Friday, 31 December 2010

Hanson training schedules

Recent weeks have been difficult to say the least and most of my runs until very recently have been a minutes per mile slower than usual. While it was very beautiful at times, especially in the Phoenix park, I was glad of the thaw when it came.
The uncertainty concerning both my employment prospects and residency have rendered it very difficult to commit to any spring marathon. Consequently there might be no marathon this spring.
However, while this undermines motivation I remain determined to build on the progress achieved in 2010. Recently I stumbled upon a training approach outlined in a recent edition of Runner's World that I think largely reflects my approach to marathon training throughout last summer and autumn. More information is available from the January 2011 edition of Runner's World. The schedule on the final page does look rather short on miles but it does not include warm up and warm down miles during marathon paced workouts and interval sessions. It's primary premise is that too much emphasis is ascribed to the long slow run. I think that while the emphasis on the long run is sometimes too much I would be reticent to embark on a programme with that many short 'long' runs. Perhaps any adaption/adoption of this plan would be practicable provided there was an incorporation of more sixteen mile runs? I was somewhat reassured that the runner profiled averaged sixty-five to seventy miles per week. Adopting a definitive schedule would allow me to reincorporate 'periodisation' into my training and provide a framework to sour my training.

Sunday, 19 December 2010


Back from three weeks in the US today. The respective mileage for each week was twenty-nine, fifty-one and thirty-nine, with a tempo session in each week and a marathon pace session in the second week. I am reasonably happy with this considering the first week involved work and a sore left knee, which seems to have largely sorted itself out.
Similar to Ireland the weather was really cold but drier. Additionally, in America they have encountered the revelation that pre-treating roads with salt and taking the necessary modest steps to prevent ice build up on pavements ensures people can go about their daily business without fear of injury or worse.
Last Tuesday was especially brutal. The air temperature was -5 heading out the door and the strong wind chill must have taken it down to double digits. It was so cold I completed the last two miles of the scheduled ten at marathon pace so I could be done quicker and warm up a little in the meantime. Chastened by this experience, and following enquiries concerning my sanity, I elected to stay indoors the following day when less extreme but not entirely dissimilar conditions prevailed.
To prepare myself for the vagaries of Irish 'ah, sure it's grand' syndrome when water begins to freeze, I got the devices below from the in-laws as a Christmas present. I think I will be using them sooner rather than later.

In other news I have managed to put on nine pounds in three weeks in the US! This was quite a shock as I did not feel as though I had put any weight on and do not look as though I have. However, multiple weighing scales all tell the same story; and this all before Christmas!! I will have to watch my diet for a while to ensure I get back down towards the more usual 160-163lbs.

Friday, 19 November 2010

New Year and new (escape) plans

Four weeks now since the Dublin marathon and I am slowly getting back to peak mileage. This week I should hit fifty miles - about fifteen to twenty short of peak marathon training mileage. December might prove a difficult month, being in the US for much of it for work and holidays. However, I would be disappointed not to squeeze in fifty miles per week for the three weeks I am there.
I am essentially trying to maintain base fitness and some sharpness but I have not entered into or devised any explicit marathon training schedule. I am unable to commit to any spring marathon just yet; my uncertain employment situation in the New Year and plans to emigrate from what is now a protectorate of the European Commission and International Monetary Fund mean I cannot commit to any, either here or overseas.
So, the New Year will see me concentrate on shorter distances I think; local 10ks perhaps that I can sign up to on the day or with only a few weeks' notice. It's difficult holding back on entering full training when you have no race you are committed to but might be a good time to experiment or perhaps follow a 10K training plan with a nominal race date in mind.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Dublin Marathon 2010

The conditions could not have been more perfect. Cool, bright sunshine and practically no wind. I got to the start line with plenty of time to spare and got much closer to the front that I have traditionally. The race began a few minutes late and we were off down Fitzwilliam Street and over O'Connell bridge in no time. Congestion this near the front was relatively minimal. On North Circular road, about four miles in, I took my second gel; I took one fifteen minutes before gun time.
Shortly afterwards we were in the Phoenix park, which initially involves running up Chesterfield Avenue. This is a gentle uphill gradient. A left turn onto Furze road and I was soon past the 10k mark in a little over forty-two minutes and right on schedule.
Anticipating the hill towards Ballyfermot from Chapelizod it always pays to allow your pace to increase for the next two miles through the park down the Glen road and out the Chapelizod road. These two miles elapsed in 06:34 and 06:38.
By now I was also convinced the mile markers were not very accurate. While a 'Garmin mile' is never the same as a statute mile, the Garmin was bleeping ten to fifteen seconds before I actually passed the marker - either that or the Garmin was on the blink. I put this thought to the back of my mind and kept going.
By now the sub three hour pacers, who had gone out rather fast were just ahead of a group of us and as we approached the half-way point we passed them. At mile fifteen I took another gel, the fifth of the morning and encountered a little bad patch. I resolved to suppress any negative thoughts and knuckled down. The next few miles were very uneventful and I spent much of it concentrating on the sub three pacer sign appendaged to the signlet of the pacer and his little group that joined the few people running around me. This is probably the toughest part of the course and is quite undulating with a small hill and then a larger hill on Roebuck road on the south side of the University College Dublin campus. I negotiated this part of the course better than I have done before and ran an even effort, evidenced by 06:40, and 06:39 mile splits sandwiched between 06:49, 06:46 and 06:53 mile splits, taking me into the last 10K.
As we crossed the UCD flyover I began to dare to believe that my goal was achievable. At this point last year I had to stop and stretch out my cramping hamstrings and I felt pretty terrible. This year I felt strong and confident I could knock out another 06:3x mile if necessary. However, I elected to keep knocking out 06:4xs and hope the wheels didn't suddenly fall off.
Coming up Merrion road and beginning the final 5K, things got a little tougher but not significantly so and was what you would expect to experience in the last three miles of a marathon. I was pleased to knock out three consecutive 06:50 splits to take me towards the finish line.

Photo by Crossing the bridge at Upper Grand Canal street just short of the twenty-five mile mark. No. 2506

Barring a disaster, or my paranoia about the Garmin being correct, I knew I was on for achieving my goal. As we rounded the corner onto College Green I felt a couple of mild cramp spasms and was unable to increase my pace. However, otherwise the final 06:50 mile did not feel any more difficult than the previous identical splits.

Throughout the race I had my Garmin set to display current mile split projection and split average HR. I always display these two pieces of data, reasoning that if you look after the mile splits the overall time looks after itself and I never know exactly how long I have been on a course until I cross the line. Consequently, I was surprised and delighted to see 02:57:xx on the finish line clock as I approached. My Garmin paranoia was unfounded!

Photo by Kim Forsythe: Quarter of a mile remaining and delighted!

I crossed the line in 02:58:05. Absolutely delighted!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The test

This week, the second week of the three weeks between Koln and Dublin, totalled fifty miles. The main test this week was the ten miles on Saturday with five miles at tempo pace.
I approached this workout with a little trepidation, but if you are not a little apprehensive about a tempo workout then you are not doing then fast enough. It went surprisingly well and the tempo splits were as follows 6:10, 6:23, 6:24, 6:25, 6:11. The first was a bit fast, especially as it was slightly uphill. Normally the first tempo mile is the toughest and slowest, which conditions my willingness to hurt a little more in the first mile as I settled into the pace. Usually this results in a 06:3X split. The later than normal start for this workout might explain the fast time; I usually do this session on Friday morning at 06:30, rather than 10:00am on Saturday.
So far so good, but five miles at tempo is one thing but sixteen miles into a marathon might be a little different!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Hail Mary

Having registered for Dublin in another attempt to go sub three I needed to determine how I would approach the three weeks between Koln and Dublin. I have settle on the following.

Week 1 now complete
Thursday four miles easy, Saturday six miles easy and Sunday ten miles easy. This week went pretty well and feel good but I think anything south of eight minute miles might be a different story!

Week 2
Tuesday eight miles with 100m x 8. Wednesday twelve miles easy. Thursday 6 miles easy. Friday ten miles with five at tempo pace. I will feel my way through this workout and bail if needed. Sunday fourteen miles, giving a weekly total of fifty-two miles.

Week 3
Tuesday six miles easy. Wednesday six miles with two miles at marathon pace. Friday six miles easy.

I am unsure if this will provide the balance between recovery and maintenance of sharpness. Hoping to get under three at Dublin is a bit of a hail Mary pass but worth a shot.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Koln 2010...a tough day at the office

We arrived into Dusselforf airport at midday, following an hour delay at Dublin airport. The same day we went to the expo to collect my number. This was an impressive expo on two large floors. It was not much smaller than Boston.
On Sunday, race day, the race began at 11.30. This is the latest I have ever started a marathon and the heat was beginning to build. The forecast said a high of 23C. A bit warm but I still felt confident. Waiting on the sidelines for the handle bike race to begin and enter the 'red zone' for those intending to run the race in under 03:30 I spotted an Irish running celebrity in the form of Johnny Donnelly of fame. I thought he had almost finished his objective of running a marathon a month for four years for the Seachange charity, which provides microloans for communities in developing countries.
Uncharacteristically the race began ten minutes late but it was not too crowded at the start; the Germnans actually police the pace pens - fancy that! Consequently there was no one flying off at two minutes per mile pace faster than they could sustain over 5km nevermind over a marathon. Within no time we were crossing the Rhine and the first few miles went pretty well and right on target. Things were pretty uneventful for the first ten miles and I was changing places with the same five or six runners. Approaching the halfway mark took us back into the heart of the city centre and the support was excellent with people lined along each side of the street. The street was only about three or four runners wide and it was like running through a tunnel of noise. During the thirteenth mile I looked at my Garmin that registered a split pace of 06:11 but the HR remained fine. However, I backed right off and this mile, the fastest of the race at 06:40 also felt the easiest. I passed halfway in about 01:29:35.
A significant challenge at this time in the race was trying to take on water. It was quite warm now and the race organisers were providing water in plastic cups that split when you try and make a spout so you can drink while moving forward and avoiding pouring the water all over your face and up your nose. Perhaps this problem was what caused what was to happen a few miles later as I felt a few spasms in my right hamstring and then my left. I maintained pace until the nineteenth mile but then the wheels came off and my legs turned to lead. I am unsure if the cramps were related to my legs feeling increasingly heavy over the course of half a mile during mile nineteen. It was amazing how quickly I went from marathon pace to toast.

Photo by K Forsythe: All went south from here.

Suffice to say I knew there and then before I reached mile twenty that sub three was no longer possible. The final seven miles were something of a death march and felt longer than the previous nineteen. The crowd came into its own here and they provided great encouragement.

Photo by Approaching the end

Photo by K Forsythe: About a mile and a quarter to go.

Rather surreally, as we crossed the Rhine again to approach the finish a guy dressed in a Devil outfit, complete with novelty rubber hand beckoned me to high five him. What crossed my mind was how appropriate as I felt like Hell at this point. Over the crest of the bridge, across the Rhine, a left turn and I was done. I finished in 03:12:17. Not a happy camper and my second slowest marathon. However, Koln is an interesting city and the race is one I would recommend. Well organised, fast, reasonably aesthetic route and very good support from the locals. You cannot beat the post race food either; black pudding, bread, coke and non-alcoholic beer!

Photo by Cannot say I remember posing for this. Obviously delirious after the finish.

I choked down some of the black pudding and bread, coke and beer and thought to myself I better stop if I don't want to blow chunks all over the pavement, whereupon I almost stepped in the mess that someone else made making that very mistake. Oh, and post race shower facilites, which was great, so a quick shower and off to get an ice-cream and take a cable car ride.

Photo by K Forsythe: Cable car view of Koln

Well, I was pretty disappointed with my time so actually signed up to do Dublin in three weeks to have another shot at sub three. A long shot and not one everyone would recommend but worth a go considering the start line is less than two miles from my door. Now off to consult with Tim Noakes and Pfitziner & Douglas on how to run two marathons in proximity.

1) - 1m - 6:45(6:45/m) - 167bpm avge
2) - 1m - 6:49(6:49/m) - 171bpm avge
3) - 1m - 6:48(6:48/m) - 166bpm avge
4) - 1m - 6:46(6:46/m) - 169bpm avge
5) - 1m - 6:45(6:45/m) - 171bpm avge
6) - 1m - 6:47(6:47/m) - 171bpm avge
7) - 1m - 6:48(6:48/m) - 171bpm avge
8) - 1m - 6:48(6:48/m) - 172bpm avge
9) - 1m - 6:44(6:44/m) - 170bpm avge
10) - 1m - 6:47(6:47/m) - 171bpm avge
11) - 1m - 6:44(6:44/m) - 171bpm avge
12) - 1m - 6:49(6:49/m) - 170bpm avge
13) - 1m - 6:40(6:40/m) - 169bpm avge
14) - 1m - 6:45(6:45/m) - 171bpm avge
15) - 1m - 6:47(6:47/m) - 170bpm avge
16) - 1m - 6:49(6:49/m) - 170bpm avge
17) - 1m - 6:53(6:53/m) - 170bpm avge
18) - 1m - 6:54(6:54/m) - 171bpm avge
19) - 1m - 7:19(7:19/m) - 169bpm avge
20) - 1m - 7:48(7:48/m) - 163bpm avge
21) - 1m - 8:15(8:15/m) - 160bpm avge
22) - 1m - 8:30(8:30/m) - 158bpm avge
23) - 1m - 8:19(8:19/m) - 159bpm avge
24) - 1m - 8:15(8:15/m) - 159bpm avge
25) - 1m - 8:51(8:51/m) - 158bpm avge
26) - 1m - 8:37(8:37/m) - 158bpm avge
27) - 0.5m - 4:16(8:32/m) - 158bpm avge

Dublin half marathon

I had contemplated racing this race but sanity prevailed and I reverted to the original plan of running it at projected marathon race pace. It was a pretty horrid day and was wet and cool.
I planned to run this as a negative split and took the first eight miles quite comfortably. The second half of this race is somewhat uphill but I felt comfortable increasing the pace and it was a great feeling to overtake dozens of runners on the hills. For the last mile I decided to increase the pace to half marathon pace and I must have overtaken seventy or eighty runners over the last mile and a half. A great confidence booster and I crossed the line on 01:28:16.

Split Summary
1) - 1m - 6:42(6:42/m) - 164bpm avge
2) - 1m - 6:46(6:46/m) - 167bpm avge
3) - 1m - 6:48(6:48/m) - 166bpm avge
4) - 1m - 6:47(6:47/m) - 167bpm avge
5) - 1m - 6:44(6:44/m) - 163bpm avge
6) - 1m - 6:45(6:45/m) - 162bpm avge
7) - 1m - 6:40(6:40/m) - 163bpm avge
8) - 1m - 6:47(6:47/m) - 168bpm avge
9) - 1m - 6:34(6:34/m) - 169bpm avge
10) - 1m - 6:41(6:41/m) - 166bpm avge
11) - 1m - 6:43(6:43/m) - 168bpm avge
12) - 1m - 6:37(6:37/m) - 171bpm avge
13) - 1m - 6:25(6:25/m) - 173bpm avge
14) - 0.23m - 1:19(5:43/m) - 172bpm avge

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Bristol half marathon 5 September

This half was my target half for the Cologne marathon build up and would be the gauge of my progression in this training cycle. We also got to visit some friend in the Bath-Bristol area.
The morning of the race required me to book a taxi. This particular taxi driver was excellent and got us extremely close to the start area, much closer than we got when I did Bristol two years ago.
The weather was not good, cold, wet and not in considerably windy. Proceedings began a few minutes after 9am. The crowded nature of the first mile and a half made it quite challenging and definitely accounted for most of the overrun. After this things settled down and I was hitting my splits nicely. However, the weather was not great at all. The wind increased but as we moved along the Avon river the wind was at our backs. Through the Avon gorge and under the famous Brunel suspension bridge the field began to thin out and we began the gentle incline towards turnaround point. As I approached about a mile from the turnaround I saw British Olympian Liz Yelling pass me on the return. She was on for a seventy minute marathon but a trapped nerve in her foot resulted in a DNF.
As we reached the turn around point I began to feel crap; no particular reason just not feeling comfortable and as we made the turn around the increasingly strong wind was right in our faces. It was also at this point I realised that the gradient on the out section is steeper than you realise, steeper than travelling north-west up Chesterfield road in the Phoenix park. Miles seven and eight dropped into the early 06:30s and I hit a low point here. By now I was considering the possibility of missing out on my target of a sub eight-five minute half. I knuckled down and managed to knock my splits back into the high 06:20s.
The last 5K of this course is brutal. It a constant up and down short sharp hills. We encountered the first of these ascending past St Mary Redcliffe cathedral. Around the back of this and back down another steep hill and across the Avon again and onto cobbles - brutal. The wet conditions actually meant that I was losing traction on the cobbles! Then up another hill to Queen's Square, which is a nice Georgian square and onto a dirt trail that borders the square lawn. Then back onto more cobbles and up another short sharp up and down hill past Broadmead shopping centre. Here another runner turned to me and said 'I thought they said this was a flat fast race!' I responded with a harrumph.
Then back onto more cobbles and the end was in sight. My wife took the picture below but I never registered her presence, and while it looks like I am smiling I can assure you it is a grimace.

Yikes! Look at that heel strike. So much for Chi running. I need to make more of an effort to avoid heel striking so much. It definitely saps my strength in longer races. As I rounded the statue of my compatriot Edmund Burke, who was one time MP for Bristol I was within half a mile of home and manged to up the pace and crossed the line in 01:25:28. Not quite was I was after and felt I should be able to run a half-marathon 60-90 seconds quicker. However, you can never complain too much when you secure a three minute PB.

1) - 1m - 6:33(6:33/m) - 165bpm avge
2) - 1m - 6:19(6:19/m) - 176bpm avge
3) - 1m - 6:21(6:21/m) - 172bpm avge
4) - 1m - 6:28(6:28/m) - 170bpm avge
5) - 1m - 6:23(6:23/m) - 172bpm avge
6) - 1m - 6:25(6:25/m) - 172bpm avge
7) - 1m - 6:24(6:24/m) - 171bpm avge
8) - 1m - 6:32(6:32/m) - 171bpm avge
9) - 1m - 6:32(6:32/m) - 171bpm avge
10) - 1m - 6:26(6:26/m) - 170bpm avge
11) - 1m - 6:23(6:23/m) - 170bpm avge
12) - 1m - 6:29(6:29/m) - 169bpm avge
13) - 1m - 6:29(6:29/m) - 169bpm avge
14) - 0.3m - 1:45(5:51/m) - 173bpm avge

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Frank Duffy 10 mile race

It's been a while since I posted and I need to provide a few race updates. I will begin with the Frank Duffy 10 miler on 21 August. I was looking forward to setting a nice healthy new PB at this distance and the weather was close to ideal; no wind and sunny but it would get warmer during the morning. The race began right on time at 10am. The first mile elapsed in 06:20, a little fast perhaps but okay. The splits are below

1) - 1m - 6:20
2) - 1m - 6:22
3) - 1m - 6:24
4) - 1m - 6:22
5) - 1m - 6:18
6) - 1m - 6:16
7) - 1m - 6:33
8) - 1m - 6:35
9) - 1m - 6:40
10) - 1m - 6:16
11) - 0.07m - 23

Miles seven, eight and nine were along the Glen road and the pace dropped, although I felt I increased the effort level so these splits were a little disappointing. I was especially glad that the final mile was my fastest and according to I am on for a sub three hour marathon performance. As can be seen from the very low heart rate in the last few miles I was either in the final stages of a fatal heart attack or I needed to replace the battery; thankfully it was the latter!
I crossed the line in 01:04:30, with average mile splits of 06:26, twenty-three seconds per mile faster than last year.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Nailed it!

Image courtesy of

On occasion there is a run that goes entirely as planned and even better than you could have anticipated; these are often the runs you do not think too much about and just do. Last night I completed one of those. It might have been the novelty of doing an entirely new workout that motivated me. It was forty minutes at an easy recovery pace, forty minutes at marathon pace plus thirty seconds per mile and forty minutes at marathon pace. The first forty minutes passed uneventfully, the second forty minutes was where I began to really enjoy the session and was especially pleased by how easy it felt, which a low HR evidenced. By now the heavy showers of earlier had dispersed and it was a beautiful evening, which the surrounds of the Phoenix park will always enhance. The third forty minutes at marathon pace felt great and I struggled to hold myself from running it too fast and the pace during this final third was somewhere between marathon and half marathon pace.
The total run distance was 16.34 miles. If the training effect that some claim is a consequence of this workout has any veracity, and it remains as enjoyable but challenging an experience as last night's session, I shall make it a consistent part of future schedules.
The splits are as follows 07:55, 08:23, 8:24, 8:44, 8:21, 7:16, 7:15, 7:13, 7:18, 7:18, 6:49, 6:37, 6:38, 6:42, 6:36, 6:22, 2:20.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Dublin 10k

On 25 July I made my way out to Cherry Orchard for the Dublin 10k. Those who organised the recent Clontarf half marathon also organised this inaugural edition of this race. Consequently, I was had some reservations about this event but to be fair it was one of the best organised events I have ever participated in.
The race began at noon and began at exactly noon. Following a speedy initial quarter mile I settled nicely into race pace and the first mile elapsed in 06:05, so on target for a PB. Many of the hares that flew off at great speed were now dropping back and by the second mile I had settled into a group of three. At this point a guy in a blue singlet who I had momentarily passed drew level and suggested we work together. I am not sure what this intimates but assume it means taking turns pushing the pace and acting as a windbreaker. However, I was the one in poll position at all times and even when I slowed a little to let him take the front position he also slowed. Miles two and three passed in 06:07 and 06:15. At this point I was beginning to conclude that I was not hurting enough and pushed a little harder. By now the field had considerably thinned out and the other runner and I were completely on our own with only two runners visible about a third of a mile ahead.
I completed mile four in 06:16 and was increasingly concerned that I would miss out on a PB on a pretty flat course. Consequently as I passed the seven KM marker I noticeably increased my pace and left my companion behind. I had no idea of the etiquette when doing this but had concluded whatever working together meant I was not benefiting from it. This part of the race was along the recently paved section of the Royal Canal and the next couple of kilometres were quite lonely and no runners around me to provide a competitive edge I think undermined my pace a little. Mile five elapsed in 06:10. The last kilometre was against a stiff headwind and here I struggled to maintain pace but did mile six in 06:17. I passed the finish line on 38:42 giving me a new PB by ten seconds. Considering the stiff winds on parts of the course and running almost half the race on my own I was pretty happy.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Hurricane Clontarf

Photo credit: Racepix 365

It was a tough day at the 'Irish multi-marathon' half marathon and it began with registration! I got to the registration venue seventy minutes before the race time and it was rather farcical. Their was registration on the day, which is always inviting chaos if you're not prepared for it. It took thirty-five minutes to get through the process and those who arrived later had significantly longer than that to get trough it. Additionally, not registering in advance was much more beneficial as you could simply walk past the queue of pre-registered runners and walk up to a table to have your details put into a laptop and away you go; hardly fair.
Anyway, on to the race, which was delayed by twenty-five minutes - I was surprised it was not longer considering. The Lord Mayor was due to start the race but despite it being delayed by twenty-five minutes he managed to pull a no-show and we passed him with his starter horn ambling down the Clontarf promenade about half a mile into the race!
The conditions were exceptionally windy but it was to our backs for the first four miles. Part of this out and back course is on two and a half miles of the Dollymount strand and the wind here was whipping sand up into our faces. The first four miles splits were 06:24; 06:29; 06:28 and 06:20. Here we moved back onto the road and had the wind full blown against us and a deluge of horizontal rain accompanied. Unsurprisingly, the fifth mile split reduced to 07:01. We then turned north-east again and had the wind at our back again with miles six elapsing in 06:22. About half a mile before the turn around the leader passed me heading in the opposing direction against the full force of the wind. From here on in, six miles remaining, the wind would be against us all the way and it would be brutal! Mile seven, 06:39; mile nine; 06:55; mile nine, 06:32. This comparatively fast mile was a result of turning left back to Dollymount strand with the wind coming across us off our right shoulder. It was a bizarre sight to see runners running diagonally and still struggling to remain on course. Back on to Dollymount strand and a right hand turn took us into the teeth of the wind with sand blowing straight up against us. My pace here dropped towards ten minute mile pace, while my HR remained above 165. The next two and a half miles were torture and as we approached the end of the sand section the wind worsened and runners had to run with their heads down and turned left and their right hand raised to protect their eyes. Miles ten, eleven, twelve, back towards Clontarf were, 08:43; 08:22 and 07:55 respectively. Here, back on the promenade a ignorant clown of a cyclist decided he would be the bowling ball to our pins and cut a scythe through three runners including me, while my left elbow indicated our opinion of his antics.
Mile thirteen elapsed in 07: 32. Here, the questionable organisation manifested itself again; as I approached the finish line I could not see it, and then with about forty feet remaining saw in emerge almost eighty degree to my right as I passed a large bush, necessitating a sharp right turn to cross the finish line in 01:32:14. I was pretty pleased with this time, considering the conditions, and I am confident had the weather been different could have finished eight or nine minutes quicker.
I really don't care much for finisher's medals but if you are to get one it would be nice if it indicated for what race you got it, rather than a very flimsy looking piece with '10K' inscribed on it; yes, '10k', not half-marathon. At this point I was just relieved to be finished and that was a coup de grace that brought a chuckle and a smile to my face. All in all, no PB and very questionable organisation but was a good workout in very challenging conditions.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Races planned

Last week I signed up for he Koln marathon in Germany; this is a flat fast race. Following the Newton hills I decided I should reward myself with a flat fast marathon to follow Boston. The Koln marathon takes place on 3 October and achieving a sub three hour time is the primary focus of my efforts between now and then.
However, this has not prevented me from signing up to quite a few races in between, including; the Irish Multi-Marathon half marathon (4 July),the Adidas race series five mile (July 17), the Dublin city of sport 10K (25 July), Frank Duffy ten mile (August 21), the Bristol half marathon (5 September) and potentially the Dublin half-marathon (September 18).
This approach should, I hope, keep me motivated, confident and allow the incorporation of some really useful workouts in preparation for a serious assault on a sub three time.
Training of late has progressed pretty well, and conditions willing, this Sunday's half marathon should be a good test of where I am. This month's mileage total will be 234, which represents a lifetime second highest monthly mileage.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The plan

It's been an obscenely long time since my last post so felt compelled to provide an update - however brief. I am back into marathon training and have complete weekly mileage of fifty-six, forty-three and fifty in the last three weeks. I am following an amended Pfitzinger & Douglas up to seventy miles schedule. There will be a significantly increased emphasis on running many more marathon paced runs. This will involve more sessions with marathon or faster pace miles each week, while being careful that the recovery runs are truly that. Each week will involve either three or four marathon pace miles in the mid week 'medium long run' or between eight and twelve miles at marathon pace within the weekend 'long slow run'. In addition to this race specific workout I will include a tempo and a 5k pace interval workout. Short recovery runs will intersperse these 'quality sessions'. I will take a flexible approach to this number of quality sessions per week and convert one of them into a recovery session if I feel my body warrants it. So, that's the plan for my autumn marathon. I have not signed up to any yet but Koln is a likely candidate. In the meantime I have entered the Irish Multi-marathon on 4 July. I hope it will not be as baking hot as it was last year.

Monday, 10 May 2010

One family 5K

Following the pretty positive experience of competing in the ARC 10K I signed up for the 'onefamily' 5k run. Also, I have never run a 5k race so thought it was time to put that right. Onefamily is a charity that supports single parent families. The race started fifteen minutes late with about sixty or seventy runners toeing the starting line. There didn't appear to be very many competitive runners present, which my presence in the top five runners in the first few hundred metres confirmed. A few hundred metres into the race and a look at the Garmin demonstrated I was running at the suicidal pace of almost five minute miles and I backed right off and fell back into about seventh place. By the first kilometre I had settled into six minute mile pace and had moved up to fourth place.
The first mile elapsed in 06:01. However, the guy in third place, a couple of paces in front seemed to be suffering and the pace was dropping towards 06:30. Consequently I pressed on into third place. About 2.5KMs in I was pretty much running on my own. The fourth place guy was now probably four hundred metres back and the first and second place guys were about the same ahead of me and I had settled for finishing third. The second mile split was 05:59.
The course consisted of two laps of the Furze road and Ordnance road. Soon after the beginning of the second and lap and just before the second mile split I realised the gap between me and the leaders had closed. I decided to maintain my six minute mile pace and see how close it took me to the leaders. Going back up Ordnance survey road the northerly breeze against us was noticeably stiff now and I continued to close the gap and could sense the leaders, especially the leader were slowing up. Both leaders were level with each other now and they looked over their shoulder to see me closing to about 100 metres.
Just before the right hand turn back onto Chesterfield road I drew level with them and decided to move onto the lead. I thought it was worth the risk as, if I blew up then so be it, as I have a poor finishing kick and unless I opened a gap now then it was pointless to stay level. Additionally, the worst case scenario would be I that I would blow up and finish in the same time I would by staying level and the best case would be finishing quicker and maybe even winning the race.
The third mile elapsed in 06:01 and I knew now the course was long by up to quarter of a mile. I quickly opened a gap of about thirty metres and just continued to maintain a pace of about 05:50 minute miles. However, the former leader put a burst in and I had to move well into the red zone. With about 200 metres to go the guy in second place put in another burst and I had to lay down another sprint over the last 200 metres. I passed through finish the line in 19:53 with second and third place following five or six seconds later.
The race was 5.4KMs, which according to MacMillan gave me an 18:22 5k finish. Not exactly the fastest 5k winning time in the world and I have to admit being a little embarrassed to win a '5k' race in such a comparatively slow time. However, there's a saying about a gift horse and looking it in the mouth. The very, perhaps overly so, generous winning prize of a one hour flying lesson voucher was greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

ARC 10k

I entered this race with some trepidation considering the farce that was the Aware 10k. However, ARC is a very worthy charity so thought it worth the risk. As it transpired my worries were unfounded and it was a really well organised event. The course was also good, challenging but departing from the usual 10K route in the Phoenix park; perhaps the disaster of the Aware 10K prompted this?
The 403 competitors started shortly after 10am. For the first three kilometres I was still about sixty feet behind the leaders and was a little worried about the pace. However, I felt good and decided to keep going. The first three mile splits were 06:13, 06:12 and 06:01. The third one included the Khyber Pass downhill. The second five kilometres were included three hills up Military road, Upper Glen Road, and the Lower Glenn Road. While I slowed a bit my splits were 06:18, 06:22, and 06:22. Over the last two kilometres I sped up and picked off three places here and lost none. I had no idea where my placing was. Down military road I dropped two lads who had been with me for the first 5k. At the top of Knockmaroon road I passed two other runners and closed in on another two a couple hundred metres ahead. During the first 5k all the aforementioned runners were part of group. In the last 600 metres I passed another guy in black who looked like he was suffering pretty badly. I made an attempt to close the next runner in the Raheny AC singlet but could not make up the distance before the line. I crossed the line in 38:51, which meant a new PB. I was very happy with this and finished ninth. A PB and a top ten finish; I'll take that!
What also pleased me about this performance was the average HR of 180, the highest average HR I have ever recorded. I am not sure if this indicates residual fatigue from Boston or an increased ability to operate at a higher effort level.
I also have to compliment the organisers; it was one of the best organised races I can recall competing in and had a good unfussy atmosphere. Despite Frank Greally's, perhaps facetiously declared, ambition to rival the women's 'mini-marathon', I hope it remains the small, enjoyable and well run event it is.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Boston 2010 postscript

I thought it might be worthwhile, for posterity, to write a brief postscript for Boston. Immediately below are the splits.

This is a photo of the lead runners at mile seventeen. (All photos should be credited to Kim Forsythe, aka the missus)

Ryan Hall flying through mile seventeen. He had fallen back some what at this point but rallied extremely well and closed down the leading pack during the Newton Hills.

This is me passing the famous Citgo sign, which indicates less than two miles remaining.

Reviewing the Pfitzinger & Douglas 55-70 schedule I followed and my training log I found that I had completed only three marathon paced runs in preparation for Boston. This really is not enough and my draft amended P&D programme for the next marathon has a marathon paced run every other weekend. This draft schedule has also dropped the short intervals and replaced them with Yasso 8oos. I will also aim to complete more races during this cycle; during the previous cycle I completed no races.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Boston 2010

Well, following a successful negotiation of the volcanic ash I was hoping I would have similar luck with the race day weather and other variables, including potential last minute or course induced injuries. The local news channel was reporting that the volcano had resulted in at least six hundred European runners being stranded. In transpired that our Aer Lingus flight was within a window of about six to eight hours that allowed us to complete our journey; had we been on a North American carrier or had planned to travel later than Friday, the following report would not be.
On Saturday morning we headed to the Expo in the Hynes centre. I was eager to get there early before things got boisterous. The expo was pretty good but I was not all that keen to remain there for hours and there was nothing I really wanted or needed, apart from the Adidas Boston marathon rain jacket. Once I shelled out $90 for that I was pretty much done.
The jetlag made getting up at 04:30 on race day fairly easy and I was out the door at 05:40 to get the 06:00 bus to the Tremont street side of the Boston Common, where school buses would be there to take us to Hopkington. This is where the race really begins to demonstrate its extremely impressive logistical efficiency and organisation. It was like watching a military operation get underway.
On the bus I got chatting to a chap from near Toronto who, of all things, revealed himself as a very knowledgeable football supporter and was actually a Charlton supporter. Surprisingly, and despite our journey commencing twenty-six miles from the start, it took almost ninety minutes to get to Hopkinton.
Despite commencing my journey more than four hours before the race start time passes quite well and the three quarters of a mile walk to the start line is a nice warm up. The weather was great; about eight degrees Celsius with a north-north west breeze coming over our left shoulders. As I approached my corral I just missed the ladies elite start at 09:32. As 10:00 approached I nervously anticipated the race and the two F-15 Eagles passing overhead before the start was nice.
As expected the start was a pretty steep ascent. I completed the first mile on schedule at 06:55 was was concerned not to do the first sixteen miles too fast, which many people have warned me against and I have read plenty of accounts of how people get suckered into going out too fast and then paying for it.
The next few miles all went pretty much to plan with the mile splits in the low 06:40s. However, I was surprised at the undulating nature of the course, we were almost constantly either running uphill or downhill and I was concerned just how much this was mashing up my quads and hamstrings, but I still felt very fresh and comfortable but was increasing wondering about the affect of all this when I hit the Newton hills.
At mile eight, as we approached Natick, I was looking out for a friend of my wife, Liz, and her family. Well, they were certainly vocal and she was accompanied by her mother, aunt, sister and infant niece. It felt like the whole town was roaring me on! Many thanks to the Robbins family for their encouragement! I think some of the other runners wondered who this pseudo-celebrity was!
Approaching mile ten, the first surreal incident of the day. I heard a mobile phone ring to my left and saw this guy answer a phone and proceed to have a conversation, which seemed to primarily involve trying to figure out who was talking to each other. Following the initial confusion he concluded by announcing he was approaching the ten mile mark and would require his fuel pick-up. A bizarre approach to re-fuelling.
Shortly after this we approached the famous Wellesley College 'Tunnel'. This was pretty unique but not crazy as I was anticipating and I did not get carried away with my pace. I completed the first half in 01:28:54.
Soon, after this the day's second surreal event took place when a tambourine flew across the course, about six feet ahead of me. I thought it was too soon to hallucinate and did a double to take to my right to see that someone had indeed caught it on the other side.
At this point I knew my legs, especially my quads, had taken a hammering and were beginning to feel like mush. The next few miles to the Newton hills, at mile sixteen, went according to plan but deep down as we descended down the steep hill to the first of the Newton hills I knew my legs were toast.
By mile twenty and approaching Heartbreak hill I had abandoned a sub three time and concentrated on maintaining effort rather than time. It was new experience; my heart and lungs felt comparatively comfortable and felt could definitely maintained or even increased the effort of the previous sixteen miles, but my legs felt like they had completed more than a marathon, even with ten miles remaining.
As we approached the second of the four hills I spotted the missus and the in-laws who seemed to be enjoying the whole occasion and some familiar and encouraging faces was much appreciated.
After heartbreak hill, at mile twenty-one and we began another downhill section, I think I let out an audible moan of exasperation. At this stage I was unable to get my leg turnover going, even trying to shorten my stride. Strangely, physically, this was probably the most comfortable I have ever felt in a marathon and my HR dropping into the 150s demonstrated this but I just could not get my legs to turnover. My mile twenty-two I had resolved to give up trying to push it and just enjoy the crowds and the overall experience. I spotted the missus and the in-laws again at the twenty-five mile mark, shortly after the famous CITGO sign cam into view. Here, I began to actually purposely slow down as I was no longer concerned with the time and wanted to savour the experience, especially turning right onto Hereford street from Beacon street and then left onto Boylston street, with the finish line in sight. It's really here, with the thronged crowds, the noise and the tall buildings that you realise you are participating in a premier sporting event and it felt great. I passed the line in 03:06:30.
On almost immediate reflection I was not disappointed with this time. It is a murderous course and was even more difficult than I had anticipated. It has also bestowed a renewed for respect for Thomas's performance last year, especially considering his stomach problems. I reckon I was in sub three shape but I think that, using Dublin as a comparator, you would need to add six to ten minutes to what you could do in Dublin to get an accurate projected Boston performance. Or perhaps, I am just trying to provide myself with an ego boost.
If I do Boston again I will need to reflect how I would approach the race differently. What's great about the course is you need to think very carefully how you will approach and handle it. It's just one of the great things about the race and the city is pretty hard to beat too!

Thursday, 15 April 2010


Well, it seems, fingers crossed, the volcano will not stop me making the trip to Boston. As the final post before the race I thought I would do a brief outline of the training for Boston.

In the ninety days before Boston I completed 660.26 miles; the corresponding figure for Dublin was 511.25. The highest weekly mileage total was seventy-one.

I have completed three marathon paced runs of twelve, fourteen, and ten miles at MP respectively. I thought I had completed more and must have missed one or two in the schedule. In the next training cycle I will complete a MP run every other week and would aim to do at least twice this number. The dearth of MP runs is something that concerns me a little.

I have completed at least nine runs of 15.5 miles or more, topping out at twenty-two miles.

One significant difference between the Pfitzinger & Douglas up to fifty-five miles and the seventy miles programme is the length of the midweek runs and I am hoping this has very significantly increased my endurance.

Also, in this cycle I did strengthening work, concentrating on my quads and hamstrings, with simple weight bearing lunges and squats. Unfortunately I did not do this as regularly as I would have liked, but that I did any at all is a significant departure that I am hoping it will stand to me when I hit the Newton Hills.

If I can put in a similar performance to Thomas and Grellan in their recent Connemarathon Ultra I shall be very happy. Well done to them.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010


What's really remarkable about the woman, who is the subject of this story, is that she did not complete her first marathon until she was almost fifty! What's also remarkable is that the Irish Times had two running articles in such a 'short' space of time.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Let the taper begin.

This week I begin the taper. The previous week ended with a sixteen mile run with ten miles at projected marathon pace. The splits of those ten miles averaged 06:44 with an average HR of 159. I was quite pleased with this, especially the HR. The Pfitzinger and Douglas schedule seems a little ambitious to me and I am considering shaving an additional ten per cent off each week, resulting in respective taper week mileage totals of fifty, thirty-eight and twenty-five miles.
I also received my number pick up card and welcome and instructions brochure this week, making it all seem much more real.

Mileage w/c 22 March: 56

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Corkman in Kenya

Interesting article about an Irish cleric who has trained some of Kenya's best runners. I wonder is his approach quite as unsophisticated as he says and if there something to be said for the Kalenjin lifestyle's influence on their success. Nurture over nature?

Sunday, 21 March 2010


I am now four weeks from Boston and feeling relatively good about things. I have not done any races in this training cycle, which is something new. I am unsure how this will affect me on the day. Hopefully it will make me more motivated and fresh.
My primary consideration at the moment is how to approach my taper. I miscalculated my Pfitzinger and Douglas programme and find myself with an additional week; I will use this as a chance to experiment and compose my own quasi initial taper week/additional training week. This week I completed sixty-five miles. Next week I will drop it to between fifty-five and sixty. The week after next is the beginning of the taper and mileage will reduce further. I am looking forward to the taper as my training is feeling a little flat and I feel a little tired. I am anticipating this is an ideal way to enter a taper, and that the taper will reap what I have sown over the last few bitterly cold months.

Mileage w/c 15 March: 65

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Training update

A brief update on training. Last week was a cutback week, which a weekend away and a cold and cough made more pronounced. The highlight of the week was a nineteen mile long slow run on Friday morning. The weather has been excellent in March.
The previous week included my longest marathon pace run; eighteen miles with fourteen miles at marathon pace, which translated as average splits of 06:43. I was tired at the end and wonder about maintaining this pace for an additional twelve miles but I am hoping a few more weeks of training and a taper will provide the required preparation.

Mileage w/c 8 March: 41
Mileage w/c 1 March: 70

Sunday, 28 February 2010


This week was a comparatively easy week. However, it did end with my longest training run to date, a twenty-two mile long slow run. Reviewing my earlier training I see that I have neglected my LSRs. I red recently that in a marathon training cycle your five longest runs should total 100 miles. This means I will need to slightly alter the schedule for the next few weeks to accommodate a few slightly longer LSRs. Below is a link to this week's LSR.

Mileage w/c 22 February: 58

Garmin Connect - Activity Details for Untitled

Monday, 22 February 2010

Small world

Thought I should provide an update on the training. The last two weeks have gone very well. However the week commencing 1 February was something of a washout. The first two sessions of that week went as scheduled but the end of the week and weekend was spent visiting friends in Barcelona.
More recently, I found myself running up Middle Abbey street on my way home from work and was incorporating my commute from work into my twelve mile run with seven miles at HM pace and I encountered another runner who struck up conversation. After swapping pleasantries and what each other was training for I reckoned there cannot be to many people who run twenty-four hour races on a track or do 100k mountain runs in Australia. He also looked vaguely familiar. When I got home a quick click of a link from this blog revealed that it was indeed John O'Regan I bumped into. John has completed some of the most extreme events in the world and has represented Ireland in international competition.
Back to the run, it was a tough session but all bar one of the seven miles at HM pace were in the 06:30s. It would be good to test myself in a half-marathon race before Boston but the half I had intended doing in Liverpool is proving potentially very expensive as a consequence pricey flights and accommodation.

W/C 15 February:71 (New weekly high)
W/C 8 February: 60
W/C 1 February: 18

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Interval recovery duration

Last week brought another new weekly mileage high of sixty-six miles. It was important to register two solid weeks of training after two disrupted weeks. This week's training included a Yasso 800 x6 session. The first two repeats were uphill along Phoenix Park's Chesterfield road and felt brutal; I have not done this kind of session in a few months and it showed. The final four intervals felt better and I registered an average interval time of 02:56. I am not sure how much benefit I get from Yasso sessions and I perhaps need to revise the recovery time of 03:00 to reap more rewards.

Weekly mileage w/c 25 Jan: 66 (New weekly high)

Friday, 29 January 2010

A new departure?

The last couple of weeks since my return from Malaysia have gone well. I am back up to sixty plus miles a week. However, I need to do something about strengthening my quadriceps and hamstrings. This is crucial if I am to handle the hills of Boston. My quads will be especially susceptible to damage and fatigue on the downhill sections. My hamstrings are prone to cramping in the last 10km of marathon, which I am sure is a consequence of muscle inflexibility and weakness rather than electrolyte imbalances.
In addition to helping deal with the hills, cramps and potential for injury, I am hoping the strength training and stretching will make me faster by respectively increasing the muscles' force generation and stride length. I have made a decent start to doing this in the last week. Eleven weeks to Boston should be enough time to see not inconsiderable progress if I am consistent.

Mileage w/c 18 January:65 (New weekly high)
Mileage w/c 11 January:15
Mileage w/c 4 January:36

Sunday, 17 January 2010


The last two weeks' training have taken a battering from long distance travel and illness. I left for Malaysia on Friday 8 January arriving the following evening Kuala Lumpur time. The following morning I knocked out fourteen miles on the treadmill, bringing me a weekly total of thirty-six miles. The ice was partially to blame for not reaching the weekly schedule of fifty-five miles but does not excuse falling twenty miles short.
The week commencing 11 January started well with a ten mile run with five at tempo on Tuesday. This and the following day's run were on the hotel treadmill. I am sick of the treadmill. The last outdoor run was 3 January. Tuesday's workout felt really hard. I did not enjoy the food in Malaysia and found it difficult to find a meal with the requisite calories for my training. This, the significant number of miles walked around Kuala Lumpur that day, and the heat and humidity, made Tuesday's workout really draining and felt more like 5K or 10k effort than half-marathon.
Since my return to Ireland on Thursday morning I have had the inevitable jet-lag, but I also seem to have picked up a bug. Seems I might have contracted 'Delhi Belly'. Hopefully next week will see a return to the normal routine.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Ice ice baby!

Yesterday the treacherous road conditions forced me indoors to a city council gym to register my mileage. Surprisingly the treadmill was not as excruciatingly boring as I thought it would be.
Today I had twelve miles at aerobic pace scheduled and the even worse state of the roads dictated that I would be hitting the treadmill again. However, the worsening conditions meant that many workplaces closed early to allow people to crawl home before the roads became impassable. Unfortunately this meant the gym was also closed when I got there, not there was any sign or other form of communication stating that this was a consequence of the weather. Between the weather, or rather Dublin City and other councils' complete unpreparedness to deal with not especially extreme weather, and travelling overseas at the weekend for work, I will be lucky to register twenty-five to thirty miles this week!

Mileage w/c 28 December: 64. A new weekly high.