Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Blown Away

Most people have a pretty clear image in mind when they think of Ireland and the weather, and for a lot of time it is fairly accurate. Actual hurricanes don't usually feature, however, but that's what we got hit by on Monday, as you undoubtedly know.

There's plenty of idiots out there, as can be seen from the news reports featuring swimmers in Galway Bay in the background, though most people are sensible enough. I've been accused of being an idiot plenty of times, occasionally justified, though at the height of the storm I sure wasn't tempted to go out for a few miles. Instead I got my run in early, at around 7 o'clock in the morning when it was actually rather calm. It's all a matter of timing.

Let's step back a bit. I had been seriously worried last week about getting into an overtrained state again. As it turns out, that was a bit premature. The legs were tired because I ran twice a day two days in a row, which was a bit too much to handle. As soon as I reverted to running just once, the 23 hours of recovery time did the trick immediately. I felt perfectly fine on Saturday and even went out for a long run around the lake on Sunday, giving myself the option to bale out after 5 miles if the legs were tired but felt pretty good. Having said that, I am definitely still lacking strength, which gets shown up on all long climbs, which still feel much harder than they should. I am running plenty of miles these days but I need to incorporate a few hill runs as well, sooner or later.

Once the fatigue from the doubles went away my form curve shot straight upwards and all of a sudden I am starting to feel good. Really good! I did a few faster miles on Monday and averaged 7:40 in the end. This morning, Wednesday, was even better. I started out very slowly in order to gently warm up the muscles in the freezing cold but then got faster with each mile until I put in a 7-minute mile at the Sandymount promenade. Last month that pace put me into hospital. Today it was part of a run that still averaged a HR below 140!

As always, there's a fly in the ointment, though. While walking back to the office after a meeting last week (I would have cycled but you know yourself) I suddenly felt a pain at the upper end of my hamstring, maybe it was a glute muscle. It was uncomfortable for the entire rest of the day, including when I was sitting down. I was scheduled to run home that evening, which worried me, though when I tried to run it felt fine. Almost a week later I can still feel it, when running, walking sitting, even lying in bed. Nothing I do seems to aggravate it, so it's most likely just a case of being careful but otherwise just let it heal. I think something like hill sprints would worsen it, so I'm definitely not doing that for a while, otherwise I'll carry on as usual.
15 Oct
16.55 miles, 2:10:52, 7:54 pace, HR 144
16 Oct
9.35 miles, 1:11:34, 7:39 pace, HR 144
17 Oct
9.35 miles, 1:14:08, 7:55 pace, HR 136
18 Oct
am: 9.2 miles, 1:10:29, 7:39 pace, HR 139
pm: 9.25 miles, 1:17:13, 8:20 pace, HR 139

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Things Come In Threes

A friend of mine insists that bad things always come in threes, which is a really Irish thing to say. I don't believe in any of that crap but it made me think of him, so when I had my bike stolen and my job been put on the line on the same Tuesday morning I did wonder what other thing he would have added to make up the triple. Turns out, on that occasion he would have been perfectly right as Niamh called me later that day with the news that the washing machine had broken down. There you go.

Nevertheless, life goes on as normal. The washing machine is fixed already. The job may or may not continue, and if it doesn't I might get some redundancy payment that should last until I find a new one. And the bike was almost 10 years old with 1000s of miles of wear and tear, very much on its last legs and desperately needed replacing anyway - I very much doubt the scumbags got much for their loot. It's not the monetary loss that's the issue here - cycling is by far the fastest option to get into town and in around town as well, and not having a bike is a bloody inconvenience.

As it so happens, I had been planning on running twice a day on a few more occasions anyway, so with my most convenient commuting option gone I seized the moment and ran both in and out of work on Wednesday and Thursday. That's about 18.5 miles per day, but much easier than an 18+ mile long run in one go would have been.

Or at least so I thought.

What happened was that it went very well on Wednesday as well as Thursday morning, apart from the fact that the numbers looked much better in the evening than for the morning runs. However, as soon as I started Thursday's evening run I knew it wouldn't be much fun as the legs felt very tired. I hoped they'd come round after 2 or 3 miles but what actually happened was that I stumbled over a non-existing obstacle and face-planted. That happens only when you're tired, don't lift the legs properly and just shuffle along. I also banged up my knee, which I didn't notice until it stung in the shower later on, though there was no actual damage done.

Having said that, Friday morning was actually worse. The legs may have felt the same level of tiredness and I avoided any more accidents but when I got home and saw the numbers I realised that I had slowed down by almost a mile a minute! Yikes!

Now I was worried. I had only run 2 doubles, one more than 2 weeks ago, so it's not THAT much of a step up, is it? I had kept the effort easy, so I expected to be able to handle it. I guess I had not yet recovered fully from Monaghan, though I had not noticed any issues for the last 7 days. Was I due a break?

Well, as it happens, the luxury of 25 hours of recovery between runs seems to make all the difference. I went out on Saturday, back home in Kerry, to test out the legs and if they had felt tired I'd have gone back home straight away. However, quite to my surprise, I actually felt pretty good and kept going. I did limit myself to 8 miles in an attempt not to overdo it (again), but those 8 miles went very well, despite the strong wind not making things any easier. Still, I need to keep an eye on that, there's a hole somewhere that I don't want to dig myself into again.
11 Oct
am: 9.3 miles, 1:15:10, 8:04 pace, HR 143
pm: 9.2 miles, 1:12:39, 7:53 pace, HR 137
12 Oct
am: 9.25 miles, 1:13:17, 7:55 pace, HR 138
pm: 9.2 miles, 1:15:01, 8:09 pace, HR 135
13 Oct
7.2 miles, 1:03:06, 8:45 pace, HR 135
14 Oct
8 miles, 1:03:29, 7:56 pace, HR 141

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Not A Great Day

I woke up shortly before 6 o'clock, as I always do, but took my time to get ready because I was cycling to work this morning and had an hour to spare, which is nice. However, when I made my way down into the parking lot shortly after 7 o'clock my bike was gone. It had been secured against the bike stand, and I had a decent D-lock, but they cut through the bike stand instead and took my bike as well as a second one (to add to the insult, they left another one behind!).

On the bright side, the bike was almost 10 years old, not worth a lot to start with and very much on its last legs anyway, so I doubt they got anything for it. The lock and the new back light were worth more than the bike itself, I'd say.

I had to bring in some things into work, so running wasn't a great option and I made my way into town on public transport. It didn't matter that I was later than usual. We were all quickly ushered into a meeting, to be told that the company was closing down and we all had just a few weeks of employment left.

Fuck!

So, by 10 o'clock, I'd already had my fill of bad news. A friend of mine insists that things always come in threes though I could certainly do without another blow; just for today at least.

Real Life sucks. Running Life, on the other hand, which is my preferred life anyway, is still going smoothly. Who knows, I might soon have plenty of time do run an awful lot more.

I spent the weekend in Kerry, which meant I got to run along the lake, though I didn't do a full loop as I was trying to take it easy after last week's double header. The legs were moving quite well and my easy pace is improving quiet rapidly at the moment. Even so, I was really surprised to see such a low HR for 7:45 pace on Saturday. It went backwards a bit on Sunday, which shows that I'm still recovering. However, I met Sean at the end of my run, and the middle of his long run, and shared a mile with him. We didn't get to talk much as it was close to home already but it was nice to catch up again nevertheless. I might see him again in 3 weeks in Dublin.

I took it seriously easy on Monday, especially as I was carrying a backpack, which I usually try and avoid. Still, despite taking it really really easy I still averaged close to 8-minute miles, so who's complaining. Tuesday evening was ever so slightly different after receiving those hammer blows in the morning, but the run did me some good, mentally especially. And hey, it was my fastest run in a while - not entirely coincidental!

Let's see what happens now. I have money saved to keep me going for a good while, so we're not about to get kicked out onto the streets any time soon.

Say, you don't know someone looking for a senior IT developer or team leader in Dublin, do you?
7 Oct
10 miles, 1:17:30, 7:45 pace, HR 140
8 Oct
12 miles, 1:34:10, 7:50 pace, HR 142
9 Oct
9.35 miles, 1:16:06, 8:08 pace, HR 135
10 Oct
9.3 miles, 1:11:16, 7:39 pace, HR 144

Friday, October 06, 2017

A Numbers Game

I had been a bit worried about running back-to-back marathons. Not so much about the running itself, I know I can do that, but about recovery afterwards. I don't want to put myself back into a hole by neglecting my recovery, and I would not like to miss weeks of proper training either due to the body still in bits.

Well, wouldn't you believe it, the numbers this week have actually been nothing short of astounding. I took it really easy the two days after Monagahan, even starting with a 10-minute mile, but could tell as early as Tuesday that my legs were handling this exceptionally well. There was only a trace of stiffness left in the glutes on Wednesday, and even that seemed to disappear after a mile or two. And while I never once checked my watch to see how fast I was going (same as during the actual races, incidentally) I could tell that I was speeding up almost with each mile throughout the week.

On Thursday I posted the best HR/pace numbers I have all year, just 4 days after a double marathon, which absolutely amazed me. I won't get carried away just yet - in April I posted some numbers almost as good, only to get injured a week after the Longford Ultra. It's a lesson I have not forgotten yet. That injury had been caused by one single workout. The workout itself had gone astonishingly well, only for my Achilles to act up a day later, which took almost 2 months to clear up. There is no way of predicting injury but it is safe to say that I was not tempted to do a workout this week, or at the weekend for that matter.

Instead I explored the Cherrywood neighbourhood a bit closer, and I also added a run from work to Phoenix Park (and back) one morning. I'll still go easy on the miles this weekend - well, that's all relative; I won't be doing a long run - but if things are still good on Monday then I'm ready to go back to the mileage I had been doing before Monaghan.

I think I have finally recovered from Albi, both the race itself as well as the misguided training that had preceded it. I haven't felt as strong as I do now for a very, very long time. I fact, I had started to wonder if I would ever feel like that again, or if age had finally caught up with me. I guess there is still some life left in the old dog yet.
3 Oct
5.5 miles, 50:22, 9:09 pace, HR 125(!!!)
4 Oct
6 miles, 49:02, 8:10 pace, HR 136
5 Oct
7.1 miles, 55:44, 7:51 pace, HR 137
6 Oct
8 miles, 1:01:53, 7:44 pace, HR 143

Monday, October 02, 2017

One For Joy, Two For ... More Joy!

If I were still living in Kerry I would not even have contemplated driving to Monaghan for a marathon. That drive would just have been insanely long. From Dublin, however, it was just a bit over 2 hours, which by Kerry standards would almost qualify for a local race. A couple of months ago I had asked if there were any back-to-back marathons coming up, so when Les contacted me he did not have to do much to sell it to me.

Not that I knew much about what was in store. A quick search on strava pointed me towards some forest park and some hills, but that was it. So when just over 100 runners assembled on a glorious Saturday morning I still had no real clue where we would be going but I was looking forward to it nevertheless.

What was in store were 5 loops through Rossmore Forest park, and the way the road headed straight upwards for the first mile provided a clue what it would be like. To be honest, for the first 2 miles I hated it. I did not mind the gradient, I can handle a few hills. However, the stony gravel path hurt my feet with each step, and I'm a road runner, not accustomed to that sort of surface. In addition to that, my strength has always been to be a very efficient runner, getting bouncy energy back from each stride, which does not work on a softer surface (which is why I'm so poor at cross country), which meant I had to work a little bit harder with each step. However, the forest surroundings must have soothed me; halfway through the first loop the feet had grown accustomed to the surface and the forest park was just magnificent, I could not get enough of the views. The course itself kept zig-zagging through the park, up one hill, down another, past some lakes and rivers, and past a lovely meadow at the end. The very last bit was back on tarmac, towards the start/finish area before we got to do it all over again.

At first I was in fifth position but moved up to fourth by the second loop. One runner was right at my heels but never attempted to pass, so we just kept going. I could see one other runner not too far ahead, which made navigation easier as I could just follow him instead of having to rely on the signage (which, btw, was excellent, thank God for that with a dozen junctions at least per loop). It helped that it was a crispy clear sunny morning, which only helped to improve the magic of the forest.

The miles just flew by and the hills never bothered me. There was one steeper downhill section during the fourth mile which I immediately dubbed the "fun bit", just lean forward and spin the legs and hope for the best; it may have risked smashing your quads to smithereens for the later miles but I had far too much fun to worry about that now.

During the third loop I quickly caught up to the runner ahead and all of a sudden found myself in a podium position, which had not happened in a long while, and in fact I had started to doubt if that was ever going to happen again. It was not exactly a highly competitive field, true, but I still enjoyed being in the top three once more, absolutely. Just like in the good old days!

Anyway, I had a few minor problems during the fourth loop, including the fact that my glasses had literally rubbed off a piece of skin at the bridge of my nose. It did not hurt, but it bled quite a bit. I could have gone for a gruesome look but instead kept wiping it off - wearing an orange t-shirt help camouflaging the problem. The other runner, still on my heels almost 20 miles into the race, was worried about losing his pacer but I reassured him I was okay. The other, much more noticeable issue, was my asthma, which kept acting up. I managed to get enough oxygen into me with each breath even on the steeper uphill bits but I must have sounded like I was about to collapse. I'm sure I worried a few people, sounding like a steam engine on its last legs, but I felt a lot better than I sounded.

Anyway, we were soon on the last lap, which I did welcome because at some point past 20 miles the legs did indeed start to feel all the hills, though I managed to keep a good, relaxed rhythm going. I still had that other runner right at my heels, by now having exchanged a few words every now and again, and was wondering if I should offer to run into the finish together when he started to fall back. I wasn't trying to drop him and had not increased the effort but I guess he felt the miles a bit more than I did. Never mind, I just made my way home on my own and finished the marathon in a high 3:27. I had never once looked at my pace on the watch throughout the entire race; the first time I knew how fast I had been going was when I got to the finishing gantry. The timing was manual and they gave me 3:25 in a spreadsheet I saw the next day, but my watch definitely said 3:27, so that's what I'm going with. I finished in third place, apparently only a minute behind the two leaders.

Being a single parent, if only temporarily, meant I could not stay in Monaghan overnight and had to head back to Dublin and therefore had another early rise Sunday morning. I tried to follow a recovery protocol as much as I could (apart from sitting in the car for a couple of hours), and if you heard some high-pitched shrieking emanating from South Dublin direction on Saturday evening, that was me getting into an ice bath. That was probably the hardest part of the weekend. Give me a couple of marathons any time, but don't torture me like that!

Anyway, whatever I did must have worked because the legs felt surprisingly good on Sunday, even if my sleep had not been the best. It was deja vu all over again as I headed up the N2 again, ready to do it all over again. This time it was windy and raining, but what can you do. You don't get too many days like we'd had on Saturday in that part of the world.

This was the main part of the race weekend with well over 600 runners, including a half marathon. The course differed slight from Saturday as the first loop was to be through Monaghan town before we returned into the forest for 4 more loops of the same. Looking at the data afterwards I can see that I started a bit too fast, close to 7:30 pace for the first 2 miles, but eventually settled into a nice steady rhythm again. The legs felt so much better than expected, I was amazed! I had expected to suffer a lot today but instead I got to enjoy yet another marathon, rain be damned. After a few miles I had the same runner again on my heels, but this time I finally knew his name, Ken, after chatting for a while after the race on Saturday. He mentioned running a lot on trails in California, and I only caught on later that I should have asked him about Western States and some of the famous trail races there. Ah well, I might get the chance again some day.

Anyway, we kept churning out the same loops again, just like on Saturday. There was a hickup after loop 3 when I tried to pick up my drinks bottle, which I had prepared before the race, but the table wasn't where it had been before and I lost some time, getting frustrated with the situation and the volunteers who didn't seem to know what I was talking about. Three or four times I asked where that drinks table was, getting a tad louder each time, until someone pointed me to the re-positioned drinks table (right there, but it can be hard to see those things after a couple of hours of running). I didn't lose much time, probably less than half a minute, but for a moment I had let frustration get the better of me (probably not helped by the fact that just before that a truck had cut straight ahead of me into a driveway, making me run around him, which really annoyed me). I tried to put that minor hickup out of my mind and eventually got back into a rhythm.

I caught back up with Ken when he was walking up the first hill. I tried to goad him back into running but he said he had a cramp, and that was that. He would battle cramps for the last 10 miles on all uphills but managed to fly down the downhills, so it could have been worse, I suppose. My own race got a little bit more difficult as the hills seemed to grow with each lap and the asthma got worse with each hill but I managed to keep going. In fact, I'm pretty sure I made quite some progress through the field during the last 2 laps. I was still moving somewhat okay well for the final lap, the glory stretch, but was definitely getting closer to my limits now. Another lap or two might have gotten ugly, but I got away with it.

Once again, I finished the marathon without checking the pace on my watch even once and once more only saw my time when on the finishing stretch. It was a few minutes slower than yesterday, not surprisingly, at 3:33:45. The first thing I did was to seek out the volunteer from two laps earlier and apologised for raising my voice - they deserve so much better, especially on a rainy day like today. She was very gracious about it - thank you!

I was more than happy with all that. I was even happier later on when they calculated the times for the back-to-back marathons and I had moved up one spot into second. Not only that, they even had an actual podium there for us to stand on during the prize ceremony. Maybe it's not a big deal but I don't remember ever standing on an actual podium, and really enjoyed that moment.

I had expected to suffer through the miles today. Instead I got a prize and the glory of standing on a podium (I might have mentioned that before). Monaghan was certainly worth a trip. Two, even. As things stand, I can't wait to get back next year. You should, too.

28 Sep
9.2 miles, 1:13:52, 8:01 pace, HR 144
29 Sep
9.35 miles, 1:16:58, 8:13 pace, HR 141
30 Sep
Monaghan B2B marathon, part 1
3:27:55, HR 149, 3rd place
1 Oct
Monaghan B2B marathon, part 2
3:33:45, HR 145, 2nd place overall
2 Oct
5 miles, 45:42, 9:08 pace, HR 129

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Darkness Falls

Who turned off the lights? Tuesday morning I ran through Clonkeen Park and was tempted to stop for a photo because it looked so pretty with the morning mist at sunrise. Two days later, at the same time, the entire place was still pitch black. I'm pretty sure the heavy cloud cover had a lot to do with that change but still! Obviously, that same cloud cover turned into heavy rain later on, not that a few rain drops particularly bothered me. I've spent more than enough of time in Kerry to get used to that.

As for my body, it seems to thrive on the higher mileage. I hit 80+ miles last week and the legs seem to respond. The "heavy legs" days seem to became rare and the "feeling good" days are taking over. It's not all perfect, though, it never is. I can feel the asthma during the early miles on at least half of my runs. The good news is that I always get enough oxygen for 8-minute miles, and the pressure in my chest seems to lift after a while. Most of my runs follow the same pattern, a very slow starting mile, gradually picking it up and getting towards some decent pace near the end. I got down to about 7-minute pace the other day feeling perfectly comfortable, the same pace I struggled to keep for that ominous parkrun a few weeks ago, and this time I didn't feel the need for an ambulance

Still, a few years ago my marathon pace was still over 20 seconds per mile faster than that, and I'm a long away away from that - not that I'm training for a fast marathon, but I sure liked being in that kind of shape.

I'm particularly happy how the legs responded to running twice on Thursday. I was a bit worried they'd be heavy for a while but that was not the case. Following that, Sunday's long run itself wasn't particularly great but didn't seem to tax me at all - Monday was the best day in weeks!

I'm definitively getting some consistency back into my training. I think that had been lacking for a while. Maybe that's the missing ingredient.

Anyway, I have a very heavy load ahead of me on the weekend. When living in Kerry I would never have considered a marathon in Monaghan, it's an insanely long drive. Now that I'm based in Dublin, the entire island seems to have shrunk into acceptable range and I'm looking forward to adding another county to my marathon list. Plus, they have a food festival on at the same weekend - perfect! That's the recovery sorted already.
22 Sep
9.25 miles, 1:14:55, 8:05 pace, HR 142
23 Sep
9.25 miles, 1:14:37, 8:03 pace, HR 147
24 Sep
18.5 miles, 2:33:55, 8:19 pace, HR 141
25 Sep
9.1 miles, 1:12:38, 7:58 pace, HR 139
26 Sep
9.2 miles, 1:14:07, 8:03 pace, HR 144
27 Sep
9.2 miles, 1:12:53, 7:55 pace, HR 144

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Run Commute

Its early morning, just after 6 o'clock. I open the blinds and it's still dark outside - summer is definitely over. No matter. I have been awake for 90 minutes already and by now staring at the ceiling has lost its attraction.

I don't eat before running so it doesn't take me long to get ready - with 15 minutes I'm out of the house. There's a lady walking her dog, otherwise the apartment blocks are completely quiet.

And yet, as soon as I get to the road it's already very busy, there is a never-ending stream of cars. What a contrast to Caragh Lake where I would encounter a car every 3 miles on average at this time of the morning. Aren't the Irish all supposed to be night owls?

I get away from the roads again as I turn into Kilbogget park, which is very quiet again, apart from the odd dog walker. That park leads straight to another one, Clonkeen Park, both of them long thin green ribbons tucked away from the road, though you can hear the noise from the N11 loud and clearly. Deansgange awaits about 5k into my run, and the next few miles are along another road, not too busy but still. Today I get lucky with the green lights, I don't have to stop. At Blackrock, now halfway through my commute, I turn off the road again, past the DART station and into Blackrock Park. By now it's reasonably bright, though the sun remains hidden behind the clouds. At Booterstown I have another few miles beside the road, now very busy, and if I'm unlucky then I have to wait several minutes at the Merrion Gates level crossing. Why they have to close the barriers several minutes before the train passes is a bit of a mystery to me, it causes massive tailbacks for the commuters and only encourages dangerous behavior by trying to cross until the very last second before the gates close - drivers and cyclists being guilty at the same rate!

Anyway, today the gates are already closed as I get near them but I only have to wait a minute. I do wonder if such an enforced break has any impact on training effect - I've heard conflicting stories, not that I can do anything about it.

Once the gates finally open I'm soon on the Sandymount promenade, probably my favourite section of the run. The Poolbeg peninsula keeps coming closer and closer and I do encounter the odd runner. A lady gives me a sideways glance as we pass each other, in contrast to the usual stare-straight-ahead" method favoured by most Dublin runners.

I run through Sean Moore park where yesterday another runner started chatting to me - that's a first in the 5 months I've been running in Dublin, and a nice change to the usual urban anonymity and isolation. Today there is no repeat, I run through the park unnoticed, and the next one, Ringsend park, as well. I get to the office well before 8 o'clock, enough time for a shower and breakfast before most of my colleagues arrive. Today I'll be running twice, run-commuting in both directions. It's the first double day of this training cycle but hopefully the first of many. I'm nowhere near as fit as I'd like to be but I have many months and many miles to get ready.
18 Sep
9 miles, 1:14:17, 8:15 pace, HR 140
19 Sep
9.25 miles, 1:12:09, 7:48 pace, HR 150
20 Sep
10 miles, 1:22:49, 8:16 pace, HR 148
21 Sep
am: 9.25 miles, 1:15:28, 8:09 pace, HR 144
pm: 9.2 miles, 1:13:13, 7:57 pace, HR 144