Monday, 27 January 2014

Well, what would John Treacy do?

Coming through the other side of Christmas and into the new year with pretty good leg's (b.m.s) I went to Little Island last Sunday just east of Cork city to test myself at the Cork bhaa four miler, doesn't sound much but four mile's is plenty long enough to find out what kind of form your in after a three month break from racing. After forgetting the garmin I had to enquire as to what sort of pace we were doing at the half way point, this was enough to crack my shoulder companion (which wasn't my intention ..... honest) and after informing me we were running at 5.50 mile pace I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable I was going, this time last year I struggled to maintain 6.10 pace for the same distance. A quick cup of tea, a few bun's and off home, happy to be taking my new found knowledge into the first big road race of the year, The John Treacy Dungarvan 10 mile on the following Sunday.

A far from ideal run up to the weekend had me happy enough not to expect too much on Sunday for a number of reason's, the main one being I have never ran well here and have alway's used it as a race to clear out the cobweb's and try to move up a gear from here on in toward's the rest of the season. At 10 mile's it's a bit of a stretch, although I'v eight 12/13 mile training runs in the leg's since the middle of November I still feel like I should have more at that distance to finish strongly.

Warming up with John (not Treacy) I was happy to find I still had last week's leg's on, cruising in the bright winter sunshine I had reason to believe that I might be on another good day, a vote of confidence from my shoulder buddy confirmed it, and like my last 10 miler in Mallow last March I decided to go out the road 6min. miling.

An unfortunately timed funeral procession delayed us just enough to be positioned perfectly under an impressive black thundercloud that dumped it's content's on the 1600 singlet clad runner's, nullifying any benefit that was gained from a warm up 15 min. earlier. Still, much happier here than as part of the funeral procession.

By the time we were going through the first mile marker it was a deluge, the heavy rain had formed deep pool's on both side's of the road connected by fast flowing stream's of ice cold water. Memories of what it's like to race a bike in these condition's was some consolation and going into mile two I was really enjoying it,  heavy hail being driven by 45 mph gust's from the left must have had some wondering what they were doing out here at all, but today my good leg's were having a major positive effect on my mindset.  For those with thought's of jacking it in, and we've all been there, today must have been difficult. I mean, what would John Treacy do? what would John Treacy think if a bit of sub zero hailstone was the deciding factor in any one runner calling it a day? I shudder to think. I know what he'd do. He'd nail it, he'd dish it out like there's no tomorrow, and he'd love every minute of it. He'd revel in it , his heart would sink with a break in the cloud's, the tougher the better, that's what he'd like. So, if you were to jack it in today, just don't let him see ya.

The elite's going through the first mile squinting through the downpour  (pic. courtesy Cork running blogspot)

So I'm there, cruising through mile three, mile four, through mile five at 29.45 in familiar company with sometime training partner's Mike and John from St. Catherine's and I'm totally in control with the most exposed part of the course almost behind us, around the hairpin and it's bye bye to the headwind. What would John Treacy do? he'd nail it right now, he'd do it to test his rival's, soften them up. I'm not J.T though, I'll sit tight, 10 mile's is 10 mile's and I'v still to pull off an hour at 10mph. I have to contain myself, I'm not home yet.

Mile 6 and I get a sting thro' the outside of both thigh's and it's not going away, as the meter's pass it's starting to take over all of my thought's and I'm having to reset the default setting's as the alarm bell's start to ring, this is not good. How can you go from being so comfortable to almost deranged in the space of four/five minutes. On another day I could possibly deal with it better but now I think I'm paying the price for the laid back attitude I brought to the race this morning. If I was more 'up for it' I'd have been ready for the influx of lactate and would have been ready to deal with it accordingly, I was so comfortable early on I had forgotten about the inevitable. What would JT do, he'd run through it of course, he'd look around him, feel the pain and soak it up, soak it up just that 1% more than his rival's until he'd cracked them.

I cracked with two and a half to go, mentally first as alway's. It's the head that decide's what too much pain is on any given day. the leg's concur. Massive dissapointment for a few second's, pull yourself together, go again, to my surprise I manage to get going again which lead's me to thinking I shouldn't have cracked in the first place. "FFS what was that about, there they go up onto the main road". Torrent's of personal verbal abuse ensue and the last two mile's are ran in desperation and hope, maybe the pacer is running with a lot to spare. Downhill with a tailwind for the last mile, maybe I'll make it up? I didn't look at the watch, just ran. 60.10 when the clock came into view, 60.43 crossing the line. A lot faster than what I'd thought coming down in the van, but the manner at how it came about?  Somewhere between bemused and amused it's a good start to the year and the sense of relief on crossing the line after an effort like that is worth a million dollar's.

50mtrs to go, the sufferfest is almost at an end and the winter cobwebs are a thing of the past
(pic. courtesy Dave Colman - DC Images

What would JT do? he'd give himself a good talking to, that's what he'd do.



Thursday, 16 January 2014

It's not about the bike

Scene 1

- Enter myself. Lacing up my shoes, tired and dishevelled. Still trying to wind it up after a laid back Christmas. The skies are heavy with rain and I'm somewhere between 'not giving a rat's ass' and 'I better do a bit' with two week's to my first race.
- Enter the coach. Lacing up his shoes, Motivated and eager, annoyingly so. They're not all like this. Just my one, that's how he does it. He used to cycle, now he run's. Just like me.

- Yawn's a  "Hi"
- "Hey man, your a bit sluggish? not to worry, there's a long year there."
- "Ah ya, I'l be grand"
- "Pfffft, you'll be grand! what have you been at since October?"
- "I'v been tipping away, *u*k you very much, matter of fact I'm quite chuffed with myself, you got me on a bad day."
- "Ha, your getting old I suppose. You probably need to up your game a bit. You might get in some sort of shape for April and May if you start getting a bit specific now. The impending trip to the Dungarvan 10 for your annual hiding is just around the corner, good to see your in the right form to keep up the tradition."
Coach get's dirty look.
- "What tradition?"
I get a confused one back, confused because he can't figure out why I don't know what he's talking about.
- "Go out too fast, lock up with lactate and hang on for dear life for the last 8 miles only to end up coming in a minute slower than your last attempt"...............
-"nyyeah, well, I'll probably go out handy this time"
-"If you got yourself fit you could go out fast and and hold it to the finish"
-"Don't worry, there's a long year there, Either way, It'll (Dungarvan 10) clear out the cobweb's and get the race head in gear."

Conversation fade's to make way for one of the many hill's on the route. A few lap's on a local trail. The rain's coming down heavy from a thick bank of fog clinging to the top's of the surrounding trees and the stream that split's the loop down the middle is swollen and brown. If I came on my own I'd be in heaven, but I'v got to entertain this guy. Glad to say we're on a par as I start to find my feet.

-"I can go uphill just like you"
- panting "that's promising, but I'm no mountain goat"
-"not today anyway"
-"If you've got it don't be afraid to test me"
-"Your grand, I'm enjoying this pace, today is all about the intrinsic benefit's of getting out for a run and all the benefit's that go with it. Ya know, endorphin's an all that"
-"WTF, is that really you I'm listening to? a f***in philosopher now. You must have been out last night or else your getting soft."

Conversation's die and we get comfortable in the silence. A heightened awareness of our surround's put's the small talk to bed. It's irrelevant. The rain get's heavier, the tree's get greener, eleven miles done, I could stay out here all day like this but there's stuff to be done. The deep green's and brown's make way for the drab grey's of tarmac, concrete and raincloud's on the last two mile's into town.

Whatever happen's in the meantime , come Sunday we'll get up and do it again.  



Wednesday, 25 September 2013

"This is going to be a good one"

 I entered the Charleville half marathon a couple of month's back with the intention of having a good crack off it and with a week to go I had no reason to think I couldn't. An out of focus 84min. half in Blarney led me to believe I could knock a bit off it in what was billed 'The flattest fastest half marathon in the country'. I had no reason to believe otherwise as I'v ridden the same road's numerous time's over the year's, they were flat back then and unless there were a few EU funded hill's installed in the meantime (stranger thing's have happened) it was going to be pretty flat. Flat, straight, scenic, big number's, slightly downhill first mile, all the ingredient's for a fast run.

I knew I was starting to take thing's serious in the preceding week as I started hitting the hay an hour earlier than normal, cutting back on the coffee intake and even started sitting down whenever the opportunity presented itself. With this new found dedication and the strain on my everyday willpower I convinced myself that Sunday was going to be a good one. I shoved the elephant out of the room (have I enough mileage done?, what about tempo run's?) and concentrated on the positives, (I can run three 5.40 miles in a row, surely on a good day I can run a flat thirteen at 6.10/6.20). I'll never be accused of being too scientific in my approach to racing, I like to keep thing's simple.

Sunrise over the Nagle mountain's on the road to Charleville

Sunday morning, blue skies, 16deg C. The drive across north Cork was nice, a light fog giving way to crisp sunshine over the Nagle mountains accompanied by some nice tune's and strenghtening thought's of a solid run in over an hour's time. When the head is right and the stars align there is a lovely rhythm to a race day like this. Rise early for a bite (literally) to eat, have a coffee, lie down again, get up again, throw the gear in a bag. Get in the van, put on some music and zone out, all in slow motion. Get to Charleville, runner's warming up, who's here? rising heart rate even though experience tell's me it doesn't matter who's here because I'll end up racing myself in the end. Thought's of the level's of suffering involved if I'm going to go quicker today than the last outing don't bother me too much as I'm up for it. Warming up with Mike, he's on the same boat and looking for a time to get him keyed up for Dublin in October. Runner's reducing their warmup to within a couple of hundred metres of the start line mean's it's nearly time to go. Come ........ On ........... Get the show on the road.

A wind and gravity assisted 5.50 first mile was a bit faster than intended but make hay while the sun shine's I say, I pull it back a bit for mile two and set the watch to show average pace instead of minutes per mile pace. Don't know why, never did before. Through mile two pretty comfortable, mile three doubting Thomas makes his presence felt, "thirteen mile's ooh, your feeling a bit adventurous today" average 6.10. Mile four and the road doesn't look that flat from here and my leg's concur. The group I'm in disintegrate's pretty fast and by mile five I'v found a comfortable pace at the head of a group of four or five. The strange sight of  four runner's pulling out in the space of a few hundred metres and then some more was a clear sign that the temperature was starting to take it's toll. Relieved to have found a reason for the decreasing average pace, now 6.15, and starting to feel unsure of how I might handle the next eight miles.

Approaching the halfway mark in Kilmallock there wasn't a whole lot to be happy about either, leg's getting heavier by the mile I threw back a gel. This was significant as I havn't had a gel in two year's, I'm not convinced by their effectiveness or their dental health benefit's. Five minutes later and I start to find my feet and pull back a few runner's, jesus those gel's work. "OK, time to start pulling back the average", Unfortunately I would have needed two more of them to get me the last five mile's to the finish and the 'come down' off the only one I had was dramatic. Officially 'bate' with three to go I took a stroll thro' the last water station, this was significant too, I hadn't done that since last year's Cork to Cobh at roughly the same distance. This disgust's me as I'm out for a run and not a stroll, so did I actually 'run' the Charleville half marathon?, most of it I suppose.

Post race, a lot of runner's were scratching their head's and wondering where they left their race leg's. Heat and humidity and possibly a bit of over enthusiasm to get a fast time on a fast course all played their part in the slog. the benefit of a hard day at the office will show up at a later stage in the form of a good day at the office, what doesn't kill ya makes you stronger they say.

A steep learning curve over the last few week's on the longer distance's, I'm a bit wiser now as to how to handle these race's. Increased mileage is a must, almost as important physically as psychologically. When you start to doubt yourself early on it fester's in the brain and the race to the line become's more of a struggle than something to be enjoyed.

let's not over analyse, who gives a shit at the end of the day. A run in the sun, that's what it was and who's fit to complain about that round here.

M 1 - 5.51
M2 - 6.12
M3 - 6.16
M4 - 6.31
M5 - 6.37
M6 - 6.40
M7 - 6.36
M8 - 6.24
M9 - 6.46
M10 - 7.03
M11 - 7.48
M12 - 6.58
M13 - 6.37

Av. 6.39


Saturday, 14 September 2013

To hell and back in 12 minutes

Apart from the dizzy spells and shortness of breath brought on by going from zero to 13 miles an hour in 30 second's the first mile is pretty easy. Adrenaline ease's the pain and your waiting for the moment where you find your rhythm. The journey to hell starts when we hit the one mile marker at the bottom of a 3/4 mile climb.

The last 5K of the summer season wasn't loaded with heavyweight's which made it a more open affair than normal. Frank Hayes and Brian Hegarty representing two of Cork's heavyweight club's, East Cork and Leevale put daylight between themselves and the next man from the off. This left seven or eight of us scratching our head's to see who was going to take up the running behind.

Next up was Conor Tierney, I decided to go with him. That's when the trip to hell started, joined by an inform Johnny O Sullivan (when is he not?), we were now a trio half way up the climb following the two leaders. Trying to ignore the accumulating lactic acid is a skill in itself and something you become accustomed to over time. Fitness levels will dictate how much of it you can deal with and a strong mind can put up with a lot too. I'm up for it tonight, it's kind of a home race. Neighbouring St. Nick's AC are running it and the start is a 10 minute drive from my place.

Pleasantly surprised and growing in confidence going over the top with these two, Johnny moved it up a gear to open a gap and leave us where he found us. Now I'm the weaker of the two, struggling to keep form and my breathing has gone wildly out of control. Hearing footsteps from behind is soul destroying, the thought of someone else joining the party is frightening. Then they disappear. Hey, we must be moving, whoever it was is after cracking. The intensity is insane, the noise in my head is deafening and it's just noise, no music, no word's, just a loud machine in a noisy dark factory. I couldn't be further away from the controlled effort of last Sunday's half marathon. At the end of mile two I'm pretty much out of it trying to hang onto my East Cork companion, he know's it too.

It's a novelty to see the leader of the race with a little over a mile to go, ok it's a long straight but still it's a plus to know I'm in the same parish as him. Still hanging onto Tierney inside the last mile and the head finally goes. I don't know what caused it this time, I knew the threat from behind had dissipated? I knew I wouldn't beat Tierney in a sprint for the line? am I getting soft letting him off? happy with fifth? Can't put my finger on it but the head went. When the head goes the leg's go. The head alway's goes first. You decide to give up, then you release yourself from the torture of the last 10 minute's, still suffering all the way to the line but at a different level, you still have to get to the line, your still being chased from behind, there's a good time at stake.

Pulling strange face's on the finishing straight, bystander's wondering "why do they do it at all?", crossing the line, it's finally over. The pressure release is huge, jelly leg's force me to take the nearest seat on the road against the side door of a ford focus. Quote of the night from an old friend "Sure these thing's are nothing to you".

Next stop, Charleville half, lacking on the mileage but happy with the form.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Cork Half Marathon

Saturday 6pm

"Should be done and dusted at this stage". The original plan to head for the Dingle half on Saturday morning didn't happen, working late, kid's starting swimming lesson's and life in general decided The three hour trip to west Kerry wasn't going to happen. Luckily there's a plan b and even a plan c to mull over for the evening. The Cork half marathon in Blarney is on at 11 in the morning and there's a 12 mile trail run from Ballyhooley to Killavullen and I'm finding it hard to choose. The half in Blarney is the logical choice but the trail run has a big curiosity and novelty draw. In the end a night of heavy rain has me scampering for a lift to Blarney early Sunday morning.

Indecision and a lack of conviction has thrown me out of focus and I'm finding it hard to visualise a plan. All week I could see myself running hard all the way to Dunquin, now I have to contend with trying to memorise the road out through Waterloo and to the turnaround at Grenagh. In the early nineties I'd have ridden in this same road in a group of forty or fifty cyclists 20 minutes down on the stage winner in the Blarney three day. The state I would have been in and the amount of water under the bridge in the meantime leave's me clueless of what's in store. All I'v got is a course profile that goes slightly up for the first half of the race and slightly down for the second.

Still sleepy it's a struggle to get in gear. Last night's rain has stopped which mean's I will actually line up for the start, I don't mind the rain but when your not up for it, it can be hard to face. This is my longest race in 12 month's and mentally I need to get to grip's with it without letting it get on top of me.

Sunday 11.04am

"Take it handy, ease into it". Sweating more than normal after half a mile, negativity rear's it's ugly head "f***in head cold I bet, this'll be a disaster". Looking for the positive's, the leg's don't feel too bad. One thing that's hard not to notice is the much calmer pace than I'v become accustomed to in the five milers and five K's of the past few month's.

That was quicker than I'd planned, ease off a small bit. Difficult now as already I'm part of a strong group with plenty of shelter in number's. I'm not confident at this distance, confidence can only come with the knowledge that you've got the mile's in the leg's and at this stage I'm doubtful. How can I let this group go?

Increasing gradient and a steady pace that's a bit too much for me forces me to leave them off, It's not good for the head but on my own between group's I settle down a bit. runner's are passing me in one's and two's, any encouragement from them is met with a blank stair and silence or a grunt. Oh the smug satisfaction and faux concern as one runner passes another. This time I'm on the receiving end. "well done, keep going!!" "WTF"

Ok, starting to settle in to a group here. I reckon I'm the youngest. For comfort I tell myself they're all seasoned marathon runner's, they're tough as nail's and it's a good group to be in. Sweating a lot, there's temporary relief as I start to feel the groove, The sound effects of six pairs of feet hitting the ground in unison over and over again is hypnotic, no word's spoken. I don't know if I'm totally concentrated on the job or if I'm away with the fairies. "Stay with these guy's to mile 9 and see if you can up the pace to the finish", "Top 10 in the lost sheep, where did that come from? jeez Timmy's flying",  "Might go to Lombard's to watch the match later".

There's David McCarthy. He'd walk at this pace. Nearing the end of his season he's probably down to watch a few friend's. "How do I notice these thing's?, did anyone else see him?" The incline has increased and I'm comfortable in the group but the thought of the suffering involved if I push on at this stage is keeping manner's on me and the head's not as strong as it could be. This is mile five, eight to go and it's still a long way out.

Still climbing we're fragmenting a bit and six soon become's three two's. That's Ok as I'm half of the first two heading for the turnaround. "must book the van in for the DOE", I'm starting to think that maybe I'll be able to finish strong, I'll hold on another while, I'm still a bit doubtful.

The leader's have passed us in the opposite direction, it's an out and back course, They're motoring. 66 minutes will win it today for Alan O Shea. "How do you run that fast?" They're a distraction. Big gap's between the first three open the floodgate's for the rest who've now become a steady stream of faster runner's than me. Clubmate Brian passes me looking very comfortable, I wondered if he could sustain the pace he went out the road at, now I'v no doubt, he's on the way home looking strong and can smell the line.

Five to go. This is what I'm used to, feeling Ok? I step on the gas a bit and I'm able to take it, the guy who's been dangling out in front of me for the last few mile's has just gone backward's under my left shoulder and now my back's up. "Keep it steady". I'm starting to pass and recognise some of the concerned runner's who passed me in the early stage's. "Well done, keep it going"

Hitting a few long straight section's on the approach to Waterloo I can see a lot of runner's, they're all f***ed at this stage. I know because we've all been there. I was there thirty minutes ago and I'll be there again but for now I'm running controlled and feeling strong and I'll pick a lot of them off in the next twenty minute's, still sweating a lot, worry about that later. For now just enjoy it.

Relieved to have got out of the morning stupor I'm in cruise mode, controlled breathing, controlled heart rate (No stat's, heart monitor strap went missing in February). Still holding back, this state is rare and has to be enjoyed when it come's along, leaving the leg's up to their own device's covering good ground with relative ease, I'm looking at the 11 mile marker to throw it all out there to the finish. The finish is Just short of the more intense five K's that I'm more used to.

Now I'm in familiar territory. Confident of getting to the line in one piece if  I open it up at this stage, I start to scream a bit and the muscles start to tighten. Quite alright in these circumstances, starving the muscles of oxygen, they're perfectly within their right's to make me hurt. Think of something to take my mind off the pain. "It's Kate's tracksuit day tomorrow and don't forget to put the tin whistle in her bag", "concentrate for f*** sake". I'v passed 10 or 12 runner's in the last two  mile's but one of the first I passed is still hanging in there. The fourth lady on the road has the third in her sight's and her ability to deal with the change of pace is impressive. I'm running pretty hard.

Two to go, settle a bit, still picking off runner's. It's a new experience to have a solid finish at this distance. Probably a first in fact. Now onto smooth tarmac, it's a pleasure to run on, to know what way your feet are going to land, it's just one less thing to think about. Subconciously easing off the gas "wonder who's around tonight? think I deserve a guinness, not a bad day's work" "Ah Jesus, your drifting again, get it together, take it all the way to the finish".

Nice decline and still running strong "I remember this from '91/'92. Blarney three day, covered in shite, cold, wet, numb, 20 minute's down, rolling over the line cross eyed after four hour's racing around North Cork on a wet easter Sunday". "Come on for f*** sake, finish it off". Stinker of a ramp with 100 mtrs to go, just manage to keep the form over the top and freewheel to the line.

A funny old race, 84 minutes was 6 minutes faster than my first half this time last year and has me some bit contented. Inconsistent mile time's consistent with an an inconsistent mind set. The really good day, when the concentration doesn't waver and the sweats don't come 'till near the end, going to have to wait for another day for that. They're the day's we'll alway's look for.

It was a good day all round for Grange AC. Brian ran his best race in 10 year's finishing in 82 minute's. Alan ran a comfortable 87minutes nursing an abdominal injury. Clo ran a pb in 91min., Maurice ran his umpteenth half in 92min., Joan ran 93min. Matt was one of two runner's to survive a bee sting under his eye and came home in 97 minutes. Everyone happy except for the bee RIP.

I got to see the match and have a few pint's too. Now where'd I leave that tracksuit?        



Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Bring it on

               Dingle is well over the horizon and approaching fast, I'm lacking a bit on the long run's (as usual maybe) although I'v had three run's over 14 miles in the last month and was happy enough with the progression. Garnished with a sprinkling of speedwork and topped off with some very comfortable recovery run's I'm looking forward to Saturday. The thing about The Dingle Half is if I couldn't get out of my own way I'd still look forward to heading down wesht. A well planned event in a nice corner of the world. The half marathon route is a one way affair finishing 13.1 mile's out the road at Dunquin on the western edge of the Dingle peninsula. It's not as lumpy as the full marathon which has it's toughest sections after the half way point and it also has the best view's out over the atlantic. Unless you've been there it's hard to put a word on it so for the sake of putting the sentence to bed I'll leave it at 'spectacular'.

The view from the 11 mile mark (thro' grimmacing eye's) 

                Originally I hadn't intended 'racing' it due to the lack of mile's but a strong run last Saturday over 14 mile's on the back of a premature sub 30min. five miler two week's ago is after getting the back up and if I have those same leg's this weekend I'll probably hammer it out pretty fast (b.m.s). In any case It'll be a good tester for the Charleville half two week's later which is a much flatter affair. I havn't looked too much beyond Charleville but the obvious next choice would be the iconic 15 miler from Cork to Cobh on Oct. 6th but I'm still trying to beat the ugly memories that still linger from that race last year on a day that I should have just stayed in bed. The best way to get rid of them is to go and have another go I suppose.

                I put away my last hard session this evening in the form of a standard set of 8*400's on the grass after a 4 mile warm up. A good way of learning to deal with the intensity of racing, and even more so tonight as I hooked up with young Brian and old Brian. The youthful enthusiasm of the young Brian had the two old boy's on the rope's for the evening so all I can say is thank's. An interval session in company will alway's squeeze a bit more effort out of you when the leg's start to turn to jelly between effort's 5 and 6. The intention was to do an easy five mile's but the leg's felt good enough to be able to take it and it's nice to get it out of the way early in the week. So it's easy running from now till Saturday.

               Saturday's run was a beautiful affair, a pet day weather wise and the mind and body were a bit more prepared than the previous week in the form of having a better idea of what to expect. My first long run on the road's the previous week left me sore for a day or two after and took me a bit by surprise. A lumpy run with a steep climb at mile 6 to clear out the cobwebs. After this I found my stride and was surprised to be running comfortable at 7min. miles up to mile 10. John and Brendan took a longer route with their eye's on the Dublin marathon while I headed for home in 6.45's for the last 3 mile's into town. Delighted to be in control at that pace and lapped up the cool down, satisfied after a good morning's work.

               After a long break from proper training over the hot summer month's I'm after getting to a stage where I don't think I'v been before with running. Where I see it most is in the recovery run's. Cruising now where once I laboured, now I'm actually recovering during these run's. A nice sensation and it look's like the break has stood me well. Another big development is after 12 month's of having it to see how I'm going out the road, I'v actually got myself to sit down for 20 minutes and figured out how to pair my Garmin to the pc and 'tis only great craic.      





Sunday, 25 August 2013

The hunger

There's no such thing as an easy race. The Conna 5K was alway's going to be a shock to the system after a lazy June and July. 1st August was the first wet night of the summer, damp road's were a novelty and running in the rain is something I enjoy. The only positive I could bring to the start line is that I'd be fresh. A surprisingly comfortable 1st mile at 5.40 gave me a false sense of security approaching the start of mile two which, incidentally was all skyward with a steep kick to get over the top. I managed to keep in contact with my group as we crested the top but had nothing in the tank for the run home, the head went and then the leg's. Had it been a few year's ago, I'd have held the wheel on the descent and got my breath back for a sprint finish but tonight I didn't have the benefit of two wheel's and my cycling gene's. On the plus side, I didn't have to put up with a blinding spray of surface water from the wheel of the rider in front. No harm done, A good kicking was well needed, and the hunger was back. Training hard through a rare fine summer would have sucked the appetite from me and approaching the autumn I could be struggling to keep interested. Now the belly is starting to rumble again.

A couple of easy day's later and I attempt my first set of 400's since May (eight 400 meter effort's run faster than you might normally run with a break in between each). A dismal affair timewise to what I had left off at but the intention was to run hard, that I managed to do while still cursing the layoff.

An anxious looking start line on the Clonmel road for Galtee Runner's GR8K road race (pic. Carole Bradley)

August 10th had us heading for the Galtee Runner's promotion on the old Clonmel road in Mitchelstown. An unusual race distance and a first for me, it work's out around 4.98 mile's in total. It does lend itself to a very catchy race name (Mitchelstown GR8K) though. My race was marked by a slight improvement in my ability to tolerate pain but still felt a bit sluggish. This wasn't helped by the incline up the main street and out through Brigown and an over reliance on the thought that I might be going well again. A sufferfest for the rest of the race running shoulder to shoulder with my clubmate Brian. Another good hard run in the bag, happy 'enough' with my time but looking for more. A good sign that the hunger was on the way back.

Not so anxious 10 minute later -  Survival mode and a shoulder to shoulder battle with Brian ensues for the next 20 (pic. Carole Bradley)

A couple of easy day's later and I attempt something new in the shape of 2*2 mile tempo run's on the grass at 6.40 (per mile) pace. Hurt more than I thought it would and went home happy. Two day's later 8*400's with a 2 mile warm up and 1 mile cool down. Still heavy legged but starting to free out a bit and starting to run a bit more relaxed. The vessel's of gunk are eventually starting to free out.

August 22nd, the The last big five mile race of the summer. Ballycotton is a running mecca and the numbers and quality on the start line are testament to that. Toeing the line with a current European ladies cross country team gold medalist and all the big runner's from the hot bed that is east Cork leave's you trying to decide whether your out of your depth or whether your up for it, I'm somewhere between the two. Up for it alright, but get in line and join the queue. If ya don't get psyched in Ballycotton you'll struggle to do it anywhere else. Everyone there is pumped. Anxious to improve on my last outing the only race plan I had in mind (as usual maybe) was to run the first mile under the red and the next four getting deeper and deeper in it. The plan worked, finding myself in a group of five or six like minded individual's at the one mile marker we each proceeded to dish out what we had and to see who could take it for the rest of the race. A dogfight all the way to the line.
No quarter given with 800 mteres to go at the Ballycotton 5 (pic. Alan Bannon)

These were three great race's, well organised and well stewarded all wrapped up in a great atmosphere, I might have said it before but it is almost impossible to subdue the after race buzz. Throw in a few cup's of tea and fruit cake and you've a party on your hand's. Well, sort of. While the three race's are ran by three different club's the brain's behind them are the same. John Walshe and the crew from Ballycotton Running Promotions are generous with their time, experience and knowledge of how to run a race properly and I'v yet to see them fail.

One day off and I hooked up with the long distance men on Saturday morning in the 8 O Clock group out of town. The next few months require a different mentality. The five k's and five miler's make way for the longer distance's with a lot of people aiming for the Dublin city marathon on the October weekend. I'v entered the Dingle half marathon on Sept. 7th and the Charleville half marathon on Sept. 22nd. I havn't been covering many mile's all year and it showed this morning on my longest run to date. 15 mile's with three experienced marathoner's and ultra marathoner's. Different game. Still suffering the effect's of Thursday night's effort's I'm out of my league with these boy's, it'll take a few more long one's to get comfortable with them. But it's ok, the hunger's back.