Saturday, October 25, 2008

On Jealousy

With this weekend marking my 5 year anniversary I had great plans of a post all about it, but I really can't be arsed with that post. 5 years since what? Since I lost my marathon virginity, found out that running was in my bones, joined the famous club, since I ran the 2003 Dublin City Marathon.

Personally, I hate the talk of "go slow and enjoy your first marathon, if you don't enjoy it you won't be back for more". What a load of toss! As far as I'm concerned running is either in you or it's not. If you hated every minute of the marathon and swear never to run again then you're not a runner, that simple. If you blew up on that first marathon and afterwards swear to come back and do it better and not blow up next time, then you're a runner. You don't catch the bug, it's already in you. You've just found the joy that marathon running brings. People always ask you why you run? There's no answer to this. Running is boring and anyone who says otherwise is lying. The thing is though it just feels right. I don't do it to be held in high regard by others, because I feel like I've done something other people don't or because it makes me feel tough. I do it because it feels like the thing I should be doing.

Since my first Dublin marathon I've only missed one, the following year through injury. Four Dublin marathons under my belt and I really wish I was out there adding my fifth this weekend. This is also the first year since the first marathon that I've lived in Dublin, and everything about this week says marathon. Missing the other marathon while living in a different country, in a town that had a marathon that about 200 people participated in, wasn't a big deal. This year, it's tough. The road signs going up, the expo, and the park suddenly getting quieter... with those that are in the park just tipping around. Reading the supplement in the paper today actually got me nervous and I'm not even running the damn thing.

I've a holiday booked for next week... how I wish I'd booked it for last week and missed the build up. Best of look to everyone running in it, bloggers and non-bloggers alike. I'm so jealous I've surprised myself. Next year is the 30th anniversary of the marathon and, touch wood, will be my 5th time running the 26.2 miles of Dublin.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Easing Up

The last conversation with my coach involved him telling me that for the next 3 or 4 weeks my miles would be cut down. I argued, said I'd only recently had a week off, I felt good, there was no need for a reduction. I was told to forget about the week off, it did me no harm I lost no fitness, this is just to wind down the legs before starting all over again. He had said no more than 5 miles a day Monday to Friday, now that's 6. I scoffed at this being too easy. He pointed out that after this time I will increase my work load to a tougher schedule than I did over the past year, I'm now a tougher runner and should be able to deal with it. He even suggested that after these few weeks of low mileage I'd come back fitter than I am now. I laughed at this... doing less and getting fitter?? Riiiight!

And today I was proved wrong... Yes, my coach knows more than me.

What happened today? 5 mile tempo is what happened! I'm not used to tempo training. 1 minute, 2 minute fartleks, 400s, 800s, 1500s... no problem. 5 mile tempo? Hurts like hell. And it's a regular part of my training for the next few weeks. According to my coach, it's what Jerry Kiernan based his training on - 8 mile tempo runs. Except he was doing them at about 4m 40s mile pace. So three miles more and a fair whack faster. This was meant to motivate me to do them? It bloody worked. At 3 miles when breathing out my ass I was thinking how Jerry Kiernan could do 8 and he probably hurt like I was hurting right then and he wouldn't have quit. I was not quitting. I didn't, possibly slowed, but I pushed on.

For the next few weeks Friday is tempo day. Tuesday, I can do the 6 miles as I choose. 6 x 1 miles, 2 x 3 miles, anything I please. Every other week day shall be 6 miles. Sunday's I still do 15 miles, just less driven than over the past 6 months. Could I finish these 3 weeks fitter than I am now? Damn straight I can.

Moral of today. I will forever trust the judgement of my coach!

Well, I've been a bit busy over the past few days. Not running but with this site - I started toying with the idea of creating a running site a while back, and then a running photo site this week. As I started into developing it, yesterday, it started to move quickly along so I thought hey, I may get this done in time for the Dublin marathon. I got a friend of mine to get me some images and then, bang 24 hours later is born....

So what is it? You could just go the site and have a quick read about it but I'll fill you in here anyway. Basically it's a photo search community for runners. It works using the very simple idea that all runners are identifiable after the race by the bib number they were given. After each race anyone who took pictures at the race can upload them and they are then searchable by these numbers. The photographers don't have to be professional, hell it doesn't even have to be me (and probably better too, as I've got races to run). The beauty of it is that anyone can take the pictures at the races - once you have a digital camera you're good to go.

At the moment I've only got the Dublin Marathon listed in the search but this will be increasing over the coming months. If anyone out there is at the Dublin marathon over the weekend then please, take your camera along and take some pictures of the people running in it. If you're not and you know someone that is going then tell them to bring their camera. The more pictures taken the better chance people have of finding themselves afterwards.

More events will be added shortly and if anyone is going to any other races with their camera then let me know either through this or the site and I'll get it listed in the search options.

Happy racing people and happy snapping...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Race Report #15 - Wimbledon 10k (34m 42s)

As I turned the final bend and could see the home straight with the digital clock saying 34 minutes and thirty odd seconds I have to admit my first feeling was one of disappointment. It had been a good race, a race that I thought up until that second could have been a PB, then in one instant, just be seeing that clock I could see I'd already missed out. Nothing else to do but put the head down and use every last bit of energy to finish. In the end I crossed the line in 34:42, a mere 17 seconds from my PB. The fact that two people passed me in the last kilometre was always going to add to my immediate frustration, whereas in the preceding 9 not even a handful had passed me. The disappointment lasted all of a minute I'd say. I copped on that I'd run a tough race, a tougher course than my last 10k but by far in more favourable weather conditions. Some day I'll find the perfect course and get the perfect weather as well!

The early morning race time had me slightly concerned beforehand, but on the day in question it wasn't a bother at all. I woke up (for about the umpteenth time) at 6.30am and had a bowl of porridge. After that it was back to bed until 7.45am. From there it was up and out and to the race. I got to the race just before 9am which allowed me plenty of time for stretching and a 20 minute warm up. As I jogged around the rugby pitches by the start I felt great. My legs felt so fresh that I couldn't wait to get started.

I got myself right to the front for the start. It was a big field (750+) with a narrow starting chute so I'd lose a bit of time if I didn't get that start at the front. As we set off one lad, who looked the part, shot off to the front and it was clear as the day that he was going to keep that pace and I wasn't go to be anywhere near him come the end, so I let him go on. No one came near me though which surprised me somewhat. For the first kilometer I was out in second, a good distance from first and no one behind me. Bollix! The pace didn't seem too bad, I could still see the lead car at the first kilometre marker. How annoying must it be to behind a car with a clock for a whole race?! The clock read 3.20 at that point. That's about what I would have wanted it to say, a sub 34 minute pace. I still wish there'd been a few around helping me through this pace.

Running on my todd ended soon enough, before or after 2km I'm not sure, a group of four glided past me. Again, Bollix. My thoughts went to had I gone out too fast? Was I now going backwards? Will the next 8 kilometres see me struggle? Have I fucked this up so early on? My breathing was heavy and the four were getting further ahead of me, while also spreading out a bit amongst themselves. Soon enough my breathing got less laboured and I was closing on the last of the four. Heading up an incline, I went past him. Now it was his time to have negative thoughts! The last thing you want in a race is to pass someone and then have them re-pass you later on. I could tell when I went by that his breathing was heavier than mine and I wasn't going to see him again.

Usually when I'm told a race has a big hill or is hilly I take it with a pinch of salt. They never seem to be as bad as I'm led to believe, and seriously in France every race had a hill in it bigger than anything I'd had to run up in Ireland or England. Sunday put an end to that. There was a massive hill just before the half way point. It lasted for around 600m and really took it out of the legs. Between that massive hill and the winding roads, we never went more than 400m without turning, this course was proving to be a tough one. Soon after the hill the quads got another test. Going back down! This wasn't as steep as the climb up, but it was longer, probably just over a kilometre. This saw a huge increase in the pace I was going at, but not enough to close the gap on the person ahead of me. By the time that ended and we were back to undulating it was 8 kilometres and my quads were burning. Just before the downhill section I'd picked off another of the group of four who'd passed me early on. With 2 kilometres to go I was up to forth and pushing hard to get home.

From there on in it was a battle to finish. I think I was slowing up a bit. Every now and again I inserted bursts of speed to try get the tempo moving again. As I mentioned at the start, 2 lads past me over the last kilometre to push me further down the rankings. One of them breezed past me far too easily and nonchalantly asked me if we only had 1 kilometre to go. I grunted something and on he "jogged". At first I thought that he mustn't have been in the race and he was out doing some training or other, but a glance at his ankle to see a chip attached to it proved that suspicion wrong. That was probably more soul destroying than the fact that someone else passed me a minute later.

All in all a good end to the road racing this season. It would have been nicer to have PB'd, but I'll take the time I got. Only this morning when I clicked on the results I spotted that I was actually on the winning team. No idea if there was a prize for that or not. I didn't even think of it after the race. Two other lads from my club, who I never met before, finished 19th and 20th to give us first place. Now it's time to figure out what I'm up to next... I'll keep you posted!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Last road race of the year?

Tomorrow afternoon I head off to London to gather the last of my belongings that are taking up space in two friend's apartments. They'll be glad to see me get rid of it I'm sure. The Frenchies, who have a lot more of my stuff, will be wondering if I'll ever take it home. Uhm... maybe next visit.

While I'm there I'm taking in what should be my last race of the year/for a while at least. There could well be one cross country before the end of the year and I suppose if I start to get bored in the next few weeks throwing a race into the mix could be an option. Going into this I'm treating it as my last race this year so as to give it my all. It's a 10k in Wimbledon bright and early on Sunday morning. Too early if truth be told (9.30am). Luckily for me it's close(ish) to one of my friend's apartments so I'll crash there on Saturday night. If I was luckier my friend who lives in Wimbledon would be about, but no, he's off in Amsterdam this weekend marathoning.

The pre-race routine is going to be tough as the race is so early and there's a bit of a commute as well. There'll be no waking early to get a few miles jog in to wake the body. It'll be wake, eat and head off to the race. I'll have to get a good warm-up in to be sure that my legs are good and awake. A 20 minute jog, some stretching, change into race gear, some strides and relax for the final 5 minutes before the gun should do it.

My race tactics will be fairly simple. Start off comfortably for the first kilometre, and then upping the pace after each kilometre. By the half way point I should be digging in completely. The early pace will depend on the standard of those around me. My biggest fear pre-race is always the starting pace. You don't want to start too slow and just tip around, and then you don't want to go off too fast and die over the final half. Generally when you race a few races in an area you get to know those around you and who'll be the best person to attach yourself to. This weekend I'll recognise no one so I'll be trusting myself from the off. If I get the pace right at the start I know my strength will carry me through to the end alright.

Before I sign off I'd just like to say best of luck to Nick and Grellan who are both taking on the Amsterdam marathon this weekend. It's meant to be a lovely fast course so two PBs are definitely there for the taking

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Skinny Fit Private

Walking around town on Saturday afternoon I noticed something bizarre. My boxers kept sliding down, meaning that every few minutes I had to start yanking them back up. I did get very wet on Friday's training session... Did I shrink in it? Thank god the trousers stayed in place or it could have been a whole lot more embarrassing. The past few weeks I'd become aware that I'd more than likely lost some weight, but this was ridiculous. Since moving back to Ireland I've had a full length mirror for the first time since moving away almost 5 years ago, so it was a lot easier to spot my weight, or lack of it. What I don't have is a weighing scales.

I jumped on the parent's scales on Sunday and was even more shocked then than discovering I'd shrunk in the wash. About two months ago I'd have said I was in or around 78 kilos (171 lbs / 12 st 3 ). That would be the lowest I've weighed since... uhm, well, since I've grown up. Generally I'd have been a few pounds heavier. On Sunday I weighed less than 75 kilos (164 lbs / 11 st 10). That's a lot of weight to be dropping off in a few months. The odd thing is that I'm definitely eating as much as before, not training more, sleeping well, not sick, I'm pretty much a very healthy individual. Where did all the weight go? Why did it choose now to leave and not over the course of the last year. I've been weighing between 78 and 80 kilos for near on 18 months. What makes these last two months so special? I don't particularly want it back as I'd assume the less I weigh the less I have to carry when I run. What I want to know is how come it's gone.

Pre-running Private used to weigh slightly more than 80 kilos. Back in my final year in college, when I used to box, I was boxing heavy weight. For my first fight I was 86 kilos (189 lbs / 13 st 7) for the weigh in. Most of that weight was carried in my face... my cheeks to be percise!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What perfect conditions for running in...

As we used to say when I was younger... Not! Friday's fartlek session was a bit of a washout. All day the weather had been threatening. A bit of drizzle. Dry spell. More drizzle. Stop again. Drizzle, drizzle, drizzle. When I started out it wasn't so bad, but by the end it was relentless. For my last rep I was into a full on head wind, with equally heavy rain, blurring my vision, vest stuck to me and shoes sloshing with water, similar to if I'd just fallen in a swimming pool . It's odd how the stronger the wind against me, the stronger I seem to push it to hold on. The last rep felt the best out of the lot of them, it more than likely wasn't, just all down to the fact that it was run into the worst conditions of the session. On the jog back to chez moi afterwards what would have bothered me on any other day didn't even cause me to blink or break stride... just as I turned a corner a bus was going in the other direction covered me from head to toe with a puddle. At that stage I was wet enough that I wasn't going to be bothered by that soaking.

The session itself went well enough. I ended up feeling better about it, probably more so psychologically from having headed out in that weather. 14 x 1 minute hard with a minute and a half jogging in between. It's probably my favourite of all the hard sessions I carry out, and generally I do it year round, at least once a week. It's a session I'd recommend anyone to carry out for a bit of speed endurance. A couple of miles to warm up, then the session, followed by a couple of miles to warm down.

It's getting harder to go out in the evenings now with winter getting that ever closer. I don't know what exactly it is - probably the darker evenings making me feel tired - but as I'm getting ready to head out I definitely feel a bit more fatigued than usual. My training hasn't changed, or the time I'm running at, so it has to be the fact it's greyer out there. In the coming weeks I'm going to have to adjust the times of my runs to take this into account as when the clocks go back (/forward? - I never know which way they go... all I know that this time it's the "bad" one!) it's only going to get bleaker and harder.

Tomorrow I'm going to try get out and run with the local club for the Sunday long run. I've failed this far to ever be up and ready to meet people for 9 o'clock. Hopefully tomorrow will be different. If not I'll still get out and do 15 miles on my todd, as per usual, when I get up.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

One more and we're done

The time to switch focus is coming soon. The swap from road to muddy fields is just around the corner.... or just over the hill. Why I'm looking forward to getting back into cross country I have no idea, considering last year when I was doing it I couldn't wait to get out on the roads. I think I wanted to get back on the roads last year because no matter how hard you're running ankle deep in mud you're never going fast, you're just slugging it out, and in the back of your head you're left thinking about how fast the equivalent effort on the road would be. At the end of the day the cross country season is more about training for me than anything else. By the time February comes around again I should be left confident in my running strength.

But before I get into all that there's one more road race to come. I suppose it'll be the last race of the year. I won't be racing in November; December is cross country; so unless I throw in a road race for good measure around Christmas this next one is the last of 2008. The race is on next Sunday. No rest really, I'd prefer if it was the week after to allow me to prepare better. This week has been winding up after Sunday, no speed session until tomorrow. Next week will then be winding down for the race, no speed session after Tuesday. I don't really seem to have a chance to focus on the race or feel like I've done much race specific training but that's when it is, I've got to go with it.

I checked around the various Irish calendars and there didn't seem to be anything going on here over the next few weeks on the roads. There is some marathon or other in 3 weeks, but I think I'll give that a miss!! As I have the last of my things to pick up in London I decided I could kill two birds with one plane - find a race and pick up stuff. I had a choice of 3 races over there, a 5km, a 10km or a 10 mile. I've gone with the 10km race. The last one went well so why not another? I've no idea about the course or standard, but sure that's all part of the adventure.

My coach told me after the last 10km that the time I set there was the new standard for me. From now on no matter what my training build up has been I have to know that I won't run slower than 34 minutes. So no pressure then!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Onwards and upwards

I think writing the blog post soon after the race finished really helped me on Sunday. When I was talking to my coach later on he asked me why I thought it didn't go right and as I had it fully analysed earlier, and typed out, I knew exactly what to say... when I needed to be a tough bastard, I wasn't. It's a learning curve I can deal with. Trying to find the fast pace that hurts but is maintainable is going to be hard. All I've got to do is keep trying. Like every other distance it will come about eventually. Every race isn't going to be perfect.

About 10 weeks back or so I ran a 10k in 36.40... A few weeks later I took over two minutes from that time. Before that I spent a lot longer than "a few weeks" trying to get my marathon time down. It was two years and three marathons before I took it down to what I knew I could run. One of them failed marathons isn't talked about much in these parts, infact I tend to pretend it didn't happen. We'll skim by it very quickly...

Rotterdam 2007... I heard that the conditions were so bad that day that the elite athletes didn't have it put on their records. This may or may not be true but I heard it and I'm sticking with it! The times not on my record either! I'm not sure exactly what I ran (crawled) that day, I've never gone back to look at the results. I knew on the day, I texted it to my coach and I soon wiped it from memory - it was definitely my slowest ever. I also don't have the medal for that day. It was binned, but not on purpose. Although when I realised on the train home that I'd left it in the bag of crap I got after the marathon, which I'd left by the bin in the hotel room, I didn't care to be honest. 6 months later I toed the line in Dublin and took 15 minutes off my marathon time... about 45 minutes off my Rotterdam time!

By no means whatsoever does Rathfarnham on Sunday come anywhere close to the heat wave that April in Rotterdam. I know that with perseverance I will run a 5k race that I'm ecstatic with for a few days. Then I'll start to think "now I can run faster", just like the marathon last year, the 10k just gone, and the first time I ran 1.21 half marathon. I took some lessons from Sunday's race, I'm not disappointed with it, it's just another race that's a platform to the next one. All I took from Rotterdam was severe dehydration.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Race Report #14 - I hate 5k! (16m 42s)

What a horrible distance! Great course, great conditions, super fast field but my God did it hurt. Officially I've got my fastest 5k time to date there - 16.42 - I'm neither happy nor disappointed with it, just pleased it's over! It was the kind of race where I was going to learn a lot about myself. As I said I'd wanted to put my body under stress and race through it. I certainly managed the stress part... the racing through it wasn't as successful.

There's not much to say about the whole race as it all followed the same theme, just keep going. I probably covered the first mile the fastest I ever have in a race, which would make it the fastest mile I have ever run. There was someone giving splits at the first mile marker and I went through it sub 5 minutes, as planned. Granted I didn't think the mile had been that fast. The start had been congested and hard to get going, slightly downhill with what wind there was today into our faces. I probably didn't need to weave as much as I did in the opening mile, but I didn't think I was running fast when I was stuck behind people so I pushed on.

I've no idea on any other splits over the course. Up to the 2 mile mark I was hanging onto those around me and working off them. It was tough and I could feel my heart pounding like never before in a race... infact I don't think I've ever noticed my heart beating in a race. The last kilometre was hard, very hard. This is where I was going to learn about myself racing under stress. I was definately running, but I wasn't racing. I was simply just trying to get to the finish line at that point. In them kind of conditions you have to be tough, a hard bastard as my coach always says to me. Today I wasn't hard enough, simple as.

I have to be pleased with getting my fastest time over 5k and finishing poorly, and belive me I am. I just know there's more in there. I could think that I started too fast and paid for it down the line but that's not how I think. That's the kind of pace I need to start out at, I just have to work harder to maintain that... become tougher.

I'll update this with the time the race was won in when I know it. I head it was low 14 minutes but not too sure on that yet. I'll be struggling to have made the top 50.... quite a fast race it has to be said

Friday, October 3, 2008

Here we go again....

What is this? My 14th race of the year? I think that's a record. I can't remember off hand how many I did last year (that was definitely the most), but I think it was under fourteen. There should well be a few more in the last 3 months of 2008. But will I run further than 10k this year?

The mini taper has been going quite well. Mini is the word though, as up until today I've only taken a mile a day off my usual training program. On Tuesday I did run on the road rather than the track. It was far too miserable a night to be bothering busing around Dublin to be blown away on a track. The park had to do instead. Tonight however I only have to do 3 miles. Wahey! Then it's nothing until the 7am on Sunday morning.

I'm going with the same race day routine as the last race. I'll be up at 7 o'clock, go for a quick 2 mile jog before breakfast to wake the body up. Then it'll be flake on the couch until race time. The race kicks off at 11am and yet again is right beside the parent's house. I'll crash there on Saturday to make things all the more convenient. The warm up will be around 2.5 miles, hopefully finishing 10 minutes before the race starts. A quick change of shoes and then a couple of strides to get me up to race pace and we're off.

This 5km is going to be fast, very fast. I'm not talking about me here mind, I'm talking about the rest of the field. I'll be lucky to push a top 30 spot. Last year the top 30 all finished under 16 minutes. My goal is as close to 16 minutes as my legs will let me. That means I'm going to have to start fast, which means the warm up will have to be good. I have to be ready to race from the off. The first mile should see me through in close to 5 minutes, hopefully the second one will be about the same. From there on in it'll be trying to put the effort in to run fast with the body under pressure, something I've been lacking from past races. When I cross that line I want to know that I couldn't go another mile. The last race I finished strong and the more I think about it, the more I know that I could have gone on.

My goal time is a tad on the optimistic side. I've never run a 5k faster than 17 minutes, although there was a 6.6km race last year which would indicate that I went through the 5km mark in 16.40 or faster. The Mcmillan calculator, which we all know and love, says that based on my last 10k I can run a 5k in 16.30. I was thinking about it yesterday and there's not going to be many more races where I smash PBs like a few weeks back when I took 1.15 off my 10km time. This could well be the last chance I have to take a big chunk from a 5k. If I hit 16 minutes then more than likely, from here on in, I'll only take small bites from it. That's an incentive for me to go out an take as much as I can off it in this race. Here's hoping I don't finish the race at 11:17:03 on Sunday now!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Return

The Under Armor cold weather running tops have been busted out the last two nights training. Yep, Dublin is that cold already! It's more the wind than the actual temperatures mind. According to the BBC these 20+ mph winds are going to continue until Saturday but Sunday (raceday) should be a mere 7mph. Wahey!