Sunday, 14 April 2013

New Era

The Plan

It’s been a long time since I followed any sort of training programme. In 2011 I had a loose adhoc programme for my Sub 3 hour marathon in Dublin all based around a weekly tempo run and a couple of marathon pace long runs. This week I started a slightly more structured 10 week programme for the Portumna Marathon on 15th June – more like the skeleton of a programme with 6 weeks of 2 quality sessions per week (speedwork & long run) culminating in a half Marathon Race – the Bandon Half on 11th May fits in perfectly – although I heard it’s not the fastest of courses. I’ll have to fill in the rest of the programme with 1 hour to 90 minute easy/steady/recovery runs depending on how I feel and when my next quality session is.

A week after the HM is the key workout of the programme – 3 x 4 miles @ MP with 3 miles easy between each MP effort all between 2 miles warmup and cooldown. It is only 12 miles @ MP but the quality of the session will all depend on how hard I run the “recoveries”. The last 22 days of the programme are pretty specific and no easy ride either - starting with a 22 mile long run and including a 15 mile MP run and mile repeats @ 10k pace – so interesting times ahead, something to keep me focussed.

The Form

Given the shortness of the programme I needed to be in reasonable shape from both an endurance and speed perspective. With 6 marathons/ultras under my belt so far this year my endurance base is pretty good. It was my speed that needed (and still does need) a little work. I had completed mile repeats at 6:20 to 6:40 pace at the track on and off since the start of the year but the real test would be an evaluation run. Two week ago I ran a 20 minute tempo run with the Club and managed to get over 5k (6:16 Garmin pace). I hoped to double this to a sub 40 minute 10K at last weekend’s UCC 10k. I had missed this race for the last 3 years as I was away racing the Connemara Ultra the same weekend.

I knew I wasn’t in PB shape - 38:15 on the same course 5 years ago! Funnily enough back then my Marathon PB was 3:22, which I dropped to 3:17 in Cork two months later – still way off 3 hours and yet up to speed on the shorter races. The race doubled as a long run with my neighbour Ian, who wanted to get an 18 mile training run in for his first marathon - so the plan was to run 6 miles in, register for the race, run it and cooldown over the 6 miles home. The strong easterly wind was going to make the second half of the race challenging.

The opening mile and a half was a bit of a head-wrecker as the world and its father were passing me out. I guess I’m not used to fast starts and was in energy preservation mode. I managed to steady my place in the field and reel a few in - passing the 2 mile mark a few seconds under 13 minutes, already short of the 6:24 pace I'd need for the sub-40. Top of the hill at mile 2.5 and I was able to open up my stride a little along with Clubmate Keith - reeling in a group in front, passing the 3 mile mark in about 19:08 (6:23 avg) - just about on target. Left past the Anglers Rest and left again onto the straight road past the 4 mile mark - 25:24 (6:21 avg). Into a headwind for the last 2.2. Over the next half mile I managed to reel in a group of five in front and tucked in at the back to get pulled along. The Garmin was showing an average 6:19 pace, which told me I was on target, even allowing a few seconds for error. The effort was much more manageable tucked in behind the group and with half a mile to go I prematurely left the relative comfort of the group as they were going a bit slower than I wanted and I forged ahead on my own - much tougher now. Mile 6 in 38:08 keeping the pace steady but no kick to hold back the three guys who went surging past before I crossed the line in 39:33. Job done, well off my PB but on target.

The First Steps

The race kind of scuppered the first speed session of my training programme 2 days later (too close but I had no other opportunity to get it in) – 8 mile warmup up followed by 6 x 1 mile @ HMP with 1 minute recoveries and 2 mile warmdown. I converted the 6 x 1 to 4 x 1.5 (90 second recoveries) and managed to complete 3 @ 6:14/17/23 pace before calling it a day as I was progressively slowing down during the 3rd rep and the 4th would not have been worth the pain and effort – anyway 6.2 straight miles @ 6:21 pace 2 days beforehand was enough of a training benefit.

My first scheduled long run on Saturday went a bit better – 18 miles with the last 2 at MP. I integrated it with a 13 mile club run at 7:20/30 pace, getting 3 miles in beforehand and heading off on my own for the last 2, for which I had targeted a 6:40 pace, to see how I’d get on after 16 miles of steady running. I ran them a little faster and certainly harder than marathon pace/effort in 6:32/34 – it certainly felt more like a tempo run than a pace I could sustain for more than 20 minutes. All good training. 1 week down – 9 to go.

The Experiment

I’m 5 weeks into my intermittent fasting regime and on balance it appears to be delivering on my main goal of shedding a few pounds without serious food withdrawal symptoms. It does take a bit of getting used to, not eating every day until 5 in the evening, but it is very simple to follow – there’s a time for eating and a time for not eating – no counting calories, weighing out food or such nonsense - I would never be any good at that sort of control anyway – too much thinking for my likening .

I still managed to down a pound of black magic chocolates the week after Easter and generally have included more fat and protein in my diet and cut back on carbs (particularly in the form of grains) – I haven’t seen a bowl of porridge in over a month – doesn’t seem right eating porridge after dinner in the evening ;-) I was a little worried about cutting back on carbs and how it would impact on my hard runs but have not seen a noticeable impact yet (early days perhaps), although running back from last weekends 10k (with all my Glycogen reserves gone) both Ian and I felt a bonk coming on and we stopped 2 miles from home so that Ian could refuel on a Granola bar while I looked on, wondering how I was going to pass the following 4 hours..…….pain is temporary – how may times have I heard that since I started running.

The First Steps Are Always The Easiest.


  1. Great post Grellan. You have a lot of good hard training sessions ahead of you. A good time in Bandon will see you right for Portuma as will the 3x4 mile repeat session. Woouldn't mind being able to drop the weight either !!!!

  2. So you going for another sub 3 then Grellan? Best of luck with that. Liam.

  3. Any sub-40 is a good one if you ask me. Can barely remember my last one - it was back in the '90s! It'll be interesting to see how you go with the plan - may give the PB a nudge, even if it isn't a flat course. Losing a few kgs is going to help with that too.

  4. Sub 40 sounds good to me Grellan aside from the age diff was there much of a difference in weight when you did the PB?
    Running 6.32/4 for the last 2 miles of a 16 miler interesting stuff..can't be much comfort in that id say.. nice one

    1. I don't know what my weight was back then Rob. The main difference is that I was doing far more speedwork and shorter races than I am doing now.

  5. Look into "Intermittent Fasting" Grellan, seems like something that works to help get rid of any stubborn body fat.

    1. That's what I did do Scott - hence my current diet.