Saturday, 27 August 2011

Tempo fail

Of late the temperatures and humidity had declined a little and I was looking forward to knocking out a nice tempo session at close to true tempo pace. Tempo sessions are always really tough and I am always a little apprehensive about them, especially so for this session as I considered it a good fitness barometer
I set off and the first two miles were the warm up. I entered the first tempo mile of five tempo miles not feeling the best. In short, this session was a fail. The respective splits were 06:58, 06:59, 07:16, 06:54 and 07:38. I bailed about two thirds through the last mile. I felt pretty bad throughout. There was no life in the legs and my heart rate rarely exceeded 164, which I consider marathon effort, never mind tempo. However, the splits were twenty to forty seconds slower than marathon pace.
Very ticked off. What I concluded from this debacle is that trying to reach tempo pace at even the comparatively lower temperatures of 70F/21 is a no go. Furthermore, I am now almost certain I have what Jeff Galloway describes as sustained heat fatigue, the consequence of going too fast in high heat and humidity. I had been taking forty-five to sixty seconds off my mile split times but will now increase this to ninety to 120 seconds. Hopefully this will have me feeling better in a week or so, and who knows, maybe I'll be able to train in reasonable temperatures and without the need for gills!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Death march

My mishap on Thursday prompted me to switch two of my runs. I did my five mile recovery run, originally scheduled for Saturday, on Friday and on Saturday I did a twelve mile run, originally scheduled on Friday. With an eighteen miler with ten at projected marathon pace scheduled for Sunday I had decided to take the twelve miler on Saturday a little easier than scheduled. However, conditions were good on Saturday. Courtesy of heavy thunderstorms the temperatures came down to the low twenties celcius and I knocked out twelve miles in average mile splits of 07:43 with an average heart rate of 146. I feared I might suffer the consequences of this on Sunday but decided it was worth exploiting what were easily the best conditions of the summer. The run statistics also reflected the conditions and was the best set of numbers I have had all summer.
On Sunday, normal meteorological service was resumed and when I left for my run it was approaching 30C/90F, with high humidity. To keep HR for the first eight miles below 140 I was running mile splits greater than 09:10. On Saturday a HR of about 140 was spitting out splits just south of 08:00. Mercifully it cooled a little as I approached the marathon paced section of the run and I had decided that I would not let the HR go to far above 160 for this section and ideally keep it just below 160. This worked okay for the first two or three miles and I felt comfortable enough and confident I could do ten at that effort level. However four miles in and the legs began feeling very heavy, a combination of Saturday's effort and the heat and humidity was underming my performance.. I had at this point taken two GUs and at least a litre of electrolyte drink. During miles five and six of the projected marathon effort my legs felt increasingly like they were running through mud. About a quarter mile into the seventh mile I relented and decided I would do the final 3.7x miles at recovery pace and I took my third GU to help me on my way. Rather like the projected marathon pace miles this also did not go according to plan. I struggled to maintain eleven minute mile pace and was feeling pretty crappy. I managed to trudge through the last few miles and completed the eighteen miles in an average mile split of 09:02, making Sunday the slowest long run ever! Roll on September!

Friday, 12 August 2011


Inevitable...that's the first word that went through my mind as the right side of my torso and right palm hit the ground...hard. The pavements here in Baltimore are not especially well maintained and the first week here I must have almost fallen at least a few times a day. My running form was such that I was actually less likely to trip when running. I still have had a few close calls though, especially on Key Highway.
I picked myself up fairly quickly and carried on with some pain but manageable. It was obviously the adrenaline. When I got home the pain manifested itself very forthrightly! Above is a picture of the clean up operation.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011


Last weekend my wife and I went camping with her parents in Pennsylvania near the town of Bedford between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. Perusal of google maps revealed a state park a few miles from the camp site that looked like a good place for an eighteen mile run on Sunday morning. One thing you learn very quickly about the landscape of central PA is the rolling hills. My run was no different and the first few miles certainly did nothing to disavow that. However, one hill...ahem...mountain was especially cruel. This particular sadist went by the name of Tull's hill.
A couple of miles later and I entered the park to my left. The park is about fifteen miles east of the Flight 93 crash site on 11 September 2001. The morning started cloudy and reasonably cool, about 70F/21C, but both the temperatures and humidity were rising. Following a diversion on a trail that took me back out near the park entrance, via a steep hill that almost forced me to walk, I returned to the park road and followed this largely downhill to the centre of the park and crossed the bridge that traversed lake Shawnee. By now I had ran 10.66 miles and decided I and better turn back or I would be doing considerably more than eighteen miles. I had consumed two GU energy gels at the five and ten mile points and felt pretty fresh. Doubling back proved pretty uneventful and I felt fresh enough to eschew taking my third GU.
The hills did take their toll on the pace and I increased the effort a little on the hills but did not see the point in thrashing myself on an increasingly hot and humid day; likewise I did not attempt to claw back the time on the downslope, deciding it would be better to save the quads for some squats or a tempo session. I covered 18.25 miles in 02:42:13, or 08:53 pace.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Kojo Nnamdi and barefoot running

I was in the car yesterday returning from DC, where my wife had a job interview and we turned on the radio to listen to NPR. We are big fans of NPR! Anyway, the Kojo Nnamdi show was on and he had an interesting segment on barefoot running. His interviewees included Chris MacDougall, author of Born to Run. You can listen by clicking on the Kojo Namdi show link. The best tip I took from it was to imagine you are running on the spot. It is a good way to practice running in a barefoot manner and land on your mid to forefoot. The best quote came at the end, I think from MacDougall, 'the goal is not to run barefoot, the goal is to run efficiently and injury free and running barefoot is one of the best ways to achieve that.' Some have a certain fetishistic attitude to running barefoot, which I believe might have something to do with i's fashionability rather than its utility. Another good point from one of the other interviewees was that if someone approached him for advice on running barefoot who was already an efficient and injury free runner he would question why they wanted to run barefoot. In other words, barefoot is a means to and end, not an end in itself. However, the feeling of running barefoot on occasion does feel good!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Phew! Glad that's done.

The heat and humidity continue unabated. However, I continue to log the miles and I have not had to bail on a run. Last week's schedule included a tempo session of nine miles with four at tempo pace. There is much debate on what tempo/lactate threshold pace is; for me it is whatever you consider half-marathon effort.
I got out the door reasonably early at a little after 7am to beat the worst of the conditions. The first two miles went okay and my first tempo effort mile elapsed in 06:44, mile two was a surprisingly fast 06:29. Now things got interesting. To prevent me from chasing numbers, that would be completely unattainable in the conditions I adopted the strategy of ignoring the Garmin until I heard the lap beep and run by feel.. This worked well and I felt 'comfortably uncomfortable' after the first two miles. The third mile was brutal and I began to feel awful pretty quickly and was glad to hear the lap beep go at 06:34. Mile four did not get much better and I was mighty pleased when the lap beep sounded and I managed a split of 06:57.
The average heart rate for the tempo section was 171. This is not especially high and I would consider it only marginally high if you wanted to sustain the effort for 13.1. How rotten I felt really emphasised how high humidity undermines the body's ability to dissipate heat through the evaporation of sweat. Before completing the cool down miles I had to sit down on a piece of decorative marble outside an office building and watch as a pool of sweat formed at my feet. Once I felt less nauseous I zipped up the man suit and did the cool down miles. Needless to say I am looking forward to September and I trawl Groupon daily for discounted temporary gym membership so I can bask in the glow of an air conditioned atmosphere. I never thought I would ever desire running on a treadmill!