Friday, 16 October 2015

Cross Country Dreaming

If I could just go back 5 minutes in time, have you ever felt like that? There are times when I'v interrupted my thoughts and tried to figure out a way to go back - actually thinking I'd come up with something. The day is drifting on by and then it's turned on it's head. Fuck it, how did that happen?

Last time I was on here I'd planned on running the county novice cross country until a characteristic change of mind got me to the start line of Cork to Cobh instead. I'd had a few nice weeks training with the marathon crew on Saturday mornings coupled with regular wednesday night or 'Sergi sessions' on the track that had got me in reasonable shape if a little short on mileage to think I could run good for the fifteen miles to Cobh. In any case the road scene was going to be quiet for me after this so destination Cork. One of the oldest races on the Munster scene, theres a good atmosphere here and it's one of few point to point races on the calendar.

A strong headwind sorted the race out into a few front runners, a few groups of evenly matched runners and a few misfortunates that got stuck between groups in no mans land. Myself and Don got cosy in the 2nd group running steady 6.20 miles into the headwind. It might have been on the easy side of comfortable at times but I'm confident I wouldn't have lasted too long if I tried to leave them into that wind and would have found myself out the back soon after.

This is my third time running here and the entrance to Fota island and crossing Belvelly bridge seems to be the place to push on if you have the legs. Its a bit more sheltered along most of this section and if your feeling strong there are a few hills to test yourself and those around you. I ended up with some lad from Clonmel who had a bit of an edge on me and made sure I got a good workout all the way to Cobh. A lot of those running here use it as a testing ground for Dublin marathon and anyone hoping to do well in Dublin should be running strong here too, they're easy to spot as they have the legs to finish strong all the way to the line.

I had sore legs for the week after and wound it down in an effort to be fresh for this Sundays County Intermediate cross country. I'd seen the video of the novice race and I decided if I wasn't fresh it could turn into a slog. I have yet to run cross country but its an itch thats been there for a while, long before I started running. Thing about running with Grange Fermoy AC is there's a bit of a daunting history and there's something in the back of your mind that makes you feel you can't let the side down so I'v been doing some thinking about it and it seems theres nothing for it only to toughen up. John Hartnett ran for Grange AC, went to America and did some damage while he was there. Maybe its just the passage of time but there is something fascinating about these guys and that generation. Tough as nails, not a whole lot of technology behind them, none actually - Run lots of miles and run them hard - take it or leave it.

Two Corkmen doing damage back in the day. John Hartnett (435) is a local legend around here and Donie Walsh (447) is the same in Cork.


I'v seen this in real life and maybe that's why it's a bit of a thing with me. A seed planted back in the early 80's during a Sunday afternoon visit to see the International cross country race held just outside town. Bitter cold, the only comfort coming from the smell of hot chips and the heat from the generator at the back of the van. All the heads were there - I didn't know them but someone told me Neil Cusack won the Boston marathon and sure shit, that was good enough for me. It was the Africans though, effortless through the fields of Fermoy. I'd never seen anything like this. For those involved in the running scene at the time it must have been huge. That bit was lost on me though, I thought it was normal, always like this - like when I started cycling during the Kelly/Roche era, I thought it was always like this, glory days. Someone mentioned 3000 spectators. It was the toughness. Not a spare ounce and not an inch given. No hiding place, you either had the legs or you hadn't. Jumping ditches! Elbows, It was all new to me and since then I'v always cocked an ear at the mention of cross country. two lines in the paper, 5 seconds on the sports news. I'd hear it. John Treacy winning a world title, everyone knew about that one.

So finally I'm going to have a go. Fully aware of whats involved but ready for a go. Easy week planned out - bit of a session Wednesday to keep a bit of sharpness and tick over 'till Sunday. Simple.
A sickening snap, a fibrous tear, vividly audible even now -  did I really do that? I knew that Kerb was there? How do you turn back time again? just five minutes. Think, think, think hard, its a distraction from the pain.

On the plus side (theres always a plus side) I'l get another year from my cross country dreams before they're smashed. Anyone want a pair of still in the box spikes?

For Sale :-(

Nice article here from John Walshe on the years before I got there.


Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Cork 10 mile

It was pretty heavy. According to one newspaper 180 trillion litres of water fell on the country over the weekend, enough to fill 800,000 olympic sized swimming pools? Who am I to disagree? Glad to be running though, memories of racing a bike around the centre park road loop in similar conditions would have had my nerves in a heap. Concerns of staying upright on the greasy bends and continuous spray from the wheel in front would have meant putting my life in the hands of the one person in the line who could see where he was going. In the self preservation stakes running comes out way on top.

It's become a bit of a habit after this summer that I use this train of thought to make light of the notion of running in the rain, It's actually grand and reminding myself that I don't have to deal with those old bike racing issues makes it almost enjoyable. The John Buckley, St. Finbarrs 10 mile was just the latest in a growing number of races where we've been drenched by the time the starting gun went off. The rain is just a slight distraction from the job in hand and it seemed to dumb the wind down a bit last Sunday around the 6/7 mile mark on the waterfront.

The race was a pretty awful affair for anyone standing in my shoes. Suffering from a bit of sleep deprivation the overiding thoughts of wanting to lie down at every mile marker were kept in check by the growing levels of rainwater on both sides of the road. This is a great course for a city race and the inclement weather meant we had more room to ourselves on the waterfront and the old railway line on the 2nd half of the course.

Indifference on the start line settled me in to the idea of running a steady 10 as a good training run, if only to offset the notion that I might run an ok race if I was up for it. Thats something I need to sort out, how to actually get in the frame of mind to be 'up for it', it normally takes some extra miles and a confidence boost somewhere along the line. The first mile was the usual mental and physical mosh pit trying to go from a five minute warm up to race pace in 30 seconds and wondering how on earth I was to expect to carry on like this for 9 more. Bringing up the rear of the 60min. pace group at mile two wasn't the best place to be and the reality of a long slow countdown to the line started to hit home. There was nothing fluid about it and while the legs seemed ok the battery was flat. One of the benefits of consistent speed work I guess is that my cruising pace has improved and the speed I can run with a flat battery has now increased.

I'd settled on calling it a slog and by the time we got to mile 7, make or break time for me in a ten miler, between verses of some Taylor Swift song I gave myself a talking to and managed to see mile 8 with the group. Somewhere round here Johnny, who's reaping the benefits of  increased marathon mileage enquired as to my welfare and a one word reply left him in no doubt. He didn't ask again as he kicked for home on the straights of the old railway line with two miles to go. A reminder that racing is as much mental as physical, with two to go I started to run more comfortable than I had for the rest of the race. Knowing it was flat to the finish with a good tailwind, the smell of the finish line was enough to tow me the rest of the way at pretty much the same pace as the previous miles. The rain was horizontal with 400m to go around the Atlantic pond and only added to the occasion for those running. The relief of still seeing 59 on the clock by the time I got there was worth a million quid on a day that I probably shouldn't have.

A category prize (3rd) and a counter on the 2nd place Grange Fermoy AC team for a county team prize was a nice surprise to hear later in the day as Don & myself headed home after the cuppa without realising our good fortune. These are nice roads to race on and the 'Barrs did a good job keeping the show on the road in those conditions, not to be found slacking John Meade led them home as 1st team with three runners in the first four. Next year!  

After a slack summer on the racing front it's nice to come home thinking I might be fitter than I thought but with three weeks to my first attempt at Cross Country that smug notion won't last long.

@keelo51  :-)



Thursday, 27 August 2015

Back to school

Back at the track last night for the 1st term of 2015/16 was like 1st day back at school. Sergiu headed for the hills of Romania in search of some thin air for the summer and left a lot of us scratching our heads wondering where to turn to so the first night back was a bit of a wake up call. Summer is a time to down tools a bit (for the non elite) and the disappearance of the Wednesday night session left some of us rudderless and scrambling for the easy life. Non structured running and racing was the order of the day - a summer of hard focused training could at this point have left me uninterested (disinterested?? huh?) and stuggling to keep interested for the winter months. The beauty of the running season is it goes all year round so your never far from the action when you decide to get back to work.

It was giddy at the school gates diluted only by the nervous tension of what the headman was going to throw at us and just like homework it was up to ourselves what effort we'd put in. Fortunately or unfortunately the effort I put in here is leaving my school days with a bit to be desired and I'm thinking maybe I should go back and do the leaving cert.

Kicking off with the first of three mile repeats left me cross eyed, jelly legged and bemused. Not knowing what to expect beforehand I thought I'd be near my average mile times for last year, I wasn't but not too bad considering the break.

The old 'what the fuck are you doing' voice turned up for the start of mile 2, I couldn't answer so I just kept at it. If you can't go fast go hard regardless. There's only one more after this one (gulp).

Mile three was a misery fest - lock up with lactate, clock's going quicker, the legs get tangled and the struggle to keep form is as hard as the struggle to keep pace. All this while a repousse artist pounded out a masterpiece right where my heart used to be.

A few easy laps later or call it lunch break and into a few 400's to finish us off.  I headed home with legs feeling like they'd been caned and that I was the only unfortunate (misfortunate?? huh?) one that got the lactic acid treatment but just like head lice I think we all got it at some stage.

These sessions (I read an article recently that reasoned they are not 'speed' sessions as 'speed' is the pace you might run if you had a gun pointed at you at close range and while this might be impressive you would probably have slowed down after 15/20 seconds to a more fatal pace which isn't great for training the body to run 10 miles at a relatively even pace and while 'interval' is a name that could be used, it is important to remember that the interval is the easy bit and the other bit is the hard bit. Mixing them around would have a devastating affect on the plans for your next pb, ha.) are a great focal point for the week and go some way to keeping motivated for the extracurricular stuff that goes on for the rest of the time - easy runs, long runs and the like. luckily unlike school it's only one hour a week and not 34.

Now where's the calendar, must try and make the cross country team?


Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Dungarvan 10

There were no fist pumps or high fives not even a subdued 'yeeeah' at the back of my mind. Relief was the overriding emotion and a big 'thank fuck for that' gave way to a contented silence and stoned grin rather than the usual high speed post race chat. Five years after coming down here thinking I could run under the hour as good as the next man I did.

The start line was a nervous affair. A below par marathon last October left me with a bad taste in my mouth and I wasn't in the form for more of the same today. I didn't give myself the option of going slower than six min. miling. A simple plan, stick with the 60min. pacer leave him with two or three miles to go if the opportunity arises (Ha!). This is fast by my standards but to put things in perspective there were guy's on the start line who were capable of running over a minute faster per mile which would leave them with enough time to boil the kettle and have a cup of tea by the time I'd see the finish line.

Blocking out the doubts became a full time job during the warm up and for most of the race I had a real problem with the fast approaching 7/8 mile mark where I blew my lights last year to come home in 60.43. I had always envisaged that if I were to run sub 60 that I'd do it comfortably on a day that I wouldn't feel the road. The truth was the exact opposite. A congested and edgy first few miles left no room for comfort and by the time we hit mile four it seemed to have taken its toll. Elbows and knees fought for the smooth line, a few close heel clips didn't help the flow and with heavy legs approaching mile 5 it took a big effort to hang into a dwindling group which left me thinking I could be the next one out the back door. Too close to Groundhog day for comfort, how was I going to deal with that shit for the next thirty minutes?

Through mile five in 29.40 meant nothing apart from the fact that I'ts a time I'd be happy with on a summers evening down in Ballycotton. Conventional wisdom would have said the next few miles should pass a bit easier with the help of a tailwind and thankfully the nerves did settle a bit and I finally got somewhere close to cruising, if only for a mile or two.

Miles seven and eight were sick. Mentally as much as physically, Once I pass 10k at this pace I feel like I'm in uncharted territory and again I find myself fighting the demons. 'Whats the point in running a fast mile around the track on a Wednesday night if you can't run a solid 10 when it matters?', cursing myself approaching mile nine I momentarily lose contact with the pacer, 'Never again, 10k's max from now on, fuck this'...... 'shit I better keep going!'......'Not for this all those murderous wednesday nights at the track'..........'Not for this the..........'.

Turns out his pace was a bit erratic. I didn't have a watch on so I didn't realise it at the time. I didn't wear a watch 'cos my race plan didn't require that kind of technology. With a mile to go the pacer started dropping back which was proof he'd brought us out fast. (Understandable I suppose as he's one of the faster men in the south and was drafted in late to do the job after the race organisers were left short) This was good, it meant there was time to spare and meant that as much as I'd try to I didn't have to do the last mile in under six minutes .

Mile nine - on schedule, in bits. The head keeps rolling, you find a little something to give to the legs and the smell of the finish line get's stronger but your still not there. 'Whats the clock going to say when I come round the last bend?'

The Holy Grail - finishing The longest hour 59.27 (Pic - Kieran Minihane)

By the time my eyes adjusted to the low winter sun I could see 59.14, it took another thirteen seconds to cross the line. One milestone that a few years ago I didn't think I'd see. If I could just squeeze eleven minutes out of somewhere I could be in with a shout for the podium.


It was a good day for Grange AC
Joan Ennis - 1st o50
My co-driver (perennial hardman) Maurice Tobin - 1st o65
John Murphy - 2nd o45
3 of us in the top 100, all of us finishing.
Full Results

The latest mode of transport Brooks Running - Pure connect 3

So long                

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

5k it ain't

"I guess you shouldn't be sweating by the time you turn off the quays entering mile 4 but hey, this is the Dublin marathon. I'm feeling a bit rough at the mo' but that's ok. I'v never felt good at the start of any of my long training run's and I'v a habit of coming round later in the day. I'll be grand".........says I. 

If a fraction of the advice I'd come across over the last 6 week's had sank in I'd probably ease off a bit at this stage but listening to advice is not my forte and learning from experience seems to be the only thing that works.

With no specific plan on the start line only to run out a bit ahead of the 3hr men and meet them a mile or two down the road once the field had spread out a bit but three consecutive 6.38 miles threw that idea down the drain when I couldn't see them behind me on Chesterfield avenue. I had no particular reason to run out ahead of the three hour man only that I thought I could manage it, instead of trying to convince myself to run under three hours I had decided that this was going to be my hardest training run to date. Turns out I wasn't wrong but I couldn't remember what race I was training for. A bitch of a crosswind made it hard to get shelter after finding myself between groups (this was the one thing I promised myself I wouldn't let happen) so I took my foot off the gas a bit (at 6.40min mile my foots not normally 'on the gas' but as I was to discover in the context of my relationship with 26.2 mile's it was on the gas alright) and waited for three or four lad's coming from behind.

Out the gap at the top of the park and my familiarity with the course came to an end, the short climb on Castleknock road was more of a shock to me than the park and I didn't handle it too well, I was using caution as an excuse to ease off but in hindsight I was already struggling and was glad to hit the long descent back into the park. A nice reprieve before a block headwind came to greet us on Chapelizod road, the first real kick in the arse and a realization that my second marathon could be going sour. Meeting the 3hr group on the hill after Chapelizod was confirmation. I got through the toughest section from 12 to 14 with these guy's and as it said on the tin it was all downhill from here, it certainly was and in more ways than one in my case.

This was where I was supposed to pick it up in the race that I had imagined I was going to run, pick it up and power on home, leave the group I was in and start picking up a few of the lad's up the road, power on to the four mile to go mark and let gravity do the rest but (Knock knock, hello anyone home), this is a marathon. I hadn't given that as much attention as I probably should have in my pre race prophecy. I visualised it as a race. At my level it can't really be a race until you get to the last five or six miles feeling strong. (I'm sure I learnt that before somewhere but the dog ate my homework). It's all coming back to me now "If the first mile feels ok your going too fast", "The second half of the marathon starts at the 20 mile mark", now I'm learning. "Don't get carried away in the first few miles, it's easy to with the crowd" (I was actually told that ON the start line with a minute to go).  Ah yes a 5k it ain't and by mile 16 I was a temporary member of Thomas the tank engine's 3.10 group.

I won't get into the gorey details of the last 10 miles but If I told you to make up a paragraph using the word's walk, jog, water stops, people watching, plodding, water, disorientation, hallucination, elation, water, high, low, anger, indifference, gel, Ray D'Arcy, nasty marketing at the top of Roebuck hill and the waste of a good downhill into the finish you'd probably come up with something close to what I'm trying to get at. Despite sharing the road with fourteen and a half thousand other's it's a lonely old place when the shit hit's the fan. Disappointment doesn't come into it. You just know it's going to be a ball breaker to get to the line and on the practicality side of thing's how else are you going to get back into town to pick up your gear? So not to put too fine a point on it, with four downhill miles to go I, like a lot of my comrades was deep in the proverbial.

There were some big effort's from Grange AC, with Johnny (10th), Joan (2nd) & Clo (3rd) leading the way running out of their skins to get top 10 in their categories in the national Champs. Enthusiatic crowd's, recognisable face's and pig headedness carry you to the line nearer to the finish but that's fair payment as I'm holding them partly responsible for an over eager first few miles too. The masse's that stood on Parliament street turning onto the quays just after the two mile mark didn't have to work as hard as those on Merrion road to keep me going with a mile and a half to go. Like I said pre marathon, it's a long way. I had to do it (again) to convince me though.

- More miles.
- Diminishing pain threshold (getting soft).
- Questionable concentration levels.
- Under raced. Though the need for recovery is important I think I could have done with another race between Charleville half and Dublin. 
- Giving the whole thing too much thought.
- More sleep.

On Monday afternoon I was convinced I'd run my last marathon, by Tuesday evening I'd isolated the finer points of my downfall and by Wednesday I was kicking myself and wondering how to turn back the clock to the start line on Monday morning for a second chance. 

That's why we can't turn our back on it but for now some rest and back to the short stuff.

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.


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