Race Report: Frankfurt Marathon 2015

Alright blog, I’ve had time to step back and absorb an unforgettable weekend in Frankfurt so it’s time to empty out my experience of the day. I start writing this from the comfort of the Brehon hotel in Killarney where I sit with a pint of grog having just spent the last 2 hours lounging in the jacuzzi with a slightly creepy smile on my face. No wonder those ladies reported me.

Background / Preparation
This was to be my 5th marathon with a previous best of 2:46:59 in Dublin last year. We all know what happened back in April of this year, the marathon that never happened so I was out to make amends for that disappointment. The goal back in April was a 2:40-45 and while that race actually never happened thanks to a certain pilonidal abscess, I still benefited from a good training block and the whole experience in general stood to me. I wasn’t long signing up for another marathon so the goal when I entered Frankfurt was always a sub 2:40.

Ever since I ran my first marathon in Dublin 2012, the thoughts of a 2:3x had been firmly planted in my mind as I looked on in awe at some of the Donore lads who had on that day ran 2:36. At the time it was a distant if not unattainable dream to someday similarly be a 2:3x marathoner, I couldn’t fathom the idea of running sub 6 minute miles for a marathon but I knew it would take time, patience and a lot of hard work. My training over this summer and autumn went really well, infact better than expected. I stayed on top of any minor injuries backing off when necessary, always listening to the body and both the milage and sessions were consistent.

I believe I trained smart and it’s mainly down to my coach and moreso trusting what he says. I also fed off the incredible energy of the group in Leevale over the last few months, the buzz is almost tangible after hard sessions and long runs and it’s such a pleasure training with these guys who have played a major role in my progress and just inspired me to think big. Given all those factors, I went into this race with a ‘best possible outcome’ being a 2:33/34 – something I genuinely wouldn’t have considered realistic back in April but now possible if everything went absolutely perfect on the day. A secondary outcome was a 2:35-40 which was what my training was pointing at and one I would be more than pleased with. Failing all that, running under 2:46:59 would still be a PB and that’s never a bad result so that left me with a lot of good potential outcomes. I really didn’t even consider not running a new PB (barring events outside of my control) and I hope that’s not being arrogant but I was just so confident in the training I had done. I really went into this one with a very positive attitude and it made a big difference.

10 weeks out I ran the Clonmel half in 78 minutes at planned marathon pace which felt really good so at that time 2:36 was in my head as a real possibility. I ran a 73:29 PB in the Charleville half 5 weeks out and got some great sessions with my marathon clubmates in the following weeks. The goal started dangerously creeping towards 2:32-34 after watching my training partners run around that time in Berlin and the coach suggested myself and John (club mate also running) should be in that ballpark. I think that was a massive boost for myself and John. It was a huge lift to hear he felt we were capable of hitting those heights. 3 weeks out I was forced to miss a week due to achilles flaring up but managed that well, never panicked and recovered to get a good 2 week taper keeping the intensity up but lowering the overall volume. Overall I felt better prepared than I ever have for a marathon. Since July I had been typically getting in a midweek long run (15 miles), a 30-35 min tempo, a Saturday grass session and a 20+ mile run averaging 80-90 miles a week and maxing out at 100 miles.

The week leading up to the race I was pretty relaxed, I slept really well and the legs were itching to get going. I got two rubs, one on the Monday and again on Thursday and I pretty much kept my diet business as usual. In my opinion there’s really no need to change much during last few days before the race. I travelled from Kerry airport to Frankfurt on the Friday with John and his wife and we checked into our hotel right beside the start/finish line, ideal location. Saturday was very relaxed, got our number at the expo and chilled out with a few coffees, watched some TV and the day seemed to just fly by. We also had a kitchenette in our rooms so we were able to do a grocery shop and cook our own food which made a big difference especially on race morning making porridge.

Race Day
It’s race morning and to my surprise I ended up having a great nights sleep. The race was scheduled for 10am so I got up at 7am, whipped up a bowl porridge and horsed it down with a glass of water mixed with dioralyte before heading back to bed and trying to sleep more (the hour going back made sure we even got an extra hour in bed). Somehow that worked and I fell asleep waking again at 8:30am, back of the net. Myself and John headed off for a light 10 minute warmup at 9am and then got back to the hotel, time was flying. I put on all my gear, threw a gel and some jellies into my pocket, downed an espresso and off we walked to the line. We headed into the first coral (sub 3:15) at about 9:45am thinking we were in plenty of time but we were a little concerned when we saw a 2:59 pacer balloon ahead of us, we were too far back. There was no room to move, jam packed so we agreed we wouldn’t stress ourselves trying to squeeze our way up further and just accepted it and a slow start is not the end of the world. I ate a banana and pondered.

It felt like a long 15 minutes but suddenly there were just 2 minutes to go. I took off my finishers top from my first marathon in 2012 (some sort of metaphor?) and flung it over the fence. Side by side with my buddy John we were ready to do battle with 26.2 miles. The klaxon went but we had a long way to walk/run/shuffle until we hit the start line and then with a beep on the garmin, the race has officially started.

Miles 1-5
Well to say there was congestion is an understatement. We expected it but not to the degree we experienced and it just seemed to be endless over the first 10-15 minutes. I don’t want to complain too much about it because this was a positive day but I still don’t know what some runners were doing up there. Ok fair enough the sub 3 runners but a lot of them were running nothing close to sub 3 pace and it really put a dent in our start though we have absolutely to take responsibility for not being in the coral earlier.

We managed it fairly well I think, sometimes John would take the lead and start pouncing through gaps and I’d follow, or I’d just point a finger if I saw a gap and we’d leg it. It was important not to sit too much but to keep moving up through the field and we did well to pull off a 6:09 first mile, it really didn’t feel like it. That sort of start can be slightly draining as you expel a lot of energy finding gaps and throwing in surges here and there but it was by no means a disaster. We started gradually getting into a rhythm eventually and the field settled out and we were both running comfortably. We hit the first 5k in 18:56 but would have been shooting for typically 18:20-18:30 5k splits. We were both wearing pace bands marked in km’s, John’s was for 2:33 and me 2:34 (our more optimistic targets) and while they were useful enough for a while we just stopped paying attention to them eventually. Next time I’d use a less than optimistic pace band because once we ended up being a few minutes outside of the targets we stopped checking it.

Overall the first 5 miles were satisfactory. Effort wise I felt good and while I was sweating a bit too much I think it was just due to the constant weaving and by mile 4 or 5 I was really settling down. We got a great shout also from Johns wife around 7km and she was holding up a sign “The Enniscorthy Engine” made me chuckle. Small things like that really help. I took my first sip of water at the 5k station and kept that trend going until the end, not much each time mind you just a mouthful if anything.

1 6:09
2 5:54
3 5:51
4 5:57
5 6:10

Miles 5-10
These miles were fairly uneventful as we settled into the pace. I expected a group to start forming around now but we were moving through the field passing people, it was a little strange passing people so early on and some were already bizarrely struggling. We hit the 10km in 37:37 and while that was a quicker 5km (18:41) we were still off target but I wasn’t too worried, we were moving comfortably and that was the most important thing. I also took a couple of jelly beans here and almost choked myself by not chewing them properly, a piece came out of my nose eventually.

We had instructions from our coach to work together and not to go quicker than 5:50 pace and we ended up adhering to that quite well. Because both of us were aware of that we tended to call each other out if we noticed things were picking up too much as sometimes you tend to lose focus and find yourself getting carried away. Steady was the word of the day and steady we kept it. We caught up with a Kerry chap from An Riocht and he started working in with us which was great, the more the merrier.

We were well settled into the race now and the next 5k split was 18:32. I tried to take my usual dioralyte sachet at 15k but having torn it open in anticipation, by the time I got to the water station and went to swallow it, it was empty. I had spilled the contents – doh! That’s not the first time that’s happened, I’ve essentially ingested my dioralyte successfully in 2 of 4 marathons, must look into salt tabs. This wasn’t going to be a huge problem as heat and humidity weren’t a major factory so I didn’t worry about it. At around 8 miles I finally thought we had a group as a few runners seemed to latch on but just after 10 miles it was just myself and John again.

So on we trucked. We hit 10 miles just on the hour mark and that was just fine. Slight doubts crept in here, I’m not sure if it was the fact I had 16 miles left ahead of me including another 10 miler in 60 mins and then 6 miles on top of that or maybe it was that I didn’t really know how I was feeling, was I tired or was I feeling great?…I really couldn’t tell, it was strange…but only for a while. I snapped out of it eventually and regained focus.

6 5:57
7 5:59
8 5:54
9 6:04
10 6:00

Miles 10-15
From 10-13 it was just a case of ticking off the miles until halfway. Breaking the race down into minor goals is a helpful strategy to keep my mind focussed. I was comfortable enough here, John was leading the way and another guy had worked in with us and probably the longest we’d spent with somebody as he stuck around for about 5 or 6 miles I reckon until falling off. So halfway came and I really didn’t know what we were heading for, the loose plan was a 77:xx at halfway but we hit in 78:51. Sure it was a little slower than planned but we knew we had negotiated a congested start and had ran that first half quite sensibly.

We didn’t even say anything just kept moving and I think we were both quietly confident that we had a strong second half in us. We were continuously picking off runners ahead and had yet to be passed. We got working with another group around now including an African elite lady with some pacers and I also distinctly remember a green Perth runners singlet. These guys stuck with us for a good few miles and it was good to have the company and we were moving fluidly. We hit the 15 mile mark just before crossing over a bridge and I was really feeling good now and no better timing than the nowhere zone of the marathon. That 7 miles between 13-20 is always a strange patch where you must keep focussed, questions get asked here and you can suddenly find yourself struggling. 18:35 and 18:30 for the next two 5k splits, this was very steady going looking back.

11 5:56
12 5:54
13 5:57
14 5:53
15 6:01

Miles 16-20
I was in a relatively good place over these miles thankfully and was just focussed on getting to 20, then I’d assess the plan for the last 10k. We worked well here, kept the place steady and I was breathing well. I know from experience how unforgiving this distance can be so I was by no means going to get complacent. The course route was in general unmemorable which is good in a way as it shows I was keeping focussed and the mile splits agin here reflect that. The odd exchange of words with John every now and just assured ourselves that we were comfortable and relaxed. We were still picking off a lot of runners and some were really struggling with heavy breathing, the couple of runners we worked in with earlier were still with us. I was keeping an eye on my HR throughout the day and while my primary feedback was my own internal one, this acted as a secondary and never really deviated from 160 bpm over the first 20 miles, this was spot on in my eyes as I knew I could maintain that HR from previous marathons.

It occurred to me at around 16 miles that I hadn’t taken on much sustenance today bar a few jellies (but took water at every stop). While I’m used to and have specifically trained on empty, I still thought it better I pre-empt and get something into me for the last 6 miles as I was moving into unchartered territory. I was noticing signs of a slight stitch coming so I took just half a caffeine gel with some water and it sat well with me as expected (had tried it out on one long run).

I think it was the 17th miles as we moved through a small town, I was feeling really good and I saw a young boy of about 12 on the side of the road with his hand stretched out and eyes beaming. I moved over to the side and gave him the biggest hi-5 I could muster and most likely broke his hand. That brought a huge smile to my face, not breaking his hand but just getting involved with the crowd and taking a moment to enjoy the atmosphere, I look back on that moment really fondly. I hope he’s ok though.

The 30k (around 18 miles) split was 18:29, our fastest yet and we were gradually pulling away from the group and on our own again. John indicated he was struggling slightly around 19 miles so I took up the pacing and just kept it nice and steady hovering around 6 min/mile, I knew it was just a minor bad patch for John and I was right thankfully. Suddenly we’re almost at 20 and we got a great shout again from Johns wife (with some new signage) at and that was another boost, they all add up on the day. So that was it, we turned to each other as if to say ok that’s 20 miles but let’s just not make a big deal of it. Things were looking really good though, I looked at the watch as we hit 20 and it had just ticked onto 1:59. I said to myself if I just keep steady 6 minute pace over the next 6 miles, I could be walking away with a 2:36 marathon to my name, it felt so close now so there was no way I was letting this slip away.

16 5:52
17 5:57
18 5:53
19 5:59
20 6:00

Miles 21-23
There was no denying I was feeling tired by now and I was fully expecting it but I was feeling as good as I could be in that situation. I broke the next section into 3 x 2 milers and suddenly 22 had past and each mile I ticked off I felt I could almost touch the finishing line. John was looking really strong as he moved in front and I stuck to his back as best I could. We were back into the city now and the crowds were lining the streets, this support was a huge help in bringing us home. 4 miles left and I was perfectly happy to bring it home at this pace, I really didn’t feel I could have picked up the pace and sustained it.

Onto the 23rd mile and I looked across the road to see the faster runners on their last mile heading for the finish. I was starting to tire more and more now (and my HR was drifting but no surprise there) and all I was thinking was those lucky bastards are almost finished but you know what, that’s gonna be me in a couple of miles so just drive on and keep going. So I did. Splits were good here and I was keeping an eye on them. It felt like I was really slowing as fatigue was gradually engulfing my legs but seeing the mile splits really kept me positive and assured me I was capable of maintaining this pace until the finish.

21 5:59
22 5:53
23 5:50

Miles 24-Finish
I was still behind John now but he was opening up a gap on me that I wasn’t willing or able to chase. My primary focus over the last 3 miles was not about making up places, but rather getting home at this pace and getting me a 2:36, also I just knew there wasn’t a big kick in me at the time. The HR was still drifting and close to 170 now but I didn’t need that to tell me I was hurting. My training was being asked serious questions at this stage. Breathing was starting to get laboured but I was still keeping steady though form was getting sloppy. I was finding it hard to remained focus but the miles just seemed to tick themselves off. It was just a case of sheer stubbornness and persistence over these last few miles. I was answering those questions pretty well.

I really don’t remember much of these miles in terms of geography but what I do remember is keeping the black and yellow Leevale top in my eye line and putting one leg in front of the other. I was still passing people and I really don’t recall anyone passing me for the entire race (ok except for John) and some of you might know that feeling of constantly picking people off in a race, it’s a huge motivator and an assurance that you’ve paced this particular race sensibly (well either that or you’ve sandbagged the arse out of it but I vehemently deny that charge).

It was around the 25th mile I felt a slight but definite dart in my left hamstring…whoah…cramps? really? no…please…not now. I sort of shortened my stride briefly almost anticipating a full seizure if I opened up the legs. Thankfully it didn’t materialise into full blown cramp and I gradually relaxed again but a stark warning that I’ve still over a mile left and anything can happen. All I wanted was to get this crocked body home in one piece but not just that, I wanted to be able to call myself a 2:3x marathoner, it was so close now. I distinctly remember looking at some of the crowd cheering and I was able to muster a thumbs up and smile but I also remember breathing like I was on the finish straight of a 5k race, wide eyed like a rabbit in the headlights.


We were on the home stretch now, the crowd are in full voice and I’ve just clocked a 5:51 for the 26th mile though it feels nowhere near that pace. This is actually happening, I’m almost home. I saw John ahead of me turn to the left and I knew he was almost home and dry, now it’s my turn. My inbuilt regulator eased off the reigns and let me pick it up for the big finish as rounded the corner into the Festhalle. The place can only have been described as electric with its 40 meter high dome, music pumping, strobe lights flashing and the crowd so pumped up. As I crossed the 200m to go mark, I think my watch read around 2:36:15 so I said to myself 2:36 might just be happening today. I gave it my best shot anyway as I stretched out the legs. I moved down that finish straight as if I had been gifted new set of legs, I almost felt possessed. I cannot describe that feeling. Even now I had to pause and smile as I type it as I really can’t find the words. I looked up and I saw the clock read 2:37:xx (remember we didn’t hit the actual start line for a good minute or so) but even so all I saw was a guaranteed a 2:3x marathon, the minute didn’t matter.

Some might say ok big deal it’s just an arbitrary time but to me it was the realisation of a vision 3 years ago to become something that felt so much bigger than me at the time. A small celebration and I crossed the line to embrace my friend and trainer partner John who played a big part in this journey and it was such a pleasure to run with him that day, we shared an amazing and unforgettable experience. What a marathon debut for him clocking a 2:36:35. A brief manly embrace ensued before bending to our knees to try allow that oxygen debt repay some of its hefty loan. It took me a few seconds to check my time, my watch read 2:36:59 but I wasn’t sure if I was under or not, I didn’t really care too much, I was elated. Later I’d find out the official time was 2:36:57 and a PB by 10 minutes and 2 seconds. Second half in 1:18:07 and a negative split by 44 seconds. Result.

24 5:57
25 6:07
26 5:51
0.3 (2:06 / 5:44 m/m)

Summary: 26.2 miles in 2:36:57 (5:57 m/m)

The Aftermath

We moved on out of the Festhalle and bumped into the 1st and 2nd Irish runners from Slí Cualann in Wicklow (2:33 and 2:30 respectively). We congratulated each other and moved outside to absorb the race and get some energy back into us. After a while I headed back to the hotel and was still in a bit of a dreamland for a while, I didn’t quite yet believe I had done it. It was only when I logged onto the results site and saw my 2:36:57 there in black and white and I smiled. No matter what happens now, that was a time nobody could can take away from me. I rested for a while, ate a bowl of cereal and cleaned up before heading off for a few well earned brews in the Irish pub with John and his wife. We met the Slí Cualann gang in the pub so we all headed off for a really enjoyable slap-up meal and some more beers and apple strudel. That evening really topped off what is no doubt one of the best days of my life and a memory I’ll cherish forever.

Post race with the Slí Cualann runners Gary and Neal and clubmate John.


That was the most uneventful marathon I’ve ever ran, and that was exactly what I wanted. Though the conditions were perfect for us, I also really think I got a lot of things right on the day. Nutrition was fine no real problems there, the porridge & banana pre race followed by few jellies during the race and half a gel at 17 worked fine for me. Also water every station that’s a formality for me now. Pace-wise I couldn’t be happier, I worked really hard for the last 2 miles yet kept the splits steady, I don’t think there was much more left in the tank at the end so I think it was judged quite well and I was able to work off feel for the majority of the race. My mindset going into the race likely played a huge role. I was confident and had a lot of trust in the training, had gotten good rest all week and nerves really weren’t a huge factor – a positive mind can be a powerful ally on the day (as can a solid and trusted training partner)

Where do we go from here? Most likely Berlin next year but that will all come in good time. I really feel I needed a marathon like this where I was able to keep it steady the whole way through, I had previously only done this once before in my 2nd marathon in Barcelona running a 2:54. This says to me that it wasn’t a once off and I’m capable of executing a well paced marathon so I have a strong belief I’m capable of going quicker yet again. But there’s no need to think about that right now, I need to take time to recover and enjoy this achievement and soon I’ll be back thinking about the next challenge.

And finally, one more photo. I love this one captured by Johns wife, striding down the finish straight, what a feeling.



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Race Report: Charleville Half Marathon 2015

Sunday morning, 7:15am and the alarm blares. Crap, it’s here. I groggigly rise and go straight to the window, I can see the trees swaying but it’s dry. I shug and put the coffee machine on while making a bowl of porridge. Maybe this is getting too detailed…

After a 50 minute drive I arrive into Charleville with “Survival” by Muse blaring in my car, it’s my go-to pre race song and always gets me pumped up, I smashed my passenger window with my fist (may or may not have happened). I notice a few runners warming up and the wind really looks like it’s making things tough for them so I just pretend I never saw it and I park up near the race HQ.

I headed into get my number, chatted with some clubmates and collected my number before I headed off on a 20 minute warmup. I was feeling good enough on the warmup, the wind was not going to be helpful at all today but nothing I could do about it only stick with the plan. Got back to the race start with about 5 minutes to spare and the first drops of the day started falling, the clouds in the horizon were dark so no doubt this was going to be a wet one.

Pre-race plan as advised by the coach was to hold around 5:30 min/miles and stick close to Maria McCambridge. I was apprehensive about this as I felt I wasn’t quite there but I got a little boost hearing similar advice from some clubmates so I said why not just go for it. You might say there was nothing to lose really but in hindsight this is a race that is probably the best indicator of my potential performance in Frankfurt so it is in a way important to get a good result to assure myself the training is going to plan. I knew there would be a good group of us around a similar target so if there was ever a race to go for it from the start, this was it.

Miles 1-3 (5:20, 5:33, 5:32)
As we were standing there waiting for the gun, the rain really started coming down and I couldn’t wait to get going. Bang on the hour of 10 and we’re off. Good start, field was nice and spread out, was feeling very relaxed over the first mile and was able to have a quick chat with some of the runners alongside me. One thing I noticed straight away in the first mile was my grip (or lack of it) on the now wet road surface. I don’t know if it was just my shoes or if everyone had the same experience but I eventually figured out that running on the more uneven surface worked better for me but overall this didn’t have a huge impact. A good group had formed now of maybe 10+ and just ahead with a bit of a gap opening up was Maria McCambridge and a couple of pacers. The group seemed happy to let her go on and I worked in with my Leevale clubmate as we settled into a good rhythm and ticked off the first few miles comfortably.

Miles 4-6 (5:33, 5:37, 5:34)
It was a pretty monotonous stretch here but we had good shelter from the wind and I was happy how it was going. I was aware of a large group just behind us and I knew it was inevitable I’d be seeing them soon. Myself and the clubmate worked well together over this stretch sharing our time at the front even though there was little need for the sheltering, it was a mental thing more than anything. We hit the 5 mile mark in 27:35 and that was PB #1 of the day (ran 27:47 in Enniscorthy back in June). Feeling pretty good at this stage and as I knew we were coming into the village of Kilmallock I thought back to this time last year when I was already feeling the heat and had to back off from my clubmate. As we came into the village, the group behind merged with ours and suddenly we had a supergroup. I was happy enough to fall to the back of the group for a while and take a little breather before we made the turn back towards home.

Miles 7-9 (5:34, 5:31, 5:40)
Hit the 10k mark in 34:20 and that was PB #2 of the day. Around halfway through mile 7 we made a turn out of the village onto a narrow country road. I remember this patch being tough last year so I was glad to be in a group this time. We straight away got hit with a headwind here but it was to my relief more of a temporary gust and overall today I don’t think the wind had as big an impact as we imagined. By this time the rain was hammering down but I don’t think any of us really gave it much notice. I had a moment to glance around the group and was impressed at how strong everyone was looking. I distinctly remember feeling great around mile 8, I had worked my way back up to the top of the group and we were all moving very well, everyone doing their fair share of work. Mile 9 was when I finally started feeling the heat and questioning my ability to sustain this pace. Next target was get to 10 miles and see what’s left. I started noticing little gaps on this mile and having to close them quickly, early warning signs that I was really tiring.

Miles 10-11 (5:40, 5:46)
Mile 10 was really starting to hurt. The negatives were creeping in and with over 3 miles left at this pace, it felt like a mammoth task. I was sticking to the back of the group but almost resigned myself to the fact I’d have to let them go. Breathing was becoming laboured and the legs were tiring but I really feel my mental attitude here let me down a lot. I remember before the race I had even mentioned to a few people I’ll get to 10 miles and if I blow up, I blow up. This basically just gave me permission to throw the towel in if things got hard and they did get hard but doesn’t every half marathon get difficult at this point. I hit the 10 mile mark in 55:31 and that was PB #3, again possibly another reason why I started getting soft. As we hit the 10 mile mark we were on the return stretch of the outwards route. It was about halfway through this mile I hit the lowest point. The group was now pulling right away from me and I was out on my own. I felt out of steam mentally and physically and I assumed I wouldn’t even PB, I’d just run home easy. For some reason though, I didn’t actually slow as much as I think I did, though looking back on Strava, there’s about 30 seconds where I dropped close to 6 minute miles. The group now had about 200 yards on me but it wasn’t getting any bigger. I hit the end of the mile and saw 5:46 pop up, not as bad as I expected.

Miles 12-13 (+0.1) (5:45, 5:45, 0:37)
I suddenly felt incredibly pumped up, the legs felt better again and I swear to god I am so glad nobody was around me because some of the motivational sh*t coming out of my mouth at this stage, would have made a great comedy sketch. I was shouting at myself to pick it up, to hold this all the way, come on Conor. If someone had have offered me 2 x 5:45 miles for the finish, I’d have jumped on their back. 5 minutes ago I was down and out and now I was back moving again, still focussed on the group ahead and determined not to let that gap grow. I was annoyed at myself for letting the gap even open but at least now I had some time to redeem myself. I also noticed ahead that Maria McCambridge was slowing rapidly and had now fallen back to my (former) group. Mile 12 suddenly ticked off and I had one mile to go, let’s dig deep and bring it home strong. It felt like the finish of a 5k but I was far off that pace, I was breathing rapidly, the rain now pounding down but I was moving well. I never looked at the watch over the last 10 minutes so I had no idea what time I was on for, I just wanted to see that line more than anything. There is a slight climb to the finish but I pumped the arms and was reeling in Maria very quickly along with another guy who had fallen off the group. I saw my coach who gave me a good shout and up ahead I saw my clubmate turning onto to the finish. I was delighted with how I came back and could afford a little smile as I rounded the corner onto the finishing straight and I gave it a good push for the finish. Maria McCambridge was now within touching distance but I wouldn’t catch her. At least I followed coaches orders of sticking close to Maria, might have taken it too literally in fact. More importantly, I looked up to the clock and was pretty chuffed to see it tick on to 1:13:27, official time of 1:13:29, PB #4 and the most satisfying of the lot. Given my struggles over the last 3 miles I could only be overjoyed with a 2+ minute PB.

About 500m from the line, the pain is almost over
About 500m from the line, the pain is almost over

I would have loved to finish with the group and held closer to 5:30’s but that really was my best effort and reflective of my current shape. I think possibly my coach knew that and figured if I just went out hard I’d still rack up a strong PB (and as it turns out, PBs in 3 other distances). When I think of it like that, I can only be pleased, many many positives to be taken from today. I’m particularly pleased how I (eventually) fought the demons during mile 11 and somewhat recovered to avoid a serious blow-up. To be so close to runners with 2:35 marathons under their belts has done my confidence the world of good. Though it’s a daunting prospect (and a potential 12 minute marathon PB), I’ve really got to be setting my sights on a similar target for Frankfurt. Overall a really great and enjoyable race (for the most part) and as a buddy mentioned afterwards, where would you find a half marathon where you have 10+ guys targeting 72/73 minutes and not even finishing in the top 10. The race has grown strength to strength through the years and I’ll most definitely be back again, it’s no doubt a PB course. I also think I picked up a team gold medal for the munster championships so another nice little bonus.

Summary: 13.1 miles in 1:13:29 @ 5:36 m/m (21st)

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Race Report: St.Lukes Home 5k

I picked this race out a few weeks earlier as a potential target. Nice flat course, good timing on a Thursday (instead of a tempo) and the thoughts of a sub 16 5k are always lingering, threatening and pestering. On the morning of the race, the coach told me not to kill myself, I’d run 23 miles on the Sunday and 19 Tuesday so despite a day off before it, the legs were always going to be somewhat tired. This kind of took some of the pressure off for me so I was just going to go out and give it a good hard effort with no expectations of a sub 16.

Got down to the marina after work, familiar stomping ground of my 20+ milers every Sunday. I registered before heading off with a buddy for a 20 minute warm up. We were running the route in reverse and the head wind was pretty severe, it wasn’t filling me with huge positivity and the body just felt very tired. Still I just reminded myself that this is not a goal race and good substitute for a session so on we trudged up to the start line with minutes to spare.

I looked around on the start and didn’t really spot any runners I knew had the capability of going sub 16, I was kind of hoping I could find someone to work with. Even more surprising when you consider first prize was a week holiday in Europe.

Mile 1 – 5:15

Feeling relatively comfortable in the first mile. This didn't last...
Feeling relatively comfortable in the first mile, didn’t last…

So eventually the race started as most races do. A large gaggle of greyhounds shot out as usual, probably 20+ ahead of me but within half a mile it was probably down to about 7 or 8. I was moving comfortably and slowly gaining ground on the group. We had to make a very sudden and quite dangerous turn onto the marina walkway but I was lucky there wasn’t too many people around me. Onto the familiar walkway and I looked ahead to see 4 maybe 5 ahead of me. It was around now I told myself I could win this if I played it right. As we ticked onto the first mile I was feeling good, didn’t even glance down at the watch as I didn’t want to even know about my time. To be fair the watch might as well have been in the car today because I didn’t look at it until I’d crossed the line and was more than happy to just run the race by effort, much more enjoyable than the last 5k in that sense.

Mile 2 – 5:22
I was probably sitting in 4th or 5th now but without increasing the effort I was gradually moving my way up the field as some of the eager runners were starting to tire. We headed quickly up and down the pedestrian bridge flyover which was the only real hill of note. Coming off the bridge I felt the pace naturally increasing and made my way into 2nd place. Ahead of me in 1st, maybe 10-15 yards was a M40 runner, Roy, didn’t know him at the time but a well established local runner who once won the Cork marathon in 2:30 under my own coach. I noticed how I was gaining on him slowly and my effort was still nice and steady. The wind was not on our side for this mile but I knew the final mile would be a lot quicker with the wind behind us. My plan was to stay patient, level with him by the end of this mile and then put in the effort to try take the win. We started to turn and I felt the wind now behind my back, much better. I drew level and matched his effort for a while before I decided it was time to go and try win this thing.

Mile 3 – 5:07 (+ 0:28 for 0.1 mile)
I had no idea what pace I was running or what sort of time I was on for but this was completely at the back of my mind. I focussed on the cyclist ahead as I pushed on and started opening up a gap on Roy. He wasn’t going anywhere quickly, I could hear the footsteps chasing me down, I needed to work harder. I was able to force it a little more though really starting to hurt now. I could see the corner ahead of me for what felt like miles, I knew once I rounded the corner I was only 400 meters from home so that was the target. Little did I know that Roy had been passed by a Polish guy and he was stealthy because I had no idea how close he was, I heard no footsteps now. I knew I was close now, I was praying for the finish but sustaining a good effort and was confident I had the win. I turned the corner for home and saw the finish gantry, I found another gear and pushed hard all the way to the finish. To my surprise the Polish guy was only 5 seconds behind me without me even knowing he was there so in that sense I’m lucky I kept the effort going until the finish. I checked my watch to see a 16:13 which I was actually delighted with considering this was more of a tactical effort. Official result was a 1 second PB which I think is good going in the heavy period of a marathon cycle.

Always nice to pick up a decent prize but I was happier with the effort and this has given me a good boost going into Charleville next week. In terms of actual effort, this didn’t feel as hard as the last 2 5k’s so I think the sub 16 is there for me soon, maybe not this year but I think with some focussed sessions I am almost there.

I joined a friend afterwards to do some of his marathon paced miles (6:40 m/m) so we ran the route again and the legs felt really good. Overall definitely merited the trip down to the marina and a free holiday in the bag, good evening!

Summary 3.1 miles in 16:12 @ 5:13 m/m

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Race Report – BHAA Garda 5k

So 3 weeks after my 16:18 PB in Ballincollig I’m ready to rock again and hoping to be knocking on the door of a sub 16, or even better, running though the door. The race is the Garda BHAA 5k down at the flatlands of the marina, one of the fastest 5k’s around Cork without doubt. I ran this last year in an extremely satisfying 16:27 and that was probably one of my best races of the year. I felt pretty confident going into this one, feeling nice and rested and going well in the training sessions. Got down with plenty of time to spare, quick registration and then a 20 min warmup with a clubmate though in hindsight I ran this a bit too quick. Bit of a delay at the start but around 8:10pm we got called to the line.

Mile 1 – 5:10

I was standing there on the line looking really cool and ready to rock, then I looked down in horror to see my left shoe lace was only tied once and quite shoddily, a disaster waiting to happen. I had no option but to take the risk and so I bent down to tie it, seconds to go before the gun. 3 sturdy loops later my head was back at it’s usual height and we were ready to go, phew! Off we went and I settled right in with a group, one of which was my nemesis in green (MH) from the last 5k who edged me just before the line. 1st and 2nd placed runners were already creating a sizeable gap and then there was a group of 3, myself, MH and TK. TK is a very tall local track runner who has now turned to the roads and also happens to hold the M45 national 800m record, fantastic athlete. I knew I was in with a strong group so the plan was to stick with them and let the time sort itself out. There was a reasonable headwind for the first 800m but nothing drastic, we turned and then had a nice stretch with the wind behind us and I was feeling ok for the first mile clocking 5:10. I glanced down and knew I was on track for the sub 16, let’s keep truckin’.

Mile 2 – 5:19

I guess it’s obvious that I lost seconds here. I was just focussing on sticking with the group but was really starting to feel the effort levels rising. We passed the starting line again and into the headwind for the second loop. I was at the back of the group with MH leading I was getting some good protection from the wind behind TK though it wasn’t intentional to be sitting, I was really struggling to keep up. We hit the 2 mile mark just before the turn and I saw the 5:19 flash up. I kind of knew there and then the sub 16 wasn’t on today as it would require a sub 5 minute mile to pull it back – not happening. I’m thinking I would have been much better not knowing the splits as the head was too focussed on time today.

Mile 3: 5:14

We turned yet again onto the final stretch and I’m working extremely hard, bellowing. I’m also wondering once again what the hell I am doing out here putting my body through such hardship – completely irrational in hindsight, I love it. I look at TK and though he was probably feeling it, he looked like he was moving effortlessly. Another runner joined the group from nowhere and I was in awe of how easily he powered his way past the group to the front, in the last mile! TK and himself stuck close, I drop just behind them by a few meters and MH is struggling to keep with the group. The last mile was just a case of pure perseverance, I want to curl up in a ball on the grass and rock gently. I knew my coach was waiting just before the line so that motivated me to keep working hard and to be fair I did keep the last mile quite consistent though it really felt as if I was slowing. TK as expected with his track pedigree, motored away from the new guy who was now a couple of seconds a head of me and had enough of a gap to hold his position. Finally the finishing straight came into view, I glanced at the finishing gantry clock and I see 15:3x with still 0.1 of a mile to go. I know the sub 16 is definitely not on so I just give it all I’ve got in the hope of a PB. I crossed in a heap clocking 16:13 in 5th place and a 5 second PB. Initially disappointed but in hindsight it’s progression and a PB is a PB regardless of by how much.

Enjoying the race immensely
Enjoying the race immensely

As mentioned earlier, a sub 16 5k is not easy and maybe it was a bit unreasonable to expect to go from 16:18 to sub 16 in 3 weeks. I think it’s going to be a case of scraping the seconds off gradually and targeting sessions to recreate those conditions. Today I focussed too much on the time unlike the previous 5k where I purely raced it. The time will come, that I’m sure of but maybe a little less obsession with the clock and more focus on the race is needed. If I compare my last 2 races, though both extremely hard, it was the Ballincollig one still felt tougher in terms of effort and that was the one where I had no preconceived time going into the race. As arbitrary as it is, 16 minutes is just another barrier we runners create but it’s one I desperately want to achieve and in a sense it’s a great motivator because I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get there.

Overall, I can’t complain and I’m happy with the progression recently. it’s probably an accurate reflection of where I’m at currently and all things considered I’m in a pretty good place and thankful to be healthy and running well. Now back to work on the track!

Summary: 5k in 16:13 @ 5:13 min/mile (5th overall)

Full Results

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Race Report: BHAA VMware 5k

This one fitted the schedule pretty well, I’m trying to run races on days I would normally run a session so they’re not impacting a typical weeks training too much. I know how much I improved last summer when focussing on shorter stuff and a big factor was regular racing.

Having chatted to a few club members who ran this same course recently, I knew it wasn’t super fast and there were a few pulls but again I was more interested in a good race and not so much the time. I have my eye on some 5k’s later in the summer where I’d hope to be setting PBs, the times will come naturally as long as I continue improving and racing.

Beautiful evening in Cork so with an 8pm throw in, I arrived to Ballincollig just after 7pm, picked up a number and met a few friends and warmed up around the GAA pitches. This was a BHAA race and a healthy crowd of about 380 turned up for this one. The start was pretty congested so I lined up at the front as we prepared to tackle a 500m climb staring at us.

Mile 1 – 5:12
The corporate lady from VMWare made the hooter hoot so off we went, elbows everywhere. I got out well just behind a group of navy lads (wearing navy singlets and they’re actually in the navy, what are the chances). About 100 meters in I heard what sounded like a set of Ford Focus car keys hitting the ground. SHI!T!!! Those were my car keys!! I only have one set, should I stop? What about the race? But I only have one set. Oh I’m gone too far now somebody will pick them up. But what if..this sequence ran through my head for essentially the rest of the race and to be fair did help take my mind off the 500m climb which I didn’t realise was over until I could barely breath at the top of it. The good news was though that I was sitting in 2nd and just ahead of me was a Leevale clubmate and navy representative, I wouldn’t mess with him. I’m not far behind him in training so I figured I’ll be doing well to keep close. We now had a bit of respite as we hit a downhill and I was gradually overtaken here by 2 guys, black and green singlet. I was now sitting in 4th and going at a decent clip hitting the first mile in 5:12. Had a glance at the watch and while that was pretty satisfactory, I wasn’t feeling good at all though, that first hill had hit me hard. A mile in and I felt like stopping – HTFU man!

Mile 2 – 5:31
Tipping along with the lads now extending a bit of a gap on me and I had a lot of company right behind me, maybe 5-6 runners. We turned back towards the village and this is where the climb begins. I’m still feeling like hell and actually wondering would it be ok to drop out now, I’ve done enough haven’t I? Ridiculous. I was working very hard up the drag and got overtaken by white singlet but I stayed very close not wanting him to get away. We were running along the main road in the bike lane and a green car was moving very slowly alongside me. I glanced in passenger window and saw some regular people just sitting there, it looked good. I wished I was just sitting. Why am I doing this to myself? We finally hit the 2nd mile mark and I am seriously struggling. Glanced at the watch to see 5:31 and I couldn’t have cared less I just wanted that finish line so badly.

Mile 3 – 5:06
If somebody had told me right there I was about to run a 5:06 mile I would have actually given them a large sum of money and betted against myself. Another nice little downhill after all that climbing and I momentarily gathered myself before another brief climb but this time I found myself powering past white singlet but my breathing was so heavy and extremely audible. With about half a mile to go white singlet was still stuck to me and a few other footsteps were audible just behind him. 1st and 2nd runners had a fair gap on me now but I was actually slowly reeling in green singlet in 3rd who had previously a pretty sizeable gap on me. I wasn’t sure how this was possible as I felt if anything I was slowing but we weren’t far from home now lets just keep motoring. Another small climb arrived and with white still very close I figured this was my chance to drop him. I mustered a bit of energy from somewhere and powered up the drag. It was working, I was getting away and while my primary focus was the finish line, I really wanted to hang onto my spot. We got to the top of the 500m hill that we climbed at the start and it was all downhill from here.

Green singlet (not his real name) and I battle it out on the final straight
Green singlet (not his real name) and I battle it out on the final straight

I found myself within touching distance of green singlet and without really thinking about it I passed him just starting the decent. He stuck to me like a pancake (stuck on a non-stick pan) and I was working the hardest I have ever had in a race. I knew the line wasn’t far and it could not come sooner, I had dribble all over my face and I must have sounded like an escaped animal with my grunts. Green singlet had other ideas and wanted his place back, I was on the verge of blowing and to be fair to him he fought hard and edged me with about 200m before the line. I had given everything possible and I couldn’t respond. Very frustrating but that was short lived because when I looked at the clock ticking onto 16:10 I couldn’t believe my eyes. Holy crap, really?? Is this right? I’m actually on for a PB here. The pain, it was all worth it. I crossed the line a pathetic mess in 16:18 and I was absolutely FÚCKED. I actually wobbled and got very dizzy, I tried my best to congratulate the lads around me but all I wanted was to lie down. Which I did. What a relief.

Summary: 5k in 16:18 @ 5:16 min/mile

5k Pain.
5k Pain.

Hands down toughest race of my life. This was seriously a new level of pain I have never experienced in a race before, more confined to my cardiovascular system than my legs even though they were in complete overdrive too. In hindsight I’m glad it happened because it feels like I pushed through a new barrier that will stand to me in the future. I picked up a small voucher for my efforts and enjoyed a nice cooldown in the solitude of the Ballincollig regional park drowned in the evening sun, that was so enjoyable. Bumped into our own ViperLogic afterwards too so was nice to finally put face to username, lovely fellow, ran a great race himself and picked up a team prize. As always flawless organisation by the Cork BHAA, how can you go wrong for €5!

I couldn’t be happier that result, a PB was a complete surprise and I didn’t expect to be taking 30 seconds off my last 5k in such a short time on probably a harder course. I’m happy with how I battled the urge to stop and I know what I’m capable of now. It’s becoming more evident to me now how important the mental side of racing is and it can only be tuned by actual racing, you can’t learn this in session. I’m feeling good about running a sub 16 5k this summer and I think this episode has done me the world of good, I really believe it’s there for me now as long as I stay injury free and put in the sessions.

Major omission. I got my car keys back, a very kind steward had picked them up and returned to me after the race. #relief

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Race Report: Strawberry 5 Mile 2015

Early rise for the long drive from Cork to Enniscorthy, mixing a race in with a visit to the folks. 2 birds one stone. I arrived with plenty of time on a calm sunny morning, perfect conditions. The half marathon had just headed off so I got a 2 mile jog in and was feeling relatively good. Lined up in the field of about 200 runners and it was time to go.

Pre race expectations? A PB was a given with my only other 5 mile a 29:46 back in 2013. I knew the standard wouldn’t be terribly high so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hopeful of a win and a top 3 at the very least. Time wasn’t a factor today, I know the course is hilly with some long drags so this would be all about getting a good result and more racing experience.

Mile 1
Bang. Off we go. SC runner charged to the front and I sat in just behind. Was feeling pretty good and eased myself into 1st position and pushed on a bit to see who would come. Midway through the first mile it was just myself and another local runner (NS) didn’t know who he was at the time. I was still out front and comfortable enough though the first mile was pretty flat. Passed the mile marker and glanced at the watch, around 5:22 if I recall.

Mile 2
Now the fun begins and by fun I mean not fun. After the first mile marker we were faced with a sharp incline then turned right onto a long drag which went on for the guts of the next mile. I was feeling ok, NS was still right on my shoulder and breathing comfortably. I knew this was going to be a close one. I also knew at this stage who he was as I heard a spectator call his name, quality runner and last years winner. I was quite happy to have someone actually, it was going to be a proper race, exactly what I wanted. Passed the 2 mile marker but the watch didn’t beep for ages after it and 5:5x popped up. Ah jesus just forget about the time and race Conor!! To be fair I didn’t check the watch for the remainder of the race after that, I’m getting better

Mile 3
The drag levelled off and I found myself feeling very comfortable and wondering if it was at all possible to drop this fella. I surged every now and then to test him but he kept coming with me and I had a feeling he was waiting for his moment though slightly annoying that he was sitting on my shoulder. Going pretty steady now and I was feeling confident. We turned left after the lead car and headed for home but not before tackling another drag leading into mile 4.

Mile 4
The legs were starting to scream a little here and pace again was pulled right back as we tackled the tough drag. Suddenly and unexpectedly, NS made a move which ended up being decisive. I didn’t even think twice, I had to go with him but was really struggling. We were barely into the 4th mile and I knew I couldn’t sustain this effort. I was breathing very heavily and had to back off but maybe I could have been tougher here. He had a gap now but I had still upped the effort and was holding it. Around halfway through the mile I realised why he had just done what he did. A massive downhill section for the remainder of the mile which was super fast and very much welcomed, I just let the legs do the work but NS had a big gap on me now and I knew I had a lot of work to do. It gave me some time to recover from the surge but I was almost resigned to 2nd place. I didn’t throw in towel though and I wanted to put in a strong finish.

Mile 5
Must have been running around 5:20 pace by now, working extremely hard to close the gap but he had too much on me at this stage. On our way back through the town and now aching for that finish line. I was happy with my effort today in that I didn’t just accept 2nd and I fought right until the end. The gap wasn’t getting any bigger but I have to hand it to NS as he timed that move to perfection and executed it brilliantly. I don’t mind losing to someone who was just simply better and I can learn a lot from runners like that, someone who know how to race. Finally got to the line 27 seconds behind the winner and that mile just flew by but I was fit to drop. I was pretty happy to see 27:4x on the clock, a satisfactory time given the course profile and another good result on my 2nd race back.

First mile with Niall Sheil right behind me.

Summary: 5 miles in  27:43 @ 5:36 min/mile

Full Results

Overall another step in the right direction but lacking that extra gear right now. I know it’ll come so patience required, and training, lots of training!

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Race Report: Kilcredan 5k

Preface: If you’re looking for a Rotterdam 2015 race report, I’m sorry but it didn’t happen. It’s a long story that doesn’t require too much detail but in short I missed it because I developed a very VERY painful pilonidal cyst days before the race so I had to fly home and get immediate surgery. No running for about 3 weeks followed by a slow but steady return to fitness. This was my first race back.

Let’s continue…

I know I’m far from ideal race shape having essentially ran easy for 4 weeks since coming back but with an eye on the Strawberry 5 miler in 2 weeks I was keen to get a race under the belt to to get that feeling into the body again. I really didn’t expect a win but to be honest the standard was poor and I expected some of the top East Cork lads to turn up. That said, to get the win and run better than I anticipated felt great, it’s done wonders for my motivation. I’m confident when I hit the track again and with some hard work I can get the 5k under 16 mins by the end of the summer.

Pre race
About a 50 min drive to Ballymacoda, a lovely village in east Cork where the whole community was out and there was a great atmosphere in the air on this sunny and slightly breezy Friday evening. I was feeling very tired and sluggish and was worried the 30 min jog earlier and week abroad would catch up with me. Registered and then jogged around the GAA pitches for 15 mins where effort was really forced. Still I didn’t worry too much, just relaxed and kept telling myself there’s no pressure, it’s just a race to see where I’m at and to try see it as a hard session. Race was scheduled to start at 8pm so got down to the line with a few minutes to spare, big crowd with over 300 ready to go. I didn’t spot any of the top Cork runners so I started to think I maybe have a chance to pick up a prize today if I run a decent race. The loose plan was to hold 5:30’s and get in under 17 mins. I lined up near the front on a narrow country road and tried to relax before the gun went.

Mile 1 – 5:20
Whoah, this was a shock to the system. About 8-10 runners flew ahead of me and the pace really caught me by surprise. Immediate thoughts of not being able to sustain this pace hit me, which is ridiculous after 30 seconds but that’s why I wanted to race, to harden up the mind a little. Soon I settled in and started to make ground on the group, checked the watch and satisfied to see 5:20 pace. I found myself in 4th around half way through the first mile and really starting to relax into it. The lead van had a guy commentating which was hilarious and really entertained me throughout the race. I wasn’t wearing my singlet so never got a mention for the first while. I was keeping a steady pace but the 2nd and 3rd runners were slowing already and I naturally eased past them and caught right up to the 1st runner from Youghal. Suddenly my mindset switches and I’m all about winning this race, time didn’t matter and I didn’t look at the watch for the remainder of the race from this point. I took the lead just before the first mile and Youghal sticks to my shoulder. The van calls 5:12 for the first mile, but my watch doesn’t beep until 5:20, hmm. I’ll take the 5:12!

Mile 2 – 5:29
Really feeling in control here and running pretty smoothly but Yougal is still sticking right on my shoulder. Mile 2 was tough, we hit a difficult climb just before half way and then turned into a pretty tough headwind. I started to gain a few yards here but effort was increasing. The guy in the van eventually got my name and club here and then went on to repeat it for the remainder of the race, it was pretty cool to be honest. Hit 2 miles in 10:50 and as he shouted the split I knew I had slowed slightly but still the focus was dropping Youghal and by the end of the mile I had started opening a gap on him.

Mile 3 – 5:20
As always the hurt really starts in mile 3. We turned into the finish straight and some respite from the wind. I was breathing heavy but still holding a decent pace and the determination to see this out and hold onto 1st was strong. The guy in the van was keeping me updated I was still opening the gap, about 150 meters now. Around halfway through, I could see the GAA clubhouse come into view. I knew I had the win, had no idea of my time and I was clinging on but I wasn’t going to relax and wanted a strong finish. The last mile seemed to fly by, bit of a climb coming into the finish but the whole village was out cheering and really brought a smile (internally). I crossed in 16:48 and pretty satisfied with that time everything considered. Thoroughly satisfying and well worth the trip out though that sort of time shouldn’t really merit a win especially when you consider the last 2 winners were 15:09 and 15:21. There’s a lot of work to be done but I’m ready for it.

Great to be back racing. Look how happy I am.

Summary: 5k in 16:48 @ 5:22 min/mile

I headed around the course again for a cooldown jog with a couple of friends. Much nicer this time around. The presentation didn’t happen until 9:30pm and again kind of cringy the fact I got a huge plaque with the previous winning times on it. Makes me want to come back next year and post a cracking time to defend it. Great event overall for 8 euro, love these small community affairs where everyone pulls together to help out, super spread afterwards. It’s a decent course but there is quicker around, still as I said I’ll definitely be back and that’s a better than expected return to racing.

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Race Report: Mallow 10 mile

56:02 (chip) and 11th overall

Full Results

So finally I made it to the start line of a race, my first of 2015 and it had been too long since I felt race pain, i.e pain exclusive to racing. Though I would have hoped for a quicker time, I’m very happy with the effort and the overall position (up from 33rd last year), all signs I’m moving in the right direction and the training is paying off. All I really wanted out of this was a PB and an indication I’m on track for Rotterdam, that was achieved so a good day at the office.

A stunner of a Sunday morning in Cork, blue skies, the sun in top form and it was already quite warm by 12pm but a stiff breeze ensured we’d be kept cool (though that wind actually ended up being a bit of a pest). I parked up the car close to race HQ and got a 2 mile warmup done around the town with some club mates, it really was starting to feel warm. I headed down to the starting gantry close to 12:30pm. I was pretty nervous standing around at the start line but was expecting that, I hadn’t raced in over 4 months. I chatted with some club mates and decided to work together with one lad as we were aiming for similar targets. There were also 2 clubmates that I knew would be slightly quicker but that we should be keeping them in view.

Mile 1 – 5:37
I lined up a row back, took a deep breadth (well many) and bang we’re off. Felt pretty comfortable for the first quarter mile as it was all downhill. The new course change meant we were hit with a pretty tough climb for remainder of the mile but I had packed in a group of about 8-10 including the 3 clubmates and I just focussed on staying with the pack. Worryingly the legs started aching already.

Mile 2 – 5:39
With a tough breeze in our faces, I was still feeing the effort and already starting to think I had underestimated this race. I allowed a lot of negative thoughts enter and it was way too early for that. The legs were still feeling tired but I knew some respite wasn’t far as miles 3-4 are downhill. The drag continued up until the end of this mile but I just focussed on staying with the lads and soon we made the turn onto the main road.

Mile 3 – 5:28
It felt as if a mini weight had been lifted here and the group seemed to quickly spread out as a few injected a serious turn of pace. I stuck with clubmate AS as planned and the 2 other clubmates started gaining a few meters on us, as expected. I was suddenly running 5:20ish pace and feeling the energy levels pick up a little. Most of the initial group had fallen off behind us and it was myself, AS and another female clubmate MF who had caught up and worked in with us (she went on to win)

Mile 4 – 5:25
Still working well here and felt I was making up good time from the initial slow start. I was never really comfortable however and it still felt like a big ask as I thought of how long was still left. There was definitely some race sharpness missing today and the head was all over the place at times. We started a bit of a climb at the end of the mile as we approached the end of the main road but this ended up being the quickest mile of the day.

Mile 5 – 5:36
AS had gained about 10-15 meters on me here, I felt he was pushing the pace a bit much so I didn’t go with him so it was myself and MF working together along this stretch. She dropped off the pace coming to the 5 mile mark and I was working ok here and ended up eventually catching up with AS. I hit halfway in 27:47 and I remembered the exact same moment last year wondering if I could do it again. Back then I was feeling great at halfway and confident I could do it again, this time I wasn’t so sure at all. I was really feeling the burn, I knew it wouldn’t be easy but I wasn’t giving in.

Mile 6 – 5:38
Myself and AS were back side by side, the field spread out ahead of us and the 2 other clubmates had gained a fair bit of ground on us now. It felt as if I was just enduring these couple of miles mid-race, almost zoning out and the pace showed it as it started to slow up a little. I was glad to have AS working with me here as every now and then one would tire and we’d inject a little pace and drag each other along.

Mile 7 – 5:42
Starting to work very hard here and the wind wasn’t helping us one bit. Though not a word was spoken, we got into a routine of taking turns in the wind, switching every few minutes and this made these middle miles at least somewhat manageable. I really felt every drag here but with every step I was getting closer to the finish line so I knew I just had to hang in there, the pain is temporary. I had to remind myself a lot that this is why I train.

Mile 8 – 5:46
Miles 6-8 was the most difficult patch of the day and indeed this was the slowest mile of the day with the drags really taking a lot out of us, can’t say I recall much of it. I gave myself a mental milestone of 8 miles though and the last 2 always seem suddenly very manageable when you get there.

Mile 9 – 5:35
So we hit mile 8 and just 2 left. I hadn’t been watching the splits but I knew we had been slowing throughout the 2nd half, I wanted a strong finish. I actually started feeling good here for once today, I’m not sure what triggered it but better late than never. I picked up the pace a bit and started gaining a few meters on AS. I had noticed us gaining on a lone runner up ahead for a while and we finally caught him early in this mile. It was fellow club runner who had gone out a bit quick and was fading. Passing someone you know is never enjoyable but passing anyone regardless always gives you a little lift. I was feeling good and confident I’d hold this until the finish so on I motored.

Mile 10 – 5:30
I now had a bit of a lead on AS and as the watch ticked onto 9 miles I had a glance, 50:30 was the time it read and a quick calculation told me I had to run a 5:30 or quicker to dip under 56. I passed another fading runner here who I remembered from the early miles and had a considerable gap on us. Another boost for me but I was seriously putting everything into it now. Quick glance at the watch and half a mile to go, I was actually gaining on the 2 lads ahead of me a Barrs runner and another clubmate. I was breathing so heavy, audible grunts emanating but I was almost there, hanging by a thread. I knew AS wasn’t far behind, I could hear the footsteps but I wasn’t giving up this position. The finish finally came into view, I saw the watch ticking and knew it was going to be a close one to dip under 56. I gave it my all over the last few meters and made a dash for it but alas it wasn’t to be today. 56:01 it read as I looked down. I wasn’t disappointed, I knew I had given it my everything today and it was more relief to be over the line having knocked almost a minute off my PB. AS came in about 8 seconds behind me and I was straight over to show my appreciation for his effort in making it easier for both of us.

Overall, yeah I would have hoped to be quicker but that’s the time I ran and I don’t think I could have done much more. Always take the positives and that’s what I’m doing. Nabbed a PB, raced it well, almost top 10 and finished strong. Considering I’m coming off the back of some high milage marathon training I reckon I’m in a pretty good place and it’s given me a lot of belief for the upcoming marathon.

Suddenly the 54:30 target I set for 10 miles seems like a long way off but I’ll definitely be revisiting the distance again this year and we’ll see how close I can get.

I managed to fit 19.5 miles into the day with the warmup/cooldown and then I met some Rotterdam clubmates in the evening for a very leisurely 5+ miles.

Summary: 10 miles in 56:02 @ 5:36 min/mile


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New Year, Same me

So the calendar has flipped from 2014 to 2015 and what’s changed? Well not a lot really. My goals are still the same, my hunger to succeed as high as always and I still have that scar on my chin. Ok, maybe I had a few too many quality street but that can be remedied. As the Rotterdam marathon (April) menacingly creeps onto my radar, the focus now switches from building a solid base over the last 2 months to upping the intensity and working back in the club sessions. I feel very strong now having gradually built back up the milage since the Dublin marathon using a Lydiard styled structure. I’m up to about 75 miles a week now having racked up plenty of aerobic based running performed at various paces. The general weekly structure was 3 easy/recovery days, 1 moderate effort, 2 long runs and a hard tempo effort to prevent (or at least reduce) the loss of speed.

There’s a huge wealth of talent from Leevale making the trip to Rotterdam, the majority already sub 2:40 runners making me one of the slowest. I think this is a great thing from my perspective. Training with athletes faster than you is a big advantage. Even if you can’t keep up in sessions, you can see them ahead of you, they’re there and that’s the level you need to get to. My target is simply to crack 2:40 so by surrounding myself with these guys and training with them I’m giving myself the best opportunity to do so. When you think about it, applied to any scenario, when you work with a group of positive, likeminded individuals who support each other and have a single common goal, you generally increase your chances of success…generally.

And finally, a copy and paste job from my boards.ie training log where I recently posted a summary of my 2014 year.

2014 – Year in Review

Well, what a year. To say I exceeded expectations is an understatement. I had put my running on hold for most of 2013 to go travelling but I came back with my hunger intact and without really thinking I jumped right into a marathon plan which set the ball rolling for 2014. Here’s my summary…

January saw me just gradually build milage back up and I surprisingly adapted quite quickly. I ran a 5k to see where I was at, 18:44 at the Westport parkrun (and my only win to date). I’d obviously lost some sharpness as expected but it was a starting point. I was working off a custom plan from my Donore coach which was fairly gruelling in hindsight given my lack of fitness. A couple of niggles here and there but I managed the miles quite well and up to 18 miles long run by the end of the month.

February saw no racing but just consistent training with a couple of 20+ milers and clocking about 65 miles a week and getting stronger week by week. Going a little insane living at home with the parents so the job hunt intensifies.

March saw me move to Cork to live and work. It also saw me run my first proper race of the year and I was delighted with a 1:21:40 in the Bohermeen 1/2 which was a 3 minute PB and I felt the training was really working. Ran my highest volume week ever (80 miles) and followed that with probably my favourite race of the year at the Mallow 10. My first 10 miler and not sure what to aim for but completely surprised myself and my coach with a 58:43, a huge improvement on the 1/2 marathon and feeling in great shape for the marathon.

April arrives and it’s marathon time. I picked up an achilles injury in late March which mean the taper weeks saw no sessions and only easy running. Still I went into the race confident but it all went wrong on the day and I limped home in 2:59:09, a long way off the sub 2:50 target. I made a few mistakes during the race in terms of strategy and hydration but looking back it was a poor decision to train for a marathon so soon without any sort of aerobic base to work off. I raced a good 10 miler but the endurance was simply not there for a marathon. Positives were still taken, good training bagged, injury free, pride intact and lessons learned. Decided to join local club Leevale having had a chat with the coach and ran my first session with them 2 weeks after the marathon.

In May I trained well with the club for a few weeks before running my first 4 miler in Fota Island coming home 8th in 22:40 and confidence coming back. Milage was low enough but speed was the focus as I targeted a 5k PB over the summer months. I ran a 5k in the last week of May to see where I was at. 16:54 was the result and overwhelmed with the improvement in such a short time. I now knew joining the club was a very important decision.

I continued the good form in June running 1:18:40 in the Cork 1/2 Marathon on the 2nd. I had full confidence in the coach, was flying in sessions and I seemed to thrive on the energy from other runners around the club, there’s an incredible breadth of talent and the motivation to improve was high. 2 more 5k’s followed, a 17:02 in blistering heat (6th place) followed by a 16:44 good enough for 3rd place. Weekly milage up to 65 but still the focus was mainly on speed and getting that 5k time down.

July would see me start the transition to marathon training as DCM in October crept onto my radar. Still plenty of time for racing and I ran my final and best 5k of the year, an extremely satisfying 16:27 and I was happy to part with that particular distance for the remainder of the year. Next it was off to Killarney where I came 2nd in the 1/2 marathon in 1:16:17, another very enjoyable race and a big confidence booster before jumping into some marathon specific sessions while upping the milage.

I look back over the year and see August and September as my strongest months. I started working up to 35 mins tempo efforts on the track, coupled with 2 long runs and a hard Saturday session. Milage was up to around 80 and the month culminated with a good run at the Frank Duffy 10 miler clocking 56:57.

September was my highest month in terms of volume and probably the performance of the year too with the Charleville half marathon running another PB of 1:15:40, a long way from the 1:21 I ran back in March. I spent the first week warm weather training in Portugal and maybe the best session of the year, a 10/9/8/7/6 min track effort in heat, on my own. Highest milage week of the year too clocking an 89, bloody hell wasn’t September just wonderful.

I started October in great spirit but picked up an achilles injury 3 weeks out (only dawned on my now,very same as Rotterdam hmm) so I missed a couple of days and then spent a week running no sessions. This didn’t dramatically affect me, I recovered and ran the county intermediates XC race coming 8th and winning the team gold a week before the main event. I went into the Dublin marathon feeling confident and capable of running in the low 2:40’s. The race went very well, despite extremely windy and humid weather conditions out of my control, I came home in 2:46:59 and 66th overall and I reckon worth a couple of minutes quicker in better conditions. Very satisfying outcome to a brilliant training block and really at that stage I had achieved everything I wanted for the year.

November was all about recovery. I gradually built back up the miles and restricted myself to 1 tempo session a week but getting good volume in. The focus is now on Rotterdam in April 2015 and building a solid foundation for that over the next 10-12 weeks is the plan.

I ran my last race of the year in early December, my 5th half marathon of the year in Waterford. I was well recovered from Dublin but didn’t PB, I ran a 1:16:40 which was ok but mentally I didn’t really believe I would PB. I continued the rest of December working up the milage again focussing on a good aerobic base for when I hit the marathon specific sessions in early 2015. Solid month and finished the year feeling strong and hungry, no starving for more improvements in 2015.

What went well?
– PB’s all over the shop
– Only 6 days out due to injury
– Consistency, and more consistency
– Joined a great club with a great coach
– Enjoying my running more than ever
– Nutrition was overhauled, fuelling smartly after sessions

What can be improved?
– More variety of races, no 5 milers, 10ks or track of any sort
– Core/Strength work wasn’t consistent enough though I’m back to 3 times a week for Nov/Dec
– Less sitting with the pack in sessions, don’t be afraid to take it on
– Be less concerned with stats, run more without the watch and focus on feel
– Stop making milage a distinctive metric of my progress. Recovery weeks and backing off is ok.

Racing Summary


Goals for 2015

5k: 15:45
10k: 32:30
5m: 26:00
10m: 54:30
1/2: 72:30
Marathon: 2:35:00

They’re lofty no doubt about it but goals shouldn’t be easy. Looking at last year, I had most of my goals achieved before 6 months so while I want to keep them somewhat realistic, I want them to be well outside my current abilities. This way I will have to work even harder to achieve them and I really have to believe I can.

Ok that’s a good short and concise summary, we’ll leave it there.

Farewell 2014, you’ve been great. Now 2015, let me have it!

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Race Report: Waterford Half Marathon

I saw this race and impulsively entered a few months ago. At 25 euro a pop, a great reputation and a free hat, how could I resist. Jenny also signed up, it being her first half marathon so we decided to make a weekend of it staying the the nearby Viking hotel.

I figured I’d be well recovered from the marathon by this stage (5 weeks) and to be honest I feel I pretty much am recovered with just slight tiredness lingering. I’ve done just a total of 3 tempo sessions since the marathon with the rest being milage, milage and more milage. The plan for me is to focus on building a strong aerobic base until February before tackling marathon training again. I came into this race not really knowing what to expect but prepared for all eventualities. I’m already pleased with my performance this year and target have been exceeded so there was no huge pressure on me for this one, mainly out to enjoy it but if I was feeling good I was prepared to work hard and try nab a PB.

I got a 2 mile warmup done on what was a pretty decent morning for a race, there was a drop of rain just before the start but stayed dry throughout. We got to the start line at WIT sports campus just minutes before the start so no hanging around in the cold. I took my place a couple of rows behind the start with some Leevale club mates. After some formalities and a speech by the mayor, none of which registered with me, the gun went and off we shot. It was a quick start down hill and my plan to start conservatively was immediately out the window though I did settle into a more sensible pace once we levelled out. The trio of club mates had packed and I considered going with them but opted not to and just run my own race.

Miles 1-3

I was running well within myself for the first mile and it felt very comfortable with a 5:50 popping up but a little misleading with the quick downhill start. Then the 2nd mile came, horrible uphill drag and suddenly I was working harder so I backed off the pace a little, the aim being to worry less about the pace today and keep effort consistent. I gradually worked in with a group and once over the hill we upped the pace and hit mile 3 feeling very comfortable.

Mile 1: 5:50
Mile 2: 6:09
Mile 3: 5:39

Miles 4-6

We headed into an industrial estate, spectacular scenery, there were factories of all sizes. There was another drag here and combined with the headwind, pace again dropped but kept effort consistent. I started breaking away from the group here, not a conscious decision as it really didn’t bother me if I was in a group or not today. Once out of the industrial estate it was into the countryside and this was a nice patch as I relaxed and just let my legs dictate a comfortable pace. I definitely felt I wasn’t working as hard as I could have been, compared to say Charleville a couple of month. To be honest there was no drive to really push hard, probably because at this stage I knew a PB wasn’t on the cards, I was still working and wanted a decent time but was just trying to enjoy it more than anything.

Mile 4: 6:00
Mile 5: 5:47
Mile 6: 5:41

Miles 7-9

My splits were already quite erratic but that reflects the mildly undulating course. This being my first time doing the race, I had no idea what to expect around every corner which in a way was good as I working on effort levels rather than pace. Mile 7 wasn’t very enjoyable, another drag and my legs were tiring a little so I backed off but then for mile 8 and 9 I felt an injection of pace and picked it right up again. The slow mile 7 had allowed the previous group reattach before we broke up into a smaller group again and I worked in step with a couple of Waterford AC runners. The back roads were pretty tough on the calf muscles and I found myself weaving around the country roads avoiding the potholes and trying to find decent terrain. Coming up to 9 miles I was still feeling ok and felt confident enough to see it home at the current effort.

Mile 7: 6:07
Mile 8: 5:45
Mile 9: 5:50

Miles 10-13.1

Mile 10 was pretty comfy and I was thinking great I’ll just ease it home for the next 3. Then for mile 11 we turned into a headwind and a drag and I was knocked back a little. A group caught me again which is strange as I’m not used to moving between groups so much, usually if I leave a group I’m determined to stay abreast of them but today I was ok with it, knowing I’d be able to pick it up again. I did pick it up again on mile 12 and I pulled away keeping a good steady effort all the way to the end and really enjoying the last downhill mile clocking a 5:36. The Waterford AC lads had gone well ahead of me but I didn’t put on a chase. I crossed the line 22nd in 1:16:46 feeing pretty satisfied with the effort knowing I could have offered a little more.

Mile 10: 5:50
Mile 11: 6:01
Mile 12: 5:52
Mile 13: 5:36

Summary: 13.1 miles in 1:16:46 @ 5:51 min/mile

10850584_10205445980378855_69257535_nThere’s somehow still an air of disappointment in that I held out a little hope of a PB but given the year I’ve had I can’t complain too much. I’m finishing the year with a 75:40 PB for the half, a time I would have grabbed with both hands last January. I think it’s been my best distance this year and having raced 5 of them in 2014 it’s quickly becoming one of my favourite, can’t wait to see what I can do with it next year.

Oh and Jenny finished her first half in a very respectable 1:42, apparently loving every step of the way, even the drags. Sandbagger.

So that’s likely it in terms of racing for the year and until February as I continue to build a solid foundation for Rotterdam in April (this is going to turn into one boring training log). A great race overall, enjoyable (for the most part, drags made me a little sad) and extremely well organised, super spread and met some friendly faces, love the hat too.

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