Monday, 31 May 2010

The Experiment

What You Need 1. Garmin 305 2. zip-lock plastic freezer/sandwich bag 3. Goggles 4. Hat (swimming variety - neoprene preferably) 5. Wet-Suit (optional) 6. Lake (or other open water body) Preparation 1. Go to the lake 2. Don wetsuit (preferably over swimming trunks) Instructions 1. Turn on the Garmin and switch to "Other" in the Running/Biking/Other menu. 2. Preselect Training - Training Options - Autopause - Custom Speed - 0.5 km/hr 3. Place Garmin in zip-lock bag. 4. Place zip-lock bag in rear of swimming hat and place swimming hat on head making sure to set the Garmin facing forward so that you know the Start from the Lap button. 5. Put on goggles using the straps to secure the Garmin under the swimming hat while making sure that they don't cross over the Stop/Lap buttons. 6. Enter lake, press the start button and begin swimming. 7. Exit lake, remove goggles, swimming hat and Garmin and press the Stop button. Nothing to it really! Results 1. Leaking goggles. A couple of mid swim adjustments were necessary.

2. An intermittent beeping sound coming from the back of my swimming hat - this was reassuring on three counts

A. It proved that the Garmin was still there B. It proved that it was still functioning and C. It proved that I must have pressed the correct button as I concluded (after wondering what the f*#k was all the beeping about) that the autopause function was kicking in, which was borne out by the beep when I stopped to adjust my goggles and the second beep when I resumed swimming - although there were more virtual stops than real ones. 3. 1,232 yards in 20:50 = 29:46 minute miles. The best track of my swim is below.

4. While the surface was a bit choppy and my head bobbed about a bit the elevation profile suggests a very undulating course.

I conducted the above experiment at lunchtime today in Inniscarra Lake with Connie and Pete (The Jedward of triathlon - so enthusiastic) although they were more observers than participants. Connie was very supportive though saying - "I don't mind, it's your Garmin". In case you thought i'd lost it completly I was following in the footsteps of others. .

Friday, 28 May 2010

The T-Shirt Plan

I took to the quite country roads of east Cork for my first race since the Connemara Ultra over 6 weeks ago. The Ballyandreen 5, the first in the Ballycotton 5 mile summer series kicked off last night with a record crowd of 520 runners. My aim this year is to complete all four races in the series and maybe win a T-shirt for my efforts. If you manage to complete all 4 races over the summer and your overall time is within the top 50 (15 for women) you get a free T-shirt - can't wait!
To be quite honest my running form is nowhere near what it was at the start of the year and with an average of 3 runs a week over the last 5 weeks I wasn't planning on hitting the PB stakes just yet - but I will before the summer's out. With that in mind I settled into the middle of the pack with a few from the club who were training for the upcoming Cork marathon and going out at a manageable 3hr+ marathon pace (6:50 or thereabouts). It took us about 12 seconds to cross the start line and we took it relatively easy for the first half mile before picking up the pace once we were past the worst of the traffic jam.
The first mile was a net uphill averaging 6:54 (7:06 on the timekeepers clock). Mile 2 down into Ballycotton was a net downhill particularly over the 2nd half where I took advantage of the hill to pick up the pace - Mile 2 in 6:19. During Mile 3 I kept with the increased effort which was reasonably comfortable and continued to pick off runners in front of me. Mile 3 in 6:27.
Mile 4 was a net uphill with the last 0.3 miles consisting of a 100 foot climb. I was passed by a guy at about mile 3.5 but remained 5 to 10 yards behind him plugging our way up the hill and picking off a few tiring souls. The hill eventually levelled out as we passed the 4 mile mark. Mile 4 in 7:00. I took a look at my watch to check my pace before heading into the downhill mile to the finish. A Marshall told me to forget about the watch and run. I took his advice and focused instead on the runners in front of me and particularly the only guy that had passed me since I crossed the start line. I let the brakes off and picked up the pace continuing to accelerate more or less until I crossed the finish line. With about half a mile to go I was past the guy who had passed me. I thought he would put up a fight so I kept increasing the pace taking full advantage of the hill and continued to pass runners coming in towards the finish passing 2 in the last 20 yards.
Maybe it was the fact that I had saved my legs over the first half of the race that I managed to pick off so many runners over the last half mile or maybe my downhill running has much improved (the switch to the bike over the last month may have something to do with that) Mile 5 in 5:40 - 32:20 Overall (32:32 clock time)
I came 96th overall so I have my work cut out for me if I want that T-shirt. Then again not all of those in front of me were men and of those that were not all will run the full series, fingers crossed.

Despite the low running volume I still manged to get a 20 and 18 mile long run in over the last 2 weekends and will now follow the traditional taper for Cork, deciding against training through it.


Thursday, 13 May 2010

On My Knees

10 x 400m was on the cards last night at the track. Pat Murphy, my Thursday evening partner now for three weeks, was recovering from a cold/infection and therefore decided to join me for every second 400m. He was also recovering from his efforts at the weekend where he took a gold in the 3000m and a silver in the 1500m in the M50 category at the AAI county track championship.
Having done 400s for the previous 2 weeks building up from 6 to 8 and now to 10, I thought it would be well within my capability. As all lanes were open our target was lane 1 at 80 second reps and similar recoveries. Piece of piss:
1 - 79 (with Pat - no problem)
2 - 78 (good)
3 - 78 (with Pat - tough)
4 - 78 (this is hard work and i'm not even half way)
5 - 78 (with Pat - my legs are heavy before I start, have to push to keep up)
6 - 79 (I can't see how i'm going to last the full 10 without slowing down)
7 - 78 (With Pat - he's pushing ahead of me and I struggle to keep up)
8 - 80 (This is getting very uncomfortable - can I stop now)
9 - 79 (With Pat - that's it, i'm spent i'll just push hard on the last one but not kill myself)
10-79 (Pat joins me and I have to dig deep over the last 100 so as not to fall off the pace - i'm on my knees at the end).
The faster the speedwork that harder the pain but surprisingly the quicker the recovery - My legs felt fresh coming away from the track.
I checked my log to see if I had done sessions like this before and found that while I had completed similarly fast 400's in the past my recoveries were longer, typically 400m at a slow jog (at least double the time of the fast rep).
According to Daniels Running Formula if I were running Intervals (I-Pace) my target pace should be slower - about 86/87 second laps (as for my longer 1k Intervals) and my recoveries shorter (i.e. start every 400m on 2 minutes or 2:10) with the aim of maximising my time running at VO2max. I-Pace should be the same no matter what the distance. On the other hand if I were running Repetitions (R-Pace) my target pace at 80 seconds would be correct but my recoveries should be long enough until "you feel you can perform the next run as well as you did the previous one". A general rule is that recovery should take between twice and four times as long as the fast rep. The purpose of R-Pace, which is primarily anaerobic running, is to improve economy and speed. So while I was running at R-Pace I wasn't allowing myself sufficient recoveries to get the full benefit and while my times did not get progressively slower the stress on my body got progressively more intense - hence the hands on knees exhausted feeling after the final rep. Certainly felt tougher than Tuesday's 4 x 1000m Intervals @ 87 second laps (90 in lane 3)

Sunday, 9 May 2010

16 miles at marathon pace

Looks like I have been accepted as a pacer for the Cork City marathon in three weeks time. I volunteered for the 3:30 or over slot (i.e. 8 minute pacing or over). Even pacing is the name of the game - so with that in mind I set out this morning on tired legs to run 16 miles at 7:55 pace average, with all the miles in the 7:50s (7:55 avg on the Garmin should equate to 8:00 on the day - although I'll be taking actual time splits on the day and using the Garmin for rough pacing only).
My desire to keep all the miles under 8:00 pushed some of them into the 7:40s but overall the run went to plan with an average pace of 7:53 and a high/low of 7:46/7:57. My route crisscrossed the marathon route including the the last few miles from Inchagaggin lane to Patricks Street (Miles 23 to 26.2). While I had to push on some of the inclines to keep pace under 8:00 the effort was well within my aerobic zone with a max HR of 144 and an average of 129.
Adrian asked me this afternoon how the 3 hours plus in the saddle yesterday compared to running a marathon. "No comparison" was my response, while parts of the cycle were tough with an all out effort required at times there was also time to recover, after all it was not a race. Anyway there's no way I could run 16 miles the day after a marathon, could I? The Tour De Cure post race physio (who tenderised my quads by rolling his forearm along them) said that I may be sore for a few days. While my legs were stiff after today's run with tightness in a few spots, I'm good to go.
Next weeks long run will push towards 20 miles and the week after 20+?. Do I need to taper for a marathon that I am pacing or should I gradually increase the distance right up to race day, i.e. a long run progression of 16 - 20 - 23 - 26.2. After all I can rest up the week before the race, can't I?

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Tour De Cure

This morning shortly before 9 I lined up with Adrian an over 1,000 others in Midleton for the second annual Tour De Cure - a cycling Sportif organised by Midleton Cycling and Tri Club. We were cycling the 100k event (165k and 50k were also on offer). You got the opportunity to cycle with Stephen Roche, Ireland's 1987 Tour De France winner.
The 165k and 100k event started at the same time and shared the same course for about 47km. These 47k were relativly easy as the bunch stayed together and while there was effort getting up to the lead pack initially, once you were tucked inside it was relatively plain sailing. We headed east for Youghal and north through Clashmore, Villierstown and Cappoquin.
I was in the lead group (sounds impressive but the pace was relatively easy) when the 165k and 100k courses diverged and as I turned left the rest of the group went straight ahead leaving me at the front of the 100k event for about half a mile following the lead car (this would never happen if I were running). It didn't last long though as I got swallowed up and eventually dropped by a group, including Connie & Pete - triathlon buddies from last year (somehow I feel the tables will turn this year) ). I was in a chasing group about 30 or 40 seconds down heading through Cappoquin for Lismore (where there would be a pit stop for refreshments - about the 64 k mark). Coming out of Cappoquin Derek O'Keeffe of Eagle AC pulled alongside me and I tucked in behind him to see if we could catch the lead group and while we (well Derek really) gave it everything (I had nothing left to give) we could not close the gap. Derek pulled ahead coming into Lismore and we both missed the pit stop (didn't see it) so we forged ahead for Tallow, Dungourney and back to Midleton - those last 36k were solo as Derek had pulled well ahead. The toughest section was the 4 mile climb out of Tallow that appeared to go on for ever but the gradient was on the easy side so it was manageable.
By the time I finished my quads were fairly shot and there was a slight niggle in my right hamstring - nothing to worry my running though. All in all a good morning out.
My running mileage continues to be fairly low since Connemara with about 28 in total last week and 21 so far this week (a medium long run tomorrow should see this rise above 30). My main focus is on recovering some of the speed I had earlier in the year with 2 sessions at the track this week -
3 x 1k at a faster 3:38 pace (3:45 in lane 3) on Tuesday and
8 x 400m in 80 seconds (83 in lane 3) on Thursday.
Both went to schedule so my plan appears to be working - although I can feel that I am on the edge of my ability so I won't push the paces higher until the intervals begin to feel easier first.

Saturday, 1 May 2010


Looking back over the first four months of the year I ran 5 races with 3 PB's @ 4, 10 and 39.3 miles - the last one was a gimme as it was my first at that distance. I was also just 1:30 shy of my marathon PB in Barcelona and surely would have lowered it if I didn't have a gammy leg. The last race, a 10k 6 days before Connemara, was more of a tempo run and was never going to yield a PB. So all things considered not a bad year so far.
My training since the Dublin marathon in October has had 2 distinct phases:-
Speed The Tuesday mile repeats at the track dominated from November to February and were instrumental in my breakthrough 10 miler in Dungarvan , at the end of January, by far my best result. However my speed has suffered since, particularly after Barcelona in early March, as injury recovery and preparation for Connemara took over my training regime. My return to the track over the last few weeks has shown that I do not have the same speed in my legs that was there a few months ago.
This week 5 x 1k at 3:43 (3:50 in lane 3) was on the cards, up from last weeks 3:53 - the aim is to to slowly return to the group I was training with up to February (who are now doing 3:36 kms). The session went to plan 3:49/48/47/48/45. Next week the coach is upping the pace for all groups so it may be a few weeks before I catch up. Plenty of time.
I returned to the track on Thursday evening to do some 400m repeats, which I had not done for at least a year. Initially I had planned on 10 repeats somewhere near 80 seconds (83 in lane 3). I teamed up with Pat Murphy who was also planning the same session with 80 second recoveries. The pace was tough but the 400s passed quickly. The lactic acid built up in my legs over successive repeats was an unfamiliar stress and when I was advised by Coach to stop after 6 repeats, as this was my first 400 session, I did not need asking twice. I thanked him for the reprieve and left Pat on his own (This was his usual Thursday session). While I could have battled on, the minimal benefit would have been far outweighed by the risk of injury. Endurance I was delighted with my run in Connemara, although my Plan A leading up to the race was for a 5:15 finish (8:00 mile pace). The race day temperature and erratic nature of my endurance training was enough to scupper that plan. Getting the sub 5:30 Plan B was still one of the most memorable race finishes ever (Plan C was sub 6 hours) The following schedules my weekly long runs since the start of the year, with the only ultra specific run in early January:-
33.2 - Ultra specific 21.1 16.2/16.8 - back to back 18.2 20.0 23.3 22.1 16.4 - calf strain 0 26.2 - Barcelona Marathon 2.1 11.5 21.6 10.5 39.3 - Connemara Ultra My return to endurance training since Connemara has been pedestrian as i'm in no rush as there is no marathon looming, well not at race pace anyway. Last weeks 11.6 mile run was followed by a 10.6 miler over the hilly viaduct loop this morning with a few of the guys from Eagle - it was all over before 9.
My endurance training over the last few weeks has shifted to the bike with a 3 hour bike ride last weekend to be followed by a similar session tomorrow. This is complemented by a 1 hr plus hilly session pushing the uphills on the big cog at the front and a low cadence in order to build up strength. I'm still slower than I was last year though, so a lot of work to do yet.
My swim training feels like it's going well, although I have no concrete evidence of this as I do not time my sessions. My training has been pretty simple with two basic drills (i) warmup/ cooldown using bilateral breathing (every 3rd stroke) and concentrating on lengthening the stroke and (ii) fast reps from 50 to 500m breathing on every second stroke.
Connie, the compulsive triathlete at work, is doing swim lessons with none other than Eillis Burns (well known local/national coach who trains her fair share of channel swimmers). Most of his training involves specific drills using pull buoys, fins, gloves & kickboards. He told me that in order to lengthen the stroke the advice is to stretch the lead arm as far forward as possible (imagine trying to reach a high shelf - this I knew) and not begin the down stroke until the trailing arm has come alongside the lead arm (i.e. both arms are straight out in front - this I did not know). So I tried to incorporate this into my stroke particularly during the easy paced warmups. While it took a bit of getting used to (and I still struggle to take in enough oxygen when bilaterally breathing using this technique) I noticed that the number of strokes per length (25m) has reduced from 16 to 14 (and from about 22 to 18 on the fast lengths - less haste and more speed hopefully) However reduced stroke count does not necessarily mean faster times.
Today's swim of 2,500m was the longest this year, with 750m warmup followed by 6 x 200m fast with about 30 second recoveries and a 550m cooldown. I though about adding another 2 x 200m but I was struggling to keep 18 strokes per length during the last rep and thought it better not to sacrifice form for distance.
Finally I've added a link to my sidebar ("other Interesting Sites") to a triathlete from Washington DC who is a tech wizard and knows everything worth knowing about Garmin products and their accessories (found through John - cheers).