Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes

Well, so I had a chat with my coach and we decided to make a change to the plan and see how it goes. For the first time in well over 10 years I am introducing a full rest day into my program in an effort to boost my recovery. It may well be that after all those thousands of training miles in my legs I don't need the high mileage any more but let's not jump ahead. We're introducing a change and we will assess how it goes and if it's not working then we will make another change.

There was a second workout on the program this week; after the fun session of Tuesday it was hill sprints again on Thursday, and just like on previous occasions I found the sprints themselves perfectly manageable but the heart burn after each sprint far more bothersome. It got gradually worse with each repeat, the first 5 were slightly uncomfortable but manageable but the last 2 or 3 especially were seriously bad. I've tried taking Gaviscon before the session but that seems to have rather limited effect. There aren't any hill sprints on the program next week but I might want to try something else for when they return,

Friday was a full rest day! Gasp!

The legs felt ok, actually, it wasn't a response to some immediate need but something I had decided beforehand, after consulting the coach. I wasn't completely idle, I still did my dynamic stretching and strengthening exercises but running was off the menu.

It was barely back on the menu on Saturday with only 3 miles, and those at mere recovery effort.

Sunday was an entirely different matter. The coach has ramped up the long run mileage very quickly, from 10 to 14 to 18 miles in successive weeks. It was always going to be a bit of a challenge, I knew that already. The first half went okay, though the legs were a little bit heavy, but the second half started dragging with each passing mile. However, running on tired legs is something I am very much used to so I got home still in reasonable shape, if rather tired. The biggest shock of the day came when I looked at the HR data afterwards - I really thought I had kept the effort very easy, and the pedestrian pace does bear that out, but an average HR of 150 doesn't sound like an easy effort to me, so there is a clear disparity between the subjective feeling and the objective data.

My fitness levels aren't anywhere near where I would want them to be. There clearly is still plenty of work to be done.
28 Jul
7.1 miles, 1:10:37, avg HR 140
1 mile w/u, 2 miles progression, 10 x 20 seconds hill sprints with walking / full rest recovery, c/d
29 Jul
30 Jul
3.1 miles, 29:07, 9:23 pace, HR 132
31 Jul
18 miles, 2:33:58, 8:33 pace, HR 150

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Back Down Again

I already knew I had to make changes, last Tuesday's disaster of a workout had shown that very clearly. My problem was, and maybe it was just a perceived problem, that I got an email from my previous coach, whose opinion I still very much respect and value, urging me to more or less stop training altogether for a bit, just so a slow lazy run occasionally when I feel like it and nothing else. One minor problem with that advice is that mentally I always feel like running no matter what the body says, though I get what he meant. The other problem was that my new coach prescribed a different solution. She also had identified the need to rest and recover but instead of a full stop she prescribed a week with much reduced mileage and reduced workouts. After a day of hesitation I decided to get with my coach's plan - after all, I got her onboard to help me with my training and if I go against her recommendations at the first sign of wavering, what on earth would I have a gotten a coach for!

Monday was a very easy day, but Tuesday was the workout day. I wasn't just worrying how my body would handle it, I was also actually worried how MC would take going against his recommendation. The workout was basically just half of last week's run, 4 times 1 minute at 5k pace and 1 minute at 10k/HM pace, and that's it. Just 8 minutes of work and only half of that at some sort of strenuous level. I guess it wasn't just a workout in itself, it was also a test if I could handle any faster running at all.

I got going, and this time completely ignored the paces on the watch, ran entirely by feel, hard for a minute, less hard for another, and repeat, only using the watch to time the minutes.

Well, wouldn't you believe it, this was actually fun! According to the watch my paces were all over the place, though I'm not entirely convinced that the numbers are accurate (6:41 pace followed by 5:32 pace???). I got through the entire workout feeling really good but could also tell that the fun would soon stop if it had been going on for much longer, so I guess the coach got this one just right. I'm actually really glad I went ahead with this, after feeling so good, and so different to last time it just felt - right!

Wednesday was a major recovery day again with a mere 3 miles, something that's hardly worth getting out of bed for. The coach clearly does value recovery just as much.

The sign of a goof coach: have the ability to change things. So far I'm happy.
25 Jul
5 miles, 47:41, 9:32 pace, HR 130
26 Jul
7 miles, 1:01:01, 8:43 pace, HR 141
   6:41/7:13 5:32/7:44 6:05/7:06 5:47/6:28
27 Jul
3 miles, 29:09, 9:24 pace, HR 130

Sunday, July 24, 2016


I have been feeling a bit strange that last couple of weeks. Obviously it's not that unusual for a runner to have hurting quads but my quads are only hurting when I am sitting down for longer than about 30 minutes at a time. As long as I am able to get up and walk around they will be fine again within a minute but I was doing a course at work for 2 days last week and had to stay put - it was agony at times! They are perfectly fine when I'm running, which I find just baffling.

Anyway, after the disastrous attempt at a speed workout last Tuesday I have been trying to dial back. I stopped cycling to work, reasoning that this was the biggest contributor to the pain in the quads, though I'm not so sure now. I also stopped most of the strength training, which may have contributed to a general feeling of exhaustion. Obviously I know that the underlying reason is that I am not recovered from the 24 hrs race, still only 4 weeks ago, and that will take longer still . My basic muscle fibres are fine but my upper fibres take a lot longer to recover, which is why I blew up so badly when I tried to make use of them in a speed workout while running at a slower pace feels perfectly fine.

I did a hill repeat workout on Thursday, which actually felt perfectly good. Short use of those muscle fibres seems to be okay, only prolonged use causes problems.

On the plus side, my pace for the easy recovery runs has increased significantly while still remaining under the HR limit. My HRM crapped out on Friday and I ran entirely by feel, obviously erring on the side of caution. All was back in working order on Saturday when I basically managed to run at 4-hour marathon pace while comfortably remaining under the 136 threshold. I know that's not particularly fast - it's a lot faster than my 24 hour race pace, though!

The sun came out on occasions on Saturday and Sunday, which I used for some badly needed time to work in the garden. This should explain why the legs felt battered for my longer run on Sunday - that and the pretty heft headwind I had to fight for pretty much the entire 7 miles back home from the turnaround point. At least I was not trying to stay at some sort of pace despite the adverse conditions, which is a mistake I've made often enough in the past.

I do hope my quads will settle down soon. Due to being unable to remain seated I can't even write long blog posts any more (Ewen will be happy to know!).

21 Jul
6 miles, 1:00:23, 10:03 pace, HR 143
   10 x 20 sec hill sprints
22 Jul
5 miles, 51:51, 10:22 pace, no HRM
23 Jul
7 miles, 1:04:17, 9:11 pace, HR 132
24 Jul
14 miles, 1:56:22, 8:18 pace, HR 148
   7 miles @ 8:27, 7 miles @ 8:07
Weekly Mileage: 45

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Too Much Too Soon

I've never had a problem with motivation, that's for sure. The problem was generally going too far the other way, and this time I really seem to have overdone it. In my attempt to make changes after that disappointing result in Belfast I got a coach, started strength training, did yoga, started cycling to work - and then it all became a bit too much.

Sunday's run should have been a warning. From the first step I felt lousy. The legs were stiff and heavy, the pace was exceptionally slow and nothing clicked. I've felt this way plenty of times but usually it settles after a mile or two and I eventually start enjoying the run. Not so this time, it pretty much sucked from start to finish and I was actually shocked when I realised just how slow I had run.

A recovery day on Monday was just what was needed and I felt much better, so I chalked Sunday off as one of those days.

It all came back to me on Tuesday. The speed workout was actually fairly mellow: alternating 2 minutes of 5k and 10k/HM effort, 4 times. That's just 16 minutes of work and obviously a lot less strain than, say, a 5k race.

I sure did get the effort wrong!

Part of the problem was that the watch was slow to catch on the pace and I kept seeing 6:40 or 6;45 pace, which surely is not 5k pace, not even right now. At least that happened on the first speed segment, I'm not even sure if I kept checking the watch after that. But the pattern was already set, I kept working very hard on the 5k segments and then the HR barely came down a couple of beats at the slower segments, providing no respite - after the third segment I just could not keep it going any longer, stopped running and went hands on knees for a while just to stop myself from toppling over. Obviously I should have cut my losses at that point and gone home but for some reason I decided to do the 4th segment after all, even though I was perfectly aware that the coach any coach worth that description would have frowned on that. It was even worse after the fourth segment, I actually ended up lying down in the middle of the road to catch my breath.

Ok, at that point I could not fail to see that I was digging myself into a hole at rapid rate. I stopped the extra training, including the cycling, which had the immediate side effect that my quads stopped hurting. My recovery run on Wednesday was actually perfectly fine, so I think I'm alright as long as the level doesn't get over a certain threshold. I guess I need a reality check on my present 5k pace - even now, looking at Tuesday's data it doesn't strike me as particularly fast, though it clearly was too fast on the day.

The coach will have her input. I didn't envisage the first crisis to come so soon!

17 Jul
10 miles, 1:28:36, 8:51 pace, HR 143
18 Jul
4 miles, 37:49, 9:27 pace, HR 129
19 Jul
5 miles, 40:57, 8:11 pace, HR 152
   6:23/6:57 6:31/7:16 6:10/HOK 6:04/XXX
20 Jul
4 miles, 37:11, 9:17 pace, HR 132

Saturday, July 16, 2016


When I tried my own Maffetone training 2 years ago, my initially high hopes were eventually dashed when I just would not get into proper peak shape. Afterwards I concluded that my base had been very solid but nothing had been done to build on that. The biggest drawback, however, had been that training had just been really uninspiring, The one thing that had kept me going and highly motivated was the fact that I was going to run in a World Championship. That was such an incredible privilege I would have gone through with anything, so I just stuck to it no matter what.

When my new coach filled the training plan with tons of Maffetone-style runs, at an even lower HR than my own training plan, I was a little bit disheartened at first. However, a second glance revealed a different picture. This isn't really Maffetone training, she is just using the MAF HR to ensure that my easy runs will remain easy - very, very easy in fact. I'm still only just at the beginning but I'm starting to sense that the easy days are being kept exceptionally easy because the hard days are going to become really tough in weeks to come.

The speed workout on Tuesday was still a fairly modest one and none that would have filled me with any sort of dread but I think once the dial gets cranked up a bit that might change. Even though the workout had been fairly easy it was followed up by 2 more easy MAF days. I got some sense of foreboding during Friday's hill repeats, though. In some ways they were similar to the hill repeats I did on my own accord, except that the repeats themselves were longer but fewer in numbers. I had no problems with the repeats themselves - 20 seconds of hard work at a time are over quickly, no matter what. My problem was that I got really bad pains in the centre of my chest about 20 seconds after each sprint. I'm reasonably sure it had nothing to do with my heart (I wouldn't have continued if I'd thought that was the case - I'm not fucking stupid. At least, I'm not that fucking stupid). I think it's basically heart burn. I ran the workout on an empty stomach, as I always do, but I' think if I had eaten anything beforehand it would have come up again. Anyone know a solution? Anyway, this happened after every single one of the 10 repeats and it was seriously uncomfortable. I managed to gut it out but unless I find a solution to the chest pains I'm not looking forward to the next one.

On the plus side, the pace for the easy runs is finally starting to increase which makes them easier to bear. This might be down to some early sharpening effect from the speed and hill workouts but I'm still glad to see the end of 10-minute miles for a while.

13 Jul
4 miles, 38:44, 9:41 pace, HR 131
14 Jul
4 miles, 38:45, 9:41 pace, HR 129
15 Jul
1 mile w/u, 2 miles progression, 10 x 20 seconds hill sprints with walking / full rest recovery, c/d; avg HR 146
16 Jul
4 miles, 37:38, 9:24 pace, HR 132

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Kicking Into Gear

Slowly, very slowly, the training is revving up. The coach is following a different strategy compared to what I would have chosen on my own, but that's exactly why I got a coach - I felt I really needed help and had to change things. She sure has changed things already, and we're still only at the beginning.

Sunday's run pretty much sucked. The HR alarm was beeping before I had even left the driveway - already? You've gotta be kidding me! It didn't get much better, I had to slow down to a crawl and even then the alarm kept going off. The only time I managed to get into some sort of rhythm was when I could not hear the alarm because the wind was howling so loudly, but obviously that only ever lasted until I became aware of it.

Monday was better, thank goodness. For some reason I just managed to stay in the zone even though the effort felt the same as the day before - however, the pace was slower as the GPS data showed. That's definitely something that has me a bit worried: my pace/HR is still stuck at the same level as a week ago when I would have expected it to improve; after all, I have one extra week of recovery since the race by now. It's a bit early to start panicking, though.

Tuesday was a radical departure from the easy runs in the shape of the first speed workout! It wasn't particularly tough, neither by opace nor duration, but it was a lot faster than anything I have done in a while. After the warm up I did 4 sets of 1 minute at 5k effort and 3 minutes at 10k/half marathon effort, though it was a bit tricky to figure out into what pace that would translate, especially since I'm so far off peak fitness. Instead of trying to hit a certain pace I tried to run by feel, which seemed to work reasonably well except for the third slower segment when the legs (or was it the lungs?) were close to quitting and I slowed down a lot more than I should have. It provided enough extra recovery to get the rest of the workout done, though.

All in all I was happy enough. I had been looking forward to some pain during all those slow recovery runs in the past few days, so I can't complain that it hurt. Besides, it was a short workout and was over quickly (that's going to change!).

Now it's back to recovery runs again but I guess this time even my legs will admit that they need it!

10 Jul
4 miles, 38:44, 9:38 pace, HR 134
11 Jul
4 miles, 39:30, 9:52 pace, HR 130
12 Jul
5 miles, 40:04, 8:01 pace, HR 158
   4 x (1 min 5k effort / 3 min 10k or HM effort)

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Slowly Does It

My new coach has certainly made a difference already - she has made me run a lot slower!

I did try to dabble into Maffetone training a couple of years ago (before Turin especially) and wasn't particularly convinced. She now has me run my recovery runs at an even lower heart rate, but while I was doing ALL my running at MAF effort, she has the training interspersed with some speed workouts throughout. So, even when I found it hard to get into any sort of rhythm for the first 1 or 2 miles yesterday, I can live in the knowledge that there are days to look forward to that will be very different.

For the time being I'm still very much in recovery mode and only running every second day, and that at an effort that feels more like crawling.

The other thing my coach added was supplementary exercises. Squats, dynamic stretching, balancing exercises, and, as she pointed out, they are on the program even on non-running days. I was already familiar with every single one of the exercises she prescribed - I just never had the conviction to keep all that stuff going.

Foam rolling is on the program as well. For the first couple of days I found some very sore spots along my quads but as I gradually eased into them they have gotten remarkably better already.

All that extra stuff takes some time - but she holds it in such high regard that she told me to cut a run short if I'm caught for time but always be sure to do those exercises! That is one thing I certainly would not have come up with by myself.

I went to a beach yoga class on Thursday morning. For 50 minutes it was all lovely and bliss and then the midges came out for the last 10 minutes! I was THAT close to running away but managed to keep somewhat calm. I had at least 2 dozen very itchy bites on my legs, though. If that happens again, beach yoga is off the program for good.

6 Jul
4 miles, 39:28, 9:52 pace, HR 130
8 Jul
6 miles, 58:47, 9:48 pace, HR 132

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

I'm Back

Let's have one final look at the data from Belfast. This is the pace analysis of my run.

The major crisis points are easily visible and you can clearly see just how bad the third one was. It's also very interesting to note just how much things improved towards the end; from mile 110 onwards I got faster and faster with almost every mile - the damage had already been done at that point, though.

Apart from my big left toe, recovery has been remarkably swift. That toe is still somewhat affected; the swelling is gone but it is still bruised and a bit tender to the touch. The toenail may still come off but it hasn't really changed since last week. I'll find out eventually.

After 8 days of no running at all I started getting twitchy again, so when I woke up early on Tuesday I put on my gear and went for 5 easy miles. Slow as it was, the HR was way too high and I need to get that down again. I'll slow down for a while - especially considering that even that very easy effort from that morning was still considerably faster than my 24 hrs race pace.

I've added some strengthening exercises and dynamic stretching to the program; some of them still from Barry Murray's weekend session a few months ago, and some from my new coach.

Yup, I've got a new coach.

5 Jul
5 miles, 44:51, 8:58 pace, HR 142

Friday, July 01, 2016

Photos And Some Notes


It's been 5 days since the race and recovery has been going rather well, with one notable exception. Obviously I felt rather destroyed on Sunday evening but on Monday I was already well enough to first go to W5 with the kids for 5 hours and then drive to Dublin.

Muscular recovery was swift. I guess having done this a few times before helped and I'm also reasonably sure that wearing those very cushioned shoes helped in that regard as well. By Wednesday I was walking down staircases without any discomfort.

I had a slight sunburn on my head. The unexpected sunshine on Saturday obviously being stronger than it felt. I did put on a bandana after a while but obviously a little too late. This caused one uncomfortable night on Monday as I just could not find a way to put my head onto the pillow with it pressing against my hurting skin but was suddenly gone by Tuesday.

My endocrine system took a hit and I have been feeling tired all week. I wasn't my usual self in the office. Today, Friday, I can feel a massive improvement, though, and am almost back to feeling human again.

I got a rash of small spots all over my forehead. I had the same thing happening after Turin and the Spartathlon. I have no idea what exactly is causing it (endocrine system?) but it seems to be happening after each extreme effort. That's gone away now as well.

The one area that is giving me by far the most grief is the big toe on my left foot. It is badly swollen with an angry red are close to teh nail. The nail itself is a bit dark which makes me suspect that I might have an uneven number of toenails in a few days. This is still very uncomfortable, 5 days after the race, and nothing I've ever had to deal with before. I'm blaming it on the Hokas. They might have saved my muscles from some damage but their toebox is notoriously narrow and sub-optimal. I might check out their latest shoe (Clayton), which apparently has some improvement in that area.

I haven't done any running yet. I might have been tempted by the quick recovery of the muscle damage but the toe will prevent that for a while. Most likely a good thing! I did an hour of yoga on the beach on Thursday morning, though.


from John Desmond (who was Grellan's crew):

from the race officials: