Sunday, March 24, 2019

Fingers Crossed

The last few months have been very frustrating, running wise. After that silly accident in January I sure did not expect to be sidelined for so long (in fact, at first I didn't expect to be sidelined at all!), and it has been a very slow process.

However, finally it seems to be behind me. Last week I was still not quite right as I noticed after having a reaction to running the 10 miles to work but I repeated the same workout this week and suffered no further setbacks.

I ran 6 days this week, and the one break came on Friday, not because I felt I needed a break but because I just could not manage to get away at work, and then decided to take that as a hint and didn't try to squeeze in an evening run either.

I actually had another fall, after encountering one particularly stupid dog in the park. As we approached each other I veered towards my left, he veered towards my right, so all seemed fine, only for that damn mut to suddenly take a turn right into me and he got to my leg just at the split second of toe-off and I took yet another tumble. The lady was very apologetic, not that I could really blame her, apart from the fact that she had picked a particularly stupid dog for pet, but thankfully no damage was done.

Anyway, I turned the screw another notch on the weekend, first with an 8+ miles run on Saturday which went really well and I finished with plenty left in the tank, and had me wondering if all the cycling I had done over the last few months had kept my fitness at a surprisingly good level. However, the legs were definitely not sprightly on Sunday, so some damaged was done after all. I did a "long" run on Sunday, doing laps in Shanganagh Park so I would be able to gauge every 2k how I was feeling, giving me the chance to bail out early at regular intervals. I just ran slowly, at a very easy effort, and the legs seemed to be able to handle it. After about 5 laps I figured that another lap plus the run back home would take me right to the 2-hour mark, so that was that. I was reasonably tired afterwards, so how the hell I am going to fare in Connemara I don't even want to think about.

Oh, and I decided not to run a long ultra this year, for the first time since 2011. I hope my body will thank me for it by not falling apart any further. I had my eyes on the Donadea running festival in June, but eventually decided to skip it and just do ... actually, I don't know yet what I'll do instead. I'll play it by ear.
18 Mar
7.26 miles, 1:01:03, 8:24 pace, HR 153
19 Mar
4.39 miles, 36:32, 8:19 pace, HR 158
20 Mar
10.2 miles, 1:28:50, 8:42 pace, HR 148
21 Mar
4.5 miles, 36:43, 8:09 pace, HR 151
23 Mar
8.35 miles, 1:10:17, 8:25 pace, HR 139
24 Mar
13.73 miles, 2:03:43, 9:00 pace, HR 143

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh

Much of what I do in life, whether running or otherwise, is based on trial and error and some things just don't change. The hip had been feeling pretty good for at least a week, so when I felt it was time to try running the 10 miles to work again last Wednesday, it seemed a perfectly reasonable idea.

It fit well within my real-life schedule as I had to take public transport home that evening anyway, and running to work meant I didn't have to leave the bike in overnight. To be honest, I was far more apprehensive about how the legs would cope than the hip. The fact that it was a very windy day and I had to battle a fairly brutal headwind for the entire stretch - at times I wondered if I would ever get there - made it only tougher, so I was actually pleasantly surprised by the fact that I still had plenty of energy left when I got there. Alas, the hip didn't like it at all. In fact, I had felt it even before the run but wondered if that was purely psychological, caused by being a bit anxious about the run. But no, for the rest of the day, actually the rest of the week, I felt it again, and that was a real setback.

It's difficult to describe what it actually feels like. It doesn't hurt as such. It's not even a real discomfort. It just feels - weird. A very dull ache, not really how I would expect an injury to feel like. When I start running my hip feels a bit stiff, though not exactly what actual stiffness feels like ... I told you it's hard to describe.

So I had to take a step back again. I didn't run on Thursday, and only for a few miles on Friday. On Saturday morning I had to head down towards town where Niamh had left the car on her night out, and retrieve it before she got a parking ticket. I took the scenic route for about 4.5 miles, and by some miracle when I was done the hip suddenly felt perfectly fine again. Something very similar had happened a week or two earlier, I'm not sure what exactly is going on, but as far as I can tell a short run is better than complete rest, and a longer run is bad. I just have to figure out where the limit between the short and the long run lies - and of course that is a moving target.

Apart from all that, my hip wasn't actually the worst thing happening to my body this week. I don't know what caused it but I had a pretty bad allergic reaction to something. I had reactions all over my skin, including some brutal looking bright red stripes on my stomach, and my entire body was incredibly itchy, it was really rough for a couple of days. An antihistamine tablet eventually got me over the worst and eventually the big angry stripes started to fade - though I can still see them. It might have been the washing powder (for some inexplicable reason Niamh bought a different one to the usual one) but that's just a guess. I had a very similar episode a few years ago when staying on Valentia Island, and I don't know what the cause was back then either.

But hey, let's move on. Slowly, as is my wont these days.
12 Mar
4.5 miles, 38:34, 8:33 pace, HR 150
13 Mar
10.2 miles, 1:33:53, 9:12 pace, HR 149
15 Mar
4+ miles, 36:14, 8:54 pace, HR 147
16 Mar
4.45 miles, 39:20, 8:50 pace, HR 142
17 Mar
6.3 miles, 54:55, 8:43 pace, HR 146

Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Three Stages Of A Runner

You start out as a newbie, eager to learn and looking admiringly and completely in awe at those incredible feats of human endurance that some of the other runners can do. Sub-3 marathon runners are demi-Gods, to be admired from afar but their running is so far removed from what you can do, it's barely the same sport.

Eventually you learn a few things, usually from your own mistakes but if you're lucky from others' as well, and if you keep training consistently for a few years you move into the competitive stage. This is a great place where you are running better than you ever dared to dream. You might run a sub-3 marathon, and some lucky gits run even faster, and you might bring home a few prizes, and if you're old enough then the age group trophies will start to stack up. This is all great, but at the same time you always feel some pressure whenever you're running a race, always need to push on, and the nature of running means that from time to time you will fail. Initially you're almost guaranteed a PB whenever you pin a number onto your chest, but eventual you will have to start working really hard for the occasional good race.

And then, finally, you move into the third phase. Your body isn't capable of producing new PBs any more, you have to strain to stay within a minute per mile slower than you used to run on your easy days and the prizes are being taken home by new faces, often runners you saw starting out years ago, when they couldn't even dare to keep up with you and thought of yourself as one of those demi-Gods mentioned earlier. Now it's time to forget about time, just enjoy the running and keep going.

Not everyone goes through all stages. Some aren't interested in training hard enough to start competing for prizes. And that's fine. Others stop running when they're no longer competitive, which is their own choice but one I hate to see, to be honest.

As I'm moving into phase three myself I can see that my body moved here a couple of years before my spirit. It's not an easy transition. I can't help but compare my times with the ones I used to produce, and the fact that my races are now slower than my training runs used to be is a bit hard to take at times. I still have a notion of having to achieve a certain time, and when I think of the Connemara Ultra and can't see myself running under 6 hours when I once ran 4:49, that can be a bitter pill to swallow at time.

It's hard to let go!

Why do I keep going? Because I love running just as much as I used to! I was never motivated by the idea of winning prizes or the occasional race, though those were very nice bonuses. But it's not what I craved. Just give me a pair of shoes and a road, and I'm happy out.

With that in mind it's a very good thing that the hip is definitely starting to cooperate. I ran every second day this week and both days of the weekend. I can still feel the hip but it's no longer bothering me. I did 2 runs on my treadmill and I can see from my reflection that I'm moving just fine, not lopsided, and I'm no longer subconsciously trying to protect my hip. The main problem now is no longer the injury but the loss of fitness over the last 8-or-so weeks. That will take a while.

5 Mar
4.02 miles, 36:08, 8:59 pace, HR 145
7 Mar
3(-ish) miles, 30:19, 10:09 pace, HR 135, treadmill
9 Mar
4.04 miles, 35:14, 8:43 pace, HR 149
10 Mar
6.33 miles, 1:00:00, 9:28 pace, treadmill

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Baby Steps

After tentatively putting my toe back into the water, figuratively speaking, this week has been all about finding my feet again, trying to get into something of a working rhythm.

Damage done to the right side of the soles when
I was hobbling along at the start of the injury. I had to chuck them out.
It started very gently with a couple of very short runs over the weekend, the shortest block in the neighbourhood, not even 2 miles. I most likely would have kept that going but on Tuesday I went for a lunchtime run with some work colleagues and I knew it would be a bit longer. It started out very slowly, which suited me perfectly fine, but somehow the pace kept decreasing and before I knew it we ran the last bit at sub-8 pace, which I didn't think I'd be able to do. However, what really pleased me was the fact that there was no reaction from the hip, so all was good.

Since then I have been slightly increasing the mileage, but with a couple of off days, usually when it would have been awkward to fit in a run into a very busy work schedule, bit a good thing anyway in my present state.

The biggest limiting factor right now is actually not the hip but the loss of fitness over the last few weeks. I did a fair amount of cycling (the commute adds up to almost 100 miles a week if I cycle every day) but that's simply not the same and I require some much more specific training to keep the legs going.

Of course it all was dead slow at the start, barely faster than 10-minute miles, but that has improved considerably already. Saturday was the run where I really noticed the difference. Up to then I had felt awkward and somewhat uncoordinated but the the muscle memory seems to have kicked in again and it felt much more natural.

I still need to be careful, I can feel the hip again now (Sunday). It doesn't hurt, and it's quite different to how it felt a few weeks ago, but it's a warning sign nevertheless.

When I go injured initially, I could not really stand on my right leg, I was completely unstable. I did notice that when trying to put on my socks and trousers while standing up. After a while things improved a bit and I managed as long as I had something to lean against in case of emergency. A few weeks later still I was fine balancing, as long as I managed to steady myself just before shifting the weight onto my right leg. By now that has cleared up, my balance is back to normal and my right leg can take the weight and be completely stable, no m
atter what. That's how I can tell that the injury is just about to clear up.

The last time I had a very similar injury, in 2015, it followed a very similar pattern. And weirdly enough, my first "race" back was a 39 mile ultra, which wasn't the most fun I've ever had in a race, especially over the last third, but I got it done and then I knew I would be fine. This time, my first scheduled race is again a 39 mile ultra, and while I'm a bit apprehensive about it, and I know full well that it's going to be hard work and not all fun and games, I'm nevertheless looking forward to it.
24 Feb
1.75 miles, 16:18, 9:18 pace, HR 140
26 Feb
3.95 miles, 34:53, 8:49 pace, HR 153
28 Feb
4.07 miles, 38:26, 9:26 pace, HR 144
1 Mar
4.05 miles, 37:15, 9:11 pace, HR 143
2 Mar
5.16 miles, 43:41, 8:27 pace, HR 148
3 Mar
3.6 miles, 31:06, 8:36 pace, HR 146

Saturday, February 23, 2019

We Must First Learn To Crawl

This has been the longest gap in this blog since its inception, by quite some margin. If you're still here to read this, congratulations!

The reason why I didn't post anything is the fact that this is a running blog and I had not been running. I did not want to post a constant stream of updates in the shape of:

"Not running"

"Still not running"

"No running yet"

"No running still"

And son on. Now, finally, I do have a bit of a better update:

"Running a tiny little bit!"

Admittedly, it's not the most amazing of news, but after more than 3 weeks of no running it was never going to anything but a small amount of miles, very slowly, and not feeling particularly great.

My hip started to feel much better about a week ago and I was just about to hit the road for a first test run last Saturday when I caught some virus that had me confined to bed for the weekend, aching all over the body and feeling very sorry for myself. I was mostly recovered by Monday (great! no need to miss work!) but still not back to my most energetic self, so I waited until Thursday before finally heading out, coinciding with a short break at some swanky hotel.

I ran for about 3 miles, a bit longer than planned but I got lost on the way home and had to find my way around the twisty little passages, all alike. The biggest disappointment was not the slow pace but the fact that as soon as I took my first running step I immediately felt my hip again, which had been completely fine for the last 10-ish days. Still, it was a lot better than before my break, I was not hobbling, and after a mile or 2 I was ok, though somehow every step felt awkward and uncoordinated, due to the long break.

I was fine for the rest of the day but to my great dismay I felt the hip again on Friday morning, so I took yet another off day, and ran again on Saturday, but only for about half the distance (it was enough to have me knackered nevertheless).

This is undoubtedly going to be a slow process, but I have no race goals whatsoever, and I'll take it just as it comes.

The next update won't be so long in coming, promise!
21 Feb
3.2 miles, 30:18, 9:29 pace, HR 141
23 Feb
1.73 miles, 17:13, 9:57 pace, Hr 140

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Out Of Commission

I was running back home from work on Monday evening, just like I do basically every Monday evening, and just as I passed Shanganagh Park my left foot got caught in some uneven pavement and I very nearly went flying again, at EXACTLY the same spot where I had fallen exactly two weeks earlier, and probably tripped up by the same thing again, whatever it was.

It was at that point that I realised that I had my fall on Monday and the hip had started hurting on Wednesday, 2 (well, 1.5) days later. Coincidence? Possibly, but very unlikely. When I had that fall I thought all it cost me was a fair amount of skin on my knees (which is still missing) but I guess there was some more serious reaction further up the kinetic chain.

Anyway, I made my way back home and went on with the rest of the evening. In fact, my hip had felt much better that day, so much so that I thought I had left most of that episode behind me.

Alas, when I woke up on Tuesday morning I knew immediately that something was off, but stubborn as I am still went ahead with getting ready to run into work. But when I started "running" it became clear very quickly that it was a non-starter. I got as far as the end of the driveway before conceding defeat, walking back home, and accepting that I had to stop running until this was genuinely better.

And with that, I'm officially on the injured list.

Not running didn't provide any immediate improvement, that is for sure. In fact, Thursday was the first day since the whole thing started that I actually felt in pain, up to then it was merely stiff and maybe a bit uncomfortable when I made the wrong movement. Friday was much better again, so much so that I thought maybe I'll be able to start running again soon, but I definitely felt awkward again on Saturday, so that's a no.

How long this will take isn't quite clear. I am away most of next week for work, and if I'm still laid low by then I'll go and see a physio. Doneadea is less than a week from now, and it's not going to happen for me, which is a real shame, it's one of the very best races in Ireland and I hate to miss it.

28 Jan
10.25 miles, 1:30:06, 8:47 pace, HR 138

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Seven Squared

Not a great week, running-wise, I'm afraid. Whatever the problem was I had with my adductor, apparently, moved around slightly and now shows up as a very stiff hip on the right side. It's not hurting, not at all, but I can't stride out properly and whatever it is, it doesn't seem to be in a hurry to go away.

Every run starts with me hobbling one-sided down the road, which I'm sure isn't a great sight. It takes absolutely ages for the hip to loosen up, 5 miles usually, and then I can finally run properly. Like I said, there is no pain, but something is clearly not right. The biggest worry from my point of view is that it doesn't seem to be getting better - it feels exactly the same as it did at the beginning of the week.

So, true to my usual MO, I did my best to ignore the damn hip and kept on running. Since almost all of my running these days is either running from or to work, it doesn't leave much option as far as distance or route choice is concerned. They are all a bit hilly, and they are all 10 miles long. Maybe a short run would be better but then I'd have to get up almost an hour earlier to run before my commute, and that really doesn't appeal to me, so for the time being I'll hobble along, hoping for the thing to work itself out eventually.

Also, because I can't seem to generate a lot of power with my jammy hip I've slowed right down again. This, looked at in isolation, is not a bad thing, actually. I do have a tendency of running my easy runs just a tad faster than I probably should, so an enforced slowdown might actually be good for me.

Oh, and I'm yet another year older. Still not enough for a new age group, though.

21 Jan
10.25 miles, 1:24:38, 8:15 pace, HR 138
22 Jan
10.2 miles, 1:30:56, 8:54 pace, HR 139
2.12 miles, 17:37, 8:18 pace, HR 128
23 Jan
10.2 miles, 1:29:16, 8:45 pace, HR 139
24 Jan
10.25 miles, 1:26:56, 8:28 pace, HR 138
25 Jan
10.25 miles, 1:33:47, 9:08 pace, HR 138
26 Jan
7.22 miles, 59:34, 8:14 pace, HR 141
27 Jan
11 miles, 1:37:00, 8:49 pace, HR 137

Sunday, January 20, 2019

It's Hip To Be Square

The week started off pretty well. The tired legs from Sunday seemed to have completely recovered overnight and I felt really good on Monday - though the extra long rest may have had something to do with it as I only ran in the evening, home from work. That left me with the usual dead legs on Tuesday morning, because a morning run straight after an evening run the day before is always tough.

However, worse was to come. On Wednesday I felt a pain in my left side. I wasn't quite sure where exactly it came from, somewhere around the groin area. It left me hobbling a bit first thing in the morning and also for the first mile or two into my run, though once I was warmed up and the muscles had loosened up I felt a lot better and continued my commute run into work (the only other option, namely taking the bus for the rest of the journey into work in my sweaty workout gear really did not appeal, and the other bus passengers would have liked it even less, I'm sure).

That issue pretty much defined the rest of the week. I know the general wisdom is to take a rest when you've got a pain but after almost 15 years of experience I very firmly believe that general wisdom is wrong and you're actually better off to keep running, as long as the pain doesn't get any worse, obviously. That worked for all my niggles over the years, with one exception in 2015 when I eventually required rest and a physio.

For the rest of the week all my runs followed the same pattern, a very slow first mile or two and then a "normal" run for the rest of it. Having said that, apart from the pain in my hip I am actually feeling good, as silly as that may sound. It even got so far that on Friday morning the legs felt perfectly fine, even though I had run the night before, which is pretty much a first. having said that, the HR/pace numbers don't entirely support that subjective feeling, the HR was rather high for such a slow run.

I tried to find less-hilly-than-usual routes over the weekend in an attempt to protect my problem area (which I know think is the adductor muscle), which in the end meant running a few loops, never my favourite kind of run. I don't mind loops at all during a race because then I have enough other things on my mind, but in training I find it absolutely mind-numbing).

Since I didn't want to overdo it, hobbling as I was, I decided to keep Sunday's long run reasonably short and first headed towards the promenade for a few flat miles and then towards Shanganagh Park for a few more. After 10-or-so miles I had a little dip in my energy levels but then I suddenly started to feel really good, a kind of runners' high that I don't usually get, and did an extra loop when originally I was supposed to head for home, and then another one, and then a third one, before reluctantly deciding that I had probably chanced my luck enough already and headed for home. It still wasn't a particularly long run, mind, just longer than I had anticipated.

The niggle is definitely getting better, even if I can't really tell the difference when running. How I know? Well, usually when I get dressed I balance on one leg to put on my socks, and on and Thursday and Friday I instinctively felt too unstable to even try that and had to sit down. By Saturday I could do that again without an issue, that's how I know. By the way, if you have to sit down to get dressed you might want to work on your balance and/or core strength (take that as a free bonus tip from me).
14 Jan
10.26 miles, 1:22:25, 8:01 pace, HR 142
15 Jan
10.2 miles, 1:28:00, 8:37 pace, HR 142
16 Jan
10.21 miles, 1:25:14, 8:20 pace, HR 144
17 Jan
10.26 miles, 1:21:57, 7:59 pace, HR 142
18 Jan
10.21 miles, 1:28:24, 8:39 pace, HR 142
19 Jan
10.4 miles, 1:25:34, 8:13 pace, HR 139
20 Jan
17.36 miles, 2:22:45, 8:13 pace, HR 142

Monday, January 14, 2019

Mixed Signals

The training has been ramping up recently and I’m seeing finally seeing some results, though it’s not all rosy skies.

It’s not that I had been too lazy to train properly in recent months, it was always a question of my recovery abilities being significantly compromised ever since the 24 hours race in June, and it basically took half a year to get over most of that hump.

So, the training had been fairly low-key, at least by my usual standards, and as a result the numbers I kept churning out were rather unimpressive and I wasn’t very happy about it.

In retrospect it’s fairly clear that I didn’t help myself by agreeing to run a number of 5k races with work colleagues when running at race effort was the last thing I should have done, and it definitely had a bad impact on me. I THINK that I’ve learned that lesson but that doesn’t mean I’m over doing stupid things – more of that later.

Anyway, last week I finally saw some numbers that looked much better and it looks like I’m finally making the kind of progress I have been waiting for for months. The heart rate is lower for the same effort. The pace is faster for the same effort. In fact, I finally posted an easy run at sub-8 minutes pace, which was kind of a watershed moment because that hasn’t happened for a very long time.

However, not everything is great. I started an evaluation workout on Friday, at lunchtime. I didn’t have much time so warm up was only just over a mile, and then I got into the effort. The evaluation has always been a rather moderate workout; you certainly feel the effort but it’s never too hard and I never had any problems finishing it. This time, however, after 2.5 miles, I pulled the plug. I felt like toast and running further would have meant my form was completely falling apart and the pace/effort ratio was tanking, so pulling the plug was definitely the right call.

That’s a bit worrying, because I really should not have a problem finishing an evaluation. It clearly shows that my recovery is still not back to normal and I have to be really, really careful. That lesson was reinforced on Sunday. I really thought I was being sensible and cut the long run back from last week’s 20 miles to maybe 16 or 18, but it was over a hilly section over to Greystones and back via the Cliff Walk trail, but by the time I started on the Cliff Walk I was already pretty much toast and just tried to survive the homewards journey. I opted for the short way home but the last few miles particularly were really tough, uphill and against a fairly strong headwind and I was struggling to keep going.

I was utterly baffled when I uploaded said run into Strava and saw an entire string of new segment PRs. I’ve only run that course about 4 or 5 times, and never when even remotely on form, so my segment times are very soft but still, I was really tired and trying to take it easy and just survive, so apart from Strava messing up the data I’m not sure how to explain that.

As for the stupid stuff mentioned earlier? Months ago I signed up for the annual pilgrimage to Donadea for the 50k in February . I'm still planning to run that, though I have promised myself to take it really easy, and run at least 20 15 minutes slower than my previous slowest time, in order to keep the recovery requirements to a minimum. It will require a serious amount of willpower to keep the ego in check and I have a tendency of losing it whenever I pin a number onto my chest, but for once I really need to be sensible (as sensible as you can be while running a 50k, that is).
7 Jan
10.25 miles, 1:22:37, 8:03 pace, HR 139
8 Jan
10.18 miles, 1:27:25, 8:35 pace, HR 139
9 Jan
10.26 miles, 1:25:50, 8:21 pace, HR 139
10 Jan
10.26 miles, 1:25:14, 8:18 pace, HR 141
11 Jan
4.96 miles, 36:53, 7:26 pace, HR 151
   2.5 miles @ 6:49, HR 161
12 Jan
7.24 miles, 57:43, 7:58 pace, HR 143
13 Jan
14.54 miles, 2:03:26, 8:29 pace, HR 148

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Happy New Year

Can you believe it, the first week of 2019 is already behind us. At that  rate it will be 2020 if you blink - then again, that's probably more a reflection of my own increasingly advanced age, time didn't pass as quickly when I was younger.

Anyway, I had a decent enough week. Tuesday was the first day for many months when the pace was close to 8-minute miles on an easy run, which was nice to see, even if it still wasn't quite there yet - it probably would have been on a flatter course.

Then the watch crapped out on me on Wednesday when it refused to turn the GPS on, claiming "only" 23% of battery power, which would easily have been enough for the run, but it just would not cooperate. Maybe it's time for a new one - the charging cable is rather worn by now, after over 4 years of constant use, and I'd definitely prefer one that connects wirelessly. I'll think about it some more, unless I see a really good deal in the sales. One of my show-stopper requirements is a battery time of close to 24 hours, which immediately rules out the vast majority of watches, though.

Anyway, I also had one bad run, which wasn't a complete surprise as I tend to feel tired if I run in the morning following an evening run. 12 hours is just not enough for the legs to recover fully at the present rate, and that's what happens when I run home from work one evening and back into work the next morning.

My long run on Sunday went pretty well for most of it, until the long final climb home started, which is the last 2 miles. Until then the legs had worked very well over the hilly course via Kilternan, but then I seemed to hit a limit and the last 2 miles were a bit of a slog. Never mind, all in all still a very good week, and I can finally see some progress being made.
31 Dec
6.72 miles, 56:12, 8:21 pace, HR 143
1 Jan
10 miles, 1:20:59, 8:04 pace, HR 145
2 Jan
10.2 miles, 1:24:00, 8:14 pace, no watch
3 Jan
10.25 miles, 1:24:33, 8:14 pace, HR 141
4 Jan
10.25 miles, 1:29:54, 8:46 pace, HR 143
5 Jan
6.72 miles, 55:22, 8:14 pace, HR 142
6 Jan
20 miles, 2:47:59, 8:23 pace, HR 141