Saturday, October 29, 2016

Fail Better

American runner Zach Miller just wrote a blog post about the Art of Failing that is incredibly valid to me after that race in Albi.

"To put it bluntly, there’s nothing left to fight for. Okay, maybe there is something, like a finish, but in the moment of battle such victories can pale in comparison to the grandiose things we dreamed of. And yet we refuse to give up. We press on."

There were other runners in Albi, including some of much higher calibre than me, who did not have their day either and who simply stepped off the track, saving themselves for another day. I just don't do that. I've never DNFed in a race, even when it may well have been a good idea. It's somewhere between determination, stubbornness and stupidity. Under the right circumstances that can be a good thing - I would never have reached international level otherwise - but at other times it can be a sub-optimal mind set.

On Sunday evening I had a chat with one of my team mates. She had been looking very good for about 15 hours but eventually faltered. She had a rest in the tent and then point blankly refused to go back out. "I did not see the point in walking for 6 hours!" I wasn't sure what to say - "that's exactly what I ended up doing" just didn't seem right.

It is easier in a race to a distance. Walk to the finish. You have an end point, a goal waiting for you. In a timed event, this is much tougher to do, mentally. You just keep walking the same loop over and over again, never getting anywhere. I can see why you wouldn't see the point in that.

I'm definitely having the post-race blues this time round, something I never got before. This really hit me deep.

Niamh contemplating the idea of having me round for 4 weeks
Niamh at first started laughing when she heard about my plan to take at least one month off. After a few days she seemed to catch on that I was serious. She's not happy. Last time she threw me out of the house after less than a fortnight, telling me to not even think of getting back unless I had run for at least half an hour. This could be a problem.

It's been a week since. I have had plenty of time to think it over. After feeling sorry for myself for a few days I started to analyse things, with a little bit of help. I know where I made the mistakes, and it goes back right to the start of the year. In retrospect it all looks so easy.

"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better."

Oh, and all the best to anyone running in Dublin tomorrow. If you get tired at mile 20 just think of me and the fact that I still had to do 100 miles at that point last week.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Unforgettable Albi

Some races I am immediately enthusiastic about. For some reason, the European Championships in Albi were not on that list. My initial reaction had been to say no when the team manager asked me to participate but after a bit of soul searching (and asking friends who voted 16:2) I decided, with a heavy heart, to forgo the Spartathlon this year and do the Euros after all. You don't get the chance to represent your country very often so I guess that made sense.

That doesn't mean I wasn't looking forward to it. Quite the opposite, as race day approached I was getting more and more excited. I also realised that skipping Sparta had been a good move in any case as it was scheduled only 3 months after the Belfast 24 hrs race and I would have had a very hard time. The extra month of recovery/training was going to be very beneficial, there was never any doubt about it.

When I got there I felt a bit intimidated by the sheer number of top runners around the place, with the inevitable feeling of "What the hell am I doing amongst those" but it wasn't as bad as before Turin; I guess I was a little bit more used to it and besides, I had proven in Turin that I can hold my own in that crowd.

An unforgettable number
The race numbers were being allocated on an alphabetical basis and due to Austria being the first team (Albania not sending anyone) and Bubendorfer being the first name in the team I was allocated start number 1!  Now that was super cool but it did provide a bit of extra pressure; with such a noticeable race number I would want to have a good race.

Anyway, at 10 o'clock on Saturday morning the gun went off and 97 men and 77 women started off on what would be a long journey. I fell into a very comfortable pace straight away, slower than most but that's okay. I did expect to work my way through the field in the long hours ahead.

I was wearing two watches. The reason was that I wanted to have a reading of my HR for the first few hours but my Suunto Ambit wouldn't last for 24 hours if it had to listen to the HRM as well so I set the Suunto into non-HRM mode and wore my ancient Garmin for the HR. Within minutes I was glad I was wearing the Garmin but for a completely unexpected reason: the Suunto's GPS signal had gone completely bonkers! I have used that watch for 2 years and never had any GPS problems before but it was displaying 6:xx-minute pace at times and I was pretty damn sure I wasn't on sub-3 marathon pace. The Garmin said 9:20-ish, which was definitely a lot more accurate. While I do pace myself on feel, not the watch, it is good to have some objective feedback from time to time and I was glad that my museum piece was here to pick up the pieces.

The first 3 hours passed quickly and without issues. I chatted a bit with some of the other contestants, especially the Irish ones, but for most of it I just jogged on my own. I checked the HR a couple of times and it was always between 135 and 140, perfect. The pace picked up a tiny amount and I had averaged 9:14 pace, which was very much within the pre-planned parameters. Everything seemed to be going to plan for the first 18 or 20 miles. Every lap, a bit more than 1 km, was passing quickly.

The first 20 miles in a 24 hours race are just the start of course. You can't win the race in that time but you can certainly lose it. As far as I can tell I had done everything right so far. Unfortunately, in an ultra things sometimes go wrong without an obvious mistake.

I felt far too tired! This was ridiculous. I run that far almost every week at a faster pace and before breakfast, so this should have felt like a walk in the park. Instead I felt like I was being put through the wringer already. As I have often stated, a long ultra is defined by how well you can manage your inevitable lows, so managing my first inevitable low, even if it was so much sooner than expected, is what I did, in the same way I always do: I put my head down and kept going. I made sure to drink enough and as far as I can tell my crew followed my pre-race nutrition plan very closely. The one thing that disagreed with me was a small piece of flapjack, so I told them not to give me any more of those, but that was the only deviation. I also helped myself to a couple of drinks from the organisers' table whenever I felt thirsty, and also to get a bit of variety.

With Aidan Hogan before the start
Usually (as in, always until now) this first low will last an hour or two and then I'll feel better again. That's what I expected to happen. Instead I was just sinking deeper and deeper into the mire and every time I thought I had reached an absolute low I inevitably started the descend into yet another circle of hell. At some point the Austrian team manager told me to slow down as it was very hot. I wasn't going very fast at that point and I don't think it was particularly hot but I was in no position to argue and slowed down, complying with his request. My guess is that he saw what I was going through and knew I had to ease up, distance goals be damned. Anyway, running slower did feel easier, no doubt about it, but my energy levels still refused to play ball and eventually I started to descend into the next level of hell once more. Dante Alighieri had his way with me today.

I ran a few laps with Brian Ankers, who unexpectedly had joined the open race. As much as he denies it, he still dreams of the day when he finally beats me in a 24 hours race (having ticked the marathon and 50k off that particular list already). I told him today was his big chance. Unfortunately he eventually decided he didn't want to beat me after all and stepped off the track. He still hung around for hours and gave us plenty of encouragement. Thanks mate!

I had gone through the marathon in about 4:05, which was perfectly fine. By the time I had forced myself towards the 50 mile mark I was at 8:36, which still isn't a complete disaster but it took me about 11:20 to get to 100k because by that time my energy levels were no longer my biggest problem. Nope, something else had gone wrong at an epic scale.

Basically, you can only go as fast as the weakest link allows. In long ultras, that is often the mind but that doesn't seem to be the case for me. No, my limitations were definitely physical.

I have suffered from cramps in quite a few races, and this year was pretty bad in that regards, especially in Manchester when cramping calves put paid to any chances of a sub-3 marathon or Tralee where that may have cost me a podium place. But I have never had a cramp in a long ultra. I supposed that the slow pace was preventing me from cramping. Maybe it did. Until now.

I could feel the first spasms going through my right calf muscle and it got worse very, very quickly. Within a lap I was very close to going into full cramping mode when I passed our tent and mentioned it to our physio. She immediately told me to come in and sit down. She tried to apply some cream but the second she touched my leg I immediately went into full cramping mode, very sudden and excruciatingly painful. I don't know how we eventually got this under control but she knew what she was doing and eventually she gave me a full massage and mentioned how the muscle was softening considerably. Of course all this took time, which must have cost me close to a lap. Therefore, when she told me to come back after 4 laps, I ignored her because I just could not get my head around losing so much time sitting down and decided to keep going instead.

You can guess how well this ended. 6 laps later the spasms were back and I sheepishly arrived for my delayed re-appointment with the physio. This time she did not even get to touch my leg. As soon as I sat down in the chair the tent was filled with some high-pitched alien noise that turned out to be me screaming while my calf was caught in the most brutal grip imaginable of some invisible vice. Again, I have no idea how we eventually got this under control, I vaguely remember having to lean against our team manager at some funny angle so that the physio could access my calf muscle at the required angle. It was, however, as sweet a moment as can be when the pain eventually subsided. After an absolute age I was released, once again under strict instructions to return every 4 laps for another massage. This time I had learned my lesson (it would have been hard not to). I was back in that chair 4 laps later. And again. And again. And again. And ...

It's hard to say for sure how often I visited that tent. When I was moving, I was actually moving rather well. I overtook plenty of runners when let loose but of course they would more than make up for that when I was back in the tent. I definitely had more than a dozen appointments, and they usually lasted about 5 minutes, sometimes less, sometimes more, sometimes a lot more. My best guess is that I spent close to 2 hours sitting down there while the physio kept working on me (she certainly went through her own version of an ultra!). However, it would not be right for me to claim that I lost 2 hours. The fact that I was able to rest every 4 laps, sometimes 5 when there was a queue in the tent (I wasn't the only runner in our team to have problems), enabled me to run surprisingly well for those 4 laps at a time, and even when I was getting very tired I knew I only had to push myself for so long until the next rest. Usually when I get too tired I switch into a run/walk mode. This time is was a run/stop mode, which obviously was slower overall but it just could not be helped.

At some stage I must have decided to make light of the situation and started to joke about it. When I overtook a team mate who previously had been running very well I loudly announced to the tent that I had just lapped Andy for the first time, which had been so much fun - admittedly, maybe less so for him. When I made a face after the physio had once again found a sore spot she pointed out that the birth of my 4 children must have been a lot more painful. My response? "That's true, that was really painful because my wife kept squeezing my hand so tightly". I'm surprised she didn't deliberately squeeze my calf after that. Come to think of it, maybe she did.

I'm clearly not about to start a career as a stand-up comedian but the fact that I was still making jokes, no matter how bad, was a sign that at least my mind was still in a somewhat positive frame of mind, despite what I had been through that night and what was undoubtedly still ahead of me.

When I started to suffer after only 3 hours I knew perfectly well that this was going to be a very long, very tough, very painful day and that the end result was going to be distinctly underwhelming. But the idea of stepping off the track never even crossed my mind. I knew I was going to keep moving for as long as I could, even when it was at a snail's pace. Stupid? Maybe. Probably! But that's the way I'm wired.

I had spent about 8 hours during the first half descending deeper and deeper into the mire when my energy levels kept plummeting. At times I thought I must have been more exhausted than ever before but then I remembered that I was still able to run, which had not been the case in the late stages of last year's Spartathlon, so that must have been worse and I merely had forgotten how bad it had been. Then I had 6 or 7 hours of doing reasonably paced laps, 4 at a time, interspersed by those physio appointment. It was during that time that I made some modest progress through the field, moving from 80th to 60th position. However, after 18 or 19 hours, that came to an end as well.

Every single time when getting off that chair I felt very stiff. It took a while to get going again. I always had to walk for a minute or two, until my legs were able to turn properly again and I started jogging. But then, with a few hours still to go, there came the point when the legs simply no longer complied and that was that. From that point on all I could do was walk.

Of course I tried to force the issue a few times. I made myself run but all I achieved was to almost make me fall over as the legs put in some uncoordinated steps, wobbling all over the place and not getting me anywhere, so eventually I accepted my fate and resolved to walk. That wasn't without challenges either, due to sheer exhaustion I felt like collapsing on more than one occasions. I had trouble focusing, my vision got blurry at times and even the slightest uneven feature in the road had me stumbling at times, though thankfully the course was in very good condition overall, very flat and mostly smooth. Somehow I manged to stay on my feet without a single face plant, though it was close on a few occasions.

The Irish runners all seemed to be moving well, which was good to see, but Amy Masner was moving particularly well. She is amazing. She is able to keep her pace going for just about forever and even when she clearly started to suffer she still put in a major shift. She would end up inside the top-20, a great championship debut and I'm sure there is more to come. Well done! She put the rest of us to shame!

I also had some nice chats with the British contingent, Debbie and Marco but even Dan Lawson gave me the occasional shout while steaming his way to a European championship (!!!). The funniest exchanges, however, happened with Robbie Britton who unfailingly kept calling me "Thomas, Number One". Initially I wondered if he was simply taking the piss but quickly decided to take it as a fun game and encouragement. I was sorry to see his race curtailed, the heavily bandaged knee giving a hint to his problem. By the way, my own knee, which had been a source of worry beforehand, never bothered me in the slightest today. Shame about the rest of that leg!

Obviously I also had a few chats with my Austrian team mates, though they all went through their own issues. Before the race we all had been optimistic and looking forward to the race but somehow we collectively seemed to be hit by a series of individual disasters. Only one of us got close to his PB, another one had a still somewhat reasonable race and the entire rest of the team basically had a disaster. Not a good day for us.

Anyway, I kept ticking along, trying not to fall over and willing the time to pass. It was still pitch dark at 7 o'clock and only with about 2 hours to go did it get bright, which did help because I seemed to wobble less from then on.

Actually, the last couple of hours seemed to pass quickly. I was surprised when I looked up at the clock and realised that we only had half an hour to go.

European Champion and new European record
holder Maria Jansson. She was just magnificent!
Last year in Turin I had ended up 3 meters behind one runner from Japan and 10 meters behind one from the Czech Republic. Just that tiny amount of extra distance would have seen me finish two places higher in the World Championship. Granted, coming 58th or 60th does not make a difference to anyone but me personally, but I resolved that this would never happen again and I would spend the last half hour squeezing the very last ounce of energy out of myself. If anyone happened to finish a single step ahead of me at least I wanted to know that I had tried my hardest to make up that step. With that in mind, I made myself run again. The brain had obviously gotten the message that we were reasonably close to the finish and actually allowed me to run, which was a nice change to all the failed attempts earlier. All of a sudden I was moving well again, though it sure hurt like hell. The first 10 minutes or so passed quickly but then I was back at the very bottom of the pain cave once more and every step was a challenge. The minutes seemed to pass increasing slowly and with about 5 minutes left I wondered if I had misjudged this once more, but thankfully I somehow made it to the end, the final signal coming as a big relief.

The elation of finally being able to stop moving was overshadowed by a deep disappointment, I cannot deny that. Of all the races I had done, the one where I wore such a highly noticeable bib number had to be the one where I performed at my worst! At the end I had accumulated 189.045 km, a personal worst by almost 14 km, and the first time I had failed to break 200k, and by quite some margin. On the plus side I have the knowledge that I never gave up even when I knew that this was going to be a very long day with very little reward at the end, so at least mentally I performed well.

I will take my time to make any decision on what to do next. I will let myself rest for longer than ever before and try to recover physically and mentally, and eventually I'll come up with a plan. But right now I'm not a sportsman, so excuse me, there's a can of beer or two waiting for me.

22 and 23 Oct
2016 European Championships in Albi, France
189.045 km, 12:16 pace
63rd place

Sunday, October 23, 2016

They Can't All Go To Plan

My final result was 189 km. I felt absolutely exhausted after 3 hours and knew then it was going to be a brutal fight all the way to the end. Then I got hit by cramps and the only way to treat them was to have a massage every 4 laps. I must have spent about 2 hours with the physio, in which case 189 k was the absolute max.

I need to do some soul searching now. I think I need a complete rest from running for a while.

189.045k / 63rd place

Friday, October 21, 2016

In Albi

One day I will tell my grandchildren that I was the number one runner in a European Championship!

Live Updates from 21st IAU 24 Hour European Championships

There will be live updates from the 21st IAU 24 Hour European Championships.  

There will be Live timing on: (and click on Live)

We will carry Live Updates on our website (

Also on Twitter (@iaunews). 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Off I Go

For anyone looking to follow the race online, this page looks like it will contain the results. I have no idea if there will be a live tracker, though:

There might be something on the IAU website, as there had been in Turin. There is a preview of the race up there already, where one of my Austrian teammates as well as two Irish runners are getting a name check.

As for what was left of training, I rested on Monday, ran 7 easy miles on Tuesday at initial 24-hours race effort, and another 7 on Wednesday, this time with 2 miles at marathon effort, with the same usual caveat that I have no idea what my present marathon time would be, so as always I ended up running entirely by feel. That's is a bit tricky for marathon pace because 2 miles at marathon pace are just going to feel rather easy, so in the end I ran too easy because even at the most pessimistic outlook my marathon pace had not deteriorated to 7:57 pace!

I found Robert's comment on my last post rather enlightening. I had stated that I felt undertrained and he reminded me of the brutal back-to-back runs my coach had made me do. To be honest, I had kind of forgotten about those already. I had looked at the weekly mileages and was struck by how low they had been compared to what I would usually have done. I guess that's something to cling to - I don't like that terminology but this time there was an element of quality over quantity that was new to my training.

And that's that. I'll drive to Dublin tonight, catch an early flight on Thursday morning and will be in Albi shortly after lunchtime.

The race will start on Saturday 10 am local time, which is 9 am here in Ireland. I'm officially a nervous wreck already.

P.S. Apparently my race number will be 1!
18 Oct
7 miles, 1:06:12, 9:27 pace, HR 131
19 Oct
7 miles, 1:01:08, 8:43 pace, HR 139
   with 2 miles @ 7:57 (HR 149)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

T Minus 6

And so we go into the last week before the Euros. To be honest, I think this training cycle has been a little bit too short for me. It took me a long time to shake off the worsts effect of Belfast. I suspect the concrete surface there has done a number on my leg muscles. The subsequent training was interrupted by a succession of little niggles, never anything serious but it all added up to the fact that I now feel undertrained.

I guess I'll put the theory to the test that you don't need much base training once you have accumulated a certain number of miles and years. It's very hard to predict what I'm capable of in Albi because the training has been so different to anything I've done before. When I look at my pace / heart rate numbers I get nervous because those numbers do look awful. On the other hand, running at 24 hour race pace feels very natural to me now, which has to count on something. With some input from the coach regarding pacing strategy and nutrition I might be able to squeeze some extra improvements out of me, so let's see.

I'm definitely looking forward to putting on the white top with red stripes again. It is an incredible honour to be picked to represent your country at international championships; this will never get old.

Obviously training is only ticking over now. Friday was remarkable inasmuch as it was the first run where I did not feel my knee at all. Unfortunately on Saturday morning I bent down to pet our dog and must have done the same thing to it once more because I've felt it again ever since, though at a much lesser degree. It does support my theory that I hurt it originally by bending down repeatedly in Tralee, but it also means that it is slow to heal and won't be 100% by Saturday. It is what it is; since running doesn't seem to aggravate it I just have to hope that the same will still hold when running for well over 100 miles.

Anyway, the knee held up just fine on Saturday, including when I did some strides, and it did not stop me from feeling really good on Sunday's 13 mile run. This was the first run in the entire training cycle where I felt like effortlessly floating along. A bit late it may be but that's not a bad state to get into one week before race day.
14 Oct
5+ miles, 47:35, 9:25 pace, HR 131
15 Oct
6 miles, 54:22, 9:03 pace, HR 136
   with strides
16 Oct
13 miles, 1:50:01, 8:27 pace, HR 143

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Golden Oldies

First of all, massive congratulations to my mate Svein Tuft on yet another world championship medal, proving once more that age is just a number, not a limiter - something I am very keen to remind myself of from time to time.

Equally big congratulations go to Dave Brady on completing his 600th marathon. If you have run a handful of marathons in Ireland it is absolutely inevitable that you have run into Dave, who also happens to be an even better gentleman than runner.

Back on my home patch, training is tapering obviously. The knee has settled down well enough. It's gotten to the stage where I generally don't feel it any more but on a couple of occasions when running I can just about get the slightest hint of an issue and during my yoga class on Monday I found it impossible to sit on my knees (so I didn't). My yoga teacher thinks it could actually be the hamstrings rather than the knee itself, though I have no way to be certain. Anyway, I'm increasingly optimistic that it won't be an issue in Albi - apart from the interruption to my training.

The coach wants me to rest on Monday but since I hadn't done any training that would require resting from I decided to head out anyway. I took our new dog, a beautiful and very well behaved Labrador, out for a run but it turns out her stamina needs work - she got tired very quickly (and I was running exceptionally slowly even by my recent standards!) and was knackered when I brought her back home after just a mile.

Tuesday and Wednesday were very easy, and Thursday I did one last speed workout, 9 days from Albi, which is pretty standard stuff. The plan said 3 times 5 minutes at 10k effort, which is a mellow enough workout, the biggest problem being not having a clue what my 10k pace is at the moment. I settled at 6:30-6:40 pace, but then again I ran the workout entirely on feel rather than looking at the watch, so I'm not sure why I even bothered to think about the pace beforehand.

The most important thing is, the knee behaved fine throughout. I very slightly felt it on two occasions but that's it, and I'm happy about that. The other details are that I ran 6:53 / 6:34 / 6:42 pace respectively. That's rather uneven pacing but my reasoning is that the first one is almost always slow as I'm still warming up (despite running over 3 miles of actual warm-up in this case) and the third one contained a 180-degree turn, which inevitably slowed me down. Or maybe that's just an excuse. It doesn't matter, training is done now and all that's left is wait until race day arrives (well, that and preparing mentally and finalising the race plan and actually getting myself to France ...)

10 Oct
3+ miles, 31:54, 9:58 pace, HR 127
11 Oct
7 miles, 1:06:30, 9:30 pace, HR 137
   with strides
12 Oct
4 miles, 38:28, 9:30 pace, HR 132
13 Oct
8 miles, 1:04:08, 8:01 pace, HR 151
   3 x 5 min @ 6:52, 6:34, 6:42

Sunday, October 09, 2016

The Long Weekend

In normal times, a long weekend for me would signify a long run. Not now. This is taper time and like virtually every runner I hate taper time. The long weekend means waiting for the hours to pass, not really knowing what to do with myself. The options are limited as I'm supposed to get as much rest and recovery as possible. With my dodgy knee enforcing an extra long taper this is even worse than usual; I feel tapered already but I've still go another two weeks of this ahead of me.

I also hate the break in the Premier League schedule. This might be really weird for someone presently preparing for an international competition to say but I hate international football, with all the ugly nationalism that it can produce; I have seen some pretty ugly scenes in my time in England and heard otherwise rational and perfectly balanced people making some hair raising statements; going to a club match I never saw any of that nonsense, one visit to Millwall being the notable exception.

Anyway, while I'm whiling away the time I take a look at my schedule and scratching my head why the coach put on a rest day for tomorrow. I haven't done anything recently that would require a rest day! I can't even ask her because she herself is off-grid on a running camp!

I'm really watching my food intake now; I have completely gone off processed sugar once more, which is a highly effective way to shed some pounds without impacting on training and I'm down about 3 pounds already. Another 2 or 3 before Albi would be good, that would put me down to what I regard as my ideal racing weight, below 145 pounds / 65.5 kg / 10st5.

On the short occasions when I'm out running I marvel how natural 9:30 pace has started to feel. I can't even tell if that's a good thing or not. Should I be happy that I am used to running at the pace I will try and hold for many, many hours in Albi, or should I be worried that my natural pace has deteriorated by 2 minutes? I guess I'll find out in France. In the meantime I keep shuffling along, maybe squeeze in one more workout, and mentally steel myself for running in circle for a whole day and night in the company of Europe's best ultra runners.

The knee, you ask? That's 98% fine. I can feel it on the downhills but that's it.

7 Oct
6 miles, 56:25, 9:24 pace, HR 129
8 Oct
5+ miles, 47:25, 9:23 pace, HR 131
9 Oct
10 miles, 1:33:12, 9:19 pace, HR 133

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Getting Over It

Whatever I did to my knee, by last Friday it was already a lot better. To be honest, left to my own devices I would have tried running through it but the coach wasn't having any of that and cut the training right back, which, to be honest, makes a lot more sense so close to the Euros.

Running does not seem to aggravate the knee. However, as it turns out, sitting in a car for 4 hours, driving to Dublin, did. I was feeling rather stiff again on Saturday, and the journey home on Sunday evening wasn't exactly great for it either, so by Monday morning I felt almost back to zero. However, it wasn't quite as bad and it improved markedly day by day. On Wednesday I felt courageous enough to do some strides, more to test the knee than anything else. The stiffness was clearly noticeable when running fast and even more pronounced when decelerating after the strides. But I did not feel any repercussions afterwards and by Thursday morning the only time I felt something slightly off was when running downhill.

I know of course that the issue was caused by running but strangely enough, running then did not seem to aggravate it, Sitting did, in the office chair and even more so in the car. What helped was compression and icing, which I probably should have started earlier rather than waiting for a week. By now this has 98% cleared up and I'd love the coach to put on some miles again in the training plan, though she has given me a bit of leeway anyway.

With the Euros in 2 weeks there isn't much training I can do at this stage, I know that. I am looking at it as a rather long taper and you never know, that might be a good thing anyway.

3 Oct
4 Oct
5+ miles, 49:24, 9:46 pace, HR 131
5 Oct
5+ miles, 48:48, 9:39 pace, HR 134
   with strides
6 Oct
4 miles, 38:35, 9:38 pace, HR 131

Monday, October 03, 2016

The Knee

When I first realised that this knee issue wasn't just going away overnight, I almost had a meltdown. I like to think of myself as a rather grounded and rational person but the thought of an injury 4 weeks before the Euros was a bit too much to bear. Even in the best case scenario I would be missing a good chunk of training and the last thing I wanted was to start yet another ultra in sub-optimal shape.

Anyway, by Thursday morning I knew this was already getting better and the coach told me to keep running, albeit at a much lower mileage than originally planned. The workouts last week were all scrapped and replaced with a few miles of easy running. I looked at the bright side and reckoned it was a good way to dial into 24 hrs pace.

As far as I can tell, running does not aggravate the injury, at least not running at low intensity for an hour or less. The knee feels a bit stiff at the start but settles after a while and there is no additional stiffness afterwards. However, as it turns out, there is one thing that does aggravate the stiffness, and that is sitting in a car for 4 hours when driving to Dublin. That's what I had to do on Saturday morning and when I got to Dublin it felt quite bad again, I did a run to shake out the legs and bought another knee strap in Dublin, and the next day it was fine again. I made sure to wear my knee strap on the drive back home on Sunday evening and that went much better,

The big news is that I think I know what caused the problem in the first place! When I ran the marathon in Tralee last Saturday, I did not have a table for my nutrition so I simply placed it all on the ground, That meant that I had to bend over to the ground almost every 2 laps, about 15 times in all, while running a marathon. My best guess is that this put a bit too much pressure on the knees. I almost got away with it but running for 3 hours on Sunday obviously proved to be too much.

There's nothing I can do to change it but it's a case of lesson learned. Obviously there is no way to be 100% sure that my theory is correct but I'm reasonably certain. It would mean there is no big underlying problem like weak hamstrings or a wrong gait, which comes as a relief. With the knee improving steadily left on my own devices I would ramp up the mileage a lot more but the coach is much more cautious. It basically means I'm on a 4 week taper, which is unlikely to be a big problem. The Euros are most definitely still on!

30 Sep
4 miles, 39:23, 9:50 pace, HR 131
31 Sep
3+ miles, 28:56, 9:18 pace, HR 131
1 Oct
6 miles, 54:29, 9:03 pace, HR 135
2 Oct
8 miles, 1:11:58, 8:58 pace, HR 133