Thursday, 31 January 2013


It's the time of the year for new beginnings - the first daffodils popped their heads out of their green cocoons a few days after new years, adding a bit of welcome colour to the garden. The time feels right to awaken from my slumber and do something more meaningful and structured with my running. It's been a long time since I sniffed the sweet nectar of a PB and this has made me apathetic. It may take a while to reach those dizzying heights again and with the uphill struggle against an ageing body  I may never get there - but it's time to test the waters and see what I can squeeze out of a bit of structured training.

My easy runs are not as effortless as they used to be, which tells me that my aerobic base still needs building. Therefore I did not deviate from my weekend tempo/long run double act to taper for the Dungarvan 10 miler last Sunday and instead ran it as a progression run from 7:20 down to 6:40 pace, which is all I could manage, having completed a 20  miler the day before. Still it was a good enjoyable effort - starting with the 75 minute pacers - passing the 70 minute pacers at mile 6.5 and finishing up a few seconds under 68:30, well shy of my PB - my philosophy being that a 20 mile run the day before is more beneficial training than knocking a few more minutes out of a 10 mile race, particularly as I am training for back to back marathons in just over 2 weeks time. The training even gets more specific this weekend where about 10 to 15 souls will complete a full recce run of the back 2 back experience, at the invite of the Race Director. This is the first time i have been "invited" on to such a select shortlist - I guess there were no other nutters out there.

Rather that use the race on Sunday to assess where my running "is at" I opted for the less stressful method of running 5 miles around the track at Tuesday evenings club session. I have done this test on and off over the last 2 years at  a constant 140 HR with the recorded average pace and pace drift ( pace variation from mile 1 to 5) giving a good indication of my general aerobic and endurance fitness. Rather that stick rigidly to the 140 HR (I should drop it by 1 every year to ensure I am running well within the aerobic zone) I dropped to 138HR this year and in order to have a direct comparison with previous years I assessed the number of heartbeats it takes to run 1 km, which should remain constant year on year for a specific level of fitness. For example I found that when I was in peak aerobic shape in 2011 & 2012 I was running a km with 600 heartbeats. Tuesday's session revealed that it currently takes me 621 HBs to run 1 km (averaged over a 5 mile run) which tells me I have a little to go before my aerobic base is complete. Also the drift from 7:03 to 7:25 pace from mile 1 to 5 suggests that my endurance base needs a bit of "tidying up" also. Although I am in a slightly better place than I was this time last year - covering the 5 miles in less time and with a lower HR.

Mile 3 of my 10 mile Progression on Sunday (Courtesy: Joe Murphy)


Mile 9.75 with Clubmate Anne Marie - Looking a bit more Stressed. (Courtesy: Joe Murphy)

Friday, 18 January 2013

Vibram Seeya - Review

This is long overdue..................
To qualify this review I have to add that I am generally in favour of minimalist/barefoot running and have run in a pair of vibrams Sprints on and off since December 2007. So this is not a debate about the pros and cons of minimalist running shoes but a review of the Vibram Seeya against my experience of running in minimalist shoes, limited though it is to the sprints.
The Vibram Seeya is billed as the minimalist’s minimalist shoe “designed to bring you even closer to the barefoot sensation” by radically reducing the overall weight. To be quite honest when I took delivery of a pair from Owen Loughrey of to trial back at the start of June I did not think them any lighter than the pair of sprints. In fact the mesh upper enclosed my feet more that sprints ever did and the sole looked bulkier than the neoprene sole of the sprints.


Initially I found the Seeyas more difficult to put on that the Sprints as I was used to being able to  manoeuvre each toe into position using my hand if I had to, which was made much more difficult by the mesh upper of the Seeyas. However after a while I discovered that all I had to do was to place my feet half way into the shoes and wriggle my toes into position to get a snug fit, such was the flexibility of the upper which is like a stretchy sock. The presence of a Velcro fastening strap over the top of the foot seems like an unnecessary afterthought as the mesh upper should be sufficient to hold the foot in place. My feet certainly felt secure without fastening the strap. Perhaps it offers extra insurance to those who like a bit of security or maybe it’s there in case the fit is not as snug for everyone (e.g. narrow foot width). Either way it did not bother me and the strap never caused me any problems. Although if it is billed as the lightest of the vibrams it could be made that bit lighter by removing the strap.
I did notice that once or twice during my first few runs that the light heel structure gave the impression that the shoes were going to slip off but this feeling did not last and after a week or two I did not even notice it.
Perhaps because the shoes enclosed my feet more I felt much more comfortable wearing them around the house and on occasion out and about, despite the luminous green colour, which was a source of embarrassment to my impressionable 13 year old Daughter. In fact I sometimes forgot I was wearing them and wore them doing the gardening once or twice, but they are not very good for footing a shovel as I was painfully reminded when I tried – not much cushion between my sole and the top blade of the shovel.

The short video below compares putting on the Seeya compared to the Sprint, which does require a bit more manipulation to get a proper fit as the upper is less flexible than that of the Seeya (The black toenails are a relic from my ultra days).



The Seeya is billed as a road running “shoe” only, perhaps because of the limited grip available for off road running. This suited me fine as most of my experience in running in vibrams was on the road.

Initially it was difficult to compare my experience of running in the Sprints with that of running in the Seeyas as both gave a pretty similar feel. As with the Sprints the Seeyas felt great to run in, the same feeling of lightness and freedom around my feet, fully in touch with the surface underneath, feeling every indentation. I did not feel that the Seeyas were any more minimalist that the sprints although they were billed as suitable only for experienced minimalist runners, whatever than meant. While I had run on and off in the sprints over the last 5 years I could not be considered a serious proponent of the minimalist running culture as I have run 90% of my miles in more conventional running shoes and up until this year never raced in the vibrams.

Running in minimalist shoes does change the way my feet and legs react to the stress, with my calves in particular taking more of the strain. This is certainly more noticeable the faster I run. Up until 2012 most of my running in vibrams had been at a slow easy pace. I had used the vibrams before in races but had not pushed myself too hard. In 2012 I ran a couple of 10 milers in the sprints and came within 8 seconds on my PB in Ballycotton in March. However I paid the price with rock solid tight calves afterwards that prevented me from warming down.
After a few introductory runs with the Seeyas I began using them for some of my quality training runs as the light weight and feeling of freedom encouraged me to run faster and it felt good. The idea was to train for a few short 4 and 5 mile races over the summer and see how the Seeyas performed in a race compared to my more traditional racing shoes. However this plan had to be put on hold in early July as I was laid up for over 2 weeks with a right calf strain, a few days after pacing the Waterford Marathon (in my more traditional Asics).  A return to running in late July lasted for only 2 weeks with the calf injury returning. After a return to running in late August I  again succumbed to injury in late September which prevented me from running until Mid-October. It wasn't until I analysed my training log that I noticed that a few days before the onset of each injury I had completed a steady/tempo run in the Seeyas and while I can't say for sure that they were responsible for my injuries i'm pretty sure there is a link. Perhaps I ignored the health warning that they came with .........."suitable only for experienced minimalist runners"............
Running in minimalist shoes , including the Seeyas, requires acclimatisation over time -  building up from short slow runs, waiting a few day to see how your legs react and incrementally increasing the stress (pace/distance) over weeks and months to allow your muscular skeletal system adjust to the new stresses. My problem is that I'm not consistent and could go a month or two without running in the vibrams and effectively "de-training" my muscular skeletal system only to pick it up again thinking that I could start form where I left off. The Seeyas taught me that this only leads to injury.
In conclusion the Seeyas fit like gloves, are easier to put on and feel more comfortable than the Sprints, making me more likely to wear them around the house (like slippers) and are great to run in. On the flip side they offer minimal protection and are likely to cause injury if you do not use them intelligently  (more so than the Sprints).


Thursday, 3 January 2013


The first year I did this I started at midnight and finished about 18 and a half hours later, covering 45 miles over three 15 mile runs at an average pace of about 8:24 (i.e. about 6 hours and 18 minutes of running). With over 12 hours of inactivity (no running) between mile 1 and mile 45, I had time to rest and recupperate, which helped me keep the pace pretty consistent.
Last year I covered 46 miles in two 23 mile runs, again starting at midnight and finishing about 12 and a half hours later, with about 5 hours of sleep in between. The first 23 miles were at a relatively fast 7:55 pace. However I paid for this with a painful and slow second 23 miles at an average 9:24 pace (with some walking involved) giving an overall average pace of 8:39.
This year I slept in until 3:50 and was parked up at the Lee Rowing Club at 4:35 for a long warmup ahead of the scheduled Club Christmas run at 8:30. There were 2 distances on offer - 6 miles @ 9:30 pace and 10.2 miles @ 8:30-8:45 pace. I was hoping to join the longer run, if I was able for the pace by the time it started.
I headed from the Marina, in the early morning drizzle, through town along the North Quays and Sunday's Well, the natural pace in the 8:20's - I was expecting something a bit faster but obviously did not push at this early stage. Maybe it would take me a while to warmup, given that I was not used to running so early in the morning. I carried on out the Straight Road towards Ballincollig, brining a house key with me in case I needed anything before heading back into town. The rain had cleared at this stage but my feet were feeling a little uncomfortable in the pair of uncushioned Aldi running shoes I had selected for the opening leg. I had left my pair of Asics Gel Hyperspeeds in the car for the later miles.
I ran west as far as the Ovens Bar before doubling back and diverting for home, covering the first 14 miles in just under 2 hours (8:26 pace). A quick stopover to change into an old pair of Asics Gel Numbus before reluctantly heading back out the door into the morning darkness. This was thougher than I expected, feeling a bit tired and washed out, still with 33 miles to go.
The "new" shoes put a bit of a spring in my step with the heavy padding underfoot. In addition my heels were now elevated about an inch further off the ground - hardly good for my bio mechanics to be changing support mid-run. My new found energy lasted a few miles but by the time I was back in town and heading for the car my pace had slowed to 9 minute miles and I was feeling farily fatigued. I couldn't figure out why I was unable to maintain a reasonable pace. By the time I reached the car after 24 miles my pace had slowed to 9:30 minute miles.

I was 15 minutes early for the club run and had plenty of time to change shoes and tops and take on some nutrition (pretzels, coke and coffee). I even had time for another slow mile while my club mates stood about and chatted. I had been hoping to go with the 10 mile group so as to get as many miles as possible in the company of others but doubted that I could maintain the anticipated 8:30/45 pace. As we headed off in the direction of Blackrock Castle I found myself on the tail of the 10 mile group and was able to hang on for a few miles before I began to fall behind - still managing the 5 miles to mile 30 @ 8:27 pace average. However the next 5 miles were all over 9 minute pace but thankfully the group slowed down to accommodate me and they pulled me along through the back alleys of Douglas and back to the Lee Rowing Club in one piece with 35.4 miles on the clock - still 11.6 miles short of my target with the time heading for 10:20 a.m.

Another change of tops as I was saturated from a heavy rain that fell over the closing stages of the club run. I refuelled with a bag of crisps and more coffee & coke before driving for the grass track of UCC Farm on the route home. I estimated that I needed to complete 5 laps of the 2.3 mile circuit to get to 47 miles for the day. Nothing to it but to put one foot in front of the other, starting with a slow shuffle, reawakening the legs as they had pretty much seized up at this stage with dull aches all over and a sharp one on the inside of my left knee. The manageable pace was now in the 9:40's, grinding out mile after mile, lap after lap. After 3 laps I had my last refuelling stop with the pace going over the 10 minute mile when I resumed. With the smell of the finish line halfway through the last lap I upped the pace to see if my body could deliver a finishing kick and while my pace increased the last mile in 9:06 was as much as I could give.

If it had been a race i'd be very disappointed with my time, but this was not about time - or logic for that matter, no point in it really other than "why not?" and given the day that it is I see it as the perfect antidote to the excess that is Christmas, I couldn't have been further away (physically and mentally) for the hustle and bustle of the last shopping day - although I had one or two errands in the afternoon that brought me back to reality. I more than made up for the pain and hurt over the following week, spent on the conveyor belt between the fridge, couch and bed - all good fun.

An attempt at a short recovery run on Friday ended with a pain in my left calf, a bit of limping for the rest of the day and no running until today, where a return to the Farm for 2 laps of the grass circuit passed without too much trouble.

Now that that piece of madness is out of the way it's time to knuckle down and do some focused training. My next 2 races are the Dungarvan 10 at the end of the month (which I won't be ready for, but is a great event) and the Clonakilty Back2Back Marathons in Mid February - hard to classify as a race really. I am looking beyond these events towards racing the Portumna Marathon in mid-June, which would see me complete the Mara/50k/100k hat-trick along the 5k looped course. I'm hoping to build up an endurance base over the next 3 months and ease into some race specific speedwork for the following 4 to 6 weeks.

Happy New Year.