Thursday, 23 October 2008

Amsterdam, the aftermath.

My mile splits from Amsterdam read as follows:-
1 - 08:05 - 147HR (tight enough start and difficult to pass)
2 - 07:25 - 158HR (getting there)
3 - 07:16 - 159HR (still getting there - wanted sub 07:10)
4 - 07:20 - 161HR (still not there)
5 - 07:11 - 165HR (that's more like it)
6 - 07:09 - 166HR (feels like this is the best i'll do, but can I keep it)
7 - 07:24 - 164HR (not likely)
8 - 07:06 - 167HR (back on track - feeling better)
9 - 07:17 - 168HR (feeling the effort - this should feel easier)
10- 07:32 - 169HR (the rest of the run to mile 18 was based on keeping my HR at 170 or below)
11 - 07:20 - 169HR
12 - 07:23 - 169HR
13 - 07:32 - 168HR (half way at 01:37:37)
14 - 07:27 - 169HR
15 - 07:40 - 170HR (ouch - feeling tired)
16 - 07:31 - 171HR
17 - 07:56 - 172HR (nothing I can do - can't even keep HR down)
18 - 08:10 - 170HR (pulled up towards end of mile as sudden pain in calf)
19 - 16:03 - 127HR (HR under control - pace disastrous, can't have everything!)
20 - 14:44 - 120HR
21 - 11:25 - 138HR (resumed with a slow shuffle)
22 - 11:13 - 147HR (continue with slow shuffle)
23 - 08:53 - 160HR (tag onto faster runner and calf holds out - body resists at the start)
24 -08:14 - 169Hr (tag onto 03:45 pacer - effort, while no longer comfortable, is manageable)
25 - 08:31 - 169 HR (momentary lapse)
26 - 08:13 - 175HR ( I think i'm cruising - it' all relative)
26.42 - 07:33 pace 180HR (I'm smoking down the home straight - it's only afterwards, upon
reflection that I realise my finishing pace is less than my average PB pace.
I was never heading for a PB, the way I was slowing down before mile 18 - so the injury was the perfect excuse I needed to take it easy. Enough said.
Adrian, my running partner, was well on his way to his first sub-4 hour (01:54 half) when he got clipped by another runner and suffered a similar injury to mine, but he gritted it out to come in uder the 04:30 mark.
We left the marathon behind us on Sunday night as we met up for a few beers with the rest of the Cork contigent who were running the half. Austin & Siobhan and Tadhg & Rhona. Austin missed his 01:20 target by just 44 seconds and Rhona was 9th woman overall in a time of 01:25:33. The few beers turned into a few more and a taxi back to the hotel for 3 a.m. on Monday.
The rest of monday was a cultural day spent in the Van Gogh and Rijks Museums looking at the likes of these:-
They're far better than any marathon photos.
The evening was spent looking at the other sights Amsterdam has to offer.
There are five words that epotomise Amsterdam:-
Bicycles :- Everywhere - everybody cycles as there are no hills. Even the ladies in the fur coats
and high heels.
Trams:- Great for getting around (€10 unlimited 3-day travel on trams, metro & buses)
Canals:- 1250 bridges.
Coffee Houses:- A big tourist attraction.
The red-light district:- The other attraction. I had to avert my eyes, sensitive Irish soul that I am.
We flew home on Tuesday morning, but there was no rest for me as I had to head up the country for two further (work related) days away from home, getting back this evening. Needless to say I have not run, although my legs are fine and I cannot feel my injury. I think i'll use to next few weeks to get back into the swimming and cycling and lay off the running.
Best of luck to all those running the Dublin Marathon this weekend. (John & Thomas come to mind, although not in that particular order) Should see some sub-3 hour guys here.

Sunday, 19 October 2008


Greetings from Amsterdam. The time above shows that while things didn't go to plan I finished and am happy to have done so. In summary my calf held out until just before mile 18 (although the first sign of trouble was at mile 5 - so glad that it let me get as far as I did because if it happened at mile 5 I surely would have had a big DNF. Bottom line is I was determined to finish and started walking. On the plus side the watering stations were like a treasure trove of goodies...I'll have another banana and sports drink, thank you very much". After a mile or so I got bored and decided, from the 20m mile mark, to set a sub 4 hour target which required a 12:30 mile pace. My best walk would only give me a 13:30 mile so I started a slow jog. A pervious attempt at this had failed, but this time it was manageable and my pace improved to 11:30 or so - great, I could still stop at the watering stations and do a bit of food shopping and make up the lost time when I resumed jogging. With about 4 miles to go I tagged on to the coattails of another runner who was slightly faster in the hope that I would be pulled along. And sure enough it appeared to work. I carried on like this for a while, being very careful with my right leg. Then the 03:45 pacer passed us by. I ditched my pacer and followed the guy with the red baloon, now with the intention of beating my slowest marathon time (03:47). I found the effort hard going despite the long walking break and any notion that my calf was ok was quickly dispelled when a sharp pain shot through it going over a ramp. It appeareed that the closer I landed to the front of my foot the more intense the pain and so I made a conscious effort to land far back on my heel as I could, which made for a funny stride. With 2k to go I left the baloon man behind, remenber he started behind me and would probably bring me in closer to 3:46/47. One benefit of having an easy race number (4,000) is that it attarcted the attention of the organisers and just before I entered the Oylmpic stadium the crowd were addressed over the public address with "here come number 4,000, a big cheer for Grellan McGrath from Ireland" what a buzz it gave me as I entered the stadium and sprinted for the line. Great finish despite my tale of woe. To be honest my early pace was going to get me nowhere near 3:00 or even 3:10. I was suffering before I stopped and walked (came through the half in something like 1:38). I think my peak came 4 weeks ago in the Blarney half and mostly stayed for the 15 mile Cork to Cobh. I've come to the conclusion that the Brain Training programme I was following has too much speedwork over a long period of time and is probably more suited to shorter distances. Time for some beers now!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

An exercise in Blind Faith

A few week before I ran the Barcelona Marathon in March last year I got a pain in the fleshy part of the heel of my right foot every time I ran. I went to a physio and between the jigs and the reels he advised "no running" until race day. Of course this was alien to me - how was I going to know whether I could run pain free or not? So after a few days I resumed running and although the pain returned and my runs felt miserable (speedwork was out of the question) the pain got no worse.
At my final session with the physio, about 5 days before the race, he doubly stressed ""I told you -absolutely no running". and this time I listened. I prepared for the marathon as best I could and even bought a foot support strap thingy in case I needed it.
An so on a sunny March morning in Barcelona I went for a test run to see if the pain was still there and hey presto! it was completely gone and not only that - I felt completely energised from my enforced rest. I tucked the foot support thingy into my waistband just in case but I never needed it (I actually lost it somewhere on the course)
That was the most enjoyable Marathon I ever ran (5 to-date) - I actually felt no real discomfort until about 2 km to go and achieved a 13 minute PB (3:34). I'll admit, I did not push myself too hard (I was probably capable of sub 3:30) - but the suffering I endured during my previous (and first) marathon had given me a healthy respect for the distance.
I now find myself in a similar position where I just have to trust myself not to run until race day to give my calf the best opportunity to repair. The injury is different this time round and probably a bit more serious (I think it is a small tear in the muscle). No point in "testing" and risking setting me back a week or more - if I test it on Sunday and it fails to deliver I'll know I could not have done any better.
No running for 7 day now - any notion that I should go for a test run was knocked on the head when I felt a sharp pain in my calf when increasing my pace while playing hide & seek with the kids last Saturday and again on Tuesday. Plenty of RICE when I can fit it in (manic busy week at home and work).
Best of luck to all those running Marathon's this weekend (PEI & MDI - may the best man win)
Marathon Training Week 16/16 - Zero, Nada - I may get a long run in on Sunday though.
p.s. I'm not too pissed though as I know i'll be back running soon enough, either way and hey a weekend in Amsterdam is not to be sniffed at.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Not So Good fact "Not very good at all" or "what a fuc#ing disaster" depending on what way you look at it and how long after the event it is, but given my philosophical temperament "Not So Good" is fine.
And now that the title is sorted..........................
While recovery from Sunday's 15 Miler appeared to go well with no niggles except for a bit of tightness in both calves after Tuesday's reduced intervals I picked up an injury during Thursday's scheduled tempo run.
I felt fine at the track on Tuesday evening but decided to deviate from the plan and reduce the length of the 3k, 2k, 1k & 0.8k intervals at HM, 10k, 5k & 3k pace but perhaps keep the pace on the comfortably aggressive side (i.e. sacrifice distance for speed) and it went pretty much to plan as follows:-
Dist (km) - Time - pace (km) - pace (mile) 2.08 - 08:01 - 03:51 - 06:12 1.248 - 04:31 - 03:37 - 05:49 0.832 - 02:52 - 03:27 - 05:33 0.416 - 01:20 - 03:12 - 05:09
Wednesday I was busy at work and I only managed 2.5 miles on the treadmill at lunchtime (that's fine, i'm tapering)
Thurdsay was also pretty busy but I decided to get a shortened version of the scheduled tempo run (2 x 2.5 Miles @ HM Pace) in after work. As the evening was wet I was half tempted to give the whole run a miss, but convinced myself to go ahead with it as I had a busy work day on Friday also and would not get the opportunity to run.
I'd decided to keep it to 2 x 2 miles but if it felt too strenuous I would reduce or cut the 2nd set of fast miles - no need to push it too much. So after a mile warmup I started into the first mile completing it in 06:26 (feeling strong). The pace at the start of the 2nd mile was a bit on the fast side and I was beginning to feel the effort a bit more, so much so that on coming towards the end I was already deciding to reduce the length of the return leg. Then I felt a sudden cramping sort of pain in the top of my right calf. I stopped immediately and stretched and knew there and then that it was going to be a slow jog/walk the 3 miles home. In fact the attempts to jog had to be abandoned as I could feel the pain coming on.
I think/hope it's just a mild sprain but 24 hours later I can still feel the tenderness especially when walking on the tip of my toes (using the stairs) and know that the next time I am likely to test it is over a 26.2 mile course in 9 days time.
I could rant and rave about.......just about everything, but what would be the point of that. I trust there will be plenty of comments about how I should have taken it easy after Sunday and not taken the risk so close to my goal race etc. etc. but hey! everything is a risk and if I didn't take any I'd be still sitting on the couch without knowing I was blessed with so many mitochondria. Perhaps ignorance is bliss after all. I take some comfort from the stories I have read of elites being laid up for three weeks before race day and pulling off PB's on the day (i.e. the sudden unexpected taper). I know that if I can run on the day the PB is certainly there for the taking.
. Tue 7th Oct 6.14 Miles in about 50 minutes with Mixed intervals 2k to .4k @ 06:12 to 05:09 Pace . Wed 8th Oct 2.5 Miles in 20:00 . Thur 9th Oct 5.9 Miles in 01:00:09 with 1.83 Miles in 11:32 ( 06:18 Pace @ 158 HR) and most of the rest at a slow shuffle. Sleep: plenty of time for that. Legs: left - excellent condition, right - slightly worn.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

The Best Laid Plans and all that

I set out this morning to run the 15 miles between Cork and Cobh at 3 hour marathon pace (06:50 or thereabouts, which would give me 1:42:30 - more or less last years race pace) and failed miserably. I wonder was I ever really going to stick to my plan. I had already given myself some latitude - 06:40 (wouldn't it be nice to get under 1:40) to 06:50 pace depending on how I felt. It's just that I knew a few guys that were going out at 06:40 pace and the company would be nice. I headed into town with Adrian ( my Amsterdam marathon buddy) shortly after 8 for registration, preparation, check the waterworks and warmup. It was only on leaving registration that I noticed I had left the Garmin on the kitchen table at home - not to worry, back to the stopwatch and mile splits - although the need for a running companion to pace off became more desirable. Where's Thomas when you need him (first deviation from plan). I completed a short 1.2 mile (approx) warmup along Horgan's Quay and the Lower Glamire Road and made my way to the start. The sky was clear and the sun shining (beautiful day) with a temperature of about 13 to 15 degrees. I looked around the start line and sure enough Thomas was there in the throng near enough to the front. He told me he was heading out at 06:40 pace (the same pace incidentally that John Desmond and Pat Murphy of Eagle AC had told me last week they were heading out at - so there were a few that I could keep an eye on). The gun sounded and we were off in the October sunshine. I kept pace with Thomas for the first mile. "This is just like jogging" he remarked after about half a mile. "Why, what pace are we at" I replied. "06:35" - nice pace for jogging certainly. John Desmond and Derek O'Keeffe of Eagle passed by - John saying he was targeting 06:40 pace (his target pace for Dublin) and Derek 06:30. I missed the first mile split and Thomas had started to pull away from me. "This is all good, on target for 06:50 miles" I thought. As we headed down the Glanmire Road. I kept the pace steady and took the lap time for Mile 2 - 13:22 (06:51 pace - more or less on target but I would not want to ease off - actually the pace was 06:41 but after the lap time had gone from the watch I though I had seen 13:42). I was more or less running on my own at this stage with Thomas in a sizable bunch of runners 20 to 30 yards ahead. Mile 3 in 06:43 - passed the first watering station and out the Eastern Parkway to Little Island Junction (slight deviation from last years route). I kept the pace reasonably steady keeping the same distance behind the group in front, where I could see Thomas, John Desmond and Pat Murphy. Mile 4 in 06:41 - I started counting my time surplus/deficit against my target 06:50 pace. Plus 2 up to mile 2. Minus 14 to mile 4. Mile 5 in 06:33 as we headed off the parkway and on towards Glounthane. My pace had increased as I was closing slightly on the bunch in front. Minus 31 for mile 5. Mile 6 in 06:31 - Minus 49 "Perhaps I should be counting relative to 06:40 pace - plus 11 it is then" as the overall 01:40 target began to loom large. See! - it never entered my head that maybe I should ease up - well not while I was still so close to the 06:40 pacers. The pace remained steady and relatively comfortable. Still 20 yards behind the 06:40 group, although a few guys fell out the back towards me. Mile 7 in 06:43 - 2nd watering station ahead - I took my power bar gel out - the biggest effort involved biting off the top and getting some down my throat before taking a cup of water. Up to the half way mark and pressed the lap button "03:29 - "that can't be right and sure enough the time to the 8 mile mark of 03:04 gave me a total of 06:33 for mile 8. Still reasonably comfortable as we headed from Cobh Cross towards Fota with a slight gradual downhill - pull alongside Der Maloney who was falling out the back of the group in front. Mile 9 in 06:21 - I didn't realise it was that fast. I had long stopped counting the surplus/deficit in relation to 06:40 mileing but knew that I was within range. Past the entrance to Fota towards the 10 mile mark and Belvelly bridge (onto Great Island). Thomas was now within 5 seconds. Mile 10 in 06:56 - The mile markers are certainly wrong - no worries still sub-06:40 for the last 2 miles. 3rd watering station and I squeeze a bit more goo into my mouth and put my hand out for the cup of water, which was virtually empty so I slow down to take another cup and by the time I look up the 06:40 group, with Thomas pushing to the front, have gained 20 yards. As we make our way along the north side of Great Island the group begins to string out with Thomas going off the front. That's it, while he may have been a target to that point, I wasn't giving chase - this was supposed to be a less than maximal effort and I wanted to keep it that way. Mile 11 in 06:21 - kept plugging away. John Desmond just ahead. "I thought you were supposed to be taking it easy" he said. "I though I was too" I replied "but you were tantalisingly close". He though we had a minute cushion on a 01:40 finish, but then revised it by saying "maybe not, it's hard to think at this stage in the race" and off he went to build up a bit more of a cushion. Mile 12 in 06:36 - slower due to the gradual incline. "Three more miles to go, lets say 20 minutes" - which I start counting down - this is always the first sign that I want this thing to be over. Still my pace is steady and not too strenuous. Mile 13 on 06:37 - the stress begins and the effect of the sub-06:50 pace begins to take it's toll. There's no way i'm going to feel reasonably fresh after 15 miles - how could I - I had not stuck to my plan. Mile 14 in 06:49 - "I must be suffering if the pace is slowing, only a mile to go hang in there". I get passed by 2 runners during the last mile, however I pass a few also. 3 minutes left, 2 and then I can see the top of the fall into Cobh which is gradual at first and then steepens as I pick up the pace on hearing footsteps behind me - racing for the finish line, Nollaig Hunter just in front of me as I pass under the clock in 01:38:56 - overall 06:36 pace. Nollaig turned out to be third female. Mile 15 in 06:10. I was certainly happy with my result but a little disappointed that I neither stuck to my original plan nor raced. However the way I felt at the end I was certainly close to the "race" end of the spectrum and had I decided to race from the start I don't know if I would have done much better. I'd probably have gone out faster and suffered more/slowed down over the last miles. I warmed down over 2 miles (to the 14 mile mark) with Thomas and John Desmond afterwards. Thomas certainly had a great race and killed off a few demons in the process, i'd say. Best of luck to him in his sub 3 hour quest in Dublin, he's certainly ready. Also best of luck to Richard in his sub-3:30 quest in Dublin - should be no problem after today's 01:47 (I think) Adrian had a great day, coming in 2 minutes ahead of his target. Following a cup of tea and a few cakes in the scout hall Adrian and I headed for the train station to get the train back to Cork. No train for an hour - so we decided to hitch (I hadn't hitched in 20 years) and got a lift from a very nice gentleman, who brought us directly to my car - so we were home by the time the train pulled in to Cobh station. And now the taper for Amsterdam awaits. Sun 5th Oct about 18.2 Miles with 15 Miles in 01:38:56 @ god know's what HR. Sleep - 6.5 hrs: 7.5/10 Legs: 8/10 With 5 easy miles on Friday Marathon week 14/16 gave me 47.2 Miles. Well done to the other racers today - Brendan, who ran the Great North Run half marathon very close to his PB, Private, who went sub 17 minutes in a 5k for the first of many times and Nic who PB'd on his marathon time to get 3:08:19, which is only a training run for a 50 miler he has in three weeks time. Have a good week and don't get knocked down on the roads.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

A Bit of a Non Runner

This week, the final week of hard(est) effort - the peak week with the toughest workouts has been a bit of a non-runner. Monday was fine - I got out for about 11.5 miles but the run felt stale with my left hamstring and glute achy and the perceived effort yielding a less than satisfactory pace. A 1km swim in the evening, on the other hand went quite well. As Tuesday progressed I felt a touch of a cold coming on with a general feeling of achyness and shivers all over, which, coupled with evening rain, was excuse enough for me to cancel the mixed intervals at the track. I kept this excuse for Wednesday also despite feeling much better. This morning however I broke the spell and got out for a tempo run of 2 x 3 Miles @ HM pace (the programme said 2 x 4.5 - but time was not on my side and that was all the excuse I needed). The outbound 3 miles went according to plan in 06:27, 06:29 @ 06:28 - but I was glad I was resting after the 3. During the half mile recovery I decided (quite rashly) that as I had cut the number of fast miles I would keep the sub-06:30 pace for the 3 home bound miles (It's great what you can plan from the relative comfort of a sub-145 HR) Unfortunately the 3 home bound miles went something like this:- 0 - 0.5 Miles @ 06:19 pace 0.75 miles - still at 06:20 pace - plunged into the darkness of the straight road - cars headlights coming against me on my side of the road - stepping onto the footpath - couldn't see a bloody thing until the car was near - had to slow right down until car had passed - nearly twisted my ankle on one occasion - difficult to get back on pace - repeat every 40 seconds. 1 mile in 06:35. Back to street lighting by 1.75 miles - mile pace @ 7:00 (felt like walking) finished mile 2 in 07:01. Mile 3 was somewhat better @ 06:45 to give 06:47 avg for the return leg. Overall 6 miles @ 06:38 pace, which looks better. On the plus side my left hamstring and glute felt much better although I did feel stiffness throughout the day. On reflecting on the elites marathon pace after last Sundays world record in Berlin I tried to put it into perspective - Mcmillan says I could run an 800m race (assuming proper training) in just a tad over 2:22 which is a second slower than what Mr Gebrselassie covered his 52.5 x 800m last Sunday. I.e. running flat out I would have kept with the leaders for less than half a mile before collapsing - that surely puts me in my box.
Mon 29th Sept 11.49 Miles in 01:31:11 (07:56 Pace @ 128 HR) Sleep 6.5hrs: 7/10 Legs: 6/10 Tue 30th Sept 2.5 Miles in 20;00 (08:00 Pace - Treadmill) Thur 1st Oct 10;02 Miles in 01:12:29 (07;14 Pace @ 151HR) with 2 x 3 Miles @ 06:28 & 06:47 Pace. Sleep - 6hrs: 7/10 Legs 7/10