Archive for April, 2012

So, if anyone has a list of things that you really shouldn’t do when hungover (you know, like looking for lost suppositories down a toilet, joining in on the bouncy castle fun at a kids party, line dancing, that sort of thing) here’s a new one to be added to the list – mountain running. I know that it seems like hangovers have been a bit of a theme of late but in fairness it’s only two, and that’s probably half my quota for the year. For a large portion of the year I won’t be drinking at all.

Anyway, we were on holidays, no kids, no work and my wife and I ended up having a few drinks. Quite a few drinks. As I’d previously mentioned one of my main reasons in coming to Westport was to get in some practice on Croagh Patrick and a fuzzy head and slightly noxious stomach wasn’t going to stop me, so after breakfast we hopped on our bikes and cycled the 12km out to the big grey bastard. It was actually really nice to be able to cycle around there at a very leisurely pace, as any time I’d been here and on a bike before it was as part of a race. On arrival we locked up the bikes, sorted our gear out, did some stretches and then set off to run up that mountain (well I did, my wife declared that to be “mental” and said she was going to take her own sweet time getting up there).

From the car park there’s a couple of hundred metres of a path then a long series of steps, all sloping gently upwards, before you get to the proper base of Croagh Patrick.  By the time I had made it to the top of the steps I was already sweating profusely and wondering how I was going to make it up there. I would have actually stopped my silly running and started walking there and then but there were some people looking at me so I kept going for a little longer at least. I spotted something on the ground just ahead, which on closer inspection turned out to be a camera. There was a family not too far ahead of me so I ran after them and, after catching my breath, asked them if they owned it. They didn’t, so I just stuck the camera in my backpack and called myself the new owner of a nice Nikon Coolpix (I jest, I was going to hand it in to the shop at the entrance on my way back out).

The first kilometre or so isn’t a particularly steep climb, but even there it’s quite rocky and there’s no one clear path. It was quite warm too at this point and I was already hurting and cursing each of the drinks I’d had the night before. By the end of that first kilometre I’d given up on my silly notion of running up the mountain and instead switched to a power hike/quick as I could walk. Although I felt dreadful, and was a little disappointed that I wasn’t running at this point, I was still moving considerably quicker than anyone else I passed. Admittedly none of them were red faced and covered in sweat but then this wasn’t a beauty pagent, so I just put my head down and kept grinding.

Twenty minutes or so into my hike I was reminded of what (surprisingly) hurt me most both times I’d climbed Croagh Patrick previously, which was my lower back. I’d presumed it would be my legs but once it starts to get steep (from about a kilometre and a half in) you adopt an unnatural stoop, which you then maintain for the next hour or so, which causes this horrible, dull, throbbing pain to worm it’s way around your kidneys and lower back. Anyone who grew up in a boggy region and had cruel, sadistic parents who worked them like dogs down the bog footing turf would be familiar with the sort of lower back pain I’m talking about. I knew at this point I wasn’t too far away from what’s known as The Shoulder on Croagh Patrick, which is a short levelling out at roughly the halfway point, just before it gets really steep and nasty. Despite telling myself that I could rest there and to just keep pushing on until then my legs and lungs had other ideas and called a momentary halt to proceedings.

After catching my breath for a minute I pushed on to The Shoulder then, where I stopped for another breather. Reaching The Shoulder lifts your spirits for a bit, you are at the half way point after all, and you have a few hundred metres where it’s almost level and you can actually run again for a bit. When you get to the end of that though you’re entering a world of hurt, and that was never far from my mind. The running stops, the grass disappears, and almost instantly you’re confronted by a wall of loose, jagged shale with a rough path wending it’s way up through it. There’s roughly a kilometre and a half of this to go but you can only ever see about a hundred metres or so ahead of you and it’s really quite disheartening. I remember during this section on Gaelforce there was bodies just scattered all over the place, people stopping for breathers every few yards and the only words you heard was “is it much further to the top?”.

The sweat was now running down my face and into my eyes like one of those little cartoon rainclouds was over my head and, just to mock me I’m sure, the sun decided to come out, to make it even hotter. As all the alcohol and toxins were leaving my body I was actually starting to get a bit dizzy and light headed and had to stop a couple of times just to focus. I was finally at a point though where I knew I only had about ten minutes more climbing and a couple more corners to turn before I could see the top, though seeing it and getting to it were an entirely different matter. After just a couple more episodes of whimpering and moaning and feeling sorry for myself though I finally got there and dragged my sorry arse up to the little church at the top. The ascent took me 1:02 (that’s an hour and two minutes, just in case there’s any misunderstanding), which was two minutes slower than my Sea2Summit time (for Gaelforce the first half we came up from a different side, which was slightly shorter, but I had a longer rest at the top).

Edit to say I’ve just checked my times and Sea2Summit ascent was 1:01:52, this time was 1:01:49. Dying of a hangover and three seconds quicker. Woohoo!

I had half a cereal bar at the top while I waited for my wife and took a couple of pictures, though they never do the view from up there justice.

It’s funny how quickly you forget the misery of the ascent when you’re at the top, so after a few minutes of waiting around I headed down to meet my wife and help her through her pain. Judging by the colour of her face when I finally did get to her she was in quite a bit of said pain, which to be fair probably wasn’t helped by me telling her it was another fifteen minutes to the top. She got there though, and after a brief chat it was time for the real business of the day, which was the descent.

I was pretty disgusted with my descent at Sea2Summit. I had a couple of really wobbly moments on the loose shale right at the top and I never felt at all comfortable or in control and just really pussyfooted my way down to the flat section. This time round I was determined to get down there quicker, and despite some slipping and sliding I zipped up my mansuit and just got on with it. I managed to get to the flat(ish) section in one piece and could actually think about running then rather than just staying alive. I absolutely love this bit of Croagh Patrick, on the way down it’s slightly downhill so it feels almost effortless to run it, and it’s not quite as rocky as the lower section so you can get your head up a bit and actually enjoy your run rather than just concentrating on the next three or four yards ahead of you.

The section after The Shoulder is sneakily steep though, and I’m nowhere near skilled enough at mountain running yet to be able to descend freely. Because of that I’m always trying to slow myself down, which absolutely kills your quads. Despite my best efforts on a couple of occasions gravity almost got the better of me and it was only by some extreme zig-zagging or jumping up on to a big rock that I managed to halt my downward progress. Ideally you want to get into a nice rhythm, keep your stride nice and measured and (here at least) keep picking your feet up nice and high so you don’t stub your toes on any rocks and send you sprawling (which is what happened to me at Sea2Summit but I miraculously managed to fall and slide on about the only three metre patch of ground that had no rocks in it). This sounds reasonably easy in theory but picking your feet up high and quickly is not especially easy to do when your quads are burning.

There’s definitely quicker, more direct routes than the one I followed on the way down but I stayed upright for all of it, and once I got past the shale stayed running for all the rest of it. I even managed something of a sprint finish down into the car park once I got past the steps. Finishing time was 33:45, which compared pretty favourably to the 40:28 from Sea2Summit, and had me absolutely delighted.

As soon as I got to the bottom it started to rain so I reached into my pocket to grab my hat but there was nothing there, or in any of my other pockets. I’d put it in there once I’d started running on the way down but it had obviously come out somewhere along the way. I was a little miffed as it’s a perfect hat for running, but on the other hand it does make me look with a penis with a neon condom on it, so I wasn’t entirely distraught. I popped into the visitor centre to see if anyone was missing a camera and sure enough an Italian lady had been in earlier to say she had lost it. The lady behind the counter had actually told the owner of the camera that she was virtually certain that it would be handed in as anything lost or found up there invariably did get handed in.  I told her that I hoped it held true for me than as well with my hat, and she assured me it would and took my name and number.

I went for a little walk back towards the bottom of the mountain to wait for my wife, stopping at a monument there to stretch for a bit. While waiting there an English chap who was there with his kids came over to chat to me. We were just making smalltalk for a few minutes, well mostly it was his kids grilling me about whether I’d run up it/down it/how long it had taken me/how my Camelback worked etc, when another gentleman (who I’d seen at the top and turned out to be a relation of the English chap) came over to me and handed me my hat. His nephew who he was walking with had spotted it on the way down and he’d recognised it as being mine. So what goes around, comes around, one good turn deserves another and karma and all that.

Once my wife (eventually) made it down to the bottom it was back on to the bikes and an even easier spin back to our lodgings. I had at one stage semi-seriously suggested doing Croagh Patrick again but on the cycle home we both agreed that maybe discretion was the better part of valour and just doing it the once was enough for this trip. We were supposed to be on holiday after all.


Now this is more like it. When I did Gaelforce last year my wife absolutely fell in love with Westport and wanted to move there immediately. I couldn’t quite stretch to a holiday home there so I got her a few days break there as one of her Christmas presents, and being the lovely lady that she is she deigned to bring me along with her (unlike that holiday to the Canaries a few years ago when she didn’t even invite me along, but I digress). Anyway, despite only being there a few weeks I hadn’t taken a break between finishing my old job and starting my new one so it was nice to get a few days off. With the way Good Friday/Easter Monday fell we actually managed to get nearly a full week off work just taking a couple of days holidays, though we were only in Westport for two nights.

It was later than I’d expected getting down there but I’d really planned on making this as active a break as possible – I’d brought down a couple of bikes and every conceivable combination of gear to suit all conditions and activities. As soon as we checked in to our hotel I got changed and headed out for a quick run before it got dark. There was a little village a few kilometres from the hotel so I headed in that direction and for the first time in a week or so I was running without feeling like total and utter crap. It was three kilometres into the village, or rather the crossroads that bore the name of a village, and when I got there I saw a sign for “Reek View”.

The Reek as it’s known to locals, or Croagh Patrick as it’s known to the rest of the country, is one of the reasons I personally wanted to go to Westport for a few days. When I did Gaelforce last year Croagh Patrick absolutely kicked my arse. I thought that I’d done some training on hills but I’m from Kildare, I have no idea what a bloody hill is and regardless, Croagh Patrick is no bloody hill, it’s a mountain, and last year it just about reduced me to tears. I stopped I don’t know how many times to have a little whimper and a whinge and feel sorry for myself before being saved at the top by the good angel Benny and his two accomplices. I had another go at it in November when I did Sea 2 Summit and this time it was the descent that made bits of me. I stumbled and staggered and was absolutely petrified going down and just never really got going. This year I’m going to get properly acquainted with the big rocky prick before Gaelforce rolls around.

Anyway, I stopped for a second to throw some filthy glances at my craggy old foe before continuing on down the lane I was on for another half kilometre, at which poing it came to an abrupt end. I’d done the 3.5km there in 17:47 but was now finally starting to feel a bit more human so tried to beat that on the way back . Thankfully I had tried to get a wiggle on on the way back as the light faded pretty quickly at that point. I made it back in 16:34 and looked forward to a nice, relaxing evening with no kids, no cooking, and most importantly, no getting up for work in the morning.


I make no excuse for using Metallica two posts in a row as this is frickin’ amazing.

Day 94 – Ho Hum

Posted: April 21, 2012 in April
Tags: ,

One of those “soccer training, then turbo trainer” days. I really need to start shaking this session up a bit, and after searching around a bit I found a turbo session based around And Justice For All… by Metallica which, seeing as it’s one of the very finest metal albums of all time,  I may have to use in future.


Day 93 – DOHF

Posted: April 21, 2012 in April
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Or Delayed Onset Hangover Fatigue as it’s known to the layman. I just about manage 3km and some drills. The foam roller session I did afterwards had me whimpering and I welled up a little bit at some ad where a guy plays with his sons.

As Mamma Bouche used to say, alcohol is the devil!

Day 92 – +1

Posted: April 21, 2012 in April

All the previous posts need to be bumped up by a day as I just realised I missed out last Thursday, which to be fair, was a pretty uneventful day. Soccer training, some laps, some technique and strength drills and that was about it.

Relatively speaking I was pretty sensible last night. After just a single drink in the resident’s bar of the hotel the wedding was being held in I hit the hay. Admittedly that single drink followed quite a few others over the preceding twelve hours or so, but compared to some at least I felt pretty fresh this morning when I got up. I’m incredibly lucky, booze-wise, in that I rarely drink but can occasionally go out, drink quite silly amounts of whiskey, and not feel like a badger that’s been run over by a tractor the next day. That being said I can’t stomach more than a couple of pints of any sort of beer, and if I have even a sniff of vodka I spend the next twenty four hours violently vomiting so it’s swings and roundabouts really.

Since I was feeling (relatively) fresh I decided to head out for a run this evening. I really should have been doing about twenty kilometres if I was to be keeping to any sort of marathon training plan but there’s no way I’d manage that. After a kilometre or so of running I knew I wasn’t even going to get anyway close to half that. I wasn’t so concerned with my fuzzy head and blurry vision, or even my slightly wobbly legs (I just kept on telling myself it was good training for running when I’m really fatigued or slightly delirious during London – Brighton) but the noises and uncontrolled/uncontrollable motions emanating from my gastro-intestinal region were starting to worry. If it was just cramps I wouldn’t have been so worried, as that generally means things are tightening up. This felt far more like things were loosening up, and looking like getting a whole lot looser.

A couple of kilometres in there was some violent goings on in my gut, and it didn’t feel like it was going to pass any time soon. I abandoned any idea of doing anything but heading for home and started to get a bit of a move on, which turned out to be a really bad idea. The increase in pace was met with an exponential increase in stomach related churning, and it seemed to be spreading. I instantly slowed down again which brought some respite, but I knew it was only temporary. I found myself playing a risky game then, akin to when you have a sick or ailing car that you’re trying to get home. You’re trying to go slow enough that the car won’t blow up on you, but quick enough that you get home and don’t find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere.

I just about managed to make it home without having to enlist the use of some emergency, very organic toilet roll and, well, that’s probably enough information so I think I might just finish this post here.

Day 90 – Zandalee

Posted: April 21, 2012 in March
Tags: , , ,

Well that went well. Almost four o’clock this morning going to bed, quite a lot of wine and whiskey consumed, and images of a moustachioed Nicolas Cage desecrating a New Orleans confession box coursing through my dreams, meant I was feeling just a teeny bit tender when I got up this morning. As I’m the only presentable/literate/coherent one of my friends I’ve been asked to do a reading at the wedding, which has given my wife all the excuse she needs to drag us down there early. That means no dilly-dallying around this morning and I have to get my training in early. As my run yesterday didn’t feel particularly good I went out on the bike instead for a quick spin. Twelve kilometres later I was back home, feeling considerably more refreshed and looking forward to getting suited, booted, and probably a little bit tipsy later.


Can’t believe I forgot:

Day 89 – Pre-Wed

Posted: April 21, 2012 in March
Tags: , , ,

This is the start of a pretty hectic weekend for me. Not training-wise, but socially, which is a bit of a rarity for me. One of my oldest and dearest friends The Duck, or John as he’s known to his mother, is getting married, which is cause for a reunion of my old college friends. There’s a few of us who used to live together, who all still keep in touch and try to meet up a couple of times a year. With expanding families, increasing commitments and the fact that half of the lads live in Germany that can be tricky, but we usually manage at least one weekend away.

We didn’t manage to get together in the autumn/winter like we usually do, but thankfully The Duck couldn’t come up with any more excuses as to why he hadn’t made an honest woman of his better half Mary, thus giving us a proper reason for a get together.

With the lads home there was invariably going to be an amount of boozing done so after welcoming them and briefly catching up I decided to head out for a quick run. When I say quick I actually mean slow, and quite a short one too. I think the exertions of the previous weekend had taken more of a toll than I’d initially thought as my legs felt absolutely leaden, and even worse really tight and knotted. When I went at anything more than a jogging pace I felt definite signs of straining so I just did a few easy kilometres to loosen everything up.

Then went home and hit the booze.

It’s true what they say about the mind being the most powerful muscle/organ/tool you have. Unfortunately for me mine is currently conspiring against me and is determined to scupper any chance I have of doing a triathlon at any stage this year. I had my usual club swimming session tonight, and after figuring out, or so I thought, what was wrong with my solo sessions I had been looking forward to this session. Unfortunately though I seemed to bring my solo form into my group session and right from the off I was struggling. As soon as I started to struggle I began to stop, literally mid-stroke, to try to figure out what I was doing. Then I became conscious of doing just that and started to berate myself for it which really didn’t help.


I’d had a few days of pretty hard training/racing and my legs felt like lead. Between this and me putting the mental mockers on the session really wasn’t going well. I knew Mark (our coach) was looking at me and wondering what was up but he was being polite/trying to spare me by not asking or mentioning it. After a pretty unproductive and frustrating half hour I said to him I was just having a bad day in the office so he suggested a ten minute break and just forgetting about what went before. I took the break but forgetting about what just happened or letting things slide is something I really struggle to do. I’m not as neurotic as I used to be, nor do I beat myself up about things quite as much as I used to, but I’m still definitely prone to analysis paralysis. It’s funny though in how it only seems to affect physical activities. When it comes to any mental activities, like college work, exams, job interviews etc I’m very confident and can breeze through with the minimum of preparation and absolutely no nagging voices or self doubts. Swimming, skiing, cycling, motor biking, and countless other physical activities have been ruined, or at the very least affected, however, by this negative mindset.


I’m torn as to whether I should dig into it more in an effort to understand it (which may just exacerbate the problem) or just try to ignore it. Actually a far more sensible option may be to try and engender a much more positive mindset. That’s definitely the ideal scenario but I just need to figure out the process to get there. I need to have some of what Diego’s having.


My legs were feeling pretty heavy today so I just went out for a short (11km) recovery ride. The weather we’ve been having for the last week or so has been fantastic, but it did mean the return of a minor annoyance I’d forgotten about until tonight – insect teeth. It was after seven when I went out, on a sunny evening, and there were fields on either side of the road. I was asking for trouble really.