Archive for April, 2014

For anyone wondering how to get to Naas Parkrun, at Naas Racecourse, do not do the ‘logical’ thing and head to the entrance of the racecourse. There you will just find a locked gate and an air of confusion settling upon you. You may be able to see some neon and lycra clad people milling around in the distance but you won’t have any clue as to how to join them. Unless of course you check the Naas Parkrun website before you set off, in which case you’ll find directions as to how to get there via the Tipper Road entrance.

We had spent a good twenty minutes milling around with no clue as to how to get to the start before eventually checking the website which finally saw us pull up and park at about 09:29, giving us plenty of time to prepare for a 09:30 start time. Things got worse when one of the very nice stewards told us it was about a ten minute walk to the start line, but she kindly rang the start line steward and asked them to wait for us (see I told you she was very nice). At least the distance to the start line gave us a bit of a chance to warm up before attempting to run my first 5k in approximately two years.

We got to the start line and offered a quick apology to the poor punctual souls who were gathered huddled together on a very windy, drizzly grey morning, among them my old Wyeth chum “Inappropriate” Gavin Scott and his longtime ladyfriend/relatively new wife Sue, who were also popping their Parkrun cherry. No sooner had we turned around and we were off. I’d had no time really to strategise or think about the run, instead I just went tearing off at a pace befitting the only guy there wearing a singlet and short shorts. The guys who eventually finished one and two disappeared off into the distance immediately, another small group of seven or eight were behind that and then there was me at the head of another group, drunk on the feeling of being so close to the front of a race and ignoring the nagging suspicion that yet again I’d set off a bit too quickly.

The course in Naas is two and a half laps of a smooth ribbon of nearly flat tarmac, the only obstacle to take into consideration on Saturday at least was the wind. The first kilometre was into the wind but the retarding nature of it was negated by the start line excitement. The second kilometre was fantastic, wind at my back, running effortlessly and any time I felt the breath of my fellow runner who was just behind me encroaching I just upped the pace ever so slightly to put a little bit more of a gap between us. At three kilometres though he was still right on me, and surging ahead wasn’t so much of an option now into the wind and my legs starting to question what the hell they were doing turning over at this pace. The fourth kilometre was the wind assisted one again but unfortunately it didn’t feel quite so effortless this time and I started to get the nagging voices that affect me far more in short races than they ever do in a marathon.

The fifth and final kilometre was once more into the wind, and the rain which had picked up, and as the breathing behind me got ever closer, then right alongside me, I just didn’t have the will to respond. With about five hundred metres to go he passed me, a hundred later the first lady finisher passed me and I just stayed trudging at the same pace to the end. I’m a bit annoyed again by my lackadaisical finishing. The lack of speed or any sort of different gear to kick into I’m not so bothered by – I’ve done the vast majority of my training at marathon/easy pace – but the desire to finish hard and willingness to hurt bothers me a bit. Maybe it’s something that’ll come with more hard training sessions – tempo runs, intervals and reps. Maybe it’s something I just need to work on in my own head. I’ve done it relatively recently, at the Donadea 10k I definitely ran faster than schedule and was in a world of hurt for the last two kilometres of that so maybe I just need to repeat the mental preparation I did for that.

Or maybe it’s just a 5k (semi) fun run a week before my first marathon of the year and I’m overthinking it way too much.

 

5k in 21:27 (PB) and I finished 12th! 12th! I know it’s not the Olympics or anything but I’ve never finished a race of any sort with that few people in front of me so yeah, 12th!

PS – my Parkrun time said 21:37 but there was definitely a delay crossing the line, handing over my barcode, getting a different barcode and getting it scanned so for once I’m going with my Garmin time.

Brid ran 32:43, a full two minutes ahead of her 5k time she’d set just a couple of days beforehand. Gavin ran alongside her for a bit before snaking ahead in the last two hundred metres to finish in 32:33 and Sue ran an excellent 25:25 (before having to wait around in the wind and rain for her husband to finish).

 

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I’d like to start by firstly blaming my wife. Brid went to the pub last night with a couple of cronies and as old age and motherhood has negated what little ability they used to have to drink she had to pick up the slack. As such that meant she was a little later home from the pub than I expected, which in turn meant I drank more of the wine I had opened than originally planned. This of course blunted my performance somewhat.

Secondly I’d like to blame the weather. Bank holidays in Ireland are meant to be miserable affairs, raincoat clad children grumbling at their parents for being forced to endure local festivities or parades, or more commonplace nowadays being forced to stand at the side of roads and cheer on their mother and/or father in some semi-athletic pursuit. This weekend we got blue skies, glorious sunshine and some actual warm weather. Obviously us Irish aren’t meant for running in this heat, though it did give me the chance to try out my (almost) string vest and split-shorts combo ahead of Hamburg. Alas, as I was alone I had no photographers on hand to capture this stunning ensemble but just think mid-eighties Jerry Kiernan, minus the glorious mullet unfortunately.

Thirdly I’d like to blame the conditions underfoot. The majority of the course was covered in a layer of surprisingly spongy gravel which seemed to sap the energy and what little speed I may have.

These were the excuses I was coming up with as I ran the Good Friday Emo 8k, excuses I was cycling through from about the 1 mile mark onwards. Whatever the reasons I just didn’t have the desire in me to push hard and after a decent first mile, which may have been a bit too quick, I got slightly but progressively slower as the race progressed. It was only with about a kilometre to go when one of the marshals Wes Reilly, who to be fair to him knows a thing or two about putting himself through some hurt, shouted at me to pick it up that I started really moving again. With a couple of hundred metres to go I could hear, and almost feel, the breath of someone trying to catch me from behind which kept me moving. Shortly after that I heard the voice of one Bill Devereux, St. Michael’s AC underage coach, Veteran sprinter and father of my Hamburg Marathon brother in arms, shouting encouragement and as if from nowhere I turned it on and sprinted the hundred and fifty or so metres to the line.

I was really disappointed with my run, disgusted almost when Bill came over to talk to me. I mentioned my race at the K-Club the previous Saturday and he pointed out I was probably expecting a bit too much just six days removed from that. When I added that I’d done a twenty miler then on Sunday he just laughed and I realised I was maybe being a bit harsh on myself. I am disappointed that I didn’t push myself harder but apart from that I suppose I should be happy enough with the run. It’s about managing expectations really, getting your head right before you race and not being unrealistic. Plus it’s the first time I’ve ever ran a  five mile race (8k) so if nothing else it’s a PB.

8k in 35:32

 

Quick edit just to say (whinging aside) it was a cracking race put on by St. Michael’s AC,  and a great turnout.

Today was one of those days when everything just felt easy. Suspiciously easy almost. 20 miles clocked and it just felt fantastic. I probably went a bit too quick for a LSR (long slow run) but I just felt great. I was expecting to feel a bit tired after the K-Club 10k yesterday but I felt positively sprightly, right from the off.

Normally if I’m going for the long run by myself I’ll listen to a Joe Rogan podcast as it’s really the only chance I get to listen to a three hour podcast nowadays but an hour in and there wasn’t much more I could take about shamanic journeys, ayahuasca or forty year old man-childs so I went for some music instead. I stopped listening to music while running as I found it dictated mood or pace a little too much but after today I think I may reintroduce it on occasion. I stuck on Television – Marquee Moon (the album) as I was cutting across to Killenard  and as luck would have it Marquee Moon (the song) started just as I was starting up the hill on the way into Killenard, bringing memories of that hill and subsequent view in Clonakilty rushing back. The memories that came back weren’t just mental, everything that I was feeling in Clonakilty as I crested that hill came rushing back through me and I felt the most glorious mix of energy, elation, satisfaction, optimism and just general well being as I just flew up the hill.

I’ve ran this route loads of late with Paul and Mark and going up this hill I’m at best managing it, at worst dragging arse but today I’m laughing and skipping up it, having to tell myself to calm down and take it easy, there’s still another 20k to go. I really tried to keep the pace controlled and sedate but after a while I just thought “what the hell?” and ran as I felt. Running is meant to be fun, it’s meant to be enjoyable and not always about pace or time or mileage. This kind of day, where everything feels effortless, doesn’t come around too often so why not just enjoy it while I can?

I passed the point where two weeks ago I had to tell the lads to carry on without me while I shuffled along, today I was flying along, a minute a kilometre quicker and sprinting up hills just because I was feeling great (also because I was listening to Mastodon at this point).

At the 24k mark I called in home for some water and a gel (up to this point my only ‘fuel’ was a buttered coffee) and went back out for another 8k, expecting to slow down considerably. Except I didn’t. The pace remained the same, I kept feeling good and I could have, and would have liked to, kept going but sensible head time. I’m three weeks out from Hamburg marathon, I do not need to leave my race out here on the roads three weeks out, then spend the time I should be tapering just recovering. Nope, training is done now, the miles are clocked and what’s done is done. I was planning on doing the Sliabh Bloom half marathon on Easter Sunday but there’s no need now. I’m as ready as I’m going to be. Taper, rest, sleep, eat properly, hydrate.

 

Oh and obviously figure out what exactly I’m going to wear for the marathon.

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

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

Still wondering if I'd chosen the right attire

Still wondering if I’d chosen the right attire

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

Ready, Steady...

Ready, Steady…

 

.... Go

…. Go

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

A study in serenity (trying to ignore the pain)

A study in serenity (trying to ignore the pain)

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Brid at Tri-Laois

Brid at Tri-Laois

 

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

1 race (Bohermeen half marathon)

1 PB (see above)

My longest ever training run – 21 miles

An 18, 20 and a 21 miler

253 km total in 16 sessions.

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

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