Sunday, November 01, 2009

A Different Spin

I did not intend to spend any more time reflecting on the Dublin marathon but things did not quite work out as planned. We drove home to Kerry on Friday, and it was during that journey that I noticed a chill and a headache creeping up on me. Yesterday we drove to Cork yet again for some more of the smart kids classes and I felt worse, and today, Sunday, I'm feeling a bit worse still. It is an established fact that your immune system is compromised immediately after a marathon, and this autumn it caught me not once but twice.

Looking at the figures I find it quite astounding that my heart rate in Dublin (167) had been higher than in Dingle (165), Boston (164) or Dublin 08 (163), all of which had been significantly faster. Looking through my training log I also had to reconsider my explanation that I simply had not recovered from Dingle. On 4 Oct, only 3 weeks after Dingle, I ran 11.25 miles in training at 6:55 pace with a heart rate of 162. In Dublin, after 3 more weeks of supposed recovery, I averaged 170 bpm at 7:14 pace over the first 11.25 miles, and that course was no more undulating. I'm well aware that race day adrenaline raises the HR, but that difference looks too way too big to me. I hold the cold that I had gotten between those 2 runs responsible for all of this, and maybe I could have run a good race after all had I remained healthy throughout.

I know for a fact that I can run big races in relatively close proximity, because in 2008 I ran the Connemara Ultra in April and the Cork marathon in June, and while the Ultra didn't quite go to plan after pneumonia, the Cork marathon was top notch and remains my second fastest time to date.

Whatever went wrong this time there is more than one factor involved, which makes it difficult to draw any firm conclusions. However, I'd like to draw a line under the whole marathoning thingy for the time being. I hopefully won't feel the pressure to run at speed during Ultras; maybe I can relax a bit more. I might still throw the odd marathon into the schedule if it suits me, but I won't be chasing a sub-3 hours time.

Since recovery from Dublin is by far and away the most pressing thing I have ruled out running for the time being. Instead I hooked my bike on my new indoors trainer an started spinning away for half an hour last evening, and again this morning. I already learned one lesson, namely don't do that less than one hour after dinner. It should have been obvious, but some people need to learn this the hard way, it seems. The kids were really taken by the fact that someone could cycle away without moving from the spot – the idea alone seemed fascinating. And Maia got highly excited by seeing her Daddy on the bike.

I'm supposed to run a race in a fortnight. It's a half marathon through the immensely scenic Gap of Dunloe, and when I saw that on the calendar a few weeks ago I just had to sign up. The timing is not great, coming just three weeks after the marathon, but running in those surroundings is something I cannot possibly resists, just like running around Slea Head or across Connor Pass will always be a major draw. As things stand, I may even do this event without any running in my legs at all. Obviously I won't be looking for a personal best – the elevation profile would not stand for that anyway, but if I can drag my aching carcass through the valley in one piece I'd be happy enough.

But the most important thing at the moment is Maia's impending second birthday. I cannot believe it is already two years ago since we welcomed her to the World. We're having a little part tonight, which she is very much looking forward to. Hopefully I can stay off the sweets.


  1. Thomas, A belated ‘well done in Dublin’, despite the problems. As you say, there was more than one factor to consider in understanding why it was such a struggle. There is little doubt that you are capable of a sub – 3 hour marathon, and no doubt that you are capable of 2 big races within 6 weeks. So something went wrong in Dublin. The preceding respiratory tract infection was part of it, but you had run an impressive 5K race and had done some good sessions (including an 18 miler) after the cold so that wasn’t the full explanation. Since Dublin you have had a recurrence of symptoms. It seems likely that you have suffered from over-training. The high HR suggest it was the sympathetic form of over-training, from which is usually easier to recover with appropriate rest. But I also think it is a good idea to have a break from the pursuit of the 3 hour marathon for the time being. Some low-pressure ultras sound like a good idea.
    Enjoy the Gap of Dunloe but do it for enjoyment alone, and forget about DNF lasting forever. DNF is only to be regretted when you ‘should’ have done better, but should is a dangerous word. It doesn’t apply when you are under par.

  2. Yes Thomas you may very well have been running with a cold. I think I have ran like six marathons with colds and they were all a struggle.

    I stopped wearing my HR monitor at the end of marathon training because it more often than not was telling me that I was coming down with something and I stupidly tried to ignore it.

    One day you will go into a race completely or in near perfect health and you'll get a sub 3 and that will underscore just how well you ran this last marathon despite the problems.

    Happy B'day to your girl!

  3. Thomas, very similar to my experience in Amsterdam last year, although I didn't have a cold. I knew within the first few miles that I was not going to achieve target pace and my HR kept rising despite the slower pace. It took me a number of months to get back to speed. I put my experience down to overtraining as my body was certainly telling me to take it easy.

    The Gap of Dunloe sounds like a great run.

  4. Enjoy the half Thomas - it looks like a scenic course.

    Even with the ultra "career", maybe don't neglect the short races (for fun) and speedwork. That sort of mix seems to work well for Martin Fryer and Jackie Fairweather - two great ultra runners.