Sunday, March 23, 2014

So what's happened....

Since my 'hopeful' post in August my life and running have taken an unintended course.

Running wise the latter part of 2013 was mixed but by December a plan was hatched (even written down!!) and it could have ended up in running the Cork Marathon in June. I had a few good runs and was on course to build a decent base.

But then the 1st of January 2014 arrived and 5 miles into an easy afternoon run my calf said it had had enough. I suspect, the failure was caused by a weakness aggravated on a sharp decent 2 miles into the run. I spent the next few weeks resting, going for short test runs and some walking.  Finally, I came to the realisation that only complete rest would work for me. Unfortunately, I'm not as disciplined in other sports so finding time for swimming, cycling etc to maintain a base fitness was not going to happen. As a result my fragile base fitness went back to zero and below.

By February some personal / domestic issues took priority and running was not an option as all my free (and not so free) time had to be devoted to domestic duties.

Only now at the end of March is there some small slight light and I'm beginning once again to think about base training. Obviously, the Cork Marathon is no longer on the cards and my focus will be some Autumn races - yet to be identified.

First of all I need to get into a consistent routine once again. Only then can a real plan be once more hatched..... Two days done now and so far so good..... Let's see what happens (again)!!!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Small Steps.....

I took my first small steps back into the racing world last weekend.  It was only a 4km run leg as part of a super sprint triathlon but it was a start.

If triathlons are your thing I'd highly recommend the Dublin City Triathlon.  Good course, great atmosphere, well organised and most importantly... jam packed goodie bags.

We got to Dublin late on Saturday night but there was still just a little time for a quick team 'briefing' in the pub.  We took our hydration strategy really seriously and made sure to sample the local brew.  This didn't make the early start on Sunday morning any easier..

After registering at 7am, checking out the swim course and transition area, watching the early waves starting and meeting up with colleagues who were also taking part it was almost my turn to compete (3+ hours later!!). So, while the swimmers and cyclists did their thing Grellan and I went for a couple of miles warm up.  This was just as well as it gave me a opportunity to see the course in advance.

When we got back to transition our swimmers had finished their 600m swim and the cyclists were well on the road.  It didn't take long for my teammate to finish his 16k cycle and then it was my turn...

The run course was a mixture of road/pavement and cross country roughly in equal measure.  There were some drags (which if tackled at speed will turn your legs jelly) and even the relatively flat cross country section was a bit uneven so it's certainly not a course for a pb.  Which was just as well because I'm nowhere near pb shape at the moment.  So the plan was to go out steady and hang on.  The only problem with that plan was that this was a race and there was interoffice pride at stake!  So I headed out feeling comfortable at 5:30 pace.  After 800m the course went uphill and certainly made sure that my overall mile split would be considerable slower (6:23).  By the time I reached the top of the hill and headed out onto the country my legs were like lead and my breathing was so loud that anyone ahead got plenty warning that I was coming.  But I was passing runners all the way so that was motivation to keep going for the team (and it was only a 4k run so it would be over soon...)

 Only one person passed me (a chick but a very fast one!! an Irish international 1500m runner - Orla Drumm) and that was with about 800m to go.  This gave me some motivation to kick for home at sub 6min pace.  I finally crossed the line and stopped my watch with 16:44 on the clock.  It took me 12secs to leave transition so I estimate 16:32 for the leg.  A slow time but respectable enough given the course and probably as fast as I could have hoped for given that I haven't done any real speed work in a very long time.

The full results have yet to be published but one of our 4 teams (not the one I was in!) won the team relay. Congrats to them.

Now it's onwards and upwards to the next race (probably Cork to Cobh 15m at the start of October).  That gives me 5 weeks of serious training time.....

In full flight coming home with 200m to go...

Some of our team members looking relaxed beforehand....

Update 27-August
Provisional results published today show my run time as 16:30. That was the 2nd fastest of the relay runners and the 5th quickest of the day!! Our team came 8th of the relays (28th overall) in a time of 1:05:14. That was 13:00 for the swim and 32:30 for the cycle with T1 (1:35) and T2 (1:40). Well done to my teammates Kieran and Robert.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

2013 - so far

Well, at least the overall trend is up for 2013!  .... And all going well July 2013 may even be the best month of the last 12.... fingers crossed!

At the moment I'm just focusing on base and routine and trying to stay injury free.  I'm becoming increasingly jealous of all those other bloggers and dailymilers who've been completing their target events, running longer and running faster than ever before!!  I sense that it's almost time for me to decide on some targets of my own and put a plan together.....

Thursday, January 10, 2013

2012 - a year of two halves...

Dailymile sent me an email yesterday that summed up my running in 2012, literally!

It was definitely a year of two halves. It started with some promise and progress (the first real progress since breaking my ankle in January 2010) and a 40 day streak into my 40th birthday. Things were looking on schedule for a respectable marathon debut but then the wheels (legs actually) came off. The marathon in June turned out to be a learning experience and I still hoped for a late summer or autumn rematch with the historic distance but since then things have gone steadily downhill.

July saw a back (disc) injury and since September I've been struggling with a "right calf issue" that now prevents me from running more than 2 miles every 2 weeks (or so).  I stubbornly decided not to seek professional advice in the hope that things would come right in the end.  It didn't!

So last week I finally coughed up some money and went to a physio.  Apparently my calf issue is a hangover from my broken ankle (something that I thought was long in the past!).  A biomechanical imbalance.  In truth and I've had an ongoing series of lower body issues since my initial recovery from my broken my ankle in late 2010/2011.  So this was probably something waiting to happen.  It's time for some massage, dry needling, joint manipulation, calf strengthening exercises and flexibility work.  I last tried to run on the 28th December and it'll probably be a couple more weeks before I'm able to start back.  Hopefully this time things will work out!

In the meantime I'm going to try some aerobic exercise and eat less in an attempt to shift the many pounds added to my person since last June!  Hopefully Spring 2013 will be the time of new beginnings.  I dare to hope that I'll be back to complete some unfinished business in Cork this year but......

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wintertime resolutions...

I can't believe that the summer is over (it never really started did it??) and it's nearly the middle of October already!  Wow where has this year gone.  It only seems like yesterday that we were planning a family holiday in Boston - and that was last Thanksgiving!  Now, I'm beginning to think of Christmas and some goals (running wise) for 2013.
The last 6 months have been a write off from a running point of view.  At Easter I had a different perspective and I was hopeful that 2012 was going to be a good year; after all 2010 and 2011 were total disasters too!  The sorry truth about how bad the recent months have been was really brought home to me when I looked at my Dailymile training log earlier tonight....

In other words the 6 months can be summed up as:
  • April - some long runs
  • May -  groin strain
  • June - marathon & recovery runs
  • July - back injury
  • August - some recovery runs & progress
  • September - calf injury. 
Finally, this week & for the first time in a very long time, my runs have been pain free - all I need to do now is find some time in the real world for running!

So what do I hope to do for the remainder of the year and early 2013.  Well, given my low base I think I'll have to spend some time building my mileage (and loose some weight!).  Hopefully by mid November I'll be back in the 30-40+ mpw range.  December and January will see some interval / tempo running and increased mileage.   For the third year in a row I'll try to complete the Spring 10 mile series.  There may be a half marathon in early December but I'll not have any expectations from that if it happens and assuming things work out I'll revisit the marathon in about 6 months.

So new plan hatched - now it's time to put it into action....

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

It's time for an update....

Yes once again I've been remiss in updating this blog.  Since the Cork City Marathon my recovery had been going well.  I took it relatively easy for the first week or two.  But because I really feel that I didn't push myself over the full 26 miles I think that it didn't take as much out of me as a 'proper' marathon would.  (if you can follow me!)

I immediately started planning my next 'target' race.  Obviously a marathon was going to be on the agenda but I also wanted to give the local Cork to Cobh (15 mile) race a proper go once again and possibly challenge my PB set back in 2009.  So how could I do both???   Then I realised the the Dingle Marathon will be held on the 1st September which would leave enough recovery time before the Cork to Cobh race on the 7th October. 

I also realised that the Dingle course is a hilly one so a really fast time wouldn't be on the cards but something around 3:15 to 3:20 should be an achievable target.

So......Plan hatched!!

Or ..... so I thought!

After a respectable 15mile run on the 1st July my training schedule was off to a flying start.  Plenty of time to fit in some longer runs and long interval sessions.  Or so I thought.  On the 2nd July real world issues struck with a bang and running took a back seat.  I did manage a comfortable 8 mile run last weekend but on Friday last, as I was heading out for another comfortable lunchtime run, the wheels came off my plan.

For some reason my back went into spasm which turned out to be a herniated disc in the L4-L5 region.  As there was no obvious cause it is likely (in my opinion) to be due to a progressive issue of sustained poor sitting posture combined with a 'soft' core.  The 'core' issue is one which I've suspected for a while but not done anything about!

Visit #1 to the Doctor on Friday evening 50mg difene, 5mg diazepam and 500mg paramol (all 3 times daily) plus bed rest!

By Sunday pain hadn't eased so Visit #2 to the Doctor reconfirmed diagnosis but replaced the paramol with the stronger painkiller solpadol (i.e. more codeine).  More bed rest prescribed plus up to a week off work (not something I'd planned for!!).

The drugs seemed to do the trick as there is no longer any pain (providing I don't move my back too much!).. maybe the muscle relaxants have also relaxed my brain!!! :)

So today I also went to the physio (it must be serious 3 medics in 5 days ... that's unheard of for me!) who (just in case I was in any doubt) reconfirmed the diagnosis but she thinks that it isn't as serious as first feared.  Limited mobility is now the order of the day but sitting is limited to 15minutes (not good when my job involves sitting at a desk most of the time!).  Things do feel alot better tonight (I can even reach my feet to tie my shoe laces and walk to the toilet unaided) so there is hope!  Apparently, I can do some light swimming too and more physio is planned for early Friday morning so I'll have to take it from there!  I wonder if this disc issue and my recent groin issue could be related????  That's one for the professionals!

As you can imagine my Dingle marathon plans are currently on hold.  If I do get to do it I will treat it as a just a long run and any time sub 4 hours would be great.  Cork to Cobh in October is still on my target list though!!!

I did sneak out to the International Cork City Sports earlier tonight though.... my girls were running in the U9 300m so I couldn't miss that!  They did OK, not quite on the podium but a nice run all the same; they got to run a lap with Sonia O'Sullivan with the Olympic Torch and they got her autograph too.  It was great to see the event well supported with many of the big named former Irish Athletes / Olympians there e.g. Sonia, Eamon Coughlan, John Tracey, Mark Carroll, Liam O'Brien etc etc and some of the current names too Rob Heffernan, Ciaran O'Lionaird, Olive Loughnane, Joanne Cuddihy, Maria McCambridge (who missed out on marathon selection despite running the 'A' standard) etc.  This is a great event and long may it continue ... I can still clearly remember Yuri Sedyhk settling the world hammer record there on July 3, 1984!

Roll on the Olympics!!!!!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Marathon debut... success or failure??

They say you'll always remember your first marathon.  Although it is really just another race (just a bit longer) I've come to think that this is certainly a fair statement.  The difference being that a marathon is more than just a race.  It is to many a goal and to others a major lifetime achievement.  Of course, because of its history there is a mystic surrounding the distance and the preparation for the task of completing it, regardless of any time goal, is usually the focus of a number (many) of months training.  During this preparation time there is the constant fear that a late injury may end the any chance of making the startline let alone making the finishline.  Just like what happened to me!

I know that the majority of the (very limited) readership of this blog have already completed their first and many subsequent marathons but last Monday 4th June was my first opportunity to complete the distance.  Being a failed track runner, in my youth, I had always viewed the marathon as a something that a runner matured into and many years ago I decided that when I was 40 I would be mature enough.

So 2012 was to be the year and 12 months ago I selected that the Cork City Marathon would be the one!  Being a local race it would certainly remove much of the complexity of having to travel away and my "long suffering" support crew could also join in on the occasion!  Also I was very familiar with all of the roads having run much of the route many many many times!

On race day my wife and kids dropped me at Cork City Hall (race HQ) early which gave me some time to change and go for a brief one mile warm up around the city centre - a good opportunity to savour the pre-race atmosphere (tension!).  The sun was shining, despite the weather forecasts, and it looked like it would be a nice day for a run.

I had a pre-race plan but after struggling with a groin injury for the preceding 5-6 weeks I decided not to be too upset if the plan didn't work out.  However, it was a race and I had some objectives....
  1. Finish (always good!)
  2. Run sub 3:15 (although a bit unrealistic it would be great for a first marathon!
  3. If the wheels came off run sub 3:30 (a more realistic and still a respectable time!)
So my optimistic plan was to head out at 7:15 and see how things went.  Probably a novice marathoners mistake but one that I'd personally prefer than heading out too conservatively and always wondering what might have been.

So I lined up between the 3:00 and 3:15 pace groups and headed out at a pace that felt comfortably easy.  I kept missing the mile markers (note these could be improved next year) and the first one that I saw was at mile 4 where I discovered that I had just run an average 7:07 min/mile pace - a bit fast but it was still feeling easy!  The huge cheers from my support crew at the 3 mile mark certainly helped to maintain the pace.

Miles 5 brought me up to the first relay changeover point at Tivoli and the pace had eased back to 7:25.  In the past when I've run the relay in this marathon I've run the second leg so for the next 5 miles I was on very familiar roads.  Mile 6, 7 and 8 out to the Dunkettle roundabout and through the Jack Lynch Tunnel averaged 7:12 pace (back on target!).  Once again my support crew appeared on the side of the road to encourage me.... it worked! :)

Miles 9, 10, 11 & 12 passed relatively easily in 7:12, 7:18, 7:16, 7:16.  At this stage all things seemed to be going well and I took on my first gel as an energy insurance policy!

Miles 13 and 14 along river and over the footbridge over the South Ring road took 7:11 and 7:23 min / mile.  

It was shortly after passing the 14 mile marker that the first signs of the wheels coming off occurred - left hamstring cramp!  What the..... this had never happened before and was surprising as the pace so far had felt easy!  Despite a short walking break I managed to cover Miles 15 & 16 at an average 7:25 pace.

Cramps in both hamstrings appeared at Mile 17 (8:06 pace) .... and the first thoughts of going home early crept in... but I was still ahead of the 3:15 pacer group so maybe I could walk out the cramp and salvage something.  So I took on my second gel and walked out the South Link road!. 

The remainder of the race was a series of running, stretching and walking.  The chart below tells the story. with mile splits ranging from 9:01 to 9:18 for miles 18, 19, 20, 12, 22, 23, 24 & 25.  Unfortunately the encouragement from the spectators (each mile I passed someone that I knew!!) couldn't help.  Aerobically I was as fresh as when I started the race but my legs just didn't listen!!
Downhills were the worst as the hamstrings and calf muscles went into spasm and I was in danger of falling over each time I was forced to stop!  Thomas and his 3:15 bus passed by at the 18mile mark and I decided not to hop on.  My focus now was to get to the finish and hopefully get there ahead of Grellan's  3:30 bus!!

Not even the bottle of Coke that my support crew had a mile 21 for me was enough to fully get me going!  The oranges and sweets kindly offered by Kevin Geary and the team from Eagle AC after the final relay change over point were welcome and helped a little but the sharp decent at Inchigaggin Bridge brought back yet more cramps!  However, just like smelling salts, the sight of a fellow runner lying on the pavement on the Straight Road receiving medical attention shortly after Mile 23 was a stark reminder that things could be a lot worse!

The smell of the finishline somehow kept the worst of the hamstring cramps at bay and brought me to the 26 mile mark at 7:48 pace.  And the added motivation from Fergus Wall, the 1:30 half marathon pacer, who shouted "run bricey run just like it says on the website" and the thought that my support crew (wife and kids) would be at the finishline was enough to bring me though the last quarter at 6:40 pace to finish just ahead of Grellan and his crew!

Here's the summary: 
  • 03:28:20 (gun)
  • 03:28:08 (chip)
  • 01:35:17 (1st half)
  • 01:53:04 (2nd half)
  • 07:53 min/mile (avg)
  • 217 (place) / 1406 (finishers)
Overall I'm content with how things went today.  I gave it a shot and I've learnt a few lessons.  My first marathon is now over, I know I'm mature enough to do it again so it's now time to plan my next attack on the hallowed distance.  Next time, with some proper training and a bit of luck I'll have a real target and it won't be just to finish and, if possible, run sub-3:30!

Some pictures that tell a story (thanks to the many photographers out on the course incl. Doug Minihane, Darren Spring, John Quigley, Gearoid O'Laoi & Joe Murphy)...
Mile 2...

Mile 3...

Mile 3...

Mile 10...

Mile 17...