Archive for May, 2012

Six days removed from Belfast Marathon, and one day from the Darkness Into Light 5k, I lined up this morning to do the Kildare Half Marathon. I probably wouldn’t have done them all in such quick succession but I’d deferred the Half from last year when I was injured. Next year if I’m looking for an early season marathon I’ll definitely do Kildare seeing as it’s (a) right on my doorstep and (b) really well organised, especially in relation to Belfast. Also doing the Half today was my wife Brid, who was attempting the distance for the first time. She’s been consistent in her training though, gradually building her long run up to a longest of 18km, so I know she’ll get round fine. She had however rejected my offer of pacing her round, which I think she may have gathered to be at least half a ruse on my part to get round at a more relaxed pace. She also, for some reason, doesn’t like me shouting (encouragement) at her when we run, which may also have played into the decision.

The weather this morning was thankfully a lot more pleasant than in Belfast last weekend – sunny, clear skies overhead and temperatures just about reaching ‘warm’. It didn’t really feel like that when we got out of the car on the Curragh though as there was a really strong breeze blowing. Actually, I think breeze may be doing it a disservice as when we opened the car door it was nearly pulled off by the wind. We had very little time to think about it, or indeed anything else, as due to the proximity of the race to home I had naturally left it to the last minute to leave. In fact we had so little time my poor wife, who had been so conscientous in her hydration, was now at bursting point, and faced with massive queues, approximately five minutes before race start. I on the other hand, being a man, can piss just about anywhere, and after a short trot over to a fence on the way to the start line, and was then good to go.

Just before we started I spotted a couple of lads from town I knew (Paddy Hyland and Johnny Dunphy), so stopped for a chat. Paddy was running his first half, and was hoping to get round in under two hours. Although I didn’t have a particular target in mind, especially off the back of the marathon, I was hoping to get round in about 1:50. As the race started I suddenly decided to push that and try for 1:45, so set off at around 5 mins/km. The first couple of kilometres were across the Curragh, and though it was still really windy being in such a large group meant it rarely bothered me too much. Well, that and some crafty drafting.

The Curragh, and Kildare in general, is well known for being flat, and the only slight hill on the course was dispensed with at around the six kilometre mark. By that stage the wind had really dropped and we got to feel the full effects of the mid-day sun. I grabbed a bottle at the first water station which was at the top of the hill and held on to that bottle of cold, wet goodness for as long as it lasted. I had been quite relaxed about my buildup to the half, and probably could have done without the couple of beers the night before, and could possibly have gone to bed earlier. I knew that the water and feed stations on the course were frequent and really well stocked though, and would help ease my passage around.

I was really enjoying the run, and the conditions, still maintaining my pace without too much hassle, when at about the ten kilometre mark Paddy and Johnny came flying past me. I checked my Garmin to make sure I wasn’t crawling, did some quick calculations in my head and confirmed I was on about 1:45 pace. The lads were just way, way ahead of theirs. I said nothing and just let them past though as I had my music on, was doing my own pace and didn’t want to be dragged along doing anybody elses race.

I slowed for a second at the water station at 15km to grab a bottle and like someone had flicked a switch, everything after that just became a struggle. My pace dropped to about 5:20/km, which wasn’t a huge difference, but it was so much more of a struggle to maintain. We were just coming into Kildare town then and the lovely, flat, green countryside running switched to slightly up and down and around and crossing the road nadgery horrible running. The wonderful music that I’d so carefully selected this morning became loud and harsh and grating and I just stopped enjoying everything. It felt at the time like I was barely crawling along, but looking back at the data from my Garmin my pace really didn’t drop that much.

It wobbled a bit for a couple of kilometres as I had the usual little squabbles with myself, and my heavy, dead, aching legs, but I forgot about my own woes as I noticed someone on the road ahead really struggling. There was a guy ahead who was really wobbling and wavering from side to side, despite being supported by another couple of guys, one on each arm. He was trying to drink some water at the same time, but started to stagger, and then was helped onto the ground at the ide of the road by the two runners with him. A couple of spectators who were there ran to offer their help, and as I came alongside there was already five or six people there, calling for help and trying to look after him. He looked to be suffering in the heat, burning up and really dehydrated. I didn’t stop as there was already enough people there offering help, and realistically what could I have done only stand there getting in the way, so I kept going. Momentarily.

For whatever reason, seeing him like that, coupled with the struggling in my head and my legs over the last couple of kilometres, caused me to grind to a halt. I just stopped running and walked for ten or fifteen metres. Thankfully I saw sense almost as soon as I started walking and shook off whatever self pitying malaise had crept over me. I started to run again, then tried to run faster, and then a little bit faster again. There was less than two kilometres to go, I could even see the finish, so the sooner I got this out of the way the sooner I could relax. A few minutes, and quite a few grimaces, later, it was done and dusted and my third race of the week was out of the way and my third PB posted. The finish time of 1:50:28 was a little bit slower than I’d have liked but it was as much as I could do under the circumstances.

After the race I bumped into a ton of people that I hadn’t seen in ages, which meant a load of time spent standing round chatting, which then meant my planned stroll to my car to get Brid’s gear turned into a run that was probably as quick as parts of the race. I managed to make it back in time to see her finish in a very respectable 2:29, and then, as if the day couldn’t get any better, we got goodie bags from the race’s main sponsor, Woodies, which included paint brushes, gardening gloves, and the piece de resistance, duct tape.

What a day!

 

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For once the title of this post isn’t some glib or esoteric reference to something that happens to be passing through my mind at the time I’m crafting the post, and has only the slightest connection to the content of said  post. It’s just the name of the run I did this morning.

This was a 5km walk/run in aid of Pieta House, a charity who provides treatment for for people who self harm or have ideas of suicide. It was scheduled to kick off at 4am, with the idea that people would start walking in darkness and finish as it was getting bright. The event was mostly a gentle, friendly stroll with the option of running it for those who like the idea of getting out of bed at 2:30 and then going for a run a little bit later.

That isn’t a typo or a misprint by the way. This morning I did indeed get up at 2:30. In the AM. As in, night time. As in, not even a particularly late night, night time. I managed to get a few hours sleep before dragging myself out of bed at this ungodly hour, made myself an enormous pot of coffee, before hopping in the car and heading for Mountmellick. Driving through Portarlington on the way there the few people I did pass were all staggering home from pubs, or Port’s one ‘nite-club’, which was yet another reminder tht this was a stupid time to be getting up for athletic endeavours.

When I got over to Mountmellick and hopped out of the car I was greeted by some very crisp night air. I popped down to collect my rather natty Darkness Into Light t-shirt, and then returned to my car as I tried to figure out the logistics of bag, gear and running while on my own. It didn’t take too long to figure out that there was no logistics involved, it was just wear whatever I was running in and leave everything else in the car. Thankfully it was only another twenty minutes or so til the start time as I really didn’t fancy standing around for too long in racing attire in what was low single digit temperatures.

As this is Ireland of course the twenty minutes became almost an hour. Just as everyone was lining up to go off the announcer said that walkers would go off first, with runners going forty five minutes later. The twenty or so that were running all looked at each other with incredulity and all said, almost as one, “fuck that”. We decided that we’d just start with the walkers and then leg it. It wasn’t a timed race, it wasn’t even a race really, so we were all just going to walk to the gate and then start running. Thankfully someone saw some degree of sense and said runners would start only ten minutes after the walkers (though surely it would have made more sense to start the runners first as we were only going to have to run through the crowd of walkers, on the road, lit only by street lamps). Regardless, they started, and then we started not long afterwards.

I’d hoped to put in some sort of a quick (for me) time, though any sort of time would be a PB as I’d never done a 5k before. I didn’t get off to the most auspicious of starts as after roughly ten yards I had to stop top dig a stone out of my shoe. Once I’d dispensed of that I went tearing after everyone else, and spent the next kilometre or so picking my way past all the walkers. It was quite a surreal experience actually, running through a town in the middle of the night while crowds of people are out walking. I enjoyed the experience for roughly another kilometre until a stitch hit me like I was being stabbed between the ribs. I hardly ever get stitches, and it took me a minute or two to figure out why it was happening now. Then it dawned on me. I’d gotten out of bed, drank a pile of coffee, and then drank some more coffe on the way over and at no stage did I drink any water. I had got out of bed and was attempting to run at a quick pace without drinking any water. I’m officially a moron.

Thankfully it was only a 5k I was running, so after berating myself for a stretch I tried to forget about it and just run. I know at this stage I can run a decent distance but I still really struggle with maintaining a decent pace for short distances. I was still thinking about how rubbish and slow I was when I realised I was just about finished, so I managed to forget about that and do what I (almost) always do. Push hard for the finish and look good for the cameras. I’d hoped to finish in under 23 minutes and just about managed it, doing a 22:31. After that I took a few pictures, made a mental note to never run without drinking any water, and headed for home. All before 5am.

 

Days 129 – 132 R&R&R&R

Posted: May 14, 2012 in May
Tags: , ,

When I woke up on Tuesday I was the sorest I’d ever been after a race. My feet hurt, my calves hurt, my hamstrings hurt and my quads really hurt. The rest of me just ached a little bit. I hobbled round for most of the day in work (who thought it was a good idea to put the toilets up two flights of stairs) and then that evening did forty five minutes on my turbo trainer.

By wednesday the aches and pains had subsided considerably and I was beginning to walk like a human again. That evening I went for a quick ten miles on my CX and felt something approaching good afterwards.

Thursady I had a physio session booked. I didn’t have any major, or even minor niggles, but with a half marathon only six days after Belfast I thought it might be a good idea to get any bumps or bruises taken care of. I felt remarkably well* heading in there, spry almost, and the physio was very surprised at what decent shape my legs were in. A short while later I was home and heading for the pool.

Friday I would have quite liked to go out for a run, but did the sensible, low impact thing instead and went for a swim again. There’s still plenty of running ahead of me.

*I felt so well in fact that I signed up for a 5k run on Saturday morning. And by morning I mean 4am.

When I crossed the line I was shattered. Shattered and completely frozen. I was just kind of stumbling around for a bit when someone handed me my medal which, as it was still in it’s wrapper, I just stuck in my pocket. Usually when you finish a race it’s clear where you should go, you get a medal, hand in your chip, get a bottle of water, couple of bananas, maybe a goodie bag. When I finished today there was a big stack of water bottles (as I’d hope, the race was sponsored by Deep River Rock) but there wasn’t a banana or piece of fruit anywhere to be seen. Come to think of it there hadn’t been any out on the route either, maybe there was some sort of banana embargo in Belfast? I don’t really know, but it was unusual. In terms of post race nutrition, all there was to be had was packets of crisps. Not exactly what the body needs when you finish running 26.2 miles but I suppose it’s better than a kick in the balls.

Food wasn’t my principal conern when I finished the race however. I was in dire need of an emergency blanket (you know those big rolls of tinfoil you see runners wandering round wearing after marathons) as I was starting to get really, really cold. I’d been practically frozen down my left hand side since the Lough of the Apocalypse but since I stopped running the cold had seeped into every part of my body. I asked one of the marshalls where I could get a blanket and was told that they’d run out. At the time I was too cold to get annoyed but thinking about it afterwards I started to get quite pissed off about it. I finished 1069th out of 2940 (and that was just the numbers in the full marathon). That means that almost two thirds of the people finishing the race were going to be coming in after me and none of them were going to get a blanket. On a day like this – freezing cold, wet, windy – the people that are going to need the blankets most are going to be the people who are out there longest. It’s not like they didn’t know what the weather was going to be like. It’s Ireland, in May, and the five day forecast turned out to be spot on. That combined with the lack of any sort of proper post race nutrition made for a miserable hour or so after the race.

My wife and kids were meant to be meeting me with my gear but there was no sign of them anywhere and after wandering around for about fifteen minutes I was just getting colder and colder. I saw a queue of people waiting to get into some sort of pre-fab or building so went over there and as I got nearer the door I could feel the warmth emanating from it. I squeezed in to what turned out to be the toilets, changing rooms and showers and just stood there shivering as I tried to get some warmth back into me. Some generous soul opposite me must have notice my shivering, or just how generally miserable I looked, and offered me his blanket. Seeing as he had numerous layers on underneath it I gratefully accepted it and just huddled up in it against the wall for forty five minutes or so until my family turned up. As soon as they did I got changed into some clean, dry clothes and got the hell out of there as quickly as I could. Which really wasn’t very quick at all. Feet, calves and expecially quads were all aching but I shuffled on out until we finally managed to find some way of getting back to our car.

Belfast marathon was definitely an experience, and I was delighted with my time, but there were quite a few aspects of it that I really wasn’t impressed with. Next year if I’m looking to do an early season marathon it’ll definitely be the one right on my doorstep (Kildare). The only reason I didn’t do it this year was I’d registered to do the half (deferred from last year). Which reminds me, hopefully this aching doesn’t last too long as I’ve a half marathon to do in six days.

 

 

I woke up this morning, even before my alarms went off, and went straight over to have a look out the window. What greeted me was some filthy wet greyness and teeming rain, way worse than what we’d experienced yesterday. I have to admit that my heart sank a bit at seeing this as, even though the forecast was bad, I still half expected it to be ok. At worst I thought we might have some showers at some stage during the race but this was proper, grey, down for the day, not letting up rain. Thankfully I’d brought a few different sets of gear with me to (hopefully) deal with any eventuality. After twenty minutes or so of me pacing around the room, stretching and throwing occasional glances out the window (where nothing had changed), my alarms went off and just a little bit later my wife got up.

The hotel that we were staying in, The Premier Inn, was the assigned hotel for the marathon, so they were starting breakfast from six am. I’d planned on heading down for about 6:45 but my wife, evil woman that she is, dragged our boys out of bed too so they could come down with us. Twelve and fourteen year old boys want little enough to be dragged all over the country to stand at the side of various roads while their father puts himself through hardship (of his own choosing), but throw in a pre-seven am start and you’re going to see some real sulking going on. I on the other hand was more than a little excited.

Like a giddy child on Christmas morning. The breakfast area in the hotel was jammed with skinny people in shorts and lycra and rain jackets, mostly tucking into huge bowls of porridge (apart from the odd mentalist who was having a big fry). I on the other hand  tried to have almost the same breakfast as I did at the Amsterdam marathon as that seemed to work out nutrition wise. I had a quadruple espresso, a massive bowl of muesli and fruit and some toast with jam. Normally I would have had some wholegrain bread with peanut butter and banana rather than the (white) toast and jam but with my stomach still being a little iffy I was avoiding anything with too much fibre in it.

After breakfast it was back upstairs and the big decision of the day – what to wear? Normally for races I tend to wear as little as possible, but I remembered how miserable I was on my last long run in the rain, even with my jacket on. I hummed and hahed about it for a while longer before giving myself a little slap in the face and telling myself to man up. I was here to race, not out for an easy jog. No jacket, sleeves off, guns out, that’s how I roll. I got all my gear together, got my Garmin, my HRM and my Clip on and walked down towards the start line with my wife and son no. 2 (son no. 1 had jumped straight back into bed as apparently sleep was more important than seeing his father off, and to be fair, to a fourteen year old it is).

Walking down to the start line, which was only about two minutes walk from the hotel, the weather didn’t actually seem too bad. Sure it was wet and cold and any glimmer of sunlight seemed a faint and distant memory but at least it wasn’t windy. Or rather where we were standing, blocked by buildings all round wasn’t. As soon as we moved out into the street the wind appeared and the temperature dropped significantly. By that point though I really wasn’t bothered about the weather. I just wanted to get my warmup done and get the race started. We still had about forty minutes or so to kill though so there was a lot of jogging on the spot, short runs up and down the street and stretching.

Eventually though it was time to shed the extra layers of clothing and line up. There was no separate pens or start points for the various expected finish times, just some boards with times, so everyone was kind of jammed in together. There didn’t seem to be any pacers either which was a bit strange. I’ve been at relatively small half marathons which had pacers at them, and at Amsterdam there was pacers for every time from 3:00 up to 5:00

One of the most important things in a marathon, for me anyway, is the music I’m listening to. You’re going to be out there for a long time, or I am at least anyway, and some good music can really help the time fly by. In Amsterdam I went with two essential mixes (Fake Blood and Felix Da Housecat) and then some Rocky soundtrack stuff to get me across the line. This time though I wanted to use my own selection so had spent about an hour yesterday putting together a rock/metal-centric playlist, with some dance and hip-hop thrown in, as well as the obligatory Rocky 4 montage stuff and Gonna Fly Now.

The combination of brilliant song after brilliant song popping up to surprise me and just the thrill of running a marathon had me grinning like a loon for the first half of the race. I’m not quite sure what it is about them but I just kept on thinking over and over in my head “I love running marathons”. I know it’s easy to say that at the start of one, and to be fair I’ve only run two so far, but there’s just something about them that I love. For all that I love running trails there’s something to be said for running through the streets of a city, with everything closed off and diverted for you. Running with that many people, with crowds lining the streets, is something that I don’t think is going to get old in a hurry either. As well as that I love that you’re out there running for half an hour, an hour, ninety minutes, clocking up five, ten, fifteen, twenty kilometres, and you’re still not even at the halfway point. It’s a bit silly and ludicrous but it always makes me laugh.

The first part of the race was very uneventful. I was running at a nice steady pace, feeling really good and just enjoying the run and the music I’d picked. My only real concern actually was keeping my pace down when certain songs came on. I was hoping to maintain a pace of around 6:10 mins/km, which would have brought me in at 4:20, but Queens of the Stone Age or Faith No More or something similar would come on my playlist and I’d find myself running at around 5:30. I knew I’d pay for it later but I was enjoying it so what the hell.

At about the 10km mark things became a little more memorable however as the route took us down the Falls Road. It was a bit surreal to be running past houses with the various murals that I’d only ever seen on the news before. It was particularly surreal to be looking up at the famous Bobby Sands mural as I had Eye of the Tiger blasting on my Clip. Not long after that, at the 12km mark, the route started to climb, and continued to do so for the next 12 kilometres. It wasn’t particuarly steep, just a slow, steady climb, and I love running uphill anyway, so I was able to keep my pace ticking over at around 6mins/km. I hit the halfway point at 2:05:37, which was well ahead of schedule and meant that not only was a negative split out of the question, but as I thought earlier on, I was definitely going to pay for it in the second half of the race.

When I passed the halfway marker of the race it was as if someone had flicked a switch and my legs were replaced by ones about two stone heavier. Where before everything had been effortless now the last couple of kilometres of climbing became a little bit of a grind. What really didn’t help matters was the weather really deteriorating. As I said earlier, it had been wet and cold all morning, but thankfully not too windy (for the most part). The wind had begun to really pick up, which meant that it felt far colder, and the rain which had also gotten considerably heavier, was now being blown into my face.

I’d passed a water station not long beforehand that was also giving out cups of Powerade (blue, my favourite!) but noticed that the ground was scattered with nearly full bottles of it. No one was giving out bottles when I was going past, just poxy paper cups, and I was dying for a bottle of it. I’ve bonked or slowed right down in plenty of races before, and knew I’d be absolutely craving some calories towards the end, and it felt like all these almost full bottles of my favourite energy drink were calling out to me, so I just thought fuck it, and grabbed the fullest one I saw off the road.

At the 23km mark there was two kilometres of pretty steep downhill which had my quads absolutely burning. The burning in my quads though was soon the least of my concerns as the route took a turn out of the city and spat us out on to a path running along Belfast Lough. There was a collective groan from almost everyone as the sight that greeted us was massive grey waves, crashing off rocks just to our left and the spray from those combined with the increasingly heavy, icy sharp rain which was now being blown horizontally at us. I couldn’t even see how far I was going to have to run along this path as it was impossible to look up or straight ahead with the rain and spray in my eyes. For the first time I was beginning to regret my choice of sleeveless top as my left arm was being frozen solid. My left hand was clenched in a fist and I wasn’t even able to open it out. There was no point getting down about it though, and all around me people seemed to be even more miserable and suffering more than I was, so I just put my head down and tried to push on as quick as I could and get off this sodden, godforsaken path.

Eventually the route turned back into town once more but my efforts along the path, as well as the cumulative efforts of the race were really starting to take their toll by this point. Since I passed the halfway point in 2:05 I’d reappraised my initial target of 4:20. There was a slight, slight chance of cracking four hours, but I knew if I was to do that I needed to get to the 32km mark at three hours, which would leave me an hour to do ten kilometres, which I knew I’d be able to do no matter how much I was hurting, if I had the carrot of a sub four hour finish in front of me anyway. The thought of that, and my desire to get away from the lough path, was what had been driving me on for the last seven or eight kilometres. I was scared to look at my Garmin though, just in case I wasn’t quite close enough, and so I waited until I got to the 20 mile marker (32km).

When I did I saw that I was at 3:05, and the disappointment coursed through me, draining what little energy I had left. Now I had no real target, nothing to aim for, my legs ached and burned, my stomach felt like crap and all I could think about was getting this over with. I still had ten kilometres to go though and what not long ago felt like “ten kilometres? That’s a 10k, that’s a piece of piss, you never run as short as 10k any more, you’ll do that in your sleep” turned into “forty two kilometres, thats how long it really is, and you’ve only done thirty two. There’s at least an hour to go and you can barely move. How the hell are you going to keep going for another hour?”. I tried to forget about time and distance and just keep plodding along but just about every thought in my mind now was a negative one. I kept on looking for an excuse to stop, looking for a building or something that I could go behind for a toilet break, water stations, just any reason to stop running.

For the next three or four kilometres I just zoned out, trying to clear my mind, not thinking about anything, not looking at anything, just one foot in front of the other and keeping going. I was snapped out of it however by someone shouting my name, and when I looked back I saw one of the guys I work with, who’s wife was running the marathon too. I just about managed to give him a thumbs up and then returned to my plodding. We were right back into the city now and the route was constantly zig-zagging, turning through junctions and different streets so it was hard to settle into a rhythm and zone out. It’s also hard to really remember too much about it now, even though just a few days have passed. Your mind has an amazing ability to wipe out horrible memories and the really tough parts of things like this, which is definitely a good thing, otherwise you’d never go back to do them again. I just remember miles 21 – 24 being among the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. Physically I was really hurting and I had a whole host of voices in my head shouting at me to stop and try as much as I did to continue a couple of times I did stop to walk for a hundred metres or so.

After stopping to walk just after the 24 mile I’d finally had enough of my nonsense and gave myself a bit of a talking to. Everyone, absolutely everyone, around me was hurting. Everyone was going through their own shit and I was not a unique and individual snowflake who was experiencing some sort of pain unheard of unknown to anyone else. I was running a fucking marathon, or at least was supposed to be running one, and if I pulled my finger out and stopped being such a little bitch I was going to do it in a far better time than I’d done before. There was a guy in front of me who’d joined a group of his friends who were running the marathon, all of whom seemed to be suffering at least as much as me, and he was coaxing and cajoling them and encouraging them to start running again. It might sound a bit silly but I really didn’t want him to have to encourage me so I started to run again, slowly at first, more a loping hobble than a run really, and as I did my left hamstring started to spasm. This was a new one to me but it wasn’t stopping me run so I just kept going.

After about half a kilometre or so I was getting back to something approaching a normal pace and had overtaken the group in front of me. I kept picking up the pace and all of a sudden the yards that had been crawling by were now really ticking along (funny how that can happen as you go quicker eh?). Before I knew it I’d passed the 25 mile marker, and then I only had a kilometre to go. Every negative thought that had been crowding my mind for the previous hour was now banished and I just kept pushing harder and harder. My legs were still burning, my lungs were now burning too and I was gasping for air but there was now way I was slowing down. I still couldn’t see the finish line but I knew it couldn’t be far and unlike numerous races I’ve run before after the inital adrenaline surge dissipated I didn’t slow down, I didn’t slow down, I just kept running faster and faster. Finally I could see the finish line a couple of hundred metres away and I put in one final kick and came over the line in 4:15:58, nineteen minutes quicker than I’d done in Amsterdam.

 

Day 127 – Nerdgasm

Posted: May 9, 2012 in May
Tags: , , ,

The weather forecast for this weekend in Belfast had looked ominous – dark, grey, wet and cold, but all weekend at home the sun had been out and so I’d almost forgotten all about it. Even driving up here the sun had been shining and while it hadn’t been warm it was at least dry. However, as Belfast began to draw nearer the weather began to get progressively worse, the sky darkened and some splashes of rain began to appear on the windscreen. We had one or two heavy showers just on the way in to Belfast but as we drove into the city centre the rain thankfully eased off.

We parked up beside City Hall, went in to collect my race pack, and then spent all of three or four minutes checking out the four stands on display at the expo. After a quick exploration of Belfast city centre we located our hotel, checked in before setting about the serious business of finding somewhere to eat that was suitable for (a) a pre-marathon meal (b) fussy kids and (c) that we could get in and out of before going to see The Avengers (I refuse to use that awful other name). Thankfully we found somewhere that (just about) fulfilled all three criteria ,so after disposing of dinner in record time we settled down to watch nigh on three hours of tiny alien specks being swatted out of the sky by wisecracking men in silly costumes (but not before a seemingly never ending special feature trailer for Prometheus, which of course was followed by the actual trailer for Prometheus).

Race Number

I managed to convince myself that it was ok to eat some pick’n’mix in the cinema seeing as it was mostly jellies and jellies are ok when you’re running a marathon. These were sugar coated monster jellies though and halfway through eating them I actually began to get heart palpitations, due I’m sure to a massive spike in my blood-sugar levels, so I pawned some of them off on my wife. After a disappointing evening of nerdery it was back to the hotel for a little bit of Match of the Day and then sleep. A bit of a run to do tomorrow you know.

This is very much like my various attempts at education. Start off really well, full of vim and vigour and enthusiasm and then slowly fall behind, leaving myself lots to catch up on, but not yet quite enough to catch up on that I start panicking and cram like crazy at the last minute. I’m talking about the blog mostly but also my swimming, or lack thereof.

Anyway, to summarise, training for the Belfast marathon had taken over and dominated to the extent that I was running five days a week, cycling one and swimming one. The six weeks of my training that I had missed with my calf injury had me worried about Belfast so I tried to compensate, and in general I was doing fine. Right up until my last long run. I had a 32 kilometre route to run that was also my last long run before Amsterdam last October. That run had turned into a bit of a nightmare with fading light, failing batteries on Garmin, mp3 player and light, all topped off with a very dodgy stomach which had me jumping over a ditch and becoming one with nature in a way I hadn’t done since a cider fuelled camping incident in my mid-teens.

This time round though things were going to be different. And you know what, they were. Different in so far as my stomach issues happened much earlier in the run, and instead of it getting dark I just had heavy rain to contend with. Still, at least I had plenty of battery in my Garmin and my Clip. So once again I was heading into a marathon with my last long run being a bit of a disaster. This time though I had the added bonus of a bout of gastroentiritis, which seemed to follow on from my stomach issues on the run, which had me missing two days of work, enduring stomach pain the likes of which I’ve honestly never encountered before, and caused me to miss a full weeks training.

Yep. I fell off the wagon. I’m not going to say I failed, because I didn’t fail. I tried my bloody hardest. Even when I came home from work on the monday, when I was shivering and cramping up I got on my bike and tried to train but any time I turned the pedal at anything more than glacial speed I had to slow right down again so I didn’t turn into Linda Blair in The Exorcist. I managed twenty minutes before almost falling off the bike and then stumbling upstairs into bed. It was a couple of days later before I got out of bed for anything other than (frequent) trips to the toilet but for another few days after that if I as much as attempted anything other than just walking my stomach tied itself in a knot and tried to force itself out through my duodenum.

Eventually after a week I could manage a swim, then a gentle jog, then a cycle but I still headed to Belfast last Sunday really unsure as to how I was going to be able to run at any sort of decent pace, never mind for 42.2 kilometres.

 

More running round the woods today (I really would be lost without them). Easy run up there, stop to do some dynamic stretching (which I don’t think looks quite so silly now I can wear shorts instead of my StupidSexyFlanders tights), before doing two quickish laps. It’s a few days now since I was up Croagh Patrick but I can still feel it a bit in my legs. Regardless, Major Lazer from Electric Picnic was on my Clip and that always puts a smile on my face and makes me run quicker than intended.

Two hard laps were done in 39:10 (anything under 20 minutes a lap is good) and I felt the best I had done in at least a week. Much, much better.

If I had realised this was day 100 I might have done something a little more memorable to mark the ocassion, like when Brock pulled that horseshoe out of Frank Mir’s arse. Instead I had one of my rubbish swims. Yay.

 

I need to do like the boys and Q-Tip say and just….

Despite the sore legs I’d been really looking forward to this run all week. Long slow runs rank just behind long trail runs as my favourite runs. Stick a couple of podcasts and a couple of mixes on my Clip and just head out for two or three hours with no particular target pace in mind. The plan today was to do about 26km, but I don’t have one big loop of that length so I headed up to the woods with the idea of doing as many laps as I needed.

The first few, or eight, kilometres were just about working the knots out of my legs. I often feel like crap for the first few kilometres and only start to loosen up around the eight kilometre mark. Today I felt particularly crap and didn’t loosen up after the eight kilometre mark. Or the ten, or the twelve. What’s going on here? Laps of the woods are usually a piece of piss, especially slow ones like this but today I’m struggling. Just coming towrds the end of my third lap I met my wife running towards me, which was quite a relief as it gave me an excuse to slow right down for a lap or two (and obviously it was great to see her, company, chat, yadda yadda yadda).

Even at wifey pace though my feet, knees and quads were all aching. I’d really underestimated how much my little jaunt up Croagh Patrick had taken out of my legs but I was glad of it. It was a real eye opener and a (not so) gentle reminder of what I’m going to have to get used to if I want to run any proper ultras. That being said, at the end of two laps with her she said she was heading for home and I said I’d follow her. The last kilometre was a real plod but overall it wasn’t such a bad run, despite my moaning. 22.2km, 2:11:59