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

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


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
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


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
28 Aug
29 Aug
4.85 miles, 39:35, 8:09 pace, HR 151
30 Aug
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