Friday, November 06, 2009


The last entry certainly kept the comments page busy, which is great because otherwise I wouldn’t have anything to say as my training is still non-existent. I got a kick out of Mr Anonymous’ assertion that his advice was “constructive criticism”, but of all things written I liked Scott’s words of “not once have they ever used a confrontational tone to give me the message that I'm not living up to my potential” the most. But thanks to all my fair weather friends out there (which is funny seeing as the weather outside has been nothing short of appalling this week), it’s nice to feel supported.

I never had a problem with most of the actual message; some of you have stated our friend has a point and I’m perfectly happy to agree. I’m not exactly satisfied with my race results this year, I had certainly hoped for more at the start, and I know fully well that others get better results with fewer training miles. What irked me was the tone of the message and the anonymous delivery – oh, and the assertion that I can’t take the pain but like to showboat at the end. That still pisses me off, please excuse the language.

Seeing as I have nothing better to say, I might as well take the opportunity to directly respond to a few things thrown up in all those comments.

Philip, don’t worry, you never called yourself “my number one fan”, but congratulations on your time in Dublin (3:19:14 that's you, isn't it). You certainly left me far in the dust, but the two miles that I managed to hang on to your coat tails were my last decent ones, and they got me two miles closer to the finish.

While I’m still not entirely convinced that I was overtrained rather than simply sick for Dublin, it is definitely a possibility, and the likes of Canute and by7 may be right when they think that I trained too much and couldn’t quite absorb it all. Back in 2007 a friend asked me if I was searching to find my tipping point or was I simply addicted to running. Well, what about a bit of both? I have upped my training basically every year, and my results have improved from year to year as well. This could be attributed to the fact that you always get better for the first few years of running, but my rate of improvement has been fast enough to suggest that the increased training load was having a positive effect – until this year, that is. Had I accepted fours years ago, as a 3:55 marathon runner, that 50 miles per week was my optimum amount I would not have chalked up a 3:05 marathon on the way, not even close. 70, 80, 90, 100 miles have followed, and this year I may finally have gone over the top and reached the point of negative returns, but unless you reach your tipping point you never know where it is. I went into this summer’s training with my eye open and have no regrets. With my lack of injuries I can be reasonably sure that even if I overtrained, then not by much.

Diarmid, I had my iron levels tested last year when I was recovering from pneumonia. They were only just above 13, the lower level for males. My doctor was unconcerned, but my own alarm bells started ringing because I’m of the understanding that endurance athletes have higher iron requirements than your average couch potato. For a while I took some Floradix, which had originally been recommended to Niamh during her pregnancies, and which I can take without side effects. But even though I intended to have my iron levels tested again, for various reasons I didn’t. Having said that, when I feel good running I’m pretty sure my iron levels are fine. Let’s see what happens once I recover from my cold.

With the racing season basically finished (the next races are part of the next build, really) I have to decide how to train next. My main goal is to have a more enjoyable time between miles 30 and 39 in Connemara than in 2007 and 2008, and should that succeed then a better time on the clock will follow automatically. The death march miles in Dublin were a warning of what can happen, except that during an Ultra the pain gets multiplied. I haven’t made any plans yet, but have some vague ideas going through my head. On the one hand I want to run at least a couple of 30-milers in training to get the legs used to some serious mileage, on the other hand I don’t want to overdo things. I’m thinking about using my *ahem* bike for some cross training, and maybe will take some *ahem* swimming lessons during the winter, only for cross training purposes of course, you understand. And before someone starts accusing me of training for a triathlon but running an ultra, I swear I won’t tip my toe into water nor put myself onto a set of wheels competitively before Connemara.


  1. It's hard to take someone who is anonymous and that confrontational seriously. I'm afraid it's an unfortunate by-product of the Internet. That's why I prevent anonymous comments on my blog. Scott's advice was dead-on - if Mr. Anon had wanted to provide real advice, he should have done it without the foolishness and the rest of us would have respected it. Come on, Anon. Let's keep Thomas' blog classy.

    Enough about him. As I said before, we are all an experiment of one and you never know what will work and what won't until you try. I think you may have over-cooked yourself this year, based on the difference in results between this year and last year. My belief is that focus is probably the most important ingredient to you breaking 3-hours and I'm wondering if the shift to ultras isn't creating a break in that focus. That doesn't mean you shouldn't run ultras. But it does mean that you might not be able to break 3-hours and train for ultras at the same time. They do require different mindsets and different training methods. Just my two cents on it but you should probably use the offseason to think over what your #1 goal for 2009 is. Breaking that 3-hour mark is a mighty goal which I believe necessitates a mighty plan and a mighty focus to accomplish.

  2. sound advise about getting your iron levels checked, taking into account you don't eat meat and you run high mileage on the roads [ increased inpact and red blood cell damage on each foot strike]the money would have to be on you being low on iron.
    not only will your performance drop but also your immune system will be weak!
    Not all bad news if the blood test shows your low, because it will mean that a sub 3 marathon time could be within your grasp once your healthy.

  3. The tri season doesn't start until after Connemara, so you're pretty safe there. The bike should certainly benefit your running. A low cadence in a high gear up a long (2 mile) hill will do wonders for your quads. They'll thank you in Connemara

    I like the idea of doing a couple of 30 milers.

  4. Thomas, I do not think that your body is unable to cope with 100 miles a week (or alternatively, a lower volume, higher intensity program – either approach could take you to a sub 3 hour marathon) but I think the bigger issue is the question is deciding how to respond when your body is telling you to take it easy. I think this is the greatest challenge faced by all of us who aspire to run faster over long distances. One approach is to relax the pressure when in doubt. This approach requires confidence that ones own body is not looking for the easy way out, and also the confidence to believe that it is possible to race well despite not achieving all the training targets. The alternative approach is to regard that it is essential to build up mental toughness by pushing through the barrier even when the body is complaining. I do not think there is any easy answer to this dilemma, and I think that even among elite athletes only a few achieve the optimum balance.