Sunday, 8 May 2011

Interesting People & Lovely Balls

This post is for Rónán, who told me this morning to update my blog.
Marathon Pacing (Great Limerick Run - 1st May 2011)

This pacing job gets you to meet all sorts of interesting people -

Following the pacers briefing last Saturday evening most of us retired to a local Italian restaurant for a bit of carb loading - if you can call 2 cups of coffee and a baileys cheesecake carb loading - well I already had a belly full of pizza at the briefing. Mick Rice, the 3 hour pacer brought his friend Lezan, who sat beside me. I could tell he was a fast guy even if I hadn't known that he was 5 times winner of the Connemara Half marathon. He was hoping to achieve a sub 2:20 in Limerick - well, I thought he has come to the right place - a restaurant full of marathon pacers!. He told me his PB was 2:13 which he got when winning the Dublin marathon in 2004. Not wanting to waste the opportunity I quizzed him a bit more:-
"What fuel do you use during your marathons" I asked.
"Water" he replied.
"Right" I said - "Doh".
He left shortly afterwards, leaving half his dinner behind him, which means he didn't get any dessert (I have the same rule in my house).

Tom, who organised the pacers, was hoping to break 3:30 with my assistance the following day. Tom's medium terms goal is to get 100 marathons under his belt by the end of 2012, after which he will concentrate on the shorter distances (he has 30 something done already). He's taking the patient route to a fast 5k ;). He's one of those crazy guys who ran the route of the Connematathon (Director's invitational) the day before he completed the ultra with the rest of us. He's also organising 5 marathons in 5 days in Sixmilebridge this July - well he's got to feed his insatiable appetite somehow. I shared a room with David, who was pacing the 1:40 group in the half marathon. However he got to sleep in as his race wasn't starting until 11:30 compared to my 9 a.m. start. No snoring this time out.

I had breakfast with the 3:15 pacers and was joined by Finnoula who was pacing 4:30. If that wasn't enough she was overnighting in Dublin after the race and driving to Belfast in the wee hours to complete the Belfast marathon on Monday - all part of her training for the 90km Comrades marathon from Durban to Petermaritzburg this June.
I was pacing the 3:30 group with Tony, my pacing partner from Cork last year, and an old hat at the job, compared to me. There was a great buzz at the start line as runners psyched themselves up for the long road ahead. Tony certainly went to the motivational school for marathon pacers as he really got the group going. Not being familiar with the route I found it quite good - the out and back past the 10k timing mat where you could see the front runners coming against you and have the craic with the other pacing groups - through the UL campus - through the historic City. We lost Tom shortly after mile 10 due to stomach issues.
It wasn't all plain sailing though - the long drag out past the 15 and 16 mile mark and the wide and windy St Nessan's Road back towards the City centre. We certainly lost a few along these sections. Still we had a core crew of 10 to 12 with us until about the 22 mile mark. Chris, a friend of Tony's, whom Tony has been pacing towards a 3:30 finish for at least the last year, was nowhere to be seen as we crossed Sarsfield Bridge (21.7 miles). The drag up past Thomond Park and the 23 mile mark was particularly challenging as one or two dropped off the back and those who had held back a little were advised to push on towards the finish. I held back a little to keep some sort of connection with 2 guys who had fallen back by 10 or 20 yards but there was another drag up past the Gaelic Grounds and the 24 mile mark and the two guys were unable to close the gap - I could certainly emphatise with them - the last few miles in a marathon are a huge physical and mental challenge, particularly if you have nothing left in the tank - still I reckon even pacing is the most efficient way to get around a marathon, the challenge being the selection of the correct pace, which you may even have to change on the start line depending on conditions - no point in heading out at PB pace into a strong wind or a hot sun - receipt for disaster.
Mile 21 - Group still Intact
The last 2 miles were spent encouraging those we caught up with to keep pace with us and come in under 3:30. Three guys, in particular managed to dig a little deeper, snap out of the fatigue induced autopilot shuffle that we all experience in the latter stages of a marathon and cross he line before the clock struck 3;30 - one poor guy discovering, when a volunteer came to remove his timing chip, that he had left it back at his hotel.
The first guy to cross the line after 3:30 was Chris, who had cramped just before the 22 mile mark, stopped and stretched and put in a super human effort to get back on pace covering the last mile in 7:26 and denied his sub 3:30 by 7 seconds (3:30:06) - although he was gutted he still managed a 4 minute PB, which he wouldn't have got had he thrown in the towel after cramping - gutsy performance Chris.
While my legs seized up a bit after the race (hammys in particular) a bit of walking loosened them out a bit. I met Lezan, who's "John Wayne" gait was worse than my own (even the fast guys suffer) and congratulated him on his second placing - 2:24 - beaten by his compatriot Freddy Keron.

Muzan - sharing 2nd place with Sergiu Ciobanu at mile 21.7

I got a lift back to the hotel with Chris and Tony, used the pool to loosen out the legs a little before heading back to Cork with John D (3:45 pacer), stopping off in Charleville for the obligatory burger and chips.

Ultra Training

With my eye on a 100k ultra in June I though it would be a great opportunity to used the 26.2 miles in my legs for some 100k race training and so the following morning I hit the grass of UCC farm shortly after 8 - opting for the 2.2 mile circuit so that (i) I wouldn't be too far from the end (ii) I didn't have to carry fuel, placing my High 5 drink at the start of the loop and (iii) emulating race day monotony - 20 x 5k loops. My plan was 3 hours at an easy pace between 8:30 and 8:50 (straddling my 9 hour target pace of 8:42 - don't know where it came from and I could be out by an hour or two). The light rain that was falling was in stark contrast to the sun of the day before. The first 2 hours went pretty well with an average pace of 8:38 and my legs holding up pretty well. As I felt relatively comfortable (it's all relative) I decided to up the pace for the last hour, trying to get the feel of negative splitting on race day and surprised myself by averaging 7:47 pace for the hour - glad to be finished though.

As ultra training is all about back to back weekend long runs I took it relatively easy during the week, getting two 5 milers in, the first on Wednesday at a recovery pace (100k race pace ;) and the second on Thursday with a 5k tempo thrown into the middle of it - my attempt to introduce some speedwork into my training after a long absence. The 5k at 6:42 pace (20:53) was tough but manageable - i'm a long way off a 3 hour marathon at the moment (a 1:30 half is even out of the question - unless it's downhill)

A rest day on Friday and I was ready for my long weekend, getting out the door shortly before 6:30 yesterday morning for a 3:30 run in the regional park - more mind numbing loops. I did mix it up a bit by taking different trails, which slowed me down a bit as I negotiated my way around tree roots and puddles. From the start I did not feel great - maybe last weekend was finally catching up with me. I averaged 8:41 pace for the first hour and 8:26 for the second hour. I decided to change tactics for the third hour by introducing fartleks starting with 7 mins fast followed by 7 mins slow and down to 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 minute. I had read somewhere that introducing faster running in an ultra can help with the fatigue and monotony of a constant pace (a bit like an interval session at the track) It started off reasonably well getting down to 7:35 on the "fast" sections and about 8:25 on the recoveries! averaging 8 minute pace overall - but I was toast for the last half hour struggling to maintain 8:30 pace, delighted to finish and wondering how the fuck I was going to run for 9 hours or (much) more, having visions of being on my knees before I am halfway through the race. I thought I might have entered the realm of "overtraining" but my resting heart rate this morning was 38, down from 39 when last measured on 20th March. An elevated resting HR is a typical indicator of overtraining.

My original plan for the weekend was 3:30 on Saturday and 4 hours on Sunday. The way I felt after Saturday's run had me thinking that running on Sunday would be both painfully slow and short. Still with an air of optimism and reasonably recovered legs, I headed out this morning on a Club run of about 15 miles over relatively flat terrain from Mahon to Passage West, Monkstown up over the 1.5 mile hill to Rochestown and back to Mahon, picking up the two Pauls at Pairc Ui Caoimhe en route. I refuelled with 500ml of High 5 and half a bag of cheese and onion crisps, the Kids had left in the car, before heading back out around the estuary loop to Blackrock Castle to meet up with Paul Cotter who had headed back to his car for refuelling (only to find he left his gels at home) and was coming in the opposite direction. The wind along this section of the Cork Marathon route reminded me of last years marathon where horizontal rain was added to the mix to make for a tough run. We also met up with Paul Daly, who had finished his run early (faster pace) to pick up Amanda, a visually impaired paralympic runner who he is guiding - if you thought pacing was difficult try guide running along a busy walkway on a Sunday morning with other runners, walkers, cyclists, dogs, all preoccupied in their own conversations/activities - you get the picture.

I dropped Paul Cotter to his car with 3:10 on my watch and headed out for another loop towards Blackrock Castle with Paul and Amanda, eventually pulling ahead of them for the final solo leg of my run. My legs still felt reasonably good although as I entered the last 15 minutes of my run I was beginning to feel the effects, primarily due to lack of fuel - Paul had teased earlier about what we would have for breakfast - "butter melting on a hot scone", which was nearly enough to send me back to the car early. I replied that the best thing about 4 hour long runs is that by the time you have breakfast it is lunchtime and you can double up. I stopped with less than a quarter of a mile to the car as I hit the 4 hour mark and walked in - tank empty. I took a chocolate/orange GU thick gel with water once I got to the car to give me enough fuel to drive home - Heaven!

25.1 miles on Saturday and 27.8 miles on Sunday gave me 52.9 (85km) for the weekend (still 15km short).

Lest you think I did nothing else for the weekend apart from seven and a half hour of running and put my feet up to recover for the rest of the day think again. With Abina working I was on duty to ferry Saran and his buddy to GAA (hence my pre-6:30 start yesterday) and on to McDonalds, organise a sleepover for Ani's friend and drop her home, drop Safan to town and Keevsa to her friends birthday party and today to meet her boyfriend for their six month anniversary and decide on such issues as whether self-raising flour would make any difference to the roux for the meatball sauce for todays dinner - thankfully I found the plain flour. In fairness they're nice meatball. If you don't believe me ask Abina. She took them to work a few months back, openend her lunch box in front of her colleagues and said "These are Grellan's balls and they're lovely"

Recovery week #3 (Run 47 miles, Bike NIL, Swim 3.8km)

Build Week #1 (Run 85 miles, Bike NIL, Swim NIL)

ps: I can't seem to control the line spacing in my posts - I close the gaps while editing but it appears to do it's own thing - any advice in this regard would be greatly appreciated.



  1. Hey, I'm glad someone else took over my mantle as the completely bonkers ultra guy. About time, too.

    I shared pacing duties with Tony in Dublin last year. I can confirm his "motivational" approach.

    All the best for the rest of your Portumna training. I'll probably see you in Cork in 4 week's time.

  2. great work pacing at limerick and that's an epic weekend's training.

    re the formatting issue - have you tried hitting the 'remove formatting' button (next to spell check button)?

  3. Damn, that's a lot of running. Better you than me.

    Any woman who makes a comment like that is all right.

  4. Nice going with the marathon pacing and ultra training. If you have a 100k race-pace you're definitely over the edge.

    Looks like you've also taken over Thomas's mantle as the WR-holder of long blog posts ;)