Monday, 25 October 2010

Something Different

While our club mates were lining up on Fitzwilliam Square for the start of the Dublin City Marathon at 9 this morning Paul Daly and I pulled into a small lay-by about a mile north of the crossroad village of Bweeng in North Cork at the head of the Duhallow Way (part of the Blackwater Way). It was a beautiful cold morning with clear sunny skies. We were planning on doing a recce run covering about 9 miles of forest and minor roads with a bit of cross-country thrown in, about as far away from the congested streets of Dublin as you could get.
Straight away we started into an uphill section along a forest road which got the heart pumping and quickly shook me out of my slumber. We followed the way-mark posts where visible but I also had a map in my backpack for insurance. The crest of the first hill took us close to some radio masts and down the other side where we could open up the throttle. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us at the time, we missed a left turn before the crest of the hill and took a left instead at the end of the trail - crossed a field, forded a steam and took a path heavily overgrown with furze, that stung the legs a little. After collaborating for a while (Paul was right) we corrected our heading and were back on track after adding about a mile to the route - all part of the fun.
Paul had sent me this link to the Art O'Neill Challenge earlier in the week - a 55km run from the centre of Dublin to the Wicklow mountains on 7th January 2011 - starting at midnight. So you could imagine the navigation challenges that would bring - and I couldn't even find my way around a few forest roads - with a map - in daylight. Anyway you have to start somewhere I suppose.
Left onto the road for a few 100m and right onto another forest road. Nothing terribly challenging but a very enjoyable contrast to the normal weekend club run. I was wearing a pair of cheap off-road shoes I had bought a few months ago and they were performing pretty good. The soles are much stiffer than road shoes so that the foot is well supported over the uneven surface (no country for vibrams - yet?). That was until I got onto the only long section of road on the route (about a mile in total) where my right calf began to tighten up and by the time we turned off the road with about a mile and a half to go it was noticeably uncomfortable and I was fearful of straining/tearing it.
With about a mile to go we came to the end of the forest road and only for the way-marker directing us through the trees in front of us we wouldn't have found the trail. The next section over about 500m was soft underfoot through woodland with a few bog holes and ditches thrown in. Great to mix it up a bit, even if it did mean taking water on-board. Before long we were back on a forest/bog road heading for the car with exactly 10 miles clocked on Paul's trusty Garmin. Covered in about 1:32. (just over 9 minute miles) but this wasn't about clock watching - maybe a bit of bird watching as Paul pointed out an endangered Hen Harrier in the distance as we descended towards the car.
Here is some footage from the run although my video uploading/orientation skills needs a bit of fine tuning.
My right calf remained tender for the day causing a slight limp initially but easing off the more I walked on it.
Well done to all those who ran Dublin this morning. Fantastic running weather and times

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

More of the same - but easier

Tonight's 4 x 2k @ 6:12 pace went better than last weeks curtailed 3 x 2k @ 6:00 pace. It meant running on my own as quite a few were tapering for Dublin and I was stuck between the 6:00 and 6:24 pace groups. Glad I didn't go with the faster lot as they were closer to 5:48 pace. It's all about challenging yourself just enough so that you can recover sufficiently to complete each 2k at the same pace - a made to measure sort of workout. As I was running 96 second laps in lane 3 my overall target of 8:00 was easy to remember with successive laps in 1:36 - 3:12 - 4:48 - 6:24 - 8:00.
The 3 minute recoveries were certainly needed.
It steps up to 5 x 2k next week before dropping back to 3 x 2k with the recovery reducing to 2 minutes. All good fun!
Last week I just topped 30 miles for the week, which is still well below where I want to be. On the plus side all those miles were in the Vibrams, with my longest run @ 13.4 miles. My calves continue to be tight after the speedwork session but that is to be expected and as long as I don't push the pace too hard for the rest of the week they recover fully.
Thur 14th Oct
5.25 miles @ about 7:40 pace
Sat 16th Oct
13.39 miles @ 7:22 pace
Sun 17th Oct
5.25 miles @ 7:22 pace
Tue 19th Oct
7.2 miles @ 8:00 pace with 4 x 2k @ 6:12 pace.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

No one said it was easy

That's what was going through my mind during the second of 3 x 2k @ 6 minute mile pace at this evenings track session.
The first went off quite well with 7:38 for 5 laps (in lane 3 => target of 7:45) a bit fast at 5:54 pace (3:40/km). My mouth was a bit dry so I took on some water during the 3 minute recovery. The second 2k felt tougher, struggling to keep pace over the last 2 laps - still under target at 7:39 (5:55 pace). However I knew that I could not complete the final 2k at the same pace and reverted to 6:12 pace with Ronán leaving Matt and Niamh to the faster pace. I only managed 4 of the 5 laps of the last 2k as I could feel my right calf tighten up and didn't want to risk a strain. The fact that my mouth was dry during the first 2k suggests a lack of hydration as the primary cause of the tightness as opposed to running in the vibrams. I could still feel the localised tightness during the warmdown and so will exercise caution over the next few days.
Tue 12th Oct
About 6.6 miles with 2 x 2k @ 5:54/55 pace and 1 x 1.6k @ 6:15 pace.
My Garmin still refuses to come on so I am using a cheap stopwatch from Lidl that also supposedly records heart rate, distance and speed, although I don't think it necessarily saves any of the data so I need someone beside me with a clip board taking down the stats. Volunteers, anyone?

Sunday, 10 October 2010


It took a week for the official results of the Cork to Cobh race to come out, placing me 81st out of 848 finishers in a time of 1:39:57. I determined my splits for the race using the Garmin splits of fellow club mates Paul and Derek (thanks guys)
Coke Stop - 10 miles in - wheels getting wobbly
6:47, 6:36, 6:34, 6:41, 6:37 (33:14)
6:33, 6:29, 6:35, 6:31, 6:42 (32:49) - 1:06:03 for 10
6:45, 6:49, 6:47, 6:55, 6:39 (33:54) - 1:39:57 for 15 The fade over the last 5 miles is quite obvious from the splits although not as bad as I thought at the time. The first 5 miles in 33:14 was steady, increasing to 32:49 for the middle 5 as Paul pulled me along and dropping off to 33:54 for the last 5.
100 yards to go.
It’s been a very quite week since the race as I only managed to get two runs in. The first was the Tuesday track session – a repeat of last weeks 4 miles @ about 6:40 pace. I held back from pushing the pace too much as my calves are still getting used to running in the Vibrams and were tight following Sundays race.
The second was the hilly 10.5 mile Club run over the Viaduct loop on Saturday morning, again in the vibrams. It wasn’t my feet I was worried about though as I was coming down with a cold and spent the run sweating out the three generous hot whiskeys I had taken the night before. I though I would repeat the hot whiskey trick to get me in shape for today's County Novice and Masters Cross Country in Carrignavar, although it had the opposite effect - waking up this morning feeling worse with the cold moving down to my chest. So I was consigned to the sidelines cheering on the rest of the Eagle team.
With about 18 miles for the week it’s time to up the mileage and improve my endurance base.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Cork to Cobh

Today's Cork to Cobh 15 mile road race proved to be a test of my speed/endurance and as my recent long runs have been no more that 15 miles pace was going to be crucial. As there was a group heading out at 6:40/6:45 pace I thought I'd have some of that and see how I do. The 10 miles at 6:46 pace last weekend gave me some comfort that this pace should be manageable over 15 miles.
My Garmin, which has given me been trouble over the last few months, has got progressively cantankerous and has now refused to turn on, unless it is sitting in it's cradle and attached to a power source (lazy good for nutting) and in the absence of a stopwatch I decided to run blind. Like all good blind runners I found someone to attach myself to in the form of club mate Paul Daly who was targeting 6:40 pace.
After signing on and depositing my secret bottle of coke with Andy (for withdrawl at Belvelly bridge, 10 miles in) I warmed up over 3 miles with Derek and Brendan. As it was Brendan's first race in a year (and since his ankle break in January) he was taking it easy. Derek's target was 6:35/40, so I wouldn't expect to see him out on the course.
I had just enough time to stretch following the warm up before the gun sounded and we were off. As I was 3 rows back in the 850+ crowd I got off to a fairly uninterrupted start and soon enough there was a familiar gang around me forging a steady pace along the lower road. It took a bit of concentration to stay on the heels of the three Johns (Desmond, O'Callaghan & Dunphy) and Paul, with Pat and Colin a few yards in front. Passing the 1 mile mark we got a cheer from Joe Roche, fresh from his 3:08 marathon in Berlin last weekend - nice to be watching for a change.
As we headed out the dual carriageway towards the 3 mile mark Paul had pulled 10 yards ahead and I wasn't sure whether I should follow him or not as I hadn't expected him to pull ahead of the group. However the pace felt comfortable and as I was running by feel and not watch I forged ahead and eventually pulled onto his shoulder heading up the ramp towards the Dunkettle Interchange. Swing left towards the old N25 and the 4 mile mark. Steady pace heading east - coming on the shoulder of Ronán, who had set out a tad fast and was settling in to a more manageable pace commensurate with recovering from his stag last weekend. On towards the 5 mile mark and on the shoulder of fellow triathlete Martin Leahy who also had decided to give it welly for the first few miles. The instantaneous pace on Paul's Garmin was anywhere between 6:15 and 6:45, however as we passed the 5 mile mark the overall time was 33:14, which wasn't much under the 100 minute target (1:40) that 3 x 5 miles @ 6:40 pace would give you.
Paul tried to get a rhythm going whereby he'd lead for a few minutes and then I'd take over but to be quite honest he was pulling me along and if I was on my own I'd have eased up a little. I knew the pace was a bit challenging when I could see Derek ahead and we were gradually reeling him in. "What the heck" I thought "maybe this is what running without a watch is like"
- but at the back of my mind I was half expecting the "fun" to end before I hit the finish line in Cobh.
We caught up with Derek as we approached the halfway-mark. I can't remember the time Paul called out but we were still under 1:40 pace. Up to Cobh Cross and the 8 mile mark with Paul remarking that we were running 6:35 pace uphill (hardly much of a hill). Over the bridge towards Fota and Paul asked was I going to forge ahead. "No chance of that".
Shortly after the 9 mile mark Paul pulled slightly ahead and the gap grew over the following mile. The first sign that the party was over. Passed the 10 mile mark - towards Belvelly Bridge and picked up my coke from Andy (fair play Andy). The 500ml bottle was too heavy to carry for long and a few swigs was all I could manage as the head began to fill with the usual negative thoughts. The coke didn't give me the kick I needed to drive on and close the gap to Paul ,which continued to widen. I knew that the next few miles would be ugly but continued to plod along the only way I knew how. Derek passed around mile 11 and it felt like my pace was dropping like a stone as he appeared to pull ahead quite effortlessly. This is where my lack of longer endurance runs began to tell. I was counting down the miles and waiting for the 6:40 crew to go sailing past.
Under the rail bridge at mile 12 and John Desmond comes on my shoulder and passes. "It took me the last 8 mile to catch you" he remarked. "Pity it wasn't 11 miles" was all I could say as he moved ahead. I was surprised that he was alone as I fully expected the rest of the gang to be on his shoulder.
Past the 13 mile mark. "2 miles to go" - about 14 minutes and @ 90 steps per minute I begin to countdown each minute. After a minute or 2 I notice the gap to John is not increasing and after 4 minutes I am nearly on his shoulder. However it was more a case of John joining in my suffering than me getting faster as the guy he had been tracking was well ahead and we were both passed by Pat and Colin. Passed the 14 mile mark and I continued to track John and resumed my countdown for what I thought would be the last 5 minutes. The countdown provided some mental relief and kept me at a steady pace which, with about 2 minutes left, took me past John and down the hill into Cobh. Needless to say I never got too far ahead and John's finishing kick was enough to get past me as we came towards the line with the clock displaying 1:39:51....2....3. Maybe I got 55 or 56 ...All I know is that I was under the 1:40, which surprised me as I thought my fade over the last 5 miles was at least a minute or 2. Paul had a great race running strong for the full 15 getting 1:38:3x. So I lost about a minute and 20 seconds, which wasn't too bad.
I was about a minute down on my PB which was set here 2 years ago, when I was running "marathon pace" two weeks out from Amsterdam. Just shows that the lack of marathon training has taken the edge off my longer races (30 mile weeks will do that to you). Still a great race and great event. I haven't missed a year since I ran this as my first race in 2006 in 1:58:29.
I had been worried about my calves heading into the race as I had returned to running in the Vibrams this week and the pressure always transfers from the feet to the calves when moving in the minimalist shoe direction.
I did about a 2 mile warmdown after the race to give me 20 miles for the day and about 43 for the week.
Tue 29th Sept
About 7 miles with 4 miles @ 6:32 pace (Track session)
Wed 30th Sept
5.2 miles in 42:21 (08:08 pace @ 134HR) - Easy run in Vibrams
Thur 1st Oct
About 6 miles with 4 x 416m in 81/83/82/81 (200m recoveries) and 1 mile @ 6:23 pace. -
Fri 2nd Oct
About 5.2 miles @ 7:50 pace - Vibrams (Garmin acting up)
Sun 4th Oct
About 20 miles with 15 miles in about 1:39:56 (06:40 pace)