Monday, 30 May 2011

Plugging Away

The last few weeks have been pretty repetitive on the running front

Monday - Day off.
Tuesday - Speedwork in the form of intervals at the track
Wednesday - Easy recovery run or day off.
Thursday - Speedwork in the form of a 5k tempo run
Friday - Day off
Saturday - Long Run
Sunday - Longer run

With all the days off I'm able to recover from the back to back weekend long runs and still get 2 speed workouts in - although i'm not as fast as I used to be.

The key workouts for the 100k are obviously the long runs and I finally appear to be getting my head and body used to them. Simple as it may sound it took a while for me to get the last key training element nailed - eating. Twice in the last month, towards the end of a 4 and 5 hour long run I suffered badly due to lack of fuel. Over a period of 10 minutes I went from feeling reasonably ok to a state where every step was a huge effort - the classic bonk/hitting the wall experience. While a few gels and water will get me around a marathon course reasonably intact, going longer demands a higher and more varied calorific intake.

This weekend I completed my last and longest back to back runs covering 64 miles over two days. The 4:05 hour 29.8 mile run on Saturday was the faster of the two, leaving my legs in a suitably fatigued state for Sundays 5 hour run. I managed to get by on Perpeteum and High 5 on Saturday but I was up before 6 on Sunday morning with my chicken noodle soup simmering away on the hob. I had carb loaded on beer and food the night before celebrating a neighbour's son's communion so breakfast consisted of the a cup of coffee to wake me up. Luckily I had the company of Paul Daly, another 100k nutter, for the 5 hours, which included an 11.2 mile club run out the now "very" familiar Passage, Monkstown, Rafeen loop. I stuck to GU gels and perpeteum for the first 3 hours and thereafter resorted to picnicing on soup, fig rolls (newtons in the new world), jellies, coke and anything else we could hoover up, took a few walking breaks when energy levels dipped and while the legs would be stiff once we resumed running we were able to shake the feeling off after a few 100 yards.

To be honest when I set out at 6:40 I didn't know whether I could last 5 hours as I did not feel great - energy was so-so and legs were stiff. However 2 hours in I felt better and by the time i had finished I felt no worse than when I had started. The average pace for the 5 hours was 8:45 which we managed to reduce from 8:50 over the last mile and a half as we chased down a "hare" out for his Sunday run - both of us pleasantly surprised that out legs complied. `We finished on the Marina with a dip in the river to cool the legs down, joined by a few crabs crawling over our feet.

My biggset concern now is the weather - with a veritable heat wave forcast from next weekend, pacing 3:30 in Cork this day week may be harder work than I bargained for.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Doing Time

This weekend was all about time on my feet. The Runners World 50 mile training programme i'm broadly following (these last two weeks ;) has two weekends of back to back 4 and 5 hour long runs 3 and 4 weeks out from the race - although the first of the 5 hour runs has a note after it - (or about 27 - 29 miles). So strictly speaking the 27.8 mile 4 hour run I did last weekend is good enough for the first scheduled 5-hour run in the programme. The second 5-hour run has no such note against it so I decided to err on the side of caution and see what a 5-hour training run was like.
Time constraints on Saturday - the two youngest had to be in "Supernova" for 10:30 for a company "fun-day" - meant that I only got a 3.5 hour run in, starting at 6:15. A "walk in the park" literally as I ran the entire 3.5 hours on the grass circuit of UCC Farm, joined after a while by Pat Murphy, whom I paced to a sub 3:30 in Cork last year, who was out for his 20 mile long run. The time passed quickly as we chatted away and by the time Pat was done I only had 15 minutes left to run - certainly one of the most comfortable 3.5 hour runs I have ever done, despite the 8:12 average pace. Pat is aiming for 3:10 - 3:15 this year, having gone on to run 3:18 in Dublin last October. Lizzie Lee of Leevale AC was also out for a easy run, ahead of her half marathon in Gothenburg next weekend, where she hopes to run 6 minute miles to a 1:18 finish - having won the Ballycotton 10 miler in 58:47 (5:53 pace) in March, she should have no difficulty there.
My legs were in pretty good shape this morning for the real test. A club run of up to 22 miles was organised for 8 so my plan was to get an hour to an hour and a half in beforehand so that my "time alone" after the club run would be short. As I didn't have the advantage of running repetitive loops I took a back-pack (hydration pack with the bladder taken out) to carry my two 500ml drinks (4 hr perpeteum mix and a bottle of High 5) and a few crackers with peanut butter and jam (I wasn't getting hungry this time out). I only managed to get 50 minutes in before the club run (Stayed up to watch the Eurovision with the kids), joining Paul, Denis, Derek, Cian and Martin for an extended 18 mile loop from Pairc Ui Caoimhe out to Passage, Monkstown, Rafeen Hill, Moneygouney, Garryduff, Rochestown return. Denis was fresh back from warm weather training in Singapore and Derek gave us the low down on his 2:53 marathon in Tokyo - it's only a matter of time before he gets into the 2:40's.
As my nutrition was in the converted backpack, every 3 or 4 miles I had to take it off and open it to take a drink, temporarily dropping off the pace. In the latter stages I just stopped and walked to take on fluids (and solids) which served to double up as a rest from the fatigue of constant pace running. Four of us took the longer estuary walk around to Blackrock Castle on the way back to extend the run towards 20 miles (26 for me). Paul ran a loop of the Monahan/Centre Park Road with me to get his 22 mile target in the bag, leaving me with an hour to kill before I could finish. So I headed back out the 6 mile loop around to Blackrock Castle, repeating the opening six miles of my run and finishing up with a short out and back counting down the minutes to the 5 hour mark. While my legs felt reasonably ok the rising fatigue over the last half hour became progressively more difficult to bear and my pace slowed to a 9:30 shuffle by the time I was finished. Can't say it was lack of fuel as I didn't feel that hungry, although I was slightly dehydrated - what you'd expect after taking on 1 litre of fluids in 5 hours of running.
Before heading for home I dipped my legs into the River Lee to cool them down and aid muscle repair. I had to move my feet about a bit as the feeling of crabs or some other bottom dwellers crawling over them spooked me a little, maybe it was just underwater tumbleweed. The water was quite cool which felt good but as my feet began to get numb I called it a day.
My 8.5 hours of weekend running got me to 97 km or 60 miles, not far off my target race distance. However, despite the overwhelming feeling of fatigue towards the end of today's run, I know that the struggle I will face in the latter stages of the 100k will be new territory in terms of mental and physical torture. While my nutrition today worked reasonably well - the perpeteum certainly delays the onset of muscle fatigue by preventing the breakdown of muscle for use as fuel during prolonged runs. At no stage either did I feel the onset of cramps or muscle tightness - that's usually reserved for faster paced running. Still I slowed noticeably towards the end which points towards an energy deficiency - if i'm to last 9+ hours in a race i'll have to increase and vary my energy intake - perhaps take on more solids and add the magic that is coca-cola to my running diet. The sugary liquid carbs such as Gels & High 5 certainly become unpalatable after 3 or 4 hours so it may be time to switch to more savory snacks such as the chicken noodle soup and salted potatoes that appear to be a staple of a large number of ultra runners out there - the one peanut butter and jam cracker that I took mid-run today certainly went down well and will likely make it onto the menu for Portumna.
Despite the reasonably good longs runs over the last few weeks I still feel a bit overwhelmed by the task of completing (or is that competing in) a 100k.
Sat - 25.6 Miles in 3:30 (8:12 pace)
Sun - 34.7 miles in 5:00 (8:39 pace)
Build Week #2 - 80 miles (no swimming or cycling)
Finally a huge congratulations to Clubmate Paul Tierney who yesterday broke the record for running the mountainous 130km Wicklow Way heading out from Marley Park in Dublin at 4 a.m. and arriving at Clonegal in Co. Carlow 13 hours, 38 minutes and 51 seconds later, beating the 2008 record set by Eoin Keith by 7 minutes and 10 seconds. Huge respect.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Interesting People & Lovely Balls

This post is for Rónán, who told me this morning to update my blog.
Marathon Pacing (Great Limerick Run - 1st May 2011)

This pacing job gets you to meet all sorts of interesting people -

Following the pacers briefing last Saturday evening most of us retired to a local Italian restaurant for a bit of carb loading - if you can call 2 cups of coffee and a baileys cheesecake carb loading - well I already had a belly full of pizza at the briefing. Mick Rice, the 3 hour pacer brought his friend Lezan, who sat beside me. I could tell he was a fast guy even if I hadn't known that he was 5 times winner of the Connemara Half marathon. He was hoping to achieve a sub 2:20 in Limerick - well, I thought he has come to the right place - a restaurant full of marathon pacers!. He told me his PB was 2:13 which he got when winning the Dublin marathon in 2004. Not wanting to waste the opportunity I quizzed him a bit more:-
"What fuel do you use during your marathons" I asked.
"Water" he replied.
"Right" I said - "Doh".
He left shortly afterwards, leaving half his dinner behind him, which means he didn't get any dessert (I have the same rule in my house).

Tom, who organised the pacers, was hoping to break 3:30 with my assistance the following day. Tom's medium terms goal is to get 100 marathons under his belt by the end of 2012, after which he will concentrate on the shorter distances (he has 30 something done already). He's taking the patient route to a fast 5k ;). He's one of those crazy guys who ran the route of the Connematathon (Director's invitational) the day before he completed the ultra with the rest of us. He's also organising 5 marathons in 5 days in Sixmilebridge this July - well he's got to feed his insatiable appetite somehow. I shared a room with David, who was pacing the 1:40 group in the half marathon. However he got to sleep in as his race wasn't starting until 11:30 compared to my 9 a.m. start. No snoring this time out.

I had breakfast with the 3:15 pacers and was joined by Finnoula who was pacing 4:30. If that wasn't enough she was overnighting in Dublin after the race and driving to Belfast in the wee hours to complete the Belfast marathon on Monday - all part of her training for the 90km Comrades marathon from Durban to Petermaritzburg this June.
I was pacing the 3:30 group with Tony, my pacing partner from Cork last year, and an old hat at the job, compared to me. There was a great buzz at the start line as runners psyched themselves up for the long road ahead. Tony certainly went to the motivational school for marathon pacers as he really got the group going. Not being familiar with the route I found it quite good - the out and back past the 10k timing mat where you could see the front runners coming against you and have the craic with the other pacing groups - through the UL campus - through the historic City. We lost Tom shortly after mile 10 due to stomach issues.
It wasn't all plain sailing though - the long drag out past the 15 and 16 mile mark and the wide and windy St Nessan's Road back towards the City centre. We certainly lost a few along these sections. Still we had a core crew of 10 to 12 with us until about the 22 mile mark. Chris, a friend of Tony's, whom Tony has been pacing towards a 3:30 finish for at least the last year, was nowhere to be seen as we crossed Sarsfield Bridge (21.7 miles). The drag up past Thomond Park and the 23 mile mark was particularly challenging as one or two dropped off the back and those who had held back a little were advised to push on towards the finish. I held back a little to keep some sort of connection with 2 guys who had fallen back by 10 or 20 yards but there was another drag up past the Gaelic Grounds and the 24 mile mark and the two guys were unable to close the gap - I could certainly emphatise with them - the last few miles in a marathon are a huge physical and mental challenge, particularly if you have nothing left in the tank - still I reckon even pacing is the most efficient way to get around a marathon, the challenge being the selection of the correct pace, which you may even have to change on the start line depending on conditions - no point in heading out at PB pace into a strong wind or a hot sun - receipt for disaster.
Mile 21 - Group still Intact
The last 2 miles were spent encouraging those we caught up with to keep pace with us and come in under 3:30. Three guys, in particular managed to dig a little deeper, snap out of the fatigue induced autopilot shuffle that we all experience in the latter stages of a marathon and cross he line before the clock struck 3;30 - one poor guy discovering, when a volunteer came to remove his timing chip, that he had left it back at his hotel.
The first guy to cross the line after 3:30 was Chris, who had cramped just before the 22 mile mark, stopped and stretched and put in a super human effort to get back on pace covering the last mile in 7:26 and denied his sub 3:30 by 7 seconds (3:30:06) - although he was gutted he still managed a 4 minute PB, which he wouldn't have got had he thrown in the towel after cramping - gutsy performance Chris.
While my legs seized up a bit after the race (hammys in particular) a bit of walking loosened them out a bit. I met Lezan, who's "John Wayne" gait was worse than my own (even the fast guys suffer) and congratulated him on his second placing - 2:24 - beaten by his compatriot Freddy Keron.

Muzan - sharing 2nd place with Sergiu Ciobanu at mile 21.7

I got a lift back to the hotel with Chris and Tony, used the pool to loosen out the legs a little before heading back to Cork with John D (3:45 pacer), stopping off in Charleville for the obligatory burger and chips.

Ultra Training

With my eye on a 100k ultra in June I though it would be a great opportunity to used the 26.2 miles in my legs for some 100k race training and so the following morning I hit the grass of UCC farm shortly after 8 - opting for the 2.2 mile circuit so that (i) I wouldn't be too far from the end (ii) I didn't have to carry fuel, placing my High 5 drink at the start of the loop and (iii) emulating race day monotony - 20 x 5k loops. My plan was 3 hours at an easy pace between 8:30 and 8:50 (straddling my 9 hour target pace of 8:42 - don't know where it came from and I could be out by an hour or two). The light rain that was falling was in stark contrast to the sun of the day before. The first 2 hours went pretty well with an average pace of 8:38 and my legs holding up pretty well. As I felt relatively comfortable (it's all relative) I decided to up the pace for the last hour, trying to get the feel of negative splitting on race day and surprised myself by averaging 7:47 pace for the hour - glad to be finished though.

As ultra training is all about back to back weekend long runs I took it relatively easy during the week, getting two 5 milers in, the first on Wednesday at a recovery pace (100k race pace ;) and the second on Thursday with a 5k tempo thrown into the middle of it - my attempt to introduce some speedwork into my training after a long absence. The 5k at 6:42 pace (20:53) was tough but manageable - i'm a long way off a 3 hour marathon at the moment (a 1:30 half is even out of the question - unless it's downhill)

A rest day on Friday and I was ready for my long weekend, getting out the door shortly before 6:30 yesterday morning for a 3:30 run in the regional park - more mind numbing loops. I did mix it up a bit by taking different trails, which slowed me down a bit as I negotiated my way around tree roots and puddles. From the start I did not feel great - maybe last weekend was finally catching up with me. I averaged 8:41 pace for the first hour and 8:26 for the second hour. I decided to change tactics for the third hour by introducing fartleks starting with 7 mins fast followed by 7 mins slow and down to 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 minute. I had read somewhere that introducing faster running in an ultra can help with the fatigue and monotony of a constant pace (a bit like an interval session at the track) It started off reasonably well getting down to 7:35 on the "fast" sections and about 8:25 on the recoveries! averaging 8 minute pace overall - but I was toast for the last half hour struggling to maintain 8:30 pace, delighted to finish and wondering how the fuck I was going to run for 9 hours or (much) more, having visions of being on my knees before I am halfway through the race. I thought I might have entered the realm of "overtraining" but my resting heart rate this morning was 38, down from 39 when last measured on 20th March. An elevated resting HR is a typical indicator of overtraining.

My original plan for the weekend was 3:30 on Saturday and 4 hours on Sunday. The way I felt after Saturday's run had me thinking that running on Sunday would be both painfully slow and short. Still with an air of optimism and reasonably recovered legs, I headed out this morning on a Club run of about 15 miles over relatively flat terrain from Mahon to Passage West, Monkstown up over the 1.5 mile hill to Rochestown and back to Mahon, picking up the two Pauls at Pairc Ui Caoimhe en route. I refuelled with 500ml of High 5 and half a bag of cheese and onion crisps, the Kids had left in the car, before heading back out around the estuary loop to Blackrock Castle to meet up with Paul Cotter who had headed back to his car for refuelling (only to find he left his gels at home) and was coming in the opposite direction. The wind along this section of the Cork Marathon route reminded me of last years marathon where horizontal rain was added to the mix to make for a tough run. We also met up with Paul Daly, who had finished his run early (faster pace) to pick up Amanda, a visually impaired paralympic runner who he is guiding - if you thought pacing was difficult try guide running along a busy walkway on a Sunday morning with other runners, walkers, cyclists, dogs, all preoccupied in their own conversations/activities - you get the picture.

I dropped Paul Cotter to his car with 3:10 on my watch and headed out for another loop towards Blackrock Castle with Paul and Amanda, eventually pulling ahead of them for the final solo leg of my run. My legs still felt reasonably good although as I entered the last 15 minutes of my run I was beginning to feel the effects, primarily due to lack of fuel - Paul had teased earlier about what we would have for breakfast - "butter melting on a hot scone", which was nearly enough to send me back to the car early. I replied that the best thing about 4 hour long runs is that by the time you have breakfast it is lunchtime and you can double up. I stopped with less than a quarter of a mile to the car as I hit the 4 hour mark and walked in - tank empty. I took a chocolate/orange GU thick gel with water once I got to the car to give me enough fuel to drive home - Heaven!

25.1 miles on Saturday and 27.8 miles on Sunday gave me 52.9 (85km) for the weekend (still 15km short).

Lest you think I did nothing else for the weekend apart from seven and a half hour of running and put my feet up to recover for the rest of the day think again. With Abina working I was on duty to ferry Saran and his buddy to GAA (hence my pre-6:30 start yesterday) and on to McDonalds, organise a sleepover for Ani's friend and drop her home, drop Safan to town and Keevsa to her friends birthday party and today to meet her boyfriend for their six month anniversary and decide on such issues as whether self-raising flour would make any difference to the roux for the meatball sauce for todays dinner - thankfully I found the plain flour. In fairness they're nice meatball. If you don't believe me ask Abina. She took them to work a few months back, openend her lunch box in front of her colleagues and said "These are Grellan's balls and they're lovely"

Recovery week #3 (Run 47 miles, Bike NIL, Swim 3.8km)

Build Week #1 (Run 85 miles, Bike NIL, Swim NIL)

ps: I can't seem to control the line spacing in my posts - I close the gaps while editing but it appears to do it's own thing - any advice in this regard would be greatly appreciated.