Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tralee marathon race review

As some of you may know, I'm ran in the Tralee Marathon on Sunday (16th). I've been getting a few questions about it that I'll try to answer here.
1. Why the Tralee marathon? - Well my training plan (for the Connemara ultra) had me doing a 40-44k long run that weekend anyway, so I thought that rather than running for four hours (or more, probably more) on my own around the village where I live, why not do the "long run" with a bunch of other people and get a t-shirt and/or medal to prove it!
2. What is my goal finishing time? - I don't have one. Honestly, this may be a "race", but it's really a training run. If I push myself too much, then the rest of my training for Connemara will suffer. So slow and steady does it.
3. What's my nutrition plan for the race? - Water. That's it. Water, in moderation. If you have any questions about that, I'll refer you to the excellent book "Waterlogged" by Prof. Tim Noakes. Also, as I eat very few carbs, I won't be using gels etc.
4. If I'm not eating during the race, and it starts at 9am, what will breakfast be? - Bacon, eggs and coffee.

With that out of the way, here's how it actually panned out...
I got the train down to Tralee on Saturday (so much cheaper than driving!) and walked the 1k or so to the Brandon Hotel where I had booked my room. I had chosen this hotel as it's where the race expo was and was pretty close to the race finish line (thinking ahead...).
Picking up my bib number at the expo went by pretty easily and I took a minute to chat to Brendan Doyle about his exploits in The Race. He was also doing the marathon, just two weeks later!
After that I took a stroll around the town and bought a 250ml bottle of water to bring around during the race. I knew water would be available, but wasn't sure if it would be in cups or bottles, as it happened they supplied bottles. I ended up having dinner in the hotel and getting a reasonably early night.
I was up at 6:15 the next morning - the hotel opened the breakfast room from 6am especially for runners, a nice touch! At breakfast the room was about half full, all of the people were dressed in running gear and eating cereal, toast and/or bananas. I sat down and when the waitress brought out my plate of bacon and eggs everyone in the room stopped talking. Like they just didn't believe what they were seeing...
So after eating all of that I headed back to my room and slowly got ready - I don't like rushing things before a race. It was lightly raining but there was also a breeze coming in off the sea. So I ended up in a long sleeve technical top and a wooly hat along with my club singlet and compression shorts, running shorts, Injinji socks and "normal" runners. I usually wear minimalist runners, but find on rougher ground/roads the balls of my feet are pretty tender from 30k onwards. A few times during the race I took the hat off, but would end up putting it back on again a few minutes later, depending on whether we were running into the wind or not.
It was a 4-5 minute walk to the start line and there was only a couple of hundred people doing the full and about the same doing the half, which started 20 minutes later. Eventually after doing my warmup the gun went off and I went out at my planned pace of between 5:45 and 6:00 the whole way. I knew there were a few hills that would slow me down, but I wasn't going for a goal time.
Pretty soon (about 3k in) a few of us were moving at a similar pace, so we just ran together and chatted, a nice distraction from the distance. About 10k in the half marathon leaders came sprinting past us and shortly after the routes split, with the full going out towards the coast. We got to the 10k mark in 55mins, pretty much on pace. By the time we got to around 17k we got to the first of two big out and back sections. This one was a right turn, up a steep incline, down the far side, go about 200-300m, turn and come back over the hill back to the main road. I thought it was tough until as I was rejoining the main road I saw the only wheelchair competitor about to go up the hill...huge respect to him!
The 20k mark was hit at 1:55, slightly slower but most likely due to the hills. I lost the rest of the group around here, some went faster and some slowed down once we hit the half way mark (21k). When I was passing the aid station at 23k I noticed my 250ml water bottle was nearly empty, so I swapped it for another of the same size and kept running. Pretty soon I was hitting the 30k mark at around 2:45 or 2:50, which I was pretty pleased about. I had unintentionally caught up some time!
From here on every time I passed an aid station my mind was asking if I wanted some gels or jelly babies, jaffa cakes, fruit etc. I'd do a mental check and never felt hungry or lacking in energy so I passed them all up. As we were starting the second out and back a woman caught up with me and asked if she could run with me as my pace was pretty consistent. We chatted for the next 15-20mins along the journey, a great distraction. We were about half way between the 4:00 and 4:15 pacers.
A man at the side of the road called out to me by my first name, I did a double take and smiled and waved as we ran by. Only later did I realize he had a print out of the runners and race numbers in his hand and matched them to to give us some encouragement!
Pretty soon my running buddy said she was slowing down to take on some food, so I kept up my pace. She would overtake me on hills not too much later (there are *no* hills to train on where I live).
At around the 36k mark my left foot started giving me problems and in no time I was hobbling and in pain every time my foot hit the ground. I tried altering my form but it didn't make any difference. By about 38k I was reduced to try some walking to try to make it less painful and then some easy running and back to more walking. Around this time the 4:15 pacer overtook me, I wasn't disappointed, I just wanted to finish.
On two occasions during the last couple of KM the route took us around a roundabout to turn right and all the cars were stopped to let us by. There were a good few twists and turns at the end, which was good and the last 100m or so brought a welcome view of the finish line. Getting over the line I almost immediately stopped and grabbed a railing to let my foot stay off the ground for a minute. Great to get it done though!
After eating two bananas and drinking some water I hobbled back to the hotel.
Apart from the foot issue (which turns out to be a strained peroneal tendon), everything went according to plan. I never felt hungry, never had a lack of energy and was able to keep a solid pace (up to getting the tendon issue).
Would I use this nutrition strategy (low carb, high fat) again? Definitely. At the start of the race I saw one runner with eight gels tucked into his waist band and some sweet packets in his back pocket. At the half marathon I did two weeks before I was chatting to a runner with four gels. Why do people use so many? Is it a confidence thing or is it something they read in a running magazine and follow to the letter?
Either way I'm very happy with how things worked out (again, apart from the injury).
Oh, I also beat my previous marathon time by 8 minutes too...

Keep running,

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Monday, February 17, 2014

Training update #743

Last week's training wasn't nearly what I'd hoped for. It was due to horrendous weather with people being advised not to leave their homes on a couple of days. It is what it is, moaning about it won't make the gale force winds die down or the horizontal rain stop.
I got to the gym when I could to work on strength & conditioning and got in another two hours of Kenpo. By the weekend I was bursting to get running and Saturday afternoon the weather was going to be slowly improving, so I put my eggs in that basket, hydrated and ate in sync with that plan.
Shortly after 12 noon I headed out, and having done 30k for the last long run, I decided to do more this time, of course.
The route I was taking was a loop of about 16k, some on main roads and some on back roads, but very few paths. I had a long sleeve base layer, a technical t-shirt and long sleeve technical t-shirt, then a running jacket and high-viz vest. Also, I had base layer gloves and a fleece hat and neck warmer. The temp was about 6 degrees, but with the wind it felt about 2-3. For the first 3k or so my hands were freezing, but then I warmed up a little and took the gloves off. From time to time I opened the zip on the jacket a bit, but when I turned into the wind, or ran along an exposed stretch of road I had to zip it shut again.
On the first loop I had already decided to add a bit extra on, so instead of turning left to get back to the house on the main road I turned right and added probably 5k onto the loop. I could have added it onto the second loop, but mentally the idea of doing a shorter loop second sounded a lot better.
On the back roads I met only a handful of cars and about as many dogs. Got chased by a few of the dogs, but I just ignore them and they leave me alone (so far...).
Some of the narrower roads were still flooded, which meant I had to run through the water up to my ankles, once per loop. I was concerned about getting blistered, but didn't get anything serious.
The second loop came around and I was feeling colder, even with all the layers. By this point (around 22k and up), my mind started trying to tell me that I was tired and should cut it short. When this happens, I tend to do a quick check of the legs etc and nowhere was really that tired physically. So I knew it was just my mind trying to wreck my plans and I played a game like this: I "tell" my mind that I'll take a shorter loop than planned, but when I get to that crossroads I don't. Sounds weird/silly but it works for me. I did this twice on the last loop and each time when I went the intended route instead of going easy I didn't feel any worse. Long term I'd say I felt better.
On the last 5k stretch it was a long straight road and fairly cold, exposed and I had a headwind. I slowed right down to conserve energy and just wanted to get it done.
Getting home felt excellent. The chance to take off the layers, examine the tired feet, warm up and eat!
So I got just under 36k for the day, happy enough with that. I took the rest of the day to recover and on Sunday the wind had died down a bit so I went out on the bike. I wanted to loosen out the legs and the first 20k were pretty good. After that the saddle was reminding me that I haven't been spending much time in it for over 6 weeks! 
The route wasn't that hilly, but my legs were tired, and from 30k onwards I had a headwind. I call it mind training :-)
I got 49k and it took about two hours to warm up afterwards. I was probably still not fully warmed up after the previous day's run.
I didn't get a chance to take it easy though. I had to take out seven bronen fence panels in the garden, take down our clothes line and re-attach the felt on the shed roof. All damage from the recent storms.
All in a day's work...


Thursday, February 13, 2014

The 20 rules of running

Not sure where I found this, but I think I've edited them over time too. Let me know if you have any others and I'll add them in.

1. Don’t be a whiner – nobody likes a whiner, even other whiners.
2. Don’t make running your life, make it part of your life.
3. When doing group runs, start on time, no matter who is missing.
4. Don’t compare yourself with other runners.
5. When standing at a start line, remind yourself how fortunate you are to be there.
6. The faster you are the less you should talk about your times.
7. Don’t always run alone.
8. Don’t always run with others.
9. The best runs sometimes come on days you didn’t feel like running.
10. Be modest after a race, especially if you have a reason to brag.
11. All runners are equal, some are just faster.
12. There are no short cuts to running excellence.
13. There is nothing boring about running. There are boring people who run though.
14. Look at hills as opportunities to pass people.
15. Don’t try to out-run dogs.
16. Without goals, training has no purpose.
17. Go for broke, but prepare to be broken.
18. Unless you make a living as a runner, don’t take it too seriously.
19. Runners who never fail are runners who never tried anything great.
20. Running is simple, don’t make it complicated.

21. When you see the camera up ahead suck in your gut! (Thanks Alan McD!)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Building it up

I wasn't able to make the club long run on Saturday...again. My time isn't always my own. However, I did get my long run in later in the day. It had been raining all day and the temp was about 4-5 degrees, so not exactly "ideal".
Rather than bring a jacket and sweat for hours and dehydrate, I decided to wear a long sleeve base layer, a technical t-shirt and a long sleeve technical top along with a warm hat and fingerless gloves. I could have brought full gloves, but thought I'd warm up and be fine. Of course I was also in my compression shorts and running shorts with the NB Minimus and Injinji toe socks. I find the Injinji are great to prevent blisters in the rain. I also brought a hand held water bottle and a mini torch that has three bulbs but fits in the palm of my hand, so not too bulky. I was able to stash it in the zip pocket of my hand held too.
I was setting out at about 2:30, and I knew the sunset would be around 4:20 and given that I was doing an easy paced run of over 25k I knew I'd be running in the dark by the end, so I brought a high viz vest too.
It went well for the first 9k, and then I turned off the main road and into the wind. The cold hit me and whereas I had been reasonably warm, inside the next 5-10 minutes I was chilly and started running a little faster to keep my temperature up. I didn't want to go too fast either, as this was an aerobic run.
The last 7-8k were tough, with the wind coming in from my left and little or no shelter. I stopped being able to feel or use my fingers. But, I got it done.
The following weekend the temps were almost the same, but with no rain. This time I wore full gloves and a running jacket along with all the layers from the previous week. Felt much better and I did almost the same distance - actually slightly more.
Then last Saturday I was meant to be doing 30-32k on Saturday (I wasn't available on Sunday). Of course it was howling a gale and heaving it with rain. We had an orange level weather warning in effect. So, rather than do the 30k in the rain and high winds, I did a tempo run: 10min warmup, 4min on and 1min off (jogging) with 10mins cool down for a total of 15k. It meant I was pretty warm and not out in the wild as long, but my legs were wrecked!
Sunday was a rest day, and yesterday (Monday) was meant to be a run and then gym work. Unfortunately in the wet run I had gotten a large blood blister on the sole of my left foot, so running was out. So I deferred to the gym bike for 30mins as part of my warmup. After that I went straight into my "Legs & Shoulders" workout. I like to get the leg day done at the start of the week so I can recover well before my long run at the weekend.
So today I did my lunch time run, a little over 5k at an easy pace. Used my new runners, felt excellent!
I have three races coming up in the next two months or so. First is the Bohermeen HM (thecnically this will be a training run for me, with a long warmup & cool down). Then two weeks later the Tralee full, followed three weeks after by the Connemara Ultra (63k or one and a half marathons).
Bring it on!


Monday, January 13, 2014

New year and all that...

So the new year has rolled in, as it does. I had planned lots of running over the holidays. Some I did, some I didn't. I had a strain in my gastro...thingy muscle. Gastrocnemius, that's the one. Tight calf if anyone asks!
I could cycle but the weather was very rough - high winds etc. But rest, foam roller and "the stick" did a pretty good job. My rehab for it was meant to be at most a 5k run every second day. The first run was 3k and felt pretty sore. Two days after I did 5k and didn't feel too bad. Two days later again I did 7k and no major issues. 5k the next day, a day off then a 10k followed by 7k pain free.
Back to building it up again now. I managed to get to the club run on Saturday morning - for a change. We start at 8AM and being winter it was still dark when I was running to the meeting point, less than 2k from the house. We split up into two routes. Five did the 8k route, while myself and four others did the 16k route. The pace was fairly easy - talking the whole time about life, food and telling really bad jokes. The roads were still frosty, and in my zero drop runners I was slipping quite a few times, especially on any downhill sections.
By 8:20 the sun was rising and I wished I'd had my camera/phone, but I prefer to be "unplugged" for running. I spend way too much time connected to work etc, so offline/away time is precious!
By the time I got home again I had clocked up a little over 18k. I was hoping to get out on the bike too, but my calf (gastro-thingimajig) was a bit tight, so I opted to foam roll and rest etc. I also topped up with electrolytes on the off chance it would help - it didn't do any harm anyway.
I've pretty much decided to do the Bohermeen AC half marathon on March 2nd. I won't race it, as it's just two weeks away from the Tralee Marathon. Instead I'll do a long warmup, take it easy in the HM and a good cool down and leave it at that. A nice long (aerobic) training run.
The Tralee Marathon in a way is also a "training run", as I'm registered for the Connemarathon ultra (63.3k, or one and a half marathons) three weeks after. I know it will be painful, I'm under no illusions about that, but I'm also looking forward to it.
I've put a huge amount of work into my nutrition in the last year and it's really paying off, so it's time to put my research, experimenting and training into practice :-)

Take care,

P.S. Episode 18 of the Irish Runner podcast is available here...