Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 in numbers

Having put my runners away for the last time in 2010 I thought it'd be an apt time to tot up the years figures. More miles run, with more days off.... If that trend continues it'll be a happy 2011.

Total Miles Run:2,783 (+316) 2,467 (+258) 2,209
Days Off:56 (+2)54 (-26)78
Number of Races:14 (-4)18 (+2)16
Max Distance Raced:10 miles 42.2km 10km
Min Distance Raced:3km3km3km
# PBs:1 (-3)4 4
Highest Placing:1st (+1)2nd (+2)4th
Prize Money:€0 -(75)€75 (+75)€0
Medals Won:4 (+4)00

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Change Nothing

These last few months have been the longest time I've gone without racing since starting under CR's guidance. That's all about to end in 7 days time with my first cross country race of the season. Last year I ran about nine of the damn things - this year it'll be a more respectable three.

First up is the Dublin Senior Championships. Last year I got blown away in a small, but top class field. This year it'll probably be the exact same again, although I'm hoping this time I can see myself in the top half of the field rather than the bottom quarter. My excuses are ready though if that doesn't happen - "First XC race of the season...", "my foot's been sore for a few weeks now...", "the spikes were digging in to me...".

October's training has been consistent though. I've run more miles than I've ever run in a month, while keeping the weekly mileage lower than I was running at times during the summer. A weekly tempo has been introduced to my schedule, a couple of core workouts, along with more recovery between key sessions. In a matter of weeks it's paid off as I'm finding that I'm running stronger and faster than before. A couple of weeks back I was stunned when my 5 mile tempo finished approximately 20/30 seconds slower than my PB. This on heavy legs, two days after a fast 15 mile run. I was buzzing, my legs felt great, I could have run further and what made it even better was the fact that for the rest of the week I was able to up the mileage. Then this week rolled around and I only went and equaled my 5 mile PB... on a bloody training run.

The key now is to keep things the same until I'm back on the roads again. As CR always says "Change nothing". I haven't looked at any calendars just yet to see when the next road race will be - for the moment I'm just waiting for next weekends XC to pass. What I want to know the answer to though is - if you can run times equivalent to your best race times in training, what kind of times can you hit when you race?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Slow down please...

Sunday was meant to be a long slow run. That was never going to be difficult after hitting an early morning Saturday session of kilometres on the wet grass and then a Saturday evening session that comprised of Guinness, red wine, beer and cognac. To make matters worse I had to drag myself out of bed bright and early to take photos at a race *grumble grumble* After spending an extortionate about of money on a new camera on Saturday I couldn't not go out because I was tired / hungover.

Following much hydrating and way later than I planned I went out for my jog. The route I was taking was from my parent's house, a tried and trusted route out and back along the marathon course, a route that I know like the back of my hand. For my usual loops around the Phoenix Park I know the cumulative distance but I wouldn't know at any stage how far I'd gone. Sunday's was different. I knew every mile marker to a few metres. Not a good thing when you're legs are tired, you're bored and all you want to do is go home and go to sleep. "That's two miles done, just another 13 to go..."

The longer the run went on the sooner I wanted to get home. With 5 miles to go there was no short cut home, if there had a been I'd have taken it and gone home, so I did the only thing I could think of... started to run fast. An absolute no, no on a recovery long run. I knew it was stupid but I wanted food, water, a couch and football. 6:30 and only 4 miles to go... bang, another 6:30 including up the hill in Milltown. Obviously the momentum continued after that hill because I dropped a 6:10 for the third mile and I was just home. "I could jog now and be home in 15 minutes". Again a 6:10 came out of the bag. "Alright seriously time to slow down... a warm down mile if you will". I felt like I was jogging the end of end of this and struggling bad but it still came in as a 6:30 mile. Everything else that was planned for the rest of the day got cancelled and I ended up vegging around my parents house and eating their food.

Thankfully today I had a bit more sense on my recovery from the recovery run and cruised around 6 miles and as slowly as my legs would let me. More of this slow stuff is required for the rest of this week or I'll be back to being bunched in no time.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's all marathon

After a conversation with CR last night it was decided that absolutely everything I do from now on is with the marathon in mind. This marathon could be 2 years away yet - I've no idea but the goal has to be to run the next marathon fast.

That means that we're back looking at using and abusing cross country for the next few months. Throwing in a few road races up to half marathon distance in the middle of cross country. Maybe finding a half marathon and preparing for it as if it was a marathon - 10 dedicated weeks, training runs up to 18 miles and practicing with gels. I still need to get my times down for 5 miles, 10km, 10 miles and the half but as CR reminded me "there's still 20 miles left after 10km" so not getting the 10km time down as far as I want to doesn't necessarily mean I won't hit the marathon time I want.

Recent weeks have seen me wind down my training, take a full week off where I drank and drank and drank, run a half week (the thousandth wedding of the summer stopped that week in its tracks) and now I'm running a week where I'll be clocking up the miles with just one speedwork session. I'd forgotten what it was like to run while not tired and now I'm feeling stronger with every step I take. A few weeks ago CR said that the next goal was to just get back to enjoying running and I can honestly say that I'm back to that stage. It may have taken five weeks of handy running to start enjoying it again but now I feel like I'm ready to have another attack at it. Bring on the mud!

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Assuming that I covered my weekly miles at 7 minute pace (probably slower but stay with me) and that I spent a total of 30 minutes for the stretching and showering routine before and after each training session I spent over 12 and a half hours running this week! If that was a part time job, earning minimum wage, I'd have pocketed a cool €106.54 before tax...

Now that I have a seven day break from running what will I do with these 12 hours? The most obvious thing that I can think of is to do the contracting website development work that has been building up since I changed job in July. More than likely though I'll slip into that booze drinking, woman chasing eejit that has been spotted around pubs over the past 6 weekends.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hair worth a minute....

9 miles into the Frank Duffy 10 miler in 2009 and 2010.

Same shirt, shorts and shoes. All that's added is the hair... and a minute to the race time.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"The Stars of Track and Field"

  • I've trained on a track three times in 2010.
  • The last time was 6 weeks ago.
  • On no occasion this year did I do a repeat of 400m faster than 75 seconds.
  • It's been 375 days since I last raced on a track.
  • That was also the last time track spikes were worn.
  • Time to dig them out...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Friends Reunited

Well hello old friend, it's been a while.
Really, that long? So we've never met during the hours of daylight before then?
You still look as I remember anyway, towering over everyone and everything.
I remember the dark, windy nights of winter when there wouldn't be a sinner about during our encounters. Look now, cars stopped in traffic as far as the eye can see.
Remember the nights of the snow? Few cars even thought to come by. There was even the car abandoned at the side of the road that didn't realise the challenge that lay ahead when it started out.
Day after day we met, exchanged pleasantries and on I went on my merry way. Good times.
But today, I'm puffing, I'm crawling, I'm ... Stopping?!
Ok, I'll be off then. You've won this round friend, but fear not I'll return and I will overcome...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Private on Jogging

A lot of lesson's have been learnt in the past few months. One of the first things I was told after I pulled out of racing Ballycotton was to get back to my old self and once I feel like I'm zipping around on a Tuesday workout to pick a race for the following weekend. Sounds simple, but I ignored it. Knowing that I was more than likely going to be unable to race for the first few weeks in May I got anxious and jumped into a race towards the end of April, before my times and effort in workouts were what I'd have hoped for. Result? I was bunched by 3km in a 10km, jogging by 4km,and spent the last 6km going between race pace and jogging like a bad fartlek session, all cumulating in the slowest 10km I've raced in 2 years.

Mistake number two. Picking up a throat infection and training through it. This sounds like something that I've done many, many times and normally wouldn't think twice about. According to CR I was more than likely run down and the throat infection was just another way of my body letting me know. Coming to the end of the throat infection I did something spectacularly stupid... 4 days of tough training, with very little rest (late nights and early mornings) which resulted in day 5 - Stopping 10 minutes into an easy run and walking home.

I didn't need to talk to CR after that clear as day warning from my body telling me to rest. One week off. 7 days of no running, not even a light jog. On CR's instructions I started back with jogging, and lots of jogging at that. Under no circumstance was I allowed to do anything remotely fast until I got to a stage where running felt comfortable and effortless again. Week one involved no distance above 5 miles and I was allowed to take off any days I liked. In the end I ran 6 days, and I can honestly say that on the first five days there was no way I could have ran further than 5 miles. Then following a day off everything just clicked. I can't explain what happened. One day I was freaked at not being able to run 5 miles without being knackered and dripping sweat, the next I felt like I could run all day. The week just gone I had to do 8 miles Monday through Friday with 10 x 1 minute thrown in on Friday's session and a long run on Sunday. It all went by with zero complications and now, starting tomorrow, I get to start back into my normal training routine.

For the next few weeks I plan on being patient and waiting for the zip to return. When it does I'll race, until then I'll just enjoy being out there.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Every day in every way I am getting better and better!

"Whenever there is a challenge, there is also an opportunity to face it, to demonstrate and develop our will and determination."

Finally my legs are starting to feel like they're meant to feel again. The days of excruciating physio appointments are behind me for another while, I am free of the jog one day stiff for two days nonsense and rest days are getting a back seat for a while.

A plan of attack for the summer months still has to be compiled. For the moment all I know is that I'm racing a 10km in a little over a week. Thereafter I haven't a clue. Holidays, weddings, and work look like they'll be taking up most of my weekends in May. Not to worry, for the moment I'll just enjoy some comfortable running and think about races when the time is right.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

An open letter to...

Dear Weather,

People have short memories and tend to forget that for the first 20 or so days of March we were virtually rain free in Dublin. Instead after two days of rain, a bit of snow (what was the deal there?!) and it's all moan, moan, weather, moan. I try to look on the brightside and realise that while it may have been the coldest March in twenty years, it was also the sunniest in about 60. A few days of bad weather won't get me down.

I do however have a favour to ask. Could you please make your mind up in the morning what type of weather we'll be having for the day? If it's grey skies and bucketing rain at 8am when I leave for work you may think it's a nice surprise that I get to go home in blinding sun. Alas, no. Every morning as I leave for work I have to take the gear I plan in jogging home in. By drastically changing the weather I constantly have the wrong clothes with me. If its -1C in the morning I'll have gloves, hat, and layers of tops with me, which is far too much for a sunny evening jog home. Yesterday I was in the office equipped with wet weather gear and you went and changed completely to a pleasant sunny afternoon. With no lockers in work I have to wear home what I take with me - so please keep the weather standard for the day.

I look forward to a better, less schizophrenic April.

Yours in sport,

Monday, March 22, 2010

I went for the T-Shirt...

... and left with some photos!

Not being one to waste my €5 flight to Cork or lose my deposit on a hotel room I made the trip to Cork on Saturday evening, got suitably hammered in Cork on Saturday evening and was then the only hungover person on the bus to Ballycotton on Sunday morning.

Getting ready to rock at the start...

The locals getting ready to offer their support.

Lead men through 400m

Followed by a few others!

First home...

First lady - left! (who you can see from above didn't even start in the elite pen)

The last kick for the finish.

A certain blogger making sure his watch agrees that there is 400m to go...

Happy to be finishing.

More photos from the Ballycotton '10' 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

L'esprit de l'escalier

For the past few weeks I'd been saying that I thought I had just done that one race too many at the end of the cross country season and that I'd a feeling that I'd take part in my goal race of the spring, the Ballycotton 10, with tired legs. Well I was wrong, I won't be racing with tired legs on Sunday, I quite simply won't be racing.

After my second last XC race it took the full two weeks to the next race for my legs to lose the stiffness from the race. Then it was straight back to my legs being stiff, taking two days off and hoping I could get sharp in time for Ballycotton two weeks later. Deep down I knew I was doing too much but I also kept reminding myself that after Ballycotton it was time for a break. In an ideal world I'd have stopped racing after the second last race, taken a break then for week or 10 days and then started into training for an assault at Ballycotton. Hindsight's a great thing though.

This week I've been doing easy runs, progressively shorter, while every evening my leg was getting sorer and sorer. Yesterday I was scheduled to do a sharpening up session before the race but I knew at mid day that there was no way that I could go out and say that there was no risk in seriously damaging something. So for the first time in an age I missed a scheduled workout. With that I threw in the towel on any hope of lining up this weekend.

I'm fairly gutted as I'd got a few good results in the cross country, taking some scalps on the way, and I thought I was in a good position to take a chunk off last year's 10 mile PB. What now? Now I take a break. I look after the leg and I get it back to normal. The break could be a week, it could be two, it all depends on how I recover. I'm not too worried about taking time off. It's needed, especially if I want to have a strong road running spring.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Race Report #39: Thank Fuck That's Over For Another Year

How fitting that six months after the start of my first full cross country season I should return to the same venue for the last race of the season. Back in October, under blue skies and a bone dry course, I had a nightmare day taking on a 6 x 1km lap in the Phoenix Park. The one difference between this race and October was that the course lap was 2km this time rather than 1km, but we still had to do it six times...

You'd think that after three cross country races that I'd performed well in in a row that I'd got things together, maybe knew my body somewhat and wouldn't do anything stupid or different. The plan was the exact same as the last few races: Relax into the first half a lap before really starting to work. There'd still be 7 miles to race after half a lap was covered, plenty of time to work through the field. Why then, 400 metres into the race, did I spot one of the lads I occasionally train with, who can run 68 minutes for the half, just a couple of metres in front of me? You'd think this would be the sign to ease off the pace and take a back seat for a bit. While I didn't try to stick with that group I didn't ease off considerably and instead just tried to essentially work from the gun.

In the past few races I've gone from lowly positions in the race to higher ones by passing anywhere between 10 and 30 people after the first lap. This time I don't think I went by a single person after the first lap ended and instead I was losing one or two places a lap after half way. At the end of the second lap I was convinced I was coming up on half way, seeing 4 laps to go didn't help my mindset at all. I started to have thoughts of dropping out. If I felt this bad at 4km, how was I meant to keep going until 12km? The first 3 laps were probably the worst I've felt in a race in a long time. Once we got into the last few laps I felt like I was at least moving, which was something. Granted a few people were getting by me but I tried to stick with everyone of them. Some got away from me, but others I succeeded in staying with and never let them by.

The nicest part of the whole race was taking a glance behind as I turned the last corner... there was no one within 15 or 20 metres of me. All I had to do was work hard for the last 600m and there would be no chance of anyone catching me and no need for a blasted sprint finish!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Once more with feeling

The things some people will do to make it to the start line of a race...
  • use a foam roller every evening
  • jog ridiculously easy
  • essentially live in skins recovery tights
  • take three baths with salts like some sort of girlie girl
  • visit the magic physio to untie the knots

Monday, March 1, 2010

One Last Big Effort

This time last year I turned up at Santry to watch the National Senior Championships take place. A tiny field of about 80 took part and the standard was unbelievable. Keith Kelly stormed to victory, defeating Clonliffe's Mark Kenneally on his home patch, with most of the crowd there surprisingly behind Kelly. I swore that day that there was no way I would take part in that race any time soon - it was just a cut or two (maybe three) above my level.

A year has passed since that day and I'm now a mere seven days out from running in the damn race. What has changed since then? Absolutely nothing, zero, rien, nada, zilch, sweet fa. This Sunday the last place I want to be is on that start line. Four of the Irish team that took part in the European Cross Country will more than likely be there, including the aforementioned Mark Kenneally who finished 7th that day. Sean Connelly, the Dublin Senior Champion, Mark Christie (14.01 5km a few days ago), Olympian Thomas Chamney, Inter County Champion Andrew Ledwidth, Northern Ireland champion Garry Murray and every other top runner from about the country will be toeing the line. You can see why this guy doesn't belong there. Unfortunately that seems to be the logic around the country and probably one of the reasons why the race gets a ridiculously low turnout.

I've no idea what I could realistically aim at for this race. Looking through last years results there's no one in the top 50 that I've finished ahead of before. Do I aim for a top 50? Top half? Try not to get lapped? I wish I could just watch the real race unfold from the sidelines like last year...

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Notes On A Long Run

  • While causing no harm this time out it may hurt eventually if you continue to jump in front of cars...
  • On the topic of paying attention to surroundings - watch where you're feet are landing so that you don't go over on an ankle with over 99% of a run done.
  • If you're not wearing dark shorts don't put your sweaty hat down the front of them - it leaves a fierce suspicious stain...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Race Report #38 - And then there was one

Another Sunday, another field in some random county in Ireland to run around, thanks to the bizarre racing calendar that is the Irish one. Each year there are four different National Cross Country titles up for grabs, in four different locations, in four different months. This year they've been in Kilbeggan (Westmeath), Coleraine (Derry), Boyle (Roscommon) and in two weeks time the final one is in Dublin. At the end of it all I'll have taken part in three of them. And people wonder why the participation levels are so low in all these National races. They can't seriously expect everyone to travel to all these races every year?!

I'll save my moaning about the race calendar for another day, even though I do love a good moan. Yesterday's 10km (*cough* 7.5km *cough*) took place in the aforementioned Roscommon. I have some West of Ireland prejudices about the weather and was convinced it was going to be wet and cold. The fact that the course was in the middle of a forest, beside Lough Key, didn't help to play down these fears. Throw in the fact that there were going to be three adult races us and countless kids races (I'm convinced they only hire these kids for the day to dig up the course) on before us and I was, without doubt, prepared for the worst course imaginable.

When we got there (no rain or snow in sight) and found out that there was going to be 7 laps of the course (1 small and 6 long) I decided to do away with the lap of the course to see what it was like. Sure wouldn't I find that out easy enough on one of the numerous? I found my way to the local establishment that served coffee and chilled there until around 50 minutes before my race was due to begin. Then it was the usual pre-race routine - Attach number to singlet (Some wise guy decided to put me on the county team - no pressure there then!), jog around the forest trails, come back to bag, spikes/shorts/singlet on, few strides, line up, race.

I can't say the start of my race was as nonchalant as last week's. With so many people bustling about the place its hard to just sit in and relax into the race - some people are going too slow, some are zipping by and weaving in and out. I went for the weaving technique myself, keeping my eyes on people ahead that I knew I should be up around. One lap in and I started to move - six times up and down the hill to go. Too my relief/surprise there were only two areas that were churned up and they weren't getting that much worse with hundreds of people trampling all over them. The laps were going by so quickly that it's hard to differentiate one from the other. They all followed the same theme really. Pass people on the hill going up, run down fast and try not to fall with gangly legs going everywhere, try catch people on the next straight, round the bend, through the mud, avoid people losing shoes, feel knackered, another straight to work on, more mud, Up the hill...

With four laps to go I remember feeling absolutely knackered and thought that I was going to have to sit in and just get around the remaining 6km. I decided to concentrate on my stride for a bit and gradually I caught up with those in front. Once I moved past them, the tiredness left and I was motoring again. The fact that one of that group had finished ahead of me a few races back probably spurred me on more and I tackled the hill again.

The problem with moving through the field is that you never know how many people actually stay with you. Coming down the hill for the last time I was saying to myself that there was only 600m to go, to just stay with it. Slowing down at all now could easily cost 5 places. As we went around the bend and through the mud for the last time one guy went by me to my left. There were now three a few metres ahead. As the line came into view someone went flying by my right hand side.
This could cost me a county medal. Here we go again... another poxy sprint finish.
Coming out of the mud the last time someone on the sidelines calling out positions had said I was in 33rd. That fast lad zipping by pushed me into 34th. Nothing to do but grit teeth and run to the line. 31st. No idea if it was enough for a county medal because I have no clue who was on the county team. Without seeing the county team I'd imagine I was the 8th/9th/10th from my county home which wouldn't have been enough to score.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Race Report #37 - Like Buses

"Coming through with two laps to go is number 123, Private*, leading the Liffey Valley charge"
Too right I am. Grrrrr.... CHARGE!!!

After the two ladies in the local shop gave me a free coffee an hour before the race I knew that today was going to be my day. On the warm-up however, I felt flat and a simple jog around seemed to be taking more out of me than it should. I only threw in 2 stride outs before making my way to the line because there was just no spark at all there. With only three minutes until the start I decided to just get to the line and settle down rather than forcing out any more strides.

The route for the race was 1 small lap and 5 large ones, approximately 10km. The ground under foot was perfect and in the end I don't think there was a bit of mud anywhere on me. You'd nearly have been able to race in flats. There was one short, sharp, steep hill at the end of every large lap that was going to be testing, but other than that it was totally flat. My race plan was to take it handy for the first small lap, with a goal to come away with 3 good laps at the end. That's exactly how the race started out - the pace at the front didn't go off particularly fast so I was able to sit in the middle of the pack and still be only a few seconds off the lead group. Not that what was going on up front was ever going to concern me.

One small lap done and I was in 17th place. I noticed someone right in front of me start to up the pace and decided that he must have had the same plan as me, so I decided there and then to stick with him. On the first large lap I stayed right on his tail and covered every move he made, every person he went by, I went by. Down at the lower level of the course he made a move to go by someone I knew had easily beaten me by over a minute in every cross country race this year. I decided to back myself in this situation and went with him. Then we took on the hill in for the first time. It took a lot out of me and I felt drained about 200m after the hill. I tried to work off the guy right ahead but he started to edge clear and eventually he paired up with another guy and they got well clear of me.

Feck it. I've forced it to early. Now I'm in limbo with 4 laps to go and I'll be going backwards in no time.

The only thing for it was to regain composure on the flat. I got my breath back and started to work again. I could feel a gap opening up from me to the person behind me but I was way out of touch with the next guy ahead. After a while I spotted the two in front had caught another runner and spit him out the back - there was now someone for me to aim for. With three laps to go I'd caught him and edged past. For the next lap I could hear him at my heals the whole way around. I don't know if there's a worse feeling than passing someone only to have the re-pass you again within minutes. That fear was enough to force me to put in a bit of a spurt to get somewhat clear of him. With two laps to go there was about 20 metres to my next target.

Two laps - it has to be no more than 3,000m, 10 minutes running. Dig in and run

It took me the full lap to make up them 20 metres. About 200m into the last lap I pushed to go by him. The fact that I knew the guy and had never been in such close proximity to him in a race meant there was no way he'd go without a fight. I was right. About 1 minute later he burst past me on the lower flat. My initial reaction was that with him being a better racer than me that there was no way now I could get back past him. In the run up to our last jaunt up the hill there was only a couple of metres between us. "Every place" was getting screamed at both of us. As we turned into the finishing straight I burst past with this new kick I've been discovering in recent races. I wasn't to know that he didn't go with it and I just kept sprinting to the line, with no one around me, where I promptly lay flat on back, absolutely shattered.

I've no idea how accurate the measurement of the course was. The race was meant to be 10km, it sure as hell felt like 10km. More than likely it was slightly short but I'm still smiling at the end time - 33m 26s. That and the fact that the team picked up a bronze medal, my first medal to date.

*Obviously the announcer did not call me Private!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Big Six

When I set my plans for this spring I picked one race that I wanted to work towards. I wanted a race that would fall two or three weeks after the last cross country race of the season and a race that was either 10km or 10 miles. Both of these are distances where I'd like to think that coming off the back of a rake of cross country races I'd do some damage to my current best times. As luck would have it the National Senior Cross Country falls on the date that would usually be occupied by the Ballycotton 10 mile race. That meant that the Ballycotton 10 had to be shifted to two weeks later - the perfect date for this guy.

Now here we stand a little less than six weeks to the race and what a hectic six weeks I have in store. Only two of the Sundays between now and B-day are race free. Three cross country races fill up the other Sundays, with the first a 10km this coming Sunday. I'll have the spikes out again the following week for another 10km slog. Finally, 2 weeks later I'll have my longest ever cross country race to date, a 12km race in the Phoenix Park. A lot of time is going to be spent recovering from each race, while trying to prepare for the next. All the real hard work has already been done. My recent mileage doesn't compare to anything I've ever done before - including the build up to the last marathon. From here on in it is really just going to be a case of ticking along and not killing myself by doing speedwork sessions on knackered legs. Counting races, long runs and speedwork sessions there's probably less than 10 tough workouts that I'll put myself through between now and toeing the line in Ballycotton.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Big Cave In

"Could I get some lambs liver please? Enough for one person."
Two or three slices then.
"Uhm I suppose so"
Sure you're a big fella. I'll give you four
"ehhhh. Thanks? So what's the best way to cook this then so that it doesn't taste like liver?"
You don't like liver? Liver's lovely.
"I haven't eaten it since I was a child and I don't think it'll be much better now than I remember."
Just dip it in flour. Stick it on the pan and cook it one minute each side.

Jaysus. One minute. It's bad enough that I'm going to eat liver, but now it turns out that I have to eat the damn thing raw...

One bite was all it took for the childhood memories to flood back. A chunk of baby courgette was used a chaser. This was a tad different to how 10 year old Private used to deal with the weekly liver dinner. Every inch of every piece of liver used to be smothered with tomato ketchup before it entered my mouth. Then every piece was followed up with a few mouthfuls of whatever else was on my plate until the taste of liver had subsided. Then it was back to the liver for another bite. Repeat until liver gone. This was the tactic I went for yesterday. Although, much like when I was a child, the rest of the dinner was finished while still a big chunk of liver remained. As a child there'd be four of sitting at the table, each staring at one lump of liver, refusing to eat it, and not being let leave the table until it was all finished. What felt like hours would pass, tears would eventually arrive and promises of deserts when it was all gone were made. No desert could make eating the rest of the liver worthwhile. Yesterday as I stared down at the last remaining slice of liver on my plate I felt myself starting to well up. Then suddenly I remembered that I had bought the liver, I had cooked the liver, and that I was sitting at my table in my apartment. With that I picked up the remaining liver and threw it in the bin....

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A line has to be drawn somewhere

... while we're on it, you should be eating liver as well.
I'm not too sure about that.... I eat red meat a few times a week
Liver. Once a week
To be honest I wouldn't have a clue what to do with it.
Is there a butchers near you?
Close enough.
Well, you go to the butchers and ask him for three strips of liver.
It'll cost you 80 cents.
You take it home.
You wash it.
You stick it under the grill and cook one side.
Flip it over and cook the other side.
Stick it on a plate and eat the fucking thing.

No, no, no and no

Monday, February 1, 2010

Race Report #36 - Road Glorious Road

If a better day exists for racing then I've sure as hell never seen it in Ireland. Wind was minimal, temperatures were above 'cold' and there was a blue sky with an honest to God sun up there. A perfect day and I felt in great nick walking around. No excuses (although I had some lined up just in case!). As CR said "Just get out there and run".

Having not raced a 5 Mile race in just shy of 2 years I had no recent times to try beat. A goal of 27 minutes was in my head but there was no pressure on this. I was going to run, trust in the training, and trust in the miles and the mud I'd put in over the last few weeks. I've never trained as hard as the past month, never felt as fit or as strong, so there was no way in my mind that this wouldn't work out. The plan was quite simple - ease into the race. Go off easy for the first 600m or so and then start to work. By Mile 1 be racing. A simple plan that couldn't be messed up...

Singlet on. Short shorts on. Racing flats on. Strides done. Heart beating. Nerves non-existent. Bring it.

The first minute or two went as I'd wanted them to. Bit by bit I started to progress through the field trying to find the group that was going to drag me to a fast time. Even going "slow" over the first half of the first mile it still worked out being the fastest mile of the lot. I latched onto a group that seemed to be moving and we passed through the first mile mark with some shouting "five eighteen, nineteen, five twenty". Bang on 26.40 pace - probably a bit faster than I could achieve but nothing that was going to cause me to change the way I was running. You can't get shock results if you're holding back from achieving something that'll shock you.

The second mile involved some more weaving and group changing as I continued my march forward. This mile went on... and on... and on. So much so that I'd convinced myself that I hadn't seen the marker. Maybe as it was the only mile that we had what little breeze there was in our faces it made it feel that bit longer. Again there was someone shouting splits. No idea what they were but I recall realising that I was out of the 26.40 pace. Probably onto a more realistic 27 minute pace. At this stage I was involved in a group that I knew contained at least three, including myself.

For the next while we each injected some pace into proceedings but no one was getting dropped. For the first time in an age I felt like I was involved in a race. Each move being made by one of us was covered by the other two. No one was giving an inch. The next group ahead seemed out of reach so I just focused on what I was doing in my own little race. As we ran along the coast the pace seemed ridiculously fast - the kind of pace I'd run a 1 minute interval in, not the kind of pace I'd run 27 minutes in back to back. My legs were getting heavy but my breathing and control was good. On countless occasions on this stretch I thought I was gone but still I was managing to keep up with two lads. I knew that the turn off the coast road went up a small hill. My turn to make a move. Surge up the hill and see if they'd go with me. Mile 4 done. The time called out meant I'd have to run around a 5:10 to last mile to get 27 minutes. Not going to happen. Just concentrate on the tussle at hand now.

The last mile of this race is horrible for someone who has never done it before. The course seems to do a full square around the finish, so while you can't see it, you can hear the loud speakers for a few minutes. It's a horrible feeling when you keep turning corners, hoping to see a finish line, instead being greeted by another corner a few hundred metres ahead. With no idea how long was left I just had to go by feeling. As we turned the corner at the top of the last hill it turned out that my move at the foot of the hill was pointless as the two guys went by me. At this stage I was giving it my best to just hang in as best I could. Then, I don't know how, with about 600m to go I went to the front of the two guys and started to put my foot down. Soon someone shouted that there was 400m to go and really started to push it. This was getting fairly uncomfortable but I knew there was only just over a minute to go so I could handle it. I knew the two guys were close because someone at the side was encouraging one of them on. With the last corner turned and the finish line in sight I sprinted like I didn't know I could. Such a sprint that I narrowed the gap on the nearest guy ahead of us to 2 seconds!

I crossed the line with a finishing time of 27.25 but more importantly with the sense that I had raced, that I been involved in a battle that I came close to quitting but overcame, and that I was finally moving again.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bienvenue a l'enfer

Let me know how you get on. I think you’ll enjoy it. Well… enjoy it to a point…

These were the words that appeared in a text message the day before my first venture up the mountains for a hill session. Between that text, CR’s advise to be cautious and the lad’s all telling me to take start off at not much more than a jog pace I was a tad freaked by what lay ahead.

75 seconds hard up, 45 seconds jog back down. This was to be repeated until we reached the summit, which should take around 16 repeats. Having never trained on this route before every turn was a mystery and I had no idea which turn would be the last. When we ended up finishing after 14 reps I was fairly surprised that that was it.

These hills aren’t so bad… I could have done more… Did I hold back a little more than was necessary?

Last week we hit the same mountains again. This time the workout was 1 minute hard up, 1 minute jog recovery down, repeat until the top was reached. As we were doing 15 seconds less on each rep, with 15 seconds longer on each recovery, the idea was work harder. By the time the 13th repeat was finished I had reached the point where any enjoyment was out the window. No progress was being made. The recovery ate into the distance we were making up on each effort, and the top was nowhere near. The higher we got the darker it became. The blue sky started to disappear and a fog started to descend. The last time I was caught off guard by finishing two reps before I thought we would. That was not going to happen again. This time I was jogging down preparing to take on my 18th minute. Where the hell was the top?! There was no way I was going past 20, even if that meant stopping before the top.

Jogging back down to the cars afterwards one of the lads described the session as the toughest, single session he’d ever done. I was not about to disagree with that. As we passed a large group of hikers making their way up the mountain with walking sticks and the like I wanted to stop and tell them what we had just done… I’m sure they’d have appreciated it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Friday, January 22, 2010

Mile 5 I love you, but you're breaking my heart

Hat's off to anyone who can keep their heart rate low on the fifth and sixth mile of my daily "easy" jog home from work.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Race Report #35 - And we're back

Who'd have guessed that seven days after the race was initially postponed, with temperatures in circa -5C that we'd end up racing in 10C. A 15 degree turnaround in just a week! This country is nuts.

While I finished in a respectable position, and the people who finished around me were the people I'd like to see finishing around me, this was anything but pleasant. The race itself followed the general cross country way of things. Thoughts of "this is easy, maybe I'm not going fast enough" to "f*** this! I'm calling it quits at the end of this lap, why did I up the pace?" flashed through my mind at various stages.

For the majority of the first lap I felt like I was cruising. My breathing was comfortable, movement was easy and the course seemed to avoid all hills in the park. Then the second lap started and it appears that 180 people having done one lap dug it up nicely making the second much tougher. At this stage I had my position and I was working to stay with those close by and ensuring that no gaps opened up. Coming towards the end of the second lap my calves were tightening up and I had to do my best to ignore them. All I concentrated on was the fact that the start of the lap was the "easy" section of the course. Soon I'd be there again. But at this stage the start had been trampled by 720 spikes ridding any easiness.

For the final lap I recalled sessions up the mountains and up the snowy hills of the Phoenix Park to remind myself that the strength was there in the legs to carry on through. I stayed like a terrier on the heels of the lad in front. The poor guy had me breathing down his neck for the duration of the race. I could hear no one behind me at any stage and this guy had to put up with me acting like his echo; puddles being splashed a second after he splashed them. In the end all I could do was chase him down and finish as close as I could to him - I knew in the last 300m or so that I didn't have it to over take him.

There we have it - six cross country races done this season and just three to go now. Not bad for someone who'd only raced five in his life before October and never more than two in a season.

Photo on Running #2 - January 18th 2010

Probably my favourite shot from the finish of the Dublin Master's Cross Country in Tymon Park yesterday.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Let the wind blow

All around the wind is howling. Not so long back an evening like this before a race would stress me no end. But this is cross country, this is a different game altogether. I'm not someone that will ever look forward to a cross country race or say something ridiculous like "the muddier the better". Give me a road any day of the week. With times and personal records out the window in these races what difference does a bit of wind, hills, rain or mud matter? These races are all about the bigger picture - Getting stronger and faster on the roads - measured in nothing more than effort, position and pain.
So Weather, do your worst. I'll still sleep soundly tonight.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Forth Time Lucky

After 14 days of 2009 I had run 50 miles less than the corresponding first 14 days of 2010. I was however preparing for my second race of the year that weekend, unlike this year where I'm hoping to get my first race of the year in. The road conditions have brought the races around the country to a standstill for the past few weeks - even cross country races. First to bite the dust was the New Years 5k race. I then turned my attention to the Leinster Senior Cross Country which likewise got cancelled with about 5 days notice. The BHAA had a cross country race that same weekend, that they said would "definitely" go ahead. It was then cancelled with 2 days notice because the car parks were out of action. All this forewarning has been great though because it's meant that I haven't really got into winding down mode before a race and have always been able to jump back into my usual training schedule.

I'm hoping there are no similarities to this weekends cross country and the one on the same weekend last year. Last year's race was by far and away the worst cross country outing of my short XC career. The team won a medal that day but somehow I contrived to be the sixth home and a non-scoring team member, leaving this guy medal less. My medal haul to date still stands at zero. There's no medals on offer this weekend so what I'll be after instead is a good, solid race performance. The training's been going well, now its just a matter of bringing all that work and all the miles out in a race.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I heard a woman say "stay down Champion, stay down"

As I picked myself up off the ground I shuffled towards a bench a few metres away. Only half the bench was covered in ice. Clearly I wasn't the first of the day.

I'm absolutely baffled that the footpaths haven't being gritted at all. I'd love to know how many claims will be made from people breaking bones walking on the footpaths in the coming weeks. The Phoenix Park has essentially just been shut and now resembles nothing more than the largest ice rink in Europe. They're struggling to deal with keeping the roads up to scratch so asking for footpaths to be maintained seems to be out of the realms of possibility. A week ago the excuses of "We've never had to deal with conditions like this before/More grit has been used in the last month than all of last year/etc" were somewhat acceptable. Now, over a week has gone by, local councils have to start dealing with it.

For last nights training I managed to find a kilometre stretch close to my place that had no ice at all on it. Clearly it had seen yesterday's sun. A two minute interval session commenced up and back, up and back, along this stretch. I'm not too sure how tonights training will go. I can't really jog up and back that same footpath 16 times can I?! There's also no sun today. I think it may be time to take as many one day trials in the local gyms as possible.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Caught Short

I'd have to imagine that there were a few odd glances from people in cars and at bus stops in my general direction circa 7am this morning. Not just because of the fact that I was attempting to jog on an icey surface that wasn't in the least bit suitable for walking on, let alone run on, but more the getup I was wearing while making this attempt.

Last night, at a very casual Sunday dinner at my parents, some eejit decided to open the flavoured vodka that came back from Poland (I may be that said eejit). Bit by bit the 6 small bottles disappeared and with them the thoughts of getting a bus home... especially considering there would need to be 2 buses and a walk to get home. The obvious solution was to just spend the night where I was. The main draw back with this was the fact that the stuff I needed for work the next morning was sitting chez moi. Two buses plus walk in the morning to grab a few things, before turning around and get another bus to work was not appealing in the slightest. The only solution...

"Aren't there an old pair of runners belonging to me around here somewhere?"

Luck was with me. There was a pair of Brooks Beasts, worn about 3 times before I decided they were far too heavy to train in, in one of the wardrobes upstairs. Problem solved. Door to door I know had 4 miles to cover. A 30 minute jog, shower, eat, pick up work stuff, jump on a bus and I'd be in the office before 9.30am. The perfect crime. One problem remained... The only running gear I had now was a pair of runners. No shorts. No socks. No Top.

What I managed to dig out of the wardrobe before I hit my bed at 1am. A Man Utd jersey from around 1993 that I last wore when I was about 13 or 14. It was going to be a tight squeeze, but no tighter than getting into them Under Armour tops! This jersey set off the beautiful blue, white and navy, flowery board shorts nicely...