Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Good form

Yea, it's been a while since I posted (as I was reminded last night by club mates), so here goes...
Since the KAR12, I've been taking it a bit easier, only training 3-4 times a week (I usually train 5-7 times a week, including cross training). This is deliberate, as it's my "off season" and I want to be fully rested, but fit, before taking on marathon training again. Shortly after KAR12 I had a VO2 Max test done and got pretty good results - Fitness level 69, 82% recovery after 2 mins, and max aerobic HR was 149bpm. All good! I've been debating with several people whether I should now run at my max aerobic HR or 5-10bpm under it and when I should do that, no definite answers though.
Then along came the Jingle Bells 5k in Phoenix Park. I kept doing the same number of runs/workouts per week, some of the runs were intervals/tempo runs, but no great weekly distance. I was going to run with my OH to pace her as such, but the night before the race she decided she was going to use the iPod for the duration. That was my queue to do my own thing.
It was a cold, cold morning, probably 3-5 degrees, but no breeze and clear skies. On the way to the race we stopped for coffee to warm us up and I had a double espresso, not wanting a lot of liquid in my gut bouncing around. I have never had a coffee before a race/run before, in fact I hardly drink the stuff! We got to the park and jogged about 1.5k to the start line.

I was wearing the VFFs, I wanted to get back to them as I hadn't worn them much recently. There were areas generally marked off for "sub-16", "sub-20" etc. I hung around the "sub-25" bit, as I was just planning on doing this as a run, not really as a race. My OH went back to the 30 min area and I started trying to keep warm. I got a few of the usual funny looks, or at least my feet did...you get used to it.
Pretty soon the lead pack was off. I spotted a couple of guys running while pushing buggies in front of me, so my plan from then on was to finish before both of them or die trying! The first 1km was all about ducking and diving around the other runners. A total of 1,500 people took part, but it wasn't too crowded. By the time I got to the 2k mark I was running by feel and keeping a reasonable pace, although I never looked at the garmin from the start to the finish. Around this time I decided to treat this as a time trial, I know, my planning sucks!
Anyway, the race felt like it went really well. I never felt like I was pushing too hard and always felt totally in control of the pace and my HR. I realized as I was running that my upper back felt slightly hunched, so I made a concious effort to straighten it and keep my form in check. Before I knew it I was at 4km. Two Civil Defence guys were doing the course on bikes acting as first aiders, so I asked them for a lift...for some reason they declined :-(
The last 100m or so was a gradual incline, but when I came around that last bend I could see the clock (gun time) and instantly knew my time was close to my PB of 21:48. I put on a spurt and overtook a couple of other runners, one of which tried to overtake me again but never did. I crossed the line well out of breath but with a new PB of 21:39, woohoo!! Gotta love unexpected and unplanned PBs :-)
I got some water and bananas and my goodie bag. Two items of note, the first was the usual Jingle Bells coffee mug, to add to our collection...
And the second was a book, a running book no less!!
Also, my OH managed to take a further two minutes off her time (approx 32mins), well done!
So all in all a great morning's work. Here's a few more photos I took when loitering at the finish line...this one taken looking back with 100m to go.

And this one is just after the finish line, shows how good the weather turned out to be.

I doubt the espresso helped me get a PB, was it keeping my back straighter or was it due to less tired legs and more time doing intervals/speed work? Hard to know, but as it's the fourth time I've broken my 5k PB this year I hope it continues!
Since then I've kept at the same level of training and even went on a POSE Level 1 & 2 running course. Only trouble is, you may remember I got a neuroma inbetween two of the metatarsals of my left foot in Jan, well now I have one in a similar place on my right foot. So no running for the next 4-5 weeks. I guess it's not the worst time of the year to be injured though. I'll keep at the gym work, but can't use a bike, as the pressure on the ball of the foot is painful. So it'll be a rower and weights for me.
Looking forward to the 2013 racing season already!

Keep running,

Update 12-1-2013
I've had an x-ray of my foot last week and been put on anti-inflammatory meds. Hope to be getting the results back in the next day or so, looking like a stress fracture though 😞

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

KAR12 race review

My training leading up to KAR (Killarney Adventure Race) had been less than ideal. I had landed badly on a rock whilst on a long run four weeks before and still wasn't able to run up to the days before. I was even back with the physio three days before the race hoping to be able to compete. I had been doing lots of gym work, especially leg work and cycling/rowing, hoping not to lose too much fitness.
In the week before the race myself and my two relay team mates (Ronan and Brian) were getting the mandatory kit items together and hatching plans. Ronan is an excellent cyclist, having recently done the Ring of Kerry. Brian was hoping to take on some of the running, but an injury meant he couldn't so he decided to do the kayak stage. That left me to do the two mountain run stages (1 and 4). I was going to do the whole race on my own, but during a discussion over christmas drinks last year we decided to do it as a relay. We did the 57k route, which consists of: Mountain Run - 7.5km, Road bike - 35km, Kayak - 1.5km, Mountain Run - 8km and Road Bike - 4km. There's also a 67k route (adding another 10k onto the second mountain run) or a 25k route, but that one isn't open for relay teams. 
I decided to take the Friday before and Monday after the race off work and I'm really glad I did...
On the Friday, I got an early train down to Killarney from Dublin and got there around 1pm. I had lunch and got a taxi out to the apartment we had booked. There was lots of room to lay out all our kit and make sure we each had the mandatory kit items along with food, water, gloves, hats etc. 
By the time my buddies had made it down it was about 8:30pm so we went straight to registration. All of us had to be there together to pick up the race pack, bib numbers, dibber and goodie bags. (The dibber is an electronic chip timer attached to your wrist. You have to scan it in at each checkpoint along the route, some of which were at the tops of mountains.)
After getting back to the apartment, attaching bib numbers and double/trebble checking the kit we went to the pub. I guess we needed to relax, well that's my excuse! We only had two beers before calling it a night (early enough).
I reckon I got about four hours of sleep, mind racing, nerves etc. Not much you can do about that though. Alarms went off shortly after 6am and we scoffed breakfast, got all our running/cycling kit on and drove to the bus pickup point. This was also the finish line, so we posed by the finish line...before the start.
That's Brian, me and Ronan pre-race. Yes, it was cold!

After the bus brought us to the start line I did a short warm up run. As I hadn't been able to run recently, it was the first chance I'd had to run with all the race kit on. I made a couple of quick, small adjustments and felt good to go.
 Me with most of my kit on, including camelbak, arm warmers etc. Not included in this shot are gloves and hat (mandatory).

I wore a long sleeve tech top and a short sleeve tech top over it along with arm warmers. For the start of the run I also wore my fingerless gloves and beanie hat, but took the hat off later when I warmed up. I was debating whether to wear my jacket (mandatory to have one with you), as some did, but once I got running I was glad I hadn't put it on.
 After we got our kit checked (some people weren't allowed to race due to failing the kit check!), we waited for the start, it was cold!
And we're off!

I decided not to push the pace too early and that was a wise, wise move! We ran about 500m on a back road and then we went onto the single track of Strikeen Mountain. Some parts were rocky, but quite a bit of it was mud, in some places half way up to our knees. Of course that slowed us down going up and made it slippery going back down. I was wearing my VFF KSO Treks with Injinji toe socks. I don't think any type of footwear would have prevented slipping in all that mud, but I found the Treks to be great. I didn't bring the camera on the runs as looking off the track for a second meant a slide or worse. I told the guys I was hoping for 45mins to cover the 7.2k or so. It took a little over 50mins, not too far off.
 Me coming in to the end of stage 1

A closer shot, note the muddy ankles/feet

As I was running into transition I was taking off the dibber. Ronan was already sitting on his bike so I put it straight on his wrist and he was off...
Ronan starting stage 2, a 35k hilly bike ride

My feet after stage 1...

Stage 2 took about 1:45 and Ronan handed the gauntlet to Brian for the kayak, stage 3.
 Brian going out in his kayak (blue top)

Brian just finished, good job! You can see the dibber on his wrist.

After Brian finished stage 3 it was my turn again, this time to take on Torc Mountain. I thought this would be 8k or so, it wasn't...
I ran out of the park, across the road and started running the trails and rocky steps to the mountain. After a while I came to a fork in the road and couldn't see anyone in front. A sign indicated to go straight, but neither option was straight! I decided to take the left and shortly after I looked back to see other runners stopping and looking confused, they ended up following me. Then the road started going downhill and I was tempted to turn back, but didn't. I rounded a corner to see other runners and a course marshall, phew! After about the 2k mark we went off the fire road and onto single track that was very rocky and slow going. Some sections were covered by two railway sleepers bolted together, which was great, but anytime a runner was going the opposite direction you both had to come to an almost total stop to let each other pass. My legs were feeling tired by now, but slowing down would just make it last longer. I got to the summit in 45mins, which was 5.5k. There was a small queue of about 5 runners to check in so I took in the sights and once I checked in I started on the return journey. The downhill was sooo much easier, but it was tricky on some rocky/muddy sections. Once I got back to the fire road I opened up the legs and took off. I was feeling tired at this point, not just in the legs though. Then I realized it must be lunch time and I had only eaten a few cereal bars since breakfast. The mountain runs took a lot of calories! (Update: My garmin reckons I used 550 calories for the first run and about 800 for the second run.) There was a water refill station near the end of the run, but I kept going to make good time. I had water left in the camelbak anyway. Once back in the park I sprinted over to the bike drop, checked in and passed the dibber to Ronan again.

 Ronan on his bike waiting for the next stage

 He was off for the final 4k bike section pretty sharp-ish. I grabbed some food from Brian and took more water on. That 10.5k mountain run had taken 1hr 40mins!
Me after the second mountain run stage, that's the mountain in the background
We walked around to the finish line and met up with Ronan to get our finisher's medals, and free portions of chips! There was free physio sessions, hot tubs for the legs and a tent for Helly Hansen, the main sponsor. After chilling out for a bit we drove back to the apartment and chilled out in the pool/sauna/jacuzzi for a while before dinner. The whole race had taken us 4 hrs and 42 mins, not bad for our first adventure race! The winning team did it in 4:23 I believe and the overall solo winner did it in 3hrs something.
Finish line photo - Team Misadventures!

 During the prize giving in a local pub that night, we were told that the last competitor finished at 7:15pm, wow, lots of respect for someone to keep going that long especially when it must have been getting dark!
That evening over beer and food we discussed next year's plans and how best to approach the race. We'll be back...


Elevations and profiles for the two run stages, distance in KM, height in feet (for some strange reason!)
 Stage 1

Stage 4

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Racing, the foot issue and plans

Racing has been going really well this year. I've broken a PB in all but one distance I've done (half marathon, more on that later) and broken my 5k PB three times in two months. Happy days!
I think part of the reason is due to transitioning to VFFs for the majority of my training runs and races. I wrote an article about it and the good folk at Barefoot Ireland decided to post it in full, I won't repost it here though, you can read it on their site.
I would have liked to break my half marathon PB of 1:45:30, and that was the plan. But, two weeks before the race I landed badly on a rock/stone on the road during a long run and one of the muscles in my right foot swelled up and has been taking it's sweet time in recovering. I was at the physio last night and she was surprised it hadn't healed, so no running again for this week. I did the HM in 1:47, in pain, but I had done the challenge I had set out to accomplish.
Next on the schedule is the Killarney Adventure Race in less than two weeks. I was going to do it on my own, but during a discussion with two friends over christmas drinks last year we decided to do it as a relay. We're doing the 57k route, which consists of: Mountain Run - 7.5km, Road bike - 35km, Kayak - 1.5km, Mountain Run - 8km and Road Bike - 4km. One of the guys is a very keen cyclist and has just finished a 180k cycle with friends, in about 7 hours. He will be doing all the cycling! The other guy will be doing the kayak as he has an issue with his foot too, and I'll be doing the two mountain runs. We're not going to be "racing" it, just having a laugh and using it as an excuse to meet up really!
After that the only racing plans I have for this year are either the Waterford HM or the Jingle Bells 5k. Unfortunately both are on the same day, so I'll probably end up doing the 5k as it's closer to home. 
Shortly after that I'll be doing my "Birthday Run", running 1km for each year on my birthday. A bit of planning and training needs to be done for that though.
I've already signed up for a marathon in 2013 and have two other races scheduled, but not booked next year. 

Keep running,

Monday, August 27, 2012

Race report - Frank Duffy 16k in the park

Gross alert: Nasty close-up of my foot at the bottom of the page!
After my not-so-good 10k race back in July, I had been training hard and recovering well in the build up to this race. I started the year doing one or two runs a week in the VFFs and the rest in normal runners. I've now switched to doing nearly all my weekly runs in VFFs and only doing one or two in runners. It's made a big difference to my running form and fluidity, or so it feels to me anyway!
Before the race I'd build up to running 15-16k in the VFFs and not having any ill effects, so I was confident that my legs would be fine. On race morning I had my usual brekkie and kept myself hydrated. I had all my running kit ready the night before, so I didn't have to go looking for anything. In training I'd been running 15-16k without water, so on the day I didn't even think about bringing any. There were two water stations on the course anyway. The only things I brought on the race (apart from clothes) were my garmin, my RoadID and the car keys.
I left the house at 9:15, a bit later than I wanted, but time enough to get there. After parking outside the park I jogged to the start line. I checked my garmin to see what pace I was running at and was surprised to see it read 8:30-ish. Then I remembered that Garmin Support had asked me to do a hard reset on it the day before, so it had returned to all it's defaults, including miles, not metric! I quickly changed it and kept going.
At this stage I really needed to find a toilet and got in the portaloo queue. There were 12-14 people in front of me when a man called out over a megaphone that there was 5 mins to the start! I ran over to a tree about 100m away and did what had to be done. The only issue was that the long grass I ran over was very wet and muddy, which would be a big deal later on.
Anyway, I made my way into wave 1 (sub 80mins) and met up with 4 runners from the club and got chatting. I was hoping to beat last year's time of 1:21:23 and get under 1:20 if all went to plan. Pretty soon the air horn sounded the start and 6,000 of us took to the roads and paths of the largest fenced park in Europe. I kept myself held back for the first 2k or so until I found a happy pace, one that I could keep for the distance. I knew the hills came at around 10k, so I wanted to keep something in the tank until then.
About 3k into the race, a runner pulled up alongside and started chatting about my VFFs. I told him about my experiences and shortly after he moved away, hoping to get under 73mins. The first water station was at about 4k in, but only on one side of the road. I grabbed a cup and a runner in front of me stopped in her path to get a cup, meaning I had to jump out of the way. I didn't slow my pace much and only took a couple of small sips of water.
From 6.5 to 9.5k we were running along the main road through the park, Chesterfield Avenue, which is reasonably flat. Then we turned right and went downhill followed by the first real hill at 10.5k. I dropped my pace a bit, but kept the cadence up and pumped the arms to keep me moving, which definitely helped.
At around 11.5k we had the second (and last) water station, just before more hills. I decided to take a cup and walk to get as much in as I could and started back attacking the hills again. Just past the 14k mark I knew we were past all the hills and didn't have much left in the race. Two of the toes on my right foot were rubbing badly, I knew I had blistered and every step was sore. I decided that I'd be finished quicker if I ran faster, so I did. I knew there were just two right hand corners left (memorizing the course route beforehand is a big help!), and I knew the distance left (thanks to my garmin), so I treated it as a progression run. I didn't want to get over the line and be full of energy, I wanted to put in as much of myself as I could.
I kept bringing up the pace, 4:15, then 4:05, then around the last corner it was under 4min pace. That's when I saw a clubmate with his camera and shouted to him...

These were taken with about 150m to go. I kept increasing the pace and going over the line my pace was 3:30, which I was delighted about. Immediately over the line, another runner started asking me about my VFFs! I was very polite, but I was well out of breath. When he said goodbye and left I then realized I hadn't stopped the garmin. Too late, but I got a text message later to say that my official time was 1:16:59, woohoo!! That's over 4 mins off my previous 16k time!
I got some water and a couple of bananas and my goodie bag and walked back to Neal (the cameraman) and we waited for the rest of the clubmates. After they had all come in and we had chatted I jogged slowly back to my car. My right foot was in a lot of pain now, but I didn't want to take the VFFs off until I could do something about it and I reckoned they would keep a lot of crap out of the blisters too. I took this pic with my phone when I got back to the car. You can see the blood stain on my right foot by the toes.

I jogged back and cheered on the runners as they were finishing (Hi Suzie!). At the car I had more bananas and my recovery drink and water before going home and taking care of my toes.
Three of my toes had blistered and two of them had burst. I had to cut the excess skin with a scissors, wash the toes and spray a disinfectant (which has a bit of a kick!) on them before covering them up.

All in all, despite the blisters I felt great afterwards and felt like I could have kept going at a steady pace. I really enjoyed the day and the weather was really good for it, about 16 degrees and partially cloudy. I think the main reason I was able to increase my pace at the end was due to my weekly progression runs that I've added in lately. Time to recalculate my goals, get some advice on VFFs and blisters and training for the HM in three weeks!

Keep running,

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Core/Abs challenge

Right so. I completed this back in June and the good folk at TribeSports have asked me to see how many of my buddies can complete it too.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Silver lining

This post was going to be all about the Fingal 10k I ran in Swords last Sunday; and in a way it is. But there's a lot more to it than that. I'll backup a bit first...
Last year I was doing races about every 3-4 weeks and training a lot in between. This meant that I had an easy week just before a race and an easy week just after it to let my legs recover. Then I would get back to the "hard road" of training 70-80k a week. That worked fine and I got ever more comfortable at faster speeds, but I was mainly working on endurance, not speed. So my shorter races never got much faster, just easier (which sounds a bit strange).
Then I had an almost total break for 3 months (due to injury) and got back to it again in Feb this year. The first few weeks were really tough, especially when the realization of how my aerobic fitness had dropped sank in.
But I kept at it and told myself I would be mainly concentrating on 5k-10k races, with one half marathon (in September). I devised my own training programme and stuck to it, but allowed myself to take a day off if I felt that not running would be better than running when tired. That way I don't feel guilty about not doing an unproductive run.
My training has been going really well and I can honestly say I have lost count of the times I've broken a PB this year. (Some recent ones are listed at the bottom of this page)
And now, the bit you've been waiting for...the wheels fell off essentially. On the build up to the Fingal 10k, I had done 3 races (Dunshaughlin 10k, Irish Runner 8k and South O'Hanlon 5k - with a PB in each) and taken a week's family holiday in the south of Portugal in the previous 4 weeks! Those 3 races were within 11 days, so I wasn't getting much in the way of productive training in *and* recovery. Then during the trip to Portugal it was between 32-35 degrees every day, so any (short) runs I got were all pretty slow. Add in that I was drinking beer or wine every day on holiday, which I almost never do at home, means I was ill prepared.
So we flew back to Ireland on Thursday morning, I did a speed session that evening (I already knew my preparation wasn't up to it) and a cross training session on Friday. Saturday was a rest/family day with the race on Sunday.
I prepared as usual the night before the race and got all my kit ready, got a good night's sleep and got up at 7:30am to have my pre-race brekkie. All well so far. The family came along with me to this race, as the kids love the Pavillions shopping centre where we parked the car.
This was the second in the Dublin Marathon race series and I'd mentioned online that I would be running all four of the races in my VFFs. Time to put my feet where my mouth was! I did a little over 1k warmup and some dynamic stretching. There were only two waves for the start, sub 50mins and over 50mins. My PB going into it was 45-ish, so I hopped into the sub-50 wave. I met a few club mates before the start (and one during the race), so it was good to know I could compare notes with them after.
It was a warm day, about 18 degrees and very humid. When the race started, we headed out along the main street of Swords and onto the dual carriageway to loop back around the town and eventually back into the main street running down it the opposite direction.
The first 2k or so I was busy overtaking people and finding my rhythm, but I settled down after that. I usually go out too fast and then have to slow down, but this time I went at a comfortable pace but never seemed able to go much faster. I'm not sure if it was due to lack of longer runs, or speed work or just lack of quality training combined with the humidity on the day, but I just wasn't able to get into "the zone". There was a water station at about 5.5k (with cups, not bottles) and I already knew the race wasn't going well, so I took a cup of water and walked while I drank. I threw the reminder of the water over my head and got back running.
For the rest of the race I kept a steady pace, but never looked at my garmin unless it was to check the distance. The course was pretty hilly, which is a weak point with me, as where I live is pancake flat!

Anyway, I held it together for the remainder and tried to speed up a bit for the last section on the length of the main street. A club member was taking photos with about 200m left (I don't have it yet) and I got a look at it afterwards. He said I didn't look like I was pushing myself and I think he was right.
Here's another photo taken probably at the 7k mark

So my finishing time was 47:04. I was disappointed initially, but given my lack of decent preparation I think it's an ok time.
I met up with the family just after the finish line and my OH told me that the front runners had salt streaks on their faces from the sweat, which you wouldn't normally get in a race in Ireland!
Silver lining? Well I was looking back at my training plan and have decided not to take on any more races until the 16k in about 4 weeks. That should let me at least build up to where I was. After that there's another month to the Dublin HM, so no more races between those two either. And yes, I'll have to build up the time and distances in the VFFs for those too!

Keep running,


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Race report - South O'Hanlon 5k

I did this race last year and loved it, despite it *heaving* with rain...until I'd finished it...of course. So when I realized it was coming up again I just had to sign up.
I'd done an 8k race in Phoenix Park on the Saturday in the VFFs and had a bit of tightness in the calves still, even after getting out on the bike for 30k to loosen them out. But I still felt pretty good.
The weather was perfect, 18 degrees, blue skies and a slight breeze, just right.

In the photo are Tom, Anne-Marie, Jacinta and myself, all sporting our new club t-shirts too. 
I was the only one from our club who had done this race before, so I told the rest that there were "only two small hills". I may have *slightly* played down that aspect...Ah well!
I had decided to run it in my VFFs and told anyone who wanted to hear that I wasn't going for a PB, I just wanted to beat last year's time of 23:33.
Anyway, we got our bib numbers and t-shirts and did a couple of laps of the car park as a warm up. Then we just had time to empty the bladders before jogging the 800m to the start line. I did my usual dynamic leg stretches and chatted before getting in place about ten people back from the line. Almost 400 took part, which is the largest crowd in the race's 25 year history. Right on time the gun went off and we were away into the evening sun.
For some reason I didn't do my usual panic ridden, shit-off-a-shovel start and kept it to a good, manageable pace (must be getting old!). The course is almost entirely a left hander, winding around the back roads not far from Navan, Co. Meath. A good few people overtook me, but I've learned not to let it bother me. I'm not racing them, I'm racing me.
I saw one teenager running in heavy runners and heavy woolen rugby socks, knee length. His feet must have been pretty warm and toasty (and very, very smelly)! The distance was ticking itself off nicely and I found it easy enough in the VFFs. There was a water station at the 4k mark, but I kept going.
Around this time I caught up with a woman who was roughly my age and keeping a good pace. I wasn't trying to stay with her, but I did decide that I was going to overtake her. Just to give me a goal to increase my speed at the end. With about 600m to go I gained on her, she noticed and pulled further ahead. I was really struggling with the pace now and breathing was getting pretty tough.

Here's a great pic of the final few hundred metres

With about 100m to go I pulled up alongside her and noticed her trying to push away but not being able to. I just pushed in front by 5-6m and crossed the line in 21:48, a new PB!
I got a bottle of water and waited for my clubmates, who all gave out to me about the "two small hills" :-)
So now it's back to training for the 10k coming up in Swords on July 22nd. Hope to see you there!


Irish Runner Episode 15

In this episode I talk about my recent races, the differing weather in them and my training.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Race report - Dunshaughlin 10k

Dunshaughlin AC had their 33rd annual 10k race last Saturday. It was my first time at this race and I'd definitely recommend it for next year. This year had the biggest turnout so far with 647 finishers.
I met up with Keith and Tom and a few locals in the Community Centre beforehand and went over our individual aspirations for the race, pacing and times etc. I (jokingly) said that my tactic was to "run like mad for the first 9k and then hang on until the end". I picked up my bib number, t-shirt etc. It was about 14 degrees but windy with light rain on and off.
I did some dynamic stretching and then with 15minutes to go we did a light run out to the start line and chatted to a few people until we were under way. I had decided to set the garmin virtual training partner up on my watch, so I knew how my overall pace was going. I've used it before successfully, but this time (for some reason) it messed up and told me I was about two minutes slower by the 5k mark, so I just stopped looking at it and ran by feel.
The course wound back to Ratoath up to just past the half way mark. A nice touch was having a race clock at the 5k point. I glanced at the clock and saw 22:xx on it, only slightly slower than my 5k PB. I told myself to "chill the **** out and slow down a bit". After that we turned right and right again to be met with a few small hills. I didn't know there would be hills, and they made me lose my focus a bit and dented the pace. There were water stations every 2k or so, which were great, but I can't drink and run, I just end up choking. I think one of the water stations was unofficial and just setup by a family outside their house!
There was lots of people out to cheer us on in the last kilometer. At this point, I caught up to a guy running whilst holding his left ribcage, I presumed he had a stitch. I ran alongside him and chatted. He did have a stitch and I said I'd stay with him. I was calling out the distance left, 800m...700m. With just 100m to go he took off again.
Photo credit - Rory Mooney
Then I saw the finish line clock with 44:xx on it!!
 Up to this my legs were feeling heavy, but somehow I decided to sprint. I overtook the guy I'd been running with and two other runners in the last 30m.
At the finish line we were offered water, bananas and even strawberries with cream! After a brief chat (it was raining again at this point) we jogged back to the Community Centre to cool down and got some tea/coffee, cakes, sandwiches, fruit etc.
Many thanks to the organizers, excellent job!


Friday, June 15, 2012

Updates, goals and racing

As a general rule I don't do regular "monthly updates" to this blog, it's more a case of when I have time and something (I think) people might just be interested in reading. Last month I ran around 158k, which is right where I want it for now. I didn't do much on the bike, so I'll have to change that as I'm meant to be doing the Meath Cycle Tour next month. There's three options, 50k, 100k or 160k. I'm nowhere near cycle-fit for 160k, and as I may have to cycle to and from the house to the start line in Trim I reckon the 50k option is better, as I'll have clocked up a total of around 90k for the day.
One of my goals for the year was to break my 5k PB of 23:24, which has stood for almost two years. I'm pretty sure I wasn't able to break it due to concentrating on longer distance running and endurance. Now that I'm working on middle distance races I've been able to break it twice this year, once in the Royal County 5k (22:17) and once two days ago in the Bohermeen 5k with 21:59
If you look closely, you can see it says 21:59:99, *just* under the 22mins :-)
So of course my next goal is to break 21mins...and then break 20mins. Even the thought of running an *average* 4:00 pace over 5k is making me nervous!
So my upcoming race schedule is like this:
Dunshaughlin 10k in just over a week (where I hope to beat my PB of 47:08), one week after that is the Pheonix Park 8k (aka Irish Runner 5 mile). I did it last year and got 39:20, so I'll aim to beat my time again. Then only four days later I have another 5k...the South O'Hanlon AC race. I did that one last year also and held back as I thought it would be hilly, and it wasn't. I ended up 9 sec slower than my PB. Lesson learnt!
I then have two and a half weeks before my next race, a 10k.
After the South O'Hanlon 5k all my races are 10k, 16k or half marathon, so I'm working on my training plan to increase distance and endurance, while still keeping up the speed work that has been working quite well for me so far. Of course I'm aiming to beat my PBs in all these distances... :-)
Another couple of items I've been working on: Firstly I'm running less, about half as much as I was per week compared to last summer, but I'm improving my middle distance running at the same time. It's not just less distance, I'm running around four days a week, whereas previously I would run five or six days a week. If I feel the need for a recovery day, I take it. I don't feel bad about it, recovery is more important than an under productive run or workout.
Secondly, I'm being a lot more careful and specific about my nutrition. I won't go into details here (I may post another time just on food), but I've been told that "60% of your training is about correct nutrition". I'm very much taking that on board. Not only for the days/weeks leading up to a race, but on a long term basis and also post-race. I reckon the post-race meal is almost as important (if not just as important) as the pre-race meal.
Anyway, I could go on and on, but for now I'll stop rambling!
Keep running,

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Current training

As my regular reader (or possibly readers) will know, I've decided from a couple of months ago to not do any long distance running this year, or at least until the latter part of the year. Instead I'm focusing on middle distance running and races. To that end I'm working off a 10k plan that I found online (I really don't remember where, sorry) and then proceeded to "cut and shut" it.
The plan was in miles, so I had to convert it to metric. Then there's certain days I usually don't run on, like a Monday, but I can cross-train then, so I edited that. Also, I've never done a "tempo run" in my life, and I'm happy with that, so I took that off too. Then I moved the interval/speed sessions to suit the evenings when I go to the track. Then I put in all the races I have planned for the 10-12 weeks or so and put in rest days around them to suit. Before I knew it the plan bore very little resemblance to the original!
I've been reading up on running websites etc about different training plans and trying out some of the speed sessions, not enough room here to go into them all. But I even did one recently on an evening when the weather was just horrible, but I did it on a treadmill. I'm not a fan of treadmills, but needs must.
The speed session was a warmup jog of 7 mins, then put the incline to 1% and run hard for 1min and easy for 30sec - repeat 6 times. Then go straight into 30sec hard and 30sec easy - repeat 8 times. All of this was followed by an easy jog and then walk. I did all of it in my VFFs too, which I love.
So my running/training week looks like this...
Monday - Rest or cross train. Cross training for me is gym work. It is mostly free weights with some time on the rower and also body weight exercises.
Tuesday - If I didn't get to do cross training on Monday I'll do it today, but without leg work, just upper body and core. That will be before work. In the evening the club has it's track session, so I'll do my speed work then. Usually intervals based around multiples of 400m or 800m, but can also be time trials or 1,600m repeats.
Wednesday - Usually 40mins easy pace with HR kept low
Thursday - Speed session again, nicknamed "Fartlek Thursday" as I usually do a fartlek but change it from week to week. Once every 4-5 weeks I'll do a time trial (TT) on Thursday's. They will either be distance or time based. TTs are either 3k, 5k or 15mins.
Friday - Cross training in the morning if I can and may either be a rest-from-running day or an easy 40min run, depending on the weekend schedule.
Saturday - May be either a rest day or a long run. If a long run then Friday will be a rest day. "Long" runs on this plan don't go over 90 mins, again at an easy pace.
Sunday - If long run was Saturday then today is a shorter run or a rest day. Short runs are 45mins, mainly to get used to running on tired legs. This is done at an easy pace.

Note: Apart from speed sessions, all of my runs are at an "easy pace". This is done keeping my HR low, zone 1-2 to build on endurance and my aerobic base.
One of the hard parts I find is trying to fit in an "easy week". I was wondering about this recently and I happened to get a head cold, so no training for 4 days. I guess that was an easy week!

Any questions?


Monday, May 7, 2012

Royal County 5k

A wet summer's day in Kells today for the Meath Local Sports Partnership road race. Registration and post race tea/coffee was held in the Headford Arms Hotel, very close to the start line.
We did our warm ups and - of course - it started raining again. Once the race started we were running downhill for the first 800m or so and in the rain it felt like most of the rest of the race was climbing back up. Pic of the race elevation below...

Throughout the 2-4k section I felt like I was going too fast, probably due to uphill sections, so I backed off a bit. When the road leveled out I'd try and pick it up again. From about the 4k mark the rain got really heavy and I had to squint to see the road ahead. I could hear my feet squelching with every step and a lot of the last section was like running in a shallow stream, although we were running back into the town. Near the end I heard the announcer say 22 something, and I assumed there were 22 finishers so far, then I glanced at my garmin and it said 21:xx! I put the pressure on and managed to finish in 22:13 (official). That's over a minute off my PB, not bad for the conditions. There was free water bottles at the finish line and also at about the 4k mark. The tea and coffee afterwards was just what I needed and all in all it was a very well organized event. Many thanks to all involved and well done to anyone who braved the elements!

Update: I was 44th overall out of 420, not sure about age group placings though. Almost in the top 10% :-)


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Upcoming races

Ok, I've been checking my schedule (and that of the rest of the family!) and have booked myself on the following races:
Royal County 5k - May 7th
Pheonix Park 5k - June 9th

Dunshaughlin 10k - June 23rd
Irish Runner 8k - June 30th
Fingal 10k - July 22nd
Meath cycle tour (50k/100k/160k) - July 29th
Frank Duffy 16k - August 25th
Dublin half marathon - September 15th
Killarney Adventure Race (relay) - October 6th
...and possibly the Dublin Marathon - October 29th (not booked yet)

Is that enough? :-)

And yes, I really should stop leaving my wallet beside the computer!


Thursday, April 19, 2012

New training and goals

Last year I pushed myself and broke myself (almost). I won't go over the details again, they are all in my older posts. I had some big goals for last year and injuring myself put a complete stop to attaining some of them. If I had been training less I would still have become injured, just less so - such was the nature of the injury. Having said that, I got a PB in all but one race I ran last year!

I have learnt a lot about myself due to the injury and issues from last year and early this year and I now think I'm much better at listening to my own body and realizing when to ease off in training and when I can push myself a bit more. I've also become quite familiar with my running/racing pace and know by feel where my threshold is - that fine line between running at a sustainable pace and blowing up. There's only a few seconds in difference in your pace.

I went on a 10k local training run a few weeks back and came back badly blistered (in spite of what I just said in the previous paragraph!). I felt no pain on my right foot, but three blisters on my toes had burst and were bleeding. My left foot felt like it had a small pebble under it for the last 4k or so and I had a 4cm or so blood blister on the ball of my foot at the end. The mid-foot section swelled up and I could only walk properly again 3 days later on the Wednesday. On Friday I tried 3k on a treadmill and felt good, so I then did the Great Ireland Run 10k on the Sunday. As you might imagine my time wasn't as good as I would otherwise hope for, still I got 48:19, so happy enough.

Last year I was on a tough training plan that had me running 7-8 hours a week and cross training too, for a total of around 11 hours training a week for 16 weeks straight. I had "easy" weeks immediately after a race, but then it was back into top gear again. On reflection I miss the time I could have spent with the family. My kids are 5 and 4 and are just getting their independence, so it's great to be there for them.

With that in mind, I've refocused and will be (mainly) training for and racing 5 and 10k races this year, with an adventure relay race in the autumn. I might do the Dublin half marathon, but I'll see closer to the time.
So goals for the year are to break my 5k and 10k PBs (23:24 and 47:08). Ideally I'd like to get under 22 in the 5k and under 45 in the 10k. I think they are both attainable. The key is consistency!

Keep running,


Monday, April 2, 2012

Irish Runner Episode 14

This time I talk about the 43rd annual Dunboyne run and my first attempt at a hill/mountain/trail race!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A duo of race reports

So the first race I did this year was a bit different for me. Last year I trained right through the winter and kept at it up for the Waterford half marathon in January - where I sprained my ankle. This year I had a forced 3 months break from running but got back into it in late Jan/early Feb. It was a deliberately slow return, not wanting to over train or get injured. I'd kept up cross training (cycling, gym work and kettle bells), so I had a certain amount of fitness, but just not running.
Anyway, one of the coaches in the club suggested I try the BHAA races, some of which are cross country. I'd only done one CC race before, and that was a 2k race in Sydney. So I thought I'd give it a go. The race was in Maynooth College grounds over grass and through some wooded areas, so twigs, small branches and muddy areas.
I arrived on the day with my family in tow and let them walk down to Maynooth while I registered, warmed up and waited for the race to start. It was a chilly day, so apart from my shorts I had two technical t-shirts, one of them with long sleeves, and a wooly hat and gloves. Thankfully the rain held off.
The race was to be four loops, for a total of 6.5k (4 miles for the old folk). At the starting line I got chatting to a fellow BF runner, although he actually was barefooted (remember all the twigs and mud I mentioned?). I however was in my VFFs - KSO Treks. The race got underway and I set off too fast, of course...

By half way through the first lap I settled into a pace that looked too fast on the garmin (4:45). After the second lap I took off my gloves and on the third lap I took my hat off too.

That was right about where the front of the pack lapped me. I didn't get a great feeling about that, but hey, that's life.
Around this time I started thinking that my pace was unsustainable and slowed slightly. However I did still manage to overtake about 5 or 6 people on that last lap. I'm presuming they were getting slower as they went on. I kept a steady pace from there and despite wanting to make a break for the finish line I didn't have it in me and just kept going.

My time was just over 31mins ( I'm too tired to check the website!) and I'm really happy that A) I did it, B) I ran the whole way and C) I didn't collapse in a pool of sweat and vomit at the end!
Since then I've been running in the VFFs every second day and trying to run 4-5 days a week. Usually 4, but I'm not doing marathon training at the moment.

Kildalkey 5 miler (8k)
I did this race last year with my BIL, who is a member of the hosting club (Fr Murphy's AC). I had stomach cramps and had to walk parts and finished in 38:43. This year we had cooler temps (6-8C) and it was raining on and off. This would be my first road race of the year and my longest race since the Dublin HM last September. As I'm only getting back to running, I was hoping to run the whole way and if possible, beat last year's time. As I jogged from the Kildalkey Community Centre to the start line (about 1k) I had a few runners ask me where the start line was. Nice to be the "old dog" at a race!
I did my warmup run and took shelter for a minute under a tree during the rain. Then all 127 of us lined up and headed off on the wet roads and boreens. I'm really getting to like the smaller races, there's a lot more character and friendliness to them. Some of the narrower roads had large puddles the whole width of them. The faster runners would barrel straight through (you could tell who they were at the end due to the mud splashes up to their waist!), but us mid-pack runners ran up on the grass. The pack thinned out pretty quick, and after a while I had two runners in front of me that I never caught or lost.
I didn't look over my shoulder at any time, I had too much to focus on. After the 2k mark or so I stopped looking at my garmin as it was stressing me and I didn't look at it again until I went over the finish line. As the end of the race drew closer, I could hear the announcer over the PA system, so I brought my pace up a bit. Then I turned a corner and the line was in sight and sprinted the last 50m or so. Going over the line I got 38:10. It would have been good to get under 38mins, but as I was 33sec faster than last year, in worse conditions, I'm quite happy.

Time to prepare for next Sunday's Dunboyne race!


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Feb update

So I've not been doing a lot of running lately and I was talking to a buddy a couple of days ago and said I was "starting back at running". When the words had left my mouth I thought about them...
I had to take a break in mid-October due to hamstring pain. No end of physio visits seemed to get to grips with the why and how of it. Then I did a few short runs of 2-5k in January, but developed a Morton's Neuroma on my left foot. Rest is usually the best for that, and it's cleared up now.
One early morning (pre 7am) I was chatting to a mate in the gym along with one of the Personal Trainers. He asked how my hamstring was. I said it was still giving trouble. He then asked if I had lower back pain - which I did. "Aha" he said, "have you thought of sciatica?" I really hadn't, so when I got home, I googled for sciatica exercises and found lots. I picked one that looked like it would be pretty effective and did 10 reps on each leg, 3 sets twice that day.
The next morning I woke in NO PAIN for the first time in 3 months! The following day I went back to see the physio and when I told him that I had found an exercise to do and that I was in no pain he said "Really? I was about to refer you for an MRI!"...
Anyway, he took a look and now it seems that my glute on the right is somehow weaker and this is causing my hamstring on that side to do more of the work...and get strained....tada!
Now that I know exactly what the issue was/is (weak glute, not sciatica) and an exercise to fix it, I have a lot more confidence about getting out running again.
With that newfound confidence, I did a lunchtime run on Tuesday of about 5.6k. I just wanted to be back on the roads again and feel the endorphin buzz that I missed. The run went really well and I was buzzing afterwards. The next day my son somehow managed to sit on a chair while I was moving it and it went down on my big toe, with him still on it. How I managed to not swear and curse to bring the house down was amazing!! Then again, my Mum and my two kids were in the room at the time, so it wouldn't have been appreciated...
Last night I did another 1 hour Kettlebells class. It's a real arm/shoulder/leg killer, so I'm assuming it's good for me in the long run.
I was hoping to get a run in during lunchtime today, but I'll have to wait until my toe has healed. On the plus side, I managed to get a new tube for the bike, so I'll be getting a bike ride early on Sunday. Unless I somehow amass another injury between now and then!! Anyhow, I'll be running again either by the end of this week or the start of the next, great news :-)

Keep running,

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mickey Ruben coaching course

On Saturday, I was lucky enough to be able to take part in this one day coaching course. Mickey Ruben is Usain Bolt's Strength and Conditioning coach and is also a Physio in his own right and used to compete in Decathlons.

There were about 70 people there, mainly coaches and runners, but also some footballers and martial artists.

The day started with core exercises. This is a pic of one that was recommended. The athlete is holding two dumbbells (weight not important) and the arms kept wide while staying in that position for 20-30secs.

Next we moved on to get a demonstration of the "jack-knife" abs workout - looked tough!

Then we moved on to mobility work, and used some hurdles. The volunteers had to hold the hurdle with both hands and make their way over each one in turn. It's all about getting the hips in the air - which in turn helps with sprints.

This is an "action shot" of the same hip movement applied to sprint starts:

After lunch (which was included in the price), we moved outside to the all weather track for some fine tuning of sprint starts and setting up in the blocks (no pics I'm afraid). Then it was back inside for discussions on warmups, cool downs, shot putt, javelin and a Q & A session.

It was a really packed and worthwhile course and one I'd highly recommend. Many thanks to Carlow AC for hosting the event!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Irish Runner Episode 13

In this long awaited episode, I talk openly about backing out of the 2011 Dublin marathon and my current foot issue. Also I chat about the Jingle Bells 5k.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

False start

As my regular reader (Hi Mom!) will know, I had a major hamstring issue last year that effected the middle hamstring muscle in my right leg and the tendon. The tendon still gives pain, but I use a form roller on it and keep stretching, so it's not nearly the big deal it was.
From just before the holidays I got back out running and was starting to feel my running fitness coming back. Then I began to get a pain on the ball of my left foot and would have to stop after 2-3k or so. It came back every run, so after a week I went to the physio. He worked on it and said it was a "Morton's Neuroma" and I should massage the foot regularly. So a couple of days went by and I did a relaxed 8k or so run around the village, all good.
Then the issue came back and despite the work I was doing on my foot it wasn't going away. So I'm currently using anti-inflammatories and ice to reduce the pain. Apparently it's caused by a pinched nerve due to friction. Mine is located between the first and second metatarsals. Sometimes this is caused by runners being too tight around the toebox, but as I mainly run barefoot I don't see that as being the issue! I'm thinking that as my feet are getting stronger and reshaping due to the barefoot running the nerve hasn't "fitted in" properly yet, but we'll see how it goes.
Here's hoping I can get it sorted and get back running soon!

Update: I was talking to two physios over the weekend and they agreed that I need to rest the foot for 4-6 weeks, no running or long walks...
Keep running,