Sunday, January 28, 2018

One Year Older - Again!

The age is in the photo!
When you're 16 years old and look about 4 years younger, that really sucks. Take it from me. However, once you reach an older age, there are some benefits to that genetic disposition. I've long reached the point where I appreciate looking younger than my age, and the surprised look at people's faces when I tell people I'm almost 50 isn't getting old either, excuse the pun.

Obviously, having kids means there are some who won't let me get away so easily. My youngest, 10 herself, never misses an opportunity to let me know how ancient I am. Mind, my wife does the same and she has much less of an excuse. Never mind, being a competitive runner actually means I'm looking forward to a new age group, where bling comes a bit easier to achieve. Still a bit to go, though.

Training is going very well. I think I've given up trying to run faster and increased the mileage again, and this time I fully intend to crank thing up to serious levels. I'm in the 90s at the moment and feeling good, and with 1 or 2 additional doubles a week I'll easily go into 3 digits. I can already feel the legs getting stronger and there are other signs that the body is adapting: yesterday morning the weighing scales stopped at 142 pounds (10 stone 2, 64.4 kg) and the resting HR at 37, both the lowest values in years. I'm aware that neither number automatically means a high level of fitness but since they are coming together with feeling ready good I am reading them as meaning exactly that: I'm getting really fit.

Not that things are going smoothly all the time. On Friday I stumbled over some invisible obstacle on the Carrickmines M50 bridge in the dark and did a full body flop, scratching my right leg quite badly on the concrete. I didn't even notice at first but the stinging sensations from my right side soon became impossible to ignore.

I'm also running into troubles when running into town as part of my commute. My glasses have started rubbing against my nose, so much so that it can bleed quite a bit, definitely not a look I favour when getting into work. So I run without glasses, which means I'm running half-blind as I'm very short sighted. That's not a problem running through the parks near home but in the city centre with all those people, very uneven sidewalks and heavy traffic it can be downright dangerous. On several occasions I have almost stumbled onto the street because I did not see where the sidewalk ended, I once crossed a road just a couple of seconds before a bus because I simply had not seen it and last week I once inadvertently crossed a road on red because I mistakenly thought that green light ahead of me was meant for pedestrians. Not good. But if I survive 3 more weeks of that commute I'm good because I'm changing jobs yet again, and my new one is in Sandyford and I no longer have to head into Dublin centre.

Let's hope they'll be as tolerant of my running lifestyle as my last 2 employers!
24 Jan
9.7 miles, 1:15:03, 7:44 pace, HR 141
25 Jan
12+ miles, 1:40:08, 8:18 pace, HR 140
   incl 2+ miles of sprint the straights and jog the curves
26 Jan
10 miles, 1:22:45, 8:16 pace, HR 132
27 Jan
10 miles, 1:16:06, 7:36 pace, HR 144
28 Jan
18 miles, 2:24:29, 8:02 pace, HR 138

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Must Try Harder

just imagine what I would have looked like had I tried hard enough ...
A bit of rain doesn't bother me, after living in Kerry for nearly 14 years there's nothing Dublin can throw at me that I haven't experienced to a greater extend our Wesht. So I jogged towards Cabinteely on Saturday morning through some puddles and got there in time for the parkrun, already thoroughly wet. The idea was to push myself for 5k but not race it all out, maybe 90% effort. I was in around 10th place right after the start but caught a few runners after a mile, though was caught by the female winner myself. The parkrun course is very hilly for a 5k, and you have to climb that hill no less that 3 times. I tried not to kill myself going up the hill by turning the intensity down a notch, and I also tried not to kill myself on the downhill by taking care on the slippery, extremely wet path. I was breathing pretty damn hard, and sure thought I was running pretty damn hard, but when I checked my time after finishing I did a double-take in disbelief as the watch displayed 20:39, when I had been sure I had definitely run at sub-20 effort. Not even close, how wrong can you be!

My first theory was that what few fast-twitch fibres I'd had in my legs had given up and died at some stage in the last 2 years, but when I got home and had another look at the numbers I got a second shock when the average HR for what was supposed to be almost a race came back at 160!

You gotta be kidding me! I ran a race and barely even matched the intensity of an evaluation, which is a very moderate workout to start with! I have a higher HR whenever I race a marathon!!!

So, on one level, a complete failure. I had intended to (almost) race it. I clearly didn't. I have completely forgotten how to race a 5k.

On a different level, not bad. HR 160 for 6:33 pace on a hilly course is pretty damn solid.

Also, not racing on Saturday meant I didn't have to recover on Sunday. The legs were perfectly fine. I had agreed to meet a friend and run 18k with him, at his pace. The rain was supposed to stop any time soon but it was still pouring down buckets as I ran the 5 miles to Blackrock DART station, and the paths were basically flooded, so I just ran through all the puddles, there was no point whatsoever in prancing around them. I met up with Julio and we proceeded to run towards Poolbeg, chatting along. We slightly changed the planned route by running out all the way to the lighthouse, which meant 20k for him but nobody complained. At some point halfway through our run the rain finally started to ease but of course we were already soaked to the bones and the paths were still flooded. Once we were back in Blackrock we had a coffee before going our separate ways and I ran the last 5 miles home again for a total of 22.5 miles today, albeit with a break.

it stopped raining!
It was slower than usual, and the difference that made was astounding. I had been rather exhausted after my last 20 mile run; today I was what Lydiard would have called "pleasantly tired", almost ready to go out again and run some more. Interesting. Maybe I should slow down on my long runs.

Anyway, the mileage itself sure didn't tax me as I felt great on Monday's run home from work, though I suspect some tailwind had provided assistance, because I sure felt the headwind when going the other way on Tuesday morning. Still, the legs are definitely in good shape and seem to like the mileage picking up again.
20 Jan
10+ miles, 1:20:56, 7:52 pace
   incl. Cabinteely parkrun 20:39, 6:33 pace, HR 160, 7th place
21 Jan
22+ miles, 3:13:31, 8:34 pace, HR 133
22 Jan
9.75 miles, 1:15:15, 7:43 pace, HR 138
23 Jan
9.7 miles, 1:18:11, 8:03 pace, HR 140

Friday, January 19, 2018

That Time Of The Year

I've reached the point where I wish winter would just pack it in and fuck off. It's been freezing for way too bloody long and constantly running in the dark is getting old as well. We've had one storm after the other, and I'm actually perfectly aware that I'm getting away lightly here in Dublin; those weather systems are a lot worse on the Atlantic coast.

This is definitely the coldest winter since the two Big Freezes in a row several years ago. I don't think I even used my running tights last year at all, this year they are the only thing I would even consider wearing. And I did see that picture of a lot of my mates in shorts in the snow up the mountains on facebook the other day - though I merely regard it as proof, if ever one was needed, that machismo is fucking stupid.

Enough of the swearing.

My mileage, which I deliberately reduced when I introduced faster weekly workouts, is starting to creep up again but that's mostly down to the fact that I re-started running twice a day on occasions (ok, only one occasion so far, but there will be more to come). I am slowly coming to the conclusion that I seem to increase fitness much better on higher mileage than by doing a few workouts. However, I'll still try and get some faster miles into the legs and that parkrun idea for the weekend is still valid.

I did one workout so far this week, which was a new kind of workout in this training cycle, namely long hill repeats. There is that tasty little road towards Puck's Castle, about 1 km long, with the additional evil feature of getting steeper the higher you get. Running there from my apartment and doing 4 repeats would add up to exactly 10 miles, which seems far too round a number to pass up the opportunity.

Wednesday morning actually was the worst day of the week I could have picked due to the snow on Tuesday evening and the freezing temperatures the following night which made for tricky road conditions the next morning, especially on higher grounds. However, the frozen snow provided just enough traction to keep the workout a possibility and I got through it without slipping once, so I got away with that one.

The workout itself was interesting enough. I was sure the first repeat would be the slowest because for me that is usually still part of the warm up. Running the repeats I could have sworn the second and third ones were the fastest while I started to feel the effort during the fourth one and was tempted to pull the plug, but got a surprise when looking at the numbers afterwards and the fourth had actually been the fastest and the third the slowest! I'll probably do that workout again in the coming weeks, I like what hill repeats do to my legs.
15 Jan
10.65 miles, 1:25:39, 8:02 pace, HR 134
16 Jan
9.7 miles, 1:17:11, 7:57 pace, HR 136
17 Jan
10 miles, 1:23:20, 8:19 pace, HR 141
   4 x 1k hill repeat
18 Jan
am: 9.7 miles, 1:17:31, 7:59 pace, HR 139
pm: 9.75 miles, 1:17:07, 7:54 pace, HR 141
19 Jan
10.3 miles, 1:23:47, 8:08 pace, HR 135

Sunday, January 14, 2018


I'm trying to do 2 workouts a week at the moment, covering 2 different aspects of speed. One workout is hill sprints, the other one is a more sustained effort. The second kind of workout seems to take quite some toll on my body; a few years ago I could recover relatively quickly; these days even 2 easy days seem to be insufficient at times. I do wonder if I should make changes - I don't ever want to dig myself into an overtraining hole again, and doing speed workouts that I could not recover from is exactly what caused me to fall into that hole 2/3 years ago.

For this week I decided to do another evaluation workout. This serves 2 purposes: it is a reasonably moderate workout that I should recover quickly from, better than from a set of quarter-mile repeats, and it also provides great feedback to where my form is right now (that's why it's called an evaluation workout, obviously).

It was still pitch black on Thursday morning, and I decided against the track but did it on a loop in Kilbogget Park that happens to be almost exactly 1 mile long and very flat. A few dog walkers were about but nothing that would have caused a problem with the workout. The recent rain had left a few puddles behind but again, nothing that would have interfered with the workout, apart from slightly wet feet.

Anyway, every time I run at HR 160 I find it much harder work than I can remember, and every time I feel like I will be struggling to even complete the workout, never mind trying to hold an even effort. However, every time it turns out that it's completely manageable and in fact, doesn't leave me anywhere near as tired as other speed workouts. The same happened again on Thursday morning, but I do wonder if it does indeed start getting a bit harder.

The paces for each mile were 6:36, 6:44, 6:49, 6:51, and the recovery to HR 130 took about 35 seconds. Those numbers are a bit worse than last month, for which I have 2 possible explanations. First, after some technical difficulties there is a slight questionmark over last month's numbers, though I still do believe them to be correct. Second, I am not entirely recovered from that infection I was fighting off after New Year. Also, it took me quite some time to feel recovered after last week's speed workout, so maybe recovery really is taking longer than expected, even though I'm trying hard not to overdo it.

Anyway, the numbers aren't bad, certainly better than a lot of times in the past, so I'll keep trying for a little bit longer before I make drastic changes,

I was back in Kerry for the weekend, which meant 2 more runs along/around the lake. There is just something about that route that never fails to provide a little extra spring to my legs, the lovely scenery apparently helping me along; I didn't even mind the rain and the wind, and the fact that the road was still waterlogged on Saturday and I had to run through ankle-deep puddles of almost frozen water. On Sunday the hamstrings were complaining of being overworked on every climb for the first 10 miles, until they finally gave up moaning and settled nicely in the second half of my run, I'm not sure how climbing hills can feel easier during the second half of a long run than during the first but that's exactly what happened.

Anyway, I'm back in Dublin now, and I will be here next weekend as well. I might brave another parkrun, hoping that it will work out better than my last attempt (I spent the night in hospital with chest pains). Let's see.
11 Jan
7.5 miles, 56:18, 7:27 pace, HR 148
   4 miles eval 6:36, 6:44, 6:49, 6:51, 35 sec recovery
12 Jan
10 miles, 1:20:44, 8:04 pace, HR 138
13 Jan
12 miles, 1:34:24, 7:52 pace, HR 140
14 Jan
18 miles, 2:23:45, 7:59 pace, HR 140

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


It's 10 days into January already? Did I blink and miss half of it?

They say if time flies you're obviously having fun. They also say it's a sign of getting old, and since both apply to me I should not be surprised, I guess.

My HR had been elevated for a few days after New Year's Day. My running HR was slightly elevated but my resting HR was far more affected, at least 10 beats higher than normal. I blame that on my brother-in-law who dragged himself and his family to the big family gathering at New Year's Day despite them all complaining about being sick, with the result that half the clan subsequently suffered from some nasty virus. Thanks, Michael! I strongly suspect the higher HR readings were from the time when my body was fighting off the same infection but it seems to have succeeded, I never got sick and by Sunday I noticed the resting HR gradually starting to come down again. By Wednesday morning it was back to 38, which is just about as low as it gets (I won't say "good" because a low HR isn't necessarily a sign of top fitness).

Anyway, introducing some speedwork hasn't borne fruit just yet. My normal runs have gotten significantly slower, which makes sense as the legs are bound to be tired after workouts and I automatically respond by running slower. My legs aren't used to running fast, so I'll definitely need to give them a bit of time.

I ran 20 miles on Sunday, which I expected to be just another long run but the legs had other ideas. They never felt great but were somewhat okay for the first 15 miles. However, the route I chose had some tailwind for the first half, which I didn't even notice, which meant a 10 mile fight against the wind to get back home. After 15 miles it started telling and the last few miles were a bit of a struggle. After that run I was pretty much wiped out and just vegged away on the sofa for the rest of the day. Ah the luxuries of the rest of the family being on the other end of the country!

Having to fit running into real life is bound to lead to compromises at times, and the only time I could squeeze my next workout into my schedule was on Monday, which is not ideal the day after a tiring long run. I did a few hill sprints, which doesn't tire me out as much as other workouts. The body seems to be handling those better as well, though if that translates into better running performance in general is yet to be revealed.
6 Jan
10.6 miles, 1:23:44, 7:53 pace, HR 145
7 Jan
20 miles, 2:43:46, 8:11 pace, HR 140
8 Jan
7.5 miles, 1:08:52, 9:10 pace, HR 130
   incl 9 x 10 sec hill sprints, 2 mins walk/jog recovery
9 Jan
10 miles, 1:23:19, 8:19 pace, HR 138
10 Jan
9.75 miles, 1:19:33, 8:09 pace, HR 138

Friday, January 05, 2018

Running Fast, Slowly

The new year got off to a reasonably solid if entirely unspectacular start. I've re-started the run commute, but only one way at a time. The mileage will be slightly lower the next few weeks because speed work and long miles don't mix very well, and I want to get some speed into my legs now. There won't be the opportunity to do so later in the training cycle.

I need to be careful. After years and years of injury-free running I then acquired 2 injuries, both related to workouts. Plus, too much speedwork got me into an overtrained state that took a long time to get out of, and I sure don't want to repeat the same mistakes again.

Therefore, my speed workouts will not be spectacular, neither in length nor in pace. I'll try to run faster but not go to the well, and when I feel that the workout should be over, it will be over.

Case in point, I went to our local dirt track this morning. Since a track is 400 meters long, 400s were on the cards as it just makes things simple. There's no light available but it's an almost Full Moon and the night was clear, so a moonlit workout it was. Neither the early time nor the low temperatures were in my favour but you just get on with things. Since it was so dark that I couldn't see the numbers on the watch it was a workout entirely by feel. I also lost count early on and had no idea how many repeats I had done, but at some point realised I was tired because I had inadvertently jogged past the point where the next repeat should have started without realising, and a frazzled brain seemed to indicate that the workout should end soon. I finished with one last effort, a bit faster than the other ones, and went home.

To be honest I was a bit shocked to see such slow numbers. The first and second one don't mean much as I was taking my time to ease into the effort but then I still only ran at about 6:15-6:25 pace. Come to think about it, that is probably reasonably close to my present 5k race pace, which sounds like the right effort for 400s, but I used to run them closer to 5:30 pace, so that was a bit sad to see. But let me repeat what I said earlier, I'd much rather do an easier workout than dig myself into a hole again or get injured, and I think and feel I got the effort level right.

I just need to get used to being older, that's all.

1 Jan
10 miles, 1:18:02, 7:48 pace
2 Jan
7.5 miles, 1:06:10, 8:46 pace, HR 131
   hill sprints
3 Jan
9.7 miles, 1:15:21, 7:46 pace, HR 145
4 Jan
9.75 miles, 1:19:01, 8:06 pace, HR 141
5 Jan
6.7 miles, 57:14, 8:25 pace, HR 136
   9 x 400s, 200 rest