Saturday, 31 December 2011

Perseverance

When I returned to my car last Saturday morning with 7.5 of my 46 miles still remaining to be completed I was on my last legs - absolutely no energy left. The gel and half bottle of coke I had consumed 7.5 miles previously had given me a great boost but the effect had long worn off and I was now on empty, completely flat and simply ingesting more coke was not going the light the fire under my arse that was necessary to get me moving again. I needed to sit down, rest and see where I would go from there. I could always go home and complete the last 7.5 miles later in the day when I had recovered a bit. I knew deep down that this was unlikely to happen as once I hit home the rest of the day would be mapped out for me - I already had to pick up a set of cymbals to complete Safan's Christmas drum kit and a few last minute provisions in the English Market on the way home.
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After a few minutes rest I decided I would walk the last 7.5 miles if I had to and so I headed out from Pairc Ui Caoimhe along the old rail line on a 3.75 mile out and back struggle. After 100 yards I managed to break into a slow jog, which felt no worse than walking and on I went, counting down the miles to the turnaround where I walked for a minute or 2 and consumed the remainder of my coke before resuming my slow jog - averaging a pace between 9:00 and 9:30. After a while I forgot about the end-game and just concentrated on each step I was taking, living in the present moment - and isn't it all about the journey. Eventually I arrived back at the car, no worse than I had been 7.5 miles earlier, after learning a valuable lesson in the perseverance of the mind and body. Just when you think you can go no further just concentrate on the next step and you will be amazed at what you can achieve.
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2011 Review
I averaged 2,560 miles for the year in just over 341 hours giving an average pace of 8:00. The relatively high mileage ultra training for the first 6 months saw my average monthly pace rise to 8:39 in June for the Portumna 100k (my longest race to-date @ 9:16:28). Thereafter the mileage dropped off as quantity gave way to quality and my average monthly pace dropped to 7:24 by October - which explains my best race result of the year at the Dublin City Marathon.
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The year was turning out to be a year of ultra PB's (Connemara and Portumna) and Marathon pacing (Limerick, Cork, Dingle and Dublin) until I decided in July to get some speed back into my legs and train for the Charleville HM in September (1:22:32 PB) and the Cork to Cobh 15 miler (another PB in 1:35:32). At the last minute I decided to trust my good form and race the Dublin City Marathon at the end of October, chasing the holy grail of a sub 3-hour marathon and managing to scrape under the bar with a 2:59:19 PB, not too shabby for an M45 - no need to chase down those age-group PB's yet!
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As for 2012, well all I can say at this stage is here's to more PB's, new frontiers and Happy New Year!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

46

2 x 23
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#1 - 0001hrs - 3:02:12 (7:55 pace)
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#2 - 0843hrs - 3:34:01 (9:18 pace)
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Shattered! I'm getting too old for this.
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Thursday, 22 December 2011

Hibernation

My recovery from the Clonakilty marathon went very well with none of the usual aches and pains and no requirement to alter my gait walking downstairs. Having said that I have only run three times in the last 12 days, the first of which on the Tuesday following the marathon felt the best. My body has told me in no uncertain terms that it's time to rest. To be quite honest it's been winding down since Dublin and I was lucky to get in a good run in Clon.
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My weight has increased steadily over the last 8 weeks as my reduced running volume has freed up significant time to enable me get two more meals into my day - the two extra holes I had to punch in my belt in September are now redundant and won't see action for a long while.
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A friend told me last week that putting on weight would build up my immunity to infection, which would have been compromised when training for Dublin. Funnily enough I came down with a cold this week, my first infection of the year. I think myself that it's what I eat as opposed to how much I eat has a lot to do with staying infection and injury free. I certainly feel that switching to more unprocessed foods to get closer to my racing weight during the summer months had the added benefit of improving my recovery rate from hard workouts and increasing my immunity to infection. My calves, which gave me so much trouble in Connemara in April, responded well to the tempo training in August and September and for the first time in a Marathon did not limit my performance in Dublin.
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So...............where am I headed. Well with Christmas upon us there's not point in reversing my dietary trend. I have signed up for both the Dungarvan and Ballycotton 10 milers in January and March, but neither will be the focus of a specific training plan. Anyway Dungarvan's too soon and Ballycotton? no excuse there. I'm leaning towards heading back to Connemara in April for some unfinished business - to complete the 39.3 miles without my calves giving up the ghost before the hill out of Lenaun and in the process knock a decent chunk of time off my PB. I thought about concentrating on improving my PB's over the shorter distances but for some reason that doesn't seem to interest me as much. You'd think I'd have had enough of the long stuff as 2011 has been good to me on that score. You'd never know I might change my mind before the year's out.
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Wishing you all a peaceful and happy Christmas.
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Saturday, 10 December 2011

Ideal

A cold sunny day greeted the 1,500+ participants of the Full, Half and Mini Marathons in Clonakilty this morning. The start was delayed due to the large number of runners who decided to register on the morning. There were a few clubmates running both the full and half.
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I travelled down with neighbour Ian, running his first half, six months into his running career and John D running the full on a training diet of 8 mile runs - to be fair he did say he ran a long run from Cork to Cobh at the start of October, no problem there so!
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Just before the start I met my Cousin, Liam, who had travelled from Dublin to run the full. He has already signed up for the Connemara Ultra next April (it must be in the genes, mothers side).

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The half started about 0.25 miles ahead of the full and mini and about 5 minutes earlier. Once the gun went I eased into a comfortable pace in the 7:30's, finding clubmate Rob (aiming for 3:10 - 3:15) within the first mile and Maura (aiming for 3:15 - 3:20) shortly after. My decision to run in a singlet was justified as the day began to warm a little - although I wore a disposable long sleeved top for the first 2 miles. The first 4 miles are relatively flat as we clicked off 7:30 pace and were joined by Liam, John D, Anne and Catriona (whom John D and I ran the full 26.2 with last year). Rob forged ahead before we hit the hills of Inchydoney. I was next to move ahead as we began to hit the back of the half marathon field. I passed the first timing mat at 5.5 miles in 41:46 (7:35 pace average - compared to the 7:30 average the Garmin gave me).

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The Garmin was not recording laps as the data bank was full, so my mile splits went unrecorded, except for the ones I remembered. Heading from Inchydoney, back on the flat road around the back bay, I continued my steady pace, making my way through the half marathon field. Heading inland again and now on a steady incline I pass mile 8 in 59:03 (7:23 pace overall, compared to 7:18 on the Garmin). Shortly afterwards I rejoin Rob as the full and half fields split and go on their separate ways. The marathon course suddenly became a lonely spot with 2 other runners choosing the right fork in the road that would eventually take us on a few gradual downhill miles to the picturesque village of Rathbarry, passing mile 10 in 1:13:24 (7:20 pace average). My plan was to hit 20 miles in 2:25 - so I was nearly a minute behind the 1:12:30 half way split. No big deal as my slower start was the reason for the deficit.

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Passing Castlefreake we both came on the shoulder of Thomas Sheehan, who joined us on our journey - Thomas was not necessarily happy to see me, as the last time we met was when I left him behind at Mile 16 in Dublin. Back on the coast now the three of us turned left at Owenahincha beach climbing again over the headland to the Long Strand and the halfway point, which we pass in 1:35:17 (7:16 overall pace) - just 17 seconds behind 3:10 pace and still feeling reasonably intact. I had a few scares earlier, when I got a pain in my right foot, which thankfully subsided as suddenly as it had come. I also felt a tightness in my right calf and then remembered that I had left the salt/endurolyte tablets Denis had given me back in the car - doh! Was I going to regret wearing my 1,500+ mile red racers with the soles compressed to half their thickness from nearly 2 years of pounding pavement.

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There are 2 runners ahead, but it takes us a mile to catch up as the road rises again towards Fishers Cross with the Galley Head Lighthouse off to the South. How is it that I never fully remember all the hills on this course. Still the legs feel pretty good but the HR does rise to keep the engine firing and delivering the additional energy needed for these climbs. Thomas begins to drop back at this stage and Rob and I are left with one of the guys we caught, as the road falls again towards the Red Strand - no time to stop and enjoy the view.

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Up ahead is the left turn as we head inland and the start of a gradual climb that will take us from sea level to the highest point in the course at about 110m. There is about 2 hours on the clock as we take the left turn and I tell Rob that we have about 20 minutes to the top of the climb (the benefit of running this section 3 times during August). The first section is relatively flat as we pass the 17 mile mark. As the road begins to rise Rob begins to fall behind - a little at first, but gradually his footfalls quieten and eventually can't be heard.

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I am on my own for the first time since mile 8 (and then I was surrounded by half marathon runners). There is a guy a few hundred yards ahead that I just make out through my myopic vision. He gradually comes back to me as we reach the highest point on the course and I recognised him from the single calf guard he wears on his right leg - none other than Seamus Murphy, who gets the odd mention in Thomas's blog. I tell him that this is the last hill on the course, bar 1 (incorrectly as it turns out - sorry Seamus) and that the last 4 miles are flat, which he is grateful to hear. I forge ahead as my legs have survived the climb pretty intact, albeit fatigued. I do my best to take advantage of the downhills by striding out but they're a little too steep.

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Mile 20 comes in 2:25:12 (7:16 pace average), 12 seconds behind where I wanted to be - good stuff, my 3:10 target is still looking good. Two guys ahead come back to me as we drop steeply down to the Beach at Duneen and take a left up another sharp climb as I pass one guy and the other pushes ahead - although at the next climb he stops and walks and resumes running after I pass. We are now dropping down towards Dunmore Hotel and the last 4 flat miles and there are 4 or 5 runners in groups ahead. I see clubmate Donnacha at the 22 mile water station, just after finishing the half in 1:29 (well done Donnacha) and cycling out to support Maura over the last 4 miles of the marathon - there's devotion for you ;). He even finds time to chase after me to give me a water bottle after I had missed picking one up - cheers Donnacha (to be fair the guy handing out bottles was offering "sports drink or water" and when I asked for water he found he was only holding sports drink and could only offer me a puzzled look as I passed by).

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Over the next half mile I pass the guys in front but hear a new footfall 4 or 5 yards behind me. My mind starts working overtime, playing tricks on me - Do I surge to pull away or slow down and let them pass? Could it be Rob? or is it one of the guys I just passed coming back at me? I do nothing and just keep ploughing along at a steady pace - maybe i'll eventually burn him off. He never comes on my shoulder but is not far behind as we turn right onto the first of 3 causeways that will take us back into Clon and the long awaited finish line.

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I start counting down the time using 3:10 as my notional finish time - 2:50, twenty minutes left. Past Mile 24 (2:52:57 - I think) - still ok for 3:10 but doubtful for my sub 3:08:58 (pre-Dublin PB). The footsteps behind have faded, I turn right onto causeway No.2 - 2 guys are ahead running noticeably slower than I am. Keeping the pace is becoming more difficult but still manageable. I pass the 2 guys in front and the road ahead is completely empty as I round Inchydoney and turn left onto the last causeway. I pass the 25 mile mark with 3:00:00 on the Garmin and follow the flat road around the shores of Clonakilty Bay. A sole spectator tells me i'm in 20th position. Only 5 minutes left, will I get under 3:09, I can hear the finish line MC in the distance, congratulating the first female finisher. Past the 26 mile mark and a half marathon walker - 3:07:xx - i'll make it under 3:09, up a short incline and the drop towards the finish line, I felt great, elated to have run my race to plan, delighted to be finished, no TV cameras this time to record a far stronger marathon finish than Dublin 6 weeks ago - turn left for the 10 foot run to the finish line, the clock turning to 3:09 the first time I see it. Stopping the Garmin it shows 3:08:47 - 11 sweet seconds below my 3:08:58 A-Target, tight...very tight......but sweet.

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Who was in hot on my heels, 5 seconds later? only Seamus Murphy who I had thought I had left behind at mile 20. He must have dug pretty deep to pull that off. Fantastic recovery.

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The official results give me 16th place in 3:09:02 Clock & 3:08:49 Chip.....even tighter again. (7:12 average pace). That'll do me, although I was still only 4th M45, with 3 M40 runners and the leading lady (3:07:24) also in front of me.

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Maura had a fantastic race getting second female spot in 3:16:40 and a 10 minutes PB, on a hilly course!!! Fantastic result Maura well done. Rob was about 30 seconds ahead of Maura, although I dind't see him and get a chance to talk to him after the race. John D was a shade over 3:30 just behind Catriona and Anne, whom he paced to the 20 mile mark. What's most impressive is that he gave me 4 gels at the end of the race having consumed one of the two I had given him before the race - either he has cut me in at the start of a gel pyramid scheme or he should be running the country. Liam finished in 3:24, which he celebrated over a few pints in Debarra's Pub - now there's something i'd like to endure for a while. See you in Connemara Liam (hopefully)

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Ian was waiting at the finish line, having completed his first half in a very respectable 1:54 and all with a dodgy calf which he injured earlier in the week. A feed of sugary tea, Clonakilty black pudding, mince pies and biscuits recharged the batteries as we caught up on a few stories of pain and suffering and congratulated Ken who travelled from Antrim to complete his 100th marathon - and Ian thought we were mad.

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I mentioned to Ian on the road home that John was a more prolific blogger than I was. "You know the Running in Cork Blog" John asked Ian. "Can't say I do" Ian replied. Well if you saw the look of incredulity on John's face. In Ian's defence he is only running six months.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Ready, Willing and.................

..............we'll see.
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Since Dublin the motivation has understandably waned. Clon, which was my 2011 target marathon, has been relegated to an end of season fun race. I am still looking forward to it as it is a scenic course with plenty of challenging climbs, although I doubt i'll put in the same effort as I did for Dublin. Subconsciously I have eased up on the discipline - for starters I am 2.5 kg heavier that I was before Dublin as my body replenishes its stores of fat in preparation for winter. On the plus side there is no pressure and while I want to enjoy the experience I also want to see what I can do on a hilly course. Sub 3:10 is my A Standard - ideally break my pre-Dublin PB of 3:08:58, but if things get too difficult I won't be going out on a limb to chase it.
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The forecast for Saturday is quite good with the temperature just above freezing, the wind easing and the rain giving way to sunshine - perfect for sightseeing.
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Sunday, 27 November 2011

Taper?

With the Clonakilty marathon only 13 days away (I must remember to sign up for it) I completed my one and only race specific workout today, heading out of the house shortly after 8:30 this morning for a two and a half hour run. The plan was to run in a reasonably glycogen depleted state so, as for all my morning training runs, I had no breakfast and also left the gels at home. The aim was to encourage my body to burn more fat at a moderately hard aerobic pace, so that on race day my glycogen stores will last longer.

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Instead of heading east towards the City I turned west heading into the hills between the Bride and Lee valleys on a beautiful sunny morning. As Clonakilty has a few hills along the course it was hills I was looking for. With a long hill at mile 3 using the 4 or 6 mile cut-in wasn't going to work today so i just eased into a pace under 7:30 until I hit the hill. My target was to average 7:30 pace through the hills taking advantage of the downhills to compensate for the slower uphill sections.

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Things went pretty much to plan over the first hilly 8 miles, in fact I was a minute ahead of my 7:30 target. With a half notion of getting under 3:10 in Clon, I dropped the pace towards 7:10, which I maintained pretty much to mile 19 - passing 13.11 in about 1:35. Over the last few miles the effort of maintaining pace was increasingly stressful and it eventually dropped to 7:31 for mile 20, which I passed in 2:24 - still ahead of my notional 2:25 target. I kept going until 2:30 was on the clock and was glad to stop - 20.83 miles (7:12 pace & 144HR Avg). If i'd kept going my pace would almost certainly have dropped to 8:00 and slower as fatigue was well and truly setting in. Hopefully the hills in Clon won't be as tough and i'll be a little more rested.

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Now time to taper, I suppose. Although with my weekly mileage at 45, I'm already halfway there.
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Saturday, 19 November 2011

Filling The Void

One thing I had not planned for after the Dublin Marathon was the lack of a medium/long term goal. What am I to do now? While I had planned and trained to break my half marathon PB in Charleville on 18th September there was no target time. The plan, hatched in late July, was still only a diversion on a longer road, something to keep me amused en-route to a greater destination. Where was I really heading - a 15 mile PB 2 weeks later? again another thing to keep me amused (and motivated) on my journey. And then the fog began to clear a little and I could see a greater prize, much closer than I thought. Is this where I was aiming for all along, suddenly within reach, is the pilgrimage over, is this the road I should take, I didn't have much time to think - probably a blessing in disguise - and swerved off the road without indicating and the rest is history.

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Now that I have arrived do I stop here? final destination, settle down, eat sleep and be merry, content with life. What about the journey? wasn't it fun? isn't that what it's all about? can't stay here forever! But which road do I take? does it really matter? Pick one and the next long term destination will reveal itself when you're ready. One things for sure you got to keep moving.
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So I am back on the road, after a week of eating and sleeping. 2+ kg heavier, so no shortage of fuel. Before diverting to Dublin I had planned on running the Clonakilty Waterfront Marathon on 10th December and while I haven't signed up yet I think i'll stick to that plan, in the absence of anything else. I had a notion, pre-Dublin, that I could PB in Clon - a tough ask on a hilly course but since I PB'd in Dublin I can relax a little - no pressure - treat it as an experiment - another 6 mile cut-in or maybe a 13.1 mile warmup to a 13.1 mile race. We'll see.

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My recovery from Dublin followed a predictable enough course and while my HR for a particular pace may still be higher than it was before Dublin everything else appears to be back on track. My speedwork at the track was initially at MP and an attempt to join the 6:00 mile pace group for 3 x 2k last Tuesday was met with a "you're not that good so piss off back to a slower group" from my body which bailed after 400m into the 3rd 2k. To be expected really as I have not trained at that pace all year - shows the importance of specificity. To be quite honest I was aiming for 6:20 pace, but the choice was 6:48 or 6:00, unless I wanted to run on my own.
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No problem with recovery though as I managed to follow it up the night after with a 39:30 10k (6:22 pace) in the Run for Mark in the Dark Charity 5k/10k in Cork. The race, over 4 x 2.5k laps (2 laps for the 5k) on the flat Monahan Road/Center Park Road loop, was well supported. My reason for entering was to support a worthy cause - something positive in all the doom and gloom. The fact that there were two races with the start/finish at the same location (so maybe not exactly 5k/10K) with a clock to see progress after each lap made it more interesting than most races. My plan was to run by feel, head out at a comfortable pace and see how I get on - certainly not looking for a PB. The clock showed 10:06 after the first lap, which automatically reset my internal governor to a sub 40 minute target. I just kept the pace comfortably hard and the 2nd lap came with 20:01 on the clock - I resisted the urge to chase down a guy who passed me racing for the 5k finish line as I was in a 10k groove. Lap 3 was less comfortable but still manageable - 29:53 on the clock. I continued the pace heading into lap 4. The course got progressively congested between laps 3 and 4 as slower runners running 3/4/5 abreast prevented me from taking the racing line - jumping onto the footpath, splashing through puddles - all part of the fun. I reeled in and passed a few runners on the last lap as my pace increased slightly, crossing the line in 9th place in 39:30 - although the results give me a 39:41 (adding 10 seconds to my first lap)
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Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Oh the struggle of it all

My brother, who knows his way around youtube, posted the TV coverage of my marathon finish. Although his remixed extended version is far funnier. he'll make a career in movie production yet.
Warning, I do not look as pretty as Scott did at the end of the Osaka Marathon.
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Sunday, 6 November 2011

Dublin By Numbers

79
My average weight in kg over the last 2 months, down about 3 kg from my average racing weight over the previous 3 years (although I was 86kg at the start of this year). I reckoned my previous 82kg would get me a marathon between 3:08:58 (my 2009 PB) and 3:14, depending ontraining/form etc and that a weight of 76 kg would get me anywhere between 2:55 and 3:00, all other things being equal (i.e. training, motivation, etc.). Not in the least scientific but what is? Anyway it gave me something to focus on. For a runner I am still on the heavy side of the spectrum with a BMI of about 23.5. - could I reduce it to 20.5 and run a 2:40/45 marathon at 70kg??? Would I want to put myself through the sacrifice? Anyway I jumped into a marathon 3 kg off my 76kg target (more an aspiration than a target as I was not seriously chasing it) and scraped under the bar, probably because my form was better than ever before. My empirical formula would have given me a 3:02 to 3:07 marathon for 79kg.

5 The number of years since I ran my first marathon (2006 in Dublin) in 3:47:08. I came back in 2007 for a 3:22.08 and a very shaky finish (deja-vu last Monday). I returned again in 2009 for a 3:08:58 PB)

9:43

Improvement on my 2009 PB. €47:50

The total cost of everything I wore on Monday. Shoes €30 (March 2010), Socks €0.50 (August 2011 - part of a multi pack), Shorts €7 (June 2007 - the only ones with pockets to carry gels), Singlet €10 (Club Singlet July 2011). Getting under 3 hours Priceless. 161 Average HR 6:50 Average pace. The best guess miles splits cobbled together from the Garmin (missed loads of laps), timing mats and where I was relative to the "even split" pacers are:- Mile 1 - 7:14 easing in

Mile 2 - 7:00 Mile 3 - 7:01 Mile 4 - 6:51 Mile 5 - 6:48 - 34:54 for 5 miles (6 seconds ahead of target) Mile 6 - 6:52 - Effort feels tougher than expected and I'm not on target pace Mile 7 - 6:41 - Cranking it up on a gradual descent Mile 8 - 6:32 - Downhill out of the Phoenix Park and in the wake of the 3 hour pacers Mile 9 - 6:47 - Latched onto Pacers, all aboard Mile 10 to 13 - 6:44 - Riding the pacing train - could zone out for a while Mile 14 - 6:52 - Stuck in pacing group, felt I didn't have the juice to go it alone Mile 15 - 6:50 - Need to be running in the 6:40's as pacers could crank up the pace later Mile 16 - 6:50 - If I don't go now i'll be spat out the back of this group later, gotta go or else!!! Mile 17 to 20 - 6:42 average. Results put me 20 seconds ahead of the lead pacer at mile 20 Mile 21 - 6:42 Only 8 seconds ahead of lead pacer at 20.5 but pulled away on the descent to 21 Mile 22 to 25 - 6:55 average. probably slowed from 6:42 to over 7:00 by the time I was caught Mile 26.22 - 7:21 pace - more like 6:48 pace to 25.8 and a death march to the finish. 276th Place overall

27th
M45
2:58:37- 2:58:51 (253rd to 259th) Clock time and position of lead and last 3 hour Pacers.
I finished 38 seconds behind the last pacer - no wonder I thought I wouldn't make it over the last 100m. If the lead pacer had been 30 seconds further behind me at mile 25 (heading for a 2:59:07 clock finish) would I have run most of the last 1.22 miles at a more even and manageable 7:10+ pace, taking me to the finish line in more or less the same time without blowing up or was the 1 minute cushion the pacers had a blessing in disguise, getting me to push as hard as I could.
I had switched to overall time on the Garmin at about 2:38 - mentally saying that I had 20 minutes of pain left - and counting it down in 5 minute quarters. Once the pacers passed before mile 25 (2:50:xx) I stopped looking at the watch and just concentrated on sticking to them. I only looked at the watch again when I got dropped, but at that stage my mind was in no position to make any sort of analysis - so seeing 2:57 on the watch, when I had no reference to a finish line or the pace I was running at, was meaningless other than to instill a general sense of urgency/panic - just about when I had that one-way communication with my legs.
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Friday, 4 November 2011

Dublin in Picture

Hitting the Phoenix Park after the 4 Mile Mark
(Courtesy of Joe Murphy)
200 yards behind the 3 hour pacers

Tucked in behind the 3 hour Pacers before making my move at Mile 16

Video near the crest of the last "Hill" at Mile 20.5

From leaders to those who came in around 3:10/3:15
I run past 16:45 minutes in followed 8 seconds later by the lead 3 hour pacer. Glad I didn't know he was that close. He didn't pass me for another 4.5 miles.

25.5 Miles - Sequence of Photos by Clubmate Joe Murphy Zone of Pain

Nearly There

One small step for man, one giant leap for.......

Monday, 31 October 2011

Carpe Diem

10 Days Ago
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Hi xxxx (Organiser of Dublin City Marathon Pacers) A long shot here I know. Any chance of me racing Dublin instead of pacing............I have a good chance of getting under three hours based on recent form......................................
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9 Days Ago
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Hi Grellan, it should be ok for you to race, since we have 3 others at 3:30...........................Game On.

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I kept the whole thing low key, not telling anyone so as to keep the pressure off.

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The Short Version

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There were a few surprised clubmates at the start line this morning. Apologies for the deception, especially Killian, who had told me last weekend that he was aiming for 3:30 so he'd be sticking with me. Hope you had a good day without me Killian.
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My plan was a 4 mile cut-in from 7:20 pace to 6:40 - catch the 3 hour pacers before hitting Dolphins Barn (mile 11) and tuck in behind them for the expected headwind out the Crumlin Road to the halfway point and strike on from there - I make it sound so simple. The first 5 miles felt tough (35:06 - clock time) as I felt warm and clammy and my HR was 10 BPM above where it should have been. Seeing the pacer balloons off in the distance and getting no nearer, despite the 6:45 Garmin pace, was mildly irritating.
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I bided my time and managed to increase the pace gradually on the descent out of the Phoenix Park and was more or less on their tail by mile 8. I stuck with them to the halfway point (1:29:42 - my official clock time) but did not forge ahead as I felt i'd do better to keep with them a while longer. At mile 16 I decided to forge ahead as I knew that if I stayed with the pacers my chance of getting under 3 hours would be slim - i'd never keep the 6:50 pace on the drag out Clonskeagh to Fosters Avenue (18.5 to 20.5) and trying to maintain it would kill the last 10k.
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I don't know how far ahead of the pacers I got but could hear the cheers for them not too far behind - it certainly was a risk running in this no-mans-land, where most of those in front of me were slowly been sucked up by the relentless 3 hour pacing hoover. I passed mile 20 in 2:16 (1 minute off target) leaving 44 minutes for the final 10k (7:05 pace). On getting to the top of the last "hill" at mile 20.5 I though I had it in the bag as the pacers had not caught up and it was downhill or flat to the finish - how wrong I was. My Garmin Pace from mile 20 was showing 6:45, passing miles 21, 22 & 23 - still no pacers but by now the encouragement from the spectators was something like "Great running lads, keep ahead of the pacers" - I still didn't look back but kept the head down as advised and now had to work hard to keep the leg turnover.
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A few runners went past at mile 24, but thankfully none with balloons - more like an advance hunting party - I certainly felt like the prey. The 3 hour hoover was bearing down on me - the cheering crowds were deafening - my legs were turning to jelly - the pace that had once come naturally had to be fought for desperately, I hadn't come all this way for a 3:00:20, I can't let it happen.
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The pacers were upon me before mile 25 as we crossed the Grand Canal. I surged to keep with them - down Westland Row, left onto Pearse Street, desperately hanging on - knowing that the longer I stuck with them the better chance I would have of coming in within the 30 second cushion they would leave in their wake between 2:59:29 and 2:59:59. Past Trinity College clinging on for dear life, down Nassau Street, half a mile to go and bang! pacers gone - the effort of the last mile had all but depleted my reserves, - my subconscious mind was floating somewhere above my head in some sort of out of body experience as it had all but failed to convince me to stop and was abandoning ship before the shit hit the fan - and boy did it hit - legs wobbly, staying upright was a struggle and one last desperate message from the conscious mind to the legs to sprint the last 400m was met with a resounding "would you ever go and fuck yourself" before the communication line between head and body went permanently dead. If you ever saw that you-tube video of the battle for 4th female at the 1997 Ironman World Championships you'd get an idea of where my body was over the last 400m (although not quite as bad obviously).
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I still managed to move forward at about 10 minute mile pace in a sea of fog managing to see 2:59:2x on the clock, but not knowing where exactly the finishing line was. It was all captured on National TV as the marathon was being televised this year and the commentator took a particular interest in those managing to scrape under 3 hours, especially the shaky looking ones saying "Congratulations to Greelan McGrath on his sub 3 hour marathon" - lest there be any doubt. (He didn't mispronounce my name - that was the name on my entry -i've been called worse)
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My condition at the finish line got me a free wheelchair ride to the medical tent for a few tests and a bit of rest before going on my merry way - and what a merry way it was.
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The official results give me a finish time of 2:59:19 (chip) and 2:59:29 (Clock) with a Clock half of 1:29:42 - so pretty much even splits (1:29:32/1:29:47) with a slow start, fast middle and a short but dramatically slow finish.
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Sunday, 30 October 2011

My pace band for tomorrow

Should be ok for the first half. The forecast wind and rain will make the second half challenging to say the least. The course video is below. Best of luck to all those running and hope to see some of you out there.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Practice Makes Perfect

Subject your body to a particular stress often enough and it adapts, gets used to the stress and accepts it as normal. That's what Abina told me on our 21st wedding anniversary last month when explaining the longevity of our marriage ;) I was wondering where my ability to endure came from. It's a fine line obviously - too much stress and the body will sooner or later blow up and break down, necessitating a long period of recovery before further stress can be applied. I have moved away from the marriage analogy and am not referring to divorce and re-marriage, i'm very happy with the stress I have thank you very much.
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As my speed-endurance is in a good place at the moment because of my body's positive adaptation to the stress I have applied over the last two months, I decided to, more or less repeat, last Saturday's Marathon Pace endurance run to see if it felt less stressful than last week (relativity being the key). The route wasn't much different than last week except that I kept away from the City Quays, swapping it for a loop around the less congested Mardyke/College Road and the walkway from Inchagaggin to the Straight Road.
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I did make a couple of changes though.
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First off I decided to start a bit slower than last week but cut-in over 4 miles - 7:20 - 7:10 - 7:00 - 6:50 and then MP @ 6:40 target.
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Second I swapped my 1000 mile+ €13.50 Lidi runners (Paced Limerick and Dingle in them) for my 1000 mile+ €30 red racers I bought in Decathlon Barcelona last year (served me well in my recent HM & 15 mile PBs - although there's a gaping hole in the side mesh - so what). Would I run better in a pair of DS Racers/Kinvaras/Lunar Racers/Saucony ??/NB ??/ and if so why? That's a totally different post.
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Thirdly I didn't fancy the idea of wearing a running belt to carry water so I didn't and left a bottle outside the front door with a half notion of looping back after 10 or 11 miles - I never did.
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Finally, I left the gels at home too (no water anyway and the only gels I had required water for consumption). I was also following advice from Keith Livingston (thanks Rick for the link) who does not appear to be a fan of gels, in fact he recommends using gels only in the last few miles of a marathon, if you have to! Here's some of what he has to say about the marathon:-

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If you want to go as far and as long as possible without hitting the wall, you must have THREE things going for you:

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1. A trained ability to utilize a blend of (‘unlimited’) fatty acids and (‘limited’) carbohydrates for long periods at high aerobic levels, thereby conserving glycogen (high energy) stores for the business end of your race.

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2. Sufficient hydration of the muscles to allow access to the stored glycogen. Glycogen is really an endless starchy chain of glucose molecules. It needs about twice its volume in accessible H2O to be metabolized. So a marathoner who is ready to race will often be slightly heavier than normal.

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3. The patience to start slightly slower than your intended race pace, so as to spare glycogen and come home full of running. The marathon doesn’t ’start’ till the 20 mile/32km mark, so go steadily till then.

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The traditional “wall” that marathoners hit at around 20 miles represents the final unloading of glycogen stores from the type IIA fatigue-resistant (aerobic) fast twitch fibres as they are sequentially recruited while the slow twitch fibres have exhausted their work capacity.

. HOWEVER, if one has trained the fatty acid system properly by many weeks of long runs to depletion, BY ALL MEANS use a carbohydrate gel in the last few kilometres of a race (but test it out in training at least once on one of your weekly long runs!)

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I headed out into the wet morning (first wet run in a while) covering the first mile in a relatively slow 7:25 but was soon up to speed. The first 2 MP miles were in 6:29 (downhill) & 6:44 (uphill) - past the point where I took a gel last week - would I last the pace, when will I feel the inevitable fatigue. The miles came and went, maintaining a steady effort which delivered a pace just under 6:40. All thing going well i'd keep the MP going until mile 16. Things did go reasonably well, except that I hit the incline up past the Carrigrohane Post Office after 15.6 miles and had to push the HR to keep close to the 6:40 target until I had 16 miles under the belt - certainly glad to ease back after that, although the remaining four miles were all under 7:20 pace. I was also beginning to feel the early signs of dehydration (to be expected), deferred perhaps by the light rain that fell from time to time.

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20 miles in 1:16:11 (ps correction 2:16:11 - thanks Rick) - my fastest 20 miles to-date, and I only "raced" 16 of them. During the later MP miles my HR was in the low to mid 150's (with the exception of the mile 16 uphill effort), which would appear to be my sub-threshold MP HR.

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While the table below certainly points towards a sub 3-hour marathon it is worth noting that the standard certified marathon course never measures 26.2 miles on the Garmin and an average of 3 seconds per mile should be added to the splits to get a truer reflection of what is required - about 1:30 minutes or 0.2 miles (i.e. pass the Garmin 26.2 mile mark in 2:58:29 or reach 26.42 Garmin miles in 2:59:59 - take your pick)

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Sunday, 9 October 2011

For God and Country

Part of being a member of a running club is turning out once in a while to represent the Club at a race - so when the call to arms came to come out and support today's Cork County Novice, Masters and U23 Cross Country Championships in Conna I felt duty bound to sign up. After all I was one of the few club members who didn't take part in the National HM Championships, preferring instead to pace a marathon in Dingle on the same day.
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There was a good turnout on what turned out to be a warm, dry and breezy day. The course was relatively flat with a few mild undulations, token mud section and a few small rough sections at field boundaries to make it interesting - quite enjoyable to race on actually. This, my second ever cross country, is a different type of racing than I'm normally used to. I left the Garmin on the kitchen table, by accident more than anything else, but was glad I did. Cross country is not about pace or mile splits but more position in the field (of runners that is).
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The men's course was 4 laps of 1,500m (6km in all), with my primary aim being not to get lapped. My legs didn't feel too bad during the warmup, given the 20 hard miles I put them through yesterday - my recovery appears to be quite good lately, although I wouldn't want to tempt fate. Perhaps because I didn't come into today with any expectations or specific training I was more relaxed - no pressure.
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Because I didn't know how hard it was going to be my philosophy was to head out at a steady pace for the first lap and see how I feel from there. Because of this I was towards the back of the field over the opening 400m but for the rest of the race kept a reasonably steady even pace, passing runners right up to the finish line. Seeing the herd of runners streaming through the field gaps in front of me during the first lap reminded me more of a cattle drive than a race.........hee-haw.
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There's something about cross country, that I can't quite put my finger on, that makes it different, enjoyable despite the energy sapping effort. You certainly notice your strengths and weaknesses - how you gain on others going up the slightest incline and struggle to keep up on the downhill, digging in with the spikes to take a sharp corner or gain purchase on a slippery bank, trying not to turn over on your ankle when you hit a stone under the surface - great fun ;) Maybe it's the way the inner child likes to run.
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The results put me in 50th place out of 107 runners covering the 4 laps in 24:02 (6:27 pace if the distance is correct) - just getting into the top 50%. Just goes to show how competitive it becomes when the field is limited to club runners - and that is without senior and intermediate club runners who were not eligible to run.
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Looks like the Eagle Novice Team (in which I was the third member) came 6th overall and the M40 Team (in which I was the first member) was 4th overall - just out of the medals. Although, at the track session last Tuesday I did receive my bronze medal for my 100m sprint in the County T&F Championships back in July. The applause from clubmates at the trackside was embarassing - if only they knew I came 3rd out of 3. Still a medal is a medal and it takes pride of place over all the other "finishers" medals I have. The M50 team fared better getting 2nd overall, with Pat Murphy claiming 2nd M55 and Pat Twomey 2nd M60. Well done Pat.
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Saturday, 8 October 2011

Practice

As my next race is a marathon, I thought I'd get a long run in this weekend. As I had agreed to join the club for the County Novice & Masters Cross Country in Conna on Sunday my long run would have to be today. To add a bit of a challenge I thought i'd test my form and try out a six mile cut-in to a sub-3 hour Marathon Pace and keep the pace going for a few miles. Not the best idea perhaps as my form would surely be compromised by last Sunday's race and I wouldn't be giving myself the best chance for the cross country tomorrow but!...............nah i've no excuse really.....I just wanted to do this.
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The plan was to cover the first mile in 7:10 and reduce the pace by 5 seconds for subsequent miles until I was running 6:40 for mile 7 and maintain than pace for up to 10 miles!!! Yeah I wasn't thinking too clearly on that one. I headed out shortly after 8 having spend the previous 2 hours watching Ireland being outplayed by Wales in the Rugby World Cup Quarter Final. My route into town via the Model Farm Road along the Quays and out the Straight Road, with a few diversions around Ballincollig was reasonably flat. My fueling consisted of a pre-run coffee, a 200ml bottle of water (didn't want to carry anything heavier) and a few gels in my pocket.
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The first 6 miles went reasonably well, if not slightly ahead of pace, although I had to concentrate on keeping pace on some of the rises on the Model Farm Road. I took the HR monitor to see if the gradual increase in pace would see a more controlled rise in HR - unfortunately halfway into mile 1 the Garmin was already showing 199 and did not come good until the end of mile 3. By the time I hit the start of mile 7 I was on a gentle drop towards Dennehys Cross, which was a more gentle introduction to the first "MP" mile. I took my only gel and a swig of water at this stage. The next few miles went reasonably well despite the dodging in and out of early moring traffic along the City Quays and soon I was heading out of town with 10 miles behind me. I knew I wouldn't keep the pace up for another 6 miles and settled on cutting back after 13.11 - 7.11 miles @ MP. Out the Mardyke and onto the Straight Road @ Mile 11, at this stage looking forward to reaching 13.11, struggling to keep the pace for those last 2 miles.
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On reaching the HM mark I cut the pace back towards 7:30 for the journey home, extending my route to get 20 miles in. With a sniff of the finish I dropped the pace back down to 6:40 for the final mile home. Hope there's something left for running around a farmers field tomorrow.
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Sunday, 2 October 2011

Cork to Cobh - A 15 Mile Tempo Run.

Today was the fifth anniversary of the first race I ever ran - Cork to Cobh 2006 (1:58:29), in preparation for my first marathon (Dublin in 3:47:12). Looking back now it does seem strange that my first race should be a 15 miler, you could see where I was headed.
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Since 2006 I have come back every year to run the road from Cork to Cobh and reducing my 15 mile PB in the process.
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  • 2007 - 1:42:32
  • 2008 - 1:38:56 - PB coming into today - failed attempt at a MP run.
  • 2009 - 1:43:15 - MP run for Dublin (3:08:56 current PB)
  • 2010 - 1:39:57 - A summer of triathlons and no endurance running.
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Given my form at the Charleville HM 2 weeks ago I knew that, illness or injury permitting, I was on for a PB today - the only unknown being by what margin?

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My primary goal was a PB, all things going well I should get under 1:37:30 (6:30 pace) and if I was on top form I should have a crack off 1:35 (6:20 pace) - McMillan gave me 1:35:11 (1:35:29 for the 13.07 mile Garmin measured HM) after Charleville. I didn't feel on top form getting up this morning (maybe 90%), stopping off in Tesco's en route to the race start for some paracetamol.

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I warmed up with Clubmates John x 2 & Derek. My plan was pretty simple - keep the pace in the 6:20's and if I feel good for a few faster miles i'll know. While I didn't feel 100% I was going to put my faith in my body's ability to churn out steady fast miles - if it didn't last, well at least I gave it my best shot. Derek was aiming for miles in the 6:25 to 6:30 range for his MP attempt at sub 2:50 in Dublin, so I aimed to keep him in sight.
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The day was warm and overcast with a slight easterly breeze. I placed myself a few rows back, and got off to a reasonably unimpeded start covering the first mile in 6:26 followed by a 6:27 - already 13 seconds above the 6:20 average for my "A" target. I wasn't that bothered about it so early in the race but decided to keep a tally of the deficit so as to focus on something. For the first few miles out the Lower Road I was on the shoulder of Derek (not literally).
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Miles 3 & 4 in 6:21 & 6:20 - "14 seconds over - try to keep under 20 seconds for five miles which will keep me on sub 1:36 pace". Derek, sticking to his high 6:20's pace, was behind at this stage.
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I caught up with a group of four or five just after the 4 mile mark approaching the Island Gate and kept the same metronome pace, eventually pulling ahead and coming alongside clubmate Eric, who was targetting 1:35. Mile 5 in 6:19 (13 seconds over). A short while later Eric falls behind and I am on my own. Passing Glounthane Church approaching 6 miles a Guy comes from behind and asks a few spetators how Ireland is doing at the rugby "leading Italy by 26 to 6" is the response - good news all round. The guy looks very comfortable and I assume he will pull ahead. But when I get a cheer from clubmate Laura (supporting boyfreind Paul, the ultra trail legend) he says "so you're Grellan of the running blog - make sure and give me a mention". That's how I met Rory O'Sullivan on the road from Cork to Cobh, good to see you Rory.
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Rory said he had run the Charleville & Cork Half Marathons and so as to gauge how I was doing I asked him what time he got in Charleville. "1:26" he replied. "If you keep this pace, you're going to beat that time today, you look very comfortable". "I dunno, I could blow up yet" was his reply. We ran on in silence towards the 7 mile mark. Miles 6 & 7 in 6:24 & 6:25 (22 seconds over 1:35 pace - need to keep under 30 at halfway to keep on pace for a sub 1:36)
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A gradual rise to the halfway point (3:11 lap => 23 seconds over) I take my one and only gel approaching the mile 8 waterstation as Rory falls behind (Didn't see you at the end Rory so I hope you did well) and I am joined by one of the guys I passed earlier. Mile 8 in 6:23. The guy on my shoulder more or less stayed with me for the rest of the race - good to have company although the only exchange we had over our 7 miles together went something like "It gets hilly towards the end?" to which I replied "a few long drags really, but not that bad".

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The next few miles went a bit faster, aided perhaps by the gel and the drop from Cobh Cross. Miles 9, 10 & 11 in 6:15, 6:18 & 6:19. (17 seconds off 1:35) - "Could I make it back, although the worst is yet to come with the gradual rise, particularly mile 14". We passed 2 runners before mile 10 and shortly afterwards were told by a spectator that we were number 29 and 30. "who'll be number 29 at the end?" I thought. Historically over this section of the race I have found it particularly tough as fatigue sets in and and course throws a few inclines at you just to try and break your rhythm, but today I felt reasonably ok still comfortably hard but no higher gear available. We pass a walker before mile 12 but get overtaken by another guy in a West Waterford AC vest shortly afterwards - still 29th & 30th. My running companion falls behind a few yards every now and then but catches back up, giving me hope that he is nearer the limit than I.

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The undulating road blunts the speed a little taking the pace back into the 6:20s with miles 12 & 13 coming in at 6:27 & 6:22 (26 seconds over). We gradually reel in and overtake a guy in an orange top as the road rises up over the rail line for the slowest mile 14 in 6:37.

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One mile to go, time to push on and sure enough my companion goes out in front by a few yards and while he never gets too far in front the pep is not in my legs or my mind to put in the extra effort needed to catch him. This is the norm for me at this stage in a race - unless I am being chased down over the final 100m, I will rarely put in an "eyeballs out" effort, subconsciously settling for a sub-maximal push in the knowledge that the reward is not worth the effort. Still I push hard over the final quarter mile downhill into Cobh, half out of hope of catching the guy in front and half out of fear of being overtaken - neither happened as I crossed the line in 1:35:32 - 32 seconds over and 6:09 for my last and fastest mile of the day. With that result McMillan gives me a 1:22:50 Half - not too far off Charleville, although today I crossed the HM mark in 1:23:29.

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Another PB in the bag - delighted that I was able to maintain an even pace throughout without any noticeable fade, covering 3 x 5 miles in 31:53/46/53 (2 x 7.5 miles in 47:53/39 - negative split). My calves were a bit tight afterwards but not as tight as after last Tuesdays 4 miles on the track @ 6:11 pace. I think Paul was spot on with his comment on my last post as to the likely reason why 4 miles @ 6:11 pace should feel at least as tough as 13.1 @ 6:18 pace - my lactate threshold is somewhere between 6:11 & 6:20 pace. Rule #1 - Know your LT pace. Funny how 10 seconds per mile can mean the difference between blowing up after 30 minutes and running solidly for 90 minutes and beyond. Beyond? Hmm..........26.2?

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Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Paces

With my HM PB pace now pushing south towards by 5k PB pace I though I'd have a look at all my PB paces from 100m to the marathon and see if there is a pattern. Discounting my PB paces from 100m to 1 mile (although it is good to know that I could hold my own with the World Marathon Record holder over 100m) all my PB paces from 5k to 21.1k are getting quite close to each other - between 6:00 and 6:18 with a bit of a gap to my 15 mile PB pace, which I hope to close on Sunday, and a chasm to my Marathon PB pace (Not even in the same minute).

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No doubt about it, my (current) strength lies in the middle distance races from 10k to 21.1k, where all my "breakthroughs" have come from. I seem to be able to hold a decent pace for quite a few miles but haven't yet extended it to 26.2. Nor do I appear to be able to increase the pace by much over "shorter" distances. I know "specificity" in my recent training has something to do with it, but I also think that I am more "suited" to certain distances.

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With 2 weeks between the Charleville HM and the 15 mile Cork to Cobh race on Sunday my training is all about maintaining form. I did complete 2 "speed" workouts since Charleville and although they were similar in that they both fell into the broad "tempo" category they couldn't have been more different.

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The first, a club run on Saturday, which might look the toughest on paper, consisted of a 5 mile tempo, 3 minutes standing recovery (I took 4) followed by 4 mile tempo. The key to this workout is maintaining a consistent steady pace, leaving enough in the tank to complete the session as fast as you started it. The 5 miles was a 2.5 mile out and back along the old Monkstown/Passage line, which I completed at a fairly consistent 6:19 pace. Despite the 4 minutes standing recovery I found it easier to get into the pace for the 4 mile tempo, again out and back along the rail line. While the effort felt tough it did not get any tougher as the miles passed and I managed to keep the pace consistent at 6:21 - ideal "specific endurance" training.

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The second session was at the track last night - 16 laps in lane 3 (4.14 miles), single file with the leader, who changes every 200m, setting the pace. I completed one of these on the Tuesday before Charleville and it felt relatively comfortable @ an average 6:18 pace. Last night was different, the pace was faster particularly at the start ( 2 laps in 3:03 = 5:54 pace, slowing down to 6:06 pace after 4 laps). 10 of us started but a few dropped by the wayside. With 4 laps to go I dropped off the back, leaving 5 to finish the session. I ploughed on on my own completing the session in 25:35 (6:11 pace), 26 seconds faster than 2 weeks ago but feeling the effects much more, no longer comfortably hard and calves quite tight afterwards.

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While the pace of both session varied by only 8/10 seconds per mile the effect could not have been greater. Maybe it was the varying pace of last nights session (good training for tactical racing) compared to the steady pace of Saturday's tempo's, which I am more used to. Maybe I wasn't fully recovered from Saturday's session, although there's no reason why I shouldn't have been or maybe I can run 6:20 pace all day but 6:10 is too much, who knows.
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Thursday, 22 September 2011

Riding the wave

Sunday's HM PB is now my breakthrough race, my best result according to McMillian, eclipsing my 10 mile PB of 1:02:38 set in Dungarvan last year - I should now be capable of 1:02:09 over that distance and a 2:54:04 Marathon. In fact I was asked by a few people would I not give up the 3:30 pacing job in Dublin and go for the sub-3 hour. However running a fast half does not necessarily translate to running a fast marathon - anyway i'm committed to pacing Dublin and looking forward to it - the sub-3 can wait for another day.

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I sent a text to Race Director, Michael Herhily, on Sunday about my missing chip result and he said he would check the finishing video and put my time up on the results, which places me between 26th and 27th, 1 second behind the guy in front (even at the halfway timing mat - but I was actually about a minute behind him at that stage). I then got a call on Tuesday night from Glen of ChampionChipIreland who said he had read my blog and wanted to resolve the discrepancy with my finishing chip time - he said that my chip had registered at the start mat and the halfway mat (41:38) but for some reason did not register at the finish - I could have missed the mat at the finish but have no recollection of doing so. Glen sent me the amended results yesterday - I must say i'm very impressed with the level of attention my missing result has got.

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My negative split of 42 seconds was enough to gain me 8 places over the second half of the race (35th down to 27th - If I hadn't faded over the last mile i'd have made 24th place). This result shows that all I need is 5 or 6 weeks of speedwork off an endurance base to get in race shape. Two months ago I struggled with an average 6:55 pace on a downhill 15 miler, and felt worse at the finish than I did last Sunday (partly due to blunted speed from the 100k 4 weeks before perhaps). 1 month ago I failed to crack 40 minutes for 10k (I know it was hilly). On Sunday I ran 4 sub-20 minute 5ks (fastest 19:07) or 2 sub-40 minute 10ks (fastest 38:50) so I think I'm pretty much at the top of the curve - I just hope I can stay there until the 15 mile "Cork to Cobh" on Sunday week and have at crack off my 15 mile PB (set a few weeks after my previous HM PB in October 2008).
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Finally the best of luck to a few guys out there racing this weekend:-
  • Richard running the River Ayr Way Ultra - His first ;)
  • Marty & Clubmate Pat running the Berlin Marathon.
  • Bob in Tokyo running a half marathon.
  • Nearly forgot about Trevor and Mike running the Fredericton 10k/Half.

Also hello to Richard Forrest, a reader of this blog, whom I met this week for the second time, not at Charleville where you would think as we both raced on Sunday, but in the County Library, where I was attending a meeting during the week. Keep up the running and maybe i'll see you on the road from Cork to Cobh.

12 Miles to Go
11.5 Miles to Go 400 yards to go 15 yards to Go
10 Yards to Go

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Charleville HM - There's life in this old dog yet.

At 10 this morning I was lined up in the Car Park of the St Josephs Foundation, Bakers Road Charleville with 400 others for the start of the inaugural Charleville Half Marathon. My training had gone pretty well and all the indications were pointing towards a new PB (< 1:24:30) or something close enough. I was coy enough about predicting my finish time, stating a target of "about 1:25" if anyone asked - although a few club mates asked what time I was pacing, as I never appear to be racing these days.
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My plan was to start relatively easy @ about 6:40 pace and drop down to the 6:20's over the first 2 miles - a version of the marathon 6 mile cut-in I talked about a few months back. I had a gel tucked in my ass pocket for a bit of mid-race refuelling about mile 8. I borrowed a functioning Garmin from a friend to keep an eye on the pace (no HR monitor though - thought about bringing my Garmin for the HR monitoring but decided to Keep It Simple)
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The gun went and we streamed out of the car park right turn and down the road at a comfortable pace. Right again onto the Kilmallock Road - Garmin reading 6:15 average lap pace - a bit too fast but everyone around me was running this pace - in fact people were passing me. Geraldine O'Shea of St Finbarrs AC, who normally finishes behind me in races passed me out.
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"WTF ... maybe the Garmin is not showing the correct pace, after all I do feel comfortable.....maybe she's doing the relay (4 x about 5k)"
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The Garmin was reading correctly as we pass the 1 mile mark in 6:15. Geraldine gone ahead. Two Guys from Galtee Runners pass me. Mile 2, which includes a slight rise comes in 6:27 - a more sensible pace - but a sign that maybe I went out too fast.
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The road is dead straight with a line of runners strung out in front of me and a noticeable group about 200 yards in front. Miles 3 and 4 come in at 12:43 total - nice and steady. I go ahead of the 2 Galtee Runners after the 5k water station (about 19:39) but the younger one comes back at me and moves ahead. The group in front has split up at this stage and I pass a few who have fallen off the back, including Geraldine. Keeping a steady pace in the low 6:20's Mile 5 comes in 6:21 - continue to pass a few - into Kilmallock and Mile 6 in 6:19. Feeling a bit fatigued now.
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Left after the Church towards the second water station (I take my first bottle of water here) - over the halfway timing mat and look at the watch - 41:34 ( x 2 = 1:23:08)
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"Close to 1:23 pace - I'd need a negative split to get under 1:23 though - tough ask as most of the 2nd half is west into a headwind - still feeling good - make hay while the sun shines"
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We are now on a minor road with a gradual downhill. Passing the half way mark gives me a bit of a boost and my pace picks up with Mile 7 coming in at 6:08, pass a few more with the Galtee Runner just up ahead. Feeling very good over this section of the course and I take advantage - Mile 8 in another 6:08 - can't believe how relatively easy that came. Running on the shoulder of Galtee Runner now and I can tell he is making an effort to keep with me as his breathing is more laboured than mine as we both gain on another runner. A 100 yards later and they are both behind me. Mile 9 comes in 6:11. Still going strong but feeling less comfortable. 100 yards ahead is the 2nd Female (I think) and over the next mile I gradually reel her in as we both turn right onto the main road for home passing Mile 10 in 1:02:46 - 8 seconds outside my PB - which just happens to be my best result ever - this is going to be good. Mile 10 in 6:14.
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The road ahead is long and straight and with my myopic vision I can just make out a runner in front, 150 to 200 yards. With the 2nd female behind me at this stage the course becomes quite lonely and it is a matter of keeping the head down as the strain begins come on. Mile 11 in 6:18, slowing down but still ahead of my target pace - just keep the last 2 miles under 6:30 pace and I should get under 83. A gradual rise now as the pace slows, the guy in front is getting gradually closer, so I must be doing alright. Mile 12 in 6:21 as I enter Charleville, with the road continuing to rise, probably not a lot but enough to wreck the head - legs and body feeling the strain now, all I want is for it to be over - must keep it together. The guy ahead is now just 40 yards away and 10 yards behind another guy as we turn left for the final half mile. The Garmin tells me the lap pace is 6:31 - there's nothing I can do about that, just don't let it drop any more. I have no incentive (or energy) to take on the two guys in front. In fact I get passed by a guy and can do nothing to respond. I had put in my surge from mile 7 to 10, that was my race, nothing left. Mile 13 in 6:31 as I turn left into the St Joseph's car park for the final 100 yards - cross the line and stop the Garmin at 1:22:32 - magic!!!
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Delighted with my result, I had set out 6 weeks ago to target this race and see if I could get a PB and I nailed it - my history of doing this is a bit hit and miss so all the sweeter when I do it. The only niggle is the fact that the Garmin recorded a distance of 13.07 miles, a tad shy of the 13.11 regulation distance for a HM - still a 1:22:47 allowing for the correction. Never did take that gel afterwards, maybe it would have helped me over the last few miles.
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Well done to North Cork AC for putting on a great event, well marshalled and the refreshments afterwards were second to none. My only gripe was that my time was not up on the results posted in the hall afterwards, despite the fact that I wore a timing chip, which they removed after the race.
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