Sunday, December 30, 2018

A GOAL

Well, that was slow!

I had never run a race shorter than 5K, and while I'm perfectly aware that most people treat the GOAL miles as a walk or maybe an easy jog with the family, I reckoned there would be a few faster guys there as well, keen to get a good workout.

Obviously, opening the kids' presents took precedence. Wait a second, what did they do to get so much? Did the naughty list get lost or something? Anyway, once they had gone through their stacks I jogged the 3 miles to Shanganagh Park, where Dom had organised the event. It might have been better for a fast mile to drive there, but a flat tyre put a stop to that idea, and I probably would have jogged anyway.

They had 3 start times, 9:30/40/50, and while I got there a couple of minutes before the first start I decided to give that a miss and get a bit of a rest before my mile, so the 9:40 one it was. One guy took off at the start and kept inching away, one girl went off fast as well but couldn't keep the pace, so I was in second place for a while until 2 guys passed me about two thirds in, when my oxygen depth started to tell, one of them moving so smoothly that it looked like he was out for an easy morning jog. By that time we just started to catch up with the back end of the first start, and I belatedly realised that I had chosen the worst option because the rest of the mile was spent weaving through the crowds, which made a strong finish impossible, even if I'd had the legs and lungs to do so.

Still, I was in shock when I saw my time, barely under 6 minutes. I had expected maybe 5:30 or so but was worlds away from that, and the crowds had nothing to do with it. I could have sworn I had run as fast as I could, and my cadence of 208 seems to indicate that I definitely wasn't jogging, as does the way I was totally out of breath afterwards, so it comes back to tired old legs, I suppose.

The next day I intended to go out for an easy recovery run but my right glutes felt painfully tight and absolutely not right at all, so when it still had not loosened up after a mile I binned the run and went back home. For once it was the right call, because the next day it was virtually gone.

I don't want to spend much time recapping 2018 as a running year. It was the year when I finally had to admit that my international running career is over, something I might have done in 2017 already but hey. I'm okay with that, as I have stated in an earlier post, I have a lot to look back on with pride and satisfaction, and absolutely no regrets.

I'm not sure what's in store for 2019. My training isn't going great; I managed to rebuild my endurance to the extend that I can jog 20 miles without issue but my easy pace has suddenly slowed by 30-ish seconds a mile and the VDOT numbers in training are barely improving, so something isn't quite right. However, I still enjoy a 10 mile jog as much as I ever did, and that's the most important thing. I never set out to be great runner, 14 years ago I would have been happy just to be able to finish a marathon, and I still got that.

I hope you had a good Christmas, and Happy New Year!
25 Dec
6.63 miles, 56:46, 8:33 pace, HR 140
1 mile, 5:58, HR 166, GOAL mile
26 Dec
1.75 miles, 16:02, 9:10 pace, HR 133
27 Dec
10 miles, 1:23:36, 8:21 pace, HR 144
28 Dec
12 miles, 1:44:58, 8:43 pace, HR 143
29 Dec
10 miles, 1:22:23, 8:12 pace, HR 143
30 Dec
15 miles, 2:02:13, 8:12 pace, HR 145

Monday, December 24, 2018

Happy Solstice

Things are finally starting to show proper signs of improvement but there's still a long way to go. Some days are better than others, but that's already a massive improvement from most days being sh*tty. I am able to run a decent amount of mileage again without feeling banged up, but anything faster than easy pace and I need at least 2 days of recovery, sometimes more.

Most of my runs are easy commutes ones. I managed to run either in or out of work once each day, and then either cycle or take the bus when going the other way. I noticed that I run a lot faster in the evenings, though that comes with a higher HR, so it's not as if I suddenly turn into a more efficient runner in the evenings.

On Saturday I headed towards Shanganagh Park to run about 4 miles at evaluation effort (that's about 160 HR). I was well on my way towards it when I suddenly, and very belatedly, remembered that there would be a parkrun and I would be right in it. I couldn't think of a decent alternative venue (I reckoned the promenade would already be busy) so I kept going but once in the park stayed on the field closest to the road, and where I shared the road with the parkrun I ran right at the outside and stepped into the grass when there was a group approaching. I wouldn't have done that if it were a "proper" race, but a parkrun has to share the path with walkers, prams, dogs and all other folk anyway, so I reckoned one more park user won't make much of a difference.

While I was there a girl doing the parkrun collapsed and was tended to by a few people. One person seemed to take charge and really seemed to know what to do, and after a while they had her sitting up, so I think she will be ok. It took 15-20 minutes for the ambulance to arrive, which is very long considering the hospital is maybe 2 miles down the road, but that also meant most of the parkrun was finished by the time they arrived, which had its advantages.

It was a sobering experience, especially so close to Christmas, and my own running doesn't feel particularly important in comparison. Nevertheless, I was reasonably pleased that I could hold HR 160 without too much issue and the pace seemed to hold very steady (7:00, 7:01, 7:05, 6:58) but with stopping a couple of times due to the mentioned incident that's maybe not all that valid.

Fairycastle. Photo by Anto Lee
You should always mix things up a bit, especially when not training for a particular race and therefore without a specific training plan, so when Anto told me a group of them were headed into the local hills on Sunday I joined them, despite the rather awful weather. Not knowing where exactly we were headed I was distinctly underdressed, which worked ok at first but became a bit chilly on top of 2 Rock mountain, with the wind and rain and general wet conditions, so I was thankful for Anto to lend me a second layer, after which I was perfectly snug. He couldn't do much about my other problem, namely being half blind without my glasses (and they would have been utterly useless in the wind and rain) so all I could do was to take it slowly and carefully, especially on the downhill, and try not to trip over any of the thousands of stones. Still, it came as a surprise that it was Ollie who came home with bloodied knees and not me. All in all a lovely outing with a great group.
17 Dec
9.31 miles, 1:16:32, 8:13 pace, HR 147
18 Dec
10.23 miles, 1:28:46, 8:40 pace, HR 145
19 Dec
10.29 miles, 1:22:55, 8:03 pace, HR 147
20 Dec
10.22 miles, 1:31:02, 8:54 pace, HR 143
21 Dec
10.23 miles, 1:28:06, 8:36 pace, HR 142
22 Dec
10.18 miles, 1:21:31, 8:00 pace, HR 145
   incl 4 miles at evaluation effort (~160 HR, ~7-minute pace)
23 Dec
~6 miles, 1:22:00, 13:39 pace, HR 123
24 Dec
6.7 miles, 55:46, 8:19 pace, HR 140

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Weekend Weather

It was fairly miserable outside on Saturday. I had known that in advance but it just looked worse than anticipated. I sat there on the sofa, wasting time on the computer, trying to gather enough resolve to head out, but eventually I realised that I have grown old and soft and the treadmill right there beside me was beckoning instead.

Running on a treadmill is similar to banging yourself over the head with a hammer, except a lot less fun, I imagine. After about 2 minutes I was already staring at the clock, willing it to go forward. I managed to survive with the help of a podcast, but once that was over so was my run.

When I stepped off the treadmill I felt somewhat disorientated and almost dizzy, which was weird. I wouldn't think that running on a treadmill would affect your balance like that but thankfully I managed to get into the shower without keeling over. Because it had been such a short run I had vague ideas of doing a second one later in the day but then I felt really tired, not helped by the Christmas shopping, so I left it at that.

Sunday was much better. The storm had abated and it looked positively inviting. I suppose the easy Saturday helped to have the legs in a fresher state than usual, and I headed out for a long run. I had done a 19 miler before Dublin from Bray via Kilternan and gotten the idea of adding a loop around Leopardstown racecourse, which is exactly what I did today. Spookily it worked out as exactly 20 miles on the dot right at our gate, so I guess I now have a proper long run loop. It's rather hilly, which is exactly what a long run route should be, and of course there are still plenty of options to tweak it a bit if I ever feel the need to add some extra distance.

When the hamstrings started to feel tired after about 12 miles I expected a bit of a slog on the way home but in actual fact they held up really well and I was still in pretty good shape when I got back home, pleasantly tired as they would say. That's good, it looks like my endurance is starting to come back, even if the pace is still maybe 30 seconds per mile slower than what my mind still thinks it should be at.
12 Dec
10.23 miles, 1:27:16, 8:31 pace, HR 146
13 Dec
10.23 miles, 1:26:22, 8:26 pace, HR 144
14 Dec
7.22 miles, 1:02:00, 8:35 pace, HR 135
15 Dec
5.5 miles, 50:00, 9:05 pace, HR 131
   treadmill
16 Dec
20 miles, 2:51:40, 8:34 pace, HR 141

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Doubly Forgetful

I had completely forgotten about it, but when I had met Norbert last Saturday at the parkrun we had agreed to meet up on Thursday for a lunch run. Since it had completely slipped my mind, the reminder email on Thursday morning came as a bit of a surprise - I had already done a run that morning and didn't feel too fresh.

Still, not someone to go back on his word despite some heavy legs, I agreed to go out on the hilly loop he suggested. In actual fact, the legs felt surprisingly fine, which was nice, and the easy pace seemed to suit us both.

That had been the first double in a long time, and of course completely accidental. With that, and a reasonably long run on Sunday, my weekly mileage for the week went up to 75. I'm not chasing a mile goal, but I have increased my mileage a bit recently, and it really seems to suit me. The legs are feeling better, the pace is quickening a bit, and the VDOT numbers are finally pointing upwards after months in the doldrums. There is still a lot of room for improvement but it is great to see things finally going in the right directions. I don't know what exactly happened in Irding that made me a) have a really lousy race and b) knock me out for 6 months, but I'm confident that it is finally behind me.

I'm not entirely sure what I'm training for. There is the Donadea 50k in February but that won't be a goal race. I was thinking about doing Connemara again, after a few years of absence, but it just doesn't feel the same any more since my friend Ray is no longer associated with the race. I could try and target a late spring marathon, which has a certain draw because I do wonder what time I could still achieve in a marathon with some focused training. And of course there are a couple of longer ultra options as well. Decisions, decisions.

Oh, and on Monday morning I yet again forgot to press the "start" button the watch. Dementia must really be settling in now. 7 miles, lost in time and space, because obviously if it's not on Strava it didn't happen, or so I'm told.
5 Dec
10.22 miles, 1:29:36, 8:46 pace, HR 142
6 Dec
am: 6.33 miles, 56:55, 8:59 pace, HR 134
pm: 6.56 miles, 55:34, 8:19 pace
7 Dec
10.25 miles, 1:28:22, 8:37 pace, HR 140
8 Dec
7.27 miles, 59:56, 8:14 pace, HR 144
9 Dec
17.53 miles, 2:29:49, 8:32 pace, HR 145
10 Dec
7.22 miles, ~1:02:00
11 Dec
10.2 miles, 1:22:37, 8:05 pace, HR 149

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Parkrun Blues

I ran down to Shanganagh park again on Saturday to get the legs moving once more. I left a bit late and ran the 3.5 miles towards the park a bit quicker than what would have been ideal to classify as a warm-up, but if the parkrun had started on time I still would have missed it.As it was I had 3 minutes of a breather before we set off, which was enough time to say hello to Norbert and his better half, and then line up a bit nearer to the front.

I think I got the first k pretty much spot on because after the first lap the timer guy said "four" just as I passed him. However, things were not to last. Maybe it was because I had worn myself out on teh way to the parkrun. maybe the leftover noodles for breakfast were not the ideal pre-race breakfast. Maybe I was a bit tired after the 10 miles the day before, but none of those things explain why I completely, totally and utterly fell apart after the first mile. All the guys I had passed a minute ago went streaming past me over the next few miles and apparently I was barely doing 7-minuet miles. I sued to run marathons a good bit faster than that, not very long ago! It must have been in my head because I did manage to do 5:30 pace at the end when I saw the finish line, but whatever it was, I wasn't happy with the result (20:51).

You know what? I haven't recovered from DCM, that's what. So, after a bit of soul searching, I decided to bin the parkrun idea and get back to base training, which is what I should have done 5 weeks ago. I still think my initial assertion that I needed to get some speed into the legs because I had been running exclusively slowly for much too long still holds true, but the timing was completely wrong.

Let's re-build the legs and then see if I can some zip into them, preferably without tiring myself out for a change.

Ah well. At some stage I'll get the hang of this running stuff, hopefully before I retire.
27 Nov
4.57 miles, 38:22, 8:23 pace, HR 137
28 Nov
10.21 miles, 1:27:03, 8:31 pace, HR 147
29 Nov
6.33 miles, 55:13, 8:43 pace, HR 141
30 Nov
10.18 miles, 1:25:38, 8:24 pace, HR 146
1 Dec
7.22 miles, 1:01:41, 8:32 pace, HR 142
5k, 20:51, 6:42 pace, HR 162, Shanganagh parkrun
2 Dec
12.48 miles, 1:49:03, 8:44 pace, HR 141
   very hilly
3 Dec
7.23 miles, 1:02:36, 8:39 pace, HR 135
4 Dec
10.25 miles, 1:28:13, 8:36 pace, HR 140

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

River Deep Mountain High

Once more, it was time for something different. last Saturday I had met Gary at the parkrun, and afterwards he asked me if I wanted to join him on a trail run the following weekend where he could show me round the local trail options.

Of course I said yes immediately.

The only slight problem is, Gary is a 2:30 marathon runner. In fact, if you search for the Top Irish marathon performances for 2017 at the AAI website, you will see his name there as the 19th fastest Irish marathon runner that year. Which means that he would have to slow down for me to keep up - and even so, his easy pace is probably closer to my tempo pace, and at times I'm sure he wasn't even aware that I had to work to keep up with him when he was just jogging along.

Anyway, we met a 9:30 in Shankill and immediately went uphill, and uphill, and uphill, and the up a bit further. On the plus side, teh views were amazing. On the downside I was fairly quickly wondering how long I'd be able to keep going. My climbing legs have completely gone awol this year, undoubted related to a distinct lack of climbing after I moved away from the Windy Gap, which did not help.

However, eventually I managed to settle into the effort and we made decent progress, though I'm not sure how Gary would have seen it. Going through a wood past Enniskerry the footing became very tricky and we had to climb under-over fallen logs, cross a couple of streams and not mind too much the drop to our right on a tiny trail. All that was fine. The horror came on the road in form of teh climb up to Glencullen. I know a few cars that wouldn't make it up that hill, and for a while I wasn't sure if I would either.

Well, I did make it up there, but form then on my legs were gone, and on each following climb Gary ran away on his own and had to circle back at the top waiting for me to catch up. Also, his repeated announcements of "yet another lovely climb" started to sound a bit less lovely with each repeat. And as for the "all downhill from here ..."

Anyway, I survived the run, but was grateful for the lift home because I didn't particularly care for the additional 4 miles run home. I guess we'll do it again. I've always been a sucker for punishment.

20 Nov
4.67 miles, 37:52, 8:06 pace, HR 145
21 Nov
10.21 miles, 1:28:32, 8:40 pace, HR 142
22 Nov
7.2 miles, 1:05:07, 9:02 pace, HR 134
23 Nov
10.2 miles, 1:27:03, 8:32 pace, HR 144
24 Nov
8.5 miles, 1:13:20, 8:37 pace, HR 141
25 Nov
15.87 miles, 2:33:39, 9:40 pace, HR 143
   mountain run with Gary
26 Nov
6.33 miles, 59:37, 9:25 pace, HR 128
   VERY easy recovery run

Monday, November 19, 2018

Not Up To Speed Quite Yet

Well, I said I'd run a few shorter races, especially 5Ks, and when I got an invitation from Dom to join him for a 20-minute parkrun he was pacing I said yes, especially since it happened to be at my local parkrun.

I was fairly sure I wouldn't be able to stick with him. That in itself is a fairly shocking state of affairs - even half a year ago I ran in the low 19s on a hilly course, so to not be able to break 20 now on a totally flat course isn't great. I guess that's exactly why I want to run a few shorter ones. Old age doesn't cut it as an excuse for that one, so all I need to do is get my speed back.

I didn't exactly help myself by running the 3.5 miles to Shanganagh park from our house. It's way too long for an ideal warm up, but it's the easiest way to get there. Plus, that way I wouldn't have to worry about my daily mileage.

Actually, once we got going the first k was so comfortable I was almost dumbfounded. At the same time I knew fully well that this was not going to last. There was a sizeable group with Dom, easily over half a dozen pacees, but one by one they started to drop off after the first k was done, and each time I had to make sure not to stick with the shirt in front of me but instead go past him and stick to Dom. That was fine all the way to the halfway mark when we got to the "incline" for the second time.

When I say incline, it's probably not even 2 feet of elevation gain, and it really is barely noticeable, expect when running a 5K a bit close to your limit, and with weak hamstrings to start with. I lost a couple of steps, and immediately there was a gap. Obviously, what I should have done is once more to pass the runner in front of me and get back onto Dom's tail, but I didn't have the gumption to properly turn on the pain and stuck with the shirt in front of me until it was too late and all of a sudden Dom was way, way off in the distance, and so was my sub-20.

I could claim that the final lap was a struggle but in fact, undoubtedly due to the more measured first K, it wasn't the same sufferfest as my usual 5Ks, and while I didn't manage to get close to Dom again, at least I passed a few runners (too late) but the time was a rather modest 20:24. Ah well. At some point I'll re-learn how to a) to activate my fast fibres again and b) to put myself into the pain cave for a bit.

I did a bit of a cool down with Dom and Gary (who had run an easy 17:xx, despite still being hobbled by a groin/hip issue), and wasn't too surprised that their easy pace was a not-quite-so-easy pace for me, and then headed for home, feeling surprisingly good.

Turns out a 5K isn't anywhere near as painful when you try and run it at a reasonably even effort instead of heading off like a complete eejit and then hang on for dear life for the other 4K. Who would have thunk it! Two days later my legs still haven't shown any signs of tiredness, though admittedly today's run was very slow, though I put that down to still being half asleep rather than having heavy legs.

12 Nov
6.33 miles, 56:08, 8:52 pace, HR 134
13 Nov
7.22 miles, 1:03:02, 8:43 pace, HR 140
14 Nov
10.18 miles, 1:25:26, 8:23 pace, HR 145
15 Nov
6.33 miles, 56:42, 8:57 pace, HR 135
16 Nov
10.18 miles, 1:26:40, 8:30 pace, HR 143
17 Nov
7.4 miles, 1:03:08, 8:31 pace, HR 140
Shanganagh parkrun, 20:24, 6:33 pace, HR 163
18 Nov
10 miles, 1:24:03, 8:24 pace, HR 145
19 Nov
5.15 miles, 47:22, 9:11 pace, HR 132

Sunday, November 11, 2018

A Little Bit Different

Like almost every other runner, I usually do my long run on Sunday, though with DCM only 2 weeks ago that's not of utmost importance right now, so when I got a message from Anto to be at St. Stephens Green at 10 o'clock, I had no hesitation to agree.

He is starting a new venture, organising running tours through Dublin, and this was a dummy run, with a few foreigners like myself as mock tourists.

If you've ever been at one of Anto's races, the
most famous of them all being the Donadea 50k, you know that he knows how to talk to a crowd; in fact, his race briefings are legendary. With this being not yet an official tour we got the non-PC version including some if his own TMI personal history. Great stuff. And we saw plenty of Dublin City centre, with plenty of local history, both old and more recent. I know the area pretty well, especially since working there for a couple of months at the start of the year, but plenty of the stuff was new to me.

Obviously it wasn't a training run, with a fairly slow pace and plenty of stop/start running. In the end I had accumulated 4 miles, and Anto had 4.8 miles, the difference being he kept his watch running and kept stopping it at each walking break.

All photos by Anthony Lee
This was great fun, and if you're visiting Dublin you should do yourself a favour and do something like that yourself (they are planning a Phoenix Park and a pub option as well). We also go treated to coffee and donuts, which I can't promise to all future visitors, but it prompted me to run another couple of miles afterwards.

Apart from that group run, I didn't do much noteworthy this week. But it was so wet on Wednesday that apparently it was enough to kill my headlamp, because when I tried to use it the next time on Friday morning, it would not turn on. It's the fancy, expensive headlamp that I bought three years ago for the Spartathlon, which cost about 15 times as much as the Lidl/Aldi headlamps that I had used up to then, and as it turns out it didn't last any longer than the cheap ones had. What a waste of money! Okay, it was significantly brighter at the highest setting, but at the price of burning through your batteries in 3 hours, which had almost cost me that very Spartathlon race I had bought it for. Ah well. Back to the cheap ones when I see them next time, I guess.

But anyway, if you want to see Dublin City Centre and hear some great stories and have fun all at the same time, have a look at Running Tours Dublin. Don't wear compression socks while doing so, and Anne and Anto will look after you.
6 Nov
4.46 miles, 38:00, no watch
7 Nov
6.71 miles, 57:24, 8:33 pace, HR 142
8 Nov
10.16 miles, 1:26:30, 8:30 pace, HR 144
9 Nov
6.32 miles, 53:19, 8:26 pace, HR 142
10 Nov
9.68 miles, 1:22:11, 8:29 pace, HR 142
11 Nov
4 miles, 38:56, 9:43 pace, Running Tours Ireland
2 miles, 16:57, 8:20 pace, Donut Burn

Monday, November 05, 2018

Recovery

Looking WAY too comfortable
for the end of a marathon
I know I said I wasn't really racing Dublin, I was more doing it as yet another run, one with 20000 of my closest friends. I can prove that. Never mind the fact that I was able to sprint for the bus straight afterwards, that picture is the final and conclusive proof. To be honest, nobody should look so relaxed when they're crossing a finish line, no matter how long a race it had been.

Despite all that, recovery is a slow process. This one I think I can blame on age, even though I promised not to mention the "A" word again for a while.

I went straight out the day after the marathon, which is my usual recovery protocol after a marathon, and which has worked exceptionally well for most of the 105 previous times, so I'm not going to radically change it now. Initially the legs were slow and stiff , just as expected, but after a couple of days they started to improve. The trouble is that in the last two or three days they seem to have gone backwards again, which is starting to feel all too familiar recently.

No need to panic, I'll keep going as is, it worked after the crash that was Berlin and I'm sure it will work again. Once I have me legs back to some extend I think I'll try and do a few parkruns, mostly for fun (yes I know, I keep remembering how much I hate 5ks halfway through each one) but also because I think I have done excessive amounts of slow running in the last 12 months and nowhere near as much faster running as I should have, so I'll try and blow away some of the cobwebs.

On Friday I did something I don't think I have ever done before: I totally forgot to press the "start" button on the watch. And since I never look at the watch while running I only noticed at the end when staring at a set of zeros. Oops! Dementia setting in already?

I do have one area of concern, namely my right knee. It has been bothering me on and off for a few months already but has gotten worse the last few weeks. However, I'm pretty sure it's not a running-related injury, for the simple reason that it's not hurting at all when running. Instead it hurts when I twist the knee, usually when getting in or out of the car, or when I somehow make the wrong movement, and for a split second it can feel like I've been stabbed. What am I going to do about it? Not much, to be honest. I might try and avoid twisting the knee as I step out of the car but that's about it. I won't be stopping running, that much I can tell you for sure.
30 Oct
4+ miles, 39:13, 9:40 pace, HR 132
31 Oct
4+ miles, 37:18, 9:12 pace, HR 132
1 Nov
5+ miles, 44:51, 8:40 pace, HR 137
2 Nov
5+ miles, 45:00, no watch
3 Nov
5+ miles, 46:08, 8:55 pace, HR 140
4 Nov
6.7 miles, 57:31, 8:35 pace, HR 147
5 Nov
6.7 miles, 58:05, 8:40 pace, HR 143

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Road To Redemption

I went into Dublin knowing full well that I was still far off peak shape. In fact, it had been only in the last few weeks that I finally started to feel better again; that 24 hours race in June had taken a lot out of me, much more so than any previous long ultra, and it took me a long time to finally notice an upturn. However, when it came I sure did notice it, and with that I knew that the worst was behind me.

The Berlin marathon six weeks earlier had been a less than pleasurable experience but I knew I was feeling better now and I was confident a repeat of that horror show was not on the cards.

I had tested running 8-minute miles, basically 3:30 marathon pace, on a couple of occasions and each time it had felt a bit too hard, so I expected a finishing time of about 3:40 instead, still one of my slower marathons but what can you do.

Public transport in Ireland is still a shite as ever, they really did shut down the Dart train service on marathon day for engineering works; that kind of idiocy would be staggering were we not so used to it, and with the total lack of accountability it will not change any time soon. The first bus out of Bray left at 7:30 and got into town an hour later, which was touch-and-go for getting there in time for the start of wave 1 at 9 o'clock, though I was reasonably relaxed about it. If I missed it I would start with a later wave instead. As it happened I got into town, deposited my bag, joined to queue for the toilets and emerged ready to go with 4 minutes to spare. Great timing - it meant I didn't have to wait in the freezing cold any longer than strictly necessary.

I started towards the back of wave 1, so as not to be in anyone's way. As a result, the first mile was a bit slow due to all the congestion but that was fine. I wasn't there to break any records today and a slower first mile in the marathon usually means a few faster miles at the end. I gradually started to pick up the pace as spaces started to open up and eventually settled into a cruising pace that felt comfortable enough. I took it noticeably easy on any uphills but always seemed to make up ground on the downhills, though the first 7 miles are net uphill. In fact, that's the highest point of the course already, not that you feel it in the legs at that early stage. The 2 downhill miles back the other side of Phoenix Park passed by very quickly, and when we crossed the Liffey again I was actually bang on time for 3:30, which I had not expected.

I did worry a little bit because that pace had felt definitely faster than marathon effort beforehand, and I sure didn't want to blow up. However, I have plenty of marathons in my legs already to know what a marathon effort feels like, and today felt perfectly adequate, so I kept going. Oh, and I was actually wearing proof of my marathon history today, sort of, having finally picked up my "100" singlet from the Marathon Club Ireland stand at the Expo the day before and I gave it an outing today, finally having gone full Irish native.

Funnily enough I actually started to feel better as the miles ticked by, not getting tired at all. The course drags on a bit at that stretch, especially up Crumlin Road, for many runners the worst part of the course with its gradual uphill, sparsity of support and almost always a bad headwind in your face. Having said that, this year seemed to be the first time I remember not running into a headwind at that stage. I was still glad to leave it behind me, there is only so much of an uphill drag I can take.

From time to time I ran into some friends, usually the ones with a recent injury history, otherwise they would have been a bit further forward in the field, but it was nice to have the odd chat along the way, and I did get a fair few shouts from the sidelines, at least every couple of miles.

By now we were on the second half of the course and I was still feeling surprisingly good, very much in contrast to Berlin where I had felt thoroughly cooked already at that point. I was gradually making my way through the field, again very much in contrast to Berlin where the masses had kept passing me almost the entire way. According to the watch I was actually running faster here than for the first few miles and I was gradually picking up a tiny bit of time, but most importantly the miles kept ticking by with surprising ease.

This being a marathon, and me still being a long way off my usual shape, this was never going to last forever, but it sure lasted for a lot longer than I had expected before the start. I was well past the 20 mile mark when the legs finally grew weary, and then I started to get the odd spasm shooting through my calves, which I really could have done without. I have a long history of cramping in marathons and I have learned fairly well how to deal with it and how to nurse the legs along. The key really is to run as relaxed as possible. You have to slow down a little bit because you cannot relax if you're right at your limit, but if you do it right you can still make decent progress. I still got the occasional spasm shooting through my calf muscles like they had been electrocuted but I never went into a full cramp.

I eased myself up the wrongly named (because we're not in Boston, that's why) heartbreak hill and then enjoyed the downhill stretches, at least the stretches where my calves didn't threaten to quit on me. I couldn't quite match last year's great finish because my legs wouldn't allow it, even if the energy levels were still intact. However, just like last year I passed Mike from Listowel with a couple of miles to spare (though I think he paced a friend today rather than race it) as I made my way towards the finish.

Because of the cramping issues I had lost a bit of time and was slipping behind 3:30 pace, but what can you do. It would have been a tight finish otherwise but as it was I came home about 2 minutes late, though still a lot sooner than I had predicted or expected, and I was happy enough.

The finish layout required a fairly long walk past the bag drops and towards the exit, but actually that's a good thing as a relaxing walk is good for your legs after a marathon, not that a lot of runners would agree at the time. I kept on walking, and just as I got to Leeson Street Lower saw a 145 go past, and I actually managed a sprint to the next bus stop to catch it - I never had to sprint straight after a marathon before, and I never thought I'd be able to, until the day when I didn't want to wait 30 minutes for the next bus - or maybe I just didn't run the marathon hard enough.

2018 Dublin Marathon - 3:31:57
22 Oct
5+ miles, 46:20, 8:58 pace, HR 134
23 Oct
5+ miles, 43:11, 8:25 pace, HR 143
24 Oct
5+ miles, 45:26, 8:48 pace, HR 138
25 Oct
4+ miles, 36:04, 8:53 pace, HR 134
27 Oct
3 miles, 26:24, 8:47 pace, HR 139
28 Oct
DCM 2018, 3:31:57, 8:05 pace, HR 154
29 Oct
4+ miles, 37:10, 9:09 pace, HR 134

Sunday, October 21, 2018

A Test

It's one week to the Dublin marathon, and I have a very similar problem like I had 6 weeks ago before Berlin, namely that I have no idea what pace I can hold over a marathon distance.

In Berlin I was a bit overoptimistic, as I had suspected even beforehand, to be honest, and I got slower with almost each mile and the second half wasn't the greatest fun I've ever had. 6 weeks later I know my legs are starting to improve again but make no mistake, they are a long way away from being in proper marathon shape. I'm pretty sure the last few miles are going to suck once more, and this time I have the added problem of a hillier route. My legs are starting to falter every time the road is pointing upwards, so that's probably not ideal. I can work around the worst of it by taking it easy on the climbs, ignoring the scores of runners going past me and just slowly making my way to the top, but it's not going to be pretty in the second half.

I did a test run this morning (Sunday) to see how 8-minute pace feels like, and the answer was quite obvious, namely much too fast. I managed to hold it for the planned 7 miles (actually there was a slower mile in there which I had completely missed and only noticed afterwards when I looked at it on Strava) but there was no way I would have been able to hold it for almost 20 more miles, so a 3:30 marathon is out of the question.

Admittedly, I did a couple of intervals on Saturday on the promenade, which obviously had an effect on the legs today but still - I might try and stay somewhere close to 3:40 pace and see how I get on. Despite the hillier nature of the course it should be a bit faster than Berlin, thanks to slightly better legs, but it's almost certainly going to be my second slowest Dublin marathon, only propped up my my very first marathon here, all of 14 years ago.

Oh, and yesterday's intervals were actually quite interesting. I did not time them and I did not pace myself off the watch; in fact, I didn't even know how long they were, just one length of the Bray promenade, which turned out to be just over one k, and there happened to be a Strava segment, which is how I got my numbers afterwards. All I did was run fast but fully controlled, twice, with a slow jog back as recovery. I was actually surprised by the numbers, I expected them to be a lot slower, and I was even more surprised that the second one had been faster than the first one. Shows how wrong perception can be! With the marathon next week I left it at only 2 repeats, but I think I might use that stretch in future as my workout stage. It's obviously completely flat, there are not a lot of people there during teh times when I do my runs, and it's only the wind that can be a factor on some days, though yesterday's it was almost completely still.

But let's get that marathon out of the way first, plus the recovery period that will follow it.
17 Oct
10.2 miles, 1:32:58, 9:06 pace, HR 139
18 Oct
6.72 miles, 1:01:12, 9:06 pace, HR 135
19 Oct
10.2 miles, 1:28:40, 8:41 pace, HR 145
20 Oct
7.8 miles, 1:06:04, 8:28 pace, HR 144
   2 x 1k @ 6:26, 6:16 pace
21 Oct
10 miles, 1:24:26, 8:26 pace, HR 148

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Thank You!

Thanks for the comments to the last post, I was genuinely delighted to see that there is still value in this blog and that there are still runners who enjoy reading it. Thank you! However, Roisin was absolutely correct in pointing out that I've been overplaying the ago card recently. I am actually very much aware of this, but the thing is, I do wonder how much of a factor age is playing into all of the recent issues I've had, especially with the slow recovery.

On the other hand, I could very much feel a distinct improvement in the last week, which I attribute to finally getting over the 24 hours race in June. In the past it has often taken me about a day per mile raced to feel fully recovered from a very long ultra, and funnily enough we're just about there once more. This time I was feeling the effects a lot more than usual but I can definitely feel the difference, just in the last few days. I've got a spring back in my stride and the legs no longer feel stiff, heavy and tired with each step, which is just great and I'm enjoying the fact that running is just fun once more, and I no longer have to struggle from step to step.

Now there's the small matter of the Dublin marathon looming rather large in the not very far distance. I'm sure the smart thing to do would be to cancel it because I know it's going to be one of my slowest ones, it's going to hurt in the last few miles and I'll have to spend weeks in recovery yet again, but doing the smart thing was never my thing, so I've decided to run it - as I knew all along I would, really.

Sunday's long run was very hilly and the first half went very well but the second half gradually turned into a bit of a struggle and the last few miles, especially the final two, uphill ones towards our house weren't all that much fun, but I got it done all the same. It went better than a similar, if slightly shorter run, that I had done before Berlin, so I guess I should be doing a bit better than in Berlin. We shall see!

It's gotten rather cold recently, which most people might be moaning about but personally I love it. I can cycle into or out of work without arriving soaked in sweat (don't worry, there are showers at both ends of the journey) and while I miss running through the crisp, dark morning along Caragh Lake, the Bray Promenade isn't a bad replacement.
12 Oct
10.2 miles, 1:29:29, 8:46 pace, HR 144
13 Oct
6.85 miles, 59:01, 8:36 pace, HR 142
14 Oct
19 miles, 2:53:53, 9:09 pace, HR 142
15 Oct
6.33 miles, 59:30, 9:23 pace, HR 130
16 Oct
4.5 miles, 36:39, 8:10 pace, HR 147

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Ye Olde Legs

I'm not sure how many people still read this, though I know a few of you still do. The blog format seems a bit outdated these days, though I still prefer it to video logging (yuck), and things like Instagram are just not suited to the type of content I want to post. Believe me, you don't want to see photos of me post-run!

Anyway, I will keep this going, and if the last person will have lost interest it will be my private training diary again, just like it was when it all started over 13 years ago. And with me getting older and slower, I might even get stopped being accused of violating the trade act due to falsely naming this blog. But, you know, it's all relative, and there were are also some lovely guys along the way who let me know that the name is perfectly apt.

Anyway, I keep on running, very slowly most days. It's a bit disconcerting that until a few months ago my natural pace was around 8-minute miles and now it suddenly changed to 9-minute miles, and I could swear they feel more or less the same. I know I keep getting older, but surely I didn't age so much within 3 or 4 months.

However, just this morning I thought there were glimpses of the old legs starting to re-appear, when running felt more effortless, and the stiffness and aches disappeared for a while. Now, I know the mile along the promenade was misleading as I had a strong tailwind pushing me along, but it wasn't just on that stretch that I felt good, so maybe something is indeed finally starting to work.

I am doing mostly very slow, easy miles but I'm also mixing in a few faster strides, like on Tuesday with some work colleagues, not really speedwork as such but just some things to rev up the system. I did a 1-minute-on/1-minute-off run last Saturday (Kenyan Fartlek, in structure that is, not in pace), which felt ok for a while and when it no longer felt ok I stopped, so it's all relatively gentle and measured. The last thing I want is to feel overtrained again, been there, done that, no desire to do it again.
5 Oct
6.19 miles, 55:44, 9:00 pace, HR 140
6 Oct
6.58 miles, 57:48, 8:47 pace, HR 146
   Kenyan Fartlek
7 Oct
15 miles, 2:19:23, 9:16 pace, HR 144
8 Oct
6.71 miles, 1:01:37, 9:10 pace, HR 142
9 Oct
4.95 miles, 43:05, 8:42 pace, HR 147
   100/200/300/200/100
10 Oct
10.21 miles, 1:32:14, 9:02 pace, HR 145
11 Oct
6.67 miles, 58:53, 8:49 pace, HR 144

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Slowly Does It

So on Thursday I hurt my Achilles on the last meters before the finish line of a 5K, leaving me rather worried. On Friday it was so stiff on both legs that running was completely out of the question and left me hobbling round the office like an old man (no smart comments, please). However, the fact that it wasn't actually hurting was a very good sign.

On Saturday morning I first ran down to the shop to pick up some milk as well as to test out the Achilles, and the news was good.While it was sill a bit stiff it definitely felt ready to run again, so I did.

I changed my approach. I looked at the time I ran in the 5K, and while it was almost 3 minutes slower than my PB it was still aged-graded over 70% and the equivalent of an 18:18 of a younger man. While not exactly winning any major championships, or even a minor one, it's actually not that bad, especially when compared to my marathon time in Berlin. So I figured I still have a bit of pace left, relatively speaking, but my endurance has gone to bits.

How do you build up endurance?

By running more miles.

How do you manage to run more miles when they keep leaving you exhausted?

By running them slower!

So that's what I did. I didn't follow the advice of leaving the watch at home entirely because I'm too much of a numbers geek and would just fret over what the numbers would have been had I recorded them, but I'm good at ignoring the watch completely when I'm out running.

Tuesday's run into work was a bit of a struggle, not helped by a headwind for 10 miles, but Thursday was already a lot better, even if it was equally as slow. I think this is already working, though it's a bit early to tell.

29 Sep
1.16 miles, 11:01, 9:29 pace, HR 134
4+ miles, 35:38, 8:45 pace, HR 148
30 Sep
8.5 miles, 1:19:33, 9:21 pace, HR 146
   very hilly
1 Oct
6.32 miles, 56:38, 8:57 pace, HR 144
2 Oct
10.25 miles, 1:31:22, 8:54 pace, HR 149
3 Oct
5.55 miles, 52:35, 9:28 pace, HR 138
4 Oct
10.22 miles, 1:30:38, 8:52 pace, HR 148

Friday, September 28, 2018

I Keep Forgetting How Much I Hate 5Ks

We had a chat on Thursday at work about running and I mentioned that the only 2 times I got injured in the last 10 years were when I did something really stupid, the last one 2 years ago when I ran a fast workout a week after a long race and duly messed up my right Achilles for weeks to come.

So, when I got ready a few hours later to run the Sandyford 5k, it struck me that I was doing something very, very similar to that very same stupidity, a 5K only 11 days after a marathon, on legs that had clearly not recovered yet.

What can I say? I’m an idiot, something I have proven on plenty of occasions in the past, and like most idiots I get away with my idiocy on many occasions, so I was hoping for some more good fortune. The race was very close to work, and work had paid for the entry fee, so why not accept the Danaergeschenk?

I wasn’t planning on racing all out, in fact with the combination of increasingly old age, tired legs and lack of competitive instinct I was contemplating the possibility of running my slowest 5K ever.

Just like the previous 5K it started to rain just before the start but unlike that one it stopped again and the conditions were pretty decent. Remembering the very painful 20 minutes from my last 5K I decided to start at a more measured effort in the hope of a less torturous event. In actual fact I was only 5 second slower on the first mile, though it was slightly downhill. The rest of the race was marked by me trying to remain at the same effort level, which I thought I did reasonably well, passing a few runner, being passed by others but overall moving slightly ahead in the field. I struggled on all uphills and kept drifting backwards but I was flying effortlessly on the downhills and always made up a fair few places (neither was steep though - it was a pretty decent course). All the while I kept the effort at no more than maybe 95%, fast enough to put some pain on the system but never too much. However, the watch claims that I slowed down to almost 7-minute pace on the last mile, which came as a bit of a surprise, to be honest.

I got to within 100 meters of the finish line when my right Achilles suddenly started to hurt, and by that I mean REALLY hurt. It was close enough to the finish to clench the teeth and keep going but I was really sore afterwards. Also, it started raining again, so eventually I decided not to go to the post-race tent afterwards but head home instead.

I pathetically hobbled for a mile back to the office with a seriously gampy right leg and the cycle back home wasn’t particularly comfortable either, so by now I was rather worried. The next day was different, I was no longer in real pain but both Achilles were incredibly stiff, and for the entire day I was reduced to hobble slowly through the office whenever I had to move, feeling every single one of my many years for a change. I didn’t run, even I can see that it would have been a daft idea, but with the pain subsiding overnight I’m reasonably optimistic I might actually have gotten away with yet another stupidity.

20:36 was not my slowest 5K by a long shot, but on the other hand it IS almost 3 minutes slower than my PB. Ah well.

26 Sep
4+ miles, 34:12, 8:21 pace, HR 146
27 Sep
5+ miles, including Sandyford 5K in 20:36, 6:37 pace, HR 174
28 Sep
0

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Driftwood

Ok, so I was prepared to walk away from running altogether. What's more, I still felt like that three days after Berlin, which was a new one. However, after that I did start to get itchy again. I still did my daily cycle on and out of work, but it's running that ticks the boxes for me, and on Saturday morning I finally gave in, laced up my runners and headed outside.

I've had all summer to come to terms with the fact that my international career is almost certainly over. It's a bit painful and I'll miss it but of course it is inevitable. When I started running I would not have dreamt that I would ever run in a European or World championship. I thought the dream of running a sub-3 marathon was a ridiculous one, and the idea of ever being in the national team wasn't something I even contemplated, not even theoretically. So basically I've massively overachieved and I know I can look back at my running career with immense satisfaction.

The fact that my legs seem to have completely gone the last few months seems like not such a big deal. I've had my time in the sun, everything else is just a bonus. I can run for the sheer love of running alone, and I guess that's exactly what I'm going to do.

After Berlin I straight away decided that I won't be running Dublin. I'm already having second thoughts about that one as well. I'll see. It probably would be better for my legs if I didn't, but that doesn't necessarily stop me from running it anyway. If my deterioration continues as it has done recently I won't even break 4 hours, which would be hard to swallow even with my readjusted mindset, so I guess I'll just wait and see.

For the first time in years I don't have any next big race to look forward to. I don't know how I'll handle that.
22 Sep
4+ miles, 34:05, 8:24 pace, HR 146
23 Sep
4+ miles, 34:05, 8:22 pace, HR 148
24 Sep
4+ miles, 35:43, 8:46 pace, HR 142
25 Sep
5+ miles, 44:47, 8:31 pace, HR 145

Monday, September 17, 2018

Take My Breath Away

I had signed up for the Berlin marathon last year as a bit of fun, not really expecting to get through the lottery because that's what I'm used to from London, but I did and so I was committed all of a sudden. Obviously Berlin is known as a very fast course but with Irding a few months earlier I always knew that I was not going to be chasing a PB. However, I had not expected to be in quite as bad a shape as I turned out to be, and to be honest I wasn't overly enthusiastic about the trip, especially after Niamh decided not to come after all. However, I was signed up and didn't want to miss out on the chance of running another Major, so off I went.

Travelling was worse than expected because the plane left Dublin an hour late, making me miss my connecting flight in Cologne (together with about a dozen other fit and slim looking people) and I got to Berlin 4 hours late, but hey, I made it and I had all of Saturday to get acclimatised.

The Expo was big but I managed to avoid spending any money, and I did some sightseeing before relaxing back in my room. I knew I had most likely spent a bit more time on my feet than ideal but I don't expect to get to spend time in Berlin any time soon and hey, it's just a marathon.

Sunday dawned and I got ready, as I have a hundred times before. The race is exceptionally well organised, as it has to be for such a large field, and I found myself in corral C, my assigned place, though I felt a bit out of place as I had no intentions of running fast so I stood right at the very back, with a few others obviously in the same situation, and when they removed the rope between corrals right before the start I let the runners from Corral D pass me as well.

Still, the start didn't seem far from where I was standing, so I'm a bit surprised it took me 2 minutes to cross the start line. Then there was the big unknown. What pace was I supposed to run at?

Putting the time of my 5k a last week into a calculator would have predicted a 3:15-3:20 marathon but I always knew that was not on the cards. What I remembered most was when I ran Dingle as a 3:30 pacer all the way back in 2011, after taking it very easy during the summer and my longest run being a solitary 15 miler and having no problems with that pace even on a tough course, so I hoped, foolishly maybe, that something similar might be on the cards again. 8-minute miles seemed very easy at the start, though I knew full well that this was a very poor indicator of how it would go later on.

The pace felt easy enough but I was sweating profusely and felt very hot. I actually wished I would have worn a singlet but that was a bit late now. I made sure to drink at each water station, which added up to a lot of water, but felt absolutely necessary today. It felt a lot better in the shade, and after a while there appeared a few clouds in the sky that took away the worst sting of direct sunlight.

The first 5 or so miles passed by without a hitch, but with that being the typical distance I have run recently I was all too soon in almost unknown territory, and by mile 7 or 8 I was already in trouble. The hamstrings felt very heavy and with not even a third of the race distance covered I knew I was in for a very tough day, so the theme for rest of the race was damage limitation.

I eased up the pace, easy as it had been all along, ignoring the thousands of runners gradually streaming past me. It didn't help much, the legs just got worse and worse and I got slower and slower. I'm not sure how to really describe the rest of the race because the previous sentence pretty much says it all. By halfway I was already a couple of minutes behind 3:30 pac and of course it only got worse and worse. My 5k splits really tell the entire story:

split    overall    diff     min/km   km/h
5 km     0:24:41    24:41    04:57    12.16
10 km    0:49:44    25:03    05:01    11.98
15 km    1:15:14    25:31    05:07    11.76
20 km    1:41:20    26:06    05:14    11.50
Halb     1:47:11    05:51    05:20    11.27
25 km    2:09:03    21:52    05:37    10.71
30 km    2:37:00    27:58    05:36    10.73
35 km    3:05:27    28:27    05:42    10.55
40 km    3:37:02    31:36    06:20    9.50
Finish   3:49:59    12:58    05:55    10.17

There was no big disaster, no hitting the wall, no point of no return, just a gradual deterioration with the legs getting worse and worse, the pain getting more and more unbearable and the pace getting slower and slower. I had a mini reprieve at 25 km, when I took a caffeine tablet and managed to hold the same pace for another 5k, but when I tried to take my next one I realised I had none left. I was stumped, I thought I had put a few into my bag but apparently not, and so I just had to make it to the finish without a caffeine shot.

At some point the quads took over as the worst of the muscles, and I barely could lift my legs any more. This resembled the final miles of an ultra, not a marathon.

The last 4 miles were an almost complete disaster when I slowed down to 10-minute miles, which is slower than I ran in that 100 k in April! I was actually surprised by how few people were walking - I'm sure the ratio of walkers late in the race is a magnitude higher in Dublin. Never mind, at least I managed to run all the way to the finish, even if it was crawling at snails pace.

I remember running down a very, very long road with a Coca Cola sign very far in the distance, over a mile away, and wondered if we would have to run all the way to there. As it turned out we did not have to make it quite that far but it wasn't far off. There were a few more turns and eventually we did yet another left turn and there was the Brandenburg Gate. Oh! thank! Fuck! for! that!

It was actually still about a kilometre to the finish from there because the finish is still a fair distance from the Gate itself, so don't think you're done just yet. But having come all the way we managed the rest as well. I crossed the line in a dismal 3:49:59 (provisional time) and swore to myself I was done with running, once and for all (admittedly not exactly for the first time).

Well, what can I say? In June I paced 3:30 in Cork and felt so comfortable at the finish I was almost tempted to go for a second lap. A week earlier I had run a mountainous trail marathon faster than today. I've run back-to-back marathon on the murderous Howth course faster than that. I've run ultras faster than that.

This used to be a lot more fun!

Ok, I'll stop whining now.

I know I suffered because of the low training mileage since Irdning, and this time apparently my base fitness was not enough to carry me round the course in reasonable shape. The thing is, I didn't run low mileage because I couldn't be arsed to train more - I ran low mileage because I had been waiting for the legs to finally come round again, and they never did.

So, right now I'm unsure what the better option would be - try higher mileage training again, at easy pace obviously, and let the legs get stronger, or go the complete opposite way and take a complete break from running for several months, let the muscles recover, and eventually start again from scratch.
16 Sep
Berlin marathon
3:49:59, 8:46 pace (8:38 on the watch), HR 152

Thursday, September 13, 2018

New Wisdom

Well, you learn something new every day.

I always used to run very early in the morning, not because I thought it was the best time of day for training but because it really was the only time I had available, with a full-time job and always a gaggle of very young children around.

I have read numerous times that from a training effect point of view it's the worst time to train because your muscles are cold and your body hasn't revved up yet and your training would always be somewhat compromised. I did notice, however, that I was still progressing at a very rapid pace earlier in my running career, which I attributed mainly to my consistency, considering that I was apparently training at a sub-optimal time.

Things changed a lot in the last year and a bit, and with my move to Dublin the early morning runs were gradually phased out, and in the last few months I was almost always running at lunch time, at least during the week. Despite the fact that this was supposed to be close to the optimal time of day, I usually felt pretty crap doing so, which I attributed mainly to my recovery from Irding not progressing very well at all.

On Tuesday, I just happened to wake up very early. I was awake at 3, at 4 and at 5, and then I just could not fall back asleep any more. Eventually staring at the ceiling lost its fascination. I got up, and due to lack of anything better to do I went for a run.

I was completely caught by surprised by how easy it felt. For the first time in months, the next step was not a mini struggle but something that happened just effortlessly. It was a short run, and a slow one at that, but I had almost forgotten how easy running can be.

Even the gadgets agreed. My numbers were significantly better all of a sudden.

I didn't set my alarm for the next days but I always woke up at 5:30 (-ish), and so I got up and ran in the dark. Just like in the good old times. It felt so good! It's a completely new ball game.

So, that's it. It's too late for Berlin to make a difference, but I'll revert to running early in the morning once I'm back. For the first time for month I'm actually optimistic that I'm not totally over the hill just yet.

Let's get Berlin out of the way first!

10 Sep
4.8 miles, 38:53, 8:06 pace, HR 151
11 Sep
4+ miles, 36:23, 8:57 pace, HR 135
12 Sep
4+ miles, 35:14, 8:39 pace, HR 138
13 Sep
4+ miles, 34:09, 8:23 pace, HR 141

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Recovery Slash Taper

Ok, so I ran that race on Wednesday, completely unprepared after not doing any speedwork for months, and when I had tried a few workouts I had to stop after 2 weeks because I started to feel overtrained straight away.

In light of that, I actually did reasonably well by running 20:29 on a long course, even if it certainly was nothing to write home about. About a month or two ago I considered concentrating on shorter races for a while but I think running that race reminded me that I was never particularly fond of short distances for a reason, so maybe I'll skip that. On the other hand, some fast running is supposed to be really beneficial for us older runners, so maybe I should anyway?

In the aftermath of the race I was feeling fine on Thursday morning, got gradually more sore throughout the day and felt really sore on Friday, which is of course classic DOMS. Saturday was already better, and I can't really tell if Sunday was an improvement because I ran a a really hilly loop.

Thursday's recovery run was dead slow, Friday was a bit faster, which is rather surprising because the legs felt like dead wood, and Saturday was another improvement.

Whether it was a bright idea to race a 5K fairly close to a marathon that I feel utterly unprepared for is another question, though a lot of marathon training plans tend to have a workout like 3 x 1 mile 10 days out, which is admittedly not the same as a 5K race but still somewhat similar.

What surprised me the most, and what I cannot explain at all, is why my VDOT number for the race was significantly better than for any training run I've done, at 54.6, when I usually don't even get to 50. With all the slow running I've done recently you'd think I'd be better at running slowly than at running fast.

Actually, the other thing that surprised me that I was even able to run at roughly sub-20 pace. I struggled to go faster than 7:30 in training, and running over a minute per mile faster in a race is a bit baffling, especially since I paced myself so badly and started with a sub-6 mile.

Anyway, I'm supposed to taper this week though I have done so little training that I'm not sure what I would be tapering from, and most of my training weeks look like I've been tapering for months already. Ah Jesus, how did I get myself into this mess?
6 Sep
4+ miles, 37:01, 9:05 pace, HR 141
7 Sep
4+ miles, 35:05, 8:36 pace, HR 143
8 Sep
4+ miles, 33:44, 8:17 pace, HR 146
9 Sep
7.5 miles, 1:05:52, 8:46 pace, HR 148

Thursday, September 06, 2018

The Immeasurable Fun Of The 5K

As I was standing on the start line of the Grant Thornton Corporate 5K Team Challenge, I was a bit apprehensive. I had not done any fast running in months, apart from a few strides or hill sprints, but those are over in a matter of seconds, so not really comparable. I had worn out my legs on Sunday during my long run. I had REALLY worn out my legs two months ago at the 24 hours race in Irding. And most of all, I was never particularly fond of racing 5Ks. I much prefer the slow burn pain of the marathon (and beyond) to the acid burn of the fast stuff. But when Dave at work had asked ages ago who was up to run as part of a team from work, I put my name down. And here I was.

Most of all I hoped I would not completely embarrass myself. Despite not having a clue what time I would be able to run I had put myself into the first wave for runners up to 20 minutes (and wave 2 started from 21 upwards, so I guess they meant up to 20:59 for us), especially since I know perfectly well that way too many people cheat in that game.

It was drizzly up to 5 minutes before the start, and then it started raining properly. It meant I had chosen the wrong option by wearing my glasses - I wasn't going to see much. By the time we finally started it was raining really heavily and we were soaked to the bone, and we had not even started yet.

I know it was raining heavily at the start, and not at all at the finish. However, I can't tell you if the rain stopped within a minute of us starting or if it kept raining until right at the end - my perception of that was turned off completely as soon as racing started.

The course was right in the city centre along the quays, crossing the Liffey three times, and included quite a few sharp turns, which didn't feel entirely safe with so many runners on a slippery surface. The roads are in shocking state really, especially considering this is right in the centre of the capital, with just one single downpour leaving parts completely waterlogged. The shocking state of infrastructure in this shithole really pisses me off at times!

Sorry - the race. I have completely forgotten how to race a 5K, and of course started way too fast. That kind of stuff never bodes well - the first mile was not yet done when I was already desperately wishing this to be over. I did ease up a bit and a few people went past me, but I was still hurting and breathing through a thin straw. My exercise-induced asthma made itself known as well, not as bad as on some occasions in the past but enough to be a nuisance. My sense of distance had completely gone as well. We did a 180 degree turn and I thought we were heading straight to the finish (hey, this 5k isn't so bad after all) when the course suddenly veered right over a bridge (oh fuck, this is bad after all), and the uphill section of that bridge wasn't helping either. The same happened once more, I thought we were finally heading for home only for another sharp turn to come up. I always slowed down a touch on the turns because I would not trust the surface, but that didn't make much difference to my time.

A bigger issue was my distinct lack of desire to put the hurt all the way to 10; it was maybe an 8 or a 9, but definitely not maxed out. Even out on the road I was kind of pissed off with myself for the lack of willingness to suffer properly, and yet it still hurt like hell. Anyway, after a lifetime of deep pain and with me just about losing the will to live, we finally crossed the Liffey for the last time and then there was the finish just a quarter mile ahead of us, which still felt far away at the time but we got there. 20 minutes had come and gone, ah well, and I finished in 20:29. Good God, that bloody hurt, even though I hadn't put everything into it. Just imagine if I had!

The watch had measured the course way long at 3.2 miles, which is the longest I have ever seen in a 5k. The watch actually had me at sub-20 pace. I know a GPS isn't accurate enough to make definite statement but I'm still pretty sure this was long, possibly by more than 100 meters.

I can't fault the general organisation, though. It was excellent and all went smoothly, which is quite impressive with the number of runners on show.

With me being soaking wet I got cold immediately and wasn't hanging around, so I cycled home, which served as a hell of a cool down. The next day I felt pretty good initially but got quite sore after a while, and my recovery run at lunch time was slow, stiff and awkward. I was actually glad to have the option of a standing desk, as that felt a lot more comfortable than sitting down. Figure that one out.
3 Sep
5+ miles, 43:09, 8:32 pace, HR 140
4 Sep
0
5 Sep
4+ miles, incl. 5K(+) race in 20:29, 6:23 pace, HR 172
6 Sep
4+ miles, 37:01, 9:05 pace, HR 141

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Regress

The good news first, as soon as I took that needle to that blister on my toe (which, it should probably be pointed out, you're not supposed to do due to infection risk) it felt a lot better, and one week later the discomfort has not returned. The tip of the toe is still dark red and the nail doesn't exactly look a picture of health (I'll spare you the photos) but it doesn't hurt, so that's that as far as I'm concerned.

VDOT August 2018
The bad news is that training - what training? Here's a chart with the numbers for last month, and it doesn't make for great reading. The numbers are as low as I've ever seen, but more importantly they aren't rising. I had hoped that a month of lower mileage would sort out recovery after Irdning and then I'd be able to move on, but whatever I tried, it doesn't seem to have worked.

Work has been absolutely manic this week in the office with meetings and customer calls coming back-to-back all day every day, so much so that there was not a chance to head out for a lunchtime run on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. I know I would have had the option to run either in the morning or evening but I felt too tired and with me being on lower mileage anyway I just took them as rest days.

Anyway, I'd radically change things and start picking up the miles again, except I have the Berlin marathon in 2 weeks' time, which doesn't make for ideal timing. I might do it anyway.

What few runs I managed during the week were all rather short and supposedly at an easy effort, not that the HR would confirm that. Saturday was actually rather positive, for the first time since I have forgotten when I got through the run entirely on autopilot, never wishing I were home now.

On Sunday I basically tried to force the issue and see how I would cope after a couple of hours out there. I ran at an easy effort but on a very hilly route from Bray to Kilternan and back via Cabinteely, which was a mile or two longer than I had expected (yes, I could have checked it out beforehand but didn't). I felt fine early on but it was very humid, my top was drenched after only two miles, and eventually the miles did tell; whether it was the effort or the dehydration that had the bigger effect is hard to tell but I'd go for the latter. I don't remember ever being as thirsty as that during a run. Of course I made it home and of course it was dead slow and of course I was tired afterwards but I'm still glad I did it - it doesn't bode particularly well for Berlin but I'll survive.
27 Aug
0
28 Aug
0
29 Aug
4.85 miles, 39:35, 8:09 pace, HR 151
30 Aug
0
31 Aug
5 miles, 41:25, 8:16 pace, HR 151
1 Sep
5.25 miles, 43:47, 8:20 pace, HR 148
2 Sep
16.83 miles, 2:31:45, 9:00 pace, HR 153

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Toe Troubles

When I ran to work on Friday, I noticed some serious discomfort from my right foot. I thought it was the sock rubbing against one of my toes, which does happen occasionally. It's not particularly serious but can be quite uncomfortable. However, once I got into work and got the chance to have a look at my foot, I could see it was something else. The top of my second toes was bright red and swollen and the toenail look a rather sickly milky white and seemed just about to come off completely. A quick google seemed to indicate a fungal infection, though I have since changed my mind and think it's a bacterial infection.

It was a lot word on Saturday, so much so that I really questioned if I should go running with this. But you know me, if in any doubt, I go for a run. The first mile was rather uncomfortable with some throbbing pain emanating from the area but then the endorphins kicked in and the rest of the run was fine. In fact, it was definitely one of my better runs recently - I saw a runner ahead of me after a couple of miles which gave me teh incentive to chase him down rather than keep plotting along. That was somewhat fun, even if I barely broke 8-minute miles, which renders teh term "chase" rather relative.

I also did a few hill sprints up our drive way at the end. That was pre-planned, not a result of feeling particularly energised.

Then the toe returned with a fury, enough to make me wonder if I'd have to visit a doctor for it. I eventually did what you're not supposed to do. There was a blister on top of my toe, right at the nail, and eventually I took a needle to it and drained it. Apparently there is a real danger of an infection when you do that but it has felt much better ever since, and on Sunday it also started to look better, so I guess I did the right thing.

What didn't go right at all on Sunday, however, was my run. I had planned a long-ish run, as you do on Sundays, but these days my long runs aren't particularly long anyway, so nothing to worry about you'd think. A was planning to go via Kilternan and set off at a very easy pace. However, after a few miles it became apparent that it wasn't all going to plan so I changed it to a shorter loop through Rathmichael. That was barely longer than 11 miles and shouldn't have been a problem but I only just about made it home, crawling at snails pace and was totally and utterly spent afterwards.

Thank God for chocolate cake!

What the fuck is going on here?
  • I was probably depleted, as I had waited out the rain and left it late, and still had not eaten breakfast by then.
  • I ran on cushioned shoes. Most people do, but for me that just seems to suck the energy out of my stride. I think I need to run on seriously non-cushioned shoes to be somewhat efficient.
  • The hill repeats from the day before might have sucked the power out of the hamstrings.
  • I might be overtrained again. I find that hard to believe because I have done so little training, but it feels a bit like that.

Now what?
23 Aug
4.97 miles, 42:19, 8:30 pace, HR 145
24 Aug
10.23 miles, 1:29:09, 8:42 pace, HR 145
25 Aug
4 miles, 32:29, 8:07 pace, HR 143
   4 x 12 sec hill sprints afterwards
26 Aug
11.41 miles, 1:42:12, 8:57 pace, HR 148

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Mayo and Me

As I was cycling into work this morning, it occurred to me: I'm just like Mayo.


No, not the condiment.

The Mayo Gaelic football team!



In fact there are two striking similarities.

One, just like Mayo I have come second more often than I care to remember. Not that coming second is particularly bad, it's better than third, fourth or any number following thereafter. But if you've come second (or third) about 10 times as often as you managed to top the podium, it kinda sucks.

Second, just like Mayo I keep finding new and interesting ways to fuck things up. They might miss last minute frees, I keep get overtrained, and always in a slightly new and novel way.

I managed it so damn quickly this time, I'm almost impressed. I didn't even do any fast intervals, there were just 2 workouts of any note, but couple that with running too hard on my easy days and too hard on my long days and too hard on the workout days and Boom! in yet another hole.

I can't even explain why I did that workout on Monday when I knew from the very first step that it was going to be bad. I guess my biggest strength is tenacity bordering on stubbornness, not mental flexibility, which also makes stubbornness my biggest weakness.

The workout was shit, running on tired legs, slower than only a few days earlier and feeling knackered afterwards.

On Tuesday I ran into work, which counts as my long run, and I felt surprisingly good. Until I finished and took a look at the watch and was shocked by slowly I had run. It's not that I finally found my long run groove - I could have sworn I had run at least 30 seconds per mile faster. So I ran slowly and it didn't even feel that slow. That's when I knew I was digging myself into yet another hole.

So, what are we going to do about it?

On Wednesday I didn't run at all. With work commitments, a run would have been awkward to fit into the day, not that that usually stops me, but in this case it was a welcome break. And I'll refrain from workouts for a bit. We'll see how quickly it takes to feel better again. Just take it easy.

20 Aug
4.95 miles, 39:16, 7:56 pace, HR 156
   3 miles @ 7:27 pace, HR 163
21 Aug
10.2 miles, 1:30:46, 8:53 pace, HR 145
22 Aug
0

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Sharpening

With Berlin getting close, the time had come to take some action.

First of all, I finally booked flight and accommodation. I'm not entirely sure why I left it so late. Before Irdning I tried to focus on just that race and not even think of anything else but it then took me almost 2 months to look ahead towards Berlin. Anyway, despite being late I managed to snag some reasonably cheap flights and beds.

The other thing is that I'm trying to somewhat sharpen up beforehand. It's a very simple program from MC. Easy / faster / longer, and repeat. The main problems so far are that 1) I run too hard on my easy days and 2) I run too hard on my faster days and 3) I run too far on my long(-ish) days.

I just need to stop trying to be clever. For my easy day this morning I thought it might be a good idea to scout out the trail from the promenade towards Bray Head. I've run up the Eastern slope a few times and wanted to see what's it like from the other side. Well, wouldn't you believe it, the thing is bloody steep, so steep that any notions of "easy" got lost very quickly. Ah well. At least I know what's it like now. And which turn NOT to take, unless you like climbing precariously and end up bushwhacking for a bit.

Yesterday was an interesting route, via the road to Greystones and back on the cliff walk, with a couple of miles on the beach added for supposed fun. The beach section actually wasn't all that much fun, too soft in places and the sidewards slope made my knees hurt, so I'll leave that out in future. And I had estimated this to be about 12 miles and got caught out when it was over 14. As it turns out, 12 would have just about been enough to tire me out and the last 2-3 were a bit of a struggle on tired legs and out of energy.

Ok, I better get that right, and quickly. Easy days easy. Faster days at the prescribed effort. And relax on the long days. And maybe keep the exploring for another time.
15 Aug
4.95 miles, 40:31, 8:11 pace, HR 152
16 Aug
4.95 miles, 38:11, 7:49 pace, HR 156
   3 miles @ 7:22 pce, HR 163
17 Aug
4.8 miles, 38:52, 8:05 pace, HR 151
18 Aug
14.16 miles, 2:12:22, 9:20 pace, HR 148
   beach section & Cliff walk trail
19 Aug
5.75 miles, 1:00:52, 10:35 pace, HR 140
   Bray Head

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Mocking Me

I don't know where the feeling is coming from. Who is the culprit? Is it the legs? Is it the brain? Whatever it is, something keeps telling me I'm old, slow and unfit. That's not what it's supposed to be like. Running is fun. I occasionally still get that. Even after a shit run like today. Out on the road itself, though, I do struggle. There's always that little demon sitting on my shoulder, whispering into my ear how old I've become.

The watch tells me I'm actually making progress. Today's run was a little bit faster than last week, which had been a little bit faster than the week before. So I know I'm making progress. The watch doesn't lie. However, it doesn't feel like it.

I'm actually signed up for a marathon in 4 weeks' time. Months ago I put my name into the ballot for Berlin, which I had never run before. I didn't expect to be drawn, but I was. So now I have an entry. I don't really feel like running a marathon. I'm struggling with 10 mile runs. However, unless I get sick or an injury, I know full well that I'm going to run. That's just me. I don't know how to quit. Or when. And I know I'll get the marathon done just fine. Not in a fast time, not even by my modest standards, but I'll get along just fine. The muscles always know what to do, and there's always the little bit of magic happening when I pin a number to my shirt.

There's plenty of time. Four weeks is enough to get some fitness back. I'm not exactly starting at zero. I'll just have to try and remember that when I'm out on the road.
9 Aug
10.17 miles, 1:29:39, 8:48 pace, HR 143
10 Aug
4.55 miles, 36:11, 7:57 pace, HR 147
11 Aug
4.05 miles, 31:49, 7:51 pace, HR 150
12 Aug
7.67 miles, 1:11:16, 9:17 pace, HR 149
   Bray Head
13 Aug
4.5 miles, 37:23, 8:18 pace
14 Aug
10.25 miles, 1:27:18, 8:31 pace, HR 149

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Stunned!

It doesn’t happen often that I am completely stunned but that’s exactly what happened a few days ago. I opened Facebook and the very first entry I saw had my jaw dropping as I was staring at the screen in utter disbelief, barely being able to grasp the reality of what I was reading.

The 2019 World Championships in Austria have been cancelled!

Had I known that was to happen, I would have done things very differently this year. I sensed a long time ago that I most likely should take a break instead of training ever harder in order to get back to international standards. To make the 2019 team I would have to run 2 quality races: one to qualify, and then the championships themselves. It was always a tough assignment but I had managed exactly that in 2014/2015, but admittedly on fresher legs.

Since I never managed to get back properly, the championships themselves have become moot as far as my personal running is concerned. However, there was still that little devil sitting on my shoulder, daring me to jump into another race, either in Tooting Bec, or in Listowel, or in Barcelona, or in whatever place I would find. I knew odds would have been against me to say the least. But a world championship in my home country would have been a unique opportunity and I may well have tried to grasp at straws, no matter how unlikely.

That has now definitely become moot. As was always the most sensible thing to do, I will definitely take it easy.

That has been surprisingly easy. My mileage is less than half of what I used to do week in week out. I used to run over 300 days in a row, and now I have taken a rest day whenever running wouldn’t easily fit into real life, even twice in a row (gasp!). I haven’t got any goals, no races planned, and definitely no pressure.

I can see Little Sugarloaf from my garden. On Sunday I ran up – though running was limited to the bottom half of the mountain, closer to the top it was hiking and scrambling on all fours at times. The views were fantastic though.

On bank holiday Monday I did a very similar run, but up to Bray Head. That was much more runnable and might do as a replacement for Windy Gap. And the views were equally as good. It’s nice to have those climbs so close to home. Maybe I won’t be missing Caragh Lake quite as much as I though I would.







2 Aug
4.12 miles, 33:13, 8:03 pace, HR 149
3 Aug
4.07 miles, 33:27, 8:13 pace, HR 147
4 Aug
5.55 miles, 47:41, 8:35 pace, HR 145
5 Aug
6.33 miles, 1:13:23, 11:35 pace, HR 139
   Little Sugarloaf
6 Aug
5.03 miles, 49:30, 9:50 pace, HR 141
   Bray Head

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

In Limbo

I’m definitely starting to slack with my blog updates. If that spells the beginning of the end of this blog or just reflects my present state of mind will eventually be revealed.

I'm still undecided on what I want to go for next. Niamh definitely wants me to quit 24 hour racing but I prefer to make up my own mind. I'm not in any rush. 5k? Marathon? 100 mile? Iron man? 24 hrs? 48 hrs? One day I'll wake and know what appeals to me the most.

In the meantime I try and rebuild my fitness. It’s astounding hoe much you lose in 3 weeks of not running, even though I had started to cycle 20 miles a day for a week (that’s my work commute) before I started running again.

With the bike I managed to flatten twice in 3 days, which was mainly down to my tyre being well past its useful life I think, but it also reminded me why I prefer running to cycling as a sport, even though I really enjoy riding the bike.

And with the legs I’ve had a few ups and downs already. The numbers are depressing if you compare them with what they were like before the race, so I don’t compare them. They will pick up, I know that very well. Yesterday (Tuesday) was the first day when I felt I was really making progress, running felt much easier and I was doing almost a decent pace for once. All that progress came to a shuddering halt this morning when the legs felt like shit from pretty much the first step. I got 3 miles down the road still feeling somewhat ok but anything after that was a struggle. And since I was running to work I didn’t even have the option of bailing out early. Ah well. I was almost missing the feeling of sore leg – now I know again what it’s like, for sure.

We were back in Kerry one last time last weekend, mainly because of Shea's Debs, but also to get another van load of stuff. The house is rather empty now. It looks kind of sad. Time to move on.

26 Jul
4.83 miles, 38:51, 8:02 pace, HR 153
27 Jul
4.86 miles, 38:21, 7:53 pace, HR 154
28 Jul
5.05 miles, 42:51, 8:29 pace, HR 148
29 Jul
8 miles, 1:08:06, 8:30 pace, HR 147
31 Jul
4.1 miles, 33:19, 8:07 pace, HR 147
1 Aug
10.36 miles, 1:31:05, 8:47 pace, HR 151

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

On The Road Again

And so, last Saturday, exactly three weeks after the race in Irdning, I made my comeback.

The first 100 meters down from our house are steep downhill and felt easy enough. Then the road flattens out and it immediately started to get a lot more challenging. You sure lose a lot of fitness in three weeks! The first mile was slow, ponderous, painful, all the things I knew it would be, but within 10 minutes the muscle memory started to come back and I even started to get into some sort of flow, slow and creaky as it was.

Three miles were enough for a first run. Enough even to get the hamstrings sore.

I did 4 the next day, dodgy hamstrings or not, and that was already pushing my luck so I backed down to 3 the next day. And then I spent an entire day not running - my legs were sore enough to warrant a day off (already!) and it would have been awkward to fit in a run into my day anyway (not that that ever stopped me before).

I was planning on doing 4 again today but misremembered the length of that loop and it ended up close to five. Ah well. I got trough it. I ran that one too fast as well - I find it impossible to gauge my pace at the moment.

All that will come back soon.

I don't have any real plans at the moment. I'll just run for fun. I think I'd like to start concentrating on shorter distances, and with a parkrun on not far from here every Saturday that sounds like a good option at the moment. Mind, I might change my mind as soon as I have to do my first interval - speed training was never really my thing, quite possibly to my disadvantage. As I said, let's see. I just want to have fun for now.

21 Jul
3 miles, 25:33, 8:31 pace, HR 151
22 Jul
4+ miles, 35:19, 8:40 pace, HR 152
23 Jul
3+ miles, 25:03, 8:14 pace, HR 150
24 Jul
0
25 Jul
4.8+ miles, 38:22, 7:55 pace, HR 156