Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Older, None the Wiser

There as something strange going on with my body. On Sunday the weighing scales reported 147.6 pounds. Nice. 24 hours later, and after a perfectly normal day, the same scales had me a whopping 5 pound heavier at 152.6! I was so staggered that I had to weigh myself again, just to prove to myself that I had not just imagined that.

During Monday the issue became a little bit clearer as I must have sprung a leak somewhere and was spending more time on the toilet than I care to remember; by Tuesday morning I had dropped 3 pounds and another one had followed by Wednesday, back to baseline (I was probably a little bit dehydrated on Sunday, hence the lower measurement). I have seen water retention like that twice before: both time following the days after a long ultra race. On these occasions some other symptoms were clear as well like swollen ankles, and the cause was of course obvious. This time round I haven’t noticed any swelling whatsoever and the cause is a mystery to me.

I know it had been a fairly tough weekend but I have done significantly harder training before, and in fact on Sunday I had been marvelling how well my legs had coped with the very hilly 20 mile run when they displayed no soreness and no signs of fatigue whatsoever!

One other notable thing was the pace for the easy runs on Monday and Tuesday. I do wear my Garmin on these runs but don’t ever look at it (it’s too dark to make out the numbers anyway), just record the numbers afterwards. I did a double take on Monday as this had been the slowest run in a very long time, yet the effort had been pretty much the same as always. Tuesday wasn’t much quicker but this time I wasn’t taken by surprise.

I was therefore curious what Wednesday’s evaluation would bring. It was a little bit windy which might have had a small effect on the numbers, but certainly no more than that.
        Mile 1    6:54   HR 160
        Mile 2    6:50   HR 161
        Mile 3    6:59   HR 161
        Mile 4    6:52   HR 161
        Recovery to HR 130: 44 seconds

The pace is pretty much the same as last time, but Good God that recovery time is just brutal. I noticed it straight away out on the road, after waiting for 20 seconds the HR was still somewhere around 155 until finally dropping quickly.

One (hopefully reasonable) explanation is that I am presently fighting off some bug. Two of the kids are sick at the moment. Apart from that water retention I haven’t got any symptoms, no headache or stomach ache, no runny nose and I’m not feeling tired or otherwise affected, but there could still something going on that only shows up when my body is under stress.

And in the meantime I happened to become another year older. I'm not moving up yet another age group, though that isn't far off. Niamh keeps insisting that I am now in the second half of my life and should act accordingly, but so far I have managed to keep resisting.

27 Jan
10 miles, 1:23:18, 8:19 pace, HR 136
28 Jan
10 miles, 1:21:40, 8:10 pace, HR 140
29 Jan
11.8 miles, 1:28:39, 7:30 pace, HR 150
     incl. 4 mile eval: 6:54, 6:50, 6:59, 6:52, 44 sec recovery

Sunday, January 26, 2014


The legs felt distinctly heavy during the first mile of Thursday's run, a sign that the fartlek workout had left its mark. However they loosened up quickly and once I was warmed up I just ran on autopilot without issues. During these runs I never check the Garmin or worry about pace or HR, I just run at whatever effort comes naturally.

Friday was another easy run but with a couple of extra miles. I'm still trying to gauge if these additional miles are beneficial or not. Right now I'm still adapting to the slightly higher mileage and the legs do feel a bit tired. If that keeps on being the case I'll dial it down again, if they can take the extra miles then great.

The wind was quite brutal on Saturday, which is why I decided to change my usual schedule from 8 slightly faster miles on the (exposed) Killorglin road to 3 x 2 mile cruise repeats. To get a bit of shelter I ran on the Ard-na-Sidhe road, but while it may be a bit out of the wind, the road surface is just shocking with one pothole after the other, though so far I've always managed to avoid going over my ankle. The repeats themselves went surprisingly well; I lost concentration during the first one and put the boosters on during the last half mile to make up for it but the other two were fine. I was pleased that I got a little bit faster on each repeat, even if it was at a higher heart rate, though the effort was the same every time.

I would have liked to join the club run on Sunday, but that did not start until 10:30 and the weather forecast made me change my mind. I preferred to run earlier to ensure I'd be back home by the time the storm front struck. Once again the legs were very heavy early on and I just cruised along at a comfortable pace. The wind was rather fierce on the hills, though I have run in worse. By the time I reached halfway I felt a lot better and subsequently ran the second half about a minute per mile faster than the first one, though the fact that the wind was now on my back clearly had some impact on that as well, of course.

That left me with 84 miles for the week. Going on past experience that is pretty much the maximum I can do in single runs; if I wanted to boost my mileage further I would have to run twice a day on occasions, otherwise I can't recover from it. However, family life usually stops me from doing so – Niamh is extremely supportive of my running but I'd rather not test her patience by disappearing most evening, leaving her alone with 4 unruly children. For the time being, and for the foreseeable future, mileage in the mid-80 is all I can do unless I get a brain wave.

23 Jan
10 miles, 1:18:47, 7:52 pace, HR 139
24 Jan
12 miles, 1:35:12, 7:56 pace, HR 136
25 Jan
10 miles, 1:11:27, 7:07 pace, HR 154
   incl. 3 x 2 miles @ 6:35 (158), 6:29 (165), 6:27 (166)
26 Jan
20 miles, 2:38:21, 7:55 pace, HR 146

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Good News And Bad News

I've had troubles with my Garmin yet again, but this time I think I finally figured out what's causing the problem (hint: don't connect it to a computer that is being hammered by your son playing minecraft at the time). I lost the data for Sunday's long run as well as Monday's easy one, but managed to resurrect the thing once more for Tuesday. It did raise the question if it's really worth using that toy, but I also played with the idea of getting a newer one, so I guess re-animating the existing one is some sort of compromise. I'm far too much of a maths nerd to go without numbers.

I was actually quite amazed by the way I felt on Monday. I expected heavy legs at the least after a tough weekend, both running as well as real life-wise. Instead I was running along completely relaxed and without much effort.

I did lengthen the run on Tuesday by a couple of miles to see how that would feel. It also added an extra hill to the route, which at first had me try and think of an alternative route until I came to my senses and figured that extra hills can only be a good thing.

Wednesday is the day of my special workout and this time it was fartlek, done Kenyan style, as in 1 minute hard / 1 minute easy. I never check the pace or HR during these efforts, just had the watch beep every 60 seconds, which can take a long time, especially uphill. As much as I tried to keep the effort as even as possible, uphill always felt significantly harder.

As for the news from the title, the good news is that I've already dropped over 3 pounds. That was the easy part of course, the next 3 pounds will take an awful lot longer and the 3 after that might never drop at all, but I'm getting closer to my race weight already. There might be a slight setback on the horizon in the form of my upcoming birthday, but other than that I should be okay.

The bad news, however, is that I'm definitely not running Ballycotton this year. I don't know what exactly happened, my cheque must have gotten lost in the post; it never got cashed and my name is not on the list of entrants. The cheque for the Tralee marathon that I sent off at exactly the same time got cashed very quickly and my entry confirmed, so that's a bit weird. However, there's nothing I can do about that. What's more, my Ballycotton mug at work has mysteriously gone awol a few weeks ago and I won't even have a replacement ready.

20 Jan
10 miles, 1:18:55, 7:53 pace
21 Jan
12 miles, 1:33:32, 7:48 pace, HR 141
22 Jan
10 miles, 1:15:29, 7:32 pace, HR 150
   incl. 7.5 miles of 1 min hard / 1 min easy

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Weighty Matters

There were two birthday parties, two swimming lessons, one stage school and one Tae-Kwon-Do workshop; obviously that is on top of the usual workload. It was a tough weekend, is it any wonder that the parents are exhausted! I managed to combine real life demands with running by doing Sunday's long run in Killarney National Park while CIan was doing his workshop, otherwise I would have had to get up before 6 am, and on Sunday I do prefer to catch up on sleep.

I had felt surprisingly good on Thursday after the previous day's hill repeats, but actually I felt fine. For some reason the HR really dropped for that run; assuming the HRM is working correctly, my heart beat about 5 bpm slower than expected. I don't know enough about physiology to explain such a big drop, especially as my training had been unspectacular, but the effect did not quite last, the HR was higher again on Friday. Then again, that could be explained by the mostly sleepless night (Full Moon once again!). It just goes to show just how many different variables there are, you never manage to get all of them under control.

I did my usual faster run on Saturday and was quite delighted with the outcome. Once more I might have worked just a tad too hard, but there is definitely some progress to be seen. If this keeps going I'll be more than happy.

Saturday's weather was much better than forecast; unfortunately the Weather Gods made up for it on Sunday by going completely the other way. Instead of a few showers we had relentless rain, and very heavy at times too. I guess you can argue that the forecasters had gotten it right on average. It meant a wet run in the National Park, which added to the blocked paths due to fallen trees and flooded roads but I got it done all the same. Ideally I would have run a little bit further and with significantly higher hills, but I was happy to get any sort of a long run done at all with all the other things that went on this weekend.

There is progress happening on another front; I started getting my diet in order again about a week ago, once I had managed to eat my way through the Christmas chocolates. It's not a diet as such, I'm just cutting out simple sugars as much as I can. For the first time in several months the weighing scales have dipped below 150 lbs. Good stuff but there is still a lot to be done.

16 Jan
10 miles, 1:18:25, 7:50 pace, HR 136
17 Jan
10 miles, 1:17:57, 7:48 pace, HR 140
18 Jan
10 miles, 1:11:14, 7:07 pace, HR 154
   incl 8 miles @ 6:54 pace (HR 158)
19 Jan
18.1 miles, 2:14:00, 7:24 pace
Weekly Mileage: 75+

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Up And Down

I've definitely got a case of the ouchies this week (see picture from Sunday's post), though funnily enough it's at its best when running (and at its worst in the shower). It really was a painful lesson, though if I've learned from it has yet to be seen.

After half a year of surprisingly good weather, it really has been tough over the last 4 weeks. The storms may have abated but the wind and rain are still here and more than once I got reminded that freezing cold rain is just about my least favourite weather for running. Then again, I still remember one (very good) runner once remarking to another "who would train in such weather" and quietly thinking "I do, and that's why I coped with it better than anyone else today".

Monday was exceptionally slow and easy, with Tuesday almost the same. I did  notice that my easy pace has slowed over the last few weeks, though that went hand-in-hand with a lower heart rate. Rather than being alarmed I think it's more a sign that I'm starting to get it right again. Few runners run their easy runs too slowly but a lot are running them too fast.

Wednesday's workout was a set of hill repeats. The last time I did them was 3 weeks ago, and I did feel the Achilles for 2 weeks after, so I am a bit wary but I do recognise the value of that workout. I did more than last time (14 vs 9) and still felt perfectly fine, but I was running out of time and had to head back home. I would have had time for more had I not pressed the snooze button once when the alarm went off at 6:10 in the morning, but hearing the wind and rain outside just did not feel particularly inviting.

13 Jan
10 miles, 1:20:51, 8:05 pace, HR 136
14 Jan
10 miles, 1:19:39, 7:57 pace, HR 130
15 Jan
7+ miles, 1:10:46, 9:15 pace, HR 142
  14 x 60 sec hill repeats

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Indecent Picture Ahead

Friday was obviously an easy run, that was never in question after Thursday's evaluation. It was Saturday's run that had me wondering what I should do. In the past few weeks I have always had 2 easy days between workouts, with the weekend's back-to-back runs counting as one workout, which makes the recovery during the week all the more important. I'm not a spring chicken any more and old bodies are healing slower than young ones. But eventually I decided to do my usual faster Saturday run because the early part of the weeks had seen 2 easy and one off day, so I figured I'd probably get away with it.

I was pretty pleased with that run. The last time I had run that loop was 2 weeks ago. Back then I had been a tad faster but had pushed too hard. This time I was much more relaxed and always in full control of the effort, so I call this the better workout even if the pace was a couple of seconds slower.

Stop complaining, I did warn you!  That's what it looked
like after I washed off the blood.
Unfortunately, the weather forecast for Sunday turned out to be correct and the gale force wind threw the rain against our window in a rather unwelcome fashion. I did wait a little bit until 9:30 in the hope of catching a quieter window and the rain subsiding, but that did not happen and it was pretty brutal up there in the hills. I call this a character-building run. The rain was relentless, the wind pretty bad, the roads were completely waterlogged with one particular area near Blackstones Bridge several inches submerged and of course I was utterly drenched. It did not help that I noticed some chafing happening as early as 5 miles in and obviously that only got worse, though I was still shocked to see the damage afterwards, there was actually blood running down my thigh! And boy, did that start to sting once the endorphins started to wear off.

The run itself was definitely on the slow side, but in these conditions I don't need an excuse. I finished the week on 70 miles despite missing a run on Monday, so I'm happy enough. That chafed area will cause troubles for a good while; ah well. Time to HTFU I suppose.

10 Jan
10 miles, 1:20:40, 8:40 pace, HR 139
12 Jan
10 miles, 1:11:55, 7:11 pace, HR 155
   incl 8 miles @ 6:58 (HR 157)
10 Jan
18+ miles, 2:26:04, 8:01 pace, HR 145
Weekly Mileage: 70

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Delayed Evaluation

I was pretty please with myself that I had managed a daily run despite the rather challenging weather conditions over the last 3 weeks. Sadly, the sequence ended on Monday morning. I got up at my usual time, got ready, and just as I was about to head out I was stopped in my tracks by a flash of lightning followed almost immediately by some massive thunder, so it was right on top of me. A bit of wind and rain won’t stop me, but lightning does – I might be stupid but not f***ing stupid; at least not that f***ing stupid.

You can’t make up for a lost run (well you can, but that’s stupid once more) so I continued with my training on Tuesday as if nothing had happened, telling myself that an extra day’s rest might work in my favour anyway.  There was a minor reason to celebrate as my new HRM chest strap had finally arrived and this was its maiden run. Apart from that, it was a completely unremarkable easy 10 mile run.

With the winter storms finally abated I had planned to do an evaluation run on Wednesday. However, technology conspired against me in the form of a Garmin that resolutely refused to awaken from its deep sleep. It wasn’t the battery and not even a hard reset would wake it from its coma. For a normal run I would not have minded quite as much (well, I might), but the Garmin is absolutely essential for an evaluation, I need a working GPS, HRM and timer for these. I did not have time for a lengthy fix and eventually headed out sans gadget for yet another 10 mile run. The effort was identical to Tuesday, so I call it the same time. On the plus side the legs felt very good, which I suppose more than makes up for the technological mishap.

I did manage to resurrect the damn toy in the evening and managed to evaluate with a day’s delay on Thursday. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but after all that’s exactly what the evaluation is for. The weather was good, just a tiny bit of breeze that would not have any real impact on the numbers.

        Mile 1    6:48   HR 160
        Mile 2    6:54   HR 161
        Mile 3    6:55   HR 160
        Mile 4    6:55   HR 160
        Recovery to HR 130: 34seconds

Now, the fact that the pace is so stable and the short recovery time are good news. The slow pace is not. That’s a good bit slower than the evaluation last month, though in retrospect that had been falsified by some sharpening effect from the cross country race and had tricked me into running the Clonakilty marathon too fast (at least it was a factor in that). Today’s figures are more reflective of my true aerobic conditioning and to be honest, I’m not happy about it. I was in much better shape same time last year. I could blame the marathons I have run in the autumn (Dublin, Sixmilebridge and Clonakilty) but could point to the fact that the previous year had been even tougher (Dingle Ultra, Dublin, Sixmilebridge), so that’s not the whole picture.

Something to ponder, I suppose.

Update: MC sent me a note that the eval is very good. At this point, stable pace and quick recovery are much more important than fast paces. I can't even begin to tell you how much better that makes me feel.
6 Jan
7 Jan
10 miles, 1:18:52. 7:52 pace, HR 142
8 Jan
10 miles, ~1:19:00
9 Jan
11.9 miles, 1:27:52, 7:26 pace, HR 151
   incl. 4 mile eval: 6:48, 6:54, 6:55, 6:55, 34 sec recovery

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Home And Away

I could have gotten used to it. All I had to do was to sleep until I woke naturally (which was still hours before anyone else in the house), get ready at my own leisure and then run for as long as I wanted. Once my run was done I could laze around for the rest of the day and mostly do f*** all. Unfortunately, the holidays are over and tomorrow I have to get back to work. Frankly, that sucks.

Running away from home is always a little bit tricky, mostly because you have to run on unknown roads, but it does not help if you leave your gloves at home at the coldest time of the year. On the plus side, Thursday night's storm wasn't particularly noticeable in Dublin while it must have been absolutely brutal in Kerry - I'm still shocked at the pictures of a destroyed Rossbeigh beach.

Anyway, I did manage a run every morning, even with frosty appendages.Thursday was alway going to be a very easy run after Wednesday's speed workout. I was still amazed how I had managed to run 22 repeats basically on autopilot and still went home before I was knackered, but there was still a price to pay the next day and I didn't even break 8-minute miles. The legs were definitely improved on Friday, but I still took it easy. It was a bit windy, but compared to what had happened at the other side of the island this was not even worth mentioning.

After 2 easy days I felt confident enough on Saturday to run a few faster miles. Problem was, I did not have my usual Killorglin loop, so comparing the run to previous ones isn't really on. I ran loops in Deer Park, which is pretty hilly. The first mile was as slow as 7:12, but things gradually improved. In fact, I pretty much felt better the longer the run went on and by the end the average had come down to 7:02. A bit slower than last week, yes.

Sunday's long run was in doubt after a rather ominous forecast, but it turned out to be much more benign than feared. Yes, it was cold, wet and windy but nothing like the stormy weather I had been expecting. The legs weren't exactly fresh and for a few miles I kept wondering if I was digging myself into a hole once more, but both the legs and the pace improved as the run went on (that seems to be a developing pattern) and I finished the run basically on autopilot.

It brought the weekly mileage just above 74, still a bit less that I would ideally like at this stage, but I'm getting there.

2 Jan
10 miles, 1:20:06, 8:01 pace, HR 144
3 Jan
10+ miles, 1:19:13, 7:48 pace, HR 145
4 Jan
10 miles, 1:12:25, 7:14 pace, HR 156
   incl. 8 miles @ 7:02 pace (HR 160)
5 Jan
17+ miles, 2:13:56, 7:50 pace, HR 146

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Thunderbolt And Lightning

When I started my run on Sunday, I immediately noticed that the legs were rather sluggish. This did not come as a great surprise, having run a tempo run on Saturday as well as a too-fast run on Friday. I did wonder if it was wise to be heading out on the loop around Caragh Lake, but of course carried on regardless. Memories of that awful long run a few months ago were playing in my head, but luckily a repeat was not on the cards. In fact, after about 10 miles I started feeling much better and ended the run with a few faster miles. The fact that the weather deteriorated with every minute did play its part in urging me back home.

Monday did have heavy legs again, which came as even less of a surprise, but this time I made sure to take it very easy indeed. It was a lovely sunny morning, very unusual for the last few weeks, and I could see that the Caragh River and Lake were both exceptionally high and the road was waterlogged in a couple of places, leaving me with wet and very cold feet.

Very Very Frightening indeed it was on Tuesday when the weather changed once more. I was undeterred at first, but after about 6 easy miles I saw some lightning with the thunder coming a second later, so this was very close. I was less than a mile away from home so I turned around and hightailed it home at 6-minute pace, which wasn’t exactly easy effort any more. Ironically, by the time I got home it started brightening up but another roll of thunder convinced me that heading back out was not a good idea, instead I accepted the loss of a few miles and called it a day. I still ended the year on 3276 miles, a very similar figure to all the previous 5 years.

New Year’s Day brought some more wind and rain. By now arrived in Dublin, I headed for the Stillorgan Heath and did some laps there. Normally I would not choose to run in circles in training, but I did a workout of 1 minute hard, 1 minute easy fartlek, which broke the monotony. I ran by feel but on the 2 or 3 occasions when I glanced at my Garmin I saw about 5:40 pace, so this was roughly 5k effort. After a while I checked the time, did some calculations and realised that I had already done 22 repeats, which was about twice as many as I had initially planned so I called it a day, did a cool down and headed for home. I had not noticed it while running, but I was completely frozen when I got home; the shower did its bit to thaw me up but I had pins and needles more or less all over my body and I spent a good while hugging the radiator afterwards. The legs, on the other hand, felt just wonderful and apart from being turned into an icicle I had loved the run.

I like to think it was a great start to 2014. Happy New Year.

29 Dec
15+ miles, 1:58:37, 7:51 pace, HR 150
30 Dec
10 miles, 1:18:39, 7:51 pace, HR 145
31 Dec
6.8 miles, 52:09, 7:40 pace, HR 144
1 Jan
10 miles, 1:15:43, 7:34 pace, HR 148
   incl 22x 60 sec hard