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Dublin Marathon 2012 – Race Day Review

Yesterday was The Marathon. A year of working towards it, with all the training and pain that goes with it. Coupled with picking up the flu (not man flu, but real flu, the kind that takes four weeks to clear properly) and my knee giving out a few weeks back, it was a day that really could have gone either way. But here we are.

A Giant Thank You!

I don’t think I said enough when thanking everyone for the previous run events. Given this was my first marathon, maybe I’m being overly generous, but the only thing I can fault the organisers on is the lack of jellies in my goodie bag at the end. Like come on, they were there for every other event.

In all seriousness, the event was fantastically run. I’ve taken part in some large scale events in the past with thousands of participants, but this is a different scale due to the shorter distance. Everything was very well laid out and there were crowds and people lining the streets all along the route. I really don’t remember many sections without people, and usually these were directly after the Spar Cheering Zones. Big up to Spar too. You could tell a cheering zone was coming up well in advance. Large crowds cheering and guys beating the drums, and of course the dancing Spar red thing. I can only assume that Spar played a part in getting some of the sweets around the course as well. While I didn’t take any, just having people standing with them, supporting, it does help push you onwards.

To the supporters, thank you. While not there for me directly, you were supporting the event and adding to the atmosphere. Even to you kid who made fun of my jogging pace just before the turn at the UCD flyover, thank you. That level of support is really something missing for most of the cycling events, partly due to the distances being orders of magnitude longer, although the Tour of Meath does manage to continually have the best atmosphere.

Race Day minus 4 weeks

Why am I starting here? Well as I alluded above, my problems started about 6 weeks before the marathon. During one of my LSRs, I pretty much fell apart. My knee gave out just before the half way point resulting in a near death march home. And given the route was an out and back style route, the shortest way home was the route. A day or two after I ended up with the flu which knocked me right off my feet. Sick enough that I took my first sick day from work in a long time. Long enough that I can’t remember the last sick day I took.

It was a whole week before I got out to do any exercise again, a 14km run at a whooping 6:22min/km, and I was like the walking dead afterwards. The runs did pick up a little the following week but I was still a mess and mostly struggling.

Race Day minus 5 days

Being somewhat smart I decided to take time off work around the marathon, although admittedly was more to use the days I had than anything else. But it didn’t start well. Even before finishing up in work I had stomach pain. Since I’m no stranger to stomach pain, I really didn’t pay much attention to it until later that night. It didn’t let up and just continued to get worse, right up to the point where standing up straight was difficult. Eventually by close to 1am it had let up enough that I could get some sleep. Let up, but not gone away.

The pain continued into the next day and led to constipation of sorts. Needless to say, my mindset changed to one of wondering if I’d actually make it to the start line, let alone finish.

Race Day

With the big day upon me, I was incredibly lucky that my stomach had decided to settle somewhat. All systems were go as they say and it was onward into town for 8am.

If I was running the marathon and had an unlimited amount of money, one thing I’d change is a heated start area. Few giant heaters warming the air while standing around. I’m sure Tony Stark could invent something eco friendly too.

3, 2, 1 and they are off

As the hour inched forward I eventually dispensed with my base layer, dropped the bag off, and started on the way around to my pen. 3:45 – 4:15 finish time, which on normal day would be perfect. 5:30min/km is my safe fallback speed that I seem to end up if I slow down. On a good day it’d be open roads due to the minute gap to the front group. I even managed to get into the pen maybe 5 metres back from the start, although somehow huge numbers ended up ahead by the real start line. Still it wasn’t overly congested and I was jogging along pretty quickly.

The cold played a huge part. For the first time in a long time, km1 came and went and I wasn’t warmed up. km 2 too, followed by km 3 and 4. Even at 6km in I was still feeling the cold. Unusual to say the least and I’ll partly put it down to getting so cold at the start. Yes I wore an extra top to keep some heat while standing around, but it was quite cold.

And here comes the midway point

Skipping ahead perhaps, but once I warmed up things became uneventful. Exactly what you want in a marathon. Just plodding along. I was holding a nice solid pace near 5min/km, a bit higher than previous runs, but overall I was happy with it given my last few weeks.

This is when the problems began. Going into the event, I really wasn’t sure how I’d hold up liquid wise. I’d taken to running with a bottle of sports drink and it it was working pretty well. I somehow go confused while running thinking that there was a sportdrink stop at 15 miles, confusing the original map since it had miles. I’m not sure why, but I ran through the one before the half way point without picking up a bottle, presumably since I had some still left in mine. When it ran out around around 19km, I began to realise my mistake. It didn’t dawn on my until the halfway banner came and went, then followed by mile 14.

By the time the water stop came at mile 15, the damage was done. My pace has really dropped off and my knee was starting to hurt quite a bit. Muscles in my hamstrings and calves followed, I’d say shortly, but then everything in a marathon seems longer while you are experiencing it.

18.5, a magic number

Why a magic number? Some Spar Sport drink, that is why.

The graphs don’t tell the full story, but I most definitely started to improve from then on, at least subjectively. Ok my speed went down, but I wasn’t feeling like a zombie anymore and the marathon switched to a purely mental exercise. One I knew I could win. Words from a friend a few day prior were rattling around in my head pushing me on.

I've known you long enough to know that no matter how bad you feel,
in events like this, you are indestructible.

How could I give up with words like that?

There goes the wall, what wall?

I guess anyone who has talked about marathons has heard of this mythical wall. The point when your body runs out energy and it feels like you’ve just had an elephant dropped on your shoulders. I had always thought of the wall as similar to bonking in cycling, where you run out of energy from not eating and drinking enough. Cycling is definitely different to running in that events are longer time wise, and pretty much impossible without eating on the go. The body just doesn’t enough energy reserves for eight and half hours of non-stop, near the limit physical activity, without some refuelling.

There still reaches a point that you muscles raise the white flag and say enough is enough, so perhaps that is a better analogue to the runners wall. Given I’d experienced this too back shortly after I took up cycling, I knew just how bad it could get, and with the UCD flyover being at mile 22, the hill was perfectly posed to mark the wall, maybe being a hill too far?

Yet nothing. It came and went without much impact. Ok I was going slower than just about everyone on the road around me, but I had been since I slowed after the half way point. Maybe the wall comes later for some?

Spots, red spots, oh…

One thing I used to suffer from is nose bleeds. Few times I’d wake up in the night with one, although mostly I’d get that feeling that as soon as I blew my nose, it’d be a nose bleed. This last year hadn’t resulted in one, until now. 24 miles into a marathon.

Those aren’t dirt marks on the number. Lucky it wasn’t as bad as some previous ones and stopped quick enough. I can only assume it was caused by blowing my nose so often from having the tail end of the flu.

The worst part was covering my face anytime I saw a yellow jacket. St. John Ambulance were everywhere near the end and I really didn’t want them to try pulling me for the nose bleed. (An aside, those guys are great. Luckily I’ve never had to part-take of their services, but I know of more than one person who owes their life to them from other events.)

Here comes the noise

With Dublin City Centre getting closer foot step by foot step, the roads got more and more familiar. All along from before UCD when the 3:45 pace group passed me, I had started trying to do the maths to see just how much time I could lose and still get home in time. Needless to say, my brain wasn’t working all too well.

When we came to the back of Trinity and my average had only dropped to 5:31, I began to think that yes, yes I can do this. My defining memory is switching my GPS to the screen with the overall time and it reading 3:47. At that point it hit home, that yes, short of something completely catastrophic, I was going to make it under the 4hr mark. The elephant disappeared and running became almost easy again. Knowing that even at a near walking pace I’d make it, I didn’t push, but just continued, smiling along as much as I do.

Enter the Green Zone

That last 500 meters really is the longest 500 meters you’ll ever run. You know the finish is just ahead. You can hear the crowds. You can hear the announcer calling out as people cross over. But you can’t see it as it is just behind that building.

And then you see it. The banners. The mats. The boxes. The clocks. Time slows down for those last few steps.

I remember crossing the line and slowing to a walking pace, raising my arms and just feeling amazing. I’d done it. First and only marathon over. Yes it had been painful and the training had fallen apart at the end, but I’d made my medium goal time. I also remember my name being called out by the announcer, something which makes you feel surprisingly special, even though you know you are just another anon in a sea of anons.

The hard figures

My official time was 3:56:34 with a chip time of 3:56:06. I was a little worried that if they used the first wave start time, I wouldn’t have made it under 4 hours as I went along at Trinity, by I knew no amount of speed would have gotten me around in 3 minutes. Overall position of 5050 and a category position of 1544.  Not as high as some of the previous runs, but definitely respectable.

I do wish I took a better picture too.

An aftermath

Well I had said long before this marathon that this was my first and only marathon. And short of getting a shot at the New York Marathon, that is true. I might run some of the shorter events, but I can’t see myself going through the marathon again. Running just isn’t all that much fun. Best described as hitting yourself with a hammer for 4 hours. Yes there are some huge upsides to the running events, but they don’t really counter act the fact that running is quite boring.

Like most others, I have felt quite stiff afterwards. My legs didn’t feel too bad the day of the marathon although my feet were, especially my big toes. The day after was a different story with the muscles being tight and painful that even made it difficult to sleep. Today has been solely determined by knee and its pain of sorts. Mainly its funny bone style pain resulting in a weakness that makes it hard to stand. And this is likely to be the defining factor for the future months.

I’ll hopefully see Mr Knee Doctor Specialist next week to get a proper opinion, but my knee problems have gone on long enough that I need to go back and find a better solution. I someone how doubt that running for cross training to build up other stabilising muscles will work this time around.

In Closing

I must apologise for the rambling nature of the post. The marathon really was the result of years goal and I know I’ll look back on it, presumably fondly due to the lovely nature of the human memory. 100% I’m glad I took to the start and finish the marathon. It has been something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember.

If you were to do a marathon, then the Dublin Marathon is definitely a good candidate, just remember to train.

Dublin Marathon Series 2012 – Half Marathon

Another day, another milestone along the path during the year of the marathon. And while I had failed more than one training session in the preceding week, I wasn’t feeling all too bad, physically at least. I woke up to that feeling you get, the one when you know you should just roll back over and write-off the day.

The Weather

This race really did confirm the difference the weather makes. It was dull, overcast day, with a fair bit of wind chill; enough to make me regret my lack of arm warmers within a minute of leaving the apartment. Overall throughout the race, it was a comfortable temperature. Not too warm, and the wind wasn’t too cold.

The Baby Bottle

Having learnt my lesson on a recent LSR, this marked my first event with carrying a bottle. As stupid as it sounds, it made more of a difference than I expected. My LSRs are all about doing the distance and surviving. The rules are just to cover the distance, no matter what the speed.

Racing is different, although try as I do, and despite what my splits look like, I really am unable to pace myself. I start the run and try to find a rhythm. In every race so far, this has been faster than just about every training run I’ve done.  At times I look at my watch and see the pace, it is nearly impossible to speed up or slow down. Usually I can get small increments, but definitely not a full on pace change.

This hit home more so in this race as I wasn’t physically tired during it, at least until the back hill for miles 11 and 12. I remember running along the road outside the park, not feeling tired, but just feeling bored and wondering why I was continuing. Except that I’d have to stop and still walk the same distance, it almost felt like I could have stopped there. Physically it did hit me a little during the uphill section on miles 11/12, and I did slow down more than usual, but once we levelled out I was back up to the 4:40 splits. I even crossed the line not far out of breath, with water still in the bottle, and not all that thirsty.

Rinse and Repeat

My official time was 01:44:57, Pos 1448, Chip Time 01:40:41, Chip Position 1317. My GPS records confirm I even beat my 10 Mile time, and by a sizeable margin too. I do have to put it down to the bottle/weather, and not training. A category position of 569 has me a bit down position wise, and its further off my 10km position which had me in the top 20%.

Given this was my first and last half marathon, I’m happy its over. The big day is almost here and at this point I’m pretty sure I’ll be able for it physically. Mentally is another story and will definitely be the determining factor on the day.

Dublin Marathon Series 2012 – Frank Duffy 10 Mile

You know those days when you wake up and you know you won’t enjoy something? Today was one of those days. For whatever reason I knew things would be off. Perhaps it is just a combination of the long build up in training, pushing too far on the last LSR with no water, or giving blood last week that did it. Who knows? It probably didn’t help to feel this way before the race.

Going into the race I wasn’t sure where to aim time wise. The 10 mile does seem a bit strange that way at the pace I’m running right now. There is no easy round goals to shot for. Right now I’m hitting between 5 and 5:30 most days in training with the LSRs being much slower. In fact these last 2 weeks or so have had the pace all over the place, no way consistent, and usually dropping way off as the distance goes on. I was expecting as much during today’s race.

The Race

Once again I went into the race with my usual level of preparedness, i.e. none. I knew it was in the park, but that is where it ended. As it turned out we were to run down the main straight away, and we were to do it twice. Then onwards around the usual back part that all the other races take to the finish.

I started in the second pen today, 80 to -95 minutes I think. A good round goal of 90 minutes seemed doable since that only required a 5:35 split. With the watch set at 5:30km/min off we went. There is definitely a difference in starting at the front of a pen and at the back. Things don’t space out anywhere near as quickly. Luckily some people had the great idea of moving onto the grass verge on the side which meant a much clearer path as I followed. My goal of 5:30km/min quickly went out the window as my pace was sitting around 4:30km/min during the straight. Worse still, even though I felt bad and tried to slow down I just couldn’t.

At this pace I did end up passing quite a few people and even found myself doing those little sprints to get by as others slowed, but it was taking its toll, mentally more than anything. As we were completing KM6 and coming back onto the main straightaway, my stomach decided it was wanted in on the action as started its usual pain. Really not the place to start thinking Why the hell am I doing this? I’m not even enjoying it! But since I don’t really understand the concept of giving up, I kept going. Sure I had time to burn until the cycle home so I might as well keep running.

Water water everywhere, so let’s all have a drink!

Giving my level of preparedness, I was slightly counting on the water stops. It didn’t help when the first one was before the 3mile mark, much too early, for me at least. The second one was after 7miles which is probably about right, but it is very, very hard to drink from cups while running. More ends up on your face than in your mouth unless you stop, or perhaps I need some lessons? The water probably hurt more than it helped as well given than my pace dropped off quite a bit after I drank. More and more often in future as I’ll carry a bottle for sure.

The last few KM really were a slog. Funnily there were two or three people who kept the same pace as me from early on and kept appearing, falling back, appearing, falling back, or most likely it was me being inconsistent, but it provided some amusement.

Nearing the last corner I could hear the guy doing the commentary. An aside, that guy definitely adds to the atmosphere and it is amazing just how he keeps talking throughout. But as I was coming home he was announcing that the first group had just under two minutes to cross to break the 80 minute mark. Immediately my head starts racing thinking oh no, how long is left and do I need to speed up. It wasn’t my target but it’s a round boundary. Luckily I remembered that there was a 3 minute gap between the two groups, and that would easily give me ample time to finish without speeding up or worse, sprinting the finish.

The aftermath

Once over the line, so begins the death march to collect a t-shirt and the goodie bag. I was looking forward to the sports drink more than anything; the whole zombie mode isn’t enjoyable. Disappointingly the t-shirt was white today which means it’ll have chocolate on it. Every white tee I’ve owned has ended up that way the first day so perhaps if we don’t touch this one it’ll remain safe.

The journey home on the bike was a slow drag. With very little in the legs it proceeded at a pace I haven’t experienced in a long while, bad enough to question the smartness of cycling in the first place. However given that I don’t feel as bad as I have after the LSRs of recent, perhaps it did help.

For the record

My official time was 1:21:17, Pos 1224. Chip time of 1:18:26 Rank 1134 which matches very closely to my gps record. A Category position of 458. Definitely down on the last race but I’m happy with it, much better than I expected going into it, but I’m glad its over. Only one more stepping stone to go before the big day.

Dublin Marathon Series 2012 – Fingal 10km

Three weeks on from the 5 mile, today was the next step along the path. The weather meant it was a beautiful day with some sun and >15C. Actually this was a run so not so much.

I had intended on doing some speed training between the five mile today, and I did manage to get a few different ones in. Hill Repeats, great for cycling, a little painful when running, some sprints of sorts, even some humpty dumpties (called that way for the pace up and downs), and all that only in the first week.

Things were looking up.

So in week 2 decided to go for it and see what kind of speed I could hit. I went all out for 5km and got a respectable 4:23min/km. One of the harder runs I’d done for sure, but given I just needed a sub 4:30min/km to get a sub 45minute finish, it was a bit positive. Unfortunately the rest of the week didn’t work out so well and the training didn’t go exactly as planned. It ended with an LSR run that had a pretty slow pace. Worst was how it dropped off throughout.

The final week leading to the race went mostly ok. Not setting training before hand played a part and I didn’t do as much as I should. And I missed Fridays session due to a complete lack of energy which meant a run on Saturday. Not ideal for running so I’m told, but then perhaps I do better with some training stress before an event.

The Race Itself

At the start line I was wondering which way I’d target things. I had already agreed with myself that a sub 45min finish was out of the question. Really it wasn’t going to happen, especially since how tired I felt. The course was meant to finish up a steep hill with a tight road, an obvious bottleneck if there ever was one, so my goal became be 49:10. (Yes my memory was a little off given that one was a PB of 49:40).

So off we went and this time I had learnt how to use my GPS. i.e. I started it without stopping it again. This was one area where I will fault the event somewhere. Yes there were pens, but they weren’t marked, at least not at them. Down on the back main street had signs for which pens were which, but I honestly couldn’t fault people for being in the wrong ones. (Well expect for the walker at very front in the middle of the road. That was just rude). Anyway this setup meant the first km was spent wiggling around people while things tried to settle.

There must have been more people doing this event (timing company says 3229) than the 5 mile run as the roads were wider, but it was harder to move through people. Running down the by-pass it did start to thin out and there was enough room to move. But already by this point I was feeling the heat. For whatever rest my gps seemed like it was getting heat stroke too showing a 3:23 min/km when I looked at it. I took this as a sign to ease back a bit and the averages started to fix themselves.

I believe there were course changes as we didn’t go through Applewood, and instead of going straight along the pitches, we first turned back up north street, down by the castle, then around by the water treatment plant. It wasn’t the only change, as the final cut up by the old ESB shop was changed to take the longer way up towards the Lord Mayors. Given that road was wider and not as steep, perhaps a good thing. I do have a weakness running downhill and was passed quite a bit on the decent, but I’m pretty sure I re-passed everyone on the way back up. Cycling technique at is best.

Annoyingly I took the point at the bottom as a good enough place to switch onto the timer function. The watch read 43 minutes and something, and we were already into km 9. Could it be possible? Could I do it? Thoughts raced and I just had to try.

Onward I went, pushing hard but not hard enough that I’d blow up. By the time I was passing the ESB building it was already reading 44 minutes on the GPS. Given the finish sign was only at the lights it’d be an easy run to get there.

But no!

The finish was actually at the bottom of the main street. Hard as I could I pushed. But it was a long run that seemed so far. 45 minutes showed on the clock and I was still a ways to go. Given it was only 300-400meters, it really felt longer, watching those seconds tick by, but all the while seeing the finish just there.

In the end I came in with a time of 45:56. Really not bad given that I felt quite sick before heading out in the morning. Timing people gave me a chip position of 531, and a category position of 235 which is top 20%. Not something I can complain about, more so since this really is my first year of running.

Race Report – Swords GP [2011-06-05]

Given that the previous day, the Saturday had lovely warm weather, waking up to drizzly rain and greasy roads really was an unpleasant feeling. Immediately my mind turned to the turn at the top of the climb – the one I know I need to keep speed up through just to hang on in the group. Maybe this would slow things down, or maybe I’d cook it. Who knows.

The PreRace Fun

Surprisingly this year, there was little information about the race available before the day. The usual stuff started to appear on boards and the circuit was known since it was the same on we do in the club league. There was the start time of 12pm with sign-0n from 11:30am so knowing this, I arrived around 11:30am – enough time for a quick warm up but short enough not to get cold before the race.

That all changed at 11:55am when it surfaced that the start was at 1pm. Oh well. Luckly another rider was around and we went off on a easy pace for a warm-up lap. A good idea since I could properly determine the wind direction as something from the North would definitely suit me and help stop any breakaway just before the turn. Remembering my mistake from last year, I was determined not to have a repeat.

On the main road, we continued along chatting away at a nice 32km/h, side by side, so no drafting. Possibly a little faster than I’d hoped but bring on the race.

The Race

We all grouped together near the gate and got ready. For us, A4, it was to be 3 and half laps with the finish on the fourth time up. So off went the A1/A2. Few minutes later, off went the A3. Numbers were down, probably due to a combination of the weather and the bank holiday weekend which left 25 riders starting the A4.

Initially things were un-organised. But then how is that any different than a normal A4 race? Only when a pace car rolls out does the start stay orderly. It took a few guys to ramp to the front to get us moving at something beyond what would be considered a slow commute speed. But even then, it never really got organised and pacey. One of the downsides of A4 racing – some people just like sitting in the outside line and not moving up.

Lap 1 stayed together and we continued up the hill at a decent enough speed. Nothing too hard and I stayed in behind two others to slow myself down. Apparently some people did drop off this time up the hill but I couldn’t tell from where I was.

Lap 2

This is where some racing began. One guy decided to jump from the front himself and try move things along. Our main group was being led by one other rider at this point who seemed content on letting him head off into the distance. After a few minutes and walking the time gap grow, I moved up and asked what the plan was – let him go, or wait and see. While discussing what to do and when to go, two or three other lads jumped and the chase was on. Immediately the speed was up and people started working together.

Unfortunately this really didn’t last for long and when on the main road, it dropped to about 3 or 4 of us working to pull in the gap. Knowing my weakness on the flats, I was careful when to pull and when to sit in, and the others seemed happy enough to have slow up and overs we some very fast pulls through to rope in distance.

With this we brought him back about half way along the road and things slowed again. Not what was hoped but what can you do.

Around the corner and again the same guy goes off again. On the first little bump, I sped up and chased to catch on. Now I don’t know if it was just I was feeling good, or plain insanity, but once I reached him, I pulled through and kept the pace up. And we started pulling out a gap. The other guy did say to work together and keep going right at the exact moments I was starting to slow down which probably helped, but we pushed hard up the hill. Even near the top, he shouted to keep pushing – that he’d work on the flats to get the break. Really that did and away I went. By the time I crossed the top, I had 3-5 seconds on him, and he another 5 on the riders behind if not more. But I knew what had to happen and I slowed to let him come back.

Slow through the corner as it was so slippy but start back on the gas. By this point there was a few of us and worked together keeping the pace very high to try pull some gap. It didn’t stick and it looked like the bunch came back together by the village again. I later found out that the effort up the hill tore things apart and less than half the group was left by this point. Such is racing.

Lap 3

Lap 3 was uneventful beyond the fact that we went slow. Ridiculously slow at times. On the main road we dropped to 27km/h at one point (remember that I did 32km/h on an easy warmup lap here) meaning it remained a simple lap. Even the hill climb wasn’t all that stressful.

Lap 4 – The final run cycle

Things did move along fairly ok on this lap strangely enough, more so that you usually expect some people to sit in. Perhaps because I sat as rider 3 for quite a while until I started dropping wheels during the fast accelerations on the main road. I really couldn’t pull through fast enough when the wheels jumped.

Around the corner from the main road and some people started jumping as usual. Nothing fast and no one followed through with it much. Once again through the last bump I went to jump a wheel, and once again I pulled all the way. Not withstanding that I had planned to sit in until the cross roads, it just happened. I put the head down and just rode. A quick glance back at one point put one rider on my wheel and the bunch a fair bit back.

Disaster pongs

At the cross roads my left hamstring decided it wasn’t having this and started giving out to me. Enough that it caused a few cries of pain. It was then that I knew any hope of winning was lost as I wouldn’t be able to jump near the top when the guys came through.

With a full km to go, I’d be lucky to stay consistent and hold the gap to the top. Even within 200km my pace was already dropping and becoming shabby. But push on you must and so I did.

The 200m marker at the top came and shortly after I decided it was now or never. Up I stood to try up the pace and break what was left. A feeble attempt as my leg really didn’t want to. The rider behind took that as a sign and jumped by me. Then another one. I pushed a little but really was disappointed with myself and rolled across the line for 3rd stopping the GPS as I went.

A look back

Overall, third place wasn’t too bad. I really should have done better and I paid for the effort on lap 2, but who knows, the race could have been different if I didn’t. The stats from this year to last year do say a lot however. Only 3 minutes slower and power was similar. Memory is a great thing.

The Stats

Distance: 72.16km
Time: 2:00:18
Avg Speed: 36km/h
Calories: 1746
Avg Power: 242watts
Normalised Power: 291watts

Race Report – Stamullen GP

This circuit was one of the first race circuits that I have ever cycled. I remember it popped up on boards way back when I was beginning cycling and we decided to cycle it, see what all the rage was about. Little did we know the difference a bit of speed makes. Back then I probably averages 20km/h if even on the run around compared to the race.

So was it all that was expected? Well … no. I only realised where we were cycling during the race and remembered then, something which will hopefully push me to check the course route a little better in future.

The day began with the usual half organised me packing up and heading off. In the car on the way I realised I’d forgotten something, not as bad as the previous week, but still not good. Basically I’d forgotten lunch. While I had some made, I didn’t eat it or bring it with. This resulted in my stopping off at a garage to grab a sandwich. It’d probably have fine if I ate it then, however I didn’t. I left it until after I arrived, and signed. All in all, less than 20 minutes before the start.

The Race

Since there is a hill of sorts in this race, I did say I’d do something stupid with the hills and see how it goes. With the hill only half way around the lap and a long descent after, I knew I’d need to get across the top in front, preferably far ahead. On the first lap everything stayed together. Not working too much, but definitely together.

During the second lap, one or two guys started off the front. Knowing about the hill, I tried to get people to work a little on the front and tried to pull it along. For a number of reasons, this resulted in my getting a few metres off the front, something that wasn’t helped by another rider I know following me up. Since he wasn’t in Swords gear, we went for it thinking they’d let us out. At this stage, we were still almost 2km from the base of the hill and on a slight descent. What was I thinking?

Up up and away

We rolled along taking turns to the base of the hill and began up. Knowing from previous days, I decided to pop a gel and latched back on. We continued up but at the first big corner, he said look behind – and there was the group catching us. We let it roll into us but right when they did there was an attach. Something I should have expected but didn’t.

This bit is a slight blur but I know I tried to go with and my legs couldn’t muster. At some point on the hill I partly threw up into my mouth. Lets just say that I’ll not be eating any chicken/stuffing/mayo sandwiches for a while.

This was enough to push me out the back and not wanting to throw up more, I clicked down the big ring and rolled up with the stragglers. Over the top and down the long descent were about 6 of use grouped up. Some of them were left overs from the U16 race but we mostly worked and kept it going to the finish.

While waiting on the finish, some other A4 riders rolled through, so the main group must have splintered on the hill. And people in the lead group also clocked a time of 1h3min so maybe we weren’t as far off as I thought. Overall I was disappointed with my result. However it was Wednesday before my stomach recovered from getting sick.

Live and learn.

The Stats:

Distance: 38.78km
Time: 1:03:58
Avg Speed: 36.4km/h
Calories: 994
Avg Power: 264.1watts
Normalised Power: 324watts

Sean McGreevy Cup Race Report [2011-04-09]

This race was all the way up north. 1:45 in the car to get to it, but it was either this or one in Drogheda in a combined A1/A2/A3/A4 race on a flatish circuit. I choose the hilly one, and frankly I’m glad I did.

It was a another beautiful day out with the sun shining and a very light breeze. After signing on I saw in the car and ate my rolls before getting ready. Right then I released I’d forgotten my shorts. Of all the things to forget. Luckily a bike shop was within walking distance. Quick trip around and I was set with enough time for a quick 20 minute warmup.

The Race

We began with a 5km run out from the scout hall to the tracks start/finish which was on an uphill. The A1/A2 had their start moved to a line near the town which was basically a long flat road just after a bit of a descent. I was very thankful the A4 race didn’t finish there.

When getting to the start/finish line, I immediately saw a problem. Just before the hill was a descent. A mild one yes, but before the hill I knew it’d give all the wannabe sprinters enough to pull way ahead of me. Something to watch out for.

The race was going to be 5 laps of the circuit giving a total of 70+km. Longer than any of the other A4 races that I had finished. I believe the Des Hanlon would have been longer but the puncture stopped me in my tracks for that one.

The course was a lot of up and down with only one shortish section on the flat but into the wind. It was enough to start burning people off on the first lap but the group stayed larger than I expected with the main hill. Presumably since there was a bit of a flat and descent after it, they were able to regroup while the main group did its usual lets not work. Admittedly, I’m also quite guilty of not working. Last year, I did do a bit on the front but in the wrong places, the Mondello Race was one I tried to sit in and conserve. This year it has gone the other way with me staying near the back most of the time, again something I will have to work on.

A breakway forms

On the last lap on the main hill, a few riders were up ahead pulling away. In theory I had moved up enough on the hill that I could have chased on but very quickly riders were falling off it. I honestly believed it would get roped back in very quickly. Strangely it dropped to one rider and the group slowed up. Someone from Bray Wheelers was off out on his own, and without another Bray Wheelers blocking the front, the A4 group did was it does best! Nothing. Normally they chase down everything but he was let go, presumably the locals thought we’d get him on the straight.

Way before the straight, a time gap of over 30 seconds was called and it was very obvious that he was doing much better than expected. Yet no one worked. There was an uphill section after a longish descent during which I moved up the front in an effort to pull things along, but no one came. Few shouted to work but nothing. I switched my bidons, took a drink and drifted back into the main group. I know I wouldn’t be able to hold on out on my own so going would have been a mistake.

By the back straight, a gap of 1:05 was called and we knew he had it. One of the locals tried a break further down the road but was just left hang. I really was in two minds about trying anything on the finish, especially since I was near the back again with the descent and couldn’t move up much. Still I came out wide for the left turn and did my best to move up, and I did somewhat, but anything I gained was lost on the descent section. At that point I decided to just sit in and finish out the race. What a mistake.

As the road started going up, people started moving backwards at a crazy rate. At the last second I jumped up and decide to go for it making up a number of places, but I started way too late and only managed 8th. Pretty sure I crossed the line with a HR of 150 showing just how much extra I could and should have done. My garmin does should 170-180 for the finish but I wasn’t out of breath so what does it know!

But each mistake is a learning experience and I know for next time.

The Stats:

Distance: 78.6km
Time: 2:15:24
Avg Speed: 34.8km/h
Calories: 1765
Avg Power: 224watts
Normalised Power: 286watts

Ben McKenna Memorial Race Report [2011-04-03]

Since the race was running on roads that are both used in the Swords CC league and would be considered part of my training routes, I knew mostly what to expect for the day. Immediately on seeing the course, I knew my problems were going to be on the descent to Ballyboughal. A long fast descent at -3 or 4%.

Why the descent you ask? Well I spent last year training for La Marmotte which means hills, hills, and more hills. As such I enjoy going up them and do so at a fairly ok pace. I’m still a bit off last year, but still enough to stay with the front of most groups on the ascents. For some reason however, I am unable to keep the power on during descents. Can’t figure out why.

And In The Beginning …

The race began with a short neutralised section. Enough to cover a warm up (even though I’d already spent an hour warming up due to be too early) and to take us along the rolling road to the descent to Ballyboughal that I don’t like so much. Before reaching the turn, another problem became obvious, my HR was way way too high. 175 to be precise, and during a neutralised section, well already not looking good. The Chinese from the previous night was going to haunt me.

Luckily the descent was at a normal enough pace and the group held mostly together. I didn’t loose too many places during it which was a good way to be.

The rest of the lap remained pretty much uneventful all the way up to the steep descent back onto the road from the start at the sports center. For those who have never cycled this road, it is effectively a tractor track that was tramaced back in the 80’s. Oh and it is really steep and has some pot holes right where you don’t want them. Then to top it off, the end has a little bit of a flatish run right before the sharp corner giving the impression that you can take it at speed.

I was also told that the previous year, the finish happened along the straight after that descent. Everyone would have been happy it wasn’t this year.

The decisive moment

The group bunched up again on the flat road back to corner 2 and the pace was slow enough to easily take off my gillet since the sun was out. Once through corner 2 and on to the rolling road to the descent, the pace did begin to pick up. Right from the start I began moving up through the group in anticipation of a split happening. I think we were only a third of the way along the road when it did. And I missed it too, but the few guys ahead looked like they were motoring by the stranglers. Until the guy ahead of me started drifting back from his wheel. With a bush on my right, another cyclist on my left, and the guy in front drifting while beside someone, it was the worse position to be in. Luckily the guy on my left started moving forward and a gap opened. I was on his wheel and we began rolling forward. And fair dues to him, he kept the pace up all the way to the end while we picked up another rider or two.

Right at the end, I sprinted up the corner to ensure I was near the front for the descent. Things looked like they were going fine and we’d catch the break ahead. Everyone started working together and taking turns. Somehow I missed the signals and on my way through for a turn, I couldn’t make it, sitting up I got the mother of all stitches and began rolling backwards. With a wheels length gone and not being able to hold on, I knew then and there that it was over. I popped a gel, sat back and waited for the main group.

Rolling Home

Most of the group of maybe 20 or so riders worked together to keep the pace going. Was actually catch a few from the break later in the lap although I don’t think we saw them before the finish. I didn’t bother pushing on the last hill, because really, why work for 10th?

Still it was a good day out and some lessons learnt. I do have to spend more time training with faster groups through descents or even on the flats. Some more hours of pain wouldn’t go a miss either.

The Stats:

Distance: 52.2km
Time: 1:31:56
Avg Speed: 34.1km/h
Calories: 1269
Avg Power: 230 watts
Normalised Power: 288watts

Staggs Lucan GP [2011-03-26]

A little late on the report but better late than never.

Since the previous week in Carlow ended with a puncture, my goal for this race was simply to finish. Nothing more than to cross that line. It was this goal that stopped me abandoning after the first lap when things were going so slow and boring. No one was willing to work and anytime anyone tried anything, it was left hang with not enough people pushing off to get the breakaway. More annoying was the constant moving to the front and unpredictable side to side movements of some people. But that is what happens in the lower groups I guess.

The second lap was when the pace started to up a little. 3 or 4 lads were off the front when crossing the line to begin the second lap and I took this as a chance to try get a work out. A sprint up and a shout to try get them to work and I was on the front. Powering on for 30 seconds did nothing however and only one person did anything, but even that was short lived. I sat up and fed back into the main group.

Things did up a little at times but as soon as it bunched, everything slowed right the way down, and this continued all through the lap.

I can’t remember when I saw the first puncture, but I do remember getting worried about finishing. Another one happened about 10km from the finish which again spooked me. It was then that I started moving up to the front as much as possible. Better to be up there when the final corner happened too, stay out of trouble and all that.

Round the roundabout we went and a short sprint back onto the wheel. But with a couple of km of a drag left, it did start bunching up a little.

So much for not doing anything, I started staying up with people as they moved off the front.

Just as the second last move went, behind me I heard a shout and people were down. A crash. Luckly I was a bike or two ahead of it, and for those in it, no one was badly hurt.

As I kept up the front, the pace quicken and I was still managing to stay with it, but the sprint hadn’t happened, yet.

Then it went and 2, 3, 4 lads are off and those in front start too. Doing what I had practised, I was in the drops and began spinning up to speed, but it wasn’t enough. Crossing the line 7th with positions 4,5,6 all within an inch or two ahead of me, and I passed them within a foot or two of the line. It wasn’t the first time this had happened either. At least I know where I have to work on, and my sprint was much better than previous races.

The Stats:

Distance: 39.7km
Time: 1:01:35
Avg Speed: 38.7km/h
Calories: 807
Avg Power: 218watts
Normalised Power: 280watts


Race Report – Mondello Open Race [2010-09-02]

Quite possibly the last race I’d get to this year, it was a must. More so after missing two races a few weeks ago due to not having recovered from a hospital visit.

The course was to follow a number of laptops around the Mondello circuit which meant closed roads for the race. But since Mondello is a race course, it is pretty flat. So flat that SportTracks thinks I lost and gained 0m over the course, however I think it just can’t handle the drift in the elevation from the Garmin. Either way, a flat fast course would probably not suit me and I knew it. The goal became to sit in the group, stay with the front group if and when it broke, to do as little as possible on the front, and then not go at the end either at all or until at least 2-3 other people had started their sprint. May sound like a strange goal but they are things I need to learn to get better at racing.

The Warmup

Due to a crash on the N7, I like many others arrived a bit later than I would have wanted. After the sign on and a quick change, I managed a whole 10 minute warmup. But since the evening was warm it would be enough. Or at least it would have to be. Within 5 minutes from stopping, the usual talk about the race was done and we were off.

The Race

While signing on I asked how many laps it would be. The answer was that racing would go for about 50 minutes and then they’d call 3 laps remaining. I should have taken this as a warning sign. Thinking back, I remember looking at the GPS after 10 minutes and being bored. Such a flat course and with a huge number of riders behind us, well there wasn’t going to be a break away.

By 20 minutes I was doing what I could to convince myself not to abandon. To take the race as a training spin and suck it up. The problem however was that it wasn’t overly stressful. Power was about 230-240watts with most of that being the little sprints out of corners when people ahead braked.

And a few people did brake in corners, but not in the way to stop them going into people ahead. At least one person is sticking in my head as everytime I saw him he was accelerating by to a corner and then braking hard. No racing line, no speed through the corner. The first few laps this meant very hard accelerating out of the corner to jump by and grab the wheel ahead. By mid way through the race, I had learnt what he was doing (as had others it seemed), and he started to get left on his line each time as we all took a wider line around and past.

The turn out for the event was high too. 85 I think was the number. Which made for large groups in the corners as people didn’t want to be left behind. Made worse by the fact that the pace was so leisurely. With only short straights and long corners, no pace line really formed. The main straight was usually the slowest part of the course as people slowed right down to try get others to go through.

On the second to last lap I think we were caught. But it was on the last lap going onto the back straight that the pace started picking up. If only we had had this pace from the off, I’d have enjoyed it more.

Blue was speed

In the end, I didn’t finish. I punctured during the 4th last corner. Luckily I held it up and moved to the side and everyone got past. If it had been the next corner, well things could have been different. It was taken faster and usually with more than one or two riders across. But it meant limping home at a slow pace and ironically down the pit lane.

The Summary

Everyone I spoke to after enjoyed it. Things like the big rocks on the corners were all but forgotten at this stage. The closed roads are a plus too. But for me the course was too short and boring. Probably a side affect of all the long 100km+ training rides earlier in the year. Can’t say I’d be jumping to do it again.

The Stats

Distance: 44.47km
Time: 1:05:43
Avg Speed: 40.6km/h
Calories: 956
Avg Power: 243watts
Normalised Power: 267watts