Wednesday, August 12, 2009


After a set of delays, the time of The One Workout had finally arrived. My old favourite of 10 miles at slower than marathon pace and 10 miles at marathon pace was waiting to be done. I had gotten plenty of sleep and was fully rested despite the early rising hour of 5 o’clock. I was surprised by how dark it was outside. The heavy cloud cover didn’t help in that regard, but it was not raining and the wind had lessened considerably. I would not be able to find better conditions.

As soon as I set off, I started having doubts. While I clicked into about 7:20 pace handily enough it felt harder than expected and I somehow doubted that I would be able to run 30 seconds per mile faster on tired legs. Anyway, I got down to business. I had done the same workout on the same course a few weeks before Boston, feeling really good and averaging 7:18 on the first 10-mile loop and 6:48 on the second. These figures were a bit of a millstone around my neck; I knew I would struggle to match them.

The Caragh Lake road was a bit busier than normal at this time (i.e. there actually were cars on it) because it is used to by-pass Killorglin in times of Puck Fair by people in the know. When I reached town halfway through my first loop (still before 6 o’clock) I was surprised by the number of people busying around. Usually I don’t see a soul. No bother, it didn’t interfere with my running. The return leg of the loop was uneventful, but I clearly noticed the headwind. I knew this might spell trouble for later.

After a very quick stop for a gel and water I headed out again and let go off the breaks. It became clear early on that I was not going to match my pre-Boston workout. The question was by how much I would miss it. I concentrated on running rather than looking at the Garmin, but the figures I got on the 3 occasions I did look tell their own story. After 3.5 miles, I was still within reach of a half-decent performance with a pace of 6:55. Two miles later, just past the halfway point of the second loop, it had deteriorated slightly to 6:57. But it was over the following stretch, which consisted mainly of a very long section of over 1.5 miles of completely straight road, slightly uphill and right against the wind, where I completely lost it. Every time I tried to inject some pace, the legs refused to comply. As much as I tried to ignore the fact that I had already covered over 17 miles, there was no denying that I was tired. After finally reaching the apex of that miserable piece of thoroughfare the average loop pace had slowed down all the way to 7:04. The last (not quite) 2 miles would be slightly downhill and I harboured hopes of at least getting below 7:00 pace. Sadly, this wasn’t forthcoming either. When I got home, the Garmin was still stuck on 7:04.

Numbers don’t lie. Last time round I ran 7:18 and 6:48. This time I only managed 7:24 and 7:04. While averaging 7:14 pace over 20 miles is not a bad workout, the implications are clear.

I’m not going to run under 3 hours.

It made me realise how little I know about training. I have no idea what might have caused such a poor show. The gardening work from the weekend? Too little rest? Too much rest over the weekend? Lack of speedy runs? Too many miles? Too few MP miles? Was it something fundamental in the training or a single issue, like not recovering after last week’s race? Basically, I have no idea.

In Dublin last year I had the pace for a sub-3 marathon but not the stamina to hold it beyond 20 miles. I subsequently tried to adjust my training to the effect that today I thought I could have kept that pace (7:04) for the entire marathon distance but felt unable to run any faster.

On the other hand, since I was basically only doing base training this time round I should not be surprised that my pace isn’t great. It was that last race that made me think I was fast enough. If you’re able to run 6:10 pace over a very hilly 10k, 6:50 over a marathon isn’t an outlandish target. Sadly, I still seem to slow by at least 5 minutes from my calculated marathon times. Unfortunately nobody told my leg muscles about McMillan.

I followed that run with 8 miles in the rain this morning. There’s not much to say about it, apart from the fact that I was surprised how hypnotic 8:20 pace can be. I started running stuck in one gear and hardly noticed the miles go by. After 5 miles I did some strides, more to get out of the ever-same pace than anything else. As soon as they were finished, I fell back into the old trot again. I guess it will do for a recovery run.
11 Aug
20 miles, 2:24:32, 7:14 pace, HR151
incl. 10 miles @ 7:24, 10 miles @ 7:04
12 Aug
8 miles, 1:06:19, 8:17 pace, HR 135


  1. Sounds like you were just on a bad day, lots of negative thoughts going on there, put them to the nack of your mind.
    You only just set a 10 k p.b. a few weeks a go!
    All is not yet lost!
    Maybe its time to move on to the next stage of your training!

  2. Thomas,

    Sorry to hear that you’re run didn’t go according to plan, still, congratulations for sticking it out. I don’t profess to be an expect, far from it given my race in Boston, but I here is my two cents:

    (1) Don’t give up;

    (2) The w/o you tried 10miles + 10miles is freaking hard. I tried 10k + 10k before Boston and found it devastating and very demoralizing when it didn’t go well. You might consider trying something that I’m experimenting with this time around, i.e., build your MP workouts (i) 6k+5k+4k+3k+2k at MP, (ii) 5x5k at MP and (iii) 3x10k at MP. Benefits from this approach include rest between intervals, and your body can adapt to the MP as the cumulative distance increases... just a thought.

    (3) Lastly, and you only know the answer to this given that we’re all different, but I think you could benefit from more structured rest/recovery and more MP or VO2 max workouts. I’d be glad to share my program or ideas.

    Regardless, take what I say with a pinch of salt and rest assured that you’ve log more miles than anyone I know. That does count for a lot. The race is a month away, it’s time to rest up and sharpen those legs... all the best.

    Your friend,


  3. Got to agree with Rick and Michael, you are being too negative and hard on yourself Thomas. You are off your goal by about 15sec per mile, allow for 30 days remaining to the race to give you a recovery taper, some leg speed, and to get out what must be accumulated tiredness in your legs from 100+ mile weeks. Add the race adrenaline and the way you naturally compete and I'd guess you will find those 15secs easy. Keep the faith - don't panic. You will do it this time!

  4. Hopefully it was just one of those days Thomas. Comparisons with previous workouts can be very demoralising when things don't go to plan and equally uplifting when they do, which is the case most of the time for you.

    I know that for the Cork HM and Cork to Cobh last year I was at the crest of my training curve, which I could not maintain for Amsterdam - I can't hold a peak for more than a few weeks - the body demanded down time and took it without asking. You on the other hand bounce back quite quickly. I'm sure some rest and recovery will see you right and you'll be firing on all cylinders for your next MP run.

  5. In my limited experience it seems to take somewhere between 7 to 10 days to adapt and recover from a hard workout or race. I doubt runners can do much to shorten the recovery, but they can certainly lengthen it. I think your 10K race with some hard downhill running on August 2 and the 24 miler the day after are to blame for the poor workout, and to throw out your race goal after a crappy marathon pace run is to pitch the baby along with the bathwater.

    I honestly don't see a problem with repeating this workout about 18 days out, which would give you plenty of time to recover from this attempt as well as enough time to taper before the marathon. In the meantime, hit those faster-twitch fibers with some shorter anaerobic work to condition them. It might be a little late and a little too taxing to try to get them to act like slower-twitch fibers through ultra long runs or back-to-backs (training them for stamina), but they are still worth conditioning through repeats (5-10x1000 and such) and some shorter time trials at or faster than goal pace.

    Like Michael says, don't give up.

  6. Well Thomas, I was reading the post and slogging along with you in my mind. Knew exactly how you felt. Then you said the implications were clear. But the next line spun my head around. I said "Where'd he get that?" Honestly, I see this as nothing but a tough workout with maybe some indications of needing recovery. In fact, the only implication that was clear was: "This workout sucked." Or more kindly, "This workout did not go to plan." No go on throwing the the goal under the bus. You've got talent and the hard work pays. Get some recovery, do some sharpening on fresh legs and let all the aerobic conditioning just flow on race day.

  7. Good comment from Mike.

    You've probably carried some fatigue into this workout (in spite of some good sleep).

    How are the morning resting HRs going?

    At this point it won't do any harm to go easier and shorter on the easy days. Sure, the weekly miles will be down because of it, but you'll run better on the hard/quality days. The sub-3 is still there with some fine-tuning.

  8. my take is too much self-inflicted pressure on one w\o.

    Way over analyzed.

    Put your mind at ease, relax and just let the miles flow under you. Let's not get too hyped on specifics, think and believe in yourself achieving the end goal.

    This can be a good journey for you, its a matter of feeling confident in your progress thus far.
    Your day, my friend, will indeed come when the "runners high" strikes as your striding fast rather than struggling the last 10K of your PR marathon. A sub 3-Hour. I've met you and know you can do it!