Sunday, March 30, 2014


Many years ago in 1978, Alberto Salazar suffered so badly from heat stroke after the Falmouth Road Race that he had his last rites read to him. He recovered and said afterwards that from that day on he knew exactly how hard he could push himself. I had an experience 6 years ago that was nowhere near as dramatic when I contracted pneumonia but similar to some extend as I learned when it was okay to go running and when not.

I still felt very good on Thursday morning during my run but things started going south during the day when I started feeling worse and worse. It was not just me, Lola was affected as well and Maia was feeling very rough, bad enough for Niamh to take her to the doctor on Friday. I had a sore throat, a headache and was generally feeling unwell but it did pass the neck test and I went running on Friday, though I did cut the distance down to 8. I was actually quite surprised to see the HR completely unaffected; sometimes you are fighting an infection while feeling ok and the HR can jump by 10 beats or more. At other times, like Friday, you can clearly feel some effects but the HR is at the same level you expect when perfectly healthy. I was still feeling rather rough for most of Friday but got better towards the evening and by Saturday morning was basically recovered, though I can still feel some weight on my chest when lying down, but that will go away soon.

With just one week to go to Connemara I decided to give the local duathlon a miss, though I do feel a bit guilty for not supporting a race in Killorglin. Instead I went for a 10 mile run at the planned Connemara pace of 7:10, which might be a bit optimistic but not completely unrealistic I like to think. I started easily with the first mile in 7:30, had caught up by mile 5 and then ran the rest entirely on autopilot and very relaxed. I was thrilled with the result, it felt like I could keep that pace going until forever.

I repeated the same workout on Sunday. The first mile was a bit slower in about 7:45 and it took a little bit longer to catch up and the last few miles required slightly more effort than the day before but it was still very relaxed and I certainly could have run a lot faster had I wanted to. It's hard to say if the pace is appropriate for Connemara but I think if I run like this for the first 26 miles I'll get to Leenane in good shape and can then re-assess on the long climb that follows. Despite not training specifically for Connemara I'm quite optimistic about the prospects of a new PB.
27 Mar
10 miles, 1:18:18, 7:49 pace, HR 136
28 Mar
8 miles, 1:02:12, 7:46 pace, HR 135
29 Mar
10 miles, 1:11:24, 7:08 pace, HR 145
30 Mar
10 miles, 1:11:11, 7:07 pace, HR 148


  1. 7 min to 7.10 pace for the ultra would bring you in around 4.40-4.50. That would be a seriously mind boggling time. Running the full myself albeit with a more modest target in mind. Best of luck and watch that chest cold.

  2. Hope your feeling ok in the coming week Thomas, that's my target pace for Connemara also, but I don't think I'm as well prepared as you...& maybe a bit more injury prone. See ya on the start line...taper well my friend.

  3. Amazing stuff some pace for that sort of distance, sometime I'll manage that pace just for the marathon :)

  4. Good to hear you have escaped the clutches of illness and looking good for Connemara.

    I recall from your previous races there that you have cramp shortly after sumiting hills in the second half of the race. I suspect that these hills you pushed too hard on the ascents with the HR elevated as well which then created the fatigue that muscles couldn't handle once the gait and loading changed.

    If I were to suggest any tweak for this time around would be to even out your work load, running less hard on the ascents, watching your HR to avoid it going to high so you aren't expending too much glycogen and building up by-products in the muscles.

    The ideal intensity to maintain is probably one that see your heart rate steadily increase from start to finish, and with paced managed so that ascents run easy enough as not to spike your HR, and descents fast enough to keep the HR up with the proviso that you have to be able to stay relaxed on the descents and so if the descent is steep then concentrate on form not chasing some HR.

    This approach to pacing by HR is what I used last week at the Loch Katrine Marathon which is very hilly and it seems to have worked out well - I was still pretty fresh at the end and able to pull our a fast finish. The only really difficult thing with this approach is natural to dig in on hills and try to maintain pace, and this seems to be what the majority of runners do, if you are running by HR then at least for the first half you'll likely have people swallowing you up - you just have ignore everyone else's pace and trust in what your heart is saying. Come the second half you'll still be fresh though and will be able to float up the ascents still past everyone else who've spent themselves too early.

    As for a HR to pick, if you are in similar shape to the previous time you raced the route then the average HR you saw then would likely be a good starting place. This average HR is something that you'd want to see around the middle of the race, then work backwards to the start taking enough bpm's to ensure that your average pace is roughly the same from start to mid-point. In the second half you'd then let the HR drift higher to maintain a similar average pace (take away a bit for the hills of the second half).

    At any small section of the race you'd want to stay around the HR you feel is appropriate for that stage of the race, so if 1hr in your target is 155bpm then if you go up a hill don't allow your self to go too far above it, on the levels aim to stay at this HR, and on descents keep relaxed and keep the pace and HR up. A couple of hours later on you'd might target 160 but again work around this value.

    If you decide things are going better or worse than expected then dial up or down the target HR you want to work around but stick with the ascent/flat/descent pace management to stick around this new HR.

  5. So you're looking at going through the marathon in 3:05 or so. Wow!

    Good news about dodging the sickness. I think both resting HR and HR during an easy run is a good indication if you're well or not. Also how you feel!