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...