Archive for February, 2014

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.


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.


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