running

Recovery week done

With this, my last run for the week, recovery week is over. I’m so glad …

I do one recovery week per month. During this time I don’t run as much as usual, take more days per week off than just one and try to stick to 100% in the low heart rate range. The only rule is to not take more than 2 consecutive days off. I’ve gotten so used to it, that I think I feel how my body uses this time to repair and build itself up to be a bit better … I know how ridiculous it sounds, but that OK for me … this blog is to write down what I think/feel, no matter how stupid it sounds.

Recovery week also serves another purpose and that one is huge for me. It brings the fun and enjoyment back in case I’ve lost it. When recovery week starts I am usually at a high, I can see improvements and that is the perfect time to stop and slow down. Like a treat. I also need to leave something in the tank and this tank gets filled up during the recovery week. Maybe it is my running mojo tank?

So today I went to the park to enjoy breaking in my new shoes while running around on rugby fields and passing by birds swimming in the lake. Just a fantastic Irish summer day – cloudy and perfect running conditions with just around 13 degree Celsius. After 1 hour at 143 heart rate and an average pace of 8:25 min/km I decided it was enough running in new shoes and headed back.

running

The New and The Old

The Old

Today I had a clever idea. It rarely happens, but there it was! Let me explain: For a while I’ve experimented with different types of music for my runs and working on my cadence. I found some music that makes me faster (fantasy metal anyone?), but the same type of music also doesn’t allow me to relax or able to focus much. So while thinking about what type of music I can possibly try that let’s me relax, helps me focus, doesn’t distract my thinking and is at the right bpm, I remembered one of the tricks to help me focus while programming or during intense thinking, is to listen to Mozart. Now Mozart is not fast, but I can half the bpm! OK that was the clever part … I failed doing the math and spotified (is that a word?) for 60 bpm Mozart and went on my run. It was fantastic, like meeting many old lost friends! Now as soon as I learned to divide 180 by 2 and find Mozart music for it I should be on my way to become a super high cadencing runner!

The New

My search for new shoes, that offer more cushion than my super flat minimalist worn out inov8s (love ’em still – is there a Shoeaholics Anonymous club for people that can’t let go of their old runners?), has ended. I got myself a pair of sofas for my feet. Should fit to my new found slow couch pace right?

Gareth helped me get over my PSAA (Pre Shoe Arrival Anxiety) and is waiting for photos. Here you go:

Altra Torin

#spottedTheShoes

Yes … I still hate pink … but I took them to the beach after today’s 1 hour test run and tried to find colors that match the shoes … on soft sand all colors are pretty I keep telling myself.

So far I like them and the big huge toe box seems to offer just enough room. I usually try and avoid running on roads, but when the tide is up or the runs go to long, I am forced to cover some tarmac. Why I decided to get the Altras? Next to all other reasons (cool company etc), they seem to be the only ones offering no heel to toe ratio with more cushion. With all the running I had promised my feet that I would only force them into heels if we’re out for a business meeting …

Other thoughts? I wouldn’t use them for anything else but road/park and that’s what I got the for. They are gigantic compared to my normal shoes and I would definitely miss the flexibility I get from my usuals. I feel also I’d improve my ankle breaking rate from 0% to 98% if I tried to run on the beach or even trail with them. All in all though they offer just what I wanted and I am extremely happy with my purchase.

Other news?

Does all the slowness work?

It’s always fun to look at infrequently used Strava segments. Today I compared a street segment I ran one year ago:

Aug 4, 2015     9:47/km     159bpm

Jul 28, 2016   8:39/km     140bpm

So … yes – I’m one minute faster and run at a heart rate that is 20 beats lower. Good enough for me.

running

Quicker

During today’s quick recovery run I focused on a higher cadence or better … quicker steps. What I’ve been struggling with, at least in my head, is how to run at a high cadence while still running slow. I know it’s possible, I’ve seen people do it … I just can’t seem to do it over a longer period of time. Well … progress is always slow and so I am happy to see, that at least today shows a bit of an improvement.

My average heart rate was 137, running at 9:35 min/km and a cadence of 157. Other than that, recovery week is happening and I feel sloth all around! Looking forward to next week.

running

Today the music stopped

Today the music stopped, before I had even started running. I must remember to re-charge my phone, or my Internet flat runs out doh!

Anyhow … the music stopped, but I didn’t want to turn back. I usually run with music and know I must work on getting rid of it, so I took it as a sign and set off.

It was also a great opportunity to test the first point on Saulbee’s ultimate mental hacks for long runs list! What he suggests sounded doable, before I tested it!

His first mental hack is: “Write in your head” and it all seems to be around “the opening”. It reminds me of the game “I pack my back”. I thought I can do that or at least try.

I quickly got the opening: “The day the music stopped …” – that was the simple part …

… and the part I kept repeating and this is how it went on in my head:

“The day the music stopped … I started to hear the waves crushing” … Hey that sounds good! I can make this a thing! Maybe I can write about hearing birds? *Listen for birds … no birds just waves* … oh birds … it’s just so cool how everybody out there is hunting for cool objects on their runs, like the birds … I remember Paula’s post about a wild bird … oh no I’m loosing the plot! Let’s remember … what was the opening? Oh yeah …

“The day the music stopped … I started to listen to my steps my cadence improved”. OK wait a second … that isn’t true. I can’t write that as I won’t know that my cadence improved till after my run! So I just try and make it a reality now and don’t write that paragraph. I try to run at a higher cadence. I’m trying to do 3 steps per second, but now have no idea how long a second is. I try to count and realize: I’ve lost the plot! Back to …

“The day the music stopped .. I hear the waves crushing … and ” do I hear something else? Where are the usual dogs I meet on the beach? I look out for them, but no one is in sight. I realize that I’ve been running for quite a while and am not missing the music. I start again and add:

“The day the music stopped I realized I can run an ultra one day.” One of the things that had bugged me about running with others is the running without music … music is like my crutch. It was on my plan to try and run without music … but it was like the last point on a multiple page list on the very bottom! Realizing I can just do it and enjoy it is a big one for me. If I can do this, I can figure out the rest.

“The day the music stopped I became aware of the sea. I heard the waves crushing and sloshing against the sand. I became more aware of myself, my rhythm and the rhythm of the wind.  I heard my footsteps and my breathing and it’s quiet. I’m surprised how quiet I can run, how normal this feels. The day the music stopped I realized I need a lot more mental training to not loose the plot.”

running

To data or not to data – that’s no question!

It’s recovery week, so I am taking Monday’s usual run time to reflect and analyze a bit of the data I’ve been collecting. What would all the data be for if not to learn from it huh?

One of the points I noticed is my easy run pace has been acting weird. Weird means the following: I started working on running easy/slow or at my MAF heart rate in the beginning of the year. With acting weird I mean that in March I was faster than in May. Did I slow down? I am now getting faster again and am super happy with my progress, but I wanted to find out two things: what made the progress slow down and now improve again?

I think I found the answer and it is consistency … who’d have thought right? Check out my PMC from trainingpeaks below, the reason (I think) why I slowed down was because of the breaks (flu and stiff neck issue) – I have my blog archive to thank for showing me that … I had completely forgotten about it!

Since it has been a while since I posted my last PMC, let me quickly explain it a bit. Red dots are runs and the intensity is shown by the height of the dot. I.e. the last highest red dot on the chart represents Saturday’s run. The really interesting part about this chart is the blue line CTL (chronic trainings load). The chart shows my complete running history since I started last year. You can see me becoming more and more fit. You can also see the frequency of my runs increased.

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This chart also helps me to do remind myself to do recovery weeks. How’s that you ask? The yellow line shows my TSB (training stress balance) or I remember it as form. I don’t want my form to go down below 25 too much, 30 at most.

Now to make one thing clear: I am not using this on a daily basis. I use this once a month (during recovery week i.e.) to check how it all adds up. I also use it to plan any increase and to check my heart rate budget. If I really don’t want to go out for a run and have no noticeable reason, a super low form might offer the explanation and I stay home.

I suppose the main purpose for me is to remind me that continuous steady progress is key to success – in all areas.

running

Searching for the mountains

Today I took off in search of the Dublin mountains again. To find them I figured I just follow The Dublin Mountain Way, which is marked by yellow men and it is close to The Chimney. It is also great fun to run a route more often and see how much further I get!

Here is a map showing The Chimney.

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After around 1 hour I found this treasure – an unmanned aid station! Unfortunately I didn’t have anything with my to eat or drink and so I continued.

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I was extremely happy to see what the yellow man had in store for me:

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Let me tell you … no let me show you:

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I didn’t find the mountains, but I didn’t care. I found the perfect trail at the end of the perfect hill. Can’t wait until I can go even further!

I also #spottedTheBird – yes it’s a tiny one, but …

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I get points for figuring out what type of bird it was! A Jay 😀

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Oh and I brought something home for Paula, as she had a hell of week and loves old stone structures! I found out that this is called Puck’s Castle! Now I have no idea who Puck is though …

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All in all happy with my heart rate, you wouldn’t know there was a hill (250 meters) and I am quite happy with my average heart rate of 140 at 9:35 min/km. I had to walk the steeper sections and avoided running over the ankle breaking ones as well as walking some of the steeper down hills. Yeah you read right – I am getting more clever, let’s see if my quads thank me for it.

graphs--pace-heart-rate

 

running

So easy – so slow?!

Today I had a lot of fun. Let me tell you how it went:

It’s Friday, so it’s “easy” day. After my usual warm-up walking and photo taking (the photo turned out horrible so no beach photo today), I started my run and plodded along. After a while I checked my watch as I hadn’t noticed it vibrated for a while and I wanted to make sure I was still running under 144 bpm. It was quite low and so I checked what pace I was running. It felt easy and so I wasn’t to bothered about a too low heart rate. I was quite shocked though to see I was only running 15:00! That would explain the low heart rate, but I couldn’t possibly be running that slow …  15 min/km … I can’t even walk that slow. Fortunately I have learned over the last year to listen to my body and I know my heart rate/effort usually without having to check the watch (you know nose breathing and all that). So … I decided my watch was broken or must have picked up some slow satellites??? I entertained myself for a while trying to figure out what the bug (software speak for error) could possibly be. It was like the watch was showing my real pace but only 1.65 times as slow … now wait a second! I feel like I am running real easy … my heart rate shows I’m running easy … but I should be running between 9 and 10 min/kms … I couldn’t have broken myself that quick and was feeling really good.

Then it suddenly dimmed on me. My watch must have reset itself from metric to miles during yesterdays updating of my workouts. I nearly burst out laughing and thought of Judy’s post from today aptly titled “You are not a number“.

Now that I am back and can make more sense of the numbers, I realize that I just ran an easy 40 minutes at and average heart rate of 134 at 9 min/km. I think I found a new easy pace for my “recovery run” days and will call it “couch pace”. Running this way is quite effortless, much like sitting on a couch and I can’t believe I found this new easy … my goal is now to get this easy feeling for my new faster pace that I have to run to stick to 144 … probably this only makes sense in my head.

running

A run and a plan

Today I headed out to see how much pavement my legs can take (not much) and how long exactly 4 miles are! In case you missed it I am considering to run a baby ultra next year. I say baby to convince myself that this is like a 5k in ultra terms and baby in front of anything makes things seem small. I also bet on the fact that 40 miles soon will feel like nothing … at least in my head. I mean 40 miles is just 4 miles times 10 … I can count to 10, most of the times … but I digress.

So what’s the status? I think I have made a plan! I will see until the end of the year if I can increase the duration/length of my runs to a decent enough volume to consider running for such a long time, as well as figure out a way to run on pavement for that long. Both interesting challenges in their own right! Then if it all works out, I’ll commit to run the race.

Now what’s the plan you ask? It’s simply an extension of my existing plan:

plan

In the first row (minutes per week) you can see what I am doing right now. If I manage to increase by 10% each month, I’d be running for 3 hours as my long run. I’m not sure when I will increase though, as I need to continue listening to my body when it’s ready for it … the 2 hour runs are getting easier though.

Progress so far

Today’s run consisted of 1 loop of my new “test route” – 4 miles on pavement/park and then the rest on the beach as a treat and to get used to continuing after crossing my usual “go home spot”. It’s kind of fun to try and convince myself that I just started the run and try and feel as fresh!

Today I ran at 8:25 min/km at an average heart rate of 139 … yes you read it right – I am enjoying massive improvements at the moment 😀

Here is a list of all my recent “easy runs” and you can see the pace creeping upwards ever so slightly!

pace-improvement

I’m also extremely thankful and excited to receive all of your tips and tricks! It’s like crowd coaching! I know I’ll rely heavily on Randall’s tips (check out his race report of the event I am considering) or Saulbee’s mental hacks, like looping a lot during long runs and a list of hacks he promised! (no pressure Saul :D)

Oh and as Gareth has now taken over my job as cave explorer I am desperately looking for new adventures to distract everyone from my insane plan!

running

Easy?!

I am surprised … it works … I get fitter and I am so used to running slow it feels like more and more hard work to keep my heart rate at 144!

It feels like by now my body has just accepted the fact that running slow, every day (but Sunday) is what I need it to do. It’s pretty much as comfortable as sitting on the couch and that is the tricky part! I can now run around 139 heart rate – no matter if pebbles or sands or roots – and not even wake up properly (yes running in the morning has it’s perks). I always need to make sure that I run faster to keep it at 144.

At the moment I focus on only one thing during my runs: keep it easy while running at 144. I am getting faster, so keeping it easy uses up a lot of concentration!

So what’s up next? I think I found my first ultra! I’m still researching and trying to figure out (aka calculate) if it’s possible for me to run it next year and if running on Irish roads for longer than 2 hours is something I can do, so stay tuned for more infos 🙂 or go here for a spoiler.

running

Today I ran my hill (the little one)

Today I enjoyed a 1 hour and 20 minutes long run. As I had finally “cracked the code” of mixing in 20 % fast running into my slow running, I allowed myself to use part of today for it. It’s simple really, if you read my plan you know all I have to do is divide total time or distance per week by 10. This is my easy run. Now it’s even simpler … 20% of this is twice the length of an easy run! So I can speed up twice per week during my medium runs. In minutes this means 80 minutes per week I can indulge in speed or hills or stairs or anything that makes my heart jump!

I used today to finally try and run up my hill. To my astonishment it was easy! My heart rate was an average of 153 and the pace was 9:15 min/km. The segment is a 5% grade over 1 km and I always had to walk this thing to keep my heart rate low (and in the beginning just to survive) … you have no idea how many times I walked this little beast … today I ran … slowly moving up and swoop – done!

I also of course went treasure hunting and spotted a rusty machine pulling a boat (see the featured image on top) and TheRock in disguise!

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