Monday, April 28, 2014

Roll on Limerick Marathon....

Slow start to last week as I was recovering from the blisters from the Tullaroan Marathon, so the week consisted of:

- Monday: Rest
- Tuesday: 11mile Cycle
- Wednesday: 5miles easy
- Thursday: 6:65miles easy
- Friday: Rest
- Saturday: Rest
- Sunday: 12.01miles

My right foot still isn't 100% right as the skin is still healing up!

While I should be fine for pacing Limerick on Sunday, its sort of frustrating that it just seems to be taking so long to heal up properly which in turn is making me cautious about increasing my weekly millage.

Weekly Total: 25.8 miles
Miles This Year: 710 miles

Monday, April 21, 2014

Tullaroan Marathon & not doing a 10km race...

The plans for the weekend were to do a marathon on Saturday and take part in a 10km event on Sunday, although I knew I wouldn't be racing the 10km I still wanted to take part as it was local.

So on Saturday I took part in the Tullaroan Marathon, this was being run by MCI and was sort of a test run of the marathon course ahead of Tullaroan A/C's own official marathon/half/10km at the end of May,

Tullaroan Looped Course
Temps were higher then usual today at around 14/15c which is warm when you're not used to it, the course was a 13mile loop out and back into Tullaroan and compared to alot of County Kilkenny it was pretty hilly....certainly more then I'm used to in the area's I run.

From around mile 5 I knew I was going to get into a spot of bother with blisters as I could feel the start of one on my right foot, this is very unusual as if I experience them at all its generally towards the very end of an event, for example it was around mile 30 for the Connemara Ultra.

The first 13mile loop went pretty well and I was happy with the pace, I knew from the first loop that mile 23 was likely to be abit of work due to the hills on that part of the course and I wasn't wrong.

Course Profile

On the second loop around I found that from about mile 20 I started to struggle as the blister started to kick off and legs just felt pretty heavy, I'm not too sure if its too soon after the Connemara Ultra or just doing my normal miles during the week was a factor but I figure it might have been abit of both, especially when it came to the blister kicking off.     

On a plus note however I didn't experience any problems with my IT Band, so that makes two races of 26miles or further were I've experienced no IT band issues which is a good sign. Perhaps rolling it is finally sorting it out?

Anyway, back to the mile 23-24 I ended up walking on and off due to the hills but after that I decided to pick up the pace and I did the last two miles at under a 8min pace to finish in 3:57:26.

Given I wasn't aiming for any particular time for this race as I just wanted to get in the miles I'm not bothered either way about the finish time, what was a surprise was the struggle towards the end of the race and that was completely unexpected esp after feeling so good during Conn Ultra. I'm clearly expecting too much too soon.

After the race the blister on my right foot got pretty painful and it hurt alot to walk, other then that my legs felt obsolutely fine.   Given the amunt of pain and discomfort I was experiencing I knew there was no chance I'd be taking part in the 10km on Sunday so I decided to volunteer instead.

I ended up stewarding one of the junctions on the course for the 10km and 5km routes, not much traffic at the junction to contend with but it was good to help out in some way.

10km race coming up on the first mile
This was the first 10km race I'm aware of in recent years in Callan and I hope to see another one next year.

I'm resting up until Wednesday of this week to see how my foot heals up so I'm going to take the road bike out instead and get in a few miles to keep things ticking over.  Its two weeks until my next marathon in Limerick so plenty of time for things to get better.

Weekly Total: 46.2 miles
Miles This Year: 681 miles

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Time for another marathon...

I've taken it relatively easy this week pace wise, however I've once again started to increase the miles.  This weeks miles consisted of:

- Monday: 10miles at 8:06min/mile pace
- Tuesday: 6.24miles at 7:00min/mile pace
- Wednesday: 4miles at 8:17min/mile pace
- Thursday: 11.20miles Cycling at avg speed 17.7mph

My reason for such a fast pace on Tuesday was I'm taking part in the Callan United FC 10km on Sunday 20th, unfortunately I won't be running it at race pace as I'm running the Tullaroan Marathon on Saturday the 19th so the 10km will likely be at a very handy pace instead of any sort of race pace.  

I find it sort of odd to find myself doing a marathon only two weeks after completing a 39mile race, without a doubt the legs are getting better at recovering the more distance races I've done.

I'm certainly feeling in good shape compared to this time last year and I'm even tempted to try pick a marathon I can get a PB in before the middle of June as suggested to me by Cathal, I'm confident I could manage a sub 3:30 if I tried.

As for this week I won't be aiming for any fast times in Tullaroan on Saturday and I'm planning on maybe 4:30 finish to ensure I get enough time on the legs as I need to get used to spending more time on my legs for the 100km in June.  

As I'm pacing 5hours in the Limerick Marathon this ensures I'll get two marathons done between now and the 10th May which will give me a good amount of time on my feet,

Weekly Total: 20 miles
Miles This Year: 655 miles

Friday, April 11, 2014

Recovery & Plans after Connemara Ultra.....

I got my first run after Conn Ultra on Wednesday by doing a 3mile very easy recovery run at 9:30min pace, legs felt surprisingly good and although I knew I had blisters they didn't hurt so everythings healing up bit by bit.

Next recovery run was on Friday and it was a 4miler at 8:33min pace, in retrospect I regret not doing more and shorter recovery runs during the week to help the legs recover, although I did fit in around 6miles of walking since Monday I don't think this offered the same benefits to me.

So with Connemara Ultra done and dusted I won't be slacking off like I did last year in April/Mayas I'm planning on running the Tullaroan marathon (all going well) in Co Kilkenny on the 19th May and I'm running the Limerick Marathon as a 5hour pacer on the 4th May.

Its now all systems go for the Portumna 100km (62miles) on the 14th June and I'm feeling pretty confident especially after such a good performance in Connemara. My goal is really to just finish the course but I figure I'll finish it in the region of 10-12hours.

For those that aren't familiar with the Portumna course its a 5km looped course which I'll have to do 20 times, as well as a 100km event there is also a 50km, marathon and half marathon race held on the same day....I've previously ran the 50km race twice.

Finally, I came across this photo from the Connemara Ultra startline on the Irish Runner Magazine Facebook page,
Before the start of the Ultra, Photo credit: Dónal Glackin

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Connamara Ultra Marathon 2014

 Got myself a MCI singlet the day before the Ultra
This was my second running of the Connemara Ultra and I'd be lying if I didn't say I was abit nervous about it.

It was a early start on Sunday and I could hear the rain bucketing down outside.
A quick check of the weather forecast showed that the rain was due to clear around 10am for the rest of the day, so I figured at worst I'd have to put up with around 1hr of rain. Unfortunately as well as the rain there was also a strong breeze.

This year there were I believe around 250 ultra runners taking part, I think this is the largest  compared to previous years.  As always it was a mixed field from people that do these sort of distances as a training run, those that want to get the best time they can and finally just people that want to finish the course regardless of how long it may take them.

Just before the race start, the dark clouds broke for a few minutes and blue sky could be seen, this may have been for the briefest of moments but it was still a good sign, more importantly the rain stopped.....unfortunately the wind didn't so from the start (esp the 1st mile) we had to run into the wind.

This year I took a slightly different tactic to last year, the tactic being that I was going to take stuff on board much earlier.   So as well as taking on gels and water as normal I had planned to take on 3x 200ml bottles of flat coke from the 13mile, 26mile and 32mile drop bag stations.   I had other items packed into these bags just in case I might want them but in the end I didn't really bother with them.

I settled into a group of runners for the first 6miles or so but I noted after one or two miles that they had upped the pace from around 8:35 to 8:16min miles, as my overall target pace was supposed to be a average of 8:40 I dropped back from this group and ended up on my own on and off.

Fortunately unlike last year I picked up my 13mile drop bag as last year I was a good 500metres past it before I realised I had missed it, this may have been a factor for the problems experienced in the later part of last year's race.

After picking up my 13mile drop bag I slowed the pace a little more at this stage and took on my first fill of flat coke and one of those Aldi nutrigrain bars, these bars seemed like a good choice for the race but by the next drop bag at 26 I found them far too dry to eat.

Around mile 16 the wind started to hit again and the wind seemed to change direction every now and then which at times was frustrating, but at the same time when I was approaching the descend down into Leenane Village at around the 21-22mile mark the wind actually helped me get up a few of the hills as it gave me a bit of a push.

What was a real boost was the fact that I met the back of the marathon pack around mile 19 this year as opposed to mile 25 last year and during the descent into Leenane Village as I had the wind behind me I did one 7:18min mile and past a large number of marathon runners as well as a few ultra runners.  It was great to get support from the marathon runners, with many of them saying "go on Ultra" as I passed.

Doing these faster miles into Leenane had its downsides unfortunately and I could feel the start of some blisters just as I hit the 26mile bag drop so I walked for the first time in the entire race, my plan was to take on board some food and the flat coke and walk for the first mile coming up the hill from Leenane.

What I was surprised about this year is I managed to hit the marathon distance in 3hours 46min this year, this actually makes this my third fastest marathon and was far ahead of  last years time of 4hrs 11min.

I was also really surprised about how well I felt, especially compared to last year.   Since I started running I've had problems with my left IT band and this has affected me during so many races including Dublin, Portumna, Day 2 of the Clonakilty Back2Back and even last years Ultra where I was in agony from around mile 35 onwards due to it.

While I did feel the very odd bit of discomfort during this ultra mainly at the start it gave me no problems at all during the entire race, as well as that I was upbeat and my legs still felt relatively fresh (as long as I ignored the blister) :)

After refuelling on mile 27 I picked up the pace again and very comfortably passed a few other ultra runners as well as a large number of marathon runners, this was a massive boost and so I was able to keep up the pace. I did stop to walk a few times on hills but mostly I just kept on running.

At mile 32 I picked up my last drop bag and I had a quick drink of coke and left the rest of the stuff and I powered down the hill after the 32mile marker, after this point I just kept running to the hell of the west.

Coming up to the start of the hell of the west I felt surprisingly good for this late in the race, unfortunately that's when the wind started to hit me again and it just seemed to drain the energy out of me really quickly and I ended up slowing down alot.

The wind seemed to be gusting a lot, so while I might get 1min running the wind would gust again and I felt like I had to stop myself from being blown across the road.

I would have liked the last 2miles coming down to the finish to be nice and easy and without the wind it would have been a nice fast finish, unfortunately the wind kept up and I actually ended up walking once or twice on the last mile. I still did manage to finish across the line running so that's the important bit :)

Official Finish Time of: 5hours 52min 17seconds (68th out of 193) (My Garmin Data)

This beats last years time of 6:29:21 by a whopping 37 minutes, considering my initial goal going into this race was to get sub6 and my ultimate goal was to get sub 5:40, I'm very happy with the results.

I've no doubt that if the wind wasn't an issue on the day I would have managed to easily reach the goal of 5:40.

This is definitely one of my most enjoyable races I've done and I still can't get over how well I felt throughout, I'm actually very surprised as normally even in a marathon I have my moments where I just want to stop and walk now and then.

One aspect of the race I also thoroughly enjoyed was chatting to the other ultra runners and also the support from the marathon and half marathon runners, throughout the race from mile 8 onwards I also seemed to be leap frogging the same 6-8 ultra runners so it was good to chat to them now and then.

The aftermath is pretty good overall, the legs feel a bit stiff but other then that they feel perfectly fine, I've two blisters one on each foot which already are on the road to recovery.  

I do however have two black nails (one of each foot) so I'll likely loose at least one toenail...but that doesn't hurt so I'm not too worried about that.  I hope to be back on the Ultra starting line next April :)

Weekly Total: 50.7 miles
Miles This Year: 614 miles