Sunday, February 26, 2017

Doris And Ewen

Even though I'm running the risk of jinxing myself here, I have to say that February has been a great month. After months of rather limited progress the numbers are pointing upwards in a much steeper curve; my VDOT numbers went up by almost 3 points (I'd be world class by autumn if that kept going) and I'm generally feeling a lot better. While I had at least one family member feeling sick at any one time, my own immune system seems to have reached the stage where it can fight off those kind of infections without me even noticing.

"No more animals" I said. "No more stupid names" I said.
"Welcome Noodle" they said.
The evaluation on Wednesday wasn't great; how much of that was down to the wind and the slightly undulating road is open to question but I could tell straight away that the legs weren't quite right, so it definitely wasn't just down to external circumstances. On the plus side, and that's a big plus, this time there did not seem to be any soreness after that workout. I know the evaluation is a rather moderate workout (in fact, that's the very reason why I'm doing it weekly - I could not cope with strenuous workouts yet) but the previous 2 weeks I could definitely feel it in the legs subsequently. Not so this time, which I take as another great sign - my recovery is definitely improving.

On Saturday I ran the fastest "easy" run in a very long time. Thing is, I could have sworn I ran about 8-minute pace. Last Sunday I had run a bit fast but kind of knew that I was putting in a tad too much effort at times. Not so yesterday - this was a genuine easy effort all the way,

Ireland was visited by storm Doris on Thursday (the very reason why I had moved the evaluation to Wednesday), but that had mostly by-passed Kerry and what was visiting us was mostly gone already by the time I got up. It was a bit different on Sunday when storm Ewen made its way across the island, and this time I took the "gone old and soft" option and ran 9 miles on the treadmill instead. I think that was my longest treadmill run ever, though I can't be bothered to check back. And I managed to catch up on my downloaded episodes at the same time,

Anyway, the legs are definitely feeling good.

23 Feb
7 miles, 56:02, 8:00 pace, HR 147
24 Feb
8 miles, 1;03:46, 7:58 pace, HR 145
25 Feb
7 miles, 53:28, 7:38 pace, HR 151
26 Feb
9 miles, 1:12:30, 8:03 pace, HR 145

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Aguero Scores Again

As soon as I finished Sunday's run and saw the pace on the watch I knew there would have to be some payback. As much as I wish for it, my recovery still isn't anywhere near where it used to be and, sadly, 9 miles at 7:42 pace isn't something I just recover from overnight yet.

Monday was still somewhat ok but I could definitely feel the effects on Tuesday. Mind, it wasn't only Sunday's run, I also had Tuesday's customary post-yoga legs, and the fact that I was fighting gale force winds didn't exactly help.

In light of that it probably wasn't the best week to move the evaluation to Wednesday but there is a storm warning for Thursday, and one of the lessons from the past I actually remember is that there is no point to an evaluation when you're almost blown off the road with each step.

I knew straight away that the legs weren't at their best and it didn't come as a surprise that the numbers were a bit worse than last week. It wasn't exactly the calm before the storm either; in fact it was windy enough to make me move the evaluation to a different section of road. It was a bit more sheltered there and the wind came mostly from the side but it wasn't as flat as I would have liked. Ah well, running is an outdoors sport and dealing with the weather conditions is part of the game.

I had one more slight handicap. Last night I was watching the Champions League match at the Etihad, which was a good move, really, as it was the most exciting match in the history of the competition, but I paid for it by banging my knee against the coffee table when Aguero scored. I was afraid it would swell up but thankfully that didn't happen. It still felt stiff the next morning (in fact, it still does now) but out on the road I didn't even notice it.
        Mile 1    7:04   HR 161
        Mile 2    7:10   HR 162
        Mile 3    7:17   HR 161
        Mile 4    7:21   HR 161
        Recovery to HR 130: 45 seconds

That's worse than last week but, as mentioned, entirely expected. We'll see how it progresses. If I could change one thing about my training last week I'd slow down on Sunday. Overall, though, that's not that big a deal.

20 Feb
7 miles, 56:31, 8:04 pace, HR 142
21 Feb
7 miles, 56:03, 8:00 pace, HR 149
22 Feb
8 miles, 1:01:26, 7:40 pace, HR 154
   incl. 4 mile eval: 7:04, 7:10, 7:17, 7:21; 45 sec recovery

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Progress Is Good

I think I've been on a bit of a high this weeks because after months and months of rather limited progress my fitness finally seems to be taking off. Not only did I post some impressive improvements in Thursday's evaluation, every run now is faster than a week or two ago with a lower HR and also a slightly lower effort.

The Oscar for cutest kitten goes to ...
I'll try and not get carried away just yet. I still haven't run double digits miles and just this morning (Sunday) I ran a bit faster than I should have. The fresh legs as well as the wind and rain made me do it (ok, that really is a lousy excuse). I got a bit of a reminder yesterday that recovery still isn't back to where it used to be when for the first 20 minutes of my run I kept wondering why there was no zip in the legs, until I remembered that evaluation on Thursday and this was obviously payback time. Having said that, it was a lot better than the week before and the legs came round during the run.

Maia is just about recovered from a cold. She had a temperature and missed three days of school. The impact on me was that she insisted on sleeping in mommy's bed, which meant I was exiled to the sofa. What I did not expect was sleeping incredibly well on that sofa, so much so that I would almost be tempted to make it my regular sleeping habit - alas, that wouldn't go down well with Niamh, so better not. Then Lola invited an entire pack of friends for a sleepover, and all the good sleep was wiped out in one go. Seven teenagers in one spot really do make a lot of noise until very, very late. Ah, the joys of parenting.

You know what? I can't wait until my next run. This stuff is great!
17 Feb
7 miles, 55:30, 7:55 pace, HR 143
18 Feb
7 miles, 54:43, 7:49 pace, HR 146
19 Feb
9 miles, 1:09:21, 7:42 pace, HR 151

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Evaluating Progress

Usually I would be doing an evaluation every fortnight but for now we decided to go for a weekly session. The purpose is not so much to evaluate my form more often but to provide a moderate stimulus after all the easy running I've been doing, while still keeping an eye on my recovery and capacity for recovery.

Last week I did have some sore legs after the evaluation, so there is a definite need to be careful. On the other hand I managed to bounce back very well, so thing s are definitely improving. For the first few days of the week I seem to have settled into a slightly lower effort level with the HR distinctly lower than previously but somehow I'm still running 8-minute miles. Keep in mind that I'm not using my watch to guide the effort - I always run at whatever level comes naturally and only ever check the watch after arriving back home.

I had considered moving the evaluation to Wednesday but had my usual post-yoga legs on Tuesday and first wanted to make sure I had recovered and left it for Thursday.

Again, I used my old Garmin 310 for the evaluation. The Suunto seems to have issues with recognising u-turns and tends to cut off a few seconds each time. That's not a problem when running 7 miles with one u-turn in the middle but when you're doing an evaluation that consists of running half a mile each way four times then 2 u-turns per mile do add up and the Suunto data just doesn't seem to be very accurate in that respect.

Anyway, the Garmin's numbers came up as:
        Mile 1    7:03   HR 162
        Mile 2    7:13   HR 162
        Mile 3    7:10   HR 162
        Mile 4    7:11   HR 162
        Recovery to HR 130: 39 seconds

I had to promise not to focus too much on the numbers but they did make me happy nevertheless as they are so much better than last week it's hard to believe that there are only 7 days between the 2 workouts - faster, much more even and with a significantly faster recovery time. Now, if I had learned to run by just 1 single heart beat per minute less it would have been almost perfect.

13 Feb
7 miles, 56:44, 8:06 pace, HR 144
14 Feb
7 miles, 56:21, 8:03 pace, HR 145
15 Feb
7 miles, 55:58, 7:59 pace, HR 144
16 Feb
8 miles, 1:00:58, 7:37 pace, HR 156
   incl. 4 mile eval: 7:03, 7:13, 7:10, 7:11; 39 sec recovery

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Slowly, Slowly

Having come back slowly from my overtraining, I had forgotten what it feels like to run on sore legs. I did get a reminder after Thursday's workout, moderate as it had been. Friday was still okay, just a little bit of heaviness in the legs but that's okay.

I made the error on Saturday of starting too fast. Granted, a 7:35 mile isn't exactly devastating pace but I always use the first mile as my warm up and it tends to be the slowest mile of the day, but for some reason my effort gauge was off that day. That's alway a potential problem when you run by feel without consulting the watch, I guess. By mile 2 I already started to feel the effort and dialled it back a bit but by the time I hit the turnaround point and now felt the icy northeasterly wind in my face I wished I had taken it a bit easier to start with.

I was only 3.5 miles from home so obviously I made it back without any real problems, but it did serve as a reminder of what the legs can feel like when you're in training.

By Sunday all was fine again and I did extend the run by another mile to 9. Woohoo. I battled the same conditions as on Saturday with an icy cold wind from Scandinavia making things a bit more interesting but as long as it remains dry it can stay like that as far as I'm concerned. Extending the run also gave me an extra decent sized hill, which is definitely a good thing.

Slowly, slowly, we're turning up the training load. It's 4 and a half months until Belfast, still plenty of time to get some endurance back into the old body.
10 Feb
7 miles, 56:23, 8:03 pace, HR 146
11 Feb
7 miles, 54:33, 7:47 pace, HR 151
12 Feb
9 miles, 1:11:51, 7:59 pace, HR 148

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Analyse This

I don't think anyone can accuse me of being impatient during the present training cycle. After taking a month off late in October I started back on 19 November and for almost 3 months I have done nothing but easy running, the lactate test with the team being the one exception, and I wouldn't have done that one if left to my own devices.

This morning, after almost 3 months of jogging it felt pretty good to do a workout for once. A modest one of course. The evaluation workout is MC's preferred method to test training progress, and apart from providing a baseline of my present state of fitness it also should have provided me with a modest stimulus that will hopefully be felt in the near future.

The last month had been going very well and the numbers had finally shown signs of going noticeably upwards, despite me being hampered by a succession of mild colds. It therefore seemed safe enough to crank up the dial, if only very slightly.

The evaluation workout consists of a warm up and then 4 miles of holding the heart rate as steady as possible at 161 (that's for me, with a max HR of about 190). Then you come to a complete stop and measure how long it takes for the HR to recover to 130.

Because my Suunto Ambit 2, while being a very fine running watch in almost every other aspect, isn't particularly good with workouts, I dug out my battered old Garmin 310 for the morning (in fact, I wore both). I had two sources of slight stress: one, to remember to press the correct buttons on the Garmin at the appropriate times, which I just about managed with a few minor hickups along the way, and two, not to go into complete meltdown when analysing the numbers and comparing them to what they used to be like when I was in good shape (and younger).

Well, it ended up as follows:
        Mile 1    7:06   HR 161
        Mile 2    7:16   HR 162
        Mile 3    7:18   HR 162
        Mile 4    7:28   HR 162
        Recovery to HR 130: 53 seconds

Actually, considering the last few months that could have been worse. It was not the slowest evaluation I have ever done (close), it wasn't the biggest difference between the first and the last mile (close), but it was indeed the longest recovery time since records began (close). The idea now is to repeat the process and see the numbers improve as training progresses. If they don't then I'll have to change things, obviously. That's why you evaluate stuff, for objective feedback. It's preferable to guessing.

One quirky note: my fastest mile of the day was actually the second "warm up" mile because I had to work to get my HR up to 161. Usually I would have done 4 miles of warming up to enable me to gradually increase the HR but that would have resulted in too long a run. I'll have to tweak that format.
6 Feb
7 miles, 55:32, 7:55 pace, HR 151
   Super Bowl induced sleep deprivation
7 Feb
7 miles, 58:59, 8:25 pace, HR 144
   Feeling a bit under the weather
8 Feb
7 miles, 55:24, 7:54 pace, HR 147
9 Feb
7 miles, 53:52, 7:38 pace, HR 156
   incl. 4 mile eval: 7:06, 7:16, 7:18, 7:28; 53 sec recovery

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Some People

World Record holder
Did you know there are world records for running long distances in full fireman gear? I happen to know the guy who owns the world record for running a marathon in full gear. Incidentally, I was running the same marathon at the time and remember passing him at mile 17. Even more incidentally, I also know the guy who held the record before Alex broke it.

And if that's not mad enough, as of yesterday I also know the guy who has the world record for running 100k in full fireman gear, which now stands at 15:10. If you think that's a bit slow, he took over 7 hours off the previous record. And if you think those are meaningless gimmicks, well, I know where you're coming from but I can assure you that both world record holders are serious runners at international level. Anyway, Congratulations, Andi!

My own running isn't quite at record level right now but it is clearly improving, despite being slightly hampered by yet another annoying cold. Niamh had it a few days ago and now it's my turn. I had a sore throat during the week which was barely noticeable but now I can feel a slight restriction in my chest and my energy levels aren't quite there, though my resting HR is fine and my running HR is actually improving, so it can't be that bad.

The temperatures have dropped towards zero again but I can handle that pretty well (better than my car by the looks of it). It's only when it's mixed with icy cold rain and wind that I don't like it, not that it stops me from running.

My sleep pattern has slipped again; after being quite disciplined at going to bed early for a few weeks my resolve has started to slide again and I can feel the difference straight away. That needs to be sorted out asap, the effect of too little sleep is real and it's not small either. You can forget about marginal gains when you're still yet to get the basics right,

2 Feb
8 miles, 1:03:42, 7:57 pace, HR 153
3 Feb
7 miles, 56:52, 8:07 pace, HR 146
4 Feb
7 miles, 54:15, 7:45 pace, HR 150
5 Feb
8 miles, 1:01:58, 7:44 pace, HR 149

Wednesday, February 01, 2017


On Monday morning, my legs felt heavy.

Last year that would not have been unusual. My legs felt heavy basically all the way from July to September (not that I admitted it, even to myself at the time).

But this year has been different. Apart from a few post-yoga Tuesdays I have felt pretty good on most of my runs, so this was notable. I presume it had something to do with running 8 miles instead of 7 twice that week but that was such a small increase in load that I would not have expected a noticeable impact. I sure never felt tired after any run and an 8 mile run felt exactly the same as a 7 mile run.

Things were still a little bit off on Tuesday, though this could have been the yoga again. But it was enough to keep the mileage at 7 on Wednesday instead of the 8 I had originally planned.

Crikey, is one single extra mile really worth all that naval gazing? Probably not, so let's move on quickly.

I'm not entirely sure if my throat is slightly sore or if I'm merely imagining it. Either case it's unlikely to be serious and I guess I'll know in a couple of days. The numbers have dipped again, though that's perfectly in line with the usual up-and-down pattern.

Just carry on as usual. That's what makes a runner. Consistency. It's not flashy. But it works.

30 Jan
7 miles, 57:25, 8:12 pace, HR 144
31 Jan
7 miles, 57:17, 8:11 pace, HR 148
1 Feb
7 miles, 56:41, 8:05 pace, HR 149