Thursday, January 28, 2016


I'm supposed to celebrate today I suppose, though I don't really feel much like celebrating. If I were Grellan I'd go for a really long run or 3, but I'm not. So, as my 21st birthday repeats itself for the 26th time, I'm instead sipping green tea and generally feeling a bit sorry for myself.

As I've mentioned already, I keep underestimating the effect a workout will have on my body. Sunday's run had repercussions. As soon as I headed out on Monday morning the hamstrings felt like they had been cast in concrete. The plan had been for 10 miles but I turned around after 4. Last Saturday I had felt slow and the same happened again - only this time I really was dead slow. I got a bit of a shock when I saw the pace on the watch afterwards, basically 9-minute miles. I haven't run that slowly since, well, reaching Sparta. It's a good thing I did turn around early - I would have been late for work otherwise.

Tuesday saw the unwelcome visit of yet another major winter storm, Jonas, the same storm that had shut down the eastern united states for a while this weekend. It had lost much of its destructive power by the time it touched land in Kerry but it was still sufficient to keep me awake half the night. I tried reading once the ceiling had been studied in sufficient detail but eventually got up at 5 am and spent an hour on the treadmill, inadvertently doing my longest treadmill run ever - yet. It was during storm Desmond in December that I decided the get a treadmill - I'm daft enough to keep running no matter what and indoors is definitely safer at times. Thankfully the hamstrings felt much better - they had already felt better during Yoga Monday evening.

I had contracted a cold in hospital last week and had definitely started to feel better by the start of this week but on Wednesday morning just felt like crap again. Of course I still went running. That's my default action. I had already decided to do 10 instead of the originally planned 12 but when I still felt like crap after 3 or 4 miles I decided to go home instead and ended up with 5; slow ones at that.

I guess a bit of rest might be in store. I'll take a few days off, until I feel better. This is mostly to get rid of that cold but it should also serve to get me out of this little overtraining hole that I once again managed to dig myself into.

25 Jan
8 miles, 1:11:52, 8:59 pace, HR 128
26 Jan
8 miles, 1:04:51, 8:06 pace, HR 143, treadmill
27 Jan
5 miles, 42:21, 8:28 pace, HR 138
28 Jan

Sunday, January 24, 2016


Or maybe stressed?

The cold I have acquired at the hospital kept being a very unwelcome reminder of the events from the start of the week. The sore throat was gone by Thursday but I still had some general achy feeling and wasn't entirely hundred percent. There's plenty of debate if it's wise to keep on running when fighting off a cold but my experience is that as long as you don't have any symptoms below the neck you're okay. Since I always run with a HRM I can always tell very easily how much extra load my body is burdened with. My HR is slightly elevated (or the VDOT numbers slightly lowered) but nothing I have not seen a dozen times before.

I took it very easy on Thursday. My body didn't feel up to much and neither did my legs, still feeling the 16 miles from the day before. A week ago a pace slower than 8-minute miles would have shown a very low HR but even with the effects of that cold it was still below 140, definitely an easy effort.

My sleep is still being affected but I felt better on Friday - still a bit snuffly but closer to being back at full health, and after a bit of hesitation I decided to go ahead with a planned marathon effort after all. It was very windy, so I ran on the slightly sheltered Ard-na-Sidhe road (my routine fall-back option on windy days) and kept the effort at about marathon level. During the MP segment I averaged a HR of 157, so if anything I undershot the target slightly though with 3 months to go before Manchester there is plenty of time to fine-tune the effort. The pace was 6:51, basically spot on 3-hours marathon pace, which bodes well (a sub-3 is my basic goal, sub-2:55 is the bonus goal).

I tried to take it easy on Saturday but I just felt slow. The gale force wind did not help, I'm sure, but in general it just felt like a slog. I was genuinely surprised when I saw a sub-8 pace on the watch afterwards, I would have sworn I was doing 8:30 pace.

I think the legs just had to pay a price for Friday's MP effort but I realised that too late. Sunday's run was hard work, every single step felt like a mini-struggle. I sometimes feel like that early on and things improve after I'm warmed up but not so today. Again, the really strong wind did not help, nor did the brutally hilly course, the latter obviously being my own choice. I had to grind out every single mile and eventually had enough, cut the run short and headed for home. I tried to run the last 2.5 miles at marathon pace but 7:10 was all the legs had in them, no matter how hard I tried. Obviously it was too early after Friday's effort - I'm slow to learn the lessons of recovery.

My left achilles gave me a few twinges the last few days. I'm fairly sure it's nothing serious - I've been through a fair few achilles issues over the years but never any serious ones.

21 Jan
10 miles, 1:21:08, 8:06 pace, HR 139
22 Jan
am: 10 miles, 1:10:57, 7:05 pace, HR 153
   incl. 8 miles @ 6:51 pace, HR 157
pm: 2.5 miles, 21:09, 8:27 pace, HR 122, treadmill
23 Jan
am: 8 miles, 1:02:39, 7:49 pace, HR 139
pm: 4 miles, 32:15, 8:03 pace, HR 135, treadmill
24 Jan
16.3 miles, 2:09:29, 7:56 pace, HR 143
   last 2.5 miles @ 7:10 pace

Weekly Mileage: ~82

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


When you call 999 at 4:45 am, that is never a good sign. Niamh and me found ourselves thrown right into a parents' worst nightmare without warning. An anxious half-hour wait for the ambulance was followed by 36 hours taking turns at the hospital and minding our other 3 children. We were allowed to go home on Tuesday evening with the immediate emergency over but the saga will go on, for a long time.

Obviously running did not feature particularly high on my list of priorities but I managed 2 short runs on the treadmill at home on Monday evening and Tuesday morning. This wasn't for training, just to sort out the head, though a road run would have been much better for that purpose but obviously there was no way I would leave the children unsupervised.

36 hours on/off in hospital also served to give me a bad sore throat, which doesn't come as a complete surprise as hospitals are a prime infection centre, especially an awful one like Kerry General where they serve junk food for dinner and the floors are not washed properly (the nurses and doctors are nothing short of phenomenal, though. They so deserve a better workplace!). This, paired with the fact that my mind was still on the last couple of days, served to keep me awake for most of Wednesday night, so I binned the idea of running 15 miles and turned off the alarm completely. However, I still woke early and eventually got up and got ready, in time to run 12 miles.

The legs are feeling pretty good after getting more rest than anticipated and the VDOT values are showing that I'm getting into really good shape, though obviously right now I don't particularly care. However, life goes on and at some point a good race will become important to me again, so I'll keep the training regime going. It serves to take my mind off things anyway.

One change I made after looking at the mileage on my shoes. I had 3 in rotation with 1300, 1000 and 500 miles on them respectively. I opened a brand new shoe box and  relegated the oldest pair to treadmill duty, replacing one pair of Saucony Virratas with another one. To be honest, the new shoes don't feel all that different to the old ones. I like lightweight shoes that don't have much cushioning in the first place, so there's not much to lose.

18 Jan
5 miles, 40:45, 8:09 pace, HR 135, treadmill
19 Jan
am: 4 miles, 32:15, 8:04 pace, HR 129, treadmill
pm: 6 miles, 45:34, 7:36 pace, HR 135
20 Jan
am: 12 miles, 1:33:23, 7:47 pace, HR 139
pm: 4 miles, 33:40, 8:20 pace, HR 132, treadmill

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Killorglin Puck Warriors Turkey Burn Off 5k

I felt a lot better by Thursday morning and by Friday I almost felt like gliding over the asphalt again with very little effort. I kept the effort very easy at all times and the pace started creeping closer and closer to 8-minute miles. The HR data is very good but that has already been very good anyway and didn't necessarily reflect how I felt - certainly not on Monday!

Taking it easy ended on Saturday morning, temporarily at least. I was wondering how a race would go after several days of nothing but very easy effort. A short sharpening workout on Thursday would probably have meant a better race but I'm not training to look good in a 5k.

The race format was a little bit different, it was girls against boys. The girls would get a 3-minute headstart and the boys would chase them, first across the line is the overall winner. I didn't worry if we would catch the leading ladies, just resolved to run my own race. Right from the start I was right at the shoulder of the respective race leader, at first Declan and the Damien. I felt the effort was easy for a 5k even by the time we caught up with the back of the women's field. After about a mile I put in a bit of an effort and put my nose in front but Damien responded immediately and put himself ahead again. I never looked around to see how big the lead group was but I could hear footsteps falling away until there were only 3 of us left by halfway and when the sun came out for a moment I could see our shadows and even Declan was falling behind, so it was down to just 2.

The top 5
Aine's races always feature at least one nasty hill and this was no exception, the final mile went over Laharn hill. I gave it my best to see how good Damien's climbing legs were. I got to the front but could not shake him. We caught the leading lady close to the top, so it was definitely going to be a boys' win. I knew Declan could not be far behind and was wary of his descending skills but Damien's weren't bad either. He got in front again and at one point opened up a small gap but I managed to close that. The last bit was flat to the finish. Since I can count the number of times I have managed to outsprint someone on just one hand and still have several fingers spare I tend to go hell for leather with a good bit to go and hope for the best, so that's what I did with about 500 metres left. Unfortunately Damien was having none of it. I could not sustain the effort and he was soon ahead again and at that point the race was decided. I lost heart a bit when I realised I wasn't going to win and then lost another couple of seconds by going the wrong side of a cone and had to duck under the tape. I finished a whopping 5 seconds behind Damien in second place and only a second ahead of Declan who must have snuck up close without me noticing.

Second place it was in 18:14 and I had thoroughly enjoyed the battle up front. The fast guys and girls were all missing today which gave the likes of me the opportunity to enjoy a bit of glory for once. It was well worth breaking the easy spell and since this was only a 5k I doubt there was much damage done. My splits were all very similar and all under 6-minutes, even the final one with that hill, a sign that we really gave it a good go for the win.

On Sunday it was back to easy running. The original plan was 10 miles but I cut that down to 8, and even that may have been a bit much because the legs started feeling tired soon. The weather probably didn't help, unlike yesterday's ideal conditions it was back to wind and rain.

I'll keep the easy runs going for another few days until I feel the race has gone from the legs.
14 Jan
10 miles, 1:21:42, 8:08 pace
15 Jan
8 miles, 1:04:23, 8:03 pace, HR 133
16 Jan
am: ~6 miles, including:
   Killorglin Puck Warriors Turkey Burn Off 5k, 18:14, HR 171, 2nd place
pm: 3 miles, 27:26, 9:03 pace, HR 124, treadmill
17 Jan
8 miles, 1:04:06, 8:01 pace, HR 134
Weekly Mileage: 68

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Easy Now

I was 10 miles into Monday's run when I hit the wall. The proverbial one, familiar to marathon runners, not a stony one. I was tired, hungry, exhausted, cold, miserable and it was still pitch dark. Of course that's when it start raining again, icy cold and painful, but it was just one of several rain showers that would pass that morning (a theme that would continue for the next few days). At that point I finally admitted to myself that I had overdone it. I had actually seen the signs at least two weeks before already but my response had been inadequate. One very easy day here or there just wasn't enough to catch up on recovery, especially when followed again by a fairly brutal 3-day weekend combination. I did dial back the millage last week but clearly not enough, and a couple of faster effort probably undid any potential recovery.

So, from now on there won't be any more 3-day combinations if I run a fast workout on the Saturday. I did 6 miles at 6:30-ish pace on Saturday, followed by a long run on Sunday on tired legs and adding another 15 miles on Monday was too much. Either I need to mellow the workouts or I need to add at least one genuine recovery day between those. Right now, I'm taking it easy for the week. After a struggle I managed to drag my sorry ass home on Monday. Tuesday was 8 miles, very, very easy. Wednesday was 10 miles, again very, very easy. The legs felt fine on those last two days, thanks to the low effort (which is genuinely reflected in the HR), but I'll keep that going for longer, and I also cancelled hill sprints this week because I really do not want to stress my high-end muscle fibres.

The numbers from Monday's workout, and the ones preceding it, don't actually show any bad signs (at least none that would be apparent to me), it's just the subjective feeling of fatigue and exhaustion that prompts all this, though it has been festering for a while. I would have taken an easy week over Christmas as I was really tired going into it but an increase in sleep seemed to alleviate the problem, though apparently not for good. I am getting more sleep now than before Christmas because I do make a genuine attempt to go to bed earlier on a consistent basis. It doesn't make up for over-reaching too far in workouts, though,

I did add a different kind of body workout, namely a yoga session, this one apparently specifically aimed at athletes. I haven't done much in form of cross-training for a while because I never felt I needed it but I decided to give that another go and signed up for a class. On the plus side, when she asked if I had any niggles right now I could genuinely and honestly say "no" (in fact I said "none at the moment"), which made me realise that actually my body has held up very well since recovering from my injury in July. Now I want to keep it that way.

Also, my (ancient) car broke down for good at the end of last week. I had to get rescued, stuck in the middle of nowhere as I was (or Castleisland as it's also called) and my new car won't be ready for another couple of days, so I'm back to cycling the 5 miles to work, though I do not count that as training. Since I'm the one doing the school run in the morning, the new car can't come soon enough.

11 Jan
15 miles, 1:58:35, 7:54 pace, HR 137
12 Jan
8 miles, 1:07:04, 8:23 pace, HR 130
13 Jan
10 miles, 1:22:27, 8:15 pace, HR 131

Sunday, January 10, 2016


Spartathlon is your B race? To a 24 hour track event? How is that possible? Anyhow, best of luck with all of those races!
The reason why I put Belfast as my main target is the fact that in 2017 the next world championship will take place and I want to make sure I am on the team! I am reasonably optimistic that I will be selected as only one single Austrian has run further than me in the last 7 years in 24 hours but a good run in Belfast would guarantee my selection no matter what. Spartathlon is a great race but a world championship would be greater still.

The legs felt really heavy on Thursday morning, so I decided to cut back the mileage for a couple of days. I still went ahead with the planned hill sprints that day but went home once I felt I had maybe two or three more repeats in me, and I kept the effort low for Friday. I also ruled out any second runs of the day on either occasion.

The hill sprints were very different to any other kind of training, pretty much all-out but only for about 10 seconds or so, and with long recoveries (walking back down the hill and a slow jog for a bit). It was a different day as well: when I opened the door I could see a myriad of stars in the clear night sky, something I hadn't seen in a very long time. With the clear sky came the cold temperatures but I was perfectly fine with that. Unfortunately it wasn't to last, by the time I was on my second hill sprint it was hailstoning; the combination of all-out hill sprints and hail stones made for an interesting multi-stimulus of pain! Still, it was all over very quickly and the legs felt fine for the rest of the day, something I cannot always say.

Friday's run was at the easiest effort in quite some time. I was quite pleased that the pace was still fairly close to 8-minute miles, something I had to work for a couple of months ago, now it is my recovery pace. The HR was exceptionally low. I can count the runs with a lower HR on the fingers of one hand, I think.

On Saturday it was time to rev it up again. I wanted to tweak the format of the fast day and instead of running 10 miles at a good effort I opted for 2 x 3 mile repeats at HM pace. The last two races indicated that the pace should be somewhere between 6:30 and 6:40, so that's what I aimed for. The weather has finally improved a bit, the wind has died down though we are still seeing the odd shower. It's also quite cold, about 3 degrees in the morning, but I like it cold anyway. All in all it makes for very decent running conditions. The first 3 mile segment went well but I probably ran just a tad too fast early on and started to struggle a bit towards the end. A rest interval did me some good and I managed the second segment better than expected and this one felt like I ran the correct effort.

The legs felt that effort the next day, of course, but it could have been worse. I gave myself the option of either 18 or 20 miles, depending on how I would feel towards the end. I started out reasonably well but towards the end of the big long climb I started labouring when at previous runs I had managed pretty much on autopilot, so I certainly wasn't firing on all cylinders. I managed just fine for the rest of the loop around the lake but I did opt for the 18 miles, in an effort not to overdo things.

When I was coached by MC he spent a lot of time stopping me from doing too much. In fact, I think I can feel strong vibes from across the Atlantic that I am indeed overdoing things already, so a little bit of holding back today was almost certainly a good thing. I am still in base building mode, though I've started the transition to the marathon training block, which will start in earnest early next month.

7 Jan
6.7 miles, 1:02:28, 9:19 pace, HR 131
   11 short&sharp hill sprints
8 Jan
10 miles, 1:21:50, 8:09 pace, HR 131
9 Jan
10 miles, 1:11:12, 7:06 pace, HR 152
   2 x 3 miles at 6:29 (HR 159), 6:33 (HR 161)
10 Jan
18+ miles, 2:21:38, 7:48 pace, HR 142
Weekly Mileage: 84

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

The Best Laid Plans

After some fairly brutal training over the last week/weekend, I made sure to take it easy at the start of this week. Monday's run was a 10 miler, going as slowly as I could while still moving. This was actually a very pleasing run - 2 months ago I would have strained to run at that pace, just a tad slower than 8-minute miles, by now this is my recovery pace. I ran at the same effort level again on Tuesday morning but ended up a little bit quicker, probably the extra day of recovery making itself show already. I added a short run on the treadmill in the evening, more to pass the time before a late dinner than any serious training application, but in retrospect should probably have run a little bit slower. I started out slowly enough but steadily kept cranking up the pace over the next half hour. Not particularly fast by any means but it sure wasn't recovery pace any more at the end.

I might have paid the price on Wednesday morning. I expected to feel fresh and recovered after two relatively easy days but reality didn't quite match expectations. It wasn't a disaster by any means but the calves felt a bit tight and the pace was flagging towards the end, which is very unusual for me.

The other mistake I made was going to bed too late. The Christmas holidays had made a massive difference to how I felt, sleeping 8 hours per night instead of 6.5 made me feel much more rested despite an increase in mileage, and going to bed a midnight when you're getting up at half past five just isn't a smart move. I generally don't do New Year's resolutions but maybe I should make an exception and attempt to go to bed earlier.

In my last post I promised to say something about my plans for 2016. I took my times making up my mind, playing around with different options, and finally came up with an outline I'm fairly happy with. The main goal will be the Belfast 24 hours race, moved forwards by 3 weeks compared to previous years. It had been on my initial plan but I hesitated when I heard it was going to be moved from the track to a nearby park because I actually prefer running 24 hours on a track. I find the rhythm of the 400 meter oval almost hypnotic and get into The Zone almost by default, something I found much harder in Turin. Anyway, eventually I decided to keep this as my A goal race.

There will be two B goal races. The first is the Manchester marathon in April where I intent to run sub-3 and hopefully have a go at my marathon PB. Initially I had targeted Tralee but they changed the course yet again and now it resembles a mountain run more than a road marathon and a PB there is no longer feasible. The idea behind targeting a marathon is to get some speedwork done as part of the preparation, which I think I sorely lacked last year. Since this marathon will be a stepping stone for Belfast rather than a major goal in itself I might find out if I'll have the willpower to push myself through the pain barrier - I need to work on my head as much as my legs.

The other B race will be the Spartathlon, thereby immediately breaking the vow I had made repeatedly between km 205 and 245 last year never to do anything like that ever again (let's face it, I was always going to break it) and proving that I really am stupid enough to willingly put myself through that kind of inhuman torture for a second time. I just did not do myself justice in that race in 2015 and want to have another to get it right.

4 Jan
10 miles, 1:21:42, 8:10 pace, HR 135
5 Jan
am: 10 miles, 1:19:24, 7:56 pace, HR 138
pm: 4 miles, 32:28, 8:07 pace, treadmill
6 Jan
15 miles, 1:57:19, 7:49 pace, HR 138

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Happy New Year

While everyone else was busy nursing their hangover, I did what I enjoy the most - running! It might make me odd in the eyes of many people, especially here in Ireland, but I've long ago stopped giving a damn what anyone else thinks of me, and I just happen to prefer running to drinking.

Anyway, I finished 2015 with a double workout, hill sprints in the morning and a recovery run on the treadmill in the evening. The hill sprints are what I want to do this training cycle instead of a hill phase doing drills, because it was doing those drills that got me injured last summer. I know it was down to me making a silly mistake but I really don't feel like doing another set of the same drills this time round.

If the treadmill run helped or hindered my race the following day I cannot say but after last week's surprisingly fast 5k I was fairly optimistic of a good race on New Year's Day. The race itself was in slight doubt as storm Gerturde was to hit us at the exact same time but thankfully it mostly steered south of Ireland and all we had to deal with was heavy rain and gale force winds - I've run in worse but it sure wasn't ideal race weather.

Me in the customary orange club colours
Once more I was left in the dust by a lot of runners at the start. My ageing diesel engine just needs a bit longer to revv up, but then again I did start with a sub-6 mile, albeit aided by a strong tailwind. I gradually made my customary way through a sizeable crowd of fast starters in the first mile, caught up to a group of 3 ladies again, same as in Farranfore, and when I went past them without much trouble I figured I was having a good race today. Eventually I was left on my own with another group quite some distance in front. Things got a lot worse after 4k when we turned into the wind and the stretch from km 5 to 7 was particularly tough against a gale force wind, uphill and on tiring legs. One runner in the group ahead started to struggle, was dropped and I eventually caught him before km 7. I was tempted to stay behind him and use him as a wind shield but he was going a bit too slowly and I went past - of course he immediately hung on to me and used me as a wind breaker. Perfectly understandable, I would have done the same. His footsteps seemed to fade away eventually and I thought I had shaken him. With about a mile to go there was a junction without a marshall, and if there was a sign then I did not see it without my glasses. I was reasonably sure I had to go left but hesitated for a moment until the runner behind me shouted "left". I was slightly startled because I had not realised he was still right behind me, and after my short hesitation he was now in front of me and obviously recovered because I had to work hard just to hang on to him. Due to a complete lack of finishing speed my only chance of beating guys to the line is to take off hell for leather with a fair amount of distance still to go and hope I can hang on and push through the red mist. This worked surprisingly well and I regained my place and kept it until the finish. Unfortunately one look at the watch told me that this had been a good bit slower than expected. I pressed the button a bit after the finish and estimate my time to be about 39:10 when I sure expected a better time. Without a doubt the conditions played their part but I was still a bit disappointed. Due to a technical breakdown the chip timing did not work and results still have not been published - I still hope that will happen soon. Things improved when I received a prize for second M45, so I actually brought home some loot today, hurray!

No rest for the wicked! The weekend training is always a set of 3 days, fast-long-medium, and I did 20 miles on Saturday. The legs felt better than expected but not exactly fresh. 20 miles were perfectly doable and I kept the effort at a reasonable level but the course was slightly unreasonably hilly, doing the Devil's Elbow loop with its nasty steep 500 feet climb three times. I very strongly believe that running up steep hills makes you a better runner. My usual climbing spot is Windy Gap on the Kerry Way but at the moment I don't think that is safe after all the rain we had the last few weeks and I prefer to stay on the road instead. Roads aren't as steep as that trail but the Devil's Elbow climb sure does its best to ape a mountain run. I felt okay while running but was knackered once I had finished. I even had a bath instead of a shower afterwards, for the sole reason so that I could lie down instead of having to stand up!

I closed off the week with 15 miles on a flatter course on Sunday. Once more the legs felt better than I could have expected but it wasn't exactly like floating on fluffy clouds. I kept a reasonable effort, similar to the day before, and was pleasantly surprised by the pace when I thought I'd be lucky to average 8-minute miles.

I'm in pretty good shape. Not race shape, but the base training has worked very well indeed and I couldn't be happier so far. There are still 6 weeks to go until the race specific training starts. I do hope I'll be able to convert the good work I've done so far into a good race, something I have not always managed entirely in the past.

I'll speak about my racing plans for 2016 in my next post. It took me a while but I think I've got it all worked out now.

The mileage this week is slightly misleading because the race on Friday meant the week got compressed by one day and I ended up doing the 15 miler on Sunday when it would normally have been on the following Monday. Next week goes back to normal and in all likelihood the mileage will therefore be lower again by the same amount.

Late update: 20th place, official time 39:13
31 Dec
am: 6 miles, 52:01, 8:40 pace, HR 137, hill sprints
pm: 5 miles, 39:52, 7:58 pace, HR 140, treadmill
1 Jan
11+ miles, including Beaufort 10k New Year's Day race
   39:10, 6:17 pace, HR 167, 2nd M45
2 Jan
20 miles, 2:37:05, 7:51 pace, HR 146
3 Jan
15 miles, 1:55:21, 7:41 pace, HR 142
Weekly Mileage: 97+