Thursday, December 31, 2009

World 24-Hour Team Announcement

Thomas Maguire and Eoin Keith, Ireland's top 24-Hour performers

Ireland will enter a men's team for the World 24-Hour Challenge & European Championships which will take place in Brive, France on 13-14 May 2010.
The team certainly has medal hopes in this competition: Eoin Keith finished 5th in the 2009 World Challenge and Thomas Maguire is ranked in the top six in the world for 2009.
On top of these performances, John O'Regan had an excellent debut at 24 hours in Londonin October, while Spanish-based Eddie Gallen continues to be Ireland's most dependable 24-hour runner, consistently chalking up 200km+ distances.
These four may be joined by Richard Donovan and Tony Mangan depending on their fitness and availability.
The top three finishers on each team decide team positions in the competition.
A full team of support personnel will also travel to Brive.
Performances of team members in past 12 months
Thomas Maguire 248.392km (Monaco, November 2009)
Eoin Keith 237.206km (Bergamo, May 2009)
John O'Regan 220.021km (London, October 2009)
Eddie Gallen 216.213km (Barcelona, December 2008)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Farranfore to Firies Road Race

I waited all year for this race having heard about it too late last Christmas and when I arrived at the start line it had been called off. I wasn't too disappointed because for me it had served it's purpose in my schedule by giving me an excuse to run during the holidays and it made me take it easy on the food & drink on Christmas day.
Rather than write off the day I decided to run the route with a few others in the wind and rain checking it out for next year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Kepler Challenge.

Gretel Fortmann, Tony Golden, James Owens & Rob Costelloe after finishing the Kepler Challenge.

The Kepler Challenge is a 60K race over steep mountain inclines, alpine ridges and deep forest looping around the Jackson Peaks in Te Anau, South Island, New Zealand.  Total ascent / descent for the race is 1,350m which includes what's described as two steep ascents and one punishing descent.

I had planned on running this race in December 2008 as my last continent race but the entires fill up so quickly that I missed out.  Disappointed at the time but I then found the North Face 100K in Australia and became friends with all of the above and had an excuse to visit my running buddy Rob who also crewed for me during the race.
Congratulations to Gretel, Tony, James and Rob on their successful completion of this event.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Richard Donovan wins Antarctic 100km.

Photo copyright Antarctic Ice Marathon.

It was quite tempting to stay in bed this morning after looking out the window and seeing the roads and cars covered in a layer of frost and snow but I had arrangements made and people to meet.  Returning to my house 18 miles later my hands were frozen and I thought back to this time in 2005 when I was in training for the first Antarctic Ice Marathon.  Back then I was almost praying for a frosty morning and the colder the better to help prepare my body as best I could for the conditions in Antarctica.  

The attached news report is from Ultrarunning Ireland.

Richard Donovan won the IAU-labelled Antarctic 100k for the third time on December 14th.
The race, which is the world's southernmost ultramarathon, was held at 80 Degrees South in the interior of the Antarctic.
Conditions underfoot were extremely tough this year due to snowfall. Windchill temperature was -14C.
Richard also organised the event, which incorporates a marathon, and is called the Antarctic Ice Marathon & 100k.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Training by time.

We can't make time so we've got to make the best use of the available time we have.  If you have an hour set aside for a regular run and you run the same route continuously you may find that after a few weeks you start to cover the same route faster as you get fitter.  If you run for distance rather than time the session will end sooner and you won't gain the benefit of the minutes saved by covering the distance faster and the earned time is wasted.

My regular Saturday morning run is a hilly 60 minutes followed by a cool down walk to my house and as you'll see from the attached Garmin Connect links the distance I cover in the 60 minutes has started to increase as my fitness level has increased.  If I was running it as an 8 mile loop the run would be finishing sooner and like I've said, I wouldn't get the benefit of the extra training minutes I've made!

Run 1.
Run 2.

If you compare the Heart Rate average and max for both runs it's evident that run 2 shows an improvement in my fitness level as the effort is less with a faster pace over the same route.

An hour is an hour and a mile is a mile but as you get fitter you can cover a mile in less time and get more training for your hour.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Planning ahead.

There's not a lot to say at the moment as all I'm really doing is clocking up a few miles at more or less the same pace which is back to my default easy run pace of 7:30 min mile / 4:40 min Km.  Recovery runs are slower but again the pace is constant and my mileage is in the region of 50-60 miles per week.  As the end of the year approaches I'm now trying to decide which races to do and it's looking like a busy year so I need to make some compromising choices.

For starters I'm entered into the Connemara Ultra in April and I also have an entry in the Dingle Ultra Marathon in September through Ultra Running Ireland which will be run as the National 50 Mile Title but apart from that there's nothing definite.  Other planned races happen in May, August & September and i'll make my decisions on which races to do at the start of January.  I could try do them all and just get around and use the last race as an excuse for not doing well in the next but that's not how I operate.  I like to prepare well and give everything my best shot and I don't make excuses.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thomas Maguire wins Monaco 24

Ireland's Thomas Maguire set an incredible new Irish record of 248.392km (154.344 miles) to win the IAU-labelled Monaco 24-Hour race on 22nd November. Maguire's performance is an elite Grade A standard and propels him into the top 5 in the world rankings this year.
The distance, which is the equivalent of running almost six full marathons in a single day, was also a new event record for the Monaco race.
The 'No Finish Line 24-Hour Race', staged on a 1km circuit at Monaco's world famous port, proved to be a fascinating duel between Maguire, the Irish 100km record holder, and Emmanuel Fontaine (FRA).
The pair demonstrated fantastic mental and physical prowess as well as top class sportsmanship as they battled for dominance over the second half of the race. However, Maguire's pacing strategy ultimately proved successful and he gained control over the final few hours.
Maguire ran negative splits and his time for the final 100 miles (161km), yet to be confirmed precisely, is also set to be an Irish best at the distance.  
He was supported by former Irish Olympian Paul Donovan - and Fearghal Murphy. He was also accompanied in his efforts by Ireland's Richard Donovan over the initial third of the race.
The IAAF World Athletics Gala took place on the same day in Monte Carlo and HSH Prince Albert II was at hand to give Thomas his winning 'No Finish Line' trophy.
His amazing achievement further boosts Ireland's 24-Hour team for 2010, especially given Eoin Keith's 5th place finish at this year's World 24-Hour Championships. The next World 24-Hour Championships take place in Brive, France on 13th-14th May 2010.
Monaco Results
1. Thomas Maguire (IRL) 248.392km
2. Emmanuel Fontaine (FRA) 243.570km
3. Christian Leroux (FRA) 225.118km
4. Christophe Laborie (FRA) 213.850km
5. Robert Ludger Boewer (GER) 210.210km
Check out Thomas Maguire's profile on Ultrarunning Ireland.

Monday, November 23, 2009

More of the same

My training volume increased ever so slightly last week with my weekday runs going from a 6 mile to 8 mile average and my long run on Sunday was extended by 2.5 miles to 11 miles. At the moment I'm still planning next year and although I have a fair idea of what i'll be doing it's still too early to start putting my body under too much stress as I much prefer to use this time to build a good foundation on which to get event specific when the time comes.

I've also mapped out a local route that includes quite a few hills and is just over an 8 mile loop starting from my house, I'll run this route once a week with a gradualy increasing pace using the virtual partner on my Garmin.

Knowing how far and how fast to run during the Long Run is determined by how far you'll have to run during your planned event but there is a distance at which you can max out and it's probably not sensible to go beyond that. This distance and pace differs from person to person but I find that if I'm on the go for longer than 4.5 hours I take longer to recover and going for an extra half to 1 hour can cost me a training session or more in the following days. No big deal but if it's close to an important race it can make a big difference.

As a rule if I'm training for a Marathon I run my long run slower than my planned race pace and if I'm training for an Ultra my long run will be at race pace or faster depending on the race distance. If you can't hold a conversation during your long run then chances are it's too fast.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Starting all over again..

With just over a month left in this year I've started on the next stage of my training schedule.  For the last month most of my runs were within my easy heart rate zone and I've also spent some time working on my leg strength and core stability by doing exercises which included lunges & single leg squats for my legs and  chin ups for my upper body.  My heart rate based runs meant that when training with someone else they usually had to slow down at times to stay with my pace so as a compromise I'll run at a set pace when with someone or heart rate when I'm on my own.

Today I did my first run and just went for it running comfortably hard while ignoring my Garmin and heart rate and had a very enjoyable run in the wind and rain.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Too much too soon.

Everest Marathon 2007 and the view from Kala Patar.

Last week I started to increase my mileage thinking that I'd recovered quicker than the time I knew it would take and have started to feel a few niggles.  I'm guessing that this was partly due the feeling of success I had after finishing the 24hr race and that feeling was masking the obvious damage that my body had suffered during the event.  It was my longest ever event and probably my shortest recovery period so it was probably obvious that my legs needed some more time off.

I have since put some effort into sorting the problem areas through self massage using my foam roller, icing the sore area and doing some extra stretching.  This seems to have helped but i'll be extra cautious until the end of this year and won't be doing my usual December races and might even forget about speed work until at least January.  On a positive note I went for an easy run today with Tony driving to his house to cut out some hills and we completed 8 miles at a fairly constant 7:30 min mile.  We agreed not to go faster than 7 min mile with no lower limit and had to hold ourselves back at times without ever having to speed up.  Tomorrow I start at the beginning all over again and prepare to prepare for 2010.

Everest Marathon Race Report.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Taking it easy

I've started back running and have ran almost everyday since last Friday starting with two easy runs on the treadmill. I'm not a big fan of treadmill running but when starting back it's a good way of checking for wear and tear and if you discover a problem after a mile or two you can stop without the thought of having to walk home in the rain.
Finished off my week with a long run of just under 2 hrs with Tony and Anthony Lee and for the moment i'll run for time rather than distance and staying in my easy run heart rate zone. Finishing todays run I felt a niggle in my left knee and lower right shin so thats something i'll need to sort out before moving forward.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Starting Back

24hrs of Running.

Two months previous to the 24hr race I was diagnosed with overtraining syndrome and was told to take a week off from training and during that week forget about the Athletic Diet and just eat what I want and rest. Well thats exactly what i've done over the last two weeks. My 'Athletic' diet has gone out the window and I've used the opportunity as I transition from one event to preparing for the next event to do the things I haven't done for a while. I ate lots of chocolate, had my chinese takeaway, had a few hangovers and now it's time to start training again. As mentioned previously the Dublin Marathon marks the end of my year so my 24hr race was timed perfectly as there was only a week between the two races.

One of my training principles is always take a step back before going forward and this simply means not continuing on from where you left off but starting back at the beginning. If you don't have a start and finish point there could be a tendency to just continue training and not allow your body to rest / recover and adapt to the recent stresses caused by training and racing.

The intensity will be reduced and i'll start off with a low volume of training (reduced mileage) which will gradually be increased over the coming weeks. Between now and Christmas i'll focus on maintaining a decent level of fitness and work on my leg strength with the objective being to get myself ready to do some serious training knowing that I can be race ready for any distance in as little as 4 weeks but preferrably a bit longer.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

One week later.

The swelling in my lower legs is gone and I can almost walk without limping. The night after the race I found it hard to sleep as the pain was keeping me awake, apart from my head and arms almost every other muscle in my body was hurting. Walking the next day was very slow but apart from the expected muscle damage I finished the race in relatively good condition.
During next week I'll go for a sports massage and the following week I'll start training all over again starting at the beginning and focusing on building a strong endurance base up until the end of the year.
My training year usualy finishes with the Dublin Marathon which is tomorrow and even though I'm not taking part it will still be my years end. A training programme needs to have a starting and finishing point and mine ends with this race as it's a regular on my calendar.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

24hr Race Report from the Support Crew's perspective

The preparation:
When John O’Regan first mentioned about the 24 hour race, a couple things came to mind – firstly, who in their right mind would consider it fun to run for 24 hours, and secondly, who in their right mind …….!

And so my interest in the 2009 Self-Transcendence 24 Hour Track Race was piqued. The most John had run before in this type of event was 100k (Celtic Plate 2008, Galway) so it was going to be a challenge, a very big challenge; but having experienced his approached previous challenges I knew that his commitment to training, his competitive spirit and the application of a fair degree of stubbornness, that he would succeed.

The preparation for the race involved figuring out the answer to two major questions: (At this stage the physical and mental ability were taken as a given).

(1) How far could we expect John to run over the duration &
(2) What level and mix of fuel would be required sustain the required effort over the 24 hours.

The preparation involved consultation with and detailed testing by Dr Nick Mahony, Bernard Donne and the team in Trinity College’s Sports Science Department, who confirmed how ready the body was to take on the task and how far it could be pushed. He also relied heavily on the experience of athletes like Eoin Keith and endurance record holding cyclist Paul O’Donoghue to help with diet plan and just as importantly, the mental preparation.

And so a plan emerged: John was going to run 210km and was going to need 60gr of Carbohydrates each hour. Now we had a plan, all John had to do was execute it.

The Race:
The venue was the Tooting Bec track in south London, the time was 12 noon and the weather was just perfect for running. The first thing that struck me as the 46 brave souls lined-up at the start line, was the remarkable mix of ages, shapes and sizes. I was expecting a field of young, undernourished-looking men, but what presented was an eclectic mix of international competitors ranging in ages from 29 to 76, 11 of whom were women. There was quite a relaxed atmosphere at the start with many of the competitors having a number of 24 hour races under their belts. Not so for John, who was a little apprehensive on the start line, a bundle of pent-up nervous energy waiting to explode. But both Steven Seaton (Runners World) and I were there to support him and to do whatever is took to deliver the plan.

12:00 to 20:00
His instructions were clear – do not run any more than 10km in the first hour, stick to the fuelling plan, and certainly don’t try to keep up with anyone. Before the race we never assessed what delivering 210km would mean in terms of positioning, but it was largely irrelevant, this event was about going the distance and learning from the experience. John settled in nicely to the race and limiting his pace to a heart rate max, delivered the first four hours with a few km ahead of plan. The fluid intake seemed right, the fuelling plan was working and we were really happy with the steady start to the race. John hit the marathon distance in 4:05 and was feeling good.

My initial concerns about having lots of time to fill during the 24 hours failed to materialise as we soon got into a rhythm of preparing food, tracking pace, monitoring distance, supporting toilet breaks and satisfying John’s every whim. The hours started flying by. The next four hours delivered another 40k and a quick change into his Skins leggings. The 2 minutes it took to change the gear was the first John time got off his feet in the 8 hours. We were still slightly ahead of the plan, and started getting more confident that it could be delivered. This steady progress meant John finished the 8 hour mark in 7th place.

20:00 to 04:00
The middle phase of the plan was to deliver 73 km, which anticipated a slight slowing in pace. Just after a toilet break at 20:00 John walked his first lap. The walking lap is a great opportunity to eat some solids (energy bar, bagels or pancakes) and a chance to really assess how he was doing in terms of HR, effort and any potential injuries that were starting to emerge. At 10pm John noticed a bit of a ‘twinge’ at the end of his shin. At this point I was a little worried that it was early and a potential problems began to emerge. At 1am John decided that a change of shoes might help to address the pain in his shin and counteract any affect of his feet swelling after 13 hours running. He had run 318 laps of the track, had gone to the toilet 5 times, sat down twice to change gear but had only walked one of the laps. If we could keep the shin at bay, the plan was beginning to look good.

In the last part of this phase of the race, a few cracks started to emerge. The level of fluid being consumed was now requiring a toilet break every hour, he couldn’t tolerate eating the bagels or the raisins and the pace was falling a little but behind, eating away the gains we had banked. This stage in the night brought a drop in temperature to 0 degrees, so the dew that covered our gear quickly turned to ice. At 3am John donned his hat and gloves to counteract the affects of the cold and walked his second lap of the race. Things were now starting to get interesting as the leader board showed John O’Regan in fourth position. Was it too early to hope for a finish position like that? Or were the experienced runners going to eat him up in the last eight hours when John faded towards the end? We did not know, but we hoped he could hold on.

05:00 to 11:00
The last third of the race was always going to be the difficult one to judge, just because the plan said John was to do 57k, did not mean that he could physically do it. And two problems still existed – His shin was starting to really hurt and the carbohydrate intake was well below the required level – caused by having to do without the bagels and the raisins. That’s when Percy Pig came to the rescue! Well not completely, but he certainly helped. For those of you who don’t know Percy Pig – he is a wonderful sweet from M&S that delivers a wonderful 6g of carb per pig – they were reserved for a flavoursome treat in the plan, but were offered and consumed with a frequency that would have a school full of children hyperactive!

Things started to get really interesting when the 6am leader board was posted which show John now in third place. Up to this point it was not about the other runners at all, we monitored and measured their pace and observed their routines purely out of passing interest. But now we had a race on our hands. How far ahead was the guy in front? And more importantly how far behind was the next guy and could John be caught? John passed the 100mile mark after 16hours 50mins and cheered-up by the rising sun and third place on the board delivered a really strong 7 hours between 5am and 11am. In that time, he delivered an 8.4 km an hour average when the plan required 7.3km. Not only were we looking at a possible 3rd place finish, but 215 km was a near definite and 220km a distinct possibility. The fuelling plan now consisted of a lot of flattened coke which provided the necessary fluid and sugar boost. Percy Pig also played his part.

The Final hour:
The sun now shone brightly, the temperature rose to a very pleasant level and 531 laps were completed in the 23 hours. We had a problem, PerAuden Heskestad from Sweeden was running a consistent 2:25 minute lap and despite a 2km lead it was very possible for him to catch John. The inevitable happened with about 40 minutes to go, PerAuden made up gap and passed by. It was out with the calculators again to check two things – could we get John to 220km and was Neil Bryant going to be able to make up the deficit. I was now very worried, John was fading fast, the pain in his shin was getting unbearable and Neil was moving fairly steadily.

The last 20 minutes was a battle to keep him going, running was not possible due to the pain, and the reality was that he was moving faster when he walked. It was a very strange sight to see almost everyone still in the race pick it up for the last 30 minutes. Athletes, literally dead on their feet, found the motivation from somewhere, to raise their heads and eek the last few meters out of the 24 hours. So focused were we on keeping John moving that I miscounted the last few laps and we very happy to finish with 219km and a fourth position. Despite the difficulties over the last hour, John still managed to deliver 7.6 km, the last 3laps of which Steve and I walked with him. It was an amazing and emotional feeling to be on the track as the final siren sounded and 26 competitors stopped dead on their feet. At that point, it had nothing to do with the race positions or the distance travelled but the immense sense of personal achievement that each one of them felt, as they stood transfixed on the track, smiling in the sun.

The Result:
And so the race was over, the stretch target exceeded and an incredible maiden 24 hour race now firmly recorded in John’s CV. The icing on the cake was the fourth place finish, I believe that John secretly hoped for a top 10 finish, but was still more interested in getting the distance. It was a wonderful sight to see all the competitors now relaxed and smiling in the sun waiting to hear the official results. The winner, Richard Quennell covered 234.8 in the 24 hours, John was a mere 14.8km behind him. As I pointed out to John, if he was able to cover a mere 600m more per hour he would have covered the same distance – easy really!

Of the 35 athletes who completed the race, 25 of them ran over 100 miles. The last surprise of the day was the announcement of John’s fourth position and official distance. Steve thought he heard a distance of 220km being called, but that could not have been, I had tracked all the way and was positive that we had only made 219 and a lap or so, the holy grail of 220km was not achieved! A quick check with the referee confirmed a final distance 220km and 21m – had I known it was achieved; I might have been able to claim a near perfect result, but I was just as surprised and delighted as John. All of which goes to show that 24 hours is a long time to be doing anything!

Monday, October 19, 2009

24hr Track Race / The Result

Race report from Ultra Running Ireland.

Ireland's John O'Regan made his 24-Hour debut in style in London on 17-18 October 2009.

The Dubliner ran a distance of 220.002km, or 136.7 miles, to earn the standard for participation in the World 24 Hour Championships in 2010.

The event was won convincingly by Great Britain's Richard Quenell, but Paul Hart (GBR), Per Audon Heskestad (NOR) and O'Regan battled closely to finish second, third and fourth, respectively. Although John is no stranger to ultra running and adventure running, having participated in the North Pole and Antarctic Ice Marathons, the Celtic 100k, the Everest Marathon, the Inca Trail Marathon (co-1st) and the Yukon Arctic Ultra of 100 miles (1st), it was a spectacular debut at 24 hours.

John's principal crew member was Tony Brennan, but he was also helped by Steven Seaton, the former publishing editor of Runner's World magazine. Mike King - a top UK Sports Photographer - who photographs the North Pole Marathon each year, was also at hand to take some photos and voice his support.

John's performance in this IAU-labelled event is a great boost to Ireland's 24-Hour team.

For race results click here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

'Code of Conduct' 24 hour track race

This 'code' is to make the event fair to all competitors at all levels of ability during the 24 hours of the event.. Before the event starts all competitors need to identify and make themselves known to their lap recorder. These will be situated in a tent on the home straight opposite the Start/Finish line. This is very important, as you will need to be known to each other throughout the event. You will need to arrange how you will let each other know that a lap has been completed, usually by the runner calling the recorders name as they pass. Also you will need to arrange how you will either 'signal to' or tell your recorder when you have previously left the track for any reason before reaching them or that you are going to before completing the lap you are about to start e.g. a toilet break.

Distance over time is a different discipline to time over distance. As implied the objective is to cover the greatest distance in a specific time period. The overall distance is calculated from the number of recorded laps or part laps by each contestant during the time period. The greatest recorded distance for any runner during the time period is the one that wins the event. Overall distance is the criteria and the winner does not have to be on the track at end of the time period. In a track race the lap used for calculation purposes is the inside lane lap, which is 400 metres from start to finish line. Any distance run outside of the inside lane cannot be included in the calculated overall distance. This effectively makes it imperative for all competitors to use the inside lane. If the right 'code of conduct' is followed by all competitors for all 24 hours this can be achieved.

As soon after the start as possible all competitors should get into single file running at or on the white line marking the outside edge of the inside lane. This single file position at or on the white line should be maintained throughout the race. This will leave the opportunity for overtaking on the nearside, the shortest route for anyone travelling faster or accelerating to overtake the person in front of them. If at any time a competitor finds two other competitors side by side in the inside lane in front them they should shout the word 'Track' in sufficient time for the inside one of the two to accelerate in front of the other so resuming the 'single file' position.

There are a potential 45 persons who will be on the track at anytime all travelling at different speeds all wanting to achieve their maximum distance. If all competitors make it their intention to comply with this 'code of conduct' throughout the whole 24 hour time period there should not be any problems or reason to cover extra-unrecorded distance. Because racing positions will change constantly MP3 players will not be allowed to be worn at any time in the INSIDE LANE. All competitors should be able to hear anyone calling 'track' at any time and/or any other instructions they may need to be given by race officials. They should also be able to hear the presence of other competitors behind them. This 'ban on MP3 players in the INSIDE LANE' as a possible cause of problems during the event will be listed in the race 'risk assessment', and enforced by the Race Referee. (They can be worn in any other lane if the competitor is prepared to stay in that lane). All unaccompanied competitors by necessity will have to take their drinks and/or food from a table in a stationery position. To maintain consistency anyone accompanying a runner must also give any drink or food to their runner from a stationery position. Any other assistance given by a helper to any competitor, on foot and moving, must be from alongside or from behind the competitor. Any action by a helper that could be construed as 'pacing or unfair assistance to their runner' could ultimately lead to the disqualification of the competitor e.g. on the move, in front of them.

The toilets are situated on the home straight side of the main changing rooms building. Any competitor taking a 'toilet' break' must leave and return to the track using the same route from the track and back again. Any time a competitor leaves the track must be recorded. When verifying overall distance, laps by an individual competitor usually maintain a steady average. When suddenly there is a very extended difference in lap times it is usually one of two reasons. They are either, one completed lap has not been recorded or the competitor left the track during a particular lap. For this reason this communication between competitor and lap recorder must be maintained the whole time so there can be no subsequent doubt as to why the vast difference occurred. Any competitor that is off the track for more than 2 hours without giving an explanation of absence, or off the track in excess of 5 hours (with explanation) to Race Director or Lap Recorder will be retired by the Race Referee.

This 'Code of conduct' when conformed to by all entrants has been proved successful in other events and gives all entrants the opportunity to achieve their maximum distance for the time period.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Going back to my roots

My thanks to Sean Kenny for the article that appeared in today's Irish Times. Click here to view it online. Behind me is Ballybough Flats in Dublin's inner city, my childhood home. Photograph copyright Alan Beston.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A run in the woods.

Yesterday I took part in the Donadea 10K in Donadea Forest Park, Co.Kildare. Not ideal preparation for my 24hr race next weekend but this was a race I was looking forward to all year having enjoyed it so much last year. To fit it in without messing up my training and taper I decided to use it as a substitute for my weekly interval session and I made sure to stay within my Interval heart rate zone and not get carried away. That wasn't a problem as all the recent long slow runs have certainly slowed me down but all in all it was a good run and I was recovered enough this morning for an easy 11 miler with Tony before breakfast.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It's only 1 day of my life

Since the confirmation of my entry in the 24hr race I've been thinking about it quite a lot and although my plan is to just concentrate on the time rather than drown in the distance I'm feeling slightly apprehensive about the race. The thoughts of staying awake for the race duration as well as the few hours before and after the race mean I could be awake for 36-40hrs when you add it all up.
This evening I went to a talk in the Great Outdoors and listened to Mark Pollock & Simon O'Donnell talk about their trek to the South Pole and their 16 hr days. I thought of Mark and remembered what it must have been like for him whe I was suffering on the way to and from Everest Base Camp but I had the scenery to ease the pain and distract my mind unlike Mark. So I thought just get on with it sure it's only 1 day of your life, shut up and put up with it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Getting the balance right

This week has been a busy one with over 11hrs of training which had to fit around my work and family life. The runs varied in duration from 1hr - 4hr with the longest runs used to experiment with different food items that I plan on using during the 24 hr race.
At this moment I'm not thinking about distance and just running for time knowing i can't make that time pass any quicker which is what it'll be like in London.
The amount of training you can do is in some way determined by the amount of training you can recover from and for that reason I don't think my long run will be much longer than 4hrs, at most it'll be 5hrs.
To give it my best shot I think it best to arrive at the start line well rested, injury free, slightly undertrained rather than overtrained, fully hydrated and well fueled. For that reason my taper will start during next week and will include some dietary adjustments and a sleep plan.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

24 hour Track Race

In 3 weeks time i'll be taking part in my first 24 hour race in Tooting Bec, London and at the moment I'm feeling slightly underprepared. After reading various race reports from Ultra Marathon Runners there would seem to be a lot of gifted runners that can run these events at the drop of a hat and in some case without any training, well that's not me so for the next 3 weeks I've some serious training to do.

Since returning from Dingle my training has been event specific focusing on spending more time on my feet and running at my planned race pace to prepare for the slower pace during the race. During these training runs I've also been experimenting with different food types and trying to work out a feeding plan and race day strategy.

My new regime as prescribed by Bernard Donne in Trinity College consists of 4-5 runs of 1-4+ hours in a heart rate zone of 120-128bpm (which will also be my race day zone) and 1 interval session of 4*2K with a heart rate of 165-170bpm.

The Long Run zone has me walking at times when faced with hills and the Interval pace has me running faster than I would ever run. I'm struggling with the interval session but I'm noticing improvements already and expect my Long Run zone to be ideal on race day over the flat course.

My training so far this week included:
Sunday: 4hr at 120-128bpm.
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 2hr at 120-128bpm.
Wednesday: Interval Session.
Thursday: 2hr at 120-128bpm.
Friday: 3hr at 120-128bpm.
Saturday: 2hr 120-128bpm.

Most of the above runs were done either early morning or late at night to prepare my body in some way for the stress of running in darkness and during unsociable hours. I expect my longest run to be less than 5 hours and this will be at least 10 days before the race.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Back to business

The Dingle half Marathon went well and apart from some slight muscle soreness I recovered almost immediately and was back running by Monday. Followed that with another easy session on Tuesday of less than 3 miles and on Wednesday I had an Incremental Treadmill Test in the Human Performance Lab in Trinity College.

The test involves running on a treadmill at a set pace for 3 minute intervals with the speed increased every 3 minutes. Heart Rate is taken every minute and a blood sample taken from a finger tip halfway through each interval to test and compare lactate levels at different speeds relative to heart rate. During the test a face mask is worn to measure the exchange of gasses measuring the amount of oxygen in expelled air to work out the amount of oxygen that your lungs can absorb from inhaled air and this gives a measure of VO2 max again in relation to speed / heart rate.

My test started at an easy 10Kph and by 18Kph I had passed my lactate threshold which is the speed / hr beyond which your body can't buffer the lactic acid and this is what gradually slows you down.
My reason for doing the test is because I was doing so many slow miles and running at pace that I was starting to get lazy and finding it hard to get out of the comfort zone.

Today I got official confirmation of a place in a 24hr race in Tooting Bec, London on Sat 16th / Sun 17th October.
A 24hr race is very different to any other race in that the objective is to cover as much distance as possible in a set time rather than running a set distance in the shortest possible time. It's hard to know how to train for this type of event and I'd even say you can't really train for a 24hr race as my thinking is it's more about what you've done and your current condition.
Having said that I will train as recommended by Bernard Donne of the HPL in Trinity and run 4-5 runs per week of 2-4 hrs or more and also do one interval session of 4*2k just to ensure I keep some speed in my legs.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Dingle Half Marathon

The Dingle Half Marathon has come and gone and although I was disappointed over having to switch from the Full to Half Marathon I was never as happy to see a finish line as I was on Saturday. As prescribed by my Sports Doctor (Nick Mahony) I let my heart rate dictate the effort rather than running at a set pace as I would if chasing a time. The plan was to keep my HR between 153-162bpm (85-90% of HR max) and apart from a short spike to 172bpm during the sprint finish I managed to stay within my zone, slowing on the hills and picking it up on the flat and downhill.

I arrived in Kerry 2 days before the race and and felt a lot more relaxed than I usually would so close to a race and I'm guessing it's because I wasn't chasing a PB (Personal Best) and was running according to how I was feeling and keeping an eye on my rev counter (HR monitor) rather than worrying about staying on pace. It was nice being able to slow on the hills to stay in the zone rather than pushing harder trying not to lose valuable seconds and trying to recalculate how to make up lost time.

Minutes before the race started I lined up in the Sub 3hr Full / Sub 1:30 Half Marathon Pen which seemed to be extra quiet. It was strange not having to fight for a good starting position and it was hard to believe that there were 2000 competitors lined up mostly behind me. I met briefly with Thomas Bubendorfer which was slightly pre planned and I had originally planned on running with Thomas as we were both running similar times and I'm guessing our pace would be more or less the same. Moments later the gun went off and we parted company as the Half Marathon pace is slightly faster than Marathon pace and before mile 1 I was on my own. I was constantly checking my HR monitor to ensure I was staying in my zone and passed the first mile in 6:10 with my HR staying below 158. A good start but I wasn't sure if I had the leg strength to maintain that pace because of my recent unplanned break from training.

The course was very undulating and it wasn't long before my pace was dropping which I knew because I was checking the lap times on my watch but today pace didn't matter and it was almost enjoyable knowing that although I was taking it somewhat easier I was still working as planned.

My HR rarely went above 164bpm and when it did I quickly got it back into the zone. Approaching the village of Dunquin I could see the long line of busses to bring us back into town so I knew it was almost over. Based on my previous splits I knew my mile time was under 7 minutes so 3 minutes after passing mile 12 I upped the pace. My sprint finish is usually around 400M but I felt good and could see 2 other runners up ahead so thought why not?

I made up 2 places with my sprint and crossed the finish line in 1hr27min57, I had just made it inside the top 10 finishing in 9th place out of 1600 competitors. A good day with a good result and although I didn't achieve a new PB (Personal Best) I was happy that I had the discipline to run as prescribed.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Week 11

A random photo from the Dingle Marathon course.

I got the all clear to start back training last Tuesday but with one thing or another it was Thursday before I got out and that didn't go too well. I had arranged to meet up with Tony after Athletics training which meant dropping the kids home and then running towards Tony's house but I ended up running directly from the running track forgetting that I was wearing my old running shoes. Usually I wear my old retired running shoes on the track when coaching and save my proper shoes for the actual running.
Finishing the run 8 miles later I felt some discomfort in my left shin and thought 'here I go again', got out the foam roller and spent 30 minutes massaging my calf muscles and was right as rain the next morning.

I finished off the week with an easy 10 mile run along the Royal Canal keeping my heart rate below 148 bpm and running out and back for 5 miles each way. The difference between the out and back leg was 4 seconds which I was happy with. I was told to keep my heart rate at this intensity and because the canal is flat and easier underfoot than concrete it made an ideal route for a return to training.

Plan for next week is an easy / recovery run on Monday of less than 50 minutes with my heart rate below 138 bpm. Not sure about Tuesday yet but will do an easy 40-50 mins on Wednesday with the Le Cheile meet & train group. Travelling to Kerry on Thursday but hope to do an easy run beforehand and Friday will be a relaxing day starting with a lie in (I hope).

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


The Science Gallery, Trinity College.

Had my follow up appointment with Dr Nick Mahony in Trinity today and to cut a long story short he gave me the go ahead to start back training. Between now and Dingle I've to train close to how I would normally train during a Taper and ensure my efforts are low in intensity with nothing more than a few easy runs. Today also included a blood test which didn't show up any problems and the next step in my recovery is a full incremental treadmill test in the Human Performance Lab with Bernard Donne the week after the Dingle half Marathon.

Over the last week my weight has increased by over 1Kg because of the inbalance between my input and output. 1Kg (2.2lbs) is quite a lot over a short period of time but suprisingly enough nobody has noticed or commented on my increase in weight, that's because rather than an increase in body fat the weight gain is caused by my muscles restocking their glycogen (carbohydrate) stores.

I have a race planned for mid October so I'm guessing the extra Kg will come in quite handy.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Week 10

There's only 12 days until the Dingle Marathon and the forced rest over the past week has me feeling slightly unfit and under prepared. I'm now hoping that the few days off will be just what I needed and with a bit of luck i'll get the all clear to start back training on Tuesday. All going well my plan for next week is to do a few short but fast sessions to get my legs used to running fast again and maybe i'll finish the week with an easy 10 miles joining the lads for the last few miles of their Long Slow Run in advance of Dublin.

My plan for today was a 10K road race in Punchestown for Kildare Athletes and as hard as a 10 K race can be when you're running it, sometimes it's harder when you're not running.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tapering and just in time.

Medical Check, Everest Base Camp.

It seems that my recent poor performance in the 10 mile race was more serious than just carbohydrate depletion.
I was lucky to get an appointment with Dr Nick Mahony in the Anatomy Dept & Human Performance Laboratory of Trinity College yesterday and after a short discussion about how I was feeling and my current training regime including racing and diet I was told that I was in the first stage of overtraining syndrome. His prescription included an immediate break from training and a follow up appointment next Tuesday.

At first I was in disbelief and the thoughts of a total break from training seemed excessive as I didn't feel that bad! I wasn't injured and apart from the feeling of tiredness and the heavy legs I was was fairly ok but apparently most runners won't admit to being overtrained until the last stage. Recovery in the early stages of OTS seems to be straight forward but if it reaches the final or 3rd stage the recovery is a much longer and more difficult process.

My condition at the moment was described as a feeling of staleness and athletes that experience this feeling usually feel the need to train harder to make an improvement but it's the training harder during this stage that leads to Stage 2. An hour before having my appointment in Trinity confirmed I phoned Tony to arrange a session of Hill Repeats later that evening which fits in exactly with what Dr Nick Mahony was saying. Hill repeats were cancelled and I sent an email to Dingle Marathon requesting a change from the full to half Marathon as I start my recovery.

Having had time to think back over the past year I've ran quite a few races and changed my plan a few times to fit in extra races such as the Empire State Building Run Up and the Celtic 100K which were on top of my planned 8 min mile Pacing for the London Marathon and The North Face 100K in Australia. Training runs were regularly longer than 20 miles with a few beyond 30 miles and I also broke my 5K PB twice as well as improving on my 5 Mile race time.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tony Mangan in the Guinness Book of Records

Tony Mangan & Cian O'Regan

Tony Mangan's 48-hour treadmill record has been added to the 2010 Guinness World Records book and will appear on page 227 in the Sports Track & Field section. Tony's profile can be viewed on Ultrarunning Ireland. Congratulations Tony!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Week 9

After my disappointing race result last weekend which I put down to being low on fuel I decided to increase my carb intake and reduce my training volume & intensity for this week. This didn't really suit me as it was also the week prior to starting my Taper. I took it easy on Monday and ran my usual 5 mile recovery run along a flat course and skipped a planned Tempo run on Tuesday. Ran home from work at an easy pace on Wednesday & Thursday, took Friday off and ran an easy 6 miles on Saturday which included 6* 100M strides on the grass track to loosen my legs out. Finished off the week as planned with a group training run of 23 miles at 8:30 pace.

During my Taper I will reduce the volume of training but maintain the intensity and still include Tempo & Speed Work. If I'm right about my recent tiredness I should start to feel recovered during this week and if all goes to plan I'll be racing a 10K in Punchestown, Co.Kildare this coming Sunday.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Week 8

Started the week with a pain at the front of my lower leg / shin which I'm guessing was brought on by the camber of the roads over last weekend. Luckily I managed to book a lunchtime massage that had me close tears and as usual it did the trick.

Went for a very easy recovery type run on Monday evening but stopped after 3 miles because the pain was still there and decided to take the next two days off.

Took a chance with an easy run on Thursday on the grass track and threw in a few strides of less than 100M. Met Jarlath from the club just before I finished and together we knocked out a few extra strides.

My running shoes (Saucony Pro Grid Guide) were due for changing so I decided that now was as good a time as any so I picked up a new pair in the Great Outdoors on Friday and did 2 easy miles on the treadmill to try them out before the weekend.

Ran the Frank Duffy 10 Mile race on Saturday finishing in 65mins 10secs which is my worst time over that distance. My race started as planned with a 6:05 min mile and my plan was to run as close to an even 6:15 pace throughout. On the second lap of the 2 lap course my mile times dropped to 7min pace as soon as I hit the hills even though it didn't feel the I was slowing down. Checked my Heart Rate and it was lower than expected so I tried to push the pace but my legs wouldn't go any faster. I finished the race well under my goal time and I'm putting it down to not replenishing my carb stores since last weekend and not enough recent speed work.

Started to correct the problem as soon as I got home with the carbs and finished off the week with an early 21 mile long with Jarlath. We ran a fairly even 8:30 pace over a familiar route and what better way to spend a Sunday morning.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mobile Marathon Relay

We met as planned at 06:45am on Friday 06th in Heuston Station and travelled to Galway with Carmel from the Jack & Jill Foundation. Arriving into Galway at 10:00 I made my way with Carmel to Galway Bay FM for a pre run interview while the lads waited at Eyre Sq for the arrival of our Support Van and Darren our Driver / support crew. We didn't have a lot of time between arriving in Galway and starting the run and before we knew it we were running on the first leg of our journey towards Oranmore. Leaving Galway we were joined by a local runner Stephen Connaire from Loughrea and his local knowledge was a great help getting us out of the city.

The day was quite warm which didn't suit as I knew staying hydrated could be a problem but having the van no more than 10k ahead prevented any problems. The route to Oranmore and onwards to Loughrea was quite scenic and the time passed quite quickly. We shared the distance running an average of 10K at a time with the resting runners travelling in the support van.

Anthony didn't make the start of the relay as he couldn't get off work but made his way to Ballinasloe and joined the team as we passed through the town. He threw his bag into the van and started on the road to Athlone. Athlone was the end of Day 1 and shortly after arriving at our hotel we met up for dinner and took a tour of the town.

Day 2 was to start at 8am but based on our timings from Day 1 we knew a later start would still have us arriving on time into Mullingar which was 50K away. Unlike yesterday it was raining and looked like it was down for the day. My plan for today was to run what would have been my regular training run followed by a long recovery type run at a much slower pace.

As planned we passed through Mullingar on time and made our way to Athboy and finished slightly ahead of time in Navan. We were all fairly tired by the time we reached Navan didn't have a repeat of Friday night.

Day 3 and yet again we decide to start later than originally planned knowing that we had plenty of time to reach the Spire on Dublin's O'Connell St at 2pm. The route to Dublin from here was fairly direct and on the way we met up with family and friends some of whom would run with us to the finish. We took a slight detour as we approached the Phoenix Park to avoid road closures and made our way towards the Quays leading towards O'Connell St. Slightly ahead of time we slowed down slightly as we approached O'Connell St and then it was all over. The phone collection along the way didn't go too well but we did get a fair amount of media coverage which should in turn raise awareness for the foundation.

My thanks to all who helped along the way and thanks to the team that were asked to take part at short notice. I knew there wasn't time to train for this event and although the distances were divided up well I knew that if anyone dropped out due to injury or some other reason any other runner could have taken up the slack.

The Team:

Seamus O'Dowd, Clogherhead, Co.Louth

Anthony Lee, Clane Co.Kildare

Padraic Doherty, Maynooth, Co.Kildare

Monday, August 10, 2009

Week 6 & 7

Week 6 was supposed to be an easy week but because it was leading into my holidays which started on Saturday I decided to front load the week with some tough sessions.
My Tempo run this week included 40 mins of fast paced running followed by a rest day and then a session of hill repeats.
The hill repeats are done after a hilly warm up for 2 miles and then I run hard up a hill which takes about 75 seconds.  At the top of the hill I try to maintain a fast pace for a few strides before turning and running at a very relaxed pace and almost falling back to the start.  

Before driving to Kerry on Saturday to start my holiday I ran an easy 7 mile recovery run and as I ran I tried to plan out how i would train for the next week.  My plan for Sunday was to get up early and do a 20 mile long run but that didn't happen and my window of opportunity was gone.  Later that day I took a spin out to Dingle and drove the Marathon course which has me thinking i'll be doing well to finish in under 3hrs10 but I'm still looking forward to it.

Drove to Limerick on Monday 03rd and this was the first time in a few months that I've had 2 back to back days off and I'm starting to get edgy.  The roads around the hotel look very busy so I don't think i'll be slipping out for an early morning or late evening run.
Decide to settle for the Treadmill and make the most of my Tuesday evening session by opting for a Tempo run.  If stuck for time it's probably best to do a short fast run than to use up the time running a short distance at a slow pace as you'll maintain endurance by doing speed work but won't maintain speed by doing endurance work and I don't think 60 mins at a slow pace on the treadmill will do much for your endurance.

Drove home alone on Wednesday as I was heading for Galway on Friday to start the fundraising run for the Jack & Jill foundation and shortly after arriving home I was out the door for an 11 mile run at an easy pace.
Did a similar run on Thursday morning followed by a 1hr cycle and then it was pack the bags for Galway.

Run Report for the Mobile Marathon Relay to follow.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Tracking The Mobile Marathon Relay

The Mobile Marathon Relay for the Jack and Jill Foundation starts tomorrow and you can follow our progress online by clicking here.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I can run but I can't hide

I've started using a 'Spot Me' satellite messenger thanks to the Great Outdoors which allows family and friends to track my location anywhere in the world. I'll be testing the unit over the next few weeks to familiarlise myself with it's use starting with the Mobile Marathon Relay for the Jack & Jill Foundation starting on Friday 07th August. Later this week i'll post a link so you can check out the unit in use.

Although I say I'm testing the Spot Me it's really a tried and tested unit and is one of the compulsory items supplied and carried by competitors in the Yukon Arctic Ultra a race which I took part in back in 2005 (100 Mile category).

As well as finding a user's location the 'Spot Me' also makes it possible to follow user's adventures via Google Maps tracking a route in real time. But most importantly, in times of need, a user can request assistance from family / friends or from an Inernational 911 Emergency Response Centre which will direct help to an exact location if requested.

I have on ocassion carried an emergency transmitter when travelling in an extreme environment which is good for one use only although it will be replaced if used in a real emergency. These units can cost a few thousand euro but for less than €200 and a yearly registration of around €100 the Spot Me is now making this technology more accesible and adding a fun element to something that can be quite serious.

An obvious use which springs to mind would be for the parent of a teenager heading off on a backpacking trip for a few months. The Spot Me is an inexpensive way of knowing where they are and where they've been.

Click Here for a recent article in the Irish Times about Spot Me.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Week 5

This week went as planned finishing with a very important 18 mile Long Run with the middle 10 miles run at Marathon Race Pace of 6:52 min pace.  I was away in Kerry for the weekend at a Barbeque and overdosed on beer and food so there was no guarantee of making this run and that's when having a training partner pays off.
Tony was also busy today and  late getting home and I'm guessing if we were both training alone we might have found an excuse not to run.
I managed a run everyday this week which included a few early morning recovery runs.  Scheduling the recovery runs for early morning allows extra rest before the next hard session.  Another key session for this week was a Tempo run last Tuesday which consisted of a 2 mile warm up at 7:30 Pace followed by 5 miles @ 6:30 Pace and 2 miles to recover.

When running the Marathon Pace Miles and Tempo Miles I pre set the Heart Rate Zones in my Heart Rate Monitor to prevent over doing it.  If my out of zone alarm goes off which sometimes happens on a hill I ease off.  Running within the prescribed zones and keeping a check on your pace will let you know if your pace is over ambitious and if you are over reaching.

I'm pre planning a heavy week ahead as I prepare to transition across from my Dublin Marathon schedule to my now Dingle Marathon schedule which means increasing mileage but being sensible and remaining injury free.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Week 4

A busy but enjoyable week with some good training sessions including 2 races and finishing with an 18 mile long run over a local but new route.
Yesterday I raced in the Irish Runner 5 Mile race in the Phoenix Park and because I'd decided to train through these early races I wasn't expecting good results. As detailed in my last post I was using my HR to determine effort rather than trying to maintain a constant pace as I normaly would when chasing a P.B (Personal Best).
Using my HR meant slowing on the hills and speeding up on the flats or downhills within reason so in some ways the races were a bit less pressurised although Tony was still there to keep me on my toes.
Suprisingly enough even after a full weeks training I finished both races with personal bests by a few seconds and seemed to recover quite quickly.
For my training sessions the day before each race I went for an easy effort and ran before work (6 a.m) which gave me an extra 12hrs recovery time. For these early morning sessions I would run on an empty stomach and have my breakfast when I got home. This might not suit everyone but is something I got used to when training for Ultra Marathons. Mind you I can also run within minutes of eating a full meal or eat as I'm running if needs be.

Because Tony and I had both raced twice this week we agreed that it would be sensible to run a slower than usual pace for our long run but we found ourselves constantly having to slow down to stay on pace. We talked all the way and anytime we lost concentration we seemed to drift back into what now seems to be our default long run pace of 7:30 min mile.

I'm sure that Tony would agree that a few months ago this pace would have been fast but after a while on a structured programme the body adapts through stress and recovery.
Train slow all the time and you will run slow all the time.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Monitoring Progress

Here's where the Heart Rate Monitor and the associated software comes into use. This evening I ran a 5K race and used my Heart Rate to determine effort rather than pace and when compared to a race of the same distance over a similar course I can see that I'm running faster for the same effort. My Heart Race average was the same for both races and my max was 1 bpm shorter for tonight's race. Rather than Tapering for this race which is the norm I decided to train through it and knowing that I went into it after a heavy few days of consistent training I know I'm improving. The improvement in time might seem small at 10 seconds but it's 10 seconds in the right direction.

Tomorrow I will run an easy 6-8 miles and might do the same again on Friday in advance of a 5Mile race on Saturday. Again I will run not at an all out effort but stay within the same Heart Rate zone as today between 162-172 bpm but will think on my feet and take a step back if needed.