Sunday, January 29, 2017

Final touches.

Last week. First up, if you haven’t begun training yet then I’d suggest you give this year’s Trim 10 Mile the skip and do it next February.

If you have managed to get out more times than you didn’t, then well done. Reward yourself with what should be a taper of sorts this week. To those who don’t know, the taper is not a South American jungle mammal often appearing on-screen alongside David Attenborough but the period of time prior to a big race where you allow the body to recover from all the training it’s been doing.

In marathon training, the taper is usually a three-week period. For a ten-mile, a week is plenty. The idea behind the taper is that you are as fresh as you can hope to be, come race-day. And to ensure this, you reduce the distances you’re running, keep a few short quick ones though not as intense to keep the body alert, and concentrate on staying hydrated and rested. Easier said than done.

Last week I only managed to get back on the road Thursday evening for a tempo session where I ran a number of sections at race-pace with a few slow jogs in between. It was tough. And I was hanging on at the end as the last remnants of that seasonal flu left me. Thankfully a light 5-mile with a friend the following evening felt a lot better. And so today I was able to take a spin over the course one last time with three race-pace miles put in at the end. It was tough and something that could only be done in the company of two other racing friends. We’ve set ourselves high targets next Sunday and if one of us gets close we’ll be delighted. To give us a chance ideal conditions like today would be great. With the roads were quiet, the skies clear and the wind absent it was perfect and it made me look forward to next week.

So, what to do these next few days along with the training listed below? A few tips:

Hydration – Hydration should be done throughout the week so carry a bottle around with you at all times. Don’t bother drinking any more water on the morning of the race more than you would usually. If you do, then you will be amongst all many others who will be stopping at country gates from mile 1 to mile 4 taking a leak and cursing themselves for the 30 seconds that it costs them. One thing I can guarantee next week is that it will not be warm so dehydration is not going to be an issue.

Clothes – Get whatever clothes you are going to wear on the day ready. You’ll only be out a couple more times between now and race-day so grab a different pairs of socks, shorts and t-shirts. It will allow your race clothes times to rest as well as ensuring you aren’t searching the wash-basket for your damp pair of lucky running socks next Sunday morning.

Food – Eat sensibly. Decent meals that are not huge. They say eat smaller portions more often if you can. If you have children, finishing off their left-overs before you have yours later works well. On the day before, I’d suggest a nice lunch with a decent snack or sandwich that evening. Don’t start trying home-made quinoa if you haven’t eaten it before or stewed beetroot juice because you read it on a blog.

Relax – After that, just enjoy the week. You’ve done the training so you’ve earned it. Well done. All you now have to do is race.

I’ll give a final word of encouragement Saturday and see you there Sunday. Good luck.

This week’s training:
Slow run: 30 minutes.
Tough run: 30 min steady run with 4-6*50 metre strides.
Long run: Race Day!!!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Nearly there

Two weeks to go. So nearly there!

First the positives – I got out three times this week. Tuesday was a tough but rewarding one. It wasn’t as hard as the previous week but even still 5 x 1.4 kilometres with 3 minutes jogging in between certainly got the muscles moving. Thankfully with company it is always that little bit easier, with a bit of a stress on the ‘little bit’.

On Wednesday I managed to beat the darkness for a short recovery run around the town.

Finally, on Saturday I did a light 8 k with a friend down from the capital. It was a perfect weekend for runs and criss-crossing the fields in the town my mate was struck not only by how lucky Trim is to have two large fields complete with walking and running paths but by the amount of people out and about. And it January 21st! The Trim 10 mile will be my friend’s longest ever race and hopefully a great start to what he hopes will be a Dublin marathon year. I have a feeling he won’t be alone in his hopes come February 5th.

Unfortunately, next up were the negatives – A dose stopped me getting out Sunday. It would seem that along with half the rest of the country I have been struck down with one of the seasonal snuffles. It is one of the perks of being a teacher as schools become a bit of a petri dish at this time of year.

As a result, I had to cancel my expected long run on Sunday that was due to contain some race pace tempo in it and I will probably spend the next few days trying to shift it. While annoying, if you are also experiencing something similar don’t fret. Firstly, it is probably likely that by having a dose now you won’t have one race day. Secondly, your training is pretty much done. The last two weeks of running prior to a 10 mile are not going to make or break you. The quality has already been achieved in the last two months, particularly during last month. At this stage, it is as much about keeping yourself ticking over so missing out on training is not a disaster.

So if like me, you have a nose that is running like a broken tap and a cough that you just can’t get in under forget the tough stuff this week. If it lets up a little don’t be afraid to wrap up well and go out for a short 5 k or so but other than that, allow the body to recuperate. Take comfort with the television and the central-heating.

If however you are lucky to be feeling in tip-top shape then great stuff, well done and keep going. However, before you start this week’s training would you ever do us a favour and fix us a water-bottle on the way out?

This week’s training.

This week’s training:
Slow run: 40 minutes.
Tough run: 10 min warm up - 6*4 mins intervals with 1 min recovery - 10 mins warm down.
Long run: 75 minutes slow.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Course

As the weeks tick by the Trim 10 Mile begins to loom large. This week after a tough, tough session on Tuesday where I completed 10 x 4 mins at 10k pace with 1 minute jogging rest in between and a light 5k with a mate along the banks of the Boyne Saturday morning, I decided I’d jog the 10 mile loop for my long run.

So for this week’s entry I’d thought I’d give you a sense of what to expect.

The start of the ten-mile is nestled into the Athboy Road side of Oakstown Business Park just outside Gerry Ellis’ friendly shop. Having warmed up jogging down from wherever in town you might have parked and finished with strides from AB Hire (good for coal) to SmartParts (good for car parts) you will be ready to go.

From the gun, you hit the Athboy Road and take an immediate left. Then after a short rise up you will have a nice slope down towards Lidl before the road turns left and you head off out into the countryside. With the hill and the cheers of local residents encouraging you on it is easy to hare off too fast. Resist the urge. You will regret it later. After a kilometre you pass by what will be the final stretch on the way back. Fifty metres later the road forks and you swing right and away into proper Meath country and the first mile-marker.

The second mile sees you continue to roll on out through Clonbun in what could be considered section one of three. As you approach the first short climb leading you into the wooded area of Carrollstown you should hopefully be starting to settle into the race at a nice pace that has allowed the body to warm right up.

With this section generally well-favoured towards the prevailing wind, as you pass by the Woodbine Cottages on your left and the townland of Cooltrim (what a name!) the third mile should be where you begin to really enjoy the race. For those urban dwellers among you, don’t forget to smell that fresh country air and to take in those first early green shoots of spring. I can promise you, you won’t be doing that at Mile 9!

As you enter mile 4 it is eyes on the road time as you hit a few blind corners. With the road being well-marshalled you won’t have to worry but all the same make sure to stay on the right on your way round. As you reach the end of this mile you will hit the rise that brings you into Dunderry. I once did my gear-box here and ended up having to coast into town parking up at the church. But don’t worry, that says far more about the state of my car than it does about this little incline.

No sooner do you enter the village of Dunderry (Meath Senior Football Champions 1995, y’up yur boyo!)  then you swing a sharp left and head out of it. Dunderry, is a strong-knit community and very welcoming so don’t worry if you catch a glimpse of what looks like a body hung from a lamp-pole, that’ll be a scare-crow with their village colours of black and white. Either that of a Saturday night reveller from Horan’s sleeping it off.

Once out of Dunderry you will now start the second section, effectively the shortest side of what is a three-sided triangle, as opposed to the four-sided triangles found elsewhere in Meath. This section can sometimes be directly into the prevailing wind so finding shelter close the hedge-rows or behind really tall-runners might not be a bad idea if a breeze is up. Sometimes this can be the toughest part, not helped by the first of two light but longish inclines. Just keep persevering. Remember, there is a graveyard just up ahead!

While a graveyard might not be the most inspirational of sights mid-race, this old ‘reilig’ is a welcome landmark, because when you pass this, you have 8 and a half k complete and are now well over half-way done. Use this mental plus to help you up the second incline of this section. If you can get past this one, then soon after you’ll hit a sharp left and aim for home.

Though only a couple hundred metres will see you finished mile 6 don’t take off just yet. The finish line is still a bit away. A few nice stretches followed by another little incline will see you through the townland of Cannistown and then into the outskirts of Kilbride. You will know you have reached the outskirts of Kilbride both due to the 7-mile marker and also by the fact that houses are almost built right beside each other!

Heading through down-town Kilbride (the church and school) if you are feeling good and there is no wind or it is only coming cross from your right you might like to push on, beginning with this nice straight-stretch out of the village. If however, you are starting to feel the burn a little too much then I would hold off a while and wait a few more kilometres before a final up in pace. Instead keep the legs moving as you follow the road round left and then back into the lightly curving country roads.

At mile 8 you are not far from home but there will still be two small inclines waiting for you so watch out. The first is in the middle of mile 9 while the second and slightly more ‘bite-ier’ is near the start of mile 10. Get through this one and you are nearly home and hosed.

Once past mile 9 look to Trim in front and right and the sight of the medieval Yellow Steeple calling you home. Once you see that you are nearly there. As soon as you spot it after one last short stretch you will reach the fork in the road last seen in Mile 1. From here you can start to open up the throttle knowing that you have succeeded. The winter training has paid off. Fifty odd metres and you swing right into the business park once more and the final straight. Increase the speed and as soon as you can read the race clock and the finish line, wipe the face for those end of race photos and empty the tank on the sprint home.

You’ve made it. Well done.

Of course, that’s still a few weeks away! In the mean-time we still have this week to think about:)!

This week’s training:
Slow run: 40 minutes.
Tough run: 10 min warm up - 25 min tempo run - 10 mins warm down.
Long run: 90 minutes slow.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The home-country

First up, if you’re training has unravelled a little over the last few weeks, never fear. Put off hopes of a personal best and concentrate on the basics. And the basics are to just go out and run. Between now and race day focus on getting out and clocking up some miles. Resolve to wrap up for the coming cold, toughen up and team up. If you start doing it from this week you’ll still be fine. You’ll be able to get around the Trim 10 mile and you’ll be all the happier for it.

As for me, the training continued though not for the first half of this week. In fact, the only training related activity I did was to buy a new pair of runners from my friendly local running shop. For the next three days, I broke these in as I walked around Madrid on a short family holiday. While this was fun and walking is exercise, I failed to get out for any runs. Part of this was because our city centre location was so good it meant a bit of a trek out to find a decent park to spread the legs and part of this was due to the fact that our little 15-month girl took over the double-bed moving across it each night like an Atlantic weather-front meaning slightly disrupted sleep and thus more desire for lie-ins than run-outs.

It wasn’t until Friday that I got out. And for this I took off on a short but very enjoyable run along the regular route from my home to the nearest pub and back. (I didn’t stop when I got there). It’s about 7.5 kilometres and despite going a little faster than a slow run it was not fast enough that I couldn’t enjoy the mild weather we’re still enjoying.

Saturday I got out again, this time in the company of a bunch of my students from school who are the cross-country team, or several of them anyway. With their season culminating in races late January, a few sessions organised over Christmas have given them more of an opportunity to meet up and keep up their training as well as give me extra impetus to get out and get the legs moving.

Finally, not wanting to let the three-times a week slip I made it out Sunday for a 10k race. Having not indulged at our club annual party the night before I took off for the home country of Westmeath where both my parents are from to compete in the wonderfully well-spirited Lough Lene Gaels 5k & 10k in Collinstown. Here, having called first called into a relative to clean the gutters, an unorthodox warm-up I admit, I lined up with a few fellow runners for the scenic though very undulating G.A.A. club fund-raiser. With a killer 2k uphill coming home, despite giving it a rattle, I didn’t manage a personal best but came home a very respectable 9th, something my dead relatives in the graveyard I passed 200 metres from the end would have been proud of!

This week’s training:
Slow run: 40 minutes.
Tough run: 10 min warm up - 4*6 mins intervals with 2 mins recovery - 10 mins warm down.
Long run: 80 minutes slow.

* Photo credit – Lough Lene Gaels

Friday, January 6, 2017

An A- Z of Food for the New Year

With it being the New Year and everyone keen to start some new positive habits, I thought it might be nice to return to the A - Z of eating specific for the everyday runner. 

As they say a car is only as good as the fuel that’s put into it. So goes the old adage that is oft repeated in running. And it is true, something that any one who has ever filled up their Volkswagen Golf TDi with petrol will tell you. Eating is important. It is the fuel that drives you forward. So with that a mind, here are a few tips that you don't have to take too seriously:

A superfood that contains protein, carbohydrates, dietary fibre and fat. You could live off avocados and some people do. Unfortunately, those people don’t tend to marry.

B: Banana
Potassium, carbohydrates, the energy fruit of kings.
C: Crosse & Blackwell
Perhaps not. Beetroot has fast become of late a superfood and one that is both very accessible and supposedly very good for you. Personally I like to chop mine up and bung in the oven to make sweet tasting chips. Whatever you do, don’t, under any circumstances, decide to take a “short-cut” and buy a jar of Crosse & Blackwell, drain off the “juice” (It’s not juice, trust me) and drink it. You know who you are!

D: Doughnuts
Okay, not the unhealthy doughnuts but the healthy ones that most everyone calls Bagels because that’s what they are called in New York. Still they are circular with a hole in the middle so how are they not doughnuts?

E: Eggs
Hmm… Eggs. Outside of Monster Munch is there a more universally good food out there?

F: Fat
Controversial theory that we should all be eating a fat-based diet and not a carb. While fat is something like 6 times more difficult to burn than carbs, if you are doing a fat-based diet then your body is used to burning it so does so efficiently. As a result, the argument says it is a much better fuel source. I would consider it more except for the fact that I am 37, I like potatoes, pasta and porridge so changing my whole diet to find 3 minutes is a step that I think I’ll leave to another generation.

G: Goji Berries
Might shave 4 seconds off for you and help contripation. Not sure what else they do but they are expensive, are in the health aisle and begin with G, which I’m struggling with.

H: Herring (and other oily fish)
Fish full stop is good but they say the oily fish (i.e. the one your mother used to cook you on Good Friday) is pretty good as a recovery.

I: Irish potatoes
Or sweet potatoes for that matter. Doesn’t have to be all pasta you know.

J: Jaffa Cakes
Supposedly good in the hours leading up to a race. I have my doubts. I remember my local soccer team eating them on the eve of our local cup final because we heard the did the same in England. About 2 or 3 lads threw-up before kick-off. They weren’t included the following week in the replay.

K: Kellogg’s Cornflakes
Okay, not a running food but having given it up for breakfast (see Oats below) I couldn’t possible go cold turkey on cornflakes and expect to mentally stick with.

L: Liver or Lentils
Two of the most difficult to include foods out there. I mean how many children get excited hearing their having a liver curry for dinner. Lentils are great (if you can remember to leave them out to soak the night before. Doh!).

M: Mother’s Brown Bread
Any brown bread will do as a great slow release food but only your mother’s brown bread tastes this good.

N: Nuts
One food I am not great at eating. Partly because I am not a horse and partly because we just didn’t have them growing up (and monkey nuts at Hallowe’en doesn’t count!)

O: Oats (as in Porridge)
When I finally heard that eating cornflakes for breakfast was like heating your house by burning paper, I finally turned to porridge, now a breakfast staple. This with a few Chia seeds (fancy-ass crunch) and local honey for my sweet tooth. Sorted.

P: Pasta
This carbohydrate is synonymous with marathon and long distances these days with most major city 26.2 milers complete with pasta parties the night before. For the unfamiliar, while these parties might at first sound like something you’d catch Silvio Berlusconi and his tan at, they are in fact big pasta meals where gaunt looking marathon runners swap last minute tips on how to avoid nipple chaffing and 40 mile training weeks.

Q: Quinoa
The most popular carbohydrate amongst hipster marathon runners.

R: Rice
Good old rice. Maybe not as popular as pasta or love as our spuds but pretty good nonetheless.

S: Spinach
Not Popeye energy giving but a recommended natural anti-inflammatory for those long-runs.

T: Tuna
Quick protein, easily accessed. My wife’s favourite along with sweet-corn.

U: Unfizzy Coca Cola
a.k.a. Flat Coke. I hear it is still all the rage. Never tried it.

V: Vegetables
A no-brainer here. Plenty of veg, particularly of the green variety.

W: Water
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate. Practice walking around with a bottle at work.

X: Xylophone
Full of er… iron?

Y: Yellow Banana
Didn’t we already have bananas down? Yes, we did but no harm having a few more.

Z: Zucchini
Or is it corgette?

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Half-way done.

Standing in a t-shirt and a pair of shorts with the sun peeping out through the morning clouds you could almost kid yourself into believing it was the break of dawn of a mid-summer’s day. There was a little bit of a chill in the air but other than that it was bright, dry and windless. Mad to think that it was in fact a quarter past nine on New Year’s Eve!

Waiting for some friends to come on down for my week’s long run I found myself not only looking back at what was an up and down but ultimately very rewarding year’s running but also a Christmas festive season safely negotiated. With only a few social New Year’s drinks to come this evening I had managed to dodge the festive bullets of too much food and drink and not enough runs. I had eaten, drank and been merry (if not intoxicated much) yet had still gotten out for a decent slice of training. If you managed to do the same or something similar, fair play. You’ve know reaching the half-way point with the Trim 10 Miler now in sight.
Sometimes successful training can hinge on a few factors outside your control. You may come down with a bug that knocks the stuffing out of you or you might have a wedding that sandwiches Christmas Day turkey with New Year’s Eve drinks meaning going out training is next near impossible. Encouraging training buddies might be away for the festive season or the weather can turn into an absolute beast. For me I couldn’t have asked for more. The weather became mild once again. Friends hung around that I could meet up with and there was surprisingly a dearth of weddings and winter bugs. When you add in the fact that I teach and am off longer than many of my mates, I couldn’t really ask for better.

In the end I had a great old week’s running. My first run of the week, a Tuesday tough one in a local 5k race, saw me break a PB for the distance! The race, the Navan Athletic Robbie Byrne 5k was one of a myriad of Christmas outings that offered the opportunity to do a fast run in the company of others. On yet another fine December morning I found myself tracking a student of mine the whole way round. While this might sound suspect it wasn’t and by managing to never lose him completely I ended up running in 7th in a time of 17.26. Goes to show what waking up half a dozen times before 4 o’clock by the 15-month old can do for you!

This was then followed by another tough Thursday session on another mild, dry day where I led out some students of mine who I train/organise the buses for. And finally I capped this with a final local long run out New Year’s Eve with old friends making this possibly the best week’s training this winter. Go figure. This probably won’t last but for now I’m happy to bank the mileage and look forward to week 6 and 2017.

Slow run: 40 minutes.
Tough run: 10 min warm up - 20 min tempo run - 10 mins warm down.
Long run: 70 minutes slow.