Tuesday, December 30, 2008


The alcohol consumption has been sorted. No alcohol has passed my lips since Christmas Day, with the exception of some Champagne Truffles! I managed to stay on soft drinks at a poker night on Stephen's Day (and doubled my money), Lucozade was the order of the day on both the 27th and 28th which were both reunion type nights. Since then it's been plain sailing. The next tough one will be New Years Eve. Hopefully I'll get away with a few glasses of wine and then some fake drinking. Once the friends think there's alcohol being drank I'm safe. There is also the fact that fake drinking could turn real depending how the night is panning out. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it I suppose.

I'm fairly focused on the 5k on New Years day. Even with the Christmas break I still believe I can make a good show of myself. Do I think I can get a PB? Damn straight. Do I think it will reflect my recent form? No chance. Recent form being some savage training runs and the last cross country which saw me finish ahead of some good competition. Even though I've only missed one training session over the past two weeks I haven't been happy with how the other sessions have panned out. The best way to describe them is sluggish. On Stephen's Day I surprisingly hit a good 14 x 1 minute workout in the park, but it took everything out of me. Whereas a week beforehand I did 16 and felt like I could have gone on forever.

Cutting out the drink in the last week is one achievement but there was one other thing that has to be taken into account. The Christmas diet. I may have hit the booze on the head but mince pies, roses, Christmas puddings, cakes, and many, many cheeses were eaten in huge quantities over the past seven days. That probably has something to do with the below par training. On the plus side with no work for the past 10 days I've been getting more sleep than usual.

The race being on a Thursday has thrown my race week routine somewhat. I know exactly what I would have done on a standard race week but this time I had to wing it somewhat. Sunday's long run was the same as normal, then I cut Monday's run down by a few miles. Today was the issue. Tuesday is usually speed work, long intervals or a tempo run. Should I just jog it or throw in some speed work? I've only once raced on a Thursday and that time I got away with a track session on the Tuesday evening and had a great race on the Thursday, but that was a long time ago... In the end I compromised - 5 miles with 1 minute at about 70% at the end of every mile. Tomorrow will be an easy 4 miles.

Then race day. I can't really say how I plan my pre-race to go just yet as a large part of that will depend on what time I get to bed the night before.I seem to be full of excuses for why this race won't go well but my gut still says it will be fine. Even if the training hasn't been perfect of late, everything before that has still been banked. Come race day, no excuses.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Too hungover to think, let alone write

The Christmas season is defeating me. On Friday last I was flying around the park, completing my circuit in 11 x 1 minute intervals with a 90 second jog, whereas it usually takes 13 x 1 minute to do a full lap. In the end I did a total of 16 x 1 minute. Why is it that I when doing them I feel like I could do them all day, but throw me on a track and I want to die after 10 x 400m? Then came the weekend... my God was it a long one. Whenever I wasn't in a pub, I was on the couch, not on the couch, I was in a pub...

Sunday's long run never happened, Monday's easy run was one of the hardest runs I've done in months, Tuesdays "tempo" 5 miler was probably as fast as a normal long run, and all I can say about today's run is that I'm happy I actually got out the door.

What's in store for the rest of the day? Traditional pub lunch and pints with my Dad and brother before meeting my friends for traditional Christmas Eve pints. That's right, warming up for my evening pints with daytime pints. The forecast for training tomorrow looks bleak... there's only one window of opportunity and that's first thing in the morning. The chances of that are slim at best.

Just over a week until my attempt at my 5k time again... things are going in the right direction it seems!!

Happy Christmas

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Note to self

Leaving XC shoes in your bag until ten days after the race is not a good idea.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The search continues

Bah! Today I saw a link to even more marathons around the world. It displays them all on a google map by month. A list would have been helpful, by continent and date, but what you going to do. A few more marathons that I had no clue of turned up to be in the month of May. I kept my search to Germany (it's where you want to run 26 miles in May apparently), Holland (no option but to be flat) and the UK (it's close).

After turning my Tuesday morning into as productive a work day as yesterday I can now say there is a new marathon on my list of possible marathons. It has a video (see below), a 3D VIDEO, all marathons should have a video! Wuerzburg, I have no idea where you are, but there'd be plenty of time to find that out. You do have a video and fall on the date I'm after, from the looks of the 3D-ness you're also flat. Did I mention there was a video? Ok, I'm easily impressed. Wuerzburg is ticking all the boxes though - Wahey!

At this stage it appears that I'll have no clue where I'm going come January when training steps up a notch, but I'm not at all worried about that. Regardless of where I'm going the early part of the year will look the same... race, train, race, train...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pictures and other stuff

Another double weekend of races in Dublin means even more RacePix365. And guess what? I'm still to appear in any of the races! That's right, 3 months, seven races in or around Dublin and I am nowhere to be seen... God dammit... the next race, I'll hopefully be there somewhere. The new pictures are from the BHAA NSRT Cross Country race, which looked fairly muddy to tell the truth. The other race over the weekend was the Donore Harriers Jingle Bells 5k race. This was in no way a muddy race, 100% on the roads with no streams to cross. Seriously, there was a stream to go through in the cross country on Saturday. What joker had that great idea? I'd have been well pissed off if I came across that in a race...

My legs are finally back to normal after last weeks Cross Country race. A trip to the magician was called needed to help things move along. A hard 16 mile long run yesterday morning let me know that there's no longer any ill affects left from the race or from Friday's work Christmas party for that matter.

Next up on Private's calendar is a 5k race on New Years Day. The race is on in the Phoenix Park at lunch time so I should be well recovered from the night before's exploits by the time that kicks off. It should be interesting to see how a race will pan out in the middle of a hard drinking regime. As there's so many intense drinking sessions planned for the next few weeks I'm going to have to take it very easy on the days that don't already have a drinking schedule lined up. One day is down now with the work drinks taken care of. All though there's a chance Friday could lead to more as it's the last day before the Christmas break. This weekend coming I'll have the annual Christmas pub crawl with my group of friends. Then there's obviously Christmas eve and Christmas day which are going to be tough. If I can go from Stephen's Day to New Years Eve without a drink I'll be doing well. Not one of these (drinking) sessions are your quiet pints with friends affairs... they'll all start out that way but sure as hell won't end that way.

This could be the most alcohol fueled build up to a race since my ill advised attempt at Paris in 2004...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Today's specials are...

When I go to a restaurant I have to order quickly. There can be no hanging around, a glance at the menu and go with the first thing that catches my eye. Menu closed. Order. Everyone's happy. If the waiter is slow to come over and take our order trouble starts. The questions about who is having what start. I'll hear something better than what I saw. No one likes food envy. The menu reopens. Too many choices. I'll have about four or five options going through my head by the time the waiter comes over. Everyone's ordering. Shit. What do I want? The meal will come out... Damn it. How come I never see the mixed grill?!

That is where I am now with this marathon choice. What started out as "I'll do a marathon in May, how hard can it be to pick one?" is now the menu open and the waiter asking the rest of the table what they want. One option is booked out - Mainz - could that have been the mixed grill? Copenhagen, yes the girl that got away is from there but rumour has it there are loads of turns and you go up and down a few times on curbs. The girl can't make up for curbs, Copenhagen is out.

With two scratched off the list you'd think we're getting somewhere. But no, Belfast falls the same day as Dusseldorf - if Dusseldorf is still in the running then so to is Belfast. No flights for Belfast, I could even stay at a friend's place the day before. It's an option alright. Copenhagen may be gone from the perfect date slot but step forward Newry town marathon. Newry would probably be a tougher marathon than Belfast or Dusseldorf but it has the good date thing going for it. The elevation chart on their site looks fierce scary, but I reckon if you were to stretch it out a bit it wouldn't be anymore daunting than Dublin, plus all the hills appear in the first half. Another thing Newry has going for it is the choice of races leading up to it. The Irish Novice Road race falls on the same weekend as the Bel-dorf marathons. That would be the perfect final race before a marathon as it's 6km and only 3 weeks before Newry. Or even the Irish 10k championships falls 4 weeks before Newry. Then again I'm sure I could find suitable races as build up races no matter what date the marathon is on. Decisions, decisions... has anyone got a three sided coin?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Race Report #16 - Cross Country

The final race of 2008* has finally come and gone. I've been itching for this race for a while as it's been a good six or seven weeks since the last 10k. Sunday saw me taking the field, quite literally, in a 6k cross country. Soul destroyingly the course was 6 laps around a field. The ends of the field were caked in mud making for slow turns, with one side of the field being up hill into the mud and the other side down hill, again into the mud. Not being one to enjoy cross country (they just look cold), I wasn't particularly looking forward to this, even if I was feeling fairly fit leading up to the race.

The race itself went off on the downhill side and therefore started at a fast pace, before slowing down on the first sticky turn. I started off mid-pack to back of the pack until just after the first turn and then started to find a rhythm. As the race progressed I began to feel stronger and increased my pace, runners ahead of me slowly started to come back to me, bit by bit I was edging up the field. On every lap I was picking lads off and felt really good, the pace was suiting me and I was getting into a respectable position. On the straight parts of the course I was cruising by lads, all I had to do was make sure I didn't lose ground on the turns and climbs and I'd be fine come the next straight. The course was tough and the race felt like it was going on for ever. Slow, fast, up, down, pulling your feet out of ankle deep mud, this race had it all! A wry smile came to my face on the forth lap as I heard the guy beside me shout to the side "How many more laps do we have left?", then half a lap on he must have seen someone else he knew "How much fucken further?".

The pace mightn't have beaten me, but the mud certainly did. On the last lap I could feel my right calf tighten up. It didn't slow me down as such but it meant that when push came to shove in the home straight there was nothing there to sprint home. I could keep the pace going but the calf had gotten fairly sore and there was no hope of upping the pace any more. Because of that I just got taken on the line lads who I'd overtaken earlier but who had a kick left when it mattered. Granted in the grand scheme of things a place or two doesn't really matter but no one likes being beaten to the line.

All in all I was very happy with how the race went. I showed great strength through the course and as I don't have the speed to shoot off at breakneck speeds I played it right by starting slow and building up throughout the race. I'd put the first 5 laps up there as the best I've run this year - just a shame the calf wouldn't stay with me for the sixth lap.

*words similar to these were uttered before but they were the final 'road race' of 2008

New Race Photos

A busy weekend for me and for my site RacePix365.com. There were two races in Dublin which have a hell of a lot of pictures for - first up was the Aware 10k fun run in the Phoenix park on Saturday. I went out there myself to snap a few pics but my hands got cold quickly so I headed home with only a few shots. Thankfully some others braved the cold and got more pictures than I did.

The second race was the BHAA 5k in Marley Park. This time I didn't get to take photos as I was elsewhere racing away (more on this later) but yet again there was photos taken and kindly uploaded for people to see. So if you were racing in either race, or know people who were, then drop in and have a look.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

To heel strike or not to heel strike...

After my last 10k race in October I spotted a picture of me during the race. I'm quite a fan of finding photos - why, I don't know, I very rarely look normal in them. That's beside the point. What I did notice in this photo is how pronounced my heel strike was. Looking through other photos of me I saw a trend, there was a lot of photos of a very straight right leg and the heel about to hit the ground first. I've never really thought too much on the topic of how I run, I generally just go with the idea of running is one foot in front of the other, and that we all have our ways of doing it that seem the most effective.

According to the sites I checked on heel striking the opinion was that heel striking is bad and should be avoided. The logic made sense to me. By striking your heel first means that your leg is straight on impact. As your leg is straight it is essentially braking forward momentum and you end up starting the movement from scratch again. If your knee is slightly bent as the foot strikes the ground your leg is not locking into a straight position and you should be able to move off it quicker, therefore running faster. I've kept this very, very basic as I'm not in any sense an expert on the way your foot should land or what's better than what. Google is where I went for my answers!

I'm not a huge believer in changing what feels natural to me. I don't want to invest in books that tell me how to run, or spend time doing drills that would bore me, I just want to get out and run. I decided to simply concentrate on my foot fall when on my easy runs over the past few weeks. Obviously I don't spend the full hour out running thinking about how my foot is landing each time, I'm just that bit more aware of it than I was before. The best piece of advice I saw was to simply lean forward at the hips while running. This prevents your leg from landing straight and makes it easier not to heel strike.

This was all well and good until this week. No changes in my training, nor am I injured. I was quite happy with the thought "if I can run 34+ mins for 10k while heel striking, imagine how fast I'll be able to go next time without my legs deciding to brake every stride"; then I saw this picture.

Exhibit A
This, my friends, is Andriy Naumov, winner of the Dublin Marathon 2008, in a time of 2:11:06. When was this picture taken? During the poxy marathon! He was heel striking, slowing himself down, his leg was straight acting as a brake, HEEL BLOODY STRIKING!!! Has google lied to me? Has the way I've been running fine all along? Am I wasting my time concentrating on the way my foot falls? Should I just go with what's natural?Bang on 5:00 minute mile pace for 26.2 miles... doesn't sound like the brakes did him any harm...

One picture has thrown doubt in my mind. I'll probably continue paying attention to the way my feet are landing on these easy runs but I'm now less of a believer in one way is right and one is wrong. Back to whatever feels natural is best for me!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Hamstring Update

Thankfully this morning the hamstrings are a lot better. They're not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but they're definitely strong enough to train on tonight. As it'll be a speed session I'll probably sit back for the first two intervals and work my way into them. I reckon if the same thing had happened to me 3 months ago I wouldn't have taken it as easy on the Sunday and I probably would have trained on the Monday. Once you get out running for a few miles the pain always seems to disappear as the muscles have warmed up. Doing this is doing yourself no favours. By being given a week off training in September, then having the miles cut back while I was on holiday, and now running stronger than I feel I ever have has given me the confidence to realise that a day off every now and again won't hurt. I just have to make sure that I don't start taking days off willy-nilly! If after today's session the hamstrings start acting up again I have no qualms whatsoever about taking a few days of lower mileage or another day off if it means this clears up quicker.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Lend me your legs, I'll bust them up, but I'll replace them

Friday's training session has been haunting my legs all weekend. With cross country season just around the corner I took my XC trainers out for their first run since last February. For some reason the long spikes were nowhere to be found, so I had to make do with taking the short spikes from my track shoes. Spikes ready, on I headed to the Phoenix park for some tough mud running.

The session was a fairly tough 16 x 1 minute with 1 minute 30 seconds recovery jog. As the spikes weren't all that long I was still slipping a bit at times, but nothing that prevented a good solid session. The second I finished the last rep I felt a stitch coming on. Nicely timed. Happy with the days training I headed back home.

All was fine until Saturday morning I noticed that my hamstrings were particularly tight. Uncomfortably tight if truth be told. There was definite discomfort when I put pressure on them with my hands. Thankfully no training was on the cards for Saturday, so I took it really easy.

Sunday was the problem. The discomfort wasn't as bad on Sunday but hadn't disappeared completely. I had told a few lads I'd meet them for a long run and I had no numbers to cancel it. I can't really use the fact that I had said I'd meet someone as my excuse for running as I know me, meeting people or not, the Sunday long run would have happened. The fact that I met up with this crowd probably helped me for two reasons. First off, the pace was slower than I usually do on my own and secondly, they were only doing 12 miles, whereas I usually do 15. The pace wasn't overly slow, just a gear down from my usual long run pace; For the duration we could maintain a conversation without being breathless at any state. At the end I wasn't struggling at all whereas the norm would be to be pushing yourself somewhat come the end of a long run.

Today there's no improvement on the hamstrings but also no dis-improvement. The normal training today would be an easy 8 miles around the park. I think I've more to lose than to gain by doing that session so it's legs up this evening and a day off. Tomorrow's session is speed work with the club and I want to be able to do that. As I've been told from numerous sources my two speed workouts and long run are the important of the week. No point jeopardising being able to take part in a speed workout just because my routine has me jogging on a Monday. So today I remain sensible and fingers crossed that by taking my foot off the gas slightly this week my hamstrings will sort themselves out.

Title based on Fight Like Apes' track "Lend me your face"