Archive for the ‘June’ Category

In the first of a new series of specially selected highlights from the last few weeks I’m going to look back at the best cycle I’ve had in months. Before I do that though I should probably explain why I’m departing from my usual day by day posts. Well it’s because I’m a lazy git, who desperately needs order, structure and rules in order to succeed, and since I let my single, principle rule of training every day slide my whole training routine has fallen asunder. I’m basically the Lars von Trier of the triathlon world.

In the last few weeks I’ve still got in some really good training but I’ve followed it up with completely unnecessary ‘rest’ days and despite the fact that I’ve still got plenty of races to do this year I’ve been drifting somewhat aimlessly along. This is a recurring theme with me and usually a couple of months of drifting ends with me just giving up on whatever it is I’ve been doing. This time is different though in that I’ve been doing this training malarkey for far longer than I usually do anything before giving up, and I (think at least) have recognised the signs early enough to stop it happening this time.

Anyway, my lovely cycle in the sunny South East. My wife was heading down to Tramore to visit my ex-landlady Sandra and her occasionally adorable little urchins. Spotting an opportunity to get some training in on some fantastically hilly roads I threw my bike on the back of the car and accompanied her on the trip. We met up with Sandra in Waterford City and after some brief chit-chat I got my lycra on, slathered some cow boob moisturiser on my buttocks and readied myself to hit the road. I had a vague outline of a route in mind but really all I wanted to do was get in at least 60km, with a good portion of that being hilly, and hopefully work my cyclist’s tan another centimetre or so further up my arms and legs.

The first part of the cycle was Waterford to Tramore which was easily the flattest and dullest part of the entire route. Thankfully however the weather was fantastic – sunny but not too hot and with a little bit of a breeze – and meant even this part of the spin wasn’t a chore. Just as I approached Tramore, about 15km in, I turned off for Dunmore East, following the coast road. All the flat and boring cycling appeared to be behind me now as the road instantly ramped upwards but rewarded me with beautiful views on my right hand side. The next 20km or so was a constant series of short, steep climbs and descents on narrow country roads with occasional glimpses of the sea to be caught when I wasn’t wiping the sweat out of my eyes or concentrating on making it around the next sharp bend.

Dunmore East is a beautiful little town right on the coast, which is popular enough at the best of times, but a combination of the good weather and some local festival meant the town was absolutely jammed, and even on the bike I had to crawl through traffic for a few minutes. Once out of town I headed back towards Waterford on a circuitous route, which was like 5km of the coast road stretched out over 20, and which was only livened up by some guy coming in the opposite direction who decided that my presence should be no obstacle to him lurching out on to my side of the road while overtaking in an ever so slightly dangerous fashion.

Once back in Waterford I took a slightly different route back towards Tramore, though thankfully for once I still ended up in my intended destination. Back in Tramore I got to enjoy the delights of those never ending hills for the first time on two wheels, but riding towards Sandra’s house I’d only clocked up 55km, so headed out my old running route to round it up to a nice even 60km. Despite the fact that it was about 6pm at this stage it was hotter than ever, so on my way back into town I stopped at the little shop down the road from Sandra’s and treated myself to a 99. A few minutes later I rolled up to the house having traveled a very enjoyable 61.17km in 2:24, and with at least 1, maybe 1.5cm more of a tan.

Jurassic Park!

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So not only is tag rugby SERIOUS BIZNESS, but it’s also dangerous business.

Almost Surely Terminal

Despite being so grievously wounded I gallantly carried on, scoring a try almost immediately after, and only left the field of play when victory was assured.

Day 171 – Nice and Early

Posted: July 2, 2012 in June
Tags: , ,

I was in bed before ten last night so I could get up to go for a run this morning, but I still spent ten minutes lying in the drkness listening to the rain battering the roof before I mustered the resolve to drag myself out of bed and get dressed. Shortly after though I was up, hydrated and out the door. By that stage the rain had actually eased off greatly so it was just a gentle drizzle I had to contend with on the way up to the woods.

As usual the 2km up to the woods was my warm up, and once I got there I went through my usual dynamic stretching routine. Unsurprisingly at 5:50am the woods were completely deserted, which is great for me but it always comes as something of a surprise that I never see anyone at all up there at that hour. In my opinion it’s the best time of the day to run and the woods always look (and smell) so fresh and full of life that it always puts me in a fantastic mood. I was feeling considerably more sprightly than I had been even ten minutes previously so I pushed pretty hard for the lap, getting round 3.85km in 18:22.

Once I’d finished it was 2km back home, taking it pretty steady along the way and finished my run in 40:28 for 7.89km total. I was back in the door, with a great run under my belt,  and putting coffee on just as my wife was getting up out of bed.

I managed to acumulate a decent number of miles at the weekend so this evening was just an easy recovery run. Well for me at least. My wife joined me to get in her quick run for the week but a combination of warm weather and slacking off since the Kildare Half Marathon meant the whinging started early. Being the nice, caring husband that I am I agreed that we wouldn’t do a ‘quick’ run and instead just did roughly 6km with two sets of fartleks thrown in. That meant I could do my best Apollo in Rocky III impersonation and throw out constant motivational slogans and soundbites like:

“faster”

“FASTER!”

“If you’ve enough energy to complain you’ve enough energy to go faster”

“No honestly, this is the last one”

I’m available for all sorts of personal training, as well as communions, weddings and bar mitzvahs.

 

References on demand.

Obviously I’m Apollo in this.

Day 169 – Part Deux

Posted: June 28, 2012 in June
Tags: , , , , ,

After a big pile of scrambled eggs and wholemeal toast it was time to get showered, changed and ready for the Con Carr Fun Cycle. Con Carr was a local cyclist of some renown (and grandfather of current Leinster winger Fionn Carr, fact lovers) and every year there’s a charity cycle in his name to raise funds for the restoration of the CYMS Hall, which just happens to be next door to my house. I’d be doing the cycle regardless, but seeing as though my eternally civic minded wife is on the committee I definitely have to do it. Her civic mindedness however never appears to get in the way of her social life, so she’s gone off to wear some wigs and point at freaks in a hole in the side of a hill in Mayo and I got stuck with registration and collecting money for the cycle.

Luckily for me, but rather unfortunately for the organisers, that’s a two minute job as numbers are low. However, those who have turned up have a beautiful day for a nice cycle round the countryside. Once everyone had set off and my duties were done with I ran back inside, got my cycling gear on and set off in hot pursuit. It wasn’t long before I caught up with son no. 2, who was lollygagging around the back of the field. To be fair to him, his fat tyred, no geared, BMX/MTB hybrid which is getting to small for him isn’t going to win any time trials. Last year I tore past everyone on the cycle and pushed hard for the entire 26km, this year though it had been shortened to 12km due to a lack of marshals, and seeing as I’d already got my workout for the day in I decided to just cruise around with my son and listen to him natter on incessantly. A few kilometres in we were joined by an elderly couple, and so we just cruised through the countryside chatting away to them, enjoying the spin.

This being Ireland the sunshine couldn’t last an entire day, and sure enough a big, black cloud appeared on the horizon. Thankfully though, just like yesterday, we managed to make it back home just as the first drops of rain started spitting. So a really productive day then, a great run in the morning, a good breakfast, a nice relaxed recovery cycle in the afternoon and I got to spend some time with son no. 2 while doing it. I should probably mention here that son no. 1 “won” the cycle, in so far as he was first back. That being said, I attribute at least 87% of that to the fact that he was on my CX bike, which I’d very kindly allowed him to borrow.

 

Due to my various leg ailments running’s been so sporadic since the Kildare Half Marathon that I think today will actually be my first ‘long run’ since then. With the London to Brighton ultra only a few months away though it’s time to get my arse in gear and start clocking up some miles. I spent a good part of yesterday afternoon drawing up a schedule for the remainder of the year, or from now until London to Brighton (30th September) anyway. It was a little tricky trying to combine a training plan for an ultra with training for a couple of adventure races, as well as a sprint distance triathlon, but I think I came up with a serviceable plan of action anyway (with many references to The Triathletes Training Bible and Relentless Forward Progress)

One thing I was careful to do was not just jump right back into where I previously was on my training plan. I did Belfast Marathon right around the point on the ultra training plan I’m using where there was a marathon scheduled, so ideally I should have been just carrying on from there. As it is I’m considerably behind that particular plan but I’m still going to just increase my mileage gradually so as to (hopefully) avoid any further injuries. I will be increasing it slightly less gradually than indicated in the plan though as I do need to catch up eventually. Between running and cycling I hope to be able to manage mileage, fatigue, rest, recovery etc. Lucho (the “Ultrarunner” on Endurance Planet’s Ask the Ultrarunner) is a big advocate of biking on days before or after long runs so as to get your long runs in on tired legs but without the impact and wear you’d experience if you were doubling up on your long runs, so this forms a large part of my plans.

This morning’s scheduled run was a very easy 16km, and so as to ensure a steady, easy pace throughout I stuck to the road rather than doing laps of the woods. It was a really bright and sunny morning, unexpectedly so considering how miserable the weather yesterday was, so it was an ideal opportunity to try my new scalp saver. I’ve never been a big hat wearer during the summer but considering the paucity of cover on my pate I thought it might be sensible to get something to go over it, particularly with the amount of hours I’m going to be spending running in the glorious Irish sunshine. With my run scheduled to take me just over an hour and a half I picked a podcast to suit (Urijah Faber on the Joe Rogan Experience), grabbed my Clip, Garmin, hat and water bottle and headed out the door.

I was barely half a kilometre out the road before I had a big smile on my face. I’d really, really missed running over the last while, and the long run particularly so. Throw in the great weather and a really interesting and funny podcast and I was happy as Larry. My left leg was still a bit stiff but not sufficiently so to ruin my enjoyment of the run. As usual it was only at about the 5km mark that I properly loosened up, my stride relaxed, everything felt much easier and it just reminded me how much I like and prefer running longer distances, which is a good thing considering some of the training runs I had to pencil into my schedule yesterday. At the 11km mark I was back in town and just trying to decide how best to tack on the extra 5km I had to do. As I was feeling so good I was contemplating heading out on a different loop out of town which would have brought me over the 20km mark, or heading up to the woods to do a lap and then home, which would have been bang on 20km. Sensibly though I decided to stick to the schedule and decided on a route which brought me up and over a hill alongside the woods, then cut back up a path through the woods that makes about one quarter of the 4km lap, and then home.

It turned out to be a good call on my part not to go with the longer routes, as by the time I’d reached the top of the hill my calves, which had endured very little hardship over the last month, woke from their slumber and asked me why I was deciding to make them suffer all of a sudden. They only had a couple of kilometres to put up with though and soon enough I was coming back out of the woods and heading for home. It’s exactly two kilometres from the entrance to the woods to my door and for the entire distance my pace steadily crept up until I turned the corner on to my street and sprinted for home. First long run in ages, 17km* in 1:50

 

 

*I checked my schedule afterwards and it turned out I was only supposed to do 12km. Still, it was a bloody great run.

This running tagging people was harder work than I thought, and my legs were stiff as hell on Thursday. In keeping with my new sensible approach I just spent time stretching and foam rolling, while Friday I went swimming with my boys. At the weekend though it was time for some proper training.

There was no club cycle this morning as a lot of people were down in Dunmore East at the Hook or by Crook triathlon. I’d actually entered it myself but there was no way I could fumble through a sea swim like I did the Barrow section of TriAthy so I stayed home. I was undecided as to whether go long on a cycle or run Saturday but Rory contacted me to see whether I’d be interested in doing a brick session, which sounded perfect. The weather had been utterly miserable all week but when I pulled outside Rory’s house at 8am it was reasonably clear so we saddled up and hit the road.

We did an easy 5km or so before turning on to the proposed route for an upcoming duathlon in Portarlington. For the bulk of the 20km that comprised the course we alternated each leading for one km, pushing hard, then easing off for one km. We did that up until the last turn back into Port on the route when a couple of sneaky little hills appeared out of nowhere and that was the end of me leading for any length of time. On the downhill on the other side we both put our heads down and hammered along but there was to be no catching Rory (which I completely attribute to him having tri bars) until we got back to town. We took a nice, easy circuitous route back to his house and were joined along the way for a bit of a chat by a local cyclist.

On arriving back at the house it was straight on with the runners and then back out on to the road. We hadn’t decided on a route or distance before we left but Rory suggested a 5km loop around the outskirts of town which sounded perfect. I don’t think the jelly legs feeling you get when running off the bike will ever go away but you do get used to it, and the more you do it the easier it is to remind yourself that the feeling goes away by about the two km mark. We were moving at a reasonable pace, just about slow enough that we could hold a conversation on the move but quick enough to feel like we were getting something out of the run. The last couple of kilometres we upped the pace to something approaching 5k race pace, at which point conversation, for me anyway, becomes just about impossible.

We finished up having done just under 27.5km on the bike in 1:03:49 and just over 5km on the run in a time of 25:21, and just before it started to lash rain. Any day where you can be up, get a good session done, be home, showered and having breakfast before anyone else is even up is a pretty good one in my book.

I’m still being sensible as I try to ease my way back into full training so after a couple of long(ish) cycles at the weekend I took Monday off completely and then went for a swim yesterday morning. Today I went to play tag rugby with my wife, Benny and a few others over in Portlaoise. For those who don’t know, tag rugby is a non-contact version of the game, played with mixed male and female teams and is generally just played as a bit of fun. Crucial information about the game that someone forgot to pass along to the guys we were playing against.

These idiots, who were all easily old enough to know better I might add, thought that the best way to handle any sort of disagreement was to instantly threaten physical violence, and then follow up those threats with sneaky, underhand tactics like shoulders, stiff-arm tackles etc. That’s really not what we, or most right minded individuals, want from the game, and to tell you the truth it kind of ruined it for most of our team. There’s a league organised which runs for six weeks on Wednesday nights, nights which I could be taking part in IMRA mountain races. We spoke to the organisers afterwards about the nonsense which went on so hopefully this week will be better. If not I’ll just take myself off up the mountains.

The game itself though was a nice change of pace fitness wise. I’m reasonably fit but almost everything I do is long and steady. This was all short, sharp efforts, sprinting and changing direction quickly. I was actually blowing hard after a couple of minutes and wondering where all my fitness went to. Thankfully though I got a second wind pretty quickly and was fine from there on in, and even managed to keep pace with their designated “quick guy”.

Ah the perils of being easily led. As I’d said yesterday was my first time doing any sort of reasonable distance on the bike in ages, so surely the sensible thing then would be to either rest or swim today, particularly as I’m still dealing with my various left leg woes. However, yesterday evening I got a message from Rory asking me whether I’d be interested in doing the club cycle in the morning? Just a gentle 100km over one of the toughest climbs in the vicinity. Like I said, the sensible thing to do would be rest, so naturally (after a little coercion) I agreed to the cycle.

I was in bed at ten last night to make sure I could get up in time to get a decent breakfast this morning before meeting Rory at nine. I’ve been out for long runs or cycles without sufficient fuel in me and it sucks balls. There was no way I was attempting The Cut (the climb we were doing today) without a belly full of food in me, so at seven I dragged myself out of bed for a massive bowl of porridge, toast with peanut butter and jam, coffee and lots of water. Not long after nine I was parking up at Rory’s before heading off to meet the rest of the group. The plan had initially been to cycle part of the way there to meet a crew from Trilogy (our triathlon club), but now we were heading off to do essentially the same cycle but with a group from a different club in Port. We met another three guys in the square and set off towards Mountmellick on what was already, at half nine in the morning, a hot and sunny day.

This was the first time I’d cycled in a group of any size. In fact it was the first time I’d cycled in a group outside of a race as I (one or two occasions apart) invariably cycle alone. The group cycle was good though. I didn’t know any of the guys other than Rory but we moved around, swapping positions, chatting away and holding a steady 30km/h or so. After about 20km we turned down a lovely quiet country road headed back towards Port but as we came around a bend we saw one of the guys who had pushed on a little bit (Alan) lying on the ground in obvious pain and no longer connected to his bike. Alan had come out with multiple layers on him but from early on was shedding them due to the heat. I’d seen him take off his jacket and struggle to fit it into one of his back pockets and it transpired that, unable to get it into one of the pockets, he’d tied it around the handlebars of his bike. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happened next. One of the sleeves came loose, dropped down into the front wheel, locked it up and suddenly Alan was airborne. Luckily, a few minor bumps and scrapes aside, both he and his bike were alright. He managed to gather himself after a while and was able to remount and carry on.

We went back into Port to meet up with the rest of the group, but it turned out that most of them were heading on a different route anyway. We lost one of the group, gained one and then set off for Mountmellick again. The route was the same as before, and the pace likewise was about the same. This time though with about two km to go into Mountmellick Rory gave a shout to up the pace and I just sat and watched the rest of the lads come past. My legs said “thank you very much for a lovely morning, we’ve really enjoyed it but there’s absolutely no way we’re going any faster”. It was like sitting on the motorway at 50mph in 5th gear in a 1 litre car and stamping your foot on the accelerator – no response, no discernible change in speed and utterly powerless as you watch everyone go steaming past you. It was at that point in time I began to have my doubts about the remainder of the cycle.

The next 15km or so were a struggle as any time we came to even a slight incline the other lads would pull away from me, then I’d have to pedal like hell to catch up with them, before repeating the process all over again. After the third time this happened I knew there was no way I’d be able for another 50 or so km, especially with the climb in the middle of it. I could possibly have done it, but it would have taken me the rest of the day, so I made one more effort to catch up with the group, told Rory I was done and then turned around to head for home. I stopped for a couple of minutes to eat a breakfast bar and get some more fluids into me, then set off on the 23km back to Port. I stuck the bike in a baby gear, then just kept those pedals turning over at a nice and easy 25km/h or so all the way back. When I eventually got home my legs didn’t actually feel as bad as I’d thought they would, most likely because I had a 23km cool down on my way back to Port.

 

With all the kerfuffle about Belfast Marathon and TriAthy, and my focus being on running, then swimming respectively, I’d really neglected the bike of late. I’d done plenty of turbo sessions in the darker months but I can’t remember the last time I went out for a proper, long spin on the road. All that changed this week though with a mail from Race2Glory reminding me that it was only five weeks away. Five weeks until Spanker Hill. Five weeks until pain! Time to get my arse in gear and back out on the road.

I got up early to watch Ireland get eviscerated by New Zealand, get a good breakfast into me and then head out but of course my natural predilection for procrastination meant that hours later I was still at home, sitting in front of the computer. For once this worked out for me as the weather, which had been stereotypically Irish all morning, took a turn for the better. Fearing that I’d only have a short window of opportunity I got changed, limbered up and set off.

The route I’d selected took me to Athy first, which was 22km of very flat, if a little dull, cycling. With the sun beaming down however I was more than happy to just spin along at a nice steady 32 km/h or so, basking in the sunshine. Athy itself took a few minutes to negotiate with traffic crawling along but soon enough I was back out on the open road and headed for Stradbally. This was a road I used to love taking on my motorbike, but sans engine the lovely sweeping curves were being taken considerably slower. Another thing I didn’t notice when I was being powered by Japan’s finest was the gradual climb, which combined with the temperature creeping ever upwards, had me sweating profusely. Getting towards the brow of the hill I even had to switch to the granny ring, which instantly got me thinking about Spankers Hill. Pushing thoughts of that nightmarish ascent to the back of my mind, and just thinking pleasant thoughts, I soon reached the top and from there I could almost freewheel into Portlaoise.

The 25km from Portlaoise to home are pretty flat and uneventful, and though my average speed had dropped a few km/h, I still enjoyed the cycle for the most part. Apart from one thing – my bloody arse was killing me. The last 15km or so there was sensations coming from my nether regions that caused me to stand up out of the saddle, seeking temporary relief, while cursing endlessly about my inability to locate my good shorts before I set off. There was parts of me seemingly grinding and burning that are really not designed for such things, so when I arrived home, some 59km later, I was more than happy to drag my weary carcass off my bike. Tired and sore as I was though, I was delighted to get my first proper cycle in months under my belt, and I got myself some cracking tan lines to boot.