Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Week One (14 to Go) - Let the fun begin

Why can't every week of training be like week one of my marathon schedule. It's sooooo easy. Really, no hard sessions in there. Everything has to be done at an easy pace. Lovely stuff!

Over the past few months my weekly mileage has been relatively low. The last time I went above 50 miles was way back at the start of October. Since then it's been low 40s and high 30s every week. I've been running and racing well off this mileage so there wasn't any need to change. Also CR reckoned it'd be easy to add extra miles on come marathon training time. If I'd been running 10 miles a day for the last few months there'd be no room to add extra miles on to my daily session.

This week the miles are being bumped up and with that there's no speed work at all. This makes it my second week in a row with no real workout. I'm going to die next week when they start back. Monday to Friday's sessions are to be 8 easy miles. Day off Saturday. 15 easy miles on Sunday. That'll bring the mileage up to 55 miles for the week.

The two other tasks of week one are getting a blood test and a visit to the magician to give the legs a once over. CR wants to know my iron levels, his analogy for this is about trying to drive a car with no petrol. I've been told before to get this done twice a year. The last time I went was probably about 18 months ago now. Apparently it takes 10 days to get the results of this. God knows what they do be doing. In France I stopped by the clinic the next morning for a print out of the results and then a few days later received another print out in the post. Ah well, it's done now and it was cheaper in Dublin. I can deal with the wait.

If the rest of the weeks turn out to be as nice as this marathon training will be a peice of piss...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

And the winner is...

Over the past few weeks (months?) my head has been a complete muddle about where to run my seventh marathon (6th if we don't count the nightmare that was Rotterdam 2007). When I first gave the shortlist of where was on my mind Copenhagen and Dusseldorf were the clear favourites. Thomas pointed me in the direction of Belfast and Newry which fell on the same dates as the two European marathons I had a preference for. I contacted Newry about their course, read plenty on it, and it soon became the new favourite. I was never convinced of it but it definitely knocked Copenhagen out of the running. If I was to run the last weekend in May, Newry would be as good as Copenhagen.

The idea of going to Newry, staying in Ireland, shag all travel or accomodation really appealled to me. The Newry course looks hilly mind, flat second half but lots of rolling hills in the first. Staying in Ireland seemed like a good idea, why not Belfast then? It's the same date as Dusseldorf and that's still on the list. Now we're down to Newry, Dusseldorf and Belfast. A race in Cavan in December scrapped the idea of Newry from my mind. The roads to Cavan had plenty of rolling hills... what if the hills in Newry are like this? I wasn't risking it. Newry's out.

Then I found another marathon in Germany. Wuersborg at the end of May. The course looks flat, it was at the end of May, it had a flashy video. New favourite? Damn straight. All guns were pointing towards Wuersborg for a few weeks. I started having doubts though as the more I looked at the course map the more concerned I got about running a fast time on it. There appears to be a lot of turns on the course - nearly one every kilometre. At some stages there are three 90 degree turns in one kilometre, at least one hairpin u-turn. Not really favourite anymore but it was still on the list along with Belfast and Dusseldorf though.

Eventually I got over the whole turn thing of Wuersborg. It had the "good" date in it's favour and turns or no turns, the course is flat. I talked with CR about which marathons I was thinking about. "I don't like the Belfast marathon" was his blunt reaction to that. Belfast's out so. He told me to have a look at the times of the other two so he could have an idea of what marathon to go for.

Wuersborg - generally won in or around 2:19. Second place could be anywhere from 2:30 to 2:40. Racing here and I'd be spending long periods of time, if not the whole race, running by myself.

Dusseldorf - generally won in 2:11. About 50 people should finish by 2:45. There'll be plenty of people for me to work off over the first half of the marathon before it starts to stretch out.

That sealed it then. Dusseldorf, I'll be seeing you on the first weekend of May. The early favourite managed to stick it out and fought off many, many other marathons. Marathon training started as of yesterday.... 14 weeks to go!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Under the weather

An annoying cough that's been hanging around for more than 2 weeks came out in full force after Sunday's race. I still haven't shook it, but it's back to just being annoying again. I took two days off training before the race because my legs were shattered, two days after because the cough kicked it up a notch, yet the poxy thing isn't going anywhere. Monday was the only day I woke up feeling sick, although I got progressively worse during the day. On Tuesday I was back the same stage as I am today. Although first thing in the morning my heart rate was around 25bpm higher than normal. I took some medicine and within an hour was shivering uncontrollably for the next 2 hours, even though I was well wrapped up with the heat on. Needless to say I didn't take that medicine again, and think it had a part to play in how I was feeling the day before.

Yesterday evening I went out for an easy 6 mile, well wrapped up, no cold air was going to get near me. Problem. I was far too warm. Hat was off in less than 1km. Gloves gone by mile 3. I should've been wearing shorts, rather than trousers. The wind proof jacket just made me feel like a boxer who was trying to sweat off a few pounds before a weigh in. Lesson learnt I think. Last year I didn't wear trousers once on the run and it was colder in London than it is here. Just because I have them does not mean I have to wear them. They're fine for warming up and down on days I have workouts but nothing else. They just don't work for me. Likewise the wind jacket. It's just too warm for training in, maybe on a real cold, windy day it'd be grand but normal day to day? No chance.

The legs are stiff today, but will be fine for another 6 miles easy tonight. I'm not the happiest that they're stiff after 6 miles with two days rest beforehand, but I'll blame the cough. It's already getting blamed for my poor productivity at work, so blaming it for stiff legs is no big deal.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Race Report #18 - 10k XC - Into the wind, I'm running!

Even though I knew going into the race that the chances of me having a terrible performance was on the cards I really didn't appreciate being in the thick of it when it materialised. Thankfully as I was aware of the likelihood of this happening I'm not as pissed off as I would normally be with a substandard performance. The simple reason why I knew this day wasn't going to be my day was because of that great training session last Tuesday. I may have managed to stick up front and set the pace in some of the repeats but like the previous two workouts my legs just didn't recover from it. On Wednesday my quads were extremely stiff. No big deal, they'd be better on Thursday. Exact same thing on Thursday, worryingly the same on Friday. Saturday they were almost back to normal and Sunday they were acceptable. But acceptable isn't really what you need on race day. Buzzing or bouncing is what you want, certainly a 'b' word.

Tired legs and a windy dug up cross country course didn't really mix. The course was 5 laps with one bitch of a hill on the lap. Typically that hill was into the wind as well, which was, for want of a better word, strong! Within 400m of the race I knew I wasn't going to have a good day. I set off as planned, a steady pace. This was the pace I was meant to stick with for one lap, before upping the pace and picking off people. The last few laps were meant to be at a much harder pace than the first lap. What happened instead was the complete reverse. My pace was slowing and even though I managed to stay in or around the same position someone seemed to pick me off on each lap, while I was passing no one.

After 2 laps it was a battle to convince myself to stay in the race and not just trod back to my stuff and bitch and moan about my quads. The silver lining of the days is that I stuck it out. Going into the final 200m I had all sorts of shouts from people in the club about some lad right on my back. This had been a miserable outing and I wasn't going to compound it by losing another spot with metres left. Every time I tried to up the pace the mud prevented me, I was going right down into it and had to drag my legs out each time. Nightmare. More shouts. Finally the sticky mud seemed to end and I was able to up my pace into an all out sprint. The quads were screaming at me but I knew I could hang in and there was no hope that at the pace I was going that anyone would pass me, and they didn't. I must have stayed at 90 degrees against a wall for a few minutes before feeling ready to change and head on home.

The Coach's Verdict:
CR was extremely upbeat about the days events. I would have put my house on him saying I was knackered and to take a week off training. Not this time. Running on tired legs in that slog would bring me on no end. His take on it all is that there's no way I could have done a training session as tough as that race so it'll all stand to me once I'm back on the roads. The race was by no means a goal race for us and how deep I had to dig to complete the race was a test of strength.

In his day he had dozens of XC races that went the same way, finishing down the field because he couldn't glide through the mud. His best XC race was when he finished second at the National Intermediate XC and he puts that down to the ground being rock hard on the day.

No week off training then, instead it's a week without any workouts. 6 miles every day until Sunday which will be a 15 miler. Then the marathon training starts...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I'm Back....

Wahey! The legs are working again. Last Tuesday I was dropped easily on each repeat, this week I was right up there in the mix. The workout was 2 x 1200, 2 x 1600, 1 x 1200. For the first two 1200s we finished as a group, maybe with one of the lads slightly ahead. The first 1600 I finished a second or two off the first lad from the club. After 400m of the second one I decided I had some more in the tank and I set the pace for the remainder. I knew that as I was up front the time was going to be slower than the previous one (I'm just not as fast at intervals as the other lads)... and I was right, 4 seconds slower but content enough with it. Obviously having pushed myself in the second 1600 I was fairly knackered for the last rep of the night and it took all I had just to stay in touch with the others. In the end we finished the last 1200 just a second slower than we had done the first two reps of the night. All in all a good session, and as I said, the legs are back!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Race Week - in the mud again

After a few days rest I'm back, but wouldn't say I'm completely fresh yet. A weekend off running was definitely called for. I don't know if it was the niggling cough I've had for a week, plenty of training or getting back into a routine that saw me waking up at 7.30am again, but this weekend I was shattered throughout... and that was without running at all... How would I be feeling now if I'd done Sunday's long run?

As this is a race week I shouldn't be doing too many miles in training. Tonight's workout will tell me if I benefited from the few days rest. Last week I was hanging off the end of everyone during the 2 minute intervals, usually I'm in the mix. After this workout I'll start to wind down the miles over the next few days. Probably an easy 8 miles tomorrow, 6 Thursday, 4/5 on Friday with a few strides thrown in, and Saturday off. Then the race on Sunday.

10km Cross Country, I can't say I'm looking forward to it. In the past 15 months the furthest I've raced has been 10km, but on the road. Running through the mud for that distance should be some slog. If I've aspirations of running a fast 10 miler in the next few months the workout from this race should stand to me. The standard in this race is also going to blow me away. So much so that CR's advice has been to forget about those well in front of me and race with the mindset that I'm up front. Pick off as many people as I can over the second half of the race. As I don't know anyone in the race besides those in my club I reckon I'll just pit myself against them. The goal I have set for myself is to try to be in first two home from the club - my own race within the race. Ideally I'd say first home from the club, but there's a chance one of the Masters is racing, and I'm not going to touch him in the mud. If he's there the goal is second home from the club, otherwise first.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Break Time

After Tuesdays workout of 6 x 2 minutes with 2 minutes recovery saw me hanging off the end of the other lads, before drifting off the end, my legs weren't feeling the freshest. Today I took my XC spikes out to the Phoenix park for a 14 x 1 minute session. I decided that with a XC race next weekend it was time to dust them off having left them untouched since the last race 6 weeks back. Running around that grass and hills and what not sure as hell isn't easy. Within a few hours my legs are back to being stiff again.

I had a quick chat with CR and he's decided that a weekend off is in order. The concept of a few days off is one I understand completely. I knew I needed a few days off but there's no way I'd have taken them. Understanding I have, confidence to take the time off without feeling guilty I don't. As CR said, that's why I have a coach to tell me these things.

From now until Monday evening my running shoes are going to be hidden from view.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Merry new year's resolution everyone...

... and welcome to the world of running...

Last night was the first evening of the year I'd headed out for an oul' jog. Christmas holidays had meant that for the past few weeks it's been day light running for this guy. My God though, talk about an increase in running traffic! I've never seen anything like it - even at the peak of the Dublin marathon training time there wasn't as many people out running as this, the first Monday of the new year. Added to the running traffic were the people who've obviously decided to walk and cycle* to and from work. The hive of activity continued as I returned to my apartment to meet a couple from the floor above me equipped in running gear, ready to tackle the night.

"I wish we were finished as well"
were the last words I heard as the lift door closed behind me.

*by the way cyclists, if I'm running on a path with lights on the least you can do is have them on your bike - especially going through the virtually non existent light of the Phoenix Park

Saturday, January 3, 2009

2008 in numbers

Total Miles Run: 2,209
Number of Races: 16
Max Distance Raced: 10km
Min Distance Raced: 3km
# PBs: 4 - 10k ( x 2), 5 miles, 5k
Highest Placing: 4th (Luton 10k)
Prize Money: €0
Number of Long Runs (circa 15 miles): 34

Non Running
Books Read: 45
Countries Lived in: 2
Countries Visited: 6

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Race Report #17 - Start as I'll hopefully go on

Every year on New Year's Eve when I was growing up there was a family party chez nous. Dinner with all the cousins, aunts, uncles and grand parents. Followed by drinks until the early hours of the morning with them all. Obviously as kids we used run around high on soft drinks, playing computer games, hide and seek, awake until all hours on a total sugar rush. The novelty of New Years Day was that as kids it would be the one day of the year you'd stay in bed until about 1 o'clock in the afternoon and still end up being the first in the house awake. Into my adult years this trend of waking up late on New Years Day, although accompanied by a hangover, continued. This morning, as my alarm went off at 8.30, after finding my way to bed after 2am, was no fucking novelty!

Fast forward a few hours to the end of the race. As I crossed the line and glanced at the clock to see a ten second PB my initial reaction was one of content. Yes, I'd have preferred to be closer to 16 minutes but with the weeks of late this would have to do. On the way back to the club house I heard one of the guys from the club who finished just a head of me say he ran 16.18.
Was that time by your watch, or the clock? I was only about 4 or 5 seconds behind you, certainly not 14 or 15
Turns out his time was off the clock as he crossed and I must have read it wrong. Wahey! A 20 second PB - 16 minutes and 22 seconds. Granted I have to wait to see the results to get clarification but that seems to be what I got. I'd still have preferred to have ran closer to 16 minutes but I'm not going to argue with that time.

The race itself was quite smooth. No hills, very little wind, pretty much ideal conditions... well except for the day of the year! As the gun went off there was no jostling for position, no weaving, everyone seemed to be where they should be. From about 800m in I'd found a nice position and no one passed me for the remaining 4.2km but I also didn't pass anyone. I sat on the shoulder of one of the Raheny athletes for a while and then sat in behind him to let him deal with what little wind we had on one straight. Every now and again I'd nudge onto his shoulder to hopefully force him into picking the pace up. He bit each time. Genius. However, by 3k he had about 15 metres on me and I spent the rest of the race trying to cut that distance out. At the end of the race he finished about 10 metres a head. Not so genius now! I like to think I pushed him onto a better time... I'm a nice guy like that.

It also looks like the club team will finish 1st or 2nd (more than likely second), and I'll get my first ever running medal that's not a "everyone gets a medal" medal. I was third from the club home and it's either 3 or 4 to a team - I'm not totally sure at the moment. Joining a club looks like a great idea now. All I have to do now is get the rest of the club to know my name so that in future races they can cheer me on by name rather than by the club name!

*UPDATE* The results are up and the time is as I originally saw it - 16.32. Still a 10 second PB. The guy in my club finished 3 seconds slower than he told me he saw, although I still don't believe he was 11 seconds ahead of me - 5 tops. But thems the results.