Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Commitments for the Dublin Marathon

No it's not a comeback gig for Neil Jordan's eighties blues band, it's just over two weeks out from my second marathon attempt and the commitment's for the Dublin marathon are all but behind me bar trying to get a few good night's sleep, I'v been laying low trying to train clever and keeping my eye pretty much on the ball. The 26.2 miles is still a trip to the almost unknown but I'v learnt enough from my previous attempt in Cork three years ago to play the cagey game on marathon Monday. That alone wouldn't be enough to drive home the message but I'm lucky enough to share the road's around Fermoy with some very experienced marathoner's and ultra runner's who don't mind passing on the lesson's learned from their own experience's. Any run with these guy's is big benefit country and make's the bigger mileage seem like an everyday thing because as far as they're concerned it is.

More comfortable in the surround's of the shorter stuff I'm still unconvinced about the return you get from the long term commitment to marathon training, maybe Dublin will change that. There are a lot of sacrifices in the form of missed pb opportunities in the shorter race's thro'out the summer, Saturday & Sunday afternoons struggling to keep my normal face on while my leg's beg me to collapse in a heap at the nearest coffee shop. Fatigue seem's to be a constant as you get deeper into the mileage pit.

On the other hand it's normal, a lifestyle thing and maybe it's the fact of focusing on one particular event increase's the intensity a bit. If  it wasn't marathon training I'd still be doing something. Tipping away. The regular training routine is a valuable release valve that's missed when it's not there so it's a big part of the weekly routine. Apart from the long run's which I'v struggled with mentally more than physically the rest of it's been easy. At this stage it's what I do.

Local past-marathon runner described it (marathon training) to a tee, "It's like 12 week's of overtime", while it's not easy to train for a quality five miler it take's far less time and mile's for a much quicker return. Therin may lie the draw of the big one. There's more at stake, getting to the start line in good shape is an achievement in itself with many falling victim to one of a multitude of running injury's. As I write this there's probably 90% of us on the start list for Dublin worried about some niggle in their knee, hip, tendon, IT band or whatever buzz injury of the time. In general though 90% of that 90% have nothing to worry about apart from the suffering over the last six or seven mile's and that's what we pay our money for.

I'v had the Dublin itch for the last few year's so it was just a matter of time before it had to be scratched. Memories of my only other marathon attempt and a clash with the Jazz weekend kept me away from it 'till now. It still clash's with the Jazz weekend but the increase in mileage has decreased my ability to party and Chic aren't on the gig list this year.

I took this while on marshalling duty at this year's Ballycotton 10.  Sergiu Ciobanu looked very comfortable on his way to his 4th consecutive win, little did I know we'd have the honour of his presence on a regular basis down in Fermoy for the summer.

Typically for me an unorthodox, unstructured, unplanned training program has been the norm. Most importantly regular routine outing's varying between 40 minute's and three hours have been the order of the day with a religious midweek visit to the track for some intensity work. As part of Grange AC master's I'v been one of the lucky benefactor's of  Clo and Darren's good work in getting Sergiu to the track on a Wednesday night to put us auld lad's thro' our pace's. No rocket science, just hard work at an intensity that I havn't reached for year's (if ever). I'v been treating these Wednesday night session's like a race and if nothing else they've been a great focal point and opportunity to work under one of Ireland's/Moldova's great distance runner's.

So for now it's maintenance & recovery time and time too to remind myself that 'not every pain is important', (That's a Scott Jurek'ism that Maciej threw at me today).  If it hasn't been done by now it's too late. kick back too much and we'll all be stuck to the road on Marathon monday. I went out on the bike last Sunday to nurse my niggle (hmm?, give my back a rest sound's better.) and rode 28 miles on a regular bike route. Now I have the distance in persepective. It's far.


Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Holding out for the hero

OK, I admit it, every so often I get a notion that the form I would like to have is actually the form that I do have. Take last Sunday morning for example at the Fit Mag 10k at The Marina in Cork. Nice morning, Nice setting and a flat(ish) traffic free course. Alive with positive vibes I convinced myself to run out hard and hold on when the shit hit the fan, I could do that now 'cos I'm fitter than I have been see. Now how many time's has that plan not worked? I'v lost count.

But today was going to be different, I'v more running done in the last six week's than ever before (reason no.1 that my plan was to fail, fatigue), It's a perfect morning for running (reason no.2, I havn't raced an early morning race since Cork Marathon 2012, enough said!), I havn't raced since Coolagown at the end of June and I'v convinced myself I'm hardly even going to feel the road! (reason no. 3, sometime's with a lack of racing, confidence in the ability to suffer diminishes and when the hurt does come on it's hard to deal with, and to put it bluntly, you crack and pretty much fall to pieces) so the star's are aligning today. I'm going to go out hard, do the hero on it and bury myself when the hurt comes. 36 min I'd say, maybe even late 35's.

10K is 6.2 miles or thereabout's, I don't get too caught up in exact distance's, everyone has to run the same course but I do have a habit of running to mile pace. So, it's 6 mile's, the last 0.24 miles is irrelevant, just a case of holding it together to the finish line, everyone's goosed at that stage.

From the gun my leg's are like jelly. No panic settle and run through it. Panting hard as I find myself in a group of four running along the Marina towards Blackrock. The other three are more comfortable, I'm the one making noise. We hit the mile marker at 5.40, the pace has settled and I'v calmed down a bit, I'll be grand. Nice and flat.

Continuing a few degree's below 'flat out' I'm beginning to tell myself in a loud 'slightly' distressed voice that I'm fine (in my head). The hill out of Blackrock village is telling me otherwise and the conflict is starting to raise some doubts as I try to hang on my three companion's. They look like there's not a bother on them. Still four and I'm still the backmarker as we get slight reprieve on the short sharp descent at Blackrock castle. Mile 2 - 5.40.

It's four, two and four on the road, not far from the half way point of the Cork marathon and this otherwise pleasant section of pathway is doing nothing for me only bringing back memories of a badly paced Marathon where I found myself in trouble on the same section of road. I took the decision to back off (or to put it another way blew my lights big time) and waited for the next runners to come from behind ........ and the next to go hard again. As an attempt at consoling myself I'm calling the rest of the race an interval session. Mile 3 - 6.07.

The bridge over the motorway is pretty steep in this condition but I think it's flat to the finish after that. struggled to another 6.07 mile along the old line. That's the price of a fast start but you have to have a go. Back onto the Marina past the almost extinct Pairc Ui Choimh and onto the last 0.24 miles down the tree lined centre park road, training ground of many of Cork's finest runner's and cyclist's, as predicted everyone's goosed, a mix of 5k and 10k runner's struggle to the line as the clock tell's the inevitable truth about the work that lies ahead.

Having become accustomed to running 5k's over the last year or two and getting used to timing my effort to the distance the extra 5k came as a bit of a shock and I might have underestimated it a bit. Still though, had a 5.58 min/mile average, recovered well after, got a nice coffee in town and felt good on Monday's run. Have to keep the bright side out ;-).

It's only in the day's after that you can come up with a proper analysis of why you ran the way you did, the dust settles and you use the new found knowledge to mix in with whatever else you thought you knew. This is a big benefit of racing, it's important to get the balance right at the same time. Too much and you get stale, too little and you lack the intensity and speed that a regular racer will have.

Next up's going to be a 10 miler or half marathon, hopefully Sunday morning has put some manner's on me and I give the next distance a bit more respect.



Friday, 11 July 2014


I'v been fighting a losing battle with my recent diagnosis. I thought it would never happen. Me, self confessed master of the laissez faire school of training & racing, less is more, don't kill yourself etc. Anyone that already suffer's will probably tell me I had it coming and who am I to argue, I think I knew too and like many never did anything about it.

I'm told Obsessive compulsive running disorder is a lot more common than I think, a lot more people suffer from it than would care to admit. It's still a taboo subject but it still doesn't come as much of a consolation. The confusion as I jump out of bed at 6.30am (for the tenth day in a row!) and run into the morning sunrise has become the norm and The six unloved can's I bought last week stare longingly from the fridge as I increasingly opt for the water.

What make's the onset even more strange or maybe may actually be the cause, is the fact I'v only raced five times this year with three of these in January. Absence make's the heart grow fonder. The hunger has been growing under the skin. After a sluggish few month's where I couldn't get out of my own way I stopped trying to run fast and slowed it right down, got a pair of trainer's and the mileage crept up over the norm. At this stage it was too late, I didn't realise it but OCRD had already taken hold.

I came across a typical timeline on 'The Medical Mail' last week while struggling to come to term's with it.
The patient possibly
- Started running year's ago as a mean's of keeping fit during the off season for some other more loved sport, say cycling for example and 'hated' every minute of the six miles a week thro'out November. (Gave up on it in December)
- Went through a phase of 'standard run of the mill dislike' but carried on with it as a mean's of survival during a sporadic encounter with triathlon.
- Came to 'tolerate it' after discovering there were only three minutes lost to the fastest run split toward's the end of the his latest triathlon outing.
- Started 'liking it' after coming close to the thirty minute mark for five miles and comparing the varying standard of apre race tea and cakes between race's.
- Finally, chronic OCrD present's itself in the form of 'Loving it'. Clear and present challenge's pop up from time to time and resistance is futile.
So it's out of my control and I just have to roll with it. Ah well.

Being part of the organising committee at the Streets of Fermoy 5k series, a handy return to competition at the Coolagown 5K and the acuisiton by Grange-Fermoy AC of a pretty talented Moldovan to give us a few pointers have only served to compound my illness, to remedy it I'v entered my first 10k in four year's. The Fit mag 10K is on Sunday around the Marina and Blackrock area of Cork, I think there's a few lump's in it with a flat/downhill run into a pretty cool looking tree lined finishing tunnel. It'll serve as a bit of a sneak preview of a new 10 miler scheduled for September around the same road's and the Charleville half marathon in the middle of September...............

Surely they'll have come up with a cure by then.

If any readers are affected by the issues in this post go to a race and find comfort in the presence of your comrades.

Take care



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.