Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Training Troubles, Work Woes

I did more of the same reasonably easy miles on the weekend. They went the same as most of the other ones: I felt so-so. Not bad but I'm certainly not in the groove I used to be in before the Dublin marathon. So, with a bit of nudging from MC, I decided to dial it back a bit.

I have slowed right down over the last few days. It's not as if I had run brutally fast the days before - I had just run at whatever effort came naturally which usually works very well for me, but following DCM it might have been just a tad too fast. I also pulled back the mileage a bit, which is actually a right pain because if I can't run all the way into work I have to take the car, and being stuck in traffic for an hour twice a day does nothing good for my stress levels, which can't be helpful with regards to recovery either. In that light I guess it's a Good Thing that my new bike arrived today, so I will probably be back in the saddle from now on - which happens to be by far the fastest way of commuting in Dublin, saves tons of money and is a lot of fun - I was surprised how much I enjoyed cycling here. Oh, and the additional fitness boost can't be bad either. Just don't crash! (or have the new bike stolen as well).

Measuring training progress has gotten a bit more complicated due to the fact that I somehow lost my HRM on the journey from Dublin to Kerry last Friday. I put it into my bag at home and failed to find it at the other end of the journey. It's not in our house in Kerry, it's not in my apartment in Dublin and it's not in the office. Eventually I had to admit that it was gone. I have ordered a new one but that will take a few days to arrive.

Work wise I basically have a new line of work since yesterday, namely looking for a new job. Being made redundant was a new experience for me but I already have a couple of interviews lined up, so I'm fairly sure I'll be back in meaningful employment quickly enough. And I'm still in my old job for another month. Let's see how that goes - I was actually kind of looking forward to being able to train every day without wasting away your day in the office. But the bills still have to be paid, and with the rent prices in South Dublin nobody can afford being out of work for long (until I win all those millions in the lottery, that is).
11 Nov
8 miles, 1:02:17, 7:47 pace
12 Nov
10 miles, 1:17:23, 7:44 pace
13 Nov
9.25 miles, 1:17:02, 8:20 pace
14 Nov
5 miles, 40:04, 8:01 pace
15 Nov
8 miles, 1:05:46, 8:13 pace

Friday, November 10, 2017

Recovery Lessons

One thing I learned the last 2 weeks is that recovery from a 3:10 marathon is a completely different animal compared to recovery from a 3:30 marathon, even back-to-back 3:30 marathons. A few days after Monaghan I was fully back in the saddle, knowing that the adaptations had been absorbed. It is taking a lot longer now, almost 2 weeks after Dublin the legs are still missing their spring and I have already dialled back the mileage on a couple of occasions in order to give them more to time to recover.

The reason this surprised me is that I definitely did not run Dublin at race effort. While I kept a decent enough effort it was well short of an all-out race effort, so I expected the damage to be a lot less. I guess those last 2-3 miles of fun at the end caused some damage I could have done without but what's done is done and there aren't any regrets.

All the while now I'm keeping the effort at an easy level, though it is noticeable that the pace is picking up again and getting closer to what it was like before DCM, without any change to subjective effort. That's good, because I have another race next week, in Sixmilebridge. I have very fond memories of that race ever since it had been the scene of a very rare all-out victory, and not even the painful finish the following year could tamper that. I'm not planning on racing it but a nice, decent long run should be fun - as long as the legs have sufficiently recovered from Dublin, of course.

I got another taste of living in Dublin last night at the Alice Cooper concert in the Olympia theatre. That's a rather unusual venue for a rock concert but that didn't do the atmosphere any harm, and the man sure knows who to put on a good show. Ever since I moved to Dublin the bands I used to listen to half a lifetime ago are coming here to play, so far I've had Green Day, Iron Maiden, GnR, and now the man himself. It's still waiting on Metallica and AC/DC but surely they are just patiently waiting for their turn at that stage.
5 Nov
8 miles, 1:04:13, 8:01 pace, HR 138
6 Nov
9.25 miles, 1:12:24, 7:49 pace, HR 138
7 Nov
9.6 miles, 1:14:40, 7:46 pace, HR 142
8 Nov
9.15 miles, 1:13:28, 8:01 pace, HR 143
9 Nov
6.25 miles, 50:07, 8:01 pace, HR 140
10 Nov
6.25 miles, 48:57, 7:49 pace, HR 142

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Recovery

When you run a race, it is all about that one race, nothing else matters. But when you do a training run, the magic actually happens off-screen: the recovery afterwards, with the adaptation that follows.

I ran Dublin as a training run and as much as I enjoyed the raceday atmosphere, it wasn't why I was running that day. Now I need to ensure I recover well, otherwise I won't get the benefits of the adaptation. And I sure don't want to dig myself back into that deep dark hole that is overtraining; I have only just managed to climb out of it.

Over the years I have found a post-race recovery program that works exceptionally well for me. After the race I run for 5 miles a day, slowly, until the legs feel better again, then I add a few miles and after a surprisingly short amount of time I'm back in the groove.

This time round it worked very well initially. I did 3 5-mile runs, feeling better and getting a little bit each day. In fact, on the third such run I really had to hold myself back; the legs kept pushing on and time and time again I reigned them back in. So, on the Thursday I ran a little bit longer and this time just let the legs go as they pleased, which seemed like the right thing to do. I didn't push the effort and the HR of 136 supports this. However, the legs felt a lot more sluggish again on Friday, and it probably didn't help that I ran back home from work. That's just over 9 miles, a little bit longer than would have been ideal in my post-marathon recovery program, but you can't stop halfway in the middle of nowhere. On Saturday morning the legs definitely didn't feel great so I stepped right back and did 5 miles at a very slow pace, just like I did the day after the marathon. I'll take it by ear now. I'll decide pace and distance depending on how I feel each morning, until I feel recovered again.
1 Nov
5 miles, 41:18, 8:15 pace, HR 134
2 Nov
6.35 miles, 50:25, 7:56 pace, HR 136
3 Nov
9.2 miles, 1:14:47, 8:07 pace, HR 138
4 Nov
5 miles, 43:41, 8:44 pace, HR 129

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Back In The Game

Going into the Dublin marathon I knew I was in pretty good shape. Once again, this was a training run so I was not going to run at a full race effort but I knew I would be able to run 3:15 without going to the well. I had not tapered for it, the only concession being a very slow 5-miler on Saturday to keep the legs reasonably fresh for Sunday. My one slight worry, a pain in my left hamstring/gluten area was just about noticeable when I got up on Sunday morning but even as I walked towards the start it was completely forgotten about, and that was that.

Some old geezers from Kerry
I chatted to a few friends on the way, had plenty of friendly banter with the DBRC crew and met some old geezers from Kerry before lining up somewhere between the 3:10 and 3:20 pacers. I had no intentions of keeping up with 3:10 and even less of getting caught by 3:20, so here I was, stuck in the middle with you.

The first mile was a bit congested, as it always is, but the road soon opened up and we could run freely. I tried to get into a comfortable rhythm as soon as possible and by the second mile I had found my groove and tried to remain there. For me that means running the uphills a little bit slower than most around me and the downhills a bit faster, that is just the effort level I feel most comfortable with. I checked the watch a couple of times early on, mostly to ensure I wasn't doing anything stupid like running at sub-7 pace, but I settled in at around 7:15, so a marathon time of 3:12 or 3:13 looked likely, which I was more than happy with.

I kept taking it easy all the way through Phoenix Park, so I barely noticed the long uphill stretch that got us to the highest point, still early in the course. I passed a lot of runners on the following downhill miles, which also brought the average pace down a bit, but gave up a bit of both again on the other side of the Liffey when the climbs started again.

I felt exceptionally comfortable as we neared Crumlin Road, though I knew that was always my least favourite part of the course. No matter where the wind is supposed to be coming from, there is always a headwind on that stretch and it is a long, drawn out climb that always feels a bit harder than it should. However, today I felt better than usual. Maybe it was down to the fact that unlike in previous years we were not hemmed into a single lane but had the entire road to ourselves, which means all of a sudden it was not one of the most congested parts of the course but an exceptionally open one, which I felt much more comfortable with. Anyway, I reached the halfway point in about 1:35:20 on my watch, definitely a bit faster than expected but at the same time feeling a lot better than expected as well. The one thing that surprised me was that the 3:10 balloons still seemed to be a long way ahead of me; whether there was some confusion on the watch or if the gap just looked bigger than it actually was I cannot say for sure.

The next few miles often feel like a bit of a dead spot in the marathon as you run through a few non-descript suburbs where the buildings all look more or less the same to me and you're just there to make up some miles. The one thing that kept things interesting were the spectators, who were as spectacular as ever. No other race in Ireland comes even close with regards to crowd support, it is on a totally different level. The only place I have ever seen with even more enthusiastic supporters was Boston, but that's almost on a different planet.

Meeting some friends on Saturday,
 on The Road to Sparta
Anyway, I passed through Terenure, Milltown and Clonskeagh, a section that holds some good and some painful memories, as is bound to happen when you're doing a marathon for the 10th time. The Milltown viaduct will always be associated with a lot of pain because that's where the cramping started on my first marathon. The other painful memory would come a bit later on Roebuck road, where I had buried my hopes of a first sub-3 marathon back in 2008, though that memory eventually got a lot sweeter when I finally made it, albeit elsewhere. I was still feeling very good and relaxed until the 20 mile mark, by which time I had long started making my way through the field, past many a broken dream. I had not sped up but a lot of runners sure had started to slow down. Been there, done that, of course.

I had my own dip for a couple of miles when my energy levels started to sag and the legs became noticeable heavier. I took it a tad easier on the many little hills that await here and managed to take a gel as well as some sports drink. I guess it was that motherload of sugar that got me out of the funk pretty quickly. On the next hill I noticed that I was overtaking runners again even without trying, and when I looked up I realised that I was already halfway up "Heartbreak Hill" (yes, they copied that from Boston), and since that was the last hill of the course I knew I'd have a good finish of the race.

I heard a DJ giving a shout out to "Declan Murphy from Glenbeigh" and sure enough spotted him just a few seconds later, just ahead of me. Unfortunately he was walking and I caught up with him right at the top of the hill. I gave him a pat on the back and tried to coax him into following me but he just wearily shook his head and the look in his eyes told me he definitely wasn't going to run with me, so I reluctantly had to leave him behind.

I had one more issue, namely a side stitch. I think I got it when trying to drink from a cup and messing up my breathing for a bit, and now I struggled to get rid of it. Eventually I had to slow down a bit and take very, very deep breaths, which eventually loosened the grip. When I was able to run properly again I had just passed the 23 mile mark. There were 3 mile left.

At that point I decided I still had tons of energy in the tank and might as well have some fun. I put in a little bit more effort, cautiously at first down Nutley Lane, but once we hit the last left hand turn at the bottom we were on the final 2 miles and I put the hammer down and went for it. I did my fastest 2 miles of today and indeed, I had tons of fun. I passed a few friends as I made my way through the field, including Mike, another Kerryman, though he wouldn't come with me either. As we got closer to the finish the legs started to complain, sub-7 pace wasn't quite what they had expected at the end of a marathon, but I was close enough to keep going until the end. I crossed the line in 3:10:20, which I was very, very happy with. I would have been perfectly happy with 3:15, and if that had felt too hard I would have been satisfied with 3:20 as well. Instead I got the easiest 3:10 of my life, so all was good.

The last 2 years have been very challenging and at times incredibly frustrating. I had started to question if I was simply too old for this and doubted I would ever feel like that again. My times were going backwards and running often just felt hard, too hard for my liking. But in the last few weeks I had noticed the transformation and I had already dared to mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I am finally starting to feel like myself again, and the Dublin marathon finally confirmed this.

Watch out, world. I'm back!
29 Oct
Dublin City Marathon, 3:10:20, 7:15 pace, HR 152
30 Oct
5 miles, 42:45, 8:33 pace, HR 132
31 Oct
5 miles, 44:25, 8:52 pace, HR 125

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Before The Marathon

Training had gone really well this week. I have noticed an up-and-down pattern at times but this week was undoubtedly an "up" one.

It was all going so well, until halfway through my commute on Friday morning I tripped over a curb.

I managed to avoid a face plant but in the process of doing so I re-strained that muscle in my left hamstring/gluten area that had been bothering me recently but had been almost cured. Now it was back in full force. It hurt quite a bit for a few minutes until it settled down into a dull ache. I was able to continue my run into work without issue but it then felt uncomfortable all day, no matter if I was sitting, standing or walking around.

Even so, I was still confident that it would not impact on the marathon 2 days later, and a good night's sleep seems to have helped. I can still feel it but it's already better than yesterday and tomorrow it will he fine, I'm sure.

Since Dublin is a training run, not a race, I kept training normally all week, my one concession being a very slow and easy 5 miler this morning, Saturday. The legs had felt good all along, until this morning that is. But I'm sure that will all work out once the gun sounds. It always does.
23 Oct
9.2 miles, 1:08:39, 7:27 pace, HR 144
24 Oct
am: 9.2 miles, 1:13:13, 7:57 pace, HR 146
pm: 9.25 miles, 1:11:59, 7:46 pace, HR 143
25 Oct
9.2 miles, 1:11:57, 7:49 pace, HR 138
26 Oct
9.2 miles, 1:12:07, 7:50 pace, HR 141
27 Oct
9.25 miles, 1:11:42, 7:45 pace, HR 139
28 Oct
5 miles, 44:09, 8:49 pace, HR 128

Monday, October 23, 2017

Twin Storms

It looks like we skipped autumn this year and just went straight from summer into the winter storm season. I might have expected a little bit of respite after Hurricane Ophelia on Monday but no, we rushed straight into the arms of Storm Brian, which, at least in Dublin, was actually worse than the hurricane had been. I did the same as I always do in such circumstances: I checked beforehand what the weather forecast predicted and planned accordingly. Well, for Dublin the storm was said to hit a couple of hours before lunchtime so I made sure to get up reasonably early and do my morning run when conditions were still safe. It worked, again, and while it was windy it was definitely manageable.

The storm itself did look a bit scary at times, alright, though the intensity went up and down a few times. Even on Sunday morning it was still rather windy. It wasn't a full storm any more but I still had to fight gale force winds on my long run. The direction it blew from meant the first half was mostly into the wind and the return leg mostly with a tailwind, though by that time the legs were tired already and it didn't feel as if I could take any advantage of it.

The legs have been up and down quite a bit over the last few weeks. After feeling REALLY tired a week ago they felt REALLY great by Wednesday but then went back down to so-so the last few days. Obviously the increased mileage is taking some getting used to. Having said that, the fact that I ran a long run in windy conditions with an easy effort on tired legs and still ran comfortably under 8-minute pace is decent progress. Even a month ago that would have been completely out of the question.

With the Dublin marathon this Sunday I'll do my double run on Tuesday to give me several easier days to recover before the marathon. I'm not tapering as such, Dublin will be just another training run, albeit one I am very much looking forward to. I have missed it the last 2 years because of the Spartathlon in 2015 and Albi last year, so it's high time for a return. The course itself isn't much to write home about, to be honest. It is designed to keep disruption for the rest of the population to a minimum rather than to showcase Dublin itself, which is bit of a shame, but the vibe from both runners and spectators always makes up for it; it is always a very special race, nothing else in Ireland comes even close.

Anyway, I hope the legs will have come round once again by Sunday. I will decide on the day how I feel and what pace seems sensible for a training run but expect something in the order of 3:15-3:20.  But lets get this week out of the way first.
19 Oct
8 miles, 1:05:51, 8:13 pace, HR 135
20 Oct
9+ miles, 1:11:22, 7:53 pace, HR 141
21 Oct
10+ miles, 1:20:39, 7:49 pace, HR 145
22 Oct
18+ miles, 2:26:57, 7:52 pace, HR 141

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Blown Away

Most people have a pretty clear image in mind when they think of Ireland and the weather, and for a lot of time it is fairly accurate. Actual hurricanes don't usually feature, however, but that's what we got hit by on Monday, as you undoubtedly know.

There's plenty of idiots out there, as can be seen from the news reports featuring swimmers in Galway Bay in the background, though most people are sensible enough. I've been accused of being an idiot plenty of times, occasionally justified, though at the height of the storm I sure wasn't tempted to go out for a few miles. Instead I got my run in early, at around 7 o'clock in the morning when it was actually rather calm. It's all a matter of timing.

Let's step back a bit. I had been seriously worried last week about getting into an overtrained state again. As it turns out, that was a bit premature. The legs were tired because I ran twice a day two days in a row, which was a bit too much to handle. As soon as I reverted to running just once, the 23 hours of recovery time did the trick immediately. I felt perfectly fine on Saturday and even went out for a long run around the lake on Sunday, giving myself the option to bale out after 5 miles if the legs were tired but felt pretty good. Having said that, I am definitely still lacking strength, which gets shown up on all long climbs, which still feel much harder than they should. I am running plenty of miles these days but I need to incorporate a few hill runs as well, sooner or later.

Once the fatigue from the doubles went away my form curve shot straight upwards and all of a sudden I am starting to feel good. Really good! I did a few faster miles on Monday and averaged 7:40 in the end. This morning, Wednesday, was even better. I started out very slowly in order to gently warm up the muscles in the freezing cold but then got faster with each mile until I put in a 7-minute mile at the Sandymount promenade. Last month that pace put me into hospital. Today it was part of a run that still averaged a HR below 140!

As always, there's a fly in the ointment, though. While walking back to the office after a meeting last week (I would have cycled but you know yourself) I suddenly felt a pain at the upper end of my hamstring, maybe it was a glute muscle. It was uncomfortable for the entire rest of the day, including when I was sitting down. I was scheduled to run home that evening, which worried me, though when I tried to run it felt fine. Almost a week later I can still feel it, when running, walking sitting, even lying in bed. Nothing I do seems to aggravate it, so it's most likely just a case of being careful but otherwise just let it heal. I think something like hill sprints would worsen it, so I'm definitely not doing that for a while, otherwise I'll carry on as usual.
15 Oct
16.55 miles, 2:10:52, 7:54 pace, HR 144
16 Oct
9.35 miles, 1:11:34, 7:39 pace, HR 144
17 Oct
9.35 miles, 1:14:08, 7:55 pace, HR 136
18 Oct
am: 9.2 miles, 1:10:29, 7:39 pace, HR 139
pm: 9.25 miles, 1:17:13, 8:20 pace, HR 139