Archive for August, 2012

Seeing as the spin we did over The Cut on Thursday was as close to the cycle for GFW as I was going to get around here (same distance as first bike leg, similar overall amount of climb and descent) I decided to bring Benny up there today to get some more preparation. While I had absolutely no doubt that Benny would get round the GFW course, despite his recent brush with face death, he hadn’t done a huge amount of cycling, only the spin we went on last week and that was pancake flat.

We followed the same route as I had on Thursday evening – park at the church in Rosenallis, easy few km’s out the road, then turn up The Cut. A big difference between today and Thursday was we were doing it at lunch time, as opposed to evening, and the sun was absolutely beating down on us. Another difference between now and then was on Thursday I didn’t have my Garmin with me, so was cycling along in blissful ignorance. Today I did and I was sitting there, sweating, looking at the numbers moving very slowly indeed. The chat between Benny and I had ground to a halt after about one kilometre of climbing and now the only sound coming from either of us was some slightly strained breathing.

The increased heat was definitely making a big difference today, but my legs felt nowhere near as fresh as they did on Thursday. Apart from one or two mini bursts to get ahead when there was a car or something coming I remained resolutely in the saddle, grinding away at a steady pace. Benny had no choice but to do that as due to the compact gearing on my cyclocross bike he was in the lowest gear almost immediately. This was cause for a little bit of concern for Benny, but I reckoned he’d be fine with it. He was managing this climb just fine, and there was nothing on the GFW course as long as this.

Both of us were hoping that the weather at GFW wouldn’t be quite as sunny as it was now. Any time the hedges fell away to leave us without shade climbing seemed to get a whole lot harder. With the sun bearing right down on us the air seemed that much thinner and hotter and felt like it was providing us with less and less fuel to get up that hill. Eventually though I saw the little memorial that meant we were only about a kilometre from the top, and a few minutes later, with one last effort to get up that sneaky bastard of a climb that hides just round the corner, we were there.

After a quick turnaround at the top it was time to practice descending. Well for me anyway. Benny’s descending consists of going hell for leather and not touching the brakes. The only thing he needs to practice is giving people a shout when he’s going past them and not frightening the shite out of his poor friends. We did manage to make it down to the bottom in one piece though and then it was back out on to the main road.

I noticed Benny’s pace had dropped a bit so, cogniscent of the fact that it wasn’t that long ago he was in hospital, asked how he was feeling. He replied that overall he was fine, but his stomach was “in bits from that fizzy Lucozade yack”. I had warned him about the potential issues in using that to fuel the ride, but only laughed and said “I told you so” a couple of times because I’m nice like that.

We turned to do the last section with the additional climb then, which seemed considerably steeper than on Thursday and which necessitated me just getting my head down and grinding. I got to the top and turned around to see Benny was nowhere near me. It took him a couple of minutes to catch up and when he did he looked like crap, which had me really worried. I asked again was he alright and his reply didn’t really reassure me – “had to puke a couple of times back there”. I was hoping that there wasn’t some hangover from his recent ailment but he put my mind at rest by blurting out “fucking fizzy yack” once more just before puking again, an amount of which I noticed went over my lovely bike.

To be fair to Benny, he’s an absolute trooper and barely stopped pedalling to rid his stomach of the aforementioned fucking fizzy yack. A couple more kilometres, and one slightly hairy descent, after that and we were done, back at the car and attempting to rinse Luco-puke of my bike. After today I knew that there was no way just getting round the GFW course was going to be an issue for Benny, and so did he. He’d passed his last test with flying colours, well flying orange stuff anyway, and now it was just a matter of gathering gear together and putting a plan in place.

Game on.

31.28km in 1:21:46

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After tri795 on Sunday Rory, Mark and myself arranged to meet on Thursday evening to go for a cycle up The Cut. None of us had the time to go for the full fat, cycle from Port over there, do The Cut, then cycle version so we arrange to meet in Rosenallis and go from there. I picked Rory up from his new lodgings in Port, strapped his bike to the back of the car along with my own and then set off to meet Mark who was waiting (and waiting) for us over there.

After arriving in Rosenallis we all set about a rigorous warm up regime, i.e. we stood about chatting for a few minutes while getting shoes, helmets etc on. Once we were all mounted up we set off at a very agreeable pace, a nice gentle preamble to the (potential) horrors that lay ahead. After about fifteen minutes of a leisurely cycle through the Laois countryside on what was a beautiful sunny evening we made a left turn onto the narrow road that winds its way up through the Sliabh Blooms, relentlessly climbing for a good 7.5km.

Thanks to the incline the pace wasn’t quite so leisurely any more, there was definitely some sweat being spilled, but it was still an agreeable pace. While none of us said we wanted to go at x km/h or y pace we were moving at a speed that suited all of us, no need for posturing or dick swinging here. Every now and again we’d put in a short burst, just twenty or thirty seconds but enough to get us out of the saddle, get the heart pumping and the legs burning. The time seemed to fly by and soon enough we were almost at the top, though there was time for one last little effort that turned out to be not quite as little as I thought.

After a brief pause to admire the view and provide some nourishment for the local insect population we remounted and turned around for the downward leg. I’ve struggled with steep descents in the past, notably at Gaelforce West last year, but here the road was dry, reasonably open and you could see for a decent stretch ahead, so the three of us just got to relax on the way down –  chin down, arse up, no pedalling, just let gravity do its job and pretend to be your favourite lycra clad leg shaver.

After a glorious 7.5km descent it was back out on to the main road for a stretch before turning off once more to take on a slightly more circuitous return route that would give us one more short but steep climb to tackle. After that it was plain sailing and just a few minutes more until we were back at the cars, legs nicely stretched and a good, hilly 32km under our collective belts.

 

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, one of my A races for this year is Gaelforce West. Wanting to do GFW is what started me doing all this running lark in the first place, and though I really enjoyed the race last year, and I was delighted to finish it, my over riding feeling was one of “could do better”. My belief that I had prepared myself sufficiently for the race, and in particular for Croagh Patrick (which I had semi-dismissed as just a big hill) was shattered on its rock strewn slopes and it very nearly got the better of me. If it wasn’t for the emergency can of coke and ham sandwich provided by my informal support crew I dread to think what sort of state I would have been in for the last part of the race.

So, with all that in mind, and with only twelve days to go to GFW 2012, I set out to do a dry run which admittedly was once again lacking in anything resembling Croagh Patrick, but had a principle aim of seeing how I was going to manage my nutrition and effort. I’ve never really raced using gels before – I grabbed one as an emergency measure towards the end of the Belfast Marathon and I used one at Race to Glory – but seeing as I was going to be out on the course at GFW for getting on for six hours I decided that they’d be the best option this time out. The GFW course is broken down as follows:

1 Stage 1: Beach, Trail and Road Run
You will get mucky and wet on the trail run.
13km
2 Stage 2: Kayaking across Killary Harbour 
Your feet will get wet unless you are very very careful!!
1km
3 Stage 3: Trail and Road Run
This section is running through a bog. You are definitely going to get mucky and wet.
3.5km
4 Stage 4: Cycling 
There are steep sections involved in this route. When descending the steep hills please do so slowly so as to avoid an accident. There are sharp corners and small country roads on the route.
33.5km
5 Stage 5: Mountain Run/Hike 
Croagh Patrick – the top section of this mountain has a lot of loose stones so please take care when on this section. There is a cut off time on the Reek – if you do not reach the transition here by 14.30, you will not be allowed to ascend and you will be short coursed back to Westport.
4.5km
6 Stage 6: Cycling 
Always obey the rules of the road. There is an off road trail section that is 2 km long here. Once you come off this there is a steep downhill section on a small road. Please take care on this section and watch out for traffic and fellow competitors.You will cycle on to the end of Westport quay where you will drop you bike and jog to the finish

I don’t have access to a Reek, and I wasn’t planning on doing a kayak stage, but my plan was to do a 32km cycle, followed by a 20+km run around the woods, wearing exactly the same gear I was going to be wearing for GFW, using the same kit, same gels, drinks etc. and also not using my Sansa Clip (not allowed in the race).

The bike section was pretty unremarkable. The route is relatively flat, flatter than what I’ll be doing for GFW anyway, and really just served to get some time in and to practice getting gels into me on the move, which I think I might need a bit more practice at as I ended up with some slightly sticky hands and handlebars. I took (ate/drank/?) my gel with about fifteen minutes left on the bike leg and then ate half a Powerbar, em, bar, which was essentially just a Snickers with added biscuit. I came into transition then (once more, the back of my house), changed my shoes, finished off my Powerade, then stuffed the other half of my Powerbar, em, bar into me and started running.

By the time I’d passed the Credit Union (about 200m) my legs were feeling fine, which can be credited I think to doing quite a few brick sessions, or at least going for a little run almost every time I get back from a cycle. Up into the woods  and straight away I settled into an easy rhythm, trying to make sure that my pace was a couple of minutes slower a lap than normal. It was a beautiful day, sunny but not too warm and apart from a bit of tightness in various spots in my left leg I felt great. The woods were as busy as I’d ever seen them with tons of people out taking advantage of the good weather while we had it so every couple of minutes I was passing people, giving me a chance to work on my various running nods and salutes.

The first lap went by in 21:34, which was a little bit quicker than I wanted to go but I was keeping my heart rate right where I wanted (between 150bpm and 160). The second lap was a smidgeon slower but again my heart rate was staying nice and steady. By this stage most of the people I’d passed (some of them a couple of times, one couple three times) had left, which was a bit of a relief as I was really running out of ways to greet people or at least acknowledge them. By the third lap I’m not even sure if there were other people there as I’d really zoned out by this stage. Halfway round the second lap I had another gel, which was a little easier to consume on the run but still left me with horrible sticky fingers.

I’m not sure what other people think about when they run for longer distances or periods of time. I know a lot of people who are just starting running say they get bored and wonder how you deal with it as the distances get longer. Personally I don’t really think about anything. At all. Sometimes I’ll get a phrase stuck in my head and I end up just repeating it over and over, with slight variations, for kilometres at a time. Other times I’m just running and thinking, in the very loosest sense, about my breathing. Maybe that’s why I like running so much. I really, really struggle to clear my head at any other time and can often be quite neurotic about things, just running them over and over in my head, working through a million and one different eventualities and resolutions and responses. When I run long enough though there’s none of that, just peace and serenity (like my dad I’m a big fan of serenity).

Before I knew it laps three and four were done and everything was still going swimmingly. My feet were a little bit hot and sore but apart from that I felt fine. My pace had dropped a little, but so had my heart rate so effort expended was still roughly the same. As usual when I was coming towards the end of a run and still feeling good I started to think about going further, especially as I’d only taken my last gel at the start of the fourth lap, but told myself to be sensible. I was less than two weeks out from one of my biggest races of the year, there was no point in jeopardising that for the sake of a few extra kilometres. I finished the lap and turned left out of the woods, heading for home.

Just as I did that, despite the fact that the sun was still shining brightly, it started to rain. A little drizzle at first before getting quite heavy within the space of a couple of minutes. That really got me thinking about running further as I wanted to have myself prepared for the eventuality of it being miserable on the day of GFW but I wasn’t that far from home now and I’d passed 22km, which was right about what I wanted to do. Any longer and I’d be risking wearing or breaking stuff down that wouldn’t be recovered in time for the race. I got home not long after that and within two seconds realised going any longer would have been a really bad idea. As soon as I stopped I was sore, tired and hungry but absolutely delighted with the day’s work. Less than two weeks to go and I was in a far, far better place than this time last year and (hopefully) on course to knock an hour off last year’s time.

 

Bike: 32.56km – 1:09:06

Run: 23.10km – 2:17:05

+

The club session on a Monday night is one of my favourites, a long slow run round the trails in Emo Court. Seeing as it’s only out the road from me, and I really need to get some more miles on the bike in, I decided to cycle out there, do the run and then cycle back. Naturally as soon as I decided to cycle the good weather of the last few days disappeared and it started to drizzle rain. By the time I was a kilometre out the road the drizzle had become insistent and while not a heavy downpour it was making for a very ‘soft’ evening.

I’d been on the bike for about fifteen minutes when I realised, once again, that I’d underestimated quite how far I was going. I thought that Emo Court was 9km away, and so I really should have been there by now, but there was still a bit to go. When I pulled up in the car park, 31.5 minutes after leaving home, I checked my Garmin to find I’d just done 14km, not the 9 I initially though. I’m not sure whether it was because I was a few minutes late, or whether it was just that it was a manky evening and no one was there anyway, but there was no sign of anyone else from the club in the car park. There was no point in hanging around, or wasting the cycle out there, so I got on with it and got my run in anyway.

Usually I have other people to follow on the warren of trails all around Emo Court so I generally don’t take a huge amount of notice of which way I’m going. So with only a vague idea of where I was going, and a terrible sense of direction firmly tucked in my back pocket, I set off and tried to keep Emo Court itself in view. Naturally I managed to get a little bit lost but eventually I managed to make my way back to the car park clocking up exactly 7km in 37:45.

I hopped back on my bike then for the homeward leg and right on cue the heavens opened and it started to properly rain. I was feeling pretty tired on the way home but tried to push on as hard as I could. The last few kilometres in particular I found a real struggle but I gritted my teeth and, in the words of my good friend and neighbour Benny, managed to grind it out. To round off a cold, soggy evening I thought it was only appropriate then to treat myself to ten minutes in a nice cold bath.

Lovely.

Bike 1 – 13.87km 31:32

Run – 7km 37:45

Bike 2 – 32:43

If yesterday was a nice change from the norm today was a definite return to type – a long, long slow run. Quite incredibly the weather had held up for more than a few hours and I was up nice and early to make the most of it. Some coffee, a big bowl of porridge, some new podcasts on my Clip and then out the door and heading for bandit country. The loop I had planned for today was Bracknagh, Portarlington and back home, each leg of which was about 7km, all on nice, quiet, pan flat roads. A couple of times before on my really long runs I got very tired/thirsty/hungry so even though this wasn’t going to be that long a run I still brought €2 with me so I could stop in Port and grab a drink, which also meant I didn’t have to bother with the inconvenience of carrying a drink with me.

I headed for Bracknagh first, keeping a nice, steady pace of about 6mins/km. The running was really easy and I was just enjoying being out on my own in the countryside, on a glorious morning, with the dulcet tones of Joey Diaz tickling my eardrums. Even the swarm of bogflies that decided to accompany me for a couple of kilometres couldn’t dampen my mood, though they did make me glad I’d worn a hat which stopped them getting overly easy access to my lovely dome.

While running through Bracknagh I did think it was a little odd that I’d now clocked up 9km rather than 7, and then seeing a sign saying “Portarlington 9km” did make me think I’d slightly miscalculated when plotting my route. Still, not much that could be done about it now apart from carry on putting one foot in front of the other, which for the last few kilometres had been coming much easier and I was now ticking along quite nicely. At about the 14km mark I began to get the first rumblings of hunger from my stomach, which usually causes quite a downturn in my mood. Now though, with the coin I had safely stashed away and shops only a few kilometres further up ahead I knew that there was absolutely nothing to worry about. For the remainder of the distance into Port I seemed to get into a semi-trance state, where I was vaguely focused on the yellow line in front of me, plodding along, not thinking about anything or even really feeling much. It was great to be able to do this because I know when I’m running London to Brighton I’m going to be out there for up to twelve hours and I’ll need to be able to zone out like this for long stretches at a time.

Running up through Port I snapped back to attention and began thinking about what I could get for my €2. When I thought I was just going to be running 21km all I wanted was a bottle of Powerade, but with the extra distance I knew I needed something solid in my stomach. I popped into a garage just about on the way back out of town and spent a few minutes pondering different combinations before going for a slightly left field choice of chocolate milk and a banana. I’m not the biggest fan of chocolate in the world but I’d heard lots of people recommending chocolate milk as a good post workout drink due to the combination of carbs and protein. I had some misgivings about how it was going to sit in my stomach but I soon forgot about that and necked almost the whole bottle in one go. I hadn’t realised quite how thirsty I was but I was parched. I sat outside the garage in the sun for a minute, finishing my drink and banana, happy as a pig in shit and thoroughly looking forward to the last leg of my run.

I’d gone through two Beauty and da Beast podcasts at this stage, and much as I love Joey Diaz my ears deserved a bit of a break. Just in case my legs started to tire a bit I decided to stick on some music for a change, and with the day that was in it I though some reggae might do the trick. Well, a little bit of reggae anyway, followed by some dub, some beats, some some breaks, some metal, i.e. some Major Lazer (the Diplo and Switch back to back Essential Mix to be precise). On my way out of Port then I noticed to my complete lack of surprise a sign saying “Monasterevin 9km”, so each of the legs were in fact 9km. God only knows where I got the 7km from.

Anyway, though my legs were starting to hurt a little bit at this stage the kilometres were ticking away and I was enjoying the run as much as I did at the start. Soon enough I’d crossed the bridge which marked the point where you enter proper bog territory and from there it’s only about 4km home. Not long afterwards I was surprised to see my wife drive past me, until I remembered that I’d arranged to pop into the house on my way past at about the two hour mark and pick her up to do a few km’s together. I’d obviously been out for a bit longer than that with the extra, previously unaccounted for, distance and bearing in mind my problems on very long runs before she’d popped out to see if I wanted collecting. Feeling fantastic I instead sent her on her way, and having dispensed of her services also discarded my t-shirt (which in my defence was starting to chafe), and then ran the home stretch in rare, glorious sunshine in as little clothing as decency would allow.

27.5km in 2:48:55

With quite a busy evening ahead – important championship match for Son no. 1, BBBQ after that to celebrate the end of the tag rugby league – I thought I wouldn’t have time to get a run or cycle in. I had about forty minutes to spare though so decided to make the most of what was a rare beautiful evening (anyway, not every run has to be 90 minutes+). I picked out a 5km loop around town and decided to do 1km warm up, then alternate 500m hard (4mins/km) with 500m easy (6mins/km).

It’s funny how 500m can feel like an eternity when you’re pushing hard, but then feel like time is just flying away when you’re trying to make it last. I kept to my targets for each of the splits and rolled in the door a little less than 26 minutes later pretty tired, covered in sweat but feeling absolutely fantastic. I so rarely go out and run ‘hard’, generally doing longer, slower stuff but it felt great to do something short and fast for a change.