Friday, 31 December 2010

This is the end

This time last year I was in much better shape, but i'm not complaining. It's more exciting when the only way is up and improvement is before you.
Jan - I started the year with 2 PB's in January - 4 miles on 24th and 10 miles on 31st - which remains my best race over any distance (62:38 - 6:16 pace).
Feb - My good form continued into February where my key long run for the Barcelona Marathon, a 20 mile PB in 2:19:30 (1:13:36 followed by 1:05:56) went off without a hitch.
Mar - This was followed by a calf injury which I took into Barcelona scuppering my only realistic chance to-date of a sub-3 hour result - pulling up at mile 9 but toughing it out for a 3:10:28 time (perhaps unwise -
Apr - but the mental battle was good training for what lay ahead in April where the highlight of my year was completing the Connemara Ultra in a shade under 5:30 - and a new PB.
May - was a recovery month where I shifted emphasis towards other disciplines in preparation for the summer tri season.
Jun - Pacing the 3:30 group in the Cork Marathon on the June Bank Holiday was a great experience, that I hope to repeat in 2011. June also saw me complete my first sprint tri in Caherciveen.
Jul - I concentrated on the shorter distances and the Ballycotton 5 mile summer series targeting a series top 50 t-shirt. The month saw me break my 5 mile PB twice but
Aug - a 2 week lay-off due to an injured toe scuppered any notion I had of going sub-30 in the final race in August - still managed to get the top 50 t-shirt though.
Sep - I returned to endurance in September competing in my first ever half iron distance tri and missing out on a 5:30 finish by a few minutes.
Oct/Nov - Off-season months having decided to skip the Dublin Marathon to give my body a break.
Dec - With the Connemara Ultra my only confirmed race in 2011 I ran the inaugural Clonakilty Marathon in December to kick off my endurance base training.
So 4 PB's, Pacing Cork and the Half Iron tri sum up the years highs.
Time now to move on and chase down some more elusive records - there's also M45 PB's to set and break and perhaps some new race distances?
Meanwhile back at the ranch
The recovery from my 45-mile day last week has gone pretty well, with two whole days of inactivity - well apart from my digestive system, which was working overtime to clear the high demand placed on it. Needless to say it coped admirably, although the odd bout of heartburn didn't go unnoticed (I never get heartburn).
Santa brought me a new Garmin 305 - my letter must have reached him this year. I didn't ask for a 310 or 405 as I was not looking for added functionality and the cost on the website I pointed Santa towards (€121 + p&p) was very competitive and about €40 less than the cost of my first Garmin. Funnily enough my old 305 appears to have come out of it's 6-month coma, with full cognitive function - although all the buttons on the right side of the face are gone, requiring the use of a pointy object to operate (a bit like the kids at times). As the prognosis is, at best, unclear I won't be asking Santa for a refund.
With my last run of the year completed my total mileage of 1,750 (approx) is well below the 2,400+ of the previous 3 years.
Roll on 2011 and Happy New Year to all.


Friday, 24 December 2010


...(3 x 15)
I turned 45 today. Got the idea a few years ago from this guy. He turns 30 on 30th - today I wished I was as young as him. Had decided a month ago that I was going to do it but didn't know if I could pull it off (logistically and physically). I knew I wasn't going to do a continuous 45 as I was not in that sort of shape and being out for 6 to 7 straight hours on Christmas Eve was going to be a big ask.
#1 - 0002hrs - 2:04:12 (8:17 pace) - Icy conditions particularly just after mile 6 where I had my one and only scary moment. No life except for taxis and a few lone walkers from the pub. Carried 1 gel but did not take it. In bed just after 3. Up at 0830hrs to no water (frozen service pipe) which delayed start of #2.
#2 - 1100hrs - 2:07:55 (8:32 pace) - similar route to #1. Took 2 gels at 5 & 10. last 2 miles were drudgery as bonk set in. Arrived home ravenous to find food stocks depleted, Abina heading out to work and a shopping list on the table. Lay on the couch for an hour after shopping and eating all round me wondering how I was going to get through #3.
#3 - 1630hrs - 2:06:50 (8:27 pace) - Decided to run on the snow covered grass of UCC Farm (2.3 mile loop) where I could feed from my goodie bag of coke and cereal bars after each loop. Surprised myself as I was expecting two and a half hours of hell - survived on coke alone and got my fastest (39 @ 7:41) and slowest (44 @ 9:17) miles of the day. Finished up in the dark. Legs not too bad and no issues - yet!
Time for beer and rest - oh yeah!
HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL. Hope this post finds you in good spirits and health.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Base Camp

I certainly seem to be carrying more weight around recently. All the signs are there - I took a suit to be "taken in" this week (meaning to get it done over the last 6 months) and imagine my embarrassment when I tried on the pants and it fit perfectly - the seamstress must have though that there was a bit of wishful thinking going on. I’ve put on about 5 kg (11 lbs) since I last weighed myself 6 months ago. That's a lot of excess baggage to be hauling around the roads, especially over 26.2 miles. At a very simple level the linear relationship between energy, work and force (weight) tells me that carrying 6% excess weight takes 6% more energy. In other words the energy it took to run the Clonakilty Marathon last weekend would have carried me a further 1.6 miles had I been my normal svelte 82 kg (still not an ideal racing weight) or I could have used the same energy to complete the distance in 3:15. I know it’s not as simple as that and other factors come into play but I don’t like overcomplicating things. As the 39.3 miles I plan on doing next April will be very unforgiving on every excess lb that is not needed for essential bodily functions i'll have to reverse the current trend – well I’ll give it another week or two given the season that we’re in. When my daughter Keevsa asked me what I wanted for Christmas that was not running related I said she could get me a book on good diet written by Matt Fitzgerald called “Racing Weight” – technically not a running book. Maybe this will help motivate me to ease up on the crap I eat. I completed 35 miles this week following up Tuesday’s track session with two 5 milers on Thursday and Friday and a 16 miler in the park today. I ran 5 of those 16 miles with well known local runner Mary Sweeney. The time passed quickly as we chatted about last weekends marathon, in which Mary came 3rd, having faded from 1st place during the last 5 miles. We both agreed that the marathon was a great event and that we would be back next year. Mary’s highlight of the year was winning the F50 category in the national marathon championships in Dublin in October. While the Connemara Ultra is only 16 weeks away I have not devised, downloaded or even thought of a training plan. Perhaps I should - I like the heading of the Runners World ultra programme – “you don’t have to be crazy to run an ultramarathon. You just have to be ready”. Given that it’s a 16-week programme (albeit for a 50 mile ultra) I may just follow it loosely. While Thomas commented on my last post that reverting to 6:00 to 6:20 miles is a bit early in the season, I notice the runners world programme has me doing mile/2 mile repeats at 10 mile and half marathon pace, which for me (in my prime) is 6:15 to 6:30 pace. Seems a bit fast for ultra training. Tim Noakes in “Lore of Running” has a few ultra programmes – his own programme specifies various distances with jog, moderate and hard efforts. Another 14-week programme (Norrie Williamson’s) requires speedwork at 10k pace from week 2. So, on balance, I think I’ll introduce some speedwork over the coming weeks as I have entered for the Dungarvan and Ballycotton 10 milers in January and March and while I won’t be aiming for a PB, I won’t be jogging around either.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010


Of the 201 finishers of the Clon Marathon on Saturday Caitriona, John and I were among the seven runners who ran the last 13.22 miles at a faster pace than the first 13 miles (by about 1 second per mile - that's a 13 second negative split). The greatest negative split was by about 3:38 or 17 seconds/mile. By comparison the winner (Georgie Waugh in 2:34:01) ran the last 13.22 miles 25 seconds/mile slower than the first 13 giving a positive split of about 5:31. Just shows how challenging the second half of the course was. The greatest positive split was about 1:13:00 or 5:37 per mile - that's a tough way to complete a marathon.
Hanging off the back with 4 miles to go.
Recovery consisted of 4 x 1 miles @ 6:48 pace with 2 min recoveries at the track this evening and while the effort was manageable and the legs responded well I was conscious of not pushing too hard - not just because of the marathon but due to my general lack of co-ordinated training over the last few months - in particular speedwork. I'll certainly take my time easing back towards the 6:00 to 6:20 miles I was doing at the start of the year.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Ultra Training

Yesterday I completed my fourth sub 3:30 marathon of the year, which marked the start of my training for the Connemara Ultra in April. The first, in Barcelona in March was my fastest @ 3:10:28, coming within a minute and a half of my PB, despite becoming a cropper at mile 9. The second in April was my slowest at 3:29:42, although I did run a further 13.1 miles after I crossed the 26.2 mile timing mat. The third @ 3:28:51 was my first outing as a pacer in Cork in June. Today I managed to struggle home in the Clonakilty Waterfront Marathon in 3:26:57 in the hilliest marathon i've run to-date. Not bad considering my total mileage over the previous 5 weeks was about 100 miles.
I only signed up for the race on Wednesday - in fact I swapped with Gavin from work who as unable to run due to an injury - hence his name in the results. My preparation consisted of:-
  • 2 long runs - the first 2 weeks ago was 16.75 miles and the second, last week was a 22.4 miler in the park in which I bonked during the last mile and a half.

  • A training diet over the last month restricted to processed fast food in quantities normally reserved for Christmas celebrations. I remember returning from my first long run two weeks ago and not having the normal hunger pangs associated with being out on the road for 2+ hours, which I put down to having built up sufficient fat reserves over the preceding month to last through the winter.

  • My pre-race preparation consisted of attending the work Christmas dinner the night before - indulging in steak and sticky toffee pavlova, a single glass of red wine and coffee. To my credit I drank copious amounts of water as my colleagues depleted the wine reserve. I got to bed just after midnight with my stomach feeling like a lead baloon.

An early rise just before 6 and I was on the road before 7 for the 40 minute drive to Clonaklity. Registration was painless, except for the fact that the transfer of the number from Gavin to me was not on the system.

Part of the attraction of this race is that it is in my home town and the route passes within 50 yards of my childhood home in Inchydoney ( 5 mile mark), where I spent the hour before the race making last minute preparations. I drove into town and parked about 100 yards from the race start before making my way to the start line with 10 minutes to go. I met up with club mates Denis, John, Robert and Caitriona who were all running the marathon. A few more were running the half. The plan was to head out at 8 minute mile pace and see how it went. Robert was planning on something a bit faster, which was evident during the first mile, when he disappeared through the throng (the marathon start also coincided with a 6 mile race, with the half marathon starting 5 minutes earlier at a different location). Denis, who was aiming for sub 3:45, decided to head out with us at the opening 8 minute mile pace. While I was hoping for a 3:30 finish I was expecting my pace to drop off during the second hillier half of the course.

The first few miles were fairly uneventful with 2 miles around the town and a further 3 flat miles along the coast road to Inchydoney where we met the half marathon runners and the marathon leaders coming against us. Our opening mile of 8:45 was the slowest, but we had most of the deficit pulled back by the time we hit the 5 mile mark, which we passed in about 40:15. The loop around Inchydoney consisted of a few short sharp hills, but being familiar territory I knew what was coming. There was a timing mat at about 5.5 miles which we crossed in 44:52 (Clock time). Out of Inchydoney and back on flat roads heading for Rathbarry. The road began to rise again as we passed through the field of slower half-marathon runners until the routes diverged at about the 8.5 mile mark. As I was a few yards ahead I stopped and walked to take a gel at the crest of a hill after the nine mile mark, which I passed in about 1:11:45 (15 seconds under 3:30 pace). I resumed running when Catriona and John caught up (Denis had eased off the pace and was about 50 yards behind). At this stage Caitriona had just passed the 6th female and so our race took on an additional focus - could Catriona make the top 3. He PB was 3:22 in Dublin last year, so continuing on at 3:30 pace was the best plan of action, particularly as the hilliest part of the course was yet to come. John was issuing instructions on following the racing line so that we wouldn't have to run any longer than we had to. "You can be certain John Quigley was in the ditch (hugging the ditch perhaps) when he was measuring the course" he said, in deference to the official course measurer. As the road was full of twists and turns taking the racing line certainly cut yards off as we gradually reeled in the guy in front of us, who was running in the centre of the road.

The downhill miles into Rathbarry were in the 7:30's increasing our margin on the 3:30 finish to about 2 minutes, passing the 11 mile mark in about 1:26. At this stage in the race I should have felt more comfortable than I did, with over 15 miles left to run. In places there was some slush/ice on the road but it was not a real issue and could easily be avoided. Right turn at Rahtbarry towards Castlefreake and Owneahincha beach. We could see a group of runners a few 100 yards ahead and hypothesised on the likelihood of it containing one or two women for Caitriona to exchange places with.

Left at Owenachincha and a sharp climb over the hill separating it from the Long Strand. We pulled in one or two on the climb and pass the 13 mile mark in 1:42:50 (clock time). Down hill past the long strand and the 14 mile mark. John falls behind for a bit as we climb up from the Long Strand and pass the 4th female. Past the 15 mile mark in just under 1:58. We had lost none of our 2 minute cushion on the 3:30 finish but the long climb from mile 18 to 20 is still in front of us. Downhill towards the Red Strand and we hear the sound of someone approaching fast from behind - John was back with us. It had taken a while for the gel he took at mile 14 to kick in.

Past the spectacular setting of the Red Strand and the long drag from sea level to the highest point on the course at about 110m began. To be quite honest, it wasn't all that bad as the grade was so gradual and levelled out in places. Much of this section was along a muddy boreen no wider than a car. Fatigue was beginning to set in but the pace did not drop much. Eventually the road began to level out as we turned onto the main road. A few hundred yards later we turned right and into another climb, but thankfully it did not last too long and we began to descend just before the 20 mile mark, which we passed in about 2:38:15 - we still had a 1:45 cushion on the 3:30 finish, which wasn't bad considering the elevation gain. Caitriona even found time for a pit stop while John and I slowed down. She was soon back on our shoulders as the gradual descent to Duneen beach gave way to the steepest (downhill) section of the course, which was hard on the knees and difficult to get any speed on. A gradual descent would have been so much better.

Once at sea level the road rose almost immediately for a short climb along the coast towards the Dunmore Hotel and I found myself falling behind the other 2. I thought the final 5 miles would be on my own but they came back to me as the road dropped towards the 22 mile mark. I had stashed a bottle of coke at the entrance to the hotel earlier in the morning, which I now retrieved. This cost me a few seconds and again I found myself about 10 yards behind. As John wanted some coke I thought he would slow down to let me catch him, but instead I found myself increasing the effort to catch up, which cost me as I began to fall off the pace again. less than 4 miles to go - keep it together. A guy in an orange top, whom we had passed earlier, was now on my shoulder with Caitriona and John 10 yards ahead. He eventually pulled ahead and joined the other 2.

Past the 23 miles mark and a right turn along the first of three causeways that would take us past Inchydoney and into Clon for the finish. Gavin, who had given me his number and was supporting his brother, gave a loud cheer as we passed. I fully expected to drop further behind the group in front but the gap stayed the same and by the time we hit the 24 mile mark we were all together again, with the bones of a 3 minute cushion on the 3:30 finish.

Grinding out the last few miles at the same 8 minute pace was all about ignoring the desire to stop and pushing on, counting down the remaining minutes. We stayed together in a group until the last 400m as the call of the finish line beckoned and John pushed out ahead, followed by the guy in the orange top and Caitriona, with me taking up the rear. Down the finishing chute and the right turn to the finish line where we were immediately greeted with a medal and a heat blanket. Glad to be finished and under my 3:30 target.

Caitriona never made her podium finish, but what a race she had, fantastic result, coming within 5 minutes of her PB on such a hilly course and even splits all the way. Well done Caitriona. Denis also finished a few minutes under his 3:45 target @ 3:43 while Robert had a great day coming home in 3:19 - he was right to head out at his own pace.

John and I headed straight for the physio area after the race to get a rub down, although my legs felt reasonably good with no specific issues. A day later, while my legs are stiff I do not have the usual post marathon issues associated with walking downstairs - a good omen for the ultra training that is before me.

Well done to the organisers for putting on a great event which was well marshaled and had more water stations than I've seen at other marathons. Luckily the weather was quite good with temperatures at 5C and a light breeze. It might have been less "fun" in freezing rain.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Move Along

Life is like an endurance event, an Ultra perhaps - sometimes it feels great and you're on top of the world and at other times you struggle and don't see the point in going on. The only difference perhaps is the form the euphoria or pain takes. The battle as always is to get through the pain, accept it, learn to live with and move along. One thing's for sure it doesn't go away, you just embrace it and make it part of who you are. What helps get you through is support, be it from family and friends or total strangers along the road - a word of encouragement here a helping hand there.

The last month has seen more pain than normal with the passing of my mother on 16th November after a long slow deterioration over the last few years. While she may have died a thousand deaths as she slowly faded from the woman I knew it wasn't until she took her last breath that the finality of it sinks in.

Joan McGrath 1935 - 2010
Needless to say my running has been up in the air since the end of October, with mileage for the last 5 weeks totalling 3, 5, 12, 27 & 51 as I gradually get back into it.

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)

Saturday, 25 September 2010


During the 13.1 mile run at the end of the Lost Sheep Tri I more or less made up my mind not to sign up for the Dublin Marathon at the end of October. I Know, not the best time to make a decision, but 2 weeks later I'm still of the same mind. My body needed a rest of a week or two and I didn't have enough miles in the running legs to up the ante with only 3 effective weeks of training left. If I was to give Dublin a good shot I'd want plenty of long (and fast) runs in the bag by now.
So where am I headed. I signed up for the Connemara Ultra in April, but that's too far away to keep me focused. Cork to Cobh (15 miles) is only next weekend - kinda crept up on me and while i'll run it (never missed a year since I ran it as my first race in 2006) I can't say I'm in 15 mile race shape. Anyway a 7-day training programme won't keep me focused for long. I have my sights set on the Inaugural Clonakilty Waterfront Marathon on 11th December, after all the route passes within 50 yards of my childhood home. However, the route is quite hilly in places particularly around the 19 mile mark - just when you need hills like a hole in the head - so the attraction isn't the flat fast PB course but the homwtown crowd and the coastal scenery and something to focus my training on. It could also be my first long training run for Connemara. This time round I certainly plan on getting a few more ultra marathon training runs (>26.2 miles) than the single 1 in last years training.
With today's club run clashing with my domestic duties I headed out on my own into town for a long(ish) run. With Cork to Cobh next week I used the run as a sort of tempo test run, with the aim of running about 15.5 miles with 10 at 3 hr marathon pace, hopefully or at least sub-7 minute miles. I wore light weight racers and needless to say I kept away from anything too hilly. So after a cup of coffee and a 2 mile warmup I eased into a faster pace and while the first mile @ 6:58 was just below the 7 target it got more manageable after that.
The first 5 miles passed "relatively" stress free in 33:53 (6:58/45/43/44/43). The next 5 got tougher towards the end and I was glad to call it a day, although I still had 3 plus miles to run home. Second 5 miles in 33:48 (6:41/42/45/47/53) - 10 miles in 1:07:41. If I could manage a 3rd sub 34 minute 5 miler next week (although I couldn't have managed it today) that would get me under 1:42. Still well off the 6:36 PB pace to get under 1:39.
My weekly mileage is still relatively low at less that 40. I'll slowly ramp this up over the coming month, no rush.
Tue 21st Sept
6.28 miles in 47:17 (7:32 pace @ 141HR) with 3.5 miles @ 6:30 pace (14 laps of the track)
Wed 22nd Sept
5.52 miles in 39:58 (7:14 pace @ 140HR)
Thur 23rd Sept
4.38 miles in 40:33 (9:16 pace @ no HRM) with 5 x 416m (lane 3) in 81/81/81/81/78.
Sat 25th Sept
15.5 Miles in 1:49:07 (7:02 pace @ 148 HR) with 10 miles in 1:07:41 (6:46 pace)
Looking back on the week (31:58 miles) I had no easy run, better ease back a little, don't want to burn out.
Finally best of luck to Joe Roche, Gary Condon and Paudie Birmingham, running in the Berlin Marathon tomorrow.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Mixing it up

I headed home to Clonakilty on Saturday with Safan, Ani and Saran to the International Guitar Festival. Safan is a buddying guitarist and following my suggestion jumped at the chance to get a few gigs in and strum a few chords herself. Her friend Sarah also came along. With all the guitars & amp, there was hardly room in the car for my bike (which had to go on the roof). I forgot to mention that the Clonakilty Duathlon was on Sunday morning - everyone happy then. It all works out when "family activities" can be organised around races, although Ani and Saran had to be bribed with sweets and takeout as they were less enthralled by the music.
My legs were achy on Saturday evening following the 15 mile hilly club run in the morning - to be expected I suppose as it was my first run (exercise) in a week. This, my first duathlon, was a sprint event - 3km run, 20km bike and 3km run. Biking after a run would be a different experience. I signed on just before 9 and went back to the house until the race briefing at 10. With most of the participants pre-registering I reckoned that my number "179" was close to the total number of competitors.
Race briefing was fairly standard - wet roads so be careful, some sharp bends and new road surfacing. There was no chip timing so, at best, we'd get an overall finishing time. I wasn't complaining - for €15 entry it was very good value (with energy drinks, a gel, recovery potion, cereal bars and a bottle of shower gel thrown in). Anyway I had the Garmin on multi-sport mode to capture all the splits.

The 3k runs were the same out and back course on the flat road along the east side of the bay towards Ring village . I was surprised at how many pushed out in front of me during the first run as my quick opening sub 6 minute pace slowed towards something more sustainable, with one eye on the bike ride ahead. I had planned on 12:00 to 12:30 for the 3ks (about 6:26 to 6:40 pace - should be manageable without giving my all). I figured there was about 40 in front of me during the first run, not what I was expecting. My running legs appeared to be a bit rusty on the speed side of things as I came into T1 in 12:42 (approx, as there was no line/timing mat). The run was closer to 2 miles (3.2k) than 3k though.

After a few seconds looking around for my bike I was out on the road towards Inchydoney and Dunmore (west side of the bay). The terrain was fairly familiar to me as I had either run or biked it during the summer. I was surprised at how many people I passed on the bike during the opening mile or 2. Admittedly some were on hybrids, but still they must have run sub 6:30 pace in the run to get ahead of me in the first place.

The first 6 k to Dunmore Hotel were flat and fast and then a bit of a climb and descent to Duneen before the right turn and the only real climb of the day. I got out of the saddle for the steepest section but noticed the rear wheel spinning/slipping on the sections of smooth wet tar. I had to adjust my course to find the section with most traction as the climb was tough enough without making it more difficult for myself. The steep section gave way to a more gradual climb and then the descent to Ardfield and pretty much plain sailing back into Clon via Inchydoney.

At least I knew on entering T2 that it would be all over soon enough - 3k should be a doddle compared to the 21k that faced me last week. However my pace for the first half was a pedestrian 6:44, although I did manage to pass 2 guys in the process (they could have passed me in T2 for all I knew). During the return leg I was gaining on another guy, who had surged out of T2 ahead of me and with about 800m to go I came on his shoulder and gradually pulled ahead - no huge effort on my behalf, just a steady manageable pace. I was now about 50 yards behind the leading lady but ran out of road before I could catch her (she had passed me about 4 k into the cycle) and even got passed on the line by the guy I had just passed (maybe I should look over my shoulder more often as I did not hear him coming)- Total time of 1:06:20.

Garmin splits as follows:-

Run 1 - 12:42 (2.02 miles 6:07/6:26/0:09 - Average 6:17 pace)

T1 - 01:13

Bike - 38:34

T2 - 00:53

Run 2 - 12:57 (2 miles 6:44/6:15 - Average 6:29 pace)

I ended up somewhere between 20th and 25th overall. My first Duathlon under my belt and certainly a different event to a triathlon but very enjoyable and I must say very well organised and marshaled by Clonakilty Triathlon Club, well done to all concerned. I don't know if official results will be posted though as the Club does not appear to have a website. Maybe Triathlon Ireland will publish them as it ws a TI sanctioned event.

And finally the last time Cork won Sam Maguire was a few weeks after I got married - some would say a life sentence (for Cork football). C'Mon the Rebels.

Friday, 17 September 2010

The Stats

The results of the Lost Sheep Tri have me finishing in 5:32:01 in 73rd Place. The stats are as follows:-
22 out of the 300 odd starters failed to finish the swim. Even allowing for the strong currents I placed very poorly and came out of the water behind people that I'd usually be faster than. Just goes to show that the swim can be as important as the other disciplines. On the positive side I passed 24 people in 2 minutes and continued to move up the ranks until the end.
No swimming, biking or running since, which is a long (unintentional) break for me. Will do a bit this weekend.

Saturday, 11 September 2010


It was all about the swim doubt about it. I've been on a turbo trainer and a treadmill so I know all about stationary biking and running but today was my first time on the swimming treadmill and it wasn't fun............ or to put it another way it was a fu~k*ng disaster from start to finish. But I have to say that overall the Lost Sheep triathlon was a great event and I am delighted to have completed it..
I stayed in Kenmare with Pete and Martin the night before, meeting them at the race briefing ..... mainly about the bike (rules, drafting, helmets, careful on the descent from the Healy Pass "teeth have been lost on that descent"...I kid you not....maybe it should have been called the "Lost Teeth". The swim course had been changed for "safety reasons" whatever they were. Instead of swimming down estuary and back up under the Kenmare Bridge to transition the route was now upstream under the bridge first and then down river to transition. Martin had been down at the bridge at the evening high tide and said he saw a tree floating down river - so no problems there then.
After a late night in the pubs and clubs of Kenmare we rose shortly after 4:30 and within 5 minutes had 3 separate pots of porridge bubbling on the stove.....all that was missing was Goldilocks.
After loading all our gear we cycled through the streets of Kenmare in the pre-dawn darkness the 2 miles or so to transition (not a light between us) with other cyclists coming out from various side roads all heading for the same destination. There had been a couple of heavy showers overnight and the roads were still wet. It was sometime around this point that I had the revelation that i'm not right in the head and what was I doing out at this unearthly hour cycling through the streets of Kenmare in early September in lycra. According to a guy at work, who's in the know, I am part of a growing genetic mutation called MAMILs (middle aged men in lycra).
After setting out our stalls in transition we walked the 1km to the pier for the 7am swim start. The water looked calm and was quite warm when we entered at the slipway. My only concern was the 12" horizontal tear just below the zipper of my wet suit, which increased to about 20" during my warmup - not a good sign.
We lined up from the end of the pier for the start. I swam out a bit so as to avoid the congestion around the pier. I noticed that some of the swimmers were moving forward in front of the imaginary start line until I realised that it was I who was drifting back and I had to swim forward just to keep the line - still I had no inkling of what lay ahead.
5................4.............3 and we were off - the usual seething mass of flailing arms as everyone tried to get into pole position. First thing I noticed was that I did not appear to be making as much progress as those around me but thought that it always takes me a few 100m to get into my stride and I would be motoring soon enough. The few 100m to the first yellow buoy,which we were to keep on our left, took an age and when I got close to it it shifted about 20' to the right - fuck that i'm not chasing it all over the place and I passed on the "wrong"side along with 20 others. Next it was under the arch of the bridge which was about another 200 to 300m away.....and it stayed at that distance for what seemed like an eternity .....every time I looked up to sight I could see that I was getting no closer.... "this is ridiculous" I must be doing something wrong. I veered left closer to shore in the hope that I would move out of the main channel flow but progress remained frustratingly slow. Eventually I was under the arch and naively thought that my problems were over.
However we still had another 500 or 600m to swim upstream before crossing the estuary and heading downstream to the exit to transition. I was beginning to think that someone was taking the piss and that this was a big joke. I was constantly checking to see if I was the only fool left in the water - perhaps I was swimming way off course. But eventually the next buoy came into view and after another age I was around it and heading across the estuary and back down towards transition. At one stage my hand struck the trunk of a tree floating in the water - luckily it didn't hit back.
The last buoy was 20m from the shore and as I rounded it my right calf cramped up completely forcing me to stop dead and wiggle my toes/foot to alleviate it and just when it was easing and I was heading to shore the left calf cramped up and I ended up doing the doggie paddle while trying to ease the cramps. Clambering out over the rocks to T1 proved difficult despite the help I got from marshalls. The clock on the shore displayed 1:02:xx. "What the #u*k, that's nearly twice my target time" - suddenly my 5 hour "best outcome" had shifted out to 5:30. I hobbled into transition - I was going to take my time as I would be out for some time. At least Pete's and Martin's bikes were still racked, so I wasn't the only one have a bad swim day. Off with the wet suit (nearly in two halves at this stage) and on with the socks, shoes & helmet and out on the bike.
I had to take it relatively easy over the first few kms on the bike as I didn't want to risk cramping my calves again. Luckily I had popped the ZYM electrolyte tablet I received in the race goody bag into my water bottle and I took this immediately. The bike leg went pretty much to plan, although I did have a mini bonk going up the Healy Pass. Pete passed me out going up the first climb of the day looking very strong. The roads were reasonably dry and the descent from the Healy Pass was thankfully uneventful. I made good progress from Adrigole to Glengariff getting out of the saddle a few times to mix it up and overtake others.
Unfortunately the pain I had on the inside of my right knee a few weeks ago returned just before entering Glengarriff, which made it difficult for me to get out of the saddle for any length of time. This scuppered my plan for getting up the last climb of the day to the Caha Pass and I ended up spending most of the 7 km climb in the saddle slogging up the hill. Through the tunnel at the top and all that was left was the 20km descent into Kenmare.
I started the descent behind two guys with tri-bikes who were down in the aero position. I tried it for a while but found that I was easing off the pedals just to keep the bike stable so instead I sat up and peddled hard and managed to pass the two of them. They copped on after a while and both of them passed me out a short time later having come out of the aero position. I made good time over the remainder of the descent keeping pace with one of the guys all the way into T2 (the other guy fell behind). I saw no clock but reckoned from the Garmin (which was turned on a few 100m into the route) that I was about 2:50 for the bike.
The sun was shining at this stage and the crowds were out cheering us on. I sat down to put on my running shoes and load up with a few more gels. Unfortunately I was a bit confused and when I stood up found that I had put my left cycling shoe on my right foot - time to take on some more calories. On leaving transition I was passed by a guy doing 6 minute mile pace (I hoped that he was a relay runner) - as it turned out he was the only one to pass me for the entire 13.1 miles. That's not to say that I had a spectacular run - just that all the fast guys were already ahead of me.
I had to fiddle with the Garmin to change it to "run" mode and so did not start it until well into the opening mile. My opening pace of 6:50 didn't last too long as the average creeped up over 7:00. It didn't stop there either as the undulating road gave way to a gradual incline for a few kms. The leader came against me at about the 2km mark, well out in front - I didn't see number 2 for about another 2 miles. My pace dropped into the 7:20's and while I couldn't speed up I managed to keep the metronome going, which felt tough until I took a gel before the 4.5 km water station and then began to feel normal for a few km. The route was very challenging and I though the turnaround would never come. Those coming against me turned from a trickle into a constant stream. 10,11,12...15......20........30.....40...50...60. Pete was in a group of three looking strong (about 64th). By the time I got to the turnaround I was in the mid-eighties, although by that stage my ability to count was considerably reduced.......where's that gel.
I averaged about 7:32 pace to the turnaround and hoped that I could match that for the return leg, thinking that it was more downhill that up. That should hopefully get me just under the 1:40 mark - I had long resigned myself to the fact that 1:35 was not going to happen. I didn't know whether I had enough to get under 5:30 overall and suspected that a 1:40 half wouldn't get me there. The return leg was all about keeping the head down and putting one foot in front of the other. I continued to pass others - quite a few had stopped to walk the inclines. My toe was holding up quite well in the racers although a blister was developing on the ball of my foot.
At last 2km to go and I could hear the MC at the finishing line cheering on those crossing the line. I recognised the guy in the red tri suit in front of me as Norman Kelly from Eagle AC. I had spotted him ahead for a few km but it took ages to close the gap. With 1 km to go he put in a surge and put 30m on me. I didn't/couldn't give chase although I pulled within a few yards of him as he slowed going up an incline. He turned and saw me and encouraged me to pull level but I had only one push left and I was saving that for the last 20m. With sight of the finishing line Norman surged ahead and I tried to give chase - more to keep ahead of the guy coming up behind me (who I had passed walking 50 yards back) than to catch Norman. Into the finishing chute and across the finishing line - at last, I could stop - I looked back at the clock which displayed 5:32:xx - missed my target by a few minutes, as expected. Half and hour down on where I though i'd end up this time yesterday.
This is now my longest endurance event by about 3 minutes, having exceeded the 5:29:xx Connemara ultra . Certainly today puts the challenge of doing a full Ironman into perspective and the training that you would have to do just to complete one.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Going Long?

It's that time of year where the shorter summer races give way to longer more endurance based events - the Cork Half marathon on Sunday, Cork to Cobh 15 miler on 3rd October and the Dublin City marathon at the end of October (or Berlin, Amsterdam, New York etc. for those travelling further a field). I haven't signed up for Dublin as i'm waiting to see how I do this weekend and decide whether or not I have the enthusiasm or energy to up the ante for the next 6 weeks or so.
I kept the training at more or less full throttle over the weekend getting a 17 mile hilly long run in on Saturday between twin bike rides of 44 and 62 miles on Friday and Sunday. Sunday's outing was at a relatively easy pace over part of the 100 mile Rebel Tour route taking place this Saturday.
After a rest day on Monday I headed to the Track on Tuesday where a 12 lap (3 mile) group run @ somewhere around threshold pace was called for. The idea of these runs is that we all run in single file, keeping a steady distance from the runner in front with the leader setting the pace. Every 200m or so the guy/gal at the back moves up to the front and takes over the pace setting at whatever pace they want/feel reasonably comfortable with. This resulted in a varying pace throughout the session of between 6:10 and 7:10, which proved challenging, particularly for those whose threshold pace was closer to the 7:10 end of the spectrum - still a good workout though, averaging at 6:44 pace (my plan had been to do 3 x 1 mile at 6:40/50 pace so I wasn't far off). I think next week the speedy legs will be put into their own group.
I ran in my lightweight shoes to see if my toe would hold up to the punishment (testing the water for the 13.1 miles at the weekend) and while I ran without any discomfort there was some mild aches in my toe later on.
I have done nothing over the last two days, not because I suddenly realised I should be tapering (although if I was training for a marathon i'd have eased back 2 week ago) but more due to a lack of enthusiasm coupled with the fact that nothing I do now will benefit me on Saturday anyway.
On the plus side I have signed up for the Connemara Ultra, the only race I definitely know I want to run in 2011. I think I caught the ultra fever after reading about the recent exploits of Thomas and Mick, although I must admit Connemara 2011 was always on my radar. Not only that but my 2010 ultra running partners, John and Denis, have also signed up and Denis has even booked the same hostel (the poor guy at the other end of the phone didn't even have a 2011 diary to write the booking into).

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

3 x 4 Miles @ MP

With no running since Saturday and no exercise at all over the last 2 days my legs were fairly fresh for this evenings session on the grass of UCC Farm with Joe and Norman from the club. Joe who's training for the Berlin Marathon in 3.5 weeks time was planning on 3 x 4 miles @ 3 hour Marathon pace with 3 mile recoveries. I figured it would be good training for the HM in the Lost Sheep Tri in 10 days time. I joined the session late and after a 1 mile warmup ran my opening 4 miles partly with Joe and Norman and then on my own - a tad fast at 6:39 pace. I then joined the others and recovered over a mile before heading into the second 4 miles - 6:48 pace, closer to the 6:50 target.
A further mile recovery (we decided to scrap the longer recoveries and get the session over with earlier) and we launched into the final 4 miles. This was certainly tougher and a quick check on the pace after 1.5 miles revealed a 6:58 average. It took a lot of work over the next 2 miles to get that down to 6:50 average and when the 4 miles was up I was relieved - certainly much tougher than the 2 previous sessions despite the slightly slower pace. A 3.5 mile warmdown gave me 18.5 miles in total and that stiff post marathon feeling in my legs.
Wed 1st Sept
18.54 miles in 2:17:57 (7:26 Pace @ 142 HR) with 3 x 4 miles @ 6:39/48/50 pace.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

From 41 to 182

In the end I made 41 out of the top 50 of the Ballycotton Summer Series with a margin of 2:19 over the number 50 spot. However my 31:19 result was hard earned with a tough battle especially during the 2nd and 3rd miles. While the 4th and 5th didn't feel as rough that was primarily because they were slower than I'm capable of. I was 3 seconds slower on this course last year (my PB coming into this year) but I had a much better finish over the last 2 miles with split comparing as follows:- Mile.2009...2010 1...6:20....5:57 (net downhill) 2...6:27....6:17 3...6:33....6:31 (net uphill) 4..6:05....6:15 (up and down) 5....5:57....6:19 (up and down) ...31:22..31:19
I'd much prefer the 2009 race strategy of finishing strong - the last 2 miles were 32 seconds faster than this year. Still I did what I had to do - the only reason I crept up 6 places is that 6 people in the top 46 didn't show up on the night.
Since the race I have reverted to the more enjoyable endurance end of the spectrum - heading to Kenmare on Friday evening with Adrian for one more jaunt around the 49 mile hilly bike route of the Lost Sheep Tri, this time in glorious sunshine and spectacular views. While the bike leg of middle distance triathlons is typically 56 miles (90k) I think the reduced distance in the Lost Sheep is there to compensate for the hills. While I was pleased with my overall time of 2:50, conditions were ideal and I did stop at the top of each climb to take in the views (The garmin was set to auto pause when stopped) - While my Plan A & B targets are 5:15 and 5:30 I almost harboured a notion of getting under 5 hours (It's great what a sunny day will do for your confidence).

I followed up the cycle with a fast 2 mile run on the half marathon course - I don't think the 6:40 pace will be replicated on race day though, more like 7:10/15 if i'm feeling good (i.e. 1:35 for the half). With a swim target of 35 minutes and 2:50 for the cycle (again on a good day) that leaves 5 hours on the dot - now if I could squeeze in a few minutes more i'd have enough for the transitions. At least it puts the race in perspective and makes my plan A target of 5:15 appear realistic.

Less that 13 hours later I was out the door on the Club long run over a 12 mile hilly route west of the City and boy did it feel tough, especially over the first few miles. Downhills were grand but I was left standing on the uphills. Still I managed to hang on with a few others to extend my run on the grass of UCC farm to 18.5 miles in all (about 7:54 pace).

I though I might get a sleep in on Sunday morning but an invitation to join Martin Leahy for a swim around Sandycove Island at 8 was too tempting, as my swimming has been non-existent over the last week. It was also an opportunity to test the impact of the tear in the back of my wetsuit. The water was beautifully calm in the morning sunshine and the swim went by without a hitch, although an attempt to put a gap between myself and Martin over the latter half of the 1.8k route was unsuccessful. I was out of the water a few minutes before him in Bo Peep and so thought it should not be a problem. Maybe I need to be in a race to swim faster. After the swim we headed on the bikes along the coast to Timoleague and Courtmacsherry and back covering 37 miles. I thought my lack of rest since the Ballycotton 5 would make for an uncomfortable ride but I felt surprisingly good.

Monday was a well earned rest day with a trip to Joe for a well overdue rub down.While there were the inevitable tight spots (I'm not the best at doing the ancillary stuff like stretching/foam rolling etc.) there was nothing to worry about.

Looks like Tuesday will be a rest day also as I will be in Dublin taking Keevsa and Safan to see Blink 182 at the O2 Arena. They'll be with their buddies up front while i'll hang at the back so as not to cramp their style. It sounded like a good idea when booking the tickets a few months ago (I had heard them quite often on my longs runs over the last few years when borrowing their iPods) but somehow I think I'll be the oldest fan at the gig. Here's a taste of what's in store ... at least it's running related.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Number 47

That’s my race number heading into the last of the Ballycotton 5 mile summer series tonight. With an aggregate time of 1:34:22 for the first three races (32:32, 31:26 & 30:24) I have a one minute advantage over number 50, the cut off point for the all important series T-Shirt. While normally I should have no problem staying in the top 50 with a cushion like that my training since the last race has been less than ideal. Run For the moment I have reverted to running in an old pair of Asics Gel Nimbus as they don't flex as much as the racing/minimalist shoes, which only aggravates my injured toe more.
After a gap of a week my first run following the Bo Peep triathlon was a 5 miler on part of the lost sheep triathlon run route following a full recce of the hilly bike course. While I could run comfortably, despite the fact that my toe was still tender, my lack of fueling coming off the bike made for a very tough 5 miles. Martin, my running partner, who had a better fueling strategy, felt very comfortable at the 7:16 pace.
Last week was a bit better with 5 runs totalling 42 miles, although I noticed a distinct lack of sharpness when it came to my 2 speed sessions. The first on Wednesday consisted of 6 x 800m approx (on road) at a target I-Pace of 5:48 and all I could manage was 6:00 to 6:10 pace. The second on Friday was 6 miles at T-Pace (target 6:20) originally planned at 3 x 2 miles but changed to 2 x 3 miles with 0.5 mile recovery. Again I struggled to get anywhere near target pace and was happy that I managed to maintain the 6:33 pace average achieved for the first 3 miles during the second 3. It could have something to do with the fact that I was on holiday in West Cork - all that extra rest could be playing havoc with my routine - that and the fact that speed is the first thing that suffers when you take any time off running.
Having missed a weeks running I have essentially abandoned the 3-week peaking phase of my 5 to 15k programme leading up to today’s race and therefore do not expect to be in peak 5 mile race shape. My primary target is to remain in the top 50, which should be achievable – I reckon a time under 32 minutes should do, although I won’t be complacent. Bike The reduced running was matched by a corresponding increase in time on the bike, covering 243 miles over the last 2 weeks. A week after the Bo Peep Tri I was back down in Kerry to cycle the 53 mile Lost Sheep course with Martin (also doing the lost sheep) Adrian and Steven. While the course consisted of two category 1 climbs the most challenging part of the course was the switchback descent from the Healy Pass, which was particularly precarious in the wet conditions. Bob had asked recently why it is called the “Lost Sheep Tri” and while I don’t know the official answer I would imagine that the presence of sheep wandering along/across the road on the barren Healy Pass landscape may have something to do with it.
Swim Swimming has always been the poor relation of running and cycling only getting a look in when the opportunity arises. Over the last two weeks this opportunity was Inchydoney beach where I got in about 4 to 5k, even venturing out twice without the wet-suit - I soon learned that comfort is higher up my priority list than pride and returned to the wetsuit. Anyway spending the first 10 minutes of a swim slowly acclimatising yourself to the cold water is a waste of training time.
I think my wet-suit is at the end of it's useful life though as it tears easily and while putting my foot through the neoprene could be solved by cutting a piece off the bottom of the leg the tear across the back of the suit following an aggressive tug on the zip may be more difficult to sort out - I can swim in it but may be taking on more water than I need to.