Thursday, 31 March 2011

MAF Graph

Demonstrates the law of diminishing returns as the gap between lines closes over time and the improvement in fatigue resistance as the line slope flattens. Further low intensity base training is unlikely to yield an improvement in speed but perhaps could squeeze out a bit more fatigue resistance. Time perhaps to use the base as a springboard for something else! - Or extend it further into the abyss that is ultra running.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Right where I want to be

I moved my last MAF evaluation run before Connemara from Thursday to this evening as I won't be able to make the track on Thursday and the track is the only place where terrain and distance remain constant. The only difference in weather conditions compared to previous evaluations was the light rain falling for most of the run. My legs were a little tired from a steady paced lunchtime run and I was a little unsure that the evaluation would show an improvement over the last three weeks. I told myself that the work was done and that the result will reflect reality - no place to hide. Unlike a time trial or evaluation race I could only push as hard as a 140 HR would allow.
The first mile in 6:51 was more or less the same as last time. The second mile in 6:52 told me that I was holding pace pretty good. The third mile in 6:51 brought to mind the above image of all the cherries (times) lining up - Jackpot. The fourth mile came in 6:53, still pretty good. The last mile in 6:57 was the only blip indicating a slight drift in pace. Admittedly the average HR of 140.4 was higher than the 140 recorded 3 weeks ago. Still I managed to reduce my heart beats per km by 6 to 600.
Certainly concrete proof that the 100+ mile weeks paid off in terms of endurance training, which is my main goal for Connemara. The longer that I can maintain pace for a given heart rate over 39 miles the better. While my first mile was a second slower than last time, my average pace of 6:53 was a 5 second improvement on the 6:58 average on 10th March.
I cooled down over a few miles with Joe and Michael who is returning to running following a period of "quite contemplation".
Roll on Connemara. I have 12 days to think about my race strategy -
Do I go out "relatively" hard and hold on for as long as possible? or
Do I aim for even pacing? what pace is even pacing? and will I still run the risk of falling off that pace? 39 miles can be very unforgiving if I fuck up the pace at the start.
I could go out conservatively and pick up the pace after 20/26/30 miles. Is it possible to pick up the pace after 20/26/30 miles of fatigue induced fog.
Do I run by heart rate? what should that HR be? Is it average or max HR? Do I run the first 13 less than 140, the second 13 less than 150 and the Sky's the limit for the last hilly 13?
So many questions.
I think at the heel of the hunt i'll be running by feel and chuck out all the figures, my body will know what it is capable of.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Playing the waiting game

I misinterpreted the start of my taper as an excuse to take a running holiday with only 5 miles in the bag by Tuesday (32 last week) and following a bit of a push 25 miles clocked before I hit the weekend (65 last week). With back to back medium long runs on Saturday and Sunday I totalled 58 miles for the week, barely scraping past 50% of last weeks total. I had intended cutting back to 70%, but 70% of 114 is still a lot of running (80 miles).
I did replace the high volume with a few faster paces just to get my legs and heart used to working harder. As the week wore on the faster paces came easier as the high volume of the preceding days receded, but still noting that would set any PB's - except perhaps in an ultra.
Yesterday's Club run from UCC Farm was a 15 miler, the first 8 of which were over a hilly rural route to the SW through Maglin, Waterfall and the Viaduct with the remaining miles through the City suburb's including the cycle/walking path from the Straight Road to Curaheen. We finished a few minutes over 2 hours. For the same duration today I ran one of my regular routes into Cork, along the city quays and back out through Sundays Well and the Straight Road covering 16.76 miles at a steady 7:16 pace on a glorious sunny morning. I decided to skip the Mallow 10 miler today, as I had spent the previous 3 weekends at races.
I had a quick look at my rolling 7-day mileage over the last 2 months, since I recovered from my calf strain in Mid-January. I managed to get in 2 blocks of decent volume training, gradually increasing the number of runs and the length of my long runs so that I should have nothing to fear in 2 weeks time - still a whole lot of pain though.
I mislaid my Garmin on Tuesday so all my runs this week have been blind with no HR data.
Tue 22nd Mar 5.51 miles @ 7:48 pace
Wed 23rd Mar 5.51 miles @ 7:29 pace
Thu 24th Mar 10.06 miles @ 7:39 pace
Fri 25th Mar 5.28 miles @ 7:02 pace
Sat 26th Mar 15.18 miles @ 8:12 pace - Club Run
Sun 27th Mar 16.76 miles @ 7:16 pace
Taper Week #1 (Run 58.3 miles, Bike NIL, Swim NIL)

Friday, 25 March 2011

The Long Run

It's easy to see why our other halves might view our longs runs differently. I saw this on Ilgaz's dailymile site and thought it was worth sharing. I'll be meeting Ilgaz on the start line of the Connemara Ultra on 10th April.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Work Done

I've finally reached the end of my last 3 week training block for Connemara. All that's left is for an orderly wind down over the final 3 weeks of taper. Starting the week with a mild chest cold was not a good omen for my last high mileage week and so with a mixture of determination and caution I got through it without sacrificing mileage and still managing to lose the cold.
Not wanting to break the tradition of the last 3 weeks I finished off today with a race in the vibrams, again going out with a few more of the ultra club fraternity (John, Maura & Denis) and Donnocha (who is running the Connemara half) for a 14 mile slow paced warmup around the by-roads of Glounthane arriving back at 10:30 to sign up for the Janssen 4 mile road race in Little Island. My legs and body were certainly tired from the weeks mileage. I met up with Elmer, who was dipping his toe back in the water after a lay-off and clubmates Laurence, Monica, John, Pat, Denis and Derek (fresh back from his 2:54 Toyko marathon).
My plan was to take things relatively easy with a target of getting under 30 minutes (7:30 miles) - I thought that that was all I was capable of. I started mid-pack and eased slowly into the run. The first mile came in 7:16, which wasn't too bad. I continued on towards the 2 mile mark of the out and back course seeing those in front coming against me. I turned at the 2 mile mark without checking my split (7:15) and continued to gain on and pass others, passing the 3 mile mark in 21:25. While I was well under 30 minute pacing, I thought I wouldn't be able to close the 25 second deficit to get sub-7 minute pace overall (28:00) which would require a 6:35 final mile.
With about 3 quarters of a mile to go I came up behind a guy who was determined not to let me pass and upped his pace to match mine , with both of us passing others who were on even pacing. This went on for about quarter of a mile with my running companion resorting to quick shallow breathing to keep pace. With half a mile to go I decided to push the pace a little more as the finish was within striking distance. My running companion kept pace up a slight incline until, with about a quarter of a mile to go, he let out a roar, signalling that he was spent, and fell behind - certainly he had been working very hard over the previous half mile and ran out of steam before the finish line came. I kept pushing for the finish, crossing the line in 27:45 - 6:20 for the final mile.
Just under a mile warmdown back to the community centre and some welcome refreshments. While I hadn't planned it, I covered nearly 20 miles for the day (a record for the vibrams) which brought me to a record weekly high of 114 miles. Up until this month I never contemplated running over 100 miles in a week and with 308 miles covered over the last 3 weeks I have averaged 102.7 miles a week for the final build to Connemara. Whether or not I can translate that into a good result remains to be seen, especially as I haven't really thought about what a good result would be, particularly as form and conditions on the day can have a huge influence on how things turn out over a 39 mile run. If I had been training for a 10 miler or HM I generally would expect to be within a minute of target. But as the distance moves towards the marathon and beyond predictions are less reliable. Obviously I'd like to beat last years time of 5:29:25 (8:24 pace) but the challenge of averaging 8:00 pace and crossing the line in 5:15 is what I should be aiming for and who knows, I might get close. I just need to awaken the dormant fast twitch fibres over the coming weeks, if there are any left.
Let the taper begin.
Mon 14th Mar
Lunctime - 6.1 miles @ 8:06 pace & 124 HR (legs fresher than this time last week)
Evening - 10.07 miles @ 7:48 pace & 131 HR (Still chesty)
Tue 15th Mar
Lunchtime - 6.1 miles @ 8:01 & 131 HR (High HR and chest cold still there)
Evening - 10.67 miles @ 8:11 & 125 HR (Better but still chesty)
Wed 16th Mar
a.m. 8.21 miles @ 8:19 & 124 HR (Vibrams)
p.m. 8.21 miles @ 7:59 & 126 HR
Thu 17th Mar (Paddy's Day)
p.m. 16.04 miles @ 7:47 pace & 133HR (was in no mood for this run but got through it)
Sat 19th Mar
a.m. 29.17 miles @ 7:43 pace & 140 HR
Sun 20th Mar
a.m. 19.81 miles @ 8:25 pace with 4 miles @ 6:56 pace & 144 HR.
Base Week #8 (Run 114.4 miles, Bike NIL, Swim NIL)

Saturday, 19 March 2011


I started the year weighing 86.6kg (191 lbs).
I started last Saturday's long run weighing 82.9kg (182.8lbs) and finished it 1kg lighter and having taken on about 500ml of fluids (0.5kg) - so all-in I lost 1.5kg over 3.5 hours - or 0.57kg/hour. Lest you think I've discovered the quick road to weight loss it was all fluids and was put back on over the course of the following 24 hours as I re-hydrated.
This morning before my long run I weighed in at 81.4kg (179.5lbs) and returned with only 79.6kg hanging off my bones after taking on about 700ml in fluids - so an overall loss of about 2.5kg over 3:45 - or 0.67kg/hour (on a warmer day than last week). Cetainly on race day i'll be taking on more fluilds - somewhere in the region of 500ml per hour (0.5kg) - still less than what I expect to lose through sweat (blood and tears!).
In boxing terms I am in the cruiserweight division (175 to 200 lbs) which is between light heavyweight (168 to 175 lbs) and heavyweight (>200lbs). and there I was thinking I was wasting away.
Todays run was the last and longest of my long training runs clocking in at 29.17 miles over the 3:45 hours. My heart rate was higher than I would have expected creeping up over the 140 bpm early in the run and finishing up at 152 over the last mile. The average pace of 7:42 partly explains the increased HR - perhaps the previous 3 weeks training explains the rest. The combination of perpeteum and endurolytes (mixed with some dilute High 5 to neutralise the taste) worked reasonably well and the legs held up pretty well with the rising HR ensuring the pace remained reasonably stable throughout (Slowest mile 1 @ 8:03 & fastest mile 21 @ 7:26). There's no doubt about it but the longer the run the more mentally challenging.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Foot Strike

It's difficult to tell from the attached photograph of the last 100m of yesterday's 5k whether i'm landing midfoot or forefoot. I suspect midfoot from the slapping sound I make (I assume I don't heel strike). I couldn't find any conclusive photographs from last weeks Ballycotton 10 either. As this is my last high mileage week i'm continuing to run despite the mild chesty cough i've developed. I know the rule that anything below the neck and I should stop running but the 16 miles I covered today in 2 runs felt fine and my legs felt fresher than they did this day last week so I'll continue tentatively. 6 days to taper!. BHAA ESB-Fota Island Hotel 5k 13-03-11 255 [Desktop Resolution]<>

Sunday, 13 March 2011


This is the second week in a row that I finished off with a race (that I didn't race) and again in the vibrams. This week it was the ESB/Fota Island Hotel 5k. I warmed up with John Desmond over 12.5 miles of quite country roads between Fota and Midleton on a beautiful sunny morning. We got back in time to register for the race and hook up with Maura and Catriona (who were planning on a 2-hour warmdown after the race - Maura is also heading for Connemara, Catriona ran the Clonakilty marathon with us in December).

We started in the middle of the pack as none of us we were looking to break any records. However I did break a record during the 7:23 opening mile when I clocked my 100th mile of the week. The route was a bit undulating but nothing very challenging. Mile 2 came in 7:13 (14:36) and with a mile to go I moved up a gear passing the 3 mile mark in 21:00 (6:24 for mile 3) and pushing for the finish in 21:35 (0:35 for the last 0.11 miles = 5:18 pace). A short warmdown with John gave me 16.1 miles in the vibrams for the day and 103 total for the week. We finished off with a feed of tea and sandwiches in the Hotel (very welcome) before heading for home.


Todays sunny weather was in stark contrast to the 3.5 hours of rain and snow I faced yesterday during my long run. Leaving the house shortly before 7 it was raining steadily and while it's never pleasant to start a run in the rain it's forgotton after a few minutes.

I was trialing my fueling for Connemara which is a combination of perpeteum (primary fuel) and endurotlyes (electrolyte replacement - helps prevents cramps). Unfortunately I made the mistake of ordering the endurolyte powder as opposed to the capsules. I mixed the perpeteum with water in a kiddie size (200ml) plastic squeezy drinks container and mixed the endurolyte powder in a 500ml water bottle. Perpeteum is generally recommended for endurance events lasting several hours to several days!!! and according to the blurb

contains 75% carbohydrates (from long–chain maltodextrins—no added simple sugars), 13% fatty acids from a specially made long–chain lyso–lecithin, and nearly 10% soy protein. A small portion of fat seems to cue your body to more liberally release its fatty acids stores, which account for up to two–thirds of one's energy requirements in long bouts of exercise. A little fat in the fuel also slightly slows the rate of digestion and thus promotes “caloric satisfaction,” another attractive plus during primarily aerobic ultra distance events.

Since I had only one bottle holder on my fuel belt I jammed the small bottle of perpeteum into one of the zipper pockets - which sat well during the run but was a bummer to get back in everytime I drank from it, particularly as my hands became more numb as the run wore on. My strategy was to take a swig out of the perpeteum first and then wash it down with the endurolyte rich water (about every 4 miles). The strawberry-vanilla perpeteum tasted great but the endurolyte water, which looked like dirty dishwater, was less palatable (i.e. it was terrible). It was all I could do to take one swig from it every 4 miles - so returning from a 3.5 hour run with 150ml left in the bottle was not a good hydration strategy. I can't say the run felt good - perhaps it was the rain, cold (it snowed after 2 hours) or just an off day (early signs of a chesty cough) but I wasn't convinced my fueling strategy was working. However while fatigue was setting in earlier than expected I did notice a recovery after taking the perpeteum, particularly after 2.5 hours (maybe it takes a while to kick in). Still better to learn the lessons in training. I'll give it another go next weekend and increase the dose of perpeteum ( I was a bit light in it's application) and mix the endurolyte powder with something a bit stronger than water.

Mon 7th Mar

a.m. 5.28 miles @ 9:21 pace & 114HR (slow recovery - achy legs)

p.m. 7.35 miles @ 8:20 pace & 124HR (better)

Tue 8th Mar
a.m. 10.47 miles @ 7:50 pace & 127HR (vibrams)
p.m. 6.13 miles @ 8:01 pace & 133HR (legs stiff)
Wed 9th Mar
a.m. 7.84 miles @ 8:04 pace & 128HR
p.m. 7.82 miles @ 7:47 pace & 129HR
Thur 10th Mar
15.51 miles @ 7:22 pace & 131HR with 5 mile evaluation @6:58 pace & 140HR.
Sat 12th Mar
26.59 @ 7:54 pace & 131HR
Sun 13th Mar
16.14 miles @ 8:14 pace with 5k in 21:35 (6:57 pace & 140HR)
Base Week #7 (Run 103.1 miles, Bike NIL, Swim NIL)

Friday, 11 March 2011

MAF Test #3

Conditions at the track were very similar to those for the previous tests. If anything there was a slight breeze but this did not impact at all. A 1 hour warmdown afterwards shows that I am in ultra territory. I was interested in Ewen's recording of heartbeats per km as a tool for assessing how training is going so I have added it to the table. I must be doing something right as the improvement is continuing and the drift in pace over the 5 miles is still dropping. The improved pace of 2 seconds from mile 3 to 4 is a first, which is more than likely due to the margin of error in pressing the lap button at the end of each mile, although it is encouraging that the last 3 miles were at a consistently steady pace.
I got a package in the post this week containing my fueling for Connemara, which will get a road test this weekend.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

(Not quite) Barefootin in Ballycotton

I finished off my highest mileage week ever with the Ballycotton 10 today, pushing the 90 mile barrier for the first time. Needless to say I was taking in the sights for most of the race and only began to push the pace over the last few miles.
Following a 5 mile warmup with Paul (easy to spot the ultras) I donned the vibrams for the first time in a race. We got to the start with about 10 minutes to spare and consequently were placed towards the back of the 2,500 pack. Not too bad as the last thing I wanted was to get dragged out too fast. However I didn't realise that it would take me over 2 miles before I could run un-impeded. Following a first mile on the wrong side of 8 minutes (Paul had ducked and weaved through the crowd much more efficiently than I had) I settled into a 7:30 pace for a few miles with the vibrams feeling very comfortable and the aches and pains felt during the warmup miles long gone. I knew I needed to up the pace a little to get under 75 minutes (unofficial target) but there was plenty of time for that during the closing 5 miles. I passed through 5 miles with about 37:55 on the watch and the HR still on the right side of 140 (25 seconds off 75 minute pace). Over the next few miles I pushed the pace towards 7:00 as I had one or two targets in sight. I passed a guy wearing vibrams around the 7 mile mark - he wasn't making a sound compared to the flat-footed slaps I was making with every footfall - you could hearing me coming a mile off.
As the finish line got closer I pushed under 7:00 pace with my HR climbing steadily through the 150's and into the 160's, averaging about 6:43 for the last 3 miles and coming in a tad slower than I did in Dungarvan - 72:26. The only disappointment from the day was the chip I discovered on my Ballycotton Mug when I got home.
I travelled down with Pat and Thomas who both Pb'd on the day finishing a few 100 places ahead of me.
My main run of the week was a 3 hr 15 min outing yesterday morning leaving the house just after 7 - running into town along the Lee Road, out the Straight Road, back in the Model Farm Road, a few grass laps of the Farm and home via the Curraheen Road, with a 500ml bottle of High Five for company. While I felt a bit tired during the first 5 or 6 miles I got into a bit of a grove during the 2nd hour, churning out mile after mile at just under 8:00 pace while maintaining a relatively steady HR. While my HR pushed towards 140 over the latter miles the pace still remained sub-8 minute which is a good sign that my aerobic conditioning is continuing to improve - the next MAF test will tell.
Mon 28th Feb
a.m. 5.28 miles @ 8:40 pace & 116 HR - recovery run in the vibrams
p.m. 5.51 miles @ 8:07 pace & 130 HR - legs felt heavy
February - 279 Miles
Tue 1st Mar
a.m. 5.51 miles @ 7:41 pace & 136HR
p.m. 10.16 miles @ 7:49 pace & 129 HR with 5 x 1 mile @ 7:16 pace
Wed 2nd Mar
10.39 miles @ 8:04 pace & 134HR ( Avg HR 164 for 1st mile???)
Thu 3rd Mar
10.76 miles @ 7:52 pace & 128HR)
Sat 5th Mar
25.14 miles @ 7:45 pace & 132HR
Sun 6th Mar
17.96 miles @ 7:50 pace with 10 miles @ 7:15 pace & 140HR.
Base Week #6 (Run 90.65 miles, Bike NIL, Swim 0.75km)

Friday, 4 March 2011

Trans Pennine Trail

This week I had to travel a bit further from the cave to go hunting as the pickings closer to home have all but dried up. As least I don't have to move cave (yet!). I spent 2 days in Leeds working on a project for Yorkshire Water staying in the Clarence Dock area close to the City centre on the bank of the River Aire at the head of the Aire and Calder Navigation System. To ensure my running would not suffer I had checked out running routes on Map My Run before I left with the only promising route being a 5 miler out and back along the banks of the canal/river skirting the City centre. However when I headed out at about 6:30 in the evening I found much of the pathway barred by closed gates so I was diverted back onto the streets. Determined to get my 10 miles in I ran around the streets of Leeds navigating by reference to the different coloured lights on the high rise buildings, twice ending up at the gates of the Tetley Brewery (and there I was thinking Tetley only brewed tea). After 7 miles I ended back in Clarence Dock and found the river/canal towpath heading out of town, following it for a mile and a half out and back to get the 10 miles in - a bit eerie when I left the bright lights behind and was running by moonlight through the industrial heartland of south Leeds the only person I met was another runner coming out of the darkness against me. At least I now had a route for my second 10 miler in the morning. The Trans Pennine Trail which traverses the country, starts in Rick's hometown of Southport and ends in Hornsea on the east coast, with a north-south spur between Leeds and Chesterfield. Obviously my 5 mile out and back 0n Thursday morning wasn't the most scenic part of the trail, but still a welcome diversion from trafficked roads and after passing under the M1 after 4 miles gave a picture of a more laid back lifestyle with barges moored along the canal waiting for lock gates to open, engines idly humming - no rush. I turned at Woodlesford Lock and headed back to the real world, the constant drone of traffic on the M1 never too far away. The big mileage is yet to come over the weekend.