Monday, June 27, 2016

One-line Blog Post

I could not remember ever feeling so exhausted, even though I knew I had been there before; I just had forgotten how much it hurt.

The provisional results have me at 207k/128 miles, I honestly can't remember if that's correct or not (for some reason I had 208k in my memory, not that it really matters).

That's less than I had hoped for; I went through some very rough patches at 50, 60 and 90 miles. On the plus side, I had by far the strongest final 4 hours I've ever had in a 24 hours race, which helped to give the result some respectability as well as hope for one really good race yet to come.

I'm in Dublin now and will get home tomorrow, Tuesday. I'll write a race report then, but it might take a while ;)

(OK, that was more than one line)

Thursday, June 23, 2016


As any runner knows, phantom pains are part of the tapering process. It just happens every time. A few weeks ago I did have some real discomforts, first from my left knee and then from my lower back but both have gone away (actually, the back is only 95% better) but this week I have felt some twinges in my right hip and my right shin and probably in some other bits as well - but I'm sure those are phantom pains without any real physical background.

I need to get my head sorted out. I have to ignore that some trained more than me and that I always could have done more. I have to focus on my strengths. The most important body part in a 24 hours race is not your legs, or heart or lungs, it's your brain, and mine seems to work well for that particular task.

I have generally been pretty calm with regards to this race; it has come round so quickly I barely noticed it was getting so close. I had Donadea and then the relay to worry about earlier this month, which didn't leave much time to worry about Belfast. But here we are, 2 sleeps to go. I had trouble falling asleep last night as thoughts of the race were doing their early rounds in my head but I did get an almost full allocation of sleep eventually, helped by the fact that I didn't have to get up until almost 7 o'clock - a veritable lie-in!

I've started gathering all the stuff I need to bring, mostly nutrition so far; proper packing will happen tonight and this really is about to get real!

Training this week was obviously just a case of ticking over. 4 miles on Monday, an hour on the treadmill wrapped in 4 layers on Tuesday for a last heat adaptation top-up, 5 on Wednesday and 3 on Thursday. Tomorrow I'll run another couple of miles if I wake up in time, none otherwise. I'll do half a day at work and then drive up North.

All running this week was really slow, practicing the ultra shuffle. It did take some getting used to, alright.

The weather forecast is cloudy with the odd light shower and little wind, which sounds pretty good. I don't think I'll need the heat adaptation. There won't be a repeat of the Bangor hurricane (mind, I handled that better than most so maybe I should have hoped for that) and no excuses.

And on Saturday we run.,-VICTORIA-PARK,-BELFAST,-JUNE-2526.

20 Jun
4 miles, 37:17, 9:19 pace, HR 129
21 Jun
6.25 miles, 1:00:00, 9:35 pace, HR 133, heat adaptation, treadmill
22 Jun
5 miles, 42:46, 8:33 pace, HR 132
23 Jun
3 miles, 27:02, 9:01 pace, HR 131

Sunday, June 19, 2016

One For The Team

Running is mainly a solitary sport but from time to time we do get the chance to take part in a team event, be it a team scoring event like the cross country (or a 24 hours world championship) or a relay. It was one such rare occasion that made me team up with 9 other members of our local Star of the Laune running club, even though I would not normally consider running a race so close to a 24 hours event.

Running the Ring of Kerry was a special draw as well, no doubt about it. It's a spectacular drive but I wouldn't usually consider running on it due to the traffic, so you take your opportunities when they come. I volunteered for 2 hilly stages; initially Moll's Gap and Glenbeigh, but they changed the course 2 or 3 weeks ago and added an extra loop via Portmagee and Ballinskelligs. I knew that the mountain after Portmagee would be by far the toughest climb of the day so I took on that one. It had the pleasant side effect that my first leg would not start until after lunch time, enabling a long lie-in. Or at least it would have had I not woken at 5:30 and then been unable to get back to sleep because I kept thinking of my team mates already out on the road.

Unfortunately the tracker wasn't working very well so we had to be careful to be at the changeover stops in good time, especially as the team had done exceptionally well and we were half an hour ahead of schedule already by the time Anna handed over to me in Glenbeigh.

I must have been overexcited because I took off like a bat out of hell before realising that I had a lot of running ahead of me, and also had to stop to fix up my number, but by the time I hit the hill out of Glenbeigh towards Mountain Stage I was motoring ahead at a good effort.

It didn't really feel like a race at all. The first placed team was 20 minutes ahead of us and the third team was 20 minutes behind us, so we all would be running entirely on our own with no real prospect of either catching up or being caught and it was more of a solo tempo effort. However, running up a hill at speed is a tough consignment any time and my HR was well over 170 when I caught a glimpse of my watch. I avoided looking at it for the rest of the run. After the initial hill the road dropped down a bit and the headwind became the major enemy. There was surprisingly little motor traffic but there were a lot of cyclists in big groups and we all had to watch out.

The miles passed by very quickly and after 55 minutes I passed the baton on to Vivian and jumped into the support car, helping the next runners on their legs and eventually getting ready for my second stint.

To be honest, I still don't quite get it why we did not run from Caherciveen straight to Waterville but took a 17 mile detour via Portmagee and Ballinskelligs. That's not the Ring of Kerry and while the scenery is absolutely spectacular I wasn't really getting much joy out of it, partially because of the running effort and partially because the weather had gradually turned sour with low clouds and steadily increasing wind and rain.

I knew the mountain out of Portmagee would be tough. That's why I had volunteered for that stretch. I had run it once but I had obviously forgotten just how tough it actually was. The first mile saw about 150 feet elevation gain but the second had over 550! Anna thought I was having an asthma attack but it was just a moan I do with every breath, like I always do when the effort level goes above a certain threshold; I was fine, even if I didn't sound like it. Closer to the top we got right into the clouds with very low visibility, which had me worried about a cyclist coming out of nowhere but thankfully I got up without incident. The downhill side was even steeper with over 600 feet lost in a single mile but that was the section that had worried me the most as I did not want to destroy my legs a week before Belfast, so I just tried to spin the legs as fast as I could while trying to reduce the impact forces.

Down in Finian's Bay I passed the Chocolate Factory, though unfortunately is was already closed, which put paid to my secret plan of a sly stop for hoarding up on truffles, fudge and dark sea salt chocolate (seriously, it's divine!), so I just motored on instead. As I looked around I had the sea to my right and the mountains in every other direction, so it didn't come as much of a surprise when the road rose up another mountain, thankfully not as high and not as steep. At some point Anna asked where in Ballinskelligs we should do the changeover but I don't know the place at all and just said "three more miles", which I felt I could still do at a good effort without destroying myself.

Those miles passed reasonably quickly and that's where I handed over to Damian for the glory leg into the finish. We finished second team but first mixed team.

I very much enjoyed the run, both the team aspect as well as the the pure running part, and would not hesitate doing something like that again. The evening ended on a bit of a low point when they had the trophy presentation earlier than announced and we missed it because we were still finishing dinner! The top team weren't overly impressed that the big trophy went to the first mixed team (us!!) and there was some grumbling that there were no cash prizes for the winners - to be perfectly honest I was bemused by that as no cash prizes had been advertised and I for one never expected any. From the organisational point of view I was happy enough with the event; the signposting was a bit sparse, which was fine for us locals but others did struggle (apparently the signs kept disappearing or were vandalised) and I wouldn't have included the Portmagee/Ballinskelligs detour (unless he deliberately wanted to send everyone over the steepest mountain road he could find [might be onto something here]) but I'd definitely sign up again.

The Star of the Laune team

On Sunday there was the Glounaguillagh fun run that had been postponed at Easter. I was definitely tempted to race that as well, especially since it had been the venue of a rare victory of mine a few years ago, though it would almost certainly have been a bad idea with Belfast so close. In the end I didn't have a choice anyway. Maia wanted to do the kids fun run and since Niamh was busy I had to mind her and obviously would not have been able to leave her alone while racing, so I just jogged the 1k kids course with her (which, btw, was long according to my GPS! :) ). It was definitely for the best, I just did 3 very very easy miles on the treadmill in the afternoon for some active recovery (which, as you probably know, I am a great believer in).
16 June
0 miles, but Yoga on Rossbeigh beach instead!
17 June
8 miles, 1:04:48, 8:06 pace, HR 151, heat adaptation
18 June
leg1: 7.83 miles, 55:35, 7:05 pace, HR 162
leg2: 8.34 miles, 1:03:19, 7:35 pace, HR 163, very hilly
19 June
3 miles, 28:29, 9;29 pace, HR 126, treadmill

Friday, June 17, 2016

Today In Killorglin

Thank you to my employers in Fexco for allowing this to go ahead during work hours and to all my colleagues for donating very generously. You can still donate at Thank you!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


I've felt a bit tired the last couple of days, which is not what I hoped I would be feeling like to be perfectly honest. Since I have moved firmly into the tapering I haven't done any real workouts recently and I can only guess that the tiredness is a hangover from Donadea. Let's hope it will be gone a week from now.

In took it easy on Monday but the legs didn't really feel like running anyway. Taking it easy was always on the plan and I sure wasn't going to go against that.

On Tuesday I did something rather different. I'm not expecting a heat wave in Belfast but it's always better to be prepared (and I've just read an article that said that being heat adapted has advantages even in cooler temperatures), so I wrapped myself in 4 layers, put on a hat and stepped on the treadmill, making sure that the room's windows were all closed. 5 miles later I was steamed well through and called it a day. I'll do another of those adaptation runs this week, for an hour hopefully, but probably on the road because an hour on the treadmill is more than I care to take. One or maybe two more next week should see me well adapted. It may or may not make a difference but, like I said, it's always better to be prepared.

Today, Wednesday, I actually felt better again and the pace/HR confirmed that, though the legs are still not entirely happy.

My lower back is feeling a lot better, there is hardly any discomfort left. That's the most positive development of the last few days,

I'm not quite suffering from taper madness yet. Somehow it hasn't sunk in yet how close race day is already.
13 Jun
8 miles, 1:04:21, 8:03 pace, HR 137
14 Jun
5 miles, 45:44, 9:09 pace, HR 132, treadmill, heat adaptation
15 Jun
10 miles, 1:18:48, 7:52 pace, HR 139

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Running Updates

First of all, thank you very much to everyone who has donated money to my charity fundraiser so far. We have collected more than €500 already but that's still well short of my goal, and of course the more the better. There is still time to donate, the link is I cannot overstate how you all are helping. Sara's partner Brian called us the other day to tell us how much of a boost this has given to her and her condition had visibly improved.

I haven't posted any running-related updates since Donadea. There isn't an awful lot to report, really, Obviously I've been trying to recover as much as possible the last few days. Since I am a strong believer in active recovery I didn't sit around idly waiting for things to happen by themselves. Instead I dragged myself out onto to road on Sunday for 3 miles, which weren't the most fun 3 miles I've ever had. It took about 2 miles for the legs to loosen up a bit but by the time I had done 3 miles I really felt like I'd done more than enough.

The next few days were better and I did 5 miles, each day feeling better than the day before. There was never any acute soreness in the legs, which surprised me. I was even able to walk down staircases without any discomfort. Apart form going into the run very fit already, I think that could have something to do with me wearing the Hokas in Donadea. I think that they make me run a little bit slower because the cushioning might take away some efficiency but the muscles feel a lot better afterwards. It does leave me in a bit of a conundrum for Belfast; if I wear the Hokas I might require more energy but might be able to run better late in the race because the muscles aren't as damaged. There are a lot of "mights" in that sentence, I know. I will have to make a decision at some point but it's very much guesswork.

By Friday the legs felt well enough to increase the distance to 8 miles and I picked up the effort a few times on Saturday to get them spinning a bit faster than the usual recovery run shuffle. I went up to the Windy Gap on Sunday, though that didn't feel particularly great, so I turned around at the top rather than run towards Glenbeigh for a second climb as had been the original intend.

A few weeks ago I hurt my knee from doing the S&C training a bit too enthusiastically. That has gone away since, the knee is perfectly fine again. Unfortunately now it's my lower back that's giving out, and once more I'm pretty sure it's the kettlebells. That's the problem when you're new to something and don't entirely know the ins and outs. My lower back has always been a bit of a weak area and has been hurting several times in the past. I was really uncomfortable on Wednesday but it has thankfully improved since then, though it's still there. I will have to re-think my strength workouts.

6 Jun
5 miles, 43:15, 8:39, HR 130
7 Jun
5 miles, 43:35, 8:43, HR 130
8 Jun
5 miles, 41:41, 8:20, HR 130
9 Jun
5 miles, 41:07, 8:13, HR 135
10 Jun
8 miles, 1:05:33, 8:11, HR 136
11 Jun
8 miles, 1:01:32, 7:41, HR 146
12 Jun
10.7 miles, 1:35:03, 8:52, HR 142, Windy Gap

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

For Sara

A couple of months ago my sister-in-law Sara was diagnosed with a grade 2 brain tumour in her frontal lobe. She underwent several hours of surgery that went well and where the doctors managed to remove 97% of the tumour. She will be undergoing radiotherapy shortly and may have to go onto chemotherapy as well later on. She is still in hospital and will have to remain there for a while longer. She has two young daughters, aged 7 and 1, and as you can imagine it is very hard on the little girls as well as her partner, Brian.

Sara is recovering remarkably well after her recent craniotomy, combined with radiotherapy, and her surgeon's prognosis is really good.

I have therefore decided to raise funds for the Irish Cancer Society. I am planning on doing 2 things:

  1. I will be running the 24 hours race in Belfast on 25th/26th of June. I was going to run this race anyway as an athletic challenge but Sara’s illness has given me an added incentive to run and do some good for others at the same time
  2. I will be shaving my head, in solidarity with Sara and all cancer patients that have to undergo chemotherapy. This will be done at my workplace on 17th  June and give all my colleagues there the opportunity to donate some money for my fund raising efforts.

I have created a website for donations. The URL is Please consider a donation!