Wednesday, July 31, 2013

In-between Races

One or two comments last week had me a bit worried when they mentioned “overtraining”, because running 10 marathons in 10 days may well leave you in that state. But then I did check all the possible symptoms and came to the conclusion that I am most likely not overtrained. I did have sore muscles for a considerable time and I was inside a big bubble of fatigue for much longer than I would have liked, but none of the other symptoms applied and anyway, I am feeling much better now, even if it took over 2 weeks.

I quickly became familiar with muscle soreness again after Saturday’s race but if you run a hill like that at 10k effort then muscle soreness comes as part of the package. I felt quite sore after the race, felt much better when running the following day but the soreness returned once the endorphins wore off. I had some classic DOMS on Monday, but by Tuesday I felt more or less fully recovered.

Since I seamlessly transitioned from recover from the 10in10 to the taper for Connemara, I never got to do any training other than running very, very easily. My paces picked up a bit as the memory of the 10in10 faded into the past but the effort more or less remained the same. Today, almost 3 weeks after finishing the 10in10, I had to consciously slow down myself for the first time because I felt I was running a bit too fast for a recovery run. Obviously Saturday’s race was the one exception to all that slow running.

I did add a few strides to today’s run – something I suspect I should be doing much more often. I have said that before. I just keep forgetting.

I’m not sure where that leaves me, but I’m going to find out pretty damn soon as Connemara is only 10 days away. I do have another race on Friday evening, my club’s annual 4 mile race, but actually I think it is beneficial to get the legs moving at a much faster pace every now and then, even if you’re training for a long ultra. Obviously you need to fully recover from these efforts; that is absolutely paramount.

I haven’t quiet decided what I’m going to do next week, I’ll probably rest completely for a few of the days and I will try and run 9-minute pace, because one lesson from the 10in10 was that I initially felt really awkward running at a slower pace that what I was used to from training, so training at lower speeds it is.

Did I really say it’s only 10 days? Sh*t, this really is going to happen, isn’t it!

28 Jul
5 miles, 38:46, 7:45 pace, HR 139
29 Jul
5 miles, 39:27, 7:53 pace, HR 137
30 Jul
6+ miles, 46:53, 7:41 pace, HR 140
31 Jul
8 miles, 1:02:13, 7:47 pace, HR 141

Saturday, July 27, 2013

One Bloody Big Hill

I wasn't sure if running a 10k halfway between the 10in10 and the Connemara 100 was a good idea, but after all the long miles of very slow running I have done over the recent months a few faster miles to blow out some cobwebs in the fast twitch muscle fibres sounded like a good idea. Plus, there is that really steep road you can see from Rossbeigh Beach going up the mountain and I always wanted to run that one, and guess where the race went today!

So I found myself at the start line in Glenbeigh on this drizzly grey morning, but the conditions were pretty much ideal for running a 10k. I knew I was not in race shape and I knew the course was not a PB course, and both these assertions are rather understated, and I reckoned I would be lucky to break 40 minutes. In any case, Arthur Fitzgerald's presence meant nobody else had to worry about victory today.

The organisation of the start could do with some improvement, suddenly and entirely without warning we got a shout to go, nobody had lined up, my Garmin was not set up and everyone was completely taken by surprise, but of course we ran off anyway. I settled in fifth place and within 2k I was in third, but I was already hurting and since I knew what was about to hit us I was wondering if I would blow up soon.

The hill started before the 4k marker right at the famous Rossbeigh beach and it immediately got serious. All in all we climbed over 450 feet in less than a mile and yes, that's rather steep. I know I said I always wanted to run that road, but I seriously questioned my judgement because doing so at 10k race intensity is a rather painful way for the experience. Nevertheless I drew closer and closer to the runner in front of me, by the time we finally reached the top, miraculously without collapsing, I was close enough for him to clearly hear my footsteps but as soon as we went downhill he was gone in no time.

Until the start of this year I always used to be a weak uphill and strong downhill runner but this has completely reversed; I attribute my climbing strength to my mountain runs on the Kerry Way but I would love to have similar success on the downhills. Today was even worse than usual because I simply did not have the leg turnover, the legs just would not move fast enough and there was nothing I could do. It was not entirely surprising because I had done no speedwork whatsoever in several months and my legs still have much of the 10in10 in them, so all I could do was accept it and hope nobody would catch me from behind because I sure was not going to make up a place myself.

Thankfully the downhill gradient was much smoother than the uphill had been, it took us the best part of 4k to reach the bottom again, and from there on there was another wicked climb up to the finish, not steep but with 9k in the legs I'm sure I wasn't the only one wishing for this to be over pretty damn soon.

I had no idea how far ahead I was of fourth place and I wasn't going to look behind me so I just pushed as much as I could. I rounded the final bend into the GAA ground and saw the clock just a few seconds away from 40 minutes. I tried to stay below but missed out by a couple of seconds, but after the chaotic start I'm not entirely convinced we started at the same time as the clock and in real time I might have just dipped under it, but who cares. 

A 40 minute 10k might not really deserve a podium finish but that's what I got and I sure wasn't going to complain about it, and the prize money will come in handy and was gratefully received. I did as well as expected, no better and no worse, and the main objective had been to have a bit of fun and get the legs moving at a different speed for a change, and from that point of view it was a highly successful race.

23 Jul
5 miles, 40:00, 8:00 pace, HR 131
24 Jul
5 miles, 39:04, 7:48 pace, HR 135
25 Jul
7 miles, 55:01, 7:51 pace, HR 134
26 Jul
6 miles, 45:30, 7:34 pace, HR 137
   incl half a mile @ 6:15 pace
27 Jul
9+ miles, including Glenbeigh 10k in 40:00, HR 174, 6:27 pace
   3rd place

Monday, July 22, 2013

Records And Champions

Just two weeks ago I had the pleasure of running significant parts of 2 of the Sixmilebridge marathons in the company of Ruthann Sheahan. I knew she was going to run the 24 hrs race in Belfast and at one stage asked her if she would be going for Valerie Glavin's Irish track record. Ruthann gave the best answer possible by absolutely smashing the record with the astonishing distance of 225.5k, which would have been good enough for 9th place in this year's World championship (and 4th in the European)!

In the same race the men's record was also broken by Eoin Keith, who had a hard time at last year's race but had the class of staying around and supporting the other athletes and also having some very kind words on my own performance. Eoin more than made up for last year's disappointment by posting a new record of 244.6k, a distance that would have seen him finishing in 12th place in the World championship (6th in Europe). These are absolutely mind boggling performances and I hope I will be able to join them again next year, though not with the view of beating them.

As for my own running, that is very much at the back burner right now. I got several comments that I should be recovering rather than training, but to be honest I thought I was doing exactly that. I posted no more than 38 miles last week, less than half of what I would be doing in a typical training week, and all of those miles were set at a leisurely pace. I ran 5 miles every morning with the exception of Sunday when I ran 8 miles for the only reason that I wanted a change of scenery.

Connemara is less than 3 weeks away, but rather than counting down the days in nervous anticipation I am hoping they will pass slowly to give me more time for recovery. Not running the marathon this weekend was definitely one of my smarter decisions, quite unlike me.

The nice weather seems to be coming to an end, which is a shame. I enjoyed running in the sun most mornings, today in contrast felt extremely humid not particularly enjoyable. At least it's not raining. Yet.

20 Jul
5 miles, 38:36, 7:43 pace, HR 138
21 Jul
8 miles, 1:02:52, 7:51 pace
22 Jul
7 miles, 55:59, 8:00 pace, HR 130

Weekly Mileage: 38

Friday, July 19, 2013

Back To Life, Back To Reality

It did occur to me that for one week in Sixmilebridge I was basically living the life of a professional runner – all I did was either run or prepare for my next run. I think I could have gotten used to that. Sadly, this week it has been back to reality and back to office life, and it did take me a few days to readjust.

My weight has come down a little bit over the last few days and has basically returned to the level I had before the 10in10. I can therefore conclude that running 10 marathons in a row is not a fool proof way of losing weight, something that comes as a bit of a surprise to me, to be honest. Thankfully I did not run for weight loss.

The Killarney marathon will take place tomorrow, Saturday, and I have decided that I will definitely give it a miss. There is nothing to be gained from it. Sure, I could wobble my way to yet another 3:45-ish time, at the cost of setting my recover back significantly, and probably torpedoing my chances of a decent race in Connemara for good (if those chances are still alive, that is).

Every morning since returning home I have run the same 5 mile course. I have gotten a little bit faster every single day so far, but I still feel like an arthritic slug on Prozac (yes, I’m aware that slugs don’t get arthritis. They generally don’t take Prozac either), and running feels awkward, my gait just does not feel right. I can’t quite remember how I felt after the 24 hours race last year once I started running again, but I do remember that it took a few weeks and I’ll try and hang on. It’s starting to get frustrating, though.

For some reason my Achilles, which hasn't been bothering me at all once I stopped running daily marathons, has all of a sudden started hurting again this morning, just a bit of discomfort when I was running but it became really sore an hour later, only for the pain to mostly go away again after another hour or two. I'm not sure what’s going on there, but I do not like it. I have had troubles with that area before and a chronic inflammation is just about the last thing I’d like to take away from Sixmilebridge. On the plus side, the last time this area hurt like that it did eventually go away for a couple of years, so I won’t make plans for a forced retirement just yet.

The Kerry's Eye had a nice article about me and Jim, the other Kerry finisher of the 10in10. They even had a decent looking photo of me (a very rare thing, believe you me) and Niamh was particularly chuffed that she got a mention.
17 Jul
5 miles, 41:24, 8:16 pace
18 Jul
5 miles, 40:11, 8:02 pace, HR 131
19 Jul
5 miles, 39:41, 7:56 pace, HR 134

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Post Ten Marathon Blues

What do you do when you have just taken part in an event as epic as the 10in10? It's taking me a while to adjust back to reality, I have yet to make it to work on time and with a full set of work equipment, so there's definitely room for improvement. Do I even want to get back to reality? I guess the bills still need to be paid and the children would go hungry if we ran out of food, so maybe I'll do as is expected from me for a change.

As for a damage report, there isn't much to report. There is no soreness in the legs, though they are quite stiff and feel rather heavy. I did not suffer from any blisters or chafing. The Achilles had been sore over the last 2 marathons, so I guess it's good the event ended when it did as I was heading for trouble. I did not suffer from cramps, which is probably down to the slower pace of these marathons as well as the fact that I took plenty of electrolytes, in the form of Nuun (before the races) and s-caps (during the races). The heat did not affect me as much as I would have expected, obviously it did slow everyone down but I did not particularly suffer - and I did get a lovely tan. Niamh is dead jealous.

One thing she is not jealous about is the fact that not only did I not lose any weight, I gained 2 pounds! I could not believe it when I stepped on my scales back home, I expected to be at least half a stone lighter, maybe more. In these kind of events it is quite common for the body to retain water which will then get released a few days later, but it's already 3 days since the last marathon and my weight has not shifted.

As for running these kind of events, I had no real idea how I should pace myself or what I should do between the races. I started out about half an hour slower than my marathon times, but in hindsight that was a bit too fast, 10 more minutes in the first couple of races would have been better. On the other hand I'm glad I did not follow the advice of running an hour slower (I got that third-hand), that would have been excessively slow and my legs felt awkward during the first "slow" 16 miles as it was.

It took me 5 days to perfect my nutritional regime, initially I tried eating a decent sized lunch but that did not sit well with me and I did suffer from a lot of stomach discomfort during the first few races. Eventually I settled on eating a humongous breakfast every morning (a big bowl of muesli, a big bowl of porridge, a yoghurt and a big helping of scrambles eggs on toast) and very little for lunch (a piece or two of fruit and maybe a scone or similar). I never fancied much after the races; there was a pizza place right opposite my B&B but I could never stomach even the thought of pizza. Rik offered my some of his one evening and I could barely finish one thin slice. I did have two recovery protein drink after the races (one immediately afterwards, one a little bit later), which most likely helped with the calories when I could not stomach solid food. I don't know how many calories that adds up to, but I'm very surprised that it would be enough to keep my weight stable (and no, I haven'd pigged out since).

For recovery I had a massage after most races, some cold baths (though we ran out of cold water) and initially compression tights, though I gave up on those as it was much too hot for wearing tights. One thing I did was a walk around Sixmilebridge for half an hour or an hour (I did not time them) every morning, to get some blood flowing in the legs and I'm sure that made a real difference. Apart from that walk I took it very, very easy all day.

I never slept well during the event, I always woke at 5 o'clock, sometimes I managed to fall back asleep for a little bit longer, sometimes I did not.

Since then I did not take a break. I have read that coming to a full stop after doing something like that would come as a shock to the body and is not recommended, so I did 5 very slow recovery miles every morning. One noticeable thing is that it takes 3 miles for the legs to loosen up. During the marathons I usually felt good after a mile. I mostly blame the early mornings, and I think it vindicates my strategy of taking a walk each race morning, though it has to be said that today was already much better.

I am signed up for Saturday's marathon in Killarney, but I am 95% sure that I won't be running it. I only signed up because I wanted to support my local race but it was a silly thing to do, I have to recover from Sixmilebridge before tackling any other races.

14 Jul
5 miles, 45:37, 9:07 pace, HR 122
15 Jul
5 miles, 44:42, 8:56 pace, HR 128
16 Jul
5 miles, 41:26, 8:17 pace, HR 122

P.S. No idea if the HR values are correct, or even possible. I have finally ordered a Polar HR strap to see it that makes a difference. I'm fed up with Garmin's appallingly bad HR strap.

P.P.S. My weekly mileage last week (Monday to Sunday) was 162.32 miles. Yes, that's a new personal best and rather unlikely to be eclipsed any time soon.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sixmilebridge 10in10 Marathon #10

Everyone had been looking forward to today for two main reasons. One, this was the final day, and then the daily torture would finally be over. Two, it was supposed to be much cooler and we could stop running through the furnace. Reason one was a given, reason two turned out to be yet another of nature's cruel jokes, we awoke to the same cloudless sky and oppressive heat as any other day and there was no respite to had had after all. Ah well. We sure had gotten used to it by now.

After yesterday's horror show I was definitely worried about today. There was never any chance of me pulling out, not after coming so far, but I reckoned I was in for several hours of absolute torture and I was not looking forward to it.

However, as soon as I set off I felt pretty good and I managed a rather respectable pace (at least when taking the previous 9 marathons into account). To be honest, the fact that I had taken painkillers before the start may well have had a major influence in this. Kids, don't try this at home. That's exactly how you do yourself some real damage, but I had reached the point of desperation and I knew I was going to run through anything today, so I might as well take the edge of the pain. I've had painkillers in my bag at the B&B all week but never brought them out with me so that I would not be tempted to take them unnecessarily, but today I caved in.

Anyway I was starting out at 8:15-8:20 pace, faster than most days this week, and even though I expected to falter at some stage I reckoned the more miles I would get in while feeling good the fewer miles I would have to shuffle through in torture. Some runners had taken the early 11 o'clock start option and I gradually met most of them on the course, some very close to finishing, the lucky bastards, and everyone's spirits were sky high.

The first loop passed reasonably quickly and I was back in Sixmilebridge in no time. The finishing arch was already up and standing, but I ran around it, not wanting to go through the finish without having actually finished. I was well aware that I was now starting the glory loop, the one that's there to be enjoyed, and every single thing I passed I would not have to pass again. As the miles ticked off I said good bye to rubbish corner and Nama hill, good riddance to railway bridge number 1 and number 2, never see you again blind corner, so long green house, and so on. This passed the time and the miles flew by, even as the legs grew more and more weary.

I also managed to say good bye to some of the locals who had shown an amazing level of support, some of them going as far as setting up their own aid stations and re-stocking them every day, as well as cheering us on without fail.

With the final miles approaching I managed to pick up the pace again as I could smell the finish, not so much of today's run but the entire 10in10 experience. I knew I would do a decent time, certainly faster than the last couple of days, and I got a bit emotional running down the hill to the finish, remembering my step dad who had died 3 months ago and lifting my fingers and eyes to heaven to greet him. Crossing that line was an unbelievable feeling, no other marathon or ultra has ever come anywhere close to it.

I'm pretty sure the clock at the finish said 3:43 as I went through though my Garmin said 3:42, but it does not matter a dot and I will take whatever time will appear in the official results. I came second overall, over 2 hours behind Rik in first and over 2 hours ahead of Stu in third, so it wasn't exactly a close contest either way. But this was never about times and places. The thing I will remember most is the camaraderie between all the runners, the ones who finished as well as the ones who regretfully had to pull out, I know we all routed for each other and we all gave each other as much support as was possible.

There were plenty of hugs at the end, for all the runners and the organisers and crew and friends and family and I somehow managed not to burst into tears, but I had to leave early as I got a lift home to Kerry from fellow 10in10 conqueror Jim; we were both a bit reluctant to leave but the Real World was calling. I also missed my own family and could not wait to see them again.

It was a fantastic event. I don't know if there are any plans for a repeat (Tom and Richie might be a bit reluctant, they both worked incredibly hard and must be at least as exhausted as the 10in10 finishers, and that's not to take anything away from all the other volunteers), and even if there is I would have to think very hard if I want to put myself through all that again, but you never know.

Here's to the 23 and the 18. We'll always have Sixmilebridge.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more
Obviously in good spirits

Proud to be finished an proud to have run it for such a great cause. Never mind the tan lines.

A lot of bling

The back of the finisher's shirt

13 Jul
Sixmilebridge 10in10 Marathon #10
   3:42:25 (?), no idea about placing, second place overall

Friday, July 12, 2013

Sixmilebridge 10in10 Marathon #9

Nature played a really cruel trick on us today. we awoke to pleasantly cool temperatures, and one look outside revealed a hazy grey sky. Of course we all thought that today's marathon would be easier now that the heat was gone, but the Gods were only teasing us. By the time start time was approaching the haze had lifted and the heating had been put back to full dial.

Before we set off I thought I felt pretty much the same as all the other days, with heavy legs and fatigued but no more so than should be expected after all we have just been through. However, even the first step hurt. I started with an easy first mile, as always, and in marked contrast to all of the previous 8 days the legs just would not loosen up and I never managed to get into my stride. I knew from then on that today would be ugly.

I never managed to run today. I could hardly lift my feet off the ground and only just managed to do some baby steps, pathetically shuffling my way through the County Clare countryside. This was not running any more, and quite frankly it sucked. I also realised that I would be struggling to break 4 hours today. I set out at about 8:40 pace and it started deteriorating immediately, and from the way I tended to slow down over the second loop on all the previous days I knew straight away I was in trouble.

My memory is already a bit hazy, a sign how far gone I was today, but the first half still felt somewhat okay, slow but steady progress. My stomach was acting up a bit so I decided to do another pitstop at halfway, even though I knew it was not particularly urgent. I think I just wanted to get off my feet for a bit. This caused a problem as the doors to the complex were locked and it took a while to locate the public toilets, so that took a good bit longer than I thought it would.

At my mile 14 I saw Stu coming in at halfway, and he was struggling big time with a major foot issue. He shouted something I did not quite get and I spent the rest of the loop worrying that he might have told me that he would have to pull out.

With the time for the pitstop added on to an already slow pace, things were not looking rosy, and the heat, while maybe a degree or two lower than the day before, was still rather oppressive and sure did not help. I drank plenty of water because I thought I may have been dehydrated yesterday, but the truth is that I have pushed my body to its limits and it just cannot take the abuse any more, and no eating or drinking or electrolyte tricks that I have learned over the past few years is going to make a difference in that.

Brian overtook me at mile 18 with a big smile on his face and was running so much faster than me that he had disappeared beyond the horizon in absolutely no time at all. I figured I was lucky if I only lost 10 minutes to him today (not that there is any prospect of him catching me in the overall standings, I must be about 2 hours ahead of him). I could also hear Denzil approaching from behind, and he sounded very cheery and obviously in a much better mindset than I was, so I figured he'd catch me too.

Traviss noticed that my gait had changed today, and he was absolutely correct. There are not a lot of things that escape that man.

I managed to snag an ibuprofen of someone. Now, I hate taking these things, which is why I did not take any with me onto the course myself, but I had reached the point where desperation overruled reason. It's a very dangerous game, pain is there for a very good reason and you'd better take notice, but I decided the only game in town was to get to the finish line no matter what. It took about 3 miles to kick in, much longer than I had expected, but from mile 21 or 22 onwards I suddenly was able to lift the legs again, and I was able to do something that vaguely resembled running.

I had been slower than 4 hrs pace at that point but I managed to claw back the deficit over the last few miles. I had to work hard for that, and I really don't know if that was a good idea seeing as I still have another marathon to get through, but I just could not let it go without a fight. I managed to win that fight, coming home in 3:58:27, about a minute ahead of Denzil but 2 minutes behind Brian, who obviously had started to slow down considerably over the last miles himself.

We had the exact opposite conversation to yesterday, I told him had I realised he was so close I would have run faster to catch him, and he told me had I caught him he would have had another gear left, but somehow I don't think that was the last I have heard of today's race. He sure left with a big smile on his face.

I was happy to be done, but even more relieved when Stu came home in about 4:20, having manfully struggled through a seriously tough day. I hope he will be okay for tomorrow, I cannot imagine the heartbreak if anyone of us would have to pull out at this late stage.

My achilles sent a few very painful spasms through my body today, my ankles are hurting and so are my knees, and the less said about the state of my quads the better. I think my body is trying to tell me something. In tomorrow's marathon I'll try and figure out what the message might possibly be.
12 Jul
Sixmilebridge 10in10 Marathon #9
   3:58:27, third 10in10 runner

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sixmilebridge 10in10 marathon #8

I made the mistake of checking the weather in my mobile app before the start, and it said 32C/90F. Of course I showed it to everyone. But in actual fact that number was not right, it was definitely a bit cooler today, there was some cloud cover and it did make a difference. Any other time I would still have described this as ridiculously hot of course, but after what we have been through, 27C or so does not hold any fears.

As always I took it very, very easy for the first mile, but I found the legs loosening up within a few minutes and then set a much more assertive pace. I felt really good for the entire first half; I thought the legs were coming round for sure and the slightly cooler temperatures would allow me to set a better time for once.

I can't quite remember what time I went through the halfway mark but it was quick enough not to meet Rik on the out-and-back section, and the third placed runner was way behind me. I thought I would easily run in the 3:30s today, maybe even in the low 3:30s. But then the energy just left me, I went from feeling great at mile 14 to dead on my feet at mile 15, and the second lap was never going to be much fun after that.

The pace dropped dramatically and the average pace deteriorated at a depressing rate. I did try to cheer myself up at mile 16.6 because that was the 200 mile mark, counting from day one, but there was not much joy to be had. From that point on I was just going through the motions, doing my ultra shuffle and basically trying to get to the finish with the least amount of energy spent.

The midges were a complete nightmare all day today. They have been a nuisance all week but today they were just relentless, I was just swarmed all the time and I did get bitten on far too numerous occasions.

To be honest, I definitely could have run faster today, and on any other occasion I would be severely annoyed with myself after such a performance, but on day 8 of a marathon series run in absolutely incredible conditions, spending the least amount of energy is a perfectly reasonable way to run, and I am entirely at peace with myself.

All week the course has been playing tricks on me, I kept finding new segments of road that used to be flat the day before and were climbing uphill all of a sudden, but by now that seems to have stabilised. I guess they ran out of climbing segments.

I have also made peace with that two-mile drag towards the finish, in fact now I'm looking forward to it on each loop, and each time I'm about to hit it I tell myself "let's do this". My least favourite part of the course is the one mile stretch between the loop and Sixmilebridge on the main road, it's psychologically hard because it is not part of the loop and I don't fancy the traffic. Unfortunately that's the one stretch we have to run four times each day, twice in each direction. I have now covered it 32 times, with 8 more to go.

I ended up with my slowest time yet, just under 3:50. Brian Ankers came home just a minute behind me. He told me had he realised I was so close he would have run faster to catch me, and I of course responded that had I known he was so close behind I would have put more effort into it and left him in the dust - all in good spirits of course.

That's 8 marathons and well over 200 miles run, and now the end is definitely getting closer. Everyone is talking about the last day already. There are 18 of us left, I really hope there won't be any more drop outs.
11 Jul
Sixmilebridge 10in10 Marathon #8
   3:49:14, second place

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sixmilebridge 10in10 Marathon #7

It was a bunch of Moaning Myrtles that reluctantly made its way to the start line this evening, nobody was too keen to put themselves through the wringer once more and most people were complaining about all sorts of aches and pains, never mind general fatigue.

We had a bunch of runners from the local running club with us, most of them reasonably experienced marathon runners. Apparently most of them made it to mile 4 until they decided that running a marathon in that heat was just insane and went home. General consensus is that they were right, of course.

The rest of us soldiered on, we have come way too far to pull out now, it will take a major injury to put any of the surviving 19 10in10 runners out of the game.

I started with my by now customary slow first mile until the legs felt a bit looser and then fell into a nice stride, following one of today's individual entrants. For a while he seemed to think I was racing him and put in a surge every time I got close, but in actual fact I was using him as a pace setter. As I mentioned before I tend to run a lot faster when there is someone around me. After a few miles he stopped racing and we started chatting, he was only doing the first loop in preparation of a half-ironman he is doing on Saturday. Having a pace maker for half a marathon is better than none at all and we finished the loop in good time, a couple of minutes ahead of yesterday.

I headed back out on my own but still feeling good. After yesterday's lesson I declined any sugary stuff from the sidelines and just had water and some salt tablets for the entire marathon. I think I am running these at my fat burning effort, so additional carbohydrates aren't really required, but I increased my salt table intake and they do make a difference in the heat.

I think I'm starting to get heat acclimatised, I do not sweat as much and my sweat isn't as salty. That's a good thing, because the conditions are getting ridiculous. The top of the tarmac started melting, especially on the main road, and the shoes felt like sticking to the surface with each step and made a strange peeling sound every time you lifted them off the road. I felt this cost extra energy, which might have been purely psychological, but it had a major effect on Jerry Forde, our wheelchair athlete, who had to work much harder than usual.

Rather surprisingly I caught up to Stu at mile 16, though he pulled away again. We drew level again at a couple of rest stops where he tended to spend a little bit more time than me, and at mile 22 I went ahead again. The last 2 days I always started working well on those last few miles, the heat wasn't quite as oppressive any more at that point and I can smell the finish, so I always end with a set of decent final miles. It was also a little bit of competition between me and Stu, though a minute up or down is unlikely to have any effect on the final outcome. I thought I could hear him behind me on a few occasions on the final climb and always responded with some extra effort, and by the end I had about a minute on him, all in friendly competition, of course. My time was 3:44:58 (my own time, not official), again a couple of minutes faster than the day before.

The temperatures topped 31.5C/89F today; not only is this the hottest week in God knows how long, we are also running our marathons in the hottest part of Ireland (usually that's an oxymoron, not today though), but we are coping and it won't stop any of us. I have full respect for any of the 10in10 runners, I know exactly what everyone is going through, and I do wonder if the lady who is walking/shuffling her way through 7 hours of marathon day in day out is the hardest worker of all.

I do have a few aches and pains and my achilles, which has behaved very well so far, did pipe up a few times today, which is a bit worrying. I seem to need something to worry about every day.

One guy ran his 100th marathon today and one lady finished her 50th, so we did have some case for premature celebrations.

Less than 100 miles to go. Easy.

10 Jul
Sixmilebridge 10in10 Marathon #7
   3:44:58, second place

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Sixmilebridge 10in10 Marathon #6

On Sunday I spent most of the day worrying about my quads. On Monday I spent most of the day worrying about the heat. On Tuesday I spent most of the day worrying about my left shin, which was distinctly sore. It was the same area that had hurt for a while in Portumna, just above the ankle, and is probably related to the achilles troubles I've been having. Normally that would not be a big deal, I would take it easy for a few days and it would go away, but running a marathon every day doesn't quite fall under "easy", does it?

The heat will be a permanent feature of our quest, yesterday's temperatures got topped once more. This must be some record breaking heatwave, I certainly have not seen anything like this in Ireland in my time. But it has to be said that most people seem to be coping fairly well, though there are a few exceptions to that.

I wandered up to the start line for the early start (slower runners can start at 3, to avoid having people out there until after midnight [which did happen]), and world record holder Traviss Willcox put my mind at ease regarding the shin, "it's just a little tendon, no big deal, will sort itself out". That really made a big difference to my anxiety levels, I'm fine with a certain amount of discomfort; it's an injury that would throw me out of the competition that I fear.

There didn't seem too much enthusiasm to get going at 5, we all knew how tough today would be and everyone was a bit anxious. We had a good group over from the UK marathon club, and their banter did much to loosen the otherwise rather tense pre-start atmosphere.

Once I got going the shin settled down very quickly. I eased into the first mile, as ever, but then found myself doing fairly decent pace with Paddy Quinn, a veteran from last year's 24 hrs race, and we ran the first 5 miles together. I think the fact that I ran entirely on my own yesterday had some influence on my slow time, it really does help to have someone setting the pace, otherwise I'm just doing my survival shuffle. Unfortunately Paddy slowed down after 5 miles and I was on my own again. I kept going and by mile 9 I caught up with Dipak who was on his second lap due to the early start, though he certainly has the pace for the faster start. We ran in close proximity for the rest of the lap, and I went through the halfway point a minute quicker than yesterday, and since I did not require an emergency pitstop I reckoned I was at least 2 minutes ahead of yesterday.

I have been getting slower each day, most of that undoubtedly related to the mounting fatigue, though the heat certainly has a part to play as well. I really wanted to break that sequence today and at that point I was very confident that I was going to do so. However, I had made a serious mistake. Between miles 9 and 13 I had 2 bottles of Lucozade, one rocket ice lolly and one freeze pop (my policy up to that point was never to say no to assistance), and by mile 15 I think I was heading for a serious sugar crash. By mile 16 I felt completely dead on my feet, I could hardly maintain 10-minute-miles and I had serious doubts about finishing.

However, I have been in similar situations before and started working on it. A salt tablet slowly took care of that sickly sweet feeling and I didn't take any more sugar onboard for the rest of the day. I had some very tough five miles and they were not a lot of fun and my average pace kept deteriorating at an alarming rate, so much so that I was resigned to yet another slowest time, but eventually I did manage to pull round, somewhere around mile 20 or 21. The heat lessened as well, which undoubtedly helped.

My pace increased again and I even fell into what could generously be described as a run rather than a shuffle. Compared to a few days ago the pace was still ridiculously slow, but that's what running 150 miles will do to you. I worked reasonably hard on THAT drag and had a good few strong final miles, probably closing the gap to Stu ahead by half, but nowhere near enough to catch him. The most pleasing thing was to see the average pace picking up again on the Garmin, something I haven't seen since the first day, and I really managed to beat yesterday's time by a little over 2 minutes, crossing the line in 3:46:44 (my watch), in third place once more, but very, very happy to be done.

Ritchie, the race director, told me that at one point it was 31C/85F degrees while we were out there. I don't know how accurate that was, and it felt very similar to yesterday, but it sure was hot and it sure was tough.

I did have a massage afterwards, my hamstrings and calves were so tight you could probably have played a violin solo on them. I expect to be stiff tomorrow, but I'm getting used to that. There's still a few marathons to go through and they all will be tough in the oppressive heat, but by now we can get a glimpse of the finish, far ahead as it still may be.

Half way, with Dipak

Happy to be done for another day

9 Jul
Sixmilebridge 10in10 Marathon #6
   3:46:44, third place

Monday, July 08, 2013

Sixmilebridge 10in10 Marathon #5

A weather map never seen before
And if we thought yesterday was hot ... It was 28C/83F as we started our marathon today, and I suspect that was measured in the shade, so it was even hotter for us running in the sun. I even thought it was much cooler by the time I was finished, but it was still 25C at the time which until yesterday would have qualified as a major heatwave in my books. It's absolutely incredible. We have spent the last three summers holed up in our houses looking out at the miserable weather, hoping that one day we might see the sun again, and then a heatwave strikes on the very week we are supposed to run a marathon every day.

Actually, my legs felt better today. Maybe my body is already starting to adapt to the rather extreme exercise regime, you never know. It made for a difference; yesterday I had spent all day worrying about my legs, today was spent worrying about the heat instead.

It was a quieter day today, there were just 3 runners doing an individual marathon and the 10in10 field has shrunken a bit by now. Rik took off up front and for the first 3 miles I stuck fairly close to Stu until the pace felt just a bit too strong in the oppressive heat and I let him go. I was doing my ultramarathon survival shuffle for most of the day, which I know I can keep going for a very long time, but it's not the fastest way to run. The legs felt surprisingly good. Had I not worn my Garmin I would have sworn I was running at least as fast as yesterday, but the numbers told a different story. I set out at about 8:20 pace which kept degrading slowly but steadily. Towards the end of my first loop I met Rik on his way out for the second loop and he looked far too cheerful for my taste. His running is absolutely amazing. At the halfway point I required an emergency pitstop, very much in reminiscence of my race here last November. I even used the same toilet. At least it did not cost me victory today.

It was the coke I'd had at mile 9 that caused those stomach cramps, so I'll know better in future. My stomach might have felt better after that stop but my pace kept deteriorating, even though I could have sworn I was still running at the same pace and effort as before. By the time I reached THAT climb at mile 23 (which I have by now officially christened The Bitch) the Garmin was showing 8:40, and I had to work hard to keep the damage at that.

I finished in 3:48:58 (my own watch), rather surprisingly in third place and only a couple of minutes behind Stu, but far behind Rik who does not seem to notice that we have run five marathons in a row.

I know the course very well by now, I have given nicknames to plenty of spots along the way and mentally tick them off one by one as I pass them twice each day. It helps cutting the long distance into much smaller chunks.

And so we have reached half way. From the first step tomorrow we will have to cover less distance than we have already done. My legs are feeling much better than I anticipated they would, but I still live in fear of injury. I do get the odd twinge from my achilles and my knees are sending some pain signals every now and again. My legs felt better today but the pace was 11 minutes slower, so make of that what you will. On the plus side, we will all be very well adapted to running in the heat by the end of the week.

By the way, today was fancy dress day.

Always make sure your lipstick does not smear when running a marathon in 30C

Never seen that blue background before!
8 Jul
Sixmilebridge 10in10 Marathon #5
   3:48:57, third place

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Sixmilebridge 10in10 Marathon #4

Lesson 1: Do not submerge a Garmin whose seal has broken into water when you're having an ice bath. (It is still working, but the screen is full of condensation and barely readable).
Lesson 2: When running 10 marathons in a row, do not treat them as marathons. They are ultras regarding effort and pace.

They say gentle exercise like a nice walk is very good for recovery, though I did not feel that walking around Craggaunowen with the kids and Niamh did much for my recovery. But they enjoyed the last sightseeing trip before heading home to Kerry, leaving me behind in my mad quest.

I really was not looking forward to today's run; before the race I described the state of my legs with the highly technical term of "f*cked". I knew it would be tough and the weather forecast of 27C/80F did nothing to allay my fears. It was overcast all morning, which I hoped would stay the case, and even so our car's thermometer went to 21C. Just as we started the race the clouds parted and the sun came out, which would have been very welcome any other time of year, just not when running a marathon, especially not when it's the fourth in a row.

I started with a group of 5 which had melted down to 3 by about mile 8, Rik, Ruthann and me. I was surprised I was able to hang with them, my legs felt better when I was running than before the start. Endorphines are amazing! However, at the start of the second loop Rik put on the turbo boosters and I was not even remotely tempted to go with him. I lost contact to Ruthann as well, and that's when I started suffering in the heat, and that's also when I finally twigged that I was running an ultra, no matter what the official distance said, and went into shuffle/survival mode. I knew the next 12 miles would be tough.

I dealt with the heat reasonably well and the pace did not deteriorate quite as much as I expected. Ruthann's husband George handing me a bottle of Lucozade just before mile 20 was an absolute life saver, it made such a difference. I even caught Ruthann at mile 22, the heat affected her much more than me, but she did manage to come round eventually. That big drag before the end was just as bad as yesterday and I finished in 3:37:39 (as ever, not exactly sure about the seconds), in fifth place overall and once more the second 10in10 runner.

Today was all about surviving the heat and I managed that well enough (there were further casualties in the field). I have now covered over 100 miles and tomorrow evening we will be halfway through.

7 Jul
Sixmilebridge 10in10 Marathon #4
   3:37:39, fifth place, second 10in10 runner

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Sixmilebridge 10in10 marathon #3

In marked contrast to yesterday when I awoke feeling incredibly fresh, my first thoughts this morning were "uh-oh". Add to that the predictions of a warm sunny day with temperatures of 23C (that's a heat wave in Ireland) and I wasn't exactly looking forward to today's marathon.

We started the day with a trip to the Cliffs of Moher, which are still as spectacular as I remember them from my last visit, which had been about 20 years earlier, and even the kids admitted to being impressed.

Today's marathon started at the earlier time of 2 o'clock, which would see us running right through the hottest part of the day. I announced loud and clearly to Stu and Rik that I was going to take it easier today as I was feeling yesterday's effort, but I'm not sure I managed to convince them. Nevertheless I wasn't kidding and was perfectly happy to let them run ahead up front, together with another runner who was doing only today's marathon.

I ran the first half with Ruthann and Denis, which made the time pass quickly and for a while I almost managed to forget my tired legs. There was a lot of cloud cover, which made the temperatures much more agreeable. Right at the end of loop one all of a sudden Stu appeared right in front of me (there had been a long straight stretch a mile earlier and there had been no sign of him) and he stopped for a second at the start/finish area, which is where I passed him. Denis fell back a little and right at the 15 mile spot it started raining a little bit, which was highly welcome.

Ruthann set the pace and I managed to keep up reasonably comfortably until she saw the second placed runner ahead of us at around mile 19. She obviously started smelling blood and her shark fin came out and she dropped the pace considerably in pursuit. I hung on for maybe a quarter mile when I remembered that I still had 7 marathons to run and let her go. Right then the sun came out and in no time at all I was suffering badly. I was completely parched and at one point even picked up a discarded half-full bottle of water and drank it without hesitation. I would have done the same again had there been more!

I really felt like melting in the sun until I picked up a Lucozade bottle at mile 22, which in no time at all greatly improved the situation, and just in time. There is a real bitch of a drag from mile 23 almost all the way to mile 25 (as well as from 10-12, but it doesn't feel anywhere near as bad at that point), and it's getting longer, steeper and tougher every day. Boy was I glad to see the top!

My pace had held up surprisingly well and I finished in 3:32:03 (give or take a second) in fourth place, second 10in10 runner. Rik is now without a shadow of a doubt the favourite to win, the only thing that could stop him is an injury. Stu had a really tough day, he really suffered for racing Rik and paid the price, which more than vindicates my decision to take it considerably easier today.

The car's thermometer displayed 25C when we left (and it was already cooler at that point), and tomorrow is supposed to be even hotter. Any chance you could do a rain dance tonight?

6 Jul
Sixmilebridge 10in10 marathon #3
   3:32:03, 8:05 pace, fourth place (second 10in10 runner)

Friday, July 05, 2013

Sixmilebridge 10in10 marathon #2

I was very pleasantly surprised by how well the legs felt this morning, even though I did not sleep very well. I tried to take it easy during the day but we brought the kids to see the Burren and Poulnabrone and Ailwee Cave (that's the price I had to pay to be allowed out for the 10in10), so maybe not entirely ideal preparation for marathon number 2.

Nevertheless I felt surprisingly good. We eased into it but after a mile there were just three of us at the front, me, Stu (yesterday's winner) and Rik, who had arrived and subsequently started very late yesterday and finished his first marathon well after midnight. Rik took off at mile 10 but we caught him again at mile 13. Stu fell slightly behind at the start of the second loop and never quite managed to close the gap, so Rik and me ran in together to finish joint first in 3:26:43.

I am still working on my nutrition, I had to deal with rather painful stomach cramps for the last 7 or 8 miles. I think the main issue is not being used to running so late in the day and I keep eating big lunches and then my digestive system rebels towards the end of the marathons. I need to keep eating though or I'll never finish the 10. I still have to work out how to deal with this.

The achilles was actually better than yesterday but started hurting afterwards. If it stays like that I'll manage.

Sadly, two guys had to pull out today, so the 10in10 field is down to 21 runners.

Rik and Stu and me all keep saying that we don't want to race this, but what we actually mean is "if you other two both stopped running at that pace I would take it easier as well!"

Tomorrow is going to be tough, a 2 o'clock start at the hottest day of the year so far, and Sunday's temperatures are supposed to climb to 27C! Let's not even think about it yet.
(joint) Victory!

Ever so slightly forced smiles in the ice bath
 5 Jul
Sixmilebridge 10in10 marathon #2
   3:23:09, 7:52 pace, joint first place

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Sixmilebridge 10in10 Marathon #1

3:23:09 (give or take a couple of seconds), second place. I ran the first 16 miles together with Graham Whittaker at 8:00 pace but never felt comfortable. Catching up after a bathroom break made me realise that 7:30 pace felt more comfortable than 8:00 pace, so I pushed on a bit for the last 10 miles, but nothing crazy (I hope).

The Achilles mostly behaved itself, though I did get the odd spasm.

So far so good.

4 Jul
Sixmilebridge 10in10 marathon #1
   3:23:09, 7:45 pace, 2nd place

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Let's Get The Party Started

The countdown is almost at its end and tomorrow the fun begins.

Could you possibly imagine a better way to spend your holidays than running a marathon every day? Me neither!

I've been ticking along the last 3 days, taking it easy, especially this morning when I ran 7 miles relaxed and easy entirely on autopilot and at the same effort I'm planning for the first marathon tomorrow. After that, I'll play it by ear and decide at the time what effort might be appropriate. If it's 8 minute miles, great, if it's 12 minute miles, fine, if it's walking then not so fine but that's still better than stopping.

I guess at some stage this week and/or next there will be a higher possibility of a DNF than for any other race I've done ever before. I know I can toughen out a fair amount of discomfort but if I think I'm going to do myself some permanent damage then I will not continue. That reminds me of my Achilles, it has been getting better every day and by Monday I thought it was all healed for sure when I accidentally banged the back of my left leg against a chair and a rather sharp pain left me in no doubt that all is not right. Obviously that's not how you want to start a marathon, never mind the first one out of ten, but that's what I have to deal with and I will just have to try and nurse it along.

I'm not entirely sure if/what kind of internet access I'll have in Sixmilebridge, so if the stream of updates stops at some point then that's not necessarily a bad sign.

We're getting some publicity as well, the Indo has a write-up but I think I prefer the way the Clare Champion calls us all a group of elite athletes (unless elite athlete is a new euphemism for nutcase - entirely plausible, of course).
1 Jul
8 miles, 59:17, 7:25 pace, HR 143
2 Jul
8 miles, 1:01:45, 7:43 pace, HR 141
3 Jul
7 miles, 54:28, 7:47 pace, HR 137