Sunday, September 26, 2010

Spartathlon 2010. The day after

It was without doubt my toughest race ever. I finished with over two hours to spare but must admit there were times that I was doubting myself. With over 100K to go I started to hallucinate and thoughts of defeat were starting to enter my head, it took a lot of mental strength to keep going and I thought of all the friends back home and especially my Wednesday night crew and that's what kept me going. Each kilometre was dedicated to someone connected with Le Cheile A.C and I didn't want to let anyone down. It was that sense of responsibly that got me through the low points and you were all in my thoughts. I will do a more detailed update in a few days to include photographs and maybe go over how we completed the race.
Thanks for all the support.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The day before

Distance= 4K
Pace avg=5:20 per K
Hr avg = 127
Temperature = 20+C

My main objective for today was a late morning after an early night knowing it won't be much of a sleep tonight.
Breakfast finished at 9 and I was there for 8:45 after waking without an alarm which is the best way to start a day.
We had spent most of yesterday evening sorting and packing drop bags for the checkpoints up to 80K plus a few extra and after breakfast we finalised the packing before handing them over. Having that job done and the bags out of the way meant one less thing to think about and second guess. A quick walk up town before lunch to buy some last minute supplies including an ice box and batteries and then it was time for lunch at the hotel followed by a race briefing. A short recovery run and the sorting of bags filled in the gap before dinner and all that's left now is to wait for morning to come.....
From tomorrow morning you can follow the race live from and my progress will be available by clicking on the spot me icon on this page.

Race Registration

Distance= 8.6 K
Avg Pace= 5:35 per K
Hr avg= 121 bpm
Temperature= 20+ (cool)

Race Registration. Today (Wednesday) I left my hotel in downtown Athens to check into the race hotel [Hotel London] on the seafront at Glyfada.
Arriving just before the scheduled check in time I managed to miss the long queue that formed less than an hour later. Check in was very straight forward and they went through the usual checking of documents and double checking the medical forms.
Went for a short run with Jarlath along the seafront and then the rest of the evening was spent sorting the drop bags which must be handed in today (Thursday) by 4pm. I was hoping we could hand over the drop bags on race day because drinks might spoil in that intense heat.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Acclimatising Day 2.

No run today as I just didn't have the time with all the driving and route familiarisation. Continued on from where we left off yesterday but also got caught up in a traffic jam caused by a truck drivers strike which meant a long time in the car before rejoining the route. The route today was quite hard to find as we travelled the winding back roads and tried to match up route descriptions with what was on the ground. Finished the day at the starting point of the mountain stage which again was hard to find but that will all change on race day when the race markings are all laid out. Must admit it's seeming a lot tougher than I imagined and the daytime temperatures of 30C + won't make it any easier.
Jarlath arrived today and tomorrow we might take in a running tour of the city after we check out the route beyond the mountain stage.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Acclimatising Run

Distance = 8.5K
Avg Pace =5:30K
Avg Hr = 142. (very high)
Temperature during run =33C

Checking out the race route and getting familiar with the checkpoints before I meet Jarlath. Very boring in parts and the heat was like nothing I'd ever experienced and I now know why this race has such a high drop out. I had planned on running close to 20K but the roads were busy and I with the long day on the road which also helped eith the acclimatising 8.5K was enough.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Find Me Spot

Follow our route by clicking on the Find Me Spot icon located on this page.  During the week as we check out the route we'll log our location and Jarlath will log each point as I pass through during the race.  Live updates will also be available from the race website by clicking here but they might be few and far between as the race progresses and the field starts to spread out.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Race Nutrition

A race of this duration requires very careful planning with the nutrition as this is what provides the fuel and hydration to keep going and prevent running out of energy.  Proper planning starts in the weeks and months before the event when you start to increase your carbohydrate intake and train the muscles to store as much fuel as possible.  Eating the right foods and at the right time means you should be arriving at the start line with a full tank.
During an ultra distance race I tend to avoid eating real foods as the calorie dense processed foods mean you get a lot more in a smaller portion and with a sports drink or bar you get a balanced product that helps keep a check on energy intake.  As much as possible I'll try to drink my calories / energy as this also helps with staying hydrated and I'll aim for 500Ml per hour which will more than likely change based on the heat and time of day.  If more fluids are required I'll supplement with Nuun electrolytes as this means I won't be doubling up on calorie intake and I'll aim to consume approx 60gr of Carbohydrate per hour consisting of a carbohydrate drink and bar or maybe a gel.
Almost all of my food during the race will be Powerbar products with the addition of Nuun electrolytes, Fig Rolls and Percy Pigs as required.  Flat Coca Cola will also be available but I won't even consider drinking this until after the sun rises on Saturday Morning because once you start taking it you need to stay on it.  In reserve I'll also have some fruit loaf which I'll bring with me and I'll source some Peanut butter or Nutella locally and maybe some pancakes.  My drinks and bars although the same product will be in a variety of flavours to prevent 'flavour fatigue' or simply getting fed up with the same taste.  I discovered this problem during my first 24-hr race after using the same drink for over 12-hrs and it was easily rectified by adding some cordial to change it's taste and create something new.
A starting time of 7am means a very early breakfast which is something you can't afford to miss and this is where the fruit loaf comes in handy as I can be self sufficient and have breakfast in bed rather than rely on what the hotel has to offer which usualy includes a long queue.  When the race starts I plan on running light carrying very little for the first hour except maybe a 200ml water bottle and an empty hydration belt that will hold 2 * 500ml water bottles.  I will have a drop bag sent out to all of the checkpoints between what I estimate as the 1hr checkpoint and 70K checkpoint so I'll always have access to my own supplies.  This leaves me with 10K before arriving at the first major checkpoint with a cut off time of 9hrs30 and this is also the point at which we have first access to our support crew.  In my head I'll use the first 80K to warm up and concentrate on getting to what I will consider the start line fit enough to start my race.  After joining up with Jarlath he will then decide and dictate what happens and once again all I'll do is put one foot in front of the other.
In the days before the race I will supplement my diet with a Powerbar Protein bar to ensure I'm getting enough Protein in my diet as I tend to avoid meat in the days before a race when in unfamiliar surroundings.  The further you travel from home the more important it becomes to pay extra attention to your health and hygiene. 

An Easy Week

Distance for week=30K
Average Pace = 5:15 min per K
HR zone = 120-130bpm
Avg HR = 123bpm

I had planned on doing a little bit more than I managed for this week but the usual last minute preparations meant missing a few sessions but that's life. Monday was an assisted stretching session with John Belton and Jarlath got some tips on how to stretch my quads and hamstring during the race and this meant a rest day. Tuesday I had some last minute shopping in the Great Outdoors to stock up on Nuun and Powerbars which meant another rest day. The rest of the week went ok with a short easy run on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for a total of 30K.

Tonight I finish off my packing in advance of the flight tomorrow afternoon and if I manage to wake up early enough I might head out for a short easy run. I won't set the alarm for an early start and will only head out if I wake up early and naturally as I think the sleep is just as important at this stage and the run won't make me any fitter but it will help with a good start to the day.

Here's a brief update on my totals since January 01st.

Distance = 4000K
Average pace = 5:15 per K
Rest / Recovery days = 44
Longest Running Streak = 680K over 37 days
Longest single run = 205K (24-hr World Championships, May)
Longest other run = 100K (Anglo Cetlic Plate, June)
Longest training run = 50K (ran 3 of these)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Support Crew.

Crew Meeting

Running a race of this distance and duration requires a bit more than just putting one foot in front of the other and having a dedicated support crew can make the difference between success and failure.  With 75 checkpoints along the route and the option to leave a drop bag at every checkpoint it might make it sound possible to be self sufficient but if your bag is 1 of possibly 400 drop bags it can be very time consuming and frustrating trying to find your stuff.  Having a friendly face to even hand over your food can make all the difference and save the precious minutes as 2 minutes at half the checkpoints can cost over an hour and thats before toilet breaks and gear changes.

We have a plan and have worked out what we think will be the most time effective system and we know from hour to hour what I will eat and wear.  The plan is cast in stone but will be subject to change once the race starts:)

John Belton, New You.

From previous races of similar duration or terrain I know that my hamstring tends to tighten up so today Jarlath and I had an assisted stretching session with John Belton and he gave us a stretching routine that should take less than 3 minutes.  We practiced a routine whereby I run into the checkpoint and hit the deck onto a laid out Yoga mat and Jarlath will know what to do.

No run today, I'm Tapering!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tapering Week 1 and 12 days to go

Distance = 95K over 5 days with longest run of 25K to finish off week and a double day totaling 30K.

At this stage I'm doing just enough to keep my legs moving and I'm paying even more attention to my rest and recovery.  Each run finishes with an ice bath or at least a cold bath and I'm starting to fine tune my diet by cutting back on anything I don't need.
Most of today was spent sorting out my kit and race day food which I hope to have packed by Wednesday and i'll list the items in more detail during next week.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Be patient during times of inactivity
Sun Tzu 'The art of war'.

All the hard work is done and now it's time to Taper (reduce training volume and intensity). Sounds easy but this can be the hard part. You start to feel edgy and wondering should you try one more hard session or maybe doubting what you've done and start going through the what ifs in your head. But the Taper is just as important as the training and essential for optimum performance. It's during this stage of the programme that your body recovers from all the recent stress and recovers stronger. If you've done the work and have confidence in your training knowing that you have done all that you can do then the Taper is that bit easier to accept.

You have to believe in yourself
Sun Tzu.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Peak Week. Day 7

Distance = 48.5K
Pace avg = 5:50 per K.
Hr avg = 126 bpm
Ascent = 1074 M

Total distance for week = 174K

Saying goodbye to Des after 15K
A good end to the week with a run from Leixlip to beyond 2 Rock mountain via Ballyboden Rd. It was quite a tough session made all the easier with the help of my pacers from the Wednesday night crew. Des met me at 7am to run the first 15K and he stayed me up to the junction of the Kylemore Rd & Naas Rd before turning for home. This left me with a solo 10K before meeting up with Tony & Brendan for the mountain section.
Tony & Brendan on the approach to 2 Rock.

 I had left a drop bag with Brendan which included a change of running shoes and my fuel belt so I could test out my fuelling strategy for Greece. A quick stop and change and we were off again. The pace didn't seem to be any slower than on previous occasions and my heart rate was staying well within my easy zone so the signs were good.

From the moment I left my house the sky was looking very dark and all the time I was waiting for it to rain and when we started on the mountain section visibility was very poor and I was just hoping that bad weather wouldn't be the reason for cutting the run short. Luckily the rain held off and although tough we managed to reach 2 Rock and continue on for another Kilometre before turning to retrace our steps. Getting back to the car I had covered 48K and so ends the training. Tomorrow the taper starts and on Tuesday I have a well overdue day off.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Peak Week. Day 6

Distance = 30K
Average Pace= 4:59 per K

Split between 2 runs
16K @ Heart Rate avg of 141 bpm
14K @ Heart Rate avg of 120 bpm Recovery

A good day and all went as planned. Started off with 16K in my easy zone over the Waterworks route after a simple breakfast of 500ml Powerbar Energize. Got home just in time to bring my son to a soccer match and had a serving of Powerbar Recovery and a bowl of weetabix minis before leaving the house. Returning from the match I set off yet again and drove to the Phoenix park to meet a friend for my recovery run. I always find that it's easier to run when tired if you arrange to meet someone as it can be easier to let yourself down rather than let a friend down.
Finished this run with a large bottle of Yazoo chocolate milkshake which is very handy for leaving in the car as it won't spoil and bought 2 bags of ice on the way home for my bath. Spent the rest of the day loading up on carbs to prepare for my big run tomorrow.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Peak Week. Day 5.

Distance: 18K in 1hr30min.  
Avg Pace=5:03 per K.
HR avg=133 in zone 126-146bpm.

Another warm day and another good run even though yet again it was shorter than planned.  Finished strong and without any issues knowing that I could keep going and that in itself means a lot.  Tomorrow I'm planning a double session starting with 16K before breakfast and the same after lunch but slower and flatter. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Peak Week. Day 4.

Distance = 17.7K
Avg Pace = 5:04 per K
Hr avg = 134 bpm in zone 126-146 bpm.

I had planned on running over twice this distance today but that niggle in my knee yesterday forced a change of plan. All day I paid attention to my knee and didn't have any issues so I decided to take a chance running an easy pace with an escape route if needs be. Before starting off I loaded up on a sports drink to ensure I didn't have a repeat of Tuesday's run when I started to feel low on energy shortly after starting out. Finished strong and although shorter than planned I corrected a few mistakes and rather than get annoyed over a few missed miles I'm happy knowing that I'm injury free.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Peak Week. Day 3.

Distance: 10K in 42min10.
Avg Pace=4:14 per K.
HR avg=150 in zone 146-153bpm.

Something just wasn't right before I started my second run today so I decided to forget about it and just do some stretching.  Nothing serious but when driving to the running track for the usual Wednesday night club session my left knee felt a bit tender when using the clutch and at this stage I can't afford to take a chance.

My earlier run went well and my HR avg was down by 2 beats for the same run only two weeks ago which if nothing else it shows I'm going forward rather than backwards and my recovery strategy must be working.

Tomorrow is yet another split session but I'm thinking that I might forget about the earlier shorter run and just stick with a later 16K which I might extend depending on how I'm feeling.  But then again I could also end up taking a rest day if my knee feels the same.  Train hard but train smart and sometimes it's best to rest.