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.