Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Best Laid Plans

Following Saturday's 100 mile race, I am of course in full recovery mode. The plan was always to take 2 weeks completely off and nothing has changed in that regard.

I actually feel surprisingly good, certainly much better than after the 24 hours race last year when I was completely wrecked for a considerable amount of time. I was able to drive home to Kerry on Sunday without any problems, though on Monday we went to Banna beach, and when I saw Niamh and the kids running across the sand I wistfully thought to myself "I wish I could do that".

My quads were stiff and reasonably sore, though I was able to walk up and down a staircase on Tuesday without looking funny. Cycling to and from work is also fine, and in fact will probably help the healing process because it gets a little bit of blood pumping through the legs.

Thinking back to the race, I am still very happy with how it went and how I applied myself over 100 miles. I'm reasonably confident that the equivalent performance in a 24 hours race would have seen me to over 220 km, which is the present IAAF / IAU Grade B standard. Maybe I will indeed don a National jersey one day, something that would have been so far beyond the realm of possibility not so long ago, it wasn't even on the same planet.

I still think Grellan should go for the same target, despite his protestations. Interestingly enough he claims it would require divorce. The situation could not be different in my own household where Niamh keeps proclaiming confidently that we would be heading for divorce as soon as I stopped running, so I'll just keep running for the sake of the children (who, by the way, weren't too impressed by me coming second yet again).

Talking about coming second, I have now been the bridesmaid in all of my last 3 big ultra events, Bangor, Sixmilebridge and Connemara. I am wondering if I lack a certain killer instinct that will push me just that bit more even if it's at the risk of blowing up completely, but looking at it rationally I think these races are usually decided in the months preceding the race rather than on the day itself. I can't help but notice that Grellan has run marathon after marathon, including back-to-back ones, all year, while I have been much more conservative in my approach, apart from the 10-in-10 - and even then, Grellan did over 150 miles that same week.

Graeme Colhoun confirmed his belief that marathons don't really cut it as long runs for a long ultra when I chatted to him briefly on Sunday, and you do need some longer runs as well. Finally, I did notice that Ruthann Sheahan ran 100km in Portumna only 5 weeks before setting an incredible new record in Belfast.

Therefore, right now I'm playing with the idea of really pushing the envelope for the first half of next year, though right now this is still only a fairly vague idea in my head. Right now is definitely the time to make new plans, though. I've had most of my recent racing planned all the way back to the start of 2012 when I decided to run the 24 hours in Bangor that year followed by the Connemara 100 in 2013, with a goal marathon in-between. That's 18 months of racing planned in advance, much more than usual, but I am very happy with how it all turned out.

I never planned beyond Connemara though. After my 2:55 in Tralee I thought I might aim for another spring marathon and then go for Belfast in July, but the idea that is slowly forming in my head is to concentrate solely on the ultra and forget about a 2:50 marathon (probably forever - age is not on my side temporarily), but right now I am still keeping my options open. At the very least, I still have over a week of no running ahead of me, something my marriage which will hopefully survive.


  1. Thomas all I can say is that you have shown throughout the past few years through determination, discipline, hard work and a supportive family that anything can be accomplished.

    In awe as always.

  2. Great to see you are looking forward. Enjoy the two weeks off or however long you need. Another marathon is certainly not beyond you and maybe time for a overseas ultra if that is where you see your future lying? Comrades, Badwater even Sables?

  3. I could sit here and think of a polite way to say this but I'm just going to blurt it out. Pants. Absolute and utter pants: age is on your side. What on earth are you talking about? Ok, you might not break 2:20 but you are certainly capable of breaking 2:50 and even 2:40.

    Imagine if you carried 2:3X into the ultra world - you might find yourself getting married every time you raced rather than being the bridesmaid.

    Look at your 5k time. Imagine if you did even a small amount of 5k specific work and then carried that over to some 'proper' marathon training. You are more than capable of running in the 2:3X's.

    Two years ago I was chugging 40 smokes a day, quaffing a bottle of merlot every night, and eating rubbish. I was 15 stone. I'm now 9st 5lbs and I'll be racing soon. I'm 48 going on 49 and I'll be disappointed if I don't break 16 in my first 5k race and get close to 15 by the summer - better deliver on that now.

    You've got to change your mind set. It's time for you to move from the world of jogging to the world of running - no disrespect meant there:). I can see that you enjoy ultra running but I also detect a competitive edge in the sub text of what you write. If you want to win races, you've got to get in there and hurt during the 'hard' training sessions, you've got to believe in yourself, and you've got to have confidence in the miles and years you've put in. Look at how you've improved and how you are improving. Seems to me that with age you are learning the craft, gaining experience and having some success. Age seems to be on your side.

    I not so humbly suggest that when you start out again that you work on your 5k/10k speed (keep up the mileage) and carry this into marathon training - with a goal to run a spring marathon in 2:48(ish). From there, the world's your 'oyster':)

    Just so there's no misunderstanding, I'm trying to make you see that you are selling yourself short.

    Whatever you decide, good luck. But don't use age as an excuse - you're to young to play that card. Me on the other hand - I've got that card up my sleeve:)


  4. In the last para., 'to young' should read 'too young'. That's another problem with being decrepit:(


    1. Jeez, calm down. I don't see how saying "I want to don a National Jersey" is selling myself short. What I'm saying is that IF I have to choose between a 2:50 marathon and qualifying for a World championship, I'll choose the latter.

      That's not jogging, mate. That's serious running.

  5. Thomas, I'm chilled.

    Your, 'I want to don a National Jersey' is a valid point and as you say, isn't selling yourself short. Also, it certainly isn't jogging. The 'jogging' comment was a poor attempt at humour. Apologies! I also missed the 'IF' and choice part of your initial blog. Sorry for that too.

    I was, however, trying to point out that if you were to concentrate on lowering your marathon time that this would benefit your ultra performances. A point, I'm sure, you don't need to be told. That said, imo, you seemed to be selling yourself short by stating that you 'forget about a 2:50 marathon (probably forever - age is not on my side).' And when I say you're selling yourself short, this isn't a dig, it's telling you that you have more ability/talent than you might think and that age isn't 'really' against you - not yet. But maybe I'm wrong.

    I hope the recovery goes well and that you are back out on the roads soon.


    1. Ok, alright, I've crossed out the "probably forever" bit. Happy now?

    2. Haha. Elated:) See you out there...

  6. I was wondering when the lure of representing your country might arise. You can't keep improving and getting into the medals in big races without the thought crossing ones mind.

    For me marathon times are nice but realistically you'll never represent your country running the marathon, your best results come from ultras and where you have the most potential to keep improving. I also believe you have a mentality and discipline that suits performing consistently well in ultras. If you want to represent your country then ultras is the place to do it.

    Getting selected to run for your country could be set as a goal, but it's really just a stepping stone, a more concrete goal would be to represent your country and when doing so achieve a high level of performances in international races. Doing so requires even more dedication, time and intensity that you already give the sport.

    Can you, your family and your work life handle this increased level of commitment? It's not a decision you can make on your own, to achieve the end goal you'll need to make sure all the foundations are in place.

    Personally I'd love to see you take this next step. You are physically and mentally capable of it, and as I'm a regular follower of your blog it means ever more exciting blog posts to read as your competitive career lights up.

    Also it'd give me the satisfaction of Scotland kicking your butt! ;-)

    As for race goals, I think thoughts of marathon PB's etc. would need to go out the window. Your focus has to be on the end goal - running ultras with bigger fields and placing well so you first get selected, then shine when running for Ireland. As you get stronger at long distances there is a good chance that PB's at shorter distances will follow, but it should only ever be a minor little tick on your CV, the key ones are your placings in the big ultra races.

    Realistically I think you'd need to start running more ultras of a range of distances. Shorter ultras would be training events. You'll need to travel further afield. Your training will also need more long runs and back to back long runs. Diet might also be something to look at.

    Good luck with your deliberations.