Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cold Weather Running.

 The snow is back but the training continues and this morning while running less than 10K from my house I began thinking about some my cold weather races and how I had traveled almost halfway around the world for the experience.  Today all it had cost me was a lie in and it's a long time since I've had such an enjoyable run.  The snow had turned a familiar route into something new and I could have been anywhere in the world.
The secret to running in cold weather is dressing in layers and you need to be comfortably warm when inactive (standing around) and comfortably cold when active.  The pace you intend running and the air temperature will determine what you wear and you want to run fast enough that you generate enough heat to keep warm but not too much heat that you sweat.  The problem with sweating is that when you slow down the sweat which is trapped in your clothing / hat will get very cold and maybe freeze which will in turn conduct heat away from your body over 100 times faster than if dry!!
I always wear a hat and gloves in cold weather as as soon as I feel my body temperature rising I take off the hat which helps release heat similar to the effect of taking the top off a flask.  I then put it on or take it off as required.  A long sleeve turtle neck top with a zip front will also serve a similar purpose and prevent too many stops when trying to regulate your body temperature.
Dress to live the part not look the part.

North Pole 2004

Yukon 2005
Yukon 2005
Antarctica 2006

Antarctica 2006

Everest Base Camp 2007

Maynooth, Co.Kildare 2010
Maynooth, Co.Kildare 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

Perth to stage 2011 Anglo Celtic Plate.

The Anglo Celtic Plate (home countries) 100km will take place in Perth, Scotland on 27th March 2011. The competition will also incorporate ;the Irish 100km Championships.

Perth, the venue for the successful ultra festival in September, has been chosen to stage the 2011 UKA 100 KILOMETRE road race championships.

Sunday 27th March is when some of the top ultra runners from the UK and Ireland will converge on Perth as the event also incorporates the annual Anglo Celtic Plate home countries international and the Scottish 100km championships.

Despite this array of talent, the event is also an open event and alongside the longer race a 50km event will be staged which also incorporates the Scottish championships.

U K athletics ultra-distance representative Norman Wilson commented, Perth has proved itself as a popular venue and a well-organised successful event, and I know they will put on a good show. It is fitting that in the month that Scotlands Ellie Greenwood won the world 100km title that Perth is announced as the venue for the National championship.

Adrian Stott of the small but enthusiastic Sri Chinmoy Athletic club who has been competing in and organising ultra events for over 25 years, and is helping to co-ordinate the race with the Scottish Athletics event team said The numbers competing in ultra events in Scotland and throughout the UK continue to grow. As well as some very talented athletes who are competing at national and international level, there are a growing band of runners who realise that running beyond the standard Marathon is totally achievable and enjoyable. We look forward to many of them challenging themselves over either the classic internationally recognised distance of 100km or the shorter but still challenging 50km.

Entries will be available and going live soon.
For any further information check Ultra Running Ireland.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Recovery, Recovery, Recovery.

Cold water immersion
Finishing the race in Gibraltar I wasted no time rehydrating and over the course of an hour I drank close to 1L of a carbohydrate / electrolyte drink and continued drinking for the rest of the day*.

Aisling & Cian preparing an ice bath after the ACP 2009
Without wasting too much time I took the bus back to the ship with Tony and went straight  to the swimming pool on the upper deck as was the plan and sat with my legs in the water for 30 minutes during which time I drank a Powerbar recovery drink.  I had tried the bath water in my cabin but I didn't think it was cold enough for my needs.

The cold water immersion was followed by a shower and for the rest of the day and the following day while traveling I wore my Skins recovery tights.

There's a lot of talk about the pros and cons of ice baths to aid recovery but I have used this routine for years and would regularly take a cold bath during the winter which is usually cold enough or during the summer I'd buy a few bags of ice from the supermarket on the way home from a long run.  My recovery routine is planned well in advance and it's almost second nature at this stage.  If I drive to a run location I'll have my recovery drink in the car for when I finish and will phone home so the bath is ready or if starting from home I'll prepare my recovery meal while the bath is filling.

Waking the following day I was moving quite freely although there was no denying I had run 100K the day before but apart from some slight muscle soreness I don't think I was showing any obvious signs of the distance.  I was back to work on Tuesday and having recently got a pair of the new Skins A400 running tights I decided to try them for a short run on Wednesday and it was like having a new pair of legs.
*Includes reasonable amount of alcohol and went to bed before bar closed.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

100K World & European Championships. The Race.

The Team
(John Byrne, Michael Collins, Aisling Coppinger & John O'Regan)

I wasn’t expecting to be running this race but found it hard to refuse when given the opportunity.  Being so soon after the Spartathlon I knew it was going to be tough both mentally and physically but having done the Anglo Celtic Plate shortly after the 24-hr World Championship earlier this year I knew it was in me and I just needed to approach with caution.  I looked back over my training diary for the weeks leading up to the ACP and followed the same plan but corrected the mistakes.  This meant forgetting about speed work and instead focus on maintaining my endurance with long slow runs and include 1-2 Tempo runs to keep the legs loose.
Yet again Tony was traveling with the Team but this time his role was as Team Manager but luckily enough he would also be able to crew for me during the race.  We met with Aisling Coppinger & Rob Cummins at Dublin Airport both of whom I know quite well and for the first time I met John Byrne & Sarah Syron from Mayo A.C and a new addition to the Team.  John Byrne was the first Irish person home in the recent World 50K held in Galway during the Galway City Marathon and this was his first time running 100K.
We flew to Malaga and Tony drove us by mini bus to Gibraltar via the Costa Del Sol and it seemed wrong to be traveling through the seaside resorts without stopping but then again we weren’t here for a sun tan.  Less than 2 hours later we arrive into Gibraltar and after passing through customs we head for the docks and the cruise liner that’s serving as the Athletes Village for the weekend.  Driving through Gibraltar we see the obvious signs that there’s a race in town as we pass small groups out running in their national colours and on the approach to the ship we meet Michael Collins for the first time.  Michael has represented Ireland on a few occasions at 100K and this time he’s our Team Captain and he’s running with a new Team.  Almost straight away it was down to business with race registration and we were given a schedule for the weekend which included details of the opening and closing ceremony which meant we weren’t going to have much free time.  The food was fantastic but that’s not a good thing in advance of a race and it was hard work staying disciplined at meal times...In between meals and meetings on Saturday I went for an easy run with John Byrne and that was the extent of my sight seeing.

I didn’t sleep too well on the night before the race even though I’d ran this distance so many times before. Strangely enough I don’t think I was worrying about the race and woke up ahead of my alarm at 4:30 am feeling well rested and looking forward to breakfast, I had packed my own but this time it wasn't needed.

My race kit was prepared the night before and all my food and other items were packed in advance to ensure a hassle free start to the day.  Shortly after 6 am we leave the ship in darkness and make our way towards the start line and it’s pleasantly warm outside.  Although it’s nice waiting around without freezing I know it will only get warmer and this gives me an indication of how warm it’s going to get.  I was expecting to wear a hat and gloves for the first part of the race but they weren’t necessary.
Almost time.
Usually I try visualise the race before I arrive so I know what kind of terrain and gradient to expect. I also like to break the race into manageable segments and plan what I am going to achieve in each segment of the race and I don't think of the finish line until its well within reach. Based on the detailed course description I came up with the following:
My plan was simple, run the first 10K on what I had for breakfast and then start to refuel as I passed the support crew at the start of the 5k loop and continue in that fashion for the next 18 laps.  Passing the support crew for the first time I picked up a Powerbar fuel belt with 2 small bottles of a carb drink which I drank while completing the 5k loop.  Next time round I dropped the bottles and collected 2 more and for the third lap I took 2 small bottles of Nuun with a gel and this was repeated for the duration of the race.  To pace myself I ran according to my heart rate and pre planned to keep my heart rate between 135-145 bpm.  
This gave a lap split of 24 minutes plus a few seconds which remained fairly consistent for the first half of the race.  I went through the Marathon distance quite comfortably in 3hrs16 and covered 50K in around 3hrs55 but shortly after halfway my heart rate began to climb and I cautiously started to ease back as there was still a long way to go.  It then dawned on me that I'd hardly stopped for a toilet break and decided to take a chance and stop for a moment and it was then I realised that I was becoming dehydrated.  With over 4-hrs of running still ahead I knew I'd need to start increasing my fluid intake so I began to drink water and powerade whenever I passed an aid station supplementing my own supplies.  My heart rate soon returned to normal but my lap times slowed by 3 minutes which meant I was still mildly dehydrated.  I ran a few more laps and the times were again fairly consistent even though they were slower but I knew from experience that I was still running comfortably enough to finish.  In my mind I always break the race into manageable chunks and for this 18 lap 100K I worked towards the Marathon distance then halfway in total distance at 50K and halfway in effort at 12 laps.  Having completed the 12 laps I try relax for the next 2-3 laps and do my best to ignore and not think about them.  I ask Tony for a lap count and he tells me I've 4 left including the one I'm running.  It doesn't sound right so I get him to double check and next time we meet he confirms what he had said said but now I've only 3 laps to go.  With just over 15K to go I try to increase the pace but soon develop a severe pain in my stomach which I'm guessing was caused by an anti-inflammatory I had taken earlier.  I was forced to slow down and tried leaning my upper body into all different positions to ease the pain and prevent me from stopping.  It eventually passed and I crossed the line in 8hrs28.10.  The support crew did an excellent job and I seldom had to stop and if I did it was for less than 10 seconds.

My finish time is less than world class but having come to this race so soon after the Spartathlon I’m delighted with the result and for me it’s a great end to the year.  I knocked almost 10 minutes off my previous best for this distance and finished with a hunger to go back and do it again.  I learnt a lot during this race and look forward to improving on it next year.

During the race I wore Saucony Fastwitch running shoes and Teko socks.  Thanks to Neil in Great Outdoors for the Saucony recommendation.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

100K World & European Championships. The Plan.

MV Princess Danae / The Athlete's Village

I'm expecting this race to be quite tough as the transition from The Spartathlon to now was too short to incorporate some necessary speedwork into my training plan. Experience gained from previous races have taught me that sometimes it's best to approach the start line slightly under trained or under prepared rather than carrying an injury or feeling ill. I did however include short Tempo runs of 10K or less which were run a decent pace and I've worked on maintaining my endurance with regular and consistent runs of 20-30K.

The course invokes a 5K run into a 5K loop to be completed19 times. My plan is to run slightly faster than 5min per K or less than 145bpm (heart rate) which will have me completing each lap in 24-25 mins. Running a consistent pace serves a few purposes including the support crew knowing when to expect me and being able to plan the food and fluid intake. Based on this pace I will be completing 10K in under 50 mins. As always, the bulk of my nutrition will be Powerbar products as this allows me to simply track my carbohydrate intake. The food plan we have devised is quite simple goes a little something like this:

Loop 1: Powerbar energize * 200ml
Loop 2: Powerbar energize * 200ml
Loop 3: Powerbar gel + 200ml Nuun electrolyte.
And repeat.

I will also have Fig Rolls and Powerbar bars available as well as an extra 500ml bottle of Nuun made up just in case I need extra fluids. Nuun just contains electrolytes and it's a better drink than water during a race as it replaces the electrolytes lost during exercise and prevents cramping. Powerade will be available from the race organisers and i'll probably take that every so often for a change of taste. Having a variety of flavours available can make the fuelling a lot easier and even a different flavour of the same product will do the trick.