Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Race Week Training

With another race week here, another plan is needed for the week. I'll be going into this the same way I approached the week leading up to the last 10km. The main difference though is that this race is on a Sunday, whereas the 10km was a Saturday... oh and this race is half the distance!

I'll be taking a mile or so off my usual easy runs. This will go right up until Thursday. On Friday I'll just go for a quick lap that will be around 3 or 4 miles. During this session I'll do 6 stride outs of about 100m. This should keep the legs sharp and fresh. On Saturday I'll have a complete rest, not even a little jog around the block. Tonight I was told to hit the track and do 8 x 400m hard... or if it's very windy outside to cancel that and do 10 x 1 minute on the road. The reason for this is that running on the track in windy conditions can be so disheartening that it's better to get a strong session in on the roads. A quick glance out the window has suggested that I'll be on the roads tonight!

What I'm expecting as a time on Sunday is anyone's guess. The time that's been thrown around is close to 16 minutes. It will be head down from the start and just trying to hold on. The first two miles should come in at just over the 10 minute mark. Then it'll be a battle to make it to the finish without blowing up, working off who ever is around me to get home. I'm not going to worry too much about the exact time I get. If I prepare and race well I'll get the right result out of it. After the last race I can't wait to get out and see what I can do this time...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Run like we're awesome

Ever since the first hard training session, on the second day after my week off, my legs had been feeling stiff. The session in question was 6 x 1,000m which took in a fair few hills. What legs wouldn't feel tired after that? The only thing is that I could still feel the stiffness in the quads over a week later. Granted in that time I only had one day off to recover but still, I'm not used to having stiff legs. To get this sorted I went to see the Magician on Thursday evening.

I still haven't got my head around how a massage sorts out the legs the way it does. I arrive with stiff quads. I get put through pain for an hour or so. I fork over some money. I leave and the next day the legs are fresh as a daisy! It doesn't make sense... where did the stiffness that had plagued me for a week disappear to?! To be honest, does it matter? The moral of the story is that my legs now feel good again!

On Friday evening I hit the track again for my third consecutive speed work session of 400m reps. These sessions are all geared towards the 5km race this Sunday. The coaches reasoning is that I won't get fast running up hills in the park on a Tuesday night but by running fast on a track. It makes perfect sense really, you don't get fast by running slow. The hills would be great for speed endurance, which I feel like I have plenty of at the moment, but not for the pure speed which I lack. The 10 x 400m set surprisingly went better than the last time out. By the end I still had a little bit left in the tank but I decided to call it quits there and then while feeling good rather than putting in one or two more that were below standard. For the first time in a long time I felt a rhythm on the track as I was going around, each 400 felt strong rather than fast, but the times still fell below the 70 second mark I'd been set.

The only other session over the weekend was the Sunday long run of 15 miles. This was a particularly weird run to be honest. I never felt overly comfortable, my legs were slapping the ground as I ran, and I think the pace was probably chopping and changing throughout. I was never going slow but I was definitely not fast. The plus side is though at around 13 or 14 miles I wasn't feeling as drained as I usually would be at that point.

There was a slight change to my pre-long run routine that could well be the reason behind my sluggish running. Usually before the long run I'd have my breakfast two and a half to three hours before heading out. Yesterday I tried a replacement drink thats meant to give you all the energy you need for training. I had this when I woke and I was out the door one hour after waking. Maybe the drink provided me with the energy required but my body hadn't fully woken up. Chances are it was nothing to do with this but simply an off day. I'll keep messing around with different routines over the next few weeks in any case and see what I come up with that works best.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Kiss my face!

Ten, not eight this time, but the full ten. All 1:10 and under with a 1:15 recovery. Wahey! The legs were fairly tired afterwards but I knew after the fifth 400 that'd I'd be able to push all ten out. Looking back at the training calendar it appears I haven't had as good a session of 400s on the track since the end of July, when I was still in London. Back in May, when I started back on the track, I used to be doing 400m reps most Fridays. The times then were 1:12/1:13 per 400m with a 1:15 recovery. I was doing about eight or nine reps then, so it's nice to see a bit of progress there.

I'll get back out to that track on Friday evening now for some more. Hopefully I'll be able to push out one or two more than ten, but I'm not going to push myself too hard. Finding the balance of pushing yourself hard for a tough session and not leaving it all out there is a tough act. Especially when you're training by yourself. At this stage I haven't quite figured it out... I'm sure I will soon though.

There was nothing like last Fridays debacle getting out to the track. I learnt my lesson, I went straight to Belfield this time. What I wasn't prepared for was what was going on on the track during my warm up. The UCD athletics team were obviously initiating their new members. As I was jogging around the outside lane I could see crates of beer at the 200m mark and loads of people standing around on the track getting ready to partake in whatever was going on and getting ready to laugh at what was unfolding. At this stage it looked like my session was going to have to change to something else rather than 400s. Probably 14 x 1 minute with a minute off. Around 10 minutes into my warm up their 'race' started. One mile on the track, but they had to down a beer before starting and at the end of every lap before they could start running again. Brilliant stuff! Why didn't I join the athletics team in college? Thankfully by the time I warmed up, put on the racing shoes, did some strides, they had more are less cleared away. Those that remained were drinking on the infield so didn't get in my way at all. Some smell of beer at the 200m point, but I can put up with that.

Talking of watching people run. The Dublin half marathon was on Saturday last. As I wasn't taking part I decided to pop by and have a look as it takes part in the park by my flat. What a glorious day for running. Although the minute the sun comes out runners tend to say it's too hot... I know I have before! I wouldn't have classed it as hot myself but then I wasn't running in it. I'd never watched a mass participation event before. It's quite surreal isn't it? You can see about a mile down the road and there's just wave after wave of people coming at you. The funniest thing I found was that as I was standing about clapping, mesmerised by all the people jogging by, someone shouted out "Alright Private". Puzzled I took a quick look around and off went one of the lads I trained with when I first arrived back. Surely it was me that was meant to be shouting encouragement at the runners and not the other way around. I also saw the two lads who finished behind me in the last 10km race. Both of them ran nice times of 1h 16m which gives me great hope for smashing my half marathon time the next time I take part in a half, when ever that may be.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Struggle

A solitary figure in white running laps on the empty floodlit track, late into Friday evening. The rest of the country getting ready for the night to start while the night on this track was coming to an end.

As much as I enjoyed having the track to myself it'd probably have been nicer if the hours before hand and the training that preceded the warm down laps had gone a little smoother.

Dublin didn't want me to train last night, but I persevered! 5 hours after I left my flat to train, I returned. FIVE HOURS!! All I did in them 5 hours (300 minutes) was commute and train... that's all. It all started with the trek to Santry stadium. I left at around 4.30 hoping to beat the traffic. No joy. Friday evening, there was plenty of it. I must have made it to the track an hour later to find it closed because there was a football match on. Only thing I could do was hop on a bus and head back towards town. At this point I had to decide what to do next. Head home and do a fartlek session or go to a different track and hope it'd be open. I wanted a 400m session because 400s don't lie. You can't cheat yourself on a track session and I wanted to know where I stood. To Belfield track with me. 6.20 I got on a bus heading to UCD. The bus actually passed Irishtown track on the way but I chose against getting off and trying out that track. I wasn't sure what the costs were and as I had initially been heading to a free track, with no changing or storage facilities, I had left all cash at home. Staying on the bus, getting out to Belfield and hoping they haven't closed off some of the lanes with barriers was the only option. At around 7 o'clock I arrived at a barrier free track and striped off quick fast to get started ASAP.

The goal was for 10 x 400m under 70 seconds. I set myself a recovery time of 75 seconds between each rep. I felt good on the first one (1:07), strong on the second (1:09 seconds), then it started to be a battle. The next two were about 1:10 before another two at 1:11, then 1:12. Eight reps down and the times progressively getting slower, I called it quits.

It seems the only session that I quit earlier than I initially set out on is my 400 sets. The fact that I do them by myself probably plays a large part in this. It does really annoy me though. I've done plenty of track sessions with various clubs this summer and not once did I give in early, but stick me there by myself, when I have to do all the work, and I shut up shop a few reps earlier than I planned. Last year in France I could manage 10 x 400m at 1:14 with 60 seconds recovery by myself, no problem. This year I start faster, but give up sooner. This has to stop.

This week I was told to go at 68% before pushing it to 98% next week. That was kind of playing on the back of my mind last night as I didn't want to push myself too hard to get the 10 reps out when I'm only meant to be easing back into training. Tuesday's session will see more 400s, but more than likely the bar will be set higher than 10. I'll be interested to see how I fair.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Race Record

The excel sheet I use to track my training progress has been mentioned before on here. It's a handy little gadget that has stopped me from using the trusty notepad and pen method that had worked for years. I kind of miss the notepad and pen method as at any stage I can open up one of the notepads and see where I was this week last year in terms of training. I then feel a sense of satisfaction that last year I was taking days off left, right and centre for no good reason at all. Next year though I won't be able to do it at a glance. I'll have to be on my computer and open an excel sheet and scroll through a list of dates. Not as easy, but I'll survive. The sense of satisfaction mightn't be there however as I don't miss days that aren't scheduled, my long runs of 15 miles are 15 miles and I do them every week without fail (race weekends are the exception to this).

There are things that my excel sheet does that my notepad didn't. It keeps track of how many miles I've run in a given pair of runners, making it easier for me to know when to change them. With the notepad I only had one pair of training shoes and a pair of race shoes. Every few months I'd start adding up the miles I'd done and once I was around the 400 mark I knew it was time to order a new pair. Living in France, where shoes in large sizes do not exist, a pair of size 12 UK would have to be ordered in my local running store. This could take a few weeks, which at times led me having to eventually just buy whatever they had in stock in my size. The incident where I got lumped with Brook Beasts has probably put me off ever buying Brooks shoes again. It was like trying to run with weights attached to my feet. These days however I have a few pairs of training shoes on the go, which I swap about every other day. Where my legs may not get a rest the day after a long run, my shoes do. The fact that the excel sheet keeps track of what I'm wearing when and the total miles run in them is a god send. I can't imagine trying to store that in my notepad and keeping totals every week of what I ran in what shoe. I can, at a glance, see that my old Nimbus are coming to the end of their life with 430 miles on them, the Kayano have 280 and the new nimbus have a mere 80 miles on them.

The second feature that I'm a fan of is the race record. Pretty simple stuff to start with, you enter the distance and the time and it will tell you your average mile pace. I know many watches tell you that and what you had for breakfast on the morning of a run but that's not what I really like about it. It calculates this Prairie Inn Harriers Island series points (PIH). These points allow you to compare race performances where the distance is different. For each race you'll get a score up to 1000 depending on the distance and time. 1,000 points being the level for elite athletes. I tend to be in or around the 750 mark on most races.

For a year now my best race by PIH points has been a 6.6km race in France. They love their odd distances there - I did a fair few races that were 10.5km, 6.9km, 12km and 6km. The good old 10k, 5k and 8k races were few and far between but there was always a race of some distance on when you wanted one. In that race I scored 797 PIH points. This year I failed to get above 780 points. I think my second best score to that 797 is 779. My pace averaged 5:24 min/mile in that 6.6km race, a pace I haven't come close to equaling. My 5km pace from this year peaked at 5:30 min/mile. Someone suggested to me that maybe the distance was shorter than the 6.6km which I thought could explain it but that wasn't the case. I remember the race as the last race I wore my Garmin for. As my watch beeped at me to say I'd gone through 1 mile I looked down at it and it said 4:55, mile two was slightly slower, but still a fast 5:10. I can't remember the other splits for the next two miles, probably because I was dying and just trying to keep going. I know I slowed in the third before finishing strong in the forth. The first two I remember because as I glanced down I thought "fuck, that's fast" and "fuck, it's still going fast". Them initial times I remember plus the race great conditions and the perfectly flat tarmac course indicate that the distance and the time I set are both correct.

The reason why I'm waffling on about this PIH thing is because as I was racing the last 10km race I had said to myself that this was the best race I'd ever run. But how did it compare to the 797 points I got on the 6.6km race? 801 points, the new leader on my excel sheet! Wahey! It's now the standard that all races will be compared against.

This 5km race I'm preparing for will be the one where I expect to see that 5:24 min/mile pace for 5km broken. If I can run 5:32 for 10km, sub 5:20 for 5km must be possible. I was talking to some people who've raced the 5km race about it this week. The opinion is that it's a really fast course but the last stretch is deceptively long. A lot of people blow up early on it for some reason. Maybe this is because you do one complete lap and then head off to the finish and a lot of people push themselves coming to the end of the lap, not realising there's still a bit further to go there after. One thing's for sure though, there'll be plenty of people to work off in the race. It's still a bit away yet, four speed work sessions and two long runs to be precise.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Glad to be back

If there's one thing that a week off training thought me it's that I can't cope with the life of no training. The week flew by and not once did I contemplate pulling on the runners and heading out the door. The issue with the not training was the amount of alcohol drank. I tend to drink these days but hold back somewhat as I'll be training the next day or I won't have started drinking until late because I'd been out training. This has made getting very, very drunk near on impossible. But Friday night there was no training to keep me busy after work, no training on Saturday to hold back for, so I just got drunk with the rest of them. Essentially my weekend was gone as I was in bed until all hours there after, wishing I was in bed the rest of the hours, before doing it all over again. Ugh... I'm feeling tired just thinking about it. I used to be able to mix both training and drinking quite well. Now it's a no go and I'm even struggling to do drinking* on it's own. I've become everything I've always feared running would make me... a light weight!

Training started back last night. A lap of the park that'd have been in or around 7/8 miles. I wasn't overly comfortable because since the last time I ran I've managed to get a cold and get rid of the cold. I'm feeling healthy now, just a bit bunged up so my breathing was a bit askew. The aim of this week is just to ease myself back into the routine so I'm not too concerned how the sessions go. This week I should be giving it 68% before next week giving it 98% in preparation for the next race in 3 weeks time. Tonight I'll be doing something in the line of 6 x 1000m and then later in the week I'll be back to the track to do some of the reliable 400s. I'm not going to kill myself on either of the sessions, the idea is to get through them strong and not fast. Next week is when I'll be converting them 400s into a faster pace.

The race I've decided on going for next is the Rathfarnham 5km road race on the 5th October. For this race the course is fast and the field is generally strong. 2 years ago the top 30 all finished in under 16 minutes and 50 faster than my PB. If there's a course to break the 5km PB time it's this one. I have to get used to running fast and hurting while doing so. With so many people running them kinds of times in the field it should be no bother finding someone to tuck in behind and dig in for dear life.

*I have to clarify by drinking I don't mean a few casual drinks. I'm classing it as out as a solid session that ends up with you dancing about the place like a mad eejit.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What I talk about when I talk about running

Not what I personally talk about when I talk about running, more like what Haruki Murakami talks about when he talks about running. We all know what I rabbit on about at this stage anyway.

I read this a few weeks back and I've been meaning to post here to say "read it". It's such a lovely book about what running means to Murakami's life. In the early chapters I kept thinking that I feel the exact same way and that I could have written the book myself, if I could write eloquently of course. Murakami says exactly what I want to say about running, only better than I would. He draws parallels on running and life and the role running has played in his career. There are plenty of little anecdotes throughout from his first marathon, running to marathon, triathlon experiences amongst others.

The book is written as he prepares for the 2007 New York marathon. While I don't necessarily agree with his training philosophy completely, the way running fits in with his life really struck a chord with me. He doesn't believe in taking two days off running in a row, stretching and believes that pounding the shit out of his muscles until they're rock hard is a good thing. No, no and no. The muscles being rock hard probably has something to do with the first two things though. Two days off training is great. It completely recharges the legs. If you train 5 or 6 days a week, the weeks where you get two days to chill out is the best thing ever. How I love the weekends where on a Friday I put my runners away and know they won't be coming out until the following Monday.

Anyway, lovely book and comes recommended by me.


You know I think I'm cursed... when I was younger I was always the one that got sick on school holidays. Now? My coach gives me a week off training, says I can do what I want, drink, stay out late, smoke, do drugs... whatever... and what do I do? Only get bloody sick and have to stay indoors... curses!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I just don't know what to do with myself

Shocking stuff. My coach had mentioned recently that there'd be some time off running coming up soon, before we decide what's next on the list. When I was talking to him yesterday evening his exact words were "do nothing Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, 8 miles Monday and we'll have a new plan put together from then". I thought that it'd be another few months before I got some time off, or that it just wouldn't happen, or I'd have to bring it up. But no, for the next few days I'll have to find something else to do with my evenings. My clients will be delighted now that I won't be swanning off work the minute 6 o'clock hits this week.

The new plan is going to aim at a race in or around 7 weeks from now. There'll probably be two races, if not three in that time. Ideally it'd be another 10km race but I don't think there's any around at that time. According to my coach I'm getting better at racing but I'm still not good at it. His point is that if I can finish a race as strong as I usually feel (Saturday included), the feeling that I could push out a few more miles if needs be, then I'm not putting my body under enough stress. The key to being a good racer is racing under stress which I don't do. I hold back just enough that it doesn't hurt.

I've had a look at the upcoming calendar of races that I should be able to get to if needed. The races I do will probably come from the following list - obviously not all of them

Monday, September 8, 2008

Race Report #13 - 10km on a wet and windy morning (34m 25s)

The official results are now up so I can now give the full report of the race since I now know what my exact time was, and not just the rough guide I had from seeing a clock when crossing the line.

Saturday started off as planned, a 7am jog to wake me up before chilling at home for a few hours until the race. The conditions when I woke were shocking and I was completely drenched in the 20 minutes I was out of the house. There was also a fairly strong wind belting about the place which left me suitably unimpressed. To make matters I could feel the beginnings of a cold in my throat which was worse than it had been the night before. All factors I could do nothing about so I just had to get on with it. I quipped on the way to the race that as the throat wasn't going to do my energy levels any favours I'd have to run faster and be finished before I got tired.

I warmed up out and back along the race route to give me an idea of the conditions and the route. The rain was dying off but the wind was going nowhere. I can't say I felt great or 100% confident about the race beforehand but I was there now and going to have to see how things went.

The race started off slow. Some of the lads afterwards called it 'pedestrian', I prefer to say 'ideal'. I got to tuck in nicely to the back of the lead pack and get pulled along at a leisurely pace. This was ideal as the race started into the wind, and I didn't have to work as hard as I would've if I they belted off, leaving me to run on my own. At the 1km mark the first injection of pace came into the pack. I stayed at the tail and upped my pace but not to the level of the lead guys. By 2km I was on the shoulder of the guy in 8th position and running strongly, probably letting him do most of the work. As I felt strong I upped the pace for the next kilometre, shaking him off and even though I didn't look behind at any stage I could tell there was a bit of a gap. From here I was running by myself as the nearest guy too me was probably 20-30 metres ahead and I wasn't closing that gap.

As we turned at 3km (the last marker on the course!) I got the first fear that I was going at too fast a pace. I felt like I was at 5km pace but I wasn't tiring. All I knew was that I was going as fast as my legs would allow me to go, every stride was strong but there was no way I could be going any faster. The fear was that at this pace I would eventually blow up. All the same I stayed focused on the guy ahead of me and just kept digging in. As soon as I'd make 5 metres on him, he'd build up the 5 metres again.

One lap down and I was feeling good. My legs were strong and I played on this strength in my head. I convinced myself that all the laps on the hills in training had made me a stronger runner than the lad a head of me and that I would catch him. What I was basing this on I have no idea as clearly he'd be doing a fair whack of training and all! It didn't matter though, I was convinced of it.

As I'd no watch on the fact that there were no distance markings past 3km didn't really matter too much. They also told us at the start that the ones that were out weren't accurate, they were just a guideline. I'd still have loved to have seen one at 8km or 9km just to let me know that I should really start to dig in. When I passed the 2km marker for the second time I decided to dig in again there as it worked well on the first lap. It appeared to work on the second lap too as I'd closed the gap on the guy ahead by the 3km marker. Over the next few hundred metres I caught up with him completely and got onto his shoulder. I was trying to decide whether to let him pull me along for a bit or to go on. Typically there was a slight climb a head so not the best place to pass someone. As I contemplated it he glanced to the right at me and I knew I had to move on. Foot down and I headed for home. I could hear him initially try to stay with me but shortly afterwards I knew I was clear of him. 6km of chasing and finally I got him. The next guy in 6th was in sight but there was no chance of making up that distance. My personal race was won, now all I had to do was finish out the actual race.

Coming up the last climb into the wind before I turned onto the finishing straight was the hardest bit of the race. I must have missed a breath with the wind in my face because as I turned I was completely out of breath and took a while to regain my composure. Once I got it back I just put the head down and dug in for the last couple of hundred metres. Over the last few minutes I'd been getting by by thinking how this was by far and away the best race I'd ever run so I wasn't going to slow down now. Every stride for the last 10km had been purposeful and I hadn't coasted through. I wasn't in pain but I was running at my limit. This was racing.

As the finish line came into view I could partially see the clock. There was someone standing in front of it but I could see the seconds rolling over... 14, 15, 16... As I was getting closer it was running through my head that I was about to get a 20 second PB. The way I felt through the race I knew there was no way it wasn't going to be a PB. Considering the conditions I'd run in I was happy with them 20 seconds. Just as I passed the clock I saw the minutes. 34... Thirty Four!! I couldn't believe it. I'd love to see the way my face changed on seeing this. I remember just pumping my fists and a huge smile came to my face. I'd just knocked 1 minute and 20 seconds from my the time I set in April.... and it was windy as hell!

The official time says 34:25, which is 1 minute and 15 seconds better than the 35:40 I ran in London this year. My pace works out at 5:32 minute miles which means that not only did I beat my 10k time but I would have beat my 5 mile PB as well. My pace for my 5 mile PB, also ran this year, is 5:42 minute miles. Needless to say I'm quite happy with how this went. What makes it even better is that I know there's more to come. There was nothing else I could have given on Saturday but this is definitely the start of a new level of running for me. As my coach said to me last night, the magic 33 is next!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A flying update

The race is done and dusted. I'll update more soon but for the moment I'll leave it with that personal best performance by year on the right hand side will be changed very shortly.

I'm fairly happy and pints will be had tonight!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Race Day Routine

Thank god this race tomorrow is laps. I'm generally not a fan of them but with the weather that's going on out the window at the moment it could be for the best. According to the BBC the winds are apparently over 20mph and expected to reach 31mph today. Much of the same is expected tomorrow. With laps though I'll have the wind at my back for some of the race either way (obviously that means it'll be in my face some of the time as well). It should be quite wet and all which isn't the most fun for racing but sure it won't be the first time and certainly not the last time. The 5 mile race that I got my PB in this year was ridiculously windy, raining and snowing, around 2 laps... I ran strong then so I'll just run strong tomorrow.

Tomorrow morning I'll get up early enough, go out for a quick 2 mile jog to wake the body up somewhat. When I get home I'll have breakfast and veg in front of the TV for a while. The race should then be around 3 hours after this.

Thankfully the race isn't too far from my parents place so I'm going to stay there tonight to prevent myself having to have a long commute to the race HQ. My warmup there will be around 2.5 miles, maybe a lap of the course to get myself familiar with it, before stretching and getting ready for the start. Just before the start I'll do a few 30 metre bursts to get the legs ready for what could well be a fast start.

There you have it, that's what I have planned from the start of my morning (about 7am) on race day until race time. Hopefully then I'll be finished by 11.05am and all that will be left for me to do is worry about what to do with the rest of my weekend in a rain soaked Dublin! Maybe I'll hit the bathroom shop and get stuff for my bathroom... a month sans mirror is long enough

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Flexy Private

Today my shoulders are stiff, also the back and surprisingly my glutes. I'd hope to be saying that this is all due to finally setting up a gym membership and doing a good workout yesterday evening, but it's not. None of the stiffness is related to running either. I've decided to see what the benefits are, if any, for running by doing yoga. My initial reaction is, "fuck me, that shit is hard"! All that twisting, stretching and bending... it's bloody impossible.

This was week one of an eight week beginners course. If as a beginner I'm meant to be able to stand on my shoulders and then lower my legs back over my head to touch the ground, then what the hell is intermediate? or advanced?!
Some things I learned last night
- I'm really bad at it. Week one, I'm allowed to be bad.
- Standing like an upside down V is surprisingly hard. My legs and arms were shaking like mad during this.
- The instructor is exceptionally hot
- I am too long for the standard mat length. I need two. Maybe when I'm more flexible I'll fit on one better.
- I actually left all bouncy and full of life... could be something to do with a hot instructor but also could be to do with the actual yoga itself.
- Cooking dinner at 10 o'clock is not my idea of a good time.

At the end of the session the lights are turned off and everyone just lies there in the dark for 5 minutes with relaxation music playing in the background, and incense burning away. How am I meant to relax and think of nothing in that situation? All I could think of was "Don't fall asleep, don't fall asleep". I soon realised that I can't fall asleep in a bed lying on my back so the chances of falling asleep on a mat on the floor were quite slim, but I still didn't want to risk it.

Anyway I didn't fall asleep which was an added bonus. I'm intrigued though to find out if any of this will affect my running in a positive way. Obviously not immediately but over time. I kind of went into the class blind, knowing nothing about yoga or it's benefits. What the instructor said about it improving posture and giving you the ability to switch off from everything going on around you should help. That's the kind of focus I want when I'm racing, no thoughts of what I'll have for dinner or where I'll go for drinks that evening to be floating around my head. Ideally my focus will be 100% on the job in hand.

By the way, I'm still really puzzled why my back and shoulders are this stiff. It was essentially just a lot of stretching. Doesn't stretching prevent stiffness?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Getting ready to race

Caution is being thrown to the wind
That's one of many things that is going to be flowing through my head at the start of the 10km race on Saturday morning.

In the last post I mentioned that August turned into a high mileage month... for me anyway. With that in mind there's a mini taper going on this week. Usually on a Monday I'd do in or around 9 miles easy running. That's been knocked down by 2 miles to 7. The same will happen today. Thursday will be a gentle 5 miles and Friday 3 miles with a few strides in place. Last night I should have hit the track and got around 10 x 400m reps in but as it was raining at 5 o'clock I knew the traffic would be a nightmare so I decided against sitting on a bus for a few hours. Also running on the track when it's windy and raining is never ideal as you don't get to run fast. Instead I did a fartlek session in the park beside me. Over the past few weeks I've built this fartlek session up on a Friday from 14 x 1 minute hard with 90s jog in between reps to 16 x 1 minute. Yesterday with the mini taper going on I did 12 reps and headed home.

Come Saturday I should be ready to run fast. There really can be no excuses. Training has been good over the past few weeks and the 'comfortable' 5000m race a few weeks back indicates that the 10km PB should be beaten. As I said, caution is going to be thrown to the wind (hopefully it won't be too windy!). The plan is to start fast and go with it. If I start to feel comfortable again like in the 5000m race I have to push on. It's not going to be possible to run fast and not hurt at the same time. I'm going to have to leave the comfort zone behind. These days I'm running 15 miles hard on a Sunday, so 6 miles fast should come to me when I need it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

On August

The way the weekends fell in August, and the fact that I only had one race, which was a midweek one, and a short one at that, my mileage for the month was well up on previous months. 5 weekends meant 5 long runs. That's a lot of long running for one month. So far this year there's usually been two races a month and if there was only one it would fall on a Saturday, therefore meaning there'd only be a recovery run on the Sunday. So even with missing a few days training this month I still ended up with my highest mileage of the year to date, higher even than during cross country season...

My search for a club and people to train with since returning back to Dublin hasn't been the most successful. I have been down the track once a week training with a club there but I don't see myself carrying on with them over the winter months. Unless something happens over the next few weeks and there appears to be some form of organisation going on with the training then I think I'll have to look elsewhere. Having talked to a few of the lads there doesn't seem to be any organisation though. Lads just discuss amongst themselves different sessions that are taking place minutes before they start. I've been in touch with a few other clubs so over the next few weeks I'll give each of them a shot.

I mentioned recently that with my move home came a move to a more hillier training route. While that is all good and will make me somewhat stronger it won't necessarily make me faster. You can't get fast by training slowly and training on hills is not going to be fast. So the other thing I'm on the lookout for so is a new training route, one that is flat. Ideally I'd keep the Phoenix Park route for my long run and have a flat route for my easy run the following day. All I really need is one 8 mile route from my apartment. Four miles out and four back shouldn't be too hard to find. It wouldn't do any harm to have a deviation of some form in my training in any case.

All in all I'm content with the first month back. The rain of August (seriously it was insane) has left us and replaced by two days of sun in September. Once I have my club sorted the routine will all fall into place nicely.