Man imposes his own limitations, don't set any

Race Report: Frank Duffy 10 Mile

So off I headed up to capital city on Friday evening, hadn’t run a step since Thursday evening and was feeling well rested come Saturday morning. A perfect morning for the race, blue skies, sun was beaming yet temperature felt ideal. I was staying in a friends just outside the park so after my ritual coffee, off I set at 9:30am and started jogging up Chesterfield avenue. I felt really light on my feet and full of energy, could have been the fact I was wearing racers but I just felt very good and confident I’d run a good race today, honestly I think the little rest played a big part in attitude.

The target was most definitely a PB, a generous chunk too I was hoping. The existing PB of 58:46 was ran down in Mallow in March earlier this year. I knew I’d come on a lot since then and having unofficially broken that PB during my last half marathon I knew if I ran to my ability that a PB was a formality, it was just a matter of how much. In terms of a time, a great result would be 56:30 but anywhere between that and 57 I’d be happy with. 5:40 pace was the target and based on my recent training I felt pretty confident of being able to hold that. I really don’t like to go out with a target pace in mind, it sort of suggests that once I’m hitting that pace I stay there and hold on to it without pushing anymore. I decided to allow myself to run more by feel today, to allow times where the pace would be slower and if I felt good I’d push on without running to a self imposed limit, seemed like a fair deal.

I got up to the start line having run a nice 2 mile warmup and feeling nice and relaxed. I met a few Donore lads at the start line for a chat and suddenly it was almost time to go. I was a good bit back, too far probably for what I was targeting but I saw no point panicking and trying to get up further, starting conservatively and working my way up the field has always worked well for me.

The congested start

The congested start

Miles 1-2

Off went the hooter and it was a good 10 seconds before I would pass the start line. I didn’t hang around just patiently made my way through the droves of runners, as usual there was a good lot of folk who shouldn’t have be starting up so far but fully expect it in the big races. I finally started getting a bit of room about half a mile in and was still so far back but continuing to pass a lot of people. Surprised to see a 5:38 pop up for the first mile, was feeling nice and relaxed and felt I could keep this effort going. We turned onto Lords walk and the field starting to settle as the initial excitement plateaued, now it felt more like the start of the race. I just focussed on feeling relaxed and keeping the effort consistent, hit the second mile a little slower but still in control.

Splits: 5:38, 5:43 

Miles 3-4

We made our way around the back of the zoo and onto the North road which I knew would be a difficult patch. There was a guy just on my shoulder who then fell into step with me and I thought great we can work together up to the next group ahead. Effort was certainly harder now with the combination of a slight headwind and a gradual drag but I was feeling ok. I found myself out on my own again as the guy fell off the pace and I started closing in on a group of 5/6 ahead of me including a Donore runner who was leading the pack, that was my target. I hit mile 3 in a reasonable 5:44 and though I was off my target pace, I didn’t panic. I had a lot of miles left to run, I knew I had the training done and I had the ability to run quicker miles in the middle section so It was a case of ensuring steady effort and not stupidly chasing a pace when conditions weren’t optimal. I made my way up past the group ahead who were all slowing and to the Donore runner, who I didn’t even know at the time. He acknowledged me and then we ran alongside the last mile of the North road working together, starting to find it difficult but knowing that there were better miles to come. Too much watch checking here!

Splits: 5:44, 5:47 

Miles 5-6

Coming off the North road I felt pretty good, I felt I’d summited a mental mountain and it was time to descend. Myself and the Donore runner turned back onto Chesterfield and headed up towards the Castleknock gate. I felt good and gradually starting pulling away from him and reeled in a few others ahead of me. After that it was an empty field bar a few specks in the distance so I just relaxed the shoulders and prepared for a long journey down the entire length of Chesterfield. Now I really started enjoying myself and just letting the legs do the work. The sun was beaming and I felt like I could run forever, terrific feeling. There was an official 5 mile mat and I had a quick glance to see 28:32 for the first 5 miles, good stuff and still on track. I knew the last 1.5 miles were going to be tough so I was going to make this next section count. At that point I knew I was running in the 5:30′s though I didn’t need to check. I was in a great place so I made the decision to turn the garmin screen off. I didn’t want any pace or time targets to upset the rhythm I had and constantly checking it wasn’t going to do me any good. I knew what I had to do and at this point so I just focussed on the road ahead and I ran what I felt was the right pace.

Splits: 5:37, 5:32 

Miles 7-8

Onto mile 7 and though I wasn’t watching my time or pace, I had seen the mile splits flash up and knew I was going well, confidence was high and I was still passing people. There were 2 Donore singlets ahead of me, out in force they were and made for pretty good targets. I passed one just before turning onto Wellington road and I started reeling the other in slowly. We were always descending on this section so pace was still nippy and I finally caught up with my clubmate just after exiting the park at the Chapelizod gate. He tagged on for a bit but I was maintaining the same effort and gradually pulled away. I was pretty delighted to pass my sisters apartment here to see her standing on the footpath alongside my mother for a big cheer. No doubt I sped up and tried my best to look effortless for those 10 seconds and I think it worked, they bought it. Hit mile 8 soon after and I knew what was coming ahead though I was still feeling quite good.

Splits: 5:33, 5:35

Miles 9-10

The sprint for home

The sprint for home

Mile 9 and 10 were funny ones. I felt like I was flying still on the 9th mile, but apparently I wasn’t. The first half of it was along Chapelizod road and then we re-entered the park (apparently DublinRunner gave me a shout here but I was too rude focussed to acknowledge, so thanks!). Then came the climbs which in fairness I was ready for and knew was was ahead of me. I immediately felt the pace drop but I didn’t feel it was by too much, I shortened the stride a bit but was closing in quickly on a group ahead so felt in control. We hit the 9 mile mark up near the first section of the upper glen road and I saw a 5:57 pop up. It was a little surprising because I didn’t think I had slowed that much but again no panic, I didn’t know what time I was on for or what that actually meant to my end result so I just concentrated on the runners ahead of me who seemed to be really struggling badly with the hill. The 2nd and 3rd placed female runners (Scottish I think) were just ahead of me and I reeled them in quite quickly and started to feel surprisingly ok with the hill. I felt very strong after the initial climb and through the next drag I took another 3 lads before turning onto the Furze road for the finish. Now I was feeling a bit of burn but there was one more guy to take care of in a yellow top. I didn’t feel I had much of a sprint in my until I heard a shout from a club member who was watching, something like “Push it all the way” and I just though he’s right I’m not done yet, gotta push this all the way to the end. I found a gear and I put everything I had into that last section taking the guy ahead of me. I had no idea of my time until that point but then I saw the finishing clock just under 57 minutes. I gave it my all to duck under the 57 but realised quickly it wasn’t happening. I crossed as the clock hit 57:07 and I think I actually muttered the words “f**k it” as I crossed though I had no right to be disappointed with that time. Then as I gathered myself I was extremely pleased to look at my watch to see it reading 56:58 – I hadn’t crossed the line until 10 seconds after the gun went, I did get under 57!! My official chip time was 56:57, even better, get in there! I was really pleased with that last mile which was a tough climb but I had the strength to push through it despite knowing I had slowed considerably on mile 9.

Splits: 5:57, 5:40 

Summary: 10 miles in 56:57 @ 5:40 min/mile (167bpm)

Overall Position: 47/4226

Post race thoughts: I’m really thrilled with that race, not just the PB but the strategy, the attitude and the belief I had in my abilities. The race was fantastic, a real mixed bag of emotions, times where I had to dig deep, to be patient and times when I felt on top of the world and nothing could go wrong. I once again took the tactic of “do the passing, don’t be passed” and it seems to work well for me. I really have had a fantastic summer of training and racing and have never been enjoying my running so much. This felt like the cherry on top of that great summer and I can’t wait to take on the next challenge which of course is the impending marathon training and then the actual marathon itself. No complaints about the actual race itself, excellent organisation, well marshalled, super atmosphere and what a bargain at 20 quid.

It dawned on me today that the pace I ran for that 10 mile was actually the same pace I ran for the Cheetah 4 mile race back in May. I think that sort of progress is a huge reflection on my coach and clubmates because I really wouldn’t be making these sort of improvements without them. I know it’s said a lot but I really have to agree that surrounding yourself and consistently training with better runners is a sure way to improve dramatically.

Race Report: Killarney Half Marathon

I entered this one a few weeks ago, felt I had been progressing well on the 5ks recently but wondered would that speed translate to the half marathon? We made a weekend of it anyway, headed down the Friday evening, grabbed a bit of grub and some live music (just the one bottle of beer keeping it safe) and got to bed early enough, disaster of a sleep though in a dingy hostel as everywhere else booked out pretty quickly.

Race morning, up at 6:45am, cup of coffee and off I ran down to the Gleneagles hotel to catch the 7:30am bus to the start line at Molls gap. I got another 10 minute warm up in when I got there and was feeling pretty relaxed but still a half an hour to start so I moved away from the 700 strong crowd for a bit of solitude and sat on a rock to listen to music and enjoy the scenery. Soon I headed for the line, chatted with a lad from Donore for a while and before I knew it we were off.

The aim today was a 76:30, over 2 minutes off my last half in Cork 7 weeks ago. Ambitious I know but I had the advantage of two fast downhill miles and I felt I was in better shape so an average of around 5:50 min/mile would get me there.

Miles 1-3
The plan was to keep it conservative for the first 3 miles at 6 minute pace before the big downhill. I went out feeling a slight pain in my side but it quickly subsided and I settled into a comfortable rhythm. A few went out quite quickly, one in particularly in an Amphibian King vest who was out of sight after the first corner. I was sitting in about 8th or 9th, the first mile was slightly downhill and hit that comfortably in 5:52. The course levelled out now with a few small drags starting to appear. I passed a few lads who were slowing and then saw another 3 ahead of me, group of 2 and one on his own. A few climbs caught me by surprise with effort slightly increasing but I stayed strong on them and took the 2 runners ahead of me, one of them from local club Finbarrs and I recognised him as a decent runner from a few races. The next guy ahead who was sitting in 2nd had quite visibly gone out way too hard. I quickly reeled him in and passed him going up another drag in the 2nd mile, wondering why he’s gone and exhausted himself already. So here I am sitting in 2nd place and almost 3 miles into the race, hugely surprising but a nice feeling. I knew I was going to have to work to keep this pace with the group of 2 lads just behind me. Hit mile 3 feeling I was working a little hard but had the drags out of the way and now it was time to descend.
Splits: 5:52, 6:03, 6:02

Miles 3-6
From the course map, miles 3 and 4 are visibly the quickest with a sharp decent followed by relative flatness for the remainder. These were easily the most comfortable couple of miles of the race running 5:34 and 5:36 respectively. I just let the legs do the work but had to be careful to run the racing line with all the sharp corners. I could hear the footsteps of the lads behind me for the first mile but by the time I had reached the bottom I couldn’t hear them at all, I was just out on my own and it felt strange. Talking to the Finbarrs runner after the race he said he eased up for the downhills as they bolloxed his legs last year, I can say I’m definitely feeling it today in my quads, in ribbons! I was nice and relaxed coming off the 2 downhill miles, feeling confident but soon effort increased as the course flattened out again. I kept a decent pace for the next mile running 5:51 and knowing there’s still a bit of work to do. Through 5 miles in 29:09 – PB!
Splits: 5:34, 5:36, 5:51

Miles 6-9
The course looks pretty flat on the elevation map after the downhill but in reality it was anything but. I had a good few drags and pulls to battle over these 3 miles, I was starting to feel the humidity kick in also and there was a decent headwind but I was working well keeping pace in the low 5:50′s and this is where the real work was done. It was a little difficult being out on my own on what is probably mentally the most difficult section of a half marathon. I got a bit of a shock on the start of mile 7 to see the estimated mile pace at 6:20 while going up a drag but it soon levelled before a downhill followed and pace resume to sub 6, that was to be a familiar pattern for the remainder of the race so I just got used to it.
Splits: 5:53, 5:57, 5:53

Miles 9-13
I just continued weaving my way through the winding country roads, the rugged beauty of Kerry of absolutely no interest to me, I just focussed on the road ahead and maintaining my form. I was starting to tire a little and aching for that finish line. I turned off the main road on mile 10 and into the national park, I lost a few seconds turning some sharp bends but was feeling good coming into the last 5k. I hit 10 miles in 58:2x, new PB and seeing that on the watch gave me a lot of confidence to keep it going. I was worried a few times when I just found myself out on my own for long stretches on a narrow pathway without any directions. I had a steward on a bike ahead of me most of the race guiding me so I was so relieved when I finally saw him up above waiting for me, still on track. Because I had this cyclist with me most of the race, I wondered if I was actually leading the race and the leader had dropped out, one can dream but I was just purely focussed on getting the time I wanted.

10440765_589436027838977_9048564525867062344_nI was running well through the park despite all the humps and bumps but I was working pretty hard. I started getting a bit of support from walkers and a few spectators, it was good to be back to civilisation again and the few cheers really helped. The last couple of miles just flew by, I had to negotiate my way around a few horse and carriages on narrow pathways and wondered how that would work for the big groups of runners behind but I didn’t wonder for too long, more important things to worry about. Finally I hit mile 12 and repeated to myself “one mile to go, keep it going” along with some other inspirational things. I exited the park finally, knowing I was on a PB but no idea how close it would be. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the line come into sight and my watch read 1:15:xx. I knew I had a 76 in the bag but really didn’t have a sprint finish, maybe had I had someone around me like Cork but I was happy enough to just maintain pace and and see it home. I crossed in 1:16:17officially and in 2nd place as called out by the MC, damn it, your wasn’t injured after all, he was just incredibly fast!! I was thrilled with that result but it barely registered with me at the time, just wanted to get in and sit/lie down. I joined the winner on the massage beds (perks of coming in early) for a rub down and had a chat with him. I was extremely impressed with his 71 mins, a whole 5 mins to spare on me but that’s the level I aspire to get to one day.
Splits: 6:00, 5:53, 5:46, 5:46

Got a 2 mile cooldown in and headed walking back to the hostel but it proceeded to piss down from the heavens on me, I didn’t mind I just had a big smile painted on my face. We headed back to the Gleneagle for 2pm to collect my prize which was a nice wooden plaque, 100 euro and free entry for next year, all washed down with a pint of ale. Great weekend, great event, great hurling by Wexford and couldn’t have asked for a better race. Feeling confident heading into the marathon schedule in a few weeks so back to work next week.

Summary: 13.1m in 1:16:17 @ 5:49 min/mile (2nd place and 17.4m total)


Race Report: BHAA Garda 5k

So back to the super flat Marina course where I first ducked under 17 mins only 5 weeks ago, time to see how I’ve progressed having run some hillier (and hotter!) 5k’s in between. Training has been consistent with plenty of speedy track work and I’ve stayed injury free so felt I had a good run in me today.

Just over 450 turned up on this nice and calm evening, though slightly humid. It also happened to clash with the Paulo Nutella gig which was on at the Marquee, traffic was a nightmare but nothing the organisers could do except wait for it to die down a little. It didn’t die down so we just eventually had to start using one side of the road. I had gotten a nice 20 min warmup done around the course but started to feel restless standing around for over half an hour waiting. Finally the hooter went at around 8:20pm. I managed to get a good start this time though again like the last race it was a serious sprint start for a lot of people, must have been 30+ ahead of me but I kept my own pace, long way to go yet.

Mile 1
After a couple of minutes of hard breathing I settled into my pace, I started reeling in a few people and noted the pace hover around 5:20 on my watch, perfect. There was a distinct lead group of 6-8 after taking off and then a fairly large group of about 12 including club-mate RP who I’ve trained with in the last few weeks and knowing we’re at a similar level I worked in with him at the front of the group. We cruised along nicely, felt pretty comfortable and breathing well hitting the first mile in 5:18.

Mile 2
A concern from the last few 5k’s was that I was always losing ground on the 2nd mile so today I would focus and concentrate fully on that middle section, to really work hard and hold that pace and still finish strongly. Well that was the plan anyway but I knew if I could do that I’d persevere through the 3rd mile. On to the 2nd lap of the course, I was going along nicely with RP just on my shoulder. A green singlet had made a surge to the front but I didn’t move just keeping my own pace steady. Soon he dropped off and I found myself slowly taking away from the group. I was definitely working hard here but kept my focus and was delighted to see the watch clock a 5:22for the 2nd mile, it gave me huge encouragement to just get through the last section. Some brief inner words of encouragement to hold this pace till the end and on we go.

Mile 3
It was just pure perseverance for this mile, I was hurting but it was just a question of how long I could tolerate it. I felt my form was good, I was running strongly but the burn was there too. There was a navy singlet ahead of me at the start of this mile, he had gone with the lead group and I didn’t even consider it a possibility that I’d catch him but slowly I started reeling him in throughout the last mile. I glanced at the watch with just under half a mile to go, still holding a 5:20 pace and I knew I was on for something special if I kept this going. I focussed on the top ahead of me, breathing heavily now but knowing a big PB is potentially around the corner was a huge incentive to keep going. We started to turn for the finish straight and I’m a couple of yards from navy singlet. Out of nowhere comes clubmate RP breezing past me, I knew he had a good finish in him from the track sessions so I wasn’t hugely surprised. We both overtook the navy singlet at the same time but more importantly I had a glance at the finish clock, just ticking onto 16:10! Holy mackerel I’m on for a good one here! I gave it all I could on the finish straight and crossed the line in 8th place in a brand new PB of 16:27 still not sure if it was real or not. Final mile of 5:19, so I think pace-wise I (finally) got it spot on.

Really surprised myself out there today but I did feel there was a big performance in me and I think that middle mile gave me the confidence to keep going and finish strong. I have to admit I’ve exceeded my targets by a long way in the last 2 months, sub 16:30 was the yearly goal for 5k and only 5 weeks ago I was over the moon with a 16:56 on the same course. I don’t expect these sort of rapid improvements all the time so I’m going to enjoy them while I can. Great confidence booster for the half marathon next week, will ease off slightly next week and give the body a good rest.

Summary: 5k in 16:27 @ 5:19 min/mile (8.4m total)

Full Results

Race Report: Daniel Kingston 5k

So continuing on with my racing addiction streak, I signed up for this last week as it was on the same day as a session, I felt I recovered well from last Wednesday so why not give it a shot. I knew the course wasn’t going to be the flattest from looking at the preview, a total climb of 155ft but only one real hill of note. It didn’t feel too bad on the day though, it was certainly undulating and that one particular saucy climb at the end was….lovely.

We got into Macroom pretty late and only managed to get 10 minutes warmup done, not ideal but wasn’t going to make a huge difference. There was a large crowd at this one, almost 600 which was impressive really with another major race (Ballycotton series 5 mile, also drawing 600) on at the same time. The rain clouds had cleared up, the sun was out but not so warm so it was pretty good conditions, much improved on the 25 degrees heat I had to run through last week.

Target today? It was hard to call, PB would obviously be nice but wasn’t expecting miracles with the course profile, more racing experience was really what I was looking for and a placing in the top 10.

Mile 1
Lined up at the front and I could have sworn I was in a 100m dash when the hooter went off, some lads were off like bloody greyhounds. A group of 4 (possibly 5) formed in a pack, we caught the greyhounds and having a quick glance behind me, we were on our own, this was it. Surprising given the numbers present but I was sitting in 3rd or 4th and figured I had a good chance of placing in the top 3 today, game on. We made our way out of the town, I found the first few minutes uncomfortable but settled into the pace around halfway through the first mile. So off we set into the countryside, the 4 musketeers. I had no idea of the calibre of the lads around me but we were tightly packed, everyone seemed comfortable and I felt this was going to be a tactical race. Hit the first mile in 5:21, working hard but feeling ok.

Mile 2
Mile 2 was relatively flat, I was sitting at the front of the pack alongside black singlet, with yellow singlet and white singlet just behind me. We were running so close to each other I almost got clipped a few times but we were chugging along nicely probably all aware of the climb on the 3rd mile, I knew I had to keep something for that though I was really feeling the effort now. Hit mile 2 a little slower in 5:30

Mile 3
Really feeling the burn now but I’m still in the mix, I’m not worried about time just keeping myself in contention, thoughts of even winning are bouncing around in my head but no time for that because once we passed the bridge at 2.3 miles, we’d be tested with the 300 meter uphill climb. It felt like we all eased a little for this but still worked hard, I just focussed on not letting the lads away from me and pumped the arms. Suddenly the the hill is over and I can see the town in the distance, a gentle incline and we’re back on pace but holy crap my lungs are about to burst. I’m back alongside black to my right and yellow to my left, 3 of us in a line and the 4th guy seems to have been lost on the hill. We’re motoring up the road, spectators out clapping and cheering. It feels like it’s just me and black as yellow is gone very quiet behind my shoulder, nobody making a move, I couldn’t make a move. We hit the 3 mile mark and then bam out of nowhere yellow takes off with a very impressive burst of energy, he storms ahead by a few lengths, black tries to go and gains a few yards on me, I can’t respond at all, maxed out. The finish line comes into sight, a quick glance over my shoulder and I know I have 3rd place. I cross officially in 16:44 (but my watch reads 16:56), 4 seconds behind black and 7 seconds behind yellow. I have given it my all, I couldn’t respond to the kicks and 3rd was a fair result. I collapse on my knees for a few seconds before congratulating the lads. Mile 3 was 5:26

This is was close to death looks like

Just before the finish line, 3rd place safe. This is what ‘close to death’ looks like. 

I’m very happy with the race but to be honest I never had the winning mentality today, even when it was the 3 of us left, I was thinking I’m happy with a 2nd or 3rd. I need to change that and maybe with more racing I can work on and develop it. Before the race I wouldn’t have considered myself placing so was pretty chuffed with the result all the same. I then found out that 1st place was €250 argh!!! Still picked up a €50 boots voucher so I am ok for toothpaste for the next 10 years. 2 paycheques in a week I am on a serious roll! Went for a 3 mile cooldown around the course and back to the community centre to pig out on crisps and snickers before collecting my prize.

On the timing issue, I’m not sure how there is a differential of 12 seconds between my chip time and my watch, there was a starting and finishing mat so I’m very confused and kind of reluctant to accept 16:44 as a PB but it’s an official chip time and a very tasty time so I think I’ll take it :) I did clock the course slightly long however at 3.13 miles and my average pace on the garmin is on par for a 16:46 but that wouldn’t really explain the times being different. If the chip time is wrong, I’ve still equalled my PB on a tough course so it’s progress in my eyes and I’ll certainly be shooting for a sub 16:45 on my next 5k attempt which is on the flat Blackrock marina course in Cork.

In conclusion, I read a post on recently comparing toughness of 5k’s to a marathon and I’m really starting to lean in the direction of “give me a marathon any day”.

Summary: 5k in 16:44, 3rd overall (7.2m total)

Full Results

Race Report: Clonpriest 5k

Hottest day of the year? Anyone for a 5k?? Oooh me me!!! I don’t want to be complaining about our tropical heat wave, it’s great but seriously could the scorchiest day of the year have maybe waited for a day when I’m not doing a race?

Anyway the show had to go on, it simply had to. I hopped into my sauna on wheels after work and drove the 45 min journey to a little village called Gortroe just outside Youghal. This was the 2nd staging of the 5k in this tiny little village comprising basically of a school and a church. Lovely atmosphere around, good crowd of 300+ and the whole community was involved, kids were on hand with their drink stations and the oul lads sittin in the shade on their deck chairs cursing the young folk, the mammies guarding the cakes until after the race this is real Ireland, Love it! Got my bib and old school shoe chip and headed out for a 20 min warmup. Cripes it was warm. I’m not exaggerating but it was 7pm and hotter than the sun itself. My HR was higher was normal and only doing 8 min miles but the sweat levels, they were just about right.

My target for this was to PB ideally around the 16:45 mark, I felt in the shape for it but after the warmup I wasn’t so sure about a PB but still willing to give it my best shot. There were prizes for the first 6 home so I thought I was in for a shout there also. It would be a 1 lap course, not the flattest but not the hilliest from looking at the map beforehand.

Mile 1
At 7:30pm we took our places on a narrow country road and bang, we’re off. A slight jostle at the start but no main traffic concerns, got off well and quickly a front group formed of 6 wine (east cork) singlets and a Leevale shirt which was my clubmate DC. I sat behind these and heard no footsteps behind me so I figured this was it in terms of competition. Breathing was difficult at first but settled down after a few minutes and was clipping along around 5:20 pace. I was sitting in 7th, there was a gap between the lead group, DC and then a wine singlet just ahead of me. I sort of knew a PB was out of reach today so my goal was to place in the top 6 and make a race of it. The first mile didn’t feel too bad, I was moving well and on a slight incline just after 1/2 a mile I took the wine singlet in front of me, he was breathing hard and struggling so I sort of knew I had at least 6th place barring any disasters. DC was about 20 meters ahead so I just kept him in sight. He trains in the top group at Leevale and regularly places ahead of me so I thought if I can stick with him the whole way I’ve done well. My garmin clocked the first mile at 5:22 but Strava shows it at a 5:27, what’s that all about? I passed the 1 mile marker just as it beeped 5:22 on the watch so I dunno, doesn’t really matter….or does it.

Mile 2
Now the struggle starts. I’m keeping DC in sight but its hard, I’m really feeling the heat now but I keep the legs working. I’m trying to keep in the shade but shade is very hard to find, I glance at the watch and its hovering around 5:30, I know that’s too slow for a PB so I just focus on keeping a steady pace and keeping something in the tank for the finish. I don’t have much more to say about this mile, it was fairly uneventful. Clocked it at 5:32.

Mile 3
Killllllll meeeeeeeeeeeeeee. We take a left turn and onto the last mile and I’m hurting. There’s nice support around the course but I’m just thinking you lucky f**kers, I wish I was just standing on the side of the road, what’s it like? Bit of a climb for the start of the last mile, DC is still just ahead of me, I’m catching him ever so slightly but not by enough. I just want to keep this effort going to the end and I’ll be happy, why am I doing this again? I’m breathing so hard now, half a mile to go is all I was thinking and I just persevered. There was a bit of a sneaky climb thrown in at the end but soon the finish balloon came into sight, thank heavens. I mustered what I had left and fell over the line (but without actually falling). I saw the clock just over 17 mins as I crossed, watch says 17:01, chip time says 17:06 (DC also clocked 5 seconds off from chip time) and I’m home in 6th. Final mile of 5:31 so fairly consistent pacing overall and water…give me water.

(noted afterwards that Strava has me down for a 17:06, and garmin connect a 17:01, breakin my balls Strava, that means 17:06 wins)
Hands down hardest 5k I’ve ever ran, no PB but a nice to get a reward for my efforts. My prize was a huge A4 envelope with €30 in it, thought it was going to be a giant cheque. That brings my total winning for the year to €30 and when you factor in all the runners, gear, travel expenses, race entries, and time spent in work on the athletics forum, I’d say I’m just about breaking even.

Headed for a 3 mile cooldown and mulled over the race in my head while swatting off midgets. I was disappointed at first not getting my PB but I had a good chat with myself and came back happy with my effort, there’ll be plenty more chances. Considering the fact that DC finished only 10 seconds ahead of me today and he ran a 16:24 in the recent John Buckley 5k (where I ran my 16:56), it gives me more belief that I can get that time down to a 16:30 by the end of the summer. Nice drive back to Cork and ate some crisps in the car. That is all for now.

Summary: 5k in 17:06 @ 5:31 min/mile (8.2 mile total)

Full Results

Race Report: Cork Half Marathon

Having run a decent 5k earlier in the week I decided to target 78 mins for this meaning I’d have to hold 6 minute miles throughout, well that was the plan. PB before this was 1:21:40 from Bohermeen back in March so I felt I was in good shape to run a PB at the very least.

Start was at 10:45am so I left the house at 10am and jogged the 3 miles to the start area, was feeling nice a light on my feet during the warmup and the morning sun was starting to make its presence felt, nothing like the heat of Saturday though thankfully and there was a cool breeze so fairly good conditions for the race.

Got there nice an early so I had 20 minutes to relax and chat with a few club-mates. With a large crowd of close to 2000 everything was well organised and we were lined up and ready to go bang on time.

Miles 1-3
The pace was nippy at the start but I stuck with my game-plan and didn’t get sucked into a quicker pace. A leading group of roughly 8-10 quickly formed and started pulling away from me, off ye go lads. I was now part of a second group which were happy to sit at the 6 minute pace but a few sat in between both groups. Was feeling good in the first mile, settled right in and concentrated on my own race. The 2nd mile caught me a little with some sharp turns, narrow paths and a slight climb before merging with the marathon course. I was intrigued to see how the merge would go and would I get caught up in any congestion. I merged with the marathon runners tipping along at a 3:25 target pace so I quickly started passing them and there was no traffic issues as they were well spaced out. At this stage I had left the group I was in and found myself out on my own. Mile 2 was a little slower on my watch, 6:15 but I was actually a little ahead of pace according to the official markers, the garmin was lagging slightly. Mile 3 was straight forward looping back to where we started but I had yet to fully settle into the pace, I was starting to feel I was working hard but not uncomfortable if you know what I mean.
Splits: 6:00, 6:15, 6:01

Miles 4-6
I saw Jenny just starting mile 4 and got a cheer while I grabbed a sip of water, a valuable lesson I learned from Rotterdam, even if it was just a small sip every 5k, was to keep hydrated. We headed on to the South Link road, a slight drag but I felt strong and I started to feel more comfortable on the downhill. I started to pass some of the half runners before a sharp turn and climb onto the motorway flyover caught me by surprise at 4.5 miles. I worked hard to keep the pace up the brief climb and settled back down into my normal breathing pattern after, phew. I still felt I was working harder than I should have been but the pace was bang on so I just kept ticking off the miles. Mile 6 was a tough battle with a never ending drag but I prevailed and almost at halfway now still well on track.
Splits: 6:00, 5:58, 6:04

Miles 7-9
I was feeling more settled now and on a slight downhill just before the 7 mile mark I felt a warm fuzzy feeling, that lovely moment where all the running planets align and you feel at one with the road, it was my belated welcome to the race I think. I closed my eyes briefly to embrace it and quickly opened them again before I smashed into a lamp post. Of course it didn’t last long but it was a big confidence booster and I was faced with another uphill climb which I dealt with and soon I was again on a nice downslope to Dennehy’s cross where I would run the familiar Model farm loop. I started tiring along the Model Farm road, again a long uphill drag but with great support along the way. I knew it was the last hilly section and that helped me get through it unscathed and still on pace. Finally the last section of downhill on mile 9 arrived and I let the legs go free before we turned towards the finishing straight, a long finishing straight mind you.
Splits: 5:59, 5:56, 6:03

Miles 10-13
With the momentum from the downhill I turned onto the Orchards in great spirit, pace felt good, breathing relaxed and for the first time I felt I was going to hit my target. I turned onto Carrigrohane road and Jenny was there with a shout, go Conor I think, something positive anyway. Looking ahead on the Carrigrohane road is a little disconcerting, it’s a long long stretch and suddenly I started to tire. The heat was intensifying now and I had 5k to go still, felt like a big ask. Jenny cycled alongside me for this stretch and I was so glad of it, I couldn’t really speak back but I got a lot of encouragement and though I was feeling like hell I was still holding a steady 6 min pace. I persevered that stretch and turned onto the again Familiar Mardyke walkway, 2 miles to go. It was an empty stretch with little or no support but it gave me a chance to gather myself and prepare for a strong finish, if I had one. There was a Raheny singlet ahead of me, a half runner also I assumed since he was going at my pace, I had reeled him in slowly through the last mile and now he was close enough that I made him a target. I felt the pace picking up and a second-wind brewing as I neared the end of the Mardyke walkway, just over a mile to go. What’s left in the tank. We crossed over the footbridge and onto the narrow leafy walkway straddling the banks of the Lee. This was again a quiet stretch but I had momentum and I passed the Raheny runner here only for him to stick to my back, uh oh it’s battle time.

We were neck and neck coming out of the walkway, pace was quick I knew it but I didn’t want to know about it, I hadn’t checked my watch since the Carrigrohane road and I was fully focused on the road ahead. The last stretch along the quays felt like an eternity, I was giving it everything and so was he. We yoyo’d forth and back switching positions, support was immense and we fed off it powering our way onto St.Patricks bridge and the finish line in sight. I found a last surge of energy from somewhere and I pulled away by just a few yards sprinting to that finish line and I knew I had the 78 in the bag when I saw the clock. I crossed in 1:18:40 with my buddy 1 second behind me, a 5:40 last mile and I don’t think I’d have pulled off that had I been on my own so thanks Raheny guy.
Splits: 5:55, 6:01, 5:54, 5:40

Delighted of course with the result, a big PB and bang on target with a 5:58 min/mile avg and 12th place overall.

Race Report: John Buckley 5k

14306480443_05a07fb90a_bThis is the most popular race of the Cork BHAA Calendar, a lovely setting close to the banks of the Lee, only 8 euro and a super flat course so no wonder they turn out in their droves for this one. The competition would be fierce attracting Corks finest, I had a quick glance at last years results earlier where 31 people ran under 17 minutes. Sub 17 would be my only target today though my time at the recent 4 mile race suggested I wasn’t quite there yet. I felt I’d been training well and up for the challenge, it’s a flat course so I’d just go out hard and see how I go. Either way I was on the hunt for a PB, all I had to to was beat 17:21, easy right? Target pace: 5:28 min/mile

Got down early, a fine evening for a race I say. Registration was a breeze and got a nice 20 minute warm up done with Jenny on a lap of the course with a few strides thrown in. Chatted with a few club mates who were running and soon it was time to lineup. It would be a simple 2 lap course with nice gradual bends and a straight finish of about 200 meters.

With almost 1000 folks running, congestion would be inevitable at the start. I ended up getting pushed back about 4 rows which wasn’t the worst but I hadn’t realised there was no starting mat and it was being timed by the gun.

Note: My garmin is now dead as a doornail :( so I have no splits except for mile 1 and 2 which were shouted out by a steward.

Mile 1
Bang! said the gun, and off we went. A lot of jostling and elbows, shimmying and dodging but after about 500 meters I had enough breathing room to relax and work my way into the race, not the worst start. I settled into a good rhythm, breathing was relaxed and I started making up a ground on what looked like as massive field ahead of me. I’m no good as estimating but I’d say there was about 7000 runners ahead of me. Cruised along nicely picking a few people off early and heard a shout of 5:24 for the first mile, that’s fine just fine.

Mile 2
I started feeling a slight cramp in my side but it wasn’t affecting my pace, I was still passing a few people though I glanced at my pace and saw I was up near the 5:40 min/mile mark. I had now started lap 2 of the course and wasn’t too worried about that pace as the garmin has a tendency recently to display volatile lap predictions, I felt I was going well so I didn’t worry about it too much. It started to feel like a real struggle as I closed in on the mile 2 mark but I was still positive and chugging along nicely. I’d already preempted mile 2 being difficult so it was just a matter of pushing through the pain. I vaguely remember a shout of 10:56 as we hit the mile 2 mark, making that a 5:32 mile, still on track I thought, just keep going.

Mile 3
I was working extremely hard at this stage, breathing heavy but still moving well and knowing it was the last mile, I was mentally in a good place. I must have picked up 5 or 6 place on this last stretch, confidence building with each place I gained but still the primary target was not place but a sub 17 and I wanted it bad. I hardly looked at the watch for this mile, I didn’t want to know what distance was left or what my time was I just pushed and pushed keeping the momentum. I was giving it all and finally approached the last corner before the straight. I had a right ding-dong battle with a guy over the last half a mile, I had taken him before the corner but he drew level with me on the straight which didn’t really bother me, all I was looking at was the clock above the finish line ticking onto 16:40…41….42…..I’m still a bit away, can I do it? No time for sums Conor, just run, run fast! Finally that moment came when I knew I had it in the bag, I crossed in 16:56 having giving it absolutely everything over the last mile, job done. Kiss my face.

I’m not sure what the split was for the last section, but I ran the last 1.1 miles in 6 minutes = unofficially 5:27 min/mile pace. I may never know if my garmin doesn’t wake up. I reckon with a starting mat and had I been a bit closer to the front I could have taken a few more seconds off that but still absolutely no complaints.

Really delighted with my effort this evening and though I’m only with the club 4 weeks now, the track sessions are already paying off. That’s another target for the year ticked off in May and now we see how far I can push that 5k down over the summer, dare I dream of a 16:3x? Nice 30 minute cool-down and that’s a good days work.

Summary: 5k in 16:56 (5:27 min/mile) and 34th place overall. (9 miles total)

Full Results

Race Report: Cheetah 4 Mile

It was a cold winters morn…no wait it was a warm spring evening myself and Jenny headed out to Fota wildlife park, a really smashing evening with the sun still spitting the rocks at 7pm and everyone in great spirits. Parking was a breeze and everything being kept in order by the excellent organisation of Eagle AC. I was excited yet nervous, this was my first race since the disastrous Rotterdam marathon so I was out to banish some 26 mile demons, over 4 miles.

We got our race numbers and headed out for a 20 min warmup around the park and a chance to have a little recce of the course. It was hillier than I imagined but what surroundings for a race. I’d never been here before but there was something nice about warming up though the wildlife park, the Ostriches racing you behind the fence, wallabies, peacocks, kangaroos wandering around freely and the buffalo and zebras roaming the prairies. For 12 euro, I’d already got my moneys worth on the warmup.

After a couple of strides, it was time to line up and get going. There was a pretty impressive turnout, 789 runners in all and a great atmosphere in the air, still pretty warm too at 8pm. I lined up near the front with the Leevale lads and suddenly we were off. This was my first 4 mile road race, it’s a tough distance to gauge, I hadn’t a clue what to aim at but I set the goal high at around 22 mins, requiring a 5:30 min/mile pace, I’d go out hard and see how I go.

Mile 1
First section was all downhill so felt pretty comfortable and as usual got caught up in a faster pace than I should have. A quick glance at the watch saw me hitting 5:15 pace before I relaxed and settled into a more comfortable rhythm. A lead group quickly formed, there were about 6-7 in there and they were flying, see ya lads. I was leading a 2nd group but was quickly passed by about 4 runners who opened up a 10-15 meter gap on me, I was ok with that and said I’d just keep them in sight. A difficult climb at the end of the first mile knocked me back a little but clocked a 5:32 and starting to feel difficult.

Mile 2
I felt I settled a bit into the 2nd mile, it was a lot flatter but being out on my own, it was a little difficult, still I kept the lads in front of my in view though they had spread out now and I could see 3 lads ahead of me. I clocked a 5:42 and when I saw that, negative thoughts started consuming me, I’m slowing down, how am I going to keep this pace up? I decided to just forget the watch and stop worrying about pace.

Mile 3
I was really feeling the heat now, I could hear runners closing in on me from behind and was just waiting to be overtaken but this also spurred me a little. One of the 3 lads that was ahead of me pulled up with an injury, well that’s one out of the way I thought. This patch felt the most difficult but I just kept going, we were running up a drag and I felt I was slowing but suddenly I realised I was gradually reeling in the guy ahead of me. I concentrated on just this guy and just before hitting the 3 mark, I had taken him on a corner and felt that familiar strong finish brewing. A disappointing 5:51 for this mile and I think I was lucky I didn’t see that on the watch.

Mile 4
We hit the mile 4 mark and now I had another target, the runner in front of me though he was a good 20 meters or so ahead, was also slowing. I felt energised knowing it was the last mile and the pace gradually picked up. A nice downhill gave me some brief respite and I charged on from there, taking the runner ahead of me with about half a mile to go. I knew there was a difficult climb coming, the same one from the first mile so I eased slightly for it knowing there was still a good 500 meters to go after it. I got through the climb still feeling good and I gave it socks for the last stretch. The finish was way further than I expected, I was heaving and giving it everything and finally the line came into sight. I had nobody around me or in front of me, which was strange but it meant I could soak up all the cheers. I crossed in 8th place in a time 22:39, final mile of 5:32. Happy.

14214845933_035ae2a9d2_bOverall, I was delighted with a top 10 finish but disappointed in my 3rd mile where I felt I lost a lot of time, I would have hoped to be closer to 22 minutes but with some more focus on the track over the summer I can improve. I can’t be too hard on myself, I have nothing to compare it to really, I’m definitely heading in the right direction and I’m really happy with that last mile effort and strong finish. Based on this race, I should be able to “renew” my 5k PB in 2 weeks time at the John Buckley 5k here in Cork.

I chatted for a bit with clubmates, had a cup of tea and headed for a lovely 3 mile cool-down around the park with the OH Jenny (who ran a brilliant 28:29 for only her 3rd race ever) and we really got the moneys worth out of this event. A top top race (alright Jamie), so unique and I can see why it’s so popular, everything went like clockwork, hope to be back next year.

Full Results


Back on the wagon

Well I’m back into the swing of things and feeling ready for some new challenges. I’ve joined up with Leevale in Cork city and loving the training so far under coach Donie Walsh. It’s real quality work focussing on speed with 2 weekly track sessions and a hill session on Saturday. I was feeling well rested after 2 weeks of easy running and have signed up for a couple of races over the next months to test my fitness. First up is the Cheetah 4 mile run in Fota wildlife park on 15th May. Next will be the Cork half marathon on the June bank holiday weekend and then a couple of weeks later, a hometown appearance in the Strawberry 5 mile in Enniscorthy. So here’s last weeks training (lazily copied from my training log).

Sunday – 10m
Feeling good today, beautiful sunny morning in Cork so threw on the singlet and headed down Blarney street and out the Carrigrohane/Model farm loop. Legs felt fresh throughout though it was pretty spicy out there for an April morning. I settled in at a pacier than planned pace hovering around 7 min mile which was comfortable though I did tire a little near the end. Chelsea Liverpool time!
Summary: 10.8m in 1:17:21 @ 7:10 min/mile

Monday – Steady Run
So my first week back to the grind, I’m excited about what lays ahead for me and really motivated to put in the hard work required to achieve my goals. Beautiful evening again, set off down towards the city, settled into a nice steady 6:40-45 pace after the first mile. Felt pretty comfortably for the most part, weaved through the city streets for 6 miles at that pace and then 1 mile cool-down up the killer hill.
Summary: 7.95m in 55:19 @ 6:57 min/mile avg.

Tuesday – 3 x 9min track session
Time for my second club session and it was bloody hard work but worth it in the end. Wasn’t feeling particularly great today, smothering with a cold and didn’t particularly feel like a session but I knew I was able for it even though my brain tried to talk me out of it. 2 miles warm-up and then headed into the planned session of 3 by 9 mins at pace with a 3 minute recovery. I started with a group of 5 lads, one of which ran 2:29 in the London marathon just gone, yikes. The planned pace for the group was 5:20-5:40 but by the 2nd rep the group had split into distinct groups, the 3 quicker lads and then myself and another runner at a similar level, it was good to have someone to push me, really needed it. First rep was too quick because I was trying to stick with the faster lads but soon I realised that wasn’t my pace and saw sense. It was a tough tough session, by the 2nd rep I wasn’t feeling I’d make the 3rd but I stuck it out in the end and managed to run the 3rd one pretty well.

1. 1.67 miles @ 5:26 min/mile
2. 1.63 miles @ 5:34 min/mile
3. 1.63 miles @ 5:35 min/mile

Happy with that session, met a few new people and also bumped into Donore club mate John Travers who was wandering around the Mardyke, looking pretty fresh from his cracking run in the states during the week. 15 mins cool-down and a lovely* cycle back up the hill, nearly collapsed with hunger.
Total: 9.6 miles

Wednesday – 4m Recovery + Gym
Woke up feeling pure shyte this morning, stuffy head, snots falling out my nose, usual cold bollox. Was planning on doing pre-work recovery run in the AM so I could gym in the evening but it wasn’t happening, it just wasn’t. Went to work and felt a little better in the evening so I plodded on down to the Mardyke, ran (the long way down) for 3 miles, very easy and did a decent arms & chest workout. Ran 1 more mile home.

Thursday – 5 x 1000m & 1 x 200m
After a horrible wet morning, the skies parted in spectacular fashion this evening, cracking weather but was still feeling the effects of the cold so I wasn’t overly enthusiastic. I wanted to push myself a more than I had last week as I was only getting back into so I jumped into the intervals with chap (same guy from Tuesday session) and our target was 5:20-5:25 min/mile pace, a fairly significant increase in pace from last week (~5:40) but I felt I could manage since that felt pretty comfortable last week.

Overall it went to plan, I found it very, very difficult near the end but thats why I’m in here a club, to push myself hard and we ended up hitting the targets. I’d find it tough to keep that pace up if I hadn’t have had someone with me. An enjoyable 200m sprint at the end and a 2 mile cool-down on the pitches with the lads. Again a great session and I really think I’m gonna really benefit working with these guys.

1k Splits
1. 3:23 @ 5:18 min/mile
2. 3:24 @ 5:15 min/mile
3. 3:25 @ 5:20 min/mile
4. 3:28 @ 5:25 min/mile
5. 3:24 @ 5:13 min/mile (almost died)

1 x 200m in 36s @ 4:46 min/mile

The garmin was a bit of a pain in the neck today, I kept accidentally hitting the touch bezel and knocking the screen off when I tried to hit the lap button so distances were longer on some reps, does this happen to anyone else? it’s so frustrating, maybe it’s time to just use a stopwatch on the track.
Total: 9.7 miles

Friday – 2hr cycle + Gym
After work I went cycling to see a man about a car, and bought the car. The cycle there was full of hills, hunger, rain and more hills but I had company so it wasn’t so bad, still didn’t plan on it being 2 hours, hugely under-estimated. Was planning on a small recovery run but figured the cycle was enough recovery for me so just headed down to the gym in the evening for shoulders and back work.

Saturday – Club Session: 10 mins hills & 6 x 3 min on grass
A misty Saturday morning but not enough to ruin a good session. Met up with the club near the greyhound track in Curraheen, 2 mile warmup around the pitches and then headed off to do some hills. This involved 10 mins of 200 meter repeats with a jog back to the start recovery. I slotted in with a group and knocked out 6 of them at an avg. of 43 seconds (5:45 min/mile).

Next it was back to the pitches for 6 x 3 mins on the flat pitches. I was in a group of 4 runners and we ran these at 5:45 min/mile pace (0.52 miles) with a minute recovery. A 15 min cool-down and that’s a good first weeks training bagged I reckon.
Total: 9 miles

Total for this week was 51 miles, I plan to ramp up the non-session day and long run mileage over the next couple of weeks and then consistently hold 60+ mile weeks over the summer, should be a good base for Autumn marathon season.

Race Report: Rotterdam Marathon

Well it all came down to one day, 3 months of quality training bagged and it was time to reap the rewards, so I thought. We woke around 7:30am, the atmosphere was tense but I was relaxed and quietly confident. In the hotel lobby, myself Rob and Bryan gathered for breakfast at 8am. I would have liked just a small bowl of porridge but there only cereals so I had a small bowl of that, some fruit salad and a coffee. I look back now and wonder why I did that when I was used to doing all my long runs on empty. At 9am we all gathered and took the ever efficient train into Rotterdam Central. I had arranged to meet a runner, Anthony, who posts on, see his impressive training log here. He was aiming for a similar goal so we’d arranged to pace together along with my cousin Bryan. Unfortunately Anthony got delayed and we couldn’t wait around so at 10:05am we headed for the bag drop. Time suddenly crept up on us and it was after 10:20am, less than 10 minutes to get into our corals, way too late. The crowds were jam packed at this stage,we didn’t know where to go and panic set in, Rob finally got into coral D but we still had to find our way into C. With only 3-4 minutes to go we were told by a marshal that we had to enter coral C from the other side of the street and we’d have to use the underground metro tunnel to get there, christ almighty. It was important we got out in group C with similar paced runners as otherwise we’d have to spend the first few miles weaving through people and catching up, potential disaster. We found the metro tunnel and legged it as quick as we could, finally got to the other side and saw a gap in coral C where a steward sneaked us in and phew, we made it. This was not ideal preparation at all, no warm up done and in no way relaxed before the start. Finally the loud boom of the canon echoed the streets and it was time to get going.

Miles 1-5
Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 10.49.09Because we were quite far back in coral C, we had quite a lot of weaving to do in the first mile and I was surprised as some of the slow paces there, some looked like they had blagged their way into coral C in the hope of a quick start, never ceases to amaze. We hit 6:43 for the first mile which was just fine though all that weaving and dodging was energy sapping, my forehead was already gathering up a nice bunch of sweaty beads. The temperature was ok, 13/14 degrees but the sun was beaming right down on us and it never occurred to me that I’d need to take on extra water today, I’d barely taken on any that morning simply copying my approach to Barcelona. The first few miles seemed to just tick by, we found a good comfortable pace in the low to mid 6:20′s but alas that was to be the last time I felt comfortable that day. The plan was to hit halfway in 1:24 and it seemed that we were bang on course for that.


Miles 6-10
Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 10.49.21We hit the 10k mark in 40:07, basically on target and I took on some water on which immediately resulted in a stitch on the right hand side, maybe it was the awkward motion of trying to drink out of a cup at pace. It was uncomfortable but didn’t radically affect the pace and I felt I just needed to give it a few miles to settle down. The pace did fall off slightly over the next few miles suggesting we did go off a bit hard or the heat was starting to affect us. I didn’t take on water at the next water stop, just a swab of the sponge on my forehead and little did I realise this would come back and bite me hard. The next mental goal was the 10 mile mark, coach Jim had told me to break down the race into a comfortable 10 mile and then a 16 mile race but to be honest that 10 miles never felt comfortable, compared to the 5:51 pace I ran in Mallow 3 weeks earlier, this pace should have felt fine. Coming up to 10 miles I felt it was time to take the dioralyte sachet that I’d stashed in my pocket. I opened it coming up to the water station but when I went to throw it into my mouth, the sachet was bloody empty. Not a disaster but those sort of occurrences tend to compound any mental anguish you’re suffering, though physically the dioralyte probably would have made no difference. That was my only planned sustenance for the race and I’d either spilled it or it had dissolved in my shorts.

Miles 10-15
Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 10.49.28Though the stitch was hanging around still, the pace was satisfactory but still difficult, we were now leading a group of about 10 people. I was just waiting for that moment when it would all click and I would settle into the race and feel some control, the control I felt in Barcelona last year and only 3 weeks ago in the Mallow 10. I was nearly halfway and already knew deep in the back of my head that this was not to be, that was the time to reassess my goals and devise a new strategy but a lack of experience meant I was only fixated on a 2:47 result. We plodded on and finally hit the 13.1 halfway mark in 1:25:07. At the time that was not good enough but in hindsight it was a good half given the difficulties and I should have stuck with the 6:30 pace from then in and at the very least hit a PB. I tried to pick up the pace, aiming for low 6:20′s but already I felt the legs being sapped of energy. I hadn’t taken water in a while but because I was holding the pace I didn’t notice that, I was still waiting for everything to come together, that 2nd wind that I normally experience.  Thoughts of a 2:50+ were consuming me, that was a bad result in my head and I was neglecting how I was feeling, my attitude was all wrong. I didn’t know it but I was just hanging in there and it was just a matter of time before the bubble burst. At this stage, I had gone ahead of Bryan, it was his 10th marathon and he had the experience to know not to make a move, he stuck around the 6:30-35 pace and that paid dividends for him. Looking back at these splits, they’re pretty decent but not reflective of how I felt and I was punching way above my weight.

Miles 15-20
Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 10.49.34
Things were really feeling tough now and I knew I was struggling but defiant to give up my pace. We went over a bridge at 16 miles, I got a lot of cheers and people called my name but I was barely able to smile. I knew my form was getting bad, I was expending too much energy yet still sure I wouldn’t bonk, surely I couldn’t bonk, I’ve done the training! I had a jelly in my pocket for emergencies which I took and just chewed on it for a while, I had a stomach pain and still a stitch and didn’t want to swallow it so I just chewed on it for a while hoping the sensation of sugar would give my brain false hope, I heard it in a podcast during the week,  great time to try it out Conor. By mile 18 I had thoughts of just stopping and pulling over, I still had so long to go and I felt the lowest ever I had felt in a race. The pace started noticeably slowing and form out the window, I knew at this stage even a sub 2:50 was gone. Running out of ideas, I  turned off the pace on my watch as I knew it was consuming me. This might have worked wonders in the past but it was too little too late today. Mile 19 was a 6:44 and when I saw that popup I knew things were getting grim. Much of this patch was around the loneliest part of the course, through a forest road with little support and it was so so difficult, the legs felt like collapsing, I had no plan B and absolutely no positive thoughts remaining. I don’t know where that 6:33 came from in the 20th mile, perhaps one defiant last push to hold the pace, it was to be the last.

Miles 21-26
Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 10.49.40Somewhere around the 20mile mark, it’s hazy, I stopped to walk for water, first time I’d ever stopped in a race which felt strange, I walked for a few meters drinking the whole cup before grabbing another one and downing it. I didn’t feel like starting again, 6 miles to go, please don’t make me. The next mile was the slowest yet, 6:52 but that was just the beginning. Pace was rapidly diminishing, a 7:17 and an 8:03 followed, talk about blowing up. When I saw that 8 min mile pop up, it was a feeling I never want to experience again. Race well and truly over, the only goal now is to finish this race. Time is out the window, this is just me versus the distance now. This was the new lowest I’d ever felt, this was the wall and what an introduction to it. I never want to feel like that again, the finish line felt like years away to me. I looked at the grass on the side of the road and it looked so inviting to just curl up and lie down, I was so thirsty. At every water station from then in, I stopped to drink 2 cups of water and straight away I was thinking about the next station. Miles 23-26 felt like an eternity, I knew my pace was in the 8 min range but I couldn’t do anything about it, I was spent but desperate to keep going, I knew I could still benefit from finishing this race and I felt I’d be letting down people by not finishing. I don’t recall any of the course really from then in, my head was dropped and people were passing me left right and centre. Bryan passed me at some stage, maybe 3 or 4 miles to go, gave an encouraging pat but I could barely respond. The whole last 3 miles are a blur, the support was great but I could barely acknowledge the crowd except one I vividly remember, a lady on her own sitting in a wheelchair at the side of the road. “Keep going Conor” she shouted (name was on my bib in case you’re wondering), and I looked up and meekly smiled to her with a thumbs up, that was a nice moment and put my “suffering” in perspective. How lucky am I to be even running a marathon, there’s no way I’m not finishing I thought. If you’re going through hell, keep on going and that’s what I did, the finish line’s not moving so I just keep moving forward. I had a glance at my watch as it ticked onto the last mile, I’m probably on for a sub 3 hours I thought, completely by chance as I didn’t have the energy to push. It finally came into sight and how relieved I was to see it, so proud of myself to have persevered but barely able to think of anything else other than water. I crossed in 2:59:09, happy to go sub 3 but happier to be finished and vowed to never let that happen again, it was nice to meet you wall but on your bike. Bryan had crossed in 2:54:57, an excellent PB and a good reward for sensible tactics when he realised he wasn’t on target either. He was waiting for me and kindly had an energy drink waiting for me, perfect. I demolished it in about 2 seconds and went to lie down, he said I didn’t look well and went to get me a banana. I found the closest piece of concrete and collapsed on it, weirdest sensation as I kept feeling I was falling asleep and everything was spinning. A paramedic lady came over to see if I was ok, “uh yeah I’m just waiting on a banana” was my response which got a funny look and she stayed around to watch me. Bryan returned eventually and I devoured the banana before he pulled me to my feet, still dazed and confused.

We met Rob who was targeting a sub 3 and came in at 3:05:59, a great run, PB and an indicator that it was tough going for a lot of people out there today. We lumbered our way to the bag drop to pick up our stuff, none of us fancying an after race pint for good reason. I finally bumped into Anthony who we had planned to meet earlier, he had run a 2:50 and was disappointed, incredible result knocking 8 mins off his target and a seriously talented runner. We chatted for a bit but I was now starting to shiver with the cold and I needed to get inside so we said goodbye and headed to the bag drop. We rested for a while on the benches and made our way to the train, grabbed a coffee and some pastries and apparently I was still white as a ghost but gradually feeling life seep gradually back  into my bones. I had some time to think on the train about what went wrong and finally started seeing some positives from the day, I dug deep and pulled through in the face of adversity and I was proud of that. We made it back to the hotel, spirits a bit higher and the colour back in our faces. We all made it through our training to make the start line and we made it to the finish, it’s an achievement regardless of the results. We ordered a round of Grolsh beers in the hotel and retreated to the room for a well earned celebration drink. After resting for a while we headed out for some fine dining, McDonalds, and another beer before I had to make my way to the airport and say goodbye.

They say everyone needs to fail to succeed and though this may appear like a step backwards in my marathon progression, I refuse to see it that way. This was a learning experience I badly needed and I learned the hard way. I felt I just needed to turn up today and it would be a repeat performance of Barcelona and I did not anticipate anything going wrong but anything can happen on the day, the marathon is a beast. I could go on and take apart all the possible variables but I’m not going to wreck my head doing that just yet, time to take a break from the intensity of training and reassess my goals for next time. Over the next few weeks I’ll discuss it with Jim and try pinpoint what we can do better next time. The biggest lesson for me was respecting the distance and having the sense to reassess your goals when it’s not going your way, that and hydration. I take away newfound pride from this race, where it would have been so easy to walk away at around mile 21-22 where I felt like giving up, I didn’t and I struggled through a demoralising pace and I finished. I’ll take that with me through the rest of my running days and I think I’ve gained more than I’ve lost. As someone already told me, the training is banked and Dublin beckons in October, I’ve hit a couple of good PB’s during training but one thing for sure is I’ll be taking nothing for granted going into the next marathon and every PB is well and truly earned. I’m surprisingly upbeat and positive today, I don’t feel I was cheated out of anything, I’m responsibly for my own races and my decisions during them and I know I have the ability to go far if I continue to put in the hard work. It’s been a great journey one of many highs and lows, lessons learned and just another chapter of many to come I hope. Stay tuned for more.

Result: 2:59:09 @ 6:48 min/mile avg / 450th of 10658 runners



I feel I should finish with this, my reward for those 3 hours of hard work, ideal recovery.