Friday, September 30, 2016

To under armour or not to under armour

Most of the summer you’ve been running in nothing more than a technical top and a pair of shorts. Even with the rain you’re warm but as the nights come in and the temperature starts to drop you find yourself looking out and shivering. That’s when under-armour becomes a godsend. Like wearing a cloth hot water bottle, under-armour is without doubt one of the best additions to running all-year round since the invention of laces.

But wearing it out training and race-day are very different propositions. So should you wear under-armour doing a marathon?

These following questions should help make up your mind:

Is it cold?
a.      Yes
b.      No

Does the cold bother you?
a.      Yes
b.      No

Can you get hold of black-bin bag?
a.      No
b.      Yes

Are you able to throw a scrunched up bin-bag to the side of the road at the start without out tonking some fellow runner on the face or tripping up someone coming behind?
a.      No
b.      Yes

As a result of the cold are you more likely to be looking for a portaloo a few minutes from the start?
a.      Yes
b.      No

Do you actually own under-armour in the first place?
a.      Yes
b.      No

Which is more important for you? Looking silly in photos because you are togged top-to-bottom in under-armour or missing the start because you are in a portaloo peeing or keeping warm or?
a.      Looking silly in photos.
b.      Missing the start.

Do you know what under-armour does to your nipples after 26.2 miles and are comfortable with that?
a.      Yes
b.      No

Do you actually own under-armour in the first place?
c.       Yes
d.      No

If the answer to these questions are mostly A’s then I would veering on the side of under-armour. If they are mostly B’s then suck it up and stand close to the person next to you until the start if you’re cold and stick with the t-shirt.

Wednesday’s training
A 8.5 k slow run recovery at about 5 min pace..

Things you will need #2: Runners

Obvious one really. Everyone needs runners. There’s a plethora of brands runners put there that basically do the same thing – they help you get from Point A (the start) to Point B (the finish). If you are thinking of changing you runners because your current pair:

·         Have holes in them.
·         Have half a sole hanging off them.
·         Are going to clash with your chosen race top.
·         Have utterly lost their bounce because you’ve ran more than a few hundred miles in them.
·         Have been last seen in the mouth of your neighbour’s dog.

..then I’d suggest you buy a pair as soon as possible because if you don’t have them broke in over the next few weeks, you may forget about wearing them come race-day. To help you make up mind we have given a brief guide to help:

Asics – Nearly every runner has had a pair of Asics at some stage in their running life. I’ve had three. It is a really solid runner’s runner. They are also the type of runner you buy as a Christmas present for someone you know likes running. (Of course never ever buy a pair of runners for someone who likes running. That’d would be like buying a bride or groom for someone because you know they’d like to get married).

Saucony – People who buy Saucony are also the type of people who don’t buy the cheap white wine because it is on sale in SuperValu. Instead they are the selective type who spend 15 minutes looking for the right Pinot Grigio to go with the mussels dish they are cooking later.

New Balance – A big hit for fans of dystopian science-fiction films, New Balance give you the impression that by wearing them you’ll benefit from some new type of mind-bending technology. You won’t. But they are comfortable.

Hi-Tec – If you are wearing a pair of Hi-Tec runners you are also probably also wearing an O’Neill’s shorts and a Saw Doctors t-shirt. Check the year and you’ll probably find out you’ve woken up in 1993. Quickly find the time-machine you used to get back here and return to the present immediately.

Mizuno – Ex-footballers like these because of how they sound like a pair of boots they would have loved to have bought when they were younger had their parents been willing to pay that bit more instead of the £30 they ended up spending on those same black pair of Adidas everyone else had whose tongue didn’t even bend down.

Under Armour – Under armour do runners?! That’s what is usually most frequently asked to those people who are wearing under-armour runners. These same people were also amongst the first people to starting drinking beetroot juice and eating quinoa.

Brooks – I knew little of these runners until a pair of bananas sold them to me in Barcelona. True story. Since then I’ve found out that Brooks are one of the largest retailers of runners in the U.S. Though this might suggest that they are some faceless multinational conglomerate, it didn’t stop them swapping my runners for a bigger pair when after a few kilometres of running (which I admitted to) I realised they were too small. Lovely people but and the bananas were great too. True story.

Puma – You either have a beard and make your own craft-beer or used to play tennis. Either way if you are not a good runner you can be guaranteed that you look good with these on.

Nike – Often worn by those entirely new to running. Not because they aren’t a good pair of runners but because they panicked when they went into the shop and saw just how many runners there actually are. In the absence of a store assistant they only recognised the Swoosh and bought these! Nike runners are also a fan of those who think running is all about running really fast in a town like you’ve been chased by the cops and have the lungs of a Kenyan.

Tuesday’s training
Fast one this and the legs were barely recovered from the weekend! 40 mins at just below marathon pace non-stop.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Dealing with crap

Training for a marathon can be boiled down to two essential things.

1.      The first is obvious, the running. Run fast, run slow, run long, run up hills, run races and keep on running.

2.      The second thing is the recovery of which there are also two essential things.

The first part to the recovery is how you need to be able to allow the body to recover having pushing it towards its limits in tough training sessions. In general runners don’t do recovery well. We are happy to push, push, push but taking a day off. That can be a hard one.

The second part to the recovery is how you recover during the run itself. And this is at heart of whether you will run a personal best or not. To make it simple you need to understand that as you run you produce bad stuff. We could call this bad stuff toxins, but that sounds too dangerous while calling them shite is probably a little too vulgar. So let us just call them, crap.

Now imagine you are in a room with a kid who is throwing crap onto the floor and pretend you can’t stop them from throwing crap onto the floor. So you need to clean it up. If you can clean it up as quick as the kid is throwing it on the floor then there is no problem. However if more crap is being thrown out than you can put away, and there is no end to the crap that your kid can find, then sooner or later the room is going to become so full of crap and you will find it difficult to move. Well that’s what running a marathon is like.

Instead the scientists like to call the crap – lactates and they are produced not by your one-year old but by your muscles. And if you are producing more lactates running than your body can process well then sooner or later you will hit the wall and find it difficult to move.

And ultimately that is what training is all about. You are pushing your body to the level where it is able to process as much lactates as it is producing. The only trick then on the day is knowing where this maximum level is. Otherwise you will be joining the crap on the floor.

In other news, as I reach the toughest week of running, boy am I tired.

Yesterday’s training
Recovery (thank goodness)

Monday, September 26, 2016

Training plans

There was no resting on laurels yesterday. In fact, there was no real resting full stop. After coming back from a hugely rewarding half on Saturday I had lunch and then spent three hours out on a landscaping job! I guess moving kerb, sleepers and barrowing gravel is a warm-down of sorts.

Yesterday I was out again with Tom, who’s own half-marathon of 1 hr 21+ was both a ridiculously fantastic time and also the fruit of many months of disciplined running and a tough training schedule that he has steadfastly kept to. We were doing both a recovery run and a top of miles, that would bring my weekly miles just past last week to have me well placed for what will probably be my longest seven days of training this week.

During our run we spoke about trainers and training plans.

A lot of people for the marathon will be running to a training plan – either one they’ve found on the interweb or one that their club is rolling out during weekly training sessions. Add in some discussions amongst fellow friends and they have a general idea as to what they need to be doing in the months leading up to the marathon. And for most people this remains pretty similar – a fast run and a slow short run during the week and a long slow run at the weekend that increases in distance.

However, for some people a trainer who comes up with a plan is something that is proving increasingly worthwhile. This is for a number of reasons:

·         The trainer will look at your personal bests for your 5k, 10k and half-marathon – if you’ve already done one -  and will draw up a training plan based on what you hope to achieve and what you can expect to.
·         They are specialists not just on what you have to run but what you have to do to recover, something that is just as important.
·         They are great for adding variety in to your runs.
·         Their littles texts and messages of support before and after runs can give you much needed encouragement on those wet and windy days when the legs are tired and the couch looks comfortable or when a run just doesn’t go to plan.
·         And they can be a great inspiration to stick to the plan because, just like your old History teacher in school you really admired and didn’t want to let down, you don’t really want to tell them that you didn’t get your homework done because the dog ate your runners.

This year I’m ‘trainer-less’. I did have one prior to the Dublin marathon two years ago who served me really well and helped me run PB’s in 5k, 10k and half marathon distances. I was actually going to get in touch with one until the injury arose and I decided to spend my time invested in recovery and not in dreaming of the what ifs.

Maybe next time around, if we need to go next time around.

Yesterday’s training
A 16k slow (very slow) recovery run.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

A good day’s running

700 metres to go and I can see the finish. Head down. Motor forward.

I had come into the race with the requisite number of excuses. Injury interrupted training. Strep throat yesterday. Tired legs Thursday. The only person that had cut me a break was my daughter Esme who had slept all night through. It was only the sound of rain and wind that if anything entered my sleep. As a result I came into the race hopeful if not confident.

The Dublin 2016 half marathon. I had not run a competitive race since the Oldcastle 5k in July, two and a half months ago. So there were lots of unknowns in the air. The plan was to do 4.05s to begin, graduate into 4.00 and then push it out. If I got home in one piece I’d be happy, anywhere close to 1 hr 25 I’d be delighted.

Waiting at the start, inevitably a few minutes late with the rain now pelting down it would have been easy to see people beginning to groan. I couldn’t have been happier. The day was warm and despite the rain and the wind the conditions were perfect. What was more, I was back running.

1 – 5 k: The first 5 k went smoothly with an average pace of 3.58. It was a little a faster than planned but with a decent wind at our backs and a good section down-hill it didn’t feel overly fast and in fact I felt more than comfortable.

6 – 10 k: The next 5 k was around the 4.01 mark as my pace stabilised, I got in a banana and some water. At 6 k I did feel I had to work a little keep close to the 4 minute kilometre pace but after a few kilometres effort it normalised.

11 – 15 k: With a few k downhill and the half-way mark passed I could feel myself still felling okay. I was working but not blowing hard so began to make strides averaging 3.54 a k. What was also encouraging was the I was gaining. I would pick a group ahead that seemed to be running well and slowly close the gap and then when I’d reach them, I’d actually find myself pushing ahead meaning the whole final half of the race I felt myself going forward as others drifted back even when we hit the most exposed part of the whole race down by the football fields.

16 – 20 k: Averaging about 3.53 at this stage I was starting to feel the burn but already inside of me I knew I could hang in at this as the final few kilometres counted down.

21 k home: A 3 40 last k. With a little over a 1,000 metres to go I gritted down and dug deep. Mixing up my 5 k PB with my half-marathon somehow I had thought I was a 1hr 23min 47 second man for the half and when I came within 3 k I thought the record was on. With 700 metre to go and the clock quickly becoming visible I felt I had it. All I needed to do was to put the hammer down with every second of pain home, another second off the PB.

I judged it to perfection, 1 hr 23 min 37 seconds. Exactly how I would have wanted to run the race and a time I was delighted with. Though on the way home I realised I was some 15 seconds outside of it, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Happy out for the evening and back to the training board tomorrow. We might continue daring to dream but there is a lot of ifs, buts and maybes to come before marathon Sunday.

Yesterday’s training
A 2 k warm-up and a 1 k warm-down. And in-between 13.1 miles in 1 hr 23 minutes 37 seconds.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A favourite half-marathon?

A favourite half-marathon? I have a few. I used to love the Connemarathon half from Leenane to Maam Cross with the beastfully inviting Hell of the West threatening you home. I remember the first time I did it in ‘08, we were brought into a tent with fruit, drink, snack-size Mars bars, soup next door and an army of masseurs. The year after for a higher entry fee I actually came 18th in a time of 1 hr 25.08. The tent however seemed to have disappeared and there were 2 masseurs. After waiting 10 minutes for a turn, I was only lying down for 30 seconds before the first finisher in the ultra-marathon arrived in and I was asked to move on with no sign of a fun-size Mars bar. I did move on, and never came back. I do miss it some days.

I also liked Longford, one of the country’s original marathon venues not that many would know that. I don’t remember much about the Longford half except for the retail parks and industrial estates we passed by that even in 2008 were already becoming a little empty. It holds a special place in my heart.

And then there was the Clontarf Half-Marathon that I’ve ran twice, both during winter and both on unseasonably fine days. On these days it is a wonderful route along the bay walk at Howth, out onto Dollymount Strand before the lovely Sutton promenade that then stops, turns and brings you back on yourself for home. The first time I ran this I set off too quick. I remember a guy passing me on the way back home just before the return beach leg. By the time I hit the beach he had gained 300 yards on me! I couldn’t feckin believe how much I had slowed and it made for one of the loneliest stretches I have ever ran. I survived and discovered it wasn’t that bad in the end. It even turned out that runner who had passed me had actually taken a left instead of a right as he hit the beach and I wasn’t as slow as I had thought.

The next year in Clontarf, I ran just three seconds slower than my PB, much due to the company of a runner, - Ian -  who I chatted to for the first 5 or 6 miles. I didn’t think you could do that going so quick. It was the best craic. Ian had had a stag a few days before and this was perhaps the only reason he finished a few metres behind me at the end as we both motored home.

But if I were to choose my favourite half from the few that I have run, then it would have to be Dublin’s Half Marathon in Phoenix Park. There are very few places that on your run you will or might pass – the residence of the President; a zoo; a giant Christian cross (from when the Pope visited); the largest obelisk in Europe (a large pointy phallic type monument); a small castle; Victorian gardens; police headquarters; the National Ordinance Survey; a plush house to host foreign dignitaries; the U.S. Ambassador’s gaff; a fort; 12 soccer pitches; 7 G.A.A.; 3 camogie; 2 cricket grounds; 1 polo grounds and space for model aeroplanes; annual events that range from running to motor racing, musical concerts to national homecomings and a team of park constables who hunt down unauthorised Frisbee players and disposable barbecues.

More than this for me was the time when back in 2014 I nailed a PB, 1.23.21 though only just when Quentin, a fellow club-mate met me a kilometre from home when my wheels were beginning to come off and helped pace me the rest of the way in.

Today I run it again though anywhere close to 1 25 would be a success after the injury I’m starting to get over. Getting round okay would be good too.

Yesterday’s training
A well-deserved rest day.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Things you will need come race-day #1: A watch

At this point of the season there is a likelihood you’ve been wearing a watch or more specifically a running watch for quite some while. Up until recently I hadn’t been, instead I’d been wearing a Casio – the hero of watches, that gives has the time, the date, a stopwatch and a light that is at the blunt edge of technology. Still, it is robust, cheap, light and guaranteed to be one of the few things that would survive a nuclear holocaust along with cockroaches and the 1995 Toyota Corolla that your farming uncle still drives.

The reason I had a Casio was because my own watch had long since gone to the great Garmin in the sky. And it was only last week I return to the running watch world, first by borrowing my wife’s, and then a short time later with a gift of a new Garmin off my wife – partly driven by love, partly driven by wanting her own friggin’ watch back.

So running watches – good or evil?

The arguments for good:
·         They can tell you how fast you are running, which is especially great for preventing you from taking off too quick at the start of races.
·         They can tell you how far you have ran, excellent for record-keeing.
·         They are fun in how they store your fastest 1k, 5k, 10k, half-marathon and marathon.
·         They can tell you your heart-beat, which not only helps you identify if you are technically dead can be exceptionally useful in getting you to train at your most optimal level. This is done by getting you to run in a heart zone, which is important on days when you are tired and days when you could perhaps push yourself a little bit more.
·         They can receive text alerts for when someone goes into labour.

The arguments for evil (okay, maybe evil is a little strong, bad so):
·         They can tell you how fast you are running, which is depressing when you are going backwards with 5 miles to go.
·         They can tell you how far you have ran, which is not always fun when you just want to go out for the sheer hell of it.
·         They are not fun in how they store the fastest 1k, 5k, 10k, half-marathon and marathon of your older brother or sister who borrowed it because they couldn’t find their own and now owns all your PB’s!
·         They can tell you your heart-beat, which might be a little unnerving when it drops down under 40 during an episode of Nationwide or up past 175 on a hills session.
·         They can receive text alerts. I mean seriously, why would you want anyone to contact you while you’re out and if someone is about to go into labour run laps of the garden with the window open.

I ran my fastest half-marathon wearing a watch and my second fastest half-marathon wearing none. Despite being only two seconds slower on the latter it still was one of the most enjoyable races I’ve ever ran. Perhaps that was due to the company or perhaps it was also due to the fact that I listened to the body all the way round and as the finish came, instead of hanging on I was pushing forward.

That all being said, if I were to choose, it would be on the side of wearing a watch but just not during an episode of Nationwide.

Yesterday’s training
13.5 in one of the most disjointed sessions for a while. With wet almost wintry rain – a first for this year – and a half-marathon due on Saturday there were not as many at training as per usual. Of those who were there they had a faster session or sessions in mind so I found myself going from one crew to another until I finally realised that everyone was running too fast for me. After that and 6 k I decided I would just have to finish the remainder on my own. 7 k on very tired legs. Bring on the rest day.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

You always feel better

While I can't stand over everything below, from my knowledge...

There are things that you never feel better after:
  • A session.
  • Receiving an indictment.
  • A car accident.
  • An extra marital affair.
  • A break-in.
  • Losing by a last minute goal.
 There are things that you rarely feel better after
  • An operation (at least not immediately).
  • Vincent Brown
  • Opening you work email at home.
  • A Big Mac meal.
  • Watching 2 hours of cat videos on YouTube.
  • Taking a phone call from you ex.
And there are things that you nearly always feel better after
  • A lie-in
  • Taking an extra day off work
  • A hot shower.
  • A cold shower.
  • Taking the time to ring an old friend.
  • A massage.
And finally there is one thing that you always feel better after
  • A run.
While the weather might be howling, the rain spitting, the body fatiguing, the work mounting and the daylight fading it is a rare, rare thing to come back from a run and to regret it. If you can always remember this then you will always have just enough energy to get yourself out that door and cover those miles. Yesterday 4 of those 5 boxes were ticked as well as the other one where I was already running late. So it wasn't an easy one but I did get out. And after 8.5 k I came home a little more late,  quite a bit wet, it nearly dark but feeling great.

Yesterday’s training
8.5 k slow.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Things that mess up your run #3 – Calls to nature

On average, according to the good men and women of Georgia Tech, USA, mammals irrespective of size, will pee for an average of 21 seconds in sitting (or standing) in what is sometimes referred to as the Law of Urination. I wouldn’t know myself but I’ll take their word for it. Now before you switch off and return tomorrow when we are back talking about marathon running, the point this leads me to is that taking a pee, while short, is time-consuming.

When you project that into a marathon, add a further 5 seconds to slow down and pick a spot and then another 4 seconds to make yourself respectable and speed up again that could nearly be half a minute gone! Half a minute for someone wanting to run sub 3 hour is approximately 120 metres. Not great, but not terminal. However, turn that call of nature into a number two then 30 seconds can become 3 minutes, which is well over a half kilometre down in any person’s playbook.

And it is because of this that I always have a degree of sympathy for those I see with backs turned only a few miles from the start. Having only gotten into their stride they have been forced to stop along the side of the road for a call to nature. If that is bad I feel even worse for those queuing at the first available portaloo, many of whom are wondering how on earth they’re going to make up the time?

To avoid any of these scenarios I’d suggest the following:

  • Don’t be drinking lots of water the morning of the race, especially if it is not warm outside. If you feel thirsty it’s probably just a bit of nerves. Wet the lips and you’ll be fine.
  • Find a loo before the start. If you can’t find one, improvise.
  • Eat your last proper meal the lunch-time, early afternoon before and after that keep it to small meals or snacks. On the morning of, make you sure to move about a decent amount before you leave the house. Nothing like a bit of movement to help clear the bowels.

And finally if you really want to break that time, don’t be afraid to do a Paula Radcliffe, London 2005 on it.

Yesterday’s training
Warm up followed by 4 x 1 mile reps at 3.55 pace a kilometre.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Good Season

A good season in…

…honey is production from late May all the way through to August.

…wine is grapes perfectly formed and ready to crush come fall.

…blackcurrants is a long-spell of very cold dry Winter weather for at least a week.

…farming is long dry warm summer weather with occasional outbreaks of rain.

…Indian food is cardamom or nutmeg.

…the Wire is the one about education when Pryzbylewski was in the classroom.

A good season in…

…running I thought was two years ago when despite not making it in my last proper attempt at the 3-hour marathon, I ran a half-marathon personal best, a 5 k personal best and little more than a month after I’d run Dublin, a 10 k personal best.

Having come back from injury (again) and still hanging in there (touchwood) I now realise a good season in running is any season when you are simply able to run.

Yesterday’s training
Rest and boy does my body need it.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Food on the run.

I had the crows help me simulate a race situation today. I’d rather they hadn’t but it was good practice all the same.

Something I have become an advocate for in recent months is the art of running and eating at the same time.  Of course this isn’t the “tucking into a bowl of cornflakes as you sprint for the bus art of running and eating at the same time” but the “feeding on a banana several miles into a road race art of running and eating at the same time”.

I ran 20 miles yesterday and used up (according to my borrowed watch’s guestimate) 2,400 calories. To put that in perspective, the average man needs to eat 2,500 calories a day to maintain weight, a woman half that. Or to put it another way, that’s a lot of feckin’ calories! With this in mind it is important to try and at least stem that a little as you run by taking in energy in some shape or form. Now while gels and the like are now part and parcel of the marathon run, I am fond of the idea of good old fashion bananas to help me get by.

Whatever choice you make it is certainly an idea to get into the habit to eat during your training runs for two logical reasons:

1.      You can get used to running and eating at the same time as opposed to running and eating and throwing up because you aren’t used to doing it at the same time.
2.      You condition your body to be able to effectively digest food as you run. Keeping it down is half the battle, digesting it and allowing your body to turn it into energy is another. And from what I’ve read, there seems to be some merit in this.

(The same and more applies to water and the need to be able to take on water as you run and not just draw a mouthful before throwing the bottle away 20 metres after a drinks-stop).

So back to that 20 mile run and the two bananas I had left out. The first I gobbled up over a half a kilometre with water in the other hand accompanying me through. The second I was not so lucky with as a feckin’ crow had pierced his (or her) way through and taken a good half.

But while having your food robbed by crows might not be that common, these things happen and you have to be ready for race-day plans to go slightly astray and just get on with it. So cursing the crow that was probably now full of energy I made do with my half, kept the pace steady and finished out the run knowing that I’d probably be just that little bit hungrier when I got home.

Yesterday’s training
Had planned to do 18 mile or 30 k but with great company on a very ‘soft’ day on nice green grass I found myself able to keep going and make hay while the sun shine, even though it was far from sunny. Not only did I get to 32 k in and around the Porchfields, taking in the Village and Nettle's Corner, the last 10 k were sub 5 minutes, the last 4 k were sub 4.35 and the last k was 4.16. Took me all of 2 hrs 38 minutes.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Red & White

It wasn’t always red and white and for a while it was green with two yellow stripes that ran across it when the club was Yellow Steeple A.C.

Now however it is the distinctive red and white stripes that came about partly due to the fact that it needed to be rebranded and partly due to the fact that a company instead of producing a sample actually produced a set.

What is great about the t-shirt is how distinctive it is. I know very few other clubs whose colours stand-out so much. So while this might be crap if Trim A.C. ever went on a pheasant shoot offering little in the sense of camouflage it sure is great for identifying fellow team-mates during races.

While it is open to debate/not really agreed on, some unlikely theories as to what the red and white stripes signify include:
·         A celebration of Trim’s long and deep association with Stoke City Football Club.
·         The death of historic strong-man and builder of Trim Castle Hugh De Lacy’s. According to legend so bloodstained was his white-tunic following his murder, the only part that remained white was beneath his sword belt.
·         Trim people’s preference for raspberry ripple over vanilla ice-cream.
·         The fact that the polka dot design had been already taken.
·         The community of Kharijite Muslims who used to live up by St. John’s whose traditional colour was red and who having signed the General Maraitime Treaty of 1920, included the colour white upon the British Empire’s request to signify the peace that had been struck.
·         The virtues of courage (red) and virtue (white) historically displayed outside the Boot nightclub back in the day.

Yesterday’s training
Rest (with a bit of landscaping)