Category Archives: Running

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.

Dublin Marathon Series 2012 – 5 Mile

Today saw the Dublin Marathon Series 5 Mile take place. It wasn’t my first time running in the Phoenix Park, I had the benefit of doing the Aware 5 Mile at Christmas which covered a fair bit of the same course.

Overall the event seemed very well organised, and the atmosphere was good even with the typically Irish weather – it rained of course. I’d heard stories of big backlogs at the start when the pens start off but didn’t experience that. After maybe 10 seconds I was jogging properly, and by about 30 seconds I wasn’t really stuck behind anyone. Worst bit was my GPS didn’t start properly but I can hardly fault the organisers for that …

Can’t comment on the course too much since I’m not exactly an experienced runner. This was my second event, and both have been in the park. Things worked well however I’d properly have liked more shade given I’m badly sunburnt still.

My official time was 39:26 while Strava picks it up differently due to the GPS issues. Respectably enough given the sunburn and the lack of training over the last week or so. The 10km is in 3 weeks, so speed work will be done, hopefully.