Thursday, January 31, 2008

Heating On

I'm just back in now from an easy jog where the heavens opened on me. As much as I'm used to living where the weather is generally not the best I don't think I too often end up running around in the rain. Taking no chances of catching another cold I've flicked the heating on so it's now nice and toasty chez moi.

On Tuesday night I was hit by a sense of reality on my training run. We were doing mile repetitions - 5 x 1 mile with a minute break in between. On this session I generally tuck myself in with a group that are doing a pace similar to me and on I go. On Tuesday night none of the regulars were down so I jumped behind the first lad.

I held my own running behind him, generally finishing a few seconds off him, breathing heavily, feet slapping off the pavement, legs burning, lungs bursting. In my mind I always seem to think that the people ahead of me our moving effortlessly, this time was no different. During one of the breaks he was saying how he seemed to be going slower than usual - I don't think he was lying, I've seen him down there a few times and he's always well out ahead of the rest of us, so the novelty of finishing a few seconds behind him probably won't happen next week.

When we finished and I was nicely content with how the session went. I asked him what he's aiming for. He said he has a spring marathon coming up and aiming for a 2h 40m time. Don't get me wrong here, this is a great time, but what threw me was the fact that here's a guy who glides past me in training and he's aiming for a time that I'd also be looking at doing. I was really hoping he was one of the 2h 30m guys in the club so I'd know how far behind a 2h30m runner I am.

Thinking about this on the way home made me realise how far and how hard this years goal is going to be. It hasn't put me off in the slightest mind you... if it was easy everyone would be doing it!

Monday, January 28, 2008

This park will close at...

My internet has been acting the prick all day so this is a fly by visit to share with everyone the great news.
Since I've lived in London the local park has shut at 4.15 as it's kind of dark out these days. I'm going to make a plan that from now on when I movc to a new country that I do so in the summer when it's not as miserable.
Anyway, two weeks back I noticed that the sign had changed to "This park will close at 4.30 today".
And yesterday "This park will close at 4.45 today" - YES!! We're getting there... the days are getting longer... the park has said as much... before we know it winter will have passed... spring will be here and running in the evenings before it gets dark will be back.
Oh, and the training was just fine and dandy too. Yesterday was 15 miles at a nice easy pace and today an easy 8 miler.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Reasons to be Happy

1. It's Friday
2. For the first time this week my legs didn't feel like crap when I trained... and it was a hard session
3. The odd phenomenon of absolutely pissing sweat for a few minutes after I dry myself post shower which has been occurring since Sunday didn't happen
4. I finished my old book (One Fine Day in the Middle of the night) and started a new one (Lunar Park)
5. I found out and met up with a friend who I hadn't seen in 4 years now lives less than 5 minutes walk from me. That's unheard of in a city of a bizillion people.
6. The sun is trying (unsuccessfully) to shine, but the effort is nice
7. I can't really think of one but I just wanted to have 7 points

Thought of the day

"It's not about the result or being a champion; it's about finding your thing and living your dream"
- Carolina Kluft

I heard this quote in an interview with Carolina Kluft yesterday and thought it was so nicely put I had to transcribe it immediately and post it here.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Word of the day

This hasn't been the most eventful of weeks in the world of running, well for me anyway. For the most part my legs have been heavy and I've traipsed around my various runs, glad to get each one out of the way. I suppose the best word that comes to mind to describe my week is lethargic. I'm fairly sure that's the first time I've ever used that word, definitely the first time I've written it, but I doubt it'll be the last.

At this stage Saturday can't come soon enough, day off work and the added bonus being it's a day off training. After Tuesday's interval session I've had two what are meant to be easy days. On both of them I haven't gone at a pace faster than slow but these heavy legs I'm carrying around just made it feel that much harder.

Some more interval training tomorrow and then the day of rest before it all starts all over again!

The Hair Race

I wasn't sure if it was the light in the bathroom playing tricks with me...
or if it was a result of the sun holiday...
but today I'm sure...
there's no doubt in my mind...
I have at least one grey hair on my head...
it's started!
I always thought I'd be balding before grey...
a new race has now started...
bald vs grey!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My injury hell

If there's one thing I hate, and I suppose most runners hate, its injuries. Thankfully I haven't been cursed with many of them. Yes, I get the standard twinges in the hamstrings, tight quads, Achilles etc but nothing more than needing a days rest and possibly a rub down from a physio.

Going over on my ankle on Saturday did however remind me of the only injury I count to have suffered to date, as it left me with months of no training. The twist I suffered this time seems to have recovered fine, I'm still a bit stiff around it but I didn't miss any scheduled training sessions over it. This time all I did was rest it as much as possible when not training and when I was training I was being extra careful on my footing as going over on a weakened ankle is way too easy for my liking. How different this time was to a similar injury 4 years ago.

What initially happened all them years back was I suppose I went over on my ankle a few times but nothing serious and when I trained on it whatever pain I had went away after the first couple of miles running. When I wasn't running however I wasn't exactly resting it. Most evenings I was found in my local bar just enjoying myself with a few pints. The problem with the pints was that it seemed to numb the ankle, so that when I went to night clubs later I'd have no problem dancing, hence doing no favours to the ankle.

Eventually it got to a stage where I started a jog and my ankle couldn't support it at all. After a few minutes my ankle buckled under me. I walked for a while hoping this would warm it up somewhat and then tried to run again but this time my ankle went on the second step. The odd thing was that there was no pain what so ever, I just couldn't take the weight. I then limped home and made an appointment at the doctors.

This is where the fun really started.

Doctor 1. This doctor had a quick look at it and gave me some anti inflammatories and told me it'd be fine in two weeks. Two weeks later I limped back into his office and told him it was the exact same. Solution - stronger anti-inflammatories for 3 weeks! 3 weeks later and I was still limping so I decided that was enough of the doctor path and I'd find a physio.

Physio 1. Another quick look at the problem. I explained I'd been limping when walking for 5 weeks and I hadn't run on it at any stage. I may not have been running but I was certainly drinking and dancing more! What else was I to do with all this spare time?! A while later he asked "So you do a bit of running? What type of running?". When I said road racing and marathons he immediately shook his head and said I'd have to give it up. I had a few sessions with him before he packed me off to a the doctor of the local sports team.

Doctor 2. This doctor was a bit more reassuring as he immediately said the ligaments in the ankle were weakened but I could run on grass. I explained that I couldn't as every now and again when walking the ankle wouldn't fully support me and I'd still break into a limp. He was adamant however that I could jog on grass. That was the last I saw of him but I did try his run on grass advice a few times but to no avail.

Over the next 2 months I probably ran once a week for 20 minutes max and there was no way I'd have been able to run again for at least a week afterwards. I got in touch with an old friend who put me in touch with a top physio friend of his. He warned me that the physio would hurt me, if I needed surgery he'd send me for it, but most of all that he'd have me back running.

Physio 2. Thankfully my friend was wrong and he didn't hurt me. I have used him many times since this and yes, yes he does hurt me now! He had a look at my two ankles. Asked me to stand on one foot, then the other, worked on the ankle for about an hour and then gave me a set of exercises to do for the next 8 weeks. These exercises were the most boring things EVER but they'd get me back running. All that I needed to do was strengthen back up the ligaments to support my ankle and I'd be fine.

I think after that ordeal of no running it made me appreciate be able to run more. All in all I was unable to train for about 6 months. I became more focused when the 8 weeks ended. The last marathon I had taken part in I finished with a 3h 26m time which I was more than happy with. The marathon I took place in 8 months after my ankle was strong enough to support me - 3h 01m.

Looking back at it now the injury probably kick started everything for me, there was a few other things along the way and all, but I can't imagine now what I'd be like now if I had to face a 6 month layoff again. Thankfully this time the ankle twist was probably the least damaging I've suffered. My heart will always skip a beat though when I go slightly over on this poxy ankle.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

After race legs

Two days have now past since the mud fest that was Saturday's XC and my legs are still feeling it. I went over on my ankle at one stage during the race so I'm being very cautious about it at the moment - resting it as much as possible and icing it. Although its not that bad to prevent me from training on it as long as I'm careful about my footing, as it'll be easy enough to go over on it again.

I've trained both days since the race and I'm fairly surprised how much the mud took out of me. I was told by my coach on Saturday night that I'd feel it and therefore to only jog 4 or 5 miles on both Sunday and Monday. The achilles are still fairly tight, when I started jogging yesterday it felt like I had an ankle support on! Tonight though I'm back into interval training. Something along the lines of 5 x 3 mins at threshold pace. I'll just have to be sure to get a good warm up first.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Race Report #1

Rain - check
Wind - check
Mud - check
Hills - check

Two days have passed since this race and my legs are still complaining. Man, was that a tough slog. I somehow don't think I'll make a great cross country racer but the work out from that race should be priceless when I get back to racing on the roads. Roll on March is all I say.

My race plan started with a comfortable pace for the first few minutes and then I started picking people a head of me and slowly passing them. This continued until I got far enough forward that I couldn't actually pass the person in front and then continued on at that pace. The mud at times was well above ankle deep so needless to say I was covered from head to toe in a thick splattering of mud by the end. I reckon my house mates would have had a fit if they saw the state of the bath when I emerged from my soak that evening. A quick clean up job saved me from any out bursts from the anally clean!

What did puzzle me is how well I feel I raced, yet how far down the field I finished. How did so many people finish above me? These guys seemed to be running as if they were gliding across the mud!

Anyway, its nice to have the first race of the year out of the way, the second on the way and even with the lactic acid still taking up residence in my legs I'm itching to get back out and get into some hard training.

Friday, January 18, 2008

A new pre-race routine

Tomorrow morning is race day and for once this is going to be somewhat different for me.

Generally race day is a Sunday morning, which involves taking it easy on Friday and Saturday, killing the whole weekend. This time it's a Saturday so my Saturday night is free (provided I'm not shattered, but even if I am, I still have Sunday).

The "morning" is replaced by "afternoon". This is unheard of for me. The norm is to be waking up a good 3 hours before the race at some unglodly hour while its still dark out. Struggle to eat something, as it's an earlier than usual wake up, before trapsing off to the race to pick up numbers and what not. Tomorrow will be a wake up sans alarm clock, have some breakfast, head off to a coffee shop for a while, read papers, come home, chill out before fixing a small lunch for myself to have on the way to the race.

Usually I'd have to go to bed nice and early the night before with my kit ready to go so there's nothing to do in the morning besides up and leave. Tonight that's not going to happen. It'll be out for dinner with friends (like a normal Friday night!) before heading home on the last bus. Get to bed at what ever time, knowing that there'll be plenty of time for me to get enough rest and fix the kit when I get up in the morning.

This all adds up to the perfect pre-race setup for me. Saturday afternoon races, I salute you...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Race Week

As I've previously mentioned I popped my Cross Country cherry just before Christmas. This weekend I'm about to take on another. Unfortunately this time the course will be more difficult, the standard of athlete higher, it'll be wetter, muddier and an all round unpleasant experience by the sound of it.

You'll probably be right in assuming that I've talked myself out of the whole Cross Country thing. I saw a few pictures of races earlier in the season that I missed and it just looked so miserable. Give me a road with potholes any day of the week to a muddy hill in the middle of nowhere. On the bright side, the maximum amount of XC races I'll have left this year before I hit the road for the first time is three, and fingers are being crossed at that being just two.

All in all training has been going so well I wish it was a five mile road race I was going to this weekend rather than a park, but thinking positively, running in the mud will make me a stronger runner. After Sunday's long run I had an easy jog on Monday, followed by an interval session last night. We did 4 x 1.5 miles in total and I have to say I felt great before, during and after the run. I was flying through them, not a bother at all. This is all fine by me as last week I was starting to feel tired by Thursday. This week, Wednesday morning and a 7am rise after a tough session the night before - fantastic.

Now to start thinking positively about the mud...

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Big Squeeze

Trying to fit in training, sleeping, socialising and sport watching was a difficult task this weekend but somehow I managed to squeeze it all in.

Thankfully on Saturday there wasn't much in the way of training so time was on my side. An easy 4 mile jog was all that was on the cards. The difficult thing is that we newly got Sky installed in the house and this was Heineken Cup Rugby weekend so there was back to back rugby on all day. The most important game of the day (for me anyway) was first up so I watched that, then stretched, jogged, changed into a tracksuit and re-found my place on the couch for more games. Nicely done.

Saturday evening, we had folk over for dinner and drinks. This started to get wild after dinner, a quick board game and then into the front room for alcohol filled karaoke (in fairness the alcohol had been flowing for hours before we even got close to the karaoke). I stayed clear of both as I'm trying to stay as dry as possible at the moment and karaoke sans alcohol just isn't me! I called it quits and headed to my bed at around 2am as I wanted to be up early for my long run. I may as well have stayed up as 8 alcohol fueled people make some noise. I can't fault them though as it's a Saturday night and I would have been the same if I was drinking.

I had planned to be up early to get the 15 miles out of the way nice and early as I had some important football to be watching at 1.30pm. Due to the sleep that preceded it the run didn't get going as early as planned so I only managed to get back at 2.30, just as the second half was starting. Stretching, showering, eating went out the window at this point as I ran upstairs and quickly toweled myself down and got into the tracksuit again and got reacquainted with Saturday's friend, the couch.

All in all, the sport went well, my team Leinster won in the rugby although a minor miracle is needed for them to qualify next week and Sunderland managed to pick up a much needed victory in the football on Sunday. Running wise... all that I can say about the two runs is that they were textbook.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Damn this Friday

I'm sitting trying to motivate myself to go out training....
Last night was probably not the best thing for my energy levels...
Stayed up until 5am drinking wine and catching up with old friends....
Been awake for a few hours now...
It's windy out...
Probably cold too...
I have to do speed work today...
I want this day to end...

Right here goes... I'm getting up and going out...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

My legs have spoken to me....

...and they said "Private, take the day off". I'm begrudgingly accepting their kind offer. Day four into the "hard six weeks" and I already need to take a timeout... what's gone wrong?

Last night jog plays a part in that. After the interval session on Tuesday I was aware that I needed a nice easy jog to get the legs moving again. The hamstrings were a bit tight so an easy jog was about right for me. I had a 7 mile group jog in mind until last minute that changed to an 8 mile group jog with a different crowd. No big deal, it's only an extra mile you say. That's what I thought...

The pace was really handy, and I was having a nice chat with one of the lads going around when all of a sudden the others stopped. Apparently at three miles they wait and regroup with the others. After a while myself and the other lad started to get a bit cold standing around waiting so we set off again only to take a different route, not realising how far we were going off track. Approximately 12 miles done and we arrived back to where we started. So from an easy 7 to an easy 12 on hamstrings that wanted me to stop!

So todays run is put on hold and tomorrow I return with another interval session...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Tracking the miles

One of the things that has been drilled out of me over the past year is my reliance on a watch. For the majority of my training sessions the watch gets left at home - an exception was yesterday when my session was controlled by a watch. It was an interval training session 2 x 5 minutes, 2 x 4 minutes, 2 x 3 minutes at about 70% intensity. For something like that I'll agree that a watch is needed. But for all my runs of 8 miles to the Sunday long run of 18 miles its a watch free zone.

Now I'm in a stage where the mileage isn't as important to me as before. I used to be adding up my weekly mileage, getting worried if I did 50 miles instead of 55 but that seems to be past me. I'm training more frequently than I used to and probably with more intensity but what I'm not doing is worrying about the training.

Last year I used a little note book to store what I ran every day. I've had a new book every year and love being able to take a quick glance back at a given week and see what I did and how I felt doing it. One week in to this year and I haven't got a new little book but I have been pointed at an excel sheet training log by David Hays. The reason I pointed out how I don't use a watch while training is that I didn't think this log would be much use to me as it's all about heart rates and times, calculating paces and weight. A bit more detail than I need to be honest. But having started using it last week as I had no little book I'm now a big fan.

The things that it has attracted me over is the shoe tracker. Previously what I've done is when a pair of runners feel like they're getting a bit old I count back the miles in my training log and think "S***, I should have got a new pair weeks back". With the excel larky, you tell it what pair you were wearing for your training run and it keeps a running track of it for you. Genius.

Other than that it tells you how much you've ran each week, month, year. It's something I've never tracked past "week" but who knows come next December I'll be able to fill everyone in on how much I ran in 2008. It's also got a nice race tracker and loads of graphs and stuff that are of no use to me as I've no idea how long a given run takes me but they're obviously useful to others.

So that's my new toy so far... I'm sure I'll get my hands on a little diary again soon, but I'll probably use it as well as the excel sheet as the shoe tracker is simply gold!

P.S. After last nights run my runners are sitting on 112 miles!

Monday, January 7, 2008

A day in the life of....

I've always been a big fan of Paula Radcliffe. Her performance in New York 2007 really cemented that for me as I lay hungover on the couch watching her grit and determination on T.V. having successfully completed my first Saturday night post marathon.

Today at breakfast I read an article in the Guardian sports supplement "A day in the life of supermum" and was left pondering two things -

1) How is it possible to run 145 miles in a week? My peak mileage ever has been less than half of that and I can't fathom how on earth I could double it and then some, job or no job!

2) Does she have to get a new pair of runners every month?

Time to get tough

The last time I talked to my coach was before the Christmas break. I was left under the strict impresssion that the next time we talked I had to be fit and ready to start into a heavy training program that's going to last for a six or seven weeks. Thankfully yesterday when I talked to him I was able to hand on heart say I was reporting back to him fitter than I left off and ready for the "fun" to start. The word "hills" was mentioned at one stage last night but thankfully that's not for another few weeks.

Over the past few weeks I'd kept the routine of 2 speed work sessions and one long run up with a few easy runs thrown in the mix. Obviously with the time of year I missed the occassional session but I don't think at any stage I went three days in a row without training. Yesterday on my long run I somehow added my miles up wrong and ended up doing a 15 mile run instead of 13! From now on in I'll be doing a 15 miler every Sunday, but the 13 yesterday was meant to be the longest since the last marathon so 15 really wasn't planned.

As I said, a six/seven week hard training programme commences now and hopefully if all goes to plan I'll have a good race at the end of it. There'll be two races during that time which probably won't be great as I could be a bit sluggish from the training but sure we'll see how it all goes.

This weeks schedule looks a little like this
Monday 8 miles easy
Tuesday 8 miles - incorporating speed work, interval training
Wednesday 7 miles easy
Thursday 8 miles easy
Friday 9 miles - more speed work, interval training
Saturday 4 miles easy or off. Personally I'm thinking "Off"
Sunday 15 miles.

Looks like its time to roll up the sleeves and dig in...

Friday, January 4, 2008

Weatherman 0 Running Private 1

The forecast was for snow.
It didn't snow.
The temperature is slowly starting to rise from 1C.
No excuses for not running this weekend now.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

One for the road

Over the Christmas period I had plenty of chances to think about the running year ahead as I lazed by the pool... I may mention this pool thing a bit over the next few weeks as I'm currently looking out my window at a dark grey pre-snow sky. The one thing that I kept mulling over was alcohol. Going out for a pint is very central in my socialising so its not the easiest thing to give up willie nillie.

In 2005 in the months prior to my marathon I cut off beer completely and only drank wine. When I say drank wine I don't mean I drank two or three glasses on a night out, I drank two or three bottles. It sounds like a lot and I suppose it was. I can't see myself putting in that sort of wine consumption now. Looking back to the training log for that time it doesn't seem like I was putting in that much effort but somehow I ran a 3h 01m marathon that year.

The next year I didn't fancy going back to the wine again so I decided to cut how much I drank down. So the beer stayed. As far as I remember I was only drinking at weekends, probably a lot though and occasionally during the week but not too much. My training was more complete so it all looked like I'd comfortably beat the previous marathon time. Not so, 3h 05m this time.

So, 2007. For the first half of the year I was drinking in moderation(ish). The second half of the year is where I cut it back completely. From May time I was probably only drinking once a month and occasionally once every two months. When I did drink I was drinking a lot mind - your typical binge drinking. In the run up to the marathon I had two pints in the last eight weeks though so not all bad. Then I took 19 minutes off the 2006 time.

What does this tell me for 2008? Should I just drink the same as the end of 2007 and when I do only drink wine? A combination of 2005 and 2007? I toyed with the idea of completely giving it up but being honest I know that's not possible. I need a blow out every now and again. Over Christmas I only let myself drink on three days of the holiday. The rest of the evenings I stuck to the water option. The holiday was really a trial for how I see this year panning out.

My solution. No drinking... at all... when I'm preparing for a certain goal. The next goal is a race in 6 weeks time. Therefore during these six weeks I won't drink. The weekend following I'll take off training and let myself wet my whistle. Then the following Monday a new goal will be put in place, that could be another six weeks off or it could be 10 or 12. It'll all depend on the new goal. Really I think I'll be cutting back more than I did for the few months last year before the marathon which can't be a bad thing as I feel like a hang over is coming on now just talking about how much I used to drink.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

2008 Startup

Well I'm now back from the sun and going to have to get used to the Baltic climate of London all over again. I hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Years where ever they spent it and are now looking forward to running off all that wine, booze and mince pies. I haven't pulled on the runners* yet this year as I was enjoying many, many terrible movies on the mini screen in front of me on a 7 hour plane trip yesterday. This will all change this evening as I venture out on my first run of the year with the club and will then come home and watch a movie on a much (but not that much) larger TV screen in my front room.

This being the start of the year I think most people reflect on their past year and come up with some goals for the new one. The simple approach would be to say that last year was good and this year will hopefully be better. I can't really say that I'd like to run more miles in a week as that's not my say - my coach will tell me what to do and I've no idea what he has planned for me. It all really depends on how I get on in races I suppose and how I'm reacting to training plans. Currently I run six days a week and on the odd (very odd) occasion that can be seven. With that in mind I can't really see a huge mileage increase.

Last year I raced in 13 races - this year I hope to compete in more. That shouldn't be hard as most of the races last year fell in the last four of five months of the year. This year I'm starting the year fit for a change so I should be taking part in my first race of 08 in a few weeks.

So Goal 1 is to race more and goal 2... this is where I talk times which I try not to... My safety net has always been keeping the times to myself, so if it doesn't go right only myself and the coach know it...

Goal 2 is to break the 2h 40m in a marathon this year. Bah...

Good luck to everyone with their personal goals this year whether they are to get back into running, start it up, break 4 hours, qualify for Boston. No matter what they are, best of luck.

*Runners, aka sneakers (US) or trainers (UK) or running shoes (uhm... global) depending on where you're from. As I'm Irish I'm sticking with runners... this may or may not cause confusion amongst readers down the line