Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Training (from 28 Nov)
17 weeks (18 if counting this one)
Miles per week:
62, 69, 78, 82, 62, 77, 74, 77, 75, 79, 78, 81, 46, 59, 50, 69, 47 (average before taper: 70)
The drop 5 weeks ago was due to recovery from first Donadea and then Ballycotton
# runs of 20 miles:
2 (!)
I started my training after running 3 marathons/ultras in quick succession and felt a lot of long runs on top of that would be counter-productive
# runs over 20 miles:
1 (Donadea 50k)
# of PBs:
2 (or 4 if you count in the fact that I broke my 5 miles and 10k PBs along the way during the Ballycotton 10 miler)
- none (still 4 days to go, of course ;-) )

After pacing the Dingle and Dublin marathons and then running the Sixmilebridge 30-miler late last year, I went into the training cycle with an emphasis on recovery. I used last year’s Vienna training plan as blueprint, both for the overall structure of the training plan as well as for individual workouts. One main change was switching the marathon pace runs for ultra pace runs but for longer durations. The other main difference was a much better understanding of the system, especially with regards to recovery. I won’t claim that I actually know what I'm doing but I must have guessed right more often than not. I finished a lot of workouts thinking “that’s how I should have done them last year”.

It didn’t start out all that well, I never felt good during base training, which is almost certainly down to the 3 long races at the end of 2011. It just took a while for my legs to recover from that. Things changed radically as soon as I started the hills phase, I could feel the legs improving virtually every single day and things just took off from there. All of a sudden I was hitting paces easily that I struggled to hit last year and I finished all my workouts with something left in the tank. Still, if anything I was developing too quickly, but I just about managed to keep a lid on things and stopped the pot from boiling over, so to speak. The races in Donadea and Ballycotton confirmed that I was in excellent shape and two hard runs (Ballycotton and alternating paces a week later) hopefully put the icing on the cake. Everything since then has just been in order to keep things ticking over until the race.

I am in my best shape ever. No doubt about it.

I also had a major shift in expectations. Two years ago when I ran the ultra in 5:15 I felt I had finally cracked this ultra running malarkey and run it as well as I could. Now I think I didn’t push hard enough. This year will be different. I am prepared to take a few risks and chase a much more aggressive target, and my confidence is high.

This week is of course all about not doing anything stupid. Monday and Tuesday saw easy 5 mile runs, and this morning I did my taper workout, the last workout before the race. I started with 6 miles at race pace, which was a bit faster than planned (I started at the right pace but gradually drifted into a higher gear), then one mile easy followed by 3x800s in 2:57, 2:55 and 2:46, with 2 minutes recovery, and finally an easy mile to cool down. The sunrise right during my second 800 was an added bonus, and I noticed how quickly the temperatures rose after that.

The upper limit from now is 2-3 miles per day. Seriously. And then we race.
26 Mar
5 miles, 39:48, 7:58 pace, HR 129
27 Mar
5 miles, 39:13, 7:51 pace, HR 135
28 Mar
10.15 miles, 1:11:36, 7:03 pace, HR 146
   6 miles @ 709 pace, 3x800 in 2:57, 2:55, 2:46

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ticking Over

I know I'm not updating as often as usual at the moment, but there are only so many ways you can say "ran easily on Thursday and Friday, felt good".

So, what did I do?

I ran easily on Thursday and Friday and felt good.

On Saturday I had to drive the three older kids to Cork again, for the second last time this turn. Thank God that's nearly over, having to wake them early and leave at 8 o'clock on a Saturday morning 8 weeks in a row is a lot to ask for. It's a credit to them that they never complained - they enjoyed the course so much, obviously.

I have 2.5 hours to kill, which I, of course, use for running. The Blackrock area, roughly miles 10-15 of the Cork marathon course, is by far my favourite, but it requires to go through town, so when I have only limited time available I head for the straight road, not as nice but perfectly good for a run. I did miles 22-25 of the marathon course each way and with a little bit extra added on I came to 8 miles. That's fine. The problem was that I just could not keep the pace at the planned 7:15. I kept checking the Garmin, and every time I looked I kept seeing some pace between 6:15 and 6:45. So much for my belief that I can tune into the right pace without that watch by now. It was only 8 miles so there's no damage done; it was probably useless from a physiological point of view but a fantastic confidence booster all the same.

The weather always tends to be beautiful at this time of the year and this year is no exception. It would be nice if this were not the only nice sunny period of the year for a change; the last three summers have all been abysmal.

Of course I hope we won't have 23 degrees in Connemara again, even though I handled that reasonably well in 2010. I'd rather have perfect running conditions for my assault at the sub-5.

Anyway, I used today's beautiful weather for a trail run on the Kerry Way, from our house all the way to Windy Gap and back. The high point is about 1150 feet high and there is plenty of up and down on the way which adds up to a more than decent amount of climbing. Even though the pace would not indicate it, I ran it at a reasonable effort; not particularly hard but not hanging around either. I did not meet a single soul on the trail, it was just me and a few panicked sheep. The view, as always, was absolutely stunning. I do appreciate living in such a scenic part of the world - I only wish the weather were better.

Only one week left to Connemara. This is going to be great!
22 Mar
5 miles, 38:34, 7:42 pace, HR 137
23 Mar
5 miles, 38:28, 7:41 pace, HR 138
24 Mar
8 miles, 55:05, 6:53 pace, HR 156
25 Mar
10.7 miles, 1:27:58, 8:13 pace, HR 149
   trail run

Weekly Mileage: 46+

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Definitely Tapering Now

Since the recovery from Ballycotton extended smoothly into my taper, last week wasn't really the usual shock to the system. But I sure can tell the difference this week, the mileage has dropped considerably, I get more sleep, the legs feel fresh each morning and the countdown to Connemara is almost into single digits.

The long term weather forecast does not paint a pretty picture right now, but since they cannot even predict next day's weather with any degree of accuracy (the glorious sunshine on Paddy's Day being a prime example, the forecast had been appalling) I won't take too much notice of that just yet.

The training cycle has gone so well, I'm kinda waiting for something to strike at the last minute. Injury is rather unlikely, especially with my pretty good history, so it's mostly illness that I'm worried about. Virtually every family member has been sick at some stage over the last few weeks; Shea especially got it pretty bad with a very violent cough, but I didn't even get the sniffles. My immune system must be rather good. That said, I woke with a distinctive metallic taste in my mouth yesterday and can feel it again today, but there are no other symptoms. I think we can rule out pregnancy in my case and as long as nothing worse happens, I'm fine.

Never mind me, I'm just being paranoid as the race approaches. It will only get worse next week.

Two very easy 5-milers were followed by another race pace run this morning. At least it was supposed to be race pace. I kept the pace quite well against a blustery headwind on the way out but of course it blew me home faster than anticipated on the way back home. Generally I find that I'm able to tune into 7:15 pace reasonably well but there is always a tendency to inadvertently speed up if the legs are fresh. It's not an issue once I reach double digits on the mileage, but of course I don't want to burn myself off early in the race in Connemara. On the plus side I can now tell when I'm running too fast without looking at the Garmin, hopefully I will still be able to do that with race-day adrenaline floating in my veins.

My nutrition plans are taking shape as well. I seem to respond to sports drink better than to gels and will take that into account, but will still take several gels with me. I'll see and adapt according to how I feel on the day, and the general idea is to bring too much rather than too little, but not get freaked out if I can't get to my stuff from the aid stations for whatever reason.

Definitely getting excited now.

19 Mar
5 miles, 38:30, 7:42 pace, HR 140
20 Mar
5 miles, 39:00, 7:48 pace, HR 134
21 Mar
8 miles, 57:02, 7:08 pace, HR 145

Sunday, March 18, 2012

It Did Not Rain On My Parade

Something not quite right here. Because last week's mileage had been so low, I actually ran a lot more this week, despite calling it a taper.

But the best thing about this week was not the mileage or the pace but the way I've felt. It took 3 weeks to get my legs back after Donadea, and racing Ballcotton didn't help I suppose, but since the beginning of the week I have basically felt better every day. There was a small bump on Thursday when the legs felt lousy over the first 4 miles but they seemed to recover miraculously and felt great for the last 4.

The weekend saw a lighter load than previous ones with just a vague resemblance of those back-to-back workouts I have done on a few occasions this year. The plan for Saturday was to run 10 miles at 7:15 pace and for once I managed to stick fairly close to that. I paid plenty of attention to the Garmin during the first half and was very much on target as a result. I ran the second half much more by feel and ended up a little bit faster, but still very close to the target.

By far my favourite Paddy's Day parade in Ireland is the one in Glenbeigh. It's mercifully short. The kids like it too because they get a party bag at the end. We even got lucky with the weather. Despite the absolutely awful forecast, it was a beautiful sunny day.

I haven't run the Caragh Lake loop in a while, which is why I picked it one final time before Connemara this morning. The general idea was to run the same 7:15 pace again but on a much hillier course than previous efforts. Connemara is very hilly, at least the second half is, and I will have to be able to keep that same pace on such an undulating road.

I was out later than usual, owing to Mother's Day. Niamh's wishes for the day were a lie-in, breakfast in bed and no fighting amongst the children. 2 out of 3 ain't bad, I suppose. Maia seemed to think that because she had to be extra good for Mum, she had to be particularly awful for Dad and I was rather stressed by the time I was finally able to get out of the door for my run. Maybe I tried to get away as quickly as possible and that's why I started with a 6:45 mile, or maybe it were the three cups of coffee that completely messed up my pacing, but I did calm down eventually and settled into a more realistic pace. Having said that, I felt very good, and the sports drink I took with me to try it out before Connemara made a difference as well (all my other runs had been dry). As a result, I ended up a good bit faster than expected, but I can honestly say that I was always in total control and never once unduly pushed the effort.

With 2 weeks to go to Connemara, the hay is in the barn. I might be sticking my head out unnecessarily here, but my prediction is that it's not a question of if I break 5 hours in Connemara but by how much. And now that I've stated it so openly, there's no tracking back.

15 Mar
8 miles, 1:02:19, 7:47 pace, HR 141
16 Mar
8 miles, 1:00:21, 7:32 pace, HR 142
17 Mar
10 miles, 1:12:00, 7:12 pace, HR 150
18 Mar
15.1 miles, 1:46:54, 7:04 pace, HR 151

Weekly Mileage: 69+

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cautiously Tapering

Connemara is 18 days away, and just in time for the taper the legs are coming round. Things have been a bit up and down during the entire training cycle. I didn't feel great during base training, probably because I felt the effects of 3 marathons (ok, 2 marathons and 1 ultra) in quick succession in my legs. As soon as I started the hill phase, however, things improved spectacularly and I felt great, until the day I ran Donadea. I have been feeling the effects of that ever since, and the fact that I added the shock of 10 miles at 6:07 pace to an already compromised system didn't help. However, on Monday I felt like I was running on springs again. I suppose it took three weeks to recover from Donadea and now I'm over the worst of it. Since it's too close to Connemara to add significant training stress, I should arrive at the start line with a very fresh pair of legs.

Monday and Tuesday were very similar, eight easy miles in the beautiful Kerry spring morning alongside Caragh Lake, the peace only slightly disturbed by the presence of a million gnats. Some of them ended up in my stomach, some in my lungs and some drowned in my sweat. Gross. But the running itself was great.

In order to get efficient at a particular pace you have to run at that pace. It was for that reason that the coach had me do a lot of gruelling marathon-paced miles last year. This year the equivalent workouts have been slower and therefore easier, and I generally tried to extend the pace segment to make up for it. This morning saw another one of these workouts. I eased into it over the first 2 miles and then tried to cruise along at 7:15 pace. I have a tendency to drift into 7:00 pace and below on these runs if I don't pay attention, but I'm slowly starting to tune into it and didn't need too many corrections today. I was still a little bit fast but stuck to the plan pretty well, all said. With a little bit more of that and fresher legs, things are looking pretty good for Connemara.

12 Mar
8 miles, 1:02:37, 7:49 pace, HR 136
13 Mar
8 miles, 1:02:55, 7:51 pace, HR 135
14 Mar
12 miles, 1:26:21, 7:11 pace, HR 145

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Reflecting, Still

I spent most of the week trying to recover from Ballycotton, mentally as much as physically. I could not help but wonder what time I could have run had I not done Donadea beforehand. I'll never know, of course, but given the choice to do it all again, I'd probably skip Donadea. Not that I regret going there; I had a great time, enjoyed seeing all the marathon club runners again and am happy enough to get one really long training run for Connemara done, but in hindsight doing both Donadea and Ballycotton was a bit much.

Oh, and the photo from mile 7 (I think) in Ballycotton speaks volumes. I still had 3 miles to go at that point. Still, I got me a shiny nice PB as I keep reminding myself.

I'm still in recovery mode. As I mentioned in my previous post, my quads felt like I had run a marathon. Since Connemara is only 3 weeks away, this means that I will have inadvertently had a 4-weeks taper by the time that race comes around. Let's see what that will bring.

For various reasons, I did not manage a road run on Thursday but did a cross-country one in some neighbouring fields instead. To be perfectly honest, I cannot see what the attraction is. I prefer being able to stride out on a smooth road surface and the 2+ miles felt like a lot more, but I do hope that a break from the tarmac did the legs some good and the 8 easy miles on Friday felt reasonably good.

The kids' course in Cork is still on and it was my turn again on Saturday to drive them there. My preferred option in Cork is the Blackrock area but I didn't really have time to get there so ran on the straight road instead. There is something about that road that always makes me run faster than planned (even at mile 23 of the marathon). Again and again I slowed myself down but eventually changed tactics, doing half-mile pickups at sub-7 pace instead. It felt pretty good, but I did notice some sore legs later that day.

Sunday morning would normally have seen a long run, but with only 3 weeks to go that was down to 15 miles, especially taking my tender legs into account. I did a workout that I had been planning for a while; in fact, I had been hoping of doing it more than once. The coach had called it volume pickups last year, alternating tempo-pace half-mile sections with steady miles. As I'm training for an ultra rather than a marathon I did them slower than last year but did a couple more instead. The plan was to do the miles at 7:15 and the half miles at 6:45 pace; in reality I was a little bit faster on average. What the average figures don't tell you are the constant pace changes. I found it really hard to stay on pace and repeatedly had to change the effort level after consulting the Garmin. It felt a bit like running a race where one guy keeps surging like mad and you're trying to keep up. The idea behind the whole thing is to make 7:15 pace feel comfortable, which it did for most of the workout. I found the mental challenge brought on by the constant change in pace much tougher than the physical one.

   mile    half-mile
7:03 6:39
7:10 6:39
7:12 6:33
7:10 6:43
7:17 6:40
7:14 6:44
7:11 6:40
7:09 6:36
7:09 6:36

8 Mar
2.15 miles, 18:14, 8:28 pace, HR 143
9 Mar
8 miles, 1:02:30, 7:48 pace, HR 143
10 Mar
10 miles, 1:15:07, 7:30 pace, HR 141
11 Mar
15 miles, 1:45:56, 7:03 pace, HR 151
   alternating mile and half-miles

Weekly Mileage: 50+

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The Day After

They say you learn something new every day. One new thing I learned this week was that you can be sorer after a 10-mile race than after a marathon, because my legs have been pretty achy the last few days. Interestingly, the pain is asymmetrical, the left quads are by far the worst, whereas the right quads are pretty much fine. I presume it’s not only the fact that I raced Ballycotton harder than ever before, but also the fact that it was only 2 weeks after the 50k in Donadea and I was still only partially recovered from that. I could claim that lessons will be learned, but that might be a lie. In fact, I would definitely race Ballycotton under the same circumstances again (I might change the circumstances, though, you never know).

As for the suggestions to concentrate on shorter distances for a while and then take the benefits from that training into the marathon, that is something to think about. My main problem is, I have seen two or three runners attempt exactly that, including one under the guidance of my former coach, and for some reason or another the outcome was never the desired one, none of them improved significantly over the shorter distances and they did not carry significant benefits into the next marathon either. However, right now I'm indeed playing with the idea of targeting next year’s Ballycotton as my ‘A’ race, which would obviously mean no Donadea or any marathons early 2013, but I have plenty of time to make up my mind.

Due to the tender legs, all I have done since the race are a series of short, slow recovery runs. It took a few minutes to get into it each morning, but I noticed a definite improvement today. Having said that, the HR was a bit high this morning, but that might just be a once-off. I’ll keep my eye on it.

Right now, the only thing to do is to recovery from the race (well, two races), and then there won’t be much time left until Connemara; I guess that means that the real training is pretty much over by now. I’ll play it by ear and try to err on the conservative side, not exactly my strong point.

Despite there being a lot of photographers in Ballycotton, I only found one photostream with images of me. That picture is from the 3-mile point, right when I realised that I was in trouble. You can see Pat O’Shea right behind me. I’m surprised he didn’t manage to catch me again. We briefly spoke after the race, after going past I started coming back to him but eventually managed to pull clear again, apparently.

Oh, and I have to say, the various race calculators are very kind. According to the age-grading calculator, my 61:13 is equivalent to a mindblowing 57:31 for a younger man, but races aren’t run in calculators, of course. Macmillan is pretty nice to me as well, allegedly I did the equivalent performance of a 17:35 5k or a 2:51:27 marathon, all of which sounds rather flattering. Looking at my race results in general, I tend to perform my best at the 10 mile/half marathon distances; I guess that’s still the case even though I have always trained for a marathon. I'd take a 2:51 marathon, but only on the road. Despite being mathematically minded, algorithms don't count.

5 Mar
5 miles, 40:46, 8:09 pace, HR 136
6 Mar
5 miles, 40:13, 8:03 pace, HR 135
7 Mar
5 miles, 40:16, 8:03 pace, HR 139

Sunday, March 04, 2012

A Mug's Game

That's what Niamh called it when she pointed out that I had driven 200 miles today and ran 10 miles, just for a mug. Obviously, my own view disagrees with that assessment. This was my 5th Ballycotton in a row and I have no plans of breaking that chain next year either.

I collected Grellan, Pat and Ian on the way and we arrived in good time. I didn't meet quite as many people as in previous years but had a good chat with Gary Condon and his wife as well as with Brendan. Standing around in the freezing cold, waiting for the race, is part of the Ballycotton experience; it happens every year, but I was glad that the sun came out right as I took up position near the start line; it was actually quite pleasant.

Pleasant is of course not the way to describe the next hour and a bit. Road racing does not work that way.

I quickly got around the idiots who start right at the front and proceed at jogging pace and settled into a good pace myself. The wind was quite strong and I decided it was really important to hang on to a pack to get a little bit of shelter. The first 2 miles are downhill and the pace is always fast, which was confirmed when I crossed the first mile just as the guy at the timer called out 6 minutes, and that was gun time, of course, my net time at that point was about 5 seconds faster. The second mile was even faster, if only by one single second. At that stage I was hanging on to two guys going at a strong pace and we caught quite a few runners who had obviously started too fast. There was also a massive pack right in front of us, 20 - 30 runners, but it was gradually spitting out solitary runners at the end which we then proceeded to catch ourselves.

The third mile was still under 6 minutes, and at that stage I was well on course to break one hour, which would have been an amazing improvement. My time from last year, 61:51, was not only by personal best over 10 miles, it was also my best running performance ever, and taking 2 minutes of that would have been quite something.

Actually, quite something did happen at mile 2.5 - I passed Pat O'Shea. That's a first. Over the past few years I have become very familiar with the sight of Pat running in front of me, but he was always elusive. As I passed him, I thought this would be the first time ever to beat him. Oh, did I mention that Pat is 60 years old? He is also a former 2:26 marathoner, and has obviously aged very, very well. I have tons of respect for the guy.

Sadly, that was pretty much the end of my high performance today. Taking some water at the 3 mile point not only cost me some time, I was really gasping for air for a while afterwards and I lost contact to my two pacers. As much as I tried to catch up, the legs would not respond. The quads hadn't felt too fresh even at the start, but that had not stopped me from going out hard. Sadly, it became apparent that I would have to pay the price for such an aggressive start. The legs seized up and I was looking at 7 really hard and painful miles, with plenty of suffering guaranteed.

I thought I dropped off very badly and by mile 4 a massive gap had appeared in front of me, but to my surprise nobody had yet managed to overtake. Any other day that would have been a good thing, but today it meant I had to battle the really strong and blustery wind entirely on my own, and it really sapped my already waning strength even further.

That's not what I'm used to. I usually start overtaking runners at that point and keep that going until the end, gradually working my way up the field. Today was different, and I did not like it. When they finally caught up with me, it was a pack of 5 runners and when I tried to hang on to them I did not last very long. The same happened again half a mile later, just before half way, and again I tried in vain to hang on.

I cursed myself for being soft and weak and not giving my best, but the legs just would not respond. There was a good crowd of spectators around the 5 mile point, and I passed halfway in 30:22 gun time, net time would have been about 5 seconds faster, which was the fastest I have ever run 5 miles; overall I was still doing well. Looking at the mile splits now, the fifth mile had seen a drastic slowdown, 15 seconds slower than the previous one, but it was net uphill and right into the wind, so it wasn't as bad as it may look.

I was dreading the second half, I kept getting passed and I hated it. I knew that my negative thoughts did not help and tried to take positive action. One runner who had just gone past was looking uncomfortable and breathing very hard; I thought that he must be suffering at least as much as I was and I managed to pass him again. I managed to hang on to one pack for some reasonable amount of time, but when the course climbed again, I fell back. The sixth mile was faster again, but we had the wind at our back now and of course that helped a lot.

I perked up when I passed the 10k mark, because that's the only time in the entire race when I checked the watch, saw 37:42 and realised that I had just set a personal best over that distance to go with the one over 5 miles. Maybe I was doing alright after all. I knew I was about half a minute ahead of last year's time and even though I doubted I would manage to stay ahead, I would give it a good go.

Unfortunately I was still getting caught by some runners, but by now only in trickles rather than by entire packs. I tried very hard to hang to them and I more than managed to hold my own on the flat bits, but every rise in the road threw me back. I think I was running right at the limit, and just could not handle any increase in effort. I also got a stitch and I had to slow down a little bit for maybe half a mile and work it out.

Just before the 8-mile mark a runner in a white Crusaders singlet passed me and I recognised him as Rene Borg. I said hello and he recognised me as well. Unfortunately (I keep using that word a lot, I know. That's just how the race went) he was moving far too well for me to hang on, and I kept seeing him moving up the field for a very strong finish 10 places ahead of me. He is obviously getting into good shape.

I got into a battle with a runner called Ian at that point and we kept passing each other several times. He had several friends along the roadside, which is why I knew his name. The course starts climbing at that point and I fell behind, but once the steep bit was finished I caught up again and we started trading places again. Locked in battle as we were, we even caught one or two other runners on the way home.

Ballycotton is well known for its tough, uphill finish, but it is also extremely well supported by a big number of very enthusiastic supporters, which can be a double-edged sword. If you're suffering, there is no place to hide, but if you're in the right mood, it is a big help.

While the ninth, uphill mile, had been a bit slow, the final was one of my faster ones, and it was all down to duking it out hell for leather with Ian. We pulled each other to a better time, and a few better places as well. Right at the end he pulled away, but at least I managed to catch another runner while pursuing him. It's amazing how you always have something extra to give right at the end, even though you could have sworn you were already going full-out. It was a rather painful end to a rather painful race, but I gained one more place (or rather, re-took one place) right at the death to cross the line in 61:13, which was good enough for 123rd place as I found out later.

I guess I was passed by about 25 runners after mile 4, so I must have been just inside the top 100 at that point. That would have been good enough for a t-shirt, but that was always a very long shot and 10-mile races are not decided at mile 4. I would not have thought I could be unhappy with a new PB, but I was rather frustrated when I finished, because of the many runners who had caught me over the final 10k. But the more time passed, the happier I became with my race. I initially thought I had faded badly, but the mile splits actually held up pretty well and maybe I should be proud for battling on even when things threatened to fall apart. Running your best 5 mile, 10k and 10 mile times in one single race is never the sign of a bad race. I have no regrets about going out so hard - I gave it a good go; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but I left it all on the road and that's all I can ask for.

I was only 1 minute off a top-100 finish. If I can keep improving, and not destroy my legs by running a 50k race 2 weeks before, there is every chance that I might sneak in next year or the year after that, before old age starts catching up with me. I might just give it a a go.

Mile splits: 5:55, 5:54, 5:57, 6:08, 6:23, 6:09, 6:03, 6:17, 6:22, 6:05

3 Mar
5 miles, 39:40, 7:56 pace, HR 135
4 Mar
13.5 miles, including:
   Ballycotton 10, 61:13, 6:07 pace, avg. HR 176
   123rd place, 19th M40

Weekly Mileage: 59

Friday, March 02, 2012

Sinead Kane Appeal

Can I make one confession: I am not a fan of the women's mini-marathons. I have heard too many stories about inept organisation and the general attitude of some of the participants (having a fag in the middle of the event? having a pint?? queuing at an atm for a pint in the middle of a 4 miler??? and you expect me to sponsor you for that????) to be impressed. However, this runner is a bit different and deserves respect:

Sinead Kane is appealing to the women of Ireland to join her in running the Women’s Mini Marathon for ChildVision, the National Education Centre for Blind Children. Sinead is blind; she has only 5% vision in both her eyes from childhood. Because of this, she is also appealing for one exceptional runner.

“I want people to run with me to help raise funds for this brilliant school,” said Kane. “And I also need one special competitor who will run tethered to me to help me cope with cobbles, potholes and anything else that I’ll have to avoid or cope with. They’re going to have to be fit enough to talk to me right the way through.”

Sinead was joined at the launch of her campaign by Aniela Kostienko and Hannah Flynn, both aged 8, who attend ChildVision’s primary school. While they have been lucky enough to get into the school there are already 45 children on a waiting list for ChildVision’s preschool. Because it does not charge fees to the blind and partially sighted children who attend, fundraising is essential to provision of services at ChildVision. So, to make sure children who have sight loss, and who often have other disabilities, have the right environment to thrive a successful team run at the Mini Marathon is important.

Registered in 2009 as Ireland's first blind solicitor Sinead is no stranger to adversity or to long distance running running. She ran a 10k 12 years ago and was in the first half of the finishers.

“That was a long time ago and I’ll need to get myself fit again,” explained Kane. “And the mini-marathon is only three months away, so anyone who wants to sign up needs to do it soon.”

Last year the maximum number of runners for the mini-marathon was reached one month after registrations opened. Registration has now been open for 2012 for over a week so acting quickly is vital. Anyone who wants to join in can get their Marathon pack (ChildVision t-Shirt, sponsorship card and Training top tips) by contacting the fundraising team at ChildVision on 01 8373635 or by mailing

I'll add a little note on my own training, if you don't mind. My legs are clearly still recovering from Donadea, because even though Wednesday's workout had felt exceptionally easy, I still paid for it with rather heavy legs on Thursday. I savagely cut Friday's mileage in response and did a set of 5 hill sprints and a couple of strides in an attempt to sharpen them up for Sunday's race. I travel to Ballycotton more in hope than expectation, but I'm very much looking forward to the buzz that always surrounds the event all the same.

1 Mar
8 miles, 1:03:35, 7:57 pace, HR 135
2 Mar
4.5 miles, 38:09, 8:29 pace, HR 140
   hill sprints and strides