Sunday, 30 June 2013

Another One Bites The Dust

Given my recent good form my plan is to seek out some of the shorter races during the summer months and throw a few speedwork sessions together beforehand so that I could have a decent shot at breaking a few barriers and get a few PBs in the process. I have already got the sub 18 minute 5k, which has given me renewed confidence to have a go at a few more,

sub 38 10k (Pb of 38:15)

sub 24 four miler (Pb of 24:24)

sub 30 five miler (Pb of 30:24)

I'd have to put in more significant specific training to even think about breaking some of the time barriers I would have previously considered beyond my reach such as a sub-60 minute ten miler and an sub-80 half - still the stuff of dreams, but we dream for a reason!
The timing of the Courtmacsherry 10k on Friday evening wasn't the best for me.  However it is the flattest/fastest and the most scenic 10k of all the summer 10k races and one that I had been meaning to do over the last number of years. Circumstances were conspiring against me again this year as I had signed up to pace the 3:15  group at the Waterford Viking Marathon on Saturday morning. However I decided to throw caution to the wind (being doing a lot of that lately) and head down to Courtmacsherry for the 8 p.m. start. I arrived in time to sign up and get a 2 mile warm up in.

It was still quite warm (19C) and humid but I felt under no pressure to get a specific time. My plan was to ease into a comfortably  hard pace over the first mile and see where that takes me. I was looking out for club mate Keith, who I had spotted during my warm up, but could not see him. Not to worry, I was certain i'd see him during the opening mile as he tends to open hard.......  and sure enough as the pace settled over the opening half mile I spotted him out in front as a long line of runners snaked along the flat shoreline towards Timoleague. By the time I was on his shoulder the average pace was 6:04, which was the split for the opening mile - a bit fast for a guy seeking his first sub-40 10k. Over the next mile and a half I continue on at a steady effort, gradually reeling in and passing a few more guys although the pace does slow. There was a noticeable headwind during this opening half, from which I tried to seek shelter behind a guy in front, until he moved to one side to let me pass.

I am on my own for the next mile into Timoleague, with the two front runners coming against me at the start of the short loop through the village. The  gap to the four or five runners I can see strung out in front of me is not closing - I have reached my cruising speed, although miles 2 and 3 have been much slower than my opening mile (post race splits of 6:14/6:24) I hope that the return leg, with the wind at my back will be faster. I pass the 5k mark with 19:22 showing on the Garmin - doesn't look like a sub-38 or even a Pb is on the cards this evening unless there is a serious injection of pace. Still the gap to those in front marginally reduces as we head back out the coast road to Courtmacsherry, with a constant stream of runners coming against us on the opposite side of the road.

If there's one thing that my endurance base has given me over the last few months it's the ability to churn out a reasonably hard pace for a reasonably long time, which stands to me now over the closing miles as we wind our way back to Courtmacsherry and the finish line. There are  about 7 runners strung out in front of me, including Carmel Crowley (2nd Lady) and a few with Bandon and St Finbarr singlets. My steady pace takes me past 2 guys as I slowly gain on Carmel and  2 guys from St Finbarrs (one of whom is running in Vibrams). I have no idea of pace or time, until I hit the 5 mile mark with 30:46 on the garmin - just about on PB pace (6:09) by my rough calculations.

I am on the shoulder of two guys at this stage and manage to pass one. The other guy, who had been running with him, put in a surge and is gone out in front. I keep a steady pace behind him but cannot close the gap, as I have absolutely no raw speed (This is where a few 400's at the track would come in handy). We continue on like this as the village gets closer and I start counting down the remaining time as the effort is beginning to show. I can see the finish line about 300m ahead when out of nowhere a young guy (19 or 20ish) in a Bandon top goes flying past me at twice my speed and proceeds to gain on and pass the guy in front. I have no response for that type of surge (and never will), but I do respond when I see the clock at the finish line ticking down 37:5x and put in my own little surge to cross under the finish gantry at 37:57 for a shiny new Pb and a sub-38 minute 10k. Very happy considering the shape my legs were in after last weekends endurance fest. Had I been a bit more focused in training for and targeting a 10k Pb I would have been aiming for somewhere between 37:10 and 37:30 - still it's nice to leave something out there to aim for.

I hadn't realised that there was a chip start and as I wasn't one of the Duracell bunnies on the front line it took me 5 seconds to cross the start line giving me a chip time of 37:52 and 16th place out of 331 (15th place on Chip time). I was also third M45, which netted me a cotton T-shirt to add to my vast collection, but it was never about the shirt.


Friday, 28 June 2013

Long Weekend - Part 2

This is a much shorter post. I was awake at 11 last Saturday morning, ready for the day ahead. While my legs were not too bad my whole body felt tired and washed out.............. no more than what you'd expect after a midnight marathon and a few hours sleep. Trouble is that I had put my name down for the Clonakilty Marathon Director's Invitational on Sunday morning and as it is my home marathon I could not leave it go. How difficult could it be. My philosophy was to test my endurance.......a bit like a mini version of the 10 in 10 coming up in Sixmilebridge next week. This should be a piece of cake compared to that, so my mantra was to "man-up".

I Drove down with clubmate John D and joined the small crowd (about 12) at the start line in Clon on a mild sunny morning. Two guys, Shane and Brian, were even more hard core than I, having squeezed in a trail marathon along the banks of the Royal canal which started at 1 on Saturday, 13 hours after they started the midnight marathon - 3 marathons in 2 days!!!

 My only plan was to run a sub 3:47 (my first and slowest marathon). The problem was that I left the Garmin at problem - race marshal, mobile water station volunteer and finish line timekeeper, Killian Walsh came to the rescue, giving me a loan of his Garmin 610 (much more sophisticated than my 305). 

Once the legs thawed out over the opening miles John and I kept a reasonably consistent effort over the 26.2 miles, taking in the coastal scenery that never fails to impress, eventually feeling the fatigue, which always creeps up on you, over the last 10k. We pushed the pace over the last few 100 yards to get under 3:38 - stopping the Garmin at 3:37:40. We refuelled on sugary coffee/tea and granola bars, while I also had a shake made up of apple juice and protein powder to get the muscle repair going as soon as possible. A very pleasant run - more like a very long club training run than a marathon. The "recovery" week after Portumna turned out to be my highest mileage week this year with 80 miles on the clock. I gotta make use of all this endurance base I have built up.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Long Weekend - Part 1

My cousin Liam ran the 100k in Portumna on June 15th. Despite the fact that he shouted out my name a few times out on the course (you can do that at 100k pace ;-), I ignored him most of the time, partially because I was bllind as a bat and also because I was so focussed on my own race plan that I did not see much around me, unless you happened to be the guy blocking my path with music blaring in your ears.

After I had finished I did have a brief chat with him in the ultra refuelling zone at the start/finish area, where, by way of helping him to get things from his bag, I helped myself to his treasure trove of goodies - ultra runners always overstock, so I knew he would not miss a thousand calories here or there. I had to head for home before he finished.

As I was working in the Kildare area last Friday I took the opportunity to stop off at Liam's place on the way home to catch up on old times and see how his 10:28 100k PB went. As chance would have it Liam's Club, Le Cheile AC, was hosting a midnight marathon that very night. "Why not come along and give it a go" he said, "it would be a bit of fun" - and you thought I was crazy.

As luck would have it my gear bag was in the car and I had told Abina that I was just popping out for a packet of cigarettes, so she wasn't expecting me home any time soon. So we both headed for the shop to stock up on rice cakes, jellies and coke and carb loaded on a quarter pounder with cheese at the local greasy grill (with equal measures of protein and fat, in case the carbs didn't work). Unfortunatly it is I that carrried the quarter pounder around the 26.2 miles rather than the other way round.

The course was 95 laps on the outside lane of the Grass Track at Le Cheile AC in Leixlip. It felt a bit odd heading out the door shortly after 11, saying goodnight to Paula and Zach (Liam's wife and son), dressed in running gear. I felt like I should be going to bed and my body concurred. There were about 40 other crazies lined up for the midnight start - I knew immediately that I had stepped into another realm, an alternative world where everything seemed strange, surreal......but only to me..........I was an imposter in an alien world..........this all seemed natural to those around me.........................

Look like you know what you're doing

Each runner was introduced to his "counter" before the start. These were the guys and gals who ticked off your 95 laps one by one as you passed them at the start/finish. Each counter had about 5 or 6 runners. Let me say from the outset that these guys/gals were excellent....imagine giving up 4 or 5 hours of your time to count people running around a field in the middle of the night, when you could be sleeping/clubing/watching re-runs of the Soprano's. Not only that but every time you passed they offered encouragement and checked to see that you were alright.....95 times! five or 6 runners!!!. made running around a field 95 time seem like a piece of cake (and it wasn't). My counter was Jarlaith. If he could be described in one word it would be "Solid". Everytime I passed I could hear him shout out "gottya Grellan" a safety net catching you,,,,,,,,,, as the last thing you wanted was an extra lap added to your run's funny how the seemingly small things take on a huge significance at 3 in the morning.

I started off reasonably conservatively, with about 6 runners out in front of me, including Rory Mooney, winner of the Portumna i know straight off that 2nd place was the best I could get. While the garmin pace was showing 7:20 to 7:30 pace the actual pace was about 15 seconds per mile slower...........something to do with reduced satellite accuracy when running around in small circles (The Garmin clocked 27.17 miles by the time I had finished). The effort felt more than the pace suggested, partly due to the time of day and partly due to the fact that I had run a marathon PB 6.5 days earlier.

It wasn't long before I was lapped by Rory and two other guys. To break the monotony I decided to up my pace and hang on to them for a few laps or half an hour if I could. After all it didn't feel too stressful. In the back of my mind was to finish reasonably early as I planned on driving home after the doesn't take that long to buy a packet of cigarettes. If I could get to bed before Abina rose for work shortly after 7 i'd be able to get to sleep in until 12 before domestic duties called.

My plan worked for a few laps until another guy came from behind and forged ahead, dragging Rory and one other guy in his wake. The pace was too fast for the other guy and I, so we ran on together for a while before he too fell off the pace as I passed the only girl among the 6 that had started in front of me.  6th place, with 3 more than a lap in front of me

It wasn't long before Rory and the other guy (Paul) lapped me for a second time. The guy in 3rd place came back to me and it wasn't long before I had lapped him and the 4th placed guy a couple of times. 4th place, I think ( I hadn't seen one of the guys that started in front of me - in reality it was more confusing on the night and I was not counting position).  While I had a drop bag with coke and a few gels in it I did not touch it all night. There was also a water table on the straight, which did not use either as it involved straying from the racing line.

My plan was to get to at least 66 laps before seeing if I could increase the pace and finish strong. The halfway point came in about 1:40, indicating a even pace 3:20 finish. Although I felt that I would have to work harder to stay on that pace to the end. Lap after relentless lap was counted down, surprised that I had not been lapped again by Rory and Paul. Then Frank McDermot told be that Rory had pulled out. 3rd place, by my calculation.  Although if someone had stopped to to take on water I could have passed them without knowing - doubful perhaps.

I ploughed on slowly clocking up the laps until i reach 65 laps and I can see an end in sight. I start counting down the last 30 laps, gradually increasing the pace with 20 laps to go. At some stage I remember passing one, then 2 guys that I had not passed before. One was Paul, who had been 2 laps in front (he had removed his rain jacket and I had not noticed). I was still only concentrating on my race plan of finishing strong if I could. I increased the pace with 10 laps to go and noticed the encouragement from Jarlaith increasing everytime I passed.

At some stage I heard someone say "you put 40 yards on him during the last lap"........all I though of was "who?"..........."where is he?.........."how far ahead is he?"............"is he more that a lap ahead?".........."Is he in first place and am I in second?".

All I could do was stick to my plan/pace and what will be, will be. The comments from the counter corner escalate to "he's getting faster with each lap"......"phenominal".........."great running Grellan", which encourages me to keep pushing the pace. With 3.5 laps to go I pass Paul and assume that I am in first place, but am not sure..........he could be a lap ahead for all I know.............I am running scared now as there are always footfalls behind me..................the counters are now instructing the slower runners to keep right and let the faster runners through on the left.........adding to excitement of the closing laps. I continue to push the pace counting down the last 2 laps and cross the finish line for the last time in 3:17:01. Paul finishes behind me in 3:17:41, with the third placed guy, Aidan, coming home in 3:21:14. All very close for a midnight marathon. With an overall average 7:30 pace, my closing laps @ 6:55 pace were enough to ensure a strong finish once I had taken the lead.

Where have all the other Zombies gone?
Following a light massage, refuelling on coffee and cake and a coodown lap with Liam I hit the long road for home, thankful that I had left the bottle of coke for the journey, with my head finally hitting the pillow at 6:30, sharing half an hour with Abina before she rose for work - unfortunately her instructions for the day fell on deaf ears..........zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Friday, 21 June 2013


The week since Portumna has went well. If it had been sunny on Sunday I would have went for a recovery jog, but the day was miserable so I stayed indoors and pigged out instead - given that it was Fathers Day my family indulged me in this pursuit, so we were all happy. Since then I have run 28 miles over four runs with the legs feeling a bit heavy earlier in the week but coming round pretty quickly. I am a bit wary of my good form and half expect it all to end in a stupid injury, so i'll keep it relatively slow for a while although I will continue with a reasonably high mileage until I decide which direction to go from here - either down into the realm of 5k to 10k races or into the abyss that is 26.2+++, one things for sure is that my next PB won't be in the Marathon.

My 5k splits in Portumna were pretty consistent up to lap 6 and then began to fall away as fatigue set in, leading to an overall positive split of about 2 minutes 1:26:22 & 1:28:13. In the end though I had a 6 minute margin on Brian in third place (3:02:32), who obviously faded more than me, as he himself predicted. Funnily enough my first half split would have been enough to win the half marathon by about 20 seconds, which was won by a woman (1:26:45) who had a clear 90 second margin on second place.

Off to a Wet Start (Photo Courtesy of Peter Mooney)

Early Days with Andrew (Photo Courtesy of Peter Mooney)

Slogging it out over the last 10k (Photo Courtesy of Peter Mooney)

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Marathon Training Week 10 of 10 (Time to Shit or get off the Pot)

My final training week for Portumna ended with a long run of 26.2 miles, where the programme called for 26.2 miles at target race pace, with recovery deferred to the end - a real ball breaker for sure!

With the 100k starting at 8, the 50k at 10, the Marathon at 12 and the half at 2 I was a little concerned that the 5k looped course through Portumna Forrest Park would get a bit congested, particularly over the closing stages of my marathon, when my ability to say "excuse me please" or "coming through on the left/right" would be severely tested and the temptation to abbreviate the request to something less polite would be overpowering, particularly over common sections of the course, with people running in both directions on a path 6 to 8 feet wide, some of whom wore earphones, oblivious to their surroundings.

I drove up with Clubmates Ann and John, with Denis, Neil and Charlie in the 50k advance party and Killian overnighting for the 100k.

We arrived in plenty of time to pick up our numbers and cheer on our clubmates who were already out on the course. The marathon started close to the village, 2.195km from the start of the 5k loop - so the plan was simple - a 2.195km run to the Forrest Park and 8 x 5 k loops of the park. Somehow counting 8 loops seemed far more palatable to the brain than breaking it down to miles or, god forbid, kms.

After donning our gear we managed to hitch a ride to the start line with race director Seb Locteau (real nice guy ;-). I still went for a short 4 minute warmup (7:09 pace @ 130 HR). The weather was very changeable with sunny spells and light rain - although the heavens opened up just 4 minute before the start as we all huddled under trees at the side of the road to keep dry for as long as possible. As the race had to start with exactly 4:00 on the clock (start of 100k) we lined up as the rain pelted down, although about 10 seconds into the race it stopped as suddenly as it had started and the sun came out. 

Peter Mooney, the only fast guy I knew on the start line (3rd in Cork in 2:35), strode into the lead, followed by a guy in red, with myself and another guy taking joint third spot - although we were soon relegated to joint 4th, as a guy in black passed us out and soon after moved into second position as we entered the Forrest Park. My opening pace is fairly relaxed, although in the high 6:40s is still sub-3 hour pace.

I got chatting to the guy beside me, Andrew, who said he was only running to half way as he had picked up the number from a mate who was unable to take part. That took the pressure off a bit as my competitive side was beginning to surface, despite the fact that I was running for a time and not a position - how was I to know the ability of those around me.

The garmin display was showing total time (to check against my pace band), lap pace (set to mile laps) and total average pace - which was moving down towards 6:40 during Lap 1 of 8. Before the lap was over we had passed the guy in red and were now in joint 3rd. I suggested that Andrew might be tempted to run the full given that a podium finish might be in the offing, but was silently releived when he said "not a chance" as his longest run in the last year was 10 miles - third place was uncontested for the moment - early days though.

Halfway through Lap 2, the 2nd placed guy in black pulls off the course in front of us, or at least I assumed he did as one minute I could see him and the next minute he was gone. Andrew and I continue on, with the lap and overall average pace coming down into the 6:30s. Early in Lap 3 we hear someone approaching fast from behind and settling in behind us instead of passing us out. Doubting that it is any of the 100k/50k front runners I look around and see the guy in black, who says he is quite content to run along with us, saying that he had to stop to take a stone out of his shoe. He introduces himself as Brian and asks are we going for sub-3 as we are currently on 2:53/54 pace. He reveals that his PB is 2:58 and that he more than likely will blow up during the second half - sweet music to my ears - although I am far from complacent as I could well blow up myself. I confirm that my PB is 2:56, but don't tell him that it is only 12 days old - can't show any sign of weakness ;-) We all run on together, with no obvious threat from behind as far as I can make out from the out and back section. Peter Mooney is comfortably well out in front.

Before Lap 3 is over Andrew begins to fall behind and Brian and I run on. We pass 16Kms (10 miles) just after 1:06 (post race splits suggest 1:05:58). During Lap 5 Brian begins to pull ahead. Looking at a "6:29" lap pace on the Garmin I am not concerned and continue on at my own pace. At the turnaround he is about 30 or 40 yards ahead and remains there until he gradually comes back to me as we cross the timing mat together with 5 Laps done - 3 to go.  He is a little surprised to see me, complimenting me, saying he thought I had fallen off the pace as he had kept the same pace/Hr. While he certainly had dropped me, my garmin suggested that it was more than likely due to a surge from him rather than any fade from me. Maybe he was trying to mess with my head - either way I was content to follow my own pace for as long as it would last. We ran on together, both of us content to have company to help pace each other. Approaching the Lap 6 turnaround (12.5km to go) Brian begins to fall behind. I continue on, still relatively comfortable in churing out a pace in the 6:30s/6:40s. I never know how far behind he is, but I am still running my own race.

The stress begins to come on as I cross the timing mat at the end of Lap 6 - 10k to go with about 2:12:36 on the clock (20 miles), which matched my pacing band exactly - although my pacing band had been arbitrarily based on a 2 mile cut-in from 7:00 pace to 6:35, with a very ambitious 6:35 pace all the way to a 2:53:30 finish. All I thought of now was that I needed a 42 minute 10k to get under 2:55. Could I run 2 x 21 minute closing 5k loops, which I equated to 6:52 (3 hr Marathon) pace.

The early pace of Lap 7 remains in the 6:30s but gradually fades. After the turnaround (7.5km to go) I keep an eye out for Brian, who is not too far behind - perhaps a minute or two - certainly not far enough to give me any level of comfort. I push the pace as comfortably hard as I can, taking the last swig from my gel (diluted honey, molasses and salt) before crossing the timing mat for the penultimate time, handing my gel belt (with car key) and bottle to Thomas, who was standing on the sideline having completed his "training 50k run".

5k to go with the clock showing 2:33:09 (I think) - just under 22 minutes to get under 2:55. I figure I need 7 minute miles to get there. The early lap pace shows 6:55 on the garmin. I try to push the pace to bring it down as much as possible but don't make much of a dent in it - the closing stage fade is well and truly upon me - this is where valuable time can be rapidly lost without realising it - putting a new meaning to the throwaway comment "how time flies". I'm counting down the closing kms. The drag up to the turnaround is tough - the usual greetings to fellow runners out on the course have faded to a weak thumbs-up. Coming off the turnaround there is no sign of Brian, so while I am "comfortably" in second place my focus is entirely on getting under 2:55 and now is not the time to relax.

Approaching the 1 km to go sign and I'm hoping for a 2:50:00 on the Garmin to give me a comfortable 5 minutes (8 minute pace) to achieve my target. However the Garmin gives me something like 2:50:20 and a 4:40 closing km requirement. In my energy depleted state I cannot convert this to my normal mile pace and assume that I need 7 minute mile pace and with the lap pace displaying "6:59" on the Garmin I am far from relaxed. I am on the last long stretch before the final turn to the finish with the time showing 2:52 - 3 minutes remaining - counting down each minute in 90 strides -

"reach the tall trees at the end of the path in the first 90 strides" - 2:53:08

"reach the end of the trees and the final left turn in the second 90 strides" - 2:54:00

"I'm surely going to make it now just 100 yards or so"

- punching the air as I cross the finish line with 2:54:35 on the clock, exhausted by the effort of the last 3 -10 - 20 minutes, even if they are the slowest miles of the day.

I might have relaxed a bit more over the closing km had my brain been able to correctly convert a 4:40 km to 7:31 mile pace.

Who was there to greet me as I crossed the line but Kate Harrison, the Girl whom John and I had paced to a 4th place 2:28 (correction 3:28) PB finish in Limerick at the start of May - a fitting end to a marathon PB day. Kate had volunteered for race support for the day.

2 Marathons PBs in 12 days is certainly contrary to conventional wisdom. However I am confident that it is a once off and never to be repeated.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Marathon Training Week 9 of 10

Final Preparation

Only one week of my marathon training programme remains. Recovery from last Monday's marathon paced "training run" went quite well with a slow recovery 6 mile run on grass on Tuesday. In fact most of my running this week has been on grass with heavy legs for a few days but no niggles or DOMs.

The last two specific sessions of the programme are a 10 to 12 mile long run, 8 days out (Friday) and 2 x 1 mile @ 10k pace, 6 days out (today). I deferred Friday's "long run" until Satuday morning so that I could join the 7:30 pace Club run, only to show up half an hour late. I ran the route in reverse so as to meet up with the group and return with them. The pace was a little faster than planned, hitting 7:13 average over 12.28 miles on a beautiful sunny morning.

I returned to the grass this evening for my last speed session - 1 mile warmup followed by 4 x 30 second strides, 2 x 1 mile @ 10k pace and 1 mile warmdown. I assume the purpose of the session is to get a little speed in my legs in the final build up, without taxing them too much and  ensure they are fully recovered and fresh for Saturday's race. I selected 6:00 pace for the mile repeats, which came in in 5:56/57 with a 2:30 slow jog recovery in between. The effort felt closer to 5k than 10k pace, but i'm not too concerned.

The last 5 days of the programme consist of 13 miles of running over 4 easy sessions, 2 of which have 4 x 100m @ 5k pace thrown in, just to keep a bit of zip in the legs. The work is done all I have to do now is resist the temptation to do something stupid. To be quite honest I have no expectations going into Saturday's marathon, just show up and run a smart race and adjust  my plan for the two unknowns - 

(i) the weather - with a noon start and the recent spell of sunny weather it could be a bit warm out there and

(ii) recovery from the Cork City Marathon - while my legs and body feel pretty good going into the last week, I will not know how well recovered I actually am until I hit mile 20, particularly if the sun does come out to play.

Marathon Reflection

I've attempted to breakdown my splits for last Monday's marathon. The first half in 1:29:43 was at a farily predictable pace of 6:51. The second half in 1:26:19 was covered in an average pace of 6:35 (16 seconds per mile faster) giving an overall average pace of 6:43, only 3 seconds per mile slower than my "training " marathon pace.

My fastest miles from 13.1 (1:29:43) to 20 (2:14:23) were at an average pace of 6:29, slowing to an average of 6:42 over the final 10k, although the last 2 miles were slower as I remember looking at my pace band at the 40K and 25 mile marks and concluding that I was 4 minutes ahead of 3 hour pace, which is where I finished - suggesting that the last mile or 2 were at 3 hour pace (6:52) - still not a bad fade. The big unknown however is how bad the fade would have been had I "raced" the entire distance - could I have achieved the sub 2:55 as Thomas suggests or would an opening 1:27 half have been enough to kill my pace over the closing 10k. We'll never know.

3.5 Mile In - Still Comfortable

RacePix: Cork City Marathon 2013
Mile 26 - Nearly There (Courtesy of

Weighty Matters

I am now 3 months into my new "diet" and my weight has continued to drop with apparently obvious advantages - with 2 PBs under my belt, one of which came out of the blue. My weight has fluctuated day to day and there have been longer spells of up to a week where I have gained weight, particularly the week before the Cork Marathon where my average weight climbed from 76.1 kg (167.8 lbs) to 76.8 (169.3 Lbs) - I weighed in at 77.5 kg (170.9 lbs) on marathon morning, which I partly put down to taking on more carbs, which promotes more water retention for a well hydrated body. Overall I have lost 7.2 kg (16 lbs) in 12 weeks but would expect it to taper off from here on in. However I will continue with the lifestyle as it is quite easy to follow (only one rule) and see where it takes me.

Weekly Mileage - 65 Miles
Average Weight - 76.4 Kg.
RHR - 39

Monday, 3 June 2013

Pacing My Way to a Marathon PB

I am a fan of the cut-in, particularly for the longer races. My Marathon PB in 2011 was achieved using a 6 mile cut-in - I didn't catch the 3 hour pacers until Mile 8.  A few weeks ago a plot began to hatch in my head. The Cork Marathon was two weeks out from the goal of my training programme - Portumna 26.2 on 15th June. Pacing 3:30 (my normal gig) would only tire me out and be of no training benefit so I opted for the 1:30 half, which would give me some decent race pace miles. However the 1:30 slot was congested with high quality pacers already so, in the absence of an overall 3 hour pacer, I recruited Conor Anderson to pace one half of the 3 hour full (with yours truly doing the other half), although with a 58 minute result in the hilly Cobh 10 miler, Conor was more than capable of pacing the whole distance. I even gave him the second "glory" half to pace, although I had an ulterior motive (sneaky fecker me). Firstly I wanted to get at least 15 miles in at MP and I wasn't going to run a 2 mile MP warmup/cooldown. Secondly (and here's where the real sneaky bit came in), if the form was good (and the weather conditions allowed!) I would push on for a full 26.2 mile MP run. To be quite honest, there's no turning back if i'm still running out of town along the South Link Road at Mile 16.5.

The first half went pretty well, although I had to do about a mile warmup around the back streets of the City Centre, to get me to 6:50 pace effort. I had a good crew with me from the off, including clubmate Ken (who was gunning for his first sub-3)  - christ, what am I talking about! Last time out I was part of that crew - I was a hairs breadth away, ability wise, from those around me (and that hair could be in either direction) - "faking it" big time ;-)

The morning was a bit humid, but the cloud cover kept the sun from striking. I lost my baloon around mile 5, but still had a laminated card on my back "3:00 - 1st Half", strategically velcro'ed on, so that I could whip it off later. I had built up a cushion of about 20 seconds by the time Conor joined us at Mile 12 on the Mahon Walkway, mentally relaxing over the next mile as Conor took over - passing the half way in 1:29:43.

After crossing the timing-mat I whipped the "bill board" from my back and bid Conor and the gang "Adieu" and struck out on my own, still unsure of my plan, other than to pick up the pace and see how I get on over the next 3 miles, which would take me back into town (where my car was parked anyway). I pressed the lap button on the Garmin to assess pace and would not touch the watch again until I finished. The pace in the walkway towards the Marina was reasonably steady in the high 6:20's (Garmin), as I passed one or two - a bit more lonely out there now. I had expected to merge with the HM runners before the 15 mile mark, where both courses converged and shared the same route to the finish. The half was to start 1:30 after the full so I would expect to be surrounded by the sub-1:30 half marathoners. No sign of them - maybe they started a little late - turns out they started nearly 30 minutes late, so the course would remain pretty lonely.

By the time I got to the 3rd relay changeover (Mile 16.3) the average pace on the Garmin read 6:23 (so about 6:26/27 real pace). My better than best plan was to keep the "real pace" sub 6:30 to the finish for a sub 2:55 result, but with the toughest part of the course in front of me that was going to be a tough ask.

My fuel consisted of a gel flask in my pocket containing a mixture of honey (90%), black strap molasses (9.9%) and salt (0.1% pinch) watered down a little to make it reasonably squeezable but not too watery so as to minimise weight - plenty of water out there on the course (ps water stations were excellent). The "gel" did turn out a bit on the viscous side and required a fair bit of coaxing out of the flask. I waited until the half was complete to take my first swig of it's sweet nectar, forgetting that there was no water station around to wash it down. I used it again twice (miles 17 and 22 approx).

The pace slowed to 6:27 average running out the South Link, up the ramp and down to Turner's cross, still running reasonably strong, spotting a group of 5 ahead including clubmate Tony, who ran 2:56 4 weeks ago in Limerick. I gradually reel them in and pass by at Ballypheane Church (Mile 19), one of the guys worriedly querying whether or not I was still pacing 3 hours and relaxing when i assured him I wasn't.

I am still keeping a steady pace although the average reading on the garmin fluctuates between 6:27 (bottom of downhills) and 6:29 (top on inclines). I pass the 20 Mile mark with 2:14:23 showing on the garmin - over a minute and a half ahead of the 2:16:00 I had for my 2:59:19 finish in Dublin 2011and feeling stronger.

The legs were feeling the effects now, particularly on the uphills but still able to open up on the downhills until they are behind me as I turn right on Inchagaggin Lane and then right onto the Straight Road, where the gentle easterly wind blows directly into my face for the next mile and a half, passing Miles 23 and 24 with the average pace now showing 6:30 - at least 30 to 45 seconds behind my 2:55 finish. The last 2.2 mile are all about holding it together as the effort become noticeably harder and "6:31" comes on the garmin - knowing that each second creep in average pace is a 13 second addition to my goal.

I divide the closing 2 miles into 5 sections -

  1. Kingsley to Top of Mardyke - keeping the pace as solid as I can
  2. Mardyke Walk - Long and straight, can't wait until it's over (40km mark) - finally left onto
  3. Distillery Walk - Over the bridge - past the 25 mile mark - very quite here as there are no spectators on the walk - finally onto the
  4. North Mall - finally a bit of support and encouragement from the crowds, although the route along the north bank of the River Lee to the Opera House Bridge becomes a bit of a drag until at last I am on
  5. Camden Quay and turning right onto Particks Bridge and Pana, being pulled home by the crowds, but as the street is curved I cannot see the finish line and when I think I can see it, it turns out to be a "timing-mat" to "introduce" runners to the MC at the real finish line, hearing him welcome home the second and third placed women, Angela McCann and Nollaig O'Neill. I spot 2:55:5x on the clock, but my final push isn't enough to get under 2:56 - funny how a 2:55:57 feels so much better that a 2:56:01, which is my final chip time, delighted with my result, which is a PB by over 3 minutes and a finish that is certainly less dramatic than the last time. Clubmate Ken crosses the line a few minutes after me, punching the emotionally charged air in sheer delight after his 2:58:58 finish.
My half splits were 1:29:43 (60th overall) and 1:26:19 (30th overall), indicating that I passed 30 of the 59 that were in front of me at the halfway point - the only way to run a marathon ;-) What a day!

Since I broke 3 hours in Dublin 2 years ago, I had wondered whether or not it was a "once off"
and would I be able to do it again and today was all about proving that I wasn't a "one hit wonder"

What to do in Portumna on Saturday week is the next challenge - upgrade to the 50k perhaps and try for a different PB! The best part of today was the pint and sandwich in good company at the "Long Valley" after the race - much better than honey and black strap molasses any day - the best races are always run (relived) in the pub.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Marathon Training Week 8 of 10 (First PB of the year)

Most of the work is done. The two most challenging session of the final 3 weeks are

  • 18 Days out - 17 mile run with 15 @ MP (5, 4, 3, 2 & 1 mile with 2 minute rests)
  • 11 days out - 5/6 x 1 mile @ 10M Pace (LT pace and no faster)
As I traditionally pace the Cork City Marathon on the June weekend (12 days out) I opted to pace the first half of the 3 hour marathon instead as part of my scheduled 15 miles @ MP - close enough and certainly more training benefit than pacing the full distance at a slower pace.

This meant that I would have to run the 5/6 x 1 mile @ 10M pace as part of my scheduled track session on Tuesday. However as most of the club would be running the John Buckley 5k at the Marina I decided last minute to give that a go instead - ok the pace would be faster and the distance shorter, but it sounded far more attractive than running laps of the track to a specific time. Yet I was half afraid to race it as I didn't think I had the necessary speed in my legs and the willingness to go through the pain that normally comes with the shoter races. Afterall my attempt at 5 x 1 mile @ 6 minute pace a few weeks ago did not inspire me and i'd need to break 6 minute pace average to get a PB (sub 18:39).

For me the thing about racing a short race is to get a good long warmup in, gradually increasing the pace from a gentle jog to a few minutes at race pace within 5 to 10 minutes of the start, so my body is ready for the hard effort from the gun. With all my preparation I managed to leave the Garmin on the kitchen counter at home - the HR monitor around my chest would be no good. This was probably a blessing in disguise because I know I would be guided by my watch/pace throughout the race as opposed to listening to my body. I managed a 3 mile warmup with nieghbout Ian, whom I had coaxed into coming along. A few minutes of fast pace running (no garmin, so I can't say what pace - oh the freedom) and I am on the start line a few rows back. It's pretty tight as we are pushed back behind the start line before the race can start. After the gun I take it easy as there is a mad rush to get started and one wrong step and you'd end up on the deck with hundreds of feet trampling over you. The course is pancake flat - my last run here was 3 years ago when I came within 1 second of my PB (18:40).

I set off at a comfortably hard pace passing Mile 1 in 5:46 (timekeeper) in the shadow of Clubmate Ronan, who was aiming for beating his previous time of 18:26. I was pleasantly surprised by the time, but had been there before in a 5k, early days. The pace/effort remained the same, passing Mile 2 in 11:33, still on the same pace, although I translated this time in my head as a need to run a sub 5:30 last mile to get under 18 minutes - in hindsight I was thinking of a 5:27 mile to get 17:00 for 3 miles.

I continued on pushing the pace and passing one or two runners who were flagging more than me, the pace still hard but manageable. Past the 3 Mile mark (no timekeeper) so running blind towards the finish line (no glasses either) delighted to see 17:5x as the finishing clock came into focus, pushing to cross over the line in 17:57 (5:46 pace - even all the way). Delighted!

The race between 3rd and 4th Female was taking place around me over the closing stages, with both finishing just in front of me. They obviously had a bigger incentive than I to run "eyeballs out". My Pb got me 70th overall out of 968 finishers, showing how strong the field was. I thought it was a breakthrough race (and it was in terms of breaking a 5 year Pb) but my 1:22:32 HM in 2011 suggests that my 5k equivalent should be 17:50.

Mile 2.8 - surrounded by Clubmates Austin and Ronan

The remainder of a week was spent running 5 to 8 milers at a reasonable pace with my medium long run deferred until tomorrow's MP session at the Cork City Marathon - should be fun. Best of luck to all those running/pacing the full, half and relay.

Weekly Mileage - 44 Miles
Avg Weight - 76.8 Kg
RHR 37