Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Private's tip of the day

How to race into strong head winds:
Any one spot me?!

Monday, March 30, 2009

This time last time: 6 weeks to go

More like "That time last time" this time! I was meant to post something over the weekend, but as I wanted to stay away from the computer yesterday nought got posted.

It still surprises me that I thought I had the perfect run in to the last marathon. When I chatted to people I always said that my training had been ropey leading up to the last 10 weeks, but them 10 weeks were solid. Between taking days off to sun myself at a beach, getting drunk with visitors, getting punched by nightclub bouncers amongst other things, perfect or solid are hardly the words I'd use now. The last hiccup on route to the marathon happened this week. I caught a cold, a good cold from what I remember, a cold that prevented me from training. It was my Tuesday speedwork session that I ended up taking off. I remember clearly how hard a decision it was to take off - was I taking it off because I was sick? because I was sick and the weather was crap? because the weather was crap and I was lazy? Could I do the session sick? Will I get worse? In the end I guiltily took it off and stayed away from the wind and rain. With a race that weekend taking days off is never good for the confidence.

One thing about '6 weeks to go last time' and '6 weeks to go this time' is that on both weeks I had half marathons. The half marathon back then was not a pretty affair. I was still coughing, feeling the affects of the cold, but feeling that bit better than on the Tuesday that I took off. In the end it was one of them days that just didn't work out. You've just got to forget about it and move on. I remember looking at my watch at the 10 mile mark and seeing it saying 61 minutes - 2 minutes slower than my 10 mile PB from a few weeks beforehand. I cruised through that 10 mile race - here I was running slower but also feeling like I had nothing in the tank to go any further. In the end I got around in 1h 21m - meaning the last 3 miles were close to 7 minute pace.

After that race I talked with CR. His reckoning was that I was too tired from training and that I had to put the shoes away for two days. Two days completely off training followed. Then the last 5 weeks began, which if memory serves me right were possibly the perfect weeks run up that I've always remembered having.
Last TimeThis Time
Monday5 mile easy10 mile easy
TuesdaySICK DAY OFF6 mile easy
Wednesday10 mile easy8 mile w/ 6 x 1 minute - long recovery
Thursday6 mile easy6 mile easy
SaturdayHalf marathon - 1h 21mHalf marathon - 1h 17m
SundayOFF4 miles v.easy

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Race Report #21 - Larne ROCKS!

We weren't lucky with the wind... my God were we unlucky! But besides that, wow, what a race. Not my performance mind but the actual race itself. I'd possibly put this as my favourite race EVER - The Mende to Marvejols half marathon would move down to a very close second. From ease of location, changing facilities, showers, football pitches to warm up on, enough prepacked sandwiches to feed an army afterwards, tea, coffee, everyone so friendly and chatty, and an absolutely stunning route to boot, made this the perfect race in my opinion. At stages it was absolutely breath taking along the coast road. All this for £12. If I have the chance to hit the Larne half marathon next year I'll definitely be back.

The aim at the start of the race was to go out very easy for the first mile and then bit by bit pick off people and settle into a steady fast pace. That all went as planned except for the "steady fast pace". The first 6 miles had us running into a 30+ mph head wind. Five miles were along the coast, totally flat, before we turned in for a lap of Ballygally. As the first mile approached I started to work my way through the crowd and try to find a group going at a decent pace that I could tuck in alongside. About 200 metres ahead I could see a group of 6 or 7 that looked to be going along comfortably. I made my move to catch them and brought another six with me. Up until 6 miles I just tucked in behind them. The pace was dictated totally by the group. It felt too slow at times but there was no way I was kicking on by myself in that wind. The sensible approach was to stay in with them. Afterwards talking to one of the lads from that group he said we were ticking along at 6 minute mile pace at this stage.

The lap of Ballygally had a few hills. Nothing as bad as people said beforehand. There were two or three short, steep hills, one of which was back into that poxy head wind. I felt good going up these hills, picking off two lads up ahead that had pulled away when the group split. Leaving Ballygally there was a lovely down hill, wind at the back, stunning view of the coast up ahead, with the sun beating down.

We came back onto the coast road and began the 5 miles home. Wind at the back or not this was getting tough. Litterally, just as I crossed the 10 mile mark my legs wanted to give in. It was as if they thought that 10 miles was as far as we raced in Ballycotton and that was all they were prepared to do today. On I soldiered! There was not much left to give now - why didn't I take that second gel at mile 8?! I knew now that the lads ahead were not going to be caught and all I could do was try not to get caught by anyone else. From nowhere an uphill drag commenced at mile 12. This mile is by far and away the longest of my life.
"I've gone 600m since the sign, only 1,000m to go, now 800m, where the hell is that leisure centre? ahhh a left turn - IT'S ALL THE WAY DOWN THERE, THAT'S AGES AWAY YET, sweet mother of God!"

On crossing the line there was no clock about so I couldn't tell my time - this no watch wearing has its flaws. I grabbed the guy who finished ahead of me and asked what his time was. I guessed that I was about 1:17:30 from his time.

The results have now gone up and I've found out that 1:17:42 is my new half marathon time. Really I'd have liked to have recorded a faster time before I got to Larne and faced the conditions, but hills and wind considered I'll take what I'm given. One annoying thing though is that I can't really use this race time for help predicting my marathon time. But the race itself will stand to be no end over the next few weeks.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Counting Down

"N.Ireland forecast gales and storms this wknd" - A charming text from my Dad this morning.

The last pre-race run of the week has been done. The shoes have been hidden away. Now all I have to do is wait. Wait, sleep, eat, and probably sleep some more. I'm not feeling too fresh or light on my feet today. Infact today's 6 miles in the poxy wind felt horrible. But just like I said before Ballycotton, I'm not meant to be bouncing about the place two days before a race - I'll save that for race day.

Come Saturday evening there should be a new half marathon PB in these parts. That long standing 1h 21m should be smashed, wind or no wind.

Monday, March 23, 2009

What's a guy to do?

I was humming and hawing about going out for an easy jog on Saturday. Thank God I didn't as watching that rugby was cross training enough for one day. As far as I'm concerned my heart will be under far less stress running a marathon than having to go through watching something like that again. Absolutely class.

3 x 10 mile run, 2 x interval training, and 1 x 18 mile long run.

Probably the toughest weeks training I've done to date. That's not just during this marathon preparation, I mean EVER. Sunday's long run was done on fairly tired legs so the pace was nowhere near that of last weeks 16 miles, but it was still a solid effort. Early on I thought I was going to struggle over the second half as I found the first half tough going. The second half was equally as tough but no more than the first. With 4 miles to go I had a new lease of life and upped the pace - this probably has something to do with the fact that the 2 previous miles had been into the wind and I'd just turned to having the wind blow across me. By the end of the run I wasn't completely spent and I'd like to think that if a longer run had been prescribed for the week I could've gone on and done it.

To prevent myself from thinking too much about times I didn't have a swatch at the watch after the long run to see what it said. As it was the first 18 miler I've done in the Phoenix Park I needed the watches measuring capabilities with me. Once it reached 18 miles I stopped and reset it. After Dusseldorf I'll be sure to look back with curiosity to see my time for that run and any other one I do the same with, but for the moment all I need to worry about is how it felt rather than the time itself.

With six weeks left to go I can definitely expect at least 2 weeks of training that'll be tougher than that again. Other weeks, such as this week, will be easier as I'll be preparing for a race or recovering from a race.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

It's gonna end soon

I feel I am owed this. After months of running in the dark, the wind, the snow, (not so much the rain oddly enough) this week is a week for running. I've had to duck out of work early every evening this week, but I don't regret a thing... I'm wearing short sleeves again!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

This time last time: 7 weeks to go

The first thing that jumped out at me when I saw my old training log was the appearance of the first midweek long run. My current training schedule doesn't have a midweek long run on it yet. I asked CR whether or not I should be adding one into my training, but he thinks that this week is too heavy a week training wise to add a second long run. Two speedwork sessions, plenty of 10 milers, and a long run. There's not really much space in there for a second 15 miles.

Taking another look at the old training log shows that, yes, my training schedule back then was very light compared to this weeks. The Monday and Tuesday were both easy, recovery days after the race at the weekend. Wednesday was the midweek long run, followed by a day off. The Friday was a speedwork session of 8 x 2 minutes. An aside to this - How is that I can remember almost every track session in France and London, yet this session could be one of any number in Dublin?! The Sunday long run, much like this Sunday real time, was my first foray into 18 mile territory for this marathon training schedule. This long run I do remember however. It was tough, I felt like crap for the whole second half, but when I finished I was delighted as I knew that the same tough run 6 months beforehand would have caused me to stop. This was a new stronger running Private. Unfortunately, one of the reasons the run was so tough was because I had the start of a cold coming on which became full blown over the next few days.

I have to say having gone through 4 days of this week already I'm glad CR didn't put a 15 miler into my midweek session. In 2007 I covered around 60 miles in the week, with two long runs in the week. This week I'll probably cover somewhere between 66 and 70 miles, with one long run. There is no possible way I could have thrown in an extra 5 miles onto Wednesday's run. As it stood I was passing out on the couch by 9.30 on Wednesday evening.

7 weeks and 2 races to go now.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Tuesday Session

"On Tuesday I want you to do either 8 to 10 by 2 minutes or around 5 by 3 minutes"

Without a seconds hesitation I let CR know that it'd be the 2 minute intervals. It's been a long time since I've done 3 minute intervals and I absolutely hate them. Getting the pacing right is a nightmare. At least with one minute or two minute intervals if you go out too fast you only have to deal with it for a minute. Three minutes and you're left dying out there for what feels like a life time. Two minutes, the nicer choice.

The more I thought about the session today the more a quote from CR that I've heard many times before floated about in my head. "The hard bastard always wins". There was really only one option now. Three minutes, the hard bastard choice.

As I set the interval time on the watch to 3 minutes I thought about whether to go for 5 or 6 repeats. Feck it, we'll say 6. If I'm dying after 5 I may as well be dying after 6. What about the recovery? For 1 minute intervals I'd been doing a 90 second jog recovery, but had started to find this more than enough and think it's time to knock it down to a minute. For three minutes?
"The hard bastard...". Right so, 90 seconds jog recovery it is.

Monday, March 16, 2009

There goes the fear

Long run elevation
First Ballycotton and now yesterday's long run. The confidence is soaring at the moment. CR asked me to take two gels on yesterday's 16 mile run - one at 5 miles and one at 10. To do this I had to rejig my route somewhat so I could ditch the bottles at the right place. Therefore the Garmin had to come with me to measure the route. I forbid myself from looking at the watch at any stage as I didn't want to set any "records" on this run. I wanted a comfortable pace throughout, not to push myself and to be safe in the knowledge that if I needed to go up a gear I could. That is exactly how the run went. I didn't feel like I was going fast at any stage. This was cruising. The normal struggle of the final 2 or 3 miles was nowhere to be found.

After finishing I felt that I could have gone on at that pace for a couple of more miles. Usually when I stop after a long run I can feel it in my legs that I've just stopped running. You know that shakey feeling where the legs seem to cease up immediately? This time that feeling was no where to be found. In fact I finished 800m from the apartment and slow jogged them home. All this is why there was a shock when I looked at my watch to see the time as just under 1:42. Did I miscalculate my kilometres to miles (My garmin is in km)? That's the kind of time I'd be happy seeing for 15 miles and there it is for over 16. I double checked my maths when I got home and checked what the pace was. Everything was correct in the maths sense. The pace worked out at 6:15 minutes per mile. That's faster than the 2007 marathon pace.... and I didn't feel like I was pushing myself.... Holy fuck!!

What does this tell me. Firstly, that last Sunday's race is well and truly out of my legs and secondly, I've every faith in a taper working out come marathon time. Roll on the longer runs!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

This time last time: 8 weeks to go

September 2007
Compared to the week before this week was a pretty tame week. This was the week that I discovered physios can't really do much for a dead leg. They can work around the area but the bruising is left well alone to heal itself. So that's what I ended up having to do. Training wise, 8 weeks to go 2007 was fairly similar to that of 9 weeks to go 2009. The Saturday was a 10 mile race which meant that everything else that week was fairly easy.

Monday - 6 Miles easy
Tuesday - 14 x 1 minute fartlek with 90 seconds recovery
Wednesday - 8 miles easy
Thursday - 6 miles easy
Friday - OFF
Saturday - 10 Mile Race
Sunday - 5 Miles easy

The race on the Saturday was one of my favourite performances up until the last few months. Even still, it's probably the only race I've been involved in a bit of a battle near the front with one person. It was the first race that CR told me to leave my watch at home for and just to go out, not worry about anything and run. Since then I've only worn a watch during one race. My plan for the race was to go out very handy and work into the race. Surprisingly, the chase group decided to go out at my pace. The three leaders built up a decent lead early on, while a group of ten people ticked along behind them. Bit by bit the chase group broke up, until after a while there were just two of us. After about 6 or 7 miles the pace didn't feel like we were pushing it but I'd a sneaking suspicion that the guy I was with was going to kick on soon. And I was right, he injected some pace into it and initially I let him go "shit! I knew it.... hang on, this is a race, I should probably try go with him". As I came back onto his shoulder the pace settled back down for about 30 seconds until he went and picked it up and went ahead, again I came back onto his shoulder. This happened once more. Although the last time I didn't stop on his shoulder. I put the head down and ran, ran bloody hard. I had no idea how far behind he was at any stage so I kept going without looking back. In the end I got in at just over 59 minutes.... my racing buddy for 7 or 8 miles came in 27 seconds behind me. Even if I do say so myself, that wasn't a bad injection of pace on my part back then.

Comparisons between 2007 and 2009 seem very similar. The training at this stage is almost identical but race performances are a hell of a lot different.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Why I love to race

Yes, the challenge, PBs, seeing how far I can go and so on and so forth are all great motivators but they're not what I'm loving at the moment.
"Monday and Tuesday, do 4 miles as easy as you possibly can." he tells me "There'll be no speedwork until Friday. We have to get the race out of the legs before we push on again".


Monday, March 9, 2009

Race Report #20 - I went for the mug, I left with the shirt!

I knew that the start on Sunday was going to be really early as a three hour plus commute to Cork was on the cards. With that in mind I had a really early night on Friday, a lie in on Saturday morning and an attempted early night on Saturday. The Saturday sleep was as good as you're going to get when you know you have to be up at 6.30am the following day. Hero for the day was the driver as it took such a weight off my mind going into the unknown not having to worry about trains being delayed or buses from the train station. We arrived with loads of time to spare which was ideal, time enough to eat some sandwiches, relax in the car, listen to the wind trying to get into the car before drowning it out with some music on my headphones.

The start of the race was a cause of anxiety for me in the days leading up to the race. 3000 people starting, all bunched together, how am I going to get a warmup in, get a decent starting position and be ready to race? I milled around the tents for a while trying to suss things out. Seeing a few elite lads I toyed with the idea of just hanging onto the back of them and trying to get into the front with them. I talked to them and it seemed that their bib numbers of 1-50 were the key into the starting area. My 1000+ number was not going to cut it. In the end I decided on a quick jog to the start just before 1 to join the masses. As I got to the turn off to the start I went for the brass neck approach and went straight on towards the start. No one said anything and I now had an area to warm up pre race. A light jog up and back the 200m at the front of the starting line. After a few minutes of this I got some strides out of the way and then a 15 minute wait for the gun to go. The warm up plan worked out exactly how I wanted and I was now ready to race.

The plan for the start of the race was to go out easy, run the first mile slower than the rest, by up to 30 seconds or so. With this in my mind I started about 6 or 7 rows back at the start. I didn't need to be impeeding people or having people dashing past me. Standard wise, 6 or 7 rows of people back was where I should be. While my effort felt like nothing at the start, I cruised behind people and didn't worry about people racing off like mad eejits, I was quite surprised to hear the mile time split called out. 5:38. While my effort wasn't a race effort, the downhill start obviously helped. From here on in I was racing. I tried my best to tuck in behind people to shelter myself from the wind, but for the most part the people a head of me in races are a fair bit smaller than my 6'5 frame, so there wasn't much shelter being offered. The next two miles into the wind were both about 5:40. At this stage I moved to the front of the group I was in as the pace seemed to be slowing. A lad from Clonliffe who I've raced and trained with before went with me and we left the group behind us. He took to the front and I stuck in behind him. I was starting to feel the pace but thankfully stayed with him. We hit the half way mark at 28.33. My mind was weak here - I was digging in to stay going. 5 more miles was a big ask at this stage.

Before mile 6 we picked off a runner who'd dropped off the group ahead of us. He stayed with us for a while but by mile 6 his foot falls were no longer being heard behind me. Likewise my foot falls were no longer behind Declan's. As we turned to having the wind behind us at mile 6 he took off. I tried my best to stick with him but soon enough it was me trying to keep him as close as I possibly could. This has to be the hardest part of any race - are you going backwards or is he kicking on? The way I felt I was sure it was me going backwards. I was going to crash and burn any minute. I crept past mile 7 at just under 40 minutes. Over the next 2 miles a runner from the two ahead was slowing and I managed to pass him. That was the ideal tonic at that point. I needed the motivation. Straight after that we had the cruelest uphill of the race. My form was totally out the window at that point as I felt my feet slapping the ground as I went up the hill and around the corner. At mile 9 - 51:15 was called out as I past. My goal of 57 minutes was definitely on. Here I was running in spurts - 10 metres fast, 40 metres slow, pickup the pace for 200m and then back down again. Pure hell, I was doing some insane fartlek session in the last mile of a 10 miler! Someone came flying past me then. I couldn't stay with him but I was able to get some momentum from him. The sign for 400m to go appeared... what a long 400m... I eventually got to the end and crossed the line in 56:53 - a PB by 2 minutes and 8 seconds. I ran my 59 minutes time 8 weeks before Dublin 2007 - this 56:53 couldn't have come at a better moment.

The complete shock of the whole thing is that the second half of the race was faster than the first, 28:33/28:20, because I felt like I was going backwards the whole second half. I'm chuffed to have won the mental battle as well. Without a shadow of a doubt that's the toughest race I've ever ran. The idea of running a marathon in 8 weeks is now not looking that tempting at all!

Anyone looking for pics of the race checkout Cork Running Pictures as there are hundreds there.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A call to legs

"This sucks. My legs are tired, these 8 miles have been laboured when they should have been easy, how the hell am I meant to race 10 miles on Sunday feeling like this?"

A wee moment of doubt crept into my mind on today's run. As my easy runs have been 10 miles for the last few weeks the taper for this race has seen them drop to 8 miles. My legs don't notice the difference in 10 and 8 miles. They were as tired on the run today as they would be if I'd done 10 miles yesterday. Thankfully I've put all this into perspective by reminding myself that my legs aren't meant to feel fresh on the Thursday three days before the race. They're meant to feel deadly on race day. Roll on Sunday!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

This time last time: 9 weeks to go

This week really puts the "How did I look back at the last marathon prep and think it was perfect?" question to the forefront. Nine weeks prior to Dublin 2007 was my last week living in the south of France.

Monday to Thursday's training sessions were as expected. A track session on the Tuesday saw me doing 13 x 400m with 1 minute rest in or around 1:13. The other days were all 9 miles easy. Marathon training looks like it was taking shape here during these few days. They mirror nicely the present days training.

Friday went a bit pear shaped. My lease ended that day so I had to move out and clean the place from top to bottom. We had the landlord popping by for an inspection that evening. This meant that Friday's speedwork session was put on hold and also meant that my farewell drinks could start earlier! Over the course of the evening a few bottles of rosé were consumed at apéro, more at dinner, pints and shots in the pub until 2 am and then whiskey cokes in the nightclub until we were asked to leave. Getting asked to leave was far from the highlight of the evening. Our drunkenness saw us trying to talk our way into staying. We were kind of perplexed as to why we had to leave because we hadn't actually done anything to warrant being asked to leave. We eventually accepted we weren't getting back in and were just talking shite with one of the bouncers at the doorway. The conversation turned to the rugby world cup and the upcoming Ireland v France game. It was all very good natured with him telling us how we hadn't a hope with no O'Driscoll and us saying that he was back fighting fit again and that we would prevail. For some unknown a bouncer, who wasn't part of our rugby talk, ran over and smashed his knee into my quad, pretty much picked me up and flung me into the barriers across the way. Cue silence everywhere, puzzled looks all round, before he starts screaming in incomprehensible French at us. To this day we've no idea why that happened but I left France with cuts and bruises all down the side of my right arm and a dead leg leg that lasted for just over a week.

On the Saturday I couldn't walk too well so any thoughts of a run to make up for missing the Friday session went out the window. Sunday's long run also never happened. Instead I managed to get about 8 miles at a pace just above easy in that felt like hell.

The French dream ended on Sunday. Monday morning at the crack of dawn I left Montpellier to fly back to Ireland with a limp that my parents and coach were both told was attributed to smacking a table off it when moving a table from my apartment...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Never as tired as when I'm waking up

Coming off the month where I've clocked my highest monthly mileage ever (OK, it was only by 3 miles, but this was a short month with only 3 long runs, each one 15 miles) I'm glad to have a race this weekend. It means that after tomorrow there'll be a slight taper and tonight will be the only workout of the week. The workout will be 16 x 1 minute pickups with a 90 second jog recovery. My intended pace for that should be below the normal for that session. Finish tired, but not wrecked. It shouldn't be too hard to stay at an easier than normal pace because to be honest the legs are feeling a bit heavy.

Yesterday's easy run was at by far the slowest pace I've gone at in a long, long time. Any slower and I'd have been walking. Sunday's run was definitely in the legs. I wondered how much harder the long run would be after Friday's tempo run and I got my answer. At 10 miles I noticed I was running harder than I'd set out to run. I don't know how long I'd been running at the pace, my mind had clearly wandered for some time. I reduced the pace and thought to myself how easy the run was, even at the pace I'd been going. Within minutes my hamstrings decided to tighten and my calf muscles seemed to turn into rocks. The positive I'm taking out of this run is that even with my legs feeling run down from miles 13-15 I knew that if I had to I could kick on and run faster. I couldn't have run many more miles but I knew I could go faster if there was a need - there was no need so I took it easy for the remainder.

Early reports for the weekend have it to be a miserable race day. Glancing out the window here shows that todays session could be an ideal trial run for that.