Friday, November 28, 2008

Searching for a marathon

A spring marathon is a definite at this stage. What's still left out there is the where and when. I've a few requirements for the marathon itself, I'm looking for a flat and fast one, the date is important too. Ideally it'd be the middle to end of May but the last weekend of May is out as I'll be heading away on holiday that weekend. That means the likes of Edinburgh and Cork are a no go - Cork is doubly out as it's wouldn't meet the flat and fast criteria. Rotterdam, which is a notoriously fast marathon falls too early in the year so that also isn't being considered. A shame. I did it a few years back, during a heat wave, so I wouldn't mind having another shot at it to do myself justice. Some other time...

To be honest I'm leaning slightly towards a particular marathon at the moment. Germany seems to have a shed load of marathons around that time of the year for some reason and because of that it has to be out in front as the country I could more than likely end up. The leading destinations look something like this:

Hamburg, Germany - 26th April... Falls under the fast and flat category but comes up slightly short on the date. Filed under maybe for the time being.

London, UK - April 26th... Also loses on the fact that the date is in April and it would be super hard to get into. Getting into it would involve me having to find a half marathon before the 1st January and running sub 75 minutes. This would get me into the club championship as I'm still registered with a club in London. I have no half marathons planned though. The other option is to use my one and only contact that could get me in. I may hold out on that favour for another year when I'm not registered with a UK club.

Dusseldorf, Germany - May 3rd... The date is earlier than I'd like but the location is great. Both Ryanair and Aer Lingus fly direct from Dublin, the marathon has a small field (less than 3,000), so the flights shouldn't unexpectedly rise for that weekend. The website is in English, the course seems to be fast, along the Rhine (I like rivers), and allegedly well supported. Everything bar the date is perfect.

Mainz, Germany - May 10th... I'm a bit shy on information here. Looks fast, decent date. Doubtful as I don't know much about it.

Copenhagen, Denmark - May 24th... I would LOVE to do this marathon. Actually, I really just want to go to Copenhagen and the marathon seems like a good excuse. My reasoning here could be something to do with an ex-Girlfriend from Denmark! Is that a good reason to run a marathon there?! The date is perfect as my holiday is the next week so there'd be no guilt about not running and just getting drunk in the sun on holiday. The problem is the marathon itself... I don't know how fast it is, it's two laps, is Copenhagen windy? what are the water stations like? There's bridges to cross, bridges mean wind and a climb, don't they?

Regensburg, Germany - May 24th... Again Germany, again the date is perfect, but I have no clue where Regensburg is! I'm guessing East Germany, one of the pictures on their site looks east German. The site is all in German so my info on it is limited. The lack of information I have on this makes it look unrealistic that I'll be there in 2009.

You'd probably think from reading that it's Copenhagen that I'm leaning towards. Well, as much as I want to, you'd be wrong. The current favourite is Dusseldorf. Besides the fact that it falls earlier than I'd like it to, the marathon looks champion. It'll be another week or so before I decide on one so if anyone has any info on any marathons in Spring let me know. It doesn't have to be on one of these mentioned above, but if anyone has run some of them please give some feedback.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Too many bottles

Talking with CR this week about how my training was going led to a bit of confusion. At one stage his analogy of a bag that can hold 8 bottles and trying to fit 12 into it left me a bit confused. I've taken don't overload yourself with training out of the story - really it would of been simpler if he said that rather than the bottle metaphor. Pretty simply, I had a tough training session on Tuesday with the local club (5 x 1200m on the road), so he wanted to be sure I would take it really easy on Wednesday. Believe me, the way the legs were feeling on Wednesday, taking it really easy was the only option. I'm thinking more about this bottle analogy now and I can kind of see where he was going with it... I would lose the benefit of Tuesday's session if I pushed myself too hard and didn't recover, kind of like the bottles falling from the bag I suppose!!

Ok, away from the bottles now. The talk also went on about various different training programs and mileages and so forth. Everyone isn't the same so different programs will bring out different results in different people. He mentioned athletes he used to know that would run 10 miles in 50 minutes on a Friday morning, and again on a Friday evening and then 20 miles hard on the Sunday, not a bother to him. Other athletes who got by on 150 miles a week, while lads doing the same times as them were only doing 40-50 miles. When I wondered aloud how you can fit in 150 miles a week he informed me of his training plan when he was younger. He used to do 130 miles a week, 6 months of the year, zipping around the place at 9 stone, loving running the people he was with into the ground. The day to day of it pretty much looked something like this:
Monday: 6 miles AM - 12 miles PM
Tuesday: 6 miles AM - 6 x 1 mile intervals PM (with whatever warm up and warm down)
Wednesday: 6 miles AM - 12 miles PM
Thursday: 6 miles AM - 12 miles PM
Friday: 6 miles AM - 24 x 400m PM
Saturday: 9 miles hard as you can
Sunday: 22 miles

6 months of the year that was what he was doing... Completely and utterly insane!! I think I'll gladly stick with my 6 days of running, averaging about 60 miles a week, thank you very much.

Good God!!!

It's actually sunny outside! For the past week I've run in a fairly dark, wet and windy Dublin. Now there doesn't appear to be a cloud in the sky.... at least not in the bit of sky I can see from my desk. There may just be a 45 minute window of opportunity for a nice run going on... time to take advantage of it

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"Miles don't count"

While I was away I was lucky enough to meet up and train with some pretty talented people... some more intentional than others! Anyway, one of the people I ended up in touch with through a random mail to a club in Southern California was J-Rod. J-Rod is about the same age as myself, actually he's a year younger, and what differentiates J-Rod from Private in the running stakes is the fact that J-Rod is fairly fricken fast. Recently he just ran a "slow" half marathon in 68 minutes... when he uttered them words I pointed out that his slow is my dream! He's currently training for his debut marathon, which he hopes to run in or around 2:17. Not bad for a first attempt. 2:19 is the realistic time he's shooting for, but he plan's on starting out at 2:17 pace and hoping to hold on. If worst comes to worst he should still make the 2:19 time.

My coach, CR*, has always been telling me about how he used to train with guys way faster than him and that he used the experience to find out as much as possible about the way they trained. With this in mind the two easy runs I ran with J-Rod pretty much turned into an interview with me firing question after question at him about his training routine.

What surprised me the most during this "interview" was how similar my training is to J-Rod's. We both run six days a week, one session a day, two speed sessions and one long run. The mileage covered on each run is pretty much identical. I think he covers a couple more on his long run and maybe a mile more on his daily easy runs. Actually, that's not surprised me most... what really surprised me the most was the fact that for the majority of his training he runs slower than me!

I started off asking him about his weekly mileage and the distance he covers on each run. "Miles don't count, what counts are your two workouts and 18-20 mile long run." Workouts, I'd established before this, are the two speed sessions a week. I quite like using "Workout" though - I may incorporate it more into my running chat! For fear of losing his speed during marathon training he does his midweek workout with a friend of his who got the Olympic B qualifying standard in the 5000m last year. That's a real difference to our training programs right there. I run around the track doing 400s by myself while he's out there legging it around with a future Olympian. Some people have all the luck.

The run we were out on together was one of J-Rod's easy runs during the week. These are the runs that surprised me as they were fairly slow, slower than I'd probably be running if I was out on my own. When I asked him the distance we were going to cover he told me that he didn't know. He just starts his watch, runs for 70 minutes and that's it. Nothing is measured. Hhe reckons that the pace on these runs are anywhere from 7 minutes to 8 minutes a mile. That day we were running closer to 8 minutes a mile. The goal of them is to recover from the last workout and prepare for the next, certainly not to push yourself. I don't think either of us were breathless or sweating at any stage on the run. These runs are carried out 3 times a week. So what about his weekly mileage? Usually he runs 6 days a week, covering 70-75 miles. Marathon training has meant that that's been pushed up to 7 days a week, with the max he covered being 95 miles in a week, all singles.

Finally, I pushed him on his long runs. "I usually do some sort of workout with them. The distance can be anywhere from 18-21 miles. I think the toughest one I do is 3 miles easy, then 8 miles at Marathon pace (5:15), then 1 mile at threshold (5:00ish), then 5 miles at marathon pace. This workout is tough. Sometimes I like to do a progression down to about 5:20 for the last few miles. With this progression long run, I am usually satisfied when I can average about 6 min/mile pace for the whole long run including the first few easy miles. "

So there we have it. Half the weekly runs are easy and not relatively easy but easy easy - have a chat as you go around, no sweating and no heavy breathing. Three of the runs we have to break our balls going round. Got it! Since chatting and running with J-Rod I have to say my easy runs have become soooo much easier. I always did them relatively easy but not easy easy. From now on it's easy easy all the way.

*I've got bored with referring to my coach repeatedly as my coach so from here on in he's named CR

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Sequence of events that make no sense

Saturday
13:00 - Fairly dodgy pub in town for a couple of pints before the Ireland v Argentina game.
14:45 - Croke Park for the match.
17:00 - Grub and more pints after the match
20:30 - Stop in to yet another pub for more pints
21:30 - End up in final pub for pints and dancing
00:00 - Enough is enough and night bus beckons

Sunday
09:00 - Wake up with a massive headache and decide to go back to sleep
11:45 - Finally get up and have a bowl of porridge
14:00 - Start into a long run without water or energy gels
16:00 - Arrive back chez moi

Now, what makes no sense is how the hell was that one of my best long runs? Coming to the last 3 miles I could feel my legs getting stiff but my energy levels were perfect. At no stage did I feel the need to drink water and the pace was pretty damn fast from about 4 miles until 13 miles when I started to wind down. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that over the last few weeks the long runs have all taken place in the heat. Or it could be the alcohol... either way I wish I had a race this weekend.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Back.... sort of

I've been back in the world of work for the past few days and the struggle to adjust to it and find my old routine has meant that blogging has come to a wee standstill. So here's a quick update on what's what over the past while.

- Ran 15 miles before the heat kicked in in LA only then to see a "No Sports" warning in the paper afterwards over breakfast. Probably not the smartest run I've ever done. In fairness the smoke filled air didn't really seem to become noticeable until around midday, a few hours after I'd finished.
- Currently suffering from withdrawal symptoms knowing that this weekends breakfast won't comprise of waffles, pancakes or French toast. Judging by the menu in Eddie Rockets they're not a typical American diner. Burgers and an Irish Fry seem to be the choices there.
- Leaving my sisters apartment at 13:30 on Monday to head to the airport and arriving chez moi in Dublin at 17:45 Tuesday was not as bad as it sounds. The worst part of the whole thing was taking over half an hour to drive the last 2 miles back to mine in rush hour traffic.
- Talked myself into training with the local club at 19:00 on Tuesday. Not too sure if this was a good or bad move... definitely a strange choice
- Decided there will be a marathon this Spring. Where and when is up for grabs at the moment.
- Along with the work routine I'm now trying to fit in a new training routine. Dublin is colder and darker than when I left at the end of October.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Back in LA.... and almost back to reality

The longest holiday of my life... OK, the longest holiday of my working life is almost over. When it's getting close to races I count it down by the number of training runs I have left. Using that formula I'll be home in one long run and one easy runs time. That's no length at all! Even shorter if I don't bother with the easy run that's on the same day as my flight...

America, it's been emotional.... I will return.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Please unload ammo before entering the store

After finding a bar serving pints at $3 a pop on Friday night Saturday was a wash out. I'm not too sure the hangover is related to the $3 beers, but more to the own brewed beers in the first bar of the night. But either way Saturday's hangover ranks right up there.

Thankfully Anto, the guy I was meant to train with this morning, pulled out and I had to start out alone. The reason why I'm thankful is this line of the e-mail on Friday:
"20 or 21 miles relatively easy... no 5.30 miles or any crazy shit like that"
I wasn't too sure what kind of pace he had in mind and 15 miles was my limit for the day so news of him not being able to make it wasn't all that bad.

Instead I headed out solo at a nice easy pace. After a few minutes I saw a group of lads up in front, jogging along at what seemed like a nice pace. Following behind them on a bike was obviously their couch. These guys must be part of a club on their long run. Sweet, up the pace, catch them, and join in.

As soon as I caught up with them and asked if it was alright to tag along I thought their pace was a bit slow, but this was only due to the fact that I'd had to up my pace to catch them in the first place. As I settled in with them I explained how I wasn't to sure of the area so this was saving me some hassle from having to plan a route. Turns out they were from out of town and all. I asked the usual questions then, where you from? what has you here? what are you training for? and so on. This is where I learnt I was out of my depth. Three German middle distance runners over on a training camp, preparing for the indoor season. Two 800m runners and a 1,500m runner is who I ended up with.

"I know two runners from Ireland" says Janeth, "Liam... he's knew. I don't know him personally but I've raced against him a few times. Liam..."
Uhm... Liam Reale?
"Yah, Liam Reale and Alistair Cragg of course"
Ah yes, Alistair, of course, who doesn't know him? Shiiiiit! I bet he's saying "raced Liam Reale" more accurately than when I say I raced some elite in a mass participation race. I'm way out of my depth here.... Maybe I should tell them about the pub with pints for $3!
"Are you over here too on warm weather training?"
Isn't there more convenient places in Europe for warm weather training?! Eh, nooooo no no... just visiting family and now travelling for a few days.

For fear that in any second my new German friends were going to up the pace this guy shut up the small talk to save precious breath. All of a sudden Anto and his "no crazy shit" seemed like a much better option. The pace never picked up though. We stayed at a comfortable pace the whole way through. Each time something was shouted at us (them) from the coach on his relaxing bike ride I thought it was him telling them to up the pace but it never happened. Coming to the end of the session I actually understood when the coach shouted "letzten fünf Kilometer"... such a lovely language!

Private runs with elites and doesn't die. Monsieur Laget, the French 2:16 marathoner who pep talked me and left me for dead during training sessions back in France would be so proud... Suddenly Friday's shite tempo run is right out the window.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

BHAA Dollymount Beach Race Photots

Just a quick update for those out there who ran the BHAA Beach Race in Dollymount this weekend. There's some pictures uploaded on the RacePix365.com website for the race. If you raced then pop by and enter your bib number to see if there's any photos of you. I'm fairly sure that everyone will have been caught at least once in there as there's plenty of photos.

Over the coming weeks I'll be updating the site to allow users to browse the full gallery of a race rather than just the individual pictures of themselves.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday Failure

Just as everything was going so well on the training front I get a day like today. The past few weeks the tempo runs, intervals, long runs and just your plain ordinary easy runs have all been going without a glitch. I was so happy with how they've been I even toyed with the idea of a race in the States next week before heading home. That decision was scratched as I don't want to sacrifice my last Saturday night in LA because I have a race on the Sunday morning. I am itching for a race though and can't wait to get home to see what's next on the agenda. Racing aside, I'm quite happy to keep this holiday going.

Back to today. I'm not too sure what went wrong with the session. It was meant to be 5 mile tempo run, if I got to three miles I'd be impressed. It just never started for me. My breathing was uncomfortable from before I started into the steady part of the run and from there I never really got going. A wrong turn or two on the way didn't help matters as I had to stop and retrace my steps. Annoyingly it was easier to call it quits than to try struggle on in the end. Now, a few hours later, my legs feel absolutely fine. Good enough to go out for a jog. I'm not going to do that, it just adds to the frustration that I didn't push myself hard enough. Usually I get Saturday off to recover from Friday's session in preparation for Sunday's long run. Maybe, just maybe I'll throw in a few miles easy tomorrow. Then again I have to get myself through a Friday night in a new town first...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Yes we can

While I was in LA I didn't bother trying to catch up with other runners to train with because the times I had available to train and locations were limited. All training had to be done before it got too hot, before it got too dark, before everyone woke up or before everyone was heading for dinner. The choice was mainly the first thing in the morning, while other days it was the evenings and then again days like yesterday I simply didn't bother as I didn't want to stress myself by trying to squeeze a run in.

Now that I've left LA for a week I'm able to organise to train with some clubs in the towns I'm in. Unbelieveably all the clubs that I contacted got back to me. This is shocking considering that some clubs in Dublin didn't even bother replying when I asked them for information about joining a few months back. There were one or two clubs over here that couldn't accomodate me training with them due to time constraints, but they all still replied (you hearing that Dublin clubs!) and gave me contact details of other groups that I would be able to train with.

Over the past few days I'd been e-mailing one lad to get some help with meeting up with other runners while I'm in town. He suggested coming along to a group run with them this morning. When I got there it transpired that the group was made of athletes from three or four different clubs and the local university. The University team are currently training for their regional Cross Country championships and National Championships in the next few weesk. It's hard to put a figure on the number who were there and I didn't bother counting, but it was fairly sizeable. It reminded me of when I trained in France, the Tuesday and Thursday night track sessions comprised of all the local clubs. This way it's easier to find someone of your own standard to train with. Everyone's there with the same goal so why not all train together?

Granted I've only been back in Dublin a few months but what I've gathered is that most people seem to train exclusively with their clubs. I trained for a few weeks with different clubs while I was trying to find the one best suited to me. None of the clubs minded having me down, but would that remain the same if I was actually a member of another club? In London I was a member of one club, but from time to time trained with two others. There was also a session once a week that had athletes from three local clubs who had 10k times below 36 minutes.

If three or four clubs in Dublin joined up for a few sessions what's the harm? In France I didn't even know which clubs the guys I trained with were with. Did it matter? Did it fuck. I used them to get faster and they used me to get faster. Everyone wants to race their race as fast as they can, so you need to use every advantage you can. If by training with other clubs gives you this advantage then you should go with it. At the end of the day you race in your club colours but who you train with shouldn't matter. The more people that train together, the more people you find at your level and the better your training will beccome.

Today was certainly an eye opener for me on the way people train. I just hope it'll be as easy to find training partners when I get back to Dublin as it was here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

On a beach, out of reach, somewhere very far away

I mightn't be impressing anyone over here with my running skills, but the word will be spreading about my eating ability soon enough. Huge men are leaving restaurants with their left overs in boxes while I'm wiping my plate clean with bread. How this tall, skinny Irish man is demolishing plate after plate of food will become stuff of legends! I've got to hand it to them, Americans certainly know a big portion. They may not be able to eat all they're served in one sitting, but they can serve it. Granted there's no way I could eat this much week in week out but for a few weeks I'm loving it. Waiters are commenting taking my empty plate away from the table, my sister is laughing when she sees the food arriving and photos are being taken of these ridiculous portions.

For the past week now I've been chilling out in LA. My sister and her husband moved here a few months back so the opportunity to visit couldn't be passed up. The RacePix site annoyingly took up a lot of time over the first few days between hosting issues and loads of pictures coming my way but that couldn't be avoided. Besides that it's been a blast. Seeing all the places and buildings mentioned in various Michael Connelly books has just had me absolutely snap happy over here. Private beside Angels Flight, Private at Echo Park, Private at Bunker Hill... LA is definitely a place you feel like you know before ever having set foot here. Throw in some sunshine, cocktails, movies, a Lakers game amongst other things and you have a happy Private.

With the hectic schedule I've still managed to get some training in for good measure. The lifestyle of food and booze isn't destroying me just yet. I wasn't too sure how I was going to get by going training as there seems to be crossroads every 100 metres. There is a park a few miles from my sister's apartment but at a rough guess I'd say that works out at about 32 traffic lights between here and there! That ruled out the park for training early enough. Instead on day one I just ran around the block repeatedly. Not the most exciting, but it got the job done and there were no traffic lights or stops. My Garmin refused to work that day so I guessed the distance by the length of time it took. I estimated the block to be 1km and low and behold it turned out I was right. Day one was actually day three of the holiday but day one of training, jet lag prevented any running before that. Something I've failed to do time and time again in Ireland I've had to do here, that's train first thing in the morning. Due to the heat and not wanting to disrupt whatever was planned for the day early morning running is the only option. To be honset it hasn't been that bad. Maybe I'll give it another shot when I get back to Dublin.

Today I took on an un-fueled long run. I don't think I've ever attempted this so I was very wary that I'd have to call it quits early. I woke up at 7.30am, downed a bottle of water and headed out the door without so much as a slice of toast inside me. Normally before a long run I'm awake for a few hours before heading out and always after having something to eat. As I was hoping to do 13 miles there was no way I was going to do 20+ laps of the block. Instead I weaved up and down around 10 blocks off Hollywood Boulevard (Sorry, now I'm just dropping in names!). The plus side about all the weaving was that if I started to struggle I could just head straight home along Hollywood Boulevard (yeah I know, name dropping again) and I'd be no further than one mile away, whereas by weaving it'd have taken 5 miles to get there. The down side about the weaving was that every block seems to be on an incline. This meant that 50% of the run was going up but then again 50% was nice and easy going down. Cutting the long story of the long run short, I shocked myself. This was an un-driven, un-fueled (over 12 hours since a turkey sandwich was eaten), un-hydrated (once I left the apartment there was no water) 13 mile run up and down inclines and it wasn't that bad. Aye, it started off rough over the first few miles as my body woke up, but there after I was cruising. I had the Garmin on for a change (No matter how much I hate the thing, it's a God send when you go travelling... when it decides to work) and it surprised me when I saw my average pace for the session - 6:40 min/mile - not bad for un-driven.

I've two more weeks to go over here. A few days more in LA before I go out alone into America for a week. Then I head back here for the final couple of days to top up on the tan! The way things have been panning out so far I'm beginning to think this will be the first ever holiday that I come back from fitter than before I left. Then again if I have many more breakfasts that comprise of 3 pancakes, 3 eggs, fried potatoes and an 8oz ham steak I may not....