Sunday, January 22, 2017

Baby Steps To Continuous Improvement

That's a term I've come across at work, though it fits very well into my running life.

I've complained on many occasions that the numbers at the end of each run just did not look very good and that there was very little progress to be seen for quite some time. While the stated goal of the last few weeks was recovery from overtraining rather than building up new fitness, I found it a bit disheartening at times that the numbers were consistently poor and, more importantly, not showing much inclination to change.

I was in a much happier place the last few days and it looks like patience and determination are finally starting to reap some rewards, All of a sudden the line in my graph has started to turn upwards, and not just for the odd run only to drop back down again. Finally I can actually look at the number and see them going somewhere.

There's no need to get carried away just yet. They are still poor, and in fact they are still worse than during the autumn, so there is still a long, long way to go. But seeing the heart rate elevation in single digits for a change is definitely progress. Now don't mess it up (again)!

Shea is just getting over a flu that had him off school for much of last week and Niamh is just over the worst herself. I have been on tenterhooks for a while; sharing a bedroom with someone who keeps coughing all night does leave you exposed and the badly interrupted sleep doesn't help either. I did feel slightly off on a couple of mornings but so far so good. maybe I managed to dodge that one. That would be a good sign, if my immune system is good enough to fight off an infection that is doing the rounds amongst the family then at least something is working again - at the end of last year I could feel that something wasn't quite right in that regards either.

The pace seems to have shifted into sub-8 territory, for the same easy effort as before, though the heart rate is still a bit higher than I would like to see after a reasonably easy run. But recovery from day to day does soom to work just fine, which is the main concern right now.
20 Jan
7 miles, 55:20, 7:54, HR 149
21 Jan
6 miles, 47:38, 7:56, HR 149
22 Jan
8 miles, 1:02:23, 7:47 pace, HR 152

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Take Heart

Usually whenever I mention heart rate someone states their surprise that I even have a heart. Even my HRM seems to agree with that at times but a battery change (for the HRM, not my heart!) generally takes care of that attitude. So let's get this out of the way first - apparently I am not quite as heartless as some might think.

Anyway, since acquiring my new toy a couple of weeks ago I have been measuring my resting HR much more frequently than before. It did throw up a few unexpected results. First of all, resting HR dropped very quickly once I had recovered from my cold and went from about 50 all the way down to 43 a few days ago. I always associated such a low resting HR with being very fit, which clearly is not the case at the moment. My best guess is that my cardiovascular system is getting into pretty good shape already but my leg muscles and especially my endocrine system are lagging behind.

The other unexpected discovery was that there seems to be surprisingly little correlation between my resting HR when waking up and the HR at the subsequent run less than half an hour later. That day I measured 43? I ended up running slower than usual without a corresponding dip in HR. This morning, on the other hand, I awoke with a (very slight) headache and the resting HR was raised by a couple of beats yet the numbers during the run were the best yet since I started running again.

Anyway, as long as I can avoid getting sick again (my eldest son is off school with a flu right now and Niamh has started coughing again), things are definitely progressing, albeit slowly. I suppose running just under 50 easy miles a week doesn't fully build up my fitness, but the hope is that it will fully build up my recovery capacity, which had been completely wiped out by my overtraining last year and is the main focus right now.

The temperatures dropped again last night, which caught me by surprise (a long sleeved top would have been the better choice!), but as long as the roads remain ice free I love it just like that!
16 Jan
7 miles, 57:01, 8:08 pace, HR 148
17 Jan
7 miles, 57:07, 8:09 pace, HR 149
18 Jan
7 miles, 56:48, 8:06 pace, HR 149
19 Jan
7 miles, 55:54, 7:59 pace, HR 149

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Early Zen

When I woke on Friday, for the third time this week my first thought was "at least it's Friday". On the plus side I was right for a change; on the minus side, it was 5:30 in the morning, I'm not sure why Lola's school left so early for Dublin but one thing was clear from the start: it was my job to get up and drive her to school. Niamh just doesn't do 5:30 and since I used to get up at that hour dozens of times voluntarily just to go running I'm not in a strong negotiation position to argue otherwise.

Actually, the timing worked out pretty well in as much as it was just time to go for my usual 7 mile run when I got back home. The roads were clear of ice, which was another plus, so all in all I can't complain too much.

As a matter of fact I had a really nice run. For the first time since I started running again I averaged just below 8-minute miles. It might be an arbitrary number but I was happy nevertheless. Saturday was a little bit different. Unfortunately, nobody had told our dog that it was the weekend and she was up at the usual time of 6:30, looking for breakfast. After that there was no more sleep to be had.

In numbers, Saturday's run was very similar to the day before, even if the HR was a smidgen higher. But in actual fact the legs didn't feel anywhere near as sprightly and I was really surprised when I saw afterwards that I had run virtually the same pace as the day before.

Sunday was almost groundhog day, this time it was the cat that demanded early breakfast. I used to think that I might get a lie-in once in a while when the kids were past a certain age but then made the crucial mistake of not vetoing an ever increasing number of animals (not that I would have stood a chance anyway) and guess who's the only one feeding them early morning. Anyway, the subsequent run was very similar to Saturday as the legs didn't show much love but the pace was still very similar. One thing I noticed was that miles 3-6 basically passed while my consciousness was somewhere in cloud cuckoo land, Being able to completely tune out and reach a Zen state of mind is a very good sign. The rest will follow.
13 Jan
7 miles, 55:36, 7:56 pace, HR 151
14 Jan
7 miles, 55:37, 7:56 pace, HR 153
15 Jan
7 miles, 56:11, 8:01 pace, HR 153

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Snow News

I woke up the other day and the very first thought that went through my head was "at least it's Friday", the second one being "oh no, it's Tuesday" (expletives deleted). I woke up the following day and the very first thought that went through my head was "at least it's Friday", the second one being "oh no, it's Wednesday" (expletives deleted). Twice in a row, that's a new one.

The other thing both mornings had in common was that the legs felt a bit achy, though I attribute that more to Monday night's yoga class rather than running, especially so as this had been the first yoga class after a month-long Christmas break and we had been doing a lot of leg work in that class.

I took it very easy on Tuesday and ran a tad faster on Wednesday but the numbers didn't look great on either occasion. Wednesday especially wasn't helped by some very windy conditions; running being an outdoors sport, that comes as part of the parcel.

Thursday morning I felt so much better! I had a spring in my step that had been missing for a long while. In addition to that, the morning resting heart rate had come in at 45, a good improvement, so combine the two factors and I really expected a good run. Well, the run was good, I felt good all the way, but when I looked at the cold, subjective numbers afterwards I was a bit disappointed. You could not have told it had been a good run from that (though, admittedly, they were better than the previous couple of days). Ah well. I take feeling good over producing good numbers any time.

It's been snowing today! I'm sure the kids are delighted (at least the younger ones). Me, I'm merely hoping the roads won't be icy.

9 Jan
7 miles, 57:46, 8:15 pace, HR 150
10 Jan
7 miles, 1:01:15, 8:45 pace, HR 144
11 Jan
7 miles, 57:45, 8:15 pace, HR 154
12 Jan
7 miles, 57:12, 8:10 pace, HR 151

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Heart Rate

I have known for a long time that heart rate always lags behind but I always took that to mean that it takes a few seconds for it to pick up when you increase effort. I have never heard of a delay of a whole day!

But that seems to be what was happening during my last cold. I already had a sore throat and a slight headache on the first morning but the HR was still fine for one more day. The same then happened in reverse. On Friday I felt pretty much fully recovered but the HR was still elevated when I was running that morning. It took another full day for the changes to show up on the HR chart on Saturday morning, when I finally posted some decent figures (mind, they're still 10 beat higher then where they should be once I reach proper fitness). There is no need to get carried away, though - the HR was higher again this morning, despite me running the same route in pretty much the same conditions and at the same subjective effort level - sometimes I really don't know how this works on a physiological level.

But the cold (or even colds) is finally behind me and I can breathe easily again, literally. Now I'm looking forward to the numbers to improve, though that will require some patience.

Oh, and I bought a new toy. Measuring resting HR in the morning is something I don't do very often, mostly because putting on the chest strap and then setting up the watch is a bit of a pain first thing in the morning. So I bought a little contraption that can measure HR right at your finger tip. Much easier! I could follow the progress of my recent cold that way, with the resting HR at about 55 when it was at its strongest and now back to 49 on Saturday and 48 on Sunday - the level I would expect when not fully fit. Of course it's not medical grade but it suits my needs and for £12 it was very reasonably I thought.

So, right now I'm running 7 miles each morning, which takes me just under an hour, and I'll probably stay at that for a bit now. It should hopefully be enough to build up my fitness to the next level but there is still a long way to go before I get back to where I used to be,

5 Jan
7 miles, 59:10, 8:27 pace, HR 153
6 Jan
7 miles, 57:37, 8:13 pace, HR 154
7 Jan
7 miles, 56:40, 8:05 pace, HR 149
8 Jan
7 miles, 56:52, 8:07 pace, HR 154

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Happy New Year!

Since I started running again at Christmas, every day my chest felt a little bit better than the day before, though my breathing was always a bit laboured. However, I could feel it gradually, if very slowly, clearing up. Eventually the cold symptoms became almost unnoticeable during normal life but running was still affected, the most obvious effect being a sky-high HR. However, that came down gradually as well, which was reassuring, even if the number were still pretty bad; they were still over 10 beats higher than what I regards as my baseline when fit, though since that had come down from 20 beats it was actually decent progress. However, the most important feedback was always how I felt during and straight after a run, which was always pretty good. The deep fatigue that had been sitting in my legs for months seems to finally have lifted.

Yesterday, Tuesday, I awoke with a slightly sore throat, a slight headache and a stuffy nose. It feels different to the cold I had been nursing for the last 2 weeks, so I think I acquired a new cold on top of the already existing one. That sucks, but at the same time my chest seems to have fully cleared up the very same morning, which may be coincidence or it may not.

Since Christmas I had slowly upped the daily mileage, from 4 to 5 to 6 miles, and maybe this morning wasn't the best to up it again to 7 miles with that annoying head cold but what's done is done.

For easy recovery runs, there is one very simple rule. Every time you finish the run, if somebody told you to go out and do it again, you have to be in a position to do so without problems. I can honestly say that this has been the case for every single run recently - and that's why I don't think running through a head cold is a problem, not even when recovering from overtraining / overracing.

Oh, and Happy New Year! Thankfully the road isn't as busy as the gym right now.
1 Jan
5 miles, 40:13, 8:02 pace, HR 155
2 Jan
6 miles, 48:43, 8:07 pace, HR 154
3 Jan
6 miles, 50:17, 8:22 pace, HR 148
4 Jan
7 miles, 59:06, 8:26 pace, HR 151

Saturday, December 31, 2016

All That's Left

This is the time when people usually look back at the year that was. As much as I'm usually  a non-conformist, this time round my view seems to be in tune with the general vibe - 2016 was one shite year!

That's certainly true as far as running is concerned; I had 3 targets for the year and missed them all. The one I got closest to was the sub-3 marathon in Manchester but I missed that by a minute. I'm pretty sure I would have gotten it had I not run the Tralee marathon a month before, but then again that would have meant not getting an age group win in my local marathon, which almost made up for it.

My main target was the 24 hours, however, and my 2 races were disappointing (Belfast) and abysmal (Albi). There's just no other way of looking at it. Right now that has me at 186th in the world rankings (with possibly one or two more results to be added, so that could drop further), which is my lowest ranking in a while.

The third goal was the Spartathlon, which I ended up not even doing because of Albi,

Good riddance, 2016. Seriously,

I'd love to say good riddance to that cold I've been nursing as well, though that might take a bit longer. I've reached the state where I don't feel it at all any more in normal circumstances but it's still noticeable when I'm running, mostly because it's causing my HR to go sky high. I started to ignore the HRM completely - it shows in the data! But my legs are perfectly fine and I have no issues recovering from those runs. I do wish I could go out and start proper training but right now I'm grateful I'm able to run at all - the rest will follow, eventually.

29 Dec
4 miles, 33:29, 8:22 pace, HR 158
30 Dec
5+ miles, 41:38, 8:14 pace, HR 155
31 Dec
5+ miles, 41:21, 8:11 pace, HR 156