Saturday, December 31, 2016

All That's Left

This is the time when people usually look back at the year that was. As much as I'm usually  a non-conformist, this time round my view seems to be in tune with the general vibe - 2016 was one shite year!

That's certainly true as far as running is concerned; I had 3 targets for the year and missed them all. The one I got closest to was the sub-3 marathon in Manchester but I missed that by a minute. I'm pretty sure I would have gotten it had I not run the Tralee marathon a month before, but then again that would have meant not getting an age group win in my local marathon, which almost made up for it.

My main target was the 24 hours, however, and my 2 races were disappointing (Belfast) and abysmal (Albi). There's just no other way of looking at it. Right now that has me at 186th in the world rankings (with possibly one or two more results to be added, so that could drop further), which is my lowest ranking in a while.

The third goal was the Spartathlon, which I ended up not even doing because of Albi,

Good riddance, 2016. Seriously,

I'd love to say good riddance to that cold I've been nursing as well, though that might take a bit longer. I've reached the state where I don't feel it at all any more in normal circumstances but it's still noticeable when I'm running, mostly because it's causing my HR to go sky high. I started to ignore the HRM completely - it shows in the data! But my legs are perfectly fine and I have no issues recovering from those runs. I do wish I could go out and start proper training but right now I'm grateful I'm able to run at all - the rest will follow, eventually.

29 Dec
4 miles, 33:29, 8:22 pace, HR 158
30 Dec
5+ miles, 41:38, 8:14 pace, HR 155
31 Dec
5+ miles, 41:21, 8:11 pace, HR 156

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

In Sickness And In Health

So, I took 5 days off entirely. The only time I felt rotten was Monday evening, and that was most likely because I was exhausted from the long journey back to Kerry. Following that I felt better with each day but I had a pretty bad cough and there was some pressure in the middle of my chest, so that violated the "neck rule" and I did not run.

I was back on the road on the 24th, but that was just a 2 mile test run to see how that would go. The answer was that the legs and lungs felt perfectly fine but the HR was very high, though then again that would always be high after 5 days of no running. I didn't run on Christmas Day because it was Christmas Day and because the weather was lousy and because you don't have to force yourself outside when the weather is lousy and you are still nursing a cold and you would rather spend some time with your wife and kids.

Thankfully the weather had improved significantly by St. Stephen's Day, though obviously I skipped the race in Farranfore as well as the Goal Mile. Instead I jogged for 4 miles; the legs felt good once more but the HR was alarmingly high, though that was in no way a reflection of the easy effort. I tried the same again on Tuesday, giving myself the option of 5 miles but with the HR again so high I kept it at 4 miles.

It was groundhog day on Wednesday because, you guessed it, the effort was easy but the HR was really high. I decided to completely ignore the HR and just run at whatever effort seemed right and natural.

I have been told by someone who knows this a lot better then than I do that the way you recover from a workout tells you a lot more about your fitness than the workout itself. That's how I look at the last few runs, I have no problems recovering. I don't feel tired at all and the legs don't even notice that I have just been out for a run, and if I had to do the same run again straight away I wouldn't even bat an eyelid at the thought.

The cold is still with me, still getting better a bit every day but still with a cough and with some restriction in my chest, though that isn't really noticeable any more during the day, By this stage is merely an annoyance than a hindrance. Then again, who knows - the fact that it kept me off my feet a bit longer might be a benefit regarding my overtraining.

24 Dec
2 miles, 17:28. 8:39 pace, HR 147
26 Dec
4 miles, 34:50. 8:42 pace, HR 153
27 Dec
4 miles, 34:14. 8:33 pace, HR 156
28 Dec
4 miles, 33:39. 8:22 pace, HR 157

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Vienna Calling

 As you might know, I'm running international championships for Austria, the reason being that they're the ones who issued my passport. However, I've been living in Ireland for longer than I can remember and the other thing you might know is that Ireland is quite a way away from Austria. The long distance between myself and the rest of the team isn't exactly ideal. Outside of races I have very little contact with the other runners or the team manager, so I do try to make it to the occasional team meeting. One such meeting was on this weekend, and consequently I made my way across the continent (getting dead cheap flight tickets helped).

I arrived there on Friday afternoon and on Saturday morning made my way across town to the meeting. The first item on the agenda was a lactate test. I wasn't sure if there was much point in doing one, seeing as I was still in my regeneration phase rather than in training, but the team physio disagreed. The next worry was that running faster than 8-minute miles would be challenging. I would then have to speed up even more for the last lap, but that fear proved to be groundless. The test had us run 2 laps around the park for just over one mile, then have our ears pricked, and then run again but faster, for a total of 5 goes. The last mile was at sub-7 pace, which I thought would be really hard but in actual fact felt really good - I was tempted to add a sixth lap just for the hell of it but thought the better of it, and the physio agreed.

After lunch we sat down for a talk about training for the world championships in Belfast, which I partook in a slightly detached mode as I really don't think I'll be able to start "proper" training in a week. We never really talked about the disappointing performance in Albi, where only one of us had a decent race; I guess we all knew it wasn't good enough.

Then we headed out for an evening run, When the question came up if we should go for a 10 or 12k loop I immediately went for 10 because of coach's orders, though since this was the second run of the day I knew I was taking liberties as it was. Ah well. At least I felt really good during the run.

Sunday was another team run, and while everyone joined up for a 2-2,5 hours jog I announced that I was going to turn around after 5k because my coach had forbidden me from running more than 10. I deflected the question why I was so worried to defy an absent coach with the observation that there are 2 people in my life I have learned never to contradict, and MC was the other one. Simple fact is, every time I thought I knew better I learned sooner or later that I don't, and overstepping the mark 2 days in a row was unlikely to be a good idea.

I was actually surprised by how easy that rather talented group of runners took it during those runs. I have run with some of them before, and on that occasion supposed 8:30 pace had quickly turned into 7:30, but not so this time.

However, despite the (relative) restraint I awoke in the middle of the following night with a splitting headache, a sore throat and a stuffed nose, and sleep for the rest of the night was fitful. I felt a little better the next morning, which was good because I had the long journey back home on the program. I managed that reasonably well but once I was home I had spent all my energy and more or less collapsed on the bed, feeling absolutely rotten.

Maybe it was indeed the extra run, maybe it was the fact that I could not get changed after Sunday's run for half an hour in the freezing cold, maybe I had already brought a cold with me, maybe it was the shock of significantly lower temperatures in Vienna, or maybe it was a combination of all that. Anyway, I'm actually better already, just one day later, so this is going to pass quickly. I'll start running again whenever it feels right. Not tomorrow, though.
14 Dec
6 miles, 53:38, 8:54 pace, HR 140
15 Dec
5 miles, 40:03, 8:01 pace, HR 153
17 Dec
am: 5+ miles, 43:59, 8:07 pace, HR 150, lactate test
pm: 6+ miles, 57:32, 8:35 pace, HR 145
18 Dec
6+ miles, 56:28, 9:10 pace, HR 148

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Up And Down

Our Labrador, Millie, wants to be learn all about the others pets in the house
Well, I guess some things are never going to progress in a perfectly smooth line, and training is one of them. The last few days are completely my own fault. Up to last weekend I had been very disciplined about turning off the screens at 10 o'clock and going to bed not much later. Recently I've let things slide and now I'm feeling a bit tired and a lot less recovered all of a sudden. Sleep is so important for an athlete, and while I might have gotten away with things when I was younger that's clearly no longer the case. It does show in the numbers.

On Saturday morning my HRM stopped working after a mile, which is a bit of a shame because I'm pretty sure I would have posted my best numbers since my comeback - not that it matters, the training effect is the only thing that matters, but I'm a numbers geek and a nice figure in my spreadsheets would have been nice.

I felt a bit tired on Sunday (see first paragraph) and made sure to take it very easy, and I kept it to 4 miles. I felt a lot better on Monday morning. In fact, I was marvelling how well and effortlessly I was moving all of a sudden and how well that recovery program is kicking in. I was in high spirits, until I reached the 3 mile mark and turned around and realised that the return journey would be against the wind. Damn! I felt a lot slower on the way home.

Tuesday morning I was tired, again (see first paragraph, again) and once more kept it short and easy. This time I also resolved to get bedtime under control again. I'll need someone to send me to bed, I think. Jesus, I've mentally regressed back to childhood already (that said, Niamh insists I never left that stage in the first place).

10 Dec
6 miles, 50:12, 8:22 pace
11 Dec
4+ miles, 35:18, 8:43 pace, HR 141
12 Dec
6 miles, 50:43, 8:27 pace, HR 150
13 Dec
4 miles, 35:20, 8:50 pace, HR 143

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Runners' OCD

I've always been an OCD kind of person, always following certains pattern and always a bit slow to adapt to changed surroundings. That has advantages and disadvantages; if you needed a creative person on your team I was unlikely to fill that role but if you needed someone who just got on with things I was bound to shine.

Running suited me down to the ground as a sport. I might not have the fast twitch fibres to make it as a sprinter, or even to be able to outsprint a rival on the line, but the training day in day out just came to me naturally. Get up in the morning, every morning, no matter the weather, no problem. Come up with a plan on how to handle distance running and still be able to get to work every time, no problem.

Stick to it - absolutely no problem. I've read, several times, that the average person can hold their interest in a particular subject for 6 months. That's fine if you want to tick running a marathon off your bucket list but if you want to get good at running, really good, you better be prepared to spend the next 10 years of your life making this a priority.

I was made for that kind of stuff.

In the same vein as I have followed my path to international standard I am now following the same pattern when recovering from overtraining, Run 3/4/5 miles or 35/45 minutes a day, okay, no problem. I just get on with it.

From today on I can push it a bit further, to 6 miles. I immediately got a bit carried away and ran a bit too fast, but as long as I can recover from day to day I'm good. Since I'm feeling pretty good these days I think I got away with it. If I'm a good boy, Santa will bring me an extra mile for Christmas. Woohoo!
6 Dec
4 miles, 34:44, 8:39 pace, HR 149
7 Dec
4.1 miles, 35:50, 8:43 pace, HR 146
8 Dec
6.1 miles, 50:00, 8:15 pace, HR 150

Monday, December 05, 2016

Peanut Bliss Balls

100g flaked almonds
50g Brazil nuts
50g cashew nuts
3 tbsp pumpkin seeds
50g dried berries
4 tbsp coconut oil
4 tbsp honey
4 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

1. Blend all dry ingredients in a food processor
2. Melt coconut oil, honey, peanut butter and vanilla and mix in the dry ingredients
3. Put in fridge for 1-2 hours
4. roll into shape, about a dozen balls
5. back in fridge for 1 hour

They're dead easy to make and only require a couple of minutes' work. I have used those as nutrition in Belfast and Albi, and will most likely use them again. They taste very nice and go down well even late in a race. Since there are no perishable ingredients they can be kept outside the fridge for the duration of even a very long race, though they soften when not cooled. Recipe by Aoife Tanner via Cian Bubendorfer.

"Training" is going reasonably well. Running 4 or 5 miles is short enough for my still compromised system to handle and I am finishing each and every run in the knowledge that I could turn around and do the same run again immediately if someone told me to. And I'm prepared to be patient.

3 Dec
4 miles, 33:25, 8:20 pace, HR 149
4 Dec
4 miles, 34:48, 8:39 pace, HR 145
5 Dec
5+ miles, 43:47, 8:39 pace, HR 147

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Level Up

I started creating a post about how I had gotten myself into an overtrained state but now I'm not sure if I even want to finish writing it; I'd much rather concentrate on the present rather than dwell too much in the past. I pretty much know where I have gone wrong (hint: it wasn't just one thing in isolation, it was a range of factors working together and an inadequate response from my side), I think I have an idea on how to correct it and I'll keep monitoring the situation, this time with a much more fine-tuned sensor on stress and recovery.

I've now been back running for two weeks. Very limited running that is, my weekly total was just 23 miles in the first 7 days (including one off day), so I do hope that this is easy enough not to overwork my compromised system.

Honestly, I think the signs are good. The numbers are going up, and on Wednesday they jumped up an entire level. They're still worlds below what I like to think of as "normal" but nevertheless that's definite progress. More importantly, I do enjoy every single step. That's definitely a plus. However, there is also a potential problem: I've always been told that not wanting to train would be big red flag with regards to overtraining and since that flag never showed up I ended up underestimating how serious this problem had become.

Anyway, I'm running with a bit more effort the last couple of days, upgrading from "recovery" to "easy" runs, which really is my natural state - this is the effort I would be running almost every day if I didn't follow a training program and would just do whatever I felt like. I like that effort level - not so slow as to get frustrating and not so fast as to get exhausting.

This is the first month in the entire year that my VDOT graph is clearly pointing upwards (May had been okay as well, all other months are either jumping up and down or just gradually sliding down). Admittedly, I was coming from such a low starting point after my break that up was the only real way to go.

Still, so far so good.

28 Nov
3.8 miles, 35:05, 9:13 pace, HR 143
29 Nov
4.5+ miles, 40:00, 8:48 pace, HR 148
30 Nov
4.1 miles, 35:01, 8:32 pace, HR 145
1 Dec
5.2 miles, 45:11, 8:41 pace, HR 147