irish 24 hrs championship and then went on a holiday with the family, all of which has been almost overwhelming with so many happy memories.

Because we took off for Austria almost as soon as I had stepped off (ok, being half-carried off) the Mary Peters track, I had much less time to think about the race and its aftermath than I would have had I returned to work straight after. However, the warm afterglow is still with me. I have to pinch myself that this really has been happening. Over 9 years ago I struggled through the 2005 Belfast marathon in 4:37. The next time I ran in that city I averaged a better pace for 24 hours! It  really shows how far you can come with consistent hard work, you don't even need a lot of talent (though that would not go amiss). 

Compared to the elites I am still a very mediocre marathon runner that will never worry the best. Even over 100 km I am far, far away from the top. It's only when the distance goes into mental territory that all of a sudden I can hold my own. It's all in the head.

The aches and pains from Belfast have all gone. For the last couple of hours of the race my right shin had been rather painful, so much so that I had feared I had developed shin splints, but after the race I realised that the area of discomfort was just an inch or so above ankle height and was therefore only an overworked ligament that has sorted itself out with a few days of rest. My feet were rather swollen and full of red marks, and that too has long gone. I had a few bruises from hours of chafing on my back (which I never even noticed during the race), and all has healed. The skin on my face has calmed down to almost back to normal, which was a really strange reaction but never a serious issue.

I had planned to take 2 weeks off from running and deliberately left my running gear at home, but on Wednesday Niamh basically kicked me out of our holiday house and threatened serious consequences if I would not go for a run, so I jogged for just under 45 minutes, without gear and obviously without Garmin, but called it 5 miles. My first "real" run was this morning, back in Kerry. The legs felt awkward, the pace was very slow initially, the HR was sky high, but all of that will sort itself out very quickly. I only have 5 weeks until the Dingle ultra, which almost has me in a state of panic, until I remember that I followed a very similar schedule 2 years ago and that went ok. I won't be anywhere near my best in Dingle but I could not possibly miss the last ever run of the 50 miler! Somehow the shortened course next year doesn't interest me at all, even though all the best bits will still be there.

Last night was a novel experience after Marcus Howlett, the organiser of the various Tralee races, had asked to me hold a talk before today's 100k. I only arrived back home at 5 pm, had a quick bite to eat and had to head out straight away to Tralee (and still arrived late), so my talk was a lot less prepared than I would have liked and a bit rushed. Let's call it a learning experience but I picked up a few things on how to do it from John O'Regan, who thankfully didn't contradict anything I had said.

30 Jul
~5 miles, 44 minutes
2 Aug
5 miles, 39:39, 7:56 pace, HR 151