Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dublin City Marathon 2010

The Dublin City Marathon has been my main goal for 2010 and despite derailing my training plans by partaking in some adventure races I still held it as my main target.

For the first time I started a 18 week marathon training programme with some miles under my belt, having run the Edinburgh Marathon in May.
This was my 4th marathon but only the second with a specific target time. Last year in Dublin I had failed miserably in my attempt to make the Boston Marathon qualifying time of 3.30 when I hit the wall at about 20 miles and struggled across the finish line in 3.38.xx.
This year my target was to be the same as 09 at sub 3.30.

Soon after I started the training I realised that I was running faster than last year, some race results confirmed this so I started to revise my target time downwards.
Could I take 5 minutes off, could I take 10 minutes off ? All sorts of numbers would be flying through my head while I was on training runs.
Early in the training phase I briefly flirted with the idea of trying for a 3.13, a strange number you may think, but that time would leave me requiring just 30 seconds faster per mile to head for the milestone time of sub 3.00. A target way beyond my reach for a long time into the future, if ever, but psychologically 30 seconds is not such a huge hurdle, is it?
Those thoughts soon disappeared as the quality of my training suffered, especially in the second half of the programme. With only a few weeks to go to the start of the race I was doubting if I would be able to manage the 3.30. With a week to go I decided to go with the 3.15 pacers and hold on for as long as possible.
This saw me standing in a packed pen in Merrion Square, on a freezing cold morning, surrounded by 13,000 other souls and trying to get as close as possible to 2 guys holding helium filled balloons with 3.15 printed on them.

Bedlam ensued. Thousands of people setting off together created total gridlock at times. I did my utmost to stay close to the balloons, this required plenty of zigging and zagging, I hoped that the crowds would thin out allowing for more even running. A glance at my watch during the first mile confirmed that we were way below target time.
At the 2 mile mark one of the pacers "Krusty Clown" - a Boards.ie user name - called out that we were 40 seconds slow. I think that if I was running on my own I would have panicked and tried to get the time back at a sprint but Krusty assured me we would take it back slowly.

The next few miles were reasonably easy running but I was kept busy trying to hold my place behind the pacers. It was a time for stock taking, how am I feeling, how's the breathing, are the legs ok? A really weird thing is that my right foot was completely numb, I was worried about it because at this early stage everything should be working well.

The beautiful thing about running with pacers is that I didn't have to bother looking at my watch, all I had to do was keep close to the wonderful people carrying the balloons. Heading down the North Circular Road was fantastic, there is a section where you can see the whole road ahead filled with runners, add to that the sunshine and the cheering supporters and you realised running rarely gets better than this. We seemed to pick up the pace on the way into the park but I still felt fine. As we hit the 5 mile mark a shout from Krusty confirmed that we were now only 4 seconds off (can't remember if it was ahead or behind, doesn't matter)

I knew that my friend Sean was going to be at the 6 mile mark in the Phoenix Park so I tried to position myself to give him a wave. This rather tall, wide lad was in front of me blocking me from view so I pushed up ahead of him, soon I realised he had moved ahead of me again, much to my amusement we swapped place several time within a mile. I copped Sean as I passed him and shouted and waved. He commented afterwards that I looked comfortable and I suppose except for the mental doubts I was feeling grand.

While running through the Park I had brief conversations with runners around me and a chat with Krusty helped pass the time. The fact that I was chatting with other runners may seem irrelevant but when I had been training at the pace we were now running at I was breathing heavily and thought I would not be able to converse with people, it was something of a relief to realise I was not panting too much at this stage.

We left the Park, headed through Chapelizod and into Kilmainham. At times when the roads narrowed and there was no space to pass people I got a bit twitchy as the pacers moved ahead, on reflection, another learning experience, as I actually found it fairly easy to close the gap once the field spread out again. I knew that my parents were going to be at Dolphins Barn, so positioning myself to see them meant I had to take some corners very wide but it was well worth it, I'll worry about the racing line when I trying for a sub 3 !!

Most people that do the Dublin marathon hate the Crumlin Road, it's slightly uphill and usually has a head wind, but to be honest, it actually doesn't bother me, I guess because I grew up around there I spend the time looking out for familiar faces (like my sister, who live about 2 minutes from the course but has never given me a shout, thanks Dee)
Next comes Walkinstown Road, the half way point. We hit this bang on target. I was happy to be still with the pacers at this point and feeling reasonably well.

I had arranged to see my wife and son on Cromwellsfort Road, it turned out that nearly everyone was running on the right side of the road, I knew they would be on the left side so I was able to drift left and wave at them from a distance. I was delighted to see my other sister and her family there also. I collected 2 gels from my son and enjoyed the shouts of encouragement from the rest of my family (especially my favourite sister Linda...lol) Again they commented afterwards that I looked very comfortable. I still actually felt fine.

The next miles drifted by. This is probably where the real doubts started to fill my mind. I was holding onto the pacers but it wasn't as easy as it should have been. Last year I had started to fall off the 3.3o group somewhere around Terenure, this year I was delighted to be still there at the same point but I was conscious that there was still along way to go.

15,16,17 went by and I was still hanging on. I was telling myself hang on until 18 at least.
Made 18, hang on 'till 19.
At this point I was really starting to live in my head. I was trying to work out how slow I could do the remaining miles and still get a personal best time.
OK Chris, just hang on until 20 miles and you'll be ok, that's not too much to ask.
The fantastic thing is that about now Krusty starts shouting out all sorts of encouragement. I thought to myself he is never going to keep this up until the finish but, fair play, he never stopped, what a legend !!
20 miles done. This is where previously the wheels have fallen off. I knew what to expect, I could just come to a grinding halt at any point soon.
At 21, much to my surprise, I'm still there. 21 done, can I make 22?
I got to 22 miles but this is where I'm really hurting.

Jaysus Chris, stay with it, get to the next mile.
We're running along Merrion Road, Krusty is flying "come on, we're nearly there" I'm hanging on. Nearly there, me arse, it's still a long way but I'm still with him. We're weaving through people, they're slowing down but it feels like we are speeding up.
Again Krusty shouts "you wouldn't get out of bed for what we have left" It brought home to me how close to the finish we were.

I can't do it, I can't hang on, oh fuck, how far to go ??? 3 miles, is it 3 miles, that's over 22 minutes, I can't run for another 22 minutes. Give it up now Chris, you'll still have a personal best time, give it up.... Ahh, you soft bollix, you've trained for the whole year, you knew it wouldn't be easy, keep with that balloon. If it was easy everyone would be doing it... Keep going..

Miles 22 - 25 hurt. I probably can't adequately describe what I was feeling then.

I'm now counting down from the garmin, 2.5 miles to go, 2 miles to go. The amount of times that I wanted to let the pacers go in those few miles was unbelievable, I didn't think that I could get to the finish. Push, ya big puff, push.

With a mile and a half to go I genuinely thought that I was going to stop at any moment. I really was just trying to hang on.
As I got close to the last mile I had a sudden burst of energy, well actually, it probably wasn't a burst of energy so much as a realisation that I was so close to the finish.
A mile, one mile, it's easy, I can run a mile, yes , yes I can, run ya little fucker, run.

I pushed ahead of the pacers, I really tried to stretch my legs. After about about a quarter of a mile I was knackered and I got caught behind a group of lads strung out across the road. I didn't have the energy or interest to push through them but then a small gap opened and I went for it. I drove on, looking back and seeing the 3.15 balloons too close behind inspired me to push harder.
I kept looking at the Garmin 0.6 of a mile to go, 0.5 of a mile to go, Jaysus half a mile I can't keep this up for another 1/2 mile....shut up, shut up, keep going, you're nearly there.

Then I saw it, the finish line, it was so close. I could see the clock, it said 3.1xx, Jaysus I couldn't see the figures on the right. Check the Garmin, 3.12.xx.
Oh my god, I was going to make 3.15 but, but could I get in under 3.14. Push, push.

I crossed the line in 3.13.49. Result.. Happy days.. I beat my personal best marathon time by a whopping 24 minutes.
I know I did the training and I put a lot of time and effort into my programme but, hand on heart, I would not have made that time without the Boardis.ie pacers and Krusty Clown in particular driving the train.
I've since seen video of me finishing the marathon, it's not a pretty sight and as I went to collect my T-shirt a very Dublin auld one suggested that it might be a good idea to hold onto the barrier for a few minutes.

I'm happy with the result, actually, I'm bleedin' delighted, a good day, better than expected. Finished with a few (loads) pints with my friend Sean and a gang of Boardsies.

Roll on 2011... already thinking about the possibilities.....................

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Dublin Half Marathon 2010

The old engine hasn't been running too smoothly in recent times, especially the last few weeks it's been coughing and spluttering in a bad way.
Ideally a full engine replacement would be in order but in these bad economic times the best I could hope for is a full service. Until I can get that done I will just have to hope that the motor doesn't have a major breakdown.

As is now the norm for these races I arrived to the Phoenix Park via Sean's house. I did a 3 mile warm up at very low revs, then headed to the starting pens.
Some week ago I had a fair idea of a target time, this had changed in the intervening weeks as I revised it upwards because of the failing condition of the engine.
I hadn't realised that there were pacers for this race, as I made my way towards the start line I saw the balloons denoting the various pace categories. The ones I noticed were 1.40 and 1.30.
Hmm !! 1.40 was too slow, was 1.30 too fast, that pace, 6.50 minute miles, would put me on my limit for the distance. Decisions, decisions... To hell with it, I pushed up behind the 1.30 guys. My thinking here was to start at 1.30 pace and see how things went. I was also pleased to recognise some Boardsies.

Starting gun fires, clutch out, accelerator to the floor, wheels spinning, thousands pile down the wide, straight Chesterfield Avenue. I found myself jockeying for position, in the malee I saw that I was travelling along the painted centre divide, here I had another surreal Johnny Cash moment when the song I walked the line popped into my head.
The first mile felt remarkably easy, I was ticking over nicely, I was somewhat surprised to realise we had done a 6.50 mile. The next miles were slightly less comfortable but I wasn't under any major stress. The most difficult thing for me was holding my position close to the pacers. I was constantly pushed back and squeezed out of position - this was very much down to my lack of race experience - things improved when I became more aggressive about holding my position or pushing through gaps.
At 5 miles I was still with the pacer, thinking that if I was still with them at 7 miles I could afford to take a full minute a mile extra to the finish and still have a personal best time, funny how the mind works at times.

The first uphill of note, Kyber Road, at about 7.5 miles, was the first sign of trouble. The pacer zoomed up the hill and despite trying to force extra revs from the ailing engine they quickly opened a gap. The hill was shorter and less severe than I had remembered, I was delighted to reach the crest only 30-40 yards behind the pacers. I hoped that over the next few miles I could kick in the turbo and gradually close the gap.

Acres Road was exposed to the wind, I was alone on this stretch looking at the tightly pack group ahead and wishing for the shelter they could give, at times I felt I was closing them down but on reflection I think the distance remained more or less constant.
A tight turn brought us alongside the football pitches.
A quick check of the systems revealed some possible problems but nothing catastrophic. I even high fived one of the kids cheering at the roadside.

Another sharp turn brought me on to Military Road.
At 9.5 miles disaster struck, the timing belt went, this brought the engine to a complete stop and although I attempted a temporary repair by moving at waking pace and forcing in the remaining fuel, the damage was done. I got the engine started again but it would only tick over at low revs. Arriving at the pit stop less that a mile further along the road, I spotted my number 1 mechanic, Christopher at the front of the line of helpers. I stopped beside him and took on some water, I think at this point the water pump was fried anyway but I continued at walking pace through the pit stop, trying not to hinder any of the other vehicles. On exiting I was again met by Christopher, I stopped to chat with him and his encouragement for me to make temporary repairs pushed me on and got me ticking over again.

The remaining 3 miles were all about getting over the line. I was nursing the wrecked engine along, been passed by a stream of others when this one passed me, to add insult to injury, as he passed his clacker valve went, resulting in an extremely long, watery fart like sound. On another day I would had commented that there should be a stewards enquiry for his effort but today I couldn't care less.

The chequered flag was long packed away by the time I crossed the line. I did manage to get one last effort in the final 200 yard but it was too little too late.
I had known that a breakdown was on the cards during this race considering the abuse the engine had sustained, especially in the previous week at Achill Roar Adventure Race and some coughing and spluttering in recent days but the sudden and catastrophic failure was a little more than I had expected.
It's nearly time for a full overhaul, one more adventure, WAR, next weekend, one more 20 mile LSR the following, then 3 glorious weeks taper for the Dublin City Marathon.

My finishing time of 1.34.58 is a personal best by 2.5 minutes, so not a total disaster but to be honest I would have liked a slightly faster result..
Time: 1.34.58
Overall position: 664
Position in category: 51

Accompanied by Sean a refueling at Ryans afterwards helped immensely. I had the pleasure of meeting a group of Boardsies there, always good to put faces to names.
A quick stop at Wheelworx on the way home to buy Christopher his first cycling shoes completed an interesting day.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Achill Roar Adventure Race 2010

While tramping up a mountain on Saturday I realised I was reciting in my mind the words of the Nine Inch Nails song made famous by the late, great Johnny Cash, Hurt. "I hurt myself today to see if I still feel I focus on the pain the only thing that's real"
Although I wasn't actually in pain as such, I think it gives an indication of my mental state at that time.
I asked myself, not for the first time, why I was doing another adventure race, running, kayaking and cycling. It's not like I'm any good at them. When it comes to road running I'm a mid pack runner at best and I do OK for my age group but one of the things that I'm totally rubbish at is off road running. Going up hill is bad enough but I'm completely terrible at downhill off road running. As for kayaking, I'm more likely to swim than paddle so not exactly my strongest sport. I'm a fair cyclist, I wouldn't last 10 miles in a race, even a vets one but in these races I seem to do reasonably well in the cycling sections.
So here I was on the side of a windswept wondering what the hell I was doing, maybe I'll have an answer by the time I finish the race !

Achill Roar is the best adventure race that I've done, everything about it is incredible, the scenery, the course, the organisation, the whole setup just floats my boat. For those reasons I'd been looking forward to this event for some time.

I set off for Achill with my son on Friday afternoon, I was disappointed that my usual companion Kevin had to withdraw at the last minute. For the previous couple of weeks I would on occasions point at my back and tell Kevin that's what he would be seeing in Achill. We both knew this wasn't going to happen but I enjoyed the slagging.
We arrived at Keel on Achill after a six hour drive - the only major drawback about this event - we set up the huge 8 man tent, finishing the setup by torchlight and went to the Achill Head Hotel for race registration. We had a meal there and went back to hook up with Damo, Joyce and their kids who had just arrived in a campervan. In bed by 12 with the alarm set for 8.00 am, a much more civilised time than the 3.30 am of the Gael Force race 3 weeks previously.

The starting area was directly across from the entrance to the campsite, just a short stroll from our tent. Accompanied by Christopher,I dropped my bike over and still had time to go back to the tent to pick up a drink.
Following a briefing from one of the race organisers we were off.

A short run to the kayak stage was enough to tell me the legs were not at their best but it was early days and things change.
I was lucky to partner up with a French guy called Joe who was a strong paddler, he kept our kayak on course and if truth was told probably did the lions share of the work - thanks Joe.
Forgot to mention that when I hopped into the kayak first I was so intent on setting a good rhythm that I wasn't paying much attention to anything else until Joe said in his French accent "you 'ave your paddle backwards" DOH !!!
As we neared the finish I spotted Christopher taking photos, it was brilliant to have him there.
For some reason the kayak stage nearly killed me, as people were throwing their buoyancy aids in a pile and running off, I was leaning my hands on knees talking to Christopher. Eventually I set off at a gentle jog. I bumped into one of the Boardsies along here when I was recognised by GeoffOnTour. We exchanged a few words before he moved ahead to the next transition.

>>> Totally wrecked after kayak >>>>>

Stage 1: Kayak, run to lake and back
Time: 27.28
Stage position: 64
Overall position: 64

I went to my bike, started to put on my cycling helmet and for a moment wondered why there were so many people running out of the transition area without their bikes. It's bad enough trying to paddle a kayak with the paddle backwards but to try to get on my bike for the run stage was weird to say the least.
After a short distance the run turned onto Keel beach. My legs felt like lumps of lead, they just wouldn't move. I got pains down the outside of both shins (shin splints ?) and both calves were tight and painful. I was thinking this was going to be one long day.
I watched two people in front of me crossing a knee deep torrent flowing into the sea, wow, it looked mad, I whipped out my camera and waited for the two people behind me to pass so I could video their crossing.
A flat bog section led onto the mountain, a mixture of walking and jogging kept me going upwards. When looking at this mountain from Keel a spectacular steep cliff can be seen and if you look closely enough you can just make out the line of the track clinging above the cliffs. It was on this piece of track that I had my Johnny Cash moment. Just after this while trying to cross a small stream my left leg disappeared knee deep into a bog hole, the guy behind me called a warning to the people behind him, I was glad that there were actually people behind me.
The course went down hill for a distance and then leveled out somewhat along a short loop, this brought me to the final steep climb to the summit. I realised that my legs felt ok, although I wasn't going fast I wasn't losing as much ground to the competitors ahead.
There was a heavy shower of rain as I ascended towards the mountain top. The wind was so strong that the rain was driving horizontally. I remember looking at the rain bouncing off my left arm and thinking that short sleeves were probably not the best option but I couldn't be bothered to put a jacket on. At last I reached the checkpoint.

Stage 2: Run to summit
Time: 1.18.12
Stage position: 150
Overall position: 137

At the summit I asked a marshall to take some gels and bars from the back pocket of my bag, I just didn't want to take my bag off. I noticed the next competitor looking very hard in my direction. I caught up with him shortly afterwards and he nervously asked me if I had just had a kit inspection, I guess he wasn't carrying all his mandatory kit, bold boy.
The run to the mast access road was reasonably level if rocky and boggy, a short trot along the road then a sharp left down the mountainside. The surface was step like bog covered in short heather with the odd stony patch. I was almost enjoying myself running down this, a few slips and trips were all that happened on the descent. The ground levels off as you approach the beach.
There is a run over a section of large rounded pebbles. Last year the run over these pebbles was longer and somewhat torturous as your feet can't get a good purchase, it's a bit like running in deep, lumpy sand, totally energy sapping and after running up and down a mountain it's the last thing you would want to run on. Thank goodness it was shorter this year, just 20 or thirty yards and it was on to the beach.
There was a couple of fast running streams flowing across the beach but otherwise I found it quite pleasant. My legs were tired but moving, I actually closed the gap on some runners ahead.
I was horrified when I glanced at my watch to see that my heart rate was in the late 170's/ early 180's. This was way too high for the speed I was travelling at. I felt for the heart rate monitor strap and noticed that it had slipped a little from my chest. I wriggled it back into place and was relived to see my HR drop to a more sustainable rate 150ish.
I could see the line of runners further along the beach turning in through a gap in the dunes and towards the bike transition area. I was delighted that I didn't have run an extra out and back along the beach as we had to do last year.

Stage 3: Run from summit
Time: 35.44
Stage position: 143
Overall position: 133
I took an eternity in the bike transition. I drank what remained of the drink in my backpack, I swallowed down a nutri-grain bar, then did the strangest thing. I had run through bogs, I had been knee deep in water, my cross-trainers are Gortex lined so the hold water very efficiently so basically I was soaking wet up to my knees. While changing into my cycling shoes I struggled to maintain my balance on one leg so I wouldn't put my sock on the damp grass... I need help !!

The start of the bike stage is flatish and is followed by a few miles of up hill. I was spinning well, I took a gel and plenty of liquid, passed some other cyclists - I think most were from the shorter sports course - I was amazed to realise that I was still on the big ring as I crested the hill, at that point I should have realised that there was probably a reason for me speeding along so comfortably but I was actually enjoying myself so I didn't analyse it too intently.
I passed the turn for the sports course so if I managed to overtake anyone from this point on I would improve my overall placing. Heading for Achill Sound favoured downhill and I hit some nice speeds, I caught 3 or 4 people before the right turn off the main road. The cyclists were well strung out, I was happy to glimpse someone ahead of me, at least I was closing in on one more competitor. The road takes a sharp left and meanders along by the coast, a beautiful section, I even took some video cycling along this part of the course.
I knew that there were two steep hills ahead so I was trying to keep something in the tank. I had caught a few more bikes, one just as we turned right at a T junction. Bang, as soon as I made the turn I was hit with a wall of wind. Oh no ! There was absolutely no shelter to be found, the road twists along exposed to the Atlantic gales. Some ups and downs brought me to the base of the first of the larger climbs, some of the competitors were walking parts of this. Much to my relief it was way easier than I remembered it from last year.
A marshall was waiting at the top with a dibber receiver (electronic check point) in each hand. In a similar situation at the Sally Gap during the Wicklow Adventure Race I raised my hand with the dibber (chip worn on wrist) on it and the marshall moved to that side, when I reached him he ran alongside me, helped with the dibber and then, God bless him, gave me a big push up the hill.
The chap here wasn't as efficient so I had to stop to be sure of registering at this check point.
He told me that "there was a steep downhill coming up" For some reason I found his choice of word hilarious and with what I thought of, at the time, as rapier like wit I asked him if he meant "a steep up hill coming down". Told you my head was messed up !!

Stage 4: Bike
Time: 1.04.40
Stage position: 74
Overall position: 105

The sharp descent, with two hairpin bends, was exposed to the gusting wind. Situated in the valley between this hill and the next climb out is a narrow bridge, as I crossed this bridge the wind was blowing me sideways with such violence that I really thought I was going to be knocked off the bike, luckily I remained upright and attacked the next climb with relief. At the top of the hill the road take a very sharp left turn and once again I was into a full on gale force wind.
Pushing on as best as I could I managed to collect another couple of places. At the foot of a short, steep hill I dropped my chain while down gearing, I couldn't get it back on on the move and had to stop, loosing some momentum, otherwise, on this section I was only trying to close the gap to the next cyclists.
I came back out onto the main road just behind two cyclists both women as I soon found out. The wind was playing its part again, making every peddle stroke a grinding effort. I closed the gap to the bike ahead to a couple of yards but didn't make the final push get on the wheel. I'm not sure why, I really could have done with the shelter but in the back of my mind it smacked of cheating. I was going to finish by my own effort.
On what I knew was the final climb, the girl in front of me caught and passed the competitor in front of her, I followed soon afterwards and we exchanged a few words of encouragement.

I could see the crest of the hill, it was all downhill for the last miles to the finish. All around the bike stage I was looking forward to these last miles. Last year this was the most enjoyable section of the whole race, it was a big gear, head down hammerfest, I loved it, so this year as I crested the hill I changed to a big gear and started pushing.
I was gutted when I realised that I wasn't gathering speed, I was going downhill, pushing hard but struggling to keep going, my already tired legs were vigorously complaining about the work I was expecting of them. Damn wind !!!
It was with a sigh of relief that I swung off the main road, across a grass section and dismounted my bike at the transition area. After racking the bike I had a short run to the finish line, I didn't bother to take off my cycling shoes, I'm sure I made some sight waddling to the line. On the way I was delighted to be cheered on by Christopher and the kids.
I checked in at the finish line and wandered in to the marquee where I was given a printout with my time and splits.
I went outside to meet Christopher and the kids. Joyce joined us soon after having completed the sports course and we all waited to cheer Damo in (he had started in the wave after me).
I chatted with a few people at the finishing area and bumped into GeoffOnTour again.

Stage 5: Bike to finish
Time: 53.05
Stage position: 41
Overall position: 85

As for the question I asked myself at the start of this report.
Why do I do these things?
I still don't know, I'll leave the analysing 'till another day............

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Rockford Roof Tiles 4 Mile Road Race

Recently I was reminded of a football (Soccer - the real football) game that I went to watch some years ago. A Dublin team were playing a team from a village close to where I live. I knew some of the lads from the Dublin club so I wanted to go along and voice my support.
I was chatting to some of the Dubs after the came when one of them asked if I lived close by, I answered "Yeah about 5 or 6 miles that way", "Jaysus" said he said in reply "you travelled all that way to watch a match?"
Today I travelled 12 miles to a local athletics club road race. I wanted to run this race because it was the local race, 15 minutes drive, I wonder how far you can travel in 15 minutes in Dublin ?

My friend Sean made the trip from Dublin for the race. We set off from my house for the short journey, as always I enjoyed our chat on the way.
We were waved into a parking area behind the church, asked some chap in a hi viz vest the way to registration and found ourselves walking through a graveyard.
"Through a graveyard, do you think we are going the right way? " I asked Sean
"Yeah, this is where they put the losers" he replied

We popped out on the main street, we were walking to the right when I spotted numerous people going into a building behind us, so in we go a join a queue, I did notice that some of the people here looked on the young side. Turns out we nearly signed up for the under 15 1 mile race. Anyway we found the correct registration area and with only a slight hiccup when they hadn't got Seans on-line registration on file we went out for a short warm up run and once again an opportunity to have a chat catching up on the latest news.

Learning lessons from previous races I was close to the start line when starter set us on our way, I still didn't have the confidence to go right to the front line, in fairness there were some serious runners there. The usual malee ensued as we ran the first quarter mile or so. I was running along enjoying the experience, the crowd, the warm weather when someone passed me, the runner going by knocked me from my reverie, I suddenly realised I was actually in a race and not on the warm up phase of a training run, a strange time to daydream !
"Right Chris focus, why are you not breathing hard yet, this is supposed to hurt, get on with it"
I spotted Sean just ahead of me and thought to myself if I could hang on close to him for a while I'd be doing ok, he was gradually increasing the distance between us a yard at a time.
The first mile marker was painted on the road, I hit it some yards before my Garmin beeped the mile, a guy there was calling out the time, just before I hit it he calls 5 twenty something. That couldn't be right, that's way too fast. Prior to the race I had decided not to look at my watch for anything other than distance or heart rate but when it beeped the first mile I had to sneak a look ... 5.41.. 5.41 wow, my fastest recorded mile since I started running a couple of years ago. What I haven't mentioned so far is that this first mile was predominantly downhill - to be honest, I wasn't going to say anything about the hill but I wouldn't be able to sleep if I didn't ;-)

I was drifting off the runners ahead of me in the second mile, not by a huge amount but it was noticeable to me. In the St James Hospital 6.5k race a runner closed up behind me but took some time to get past, all the while I could hear them breathing hard, from the sound of the breathing I knew that it was a woman. The same thing happened today in the second mile, a woman's heavy breathing closing ever so slowly, getting nearer, just on my shoulder, then passing me an inch at a time. As she drew level with me I threw a sideways glance and was greeted by the sight of a hairy bloke passing me !! I wonder does he know he sounds like a woman ?

In the third mile I was running out of steam. I was trying to keep the gap to the runners ahead to a constant distance but I was slowly drifting back. I looked behind me to see a group of 4 or 5 people not far behind, some more rearward looks confirmed that they were gradually closing me down. At this point I was thinking that could be a good thing, they were only travelling slightly faster than me so when they catch up I'll just tuck in behind and hang on 'till the finish.
Ahh, the best laid schemes 'o mice and men. The first part of the plan worked perfectly, they caught and passed me, this is where the plan failed, I just couldn't increase my pace by the tiny amount to hang on with this group.

About half way through the last mile I was passed by a chap I know, we exchanged some words, he told me there was just half a mile left, I knew this but I was thinking to myself half a mile is very short, I want to hang on to him until the finish but even as I was thinking this he was drawing ahead of me. I just couldn't hurt myself, not today. My legs were tired and heavy, I guess the over 5 hours of Gael Force adventure race last Saturday was still taking it's toll. I had really hoped that I would be fully recovered, not so much for a result today but to justify sandwiching the Dublin Half Marathon (an important build up for the Dublin marathon) between two adventure races - it's going to be an interesting 3 weeks in September !

My out loud target time for this race was 26 minutes - 6.30 minutes per mile. I had resisted looking at my watch, even when I crossed the 800 metres to go marker I didn't give in to the temptation to steal a quick glance. As I ran along the finishing straight I was cheered on by Sean, who once again clocked up a cracking time and looked far too fresh for the effort required to hit these sort of times.
I was disappointed when I saw the clock at the finish line showing 26 minutes and some seconds, there goes my target time, I couldn't even muster a sprint for the last few yards. I crossed the line at about 26.21. 21 seconds over target time.

After the race I was drained, I think that if this was a 10k or even a 5 miler I would have been in real trouble, as it was the 4 miles nearly killed me :-(
I joined Sean while he was chatting to a runner from Raheny AC, they mentioned the extra yards over the 4 miles. My ears pricked up, extra distance, what extra distance? It transpired that the course is slightly over 4 miles long, maybe I did hit my target after all.

On arriving home I downloaded the info from my Garmin. My mile splits were very erratic, maybe something to work on but the information I wanted was sitting there on the top line, avg pace .......6.29 /mi. Result, (out loud) target time by 1 second per mile.

Well done to Tinryland AC for a well organised and thoroughly enjoyable race.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Gael Force West Adventure Race 2010

Last years Gael Force race was my first attempt at adventure events and I had a blast so I had some idea of what to expect.

As usual for these events I travelled with my good mate Kevin. We arrived to Westport on Friday afternoon, booked into the campsite at Westport House and also booked a motorhome bay for Damo, Joyce and Susan, who were arriving later that evening. We were told we could pitch our tent (the new huge 8 man one) beside the campervan bay, which worked out well for the rest of the weekend.
Myself and Kev then headed off to Lenane to register and then on to the Delphi centre to drop off our bikes, It was all well organised and went without a hiccup.

I wanted to have a look at the new part of the cycle route, I had heard on Boards.ie that the surface was rough. As we drove along the cycle route memories were flooding back from last years event, I had thoroughly enjoyed this bike stage and was eagerly awaiting a repeat the following day.

I was totally dumbfounded when I saw the new section, who in their right mind would ride a road bike over this rubble, it was an unsurfaced bog road with nothing but loose gravel and rocks. I was lost for words and kept repeating "this is nuts, they can't be serious". I was so looking forward to the bike stage and then they go and pull this stunt, WTF. I must admit that I considered pulling out after seeing this "road", anyway it put me in bad form for a while.
The guys arrived later that evening and I brought them and out to the Delpi to drop their bikes. It was dark by the time we arrived and it was weird seeing thousands of bikes packed into two fields, I've never seen so many bikes in one place before. Then back to the campsite for a massive 4 hours sleep.

Kevin, Damo and myself were on the 5.00am bus, yes, you read correctly 5.00am. Fair play to Joyce who got up early to drop us to the bus, this saved a 30 minute walk.

Unlike last year the journey to the starting point was in total darkness. It was still dark as we left the bus to walk to the starting point.

There was a bit of craic as we waited for the off, the usual nervous pre-race tension was evident but it wasn't long before we were given a safety briefing and made our way to the starting point on the beach.

The start was a mad scramble from the beach through the dunes and onto the road, the first section was uphill so some heavy breathing can be expected, usually that settles down after a short while.
I wasn't feeling very comfortable on the run and noted that my heart rate was very high for the pace we were doing. I ran alongside Kevin on a couple of occasions, we exchanged a few words but we both had our own race to run.

The route had been changed from last year, this meant an extra 2k on the run but we didn't have to run cross-country over a hill/mountain. I hoped that the new route would be reasonably even but it was muddy and rocky, difficult to negotiate, the type of terrain that I really struggle on. I was passed by plenty of runners along here. Once I reached a stile - where last years track joins the famine path - the ground evened out somewhat, I started to get into some sort of rhythm.

I don't know why I felt so bad on the run, maybe it was the dry ham & cheese sandwich I had on the bus or the dirty big burger and chips I had for a late dinner the evening before, whatever the reason I seriously doubted that I would be able to finish the race, hours still to go and feeling like crap.
Along Killary fjord on the Famine path I began to feel somewhat better and settled in behind 2 lads at a pace that felt comfortable, I stayed with them until the kayak transition.
Stage 1 Run completed in 1.16.25

Because I started in the first wave the kayak stage was not timed out so it was grab a buoyancy aid and straight into a boat. A guy asked me to partner him, I asked him if he paddled, he said he did so I told him to take the back seat - something of a mistake I think, we zig zagged across the fjord. I was getting some mild cramp at the top of my thighs, I was praying that I wouldn't go into spasm. Despite our erratic course we made the kayak stage in reasonable time.
Stage 2 Kayak completed 9.23.

The run from the fjord to the bike transition was uneventful, with the exception of stopping when I realised my garmin watch was only displaying the actual time and not any of the other functions, this freaked me, no stop watch, no heart rate, no pace, no distance, anyway I couldn't fix it.I fell in behind the same two lads for the run into Delphi
Stage 3 Run completed 19.54

I took my time at the bike transition, getting a drink and some food while sorting my gloves, helmet etc. passed a few words with Kevin as he was heading off.

I took a steady pace, using the bike for recovery, I passed some competitors along the way, I was passed by 2 guys in a short space of time but kept in touch with them, eventually passing both again. We swapped places several times, I dropped them before the main road, I did see one of them later on Croagh Patrick, the poor chap was having trouble with cramp.

I bumped into my 2 running companions on the way and it turns out that one of them knew me from a previous job in Dublin years ago, small world.

I enjoyed the cycle until I hit the new "off road" section. I had been dreading this, I dropped into the lowest gear a peddled steadily uphill trying to pick a line through the stones, feeling the back wheel slip and slide while roughly bumping along the track was pure abuse of a road bike. The strong head wind didn't help me feel any better. Uphill was bad but the downhill was worse, how I didn't have a spill is still something of a mystery to me. There was a short surfaced section then back to the rocky stuff, this time with a gusting cross wind, that made for some bum clenching moments. To say that I was happy to reach the Croagh Patrick transition is probably the understatement of the year.
Stage 4 Bike completed 1.37.26

The options at the start of the Croagh Patrick climb are the zig zag path which is longer but less steep or head directly up the mountain to the pilgrims path which is a lung buster of a climb. This year I chose the zig zag, I managed to get to the Pilgrims path without too much heartache but then the fun started.

The path consists of various sized rocks, stones and pebbles. At times I was taking 1 step forward and sliding 1/2 step back. I was really tired, it felt like I was getting nowhere. I'd love to know how all those little old dears manage to get to the top of the mountain to say prayers. I stopped a couple of times to catch my breath but did my best to keep moving. I spotted Kevin bouncing down and got some video of his goat like descent.
At last the summit, I checked my watch and noted that it was only 6 minutes since I'd passed Kevin - not bad, certainly better than last year. I asked some bloke to take my photo then set off on the descent.
Stage 5 Run/walk/climb completed 46.28

This is the part that I'm really, really bad at. I had decided to try to get down the mountain at a reasonable speed so off I set at a slipping, sliding, hopping type of jog. That lasted all of about 100 yards before I realised that I was very likely to face plant into the rocks so I tip toed along the path until I cut off to take the shorter route back through the heather.

I had been thinking that if I saw Damo soon he would very likely overtake me on the downhill as he's a bit of a downhill junkie. Next thing I hear "Hay Casso" and there was Damo pushing up the mountain - more video here, soon to be on youtube.

The heather/bog part is like a series of steps with hidden leg eating holes again it's not exactly a favourite of mine. I angled down and across the mountainside all the while heading for the flat(ish) ground near the transition area. I was leading with my right leg, on several occasions I went over on my ankle, nothing too serious but annoying all the same, once I took a full on tumble and rolled a couple of times down the hill, before I came to a stop I was wondering if mountain rescue would be able to find me if I got the dreaded lower leg injury, anyway all was well and I made it to the road in one piece.
Stage 6 Run/slide/fall completed 31.46

On the run across the road to where my bike was parked had me feeling like my legs belonged to someone else, a really strange feeling that lasted until I got on my bike.

At last the final stage. I cycled downhill enjoying the speed but soon had to take a left turn onto the final off road section. Like the previous off road section it was a case of selecting a low gear and picking a route through the rocks and mud. At one point I was cycling along a narrow strip of grass and mud at the edge of the track just inches from a large ditch, I remember thinking to myself that if I fell to my right it would not be a pleasant experience. With some wobbling and plenty of luck I reached the top of the hill. The track was in a slightly better condition than last year and I was hoping that I may be able to cycle the remaining part but there were 2 or 3 sections on the downhill that would have been nuts to cycle on a road bike - I found out later that Damo had cycled the whole track at speed ... nutter! - I dismounted and ran these parts. Heading downhill to the last bad section I noticed a cyclist receiving medical treatment at the edge of the path, I was so in my own head that I only spared a passing glance at this poor competitor. Because the cyclist was surrounded by medical personal I only glimpsed them fitting a neck brace but I hadn't noticed any other details.
I was some yards past the accident just about to remount my bike when I had a horrible thought "could that have been Kevin" I started back up the path to try to find out, I saw a white bike - same colour as Kevin's - Jesus, that's not good. I couldn't make any details of the competitor because of the medics, then I got a glimpse of a jersey, different colour to Kevins, thank jaysus for that. Back on the bike.
Just as the track joins the road there was a group of supporters, mostly kids. I shouted as I approached them "Am I winning ? ". I had a good chuckle when one of them shouted back "Yeah, you're doing great"
Although I was now on "proper" road the surface was wet with plenty of loose gravel so I was on the brakes for most of the downhill. I was so happy to get onto the main road, nearly there now, like last year I totally enjoyed the cycle to Westport Quay.
The route change at the finish involved hopping onto a footpath, cycling along a grass/mud path and rejoining the road via a timber ramp. Just after I left the ramp another cyclist came alongside me. Oh no you don't, I stood on the peddles, got out of the saddle and did my best Sean Kelly impression, I opened a gap on the guy and pushed on to the final transition area. This was a field where I dropped my bike and headed through a gate for the final run to the finish.
What a sting in the tail. After over 5 hours of running and cycling the last thing the poor legs needed was a 800 meter run on a rough track. The finish line looked miles away. Getting closer, getting closer. At last over the line, no idea of my time since my watch had stopped working. I was pleasantly surprised to be handed a printout with my finish time and splits.
Stage 7 Cycle/short run completed 38.56

Overall time 5.20.18
Finishing position 383

I was highly annoyed that there were no sports drinks available at the finish. The entry fee is steep enough just to receive a T-shirt and water from a 1000 ltr industrial container, I even had to argue with some woman who was dispensing soup to get a cup for a drink of water. That's another thing, I don't know about other people but the last thing I want after a long race is soup.

Kevin and myself were waiting to cheer Damo on when he arrived behind us already finished. We headed off for some food and a well earned few pints, we even managed to get some sleep before we went back down to the finish line to meet Joyce and Susan. The girls had started in one of the later waves and finished together in a very impressive time.
We went into one of the local pubs for food and drink. We had a good bit of craic swapping stories from the days events and finished the night with a few beers back at the motorhome.

Decision time for me now. I can train hard for running and cycling but I'll always lose huge chunks of time on the cross-country/downhill sections. Should I practice for these and risk injury to gain some minutes or should I skip the adventure races and concentrate fully on road running with some cycling. I'll defer that decision for now but I'll have to decide soon.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

St. James Hospital Liberties 6.5k Road Race

A spur of the moment decision saw me head off to Dublin on a bright Thursday evening to take part in the St. James Hospital Liberties 6.5k.
An unusual distance but the course was around streets that I had travelled many times when I lived in the big smoke, I guess it had a certain nostalgic draw for me.
I had left work early to allow time to park at my parents house and run to Kilmainham to sign on before 7.00 pm for a 7.45 start time.

A call from my friend Sean offering to register me for the race and a good run through the Dublin traffic left me with enough time to have a relaxed cuppa and a chat with my folks before I set off for the 1.5 mile warm up run to the venue.
I met Sean at the entrance to the Royal Hospital, collected my number from his car, then we trotted off for a leg loosening jog.

On Saturday I'd made the mistake of starting too far back from the line, I was not going to make that error again. There was only 2 lines of people separating me from the start line when the gun went off.
The first several hundred metres were hectic with some tight corners but the crowd quickly thinned out, with the exception of a idiot cutting me off at one of the turns, forcing me to adjust my stride, it was relatively steady.

After about 1/2 - 3/4 of a mile there were about 3 or 4 of us running at about the same pace, we weren't running as an organised group, just someone would pass by and then be passed again, this went on for a couple of miles.
Despite the fact that my legs were a little tired from this weeks training and a race 5 days previously I was feeling ok for the first couple of miles. As we turned onto Patricks Street and headed towards Christchurch hill I started to feel a heaviness in my legs. I was still close to 2 other runners but a gap had opened. The distance between us remained constant up the hill - I was pleased about that - but it was stretching out along High Street, I just couldn't get the legs to move any faster.
I had decided to run by feel, resisting the temptation to look at my watch for pace readings but taking the occasional glance at the distance. I took a reflex look when the second mile beeped... 6.15 ... I'm not sure how I felt about that, it was slightly faster than I had expected but I knew I was fading.

It's brilliant that we were able to run through a capital city on a Thursday evening on closed roads. I have to hand it to the organisers, all the junctions were manned by stewarts and/or the police. There were people along the route cheering the runners on, some good craic from the lads outside the pubs.

Random thoughts can be weird, while heading towards the main gate for James hospital I noticed I was travelling along the LUAS tracks, although I hurting I found myself trying to work out how long they would have to stop the trams for, "that must be a logistical nightmare for them, it will throw the schedule out for the night" Told you it was weird...

Going through the hospital grounds I spotted a photographer I tried my best to smile, I suspect it was probably more like a horrible grimace, at least I made the effort.
Near the hospital exit I was delighted to see my dad and son cheering me on.
Son shouts "Sean has just gone past" ok, I kinda knew that as I had seen his back as he disappeared from sight shortly after the start.
My dad - or as we would say in Dublin, me da - shouts "you're about 15th"
While running up the South Circular Road I was thinking "15th, nah, that's way out" I figured he was telling me porkies to keep me motivated, I tried to work out how many places he would lie by but gave up when I realised it didn't actually matter - I did find it amusing, I must ask him next time I see him.

I could see the traffic lights ahead where we would make the right turn to Kilmainham. "Ok, just keep steady, right at the lights, down the hill, up the hill, turn right into the hospital, finish, easy"
I was listening to somebody closing up on me, a woman, I knew by the breathing. She passed me just before the traffic lights, I took the turn there really wide and lost some distance on her.
I overtook her on the uphill before the hospital entrance - she was been well cheered by the spectators, she was 3rd placed woman - I fully expected her to pass me on the finishing straight but she seemed to fade there.

On the run to the finish I had glanced behind a couple of times to check if anyone was closing but it was all clear. I was a yard from the line when a guy shot past me. I was a bit annoyed to lose a place for not checking behind me more often - another lesson learned.

I had a very enjoyable chat with Sean afterwards - he had a fantastic time and finished 14th - I was happy to have run an average of about 13 seconds per mile faster than Saturdays 5 mile race, with a finishing place of 35th. I also had my fastest ever race mile, so not a bad result for a spur of the moment race.

Nice T-shirt, good course, well organised - I'll be back next year....
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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Irish Runner 5 Mile Race Phoenix Park

I've been so lazy about posting on this blog over the past months.
The main events that I missed posts on are:
The Carlow 150 - cycle
The Blackstairs Challenge - cycle
The Wicklow 2oo - cycle
Kilcoole 5 Mile - road run
I hope to eventually put on something about these but for now the Irish Runner 5 Mile Race is on my mind.

As part of my training schedule for this years Dublin Marathon I've recently increased my weekly mileage so I hoped to use this run to gauge what level I was at.

I ran just over 3 miles at a gentle pace for a warm up. I had been a little worried about a sore right foot when I was wearing my racing flats but it seemed fine.
I stepped over the plastic barrier into the sub 40 minutes pen and made my way towards the front. I stopped at what I thought was a fair distance from the line so I wouldn't impede the fast runners but not get caught in traffic myself... how wrong I was.

While waiting for the start I had a good look at the runners around me, I realise how deceptive appearances can be but I couldn't help thinking that it would be a stretch for some of these people to make sub 40.

The buzzer sounded and we made our way to the start line, we were packed like sardines pushing through the starting area.
I had expected the crowd to thin out as we headed down the main road but it was wall to wall fat arsed people with a high opinion of their ability.
A totally frustrating time followed trying to weave through the bodies, slow down, accelerate for a gap, stutter step to avoid tripping on feet. It made for an aggravating time when I should have been getting into a rhythm.
I had set my watch to an optimistic 6.25 min miles and despite all the weaving and pace changing I was only 10 seconds slower than target at the first mile. I knew that there was a good downhill section in the next mile along the Kyber road, I thought that I would make up a few seconds along here. Again the traffic was so heavy that I was actually dropping time on the downhill.
I was so annoyed at this point that I briefly considered giving up the race altogether.
Then weirdest thing happened, a herd of deer tried to cross the road, some made it through the runners - don't know how they did that without hitting anyone - anyway, some idiots just in front of me put their arms up and slowed down to let the rest of deer cross. These retards had several thousand people running downhill behind them, what were they thinking? I suppose they weren't actually thinking about the carnage they could have caused. I noticed that my shout of "fuck them" was greeted with some odd looks. To my mind I was in a hurry but the deer had all the time in the world. Maybe I should have kept my opinion to myself..lol

The next section was uphill, I was feeling good on the hill, although some weaving was required to avoid the runners that were going backwards, I felt strong and didn't drop any time - something of a minor miracle, the advantage of living in a hilly area.

I had hoped to get in with a group running a my pace but I spent the entire race either passing or being passed but never managed to find a shoulder to shelter behind.
I was dropping a few seconds per mile for miles 3 & 4 especially mile 4 where I dropped 19 seconds. I tried to push for the 5th mile and was doing well, I did get forced onto the kerb twice on the turn onto Chesterfield Road this really messed up whatever rhythm my little legs still had.
Despite that the last mile was the fasted average mile so I was happy with that.

I turned onto the final straight, a sign said only 400m to go. I tried to push for the line but I don't think I actually accelerated. I couldn't believe when I saw the clock at the finishing line reading 32.10. Something wrong here ? My eyes were glued to the seconds counting down on the clock 20,21,22 I crossed the line at about 32.28.
This was bang on my target time and when adjusted for the delay crossing the start line gave me a better than expected result. My watch was showing 32.01... Happy days !!!
I checked my official result later on the web 32.02 - 291 overall and 20 in category.

I was gutted afterwards to find that the course was short measured.
It was still a personal best by a long way but I'm still annoyed about the course measurement.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Edinburgh Marathon

The weather in Edinburgh the day before the marathon was hellishly hot, not for sunbathing or sitting in a chair reading a book but for distance running.

I was delighted on race day to open the curtains to a dull and overcast day, there was even a shower of rain as I had breakfast.

Everything about the morning was relaxed, both myself and Sean had our gear sorted the previous night, our pre-booked taxi arrived on time and the starting area well organised.

I had pretty much given up on any decent time for Edinburgh, my training has been, what's the technical term, ah yes, shite. I had decided weeks previously that I would just run as steadily as possible and hope the the total collapse wouldn't be too early in the race - one of my last 20 mile LSR's saw my legs stop working at 10 miles and the shortest route home took another, very ungraceful, 4 miles - in my defence I had done plenty of cycling and some kayaking that week but the feeling of an early, as the kids might say, epic fail was still very much in my head.

The start didn't seem to be as packed as the Dublin marathon so I happily trotted along at a comfortable pace. I was surprised to note that the first mile was nearly 1 minute faster than I had expected, this can happen at the start with all the excitement runners can set off too fast.
Ok, so I've been here before, I have a some experience, I know enough to expect the first mile to be fast but I needed to get into my own pace soon.

The second mile was fast again, I'll settle down soon..
The third mile still faster than target... slow down..
Over the next number of miles my mental conversation went something like this.

"Slow down Chris, you're going too fast"

"Yeah, but you feel good"

"You're going too fast, you'll collapse soon"

"Keep going at this pace for another few miles, it feels ok"

"You haven't done the training"

"Ahh shut up, you're doing grand"

"For fuck sake you know the wheels will fall off sooner if you keep this up"

"Put a few minutes in the bank for when the wheels fall off"

"Slow down, SLOW DOWN"

This went on for some miles, all the while I was running at a pace that would give me a personal best time, the funny thing was that it was not as fast as I had run Dublin but I hit the wall at 20 miles in Dublin and knew that it was very likely to happen even sooner today.

I have some markers that are important for me during a marathon - 5, 10, 13, 16, 20 miles. I'm not sure why but I think that they are mental milestones in my training.

5 miles is the exact distance around the block from my house - my default training route.
At 5 miles I was way too fast for my predicted pace but I was planning to slow down.

10 miles another standard training distance.
I was going better than expected. I started doing the maths for possible finishing times, I did know that it was a moot exercise but it kept my mind busy for a few minutes.
For the first 10 miles there seemed to be a constant stream of people passing me, on more than one occasion I questioned whether I was just too slow, if I didn't have the garmin I think that I would have been inclined to try pick up the pace.
I set 13 as my next target, just 3 miles 'till then and I would be on the homeward stretch, this was better than the other little voice in my head telling me there was still over 16 miles to go.
I think that is was around the 10 mile mark that I started to notice the heat, the sun was now at full belt and the was nowhere to hide from it.
From this point on at the water stations I grabbed a bottle of water and a sports drink if they were available, I drank the sports drink and poured the water over my head.
I felt guilty afterwards when I heard that they ran out of water for the later runners.

13, well 13 is just about half way, it's all homeward bound after that, I was still faster than my predicted time at the 13 mile mark.( I checked since and found that my time here was almost identical to Dublin 09 - that was a surprise, I thought I was going much slower today)
I was expecting something of a major collapse soon.
The course from Musselburgh Race Course (about mile 9) is out and back along the coast road.
Somewhere between miles 13-15 we met the lead runners heading for home on the opposite side of the road. Fair play to the runners who clapped and cheered the leaders as they passed.
I had been running close to the shelter of the hedgerow on the right side of the road but when I saw the lead runners I moved to the centre line in the hope of seeing Sean. As I moved out I was telling myself that I wouldn't see him for ages, I tried to work out a time that he might pass but I quickly gave up - too many variables. Much to my surprise, just a few minutes later I saw a runner that looked like Sean, nah, that couldn't be him, way too soon. Wow, that's him alright, looking relaxed and running smoothly.
I took a half step across the white line and waved, he didn't see me. I knew he was running a sub 3 time so I debated whether to call out or not, I was worried that if he was "in the zone" I may upset his rhythm. What the hell, everyone gets a kick from having their name called out, don't they? "Go on Sean M__" roared across the road was greeted with a wave and a "Christy"
One of the most enjoyable moments of this marathon was to see Sean at this point running so well.
Since the half way point at 13.1 miles I had been losing 10 or 12 seconds per mile, this didn't bother me as I was still faster that I had planned/expected and I actually felt ok.

16 leaves 10 miles to go (10.2 to be exact), 10 mile runs are easy (that's what I was telling myself). The race turned sharp right up a side road, another out and back section.
My legs felt tired along the outward route, I felt like I was substantially slowing up. Here we go, the legs fall apart at 16 miles, I was hoping for a couple of miles more before the wall but, hey, what can you expect with such poor quality training. Up the road I reached the turning point and set off along the opposite side of the road. It took me a minute or two to realise that I was running downhill, woohoo, the tiredness on the other side of the road was because I was running uphill, how the hell did I not notice a hill ?
I turned into Gosford House (country estate) at mile 17. It was from here on that I noticed the ever increasing number of people walking. I was only being passed by the occasional runner but passing plenty. This continued all the way to the finish. I wondered how many of these had flown past me in the first 10 miles.
I continued to drop 10 - 20 seconds per mile but I still felt fine.

20 is where it can all fall apart - it certainly did in the Dublin Marathon 09 - It leaves 10k - 6.2miles, the hardest miles of the entire marathon.
I had in my mind that if I was still running at 20 miles I would try to increase the pace as best I could for the last 6.2 miles. It dawned on me that 6 miles sounds like a short distance in the context of a 26 mile race but in reality it's still a long distance to run. I was due a gel at 22miles so I revised my target to this. Just as well, by the time I hit 22 the tank was empty, I was getting slower and slower. I have now added another mental marker - 23 miles

Miles 23 to the finish were the longest miles I have ever run. The crowds were fantastic, cheering, handing out sweets & orange segments, using hoses and water guns to cool down the runners but for me this was all in some other world. I could only think about how far was the finish. 2.9 miles, 2.8 miles, 2.7 miles, ah no, the garmin is usually slightly long for the marathon courses, how much longer. .1, .2 of a mile, more? I couldn't remember how much longer, all I knew was that every .1 of a mile extra was going to hurt. I was getting some tightness in both upper legs near the groin and the odd dart in my left glut. (arse cheek) Don't cramp now, please, please don't cramp now, not so close to the finish.
The route was alongside Musselburgh race course, in the distance I could see the buildings that were by the main entrance to the course - we had passed this on the way out - Ahh no, it couldn't be all that distance to the finish, I really thought we were well into the last mile. Suddenly, on a lamppost appeared the most beautiful sign I had ever seen, the 26 mile marker. Only .2 of a mile to go, I'm going to make it. The organisers had one cruel surprise for the runners. The last 150-200 metres (may not have been that distance but it felt like it) to the finish line was on rubber mats, running on this felt like running on a trampoline, sods!
Along the finishing straight was lined with photographers. When I see a camera I try to make a bit of an effort to smile or at least look like I'm not suffering - vanity is a terrible thing - not this time, I couldn't muster the energy to take the grimace off my face as all the photos I saw later prove.

I crossed the line in a better time than I had expected and with the extreme heat and an out and back course it was certainly a great learning experience.
Could I have run faster?
Absolutely not on the day, I was totally spent at the finish but it was a kick in the arse for me to sort out the quality of my training. If I can be less than 3 minutes outside my PB in such hot conditions without proper training and carrying at least 5kgs extra, what could I do if I prepared properly.

I was woddling to the exit sending some "I made it" texts when my phone rang, it was Sean, he was still on site near the baggage collection so I staggered off in that direction. I found him sitting in the shade of a truck, listening to a live band, drinking a beer, freshly showered and changed, all in all looking very calm and relaxed.
Not bad for a guy who had just run a 2.54 marathon and finished 45th overall, not bad at all !!!

Edinburgh is a beautiful city, by far the best UK city that I've seen.
The marathon was well organised, there were plenty of well spaced water stops, the weather was out of the organisers hands.
The route was enjoyable, the out and back on the same road has it's pros and cons but I was ok with it. The only worry I would have about the course is that it would be very exposed on a windy day.

I think I will be back to Edinburgh.......

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Mount Leinster Challenge

The Mount Leinster challenge last year was on a miserable, windy, rainy day and I cycled most of it solo.
It was such a pleasure to arrive to this years event in glorious sunshine.
The crowd was much larger than last year - somebody mentioned about 350 cyclists.
I signed in, grabbed a quick cup of coffee and joined the pack at the start line.

There is a neutralised start to the event, so the first 4 or 5 miles were at a nice steady pace. I had a relaxed chat with some of the guys along the way. I was wearing my Boards.ie gear and that encouraged fellow boardsies to introduce themselves.
I was surprised to notice the the group stayed together well after the neutralised start. I was delighted with this as I had plenty of shelter and although the pace was reasonably fast I was totally comfortable.

The peloton (group) - I'm watching too much European cycling - was particularly twitchy, with several bouts of sudden braking for no apparent reason.
The peloton took up the full width of the left side of the road and sometimes a bit of the other side too, so we were riding at least 3 abreast, often more. I was spinning along nicely on the inside - nearest the verge - when the guy in front of me crashed - I think he was trying to avoid a pothole - anyway, I watched him hit the road inches from my front wheel, at this point I had a vision of a mass pile up with me at the bottom of it, usually when a rider falls in such a tightly packed bunch there is a domino effect and several riders hit the deck. I'm not sure how I managed to avoid him without hitting the guy to my right or catching a wheel of a bike behind me but more by luck than design I squeezed past him. I met him later and both himself and the bike were ok.

The main group was still together when we arrived at Bagenalstown. We came to an unexpected stop on the way out of the town - guys scattered everywhere to take a pee, I've never seen so many lycra clad guys pissing with such abandon - traffic was parked on both sides of the road due to a funeral, we moved, stopped, moved stopped, eventually squeezing between the lines of parked cars and the line of cars heading in our direction up the hill. I nearly fell off the bike
with laughter when I reached the last car heading up the hill and saw that it was bonnet to bonnet with the first car in a long line of cars heading down the hill. Total gridlock, man.
The parked cars had a good number of UK registered cars and there were plenty of vans advertising paving and tarmac. I suspect all the pubs in Bagenalstown were closed for the day ;-)

I caught the main group before Fenagh and we all headed through Myshal, then the fun started.
We turned left for the first uphill section to the Corrubut gap, it's quite short and not particularly steep but some guys seemed to be struggling already, it was going to be a tough day for some.
A sharp right caused some problems because of loose gravel, rear wheels were spinning out, I thought I was going to have a spill there but just managed to stay upright. I heard that a few people came a cropper there. It wouldn't have taken a great effort for the organisers to have swept the corner.

The longer steep section to the Gap is a real lung buster, one guy I passed near the start must really love hill climbing, he decided to make the climb twice as long by zig zagging from one side of the road to the other.
I passed my mate Lar who was stopped half way up, taking off his jacket because he was too warm - too warm, yeah right !!!
After the descent from Mount Leinster I hooked up with Lar and Sean from Naas Cycling club and a couple of other lads and we stayed together into Kiltealy for the food stop.

The food was excellent, sandwiches, cakes, sausages and other goodies restored the blood sugar levels. At this point last year most rider decided because of the terrible weather to only do the short route, so I ended up doing the second loop over Mount Leinster on my own, not very pleasant in those conditions.
Lar suggested that I set off with the Naas lads, I must admit I was delighted with the company. We headed off in a small group of about 8 or 10 riders, we caught up with a few of the Slaney lads - more shelter - but seemed to lose them after a short while.

In Bunclody we turned left for the second climb to the Corrubut Gap, this time from the opposite side. From this direction the ascent is longer, with two steep climbs but not as tough as from the Myshall side. Riders started to drop off as soon as we started to ascend and I found myself with 2 of the Naas guys. I just sat in behind them, I didn't really have the legs to do any work with them, but in fairness they seemed pretty comfortable.
We turned at the Gap and headed for Mount Leinster (the nine stones) normally this a handy enough climb but my legs were starting to get tired, if the lads had accelerated even slightly I would have been dropped.

My longest spin this year was about 60 miles and that was at a snails pace, so after about 60-65 miles I was feeling drained. I was in a group of 8 or 9 heading back towards Kiltealy when I did something that I don't think I ever did before, I skipped my turn at the front. I was a bit disgusted with myself but reckoned I wouldn't be able to hold on to the group if I had taken my turn...sorry lads.

We lost some of the lads after Kiltealy and once again I found myself been dragged along by the two Naas guys. I have to say that if it wasn't for the lads the last miles would have been torture but as it was we picked up another rider on the way and the four of us finished together.

I was totally knackered at the finish, however, it was a good day, sunshine,nice food, good climbs and some very enjoyable company.
I'm looking forward to the next sportive.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Wicklow Adventure Race - WAR

I wonder when in the future I reflect on this race what will my memories be.

Will I remember the beautiful sunny day, the well organised and marshaled event, the stunning course, the fantastic atmosphere and mad craic.
I suspect the more likely is that I will remember the twisted ankle, falling on the Miners track, puking, falling off my bike and the debilitating stomach cramps.... what a day !!!!!!

The race started in Glendalough at the upper lake with a short run to the steps/boardwalk that ascend the Spink. I knew this was going to be extremely tough and had no intention pushing hard this early. This is max heart rate territory but I tried to keep steady away. My only worry was that because of the narrow board walk I would hold others up but I had a few words with the lads behind and they were happy with the pace.

Plenty of gaps behind me...

I was happy that there were still plenty of people behind me at this stage.

I'm not great on downhills. I thought I was going reasonably well but I could hardly believe how easily I was passed by some of the others - maybe my little legs are not designed for running down rocky mountains !!

On the last rocky section before the miners village I let out an involuntary expletive as my left ankle twisted under me, I thought I had wrecked it but kept going in the hope that it wasn't totally ruined, it was noticeable for the remainder of the day but didn't have a negative effect, much as I would like to claim it did.

At last, off the rocks and on to the gravel track. I was very conscious that I had lost a lot of ground, I was reminding myself that the first bike stage was only a few miles away, when I managed to trip over a small rock sticking from the track and went sprawling along the road, as I picked myself up and trudged on, the thought occurred to me that in all the months running in the dark I'd never had more than a slight stumble, what timing for my first fall.

I finish the section with 2 girls and a guy called John.

I totally faffed about in the first transition taking over 5 minutes to get my bag and bike sorted. I wasn't worried at this point as I knew there was still a long day ahead.

It was on this first bike stage that I realised all was not as it should be. I had been really looking forward to the bike, I had ridden most of the route on the two previous Sundays and I was confident of doing a reasonable time, I knew I wasn't going to compete with the real cyclists and tri-athletes but, hey, I could push out a decent time.

A few miles into the stage I was passed by some "real" cyclists, normally when this happens I would put on a bit of power and try to grab a wheel, get some shelter for as long as possible, today however, I had no power, jaysus, where are my legs.

Anyway still a long way to go maybe things will improve.

Transition 2. Rack the bike and run along a track towards Lough Dan, grab a buoyancy aid and head for the kayaks - the short run here felt odd, I put it down to running straight off the bike, something I haven't done before.

The Kayaks were 2 person sit on tops, I paired up with a guy called Keith, he had no kayak experience and was running the Belfast marathon in 2 weeks time so he wasn't pushing himself too hard, this suited me fine. We had a very pleasant chat and a gentle paddle around the course.

Back on the bike, there is steep climb from Lough Dan, again I could only spin along with no speed, at least I wasn't dropping places here.
The next climb to Lough Tay is tough, In my mind it's broken into 4 sections, a drag followed by a slightly flatter few yards followed by another drag, then you turn the right hand bend and "shit" a 10% climb disappearing into the distance, there is a slight leveling off before the last short sharp climb.
On the first part of the climb I was spinning up and hoping to close the gap to the 4 or 5 riders strung out along the road ahead, I wasn't doing too well when one of the guys got off his bike and started to push it up the hill.

Oh yeah, at least I'll have him.

I couldn't believe it when he got to the flatter section, remounted his bike a continued on his way, I was still no closer to him... What's going on...how slow was I going ??

My stomach was feeling a bit dodgy, especially since transition 1, where I swallowed down a bottle of sports drink in two large gulps but I thought I would just work it off.

I was on my way up the 10% section when I was overcome by a sudden and uncontrollable wave of nausea - I could understand if I had been pushing hard but I was only spinning and barely even breathing hard - I had to lean off the bike and puke, I managed to unclip my foot and stop. I dismounted, leaned against the stone wall and had another look at my breakfast.

Ahh well, at least things can't get any worse.

I was a bit pissed off by the amount of competitors that passed me while I was getting sorted. Maybe this had something to do with me attempting to remount my bike on a 10% mountain. What was I thinking? I clipped in my right shoe, pushed off, tried to clip in my left, failed miserably, foot slipped and I promptly fell. I think I hit the road with my right shoulder and rolled onto my back to break the fall, as I watched my wheels lift into the air I remember thinking "Chris, you're a fucking idiot"

Idiot or not I tried once more to remount before I copped on that it would be so much quicker and safer to walk the short distance to the top of the hill... doh !!

Ahh well, at least things can't get any worse.

Transition 3 led to the run to Djouce mountain and White hill.

I suppose that it was here that things did get worse.

I had run a couple of hundred yards up the track when I was doubled over with stomach cramps, I was heaving but had nothing left to bring up. This repeated several time over the next miles. I was totally drained.

I seriously considered abandoning, I convinced myself that if I could make another mile or two it would be easier to finish that backtrack to the transition area.

I didn't even bother to keep ahead of people at this stage, if anybody came close behind me I would just step out of the way and let them pass.

There was a guy sitting on a chair in the sun half way up the mountain- I have to say he looked very comfortable - he had a large first aid kit beside him. I asked if he had anything for the stomach cramps, we chatted briefly and I ended up sitting on the grass beside him for 5 or 10 minutes drinking dioralyte and having a nice chat - thanks Wayne from Wicklow Mountain Rescue.

I just plodded along as best I could for the remainder of the run/walk and continued to step aside if anyone got close.

All thought of a decent time had gone out of the window a long time ago, now it was just a case of getting home.

The last stage was a cycle back to Glendalough.

I really was just plodding along but I couldn't be bothered to try to go any faster.

I ended up behind a girl who would attack the downhill but struggle on the uphill. I passed her on the steep uphill to the Sally gap, I offered her a wheel but I actually couldn't go any slower and I lost her. I knew that I would see her again soon enough.

The check point at the Sally Gap was brilliant, we had to a small stick like object - worn on a wrist band - into the checkpoint monitors at various points on the course, these had all been fixed on poles in the ground. As I approached Sally Gap I could see a guy with a checkpoint pole, when I realised what it was I held up my right arm, he moved out onto the road as called out "keep peddling" he ran along side me, checked me in and then, best of all gave me a big push - thanks mate.

Not long after the turn for Laragh I noticed a rider closing on me, at this point I was only interested in getting to the finish, I didn't care if I was passed or if I passed someone. I wasn't surprised to see it was the girl from Sally Gap. She was trying really hard, I hope she got the time she wanted.

The only other thing of note on the road to Laragh are the few sections of gravel in the steep descent from Glenmacnass, the previous week some of these were dodgy but the traffic had bedded a lot of the gravel, however, I was still taking it handy on those bits. I was surprised to find a guy flying by me, with one foot off the peddle, he managed to stay upright although I don't fancy his chances in the future.

The bridge into Glendalough caused me a moment of excitement. I swung left and was forced to take the right wide because of a car coming in the opposite direction, a combination of the narrow road, loose gravel and the car caused me to nearly run into a bloke walking along the road, I did shout, well, I think it was more of a "ohhhh shit" he managed to hop out of the way but the woman behind him had a total panic attack and grabbed her kid behind her to protect the child from the mad cyclist.

I actually strolled from the dismount area and into the bike rack area at the finish. I'm not sure if it was because I didn't care or I was so tired. I did make a effort to run the last twenty yards to the finish line but I still had time to take out the camera for some video and then give it to Kev to take some photos before I crossed the line.

The event was fantastically well run, the course and weather were perfect, everything was in place for a great race.

On the day things went disastrously for me, I will have to work out why that happened before the next adventure race because I will not put myself through something like that again if I can help it.

A lot of soul searching went on out on the course but more is needed.

To finish on a more positive note, I'm still smiling...

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The pleasure of riding Alan

I managed to ride Alan twice at the weekend and a couple of quickies yesterday and today. It's so long since I had a good ride that my nether regions were a little tender afterwards. Despite the soreness it was mostly enjoyable.

"Oh dear" I hear you say "has Chris gone to the other side?"

The answer is yes but not totally, I'm still running but I started cycling again at the weekend.

Thanks to the generosity of my friend Sean, who gave me a lovely bike frame and with the addition of scrounged and salvaged parts I managed to put a nice machine on the road.

The plan is to kit out my other bike with mudguards and pannier rack to use for commuting to and from work.

I'm hoping that the extra miles on the bike will help my general fitness and therefore make the running faster or at least easier.

This is Alan before the stem was replaced with a flat one and bottle cages were added. >>>

Pretty or what ??

I have been getting in some miles road running but the pace has been really slow on most sessions. I have yet to do proper speed or tempo work. I expect to do my first tempo session this week but I am not looking forward to it, I know it will hurt !!!

Time is running short with Wicklow Adventure Race and the Edinburgh Marathon fast approaching. Time to really get the finger out and HTFU..

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