Friday, 23 July 2010

Pacing my way to a Sub 31 at Churchtown South

The third race in the Ballycotton 5 miler summer series saw me dip under 31 minutes for the first time. It wasn’t without putting in a bit of hard work and resisting the temptation to slacken off the pace when the going got tough. My warmup started at lunchtime with a 5k easy run in the park. My toe on the right foot continues to throb a little and is a bit swollen but doesn’t impact on my running. The race course is effectively two laps of quite country roads, some so quite (and narrow)they got grass growing in the middle, centered around the village of Churchtown South, where the start and finish lines were. I warmed up over the 2.5-mile loop, which has a few gradual ups and downs but is relatively fast. I made it to the start line with minutes to spare. The start was a bit congested with close on 500 runners lined up on a mild sunny evening. Once the gun went I took off at a steady fast pace and had to do a bit of weaving in and out over the first ¼ mile to get to the comfortably hard pace required for racing. Still most of the Eagle club mates that have similar race paces to me were out in front and despite the hard effort I thought I was off pace. The time-keeper calling out 5:55 at the first mile marker was enough to tell me that my pace was fine as long as I could maintain the effort. The manual lap on My Garmin turned out to be 5:58 for Mile 1. Still I was lagging behind the pace group ahead. - Pat Murphy was running on the back of the group of 5 or 6 leading females with John O’Callaghan out the front of the group. Kevin Geary had gone ahead chasing down Pat O’Connor. Eventually I pulled on to the back of the group passing the two mile mark in 11:54 (Mile 2 in 5:56). The first half of mile 3 is a gradual rise before the left turn for Churchtown South past the finish line and around the corner for the 2.5 mile mark with the timekeeper calling out 15:07 – in the space of half a mile I had fallen off the 30 minute pace. It was only a matter of time. At this stage I had passed John and Pat and was with the three remaining leading Females St Finbarrs Emma Murphy, Leevales Jessica Vonhatten and Eagles Rhona Lynch, who is leading the overall female standings after 2 races (I don’t think the other 2 had run the previous races). This was certainly unfamiliar territory for me. The longer I was able to hang on to this group the better. Out on the 2nd loop and Rhona had dropped off the pace and I was with the two leading females. They pulled ahead by a few yards and I caught up on a slight downhill and even went ahead for a while. Emma was back in front and I kept pace with her passing the 3 mile mark in 18:13 (Mile 3 in 6:19 - the slowest mile by far) – I was still well on pace for sub-31 though.
It could have been so easy to ease up at this stage as I had managed to hang on pretty well. To keep motivated I kept telling myself to seek out the pain and could honestly say that despite the fatigue in my legs I could not feel any real pain, so I continued on at the same effort. Emma, the leading female dropped me at about mile 3.5. She was followed a few hundred yards later by Jessica and a guy pacing her. I kept within a few yards of them and could see Pat about 20 yards ahead and Kevin off in the distance. Mile 4 came in 24:13 (6:00 Mile 4 - not bad at all) – 11 seconds under my 4-mile PB set in January. No chance of getting near 30 minutes though as the long rise towards the left turn for the finish took any speed out of my legs. I kept the even hard effort counting down the minutes to the finish line (about 3 minutes to go = 300 steps) – left towards the finish but still a gentle rise so no chance of a sprint. A guy passes me over the last 400m - I just don’t have that sort of sprint but don’t care as I am heading for a big PB - crossing the line in 30:24 (6:05 pace Avg & 6:11 for Mile 5), 46 seconds under my PB of two weeks ago and a full minute down on my pre-summer PB. Kevin had a fantastic race getting under 30 minutes just ahead of the leading female. There were plenty of Eagle AC 5 mile PB’s - Pat O’Connor, John O’Callaghan, Andy Gibson, Ann-Marie Power & Denis Looney to name a few (don’t know about Robert Doherty) – well done to all. Pat Murphy took the first M50 spot with Denis Carroll coming in second. John Quigley took second M55 spot & Rhona took third female spot – so great club results all round. A 2.5 mile warmdown over the race loop gave me 13 miles for the day. I finished off the evening with a cup of tea and a few biscuits in the hall. Well done to Ballycotton running promotions for putting on another fantastic race that was very well managed, from the car-parking stewards, marshals, timekeepers and caterers.
The results put me in 54th Place (52nd Male) with 14 guys in front of me who haven't run both the previous races - so there's a good chance that my number should be under 50 going into the last race of the series. McMillan puts this as my 3rd best performance after my 1:24:30 half in September 2008 and my 1:02:38 10 miler in January this year - so not quite there yet. Finally a little plug for the Paddy Games taking place at the Mardyke Arena on 14th August where you get the chance to participate in or watch (if you don’t like sticking out from the crowd) a few wacky track and field events all in aid of not taking life too seriously – after all you only live once. Former work colleague, John Meade, is one of the promoters of the games along with the other half of his three legged 3:25 marathon world record - on two legs he managed 2:44 this year in Cork, just think what he could do on one leg. John is currently 4th overall in the Ballycotton series – a bit too fast for me.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010


My Garmin returned from the dead this morning with the screen coming back to life as if nothing had happened. So 2 days without stats isn't all that bad. Sunday's long run was followed up by an easy five miler in the park at lunchtime on Monday. This evenings track session was a repeat of last weeks with 5 x 1248m (lane 3) in 4:30 on the cards. I thought about adding a half lap to each rep so as to make it a bit more challenging but instead settled for reducing the recovery from last weeks 3 minutes to 2:30. By the 3rd interval I was feeling the pressure and briefly though about cutting the session short to save my legs for the third 5 miler in the Ballycotton summer series on Thursday. However I persevered and actually felt a bit more comfortable on the 4th and 5th intervals. 4:30/29/30/28/29.
After a few laps warmdown and a few stretches I joined the rest of the club members for the last of their fast 400's (4 x 400m with full recoveries of 7 mins approx). They seemed to be having such fun I thought I'd have some too. They were split in three groups with each group going off at 5 second intervals. I joined the middle group having the double incentive of a few hares out front and a few hounds behind. I ran a steady fast pace with the group for the first 200m before testing whether or not I had anything left in the cupboard and found myself going off the front around the bend. Before I caught the hare in front I was passed by the fastest hound. I gave chase down the home straight passing the hare and not losing any ground to the hound in front while keeping ahead of the second hound behind me. I neglected to time the lap but the hound behind me said that I was about 2 seconds ahead of his 65 seconds - but as I started 5 seconds ahead of him that gave me 65-2+5 = 68 seconds and since we were running in lane 3 that equates to a 65 second 400m, which is faster than I thought i'd do.
The coach was putting them through these 400's over the last few weeks in preparation for a few track races over the coming weeks - Cork Graded Track and Field at the Mardyke Track on July 27th, Munster Masters on August 1st at the Mardkye Track (100, 200, 400, 800, 1500 & 3000m) and Rising Sun Sports Day on August 2nd @ CIT Track (100, 200, 400 & Mile).
Next race for me is the Churchtown South 5 miler on Thursday - the 3rd of the 4 Ballycotton Summer series. My number for the race is 63 - which means 13 runners will have to drop out or lose enough time to me over the final 2 races for me to win that all important T-shirt. The real battle will be between fellow club runners John and Pat (currently 51 & 52), with John leading by a second going into the race on Thursday - a bit like the Tour De France.
The toe on my right foot, that I stubbed while barefoot running last saturday week, continues to cause some discomfort - perhaps I should ease up and give it time to mend.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Equipment Failure

Things did not go my way at yesterday's Lough Ine Challenge. A faulty bike pump and two punctures were enough to give me a DNF. Still there were some positives. I had a good swim and T1 and the bike was going reasonably well until just after the 30k mark (45k in all).
The swim route was different from last year with a rectangular course in a clockwise direction starting from the new slipway in Baltimore (Harbour?). The water was cool but felt pretty good with fairly calm conditions. After a brief warmup of a few strides (well the swimming equivalent) I set myself up nicely next to a large (3' diameter) timber mooring post which was on the starting line. Once the gun went I used to post to push off and get me straight up to speed.
The 350m to the first buoy was a bit of a struggle as everyone clambers to get into a good position - 150m in I got my goggles half kicked off (I always put them under the swimming cap for this particular reason as otherwise you could loose them to the depths). No matter how much I warm up I seem to struggle for the first few 100m of the swim but then get a good rhythm going once the field settles down. I tried to draft off one of the swimmers early on (swimming on their hip) but lost contact. Past the first buoy and I get a bit of space and settle down. I suspect my rectangular swim is turning into a bit of a circle as I appear to be taking an arc between buoys with most of the swimmers on my inside. Past the 2nd Buoy and I decide to take a more direct route to the next buoy and am reasonably successful in following the racing line. Past the 3rd and last buoy and heading for the slipway. While I don't have much speed in the water I feel like I could maintain this pace for a lot longer (if only triathlon legs were of equal distance).
Finally my feet are on terra firma and I am running up the slipway with a clock in front of me showing 19:2x - obviously the new swim course is well short of the 1500m it's supposed to be. Unlike the swim leg of the sprint last month my legs feel strong running into T1. Off with the wetsuit and on with the shoes and helmet. I notice Neil Creedon opposite me doing the same thing (Neil and Abina used to work together years ago and the only time I see him now is at triathlons). His presence is a welcome surprise as he is a faster swimmer than me (beating me by 1:41 in the sprint last month and 1:42 this time last year) Heading out of T1 I am also greeted by Laura Buckley of Eagle AC. Any doubt that Neil might have been having a bad day and that my swim was less than I thought was dispelled on seeing Laura as she is also a strong swimmer (her swim time here in 2008 was 1:19 faster than mine).
Out on the bike I settled into a comfortable pace getting down on the aero bars as much as possible. I even managed to pass one or two - but most of the passing was the other way - I was surprised by the number of serious looking guys on TT bikes passing me. Connie passed me shortly after the 10k mark with Pete following on at about 15k. It's certainly is all in the bike if you want to make up time in these events. Back in towards Skibbereen and past the 30k mark, when I feel the all too familiar vibration of a deflating tyre - Fu#k, that's it, race over - but at least I can still finish. Off the bike, back wheel, tube - on with replacement tube (all the time bikes whizzing past) out with pump but I can only get 1 or 2 bar as the pressure gauge on the pump has blown and anything above 2 bar causes it to leak. In an effort to get more air in I break the valve on the tube and it's useless. As I am a mile from Skibbereen I decide to walk into town, cadge a tube from a bike shop and cycle out to Baltimore. Before I get there another competitor stops gives me his spare tube and pump, losing at least a minute in the process as his tube is taped around his seat post and is difficult to remove. I can't believe his selflessness in interrupting his own race to help a fellow competitor - A huge thanks to Alan Kelly (Cork Tri Club), I didn't get to see him after the race and had to leave his pump with the race organisers. I owe him a tube and a few tyre levers - surely i'll get them to him at the next event.
It took a few attempts to get the new tube inflated as it didn't sit right on the rim when inflated initially but eventually I was on my way although I don't know why I was pushing the pace as I was not chasing a time. Into Skibb, out the Baltimore Road and left for Lough Ine when half a mile later there is a loud bang - my new tube had blown - race definitely over - not such a big deal anymore. I walk the half mile back to the junction and spend the next hour chatting to one of the marshalls and drinking his tea, waiting to get picked up by the broom wagon. C'est la vie.
Still no results posted so I don't know how good my swim was.
To add to my misery my Garmin also appears to have died. It had some moisture in the screen last week but was operating normally. I had placed it on the bar of my bike yesterday to help me concentrate on pace but, despite the sunshine, the screen had clouded over totally by the time my race was over. So this morning my long run along the roads of Whitechurch was very much by feel covering anywhere between 16.5 and 17 miles in 2:12. Due to a mix up I had managed to be late for the scheduled 8:30 club start and ran mostly on my own, so had no opportunity to piggy back on someone else's Garmin.
Maybe a few days running without a watch will do me some good -although I did find one of the kid's old watches that has a stopwatch function, which should just about do for the track session on Tuesday.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Easing off

While I had plenty of energy at the start of the week there wasn't much left by the time I got to my Thursday evening quality session. Of course I didn't help it by setting my target tempo pace a little faster than I should have. Perhaps it was the presence of all the speedsters at the track doing fast 200's that spurred me on.
While Daniels recommends a 6:26 mile tempo pace for me, my last session of 3 x 10 minutes at T-pace had yielded a pace between 6:13 & 6:20. So based on this I was aiming for 6:16 pace. This is my 10 mile PB pace and after all Daniels say T-pace is the pace you can race for about an hour (close enough). What I failed to realise was that currently I can't race 6:16 pace for an hour - I can just about manage 30 minutes (last weeks 5 mile PB was at 6:14 pace).
The programme called for 3 x 10 to 12 minutes (2 miles) at T pace with 2 minute recoveries. I aimed for the 2 miles and as I was at the track that changed to 3 x 8 laps in lane 3 @ 97 second laps (i.e. 3 x 12:56 @ T-Pace) . The first session went fine - 12:56 on the dot (I had the track to keep an even pace). I felt tired going into the second session and was down 5 seconds on pace 2 laps in - that increased to 12 seconds halfway through. I covered another 2 laps before calling it a day - no point in pushing the pace. My legs felt heavy, which is the last thing I wanted 36 hours before the Lough Ine Tri. The fact that I was running in full trainers and socks in the rain did not help the motivation. I took off the shoes and socks and warmed down over another 8 laps and left it at that.
I don't have any great expectations for Saturday's Tri other than to beat last years time of 2:41:12 and get under the 2:40 mark. I don't expect an improvement in the swim/run so it'll have to be on the bike this time. Hope my transitions hold up.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Energy from nowhere

I had to postpone my weekend long run until Sunday morning as I spent a wet and windy Saturday morning doing a recce of the Lough Ine Tri bike route with Pete, Connie, Brian and Dixie (poor Dixie got dropped, I wasn't far off getting dropped myself).
I was up too late on Sunday morning to join the MacCotter Glounthane run (would you like some hills with that?) so with a cup of coffee swiftly dispatched I went to the farm for a flat barefoot run on grass. I joined Joe Roche, Austin Brown, Pat Twomey & (forgot his name - I keep doing that, although in my defence I had just been introduced to him) for the last few miles of their run. The pace was around 7:30 so by the time they had finished I was set on 2 hours @7:30 pace average, which would give me 16 miles (a bit more than last weeks 14.8 mile 2 hr run). Shortly after I was joined by Pat Murphy for a few laps and over the course of those few miles the pace seemed to gradually increase towards 7:00. I passed the first hour with 8:14 miles on the clock (7:22 pace average) well on target for my 16 miles and feet feeling great. I kept the pace pretty close to 7:00 for the remainder of the run finishing with 16.77 miles in total - 8.63 for the second hour (6:57 pace average) the only niggle caused by being careless passing through a gap next to a gate where I managed to hit my 2nd smallest toe on my right foot off a stone ditch. I didn't know until I had finished 3 miles later which toe was hit and by that stage it had turned black and blue. Apart for the incident with my toe I was very pleased with the run and how relatively comfortable I felt throughout, particularly as my pre-run nutrition was limited to a cup of coffee.
A 3 mile recovery run on Monday evening showed that my toe was unlikely to be broken but there was some pain which was enough to dictate the pace - 8:27.
I took Tuesday off work and brought the 2 young ones and 4 of their friends to Killarney for the day where we trekked to the summit of Torc Mountain (535m). I dipped my feet in a mountain stream for a few minutes on our return, the cool water easing the inflammation/discomfort in my toe.
My evening track session called for sets of 4 to 5 minutes (1,200m to 1 mile) at Interval (I) pace with 3 to 4 minute recoveries. As Daniels recommends that Intervals shouldn't last longer than 5 minutes, and 5 minute miles are not my Interval pace I settled for 5 x 1,200m in 4:24 (88 second laps) with 3 minute recoveries. I had to add 3 seconds per lap as I was running in lane 3 - so 4:33 was the target for the 3 laps (4:30 sounded better). Following a few laps warmup which revealed no discomfort in my toe I settled into the work at hand, taking my eye off the ball for the first interval but hitting the target for the remaining 4 -
The intervals felt reassuringly more manageable than the similarly paced 6 x 800's a few weeks ago - so a step in the right direction I think.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Doing what it says on the tin.


The tin said 10 to 12 x 400m @ R pace with 400m jog recoveries. With an R pace of 80 seconds (83 in lane 3) I did what it said on the tin, no more no less. I settled on 10 reps in total as R pace should be no more than 5% of total weekly mileage and 10 x 400m would require a 50 mile week (I haven’t broken the 50 mile/week mark in months) To be quite honest I had no energy for anything faster and the aim was to get the session done.


I followed Tuesday's track session up with an easy 5 miler in the park at lunchtime - although the 8:24 average pace felt tougher than it should have.

Over the last few weeks I have been feeling more tired than usual and I still haven't returned to running before work in the morning, so I can't blame the early moring rise. I thought I might be suffering from an iron deficiency which is sometimes an issue for endurance runners. Although I don't think so as my diet should contain enough iron. When I said this to Abina the other morning, she landed on to my work an hour later with a vitamin/mineral supplement that the pharmacist recommended saying that if I still felt tired after 10 days that I should get my "bloods done".


It was a wet miserable evening for doing my tempo run so the best place I could think of for motivating me was in the middle of 150 other runners at the start line of the Corkbeg 5 miler in Whitegate. I wasn't expecting much as it had not been a target race, although I did feel reasonably fresh during the 2 mile warmup. There were quite a few Eagles running so I would have plenty of black singlets to keep an eye on.

While I got into a good comfortably fast stride from the gun the opening mile was a less than spectacular 6:07. I was on the shoulder of Kevin (who's strategy was to hold his powder dry until he got to the 3 mile mark). John had gone ahead by about 10 to 20 yards and Pat, who had taken off on his usual opening blistring pace, was off in the distance. Eddie came up on our shoulder and all 3 of us ran together for about a mile. I felt very confortable but at the same time had no desire/energy to up the pace.

Turn right off the main road and a series of short hills before a steady descent back to the main road. I left Kevin and Eddie behind me at this stage and reined in and passed John as I took advantage of gravity (free energy as far as i'm concerned). I knew once I hit level ground John would be back on my shoulder and sure enough he was. Mile 2, containing all the hills was the slowest at 6:23 -

"12:30 to here = 6:15 pace, continuing at this pace will give 31:15 overall - just inside my PB"

The run back the main road to Whitegate was pretty uneventful with John on my shoulder or I on his . We passed 2 or 3, with 1 guy coming with us. Pat, who was about 70 yards ahead, was drifting back towards us for awhile but the gap never got closer than 50 yards.

Mile 3 & 4 in 6:11 & 6:13. I was surprisingly without as much pain as I should be feeling at this stage in a race but at the same time had no "push" in me - even pacing was the name of the game.

Mile 4.5 - turn right for the road to Corkbeg with a slight rise in front of us. Kevin came flying past at a pace that's normally reserved for the tuesday track session - his plan working to perfection. John was about 5 yards in front of me with another guy tailing me.
"400m to go" I push on and gain on John - the guy behind me puts on the thrusters and I can hear him accelerate before he goes flying past me and then John - I certainly never saw such speed so far out from the finish line of a 5 miler. I had no response - well I had I suppose but it was the opposite of what i'd like to report - I eased up, motivation gone, I forgot about chasing John and eased back a gear and coasted home the last 200m - 31:10 finish time. Last mile in 6:16 - where was my last mile kick - never had it - but i've done better than that before.
Still a 5 mile PB which I can put on the side bar, although still soft enough that it won't affect the training paces that McMillan gave me after the 18:40 5k last month - that would give me a 30:56 5 mile time. If I was on best form my 1:02:38 10 miler in January would give me a 29:49 5 miler - dream on.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Why didn't he drive?

I took the kids to Gougane Barra last Sunday (well the 2 youngest and 2 of their friends). We walked some of the trails, the longest being 2.4 km with 130m of elevation gain (great views) - it was billed as a 1.75 hour walk which we covered in about 45 minutes (A course record?) I was impressed with Saran who's only 7 and spends most of his waking moments jumping up and down excitedly in front of the television with a Wii console in his hands. We also stopped by the Island where St Finbarr established a Monastery in the 6th Century. Eager to impart some knowledge to the kids I told them that St Finbarr sailed down river from here to what is now Cork City and established another monastery where St Finbarrs Cathedral now stands. The only response I got was "Why didn't he drive?". I hadn't time to explain that one. This was week 2 of 9 in my 5k - 15k training programme with the first speed session of the week on Tuesday calling for repetitions of 4 x 200, 2 x 400, 1 x 800, 2 x 400 and 4 x 200 with equal distance active recoveries. Target pace was 1:20 per lap although I allowed myself the full 2:44 for the 800m. Others in the club were doing a few faster 400m reps (between 70 and 78 seconds) with full recoveries in between. I joined them for the last one and got sucked into a 74 second lap - way faster that my R-pace of 80. Otherwise the session went according to plan 36/39/37/37 - 1:18/1:21 - 2:44 - 1:19/1:14 - 38/38/38/37. I had an opportunity to run a 5k on Thursday but opted instead to return to the track for sets of 800 at I Pace (second quality session of the week) I also got in a bit of bike training by cycling the 5 miles there and back (suited my training needs better than bursting a gut over 3.1 miles). Target pace for the 800's was 2:56 (88 second laps) with 400m recovery jogs (plan called for 3 mins). 2:54/55/55/53/54/52 - I wonder if I managed 4 more would that mean a 2:55 marathon a la Bart Yasso - I don't think so! A sockless run in the park on Friday left me with some tenderness on the tops of my toes so I ditched the socks and shoes yesterday morning (couldn't find my fivefingers) for a barefoot run around the grass pitches at the farm. After my warmup mile I joined John (a week after his Portumna marathon success) and Denis who were finishing up a session of 2 x 3 miles @ 7:10 pace. I ran the last 1.5 miles of the session, which was a good test to see how comfortable running barefoot was at a faster pace. The feedback was good so I decided to continue with my planned 3 x 10 minutes at T-pace (6:26) sans shoes - I had brought them along just in case. Each 10 minute effort equalled 2.5 laps of the back pitch. I wasn't sure whether the recovery between efforts was 1 or 2 minutes, so I settled for 1:30. Surprisingly I felt reasonably fresh after each recovery with my HR coming well down into the 120's. I was also happy with my pace for each effort even though it was faster than planned - 6:20/13/15 for each 10 minute set. During my last effort I noticed a woman running in the opposite direction to me and it wasn't until she got within my limited eyesight range that I discovered she was none other than Sonia O'Sullivan. A few minutes later while warming down with John, Monica, Aine and Gillian we came across Sonia's husband, Nic Bideau, also running around the farm, noticeable by his distinctive Aussie tan. They must have been in town to promote the Cork City Sports which was on the same day. All in all I covered 14.8 miles barefoot and the only time I had to stop was to pick a thorn from my big toe, no big deal. .