Thursday, December 13, 2012

Healthy Training

Last week, Maia was fighting off a cold all week. It was just one of the many bugs that a 5-year old brings home from school all the time. On Sunday, both Niamh and me felt a touch of the cold ourselves, but that's where our respective paths diverged. While a good night's sleep did wonders for me and I felt right as rain again, Niamh got it full on. She felt rotten for a couple of days and was only getting better by Wednesday, though she is still coughing quite severely today. This kind of thing isn't exactly unusual. Four school kids in the house mean they bring a lot of germs back home and usually some other family members catch it too, except me. My immune system must be exceptionally strong, and I sure attribute this to my running. It's because of these repeated occurrences that I do not pay any heed to the repeated scare stories about running that get printed in the press on a regular basis, one of them quite recently. While I know that a strong immune system is not an indicator that you won't get a heart attack, I simply cannot believe that an activity that demonstrably keeps me so healthy would be - well, unhealthy.

The training keeps going exceptionally well. After an exceptionally easy 10-miler on Monday it was time again for an evaluation. The last one had produced an excellent set of figures and I was quite curious what this week would bring. The conditions were not quite as ideal as 2 weeks ago, it was a little bit windy and I wondered if that would have an effect. I found it quite hard to get the heart rate up to 160 initially, I felt I had to work unusually hard for it. But as it turns out, once I got going I was flying.

(The numbers in brackets are adjusted pace, 7 seconds for every 2 heart beats off the 161 target):
        Mile 1    6:21   HR 160    (6:18)
        Mile 2    6:26   HR 160    (6:23)
        Mile 3    6:23   HR 161    (6:23)
        Mile 4    6:30   HR 162    (6:33)
        Recovery to HR 130: 30 seconds

I think I was still in the process of stabilising the heart rate during the first mile, which is why is was so fast - the HR basically took a bit to catch up. After that it felt smoother and it's another step up from 2 weeks ago. The short recovery time especially is a great sign; never mind that the average pace for these is just getting faster and faster.

Since the evaluation is such a mellow workout that does not require a recovery day I felt it safe to follow it up with a fartlek, which followed the usual formula of 1 minute hard / 1 minute easy. This used to feel quite hard a couple of weeks ago, but after 20 repeats I still felt quite good this time. Time to add more repeats, I guess.

Another fast run would definitely have been a bad idea after that, but I did a medium long run on Thursday, getting up very early like in the Good Old Times to run around the lake. It really was pitch dark, without the head lamp I would have run off the road on a couple of occasions. It was also fairly cold, at least judging by Kerry standards (which is not really cold, I know, I know).

I'm definitely in far better shape at this point in time than any previous year. My main worry at the moment is not to peak too early. Tralee is still 13 weeks away. The specific marathon training has not even started yet.
10 Dec
10 miles, 1:15:59, 7:35 pace, HR 135
11 Dec
12 miles, 1:23:32, 6:57 pace, HR 148
   4 mile eval: 6:18, 6:23, 6:23, 6:33 (adjusted), 30 sec recovery
12 Dec
8 miles, 56:43, 7:05 pace, HR 153
   20 x 1 min hard / 1 min easy
13 Dec
15+ miles, 1:45:14, 7:33 pace, HR 142


  1. Since I've got back into running in the last four years I believe on average I get less colds, but the one I got back on October linger for a while. I caught it whilst on holiday and when my training had been cut back. One curious thing I found is that when I got back into training at the tail end of the cold I found that the night/day after a run my cold symptoms would be worse.

    I find this curious as the symptoms of the cold aren't actually caused directly by the cold but the bodies immune response to the virus. Does this mean that our training runs activate our immune systems more? Our immune systems are what enables our body to adapt to training stimulus so for sure it will be activated.

    Steve Magnus wrote an interesting article that touched on the topic of immune system/stress/training stimulus/adaptation, and suggested that too much stress (of any/all types) at once can switch off adaptations.

    So I'm guessing for yourself you are training consistently enough that you are keeping your immune system in a modestly active/ready state all the time, but not over-stressing yourself so much that immune system is compromised. In this sweet spot you are able to fight off illness and grow stronger as a runner.

    With upping your training intensity I would guess that you will be pushing your body just that bit more so might need to be more careful about taking on too many physical/mental and illness stresses at one time.

    For myself I do wonder if having the Flu jab and then running a marathon race two days later might have been too may stresses close together. Enough stress on my system that it could have compromised my bodies ability to tackle the virus that I caught ten days later. This experiment of one is no controlled trail so we'll never know whether this was the case or not, but sometimes little anecdotes can lead to useful insights.

    I must admit I'm really impressed by just how much you've been able to load your body in training over the last few months - the training is getting and more intense and I start to worry that you might be overcooking it but no week after week the little niggles just disappear and your figures just get better and better. This is great place to be.

    The only thing I'd suggest is be aware of the total stress on your system, so on weeks of high stress at home/work or illness around you don't push it quite so hard in training to make sure you have a little bit in reserve. On weeks of less other stress go for it!

  2. You're going well. Some great numbers there.

    I'm curious about the 'peaking too early' problem. What is the cause? I'm imagining that in the past you may have started interval training too early or gone 'stale' with too many weeks of high mileage.

  3. I don't agree that health and fitness necessarily go hand in hand. Very solid slpits again Thomas so you're still going up. 13 weeks is a long way off though and you may have to stop awhile and rest on a plateau before making the final assault on the summit if it is to coincide with Tralee.