Sunday, March 29, 2009

4 mile in Carrignavar

Despite my comment on the last post I decided not to 'test' my knee yesterday in favour of leaving the 'test' to the pre-race warmup. So I did run in the 4 mile race today.

The last time I was in Carrignavar was when I ran schools cross country races i.e. not yesterday!! Carrignavar is a small village just north of Cork City and not too well signposted so I ended up taking the scenic route which ended in me inadvertently driving the race route. In hindsight this may not have been an advantage. The course seemed to be essentially 2.5miles uphill followed by 1.5 mile downhill -ouch!

I went for a 2 mile warmup and my knee felt fine for the first 1.5 miles, but... it started to ache when I ran the 0.5 miles to the start line. Nothing too serious and afterall I made it to the start line so I had to run - didn't I!!

The start was downhill which is never the best from a pacing point of view particularly if you know that a long uphill follows. I tried to take it steady but my instantaneous pace dipped into the low 5:xx over this section. As the route entered the village we took a right hand turn and the uphill began. The pace dropped to more than 6 mins/min on this section. Overall I passed the Mile 1 mark in 5:53mins (169bpm).

A slight downhill allowed the pace to quicken into to 5:4x range but I was struggling to keep pace with those around me and I dropped a couple of places. The next uphill section quickly came around shortly before the 2 mile mark. Mile 2 lasted 6:03mins (177bpm) - a sign of the uphill struggle!!

I ended up in a bit of no-mans-land and at this stage of the race I felt like I was running hard but not racing. Mile 3 was even slower @ 6:16min (182bpm).

Over the latter part of mile 3 I began to slowly close the gap on the runner ahead so as I crossed the mile marker I felt like was beginning to 'race'. With about 1200m to go I caught him and I pushed hard to pass. The finish was steeply downhill so I just left gravity to the work ('cause I couldn't and there was a headwind!!). Mile 4 ended up being the quickest of the race at 5:44min (183bpm).

I stopped my watch at 23:58min (avg 178bpm). My race.....

The results show that I came 24 out of 68 competitors (i.e. top 35%!!) in an official time of 23:59 mins. East Cork AC won the O35 team prize but I was 5th club runner home so I didn't count!! Well done to the guys Frank Hayes (5th), Eric Meade (7th), Denis McCarthy (16th) and David O'Dwyer (18th).

Shortly after the race my knee began to stiffen up. I tried to go for a warm down but within 30sec later I had to call a halt.

Although I was knackered afterwards I now feel that I didn't put myself as hard as I could have today. I don't think my head was right. Interestingly comparing my last 4 mile race where I ran 23:15 I averaged 179bpm and 167, 178, 183 and 188 bpm for each of the miles (generally higher than today). Although I appreciate that there are other variables I wonder is this a sign that I didn't push it today? Maybe my knee issue was in the back of my mind, maybe the cough which is still lingering from the cold last week was a factor, maybe something else... Whatever the reason REST / RECOVERY is now certainly on the cards!! I reckon I'll not run for at least a week or 10 days and hopefully regroup for the summer season targeting a quick autumn half marathon.

Week Total (23-03-09 to 29-03-09) - 3 sessions
12.51 miles - 1:25:45 - 6:51min/mile - 162bpm

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Potential disaster...

.. but hopefully not.

The pain I felt in my knee yesterday evening could only be described as a 'stiffness'. Strange how during the run I was fine and the pain only appeared 8 hours later!!

So today I tried to go for an easy run at lunchtime. But I was only 100m in when I knew something was wrong. By quarter of a mile I decided to bail. So today I recorded a huge 0.5mile @ 8min/mile pace!!

Sitting here now I've no pain so I think I'll take it easy and rest for a couple of days and hopefully things will settle!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Update ..

Although I'd planned a 12 mile easy run on Sunday I forgot that it was Mother's Day....hence, my available time was severely curtailed!! So my long easy run turned into a shorter faster run early in the morning. Overall it was 6.26miles at 7.00 min/mile average (158bpm). The first 5 miles were steady(ish) 6:59, 6:59, 6:51, 6:40 and 6:41 with a 1+ mile easy. My legs felt heavy - maybe it was the early hour or maybe I was still a bit run down from last weeks head cold. Otherwise the run was uneventful.

The rest of the day was spent on the beach with the family. Almost felt like summer!! So that brought the weeks running total to a 'not so high' mileage of 25 miles!!

Week Total (16/03/09 to 22/03/09) - 4 sessions
25.53miles - 3:04:44 - 7:14min/mile - 156bpm

Monday and Tuesday were write-offs so no running. So today, the sun was shining (even if the wind was a bit strong) and I made sure to run at lunchtime. I joined a colleague Tony for the first 2 miles which I used as a bit of a warmup which was followed by 4 miles at 'tempo' pace. The mile splits were 7:49, 8:10, 6:56, 6:16, 6:03 and 6:11 which gave a total of 6.06miles in 41:51min, an average of 6:54min/mile with 161bpm. I found it tough running into the wind and the pace certainly felt a bit harder than it should have. Still though it was good to get a 'quick' run in ahead of next weekends 4 mile race. On the down side my right knee is very stiff tonight. I hope it turns out to be a thing of nothing but it may also be a sign that I should take it easy for a couple of weeks and maybe go back into a base training phase.

Today's run...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Under the weather...

Thanks for all the comments after my last post. Yeah I was happy with the time particularly on the hilly course. I was even happier when I plugged the time in to the 'age grader' and it said that 23:15 for a 37 year old is equivalent to 22:28min run if I was in my prime!! That's faster than the PB I ran back in 1994!! Not sure I fully agree with the science but it does give me a smile !! :)

After the race the sore throat that I had the night before came back (i.e. a bad head cold was brewing) with a vengeance and also a strange darting pain in my left hip/groin area turned up (particularly noticeable when I'm walking down stairs but seems to be settling now). So on Wednesday I went for a 'kill me or cure me' type recovery run. Not necessary at recovery pace but at a relatively even easy pace - 5.64miles in 39:50, i.e. 7:04min/mile avg @ 158bpm.

That run didn't quite kill me but on Thursday the head cold was certainly worse but the sore throat now replaced by coughs / sneezes etc so I thought the better of running and rested with lots of paracetamol, fluids etc.

I took Friday off work but I didn't run. At that stage the coughing had stopped by the sniffles were still bad.

Having skipped 2 days running and with my next race planned for the 29th I was getting a bit anxious about my training. So when I woke up early today with only a slight sniffle I decided to head out and test the water and try a 4 mile 'easy' run. It ended up being 5.08 miles in 37:13mins i.e. 7:20 min/mile @ 151bpm. Maybe it was the fact that I was running at 7:30am or maybe the head cold has taken something out of me but my legs felt a bit too heavy during the run but my breathing was fine and the heartrate doesn't seem to be elevated. On that basis I'll assume nothing too serious and I think I'll try and fit in an 'easy' 12mile run tomorrow.

After this mornings run it was up to my sister-in-laws for a big brunch followed by a trip to the pub to see France hammer Italy and England struggle with (but beat) Scotland in the Six Nations Rugby Championship. 3 hours plus in the pub was more than enough for the children which meant that I got to watch the Ireland v Wales game here at home. What a game (my nails will never be as long again and my children think that I will never be calm again!!) and what a result (17-15 to Ireland) giving Ireland not only the Six Nations Championship title but also a Grand Slam - the first since 1948. How sweet to win the Grand Slam in the last game of the Championship in Cardiff. Ireland is a great place to be tonight - no recession here!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rising Sun 4mile

First of all HAPPY ST PATRICKS DAY to all. As you can imagine Ireland was green today, recession was nowhere in sight (maybe St Patrick has banished it as he did the snakes!!) and the sun was shining.

Since my last post it's been a busy weekend for my family on the athletics front. My niece Patricia was running in the NCAA Championship in Houston, TX with her college UMass Lowell. The event was the Distance Medley Relay (1200m, 400m, 800m, Mile). An unusual event to us Irish as it's not one in which we compete but it seems to be very popular with college teams in the US. Patrica did very well completing her 400m leg in 58secs and the team came 6th overall. Apparently they were in 3rd with 600m to go but couldn't hold that position. Still though 6th in the US Nationals is a great result and Patrica got All American status for the second year in a row - way to go Tricia!!

For me I didn't run on Saturday or Sunday - feeling tired and thought I deserved the weekend off. I did make an attempt to run on Monday at lunchtime but I turned around when I got to my car and worked through lunch instead (a bad habit I know!!). I went to bed early(ish) last night with a sore throat and generally not feeling too well.

So suffice it to say that I was well 'rested' for today's 4mile race in Ballinhassig (just outside of Cork). This race is organised by a local club Rising Sun AC and I really enjoyed the event last year so I was looking forward to today. The sun was shining and the weather warm (11-13degC) - almost Mediterranean!!

After registering I completed a 2 mile warmup with Grellan and Pat - out to the 1 mile marker and back - just to check out the killer hill start!! As an indication of how bad this hill is, last year I found myself close to the leaders (doesn't happen too often) running at close to 7min pace for the first half mile!!

The race started a few minutes late when the started shouted (not too loudly) 'GO' and we were off. Again the start was slow so I settled into the pack about 20-30 runners back. Once we crested the summit at about the 0.5mile mark the race proper started. At this stage I think I was about 20th with a clear view of the lone leader way way in the distance. I passed through Mile 1 in 5:45min. Wow, I thought, I must certainly have picked up the pace in the second half!!
At this stage I group I was running which had thinned to about 6 or 7 others. Mile 2 is largely downhill and my split was 5:34min. Holy S***. I only meant to run at just under 6min pace (my target was sub-24 today)!! I was now in a group of 4 which included a guy named Austin from EAgle AC. Grellan had pointed him out to me before the race as a sub-1:20 half marathon runner and suggested that he may be a good target to gauge my current form.

After mile 2 the downhill was over and the route was now into a head/crosswind. I think that I was still in shock from the 5:34 mile so unsurprisingly the pace slowed to 6:03min for Mile 3 but the whole group slowed so I maintained my position.

Only one mile to go was the overriding thought that crossed my mind at the 3 mile marker!! This running into the wind is tough - especially when your a tall, heavy, broad and awkward guy like me!! But I've recently read Daniel's book and the advice to run faster when your feeling tired crossed my mind so I gave it a try. It worked because I managed to pass one or two in the last mile and by the time I reached the crest of the climb I was comfortably clear of the guys behind. Unfortunately Austin was too far ahead to catch - so maybe I'm not quite in sub-1:20 form yet!! I finished the last mile in 5:52min. Giving a finishing time according to my watch of 23:15min for the 4 miles at 12th place out of 194 competitors (top 6%). Today's time was a PB so the rest obviously worked and the 10 days has been sufficient to recover from Ballycotton. Time to start training again!!

This photo shows me in the background with 100m to go chasing Austin in the foreground...

A 2 mile warmdown with Grellan and Paul afterwards ended the day nicely. Just enough time for a quick change and trip into town to catch some of the parade - it is St Patrick's Day after all!!

So here's how my race today progressed....
Note the steady deceleration in the middle of the race. Probably due to the wind but may be something to work on over the coming months??

Interestingly, with the benefit of Mr Garmin I have a benchmark from last years race (2 weeks after Ballycotton) for comparison...
Last year my mile splits last year were 6:06, 5:57, 6:12, 6:11 giving a total of 24:29mins and that was good enough for 15th position. Note how the pace varied in a similar manner in the 2 races - slow start, quick to 1.5mile or so, slow deceleration except for downhill at the end!!

Also well done to Grellan who posted yet another PB today and smashing the 25min barrier. I'm sure that over the coming months he will view today's time as a 'soft' PB to be taken out of the record books!!

My achilles are sore now and I've strange cramping pain in my left hip so maybe next week will be another recovery week. We'll see.....

Friday, March 13, 2009

Going for a run?

...that was the question that Grellan asked me at lunchtime earlier today. After a few late nights and early mornings I was feeling a bit tired so I really was looking for an excuse not to run today but I'd already missed a few days this week so the 'question' was all the motivation I needed.

Since Ballycotton I've been taking it easy. On Monday I managed 5.63miles @ 7:33 pace 150bpm (42:30mins). That was my 'recovery' run and to be honest even if I wanted to my legs wouldn't go any faster. Tired legs are OK, Sore legs are bad. No soreness so that's OK.

Tuesday was a day off running i.e. a real recovery!!

On Wednesday Grellan and I managed an easy 8.06 miles at lunchtime in 1:00:01 (avg 7:27, 153bpm). That's the longest run I've ever fitted in at lunchtime and it felt good to break the hour mark!! The mile split pace started at 7:53 and increased to 7:15 during the run.

Thursday was another 'recovery' day!!

So today, despite being a bit sleep deprived and almost bailing I think I needed to run. It was probably a bit soon after Ballycotton to put in a 'proper' workout so the plan in mind was a 'steady' pace slightly quicker than last Wednesday. In the end the run turned into a bit of a progression steady/tempo pace and I felt comfortable all the way. We started out at 7:41 mins for the first mile and the pace accelerated from there!! The splits were 7:41 (139bpm); 7:13 (154); 6:56 (161); 6:35 (167); 6:32 (168); 6:15 (172); 6:25 (174). So despite my best intentions I completed 7.06miles in 48:00 (avg 6:48min/mile, 161bpm)!!

My niece is running later today in the US Collegiate National Championship in Houston so best of luck Tricia!! I look forward to hearing all about it.
Today's run...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Maybe I should have concentrated on running to the line instead of stopping my watch!!
Thanks for all the comments after last Sundays Ballycotton 10.
Some more stats from the final results. Officially, I came 128th but.... based on my first half (non-chip) time I was in 121st at the 5 mile mark and based on my chip time I was 123rd at the finish!! Still not top-100 but a bit closer!! Just goes to prove how a bad start can be critical.
Yesterday (Monday) I managed 5+ miles easy @ 7:30 approx pace. The legs were heavy but not sore - a good sign!!
No running today (Tuesday)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

10 mile race report

I'll start at the end and in reasonable condition too!! Photo above shows Richard, Grellan, me and Thomas afterwards as proof!!

It was cold today. Very cold and windy. I got to Ballycotton early, probably too early, at 10:30am for a 1:30pm race but at least that allowed me to get a good parking spot at the 9 mile mark. After an hour or so of walking around and looking at the views...

.. it was time for a 3.28 mile warm-up.

When I got back to the baggage area Thomas and Grellan were already getting prepared but I needed to answer a call of nature and the 15-minute queue for the port-a-loo nearly caused me to miss the start (slight exaggeration for effect here!!). I got to the start at 1:15 which was about 15 minutes behind schedule and the throng that greeted me was evidence enough that I was late. I then, not so patiently, worked my way to a position about 20m back from the start line and, content to see that Grellan wasn't too far away, I decided that I was far enough forward.

As always the race started on time and we were off. Well nearly - it took me 12 seconds at 32min/mile pace for me to reach the start line!! My race plan was simple, 6:15 pace and see what happened....

Mile 1 lasted 6:11 min @ 160bpm. Surprisingly quick given that I spent most of the mile weaving around joggers and runners who certainly should not have started ahead of the sub-65 zone.

Mile 2 was a bit quicker (5:55 mins @ 172bpm). Slightly too quick but it was downhill and I needed to make up for the 12 second deficit at the start!! The pace settled down for the next two miles 6:08 and 6:07 and I found myself in a good group. At the Mile 4 marker the course headed west and slightly uphill and into a biting wind. I found myself leading a group with a 10-15m gap to the next runner ahead - not a smart place to be but so be it. Mile 5 took me 6:20 mins and my heartrate was now at 176bpm. The first 5 miles had taken 30:43min - quick but manageably so.

My fan club (Pam, the kids and her parents) were waiting patiently to cheer for me at about the 5.5mile mark... my thoughts swung between a) you can stop now and they'll give you a spin home to b) keep the pace going and try not to look in 'too' much pain (you might scare the kids!!). Suffice it to say, I kept going and I was still leading a group (almost like I was winning) - good example for the kids! I even managed a big wave as I passed!!

Shortly afterwards I found myself at the back of the group of 10 that I was previously leading and the wind was behind us. Oh no, had I worked too hard over the first half? Mile 6 took me 6:14mins @ 176bpm. Shortly afterwards I crossed the 10K mark in 38:18mins (corrected).

At this point of the race it was time to dig deep. This was the point where Grellan left me for dead last year and Thomas flew past me shortly after I blew up at the 8 mile mark. My objective was not to let that happen (if at all possible) again this year. So I started to dig deep.

Miles 7 & 8 took 6:06min 6:11min (177bpm) respectively and I was still hanging on to the same group of runners. I even think I remember pulling away from some of the guys who had gone past me at 5.5miles.

In Ballycotton the last 1.5 miles is the toughest with a few significant climbs hence despite me pumping my arms hard Mile 9 took 6:22 mins and my heartrate went up to 180bpm.

A lot of the group that has passed my earlier were still in sight (see below the 5 runners ahead of me) so with only 1 mile to go I thought to myself you can either 'go to the well' again or 'go home'.

The 'well' didn't have much left but I started to gain on those ahead of me. Obviously their wells were also running dry. In the end I got some of them and my split for Mile 10 was 6:00 (185bpm). Strong finish especially given that it was slightly uphill!!

So this is how my race shaped up...

Overall my chip time for this years Ballycotton 10 was 1:01:39 - a 1 second PB!! Happy days particularly as the Ballycotton course isn't the fastest and the weather conditions weren't the best. Also I was 4.5 minutes faster than last year. Officially I came 128th out of approx 2398 finishers. So no top-100 t-shirt this year but I can't complain with a 5.3% finishing position.

Well done to Grellan and Thomas who also had good runs (I'm sure their reports will give all the juicy details!!). Richard set a big PB at 67:38 - he's now off to the Rotterdam Marathon so I wish him well!!

After the 1 mile walk back to the car it was a 2 mile warm down and a drive home in a nice warm car!!

So to wrap up the week. Despite my best efforts thanks to today's 15miles I succeeded in breaking 30 miles this week...
Week Total (02/03/09 to 08/03/09) - 4 sessions
31.29miles - 3:43:28 - 7:08 min/mile - 160bpm
Now that Ballycotton is over I'm not quite sure what my next short/medium term goal will be. I'll have to review this over the coming days. Also I've made some significant improvements in times since last autumn so I'll have to review what I now need to do to take the next step.... more anon...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The final run...

... before Ballycotton

The cold spell forecast seems to be a bit late arriving i.e. it will arrive tomorrow just in time for the race....nice..... :(

An easy 5 miles @ 7:30 min/mile in relatively mild conditions this morning will help with the weekly mileage. The average heartrate @ 151 bpm was down again so I'm still none the wiser about yesterdays run. I suppose the proof will be

Best of luck to all those competing in Ballycotton tomorrow. Hopefully the westerly headwinds won't slow us all down too much over the first half and the wind behind us will help keep us going over the last half.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Rapid taper....

This weeks taper has turned into more of a downhill sprint!! Still I don't think it will do me too much harm as a rest is always good before a race - isn't it?? My legs have been feeling a bit tired lately, another good reason to rest, and a mysterious cramp type feeling has appeared since Wednesday in my left lower calf / Achilles region. No apparent reason and it's most noticeable while sitting / lying. Strange....

So far this week I've only managed to fit in two runs. Both 'easy' approx 5.5 miles on Tuesday and Friday.

Tuesday it was 5.61 miles at lunchtime in 39:54mins (avg. 7:06 min/mile @ 155bpm). The splits ranged from 7:21 to 6:46 min/mile as the run progressed.

On Wednesday I cam home to a surprise. Apparently East Cork AC won the team prize at the last 5 mile race and I made the team. John Walshe had taken the trouble to post my prize a €20 voucher for the local running store John Buckley Sports. Thanks John. Almost a cash prize - so may I should turn pro?? Lets see, €20 for 30 minutes running isn't a bad hourly rate!!!

Today I ran over the same course (5.62 miles this time) in 40:31 (avg. 7:12 min/mile @163bpm). The run today felt laboured especially over the last 2 miles. The splits were more consistent 7:41, 7:09, 7:11, 7:03, 7:02, 7:06. Paul, a colleague from work, who's just coming back from a knee injury which cost him 2 years or so, joined me over the first couple of miles - good to see him back in form.

It's a bit strange how my heart rate was higher today than on Tuesday even though the pace was significantly slower. Mr Garmin tells me that my heartrate was elevated from the first mile (146 today compared with 140 on Tuesday) and that difference was effectively maintained for the run. What this is down to I don't know. The weather was a few degrees higher but I still wore skins and hat etc (i.e. winter gear), so maybe I was just too warm today. Maybe I was concentrating on doing too much talking to Paul or maybe there's some other reason. I just don't know. Hopefully the high heartrate is not a sign of things to come....

I'll go for another easy run tomorrow morning just to keep the legs fresh and then it's off to Ballycotton on Sunday.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Last week before Ballycotton

Last Thursday the tempo was fairly uneventful and generally it went well enough. I repeated Tuesdays course - only quicker. 5.62 miles in 35:52 (i.e. 6:23 min/mile @ 165bpm). The mile splits were 6:29 (147bpm), 6:26 (162), 6:38 (166), 6:19 (171), 6:12 (171), 6:05 (178).

A night out on Thursday night was enough to make me too tired on Friday to get motivated enough to run. So no run on Friday - just re-hydration!!

Saturday was a family day so no chance for a run either. This meant that I definitely needed to run today. A long run was planned at an easy/steady pace. But having stayed in bed half an hour to long time was against me. So 12.5miles was 'all' I could fit in!! The course was into Cork City centre, over Sundays Well, out to Bishopstown, back to Turners Cross and back to Douglas. For those unfamiliar with the geography...

The easy bit never really happened and most of the miles were in approx 7 minute pace or less but it felt easy (except for the last mile!!). It's amazing how revitalising a few days rest can be!! In all 12.55miles at an average of 7:09 (156bpm) was the end product (1:29:40).

I'm a bit obsessed with mile splits lately so here's how this run went mile by mile - 7:09 (134bpm), 7:08 (145), 7:04 (154), 7:10 (153), 7:28 (158), 7:02 (156), 7:09 (160), 7:07 (158), 6:58 (159), 6:58 (161), 6:53 (162), 7:42 (168), 7:03 (169).

Week Total (23/02/09 to 01/03/09) - 4 sessions
31.45 miles - 3:35:23 - 6:51 min/mile avg - 158 bpm

Next week will be a taper of sorts in a effort to be 'refreshed' for the race in Ballycotton on Sunday. My diet has been a bit erratic lately so I'll also try and eat a bit healthier!!