Sunday, September 22, 2013

Emergency Brakes

I got my knuckles rapped virtually by Mystery Coach, who obviously still keeps an eye on my blog. He has dropped the odd pearl of wisdom my way, whenever he thinks I'm messing up too much to ignore; this time it took less than 4 weeks for him to ring the alarm bells - blimey.

At the root of the problem is what he thinks is a miscalculation of mine. I assumed that after doing no speed work all summer this had served as my base training and I was ready to move to the next phase. Not so, apparently. Running very long distances has a very similar exhausting effect on your muscle fibres as big speed workouts and I need to step back.

After a routine 10 mile run on Thursday I did another faster run on Friday (that was prior to the aforementioned intervention). I felt reasonably good, the pace was 10 seconds per mile faster that 2 weeks ago, but at the same time it was 20 seconds per mile slower than during the 10k pacing job. Back then 6:20-ish pace had felt reasonably comfortable, on Friday I was straining to run 6:40 pace. Maybe 5 seconds difference can be explained by the racing shoes, the rest is all in the head, I figured.

But, as I said, at that point MC pulled the emergency cord. I thought I was being good by splitting Saturday into 2 runs, on the assumption that 2 5-mile runs are less strenuous than one 10 miler. The effort was easy on both counts, though I was really surprised to see sub 7:30 pace in the evening. It's not all that unusual, I have seen faster paces for similar efforts before on the rare occasions when I run in the evening.

After such an apparently easy Saturday I expected an easy ride on Sunday, especially as I decided to move away from the hilly Caragh Lake road in order to protect my Achilles. I ran very easily and felt very good until the wheels started coming off somewhere around 9 or 10 miles. My guess was that I was running out of glycogen; I had not eaten before running (I never do) and it was slightly later than usual, so that seemed to make sense. I tried to convince myself that running in a depleted state was excellent ultra training, but in the end cut the run short by a mile and was back home after 17 miles, only barely faster than 8-minute pace (and it had felt a lot tougher than that!). MC seems to disagree with the low glycogen theory, but whatever the cause for today's crash, I guess I'll have to take it a bit easier for a bit.

19 Sep
10 miles, 1:19:04, 7:54 pace, HR 139
20 Sep
10 miles, 1:10:34, 7:03 pace, HR 154
   incl. 8 miles @ 6:42 pace (HR 160)
21 Sep
am: 5 miles, 38:43, 7:44 pace, HR 138
pm: 5 miles, 37:15, 7:27 pace, HR 141
22 Sep
17 miles, 2:15:15, 7:57 pace, HR 140
Weekly Mileage: 82+


  1. After my first two ultras (only 40 milers !) I also started back training after 2 weeks and was on for a long run in the first 2 weeks back. I too suffered the "running out of steam" at about the 9-10 mile mark. I was laughing as it was a long time since I had felt empty on a run and I had to walk a bit. I put it down to a couple of days in the bog in Donegal turning turf l! Just over two weeks ago I ran a tough 40 mile trail race ( as a training run and have my first 50 miler this weekend (Vermont 50), so hopefully, with the two runs close together, I won't run out of steam early on or it will be a long walk home !

    So what would be the prognosis going forward after an ultra, another full bout of base training before you build up again ? I am hoping to put in another good winter and hopefully try a few longer distances next year. So any insight would be very useful. Cheers Jojo

    1. In my case it looks like I need much more recovery than I originally anticipated and yes, it is back to base training. For the next few weeks it will all be just easy and short runs to let my legs recover.

  2. Good to see MC is keeping an eye on you. That's interesting about ultra training having the same effect as speedwork in terms of damage.