Wednesday, June 27, 2018

It's A Wrap

I wasn't even sweating yet when I finished Tuesday's very short, very easy lunchtime run, and that was that. Training is done. On Wednesday we're flying out to Austria, on Thursday I recover / get ready, and on Friday at 7 pm the race starts.

The weather forecast kept changing every time I looked at it, from 28 degrees in the initial long term forecast to thunderstorms and heavy rain a few days ago, and now the general consensus seems to be that there will be light rain for most of it, but Saturday's temperatures will still hits 22 degrees.

I should be used to rain,so maybe that will work in my favour. It's almost certainly more conductive for a decent performance than blistering heat. I just hope I won't be suffering from blisters and the like.

How am I feeling? To be honest, not great. Something seemed to be off the last couple of weeks, the hamstrings just don't feel right, and the HR has been much higher for any run than I would have thought it should be, and teh numbers look worse than last month, or the last few months even.

What will that mean for race day? Well, I'll give it a go anyway. I've gone into races not feeling great and still pulled out fantastic results at times plenty of times in the past, and as long as my head stays right, I will do ok. Ultra running, and especially timed races, are run with the head much more than the legs, and that has always been a major strength of mine.

I was born not far away from the race venue. I have family living in the area. I'll have the Grimming watching over me majestically. What could possibly go wrong.
24 Jun
6 miles, 49:36, 8:16 pace, HR 137
25 Jun
4.85 miles, 39:28, 8:08 pace, HR 144
26 Jun
3.15 miles, 28:33, 9:03 pace, HR 129

Saturday, June 23, 2018


On Thursday lunchtime I was just about to head out of the door when Norbert crossed my path, and since running with a mate is more fun than running alone, we headed out together. Last time we did that I apparently wore him out, despite me insisting that he would set the pace, but wrapped in 4 layers as I was today, there was never a danger of that happening again. In fact, I was blowing hard by the time we finished while he was very much rating this an easy run - that's the difference a few extra layers on a warm day make.

All in all I did 6 heat adaption runs in a row. On Friday I checked the weather forecast for Irdning again and all of a sudden they changed the temperatures from 28 to 22 degrees! In fact, it might be warmer in Ireland than Austria that weekend. However, heat adaptation benefits you even on a cooler day, and there's still plenty of time for them to change their minds again.

By the looks of it it will be hot enough in Ireland the next few days that there won't be any need for extra layers for a run to count as a heat adaptation run.

I'm back in Kerry, like every weekend, though that will be the very last weekend I am making this trip. The leaving cert is finished, Shea is pretty happy and confident he'll get enough point for his course, and now the entire rest of the family are finally moving to Dublin. Thank God for that! I have gotten mightily sick of that road by now, and 8 hours of driving (or train) every weekend is just ridiculous, and not relaxing at all. I am looking forward to having proper weekends again, not that next weekend will fall into that category.

The legs felt just sh*te this morning, and I didn't even have the excuse of running in too many layers. So far I'm attributing this to taper madness and trying not to panic. Maybe the body is worn out from the heat training. Maybe I just need to take it easy from now on.

By the way, is that the most idiotic headline ever to appear in an Irish newspaper? They seemed to have completely missed the irony, which seems unbelievable, screaming as it is from the page.
21 Jun
6.5+ miles, 55:37, 8:28 pace, HR 152
22 Jun
5 miles, 42:28, 8:29 pace, HR 141
23 Jun
10 miles, 1:23:58, 8:23 pace, HR 140

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Heat Is On

or at least the heat adaptation I'm doing right now is, unlike the outside temperatures. Heat adaption means running wrapped in 4 layers and steaming from the inside, which also works when it's cool outside, though the one time when it was actually warm during my run (Tuesday evening) I sure noticed the difference.

I have done that kind of stuff before a race on previous occasions, though I have changed my approach after reading a few more articles about it. I now do a heat adaption run every day. Since I'm in my taper, the mileage has been reduced, and since heat training is adding a significant new stress factor, mileage has been reduced a lot to keep the overall stress levels down, though presumably a longer duration of the heat runs would produce better results with regards to heat adaptation.

Anyway, obviously the HR is going wild, so I'm not going to compare it with "normal" runs. Despite the slow pace, this feels like a real workout and after less than 2 miles the wish to stop the torture can already be overwhelming. Therefore I avoid doing them on a treadmill, even though the heat build-up would work even better there; I just know I'd step off early.

It actually feels the worst immediately after stopping, and on a couple of occasions I have felt close to fainting, though that seems to have improved already, so maybe the adaptations are starting to kick in. Temperatures are supposed to reach 25 in Ireland the next few days, which would help - the long-term forecast for Irdning is 28 degrees, though 10 days out that does not mean much yet.

Having said that, we're definitely getting close.
18 Jun
4+ miles, 33:10, 8:11, HR 148
19 Jun
4+ miles, 33:38, 8:18, HR 148
20 Jun
4.6 miles, 38:30, 8:22, HR 147

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Illegitimi Non Carborundum

With two weeks to go before the Big Race, I am definitely now in my taper, even if my mind still has to grasp that fact. Still, I intended to do a few more miles on Saturday, maybe 12 miles or so, depending on how I felt. However, I was literally stepping out of the house when Niamh came after me with my phone ringing. It was a former colleague of mine and we ended up talking for close to an hour.

Just over a year ago I left a secure, well paying job to head for Dublin and join a startup that I always knew had a very realistic chance of going out of business. It might have looked like total madness but in reality I wasn't as much drawn to the new job as being repelled by the old one, where after 10 happy years (and productive, and we made heaps of money for the owners) some new managers took over and a few years later I'd had enough of the constant bullying, belittling of efforts, talking down to the workers and just the toxic atmosphere in general.

Getting out of there felt like I was finally being able to breathe once more. Even when that startup did indeed falter, I never once regretted my decision, having rediscovered what it's like to work in a professional, respectful work environment. However, 2 weeks ago I got the terrible news that not everyone had been so lucky and a former colleague of mine had committed suicide. While we will never know the exact reasons that drove him to such an extreme action, everyone, and I literally mean everyone I talked to, was of the opinion that it was the senior management in that place that made him do it. He had been on leave (like me he could not take it any more) but apparently had been put under pressure to return, and rather than face the same managers again ...

It sure validated my decision to get out of that place.

Anyway, we ended talking for a long time, and when we eventually got off the phone I had time for just a few miles, which were badly needed to clear my head. Running is a gift in such situations, a pressure valve, and badly needed.

Training doesn't matter at all compared to all that but to mention it just for completeness, I felt great on Thursday and awful on Friday. My back pain has improved significantly but there's something wrong in my right glutes at the moment, though that too will be gone soon.

Rest in peace Mike. I wish you had not let the bastards grind you down.

Late, late update: they got one of their minions to ring me up, asking me to take down that post. Fuck you!
14 Jun
10.3 miles, 1:20:59, 7:51 pace, HR 144
15 Jun
10.22 miles, 1:27:19, 8:32 pace, HR 139
16 Jun
5 miles, 39:02, 7:48 pace, HR 146
17 Jun
5.1 miles, 44:26, 8:42 pace, HR 139

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


I had considered running around the lake on Sunday. But with 3 weeks to go I was now in my taper, and after running 2 hours on the trail the day before I decided to take it easy instead and just ran along the lake. I was 5 miles into that run when all of a sudden I felt a searing pain in my lower back, it felt as if someone had stabbed me in the back. I've had back pain before, ever since putting out my back while carrying a heavy load about 5 years ago. The last episode had been a few years ago, so I've had a good painfree run since then, but 3 weeks before the big race that wasn't great timing.

I kept on running. I was miles away from home anyway and didn't have much choice. Despite the fact that the pain appeared while out on the road, my experience in the past has been that running does provide some relief and doesn't seem to aggregate it. in fact, I don't think running caused it at all. It's much more likely that the long hours in he car /van and particularly carrying a lot of heavy loads while moving house is the root cause. Unfortunately, the move still isn't complete (we're moving van load by van load, and we've got a lot of stuff) and can't really be delayed, so I'll chance it once more next weekend. In the meantime, I'll try and get on with it.

It was rather manageable but for some reason it got really bad on Wednesday morning. I had not slept particularly well, and whatever sudden movement I might have done while asleep seems to have set the pain level up by a notch or two. I still ran into work (I need to get there, and I'm pretty sure it's better for my back than sitting in the bus for 45 minutes) but felt the need to be really careful, so it was a rather slow run. Oh, and since I had left my HM at work the day before, I didn't even get to see the low HR.

Oh, and in the middle of it all I had a great run on Monday. Not that the pace was anything to write home about - it was just the way I felt that evening, like a million dollars, floating along effortlessly and feeling that I could go on forever.

Anyway, as of now nothing has changed with regards to running. I still believe that running is beneficial rather than aggravating, and with over 2 weeks to go there is every reason to think that it won't affect my goal race.

Mind, the fact that my second annual hayfever attack has started this week does nothing to improve the mood. It might be in for a few more shitty days, I think.
10 Jun
12 miles, 1:39:36, 8:17 pace, HR 136
11 Jun
10.25 miles, 1:18:40, 7:40 pace, HR 144
12 Jun
10.3 miles, 1:25:16, 8:16 pace, HR 139
13 Jun
10.22 miles, 1:28:20, 8:38

Saturday, June 09, 2018

I keep doing that. Every now and then I look at the calendar and go "I haven't written a blog entry in HOW LONG?" Maybe it's old age, with the 50s approaching rapidly?

Actually, that reminds me of the interview I heard recently with Eoin Keith on the Marian Finucane show, where he said he was really looking forward to turning 50 so he would be more competitive in his age group again. Two things struck me about that. One, I used to say exactly the same thing before turning 40 and still remember the look people gave me. Two, I didn't think Eoin needs to be even more competitive as it is. That's the guy who wins the Irish National 24 hrs championship almost every year, outright, not age group, in addition to all the multi-day ultra wins on his resume.

Anyway, there's still a good bit to go until then anyway, and there's the little matter of another 24 hours race on the horizon. As you might know, I'm giving the Belfast 24 a wide berth this year because I never want to step foot into Victoria Park ever again due to some rather painful memories from last year (and the year before, even though that had been a much better race). Interestingly, Eoin has stated how much he loves that very course, obviously just as much as I have grown to hate it.

Having said that, chances are that the Austrian championships, where I'm headed to, will be at least as painful, particularly since they regularly get 30 degrees during the race there. Oh God, please not this year! Having said that, I have been getting plenty of heat training recently with our very unexpectedly good weather. It's not THAT warm, still only in the low 20s, but it is very, very humid and the last few days I was completely soaked on my runs, even though the pace had slowed to barely above crawling.

With the conditions being as they are, I'm not taking any real notice of the fact that I have suddenly slowed down a lot and yet the HR has turned into stratospheric levels. It is what it is.

Apart from that, recovery from Cork is going exceedingly well. Once again there was no muscle soreness whatsoever and this time round I didn't even feel particularly tired on my recovery runs the next couple of days. That's definitely a good sign, and very much in contrast to some previous races, particularly the 2016 one in Albi, so I'm actually rather optimistic about my upcoming performance.

This morning, Saturday, I went up Windy Gap, twice, despite the legs complaining all the way. It might have been my farewell run on that mountain. I wonder if I'll ever set foot up there again.
4 Jun
4 miles, 34:40, 8:39 pace, HR 134
5 Jun
4.94 miles, 41:08, 8:19 pace, HR 129
6 Jun
4.82 miles, 35:46, 7:25 pace, HR 147
7 Jun
10.25 miles, 1:21:47, 7:58 pace, HR 137
8 Jun
10.25 miles, 1:25:30, 8:20 pace, HR 146
9 Jun
12.15 miles, 2:03:32, 10:09 pace, HR 139
   Windy Gap x 2

Monday, June 04, 2018

Pacing Cork

It's been a while since I last paced a marathon but I was reasonably sure I would be able to remember how it works. Since I had run the Clare Burren Challenge last weekend I had opted for the easier 3:30 slot and there were three of us, me together with Mark and Dipak, though Dipak arrived a bit late, got stuck in the crowd before the start and was always a bit behind us, so for all intents and purposes it was just me and Mark for the vast majority, with Dipak having his own group just behind us.

Niamh had been able to join me in the hotel, which had gone down very well, apparently that is the only perk of being married to a runner. Wait, what?

Anyway, at the earlier-than-usual time of 8:30 we were off on our way. It was already fairly warm and that would only get worse. I knew full well that a lot of runners would be struggling today. I hoped I wouldn't be one of them, though.

Right away I had to really reign myself in. 8-minute pace feels reasonably fast on a training run these days but with the race-day adrenaline working its magic it felt like crawling. However, I knew that the Cork marathon always measures a bit long on the GPS; I have seen it higher than 26.5 miles, so we had to run a few seconds faster per mile, and we also had to keep a close eye on the official mile markers, because they're the ones that count at the end, not the numbers on your watch.

Case in point, we passed the 2-mile marker at exactly 16:00, bang on pace. However, the average pace on my watch displayed 7:45, which was a bit worrying because that was definitely a bigger gap than anticipated. We were actually a couple of seconds behind at mile 3 with the average pace still faster than it should have been, really, something like 7:46 or 7:48. Since they are mounting the mile markers on lamp posts there is always the chance that they are a bit out of place, so we didn't make any drastic changes and just kept going at the same effort level.

Since the Cork marathon also incorporates a relay, we were passing a changeover point roughly every 5 miles. Some people focus on the negatives, being overtaken by a bunch of fresh runners every 5 mile, which is the wrong way of looking at it. See it as a positive, get a boost from the cheering crowds at the sidelines, and smile!

Between miles 7 and 8 the tunnel awaits. I actually had an argument (a friendly one) with someone the day before, because I think the climb out of the tunnel is the biggest one of the day; you just don't notice it much because your legs are still quite fresh at that point. The other guy disagreed and insisted there is a bigger climb in the second half Anyway, if you add the tunnel climb and the one immediately following at Mahon Point together, it's definitely the biggest climbing section of the race. On the plus side, once you're over that hump you get 2 miles of smooth downhill at a lovely gradient - and that's where we got a little bit too fast, getting a full minute ahead of time without even realising with a 7:30 and a 7:40 mile. Oops. I had made the same mistake last time I paced here. Having said that, with the hills waiting for us in the second half, being a minute ahead wasn't the worst thing to happen and we decided to keep it in the bank.

The next few miles are my favourite section, on the old railway line towards the Marina. Even when I'm in Cork I tend to go there for my training run (not done that for a couple of years, though). We passed the halfway mark about 80 seconds ahead of time, definitely a bit faster than I would have thought was ideal, but that's what it was.

Photo thanks to Cork Athletics
We merged with the half marathon, which had started a little bit earlier. The 1:40 group, running just a little bit quicker than we were, passed us soon after the merge and for a mile it was really busy but once they had gone ahead it settled and then the half marathoners around us were basically doing the same pace as we were. One runner (hi Richard!) introduced himself to me and said he liked the blog (though he disagreed with my post-marathon recovery program), which prompted some jokes about having a celebrity pacer. Hey, if they can still laugh at mile 17 we're doing fine.

That's when the work started in earnest. There are a series of climbs from miles 18 to 21 and if you're already close to the edge they can easily break you (as I found out myself last year). By now it was really warm and the humidity was very high, which made for fairly brutal conditions for a marathon and the runners in our group suffered and one by one they started dropping. By the time we had broken the back of it at mile 21 there were only a handful of marathon runners left with us. We also acquired precious few runners who had been ahead of us earlier in the race and it was a rather small group that turned into the straight road for the final few miles. There was a slight breeze against us, which actually made it easier because it felt significantly cooler, and most of what was left of the initial 3:30 group actually started to pull ahead to gain a minute or two before the end.

There was a nice surprise for me when Niamh was standing beside the road, and soon after we passed Grellan as well. Mark must have been feeling the effort by now because he kept mentioning how tough the conditions were, though he clearly had enough in him to keep going. I still felt reasonably fresh myself, which was nice to know. Even with that marathon from last weekend my legs were still in good shape.

Photo thanks to Cork Athletics
Towards the end we were surrounded exclusively by half marathon runners, who must have
been on around 1:42 or 1:43 pace. I tried to find a marathon runner to specifically encourage him or her, but to no avail. It's not that unusual for the pacers to arrive at the finish without any pacees but at a reasonably big race like Cork that's quite rare. A few runners of our group had managed to pull ahead on the last few miles, very well done to them. The rest suffered a bit too much in the tough conditions - that's a hazard at marathons, nothing you can do about it.

Right at the end Dipak caught up with us and we crossed the finishing line together, in 3:29:31 gun time, close enough to feel it was a job reasonably well done, especially as it had not been the easiest of days. There was not much left to do except congratulate the runners around us, marvel at Gary O'Hanlon's fantastic win (I had met him briefly at breakfast in the morning and at his warm-up) and go home. Marathon number 102 was in the bag - more importantly, it was the last really long training run in this cycle. It's about time to get into taper mode.
3 Jun
Cork City marathon, 3:30 pacer
3:29:24, 7:58 pace, HR 146
4 Jun
4 miles, 34:00, 8:40 pace, HR 134

Saturday, June 02, 2018


This is one short post-marathon recovery I'm going through at the moment, because Cork is on this weekend and I agreed to pace it. At least I wasn't stupid enough to go for my "usual" 3:15 slot and told them straight away it would have to be 3:30 or slower - and 3:30 it was. I'm really looking forward to it, Cork always look after the pacers very well, and now my job is to make sure I don't mess it up.

Recovery was kind of curious this week. There had been no muscle soreness, nada, zilch, nichts, despite the hilly nature of the Clare Burren Challenge, and despite the fact that I ran two of the downhill segments fairly hard, which really should have destroyed my quads but they managed to completely withstand it. That's good. My muscles have definitely become very resilient, which will hopefully mean there won't be a repeat of last year's fiasco in Belfast when the legs were just gone after 12 hours, irretrievably. However, the runs over the last couple of days have felt quite tough, despite the fact that I tried to take it as easy as possible, and the slow pace shows it.

I don't think I'm overtrained, and there are two possible explanations. First, the toughest runs were the ones in the morning, after just half a day break after running home from work the night before. Secondly, and I think that is the real, major reason, it has become very humid here, and the temperatures have been a good bit higher than what we're accustomed here in Ireland. Those are tough conditions for a run and always make it feel harder.

The main worry is that the conditions tomorrow in Cork might well be more of the same, which will make it a tough day for everyone. I have paced marathons in warm, humid conditions before, with Dublin 2014 particularly sticking in my mind, and it was always hard work, feeling more like a race effort than a reasonably easy training run. We'll see. I have been worried about messing up the pacing before but I have paced 14 marathons so far and never missed the target.

If you're there tomorrow, say hello.

27 May
6.9 miles, 58:25, 8:27, HR 133
   Actually 2 runs - my youngest daughter wanted some company when going for a cycle
28 May
am:2.7 miles, 22:39, 8:23, HR 138
pm:6.3 miles, 49:52, 7:54
29 May
10.25 miles, 1:21:18, 7:55, HR 141
30 May
10.25 miles, 1:30:25, 8:49, HR 136, gasp
31 May
10.25 miles, 1:24:05, 8:12, HR 139
1 Jun
10.25 miles, 1:28:25, 8:37, HR 143, gasp