Monday, December 9, 2013

Training shift

Up to now, any training plans for running I've been using have all been four to five days a week, mostly five. On all of them I've been doing four (or three) mid-week runs and one long run at the weekends.
This format has served me well, and I've completed a fair number of races (18 last year) and with reasonable times. However, my running goals for next year have shifted slightly, and with that, so has my training plan.
I'm now running three mid-week runs and two back to back long runs at the weekend. So I'm still getting two rest days a week, and a mid-week long run, but speed training is not as important, or not emphasized as much. At least for now.
Right now I'm working on my aerobic base, so lots and lots of slow runs, trying to keep the HR at or below the zone 2 max. For the weekend just gone, my Saturday run was 20k and my average HR was 147. Bearing in mind my garmin did a couple of their famous "spikes" to over 200bpm, I think it's fair to say my actual avg HR was probably 145 or less. That run was an average of 5:56 pace, kinda slow, but necessary.
Sunday's run was sluggish to start with, ok in the middle and great by the end. For the last 3k or so I was very tempted to put in a burst and turn it into a progression run, but I resisted. Distance was 12k, pace 5:55 and avg HR 148, although no spikes over 168 this time. I think the avg HR for Sunday was slightly up due to my body still recovering from the previous day's run. Also it was a lot cooler - my first time running in a jacket this season. Last week was the first week in a long time I've done NO planned cycling since July, when I was overseas. Feels weird!
So on twitter over the weekend I was hounded - in a nice way - to reveal my training plans for 2014. So my first race will be the Tralee Marathon in March and three weeks after that I'll be running in the Connemarathon ultra (if all goes well). I do have another big race further on in the summer, and I may or may not be doing that for charity, I have to talk to the people involved before I say any more about that.
I'll also be doing a couple of adventure races, possibly Dingle and Powerscourt or Killarney, along with some cycling only events.
Lots more to come!


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Training again

In October I started building up my running again as part of my marathon training. I soon found that my right hamstring (which I had injured in preparation for the Dublin marathon in 2011) was still causing a problem. So I visited a physio I know in Navan (about 40mins drive away). She specialises in treating old/recurring injuries and scar tissue. She confirmed that I had most likely torn the tendon that runs along the hamstring muscles and that it hadn't healed properly. It took three visits and almost three weeks off running, but I feel it's getting back to full function again. My current plan is to build my aerobic fitness on most if not all of my weekly runs for 2-3 months and then work on speed etc. I'm not worried or stressed about finishing times at the moment, just want to finish injury free so I can run again.
I had been doing some leg work in the gym and when doing single leg stuff I noticed that my left leg was a good 30-40% stronger. After the treatments, it feels like the right leg is closer to the same as the left leg, but not 100% yet. More leg work to do. For now I get DOMS in the right leg more than the left, but that will ease off.
Of course I can't just jump straight back into a full on marathon training week. I'm building it up slowly and am running four times a week and some cycling too. I went out with a newly formed cycling club last Sunday - my first group cycle! A great bunch and I'll definitely go out with them again.
So the plan for this weekend is long run Saturday, group cycle Sunday and possibly a short run that evening.
Fingers crossed it all goes well!

Keep running/cycling/training...


Monday, October 14, 2013

Post-KAR recovery week

Now that KAR is over for another year (no, it's just something in my eye!), I've had a week to recover and reflect. I've still been training some too.
I took Sunday and Monday off apart from some light, short walks. Tuesday had me back in the gym with the warm up and cool down on the bike - low impact & low intensity. No leg work, that's for sure! The next two days were similar except I also did an easy 5k run on Thursday. It went well, but I'd been having a tight IT band in my right leg since the race. After dinner it was time to go Kenpo training and I got 2hrs 15mins in. Nothing high intensity, just working on forms and techniques.
That evening I started feeling like a head cold was coming on and didn't sleep much. Usually when these two happen together I put it down to my body being too busy recovering from racing/training and take a day off, so Friday was a rest day.
Felt ok on Saturday, so I did 64-65k on the bike. It was cold and I had my wind cheater jacket on the whole time. By the end my fingerless cycling gloves were not enough to keep me warm and even though I had put my overshoes on my feet were like lumps of ice. That evening I went online and bought a turbo trainer.
I've mentioned before that I'll run in almost any weather (-6 in shorts on one occasion), but I'm definitely a fair-weather cyclist.
Sunday was dull and overcast, much like Saturday, but I went out and did a 10k run in the VFFs. For the first 60% of it my legs felt a bit tired, but they felt better towards the end and I picked up the pace. About 15 minutes into the run I wanted to check my pace, but I had forgotten to change the garmin from cycling to running. It wasn't an issue.
Rest day today (Monday) and back to the gym and a 5k run tomorrow!
I have registered for Connemara again. Apparently it takes two and a half years for me to forget how much pain I was in. Training for that will begin in two weeks, once I have recovered from the 90k Nicholas Roche Classic this Saturday.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Race review: KAR13

I was looking forward to this race for a long time, even before last year's race to be honest!
Last year we did the Killarney AR as a 3 person team. I did the two mountain runs, Ronan did the cycling and Brian did the kayak stage. At one point before we registered for last year's race I jokingly said I'd do the race solo and race against the two of them in their team. We did the team event (57k), but I had already planted the seed in my mind. 
This year when I contacted the guys again, neither of them could make it, so I got the chance to do it and decided to do the 67k route. Unfortunately due to a couple of issues/injuries my run training wasn't up to scratch, but it was still an excellent race.
I had done the Powerscourt AR three weeks before, so after that was a few days to recover, about 10 days training and a week taper. Because of the injury I got in May I was cycling a lot more than running and during the race it really showed.
We drove down the morning before, stopping off in a friend's house on the way. The two espressos I had there didn't do much to calm my pre-race nerves though!
I dropped the family off at the Gleneagle Apartments (right beside the hotel where the Expo and finish line was), signed on and dropped the bike out to the start line at Kate Kearney's Cottage.
I got to the bike drop just before sunset

After that I headed back and had dinner with the family. I think I had roast pork and veg. When we had finished we went back to the apartment and I got all my bits together. Its one thing getting ready for a running or cycling race, yet another to be preparing for a multi-sport race. Not only does your kit need to be prepared and checked for each stage, but you have to get your nutrition and hydration plans for the day sorted too. 
My alarm was set for 06:00, but I woke around 04:15 and was unable to sleep, naturally! I tried to sleep, but my brain wasn't having it and eventually just got up. Breakfast was bacon, eggs and white pudding with tea and water. Then it was time to get the racing gear on, fill the water bottles, make sure I had all my food etc and walk over to the bus pick up. The busses were right outside the hotel, so it didn't take long, thankfully!
On the bus there was loads of talk and I got a couple of questions from KAR newbies. After that I put my head back and tried to relax until the bus stopped. Once debussed, I put my cycling gear on the bike, pumped the rear tyre and got ready for the kit check. After that was done I did some dynamic mobility work for the legs until the air horn went off. Then it was running with the pack along the narrow, winding road and up the muddy, rocky, wet trail of stage one.
Just over 6k and not too steep, but the conditions under foot made me take it a bit slower than a normal hill run. With that over, we ran back to the start and jumped on the bikes and on towards the Gap of Dunloe and Moll's Gap, both notorious hills/mountains in the area. The going was pretty slow, but I got a few chances to take some electrolytes, a salt tablet and have a banana along with water. 

At the end of the bike stage there was a dirt trail and suddenly the faster road bikes with their narrow tyres were at a disadvantage and my hybrid bike with wider tyres and a good tread was able to keep up a good pace and still hold the line. I dropped the bike and walked while eating a protein bar and taking on more water while heading to the kayak stage. No point in showing an elevation for that! All the kayaks were two person and as I put my PFD on another guy around my height was waiting, so we teamed up. I jumped in the back (having some experience) and we headed off. We had a strong breeze blowing us to shore, so the outward journey was tough, but it made the homeward bit easier. While I was steering us to compensate for the wind, my "buddy" was steering us back and not putting much effort into paddling. No point in losing the head, I just kept paddling and steering. When we got to shore he admitted that I had done most of the work...
And then it was onto the second run stage, the bit I wasn't really looking forward to, the 18k mountain run. It started off ok, but then we got onto the mountain proper and I slowed right down. It had been quite sunny and warm all day but on the exposed mountain side I had to put on my hat and wind cheater to keep warm, despite my run/walk/climb.

Towards the end of the climb I found myself thinking that I would gladly pay someone to check me in at the checkpoint. Then I remembered that I had no cash or credit cards on me, so I'd have to keep going!
While I was on a slower section I took on another banana and a salt tablet and drank plenty of water. I took this photo from the checkpoint, looking back on the route we had come up.
On the downhill every now and then my quads would give out, so I'd slow down or walk and then pick it up again after a short break. I was delighted to finish that section and get over to the bike again.
I got to the bike, took on more of my electrolytes and water, sent a message to the family and got going.
I loved the last 4k on the bike and pushed the pace the whole time, knowing that I was almost there. We had to cycle past the hotel and under a specially made bridge to a bike drop 200m past. I was able to wave to the family beside the bridge, which was pretty cool. Once I dropped the bike, there was about a 200m run back to the bridge, run over it and about 30m to the last checkin at the finish line. I got a printout of my splits there and then, awesome! Total time was 6:32, not ground-breaking by any means, but given my lack of run training and that I only got started on bike training this year I'm very happy with the finish. We got a free small tub of "protein ice cream", water and bananas - all of which I had. After that I walked back to the bike and cycled it (slowly) to the apartment.
It was only when I sat down that I realised how muddy I was!
Bear in mind, that when getting into/out of the kayak I was half way up to my knees in water, so they would have been worse before that. But then again, I did fall on my ass coming down the second mountain run, so I guess it evens out. To recover, I sat in a cold bath (to ease the inflammation in the leg muscles) while I ate a large plate full of scrambled eggs and bacon, washed down with a protein/electrolyte drink and water.
Over the whole race I ate: two bananas, one protein bar (low carb), three salt tablets, some electrolytes and around 2.5 litres of water. Not only was I feeling full of energy at the end, I wasn't dehydrated either (I checked).
Looking forward to next year already!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Skyrne 50k cycle

As part of my build up to the KAR next weekend and also to encourage a good buddy to keep active, I've been doing a fair bit of cycling this year. So much that next year I'll be (hopefully) getting a road bike, in place of my current , hybrid bike.
I've been doing 50-80k on the bike each weekend, unless I was racing, so when I heard about this fundraiser cycle for just €15 I booked it straight away.
I had decided to take it relatively easy on this one, due to racing the following weekend, but as with a lot of my pacing plans, that didn't happen!

I cycled to the start (Skyrne GFC) with about 20mins to go and met a couple of club mates from the Athletics Club. They were both doing the 100k, so I didn't see them for the rest of the day. After sign in I grabbed a coffee and got my goodie bag. The down-side with cycling to the start was not having anywhere to put the goodie bag. So I ended up putting the energy gel, energy bar, banana and water bottle in my cycling jersey pockets and giving away the bag of crisps.
The 100k group started first and then the 50k shortly after. I started near the front of the pack (we were told in the registration that it is NOT a race), but I was quickly overtaken by most of the group. It was quite clear that I was not one of the "real cyclists" as I call them. The marshalling was excellent and friendly and the hills weren't too long or steep. I think it's an unwritten rule that every cycling event on the county has to go to/over the Hill of Tara. If you look at the course elevation below, Tara is the steepest bit near the middle.

There was a food stop at the top of Tara, which was great, but the hot water hadn't boiled by the time we got there, so I just had the banana I brought with me, some water and got going again. It wasn't that warm and there was a breeze up there, so I decided to keep moving. I was unsure of my average pace, but had made it half way in 63mins, including the climb, so I was happy with that. 
The second half didn't have that many hills, or that's the way it seemed, but it felt slower. Legs getting tired by this stage. The group was well spread out by now and I only saw 5 or 6 cyclists during this part. 
By the time I was on the Skyrne Road again I was wondering when we would be turning off it for a final loop before the finish. As it happened there was no loop and we finished up with around 46k instead of 50. It wasn't a race, so not officially measured, so not a big deal. After getting a burger at the BBQ (with no buns - I don't eat bread) and another coffee I headed off home on the bike again for another 12k or so.
By the time I got home, the sun had come out and I had clocked up 70k before 12 noon. The cycle home was definitely done at a slower pace, but as it was overall downhill I did it one min faster than the cycle to the start that morning.
Time to recover and taper before Killarney!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Climb every mountain!

This has nothing to do with climbing. Maybe we did a small bit of bouldering, but no climbing.
Before I registered for the Powerscourt AR in September, I was already registered for the Killarney AR in October. I figured three weeks between them would be plenty to recover, train and taper...
Last Saturday was the Powerscourt AR. It was my first solo AR, having done Killarney last year as part of a 3 person team. At Powerscourt there is a long (around 65k) route and a Sport route (around 39k). I did the long route because...well, because!
My training wasn't ideal due to achilles issues, but I was able to do a couple of bike sessions and a couple of short runs a week, along with strength & conditioning.
The day started out at 6am with a large breakfast of bacon, eggs, coffee etc. After getting into my racing gear and an outer layer I had to put the bike carrier on the car. We had only bought the carrier the previous week and only had one chance to adjust it to fit. Race day was the first time I had put the bike on it or driven with it. Luckily all was well and had no issues :-)
I was hoping my family would come along to cheer me on at the start/finish line, but realistically I didn't know how long I would take and there wasn't a lot in the immediate area for the kids to do, so I travelled on my own.
Being early on a Saturday it took less than an hour to get to Powerscourt and park up, but I was still at sign on before it opened. Even the coffee/snack van wasn't ready! So I kept myself hydrated, signed on (first one there!), grabbed a coffee and got my gear together.
The bike had made it in one piece and without scratching the car, bonus! After a short wait, we had the pre-race briefing at 10:00. There was advice about the route and warnings about spot checks for mandatory gear (which never happened - to me anyway). Then we had 20 mins until the rolling cycle start. There were about 120 people doing the long course, so not enough to clog up the roads/trails, which was good. The RD's car drove out the downhill section to the main road, about 1km from the start/finish, and then we were off.
I was under no illusions about being fast, I was in this to survive until the end, that's all. Here's the elevation of the cycling on stage 1:

For some reason the distance is in miles and the height is in feet - nothing to do with me I'm afraid!
I kept to a steady pace and let the faster cyclists roar ahead. Some of them were excellent multi-sports people and some were good cyclists but not great runners. I was to catch some of them up on the runs later.
On stage two, the first mountain run, I got to run up & back down the Great Sugar Loaf mountain. I've wanted to do this for over a year, and part of the reason I did this AR was this mountain. It's totally exposed, no trees or bushes really. Just rocks small and large.
I doubt the angles are accurate, but I do know that the last part near the summit is a good 45 degrees. That's where the bouldering came in, glad I kept my cycling gloves on!
For the Killarney AR last year I had worn my VFF KSO Treks, which are excellent for cross country running. Unfortunately with the amount of sharp rocks they didn't provide much protection for my arches and heels. They still feel bruised today, four days later.
Anyway, the run back down (once we had passed the section of rocks) was easy going and I got back on the bike and sped off.
Stage three I really enjoyed, easily my favourite section! It was reasonably straight and mainly downhill. I got to spend the majority of it in top gear.
At the end of stage three, we had to get off the bikes and run with them for a couple of hundred metres to the bike drop. As I was running with the bike I was drinking from my camelbak and once I put the bike in the rack and got my helmet and camelbak off I took a large bite from a protein bar and started running to the shore for the kayaks, while eating. All of the kayaks were two person, and as I was running down a marshall shouted to me that there was another racer waiting, so I ran faster. A marshall held out a buoyancy vest and I just bent at the waist, shot my arms straight in front and ran into the vest and when I stood up I pulled it down and fastened the straps - while still running...and eating. When I got to the kayak we pushed it into the water and started out on the 2km triangular course. I had also taken off my Garmin, as it's a 305 and I'm pretty sure it's not waterproof. Anyway, even if I had kept the Garmin on I doubt there'd be much point in showing you the elevation of the kayak stage...
After we got out of the kayak and positioned it for the next people to just jump in and paddle away, we shook hands, took off the buoyancy vests and ran back to the bikes. I ate some more protein bar while I put my Garmin, bike helmet and camelbak on. Then we had to run with the bikes over the dam to the main road into Roundwood. During this I drank more water. Once on the road I didn't see another racer for probably 25 mins. I think the ones who had finished the kayak stage were changing from runners back to cycling shoes, not sure. But I did see one guy take the time to dry his feet off. A good idea, but as I didn't have anything with me to do that I didn't bother.
Stage five was the longer cycle that went over Sally Gap, a notorious section in the Wicklow Mountains. The uphill sections were torture. I can testify that walking is sometimes faster than cycling! Despite the downhill at the end, it didn't allow me to make up lots of time for the uphill. This one section was responsible for my quads being knackered for the rest of the race. At the start of this stage I had my first electrolyte tablet and I took on water and almonds or walnuts regularly.
I was quite glad to get to the start of stage 6, but by now my legs were fried and I could only manage a slow run.
All along the mountain runs the directions were marked by white plastic sticks in the ground. If you look closely at the elevation for stage six, the place where it flattens out slightly just before the peak is where a bunch of us went off the course and right to the summit. Seven of us met at the top with no white sticks to show the way, no checkpoint and no marshalls. We had a good look around but couldn't see any sign of life, so we headed back down. I said at the time "If we don't move soon we'll get very cold very fast". Sure enough, once we got back to that flat section we saw the white sticks going through a gap in the fence and around the side of the mountain. We ended up running about 2k extra. Anyhow, we checked in and got running down the mountain again back to the bikes.
I wasn't looking forward to cycling again, but I knew this was the last stage and it was short!
The last stage started out flat then had a really good but winding downhill section. I was holding both brakes trying to stay on the left of the road as all roads were open to cars! Taking a corner too fast could have been pretty nasty. During the briefing we were told that there was "one last hill" in stage seven. He lied. I loved than big downhill, where I could rest the legs but keep moving. Then I started to question how we could be getting back to the start/finish area without going up another hill. My question was answered once we re-entered the Powerscourt Estate! It was uphill pretty much all the way to the finish from there. Like one last punch to the head as you are falling to the floor in a boxing ring...
Seeing the finish line was a fantastic experience. We had to cycle in, rack the bikes and then run about 60m over the timing mat. That last run was probably one of my slowest ever!
There weren't many people left by that stage. The winner had finished in a little over 4 hours and I had taken 5:32. I immediately got my recovery drink from my car along with a few bananas, an apple and a coffee and sat on the grass near the finish line while I had them and did some stretching. I saw a couple of other racers come in, so I wasn't last.
After packing up my gear and getting the bike mounted on the car again I set off home and spent the rest of the day keeping hydrated and eating lots! I've noticed I don't usually sleep well the night after a long race - not sure why though.

So, next stop Killarney!!


Friday, August 30, 2013

Recent races and blisters

It almost seems normal that I should be blogging about a race and a blister I got during the closing stages of it. Not good.
I've had two issues holding me back from training this year. The first was a neuroma in my foot, which I finally got sorted in April. The second was an achilles strain that started about May and has been on and off ever since. So I've only been able to run 1-2 times a week and not do much in the way of distance. I have managed to keep my cycling and gym work up though and I couldn't be happier with my nutrition these days.
I did the Rock n Roll Dublin half marathon at the start of August (my second HM in four weeks) and was reasonably happy with it. I was ahead of the 1:40 pacer and was feeling good when I saw a runner stumble and looked like he was in a lot of trouble. Ever see a marathon runner get jelly legs when they run out of steam? This was the exact same look, but only after 16-17k. He stumbled over to the barrier and looked like he was going to drop and bring the barrier with him. So I ran over and supported him and started talking to him. He wasn't making much sense and a short, female race volunteer came over to help, but there's no way she would have been able to support someone of his size! The guy's runner friend came over and we got the guy's arms around our shoulders and brought him to a lamp-post and sat him down, with the lamp-post behind him. His head was drooped and his legs were still moving, as if he thought he was still running! I checked him over and found that a) he had stopped sweating (dehydrated), b) he was hyperventilating and c) his HR was really high, even though he'd just been running a couple of minutes before. I got the volunteer to call for a medic and started trying to talk to the guy, who slowly started talking to us. After a few minutes, when I knew he was in good hands, I got back to the race, although my head really wasn't in it. I decided to do a run/walk for the last 4k or so and finished in 1:52, with a blister on the ball of my right foot. I had worn my Asics for the race and 1,000 mile "blister proof" socks, hmm...
Had to take a week off running due to the blister, but soon started back to it. From there it was less than three weeks to the Frank Duffy 16k race in Dublin's Phoenix Park...
With the amount of training I could squeeze in and my achilles still acting up I wasn't going for a PB, or even a particularly fast time in the 16k race. Last year I had done it (and the whole Race Series) in my VFFs, but I hadn't had the opportunity to get the distance done in them, so I opted for my NB Minimus instead. The thinking was that if I got blisters in the Asics the I'd be fine in the NB...
Pretty soon myself and my OH were once again at the start line (she also did the HM) and I was doing my warmup run, dynamic stretches and sprints. I plonked myself near the back of wave 1, the sub-80min coral.
Last year I got around in 1:16:59 and was thinking I could manage 80mins or less, but wasn't bothered.
I started off feeling like I was taking it easy, but every time I looked at the garmin I saw my pace around 4:30-4:20, which I knew I couldn't sustain for over an hour, based on my lack of training. So for the first 8k I would run along then slow down then pick it up when my mind wandered and slow down again...
My 8k split was 39mins, so on target for sub-80.
There were two water stations, one at about 5k and the other at about 11k, each of which I took two cups of water at and walked while I drank them. Shortly after the second one we got to the last big hill and it really seemed to drag. Having done the race the last two years I knew the course and how far was left once we got to the top, so that was a plus. By the 14k mark I could feel a hot spot on the ball of my right foot, again, but kept the pace up.
Pretty soon we were running along the final straight and had less than 800m to go. I started to speed up and managed a sprint finish for a chip time of 1:23:15, roughly 6 mins slower than last year and with a huge blood blister in the same place as I had got one a few weeks previous.
I'm happy with my time and with the race, although when I was presented with my goodie bag I looked at the bright pink t-shirt and handed it back. Sorry, bright pink just isn't something I wear on a regular basis...
Even though I was happy with my time and the race, I was disappointed having got a blister in the very same place with two different pairs of runners. One is a standard pair of Asics and the other a zero drop NB. I can only think that I'm landing slightly in front of my hips and then pulling my foot backwards along the ground, causing some skin movement. My next step is to go back to the VFFs and see how it goes - I never got this problem with them. I'm interested to see how I get on going back to running in them!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Travels and races

Wow, it's been two months since I wrote on the blog...that's not like me!
So last you heard I was over the "foot issue". Well I had gotten back to running and built up to four times a week again when I started to feel a strain in the achilles on my left leg. My physio said *not* to stretch it. That may sound unusual, but when I had stretched it I didn't feel it ease off either. That was about the middle of June. A few days later I packed a bag, said goodbye to the family and got up at 03:30 (!) to start travelling to Australia!
I won't go into most of my travels here. But my first stop was Melbourne, and of course it was the Aussie winter. The temps were good during the day - t-shirt weather - but at night it was single digit temps, so glad I had brought a fleece jacket.
Due to the leg strain, I was just able to run once a week and the rest of my workouts were rowing, cycling or strength/conditioning. So the only run I got to do in Melbourne was a trail run. I got directions to the park from Sandi (a DailyMile friend) and was hoping to see some wild Roos, but I must have picked the only day they weren't there!

All in all, running at an easy pace once a week isn't the best build-up for a half marathon.
After three days I had to move on to Sydney and I got one 6k run in there. I ran through/around Hyde Park and over to Mrs Mac's Chair.
Taking a photo of myself with the Opera House and Harbour Bridge in the background

 Even though it was technically winter, I was running in a technical t-shirt and shorts and was hot enough to wish I was wearing a singlet instead. My last two days in the city I was working and reluctant to run around the city in the dark - I was based near the city centre. Anyway, technically I was tapering!
So on the Friday morning I packed up again and flew up to the Gold Coast. This was only my second time there. The last time I was there I drove in from Brisbane to do a "Carjacking and CQ defence" course. It was three hours of attacking and defending in an underground car park in 30 degrees. Good times!
Anyway...this time I was relaxing and preparing for the race. I spent Friday walking around and buying fruit etc...and eating. On Saturday I hired a car (Hyundai Getz - with my 6'2" I must have looked like Noddy!) and drove around the area and then down to the Sunshine Coast to meet up with some friends. I had never met Leeanne and her family and friends before in real life, but we all got on really well and had a great talk about running, nutrition and life in general over dinner.
All too soon it was time to head back to the hotel and get some sleep before the race. The start time was 6am and the bus I needed to get started at 4:30. I figured I'd get the first one, which was a really good decision! So that meant I had to be up at 3:45 to get into running gear, get suncream on (even though it was dark outside!) and drive 10k and find the bus stop. I was there about 10 mins early, so had a banana and apple juice.
While I was in the bus queue, I rang home - it was mid-evening in Ireland! Once on the bus I got chatting to a woman beside me and before I knew it we were at the race. I got a small coffee, and wandered around to keep moving. Over my running gear I was wearing a fleece that I got free at a conference last year. It didn't fit me anymore, so it was going to be my "throw away".
I did some warmups and drills in a clear spot on the main road and then made my way into the start pens.
The Gold Coast course is probably the flattest half/full marathon in the country, and it was also the National Championships. Plus it had around 30,000 runners/joggers taking part (although I'm not a big fan of crowds). With just 10 mins to go I took off my fleece and even though it was before 6am and I was in shorts and a singlet I wasn't cold. Partly due to the crowd, but also the sun had started to rise. Pretty soon we were off. Over dinner the previous night I had told anyone and everyone that my plan was to take it easy, stop and take photos and generally enjoy it. I spent the first 2k or so overtaking people that were going slower than I wanted to and then I settled into a nice pace, but not going too hard either. Given my lack of training there was no hope of a PB!
The water stations were plentiful and even though the temps were in the low 20s by the end I didn't drink too much, but didn't feel like I needed to either. I walked through two water stations in the first 10k and only took one cup in the second half, pouring most of it over my head.
At the 10k mark I was at 50mins and felt fine, so I decided to keep the pace I was at. Shortly after I could feel the ball of my left foot getting a bit too warm and was sure a blister was forming.
By 16k I was just over 1:15, which I was nicely surprised at, so I decided to keep pushing. By the 17k though I could feel my left sock getting wet (1,000 mile socks - guaranteed not to give you blisters!), meaning the blister had burst. For the rest of the race I'd glance down to see if my runner (NB Minimus) was getting discoloured, but so sign of blood thankfully.
In these situations my mentality is, "the faster you run, the sooner you can put your feet up", so I kept pushing myself. And no, I wouldn't recommend that mentality!
The last 3k were really tough and found my running form changing every now and again to accommodate the pain in my foot, but I tried to disassociate from it as much as I could, as it was only a few minutes to go.
Going over the line I clocked in at 1:47:35 (or so), only 2 mins slower than my PB! Makes me wonder what time I would have got if a) I hadn't walked through two water stations, b) my foot hadn't blistered and c) I had trained more than once a week!
I got some water, orange slices and banana and hobbled to the medical tent. I was happy to see that despite a large blister there was no bleeding at all, but the skin had torn away from just below the toes in the middle of my foot, back to the ball of the foot. No, I won't post any pictures! It got a dressing and I was told to keep it covered until I got back to the hotel and then let it open to the air.
I hung around and got my medal and t-shirt and then met Leeanne, Megan and friends. Of course we had to pose on the winner's podium!

Before too long it was time to go our separate ways and I headed back to the bus, then the hired car (lucky it was an automatic!) and the hotel. The next day I flew back to Melbourne and the following morning I was on my way to Ireland.
It was a fantastic trip, one that I could only manage every 4-5 years, due to the price, but it was definitely worth it. I've made new friends, met friends in real life I've only known online before and had a great race (even if I didn't stop to take photos).
I'd recommend a running trip like this to anyone.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

On the road again...

After 4.5 months, I'm finally able to get back to running and cycling. I've missed them both! I won't go into the whole "non-injury foot issue" now, you can check my older posts for that. All I will say is I'm 100% better.
Of course with that large a break in my training I'll have to build it back up slowly. This is my third (fourth?) week back and I'm hoping to run four times this week, which is a step up. Previously I had been doing a run and when my legs felt like they had recovered I'd go for another run. So it started with 2 runs a week and then 3 and now 4. Last Wednesday I did a 10k easy run, the furthest since November, and I'm hoping to do the same on Saturday.
One thing I hadn't done for a while was to set running/racing goals for the year. So I've decided that I won't be running any marathons this year, but I do have two half marathons already booked (the Gold Coast HM and the Dublin Rock n Roll HM). After that I am really looking forward to the Killarney Adventure Race in October. I did it with two friends as a team last year and we'll either do it as a team again or I'll do it solo.
On all of my runs so far, I've been mainly concerned about form and building up my aerobic base. The speed work started last night and I can still feel it in my legs today!
I definitely feel that keeping up the stretching, strength and mobility work while off running has really helped and I'm pleasantly surprised that I was able to run a 10k so soon and not have any ill effects.
Other than that I've been putting a lot of work into my nutrition and have been low carb now for over 100 days. In theory, if my body is adapted to use fat as a fuel source instead of carbs, then I won't "crash" or "hit the wall" after I run out of glycogen. I'll be testing it on longer runs and cycles and will post the results. So far all is good, but as far as training goes, it's still early days!

This year's races I'm planning so far (but may or may not do...I'm weird like that):
Dunshaughlin 10k - June
Gold Coast HM (start of July)
Frank Duffy 16k - possibly, not definite
Rock n Roll Dublin HM - August BH
Ratoath 5k - September
Killarney AR - October
I'm not expecting any PBs for the next few months at least, possibly for the rest of the season, but it won't stop me from aiming for them.
Keep running,


Friday, April 5, 2013

Working around the workouts

So if you've been reading this blog, following me on Twitter etc, you will have gathered that I have an ongoing issue with my right foot. Not an "injury" as such, but I can't run and can't even cycle much without pain. Even using the rower leaves my foot in pain later in the day.
So as a runner, as I can't run, what do I do....sit around until I can run again? No. I use the extra time to work on nutrition, strength and conditioning. I'm working my core a lot, along with arms/shoulders/back/chest/glutes etc.
I did a bit of a different format for the workout today. Not being able to use my right foot much I'm kind of limited with the exercises I can do, so I had to shake it up a bit so I wouldn't get bored.

I started off with some dynamic stretching, then pushups, climbers, myotatic crunches, swiss ball knee tucks, flutter kicks and wiper crunches.
Then followed it with...
2 sets of (dips - 10 and chinups - 10)
Bench press - 2 x 10, 4 x 8
Bicep curls - 2 x 8 per arm
Hip thrusts - 2 x 15
Chinups - 2 x 10
Leg curls - 2 x 8, 2 x , 3 x 4
Bench press - 3 x 8
Chinups - 2 x 10
Dips - 2 x 10
Bench press - 2 x 8
Biceps - 2 x 8

Gym bike for cool down, only 15mins, but it's good to cool down properly and flush out the lactic acid. I know my foot will be sore later, but in the long term a correct cool down is worth the short term foot pain. 
I have an appointment to get work done on my foot tomorrow. The specialist assured me (on the phone) that I'll be fine in roughly three treatments. Time will tell!


Friday, March 15, 2013

Nutrition For Endurance Exercise

I've been more and more interested in nutrition since I started running and racing and almost six weeks ago I changed to low carb/high fat. I'd been trying to find a way to explain my rationale here (apart from being yeast intolerant and just a bit gluten intolerant too). Then I saw Conor Murphy posting on Twitter and the conversation turned to a guest blog! So Conor, take it away....

This is a guest post by Conor Murphy of

Have you ever heard of Professor Tim Noakes? Noakes is a South African doctor and sports scientist. He has also run over 70 marathons and ultra marathons. His academic qualifications, and real world experience, put him in an excellent position to write a book about endurance exercise. In fact, he did just that. In 1985, he published a book entitled ‘Lore Of Running’. The most recent edition, the 4th edition, was published in 2004. In this book, Noakes devotes a chapter to nutrition, and he discusses the traditional concepts of nutrition for endurance exercise, such as carb loading pre exercise. It was fairly standard stuff. But then, in 2012, Noakes came out and told people that he had got it wrong. He advised people to tear out the chapter on nutrition from his book, and burn it. So, what changed?

Traditionally, distance runners, and other endurance athletes, have been taught to consume a large quantity of carbohydrates in the lead up to a big event. In fact, the nutritional advice to the general population has always been to eat lots of carbs. A healthy diet was always presumed to be low in fat, and high in “complex” carbs, like breads, pastas and cereals. Endurance athletes were taught to eat even more carbs. It was pretty simple really – carbs = energy, and a lot of energy is needed for an endurance event. But what if all of this is wrong?

Researchers in nutrition across the world are slowly coming to the conclusion that dietary fat is not the demon it was once thought to be. They have managed to separate dietary fat and bodily fat in their minds, realising that they are different things, and that healthyfats are actually an essential, beneficial nutrient.

Now, the finger of blame is being pointed at carbs. High carbohydrate consumption has been linked to obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome, and certain carbs, such as grains, have been linked to irritable bowel syndrome and leaky gut syndrome. Maybe the food pyramid was wrong all along?

Professor Noakes, like many leading sports scientists, now advocates a low carbohydrate, high fat diet. Eating in this way prevents the body from storing excess carbs as fat, and it also allows the body to use stored fat as an energy source more readily. This is achieved, in part, by improving how the body regulates the hormone insulin. A low carb diet improves the body’s insulin sensitivity (how well the body handles insulin), and generally keeps insulin levels low. High insulin levels can lead to excess carbs being stored as fat, and can indirectly prevent the body using stored body fat as an energy source.

Noakes decided to try this on himself, and went on a Paleo diet, consisting mainly of meats, fish and vegetables. After 5 months, he was 15kg lighter, and running faster than he had in 20 years (he was 61 at the time).

So, how does this all of this translate into nutrition advice for preparation for your next big race? The first thing is to be aware that each individual is different. You will have to experiment to see what works for you. Secondly, if you are eating a high-carb diet now, it might take your body time to adapt to using fat as an energy source.

My advice is to convert to a low carb, high fat diet for your day-to-day life first of all. The first question everyone asks is how low carb should you go? This again depends on you as an individual. Personally, I try to follow what is known as a targeted ketogenic diet (also called carb cycling or carb back loading). This means that at most meals I just eat meat and vegetables. After exercise, I eat carbs; gluten-free carbs such as potatoes or quinoa. This allows me to replenish my glycogen stores after exercise, without the carbs being converted to fat. Other people eat carbs every day, but only eat a small amount. For example, 20% of their calories might come from carbs, 30% from protein, and 50% from fat. This particular 20:30:50 ratio has been used in academic research to test the effectiveness of a low carb diet for fat loss, and the results showed that those on the low carb diet lost more fat than those on the low fat diet. Hydration is also very important. On non-exercise days, you should aim to drink at least 2-3 litres of water.

In the lead up to a race, you will want to make sure that your glycogen stores are full. On the night before the race (not the morning), have a good meal with carbs in it. How much carbs? This is an individual thing, and however much you feel is right for you. A standard or slightly larger serving of potatoes, quinoa or basmati rice should do the trick. It’s important to consume these carbs the night before the exercise, as the body takes time to digest the carbs. It will also prevent you from having blood sugar spikes and troughs on the day. On the morning of the race, don’t eat too much. Eating a lot of carbs before the race will cause your blood sugar to spike initially, and then, during the race, it will crash causing you to feel tired and hungry.

Drink plenty of water during the race to keep yourself hydrated, but not too much. Drink to your thirst as a good rule of thumb. If you can, weigh yourself before the race and again afterwards. For every kg of weight you lost in the race, drink 1.5 litres of water afterwards, to re-hydrate your body.

Try to have a good recovery meal immediately after the race. Many people have a post exercise shake, as it’s easier to consume. In this shake you will want protein and medium to high GI carbs. The carbs are used to replenish your glycogen stores, and also to cause an insulin spike that helps with the up take of protein. The protein is needed to repair the damage to the cells of your body during the exercise, especially the muscles. Try to get a solid meal in soon after the exercise as well. Good quality meat, potatoes, and leafy green vegetables would be a good meal to have after exercise.

If you have any further questions, I’d be delighted to answer them. You can contact me on Facebook ( or on Twitter (@nurishfood).

This is a guest post by Conor Murphy. Conor is the author of Nutrition Simplified: The Intelligent GuideTo Losing Fat, Eating Healthily and Making Good Decisions. Conor also writes a blog about healthy eating and you can find it at

Friday, March 8, 2013

Backwards approach to running?

Over the few years I've been running, I've had some injuries, just like 75-80% of runners every year. Some were nothing to do with running (like the neuroma I currently have), others were incidental to running (like landing badly on a stone while road running last year) and the rest were just down to what I would call overuse while in bad form. In effect, the last type means that if someone is not running correctly (heel striking, landing with knees locked out, arched back, bending at the waist...the list goes on!), then the muscles/joints/tendons etc will get shock applied over and over that is detrimental like water dripping on a stone or a straw to a camel's back. Eventually something will give in.
But the issue (in my opinion) comes from the approach most runners have to running. A lot of runners tend to strive for building up distance first - regardless of injuries, almost like a "badge of honour". After that, they look into different types of footwear that suits them (or doesn't, depending on who is selling them in the shop!) and lastly, they spend time looking into running form...
In my opinion (that's the second time I've said that, ok?), we should be encouraging runners from the beginning to focus on running form as a skill. Then only running short distances, maybe up to 2-3km at a time. After the skill of running has been learned, then look at appropriate footwear depending on the distances the person wants to run and lastly build up distance.
Compare running to swimming, martial arts, kayaking etc. In all of those sports they are taught as a skill first, learning the foundation, the building blocks. When the foundation is good, then move on to more advanced areas and finally build up endurance for competitions. Quality before quantity.
Why can't runners do that?
Constructive comments welcome...


Monday, March 4, 2013

Testing times

I've been having thoughts about my use of VFFs in most of my running and all of my races last year. Was that a contributor to the neuroma I have in my foot now?
I've done some basic online research, but haven't found any reports to suggest that VFFs could be the issue. On the contrary, every report I found of people with neuromas using VFFs has said that they helped the rehab by pushing the metatarsals further apart and easing the pressure on the nerve.
Will it help in my case? Well I've started wearing them (my KSOs) around the house. It won't make an immediate difference, but if it helps or doesn't make me worse I'll give it a go!


Friday, March 1, 2013

Foot issue - update #3

I was hoping to *not* have another update to this saga, but I'd also like to not have to work for a living, sometimes we don't get to choose.
So, I had an appointment with an Orthopedic Surgeon to fix my foot...and two days away from it I cancelled. I figured he would just poke and prod my foot, send me for a scan (which I can't really afford) and want to slice me open. I don't think that's the correct route to go, so I spoke to my local physio again. He recommended I go to a Foot specialist in Dublin. I made the appointment and saw him last Friday afternoon.
I told him the history, and that I reckoned it was a Morton's Neuroma and would need a steroid injection. He poked and prodded my feet and in the end agreed with me. The risk of giving me the injection (in my foot) was that if it wasn't a neuroma then it wouldn't do any good. Not a big risk, so we went for it.
The needle went in, between the second and third metatarsals and felt fine. After driving home (about 40 minutes), it started to feel tender and got worse as the evening went on. The next day I couldn't put runners or boots on my foot due to the swelling and took an anti-inflammatory, which helped, but I didn't get much sleep that night. Sunday I couldn't walk or put much weight on the foot and Monday wasn't much better. On Tuesday I started to feel like the worst of the swelling etc had gone. Thursday (yesterday) it felt like the neuroma is smaller alright, but still there. However I was told to give it a week before I'd know if it's improved or not.
If it hasn't improved, then it may not be a neuroma, and I'll need an MRI scan. If it's improved a bit, then I'll most likely need another steroid injection (I'm dreading it already!). And of course if it's 100% better then we did the right thing.

Ok, today is Friday, a whole week after the injection and not only is my foot tender to walk on (sometimes) but I can *feel* the neuroma when I press on the ball of my foot...made another appointment with the foot specialist for next Friday. Another week goes by with no running...

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Foot issue update #2

Since the end of November, I've had a pain on the underside of my right foot. Almost like I've got something in my shoe, but under the skin. Not pleasant! It was quite bad for a while, but since seeing my doctor and going on NSAIDS it's improved, or at least the swelling has gone down.
I had x-rays, but they came back all clear, so it's probably not a stress fracture. I was given a month's worth of very strong NSAIDS, but last Saturday I stopped taking them, and it hasn't got any worse. I don't think taking those meds would be good for my stomach!
I've recently had an appointment with an Orthopedic Surgeon confirmed, it's about 3 weeks away. In a way I hope the issue stays long enough so I can show it to him and he can tell me exactly what it is, but I also want to get back running ASAP...
In the meantime, I'm meant to be running in the Bohermeen Half Marathon on the first weekend in March. A lot of the runners I help out with at the club will be running it too, or the 5k that is at the same place on the same day. So I'm eager to be able to run by then as you can imagine.
It's also just nine weeks to my next marathon - Connemarathon!
To keep my fitness up has been tricky, as I can't put too much pressure on the ball of my foot, so no running or cycling. But, I've gone back to the rowing machine and am using bodyweight exercises and free weights to keep myself active and as fit as I can.
This morning I did 4 x 1,000m on the rower with 1min rest between east rep. Tough going, but my times were 4:09, 4:15, 4:18 and 4:15. The third set was tough, but I pulled it back on the last as I knew I didn't have to conserve energy.
Here's hoping I'll be able to get out running again soon, with or without the surgeon or surgery!

Keep running/cycling/swimming/rowing!!


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Update on foot issue

As I mentioned in my last post, I had an x-ray of my foot as it had been 5-6 weeks with no big improvement. It took a week for the x-rays to travel the 30k or so from the hospital to my doctor, I could have crawled on broken glass faster than that!
Anyway, the x-rays are clear so the doctor did what doctors do best - he gave me prescription anti-inflammatory drugs. When I went to get the prescription filled the chemist was a bit surprised at the strength and quantity, so was I!
A week after taking them and I got on the gym bike for 25 mins yesterday as a cool down after doing some free weights. Today my foot was sore all day, so the issue is still there. I've been emailing a local Physio and he has recommended a Sports Injury Clinic not too far from here, probably 30-40mins drive. I'm trying to get an appointment with them so hopefully it'll be something they can identify and clear up pretty quick.

Will keep you posted!