Sunday, 25 January 2015

Marathon Training Week 2 of 9

Two weeks down. A busy work week means my weekly (run) mileage was relatively low at 56 miles over 5 sessions. I currently aim for 3 quality sessions each week, 2 dedicated to the Marathon in March and 1 with an eye to the Ironman in September, consisting of a long cycle with Adrian (also signed up for the Mara and the IM) on Sunday morning of between 3:30 and 4 hours, followed by a solo run of up to an hour (typically @ 7:30 pace) - this session is primarily an endurance challenge and requires a bit of refuelling (chocolate/banana milk) between the bike and the run and  a good feed at the finish - the bike brings out the hunger more than running. I have also started to get a swim in on Saturday afternoon (typically 1.5km). I'm squeezing a lot into the weekend at the moment and the back to back sessions are tough, with only one recovery day until the Tuesday speed session. The plan is to up the time on the bike once the Marathon is out of the way in March - good ultra training apparently.
My 2 marathon training session consisted of an endurance speed session on Tuesday and a long run on Saturday - although the speed session is also pretty long. I'm not quite in the same shape as I was in 2013, partly due to the fact that I am about 2.5 kg heavier than I was then. So I know what I have to do.

January 2015  - Week 2 of 9
April 2013  - Week 2 of 10
Session # 1 - 4 mile warmup followed by 4 x 2 miles @ HM pace with 2 min active recoveries and 4 mile cooldown
Once you up the ante and begin serious training running becomes as much a mental battle as a physical one. After the 3 hour commute from Dublin in the evening drizzle I was too late for the club track session - by an hour at least. So I ran from home resisting the urge to put off the session for another day as the missus sat down in front of the fire to eat homemade chicken curry. A 4 miles warmup, 4 x 2 miles @ HM pace and 4 miles cooldown stood between me and my dinner.
I had picked the straight road (circa 2.5 miles) to run the repeats - 2 miles in, 2 minute slow jog, turn around and 2 miles out, 2 minute slow jog and repeat. Nothing better for mental training than seeing 2 miles of never ending road in front of you knowing that you can't rest until you get to the end and then only for 2 minutes before you have to turn around and repeat the process another 3 times before you can even think about heading home for the grub.
With a slight headwind on legs 2 and 4 my average paces were 6:14/22/12/29 with the last half mile turning into a struggle to keep under 6:30 pace. Obviously the wind played its part - happy enough with the overall average of 6:20 pace for the 8 fast miles. I took it easy over the 4 mile cool down as my left calf was tightening up.
16.81 miles @ 7:18 pace and 144 Avg Hr with 4 x 2 miles @ 6:14/22/12/29 pace.
This was by far the toughest session of the week. The 4 mile warmup was from work to the track @ about 7:40 pace. A few stretches and I was off on the first 8 lap section (lane 3 = 2.07 miles). My plan was to run slightly slower than last weeks sub 6:20 pace, using 1:37.5 (6:30 for 4 laps = 6:17 pace) as my guide. The challenge was to keep the pace
·         Manageable enough so that I would not only last the 8 laps but recover sufficiently during the brief 90 second walking recoveries to last the full 32 laps - all at the same pace and
·         Challenging enough so that I was running HMP. While my eye was on my PB pace of 6:18, I knew I wasn't in that shape, yet! so I was looking for a pace that somewhere between that and 6:25.
The first 8 laps came in at 13:05 a few seconds over my 13 minute reference point giving me a 6:20  average pace. I walked the 100m to the next 1/4 point on the track and while my Hr had come down from the low 160s into the mid 120s I didn't feel recovered enough to cover another 2 miles @ 6:20 pace, let alone another 4 miles after that. I had to push these negative thoughts to the back of my mind and concentrate on the current lap and trust in my body's ability to complete the session.
It was a struggle at times to keep the pace as the headwind down the home straight didn't help my concentration, coming as it did every 1/4 mile, but the laps passed by and despite the brief recoveries my legs and body held up pretty well to deliver a consistent pace of 6:19 for the remaining 2 mile repeats. I paced myself over the last mile with clubmates, Keith, James and Pat, who had just started one of their mile repeats 10 yards ahead of me. This helped greatly in pulling me along and taking my mind off the rising fatigue.
The 4 mile cooldown back to work @ 7:30 pace completed the workout, with the effects of depleted fuel reserves (carbs) beginning to show over the last mile - a good overall test to see how much fuel I actually need to run hard, as my sole food intake since rising at 7 was a banana, plum and 2 apples about an hour and a half before the session.
16.79 miles  @ 7:09 pace & 148 Hr) with 4 x 2 Miles @ 6:20/19/19/19 pace.
Session # 2 - 20 miles on grass.
 The plan said 20 miles on grass, so that's what I did. The ground was soft underfoot so my target pace of 7:30 felt a bit tougher than expected. I was joined by clubmate Pat for the first 5 miles and was on my own thereafter. My left hammy began to tighten up halfway through the session and was noticeably stiff afterwards. Time for a bit of foam rolling.
20.27 Miles in 2:31:58 (7:30 pace @ 135 Hr.
The programme was quite specific that this run be on grass (the only one of the programme?) I opted for the 2.3 mile grass circuit at UCC Farm, running 9 laps to give me 20.7 miles. The opening laps were a bit slower than my planned 7:20/30 pace although I wasn't too concerned as all the programme called for was "easy" running.
I had the company of clubmate, Vivian for the first 6 laps, with Ronan joining me from laps 2 to 7, with the average pace coming down from the initial 7:38 to 7:30 and below. The pace increased for lap 7 and before Ronan left we were joined by Clubmate Pat, who stayed with me to the end taking the pace for the last 2 laps below 7:10 and 7:00 - perhaps not "easy" running but finishing strong is always a good mentally.
20.7 miles in 2:31:40 (7:18 pace @ 133Hr)

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Marathon Training Week 1 of 9

I have just finished my first structured training week in nearly two years having dusted down the marathon training programme that got me two PBs in the summer of 2013. Back then I had the relative luxury of starting my training plan in April after getting one or two decent races under my belt. This year I was still enjoying the tail end of the Christmas excesses when the programme was scheduled to start.
As it is not a beginners programme it does require a good endurance base and a decent anaerobic base before you start. While I had no problem with the endurance base my anaerobic base was largely non-existent so I was prepared for a baptism of fire in that regard. To allow some bit of a lead in I cut the programme from 10 to 9 weeks, still keeping the total number of quality sessions.  I thought it would be a good idea to compare my key training sessions to those of my 2013 marathon build-up, which will give me a better indication of what I could realistically aim for in Barcelona.

January 2015  - Week 1 of 9
April 2013  - Week 1 of 10
Session # 1 - 8 mile warmup followed by 3 x 2 miles @ HM pace with 2 min active recoveries and 2 mile cooldown
I ran from work following a circuitous route in the Straight Road and out the Model Farm Road to the CIT Track. Conditions en-route were icy in places but runnable. However the track was completely iced over and after running a few laps I decided it was too risky to carry on with the speed session and I was all set to run back to work & drive home. However clubmate Vivian (one of 5 who turned up) suggested we could run on on a path that ran around the adjacent football pitches, assuming the floodlights were on. We complete a recce of the 0.8 mile route, which was partially illuminated and consisted of a mixture of gravel, stone and macadam paths with a few ankle deep water features so with 8.65 miles already on the clock Vivian and I struck out on our first 2 miles as snow began to fall - so, long story short, I completed the 3 reps at approximately 6:25 pace - a bit slower than I would have liked, but i'll take it given the conditions. But the effort was certainly on the uncomfortably hard side of the spectrum and I was glad/relieved when I was done.
While I had initially anticipated cadging a lift from a Ballincollig bound clubmate after the track session, the absence of such a session/clubmate meant that my 2 mile cooldown was closer to 4.5 miles, the last 2 of which was in heavy snowfall. Overall one of my tougher sessions. Lets hope it gets/feels easier from here on.
The race (UCC 10k in 39:30) 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.
Session # 2 - 18 miles with the last 2 @ marathon pace.
I planned on keeping a steady 7:30 pace for the first 16 miles so as to make the last 2 a bit more challenging.
Things went reasonably well until I took a tumble after 13 miles (slipped on an icy path while taking a corner without slowing down) - all I could think of when hitting the deck was stopping the Garmin so that my "pace" wouldn't suffer. No harm done, apart from a few scratches so on I went.
I had planned on completing my faster miles on the walkway at the back of CIT but as I approached I saw a wall of a few 100 walkers in front of me, apparently an "operation transformation" event (annual weight loss TV programme for those of you from outside the jurisdiction). I took a detour around Bishopstown where I found a 0.9 mile flattish circuit and after 16 miles @ 2 hours of running I managed to churn out 2 miles at an average pace of 6:33 (Target was sub 6:40). It's wasn't as difficult as I was expecting, but certainly more on the tempo side of things than MP. As my detour took me away from my intended finish I had a few miles cooldown, bumping into club mate Elaine on the way.
Week 1 down, 8 to go. Avg Hr 132.
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.

So far so good.


Thursday, 1 January 2015

New Year

It's been a while.................. my longest absence since inception. I've sat down to put pen to paper a number of times, wrote a few lines and then abandoned it. On the plus side my running has fared a bit better although there were a few months where I was just going through the motions - not enough motivation to spur me on to new challenges and not enough apathy to fall off the wagon completely.
My weekly mileage after the Belfast 12 hour in July was a bit hit and miss and lacked focus. That is despite the fact that my recovery after the race was the best it has even been so it wasn't physical. I had a half notion of ramping up for the Dublin Marathon at the end of October, but when I missed a few track sessions to get me up to speed before starting a 12 week marathon programme I mentally  relaxed and let the whole idea slide. I was keen to run the inaugural Glen of Aherlow 39.3 mile ultra on 20th September, signed up for it late and managed to get around the course without too much difficulty, although I did fall once or twice on a technical section of the course and finished in about 6:26, well down on where I would have liked to be but no more than I expected based on my lack of training and a generous diet - fighting gravity is so much harder when you're carrying excess baggage. 
The low point in my training cycle came when I pulled up with a strained hammy 9.5km into pacing the 30km Human Race in Limerick on 5th October. The day before I had fallen heavy after tripping on a uneven footpath while our for an easy run, tearing 2 layers of skin from the palm of my left hand (i'll spare you the gory photo). The strained hammy the following day may well have been a latent injury from the fall. My training over the following weeks primarily consisted of walking, reaching a new low of  6 miles for the second week of October - the only way was up.
As the hammy began to heal I decided to spend the rest of the year building up a solid base of aerobic endurance so that I could start 2015 in good shape. Over the next 8 weeks I covered 718 miles (average of 89.75 miles per week) setting my first 400+ mile (405) month in November. The most noticeable benefit was a reduction in the pace of my easy training runs, reducing from 8:45 to below 8:00 pace for a 120 Hr. I assessed my aerobic function by conducting a MAF Test on 2nd December, with a noticeable improvement compared to my only other MAF test for the year on 7th January. Some of that improved function was due to weight loss as I managed to cut most carbs out of my diet. Still the 578 heartbeats per Km is very encouraging (once I get below 600 I know I am in good territory). Although my weight starting out in 2015 is closer to what it was at the start of 2014 - that's the magic of December!
My only other race was the Clonakilty Marathon on 12th December, which I ran as an aerobic training run, starting off at a relatively comfortable pace, falling in with fellow Clon man Thomas Neville, with the initial target of pacing him to a 3:20 PB. However my competitive instinct got the better of me and after about 14 miles I  took off on my own to see if I could break 3:15. (we had hit halfway in 1:41 = 3:22 full). With 3:06 on the Garmin passing the 25 mile mark, I increased the effort, plunging well into the anaerobic zone to pull off my fastest mile of the day (6:16 - albeit on a net downhill) to get me across the line a few seconds under 3:14. Happy days! My endurance base ensured that I felt reasonably comfortable crossing the finish line, no longer daunted by the 26.2 mile distance.
Of course the main motivation for putting in the miles over the last few months was to cover 49 miles on Christmas Eve without suffering too much. As for last year I started a 4 in the morning and more or less ran continuously until I was back home with 49.25 miles on the Garmin - 7 hours and 17 minutes later. I ran all but 10 miles (Mile 15 to 25) in the company of Clubmates from Eagle AC - A big thanks to those who looked after me as it may not have looked liked I needed any help but the knowledge that I was not alone was all the motivation I needed to keep going. While I felt the fatigue coming on after 10 miles, it never got any worse and I more or less kept a consistent running pace for the full duration.

Mile 49 - Time for Some Breakfast

The Year That Was

Plenty of Miles

Not Too Many Marathons/Ultras (*Pacing)

One Win

2015 Targets
I have already signed up for my first marathon in 2015 although it's not until September. This marathon is somewhat unique though as i'll have to swim 2.4 miles and cycle 112miles just to get to the start line. Should be interesting - don't know how i'll fit in all the training. I'll have to find something else to keep me motivated for the first half of the year. With this in mind I have nearly committed to my second race in 2015 - another marathon on 14th March in Barcelona. I have booked the flights but haven't signed up for the race yet. This will be my third trip to Barcelona, the last time out in 2010 I struggled home in 3:10:28, after pulling up with a dodgy calf at mile 9. There are a few clubmates running it too so it should be fun. My training will start in earnest next week or the week after where I will be following the 10 week programme I used for Portumna last year. I had hoped to race the Dungarvan 10 during the first week of February as it fitted in perfectly with my schedule (HM race 6 weeks out). However the race sold out in less than two days, which I was not aware of until two weeks later - there were no such issues last year - West Waterford AC sent out email notification. I'll just have to find another longish race up the country.

After that I am spoilt for choice on the ultra front:-
  • 21st March - Wicklow Way Ultra (51km) - unlikely as it will be one week after Barcelona
  • 3rd/4th April - Vartry 100 (100 mile/50 mile/50k) - the 100 looks tempting, it all depends on how the recovery from Barcelona goes.
  • 13th June - Wicklow Way Solo. Would like to make up for 2014.
  • 13th June - Portumna Ultra (100k/50k/marathon) - not on the radar for 2015.
  • 17th/18th July - Energia 12hr/24hr. The 24hr is certainly tempting - although only 5 weeks after Wicklow is cutting it fine - maybe the 100k in Portumna would be better preparation.

My general plan is to build up endurance on the bike in preparation for the Ironman, which should stand to me for the long ultras. Time will tell.

Happy New Year to all and hope to see some of you out on the road in 2015.