Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A New Chapter

Taking a week off running after Connemara seemed the most sensible thing to do. I know that my former coach would have prescribed one week as the absolute minimum rest time. Following the last few days, I'm not so sure.

  1. Consistency is the most vital ingredient in marathon and ultra running, and consistency is achieved by forming a habit. I have now broken that habit and it takes work to get back into it. Getting up early? I was so used to it that I never wasted a second thought to it. Now I have to fight the daemons every morning.
  2. Core work had become a habit as well, something I started about half a year ago. I haven’t done a thing since Connemara. That one is even harder to get into.
  3. Soreness. After one week of complete rest, my quads were screaming in pain after 3 miles on Sunday and Monday. After only two days of running, they were fine.
  4. My pacing has gone completely out of the window. Every mile or so I look at the Garmin, get a slight shock, slow down, then let my mind wander and immediately am back at the old pace.

Interestingly, the pace that my body seems determined to tune into is pretty much the same pace I fell into in Connemara after 31-or-so miles when the calves started cramping. I don’t know if that is coincidence or if it has any meaning at all, just find it a bit weird.

Talking about cramping, I had the weirdest thing happen to me on my bike commute this morning. I spent the time thinking about the race and the problems with my cramping calves, when all of a sudden my left calf started – cramping! I have never heard of a cramp being caused by the mere memory of a previous cramp, but that’s exactly what had happened. It must be my geeky nature, but I find that absolutely fascinating. There is something about the human motor neuron system that no scientist has yet managed to figure out.

That’s it for Connemara and I am now starting to focus on the next challenge. I am very much looking forward to the race in Belfast Bangor. In contrast to what it says on the sidebar of my blog, I don’t feel like I have yet run a “real” ultra. Connemara, Sixmilebridge, Donadea and even Dingle were “short” races as far as ultras are concerned and the challenge was mostly physical. I am eager to find out about the mental battle that lies ahead. At the same time I am perfectly aware that I may come to rue those words. I'm not sure why I am insisting on putting myself through the wringer, but determined to go through with it. Maybe I just want to find out what I'm made of.

One major problem I am facing is the fact that nobody seems to be in agreement on how to train for such a distance. I have read countless of ultra running blogs, plenty of books and emailed some renowned ultra runners for advice; some who responded, some who did not. Not two people/sites/books came back with the same advice.

Fittingly, just today I read a paragraph by Western States winner Geoff Roes stating exactly that:
There are many theories on how to best prepare for and race 100 miles, but you find very little consistency within these theories. Every successful 100-mile runner has found an approach that works for them, but no one’s approach seems to work for everyone.

I’ll have to fall back to trial and error, then. I will take a few lessons into account that I have learned so far, especially when training for Dingle two years ago, but if these lessons will still be applicable for a much longer race I do not know. I’ll find out, I guess.
9 Apr
5 miles, 38:12, 7:38 pace, HR 154
10 Apr
5 miles, 38:36, 7:43 pace, HR 152
11 Apr
7 miles, 52:42, 7:32 pace, HR 153


  1. i think u are nuts doing this!!!! Why? you ran a sub 3 in vienna last year and when you have that ability you shouldnt let it slip. i would be aiming for one sub 3 every year if was u but at the end of the day it's your call. fair play tho!!!!
    on the subject of training for a 100 miles i was chatting to these two irish guys on the morning of the clon marathon. can't remember their names but they pioneered ultra running in ireland. (one holds the dublin/belfast record and the other was interviewed by mick rice for irish runner). they said they "simply" ran 12 hour runs back to back when peaking for training. fair play thomas but crazy stuff. (in the way of admiration!!!)

  2. The mental challenge will be big that's for sure! Looking after your feet is important over those distances. Martin Fryer is the legend around here - There's also another good local ultra running site:

  3. Might do no harm to follow some of the WHW blogs and see how they deal with it. The trick (I think) is to monitor the progress of your peers. Tracking elites leads to disappointment as factors like biomechanics, CV ability (VO2 max) and so forth differentiate you from them.

  4. Good to see that you are back running and looking forward to next big challenge. A couple of my own experiences see to correlate a little with yours so I'll pass them on to see if one can spot a pattern.

    Last week I did my last long run before the Fling at the end of April, a 6 hour 30 miler with 5100ft ascent/descent. I finished this run pretty comfortable but the last week my quads have been fried, it took my 4 days to get back even a gentle 2 mile recovery run. In hindsight doing such a mountainous long run was probably a bit too risky 3 weeks before an Ultra, especially as the longest ascent/descent in a single run was 1200ft this year so my quads weren't hardened enough for sure.

    Anyway about 3 days after only my quads were still tender, the rest of my was fine, yet during the night I had a calf cramp when I rolled over. It's not normal for me to get calf cramps at night, I'm certain that it was related to recovery from the long run, the ascent being the part that pushed my calves. Curiously I didn't have one sign of cramp during the run and the days before the cramp my calves felt nice a loose. Afterwards it's taken another 3 days for my calf to feel loose again.

    Another thing I've found is that my first few recovery runs I felt I wanted to run faster than my body quads could handle, it felt very much like there was residual muscle tension appropriate for running at quicker pace than a recovery run. Now I'm back to normal and tensions pretty well back to normal.

  5. from my experience, my wife will tell you, I never ran marathons as fast as before my 24 hour race, underlying it may slow you down