Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 in Numbers

Running20092008
Total Miles Run: 2,4672,209
Number of Races: 1816
Max Distance Raced: 42.2km10km
Min Distance Raced: 3km3km
# PBs: 4 (5km, Half marathon, 10 miles, marathon)4
Highest Placing: 2nd4th
Prize Money: €75€0
Medals Won: 00
Days Off: 5478



Non Running

Books Read: 3345
Countries Lived in: 12
Countries Visited: 36
Ribs Broken: 10

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Cheer/Beer

Tonight will mark the sixth consecutive alcohol enriched night of my Christmas. Some would have you believe that all this wine, beer and spirits (not to mention the chocolates and cakes) is not the ideal preparation for a race this weekend. I, on the other hand, am of the belief that this approach will have me far more relaxed than any other race I've run in recent memory and therefore I'll run faster.... That makes me feel better anyway, so I'm sticking with it...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What's really going on...


Where has GMap-Pedometer been all my life? It's soooo much easier than mapmyrun to map out a good route. While trying to make the last few hours of work before Christmas go faster I've mapped out tonights 10 miler (OK 9.5 miler) from work. Come on clock... move faster!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Everybody Waves in Warsaw

The art of running on a holiday is a tough one because you don't want your running to impact on those around you. With that in mind I put absolutely no pressure on myself to run while I'm away. The way to do it I find is to go first thing in the morning just before everyone else is up. That way your run is out of the way and you don't have it hanging over you for the rest of the day. If I don't get out in the morning the decision is made that I won't run that day. The last situation you want to find yourself in on holiday is being out at lunch and everyone else drinking wine, you don't want to have to abstain because you have a jog lined up that evening. I also don't want to hold up everyone going out while I'm out running around like an eejit. Saying that, sometimes when you're away with a few girls there's a good 90 minute window in the evening when they're all getting ready to go out for the evening. The perfect opportunity to get your jog on.

My attempts at running on holidays have never really been perfect. In LA there were fires which meant the air quality was awful and outdoor sports were a no go, Mauritius had very, very narrow winding roads with no footpath, Seville was over 40 degrees Celsius, meaning that the runners never left my bag and while running in Rome someone fell/jumped off a bridge and landed about 300m in front of me. Yet I persevere, and on my recent jaunt to Poland my running gear came with me.

I didn't really know what to expect - would there be parks? I knew there was a river that I could run along. But would it be too cold? Temperatures in Warsaw can reach -30C. Snow and safety were my remaining concerns. As it turned out the weather was ideal for running. A few degrees colder than Ireland but crucially no wind. I got away with the same running gear I wear in Ireland and probably felt warmer when running around Warsaw than I would when being blown about the Phoenix Park. Running was absolutely effortless in the crisp cold conditions. I'm beginning to think that Ireland and England are the only two countries that suffer from wind year round!

As a location for running Warsaw turned out to be one of the best I've encountered. Besides the river, which was right beside where I was staying, there was also a small traffic free park a 15 minute jog along the river away. A loop of the park alongside a small canal was about 3 miles. Then off the park was a forest with trails absolutely ideal for running along. You could spend hours running about the forest taking different turns here and there. There's plenty of people out walking and jogging around the park, forest and river so safety was never a concern at all. Getting lost was a slight one especially considering my Polish speaking skills didn't go much further than saying hello, thank you and asking for a coffee!

With Christmas just around the corner my approach to running will be the same as it was on holiday. No pressure. If I make it out in the morning, great, if not I won't worry about it. Family and social obligations come first this Christmas, running a close second.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Race Report #34 - Battlestations

The spikes have been put away (unwashed) not to be taken out until next year. That sound's great until it sinks in that next year really is only a few weeks away. After 5 cross country races in about 8 weeks I'm going to enjoy these remaining mud free days of 2009. What I'm most overjoyed about is that after these races I haven't picked up a single injury. After both cross country races last year I ended up taking a few weeks off because of one ailment or another, just like the year before. On two occasions this year I've had back to back race weeks, which I've never done before, and in both cases the second race has been far better than the first.

Sunday saw me take the line at the National Novices in Coleraine. I take issue with the word "Novice" when talking about this race, especially when you consider that last years runner up went on to run a 2:24 marathon within a year, while the winner won a National Track and Field medal and represented Ireland in the European Track and Field League a few months afterwards. This year a talented 1:13 half marathoner finished in the lower half of the field. Novice my ass!

My race really broke into two parts. Over the first 800m I was ready to throw in the towel and concede that I was going to have a miserable day. In stark contrast during the final 4km I believe that I've never run as well before. No idea what happened in them 4km but something clicked and everything just worked - foot in mud, foot out of mud effortlessly. After about 1km of the race a old guy in a Cork singlet went by me. I immediately decided to stick with him. Old and from the country - he has to know how to run cross country. We weaved in and out of people until the end of the first lap (2km), with me pretty much following every move he made.

As the downhill started, at the beginning of the second lap, the red singlet moved a head of me and I initially let him go. A sudden thought of "only 4km to go - that's nothing - you chose to be here today" entered my head and I accelerated and got onto his shoulder again. Almost immediately we were into a climb up a hill. The acceleration I used to catch back up with my pace man carried me past him and about five others climbing the hill. Now I was moving. My long strides were bringing more and more people back to me over the remainder of the lap. You often hear sports people talking about having the confidence to back themselves going into situations and this is what I believe got me through the race. Finally being able to back myself - to know that the pace I was going at hurt but also knowing that I could maintain it.

As the last lap started I could feel a pain creeping into my side. Only 2km to go though - I could push past it. Unfortunately there was a gap of close on 20m to the next guy ahead of me. The pain coupled with the gap was forcing negative thoughts into my head that I chose to ignore and just kept at what I was doing. Going up the hill for the last time it suddenly dawned on me that I had closed the gap to the few ahead without realising it. Feck it, last time up the hill, one last big effort. A few more places were gained during this push and as I crested the hill it felt like I actually stopped for a split second to get a deep breath before going straight into the downhill (the one pictured above - although that was the first lap). One person went by me on the down hill but he was immediately reovertaken the moment we got onto the flat. Even without being part of a team the last kilometre was just about picking up as many places as possible. I'd say I lost one that I'd taken but gained a further two. Sprint finishes were all the rage with people crossing the line at a rate faster than one every two seconds. To my relief I didn't lose any spots during (or gain any) which means that I end 2009 without being beaten in a cross country sprint finish. Not a bad way to go out.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I don't get me

Is my feeling of hatred towards cross country known? After last Sunday's exploits I swore that there was no way I was racing this week. I was cold, wet and miserable. All because of a poxy race. After I got home and cleaned myself up I still couldn't feel my toes. Hours passed and they were still numb. What if I have to run through ice water next weekend? Would my poor toes be able to deal with it?

Since then I'd started to come to terms with the fact that I only had one more Cross Country race left this year. Before October I'd only ever taken part in five cross country races, two last year and three the year I was in London. If I raced on Sunday it'd be five cross country races in eight weeks. But only four more for the season - spread over four months. One a month? That's going to be a cake walk.

Today I got a text from the club coach telling me that we weren't entering a team this weekend. No race. Result. Only three races left. Happy dance. I've got my weekend back. I can go out drinking on Saturday. No mud. No hills. Just road. Yes. I can go out drinking on Friday as well.

As I was sitting over my coffee at lunch I did something I still don't understand. I took out my phone and hit reply...

Is it possible for me to enter as an individual?




Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Race Report #33: Four Down - One To Go

Race courses that for large parts are underwater are not in any way designed for those of us with a six-foot-five frame. We've a hell of a lot of leg to pull out of the mud on every step. Then you have to take into account the lack of control we have over our lower extremities when going down hill at speed. All we can do is close our eyes and pray that gravity treats us kindly enough so that we don't end up on our ass. Them two issues aside, it's a level playing field!

One of my pet peeves is a race starting earlier than advertised. I know the weather was gash and everyone wanted to be finished but if a race is scheduled to start at 1:30 then the call to start in two minutes should not be called at 1:23. All this meant was that there was no time for strides once I'd my spikes on. In fairness though the minute standing around in the freezing wind in my singlet was one minute too long. Maybe starting them few minutes early wasn't that bad after all...

The race itself comprised of four 2km laps. I knew full well that a course as heavy as what we faced would leave me in a body bag if I started too quick so the plan was a relaxed first lap. Then to push the pace each subsequent lap.

Lap one: Mission accomplished. My breathing is comfortable. Now to start passing people.

Lap two: Bit by bit I work my way from the high twenties to the mid teens while still remaining in control of my breathing.

Lap three: This is where I was to work. The slog that was the course made it tough and I wasn't making in roads on anyone fast. Towards the end of the lap I pass one guy. Those ahead look slow but clearly I'm going equally as slow as I'm not making up any further ground. Damn you mud!

Lap four: Start of the lap and two people pass me. I dig in and stay with them, not giving an inch. Half way through the lap and the last guy I went by on lap three creeps ahead. Bollix. I make sure to stay with the group and work off it. With about 400 to go they open a slight lead and I know there's no catching them. I hear splashing behind me. I've no idea how far behind. I up the pace. A shout from a club mate let's me know my place is safe with about 100m to go which leads me to do something that you never get to do in a race... jog home!

All in all I'm content with the run. I got exactly what I wanted out of the race. It was solid from start through to the finish and there's wasn't much left in my legs come the end. Aerobically I was fine but physically drained. Obviously I'd have liked to finish further up the field but that's racing for you. One more race left this year...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Please Stay Off The Grass

"The next time you're to step foot on grass is at the race on Sunday"

I didn't have to be told this twice. 24 hours before hearing those words, while arranging my Sunday long run, I had included in a text that I'd rather steer clear of the grass and do the whole run on roads. The recent weather has made the grass fairly heavy these days and after two savage sessions this week my legs were feeling the affects on Saturday afternoon. On Tuesday I hit a tempo run - splashing and sliding around a flat(ish) route - and then Friday was the now regular hill session in the Phoenix Park.

Following the tempo run I could feel it in my legs the next day, but that paled in comparison to how I felt on Saturday after the hills. These are the exact hills that left me beat up after going over them a few times in the first cross country race of the year. A lap that Eamonn Coughlan recently described as a lap that lets the runner know what it's like to hurt in the gut. Now I'm running up and down them about 10 times a week. Finishing up as I changed back into my flats for a jog around the park the realisation hit me that as I'd be racing the following week it'd mean no hills for two weeks. Instant spring in my step. Hell, I'm racing back to back races over the next two weeks, and then the week after I'm off on holiday. I mightn't see this training session until Christmas... or the New Year! I swear, I could have skipped the whole way home.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Why do we do it?

Sitting in Burger King at 3am on Sunday morning, the long run should have been the furthest thing from my mind. Even after 9 pints of Guinness it must have been nagging away at me because I ordered a bottle of water to go with the Whooper Meal. The healthy option!

The morning of a hangover is not the morning you want to have 15 miles marked down. After 6 hours of drunken sleep I had to spend the first 10 minutes of the morning with a heart rate circa 160bpm as the alarm clock managed to freak me out no end. Then after breakfast it was 2 hours of drifting in and out of consciousness on the couch, while really wishing that bowl of porridge was replaced with something that little bit greasier. To make this morning complete add in the jealousy as my hungover sibling is getting out of bed while I'm doing my stretches. I know that for the two hours while I'll be out running around like an eejit, he'll be sitting in front of the TV, and the most he'll have to exert himself is going as far as the kitchen to cook a fry. One thing that was missing from all this was the headache. However, within 10 footfalls outside it reared it's unwelcome head.

The longest 15 miles I've had to do in a long time followed. Not something I want to repeat anytime soon. Saying that, I am well aware that it's only a matter of weeks until Christmas party drinks are going to start... God help me...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Grumble

Gloves last worn on Monday? Wet.
Monday's Hat? Wet.
Tuesday's Hat? Wet.
Runners from Monday? Wet.
Tuesday's? Wet.
Outside? Wet. Cold. Dark.

*grumble grumble* stupid weather *grumble* dark days *grumble* deer *grumble*

Monday, November 2, 2009

Race Report #32: Stuck in the mud

Have I ever had two posts in a row that have been race reports? I seriously doubt it, especially considering this was the first time I'd ever run two races in the space of a week. Cross country is a tough one to decide if you had a good race or not - time is out the window, hills, mud and wind combine to break up your natural rhythm and you just feel like you're plodding around. So everything is based on position related to others of the same standard. But what if they had a shit race? Does that mean I had a good one? Give me a road and a time to beat any day.

Yesterday's start line was nose bleed territory. Toeing the line in the Dublin Seniors, alongside guys who want to see their names in the squad for the Euro XC Championships next month was not where I belonged. Probably only 70 people started the race and all of them could move. Only one thing for it - a la last week, start at the back and start moving through the field. 6 laps, 10km, rain soaked turf and blustery wind... there were many, many other places I wanted to be.

As the first lap went around I tried to find that happy medium of working but not killing it. When we were only 3/4 of the way through the first lap I was thinking there was no hope I could keep going for 6 laps. I remembered the slog the final 4km of the 6km race was only three weeks ago. What the hell would happen if I was spent after 2km this week and still had 8km left? Then from nowhere I got passed by a runner I recognised from that race. That time he flew by me like I was standing still. This time he went by and I knew I had to stick with him - his plan had obviously been to start from the back and work through, like mine. All thoughts besides "stick with him" were out the window. Over the next two laps I couldn't tell you how many people we went by as I just stuck to his side and followed every surge he made.

Eventually he dropped me and I plugged on on my own. I felt sluggish at half way and again evil thoughts crept in. I've never run this far in cross country before... The last two races I've been shagged after 6km... Only half way... Then the second wind kicked in. Besides the sections of the course into the wind the rest of the forth and fifth lap felt effortless. As hard as I tried to close the gap on the guys a head of me I couldn't up the pace at all. This was all the pace I had and I had to stick with it. The last lap was fairly uneventful, the spectators had all made their way to the finish for the climax of the race (you know the part with the top guys, not this guy), and it was all a bit quiet out there. I spent the lap trying to fend off the attentions of the lad right behind me and I'm pleased to say that for the third race running I was successful in this endeavour...

The scariest thing was that crossing the line I felt like I could have gone another lap at the same pace. All the mid race fears of blowing up, not making the distance were for nothing. My endurance is top notch at the minute. Time to add some speed, and possibly some mental strength (where does one get that?) to the training...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Race Report #31: Ankle Deep Cow Dung

Control. Steady. Work into it. Control. Steady. Work into it.
"It'll just be the gun to signal the start men"
BANG!!
My reaction times are shit. I'm way back already and boxed in.
They're only a few seconds ahead. Remember 10 seconds is nothing. Control.
Nice relaxed running.
Don't get carried away.


"3 laps to go"
Start to move, start to move
Relax. Steady.

"That's it. Moving through the field, keep going. Move up"

CRs words echoing in my ears 'Everyone hurts on the third lap'
I'm not hurting.
I'm definitely working.
I'm not hurting though

Passing people left and right.
Controlled against the wind, working up the hills, hard on the straights.

"Last lap"
Another place gained.
WTF. I beat that guy in a sprint finish in the last race.
I was dying then.
How the hell was he infront of me there?
How far back did I start in this race?

C'mon. There's another place here up for grabs. Dig in.

I'm not going to get him.
Don't lose any places.
Strong to the finish


Last 100m
"That's it Gavin. You have him. Keep it going Gavin"
Fuuuuuuuckk. I'm not Gavin. Better bloody get moving.
"C'mon Stephen. Every place counts"
How many ****ing people are behind me.
Dig in. Run. Fast. Bloody Move.
I'm moving, I'm bloody moving.
If anyone passes me now they deserve it.

There's the line.
Don't slow down.
Run through that line.
Don't slow.

Fin.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Boy, this is deer country...

A pet peeve of mine is the lack of bins in the Phoenix Park. At times I end up running around for over 2 miles with an empty water bottle in hand waiting for that elusive bin to appear.

Yesterday I found a new gripe - lights! There's shag all in the park, and lots of them that are there simply don't work. At one stage I went by six lights in a row, both sides of the road, not working. I'd never noticed it before but now with the main road closed to cars in the park, no lights from traffic coupled with a lack of working lights, the visibility after 7 o'clock is non-existent.

With no cars around for company, and not being able to see more than 10 metres in any direction, that park becomes an eerie place. On my final 2 miles I suddenly noticed deer crossing the road right in front of me in an orderly line. I stopped, looked to the right and couldn't make anything out. I had no way of telling how many there were or when they'd finish crossing as I was the only one with the decency to have lights on! I then spotted daddy deer hanging back, not crossing the road, staring straight at me. Mexican standoff.
Bugger, time to take a detour


What I didn't realise was that my new route to escape the deer was completely light free - that's wrong, there was one light. To add to that I entered right into deer country. In the dark, with no cars, this was their territory, even if I was on a footpath. What noise do deers make? Is it braying? like bray the place? Anyway, it sounds like a growl slash grumble, and is pretty damn freaky when you don't know if it's directed at you. I had this sound in my ear for the next 2km, almost like one deer was stalking me. I kept passing signs with warnings of deers crossing on them, convinced that a deer was going to shoot across the road to the field on the other side and crash into me.

All in all, the 10 minute detour jog that brought me away from the initial deer encounter was an altogether unpleasant affair. Until cars are back in the park in the evenings, increasing visibility, it looks like I'm out of there. Once back on the main stretch of road, complete with traffic all I had to deal with was the occasional ninja cyclist and runner.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Race Report #30: The Return of XC

10 months. It took a mere 10 months for me to forget how I feel about Cross Country. Maybe I should have read my last cross country post a few weeks ago to remind myself. Instead I had this weird feeling going into the race that I was good at cross country - one good race and five miserable outtings to date should have told me otherwise.

Even though I haven't been happy with my race performances of late I know deep down that I'm in the best condition I've ever been in and that sooner or later I'm going to have a big race. Going into this race I thought, maybe, just maybe this would be it. One thing I didn't realise was how much the hills were going to kick my ass. 6km consisting of 12 short steep hills really took its toll. Infact by the 5th hill, about 2km in, I could feel that I was starting to go backwards. From there on in it was a battle with the inner demons to keep going.

Rather than dwell on the negatives of the race I'm trying to take as many positvies out of this race as possible.
  • Them 12 hills are going to stand to me in future races
  • I pushed myself harder than any I would have in any training session
  • For once in my life I possessed a sprint finish to regain a place I'd lost
  • I will be stronger and will take the lessons from this race into the next one.
  • There's only another 5 months of Cross Country left... actually... Five months?! WTF!
Photo by David Bradshaw

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Friday Fartlek

Hills. I always hear about hills. Everyone seems to do hill training. I've never done hill training. Until yeseterday. Good Christ that hurt.

Again, I took the spikes out for this session. Again, the ground semmed far too hard for them but I've got to get used to them. This time however no blister, which means there's no need for new spikes before next weeks race. Nice.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tempo That

How do you find out your race execution from the last race was your downfall? Run a tempo run with a relaxed start and end up running faster splits than the race.

That is essentially what happened last night on a slow grass lap that I train on. Inside the first few kilometres I had a brief chat with one of the lads before focusing properly on the task at hand. After two or three laps I started to calculate the times we were doing per lap and worked out that at that pace we'd pretty much cover 10k in or around my last race time. A few minutes later I was warned to make sure I wasn't pushing it too much as I'd be close to race pace - I told them I'd just worked that out and decided I'd jump ship at 30 minutes. In the end I went slightly over 30 minutes before calling it quits. I was quite tired at that stage and didn't want to unnecessarily push myself and leave everything out there in training. The lads finished up their 10k(ish) steady run in 34.46, one second slower than I raced two weeks back!

My 30 or so minutes felt a hell of a lot easier than the first 30 minutes in Firhouse and I probably covered close to the same distance. There was no way in hell I'd have been able to start a chat with someone in the first 2k of the last race. I've been saying for the last while that training has been going well but my racing has been letting me down. This workout has reinforced that no end. It was pointed out to me afterwards that in a race you more often than not are running at someone elses pace rather than your own. Hopefully the next race will have someone racing at my pace for me to run with!

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Next Step

Like a child who takes out their football boots for the first time in September after the summer holidays to find them still caked in last May's mud I headed out to the Phoenix Park on Friday evenings with my spikes in a bag.

Good News - The ground was so hard that there is no longer any of last February's mud on them
Bad News - I got a blister on my little toe that took up over 50% of the toe.
Good News - It was a really, really easy to burst blister.
Bad News - I may have to buy new spikes before the first race in two weeks.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Race Report #29 - 10km in Perfect Conditions


With the weather playing its part for once and my legs feeling fresh, there wasn't much doubt in my mind that this race was going to be a good one. As I jogged around the course, warming up, there was barely a hint of wind about, there was a bounce in my step, no breeze, stiffness or fatigue - there could be no excuses.

Strides done, last swig of water taken, I was ready to go. I took to the starting line. As the gun went off I tucked myself onto the back of the lead pack where I stayed for not much further than 500m. The plan was to go through the first 3km steady, but not too fast, before picking up the pace. Even with this in mind I probably set off a tad fast, but then again, how do you run a fast race if you don't start fast? After 3km there wasn't much more I could be giving so I stuck with it the same tempo. Whenever I felt I was slacking I injected some pace. At this stage there was a runner about 10-15 metres in front of me, who had the same gap to the runner in front of him. The lead pack had stormed on and was a fair bit ahead of us now.

What was disconcerting was that no matter how many times I injected some pace I couldn't close the lads in front of me down. They were hardly upping the tempo at the exact same times as me. As we finished the first lap there was a marshal calling out times - 17.01 for 5km. I'm not sure if I'd have been happier not knowing this. My logic behind this is that I felt like I wasn't going to be able to put the same time in again for the second lap. This time meant that if I slowed ever so slightly I'd be struggling to make a PB. This is where the mind started to weaken and definitely played a part in how I ran the second half. This is an aspect I need to strengthen.

Just before 6km I could feel the runners behind me closing in. I slowed down to let them go ahead, with the idea to dig in and go with them. As they flew by I nearly threw in the towel. I slowed and pretty much resigned to fast jogging to the end. I was done. This was followed by a self inflicted kick up the ass. This was the pain I was meant to be teaching myself to run through. Too often I finish a race and feel like I could run another mile or two. I had to get back in with these guys and use them to take me around to a fast time. A quick spurt to catch up with the three lads who just past me and I started running at a pace that bizarrely started to feel easy.

Coming into the last 2km the 3 lads seemed to up the pace again and this time I didn't go with it. I struggled on at my own pace. Not too far down the road and one of them came back to me. Past him and on I went. I knew there wasn't much further to go - the nice thing about a two lap race. The worst part of the whole race came just as I was turning onto the final 200m. I heard the loud speaker announce that the guys just ahead of me had come in just under 34.30. That was the PB gone. Even if I had stuck with them, to bring me around to a fast time, the PB may still not have materialised.

One thing I can say for certain though after this race - I could not have kept going for another mile or two.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Rith me go mall

Well that was a let down...

I've got a bottle of Rioja and a cheese board... I think we all know who the real winner is!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Race You

Heading around the Phoenix Park this evening for an easy 5 miles my legs certainly didn't feel like they had a zip about them. The absolute pounding they took at the hands of the magician probably had something to do with that! In the days before the Ballycotton 10 in March I didn't feel that sharp and and before this race last year I felt awful during the warm up, only to run a massive PB when the gun went off. So I'm not going to worry about heavy legs two days before a race.

I still don't feel I've had a good race since Ballycotton as every race result since that shows. I want to change that come this Saturday afternoon.

Half Marathon
PB: 1h21m
McMillan Says: 1h15m
I race: 1h17m

10k
PB: 34m25s
McMillan Says: 33m55s
I race: 35m00s

Marathon
PB: 2h46m
McMillan Says: 2h39m
I race: 2h42m

3000m
PB: 9m45s
McMillan Says: 9m21s
I race: 9m46s

10 Mile
PB: 56m50s
McMillan Says: 56m50s
I race: 58m30s

To stop this trend of late I've busted a gut for the past few weeks to get into a position where I feel like I'm in decent shape. The last four weeks have consisted of one week to ease into everything, two weeks of hard training, and now this week, the taper. I can't think of the last time where I've had 4 weeks of concentrated training all aimed at one race. If this all works out it may just be a plan I'll copy going into future races.

Friday, September 4, 2009

I'm Flying

It had been a while since I last chatted with CR. He's been making the most of his time off work during the summer and been travelling around somewhat. I on the other hand, for the first summer in God knows how long, have spent the whole summer here in Dublin. When he enquired as to how training has been going of late my response was quite simply "I'm flying!". Then I rattled into the various sessions I've carried out over the past few weeks - 8 x 4 minutes, 18 x 1 minute, 16 and 17 mile runs, 8 x 3 minutes, and the rest of the days filled in with easy runs between 8 and 10 miles. Just going through everything I've done filled me with no end of confidence. Next week all this hard work has to be taken and turned into a solid 30 minute effort... Ok 33 minute effort!

From there we talked on the way the race is to go next week and the training in the remaining days leading up to it. Training naturally enough will take a step back during the week - there's nothing to be gained by training hard in the few days before a race. All the work has been done already so the next week just involves ticking over. As for the race plan - I've got to get out of my comfort zone early and to start hurting from the second mile in.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A week of firsts

In the week following the 10 mile race I was told to take it easy, no speed training until the Friday, and even then hold back a bit. The long run on the Sunday was to be slow, there'll be plenty of time to go up a gear in the next few weeks. The rest of the week was filled up with easy jogging. With that week out of the way, last week was the week to start going fast again.

On Tuesday I was trying my best to hang onto the coat tails of John during an 8 x 4 minute fartlek session with a minute recovery in between. I've never done an interval session longer with intervals longer than 3 minutes. Usually with 3 minute intervals I do six of them and give myself 90 seconds recovery. This meant that the extra minute, 2 extra reps and 30 seconds less recovery was going to hurt by the end. It did. I finished close enough to John on the first one but there after he stepped things up. Thankfully as this was a session on effort over time rather than distance I could cut corners to keep him in sight. John finished up doing 10, I thought 8 was plenty for myself and jogged back to meet the others who were finishing up a 10 mile tempo!

The firsts just kept on rolling in for the rest of the week. On Wednesday I managed my first 10 mile easy run the day after a Tuesday session in months. Then on Friday I covered 18 x 1 minute on my usual 5 mile loop. I hadn't really planned on going above the usual 16 but after the sixteenth was done I felt good enough to try for two more. The firsts all finished on Sunday morning. Due to a hectic day on the cards I had to drag myself out of bed at 5.30am and hit the roads for 17 miles unfueled. I can still feel that in my legs and don't think I'll be trying that for a second time.

With only 2 weeks to go to the 10k race in Firhouse things are looking good. I'm going for another tough week this week and then cutting back next week in the lead into the race. After a summer sans a PB here's hoping that the first race of autumn will bring one.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Race Report #28 - Roads, back on good old reliable roads!

Well this has been by far and away the longest it's taken me to get some form of race report together. A non-existent Internet connection in the evenings, work, sorting photos, training, ridiculous hangovers and fatigue have all conspired to keep me away from here.

I was quite nervous going into this race - no tempo runs, a longest race of 3000m and a longest interval of 2km in the previous four months kind of made me think that this wasn't the race I should be in. Saying that, I'm nothing if not ambitious. At the back of my mind I was thinking about the 56.50 I ran in Ballycotton and trying to go one better... even one second if possible. The nerves were telling me I could run a solid 6 miles, maybe 7, and I'd struggle from there. How badly I'd struggle was anyone's guess.

The heavy, heavy, heavy rain during the few hours I'd been awake died off with 30 minutes to go until the race. As the race started the sun was beating down and it seemed like perfect racing conditions. There was a bit of wind going about the place but all in all the weather didn't look like it'd be a problem. The first mile went off quite fast. I couldn't get over the speed people were shooting past me, and I was going at a fairly decent clip. I could still see (just) the lead car when I went by the mile mark and it read 5:32. I decided that was a tad quick and put the brakes on a bit. The next few miles all felt comfortable enough. I joined up with another runner and we were picking people off all around, up and down the first set of hills. Climbing up the second hill we met the guy in the picture above, 4751, and went by him. I could hear him hang on to our coat tails and eventually when my running partner of the previous 3 miles upped the pace I decided to hang with 4751 rather than go at a faster pace.

The next few miles saw me sit in behind my new running partner who seemed to have gotten his second wind and accelerated at times to pick off a few more ahead of us. The whole sixth mile down the Kyber was downhill. I switched off completely here and just plodded down, sticking with 4751. The moment you turn the corner at the bottom of the Kyber you go straight into a steep uphill. I decided to attack the hill because it didn't take much out of me on lap one. Big mistake... on lap one this hill appeared after two easy miles... on lap two six miles were in the legs. Half way up I could feel myself struggling and hoped to have someone come on my shoulder pronto. To make matters worse the moment we got to the top of the hill and onto the S-bends the wind picked up and a sudden downpour hit us. Thank god for the next couple of hundred metres downhill to recover a bit.

Just after 8 miles I got my sudden second wind and upped the pace, heading for home. The hills were behind us and it was flat until the finish. In hindsight I should have held on a bit longer - even though I run around this park every day what seemed like just around the corner was really just under two miles. To my left were all the people being lapped and I had the right lane essentially to myself. After what felt like an age I'd decided that I'd missed the ninth mile marker in the crowds so I now only had less than a mile to go. To my horror a few minutes later I passed the marker. Talk about being deflated. This made the last mile absolutely awful and when two lads went past me in the final 400m I couldn't have been arsed to even make an attempt to go with them.

I crossed the line in 58.30 and considering the list of excuses I had in my head before the race I've got to be content with this. Next up is a 10km race in 3 weeks where I will be fully intent on going faster than 34.20. This 10 miler should be good for my strength over the next few weeks training and the 10km race itself.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I don't have a clue

I have absolutely no idea what to expect from this 10 miler on Saturday morning. I can't think of the last time I've entered a race not knowing what I'm capable of doing. For all I know I could run over an hour, be around the PB mark from Ballycotton, smash the Ballycotton time, or just run an average race. Usually there'd be some race in recent months that I can guage my times against. The last road race was over 15 weeks ago and performances over seven laps of a track mean nothing when compared to 10 miles in the Phoenix Park.

If ever there was a race for me to go sans watch, this is it.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Race Report #27 - Done, Dusted, Next....

I can happily say track racing is behind me for another year. Maybe the next time I take a stab at it I'll do more than five training sessions on the track! I had a quick swatch at my training log today and spotted that including the four races I've only set foot on a track nine times this year. That's not really the ideal prepartation when hoping to belt out fast times.

The plan for the final 3,000m was quite simple: start off relatively comfortable for a lap, push on in the second, push on again in the third and try stick with it for the final four. Piece of piss!

The first 3 laps went perfectly to plan - 74 seconds, 75 seconds, 75 seconds. I stuck in close behind another runner and didn't let him get away. As far as I was concerned he was doing a good clip so who was I to do anything stupid like try to go faster? Lap 4 - 81 seconds! Where the hell did that come from? I didn't notice the pace slow down but it had. I moved onto the shoulder of the guy in front to try get him moving again, and then sat back in for another few hundred metres. Next lap - 81 again. Son of a... I got over taken here and I tried to go with this guy but I couldn't inject anything else into it. I left the lad who had led our group for the opening four or five laps and started a battle against myself. Once these 81 second laps started that was it for me. I kind of think that if the forth lap had stayed at 75 seconds I would have pushed that out, but once it dropped to 81 I didn't have it in the legs to up the pace again. Does that make sense?! With 400m to go I saw that I needed a 75 second lap to at least run a PB. There was a fair whack of encouragement coming from the sidelines so I dug deep and... 77 seconds - Dammit!

Them four track races aren't something I plan on dwelling on. I've a few races pencilled in on the road before the cross country starts again. So what's the plan after racing less than 2 miles on a track for the last few months? The obvious answer is to race ten miles on the road!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Once more with meaning

Ok, Track. I don't like you, and you clearly don't like me. We just have to see each other once more this year, so we'll try to be civil. What's happened between us in the past shall remain there. It's a new chapter, the slate has been wiped clean. Whatever, I don't care, let's just get through these last 9 minutes and 42 seconds without damaging future relationships between us.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Will you carry me when my legs are gone?

I swear I saw some tumbleweed blow by as I ventured in here today...

The roller coaster that has been my training over the past few weeks seems to have come to an end. What's this then "the return of the comeback part ten"?! Work, life and just the simple fact that I wasn't enjoying my running kept me away from wanting to talk about running. Hell, I was even ducking and diving to avoid CR so I wouldn't have to talk about my training. I still got out there most days and got a bit done, although as I mentioned before, no day felt easy, everything was a slog and it just started to wear me down.

The last ten days or so have seen me back to my old self again. I'm beginning to feel like a runner again. Easy runs have been easy, I cruised through last Sunday's long run at a decent clip, and Tuesday's workout of 8 x 1km felt so easy for the first six that I managed to hit the last two at around 5:06 min/mile pace. One last track race remains before I make my first venture onto the road since the marathon at the start of May. The track races may not have been going to plan this far but all the work over the last few months has been banked and will be withdrawn at future races.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Race Report #26: Still searching for that extra gear

*It was just pointed out to me that I've been gone for a while - I just had a quick glance and spotted that my last two posts (this being one of them) had been saved as drafts and not posted - apologies *

For the past few days my right calf has been in ribbons (or knots) following the 400s on Friday in spikes and a Sunday long run at a decent clip. I'd been stretching it a few times a day but the tight feeling remained while I was walking around. I said to myself before the race that if I ran well with my calf like this it'd mean I could run better still, and if I ran shite then I could just blame the calf. Win win! In the end I didn't feel the calf once I got going so that excuse has to be thrown - I have a list of other excuses though...

I got out to Santry early enough to take in a few of the Development races and the Morton mile. I grabbed a some photos of the meet from my seat before heading off on my warm up. Due to the fact that there was an endless list of 800m races going on the timetable got pushed back which meant my already late race of 9.20pm was going to be run later still, nearer to 9.40pm. I was going to be fit for my bed by the end of it.

The race started and I went through 200m in about 38 seconds - kind of where I wanted to be. As we approached 400m 79 seconds was called out. How the hell did the second 200m take 41 seconds? I decided to try up the pace but the next lap came out at around 80 again. During the next laps I kept looking for that extra surge but there was nothing there - these 80 second laps were easy but I couldn't go faster. That's how the race continued, 80 second lap after 80 second lap. For the first time ever I had the gas for a "sprint" to the line and I ran through the line rather than the usual slowing up a couple of metres short.

The late race meant there was no time for a warm down or even stretching. I just got changed and headed for the bus to arrive home chez moi at 11.15pm. I had a quick chat with CR about the whole thing - I seriously reckon I could have held that pace for another 5 laps if it had been a 5km race. Then I'd be looking at a tidy 5k time of 16.40 and I'd be thinking everything was getting back to normal. But alas this was a 3000m and not a 5000m race and the time is not reflecting what I'm getting done in training. I've three weeks before the next track race and I'm certain of one thing - I will get my time in that race.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Where's my mojo?

I'm not enjoying my running these days. There, I've said it. It's pissing me off. Easy runs no longer feel easy. Gone are the days of spring when I'd stroll back into the apartment after a run looking like I hadn't even stepped out the door. Instead I'm now coming in dripping sweat and heavy legged regardless of if I've run four miles or fifteen. How I wish that feeling in the weeks leading up to the marathon was back, the feeling that I was simply gliding along. Add in the two slowest 3000m races I've ever raced and you can sort of see why it's bugging me.

Maybe summer, or July specifically, isn't for me. Last year in July I ran 36:40 for a 10k race in London, over a minute slower than I raced in the spring. That race was the deciding factor in not running the Dublin marathon. Less than 6 weeks later I ran a 1 minute 20 seconds 10k PB of 34:20. Likewise the summer before that, also in July, I ran 40:20 for 10km before racing a 6.6 km race in 22:10 (5:24 minute mile pace), about 7 weeks later. The way I've to look at this now is that even if it's all going shit at the minute history tells me that it can all turn around very quickly.

Saying all that, I did have a great session today. But as they say one swallow doesn't make a summer. When chatting with CR after Tuesday's workout he told me that I'd run today's 400s less than 70s a rep. The workout was a 3 mile warm up, followed by 10 x 400m, and a 2 mile warm down. What I learnt is that CR knows my body better than me! Two weeks back I only managed 9 reps. I trudged off the track after the times had stretched from 72s to 74s and I knew that the next one would be over 75 seconds. Then I had no idea how I was running 67 seconds for these sessions last year. Where was I getting 5 seconds a lap from? This time, as CR said, I hit the first one in 69 seconds, BANG the second in 68, BANG another 69. The recovery was long between each one, circa 75 seconds and got longer as the workout went on, with the last one getting a 90 seconds rest. Bit by bit the speed is coming back into my legs. Now just to transfer it to a race.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Comeback #2

After last week's race made it two in a row that didn't go to plan CR decided there were two choices: push it harder in training or take a few days off. A few days off was the chosen option, which meant I got to head to Killarney with my mates sans running gear. Unbelievable how light you can travel when you don't need runners, shorts, vests or extra socks to come with you. I debated whether or not to drink but the sober approach got hit on the head the minute we walked into the first bar - I moved the goal posts to "no drinking during the day" after that. The mates all took on the Ring of Kerry cycling lark on Saturday while I sat around reading books and drinking coffee before practicing some photography - I like to think I'm getting less shite at it. When they got back we engaged in eating, drinking and dancing.

Come Monday and my latest comeback started with an easy 7 mile jog around the Phoenix Park. My right calf was a bit tight after all the dancing on Saturday night. Typical, I rest up on the running but manage to tire myself out dancing. Tuesday's hard effort was exactly that. I jumped in on a session with a lad who's starting his Berlin marathon training and was doing tempo run around a 2km circuit - approximately 14km. Now I wasn't doing that, no chance, that'd have me in a body bag. I jumped in on a little over a kilometre of each lap and then cut across to the beginning where I'd meet him for the start of his next lap. After the third one it was decided that I was getting too long a recovery so I had to run a bit further and join up before the starting point - this time I got shag all recovery and started to feel it on the forth. All in all I did 6 reps with him which was more than enough for this guy at the moment.

The rest of the week involves a few days of easy running, a track session (10 x 400m faster than I've run this year) and the long run. Fingers crossed that if all things go to plan I'll be buzzing come next Wednesday's 3000m.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Race Report #25: How the hell am I going backwards?!

It was a perfect evening for racing in Irishtown yesterday, not too warm with a slight breeze. I arrived early enough to the track so I got to flake out on the grass and watch some of the earlier races before heading off on my warm up. I have to say on the warm up I felt very good - relaxed with a bit of zip in the legs. With 10 minutes to kick off I changed into my spikes, did a few strides before going back to my flaked out position on the grass.

The race itself went out just as I hoped. I tucked in right behind the leader within the first 50 metres. During the opening laps I felt so comfortable, it didn't feel like I was racing - 75 seconds for the first two laps - just what I wanted to see. Even on the third lap it felt easy, my breathing was a little laboured but I could sense that while the leader was still running strong the guy on my shoulder was struggling.

Unfortunately it turned out that it was a race of two halves. The second saw the wheels come off completely - while I knew I was struggling out there I didn't realise how badly until I heard my time at the end. I came off the track tired but happy that I was at least moving in the right direction. Then on my warm down I heard my time - 2 seconds slower than 10 days ago. How did that happen? I was convinced it was faster. I ended up 30 seconds off the winner and considering I was right behind him for the first half it really sums up how badly the second half went. He didn't run any faster at the end, he was just able to hold the pace better than I could.

Surprisingly I'm taking more positives out of this than the last time. Next time out I know I'll hold that pace for a lap or two longer and hopefully when it really starts to hurt I can go with it. If not I will the time after that. There's only a few of these track races left and one things for certain, I'm going to get a PB from at least one of them.

Monday, June 29, 2009

No Pressure

While out taking some lovely shots at the Dublin Grand Prix of Race Walking yesterday I bumped into Jerry Kiernan. I was only talking to him briefly but mentioned that I was planning on racing a 3000m race this Wednesday and that I had a bit of a shocker last time out. When I told him the meet was in Irishtown he informed me that it was just a walk down the road from him and that he'd be out to watch it. Not only that but he said we'd sit down beforehand and go through my race plan and the splits I'm to hit.

"You'll hit them splits. Don't worry about what anyone else is doing in the race, do your own thing and you'll get a tidy PB. That's all there is to it. It's easy."

So a pep talk from an Irish Olympian right before I go out and race on Wednesday. No pressure there then!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Upcoming Races

Over the last few days I haven't been certain as to when I'd race again. I wasn't thinking of a prolonged absence, far from it, I kind of thought it may be best to give it a few weeks before throwing myself into the mix again - grab a few good training sessions, get the confidence back and then race. From the 1st July to the 5th August there's five 3000m races out there that I could enter. Realistically I'm only going to jump into four of them, but which four I've no idea. Last night I was out at the IMC races in Irishtown taking a few photos. The weather, crowds, ambiance and the speeds everyone raced at reignited the flame - I'm fairly sure I'll jump straight back on the horse and race next Wednesday. I have to run it by CR first but I can't see him having an issue with it. The other thing I have to see is how my hamstring feels after some fast 400s on the track tomorrow - it's been a tad tight for the last few days.

Upcoming Races
1st July - Dublin Graded Meet 3000m
9th July - Club 3000m Champs
15th July - Dublin Graded Meet 3000m
25th July - IMC 3000m
5th Aug - Dublin Graded Meet 3000m

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Race Report # 24: It's gotta get bad before it gets good

Photo by Danial Kowalczyk

“That was a negative, and right now I need two positives. One to cancel out the negative and another one, you know, just so I can have a positive.”

Miserable and unexpected. That's how last nights race went. On a day when I hoped to hit a big PB, the last thing I'd have thought is that I'd run slower than I'd ever run for 3000m, and by a long way at that.

During the warm up I felt grand, showing no signs of what was about to unfold. The plan of 75 second laps would be tough, but I was confident I could do them. As we lined up all was still good, right until the gun went. Everyone shot off at a ridiculous pace. I tucked in at the back and got dragged through the first 200m, labouring a bit and then I saw the clock. Woah, 34 seconds... slow down, slow down now!! I went through 400m in 72/73, still slightly faster than I'd hoped. Everyone else on the otherhand went through in 66-68s. Good God, I'd run faster in the first lap than any race last year and I was already about 5 seconds behind second last. My thought process was that the pace was so fast that some people would have to come back to me. At 800m I was bang on target pace but even further behind. The realisation that no one was coming back hit and I lost the mental battle. Everything went further downhill from there.

In the end, even if I'd have hit my race target I'd still have ended up last by a good 5 seconds. Instead I was last by 200m. If I'd run the same time as last year I'd have a bit annoyed and probably looked at any number of excuses. But this? No reason I can think of can excuse this. The main plus I'm taking out of it is that I won't run slower than that again this year.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Question mark

If it's possible for me to run 26 miles in an average time of 6:13 a mile, how likely is that I'll be able to run less than 2 miles with an average of 5 minutes a mile?

Answer over the weekend.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How did I get by before?

Reading books about running has never been high on my agenda. Running for at least an hour a day is enough for me without running creeping into my running free hobbies. To date I've read one book about running - What I talk about when I talk about running - which meant that last week's impulse purchase of not one, but two running related books still has me slightly shocked. The book depository, by the way, has free delivery on books worldwide! I don't think I'd ever have found such random running books in my local Waterstones. Both books arrived to my door in less than a week - Result!

These new running books have also got to know their place. Under no circumstances will they get the chance to replace my normal book reading. I'm almost 500 pages through David Simon's beast of a book "The Corner", so I can't let anything slow that progress down! Running books can be read at times when I wouldn't normally read and have time to kill... like yesterday, on my two buses to training. Tonight, it was on the two buses to Santry to watch some racing and on Saturday it'll be on the two buses to get to my race. All of a sudden everything seems to be two buses away, yet none of the destinations are more than five miles from my door. The investment of a motor of some kind is going to be needed very shortly.

Now I've started into "Eating for Endurance" and I'm quite puzzled how I managed to function before. Damn that food pyramid - I'm almost certain that I'm not eating enough of any of the levels besides my trusty carbohydrate layer at the bottom - bread and grain I'm well up on - dairy, fruit and meat all seem to be a bit light. That's what I figured out after chapter one. There's about 9 more chapters - if every one makes me think about restructuring my diet it could be a very different Private around these parts in a few weeks.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

One for me

Week one of the first full week back training since the marathon is just about done. Last night I hit the track for a few 400s. With no watch, since I threw it away after 5km in the marathon, I went totally by feel. The aim was to get 10 done with the recovery set as "whenever I feel ready to go again". As I was a bit rusty on the track I'd have to imagine that the times were fairly scatter gun. The first one went off a bit fast, I could feel it at 100m. Then when I tried to readjust and go a bit slower it felt like I was going waaaaay to slow, even though it was probably about right but just seemed slow because I started fast... god dammit, I hate working out pacing!

The 400s were probably slower than what I was running last summer on the track, the recovery could well have been longer, although for the most part the recovery didn't seem that long, but the bonus of the session was the fact that I went past 10 reps. It may only have been by one, but considering last summer I was doing 400s on the track for a good 4 months and never got past 10 I'm taking my one. I could probably have done another one or two but the aim of the session was to feel comfortable with the track rather than killing myself (I did that on Tuesday). One week to my first track race of the season and that one little, extra 400m has given me that bit of extra confidence that I'm that bit stronger than this time last year. Granted confidence changes from one training sesssion to the next, so chances are it could taking a shoeing in the race or the first time I start timing the 400s and recoveries the week after. For the moment though I'm heading into tomorrows 15 miler in high spirits!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Let's call this the comeback

"You've come along way. Just one more to do. You're not going to stop on four or you?"
I was kind of toying with the idea
"If you'd gone out and run on your holiday this wouldn't hurt so much"

5 x 2km with shag all recovery.... Christ, that was hard!

Monday, June 8, 2009

In the sun I grew the bones of a fighter

Rib watch:
Since "the incident" it's been four and a half weeks. I was told to expect four to six weeks for the bone to heel properly. Today, I feel like I have complete movement again and only feel a slight bit tender when I lie on my left side. Therefore, I try not to lie on my left side. Problem sorted!

I read this snippet of information when looking up sources of Vitamin D a few weeks back.
"It is also produced endogenously when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis" - the week in the sun couldn't have come at a better time. Between an increase in my milk intake and a week sans clouds that rib was always going to heal in 4 weeks, time off or not!

Yesterday was day one back in Ireland. I decided to see how much fitness I lost in a week of drunken sunbathing. Quite a bit is the answer... although trying to take on the hills in the Phoenix Park for the first time in 6 weeks, the day after sitting for 9 hours on planes, 5 hours in airports and another hour in cars was never going to be easy regardless of how fit I was! The plus side of it all was that I couldn't feel the rib at any stage on the run, or afterwards for that matter.

Next up:
Racing. I need to get back into it. Ideally I'd love to have a four mile blowout race on a road somewhere but time constraints are against me. The perfect time for that would have been the week I was on holiday. Instead I have to look to the track. The plan is to get 6 races on the track in between now and the start of August. I'll be looking at races between 3,000m and 5,000m with at least 10 days between each race. I've got about five pencilled in now and once the date for our club 3,000m championship is finalised that should make it six. The first race should be in two weeks time.

Secondly, four kilos. That's the weight that's been added since the Dusseldorf marathon six weeks ago. It's got to go. I'm not too sure how to get rid of it as I've never actively tried to lose weight, it's always just gone. Hopefully it'll just go once I get back into full training again. To try help things along I'll cut out the crap from the diet - biscuits and chocolate with my evening coffee - and knock alcohol on the head as well - except the standard wine with meals out etc.

It's good to be back...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Calling All Cork City Marathon Supporters!!!

This Monday, 1st June, is the running of the Cork City Marathon. I'd love to head down to it for the day (it's a bank holiday so there's a good reason for heading down) but alas I've a holiday booked for that week. Sun and beach wins out over sun in Cork (the June bank holiday weekend is always sunny, an unwritten rule). Anyone who is out at the sidelines in Cork on Monday I ask a favour of you... get your camera out and take some pictures.

Just before the Dublin Marathon in October I launched a race photo search engine - RacePix365.com. The idea of the site is that it will be a one stop site for people who raced in various races around Ireland to find photos of themselves. For the photographer it increases the likelihood that the photo you've taken will arrive in the hands of the person who will value it the most. Since it's launch RacePix365 has featured over 40 races around Ireland and 10,000 pictures. These races have predominately been in the Dublin area, but in recent months a few photographers have uploaded pictures from races in Northern Ireland, Kildare and most recently the John Treacy Classic 10 miler in Waterford.

More than likely after the marathon on Monday people will be uploading their photos to various photo galleries that are out there. After Dublin I remember seeing links to upwards of 20 different galleries on the web. To find all these galleries and then go through each photo one by one to find that elusive picture of yourself is an arduous task. RacePix365 does the hard work for you and will allow you to view all these galleries from one spot. Nicer still it will allow them to be searched by bib numbers making the chances of finding them pictures of you all the easier.

So, if you're out and about watching on Monday, take your camera, grab a few shots and upload them to the web. Rope friends and family into it if you can't take any yourself! Don't worry about your capabilities as a photographer - all photos are welcome onto the site. The "how it works" section on the site explains what to do with your photos once you've uploaded them. Please drop me a line as well to let me know if you have pictures so that I can give credit to everyone that took some pictures on the day.

Last and by no means least, best of luck to all those that are taking part on the day!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Pubs and running don't mix

Running marathons is far easier than training runs like yesterday afternoon...

After getting a little carried away with celebrating Leinster's Heineken Cup victory on Saturday, my head and stomach were in tatters when I woke up. I'd remembered tip toeing around the apartment when I got in so as not to wake my brother and his girlfriend. Talking to him the next morning it turns out I wasn't that quiet. Evidently while I may have trying to stay quiet walking around I was singing along to my mp3 player at the top of my voice!

Once I got some food on board (something that was neglected from my pub diet on Saturday), took some pain killers for my head, and vegged in front of the TV for a while, I embarked on the run. As I was a bit ropey I set no target when heading out besides "try to run". No watch, no target, no route planned, just pure running freedom. It was by far and away the nicest day of the year so far which meant the park was jammed with people sun bathing, bbq-ing, playing football, frisbee, and flying kites. Besides my head and stomach being as they were it was the best day for running ever. A great vibe in the air and with no goal in mind I was able to run where I pleased. No pace worries meant I could just enjoy every minute of it (well apart from the first few miles which were just awful!). The pain killers didn't do too much for the stomach but targeted the headache and rib quite well. For the first time in weeks there was no rib pain when running around - I was aware of it the whole time but the feeling of running every step with a stitch like pain was no where to be found - thank you pain killers. Granted I've no plans of taking them again but it's good to know that if I need to do some speed sessions in the coming weeks they may help somewhat.

Next week is holiday time - there won't be a step of running in that week. Ideally by the time I get back I'll be almost fully healed and ready to go. It'll have been over 4 weeks by that stage and from what I've been told it should take 4-6 weeks for the bone to mend if you don't do anything stupid like... I don't know, run?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Two steps forward, one step backwards

Today, for the first time since the marathon, I felt like a runner again. OK, apart from the pain coming from my ribs that is. But the rib pain disappeared back to where it came within an hour of finishing. My legs felt refreshed which is the main thing.

At the moment to prevent my legs from forgetting how to run I'm pretty much going out every second or third day for a few easy miles on the grass. The days inbetween are complete rest days - no cross training, nothing. Running on the road is a no go with the rib. I tried it on Sunday and I wasn't thanked for trying it. The grass is throwing up its own problems mind. It just hasn't stopped raining which has made running on grass/mud a tough slog. A tough slog was not on my apres marathon agenda.

The rib. It's been two weeks now since the stumble. Early last week was quite painful and I had to will myself away from the pain killers. Most movements were quite sore then, while once I sat still I was grand. Now I only really feel it if I move suddenly, unfortunately when I run (but this is a dull pain, rather than the sharp pain I get on a sudden move), and getting into and out of bed. Running probably isn't the smartest thing to be doing with it. If it was a fractured foot I'd obviously stay off it completely, but it's a rib... who uses a rib for running? It's non-weight bearing! The way I'm looking at it is that I'm probably slowing full recovery down doing this but I'm not going backwards. The real pain of last week is no longer there, it's obviously getting better, so I'm not doing any real damage. If at any stage I feel things are getting worse I will obviously stop immediately. Hell, on Monday I stopped my run after 20 minutes because I wasn't feeling comfortable - legs or rib - and didn't run until today (Thursday). I do listen to my body... sometimes!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Can't really say I wish I was out running...


Factor in some 20+ mph winds and I'm kind of glad I'm banged up!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The curse of the marathon strikes again

Last week I was delighted - not just with the marathon time but with the fact that my legs got through the marathon with no ill effects. After 4 days they were getting back to normal and I was convinced I'd be back to my usual training routine within 2 weeks. Happy days... then my curse took over, or stupidity.

Marathon 1:
Injury - Pulled groin
Cause - It happened during the marathon. I probably took the problem into the marathon but I was a complete running novice so didn't know any better - how to stretch properly, etc
Duration - A few weeks of no running took place afterwards.

Marathon 2:
Injury - technical term is banjaxed my ankle ligaments
Cause - Again being a running novice and not knowing when to stop. Eventually my ligaments gave up on me on a warm up run and I couldn't run more than 2 steps.
Duration - I had a nice limp for a few months. All in all it was 5 months before I was running again.

Marathon 3:
Injury - I strained the posterior knee ligaments
Cause - The injury happened during a game of football for the local pub team. I was in goal, made a save (a great save I must add) and my knee seemed not to go the same direction as my body. The initial cause of this was probably from diving around a bar on a drunken night out - don't ask!
Duration - I had a full leg brace for about 2 weeks and it was about a month or two before I was running consistently again

Marathon 4:
Injury - Quad strain
Cause - My quad remained very weak for about 2 years after the last injury. It used to just give up at times, and did so during the marathon.
Duration - Not too long. I just had to start into a strengthening program

Marathon 5:
Injury - Strained Glut
Cause - The marathon itself
Duration - This didn't really keep me off running for too long, no longer than the after marathon rest. It did, however, take about 3 months before I could comfortably cover a run of any distance without feeling a twinge

Marathon 6:
Injury - Fractured rib
Cause - Being a prat
Duration - Not too sure really. I've found out that taking pain killers slows the recovery time. Diagnosing by google, it's going to put doctors out of business soon! Pain killers prevent the body from absorbing Vitamin D efficiently which is needed to absorb calcium. Hopefully by not taking them and dealing with a bit of extra pain gets me back running normally sooner.

I'm not going to dwell on this. I try to stay clear from injury talk as much as possible - there's generally always a twinge here or a twinge there with everyone. You can't put your body through this much running without a few niggles. My physio deals with that talk, no need to put everyone else through it as well!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Why Private shouldn't drink....

Or why you should unpack your bags rather than leaving them strewn across the bedroom floor for 5 days after a holiday.

Quite simply... Bruised or fractured ribs... but definitely painful!

Great feckin' eejit!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Race Report #23 - The mother of all reports!!

The day didn’t start perfect. The legs were great, probably the best they’d felt in months, the blue sky and 20C temperatures of Saturday were replaced with clouds and cool temperatures, but the 4 hours sleep the night before had me like a zombie at the breakfast table. While initially nerves for the day may have had me anxious and possibly affected my sleep, the real problem was the heat in the room. On the Friday night I’d also struggled to get to sleep there, but luckily on the Saturday morning I didn’t have to wake at 6.30 so got a few extra hours sleep in then. Once I woke on Saturday at 8.30 though that was me up for the day.

At the finish area, before the race, as I was stripping off and getting ready to head down to the start, instead of feeling excited that the day was finally here, nervous or anxious about the race itself, I felt nothing. There was no buzz in me – the day just didn’t feel right. I strolled down to the starting area and checked out where the red zone was - my starting zone. There was some uni-cycle race starting 15 minutes before our race so there was no early queuing going on. I went into a small park beside the start and jogged lightly for a few minutes until around 10 minutes to go.

In the red zone with only a few minutes to kick off I was surprised at how few people there were – 50 maybe 60 of us at the very back of the zone while the elites were being introduced to the crowd. Still no nerves. 1 minute to the start. Everyone moving up. This should be the time… Heart should start racing any second, but still nothing. This wasn’t me being ultra relaxed and confident that everything was going right – quite the opposite. The tiredness seemed to have shut all thoughts from my brain. Positive and negative feelings gone, I was now in “do not care” mode. The very last thing I’d expect to be feeling in the final seconds before a marathon. The countdown started, I realised I don’t know any numbers in German, did they start at 5? 10? What number is it now? BANG! Run

Before the race the low end race pace in my mind was around 19:00 per 5km. I started out conservatively, flat roads, no wind, a nice easy pace….
Kilometre one – 4:00 too slow… I picked off a few runners and moved up the places a bit
Kilometre two – 8:01 Son of a… I picked out someone in the distance and decided to try and catch them by kilometre three. This had to be done very gradually because there’s no point upping the pace ridiculously too early in the race.
Kilometre three – 11:53 Getting there… I hadn’t caught him at this stage but he was close. Before 4km I’d caught up with him but still felt I was going too easy and went past him bringing a couple of others with me.
Kilometre four - No need to watch check because I was happy with the pace.
Kilometre five – 19:33 A bit off the low end target pace but moving along comfortably and I’d a small guy beside me for company. I threw my watch in bushes and got a puzzled German question from the puzzled small German runner. I manage to confuse the small German runner more so by answering him in French!

While throwing the watch away was never part of the pre-race plan, stopping it was. I’d decided that once I got to 5km I’d know what my pace was and nothing that the watch could say would make me run faster or slower. On the morning when I woke up the strap on my watch had broken. It had served me well, a trusty Casio from Argos which I’d bought 7 years ago for about a tenner, but this was to be its last day. The running Gods clearly didn’t want me even checking my 5km time.

Myself and the puzzled German continued on at this pace. Nothing exceptional happened for the next while. I’d tuck in behind him when it got a bit breezy and then come out onto his shoulder every now and again. The roads were flat, very flat, until just before 10k when there was a gradual climb onto a bridge – this was the biggest hill we’d to deal with – I think we dealt with something like it three times over the course of the race and I feel embarrassed even referring to it as a hill. All it was was a couple of hundred metres with a very gradual incline. We passed the 10km point on the bridge – 38:51 – a good bit outside my hoped for pace but it was early days yet and I wasn’t a bit bothered.

Into the second 10km and our two became three. A new runner equipped with headphones, playing fairly loud music, joined us. We were going at quite a nice pace. For the most part I stayed on the shoulders of the other two, but from time to time took a step back and tucked in behind them for a free ride. The nearest runner ahead of us was probably 200m or 300m in front and we weren’t closing that gap any time soon. At 14km we passed by one of the Elite females, with her 3 pace makers, who had pulled up. Every time she started to jog the three pacemakers broke into a jog beside her and then started walking when she’d stop. Quite a bizarre sight…

Come the 16km mark and I was to the front of our group and thought that I was maybe going too fast (stupid conservative Private!). My initial thought was to keep going until the 20km mark and gauge my time from there. Then I copped myself on and remembered that if I was going too fast to slow immediately rather than after a further 2 miles. I took my foot off the gas and just jumped in behind the other two again. Somewhere between 19 and 20 kilometres Headphones decided to up the pace and left myself and Puzzled behind. I’d have liked to have gone with Headphones but his pace seemed to accelerate that bit too quickly to go with. Up and down the bridge again, this time coming the other way, completed the second 10km in 38:09 bringing the time to 1:17:00. Half way across the bridge there was an announcer telling the crowd who was passing. “*Random German words* Private from Dublin, representing Ireland”. Yep, that’s right, representing Ireland! Heheh!

No clock at the half way point (well there was but it had the wrong time on it) so I wasn’t too sure what splits were at the time, not that it mattered really. I’ve since learned that it was 1:21:19. We just kept clipping away for the next while. I’d said to myself that I’d up the pace with around 9 miles to go if I was feeling good. Even though with every mile I was feeling stronger I sat off upping the pace. Eventually after kilometre 28 we caught up the guy in front and from there there was no looking back – I went for home. After all my sitting easy, scared to up the pace a little, ultra conservativeness for the first 17 or so miles, this was kind of stupid! My do or die move… why I didn’t just use the approach I used for the first five kilometres is beyond me now. Pick the next person, give yourself a few kilometres and catch them, rather than the headless chicken run, run, run approach.

I felt great though so more than likely I’d do the exact same thing again. I didn’t go flat out, I went at a pace I realistically thought could get me to the finish at that time. The 30km mark came and went in 1:55:14 (38:14 for that 10km split). By mile 20 I was flying, there would be no stopping me, my breathing was comfortable and I felt strong. This is the problem with a sparsely populated field though, every time I caught someone it was because they were going backwards, meaning I couldn’t just sit in behind them and work off them for a bit. I’d catch and pass people, and then be gone metres a head within seconds. But each time I passed someone there was probably a distance of about 200m to 400m to the next person – a fairly large gap. For the final 9 miles it was all solo running and for good measure, the wind that had been barely existent for most of the race, started to pick up and naturally was a head wind!

With just under 5km to go I felt myself slowing for the first time. I’d got a good 5 or so miles out of upping my pace. I refused to let myself believe that I was out of energy, telling myself that there was plenty more there – I just had to dig deep. I started to think thoughts to make me stronger, sing songs in my head, anything to keep going. I was still keeping a good pace and nowhere was hurting – energy was just getting a tad low. Right as I crossed the 40km mark I thought I was gone. It just came ever so suddenly, the feeling that I had no energy at all left. The feeling came and went over the space of 10 seconds – I slowed down a bit and thought I’d have to jog it home. The two lads ahead of me looked like they were struggling. I upped it a bit and caught one of them. I had to remind myself that what was left was only a mile, just like the lap of Trinity College at the end of the Dublin marathon… that was nothing. The next person in front of me was Headphones, I gave it what I had left and passed him just before 42km. The final home stretch was easy, down a little hill, straight along the river, long, comfortable strides and I was done. Why had that last 5k been so hard when the final 195 metres was so easy?!

The strange thing about my weak final 5k is that no one went by me. Looking at the results I’d have gone by 11 people from the moment I took off at 28km. Not one of them stuck with me and not one of them managed to capitalise on me when I started to slow down. Puzzled told me afterwards that I went way into the distance ahead of him, but during them last 5km he closed me right back down, finishing about 10 seconds behind me. It’s mad to think that if I’d stayed at the same pace as him, which I found easy going, for the last 9 miles I’d have finished in an almost identical time! My final position of 23rd will more than likely remain my highest ever marathon finishing position for many years to come.

I’ll take my result on the day. Can I go faster? Too right I can – there’s a high 2:3x in there somewhere, I just have to bring it out. The next question is When? At the moment I have no idea. My club will be super pissed off if I do the Dublin marathon and miss out on a load of Cross Country races in the autumn. For the moment it’s marathoning to the back of the mind for a while, take a breather for a week, slowly start back to regular running again and get some track races in during June and July. After the track is finished I’ll start to think what the next step is then.

Splits
0-10km – 38m 51s (6:15 avg pace)
10-20km – 38m 09s (6:08 avg pace)
20-30km – 38m 14s (6:09 avg pace)
30-40km – 38m 59s (6:16 avg pace)
40km – 42.195 – 8m 36s (6:18 avg pace)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Dusseldorf - In Pictures

A quick thanks to everyone for the comments pre and post marathon. They're much appreciated. Day 3 and the legs are beginning to feel like normal again. Fingers crossed that this will be the first marathon that doesn't result in an injury within weeks of finishing. The race report is far longer than I thought it would be - it appears I can talk plenty of crap when I want to. I'll have it finished sometime soon....





It's mad to think when you see this picture that I came 23rd!!


20 miles gone and still smiling


100m to go and no longer smiling!


uhm... how first aid treated a blister... no bursting, just a fuck off bandage that prevented me from being able to wear a shoe home!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Coming soon to a bar in Dusseldorf...

Me. DRUNK!!

I'll keep this short and sweet. Full update to come when I'm back home. I finished in 2:42, a four minute PB. Overall I'm delighted with how the race went. I may have kicked for home too early and saw a 2:40/41 disappear but I went with what I felt was right at the time. If I'd kicked later I may well have finished fresher but in the same time! The half splits are 1:21/1:21 I think - there was no clock at half way so I haven't seen that split yet.

The one thing that went against me was sleep. I just couldn't get to sleep in the hotel room. 6 hours on Friday night and 4 last night, even though I was knackered both nights, wasn't the best preparation. In the end last night, at 2am, I stripped the duvet and tried sleeping with just the sheets. That didn't work. I went for the duvet sans sheets and immediately knew I would sleep then... and I did, fairly lively.

Enough of that gloom part - I've already had 3 pints and a burger and chips and there shall be many, many more in the coming hours.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Laissez-faire

"Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go."
T.S. Eliot

Just back in from the last run before the big one. The next time I lace up these runners it'll be in advance of 26.2 miles. Nice. Bags are packed, information for everything I could think of has been printed and it's almost time to go.

Surprisingly the nerves haven't really hit yet but I'm sure tomorrow when I'm at the expo and moaning about wasting energy by walking it'll kick in! It's quite nice that my biggest dilemma at the moment is what to listen to on my mp3 player on the morning of the race...

The plan for the race is quite simple. As CR said to me on Tuesday evening. "It's no different to any other race. Vest, shorts, shoes, pin on a few gels, take a slug of water and run". When it's put like that you can't help but relax about the whole thing.

It's been a nice ride getting here - now just to finish it off.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Just Another Race

18 months ago before the Dublin City marathon CR told me to relax about the race, treat it like any other race, and it'd work out fine. How the hell could I treat it as any other race? It was do or bust as far as I was concerned. I don't think I'd have been able to continue on marathon training if I'd crashed and burned like the last two. All the training I'd done was for the marathon - nothing else mattered.

Fast forward to today and what do I think about Sunday's race? Quite simply, that it's just another race. One difference between now and then is how much I race. Before the last marathon I'd probably been in 15 or so races... 6 of them marathons! Now? In the past 18 months I've been in 22 races, ranging from 3000m on the track, 5 miles in muddy fields to a half marathon on the road. The last few weeks have flown by - usually with 2 weeks to go I'd start getting anxious, counting down the number of runs I'd left to the marathon and then get excited when I could count on two hands. After today's five miler it was the first time it dawned on me that I only have a few more runs to go - maybe 4, maybe 3.

I'm even looking past the marathon already - not worrying about the outcome. What I'm thinking is what a great base I'm going to have going into my track season come the middle of June. I'm actually looking forward to the track this year. Have I forgotten last year already? I was crap on the track. I hated the damn track. Yet now I'm thinking I could be alright on it this year.

Come 12.30 this Sunday I can say one thing for certain, I won't be depressed if things don't go my way. There'll be other races and other marathons (albeit probably not for another 12-18 months). This one race will not make me any better than I am now. All it'll do is tell me what type of time I'm capable of. Once it's done, good or bad, I'll do the same thing - pub, pint and food. I'll forget about running for a few weeks and then I'll be back getting ready to race again.

I've put a lot of work into training over the past 3 months, hell the past year, and I fully expect a decent performance. As my old boxing coach used to say to us "You only get out what you put in"... and I've put a bloody lot in!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Today is a day for someone else

This morning the odd thirty six thousand or so people decided to take on the London marathon - yes, it's definitely that time of year - Boston last weekend, Hamburg, London, Madrid all today, and then there's me next week.

I said I wouldn't spy on the runners I knew racing but then that's where all the fun is. Who cares if people are out trying to break world records? the joy is pressing F5 over and over again to see if the next split of someone you know has been recorded.

As my old club is all about marathons there were a couple of hundred of them running, many of who I knew and many, many more I didn't. Then there was theRoadRunner, who I'd been on a few training runs with, who was running as well. No one had finished (except the winners) by the time I ventured out on my long run. TheRoadRunner, who'd been hitting consistent 5ks in 20 minutes just recorded his first 19 minute 5k after around 30km. With everyone doing so well I went out, took on my own 15 miler in good spirits.

When I came back I had a message from RR telling me that he had kicked on after 20 miles and was flying past people at 6 minute pace for the last 6 miles - coming in in 2:47. A great run and by my reckoning he'd have passed almost 50 people in them last 6 miles. While RR posted a stunning negative split the wheels were coming off for my ex-club mates, all posting positive splits. All of them ran highly respectable times but I feel that if you hit half way in 1:15 then your target must be the 2:30 mark, so if there's going to be a twinge of regret if you hit a 1:20 second half. The 4 lads in the club that I knew from training ran 1:15/1:20, 1:18/1:26, 1:16/1:30 and 1:20/1:26. There's definitely a lesson to be learned there in pacing judgement.

One thing is for certain after today... I'm starting to get excited...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Best. Thing. Ever.


Portable Fricken Porridge! Genius. The worry of being able to get the right thing to eat on the morning of the marathon in Germany has now been removed from my mind. Add boiling water, leave stand for 2 minutes and you're done - no microwave needed. Genius!