Monday, August 29, 2016


I had a reasonably good run on Sunday.

However, the fact that managing 8-minute pace for less than a half marathon without feeling wiped out at the end constitutes a good run isn't a great state of affairs.

At least I managed to pinpoint the problem: it's my hamstrings. They felt off right from the start, everything else felt fine. And things didn't get any worse - be grateful for small mercies.

I have some graphs where I keep plotting pace and HR data. It doesn't make good reading for July and August. In fact, the figures right now are surprisingly similar to what they were like last year - expect that was after missing 6 weeks of training due to injury.

Small mercies? Well, the knee seems to be back in almost full working order. I can feel the occasional twinge but it is not hurting any more, and not at all when I'm running.

I'm whining too much these days - so let's end this on a high. Cian is now in secondary school, City are top of the Premier League and the kids say Mummy should go away more often as weekends are much more fun with just Daddy around (that might be due to the fact that I don't give them a list of things to do before they are allowed on screens, but don't tell Niamh)
26 Aug
5 miles, 45:38, 9:08 pace, HR 133
27 Aug
6+ miles, 50:40, 8:58 pace, HR 138
   incl strides
28 Aug
12 miles, 1:35:56, 8:00 pace, HR 154
29 Aug
6 miles, 54:45, 9:07 pace, HR 132

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Reboot Once More

This is without a shadow of a doubt the most frustrating training cycle for a long time. When I started out running I used to get injured a lot but once my body got used to the load things have usually gone very smoothly, leading to a steady improvement up to a level that I would not even have dared to dream about 10 years ago. However, I felt I had reached a plateau and needed to change things. Change carries risk (I know that only too well, working in an IT department), and with me not being dialled into things as much as I am used to, things keep going wrong.

I have managed to avoid injury but something is clearly not working as it should. I know that it takes me several months to recover from a 24 hours race but I am not used to the legs still feeling so off 2 months later, and every time I think finally there is some real progress happening, something goes wrong again.

When I came home from my holidays I genuinely thought I was very much recovered after some thoroughly relaxing days. The first 2 runs back home seemed to confirm that, only for my illusions to be smashed once more with a nightmare run on Saturday.

We have now pulled the emergency cord once more. Two weeks of low mileage and almost entirely at slow pace are ahead of me. 5 days into that program I can still sense some heaviness in the legs, though that might just be in my head. So, basically every morning I head out keeping the HR below 136, something I would not even remotely have contemplated when I was making up the training schedule by myself.

There is a tiny bit of variety - I did some fast strides at the end on Monday and today (Thursday) was a test. 1 mile warm up, 5 miles at HR 135 (as close as possible), 1 mile at 90% effort, 1 mile cool down. Keeping the HR at 135 worked surprisingly well, I guess I'm tuned into that kind of effort by now. I then ran the fast mile entirely by feel, though I wasn't entirely sure how much effort 90% effort actually is. I'm sure I would have run faster had I checked the watch - 6:43 pace used to be my marathon pace, and that doesn't feel like 90 % effort.

There is more easy running to come. I know I'm an ultra runner, therefore running slowly should be second nature to me. Maybe I'll get used to it. That's bound to be a good thing when race day approaches!

On a side note, my left knee started hurting. A few years ago that would have set off all alarm bells but by now I've been through this a few times. It hurts when running downhills and, strangely, when I go to bed. Running on the flat or uphill is fine. It's a minor nuisance but nothing to lose sleep over.

22 Aug
7 miles, 1:05:17, 9:20 pace, HR 133
   with some fast strides at the end
23 Aug
6+ miles, 56:25, 9:20 pace, HR 131
24 Aug
4 miles, 37:54, 9:28 pace, HR 131
25 Aug
8+ miles, 1:10:17, 8:44 pace, HR 138
   8:46 / 9:01 / 8:54 / 9:11 / 8:57, then 1 mile @ 6:43 (HR 163)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

And Back Again

Ah well. Holidays don't last forever, though I sure wish they did, especially this time round. On Wednesday we stepped into the plane in Vienna beneath a blue sky and 27 degrees. It was nice weather all over Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and England, and just as we got near Dublin the clouds appeared and as we stepped out of the plane it was 15 degrees and lashing rain. I did ask myself why I just had not stayed there, but by that time it was too late.

That was the only day this week I did not run. Actually I was tempted to run that day as well as we did not have to leave the house until 1 o'clock but eventually decided that a day's travel was enough stress on my ageing body.

On Monday, still back in eastern Austria, I did a run that should have been fairly easy, 10 miles at 30-50 seconds slower than marathon pace, basically an easy run. Well. I guessed my marathon time would be about 3:10-3:15, because that's what I usually run when I do a marathon for training and it never takes much out of me, so I tried to run about 8-minute pace, bread and butter really. That was the theory. In reality I struggled from the start and it never got any better. While it didn't get much worse either, at the end I was knackered and had to conclude that I could not have run a marathon at that pace, never mind 30-50 seconds per mile faster!

That minor disaster was followed by an easy day and the flight back home, and the first thing on the schedule here in Ireland was a speed workout! I guessed if that would not shake out the legs, nothing would. It was another ladder session and I was actually looking forward to it. This one went very well, the pace was significantly faster than last week for pretty much the same effort, and it left me feeling good! The good news kept on coming when the easy run on Friday was 15 seconds per mile faster than the ones in Austria had been and I figured the higher temperatures had been responsible for the slower pace, which made sense. It would also go a long way explaining the poor performance on Monday, so I thought maybe 7:20 was my present marathon pace after all, at least in Irish conditions.

I put that to the test on Saturday with a 16 mile run with 12 miles of them at marathon pace. I didn't force the pace when I got going and was content to leave it at the 7:28 pace I saw early on the watch. Well. Disaster struck quickly. With each mile I got slower and slower even though the effort remained roughly at marathon pace. I averaged 160 beats for those 12 miles, which would be a bit low for a marathon but seems about right for a training run, but I sure had not expected that towards the end I could not even hold 8-minute pace, even though I was working fairly hard.

That was bad! I am happy enough with my short, fast workouts and the 20 mile run last week went well enough, but my stamina is badly lacking right now. It's not that I hit the wall, things went downhill straight away and got progressively worse. I ran the workout on an empty stomach and without any carbs, so my blood sugar levels were probably low but I run virtually all my workouts on empty and it never tends to be a problem.

Things have definitely improved in the last few weeks but something is definitely still missing, I'll talk to my coach.

Update: The next 2 weeks will be very easy.

15 Aug
10 miles, 1:18:23, 7:50 pace, HR 153
16 Aug
6 miles, 56:51, 9:28 pace, HR 133
17 Aug
18 Aug
8 miles, 1:07:47, 8:28 pace, HR 149
   1600-1200-800-600-400-200 at 6:37/6:32/6:26/6:17/5:52/5:00
19 Aug
6 miles, 55:11, 9:11 pace, HR 132
20 Aug
16+ miles, 2:11:00, 8:09 pace, HR 153
   with 12 miles @ 7:53 pace, HR 160
21 Aug
4 miles, 37:29, 9:22 pace, HR 132

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Training Camp Update

The internet connection is a bit sketchy here and once we get a connection I have to share it with 4 kids, so this is a rare chance to post a quick update.

Holidays are great! Since I no longer have to spend several hours of the day sitting down, the pain in my left leg has completely disappeared; the only time I felt some discomfort was the day we drove for several hour to visit my mum, which was the only day I had to sit down for prolonged times. Any other day has been completely pain free.

It’s not quite as hot as last year, though we’re heading back into 30 degrees today after a few cooler days. I was a bit worried about my long run on Saturday but it was actually quite cool that morning and the sun did not come out until later, so that passed without a problem.

On Thursday morning I had a decision to make. The legs didn’t feel great and I was very close to binning speed work for a second week in a row but my head seemed to look forward to it, so I made a snap decision and went ahead. The coach had prescribed a ladder session, 1600-1200-800-600-400-200 with decreasing rest and increasing speed. I found it got easier as the session progressed. Having learned from the past I never tried to run ahead of myself and concentrated more on running relaxed rather than fast, apart from the last 200 which was close to as fast a sprint as I could handle on tired legs at the end of a session. Hey, I never claimed to be particularly fast – and I doubt that will change much!

However, immediately after that speed session I felt really good and I’ve felt pretty good ever since. Maybe my legs needed some kind of wakeup call, I don’t know, but now I’m glad that I went ahead with that session.

Saturday was a long run and for many miles I felt like I was just about to get tired but somehow I never really did and finished the run feeling almost the same as I had at the start. The pace had been very slow – that was deliberate. The one thing I am not happy about was the HR which rose gradually with each mile, from the 130s at the start to the 150s at the end, even though the effort was pretty much the same throughout. Having said that, during my 18 mile run 2 weeks ago the same had happened but the average HR had come out as 150, so the 144 from this week are actually a nice progression already.

Apart from that speed session and long run it was all easy running with the HR monitor. The pace is slower than I would have expected but the higher temperatures may have something to do with that, so I’ll wait and see how the numbers are once I’m back home in more familiar territory and conditions.
8 Aug
9 miles, 1:22:24, 9:09 pace, HR 133
9 Aug
9 miles, 1:24:34, 9:23 pace, HR 136
10 Aug
3.6 miles, 34:33, 9:32 pace, HR 131
11 Aug
10 miles, 1:24:44, 8:28 pace, HR 150
     1600-1200-800-600-400-200 at 6:42/6:27/6:27/6:22/6:09/5:29
12 Aug
3.55 miles, 33:35, 9:27 pace, HR 132
13 Aug
20 miles, 2:57:46, 8:53 pace, HR 144
14 Aug
3.65 miles, 34:36, 9:28 pace, HR 134

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Toning It Down

Ok, at some point this week I admitted defeat and admitted to myself that the best way to get out of a hole is to stop digging. I reduced training from an already low level to a barely existing one and on Thursday I didn't do the speed workout the coach had put into the schedule and just ran easily instead. As an easy run this was a good one as my pace has improved for the same HR, so at some level there is actually some progress. I followed this up with a full rest day on Friday (still did strengthening and dynamic stretching and foam rolling) and then an easy long run on Saturday.

The weather this morning was really nice when I left the house but the sun soon disappeared behind some dark clouds and remained there for most of it. The plan said 18, the head said less but when some major chafing started to develop around mile 14 it was time to go home anyway before I did some serious damage. The legs pretty much agreed, it was around that time when they started getting tired so I jogged home from there, missing just over a mile from the plan but hey!

Now it's off to some hot weather training camp (at least that;s how I think of it) with plenty of opportunity to relax and cross train. I don't exactly spend my holidays sitting around and drinking beer (though that does come into it, in moderation) but I'm mostly looking forward to not having to sit in the office chair for a while. Richard might be on to something in his comment to my last post when he pinpointed the Sartorius muscle as the problem, except that I'm pretty sure running does not aggravate it (only sitting does), so I am actually rather optimistic that 2 weeks out of the office will clear that up completely - if it's still an issue when I come back home I'll go and see my physio.

4 Aug
7 miles, 1:03:31, 9:04 pace, HR 131
5 Aug
6 Aug
16.6 miles, 2:19:01, 8:22 pace, HR 149

Wednesday, August 03, 2016


I don't think my heart burn issues are a general digestion problem; I only ever suffer from heart burn 30 seconds immediately after a hill sprint, that's it. Normal running or even a non-hill-sprint-workout does not cause the same discomfort, so I think the problem has a much more narrow focus. However, since there are no more hill sprints in the plan for now I'll just ignore this for the time being.

As for the question why my recovery is so slow this time round, there are several angles on that as well. First of all, recovery after a long ultra is always much slower than I want it to be, so maybe it's no worse than usual and I'm just being impatient. Another theory, not favoured, is that I'm getting old and recovery simply takes longer. I also won't rule out the possibility that running 24 hours on concrete has caused more damage than previous races on a track. My nutrition is pretty much the same as always and definitely on the healthy side (apart from a mild chocolate addiction that's not new and I'm trying to be good). After discussion all that with my coach we decided to cut back the training, even though I'm already doing a lot less that I would usually do, and aim for 2 full recovery days a week, at least for now.

I've had a really weird problem the last few weeks which I've mentioned already. Whenever I am sitting down, after about half an hour my quads start hurting. If I get up and walk around the discomfort disappears within half a minute. If I am unable to do so (say, because I'm in a meeting or doing a course), it gets worse and worse until I am in absolute agony. Until yesterday both legs were equally affected and it just did not seem to be getting any better. Today, however, all of a sudden my right leg feels fine but the left is still bad. I'm obviously hoping that the left one will improve as well (and that it's not simply the left one deteriorating faster all of a sudden). Thankfully I'll be heading into some sunshine next week, which means I won't have to spend half of my day sitting at a desk and hopefully that will clear up whatever is affecting me.

Since training has been reduced this week I've hardly done anything so far. 3 miles on Monday, 7 on Tuesday, all at recovery effort, and nothing on Wednesday. I'm pretty sure I'm not overtraining at the moment.
1 Aug
3+ miles, 30:08, 9:43 pace, HR 128
2 Aug
7 miles, 1:06:17, 9:28 pace, HR 130
3 Aug