A chronicle of one mans running (and eating) journey to the Rotterdam marathon, April 13th 2014

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 boards.ie, 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
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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

 

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

Week 13 – Walkin’ the mile

nervous-woman-cartoon

Sunday – 10.7m
And we’re into the final week, the big showdown, the final countdown, time to rock, the main event, the last….ok we get it. This was a nice old jog, same route as yesterday out the Carrigrohane road and back in the Model farm road. Underestimated the weather, it was really warm so after 3 miles I stashed my jacket and gloves under a bush at the Mardyke, from the window it looked cold you see. Overall a good session, 10+ miles at decent pace, 7:04 min/mile and felt completely comfortable the whole way through. The niggles are still there, calf and shin, nothing really alarming and maybe I’m more sensitive about them given the proximity to the race but I think with the drastic reduction in milage this week it should be plenty of time to get me to the line in good shape. I guess that qualifies as the last long run, on we go!

Monday – 8.4m Easy
It’s just a case of knocking out easy runs this week, there’s always the logically inept worry in my mind that I’m losing fitness because I’m not doing sessions but realistically there’s no gains to be made this close to the race, physiological adaptations to training take a minimum of six weeks. I just need to keep reminding myself of the positives, I look back over my training and some of the recent races and it fills me with confidence that I’ll achieve my goal and more. In the days leading up to a marathon I like to take a few moments during the day to visualize myself crossing the finish line and seeing the seiko clock over my head exactly where I want it, a perfect 90 degree angle…also the time on it is satisfactory. Usual 8 mile loop out the Carrigrohane straight, average pace was an easy 7:39 min/mile.

Tuesday – 6.7m Easy
Just the 6 miles today, I had planned on doing 2 miles at marathon pace but after starting the run quite nippy, I felt the shin complaining so decided against it early on. It would have been purely a mental thing to get my mind prepared for that pace, I did feel better later on in the run and got just under a mile in at 6:30 min/mile, felt hard actually but from experience, that’s normal during taper week, no need to panic, why are you panicking? I’m not panicking, this post is over. Average pace 7:24 min/mile, AIS in the evening.

Wednesday – Rest
Decided to take a day off today and relax for the evening, kick back with some champions league and a glass of wine, I’ve no time for nerves this week. I noticed from looking at my training log today that I’ve run 12 consecutive days so I’m probably due a rest and it will give those niggles a chance to sort themselves out. Average pace was…oh wait no, never mind.

Thursday – 5m Easy
Not an enjoyable one today, doubt and apprehension starting to creep in though I’m trying my best to keep sane. An easy paced 5 miler with 5 strides thrown in but to my despair the shin started hurting after the strides so now I’m officially worried. This was to be my last run on Irish soil for this training schedule so I was hoping for something a bit more positive. Still the work is done, got to keep positive and put any doubts to the back of my mind, nothing can be changed now, let’s DO THIS. Made a delicious lamb shepherds pie so that took my mind off it for a while. That’s all.

Friday – Rest
Today is travel day, suitcase packed – passport, phone, wallet, entry letter, shorts, socks, singlet, chafing cream, runners and sanity, check! Heading off at 3pm to Cork airport and will hook up with Bryan and the gang from St.Cocoas tonight.

Saturday – 3m
Arrived safely in the charming city of Delft last night, an ideal location only 10 minutes from Rotterdam. It’s really a beautiful, historic city with it’s network canals, footbridges and cobblestoned pavements. We had a nice 25 minute run along the canal early this morning, myself, Bryan and Rob, felt nice and relaxed though the shin is still not quite right, I have a feeling it’ll make it through. We had a nice light breakfast and headed into Rotterdam on the train with the other runners from St.Cocoas who are all running tomorrow also. The expo was pretty small but we didn’t hang around for too long, picked up a pair of sunglasses for 30 quid and bumped into Sean Hehir the Dublin marathon winner of 2013, really nice fella and aiming for a blistering 2:16 tomorrow. We came back and had a nice walk around the city, a great atmosphere around and people are so friendly, have to come back here again.

So this is it, last blog post for this journey and I’m happy to be toeing the line knowing I’ve trained to the best of my ability, sure I’ve had to miss sessions here and there due to injuries but it’s all part of the game, I know the work is done, hay is in the barn etc. See you at the finish line, if you’re about.

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With the St.Cocoas runners and Sean Hehir (back 2nd from right)

Weekly Milage: 33

 

Week 12 – Taper time part 1

537180_631639610184626_1344063136_nSunday – 16.5m
2 weeks left to the showdown, it’s almost taper time and this was to be my last long run, ye long run how I shall miss thee*. Really wanted to get this done without any calf pain so the plan was just to keep the pace on the easy side of comfortable and get at least 2 hours on my feet, I’d be satisfied with that. I headed into the city, a nice pleasant hat-less morning, feeling good for first few miles. I started feeling a slight discomfort around 5 miles and I though here we go, gonna start niggling at me now until I have to stop. Lucky for me that faded and I didn’t feel it again getting 16.5 good miles in and easing up for the last 3, average pace 7:28 min/mile. Heading out the Carrigrohane road I nearly impaled my foot on a huge shard of glass that was millimetres short of piercing my sole, somebody’s trying to sabotage my marathon and that’s not taper paranoia, you’re paranoid. Just at the end of my run I ended up running alongside a 10k BHAA race that was just finishing, seemed like a great race, good field and nice atmosphere so I hope to get a few of these races done after the marathon. Overall was delighted to get to the end of this pain-free but when I got home it did start complaining a little so I iced it and it seemed to behave for the rest of the day, time to put this calf to bed.

Monday – 6.5m Easy
Nice relaxed jog into the city via Blarney street and back. It was a mild, sunny evening, pace was pretty easy averaging 7:24 min/mile even with the 2 mile drag back home, no calf pain but shin splints seem to be surfacing on the same leg so I need to keep an eye on that. It will be mostly easy running this week, 4 x 1 mile has been cancelled tomorrow in favour of an easy 8m to ensure I get the calf back to normal.

Tuesday – 8m Steady
Ah now, that was exactly the run I needed. I have I been pretty frustrated recently, the past 5 runs have all averaged around 7:30 min/mile mainly due to the calf injury I’ve been battling but today I felt back to normal again and it felt good. Paranoia was starting to creep in with hints of OCD, “If I don’t do a session with some pace I’ll lose all my fitness and maybe never run again” etc. The evening itself was horrible, battling headwind and cold rain for the first few miles but was feeling fresh, hadn’t got a particular pace in mind but was feeling good so I went with it. Once into the city I found myself in a comfortable 6:45 min/mile pace and headed out the Carrigrohane road through the park and feeling great, legs felt fresh, no niggles and suddenly I found myself in the happy zone.  I wasn’t watching the pace but I hit 6:36 for the 4th mile, too eager so I eased it up a bit after that not wanting to do anything silly. A slow last mile back up the hill that wrapped up a great run overall, confidence still high and the countdown is firmly on, average pace 6:54 min/mile.

Wednesday – 8m Easy
The most impressive thing about this run was the fact my garmin made it through the whole run on just 2% battery, I expected it to die about 1-2 miles in but no it battled through showing serious mental resolve (and power reserve). I think it’s a sign of some sort but I’m not sure what it means, I’ll take it as a good one. Nice easy run today just keeping the legs ticking over, average pace 7:46 min/mile. Headed down to the Mardyke arena with Jenny (welcome to Cork Jenny!!) and she went off to do a session with St.Finbarrs running club who happened to be just starting. I did a few easy laps of the track and headed out the Carrigrohane/Model Farm loop taking it nice and easy, good old run. No pain and probably no gain either, just fine.

Thursday – 6m Easy
Down for a short tempo but decided against it at the last second as shin splints were flaring up after the first mile. Headed down to the Mardyke arena again and stopped to chat with the coach of Leevale for a while but as I was chatting I could feel pain in the shin, probably because of the idiotic pace coming down the monster hill. Taking no chances I just cantered off for an easy 6 mile around the sports grounds, felt no more pain and iced it when I came home. AIS in the evening.

Friday -3.5m Easy
Happy birthday to me, today Conor you only have to run 4 miles since it’s your special day. I had a pressie in the post from the mother that had to be collected from the post office so I made that my lunchtime mission making the short 4 mile round trip and stopping in Lidl also for some miscellaneous items, mainly mint-chocolate rice cakes. Shin is still acting up a bit, was fine on the run but felt slight pain afterwards, hmm. Well time to go spoil myself for the rest of the day!

Saturday – 10.5m Easy
Straight forward get-it-done jog today, a damp morning and feeling quite sluggish so was happy to get it out of the way. The shin felt ok most of the time though I did have thoughts of cutting it short to let it rest but after 5 or 6 miles I felt good so kept going, average 7:30 min/mile pace. That’s almost 60 miles this week, happy with that and now we delve even deeper into taper mode next week, can’t wait.

Weekly Total: 59.5m

Week 11 – I’m not calfing

Sunday – Mallow 10 mile race – PB 58:46 (14m)
Dare I say the perfect race, this couldn’t have really gone better. My first 10 mile race, not expecting anything spectacular but ended up surprising myself and smashing the hour. Huge confidence boost keeping the sub 2:50 dream truly alive, in fact I think I can almost touch it..c’mere. On with the week, full report here.

Monday – 6.6m Recovery
Spirits were high today after yesterdays race, I really feel now if I keep working hard I can achieve some great results and even start competing with the best in the country over the next few years, ok Conor relax. Overall the body was feeling fine bar my right calf which had had a slight strain and hurt sometimes when walking. I headed out for a very light 6.5 mile jog after work which felt fine and the calf loosened out after a while. Bought some salt on the way home, that was a highlight I suppose though it probably looked funny me carrying it home, there were no small bottles. Stretching and foam rolling in the evening.

Tuesday – 8m Steady (9.2m)
Very blustery and unsettled today but the clouds kindly parted after work, the rain subsided and the big blue sky came out to say hi, still windy but I’ll take it. Feeling good today both physically and mentally, I headed down the Blarney road through the city and then the Carrigrohane/Model farm loop. I picked up the pace early on and settled just under 7 min/mile. This pace really feels comfortable for me now, average pace overall was 6:50 min/mile and it still fascinates me how the human body adapts and responds to repeated stress physiologically. Prepare to be blown away by a list of adaptations I have undergone due to endurance training:

  • Increased lung capacity so they can deliver oxygen and remove CO2 waste more quickly
  • My blood volume has increased allowing the delivery of more oxygen to my muscles
  • My heart is now a more efficient pump, resting rate is typically 38-42 bmp. It’s become a stronger muscle and the inner wall has thickened increasing the stroke volume allowing quicker delivery of oxygen and nutrients and removal of waste products.
  • I have increased mitochondria in my muscles increasing the muscles ability to endure repeated stress
  • Capillarization has taken place, the development of new capillaries allowing faster delivery of blood to my muscles
  • I’ve increased my fat burning abilities, able to head out on a comfortable 20+ mile session without having to eat anything beforehand, fuelling myself using the most efficient source possible, fatty fat!

Of course I can’t prove all that’s happening, I can’t see inside myself but the results speak for themselves, there’s something going on in there for sure. Only 3 months ago I would have considered a 6:50 min/mile training pace well out of my comfort zone, it was the pace I persevered through during my first marathon and now I’m running 8 miles at 6:50 min/mile and it’s feeling relatively easy. Wow this post has gone way off topic but anyway the point is it’s really motivating to experience progress like this and know that the training is working. Very enjoyable run, 1 mile cool-down up the monster hill and watched united lose 3-0 to city, nothing new there.

Wednesday – (half of) 2 x 5km (11m)
After feeling great and back to normal yesterday, I’m now consumed with the prospect of a potential calf injury. Right now it hurts to walk and since the session finished it’s only gotten worse. I planned on doing 2 x 5km repeats today with 4 mins recovery, aiming to run each in roughly 19:30 (6:15 min/mile pace). I warmed up for 3.5 miles feeling fine and once on the Carrigrohane road, I headed into the first rep. All was going well considering the tough head-wind, holding the pace around 6:15 min/mile which felt harder than Sunday but I can’t be fully recovered from that yet. I finished the first 5k in an impressively precise (fluky) 19 mins 29.9 seconds and I wasn’t even monitoring the watch I swear. Once I stopped though the pain struck, a darting pain in my right calf very similar to what I felt after the race on Sunday, muscle related and probably a strain. Balls, not good. I stopped for 2 mins and stretched it out a bit then started jogging lightly again but it wasn’t good and I knew there was no way I was running the second 5k at that pace again, asking for trouble. I would have cut the session right there and then but it just so happened that I was 5 miles from home. I reprogrammed into recovery mode and eased it home at around 8 min/mile the pain not so bad now but feeling quite dejected that I didn’t get to do the session, more-so the thought of being out for a few days. Coming up the hill near my house it really started hurting me, so much that I had to walk so when I got in I iced it right away, with a bag of frozen peas of course. Walking around the house since, every step hurts and it looks like I’ll need a day off tomorrow, frustrating like the blisters but taking some sort of positive, it’s better happening now as I wind down rather than happening 1 week from the race or in the middle of my plan.

Thursday – Rest
Forced to take a rest with the calf injury which still worries me as I felt it throughout the day but hopefully a rest day will sort it out and we’ll be back on the road tomorrow, nervous laughter. Wasn’t sure what to do with myself in the evening so I went into domestic mode and spent some time cleaning the house before putting on my chefs hat and cooking up a delicious batch of homemade crisps, half of which I ate while I cooked. Then I baked a batch of my top secret recipe energy bars, came out nice this time, stay tuned for the recipe. Did some core, stretching and strength work later on, been getting into AIS (active isolated stretching) recently, seems useful as my hamstrings are as tight as a ducks arse, check out 2 good videos here and here.

Friday – 8.5m Easy
Yahooza! we’re back on track and the calf behaved itself, I think. 8.5 miles Was a little over enthusiastic for the first few miles, feeling good with the pace in the low 7 mins, I eased up a little because the only real purpose of this run was to get through it pain free. I did feel something down there, not quite pain but something gnawing at me and I didn’t want to upset it so I went easy on it. Got home in one piece, no pain afterwards so I think I’m on the right track. By order of the coach, there’ll be no session tomorrow just another easy run which makes perfect sense to me. Avg. pace 7:39 min/mile, AIS later in the evening.

Saturday – 10.5m Easy
Got this fella done but not exactly comfortable and trouble still looms for Conor. I currently write this with a bag of frozen peas under the calf. I thought we were back and track after yesterday but it acted up again, not a whole lot but every now and then I felt minor darts of pain and particularly coming back up to my house though I walked most of the monster hill. Was hoping to do this quicker but my in-built speed limiter would rarely let me go fast than 7:30 min/mile today and for good reason, average pace was a sensible but slightly frustrating 7:36 min/mile. Down for a 16m long run tomorrow which I might cut short depending on how the calf acts throughout the day. 

Weekly total: 59.5m

Race Report: Mallow 10 mile

Time for test number two before the main event in 3 weeks and this was an ideal race, my first 10 miler and right on my doorstep, well, a small train journey away. With a low weekly mileage behind me I felt well rested to give this race a good shot and realistically I was expecting to finish in the 61-62 minute bracket though in the back of my head I was always thinking about a sub 60. My half marathon time 3 weeks ago equates to a 61:30 10 miler according to the McMillan calculator which is generally quite accurate. I didn’t expect to have improved by enough in 3 weeks to get under 60 so I was prepared to be satisfied with a 61:xx.

Up early on Sunday morning and prepared a light breakfast, a bowl of porridge with sliced banana and a coffee. I headed out the door just before 10am and ran 3 easy miles down to the train station to get the blood flowing. The start wouldn’t be for over 2 hours so I wasn’t worried about tiring myself out before the race. I arrived to Mallow 20 minutes later and met up with coach Jim and another lady from the club who had both gotten the train down from Dublin to do the race. We headed off to race HQ to count down the time, have a coffee and a chat. We eventually headed off, warmed up for another mile or so by jogging to the start line. I bought some blister pads in a chemist nearby (precautionary) and suddenly it was 12:30pm and we were ready to go. I realized before the start that there was a 60 minute pacer so my race plan was to simply keep this guy in view as long as I could and not worrying about pace on my garmin, one of the downfalls of my Bohermeen 1/2 marathon I felt. That should get me in and around the hour I figured. Jim had told me to go for the 6 minute miles and see how long I can hold it, seemed like a fair plan.

Mile 1-5

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 18.48.57Bang! Off went the gun and as is common in a lot of races with large crowds, there were a load of jokers in the 60 minute section who were nowhere near that pace but insisted on starting near the front, slowing the rest of us down. The sections are clearly marked with intended finish time, don’t people realise it’s chip timed, angry face. Anyway I found a nice steady pace, about 20 yards behind the 60 min group which was probably 30-40 people, I knew most of them wouldn’t last. The first mile felt surprisingly good, I was still a good 20 yards off the pacers but happy where I was and feeling my way into the race. I soon worked into step with an Eagles AC runner in mile 2 and both of us ran together for about 2 miles closing in slowly on the pace group ahead. We ended up passing a good few souls who were starting to drop like flies and yet it was still so early, you’d wonder why they were dropping off the pacer after 2 miles. We had caught the group by mile 4 and and worked in with them. By this stage the group was down to just 10-15 people and the pace actually felt like it slowed a little. I was still feeling great at this stage, fully relaxed, breathing was fine and the legs felt fresh, I was in the zone and wondering what the catch was. As we approached halfway, I realised I was about to break my PB for 5 miles, in a 10 mile race! And I did just that as we hit the 5 mile mark in 29:31, the question was could I do it all again? my head said yes, is feidir liom!

Mile 6-10

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 18.49.15Mile 6 just flew by, I was still in that relaxed zone like I could go forever but I only had to do 10 miles, 10 should be enough. At this stage I sort of knew I had the sub 60 in the bag, I really felt confident so then I dangerously started thinking, how far under can I go? no wait, should I just stick with the group? Hmm. After 6.5 miles (also had just beaten my 10k PB) we came to a slight uphill and the whole group seemed to slow. I didn’t plan it but I soon found myself out in front of them as I felt strong going uphill so I kept the pace. Looks like my legs have decided for me, let’s go with it. Once passed the pacing group, I made a vow with myself to not let them pass me, how soul destroying would that be, plus I just really wanted to finish ahead of them, think of ALL those places I’ve just made up. A lone guy out of the group completely dressed in black came with me, I think he was itching to leave the group too and it was nice to have the company and somebody to work off, though not a word was spoken. We really took off from the group, the audible trampling of the stampede fading with each stride until we could no longer hear it, how nice that felt. The guy’s breathing was really all over the place which made me even more conscious of controlling my own, thanks mate.

Me and my pal at mile 8, working well off each other

Me and my pal at mile 8, working well off each other

By mile eight I was still feeling strong, I didn’t know my pace or time and I didn’t even want to, I just kept running fast and it felt good. We caught and surged through a group of about 5 ahead of us, breezing though as they were visibly struggling. The confidence just kept on growing, there was one guy on his own ahead of us we made our next vict…target. We caught him right on the marker for mile 9 and at that stage I said “see ya lads” as I knew I had a good finish in me. I worked up one more gear pulling away from them and making it my business to get to the line as quick as I could. The last mile was difficult I won’t lie, and my right calf was starting to pain but I knew I was putting everything I had left into this, clocking a 5:34 mile to finish. I think my buddy started catching me a little but I had enough of a gap and crossed the line, checking my watch twice as it read an incredibly surprising 58:46 and 33rd overall out of a 1000 strong field. This was a result I would never have contemplated at the start of the day but such is the beauty of this sport, the hard work is paying off. Thrilled.

What a thoroughly enjoyable race, one of my favourite so far. There was never really a point where I felt bad, no negative thoughts, no worrying about pace and maybe that was the difference as it was a serious improvement on the 1/2 marathon effort 3 weeks ago (based on today, my half time should be around 1:18 according to McMillan). Average pace was 5:51 min/mile and I think I got the strategy spot on, nice and steady early on, picking it up finishing strong as always. Coach Jim came home 1st in the over-70′s as expected running sub 75 mins, what a man and he was delighted for me when he heard my result, the plan really coming to fruition now and I’m seriously impressed with his training. 3 weeks now winding down the miles to the main event so as usual back to the grind tomorrow and we keep going.

Week 10 – A mild bump

44 miles this week, lowest week yet but considering I was forced to take 2 days off with blisters and having to work a taper into the week, I think that’s just fine. The bulk of the training is done so if I was to get blisters, now is the time to get it out of the way. I got 2 key sessions in this week and hopefully the 10 mile race tomorrow will give me another good indicator I’m on track for this 2:50 attempt. The half marathon time 3 weeks ago equates to roughly 61-62 mins for 10 miles. Of course it would be nice to get below 60 mins but I think that’s possibly for later on in the year, if I hit 61:xx that’ll be a good result.

Sunday – 15m
I’m was staying down at my sisters house in Wicklow town to be at a christening/birthday double for my nephews and also had the privilege of being Oscars godparent (i.e supplier of presents). I slept like a log after yesterdays tough MP session but was up early thanks to the reliable nephew alarm and I was ready for my run by 8am. I was down for another 20m this morning but having spoken to Jim during the week we decided to make this a 15 miler given the pace miles yesterday, sensible option I think as I don’t want to jeopardise the rest of the weeks training. The blisters on my feet were pretty bad and I knew it was only going to get worse but it’s all part of the job, off we go. The run was fine, not sure where I was going most of the time but another beautiful sunny morning (no jacket, gloves OR hat today, amazing), great scenery and quite enjoyable once I got going. The first 4 or 5 were difficult, the legs felt tired and I hit a monster uphill at mile 3 which really took the wind out of my sails but I got going once I summited that. I found a good rhythm at around 7:15-30 min/mile pace though the blisters were starting to flare up, otherwise feeling fine. Average pace for the run overall was 7:39 min/mile which I’m pretty happy with after what was probably the toughest session of the schedule yesterday. Got home, went to mass and then gorged on soup, salad, cake and treats for the afternoon before making the long journey back to Cork. Excellent 2 days training and confidence is high though the massive blister on my left foot is looking pretty nasty and needs some love and care and probably a day off tomorrow, blisters must be treated with the respect they deserve.

Monday – Rest
A day off work and a day off running, what am I supposed to do!! I took care of the blister soaking it in a bowl of warm water & dettol and hopefully it will be healed up for tomorrow, if not I’ll take an extra rest day as I’m taking no chances at this stage, the last thing I want is an infection. Did some strength and core work in the morning and looked out the window for the rest of the day, I saw a red car.

Tuesday – Rest
Extremely frustrating to take another day off but I know it’s the sensible option. The blister on my left foot is still in bad shape, it hurts to walk, it’s still not healed and running on it is just not a good idea, it’s not. It kills me to take 2 days off in a row but when I take a step back and think rationally about it, I’m not losing anything really, a 6 and an 8 mile run, 2 runs that will not make or break my marathon. Tomorrow I’ll be in good shape for an 8 x 1 mile session I hope and we’ll be back on track. Weekly milage though a nice metric to look back on after a weeks training  is really irrelevant at this stage.

Wednesday – 6 x 1 mile (11m)
Well the blisters were still hanging around today but not causing any pain to walk on so I decided I was going to do the session tonight, 3 days without running could cause serious mental side effects. Today I also got a last minute entry to the Mallow 10 miler on Sunday which was a race Jim mentioned would be a good one to do and it’s not far so I’m signed up for that. This changed the dynamics of my training for the rest of the week, I’d be taking it a lot easier and incorporating a mini-taper which means the 8 x 1 mile session today changes to a 6 and then easy running for the rest of the week. It also means I am sacrificing one last 20 miler but I think I’ve got some good medium and long runs under my belt at this stage (4 x 20m+, 18m, 17m x2) and racing a 10 miler would be just as beneficial, particularly in terms of confidence. Anyway straight forward session tonight, headed down to the city 2 miles warmup including some laps on the Mardyke track but had to leave as a group were starting a session. I headed out the Carrigrohane road for 6 mile repeats with 90 seconds recovery, 3 of which were into a fairly tough wind. I settled nicely into the paces and the splits were pretty consistent running 5:58, 6:03, 5:54, 6:04, 5:56 and 5:54. 2 mile warmdown and good session in the bag, great to be back running after what felt like a week resting and the blisters didn’t complain, gerupyaboya!!

Thursday – 8m Steady
Nice run today, headed into the city and looped around Carrigrohane and Model Farm road. The paces were anything but steady but averaged 7:15 min/mile for the first 7 and then a laborious 8:30 for the monster hill mile home.

Friday – 6m Easy
Another jaunt through the city but this time headed a new route and a new monster hill home. Popped into Lidl on the way home and somehow managed to run 2 miles home with a bag of groceries, that’s winning.

Saturday – 30 mins Easy  (4m)
Looked out the window and it was a smashing morning, sun beaming just like last Saturday but this time I thought I was being smarter and didn’t bring my hat or gloves, I should have. The first 2 miles were ok, legs were sluggish but then the elements turned on me as it always does, rain, wind, baltic air…I just wanted to be home. I read a nice quote recently, by Winston Churchill, “If you’re going through hell, keep going”. This wasn’t hell of course, it was mild but it can really apply to any difficult situation when running or racing. No matter what happens, if you keep on running you’ll eventually get to your end-point and everything will be fine, I like it and I’ll probably think of it tomorrow.

Week 9 – The blisters are here!

Sunday – 17m with 6 @ MP
Woke up early and extremely tired, I wasn’t feeling this one so I turned on the electric blanked and went back to sleep. Fast forward to just after 10am and I finally got my skates on and out the door, I also put on my running gear. I headed out the Carrigrohane road again, the first 10 miles were nippy and feeling ok at 7:10 min/mile avg. I turned around for home and moved up a gear into my marathon pace which I realized today is not just a physiological gear change but mentally I needed to tune into this faster pace. I found while knocking out the 7:10 pace miles early on that my mind couldn’t really comprehend running at 6:30 pace, it knew it didn’t have to or wouldn’t have to because a plan had been set out and that’s the importance in going out with a clear set of goals, not running aimless miles, you’re mind is focused on what it needs to do. When I got to mile 10, it immediately all clicked, almost automatically and I was able to adapt to that pace quite seamlessly, both mind and body were in unison and I found those 6 miles quite comfortable, if that makes sense. Good session and the MP miles felt good today, last mile was up the dreaded hill so really felt like a good workout.

Monday – 8m Steady
A nice relaxed gallop out this evening as darkness began to swallow the delicious blue sky I had monitored from my desk all day. The evening chill was feeling…eh chilly and even though it was a relatively un-scenic through the concrete jungle of Hollyhill, I weaved the estates along undulating pavements and I felt refreshed, it felt good to run. Pace was good considering the hills, holding it at around 7:05 min/mile after the first mile warmup and only one brat shouted at me today.

Tuesday – 20 x 400m w/30 sec recovery (10m)
Doesn’t sound like a pretty session does it but it got done in the end and I’m pretty happy with my efforts. Didn’t head for a track, decided to keep it local around the streets of Hollyhill, big mistake. 3 mile warmup and then I found a nice stretch of quiet road where I’d do the 20 repeats. I started the session and I did notice a few grubby ponies and what looked like a functional halting site right on the route but didn’t think much of it. That was until I was on my 3rd rep and 2 little inbred shits starting firing rocks at me, ridiculous. The situation was futile, telling them it is morally wrong would encourage them to fire more rocks, ignoring them would just encourage them to fire more rocks, whatever I did they would just fire more rocks. I just wanted to do the session and I wasn’t going to get it done in peace here so I frustratingly headed on and had to pull out the next 2 reps uphill which wasn’t so bad, it was probably good for me. I was still knocking out the reps on the road, feeling good and eventually found a pretty deserted industrial estate and banged out the last 10 there. The recovery was short, 30 seconds and I ran them all by effort not looking at the watch, splits were pretty consistent in the end, typical pace was 5:20-5:30 min/mile bar the few uphills (splits here) and that’s not shabby considering I had 20 to do, thanks for that Jim. 2 mile cool-down and cooked a sweet potato pie which is about to be sampled.

Wednesday – 8m Easy
A successful run today, I didn’t get stones fired at me which is always a bonus. I headed out on a new route today, couldn’t tell you where but it involved heading through the city centre where I had to stop about 300* times at traffic lights and then out into the suburbs. A nice enjoyable run keeping the pace relaxed enough averaging 7:25 min/mile overall. Felt tired for the first mile which is likely from the session last night, I took the 1.5 mile drag route back up to home via Blarney street which isn’t near as steep as the killer hill, a potential return route candiate for the future.

Thursday – 13.5m Tempo
Another quality tempo this week, took a while to find a comfy zone but once I stopped obsessing about pace, I loosened the shackles and found my happy zone, really need to stop being a slave to my garmin. Headed down Blarney st. towards the city, the 3 mile warmup was nippy enough 7:37, 7:13 and 7:04. I started working up the gear over the next few miles as I headed out the Carrigrohane road working down towards 6:30 min/mile pace. Had a bit of garmin trouble, pace started heading all over the place for one of the miles and it was wrecking my head. After about 3/4 tempo miles at CIT I got tired of constantly checking the watch making sure I was on pace, going up a hill would skew it and I’d end up trying to make up time, I wasn’t even sure if the watch was accurate, yeah Conor it’s the watch.  I said this is ridiculous, I wasn’t enjoying it so I just turned off the pace display and all I could see was distance and time, much better. I knew I had to run 4/5 more hard miles so I just belted off and ran on feel, no self imposed restrictions or limits and it was a world of different running 6:32, 6:31, 6:18, 6:08 and 5:57 for the last 5 feeling very comfortable and strong. I got into that special zone for a while where everything just felt right and I could run forever, probably looked like a freak as I ran with my arms stretched wide embracing the moment, maybe some of you understand. Finally made it back to the city and a very relaxed 2 mile cool-down back up Blarney street, home just in time as a creepy fog shrouded the neighbourhood making it hard to even see the pavements. 6:59 min/mile pace overall, job nicely done and the sweet potato pie was delicious, bring on recovery day tomorrow.

Friday – 4m Recovery
I had to go to the post office at lunch to pick up a parcel so why not make a little run out of it? Probably a sign that my life does indeed revolve around running. Anyway It was a nice relaxed 30 min loop there and back and there’s not really much to say about it, the shower facilities here are excellent and there’s even a sauna! I was sitting in the sauna at work, during lunch, how about that. Well big session tomorrow the big 20 miles with 10 @ MP eeeeeep!

Saturday – 21.5m w/10 @ MP
Well it was time for the key session of my plan, 20 miles with the last 10 at 6:30 min/mile pace. I was nervous about this last night, not sure why I think I built it up too much in my head. I guess if I didn’t hit the targets then I would have felt like I wasn’t in sub 2:50 marathon shape and my life would be ruined. Note how I used “if” there, because I did in fact hit the targets and it was a bloody hard session but how relieved to have it done and done well. Anyway so off I headed at 8am down the Blarney road and through the city, smashing morning and immediately regretted wearing gloves, jacket and hat, it’s just automatic these days. I had a route mapped from the day before out which included roads I’d never ran on before and in hindsight that was a bad idea because I still really have no clue about where I’m going in this city so I missed a few turns. I managed to remedy that situation with some quick thinking and the route eventually worked out. I was already heating up by 3 miles and the hat went into my pocket, I headed out Model Farm road towards Ballincollig, the legs feeling quite tired from the heavy week but holding the pace at a steady 7:30 min/mile. By mile 10 the time had come to tune into marathon pace and I was really starting to feel the heat now, gloves off.

The first tempo mile had to be uphill of course, very tough but I held the pace at 6:30, made a turn and headed back towards the city. The miles seemed to fly by, after 3 uncomfortable tempo miles I settled in and ran the next 5 closer to 6:20 min/mile which felt better but the heat, yes the heat out of that March sunshine really starting to affect me. It’s not supposed to feel easy I kept telling myself but by mile 17, the blister that had been brewing in my foot was starting to make me feel very uncomfortable and I was just counting down the next 3 miles. I visualised the moment where I would have the session done, the satisfaction and the inevitable quenching of my thirst that would follow. I duly slogged out those last 3 miles all under 6:30 and I finally hit that magic 20 outside the Mardyke arena. I stretched my arms in the air as if I had just crossed the line in first, in my head I did, sublime feeling but was fit to drop (splits here). Having not had any fluids all morning, I was aching for relief and during those last few miles I got the idea of innocent smoothies in my head, the banana and strawberry kind. I brought money with me so headed straight for Supervalu on Merchant quay, getting a nice cool-down jog in. I finally got my large carton of innocent smoothie and I think I drank the whole carton in less than 2 minutes, so satisfying and I felt alive again. I jumped on a bus back up home, no hill for me today and I then headed for Wicklow as I now sit in my sister house watching match of the day. Great old session and no time to rest as off for another long one in the morning with a 15 miler scheduled. Quality weeks training running my first 80+ mile week and key session completed, get in there.

Weekly total: 82.5m

Week 8 – Finding my work/run balance

Sunday – Half Marathon Race (17m)
Bohermeen half marathon, PB’d running a 1:21:46, great indication that the training’s going well, we’re on the right road. See all my babbling about that in full here.

Monday – 6m Recovery
First day back working after almost a year and it was a good day all things considered, these guys at Apple really look after you, highlight was when I walked into the canteen at lunch, gourmet dinners…I think I’ll like it here, oh and the job seems interesting too. Strange getting kitted up at 6 pm for a run but such is the life of a working man (me), get used to it Conor. The legs didn’t feel too bad today but was feeling a bit low on energy from yesterday so I headed off for a 6 mile very easy run. I said it’s hilly in Cork and that was an understatement, it’s hill mania. I headed into the city centre which was a fairly steep 2 mile downhill but coming back on other side of the loop, the uphill was squeezed into under a mile and it was just horrendous. The worst part is that this is unavoidable, every route I map out has a climb back home so I’ll just have to deal with it, maybe even get used to it.

Tuesday – 3/2/1/ & 1/1/1 km intervals (10.5m)
Was originally down for a 3/2/1km x 2 but Jim advised to tone this one down a bit since I’d still be recovering from the half, fair point there Jim. So off I set after work again, the steep 1 mile down to the city and out the Carrigrohane road which was ideal for the session though it’s strange running in the dark now, what’s going on. I warmed up for about 20 minutes and set off for the first 3km, this felt a little difficult understandably but pace was slower than I wanted at around 6:35 min/mile but I didn’t push it too hard knowing that I’m still feeling the effects of the race. I took 90 sec recovery and jumped into the 2k feeling a lot better than running avg. 6:10 min/mile for this, exactly what I was aiming at. Another 60 second rest and into the 1k which was 5:56 and feeling surprisingly sprightly. A few minutes break and then jumped into a 3 x 1km set with 60 seconds recovery which went just fine, paces were also averaging 5:55 which made for a decent session overall and delighted with how I felt only 2 days after the half. Nightmare crawl back up the hill to my house, something has to be done about this hill, just look at the elevation chart.

Wednesday – om (sick)
Woke up today at 7am and immediately knew I wouldn’t be running. Sore throat, stuffy head, lethargic and just plain sick. I guess everything caught up on me, the race, starting a new job and then the hard session last night though it felt ok at the time, oh well. I planned on getting an easy double in today, 4m before and after work but I knew I needed a day off.  I bought me a pack of lemsip™, went to work and sucked it up.

Thursday – 13m Tempo
Felt a bit recovered today, bit more energy today but all the symptoms of the common cold remained throughout the day , my desk bin was overflowing with kleenex™. Coming home from work, I was not looking forward to this session as the rain started coming down harder and I didn’t want to get sicker but you know what they say, if you’re only sick above the neck, go for it. Not those words exactly but it’s an unwritten rule of thumb. Anyway It turned out to be an excellent session, it usually does when you least expect it. I headed out the Carrigrohane road again as I got into a good stride, seems to be my new Wexford road, sniff. The plan was just to see how I felt as I went along and I was feeling good by the 2nd mile running it at 7:30 min/mile pace, the rain now subsiding. I kicked on for the next 8 miles running splits of 7:14, 6:49, 6:55, 6:39, 6:29, 6:27, 6:17, 6:10, 5:45 and then a cool-down for 2 miles. I was feeling great for the last few miles, and really pushed it for the last one though I only intended to hold that pace for 1/2 a mile I just kept going. Felt great afterward, amazing what a good hard run can do you for. I also had a nice fillet steak for dinner, worth mentioning.

Friday AM – 4m Recovery
Relaxed 4 miler recovery around Hollyhill before work, it was very early and I can’t remember much maybe I was still asleep, maybe I never actually did it…no wait I did, garmin says so. Smashing morning for a change.

Friday PM – 5m Recovery
Similar route to this morning, trying to avoid the hills for the recovery so stayed away from the city. Beautiful evening, easy pace, nothing to write home about and legs are feeling grand, I guess I’m almost back to full health. Not a particularly pleasant route around the estates and a lot of young louts who like to shout things like “run” at me. I am running! Dropped into my local Supervalu for some groceries on the way home, cooked a chicken and watched Shutter Island, what a twist at the end, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the movie, I’m still not sure, was it good?

Saturday – 4 x 12mins w/2 min recovery (15m)
Well I knew this was going to be a tough one but felt up to it even though it’s been a tough old week, didn’t expect it to total 15 miles though, I swear it wasn’t just to clock a 70 mile week. I headed down to CIT track for this, I figured it’s 2 mile repeats and I wasn’t aware of any decent 2 mile interrupted stretch so I’ll do it on the track, might be boring but let’s just do it. 3.5 mile warmup to the track and then headed into the first rep. It was a pretty blustery day so for a good 150 meters of each rep I’d be battling a headwind, the goal pace was around my 1/2 marathon pace, around 6:12 min/mile. The session went by quite quickly to my surprise, pace was very consistent with average min/mile pace for each rep registering 6:14, 6:13, 6:12, 6:14 and a typical rep measuring 1.93 miles. I enjoyed running by time today rather than distance because I didn’t know when the rep would end so I just ran hard until the watch beeped, I’m sometimes guilty of slowing when I know a rep is almost done. Cool-down for 3.5 miles back home and yeah I walked back up the monster hill, I’ve got a long run tomorrow! Pretty satisfied with that session and that makes 3 quality sessions in this week, recovered very well between each and a 70 mile week including a race, I’m happy enough with that.

 

Race Report: Bohermeen Half Marathon

Sunday 02/03 – Bohermeen 1/2 Marathon – 1:21:46 PB!
So it was time for my first real test, the Bohermeen half marathon test to be exact. I headed off to county Meath on what started out to be a nice Sunday morning but as we got closer to the sleepy village of Bohermeen, the rain came bucketing down, of course. I got a lift out with a Donore club mate, Shane and we arrived with plenty of time to spare so we just sat in the car cursing the elements. I met up with cousin Bryan (who’s doing Rotterdam also) and we jogged off for a 2 mile warmup in the miserable cold and wind. Suddenly it was minutes to race time which caught us off guard so we threw our jackets behind a wall and legged it to the start line. Before we knew it we were heading off into the rugged countryside of Meath, the rain suddenly a distant memory and focus was on the road ahead.

Mile 1-5: The adrenaline was pumping and off I went with the crowd at a nippy pace but soon settled into my own pace, running a 6:13 for the first mile, that felt fine as the optimistic goal pace of 6:10 suddenly felt do-able. Effort felt hard for the next few miles as expected, I always seem to take a while to adapt to running at pace but I wasn’t in pain, just a matter of getting the miles clocked and finding that comfy zone, currently it was comfortably uncomfortable. I had quite a large field ahead of me so I made it my business to make targets ahead and pick them off one by one. This strategy works well for me over distance, I find starting conservatively and later making gains mentally encourages me and I tend to finish strong. After the 1st mile, I don’t think I was passed once during the race but must have made up at least 20 places. It was a 2 lap course not much of which I remember but passing over the first motorway flyover, in a cruel twist of fate, my lace came undone which of course was my own fault. I was left with the option of losing 20 seconds tying it or deal with it flopping around and potentially tripping me up for the rest of the race. I was on a downhill so I took the sensible option, stopped and tied it. I had worked hard to catch up and take a runner ahead of me and he just breezed past me, so I guess I was passed once. It was a nightmare those few seconds tying the lace, my cold shivering hands clumsily fumbling with the laces knowing I’m losing valuable seconds. I got her tied and stormed back at the few lads ahead of me, it was a nice downhill section so within a few minutes I had made back the places and settled back into a sensible pace. The final time was skewed a little since the watch decided to stop for a few seconds when I tied my lace.

Mile 5-10: The nowhere land of the race. I can’t recall much, I was tiring and feeling the pace difficult but still holding around 6:15, sometimes getting dangerously close to 6:20. Getting to the start of the 2nd loop was nice, the crowd was great and gave me a good boost. I was still picking off runners ahead of me but I wasn’t satisfied with the pace, maybe I’d set my target too high and part of me starting thinking I’d be satisfied with a 1:23 result, bla bla bla first big race in a year bla bla, so many thoughts. My other cousin Shane (Bryan’s bro) was cycling the course giving us some great encouragement and would cycle up beside me telling me I’m closing on on Bryan, how many places he was ahead of me, I was able to smile and it really helped having someone there pushing you on. Suddenly I was approaching mile 10 and spirits were lifting, I felt a strong finish brewing.

 

On the home straight

Mile 1-13: Maybe it’s because I was only 5k from home but I was also feeling strong, my form was good, my back straight and so I focussed hard and kicked into another gear pulling off a 6:05, 6:03 and 6:03 for the next 3 miles. There was a cluster of 4 runners in front of me and then cousin Bryan ahead of them having opened a big gap. With just over a mile to go I reckoned I could take the 4 guys, they were tiring but Bryan was too far ahead, a nice little challenge. The last mile was a tough uphill and the legs were weakening, I knew I was pushing it to my limit but I held the pace. I took 3 of them and then the last guy and I were head to head for the last 1/2 mile or so but I kicked on more and pulled away. I know positions don’t count so much in these road races, it’s not exactly XC but I love making these short term goals and the feeling of getting away from someone is nice and so motivating. I made up a of a lot of time in these last few miles, finishing in an extremely satisfying 1:21:46, average pace of 6:12 min/mile and smashing my PB by over 3 minutes, couldn’t really ask for more. The plan seems to be really working, the endurance and speed are both there and the finishing strength evident from my resistant training. I’m glad I made the long trip up to Meath, it seemed worth it getting a strong indication that I’m on track for a sub 2:50 effort come April. One month of hard training to come so, some fine tuning to do so it’s back to work tomorrow, and also I start real work tomorrow, that’s gonna be weird.

The Splits 

 

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A nice 2 mile warmdown afterwards and a cup of hot soup, lovely job! Hopped on a train back to Cork and now it’s time for a Reese’s Nutrageous PB treat :)

Week 7 – Countdown to Bohermeen

Sunday – 15.5m (4m @ MP)
A pretty miserable, blustery Sunday morning but no rest for the wicked (even though I’m a relatively nice chap) so off I set. The wind kindly helped me out the old Dublin road for the first 5 miles, feeling good and relaxed at 7:15 min/mile pace, faster than anticipated but went with it. Then I had to turn back into the breeze for the next 5 miles, the pace dropping by 10-15 seconds as I headed out towards the Wexford road for some marathon pace miles, my favourite sort of miles. Not. After 10 miles I picked up the pace aiming at 6:30 min/mile but couldn’t really hold that into the wind, it was closer 6:40 pace but once I turned I knocked out 3 more miles all around 6:30 min/mile and while that pace is still feeling difficult, it’s getting that little bit easier each time. Felt good overall today, 7:13 average.

Monday AM – 8m Easy
Cracker of a morning, feeling tired and sluggish today so just ran 8m at easy pace (7:33 min/mile) and then hopped in the car off to Cork to find somewhere to live. And I did, find somewhere to live.

Monday PM – 4m V.Easy
I want to front-load some miles this week so I can work in a mini taper for the half marathon this Sunday, apparently I’m still doing it. So a couple of hours after devouring a tasty Chinese for dinner, I  headed off for an easy 4 miler around the hilly hills of Cork, avg. 8:06 min/mile. The roads were dead, the night was dark, I wasn’t sure where I was going and my stomach was not feeling good…but yeah I got it done, sleep time.

Tuesday – 10 x 3 mins (12.5m)
Still down in Cork for the morning as I stayed the night and decided to avail of the excellent track at CIT just outside the city for this session. It was a sunny but blustery day and I knew I was in for a bit of a windy one from the warmup. A slow and boring warmup for about 35 mins around the campus and housing estates, didn’t have a clue where I was going. I finally made my way back onto the track and headed into the first rep. I did this exact session roughly a month ago so I expected to see some improvements and that I did, the pace roughly up by 10-15 seconds which is satisfactory. The first rep was at 5:48 min/mile pace and then I settled in and started knocking out mid 5:30′s and finished strong with a 5:26 and 5:31 pace, recovery was a cruel 60 seconds. Tough but quality session and with a strong wind to deal with at times, split are here. 15 mins cool-down and off I set back to Wexford. So I’m moving to Cork on Thursday, Bohermeen half marathon Sunday and start work on Monday, christ it’s going to be a busy week! Weights session in the evening.

Wednesday – 10m
Just a nice relaxed 10 miler today, a rather sunny crisp morning but was feeling tired from all my exploits yesterday and wanted to get this done with so I could start organising my shit. Looped out the old Dublin road and a bit of love to the Wexford road also, two very good roads. Avg. pace 7:53 min/mile.

Thursday – 7m Tempo
Getting close to the half marathon and didn’t want to push it too much this week so kept this tempo pretty short. Warmed up for 10 mins and then ran the next 20 mins around 6:15 min/mile pace which felt pretty good, cool down for 20 mins and off to the Cotton Tree for my last supper, or breakfast I should say. It was my last run in ye old towne as I soon boarded a plane (car) and made my way down to my new abode in the republic of people, or whatever they call it down there. Pretty tiring day but got moved in and boy is it hilly where I live, I guess it’s good in a way but it’s also really bad in another way.

Friday – 6m Recovery
My first jaunt around the new neighbourhood, and how silly I was not putting on my gloves, its bloody freezing here but then I heard from the mammy that it was also cold back there, you got lucky this time Cork. I headed into the city which is a steep steep downhill for 2 miles and then back up for 2 miles and my legs did not like it one bit. I then wandered up towards my new place of work and calculated a distance of 1/2 a mile from my door, isn’t that a nice coincidence! Then out into the countryside for a bit since I’m on it’s doorstep and back home, nice run but nobody welcomed me on the street so I was a bit disappointed with that.

Saturday – Rest
I toyed with the idea of getting a few easy miles in today but it would be just for the sole purpose of building weekly milage. I saw past my idealistic motivations and sense prevailed, today I rest, tomorrow I race. 63 miles this week is just fine, hitting the 70 mark isn’t going to make or break my marathon though it does mess with your mind a lot especially when I’m following logs of other similar runners and seeing them clock up more milage than me. There’s no one-size-fits-all plan really, every individual reacts differently to training and right now I feel I’m doing enough for a sub 2:50 race without pushing beyond my limits of getting injured or over-training. That could be of course me simply justifying my milage but I guess time will really tell. Tomorrow I hope to hit 82 mins and if I do I’ll be happy, if I don’t I won’t be devastated, I’m only 2 months back running seriously and there’s another good month of quality training to come. Let’s give it a lash anyway. Tune in next week.

Total weekly milage: 63