Archive for the ‘July’ Category

I’ve a couple of races coming up soon so I suppose I should resurrect this!

Status Update: One year on from Race to Glory 2012 and I’m probably a stone heavier, nowhere near as fit, definitely slower and there’s been an unwelcome, and certainly uncalled for, redistribution of hair from my head to my torso. The only saving grace is that I might, might be a little bit better on the bike than this time last year (or maybe its just that I have a better bike). So far this year I’ve managed one race (as opposed to a half dozen or so at the same stage last year) and have wasted at least a couple of hundred quid on race entries that I haven’t used.

I don’t want to fib or claim that I haven’t trained at all this year, I have, but very sporadically, and with no real structure or enthusiasm. That was right up to about two weeks ago when my enthusiasm and training mojo emerged from a winter hibernation that would embarrass even the most slovenly bear. I still have no real structure in place but I’ve definitely rediscovered my love for self inflicted, training related pain – hill repeats on the bike in the teeming rain, epic cross country slogs that see me cross fields, climb hills, grow multi-layered blisters, hack my way through undergrowth that makes Cambodia look like Kansas and narrowly avoid disembowelling by angry horses – and all the while trying to forget that at the moment I look like a poorly stuffed sausage in my tri gear.

Oh yeah, triathlons. Still trying to do that but still, to quote a Transylvanian chum of mine, still sinking faster than Cuba Gooding’s film career.

 

 

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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.

Due to ouselves and our nemeses the Ballyroan Jagerbombers being utterly deadlocked in our tag league we had to play off against them tonight, minus our inspirational captain Bennie, as well as John, Orla and my own good wife. We got a few ringers in, who turned out to be quite decent players, and though we scored a few tries, we got girl try crazy far too early, and were only slightly short of shambolic at the back. As 2012 Naas Tag League MVP Gavin Scott will tell you, it’s defences that win games, and ours just wasn’t up to scratch tonight.

To give my legs a bit of a break I was heading over swimming tonight and bringing Son no. 2 with me. Just as I was about to get into the car however I saw Benny’s car crawling around the side of the house with the slumped figure of someone who looked vaguely like our friend and neighbour at the wheel. As he came alongside he rolled down the window and when I asked him what was up he replied that he was heading to Naas Hospital. Now I’m not (really) a doctor, but I could tell that Benny was in no state to be driving a car, so I transferred him from his to mine and sent Son no. 2 back inside.

If the fact that he hadn’t objected to my intervention wasn’t a clear enough sign that all wasn’t right in Benny World then him slumping forward as soon as he got into my car, putting his head in his hands and only moving from this position ever so briefly to turn the radio down, surely was. On arrival at Naas Hospital I pulled up right at A&E and let Benny out so I could get somewhere to park. Judging by the looks on the faces of the two gentlemen enjoying a cigarette right at the entrance as they looked at Benny shambling and shuffling his way inside, and then turned to glare at me, I think they thought they were in one of them Hollywood films like, with your man after dumping this fella on the hospital doorstep. I managed to dump my car across the road and ran back inside to find Benny in almost exactly the same position as before, but just transplanted into a grotty hospital waiting room.

With my phone almost dead, and only some horrible car park gardening program on the tiny tv tottering over the waiting room for ‘amusement’, I tried to make the most of the evening by working on my mental fortitude ahead of Gaelforce and London to Brighton and attempting to zone out completely. I’m not sure how long I managed this for, so I must have been at least partially successful, but some time later a nurse called Benny’s name and he was finally being seen to. After twenty or so minutes I was called in to see the patient, who was lying down in a darkened cubicle, now with just one hand delicately pressed to his temple like a bearded Gloria Swanson. He was being kept in overnight so I left him there in the caring embrace of Naas Hospital’s finest and returned home to my abandoned son.

 

After my exertions at Race to Glory the plan is for a week’s recovery, then into three weeks hard training for Gaelforce West. Last year, my first attempt at it, I managed to complete it in 6:36. This year I’m aiming to get down to around the 5:30 mark, which is a big chunk of time off last year’s, but an achievable target (I think).

The usual Trilogy training session on a Monday night is an easy paced, 10-12km run around Emo Court, which was perfect for what I wanted to achieve. When I pulled up to the car park at Emo Court there were already a few people there, which made a bit of a change from previous weeks where there had only been one or two others. After a couple of minutes waiting to see if anyone else was coming the six of us that were there set off. The last few times I’d run here we usually stuck to the trails around the grounds, but this time set out on the road that went around the perimeter of the court. The group of six pretty quickly split in two with Rory, Kieran and Andy pushing on ahead, Dave, Trish and myself taking it a little easier behind.

It was a really sticky evening, which made me instantly regret grabbing the first compression top which came to hand – a long sleeved, high necked, Under Armour Cold Gear top. I had a little nippular problem after Race to Glory so made sure to wear a compression top tonight, but in my haste to get out the door after just getting home from work in time, I didn’t pay any heed to which one I was picking up. Within five strides I was sweating like an 80’s jogger wrapped in refuse sacks and legwarmers, and the swarms of bloodthirsty flies out for dinner weren’t helping things. Still, the running itself was nice and comfortable,  and though (quite surprisingly) I didn’t really have any aches, pains or even any stiffness after Race to Glory it was good to preempt it and get the old body moving again. 10km in around 55 minutes.

 

I was down at the start point of the race about two hours before we were due to go off, just hanging around, stretching, warming up and chatting to some of the other competitors. One of the things I loved about Race to Glory last year was the atmosphere, how friendly everyone was despite the fact that there was some serious racing going on, and the incredible support from seemingly everyone in the town and surrounding countryside. At a lot of races you see so many of the ‘top guys’ and they’re so po faced and serious, here everyone’s mingling and mixing and there’s absolutely no airs and graces.

After bonking so badly at Race to Glory last year I wanted to make sure I had sufficient energy stores this time round. To that end I spent most of yesterday shovelling an assortment of carbs down my throat, topiing it off this morning with a huge bowl of meusli and four slices of toast with jam. An hour before the race I followed that with a banana and a bottle of Lucozade Sport and I was quite literally full to the brim. After a quick trip to rid myself of some excess carbs (I wasn’t joking when I said I was literally full to the brim) it was time to make my way to the start line. Then it was time for a few quick words from Race Director and organiser Brendan Mooney and we were off.

Whereas last year I was trying to just make it to the finish, this year I had some definite goals in mind. Last year’s time was 2:57:28, with splits of 1:03:30 (run 1), 1:11:49 (cycle) and 42:10 (run 2). The target for this year was 2:30, which broke down roughly as 52 (run 1), 58 (cycle) and 35 (run 2), which left me with a minute or so contingency for each stage and a minute for each transition. It was a pretty optimistic schedule, but one that I felt was just about achievable (plus I really like nice, round numbers).

Asshole Shades

I figured that I should be able to average 5mins/km for the first run, it was only a 10k after all, even if it did have a bit of a hill, and some bog to navigate in it. The first 2km were going exactly to plan, running about 4:30/km and feeling really strong. The field had split up quite a lot, with the really strong guys (and girls) disappearing off into the distance, and quite a lot of the rest of the field behind me. Even at this early stage of the race there wasn’t a very big crowd around me though. Maybe they could sense an imminent explosion from my churning guts?

Unlike last year when I thought that my laps around Moore Abbey woods had prepared me for Spankers’ Hill this time round I knew exactly what was in store. Take it easy going up the first part of the hill, that’s not the real climb at all, then once you get round the corner and the properly steep part starts just get into your rhythm, nice short strides, quick turnover, keep chugging away, oh shit I’m stopping again aren’t I? Despite spending months running up and down every hill in Tramore, managing a half marathon through the Gap of Dunloe and just two weeks ago managing 1250m of climbing in the Wicklow mountains this bastard of a hill had once again bested me. Admittedly it was getting pretty warm by this stage, and I was about seven months pregnant with a 10lb carbohydrate baby, but I was still a bit miffed that I’d stopped running. I translated this annoyance into effort though and set about hiking as quick as I possibly could up the hill and getting it over with. It probably wasn’t such a bad plan of attack as I managed to maintain a pretty decent pace and was passing most of the people going up at the same time.

Once I got to the top and it was time to start running again I had to deal with some minor protestation from my legs. However, I wasn’t about to let all the people I’d just passed on the way up overtake me again so I pressed them into action and tried to get back to the kind of pace I was doing back at the start line. Once I did manage to start running again I had to deal with the carb bloated stomach, which was now way, way worse than before and (I felt) possibly approaching crisis point. One of three things was going to happen (1) my stomach was going to settle itself eventually (2) the excess material churning around my stomach was going to make its way out the way it had entered or (3) food that had finished its journey through the digestive process was going to make its own, more natural way out. At this point I was actually hoping that number 2 was going to happen, so I could just puke and get this over with, but despite some forceful belches it was still some distance from happening. Thankfully I was about to hit the next part of the run, the bog, which would serve a dual purpose of slowing me down enough to stop the churning, and also give me something to focus on other than the state of my insides.

Last year almost as soon as I hit the bog section I was walking, but this year I managed to run the entire section, despite some very sticky moments. When I got out though as well as having sopping wet, peat caked runners, my legs felt so, so heavy from having to drag them up and out of the soggy bog over and over again. There was no respite though as almost immediately I had to start into a very steep descent, 100% designed to smash  whatever life and feeling was left out of my poor aching legs. Padraig Marrey, who designed this course, may well be a very nice man, but there’s surely a large sadistic streak in anyone who would have you run that climb, followed by the bog, followed by that descent. Every single part of your legs are punished and tortured before you’re spat back out onto the main road and you’re heading back into transition to pick up your bike.

I was really making up for lost time on the descent at first. I’d got some life back in my legs and was able to just concentrate on keeping good form, picking my feet up and landing nice and light, as opposed to crashing and thudding my way down and burning out my quads. I had a lot of time to make up after the first part of the run and was doing a good job of it when I started to over think things, thinking about how much time I needed to make up got me thinking about how quick I needed to go got me thinking about how quick I was actually going which for whatever reason slowed me right down. A couple of people came back past me, seemingly just by throwing caution to the wind, so I stopped being such a little bitch and set off after them. Not long after the road leveled off (for almost a kilometre!) and then it was back in to T1 to pick my bike.

One of the ways I was hoping to make up a decent chunk of time this year was on the bike. Last year I wore bike shoes, which due to the separate transitions meant I had to carry my runners, plus there was the inevitable faffing round changing them. On top of that as soon as the road ramped up I, like almost everyone else around me, was off the bike and pushing it up the hill. In cleats. It was so bad that I stopped to put my runners back on, then thought better of it. Basically I had a bit of a mare on the bike. This time I was into T1, on with my helmet and asshole glasses, and heading back out on the course with minimal fuss.

Still conscious of bonking last year as soon as I was pedalling I started to guzzle Powerade. Just a few minutes ago my guts had been churning and I had thought there was no way I was going to use the gel I’d bought this morning but as soon as I started cycling everything settled down, so I decided to go for it. I’d only eaten/drank/slurped a gel once before, and that was a bit of an emergency measure during the Belfast Marathon, but I remember it being not unlike concentrated cough syrup. This one, though the flavour might have been slightly different, had the same consistency and was just as gank. I washed it down with some Powerade though and then set about getting a wiggle on.

The first 7km of the bike leg was relatively flat and on the main road so the plan was to go pretty steady and maintain around a 30km/h average, which I just about managed to do. After that there was Bastard Hill before 10km or so of rolling country lanes (and when I say country, I mean country, as in ‘grass down the middle of the lane and barely wide enough for one car country’). Last year I got a hell of a shock when I turned up the lane and started the climb but this year I was ready for it and going to….

Oh for God’s sake. Off the bike again. OK, well if I’m going to walk it there’s to be no dilly-dallying, so I set about pushing my bike up the hill as quick as I possibly could. I felt a little better when I saw the only two people who were still pedalling weren’t actually going any quicker than I was walking and before I knew it I was at the top of the hill, or at least where it levelled out. Last year it seemed to go on forever. Back on the bike then and it was time to make up some places. One by one I passed the few guys in front of me over the next few kilometres, even managing to pass one guy downhill while he was pedalling and I was freewheeling (some Tour de France style descending coming in handy). I did get passed by one guy (who I noted was on a full carbon Kuota tri bike) who I managed to stick with for quite a while, gaining on the climbs, then losing ground on the descents, until we got to the last of the really big descents, at which point I lost him.

King of the Mountain (In a Way)

Coming back on to the main road the route then differed slightly from last years, going straight ahead through a junction rather than turning left. I got passed by someone going through the junction, though I blame my wife who was standing there distracting me. That at least gave me someone to chase for the last few kilometres, all the way up to T2, which this year was a field, where we dumped our bikes.

Coming out of the gate at the end of the field I’d managed to catch the guy who’d passed me on the bike. I said hi to him passing and he mentioned that his legs felt like jelly. I was expecting mine to be similar but I wanted to look strong going past him so pushed on as soon as I hit the road and found to my surprise that they actually felt fine. I was running at a decent pace and just getting into a rhythm when I recognised the house on the river bank from last year. I didn’t remember it being quite so early in the run leg last year but here we were, about to jump into the river and wade a couple of hundred metres. The water wasn’t quite so deep at the spot where I entered, but as soon as I waded out into the middle it plunged to waist deep, and I couldn’t stifle my shriek of “my balls”, which I think was picked up by more than one or two of the watching audience on the river bank.

Last year I was thoroughly miserable slogging through the river, managing to fall twice and gash both knees. This time round I was able to have a bit of a laugh with some of the spectators before dragging myself out and hitting the road again. The good pace that I’d managed to set before entering the river was now but a distant dream, as it felt like I was wearing concrete boots. I know the theory is that the river is supposed to refresh your legs, or at least that’s what they tell you, but each time I’ve got out of the water I’ve really struggled to get running again. After  running on some filthy rutted lanes for a bit, where I managed to pass a couple of people that had been ahead of me, it was out on to the back roads heading back towards Kiltimagh. It was at this point last year where I really began to struggle, but I knew I was much, much fitter this time round, and kept on telling myself that. Just like last year almost every house I passed had people outside, cheering you on and encouraging you, or in a lot of cases with their own water stations set up. I’ve never seen another race where there’s so much local support, and I was delighted that this time round I was actually able to recognise and appreciate it, and I could say hello or wave to the supporters.

Looking at my Garmin I knew I was touch and go as to whether I’d crack 2:30 so tried to up the pace for the last few kilometres. Unfortunately just at that point the route took us back on to the main road, which was just straight ahead and with no supporters to liven things up. My pace flagged for a minute until I noticed a guy about a kilometre ahead who was walking, and then stopped. He turned around to look back down the road, and whether it was because he saw me or not I’m not sure, but he started to run again. And then stopped. Game on. Someone to hunt down over the last stretch. I started to push again, repeating a little mantra to myself and putting my game face on. By the time we were entering the town he was only a few hundred metres ahead of me and had picked up a companion. I was definitely going to catch him before the line. Or at least I was until I hit the hay bale and tyre section, at which point I executed the least athletic run through of an obstacle course since Private Hucks in Police Academy. Somewhat embarrassed by my ineptitude, and by the fact that I was passed immediately after by a guy (who was doing his first adventure race, and doing a damn fine job of it) I’d been chatting to just after Spanker’s Hill, I braced myself for one last long drag up through the town.

I started to run hard and managed to pass the two guys I’d been tracking, but far sooner than I expected heard the noises and saw the barriers suggesting the finish line was just ahead. I started to sprint and rounded the corner to see the line just ahead, with the clock still reading 2:28. One last push and I was done, crossing the line in 2:28:54

I was absolutely shattered when I finished, but in a good way. Last year it took me almost half an hour before I could even talk, and even then I didn’t know whether I was going to laugh or cry. I was absolutely destroyed, physically and emotionally. This time round I was absolutely ecstatic. This was the first time I’d really gone into a race with a definite, calculated target in mind, and I’d done it. For once I wasn’t looking back at the race thinking “well I could have pushed harder there” or “I should have done this there”, I had done what I had set out to do and now I could sit back, relax and enjoy the BBQ, massage and all the hospitality that Brendan  and the good people of Kiltimagh had laid on for us.