Sunday, August 21, 2016

And Back Again

Ah well. Holidays don't last forever, though I sure wish they did, especially this time round. On Wednesday we stepped into the plane in Vienna beneath a blue sky and 27 degrees. It was nice weather all over Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and England, and just as we got near Dublin the clouds appeared and as we stepped out of the plane it was 15 degrees and lashing rain. I did ask myself why I just had not stayed there, but by that time it was too late.

That was the only day this week I did not run. Actually I was tempted to run that day as well as we did not have to leave the house until 1 o'clock but eventually decided that a day's travel was enough stress on my ageing body.

On Monday, still back in eastern Austria, I did a run that should have been fairly easy, 10 miles at 30-50 seconds slower than marathon pace, basically an easy run. Well. I guessed my marathon time would be about 3:10-3:15, because that's what I usually run when I do a marathon for training and it never takes much out of me, so I tried to run about 8-minute pace, bread and butter really. That was the theory. In reality I struggled from the start and it never got any better. While it didn't get much worse either, at the end I was knackered and had to conclude that I could not have run a marathon at that pace, never mind 30-50 seconds per mile faster!

That minor disaster was followed by an easy day and the flight back home, and the first thing on the schedule here in Ireland was a speed workout! I guessed if that would not shake out the legs, nothing would. It was another ladder session and I was actually looking forward to it. This one went very well, the pace was significantly faster than last week for pretty much the same effort, and it left me feeling good! The good news kept on coming when the easy run on Friday was 15 seconds per mile faster than the ones in Austria had been and I figured the higher temperatures had been responsible for the slower pace, which made sense. It would also go a long way explaining the poor performance on Monday, so I thought maybe 7:20 was my present marathon pace after all, at least in Irish conditions.

I put that to the test on Saturday with a 16 mile run with 12 miles of them at marathon pace. I didn't force the pace when I got going and was content to leave it at the 7:28 pace I saw early on the watch. Well. Disaster struck quickly. With each mile I got slower and slower even though the effort remained roughly at marathon pace. I averaged 160 beats for those 12 miles, which would be a bit low for a marathon but seems about right for a training run, but I sure had not expected that towards the end I could not even hold 8-minute pace, even though I was working fairly hard.

That was bad! I am happy enough with my short, fast workouts and the 20 mile run last week went well enough, but my stamina is badly lacking right now. It's not that I hit the wall, things went downhill straight away and got progressively worse. I ran the workout on an empty stomach and without any carbs, so my blood sugar levels were probably low but I run virtually all my workouts on empty and it never tends to be a problem.

Things have definitely improved in the last few weeks but something is definitely still missing, I'll talk to my coach.

Update: The next 2 weeks will be very easy.

15 Aug
10 miles, 1:18:23, 7:50 pace, HR 153
16 Aug
6 miles, 56:51, 9:28 pace, HR 133
17 Aug
18 Aug
8 miles, 1:07:47, 8:28 pace, HR 149
   1600-1200-800-600-400-200 at 6:37/6:32/6:26/6:17/5:52/5:00
19 Aug
6 miles, 55:11, 9:11 pace, HR 132
20 Aug
16+ miles, 2:11:00, 8:09 pace, HR 153
   with 12 miles @ 7:53 pace, HR 160
21 Aug
4 miles, 37:29, 9:22 pace, HR 132

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Training Camp Update

The internet connection is a bit sketchy here and once we get a connection I have to share it with 4 kids, so this is a rare chance to post a quick update.

Holidays are great! Since I no longer have to spend several hours of the day sitting down, the pain in my left leg has completely disappeared; the only time I felt some discomfort was the day we drove for several hour to visit my mum, which was the only day I had to sit down for prolonged times. Any other day has been completely pain free.

It’s not quite as hot as last year, though we’re heading back into 30 degrees today after a few cooler days. I was a bit worried about my long run on Saturday but it was actually quite cool that morning and the sun did not come out until later, so that passed without a problem.

On Thursday morning I had a decision to make. The legs didn’t feel great and I was very close to binning speed work for a second week in a row but my head seemed to look forward to it, so I made a snap decision and went ahead. The coach had prescribed a ladder session, 1600-1200-800-600-400-200 with decreasing rest and increasing speed. I found it got easier as the session progressed. Having learned from the past I never tried to run ahead of myself and concentrated more on running relaxed rather than fast, apart from the last 200 which was close to as fast a sprint as I could handle on tired legs at the end of a session. Hey, I never claimed to be particularly fast – and I doubt that will change much!

However, immediately after that speed session I felt really good and I’ve felt pretty good ever since. Maybe my legs needed some kind of wakeup call, I don’t know, but now I’m glad that I went ahead with that session.

Saturday was a long run and for many miles I felt like I was just about to get tired but somehow I never really did and finished the run feeling almost the same as I had at the start. The pace had been very slow – that was deliberate. The one thing I am not happy about was the HR which rose gradually with each mile, from the 130s at the start to the 150s at the end, even though the effort was pretty much the same throughout. Having said that, during my 18 mile run 2 weeks ago the same had happened but the average HR had come out as 150, so the 144 from this week are actually a nice progression already.

Apart from that speed session and long run it was all easy running with the HR monitor. The pace is slower than I would have expected but the higher temperatures may have something to do with that, so I’ll wait and see how the numbers are once I’m back home in more familiar territory and conditions.
8 Aug
9 miles, 1:22:24, 9:09 pace, HR 133
9 Aug
9 miles, 1:24:34, 9:23 pace, HR 136
10 Aug
3.6 miles, 34:33, 9:32 pace, HR 131
11 Aug
10 miles, 1:24:44, 8:28 pace, HR 150
     1600-1200-800-600-400-200 at 6:42/6:27/6:27/6:22/6:09/5:29
12 Aug
3.55 miles, 33:35, 9:27 pace, HR 132
13 Aug
20 miles, 2:57:46, 8:53 pace, HR 144
14 Aug
3.65 miles, 34:36, 9:28 pace, HR 134

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Toning It Down

Ok, at some point this week I admitted defeat and admitted to myself that the best way to get out of a hole is to stop digging. I reduced training from an already low level to a barely existing one and on Thursday I didn't do the speed workout the coach had put into the schedule and just ran easily instead. As an easy run this was a good one as my pace has improved for the same HR, so at some level there is actually some progress. I followed this up with a full rest day on Friday (still did strengthening and dynamic stretching and foam rolling) and then an easy long run on Saturday.

The weather this morning was really nice when I left the house but the sun soon disappeared behind some dark clouds and remained there for most of it. The plan said 18, the head said less but when some major chafing started to develop around mile 14 it was time to go home anyway before I did some serious damage. The legs pretty much agreed, it was around that time when they started getting tired so I jogged home from there, missing just over a mile from the plan but hey!

Now it's off to some hot weather training camp (at least that;s how I think of it) with plenty of opportunity to relax and cross train. I don't exactly spend my holidays sitting around and drinking beer (though that does come into it, in moderation) but I'm mostly looking forward to not having to sit in the office chair for a while. Richard might be on to something in his comment to my last post when he pinpointed the Sartorius muscle as the problem, except that I'm pretty sure running does not aggravate it (only sitting does), so I am actually rather optimistic that 2 weeks out of the office will clear that up completely - if it's still an issue when I come back home I'll go and see my physio.

4 Aug
7 miles, 1:03:31, 9:04 pace, HR 131
5 Aug
6 Aug
16.6 miles, 2:19:01, 8:22 pace, HR 149

Wednesday, August 03, 2016


I don't think my heart burn issues are a general digestion problem; I only ever suffer from heart burn 30 seconds immediately after a hill sprint, that's it. Normal running or even a non-hill-sprint-workout does not cause the same discomfort, so I think the problem has a much more narrow focus. However, since there are no more hill sprints in the plan for now I'll just ignore this for the time being.

As for the question why my recovery is so slow this time round, there are several angles on that as well. First of all, recovery after a long ultra is always much slower than I want it to be, so maybe it's no worse than usual and I'm just being impatient. Another theory, not favoured, is that I'm getting old and recovery simply takes longer. I also won't rule out the possibility that running 24 hours on concrete has caused more damage than previous races on a track. My nutrition is pretty much the same as always and definitely on the healthy side (apart from a mild chocolate addiction that's not new and I'm trying to be good). After discussion all that with my coach we decided to cut back the training, even though I'm already doing a lot less that I would usually do, and aim for 2 full recovery days a week, at least for now.

I've had a really weird problem the last few weeks which I've mentioned already. Whenever I am sitting down, after about half an hour my quads start hurting. If I get up and walk around the discomfort disappears within half a minute. If I am unable to do so (say, because I'm in a meeting or doing a course), it gets worse and worse until I am in absolute agony. Until yesterday both legs were equally affected and it just did not seem to be getting any better. Today, however, all of a sudden my right leg feels fine but the left is still bad. I'm obviously hoping that the left one will improve as well (and that it's not simply the left one deteriorating faster all of a sudden). Thankfully I'll be heading into some sunshine next week, which means I won't have to spend half of my day sitting at a desk and hopefully that will clear up whatever is affecting me.

Since training has been reduced this week I've hardly done anything so far. 3 miles on Monday, 7 on Tuesday, all at recovery effort, and nothing on Wednesday. I'm pretty sure I'm not overtraining at the moment.
1 Aug
3+ miles, 30:08, 9:43 pace, HR 128
2 Aug
7 miles, 1:06:17, 9:28 pace, HR 130
3 Aug

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes

Well, so I had a chat with my coach and we decided to make a change to the plan and see how it goes. For the first time in well over 10 years I am introducing a full rest day into my program in an effort to boost my recovery. It may well be that after all those thousands of training miles in my legs I don't need the high mileage any more but let's not jump ahead. We're introducing a change and we will assess how it goes and if it's not working then we will make another change.

There was a second workout on the program this week; after the fun session of Tuesday it was hill sprints again on Thursday, and just like on previous occasions I found the sprints themselves perfectly manageable but the heart burn after each sprint far more bothersome. It got gradually worse with each repeat, the first 5 were slightly uncomfortable but manageable but the last 2 or 3 especially were seriously bad. I've tried taking Gaviscon before the session but that seems to have rather limited effect. There aren't any hill sprints on the program next week but I might want to try something else for when they return,

Friday was a full rest day! Gasp!

The legs felt ok, actually, it wasn't a response to some immediate need but something I had decided beforehand, after consulting the coach. I wasn't completely idle, I still did my dynamic stretching and strengthening exercises but running was off the menu.

It was barely back on the menu on Saturday with only 3 miles, and those at mere recovery effort.

Sunday was an entirely different matter. The coach has ramped up the long run mileage very quickly, from 10 to 14 to 18 miles in successive weeks. It was always going to be a bit of a challenge, I knew that already. The first half went okay, though the legs were a little bit heavy, but the second half started dragging with each passing mile. However, running on tired legs is something I am very much used to so I got home still in reasonable shape, if rather tired. The biggest shock of the day came when I looked at the HR data afterwards - I really thought I had kept the effort very easy, and the pedestrian pace does bear that out, but an average HR of 150 doesn't sound like an easy effort to me, so there is a clear disparity between the subjective feeling and the objective data.

My fitness levels aren't anywhere near where I would want them to be. There clearly is still plenty of work to be done.
28 Jul
7.1 miles, 1:10:37, avg HR 140
1 mile w/u, 2 miles progression, 10 x 20 seconds hill sprints with walking / full rest recovery, c/d
29 Jul
30 Jul
3.1 miles, 29:07, 9:23 pace, HR 132
31 Jul
18 miles, 2:33:58, 8:33 pace, HR 150

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Back Down Again

I already knew I had to make changes, last Tuesday's disaster of a workout had shown that very clearly. My problem was, and maybe it was just a perceived problem, that I got an email from my previous coach, whose opinion I still very much respect and value, urging me to more or less stop training altogether for a bit, just so a slow lazy run occasionally when I feel like it and nothing else. One minor problem with that advice is that mentally I always feel like running no matter what the body says, though I get what he meant. The other problem was that my new coach prescribed a different solution. She also had identified the need to rest and recover but instead of a full stop she prescribed a week with much reduced mileage and reduced workouts. After a day of hesitation I decided to get with my coach's plan - after all, I got her onboard to help me with my training and if I go against her recommendations at the first sign of wavering, what on earth would I have a gotten a coach for!

Monday was a very easy day, but Tuesday was the workout day. I wasn't just worrying how my body would handle it, I was also actually worried how MC would take going against his recommendation. The workout was basically just half of last week's run, 4 times 1 minute at 5k pace and 1 minute at 10k/HM pace, and that's it. Just 8 minutes of work and only half of that at some sort of strenuous level. I guess it wasn't just a workout in itself, it was also a test if I could handle any faster running at all.

I got going, and this time completely ignored the paces on the watch, ran entirely by feel, hard for a minute, less hard for another, and repeat, only using the watch to time the minutes.

Well, wouldn't you believe it, this was actually fun! According to the watch my paces were all over the place, though I'm not entirely convinced that the numbers are accurate (6:41 pace followed by 5:32 pace???). I got through the entire workout feeling really good but could also tell that the fun would soon stop if it had been going on for much longer, so I guess the coach got this one just right. I'm actually really glad I went ahead with this, after feeling so good, and so different to last time it just felt - right!

Wednesday was a major recovery day again with a mere 3 miles, something that's hardly worth getting out of bed for. The coach clearly does value recovery just as much.

The sign of a goof coach: have the ability to change things. So far I'm happy.
25 Jul
5 miles, 47:41, 9:32 pace, HR 130
26 Jul
7 miles, 1:01:01, 8:43 pace, HR 141
   6:41/7:13 5:32/7:44 6:05/7:06 5:47/6:28
27 Jul
3 miles, 29:09, 9:24 pace, HR 130

Sunday, July 24, 2016


I have been feeling a bit strange that last couple of weeks. Obviously it's not that unusual for a runner to have hurting quads but my quads are only hurting when I am sitting down for longer than about 30 minutes at a time. As long as I am able to get up and walk around they will be fine again within a minute but I was doing a course at work for 2 days last week and had to stay put - it was agony at times! They are perfectly fine when I'm running, which I find just baffling.

Anyway, after the disastrous attempt at a speed workout last Tuesday I have been trying to dial back. I stopped cycling to work, reasoning that this was the biggest contributor to the pain in the quads, though I'm not so sure now. I also stopped most of the strength training, which may have contributed to a general feeling of exhaustion. Obviously I know that the underlying reason is that I am not recovered from the 24 hrs race, still only 4 weeks ago, and that will take longer still . My basic muscle fibres are fine but my upper fibres take a lot longer to recover, which is why I blew up so badly when I tried to make use of them in a speed workout while running at a slower pace feels perfectly fine.

I did a hill repeat workout on Thursday, which actually felt perfectly good. Short use of those muscle fibres seems to be okay, only prolonged use causes problems.

On the plus side, my pace for the easy recovery runs has increased significantly while still remaining under the HR limit. My HRM crapped out on Friday and I ran entirely by feel, obviously erring on the side of caution. All was back in working order on Saturday when I basically managed to run at 4-hour marathon pace while comfortably remaining under the 136 threshold. I know that's not particularly fast - it's a lot faster than my 24 hour race pace, though!

The sun came out on occasions on Saturday and Sunday, which I used for some badly needed time to work in the garden. This should explain why the legs felt battered for my longer run on Sunday - that and the pretty heft headwind I had to fight for pretty much the entire 7 miles back home from the turnaround point. At least I was not trying to stay at some sort of pace despite the adverse conditions, which is a mistake I've made often enough in the past.

I do hope my quads will settle down soon. Due to being unable to remain seated I can't even write long blog posts any more (Ewen will be happy to know!).

21 Jul
6 miles, 1:00:23, 10:03 pace, HR 143
   10 x 20 sec hill sprints
22 Jul
5 miles, 51:51, 10:22 pace, no HRM
23 Jul
7 miles, 1:04:17, 9:11 pace, HR 132
24 Jul
14 miles, 1:56:22, 8:18 pace, HR 148
   7 miles @ 8:27, 7 miles @ 8:07
Weekly Mileage: 45