It’s almost time to taper for Hamburg, but I wanted to get in a couple of races before I started doing so for numerous reasons – to sharpen up, to inject a bit of pace, to push myself but most of all, when I was targeting these races anyway, was to try to race myself into shape. After missing a week of training a few weeks ago I still harboured some reservations, and fears, that I’m not there in my marathon preparation. I think everyone probably feels that way, even if they’ve been doing 100 mile weeks and knocking out PB’s left and right. I’d picked the BHAA K-Club 10k to do as by all accounts it was very flat, fast, local, but most of all apparently featured the best post race spread to be found anywhere on our fair isle.

Based on the lovely, intermittently sunny week we’d been having, I decided this was the time to crack out the vest and short shorts for a race, so naturally when we got over to Straffan it was dull, grey, windy and a bit chilly. After a decent warm up though I was good to go, and lined up against easily the skinniest, most serious looking field I’d ever been a part of.

Still wondering if I'd chosen the right attire

Still wondering if I’d chosen the right attire

At the start I probably went off a little too quick, first km was about 4:15 – 4:20/km pace, but even at that everyone went flooding past me. I kept thinking “run your own race, run our own race” but I did get swept along a bit. I settled down then to run 4:20 – 4:25 for the first few kilometres with occasional quicker surges. After about 2km I was at the front of a group but made the effort to get across to the next group and sit on their back as it was quite windy and I didn’t want to be at the front, copping all the wind by myself.

Ready, Steady...

Ready, Steady…

 

.... Go

…. Go

The course consisted of 1km out of the K-Club, two loops of 4km and then 1km back in. The first loop was fine, going substantially quicker than I do on any training run, but it felt controlled. On the second lap I was expecting people to drop back a bit and for me to catch more people, but it was a very strong field, and most people seemed to have paced it well. I pushed on anyway from 5-7k, managing to pass a few and felt strong. From 7-8k then it just felt really hard – stomach churning, lungs burning a bit, legs getting heavy, oh I need a piss, I’d really like this to be over etc. I saw a gate then and made a split second decision to stop for that piss (and welcome break) which was a bit stupid as (a) I don’t think I really, really needed one and (b) now I had to run even harder to re-pass a bunch of people. 8-9km was spent re-passing those people and I felt great. I knew as soon as we entered the K-club there was a nice little downhill, but even on that my legs didn’t seem to be turning over any faster. I’d passed a guy on the downhill that I’d traded places with a couple of times over the last 3km, but now on the short uphill he came past me again. The finish was a horrible up, round the corner, round the corner again type jobbie and it nearly did for me. If it had been a straight line I would have been fine but even just the extra effort of turning two corners had me almost coughing/puking all over the place a stride or two before the line.

A study in serenity (trying to ignore the pain)

A study in serenity (trying to ignore the pain)

I was happy to see 44:03 on my watch when I finished, a PB of over 2:40, but then I was a little miffed that I didn’t sneak in under 44. 43:xx would have been amazing, far beyond my expectations even though it’s only a few seconds quicker than what I did. My chip time ended up being 44:07, but despite it being four seconds slower I wasn’t axtually as frustrated about not breaking 44 minutes. Until I remembered the not absolutely necessary pit stop! Balls. At least I know that there’s probably a 43:xx there, especially considering this was towards the end of my biggest training week to date, so definitely not done on fresh legs. Overall I’m delighted with it. Training is going well, I’m posting substantial PB’s and that’s just off marathon training, and not anything specific so I really couldn’t be happier with how everything is going.

Oh and everything I was told about the (relative) opulence of the spread laid on in the K-Club is true, it was ridiculous. So ridiculous in fact that I had to leave there after half an hour for fear of returning home from a race substantially heavier than when I was going there.

Twenty four days and counting to the Hamburg Marathon, and I am literally counting down the days. Anticipation levels are back to near maximum now after a bit of a wobble last week. I didn’t run Monday of last week as I’d had a tough couple of days on Friday and Monday, and didn’t run Tuesday either as I had pilates. Going into pilates I just felt a bit off, not tired per se, just a little bit weak. I finished the class and went and got a steak, thinking I was maybe down on protein, blood, manliness or maybe some combination of the three.

 

I went for a run on Wednesday night with Paul and if it wasn’t for the fact that I said I’d meet him I might well have just stayed home as I was still feeling the same. I was five or six kilometres into the run before I started to feel any way normal but even then I never felt good, I was getting round but it just felt like something was lacking. On Friday I met Paul and Mark to do our 20k loop and everything was fine, initially, but at the 15k mark I suddenly felt very tired. At 16 I started to slow a lot and had to tell the other lads to carry on without me and by 18 I was completely shot, like someone had just opened a tap and let all the energy drain right out of me. It was horrible, kind of like the latter stages of a marathon but without the accompanying muscle soreness or tiredness, which confused and worried me a little.

 

I shuffled home, threw whatever food I could find into me and then just collapsed and pulled a blanket over me for an hour’s snooze. With five weeks to go to Hamburg this was not what I needed and again it worried me slightly. I decided to skip any runs I had planned for the weekend and just took it easy instead, apart from marshalling at Tri-Laois where Brid was tearing round the Laois countryside like a younger, fitter Chrissie Wellington.

 

Brid at Tri-Laois

Brid at Tri-Laois

 

I’ve been meaning to update this before now but I haven’t done any races in a few weeks so I’ve had no real driver. Normally if I’m not updating or not doing something it’s because I’m sticking my head in the sand and trying to avoid something, but that’s not the case this time round. March has been a really good month for me training wise, despite a case of The Black Lung in the middle of it that knocked me back for about a week.

1 race (Bohermeen half marathon)

1 PB (see above)

My longest ever training run – 21 miles

An 18, 20 and a 21 miler

253 km total in 16 sessions.

My pace (for the same amount of effort) is picking up. What was previously my ‘steady’ pace is now my ‘easy’ pace, my running economy is definitely getting better, I’ve no real niggles or aches and my body seems to be responding well to the increased mileage and consistency.

The thing I’m happiest with this month though is definitely that 21 mile long run. Going into previous marathons I had one or two 18 milers in the bank but only a 20 miler logged for two of the marathons, and each time the run had ended with me whimpering and shuffling in the dark while various bits of me creaked, croaked or churned. This time round though it was fine. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy. The last five miles in particular were as hard as any run I’ve done but it wasn’t a Disastero Grande like in the past. Between that and the PB in Bohermeen my confidence has really been boosted and I just want to push on now. I’m a little wary of trying to do too much over the next two weeks but as long as I don’t do anything silly in that time period, and as long as my taper isn’t like any of my previous ones (do nothing training wise for three weeks, eat loads and develop a taste for strong Latin American liquors) I should be flying come Hamburg.

I’d followed up my week of no training with two good weeks of training, so naturally had to cock up my preparation a bit on Saturday. Rather than going to bed early and reading excerpts from Running With the Buffaloes or The Chimp Paradox, or even staying up and watching montages from various Rocky films, both methods which have worked well for me in the past, I stayed up until well after midnight drinking wine and watching highlights of Liverpool against Southampton. For the third time. Personally I blame Brendan Rodgers for constructing such a damn sexy team.

Because of that I woke up a little bleary eyed and a little disorganised on Sunday morning, and made a last minute decision to go short sleeved top rather than long sleeved base layer. After all, the forecast did say dry and cold with even a bit of sunshine.

View from the car

Ah well, it was just a bit of rain and I had predicated my decision to go short sleeved on the fact that I’d also be wearing gloves.

Which obviously I’d forgotten.

One of those “stop being a little bitch and just HTFU” type scenarios then.

As always, it wasn’t even that bad once you got going. For me at least. The 10k runners, which included my good wife, got absolutely saturated in a massive downpour. By the time the half marathon runners were ready to go it was just cold, windy and very, very damp.

My plan for this race had been up and down with my confidence for the last two weeks. The week before last, first week back after sickness I was wondering how I was ever going to get round a half marathon at anything approaching target marathon pace (4:58/km). Every run was slow and laborious. Last week then was much better, Tuesday night’s run especially felt good, but that was still only 13k @ 5:13/km so I still had my doubts about doing 21.1k @ 5:00/km. My plan then was to do 2k @ 5:30, 2k @ 5:20, 1k @ 5:10 and then run as much of the remainder as I could at 5:00 or as close to it as possible which, if I managed it, would bring me in at about 1:46 or so, which was still almost five minutes quicker than my previous half marathon PB of 1:50:24

Just after setting off I was very conscious of pacing and determined not to go off to quick, but looking at my (lovely new) Garmin I was running at 5:00 mins/km, which didn’t seem right as it felt like I was barely moving, and my heart rate was only in the low 140′s, which would normally have my pace even less than 6:00 mins/km. I wasn’t really worried about my pace being a bit quick though when my HR was so low, so I just kept trotting along, keeping an eye on both. After three or four kilometres of actively trying to slow myself down I just thought “feck it” and decided to run on feel for a while. Everything felt good, my legs felt really fresh, my breathing was easy and steady and I couldn’t even feel the couple of niggles I’d had with my feet in the run up to the race. Whenever I stole a glance at my Garmin the pace was reading in around 4:40 and my HR was reading mid-150′s.

Somewhere between ten and twelve kilometres another runner and I passed each other back and forth a couple of times before settling in to a rhythm running alongside each other, where we stayed up until the ten mile marker when I stopped at the water station to get a drink and have a gel. Normally I wouldn’t stop at a water station unless I was really hurting, but reading an article from Pete Pfitzinger (renowned marathon coach and author) he reckoned that unless you’re an elite runner, and I’m pretty certain I’m not, you should walk through water stations, get your water and any fuel into you properly, and then start running again. The rationale being that the ten to twenty seconds you lose is more than made up for by actually getting your gel/water into you, rather than all over your face or down your front, plus it makes it a little easier on your stomach and GI tract. I know my sample size isn’t exactly huge, ie one race, but it seemed to work for me.

It took me a couple of minutes to catch back up with Michael, the guy I’d been running with, and I definitely felt the increase in pace. My legs were starting to tighten up a little bit, but I still felt far, far better than during any half marathon in the past. With about 2k to go I started to feel guilty about feeling quite so fresh, so decided to up the pace a bit. I’m never quite sure what the etiquette is in that situation. Do you say to the person you’re running with that you’re going to up the pace? What do you do if you can’t hold on to it then? At that point it’s getting a bit hard to talk so I just decided to go for it.

With a kilometre to go I was on my own now but put a target on a guy fifty or sixty metres in front of me. I’d seen him dropping a gel wrapper on the road (one of those huge Hi-5 ones) but in standard Irish fashion didn’t say anything at the time, preferring to grumble and bitch about it later. Anyway, I’d decided I had to beat this gentleman so pushed harder to catch him, which caused him to respond, I pushed again, and he responded again. However I had an inkling that with still a few hundred metres to go if I pushed again he wouldn’t be able to respond, so I did, and he didn’t. Rounding the corner onto the finishing straight I finally caught sight of the timer and realised with a sprint I could make it under 1:42, so turned on the *ahem* afterburners and managed to make it across the line in 1:41:41

To say I was delighted with the result would be an understatement akin to saying the field the cars were parked in was a bit muddy. I was absolutely elated. This was probably the best race result I’ve ever had, one of the few times where I’ve put in a decent block of training and really reaped the rewards. Who knew that regular, consistent, progressive training would lead to such fantastic results?

Something that really shouldn’t pass without mention is the hospitality and organisation of Bohermeen A.C. After the race the sports hall was absolutely hopping with people, but there was enough tea, coffee, soup, sandwiches, buns and cakes to feed an army. Exactly what was needed for hordes of tired, wet, hungry runners. It was much the same as the spread put on by Donadea A.C. but for a much bigger number. It seems to be the case, in my experience anyway, that the smaller, club run races, in the country, really are the ones to do. The atmosphere is great, everyone’s friendly and supportive and the money that’s made goes back to a local club, rather than some company that’s just in it for the profit. With the plethora of races available to do every weekend, I think  I can see myself sticking to this type of race for the forseeable future, and not the €50+ half marathons with the ‘technical’ t-shirt and the single bottle of water at the finish. I’ll definitely be back to Bohermeen next year anyway.

What happens when you don't take car of toe niggles prior to running 21.1km

What happens when you don’t take car of toe niggles prior to running 21.1km

 

Flash. Ah-Ah!

Posted: February 26, 2014 in 2014
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I’ve had an up and down couple of weeks of training. After I got over my case of Black Lung I had a good run of four days in a row, including three pre-work runs. I brought Son no. 2 on a couple of those with me, or the first 2k anyway, as it was mid-term and (a) he has a real talent for staying in bed all day and (b) he’d been a little shit in school of late so after exhausting all other avenues we thought maybe exhausting him at the start of the day might be good for him. Anyway, running in general is good for him, or anyone. Starting the day with a run is a fantastic idea for just about anyone – it wakes you up, clears your mind, gets your metabolism kick started, leaves you feeling fresh and full of energy for the rest of the day plus you’re far more inclined to go to bed early the night before if you know you’re getting up to go running.

My run (of runs) came to a crashing halt at the weekend however. I was out on Friday night to see the first ever performance of Dawn of the Dead on the big screen, in Ireland’s best cinema The Lighthouse, with the mighty Goblin playing the score live. Amazing performance and show by the way, easily my highlight of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival (JDIFF). However it was a very late night, and there were quite a few drinks consumed, so the next day I was feeling just a teeny bit seedy, and to top it off I ended up having to work until almost 1am (Saturday night/Sunday morning). That put paid to my intentions of getting up early on Sunday, which meant I had no time (or inclination if I’m being honest) for a long run on Sunday before our family trip back up to Dublin for the surprise film at JDIFF.

Monday, despite the biblical deluge, I got out for a nice steady 13k with Mark, and then last night I had my best run in absolutely ages. My legs had felt a bit stiff all day so went out to get a couple of miles in as a loosener before meeting Mark. Going around I looked at my watch and saw I was doing 5:20/km very comfortably, far quicker than I’d expected. When I met Mark then we maintained that pace for a while, and then sped up a bit. It felt very, very comfortable throughout, though I’m oath to say ‘easy’ and we were chatting the whole way round.

This was a real fillip ahead of Bohermeen half marathon on Sunday. This was exactly the same pace I’d done 10k at the previous Wednesday, 5:13/km, but that felt bloody hard and I was wondering how the hell I was going to get round 21k at anything approaching my target marathon pace (circa 5mins/km). Last night was also the debut outing of my new runners, Nike Flyknit 1+. Apart from a bit of chafing on my right heel they felt great, and more importantly they look hella cool. I think I might stick with the old Pumas for Sunday though.

Fly

PS – do not, under any circumstances, go and see the new Michel Gondry film Mood Indigo, it’s absolute tripe.

Training and racing wise that week (w/c 10th Feb) was every bit as horrible as the prevailing weather. I woke up on Wednesday with what felt like an entire family of mice, all wearing horribly scratchy polyester tracksuits and sandpaper boots, having taken up residence in my throat. I ached and croaked and burned and generally felt like crap. And then the power went (and yes children, that also means no internet). Thursday morning rolled around and I began the day I had booked off for my birthday with myself and my two sons huddled in our bed Grandparents Joe, Josephine, George, Georgina style.

Long story short, I’ve felt like crap all week and I didn’t run at either the Trooperstown Hill IMRA race or the Tower to Spire 20k in Laois.

One bright spot in the week was the new Garmin Forerunner 220 I got as a birthday present from my darling wife who I think is under the impression that I don’t have enough running gear, and that I should definitely buy some more.

January didn’t finish very well with my first DNS (Did Not Start) of the year at the Dungarvan 10 Mile. I, being the conscientious citizen that I am, heeded the weather warnings of both Met Eireann and Ben England, and decided against a three hour round trip in those conditions. Instead I went and bought myself some new trail runners (because I obviously needed a new pair) and then went for a gentle trot round the woods to break them in. This week had been a bit rubbish in terms of mileage but I had the second IMRA race of the season in Ticknock to look forward to, so at least I knew I’d get one quality session in this week.

Looking back at my post for the 1st race of the season at Howth I had a number of things to improve on this time in relation to preparation:

  1. Rest well for races – 21:06 on Saturday night I went to bed. I wasn’t asleep at this time, I was up until past 23:00 reading Ronnie O’Sullivan’s book (Running – which features nowhere near enough running by the way) but at least I was in bed, resting, and away from any food or drink related temptation.
  2. Hydrate well for races -  No problems here. Plenty of water Saturday, no (real) boozing, sipping water right up until race start.
  3. Fuel well for races – I ate well on Saturday, more carbs than usual but nothing much. I woke up on Sunday morning, had an espresso and a butter coffee at 8:30 (two and a half hours before race start) then a banana about half an hour before the off.
  4. Specificity. Specificity. Specificity – a couple of runs around Moore Abbey woods. Still not great on the hill front but better than last time out.

More weather warnings were in place for this weekend, and it was pretty wild on Sunday morning when myself, Benny and our dedicated photographer Fionn set off for Ticknock. There were plenty of fearful faces and chilly extremities huddling around Lamb Doyle’s pub where registration was, not least Benny’s as he realised he’d brought no gloves, hat or really anything that would constitute warm gear. He did have a pair of those enormous waterproof trousers usually only seen on Deadly Ice Trucker’s Catch Big Fish and was actually contemplating running in them, but eventually saw sense. This is a guy who has previously ditched every bit of gear he carried bar skin and hair, in a race up Croagh Patrick in mid-December, in a futile effort to save weight, and he was about to race in Captain Ahab’s oilskins.

Briefing

By the time we had made our way up the road to the start point the weather had cleared considerably. The snow that had been threatening for the last hour or so had thankfully not appeared and the sun had made a welcome appearance, not only raising the temperature by a degree or two but giving us a beautiful view over Dublin Bay. After a quick briefing all three hundred or so competitors shuffled through the organic starting chute formed by the hedges on each side and then we were off.

En Route to Start

En Route to Start

Face in the crowd

Face in the crowd

And then stopped. Much like Howth it was an initial surge, a bit of a run uphill and then hang around for a few minutes at a bottle neck. I really don’t mind this hanging around, it’s quite nice to be able to get your breath back after the early rush, but if I ever want to get anywhere in one of these races I have to (a) position myself somewhere close to the front at the start and (b) go hell for leather for the first few hundred metres. I know it’ll settle down then and I can recover, and I know the distances are no issue, but that kind of start is just anathema to any kind of racing I’ve done and the “start easy and pick up pace along the way” strategy I’ve tried to employ in road races. Still, horses for course, needs must and all that.

The first kilometre was a steep, slow uphill followed by the aforementioned bottleneck, before things opened out a bit. We were still going uphill but on swampy wet grass now, which afforded the choice of various routes. Another thing I definitely need to work on when trail running is my route selection. I spent so much time zig-zagging during the race, trying to pick the optimal line, I resembled one of those frustrated young men who drive shonky 1.9 tdi A4s, with the de rigeur ‘RS’ kit obviously,  who spend most of their time jumping from lane to lane in near stationary traffic. After the relatively open section there followed a fantastic couple of kilometres that was mostly uphill through a rocky little gully that had of late been transformed into a river. Back out onto the open hillside for a bit before, blessed relief, the summit was spotted and we began our descent.

Back down gullies, single tracks, through muck and slop, over rocks, through near dark forest. It was spectacular fun, and I was ages into it before I realised I usually pick my way downhill on this terrain like Mrs Doyle alighting from the windowsill. The thought, and familiar trepidation, briefly entered my mind before I banished it and got back on with the serious task of enjoying myself. There wasn’t long left to go in the race now, less than two kilometres and I was feeling very comfortable, so the plan now was to go hell for leather as soon as we reached the track back to the start. Less than a kilometre to go, here’s the fire road, there’s the finish area over yonder, time to go, so I put the hammer down and went flying down the road as hard as I could only to come to a grinding halt about three minutes later when I was greeted by the sight of more muddy, lycra clad runners all milling round like the marching band who’d just been led up the alley at the end of Animal House.

It soon became apparent that we’d gone wrong somewhere, hopefully not too far back. So the quickly growing group turned around and headed back uphill, gathering up more people, plenty of whom I’d just passed as I was careering downhill. Even more people were standing around at the intersection where we’d apparently zigged when we should have zagged, and on seeing us coming back in one direction all set off in the other. On getting back to that point and setting off on the correct path once more I saw an awful lot of familiar backs, but with only a few hundred metres left to go there wasn’t much of a chance to reclaim many places. Not that it really mattered anyway, there’s not much of a difference in 200th or 232nd place, and I really (thankfully) don’t care about positions. What I wanted from the race was a good run, a hard workout, a chance to improve both my fitness and my trail running ‘skillz’, and I definitely got all of those. Plus Surprise Miles!

Finish (almost)

Finish (almost)

Time: 68:08, position 232nd

I ended up doing a kilometre extra, which given my average pace and time spent standing around trying to figure out where I was and where I actually should be, was about eight minutes wasted.

Lessons learned (an on-going list):

  1. Push! – whereas in Howth I was miserable and struggled round, here I was in a great mood, really enjoyed the race but enjoyed it almost too much. I was very conservative with my pacing and ran it like a training run rather than a race. That would have been fine if I had put in 60k already this week but I hadn’t, so should have gone a lot harder.
  2. Start as you mean to go on – I’m not sure if it’s the case in every IMRA race but with the amount of bottlenecks and single tracks it’s quite hard to pass people. If you’re ambivalent about your starting position, and saunter off the line, by the time you reach the first bottleneck you could be waiting half the day at it. After that you’re fighting a losing battle. Next time, start close to the front, go off hard, get through the first bottleneck and have some sort of clear patch at some stage rather than just peering into a never ending succession of miscellaneous buttocks.
  3. Enjoy it – especially the downhill stuff. Stop worrying, trust in yourself, try to remember what little pieces of technique you’re picking up but mostly just enjoy it.
Happy and relieved

Happy and relieved

*TM – JBHK Productions

The Week’s End

Posted: January 27, 2014 in 2014
Tags: , , , ,

Having failed to make it out for a midweek jaunt, and staring down the barrel of another week with a pitiful total number of kilometres logged I did what any sensible person would do on getting home from work on Friday night, I went out for a run. I’d planned on getting in my long run on Thursday evening but I had an hour or so where I was inhabited by the spirit of Basil Fawlty and literally everything that could go wrong, did. I got more and more annoyed at my inability to find anything, my Garmin’s inability to hold a charge, the pockets of my top being the wrong size and many, many other crucially important issues so when less than a kilometre into the run my phone fell from it’s precarious perch in my silly sized pocket I packed it in, turned around and flounced home.

Friday night everything was found, charged and ready to go so off I set for twenty four slippery, swampy, mucky but thoroughly enjoyable kilometres along the canal bank, over to Vicarstown and back. I had done this route a couple of weeks ago and found it pretty tough going. I was in the first few days of post-Christmas readjusting to a low carb, high fat diet, and I’d been out the night before for a reasonably quick twelve kilometres, so the pace was glacial, and the last few kilometres a real slog. This time round I was much fresher and my body well on the way to being nicely fat adapted. I left a bottle of my own special sports drink mixture – water, orange juice, maltodextrin, BCAA and sea salt – at the four kilometre mark to pick up on the way back, apart from that I had no food or drink and nothing to carry. I don’t usually listen to anything when I’m running now, but when I do these long night time runs I do like to have something to keep me, usually podcasts and often times Joe Rogan’s, the three hour run time making it the perfect accompaniment. This time round it was Joe talking to John Hackleman, lifetime martial artist, Rocky fan and coach to Chuck Liddell, talking about montages, hardcore training and terrible 80’s action films.

The run itself was great. A really mild night, no one around (funnily enough on a canal bank in the middle of nowhere on a Friday night) and no real issues apart from the large, squishy blister on each foot that I inevitably end up with when I do any more than ten kilometres or so in my Salomons. They may be the most high end, trickest trail running shoe going but they just don’t suit my feet. I put them on and they feel like lovely big multi-coloured cushions but an hour later and they’re squeezing bits of my feet that aren’t meant to be squeezed and leaving me with ganky multi-coloured, multi-layered blisters. Fifteen minutes after my run though I felt like I had the flu – shivering, cold, not able to eat – and not even Jean Claude Van Damme and his amazing performance in Bloodsport could bring a smile to my face so I just shuffled off to bed.

Vicarstown and Back

Flippy Floppy

Posted: January 23, 2014 in 2014
Tags: , , , , ,

If I was asked to describe myself with only a few words “stiff” might be an adjective I’d use. That obviously depends on a number of factors, for example, I’m not going to walk up to random strangers or schoolkids and whisper “ooh, I’m so stiff”, but given the right conditions and company it is a word I’d use. I’m not particularly fluid or flexible, I don’t flow well. I think about things a lot and can be overly analytical. Swimming has been a particular struggle for me as I actually stop moving and think about what I’m doing (wrong) as I’m doing it which invariably leads to me sinking. If I don’t manage to avoid the glare of cameras on nights out or social occasions a common accusation levelled against me when the pictures see the light of day, populated with people gambolling, laughing, dancing or falling around while I remain a pillar of austerity, is that I think I’m “too cool for school”. It’s not that, it’s just that I’m a bit, well, stiff.

This inherent stiffness has been exacerbated by me pounding the roads in recent years and when I was silly enough to not give myself sufficient recovery time I ended up picking up a lot of injuries, seeing a lot of physios and missing a lot of running.

During that time one of the best physios I saw was Reiltin Treacy, who’s based in Newbridge. When I saw her she pinpointed my lower back and glutes as the source of my problem, and  although my problems generally manifested themselves in my calf muscles, specifically my left, this didn’t come as a huge surprise as I was spending over three hours a day driving to and from work. Combine that with a desk based job and thats a lot of time compacting your lower spine. I eased back on the mileage, spent a lot of money on physio and eventually my problems went away.

This year I expect my mileage to ramp up significantly, and I really don’t want to spend too much (any) time injured so in order to mitigate that risk I’m looking at injury prevention, rather than treatment. One of the ways I intend to do that is pilates. I’ve actually been meaning to start pilates for at least two years now, but for whatever reason (cough laziness cough procrastination) haven’t. As well as the injury prevention and increase in flexibility what I’m really hoping to get out of pilates is an incease in core strength. An area where I fall down massively, especially in longer races, is a weak core. I know I’m not alone in that regard, at the end of every marathon you see people shuffling along, bent over double, and that’s in large part down to having a weak core. This also of course leads to muscle tightening, cramping and injuries. Likewise, when I’ve hauled myself up, or staggered down, Croagh Patrick or similar obstacles I’ve resembled one of the lesser hobbits making an attempt on Mount Doom. Again, not helped by a weak core.

To try and improve this undesirable state of affairs I’ve finally bitten the bullet and started pilates in Newbridge, classes led by none other than the aforementioned Reiltin Treacy, and do you know what? It’s only bloody brilliant. Admittedly I spent the first class struggling mightily with my breathing, invariably inhaling when I should have been exhaling, or even worse not breathing at all, but this week it was much better. Despite the fact that it’s only two weeks in, and therefore the positive effects I’m feeling are possibly psychosomatic, but I feel fitter and trimmer afterwards too, though it’s debatable whether I’m any more flexible just yet. What I do know for sure though is that I’m really enjoying the class. We’ll hopefully see later in the year the tangible benefits of pilates, but I know I drove home from my class on Tuesday with a smile on my face, and that’s enough for now.

I was never a fan of tubby Tony and his floppy fringed chums but they did have one thing right – write down some goals. I’m sure later on in the song they went into detail about how the goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound but I’d usually switched off by that stage. Long term goals are all well and good but I’m a little more short term than that. If I don’t have something coming up in the next few weeks I tend to forget all about what I’m supposed to be doing, procrastinate, panic before eventually deciding that it’s too late to do anything.

Case in point:

2012 – I entered a race every month, worked towards each of those and had a very, very productive year.

2013 – I had a couple of aims that were a little more nebulous, ended up doing the square root of feck all besides getting fat and lazy.

So, that said, here are my goals for the first three months of this year (or Q1 as we call it in bizness)

January:

Sub 80 minutes at the John Tracey 10 Mile in Dungarvan on the 26th of January.

February:

Twenty days of training in February

March:

Sub 2:30 at the Wicklow Way Trail race on the 22nd March

Oh and please, for anyone reading this, please hold me to these. Trying but failing is perfectly acceptable, but just faffing about, being a total mimsy and not trying at all is worthy of abuse. I expect a certain husky ex-colleague of mine to be particularly quick to let me know if I’m being a big lazy blouse.