Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Ups And Downs

I had a great little 10 mile run on Saturday morning and sure thought that the recovery from Cork was now well under way. Unfortunately I followed that up with an entire series of blah runs. Very unusually, I felt worse on my afternoon run that day than for my morning run, and that was followed by an 11 mile run on Sunday morning where I had to grind out every single mile out of the legs. I tried to tell myself that I had felt a lot better towards the end of the run than at the beginning, though in retrospect that was most likely just wishful thinking - or, maybe, I had felt truly awful at the beginning.

The legs felt bad enough for me not to run a second time on Sunday, even though I was very tempted, seeing as I had amassed 95 miles during the week and a short little recovery run would have pushed me into 3 digits once more. However, in the end I decided that would be running miles entirely for the miles sake and left it at that. It was almost certainly the right decision, the legs still felt like crap on Monday morning and not at all inclined to run faster.

With the Portumna 100k looming rather ominous in my very near future, that's not the best position to be in. I have obviously gotten myself well ahead of my recovery and need to step back a bit. I decided to ditch every evening run this week and just be content with running once a week. I also cut back today's (Tuesday's) mountain run and climbed up the Windy Gap just once rather than the planned double ascend. I considered binning the mountain altogether but reasoned that an entirely different stimulus to the road miles might do the legs some good (possibly wishful thinking, again).

The weather forecast was a bit ominous with thunderstorm warnings all day today and I was rather nervous looking out of the window at 6 am. I mean, I'm as daft as they come but not even I would consider running up a mountain in thunderstorms, but a blue sky and beautiful sunshine spoke an entirely different language and off I went, enjoying the view as well as the weather, and the legs felt surprisingly good. maybe I could have done the double crossing after all - no, let's not go there.

I'm now going to do 3 very easy days, which suits me very well as it works both as recovery as well as a mini-taper for Portumna. I have no idea what to expect; my vague notion was to run around 8:30 but my recent time in Staplestown would have me much closer to 9 hours. As a result, I don't even know what pace I should go out with - chances are, it will be too fast. Ah well.

I checked my body fat this morning, for the first time in ages. The scales give me 9.8%. usually I need to be under 144 pounds for the body fat to show below 10%, this time I'm still a pound or 2 heavier. I think I may have more legs muscles from all those mountain running, which is probably a good thing. (Note: the body fat scales might not be accurate but they are consistent, and if they give me a reading of under 10% for 146 pounds rather than 144 then I'm fairly confident that they indeed show a change in my body composition)

I'm getting old and senile. Twice this week I forgot to set the alarm clock. Both times I woke up on time anyway, but I better not keep pushing my luck.

7 Jun
am: 10 miles, 1:16:00, 7:36 pace, HR 130
pm: 5 miles, 39:49, 7:57 pace, HR 135
8 Jun
11 miles, 1:24:55, 7:43 pace, HR 134
9 Jun
10 miles, 1:18:34, 7:51 pace, HR 134
10 Jun
10.7 miles, 1:32:19, 8:37 pace, HR 137, Windy Gap


  1. Sounds like you had a little bought of over-reach with too many miles in quick succession.

    Adding different training stimulus is probably a good thing. On Canute's Efficient Running blog he recently had a serious of posts that explored the issue relating to over-training and general health. A common theme was that chronically elevated levels of Cortisol can lead to the body breaking itself down more than it repairs. He suggests that adding a bit of high intensity training to provide stimulus for Anaerobic hormone release would be effective at counter balance the increases Cortisol level associated with a large volume of training that .

    With your change to doubles you've largely dropped the high intensity stuff, perhaps once the 100k is out the way and you are recovered it might be worth trading a little volume for a few high intensity workout interspersed through the week.

    The other thing you could look at is making sure you are getting a full quota of sleep.

    That all being said, your body fat% measurement and conclusion that you've put on leg muscle suggests that you probably on average you've been building up muscle rather than breaking it down, suggesting that at least on average over the last six months you've avoided chronic levels of Cortisol. This extra muscle mass should give you a bit more to headroom w.r.t muscle fatigue with when you do your ultras.

    For the 100k, the analysis of HR vs Time/Distance I did but haven't yet had a chance to publish suggests that you should be able to maintain a HR of 146 for 6hours, and 144 for 9hours. This is based fitting a curve to your historical race data, I suspect now your HR for a given pace is lower you'll need to dial this down a little, but shouldn't need to be too much.

    If you want to be conservative then dialling it down so more be sensible, you can always up the pace in the second half if you feel good on the day. You could do something like start with a zone of say 135 to 140 for the first 20 miles should be super comfortable, then upping to the 140 to 145 for the rest of the race if you feel good.

    I can't believe that you are serious thinking about a 9hr 100k time though... That's what I'd be targeting if a lined up at 100k start and you are far better runner than me. If you are suffering from over-training this might even the playing field a bit, but as long as you take it easy for the rest of the week I don't see a reason why you shouldn't finish much closer to 8 than 9hrs.

    Best of luck.

  2. Hi Thomas, what is the average elevation of your training runs?

    1. I live and train at sea level.

      But if you mean elevation change in training, that depends. If I run up to Windy Gap the elevation change is about 1400 feet, a double-crossing about 2000. A typical 10 mile road run has about 300 feet elevation gain/loss, and the 15-mile loop around Caragh Lake about 1200.

    2. Yes, that's what I meant, the elevation change, sorry about that. That is very impressive, might help you a lot. Congratulations for the 100k result!

  3. Hope the easy days have you feeling fresh for the 100k. "and just be content with running once a week" - Ah, you'd never be content with one run a week ;)
    Have the double run days been a temporary thing for weekly volume? Thought you were a once a day runner.