Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Rotlichtläufer

There's a quirk in the German language that allows you to create new composite words out of existing ones. That's why there exist words like Schadenfreude. It also means you occasionally come across a new word that you haven't heard before even if it's your native tongue, so when Martin asked me if I was a "Rotlichtläufer" ("red light runner") it took me a bit to process that. Not only was the word new, after 16 years in Ireland the entire concept was alien - are you the kind of runner that crosses a road despite the traffic light being red? Well, duh, obviously. Everyone in Ireland is!

I've obviously been away for long enough to lose the Austrian rigidity when it comes to committing minor offences.

Anyway, there are a few things in Austria that are different to Ireland.

Summer is a lot warmer. We actually missed the brutal heatwave and even had a couple of days of intermittent rain but it still got to 28 degrees.

There are quite a few public water spots, though they can be hidden away, a few meters off the road, and if you don't know them you don't see them. When the temperatures are getting close to 30 degrees, you do need them! I got to use one during my long-ish run on Sunday but I still suffered by the end.

The infrastructure is just so much better than in Dublin, from public transport to cycle paths to running paths, to higher quality housing (at a much more affordable price too), to better roads, even significantly better restaurants and I could go on. I can't actually explain why that is, the local politicians are just as inept, corrupt and self-serving as they are here, so I have no idea why the whole government stuff just works better. Oh, the train ticket from the airport to the city centre cost 11 Euro. For the 6 of us! And almost all the museums were free for the kids, up to the age of 18.

There are a lot more cyclists, and since the cycle paths I saw were actually separated from the road, as opposed to someone painting a white line and calling it a cycle path, there is much less animosity between drivers and cyclists. Which is the way it should be, obviously.

There are also a lot more runners. The Prater especially was full of them.

Shop assistants are just as unfriendly ad they used to be. Which is just baffling, even more so now that I work in sales myself, and I do wonder how on Earth they get away with their behavior.

Viennese drivers are dicks. Probably even more so than Dublin ones.

People complain like mad about anything and everything. Wait! That's the same here!

I got to run about 70 miles, same as I would have done in Ireland, though on nicer paths but in sweltering conditions at times. I was completely exhausted after a couple of runs but I attribute that more to the condition there, plus me being on my feet much more during the day, than to a problem with my running. I guess I'll quickly see how thing go now that I'm back home.

Thanks to Martin for showing me some of South-Eastern Vienna on Monday, the one part I am much less familiar with than the rest. I was tempted to explore a bit more on Tuesday on my own but did not want to get hopelessly lost on my last day.

The general agreement was that it was one of our best family holidays ever. The fact that it was only for one week may have helped!
Hofburg

Stefansdom

The Halo Third Man Riesenrad

The road to infinity. Especially at mile 20 in the marathon!

Schönbrunn

Gloriette

Belvedere

Hundertwasserhaus

Belvedere Gardens

Neufelder See

Karlskirche
The kept the gay traffic lights that were installed as a show of tolerance! Too bad the conservatives are blocking any law reforms that would actually put that into reality. Utterly disgraceful!


Monday, July 08, 2019

Imagine

Just Imagine. You're running up that random road at a random time in Birmingham, actually heading in the wrong direction but you don't know that yet, when that woman comes running the other way and you are thinking "that's funny, she has the exact same running style as Olwyn", when she shouts out "Thomas!!!" - IT IS OLWYN!!!! What are the chances! Olwyn quipped we should have bought a lottery ticket instead of going for run.

The reason I was in Birmingham in the first place was a work trip. Just last week I'd told my new manager if I ever needed to go visit a customer in Barcelona or Paris I'm all for it. The message must have gotten garbled somewhere because last Thursday I found myself in an industrial estate in the outskirts of Burton-upon-Trent, which just doesn't have quite the same glamour. And flying into the UK early in the morning and back again in the evening is stressful enough on its own, never mind presenting to a group of C-level execs while there, and I was glad I was able to squeeze in a few miles, as a pure stress reliever more than anything else.

In general, though, it was another easy week. After that 20 miler had me knocked out 2 weeks ago I decided to dial it back a bit. I have a history of overtraining and would rather avoid another one of those episodes. One easy week later I was still not feeling new so I added a second easy week. That said, easy is a relative term. I'm still doing about 70 miles per week but without workouts and without a long run. If the lack of long runs will come back to bite me I shall see, though they always say it's better to be 10% undertrained than 1% overtrained and I'd prefer to see that scenario from the other side for once.

Tuesday was again the biggest day of the week, with the run into work followed by a group jog at lunchtime (very, very easy) and then a cycle in the evening. I generally do enjoy the cycling, though I very much prefer the actual cycling to the standing around that seems to be an inevitable part of those group rides. We had three stops and one of them was for over 16 minutes, after which I was actually frozen stiff and very uncomfortable, so when we reached Enniskerry I actually peeled off the group and went home instead of completing the loop because I was really uncomfortable, and not because of the miles or the pace, those were easily manageable. Maybe I should dress with the standing around in mind rather than the cycling.

As for the running, I couldn't tell if I went by feel alone but the watch and the HR are telling me that I'm getting into better and better shape. The pace on my easy runs is still nothing to write home about, about 8:20-8:40 seems to be where I always end up on my easy days, but even on hilly runs I average a HR in the low 130s, which I only ever get to when I'm in really good condition. You might argue that of course that the HR is low when I'm running so slowly, but also take into account the very high humidity (I'm invariably soaked through after a couple of miles). Also, on tough, steep climbs like the Quarry Road or Bray Head I'm running 20, 30 seconds per mile faster than a month or two ago, even though this is at an easy effort, at least as easy as such a steep hill allows.

Things are definitely heading into the right direction. Now if I could make use of that instead of messing it up, as as my wont, that would actually be great for a change.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Easy Goes

Because last week's long run had me on my knees I decided to take it a bit easier this week. No doubles, no workouts, no long runs. Since I am getting most of my miles by running in or out of work these days I'd still get a decent amount of miles but the hope was that I'd feel better again at the end.

I thin it didn't really work. I never felt as exhausted as last Sunday but I still don't exactly feel like flying, so I'll take another easy-ish week. Things are getting a bit tricky because I have to fly into the UK for work on Thursday and I may or may not be able to run, and then we're off on our holidays soon after, which is great, don't get me wrong, but with the temperatures high enough to fry an egg without a stove in Europe at the moment that might make running a bit tricky there. I'll see.

Most of the week I ran a slightly shorter route into work, 9 miles instead of 10, and it cuts right through Cabinteely Park, which may well be one of the best parks in Dublin (well, if you like steep hills, that is) but it also contains a section right along the N11 dual carriage way, and to make it worse there are building works there as well at the moment, so you take the good with the bad.

Also, Tuesday wasn't really the kind of day that would sit easily inside an easy week, with a run to work in the morning, a group run at lunchtime and a 35-ish miles cycle in the evening, again with the group from work. Maybe I shouldn't have but I really enjoy training with a group after years of almost all solo efforts, and running into work just fits easily into the rest of the weekly schedule, with having to organise the bike and the work clothes all in advance.

After last week's run to Dun Laoghaire Norbert suggested running along the coast rather than a few streets further inland, so on Saturday I headed into Shankill to figure out where that route would go. The resulting run on Strava is almost comical, with me running into just about every single dead end possible but missing one little lane, which of course was the one that I was actually looking for. Ah well, that's exactly why I scouted out the area in advance after all.

And since I didn't have a long run for Sunday I did the Seahorse run via the Cliff Walk again, the smaller version that is just 12 miles. During the first mile I was dismayed because the hamstrings/glutes really did not feel good at all but they did loosen up to some extend after a while and then I actually felt pretty light on my feet. The pace still wasn't much to write home about but on such a hilly run it's hard to compare, especially since the Cliff Walk itself is a bit tricky at times with the stony surface and the occasional mud hole, and the occasional walker who seems to think they need to block the entire path (the vast majority are perfectly nice, friendly and accommodating, though).

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Fallen Warrior

A few years ago someone posted a question on a popular Irish discussion forum about falling over while running. I remember thinking there must be something wrong with that guy if he keeps falling over while running on roads. Oh my, how I have changed my mind! The difference is all about running on roads in Kerry, where you actually do run on roads, and in the greater Dublin area, where you mostly run on sidewalks. And since for some daft reason they a) construct sidewalks out of concrete blocks that often don't fit together particularly well b) think that they don't have to maintain them, they become a serious trip hazard. Since moving here I must have stumbled over some minuscule but virtually invisible step about once a week, and on a handful of occasions I have taken a full spill, including once that sidelined me for 6 weeks with injury earlier this year.

I had yet another one on Monday and my right knee looked rather gruesome, together with some serious lacerations on both hands. There will always be a part of me left behind in Shankill, though Niamh was more worried that some part of Shankill will now forever be left inside of me because the wounds looked so dark and dirty. A week on I guess the risk of infection might have subsided, though I'll bear the scars for a while longer, but at least this time I didn't get injured, which is definitely good news.

Apart from that little drama it was a week similar to the last few. I did manage to run a bit over 80 miles and I did a long cycle with the group from work on Tuesday as well. Most of the week I did feel pretty well, though the legs were a bit tired on Wednesday after that long cycle. However, I did get it wrong over the weekend.

I did another workout on Saturday in Bray's People's Park, this time doing half laps fast(-ish) with the second half of each lap as recovery. The idea was to work a bit on my leg turnover and half laps should do that better than full laps. As always I left after feeling that I had one more lap in me, but actually I thought I had done six when looking at the data afterwards revealed I had done only five! Apart from that I was pleased with the workout, going at pretty much the same pace with each repeat and the effort felt right, even though the HR never rose above 164, which I cannot quite explain - I seem to have lost the ability to raise my HR over the last year!

The drawback of that was that I started Sunday's long run on already tired legs, and I chose to run to Dun Laoghaire and turn around after 10 miles. This can work both ways - when you're tired you might curse yourself for being still so far away from home on dead legs, but it can work in your favour by not giving you the option of cutting a run short unnecessarily. On the way out I did question if that really was such a good idea, and on the way back home I gradually came to the realisation that this had indeed been a bad idea and the last few miles were a struggle and not pretty. I also passed Norbert out on his own run in the area, though thankfully I was on a downhill stretch at the time and could fake to be moving reasonably well. About a mile from home I had yet another fall, re-opening a few barely healed wounds in my hands but no real damage done. This one was almost certainly due to me being too tired to lift the legs properly any more, but I did curse and "not again" at the time.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Quarry Road

At the tail end of last year I did one run with Gary when he slowed down to my snail's pace and I sped up close to breaking point, which ended up as almost the same pace. Towards the end we ran past yet another innocuous side road when he told me about Quarry Road, and how tough the hill repeats on it were. I was too tired already by that point to take much notice, desperately trying not to collapse while he jogged on as slowly as he could.

When I saw Norbert on strava running that very road the other day I remembered it again, and decided to give it a go. In fact, it seemed such a good idea that I decided to do it three times, following my usual rule that anything worth doing is worth doing to excess (which is what ultra running is all about, after all).

One thing you can be sure is that if Gary says a road is tough then it really it is tough! The climb itself is just under a mile long but the sting towards the end when it turns from really steep into really fucking stupid steep is particularly stingy. At least the trail for the downhill is nice, though Norbert since told me the alternative route is much nicer. Next time. Wait, what bloody next time?

Before that it was yet another week of quite high mileage but it feels totally doable. Tuesday was a big day with a run into work, a short-ish run at lunchtime with the group from work (which was very small, but still) and then a bike ride in the evening with yet another group (this one a big one), which all added up to well over 4 hours of exercise, which did indeed leave me a bit tired on Wednesday. At least the calves were because they kept feeling a bit tender for the rest of the week, not that it had any real impact on my running. In fact, on Thursday I felt good enough to run a bit faster on my commute home, something I had vague ideas of doing for a while but up to now never felt up to it. But now I can finally feel my fitness levels really picking up.

Maybe I should say my fitness levels are finally returning. The disastrous race in Irding was almost a year ago and I have been feeling it ever since. I finally seem to have started getting over it, a full year later. I don't know why it was quite so bad - a month before that race I had felt really good and then it all came just crashing down, and the effects lasted for a year. However, my fears that I was done for good seem to have been unfounded - I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Just Like Heaven

I can't remember if it was for Christmas or my birthday but Niamh gave me 2 tickets for The Cure in Malahide in June, which also solved the dilemma if I should go to see The Cure or Metallica, which for some inexplicable reason were on at the exact same time. While Metallica would have been my natural choice, Slane is such a nightmare to come home from afterwards, and The Cure happen to be just about the only band both Niamh and me like (we tried to think of another one and couldn't come up with any!), so off the Malahide it was. The concert was great, and while I was struck by the fact that virtually the entire crowd was about my age (including the guys on stage, of course) I appreciated the fact that afterwards we just walked to the Dart station and straight away got on a train that brought us all the way to Bray. Metallica would have seen me back home by 3 o'clock in the morning at best.

Anyway, this was a pretty good week. I did a modest workout on Tuesday, something I have tried and failed to do on several occasions because I found it hard to believe just how modest a modest workout would be, but I finally found a sustainable pace. maybe a tad too sustainable, but it left me free to run a few extra miles on Wednesday by running both into work as well as back, which went much better than expected.

Two more commutes on Thursday and Friday were starting to feel rather heavy on the legs, especially on Friday because a run in the morning after an evening run the day before always feel tough, but I was amazed by the difference another day made - a mere 24 hours later on Saturday morning the legs felt fantastic!

For that I headed for the hills again, well, just the one hill in form of Bray Head, but to make up for that I ran it 5 times. At the start I actually had to reign myself in, I felt so good that the legs were just itching to take off. Just as I was thinking of doing 6 repeats this morning, I started to stumble a few times during the fifth ascend, so I reasoned that I was getting tired after all and binned the sixth repeat, mostly because I didn't want to trip and smash my face in. Running on stony trails is tricky enough for me, short-sighted as I am, and fatigued legs with compromised perception is asking for trouble.

As mentioned that was followed by The Cure concert, and great as that was it meant several extra hours on my feet and by Sunday I did notice that, alright. So I decided against a run to Dun Laoghaire because I didn't want to find myself dead on my feet 10 hilly miles away from home and headed for Shanganah Park instead, doing a few laps until I would start to feel tired. That was definitely a good move and after 10 miles I could definitely feel the form starting to deteriorate and the breathing to become more laboured, and I was home after just under 2 hours. I really don't think any longer would have been a good idea.

It still added up to over 80 miles for the week, which is just about the mileage I was always able to maintain comfortably, so I will see if that's still the case in the next few weeks.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Clinging On

I've heard it a lot. To become a better runner you must run with someone faster than you. In Kerry I never had that luxury - while there clearly were plenty of runners faster than me, they weren't around at 6 o'clock in the morning in Caragh Lake, and I did the vast majority of my miles on my own. Maybe that's why I always preferred the longer distances - long miles are easier done on your own than speed workouts. However, I got a bit of a taste of that medicine on Tuesday when running with the group from work.

Usually we just do a few miles but occasionally someone does a workout, and this week I decided to do a "Kenyan fartlek", one minute on, one minute off. And I didn't have to do it on my own, and the other guy was definitely faster than me, and so, just by trying to keep up, it became a much harder workout than it would have been otherwise.

If that's a good thing or not, actually, isn't quite so obvious. I don't want to work myself into the ground again and I have learned that running tough workouts in base training is doing exactly that to me, so I better don't do that too often.

Because I got a taste of speed workout on Tuesday I chose to do some hill repeats again on my "other" workout day, Saturday. Bray Head has become my venue of choice for that. I'd prefer a longer climb, like the Windy Gap in Caragh lake, but I haven't found a runnable one close enough to home, so Bray Head it is for the time being, and I tend to do several repeats. Actually, because I was caught for time I only did 4 repeats this week, one less than last week. However, despite definitely trying not to go too hard I am getting faster at these, so something is definitely working. Also, despite feeling a bit worn out at the start I somehow felt much better as the workout went on, until I felt really good at the fourth one, enough to wish I'd have time for more.

Then again, limiting that to 4 repeats was most likely a good thing because the next day I crashed and burned on my long run. It was a warm and humid day and leaving it to 9 o'clock before heading out was not a good idea, and after 12 or so miles I was burning up in the heat, relative as it may have been. I had planned 18 miles but cut it short and was home just after 17, totally done - 12 would have done me that day, thank you very much, and the last 5 were definitely a struggle.

It all added up to about 66 miles this week, a bit less than last week but still in the same ballpark, plus a fair amount of cycling,.

Oh, and I'm actually signed up for another race, though I don't have to worry about it for a while yet. The Donadea 50k in February was close to being full up already, so I signed up before it was too late. And I never expected to get an elite entry into a race ever again, so that was an ego-boost that I didn't say no to - just try and not be the slowest "elite" on the day.