Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 in Numbers

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...