Thursday, March 30, 2017

Rest And Recovery

Maybe it’s crazy, or maybe it’s just a sign how old and boring I have become the last few years, but I was actually much more excited by seeing my HR/pace data on Monday’s recovery run than I was about anything related to Sunday’s race.

TRAPPIST-1 according to Lola
Still, running almost a minute a mile faster for the same HR than I did last October, when I should have been in top form before the European champs, was quite something. Also, remember how I mentioned my VDOT increase in February and how that would make me world class in a few months if it kept climbing at the same rate? Of course I was kidding but the steep rate of improvement actually kept going all the way through March, which puts me into a very nice position with 3 months still to go until Belfast.

I know I have yet to add some long runs, so obviously the hard work still remains to be done but right now things are better than I could have hoped. Late last year I had some serious doubts if I’d ever get back into some decent sort of shape, and now I have started believing again. I’m actually really looking forward to Belfast instead of being worried.

By Wednesday I felt pretty much fully recovered from the race so I went back to 7 miles on Thursday morning. Training has taken a backseat this week, being trumped by recovery, and all workouts have been put on ice until next week, so my return to the Windy Gap has had to wait – not that the weather would have made that run particularly inviting. The joke around here is that we’ve had a lovely summer, hope you enjoyed it. Let’s see how long the rainy season lasts – hopefully not until September again!

27 Mar
5+ miles, 42:01, 8:19 pace, HR 136
28 Mar
5+ miles, 41:08, 8:09 pace, HR 140
29 Mar
5+ miles, 39:17, 7:47 pace, HR 142
30 Mar
7 miles, 55:09, 7:53 pace, HR 141

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Road Racing Fun

"Do the race", he said. "It's going to be fun!" he said.

As I've said a few times, training has been going really well the last couple of months. However, that was with a long ultra race as target in mind - something that doesn't really translate to a 5k race. As such, expectations for today's race were rather low. It was the Kerry road racing championships and the club had asked me to participate with an eye on the masters team standings; however, not for the first time, out fastest runner was required elsewhere . It didn't help that it was Mother's Day, I suppose, though Niamh had voiced no objections (maybe her idea of a relaxing day is getting me out of the house).

The Star of the Laune team
Anyway, apart from not being trained to race a 5k, I had clearly forgotten how to do them. My last 5k race had been - the Kerry championships exactly one year ago! I felt rather sluggish during the warm up and doubts crept in already. However, once the gun sounded I let muscle memory take over and just carry me along.

Apparently my muscles did remember how to race a 5k. Unfortunately, they must have remembered what it was like to race a 5k in under 18 minutes, because that's what the first mile indicated. Since I'm not trained to run at that pace (the fastest workout having been at 7:12 pace), I was completely and utterly cooked after a 5:40 starting mile, even if it may have been slightly net downhill and with the wind on my back. Obviously that meant running the next mile against the wind and uphill, and boy was I in pain already. For a minute or two I had even thought I'd leave John Barrett in my wake, which very quickly turned out to be a very, very stupid idea and I could only watch him pass me and pull away while I was sucking air through a thin straw with someone using a blowtorch on my legs.

For all of the final 4k I continuously expected runners to catch up with me and pull away but while I kept hearing footsteps behind me they always seemed to fall away again. There was a steep hill after about 3.5k which I probably would barely have noticed on an early morning jog but which I thought would kill me off completely but somehow I managed to get over it. Then it was a matter of suffering with each step until I would somehow be taken out of my misery.

"Do the race", he said. "It's going to be fun!" he said.

If he had been there I would have given him an earful! There were still about 2 minutes of torture left when I turned the last corner and climbed yet another hill. Once again I heard footsteps and for a second was prepared to throw in the towel and just let them pass me when the racing instincts kicked in once more and pushed me on, screaming legs be damned. Somehow I managed to keep running until the final line where the timer had just gone past 19 minutes. Blimey, so much torture for such a modest time!

It took me ages to recover until I was finally able to breathe again, just being grateful that I had somehow survived. The average HR hadn't even been that high at 173; I would expect to average close to 180 in a 5k race and yet I could have sworn I had never tortured myself so hard. A few weeks of speedwork would have taken care of that and I'm sure I could take at least a minute off that time, becoming much more efficient at that pace and my brain letting me push the body harder, but I'm not training for a 5k so that's not going to happen.

I, rather unexpectedly, even got some bling out of that torture session, coming second in the M45 category; at least I had something to show for it.

"It's going to be fun!" he said. I'm not sure when I want to have so much fun again.

23 Mar
7 miles, 54:12, 7:44 pace, HR 143
24 Mar
7 miles, 54:24, 7:46 pace, HR 140
25 Mar
12 miles, 1:32:02, 7:40 pace, HR 144
26 Mar
6+ miles
   Kerry County Road racing Champs
   5k, 19:03, 6:12 pace, HR 173, 2nd M45

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Bumpy Heads And Irritating Pets

Yesterday, I walked into a door frame.

I've been living in that house for 13 years and you would think by now I know my way around it with my eyes closed. Well, I thought the doorway was here when in fact it was 10 inches over there and now I have a cut at the top of my right side which might leave a scar; having said that, after seeing the blood I initially thought it might be worse, never mind that it also hurt like hell.

Oh, and I refute all those nasty rumours that it had been Niamh with a rolling pin. Or the frying pan.

Monday and Tuesday were easy 7 milers, which I have done dozens of times this year. There is nothing remarkable about that - except that I posted "better than baseline" HR data for the first time since 22 June 2016 - exactly 9 months ago! That's how long it took me to recover from the 2 24 hour races I did, plus the overtraining that went with it. The numbers have been improving significantly since January and I've got 3 more months to improve them even further - that's an excellent place to be in at the moment.

However, after that bang to the head I was a bit worried about concussion, not least because it would require some time off. But after a good night's sleep I felt perfectly fine on Wednesday morning so I went ahead with my workout: hills once more.

Two weeks ago I had done 4 climbs in Treanmanagh, last week it was 5, so today there were 6 on the program. The first thing I noticed once I hit the steepest part of the first incline was how easy it felt! That often misleading feeling lasted surprisingly long. It wasn't until the third and final loop that I finally felt like working fairly hard but even then I was still pleased how well this was going.

Not the guilty cat
I think I'll head towards Windy Gap next week, as long as it will be bright enough. The clocks are going back on Sunday after all. By some quirky fate, I might be the one person in the entire country who is looking forward to the time changing the most. The reason is one of our damn cats, which starts meowing very loudly right outside our window at 5 o'clock. Almost! Every!! Damn!!! Morning!!!! I don't know how many hours of sleep I've missed due to that creature, enough to put a serious strain on our once beloved relationship (not that the cat cares). However, with the clocks going forward next week I'm reasonably hopeful that she'll start meowing at 6 o'clock instead - which is when I get up anyway.
20 Mar
7 miles, 54:41, 7:49 pace, HR 141
21 Mar
7 miles, 54:38, 7:48 pace, HR 141
22 Mar
11.5 miles, 1:32:38, 8:03 pace, HR 146
   hill workout

Sunday, March 19, 2017


After all those months of nothing but easy running I am actually relishing running a few workouts, even though (or maybe because) this is all still rather mellow and never to the limit. Having said that, the heavy legs from the last 2 days are clearly showing that while the individual workouts themselves aren't that tough, the overall load on the system is pushing it.

I was pleasantly surprised that there was no noticeable DOMS after Wednesday's hills workout. I certainly expected at least some extra discomfort. Is it really feasible that my legs have adapted to hill running so quickly? I know I'm not exactly training on flat roads throughout the year but those hill workouts are definitely on a different scale.

"Cat ate my homework" - for real!
Anyway, the legs felt just a tad heavy on Thursday but certainly a lot better than expected. They felt perfectly fine again on Friday for my Fast Friday workout, with the "fast" bit being rather relative. This time I was back home in Kerry and the wind was howling, so the conditions were a bit more challenging than last week but once you get going you barely notice it. I started off a little bit too fast and it took a while to adjust and slow down but once I got into the zone I really got into the zone. I was so tuned in that I didn't even notice that the 6 miles had already passed and kept going for another 2 or 3 minutes when it finally clicked that I was supposed to be in the cool-down mile already. Overall it was a bit quicker as well as longer than planned but once I tuned into the effort it just seemed to feel right.

For the first time in years we missed the local St. Patrick's Parade. Maia had an altercation with a boy in school the day before and seemed rather reluctant as a result, and when the weather was so miserable on the day itself I wasn't trying too hard to persuade her otherwise. We'll try again next year.

I did pay a price for my slight exuberance during Friday's run in the form of fairly heavy legs on Saturday, which is what happens on back-to-back days when you're getting a bit ahead of yourself on the first day. Mind, it wasn't that bad, I've certainly felt worse. It was just a case of putting one foot in front of the other until it was all done. The legs didn't seem to get any worse during the run though they didn't get better either.

It was still much of the same on Sunday, except for a few miles less. If those gale force winds keep going for much longer I think I'll go nuts, though.

16 Mar
7 miles, 54:53, 7:50 pace, HR 146
17 Mar
9+ miles, 1:08:04, 7:21 pace, HR 151
   incl 6+ miles @ 7:11 pace (HR 157)
18 Mar
11+ miles, 1:25:33, 7:44 pace, HR 147
19 Mar
7+ miles, 53:52, 7:38 pace, HR 146

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Run To The Hills

Ed Whitlock RIP. The legend will be missed.
The weather gods seem to be taking turns at the moment. Saturday morning nice. Sunday morning not nice. Monday morning nice. Tuesday morning not nice. Let's see which deity eventually gets on top of it all (this being Kerry I suspect it's going to be the rain god again). But the temperatures have definitely gone up and it's about time to ditch the gloves again.

The body continues to improve. It basically took me about 3 month to recover from Albi (plus the overtraining that had preceded it) but now things are improving fairly rapidly. There were times when I did wonder if I'd ever be able to run without heavy legs again but that has thankfully been answered by now. Not every day, mind. Tuesday's Yoga legs seem to have become a permanent fixture.

After taking it easy for a few days in a row I headed towards the hills again on Wednesday early morning. Last week I definitely noticed that much of my leg strength had gone missing but today I was very positively surprised how much easier those steep climbs felt already. It was almost back to cruising them on autopilot. I even had an audience when I passed a local farmer looking after his sheep several times on three separate occasions, and he actually gave me some encouragement (well received, I can assure you!). I did 5 climbs this morning, one more than last week, and I'm considering of heading towards Windy Gap next week on the Kerry Way trail. I'll decide later on.

On even more positive news, my car was unexpectedly less damaged than expected and is back at home, ready to be driven again. Oh, and the problem was not Niamh's fault at all (unless she got the mechanic to cover for her). Saves me spending a few thousand Euro I don't have on a replacement!
13 Mar
7 miles, 55:03, 7:51 pace, HR 143
14 Mar
7 miles, 55:20, 7:54 pace, HR 144
15 Mar
11+ miles, 1:29:11, 8:04 pace, HR 151

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Gasket Blown

On Friday it actually happened. Niamh well and truly blew a gasket, with steam coming out everywhere and she looked like she was going to explode. Thankfully in that case it was literal - the car's gasket! Then again - it was actually my car's gasket! Getting an emergency phone call from your wife when you're still almost an hour away isn't that great a situation. I had to go to Dublin for Friday and we swapped cars for the day because I had to transport a sofa and a few boxes that would not have fit into my tiny Ford. I had driven that thing for well over a year and just crossed the 100000k mark on the odometer. You give it to your wife for one single day ...

Ah well. Repair bills (or replacements) do happen. Oh, and the weird thing was, when she phoned the AA for help it happened to be her brother-in-law on the other end of the line. I'm not sure what the odds are in that helpline centre but they cannot be big. Maybe we should have played the lottery that day.

Anyway, the one thing I had been worried about all that driving this week wasn't the fact that Niamh might destroy my car but that the additional stress might have an impact on my training, especially since we have stepped up this week. I had a bit of DOMS on Thursday, which was no surprise after my first hill session of the season but the next day that seemed to almost completely gone already, so I went ahead with Friday's planned workout while in Dublin.

We're doing back-to-back workouts now, though quite different to the long back-to-back runs that would usually be associated with ultra training. Instead I'm doing a few faster miles on Friday (long term readers might remember the "Fast Fridays" from years ago) and a longer run on Saturday, though since we're cranking things up very gradually this was still rather subdued training. The plan for Friday was 5 miles at 7:20 pace with a predicted HR of 155. and I ran 7:15 with a HR of 156. I just got into the zone and hardly ever bothered to check the watch, which felt just right.

Back home again on Saturday (now car-less) I awoke to some unexpected nice weather, a beautiful sunny morning and no wind whatsoever, which was just perfect for a longer run (I can't bring myself to call 13 miles a long run). The legs seemed surprisingly fresh considering Friday's workout and the long hours in the car, and the miles just flew by. I got to mile 12 when I finally started to feel tired, but by that time I could smell the barn. In fact, the last mile was the fastest of the day, which was not intended and came as a bit of a surprise. I guess I really wanted to get home.

Seven miles on Sunday rounded out the week, with the legs a little bit tired from the increased training this week but actually better than I would have expected, even with the blustery wind not exactly helping. Did Saturday's lovely weather really have to disappear quite so soon?
9 Mar
7 miles, 54:41, 7:48 pace, HR 145
10 Mar
8 miles, 1:00:43, 7:35 pace, HR 150
   incl. 5 miles @ 7:16 (HR 156)
11 Mar
13 miles, 1:42:01, 7:50 pace, HR 146
12 Mar
7 miles, 54:32, 7:47 pace, HR 146

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Happy Woman's Day!

Ada Lovelace, the world's first computer programmer.
Like I said on Sunday, this week marks the start of a more focused training phase following months and months of easy running. This early in, I haven't done much yet but so far I'm feeling great.

Sunday's extra miles didn't seem to leave any fatigue in the legs, which confirms my impression right after that run that I had plenty more left in the tank. The most challenging aspects were the outside conditions with a seemingly never-ending gale force wind ably abetted by the occasional heavy rain shower, not exactly my most favourite running weather. The effort level of my easy runs has definitively decreased slightly since I started the occasional workout but the pace continues to stabilise while the HR is dropping - always a good thing.

I started a new kind of workout on Wednesday, namely hill running. I'm not going straight up the Windy Gap yet but picked the hilliest road within 2 miles of home I could think of, which happens to be on the same mountain as Windy Gap, albeit on its other side. What was clear from the first time I hit a gradient was that my leg strength isn't quite what it used to be. Obviously that didn't come as a surprise. I went over the hill twice in each direction, on one side it was an at times very steep climb of half a mile for about 200 feet elevation, on the other side it was a more gradual but longer climb of 300 feet elevation over a mile. Initially I was ambitious enough to try a strong steady pace for a minute or two going right over the top but on the second half I was content just to make it over the hill without a major crisis.

I did have a bit over a mile to spare for today's planned distance which I could have used for one extra climb on the steep side but decided that I had probably pushed my luck already for a first hill outing and headed for home and added a much flatter out-and-back instead.

Let's see how the legs will like this tomorrow and Friday!
6 Mar
7 miles, 57:09, 8:10 pace, HR 142
7 Mar
7 miles, 55:32, 7:55 pace, HR 145
8 Mar
10 miles, 1:24:06, 8:24 pace, HR 149
   hill run

Sunday, March 05, 2017

And So It Begins

Belfast is 17 weeks from now. After a few months of slowly, slowly rebuilding after it all had come crushing down in Albi, I am now moving into the next training phase. I was really pleased with my progress in February and now we're pushing it to the next level. As always, this will require to have an eye on recovery - if I cannot recover from my training it won't do any good (something I definitely saw last year).

Relaxing, Labrador style
I took it easy after Wednesday's evaluation and the legs soon felt recovered but my back was a bit stiff on Thursday. While I did wonder what was going on I did not take too much notice. It was still the same on Friday morning but it got really bad during the office day and at times I did grimace when getting out of my chair when the muscle seemed to go into spasms. I also slept very badly that night because every time I moved the back would spasm and invariably wake me up. The problem area is on the left side of my back at the lower end of the rib cage. Putting some warm pad on the area seems to provide some temporary relief but overall this is a bit troubling.

I'm pretty sure this isn't running related. Running does not aggravate it, though I do feel it at times. The coach suspects the yoga, I suspect carrying a 10kg bag of dog food as the culprit. Niamh wants me to have it seen but, being an idiot (as in "male"), I'm inclined to give it a few days to see if it improves all on its own first. Sitting in the car for a few hours yesterday was unlikely to have helped, though.

Anyway, I awoke on Sunday morning to rather wild and unwelcoming conditions. Checking the forecast seemed to indicate that the rain might lessen in a few hours but the wind would pick up, which made this a tricky choice. I really did not fancy 90 minutes on the treadmill so I waited a bit for the worst of the rain to subside and headed out. I got about 200 metres down from our driveway when encountering a massive fallen tree across the road but managed to climb over it. Looks like it really had been windy through the night! The rest of the road was clear, thankfully, and I went to my usual bad-weather option on the Ard-na-Sidhe road. Running the same stretch of road forwards and back isn't all that stimulating but I got into autopilot mode and just cruised through it. I was surprised how easy it felt, even after 11 miles, my longest run in ages, I had plenty left in the tank despite the wind and rain making things interesting at times.

And so it begins.

2 Mar
7 miles, 55:58, 8:00 pace, HR 144
3 Mar
8 miles, 1:04:52, 8:06 pace, HR 142
4 Mar
7 miles, 54:28, 7:46 pace, HR 150
5 Mar
11 miles, 1:27:20, 7:56 pace, HR 149

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

The Flow

Another week, another evaluation. Is it just my advanced age or is time really flying?

Following the twin storms last week the temperatures tumbled, just when I thought I was more or less done with winter. It's now bright enough in the mornings to leave the headlamp behind but it was cold enough the freeze the fingers inside my thin gloves on Monday.

Never mind, I like it cold. I just don't like cold rain showers - which, of course, were in store a couple of times as well.

I think 9 miles on the treadmill were slightly easier on the body than 9 miles on the road because the legs and the numbers were both surprisingly good on Monday. Tuesday was different, though at least the legs weren't quite as sore as the shoulders after the yoga teacher had let her sadistic streak shine through. It was a bit surreal, though - on the way to class I was listening to Queens Of The Stone Age's Go With the Flow, only for the teacher to announce that today we were going to try out "flow yoga". I'm not normally subjected to premonitions. Anyway, Tuesday's run was almost exactly the same pace as Monday's but with the HR 4 beats higher. I reckon the yoga had added 2 beats and the biting wind another 2 but that's just a wild guess.

And then it was evaluation day again. Early in the warm up I saw the HR in the 130, which I had not seen in a very long time, but of course I then had to raise it for the eval itself.
        Mile 1    6:58   HR 161
        Mile 2    7:06   HR 161
        Mile 3    7:12   HR 161
        Mile 4    7:06   HR 161
        Recovery to HR 130: 46 seconds

I'm getting a bit quicker and the 4th mile looks pretty good, though I can't quite explain why the 3rd one was so much slower. Actually, the pace during the 4th mile came as a major surprise because I had definitely started to feel the effort by then, something that's not usually the case during an eval. The recovery time to 130 was rather slow, probably reflecting the same issue. But, all in all, this is pointing towards improvement.

I think I'll move the evaluation back to Thursday in the coming weeks. The legs weren't quite there yet and I'm sure they would have been perfectly fine had I waited until tomorrow.

27 Feb
7 miles, 55:20, 7:54 pace, HR 144
28 Feb
7 miles, 55:25, 7:55 pace, HR 148
1 Mar
8 miles, 1:01:28, 7:40 pace, HR 152
   incl. 4 mile eval: 6:58, 7:06, 7:12, 7:06; 46 sec recovery