Solo Run

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Marathon Training Week 2 of 9

Two weeks down. A busy work week means my weekly (run) mileage was relatively low at 56 miles over 5 sessions. I currently aim for 3 quality sessions each week, 2 dedicated to the Marathon in March and 1 with an eye to the Ironman in September, consisting of a long cycle with Adrian (also signed up for the Mara and the IM) on Sunday morning of between 3:30 and 4 hours, followed by a solo run of up to an hour (typically @ 7:30 pace) - this session is primarily an endurance challenge and requires a bit of refuelling (chocolate/banana milk) between the bike and the run and  a good feed at the finish - the bike brings out the hunger more than running. I have also started to get a swim in on Saturday afternoon (typically 1.5km). I'm squeezing a lot into the weekend at the moment and the back to back sessions are tough, with only one recovery day until the Tuesday speed session. The plan is to up the time on the bike once the Marathon is out of the way in March - good ultra training apparently.
My 2 marathon training session consisted of an endurance speed session on Tuesday and a long run on Saturday - although the speed session is also pretty long. I'm not quite in the same shape as I was in 2013, partly due to the fact that I am about 2.5 kg heavier than I was then. So I know what I have to do.

January 2015  - Week 2 of 9
April 2013  - Week 2 of 10
Session # 1 - 4 mile warmup followed by 4 x 2 miles @ HM pace with 2 min active recoveries and 4 mile cooldown
Once you up the ante and begin serious training running becomes as much a mental battle as a physical one. After the 3 hour commute from Dublin in the evening drizzle I was too late for the club track session - by an hour at least. So I ran from home resisting the urge to put off the session for another day as the missus sat down in front of the fire to eat homemade chicken curry. A 4 miles warmup, 4 x 2 miles @ HM pace and 4 miles cooldown stood between me and my dinner.
I had picked the straight road (circa 2.5 miles) to run the repeats - 2 miles in, 2 minute slow jog, turn around and 2 miles out, 2 minute slow jog and repeat. Nothing better for mental training than seeing 2 miles of never ending road in front of you knowing that you can't rest until you get to the end and then only for 2 minutes before you have to turn around and repeat the process another 3 times before you can even think about heading home for the grub.
With a slight headwind on legs 2 and 4 my average paces were 6:14/22/12/29 with the last half mile turning into a struggle to keep under 6:30 pace. Obviously the wind played its part - happy enough with the overall average of 6:20 pace for the 8 fast miles. I took it easy over the 4 mile cool down as my left calf was tightening up.
16.81 miles @ 7:18 pace and 144 Avg Hr with 4 x 2 miles @ 6:14/22/12/29 pace.
This was by far the toughest session of the week. The 4 mile warmup was from work to the track @ about 7:40 pace. A few stretches and I was off on the first 8 lap section (lane 3 = 2.07 miles). My plan was to run slightly slower than last weeks sub 6:20 pace, using 1:37.5 (6:30 for 4 laps = 6:17 pace) as my guide. The challenge was to keep the pace
·         Manageable enough so that I would not only last the 8 laps but recover sufficiently during the brief 90 second walking recoveries to last the full 32 laps - all at the same pace and
·         Challenging enough so that I was running HMP. While my eye was on my PB pace of 6:18, I knew I wasn't in that shape, yet! so I was looking for a pace that somewhere between that and 6:25.
The first 8 laps came in at 13:05 a few seconds over my 13 minute reference point giving me a 6:20  average pace. I walked the 100m to the next 1/4 point on the track and while my Hr had come down from the low 160s into the mid 120s I didn't feel recovered enough to cover another 2 miles @ 6:20 pace, let alone another 4 miles after that. I had to push these negative thoughts to the back of my mind and concentrate on the current lap and trust in my body's ability to complete the session.
It was a struggle at times to keep the pace as the headwind down the home straight didn't help my concentration, coming as it did every 1/4 mile, but the laps passed by and despite the brief recoveries my legs and body held up pretty well to deliver a consistent pace of 6:19 for the remaining 2 mile repeats. I paced myself over the last mile with clubmates, Keith, James and Pat, who had just started one of their mile repeats 10 yards ahead of me. This helped greatly in pulling me along and taking my mind off the rising fatigue.
The 4 mile cooldown back to work @ 7:30 pace completed the workout, with the effects of depleted fuel reserves (carbs) beginning to show over the last mile - a good overall test to see how much fuel I actually need to run hard, as my sole food intake since rising at 7 was a banana, plum and 2 apples about an hour and a half before the session.
16.79 miles  @ 7:09 pace & 148 Hr) with 4 x 2 Miles @ 6:20/19/19/19 pace.
Session # 2 - 20 miles on grass.
 The plan said 20 miles on grass, so that's what I did. The ground was soft underfoot so my target pace of 7:30 felt a bit tougher than expected. I was joined by clubmate Pat for the first 5 miles and was on my own thereafter. My left hammy began to tighten up halfway through the session and was noticeably stiff afterwards. Time for a bit of foam rolling.
20.27 Miles in 2:31:58 (7:30 pace @ 135 Hr.
The programme was quite specific that this run be on grass (the only one of the programme?) I opted for the 2.3 mile grass circuit at UCC Farm, running 9 laps to give me 20.7 miles. The opening laps were a bit slower than my planned 7:20/30 pace although I wasn't too concerned as all the programme called for was "easy" running.
I had the company of clubmate, Vivian for the first 6 laps, with Ronan joining me from laps 2 to 7, with the average pace coming down from the initial 7:38 to 7:30 and below. The pace increased for lap 7 and before Ronan left we were joined by Clubmate Pat, who stayed with me to the end taking the pace for the last 2 laps below 7:10 and 7:00 - perhaps not "easy" running but finishing strong is always a good mentally.
20.7 miles in 2:31:40 (7:18 pace @ 133Hr)

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Marathon Training Week 1 of 9

I have just finished my first structured training week in nearly two years having dusted down the marathon training programme that got me two PBs in the summer of 2013. Back then I had the relative luxury of starting my training plan in April after getting one or two decent races under my belt. This year I was still enjoying the tail end of the Christmas excesses when the programme was scheduled to start.
As it is not a beginners programme it does require a good endurance base and a decent anaerobic base before you start. While I had no problem with the endurance base my anaerobic base was largely non-existent so I was prepared for a baptism of fire in that regard. To allow some bit of a lead in I cut the programme from 10 to 9 weeks, still keeping the total number of quality sessions.  I thought it would be a good idea to compare my key training sessions to those of my 2013 marathon build-up, which will give me a better indication of what I could realistically aim for in Barcelona.

January 2015  - Week 1 of 9
April 2013  - Week 1 of 10
Session # 1 - 8 mile warmup followed by 3 x 2 miles @ HM pace with 2 min active recoveries and 2 mile cooldown
I ran from work following a circuitous route in the Straight Road and out the Model Farm Road to the CIT Track. Conditions en-route were icy in places but runnable. However the track was completely iced over and after running a few laps I decided it was too risky to carry on with the speed session and I was all set to run back to work & drive home. However clubmate Vivian (one of 5 who turned up) suggested we could run on on a path that ran around the adjacent football pitches, assuming the floodlights were on. We complete a recce of the 0.8 mile route, which was partially illuminated and consisted of a mixture of gravel, stone and macadam paths with a few ankle deep water features so with 8.65 miles already on the clock Vivian and I struck out on our first 2 miles as snow began to fall - so, long story short, I completed the 3 reps at approximately 6:25 pace - a bit slower than I would have liked, but i'll take it given the conditions. But the effort was certainly on the uncomfortably hard side of the spectrum and I was glad/relieved when I was done.
While I had initially anticipated cadging a lift from a Ballincollig bound clubmate after the track session, the absence of such a session/clubmate meant that my 2 mile cooldown was closer to 4.5 miles, the last 2 of which was in heavy snowfall. Overall one of my tougher sessions. Lets hope it gets/feels easier from here on.
The race (UCC 10k in 39:30) kind of scuppered the first speed session of my training programme 2 days later (too close but I had no other opportunity to get it in) – 8 mile warmup up followed by 6 x 1 mile @ HMP with 1 minute recoveries and 2 mile warmdown. I converted the 6 x 1 to 4 x 1.5 (90 second recoveries) and managed to complete 3 @ 6:14/17/23 pace before calling it a day as I was progressively slowing down during the 3rd rep and the 4th would not have been worth the pain and effort – anyway 6.2 straight miles @ 6:21 pace 2 days beforehand was enough of a training benefit.
Session # 2 - 18 miles with the last 2 @ marathon pace.
I planned on keeping a steady 7:30 pace for the first 16 miles so as to make the last 2 a bit more challenging.
Things went reasonably well until I took a tumble after 13 miles (slipped on an icy path while taking a corner without slowing down) - all I could think of when hitting the deck was stopping the Garmin so that my "pace" wouldn't suffer. No harm done, apart from a few scratches so on I went.
I had planned on completing my faster miles on the walkway at the back of CIT but as I approached I saw a wall of a few 100 walkers in front of me, apparently an "operation transformation" event (annual weight loss TV programme for those of you from outside the jurisdiction). I took a detour around Bishopstown where I found a 0.9 mile flattish circuit and after 16 miles @ 2 hours of running I managed to churn out 2 miles at an average pace of 6:33 (Target was sub 6:40). It's wasn't as difficult as I was expecting, but certainly more on the tempo side of things than MP. As my detour took me away from my intended finish I had a few miles cooldown, bumping into club mate Elaine on the way.
Week 1 down, 8 to go. Avg Hr 132.
My first scheduled long run on Saturday went a bit better – 18 miles with the last 2 at MP. I integrated it with a 13 mile club run at 7:20/30 pace, getting 3 miles in beforehand and heading off on my own for the last 2, for which I had targeted a 6:40 pace, to see how I’d get on after 16 miles of steady running. I ran them a little faster and certainly harder than marathon pace/effort in 6:32/34 – it certainly felt more like a tempo run than a pace I could sustain for more than 20 minutes. All good training. 1 week down – 9 to go.

So far so good.


Thursday, 1 January 2015

New Year

It's been a while.................. my longest absence since inception. I've sat down to put pen to paper a number of times, wrote a few lines and then abandoned it. On the plus side my running has fared a bit better although there were a few months where I was just going through the motions - not enough motivation to spur me on to new challenges and not enough apathy to fall off the wagon completely.
My weekly mileage after the Belfast 12 hour in July was a bit hit and miss and lacked focus. That is despite the fact that my recovery after the race was the best it has even been so it wasn't physical. I had a half notion of ramping up for the Dublin Marathon at the end of October, but when I missed a few track sessions to get me up to speed before starting a 12 week marathon programme I mentally  relaxed and let the whole idea slide. I was keen to run the inaugural Glen of Aherlow 39.3 mile ultra on 20th September, signed up for it late and managed to get around the course without too much difficulty, although I did fall once or twice on a technical section of the course and finished in about 6:26, well down on where I would have liked to be but no more than I expected based on my lack of training and a generous diet - fighting gravity is so much harder when you're carrying excess baggage. 
The low point in my training cycle came when I pulled up with a strained hammy 9.5km into pacing the 30km Human Race in Limerick on 5th October. The day before I had fallen heavy after tripping on a uneven footpath while our for an easy run, tearing 2 layers of skin from the palm of my left hand (i'll spare you the gory photo). The strained hammy the following day may well have been a latent injury from the fall. My training over the following weeks primarily consisted of walking, reaching a new low of  6 miles for the second week of October - the only way was up.
As the hammy began to heal I decided to spend the rest of the year building up a solid base of aerobic endurance so that I could start 2015 in good shape. Over the next 8 weeks I covered 718 miles (average of 89.75 miles per week) setting my first 400+ mile (405) month in November. The most noticeable benefit was a reduction in the pace of my easy training runs, reducing from 8:45 to below 8:00 pace for a 120 Hr. I assessed my aerobic function by conducting a MAF Test on 2nd December, with a noticeable improvement compared to my only other MAF test for the year on 7th January. Some of that improved function was due to weight loss as I managed to cut most carbs out of my diet. Still the 578 heartbeats per Km is very encouraging (once I get below 600 I know I am in good territory). Although my weight starting out in 2015 is closer to what it was at the start of 2014 - that's the magic of December!
My only other race was the Clonakilty Marathon on 12th December, which I ran as an aerobic training run, starting off at a relatively comfortable pace, falling in with fellow Clon man Thomas Neville, with the initial target of pacing him to a 3:20 PB. However my competitive instinct got the better of me and after about 14 miles I  took off on my own to see if I could break 3:15. (we had hit halfway in 1:41 = 3:22 full). With 3:06 on the Garmin passing the 25 mile mark, I increased the effort, plunging well into the anaerobic zone to pull off my fastest mile of the day (6:16 - albeit on a net downhill) to get me across the line a few seconds under 3:14. Happy days! My endurance base ensured that I felt reasonably comfortable crossing the finish line, no longer daunted by the 26.2 mile distance.
Of course the main motivation for putting in the miles over the last few months was to cover 49 miles on Christmas Eve without suffering too much. As for last year I started a 4 in the morning and more or less ran continuously until I was back home with 49.25 miles on the Garmin - 7 hours and 17 minutes later. I ran all but 10 miles (Mile 15 to 25) in the company of Clubmates from Eagle AC - A big thanks to those who looked after me as it may not have looked liked I needed any help but the knowledge that I was not alone was all the motivation I needed to keep going. While I felt the fatigue coming on after 10 miles, it never got any worse and I more or less kept a consistent running pace for the full duration.

Mile 49 - Time for Some Breakfast

The Year That Was

Plenty of Miles

Not Too Many Marathons/Ultras (*Pacing)

One Win

2015 Targets
I have already signed up for my first marathon in 2015 although it's not until September. This marathon is somewhat unique though as i'll have to swim 2.4 miles and cycle 112miles just to get to the start line. Should be interesting - don't know how i'll fit in all the training. I'll have to find something else to keep me motivated for the first half of the year. With this in mind I have nearly committed to my second race in 2015 - another marathon on 14th March in Barcelona. I have booked the flights but haven't signed up for the race yet. This will be my third trip to Barcelona, the last time out in 2010 I struggled home in 3:10:28, after pulling up with a dodgy calf at mile 9. There are a few clubmates running it too so it should be fun. My training will start in earnest next week or the week after where I will be following the 10 week programme I used for Portumna last year. I had hoped to race the Dungarvan 10 during the first week of February as it fitted in perfectly with my schedule (HM race 6 weeks out). However the race sold out in less than two days, which I was not aware of until two weeks later - there were no such issues last year - West Waterford AC sent out email notification. I'll just have to find another longish race up the country.

After that I am spoilt for choice on the ultra front:-
  • 21st March - Wicklow Way Ultra (51km) - unlikely as it will be one week after Barcelona
  • 3rd/4th April - Vartry 100 (100 mile/50 mile/50k) - the 100 looks tempting, it all depends on how the recovery from Barcelona goes.
  • 13th June - Wicklow Way Solo. Would like to make up for 2014.
  • 13th June - Portumna Ultra (100k/50k/marathon) - not on the radar for 2015.
  • 17th/18th July - Energia 12hr/24hr. The 24hr is certainly tempting - although only 5 weeks after Wicklow is cutting it fine - maybe the 100k in Portumna would be better preparation.

My general plan is to build up endurance on the bike in preparation for the Ironman, which should stand to me for the long ultras. Time will tell.

Happy New Year to all and hope to see some of you out on the road in 2015.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Pushing Boundaries

I got thinking about the shoes I run in during this evenings run. For over a year now I have been running in Asics Gel Tarthers, not the same pair - I am now on my fourth pair, although still rotating through all the old ones. They are difficult to source as they are primarily produced for the Japanese market. My initial attraction to them was their relative light weight - this is what the sales blurb says:
"This is the first unchanged Japanese racing flat to be introduced to Europe. Designed for increased durability, provide superb grip and responsiveness, this features an improved version of the renowned Duosole outsole, offering maximum traction and flexibility without the extra weight of other outsoles"
 Because of their grip I tend to make a distinctive slapping sound when my mid-foot strike hits the ground, giving the impression that I am landing very hard. Everyone that knows me can hear me coming a mile off - not the best when you are trying to creep up on someone in a race. Apart from that they have served me very well and despite their "racing flat" title I have pushed the boundary with them a little bit and they have not let me down.
That's what got me thinking about them in the first place as it is time to retire my first pair, which are beginning to put a bit of strain on my calves when I run in them. While I don't know how many miles they have on the clock I know it's at least 100 as it was this time last year that I ran in them in what remains the longest distance I have ever run in a single event - the Connemara 100. While common sense would have suggested that 5k/10k racing shoes were not at all suitable for running 100 miles, I ignored it as the shoes never caused me any difficulty in long runs up to marathon distance and if I was to always heed what common sense suggested (which my Missus has a lot of ;-) I would never have signed up for the race in the first place.
This is what attracted me to ultra running in the first place - pushing the boundaries of what is considered possible or normal. When I started running I though the marathon was the ultimate limit, beyond the boundary of what was physically possible - after all we were told that we had to go through (or more likely hit) "the wall" before we got to the finish line and sure enough I hit the wall on my very first marathon, said "never again" for about a week and came back for some more punishment six months later. I had never heard of ultra running, I though I had reached the boundary of human endeavour and spent the next few years pushing at the only running boundary I knew  - the PB.
When I eventually did push the distance boundary (Connemara 39.3 in April 2010) I thought that was it, I could never even contemplate running another mile, let alone the 11 that would take me up to 50 miles. I had read race reports of guys running 100 miles and how they were destroyed after them and though that was way out of my league - funny how when we break boundaries we end up setting new ones. I remember when Thomas suggested the day after Connemara 100 last year that I should go for the Belfast 24 hour this year, thinking
"yeah but that's nearly another 8 hours longer than I had run in Connemara and I was pretty beat up by the end of that"
BTW that boundary has been reset and was not the reason why I did not go for the Belfast 24 hour this year. My new boundary is
"how can guys (and gals) run multi-day events. I mean my legs were trashed the day after Connemara. I could hardly walk let alone run - that's way out of my league"
I'm not saying that I will ever push through these boundaries but I know that it would be better if they were not there to begin with,  taking me back to a time when I was 7 or 8 and knew noting of boundaries but only of the limitless possibilities that were out there. What a wonderful world that was.
Here's to removing all boundaries..................................
and the best of luck to all those running Connemara tomorrow, Wish I was there.

My Imelda Marcos Moment

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Sunday, 27 July 2014

In the Grove

I'm sitting on a canvas chair in the porch of a 4-man tent, pitched on the grass in-field of the Mary Peters Track in south Belfast at 6:30 on a beautiful sunny Friday evening. In fifteen minutes time I will be starting a race that will take 12 hours to complete and it suddenly dawns on me that in my haste to get everything together over the last few days I forgot to draft a race plan of any description. What pace will I go out at, how long will I be able to maintain it, when should I ease back, when will I have no choice but to ease back, should I walk at all, when will I eat/drink (at least I had sorted the what). I pull out the pen that came with the race goody bag and start scribbling a few splits/paces on the number pinned to my shorts  and get frustrated when the pen slides over the glossy surface without leaving a make - "fuck it", I put the pen away and lie back enjoying the last few minutes of the evening sun, "I have plenty of time to sort it after the race starts. Sure what else will I be doing for the next 12 hours". For the first time since arriving shortly after four with Ani, Saran, their cousin Robert and his Dad Rob (the driver) my mind is calm. Everything is done - time to switch off the mental and turn on the physical.
The gang, who have all gone off for something to eat, are only there for the craic (with some mild arm twisting from me - this is the first day of a short camping trip) as opposed to providing physical support to me. I don't really need it and it's not mandatory for the 12 hour race. My nutrition (chocolate/banana milk, a few salty spuds, carb drink, salt caps, nuts/figs/dark chocolate, soup, coffee & tea brack) is laid out in a plastic container on a table in lane 5 (the 12 hour and 24 hr relay runners are confined to lanes 3 & 4 , with the solo 24 hr runners in lanes 1 & 2). There is a timing mat at the end of the home straight with a large screen that will display your name and lap number every time you cross the mat (this proves invaluable)

We are called to the start line by race director Ed Smith and without much fanfare we are sent on our way - just shy of 50 doing the 24 hour, 4 relay teams and 10 or 11 doing the 12 hour. I had heard that one guy had taken the option of starting the 12 hour at 6:45 a.m. on the Saturday morning and finishing with the 24 hour group. I had briefly considered this option but thought that the benefit of a relatively cooler nigh-time temperature would just about offset the effect of running through the night. After all I had run through the Wicklow mountains during the night without any noticeable ill effects.
My early pace is pedestrian relative to the front runners of the 24 hour race and Ger Copeland running the 12 hour, who laps me after 2 laps - I had heard before the start that he was aiming for the 90 mile mark, which would be well beyond my capability and I was certainly not going to test myself by keeping pace with him, my strategy being to run at a comfortable aerobic pace for as long as my legs would comply. However the fastest guy on the track by far is Paul Martelletti, who is over from London to race 100k in order to qualify for the world championship (qualifying time is 7:18 for the GB Team)

Early Days

After 9 or 10 laps I get into my stride and start reeling in some of the 24 hour runners including Thomas. My plan was to use him as a general guide  to my target as he was targeting the International B Standard of 220km, which more than likely meant somewhere around 120 to 125 km for the first 12 hours. With my glasses left in the food container I have to squint to see the lap numbers on the  screen adjacent to the timing mat, not that it was necessary to see my progress so early in the race.

The laps continue with Ger Copeland putting in a great performance and lapping me quite frequently. After 2 hours the 24 hour relay runners change over and Ray Lanigan, running for team Donadea AC, greets me as he passes by. As I had eaten quite well over the 48 hours leading into the race (subconscious fuelling) I only took on water (and a Salt Cap) every 20 or 30 minutes deciding to refrain from taking on any calories until I have completed my first marathon (102 laps = 42.3 km), which I do in 3:35. A lap later I take on about half a bottle of banana milk as I walk a lap for the first time in the race. I have no problem resuming running and decide to break the rest of the race into 2 more marathons, deciding to take another walking break half way into my second marathon (153 laps) and more frequently thereafter.

Four hours into the race we are instructed to change direction after we cross the timing mat, Ray Lanigan wishes me luck as he finishes his first of 3 x 2 hour relay runs, saying that he will be back in 6 hours, which will coincide with the last 2 hours of my race. With Ger Copeland way out in front I think I am in second place, having lapped last years winner, Aidan Blake, a few times. With two thirds of the race remaining it is very early days and I try not to think about having to run for another 8 hours.

Shortly after 11 the organisers turn off the music that is playing out over the loudspeakers around the track and all I can hear is the beep....beep...beep as runners cross the timing mats at the start/finish area. The music had been a bit of a welcome distraction and I don't look forward to listening to my footfalls and the constant beeping of the timing mats for the next 6 to 8 hours so I ask Ani, who is practising her long jump with Saran and Robert along the back straight  (another distraction) for a loan of her Ipod shuffle - a few laps later she hands it to me already playing (so no fiddling required) and while her music choice might be different than mine it proves to be a life saver over the next couple of hours as an antidote to running in the early morning darkness - not too dissimilar to nightclubbing, but with less effort.

After 153 laps (marathon and a half) I walk a lap  for the second time and take on some of my EFS carb drink. The last half marathon has taken me about 2 hours, which disappoints me as I had been expecting to run the second marathon in under 4 hours. In order to mentally break down the next marathon and a half into manageable chunks (little rewards) I decide to refuel after every 5k (12 laps approx) alternating between water/S-Cap and chocolate/banana milk or carb drink. I decide that I do not need to take on any solid food at all. I rely on Ray Lanigan, who was double jobbing as race support between his relay stints, to replenish my water bottles from the stock on the race organisers table in the in-field.

I have covered between 166 and 167 laps after six hours which I equate to being about on target for the 306 laps required for a 3 marathon finish or 310, which I equate to an 80 mile finish. I notice that Ger is lapping me less often now and when he does I follow him to the timing mat to check how far ahead he is - 22 laps!!! (my 168 to his 190), that's over five and a half miles - He never moves too far ahead and after a lap or two I pass him out and while I am approaching a scheduled walking refuelling break I decide to run on for a few laps as I do not want to show any sign of weakness. When I do stop and walk for a lap I notice that Ger does not pass and when I ask Frank McDermot a few laps later where Ger is he tells me that he has pulled out  of the race due to injury - and there I was thinking that he had blown up after going out too fast. Ger's misfortune had suddenly catapulted me into the lead and I began to get all emotional - don't know where it came from but unexpected highs and lows are part and parcel of ultra running.

Just before the 7 hour mark Paul Martelletti, who has been churning out fast laps (passing his first marathon in 2:54), weaving in and out between the 24 hour runners, finishes his 100k (6:57 and change) easily meeting the qualifying standard. At 7:27 I have completed 204 laps, finishing my second marathon in 3:52, which gives me a relatively comfortable 4:30 to complete my last marathon. I deserve a break for doing so well but defer my walking break for a few laps, all the time making mental bargains with myself to keep me motivated - it's so tempting to ease back and take a break for no apparent reason other than you deserve it for working so hard.

I am woken out of my ultra trance when Aidan Blake passes me for the first time in the race shortly before the 8 hour mark. This shakes me up a little and although I am 12 laps ahead (3 miles), that is no cushion as all he has to do is lap me 3 time an hour to win the race and obviously he is getting stronger as the race progresses. Time to dig a little deeper. I decide to track Aidan for a few laps as we change direction for the last time and while I had scheduled a lap walking break I found no difficulty in maintaining a run. I was pleasantly surprised that I was still able to comfortably maintain a high aerobic heart rate (actually well into the 140's at times) after 8 hours of running and close to 90 km in my legs. Historically in ultras I found that after 60 or 70 km my heart rate reduced as I am unable to recruit enough muscles in my legs to maintain pace.

My next target is a sub-9 hour 100k (PB is 9:16), which I think I will achieve easily but I don't cover the necessary 242 laps (100.35km) until 8:58. Just over 3 hours to go - can I maintain 10km/hr for a 130km finish. I leave the track for the only time during the race shortly after the 9 hour mark to go for a pee. For the last few hours I had been maintaining a delicate balance between water intake and loss through sweating to avoid having to take a whizz. My next reward is a cup of coffee and tea brack, which I defer for as long as possible - i'm good with delayed gratification - ultra running is all about making bargains with yourself. As I am walking around the track with cup in hand in the early morning dawn, Aidan passes me, so I push the remaining brack into my mouth and track him around to the start/finish mat to check my lead, having to detour close to the TV screen to make sure of the lap numbers - still 12 laps clear - I can afford to pour myself a second cup of coffee. When I resume running he is half a lap ahead and I maintain the gap for a few laps and he gradually comes back to me over the next 30 minutes - our paces are very similar. I do not relax though as he does not appear to be taking any breaks.

Last Hour - Glasses on to check the scores on the doors

With 70 minutes to go the shuffle packs up, having served me well for the last 5 or 6 hours. Once I hit the 290 lap mark I start counting down the last 20 laps to my 310 target, getting encouragement from Don Hannon (winner of the Wicklow Way Race), who had to pull out of the 24 hour due to an on-going metatarsal injury. I retrieve my glasses from the nutrition box to keep an eye on the lap numbers, covering 306 laps in 11:37, giving me my third marathon in 4:10 - only 4 laps to go to my 310 lap target. With 15 minute to go I take Don up on his offer of a red bull, which goes down well as it has come straight from a cooler but I can't tell if it gives me a kick or not. I pass the 310 lap target with over 10 minutes to go and plough on as I reckon I need to cover 313.5 laps to get over the 130k mark. As the last few minutes tick away one of the 12 hour guys goes flying past me trying to eek out a few more metres before the finish, I pass the mat for the final time covering 315 laps, pick up the flask of minestrone soup from my food stash and walk for the last few seconds before we are asked to stop, knowing that i'll have to wait until Ed measures the part lap I have completed and using the time to take on some sustenance, chatting away to the 24 hour guys passing, getting congratulations from Thomas. Mark Melia and John O'Regan as they pass, with Anto Lee stopping to join me for a cup of soup. I also get a "well done" from Barry Thornton as he goes flying by on the start of his 12 hour journey, the only person separating me from the winners trophy  - he's looking very strong and has me worried. Surely I looked that strong during my first lap - lets see what he is like in 8 hours time. Ed measure my part lap as 134 m, which gives me an overall distance of 130.76 Km (81.25 miles)

I return to the tent, elevate my legs for 20 minutes, which works wonders, take a shower and lie down for a hour or so while Rob takes the kids away for breakfast. I spend the rest of the morning hanging around with the kids, keeping on my feet and occasionally checking to see how Barry is doing - he covers his first marathon (102 laps) in 3:28, 7 minute ahead of me - still early days.

We head off in the afternoon to visit the Titanic Quarter and get something to eat, returning to the track around 4, still too close to call, I reckon I have a virtual lead of 2 or 3 laps but Barry is running well and if he maintain his pace could beat me by about 2 or 3 laps. We busy ourselves packing away the tent and retreat to the stands for a while as a light rain falls. I am too nervous to relax, I return to the track side to offer encouragement to the 24 hour runners, who must be going through the world of pain, with quite a few passing the 100 mile mark. With about an hour and a half left, Barry stops and walks and does not resume running but continues to walk for the remainder of the race. This is surprising as he had been running quite strongly and consistently up until then,although I am inwardly relieved as my win and £100 meet record bonus is secure.

I am at the trackside to witness Thomas achieve his 220km International B Standard shortly after 23 hours. He looks absolutely shattered but breaks into a smile as he crosses the line and continues on to finish in 4th place overall, behind Irish Internationals John O'Regan and Eddie Gallen, who finish joint second having run the last 10 or 20 laps together, behind the winner Jan Uzik, another Cork man, originally from Slovakia.

Looking back, running for 12 hours around a track was not as tough or monotonous as I had expected it to be and of all my long ultras (100k and up) it felt the least difficult and to-date (1 week later) my recovery has been the quickest it has ever been (not a sign of the customary gout) - maybe i'm getting used to them or maybe, for the first time, I did not enter the longest race on offer - is it time to step up to the 24 hour challenge?

12 hours of running and 12 hours of waiting

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Catching Up and Moving Forward

My recovery from the Wicklow Way was hampered by the injury I received on the outside of my left leg. My resting Hr the day after the race was 57, coming down to the 40's during the following week and gradually coming back down to 38/39 in the last few weeks, where it was before the race. I had planned on continuing with the ultra training by running the Portumna 100k, with a view to going for the 24 hour in Belfast tomorrow, but the slow recovery scuppered that plan. While I had missed the deadline for entry (first 50) I got onto the waiting list (7th in line), but when the offer of a place came a few weeks ago I declined and opted instead to go for the shorter 12 hour race and see how I fare.
I have no great expectations going into the race as my training has been very much up and down over the last few months and nothing like the structured approach to my Marathon PBs and Connemara 100 last year. I certainly feel like it's the least prepared I am for an ultra. I am over 5 kg heavier than I was at my peak last year - so no pressure then - but while my body knows that, try telling it to my head when I toe the line tomorrow evening. It should be good fun all the same, watching the 24 hours race unfold from the relative conform of the "short race".

Half my problem is that I am content to just enjoy my training runs at the moment, still basking in the glory of last years achievements, which continued into this year when I received the ultimate honour from my peers in Eagle AC at the club awards night in March. Surely I can get a bit more mileage out of this before I have to start thinking about new goals.