Saturday, February 28, 2009

I Heart Brooks ST 3

Back when I visited America in November I needed to pick up a pair of racing flats. I'd only taken a pair of Kayanos with me. Doing interval sessions and tempo runs in such heavy shoes was no fun at all. I stopped by the local running shop to pick up a pair of trusty Asics DS racers but was recommended the Brooks ST 3 racers instead. I'd been a bit weary of Brooks every since I was sold a pair of Brooks Beast in France. I wasn't sold them because I needed such a controlling shoe, but simply because they had no other shoe in my size. The Beast, for anyone who has never been unlucky enough to have to wear them, is a heavy, heavy shoe. Running in them feels like you are running with weights attached to your feet. In the States however, the guy in the shop seemed to know his stuff and wasn't just offering me the ST 3s because he had nothing else in his store, he generally believed they were the best he had for me.

The ST 3 Racers are the anti-Beast and are by far and away the shoe I've been happiest in.The minute I put them on and go for a warm up jog I feel like I'm moving faster. They're light enough for a 5k race and allegedly can be worn in the marathon. I say allegedly because I'm unsure about racing shoes in the marathon and me. These could change that mind. The only draw back to them is that I don't find the grip to be great on slick surfaces. The 10k race a few weeks back had a slippery surface and I struggled in the early stages of the race with them. Days like last night however, where the ground was bone dry, are absolutely ideal for them.

Last night's run was meant to be 10 miles with 6 miles steady. I think tempo would be a more accurate description of the 6 miles. My pace for the 6 miles was 5:47 min per mile. At 5k the pace was 5:48 which shows that the pace was very consistent. My goal for the session was probably sub 6, so I'm very content with the 5:47. The pace was strong for the most part, without going flat out. To put this time in perspective I've had a glance at last years races. Last April I set a then 10k Pb with an average pace of 5:45. Now here I am just over 10 months later, running an average 5:47 for just under 10k on a training run, by myself, with 40 miles already run in the four days before hand. Things are definitely moving in the right direction.

Today called for 4 miles very easy or a day of rest. The legs called for a rest and I've given them that. I reckon if it had been a day made for running, blue sky and what not, I'd have gone out, it wasn't and I didn't. Tomorrow's 15 miler should be interesting. They've been comfortable enough for the past few weeks, but the last few weeks haven't been run with a week of heavy running behind me.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"ça a été...?"

Generally after a workout in France as you were bent over at 90 degrees gasping for breath "ça a été...?" would be the words you'd hear. Thankfully one word, one syllable, three letters would suffice as an answer, dûr. The phrase "ça a été...?" came back to me last night as I was labouring my way through the 8 x 600m session. For the final four of them the words kept going through my head like a weird mantra.

The before plan was to go into yesterday's session and do it within myself, at about 70%. At no stage was I to feel like I was racing. This was all well and good until the session actually started. I was in with the front lads and knew that as it was my first session back I'd just stay to the rear, a few metres off the pace, and get through the session without feeling like I pushed myself too much. All this went out the window when they started. I was to the rear, a fair whack off the other lads, but really pushing to actually be classed as in the same group. So while my positioning was as I planned, my pacing was way above what I should have gone out at. I never thought I'd have to go that fast to hang at the back. The legs are feeling fairly tight today after it, so I have to be sure to take it easy, very easy, over the next two days. There's times when training will call for me to dig deep and run fast, last night was not a time when I should have.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

This time last time: 10 weeks to go

According to my complete race history age grading thingy 10 weeks before the 2007 marathon I had my best race.... Ever! Almost two years later and I haven't matched it for performance in any event. And again all this time later I look at the few days beforehand and think that if the race was this Thursday (the race fell on a Thursday) my preparation would be different...

The week started with 9 miles easy on the Monday night. This, I would not change. It's the Tuesday session that surprises me somewhat. I hit the track and ended up doing a session by myself. 10 x 400m with 1 minute recovery, the times averaged 1:12 to 1:14. Obviously I didn't kill myself during the session but it still surprises me to see a workout like that two days before a race. The day before the race (Wednesday) I just ran an easy 4 miles.

The race was 6.6km, three 2.2km laps, totally flat with a fierce fast field. The first mile was circa 4:55 and the second 5:05/5:10. From there on I don't know what my times were like as I didn't look at my watch again until I finished. After 5km I was struggling but pushing myself on, a few people passed me so I knew I must have slowed down somewhat. For the last kilometre I managed to dig deep and finish in 22m 10s. It works out as 5.24 pace for just over 4 miles. Why I haven't been able to replicate this in future races I have no idea. Maybe it was just one of those days, the legs were perfect, the mind was perfect, weather, flat roads, everything was just right.

Following on that weeks training, I went out the Friday and ran 9 miles easy. I'm guessing that I should have probably gone slightly shorter than that, but I took the Saturday off so the 9 miles wouldn't have burnt me out. Sunday's long run was a failure. After 12 miles I had to stop with stomach cramps and the note I have in my running log is that the temperature was above 36C for that run. I think on the week just gone I ran in 10C. Trying to run in temperatures that hot is certainly something I don't miss about France.

2009's training week doesn't look too dissimilar to last weeks. The main difference will be that, finally, I'm back to two workouts in the week. That means that tonight I'll hit the club and jump in on whatever session they're doing. I may do a tempo/steady run at the end of the week, while every other run is the same as last week.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


  • Multi Vitamin Tablets - For the moment I'm going to take them for one month and see how it goes. Then I'll talk to CR and either go for one month on one month off or just stay on them.
  • Two long runs a week - *shudder*
  • Cold bath after long runs - This may be a placebo or it may do something. One way or the other I'm going to start taking them again. At the moment there doesn't need to be any ice as the cold water coming from our tank is damn near freezing.
  • Energy gels on long runs - I'll take one already diluted with water 30 mins before the run and then one or two on the run. I definitely felt the benefits of them on today's run, although I really need the practice of drinking water and taking these on the run as my hands were covered in the stuff today.
  • Alcohol - Going to be tough. Last time I stopped completely about 8 weeks out. This time I'm going from 10. I will however allow myself a glass or two of wine at dinner once a week. Most Sunday's I head to my parent's for dinner and there'll be wine on the go there. A glass of wine, once a week, is going to hurt no one. I could stop the wine drinking in a few weeks but for the moment it doesn't really bother me.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Getting the race out of my legs

Talking to CR on Monday he asked how my legs were feeling since the race at the weekend. I explained that on Sunday the 4 mile run was a total struggle, while on Monday the first half of the 6 miles was a breeze but I tired during the second. With that he decided that there was no speedwork until Friday. Tuesday's workout was replaced with 8 miles easy, Wednesday and Thursday were to be 10 miles easy. This way the race should be completely out of my legs by the time I next have to push myself in training. His metaphor was that by doing a speedwork day while my legs were tired from the race would be similar to going against the grain on a block of wood.

On Wednesday I had to take the Garmin out with me as I was going a new route which would hopefully be around 10 miles without having to repeat myself at the end. The good news is that it was, one complete loop measured exactly 9.98 miles. I often wonder if I run faster on the days I have the watch on or if I go that pace all the time. Subconciously am I picking the pace up just because it's being timed? I know on the few long runs I've had the watch with me that I do tend to up the pace when I spot my time around the 10 mile mark (it's always the 10 mile spot that I glance at my watch, no calculation is really needed to figure out the average mile time). Wednesday's ten miles averaged just under 7 minute a mile. As I had the route measured for Thursday there was no need for the watch. At times I felt like I was faster than Wednesday, but the pace seemed to be very stop start, so more than likely it averaged out as slightly slower. Not anything I'm bothered by. If the times were important for easy runs I'd have a watch with me.

One thing I can deduce from how I felt on these two ten milers is that the race is definitely out of my legs.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

This time last time: 11 weeks to go

Back in the lovely world of summer 2007, the weeks training 11 weeks prior to the Dublin marathon leaves present day Private slightly confused. I can only guess that at the time CR was on holiday and I was left to my own devices training wise because on the Monday I went out and ran an easy 9 miles, which was the day after a 10km race, and then the Tuesday I ran 13 x 400m at the track in 1:15 with a 1 minute break. Why I'm confused is because in the real world of 2009 I have also just completed a 10km race and the day after I laboured my way through a 4 mile easy run. Two days after I did 6 miles very easy. In fact there is no speed work on the cards until Friday, 6 days after the race. One guess for the logic of training like that in 2007 is that I didn't push myself in a race as much as I do now and therefore wasn't nearly as stiff in the days following the race. On the Wednesday, shockingly, there's a note beside 6 miles easy in my log saying "Legs tired". NO SHIT PRIVATE, YOU RAN A RACE A FEW DAYS AGO!!

Like many times when I lived in France I had visitors that week and that interrupted my training towards the end of the week. On the Thursday I ran 6 miles easy again, before taking Friday's speedwork off, because I was lying on a beach all day with my sister and her husband. They were only passing through town quickly and weren't around at the weekend, so training went back to normal. On the Saturday I made up for the lost speedwork session by doing a session at the track that involved running on the grass on the inside of the track. All in I covered about 5 miles, running the straight on the grass fairly hard and then jogging easily across to the other straight and going again, 24 times. On the Sunday my long run returned to 15 miles for the first time in about four weeks.

The training plan 11 weeks to go in 2009 looks something like this:
Monday 6 miles easy
Tuesday 8 miles easy
Wednesday 10 miles easy
Thursday 8-10 miles easy
Friday 8 miles with 8 x 2 mins intervals. Not to be done flat out.
Saturday 4 miles easy
Sunday 15 miles not easy but not hard

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Race Report #19 - The loneliness of the race with no one around

No records set today but there was a first. Well more accurately a second. My first podium finish, although there was no podium... I wish there had been a podium as my tallness would have had me towering over first place. Ah well, another day maybe.

With the national intermediate tomorrow there was never going to be a fast field in today's race so from the off I was to the front. The leader had a slight gap over me immediately and there was never a danger of me closing it. My plan was to go out easy over the first kilometre and then to push on. By 1km the gap had widened between myself and the leader. Already the thought of keeping a respectable distance was in my head, but the lead just kept growing and there really was nothing I could do about it. The real strange thing was that I could no longer hear any footfalls behind me. New fears that I hadn't experienced in racing were now in my head. How far clear am I? Can I hold onto this position? These fears stayed with me right until the 9km mark.

By 3km the race leader was well clear of me and it was just a case of staying strong and running hard. Looking at photos there, *cough cough*, it looks like there was a bigger gap between third place and me than between first and me at the 3km mark (I did not know this during the race). As anyone who has raced in the Phoenix Park knows, the second half of this course is the worst. At the Chapelizod gate, which is around the 6km mark, you start a climb into the 'S bends'. This climb and the 'S bends' last close to 2km. Through this stage of the race I could no longer really see first place. As I started the climb at 6km he was just going out of sight. At the end of this section there's a lovely downhill before starting into the Kyber, a one kilometre uphill which drained me completely. My pace here was stop start to say the least. Bolts of energy would see me digging right in, before slowing right down. With no one pushing me from behind (except the fear) and no one in front that I was going to catch this climb was soul destroying.

After the 9km mark there's a section where you run in the opposite direction to the runners behind you, if that makes sense. It was here I finally got to see where 3rd place was. About a minute behind me. 2nd place was secure, but there was still 800m straight of running to go. As I was getting closer I could see the clock saying 34:20, I knew the PB wasn't here today, all I had to do was dig deep to make sure I got in before the 35 minute mark.

Final time 34:54*. It's hard to know whether I'd have preferred a few people around to push me on and knock my time down over a 2nd place finish. That's something for another day, today I'm chuffed to be able to go out into town tonight and celebrate a second place finish.

* possibly a few seconds more but that's what the clock said when I went under!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Strong, not fast

That's what I have to remember about this race this weekend (10km), I'll be strong, not fast. Four weeks with no speed work showed last night as I attempted to up the pace somewhat. After the last hundred plus miles have been run uniquely in heavy Kayanos I felt a spring in my step for the first few minutes jog in my racing shoe. The spring was well and truely gone not too long into the session (12 x 1 minute fartleks with a 90 second recovery). Even though I was trying to hold back it was still a tough slog, glancing at my watch every few seconds, HOW THE F&*K HAVE I ONLY BEEN GOING 25 SECONDS?!

Even with the lack of speed work going into this I'd be disappointed if I don't go sub 35 minutes. The race is in the Phoenix Park so there'll be a good selection of hills to go up (and down). They're long up hills, rather than steep, while the downhills on the other hand are steep. The race plan is fairly simple. Start off at a comfortable pace for the first minute or two before putting the head down and running strong. A time of 34:XX is very much drilled into my head for this... along side "Strong, not fast"!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

This time last time: 12 weeks to go

It kind of disturbs me how I can remember individual sessions at the track from 18 months ago just by the little side notes I have in my training log. If I look at my training log from last summer one week's workout just seems to blend into the next week's, but somehow I remember the majority of the Montpellier sessions and how I actually felt during them. There's nothing in my training log except what the session was and the times....

12 weeks before Dublin was, like this week, a race week. One difference in the plans of then and now is that even on a race week then I did two workouts (Tuesday and Thursday), this time there'll just be the one.

On the Monday I ran 9 miles easy and a track session on the Tuesday which was 15 x 300m in 52 - 54s. If I remember correctly the lads at the track went for this as it was windy, meaning this was an easy way of skipping a section where the wind was the strongest. On the Wednesday I ran 15 miles, obviously missing the last weekends long run was playing on my mind there. Thursday I hit the track again for another session with Monsieur Laget. My session was 3 x 1500m and 1 x 1000m. After the three 1500s (4:55, 4:57, 5:01) I wanted to drop out. Laget gave me a pep talk and made me do a final 1000m with them. They were doing another 1500m (maybe more after that). My protestations about racing on Sunday fell on deaf ears as he was racing as well and he made the point that the goal was not Sunday, the goal was the marathon. The Friday I did 6 easy miles with Saturday off and race on Sunday.

The race was a 10.5k race just outside Montagnac. I'm fairly sure the course distance wasn't accurate, times reflect this somewhat. It was exceptionally hot that morning, so hot that Laget advised me to not bother with much of a warm up. The course was one short lap and three large laps, each with a massive hill. I finished 12th in a time of 41:15. Laget won the race at a canter. I didn't notice at the start that he wasn't up there but after 800m he cruised by me, shouted at me to up my pace, and continued sauntering to the front of the field. In the end he won it in just under 37 minutes (part of the reason I don't think the course was accurately measured - heat and hills obviously also played a part in the slow time), over a minute and a half from second place.

My running agenda this week looks nowhere near as tough as what I did in 2007. I'm fairly surprised that I put that many miles in on a race week. Unlike 12 weeks to go 2007, 12 weeks to go 2009 will have a slight taper in the second half of the week for the weekend race.

Monday, February 9, 2009

An all season run

Having (at least) two pairs of runners on the go was essential for last weeks training. Nothing to do with the miles that were being put in, more to do with the fact that the pair I wore on Tuesday got so soaked that they were out of commission until yesterday. Early on on yesterday's run I thought it was going to be a case of déjà vu, instead I got to experience an array of weather types.

I woke yesterday to a blanket of snow. No idea where it came from as it wasn't there or threatening to be there in the wee hours when I got home. As an aside, I behaved myself completely and came back in a very sober state - two pints really doesn't count as drinking. By the time I started my run the rain had started, which meant the opening few miles were through a melting sludge rather than snow. After about 4 miles the rain stopped and I got to use the road which was sludge free. It was no harm at all having my pace restricted for the opening 4 miles, allowing me to ease into a comfortable pace. By 6 miles the sun was out and with no wind was surprisingly strong. So much so that the gloves came off and went down the shorts. The hat was there from about 1 mile into the run. I was now regretting wearing tights and two long sleeve tops. Starting into my second lap of the park the sludge on the paths was all but gone thanks to the sun and rain combo. The clouds came back by the ninth mile, together with a temperature drop and a cold breeze. Gloves back out and on for the remainder. There was one more run in with the sun later but the gloves stayed on regardless as I knew that I had another two miles into the breeze over the last 3 miles.

All in all I was chuffed with the long run this week. The effort I put in felt a lot less than last week. At no stage was I pushing myself and I felt like I could of put in an extra 3 or 4 miles no problem if I'd had to. 15 miles was what the schedule called for, so that's all that was put in. I have to remind myself though that over the past four weeks there's been no speed sessions. The only tough session has been the long run and with a week to recover from each one there's a very good reason why they're so comfortable at this stage. The real question is how comfortable they'll be in the next few weeks with a workout thrown in on the Tuesday and Friday.

Week two of getting miles back into the legs is complete. Now to start getting speed back into the legs that have gotten miles back into them.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Another week of easy running

The elements have buggered off today, so I should get a fairly relaxed run in this evening. CR has me on another week of easy running to get the legs used to miles again. As much as I'm liking all these easy 8 mile runs I can't help fearing what next Tuesday's workout will be like. It'll be the first speed session in about 4 weeks. I have the feeling of stiff legs just thinking about it.

Another reason to be grateful for no Friday speedwork this week is the fact that Thursday's "couple of pints with ex-flatmate from London, get last bus home" turned into "lots of pints in 3 different pubs around town, accumulating in Private stumbling out of a taxi and into bed at 3am". You'd think I'd know myself better by now. When the decision of one more pint or last bus came up I should have known that once that bus was gone there was going to be many more pints to be had. A blow out every now and again never hurt anyone. How about two blow outs in three days? Does that hurt anyone? I'll answer that after Sunday's long run.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

You wouldn't put a duck out in that

Without a shadow a doubt, the conditions at the end of last night's run were the worst I've ever run in. The opening 4 or 5 miles were grand. Mushy snow on the footpaths was a bit annoying as it was more of a squelching slog than anything else. Just as I got to to clear roads on the way back home the heavens opened and the wind picked up. As is always the case the wind was straight at me and bitterly cold to boot. Within minutes there was a layer of snow on top of my four layers of clothing. My hands were numb, and I was counting down the minutes to what I estimated would be my arrival chez moi. At this stage I glanced across the road and saw another runner going in the same direction as myself, likewise battling against the wind. One thing stood out mind... HE WAS IN SHORTS!!! Honest to God, Shorts... I had a hat, gloves, under armour top, long sleeve top, short sleeve top, wind jacket and trousers on and he had shorts and long sleeve t-shirt. Absolutely insane. If I could have worn more, I would have. Arriving back in and I was soaked through every item of clothing that I had on.... socks, underwear, under armour, you name it.

Thankfully the snow's gone today after a lovely storm last night so tonight's run should be a little bit more pleasant, although still fairly cold.

Monday, February 2, 2009

This time last time: 13 weeks to go

Over the next while I'm going to look through my training log for the last marathon (Dublin 2007) and compare where I was then with where I am now. At the time when I was preparing for the Dublin marathon I thought my training was ideal and there was no more that I could be doing. Glancing through my old training log and uhm... How wrong was I?! Days seem to have been missed willy nilly every other week. I'm sure I had good reason(!). I think a lot of the midweek recovery runs were missed as I was tired rather than lazy. At least I hope that was the reason. I was also doing a little bit of leg weights for my quads on my easy days so that may have played a part in days being missed.

The last few weeks I haven't had a great run of things. Like many people I was sick for a few days, missed training and felt fatigued on the days I did train. I don't feel my January was perfect... compared to the same timeframe pre-Dublin, January was absolutely fine.

Thirteen weeks before the Dublin marathon was the start of August 2007 and I was living in Montpellier, South of France, a 30 minute bike ride from the mediterranean, with temperatures easily above 30 degrees. Thirteen weeks before Dusseldorf and I'm in Dublin and there was snow on the ground this morning...

Pre-Dublin the furthest I'd run at this time in the past few months was 15 miles, which I'd done three times. I'd also managed three 13 mile runs since April. Races? Two since April. The reason for the majority of missed long runs in the four months since April? Drinking on the Saturday night would mean I'd miss the only window to get a long run in - first thing in the morning. Trying to run in the mid day heat was near on impossible, especially if anyway hungover. Today, every week for as far back as I can remember seems to have a 15 mile run in there on a Sunday if I wasn't racing. Any week without a race or a long run has been scheduled, except one over Christmas where I was too hungover to get off the couch.

One thing I did have in France, besides great weather and a nightlife less than one minutes walk from my apartment, was a talented group of lads to train with on Tuesday nights at the track. I could just hang in at the back of the pack and get dragged around for the session. No one could complain. Everyone was doing the exact same thing. The top guy there, Monsieur Laget, had run two 2.16 marathons in the past two years. So everyone was getting dragged by him, and I was getting dragged by everyone. All was fair. Sessions where I'd do 10 x 400m, Laget would easily be doing 20-25 x 400m.

With thirteen weeks to go my week in training turned out to be a four day week. A friend stopped by for the weekend which wrote off training completely. Although we did cycle to and from the beach... that was kind of training! This equivalent week in 2009 should hopefully be a bit more productive, although with the 6 Nations starting on Saturday there's every chance that the Sunday could mirror 2007!

This week in 2007 looked a like this:
Monday: 9 mile easy
Tuesday: Track 10 x 400 - 72 seconds with 1 minute rest
Wednesday: 12 miles
Thursday: off
Friday: 9 mile fartlek - 12 x 1 minute bursts with 90 second jog in between
Saturday: off (scheduled)
Sunday: off (hungover)