Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Treadmill Running

It's Pancake Tuesday! I love Pancake Tuesday!

It was during storm Desmond in December that I decided to purchase a treadmill. I had been running through some fairly wild weather on more than one occasion but having gotten old and soft cautious decided that this could be dangerous and an indoor option would be a good idea. With storm Imogen hitting the Southwest of Ireland this weekend, that felt like a good decision. It spared me a few painful hail stones on Sunday and I'm pretty sure Monday's run would have had to be binned entirely, the orange warning that had been in place sounding understated for once.

Sunday's planned workout had been cancelled and replaced with an easy run, though that had nothing to do with the weather and all with an email I had gotten from my Guardian Angel former coach who still stages an intervention whenever he thinks I'm doing something particularly stupid. In this case, I would have violated one of his golden rules, namely only to do a workout if you are sure to be able to recover from it, and, as stated in my previous post, that was not the case this time. I followed his advice and did 10 mundane miles on the treadmill instead.

I got asked a while ago how I'm going to compensate effort on the treadmill. The standard advice is to turn the incline to 1%, which allegedly makes the effort closer to road running. From what I can tell, on my treadmill at home that doesn't apply. If anything, 8-minute miles on my treadmill feel tougher than 8-minute miles on the road, and that is entirely consistent (for the record, 6-minute miles feel easier on the treadmill but that's not my training pace). I don't use the treadmill for workouts, just easy runs and recovery runs, and the actual numbers and how they compare to the road don't particularly interest me - I just run at the effort that feels easy and don't pay much attention to the actual pace.

One thing I noticed is that my HR on the treadmill is always high, which I attribute to a lack of cooling that builds up after a while. It certainly does not reflect the subjective effort. If I run at HR 150 on the road I'm working hard. The same HR can be reached on the treadmill without much trouble - though the sweat will be pouring off me.

One other thing that baffles me is that the timer on the treadmill and my watch never agree. For example, on Monday the treadmill said 63:41 after 8 miles, but the timer on my watch said 64:22, and that kind of thing happens every single time. I know treadmills can be out when it comes to distance but I would have thought an accurate time should be a given. Anyway, I always go with the watch.

Despite the high HR, the legs felt very good on both occasions, better so than on any road runs during the past week when the hamstrings and the glutes had always felt rather achy ever since my break.

I felt a bit weird on Tuesday morning. Not tired, just a bit - odd. It may have been because of the yoga session on Monday evening after which my shoulders and hamstrings had been rather achy. Obviously I'm not using my shoulders much when running but the hamstrings made up for it. If that accounts for the high HR, this time on the road rather than the treadmill, I'm not sure.

But you know - who cares! It's Pancake Tuesday! I love Pancake Tuesday! It's my favourite holiday of the year!

I can't think of anything to give up for lent. In past years I usually gave up sweets and chocolate, which then would go on and drop my weight by about 5 pounds over the next few weeks. As I'm already as low as 142 lb / 64.5 kg / 10 st 2 lb right now, I don't think I'd want to drop any more weight so I'll give that one a miss. Any suggestions?

7 Feb
10 miles, 1:18:15, 7:50 pace, HR 152, treadmill
8 Feb
8 miles, 1:04:22, 8:03 pace, HR 148, treadmill
9 Feb
6 miles, 46:44, 7:47 pace, HR 152

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Fatigue Deep, Heart Rate High

Although, right now, there is another Tina Turner songs that springs to mind.

The forecast for the next 5 days are rain, rain, rain, chance ofr rain and rain. Christ!

So I've been back on the road for three days now, and if you include the 2 treadmill runs at the start of the week that makes 5 days of running after a break of only 4 days. I would have thought that's more than enough to get back to your previous level because apparently you do not lose any fitness over such a short amount of time. That's what they said.

Well, they obviously need to re-think what they know. I can see my own numbers as clear as can be. My VDOT values went from 58 last week to 51 this week and have only gone back to 53 as of Friday. I keep the effort as easy as ever but if you look at the HR you'd think I've been doing a couple of tempo runs, which I absolutely did not, neither by pace nor effort.

If I had not gotten sick I would have done my first marathon-specific workout on Wednesday. I still had vague hopes that I might be able to squeeze it in on Thursday, possibly even Friday, and get on with the rest of the program.  But I always knew that if I were advising another runner in the same situation I would have urged her to bin the workout and only start doing tough workouts once you have fully recovered. It's much harder to tell that to yourself, though. In the end I managed to get through to myself, Wednesday and Thursday were both easy 8 mile runs and that was that. From the way my legs have been feeling on such an easy load, a workout would have been a complete disaster.

When my hamstrings felt tired on Wednesday I could only think of Monday's yoga session as the most likely culprit but they still felt unhappy on Thursday and Friday, though surely that cannot come from overtraining after 21 miles last week and still a low mileage so far this week, can it? By the way, the yoga teacher told me that she can see progress already, though truth to be told I suspect she was merely trying to be encouraging because I sure can't see it. As far as I can tell my hamstrings are still as tight as ever (not that that causes me any actual trouble - apart from my yoga positions being less than stellar).

The weather isn't exactly cooperating, particularly on Friday morning when it was pretty wild with gale force wind, heavy rain and f***ing freezing, probably my least favoured conditions. The shower after such a run becomes a way of warming up rather than getting clean.

I'm still in hope that I can do a workout on Sunday (in the wind and rain?). Maybe it's a mistake but at some stage I need to get back to training.

3 Feb
8 miles, 1:02:58, 7:52 pace, HR 150
4 Feb
8 miles, 1:03:12, 7:54 pace, HR 149
5 Feb
10 miles, 1:19:42, 7:52 pace, HR 145
6 Feb
5 miles, 38:59, 7:46 pace, HR 146

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Tentative Comeback

The reason I haven't written anything the last 5 days was obviously that I haven't run anything, and this is very much a running blog. I did try to aid recovery by getting more sleep, which worked as far as sleep time was concerned but I have no way of telling if it made any difference with regards to recovery. I also went to the local pharmacy and bought some Vitamin C and Zinc supplements. If you google the effectiveness of supplements you get very mixed results but I reasoned that even if they would not help they were very unlikely to make things worse, so why not.

By Saturday I started getting rather fed up, not with the "no running" but the fact that the bug was still in my system after 2 weeks. I resolved to go to the Doctor on Monday but then I felt a bit better on Sunday and a bit better again on Monday, so decided to wait a little bit longer. I did 5 very, very easy miles on the treadmill on Monday morning, more to test the system than anything related to training, and the 5 miles spooled off without any bother - at least I can still do a bit of exercise without overextending myself. I did the same again on Tuesday but wasn't feeling 100% so I was still unsure if I'm okay to venture out again.

I felt about 90% throughout last week, 95% on Monday and 98% on Tuesday evening. This time I'm pretty sure I'm just about recovered.

I sure missed some interesting running conditions with not just one but two orange warnings in just a few days. The treadmill came in handy the last 2 days for that reason alone. In fact, it was while watching the havoc caused by storm Desmond 2 months ago when I decided to purchase a treadmill.

I'm not even sure if complete rest is better than easy running in this case. I know from experience that a day of easy running is better for recovery from a minor injury than full rest but if the same holds true for an infection is a different thing altogether. The main reason why I took a clean break is because I still remember getting pneumonia 8 years ago after stubbornly running with a chest infection until one morning I could not even get out of bed.

I got this bug while in hospital and would resolve to stay away from that place but I had that resolve already and it wasn't exactly a case of wanting to go there in the first place, so who knows.

I had hoped to start the next training phase this week but obviously that plan did not include getting sick. I'll wait and see how tomorrow goes.

1 Feb
5 miles, 42:55, 8:35 pace, HR 140, treadmill
2 Feb
5 miles, 41:35, 8:19 pace, HR 143, treadmill

Thursday, January 28, 2016


I'm supposed to celebrate today I suppose, though I don't really feel much like celebrating. If I were Grellan I'd go for a really long run or 3, but I'm not. So, as my 21st birthday repeats itself for the 26th time, I'm instead sipping green tea and generally feeling a bit sorry for myself.

As I've mentioned already, I keep underestimating the effect a workout will have on my body. Sunday's run had repercussions. As soon as I headed out on Monday morning the hamstrings felt like they had been cast in concrete. The plan had been for 10 miles but I turned around after 4. Last Saturday I had felt slow and the same happened again - only this time I really was dead slow. I got a bit of a shock when I saw the pace on the watch afterwards, basically 9-minute miles. I haven't run that slowly since, well, reaching Sparta. It's a good thing I did turn around early - I would have been late for work otherwise.

Tuesday saw the unwelcome visit of yet another major winter storm, Jonas, the same storm that had shut down the eastern united states for a while this weekend. It had lost much of its destructive power by the time it touched land in Kerry but it was still sufficient to keep me awake half the night. I tried reading once the ceiling had been studied in sufficient detail but eventually got up at 5 am and spent an hour on the treadmill, inadvertently doing my longest treadmill run ever - yet. It was during storm Desmond in December that I decided the get a treadmill - I'm daft enough to keep running no matter what and indoors is definitely safer at times. Thankfully the hamstrings felt much better - they had already felt better during Yoga Monday evening.

I had contracted a cold in hospital last week and had definitely started to feel better by the start of this week but on Wednesday morning just felt like crap again. Of course I still went running. That's my default action. I had already decided to do 10 instead of the originally planned 12 but when I still felt like crap after 3 or 4 miles I decided to go home instead and ended up with 5; slow ones at that.

I guess a bit of rest might be in store. I'll take a few days off, until I feel better. This is mostly to get rid of that cold but it should also serve to get me out of this little overtraining hole that I once again managed to dig myself into.

25 Jan
8 miles, 1:11:52, 8:59 pace, HR 128
26 Jan
8 miles, 1:04:51, 8:06 pace, HR 143, treadmill
27 Jan
5 miles, 42:21, 8:28 pace, HR 138
28 Jan

Sunday, January 24, 2016


Or maybe stressed?

The cold I have acquired at the hospital kept being a very unwelcome reminder of the events from the start of the week. The sore throat was gone by Thursday but I still had some general achy feeling and wasn't entirely hundred percent. There's plenty of debate if it's wise to keep on running when fighting off a cold but my experience is that as long as you don't have any symptoms below the neck you're okay. Since I always run with a HRM I can always tell very easily how much extra load my body is burdened with. My HR is slightly elevated (or the VDOT numbers slightly lowered) but nothing I have not seen a dozen times before.

I took it very easy on Thursday. My body didn't feel up to much and neither did my legs, still feeling the 16 miles from the day before. A week ago a pace slower than 8-minute miles would have shown a very low HR but even with the effects of that cold it was still below 140, definitely an easy effort.

My sleep is still being affected but I felt better on Friday - still a bit snuffly but closer to being back at full health, and after a bit of hesitation I decided to go ahead with a planned marathon effort after all. It was very windy, so I ran on the slightly sheltered Ard-na-Sidhe road (my routine fall-back option on windy days) and kept the effort at about marathon level. During the MP segment I averaged a HR of 157, so if anything I undershot the target slightly though with 3 months to go before Manchester there is plenty of time to fine-tune the effort. The pace was 6:51, basically spot on 3-hours marathon pace, which bodes well (a sub-3 is my basic goal, sub-2:55 is the bonus goal).

I tried to take it easy on Saturday but I just felt slow. The gale force wind did not help, I'm sure, but in general it just felt like a slog. I was genuinely surprised when I saw a sub-8 pace on the watch afterwards, I would have sworn I was doing 8:30 pace.

I think the legs just had to pay a price for Friday's MP effort but I realised that too late. Sunday's run was hard work, every single step felt like a mini-struggle. I sometimes feel like that early on and things improve after I'm warmed up but not so today. Again, the really strong wind did not help, nor did the brutally hilly course, the latter obviously being my own choice. I had to grind out every single mile and eventually had enough, cut the run short and headed for home. I tried to run the last 2.5 miles at marathon pace but 7:10 was all the legs had in them, no matter how hard I tried. Obviously it was too early after Friday's effort - I'm slow to learn the lessons of recovery.

My left achilles gave me a few twinges the last few days. I'm fairly sure it's nothing serious - I've been through a fair few achilles issues over the years but never any serious ones.

21 Jan
10 miles, 1:21:08, 8:06 pace, HR 139
22 Jan
am: 10 miles, 1:10:57, 7:05 pace, HR 153
   incl. 8 miles @ 6:51 pace, HR 157
pm: 2.5 miles, 21:09, 8:27 pace, HR 122, treadmill
23 Jan
am: 8 miles, 1:02:39, 7:49 pace, HR 139
pm: 4 miles, 32:15, 8:03 pace, HR 135, treadmill
24 Jan
16.3 miles, 2:09:29, 7:56 pace, HR 143
   last 2.5 miles @ 7:10 pace

Weekly Mileage: ~82

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


When you call 999 at 4:45 am, that is never a good sign. Niamh and me found ourselves thrown right into a parents' worst nightmare without warning. An anxious half-hour wait for the ambulance was followed by 36 hours taking turns at the hospital and minding our other 3 children. We were allowed to go home on Tuesday evening with the immediate emergency over but the saga will go on, for a long time.

Obviously running did not feature particularly high on my list of priorities but I managed 2 short runs on the treadmill at home on Monday evening and Tuesday morning. This wasn't for training, just to sort out the head, though a road run would have been much better for that purpose but obviously there was no way I would leave the children unsupervised.

36 hours on/off in hospital also served to give me a bad sore throat, which doesn't come as a complete surprise as hospitals are a prime infection centre, especially an awful one like Kerry General where they serve junk food for dinner and the floors are not washed properly (the nurses and doctors are nothing short of phenomenal, though. They so deserve a better workplace!). This, paired with the fact that my mind was still on the last couple of days, served to keep me awake for most of Wednesday night, so I binned the idea of running 15 miles and turned off the alarm completely. However, I still woke early and eventually got up and got ready, in time to run 12 miles.

The legs are feeling pretty good after getting more rest than anticipated and the VDOT values are showing that I'm getting into really good shape, though obviously right now I don't particularly care. However, life goes on and at some point a good race will become important to me again, so I'll keep the training regime going. It serves to take my mind off things anyway.

One change I made after looking at the mileage on my shoes. I had 3 in rotation with 1300, 1000 and 500 miles on them respectively. I opened a brand new shoe box and  relegated the oldest pair to treadmill duty, replacing one pair of Saucony Virratas with another one. To be honest, the new shoes don't feel all that different to the old ones. I like lightweight shoes that don't have much cushioning in the first place, so there's not much to lose.

18 Jan
5 miles, 40:45, 8:09 pace, HR 135, treadmill
19 Jan
am: 4 miles, 32:15, 8:04 pace, HR 129, treadmill
pm: 6 miles, 45:34, 7:36 pace, HR 135
20 Jan
am: 12 miles, 1:33:23, 7:47 pace, HR 139
pm: 4 miles, 33:40, 8:20 pace, HR 132, treadmill

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Killorglin Puck Warriors Turkey Burn Off 5k

I felt a lot better by Thursday morning and by Friday I almost felt like gliding over the asphalt again with very little effort. I kept the effort very easy at all times and the pace started creeping closer and closer to 8-minute miles. The HR data is very good but that has already been very good anyway and didn't necessarily reflect how I felt - certainly not on Monday!

Taking it easy ended on Saturday morning, temporarily at least. I was wondering how a race would go after several days of nothing but very easy effort. A short sharpening workout on Thursday would probably have meant a better race but I'm not training to look good in a 5k.

The race format was a little bit different, it was girls against boys. The girls would get a 3-minute headstart and the boys would chase them, first across the line is the overall winner. I didn't worry if we would catch the leading ladies, just resolved to run my own race. Right from the start I was right at the shoulder of the respective race leader, at first Declan and the Damien. I felt the effort was easy for a 5k even by the time we caught up with the back of the women's field. After about a mile I put in a bit of an effort and put my nose in front but Damien responded immediately and put himself ahead again. I never looked around to see how big the lead group was but I could hear footsteps falling away until there were only 3 of us left by halfway and when the sun came out for a moment I could see our shadows and even Declan was falling behind, so it was down to just 2.

The top 5
Aine's races always feature at least one nasty hill and this was no exception, the final mile went over Laharn hill. I gave it my best to see how good Damien's climbing legs were. I got to the front but could not shake him. We caught the leading lady close to the top, so it was definitely going to be a boys' win. I knew Declan could not be far behind and was wary of his descending skills but Damien's weren't bad either. He got in front again and at one point opened up a small gap but I managed to close that. The last bit was flat to the finish. Since I can count the number of times I have managed to outsprint someone on just one hand and still have several fingers spare I tend to go hell for leather with a good bit to go and hope for the best, so that's what I did with about 500 metres left. Unfortunately Damien was having none of it. I could not sustain the effort and he was soon ahead again and at that point the race was decided. I lost heart a bit when I realised I wasn't going to win and then lost another couple of seconds by going the wrong side of a cone and had to duck under the tape. I finished a whopping 5 seconds behind Damien in second place and only a second ahead of Declan who must have snuck up close without me noticing.

Second place it was in 18:14 and I had thoroughly enjoyed the battle up front. The fast guys and girls were all missing today which gave the likes of me the opportunity to enjoy a bit of glory for once. It was well worth breaking the easy spell and since this was only a 5k I doubt there was much damage done. My splits were all very similar and all under 6-minutes, even the final one with that hill, a sign that we really gave it a good go for the win.

On Sunday it was back to easy running. The original plan was 10 miles but I cut that down to 8, and even that may have been a bit much because the legs started feeling tired soon. The weather probably didn't help, unlike yesterday's ideal conditions it was back to wind and rain.

I'll keep the easy runs going for another few days until I feel the race has gone from the legs.
14 Jan
10 miles, 1:21:42, 8:08 pace
15 Jan
8 miles, 1:04:23, 8:03 pace, HR 133
16 Jan
am: ~6 miles, including:
   Killorglin Puck Warriors Turkey Burn Off 5k, 18:14, HR 171, 2nd place
pm: 3 miles, 27:26, 9:03 pace, HR 124, treadmill
17 Jan
8 miles, 1:04:06, 8:01 pace, HR 134
Weekly Mileage: 68