Sunday, August 30, 2015

My Physio Doesn't Know I'm Here!

Photo by Alan Murphy
Going into this ultra I had one major goal, namely to come through it without injury. It was very much a test on how the body is holding up and I was perfectly aware that one more injury would take me out of the Spartathlon game for good. The hip had been feeling good all week and was barely noticeable, so I was actually fairly confident that it would work out fine.

Achill Island is a very long way away from Kerry and I had arrived there very late on Friday, at 11 o'clock, because the drive had taken much longer than anticipated. Thankfully my bed was still available (I had visions of having to sleep in the car) but I was utterly exhausted when I finally got there. Just under 6 hours later I was awake again and got ready for the day. It was unlikely to be the optimal preparation for an ultra but there you go. Next time I'll take some time off work though, to give myself an easier time.

Photo by Brian Ankers
The race was a small and intimate affair, certainly the ultra was. Just before 8 o'clock we gathered at the start line and Donna, the RD, sent us off without much fanfare (wait - did she really tell us not to take any drugs?). One guy in yellow and one girl shot off at the front and the rest started in a more sedate fashion. I settled in beside Anto, a fellow Spartathlete, and we jogged the first mile in 9 minutes, pretty much where I wanted to be, and then he had to go off for a nature break (FFS - who needs a weewee break after one mile!) and I found myself unexpectedly on my own. I must have sped up a little bit because over the next couple of miles I overtook a few runners, though I was very much running within myself. I could see Don Hannon disappear into the distance and was reasonably confident he was going to win. Had I not just spent the last 2 months out with injury I probably would have given him a mighty battle, but seeing as we are both planning to gather in Athens in four weeks' time it's probably better that we did not kill each other today in a misguided attempt to go for glory here.

Photo by Mark F Chaddock
Oh yes, the last 2 months. Some minor muscle in my right hip had given out at the end of June and I spent 6 week almost entirely on the sidelines and had only just gotten back onto the road over the last 2 weeks. My longest run had been 15 miles, a week before, and then I had gotten rather tired after 10 miles. I wasn't quite sure how I would be able to get through almost 40 miles today but hoped a mighty dose of  bloodymindedness together with a fair amount of stupidity would see me through. Oh, and my physio, Derek, who had nursed me through the last few weeks on the road back to recovery, had not been informed of my plans. I thought the better of telling him.

Photo by Susan Baughman
Anyway, after about 5 miles I fell in with another runner, Jason Kehoe, who turned out to be a running mate of my good friend James Whitty, and we spent the rest of that lap chatting away. The scenery was absolutely stunning. I have run several races that claim to be the most scenic race in Ireland but Achill can give every single one of them a run for their money (I'll keep an eye out in Dingle next week for comparisons). Obviously, with breathtaking scenery like that come even more breathtaking climbs and there were three major ones on each loop, with the second one especially tough and followed by an even steeper quad-busting descent down to sea level only to be immediately followed by an even steeper climb the other side of the valley. It was also very windy and the climbing was mostly done against a stiff breeze - as if it wasn't hard enough already!

It's on that stretch that we encountered the one organisatorial hitch of the day. There was supposed a table with our own supplies at mile 7 but when I got to the station that I thought was the one at mile 9, my stuff wasn't there. I didn't really mind, I wasn't racing this one and if you put supplies into a box there is always a chance that you won't be seeing it again, it has all happened before. It took me a mile or two to realise that there had been a water table at about mile 5. I had not seen a supply box but that must have been the one. I would get there at the next loop.

Photo by Olwyn Dunne
Oh yes, the loop. I was 13.1 miles long, with a (hilly) out-and-back section tagged on to ensure correct distance. The ultra was 3 loops, the marathon 2 and the half marathon 1, obviously. The marathon had started an hour after the ultra and we would hardly see any of it. The half started 2 hours after the ultra and since we finished our first loop in 1:52 we got a big reception from the runners gathered at the start, which was great. Jason fell behind here, picking up some supplies, and once more I was running on my own again. The fastest half marathon runners took 3 miles to catch up with me and gradually a few more runners would trickle by over the next few miles, almost all of them giving some words of encouragement, thanks very much. That setup worked the opposite way of Connemara where I would gradually catch up to the back of the full and later half field and run past the slower runners. Here, in contrast, the faster runners caught up to us and we never even saw most of the slower runners.

Photo by Mark F Chaddock
This time I managed to pick up my drinks bottle at the 5 mile table and then proceeded to run up the series of very steep climbs that had seemed to grow a bit since the first loop. Right at the top I caught up to 2 walkers that seemed rather familiar and when they turned around I saw that they were Darren and Caroline, two thirds of my crew in the Connamara 100 2 years ago. I had absolutely no idea that they would be here and hugs and cheers were to be had. We chatted for a bit, Darren told me he wanted to run the ultra one day but had to content with walking the course today with his better half before sending me off again - oh yes, I was supposed to run a race here!

I was almost at the top of the third climb when the trouble started: my left calf was starting to cramp. I walked a few steps to alleviate the cramping before starting to slowly jog again. I reached the top but the cramping continued even on the next, gentle, downhill stretch. That was not good. I was only at mile 22 and still had 17 miles to go and I really did not fancy battling with cramping legs for that amount of time and distance. Luckily, it then subsided again. Maybe the orange slice I ate at the aid station helped wit electrolyte balance, maybe it was the cup of water but most likely it was the fact that the next few miles were gradually downhill and I was able to take it easy and as the effort level dropped the leg recovered somewhat. I finished loop 2, and the full marathon, in 3:48 but I knew the third lap wasn't going to be all fun and games. Donna later told me she could see I was struggling a bit.

Photo by Fiona Byrne
Onto the third loop. I was leapfrogging another ultra runner a few times but wasn't concerned at all if I would end up before or behind him at the end. I first concentrated on reaching Grainne's Tower between miles 4 and 5 (I had no idea it was on Achill Island - you learn something new every day!) and then it was a matter of surviving that set of rather brutal climbs one more time. It speaks volumes for Achill Island that I was still very much appreciating the stunning scenery.

What I did not appreciate was the fact that the aid station was not here! I was rather taken aback, surely they would not leave the ultra runners to their own devices on the third loop, when they needed help the most! However, there was not much I could do but battle on. A mile later I caught up to another friend, Paolo, possibly the nicest person out there, run/walking the marathon with his wife, and before I could even ask for a sip of water he had already handed me bottle! Thank you Paolo, you have no idea how parched I felt at that point and just how much you helped! Another mile later I unexpectedly came upon the aid station - they had not abandoned us but moved (they had been supposed to be at that second spot all along, Donna told me afterwards). Since I had not picked up my bottle at the first loop I still had 2 in there but only took one because I did not fancy carrying two heavy bottles with me. However, I must still have been badly dehydrated because I drained the one bottle that I had taken in less than a minute. I almost turned back to pick up my second one, but didn't.

I passed the early race leader (the guy in yellow) after 33 miles and he was clearly suffering. A better pacing strategy would almost certainly have saved him a fair amount of pain!

Photo by Susan Baughman
Considering I had at one point feared I would have to battle cramps for 17 miles I was pretty pleased to get to mile 34 in reasonably good nick but that's where it all fell apart, on the same steep climb where the problem had started a lap earlier. Unfortunately, this time there was no relief to be had. Another orange slice did not help, a cup of water did not, and even easing up on the gentle downhill gradients did not either. There are all kinds of theories what causes cramps. Dehydration is mentioned, and I was definitely dehydrated. Electrolytes are another, and I had not brought my s-caps with me and some levels may have been out of whack. However, there is no doubt in my mind what caused the cramps on this occasion: lack of fitness. All the other factors may have played a minor role but it was the fact that I had hardly been running for 2 months and lost so much fitness in the process that was responsible.

I passed Anto on the out-and-back section. "Your name will be Muck if I catch you!" He must have been about half a mile behind, with 4 miles to go so that seemed safe enough, but the legs really stopped cooperating. It was mostly the left calf but the right one joined in occasionally as well. I experimented with changing my gait - heel striking actually worked a bit better than midfoot landing and keeping the legs as relaxed as possible may have provided some very minor improvement. I stopped at a wall and tried stretching the muscles. In the end I had to concede, nothing really worked, I could just run for a bit until the cramps came, would have to walk for a bit and then repeat the process, rinse and repeat.

Photo by Susan Baughman
With a bit over a mile to go my name turned into Muck when Anto strode by, finishing very strongly. When I told him about the cramps he quipped "that's what happens when you run your weekly mileage all in one go", which succinctly described the entire problem in one single sentence. There was no way I could keep up - he put 2 minutes onto me by the finish! I deliberately walked for a minute before turning into the campsite where the finish was so that I would be able to run the final lap of honour without cramping - at least that bit worked!

I finished in 5:55:47 (on my own watch), a personal worst for 39.3 miles, but since the main goal had been to run without re-injuring the hip (or without acquiring a new injury for that matter) this was actually a success. Going under 6 hours was a minor bonus as well, not that it really mattered. Don Hannon had indeed won but he too had battled cramps for several miles at the end and had almost been caught by the leading lady. He was very gracious to state that I would have won today had I been in form, but I had not and I did not and he was the clear and deserved winner, congratulations. The ladies' winner, Dee Grady, came seemingly out of nowhere to rack up a first win in her first ultra - very impressive and there may well be a major talent about to be uncovered.

As for myself, I had driven almost 6 hours to get there, slept for almost 6 hours, ran for almost 6 hours and drove back home for almost 6 hours, a major expedition and a rather exhausting one. However, my legs felt surprisingly good on Sunday morning and I did my usual 5-mile recovery run feeling much better than expected. I guess the slow pace means I wasn't as taxed as I might otherwise have been.

27 Aug
5 miles, 42:45, 8:33 pace, HR 138
28 Aug
5 miles, 42:32, 8:30 pace, HR 137
29 Aug
Achill Island Ultra
39.3 miles, 5:55:47, 9:03 pace, HR 147
30 Aug
5 miles, 45:45, 9:09 pace, HR 133

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Don't Be Afraid To Fail

"Are you going to run Achill Island? Or would that be stupid?"

"Yes - and yes, I suppose"

I haven't run more than 15 miles since June and on Sunday I started getting tired after 10 miles, so to run almost 40 miles on Saturday may well be a BAD idea. However, I'm going to do it anyway. The Achill island ultra is still only about a quarter of the Spartathlon and the way I see it, if I can't run 40 miles (ok, 39.3) on Saturday then I won't be able to run 153 exactly a month from now. Besides, last year in Belfast I promise Donna I'd run her race this year.

Being hampered by injury actually has one advantage: if I went into that race in good shape I might well have been tempted to race it as a win might have been be a possibility (obviously, that depends on who's turning up). Since that possibility can now be ruled out, I can run as slowly as I want without any regrets.

I'm not overly keen on mantras and memes, but that one caught my eye because that is exactly attitude I have decided to adopt for the Spartathlon. I haven't done the training I wanted to do and I will still be far from peak fitness when the start date comes round far too soon but I will give it a go and if I fail, so be it. There's only one way to find out.

If I cripple myself in Achill, I guess I'll have to fall back to option B, namely going to Greece for a holiday instead.

Anyway, I took it easy after the weekend. It was a no-brainer because my quads were hurting, almost certainly because of the mountain run. I was really surprised by how much they hurt because that run had gone so well and I had not felt tired at all.  I had initially toyed with the idea of doing 2 workouts during the week, another mountain run and intervals on Tuesday and Thursday. Then I figured Thursday was a bit late considering that race on Saturday so maybe a Tuesday/Wednesday back-to-back workout pair would be an option? However, with the legs hurting as they are, that idea got dumped (I probably just about avoided doing something really stupid here).

What I did do on Tuesday was to run in some extra layers to get some heat adaptation going. However, as it turns out, even wearing 3 layers on top, including a running jacket, won't make you feel particularly hot if you're an idiot and don't wear a hat. In fact, once it started raining I started to feel distinctly cold instead! It's still a bit early for heat adaptation (it only lasts for about 2 weeks), so I guess a bit of experimenting wasn't that bad an idea; that way I might get it right by the time I actually need to.

On Wednesday morning I did that one weekly workout that was left in the schedule, a set of half mile repeats. Last week I had done 4, this week I increased the number to 6 and slightly lowered the recovery from 0.5 to 0.4 miles. Initially I resolved to run a bit slower than last week, just trying to hit the 6:30 to 6:40 window rather than surpass it but once I got into the workout I actually started to speed up, unnoticed. Once again, the 2 websites I'm using for data upload report very different numbers:

Movescount: 6:43, 6:32, 6:35, 6:40, 6:25, 6:26
Strava: 6:33, 6:26, 6:30, 6:35, 6:17, 6:21

And, like last week, the strava numbers are the ones I remember from the watch during the workout, so I guess that's what I'm going with (plus, they sure look a lot better). I'm still flabbergasted how the same data set can be reported so differently. It hurts my technical background.

The real difference, however, was how much better I felt this week compared to last week. I could not have done 6 repeats last week; in marked contrast, this morning I definitely would have felt capable of at least 2 more. This is also reflected in the HR, last week it went all the way up to 181 and today it peaked at a much more acceptable 173. I certainly have already gotten better at running at 6:30 pace. How that translates into efficiency gains at ultra pace is debatable - however, I am convinced that this is a very valuable workout and ultra runners would in general improve if they added more speed work into their training repertoire (btw, that's a note to self).

The hip is fine. Every now and then I can notice a bit of a twinge, but that's it.
24 Aug
8 miles, 1:09:17, 8:40 pace, HR 138
25 Aug
8 miles, 1:09:56, 8:45 pace, HR 143
26 Aug
9+ miles, 1:17:18, 8:30 pace, HR 144
   incl 6 x 800 @ 6:33, 6:26, 6:30, 6:35, 6:17, 6:21 pace

Sunday, August 23, 2015


I sure cannot complain about the help I've been getting recently. I have Derek's expert advice on how to deal with the injury, recently I got a phone call from Gerry Duffy no less, making suggestions about fitness gains from cycling (he's been there himself) and MC is still keeping an eye on my training as well.

I just checked through my running log for the year and the last time I had done an interval workout was back in March! Obviously that's not ideal but I required a very long recovery period after the championships and then I got injured - in fact, the very workouts that caused my injury, the hill drills, were supposed to get the leg muscles ready for some fast work. MC sent me an email with the suggestion of doing some longer intervals with the aim of increasing my efficiency. There is no doubt that my efficiency is in dire need of improvement, right now I am running a minute slower than before my injury, at the same effort level and HR! Still, I was a bit apprehensive of running 2 minutes faster than normal, not because the pace would have scared me but because I did not know how my hip would react.

The prescribed pace was certainly nothing to write home about - 2 years ago that had been my marathon race pace! Straining to run the same pace for half mile repeats drove home the message how much I have regressed, but then again I get that same message on every single run at the moment, and I very much expect decent gains to come quickly (that's the advantage of being at the bottom!). 4 x 800 is not much of a workout, especially as I kept the recovery long as well (another half mile), but that kind of work need to be introduced gently. The plan was to run 6:30-6:40 pace. I struggled with pace judgement early on, but that improved quickly. As for the actual paces I ran, there's some confusion. The Suunto website, where the data got uploaded initially, mentions lap paces of 6:31, 6:36, 6:35, 6:32, but the same data in strava gets reported as 6:31, 6:30, 6:27, 6:23. I did not keep a close eye on the numbers when I was doing the workout but from what I saw the numbers on the watch were matching the strava figures; why Suunto's watch would report quite different numbers than their website I don't know. Obviously it doesn't matter much - it's the training effect that counts but my geeky maths OCD self is a bit thrown by those contradictory numbers.

Derek had suggested running on no more than 3 consecutive days, so I was already pushing my luck with 5 straight days as it was! However, since the hip is getting better by the day, even after sitting in the office chair for too many hours, I think I can get away with a little bit more. However, having to drive to Killarney early Friday morning provided a decent excuse to take a rest day (I still cycled).

After that rest day I did once again push my luck over the weekend. I headed up towards the Kerry way on Saturday morning, intending to get a few climbs into my legs for the first time in ages to start building some much-needed leg strength but had all the best intentions of taking it easy. Well, the effort was easy, I can still attest to that, but the longer I ran the better I felt so when I reached the trail junction towards Windy Gap I indeed started heading upwards, curious to see how long I would last. Well. I lasted until the very top and even then I wasn't particularly tired. The hip never bothered me in the slightest, which was a major plus. I took it even easier on the descent to protect my hip and ran home. I did the homewards leg mostly on autopilot, which meant I can't have been very tired.

The hip was perfectly fine initially but I started feeling it about 6 hours after that run. Not bad, but noticeable. As a result I ditched any fancy notions of running around the lake on Sunday and did 2 loops through Killorglin instead, which gave me the option of going home early if my hip was acting up. Turns out the hip was fine but the quads were a bit achy right from the start, obviously a result from yesterday's sojourn, and never got better. By mile 10 I was rather tired, by mile 12 I started feeling the hip, once again not bad but noticeable, but by then I was on my way home anyway. The last few miles dragged a bit, but that was part of the plan anyway. A little bit of suffering is good.

This was a decent enough week, but compared to what I would have done without the injury it was still minimal. My hip feels fine, it's the loss of fitness that is my biggest problem. I still have a few weeks to make some gains - not enough to catch up but I'll see what can be done.

20 Aug
7.5 miles, incl 4 x 800 @ 6:31, 6:30, 6:27, 6:23 pace
22 Aug
11+ miles, 1:45:48, 9:26 pace, HR 148
   Windy Gap
23 Aug
15+ miles, 2:11:24, 8:45 pace, HR 141

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

And Back Again

And so we are back home, from well over 30 degrees in the sun to 16 degrees in the rain -  oh my, am I ecstatic to be back! I was straight back in the office on Tuesday and wouldn't you know it, after a few hours at the desk my hip started hurting again after all the progress made last week. Sitting for hours really is poison to my injury, so much so that can't help but wonder how much quicker I would have recovered if I had a different kind of job (alas, window cleaning won't pay the bills).

I did one more long run in Austria, 4 time around the little lake and I was running for exactly 2 hours. It wasn't quite as hot any more, still 27C/80F though, and it was very humid so I just took it very, very easy, which was probably good for my hip anyway. On previous days it had been hot but dry and I almost did not feel like I was sweating because it evaporated immediately. Sunday was very different but due to my low pace I was just plodding along not too bothered. It also helped that I had stashed a water bottle along the way - sometimes even I can learn a lesson.

The pace had been painfully slow but what pleased me was that my hip was perfectly fine all the way and did not start hurting afterwards either. It was enough encouragement to try running on consecutive days once more, even though that had been impossible earlier that week.

It's amazing how quickly things had changed in just a few days. On Monday, our last morning before travelling back home, I did run again and since the hip did not bother me at all I kept pushing the distance as I went along, from 3 miles to 4 and then 5, and I might have done more but it was time to head home. It was probably the most encouraging run I had done all week - in fact, for 2 months. I was finally able to run on consecutive days! It felt like a major victory.

Since returning home I have kept to that daily running schedule but I also reduced the miles again, just to be sure. There is no denying that my fitness has suffered significantly - 8:30 seems to be the top end of my easy pace now, a full minute slower than 2 months ago at the same effort level and heart rate - the VDOT table does not make pleasant reading. How quickly I will be able to regain a half-decent level I don't know - I have less time until the Spartathlon than I spent out injured. Ah well. It's a challenge, I guess,

16 Aug
13.4 miles, 2:00:00, 8:57 pace, HR 139
17 Aug
5 miles, 46:17, 9:15 pace, HR 137
18 Aug
8 miles, 1:08:26, 8:33 pace, HR 143
19 Aug
5 miles, 44:12, 8:50 pace, HR 143

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Life's A Beach

Things are continuing to improve but I’m still a good bit off from where I could say that I’m over that injury. After the hip had felt so good on Monday I thought I could start trying to run on consecutive days again but Tuesday was a big disappointment in that respect. From the first step I could tell that this really was not going to go well and after one mile of hobbling along I turned around and hobbled back home. Just to show how bad this had been, I had not even managed to average 10-minute-miles! I went cycling for an hour instead – we have the use of some bikes here, though they were clearly not purchased with the intention of cycling fast or long. However, for the week they’ll do.

Maia's gone native again
After that new setback I was a bit apprehensive on Wednesday but it was so much better! I could just about feel a tiny twinge in my hip at the start and even that went away completely after a mile or 2 and I was running completely unencumbered – well, apart from the fact that the temperatures were over 30 degrees, even at 8 o’clock in the morning! I managed to hold it all together for 10 miles but noticed a lot of ups and downs - in my fatigue levels that is, the road around the lake is entirely flat.

I went cycling again on Thursday but spent more time cursing at that bike than enjoying the ride. I also got a bit lost and was completely parched over that last few miles and suffering badly over one last hill, small as it may have been – exercising for over two and a half hours in that heat without bringing water was probably not my smartest idea ever.

I had recovered from that ordeal by Friday morning and once more the hip seemed in perfect condition, so I drew the run out a little to 12 miles, my longest run in what seems to be a very long time. I noticed the same highs and lows but figured they were closely coinciding with whether I was running in the shade or directly under the sun. Thursday had been incredibly hot, the temperatures had reached 38 degrees; Thursday was slightly cooler at 36.5, but that was still hotter than anything encountered in Ireland, ever! Well, I guess it will give me a fair amount of heat adaptation, which will only help. It probably also explains why my pace is only around 8:30, even when I could have sworn I was running faster than that, and the rather high HR is a bit of a concern. Obviously my lack of recent training and the subsequent loss of fitness has something to do with it as well.

Early morning visitors
Even though my hip had felt great all day, it was bothering me once more on Saturday morning, so another cycle was on the cards. This time I fulfilled a very long dream of mine – over 30 years ago I had learned about the Leithagebirge (“Leitha mountains”) and wondered how the flattest part of Austria could have a mountain region – well, even the hills around Caragh lake are higher and steeper than this but a 38 mile cycle through the country side was great and the mere fact that they have a network of cycle lanes going through the country here makes things so much easier and better – Ireland could really do with someone having a look how infrastructure works in other places, but I won’t be holding my breath.

I’ve actually done a ton of exercise this week, with the long cycles and the running supplemented by a fair amount of swimming and rowing as well as my exercises from Derek I must have done close to 3 hours a day – hopefully that will kick-start a last-gasp bout of training that may still get me back to a reasonable level of fitness. I have 6 weeks left.

11 Aug
2 miles, 20:05, 10:02 pace, HR 128
12 Aug
10.1 miles, 1:26:11, 8:32 pace, HR 146
14 Aug
12 miles, 1:43:00, 8:35 pace, HR 153

Monday, August 10, 2015

Change Of Scenery

This time I'm sure, things are definitely improving, and finally at a faster rate as well. My hip felt ok(-ish) on Saturday morning and I chanced it for a longer run. Up to now 6 miles had seemed long and every time I tried to push the envelope I was firmly put back into my place, but I could feel a definite and significant improvement in my hip and dared to go out for 8 miles. Whoop-dee-doo! Everything went well, in fact I felt great, I think I got my first proper dose of endorphins in weeks, which would have helped. Once that wore off a couple of hours later I could feel the hip again, but no worse than on previous days and I figure this was a really good sign.

Sunday was all about travelling, so the idea of running or any other cross training wasn't rally on the agenda. We caught a flight from Dublin to Bratislava and hired a car to drive to a lake in Austria where we are going to spend the next week. Temperatures in Dublin had been 13 degrees. Here it is 36! It would be roasting but with that lake almost literally on our doorstep that is a problem that can be solved easily. We all swam for a good while (I guess some form of cross training was had after all), and that's what we're going to do for the next week.

With the temperatures that high it seems important to get my run in before it reaches boiling point. Luckily I'm an early riser anyway, even on my hols, and I was out of the door at 7 am. I used the run to get a good look at the surrounding area (and found a bakery and a supermarket, what else do you need!), got lost (invariably!), and ended up running a good bit further than initially planned but still feeling great. It was just over 11 miles but at a slower pace than I would have done at home - the heat and the new surroundings have both impacted on my base but I think running a bit slower is better for me at this point anyway. Depending on how the hip will feel for the rest of the day and tomorrow I will adapt my mileage - it may be time to give running on consecutive days another go, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

It was already 28 degrees when I got back home, running any later would have been problematic. I guess it will get the heat acclimatisation going. It's a bit early for that for Greece, which is still almost 7 week away, but what can you do, our holidays were not planned with race preparation in mind.

Talking about THAT RACE, ever since I decided to give it a go anyway, even with my less-than-ideal preparation, I invariably started thinking what I would do if things just happened to go better than expected. I am aware that the Spartathlon is exceptionally tough and the finisher rate low, and if I stand at the start line without the right mindset I will not finish even if the body would be capable - winging it might not be the best option!

As it happens, I just got an email from MC about all that - he must have been reading my mind (he's good at that!). His advice is to take a chance and try and race - it might not be pretty but the base I have built over the last 10+ years is not going to erode away that quickly. So maybe, just maybe, I'm still in with a chance (MC tends to be right much more often than not). At the very least I will get a good feel for the race, which may come in handy in 2016.

8 Aug
8 miles, 1:03:54, 7:79 pace, HR 154
10 Aug
11.1 miles, 1:34:22, 8:29 pace, HR 151

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Back And Forth

I was absolutely sure Derek told me I could try and start running every day once the daily mileage had reached 6 without issues, but now he denies saying that - must have been a misunderstanding on my part. I noticed straight away after Monday's 3-mile run that the hip wasn't feeling great and despite Tuesday going reasonably okay, it was not as good as Sunday and had to be counted as a setback, albeit a minor one. Obviously I sat out Wednesday - well, I did do a tough cycle program on the trainer with a set of 60 sec intervals on/off that had my legs shaking like jelly once I got off the bike. I've also spent between 30 and 45 minutes every evening on the trainer (my unwatched video collection is running out at an alarming rate). I'm not sure what cycling does to my fitness (running fitness is definitely reduced significantly, no matter how much cross training I'm doing), but it feels good on the hip and has to be better than sitting on the sofa.

Cycling really doesn't impact on the injury or I surely would have felt it on Thursday. Having said that, something felt off and I very nearly did not run but in the end I was glad I did because I actually felt pretty good on yet another 6-mile run, so on the whole I'm still making progress. The way to build on from where I am now is to take the body's feedback into account, and at the moment the feedback is that I need to take a rest day between runs. I will try and gradually increase the mileage of my runs, once again progressing carefully and gradually.

I know I have already run out of time. The Spartathlon is 7 weeks away and there won't be time to get fit, simple as that. As I've said I will still travel to Greece - the flights and the race entry have been paid months ago and we're going to turn this into a holiday. I will most likely start and use this as a recce for next year, which also more or less settles what races I should focus on in 2016.

Oh, and congratulations to Torill Fonn, who I was lucky enough to meet in Turin after she had gotten on really well with Maia (not entirely sure how they had become such great friends). She had told me that she would try and break the 48 hrs World record. She sure gave it a good go at the weekend - she did not get the World record but she did get the European one as well as the age group World record (not bad for a fallback option!). Congratulations, I'm in awe and feeling very inspired! I just need to get back to full health first.
4 Aug
6 miles, 50:38, 8:26 pace, HR 148
6 Aug
6 miles, 48:54, 8:09 pace, HR 152

Monday, August 03, 2015

Progress Or Not?

When I first got injured I could not have imagined that recovery would take so long. I remember thinking that the Spartathlon was 3 months away and it would not really matter all that much. Reality has been very, very different. I guess I just don't do things by half - when I got my first injury in 8 years it had to a serious one that would take a long time to heal!

I'm generally not someone to follow rules and commands (my managers over the years can testify that). However, I quickly realised that I needed help with this injury and it would be just plain daft to go (and pay) for advice and then not follow it, so I'm following Derek's instructions very closely. I did think at times his progression program is overly cautious but always knew that erring on the side of caution is by far better than doing too much too soon and getting injured again, and recent events suggest he was right all along.

I did a fairly long cycle on Saturday; not long by serious cyclists' standards but the longest bike ride I'd ever done. It took me slightly over an hour to reach the top of Ballaghasheen, partially because I cracked on the final climb and had to take a breather, but it felt good to feel some good pain in the legs from the exercise rather than the bad pain from the injury. On the way home I got rather tired and started wishing to be home sooner rather than later, something I've experienced often enough at the end of a long run, and once more a good thing to suffer through. I don't know if I still have a realistic chance of making the Spartathlon but if I do then some serious work that includes a bit of suffering will be unavoidable.

Sunday was good. Really good. I almost felt like I was over that injury. The hip was fine, just a very dull discomfort, barely worth mentioning. I increased the distance by yet another mile. 6 miles was a significant marker: Derek had said that if I could run for 6 miles/10k without issues than I can start running every day, though the intervening days would have to be short. I did start feeling the hip again in the afternoon but I have done that after every run and the fact that I had been sitting in a car for a few hours sure did not help. Was it worse than on other days? I can't tell.

Unfortunately, as soon as I woke on Monday morning I immediately noticed that the hip wasn't feeling great. I did my 3 mile run anyway and it felt like a run a week or two earlier, not great. The pace was pathetically slow, despite the effort being the same as the day before. It was the first time that I had to deal with a setback since starting on the way back and it did nothing for my mood. It really is possible to hate your own body. I followed the run with 50 minutes on the bike trainer, the longest I have ever managed to train on a stationary device, be it trainer or treadmill. Maybe I did it for self-punishment but, as always, the hip felt better after cycling - unfortunately, the Spartathlon is not a cycling race!

A few hours in the garden had me knackered, especially after the morning workouts. I figured that anything was better than sitting down.

I think I'm pretty much on the edge. Of course I don't want a significant setback but with the lack of time it feels worth taking a few risks - if I miss the Spartathlon I have several months throughout the winter to get fit again. The next few weeks will tell.

I need a new HRM - my present one keeps dropping out. It's the least of my problems, though.

2 Aug
6 miles, 47:26, 7:54 pace, HR ???
3 Aug
3 miles, 26:49, 8:57 pace, HR 143