Monday, August 16, 2010

Another Tasty Sandwich

Even though I had to switch my long runs to the weekend, I still try to minimize the impact on family life. It might mean getting up at 6 am on a Saturday like last week, or it might meant getting creative when it comes to a workout.

Niamh wanted to go to Valentia on Saturday to spend the day with her parents and sister (and baby niece!) but was worried about me running all day when she would have to mind the kids. My suggested solution was for me to run to Valentia as my workout, which was accepted, though I had to promise not to arrive in Valentia before 2 o’clock. This one was easy. One lie-in later, I left Caragh Lake at 9:30 in the morning, the unloved back-bag strapped on to my back because the next 5 hours would have to be self-supported.

I estimated it would take a bit less than 5 hours to get there, so I took the scenic route with an extra mountain pass crossing at Windy Gap. That’s the same route I ran 4 weeks ago on another long run, but then I had turned around to get back home; this time I would just carry on. The weather left room for improvement, it was a dull, drizzly day with low clouds and low visibility, but considering I had to carry all my water with me, a hot day would have been a problem, so I guess I had no reason to complain.

Having gotten comfortable with the slow Ultra runners’ shuffle over the last few weeks, I noticed straight away that I was much slower than 4 weeks ago, from the very start. Back then I had started with an 8-minute mile, this time I was already 90 seconds slower at that early point and that pattern would continue. Still, I was astounded to check my watch when I reached last month’s turnaround point. Back then it had taken me 2 hours 18 to get there, today I was a whopping 24 minutes slower, over a distance of less than 15 miles (most of it off-road with 2 mountain passes along the way). I continued on; that part happened to be the worst as far as footing was concerned. The muddy, boggy section made running impossible for about a mile, and of course my feet got thoroughly wet. Eventually the surface improved again, and I was sorry to come out of the woods and back on the road, which felt incredibly hard and unforgiving after all those miles on dirt roads.

At that point I made a major cock-up; I had neglected to study the map in detail beforehand, even though I knew how badly the Kerry Way is signposted at times. They basically assume that either you know the way already or that you have a map handy at all times, neither of which applied to me, and I promptly missed the next turn. I could see Caherciveen a few miles in the distance but became concerned when the road headed back into the mountains. Eventually it dawned on me that I had not seen a signpost for at least 2 miles and decided to find my own way. A right turn down a tiny boreen was a sign of desperation because they tend to end in the middle of nowhere and I was quite likely to get stuck. I came across a herd of cows and almost caused a stampede (how on earth can those massive creatures be afraid of one single puny human?), managed to cross a river by wading through the water and was more than relieved to stumble across a road that led into exactly the right direction. Following that road, I must have crossed the Kerry Way twice, once the main section and once more the Caherciveen spur, but I did not see one single signpost for the entire way. Eventually I ended up on the N70, the main Ring of Kerry road, which luckily was not too busy at the time. A massive bonus came along half an hour later in the form of Niamh and the kids, making their own way to Valentia. This enabled me to get rid of my now empty bag. As the water bladder had gotten emptier and emptier, the bag had started bouncing more and more and the shoulder strap was rubbing against my neck, which was getting rather sore. Now, well over 4 hours into the run, I was more than glad to continue with just a handheld water bottle.

I made my way into Caherciveen and on towards Reenard, where I caught the ferry to the island. After covering so much distance on foot it felt weird to use a mechanical vehicle for the passage, but as far a swimming to the island is concerned, for me that’s very much a case of been there, done that, no need to do it again.

I was still 15 minutes short of 5 hours (not counting the 5 minutes on the ferry of course) so I did an extra lap through Knightstown before making my way home. The kids intercepted me and raced me to the finish, where I came last of course. I was happy to be done, but when I took off my Garmin I realised that I had covered 29.9 miles, so I put my shoes back on again and did an extra minute (the in-laws were about to have me certified at that point), just to come up with a round number.

Believe it or not, I felt great with no soreness, neither in the muscles nor the previously troublesome achilles.

We were back in Caragh Lake for Sunday and the contrast to Saturday was extreme, with a very warm, sunny day. Niamh thought the universe was playing a trick on me with those conditions for my last long run, but I was glad to be running in sunshine for a change. I started with a loop around Caragh Lake and after topping up my water bottle added an out-and-back section, along the Kerry Way again. I got very tired after about 13 miles and was highly tempted to call it a day after the first loop, but really did not want to chicken out of my very last long run. That first loop had been considerably faster then yesterday, about 8:40 pace; not exactly lightning fast but considerably faster than most of the really long runs. I paid for this pace with very tired legs, but decided that a climb up to the Kerry Way would provide the best training effect. After all, running on tired legs is the entire point of these weekend runs.

At one stage on the trail I passed a group of 4 horse riders, and the lady at the end of the group shouted a warning to the rest of her friends “watch out, jogger coming through!” This made me laugh out loud, after running 50 miles in the last 24 hours I did not classify myself as a jogger at that point, but I don’t think arguing that point with the lady would have led anywhere.

I seemed to revive on that stretch and I came home after running slightly more than a marathon, 4 sunny hours later with a topped-up tan but quite dehydrated and gasping for water. Nevertheless, the main training for Dingle had been completed successfully, and now it’s tapering time. Monday was a rest day (now that’s tapering!), and the race is only 19 days away!

Saturday: 3 gels, 1 granola bar, 1 Amino: ~530 calories
Sunday: 2 gels, 1 bar, 1 Amino: ~450 calories

Weekend Mileage: 56+
Weekly Mileage: ~85
14 Aug
30 miles, 5:01:27, 10:03 pace, HR 138
15 Aug
26.83 miles, 4:00:06, 8:57 pace, HR 141


  1. Super running Thomas. Congrats. I always find those one-way trips are the most memorable runs. Out and backs always feel a little self-defeating! You're in great shape. Best of luck with the race.

  2. Great running Thomas. I'm glad the Achilles problem has receded into the background.

  3. We're all joggers. It's just that some jog faster than others ;)