Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Change of Plan

Since Sunday my cough has gotten progressively worse, I feel rotten every morning, (just not rotten enough to stay home from work) and running is definitely not on the cards. Interestingly, I don’t even miss it at the moment (crikes – I must be seriously ill!), and in the interest of full recovery I took the bike off the trainer and am basically in complete couch potato mode. How long this will last I have no idea, but as long as I keep coughing I’m out of business. At that stage even the half-marathon next week might not happen, not even as a fun run, but I’ll reserve judgement on that for the time being.

The weekend was filled with Halloween and Maia’s Birthday Party, and she is immensely proud of her shiny new trike. Nobody else is even allowed to come close, never mind actually riding it, and the howls of protest can be heard for miles whenever Cian tries to do so.

Canute has mentioned the possibility of me being overtrained. While I’m not entirely convinced, I won’t rule it out. Mark once posted a list of possible symptoms, which I shamelessly lifted off his blog:
  • Slower running times – well, yes, in the marathon
  • Insomnia - somewhat
  • Fatigue - yes
  • Achy joints - yes
  • Lack of motivation - yes
  • Frequent cold or flu – well, twice
  • lack of energy - yes
  • Poor recovery after workouts – can’t tell without workouts
  • Poor concentration - no
  • Headaches - yes
  • General lethargy - yes
  • Chronic injuries that won't heal – no

While that’s a lot of yeses, most of them can be directly attributed to the cold alone. As I’ve said, I’m not entirely convinced, but I will try and err on the side of caution. Any sort of training is ruled out for the time being.

And now for something completely different.

You might know that I’m no great fan of the standard “well done, fantastic” type of comments that are widely dished out on the blogosphere even after really bad races. Even so, I did a double take when reading this comment to my Dublin report:

Its good to hear you are giving up marathon running for a while as you were really living up to your name. This year was your chance to break 3 hours and you failed miserably despite some great training and some good pbs at shorter distances. The way you are able to showboat at the end of your marathons suggests that you are incapable of hurting where it counts - from 13miles onwards-.

I think I would have been ok with this had it been said straight to my face. Leaving an anonymous comment like that really pisses me off, though. I give you a hint, man. Next time you leave a spiteful comment filled with bitchy remarks, keep in mind that anonymous comments can still be traced. All the way back to Cork, in your case.

You know what? I think I prefer the backslapping comments after all.


  1. Obviously not a real reunner whoever left that nasty comment Thomas. I think you can disable the anon option too - might be worth considering.
    I said it before - you are an inspiration when I think things are getting tough. So keep it up, the journey is the fun part, the result is always an extra.

  2. Thomas--I love that you traced that comment back to the source!! Well done.

  3. Thomas,

    an amazingly similar comment on this blog: http://whwrunner.blogspot.com/2009/10/reflections-from-tooting.html

    Could it be the same person?

  4. Sheesh, that was downright nasty. Where do people get off giving out criticism like that? I stand by the notion that we can never know what one another are feeling, nor can we feel another's pain, so we have no room to comment negatively. As for the "good jobs"...I think they are a simple acknowledgment of the time and effort you put in, as well as the willingness to lay it all out here for us to see. Sometimes there is no advice to be given, no room to criticize and yet the commenter wants to acknowledge the story. So, platitudes.

    By the way - adorable children!(And, that is not a platitude, it's a fact!)

  5. As a joke this is funny but if it's serious it's not so much and it looks like someone is having a bad life!

    Oh, I forgot to say "good job" on that last marathon ;)

  6. Dear Thomas,
    I'm the "number 1" (did I use those words?)fan from mile 17 in Dublin. That is an awful comment and I'm sad to see it comes from Cork.It runs counter to the whole spirit of comradeship that exists amongst all of us struggling to reach our personal goals. As i did say to you in Dublin you have a large anon readership base here in Cork who enjoy your posts and tribulations.The comment reflects poorly on the poster.

  7. I totally disagree with the assertion that you've had a bad year or that you're a 'rubbish' runner and I'm sure that sub-3 (if you want it) will be yours for the taking given the right race at the right time. Obviously the poster has no real appreciation or respect for the time and effort you've put in and I'm sure you know well how to hurt from 13 miles onwards!!

    Despite detailed race posts none of us can know how you're 'really' feeling at the business (i.e. hurt) end of a race. Also if you can (although I rarely can!!) muster enough reserve to 'showboat' as the poster said at the end of a race that tells absolutely nothing about the previous 26 plus miles.

    I though that the 'work' only starts for marathon runners at the 20 mile mark (how many times have I heard that the 20 mile mark is half way not the 13 mile mark!!)

    Thanks goodness we're not all that disrespectful by making wholly unsubstantiated comments!!

    Ignore it !!

  8. Thomas , the comment was unecessarily harsh but it did raise an issue that I was wondering about. You train very hard and cover massive distances but your time seems to have stagnated a bit in the marathon. Your time in Dingle may well have been closer to 3 hrs in Dublin but for all your training I think you should be well under 3 hrs! Are you putting quantity over quality? are you training smart? I am not an expert, I run now to keep fit and I raced a bit in my early 20s but I am friends with some decent runners - notably a 3.09 DCM09 marathoner who trains 50/60 miles a week! I suppose all this doesn't matter now that you are upping the mileage and doing ultras etc.
    Should you have done more interval sessions and cut the mileage? Again I am not an expert, just interested and am in awe of anyone running a marathon at your pace. Best of luck, Shane.

  9. As a fan from Seattle, USA, I just want to comment that I experienced a very similar pattern in marathon performances last fall when I ran two races 6 weeks apart. The first went well -- a new PR -- but I got a bad cold before the second and ended up dehydrating by mile 14 and finishing some 15 minutes slower than the previous race. I just hadn't recovered properly, and (judging from you heart rate data) that seems to be what happened to you. I also hope this happens to you: I took two weeks off after the second race (as in no running whatsoever) then vigilantly adhered to a recovery-to-base training phase before starting a modified training plan for a May marathon. The result? A new PR (by 9 minutes) and BQ time, plus a reinvigorated running mindset that, like you, has me nearing a sub-3:00 performance.

    So I encourage you to see this last race as an invaluable lesson about your body that will guide you as you retool and refocus for the coming season and beyond. Next year, you'll simply be a smarter, better runner back en route to your goals.

  10. Thomas at your age you still have plenty of time to come back to the marathon [I think you still have unfinished business here] but a new challenge of ultra's sounds really cool.
    But whatever you do enjoy your running and have fun doing it.

  11. Continue listening to the "well done, fantastic " type of comments and you will never improve, listen and learn from the constructive criticism and you will. Its up to you, no skin off my nose, surely you do not consider you are performing well in marathons with your high level of training. Its fine with me I wont be bothering you anymore so no need for the disabling, and as for being annonymous I just couldnt be bothered to sign up, if i met you I would have no problem telling you to your face and if you cannot take it- then tough. Nice to see your fair-weather friends backing you out, for the record I was a fairly real runner with many sub 2-40 marathons and made loads of mistakes along the way but was happy to learn from other people. I think its typical of the modern-day jogger that they criticise the messenger and ingore the message because it may mean they have to look at themselves a bit closer. Anyhow bye bye and I do sincerely hope you get the marathon you deserve (sub 3 hr) from the training you put in.

  12. Anonymous may have a point. But the main reason why anyone is a sub 2:40 marathoner or a sub 3;30 marathoner for that matter is primarily genetics. In this context I do not understand the term "real runner". Is it someone who achieves a certain time or one who achieves their true potential ( There are many eilte runners who never reached their true potential due to poor training choices)

    I have no doubt that you can achieve a sub 3 hour marathon but I think the commenter assumed that this was (or should have been) your overriding goal this year as opposed to experiencing the unique event that is the Boston marathon, supporting the first ever Dingle marathon which is on your doorstep and then going on to run Dublin. It is evident that this is not the build up you'd expect for targeting a Marathon PB.

  13. Anonymous may have a point. Perhasps they should put a hat on ;)

    I like Grellan's point about genetics that is pretty much all there is to running sub 2:40 even with a "bad" training plan.

    Anonymous could learn a few things from the likes of Speedygeoff, Ewen and Pat Carroll. These guys are coaches, mentors and a sub 2:10, 2.30 marathoners in the case of Speedy and Pat and not once have they ever used a confrontational tone to give me the message that I'm not living up to my potential.

    Perhaps they are man enough/smart enough to know that if they did
    only cowards would listen, the rest of us would seek advice elsewhere.

    You can't bully people into knowing the "truth" and only kindness matters. These are the kinds of basic things I try to teach my kids. And if there are harsh words you really think you need to give someone, yes you had better tell it to their face in private and don't write it.

    Like the term "fair weather friend" I'd prefer you said that to me to my face or not at all.

  14. Thomas,
    Like all your other fans who have been inspired by your training and your races, I was dismayed by the comment from Anonymous. The choice of words was offensive. However even if we accept his own evaluation of himself and grant (thought gritted teeth) that he was trying to help you learn from your experiences, I still think he is fundamentally wrong. The cramps in Dingle and the high heart rate in Dublin were physiological facts that demonstrate that you had a problem (or problems) that have nothing to do with showboating.
    I suspect that many of us who follow your blog believe that you are capable of a sub-3 hour marathon. As Grellan pointed out, this year you have run several marathons that were great achievements quite apart from the times achieved. When you look back in 10 or 20 years time, simply having run a good race in Boston will probably seem more important that the precise time you achieved on that day. However you no doubt will also want to look back on the day you did finally achieve the sub-3 hour target, and Dingle and Dublin are potentially useful learning opportunities on the way to that goal.

    Unfortunately the body is so complex that no-one can say exactly what caused the problems in either Dingle or Dublin, but there are at least three things on the list of suspects: electrolyte imbalance, a cold, and over-training. It is possible that all three of these contributed and indeed are likely to be inter-related problems. A cold does not strike like a golf ball from the other side of the hedge. The outcome of exposure to a virus is determined by a balance between the virulence of the virus and your own defenses. You have already weighed up the evidence relevant to this balance. While you will probably never know for certain what it was that tipped the balance, in retrospect, it seems to me quite likely that pressure you put yourself under, both physically and mentally, over the past 6 months left you in a vulnerable state. I think you are absolutely right to take things very easily in the near future, and perhaps for the medium term (ie the next 4-6 months) it will probably be best to regard enjoyment of running and racing as the first goal.
    Catherine Ndereba is one of the all-time great female marathon runners and I think her longevity as a top class international extending from 6th place in her marathon debut on Boston in 1998 to her silver medal in Bejing in 2008 (and hopefully extending into the future) with several World Championship gold medals along the way, has been due to the way in which she has managed to train hard without remorselessly punishing herself. She appears to accept with remarkable patience and equanimity that there is little point in forcing things. I am confident that if you don’t force things, the 3 hour barrier will no longer be a barrier

  15. Hi Thomas,

    it is long time that I wanted to drop you a comment and I got time only today. So I would say that I am not influenced by your actual result in Dublin or by this or that nasty comment...

    well, in short, I have been thinking that you actually train too much.
    What is the point of clocking 100Miles if you can not absorb them and then run 3h0x'.
    Training is a tool, not the scope.

    In the run-up to Dingle, you were not performing well in many key workouts, due to the lack of recovery, etc.
    Doing 100Miles/week means running 15M average daily and this is probably affecting the overall quality of your key workouts and therefore the effectiveness of the training plan...
    IMO, you should forfeit some of the mileage and focus on doing good key workouts, with more "freshness" in the legs.
    Lydiard had not laid down his training concepts keeping in mind also those with 4 kids, a work and waking up at 5am daily....

  16. Wow, what did I miss here? I don't think I can saying anything more (in support) that others haven't. How a message is delivered is just as important as what is said. Nasty dosen't go over well. 'nough said.

    On to better things... your children, great photos!

    Oh, and I'm glad to see that you're taking care fo yourself, i.e. not pushing things and NOT running the half.

    Oh, and one last thing. A friend of mine, who has been running for years, just set a PB in the marathon, 2h58, and he is M50-55. You can go sub 3h, there is a lot of time.

  17. Hi Thomas,
    just wondering...
    have you,or any of the athletes that regularly comment on your blog suffered from iron deficiency (or,do you get it checked.)??
    It seems vey common among endurance athletes and has significant effects on performance from what I have read.
    Normal range is Male: 13 - 18 gm/dL
    Female: 12 - 16 gm/dL
    A recent blood test revealed my levels were slightly low so I am determined to eat more red meat,liver,beans,lentils etc
    it can only improve performance!
    some interesting/related info here:




  18. Hi Thomas,
    I remember that comment, and I respect you for not deleting it (even though it was nasty in spirit). I like the democratic nature of the blogs that allow anonymous comments.

    I think most people try to be encouraging on blogs, and offer advice, suggestions, ideas that may help a runner achieve their goals.

    As Grellan said, choosing your parents carefully is the biggest secret to running fast (whatever 'fast' is). The thing about "constructive" criticism from some 'fast' runners, is that many of them don't realise that their own talent (even if modest) is a big factor in them being able to run 'fast' (or do the necessary training).

    To your own general training situation... you obviously 'do well' on higher mileage, but there's quite a tight-rope to be balanced there. Running an easy day or two when needed might help keep the overall plan ticking along, even if it hurts the miles per week for that week. Just a thought.