Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tonight will hurt

My legs have been screaming at me to visit my physio, to have him pound them for a while and tonight I'm giving in. I'm not looking forward to it as the last time I was there was in the middle of my runners low and it really, really hurt. Hurt so much that I questioned why I put myself through it. That was near on four weeks back now and since then my low is back to a high, while my legs have taken a pounding in the park. Moving from the completely flat Victoria Park to the slightly hilly Phoenix Park and doing the same mileage is beginning to show.

After a speed session on Tuesday which comprised of 6 x 800m on the track I just had two easy runs the last two days. They were however not easy... Yesterday was tough, while today was an out and out struggle.

Besides the change of route that I've undertaken lately I think hydration and fatigue is playing a part. The alcohol binge last weekend couldn't have done my hydration levels any favours. Not forgetting the fact that it threw my sleeping totally out of synch. Waking up at 12.30pm just because someone is calling is not ideal. I'm trying to make a conscious effort to drink more water today as I think I've let that slide of late. I used to have bigger bottles of water on the go in London so I reckon that could be the way forward again. At least that way I'll have a better idea of how much water I'm drinking as I lose track of how many times I refill these small bottles every day.

Oh yeah. I also finished my magic powder which allegedly makes training easier. Maybe it does and maybe that's why this week has been so hard!

Monday, August 25, 2008

No more Olympics, now what?!

The great intentions for Saturday night never came into fruition. I had planned to attempt a live coverage of the Men's Olympic marathon, similar to that for the women's that I did last week. But I failed...

I wanted an easy night on Saturday to prepare for a late night of marathon watching and an early morning of long distance running. We don't always get what we want. After going to my friend's place for Olympic watching, football watching and dire reality TV watching (his girlfriend and flatmate's demanded some non-sport on TV) I thought it was still possible to get home to see it on time. It was on at 12:30am, how could I fail? Gradually the clock was getting closer to 11pm and I was getting nervous. Thankfully his girlfriend's flatmate was heading into town with her friend, so my route home was sorted. Taxi with them to town and home on a bus. Perfect. In town however I was hassled into going for 'a' drink. From time to time I know where my priorities lie... going for a drink with two girls or watching a marathon on TV...
It's OK, I'll get the first night bus home and just miss the start of the race...
One drink is never one. One turned into two, two into three, three into dancing and next thing you know I'm on a night bus home and it's 4am. So instead of seeing any of the race I was left to check the results on the IAAF website and realise that I missed a belter of a race.

Oh yeah. I'd like to apologise to all Americans for how Ryan Hall got on. It is all my fault. He probably would have done a lot better if it weren't for my actions last week. What did I do? I bet on him to medal as an outside bet. Ryan Hall is now added to a long list of athletes, football teams and rugby teams that I have placed bets on and not produced. I've learned my lesson and I deeply sorry to all the athletes I bet on during the Olympics. I swear, never again.

Due to Saturday's adventures Sunday running was gruelling. After a month of acclimatising to Ireland's unique weather I wasn't at all prepared for these 'dry and sunny' conditions that I was up against. Add to that two decent hills and 15 miles, multiply it by a hangover and the result is how it went. But I survived and then ended up out again for drinks, this time for a friends 30th birthday. It has to stop. That's pints 4 nights on the trot. Do you see what happens when there's no marathon to aspire to?!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Race Report #12 - 5000m (17m 02s)

And so ends the last track race of the year, which happened to be the first race in Ireland this year.

Looking back at the race I'm content with some aspects and as usual disappointed with others. The pluses first. It was the fastest 5000m I've raced this year, I finally found the rhythm on the track, from start to finish I felt smooth and controlled, my breathing wasn't too heavy, I was strong throughout and finished for the first time with a decent burst. This is in contrast to every other 5000m race this year where from 6 or 7 laps out I'd be dying and trying my hardest to get finish. Running faster than these attempts and easier is obviously a huge plus.

That's where the disappointment comes in. My coach had told me to give it my all and to be shattered at the end. I was tired at the end which is natural enough but definitely not shattered. I have that niggling feeling that I didn't go faster as I didn't want to be crawling towards the line, I was enjoying being controlled in my running. The final disappointment is that it all seems to have come together in the last track race of the year. I have another 8 months or so before I'll be racing on the track again.

Oh yeah, my time. The aim was sub 17 minutes... I just missed it with 17 minutes and 2 seconds. Also at the start of the track and field season my aim was a lot lower than 17 minutes, I'd have been aiming to be running close to 16 minutes by the end of the season, so it looks like there's a lot of work ahead.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Race Night

What should be the last track race of the year takes place for me tonight. Yet another 5,000m and I think it's about time I get a decent result from it. I know I'm capable of going under 17 minutes so tonight I'll hopefully produce it.

Training this week in preparation for the race involved 8 x 400m on Tuesday and then a 4 mile jog yesterday evening. The 400s went out a bit faster than I hoped. Ideally I'd have got them done in 70 seconds each. The first one was a bit of a shock, OK a lot of a shock. The watch read 1:05 as I crossed the line. It'd been an age since I done 400s... but sixty five seconds?! I've never run sixty-five before. I'm guessing the fact that I was wearing my spikes to get used to them again before the race played a part in such a fast lap. After that I had to make sure that I was going out slower as I didn't want to burn myself out completely with a race coming up. I was aiming to do 10 reps but as the next 7 were all 68/69 with a 90 second rest on a blustery night I decided to call it quits early.

The legs were fairly tired on Wednesday for the jog and even though they don't feel 100% at the moment I'm confident enough that I'll be in decent shape for tonight. I really don't think I'll be too sad saying goodbye to track racing for another year tonight.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"Medals table, meet Ireland. Ireland, the medals table"

Like buses, you wait ages for one and then two come along together.

Our sprinter, Paul Hession, finished fifth in his semi-finals but only four went forward. Doesn't look like a medal is going to come from the track this year. A few more athletes still have to toe the line so we'll have to wait and see. Fingers crossed that Alistar Cragg can make the finals of the 5000m. His heat's tomorrow afternoon, my time.

But inside the boxing ring is a different story. Two boxers, Paddy Barnes and Kenny Egan, have guaranteed themselves bronze medals, minimum, by both winning their respective quarter final fights. Egan was never challenged in the fight, coming out a 10-0 victor. Barnes looked safe from the half way stage and just had to keep his opponent at bay to win the fight. There'll be great expectations of Darren Sutherland tomorrow now as the last of our boxers takes the ring in another quarter final.

Every year around Wimbledon time you see kids take to the street with tennis racquets, summer the GAA shirts are all you can see, all winter long its football, and more so in the UK you see cricket in the summer amongst youngsters. The sport that gets the most media attention is what you'll see the kids play. Now? I think after this you'll see plenty of kids signing up for boxing. I know sixteen years ago, when Ireland won a gold and a silver at the Barcelona Olympics, a younger version of myself took the first steps into a boxing ring. Six years back I turned from boxing to running. Maybe I should have stuck it out... Ahhhh who am I kidding? I was pish poor at boxing! At least this way I've still got my looks... and my nose has character!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The first white man... from Galway to qualify for the semi finals

Thank God for Paul Hession. Single handedly he's lifted the mood in Irish athletics after a bad Sunday and an equally bad morning seeing David Gillick fail to qualify from his heats and Eileen O'Keefe fail in her qualifiers. A good heat and then a better quater finals saw him set a seasons best, only .02 of a second off his national record, and qualify for tomorrow's 200m semi finals. Better news is that by finishing 7th fastest of all quater finalists he's got himself an inside lane for the semis and is not in the same heat as Usain Bolt with four runners to qualify.

Has an athlete ever won the Pole Vault with only 2 jumps before? Yelena Isinbayeva *swoon* cleared both 4.70m and 4.85m on first attempts to win the pole vault "competition". Then she set an Olympic record and finally a new world record after the competition was over.

Roisin McGettigan's performance on Friday was the main motivation behind my training session that evening. Tonight it looks like it'll be the Athenry man's sprinting that will be the main source this evening. Although sprinters get to train on indoor tracks when it's shitting down with rain outside... yes, yes, I know... I'm talking about how crap the weather is again...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Irish in action... and me!

Needless to say the alarm clock was switched off this morning the moment it went off and I rolled over and went back to sleep. The intentions were good but who was I kidding? 7 o'clock was never going to happen. I could have reset it for 8 o'clock at the least but that sort of thinking was not going through my sleep deprived head. The idea was to get up early and have my training out of the way before the first of the Irish athletes took part on the track at midday my time. In the end I didn't get up in time so there had to be a rejig of my plans to fit everything in.

Unfortunately the Irish girls didn't perform today. Derval O'Rourke, silver medalist in the last European Championships, didn't get out of her heat, running half a second slower than her PB and even a lot slower than her SB. The disappointing thing is that she wouldn't have even had to have run a season's best to have qualified for the semis as a fastest loser. Likewise Michelle Carey had a bad 400m hurdles. If she ran anywhere close to her PB that she set 3 weeks ago she'd have made it out of her heats, but like Derval it just didn't happen. Most surprisingly was Roisin McGettigan's race in the 3000m Steeplechase final. It seems that the race went off too fast for her and she tried to go with the pace and suffered from about 1000m in. I'd thought that if the race went out slower she'd have smashed her Irish record that she's been comfortably running around in recent weeks. Not today however.

Onto my training. I eventually got out for my 15 mile long run. The watch got left at home today so I've no idea what sort of time I was running. For the early part of it it felt comfortably strong. A gear or two above an easy pace. I surprisingly struggled with a stitch at around 8 miles. This could be down to the fact that I mixed the gels and water for the first time this week so it was something different on the run. I know that I said that I was finding these long runs to be getting easy as I'm doing them week in week out, but what's really surprising me is that I can go out at a pace faster than my easy runs during the week. Maybe the day off I give myself is paying dividends towards for this run. It is the run that all the training during the week builds up to so it makes sense that it should be the run I'm happiest with. But how come I can go out so much faster than I can on say a Thursday evening when I haven't done a tough session since Tuesday evening?

Straight after my stretching I'd a look out the window and it was the rain was belting down. The heavens must have opened the minute I got in the door. Thank God for that as I really wouldn't have been in the mood for running in that today. There'll be enough of next week!

Women's Olympic Marathon - LIVE

12:10am
It turns out that I couldn't sleep in the few hours leading up to this race so I'm now in front of the TV, laptop conveniently placed on my lap, mug of coffee to my right and eyes starting to slowly open up again. We're about 20 minutes away from the race and probably 15 minutes from coverage starting.

Last night I tried to stay awake to watch Robert Heffernan in the 20km walk but kept drifting in and out of sleep. I eventually gave in and went to bed when I woke 45 minutes to find out that he'd dropped back to 9th place from the leading group. This morning I was watching the highlights and at 55 minutes he was in the lead. I was left cursing the fact that I may have gone to bed and missed Ireland's first medal of the games. That's why the coffee is on hand tonight! Turns out that he drifted back again just after that and finished a credible 8th over all.

Wahey! The build up is starting earlier than I thought. OK, expect updates through the next few hours...

12:21am
A quick swatch at the odds shows that Paula Radcliffe is at 8-1 to win. The weather apparently isn't as bad as they thought it would be. Obviously it'll heat up over the course of two and a half hours.

This build up is great... an interview with Paula Radcliffe on BBC from a week or so ago, Sigur Ros playing in the background... this is a real goose bump moment.

12:30am
And we're off. The 2008 Olympic marathon is under way.

12:39am
The pace seems to be fierce slow through the early stages. Unfortunately they don't appear to be throwing up the mile splits on screen. Liz Yelling of GB is to the front of a mass of runners.
OK... They've just said that the first mile was 6:06 so not all that slow if I was running. They don't even look like they're going any faster than a jog but obviously they are

12:47am
The Brazilian athlete near the front appears to be running in a dress... an honest to God tie dyed dress!

12:49am
Awww.. Deena Kastor of the US has dropped out. She appears to have said that something in her foot popped. Possibly a stress fracture in her foot. That's a real shame, the Athens bronze medalist is out of the race.

12:53am
Looks like chaos at the first water station. A group of people that size trying to grab water from the same place is not going to be easy. They'll want to spread out a bit before the next one.

1:03am
We've just passed 9km. This race needs an injection of pace coming up to the 10km mark. Usually Radcliffe's tactics in any marathon I've seen her in is to race from the front. Not so here as she seems quite content to let others take he lead. More chaos at the water station as athletes seem to be missing their water stops.

1:07am
Through the 10km mark in 36:10 (5:49 min per mile pace) with Liz Yelling still to the front of the pack.

1:25am
15km now completed (53:52). The lead group really hasn't broken up too much. There's about 45 athletes in the group with Paula Radcliffe now moving to the front of it.
It's mad how they don't appear to be moving too fast in the lead group but when they show the chasers running by themselves they appear to be bombing along.

1:28am
We just had a faller. It appears to be Liz Yelling but she's back up and running. Her back is grazed after a trip over a barrier.

1:42am
I know it's crazy late at night here but there's no excuse for the exchange in commentary that's been going on here on BBC. One of the commentators was waffling away about how dreadful his weather predictions should be and how he should move into forecasting... is it that hard to think of something to say?
On that note, I've just had a houmous and toast break! The good news is I seem to be kind of awake and no fears of falling asleep in the middle of this. That was the fear at the start but that coffee really seems to have worked wonders. I hope I'm able to sleep afterwards! Coming up to half way now...

1:46am
Half way in 1:15:11. Paula Radcliffe just had to take a 'pit stop' so she's to the back of the main group. The race should really start from here.

Tomescu Dita the Romanian has made a bit of a break but no one has made a move to go with her.

1:50am
Radciffe is back in with the group now. It must definitely have been a toilet break as the footage has shown replays of absolutely every stumble, bump and shoove but no slow motion footage of Paula Radcliffe dropping off to the side for a moment.

2:01am

The Romanian is ahead by 30 seconds at 25km. Radcliffe is leading the chasing group but they don't appear to be cutting the lead. Tomescu Dita looks strong out there on her own but there's still a long way to go yet.

2:09am
Here we go. The leader is 44 seconds ahead and finally an injection of pace has come into the chasing group. The group has split somewhat. Radcliffe appeared to be dropping off but she's pushed herself back into the group. Wami and Ndremba also behind Radcliffe so not all bad. The lead has increased to 52 seconds now.

2:16am
30km in 1:45:05. There gap is still over 50 seconds. I thought the increase of pace in the chasing group would have reduced that gap as the group has been shot to shit over the last mile. Surprisingly, Wami, the Ethiopian who pushed Radcliffe all the way in New York last year has been dropped from the group.

2:27am
It's mad how the camera is focusing away on Radcliffe the whole time. I think it's mainly because they're waiting for a break down. She's struggling but doesn't look like she's going to drop out. She looks to be in a bit of pain but not getting any closer to the chasing group.

The group are working together to catch the Romanian but no one is really pushing on so they seem to be handing the race to the Tomescu Dita. The lead went down to 48 seconds but now it's 1 minute 10 seconds pretty much because they group are refusing to kick on.

2:34am
7km to go and still a 1 minute 10 second gap.

2:46am
Just a few kilometres to go. It looks like the Tomescu Dita won't be caught. The chase is on for the other two medals now. It looks like it's between two Kenyans and two Chinese athletes.

It's funny how it's going to be won by Tomescu Dita just because no one went with her when she broke just after half way. There was just a refusal to chase her as if they thought she'd come back to them.

2:51am
The gap has closed by 30 seconds but it must be too little too late as Tomescu Dita is close to entering the stadium where she'll have 500m to go when she arrives.

2:54am
It's going to be a proper ding dong for the chasing group in the stadium for the final two medals. The place will erupt when two Chinese girls go into the stadium.

2:56am

Tomescu Dita wins it... China vs Kenya for silver over the final 500m in the stadium... What a finish by Ndreba as she ousprinted zhou the Chinese athlete only 28 seconds behind the winner.

Right, with that I'm knackered and off to my bed. I'm well surprised I managed to stay awake through the whole thing without drifting off to sleep once.

Oh, Radcliffe has entered the stadium just as I was leaving. 22nd it looks like, limping and definitely, definitely struggling. I think I'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out how the only Irish representative, Pauline Curly, got on.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Beijing Marathon #1

Less than three hours now until marathon number one of the Olympics kicks off and I can't wait. Will Paula Radcliffe walk away from Beijing with the medal that she deserves as in my opinion the greatest female marathon runner ever? If she is she's going to have to battle through the pain barrier completely...

Since the stress fracture that should of had her off training for 12 weeks (she was back within 8) she hasn't been pounding the roads. Instead all her training has taken place on treadmills, bikes and water.

The various ariticles in this mornings papers after day one of the track and field gave me goose bumps. Some great performances by Irish athletes yesterday and hope for more to come over the next week has meant that this could be one sleep deprived young man over the coming week. The ladies marathon kicks off at 12.30am (my time). Then tomorrow the Irish action on track starts at midday. Somewhere between all this I have to fit in a 15 mile training run... This is going to be fun.

I'll leave you now with a quote from Ger Hartmann in today's Irish Times regarding Paula Ratcliffe and her marathon attempt. My fingers are crossed as I head off to lie down for a few hours in preperation for this epic race.

"There is no going back for Paula. The significant factor is that she is totally blinkered and in almost a surreal zone. There is no doubt in her mind nor any hint of 'what if?'. She is akin to a verteran soldier going to war for the forth time and having confidence and resolve, knowing whatever the consequences she wants to be in the thick of it and while she knows it is stacked with grenades, she is will to pit herself against fellow competitors and the elements, to determine her Olympic fate. 5th, 4th, DNF, what now? She will intrigue us and have near nervous wrecks as we run every step of the way, willing her on."
- Ger Hartmann

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

On Weather

I know, I know, it come's up a lot in my posts but good God this has gone beyond a joke. It's August, AUGUST!! why has the sky been grey for the past few weeks? where is the sun? A-U-G-U-S-T! Usually when you get a few days of dull weather in the middle of the summer it's still somewhat warm but nope, not Dublin, it's proper cold... which goes perfectly with the torrential rain we're having...

On racing
My race this week is in fact not this week. I assumed that when a list of races were put up on a website saying that "in subsequent weeks the races will be the following distances..." that the races were in order. Not so, this week is the race that was third on the list and next week, week three, is the second race on the list. It's back to normal training for me now and I'll gear up for the race that I wanted to do next week instead.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sunday on the run

Thanks to monsoon weather in Dublin on Saturday evening I didn't bother with heading out for the night. This appeared to pay dividends for my long run on Sunday morning. Usually I wouldn't be training on a Sunday after going to bed before midnight on a Saturday (that's the type of thing that goes on before races). So this Sunday a fresh faced Private arrived at the park in shorts and shades.

I did two things on the Sunday run that I usually don't do. One of them was to take a watch with me. As I'm not sure of the distances of my training runs in Dublin and I'm changing the routes regularly to find nice routes I've been wearing my Garmin, which I'm not the biggest fan of (NO! I'm not inside or moved hundreds of miles since the last time I used you). I also seemed to go out much faster on the long run than I usually would. I'm all in favour of slow, handy long runs, but I've done so many 15 mile runs this year they're no longer a struggle. Obviously I have to push myself for the last few miles but I generally finish them knowing that I could have gone on for a few more miles.

I didn't set out yesterday to go fast, I just seemed to be feeling stronger the longer the run went on. After my first lap of the park, which is around 10km, I noticed that the time was slightly under 6 mins 30 a mile. I thought this would slow down somewhat over the second lap, but me being me there was no way I was going to intentionally slow it down if I could keep it going on. The ten mile mark was reached in just under 65 mins so the pace was still around the same. That's pretty much how it stayed for the remaining few miles.

By the end I was pushing myself more than I usually would on a training run but I'm not too bothered by it as today I'm feeling fresh and should be able to get out no problem for an 8 mile easy run. Considering that pace is only 7 seconds slower than last years marathon pace it's probably not the pace I'll go out at next weekend... or most weekends for that matter. There's something nice about knowing that if I meet up with a few lads in the coming weeks to train with I won't be concerned that they'll train faster than me, as even if they were to push it a few seconds faster a mile I'd be able to handle it.

The only times I struggled on the route were the times I tried to take my energy gels. The stupid stuff just refused to come out. For the first one I'd reached my water bottle stash before I'd managed to take the gel. This threw my breathing out a bit and I also managed to get a load of it on my fingers. The second time wasn't that successful either. It was finished before I got to the bottles but a lot of it made it's way on to my hands again. I reckon over the next few months I'll just mix the gel with water before I head out as it's going to be a long time before I'll be taking the gel and water separately in a race.

This week I've got a 5000m race pencilled in. Hopefully the weather will not act up like it did at the weekend and its not cancelled. The last 7 days training have gone absolutely perfectly so the legs just need to hold up now for another few days... come on legs!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Ups and downs

For the last week and a bit I've been struggling to get a routine going having just moved back to Dublin. I think from today, well more tomorrow, the routine will be in place...

The end of last week didn't go so well for me but I'm back in full swing now thanks to an alcohol fueled weekend that was well and truly needed to lift my spirits. Last week started badly as I'd had a conversation with my coach where it was decided there'd be no marathon in 2008. The summer goals were to reduce my 5k and 10k times before moving onto marathon training. Now coming into August when marathon training should commence I'm no closer to lowering the 10k or 5k times. Rather than switch focus and give in on Plan A and go to Plan Z we're sticking with lowering the times. The next 10k that I'm focusing on is at the start of September and even if I get that it'll be too late to look at an October marathon. Instead we'll be working on Cross Country after that and looking at a spring marathon.

Even though it all makes sense it did leave me a little deflated before I headed back home to the following few days.

- greeted to Dublin by rain and 16C (low)
- physio beating the crap out of my legs which at one point made me think for the first time why do I bother (low)
- too windy and wet to face a 7 mile cycle to the nearest track for training so I did a 12 x 1 minute session in the park and slogged through it completely (low)
- rained every single day since I've been back (low)
- dinner at a friends house before going into town and dancing into the wee hours - ridiculous amounts of alcohol was had (high)
- down to the sunny south east for family fun, again with copious amounts of wine and brandy with dinner (high)
- taking on a 15 mile, hilly route for my long run which I somehow covered comfortably the morning after the night before (high)
- fearing for my life at every blind corner on that 15 mile run as these were country roads with no footpaths (low)
- moving into my own place (high)
- hopefully the brother will move into the place with me which will save me having to find a randomer to live with (fingers crossed high)
- first training session in the park by the new flat. 9 mile handy (high)
- nailing the 800s at the track on Tuesday. Very consistent running (high)

As much as I hated the physio appointment it clearly did me the world of good as the legs have been working nicely since Sunday. By all accounts I'm back on form and hopefully the next few weeks will follow the same pattern as now.