Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Peak Week. Day 2.

Distance: 21K in 1hr44.
Avg Pace=4:56 per K.
HR avg=131 in zone 126-146bpm.

Slightly shorter than planned but still long enough for a training effect.  Another very warm day and I started to feel the effect of the heat after less than 10K and was preparing for a shop stop to buy a drink.  The bad patch soon passed and from tomorrow I'll make sure to drink more throughout the day.  Tomorrow is almost an easy day with a split session of 10K around lunchtime followed by a late evening 16K in my recovery / ultra zone of 120-128bpm.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Peak Week. Day 1.

Distance: 30K in 2hr35.  Avg Pace=5:09 per K.
HR avg=131 in zone 126-146bpm.

It was quite warm today and the bulk of my run was done from work to home with a backpack running into the sun.  It was quite warm and I sweated a lot but on a scale of 1 to 10 of what I might expect in Greece it was probably a 1.  As usual I slowed going uphill and pushed the pace on the downhill to ensure I spent as much training time as possible in the zone and I did notice that the slowing on hills has started to reduce which is a good sign. On the approach into Lucan village I met up with a group from Le Cheile as planned and the route then changed which was a nice distraction and the final few K passed with less effort.
Most of the runs for this week will be in the same zone to ensure I still have the energy to continue running day after day rather than tiring my legs out with faster efforts as the objective this week is to get my legs used to the high volume of work and from next week when my Taper starts they should in theory recover stronger.  Based on previous Ultra Races my race plan is to run as close to 130bpm as possible which could change on the day but for the moment that's the plan and I'll train accordingly.
The plan for tomorrow is 35-40K depending on available time and i'll also spend some time using my foam roller.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Approaching the Peak

Today ends my easy week which consisted of easy and shorter runs with the overall volume reduced by close to 30% and the longest run less than 30K.  I also had a midweek massage and went to bed a bit earlier than usual and included some extra stretching.  All went well except for the weekend when life started to get in the way and having to drive my son to two football matches meant missing my usual early training runs and the running track was also out of use.  The traveling along with some other distractions meant my normal routine was disrupted and today I confirmed that you can't train through a bad diet!
I set off for my long run shortly after 5pm and less than an hour later I had to make a pit stop and that was pay back for the fast food and extra snacking on chocolate over the weekend.  Lesson learnt and luckily at a time I could afford it.  Next week will be my highest volume week and then it's Taper time.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Reality Check

Jarlath running along the Dublin Mountain Way.

Over the past few weeks I've followed a very structured plan knowing what I was doing days and weeks in advance and yesterday that plan included what I would consider a key training session as I tried to simulate a section of the race as best I could by running through mountainous terrain with tired legs.

The plan was to run rather than drive the 24K from my home to the starting point of what's now a regular mountain run and complete the mountain section for a total distance of close to 50K with almost 1000M of ascent.

The training in the previous days was quite intense and included a strength & conditioning session on Friday with John Belton as well as my running commute to work. This was followed on Saturday with a short but fast interval session of 4*800 M with warm up and cool down for a total of 10K and then a 20K recovery run a few hours later.

Sunday morning I woke up at 6:00am feeling very tired and hit the snooze button on my alarm more than once but I knew staying in bed wasn't an option because Jarlath would be waiting for me in the village. I eventually got up at 6:30, had my breakfast of a Cinnamon & Raisin Bagel with peanut butter and 500Ml of Powerbar energize and was out the door at 6:55 to meet with Jarlath 10 minutes later. The plan was for Jarlath to run with me to our usual mountain run starting point where I'll then meet with some other club runners. During the first section of the run I carry a 500Ml bottle of Powerbar Energize which I start sipping within the first hour. We arrive at the meeting place a few minutes late and continue on our way with Alison, Cathy and Brendan and with the new faces it feels like the day is starting all over again. The girls had ran a 10 mile race the day before so their plan was to run out for 8K to keep me company and return to the car along with Jarlath. As the girls double back Brendan takes the lead and we continue onwards and upwards and I'm starting to feel the effects of the previous week in my legs. Brendan is tippy toeing up over the rocks and I'm finding it an effort to jump onto rocks that appear as steps up the mountainside.

Just as we reach the junction of the Dublin Mountain Way and Wicklow Mountain Way I make a judgement call and decide to turn back rather than run the extra 2k to my planned turn around. My legs are tired and I know the risk of injury is now increased and that's something I can't take a chance with. Running an extra 4k could potentialy knock my training back by days or even weeks and having the unfinished business gives me a reason to repeat the run another time. On the run back my quads are feeling the effects of the descent and the rocky steps which require little jumps are showing the tiredness in my legs so I'm happy that I've made the right decision.

Arriving back at the car I'm in relatively good shape and being surrounded by smiley faces helps to forget about the pain. I'm too sore to stretch but make sure to down a carton of chocolate milk before the journey home.

Getting back to my house I was shattered and all I wanted to do was sit down but I know how important the recovery process is so without too much thinking I run a cold bath and prepare a double helping of Powerbar Recovery which I'll drink in the bath. Getting out of the bath was a struggle and I felt so tired that I went to bed for an hour.  For the rest of the day I took it easy and wore compression tights under my trousers and waking the next day it's hard to belive the weekend I've had.

As the Spartathlon is so close I don't have the option of resting in advance of these key sessions because every other session is just as important so it's essential to get the recovery right and the balance between the mix of hard and easy days. Train hard but train smart by mixing hard days with easy days and put the same effort into your recovery as you put into your training.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Polar OwnOptomizer

Christy O'C has asked

Hi John

What is the Polar Own Optimiser Test? It sounds like an interesting/decent way to tell whether you should take a break or not. Does it require specific telemetry?

The reason I'm asking is that I went out for an 8 miler yesterday evening and pulled up at just under 6 miles. I had planned an upper aerobic session but felt every footfall during the run (I haven't felt like that in a while). Maybe this test could help to determine the reason?

Thanks, John.

Polar OwnOptimizer is based on regular long-term measurements of five heart rate parameters. Two of these five values are calculated at rest, one while standing up and two while standing. Each time you perform the test, the wrist unit saves the heart rate values and compares them to the previous values registered.

After the test you will see your training state, your average heart rate while lying down (Rest HR), the highest heart rate while standing up (Peak HR) and the average heart rate while standing (Stand HR).
In the list below the name of the state, for example, Training Effect and the number of the state is shown.

Good recovery or Recovered (1)
Your test heart rates are lower than average. This indicates that you have recovered very well. You can continue training, including intensive exercise sessions.

Normal Training State (2)
Your test heart rates are at a normal level. Go on with you training; include both light and intensive training sessions, and recovery days.

Training Effect (3)
Your test heart rates are higher than average. You may have exercised intensively in the previous days. You have two choices: 1) rest or light train for one or two days, or 2) continue intensive training for one or two days and then recover well. Other sources of stress, the beginning of a fever or an attack of the flu can result in the same kind of response.

Steady Training State (4)
Your test heart rates have continuously been at a normal level for a long time now. Effective training requires both heavy training and good recovery, and this should cause variation in your test heart rates. Your OwnOptimizer Test indicates that you have not had very intensive training or good recovery for a while. Perform the test again after a rest or light training day. If the recovery is effective, you will get Recovered as a test result.

Stagnant Training State (5)
Your test heart rates are still at a normal level, and this has continued for a long time. Your test indicates that your training has not been intensive enough to develop optimally. To improve your condition most effectively, you should now include more intense or longer exercise sessions in your training.

Hard Training Effect (6)
Your test heart rates have been higher than average several times. You may have trained hard on purpose. Your test indicates overloading, and you should recover well now. To control your recovery, perform the test again after one or two resting or easy training days. If your next test result shows Recovered, it indicates successful training periodization and possible super-compensation. However, getting Normal Training State as a test result allows you to continue training.

Overreaching (7)
Your OwnOptimizer Test indicates that you have had a very intensive training period for several days or weeks. Your test heart rates have continuously stayed at a high level. This seriously indicates that you should have a complete recovery period. The longer you have trained intensively, the longer the recovery period required to recover. Perform the test again after at least two days of recovery. Before continuing intensive training, wait until you get Normal Training State or Recovered as a test result. When you can continue training, you should control your training state carefully with OwnOptimizer Test and your subjective feelings.

Sympathetic Overtraining (8)
Your OwnOptimizer Test indicates that you have had a very intensive training period for several days or weeks, and your recovery has not been sufficient. This has result in a state of overtraining. To get back to a normal training state, you have to rest for a carefully controlled recovery period. Control your recovery with OwnOptimizer Test by performing the test 2 – 3 times per week.

You should not exercise, and instead rest completely for most of the recovery period. You can possibly have a few days with some light aerobic training in short sessions. Consider some other sport than your main sport. However, it should be one you are familiar and feel comfortable with. Also check if you have other signs of overtraining. Before continuing intensive training, wait until you get Normal Training State or Recovered as a test result, preferably more than once.

Parasympathetic Overtraining (9)
Your heart rates have stayed at a low level, which is generally interpreted as a sign of a good recovery. However, other parameters indicate parasympathetic overtraining. You may have trained with high volumes for a long time and your recovery times may not have been long enough. You should check if you have other signs of overtraining. For example, overtraining is marked by decreased performance, increased fatigue, mood disturbances, sleeping problems, persistent muscle soreness and/or a feeling of being burnt out or stale. You may also have been subjected to other stresses.

Further and more detailed information is available from the Polar website.

If you download the results of the test from your wrist unit to the PC, you can analyze the results with the Polar PC software. The software offers you various ways to analyze the results and receive more detailed information about your progress. You can also generate graphical comparisons with your previous values. My test results are usualy between 1 and 3 with the ocassional 4 or 5.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A busy week.

Tony & Jarlath taking a breather on two rock mountain.

The holidays finished last Sunday with a 32K run shortly after arriving home but that almost didn't happen.  I had planned on running with Tony (as arranged) but he got sidetracked with a more tempting offer (looking away in shame above) and knowing I'd be on my own and feeling tired after the 4hr drive the thought did enter my head to bin the run and start afresh the next day.  In my head I could hear Tony saying 'Come on down to the pub' but I then thought about my race and moments later I was out the door and within minutes I felt all the better for it.

This week couldn't have gone much better and I managed to fit in 150K of running, 40K of cycling, a Personal Training session and a rest day.  Key sessions included a 53K run along the Royal Canal on Saturday followed by a 23K run in the mountains with 900M of ascent on tired legs on Sunday.  My Personal Training session with John Belton was one of the toughest training sessions I've ever done and this will increase to 2 session a week until I start my taper at the beginning of September.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New Shoes

As I approach the final few weeks of my Sparathlon preparation the training is close to peaking and I'm very close to my biggest training week which will start on Sunday 29th August. Learning from previous years I thought it sensible to give myself a service so I have a massage booked and yesterday I got the new tyres in the form of 2 new pairs of Running Shoes (Saucony Pro Grid Guide) which will see me up to and through the race (thanks to The Great Outdoors). It was only when I tried on the new pair that I realised how much they were needed. Running everday it's advisable to alternate with a minimum of 2 pairs of shoes to allow the cushioning to rest and recover. Each time you run air cells in the midsole flatten out as the impact is absorbed and if you run in the same shoes everyday the air cells never get a chance to return to their normal air filled shape which provides the cushioning and protection. I also think using 2 pairs can legthen the useage of the shoe as I seem to be running over 1100K per pair which seems to be above the average.

In the build up to my goal race in 2008 (Inca Trail Marathon) and 2009 (The North Face 100) I stood on both starting lines still recovering from an injury. I won't get away with that in The Spartathlon.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tired or lazy?

Had a lie in this morning seeing as I'm on holidays and in my head I'd planned a way to fit in a run later in the day.
As the day went on I got less interested in going for a run and when checking my diary I tried to convince myself that I'd done enough this week and deserved or had earned a rest.
Sent a text to Tony to pre plan a run for tomorrow to cancel a possible excuse for tomorrow and almost called it a day.
The cheesecake in the fridge was calling me and it was getting close to the cut off time for heading out as it's just narrow country roads without street lights where I am so night time running isn't an option. I then decided to check my resting heart rate and do my Polar Own Optomizer Test and the results were a resting HR of 43 and a test result of 1 which means Good Recovery. Long story short I'm feeling lazy and not tired and that's not a reason not to train. Last Monday I couldn't train and it was very annoying and here I am with the time to train but looking for an excuse not too.
Listen to your body not your head!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Almost going to plan

Another week of holidays has meant missing a few extra training sessions at a time when they all count. Not having scheduled rest days means that a lost day can't be made up as they all have their place in the plan.
Late evening and early morning sessions have helped make the most of my available opportunities and even though the volume and intensity may be reduced due to time constraints I'm still doing enough to keep my weight in check.
Today's run of 29K @ just under 5min per K brings my yearly total to 3238K or 2012 Miles and I'm 50 days away from the Spartathlon.