Friday, 29 May 2009

"Fingers Crossed"..........

................... were the last word the physio said to me this afternoon as I was leaving, which pretty much sums up my chances of completing the marathon on Monday. Although if it was just a matter of crossing my fingers I’d do nothing else for the weekend. I have run 2.5 miles since my last post - a 0.5 mile test on the treadmill on Friday of last week and a further 2 miles in the park on Sunday. Both runs ended prematurely with the discomfort in my calf intensifying. I went to a physio first on Thursday of last week but all she could find was a tightness on the outside of my calf and along my IT band and apart from showing me a few stretching and strengthening exercises (which I had been doing) told be to “run away”. She was certainly correct with the tightness on the outside of my calf as this was evident any time I used the foam roller. What was frustrating was the fact that no amount of foam rolling hit the spot where I had been feeling the pain leading me to believe that the damage was not close to the surface. I decided to seek out a new Physio following my less than successful attempts at running and finally got seen on Wednesday evening. Straight away he found the elusive tender spot once I had indicated where the pain had been. Following a bit of manipulation and ultrasound he took out an acupuncture needle but said he was using it for “dry needling” which is essentially inserting the needle into the damaged muscle (about 1” in my case) to provide an escape pathway for the particular enzyme that is causing the muscle to spasm. He explained that when the muscle is damaged it contracts in order to protect itself and therefore bloodflow to the area is reduced and healing is prolonged/prevented. While the needle was inserted (10 minutes) I felt a dull localised pain, which came in waves. I also felt localised soreness for a few hours after, which he said was to be expected. He told me to continue with mild stretching and strengthening exercises but nothing too strenuous. While I have kept up with swimming and cycling I have not compensated for the lack of running time. My cycling endurance has improved a little over the last two weeks as I knocked 3 minutes off my best time for the 35-mile loop from Ballincollig, Coachford, Carrigadrohid to Macroom returning along the main road via Lissarda (19.4 MPH avg). Having said that a favourable wind can make all the difference. I did a few open water swims to get used to the wet suit covering about 1 km in Inniscarra lake last Sunday and about 2.3km on my first visit to Sandycove yesterday evening including about 1.7km around the island. Good luck to all those running on Monday, looks like the sun will shine.

Sunday, 17 May 2009


I'm thinking of trying something radical for my marathon taper - little or no running! That's if I want to give myself the best chance of getting round the 26.2 mile course in two weeks time. By way of compensation I intend to keep the heart pumping a little faster by switching to the bike.
I intended completing my last long run today by repeating last weeks 20 mile progression. However 2 miles in the increasing tightness in my left calf was telling me otherwise and sure enough it got more painful as I continued and I pulled the plug shortly after 4.5 miles.
The dull pain was also present during my lunchtime run with Brendan on Friday increasing in intensity towards the end. The signs were already there.
The only run that went according to plan was a 10 mile progression on Wednesday morning with the first 5 @ 07:40 pace and the last 5 at 06:52 pace (slightly ahead of the 07:00 target). This could have been the run that caused the calf pain to flare up again though as I began to feel a bit of tenderness in it during the last mile.
Mon 11th May
5 miles in 41:35 (8:19 pace @ 126 HR) recovery run - uncomfortable run - some niggles.
Wed 13th May
10.51 miles in 1:17:08 (7:20 pace @ 148 HR) with 5/5 miles in 38:19/34:22 (7:40/6:52 pace)
Fri 15th May
5.67 miles in 44:56 (7:56 pace @ No Garmin) Time/Pace courtesy of Brendan.
Sun 17th May
4.78 miles in 37:25 (07:50 pace @ 134HR)
Marathon Peak Week #8 (Run 25.96 miles, Bike 34.8 miles, Swim 250m)

Sunday, 10 May 2009


With only 3 weeks to go to Cork my priority is to get in as much running as I can at marathon pace, whatever that may be. Thomas suggested that I aim for beating last year’s time (03:17:05 – 07:31 pace) which is now my primary target. Before injury my plan was to go sub 3:10 ( 07:15 pace) with a target pace between 07:00 – 07:10 ( I don’t think I was ready for the assault on 3 hours). So as my calf regains strength over the next few weeks my training marathon pace is anything between 7:00 and 7:30 pace.
I got in 5 miles @ MP on Thursday's 6.8 mile run where the pace felt comfortable and my claf behaved. Friday’s run over 7.8 miles felt less comfortable with my calf more sensitive than usual to uneven surfaces and the pace remained above 8 minute throughout.
I decided to give the scheduled Eagle AC long run a miss on Saturday to give my legs an extra days rest and instead opted for a brick session heading out on the bike shortly after 8 for a 21 mile loop via Crossbarry and the Viaduct followed by a 5 mile run @ MP. While my legs felt good during the run my feet were wet and cold coming off the bike and it took a mile for them to thaw out. I had agreed to run the 2nd half of the Cork marathon route with Puds at 0815 on Sunday morning (he is doing the half as part of a relay). My plan, legs permitting, was to run 20 miles with the first 10 @ MP+10% and the last 10 @ MP. Three weeks ago this would have been 07:40/50 down to 07:00/10. Today the plan was 08:00 down to sub-07:30. If it went well I would up the target for next week. A few drinks at a neighbour’s house last night was not the best preparation and I felt a tad groggy rising before 7 as I had agreed to run into town to get the easier miles in before meeting Puds. It took me a few miles to get into my stride and I had to concentrate to keep to the 8 minute pace. I took a gel at mile 7 and felt reasonably good when I met Puds at Albert Road just before mile 8. On we trotted out to Turners Cross, Ballypheane, upped the pace after mile 10, around the Lough, Glasheen, Wilton Road and out the Model Farm Road at a steady pace just under 07:30 miles. I took a 2nd gel at mile 13 which helped me keep the pace steady on the uphill mile to Nangles Nurseries. Down to Carrigrohane and onto the Straight Road where we got down towards 7 minute pace for mile 17. Past the Kingsley Hotel, just over 2 miles to go. I had to concentrate on my running to keep the pace under 07:30 over the last 2 miles as fatigue began to set in. Down the north Quays and we are greeted by Joe Roche of Eagle AC running in the opposite direction. “He’s doing the course backwards?” Puds offered. “He’s doing the half also” I said “probably practising his victory warm down when he take on the Murphy Boys next month”. Round the corner onto Patricks Street and past the finish line, mile 20 at last. A short warm down and we are back on Albert Road. Puds had a 750ml bottle of Robinsons with glucose and a pinch of salt for me which went down surprisingly well and while I was stiff after the run my legs are reasonably good now except for a blister on the big toe of my left foot – I never get blisters – it’s back to the Asics after these Nike’s are finished with.
A check on the Garmin showed I covered the first 10 miles in 01:19:43 (07:58 pace) and the 2nd 10 in 01:13:16 (07:20 pace) so on target for today – 20 miles in 02:32:59 (07:39 pace). I felt good that I completed the run to plan and that my legs are in reasonably good shape 12 hours later. However I was certainly tiring over the last 2 miles and my endurance is not where it was a month ago. Thur 7th May 6.81 miles in 51:32 (07:34 pace @ 137HR) with 5 miles @ MP Fri 8th May 7.8 miles in 01:04:46 (08:18 pace @ 129HR) Sat 9th May Bike 21.37 miles followed by 5.29 mile run in 38:39 (07:19 pace @ 144HR) 5.29 miles @ MP Sun 10th May 20.59 miles in 02:38:23 (07:42 pace @ 141HR) - 10 miles @ 07:58 pace followed by 10 miles @ 07:20 pace & 0.59 mile cool down @ 09:10 pace. Marathon Peak Week # 6 (Run 47.76, Bike 51.7 miles, Swim 1,500m)

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Memory Loss

My leg muscles seem to be suffering from temporary amnesia as they were stiff and sore during yesterdays recovery run as if they had all but forgotten the 70+ miles per week they were doing a few short weeks ago, how fickle they are. Two short weeks of relative inactivity and they feign surprise and threaten strike action when they are asked to resume work. It is understandable that the work rate would drop a little but I wasn't expecting the protests (aches and pains). Perhaps it could have something to do with the 30 mile cycle to Inchydoney on Monday. I had planned to start the return to my normal running schedule (no speedwork though) this morning but to aid recovery (and sleep in - my body has also got lazy) I opted to drop my run. Instead I completed 2.5 miles on the treadmill at lunchtime using a standard workout I have been using for the last number of months - completing 5 minutes at 11.5, 12, 12.5 and 13 km per hour over 20 minutes. I check my heart rate on the handheld monitor on the treadmill 4 minutes into each pace (i.e. 4, 9, 14, and 19 minutes into the run) and use it to assess relative recovery/fitness level. My heart rates today were well up on comparative rates over the last two months as shown below.
I expect the HR to drop back towards Aprils figures over the coming weeks. Although my left calf continues to heal and allows me to run it continues to niggle and remains much weaker than my right (some of the more ambitious strenghtening exercises are still difficult/not possible to do). It's difficult to know at this stage what my "revised" target for Cork should be. I've got a few weeks to think about it. On checking the results on Sunday I noticed that the guy I passed at the 13 mile mark was the same guy I passed in a sprint for the same finish line in 2007. He must think i'm stalking him. I was right to up my pace after I passed him because there was another guy behind who was targeting both of us (in red below) and I knew by the way the spectators were cheering that he wasn't far behind me.

Tue 5th May

5.17 miles in 42:31 (08:13 pace @ 130 HR)

Wed 6th May 2.5 miles in 19:50 (07:56 pace - treadmill)


Sunday, 3 May 2009

Plugging Away and a great PW.

With only 2 miles of running last week I decided to ignore the 10% rule when increasing this weeks mileage (otherwise it would take a few years to get up to marathon distance). In fact Monday's 3 miles was already an increase of 50%. I braved a further 2.5 miles on the treadmill on Thursday lunchtime increasing the pace gradually from 8.5 to 13.5 kph (07:09 per mile) and was delighted that it remained pain free (first sign that my calf was on the mend).
To ensure that I wasn't dreaming I headed out on a 5 mile run after work, delighted to be able to hit the roads again. The first downhill mile went reasonably well and under 8 minutes and all. Following a stretch it was into the second mile on a slight uphill drag and I don't know whether it was the stretching or the uphill but the discomfort in my calf returned and remained with me for the remainder of the run as I altered my gait to protect the calf especially on the uphill sections where my normal gait would tend to stretch the calf muscles that bit further on pushoff. "F*#k, when is this going to end!" was all I could think. Still I was philosophical enough about it, what else could I do, no amount of angst was going to speed up recovery.
I took a rest day Friday and hit the roads (well the park) again yesterday morning on a run with Puds. I had warned Puds that I may have to bail if my calf acted up. He was taking it nice and easy after running the Pfizers 6 miler on Wednesday. We eased into the run at about 9 minute pace and I felt fine. We did three laps of the outer loop giving just over 7 miles and ended up at 8 minute pace for the last mile and i'm glad to say my calf behaved and gave me no trouble. The fact that the pace was easy and the terrain flat may have helped.
This was all the encouragement I needed to keep my date with the Bayrun half marathon this morning as I headed off to west cork shortly after 7. (I had paid for it and there was free physio afterwards) I bumped into my neighbour Pat in Bantry (finish line) and gave him a lift to Glengariff where the race was starting. As the first 4 miles of the race (and the worst hill) were within a mile of the start (the first 2.75 miles is an out and back loop) I figured that if things got rough I would be close to the car if I needed an exit strategy. My plan was to run relatively comfortably and protect my calf by taking it easy on the uphills. I thought I would be able to manage 8 minute pace (or close to it). After picking up our race numbers we went on a 2 mile warmup - 1 mile uphill at 9 minute pace and back down at 07:30 pace. Legs holding out - so far so good.
Catherina McKiernan was starting the race (and running in it) - (Catherina was just over a minute outside the then world record when she won the Amsterdam marathon in 1998 in 2:22:23).
Once the gun went off I eased into my stride as those around me raced off. A quick glance at the garmin showed a comfortable 08:30 pace. Half a mile later it was averaging 07:45 but still comfortable so I kept plugging away. Pat and I ran together over the first three miles as we looped back towards the start line and headed up the hill out of Glengariff towards Bantry.
Miles 1 to 3 in 07:37/38/26.
Then came the hill up out of Glengariff (I took a gel at the bottom). My pace eased back a little as I shortened my stride. Over the next mile and a half the upward gradient continued and surprisingly I left Pat behind me and passed a steady stream of runners. My calf held up pretty well but I didn't expect the level of general aches and pains I was feeling - probably due to the lack of any significant running over the last 2 weeks. Still it wasn't a big deal.
Mile 4 in 08:05.
At the top of the hill I passed a girl who had passed me just after the 1 mile mark. On the downhill section to Mile 5 she passed me back but I kept a few yards behind her without altering my pace.
Mile 5 in 07:27.
I passed her again as we approached the timing mat at mile 5.5. We exchanged places a few more times before she increased the gap between us to 10 yards. I maintained my pace which rose and fell with the gradient as if I was locked into a preset effort level (calf protection mode - still a long way to the finish).
Downhill Miles 6 and 7 in 07:10/04.
We came up on the back of a group of runners strung out over 20 yards after the 7 mile mark and slowly reeled them in. It was nice to run in a group for a change. The gradient continued downhill and for some unexplained reason I decided to up my pace and surged forward out of the group down to the 8 mile mark where I came alongside Denis Looney of Eagle AC. We briefly exchanged pleasantries before returning to our silent efforts.
Mile 8 in 06:45. (took my second gel)
I was feeling strong at this stage and maintained my new found effort as the route followed the coast at sea level. I continued to reel in and pass others although I was worried that while the effort was relatively comfortable my left leg may not be up to the challenge.
Mile 9 in 06:53.
We rounded the headland into Ballylickey on towards the 10 mile mark up an incline.
Mile 10 in 07:10 - I knew the Garmin miles were shorter that the actual miles and noticed that it was 50 seconds after the garmin beeped that I passed the 10 mile marker. (average of 5 seconds to be added to the mile splits)
Legs holding out pretty well although the general achy feeling that I felt during the early miles persisted. The road rose and fell again over the next few miles and I noticed that the camber was having an impact on my calf as I jumped to and from the footpath looking for the most comfortable surface. One guy passed me shortly after the 10 mile mark at a relatively strong pace despite the fact that I was still passing those in front of me.
Mile 11 in 07:29 (Hilly)
Shortly after the 11 mile mark I could feel a dull ache coming on my calf. "Please God don't give up on me now just hold out for another 10 or 12 minutes". I continued on as the discomfort increased slightly. Downhill past the last watering station and the last uphill past the 12 mile mark.
Mile 12 in 07:05.
I passed 3 guys shortly after the 12 mile mark and as it was 100+ yards to the next guy thought that I was finished exchanging places for the day. Now all that was left was the downhill into Bantry, make sure that no one passed me. The discomfort in my calf increased as I reached the bottom of the hill - through the narrow streets of Bantry - the guy in front was getting closer. Still not sure if my calf would sustain the increase in effort necessary for overtaking. I passed him just before the 13 mile mark and upped the pace towards the finish line just to make sure I was well past him.
Mile 13 in 06:54.
I thought I crossed under the finish line in 01:35:xx - I wasn't really concentrating and I did not stop the garmin either. However my official time is 01:36:08 which is a personal worst by 16 seconds (a record which stood since September 2007 when I also ran a conservative race due to a calf injury!). I've never been so happy with a personal worst. An enjoyable run on a beautiful sunny morning and hopefully I am back on the road and can get some solid training in over the next few weeks before tapering for Cork. I'm not out of the woods yet though, the stiffness in my left calf this afternoon is sufficient to remind me of that. A running rest day tomorrow and an easy recovery/evaluation run on Tuesday should inform me on my recovery progress. The "Go" Gels I used today appear to be agreeable so I will use them for Cork.
The timing mat at mile 5.5 showed that my pace up to that point was 07:32 increasing to 07:11 for the last 7.6 miles giving an overall average of 07:20. It also showed that I passed 44 runners during those faster 7.6 miles and that I was passed by 1.
This is my third time running this race and I have yet to go sub-90 - Next Year perhaps!
2007 - 01:32:29
2008 - 01:30:00
2009 - 01:36:08
I availed of the free physio session after the race and my left calf got a good going over. A hop on the courtesy bus back to Glengariff and a walk down the slipway and into the cold Atlantic water to begin the muscle repair process. I was joined by Laura Buckley of Eagle AC. We must have looked a bit odd standing there up to our waist chatting about running and triathlon.
Mon 27th Apr
3.05 miles in 27:37 (09:04 pace @ 126 HR)
Thur 30th Apr
2.5 miles in 20:50 (08:20 pace - treamill)
5.29 miles in 42:32 (08:02 pace @ 144 HR)
April 2009 (Run 210.2 miles, Bike 49.3 miles, Swim 11,000m)
Sat 2nd May
7.13 miles in 59:46 (08:23 pace @ 137 HR)
Sun 3rd May
15.12 miles with 13.11 miles in 01:36:08 (07:20 pace @ 157 HR)
Marathon Peak Week #5 (Run 33.1 miles, Bike 16.5 miles, Swim 3,000m)